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News, 19-26/03/03 (9) THE COURT OF NEBUDCHADNEZZAR * Saddam Offered Conditional Step-down before Bush Issued Ultimatum: Report * Aziz slams reports of defection * Ruthless gambler rolls his final deadly dice * Out with Saddam. In with Party Politics * Qusai injured in first allied raid * The west has given Saddam the role he always longed for LAMENTATIONS OF THE PROPHETS * War in Iraq a crime, says Vatican * 15,000 pour from offices and shops to protest war * Millions swell anti-war protests * I was a naive fool to be a human shield for Saddam * Nobel Winners Arrested at White House War Protest THE COURT OF NEBUDCHADNEZZAR http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200303/18/eng20030318_113507.shtml * SADDAM OFFERED CONDITIONAL STEP-DOWN BEFORE BUSH ISSUED ULTIMATUM: REPORT Peoples Daily, 18th March Iraqi President Saddam Hussein Monday offered a conditional step-down hours before US President George W. Bush gave him a 48-hour ultimatum to leave Iraq to avoid war, an Arabic website reported. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein Monday offered a conditional step-down hours before US President George W. Bush gave him a 48-hour ultimatum to leave Iraq to avoid war, an Arabic website reported. So far, the report, carried on the Arabic website "WWW.US.MOHEET.COM", has not been confirmed by Iraq or other sources. The proposal by Saddam was rejected by the United States, said the report, which listed the following "five conditions" set by Saddam: 1. Saddam is prepared to give up power and formally resign from all posts, while his second son Qusay Saddam Hussein will rule Iraq. Saddam will stay in Iraq "for the moment." 2. Before giving up power, Saddam will give a nationally televised speech, in which he will urge Iraqi officials to cooperate fully with the UN weapon inspectors and implement UN Security Council Resolution 1441, paving the way for the lift of UN sanctions eventually. 3. New Iraqi leader Qusay will adopt a comprehensive governmental reform plan, introduce an opening-up policy and form a government of national unity through a popular vote. 4. Qusay will promise to establish new-style peaceful relations with neighboring countries, and will be devoted to solving all the remaining issues through dialogue with the United States. 5. Saddam and his family will leave Iraq once the tensions in Iraqi-US relations are reduced. The report, quoting anonymous western diplomatic sources, said that in his proposal, Saddam said he would announce resignation immediately if the United States agreed to the above conditions, drop the war plan against Iraq and withdraw massive troops from the Gulf. This is the only way to solve the current Iraqi crisis, said Saddam. Nevertheless, the United States rejected Saddam's proposal, said the report. President Bush said that by putting forward his proposal, Saddam was aimed at a continued rule of Iraq through his son, but what the United States needs is not to bargain with Saddam, but to completely overthrow the Iraqi regime and to fundamentally change the nature of the Iraqi government, according to the report. US President Bush on Monday issued an ultimatum to Saddam, saying that Saddam and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours or face a US-led war. "Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing," Bush said in a prime-time nationally-televised speech. http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/Articles.asp?Article=46969&Sn=WORL * AZIZ SLAMS REPORTS OF DEFECTION Gulf Daily News (The Voice of Bahrain), 20th March BAGHDAD: Iraq's long-serving Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz surfaced at a news conference yesterday to personally deny he had defected and said it was "impossible" for President Saddam Hussein to bow to a US ultimatum to go into exile. "The rumours (of my defection) are part of the psychological war being waged by the US ... to sap the morale of the Iraqi people," the ruling Baath Party veteran told reporters. "The rumours speak for themselves. As you see, I am with you in the great city of Baghdad," Aziz said in a reference to allegations that he had gone to Kurdish-held northern Iraq. The British Foreign Office earlier said it was investigating a rumour that Aziz had defected amid a massive buildup of US and British troops poised to invade Iraq. Turning to US President George W Bush's ultimatum to Saddam, Aziz told reporters: "Bush said he was asking the great leader Saddam Hussein to leave his country - this, obviously, is impossible." http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,3-617108,00.html * RUTHLESS GAMBLER ROLLS HIS FINAL DEADLY DICE by Andrew Cockburn The Times, 20th March IN EARLY 1969, less than a year after his Baath Party seized power, Saddam Hussein spoke to an aggrieved family who complained that one of their number had been unjustly executed. Spurning a suggestion that they settle for diaya (blood money), they demanded justice and retribution. "Take the money," Saddam said quietly. "Do not think you will get revenge, because if you ever have the chance, by the time you get to us, there will not be a sliver of flesh left on our bodies." In other words, should he ever fall from power, there would be too many others queueing up to tear him and his fellow Baathists apart. Whatever other misconceptions he may cherish, the Iraqi dictator has never fooled himself that he is loved by his people. Saddam likes to emphasise his unsentimental toughness, nurtured, he has let it be known, by the rigour of his upbringing. Born in 1937 and brought up in the village of al-Ouija ("the crooked one"), just outside the decayed textile town of Tikrit, on the banks of the Tigris 100 miles north of Baghdad, he was, so he later claimed, bullied and abused by a cruel stepfather, who would rouse him at dawn with the injunction: "Get up, you son of a whore. Go tend the sheep." Certainly it was a clannish, violent society, in which practically everyone carried a gun. Relatives who approved of his determination to defy his stepfather and run away to school in Tikrit at the age of eight sent him off with a pistol as a parting gift, so his official biography records. Later in life he developed the habit of recording demonstrations of his ruthlessness, such as his purge of the Baath Party's higher echelon in 1979, on film and video and distributing them widely, the better to terrify opponents into paralysis. His most important assignment as a young Baath Party hitman ‹ the attempted killing in 1959 of Abd al-Karim Qassem, then the Iraqi ruler ‹ and his subsequent escape became the stuff of state-sponsored legend, complete with an epic film, The Long Days. But there is and always has been more to Saddam's grip on power than mere thuggish ferocity. Despite his apparently miserable origins, he had the advantage of useful social connections, thanks to so many Tikritis haing gravitated to jobs in the Government and especially the army. One such was his uncle, Khairallah Tulfah, once jailed as an anti-British rebel, who was an early leading light of the Baath Party. Another was his cousin, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, a brigadier who took over as Prime Minister when the Baathists briefly took power in 1963, and President after their more enduring coup in 1968. Saddam was content to be the hard-working "Mr Deputy", an unobtrusive second-in command, while building his power base in the party and, most crucially, the security services. Potential threats to his power, such as rivals in the Baath Party, the still potent Communist Party and the religious hierarchies of the Shia South, not to mention the perennially disaffected Kurds, were successively emasculated. On a theoretical level, while paying obligatory deference to the woolly precepts of Baathism, Saddam displayed a keen interest in Stalin as a source of political inspiration. In the early 1970s he published a treatise on Building Socialism in One Arab Country, an echo of Stalin's maxim of the 1930s. On the other hand the Soviet dictator might not have approved of Saddam's taste for making sudden, unpredictable gambler's throws, which he once described as the essence of politics. Later, this habit of rolling the dice was to get him into deep trouble. But in July 1979 he had certainly succeeded in surprising his rivals by pushing his cousin aside and seizing supreme power, presiding over a gruesome ceremony in which scores of his Baathist opponents were dragged out to be shot. For most Iraqis his ascent was not unwelcome. Not only did he abandon al-Bakr's habit of altering Iraqi television's programme schedule for programmes of the gypsy dancing beloved by all Tikritis, Saddam had already displayed considerable management skills in running the country. In 1972 he had masterminded the takeover of Iraq's oil assets from the rapacious Western consortium that had exercised control. The consequent revenue flowing into government coffers, boosted to fabulous heights by the 1973 oil price rise, allowed the regime not only to promote far-reaching education and health programmes but also to create a loyal constituency of newly prosperous middle-class city dwellers. This new technocracy also supplied the staff recruited by Saddam to administer the country. They have been an impressive group. Such individuals as Amer Rashid, until recently the Oil Minister, or Amir Saadi, chief negotiator with the weapons inspectors, or Naji Sabri, the Foreign Minister, are testament to their master's eye for talent. He classifies this type of executive as "those who are expert". Others who serve him fall into the category of what he calls "those who are loyal", an attribute qualifying them for the really important tasks of manning the overlapping and competing security agencies that monitor and, when necessary, discipline the rest of the population (including the experts). The essential qualification for a position in this second group is a blood or tribal relationship to the boss, coupled with undivided allegiance. Those linked in this way extend from an outer and extensive network of tribal ties to the President's own clan to, at the core, his family. The most sensitive positions have traditionally been reserved for close relatives, although rivalries within this group have caused power to shift over the years from his half-brothers, especially Barzan, to his fearsome al-Majid cousins to, most recently, his capable younger son, Qusay, once described by Saddam as "two-faced", who is anointed as the heir apparent. Beyond this innermost group, the instruments of control are in the hands of Saddam's fellow clansmen and, beyond that, members of his tribe and others from the Tikrit area. The network penetrates deep into Iraqi society, especially the army and business community, with all lines of authority leading back to Saddam himself. Any sign of disloyalty, no matter how close the perpetrator may be to the ruler, is immediately and mercilessly punished. His late sons-in-law, Hussein and Saddam Kamel, discovered this the hard way when, after defecting to Jordan in 1995, they returned to Baghdad six months later under a promise of clemency, only to be summarily gunned down by a family hit-team. This efficiently totalitarian system of control has served Saddam well in consolidating and maintaining power. But it carries with it a disadvantage faced by so many dictators: no one dares disagree with him, even when they can see he is heading for disaster. Thus, the best that Tariq Aziz, who has served him faithfully for so long, could do to dissuade him from occupying Kuwait in 1990 was to suggest invading Saudi Arabia as well to pre-empt the inevitable American counter attack. His hope, so he later told a friend, was to get Saddam to realise that he was risking war with the United States and so call the whole thing off. Instead, Saddam merely chided him for being too hawkish. Once Saddam used to go among the people like a campaigning politician. That came to an abrupt end in July 1982 after an assassination attempt as he was visiting a town near Baghdad. Since then he has retreated to his palaces or, when threatened by American bombs or other lethal threats, to the secure anonymity of an ordinary middle-class house in Baghdad selected at random and at the last minute. Even so, he retains his masterful understanding of how to keep the Iraqi people in subjection by skilful playing of tribal politics or fostering dissension and fear between rival communities, most notably the majority Shia population and the minority Sunni. But while he knows Iraq, Saddam has never displayed an equal grasp of the outside world, which he has rarely visited. Coupled with his taste for geopolitical gambles, this has led to errors on an epic scale, most spectacularly his invasion of Kuwait in 1990 under the misapprehension that the US would permit him to control global oil prices. Until then he had functioned mostly as a responsible Western ally. Encouraged by the Americans, he had attacked Iran in 1980 when Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution had pro-American Middle Eastern despots trembling in their beds; he could always be counted on as a moderating force in Opec; he was a good customer who paid on time; and he even hinted at recognising Israel. The deference with which he was treated by Western statesmen may well have contributed to a fatal overconfidence, augmented by the worship he exacted at home. (In the 1980s Iraqi schoolchildren were winning prizes for essays comparing Saddam to the Prophet Muhammad. Saddam has always shown a keen interest in history, or at least his place in it.) Before the outbreak of war in January 1991, Saddam, relaxed and self-assured in the beautiful suits provided by his Armenian tailor, received a flow of important Western visitors, under the illusion that he was in a position to negotiate with the US. The ensuing debacle of war and rebellion and the decade that followed forced him to the wall. Abandoning most of the army in Kuwait once the American offensive began, he withdrew the more useful Republican Guard units in good time. Even so, the fury of the uprising that followed caused him to think that it might be all over.But once it became clear the Americans believed that the Shia who were revolting were cat's-paws for the Iranians and so withheld aid to the rebels, Saddam knew that he was saved. One of his enduring traits is his perennial optimism. "Things are not so bad," he remarked to a confidant once when his subjects had been brought to heel again. "In the past, our enemies have taken advantage of our mistakes. In the future we will sit back and take advantage of mistakes made by them." The next 12 years seemed to justify his ebullience. UN sanctions ruined and starved the Iraqi people, but in no way weakened Saddam. CIA-sponsored initiatives to kill him were detected and snuffed out. Even his efforts to safeguard a few tattered and almost certainly ineffectual remnants of his old unconventional weapons programme from the UN inspectors (whom he suspected, correctly of being a front for a covert CIA operation) seemed to carry little penalty. By the summer of 2001 it looked as if he had almost made it out of the wood. Sanctions were collapsing, and Baghdad hotels were thronged with Western salesmen. Saddam himself found the time to publish, pseudonymously, two allegorical novels with romantic overtones that were, unsurprisingly, received with rapturous acclaim by Iraqi critics. Then came September 11, and Saddam's luck took a turn for the worse as his foreign enemies sought to use the terrorist assault as an excuse to attack him. Belatedly, he moved to take away the issue of weapons of mass destruction as a casus belli by co-operating with the inspectors. It appears to have been too late. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,435930,00.html * OUT WITH SADDAM. IN WITH PARTY POLITICS by Massimo Calabresi Times, 22nd March American and British troops were only just beginning to seize parts of Iraq when the jockeying to replace Saddam Hussein began. For years a motley crew of Iraqi exiles, ranging from indicted war criminals to convicted embezzlers, have presented themselves as potential heirs to Saddam, and many have enjoyed American support. Now a new faction aspiring to power in a postwar Iraq has arrived on the scene, and this time it is emerging from within Saddam's regime. A group of Iraqi élites still inside the country is preparing to announce the formation of a political movement that is ready to replace Saddam's Baath Party, a U.S. source close to the group tells TIME. Communicating secretly with one another via emissaries over the past six months, the group claims to include a cabinet minister, military officers, university professors, tribal sheiks and other élite members of Iraq's Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish factions. They promise to hand over all weapons of mass destruction, disband the Republican Guard and establish a representative government. Until Saddam's demise, these Iraqis are identifying themselves only as al-Tajammua, Arabic for "the Grouping." Is al-Tajammua the answer for a post-Saddam Iraq? Not necessarily. Members of the upper ranks of Iraq's power structure may have been complicit in Saddam's years of brutal rule and may not be the democrats Washington has hoped will succeed Saddam. "The idea that the U.S. would simply issue orders to the same mob that served under Saddam is ridiculous," Pentagon adviser Richard Perle said last month. But the State Department and the CIA seem more flexible. The future of Baath Party members, said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, "will depend on the outcome of the conflict, and the actions of individuals in that party who may or may not further the crimes of the regime." http://www.gulf-news.com/Articles/news.asp?ArticleID=81835 * QUSAI INJURED IN FIRST ALLIED RAID by Hussain Abdul-Hussain Gulf News, 24th March Beirut: Iraqi President Saddam Hussain's younger son, Qusai, may have been seriously injured on Thursday during the missile attack on Baghdad, according to Iraqi opposition. The opposition also claimed yesterday that the Iraqi regime will not hesitate to bomb oilfields once a massive American ground troop invasion starts, but they denied reports that defections among the leadership or the army have occurred, except for Ahmed Watban, Saddam's nephew, who fled to Jordan. "We have reports saying that the American attack on Radwanieh in Baghdad on Thursday came during an intelligence meeting headed by Qusai and in the presence of Iraqi vice presidents Taha Yasin Ramadan and Izzat Ibrahim Al Douri," said Mohammed Hariri, from the Tehran-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) opposition faction. Modayyan Moussawi, of Lon-don-based Iraqi National Congress, said that he heard rumours "about Qusai's arm injury". Both opposition figures could not confirm the reports. Hariri added that Qusai's injury prompted his brother Udai to publicly order the Fidayee Saddam Brigade, a special suicide army faction, to target American troops. According to Hariri, only one defection has been confirmed. "Ahmed, the son of Saddam's half-brother Watban, took to Amman where he is now residing under a fake name in the Hyatt Hotel," he said. He added that Ahmed ran away to the Jordanian capital after a disagreement erupted with his cousin Udai, Saddam's elder son. "No arrivals were recorded at the Iraqi-Jordanian border passage of Roweished. However, a massive exodus happened in the North, presumably after the Iraqi regime targeted Kurdish areas with some missiles," Hariri told Gulf News. The official of the Shiite opposition faction also reported a rumour that Udai was hospitalised a few days ago. "Three cars reached the Avicenna Hospital, aprivate presidential clinic. Rumours have it that it was Udai who was taken to Avicenna." Hariri alleged that the Iraqi regime is preparing to put several oil fields on fire. "We have confirmed reports that some 200 oil wells have already been ignited in the Faw area in the south." Moussawi regretted that the regime committed such acts. "It is unfortunate that the regime didn't accept some Arab initiatives, which offered Saddam and his entourage asylum if he stepped down," he said. http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,920588,00.html * THE WEST HAS GIVEN SADDAM THE ROLE HE ALWAYS LONGED FOR by Said Aburish The Guardian, 24th March Uncle Saddam, we're going to miss you. While the world's eyes are fixed with alarm on the invasion of Iraq, the spin doctors of George Bush and Tony Blair are already writing scripts for victory celebrations. The first question they are trying to address is whether they can afford whatever change is on the way. According to Opec, Iraq has the second-largest oil reserves in the world. The scramble for Iraq's oil has already begun. American oil companies have been negotiating concessions with the Iraqi opposition in exile for months. The British are staking a claim based on their original pre-nationalisation control of the Iraqi Petroleum Company. The French believe that the Anglo-French Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 gave them the rights to the oil-rich north of Iraq. Russia's claim is based on an agreement signed by Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi opposition in exile is so divided even the Americans have stopped thinking of them as Saddam's replacement. To a US career diplomat who dealt with them for years, "they reek of corruption and talk nonsense". The Iraqi National Congress, the umbrella organisation that speaks on behalf of more than 80 political groupings, is unknown to the people of Iraq. As well as receiving money from the US under the Iraqi Liberation Act, each of its key components maintains a regional sponsor. Some want to follow Iran, others Saudi Arabia, a few receive money from Kuwait, the Kurds fear Turkey and there are some who want to restore the monarchy. Unable to agree, Saddam becomes everybody's second choice. The deep divisions in the Arab world and the average Arab's bitterness towards its leaders means there is no way to express the pervasive anti-American feeling on street level except through Islamic fundamentalism. To many, Saddam was the best of a bad lot, the only secular counterweight to the Islamists. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and even Turkey are threatened by the Islamist tide gripping their countries. Fearful of alienating their people further, none of the leaders of these countries is now likely to obey the west as in the past. Iraq's riches and strategic position are sources of weakness and strength. The tortured past of the country (Arab, Persian, Ottoman, Sumerian, Babylonian, Akkadian, Assyrian) has haunted its rulers for centuries. Not a single empire conquered, occupied or annexed Iraq without resorting to bloodshed and cruelty. In 1922, King Faisal I, chosen by the British, reduced his country's problems to: "In Iraq, there are no Iraqis." Soon after, Winston Churchill described the place as "unmanageable". The ethnic and religious strands that make up Iraq have never come as close to national cohesion as they did under Saddam Hussein. Saddam portrayed himself as being a Kurd, a Sunni, a Shia, a worker, a farmer, a military genius, a supporter of Christian rights, a noble Turkoman and a holy descendant of the Prophet. His utterly shameless claims were supported by one of the most ruthless security systems in the world. The reasons for missing Saddam have always been there. Iraq was the first Arab country to suffer a string of military coups, from 1936 onwards. Saddam came to power as a legman gabadai (tough guy). In 1979, he forced his cousin into retirement, made himself president and executed all members of the Ba'ath party leadership who opposed him. It was the Iraqi equivalent of the night of the long knives - and an expression of the inherent violence of Iraq by a seemingly invincible leader. Saddam then moved to befriend America. The degree with which the United States welcomed his approaches was remarkable. What followed amounted to a strange secret alliance between two parties who did not trust each other. It was America that supplied him with the blueprint for his first chemical warfare plant. And it was the US that prevailed on King Hussein of Jordan and King Fahd of Saudi Arabia to back him against Khomeini of Iran. As with Iraq's neighbours, the US considered him the lesser of two evils. Saddam's problems with America began after he triumphed over Khomeini, in 1989. The US had provided him with considerable logistical and financial support. But it dropped him the moment the war was over. Deeply in debt and unable to provide his people with the fruits of victory, he became convinced that the US was conspiring with Kuwait to overthrow him - and in 1990, the chicken thief from Tikrit invaded Kuwait. Surviving the pressures brought to bear on him ever since is a case of 13th time lucky. He is finally going, courtesy of Osama bin Laden and a crime Saddam didn't commit. But even Donald Rumsfeld admits the west has no definite plans for Iraq's future. So, it will be left to the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds - as well as Iran, Turkey, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, among others - to produce a new Iraq. The Iraqis in exile will play any game that produces money and position for themselves. Unlike the only Arab leader to whom he is often compared, Nasser of Egypt, Saddam never tried to go directly to the Arab street. In fact, his relations with the rest of the Arab countries, including the conservative ones, were cordial. What he wanted was to turn Iraq into a model, a magnet that would attract and change the ways of the rest. In essence Saddam achieved all the traditional ambitions of Iraq. He succeeded in nationalising the country's oil industry, managed to unify the country (albeit through police state methods) and stabilised relations with all of its covetous neighbours. In the process, for the first time he created an Iraqi identity. The mayhem on the way will help Saddam realise his dream. While he didn't intend to become the leading martyr of our time, he has always been preoccupied with his place in modern Arab history. By allowing him to drag them into a regional war that recalls every bit of humiliation the Arabs have ever suffered at the hands of Britain and the US, George Bush and Tony Blair have elevated his status. Saddam's ambitious view of himself and how the Arab people are likely to regard him have suddenly become one and the same. What the future holds for Iraq after Saddam Hussein is not as much a matter of speculation as it was a week ago. Saddam has been helped materially by the ineptitude of his opponents, the feckless establishment Iraqis who make up the INC and Blair and Rumsfeld, the self-appointed experts on things Arab and Muslim. It is these background confrontations and how he and his army acquit themselves during the coming few days which matter. Iraq's bloody history has never accommodated fabricated stories of western concern for human rights. Said Aburish is the author of Saddam Hussein: the politics of revenge and A Brutal Friendship: the west and the Arab elite LAMENTATIONS OF THE PROPHETS http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,6145925%5E170 2,00.html * WAR IN IRAQ A CRIME, SAYS VATICAN The Australian, 18th March MILITARY intervention against Iraq would be a crime against peace demanding vengeance before God, the head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has said. "War is a crime against peace which cries for vengeance before God," said Archbishop Renato Raffaele Martino, speaking on Vatican Radio. He stressed the deeply unjust and immoral nature of war, saying it was condemned by God because civilians were the worst sufferers. Martino, formerly Vatican permanent representative to the United Nations, strongly denounced the determination of the United States and its allies to disarm Iraq by force. "Do not reply with a stone to the child who asks for bread," he said. "They are preparing to reply with thousands of bombs to a people that has been asking for bread for the last 12 years." Stressing the Roman Catholic church would continue to insist on the need and the urgency of peace, he said: "As always, it will be the Good Samaritan who will bind the wounds of a wounded and weakened people." Pope John Paul II, one of the most prominent opponents of war on Iraq, urged UN Security Council members yesterday to continue negotiations on the disarmament of Iraq and avert a looming military conflict. "I want to remind UN members and particularly those who make up the Security Council that the use of force is the last resort after having exhausted all peaceful solutions, as stipulated by the UN charter," the Pope told tens of thousands of worshippers gathered in St Peter's Square. "I lived through World War II and I survived the Second World War. For this reason, I have the duty to say 'Never again war'. "We know that it is impossible to say peace at any price, but we all know how important our responsibility is." http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/03/20/1047749882761.html * 15,000 POUR FROM OFFICES AND SHOPS TO PROTEST WAR by Kirsty Needham Sydney Morning Herald, 21st March They poured out of city offices clutching briefcases and with makeshift banners printed on A4 paper from the desk computer demanding no war. They marched with prams, dogs, on bicycles, carrying shopping and ice-creams. Breastfeeding mothers, businessmen with wheeled luggage, doctors, schoolgirls, workmen in hard hats, fashionistas in high heels and low trousers, and large groups of university students were applauded by Thursday night shoppers and Japanese tourist groups. Peak-hour traffic came to a standstill last night as more than 15,000 protesters gathered at the Town Hall within hours of the first bombs being dropped on Baghdad. Rows of mounted police closed Castlereagh Street in front of the United States consulate as thousands filed past booing disapproval. About 20,000 people marched through Melbourne, led by actors Heath Ledger, Naomi Watts and Joel Edgerton. Another 5000 gathered in Brisbane's King George Square as Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley told the crowd the Prime Minister, John Howard, should be condemned as a hypocrite. In Canberra, 1500 gathered outside the US embassy. Ahmed Rogzay, 20, a Kurdish refugee recently released from "10 months, five days and two hours" of detention in Woomera, summed up the feeling of the crowd when he called for "peace, peace, peace". Smaller protests were organised in towns from Penrith to Taree. Iraqi-Australian Macquarie University student Hassan Mahdi, 21, marched in Sydney with a group of 30 students. "We feel helpless because our Government is not listening to us and is acting on its own. We are outraged," Mr Mahdi said. His family arrived in Australia from Iraq five years ago and is distressed for those relatives left behind in Baghdad. "We can't get through," he said. "The lines are cut. We feel helpless." Schoolgirl Bridie Lee-Knowles was in class at St Vincent's College, but had asked her father to call her on her mobile phone when the bombing began. When she marched her father, stuck at work, listened in on the phone. Gary Masman, 54, said he had never been on a protest march before and had come down from the office to make a statement. Rafa Zairn, 25, had brought her three young children to teach them "violence is not the answer". At least 20 Doctors Against War challenged Mr Howard to spend one day working in an Iraqi hospital "with no anaesthetic, no morphine, no clean fluids or blood transfusions". GP Gillian Deakin said she still dealt with patients suffering the impact of war 60 years after World War II, "and that was a just war". In one incident, a small group broke off from the main protest around Phillip Street and, mistaking the white car of the Premier, Bob Carr, for a Commonwealth car, pelted it with eggs and paint. Mr Carr is said to have shrugged it off. Police said no arrests were made and praised the crowd as well behaved. The Deputy Premier, Andrew Refshauge, said Australia had no right to be at war. Warning the crowd to be sceptical of the televised images they would view, Dr Refshauge said: "This is not PlayStation ... this is innocent people being killed." http://www.nzherald.co.nz/storydisplay.cfm?storyID=3251555&thesection=news&t hesubsection=world * MILLIONS SWELL ANTI-WAR PROTESTS New Zealand Herald, 24th March MADRID (Reuters): Millions of demonstrators turned out again yesterday in huge global protests against the United States-led war in Iraq. Around 50 people, including 18 policemen, were injured during clashes in central Madrid between police and youths who had taken part in a huge anti-war protest. Around one million people took to the streets throughout Spain, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who has strongly supported the military intervention against Baghdad. They included about a quarter of a million people who joined a peaceful march though Madrid, crying "No to war!" "Aznar resign!" and "Murderers!". About half a million people demonstrated in the north-eastern city of Barcelona and tens of thousands more attended anti-war rallies in Valencia, Bilbao, Santander, Grenada, Pamplona and Seville. In London yesterday half a million people - just one-third of the biggest of the pre-war marches but still a solid demonstration, including ordinary people as well as rent-a-crowd protesters - marched from two sites into Hyde Park. The demonstrators took almost five hours to walk the 3km into the park, shepherded by a friendly and limited police presence. Elsewhere in England some of the protests were met by a less friendly police presence. In Menwith Hill, in Yorkshire, where the main European link in the Son of Star Wars defence system is being built, 1000 demonstrators were met by 800 police, including 200 riot police armed with night sticks. Demonstrators, including families who had arrived with picnics, were set on as they gathered. In London on Saturday, as bombs were falling in Baghdad, the supreme irony was a huge fireworks display and gathering in Finsbury Park, on the edge of central London, to celebrate the Middle Eastern start of the year. The area has a large number of refugees from Iraq, Iran and Turkey. The festival is a celebration of the spring solstice, an event widely celebrated, particularly by Kurds. Festivals have taken place in Finsbury Park for several years, promoted by north London Kurdish organisations. The fireworks were exploded for almost an hour, with their thumps punctuated by police sirens, echoing from outside the bombing raids that were being shown on television screens. Tens of thousands of demonstrators also took to the streets in cities across America yesterday. Marchers stretched more than 5km down Broadway in New York City, chanting "No Blood for Oil" and carrying signs such as "Support Our Troops. Bring Them Home," "Peace is Patriotic" and "You Can't Save A Country By Bombing It." Unofficial estimates put the crowd at 150,000 to 250,000. "It's the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place," said New York City schoolteacher David Gurowsky. Shopkeepers along the route joined the spectacle. Tea shop owner Miriam Novalle held up a sign reading "Make Tea, Not War." The sentiments echoed from coast to coast. In San Francisco, streets downtown were closed for a third day as tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied in front of city hall before marching through the city in a thick stream running for as many as 10 blocks. The protest was peaceful and without incident, in contrast to the arrests of more than 2100 people since Friday in daily anti-war demonstrations in the city. Protesters also gathered in Hollywood, Chicago and Washington. Rallies in support of President George W. Bush, whom opinion polls show gaining public backing for the war, took place in Chicago and in California's capital, Sacramento. In Washington, between 200 and 300 people rallied across from the White House in Lafayette Park for about an hour before marching through the streets. "Bush Does Not Speak For Me," said one protest sign. Bush, whose handling of Iraq is backed by 70 per cent of Americans, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released yesterday, was staying at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland. In Chicago, about 600 to 700 people rallied in support of the war at Federal Plaza, the site of anti-war protests each day since the war began. In Montreal, organisers said as many as 200,000 people massed to voice their objections, though police refused to give a crowd figure for the gathering, called by "Stop the War," a coalition of more than 190 groups. "Stop the empire," "No to Bush-ery," and "No Bush, no Bombs" read banners as they passed the United States Consulate on their way to the main federal Government building in Montreal. Anti-war rallies in Asia's Muslim nations were largely subdued, as thousands of protesters waving placards took to the streets across the region. About 2000 protesters rallied outside the heavily fortified US Embassy in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, shouting anti-US slogans before marching to the United Nations office a few blocks away. In neighbouring Malaysia, which has a Muslim majority, about 8000 people shouted "Destroy America" as they took part in a "peace run" in eastern Kelantan state. Officials cancelled a similar event in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, fearing it could stoke emotions. In Muslim Bangladesh, protesters burned American flags and in the capital, Dhaka, called for an immediate halt to hostilities as an alliance of political parties and Muslim groups enforced a half-day general strike. There were no reports of violence. In South Korea, some 3000 protesters, including students and religious leaders, gathered in the capital, Seoul, to protest against the war and their Government's decision to send up to 700 non-combat troops to assist the war. Nearly 5000 men and women marched to the US Embassy in the Indian capital, New Delhi. Some carried bottles, which they said contained a mixture of blood and petrol, and shouted: "Take this, this is what you want, and stop attacking Iraq." NO URL (sent to list) * I WAS A NAIVE FOOL TO BE A HUMAN SHIELD FOR SADDAM by Daniel Pepper Daily Telegraph, 23rd March I wanted to join the human shields in Baghdad because it was direct action which had a chance of bringing the anti-war movement to the forefront of world attention. It was inspiring: the human shield volunteers were making a sacrifice for their political views - much more of a personal investment than going to a demonstration in Washington or London. It was simple - you get on the bus and you represent yourself. So that is exactly what I did on the morning of Saturday, January 25. I am a 23-year-old Jewish-American photographer living in Islington, north London. I had travelled in the Middle East before: as a student, I went to the Palestinian West Bank during the intifada. I also went to Afghanistan as a photographer for Newsweek. The human shields appealed to my anti-war stance, but by the time I had left Baghdad five weeks later my views had changed drastically. I wouldn't say that I was exactly pro-war - no, I am ambivalent - but I have a strong desire to see Saddam removed. We on the bus felt that we were sympathetic to the views of the Iraqi civilians, even though we didn't actually know any. The group was less interested in standing up for their rights than protesting against the US and UK governments. I was shocked when I first met a pro-war Iraqi in Baghdad - a taxi driver taking me back to my hotel late at night. I explained that I was American and said, as we shields always did, "Bush bad, war bad, Iraq good". He looked at me with an expression of incredulity. As he realised I was serious, he slowed down and started to speak in broken English about the evils of Saddam's regime. Until then I had only heard the President spoken of with respect, but now this guy was telling me how all of Iraq's oil money went into Saddam's pocket and that if you opposed him politically he would kill your whole family. It scared the hell out of me. First I was thinking that maybe it was the secret police trying to trick me but later I got the impression that he wanted me to help him escape. I felt so bad. I told him: "Listen, I am just a schmuck from the United States, I am not with the UN, I'm not with the CIA - I just can't help you." Of course I had read reports that Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein, but this was the real thing. Someone had explained it to me face to face. I told a few journalists who I knew. They said that this sort of thing often happened - spontaneous, emotional, and secretive outbursts imploring visitors to free them from Saddam's tyrannical Iraq. I became increasingly concerned about the way the Iraqi regime was restricting the movement of the shields, so a few days later I left Baghdad for Jordan by taxi with five others. Once over the border we felt comfortable enough to ask our driver what he felt about the regime and the threat of an aerial bombardment. "Don't you listen to Powell on Voice of America radio?" he said. "Of course the Americans don't want to bomb civilians. They want to bomb government and Saddam's palaces. We want America to bomb Saddam." We just sat, listening, our mouths open wide. Jake, one of the others, just kept saying, "Oh my God" as the driver described the horrors of the regime. Jake was so shocked at how naive he had been. We all were. It hadn't occurred to anyone that the Iraqis might actually be pro war. The driver's most emphatic statement was: "All Iraqi people want this war." He seemed convinced that civilian casualties would be small; he had such enormous faith in the American war machine to follow through on its promises. Certainly more faith than any of us had. Perhaps the most crushing thing we learned was that most ordinary Iraqis thought Saddam Hussein had paid us to come to protest in Iraq. Although we explained that this was categorically not the case, I don't think he believed us. Later he asked me: "Really, how much did Saddam pay you to come?" It hit me on visceral and emotional levels: this was a real portrayal of Iraq life. After the first conversation, I completely rethought my view of the Iraqi situation. My understanding changed on intellectual, emotional, psychological levels. I remembered the experience of seeing Saddam's egomaniacal portraits everywhere for the past two weeks and tried to place myself in the shoes of someone who had been subjected to seeing them every day for the last 20 or so years. Last Thursday night I went to photograph the anti-war rally in Parliament Square. Thousands of people were shouting "No war" but without thinking about the implications for Iraqis. Some of them were drinking, dancing to Samba music and sparring with the police. It was as if the protesters were talking about a different country where the ruling government is perfectly acceptable. It really upset me. Anyone with half a brain must see that Saddam has to be taken out. It is extraordinarily ironic that the anti-war protesters are marching to defend a government which stops its people exercising that freedom. http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?type=focusIraqNews&storyID=245429 0 * NOBEL WINNERS ARRESTED AT WHITE HOUSE WAR PROTEST by Sue Pleming Reuters, 26th March WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Police arrested two Nobel Peace prize winners along with more than 60 other people protesting on Wednesday near the White House against the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Police handcuffed Mairead Corrigan Maguire, who won the prize in 1976 for peace activism in the Northern Ireland conflict, and Jody Williams, a 1997 winner for her work to ban land mines, after they refused to leave Lafayette Park opposite the home of the U.S. president. The Nobel laureates were detained along with religious leaders and Vietnam-era protester Daniel Ellsberg as they sat in a circle in the park and chanted "Peace, shalom." They held roses as well as gruesome posters showing civilian casualties from the war. Maguire told Reuters before being taken away that she planned to stage an anti-war protest each day outside the White House until April 18, Good Friday on the Christian calendar. "In Northern Ireland we were encouraged to resolve our problems with dialogue and I would like to see that happen here," added Maguire, who said she had asked President Bush to meet her. Williams hugged Maguire before they were both handcuffed and loaded into a police van. "This is what our democracy looks like," shouted Williams to reporters when she was handcuffed by police. A spokesman for the U.S. Parks Police said nine people had been arrested for crossing a police line opposite the White House and that the rest were held for protesting without a permit. "We expect them all to be released within a couple of hours," he said. Ellsberg, a former Marine and high-level military analyst who leaked Pentagon secrets about the Vietnam war to the press in 1971, was cheered by supporters who stood behind police barriers when he was led away. Catholic and Methodist bishops and a leading rabbi were also among those arrested in the demonstration, which was organized by the Catholic group Pax Christi. Bush was not in the White House at the time of the protest but in Florida for a briefing on the war at Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base. About 250 opponents of the war protested in Tampa, a few miles away from where the president addressed troops. The protesters, who came from across Florida and represented a host of anti-war and civil rights groups, could see Air Force One with Bush aboard landing at MacDill as they gathered for the rally. "The people of Florida say no to war," Mauricio Rosas, a spokesman for the coalition, told reporters. In New York, 16 anti-Israel demonstrators were arrested on Wednesday morning after chaining themselves together across Fifth Avenue near 47th Street and disrupting Manhattan traffic for about an hour, police said. Protesters were splashed with fake blood and wore t-shirts saying "Witness to Israeli War Crimes." _______________________________________________ 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