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There's a Firestorm Coming, Provoked by Bush

by Robert Fisk

More and more, President Bush's rhetoric sounds like the crazed
videotapes of Osama bin Laden

So now Osama bin Laden is Hitler. And Saddam Hussein is Hitler. And
George Bush is fighting the Nazis. Not since Menachem Begin
fantasised to President Reagan that he felt he was attacking Hitler
in Berlin - his Israeli army was actually besieging Beirut, killing
thousands of civilians, "Hitler" being the pathetic Arafat - have we
had to listen to claptrap like this. But the fact that we Europeans
had to do so in the Bundestag on Thursday - and, for the most part,
in respectful silence - was extraordinary.

I'm reminded of the Israeli columnist who, tired of the wearying
invocation of the Second World War to justify yet more Israeli
brutality, began an article with the words: "Mr Prime Minister,
Hitler is dead." Must we, forever, live under the shadow of a war
that was fought and won before most of us were born? Do we have to
live forever with living, diminutive politicians playing Churchill
(Thatcher and, of course, Blair) or Roosevelt?  "He's a dictator who
gassed his own people," Mr Bush reminded us for the two thousandth
time, omitting as always to mention that the Kurds whom Saddam
viciously gassed were fighting for Iran and that the United States,
at the time, was on Saddam's side.

But there is a much more serious side to this. Mr Bush is hoping to
corner the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, into a new policy of
threatening Iran.  He wants the Russians to lean on the northern bit
of the "axis of evil", the infantile phrase which he still trots out
to the masses. More and more, indeed, Mr Bush's rhetoric sounds like
the crazed videotapes of Mr bin Laden.  And still he tries to lie
about the motives for the crimes against humanity of 11 September.
Yet again, in the Bundestag, he insisted that the West's enemies
hated "justice and democracy", even though most of America's Muslim
enemies wouldn't know what democracy was.

In the United States, the Bush administration is busy terrorising
Americans.  There will be nuclear attacks, bombs in high-rise
apartment blocks, on the Brooklyn bridge, men with exploding belts -
note how carefully the ruthless Palestinian war against Israeli
colonisation of the West Bank is being strapped to America's ever
weirder "war on terror" - and yet more aircraft suiciders. If you
read the words of President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney and the
ridiculous national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, over the past
three days, you'll find they've issued more threats against Americans
than Mr bin Laden.

But let's get back to the point. The growing evidence that Israel's
policies are America's policies in the Middle East - or, more
accurately, vice versa - is now being played out for real in
statements from Congress and on American television. First, we have
the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee announcing
that Hizbollah - the Lebanese guerrilla force that drove Israel's
demoralised army out of Lebanon in the year 2000 - is planning
attacks in the US. After that, we had an American television network
"revealing" that Hizbollah, Hamas and al- Qa'ida - Mr bin Laden's
organisation - have held a secret meeting in Lebanon to plot attacks
on the US.

American journalists insist on quoting "sources" but there was, of
course, no sourcing for this balderdash, which is now repeated ad
nauseam in the American media. Then take the "Syrian Accountability
Act" that was introduced into the US Senate by Israel's friends on18
April. This includes the falsity uttered earlier by Israel's Foreign
Minister, Shimon Peres, that Iranian Revolutionary Guards "operate
freely" on the southern Lebanese border. Now there haven't been
Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon - let alone the south of the
country - for 18 years. So why is this lie repeated yet again?

Iran is under threat. Lebanon is under threat. Syria is under threat
- its "terrorism" status has been heightened by the State Department
- and so is Iraq. But Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister held
personally responsible by Israel's own enquiry for the Sabra and
Shatila massacre of 1,700 Palestinians in Beirut in 1982, is -
according to Mr Bush - "a man of peace". How much further can this
go? A long way, I fear.

The anti-American feeling throughout the Middle East is palpable.
Arab newspaper editorials don't come near to expressing public
opinion. In Damascus, Majida Tabbaa has become famous as the lady who
threw the US Consul Roberto Powers out of her husband's downtown
restaurant on 7 April
. "I went over to him," she said, "and told him, 'Mr Roberto, tell
your George Bush that all of you are not welcome - please get out'."
Across the Arab world, boycotts of American goods have begun in

How much longer can this go on? America praises Pakistani President
Musharraf for his support in the "war on terror", but remains silent
when he arranges a dictatorial "referendum" to keep him in power.
America's enemies, remember, hate the US for its "democracy". So is
General Musharraf going to feel the heat? Forget it. My guess is that
Pakistan's importance in the famous "war on terror" - or "war for
civilisation" as, we should remember, it was originally called - is
far more important. If Pakistan and India go to war, I'll wager a lot
that Washington will come down for undemocratic Pakistan against
democratic India.

Across the former Soviet southern Muslim republics, America is
building air bases, helping to pursue the "war on terror" against any
violent Muslim Islamist groups that dare to challenge the local
dictators. Please do not believe that this is about oil. Do not for a
moment think that these oil and gas-rich lands have any economic
importance for the oil-fuelled Bush administration. Nor the pipelines
that could run from northern Afghanistan to the Pakistani coast if
only that pesky Afghan loya jirga could elect a government that would
give concessions to Unocal, the oddly named concession whose former
boss just happens to be a chief Bush "adviser" to Afghanistan.

Now here's pause for thought. Abdelrahman al-Rashed writes in the
international Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat that if anyone had said
prior to 11 September that Arabs were plotting a vast scheme to
murder thousands of Americans in the US, no one would have believed
them. "We would have charged that this was an attempt to incite the
American people against Arabs and Muslims," he wrote. And rightly so.

But Arabs did commit the crimes against humanity of 11 September. And
many Arabs greatly fear that we have yet to see the encore from the
same organisation. In the meantime, Mr Bush goes on to do exactly
what his enemies want; to provoke Muslims and Arabs, to praise their
enemies and demonise their countries, to bomb and starve Iraq and
give uncritical support to Israel and maintain his support for the
dictators of the Middle East.

Each morning now, I awake beside the Mediterranean in Beirut with a
feeling of great foreboding. There is a firestorm coming. And we are
blissfully ignoring its arrival; indeed, we are provoking it.

The Independent - 25 May 2002

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