Friday, April 4
Brendan O'Neill, Spiked-politics, April 4, 2003
'Four miles from Baghdad' say today's headlines, as coalition forces apparently amass around 'their final target'. 'Having travelled hundreds of miles we will now go the last 200 yards!' declared a fist-slamming President Bush last night, to cheering marines in North Carolina (1).
Coalition forces may be close enough to 'see the lights of Baghdad' (until a bombing raid caused a blackout, that is) - but what happens next? Alongside the 'unstoppable advance' to their 'final target', US officials appear increasingly uncertain about what to do once they get there, how to define victory, and what to replace the regime with.
The troops 'storming towards Baghdad' seem to have little intention of entering the city. ...
... the issue of what to replace Saddam's regime with après la guerre.
The 'political stand-off' with Saddam's forces around Baghdad has been mirrored by an internal stand-off within the US elite, as disagreements about postwar Iraq have come to the fore.
Some hawks apparently want America to be the boss, while others are cautious of explicitly imposing American values and want to involve the UN - as captured in the debate about Iraq's postwar currency.
According to one report, 'one of the first concerns of the [American] government-in-waiting is what to do about Iraqi banknotes which - horror of horrors - carry a picture of Saddam'. Someone in the administration suggested the solution of replacing Iraqi banknotes with the US dollar - but then that idea was scrapped in case it was interpreted as 'proof of America's imperialist intentions' (13).
Even if Baghdad was to fall through the magic of wishful thinking, it seems the coalition is deeply uncertain of what to put in its place.
As coalition forces surround the Iraqi capital with little idea of what to do either inside the city or after the war, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that this campaign is still a load of shock and awe signifying nothing.
Geoff Hoon, Robert Fisk and reporting the truth
Leading Article, The Independent, April 4, 2003
Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, is a smooth politician who relies on nuance to do his dirty work. He did not say, in plain terms, that he disbelieves The Independent's accounts of civilian casualties sustained in Iraq. He did not say that Robert Fisk, our award-winning reporter, is a willing dupe of Saddam Hussein's regime. He simply allowed those suggestions to hang, unspoken, in the House of Commons chamber yesterday.
"A piece of a cruise missile was handed to the journalist," he said, to explain how we were able to publish the serial number of the missile likely to have been responsible for the second Baghdad marketplace explosion last Friday, which killed about 62 civilians.
Robert Fisk has a proud record of reporting what he sees. He has travelled to dangerous places and described unflinchingly what is happening. He prefers to speak to the people caught up in conflicts rather than report what the generals, politicians and spokesmen are saying.
Any careful reader of his reports from Iraq would know that he holds no brief for the Saddam regime. Indeed, he was among the first journalists to report Saddam's use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war. Anyone who read his reporting of the Kosovo war will remember that, when Nato headquarters denied that its aircraft had hit civilian convoys, he went to the spot on the ground where the missiles fell and found the markings on casings of US munitions. Nato spokesmen later admitted responsibility. [...]
Yesterday's innuendo against this newspaper and our correspondent was a miserable attempt to brush aside unwelcome truths. This is no way to reassure a doubtful British public that the Government genuinely wants to minimise civilian casualties, rather than simply the reporting of them.