Fear Eats the Soul | The Nation


Fear Eats the Soul

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"Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich," Peter Ustinov, the actor and playwright, recently observed with succinct clarity.

About the Author

John Berger
John Berger's collection of essays, The Shape of a Pocket, was recently published by Pantheon.

An equally succinct remark was made by one of Rumsfeld's spokesmen when questioned about the future role of countries that had not joined the coalition, notably France and Germany, in the reconstruction of Iraq when the war is over. "If you haven't joined the club, why should you come to the dinner?"

Although the assertion that Iraq still had weapons of massive destruction was the official justification for the country's invasion, there has perhaps never been a war in which the inequality of firepower between the combatants has been so great. On the one hand, satellite surveillance night and day, B-52s, Tomahawk cruise missiles, cluster bombs, shells with depleted uranium and computerized weapons that are so sophisticated they give rise to the theory (and virtual dream) of a no-contact war; on the other hand, sandbags, elderly men brandishing the pistols of their youth and handfuls of fedayeen, wearing torn shirts and sneakers, armed with a few Kalashnikovs. Many of the conventionally armed troops of the Republican Guard either deserted or were bombed out of existence during the first week. The comparative casualty rates between the Iraqi forces and those of the coalition will almost certainly be, as in "Operation Desert Storm," well over 100 to one.

Baghdad was taken within five days of the land army being given the order to attack. The obligatory destruction of the dictator's hideous statues followed the same pattern; the liberated citizens only had hammers while the US troops assisted with tanks and bulldozers.

The speed of the operation convinced the tame journalists, but not the courageous wild ones, that the invasion was, as promised, a liberation. Might had turned out to be right! Meanwhile, Baghdad's poor, fatally deprived during the twelve-year embargo, started to pillage empty public buildings. The chaos began.

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