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Guernica Revisited, a Never Ending Story. Or is it?
Journal of a Futurist - 12 February 2003
Why the Warhorses Stomp & Snort
Hey ho, the Old Europeans unstrap their rusty sabres & lurch towards peace. Hands soaked with the blood of Chechen children, Vladimir Putin declares an Iraqi war not inevitable, so ending his likelihood of future romps in a Texas ranch. The world jokes that the latest US dossier against Iraq is not worth the paper its stolen from. Smouldering from the wings, his great Arabian arms bazaar now under threat, the man who sold a nuclear power plant to North Korea while sitting on the board of the global tech group, ABB, Donald Rumsfeld, is spitting chips. Is this a major setback to the US plan of 21st Century domination?
McDonalds arches are sagging, Mecca Cola is gushing and peace marches are breaking out all over. It is a moment of promise and peril. The ones who come between the hawks and their prey take heed. Media warhorses are stomping and snorting. Bigger and bolder assertions of American power are sought in the Sydney Morning Herald by strategic analyst Hugh White, who believes Australia has much to gain by bombing Baghdad. White yearns for a tautological world in which American values . . . are even more strongly valued . . . than they are today, even at the price of innocent lives.
Well, there are many American values I too fully embrace, such as transparency, truth telling, and a free press, which are now more honoured in their breach than observance. Other values, such as arms dealing, overthrowing populist governments, slaughtering civilians, Government lying, ecological abuse, etc, are worth exposing and opposing, a task undertaken with relish by millions of American citizens.
A Brief History of Bombing
On the day Colin Powell delivered his speech to the Security Council, it is strangely significant that a UN banner is spread like a shroud across the tapestry of Guernica, Picassos immortal antiwar icon. The masterwork obscured by a logo, just as Guernicas deeper meaning is drowned by worthless foam from Powells mouth. This curious act of cultural censorship, conscious or otherwise, throws further doubts on the motives of the west.
The 1937 carpet bombing of Guernica by the fascist dictator, Franco, was not - as so often claimed the worlds first aerial war crime. The truth is weirder. In 1923, in order to eliminate a pesky sheik in one of its colonies, the British bombed a market in Baghdad. A newly arrived British staff officer, Lionel Charlton, was so horrified by the resulting slaughter of women & children, that he asked to be relieved of his post on the grounds of conscience, a request not emulated by Colin Powell when, years later, he was made aware that members of his own battalion had bayoneted babies in My Lai. In a 1968 memo, Major Powell advised his superiors against pursuing the perpetrators: Relations between American soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent." (See Robert Parry & Norman Soloman, consortiumnews,com)
My Lai, Many Lies, More to Come
In 1924/25, towns in Morocco were routinely bombed by Spain and France. The sufferings of the citizens failed to resonate, perhaps because the victims were Muslim
. and Picasso had not yet set up his easel. The most cruel, the most wanton and the most unjustifiable act of the colonial campaign, according to Sven Linqvist, in his brilliant remaindered book, A History of Bombing, was the aerial attack on the undefended Moroccan town of Sheshuan, when every male inhabitant capable of bearing arms was known to be absent. The result was a bloody massacre of women and children.
The impact of such raids by the West, which shattered the taboo against the murdering of non combatants, was observed by a young Spanish soldier serving in Africa This soldier, Francisco Franco, the future dictator of Spain, was later to lay waste the city of Guernica. Over 65 years later, on the eve of the threatened flattening of Baghdad, the memorial image of this massacre is covered up to avoid embarrassment, just as General Powell tried to cover up Mai Lai.
One more thing. The horrific raid on Sheshuan was conducted under the auspices the French Flying Corps by a squadron of volunteer American airmen.
Footprints of the Future
Why are you so hung up on the past, notes one of many critical emails, youre supposed to be a futurist. To which I reply with the words of Winston Churchill, the further backward you look, the further forward you can see.
Bush & Rumsfeld seem baffled by the negative response to the UN speech. The source of scepticism is the long history of Government lying
lie upon lie upon lie. Even an amateur observer of US affairs, such as myself, can reel off a spate of falsehoods concocted at the highest level to justify the lowest deeds. Some of these are chillingly pertinent to the present, and thus to the future.
- Tony Blair stole my homework was the quick witted response to the Powell speech from that mesmerising anti-war site, whatreallyhappened.com: An internet cut-and-paste exercise largely lifted from a Californian post-graduate thesis focused on evidence from the invasion of Kuwait 13 years ago. According to this site, the purpose of the latest Terror Alert is to bury this story in the US. And it has largely succeeded.
- Even Hans Blix dismissed the Powell concoction. Inspectors have seen "no evidence" of mobile biological weapons labs, have "no persuasive indications" of Iraq-al Qaeda links, and no evidence of Iraq hiding and moving material used for Weapons of Mass Destruction either outside or inside Iraq. Dr. Blix also said there was no evidence of Iraq sending scientists out of the country, or of Iraqi intelligence agents posing as scientists.
A bakery, chopped tomatoes, missing homework
- Powell claimed a compound in north-eastern Iraq - run by an Islamic terrorist group Ansar al-Islam - was a terrorist chemicals and poisons factory. This comment from the Guardian has been widely corroborated: the terrorist factory was nothing of the kind - more a dilapidated collection of concrete outbuildings at the foot of a grassy sloping hill. Behind the barbed wire, and a courtyard strewn with broken rocket parts, are a few empty concrete houses. There is a bakery. There is no sign of chemical weapons anywhere - only the smell of paraffin and vegetable ghee used for cooking. In the kitchen, I discovered some chopped up tomatoes but not much else.
At this pivotal moment in history, it is wise to assume that the White House may well create an incident to serve as a trigger to invasion. Despite the American value of free speech, we will not be able to rely on honest reporting.
- In August 1964, the US claimed that the US destroyer, Maddox, was torpedoed by North Vietnamese gunboats. It never happened. The Washington Post and the New York Times headlined the Gulf of Tonkin falsehood as absolute truths, as sombre facts.
American journalism opened the floodgates for the bloody Vietnam War, noted columnists Jeff Cohen & Norman Solomon thirty years later. A pattern took hold: continuous government lies passed on by pliant mass media... leading to over 50,000 American deaths and millions of Vietnamese casualties. Could it happen again? It already has.
Truth Not Fit to Print
When Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait on Aug 2, 1990, the first President Bush likened it to Nazi Germany's occupation of the Rhineland, reports Victor Marshall in the LA Times "We must resist aggression or it will destroy our freedoms," Bush declared, in words that have a contemporary ring. The administration leaked false reports that tens of thousands of Iraqi troops were massing on the border of Saudi Arabia in preparation for an invasion of the world's major oil fields. The terrified Saudis fell into line, as did the media. Except for the independently owned St. Petersburg Times, which had obtained two Soviet satellite photos exposing the fraud. (Both the CIA and the Pentagon regarded an attack on Saudi Arabia as improbable). The scoop of the St Petersburg Times was deemed not fit to print by the New York Times
and all the rest.
Students of the Gulf War largely agree, notes Victor Marshall, that Hussein's invasion of Kuwait was primarily motivated by specific historical grievances, not by Hitler-style ambitions. Like most Iraqi rulers before him, Hussein refused to accept borders drawn by Britain after World War I that virtually cut Iraq off from the Gulf. Oh, and how many Iraqis died? According to then-Defense Secretary Richard Cheney (later an arms profiteer, an inside trader, and now Vice President) there was no way of knowing precisely how many casualties occurred". Not true. A 29-year-old US Commerce Department demographer, Beth Osborne Daponte, had figured it out. Daponte estimated total Iraqi losses from the war and its aftermath at 158,000, including 86,194 men, 39,612 women, and 32,195 children. For her pains, Daponte was fired from her job and the report suppressed.
Should Bill Clinton be Jailed?
During Desert Fox, Dec 1998, another US & British show, the citizens of Baghdad were showered with bombs. The official aim was to degrade Iraqs weapons & to retaliate against the so called obstruction of UN inspectors. Iraq accused the UN of spying for the US and Israel. As the BBC states: The UN later acknowledged that inspectors had been passing information on to US intelligence services. Discover more on Google, which lists Desert Fox under Outdoor Recreation, an unintentionally apt description of the Wests bombing of Baghdad. A final nail in the coffin of truth comes from Christopher Hitchens: Theres one thing that nobody dares mention to this day. Ill never forget itClintons impeachment trialhe bombed Iraq the day it started and stopped the bombing when the trial was over. That action led directly to the collapse of the inspection regime. Hitchens believes Bill Clinton should be sent to jail for his 1998 bombing of the Al Shifa medicine factory in the Sudan, another exercise in deception that has failed to elicit an apology.
The Lie thats Lived Too Long
Finally, a little truth telling about Hiroshima, the mother of all acts of terrorism. Ashamed to say, I was unaware of these facts until coming across the decidedly non best selling, aforementioned A History of Bombing by Sven Lindqvist, (Granta Books, London, 2001). On August 6, 1945, when US President Harry Truman announced that an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese Army base, he was aware the target was actually a city of 400,000 civilians. Truman announced that the US wanted to avoid, as much as possible, the killing of civilians, although the bomb was detonated 600 meters above the Shima hospital in the center of the city during morning rush hour. 100,000 people were instantly incinerated, and about the same number died slow agonising deaths. Military censorship ensued that such effects were kept hidden from the American public. General Grove assured Congress that nuclear radiation caused no undue suffering in fact, they say it is a very pleasant way to die. The recent promise by George Bush about the sparing of the Iraqi innocent in every way we can needs to be seen in this context.
For those few of you who still believe the destruction of Nagasaki and Hiroshima helped end the war, there is no higher rebuttal than the official July 1946 report on the result of the air war against Japan by the US Strategic Bombing Survey : Japan would have surrendered even if Atomic bombs had not been dropped, notes the report, [nor] did they persuade Japan to accept unconditional surrender.
The day before incinerating Nagasaki, the allies signed the London agreement, which made crimes against humanity punishable in an international court. Awkwardly, the fourth Hague Convention of 1907, banned the bombardment of civilians. However, the American prosecutor Telford Taylor declared that since air bombardment had become a recognised part of modern warfare, such acts had become customary law. As Linqvist points out: rather than ruling that the allies especially the allies had committed this kind of war crime, the American prosecutor declared the law had been rendered invalid by the actions of the allies.
Farewell to All That
In 1963 President Eisenhower, the Allied commander in Europe during World War II, recalled how he had opposed dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. He told the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, that he was against it on two counts. First, the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn't necessary to hit them with that awful thing. Second, I hated to see our country be the first to use such a weapon. Fifty years later the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian Institute was stopped from mounting an exhibition to explore these issues, such is the residue of denial and self delusion.
From Hiroshima to Baghdad, the aerial bombardment of civilians is standard US practice, often involving the use of napalm, phosporous and incendiary bombs outlawed by the 1977 Geneva Protocols. Planes dropped chemicals in Korea, Agent Orange in Vietnam, depleted uranium in the Gulf war, cluster bombs in Kabul and have already signalled use of nuclear tipped bunker busters in Baghdad. In the last 100 years, taken all for all, despite the best intentions of its citizens, the US Government has committed more acts of airborne terror than all the other nations of earth put together. That remark isnt racist. Its history. For this reason, every person of goodwill should hit the streets for this weekends global protest for peace. Otherwise well go on repeating our disasters.
NOTE: The above image is entitled Study in the Primary Triad, after Picasso's Guernica. It is credited as a Group Painting (Watercolor 22" x 30") from the Dory Kanter Gallery, France Tour, displayed on www.artworldtours.com
PS: It has just been reported that 100,000 body bags and 6,000 coffins have secretly been delivered to a US military base in Italy. Ends