[sixties-l] Robert Fisk: "Bush is Walking into a Trap"

From: John Fournelle (johnf@geology.wisc.edu)
Date: Wed Sep 19 2001 - 10:41:56 EDT

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    Bush is Walking Into a Trap

    by Robert Fisk, September 16, 2001, The Independent (UK)

    Retaliation is a trap. In a world that was supposed to have learnt
    that the rule of law comes above revenge, President Bush appears to
    be heading for the very disaster that Osama bin Laden has laid down
    for him. Let us have no doubts about what happened in New York and
    Washington last week. It was a crime against humanity. We cannot
    understand America's need to retaliate unless we accept this bleak,
    awesome fact. But this crime was perpetrated - it becomes ever
    clearer - to provoke the United States into just the blind, arrogant
    punch that the US military is preparing.

    Mr bin Laden - every day his culpability becomes more apparent - has
    described to me how he wishes to overthrow the pro-American regime of
    the Middle East, starting with Saudi Arabia and moving on to Egypt,
    Jordan and the other Gulf states. In an Arab world sunk in corruption
    and dictatorships - most of them supported by the West - the only act
    that might bring Muslims to strike at their own leaders would be a
    brutal, indiscriminate assault by the United States. Mr bin Laden is
    unsophisticated in foreign affairs, but a close student of the art
    and horror of war. He knew how to fight the Russians who stayed on
    in Afghanistan, a Russian monster that revenged itself upon its ill-
    educated, courageous antagonists until, faced with war without end,
    the entire Soviet Union began to fall apart.

    The Chechens learnt this lesson. And the man responsible for so
    much of the bloodbath in Chechnya - the career KGB man whose army is
    raping and murdering the insurgent Sunni Muslim population of Chechnya
    - is now being signed up by Mr Bush for his "war against people".
    Vladimir Putin must surely have a sense of humor to appreciate the
    cruel ironies that have now come to pass, though I doubt if he will
    let Mr Bush know what happens when you start a war of retaliation;
    your army - like the Russian forces in Chechnya - becomes locked into
    battle with an enemy that appears ever more ruthless, ever more evil.

    But the Americans need look no further than Ariel Sharon's futile
    war with the Palestinians to understand the folly of retaliation. In
    Lebanon, it was always the same. A Hizbollah guerrilla would kill an
    Israeli occupation soldier, and the Israelis would fire back in
    retaliation at a village in which a civilian would die. The Hizbollah
    would retaliate with a Katyusha missile attack over the Israeli border,
    and the Israelis would retaliate again with a bombardment of southern
    Lebanon. In the end, the Hizbollah - the "center of world terror''
    according to Mr Sharon - drove the Israelis out of Lebanon.

    In Israel/Palestine, it is the same story. An Israeli soldier shoots
    a Palestinian stone-thrower. The Palestinians retaliate by killing a
    settler. The Israelis then retaliate by sending a murder squad to kill
    a Palestinian gunman. The Palestinians retaliate by sending a suicide
    bomber into a pizzeria. The Israelis then retaliate by sending F-16s
    to bomb a Palestinian police station. Retaliation leads to retaliation
    and more retaliation. War without end.

    And while Mr Bush - and perhaps Mr Blair - prepare their forces,
    they explain so meretriciously that this is a war for "democracy and
    liberty", that it is about men who are "attacking civilization".
    "America was targeted for attack,'' Mr Bush informed us on Friday,
    "because we are the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in
    the world." But this is not why America was attacked. If this was an
    Arab-Muslim apocalypse, then it is intimately associated with events
    in the Middle East and with America's stewardship of the area. Arabs,
    it might be added, would rather like some of that democracy and
    liberty and freedom that Mr Bush has been telling them about.
    Instead, they get a president who wins 98 per cent in the elections
    (Washington's friend, Mr Mubarak) or a Palestinian police force,
    trained by the CIA, that tortures and sometimes kills its people in
    prison. The Syrians would also like a little of that democracy. So
    would the Saudis. But their effete princes are all friends of
    America - in many cases, educated at US universities.

    I will always remember how President Clinton announced that Saddam
    Hussein - another of our grotesque inventions - must be overthrown
    so that the people of Iraq could choose their own leaders. But if
    that happened, it would be the first time in Middle Eastern history
    that Arabs have been permitted to do so. No, it is "our'' democracy
    and "our'' liberty and freedom that Mr Bush and Mr Blair are talking
    about, our Western sanctuary that is under attack, not the vast
    place of terror and injustice that the Middle East has become.

    Let me illustrate what I mean. Nineteen years ago today, the greatest
    act of terrorism - using Israel's own definition of that much misused
    word - in modern Middle Eastern history began. Does anyone remember
    the anniversary in the West? How many readers of this article will
    remember it? I will take a tiny risk and say that no other British
    newspaper - certainly no American newspaper - will today recall the
    fact that on 16 September 1982, Israel's Phalangist militia allies
    started their three-day orgy of rape and knifing and murder in the
    Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila that cost 1,800 lives.
    It followed an Israeli invasion of Lebanon - designed to drive the
    PLO out of the country and given the green light by the then US
    Secretary of State, Alexander Haig - which cost the lives of 17,500
    Lebanese and Palestinians, almost all of them civilians. That's
    probably three times the death toll in the World Trade Center Yet I
    do not remember any vigils or memorial services or candle-lighting
    in America or the West for the innocent dead of Lebanon; I don't
    recall any stirring speeches about democracy or liberty. In fact,
    my memory is that the United States spent most of the bloody months
    of July and August 1982 calling for "restraint".

    No, Israel is not to blame for what happened last week. The culprits
    were Arabs, not Israelis. But America's failure to act with honor in
    the Middle East, its promiscuous sale of missiles to those who use
    them against civilians, its blithe disregard for the deaths of tens
    of thousands of Iraqi children under sanctions of which Washington
    is the principal supporter - all these are intimately related to
    the society that produced the Arabs who plunged America into an
    apocalypse of fire last week.

    America's name is literally stamped on to the missiles fired by
    Israel into Palestinian buildings in Gaza and the West Bank. Only
    four weeks ago, I identified one of them as an AGM 114-D air-to-
    ground rocket made by Boeing and Lockheed-Martin at their factory
    in - of all places - Florida, the state where some of the suiciders
    trained to fly.

    It was fired from an Apache helicopter (made in America, of course)
    during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, when hundreds of cluster
    bombs were dropped in civilian areas of Beirut by the Israelis in
    contravention of undertakings given to the United States. Most of the
    bombs had US Naval markings and America then suspended a shipment of
    fighter bombers to Israel - for less than two months.

    The same type of missile - this time an AGM 114-C made in Georgia-
    was fired by the Israelis into the back of an ambulance near the
    Lebanese village of Mansori, killing two women and four children. I
    collected the pieces of the missile, including its computer coding
    plate, flew to Georgia and presented them to the manufacturers at
    the Boeing factory. And what did the developer of the missile say
    to me when I showed him photographs of the children his missile had
    killed? "Whatever you do," he told me, "don't quote me as saying
    anything critical of the policies of Israel."

    I'm sure the father of those children, who was driving the
    ambulance, will have been appalled by last week's events, but I
    don't suppose, given the fate of his own wife - one of the women
    killed - that he was in a mood to send condolences to anyone. All
    these facts, of course, must be forgotten now.

    Every effort will be made in the coming days to switch off the
    "why" question and concentrate on the who, what and how. CNN and
    most of the world's media have already obeyed this essential new
    war rule. I've already seen what happens when this rule is broken.
    When The Independent published my article on the connection between
    Middle Eastern injustice and the New York holocaust, the BBC's
    24-hour news channel produced an American commentator who remarked
    that "Robert Fisk has won the prize for bad taste". When I raised
    the same point on an Irish radio talk show, the other guest, a
    Harvard lawyer, denounced me as a bigot, a liar, a "dangerous man"
    and - of course - potentially anti-Semitic. The Irish pulled the
    plug on him.

    No wonder we have to refer to the terrorists as "mindless". For
    if we did not, we would have to explain what went on in those
    minds. But this attempt to censor the realities of the war that
    has already begun must not be permitted to continue. Look at the
    logic. Secretary of State Colin Powell was insisting on Friday
    that his message to the Taliban is simple: they have to take
    responsibility for sheltering Mr bin Laden. "You cannot separate
    your activities from the activities of the perpetrators," he
    warned. But the Americans absolutely refuse to associate their
    own response to their predicament with their activities in the
    Middle East. We are supposed to hold our tongues, even when
    Ariel Sharon - a man whose name will always be associated with
    the massacre at Sabra and Shatila - announces that Israel also
    wishes to join the battle against "world terror".

    No wonder the Palestinians are fearful. In the past four days,
    23 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and Gaza, an
    astonishing figure that would have been front-page news had
    America not been blitzed. If Israel signs up for the new
    conflict, then the Palestinians - by fighting the Israelis -
    will, by extension, become part of the "world terror'' against
    which Mr Bush is supposedly going to war. Not for nothing did
    Mr Sharon claim that Yasser Arafat had connections with Osama
    bin Laden.

    I repeat: what happened in New York was a crime against humanity.
    And that means policemen, arrests, justice, a whole new inter-
    national court at The Hague if necessary. Not cruise missiles and
    "precision" bombs and Muslim lives lost in revenge for Western
    lives. But the trap has been sprung. Mr Bush - perhaps we, too -
    are now walking into it.

     2001 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd

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