The Guardian February 5, 2003

Blair is a coward

by John Pilger

William Russell, the great correspondent who reported the carnage of 
imperial wars, may have first used the expression "blood on his hands" to 
describe impeccable politicians who, at a safe distance, order the mass 
killing of ordinary people.

In my experience "on his hands" applies especially to those modern 
political leaders who have had no personal experience of war, like George W 
Bush, who managed not to serve in Vietnam, and the effete Tony Blair.

There is about them the essential cowardice of the man who causes death and 
suffering not by his own hand but through a chain of command that affirms 
his "authority".

In 1946 the judges at Nuremberg who tried the Nazi leaders for war crimes 
left no doubt about what they regarded as the gravest crimes against 
humanity. The most serious was unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state 
that offered no threat to one's homeland. Then there was the murder of 
civilians, for which responsibility rested with the "highest authority".

Blair is about to commit both these crimes, for which he is being denied 
even the flimsiest United Nations cover now that the weapons inspectors 
have found, as one put it, "zilch".

Like those in the dock at Nuremberg, he has no democratic cover.

Using the archaic "royal prerogative" he did not consult parliament or the 
people when he dispatched 35,000 troops and ships and aircraft to the Gulf; 
he consulted a foreign power, the Washington regime.

Unelected in 2000, the Washington regime of George W Bush is now 
totalitarian, captured by a clique whose fanaticism and ambitions of 
"endless war" and "full spectrum dominance" are a matter of record.

All the world knows their names: Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Cheney 
and Perle, and Powell, the false liberal. Bush's State of the Union speech 
last night was reminiscent of that other great moment in 1938 when Hitler 
called his generals together and told them: "I must have war." He then had 

To call Blair a mere "poodle" is to allow him distance from the killing of 
innocent Iraqi men, women and children for which he will share 

He is the embodiment of the most dangerous appeasement humanity has known 
since the 1930s. The current American elite is the Third Reich of our 
times, although this distinction ought not to let us forget that they have 
merely accelerated more than half a century of unrelenting American state 
terrorism: from the atomic bombs dropped cynically on Japan as a signal of 
their new power to the dozens of countries invaded, directly or by proxy, 
to destroy democracy wherever it collided with American "interests", such 
as a voracious appetite for the world's resources, like oil.

When you next hear Blair or Straw or Bush talk about "bringing democracy to 
the people of Iraq", remember that it was the CIA that installed the Ba'ath 
Party in Baghdad from which emerged Saddam Hussein.

"That was my favourite coup", said the CIA man responsible. When you next 
hear Blair and Bush talking about a "smoking gun" in Iraq, ask why the US 
Government last December confiscated the 12,000 pages of Iraq's weapons 
declaration, saying they contained "sensitive information" which needed "a 
little editing".

Sensitive indeed. The original Iraqi documents listed 150 American, British 
and other foreign companies that supplied Iraq with its nuclear, chemical 
and missile technology, many of them in illegal transactions. In 2000 Peter 
Hain, then a Foreign Office Minister, blocked a parliamentary request to 
publish the full list of lawbreaking British companies. He has never 
explained why.

As a reporter of many wars I am constantly aware that words on the page 
like these can seem almost abstract, part of a great chess game unconnected 
to people's lives.

The most vivid images I carry make that connection. They are the end result 
of orders given far away by the likes of Bush and Blair, who never see, or 
would have the courage to see, the effect of their actions on ordinary 
lives: the blood on their hands.

Let me give a couple of examples. Waves of B52 bombers will be used in the 
attack on Iraq. In Vietnam, where more than a million people were killed in 
the American invasion of the 1960s, I once watched three ladders of bombs 
curve in the sky, falling from B52s flying in formation, unseen above the 

They dropped about 70 tons of explosives that day in what was known as the 
"long box" pattern, the military term for carpet bombing. Everything inside 
a "box" was presumed destroyed.

When I reached a village within the "box", the street had been replaced by 
a crater.

I slipped on the severed shank of a buffalo and fell hard into a ditch 
filled with pieces of limbs and the intact bodies of children thrown into 
the air by the blast.

The children's skin had folded back, like parchment, revealing veins and 
burnt flesh that seeped blood, while the eyes, intact, stared straight 
ahead. A small leg had been so contorted by the blast that the foot seemed 
to be growing from a shoulder. I vomited.

I am being purposely graphic. This is what I saw, and often; yet even in 
that "media war" I never saw images of these grotesque sights on television 
or in the pages of a newspaper.

I saw them only pinned on the wall of news agency offices in Saigon as a 
kind of freaks' gallery.

SOME years later I often came upon terribly deformed Vietnamese children in 
villages where American aircraft had sprayed a herbicide called Agent 

It was banned in the United States, not surprisingly for it contained 
Dioxin, the deadliest known poison.

This terrible chemical weapon, which the clichi-mongers would now call a 
weapon of mass destruction, was dumped on almost half of South Vietnam.

Today, as the poison continues to move through water and soil and food, 
children continue to be born without palates and chins and scrotums or are 
stillborn. Many have leukaemia.

You never saw these children on the TV news then; they were too hideous for 
their pictures, the evidence of a great crime, even to be pinned up on a 
wall and they are old news now.

That is the true face of war. Will you be shown it by satellite when Iraq 
is attacked? I doubt it.

I was starkly reminded of the children of Vietnam when I travelled in Iraq 
two years ago. A paediatrician showed me hospital wards of children 
similarly deformed: a phenomenon unheard of prior to the Gulf war in 1991.

She kept a photo album of those who had died, their smiles undimmed on grey 
little faces. Now and then she would turn away and wipe her eyes.

More than 300 tons of depleted uranium, another weapon of mass destruction, 
were fired by American aircraft and tanks and possibly by the British.

Many of the rounds were solid uranium which, inhaled or ingested, causes 
cancer. In a country where dust carries everything, swirling through 
markets and playgrounds, children are especially vulnerable.

For 12 years Iraq has been denied specialist equipment that would allow its 
engineers to decontaminate its southern battlefields.

It has also been denied equipment and drugs that would identify and treat 
the cancer which, it is estimated, will affect almost half the population 
in the south.

LAST November Jeremy Corbyn MP asked the Junior Defence Minister Adam 
Ingram what stocks of weapons containing depleted uranium were held by 
British forces operating in Iraq.

His robotic reply was: "I am withholding details in accordance with 
Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information."

Let us be clear about what the Bush-Blair attack will do to our fellow 
human beings in a country already stricken by an embargo run by America and 
Britain and aimed not at Saddam Hussein but at the civilian population, who 
are denied even vaccines for the children.

Last week the Pentagon in Washington announced matter-of-factly that it 
intended to shatter Iraq "physically, emotionally and psychologically" by 
raining down on its people 800 cruise missiles in two days.

This will be more than twice the number of missiles launched during the 
entire 40 days of the 1991 Gulf War.

A military strategist named Harlan Ullman told American television: "There 
will not be a safe place in Baghdad. The sheer size of this has never been 
seen before, never been contemplated before."

The strategy is known as Shock and Awe and Ullman is apparently its proud 
inventor. He said: "You have this simultaneous effect, rather like the 
nuclear weapons at Hiroshima, not taking days or weeks but minutes."

What will his "Hiroshima effect" actually do to a population of whom almost 
half are children under the age of 14?

The answer is to be found in a "confidential" UN document, based on World 
Health Organisation estimates, which says that "as many as 500,000 people 
could require treatment as a result of direct and indirect injuries".

A Bush-Blair attack will destroy "a functioning primary health care system" 
and deny clean water to 39 per cent of the population. There is "likely [to 
be] an outbreak of diseases in epidemic if not pandemic proportions".

It is Washington's utter disregard for humanity, I believe, together with 
Blair's lies that have turned most people in this country against them, 
including people who have not protested before.

Last weekend Blair said there was no need for the UN weapons inspectors to 
find a "smoking gun" for Iraq to be attacked.

Compare that with his reassurance in October 2001 that there would be no 
"wider war" against Iraq unless there was "absolute evidence" of Iraqi 
complicity in September 11. And there has been no evidence.

Blair's deceptions are too numerous to list here. He has lied about the 
nature and effect of the embargo on Iraq by covering up the fact that 
Washington, with Britain's support, is withholding more than $5 billion 
worth of humanitarian supplies approved by the Security Council.

He has lied about Iraq buying aluminium tubes, which he told Parliament 
were "needed to enrich uranium". The International Atomic Energy Agency has 
denied this outright.

He has lied about an Iraqi "threat", which he discovered only following 
September 11, 2001 when Bush made Iraq a gratuitous target of his "war on 
terror". Blair's "Iraq dossier" has been mocked by human rights groups.

However, what is wonderful is that across the world the sheer force of 
public opinion isolates Bush and Blair and their lemming, John Howard in 

So few people believe them and support them that The Guardian [in 
Britain] this week went in search of the few who do  "the hawks". The 
paper published a list of celebrity warmongers, some apparently shy at 
describing their contortion of intellect and morality. It is a small list.

IN CONTRAST the majority of people in the West, including the United 
States, are now against this gruesome adventure and the numbers grow every 

It is time MPs joined their constituents and reclaimed the true authority 
of parliament. MPs like Tam Dalyell, Alice Mahon, Jeremy Corbyn and George 
Galloway have stood alone for too long on this issue and there have been 
too many sham debates manipulated by Downing Street.

If, as Galloway says, a majority of Labour backbenchers are against an 
attack, let them speak up now.

Blair's fig leaf of a "coalition" is very important to Bush and only the 
moral power of the British people can bring the troops home without them 
firing a shot.

The consequences of not speaking out go well beyond an attack on Iraq. 
Washington will effectively take over the Middle East, ensuring an age of 
terrorism other than their own.

The next American attack is likely to be Iran  the Israelis want this  
and their aircraft are already in place in Turkey. Then it may be China's 

"Endless war" is Vice-President Cheney's contribution to our understanding.

Bush has said he will use nuclear weapons "if necessary". On March 26 last 
Geoffrey Hoon said that other countries "can be absolutely confident that 
in the right conditions we would be willing to use our nuclear weapons".

Such madness is the true enemy. What's more, it is right here at home and 
you, the British people, can stop it.

On the weekend of Saturday-Sunday, February 15-16, great demonstrations 
against an attack on Iraq will be held throughout Australia and the world. 
This is perhaps the last chance to stop the Bush, Blair and Howard war 
without end.

Back to index page