The War Lovers
By John Pilger
-- - -The war lovers I have known in real wars have usually been
harmless, except to themselves. They were attracted to Vietnam
and Cambodia, where drugs were plentiful. Bosnia, with its
roulette of death, was another favorite. A few would say they
were there "to tell the world"; the honest ones would say they
loved it. "War is fun!" one of them had scratched on his arm. He
stood on a land mine.
I sometimes remember these almost endearing fools when I find
myself faced with another kind of war lover – the kind that has
not seen war and has often done everything possible not to see
it. The passion of these war lovers is a phenomenon; it never
dims, regardless of the distance from the object of their
desire. Pick up the Sunday papers and there they are,
egocentrics of little harsh experience, other than a Saturday in
Sainsbury's. Turn on the television and there they are again,
night after night, intoning not so much their love of war as
their sales pitch for it on behalf of the court to which they
are assigned. "There's no doubt," said Matt Frei, the BBC's man
in America, "that the desire to bring good, to bring American
values to the rest of the world, and especially now to the
Middle East … is now increasingly tied up with military power."
Frei said that on April 13, 2003, after George W. Bush had
launched "Shock and Awe" on a defenseless Iraq. Two years later,
after a rampant, racist, woefully trained, and ill-disciplined
army of occupation had brought "American values" of
sectarianism, death squads, chemical attacks, attacks with
uranium-tipped shells and cluster bombs, Frei described the
notorious 82nd Airborne as "the heroes of Tikrit."
Last year, he lauded Paul Wolfowitz, architect of the slaughter
in Iraq, as "an intellectual" who "believes passionately in the
power of democracy and grassroots development." As for Iran,
Frei was well ahead of the story. In June 2003, he told BBC
viewers: "There may be a case for regime change in Iran, too."
How many men, women, and children will be killed, maimed, or
sent mad if Bush attacks Iran? The prospect of an attack is
especially exciting for those war lovers understandably
disappointed by the turn of events in Iraq. "The unimaginable
but ultimately inescapable truth," wrote Gerard Baker in the
Times last month, "is that we are going to have to get ready for
war with Iran. … If Iran gets safely and unmolested to nuclear
status, it will be a threshold moment in the history of the
world, up there with the Bolshevik revolution and the coming of
Hitler." Sound familiar? In February 2003, Baker wrote that
"victory [in Iraq] will quickly vindicate U.S. and British
claims about the scale of the threat Saddam poses."
The "coming of Hitler" is a rallying cry of war lovers. It was
heard before NATO's "moral crusade to save Kosovo" (Blair) in
1999, a model for the invasion of Iraq. In the attack on Serbia,
2 percent of NATO's missiles hit military targets; the rest hit
hospitals, schools, factories, churches, and broadcasting
studios. Echoing Blair and a clutch of Clinton officials, a
massed media chorus declared that "we" had to stop "something
approaching genocide" in Kosovo, as Timothy Garton Ash wrote in
2002 in the Guardian. "Echoes of the Holocaust," said the front
pages of the Daily Mirror and the Sun. The Observer warned of a
"Balkan Final Solution."
The recent death of Slobodan Milosevic took the war lovers and
war sellers down memory lane. Curiously, "genocide" and
"Holocaust" and the "coming of Hitler" were now missing – for
the very good reason that, like the drumbeat leading to the
invasion of Iraq and the drumbeat now leading to an attack on
Iran, it was all bullsh*t. Not misinterpretation. Not a mistake.
Not blunders. Bullsh*t.
The "mass graves" in Kosovo would justify it all, they said.
When the bombing was over, international forensic teams began
subjecting Kosovo to minute examination. The FBI arrived to
investigate what was called "the largest crime scene in the
FBI's forensic history." Several weeks later, having found not a
single mass grave, the FBI and other forensic teams went home.
In 2000, the International War Crimes Tribunal announced that
the final count of bodies found in Kosovo's "mass graves" was
2,788. This included Serbs, Roma, and those killed by "our"
allies, the Kosovo Liberation Front. It meant that the
justification for the attack on Serbia ("225,000 ethnic Albanian
men aged between 14 and 59 are missing, presumed dead," the U.S.
ambassador-at-large David Scheffer had claimed) was an
invention. To my knowledge, only the Wall Street Journal
admitted this. A former senior NATO planner, Michael McGwire,
wrote that "to describe the bombing as 'humanitarian
intervention' [is] really grotesque." In fact, the NATO
"crusade" was the final, calculated act of a long war of
attrition aimed at wiping out the very idea of Yugoslavia.
For me, one of the more odious characteristics of Blair, and
Bush, and Clinton, and their eager or gulled journalistic court,
is the enthusiasm of sedentary, effete men (and women) for
bloodshed they never see, bits of body they never have to retch
over, stacked morgues they will never have to visit, searching
for a loved one. Their role is to enforce parallel worlds of
unspoken truth and public lies. That Milosevic was a minnow
compared with industrial-scale killers such as Bush and Blair
belongs to the former.