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Mysterious forces behind Iraqi violence "paid by us" - Robert Fisk

spinifex | 02.03.2006 22:19 | Analysis | Anti-militarism

In a television interview that has stunned Australian audiences, Beirut based journalist Robert Fisk has hinted that mysterious forces trying to foment civil war in Iraq are behind the recent upsurge in voilence there.

Fisk went on to state that Sunni Arabs and other Iraqis do not conduct suicide bombings and are not divided as a society.

"Who runs the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad? Who pays the Ministry of the Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities," said Fisk

"I'd like to know what the Americans are doing to get at the people who are trying to provoke the civil war. It seems to me not very much. We don't hear of any suicide bombers being stopped before they blow themselves up. We don't hear of anybody stopping a mosque getting blown up. We're not hearing of death squads all being arrested. Something is going very, very wrong in Baghdad. Something is going wrong with the Administration."

Sidestepping specific questions about responsibility for the wave of suicide bombings and attacks on Mosques in Iraq in recent weeks, Fisk said;

"What is going on in Iraq at the moment is extremely mysterious. I go to Iraq and I can't crack this story at the moment. Some of my colleagues are still trying to, but can't do it. It's not as simple as it looks. I don't believe we've got all these raving lunatics wandering around blowing up mosques."

"Somebody is operating these people. I don't know who they are. It's not as simple as we're making it out to be. What is this thing when Bush says we have to choose between chaos and unity? Who wants to choose chaos? Is it really the case that all of these Iraqis that fought together for eight years against the Iranians, Shiites and Sunnies together in the long massive murderous Somme-like war between the Iranians and Iraqis - suddenly all want to kill each other? Why because that's something wrong with Iraqis? I don't think so. They are intelligent, educated people. Something is going seriously wrong in Baghdad."

Fisk went on to complain: "It's never been so dangerous here, either for journalists or soldiers but most of all for Arabs."

It is estimated that between 60,000 and 110,000 non-Arab Iraqi Kurds died in a series of genocidal attacks known as the Anfals between 1988 and 1991

Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Arab, has admitted his own involvement in the supression of Shiite Arabs.

Independent media were ruthlessly supressed in Iraq under the former dicator who also ordered the "disappearance" and execution of dissident journalists.,8224,949407,00.html



Hide the following 9 comments

Watching the 'Rights' watchers

02.03.2006 23:31

Spiniflex tries to discredit Pilgers skepticism about the secretarian violence which we are told is the work of one group of religious extremists attacking another. To do this he links to organisation called Human Rights Watch which I guess we are meant to take at face value... but what if we don't?

Among it's sponsors are Time Warner Inc and various other bodies who would hardly be considered unbiased on the issue of Iraq.

Under President Clinton, Human Rights Watch was the most influential pro-intervention lobby: its 'anti-atrocity crusade' helped drive the wars in ex-Yugoslavia. Under Bush it lost influence to the neoconservatives, who have their own crusades, and it is unlikely to regain that influence during his second term. But the 'two interventionisms' are not so different anyway: Human Rights Watch is founded on belief in the superiority of American values. It has close links to the US foreign policy elite, and to other interventionist and expansionist lobbies.

No US citizen, and no US organisation, has any right to impose US values on Europe. No concentration camps or mass graves can justify that imposition. But Human Rights Watch finds it self-evident, that the United States may legitimately restructure any society, where a mass grave is found. That is a dangerous belief for a superpower: European colonialism shows how easily a 'civilising mission' produces its own atrocities. The Belgian 'civilising mission' in the Congo, at the time promoted as a noble and unselfish enterprise, killed half the population. Sooner or later, more people will die in crusades to prevent a new Holocaust, than died in the Holocaust itself. And American soldiers will continue to kill, torture and rape, in order to prevent killings, torture and rape.

For a century there has been a strong interventionist belief in the United States - although it competes with widespread isolationism. In recent years attitudes hardened: human-rights interventionism became a consensus among the 'foreign policy elite' even before September 11. Human Rights Watch itself is part of that elite, which includes government departments, foundations, NGO's and academics. It is certainly not an association of 'concerned private citizens'. HRW board members include present and past government employees, and overlapping directorates link it to the major foreign policy lobbies in the US. Cynically summarised, Human Rights Watch arose as a joint venture of George Soros and the State Department. Nevertheless, it represents some fundamental characteristics of US-American culture.

The September 11 attacks confirmed the interventionism of the entire foreign policy elite - not just the highly visible neoconservatives. More important, the public response illustrated the almost absolute identification of Americans with their own value system. Without any apparent embarrassment, President Bush declared that a war between good and evil was in progress. Ironically, that mirrors the language of the Islamic fundamentalists. It implies a Crusader mentality, rather than the usual pseudo-neutrality of liberal-democratic political philosophy. A society which believes in its own absolute goodness, and the absolute and universal nature of its own values, is a fertile ground for interventionism.

Human rights are part of the American value system, but they are also especially useful as an 'ideology of justification' in wartime. Such an ideology should ideally meet some criteria. First, it should not be a simple appeal to self-interest. Simply stating "We own the world!" or "We are the master race, submit to us!" is not good propaganda. As a slogan, 'war on terrorism' is also inadequate, since it is too clearly an American war, against the enemies of America. For propaganda purposes, an appeal to higher values is preferable.

Second, these higher values should be universal. This is why Islamism would probably fail as an interventionist ideology: it is specific to Islam. A geopolitical claim to intervene in support of Islamic values can be answered simply by saying: "We are not Muslims here". The doctrine of universal human rights is, by definition, universal and cross-cultural.

Third, the ideology should appeal to the population of the super-power. In the United States, for historical reasons, 'rights doctrines' have become part of its political culture. It would be pointless for a US President to justify a war by appealing to Islam, or royal legitimacy, because very few Americans hold these beliefs. Most Americans do believe in rights theories - and very few know that these theories are disputed.

Fourth, if possible, the ideology should appeal to the 'enemy' population. It should ideally be part of their values. That is difficult, but the doctrine of human rights has succeeded in acquiring cross-cultural legitimacy. This does not mean it is inherently right - but simply that no non-western cultures have an answer to the doctrine. The government of China, for instance, fully accepts the concept of human rights, and claims to uphold them. So when it is accused of human rights violations, it can do nothing but deny, on this issue it is perpetually on the defensive. Acceptance of your values by the enemy population could be seen as the Holy Grail of war propaganda: if the enemy leadership is incapable of presenting an alternative value system, it will ultimately collapse.

Human rights are not the only ideology of intervention. The 'civilising mission', which justified 19-th century colonisation, is another example.The point is that human rights can serve a geopolitical purpose, which is unrelated to their moral content. It is not possible to show that 'human rights' exist, and most moral philosophers would not even try. It might not be a very important issue in ethics anyway - but it is important in politics and geopolitics. And geopolitics is what Human Rights Watch is about - not about ethics. HRW itself is an almost exclusively US-American organisation. Its version of human rights is the Anglo-American tradition. It is 'mono-ethical' - recognising no legitimate ethical values outside its own. However, the human-rights tradition is not, and can never be, a substitute for a general morality. Major ethical issues such as equality, distributive justice, and innovation, simply don't fit into rights-based ethics.

Ethical values are not, in themselves, culturally specific. However, this ethical tradition has become associated with the United States. It is dominant in the political culture, it has become associated with the flag and other national symbols, and it is capable of generating intense national emotion. It emphasises the universal rights set out in the American Declaration of Independence and its Constitution. In a sense the US was 'pre-programmed' as an interventionist power. Universal human rights, by their nature, tend to justify military intervention to enforce those rights. Expansionists, rather than isolationists, are closest to the spirit of the American Constitution, with its inherently interventionist values. In fact, most US-Americans believe in the universality and superiority of their ethical tradition. Interventionist human-rights organisations are, like the neoconservative warmongers, a logical result. Human Rights Watch is not formally an 'association for the promotion of the American Way of Life' - but it tends to behave like one.

Human Rights Watch operates a number of discriminatory exclusions, to maintain its American character, and that in turn reduces internal criticism of its limited perspective. Although it publishes material in foreign languages to promote its views, the organisation itself is English-only. More seriously, HRW discriminates on grounds of nationality. Non-Americans are systematically excluded at board level - unless they have emigrated to the United States. HRW also recruits its employees in the United States, in English. The backgrounds of the Committee members (below) indicate that HRW recruits it decision-makers from the upper class, and upper-middle class. Look at their professions: there are none from middle-income occupations, let alone any poor illegal immigrants, or Somali peasants.

Human Rights Watch can therefore claim no ethical superiority. It is itself involved in practices it condemns elsewhere, such as discrimination in employment, and exclusion from social structures. It can also claim no neutrality. An organisation which will not allow a Serb or Somali to be a board member, can give no neutral assessment of a Serbian or Somali state. It would probably be impossible for this all-American, English-only, elite organisation, to be anything else but paternalistic and arrogant. To the people who run HRW, the non-western world consists of a list of atrocities, and via the media they communicate that attitude to the American public. It can only dehumanise African, Asians, Arabs and eastern Europeans. Combined with a tendency to see the rest of the world as an enemy, that will contribute to new abuses and continuing civilian deaths, during America's crusades.

The Human Rights Watch 'Council' is primarily a fund-raising group. However, its members no doubt expect some influence on HRW policy, for their $5 000 minimum donation. The Council describes itself as " international membership organization that seeks to increase awareness of human rights issues and support for Human Rights Watch."

At first Council membership was secret, but the list is now online: it partly overlaps with Board and Advisory Committee members. The interesting thing about the Council is that it shows how much HRW is not international. It is Anglo-American, to the point of caricature. The Council is sub-divided onto four 'regional committees'. You might expect a division by continents (the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia-Pacific). But instead the 'regions' of the HRW global community are New York, Northern California, Southern California, and London. There is also a three-person 'Europe Committee At-Large' but it does not appear to organise any activities.

Although Human Rights Watch claims to act in the name of universal values, it is an organisation with a narrow social and geographical base. If HRW Council members were truly concerned about the welfare of Africans, Tibetans or eastern Europeans, then they would at least offer them an equal chance to influence the organisation. Instead, geographical location and the high cost restrict Council Membership to the US and British upper-middle-class.

HRW Donors

Taken from an older version of the HRW website, this 1995 list is apparently the only information available. In the United States, HRW is not legally obliged to disclose who donates money. About half its funds come from foundations, and half from individual donors, in total about $20 million.

In its Annual Reports, HRW always claims that it "accepts no government funds, directly or indirectly." However, that was a lie according to the 1995 list, and it is still a lie. The Dutch Novib - now part of the Oxfam group - is a government-funded aid organisation, and in turn it funded the activities of Human Rights Watch Africa in the Great Lakes region and Angola. Oxfam itself is primarily funded by the British government and the European Union, see their annual report. It is also funded by the United States Agency for International Development, USAID. Oxfam in turn partly funds Novib, so some of that money finds it way to HRW. Both Oxfam and Novib funded the HRW report on the Rwanda genocide. So, if it is as accurate as HRW's claim not to accept any indirect government funding, look elsewhere for the truth.


Your comment is irrelevant to the issue

03.03.2006 01:03

"To do this he (spinifex) links to organisation called Human Rights Watch."

Human Rights Watch was not mentioned anywhere in the interview with Robert Fisk. It is merely a link providing information about the Anfal?

Which bit about the Anfal do you dispute? That it happened? That the Ba'athist regime was not responsible?

Robert Fisk does not mention Human Rights Watch.

How in your view does my linking you to Fisk's comments, though, discredit him?

Is it something he said? Are you embarrassed by what he said?


Smokescreen from leading lickspittle

03.03.2006 01:19

A typically Fisk effort at putting smoke about to protect the Ba'athists.

He is blatantly insinuating that the sectarian violence in Iraq is being stage managed by the Americans and/or the Shiite factions elected to government there - and slyly adding fuel to anti-Israel fervour at the same time.

No wonder this gutless creep is one of John Pilger's favourite "journalists".

That was the significance of the risible suggestion that the Shiites and Sunnis had always been united, couldn't really be distinguished between each other, had fought together in a fraternal, comradely way against the Iranians, etc, etc.

You are supposed to swallow that, then infer: "Oh, yeah. There must be mysterious forces behind all this. It's nothing to do with the Sunni militias."

No mention of the Kurds, of course.

True, he deliberately sidestepped repeated questions from the interviewer about who is specifically responsible for the violence - then hints at all the mysterious malevolent forces being "paid by the occupiers" that must be behind it all.

This will be an excellent dog whitle for anti-Semites who will cite Fisk's authority as a commentator that "Zionists" are behind the sectarian violence.

Otherwise, the insinuation is that the Sunnis are the innocent victims of American and UK psychological warfare operations or something.

But he's simply too cowardly and sly to commit himself to this as an explanation.

Just drops hints and wonders at the "mystery" of it all.

Now, I should imagine back in Damascus, someone in the Ministry of Information will be initialing the dotted line on the invoice, rubber-stamping it "delivered as advertised" and sending it off to Accounts Payable.

Absolute lickspittle.

Fisking in Beirut

The Ba'ath Socialist Party agrees

03.03.2006 06:04

The claim that the attack was the work of American and Israeli covert-operations is widespread throughout the region as well as among leftist political-analysts in the United States.

Take this item from Radical Left.

"A communiqué from “The Foreign Relations Department of the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party” denounced the attack pointing the finger at the Interior Ministry’s Badr Brigade and American paramilitaries."

"The Ba’ath statement explains:

“America is the main party responsible for the crime of attacking the tomb of Ali al-Hadi…because it is the power that occupies Iraq and has a basic interest in committing it.”

This is exactly the line Fisk is peddling.

I suppose you think this is a coincidence.

Fisking in the Ba'ath

Is this a rewrite of recent history?

03.03.2006 08:14

Fisk says;

"The Sunnis are not fighting the Americans because they don't have power ..." but ;

"...Sunnis (can claim to) have a right to power because (they) fought the occupying forces and you, the Shiites, did not,"

Yet in the very next breath, he says;

"What is going on in Iraq at the moment is extremely mysterious." because;

"Is it really the case that all of these Iraqis that fought together for eight years against the Iranians, Shiites and Sunnies together in the long massive murderous Somme-like war between the Iranians and Iraqis - suddenly all want to kill each other?"

The implicit premise here is that the Sunnis generally, and the Ba'ath Socialists in particular didn't have a monopoly on power before Saddam was overthrown.

And so, mystery of mysteries, why would the Shiites and Sunnis fight each other over control of Iraq now when they've always got along so well in the past?

What could explain this mystery? Oh, here we go.

A timely hint from “The Foreign Relations Department of the Arab Ba’ath Socialist Party” no less:

“America is the main party responsible for the crime of attacking the tomb of Ali al-Hadi…because it is the power that occupies Iraq and has a basic interest in committing it.”

Could that be what Bobby's hinting at?

So, is this the outline of a new Left revisionist account of Sunni-Shiite relations under Saddam? They all got along fine - and the Kurds didn't exist?

15 minutes

HR groups are asprin for cancer

03.03.2006 13:13


respinner >To do this he links to organisation called Human Rights Watch which I guess we are meant to take at face value... but what if we don't?

spinifex > Your comment is irrelevant to the issue

Respinners informative and well written criticism of HRW isn't totally irrelevant to the original post but the issues raised were different enough to merit it being posted as an article in its own right. Spiniflexs link to HRW wasn't fundamental to their original post and we can quote people we disagree with to further our arguments without having to take a stand on the morality of those we quote - I'd happily quote Hitler in anti-war arguments without intention of validating Nazism. Not starting a new thread tends to mix up issues in the further arguments but Respinner was perhaps being overly modest.

The larger and more powerful any organistation gets the less independent it is from the powers that be, which is perhaps why Liberty is rarely as criticised as Amnesty and WRH are. Better would be local groups working on local problems but all human rights work is really just grovelling to torturers.

I have a problem with the very concept of 'rights' of any kind, it implies there is a legitimate higher authority who can issue and deny 'rights' to others. A plantation slave owner may grant his slaves the 'right' to attend church but to accept that 'right' implies accepting slavery. To petition slavers for better 'rights' ignores the root cause of the problem and the obvious solution, to refuse to enslave and to refuse to allow others to enslave.

'Human rights' only apply as a abstract concept to temper the power of soveriegn states. Soveriegn states are simply small elites or individuals who rule subjects by force and brainwashing. Anarchists don't recognise the legitimacy of any state stealing their personal 'soveriegnty' and so in effect regard themselves as the head of their own soverign state. They are absolute monarch of the land they stand upon wherever they stand, albeit without any subjects.


Cack-handed attempts at trolling

04.03.2006 01:07

Spinifex is typical of the red-baiting trolls that hang around on IMC UK, posting under multiple names to make it look like he's got support.

Here's a tip if you really want to troll properly, mate: learn the sorts of words people in the UK normally use, and learn what people in the UK read. Nobody reads the fucking Green Left Weekly here.

And learn to at least vary your writing style a bit when you post under different names. For instance, using the word "lickspittle" in all your postings is a bit of a giveaway.


Robert Fisk claims Sunnis the main victims of Iraqi terror attacks

05.03.2006 22:49

Yawn: "Here's a tip if you really want to troll properly, mate: learn the sorts of words people in the UK normally use, and learn what people in the UK read. Nobody reads the fucking Green Left Weekly here."

Well, John Pilger does, stupid. He writes for the bloody thing;

That's also where he made his infamous statement;

"We cannot afford to be choosy. While we abhor and condemn the continuing loss of innocent life in Iraq, we have no choice now but to support the resistance."

Fisk, on the other hand, makes a bizarre claim like this;

ROBERT FISK: "Yeah, look, in August, I went into the same mortuary and found out that 1,000 people had died in one month in July. And most of those people who had died were split 50/50 between the Sunnis and the Shiites, but most of them, including women who'd been blindfolded and hands tied behind their backs - I saw the corpses - were both Sunnis and Shiites."

Can anyone tell me whether they sort corpses in Iraqi morgues according to whether they are Shiite or Sunni?

Do they label them?

Or is this an attempt to portray the violence there as being somehow "even handed"?

To suggest that it is not being principally focused on Shiites? This seems to be what Fisk is trying to insinuate, since Sunnis are only 20 per cent of the Arabic population of Iraq.

He's clearly insinuating that Sunnis are the principal victims of the insurgency, and not the purpetrators.

That si the straight Ba'athist line. Take this quote, for example;

""(Nahrain) Toma said the (Kurdish and Shiite militia) tactics were eroding what remained of U.S. credibility as the militias operate under what many Iraqis view as the blessing of American and British forces. "Nobody wants anything to do with the Americans anymore," she said. "Why? Because they gave the power to the Kurds and to the Shiites. No one else has any rights."

Thus, the Sunni militias (so called "resistance" ) are exempted from their responsibility as the leading agents of the murderous insurgency, widely supported by the political Left, and simultaneously portrayed as the victims of the terror.

This sort of thing goes on all the time on the Left.

I can understand their embarassment, but it is incredible they imagine people won't see straight through this sort of ruse.



06.03.2006 04:17

Robert Fisk claims to have done a head count of the corpses in an Iraqi morgue, and found them divided 50:50 Shiite and Sunni.

Which is kind of staggering, especially since Fisk at the very start of the same interview suggests it is impossible to make such a distinction.

He says;

" I still go along and say what I said before - Iraq is not a sectarian society, but a tribal society. People are intermarried. Shiites and Sunnis marry each other. It's not a question of having a huge block of people here called Shiites and a huge block of people called Sunnis any more than you can do the same with the United States, saying Blacks are here and Protestants are here and so on."

Leon Simple

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