March 26, 2003
/smaller>Robert Fisk: Allies not telling truth - things
are going wrong
So far, the
Anglo-American armies are handing their propaganda to the Iraqis on a
First, on Sunday, we were told - courtesy of the BBC - that Umm
Qasr, the tiny Iraqi seaport on the Gulf, had "fallen". Why cities have to
"fall" on the BBC is a mystery to me; the phrase comes from the Middle Ages when
city walls literally collapsed under siege.
Then we were told - again on
the BBC - that Nasiriyah had been captured. Then its "embedded" correspondent
informed us - and here my old journalistic suspicions were alerted - that it had
Why the BBC should use the military expression "secured"
is also a mystery to me. "Secured" is meant to sound like "captured" but almost
invariably means that a city has been bypassed or half-surrounded or, at the
most, that an invading Army has merely entered its suburbs.
enough, within 24 hours, the Shia Muslim city west of the junction of the
Euphrates and Tigress Rivers proved to be very much unsecured, indeed had not
been entered in any form - because at least 500 Iraqi troops, supported by
tanks, were still fighting there.
With what joy did Taha Yassin Ramadan,
the Iraqi Vice-President, inform us all that "they claimed they had captured Umm
Qasr but now you know this is a lie". With what happiness did Mohamed Said
al-Sahaff, the Iraqi Information Minister, boast that Basra was still "in Iraqi
hands", that "our forces" in Nasiriyah were still fighting.
could they boast because, despite all the claptrap put out by the Americans and
British in Qatar, what the Iraqis said on this score was true.
Iraqi claims of downed US and British aircraft - four supposedly "shot down"
around Baghdad and another near Mosul - were given credibility by the Iraqi
ability to prove the collapse of their forces in the south was untrue - quite
apart from the film of prisoners.
We know that the Americans are again
using depleted uranium munitions in Iraq, just as they did in 1991. But
yesterday, the BBC told us that US Marines had called up an A-10 strike aircraft
to deal with "pockets of resistance" - a bit more military-speak from the BBC -
but failed to mention that the A-10 uses depleted uranium rounds.
the first time since 1991, we - the West - are spraying these uranium aerosols
in battlefield explosions in southern Iraq, and we're not being told. Why
And where, for God's sake, does that wretched, utterly dishonest
phrase "coalition forces" come from? There is no "coalition" in this Iraq war.
There are the Americans and the British and a few Australians. That's
The "coalition" of the 1991 Gulf War does not exist. The "coalition"
of nations willing to "help" with this illegitimate conflict includes, by a vast
stretch of the imagination, even Costa Rica and Micronesia and, I suppose, poor
old neutral Ireland, with its transit rights for US military aircraft at
Shannon. But they are not "coalition forces". Why does the BBC use this phrase?
Even in World War II, which so many journalists think they are now reporting, we
didn't use this lie. When we landed on the coast of North Africa in Operation
Torch, we called it an "Anglo-American landing".
And this is an
Anglo-American war, whether we - and I include the "embedded ones" - like it or
The Iraqis are sharp enough to remember all this. At first, they
announced that captured US or British troops would be treated as mercenaries, a
decision that Saddam himself wisely corrected yesterday when he stated that all
prisoners would be treated "according to the Geneva Convention".
all, then, it has not been a great couple of days for Bush and Blair. Nor, of
course, for Saddam although he's been playing at wars for almost half the
lifetime of Blair.
So here's a question from one who believed, only a
week ago, that Baghdad might just collapse and that we might wake up one morning
to find the Baathist militia and the Iraqi Army gone. If the Iraqis can still
hold out against such overwhelming force in Umm Qasr for four days, if they can
keep fighting in Basra and Nasiriyah, why should Saddam's forces not keep
fighting in Baghdad?
Of course, this might all be a miscalculation. The
pack of cards may be more flimsy that we think. But suddenly, the quick and easy
war, the conflict of "shock and awe", doesn't seem so realistic. Things are
going wrong. We are not telling the truth. And the Iraqis are riding high on it
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