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News, 27/12/02-2/1/03 (3) REMNANTS OF DECENCY * Report from Cairo * Notes on the Cairo Conference Against US Aggression on Iraq * 'Human shields' head for Iraq * Back to Iraq as a human shield * Iraqis Focus of Nuns' Efforts * A bizarre display in Egypt * Bush's War is Obscene and Unjustifiable REMNANTS OF DECENCY http://www.counterpunch.org/madarasz1227.html * REPORT FROM CAIRO by Norman Madarasz Counterpunch, 27th December Cairo was host to the most important anti-war congress held in the Arab world to date on December 18-19. Organized in haste given the imminent US strike and declared invasion of Iraq, not to mention the utter devastation of Palestinians and Palestinian land by Sharon's army, the Cairo Congress against American Aggression on Iraq aimed at gathering together for an intensive study session intellectuals, journalists, activists, organizers and former-UN workers from Arab and non-Arab countries. Its commitment as a civil society group was stressed and reinforced throughout the Congress. No matter how one defines the current American aggression, the anti-war movement that has emerged explosively in England, Italy, France, the US and elsewhere, is the first such movement to take shape prior to the actual onset of a war. It should surprise no one in the US that the corporate media chose not to report on the event. After all, the million-strong demonstration and study session held in Florence in November against the American aggression was entirely under-reported in the US. Even though al-Jazeera and al-Ahram, two of the most respected sources of news in the Arab world, were present, interviewing both organizers and participants, not one corporate news source showed up from the English-speaking world. France's "Le Monde" spoke of the event, albeit briefly and almost invisibly, in the December 20-21 issue. "Humanite" had a correspondent follow the events. The Congress successfully and strikingly brought together a broad range of distinguished speakers, among whom the hero of the Algerian War of Independence and former President, Ahmad Ben Bella, was the guest of honor. Also invited, but unable to attend due to illness though he did have a letter read out was Edward Said, the Palestinian-American author of "Orientalism" and "Culture and Imperalism". The Congress also featured such distinguished speakers as former US-attorney general Ramsey Clark, former Director of the UN Humanitarian Program for Iraq, Dennis Halliday, and British anti-war MP George Gallaway. Egyptian-American scholar and consultant to the UN, Dr. Soheir Morsy, and Engineer M. Samy drove the Congress within its project, having worked brilliantly in their capacity as co organizers of the event. The results of the Congress are twofold. First, all participants democratically elaborated the "Cairo Declaration", which is being forwarded to all international political and social bodies. Then, a steering committee was established to undertake action to raise popular awareness to the catastrophic effects a war would have on the Arab world, and to what the broader ambitions of the US and Israel appear to be in the Middle East. Needless to say, under its current government, Israel is indistinguishable from the broader aims of American foreign policy. This bond has worked unceasingly to the detriment of the US's credibility in the Arab world, while being based on a short-term vision peculiar to Sharon's Israel that can only be doomed to fail in the long-term. Consensus was reached for full withdrawal of US forces from Arab countries, which may thereby allow the Arab people to deal with the question of democracy on their own terms and through their own means. As history has shown since ancient Athens, democracy as an export, imposed by force onto a people onto leads to tyranny. There have been no exceptions to this rule in history. The present author was also honored to be invited. I spoke of the anti-war sentiment in Brazil from my perspective of a Canadian intellectual and academic living in Rio de Janeiro and married to a Brazilian. As I was the only representative of either Canada or Brazil, I believe it is appropriate to publish the paper and the views it discusses, which were presented to the Congress on December 19. N.M. What follows is Madarasz's address to the conference. Secular Steps in Preparing a War by NORMAN MADARASZ Distinguished participants, I would like first of all to express my gratitude to Dr Soheir Morsy for inviting me and giving me the honor of speaking among you and participating in a Congress that has assembled so many illustrious speakers. Yesterday and this morning's speeches were impressive by the intense, angry and profound solidarity shown toward the Iraqi people and children. In that regard, I can only second the motion put forth by Dr. von Sponeck according to which a clause ought to be devoted in the Cairo Declaration to the effect that Iraqi children must be recognized as having the same right to live as any child in the US, Britain, France or Canada. Following so many passionate speeches, I think it can be affirmed loud and clear that here we find a clear example of people who no longer accept the inactivity of our governments toward the US aggression on Iraq. And that aggression - as well as the ideology supporting it - must be stopped before it exponentially increases the suffering of all in the region. Ladies and gentlemen, I am Canadian, a professor and researcher in philosophy, currently living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with my Brazilian wife and son. Soon after the attacks of September 11, I began writing, outside of philosophy and academia, on international political and economic relations for CounterPunch magazine. With such criminal irresponsibility returning home on September 11, it was impossible to keep silent any longer. In the case of Brazil, or Argentina, Iraq and Egypt for that matter, what also engaged me to write was the near impossibility of finding pertinent, unbiased and informative news on the country in the English language corporate press, i.e. what we in North America usually call the "mass media". This state of affairs is simply frustrating. After all, consider for a minute the turbulent and very exciting year Brazil has undergone. By electing the Workers Party (PT) to government, and Lula da Silva as president last October, Brazil has become one of, if not the most, enthusiastic countries on the planet. It has certainly proved to be the most dynamic democracy existing anywhere today in what is a rapidly shrinking democratic world. In that regard, we cannot really speak of anti-war demonstrations as yet having taken place in the country. The reasons have so very much to do with the population awaiting the investiture of their new president on January 1, and the hopeful promise of deep social change to combat poverty and the urban violence it gives rise to that is eating away at the fabric of Brazil's largest cities. The gathering at Porto Alegre early next year should mark an important change in condemnation of the aggression. Yet listen to any Brazilian news channel, and especially Globo News, or look into the eyes of most Brazilians while speaking of Iraq, and you will see a people not fooled by the pretexts spun by the US as justifiable cause for its increased aggression on Iraq or for its strategy aided and abetted by Sharon of establishing Israel as the hyper-militarized dominant power in the region, much less for its ambitions set in the rigid stone of globalized shareholder capitalism. In many ways, Brazil has had first-hand experience in being revolted by one of the very secular episodes to preparing the war. This occurred when the Director-General of the UN's Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Mr. Jose Bustani, was groundlessly accused of mismanaging the OPCW by Washington D.C. Bustani just happened to be Brazilian. And the Brazilian mass media covered the events so very closely and with such indignation that all could sense this strong-arm tactic to be a major step for the US to increase the aggression against Iraq. The OPCW ran according to a convention by which member states had to provide data on their chemical weapons programs and were subject to challenges and inspections from other members. In his short tenure, Bustani managed to boost membership from 70 up to 145 nations in the space of two years. He had also been unanimously re-elected for a second four-year term in May 2001. Bustani's mistake, as most probably fabricated by John Bolton, senior neo-con ideologue and sub-secretary of state for arms control, was having wanted to include too many of the wrong types of countries into the folds of the OPCW. After all, these wrong types of countries, or "rogue states", weren't able to comply with international regulations and standards. They weren't because by definition they were rogue states. Worse still, Bustani was involved in high-level talks with Iraq to have it enter the OPCW. His staff had already sent an inspections team to Baghdad to discuss matters with Iraqi authorities. As the US is the main financial backer of the organization, covering roughly 25% of its operational budget, it rallied the usual victims to try to oust Bustani through a members' vote. When the democratic process failed, Bolton's people called for an extraordinary closed-door session in The Hague. On April 22, Ambassador Bustani was sacked, and the US would have set a precedence for one nation disrupting the activity of a UN agency had it not, just a week earlier, already lobbied against and replaced Robert Watson as head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Watson, an American scientist and strong supporter of the Kyoto Protocol, had been advocating action against global warming. Just as Washington has shown its true colors by rejecting any form of environmental control over a country that is by far the world's biggest polluter, so also has it dictated to the world that it and it alone knows how to manage budgets and control the non-conventional arms industry. This event had serious implications for Iraq, but not only for that continually bombed country. At the time of the attack on Bustani, you'll recall, new leads were appearing in the investigation into the wave of anthrax terror letters, which used a strain of anthrax allegedly developed by the US military and secretly funded. This received little mention in the North American corporate press, even though it directly contravened the biological and chemical weapons convention and US domestic law. Never mind that to this day, it appears as though an American connected to the military would have been behind the mail attacks. This type of background scenario makes it all the more difficult to accept American self denials over its imperialist ambitions. Such self-denial is merely a process of refining the ideology of imperial discourse. There's maybe no one more apt and efficient in producing such self-denial in the context of the American aggression than Princeton professor emeritus of Middle East Studies, Bernard Lewis. Typical cases of denial in his writings are that America is not an Empire (like Britain and France were), or that Iraq has been a more brutal user of non-conventional weaponry than the US. (In discussing the "brutality" of Middle East dictators he conveniently elides any mention to the use of napalm and agent orange in Viet Nam, chemical weapons in the Korean war, let alone atomic weapons against Japan and depleted uranium in the Gulf War.) When Professor Lewis recently argued in the National Review that the US fails the empire grade, thereby qualifying it as an honest exporter of democracy to countries raked by harsh dictatorial and theocratic rule, he omitted a major historical point. Prior to becoming colonial empires in the Middle and Far East, Britain and France both began by establishing 'trade counters'. Just as the English were wheeling-dealing in Calcutta before the Indies became a colony, by corrupting and subjugating one maharaja after another into their horizon of interests, so also had the US secured growing dominance over oil in Riyadh. In fact, regarding American history, we seem merely to be standing on an earlier segment of the colonial timeline. But on it we stand - as everyone here seems to agree - and, we stand on it at a very crucial moment, indeed. This is a moment pointed to with vehemence under other purposes by New York Times right-wing columnist Thomas Friedman when he speaks of a new era when the United Nations Organization will finally be made to move faster - to another beat, as it were. A recent piece, one whose title "'Soddom' Hussein's Iraq" illustrates its lewd rhetoric, was published as if coincidentally just as the UN arms inspectors began tackling their delicate tasks. For Friedman, the UN is part of the problem, but not as our distinguished speakers Denis Halliday and Dr. von Sponeck spoke of yesterday. These honorable gentlemen resigned from their high-level posts in the UN's humanitarian sector in protest over the obvious failures of the Food-for-Oil program and the refusal of the Security Council to lift the embargo that has criminally been strangling the Iraqi people for over ten years. What Friedman intones is that the UN is blocking the rights of Iraqis to democracy. Furthermore, in a typical display of misplaced American arrogance, he has the gall to call upon a people under threat of massive bombardment, further death and starvation, to somehow, through sheer will and sacrifice, overthrow a dictator. And this is why he claims that we must hold the "UN's feet to the fire", as if it and not the Security-Council enforced embargo were behind the plight of the Iraqi people! Such poetic license is, doubtless, of the sort that garnered him the Pulitzer Prize earlier this year. Dear American friends, faced with the terror of 9/11 and its aftermath, you have allowed your federal government to let corporate crooks fly free from indictment after they ripped your pockets off by billions of dollars in the greatest corruption wave to have stricken the US since the Gilded Age. Freedom in the US today means freedom for corporate crooks of the highest and most prestigious pedigree. It no longer means freedom for the common folk. How can you expect Iraqis, then, to rise up when you yourselves can all but insist on government to keep its interest on the economy instead of getting rich from the taxes you pay at great expense from war? But with the UN made immune, to whose ears can we still turn to be listened to at the highest level? As futile and confused as it seems, but with a spirit of keeping possible doors open, it could still be Secretary Colin Powell. If we accept the American self-denial of the imperial-nature of its foreign policy, and that the aggression on Iraq is "not about oil", as Rumsfeld recently claimed, then we can draw out the Western trinity to which the secretary of defense and vice-president are not only devoted servants, but stakeholders and shareholders: oil for sure and don't be fooled; next: the arms industry; finally, much less glamorous but equally lucrative, the military logistics industry that supplies infrastructure to the massive armies as they stretch their claws worldwide. (In cut-throat international competition, heavy industry agrees that future treasure lies in masterful logistics.) As opposed to Messieurs Rumsfeld and Cheney, Secretary Powell seems only marginally connected to the ownership of these sectors. There is a silent reserve in Colin Powell that seems to express wisdom, albeit undercut by professional ambition. Secretary, you have been able to transform your logistics and geostrategic knowledge into intelligent dialogue with the world's youth on MTV. You were behind operations of the 1991 war on Iraq, you have seen the ravages. You are aware of the horrors caused even more in the war's aftermath, which shouldn't be surprising given the post-war sequelae of Viet Nam. The anti-war movement, the movement for international respect for social justice, may grant you laurels if you prove able to move from the man of war that you are, to the leader of peace that you promise to become. But if you do nothing to avert this infernal step into the next segment of the colonial timeline, history will forget you, Sir. Whether his door remains partially open or not, our words must continue to be: all together in solidarity with the Iraqi people and all together in our call to halt the British-Israeli American aggression on Iraq, on behalf of my Canadian and Brazilian colleagues and loved ones. Norman Madarasz holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the Universite de Paris. His most recent philosophical study is on French philosopher Alain Badiou's mathematical philosophy, forthcoming in Gabriel Riera (editor), "Alain Badiou: Philosophy under Conditions", SUNY Press. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.counterpunch.org/leupp1227.html * NOTES ON THE CAIRO CONFERENCE AGAINST US AGGRESSION ON IRAQ by Gary Leupp Counterpunch, 27th December On page A37 of the December 19 Boston Globe I found a Reuters article under the understated headline, "Egypt Conference: Activists share their concerns about war." I had just flown home from Cairo, from this very significant event organized by the Popular Egyptian Campaign to Resist U.S. Aggression on Iraq. So I was pleased to see it receive some coverage, if only in the back pages of the U.S. press. Speakers at the conference, held December 17-19 and involving over a thousand participants, ranged from the Muslim devout (many prefacing their remarks with the words, "In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate") to the thoroughly secular. There were Marxists of various stripes as well as pacifists and at least one European who wanted to make his happiness with the fall of the Soviet Union crystal clear. Various faiths were represented, a particular welcome extended to Jews in attendance by an organizer in her introductory remarks. Prominent antiwar activists from the west, including former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark, former UN humanitarian director for Iraq Denis Halliday (from Ireland), and British MP George Gallaway; activists from Russia and Cuba, and delegates from Egypt, Palestine, Iraq, Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan and other Arab and Third World countries spoke against U.S. war plans, as well as "U.S. Globalization" and U.S. support for Israel. Legendary freedom fighter and former Algerian president Ahmad Ben Bella chaired the conference. Among the issues discussed was the need to organize greater resistance to war in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Some pointed out the incongruity of the fact that while organizers in Italy, Britain, and the U.S. itself have brought out hundreds of thousands opposed to an Iraq attack, the Arab "street" has been relatively quiescent. One speaker called for demonstrations of a million to take place in Damascas, Casablanca and Cairo. Gallaway urged Arab regimes themselves to organize their populations to powerfully protest U.S. action. But you see, this is precisely the problem. How can repressive regimes in the Arab (or broader Islamic) world that are either heavily dependent upon U.S. aid, or deathly afraid of U.S. attack if they should fail to keep the lid on anti-U.S. sentiment, tolerate, much less officially encourage, resistance to U.S. imperialism? Consider what happened in Pakistan. In the days after Sept. 11 Colin Powell phoned President Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan and presented him a series of demands. These included the cutoff of Pakistani aid to the Taliban, provision of bases for U.S. military use, and prohibition of anti-U.S. street protests. In other words: "We demand that you deny the Pakistani people the rights of free assembly and free speech that the U.S. Constitution in theory guarantees the American people, insofar as the exercise of such rights might hamper our plans for war in your region." Musharraf agreed on all points, and thus the military dictator who had seized power in a coup condemned by the U.S. suddenly won "courageous statesman" status from the political and journalistic mainstream in the U.S. (As the bombing of Afghanistan began, CNN's Christiane Amanpour reported that demonstrations in Pakistan "were smaller than expected," failing to mention the fact that such demonstrations were illegal and participation in them punishable.) Statesman Musharraf's task is to please the U.S. while retaining enough political distance from Washington to avoid uncontrollable street protests that might turn against his regime. This is Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's challenge as well; ever since the Camp David Accords, Egypt has received two billion dollars in U.S. aid (that is, 2/3 the stated allotment to Israel) as its reward for making peace with Israel and opening diplomatic ties. Mubarak needs the money, so he plays ball for the most part, but he also has to deal with the Egyptian street. This was indicated by the relationship between Mubarak's regime and the Cairo conference. The latter was organized by Egyptian academics and financed by local businessmen who believed that they had received a green light from government to hold the event. But on the weekend before it was supposed to convene, invited participants received an email from the organizing committee, indicating that the Egyptian government, in an "irreversible" decree, had cancelled the conference. The Sheraton Hotel backed out of an agreement to provide facilities. I was later informed that U.S. pressure had resulted in these decisions, but countervailing domestic and international pressure somehow put conference plans back on track. Within hours participants who had been told to seek refunds for their tickets were advised to arrive as earlier planned in Cairo. Checking into the newly-selected hotel along the Nile, the day before the conference was to open, I asked about it at the desk. The clerks seemed clueless. I tried another hotel employee manning an information counter; he checked the computerized roster of hotel events and said there was no listing of a conference against U.S. aggression on Iraq. But he had heard something about it. "So it will happen tomorrow?" "Yes." "It's just a secret?" "Something like that." Sure enough, the next morning there were beautiful glossy posters in the lobby announcing the meet, which went off without a hitch. At the end of the conference the last speaker, after listing the businessmen who had financed the meeting, also dutifully thanked the Egyptian government for rescinding its ban and allowing it to happen. He didn't, however, explain the details behind the flip-flop. On December 18, the English-language Egyptian Gazette, provided to the hotel guests, headlined a Mubarak warning "against repercussions of striking Iraq on ME development." It quoted him as saying that "there will be popular Arab and Islamic sympathy with the Iraqi people" in the event of a U.S. attack. But the next day the headline was "No tension in Egyptian-U.S. relations." The article quoted the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Fayza Abul Naga. "Egyptian-U.S. relations are strong enough to allow leeway for mutual disagreements," she stated. "The United States is a superpower whose priorities would normally differ from the priorities of a regional power like Egypt." In other words, "We'll understand if you do what you have to do, and trust that we'll still have that strong relationship, and get the two billion a year, even if we don't back you on this one. And maybe even if we allow some street protests against your war plans." According to Reuters, "several hundred people demonstrated outside the Qatari embassy in Cairo" three days later "to protest the West's buildup to war and the U.S. presence in Arab states." I understand there are more events planned. Surely Cairo could and should muster a million people. But if the warmongering cabal in Washington feels that Mubarak can't muffle such people, then he'll be on the wrong side (the side of evil) and likely targeted for regime change. Several at the conference matter-of-factly noted that possibility. References to Gamal Abdul-Nasser, Egyptian leader from 1952-70, drew some of the loudest applause from the conference attendees. Ben Bella (leader of the Algerian independence movement from 1954 and president, 1962-65) was received with great warmth and enthusiasm. Why are these men---secular, leftist leaders---so popular? Because having taken on western imperialism, they are regarded as freedom fighters and symbols of Arab dignity. Few leaders in the Arab countries today hold such credentials. Without mass support from below, and obliged, in the face of a general U.S. assault on Arab independence and dignity unfolding daily, to yet insist "relations are strong despite disagreements," how can they ever acquire such credentials? Virtually all the Arab governments oppose, in words, a U.S. war on Iraq. But Donald Rumsfeld insists that "behind the scenes" many are in fact cooperating in clandestine ways. One would like to think this characterization is a product of a fevered imagination, of arrogant confidence that ultimately Third World elites must bend to the carrots and sticks he offers. But the confidence may prove well-founded, and the U.S. government may get the cooperation it needs from regional regimes to attack Iraq. Then the world will see the strength or weakness of the Arab street. I do not live on that street, and don't know what to expect from it. But it seems to me that the powerful, who see geopolitics like a chess game, in which you move pieces around to capture and destroy your opponent, are incapable of grasping the fact that ordinary people enraged by injustice can (if properly organized) upset the board entirely. That is, the bosses don't understand the power of the street. They don't hang out in the street, and can't respect or appreciate it. That's probably a good thing because their ignorance (despite all their intelligence gathering) may cause them to miscalculate. Imagine picking up a rook intending to checkmate the king on the chessboard, and just as you are pouncing triumphantly, the piece dissolves in mid-air. Imagine counting on puppet regimes, and suddenly finding them gone. You lose the game. Those playing this game of war on Iraq deserve to lose, and the pawns of the world, the potential victims and cannon fodder of all nations, deserve to win in this International Campaign to Resist U.S. Aggression on Iraq. Gary Leupp is an an associate professor, Department of History, Tufts University and coordinator, Asian Studies Program. http://observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,866217,00.html * 'HUMAN SHIELDS' HEAD FOR IRAQ by Paul Harris The Observer, 29th December A convoy of anti-war activists, likely to include dozens of British volunteers, will leave London next month to act as human shields protecting strategic sites in Iraq. The convoy to Baghdad is being organised by former US marine Kenneth Nichols, who served in the first Gulf war and won a combat medal but has now become a vociferous opponent of another Gulf conflict. British protesters are also heading for the country in advance of any Anglo-American bombing. Nichols, 33, aims to gather scores of volunteers together in London and lead the convoy on 10 January. It will drive across Europe, holding rallies in various capital cities and collecting other human-shield demonstrators along the way. It plans to travel via Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Zurich, Milan, Sarajevo, Istanbul and Syria to Baghdad. He is hoping that the convoy will arrive in the Iraqi capital around 24 January, three days before President George W Bush is to make his decision on whether Iraq has complied with the UN weapons inspections, potentially triggering a US-led invasion. Nichols is willing to put his own life on the line to stop a war. 'In going to Iraq I understand that I will likely not survive a US invasion,' he said. Once in Iraq, members of the convoy will identify infrastructure targets for bombing, such as power stations, key bridges and roads, and deploy themselves as human shields in the glare of the international media. 'I don't think anyone will be happy about bombing somewhere they see being protected by North Americans or Europeans,' he said. In the 1991 conflict, Nichols was serving in the 2nd Battalion of the Marine Corps. He was an infantryman on the road to Basra, where heavy Allied bombing killed hundreds of retreating Iraqi soldiers. He left the Marine Corps a year later. His experience of war left him disillusioned with American foreign policy, and he is now a vociferous opponent of US foreign interventions. 'Part of the reason I want to go back is to apologise to the Iraqi people for what I was doing there the first time I was in their country,' he said. Part-time law student Jo Wilding, 28, is one Briton who is heading for the region. She expects to fly to Baghdad on 10 January and then go to the southern city of Basra. 'There is something I can do there just by being a foreigner,' she said. 'If something does start when we are there, we will be able to document it.' http://observer.co.uk/comment/story/0,6903,866254,00.html * BACK TO IRAQ AS A HUMAN SHIELD by Ken Nichols O'Keefe Observer, 29th December Day by day, the latest headlines tell us that we are moving ever closer to war with Iraq. So many people around the world are ashamed and outraged by this prospect and yet feel powerless to make their voices heard. Large rallies for peace have been held in cities around the world. Yet the bulletins quickly return to the war drums beating ever faster for what must be one of the most choreographed and longest-planned wars in history. Those who suffer most will of course be the innocent and victimized men, women and children in Iraq who are set to endure yet another war and unknown loss of life. Their crime? Simply to be the powerless citizens of an oil rich nation with a violent dictator who no longer fulfils the needs of Western powers who supported and armed him in the past. Yet we need not be powerless. Gandhi said that "peace will not come out of a clash of arms but out of justice lived and done by unarmed nations in the face of odds." So what would happen if several thousand Western citizens migrated to Iraq to stand side by side with the Iraqi people? Along with at first just a few hundred people - from hundreds of millions in the west - I will be going to Iraq to volunteer to act as a human shield in the interests of protecting human life. We will join our fellow citizens of the world in Iraq to bear witness for peace and justice. We will run the risk of being maimed or killed - but it is simply the same risk that innocent Iraqis will themselves face. I would rather die in defense of justice and peace than "prosper" in complicity with mass murder and war. This is not about supporting Saddam Hussein, as our governments did in the past. It is about saving the lives of those in our human family. We will be expressing to the Iraqi people the reality that most people in the West do not support this criminal war. And we will bring home to western publics the human cost of war because, unfortunately, the death and destruction faced daily by countless millions of our fellow human beings seems somehow an unfathomable abstraction unless western lives are at stake as well. For me, this is also an act of personal penance. In 1989, at the age of nineteen I committed the most ignorant act of my life, I joined the United States Marine Corps. In 1991 I went beyond ignorance into criminal participation in a war against the Iraqi people which ultimately included the use of depleted uranium against the civilian population. My reward as an "American Hero" was to be used by Bush Sr. as a human guinea pig along with several hundred thousand other "heroes". We have still not been told the full story about "Gulf War syndrome" or how many of my fellow soldiers died as a result, but we do know the value our own leaders put on our lives. When a nation's leaders do not even respect the lives of their own "sons and daughters," the enemy will never enter into the realm of consideration. The hundreds of thousands killed by sanctions against Iraq are seen as a price worth paying. The human costs of another war in Iraq barely seem to register with our political leaders. But, as I understand it, we the "citizens" are responsible for the actions of "our" governments. It is we who are privileged to live in so-called "democracies" and so we are collectively guilty for what we allow to be done in our name, to both to the civilian population of Iraq and to others around the world. Ignorance is no defence. The existence of other tyrants, worse or not, is no defence. In 1999 I renounced my US citizenship in shame and disgust having arrived at the logical, albeit belated, conclusion that my government was not worthy of my funding - through taxes - and certainly not my allegiance. Paying for roads and schools is one thing, paying for "Weapons of Mass Destruction" to the point of insanity and nurturing global oppression is another thing all together. No moral being can be compelled to fund war, death and murder. Only the most indoctrinated can not see the irony in the United States, with its long record of intervention and around the world, prosecuting this war on terrorism. A leader of a nation with thousands of nuclear weapons - and who has declared his right to use them - is ready to pulverize one of the poorest nations on the planet on the grounds that they may be planning to develop similar weapons themselves. This "War on Terror" is becoming the ultimate "War on Freedom", in the United States and around the world. George Bush has said that "every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make, either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." But we do not only have two choices, For the record, I am not with George Bush or with the terrorists. And that is why, when this war finally begins, I will be in Iraq - with the people of Iraq. I invite everybody to join me in declaring themselves not citizens of nations but world citizens prepared to act in solidarity with the most wretched on our planet and to join us or to support our efforts in other ways. In doing so I honour the principles and laws of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And if I should die in Iraq, it will be as a man at peace with himself because he saw the truth and acted on it. Ken Nichols O'Keefe of the Universal Kinship Society is leading the volunteer mission of peace activists who will be acting as human shields in Iraq. See www.uksociety.org for more information. http://www.newsday.com/news/local/longisland/ny linuns1231,0,6499733.story?coll=ny%2Dlinews%2Dheadlines * IRAQIS FOCUS OF NUNS' EFFORTS by Bart Jones Newsday, 31st December Sister Margaret Galiardi broke the U.S. ban on traveling to Iraq two years ago and saw the suffering faces of the Iraqi people and dozens of nuns from her order who live and work in the land of Saddam Hussein. Now, as the United States appears poised to launch a war against Iraq, Galiardi and other members of the Amityville Dominican Sisters fear the Iraqi people they met and their fellow nuns -- along with thousands of other Iraqis and Americans -- will be injured or killed. They are organizing an anti-war campaign, handing out bumper stickers and buttons that proclaim, "I Have Family in Iraq." "It's almost impossible that we avoid this war," said Sister Nancy Goult, one of three Dominican sisters from Long Island who made the journey to Iraq in February 2000. "But I have to keep dreaming." The third, Sister Marjorie McGregor, recalls hugging Iraqi mothers as they stood over their dying babies in hospitals she said were devastated in part by U.S.-led economic sanctions. Now, McGregor fears more suffering will come to blameless and ordinary Iraqis. "We have to work toward peace," she said. The Dominicans are members of one of the larger orders of nuns in the United States and on Long Island, with about 8,200 members nationwide including 650 in Queens, Brooklyn and Nassau and Suffolk counties. It has thousands more overseas, including about 135 in Iraq, where a branch was established in 1873. The vast majority of Dominican sisters in the heavily Muslim nation are natives of Iraq. In 1999, Galiardi and others started organizing delegations made up mainly of Dominican sisters to visit Iraq to protest the sanctions, which human rights groups blame partly for the deaths of thousands of children. She and the other Long Islanders took a 12-hour ride across the desert from Amman, Jordan, to Baghdad and faced $25,000 fines from the U.S. government, although none were punished. Earlier this year, the Dominican order helped bring to the United States two of their brethren from Iraq, in part, to build bridges between the two nations. When the two attended a national meeting of Dominican sisters in October and spoke of their homeland, the order decided to launch the "I Have Family in Iraq" campaign. "Really, I am scared," one of the nuns, Sister Luma, who was a biology teacher in Iraq, said yesterday in a telephone interview from Springfield, Ill., where she has moved. "When they bombed, they bombed everything." The Dominicans on Long Island, whose efforts also are being organized by Sister Margaret Mayce, started receiving their bumper stickers and buttons three weeks ago. They're handing them out to anyone who wants one. The sisters contend that the Bush administration has failed to convincingly make the case that the United States needs to wage war against Iraq. They assert that while they are not cheerleaders for Hussein, war will result in thousands of Iraqi and American deaths, further destabilize the Persian Gulf and Middle East, provoke more terrorist attacks against the United States and do little to help capture Osama bin Laden. They believe many Americans agree with them. "I think a lot of people are very nervous about this war," Galiardi said. "It's not like we're trying to be rebellious teenagers. ... For us the primary law is God's law. And God's law says, 'Thou shall not kill.'" Added Mayce, "I think everybody agrees something has to be done, but ultimately more harm and more devastation will come from waging war." The Bush administration argues that Hussein's regime possesses weapons of mass destruction and must be eliminated before he attacks the United States and its allies. Galiardi said she fears war will simply increase the suffering of the Iraqi people. When the nuns visited the hospitals there, a woman who had given birth was in danger of dying and needed a blood transfusion. The sisters from Long Island offered to be donors. But doctors said they couldn't: The hospital didn't have the plastic bags needed for a transfusion. http://www.dailystar.com.lb/opinion/31_12_02_d.htm * A BIZARRE DISPLAY IN EGYPT by Saad Mehio Daily Star, Lebanon, 31st December Can anyone imagine a rally being held to support Saddam Hussein without the Iraqi leader attending (in person or in name)? That's hard to believe, given Saddam's inflated ego. But that is exactly what happened at a three-day Arab-International conference held in Cairo recently. It was attended by 50 prominent individuals, among them former Algerian President Ahmed Ben-Bella, former Egyptian Vice-President Hussein al-Shafei, former US Attorney-General Ramsey Clark, and x-UN officials Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday, as well as Western anti-globalization activists. The participants took turns denouncing American domination and its impending war on Iraq. Yet none of the speakers - including Jordanians who are said to be on good terms with Saddam's intelligence agencies - mentioned the Iraqi leader by name. He was not even referred to - as is customary in such gatherings - as an "inspired leader" and a "victorious knight." Only Professor Peter Philips, from California's Sonoma State University, referred to Saddam in his speech - not in adulation, but only to refute US allegations of a relationship between the Baghdad regime and Al-Qaeda. Everything that had to do with the conference was in fact characterized by an "embarrassment" from being seen to be siding with Saddam. Even its initial title was innocuous: Invitations were sent out to attend a conference on "Globalization and Empire." Only when the conference opened was its title changed to "International Campaign against Aggression on Iraq." The invitations stressed the fact that the gathering was financed by nongovernmental (i.e. non-Iraqi) sources. But it later transpired that the Egyptian financiers who signed the checks were trade representatives of the Iraqi government. When one of these financiers was later confronted with these facts, he quickly disowned Saddam, saying he doesn't support the Iraqi leader as much as he objects to American imperialism - despite the fact that he had just returned from a trip to Baghdad and had written an article extolling the virtues of Saddam's "democratic experiment!" Such scenes were almost unimaginable during the last 40 years of the 20th century, when the priority for most Arabs was to liberate their countries from foreign control rather than democracy. This changed atmosphere has been associated with another - largely unnoticed - phenomenon: the absence of demonstrations on Arab streets in support of Iraq. How can this phenomenon be explained? Is it because of boredom or exhaustion? Or is the Arab street convinced that Saddam's fate is sealed? None of the above - at least that's what Abu Mohammed, an Egyptian taxi driver with a degree in economics said. "Saddam," Abu Mohammed opined, "only gave us and his people tears and destruction. He is a bastard who only cares about his own power and image." Safia, a young Egyptian journalist covering the conference, agreed. "I reject American imperialism," she said. "But I also believe Saddam played a colonialist role against his own people." Even Cairo-based Syrian actress Raghda - normally a staunch supporter of Saddam - said: "This is not the time to distinguish between the Iraqi people and its leadership!" When asked when such a distinction should be made, Raghda angrily retorted: "I don't know. Why don't you change your own leaders first before calling for replacing Saddam?" Regime change - maybe Raghda was right. The Cairene press has recently been discussing little other than the possibility of regime change in the Arab world. Perhaps it was because of this atmosphere that the Egyptian government very reluctantly agreed to host the "Iraq and Globalization" conference in Cairo. The Egyptians initially agreed to host the conference, then changed their minds only to agree at the last moment. Why put all your money on a dead horse? The position adopted by the Egyptian government was not prompted by its embarrassment at being seen to support Saddam, but by its sensitivity from doing anything that might cause it problems with Washington. In fact, these days Cairo seems to be unduly sensitive where the Americans are concerned, which is perfectly understandable as it wants to be a guest at the banquet in which the United States is due to carve up the Middle East - not to be the main course! Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was keen to emphasize this very fact in two recent speeches he gave before his country's Parliament. Mubarak stressed: The inevitability of reform; the need to work together with "the outside world" (i.e. the US) to overcome obstacles to reform; and the urgency of developing "new ideas" that would facilitate economic, political and cultural reforms. The Egyptian president made these calls before US Secretary of State Colin Powell announced his "US-Middle East Partnership Initiative" on Dec. 12, in which he said that the US was firmly on the side of change in the region. This being the case, it was expected that Cairo would view Powell's initiative as a reflection of Mubarak's calls for reform. But that did not happen. According to authoritative Egyptian sources, the reason was that "before Powell announced his initiative, the US and Egypt discussed it exhaustively. The Americans listened to the Egyptian point of view, and promised to take Cairo's views into consideration in the final draft. But the Americans broke their promise." So what were Egypt's reservations vis-a-vis the Powell democratization initiative? Before the American plan was announced, Mubarak spoke of the need for "respect and reciprocity" between the US and the Arabs. Egyptian sources said that "in order for partnership to be genuine, the Americans should not see themselves as being solely responsible for setting the agenda for reform and for choosing the parties to cooperate with to carry out its plans." The Egyptians were particularly concerned about the latter point: choosing the parties that carry out reform. While they could agree with many of Powell's ideas for change, the thought that the Americans would choose who would lead the reform process rankled with the Egyptians. Readiness to embrace change is one thing; for the Americans to choose who leads it is quite another. This leaves the question open as to whether the present Egyptian leadership would be a "guest" or the "main course" at the coming banquet. There is another important point: Egyptian officials are aware that US plans for reform and change in the Middle East face many obstacles - chiefly from Israel. If US designs on Iraq go according to plan, and Saddam is eventually removed from the scene - along with Iraq itself as a member of the Arab regional order - that would leave Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the position of undisputed master of the Middle East. American-inspired reforms would then become synonymous with Israeli expansionism, while Arab dictatorships calling for reform would be viewed by their peoples as examples of independence and national dignity. This in fact is what all Arab tyrants are banking on. But will the Arab peoples fall into the trap? If the Saddam Cairo conference is any indication, it can confidently be predicted that the answer will be a resounding "no!" Saad Mehio, a Lebanese journalist and writer, wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR http://www.counterpunch.org/halliday1231.html * BUSH'S WAR IS OBSCENE AND UNJUSTIFIABLE by Denis J. Halliday Counterpunch, 31st December (This is the text of Halliday's remarks at the Cairo Conference Against US Aggression against Iraq on December 19.) This is a most knowledgeable assembly on matters relating to Iraq and Palestine. I am following a number of excellent speakers. And the content of my usual talk on the ongoing crisis in Iraq, and the threat of a greater war than the one ongoing, is now somewhat redundant. My views have been expressed more articulately than I normally express them myself! So I plan to raise three questions about the United Nations Charter, democratic responsibilities and the nuclear deterrent related to the crisis we all facing in the Arab world as we meet here in Cairo. But first a word about what is happening around us today: We have a UN Security Council out of control. A Council corrupted by the USA, the sole hyper-power and undermined by the veto power of the five permanent members. We have twelve years of genocidal sanctions sustained on the people of Iraq by the same Council. The ambassadors around that table and their heads of state should all be indicted for crimes against humanity. We have ongoing collective punishment of the Iraqi people, similar to the collective punishment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. These two situations are in blatant breach of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols written to protect civilians in time of warfare. What is happening in Palestine and in Iraq under sanctions is warfare. Sanctions are intended to target civilians the innocent so that the people will somehow revolt and overthrow a regime, the decision makers that the UN wants to punish. In the case of Iraq, as we all know, the sanctions of twelve years are built on US war crimes leading to extensive civilian infrastructure damage committed during the Gulf War when the UN provided cover for the American military. We have illegal bombing of most of Iraq by the US and Britain. There is no UN Resolution to support this aggression undertaken in blatant neglect of Iraqi sovereignty. And we have UN Resolution 1441 about Weapons of Mass Destruction - no it's really about oil, and US control thereof. It is a game, a charade, a form of theatre. It's about war on Iraq, about oil and about providing UN respectability for Bush to have his unilateral war. Weapons of mass destruction? There is no threat to the neighbours of Iraq, nor to the US. That is Washington fiction, propaganda designed to frighten the American people into supporting the ambitions of Bush for control of oil, and empire. Incredibly in the 21st Century we have a neo-colonial regime arising in the West. We see a colonial regime that wants to dominate and control the Arab world, Iraqi oil and to enhance the size and power of Israel. the mislocated American aircraft carrier in a sea of Arab peoples. Colin Powell the Secretary of State has produced unrivaled arrogance and audacity in proposing to invest $29 million to convince the Arab people that the USA is not dangerous. But he has refused to address the two issues that really count most to the people of the region Israeli state terrorism on the people of Palestine and the threat of US war on Iraq. How naive and cheap when the Pentagon has $400 billion plus to demonstrate just how dangerous the US can be! All this is backed up by a US media that often is obscene in its almost nightly TV dialogue on how Iraq will be hit, bombed by high flying American "heroes", invaded by US troops and then occupied all to ensure a friendly American-model democracy ludicrous although that is to protect US interests in cheap oil freely available as per the dependency requirements of the US economy. Meantime in Britain, we see Blair considering acceptance of one of the legs of the "Star Wars" project in the UK, as pushed by Bush. Is this an advance in "poodle-isation"? Acceptance would be consistent with the gutless leadership we have in the rest of Europe including my own country of Ireland. Knowing that Bush is a dangerous born again messianic, they nevertheless lack the courage to oppose his ambitions for war and empire in the Middle East. They are unwilling to stop polices that call for an end to sovereignty, the destruction of cultures, the rejection of values and disrespect for the religious beliefs of others. These are violent polices that create the kind of desperation that leads to terror and more violence. When we should all Arab governments included be investing in people, not weapons. We should be tackling poverty, debt-relief, health care needs, education and modern technology and investing in the future of our children. Mr. Chairman my first question to this assembly: The UN Charter binds all member states to implement resolutions taken under Chapter VII, Articles 41 (sanctions) and 42 (war). I want to share the view that this is not so when the impact of any such Resolutions are themselves incompatible with the content of Articles 1. (Purposes) and 2. (Principles). Article <1.talks> inter alia of the purposes of the UN to maintain international peace and security and to bring that about by peaceful means and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law. Whereas Article 2. indicates that the Organisation is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members; that all members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered; and that all members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state ....inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations. May I enquire is there any doubt that the twelve years of UN deadly sanctions on the people of Iraq are incompatible with these Charter provisions? I do not think so and therefore, why should member states be bound and become party to genocide? Mr. Chairman question number two concerns the responsibilities of citizens of democracies, particularly with respect to the consequences of a foreign policy of the government they have elected and entrusted with power. The USA and UK currently collectively punish no, they kill the children and adults of Iraq because (they tell us) of the bad decisions made by Baghdad about a decade ago Kuwait, weapons of mass destruction; or is it just fear of Iraqi's potential regional leadership? Whatever! these children and adults are effectively being held responsible, being punished and murdered for decisions made by their government in Baghdad. How is it that we who enjoy democracy, and accept its obligations, in Europe, North America or elsewhere and are represented on the Security Council, or allow our country to be bound by resolutions relating to Iraq, are not equally punished for the genocidal impact of those same resolutions on the innocent civilians of Iraq? Are we not responsible for the impact of foreign policy decisions made by the men and women we elected? I believe we are. Mr. Chairman question three relates to the concept of nuclear deterrent - the same deterrent many of us did not accept, or were opposed to in the days of the USSR/USA cold war. Today in a world of one hyper-power, the deterrent concept seems to be in play and protection appears to be provided to countries such as North Korea, Pakistan, Israel and others with, or with near potential to have, nuclear weapons. Let us ask ourselves, if Iraq was genuinely in possession of nuclear weapons capacity would there be a murderous embargo in place? Would there be US bombing of two fictitious no-fly zones? Would we have Bush threatening, in fact preparing for war on Iraq, including the use of tactical nuclear strikes? Makes for uncomfortable thoughts, but I leave the answer to you assembled here for this Cairo conference. Mr. Chairman, as Ramsey Clarke said "Bush is obsessed with war". In the UK, the majority are opposed to war. And this is true of most if not all of Europe, but European leaders and other allies of the USA have no courage. The Arab leaders are no better and instead of following the thinking of their own people, they are collaborating with the US against their Arab neighbours in Iraq. That active collaboration must end. And even in my own small country of Ireland, the government has allowed Bush to use Irish air space and Shannon airport, whereas the majority of Irish people are opposed to war. That is also collaboration. And many millions around the world are opposed to war war that is unilateral, or under UN auspices is seen to unjustified, incompatible with international law and thus hugely unacceptable. Sadly, we have to live with the failure of democracy, the racism, the prejudice and demonization of foreign leadership. We are learning to live with a failed UN that tolerates corruption of the Security Council, genocide and war crimes in its own name. We know about double standards and vested self-interest of permanent and other member states on the Council. We watch the rejection of the rule of international law. We are learning to fear the consequences of the "pre-emptive strike" and even more recently a CIA licensed to kill...although it would seem, in light of modern history, this was always so! We have the state terrorism of Israel in the illegally occupied territories of Palestine. The people of Iraq feel the terror tactics of the USA everyday via sanctions and bombing. The war threatened by the Bush regime is obscene, unjustified, and those responsible will be indictable. People like us here in Cairo and throughout the Region, civil society primarily, and those in Europe, in the USA and around the world must stand shoulder to shoulder to channel our anger, our outrage at Bush and his Washington regime into a means to stop war on Iraq, further catastrophe for the Region and further killing of the innocent. Denis J. Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq 1997-98. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk