The more things change the more they stay the same By William Bowles

16 November 2004

Update: 17 November 2004

Coincidence? The surfacing of a videotape that allegedly shows the execution of Margaret Hassan coming as it does fresh on the heels of the video of the execution of a wounded Iraqi resistance fighter by US Marines seems to be part of a pattern of diverting attention away from embarrassing revelations for the occupiers. Could it be that the people who kidnapped Margaret Hassan are not what they seem? That her execution emerged at this critical time in the war for ‘hearts and minds’ strikes me as just too much of a coincidence. It’s as if she was held out of sight until needed. Of course, the media will focus on the immediate horror of it without considering the timing of her execution.

And I’m not alone in this view. See ‘Hassan’s Alleged Death: A Close Encounter Of The Intelligence Kind’, Nov 17, 2004, By Bruce Kennedy, JUS. The article alleges that British intelligence agents were behind the abduction Ms Hassan on October 19th to divert attention away from the redeployment of British troops to Fallujah. A related piece is ‘Saudi Islamic Fundamentalists endorse US Occupation of Iraq’ by Michel Chossudovsky,, 16 November 2004. There is every reason to believe that there still exists close connections between USUK intelligence agencies and Saudi Arabia given the history of Saudi Arabia and the West.

The media’s treatment of the event also follows a pattern with the BBC talking of “revulsion” and “disgust”, words that disappeared from its dictionary when describing the execution of the wounded Iraqi fighter. Instead, we read of “allegations” about the “incident” and then coverage all but disappears to be replaced by the Hassan story.

No doubt I will be accused of being a ‘conspiracist’ and of not being ‘even-handed’ in my treatment of these two tragedies but the fact remains that every time there has been an event that showed the ‘coalition’ in a bad light starting with Abu Ghraib, we then had the Berg ‘beheading’ that was followed by virtually identical videos surfacing on the Web without any attempt being made to track down those responsible for the Websites even though the owners of the Websites were easily identified. And of course the most blatant example was the Osama tape only days before the US election.

It was also at the time of Abu Ghraib that ‘Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’ suddenly emerged as the latest bogeyman and not surprisingly, it is alleged that he was also a ‘disciple’ of Osama bin Laden given that it was difficult to connect Osama directly to events in Iraq, the propagandists needed a convenient ‘go-between’. As I’ve pointed out before, the al-Zarqawi ‘connection’ has a single media source and so far, not a shred of evidence has been produced to show that the man even exists.

In addition to this, it’s instructive to note that the abduction of Margaret Hassan was not connected to al-Zarqawi in any of the ‘leaks’ to the Western media as this meant putting Zarqawi at the centre of events in Fallujah and the abduction of Hassan at the same time. Even someone as speedy as Zarqawi can’t be in two places at the same time.

Okay, so this is all speculation on my part but the convenient timing and lack of evidence supporting the existence of Zarqawi and the plethora of various groups that conveniently surface as and when needed, points toward a very sophisticated psy-ops campaign on the part of the US to divert attention away from the real issues.

“It is well known that ordinary guarantees for safety and order had largely lapsed in Spain, that it was not safe for people to go out at night over large areas, that murders and outrages were rife, and that constitutional parliamentary government was being used as a mere mask, a screen, to cover the swift, stealthy and deadly advance of the extreme Communist or anarchist factions, who saw, according to the regular programme of Communist revolutions, the means by which they could obtain power. It was when confronted with a situation like that that this violent explosion took place in Spain.” – Winston Churchill, July 19, 1937 Speech in the House of Commons

Picasso’s Guernica is famous for its depiction of the destruction of the city of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. Perhaps less well known is the fact that it was Hitler’s Lufwaffe that flattened the place and that the city was used to test out the effectiveness of aerial bombardment (using incendiary bombs) as weapons of mass destruction on a civilian population and, as with Fallujah, as a lesson to the people of Spain not to defy Franco and the Fascist Falange.

Also less well known is the coordination between the US occupiers of Iraq and the Israeli Defence [sic] Force’s experience of the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and that from the very beginning of the invasion last March, IDF advisers were in Iraq alongside US forces passing on their experiences of occupying and fighting in a not dissimilar terrain. We do know that US military had spent time with the IDF in the occupied territories observing tactics.

Moreover, the Spanish Civil War was in many ways the catalyst for WWII, for the Western powers stood by whilst Hitler and Mussolini supported Franco in his war on the Republican government and perfected their ‘craft’. Had the Western powers confronted the Axis at that crucial time it’s conceivable that the coming war could have been averted. A lesson that has clearly not been learned.

Well thus far, we have no equivalent to Picasso’s Guernica to describe the horror of Fallujah, however as the extract from Churchill’s speech demonstrates, attitudes then as now regarding affairs in far off and not so far off places remain the same. And indeed the parallels go much, much further for then as now, a puppet power fronted for a superpower. Franco, Allawi, take your pick. So the more things change, the more they stay the same.

There is yet another parallel between the Spanish Civil War and the occupation of Iraq namely the role of the International Brigades who fought for the legally elected Republican government. The US Abe Lincoln Brigade:

“…came from all walks of life, all regions of the country, and included seamen, students, the unemployed, miners, fur workers, lumberjacks, teachers, salesmen, athletes, dancers, and artists. They established the first racially integrated military unit in U.S. history and were the first to be led by a black commander. At least 60 percent were members of the Young Communist League or CP. “Wobblies” (members of the Industrial Workers of the World or “IWW”), socialists, and the unaffiliated also joined. The Socialists formed their own [Eugene] Debs Column for Spain, but open recruitment brought on government suppression.

However, ‘foreign insurgents’ in Iraq are treated somewhat differently insofar as regardless of their affiliation, their presence is regarded as illegitimate. That Iraq is illegally occupied by troops from around fifteen countries doesn’t of course count. The unfortunate difference between now and then is that the International Brigades came from fifty countries, united by the struggle against Fascism under the banner of Internationalism. It’s a case of one step forward, several steps back.

The other common thread between then and now is the use of terror that until Guernica was a weapon that had been used exclusively against people of colour, in places like Somalia, Ethiopia and Iraq by the colonial powers. Thus the British and Italians had no compunction in using chemical weapons against the ‘fuzzy-wuzzies’, considering them as less than human and even publicly applauded the use of gas as a method of keeping the ‘natives’ suitably cowed.

Press coverage of the slaughter in Fallujah reveals exactly the same mindset at work even when the cold-blooded murder of resistance fighters is recorded on video. The BBC News Website describes the crime as follows:

“The BBC’s James Robbins says the incident could prove highly damaging and that the US military will need to answer key questions about whether the rules of engagement were broken during the incident.”

The issue of inhumanity and of a war crime is not mentioned, it becomes an ‘incident’. The only concern is how damaging it will be to the occupiers’ image. Can you imagine the reaction if the ’embedded’ reporter had been with the ‘insurgents’ and it had been a white man who had been executed in cold blood?

The report quotes the NBC reporter ’embedded’ with the soldiers who recorded the execution:

“Mr Sites says soldiers from a different unit went and apparently shot the men again on Saturday without knowing whether they were armed.

‘Then one of the marines points his rifle at the head of one of the injured, an old man, saying, ‘He’s faking he’s dead’,” Mr Sites’ description continues.

“The sound of a shot is then heard. And in the background, another soldier says, ‘Well, he’s dead now’.”

The BBC’s interpretation of the video is disingenuous to say the least, part of which was shown on BBC television and omits showing the actual murder, claiming to spare our ‘sensibilities’, so how the report can use the phrase “apparently shot the men again” makes no sense when we have already been informed that the actual execution has actually been omitted. Moreover, the video shows quite clearly that none of the men are armed and that the one who got executed is telling the GIs that he had told them (or the previous group of GIs who had shot them) everything he knew. He was moreover, the only one conscious (or alive). Note also that the NBC reporter says the “men were shot again” not a “man” as the BBC report tells it.

Everything in the BBC report plays down the actuality of the event without actually lying. The value of Iraqi lives is diminished as well showing the BBC is more concerned with the effect of the execution(s) on the ‘coalition’s’ image.

Meanwhile, the BBC continues to make great play of the ‘genocide’ in Darfur with as great or greater coverage of the situation in Sudan including a one-hour documentary on BBC television on 14/11/04 that talked of the “world’s greatest humanitarian disaster”. We wait in vain for one on Fallujah and what it will call that, no doubt the civilian deaths will be ‘unfortunate incidents’, as we finally start receiving reports from the Red Cross speaking of 800 civilian deaths and implications that this is undoubtedly an under-estimate.

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