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[casi] News, 19-26/03/03 (12)



News, 19-26/03/03 (12)

WIDER IMPLICATIONS

*  After the Shock and Awe, next will come the despair
*  'We are risking a gulf between the West and the Islamic world'
*  Children are the real victims
*  You should have known we'd fight
*  No easy way out

IRAQI DIASPORA

*  What Iraqi exiles think


WIDER IMPLICATIONS

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,482-619264,00.html

*  AFTER THE SHOCK AND AWE, NEXT WILL COME THE DESPAIR
by Matthew Parris
The Times, 22nd March

There would be, for me, something unseemly in barking at the wheels of our
military pantechnicon now that it is rolling, so I shall pipe down on the
war itself. I have offered my opinion and it has not changed. There are
some, now, for whom war becomes riveting simply as spectator sport and who
feel impatient at any discussion of its purpose. They need not bother to
read on.

But on this page seven weeks ago I also said that honest doubters should
look beyond the conflict. What, I asked, if an attack proved straightforward
and relatively unbloody? What if victory brought cheering crowds and a
better Iraq? At the end of January I suggested that was my hunch. I repeat
it now.

And move on, as did Tim Hames on this page on Monday: "Why this war is going
to draw a line in the sand." Looking to the consequences of war, Mr Hames
made the case against us doubters. His argument was clear and strong. He
grouped doubts about the invasion under three separate heads: "Why must it
start?", "How will it end?" and "Where will it stop?".

Let us agree that, for the moment, argument about why the war should start
is pointless. It has started. And let me repeat my guess that the answer to
"How will it end?" will be "in easy victory". Which brings us to "Where will
it stop?". This question (as Hames observes) remains current. Indeed, the
easier the victory the more current the question.

Or so (at least) most Conservative doubters on this war have felt. The list
includes more distinguished observers than me: at least three former Cabinet
ministers, Kenneth Clarke, David Howell and Douglas Hogg; as well as Andrew
Tyrie, the MP for Chichester who has just published a Bow Group and Foreign
Policy Centre pamphlet on the subject.

Tim Hames believes he can answer our doubts. This is his concluding
paragraph: "The most significant effect of Saddam's demise will be to
persuade others that weapons of mass destruction are not a market in which
they should set up in business. In other words, regime change will act as a
deterrent, pre-emption will reinforce containment. Iraq is the exception
that will establish the post-September 11 rules. The most plausible answer
to 'Where will it stop?' is, therefore, not 'Pyongyang', 'Tehran' or
'Timbuktu', but 'Baghdad'."

Mr Hames would not be so crude as to put it like this, but he is arguing
that a raised fist, if big enough and raised high enough, has only to smash
in one set of teeth for all further use of force to become unnecessary. Just
the sight of the fist will do the trick.

This is to elevate the "Shock-and-Awe" doctrine from the battlefield to the
permanent arena of international relations. One tremendous bang  and
further opposition ceases. It's a seductive thought.

It is also mistaken. There are two reasons why US victory will not end the
argument. The first is that, even if Shock and Awe could bring immediate
peace, there are reasons why Washington will prove unable permanently to
maintain the shockingness and the awesomeness at the required level.
America's fist is not big enough and will not be raised high enough and
steady enough for long enough.

My second doubt goes to the theory itself. A big raised fist brandished by a
power which remains subject to civilised limits does not, I believe,
guarantee order; but instead spawns new forms of insubordination.

Let us examine first the hope that America will henceforward seem
permanently invincible. So fashionable has it become to repeat that there is
now only one great power in the world, that we are in danger of overlooking
the real strength of some of the smaller powers, particularly should they
act in groups. America is bigger than any rival, but does not dwarf them.

Andrew Tyrie puts it like this: "Preponderant though the US is, she is not
strong enough to impose her will on everyone. It would be a delusion to
believe that the US, even with assistance from much of the West, has either
the military capacity or the political will to make Western values the
values of the whole globe."

There are two sources to America's power: money and weapons. US economic
preponderance should not be exaggerated. Other economies are growing fast.
America can bribe, of course  though the limits to that may have been
indicated recently by (for instance) Turkey and the non-permanent members of
the UN Security Council. It can also blackmail, though sanctions and tariff
barriers are a double-edged sword. But it is not straightforward,
particularly for a vigorous democracy, to translate economic strength into a
practical means for the daily enforcement of political will. We British,
too, enjoyed a measure of economic predominance in the 19th century but it
did not last long and was never unchallenged.

The Pentagon's military hegemony has the weaknesses of its strengths.

The capacity to shock and awe is colossal; the capacity to invade and seize,
though undermined by American reluctance to take casualties, is impressive
too. But there are two grounds to hesitate at the use of words such as
"unchallengeable".

First (as Mr Tyrie argues), membership of the nuclear club confers a kind of
equality among unequals. Especially this is so in circumstances where the
weapon's usefulness is more defensive than aggressive. After Iraq, no nation
which already has nuclear weapons will turn its back lightly on this
guarantor of sovereignty. Russia, India, Pakistan, China, Israel, France ...
the list is not negligible. Everybody knows why North Korea has not been
threatened with invasion.

And America has neither the experience nor the appetite for long occupations
of overseas territory. The idea runs against the grain of her revolutionary,
anti-colonial values. Yet an imperialism which baulks at empire faces an
endless series of political bushfires as sovereign allies flex their
muscles, kick over the traces, slip their leashes, run out of money, call
for help or lose elections.

Propping up governments can prove more troublesome than running them.

Imagine, for instance, that before this Iraq campaign is done, General
Musharraf runs into difficulty in Pakistan, Hamid Karzai needs help urgently
in Afghanistan, Kashmir flares up again, more trouble brews in Macedonia,
the Albanians talk of a Greater Albania, Montenegro threatens secession, the
Turks try to occupy Kurdish territory, the Philippines asks for help against
insurrectionists . ..

The list is endless and of course speculative. America must proceed on the
assumption that not too many will cut up rough at the same time. How deep is
the American pocket and how limitless the forbearance of the US electorate?
Andrew Tyrie argues that America is in danger of overreaching herself. The
"Where will it stop?" argument could soon come, not from America's critics,
but from her own voters.

George W. Bush is not America; he is the current US President. It is not the
same.

These are all arguments against assuming that simply by being much bigger
and stronger than any other government, and prepared to use force, the US
Administration can bring and keep the troublesome governments of the world
to heel. The policy may meet conspicuous early successes but gathering
resistance as mutinous world capitals learn to duck, weave and organise.

I grant that by knocking off heads which are raised early and high above the
parapet, Washington may usher in a short period when fewer heads are raised.
But force does not persuade, it cows. Its harvest is dumb insolence. Unless
America wins the moral argument  the argument about American values  then
the crumbling of resistance at government to-government level may be matched
by growing US unpopularity, worldwide and beneath the radar of government.
It is hard to exaggerate the danger for America; and for her best friend 
us.

And this is where Tony Blair was so wrong on Thursday night to insinuate
that this war is a blow against world terrorism. A rogue state may (it is
true) occasionally sponsor a terrorist group. That is simple opportunism:
even civilised states such as the US have done it. But states and terrorists
are not natural allies. Terrorism is what some people resort to when unable
to exercise their will through government. If Tim Hames is right and Baghdad
does prove the last capital in the world which dares raise a fist to Pax
Americana, then what is the logical conclusion for (for instance) Islamists
to draw? To quit al-Qaeda?

I do not excuse the terrorist when I say that terrorism, which is not a
natural way for humans to behave, is usually associated with popular
despair. Individual terrorists may simply be wicked, but they will not get
the community cover they need without endemic despair.

Now look me in the eye and try to deny that, after the success of Shock and
Awe, will come despair? Despair may not mount much resistance to a
daisy-cutter, but, so long as there are jetliners and there are skyscrapers,
despair will always be able to fly the one into the other.


http://www.observer.co.uk/politics/story/0,6903,919988,00.html

*  'WE ARE RISKING A GULF BETWEEN THE WEST AND THE ISLAMIC WORLD'
Robin Cook, interviewed by Will Hutton and Kamal Ahmed
The Observer, 23rd March

[.....]

'The events of 11 September created an entirely new sense, not only in
America but around the world, of the priority and urgency of dealing with
international terrorism,' Cook said. 'It had a particularly powerful effect
on American society because they are not accustomed to war coming to them.

'But, if you take a response to 9/11 as being a driving force of the
American approach to international affairs, I would strongly argue that one
of the greatest assets that came out of that was the extraordinarily rich
and powerfully diverse coalition against international terrorism.'

That coalition, according to Cook, has now been shattered on the altar of
pre-emptive diplomacy. America has long planned to attack Iraq and splits in
the UN, Nato and in the European Union were a price worth paying.

'Now, I'm not an American politician but if I was I would be inveighing
against the extent to which the Bush administration had allowed that
terrific asset to disintegrate,' Cook said.

'Instead the US is left embarking on military action from a position of
diplomatic weakness, unable to get any major international organisation to
agree with it. We are heading for a very serious risk of a big gulf between
the Western and Islamic world. That seems to me to have thrown away a
powerful asset for the US which relates to its number one security concern.'

How far away Cook must feel from those heady days after Labour's 1997
election victory. Then, in an interview with The Observer, Cook, just
installed as the first Labour Foreign Secretary for 18 years, spoke of a new
world order built on international consensus.

'We want to take Britain out of a position of isolationism,' he said. '[We
want to be] a leading member of the international community. Personally I
think we are entering a period when international politics is coming of
age.'

He believes there were a number of years of progress when Blair shared a
world vision with Bill Clinton, whose administration agreed with Britain's
'fundamental values'. But Britain's closeness to the Bush administration
over Iraq is flawed.

'What changed in the last two years is that we are dealing with the Bush
administration and there are people in that administration who don't care
for any multilateral system committed to security and development,' he said.

'The State Department [the US Foreign Office] is very weak. The Rice,
Cheney, Rumsfeld axis is the motor of the Bush administration. They do not
allow much space for [Colin] Powell [Secretary of State].'

Of Bush's Axis of Evil speech, when he named Iraq, Iran and North Korea as
the enemies of the free world, Cook says, archly, that 'whoever wrote it'
was ignorant of the realities.

'The immediate effect of the speech was to achieve a major reverse for the
reformers in Iran,' he said, pointing out that the ayatollahs used the
speech to attack America and democratic forces at home. 'If we are going to
have a multilateral system we've all got to have ownership of what the
priorities are going to be.'

Cook says that Britain now finds itself in a diplomatic position 'that it
will come to regret'. Too close to America, too far away from Europe.

'Where should we be looking for the future direction of Britain's strategic
international relations, for me the answer is Europe, to make sure that we
are a major player and we are passionate that Europe speaks with a strong
voice which means we try and speak without a divided voice,' he said.

'There are many reasons for that but the need to have an alternative pole,
not a rival, but an alternative pole within international affairs is one of
them. I have always been strongly committed to a multilateral system. We
must respect international institutions.

'We need to engage in an international community that can bring to
international forums and state with clarity the type of European values that
are certainly not shared by many of those in the Bush administration,' he
said.

'Firstly a respect for multilateral protocols, secondly if we are going to
achieve a world governed by rules then we need to respect international
process. There are two other European themes: a respect for global
environmentalism and that the priorities of the international community
reflect the massive priority of tackling poverty.

'We are not going to win the international war against terrorism unless we
also win the international war against poverty.'

He suggests that when Bush decided push had come to shove, Britain should
have said no. The inspectors needed more time, and Britain should have been
strong enough to say so. 'Tony genuinely believed he could deliver unity
behind the US for confrontation and that this unity in itself would produce
sufficient progress on the part of Iraq that would have averted war,' Cook
said.

'One of the reasons we didn't get that unity was because people felt that
there was an impatience on the part of America to push the pace at which
other countries would not readily go.

'Also, there were some noises off from the US which undermined our
diplomatic effort. Calling France and Germany Old Europe was not helpful to
what the British diplomats were trying to secure.

'One lesson is that although we must maintain our traditional alliance with
America while it has an administration which does not share our world view
or our values we have to make sure that we keep enough distance, that there
is an option for Britain to come to a different conclusion.'

[.....]


http://thestar.com.my/services/printerfriendly.asp?file=/2
003/3/25/nation/pkjordan.asp&sec=nation

*  CHILDREN ARE THE REAL VICTIMS
by P.K. Katharason and Shahanaaz Habib
The Star (Malaysia), 25th March

AMMAN: Daily at media briefings here, international relief agencies are
expressing growing concern for the welfare of Iraqi children caught in the
current war.

"You can see the fear in their faces," Unicef aid workers who recently sent
food and blankets to about 900 orphaned and disadvantaged children in four
centres at Kerbala to the southwest of Baghdad reported three days ago.

They said the children met at the centres were very disturbed by what was
happening around them. When asked what they wanted, the children asked for
the bombings to stop, they added.

Faces of children lying in blood and bandages with injured civilians in
Baghdad hospitals are seen daily on Iraqi and Arabic broadcasts countering
TV channels portraying the war as another high-tech video game of fireballs
and bombs.

As fierce fighting goes on in various parts of Iraq, anxious co-ordinating
staff of United Nations agencies and the International Committee of Red
Crescent, in touch with their ground staff, keep appealing to combatants to
give special protection to the children who make up almost half of Iraq's 24
million people.

Because of more than a decade of economic sanctions, one out of eight Iraqi
children has died before the age of five, one third of them were
malnourished, one quarter were born underweight and another quarter lacked
health facilities and safe drinking water.

In the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991 alone, more than 50,000 child
deaths were reported due to malnutrition and infectious diseases ranging
from cholera, typhoid to measles.

Unicef spokesman Geoffrey Keele said that the agency staff were assessing
the situation facing the Iraqi children who have stopped going to school
since the first day of the bombings.

Putting the casualty count on Sunday at 100, including children and women,
Muin Kassis who is the communications head of ICRC in Amman, said the needs
of the hospitals and the injured people were being assessed.

"We cannot say under what circumstances they were wounded," he said in
explaining that his staff had been able to move around in Baghdad and Irbil
but had some difficulty in Basra because of the fighting going on there.

According to him, they were helping to restore water supply to Basra's 1.2
million people after it was cut off due to a damaged power station and
distributing relief materials to homeless people.

Already badly traumatised, the relief agency workers said, the fearful and
depressed children were now at grave risk of further starvation, disease,
death and psychological trauma in the days to come once their three-week
government food rations run dry.

The aid agencies said there was no guarantee that smart bombs will always be
smart although American and British forces have so far tried to be cautious
in avoiding civilian casualties.

They admit that it will be impossible at this moment to predict the nature
of the next stage of the Iraqi war or the number of expected civilian deaths
and injuries.

But they stand by their view that casualties among children will be in the
thousands, probably tens of thousands and possibly in the hundreds of
thousands if there is no quick end to the war.


http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,921189,00.html

*  YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN WE'D FIGHT
by Burhan al-Chalabi
The Guardian, 25th March

It is now five days since the British and US governments launched an
unprecedented military invasion of my country of birth, its people, land,
towns and cities. This attack was launched without UN authority, public
support or the will of the international community. To win support for this
unjust and illegal campaign, it has been claimed that this is not a colonial
war of occupation but a war of liberation; a compassionate war. Britain and
the US will save the Iraqis by bombing so they can thrive in a democratic
Iraq and live at ease with their neighbours. Those who believed the hype
expected the Iraqis to welcome the invading armies. After British troops
were forced to retreat from Basra yesterday, a military spokesman said: "We
were expecting a lot of hands up, but it hasn't quite worked out that way."

It is now clear to everyone that ordinary Iraqis are resisting this military
aggression with their lives and souls. Commentators and politicians in
Britain and America seem taken aback: how come the Iraqis are putting up
such a fight? Why do they so passionately resist this attempt to liberate
them from the brutal dictator, Saddam? But Iraqis aren't surprised at all.

When Iraq was first colonised by Britain in 1917, Iraqis were fed the same
British propaganda about liberation through occupation. We fought the best
part of last century to get rid of colonial Britain and, since then, have
helped a great number of independence movements worldwide. Iraqis may wish
for the current regime to change, but anyone who understands our culture
will know that in this war Iraqis will fight and die, not to save President
Saddam Hussein, but to protect their home, land, dignity and self-respect
from a new world order alien to their way of life. We are an enormously
proud people.

And so history repeats itself. Just as in the past century, the military
superiority of the Anglo-American invaders may eventually overwhelm the
Iraqi army, which is weak and ill equipped because of sanctions, containment
and isolation. But there is also no doubt that in the end this military
crusade against Iraq will fail just like the previous British occupation of
Iraq, led by General Maude, where the military odds were just as much in
favour of the British army. Iraqis - in particular the Arab-Iraqi Shi'ites -
fought bitter and hard and suffered thousands of casualties in order to
liberate Iraq from the British occupation. They will do so again.

It is true that, this time, the British and US forces may assume control of
sea, air and deserts of Iraq, but they will never win the war for the hearts
and minds of the Iraqi people. Not only do the people of Iraq face
devastation by the US and UK aggression on a scale not previously known to
mankind, but they also face death and destruction by another war - the civil
war that would inevitably follow. We know what this means, because we have
been there before.

As a young lad in the town of Mosul I lived through the horror of the civil
war in Iraq in 1959-60, when the communist and Kurdish coalition fought the
nationalists for control of the country. With my brothers and parents, we
used to hide huddled together, in a small concealed basement for days on
end, absolutely terrified of being slaughtered because we were considered to
be on the Nationalist side.

I saw Iraqis split in half, while alive, by two cars. Girls were hanged from
telegraph posts, with fish hooks through their breasts. Men were hanged
outside my school gates. We were forced to watch mass hangings in public
squares. Dead bodies with their throats slit lay in the streets.

Forty years on, in the comfort and safety of London, those images remain
vivid. A scar of fear for life, and one shared by a great many of my people.

This is the fate that awaits "liberated" Iraq. Only today, the Kurds -
backed by the US - have even more violent scores to settle. There are many,
many people in Iraq today who fear the sectarian violence that may result
from the breakdown of the secular regime; and Iraqi history shows that they
are right to fear it. I do not wish this future to await anybody in the
world, friend or foe.

Neither the British nor the American forces will be able to react quickly
enough in order to prevent the slaughter of innocent civilians in the
ensuing civil war. In the aftermath there will not be an Iraq to re-build,
but simply chaos.

So the message from Iraq is clear: go home and leave us alone. You will
never be welcome in Iraq as colonisers. Stop destroying Iraq. Do not bury
our nation. Stop the war and give peace and the UN inspectors a chance in
the name of humanity.

Dr Burhan M al-Chalabi is chairman of the British Iraqi Foundation and a
member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs


http://www.guardian.co.uk/analysis/story/0,3604,921970,00.html

*  NO EASY WAY OUT
by Dan Plesch
The Guardian, 26th March

Saddam's desire to be seen as a modern Saladin - the Muslim warrior who
defeated the Crusaders - has been fulfilled simply by virtue of the fact
that he and his supporters have fought the $400bn-a-year US war machine for
so long. This is the real failure of Donald Rumsfeld's vaunted doctrine of
"shock and awe", using smaller, smarter forces. He insisted that his
approach replace Colin Powell's doctrine of overwhelming force that was used
in the 1991 Gulf war: the first ground war lasted 100 hours and was a
walkover; this time it has already lasted twice as long, and the end is not
in sight. In 1991 more than 10 divisions were destroyed in a few days. This
time the Iraqi army and Republican Guard are mostly intact. No complete
divisions have surrendered. Perhaps 300 Iraqi armoured vehicles have been
destroyed.

General Wesley Clark, who commanded Nato forces in Kosovo, has already
stated that the forces deployed were too small. Just weeks before the
invasion, the army chief of staff, General Eric Shinseki told Congress that
200,000 ground troops would be needed, more than double the number available
now. Rumsfeld opted instead to favour the marines over the army and back the
idea that once again the airforce would bomb the enemy into submission.
Official Washington never absorbed the fact that in Kosovo air power failed
to destroy the Yugoslav army.

President Bush's failure to deliver instant victory does not mean that there
will be no victory. But whatever the outcome, people will ask whether it
would have been easier if there had been an overwhelming invasion force.

What is the likelihood of an early victory for US-UK forces, and, failing
that, how will a victory be achieved? Military censorship means that it is
difficult to form an accurate picture. The US has been especially careful
about releasing figures for its own dead and injured.

According to the prime minister, the marines are opening up two more lines
of attack on Baghdad across the marshland of the valley to the city of Kut,
each employing a division. The US's strategy now appears to be to approach
in three routes across 300 miles of marshland, ignoring the option of a
left-hook across the desert, approaching Baghdad from the west.

The US has so far not fully committed its marines to this strategy and also
has 20,000 airborne troops available to fly up to attack Baghdad, capture
the northern oilfields around Kirkuk and assist in defeating forces on the
northern approaches to Baghdad.

The battle under way around Kerbala to the south of Baghdad last night was
being portrayed as a decisive battle with Republican Guard divisions, but it
should not be confused with the battle for Baghdad.

Many assume that once US troops arrive in Baghdad the war will be over. This
may trigger mass surrenders and regime change. But it is just as likely that
they will find themselves under attack in the city. They also face the
problem of getting 500,000 tons of petrol to the tanks each day, as well as
other supplies, amid Iraqi counter-attacks .

These counter-attacks are not just isolated pockets of resistance. Up and
down the road to Baghdad there are army units combined with local home
guard, and various political troops. The latter include the Special
Republican Guard, the Security Service and the Fedayen, a militia loyal to
Saddam. At various points these forces have launched attacks. However they
appear to be using their forces a little at a time, just enough to keep up
the pressure and buy time.

An uncertain situation faces British forces around Basra: they had to pull
back and leave the Faw peninsula; yesterday morning they beat off an attack
from an Iraqi tank brigade; then, last night, there were reports of an
uprising in the city, assisted by British forces (later denied by Arab TV
stations in Basra). Even if it were true, this may not have been enough to
transform the position in the area, to which Saddam appeared to have sent an
additional three divisions to attack the Desert Rats.

If Iraqi resistance does not collapse, an assault on Baghdad may take weeks,
even months, to prepare. Patience will be essential according to General
William Wallace, the commander of the US army's 5th Corps. Even more
reinforcements are under way. The 4th Division's equipment has been bobbing
about off the Turkish coast. It will soon start unloading in Kuwait. Behind
it can come two heavy tank divisions, the 1st in Germany and the 1st Cavalry
in the US. Most of their equipment is in Kuwait, and the troops can be flown
in and prepare their equipment over several weeks. But by then it would be
late April and what will be the political climate?

Already the terms of debate are changing. Far from protecting the people of
Basra, the US UK forces' arrival has precipitated a humanitarian crisis.
Saddam loyalists in civilian clothes are being branded as terrorists. US
special forces are said to be operating in civilian clothes in Afghanistan
and in northern Iraq. Civilians do not see themselves as terrorists but as
defenders of their home. The US and UK may have to fight a long war against
an adversary adept at using small amounts of heavy weapons to support
guerrilla warfare.

If the battle further south continues to be difficult there will be more
pressure within the US administration to make a deal either with the Kurds
or with the Turkish army to finish off Saddam's forces, with potential
grievous political consequences. The only exit strategy being offered is the
collapse of Saddam's regime, but if this war turns into a war with many of
the people of Iraq, what then is the end game?

Dan Plesch is a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services
Institute


IRAQI DIASPORA

http://observer.co.uk/iraq/story/0,12239,920346,00.html

*  WHAT IRAQI EXILES THINK
by Fareena Alam and Franziska Thomas
Observer, 23rd March

Saddam Hussein and I hail from the same village of Tikrit, north of Baghdad.
I left Iraq when I was three years old and have never returned since. My
father was a staunch opponent of the Ba'ath regime which brought Saddam to
power, and Iraq was no place for a political critic to live.

I am a lifelong enemy of the regime, and have always dreamt of the day when
I will live in a free and safe homeland. However, this war is not the road
through which I want to realise my dream. For decades, Western allies have
befriended Saddam, giving him the means to brutally oppress his people. At
his most vulnerable after the first Gulf war, the US and allied forces
imposed sanctions that until today prevent Iraqis from overthrowing Saddam.

The day when the first missiles were fired was a black day in our history. A
mandate akin to the 'law of the jungle' was reinforced and the British
government was enthusiastically part of it. The blood of the Iraqi people,
and the looming occupation of Iraq and the ramifications throughout the
already boiling region, will be something we will have to contend with and
carry on our conscience.
- Anas Altikriti, 34, Leeds, West Yorkshire

I was born on 5 April 1980. That day Saddam's 'amn arrived at our family
home and rounded up my extended family. We were later driven by army trucks
to the Iranian border. As Shias, we were being persecuted for our religion -
my aunts and uncles used to frequent mosques.

We nearly lost my mother on our journey into Iran. She was hemorrhaging
heavily. We eventually made it into Iran's refugee camps, where we were
reunited with my father who had been detained separately.

My aunt, her husband, her two year old daughter and one of my uncles were
also detained. My aunt was raped, soaked with fuel along with her young
daughter and set afire in front of her husband. He soon followed the same
fate. As for my uncle, we are unsure of his whereabouts.

We spent several months in Iran, nearly six years in Syria, six years in
Greece, before moving to Canada in the early 1990s. We struggled to find a
country that welcomed refugees. After eight years in Canada, I moved to the
UK to enter university in 1999.

I still have a great number of family members in Iraq. We have been told
that many in Baghdad say they are willing to be collateral damage as long as
Saddam is overthrown. There is no realistic method of removing Saddam apart
from military intervention.
- Sama Hadad, 23, Medical student, St George's Hospital

I came to Britain as a Kurdish asylum seeker in 1997. To be a Kurd in Iraq
is to be a third class citizen. In 1985, my entire family was arrested. My
brothers were part of an underground movement so they were brutally
tortured. Along with others in my extended family, one was eventually
killed. I once applied for a Masters course but was denied entry because I
refused to join the Ba'ath party. I eventually became a lawyer and was for
some years married to a PKU politician. Under this onus, I campaigned
vigorously with the women's movement but was forced to flee after extremist
Islamic groups threatened my life.

Nobody wants war. Thousands of people have fled to the cold mountains which
have no clean water or refugee camps. The border is littered with mines. If
the war does not end in a few days, there will be a serious humanitarian
disaster. But peace is no better. Peace with Saddam is like peace with the
devil. With all due respect to anti-war demonstrators, it's laughable to see
communists and Islamists marching on the same platform - all they
demonstrate is their anti-Americanism.

The Kurds must be part of the future plan for Iraq. Or else, the region will
never see stability. There is no point in removing Saddam only to replace
him with a dictator just like him, only pro-American. I want to return home
to Kurdistan where my parents live but not until there is freedom and
political stability.
- Mehabad Salih, 35, Kurdish asylum seeker, London

I left Iraq at the age of four, and lived in Iran for two years before
arriving in London 18 years ago. I left with my mother and four sisters to
join our father who had already fled. I now work as a designer in London,
but I worry for the population of Iraq especially my family. We have never
had choices or a democratically elected President. I think the average
person understands our plight, but politicians remain ignorant to what the
Iraqi people really need. The population has suffered too much already and
the war brings nothing but a promise of anger and a chemical wasteland. I am
also concerned about US designs on Iraq. The Iraqi people do not deserve to
have one dictator replaced by another under a facade of democracy. We need
help to get rid of Saddam, without weapons and we need to choose our own
democratic leader.
- Susan Salehi, 24, Iraqi Kurd, Designer in London

My parents lived in Baghdad; my father, a member of the Shia opposition, was
an electrical engineer and my mother a Math teacher. One night 22 years ago,
the 'amn came to arrest my father and my pregnant mother, but neither was at
home. My father fled to Iran and my mother to Northern Iraq, not knowing if
they'd ever see each other again. While in hiding my mother gave birth to
me. A year later, by sheer coincidence, my parents found each other. My
mother learnt that Saddam's regime had executed her sister, two brothers and
her baby niece. My father continued to actively oppose the regime from Iran,
but was always fearful of what the regime would do to his family in Iraq. He
never communicated with his family, afraid to reveal a link between him and
them.

In 1987 we came to the UK. My father still works for the opposition. I now
study medicine at Imperial College where I have set up the Iraqi Society.

This war will not be like the last Gulf War. The US plans to rule Iraq so
perhaps the infrastructure will largely remain intact. There are signs that
Saddam's army will not fight for him because it is not loyalty but fear that
drives them. With a weakened Saddam, the people of Iraq will rise up against
the regime. But will the US allow genuine democracy to be established - a
government of the people, by the people, for the people?
- Yasser Alaskary, 22, Medical Student, Imperial College, London

I'm an Arab Iraqi born and brought up in Baghdad. Following the Gulf War, my
family realised that we had no future in Iraq and so we left our home in
1991 and came to the UK. I became a British citizen in 1996 and after
graduating with a law degree; I now work as a management consultant.

Although I supported the Gulf War (after all Saddam Hussein had invaded a
neighbouring country) and fully support regime change in Iraq, I am
vehemently against this war. It is unprovoked, unjustified and unsupported
by the majority of the international community.

It's all too easy to forget the human tragedy of war for the people having
to survive through it. I still remember the horrific details of life during
the first Gulf War very vividly. Today, Iraqis are paying a dear price for
the mistakes of someone they never chose. They never asked for any of this,
and they are trapped between a dictator that doesn't care about them and a
president obsessed with war

I fear what this war will bring there is too much uncertainty about the
outcome and no guarantees of success. If we get this wrong, we'll never be
forgiven - and rightly so.
- Juan Allos, 24, Arab Iraqi (Catholic)

My father, brother and I fled to Moscow 23 years ago after soldiers
threatened to rape me on account of my mother's political activities. She
was an active member of the Iraqi Communist Party (ICP) and the Iraqi
Women's League. My father was an international law lecturer and had contacts
who were able smuggle us out in 1980. I was 16; my brother was 14. After
attending medical school in Moscow, I arrived in London 13 years ago.

There is a feeling deep inside of me I find it difficult to articulate when
I think of Saddam and all the fear he has instilled in the Iraqi people, and
all he torture he has inflicted upon innocent civilians. We have been
deprived of living in peace for many yeras and even outside Iraq I do not
find tranquility and continue to fear Iraqi people. Saddam has made us very
cynical, but we need international help, not bombs. The Iraqi people are now
exhausted and depressed. Since this crisis has begun, the media has
consistently asked what sect we are from. It is a stupid question used to
attempt to segregate us. I am an Iraqi, anything else I consider irrelevant.
- Dr. Shatha Besarani, 38, London

I was forced to leave Iraq one year before Saddam had assumed the presidency
in Iraq in 1979. In late 1977 Saddam instructed his apparatus of violence to
wage ruthless campaign of terror against those who did not support, adhere
or show obedience to his murderous rule. I am one of those Iraqis who
resisted his internal policies of genocide and external policies of war and
aggression. Thus I had no choice but to flee Iraq or face imprisonment or
even death.

The people of Iraq once again face the danger of invasion and military,
which could only bring death and destruction. The Iraqi people have already
endured terrible suffering as a result of two external wars Iran-Iraq
(1980-1988) and the Gulf war (1991) and continue internal war, in addition
to 12 years of economic sanctions. No doubt the majority of Iraqis want to
get rid of Saddam's dictatorial regime and to bring a genuine democratic
change guided by the rule of law and parliamentary democracy. But war,
invasion and foreign military occupation cannot lead to a true democracy.
War is worse and most destructive alternative. I fear the US will retain
control of Iraq long after Saddam is removed and will not hand power to
Iraqis for years to come. I fear the US will destroy Iraq's infrastructure.
- Abdullah Mushin, London




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