Socialist Worker

The people against the power

John Pilger spoke at the People's Assembly in London about his new TV documentary which will be broadcast next Monday

Issue No. 1869

I'M MAKING a documentary at the moment to be shown on 22 September and it's producing some extraordinary information. We found some very revealing archive footage of Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and others in the Bush gang. In early 2001, visiting Cairo, Colin Powell said, 'Saddam Hussein has not developed any capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project even conventional power against his neighbours. 'So in effect our policies have strengthened the security of the region.' Condoleezza Rice said something very similar at the time.

If you look through all the archive footage, as I've had the dubious pleasure of doing, it confirms that as far as their public position is concerned the Bush gang were in no doubt that Saddam Hussein was no threat. That's true of course. The UN inspectors and everyone else confirmed it. He was no threat and there was no issue of weapons of mass destruction.

This only arose after 11 September, and gradually. They somehow had to back up the long-held ambition of the Bush people, particularly those they euphemistically call the 'neo-cons' like Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld had a meeting of the cabinet on 12 September 2001 and wanted Iraq attacked almost immediately. That was the strategy. Attack Iraq regardless and find a public excuse. And of course Rumsfeld has since admitted it. He said while I was in Washington that there had been no real dramatic change in Saddam Hussein's posture as far as they were concerned. Wolfowitz said-he didn't use the word excuse, well in effect he did-that this was the only excuse they all agreed on.

Now we have to go through this dreadful charade which is this sham of the Hutton inquiry. Yes, some things have come out, and yes it's revealed Blair. But it basically is a sham. It will tut-tut to the BBC, Blair appears to have got away with it and no high court judge will cross the line and tell the truth.

Hutton hasn't asked Blair to explain why he went to war. The issues of the deaths of up to 10,000 people in Iraq has not arisen. The inquiry's virtue is that it will reinforce the public view that the government are a pack of liars, they are a pack of warmongers and they deserve only cynicism and they deserve direct action. I have never known in a reasonably long career in journalism for the public to be so aware, for their political consciousness to be so high.

I know my colleagues in the media would like to represent this as a brand of nihilistic cynicism, something very negative. It isn't negative at all-just as the fact that people didn't vote Labour in droves in the last election, the worst turnout in history, was not apathy. It was a strike.

Bush is in trouble. There's no doubt about it. I interviewed a number of the people around him. When I raised the question of civilian casualties with one of the super-hawks, a man called Douglas Feith, number three at the Pentagon, a colonel jumped in front of the camera and said we had to stop the interview. I pointed out the only time this had happened before is in a country that didn't call itself a democracy.

I interviewed another one of the other hawks, a man who is very keen to attack North Korea, whose name is John Bolton. His official title is Under Secretary of State for Non-proliferation and International Security-very Orwellian. At the end of the interview in which I challenged most of what he said, he said, 'Hey you must be a member of the Labour Party!' I said, 'No, they are the conservatives in our country.' Then he pulled out the old one, 'Then you must be a Communist.' The point is that the attack on Iraq is now a disaster for them. We know it's a disaster for the Iraqi people.

We know because those of us who followed it carefully, who've been to Iraq, knew that the majority of the Iraqi people had no difficulty keeping two thoughts in their heads-a vehement opposition to Saddam Hussein and a vehement opposition to their country being attacked.

The masking of that reality was one of the media projects. It failed because in the end most people didn't buy it. The greatest demonstration in British history proved that. The war and occupation are a disaster for Iraq, yes. But it is grave disaster for the United States and its accomplices. In Washington the biggest open secret is that the number of American casualties is much, much higher than they are publicising.

The military hospitals in Washington are all full and overflowing. They are sending people all over the country-an indication that the numbers of wounded that are coming back from this war of resistance in Iraq are huge. Bush in his own terms is certainly in trouble. If Bush is in trouble then so is Blair. It is not only the situation in Iraq. I have not long ago been to Afghanistan. And that is what they call a forgotten situation. But it is unravelling so fast.

More people are being killed and dying at the hands of the clients of Bush and Blair, that is, the warlords who run the country, than at any time for a long time. In many of the rural areas people are saying the Taliban were better. For women in the rural areas, because the Taliban were ideologically driven, there was a kind of perverse protection applied. Now these warlords, these monsters, are kidnapping whole communities of women, putting them in private prisons. The human rights abuses now in Afghanistan are much greater than they had been even during the Taliban period. We're hearing nothing about this, but again it is another American disaster.

In both cases, certainly in Iraq, the historical parallel is with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The Americans are now caught in Iraq just as the Russians were caught in Afghanistan. We know the result of that-a great deal of suffering and bloodshed and a political earthquake that struck the USSR-not all as a result of Afghanistan but certainly that was one of the strings.

The same thing is happening to the Americans in Iraq and a version of it is happening to the Americans in Afghanistan. Of course distracting us from all these facts is the name of the game. But people are not fooled. The media talks to itself-the ten o'clock news is a sort of in-house video. They will now go out of their way to protect Blair. A lot of that is already happening, before, during and after the attack on Iraq.

But it won't work. You only have to listen to all those people who queued up to go to listen to the Hutton inquiry and they all regarded Blair's perfomance as one of a liar.

There is an enormous atmosphere in this country for radical change. You can compare it with the growing movement against the war in Vietnam. I reported that war and I remember the growth of the movement being a long, long haul. The movement has already grown this time. We have the greatest international anti-war movement in my lifetime. There are two world superpowers-the US is one, we are the other. That's not just rhetoric, it's true.

I'm sure all of you will understand the ruthlessness of power and how difficult it is to shift it sometimes. But you also understand that it can fall over. It is not invincible. Power has been removed by direct action, by people in the streets, by people not giving up. That is what is going to happen this time.

Look at the achievements already of the anti-war movement, that incredible demonstration in London. I was actually in Sydney, where I addressed 500,000 people. I couldn't believe it. That movement didn't go away. It's back. It is the democratic opposition in country after country. Direct action takes time, it takes planning. But in the end it will work. It will work in surprising ways, in undermining the support that stayed with Blair inside the Labour Party. That support now is on the verge of crumbling. If Bush comes down in an election next year, that will be a seismic event in the United States.

One of the interviews I did in Washington was with a man called Ray McGovern who is a senior CIA cold warrior, a friend of George Bush's father. I asked him, quoting Norman Mailer, if America had entered a pre-fascist era. I'm careful about using the word fascist because it's often too rhetorical.

But McGovern said, and this is a man who ran the Cold War, 'The only thing I would disagree with that is that we are not entering it, we're already there.' That is a view shared among those who were, and still are, part of the American establishment. That's how dangerous they are.

At the same time they are very close to a point of being vulnerable, where they could be pushed over. That is certainly the case with Blair in this country. That is why there are so many lies, so much spin, because they fear public opinion. If they didn't fear public opinion they wouldn't lie so much.


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Features
Sat 20 Sep 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1869
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