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IUK: Fisk - Slaughter of the innocent bolsters view that this is war against Islam
By Robert Fisk
15/10/2001 12:17 pm Mon
Robert Fisk: Slaughter of the innocent
bolsters view that this is war against Islam
15 October 2001
In Baghdad we had the bunker where our missile fried more than 300
people to death. In Kosovo we had a refugee column torn to pieces
by our bombs. Now in Afghanistan, a village called Karam is our
Of course it's time for that tame old word "regret''. We regretted the
Baghdad bunker. We were really very sorry for the refugee slaughter
in Kosovo. Now we are regretting the bomb that went astray in Kabul
on Friday night; the missile that killed the four UN mine clearers last
Monday; and whatever hit Karam.
It's always the same story. We start shooting with ''smart'' weapons
after our journalists and generals have told us of their sophistication.
Their press conferences produce monochrome snapshots of
bloodless airbase runways with little holes sprinkled across the
apron. "A successful night," they used to say, after bombing Serbia.
They said that again last week and no one - until of course we
splatter civilians - suggests going to war involves killing innocent
people. It does. That is why the military invented that repulsive and
morally shameful phrase "collateral damage". And they are always
ready to smear the reporters on the ground.
At first, Nato claimed its aircraft had not butchered the refugee
convoy in April 1999. Once we found the bomb parts, with US
markings, they changed their tune.
The new tune wentlike this: "If we killed the innocent we regret it, but
why don't the reporters 'break free' of their Serb minders and see
what else is going on in Kosovo?' We might be asked the same
again, now we are involved in what, historically, is for us in Britain
the Fourth Afghan War. What are we journalists doing giving
succour to Mr bin Laden and his thugs?
There is one big difference this time round. In 1991, we had a real
Muslim coalition on our side. In 1999, we so bestialised the Serbs
that the death of their innocent civilians could be laid at the hands of
Slobodan Milosevic, and anyway - in theory at least - we were
trying to save the Albanian Muslims.
No doubt some idiot general will tell us this time round that Karam is
Mr bin Laden's fault - idiot, because this is not going to wash with
the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who are outraged at our air
strikes on Afghanistan. And here's the rub. In every Middle Eastern country, even tolerant
Lebanon, suspicion is growing that this is a war against Islam.
And here's the rub. In every Middle Eastern country, even tolerant Lebanon, suspicion is growing that this is a war against Islam.
That is why the Arab leaders are mostly silent and why the Saudis
don't want to help us. That is why crowds tried yesterday to storm a
Pakistani airbase used by the American forces.
It reveals a dislocation of thought among Arabs about the crimes
against humanity in New York and Washington, a disturbing
disconnection that allows them to condemn the atrocities in America
without reference to America's response - and condemn the
response without reflecting on the carnage on the other side of the
The Muslim world now sees innocent Muslims who have died in
Western air strikes on Afghanistan. If Karam turns out to be as terrible
as the Taliban claims, all of Mr Blair's lectures and denials that this
is a religious war will be in vain. The Prime Minister can now only reflect upon the irony that an
obscurantist sect that smashes television sets and hangs videotapes
from trees is now using television and videotape for its own
The Prime Minister can now only reflect upon the irony that an obscurantist sect that smashes television sets and hangs videotapes from trees is now using television and videotape for its own propaganda.