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"Trail of blood"

"Nothing more vividly sums up the horrific situation in Iraq than what happened on Wednesday of this week when American helicopters attacked a wedding party in the west of Iraq killing 40 mostly women and children, a massacre. How long is the world going to stand for this? When I say the world I'm talking about civilized humanity." John Pilger

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The US led invasion of Iraq is an "epic crime" and the US led coalition should pull out now - that's the view of award winning journalist John Pilger, this week's Amsterdam Forum guest.

Pilger has carved his reputation with decades of courageous reporting from around the globe, most famously from Vietnam, Cambodia, East Timor and the Middle East.

His most recent documentaries are Breaking the Silence, on the US's war on terrorism, and Palestine is Still the Issue, on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

On Iraq John Pilger is uncompromising, saying US forces are "terrorists by any understanding of that term." He says US defeat is vital for world order adding that if they are not stopped the Americans will go on to attack Iran, North Korea and even within a decade China.

At the beginning of this week's programme Pilger says the US attack on a wedding party in the west of Iraq, which killed more than 40 people, was a vivid example of the horrific situation now engulfing Iraq. 

He went on to say it was the duty of the rest of the world to stand up and be counted and put an end to the US led occupation.

As ever, Forum listeners from around the world sent their questions and comments to be used in the programme – here are a few of your questions that John Pilger answered.

Bryan Suits, a 2nd lieutenant serving with the US Army in Iraq wrote in to say: 

"I am currently serving in Iraq and I am stunned by this man's [John Pilger's] blind ignorance. His characterization of US troops as ‘panic stricken' brutes is carved from TV, not reality. IRAQIS in my area of responsibility ask me every day ‘Why didn't you flatten Fallujah?' 

I say, ‘The majority were innocent people.' 

They reply, ‘No they're not. Even the children are Baathists.' 

Now, I have this on videotape. I travel with 4 to 5 men because I trust the Iraqis I have met. My team surveys land for schools and clinics. (The ones that Oil For Food was supposed to pay for.) 

I do not pretend to know anything about John Pilger's life first-hand. It might be more useful for the entire situation if people like Mr Pilger dwelled in the world of fact and not screed."

John Pilger responded: "Not all the Americans in Iraq are those who torture and murder, or course they're not, I don't know how many are doing it, I know it is systematic throughout the United States military I think that's been revealed."

Forum host Andy Clark: "You're talking about Abu Ghraib…."

John Pilger: "Yes, yes but I'm also taking about American military tactics since, I suppose, the massacre of the native Americans, it's always been frontal assault… During the Second World War American attacks were to sacrifice its own soldiers by frontal assaults from everywhere from Omaha Beach, at Normandy, through to the Pacific landings – its always been based on these assaults and overkill and if you put that into a civilian situation the assault on Fallujah is simply the way the US military works.

"Now it seems that certainly 300 people were killed in Fallujah and you only have to read the reports of people like Jo Wilding, the British human rights observer who was in Fallujah when the US marines attacked it, to understand the carnage that resulted from battle tanks, helicopters, gunships…the biggest most mechanized army in the world attacking slum dwellers. How proud is that soldier, I wonder, to be a member of an army that does that, that attacks a defenseless country?"

"And [this soldier, Bryan Suits] actually puts up as an argument, quotes somebody saying, that children are . . . a prime target or a justifiable target, because they might be members of the Baath Party…"

Andy Clark: "He was saying that that's what Iraqis said to him…"

John Pilger: "Well it's an absurd argument to put forward and I think he must know that if he's an intelligent man. He's in an untenable situation and he can do all the good works he thinks he's doing but he really is in somebody else's country as an invader and by any measure of international law, and indeed decent behaviour, he and his army should get out."

Andy Clark: "We ‘re hearing a lot now about the June 30 handover, that's what the Americans like to call it, many observers say, of course, this isn't a handover of sovereignty at all – what's your view about June 30."

John Pilger: "There's no handover, and I think we know that now really, it will be a stooge government, a stooge army, a stooge police force, everything will be run by the Americans. Mr Bremer [Paul Bremer head US's chief representative in Iraq] is busily, quietly signing everything into power, decrees saying Americans will run all the ministries, people in charge of just about every facet of Iraqi life will report to Americans, military power in the country will stay firmly in the hands of American generals. The vast bases that have been established and are being built in Iraq will remain and be expanded. Iraq is becoming a colony in the classic sense." 

Jan Velema e-mailed from London, Ontario, in Canada. "The US government is the biggest terrorist state in the World. Anyone that disagrees with this statement does not know the true history of the US. Unfortunately Canada sits outside the walls of this modern day Rome and we are at its mercy. Many in Canada are proud that we did not go to fight Bush's ‘war'."

John Pilger: "There are some pretty horrific states competing for that description of the world's greatest terrorist – the Russians in Chechnya, China in Tibet, and other states, but the United States because it is so vast and it's ambitions have been so worldwide, so encompassing . . . the trail of blood really is everywhere and we'd be here all morning if I listed it. Simply the American record in Latin America, it's own so called backyard, the hundred odd thousand killed in Central America, Nicaragua, El Salvador – where the US waged a war on terror. Indeed it remains the only state to have been condemned by the World Court for acts of terrorism, against Nicaragua. I think these alone say what the United States really is and that is a rapacious state."

Brian Merritt from Canada also had his say: "In 1917 a British General had occupied Baghdad and proclaimed: ‘our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators.' By the same token, scarcely any American outside university history departments is aware that within just a few months of the formal takeover of Iraq, there was a full-scale anti-British revolt. In the aftermath of the revolt, the British were forced to accelerate the transfer of power." 

John Pilger said the point was a valid one to make as it illustrated an underlying nationalism felt by Iraqi people which pre-dates even the British colonial time in the country when the current day boundaries were drawn up. He said the US had grossly underestimated this feeling of being Iraqi which crosses ethnic and tribal boundaries. He goes on to say the current resistance is based on this feeling of nationalism and that is united in a fight to throw out a foreign army occupying its country.

Alan Victor from the US had his say: "How can we defeat the Bush propaganda machine, which includes all the major TV networks, radio stations and newspapers. Half the population here still thinks Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11."

Pilger said that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks Americans had been subjected to the most intense brainwashing programme in modern history. In that respect, he said, if half the people didn't believe it that was a victory for independent critical thinking, which gave some hope for the future. He said he felt more and more Americans were questioning official information and this had to be a good thing. 

Copyright: Radio Netherlands

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