Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Fun with FiskWhy doesn't Robert Fisk just write a single column saying, "I hate Israel. I hate the United States. Did I mention that I hate Israel"? It would contain all the ideas found in his columns, save him a great deal of time, and wouldn't omit any facts that he normally includes. Somehow the question "are fugitive Iraqi officials in Damascus?" invites a long diatribe about the U.S. and Israel, and virtually nothing about whether fugitive Iraqi officials are in Damascus:
So now Syria is in America's gunsights. First it's Iraq, Israel's most powerful enemy, possessor of weapons of mass destruction – none of which has been found.I thought the UN was going to need months to finish their inspections. So how come the U.S. was supposed to find them in three weeks -- especially when preoccupied with other matters in that time period, such as winning a war?
And note the gratuitous reference to Israel.
Now it's Syria, Israel's second most powerful enemy, possessor of weapons of mass destruction, or so President George Bush Junior tells us. No word of that possessor of real weapons of mass destruction, Israel – the number of its nuclear warheads in the Negev are now accurately listed – whose Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has long been complaining that Damascus is the "centre of world terror".Perhaps because the Iraqi soldiers were fighting for a genocidal dictatorship, and as such probably shouldn't have been assisted?
And I thought we accused Syria of supplying night vision goggles, not gas masks. But if it were the latter, that would have been even worse. We weren't using gas, so the only reason Iraqi soldiers would have needed gas masks would be if they were planning to use gas. And Fisk doesn't see a problem there?
And note the gratuitous reference to Israel. Double points because he mentioned Ariel Sharon. Hey, we could turn this into a drinking game.
Then Syria was accused of sending, or allowing, Arab "volunteers" to cross into Iraq to fight the Americans. This is much harder for the Syrians to deny. I've met a few of them here in Baghdad, most anxious to return to their homes in Homs and Damascus, others – from Algeria and Morocco – telling me that they will be safe if they can reach the Syrian border because "there will be no trouble from there". But here, too, there's a whiff of hypocrisy.As Alan Jacobs points out, what's with the sneer quotes? Is Fisk suggesting that these people aren't volunteers? Were they shanghaied into the IDF?
More importantly, how exactly is this "hypocrisy?" The Syrians in question are fighting against the United States. Shooting at our soldiers. Killing them. Why exactly shouldn't we be upset about that? Why on earth would we consider this the same as Americans fighting for an ally of the United States? Why on earth would we "complain" about that?
But then comes the nastiest accusation: that members of the Iraqi regime have fled to Syria for safety. Given Syria's increasingly warmer relations with Saddam Hussein's Iraq in recent years, and the joint nature of their Baathist past – the Syrian Christian Michel Aflaq was a founder of the Baath in the days when it was a creature of both nations – it's difficult to believe that the Tariq Azizes and Taha Yassin Ramadans couldn't seek refuge in Syria.Look! Fisk is showing off! He's providing fifty year old historical details to impress us with his in-depth knowledge, thereby attempting to obscure the fact that his current comments have no foundation whatsoever.
Needless to say, the capture of Saddam's half-brother near the Syrian border has provoked the usual rash of stories. Tariq Aziz is living in Lebanon with the ladies of President Saddam's family. Untrue. The Arabic television satellite channel interviewed the ex-Iraqi information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf in Damascus. Totally untrue.There's a phrase I think of when I read Fisk's work: a "rash of stories."
And also embarrassing for the Americans. For just as they failed to capture the most brutal of the Bosnian Serb murderers, Messrs Karadjic and Mladic, so they failed to find Osama bin Laden – or even Mullah Omar – and, given the failure of American intelligence in Baghdad, it wouldn't be that surprising if the whole of the Iraqi Cabinet managed to pass safely through an American checkpoint in an orange pantechnicon. But it's Syria that is being lined up for attack next, not the Saddam Cabinet.I don't actually see George Bush looking particularly embarrassed. Do you? And the "failure of American intelligence in Baghdad?" The U.S. defeated Iraq in less than a month with almost no casualties -- contrary to Fisk's dire warnings -- and this represents failure?
And the signs were clear long ago. Take the article in The New York Times by Larry Collins – joint author with Dominique Lapierre of O Jerusalem! – which last month announced that the Syrian-supported Hizbollah resistance in Lebanon had 10,000 missiles that could fly to Tel Aviv and "leave in their wake devastation more terrible than anything Israel has ever known". The missiles are a myth – I travel the roads of southern Lebanon every two weeks and there are no such missiles, as the UN force there will confirm – but this doesn't matter.Speaking of myths, would this be like the now-infamous Iraqi army prepared to defend its capital that only Fisk could see? So let's just say that I don't place a high level of reliance on Fisk's powers of observation. (Or logic. Does he think that the missiles are going to be all lined up out in the open on the side of the road where he can see them while he drives by?)
And what is it with the comment about "O Jerusalem!"? The book was published thirty-one years ago. Other than yet another gratuitous Israel reference, what possible relevance could it have to Fisk's story?
And of course, don't forget to note his description of Hezbollah, one of the world's foremost terrorist organizations, as a "resistance" group.
And then it will be Libya who has the most sophisticated C-B weapons. Or Saudi Arabia. Or anyone else Israel wants attacked.Because, as we all know, J-E-W-S control American foreign policy. Bush is just a puppet.
But this still leaves the question: could Saddam and his sons and Tariq Aziz and Ramadan and the rest have passed through Syria?Yeah, it does still leave that question. Indeed, nothing you actually said above was relevant to answering it.
Not impossible. But the idea that they would be allowed to stay seems incredible. If President Bashar Assad allowed Saddam to be a guest, it would be akin to inviting a cruise missile to his palace.Oh. Okay, well then let's not bother to look. The Great And Powerful Fisk says he isn't there.
But Syria just might have provided a transit station for the Baath officials from Iraq. To where? My own favourite is Belarus – because its capital, Minsk, is awash in whisky, corruption and damp apartments (the first two of which would appeal to most Iraqi Baathists). Vladimir Putin, of course, would be asked to help to retrieve them and hand them over to Washington. And he would have a price, no doubt, a price involving oil concessions and Russia's already signed oil contracts in Baghdad ...Somehow. Fisk just had to work oil in there somehow. Even if it isn't about American interest in Iraqi oil, the mention of the word taints the U.S. Somehow.
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