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[casi] While Baghdad is burning...

and the innocent victims of US/UK missiles are
lying in hospital wards, weeping and writhing in
agony, the question was asked:

> Iraq imported chewing gum machines through OFF?

Quoting Mr. Blair's official spokesman:
> 'the oil-for-food programme was abused by the Iraqi regime
> by, for example, using it to "import thousands of chewing
> gum machines"'.
> Has anyone heard anything about this before? I've emailed
> OIP about it and await a response (not holding my breath
> in view of current crisis)

Nero came to mind, as I read this. Forgive me if the
comparison sounds unfair. It probably is.

What I can't get out of my mind though is "current crisis".

I offer my comments very reluctantly, especially since
none were asked for. They are not meant as a criticism,
but as a reflection on the way we, the worldwide public,
are being manipulated through language.

And I fear that silence or acquiescence to such
manipulation will desensitize us to suffering and pain.
Should this happen, we will no longer be human beings,
merely living robots. In all likelihood, we would not
even be aware that we are living in a dehumanized world.
Our soul, the centre of our spiritual being, would be
a barren.

'Current crisis' or 'Iraq crisis' is the accepted
euphemism - and a dangerously deceptive one. 'Crisis'
doesn't conjure up images of mangled, bleeding bodies,
wreckages and burnt-out houses. 'Crisis' doesn't
make you think of death and destruction; of pain and
grief. 'Crisis' is business-like neutral.

And that's where the manipulation lies. This not a
'crisis' - least of all an Iraqi one. It's not even a
war. It's the slaughter of human beings - human beings
like you and me. It's the destruction of their already
devastated infrastructure. It's the confiscation of
their assets. And all these atrocities are inflicted
by a rapacious military giant and its equally greedy
cohorts on a small country - carefully disarmed, just
to be on the safe side.

But such brutal reminders of reality mar the invaders'
image, burden the conscience of their populace, and put
a strain on diplomatic relations. Moreover, consumer
confidence may sag, the stock market may fall - and
people may even unite in anarchy.

That's why politicians and the media prefer innocuous
euphemisms such as 'crisis', 'liberation', 'collateral
damage', and so on. (And that's why horrifying images of
the victims might be considered offensive also.)

As we are bombarded with these euphemisms, we too start
to using them - accepting them. And it's hard to rise
in protest against a 'crisis' or a 'liberation'. But
rise we must, if we want to safeguard the world from
becoming a dehumanized monster.

If we glibly use these euphemisms, war is indeed peace.
No need to visualize the horror, sense the pain - and
empathize with the victims. It's all very comforting. But
our feelings atrophy for lack of use - become confined
to our own sterile little world.

Silent protest is not enough.

To break the spell of the manipulation, we must denounce
euphemisms such as 'liberation' or 'collateral damage'.
We must call a spade a spade.

What is happening now in Iraq is probably the greatest
injustice committed since the holocaust. All the more
so because it committed in the name of morality. And I
for one won't allow myself to become brainwashed by
soothing euphemisms into accepting this injustice in

Sixty years ago, perhaps the Germans too were seduced by
euphemisms (besides racism). 'Final solution' doesn't
sound that bad. So all were silent - no one spoke up.

In the foreword to _Drinking the Sea at Gaza_, the
Israeli writer Amira Hass tells why she is so committed
to exposing the brutal treatment of the Israeli
authorities on the Palestinians.

She describes a scene where her mother (Polish) was
being transported to a concentration camp - travelling
with many others in an open freight car. Along the way,
they passed a group of women (German?) working in a
field. What struck the mother was the impassive
staring of these onlooker. They just stood there,
gaping - with faces devoid of any emotion. And they
must have known where that train was headed for.

Evidently, the mother never forgot that scene. She
passed it on to her daughter. It stuck with Amira Hass
too. And it made her determined never to stand by
silent and passive in the face of injustice.

The scene stuck with me too: I can picture those women.
Anyway, I won't be silent either - ever.

I have probably said too much, repeated myself. And I
hope I haven't offended anyone.

But I am afraid of a callous, heartless world watching
impassively while the starved, traumatized Iraqis are
being slaughtered - slaughtered for material gains.
And I am afraid of a world where water is _sold_ to the
helpless victims of this brutal conquest - to teach them
the virtues of capitalism.

Below is Uzma Bashir's account of a hospital visit. She
is a human shield in Baghdad.

This then is a glimpse in the reality of the 'current
crisis', ie, the current slaughter.

In sadness, and hoping for hope,
Elga Sutter


human shield action news

Latest news

:: Tuesday, April 01, 2003

>From Uzma Bashir in Baghdad

We visited the Yarmouk Hospital this morning. A woman, who
had been wounded in the bombing of the Sha'ab district in
North Baghdad, was lying in a ward weeping uncontrollably.
"When I first saw her," Uzma said, "She looked up at me,
and her tearful eyes told of a terrible story. She broke
down in paroxysms of grief, her loud wailing bringing
tears to our eyes. "There was not a dry eye among any of
us as she told the horrible story of the bombing in which
her three sons were killed." A missile hit the Sha'ab
district yesterday morning, as people were going about
their business. This is a civilian residential area with
small shops and markets.

Why was it bombed?

In another ward, an old man, also wounded in the bombing
of the Sha'ab district, told me that all his ten children
had been killed. A young boy of about 12 lay in bed
without any movement or expression, except complete
bewilderment. He had lost his mother who had been killed
by the blast.

Another man, blood oozing from his face as he lay on his
hospital bed, told his story. He had traveled from Syria
by bus, that is, by public transport. As he was nearing
Baghdad, he saw three buses fired upon United States Air
Force planes. An estimated 70 civilians were killed.

A blind man was walking down the passage, helped by a
friend. He was looking for someone who understood English.
The man was clearly very angry. He pulled his his shoes
off and held them up saying:" This is George Bush! This is
Tony Blair!" Throwing his shoes down on the floor in a
rage, he stamped on them to show his contempt. I saw a
little boy about ten years old who was in so much pain he
could barely stand. He had been wounded in the abdomen and
in the crotch.

After we left the hospital, we went to a place about half
a kilometre away, where we saw a bomb crater in the middle
of five houses. The houses were clearly part of a
residential area with a school at the end of the street.
Eleven or 12 people were killed in their homes when the
missile struck. One of the survivors of this bombing raid,
which occurred two or three days ago, was also in the
hopsital in great physical and emotional pain.

Even though his leg was raised and bandaged up, blood
seeped through the layers of bandages. He told us that his
house had been destroyed and his family killed in the

I saw the place in the Sha'ab district where the missile
hit, There was a deep crater in the main thoroughfare,
which is divided highway with service roads along each
side. On both sides of the road there was death and

A motor mechanic's shop had been hit. Walls had been blown
apart; cars had been reduced to twisted wreackages. A
radiator grill was bent as if some giant had taken to it
with a mallet. Bits of burnt and torn tyres were scattered
about. A piece of an exhaust pipe, bits of twisted metal
and other debris were scattered where once there was a
busy car repair shop.

Walls of residential buildings on both sides of the road
were blown apart. On the other side of the road a woman
was yelling something in Arabic about George Bush. Her
rage boiled over as she burst into tears, stil cursing
him, and then embraced me sobbing on my shoulder.

Today we saw the 'teeth' of the grief and suffering
imposed on civilian Iraqi people, on men , women and

The horror has just begun.

As the missiles keep flying, the innocent keep dying as if
the attackers are bereft of all humanity.

Has 'democracy' gone mad? Or have the oil warlords taken
over the Whitehouse and Whitehall too?? Only international
civil disobedience and industrial action will stop this
madness, before the mounting corpses come back to haunt

Uzma Bashir

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