Thursday, June 7, 2007

Rebellion in the British Army

By John Pilger

"An experienced British officer serving in Iraq has written to the BBC describing the invasion as "illegal, immoral, and unwinnable," which, he says, is "the overwhelming feeling of many of my peers." In a letter to the BBC's Newsnight and he accuses the media's "embedded coverage with the U.S. Army" of failing to question "the intentions and continuing effects of the U.S.-led invasion and occupation." He says most British soldiers regard their tours as "loathsome," during which they "reluctantly [provide] target practice for insurgents, senselessly hemorrhaging casualties and squandering soldiers' lives, as part of Bush's vain attempt to delay the inevitable Anglo-U.S. rout until after the next U.S. election." He appeals to journalists not to swallow "the official line/White House propaganda."

In 1970, I made a film in Vietnam called The Quiet Mutiny in which GIs spoke out about their hatred of that war and its "official line/White House propaganda." The experiences in Iraq and Vietnam are both very different and strikingly similar. There was much less "embedded coverage" in Vietnam, although there was censorship by omission, which is standard practice today.

What is different about Iraq is the willingness of usually obedient British soldiers to speak their minds, from Gen. Richard Dannatt, Britain's current military chief, who said that the presence of his troops in Iraq "exacerbates the security problem," to Gen. Michael Rose who has called for Tony Blair to be impeached for taking Britain to war "on false grounds" – remarks that are mild compared with the blogs of squaddies......

Gaga day at the London Guardian was May 22. "Iran's secret plan for summer offensive to force U.S. out of Iraq," said the front-page banner headline. "Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaeda elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq," wrote Simon Tisdall from Washington, "in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition intended to tip a wavering U.S. Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, U.S. officials say." The entire tale was based on anonymous U.S. official sources. No attempt was made to substantiate their "firm evidence" or explain the illogic of their claims. No journalistic skepticism was even hinted, which is amazing considering the web of proven lies spun from Washington over Iraq.

Moreover, it had a curious tone of something-must-be-done insistence, reminiscent of Judith Miller's scandalous reports in the New York Times claiming that Saddam was about to launch his weapons of mass destruction and beckoning Bush to invade. Tisdall in effect offered the same invitation; I can remember few more irresponsible pieces of journalism. The British public and the people of Iran deserve better."

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