Published on Monday, March 24, 2003 by the lndependent/UK
I am Burning With Fury Because My Country Has Been Betrayed
by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
At last, in this calamitous week when I am – like millions across the world – at my most helpless, pessimistic, enraged and incapacitated I finally understand what patriotism feels like. I am burning with fury; I cannot watch any of the coverage; I refused appearances on two broadcasts discussing the campaign. I didn't go on the London march at the weekend because I might easily have thrown stones or placards or myself on to the road.
I object to the war today, not as a woman, not as (an imperfect) Muslim, not even as a human rights warrior, but as a protective Briton whose country has been betrayed by one of the most devious and unprincipled Prime Ministers we have ever had. No realpolitik, national self-interest or the demands of office can excuse or explain the surrender we are experiencing. Our independence is one of the first casualties of this new world disorder.
On Saturday, the UCI cinema ticket I bought had dollar instead of pound signs on it. It captured – albeit unintentionally – the pervasive American domination over our land. Geoff Hoon, on television at the weekend, was robustly claiming he was in joint command, although he couldn't explain why the first day's action was decided on unilaterally by the US. And when asked about Turkey's entry into Kurdistan his answer was equally instructive: "Well, the US has told Turkey not to take this action."
At the RAF base in Fairford, Gloucestershire, razor-wired to protect US bombers taking off to blitz Iraq, signs say: "Restricted area... Use of deadly force authorized." America claims the right to shoot dead British subjects who enter this land. Our generals are now saying "Eye-rack" for Iraq. Meanwhile the Trade and Industry Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, is begging the Americans to give British contractors a few crumbs left from the reconstruction projects which have been given to US companies.
The most ardent pro-American Briton will find such subjugation unbearable as this war goes on and it is followed by others, equally illegitimate and already mapped out by the belligerent US regime. Trust me, I have lived under imperialism. It may bestow some advantages, and some keen new liberal imperialists, such as the journalist John Lloyd and the diplomat Robert Cooper, think this hegemony will be a force for immeasurable good; but not so, not at all. Another power controlling your destiny is hard to bear. Dollars cannot make up for freedom and self-determination being violated. And the proud people of this country, and of Iraq, will soon understand this.
The sovereignty of Britain is now irrevocably compromised by a Prime Minister who has made himself a Tammy Wynette wifey to Bush, standing by his man whatever the world may think or say. How cringe-making it is to watch Brown, Straw et al following their Leader. Robin Cook was brilliant when he resigned but even he was unable to directly attack Blair for being the Viceroy of the US. If Bush had decided last minute not to invade, would Blair say he still believes we should attack Iraq? If Al Gore had won the election, Blair would be chasing after him. If they elected a monkey as US president, our leader would ingratiate himself and do its bidding. Using discredited evidence, lies and criminal thoughtlessness we have been made the second most-hated nation in the world.
Admirable Americans do understand what damage such a reputation brings. The US diplomat John Brady Kiesling resigned from his post in Athens, saying: "Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy which has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson." That we are seen in the same terms is a catastrophe.
That quivering sincerity Blair brings out every time he has to sell us another repulsive US directive is just another bit of fakery; it is make-up he slaps on to look good while he covers up the truth. And he doesn't fool Muslims by patting us on the head as he did last week in the Commons: "I know the vast majority of Muslims are good and law-abiding people who are contributing an immense amount to our country." Time to throw up. Again.
This war is immoral, illegal, dangerous and wrong. And even if we get our devastation in fast and Iraqis are dancing in the street, this remains my assessment.
Real patriots should reject the devious calls to "support our boys" now that action has begun. This is abominable blackmail, as vile as the accusation that anti-war people support Saddam. My husband has young male relatives actively engaged in our army. Yet he and his sister are stridently anti-war. The legal basis is so tenuous that Elizabeth Wilmhurst, the deputy legal officer at the Foreign Office, has resigned because she disagrees with the opinion given by the Attorney General that our actions are lawful. Anti-war young people are dismissed by ministers as trite and trendy. Yet Blair uses as propaganda the outpourings of a young Iraqi student in Cambridge who just happens to be pro-war.
Are pre-emptive strikes now the norm for all countries? Why now? What is the link between Iraq and Osama bin Laden? None of these questions have been answered. Meanwhile, the Iraqis are stoic, writes the Lebanese journalist Nuha el-Radi. Her friend Lamia, in Baghdad, has had a pedicure, manicure and hairdo. If she is going to die, she wants to be neat.
Our leadership has stamped over our democracy, and our relationships with the European Union and the rest of the world. The hate-mongering against France should make Britons ashamed. I may not like much that goes on in France, but its stand against the US gives that country real status. France has saved the United Nations from being regarded as a US puppet.
Britain was once trusted by Arabs, with whom we shared a long history. We were not seen as blind supporters of Israeli policies – that was the US. Progressive people in Egypt, Kuwait and elsewhere promoted universal values based on our democracy, civil service and respect for human rights. That old post-colonial suspicion had faded and mutual respect was emerging.
A new report, Public Diplomacy and the Middle East, by the Foreign Policy Center and the British Council, shows how this trust has collapsed. Surveys show the US/UK axis is now undifferentiated by Arabs and others. One Arab journalist is quoted as saying that on Iraq: "the UK is worse than America. People look down on them. They should give at least a semblance of neutrality. It is worse than Guam and that is real US territory."
Ponder this as cluster bombs and depleted uranium cause more deaths, as more Iraqi flags are replaced with the stars and stripes (we have witnessed this already), and we join the coalition of the lowly.
© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd