MORE ON IRAQ
The following section will be used to post more thoughts on the Iraq crisis, as needed. It is to be expected that more articles or reflections will be added to this section over time.
We Stand Passively Mute (By Senator Robert Byrd, 2/12/03)
Thoughts On The Eve Of War (JRS, 3/15/03)
A Recommended Book On Iraq (JRS)
No Man Is An Island (John Donne)
War And The Tao Te Ching (JRS Intro: Lao Tsu)
An Apt Swahili Proverb
GW Bush And Che Guevara (JRS, 3/18/03)
We Stand Passively Mute
Following, is a copy of an insightful and important speech give by a highly respected and experienced United States Senator, in the dark days of February 2003, as the Bush Administration seemed headed towards a war that could easily be avoided. In the manner of many analysts, this Senator perceives action against Iraq, under the circumstances contemplated by our President, as likely to achieve the very opposite effect of that which it is (ostensibly) being launched to accomplish. Rather than increasing US security, he believes, it will endanger it. Rather than strengthening America, it will weaken it...
We Stand Passively Mute
by US Senator Robert Byrd, Senate Floor Speech, Wednesday 12 February 2003.
To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war. Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent -- ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing. We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralyzed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events.
Only on the editorial pages of our newspapers is there much substantive discussion of the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this particular war. And this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world.
This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time. The doctrine of preemption -- the idea that the United States or any other nation can legitimately attack a nation that is not imminently threatening but may be threatening in the future -- is a radical new twist on the traditional idea of self defense. It appears to be in contravention of international law and the UN Charter. And it is being tested at a time of world-wide terrorism, making many countries around the globe wonder if they will soon be on our -- or some other nation's -- hit list. High level Administration figures recently refused to take nuclear weapons off of the table when discussing a possible attack against Iraq. What could be more destabilizing and unwise than this type of uncertainty, particularly in a world where globalism has tied the vital economic and security interests of many nations so closely together?
There are huge cracks emerging in our time-honored alliances, and U.S. intentions are suddenly subject to damaging worldwide speculation. Anti-Americanism based on mistrust, misinformation, suspicion, and alarming rhetoric from U.S. leaders is fracturing the once solid alliance against global terrorism which existed after September 11. Here at home, people are warned of imminent terrorist attacks with little guidance as to when or where such attacks might occur. Family members are being called to active military duty, with no idea of the duration of their stay or what horrors they may face. Communities are being left with less than adequate police and fire protection. Other essential services are also short-staffed. The mood of the nation is grim. The economy is stumbling. Fuel prices are rising and may soon spike higher.
This Administration, now in power for a little over two years, must be judged on its record. I believe that that record is dismal. In that scant two years, this Administration has squandered a large projected surplus of some $5.6 trillion over the next decade and taken us to projected deficits as far as the eye can see. This Administration's domestic policy has put many of our states in dire financial condition, under funding scores of essential programs for our people. This Administration has fostered policies which have slowed economic growth. This Administration has ignored urgent matters such as the crisis in health care for our elderly. This Administration has been slow to provide adequate funding for homeland security. This Administration has been reluctant to better protect our long and porous borders.
In foreign policy, this Administration has failed to find Osama bin Laden. In fact, just yesterday we heard from him again marshaling his forces and urging them to kill. This Administration has split traditional alliances, possibly crippling, for all time, International order-keeping entities like the United Nations and NATO. This Administration has called into question the traditional worldwide perception of the United States as well- intentioned, peacekeeper. This Administration has turned the patient art of diplomacy into threats, labeling, and name calling of the sort that reflects quite poorly on the intelligence and sensitivity of our leaders, and which will have consequences for years to come. Calling heads of state pygmies, labeling whole countries as evil, denigrating powerful European allies as irrelevant -- these types of crude insensitivities can do our great nation no good. We may have massive military might, but we cannot fight a global war on terrorism alone. We need the cooperation and friendship of our time-honored allies as well as the newer found friends whom we can attract with our wealth.
Our awesome military machine will do us little good if we suffer another devastating attack on our homeland which severely damages our economy. Our military manpower is already stretched thin and we will need the augmenting support of those nations who can supply troop strength, not just sign letters cheering us on. The war in Afghanistan has cost us $37 billion so far, yet there is evidence that terrorism may already be starting to regain its hold in that region. We have not found bin Laden, and unless we secure the peace in Afghanistan, the dark dens of terrorism may yet again flourish in that remote and devastated land. Pakistan as well is at risk of destabilizing forces. This Administration has not finished the first war against terrorism and yet it is eager to embark on another conflict with perils much greater than those in Afghanistan.
Is our attention span that short? Have we not learned that after winning the war one must always secure the peace? And yet we hear little about the aftermath of war in Iraq. In the absence of plans, speculation abroad is rife. Will we seize Iraq's oil fields, becoming an occupying power which controls the price and supply of that nation's oil for the foreseeable future? To whom do we propose to hand the reigns of power after Saddam Hussein? Will our war inflame the Muslim world resulting in devastating attacks on Israel? Will Israel retaliate with its own nuclear arsenal? Will the Jordanian and Saudi Arabian governments be toppled by radicals, bolstered by Iran which has much closer ties to terrorism than Iraq? Could a disruption of the world's oil supply lead to a world-wide recession? Has our senselessly bellicose language and our callous disregard of the interests and opinions of other nations increased the global race to join the nuclear club and made proliferation an even more lucrative practice for nations which need the income?
In only the space of two short years this reckless and arrogant Administration has initiated policies which may reap disastrous consequences for years. One can understand the anger and shock of any President after the savage attacks of September 11. One can appreciate the frustration of having only a shadow to chase and an amorphous, fleeting enemy on which it is nearly impossible to exact retribution. But to turn one's frustration and anger into the kind of extremely destabilizing and dangerous foreign policy debacle that the world is currently witnessing is inexcusable from any Administration charged with the awesome power and responsibility of guiding the destiny of the greatest superpower on the planet.
Frankly many of the pronouncements made by this Administration are outrageous. There is no other word. Yet this (Senate) chamber is hauntingly silent. On what is possibly the eve of horrific infliction of death and destruction on the population of the nation of Iraq -- a population, I might add, of which over 50% is under age 15 -- this chamber is silent. On what is possibly only days before we send thousands of our own citizens to face unimagined horrors of chemical and biological warfare -- this chamber is silent. On the eve of what could possibly be a vicious terrorist attack in retaliation for our attack on Iraq, it is business as usual in the United States Senate. We are truly "sleepwalking through history." In my heart of hearts I pray that this great nation and its good and trusting citizens are not in for a rudest of awakenings. To engage in war is always to pick a wild card. And war must always be a last resort, not a first choice. I truly must question the judgment of any President who can say that a massive unprovoked military attack on a nation which is over 50% children is "in the highest moral traditions of our country". This war is not necessary at this time. Pressure appears to be having a good result in Iraq. Our mistake was to put ourselves in a corner so quickly. Our challenge is to now find a graceful way out of a box of our own making. Perhaps there is still a way if we allow more time.
Back To Top
Thoughts On The Eve Of War (JRS, March 15, 2003)
I wish that I could be optimistic on this day, but the dark clouds of war are gathering, and I see no ray of peace, except on the other side of months and years of suffering and struggle, that will, in the end, require us to remake our nation. It is a last moment to put together a few reflections, before we are plunged into a new dark age, that may either be the beginning of the end, or the final rite of passage on our way to the light. - JRS
The United Nations Is Relevant: The United Nations does not prove its relevance by allowing any one nation to kidnap it, and to turn it into a tool of that nation’s foreign policy, above the interests of the international community, and against the better judgment of the world. The United Nations does not prove its relevance by providing its international seal of approval, its blessing, its time-honored aura of legitimacy and legality, to the agenda of a single nation, that is determined to act against the collective perspective, will, and conscience of the world. The United Nations proves its relevance by continuing to stand up for something more than the primeval principle of "might makes right." The United Nations proves its relevance by continuing to reflect the diversity of the earth, with its myriad visions and aspirations; by continuing to cherish the value of dialogue and diplomacy as alternatives to force; and by continuing to embody the qualities of compassion and patience, which can lead us away from war. The United Nations has fought valiantly, in the past months, to preserve its relevance in the face of relentless pressure from the world’s "one remaining superpower", which has sought to turn it into yet one more tool in its already overwhelming arsenal. Although the United States may choose to ignore and dismiss the United Nations, and to go to war without it, and in spite of it, the United Nations has held its head up high throughout this crisis, and by remaining true to its purpose and ideals, proved itself to be more relevant than ever.
World Leadership: Leadership is not a right which inherently belongs to the powerful, in virtue of their power. Leadership is something which must be earned, through sincerity, fairness, attention to others’ points of view, and genuine concern for others’ well-being. Leadership is not something you can buy with high-sounding words that you do not live by. Leadership does not come from force, or from being bigger than anyone else, or richer than anyone else, or from being able to twist the arms of others with threats, or bribe them with empty promises. It comes from the admiration and trust you are able to inspire in others; from the way your vision is able to connect with their vision: to meet it, respect it, enrich it and be enriched by it. Any nation which wishes to assume the role of "world leader" - any nation which aspires to be the "visionary" or "guide" of human history - must first learn to respect and value others. It must learn to listen, not just speak; to serve, instead of demand. It must give up selfish behaviors and prove its love. Without love and self-sacrifice, leadership is called domination.
Leadership without followers is not leadership.
Leadership through coercion is ineffective leadership.
True leadership is showing people a road, and inspiring them to want to travel on it.
The Threat of Saddam Hussein: If the USA was really imminently threatened by Saddam Hussein, and if the United Nations refused to take the threat seriously, and to approve of actions to deal with it, then the President of the USA would, indeed, be entitled to act in defiance of the United Nations in order to protect his country. Self-defense is a well-recognized right of individuals and nations. And yet, the overwhelming opinion of the world is that the USA is NOT in any imminent danger of attack by Saddam Hussein. This is not merely the opinion of Saddam Hussein. Many highly respected, competent, and experienced politicians, analysts, officials and observers from the United States and nations friendly to the United States, share this view. In fact, very few high-quality thinkers support the current position of the United States. Why is this?
The unavoidable conclusion is that the United States is determined to launch a "preemptive strike" against Iraq, not out of any desperate necessity of self-defense, but in order to pursue a geopolitical agenda of gaining increased control over global oil supplies and prices, and in order to insert a powerful, restructured Iraq as a bastion and base of American political and economic interests, into the heart of the Middle East. This move would be considered, by America’s current administration, to serve the long-term interests of American power, although it seems likely that it would do quite the opposite, by engendering fierce new waves of anti-American sentiment throughout the world. Revolutions against America’s Middle-Eastern allies; terrorism against Americans and friends of America; sweeping new cycles of violence and counterviolence; years of costly military occupation, and counterinsurgency operations - the war on Iraq seems to be a Pandora’s Box that may well expose us to all of those dark consequences. Not to mention the fact that the stresses and threats produced by this new era may well move us steadily closer to the formation of a "police state" in our own homeland.
As one examines the facts more closely, it becomes clearer and clearer that the danger which Iraq presents to the United States has been consistently and deliberately overstated by the current administration, as a means of attempting to mobilize US public opinion behind its empire-building agenda. Our government is creating unwarranted levels of public fear, to serve as the propellant of its ambition. It is being fundamentally dishonest with us as to its real motives, and using us as tools to pursue its grand designs.
The US, which has publicly stated that it will never again allow its military and political supremacy to be challenged as it was during the Cold War, is now attempting to move into the vacuum created in world politics after the collapse of the Soviet Empire, in order to consolidate an overwhelmingly dominant geopolitical position that will never again (or so it thinks) be capable of being challenged, by anyone. This is what the coming war is all about.
Weapons Of Mass Destruction: The fact that a nation possesses weapons of mass destruction makes it a potential threat to us. It cannot be denied. But how much of a threat? Nuclear, chemical and/or biological weapons are now possessed by many nations throughout the world. The US, Russia, the UK, France, China, North Korea, India, Pakistan, and Israel, at the very least, are all nuclear powers, and others, such as Iran, may be involved in developing them; great quantities of nuclear materials are missing from production facilities across the globe, and may be circulating around on the black market, or already be in the hands of unknown governments, or organizations; and chemical and biological weapons of various types are widely dispersed among nations. Does the United States plan to forcibly disarm them all?
Although the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is of great concern, it seems impossible for a single nation to take on the responsibility of disarming the world, especially if its motives are doubted, and its disarmament of other nations is able to be viewed as just a way of reducing others’ ability to fight back, before ingesting them into its expanding empire. This is where genuine internationalism comes in, and why the United Nations cannot be dispensed with. Any credible and legitimate process of disarmament and weapons control, it seems, must be administered by a group of nations, or organization, which is capable of winning the trust of those who are being asked to disarm; guaranteeing their safety from those who already are armed; and providing political and economic compensations for the disarming nations, that will assure them of adequate resources for their development, once they have surrendered an important dimension of their power. The United States, at this time, does not now have the trust or credibility to perform this role without United Nations support, and widespread international cooperation.
The existence of weapons of mass destruction, while constituting a potential threat, does not, in and of itself, constitute an imminent threat, justifying a preemptive attack. How long did the USA and Soviet Union coexist, with vast arsenals of mass destruction aimed at each other’s hearts, without ever utilizing them? These arsenals were said to exist as deterrents to aggression, and as weapons of "last resort", and the terrible consequences of actually using them prevented them from ever being used. If, in those days, the US had attempted to end the potential threat of the Soviet Union’s weapons of mass destruction by launching a preemptive strike against them, the result would have been catastrophic.
While the US government attempts to portray Saddam as an unstable madman who would use these weapons against America and America’s allies at the first chance he got, the truth of the matter is that Saddam is a pragmatic, if ruthless, individual. His "reckless" attacks against Iran and Kuwait were not acts of madness, but calculated efforts to obtain concrete goals aimed at increasing his power. In the first case, he hoped to exploit the instability and confusion in Iran which had resulted from the fall of the Shah, the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini, and the confrontation between the United States and Iran over the hostage crisis. He wanted more territory and resources, and was surprised by the zeal and force of revolutionary Iran, which drove him back, and even threatened his own existence. In the case of Kuwait, he desperately wanted to increase his oil revenues in order to help rebuild his country after its devastating war with Iran. His aggressive moves leading up to that war were met by mild and ineffective communications from Washington, which gave him the impression that the US would not interfere if he were to invade Kuwait. In neither case, did he behave like an unpredictable madman. He behaved as an aggressive, dangerous, yet comprehensible leader: a survivor, who would be unlikely to seal his own doom by using his weapons of mass destruction against a vastly superior power which could wipe him out in an instant.
As for the fact that he has used weapons of mass destruction in the past, that is true. He clearly used chemical weapons against Iranian troops in that bloody war, and also against Kurdish rebels who were fighting against his regime. That is deplorable, but it is hardly evidence that he would use those weapons, now, against a vastly superior force, capable of destroying him many times over. It should be mentioned that the United States has also used weapons of mass destruction in the past - the two atomic bombs which it dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. When we talk about how Saddam has used such weapons, in the past, we ought never to forget this. It will help us to keep things in perspective.
The Al-Qaeda Connection: The US, in trying to impress the danger of Saddam upon the US public, has tried to link his regime to Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Since Saddam was not believed to have a delivery system capable of striking the US with weapons of mass destruction - although now, there are some speculations that he may have drones capable of traveling far beyond the more limited range of his missiles - the US government sought to emphasize the fact that Saddam could strike at US targets through terrorist organizations. Saddam would provide the terrorists with nuclear materials, deadly chemical toxins, or biological agents such as anthrax or small pox, which they would smuggle into America, and use on his behalf, or with his support, for their joint benefit. Although the American government did not directly link Saddam to the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, its efforts to associate Saddam with Al-Qaeda were so successful that in one public opinion poll conducted in February, 2002, over 40% of Americans said they believed that he had been involved in the 9/11 attacks - something which no intelligence agency or government in the world believed, or believes.
The evidence linking Saddam to Al-Qaeda was unconvincing. One key Al-Qaeda operative said to be based in Iraq, was actually working out of Kurdish territory no longer controlled by Saddam. Ostensibly to protect the Kurds from Iraqi repression (which was, indeed, a real factor), a "northern no-fly zone" had been established above this territory ever since the end of the Gulf War - a zone patrolled by US and British fighter jets, which barred Saddam’s aircraft from entering into this airspace, and thereby aided the Kurdish rebels below, who were battling to overthrow Saddam, or at least to live outside of his control. In a relatively stateless portion of this area, bordering on Iran, an enclave of terrorists, who happened to despise Saddam, was able to establish itself. The very fact that the US government would even cite this terrorist as proof of an Iraqi link with Al-Qaeda shows the manipulative bent of its mind, and emphasizes the lack of solid evidence to support its claims. Regarding some Al-Qaeda operatives who may have passed through Iraq, once again, the evidence that this constituted a serious bond between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, which regards him as an "apostate", was less than convincing. Al-Qaeda operatives have also passed through (and lived in) Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Kuwait, and also resided and conducted serious organizing in various European countries and the United States. Would the United States consider attacking itself, because Mohammad Atta once lived in Florida? Finally, Secretary of State Colin Powell, an intelligent man who has lost much of his stature by agreeing to serve men far less intelligent than he, on their terms, went so far as to cite a taped message from Osama Bin Laden, in which Bin Laden called upon Muslims to launch a Holy War against the United States if it invaded Iraq, as proof of the Saddam-Al Qaeda connection. Bin Laden expressed his desire to show solidarity with the Muslim people of Iraq, in the face of the "Christian Crusaders", in spite of Saddam, not because of him. For Al-Qaeda, the US invasion of Iraq would be a godsend, enabling it, by "taking the side" of the Iraqi people, to present itself as the "defender of Islam" against a ruthless, non-Muslim invader. It would allow it to portray its cruel terrorist attacks as justified acts of self-defense and revenge, in a climate of increasing anti-Americanism: fertile soil for calling forth new recruits, collecting money, acquiring new weapons, reorganizing, and launching new assaults. Bin Laden’s statements make perfect sense without implying any link to Saddam.
In the lack of convincing evidence, the US government has attempted to misuse the trusting nature of its people, and the positive image won by President Bush - who was at the right place at the right time (9/11) to become a symbol of American pride and determination - to implant the idea of an Al Qaeda-Saddam connection in the minds of the American public. When people see Saddam, they now think of that horrible image of the collapsing towers of the World trade Center, and see the invasion of Iraq as a from of self-defense, rather than as an act of empire-building, conceived by a conservative, highly ideological and highly unsound government. The people remember the towers, the smoke, and tears, and say, "We must not let something like this happen ever again. We must disarm Iraq, before there are new 9/11s." The fears and the misperceptions deliberately created by our government show an utter disrespect for the American people, an effort to deceive them, manipulate them, and use them, rather than provide them with accurate information, and represent their true will.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecies: Once the invasion begins, however, the US government may very well have the chance to say, "I told you so." Whereas Saddam would not be likely to use his weapons of mass destruction if not attacked, for why precipitate his own destruction? - (he has not the infatuation with martyrdom or the mentality of the suicide bomber, which characterizes so many of the members of Al-Qaeda and Hamas) - once Iraq was invaded by a force committed to removing him from power, and probably killing him, his disincentive to use such weapons would be removed. He would have nothing to lose. The time for "weapons of last resort" would have arrived, and then, he might be expected to use whatever hidden weapons of mass destruction he has maintained till now - missiles and artillery shells with chemical warheads, cluster bombs created to disperse toxic agents, biological warheads, and other nightmare weapons - against US troops and regional allies; and if he has them, to activate Iraqi agents stationed in Europe and America, as well. It is likely that many nations now have military agents stationed in Europe and America: agents who, if armed with biological, chemical, or nuclear agents, would be the poor country’s equivalent of the ICBM or cruise missile, poised to strike the enemy in his homeland, if the enemy dared to strike at him in his. They would not be exactly the same as terrorists, whose attacks do not take place as a "last resort", but as part of an active strategy of confrontation - and yet, even so, they could be equally devastating. If Saddam had no such agents, or if they were not well-armed, it might be at this moment that he would pass some of his deadly materials on to terrorist networks, such as Al-Qaeda, who might have the capacity to infiltrate the materials into the US, and to strike it as part of their own jihad, which would now provide Saddam with at least the satisfaction of gaining revenge, as he fell beneath the American sword.
If such disasters do, in fact, take place, then the US will surely use them as evidence to justify its preemptive strike, saying, "Look, see all the weapons Saddam had hidden. See how dangerous he was, after all." What they will not remind us of is (1) The fact that it was the invasion which provoked the use of these weapons, and (2) The fact that weapons inspections were slowly but surely working, gradually diminishing Saddam’s arsenal, and leading to the destruction of many of his deadly weapons, as well as cramping his space for the continued development and testing of new weapons, and the upkeep of old ones.
If the aim of the Bush administration was to disarm Iraq, rather than go to war, then it would not need to adopt such an infantile attitude about the Iraqi disarmament process, seizing upon every possible weapons violation, such as missiles several miles in excess of their legal range, or bombs with chemical dispersal holes drilled in them, or drones with disconcertingly large wingspans, as an excuse to attack. It would expect and accept the fact that Iraq was, indeed, trying to hide and preserve some part of its unconventional arsenal - a natural behavior, for anyone, in a world and region filled with danger, in which many others also had such weapons; not to mention the fact that Saddam is not just anyone, but an ambitious and egotistic man more attached to his deadly assets than most. As long as Saddam agreed to the continuation of inspections, and to the destruction of any illegal weapons uncovered by the inspections, the inspections process could be considered to be working, and should not discarded just to "punish a liar." There is some give-and-take, some room for face-saving, some common sense that needs to accompany this process. But tell that to the United States. Its fierce, unreasonable, and impatient attitude towards Iraq has never been in sync with the rigorous and methodical demands of truly pursuing a peaceful, yet effective, disarmament process. It has, instead, sought to use the disarmament process as a vehicle for identifying acts of non-compliance, as an excuse to go to war, and begin the construction of its new "American-century" empire.
American Deaths Will Be Used To Try To Silence Criticism: As a possibly deadly war is unleashed, American deaths will be used to try to silence all critics of the war. On a primitive emotional level, criticism of the war will be seen by many as a "betrayal of American soldiers." It does not matter that the best way to "support the troops" is to stop the war from ever taking place. Once the bullets start flying, many will blame those who criticize the war for not supporting American troops under fire, instead of blaming those who needlessly put those soldiers into harm’s way in the first place. The US military’s new experiment with imbedding elements of the media within its units is obviously meant to help further support by the war, by building up especially strong links between American servicemen and TV viewers back at home. Everything will be seen from within the midst of the American soldiers, and it is logical that the American viewer will be deeply moved and drawn to identify with those soldiers, their privations, risks, and objectives. In some ways, these soldiers could be practically transformed into members of the TV viewers’ families, making any criticism of the objectives for which the soldiers are risking their lives seem indecent, and driving away sympathy for the Iraqi victims of the war, due to the strength of the emotional attachment that is formed with the American side of the war.
The US has already floated the idea that Saddam may kill some of his own citizens, in an effort to pin the blame on the US and win propaganda points with the world, at large - a dark possibility, which also provides room for the US to inflict some heavy damage on Iraqi civilians, and blame it on Saddam. This could further reduce our sympathy for Iraqi casualties.
The Specter Of Saddam’s Preemptive Strike: Now, as UN backing for the American war effort seems to be fading, the US has floated a new idea: that Saddam may launch a preemptive strike against the American army, which has come to launch a preemptive strike against him. The fear is that he may send missiles armed with chemical or biological warheads against American bases in Kuwait, and elsewhere, before the invasion begins, in order to disorganize the attack before it can be launched. Saddam is also said to be considering launching missiles against Israel, and blowing up his oil wells. The US has floated the idea that, as a response to this threat, it might be compelled to launch missions against missile sites in western and southern Iraq, as well as a mission to seize Iraqi oil wells, before its invasion of Iraq begins! What is all this about? Among other things, it seems to provide a perfect way for starting the war without UN backing. Limited US operations "meant" to preempt Saddam’s potential preemption of their preemptive war, by seizing missile sites and oil wells, could trigger a violent, long-range response from Saddam. If he could be drawn into firing missiles into Kuwait, Saudi Arabia or Israel, against either American troops or American allies - especially missiles fitted with weapons of mass destruction - then the invasion of Iraq could be launched with the appearance, and all the righteous sentiments, of an act of self-defense. No longer would the United States seem to be launching an invasion in defiance of the United Nations; it would, instead, be reacting to a dreadful and murderous Iraqi provocation, having lured Iraq into seeming to be the aggressor. In other words, if the US can get Iraq to "jump the gun", and react to an invasion before one has really taken place, then it can free itself of the burden of being a violator of international law, and pin the blame for the war on Iraq. Of course, that manipulation would not be convincing to many throughout the world - but if it could, to some extent, satisfy the "home audience" in Britain and the United States, then it might be considered to have been a success.
War Crimes: The US has said that it will charge any officer who obeys Saddam’s orders to use weapons of mass destruction against invading US forces as a war criminal. Although it is to be hoped that no one will use such weapons, this threat seems rather hard to comprehend, except as a means of intimidation meant to deter the Iraqi military from using weapons of mass destruction. The US has huge arsenals of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. What for? Presumably, to use as a "last resort", in the event that its survival is ever threatened by a foe who it cannot fight off in any other way. Would the United States consider its own use of such weapons to be a war crime, if it used them, under such circumstances, to defend its existence? If so, why has the US maintained stockpiles of these weapons? Why has it not destroyed them all? If not, why would it be a war crime for Iraq to use them, and not the US? There is no detectable principle of international law here, only the principle that if you are big enough and strong enough, you can define what is justifiable self-defense, and what is a war crime.
One famous Latin American statesman, years ago, while speaking on the theme of tyranny and rebellion, said: "He who uses violence when there is a peaceful alternative is a criminal. He who refrains from using violence, when there is not, is also a criminal." Does it not seem that starting a war, while a peaceful alternative to war still exists, should be counted as a war crime?
America can conquer Iraq without using weapons of mass destruction, because of its vast technological superiority in the realm of conventional weapons. What if Iraq cannot resist the United States, except by using such weapons? Who then, would ultimately be responsible for such weapons being used? (Imagine, if a giant man comes into your house, and starts to beat you to death - then, as you reach for a knife, tells you that knives are illegal, and that if you use a knife, which is your only chance of defending yourself, you will be a criminal. Does he really have a right to call you a criminal?)
Again, let us hope that Iraq accepts defeat and conquest without resorting to the use of such weapons. But how could the US dare to label their use as a war crime, given the circumstances?
Evil Saddam: The preparation for this war bears much in common with the psychological preparation of the American public for the war against Spain, in 1898, with the advent of "yellow journalism", and its horrifying accounts of Spanish abuses and atrocities against Cuban rebels, which enraged and repelled the hearts and minds of our nation. President Bush, himself, has rattled off a gruesome list of tortures and abuses committed by Saddam’s regime against its opponents, and the details keep coming back to us. Electric shock, rape, beatings, murder, threats to kill the families of dissidents, etc., etc. We are given the portrait of an inhuman monster, a fitting enemy for a humane and civilized nation such as ours. This psychological preparation omits several important points: (1) The fact that the world is filled with cruel and unjust leaders and regimes, many of whom we are not about to attack. (2) The fact that we, ourselves, have often chosen to cooperate with cruel dictators and regimes which practiced torture similar to the kinds utilized by Saddam: the Shah of Iran, the Marcos regime of the Philippines, the Somoza regime of Nicaragua, and the Pinochet regime of Chile, to name but a few. Similar inventories of tortures were available regarding the practices of those regimes: in Pinochet’s Chile, for example, the following, partial list could be assembled: electric shock; rape and humiliation involving nudity; beatings; the immersion of prisoner’s heads in water, sometimes in the toilet; the placement of spiders inside the genitalia of female prisoners, and placement of rodents upon their bodies; isolation; hunger; and sleep deprivation; not to mention the shootings in cold blood and the "disappearances" - political kidnappings and murders. Not only did the United States decide that Chile need not be invaded in order to overturn this cruel regime: the United States actually engineered the military coup which put General Pinochet into power, in the first place! Fact, not fiction. Check with Amnesty International, and other respected human rights organizations. (3) The fact that the US, in these times, frequently turns its prisoners over to foreign countries, which have no laws against torture, and which, in essence, torture our prisoners for us. This is but the most transparent mechanism for avoiding the conclusion that we, ourselves, practice torture when it suits our purposes.
Although Saddam is a cruel and vicious man, let us not imagine that he is the only devil in this world, or that we are angels. This war has nothing to do with his injustice, his tortures, or his cruelty. It has everything to do with oil and power. And a flawed vision of US global hegemony.
Rebuilding Iraq: In one of the most cynical and blatantly insensitive components of the war to be, the American government has proposed opening bidding for private companies to vie for contracts to rebuild the ruined infrastructure of Iraq, after it is destroyed. There will be roads, bridges, canals, dams, factories, warehouses, and many other communications, transportation, and economic assets that will have to be restored after the war reduces them to rubble. In the same way that an American municipality may accept bidding from private companies to build a new parking lot, or to do maintenance work on its buses, so the American government is now intending to turn the devastation which the war produces in Iraq to create new opportunities for American business. This reminds one of the concept in Hindu religion, in which the destruction wrought by Siva is the necessary prelude to a new act of creation, except that in the present case, the concept is economic instead of metaphysical. Or perhaps a better comparison would be with Nero, who may have started the infamous fire that burned down Rome (while he "fiddled"), as a means of enabling him to rebuild it in just the way that he desired; and to profit from the new economic opportunity which was created by the disaster. For talk of this sort - turning the destruction of a country into a kind of business opportunity - to surface while the US was still, supposedly, involved in seeking a peaceful solution to the crisis, and treating war as a "last resort", was not only callous, but politically foolish: a clear indication that this nation now feels it is above and beyond the need to make sense to the world, or even to respect appearances.
As for where the money will come from to pay for the rebuilding - the US government expects to generate the needed income from Iraqi oil revenues, which it will "hold in trust for the Iraqi people" until such time as the new government which Washington wishes to establish there is consolidated. What is not being said is that those oil revenues rightfully belong to the Iraqi people, and should not be "kidnapped" to pay for rebuilding a country that does not need to be destroyed in the first place. Instead of being used to build Iraq up from where it is now - and Iraq is already a very poor country - its oil revenues will have to be used to try to bring Iraq back to where it is now. Instead of helping Iraq to climb up the mountain of progress, the money will have to be used to try to pull Iraq out of the pit of destruction. Years of progress and development will have been stolen from the Iraqi people.
As for the creation of a new stable, functional, fair, and "democratic" Iraq which the United States hopes to build in the wake of war, how assured is this end result? What of the possibility that any regime that rises up as a result of US backing may be resented and considered as a tool of "foreign invaders"? What of the possibility of years of guerrilla warfare, terrorism, protest, sabotage, and other forms of resistance? What of the possibility of civil war and rebellion, as Kurdish minorities and disempowered Shiites seek to carve out their own independent states inside Iraqi territory? Can Kurd and Arab, and Sunni and Shiite, with years of distrust, tension and sometimes violent conflict between them, really share power peacefully in a democratic society that is constructed by a foreign power, without deep roots in the region's history and culture? Will a new Iraqi state be able to survive without the continued presence of a powerful US garrison? Will it be able to win credibility, respect, and trust among its own people? Will it be able to truly represent the interests of the Iraqi people, or will it be so dependent upon American economic and military assistance, that it will have to surrender important elements of its political sovereignty and economic rights, and to serve US interests in order to survive? And if so, how will it ever gain the necessary level of credibility among its own people, and the necessary level of stability, to enable US troops to leave?
As for the US troops, will they have to stay there for years and years, exposed to resentment, guerrilla war, snipers, and terrorist attacks? And how will the long-term need for a US military presence in Iraq fit in with overall US global strategy, at a time when the US may well be faced with other challenging situations in Afghanistan (where large numbers of troops are still needed), North Korea, the Philippines, Colombia, and Iran? One of the main reasons for the collapse of the Roman Empire was the fact that it became overextended, and committed beyond its resources. Could this also happen to the US? How well will the US economy, which is already beginning to suffer from the mounting budget deficit precipitated by President Bush’s tax cuts combined with spending increases, hold up under dramatically escalating military and homeland security costs, in the future?
Besides the far greater significance of humanitarian considerations, which should always weigh most in our minds, the pragmatic and difficult questions which I have just raised should have been given serious thought on the road to war, and reasonable answers should have been produced. But one has the impression that the current administration has no depth perception and no peripheral vision, whatsoever; that it is, in fact, simply "winging it", with the destiny of this nation, and perhaps the entire world, at stake. No greater level of moral and political irresponsibility could be conceived.
Isaiah: After the tragic destruction of the space shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003, President Bush, who used the disaster to attempt to "soften" his image and present himself as a man of compassion, on the eve of launching a bloody and unnecessary war against Iraq, quoted from the Bible. He said: "In the skies today we saw destruction and tragedy. Yet farther than we can see there is comfort and hope. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, ‘Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them each by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.’ [Isaiah 40:26] The same Creator who names the stars also knows the names of the seven souls we mourn today. The crew of the shuttle Columbia did not return safely to Earth; yet we can pray that all are safely home."
These were truly beautiful words. But one must wonder if, on that day, as President Bush spoke them, he did not also remember other words of the Prophet Isaiah: "And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (2:4) Or: "They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." (11:9)
How can a man hold a Bible in his hands, and go forward to kill? How can he quote a lover of justice, as Isaiah, and commit an injustice; or worship a lover of peace, as Jesus, and throw peace to the side? Truly, as much as Bin Laden has been accused by peace-loving Muslims of kidnapping Islam, so President Bush has kidnapped Christianity.
Whatever our faith, I pray that we may find the core of love that is within it, and truly live from it, rather than using words stolen from holy pages to cover over our basest and most unenlightened desires.
The Solution Was There: It is a shame to say, as the bombs are about to begin falling on Iraq, that there was a peaceful solution to all of this, and that it was discarded. That the UN weapons inspections, belittled by the United States, were actually working. That the issue of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction could have been successfully addressed, without opening the Pandora’s Box of death, destruction, hate, and terror, which the United States insisted on unlocking, releasing dark and frightening forces that are sure to haunt our world for years to come. Now there will be more terrorism - much more; probably more weapons of mass destruction (as nations fear the breakdown of international law, and lose faith in the ability of anything else to protect them); days of terrible destruction, involving chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons; and dire threats to our freedom, here, in the United States, as our own government seeks new legal tools to deal with the crises it has engendered, and tries to silence all those who say "No."
America - if you want to recognize yourself tomorrow, you need to wake up, today.
May God forgive those who, with good intentions, but false perceptions, mistakenly chose the path of war; and may God forgive those who could not stop them.
And may He lovingly receive the innocent thousands who are about to return to His Kingdom, before their time.
Back To Top
A Recommended Book On Iraq
Highly recommended is SPIDER’S WEB: THE SECRET HISTORY OF HOW THE WHITE HOUSE ILLEGALLY ARMED IRAQ (1993) by Alan Friedman, a respected investigative journalist, who has worked as a correspondent for the Financial Times of London, won four British Press Awards, and collaborated with ABC’s Nightline. It chronicles, in great detail, how the US government aided the development of Saddam’s military machine from 1981-1989, even providing illicit support for some of his programs of mass destruction, in an effort to use Saddam to help stem the tide of Islamic Fundamentalism that was sweeping outwards from Iran. It then chronicles the story of how the US government "lost control" of Saddam, and once it was forced to confront him over his invasion of Kuwait, attempted to cover up its former links to him, and to hide its ill-fated role in building up his military power.
This is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to know the truth about Saddam and Iraq, and to move beyond the simplistic propaganda that is today converting the confrontation between the US and Iraq into a crusade of "good" versus "evil." The weapons of mass destruction for which Saddam is today being demonized, were, for a time developed with Washington’s tacit acceptance, and active cooperation.
Back To Top
No Man Is An Island (John Donne)
Following are words written by John Donne (1573-1631), the renowned English poet. They may have a special significance for our times:
Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
Back To Top
War And The Tao Te Ching
The use of power, which never ceases to infatuate and thrill those who lack inner power (or what Gary Zukav might call "authentic power"), is often counterproductive and destructive of its own aims. Although, in our world, self-defense seems necessary, too great a dependence upon aggressiveness as a solution to guaranteeing one's security will only increase the number of one's foes, and intensify the spirit of their opposition. Force must never leave the realm of fairness, or go beyond what is called for, or its ultimate result will be to leave one even more insecure than when one set out to become safe. Following is an excellent passage embodying this insight, from Lao Tsu's Tao Te Ching, as translated by Gia-Fu and Jane English (#30):
Whenever you advise a ruler in the way of Tao,
Counsel him not to use force to conquer the universe.
For this would only cause resistance.
Thorn bushes spring up wherever the army has passed.
Lean years follow in the wake of a great war.
Just do what needs to be done.
Never take advantage of power.
but never glory in them.
But never boast.
But never be proud.
Because this is the natural way.
But not through violence.
Force is followed by loss of strength.
This is not the way of Tao.
That which goes against the Tao
comes to an early end.
Some more words of wisdom from this magnificent book, which today's decision-makers and world-shapers might well profit from listening to, follow:
Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water.
Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better;
It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong;
The supple can overcome the stiff.
Under heaven everyone knows this,
Yet no one puts it into practice...
A man is born gentle and weak.
At his death he is hard and stiff.
Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.
Therefore the stiff and unbending is the disciple of death.
The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life...
The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.
A brave and passionate man will kill or be killed.
A brave and calm man will always preserve life.
Of these two which is good and which is harmful?...
Knowing ignorance is strength.
Ignoring knowledge is sickness.
If one is sick of sickness, then one is not sick.
The sage is not sick because he is sick of sickness...
Why is the sea king of a hundred streams?
Because it lies below them.
Therefore it is the king of a hundred streams.
If the sage would guide the people, he must serve with humility.
If he would lead them, he must follow behind.
In this way when the sage rules, the people will not feel oppressed;
When he stands before them, they will not be harmed.
The whole world will support him and will not tire of him.
Because he does not compete,
He does not meet competition.
The sharper men's weapons,
The more trouble in the land...
When the Tao is present in the universe,
The horses haul manure.
When the Tao is absent from the universe,
War horses are bred outside the city.
There is no greater sin than desire,
No greater curse than discontent,
No greater misfortune than wanting something for oneself.
Therefore he who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.
Fame or self: Which matters more?
Self or wealth: Which is more precious?
Gain or loss: Which is more painful?
He who is attached to things will suffer much.
He who saves will suffer heavy loss.
A contented man is never disappointed.
He who knows when to stop does not find himself in trouble.
He will stay forever safe.
...What others teach, I also teach; that is:
"A violent man will die a violent death!"
This will be the essence of my teaching.
Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.
The universe is sacred.
You cannot improve it.
If you try to change it, you will ruin it.
If you try to hold it, you will lose it.
...High winds do not last all morning.
Heavy rain does not last all day...
If heaven and earth cannot make things eternal,
How is it possible for man?
He who follows the Tao
Is at one with the Tao....
When you are at one with the Tao,
The Tao welcomes you...
He who does not trust enough
Will not be trusted.
Yield and overcome;
Bend and be straight;
Empty and be full;
Wear out and be new;
Have little and gain;
Have much and be confused.
Therefore wise men embrace the one
And set an example to all.
Not putting on a display,
They shine forth.
Not justifying themselves,
They are distinguished.
They receive recognition.
They never falter.
They do not quarrel,
So no one quarrels with them.
Therefore the ancients say, "Yield and overcome."
Is that an empty saying?
Be really whole,
And all things will come to you.
The Tao of heaven is like the bending of a bow.
The high is lowered, and the low is raised.
If the string is too long, it is shortened;
If there is not enough, it is made longer.
The Tao of heaven is to take from those who have too much
and give to those who do not have enough.
Man's way is different.
He takes from those who do not have enough
to give to those who already have too much.
What man has more than enough and gives it to the world?
Only the man of Tao.
...Not collecting treasures prevents stealing...
This is the Primal Virtue:
Giving birth and nourishing,
Bearing yet not possessing,
Working yet not taking credit,
Leading yet not dominating...
From #15 & #70:
The ancient masters were subtle, mysterious, profound, responsive.
The depth of their knowledge is unfathomable.
Because it is unfathomable,
All we can do is describe their appearance.
Watchful, like men crossing a winter stream.
Alert, like men aware of danger.
Courteous, like visiting guests.
Yielding, like ice about to melt.
Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood...
...The sage wears rough clothing and holds the jewel in his heart...
How unlike our current leaders! Although conflict may, at times, be necessary - wise, centered, and balanced souls are able to defend themselves with agility, and just the right amount of force needed to preserve themselves, and the positive values which they embody, without making the situation worse; no one could ever mistake their self-defense for aggression or conquest. As many of the ancient martial arts of the Orient advised: "Use the enemy's force against him... When he pulls, push; when he pushes, pull..." All legitimate combat, no matter what its outward form or strategy, must be infused with the spirit of self-defense, and built around the real threat of the enemy. People are much smarter than hypocrites give them credit for, and no matter what words are used to justify a violent action, can tell when an act of "self-defense" is legitimate, and when it is only a veil for aggression; or, what is almost as bad, a serious misresponse, which reveals a dangerous psyche prone to overreact and needlessly imperil others. If only our leaders had been less inspired by the Biblical imagery of Armageddon - "Good Vs. Evil" imagery which they only use to flatter themselves and to try to distort the perceptions of their people - and more influenced by the gentle, yet effective, wisdom of Taoism! What a different state the world might now be in!
Back To Top
An Apt Swahili Proverb
Following is a Swahili proverb which seems to fit the current global situation to a tee:
WHEN TWO BULL ELEPHANTS FIGHT, THE GRASS GETS TRAMPLED.
Let's send strong prayers for peace and safety to all innocents caught in the crossfire of this war.
Back To Top
GW Bush And Che Guevara (JRS, March 18, 2003)
Hard though it may be to believe, our conservative Republican President is today helping to put into place the revolutionary vision of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, the Argentine guerrilla mastermind who helped Fidel Castro to gain power in Cuba, and finally lost his life in the jungles of Bolivia, attempting to initiate a "continental revolution" which would have turned all of South America against the United States. Guevara saw the United States as an imperialistic, domineering country which sought to control the world through its political muscle and far-reaching business operations, which were provided with a safe environment in which to practice their exploitation of foreign resources and workers, by the American government’s support of "puppet regimes" and dictatorships, and by direct military intervention, when necessary. Like many people throughout the world, he did not see the US as a progressive country committed to the well-being of its neighbors, but rather, as a giant octopus spreading its tentacles over the earth, seeking to take everything for itself. Recognizing the power of the US, he believed that the best chance of defeating its "empire" lay in attacking it in many places at once, overburdening its military capacity, stretching its "repressive power" to the breaking point… His clearest enunciation of this concept came in a speech which he wrote in 1966, entitled "Message to the Tricontinental."
Following are some excerpts from that speech, and you are sure to recognize many surprising resonances with what is happening today:
"In Asia, as we have seen, the situation is explosive, and Vietnam and Laos, where the struggle is now going on, are not the only points of friction. The same holds true for Cambodia, where at any moment the United States might launch a direct attack. We should add Thailand, Malaysia, and, of course, Indonesia…and, of course, the Middle East. In Latin America, the struggle is going on, weapons in hand, in Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, and Bolivia, and the first outbreaks are already beginning in Brazil. Other centers of resistance have appeared and been extinguished. But almost all the countries of this continent are ripe for a struggle of this kind…" [Doesn’t this sound like something that could happen now, with battlefronts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and perhaps new ones to open soon in Iran, the Korean peninsula, the Philippines, and Colombia, to name but a few?]
"The great lesson of the guerrillas' invincibility is taking hold among the masses of the dispossessed... Hate is a factor in the struggle - intransigent hatred for the enemy that takes one beyond the natural limitations of a human being and converts one into an effective, violent, selective, cold, killing machine. Our soldiers must be like that; a people without hate cannot triumph over a brutal enemy. We must carry the war as far as the enemy carries it; into his home, into his places of recreation, make it total. He must be prevented from having a moment's peace, a moment's quiet outside the barracks and even inside them. Attack him wherever he may be; make him feel like a hunted animal wherever he goes. Then his morale will begin to decline. He will become even more bestial; but signs of the coming decline will appear…" [Who cannot see a parallel between the rage burning within these lines, and the anger many Muslims today feel against the US? And who cannot detect the spirit and objectives of Al Qaeda, Hamas, and other terrorist groups, which wish to turn the world into an unrelenting hell for their adversaries? (Only, unlike Guevara, who was thinking mainly in terms of the constant harassment of military and security personnel, both on the battlefield, and in the cities when they went out "on the town", Al Qaeda, and groups like it, seek to target, terrorize and destroy civilian populations, as well.)]
"And let us develop genuine proletarian internationalism, with international proletarian armies. Let the flag under which we fight be the sacred cause of the liberation of humanity, so that to die under the colors of Vietnam, Venezuela, Guatemala, Laos, Guinea, Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil - to mention only the current scenes of armed struggle - will be equally glorious and desirable for a Latin American, an Asian, an African and even a European. Every drop of blood spilled in a land under whose flag one was not born, is an experience, gathered by the survivor, to be applied later in the struggle of his own country. And every people that liberates itself is a step in the battle for the liberation of one's own people...." [In these lines, we can see a modern-day foreshadowing of the work of Al Qaeda. Substitute "proletarian internationalism" with "Islamic Fundamentalist internationalism", and you have a fair portrait of Al Qaeda and other groups, characterized by "international" Arab fighters who have taken part in various conflicts in Afghanistan, and are now ready to fight in many other countries, as well. Theirs is a vision of violent transformation that does not limit its goals to any one nation, but rather, seeks to overrun an entire region, if not even larger parts of the world.]
"We cannot evade the call of the hour. Vietnam teaches us this with its permanent lesson in heroism, its tragic daily lesson of struggle and death in order to gain the final victory. Over there, the soldiers of imperialism encounter the discomforts of those who, accustomed to the standard of living that the United States boasts, have to confront a hostile land; the insecurity of those who cannot move without feeling that they are stepping on enemy territory; death for those who go outside of fortified compounds; the permanent hostility of the entire population… How close and bright would the future appear if two, three, many Vietnams flowered on the face of the globe, with their quota of death and their immense tragedies, with their daily heroism, with their repeated blows against imperialism, forcing it to disperse its forces under the lash of the growing hatred of the peoples of the world!" [And herein lies the heart of the amazing paradox of a "super-patriot", "Conservative Republican" American president, unwittingly promoting the revolutionary strategy of Che Guevara to weaken, debilitate, and finally defeat the United States! Che Guevara, in order for his plan to work, needed to open up an effective, serious, and major new threat against American power in South America, in the 1960s, to complement the war that was already taking place in Vietnam. However, due to various flaws in conception, and complications in execution, his revolution, which chose Bolivia as its "ignition point", never really got off the ground. The US was able to extinguish it relatively easily, by providing improved training, equipment, and intelligence to the Bolivian army, which rallied to crush the international revolutionary in 1967, before any commitment of US troops was required. The solution was perfect for the United States, because Guevara not only wanted to draw American troops into South America in order to help his friends in Vietnam - he believed that the arrival of US troops would serve as a "chispa", a spark, to inflame the pride and consciousness of Latin Americans, throughout the continent, who would see the intervention as a blatant display of "Yankee Imperialism", and rise up against it. In those days, American planners understood full well that discretion was a crucial component of the battle, and that by maintaining their presence as indirect and invisible as possible, as they sought to combat their enemies, they maximized their chances to accomplish their goals without provoking popular outrage leading to increased resistance. George Bush, and his planners, however, appear to lack this basic common sense. Instead, by preparing to fight in many places at once, and against many things at once, they appear to be falling into the very trap that Che Guevara could not get America to fall into over 30 years ago. They seem prepared to ignore their limits, to jump into a hundred places at once, to enrage and destroy the trust of much of the world, to set fire to places that were not burning, and to stretch America’s resources dangerously thin, at the same time as the loss of international good will, engendered by their actions, multiplies our enemies. They seem to be leading us into a deadly quagmire - a field of mud, into which giants sink: a burial place of world powers. "Two, three, many Vietnams." Che Guevara failed to do it. Now it seems that George W. Bush just might succeed…]
"…Our every action is a battle cry against imperialism and a call for the unity of the peoples against the great enemy of the human race: the United States of North America. Wherever death may surprise us, let it be welcome if our battle cry has reached even one receptive ear, if another hand reaches out to take up our weapons, and other men come forward to join in our funeral dirge with the rattling of machine guns and with new cries of battle and victory." [Again, can you not hear the rage of Al Qaeda? Another way of saying "the Great Satan", which is how many Islamic Fundamentalists know our country? And the same spirit of martyrdom, born out of desperation - sometimes out of a sense of justice driven blind with pain? As long as we continue to act without the moral support or comprehension of the world, two new enemies will be born from the blood of every one who we kill.]
I have always believed in the value of history, as a teacher, as a light for understanding the present, and as a guide for shaping the future. It is quite amazing, at this time, to see the world turning back towards the past, and to find ourselves returning to a moment that already came and went, none the wiser for it; and, in fact, it seems, far less wise than then.
Back To Top
Mention, here, will be made of some important news stories related to the situation in Iraq:
March 10, 2003: EGYPTIAN SCHOLARS URGE JIHAD ON US ACTION IN IRAQ. Washington Post foreign service writer, Anthony Shadid, wrote this article beginning with the following alarming statement: "Islamic scholars at Cairo's Al-Azhar University, the pre-eminent seat of Sunni Muslim learning in the Arab world, have declared that a US attack on Iraq would threaten all Arabs and Muslims, and urged a 'jihad' to defend their interests." This is a historically and culturally significant religious institution in the Muslim world, not just some "radical fringe group", and its statements may be considered to carry a special weight. Given that, this statement is a serious indication of just how severely current US foreign policy is alienating large sectors of the Muslim world. The article goes on to mention how an extremely popular, moderate Islamic cleric, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has also condemned the expected invasion, urging the Persian Gulf states not to support US forces in the war, and calling on all Muslims to act together to compel the US to withdraw from Iraq, if Iraq is unable to drive US forces out by itself. Again, the article hints at the devastating political damage, and possibly dire future consequences, of waging this war without first having elicited the comprehension and support of the Islamic world.
March 15, 2003: FAKE EVIDENCE USED TO "PROVE" THE EXISTENCE OF AN IRAQI NUCLEAR PROGRAM. US SENATOR CALLS FOR AN INVESTIGATION. Associated Press writer Ken Guggeheim, in a piece fed to many newspapers throughout the country, wrote: "The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee asked the FBI on Friday to investigate forged documents the Bush administration used as evidence against Saddam Hussein and his military ambitions in Iraq." The British government had "received" documents from an unidentified source purporting to prove that Iraq had been attempting to buy uranium from the African country of Niger, in order to develop a secret nuclear weapons program, and the United States had then introduced this as evidence to the United Nations, supporting its push towards war. However, on March 7, 2003, Mohammed El Baradei of the International Atomic Energy Commission informed the United Nations that the documents were actually forgeries. Who was behind this effort to deceive and manipulate the United Nations? Was it Britain or the US, in an effort to manufacture evidence that would justify their war? That is what Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia wants to find out. More information and speculation on this "fake evidence" appeared on CounterPunch.org: "A CIA Analyst on Forging Intelligence: Whose Deliberate Disinformation?" (Ray Close, March 10, 2003)
March 16, 2003: ANGER ON IRAQ SEEN AS NEW QAEDA RECRUITING TOOL. This article, written by Don Van Nattia Jr. and Desmond Butler, appeared in The New York Times. It quotes various analysts and experts as stating the obvious: that a US war against Iraq will increase anger against America throughout the Muslim world, and be a great boon to Al Qaeda recruiting. An increase in terrorism will be a likely outcome of this war.
March 16, 2003: IRAQ LINKS GERMS FOR WEAPONS TO US AND FRANCE. In this New York Times article, Philip Shenon presents the paradoxical fact that the biological weapons which the US believes it must invade Iraq in order to find and destroy, were actually developed thanks to germs imported from American and French laboratories. It seems strange to call a man a monster and an outlaw for having such weapons, when one, oneself, helped him to acquire them.
March 18, 2003: US, BACKERS RESPONSIBLE BEFORE GOD ON IRAQ - VATICAN. This report, from Reuters, briefly informs us that Joaquin Nararro-Valls, a spokesman for the Vatican, issued the following statement on behalf of the Pope, shortly after learning of President Bush's decision to go ahead with the war: "Those who decide that all peaceful means that international law makes available are exhausted assume a grave responsibility before God, their conscience, and history."
March 18, 2003: MAJOR DEMOCRATS CRITICIZE PRESIDENT BUSH'S DECISION TO GO TO WAR. ABC World News Tonight reported, on the air and on its web site, that several important members of the Democratic Party had criticized President Bush's decision to go to war. Variously, they condemned the President for failing to pursue diplomacy more effectively; questioned whether he had ever wanted a diplomatic solution in the first place; and questioned his competence in dealing with the crisis. Perhaps the harshest words came from Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who said: "The administration's handling of the runup to war with Iraq could not possibly have been more inept or self-defeating. President Bush has clumsily and arrogantly squandered the post 9/11 support and goodwill of the entire civilized world..." Republicans countered with the usual calls for patriotism, in essence demanding that critics and opponents of Bush's policies must silence themselves in order to present a united front at a time of war, in spite of the fact that the President appears to have forced this war upon America and the world against the dictates of logic, common sense, political intelligence, historical knowledge, cultural sensitivity, and compassion. There is an ancient saying, "As you sow, so shall you reap." What dark crop will America be forced to reap in the future, on account of the foolish seeds planted by President Bush today? Now, more than ever, dissenting voices must be heard! Congratulations to those who have the courage to keep on talking.
March 26, 2003: THE FUTURE OF IRAQI OIL. An interesting letter to the editor by Susan Elliott, which appeared in the Seattle Times, 4/08/03, led me to track down an article "The ‘Cost’ of War" by conservative thinker Bruce Bartlett in the National Review Online, 3/26/03; to which an article from The New York Times "Week in Review", p. 5, may be added: "Arabs Have a Litmus Test for U.S. Handling of Iraqi Oil", by Neela Banerjee. The conclusion one is left with is that some economically and politically well-connected and powerful elements in US society have a vision for how the US may manage the "captured" Iraqi oil industry, and utilize its revenues, which may conflict with the spirit of Arab "nationalism", and Arab perceptions of what is just. Elliott writes: "…Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, and a former Bush administration economics adviser, recently stated in an interview that the US needs the money from the sale of Iraqi oil to stimulate the economy here at home. Bartlett believes that the US should control the price of Iraqi oil to undercut and coerce OPEC into lowering the price of crude oil to benefit US industries. His arguments implied that as victors in the war, the US - not the Iraqi people - should control the spoils." Although the US continues to insist that Iraq’s oil wealth will be used to benefit the Iraqi people after the war, it seems that the US intends to inject its own economic philosophy, to be promoted and defended by the regime it nurtures and constructs in Saddam’s wake, into the heart of postwar Iraqi society. Bartlett first describes the prize: "[Iraq’s] oil resources are very large - second largest in the world after Saudi Arabia. Analysts put Iraq’s proven reserves at 112 billion barrels of oil, with as much as another 200 billion barrels yet to be discovered. On top of this, Iraq has 110 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves." However, Bartlett states that Iraqi oil production is low, partly as a result of the "socialist economic policies" of Saddam’s regime, "which limited foreign investment in Iraq’s oil industry even before the first Gulf War." He says there is no doubt that Iraqi oil production could greatly increase "once the nation is open to foreign investment and the latest technology… With full Iraqi production, the price [of oil] might drop to $20 per barrel or less, giving us the equivalent of a tax cut of about $120 billion per year. And this is a tax cut the entire world benefits from." [His opinion. What about the oil-producing nations, which are not all opulent desert kingdoms, but also include poor countries with large populations to take care of, such as Mexico, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, etc.?] It seems that a restructuring of world oil prices may, indeed, be in the American political agenda; and a new master plan to assure cheap and secure oil for the energy-dependent culture of the US, regardless of the potential development needs of oil-producing countries such as Iraq. In The New York Times article, energy expert Daniel Yergin stresses the fact that in Iraq, and much of the Middle East, oil is inextricably interwoven with concepts of nationalism and national identity. Control of one’s own oil, to some extent, signifies independence and freedom, while too much control by others signifies colonialism and domination. Observers in touch with the pulse of the Arab world suggest that if the new Iraqi government, once it takes shape, is not given enough say in the use of its own oil resources, it will send a strong signal to the Iraqi people, and to the rest of the Arab world, that the war of liberation has turned into a war of domination. Resistance and enmity would be sure to follow. [Note: the close links of Vice President Cheney and President George W. Bush to energy-related business has done little to quiet Arab fears that this is a war about oil, not a war against terrorism, or a war to liberate an oppressed people. In this perceptual environment, the US must tread especially softly.]
March 28, 2003: THE HALLIBURTON CONTROVERSY. See "Halliburton Out Of The Running", from Newsweek Web, 3/28/03; "Halliburton Decides Against Bid In Iraq", by Larry Margarak of the Associated Press, 4/01/03; and "Lawmaker Questions Halliburton’s Contract", by Leigh Strope of the Associated Press, 4/11/03. Halliburton is the giant energy and construction corporation which was managed by Vice President Dick Cheney from 1995-2000. In February 2003, as the US prepared to launch its war against Iraq, President Bush asked five companies, including Halliburton, to bid on a lucrative contract for the reconstruction of the soon-to-be damaged Iraqi infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and hospitals. Bidding for this contract, and for other related contracts for work in postwar Iraq, was handled by USAID, which uses US tax dollars to support work in other countries. The bidding was limited to a small number of well-connected US corporations, much to the chagrin of other countries, which also had highly-proficient companies hoping to be eligible for these contracts. The US stated that US law, as well as its faith in the companies selected, and the fact that they already had "security clearances", was responsible for the way it handled the bidding process, but other countries noted that the US seemed to be shutting the international community out of crucial aspects of the rebuilding of Iraq, in order to guarantee its own political control of the reconstruction of Iraqi society, and in order to monopolize the economic benefits of the redevelopment process. Between 1999-2000, it was noted, the five major contenders for the postwar construction contract, which included Cheney’s former company, had given $3.5 million in political contributions here, in the US, 2/3 of which went to the Republican Party. Due to intense political pressure, Halliburton finally withdrew itself from the bidding to become a "primary contractor" for USAID in Iraq. For an administration intimately linked to the energy business to start a war in oil-rich Iraq - and then for a company formerly managed by the Vice President of that administration to be awarded a lucrative contract to help rebuild a country it had just bombed - seemed too potentially offensive to world public opinion. However, Halliburton remains open to operating in Iraq as a "subcontractor", working, with less publicity, for a "primary contractor" (the "primary contractor" can subcontract up to 50% of its work). As a matter of fact, Halliburton’s construction division, Kellogg, Brown & Root, already has a contract, previously awarded from the US Army, to put out fires in Iraqi oil wells. In the article by Leigh Strope, it is pointed out how KBR has a history of overcharging for its services, and the current contract for putting out oil-well fires seems to represent another case of gross overpayment. - With dynamics such as this in plain view of the world, it is very hard for the international community to accept the moralistic rhetoric of the US regarding its invasion of Iraq: an invasion which seems to have too many economic perks for those who launched the war, to be believable as a simple crusade for justice.
April 2, 2003: LIES ON THE ROAD TO WAR. "Bush’s Ever Shifting Absolutes: Let Us Count the Lies on the Road to War", in The Village Voice, p.36, by Sydney H. Schanberg. An article which argues that Bush used lies to manipulate the American people into this war. It has a good little summary of the forged documents from Niger which were supposed to "prove" the existence of an advanced nuclear weapons program in Iraq: papers which such high administration figures as CIA chief George Tenet and Secretary of State Colin Powell passed off as legitimate, in their effort to try to build support for the war. The main point of the article - rather poignant, in fact - is to call on politicians to be honest with their people, and not to leave them out of the political process, by keeping them in the dark about what is really going on. What a shame that it even needs to be said. Schanberg writes: "Most of the time [when political leaders lie to us] it’s a cynical device to get us to embrace a course of action we wouldn’t otherwise touch with a barge pole… He [Bush] has to start by talking to the voters as his partners, not as his subjects."
April 2, 2003: THE DIXIE CHICKS AND FREE SPEECH. "Bush’s Voice Of America: Pro-War Media Conglomerate Tries To Take Over New York", The Village Voice, April 2-8, 2003, by Wayne Barrett, p. 22. The article describes how "Texas-based media colossus" Clear Channel Communications, has been sponsoring pro-war rallies, and pulling songs by performers deemed to be "anti-war" off of the airwaves. Prominent among its victims are the Dixie Chicks, who are being punished for lead-singer Natalie Maines’ comment to fans, in London, that "We’re ashamed the president is from Texas." This giant corporation, which also directed a ban against 158 "offensive songs" after 9/11, including "Walk Like An Egyptian" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water" [????], appears to be trying to gain more influence in New York City, now, operating not only five stations, here, but also winning contracts for many billboard and digital-display-advertising venues. Of course, Barrett is trying to alarm readers about the growing influence of this highly politicized corporate giant, with links to the Republican Party and President Bush (its Vice Chairman, Tom Hicks, "made George W. Bush a multimillionaire by buying the Texas Rangers from him"), especially considering its apparently light regard for "freedom of speech." Their MO seems to be "let the American public listen to our point of view, ONLY"; and, "disagree with our political views, and we’ll do our best to destroy your livelihood."
April 6, 2003: SHOULD CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES HEED THE CALL IN IRAQ? The New York Times "Week in Review", 4/06/03, p. 14, by Deborah Caldwell. Many US evangelical groups are planning to move into Iraq to do charitable humanitarian work in the wake of the war, but also to preach the Christian gospel in this Muslim country. "Material aid and Jesus," though they try not to put it that way. Abdulaziz Sachedina of the University of Virginia says: "The Iraq war is being interpreted in religious terms by Muslims around the world as a war against Islam, and this is very dangerous." How will it seem to Muslims, to see, directly after a native Arab regime is knocked out of power by a Western Christian nation, that large numbers of humanitarian workers sent to rebuild the country are also trying to "take away" the Muslim religion? It will seem as though a military invasion is being followed by a cultural one. Franklin Graham, the son of renowned American evangelical preacher Billy Graham, is planning to send in Samaritan’s Purse, his relief operation, as soon as possible. This very same Franklin Graham, who delivered the invocation at President Bush’s inauguration in January 2001, has called Islam a "very evil and wicked religion." While Reverend Jerry Vines, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is also planning to get involved in humanitarian work in Iraq, has called Muhammad, the great prophet of Islam, a "demon-possessed pedophile." What kind of public relations disaster in the making is this? The fact that President Bush is closely associated with evangelical Christian groups is likely to make it seem that the proselytizing of these private Christian groups is actually part of an American political program for dominating the Muslim world, and conquering it in all possible ways: politically, economically, culturally, and spiritually. It is likely to be seen as a particularly virulent manner of disrespecting Islam - and likely to increase resentment against America.
April 6, 2003: US POLITICAL BEHAVIOR IN THE WAKE OF THE WAR. Two articles deal, if rather tentatively, with what the future course of the US will be in the world, as a result of this war. "Viewing the War as a Lesson to the World", The New York Times, p. 1, by David E. Sanger, and "As Saddam Hussein’s Regime in Iraq Disintegrates, Bush Faces Critical Choices Over US Role in World: After War, American Must Decide What Kind of Power to Be", The Wall Street Journal, 4/10/03, by Carla Anne Robbins and Neil King Jr. The basic points are will the US continue to pursue its preemptive tactics in taking on other nations such as Iran, Syria, and North Korea? Or will it use diplomacy and other methods to accomplish its political goals? Will the "lesson" the world has learned as a result of what the US did to Iraq inhibit other nations from challenging US supremacy, or developing weapons of mass destruction, or will it have the opposite effect of spurring them on to develop nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons of their own, as a desperate measure to protect themselves against the perceived threat of a dangerous and aggressive new America?
April 8, 2003: DOES THE US MILITARY WANT TO KILL JOURNALISTS? By Robert Fisk, The Independent, 4/08/03. On that same date, see, also: "Growing Number of Journalists Killed in Iraq War", ABC Online (Australia); and a letter from the Committee to Protect Journalists to US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Although journalists in a war-time situation are always at risk, the media community expressed concern that there might, perhaps, be an effort to intimidate or punish some members of the independent press (those not embedded with US military units, or providing favorable commentary to the US war effort). Whereas the evidence may not be conclusive, some journalists complain that a vehicle carrying a British film crew, which was clearly marked, was fired upon by Coalition troops, resulting in the death of three people. Besides this, a US army tank in Baghdad fired into the Palestine hotel which was known to be a major base for journalists, resulting in several casualties. The US military reported that it was responding to rocket and rifle fire coming from the hotel, but numerous eyewitnesses contend that there was never any such fire, and, in fact, the footage journalists from the hotel were taking at the moment of the US attack does not contain any signs or sounds of an attack previous to the tank firing upon the hotel. The Baghdad office of al-Jazeera, the famous Qatar-based TV station which covers world events from an independent Arab perspective, was also destroyed by a missile, in spite of the fact that al-Jazeera had scrupulously made sure to provide the US with the exact coordinates of its office, and received assurances that its personnel would be safe. The fact that al-Jazeera has made a special point to portray the suffering of Iraqi civilians during the war made some feel that their operation might have been targeted, as a way of silencing a very influential alternative view to what was going on in the war. This theory was given weight by the fact that in 2001, as the US was in the process of driving the Taliban out of Afghanistan, al-Jazeera’s office in Kabul was, likewise, destroyed, that time by an American cruise missile. - Once again, this evidence may not be conclusive, and yet, it is enough to make many people working in the independent media wonder exactly what is going on.
April 8, 2003: IRAQ: CIVILIANS UNDER FIRE. Amnesty International report, AI index MDE 14/071/2003. This report by the world-renowned human rights organization expresses concern for the plight of civilians in Iraq as a result of the war. It does mention the dangers posed to civilians by the tactics of the Iraqi military - tactics which have already been widely discussed by US leaders and the media, including the positioning of weapons and troops in residential areas, and the use of mosques and schools to store military equipment. It also brings up the fact that Iraqi military personnel fired upon refugees attempting to leave Basra. The report also provides detailed information which is not widely disseminated by the US media. One of the most disturbing details mentioned is that the US has apparently been utilizing cluster bombs in its attacks on Iraq, sometimes over residential areas. Cluster bombs are canisters dropped from the air, each of which may scatter 200 or so small bomblets contained within, each about the size of a soda can, spraying an area the size of two football fields with a deadly rain of shrapnel. A percentage of the bomblets routinely fail to explode, and remain behind on the ground -"de facto anti-personnel mines" - which continue to represent a danger to anyone in the vicinity. In one community hit by cluster bombs, al-Hilla, Amnesty International reports that there were "babies cut in half and children with their limbs blown off. Two lorry-loads of bodies, including women in flowered dresses, were seen outside the hospital. Injured survivors told reporters how the explosives fell ‘like grapes’ from the sky, and how bomblets bounced through the windows and doors of their homes before exploding." Amnesty International gives more information about civilian casualties, including the death of 62 people in a Baghdad market on March 28, due to an American missile. At first, the US and British governments sought to pin the blame on a misfired Iraqi antiaircraft missile. But later, the remains of a missile’s serial number were found at the scene, "identifying it as one manufactured in Texas, the USA, by Raytheon, the world’s biggest producer of ‘smart armaments’, and sold to the US Navy." Besides incidents of this nature, the report stresses the humanitarian dangers produced by attacks on infrastructure which is essential to the survival and well-being of civilian populations. In other words, even without dropping a bomb directly on a civilian, you may kill him by breaking down the services which he needs to live. In the case of Basra, the destruction, by bombing, of Iraqi power plants made it impossible for the city to continue pumping clean water through the city, which forced over half of the 1.2 million inhabitants to begin to drink " ‘garden water’ normally used for irrigation, which is not safe to wash in, let alone drink." The risk of epidemic was deemed outstanding. Amnesty International goes on to say: "Heavy shelling of the center of Basra has also contributed…to paralyzing fear. Residents have reported that houses have collapsed after shells landed in or near residential areas; in some areas the houses are so old that they collapse because of the vibration and shock of the explosions. ‘If we stay inside, we’re afraid the house will collapse; if we go out we may be hit,’ 42-year-old Kasim told a journalist." - It is important not to lose sight of this dimension of the war, which Americans tend to dismiss as "enemy propaganda", whereas it is only the truth of what war is really all about, and why it should always be a "last resort", not in words, only, but in reality.
April 11, 2003: TESTS POINT TO DOMESTIC SOURCE BEHIND ANTHRAX LETTER ATTACKS; ARMY REPRODUCTIONS HURT THEORIES OF FOREIGN CULPRIT. The Baltimore Sun. The US Army has concluded that the anthrax which was used to terrorize America in the fall of 2001, was most likely produced by "simple methods, inexpensive equipment and limited expertise", not requiring the financial or scientific backing of any foreign state. Although those anthrax attacks were never openly blamed on Iraq, they helped to make the threat of biological terrorism seem more real to the American public, and helped to bolster the Bush administration’s arguments that states such as Iraq, with biological weapons programs, must, in cases, be dealt with severely, in order to prevent them from providing terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida with "weapons of mass destruction." Given the fact that many Americans erroneously believe that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, it seems likely that, in their minds, he was also considered responsible for, or in some way linked to, the anthrax attacks of 2001. It is interesting to note that the anthrax which was used in those attacks was derived from the Ames strain, which is a form of anthrax used by the US military in its "biodefense" program.
April 11, 2003: PANDORA’S BOX BEGINS TO OPEN? The AFP (Agence France-Presse) writes: "Indian Defense Minister Joins Pakistan Preemptive Strike Chorus." I have always maintained that the US invasion of Iraq is opening a terrible Pandora’s box, and here is one example. In the ruins of international law which that invasion has left in its wake, other nations may now seek to justify their aggressive or unwarranted military actions as merely "following the example" set by the US. India and Pakistan, as most know, have long been embroiled in a dispute over the territory of Kashmir. India blames Pakistan for supporting Muslim rebels in that region. Recently, Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha said that India has "a much better case to go to war for preemptive action against Pakistan than the US had in Iraq." And he cited that Pakistan has weapons of mass destruction and is supporting terrorists. Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes agreed, claiming that Pakistan was a prime case for preemptive strikes. As both Pakistan and India are nuclear powers, this leads one to wonder what could result.
April 12, 2003: DANCING IN THE STREETS: IRAQ LIBERATED, BUT DO THE IMAGES TELL ALL? US TV news on April 9, 2003, was filled with images of jubilant Iraqi crowds in Baghdad, welcoming and greeting American troops, hugging them, kissing them, and cheering them; dancing and celebrating in the streets; stomping on or striking portraits of Saddam, and pulling down his statues. These were images that seemed to back up the US administration’s claim that this was a war not only to protect the lives of Americans, but to liberate an oppressed people from a terrible dictator. It was sure to leave supporters of the war feeling vindicated. However, what these images lacked was context and perspective. On the April 9 edition of the French TV’s evening news, Le Journal, some vitally important context was added: first, the jubilant crowds were mainly Shiites, members of a branch of Islam which has felt oppressed and dominated by Saddam’s predominantly Sunni-run regime. In Iraq, the Shiites are a majority (comprising perhaps 60% of the population), but not the only force to be considered. Second, some members of the celebrating crowd said that they were against Saddam because he was "an enemy of God." If they hated Saddam because they saw him as a traitor to Islam - a materialistic, self-serving man without true religious convictions, a "false Muslim" (which is how Bin Laden sees Saddam) - how will they react to a Christian occupying force in Iraq? Third, the US cameras did not show areas where people were filled with resentment against America, due to casualties and damages suffered in their neighborhoods. The French TV news did. Some of these people said that they did not believe the Americans had come to liberate them, and called them "liars" and "f****ers." An interesting article in The Wall Street Journal, "A Truce In The War At Home", April 10, 2003, by Jeffrey Zaslow, p. D1, describes how the images of the "liberation of Iraq" have affected the debate at home, among family-members and friends, concerning the justifiability of the war. Many pro-war supporters are now telling their anti-war friends, "I told you so", while some opponents of the war have retorted: "Toppling a statue is not living happily ever after"; and, "We’re hearing from the ones who are happy today. The ones who are angry today, we’ll hear from in the years to come." Reuters, in a wire from April 12, 2003 - "US Troops Try To Quell Anarchy In Iraq" - chronicles the anarchy and chaos that has resulted from the dissolution of the Iraqi state in Baghdad, Basra, and other locations, and reports the ill feelings that have already been generated from that - a clear sign that acceptance of the US, if it is even possible, will depend upon its "performance" over the long haul. The euphoria of one day will not last. A resident of Kirkuk is quoted as saying, "If the Americans are liberating us, let them restore order because this has been as bad as any two days of my life with Saddam." Besides looting former government offices and even hospitals, and taking advantage of lawless conditions to carry out vendettas against their enemies, some Iraqi looters have "ransacked the Iraqi National Museum, smashing display cases to grab treasures dating back thousands of years to the dawn of civilization in Mesopotamia", stealing billions of dollars of artifacts, and a part of their collective history. "In some well-to-do neighborhoods" of Baghdad, the article continues, "locals formed armed vigilante groups to protect their personal property, kicking and punching anyone suspected of plundering goods. A group of protesters demonstrated in the city center over the breakdown of law and order. ‘The Americans replaced the regime and security is part of their responsibility,’" one of the protesters said. While an Arab from Kirkuk, a city "liberated" by US-backed Kurds, said, "I’m liberated now? What’s been liberated? The Kurds came and stole anything they cold get their hands on, killed, pulled people out of their cars…" Hopefully, the US and Britain will soon restore order to the "liberated" nation; then, they will have to deal with the longer-term issues of poverty and ethnic strife which have led to the chaos in the first place. As a final cautionary note to the concept that Iraq is uniformly "joyous and grateful" to have been "liberated" by Coalition forces, reference may be made to an article sent out over the Internet, earlier this year, by Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery. Following are excerpts from his piece ("Bitter Rice: Some Thoughts About The War"): "Beware of the Shiites. The troubles of the occupation will start after the fighting is over. Here is a personal story and its lessons: On the fourth day of the 1982 Israeli attack on Lebanon, I crossed the border at a lone spot near Metulla and looked for the front, which had already reached the outskirts of Sidon. I was driving my private car, accompanied only by a woman photographer. We passed a dozen Shiite villages and were received everywhere with great joy. We extracted ourselves only with great difficulty from hundreds of villagers, each one insisting that we have coffee at their home. On the previous days, they had showered the soldiers with rice… A few months later I joined an army convoy going in the opposite direction, from Sidon to Metulla. The soldiers were now wearing bulletproof vests and helmets, many were on the verge of panic… What had happened? The Shiites received the Israeli soldiers as liberators. When they realized that they had come to stay as occupiers, they started to kill them… When the Israeli troops entered Lebanon, the Shiites were a down-trodden, powerless community, held in contempt by all the others. After a year of fighting the occupiers, they became a political and military power… When [the Iraqi Shiites] realize that the Americans intend to stay, they will start a deadly guerrilla [war]… then what? America will argue that Iran, the great Shiite neighbor, is behind the Shiite guerrillas. In Iran there is a lot of oil. That is the next target…" Clearly, the celebrations and toppling of Saddam’s statues do not mean that America is destined to be loved by the Iraqi people. The images of April 9th tell a part of the truth, but not all of the truth; and it could be a transitory truth. America, don’t misread what you’ve seen. There’s a lot going on to the side, and beneath the surface, of those "vindicating" images.
April 18, 2003: IRAQIS DEMONSTRATE VS. US OCCUPATION. Associated Press. Thousands of Iraqis - both Shiites and Sunnis - demonstrated, in Baghdad, against the US occupation of their country. Sheikh Ahmed al-Kubeisy’s comments that US troops should leave before they are expelled, delivered at a speech after morning prayers, drew cheers of "Allah Akbar" ("God is Great") from the crowd. Meanwhile, a medical laboratory in the city was looted before US marines could be assigned to guard it. Cultures of HIV, cholera, and polio, among others, disappeared, leading to fears that they could fall into "the wrong hands", if not set off epidemics due to mishandling by the looters. A lack of basic services - electric power, clean water, and police protection - continues to plague the city, enraging large sectors of the populace, who blame the US for not taking adequate measures to provide security and restore these services in the wake of its invasion.
April 29, 2003: SOLDIERS FIRE AT IRAQI PROTESTORS. Reuters. 13 Iraqis were reported killed, and 75 wounded in Falluja, when a demonstration of Iraqi residents marched on a school occupied by US troops, and the troops opened fire. The school is being used by a unit from the 82nd Airborne Division as its barracks, and versions of the incident differ. US forces claim that the demonstration had been infiltrated or inspired by Saddam loyalists, and report that gunfire was directed against them by individuals from within the crowd; they say that they exercised their legitimate right of self-defense when they fired back. Some Iraqi witnesses claim that no one in the crowd was armed, while some others claim that there were some weapons, but that they were being fired into the air in celebration (it was Saddam’s birthday). For some participants, the demonstration was an act of defiance and rejection of the US invasion, while for others, its primary purpose was to demand the marines find another place to stay, so that their children could go back to school. In the chaos that followed, members of the demonstration as well as neighborhood residents going to and from their homes, were hit by gunfire. The incident highlights the dangers of this kind of war, where soldiers are sent in to occupy and control a country whose culture and people they do not fully understand, sometimes leading to that deadly combination of tension, fear, and a lack of clarity about what is going on, and how to respond, which can lead to the death of innocent civilians, and the breakdown of relations between the occupier, and the people he hopes to win to his side. Whatever the truth of this incident [and another similar one occurred shortly afterwards in Falluja], anger and distrust were the final byproducts. For the Iraqi on the street, it became that much harder to perceive the Americans as well-meaning "liberators" of their country, when confronted by the sight of dead Iraqi civilians gunned down in front of a school during (what they said was) a "peaceful demonstration." Said one eyewitness: "[The Americans are] stealing our oil and slaughtering our people." While another exclaimed: "The Americans are the enemies of God." These images and comments will have an impact not only in Iraq, but also throughout the Arab world, where al-Qaeda is hoping to use the US occupation of Iraq to embellish its portrayal of America as a ruthless aggressor-nation, which all Arabs must unite to defeat.
May 7, 2003: BYRD BLASTS BUSH FOR ‘FLAMBOYANT SHOWMANSHIP’ WITH CARRIER SPEECH. By Sean Loughlin, CNN.com. On May 1, 2003, President Bush, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat of a navy jet, and wearing a military flight suit, was flown aboard the US aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, where he gave a nationally-televised speech declaring victory, and the end of major combat in Iraq. The White House said that the Abraham Lincoln was chosen as a venue for the speech in order to honor America’s fighting men and women who had achieved the victory, and insisted that the dramatic landing in a military aircraft was necessary due to the fact that the carrier was beyond the range of helicopters, which would have been the usual form of presidential transport under such circumstances. (However, it was subsequently discovered that the carrier had, in fact, been within helicopter range.) Many witnesses of the event criticized it as an inappropriate and offensive spectacle - an "elaborate and expensive photo opportunity for a president up for re-election next year" - including the Senate’s senior Democrat, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who said: "President Bush’s address to the American people announcing combat victory in Iraq deserved to be marked with solemnity, not extravagance; with gratitude to God, not self-congratulatory gestures. American blood has been shed on foreign soil in defense of the president’s policies. This is not some made-for-TV backdrop for a campaign commercial… As I watched the president’s fighter jet sweep down onto the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, I could not help but contrast the reported simple dignity of President Lincoln at Gettysburg with the flamboyant showmanship of President Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln…" Stating that he believed a "salute" to American troops was appropriate, Byrd went on to say: "I do question the motives of a desk-bound president who assumes the garb of a warrior for the purposes of a speech." [JRS: For me, as I observed President Bush's arrival in a fighter jet, I could not help but be reminded of a young boy playing "soldier." I saw the psychological dynamics of someone who wants to be a hero, and feel proud and strong, but uses other people, and the real world (no longer the fantasy world of childhood), to build up this inner sense of "manhood." I thought back to some lines from Bob Dylan’s "Masters of War": "…You play with my world/Like it’s your little toy…You fasten the triggers/For the others to fire/Then you set back and watch/When the death count gets higher/You hide in your mansion/As young people’s blood/Flows out of their bodies/And is buried in the mud." And I also thought back to the days of Native American chiefs, who never asked of others what they had not done, or were not willing to do themselves. In one case, a 70-year-old Mimbren~o Apache war chief, Mangas Coloradas, led his troops into a fight against enemy soldiers. "In the running fight which followed, Mangas was wounded in the chest, falling unconscious from his horse." It wasn’t enough to kill him, however. "Some months later Mangas was back in his Mimbres Mountains, wearing a broad-brimmed straw hat, a sarape, leather leggings, and Chinese sandals that he had acquired in Mexico. He was thinner and his face more wrinkled than before, but he could still outride and outshoot warriors half a century younger than he." From Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, p. 196,197. I thought: visions of leadership have surely changed. And I had to agree with those who found the president’s efforts to take on the appearance of a warrior, far from the battlefield, as an affront to the real fighters, of both sides, who were actually paying the price of his "game."]
May 19, 2003: EL BARADEI WARNS OF IRAQ NUCLEAR EMERGENCY. By Louis Charbonneau, Reuters. One of the main official justifications of the US invasion of Iraq was to deny terrorists access to weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam Hussein was said to be willing to share with them. Now, however, the US invasion may be increasing the risk that deadly weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists. Mohammed El Baradei, the International Atomic Energy Chief, has faulted the US for not properly securing various Iraqi nuclear sites, and in particular, the Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center, after the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s security apparatus. These facilities, involved in non-weapons applications of nuclear energy (such as medical research and technology), contain many deadly nuclear materials, such as cesium-137, which, although they could not be used to produce a genuine nuclear bomb, could be used in combination with conventional explosives to construct so-called "dirty bombs", capable of contaminating city neighborhoods, and causing heavy casualties (from radiation) within a limited area, and possibly massive economic losses, as well. In the absence of adequate protection, looters have struck several of these sites, and dangerous amounts of deadly nuclear materials have disappeared. There is the risk that terrorists could use these materials; and/or that mishandling by looters, hopeful of a profit from the resale of these materials, might inadvertently cause radiation-poisoning in their own neighborhoods, such as happened some years ago in Brazil, when discarded medical equipment containing cesium-137 was found by junkyard "scavengers", leading to the poisoning of over 200 people. El Baradei has colored the current situation at these facilities as a "nuclear emergency."
June 2, 2003: SACKED IRAQI SOLDIERS THREATEN US TROOPS. Reuters. An Iraqi tribal chief, Riyadh al-Aradi, said: "The entire Iraqi people is a time bomb that will blow up in the Americans’ face if they don’t end this occupation." 3,000 Iraqi soldiers who lost their jobs and their paychecks after the fall of Saddam Hussein, and the dissolution of his army, protested in front of the Coalition Provisional Authority Headquarters in Baghdad, threatening violence unless they are compensated for their loss. There are 400,000 of them, and unemployed, many are now incapable of supporting their families. If their needs are not accounted for, they could prove highly responsive to funds from abroad (handled by Saddam loyalists, or by any one of various terrorist groups attempting to launch anti-American operations inside Iraq). They are trained and experienced in combat, and if large numbers of them can find no other way to support their families than by signing up to fight against the Americans, or by engaging in various forms of criminal activity, then stability in Iraq will be hard to come by.
June 9, 2003: CAPTIVES DENY QAEDA WORKED WITH BAGHDAD. By James Risen, The New York Times. Abu Zubayadah, a key al-Qaeda planner and recruiter until his capture in March 2002, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, al-Qaeda chief-of-operations until his capture in March 2003, both told CIA interrogators that Osama Bin Laden had rejected working with Saddam Hussein. Bin Laden not only considered Saddam to be a bad Muslim, and enemy of God, but did not want to put himself in a position to owe anything to a leader who he despised. Although this information was available before the US invasion of Iraq, it was never made public, as the administration continued to sell the invasion by painting Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden as partners in terror, and justifying the attack of Iraq as an act of self-defense against al-Qaeda, which was said to be receiving critical support from Saddam. For many Americans, the invasion of Iraq came to be seen as a desperate and justified measure to prevent "future 9/11’s." However, this very selective use of intelligence information - some of which was given out to the public in order to drive them towards war, and some of which was withheld, if it was thought that it could diminish the argument for war - led one intelligence official to state: "This gets to the serious question of to what extent did they try to align the facts with the conclusions that they wanted. Things pointing in one direction were given a lot of weight, and other things were discounted." [JRS: There could be no clearer indication that the terrorism-based argument to go to war was not the administration’s real motive in pushing the country to go to war in Iraq. That argument was a tool for mobilizing public opinion; most likely, geopolitical considerations, centered on the control of oil, were the real reasons. See Sept. 6, "Meacher says terrorism pretext for Iraq war was a myth."]
June 23, 2003: GUERRILLA WAR IN IRAQ. The Christian Science Monitor. This article, in its way, documents what was obvious to most experienced observers before the war in Iraq even began: that after an initial period of conventional warfare, in which the US was bound to prevail, the conflict would be likely to alter its nature and continue in the form of guerrilla warfare. The article notes that the persistence of many Saddam loyalists, the arrival of foreign fighters eager to take on the Americans in Iraq, and a huge pool of unemployed and disgruntled former Iraqi soldiers which could be turned against US forces if its basic needs are not met soon, could all contribute to the development of a prolonged and difficult guerrilla war (which is already taking shape). The article states: "This poses a Vietnam-type problem for the US military: It must root out the guerrillas from the local population without alienating that population in the process." [JRS: Under the circumstances, and given the huge gulf between cultures and religions which existed at the outset, that won’t be easy.] Wisely, the article concludes: "The sooner Iraqis become the public face of government, the sooner at least some of the resentment that fuels guerrilla warfare will dissipate."
August 11, 2003: UK SCIENTIST DEFENDED AT SUICIDE INQUIRY’S START. By Dominic Evans, Reuters. This article deals with the scandal revolving around the death of David Kelly, a British expert on Iraqi weapons, who allegedly committed suicide after he was "exposed" as the official who had leaked information to the BBC, claiming that the British government had "sexed up" the case against Iraq before the war, exaggerating the threat posed to the world by Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction" in an effort to help both the British Prime Minister and American President mobilize public opinion in support of their intended invasion. Although many wondered if this "suicide" was actually a suicide, or if the British scientist had, perhaps, instead been murdered in a government effort to silence him and prevent him (or discourage others) from revealing more politically-damning secrets, this article does not focus on that aspect of the scandal. Instead, it assumes (as most mainstream media) that Kelly did, indeed, commit suicide (overwhelmed by the pressure which the government subjected him to in the wake of his "whistle-blowing); and concentrates, instead, on the efforts of the British government to destroy his credibility; and on the testimony of scientists who knew him, and who portray him as a highly competent individual whose views deserve respect. While government detractors likened Kelly to Walter Mitty - a person prone to fantasies, "unreliable and eccentric" - Terence Taylor, a prominent scientist who knew his work, stated that "he was recognized internationally, he had a very high standing, not only in the UK but in the United States and other countries. And rightly so. His work was quite remarkable." Kelly was said to have been tenacious and astute, and was, in fact, considered the leading British expert on crucial aspects of the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons in the Middle East before his untimely death. His comments that intelligence was manipulated and hyped - that truth was sacrificed - in order to deceive the British public into supporting the effort to go to war - cannot, it seems on the basis of this latest testimony, be lightly dismissed, as the British government would have it.
August 27, 2003: AFTER THE WAR: THE CASUALTIES; G.I. DEATHS NOW EXCEED TOLL FROM WAR. By John Tierney, The New York Times. This article notes the arrival of that sad watershed in the conflict in Iraq, in which the number of US deaths incurred after President Bush’s May 1st declaration that major combat in Iraq was at an end, has now surpassed the number of deaths that occurred during those so-called "major combat operations." In other words, more US soldiers have died "after the war" than "during" it: which, of course, is only another way of saying that the war, which was essentially declared over, may really be just beginning.
September 6, 2003: MEACHER SAYS TERRORISM PRETEXT FOR IRAQ WAR WAS A MYTH. AFP. Micheal Meacher, one of the longest-serving representatives in the House of Commons in Britain’s Parliament, as well as a former minister of the environment for the British government, accused the U.S. of using terrorism as "political myth propagated to pave the way for a wholly different agenda of…" developing "world hegemony, built around securing, by force, command over the oil supplies needed to drive the whole project." While he does not believe the US administration planned the 9/11 attacks, as do some conspiracy theorists, he believes that it ignored clear warnings from foreign intelligence sources that terrorist attacks were imminent, and that it failed to respond rapidly and effectively to those warnings. Once the attacks had succeeded, he said, US officials seized upon them as a means of harnessing the public’s fear and outrage to mobilize support for their own project of projecting US military and political power more deeply into the Middle East (this was achieved by inaccurately associating al-Qaeda with Iraq in the public’s mind, thus providing a "bogus cover" for attacking Iraq, and gaining control of its oil fields). According to Meacher, the plan to take out Saddam, and project US power into Iraq, predated the 9/11 attacks, and can be discerned in a neo-conservative document entitled "Rebuilding America’s Defenses", which was written in 2000. [The document was written by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a conservative think tank and policy-advocacy group, including many figures who were to become prominent members of the Bush administration - among them, Dick Cheney (Vice-President), Donald Rumsfeld (Secretary of Defense), Paul Wolfowitz (Deputy Secretary of Defense), Eliot Abrams (National Security Council member) and Richard Perle (former Chairman of the Defense Policy Board). This group worked actively to overthrow Saddam Hussein before 9/11, supporting armed Iraqi groups opposed to Saddam which, it was felt, would be more supportive of US policies in the region (however these rebel groups had little success); after 9/11, of course - once the US public had been misled to believe that Saddam was somehow connected to terrorist strikes within the US - the administration (spearheaded by the PNAC) was able to bring the entire military force of the US to bear against Saddam, and to achieve the regime change it had been planning all along. For more on the PNAC and "Rebuilding America’s Defenses", see http://newamericancentry.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf (their web site), or http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article3249.htm , which contains a summary and critical analysis of the document.] US officials have responded to Meacher’s comments by calling them "fantastic allegations" and added that they would be "monstrously offensive, if they came from someone serious or credible."
September 6, 2003: MANY BELIEVE IN SADDAM, 9/11 LINK. Associated Press. According to a recent Washington Post poll, nearly 7 out of every 10 Americans believes that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the September 11 attacks. [JRS: This is a view which no intelligence community or government, throughout the world, including America’s, holds; nor is there any credible evidence (although the US govt. argued otherwise) that Iraq and al-Qaeda cooperated in any other terrorist attacks, at any other time, or in any other place. Nonetheless, the efforts of the US government to link Saddam with terrorism have, apparently, rather effectively confused and misled the American public. It is no small wonder that a majority of the American people supported the President’s decision to attack Iraq, given the powerful misperceptions which were planted into their minds - which this poll reveals. All this leads one to rethink the meaning of democracy. Does a political system still merit the name of democracy, when its people are fed false information by elected leaders, and lured to base their apparently "free" decisions upon lies and distortions? Isn’t this just another way of taking the control of a society away from the people, and concentrating power in the hands of those who have the ability and position to create and reshape information to suit their own purposes? Some serious issues, related to the long-term survivability of our democratic ideals, are raised by these events.]
September 7, 2003: IRAQ BOMBINGS POSE A MYSTERY U.S. MUST SOLVE. By Eric Schmitt, The New York Times. This article deals with the increasing violence which is developing in Iraq, including daily attacks on American forces, as well as bombings of the Jordanian Embassy, the United Nations Headquarters, the Baghdad Police Headquarters, and the Imam Ali Mosque at Najaf - all "highly visible targets that were involved in the efforts to rebuild Iraq." [More on the highly destabilizing possibility of violence between Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims appears in "Gunmen Attack Baghdad Mosque", by Jeffrey Fleishman, of The Los Angeles Times, Sept. 6, 2003. It details the car-bombing of the Shiite mosque at Najaf and the assassination of the Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr Hakim, as well as a subsequent attack against the Qiba (Sunni) Mosque in Baghdad by a band of gunmen. If a civil war between the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam were to break out in Iraq, it would make reconstruction efforts all the more difficult - if not impossible.] The article goes on to report the probable arrival, in Iraq, of "foreign fighters" with expertise in terrorist and guerrilla activity, as Islamic militants seek to move into the arena to take a leading role in the resistance against the Americans, and to push their own agendas in Iraq. As Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez is quoted saying in "Mixed Views of 9/11-Iraq Link", Associated Press, Sept. 8, 2003: the American presence in Iraq has become "a terrorist magnet." [JRS: It has become a place where anti-American forces are concentrating in order to gain credibility and stature by fighting the "satanic invader", the "Christian Crusader" and "colonizer", as our country is seen by them. The sad fact is that by invading Iraq, we have made it easier for anti-American militants to portray us in that way, and to "rally their troops." Iraq is likely to become a breeding ground of terrorists in the future; and the final result of our operations there may be to put us more at risk than ever.]
October 3, 2003: NO ILLICIT ARMS FOUND IN IRAQ, US INSPECTOR TELLS CONGRESS. The New York Times. David Kay, the U.S. government’s chief weapons inspector in Iraq, said that no illegal weapons had yet been found in Iraq, 4 ½ months after the US invaded Iraq because of its alleged possession of such weapons. He went on to state that this was not the final report (the search for the weapons will continue), and also said that he believed the Iraqi government had some interest and capacity to develop such weapons. [Critics of the war saw this confession as evidence that the weapons-of-mass-destruction issue was a pretext cooked up by the Bush administration in order to justify its invasion of Iraq, which was launched for other reasons (see Sept. 6, "Meacher Says Terrorism Pretext For Iraq War Was A Myth.") The administration would later attempt to put a positive spin on Kay’s report, by emphasizing his comments that the search was still going on, and that the Iraqi government had "some interest and capacity" to develop such weapons. But this is very different from the way things were originally represented as the war was being sold to the American and British public - at that time, the threat was described as immediate, and Saddam was described as capable of launching deadly chemical and biological attacks at a moment’s notice.]
October 11, 2003: IRAQ SHIITE ANGER RAISES NEW FEARS FOR U.S. SOLDIERS. By Ian Fisher, The New York Times. A funeral for two Iraqis allegedly shot by US troops turned into an anti-American demonstration in Sadr City (formerly Saddam City), a major Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad. Sheikh Abdel Hadi al-Daraji, an aide to Moktada al-Sadr, a young anti-American Shiite cleric who opposes the US occupation of Iraq, said: "America, which calls itself the supporter of democracy, is nothing but a big terrorist organization that is leading the world with its terrorism and arrogance." Sadr is particularly disturbing to American officials because of his close ties to radical Iranian clerics, his desire to build an Islamic state/theocracy in Iraq, and the presence of his powerful militia, the Jaish Mehdi, armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, which sometimes patrols the neighborhood. Although it is possible that Sadr is an isolated case, many observers are worried, because if other Shiites should start to take on similar attitudes and positions towards America, the US occupation of Iraq could become increasingly challenging. Up until now, the main force of Iraqi resistance is said to have come from Saddam loyalists, who are members of the Sunni branch of Islam. The majority Shiite population of Iraq, long persecuted, "held down", and disempowered by Saddam, was not adverse to seeing him fall - but if their initial satisfaction at seeing him removed is replaced by resentment of the culturally and religiously alien US occupying force - and if they come to believe that domination is the true agenda of the American presence in Iraq - then the conflict in Iraq is likely to take on an entirely new dimension, as a vast tidal wave of Shiite resistance is finally triggered and unleashed.
October 17, 2003: RUMSFELD DEFENDS GENERAL WHO COMMENTED ON WAR AND SATAN. CNN.com. Lt. General William G. Boykin, recently appointed as deputy undersecretary of defense, has made some comments which do not seem appropriate for an individual in his position, given the importance of perception and image in the current war in Iraq, and the paramountcy of making sure that the war on terrorism is never mistaken as being a war against Islam. Wearing his military uniform as he gave a speech to a religious group in Oregon in June 2003, Boykin said that Islamic extremists hate the US "because we’re a Christian nation and our roots are Judeo-Christians… And the enemy is a guy named Satan." While back in 1993, as he commented on a battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, he said: "I knew my god was bigger than his. I knew that my god was a real god and his was an idol." [JRS: these types of comments fit perfectly into al-Qaeda’s description of the American forces as "Christian Crusaders", who disrespect Islam and wish to trample Islamic culture underfoot, as they try to break its faith. They can only increase al-Qaeda's appeal.] Rumsfeld, however, defended Boykin, stating that "he is an officer that has an outstanding record in the United States armed forces", and defending his comments as an example of the free speech that exists in America. [An outstanding officer would recognize the primacy of the political-cultural element in the effort to "stabilize" and "reconstruct" Iraq, and would never make such provocative comments… Here, in the US, we have heard much of the fanaticism of the Islamic militants, but when individuals of high rank in our own government and military see fit to portray the conflict in terms of "our God versus their God", and "us against Satan", we must wonder who has the right to call who a fanatic?]
November 3, 2003: 16 G.I.’S ARE KILLED AS MISSILE DOWNS US HELICOPTER; DEADLIEST STRIKE ON TROOPS SINCE WAR BEGAN ALSO INJUIRES 20. By Alex Berenson, The New York Times. The headline speaks for itself. Iraqi guerrilla fighters are now bringing highly mobile surface-to-air missiles to play, opening up another dimension to an already difficult war. [Although the terrain and circumstances are different, and the effect should be somewhat less, it is still worth noting that the use of surface-to-air missiles proved to be the decisive factor in the Muslim battle against the Soviets in Afghanistan. As airmobility is denied a sense of invulnerability, one important edge held by US forces in Iraq is dulled… It should also be noted that such missiles, smuggled to other venues, could prove to be formidable tools in the hands of terrorists…]
November 3, 2003: BUSH'S $87 BILLION MESS: SPECIAL INVESTIGATION: WASTE, CHAOS, AND CRONYISM: THE REAL COST OF REBUILDING IRAQ. Newsweek. This issue devotes a considerable amount of space and time to questioning the way in which Iraq's reconstruction is being planned and executed, in the wake of President Bush's call for an additional $87 billion to accomplish that purpose. [The proposed breakdown of funds is: 65.6 billion for military operations in Iraq, since "pacification and security" are considered prerequisites to effective rebuilding; 20.3 billion in reconstruction costs, to rebuild Iraqi infrastructure and services in the wake of the war; the remainder to go to objectives in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and to support miscellaneous State Dept. functions.] The main article ("The $87 Billion Money Pit", p. 26), paints a disturbing picture of corruption and profiteering on the part of politically-connected US companies which could not only greatly reduce the effectiveness of the reconstruction effort, but also rob US taxpayers of huge amounts of money, and engender ill will towards the US among the Iraqi people. In many cases, US contractors seem to be greatly overcharging for the services they are providing. Some examples given in the article: a US firm estimated it would cost $15 million to repair a cement plant in Iraq. Local contractors later did it for $80,000. A US contractor refurbished 20 Iraqi police stations for $25 million. An Iraqi official complained that locals could have done it for $5 million. By sometimes vastly overcharging for their services, US contractors are limiting the total amount of reconstruction work that can be done in Iraq, adversely affecting the welfare of the Iraqi people in order to boost their own profits, as well as endangering the future peace. The problem is deepened by a "lack of transparency" regarding much of the reconstruction process, casting dark shadows over the issue of who gets the contracts and how, and exactly how the money awarded to the contractors is being spent. This lack of transparency could morally undermine even honest and compassionate efforts to rebuild Iraq, by allowing politically impactful suspicions of abuse to arise in the minds of the rest of the world. However, beyond that, it seems that the lack of transparency is allowing shameless, and even criminal forms of economic abuse, to actually take place. The article also mentions the prevalence of bribery and kickbacks as standard tools of doing business in postwar Iraq; as well as bringing up the existence of a glaring double standard between what US and international workers receive for their work, as compared to Iraqis. (For example: non-Iraqi security guards working for US companies make $1200 a day, while Iraq security guards get $8.33. Iraqi engineers working for a US company get $1000 a month, while US engineers get that much per day. This postwar "feeding frenzy" by US businesses in Iraq, as well as a certain basic contempt for locals which is evidenced by various forms of economic abuse and injustice, can only serve to dim the prospects for national healing and long-term peace there.
November 12, 2003: A COMMENT ON CONTINUING NEWS FROM IRAQ: It is my intention, in the coming days, to devote less time to the collection and summarizing of news stories from Iraq. This does not mean that my interest will diminish, or that yours should, only that, given the resources of this web site at the moment, it will not be possible to continue describing and analyzing events in detail on this site. The general contours of the struggle are clear from what has already been seen and written. The US has become involved in a war which did not need to be fought. In so doing, it has lost a huge amount of international credibility, tarnished its image, and put many lives at risk. Outside of our own borders, we are increasingly becoming perceived as a nation which considers itself "above the law", a nation which acts aggressively for its own benefit behind the mask of self-defense and high moral principles (but most of the world still believes that "action speaks louder than words.") We are losing friends and gaining enemies; engendering the fear that will lead other nations to attempt to develop weapons of mass destruction as their only means of curbing what seems to be our insatiable appetite and self-centered ambition; and spawning a whole new generation of terrorists by increasing the hatred and suspicion with which many view our nation. Truly, we have lost years off of our "good name", and placed the heavy burden of trying to win our reputation back upon those who follow us. It is a shame that the future may have to pay, with its blood, for our mistakes, long after we have passed from the scene.
Although some may say that spirituality should steer clear of politics, I say that war and peace - translating to life and death - are intrinsically spiritual matters, and that it is the duty of all spiritual people to think deeply upon these matters, and to seek ways of bringing peace and compassion to the earth - to this real world of ours, that is so unkind to utopias and ideals, yet still in need of healing.
I believe that, as we remain aware, alert, and engaged concerning what is happening in Iraq, and the rest of the world, it is also a time for going deeper and deeper, to the heart of this violence in ourselves and the world, as both realists and dreamers. It is the purpose of this site to work on that deeper level, and its primary resources will again be concentrated there.
For those interested in keeping up with events in Iraq, the peace movement, and the wider movement to remove from power those responsible for promoting this needless war, and to transform our society into one that is both secure and just, strong and peace-loving, I recommend a visit to http://www.moveon.org , a powerful and thoughtful activist network largely created over the Internet, whose devotion to peace is exemplary, and whose political impact is promising. And, of course, we would love to hear from you, here, at rainsnow.org., too!
Although, from time to time, as events warrant, I will speak out more on the subject of Iraq, this section will no longer attempt to fulfill a role which other sites and organizations are better constituted to fulfill…
May our world one day live in peace and understanding…
Peace & Blessings to All,
CHECK THE "CURRENT EVENTS SOUND-OFF" SECTION FOR FUTURE COMMENTARY ON NEWS COMING FROM IRAQ AND ELSEWHERE.
Current Events Sound-Off
Back To Top
Message On Iraq
Current Events Sound-Off
Rainsnow Thought Contents
Rainsnow Project Contents