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Friends, I was asked to speak at this dedication to the children of Iraq on Holy Innocents Day and felt powerless to express my feelings as we threaten to use weapons of mass destruction on the place of all our common heritage. This is equally for the children of Palestine and Israel. My inadequate best - and prayers for sanity and peace in this New Year, warmest, felicity a. Felicity Arbuthnot, St Martin¹s in the Fields Church, Trafalgar Square, London - Holy Innocents Day Service, 28th December 2002. Dedicated to the Children of Iraq. Last year in Athens, I spoke at a Conference to mark the start of the International Decade for the Culture of Peace and non-violence for the Children of the World (2001 2010) a decade clearly quickly forgotten. I talked particularly of Basra, Iraq¹s beautiful, battered second city, from where Sinbad departed for his magical journeys and the Biblical Tigris and Euphrates rivers meet at the Shat Al Arab. Basra, in the eye of Desert Storm in 1991 has an unimaginable childhood cancer and leukaemia rate and birth deformities equally unimaginable, which have been linked to the depleted uranium weapons (DU) used by the US and UK, during the Gulf war. The chemically toxic and radioactive DU dust which has entered the water table and fauna and flora in Iraq, former Yugoslavia and now Afganistan will still be polluting our earth when the sun goes out: it has a half life of four and a half billion years. In response to what I had said an extraordinary political lyricist, David Rovics* wrote a song, which says in three verses, more than I could say in a million words, it is called Song for Basra¹: If I could sing a song for every bomb that flies I'd sing each and all the days If there were to be a verse for every dying child's cries For every helpless father's gaze If I wrote a love letter to each corpse as it is carried I'd never still my pen If I had to stop a moment for each one that's been buried I'd never move again And the stocks are going up somewhere in America Sing a song for Basra If I could shed a tear for every home that bombs destroy I'd never stop crying If every broken brick were a heart of a little girl or boy All the world's children would be sighing If I could hold each shattered body, each baby stilled at birth I'd have no time for loneliness I'd spend all my time embracing the people of this savaged earth Feeling the poisoned wind's caress And the billionaires are laughing in some safe place in America Sing a song for Basra If each barren pharmacy were a woman's shining eyes I'd fall in love forever If every bombed-out kindergarten were a factory in disguise Wouldn't that be clever But bricks are only bricks, and dust is only dust And death is all around Each day another missile falls and sometimes the only thing to trust Is the shaking of the ground And they're loading up the warplanes in some safe place in America Sing a song for Basra About an hour¹s drive from Basra Is Ur, believed birth place of Abraham, father or Prophet of Judaism, Christianity and Islam whom legend has, was suckled on two fingers, one which gave forth milk and the other honey - thus land of milk and honey¹. Nearby is Qurna, believed site of the Garden of Eden and not far away, Babylon, where the site of the Hanging Gardens can still be visited. In the talk which has over taken, of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam, we forget that Iraq - Mesapotamia is all our common heritage. The great ziggurat at Ur is pockmarked by shrapnel from the British and American missiles which bomb the region on an almost daily basis (illegal bombings for which there is no UN mandate) - two professed Christian leaders, bombing Abraham¹s birth place...... But I learned about reconcilliation at Ur. Two years ago I had agreed to travel with a group from Sheffield Against Sanctions on Iraq and to devise an itinery for them. On the way to Ur, I failed to find the correct turning and we drove up and down the main road a number of times, past moonscape scenes of recently bombed buildings, homes, power stations, a water purification plant, grain stores, resultant from the UK and US sorties. I suggested to the driver that we return to an army checkpoint and ask the way. One of the soldiers said he was coming off duty and lived near the Ur turning, in exchange for a ride home, he would show us the road. The group had brought leaflets in Arabic, a mission statement saying they were against sanctions and has come in friendship and to learn. Should we give him one? They whispered to me - he a soldier, we from countries responsible for the decimation of his home region we were so graphically witnessing. Absolutely¹. I said. He took the leaflet and read it slowly and carefully, then re-read it. Then he turned to us, nine is all, and said: It is incumbant upon us, here in the south, to offer hospitality to travellers. My home is simple, but I have five chickens, you will eat well.¹ The next day was the end of Ramadan and the great Muslim Feast of Eid and we knew what those chickens¹ destiny was - yet he was prepared to sacrifice them for representatives of the enemy¹ who had attempted to put out the hand of friendship. (Needless to say, we made excuses and declined, moved beyond words.) Another abiding memory of the reality of bombings is from February 1998, when the world was convinced Iraq would be bombed again. I was in Baghdad and had gone to talk to a woman with yet another heartbreaking story to tell. I talked to her in a large, previously well appointed, but now empty living room. In common with many, she had sold all her furniture to provide and survive. As we talked, the room began to fill up with children. A stranger is a rare treat in isolated Iraq and they crept in, sitting on the floor, quiet as mice, watching my every move, heads following my pen as if at a mini tennis match. Dusk was falling as I left and they followed me out in a small wave as I went to the battered car, perhaps fifty of them, between about three and thirteen. As we drew away, they ran alongside, laughing, waving, blowing kisses. When they could no longer keep up, I looked back and they were standing together in the road, still laughing and blowing kisses. It was February 23rd, the night the military planners estimated would be the darkest night¹, the one the most optimum for bombing. I went back to my hotel, lay on the bed and wept. In the event, Iraq was not bombed that February, instead it was bombed in time for Christmas, with Prime Minister Blair standing in front of his resplendent tree outside Downing Street, announcing the onslaught. Forty six percent of Iraq¹s population is sixteen or under. Those who were just four years old when the embargo was implemented and resultantly have had their entire childhood snatched away, are now just old enough to be drafted into Iraq¹s army and end their fledgling lives as cannon fodder in George Bush¹s war for oil. And make no mistake, this will be a nuclear war, we are looking into the abyss. In 1991, at a press conference in Tel Aviv, the Israeli military spokesman was asked what would happen if Iraq sent missiles to Israel in the impending Gulf war. Without missing a beat he responded: We will turn Baghdad into a sheet of glass.¹ The last Bush Administration restrained Israel, this one will not - Defence Secretary Rumsfeld has made it clear he has no hesitation in using nuclear weapons. Imagine the unimaginable - wiping out the country which brought the world writing, the first fomestic laws nearly two thousand years before Christ, algebra, mathematics; which had the first irrigation systems twelve thousand years ago, invented the first time piece, used Pythagoras theorum seventeen hundred years before Pythagoras. The world¹s first College of Pharmacology was established in Baghdad. Astronomy was established in Iraq - the three wise men learned how to follow the star from Mesapotamia¹s teaching. For twelve hundred years, Baghdad (Dar Es Salaam - City of Peace) was regarded as one of the most refined, civilized and festive cities on earth. Iraq is not Saddam - it is our common heritage - a world heritage site. William Blum, in his new book: Rogue State¹ (and he is not referring to Iraq ..) offers a new way to conflict resolve, he writes: If I were President, I could stop terrorist attacks ... in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologise to all the widows and orphans, the tortured, impoverished and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. Then I would announce, in all sincerity, to every corner of the world, that America¹s global interventions have come to an end ... I would then reduce the military budget by at least ninety percent and use the savings to pay reparations to the voctims. There would be more than enough. One year¹s military budget of three hundred and thirty billion dollars is equal to more than eighteen thousand dollars an hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was on earth. ³That¹s what I would do in my first three days as President. On the fourth I¹d be assassinated¹, concludes Blum. Friends, somehow we must attempt to force our reckless, feckless leaders to strive to do just this. Perhaps I can finish with two memories. One is from way back in 1993, walking round a hospital in Baghdad with film maker Miriam Ryle and a young doctor, who was lucidly explaining the conditions of her young patients - and that each one of them was unlikely to survive, for the want often of the simplest medications. Suddenly her composure cracked and she simply said: There¹s a hole, where my heart should be.¹ I think there is a hole in the heart of anyone who visits Iraq and sees for themselves. The last words are those of a young father, in October this year, who was helplessly watching his ten year old son die of leukaemia. If he could send a message to Prime Minister Blair and President Bush, I asked him, what would it be?Tears welled in his eyes and he said: Please, just tell them: stop this slaughter of innocents.¹ Thank you. *www.davidrovics.com (or http://members.aol.com/drovics/home.htm) www.folkweb.com/davidrovics www.mp3.com/davidrovics _______________________________________________ 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