Friday, April 04, 2003

Back after a week away in which the media view of the war has swung as wildly as the FT100 index. This time last week our troops were ‘being stopped’, attacks had ‘ground to a halt’ and the q and V-words were being dusted off. Nationalism, that force which is so evil in a Western nation, was appearing as an entirely reasonable reaction of Iraqis to foreign invasion.

Yet yesterday the Mirror, whose owners have now given Piers Morgan more than 700 kilometres of top quality hessian rope, most of which he’s used up, has a large headline ‘ROUTED’ with pictures of Allied hardware firing through the dust. I looked for the sub-heading ‘Cowardly Cowboys Flee From Brave Iraqi Patriots’ but no, they really were implying that WE were winning this criminal war. And inside I couldn’t find any John Pilger articles in the style of ‘Mr Bush, tell this mother why you blinded her little girl’, just articles on how ‘poodle Blair’ was roaring like a lion, having said to Mr Bush that the UN should reconstruct Iraq.
Looks like Piers has realised that great fun though it may be to slag off the Toxic Texan and his performing poodle before the shooting starts, when Brits are being killed his relentlessly negative coverage is driving them away faster than a Toyota van approaching a checkpoint (sorry about that).

The entirely predictable effect of actual fighting has been to pretty much reverse the pro- and anti-war poll percentages, which must cause the hate-America left great sorrow after their undoubted (and unusual if not unprecedented) dominance of public opinion in the pre-war months. Kipling commented a century ago:

For its ‘Tommy this’ and ‘Tommy that’ and ‘chuck ‘im out, the brute !’
But it’s ‘Saviour of ‘is Country’ when the guns begin to shoot.

It was entertaining to see both Robin Cook and Glenda Jackson shout ‘Bring The Troops Home !’ before explaining that no, they didn’t actually mean it, obviously Saddam had to be overthrown first - which makes me an anti-war activist as well. At least the unspeakable George Galloway stuck to his position, explaining to a R5 audience on Monday that the Arab nations (try to imagine a politician talking about the ‘white nations’ – no, I can’t either) should defend Iraq by all means including military ones. It’s unusual for an elected representative to encourage foreign powers to kill his own country’s soldiers, but at least he’s consistently mad.

About the actual war ? Well it seems to be going as well as can be expected. It was always going to be a ‘big ask’ for the Shi’ite citizens of Basra to rise up again 11 or so years after the last time, when they were abandoned to Saddam’s mercies and slaughtered in large numbers. And then the Allies had the support of not only the UN, but the entire Arab world (governments not ‘street’) with the possible exception of Libya. Didn’t Syria actually send troops ? And of course tens of thousands of Shias had not long before been killed fighting fellow Shias, when Saddam attacked Islamic Iran. These were unhappy people. They’re still unhappy but not at all trustful. And you wouldn’t be either.

And look at what happened to the Marsh Arabs, whose homeland was destroyed in an act of environmental vandalism that Greenpeace kept remarkably quiet about.
I wonder if it is too late to destroy Saddam’s drainage works and restore the marshes ? What a great deed that would be for a Toxic Texan in the pockets of the oil majors.

Of course all the reasons which stopped Bush pere taking Baghdad last time still stand. And the Turks are massed on the northern border. I hope the Americans can finish off Saddam in peace before addressing the Kurdish issue. A degree of autonomy looks like the best they’re going to get. No hope of a Kurdistan uniting the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iraq and Iran, and even Donald Rumsfeld will think twice about taking on Johnny Turk for the sake of the Kurds. Good fighters be it on battlefield or football pitch (that second goal was never a penalty). I never knew my grandfather – he died young having been shot up by the Turks in Palestine in 1917-18. But they aren’t a nation with great sensitivities for ethnic minorities. 1913 – 3 million Armenian Christians. 1920 – none, three quarters of a million killed and the rest fled to the Soviet Union, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Syria.

I had to suppress a smile at the news that a busload of ‘human shields’ had been shot up. Fortunately no deaths. But if there has to be ‘collateral damage’ surely it’s better inflicted on people who have deliberately chosen to put themselves in harm’s way, rather than innocent Iraqi families.

My heroine (and bete noire) Yasmin Alibhai Brown was apparently given a rough ride on ‘Question Time’ last week. I couldn’t bear to watch it as I feared a repeat of her disgraceful anti-American comments of September 13th, 2001. But when I went dowstairs and caught a glimpse of the show she was a shadow of the impassioned orator who roused the lynch-mob against the ex-US Ambassador on that shameful September day. She seemed to have shrunk in her seat, reminding me suddenly of Gagool, the wizened witchfinder in Rider Haggard’s imperialist classic ‘King Solomon’s Mines’. According to her Indie column she was hissed and jeered by the audience, and she accused the BBC of packing it with ‘pro-war activists’ (are there any ? How do you join ?).
I’m disappointed in her, especially given September 13th. Most on the left can hand it out, but can’t take it when it’s dished out in return. I expected Yasmin to be an exception to this rule.

And the great Richard Littlejohn seems to have got out of bed on the wrong side. While aiming mostly at Robin Cook he got in side-swipes at Clare Short and BBC R5 presenter Nikki ‘I’m not a bleeding-heart liberal’ Campbell. A worthy target – I remember particularly ‘Nikki’ chalking off Richard Taylor, father of the murdered Damilola, for being in favour of smacking naughty children. I hope he gets to interview Stephen Lawrence’s dad Neville one day – he thinks hanging should be restored but I’m sure ‘Nikki’ will put him right.