The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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Dear list members, Nicholas Martin, CASI's Co-ordinator, has asked me to develop a proposal for reforming the CASI discussion list as part of the more general CASI reform process. The discussion list has, in the past, provided a forum for intelligent discussion and debate, allowing those concerned with the humanitarian situation in Iraq to stay informed, and to coordinate action. In the new, violent, rapidly changing - and hopefully hopeful - Iraq, I believe that the need for the concerned community to be able to engage intelligently and humanely is as great as ever. As the list is only useful if its members find it useful, I am writing to the list, hoping that interested members will send me their thoughts. At the end of this e-mail, I ask a number of specific questions. Please respond directly to me if you want simply to register your views; I shall update the list on what I hear. Currently, the list's usage is guided by the instructions on CASI's website at http://www.casi.org.uk/lists.html. (Members with web access may wish to read this page.) The existing guidelines fall into one of three categories: 1. community related: e.g. number of messages a day, number of list members. 2. process related: e.g. "concise, inoffensive, polite", free forum for exchange of ideas, with occasional moderation to maintain quality, no attachments. 3. content related: e.g. relevance to CASI mandate, UK focus. The first of these is technical and can be updated without discussion to reflect the list's status. The second of these has, I think, been one of the reasons that the list has been effective in past years: it has allowed reasoned discussion of very painful and divisive issues. This allowed it to be, for some time, the highest quality open English language discussion list on Iraq. As such, it was read by activists, policy makers, and journalists from around the world. I think that regaining this standing should be our central task at present: we have lost a lot of good people recently, to our detriment. Some to whom I have already spoken have indicated that a reformed list should have more active moderation, perhaps even requiring all messages to be approved, as at present. This has been discussed, and done, in the past, and is always contentious. The main concerns are closely related: philosophically, some argue that moderation is a form of censorship; practically, there is the question of how well a moderator will moderate. List members interested in these questions may wish to read some past postings on it. In particular: Milan Rai's 18 Oct 2000: http://www.casi.org.uk/discuss/2000/msg01084.html Seb Will's 19 Oct 2000: http://www.casi.org.uk/discuss/2000/msg01089.html Abi Cox's 20 June 2002: http://www.casi.org.uk/discuss/2002/msg00860.html All of these contain details specific to particular discussions; their general arguments remain relevant, though. Finally, the third category clearly needs to change: the non-military sanctions established by Security Council Resolution 661 have been lifted. At the same time, Iraq is now under foreign occupation, with the British and American governments even more directly in control of Iraqi lives than in the past. Thus, the underlying reason for CASI, and the discussion list, remains: policy decisions taken in the UK and the US have life and death consequences for those living in Iraq. The quality of these decisions will influence whether Iraq descends further into communal violence and civil war, or whether it finds a path back to safety. The quality of these decisions depends on our ability to inform and organise ourselves, to encourage and correct each other, and to act intelligently and resolutely. Thus, to initiate discussions, I would propose that the paragraph beginning "Messages sent to the list should be directly relevant to sanctions on Iraq..." in the existing guidelines on the website be replaced with: <starts> Messages sent to the list should be directly relevant to the humanitarian implications of the foreign occupation of Iraq. They should be concise, inoffensive, polite, and should make new points rather than just reiterating previous ones. If you are in any doubt as to the appropriateness of a particular message you are considering sending to the list, please seek advice from the list moderator on firstname.lastname@example.org before proceeding. <ends> This changes the exiting paragraph in two ways, beyond some grammatical alterations: 1. the concern with sanctions is replaced by one with the humanitarian implications of occupation. 2. the UK focus is removed. On this second point, the list clearly has taken on an international focus. I think that this is good. In particular, I think that the CASI discussion list, in the past, has helped those concerned about sanctions around the world clarify their arguments, inform themselves, and act. I would like to see this continue. In conclusion, here are some specific questions on which I would like feedback: Q1: what do list members think of the paragraph and mandate proposed above? Q2: can list members indicate other lists with similar foci to CASI's? What 'niches' are already well filled? Which ones might not be? Q3: do list members have any proposals for further structure to the CASI discussion list and website? In particular, are there more efficient ways of identifying issues to investigate and campaign on or more efficient ways of harnessing the abilities of list members? It has been suggested that the website could allow members to update it by posting new links to it, to be incorporated automatically by the site's code. Are there ways of encouraging list members to organise into 'working groups' to track particular issues? Q4: what are list members' views on list moderation? What would they think of annual elections, with votes being cast by list members who pay an annual membership fee (used to maintain the website to a higher standard than at present)? Thank you very much, for your attention, and for being here. Looking forward to moving forward, Colin Rowat work | Room 406, Department of Economics | The University of Birmingham | Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK | web.bham.ac.uk/c.rowat | ( 44/0) 121 414 3754 | (+44/0) 121 414 7377 (fax) | email@example.com personal | (+44/0) 7768 056 984 (mobile) | (+44/0) 7092 378 517 (fax) | (707) 221 3672 (US fax) | firstname.lastname@example.org _______________________________________________ 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