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Raffique Shah


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Controlling the 'Fourth Front'

December 21, 2003
By Raffique Shah

THE major development since I wrote on America's arrogance last week has been the capture of Saddam Hussein. Predictably, he was "sold out" by the lure of US$25 million offered by the US occupiers for his capture, "dead or alive". Greed is universal, and no one knows that better than the Yanks. They invented greed. No, they didn't. Hell, Judas sold out Jesus for a few pieces of silver some 2,000 years ago, and I'm sure he was not the first traitor-for-money in history. What the Americans have done is to have transformed greed into an instrument of war, offering huge "bounties" on the heads of their perceived enemies. And since all the wars they have engaged in since 1945 have been against countries steeped in poverty, the greed factor has grown in importance.

Few will shed tears for the deposed Iraqi leader given his track record of dealing with opponents to his regime in as inhumane a manner as the Americans deal with proclaimed terrorists, with Blacks in their own country (up until recently), or if we go back some, how they decimated the indigenous people of the Americas. I should note, though, that if all the allegations of his barbarism were true-and I have serious reservations about many of the US claims-he ruled no differently to his neighbouring despots in keffiyehs. There is no Arab country where democracy as we know it exists. From Iraq's neighbouring Gulf States to Saudi Arabia, Egypt to Algeria, Arab rule is invariably dictatorial, disguised as "kingdoms" or "sheikdoms".

So even as Saddam is being readied for the slaughter, the Americans turn a blind eye to the myriad injustices perpetrated on the people in nearby countries. They will not admit that scores, if not hundreds, of citizens of those countries are being held in jails, incommunicado, much the way the 600-plus "terrorists" are being held in Guantanamo. Most of these "concentration camps"-and I refuse to call them anything as tame as "detention centres"-are supervised by US interrogators who add sophisticated techniques to the barbaric ones used in that part of the world. Put together, they will have any innocent man howling out, in short time: "Okay, okay... I am Al Qaeda or whatever you want me to say I am."

But I am not here concerned about Saddam or his fate in the hands of his one-time benefactors. For collaborating with the Americans (as happened during Iraq's war against Iran), he will suffer a fate similar to Manuel Noriega of Panama, the man who controlled the cocaine trade for the CIA during the Iran-Contra affair. What I focused on last week was America's determination to impose itself as the New Empire, or worse, the Evil Empire, on the rest of the world. It has arrogated unto itself the right to brand several countries as the "Axis of Evil". But what can be more evil than the mightiest country in the world raining bombs and other armaments, all coated with depleted uranium, on the hapless, sling-shot armed people of Iraq or Bosnia or Panama or the Sudan?

Last week I examined several international protocols that it has arrogantly refused to be part of, the latest being the International Criminal Court. When world opinion comes down heavily against the US, and the body of nations willing to stand up to their arrogance is growing daily, they build a "moral" case against the country or government that is being targeted for... well, target practice. But, as George Monibot wrote in the UK Guardian recently, "A superpower does not have moral imperatives. It has strategic imperatives. Its purpose is not to sustain the lives of other people, but to sustain itself." Everyone knows that the US did not invade Iraq because of Saddam. It did so because it wanted to ensure that it controls the second biggest oil producer in the world, in which case it will rely less on the biggest, Saudi Arabia. In fact, it has already signalled it will move its troops based in Arabia, most likely to Iraq. With a puppet government in place in Baghdad, the US will end up virtually dictating the price of crude oil, making OPEC irrelevant, and eventually thumbing its nose at countries like Arabia and the Gulf States that have, for many years, grovelled at Uncle Sam's feet.

One of the big revelations that came out of this latest US invasion of a "soft target" was the capitulation of the media. News coverage of the "war" was transformed into a public relations exercise. Even as a bedraggled Saddam was being paraded before the world, US interpretations of all events surrounding that war were bought and sold wholesale. Few journalists had the temerity to probe beyond the PR veil. John Pilger, Peter Arnett, Robert Fisk, Arundhati Roy and MIT professor Noam Chomsky were among those who dared to expose the pillage of an ancient civilisation for what it was, naked imperialism.

Regarding the role the media played in disseminating US propaganda, Danny Schechter, author of Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception, said he recently asked a veteran journalist whether he had ever seen anything like what passed for news coverage during the Iraq War. The older man replied that he had. "Oh, really," Schecter replied. "Where?" "In Germany in 1938," the veteran replied. "That shut me up," said the author, who saw it as the final stage of the collapse of journalism as an independent force. "What was once called the 'fourth estate' became the 'fourth front'," he concluded. Roy, in her collection of essays titled The Algebra of Infinite Justice, sums up the dilemma of journalists and writers this way. We have more free speech now than ever in history, and the freedom to write is defended worldwide. But, she writes: "Do we have really free speech? If what we have to say doesn't 'sell', will we still say it?... Could writers end up playing the role of palace entertainers? Or the subtle 21st century version of court eunuchs attending to the pleasures of our incumbent CEOs?"

So America is not content with merely subjugating the world, protecting a tyrant here, disposing of another there. Or by forcing impoverished countries to live by its notoriously skewed rules of trade a la WTO or FTAA. It can now add to its immense arsenal "weapons of mass deception" in the form of journalists and writers who, wittingly or otherwise, have reduced a long and noble tradition to the likeness of another "old profession", prostitution. Let's reclaim our role in serving humanity, defending human rights. A peaceful Christmas to all.

Part I | Part II