Blood on their Hands
One of the world's most respected reporters speaks out against the Bush-Blair
February 7, 2003

George W. Bush has threatened to "strike first" with nuclear weapons. Credit:
LONDON (January 29, 2003) - William Russell, the great correspondent who reported the carnage of imperial wars, may have first used the expression "blood on his hands" to describe impeccable politicians who, at a safe distance, order the mass killing of ordinary people.

In my experience "on his hands" applies especially to those modern political leaders who have had no personal experience of war, like George W Bush, who managed not to serve in Vietnam, and the effete Tony Blair.

There is about them the essential cowardice of the man who causes death and suffering not by his own hand but through a chain of command that affirms his "authority".

In 1946 the judges at Nuremberg who tried the Nazi leaders for war crimes left no doubt about what they regarded as the gravest crimes against humanity. The most serious was unprovoked invasion of a sovereign state that offered no threat to one's homeland. Then there was the murder of civilians, for which responsibility rested with the "highest authority".

Blair is about to commit both these crimes, for which he is being denied even the flimsiest United Nations cover now that the weapons inspectors have found, as one put it, "zilch".

Like those in the dock at Nuremberg, he has no democratic cover.

Unelected in 2000, the Washington regime of George W Bush is now totalitarian, captured by a clique whose fanaticism and ambitions of "endless war" and "full spectrum dominance" are a matter of record.

Bush's State of the Union speech was reminiscent of that other great moment in 1938 when Hitler called his generals together and told them: "I must have war." He then had it.

BlairĀc is the embodiment of the most dangerous appeasement humanity has known since the 1930s. The current American elite is the Third Reich of our times, although this distinction ought not to let us forget that they have merely accelerated more than half a century of unrelenting American state terrorism: from the atomic bombs dropped cynically on Japan as a signal of their new power to the dozens of countries invaded, directly or by proxy, to destroy democracy wherever it collided with American "interests", such as a voracious appetite for the world's resources, like oil.

When you next hear Blair or Straw or Bush talk about "bringing democracy to the people of Iraq", remember that it was the CIA that installed the Ba'ath Party in Baghdad from which emerged Saddam Hussein.

"That was my favorite coup," said the CIA man responsible. When you next hear Blair and Bush talking about a "smoking gun" in Iraq, ask why the US government last December confiscated the 12,000 pages of Iraq's weapons declaration, saying they contained "sensitive information" which needed "a little editing".

Sensitive indeed. The original Iraqi documents listed 150 American, British and other foreign companies that supplied Iraq with its nuclear, chemical and missile technology, many of them in illegal transactions. In 2000, Peter Hain, then a Foreign Office Minister, blocked a parliamentary request to publish the full list of lawbreaking British companies. He has never explained why.

Craters Filled with Dead Children

As a reporter of many wars I am constantly aware that words on the page like these can seem almost abstract, part of a great chess game unconnected to people's lives.

The most vivid images I carry make that connection. They are the end result of orders given far away by the likes of Bush and Blair, who never see, or would have the courage to see, the effect of their actions on ordinary lives: the blood on their hands.

Let me give a couple of examples. Waves of B-52 bombers will be used in the attack on Iraq. In Vietnam, where more than a million people were killed in the American invasion of the 1960s, I once watched three ladders of bombs curve in the sky, falling from B52s flying in formation, unseen above the clouds.

They dropped about 70 tons of explosives that day in what was known as the "long box" pattern, the military term for carpet bombing. Everything inside a "box" was presumed destroyed.

When I reached a village within the "box," the street had been replaced by a crater. I slipped on the severed shank of a buffalo and fell hard into a ditch filled with pieces of limbs and the intact bodies of children thrown into the air by the blast.

The children's skin had folded back, like parchment, revealing veins and burnt flesh that seeped blood, while the eyes, intact, stared straight ahead. A small leg had been so contorted by the blast that the foot seemed to be growing from a shoulder. I vomited.

I am being purposely graphic. This is what I saw, and often; yet even in that "media war" I never saw images of these grotesque sights on television or in the pages of a newspaper. I saw them only pinned on the wall of news agency offices in Saigon as a kind of freaks' gallery.

Some years later I often came upon terribly deformed Vietnamese children in villages where American aircraft had sprayed a herbicide called Agent Orange. It was banned in the United States, not surprisingly for it contained Dioxin, the deadliest known poison.

This terrible chemical weapon, which the cliche-mongers would now call a weapon of mass destruction, was dumped on almost half of South Vietnam. Today, as the poison continues to move through water and soil and food, children continue to be born without palates and chins and scrotums or are stillborn. Many have leukemia.

You never saw these children on the TV news then; they were too hideous for their pictures, the evidence of a great crime, even to be pinned up on a wall and they are old news now.

That is the true face of war. Will you be shown it by satellite when Iraq is attacked? I doubt it.

A Legacy of 'Gray Little Faces'

I was starkly reminded of the children of Vietnam when I traveled in Iraq two years ago. A pediatrician showed me hospital wards of children similarly deformed: a phenomenon unheard of prior to the Gulf war in 1991. She kept a photo album of those who had died, their smiles undimmed on gray little faces. Now and then she would turn away and wipe her eyes.

More than 300 tons of depleted uranium, another weapon of mass destruction, were fired by American aircraft and tanks and possibly by the British. Many of the rounds were solid uranium which, inhaled or ingested, causes cancer. In a country where dust carries everything, swirling through markets and playgrounds, children are especially vulnerable.

For 12 years Iraq has been denied specialist equipment that would allow its engineers to decontaminate its southern battlefields. It has also been denied equipment and drugs that would identify and treat the cancer, which, it is estimated, will affect almost half the population in the south.

Bush and Blair Are the 'True Enemy'

The European press has joked that Tony Blair is "no longer the Prime Minister of Britain; he is the Foreign Minister of the United States." Credit: Computerphoto by
Last weekend Blair said there was no need for the UN weapons inspectors to find a "smoking gun" for Iraq to be attacked. Compare that with his reassurance in October 2001 that there would be no "wider war" against Iraq unless there was "absolute evidence" of Iraqi complicity in September 11. And there has been no evidence.

However, what is wonderful is that across the world the sheer force of public opinion isolates Bush, Blair, and their lemming, John Howard in Australia.

In contrast, the majority of people in the West, including the United States, are now against this gruesome adventure and the numbers grow every day.

It is time MPs joined their constituents and reclaimed the true authority of parliament. Blair's fig leaf of a "coalition" is very important to Bush and only the moral power of the British people can bring the troops home without them firing a shot.

The consequences of not speaking out go well beyond an attack on Iraq. Washington will effectively take over the Middle East, ensuring an age of terrorism other than their own. The next American attack is likely to be Iran - the Israelis want this - and their aircraft are already in place in Turkey. Then it may be China's turn.

Bush has said he will use nuclear weapons "if necessary." On March 26 last Geoffrey Hoon said that other countries "can be absolutely confident that in the right conditions we would be willing to use our nuclear weapons".

Such madness is the true enemy.

John Pilger is a respected international reporter based in London. A longer version of this article first appeared in the London Mirror.

For more information contact:

Home | Background | News | Links | Donate | Contact Us |

(510) THE-EDGE (843-3343)
E-mail us at