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Frank Thomas | 18.11.2004 19:42 | Analysis | Anti-militarism | Globalisation | Cambridge | London

It's about the lie of war that governments and the military have elaborated over the last ten years, the technological, smart surgical war that is supposed to limit civilian deaths, thereby somehow making the killing acceptable. It suggests that the conflicts at the moment are the on-going practice of a policy of war orchestrated the US administration, both before and after 911, and nothing to do with terrorism.


Aerial bombardment, civilian deaths, widespread destruction of homes and buildings. The big guns pounding the city, then the troops going in to smash everything up and more deaths, more civilians dead and wounded, more soldiers sacrificed. They are razing the city to the ground, eliminating anyone that moves. The filmed murder of the captive and wounded Iraqi is indicative enough of the stepping up of violence and the madness of war. But it is also part of the sensationalism that the media feeds on and which the public gets to focus on, in the same way that the videos of beheading hostages foster outrage and aid the idea that all Iraqi resistance fighters are cold blooded assassins. Both actions are readily condemned; both take your eyes off the bigger picture of the killing. The latest count of civilian deaths is around 15,000. Rules of engagement? Conventions of war? Tell that to all those who lost family during bombing raids.
The onslaught of Fallujah got the go ahead right after Bush was re-elected. No doubt this was the endorsement to steer the invasion of Iraq back on course, back to the battleground, back to getting the job done and eliminating the enemy. They call it ‘dealing with pockets of insurgents’, ‘the flushing out of terrorists’, ‘cleaning out the city’. What they mean is killing those that for whatever reasons are resisting the US/British led invasion. Since the world has been turned upside down, where liberation=violence, where security=repression, the terminology and presentation are fundamental, they are what we have to get a grip on the situation, if we still can, but they are also the ways in which the warmongering forces in government have orchestrated the big lie of modern warfare .
The way that war is now conceived dates back to first Gulf War. This was to be a hi-tech military machine. The smart bomb, rapid incisive attacks with minimum collateral damage, the video-game war with the Pentagon presenting its film clips of targets struck from the air. A new vision of imposing order. Innate in this idea of the smart weapons is that of western supremacy, of technical superiority over backward and poor nations that would be awestruck by such impressive technology. The language of technology is used to set the terrain to conceive as warfare as a smooth business-like transaction, a routine project with few casualties and little destruction.
You’re running and the building next to you breaks apart, fragments hurtle every which way, concrete, glass, steel exploding outward and flying into you faster than anything you’ve seen. The shockwaves smash into your body. The noise itself is enough to knock you down. The vehicle splinters apart and the metal rips into your chest. A rocket explodes inside a house and disintegrates everything. The politicians, generals, spokesmen assure us that there will sure enough be casualties, in war time it is only natural, but this is the inevitable price to achieve the greater goal. But it is your son or daughter lying under the rubble of what was once your home. There’s the smoke, the flames, the chaotic shambles of the block of flats and you see that it’s your mother or father that has been killed by a bomb dropped from a great height that has ripped into the building and wreaked its deadly havoc. Just one is enough. One dead next of kin, one dead loved one and you cannot imagine what evil force has brought this about. You cannot possibly reconcile the strategy of liberating, of freeing you from a tyrant’s clutches with this death because all you know is that your children or your parents were alive yesterday but are dead now.
One of the big lies to have gone down is the sanitation of war. It is not about having your skin burnt off from an exploding warhead: it is about a surgical intervention brought about by an intelligent precise missile. Look at how warfare is being shaped in our minds. Since the Gulf War, the green screen techno war of smart bombs and friendly fire, the idea that an enemy can be defeated using weapons that strike one particular anti- aircraft position right there in that bunker – we have the film to prove it - without any innocent civilians getting hit, is the new mythology to window dress an old lie. Nobody really gets hurt, it’s all over in a flash, the new technology has provided wonderful and easy solutions to pursue conflict. If you believe that an enemy may be crushed with surgical, hence benevolent, accuracy then you are well on your way to giving the go ahead to a war: what is there to lose?
Fighter planes set off from ships at sea, bombers fly from thousands of miles away, the command centres are in other continents, everything you throw at the enemy comes from afar, it’s an anonymous delivery of violence. There’s little doubt that the rationale behind the conflicts in the Gulf and Afghanistan not only stem from this notion of the swift hi-tech removal of the enemy, but also from the very fact that you can strike with impunity. It’s not necessary to actually come face to face with the opposition because they’re getting wiped out from the skies above. We’ll just erase all the enemy units, get in there to ‘mop things up’, ‘get the job done and go home again’, simple as that. We’ve got the superiority, we’ve got what it takes, we’re so confident we can do the photo-op video conference afterward.
The estimates of civilians killed directly by American and allied forces in the first Gulf War vary broadly between 5,000--15,000. After the end of the war 4,000-6,000 more civilians died due to wounds, lack of medical care, or malnutrition. Yugoslavia, 1999, dubbed a humanitarian intervention, was the second instance of the ‘smart’ war. In the 11 week bombing campaign, NATO targeted not just the military apparatus of Yugoslavia, it devastated civilian infrastructure - power stations, water supplies, schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, train tracks, factories, offices and thousands of homes and families were torn apart. More than 20,000 laser or satellite-guided weapons were launched and over 79,000 tons of explosives were dropped, including 152 containers with 35,450 cluster bombs, thermo-visual and graphite bombs, prohibited under international conventions. The NATO forces justified the bombing of civilian targets as either "mistakes" or essential to the destruction of Milosevic and the Yugoslav Army. As a direct result of the bombings, some estimate around 500 civilians, though others put the total in the thousands, were killed and more than 6,000 sustained serious injuries. Many will remain crippled for life. Children make made up 30% of all casualties as well as 40% of the total number injured. In addition, approximately 300,000 children have suffered severe psychological traumas and will require continuous medical surveillance and treatment.
The on-going operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan has killed between 3000-3400 civilians to date.
The on-going Iraqi Freedom operation has killed up to 15,000 civilians to date.
Thousands have died in four major campaigns that we were persuaded would ‘do the job’ and keep unnecessary deaths to a minimum.
Not only the people, but the military chiefs have bought their own lie. The war commanders are convinced of these new tactics, they too have swallowed the ruse of technological mastery and superiority, the weaponry that makes warfare a surgical, virtually push button operation. Apart from the death toll of innocent victims, the bitter irony is that these intelligent missiles and smart bombing have proved far from guaranteeing immediate success.
Onto Iraq, second round. After the bombing raids to bring the country to its knees, the soldiers move in. It seems to be going to the plan but it is not long before the forces are tripping over themselves after their delusions of victory. The problem is that this campaign was not even conceived as warfare at all, not considered an invasion or an occupation. It is a mission, a crusade for the safeguarding of world peace and order. Then the real trouble begins. Do the armed forces ensure that the country is entirely under control? No, because essentially we are here to restore the water and electricity. Do the troops shoot everyone and anyone who might represent a threat? No, because we are not here to destroy the enemy but to see the transition of the country from tyranny to democracy, besides that would make it look like an invasion. The status is questionable. What exactly is the nature of the beast? Confusion augments concerning the real motives of the project in the first place, confusion as to whether the mission is right or wrong. The lie that war doesn’t get people killed was by now accepted knowledge. But what of the constantly changing rationale for being there, that’s a whole stream of lies delivered by government and helped along by the mainstream media. First it’s about removing the potential danger of WMD. Then about getting Saddam and regime change. About punishing Iraq for their involvement and support for terrorist activities, the so-called ‘moral high ground’ after 911 along the same lines as the war against Afghanistan. Now it’s about freedom and bringing liberty and democracy to a people ruled by a despot. Whatever, as long as terrorism is in there somewhere.
This is no relief to most soldiers. There’s no law that says they would have to fight and die on foreign soil in a war that their leaders had concocted. Maybe they wanted the training, needed a job. Sure there is the worst case eventuality of having to fight, perhaps to defend the homeland or force back aggression. One might argue that soldiers are trained and ready to die. Their sacrifice is an honor; they fall in the line of duty to which they are fully compliant. This is one of the truly age-old lies. A soldier who is killed defending his country is one thing. It is a different case if the troops are sent to some foreign field in the name of their president’s charade of the noble purposes of liberty for an oppressed nation. This is why they had to hammer it out that people were being tortured, the dictator was ready to release his arsenals of bio weapons, tongues were being ripped out in public squares, babies were disappearing, the king’s son takes pot shots at pedestrians and when he goes fishing he likes to use dynamite. But once in Iraq they are manipulated just as much as the rest of the world by the military and government alike, manipulated because they are not sure exactly why they are there and because their leaders change strategy on a regular basis. Manipulated because they too are dying for the lies fabricated in Washington and London. If Bush and Blair are ever to be tried for war-crimes then the sacrifice of their own soldiers should not be forgotten.
But Bush has been reappointed as Commander In Chief and the military are back in the business of total combat. They have fresh orders. It is time to start wiping out the enemy once and for all. The insurgents, rebels, terrorists, resistance, citizens, people, whatever you wish to call them.
The truth is that after 9/11 the USA was primed for a new stint of warfare. The US has always been going to war since 1945, every year, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq follow the pattern. The world’s biggest war machine is the US. It is they that have the greatest weapon stockpiles and manufacturing capabilities, the broadest network of technological development into means of destruction. It is the US government that spends billions on armaments to the detriment of the nation and every nation. It is the US that has the most belligerent record. The plans were in place for both Afghanistan and Iraq before 9/11. There is much concerned talk about a 9/11 conspiracy and rightly so since there still has been no thorough investigation or transparency from the powers that be, thereby fuelling the accusations of a cover up. Whether is was an ‘inside’ job or not, we do know that there is evidence to show the Bush administration had warnings of the attacks. What we also know is that it led to the hyped anti-terrorist phase on a global scale and the ruse for war on two fronts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as an evident government ploy to boost the police and curb the liberty of citizens in the nation’s very own backyard. Bin Laden? He is not even wanted by the FBI for the 9/11 attacks. The fight against terrorism? Any trooper could tell you that you do not smash a terrorist ring by bombing or invading another country which puts paid to that lie. The point is not about the soldier shooting that wounded Iraqi. It’s not about the brutal execution of hostages either. And it’s not even about Bin Laden or terrorism. It’s about the war party, the warmongers, and they are on the march again. There’s widespread consent in the indignation, outrage as well as fear in the voices against the Bush/Blair regimes, but a lot of sidetracking too when it comes to the issue of war. It’s one thing to focus on the anomalies of 911, on the allegations of fraudulent elections, on the unashamed profiteering of the global corporations, on the furthering of power by a select elite of corporate brokers, on the Bilderbergs, the Trilateral Commission, CFR, on the antics of the Bohemian Grove, on the illustrious Skull and Bones that furnished two presidential candidates, and all the rest of the gang making up the bright shining light of the New World Order. It’s another, more urgent, more desperate issue when people are getting killed in order that their plans for empire are taken a step further. They may swing this way and that and give their operations new labels depending on political expedients, but they still cannot hide the big lie of the war project. The deaths in Fallujah, Mosul and the other cities to come are the tragic realities of this strategy. This is the work of governments and the military hand in hand with industrial corporations whose ignominy and treachery are reflected in their spiralling weave of lies about war as they push the world further into an insane cycle of destruction.

Frank Thomas 17.11.04

Frank Thomas
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