The Terrorism of Groups and Individuals, However Horrific, Is Tiny by Comparison with That of States. but the Media Have No Language to Describe State Terrorism

By Pilger, John | New Statesman (1996), September 20, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Terrorism of Groups and Individuals, However Horrific, Is Tiny by Comparison with That of States. but the Media Have No Language to Describe State Terrorism


Pilger, John, New Statesman (1996)


The world is dividing into two hostile camps: Islam and "us". That is the unerring message from western governments, press, radio and television. For Islam, read terrorists. It is reminiscent of the cold war when the world was divided between "Reds" and us, and even a strategy of annihilation was permissible in our defence. We now know, or we ought to know, that so much of that was a charade; released official files make clear the Soviet threat was for public consumption only.

Every day now, as during the cold war, a one-way moral mirror is held up to us as a true reflection of events. The new threat is given impetus with each terrorist outrage, be it in Beslan or Jakarta. Seen in the one-way mirror, our leaders make grievous mistakes, but their good intentions are not in question. Tony Blair's "idealism" and "decency" are promoted by his accredited mainstream detractors, as the concocted Greek tragedy of his political demise opens on the media stage. Having taken part in the killing of as many as 37,000 Iraqi civilians, Blair's distractions, not his victims, are news: from his arcane "struggle" with his Tweedledee, Gordon Brown, to his damascene conversion to the perils of global warming. On the atrocity at Beslan, Blair is allowed to say, without irony or challenge, that "this international terrorism will not prevail". These are the same words spoken by Mussolini soon after he had bombed civilians in Abyssinia.

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Heretics who look behind the one-way mirror and see the utter dishonesty of all this, who identify Blair and his collaborators as war criminals in the literal and legal sense and present evidence of his cynicism and immorality, are few; but they have wide support among the public, whose awareness has never been higher, in my experience. It is the public's passionate indifference, if not contempt, for the political games of Blair/Brown and their courts, and its accelerating interest in the way the world really is, that unnerves those with power.

Let's look at a few examples of the way the world is presented and the way it really is. The occupation of Iraq is presented as "a mess": a blundering, incompetent American military up against Islamic fanatics. In truth, the occupation is a systematic, murderous assault on a civilian population by a corrupt American officer class, given licence by its superiors in Washington. In May, the US marines used battle tanks and helicopter gunships to attack the slums of Fallujah. They admitted killing 600 people, a figure far greater than the total number of civilians killed by the "insurgents" during the past year. The generals were candid; this futile slaughter was an act of revenge for the killing of three US mercenaries. Sixty years earlier, the SS Das Reich division killed 600 French civilians at Oradour-sur-Glane as revenge for the kidnapping of a German officer by the resistance. Is there a difference?

These days, the Americans routinely fire missiles into Fallujah and other dense urban areas; they murder whole families. If the word terrorism has any modern application, it is this industrial state terrorism. The British have a different style. There are more than 40 known cases of Iraqis having died at the hands of British soldiers; just one soldier has been charged. In the current issue of the NUJ magazine, The Journalist, Lee Gordon, a freelance reporter, wrote: "Working as a Brit in Iraq is hazardous, particularly in the south where our troops have a reputation (unreported at home) for brutality."

Neither is the growing disaffection among British troops reported at home.

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The Terrorism of Groups and Individuals, However Horrific, Is Tiny by Comparison with That of States. but the Media Have No Language to Describe State Terrorism
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