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Year 2001 No. 177, October 18, 2001 ARCHIVE HOME SEARCH SUBSCRIBE

No to Anglo-American Aggression against Afghanistan! For a Just and Peaceful Solution!

Step Up the Struggle against State Terrorism, Aggression and War!
- Call of RCPB(ML), October 13, 2001 -

Tony Blair Declares Open War against the Taleban Government

Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :

Update:
Tony Blair Declares Open War against the Taleban Government

Actions:
Campaign against the Nice Treaty
Mass Sit-Down Protest against the Bombing

Commentary:
Oil and Gas Resources of Central Asia and the "War against Terrorism"

News In Brief
Concern by Muslims over Proposed Legislation
Regulation Adviser Warns on Anti-Terrorist Regulations
British Ministers Travelling to Boost Coalition
Blair To Talk with Chirac, Jospin and Schroeder before Ghent Summit

Stands Taken against the Aggression on Afghanisatan:
Plaid Cymru Opposition to Bombing of Afghanistan
Green Party Broadcasts to Afghanistan
Two Articles by John Pilger

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Tony Blair Declares Open War against the Taleban Government

Tony Blair told parliament on Wednesday: "We have now significantly damaged the Taleban's military capabilities, including fast jets, transport helicopters, inflicted very severe damage on their command and control facilities, early warning air defence systems, radars, surface to air missile sites." He continued: "And we have inflicted heavy damage on terrorist network and terrorist training camps of (Osama bin Laden's) al Qaida (network)."

He said the United States and Britain were also giving "additional help to the Northern Alliance in their efforts against the Taleban". "It is important we continue this military action and make sure it is successful," he said.

Officials from the Ministry of Defence amplified the Prime Minister’s statements by saying that air strikes against Afghanistan look set to focus away from fixed targets and on to the front line where Taleban troops are battling the opposition Northern Alliance.

British officials said that 61 targets had now been hit in the bombing. Signalling a change in military tactics, one official said on Wednesday: "Our effort is switching towards Taleban troops employed in the field – those facing the Northern Alliance."

Despite this, the officials were also at pains to underline that the coalition had no desire to replace the Taleban government with the Northern Alliance which they said suffered from bitter internal feuding, weak leadership and a lack of political experience. They said a broad-based coalition government was the only viable solution for Afghanistan.

Tony Blair shows no shame in boasting of the damage done to the Taleban, though making no mention of the lives lost through the military strikes, nor of assisting forces opposed to the government of Afghanistan to overthrow that government. To intervene to the Prime Minister is regarded as a God-ordained mission to end acts of wickedness. Nor does he blush at the campaign of lobbying, threats and other manoeuvres aimed at trying to build a coalition to support Anglo-US aggression. This is the Anglo-American civilising mission, and world opinion is not going to stop it. Tony Blair betrays an arrogance of power, of authority, which is not given rise to by popular mandate, nor by international public opinion, nor of any international body.

Tony Blair’s cause is unjust, no matter in what moral authority he tries to cloak it. Furthermore, it is the acting as a global warlord, of a superior civilisation, for economic and strategic aims, that is at the root of the terrorism which he so fervently declares he is aiming to eradicate. The British working class and people must continue to aim their struggles against this root cause and step up their struggles against state terrorism, aggression and war.

Article Index




Campaign against the Nice Treaty

A lobby of parliament took place on Wednesday, October 17, to protest against the ratification of the Nice Treaty. The House of Commons was giving a third reading to the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, which ratifies the EU’s Treaty of Nice. Hundreds of demonstrators from the Coalition Against the Nice Treaty (CAN’T) participated.

The Campaign against Euro-federalism (CAEF) gave its support to the protest. In a recent leaflet, CAEF draw attention to the talk in the wake of September 11 for restricting public protests, introducing a European police force, a Euro-anti-riot squad and single EU-wide laws. It pointed out the EU governments are viewing the current drive to "combat terrorism" as an opportunity to introduce such measures. CAEF gives the call: "Stop the war, end terrorism and oppose the EU Nice Treaty".

Foreign Office minister Peter Hain said of the Nice Treaty that it would make the EU more flexible and said it was essential for enlargement to proceed. Such claims are vigorously contested by the campaigners against the Nice Treaty. Since the EU represents a Europe of and for the monopolies, standing against the sovereignty of nations and seeks to impose these same values globally, the demand for Britain to get out of the EU and that all such political and military blocs be dismantled is just and deserves support.

Article Index



Mass Sit-Down Protest against the Bombing

A non-violent civil disobedience demonstration meets Temple Place, London, 1 p.m., this Sunday, October 21.

This is a national event against the bombing of Afghanistan co-sponsored by ARROW (Active Resistance to the Roots of War), CND, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade and the Green Party.

Demonstrators are asked to wear black and carry white flowers - in mourning for the US and Afghan dead – and will hear speeches from the peace movement before marching quietly down the Strand to Whitehall. A petition will be handed in to 10 Downing Street calling for an end to the bombing and an urgent massive aid effort for Afghanistan.

The organisations collaborating have agreed a common statement:

1) We wholeheartedly condemn the terrorist atrocities in New York and Washington DC. Nothing can justify these terrible crimes.

2) We also condemn the idea of taking revenge for these deaths by military retaliation against Afghanistan, Iraq and/or other countries.

3) We believe that the United States and Britain should proceed on the basis of international law, following the UN Charter, and working through the normal channels of extradition law, to bring the perpetrators of the atrocities to justice.

4) We demand an end to the threat of military strikes to allow the resumption of UN and NGO food distribution and other aid activity in Afghanistan.

Article Index




Commentary

Oil and Gas Resources of Central Asia and the "War against Terrorism"

News agencies and internet sites around the world, including several in the US, are already publishing reports that the Anglo-US "war against terrorism" is nothing more than a predatory imperialist war to secure strategic and economic advantage in Central Asia.

One of the news agencies connected with the oil and gas industries carries the following analysis: "While the bombardment of Afghanistan outwardly appears to hinge on issues of fundamentalism and American retribution, below the surface, lurks the prize of the energy-rich Caspian basin into which oil majors have invested billions of dollars. Ultimately, this war will set the boundaries of US and Russian influence in Central Asia –and determine the future of oil and gas resources of the Caspian Sea."

Many energy analysts clearly believe that newly developed oil fields in Iran, Iraq, the Central Asian republics, and even Afghanistan itself, will soon become more important than those in countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The newly developed oil field in western Iraq, for example, is said to contain more saleable oil than is to be found in Saudi Arabia. The Kashagan oil field in Kazakhstan is thought to contain oil equal in total to current US reserves, while the Tenghiz oilfield in the same country, which has been developed by Chevron Corporation, is one of the largest in the world. Central Asia also contains some of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world and is being seen as "the area of greatest resource potential outside of the Middle East." One estimate puts the total worth of Central Asian oil and gas reserves at $3 trillion.

It is because of the potential of the Central Asian region in particular that some believe that this area will be a source of major conflict for all the big powers and key for the economic development of countries such as Russia, China, India and Pakistan. It is for this reason, it is argued, that the US is starting to pour large amounts of "development aid" into the Central Asian republics, as well as developing a new alliance with Russia, and why the whole region is assuming such strategic importance.

Afghanistan has extensive, but as yet largely unexploited, oil and gas and coal reserves, but its main significance, according to the US Energy Information Administration, "stems from its geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea". This potential includes the possible construction of oil and gas pipelines through Afghanistan, vital if these resources are to find their way to the important Asian market. This potential had already been explored by a consortium of oil monopolies headed by the US-based Unocal and Saudi Arabia’s Delta Oil, which in 1998 signed an agreement with the Taleban government to construct a $2 billion, 900 mile gas pipeline across Afghanistan from Turkmenistan to Pakistan. Unocal also had plans to build an 1 million barrel-per-day oil pipeline, estimated at a cost of $2.5 billion, through Afghanistan, which would link Turkmenistan’s Chardzou refinery to the Arabian. Because of political instability and the hostility of the US to the Taleban neither pipeline has yet been constructed, but there are reports that discussions have continued not only with Unocal but also with other US monopolies including the Central Asia Oil and Gas Industry.

The nature of the energy industry is such that large capital investments in pipelines are less likely to be made where political instability and uncertainty exist. The civil war in Afghanistan, it is argued, must be ended and a stable regime installed so that Afghanistan’s potential as a conduit for oil and gas for the big monopolies can be fully realised. Control of this vital strategic region by the US would create the conditions for its future domination of the entire Central Asian region, vital not just for control of energy supplies but also for wider economic and political domination throughout Asia.

Article Index



News In Brief

Concern by Muslims over Proposed Legislation

Ahmed Thompson, deputy chairman of Muslim Lawyers, said of the proposed legislation to make incitement to religious hatred an offence, "My concern is how it will be used. It could be like the Thought Police in George Orwell's 1984."

Tayib Ali, spokesman for the London Central Mosque, said he was more worried than comforted by the Home Secretary’s proposal. "I am concerned it will be used to gag Muslims," Tayib Ali, who is an imam at another London mosque, said. "It may become extremely difficult to express my beliefs as clearly as my faith demands for fear of someone shopping me to the police." He feared that Britain would no longer be a "haven for freedom of speech and religious belief" if the Anti-Terrorist Bill was passed.

Ahmed Versi, editor of Muslim News, said that he feared that journalism would be inhibited. "If my paper criticises another religion, or an article says Jesus Christ was not the Son of God, that might be an offence," he said. "I am worried about what exactly the law will entail."

Regulation Adviser Warns on Anti-Terrorist Regulations

The government’s independent adviser on regulation, Lord Haskins, has warned the government not to over-react to the September 11 attacks by introducing expensive and heavy-handed new laws. "Over-reaction after events of this tragic nature is understandable, but it is also mistaken," he said.

Pointing to a failure to enforce existing laws and regulations in areas such as eradicating BSE and the failure of the authorities to communicate properly over the foot and mouth outbreak, the head of the government's Better Regulation Taskforce said ministers should check the enforcement of existing laws before introducing new ones.

His warnings came as the government announced it would force businesses to hold email and Internet usage records for 12 months. The move, part of the proposed anti-terrorist legislation, has caused alarm among the companies likely to be most affected. Internet service providers, many of which currently hold data for three months, questioned who would pay for the new measure to be implemented, while industry association E-Centre UK warned that the move could create liabilities for companies with existing contractual obligations not to divulge data.

British Ministers Travelling to Boost Coalition

Cabinet ministers are seeking to maintain the unity of the international coalition against terrorism.

As foreign secretary Jack Straw told the House of Commons that the military campaign could take "months, not days or weeks", international development secretary Clare Short travelled to Pakistan for a two-day visit. She was holding talks on the humanitarian aid effort for Afghan refugees on the Pakistan border.

Chancellor Gordon Brown was in Luxembourg where he urged EU finance ministers to track terrorist assets, while transport minister Stephen Byers was also in Luxembourg for a review of aviation security.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott was visiting Russia and the Ukraine, while Tony Blair remained in London for talks with Jordan's King Abdullah.

Blair To Talk with Chirac, Jospin and Schroeder before Ghent Summit

French President Jacques Chirac's office has said that Chirac, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, Prime Minister Tony Blair and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will meet in the Belgian city of Ghent one hour before the start of the wider summit.

On Friday a one-day European Union summit is taking place which will concentrate on the war against Afghanistan and the situation in that country after the war is over.

"The president considered that it was useful and necessary for these three countries to consult at the highest level on the international situation following the September 11 attacks, and in particular on the situation in Afghanistan," Jacues Chirac's spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said. France and Germany have said they are ready to lend military assistance to the campaign.

EU foreign minister are reported to have reaffirmed solidarity with the United States at a meeting in Luxembourg on Wednesday, although a number of EU countries have begun to express concern over civilian casualties and possible US intentions to target other states.

Article Index




Plaid Cymru Opposition to Bombing of Afghanistan

Ieuan Wyn Jones, leader of Plaid Cymru, called on October 9 for a halt to further bombing strikes and renewed efforts to find a political solution to terrorism, in view of the impending humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. He also expressed his regret on Tuesday that the other parties in the National Assembly for Wales did not support Plaid's call for a full debate on the growing international crisis and the war in Afghanistan.

Ieuan Wyn Jones said that the Welsh Assembly government's proposal to have a statement did not allow a proper debate on the issues. He said, "We had hoped for a vote resulting in a collective statement which all parties would agree and issue on behalf of the people of Wales. We wanted a fuller debate than that allowed so that important issues such as the desperate need for humanitarian aid, civil protection measures, and all the implications to Wales of terrorist threats could be discussed."

Speaking on October 9, Plaid Cymru’s leader said: "The ordinary people of Afghanistan, who have already suffered appalling hardship as a result of the civil war which has ravaged their country are now facing a further humanitarian disaster of unimaginable proportions. We believe that the UK and US governments should desist from further bombing strikes to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid on a massive scale and to make possible further intensive diplomatic efforts to persuade those shielding terrorists to hand them over. Terrorism is evil. Plaid Cymru wants to see those responsible for the September 11 atrocity brought to justice."

He added: "Terrorism cannot ultimately be defeated by military action. It must be tackled through a comprehensive political strategy which involves greater international co-operation. Recent rioting in Pakistan shows clearly how fragile is the current international coalition between western and Muslim countries and how easily it could collapse."

Article Index



Green Party Broadcasts to Afghanistan

Margaret Wright, Principal Speaker of the Green Party, on October 15 broadcast a message of support to the Afghan people via Iranian state broadcasting.

The broadcast was recorded for TV and radio in Cambridge by IRB (Islamic Republic Broadcasting). Against a backdrop of the daily peace vigil and the teach-ins on the world crisis held at Cambridge University, Margaret Wright expressed the Green Party's solidarity with the ordinary people of Afghanistan.

The broadcast said:

"You [the Afghan people] have already suffered enough from over twenty years of war with Russia.

"We realise you have suffered chronic environmental destruction, particularly of your agricultural systems and your irrigation.

"The present drought is quite possibly linked to climate change, which is being caused mainly by pollution from the richest countries.

"We deeply regret that you have been prevented from determining your own affairs. We Greens roundly condemn the bombing of your country by the US and British governments, and hope it will be possible to restore your land, your economy, your way of life free from outside interference but with the support of the world community.

"We do not support the Taleban, and we condemn the terrorist attacks in the USA on 11 September. We believe the perpetrators must be brought to justice through international courts, but meeting violence with violence is no solution.

"We wish peace and prosperity to the Afghan people."

Article Index



Two Articles by John Pilger

WDIE is reproducing below two recent articles by John Pilger. They are taken from the website "The Journalism and Films of John Pilger".

Speaking Out for What Is Just

The ultimate goal of the attacks on Afghanistan is not the capture of a fanatic, but the acceleration of western power, argues John Pilger.

The Anglo-American attack on Afghanistan crosses new boundaries. It means that America's economic wars are now backed by the perpetual threat of military attack on any country, without legal pretence. It is also the first to endanger populations at home. The ultimate goal is not the capture of a fanatic, which would be no more than a media circus, but the acceleration of western imperial power. That is a truth the modern imperialists and their fellow travellers will not spell out, and which the public in the west, now exposed to a full-scale jihad, has the right to know.

In his zeal, Tony Blair has come closer to an announcement of real intentions than any British leader since Anthony Eden. Not simply the handmaiden of Washington, Blair, in the Victorian verbosity of his extraordinary speech to the Labour Party conference, puts us on notice that imperialism's return journey to respectability is well under way. Hark, the Christian gentleman-bomber's vision of a better world for "the starving, the wretched, the dispossessed, the ignorant, those living in want and squalor from the deserts of northern Africa to the slums of Gaza to the mountain ranges of Afghanistan". Hark, his unctuous concern for the "human rights of the suffering women of Afghanistan" as he colludes in bombing them and preventing food reaching their starving children.

Is all this a dark joke? Far from it; as Frank Furedi reminds us in the New Ideology of Imperialism, it is not long ago "that the moral claims of imperialism were seldom questioned in the west. Imperialism and the global expansion of the western powers were represented in unambiguously positive terms as a major contributor to human civilisation". The quest went wrong when it was clear that fascism, with all its ideas of racial and cultural superiority, was imperialism, too, and the word vanished from academic discourse. In the best Stalinist tradition, imperialism no longer existed.

Since the end of the cold war, a new opportunity has arisen. The economic and political crises in the developing world, largely the result of imperialism, such as the blood-letting in the Middle East and the destruction of commodity markets in Africa, now serve as retrospective justification for imperialism. Although the word remains unspeakable, the western intelligentsia, conservatives and liberals alike, today boldly echo Bush and Blair's preferred euphemism, "civilisation". Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and the former liberal editor Harold Evans share a word whose true meaning relies on a comparison with those who are uncivilised, inferior and might challenge the "values" of the west, specifically its God-given right to control and plunder the uncivilised.

If there was any doubt that the World Trade Centre attacks were the direct result of the ravages of imperialism, Osama Bin Laden, a mutant of imperialism, dispelled it in his videotaped diatribe about Palestine, Iraq and the end of America's inviolacy. Alas, he said nothing about hating modernity and miniskirts, the explanation of those intoxicated and neutered by the supercult of Americanism. An accounting of the sheer scale and continuity and consequences of American imperial violence is our elite's most enduring taboo. Contrary to myth, even the homicidal invasion of Vietnam was regarded by its tactical critics as a "noble cause" into which the United States "stumbled" and became "bogged down". Hollywood has long purged the truth of that atrocity, just as it has shaped, for many of us, the way we perceive contemporary history and the rest of humanity. And now that much of the news itself is Hollywood-inspired, amplified by amazing technology and with its internalised mission to minimise western culpability, it is hardly surprising that many today do not see the trail of blood.

How very appropriate that the bombing of Afghanistan is being conducted, in part, by the same B52 bombers that destroyed much of Indochina 30 years ago. In Cambodia alone, 600,000 people died beneath American bombs, providing the catalyst for the rise of Pol Pot, as CIA files make clear. Once again, newsreaders refer to Diego Garcia without explanation. It is where the B52s refuel. Thirty-five years ago, in high secrecy and in defiance of the United Nations, the British government of Harold Wilson expelled the entire population of the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean in order to hand it to the Americans in perpetuity as a nuclear arms dump and a base from which its long-range bombers could police the Middle East. Until the islanders finally won a high court action last year, almost nothing about their imperial dispossession appeared in the British media.

How appropriate that John Negroponte is Bush's ambassador at the United Nations. This week, he delivered America's threat to the world that it may "require" to attack more and more countries. As US ambassador to Honduras in the early 1980s, Negroponte oversaw American funding of the regime's death squads, known as Battalion 316, that wiped out the democratic opposition, while the CIA ran its "contra" war of terror against neighbouring Nicaragua.

Murdering teachers and slitting the throats of midwives were a speciality. This was typical of the terrorism that Latin America has long suffered, with its principal torturers and tyrants trained and financed by the great warrior against "global terrorism", which probably harbours more terrorists and assassins in Florida than any country on earth.

The unread news today is that the "war against terrorism" is being exploited in order to achieve objectives that consolidate American power. These include: the bribing and subjugation of corrupt and vulnerable governments in former Soviet central Asia, crucial for American expansion in the region and exploitation of the last untapped reserves of oil and gas in the world; Nato's occupation of Macedonia, marking a final stage in its colonial odyssey in the Balkans; the expansion of the American arms industry; and the speeding up of trade liberalisation.

What did Blair mean when, in Brighton, he offered the poor "access to our markets so that we practise the free trade that we are so fond of preaching"? He was feigning empathy for most of humanity's sense of grievance and anger: of "feeling left out". So, as the bombs fall, "more inclusion", as the World Trade Organisation puts it, is being offered the poor - that is, more privatisation, more structural adjustment, more theft of resources and markets, more destruction of tariffs. On Monday, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Patricia Hewitt, called a meeting of the voluntary aid agencies to tell them that, "since 11 September, the case is now overwhelming" for the poor to be given "more trade liberation".

She might have used the example of those impoverished countries where her cabinet colleague Clare Short's ironically named Department for International Development backs rapacious privatisation campaigns on behalf of British multinational companies, such as those vying to make a killing in a resource as precious as water.

Bush and Blair claim to have "world opinion with us". No, they have elites with them, each with their own agenda: such as Vladimir Putin's crushing of Chechnya, now permissible, and China's rounding up of its dissidents, now permissible. Moreover, with every bomb that falls on Afghanistan and perhaps Iraq to come, Islamic and Arab militancy will grow and draw the battle lines of "a clash of civilisations" that fanatics on both sides have long wanted.

In societies represented to us only in caricature, the west's double standards are now understood so clearly that they overwhelm, tragically, the solidarity that ordinary people everywhere felt with the victims of 11 September.

That, and his contribution to the re-emergence of xeno-racism in Britain, is the messianic Blair's singular achievement. His effete, bellicose certainties represent a political and media elite that has never known war. The public, in contrast, has given him no mandate to kill innocent people, such as those Afghans who risked their lives to clear landmines, killed in their beds by American bombs. These acts of murder place Bush and Blair on the same level as those who arranged and incited the twin towers murders. Perhaps never has a prime minister been so out of step with the public mood, which is uneasy, worried and measured about what should be done. Gallup finds that 82 per cent say "military action should only be taken after the identity of the perpetrators was clearly established, even if this process took several months to accomplish".

Among those elite members paid and trusted to speak out, there is a lot of silence. Where are those in parliament who once made their names speaking out, and now shame themselves by saying nothing? Where are the voices of protest from "civil society", especially those who run the increasingly corporatised aid agencies and take the government's handouts and often its line, then declare their "non-political" status when their outspokenness on behalf of the impoverished and bombed might save lives? The tireless Chris Buckley of Christian Aid, and a few others, are honourably excepted. Where are those proponents of academic freedom and political independence, surely one of the jewels of western "civilisation"? Years of promoting the jargon of "liberal realism" and misrepresenting imperialism as crisis management, rather than the cause of the crisis, have taken their toll. Speaking up for international law and the proper pursuit of justice, even diplomacy, and against our terrorism might not be good for one's career. Or as Voltaire put it: "It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong." That does not change the fact that it is right.

John Pilger: 09 Oct 2001

The Responsibility of Journalists

Here we are again: the same old footage of planes against the sunrise, the same military jargon used by reporters.

During the Falklands war in 1982, the BBC's Weekly Review Board met to discuss how the war should be presented to the public. The minutes show that senior executives decided that the news ought to be shaped to suit "the emotional sensibilities of the public" and that the weight of BBC coverage would be concerned with government statements of policy. An "impartial style" was felt to be "an unnecessary irritation".

Argentina's acceptance, bar three minor amendments, of a Peruvian peace plan was ignored by the BBC. The Thatcher government was not interested; BBC news reflected this, along with the deception that Argentina was to blame for the plan's "failure". ITN, whose reporting was little different, claimed that "70 per cent [of the British public] want to launch an invasion". However, the same poll showed that 76 per cent of those questioned wanted the United Nations to occupy the Falklands while Britain and Argentina negotiated. This was never reported. Instead, the poll results were interpreted on the news as showing that British public opinion was "hardening".

Here we go again. Last Sunday, the Observer reported that "65 per cent [of the public] support the use of targeted 'surgical' air strikes against countries harbouring terrorists". The paper's poll did not say what "surgical" air strikes were. It did not say whether its pollsters had explained to people that, during the Gulf war, 70 per cent of the 88,500 tons of bombs dropped on Iraq and Kuwait missed their targets completely, causing tens of thousands of civilian deaths, or that in Nato's attack on Yugoslavia two years ago, the majority of targets were also missed. "Surgical strike" is a misleading term. So why did they use it?

The same poll, however, disclosed that 60 per cent of people opposed "massive air strikes". MOST BRITONS OPPOSE AIR STRIKES was the banner headline that the Observer failed to publish, yet, by any true journalistic standard, that was the headline story. Instead, the front page was given over to "the net tightening on Osama Bin Laden" and Britain's role as America's "most potent war partner". There was a breathless tone of "pressing ahead". The sources were British and American intelligence and the Ministry of Defence.

Journalism sourced to unnamed officials whose job in these circumstances is to manipulate the news has a history. Pick any one of "our" recent wars or slaughters and write down the "intelligence" and "diplomatic" lies that emerged later. The list is long. Take George Bush Senior's attacks on Panama and Somalia just over ten years ago. Both were promoted as Wild West pursuits of bad guys, General Noriega in Panama and General Aidid in Somalia. "Sources" were quoted as saying that few civilians had been killed. In fact, more than 2,000 civilians were killed by American helicopter gunships in the shanties of Panama City and, according to a CIA estimate, between 7,000 and 10,000 were killed in Somalia in what the Pentagon called "Operation Restore Hope". This was not reported.

In 1998, President Clinton destroyed a harmless pharmaceutical factory in Sudan with cruise missiles. "Intelligence sources" were widely quoted in the American and British media as being "beyond doubt" that this was where Osama Bin Laden's organisation was making nerve gas. Clinton's attack killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent people. There is said to be a UN report on how many were killed and which is suppressed under pressure from Washington. The sum of the dead from all these attacks is several times that of the number killed in America on 11 September.

Regardless of an admirable strain of dissent in the Guardian and Independent, the overriding impression given by television and the press is that of a familiar rush to war. There is the same old footage of ships and planes against the sunrise, the same old "experts", the same old Boy's Own maps, the same old instant "evidence", the same old military jargon used by reporters ("surgical strikes" and "assets" are favourites), the same old warm-up stories about SAS derring-do, the same old demonising of nations and cultures, the same old nonsense about anti-Americanism (now in the realm of self-parody, with criticism of American policy described as "racist") and the same old "approval rating" polls drawn from a public denied credible information from independent sources, not to mention the perspective that Washington is using the 11 September disaster to accelerate American control over much of humanity, with immediate dangers for all of us.

Surely, journalists must ask themselves: is it not possible to break away from the pack? And do the media courses turning out the next generation examine and analyse such institutional failure (honourable exceptions aside) to keep the record straight? Are media students warned that true journalists must be sceptical of all authority, and that their job is to push back screens and lift rocks, especially at a time like this? It seems that the mantra "giving the public what it wants", meaning giving the public no choice, has bred those who believe cynicism of the public, not their masters, ordains them as journalists. Long ago, John Milton put it succinctly: "They who put out the people's eyes, reproach them of their blindness."

Nothing justified the murder of innocent people in America, and nothing justifies the murder of innocent people anywhere else. That is the unassailable truth in this surreal time. Those who contribute to the current propaganda that says there is no other way but war might reflect that they, too, are likely to end up with blood on their hands.

John Pilger: 28 Sep 2001

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