September 24, 2005
"What our police found in their car was very disturbing - weapons,
explosives, and a remote control detonator. These are the weapons of
terrorists. We believe these soldiers were planning an attack on a market or
other civilian targets." Sheik Hassan al-Zarqani, spokesman for the Mehdi
We are only interested in one thing regarding the melee that broke out in
Basra following the arrest of two British commandoes on September 20:
whether or not the car they were driving contained explosives?
The answer to that question could decide the future of Iraq as well as
the fate of Bush's war on terror. Nothing should deter us from getting to
the bottom of this crucial question and no extraneous fact or fiction should
divert our attention from uncovering the answer.
If it can be clearly established that there were explosives in that
vehicle then we can say with some degree of certainty that the wave of
terrorism that is spreading across Iraq is, at least, in part the work of
British and American Intelligence. That would imply that current
counterinsurgency efforts now involve the premeditated killing of innocent
people to achieve the stated policy objectives. This is the very definition
Early news reports from both the BBC and the Washington Post confirmed
allegations that bomb-making material was discovered in the captured
vehicle. The Post's Ellen Knickmeyer stated, "The Iraqi security officials
on Monday variously accused two Britons they detained of shooting at Iraqi
forces or TRYING TO PLANT EXPLOSIVES." (Washington Post, 9-20-05; "British
Smash into Jail to Free Two Detained Soldiers) Neither the Post nor the BBC
have printed retractions or clarifications on this story even though it has
swept across the internet with a fury not seen since the Downing Street
memo. In fact, this story is significantly more important. The entire war on
terror is predicated on the belief that the murdering of innocent people
cannot be rationalized. The incident in Basra puts all that into question.
Bush has marshaled the public fear from 9-11 into a rallying cry for his
global-onslaught. He has waved the bloody-shirt of terror to enhance his
power as executive and declare a permanent state of war. Terror has provided
the foundation for savaging civil liberties, imprisoning American citizens,
and acting with complete impunity.
"The deliberate and deadly attacks which were carried out on September 11
were more than acts of terror. They were acts of war", Bush boomed.
The powers of the "war president" depend entirely on his nebulous war on
The same is true for Tony Blair. The British PM has acted-out the same
rituals as Bush; railing against the "evil ideology" of Muslim fanaticism
saying, "We must confront and deal head on with the extremism that is based
on a perversion of the true faith of Islam."
Blair's fulminations have resulted in the most extraordinary attack on
civil liberties in the last 100 years. His pretentious rhetoric has produced
a de facto state of martial law for Muslims living in England.
Now his muddled justification for endless war and butchery is facing its
greatest challenge; a Ford Cressida packed with a trunk-load of explosives
on the streets of Basra. If proof emerges that the car contained bombs then
Bush's war of terror will fall apart like a mobile home in a Texas
The Chinese news service Xinhuanet reported that, "A police patrol
followed the attackers and captured them to discover that they were two
British soldiers. The soldiers were using a civilian car packed with
explosives." (Xinhuanet 9-20-05) The same basic story appeared on Syrian and
Turkish TV, and in other news reports in the Gulf States.
The Washington Post's foreign office filed a similar report by Jonathan
Finer stating that, "Monday's clashes stemmed from the arrest by Iraqi
police on Sunday of two Britons, WHOM IRAQI POLICE ACCUSED OF PLANTING
And then there was this from Syrian correspondent in Baghdad Ziyad
"Many analysts and observers here had suspicions that the occupation
was involved in some armed operations against civilians and places of
worship and in the killing of scientists. But those were only suspicions
that lacked proof. The proof came today through the arrest of the two
British soldiers while they were planting explosives in one of the Basra
streets. This proves, according to observers, that the occupation is not far
from many operations that seek to sow sedition and maintain disorder, as
this would give the occupation the justification to stay in Iraq for a
Abdel al-Daraji, Muslim cleric in Baghdad told the UK
Telegraph that "Britain was plotting to start an ethnic war by carrying out
mass-casualty bombings targeting Shia civilians and then blaming the attacks
on Sunni groups."
"Everyone knows the occupiers agenda, said al-Daraji. "Their intention is
to keep Iraq an unstable battlefield so they can exploit their interests in
Whether the reports are accurate or not is almost irrelevant. They feed
the widespread dissatisfaction with the occupation and contribute to the
conspiracy theories that animate the national discourse. The belief that the
British and American black-ops are behind the violence has captured the
popular imagination and will be impossible to dispel. The damage to the
occupation is incalculable.
As the story spreads through Iraq, support for the al-Jaafari government
is certain to wane and the Shi'ites will increasingly drift towards the
resistance. The occupation leaders will have to devise a strategy to restore
confidence in their legitimacy or face the steady erosion of support. If
that proves to be impossible, then we're bound to see more radicalized
Shi'ites entering the rival camp. A massive movement of Shi'ites into the
resistance would pose a serious challenge to the ongoing American-British
The Basra incident is a fatal blow to the Pentagon's narrative of foreign
terrorists stirring up trouble in Iraq. The military depends heavily on the
al-Zarqawi myth to feed public fears and divert attention from a brutish
occupation. From this point forward every terrorist bombing and random act
of violence will be scrutinized as (potentially) the work of British or
How can Bush and Blair hope to allay the suspicions of Iraqi people after
What can they possibly do to rebuild faith in the stated goals of the
The Basra incident is another milestone in the faltering war on terror.
The questions that emerge are fundamental to understanding whether we are
engaged in a noble effort to liberate and democratize the Iraqi people, or
complicit in the deliberate murder of innocent civilians.
If the car driven by the two commandos was loaded with explosives, then
we can assume that it would have been used to kill civilians.
Why does this surprise us?
We've already seen the "Shock and Awe" invasion that cost tens of
thousands of lives. We've already seen the horrific photos of tortured and
sadistically abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib. We've already heard the news of
the 200 prisoners at Guantanamo who are starving themselves to death under
the Pentagon's watchful eye. We've already chronicled the calculated
destruction of Iraqi society and the daily assault on their main cities.
We've already read of the use of napalm, cluster-bombs, unidentified
chemicals and other banned weapons on civilian enclaves. And, we've already
noted the growing number of young Sunni men who bob-along the Euphrates
River after being shot in the back of the head by the CIA-trained goons at
the Interior Ministry.
Is it so hard to believe that Special Forces are now directly involved in
attacks on civilians?
Aren't we seeing the logical extension of a policy that rejects all
ethical and moral constraints? A policy of absolute barbarism?
Basra will tell.
Courtesy & Copyright © Mike Whitney