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[casi] For the record only: Remembering the past...

First CASI's past:

   "The effects of sanctions on Iraq"
   "According to the UN, more than half a million people
   have died as a result of economic sanctions against Iraq."

A talk by Felicity Arbuthnot gave the impetus in 1997 - CASI
was formed: The Campaign against Sanctions on Iraq.
(Tuesday 25th February [1997], 8pm Munby Room, King's College)

Against the maelstrom of current opinion, will that CASI
spirit of 1997 prevail?

The simplest way to break the sanctions on Iraq is surely
to lift them. - And campaigning for the lifting of (non-military)
sanctions is CASI's mandate.

But war is now seen as the _only way_ to break the sanctions,
not only by the warmongers but by others also - including
some CASI members.

And war (ie, invasion) would still be on the cards, even if
the qualities of Ghandi and Mother Teresa were combined
in Mr. Hussein. So the demonizing of SH is reaching fever
pitch: A war must be justified - and reconciled with one's

CASI too seems to be affected: Not infrequently of late,
the list sounds more like a campaign against Saddam Hussein
(CASH) than a campaign against sanctions on Iraq.

Most people who oppose the sanctions against Iraq also oppose
a war. But peaceniks are also frowned upon, especially outside

A war (bombing) destroys not only the infrastructure and
lives, it also destroys the hearts and minds of the survivors:

   "I have only just realized what terrible devastation
   the war has wrought in my spiritual and human universe:
   like a refugee, naked and impoverished, I have to flee
   the burning house of my inner life - where to I don't know."
   [Stefan Zweig in a letter to Romain Rolland, November 1914]

In 1997 Sabah Al-Mukhtar, also at Cambridge University,
expressed the similar sentiments: the Allied bombs have killed
part of him, he told his audience. (Sabah Al-Mukhtar: Sanctions
on Iraq - a fair penalty? 26 Nov. 1997)

More literal, but equally strong, are the feelings expressed
by Iraqi children in 2003:

   "I feel fear every day that we might all die - but where
   shall I go if I am left alone?" (a 13-year-old)

   "There will be a lot of destruction and loss of lives. We
   know that. What concerns me most is the situation afterwards
   if I am still alive." (a 16-year-old).

   More disturbing still: "Often I feel nothing. Nothing at all."
   (a 9-year-old)

Stefan Zweig too had a great fear of war: he feared it more
than his own death. In 1942 he committed suicide in Brazil.
Zweig was 61 and not well suited to life in exile. People
need roots, he believed, like plants and teeth.

I was reminded of this by the words of an Iraqi exile - one
Dr. B. Khalaf. His letter (or article?) "... And why I will not"
appeared in the Guardian, February 14, and was posted on CASI.

In contrast to Zweig, Dr. Khalaf advocates war - this one,
at least. And he wrote in "protest" of those who oppose a
war against Iraq - "mass hysteria" he called it. But like
Zweig, he is an exile and may be longing for his home soil.

The writer's credentials seem to run counter to his indignation:
"an Iraqi doctor"; and "Locum consultant neurologist, London".
Would a member of the medical profession use such arguments?
Talk about a "war against Saddam Hussein", while ignoring
22 million potential victims? Would a medical doctor
advocate war as the "last real chance" for the Iraqi people,
especially since "all his family" is still living in Iraq?

"I could argue one by one against your reasons for opposing
this war", the writer challenges. And then gives just one: not
even 1,000 Iraqi exiles will participate in Saturday's anti-war
demo in Britain. Would an exile risk deportation by doing
such thing in the current climate?

Still, it's impossible to fathom the heart of another person.

But some of his arguments are those of politicians,
of the media, of the public...
Remembering the Gulf War 1991:

   "But where were you when thousands of Iraqi people were
   killed by Saddam's forces at the end of the Gulf war to
   crush the uprising?", asks the writer of the war opponents.
   He states that he is not "Kurdish or Shia".

The Kurds and the Shi'a remember these uprisings well:
"Betrayal" by the Americans, a Shi'a exile living Australia
calls it. "I carry a gun, I fight the government," he says.
But then "they let us down".

The uprisings were instigated by the Americans who then
assisted the Iraqi troops to quell them.

During the Gulf War the US used psychological operations,
such as leaflets, loudspeakers...and clandestine radio

On February 15, 1991, George Bush Senior broadcast a
message over the Voice of the Gulf: "(T)heres another
way for the bloodshed to stop." "And that is for the Iraqi
military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their
own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step

The Kurds did start a rebellion and were gunned down within
days. And Americans, flying overhead, looked on as thousands
of refugees were trying to flee into Iran.

An autonomous Kurdistan was not what the US wanted.

In March 1991, the Shi'a too followed Bush's call and rose
up. They were successful. But then the US intervened to
make sure they didn't succeed. In his book _The New
Rulers of the World_, John Pilger writes:

   "'The opposition,' Said Aburish told me, 'found themselves
   confronted with the United States helping Saddam Hussein
   against them. The Americans actually stopped rebels from
   reaching arms depots. They denied them shelter. They gave
   Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard safe passage through
   American lines in order to attack the rebels. They did
   everything except join the fight on his side.'"

In _Out of the Ashes: the Resurrection of Saddam
Hussein_, Andrew and Patrick Cockburn describe the
feelings of a Shi'a rebel leader who watched helplessly
"American helicopters circling overhead as Iraqi government
helicopter crews" attacked the rebels. "'I saw with my own
eyes the American planes flying over the helicopters,' he
said. 'We were expecting them to help; now we could see
them witnessing our demise... They were taking pictures
and they knew exactly what was happening.'"

A Shi'a Muslin nation was also not wanted by the US.

(As an aside, how would Washington react if the Canadian
Prime Minister encouraged black and Hispanic Americans
to rise up against the US government?)

What Washington feared was that the Kurds might establish
a socialist state - God forbid. And the Shi'a might form
and "islamic alliance" with Iran. So they did not want for
them to "take matters into their own hands", despite Bush's

What Washington wants is an "an iron-fisted Iraqi junta",
which would be "the best of all worlds", wrote Friedman
in the New York Times in 1997. An alter ego of Mr. Hussein,
that is, but one who does as he is told - as SH once did.

So many Kurdish and Shi'a Iraqis living in exile are very
careful what they wish for these days: they remember the
betrayals of the past and feel they could happen again.

And Messrs. Bush and Blair might also remember the past

On April 3, 2002, a Kurdish Iraqi living in Germany also
remembered the past: The Kurds might have had their autonomy
from the Iraqi government had they not been sidetracked by
the US. It was largely the "narrow-minded nationalistic
position of the Kurds and the interference of foreign
powers", he admits, "that prevented this democratic change
from taking place".

(This was in 1969, I believe, when the US promised the Kurds
the moon and then let them down. Kissinger's comment was
terse: "covert operations are not missionary work".)

This Kurdish exile believes that the Iraqi people (Arabs,
Kurds, and others) are perfectly capable of shaping their
own destiny, if left in peace:

   "All people in Iraq, Arab, Kurd, Turkoman, Assyrian, have
   suffered the same fate. Colonial oppression and dependence,
   as well as their own submission, have shaped their destiny."

He concludes:

"Long live the unity of the Iraqi people based on

"Long live self-determination for all people."

I second that,
Elga Sutter

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