Friday, 14 March 2003

Disobey

by John Pilger

How have we got to this point, where two western governments take us into an illegal and immoral war against a stricken nation with whom we have no quarrel and who offer us no threat: an act of aggression opposed by almost everybody and whose charade is transparent?

How can they attack, in our name, a country already crushed by more than 12 years of an embargo aimed mostly at the civilian population, of whom 42 per cent are children - a medieval siege that has taken the lives of at least half a million children and is described as genocidal by the former United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Iraq?

How can those claiming to be "liberals" disguise their embarrassment, and shame, while justifying their support for George Bush's proposed launch of 800 missiles in two days as a "liberation"? How can they ignore two United Nations studies which reveal that some 500,000 people will be at risk? Do they not hear their own echo in the words of the American general who said famously of a Vietnamese town he had just levelled: "We had to destroy it in order to save it?"

"Few of us," Arthur Miller once wrote, "can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the State has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied."

These days, Miller's astuteness applies to a minority of warmongers and apologists. Since 11 September 2001, the consciousness of the majority has soared. The word "imperialism" has been rescued from agitprop and returned to common usage. America's and Britain's planned theft of the Iraqi oilfields, following historical precedent, is well understood. The false choices of the cold war are redundant, and people are once again stirring in their millions. More and more of them now glimpse American power, as Mark Twain wrote, "with its banner of the Prince of Peace in one hand and its loot-basket and its butcher-knife in the other".

What is heartening is the apparent demise of "anti-Americanism" as a respectable means of stifling recognition and analysis of American Imperialism. Intellectual loyalty oaths, similar to those rife during the Third Reich, when the abusive "anti-German" was enough to silence dissent, no longer work. In America itself, there are too many anti-Americans filling the streets now: those whom Martha Gellhorn called "that life-saving minority who judge their government in moral terms, who are the people with a wakeful conscience and can be counted upon".

Perhaps for the first time since the late 1940s, Americanism as an ideology is being identified in the same terms as any rapacious power structure; and we can thank Bush and Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice for that, even though their acts of international violence have yet to exceed those of the "liberal" Bill Clinton.

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