ROVING EYE Shock and Awe, from Mesopotamia to
Madrid By Pepe Escobar
know they have biological and chemical weapons" -
Dick Cheney, March 17, 2003
bomb ripped apart a hotel in the heart of Baghdad,
killing at least 30 and wounding at least 50, all of
them civilians: Jordanians, Egyptians, Lebanese, British
and most of all Iraqis. In a tragic atmosphere of de
facto civil war, this is how the Iraqi
resistance/guerrilla/mujahideen chose to celebrate the
first anniversary of the US-led operation "Shock and
Even Adnan Pachachi, a member of the
US-appointed and credibility-deprived Iraqi Governing
Council, had to admit: "Maintenance of law, order and
security is the responsibility of the occupying power."
But the fact is, the occupying power is totally impotent
to fight the overall strategy of the disparate groups of
Arab mujahideen, which is to prevent Iraqis, Arabs,
Westerners, and anybody, by all means necessary, from
doing business with the Americans.
year ago, on March 16, 2003, US President George W Bush,
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and then Spanish prime
minister Jose Maria Aznar - "the third man in the photo"
- posed in the Azores prior to the invasion of Iraq. The
photo was pregnant with meaning: this was supposed to be
the new look of Western leadership, with the European
Union (represented by Blair and Aznar) duly performing a
supporting role to superstar Washington. Following the
detailed Washington neo-conservative script, Shock and
Awe was unleashed on March 20, Saddam Hussein's regime
fell three weeks later, and Iraq was "liberated".
One year later, with the invasion and subsequent
occupation merging seamlessly into a non-stop,
nationalist-driven war to liberate Iraq from the
"occu-liberators" themselves, all Washington has to show
for it is an Iraqi draft constitution drenched in
Shi'ite blood after bombings in Baghdad and Karbala,
bound to be rewritten before or after real, free and
fair elections are held in 2005 - if they are held at
all. For its part, the Iraq Body Count website records
that more than 10,000 Iraqi civilians have been
"liberated" from their bodies as a result of the US
invasion and occupation. Six hundred twenty-nine
civilian names have been fully or partially identified.
The Pentagon does not bother to list Iraqi civilian
During the past few months,
it has been conclusively proved that Washington's - and
London's - official reason for going to war was false:
Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD). All the
evidence suggests that by their own standards, the Bush
administration has committed the mother of all strategic
blunders: the WMD proliferator was not Iraq but US ally
Pakistan. Moreover, not a single piece of evidence has
suggested a conclusive link between al-Qaeda and Saddam
Hussein's regime - which al-Qaeda considered "apostate".
And for all the talk of "foreign fighters" - as if
American soldiers have Mesopotamian birth certificates -
the Pentagon has not provided a single piece of evidence
that al-Qaeda is active in Iraq.
The invasion of
Iraq was sold by the White House and the Pentagon as
part of the "war on terror". But as a result, countless
cells of Arab mujahideen and jihadis may have sprung up
in Iraq, all of them ultra-motivated to chase the
Americans away from the eastern flank of the Arab nation
and to punish anyone collaborating with the occupiers.
Neo-con think-tanks also sold the invasion as
the first step to introducing democracy in the Middle
East - when the real first step would be to work
seriously for a solution to the Palestinian tragedy.
This is the issue that features non-stop in every Arab
TV network and fills the front pages of their papers and
consumes the hearts and minds of Arab public opinion and
all their politicians and intelligentsia.
then, almost one year after Shock and Awe, the blood
spilled in Madrid merged with the blood spilled in
Mesopotamia to claim its first high-profile European
victim: the right-wing government of Jose Maria Aznar in
Spain. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, the credibility
of Tony Blair - pinpointed by the Bush administration as
the true leader of the European Union - was already
lying in tatters.
The death of Rumsfeld's
'New Europe' Neo-cons are scurrying to the
spinning barricades on TV and print, hysterically
blaming Spanish voters for the ouster of the
Bush-friendly Aznar conservatives. The offensive is
coordinated by the ultra-powerful and ultra-hawkish
Center for Security Policy, presided over by notorious
Islamophobe Frank Gaffney Jr - a think-tank that lists
scores of top Bush administration officials. Their
diatribes reveal not only misplaced cultural arrogance
but a blind ignorance of Spanish culture, language and
current political landscape. For the neo-cons, the Aznar
machine lost because Spanish voters were cowed by
al-Qaeda. Wrong. Ninety-four percent of the Spanish
population was against the war on Iraq, and the Aznar
government's lies regarding the Madrid bombings were the
Asia Times Online also learned from
Spanish sources of the crucial democratic role played by
King Juan Carlos of Spain. On March 11, the day of the
bombings, the king told the Aznar government to admit
the Islamist connection publicly. Angel Acebes, the
interior minister, was forced to call an impromptu press
conference that evening to announce the finding of the
van with the Koran tape and the detonators - which
happened, according to the Spanish press, at 11am. Only
10 minutes after the press conference, the king went on
national television to express his sorrow. And he never
mentioned the word "ETA".
March 11 changed
Europe - and the world - and that's why there was such
thundering silence from Washington, now replaced with
the infantile hysteria of blaming Spanish voters. It's
unbearable for the neo-cons to see there's now a totally
different dynamic in the trans-Atlantic relationship.
The Blair-Berlusconi-Aznar pro-Washington axis has been
reduced to ashes.
The new Spanish prime
minister-elect, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, with his
name still mispronounced by misinformed White House and
State Department officials, has declared that "the war
in Iraq is a disaster, and the occupation continues to
be a disaster". French Foreign Minister Dominique de
Villepin added that "we cannot but see that today there
are two focuses nourishing terrorism in the world: the
first is the crisis in the Middle East, and the second
The perception among most European
politicians, intellectuals and the overwhelming majority
of public opinion is that Washington does not care about
what happens in Iraq: the only thing that matters is to
repatriate US troops as soon as possible for the
electoral benefit of Bush next November. Secretary of
State Colin Powell is very much aware of the
Franco-German-Russian - and now also Spanish - position
on foreign troops in Iraq: a fully sovereign Iraqi
government has to request them, and the United Nations
Security Council has to approve it.
As well as
Tony Blair, Italian premier and "amico di Bush"
Silvio Berlusconi, whose credibility is near zero inside
the European Union, is now even more isolated. In an
interview to the Italian daily Il Foglio - whose owner
is Silvio's wife - the premier proposed "a pact" to
"exclude terrorism from political debate in Italian
democracy". Meanwhile, EU governments are meeting this
Friday to discuss exactly how to fight terrorism. Nobody
paid the slightest attention to Silvio's "pact".
Italians and Europeans instead are listening to
Professor Romano Prodi, president of the European
Commission and Berlusconi's chief political adversary.
Prodi in essence said that a united Europe has different
solutions from the "inefficient" US methods: "The
balance is negative. In Iraq and outside of Iraq:
Istanbul, Moscow, Madrid ... Terrorism, which should
have been blocked by this war, is infinitely more
powerful than one year ago."
Asia Times Online
has learned that this is how things stand in the
European Union headquarters in Brussels. Nobody knows
whether the UN will be willing to engage itself in Iraq.
Nobody knows whether the UN will give a mandate to the
North Atlantic Treaty Organization. And nobody knows
whether a fully sovereign Iraqi government will really
come to power next June 30.
wants Al-Qaeda and the global jihad want
Washington out of Afghanistan and Iraq - Islamic lands
where the US does not belong. They want the US out of
the "land of the two mosques", Saudi Arabia. And they
want the US out of every Islamic land, for that matter,
which implies, of course, Israel out of Palestine. As
long as all these problems are not solved, the jihad
will go on: the superpower armed to its teeth against an
International Islamic Front configured as a nebula of
cells from the Maghreb to Pashtunistan.
Anti-terrorist experts in Brussels are now
analyzing mutating strategies that include the jihadi
version of a preemptive strike - like the Madrid
bombings: carefully timed and calculated attacks bound
to alert voters that nobody should be paying the price
for US-instigated wars. To make matters worse, these
kinds of attacks are dirt cheap. Any financial analyst
will compare what benefits Washington reaped with its
multibillion-dollar preemptive strike and one-year
occupation of Iraq as opposed to a few dynamite
backpacks that in four days managed to change not only
Europe but the global balance of power.
will remain a terrible, tragic place to live, as this
correspondent has witnessed, and as websites such as
occupationwatch.org so vividly document. March 11, 2004,
in Europe was a direct consequence of the US invasion
and occupation of Iraq, as much as September 11, 2001,
in the United States was a direct consequence of US
foreign policy in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. The
tragedy - as well as the jihad - will go on.
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