Now that Harold Pinter has given his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, he has also provided us with cover to post what may be the most incredible item — truly the hardest to believe — we’ve ever put up. It’s not only about genocide, which we’ve written about before, it’s about “the coming genocide of the Sunnis in Iraq,” to quote a friend of ours, which will be committed by American proxies for a U.S. regime secretly bent on mass murder. That is the contention of William Osborne, who messaged us in an e-mail earlier this week, before Pinter gave his speech.
Commenting on several of our items about Robert Fisk’s new book, “The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East,” Osborne wrote:
In many ways his book outlines the difference between the journalistic perspectives of Europe and America. But even Fisk has said little about a coming genocide against the Sunnis in Iraq. I’ve noticed that historically successful occupations almost always require genocide, and that it usually costs about 20 percent of the population at minimum. I had always reasoned that the United States did not understand this — I doubt it is openly taught in the military schools — and that in any case it would not be possible because U.S. citizens would not accept such behavior.
Now I see that the U.S. regime understands fully the necessity of genocide, and that its solution is to train and equip proxies to commit it. The Iraqi Shias are being trained and equipped for this purpose. The death squads, sanctions, and abuse will be slow and methodical, and the U.S. will claim innocence. Fifteen years from now, probably about a third of Iraq’s Sunni population will be dead or exiled.
As hateful as we believe the Bullshitter-in-Chief and his cronies to be, we recoiled from Osborne’s message. Could it be true? How had he drawn that conclusion? On what basis had he estimated such a cold-blooded calculation? The whole idea seemed so far beyond the pale — yes, we have to say it, Satanic — that even if it was plausible, it didn’t seem reasonable. We asked him to elaborate.
But before we quote his reply, let’s first quote from Pinter’s acceptance speech:
The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.
Almost word for word, that could have been Osborne answering our questions. He wrote:
For three years I have been so disturbed because I couldn’t figure out what the U.S. was thinking with this seemingly incompetent invasion and occupation of Iraq. Now it is so obvious I feel like an idiot for not having seen it earlier. Our government often hides its true strategies, and places its criminal genius behind a facade of apparent incompetence.
As to the percentages he had come up with:
It’s actually quite obvious. I first noticed this in reading Roman history. The Romans were quite matter-of-fact about it and used slavery as an additional genocidal technique. (During the early and middle Roman era there were no moral inhibitions to genocide. It was simply considered part of life.) I then noticed that similar ratios followed history all the way up to the German occupation of Poland.
To break the will of a people, about one in five has to be murdered in some form or another. Poland had 30 million people and 6 million were killed. [Most of them were Jewish Poles.] About the same ratios were apparent in Central America. The same pattern always shows up, and most recently in the Balkans — though it was stopped before completed. Sometimes other factors can strongly affect the formula, such as ethnic and religious divisions within a country. Some countries also seem to have cultures that break a little easier than others. But the general formula holds true. Even the qualifying factors are predictable, even to the extent of being somewhat formulaic.
We’re not finished with Osborne’s elaboration. But let’s quote again from Pinter’s speech — he gave it in a video broadcast — which more than delivered what we’d asked for when the Nobel for literature was announced in mid-October. Referring to “the recent past” — that is, “since the end of the Second World War” — Pinter ripped U.S. foreign policy:
Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.
But my contention here is that the U.S. crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.
Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America’s favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as “low intensity conflict.” Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued — or beaten to death — the same thing — and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in U.S. foreign policy in the years to which I refer.
Again, before Pinter made his speech Osborne had written us:
Iraq is a special case in the genocide/occupation formula because the Sunnis, who ruled under Sadaam and who now embody the major part of the resistance, only represent about a third of the population — somewhere around eight million people. The U.S. knew it could count on Shia support. In essence, this means that only one in five of the Sunnis need to be murdered — somewhere around 1.8 million people. This will be a large task and will take a good 15 years, I would guess, since it has to be done secretly and through proxies, and include other forms of extermination such as disease, extreme poverty, exile, rape and cultural destruction.
Osborne noted parenthetically, “The looting of Iraq’s museums and cultural sites was not incompetence. It was a carefully planned part of genocide which must also eradicate cultural identity. Hitler’s treatment of, and plans for, Eastern Europe and Austria are classic cases of attempted cultural genocide. And like our actions, it would also have been secret if he had suceeded.” Fisk addresses this question in his book. But we’ll get to that later. Osborne continued:
The U.S. knew an invasion would be a walk-in, especially after the 10-year embargo, which was part of the overall plan (and which the U.N. estimates killed about half a million people.) And it knew it would need about five to eight years after the invasion to weaken the Sunnis and strengthen the Shias enough for the necessary preparations for genocide to be set in place. The genocide will not reach a high point until about 2010, I would say, though its first manifestations are already happening.
The U.S. knew it would not have oil revenues from Iraq until the genocide is mostly complete, contrary to rosy public statements about oil production in the immediate aftermath of “liberation,” and this is part of the calculation. It will be at least 2020 before the money starts really pouring in, I would estimate. The U.S. knew it would need approximately 30 large bases to prepare the genocide and to hole up in until it is over. This has been a huge priority, and they are already mostly built.
In a follow-up, Osborne added:
In contrast to Wesley Clark’s op-ed today in The New York Times, the U.S. government knows that in the Arab world nationalism trumps sectarian alliances. Iraq’s Shias are very wary of the Iranian Shias and will not form a close alliance with them — not to mention that the Iranians are not even Arabs. This is a very carefully weighed and accurate calculation on the part of our government. And as a backup, Iran is being portrayed as a rogue nuclear power in order to justify embargos and other acts of war if necessary. (An example of the lack of sectarian alliances is that the Sunnis of Iraq and Syria were always wary of each other, even though they even had the same Baathist party.)
When Mel Gibson is developing a TV miniseries about the Holocaust — this was teased on the front page of The New York Times, no less — genocide may safely be called the entertainment flavor of the month. (Little wonder the miniseries, to be made by Gibson’s Con Arists Productions, has raised eyebrows. Con Artists, indeed.)
But genocide is being treated seriously by serious documentary filmmakers. Have a look at “Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre,” a 30-minute film by Sigfrido Ranucci (posted at Truthout Multimedia), which shows in some ways how the Sunni genocide is evolving. “The images of indiscriminate mass death and its methods are clear — pacification through extermination,” Osborne notes. “Even if you only watch five minutes, it is clear.”
Only yesterday, for another example, Democracy Now! posted a rebroadcast of “Massacre: The Story of East Timor,” a 1991 radio documentary about the massacre of more than 200,000 East Timorese during a 1975 invasion by Indonesia, which makes use of “extensive documents that show the U.S. government knew in advance of the invasion and worked behind the scenes to hide it from public scrutiny.” They show further that even a U.S. administration operating under a president who has since been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize — Jimmy Carter — “blocked declassification of a cable transcribing President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger’s meeting with [Indonesia’s dictator] Suharto on December 6, 1975, in which they explicitly approved of the invasion.”
The U.S. was not alone then in its effort to hide the truth, nor is it now. The National Security Archive, an independent, non-governmental research institute, “handed over the documents to an East Timorese commission of inquiry into human rights abuses that occurred between 1975 and 1999,” Democracy Now! reports. Last week, however, “East Timor President Xanana Gusmao gave the commission’s report to the Timorese Parliament but wanted it withheld from the public.” You would think the East Timorese government would want the world to know what happened. But coming from a politician, Gusmao’s behavior shouldn’t surprise anyone. As Pinter said in his speech about “the search for truth”:
Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.
Pinter went on to detail the lies familiar to us all that were used to justify the invasion of Iraq: possession of WMD and the imminent threat of an attack (“We were assured that was true. It was not true.”), ties to Al Qaeda and to 9/11 (“We were assured that was true. It was not true.”), a threat to world security (“We were assured that was true. It was not true.”). His simple refrain has the force of a sledge hammer.
“The truth is something entirely different,” he continued. “The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.” And then he turned to “the tragedy of Nicaragua,” offering it “as a potent example of America’s view of its role in the world, both then and now.”
Pinter recounted that tragedy, starting with the chilling details of a meeting he attended at the U.S. embassy in London in the late 1980s:
The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: “Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.”
Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. “Father,” he said, “let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.” There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch.
Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.
Finally somebody said: “But in this case ‘innocent people’ were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the Contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?”
Seitz was imperturbable. “I don’t agree that the facts as presented support your assertions,” he said.
“I should remind you,” Pinter continued, “that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: ‘The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.'”
Read the speech for more of that account — it is stunning — including Pinter’s mention of “six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world [who] were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA.” (And see our recent item about that, Which Parade Was That?)
But why bring up Nicaragua now? For several reasons:
1) As Pinter notes, the “policy” of mass murder that was used to bring down the Sandinista government, which “took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead,” did exactly what Osborne says will happen in Iraq on a much larger scale. It “finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people,” Pinter said. “They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. ‘Democracy’ had prevailed.”
2) It underscores the involvement of John Negroponte, indicating that his latest roles as the American proconsul in Iraq and now as U.S. intelligence czar, are hardly a coincidence when it comes to the cold calculation needed for genocide. We noted in previous items — The Negroponte Games and The Mass Murder Factor — that he was a key official “coordinating U.S. covert aid to the Contras who targeted civilians in Nicaragua and shoring up a CIA-backed death squad in Honduras.” His expertise won’t be wasted .
3) “This ‘policy’ was by no means restricted to Central America,” to quote Pinter again. “It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.”
One way to erase history, to make things seem as if they never happened, is to wipe out the culture. And this is where the looting of Iraq’s museums and the burning of its books comes in. Osborne says the failure of the American forces to prevent that immediately after the invasion was not the result of incompetence, but rather “a carefully planned part” of a genocidal policy, because genocide “must also eradicate cultural identity.”
Robert Fisk, who was in Baghad during the looting and burning, witnessed first-hand what happened. We all saw the news accounts at the time, but his descriptions of the pillaging have a special poignance, always ending in the question: Why? “Never, in all my dreams of destruction, could I have imagined the day I would enter the Iraqi National Archaeological Museum to find its treasures defiled.”
They lay across the floor in tens of thousands of pieces, the priceless antiquities of Iraq’s history. The looters had gone from shelf to shelf, systematically pulling down the statues and pots and amphorae of the Assyrians and the Babylonians, the Sumerians, the Medes, the Persians and the Greeks and hurling them on to the concrete floor. … The Iraqis did it. They did it to their own history, destroying the evidence of their own nation’s thousands of years of civilisation.
Not since the Taliban embarked on their orgy of destruction against the Buddhas of Bamiyan and the statues in the museum of Kabul — perhaps not since the Second World War or earlier — have so many archaeologicial treasures been wantonly and systematically smashed to pieces. …
When I shone my torch over one far shelf, I drew in my breath. Every pot and jar — “3500 BC,” it said on one shelf corner — had been bashed to pieces. Why? How could they do this? Why, when the city was already burning, when anarchy had been let loose — and less than three months after U.S. archaeologists and Pentagon officials met to discuss the country’s treasures and put the museum on a military database — did the Americans allow the mobs to destroy so much of the priceless heritage of ancient Mesopotamia? And all of this happened while U.S. Secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld was sneering at the press for claiming that anarchy had broken out in Baghdad. “Stuff happens,” he said.
But did stuff just happen? Or was it wilfully allowed, even encouraged, to happen? Fisk writes that after talking with the head of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities, who was trying to defend the museum against looters with a collection of Kalashnikov rifles, he contacted the Civil Affairs unit of the U.S. Marines and “gave them the exact location of the museum and the condition of its contents.” A captain told him the Marines were “probably going to get down there.” Did they? Fisk doesn’t say. But he leaves the impression that it was not high on their to-do list, not when they were “faced by a crowd of angry Iraqis in Fardus Square demanding a new Iraqi government” and had to stand “shoulder to shoulder facing them, guns at the ready.”
The reality, which the Americans — and of course, Mr. Rumsfeld — failed to understand, was that under Saddam, the poor and deprived were always the Shia Muslims, the middle classes always the Sunnis — just as Saddam himself was a Sunni. So it was the Sunnis who were now suffering plunder at the hands of the Shia. And so the gun battles that broke out between property owners and looters were, in effect, a conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims. “By failing to end this violence — by stoking ethnic hatred through their inactivity — the Americans are now provoking a civil war in Baghdad,” I wrote that night in The Independent.
If looters had gone wild in destroying archaeological treasures, the burning of the National Library and Archive (where all its books went up in flames along with priceless volumes in the nearby Koranic library) seemed the deliberate work of arsonists. On the upper floors of the National Library, Fisk writes, “petrol must have been used to set fire so expertly to the building. The heat was of such strength that the marble flooring had buckled upwards … And again, standing in this shroud of blue smoke and embers, I asked the same question: Why?”
And yet again, this time when he caught sight of the flames 30 meters high bursting through the windows of the Koranic library, he notified the Marines. He raced to the Civil Affairs office, he writes. “And an officer shouted to a colleague that ‘This guy says some biblical library is on fire.’ I gave the map location, the precise name — in Arabic and English — of the building. I said the smoke could be seen from three miles away and it would take only five minutes to drive there. Half an hour later, there wasn’t an American at the scene — and the flames were now shooting 60 metres into the air.”
The mass of documents destroyed in the blaze was all that was left of “the tapestry of Arab history,” Fisk writes. (Perhaps Pinter read Fisk’s report and appropriated the phrase for his own use? See above, the “vast tapestry of [American] lies.”) The “black ashes of thousands of ancient documents filled the skies of Iraq. Why? Who sent the looters?” Fisk asks. “Who sent the arsonists? Were they paid? Who wanted to destroy the identity of this country?”
In an April 2003 report he filed for The Independent in London — it published more than two dozen of his columns that month, just before the Bullshitter declared “Mission Accomplished” — Fisk wrote that the U.S. military issued a colonial-style “Message to the Citizens of Baghad,” warning them to stay off the streets from dusk to dawn, in effect a “lockdown” that was “a form of imprisonment.”
And all across Baghdad, you hear the same thing, from Shia Muslim clerics to Sunni businessmen, that the Americans have come only for oil, and that soon — very soon — a guerrilla resistance must start. No doubt the Americans will claim that these attacks are “remnants” of Saddam’s regime or “criminal elements.” But that will not be the case. …
Everywhere are the signs of collapse. And everywhere the signs that America’s promises of “freedom” and “democracy” are not to be honoured. … Here’s what Baghdadis are noticing — and what Iraqies are noticing in all the major cities of the country. Take the vast security apparatus with which Saddam surrounded himself, the torture chambers and the huge bureaucracy that was its foundation. President Bush promised that America was campaigning for human rights in Iraq, that the guilty, the war criminals, would be tracked down and brought to trial. Now the 60 secret police headquarters in Baghdad are empty; even the three-square mile compound headquarters of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. I have been to many of them. But not a single British or American officer has visited the sites to sift through the wealth of documents lying there or talked to the ex-prisoners who are themselves visiting their former places of torment. Is this through idleness? Or is this wilful?
Fisk’s report goes on, pointing to the issues that Osborne raises:
[T]here is also something very dangerous — and deeply disturbing — about the crowds setting light to the buildings of Baghdad, including the great libraries and state archives. For they are not the looters.The looters come first. The arsonists turn up afterwards, often in blue and white single-decker buses. I actually followed one of them after its passengers had set the Ministry of Trade on fire and it sped out of town. The official American line on all this is that the looting is revenge — an explanation that is growing very thin — and that the fires are started by “remnants of Saddam’s regime,” the same “criminal elements,” no doubt, who feature in the Marines’ curfew orders to the people of Baghdad.
But people in Baghdad don’t believe Saddam’s former supporters are starting these fires. And neither do I. True, Saddam might have liked Baghdad to end in Gotterdammerung — and might have been tempted to turn it into a city of fire before the Americans entered. But afterwards? The looters make money from their rampages. But the arsonists don’t make money by burning. They have to be paid. The passengers in those buses are clearly being directed to their targets. If Saddam had pre-paid them, they wouldn’t have started the fires. The moment Saddam disappeared, they would have pocketed the money and forgotten the whole project, not wasted their time earning their cash post-payment.
So who are they, this army of arsonists? Again,we don’t know.
Fisk writes that he recognized an arsonist one day, “a middle-aged, unshaven man in a red T-shirt” who “the second time he saw me … pointed a Kalashnikov rifle at me. Looters don’t carry guns. So what was he frightened of? Who was he working for? In whose interest is it — now, after the American occupation of Baghdad — to destroy the entire physical infrastructure of the state, along with its cultural heritage? Why didn’t the Americans stop this?”
As I said, something is going terribly wrong here in Baghdad and something is going on which demands that serious questions be asked of the United States government. Why, for example, did Secretary of Defence Rumsfeld claim last week that there was no widespread looting or destruction in Baghdad? His statement was a lie. But why did he make it?
In the report, Fisk branded as an outright “lie” the claim by the Americans that “they don’t have enough troops to control the fires.” He wondered, “What are the hundreds of troops deployed in the gardens of the old Iran-Iraq war memorial doing all day? Or the hundreds camped in the rose gardens of the Presidential Palace?” His report continues:
So the people of Baghdad are asking who is behind the destruction of their cultural heritage — their very cultural identity — in the looting of the archaeological treasures from the national museum, the burning of the entire Ottoman, Royal and State archives and the Koranic library and the vast infrastructure of the nation we claim we are going to create for them? Why, they ask, do they still have no electricity and no water? In whose interest is it for Iraq to be deconstructed, divided, burned, de-historied, destroyed?
“It’s easy for a reporter to predict doom, especially after a brutal war which lacked all international legitimacy,” Fisk concluded. “But catastrophe usually waits for optimists in the Middle East, especially for those who are false optimists and invade oil-rich nations with ideological excuses and high-flown moral claims and accusations like weapons of mass destruction which have still been unproved. So I’ll make an awful prediction. That America’s war of ‘liberation’ is over. Iraq’s war of liberation from the Americans is about to begin. In other words, the real and frightening story starts now.”
If Fisk — an Arabic-speaking reporter with decades of experience in the Middle East who was on the scene — could not figure out the identity or the motives of the secret perpetrators behind the destruction, how then could Osborne, without such experience, solve the puzzle?
Faced with Fisk’s observations, Osborne writes:
He saw it all but didn’t understand the purpose of cultural genocide. His words leave me almost speechless. The way he was so observant and so close to understanding but not understanding is like the tragic irony in a great novel. You see the flickering light from the flames on his face and sense a human dignity that refuses to comprehend the calculated brutality of what was being done.
It seems to me he probably knew what was going on, and yet his conclusions either miss the point or he intentionally leaves them only as implications. Yes, the war of resistance would begin after the invasion. I think he meant to leave that with us — but very few have made the other obvious conclusion because it is so evil. No one thought the U.S. would burn the cradle of civilization in order to takes its oil and strategic position.
Still, it was just the other day that we cited military analyst Martin Van Creveld’s scenario comparing Iraq to Vietnam, in which he made the case that “the present adventure will almost certainly end as the previous one did. Namely, with the last US troops fleeing the country while hanging on to their helicopters’ skids.”
How does Osborne square that with his own prediction? For one thing, he concedes, “the scenario Creveld paints seems very plausible,” but adds:
A Sunni genocide will only work if the U.S. can build a Shia militia adequate to fill the ranks of the death squads. That will be difficult, to say the least, but not impossible. There are, after all, so many small militias already operating there and so many weapons available to them (which, furthermore, is perhaps what separates Iraq from Latin America. That and the fact that the Sunnis are the elite, educated class, exactly the reverse of the U.S. enemies in Latin America who are the poor and uneducated and led by only a few intellectuals). The destruction of the Sunnis, I might add, would be an enormous loss for the Arab world. But I feel fairly certain that if the U.S. does remain in Iraq there can be no other tactic but the sort of highly focused, controlled, secret genocide through proxies that are a hallmark of U.S. policy — the sort of secret deaths that Pinter spoke of.
The United States supported and in many cases engendered every rightwing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.
Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it. It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest.
Does it matter that, in Pinter’s words, “the invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law”? Of course it does.
The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading — as a last resort — all other justifications having failed to justify themselves — as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.
Finally, after thousands and thousands of words, we don’t know for certain which genocide will or will not happen in the future. But Pinter’s own questions and answers speak for us when he says:
How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice.
— Tireless Staff of Thousands