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August 2000: 10th anniversary idea

Dear discussion list members,

I am writing this e-mail for two reasons: first, to solicit responses to a
particular idea on how we might try to mark the 10th anniversary of
sanctions' imposition on Iraq; and, second, to implicitly encourage people
thinking, talking about and planning for this anniversary.  Ten years is a
long time and I think that there is growing concern in the UK about the
sanctions' effects on Iraq.  The anniversary would be a very good
opportunity to try to focus those concerns.

The particular idea is just that now: it is not a CASI project but just an
idea that I've mentioned to one or two people and would like feedback on. 
It is this: that we collect 500,000 cards, drawings, letters written by
Brits on behalf of an individual in Iraq, or the people of Iraq generally. 
The number 500,000 represents Unicef's estimate of the number of extra
Iraq children under five years of age who died between 1991 and 1998.

We then, on the anniversary, burn all of these, perhaps reading from or
displaying selected ones before they are burned.  My sense is that the
mood should be one of sombre reflection and mourning.  I wondered about
calling the project, "Iraq: a decade of ashes".  I also wonder about the
exact date: 6 August (the sanctions' imposition) would not have happened
without 2 August (Kuwait's invasion).  Does 4 August reflect the reality
that the people of Iraq have been caught between two warring parties, one
choosing the 2nd, the other the 6th?

My belief is that this could be an incredibly powerful event.  Personally,
I have a great deal of difficulty understanding a quantity as large as a
half million and fear that this difficulty increases each time the number
rolls off my tongue.  I think that watching half a million pieces of paper
be incinerated would help impress on me some more of the horror of this
number when counted in human lives.

I am asking the list about this idea because I think that there would be a
great deal of work involved.  500,000 is almost 30 times the number of
signatures that we collected for the national petition.  Against this, we
have almost two more months to prepare and people can send in more than
one card, drawing or letter.

Nevertheless, I think that going ahead with this idea would require a
broad national sense that this was a good idea and worth the thousands of
hours and pounds that it would require.  If people on the list thought
this a worthwhile investment I would propose the formation of a working
group to move the idea forward.

Thank you for your attention.

Best wishes,

Colin Rowat
393 King's College  
Cambridge CB2 1ST             tel: +44 (0)468 056 984
England                       fax: +44 (0)870 063 4984

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