individual human tragedy can make an immediate connection that
cuts through the big political stories of war and political
intrigue. Suddenly Iraq is not so far away when a British
engineer, a 62 year old family man and former pub landlord is
kidnapped and threatened with brutal and public murder. We can all
imagine the horror, fear and disgust felt by Kenneth Bigley's
family, and every one of us will feel solidarity with their
Kidnapping is endemic in Iraq. In their campaign to drive out
US-led occupation troops and hamper reconstruction, insurgents
have kidnapped more than 135 foreigners over the last few months.
On top of these kidnappings resistance forces are estimated to
have killed more than 3000 Iraqis by terrorist bombings, only a
fraction of whom were attached to the occupation forces or the
Quisling regime of Iyad Allawi. This terror campaign is
effectively undermining the ability of the Americans to maintain
the military or political initiative, but it is at a heavy human
cost. A cost of shattered lives, grief and crushed hopes for the
Iraqi people themselves.
these politically motivated kidnappings are only the tip of an
iceberg. Criminal gangs are kidnapping anyone whose family or
employer may be prepared to pay a ransom. Iraqi hospitals are
suffering a collapse in staffing as doctors are fleeing to Amman
or Damascus because of the high rate of kidnapping of skilled
medical staff. The kidnapping of children, a crime unknown under
Saddam Hussein, has now become a routine dread for every parent.
The inability of Iyad Allawi's regime to restore day-to-day
security undermines any possibility of the occupation gaining
legitimacy in the eyes of the population.
Bigley's kidnapping by the Tawhid and Jihad Group, led by
Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has caused a political crisis. Not
only because the victims are seemingly ordinary British and
American workers, but because their demands have revealed the
major fault lines in the occupation. Al-Zarqawi has demanded the
release of all female prisoners being held in Iraqi gaols.
Probably unintentionally this has thrown the spotlight on the
continued detention of Dr Rihab Taha, and Dr Huda Salih Mahdi
Ammash: two women scientists who had been working on the Iraqi
biological weapons programme, discontinued many years ago. Despite
the fact that they had done nothing illegal, the Americans have
continued to incarcerate them.
now that the war and the occupation are both legally over, this
should not be a question for the Americans any longer. On
Wednesday 22nd September Malik Duhan al-Hasan the Iraqi
Justice Minister announced that the two women were already
scheduled for release. At this stage George Bush seems to have
personally intervened, overruling the "legal" Iraqi government, so
then his puppet Allawi announced there would be no release. An
intervention that may cost Kenneth Bigley his life.
George Bush has personally approved the brutal state murder of 152
Texans, mostly black and poor, so sacrificing a British Engineer
to help his re-election prospects will cause him no flicker of
conscience. And his ally Tony Blair, to whose compassion Kenneth
Bigley has directly appealed? There is no response from his
obsidian heart. As former cabinet minister Stephen Byers told the
ITN News Channel, Tony Blair "is a very Christian person, a
very religious man and he will be wondering just where God is at
this time because this is something awful that is taking place. He
will deal with it at a personal level and also he's got to deal
with it as a leader of our country and those two are often very
difficult to reconcile."
there is also a certain racism behind the reporting of the Kenneth
Bigley story. British Civil engineers do not belong to the "torturable
classes". Part of the horror is that this is happening to a
British man, someone who has taken up the "white man's burden".
There has been no report in the British press of the 3 Iraqi Kurds
beheaded last week for collaborating, or the 18 soldiers from the
collaborationist Iraqi army that have been captured by the
resistance. The experience of resurgent imperialism in Iraq brings
in its train the dark prejudices of Britain's sordid past: We
don't need to worry about the suffering of these "lesser breeds",
as Kipling put it, the "fluttered folk and wild, ... half devil
and half child"
Fisk of the
reported how one of the videos circulating in Iraq of a hostage
beheading was discovered to be the murder of a Russian soldier in
Chechnya, and seems to have been sent to Iraq as a training
manual. The Russian slaughter and rape of Chechnya has sown terror
and madness; now transplanted to Iraqi's fertile soil. Imperialism
from Washington and Moscow is still our enemy.
Responsibility for the kidnappings, the bombings, the collapse of
Iraq's internal security, public services and infrastructure all
lies with the Americans and their illegal invasion of Iraq. Their
military occupation is brutal and seemingly directionless. What is
more it is causing a moral and political corruption here at home,
as night after night pictures of more horror and devastation are
beamed to our TV sets, and the politicians lie and spin about what
progress is being made, and how much worse it all was under