Tony Jones / Australian Broadcasting – 2004-04-11 16:59:24
JOHN PILGER ON THE VIOLENCE IN IRAQ
On March 11, 2004, veteran journalist John Pilger was interviewed by Tony Jones, on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. This is a transcript of that interview.
TONY JONES: John Pilger, do you still maintain that the world depends on what you call “the Iraqi resistance” to inflict a military defeat on the coalition forces?
JOHN PILGER: Well, certainly, historically, we’ve always depended on resistances to get rid of occupiers, to get rid of invaders. And what we have in Iraq now is I suppose the equivalent of a kind of Vichy Government being set up. And a resistance is always atrocious, it’s always bloody. It always involves terrorism.
Now, I think the situation in Iraq is so dire that unless the United States is defeated there that we’re likely to see an attack on Iran, we’re likely to see an attack on North Korea and all the way down the road it could be even an attack on China within a decade, so I think what happens in Iraq now is incredibly important.
Jones: You mean defeated militarily?
Jones: What does that mean in terms of the resistance, and who is the resistance?
Pilger: There are 12 groups. Only three of them — and we went through the nonsense that they were all Saddam remnants for a long time, now Saddam has been captured, the resistance has actually intensified. There are 12 groups, they’re all very different, there are groups within the Shia, but what they’re all united about, quite clearly, is getting rid of a foreign invader and occupier from Iraq.
And as I say, historically, be it in Algeria or in Vietnam, or France during the Second World War, it is going to be atrocious and bloody.
The CIA Is Rehiring Saddam’s Killers to Fight the Resistance
There’s a great irony here because what the United States is doing now is retraining, or rather rehiring, 10,000 of Saddam Hussein’s most vicious security people.
The CIA are training these people to actually put the finger on who the resistance are, so you have — what you have going on in Iraq now is a kind of re-Nazification, the same sort of thing that went on in Germany after the Second World War.
Jones: Is it legitimate for the resistance then to target young Iraqi men queuing up to join the Iraqi police, which you describe as a sort of Gestapo?
Pilger: All resistances have said if you’re going to collaborate, then you are a target.
Jones: You’re saying these young men, about to join this Gestapo-like police force, are not innocent?
Pilger: Well, they’re not… It’s nice that you call them ‘these young men’. They’re among some of the most vicious creatures. I mean, most of them will be led by people who the Americans would have slapped into Guantanamo Bay had they — if they didn’t have another duty to perform for them.
They’ve taken them and these people are now training 10,000, paid for by the CIA, to effectively do unto the Americans what they did under Saddam Hussein. That’s what they did in Vietnam…
How Can US Neo-imperialism Be Stopped?
If the rest of us watching this, those who worry about what a rampant United States is going to do next — and we should all be worried about that. The evidence is there, it’s all clear — if we’re concerned about that, we ask ourselves, and millions of people all over the world have asked themselves — how can that be stopped?
Well, one place where it is going to be stopped, or at least entrapped, or something will deter it, is, unfortunately, and I repeat unfortunately, in Iraq, because although Americans will be killed, most of the people killed, as you rightly point out, are going to be Iraqis, and that happened in Algeria, it happened in Vietnam, especially in Vietnam.
It’s happened all over the world when there has been a powerful invader, has come into the country.
Jones: But you’re saying, effectively, that the rest of the world now must depend upon a resistance which is prepared to send a truck bomb into the United Nations, which is prepared to bomb civilians who are celebrating on their holiest day in holy cities like Karbala, Shiites, which is prepared to condone, indeed to promote, the whole concept of a civil war in Iraq.
Why do you appear to be suggesting that that resistance is a good thing?
The Source of this Violence Is the Occupation
Pilger: But you missed out the source of all this violence. The source of all this is the invasion, an unprovoked and illegal invasion, and a bloody invasion, by the US and Britain which has caused the deaths of, in the latest conservative estimate, is between 21,000 and 55,000, which causes the deaths every month of 1,000 children from cluster bombs, which is causing the most pervasive contamination from a variety of toxic weapons such as depleted uranium, which has destroyed people’s lives.
That’s the source, that is the main violence in Iraq. Yes, there is that violence, but the violence that you describe is a reaction to that. Haven’t you got it round the wrong way?
How Can ‘Resistance’ Justify Such Violence?
Jones: But what I’m saying is how can anyone back a resistance which resorts to the killing of innocent people? There are other forms of resistance. There is peaceful resistance, to start with. Mahatma Ghandi did not resort to bombing?
Pilger: Tony, do tell me — how do you mount a peaceful resistance to an invading force (which Human Rights Watch this week described as out of control, as rapacious) which has bought a kind of murderous street fighting, which is — and I’ve just said — has killed, you know, in their ‘Shock and Awe’, they killed up to 55,000 people.
Robert Fisk, the independent correspondent, reckons that something like between 500 and 1,000 Iraqis are killed indirectly as a result of the American presence every week in that country.
There are a lot of people actually opposing it peacefully and, if it was reported… You know, I follow the reports of a number of human rights observers in Baghdad. There’s an enormous amount of peaceful resistance but on the other side of the resistance — and it’s one resistance — there is also fire being fought with fire.
I don’t think one has to approve that. In fact, you can’t approve, under any circumstances, in my opinion, the killing of innocent people. But you have to understand why it happens. In the same way that we have to understand why September 11 happened.
Jones: Can you approve in that context the killing of American, British or Australian troops who are in the occupying forces?
Pilger: Well yes, they’re legitimate targets. They’re illegally occupying a country. And I would have thought from an Iraqi’s point of view they are legitimate targets, they’d have to be, sure.
Jones: The Shiites have so far refused to engage in this crusade against the United States, by and large. They have huge militias who are armed and quite well trained whom they could turn against the Americans if they so wished.
They have not done so because they’re looking for a peaceful solution. They’re looking still for a role in a new government in Iraq. Why not back them, rather than the resistance which is killing their civilians?
Pilger: The Shia have long been a very patient group. And you only have to look at Iran, under the shah of Iran, it took a long time during that whole period of oppression in Iran before it exploded in 1979 in a revolution.
And my understanding of what the Shia are doing in Iraq is something very similar, that they, yes, are building a militia army and they’re doing it patiently and they’re doing it in a very ordered way.
There is a certain commitment to a peaceful resistance among the Shia actually, and they’re the majority in the country. But when you have such daily provocation coming from the invader, coming from the Americans, who are the principal force in that country, when you have the kind of murderous presence, the use of well, just simply, the very fact of a military and violent occupation, when you have that provocation, day upon day, then the whole notion of a peaceful resistance, whether it will come from the Shia with their patience or from the Sunni or anywhere else, really goes out the window, I would have thought.
Jones: But just let me finish that question. Can there not be a moral case made for deposing the dictator who was killing hundreds and thousands of his opponents?
Pilger: Absolutely. By the Iraqi people. And I believe had there not been 10 years of a medieval siege imposed on Iraq by the United States, effectively, with Britain, that has caused the death, according to two Assistant Secretary-Generals of the United Nations who were in charge of humanitarian aid up to 1 million people in Iraq — had there not been that extraordinary pressure, that actually strengthened the regime in Baghdad — then, almost certainly, there would have been the kind of uprising that happened in early 1991.
And I think we might have had the parallel we might be drawing, would have been with Romania.
The Romanians got rid of their tyrant who was very similar to the tyrant of Saddam Hussein. They did it by themselves. Now, we stopped them. When I say “we” I’m talking about the West.
The great majority of the reign of terror of Saddam Hussein and the worst human rights abuses were committed by him when he was being supplied by us, when he was being supported by the United States with biological weapons and weapons of mass destruction in the 1980s.
Saddam Hussein’s strength — he drew his strength principally from Washington, also from London, and the hypocrisy talked about Saddam Hussein being the great tyrant that we have the moral right to overthrow I would have thought is now evident to most people.