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Locked in an Orwellian eternal war
18 February 2001
In George Orwell's 1984, Oceania - in which Britain is "Airstrip One" - is engaged in eternal war with Eastasia. Victories are constantly announced by the British government. Our battle with Eastasia, over the years, has become routine. In George Bush's 2001, the West is engaged in eternal war with Iraq. The "degrading" of Iraq's forces is constantly announced by the American and British governments. And on Friday, the mission of the planes, which have been bombing Iraq for 10 years, was officially announced by the American President as "routine".
As in 1984, the characters in 2001 do not change. In 1991, defence secretary Dick Cheney and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Colin Powell were urging the bombers on to Baghdad with the backing of President George Bush. In 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney and secretary of state Colin Powell are urging the bombers on to Baghdad with the backing of President George Bush Jr. In 1991, the Beast of Baghdad was Saddam Hussein. In 2001, the Beast of Baghdad is Saddam Hussein.
And woe betide us if we feel like Winston Smith, eternally feeding old newspaper cuttings into the oven. Bin those clippings about how we "defanged" Saddam in 1991. Forget the UN arms inspectors who would eliminate forever Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction". Make no complaint about the half-million Iraqi children who have died under UN sanctions. Destroy all reference to the New World Order.
We are engaging - an Orwellian cracker this, from the Pentagon on Friday night - in "protective retaliation". And by yesterday morning, a military "expert" was on our very own BBC - its defence correspondent, Andrew Gilligan, no less - to announce that Iraq had acquired 30 surface-to-air missiles from Serbia and Ukraine to boost its military might. Really? Is this true? We in the West impose sanctions on Iraq so strict that we prevent the import of lead for schoolchildren's pencils lest it be put to military use; yet we cannot stop the Iraqis lugging anti-aircraft missiles over their border.
When we started bombing in the no-fly-zones in the aftermath of the Gulf War 10 years ago, we did so in retaliation because the Iraqis shot at our planes, just as we supposedly did this weekend. When we fired 200 cruise missiles into Iraq just over two years ago, President Clinton - a brief interlude in the war between the Saddam and Bush families - told us that Saddam has "disarmed the (UN) inspectors". Tony Blair, agonising about the lives of British forces involved (all 14 pilots) told us - a real Orwell masterpiece - "we must act because we must".
So what Newspeak do our masters produce for us this weekend? Why, our own Foreign Secretary Robin Cook tells us that Saddam - not sanctions - are to blame for all those Iraqi deaths. It was the same Mr Cook who has repeatedly and truthfully told us during this eternal war that Saddam has used gas "against his own people" - without mentioning the other truth: that he did so during an aggressive war with Iran in which we enthusiastically supported Saddam. So tell Winston Smith to burn all articles about a village called Halabja if they inconveniently mention Iran.
Iraq's state television yesterday announces "an attack by American aggressors". The forces of Oceania, it seems, killed a woman and wounded 11 civilians in the Eastasian capital of Baghdad. Oceania insists the attacks were aimed at "sites well away from civilian areas". The planes were "well within the 33rd parallel" - the limit of the self-appointed Oceanian no-fly zones -- and used "standoff" missiles to hit their targets.
When President Clinton faced the worst of the Lewinsky scandal, he bombed Afghanistan and Sudan. When he faced impeachment in 1998, he bombed Iraq. Faced with an explosion between Israelis and Palestinians, George Bush Jr bombs - why, Baghdad. And still Mr Cook tells the Iraqi people Saddam is their "problem". Note to Winston Smith: burn at once all references to George Bush Sr's 1991 call to the people of Iraq to overthrow Saddam and his subsequent willingness to let Saddam massacre the lot.
Then there's that $29m aid package about to be handed over by Washington to the so-called opposition "Iraqi National Congress". Note to Winston Smith: place into the incinerator all newspaper reports about the Jordanian conviction for massive fraud of one of the INC's most prominent leaders. Let's keep it simple: Down with the brutal regime of Eastasia! Long live Oceania!