Think Freely About Iraq
about Operation Iraqi Freedom
and about the
Iraq Conflict-Mitigation team &
"It is enough that a lie is believed for three days -
it has then served its purpose."
Medici, 1573-1642, queen consort and queen regent of
# 1 March 27 -
April 8. Start at bottom
2 April 9 - April
3 April 28 till now
Perhaps history will repeat itself?
Day 20 - April 8,
2003 - Yesterday, R. W. Apple, writing in the
IHT, points out that it won't be easy for the American
and British troops to portray themselves and convince the
Iraqis that they are liberators: "But they are walking
old and treacherous ground. The British commander who
seized Baghdad from the Ottoman Turks in March 1917,
General Frederick Stanley Maude, told the local
citizenry, "Our armies do not come into your cities and
lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators."
The British dominated Baghdad and what became Iraq for
decades, Apple comments dryly.
I turn to Said Aburish's marvellous book, Saddam
Hussein. The Politics of Revenge (2000) and
"What victorious Britain did produce after
the First World War was an Iraqi government which
controlled the same territory that Saddam Hussein
governs today. It confirmed those borders in 1926,
five years after it had established the Iraqi monarchy
and imported an Arab king, Faisal I, to deputize for
it while investing real authority in the British High
Commissioner. It is true that the boundaries of modern
Iraq were drawn in response to Western interests, in
accordance with the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, which
divided the Middle Eastern spoils of the First World
War between Britain and France, and later in
recognition of the British desire to control the city
of Mosul and its oil. But the core of Iraq as a place
with a people was already in existence under the
Ottoman Empire and even earlier.
The British and the new monarchy worsened the
historical problems which had always bedevilled the
country. The imported king has never been to Iraq
before the British appointed him. He belonged to the
minority Sunni sect and, above all, he ruled without
governing. Faisal himself accepted the paramountcy of
the High Commissioner and admitted that he was no more
than 'an instrument of British policy';
In 1920, just before the plans for imposing the
monarchy were finalised, the Shias rose up against the
infidel British and their plans. Because most Iraqis
wanted to be independent and free, the rebellion
eventually spread to include those Sunnis outside the
small, elite circle whom the British were promoting..
Both Muslim sects turned against the franji,
the European usurper, and the result was some two
thousand British casualties including 453 dead. The
strength of the uprising caused the British to resort
to two elements of warfare which have been copied by
Saddam in more recent times: they employed their
airforce against civilians and they used gas...It was
the British conquest of iraq which set the stage for
what is happening today." (p.5-6)
What we see these days looks frighteningly as a
déjà-vu. Ruthless power interests. Terror
against civilians. Almost complete lack of understanding
of the complex reality that is Iraq. Playing groups
against one other. Militarism combined with
'full-spectrum' dominance over the local subjects. No
democracy in sight.
I can't wait to hear that the US also installs Ahmed
Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress as a new King
Feisal. Well, there is a difference, of course, he has
been to Iraq - but left it in 1958...
Old and treacherous ground, indeed.
assessing the 'physical destruction of human beings'
April 7, 2003 -
Today's IHT informs its readers that 2,300 Iraqis have
been killed in Baghdad fighting, according to US
spokesmen. Iraq denies this. This briefing does not
mention whether it is civilians, military or both. Well,
perhaps the underlying assumption is that if they were
killed they were either regular fighters in uniforms,
paramilitaries, militaries who had changed clothes or
civilians forces put by Saddam to fight as civilians, as
Just yesterday I read in the same column with
"debriefing" notices that 18 allies in the Kurdish north
were killed by a "misaimed" US bomb sent off from a US
aircraft. It also wounded 45.
But on the next page, we get an evidence of this
incredible arrogance and insensitivity of US officials.
On Saturday April 6, US forces launched a three-hour
dramatic foray, as the IHT calls it, into Baghdad. And
then we are told, "Soldiers told reporters travelling
with them that it was difficult to differentiate between
civilians and soldiers. Brooks [Brigadier-General
Vincent Brooks at the US Central Command in Qatar]
said about 2,000 Iraqis were killed in the raid during
the fighting - which he described as the "physical
destruction of human beings."
- "It could be on the order of 2,000," he said. "It
could be more than 2,000. It could be somewhat less that
2,000. We know that it was a considerable amount of
destruction on all of the force that we encountered."
So, from one page to the next of IHT the figure of
Iraqis killed moves up from 2,300 to perhaps 4,300. A
little more or a little less - who cares? If I understand
correctly, about 2,000 Iraqis were killed in 3 hours!
That what comes with war, people say. If so, why is there
a war and who wanted it?
I ask myself how many thousands, or tens of thousands,
have really been killed by the "liberating" forces? They
have plenty of reasons, both vis-a-vis the Western
opinion and surviving Iraqis whose hearts they want to
convert, to lie about the real figures of what I, more
and more strongly, fear must have been a serial slaughter
from Day One.
reflection time and no context: the war reporter's
problems haven't changed
April 7, 2003 - A
new week begins. This is the 19th day of the war, the day
when British troops move into the centre of Basra and US
troops claim to control all major roads into Baghdad.
All I hear on BBC is descriptive, where troops are
moving, what little resistance they meet, etc. I hear no
one trying to explain, or at least make qualified
guesses, about what happens on the Iraqi side. Shouldn't
we be highly curious? It's taken three weeks to get into
Basra and about three days to get into Baghdad? I am
bewildered at reports that US troops encounter that
Is Saddam and/or his leaders dead or incapacitated?
Could there be infighting? Are people just running away
from a regime "whose days are numbered"? At the same time
as Baghdadians are now leaving the capital in their
It's all very confusing, to us all, to BBC's reporters
too. But a little more analysis, even speculative, of
these mind-boggling events that NO ONE has predicted or
even seen as a possibility would be most welcome.
In today's IHT I read a very thoughtful comment on the
role of war reporters by Julie Salamon of the New York
Times. She writes,
- "Today's television broadcasts unfold not like
narratives, edited for sense, context and continuity, but
like animated Cubist paitings with sound and multiple
images appearing simultaneously." And then she lets
Morley Safer of CBS's "60 Minutes" who covered the
Israeli-Egyptian conflict in Suez in 1956 and the Vietnam
War. "Back in the Middle Ages when I covered wars you had
reflection time - you weren't winging it. Now suddenly
you are on, and you have to say something. You can only
describe what you can see in the very, very narrow field
of vision that you have. They have a hell of a lot more
people covering these live war than we had. But we had
time to check things out."
She continues "in the Iraq war, the US policy of
assigning journalists to live with the troops, or
"embedding" them, could be seen as carrying on the
tradition of Ernie Pyke - or as a method to manage the
news and restore the sympathy between reporter and
soldier. The policy, some critics argue, is an effort to
make the press a cheerleader again for US soldiers and to
demoralize an enemy with live pictures of American
might....So far in this war, context has often become
submerged in a swamp of unfiltered detail."
I share this and feel it is very good that the
discussion of "media in war" has also become
instantaneous. We discuss the role of the media - and the
media discuss the role of the media - while the reporting
is being done. It cannot but highten the media consumer'
awareness and independent thinking as well as increase
the zapping and surfing on many and different, including
alternative channels and on the Internet.
But then she ends her analysis with a very
discouraging statement made by Michael Dobbs of the
Washington Post who was in Belgrade during the NATO air
strikes in 1999. He says, "You are an antidote to the
propaganda. It puts you in a position where you really
have to be objective and detached. You are reporting to
the country that's waging the war, but reporting among
the people who are living in it." So far, so good. But
then, "I saw the suffering of Serbian civilians and yet I
knew very well the political arguments in favor of the
war. I personally couldn't decide between those two
things. There are two sides of war, both of which are
If he had investigatedit seriously he would have known
at the time - not the least since he was there - that
almost all the political arguments of President Clinton
and Madeleine Albright were misleading, propagandistic
and embarrassingly black and white. He would have known
at the time that the Rambouillet "negotiations" was a
game to make the war possible and justify it. If not back
then, he would know it today and he would look at today's
Kosovo and Serbia and conclude that these political
arguments were false to the extent of being absurd.
He also makes the - I think mind-boggling - mistake to
see civilians caught in the war between other parties as
a party, as a "side". The civilians living in Serbia
including Kosovo were not a side in this war, they were
the victims, whether ordinary Serbs or Albanians or some
Whatever Dobbs may have thought then and now, he
clearly comes out in this statement as a self-embedded
reporter who is unable to distance himself from his
country's own militarist policies. That's what an
impartial, professional journalist should be able to do
particularly when reporting from a war where his country
is one of the sides, fighting - then as now - a war for
which there was no UN mandate.
In the good old days, Pravda would have been happy to
embed a journalist with this little integrity when it is
needed the most.
True, there is a certain freedom of the press in the
West and in the US. And true, nobody is knocking on my
door at night telling me to stop publishing thoughts and
views like these on the Internet. But isn't it
conspicuous how, repeatedly, so many of the highly
influential media people come around, at the end of the
day, as cheerleaders for the West in general and for the
US in particular no matter how illegitimate and inhuman
I am pretty sure that, if Iraq falls apart without
that much military struggle and a new US-dominated
government is installed, they'll try to convince us that
- however deplorable the casualties - the outcome
justified the means and the (illegal and immoral)
policies of George W. Bush and his regime. So will
unfold, once again, the utility rationale of the media,
the rationalisation of the policies of a leadership that
knows only military might but not diplomacy and that,
according to Senator Byrd, no longer listens.
No wonder Julie Salamon's analysis carries the
headline, Reporters get new tools to cover conflicts, but
old problems remain.
22. A little
recession on the way to World War IV
Day 19 - April 7,
2003 - Two headlines on the third page of IHT
reveals the lack of realism of the Bush regime's foreign
policy. The first one says that "Washington hopes war
will get message to other nations," written by NYT's
David E. Sanger.
It deals with US administration officials who debate
which conflict Bush will, or should, move on to when the
war is Iraq is over. (And today, judged from other news
items, the invasion fighting may be over sooner rather
It offers a little insight into Bush' more or less
sadistic mind-set. An aide comes into the Oval Office and
tells the President that Rumsfeld has just threatened
Syria and Iran. "Bush smiled a moment at the latest
example of Rumsfeld's brazenness, recalled the aide. Then
he said one word - "Good" - and went back to work."
Good? Good that he is brazen? Good that he has
threatened nations # 3 and # 4 in the midst of an
invasion of a # 2 and after bombing # 1, Afghanistan?
Good that others fear? Good for what, for whom? Sanger
explains that Bush sees Iraq as a "demonstration
There are two lines of reasoning in Washington,
according to Sanger. The hawks believe that Iraq will
serve as a warning to others who refuse to disarm on the
order of the US. The "more pragmatic wing," in contrast,
believes that this will compel countries to build
fearsome arsenals and make the costs of conflict too high
Fearsome, indeed. On April 2, Sanger says, James
Woolsey, the former CIA director, said that Iraq was the
opening of "the fourth world war" and that America's
enemies included the religious rulers in Iran, states
like Syria and Islamic terrorist groups. (Some of us
missed the Third...)
Those words stand without a comment, ending the first
The other article displays the folly and lack of
realism of US militarism or, if you have Marxist
leanings, tells of the need for the US to conduct wars:
"US hovers on brink of another recession."
Alex Berensen, also of the NYT, writes about the
abominable conditions the US economy is in. A short war
will do less harm to the economy, the seriousness of the
impending recession "appears to be rising each week the
war continues." He tells us that the US government has
swung from a US$ 237 billion surplus in 2000 to a
projected deficit of more than US$ 300 billion this year.
Whatever medicine has been applied, it doesn't seem to
work. So much about Sanger's exposé, as an
indirect comment to the Bush regime's childlike "I want
more and more and more" policies.
With military expenditures moving beyond US$ 400
billion, anyone should be able to see that militarism and
bellicose policies won't help the economic quagmire at
home. And if war serves only the Military-Industrial
Complex, MIC, then it would have to last longer for the
weapons industries to have more live tests made of their
new weapons systems. And for them to have orders of new
ones instead of those burning up in apartment complexes
and palaces in Baghdad these very hours...
By the way, on the same page of IHT we get some
interesting statistics; since the war began, 750 cruise
missiles and more than 14,000 precision-(or not so
precision)-guided munitions have been fired on Iraq. I
believe the MIC is deeply disappointed if the war is
already coming to an end.
If I was a MIC representative I would side with Mr.
Woolsey...And remember, Iraq was considered a threat to
the whole world. If its defence collapses after only
three weeks, the US may need many enemies to invade in a
row to satisfy its militaristic needs!
former airport, couldn't it be renamed Rumsfeld Airport?
April 6, 2003 -
This is the day when IHT's front page is covered with two
main, perhaps contradictory, news items; U.S. forces
secure most of Baghdad airport, underneath of which is a
huge photo from the Iraqi Television showing Saddam
Hussein in military uniform visiting a residential area
in Baghdad on Friday (April 4).
BBC's correspondent confirms that, to most he has
talked with, it is Saddam Hussein. The other headline
says that 'Defiant Iraq officials warn of
nonconventional' arms' - a reference to the uniquely
self-congratulatory Iraqi Minister of Information
Mohammed Said Sahhaf's talk about 'some kind of
martyrdom' to attack US soldiers at that airport. US
commanders are quoted as saying they are surprised of the
relative ease with which they have secured most of the
At this moment in the war it seems to me that things
are more confused than ever. Three weeks of resistance in
Basra and shocking resistance elsewhere on the way to
Baghdad. Losing a jewel like the Saddam International
Airport must be a psychological blow to everyone in
Baghdad. How could it be this lightly defended? Is this
part of an Iraqi surprise strategy or the beginning of
the end of the resistance?
By the way, I wonder what they will call this airport
from now on. When the American forces took control of an
airport in the north, there was a report that its name
wash changed to Bush Airport. Why not the Rumsfeld
International Herald Tribune - a truly global
Day 18 - April 6,
2003 - On p. 4 of the weekend edition, the IHT
has an ad for itself, Think IHT. The World's daily
If it wasn't so thoughtless, it would be cute.
A quick glance through the issue will reveal that all
articles are written by journalists from IHT or New York
Times, or the Associated Press. The majority of articles
have headlines containing words such as American, US,
Bush and carries angles that reflect this bias. On the
page with the add, I read headlines such as "US-Kurd
alliance...", "US troops fan out...", "US keeps up
pressure..." and (US) GIs at [Baghdad] Airport
ask: What's next?"
Two of the three feature article authors in this
edition have e-mails with the nytimes.com domain.
Virtually all the experts giving their views on different
matters throughout the paper are - Americans.
"Truly global," as it boasts? The world's newspaper?
No, after having been taken over by the NYT alone it has
become even more provincial. Selling IHT by such slogans
is self-deceptive. Not a good job done by those who are
supposed to cover reality, the facts. If this is how the
IHT sees itself, how can I believe what it sees in the
world. Or do the people at IHT really believe that the US
is the world?
No leading daily in, say, Sweden would survive if it
was that navel-gazing.
I must turn to more decent, realistic media people
like those who run the Financial Times, the Guardian, Le
Monde, The Times of India, Al-Ahram etc. You name them -
so many are better!
19. The Iraqis
ought to be grateful: after having been destroyed by
American and British forces, they'll pay with their oil
to be reconstructed
April 5, 2003 - We
are told these days that ordinary citizens in Iraq often
tell journalists that under Saddam, at least they had
both food and water and electricity. However, Western
media - particularly those "embedded" completely ignore
the effects of he sanctions. Whatever problematic
situation they find, it is all due to the rule of Saddam
Hussein. The lack of every sense of contemporary history
with the people covering this conflict is unbrearable. I
mean, they have had 12 years to study those effects. Why
must something that calls itself the free press deny, by
omission, the fact that the problems faced by the Iraqis
are caused NOT ONLY by the present regime but also by the
west, the UN Security Council and, in particular, the US
and the UK, the liberators?
I wonder whether we will soon hear about a new Oil for
Reconstruction Programme? Be sure of one thing: the
Iraqis will keep on paying for our policies, our
sanctions as well as our war. The debt of Iraq is huge
and will only grow after the war. The people will have to
pay with their oil revenues for Saddam's wars AS WELL AS
our sanctions and our war.
You will never hear the word compensation from those
who are responsible for the sanctions and for the
devastation going on these weeks in Iraq. The Iraqis, of
course, are now free to be both happy and grateful that
the US and the UK sacrificed and liberated them. Then the
bill will be presented.
reporting is most restricted and
Day 17 - April 5,
2003 - I listen to BBC World Service these
days. I take note of the fact that when BBC journalists
report from Baghdad, we are told that they are subject to
monitoring by the Iraqi authorities. That implies
censorship. BBC does not, at least not equally
systematically, emphasise that their "embedded"
journalists are subject to restriction and monitoring as
International Herald Tribune of April 5-6, 2003 runs a
headline on top of page 2, Reporters in Baghdad are
walking a tightrope. Various BBC and CNN journalists
maintain that they are likely to only get the official
party line when they interview people in the streets and
have a "minder" with them. The implicit assumption of the
article and the people stating their opinions seem to be
this: if someone expresses support for the regime, it's
because "no one will give you the truth on the street."
The truth they know, of course, is that everyone hates
Saddam Hussein and, therefore, everyone automatically
loves the invaders, However, unfortunately, they are
saying something else, and it's because this is a country
of fear and terror, of dictatorship.
Two commentators state different opinions. BBC's
Baghdad correspondent, Rageh Omaar, says "I feel
confident that people are expressing their genuine
feelings when they say "'Well, I'm Iraqi, my country is
That is exactly my own experience with the Iraqis I
met in May last year and in January this year. Most told
me that whatever they thought of Saddam, they would NOT
support an invasion by any foreign power in their
The other dissenting voice of reason is Reuter's
Baghdad correspondent, Samia Nakhoul who hits the point,
"Before you could not leave an Iraqi hotel without a
minder. Now you can go, they are so busy they have too
many journalists to accomodate."
That again is exactly my own experience. Christian
Harleman and I could have meetings with Iraqis and talk
freely with anyone in the street, bazaars and cafes
without having a minder. Sometimes, we did have someone
who served as interpreter.
Since it is politically incorrect to have any
understanding, let alone sympathy, for the regime or its
policies, it is never mentioned that Iraq was a country
at war. For years it was being attacked almost daily by
British and American planes in the so-called No-Fly Zones
and was the object of international sanctions,
demonisation and constant threats on its very existence.
Would it be so strange if the government felt that it had
to monitor who worked in the country, who gathered what
information - in times of de facto, if undeclared,
Right under this article is an excellent one written
by Susan Sachs, In Arab media, war shown as a 'clash of
Here one can get an impression of the different focus
on the war in Arab media:
1. It is history-related.
"The Crusades and the 13th-century Mongol sack of
Baghdad, recalled as barbaric attacks on Arab
civilisation, are used as synonyms for the US-led
invasion of Iraq."
2. It focuses on innocent victims.
"Horrific vignettes of the helpless - armless
children, crushed babies, stunned mothers - cascade into
Arab living rooms from the front pages of newspapers and
3. Acknowledging that war is cruel and should be
Fahmi Howeidy is a prominent Islamist writer in Cairo
who says "War is carnage, the editors have said, so why
mute the screams or hide the entrails of the wounded and
dead? Arabs, like anybody else, don't like blood or
pictures of corpses, but it's a matter of principle that
we have a right to know what's happening, said Gasa
Mustafa Abaido, an assistant professor of communication
at Ain Shams University in Cairo. "What we see in the
media is an indirect way for the governments and the
public to reject the war."
While the general western media take the winner's
perspective (with whom the media are embedded) on the war
and thus makes war more legitimate per se and,
consequently, systematically underplay the human
suffering, Arab media reject war right away and focus on
the human suffering.
These fundamental differences go way beyond the
individual viewpoint, sentiment and bias. It's caused by
structure - the structure of the world, the structure of
the war and the structure of media in both.
Perhaps this is the first war where the media topdogs
have lost their monopoly and the underdogs fight bravely
for their specialty. In the Arab media as well as on the
Internet. I wonder when they are going to "inadvertently"
bomb Al Jazeera's Baghad offices at the river bank, the
humble rooms I visited. They bombed the Serbian Radio and
Television Station, Al-Jazeera in Kabul, they have bombed
the Ministry of Information here. In times of war,
pluralism unwanted. But truth will out!
17. The Council
of Foreign Relations is no shock but
April 4, 2003 -
Yesterday the International Herald Tribune carried a
feature article by Robert Orr, director of the Council of
Foreign Relations in Washington. He argues that the US is
weak when it comes to civilian reconstruction, while it
is immensely strong in military terms. He backs this up
by saying that
a) USAID now has less than 2,000 full-time staff to
cover the whole globe, less than a quarter of what
President Kennedy had;
b) State Department, where a great deal of the US
occupation of Japan was planned, has no operational
planning capacity at all today;
c) US foreign assistance budgets have declined
steadily since the 1960s, and now constitute a pitiful
one-10th of 1 percent of the GDP.
I ask myself, how big the megalomania that rules in
the White House? The US is obviously a civilian aid and
reconstruction dwarf but its leadership keeps on talking
about running Iraq alone or in the most benevolent
statement with a little help from selected friends and -
to look good - the United Nations as a humanitarian
Robert Orr is an excellent soldier for his government
when he lists all the things the US must now get in order
to be able to finish what it has set out to do. It feels
a bit late. The list is long, banal and completely
unrealistic given the evolving situation in Iraq. He
seems to admit it to the extent that he ends by saying
that "until the hollowness of America's post-conflict
reconstruction force is recognised and addressed, there
will be no real option but to stretch military units to
do things they neither want to nor should do."
Three things does not bother the director of the
Council of Foreign Relations, it seems:
a) that the US ought to involve countries that have
the capacity which the US has neglected so fundamentally
the last 30 years;
b) that the US should not undertake a military
invasion, and should particularly not do so when it has
neither the capacity to contribute to the post-war
reconstruction nor the will to involve the UN and other
multilateral bodies; and
c) that it should under no circumstance hand over to
the military what it neither wants to, should do or is
trained to do;
d) that an occupier is obliged to care for the country
it has occupied.
The militarisation of humanitarian assistance and of
post-war recovery can lead only to a militaristic,
undemocratic and deeply authoritarian situation for the
country in question. It simply can not lead to a new
democratic and secure civil society.
The Iraqis deserve a better fate than seeing one type
of domestic militarism and authoritarianism replaced by
another one with US roots.
Had he said that much, had he exercised
that much criticism and shown that much
independent intellectualism he would of course not have
been the director of the Council of Foreign Relations in
the - formerly - democratic United States.
16. This war's
"Why?" is already forgotten - and so are
Day 16 - April 4,
2003 - Into the third week of this war, the
Why is completely forgotten. Left is only How the war is
fought and battles won and lost. It has been forgotten
that during all the debates leading up to this war, the
official US position was that this was not about regime
change but about weapons of mass-destruction, inspections
not being successful, about the risk of terrorism and
about preventing Iraq from acquiring a WMD capacity large
enough to threaten the world.
The media are surprisingly low-key on analysing why no
WMD has been found in any of the cities now under the
Well, we knew that in reality the Bush administration
aimed at regime change. The fact that that is what the
war is fought for seems to imply that that goal - a clear
violation of both international law and the UN Charter -
has gained legitimacy through the sheer exercise of
It may be true that war is always cruel and that
civilians have to suffer. That's the how. Today's media
coverage has, by and large, accepted that "the Coalition
members have to hurt and kill now they are in Iraq," but
that must not explain away the essential question "why
did the coalition members have to go to Iraq?"
The "embedded" coverage MUST lose that perspective,
precisely to be embedded. You can't be with the US or UK
forces and fundamentally question their being there.
How and why the conflict turned into war is totally
left out of the media's perspectives. In this war too.
15. Why are
there no civlians north of An Najaf? And if there are,
why are they all dead paramilitaries?
Day 15 - April 3,
2003 - In International Herald Tribune of
April 2, Jim Dwyer who is "embedded" with the 101st
airborne division near Al Hillah, reports, "It was
possible Monday [March 31] to drive 50 kilometers
north from An Najaf toward Baghdad and not see a single,
living person other than U.S. soldiers." The road is
littered with the hulls of pickup trucks and taxicabs
fired on by the U.S. forces. Then he writes - kind of
casually - "As for the occupants of several of those cars
- targeted as paramilitary forces loyal to Saddam Hussein
- their bodies were sprawled on the ground nearby."
This is "embedded" war reporting at its worst. Always
take sides, automatically, with the guys of your own
country, even if, as in this case, they are also the
First, one wonders where civilian farmers and sheep
herders have gone over a stretch of 50 kilometers? He
also writes that the Iraqi countryside was "all but
devoid of ordinary life on this beautiful spring
Investigative reporting would ask: where have they
disappeared, when and why? Pehaps he does not know that
families live on food rations delivered to stores all
over Iraq. They can get their monthly ration only at the
local shop in the municipality or town where they live
and have no right to a ration anywhere else. They must
have been extremely frightened when running away.
Embedded with the military he can't jump out and ask
the first civilian he sees. But my question is, does he
bother or must his perspective be that of the
Next, Jim Dwyer takes for granted - in a sentence -
that trucks and taxicabs IF TARGETED BY THE U.S. FORCES
MUST BE paramilitaries. As a reader I would like to know
how the American soldiers identify a taxi in the distance
as being filled with paramilitary people only. Dwyer also
does not bother to tell us whether he thinks it is true
or not that they are paramilitaries - which he could try
to assess by telling the age, gender or types of clothes
of at least some of those bodies "sprawled" that he
Well, why do I think they could be mostly civilians?
Why do I think the 50 kilometers were devoid of
There are two bits of texts elsewhere in Dwyer's
presumably, objective, impartial, free-press report; read
"The Americans have used more and more
military power to carry out their missions, often
inside Shiite-dominated towns, making for some grim
realities in a part of the country where there had
been little expectation of strong resistance...It was
near An Najaf, the U.S. Central Command said, that
seven women and children were killed Monday afternoon
by American soldiers..."
"The 101st's artillery strikes Monday gave the air
an off feel, almost like the skin of a drum, as
hundreds of rounds pounded off the clear, cloudless
sky. "I've got 30 cannons, and I am shooting them
all," said Lieutenant Colonel Bill Bennett, commander
of the 101st's artillery unit. I've never shot so much
in my life. I need some more bullets."
Read it again and compare with the opening statement
that there were no civilians left 50 kilometres. With
these kinds of liberators, would you not try to hide or
run away? And if you did, would you not be dead scared
that you would be considered a "paramilitary" because you
have heard that US forces and officials repeatedly state
that wounded or killed civilians are not really civilians
but soldiers dressed up as civilians? '
I for one fear that what we hear in terms of civilian
casualties is only the tip of the iceberg.
14. Everybody in
Najaf gave American soldiers a warm welcome - at least
April 3, 2003 -
Jim Dwyer of the New York Times reported yesterday in
International Herald Tribune that "the battle for the
Shiite-dominated city of An Najaf...is not yet over even
as U.S. forces have advanced northward."
But the day after, in today's Financial Times, p 2,
the forces have already entered: "Warm welcome for US
soldiers as coalition forces enter Najaf." Citizens
clapped and cheered as a company of US soldiers walked
through the center of town, we are told. But the article,
written by Charles Clover in Najaf carries only two
witnesses of this assertion, Lt Col Marcus De Oliviera
who says that the citizens of Najaf "evidently no longer
fear the bad guys who were controlling this place." The
other is one Hadi, a middle-aged man on a street corner.
Clover doesn't bother to ask who he is. Hadi is the
witness to the asserted truth about the popularity of the
invaders. The only one, unfortunately.
In the report, Hadi is the witness on two accounts. He
is the man who asks when water and electricity will come
back (Jim Dwyer does not mention why this city too
suddenly had no water and no electricity, a disaster that
happened when coalition forces advanced). And then he is
quoted as receiving the US soldiers with "We welcome
you." Clove even tells his readers that the citizens of
Najaf have been slow to come around to supporting the US
- he seems to actually have met only this one on a street
corner. He is quoted as saying that "we were all afraid
of a repeat of 1991referring to the fact that this
predominantly Shia city had been let down by the US in
Hamid is another "bystander" who says to Clover that
"we hope this time you will be serious about getting rid
of Saddam. Until now everything you have done has helped
him stay in power." Words of wisdom from a "bystander"
But, tells Clover, "not everyone was welcoming" as if
Hamid's statement was that welcoming. Ali, a Shia
clergyman, watching from a mosque along the soldiers'
route said: 'We lost all trust in America in 1991. Saddam
is evil. America is evil. We trust only Allah.'"
We are finally informed that citizens looted the local
Baath party HQ shouting "Bush, Bush, Bush" carrying off
gasoline cans, telephones and weapons.
We trust only Allah...This is a deep statement, but
Clover doesn't hear or understand it. The so-called
coalition will be forced to replace Saddam Hussein's
power structure and behave as undemocratically, simply to
hold it all together AND achieve its own interests in
oil, strategic gains and dominating control of
Totally disillusioned with Saddam, the people of Iraq
also sees no real hope in the US. Where do you turn to
when every identity is lost, your rights repressed, when
your life has been ruined by 12 years of sanctions and
you can see no hope in any direction? You turn to God, to
Allah. In the worst of cases, you turn in the direction
of fundamentalism in spite of the living in a secular
Several international heads of missions told Christian
Harleman and I exactly that as the scenario they feared
most in the wake of a war on Iraq. They had not met Hadi,
the bystander to tell them otherwise...
(Above this article, on the very same page of
Financial Times, Human Rights Watch is quoted as saying
that "it was evident from television pictures that US
forces were using artillery projectiles and rockets
containing large numbers of submunitions, or cluster
munitions, in Iraq."
No doubt, that's the kinds of things that makes Iraqi
citizens welcome US forces "warmly". Does anyone think of
the fact that a Iraqi soldier has a family, perhaps a
mother, a father, sisters and brothers and relatives who
will, no matter what they ever thought of Saddam, for
ever remember that the boy was killed by the US or the
UK, due to Bush' and Blair's decision to invade they
country? Remember, a solider is a civilian, a human
being, who by his own will or by threats wears a uniform
and carries a gun.
13. Where are
the Democrats in the US? Is it as much of a one-party
system as Iraq, or more?
April 3, 2003 -
Today's International Herald Tribune quotes a Democratic
Party consultant, Jenny Backus as saying "Democrats don't
need to do any criticism of the Bush administration right
now. The unnamed generals are doing that job for us."
Here is another
The article mentions Tom Daschle "who went almost
overnight from being a leading critic of Bush's war
policy to being, by all appearances, a strong supporter.
"I think our troops are doing an absolutely superb job,"
Daschle says and adds that he is "struck by the
extraordinary professionalism that is demonstrated every
Quite a statement - that is, until you see that he
made it on April 1, All Fool's Day.
Seriously speaking, American generals now substitute
the Democratic Party, i.e. the opposition. And Democrats
praise a war that lacks legality and US forces that
distinguishes itself by killing civilians, almost by
mistake of course, and by repeated friendly fire as we've
There is no principled criticism, there is just an
evaluation as to whether this - illegal - war is going
well or not from the point of view of the US. I am not
sure that there is more real political debate in today's
US than there were in yesterday's in Iraq. There for
instance, the People's Assembly could vote against the
idea of getting the inspectors back and the President and
his Revolutionary Command Council could overrule it. In
the US, Congress has abdicated all responsibility and the
only opposition party has handed over its opposition to
the military. Is this the country that exports freedom of
speech and considers the tacher par excellence of
12. How Europe
can win without war: learning from the US how not to do
Day 15 - April 3,
2003 - This is the title of a comment in
Financial Times by Andrew Moravcsik, professor of
government and director of the European Union programme
at Harvard University. By no means a radical, the author
offers what ought to be food for thought to EU
To match military spending of the US, the Europeans
would have to increase their military spending from the
present roughly 2 pct of GDP to more than 4 pct. They
won't accept that, he concludes and goes on to say that
the European defence schemes distract us from seeing the
real comparative advantage of Europe in world politics:
the cultivation of civilian and quasi-military power.
Europe is the "quiet superpower" that wields influence
world wide as great as the US, because:
1) EU accession holds the promise to help formerly
authoritarian states into democratic structures.
2) Europeans provide more than 70 pct of all civilian
development assistance, four times more than the US.
3) European troops provide peacekeeping, usually under
multilateral auspices, in many and different trouble
spots. EU members and applicants contribute 10 times more
peacekeepers as the US.
4) Monitoring by international institutions, supported
by Europe, builds global trust. "The Iraqi crisis might
have developed very differently, Moravcsik maintains, "if
the Europeans had been able to offer the option of
sending, say, 10 times as many weapons inspectors in, 10
5) The Iraqi crisis has shown the extraordinary effect
of multilateral institutions on global opinion. He means
the UN, of course, while the US-led war lacks
"Americans are not just unwilling but also - for
complex domestic, cultural and institutional reasons -
unable to deploy civilian power effectively. That is the
true weakness of US strategy today, for without trade,
aid, peacekeeping, monitoring and legitimacy, no amount
of unilateral military might can stabilise an unruly
world," says Moravcsik. And concludes in a manner one
would hope EU leaders would listen carefully to:
"Rather than criticising US military power, or
hankering after it, Europe would do better to invest its
political and budgetary capital in a distinctive
complement to it."
While I don't think Europe should be a complement
(only) to US policies, particularly not when illegal and
aggressive, I do believe Andrew Moravcsik hits the
essential point for the forthcoming discussion about a
stronger EU military capacity. We, not the Americans
possess - at least potentially - the main building block,
the main components of security and conflict-resolution,
namely a civilian, early warning, conflict-analytical and
violence-preventive conflict-management capacity. We are
also far more experienced peacekeepers and think in line
with the UN, still the most important framework at
humanity's disposal. But will European leaders be able to
see their own comparative strength?
And if we are not good enough at it yet - and we
certainly were not in the Balkans, in Afghanistan or in
this case of Iraq - Europeans, I am convinced, would be
more than happy to pay a bit more to see those civilian
capabilities come true.
But, he is right, they will not pay for anything that
would seek to match the military Dinosaur, the
Muscle-but-little-Brain-and-Heart of the Bush
A voice of common sense in these otherwise militarist
11. Water as a
weapon: thoughtlessness, human rights violations and
misinformation in one
Day 14 - April 2,
2003 - The front page of today's International
Herald Tribune carries a headline that catches my eye,
"Thirsty population begs coalition troops for water."
It's about Umm Qasr. "The taps have been dry since the
U.S.-led invasion began two weeks ago, and the trucks
that delivered drinking water from Basra, a city now
besieged by British forces, have stopped arriving."
There are interesting points here. The word used is
invasion; good, a spade is finally called a spade.
Second, the local people turn to the invaders for water -
the supply of which the invaders seem to have destroyed.
Third, Basra - a town we have heard now for two weeks
desperately lacking water itself, is delivering water to
The article continues, "American and British officials
blame Saddam Husseuin for sabotaging the electrical
supply that kept Basra's water pumps running." But, if
that was the case, how could Basra deliver water to Umm
"But," the article by Craig S. Smith of the New York
Times continues "many Iraqis here believe the power and
he pipes that brought them water were deliberately
damaged by the United States and Britain during the
allied invasion. Water, it seems, has become yet another
weapon in the war."
Indeed! Why should we, for a second, believe British
and American propaganda? The infrastructure was exactly
what they destroyed during the first Gulf War, and have
we have not heard that the people were thirsty before the
invasion. I was in Basra in January and I met no one who
was thirsty and although there were occasional problems
with the electricity, a few minutes here and there, there
was no power cuts of this permanent nature and no need
for the ICRC to come in and restore water to Basra.
So, why is water and electricity destroyed by the
invaders? The answer is simple, to starve out the people,
to wear down their resistance psychologically and
physically; then the gallant invaders can move in as
humanitarian agents with a big heart. This is
humanitarianism at war - a thirsty population "begs" the
merciless invaders, the merciless aggressors, who use
civilians in their warfare and humiliate them in their
struggle for the most essential of all human needs:
The article author is sensitive enough to not mention
how the US destroyed Basra's and Baghdad's water and
electricity system in the first Gulf War and it is
equally silent about the effects the sanctions have had
on precisely these sectors in precisely these cities, the
last 12 years.
The author continues to tell us that British soldiers
- remember: they have forced out all the UN and the real
humanitarian organisations to conduct their war - had
completed a water pipeline from Kuwait. "In an awkward
public relations effort, American and British forces
trucked journalists across the border from Kuwait on
Monday...the coalition, however, cancelled a planned tour
for a small group of reporters to see the water
distribution point in town, "We're still trying to win
the local population's trust', an embarrassed British
public affairs officer said."
Indeed, there may be Iraqis who are too proud to beg -
which of course comes as a surprise to soldiers who are
sent by governments who have absolutely no idea about the
culture and the people whose land they invade and whom
they profess to "liberate.". All they know is that this
Saddam is a bad guy. He is, yes, but that is kind of not
As is this ignorance was not enough, here comes the
statement of the day: "another British soldier said that
the coalition was not charging the Iraqis for the water."
We now understand how British generosity knows no limits,
like it never did in - say- Iraq in 1920 or India in
A Kuwaiti humanitarian officer comments
matter-of-factly that the Kuwaitis are paying for this
Finally, the article ends with a catastrophic piece of
misinformation. It tells that some truck drivers actually
do charge the Iraqis for the water "selling it for 5
Iraqi dinars, about $15 a litre at the official exchange
rate." Well, either the source or Craig Smith ought to do
some solid mathematics. 1 Iraqi dinar is not 3 US$, until
the war started, it took a little more than 2000 - two
thousand! - dinars to buy a single US dollar. How could
the NYT get things that wrong?
The entire article exemplifies how difficult and
contradictory war reporting is. Does it have to be? Is it
meant to be?
Is it in some parties' interest that a leading serious
newspaper conveys so much thoughtlessness to its
Oh yes, almost forgot to point it out: it's a
violation of the Geneva conventions to deliberately
destroy facilities needed by the civilian population
caught in war. Of course, no mainstream Western media
care to mention that today, while they all gave wide
coverage a few days ago to US officials who were upset
that American prisoners of war had been shown on
10. War as
usual? Serial killing must never become a serial
Day 13 - April 1,
2003 - This is an early warning! We must take
care that this war does not become business, or rather
war, as usual. It must not become a standard news item, a
part of "situation normal". It must not turn into a
serial story, soap opera, or reality show. The ongoing
coverage could do something dangerous to us, also because
the pictures are so heart-breaking that we have to
protect ourselves from this terrible reality.
As time goes by, we could get used to it, stop being
enraged by what we see. Stop protesting and marching, or
do so less and less. The war could blunt us.
The last few days, I've noticed how news of the war
has begun to fade a bit and other news gain attention.
Admittedly, other things do happen in this world, perhaps
it is only natural. But since this war has gone so
remarkably wrong both before it started and now, it could
well serve the perpetrators of this cruel invasion. But
we must keep a sharp focus.
Anger and protest is necessary for three reasons:
a) Our compassion, empathy and respect for the Iraqi
civilians as well as for the young Western soldiers who
risk and, in some cases, sacrifice their lives in this
stupid and immoral war.
b) For keeping sane in these dark times. Denial of
war's reality implies a harsh wake-up later.
c) And, it is absolutely essential for our human
ability to be constructive in these dark times, to find
ways to stop it and, when it is all over, help the Iraqis
and help foster reconciliation between the Muslim and the
Christian world, indeed heal the world after this
Never get used to war.
9. The West's
media monopoly has been broken - by the
March 31, 2003 -
This is a really interesting war. Never before have we
seen journalists so close to - embedded with - the
military, flak jacket, helmet , and all that, at the
front. But never before has there been so much
"alternative" coverage and coverage of the Arab media,
news and commentary. Al-Jazeera is well-known, of course,
but there are now many other and - great !- they are
being invited into and used by Western media, not the
least by CNN.
It's become much more difficult to fool people around
the world, also because there is the Internet (see the
News Navigator, TNN, as an example).
Many criticise CNN International for being just an
extension of the US State Department. I do not think that
is fair. Saying that does not not mean that I
think CNN is free, unbiased or very critical. But it does
offer a broader spectrum of pespectives than it did
during the first Gulf War and during the bombings of
Bosnia and Yugoslavia.
Western media should also be commended for featuring
facts and discussions about the role(s) of media in war:
the "media in the media," the conditions of war
reporting, the roles of independent channels. It is now
fairly easy to come by deliberate contrasting of views
and news that the media consumer is left to judge about
by her- or himself.
Why is that so?
Well, one would like to believe that media people in
general have learned something from their earlier
failures. And why not? Second, way before this war
started public opinion around the world was skeptical or
outright negative, and it remains so. Media that would
try to present the war as unproblematic or 'right' would
be counted out by reading and watching audiences who have
become more politically aware. We all can - and do - know
more about the world out there these days, although the
coverage in many media of foreign and global affairs has
shrunk. Zapping channels and surfing the Internet, you
see - real time - that things are not simple. You
experience how propaganda and lies are shot down almost
In addition, the pre-war propaganda by the United
States and the few political leaders who tried to
convince the rest of us about it, did not exactly
succeed. As a matter of fact, many see Bush and Blair as
pathetic, intent on not listening to any evidence or
other voices - and repeating themselves to an
Third, the war itself has gone so madly wrong. A
journalist who believed seriously in all statements made
by uniforms about this war going according to plan, would
be considered an amateur by his or her peers.
I was delighted that a jounalist from the New Yorker
magazine, attending the CentCom press briefing on the
28th, said something to the effect that "at the end of
the day what you tell us at these briefings doesn't help
us to know anything. What is the purpose, really?" -
after which all in the room applauded. Mr. Shea had an
easier task when the bombs rained down over
Something has indeed happened. The military strongest
does not stand a chance to win the media war. He could
well win the military victory but only after having
destroyed what is today known as Iraq. Then he will
lose the third battle, that for democracy and freedom
in Iraq. Hardly anyone wants occupation, forced democracy
or forced freedom.
The media stands between the events on the ground and
the rest of us who are at a distance. They will have an
even greater challenge in front of them when the weapon
fall silent - as they must at some point.
or "Gang of Four"?
March 30, 2003 -
Western media call it a "coalition". Of course, 47
countries, one-fifth of the world's countries. sounds
like a lot. Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Marshall
Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Palau, Rwanda, Solomon
Islands, you name them! You'll find all about them
However, 98,50 per cent of the soldiers come from only
the US (300.000+) and the UK (45.000+). Then comes
Australia with 2.000 and Ukraine with 500. That makes
almost 350.000, and today the US announced that it is
going to send 100.000 or 120.000 more into this war
It would be more appropriate to call the aggressors
the Gang of Four, wouldn't it?
aid for Western media consumers - or whose bad conscience
are they soothing?
March 29, 2003 -
Are there any limits to Western hypocrisy these days? The
countries that have chosen to invade, bomb and destroy
Iraq and kill its soldiers and civilians suddenly profess
to be concerned about the living conditions and basic
human needs of the Iraqi people. They had no qualms about
supplying Saddam Hussein with the weapons he used to
fight wars and "gas his own people." I suppose they also
sold him the technology for the torture chambers, the
cars, phones and revolvers for his security forces.
During the last 12 years, the United States and the
United Kingdom have been in the forefront of maintaining
the economic sanctions
that have devastated the living conditions of the
people, virtually destroyed the school and health systems
and brought Iraq, one of the world's richest countries,
down to the socio-economic level of Lesotho , to 15 per
cent of the GNP it enjoyed at the end of the 1980s. These
sanctions have crippled and suffocated the civilian Iraqi
society, humiliated the people to become beggars for food
packages, deprived them of their basic human rights and
need satisfaction, and caused gross de-development
throughout what used to be a welfare state not far behind
I refuse to believe that the humanitarian aid being
brought in now is anything but an attempt at "selling"
this disastrous war to naive or innocent people watching
television. It's both disgraceful and cynical.
It's humanitarian aid for Western media consumers.
Sadly, the US in particular seem hit by a "President"
("" since he was not elected but selected) and
secretaries and advisers who seem psychologically unable
to empathise with individual humans waiting, including on
death row, as well as with masses of innocent civilians.
Believe none of their humanitarian concerns! If they had
any left of it, they would have listened and never
started this particular war.
Have you heard one journalist ask, why this sudden
concern about humanitarian issues in the midst of war?
After all, it's easier to bring in humanitarian aid when
there is no war, isn't it? Why now, a few days after the
US forced the UN and all its humanitarian agencies to
leave Iraq and to abandon its staff's truly noble
commitment to help the Iraqi children, men and women?
6. To President
Bush, cruelty defines kindness, respect and
March 28, 2003 -
Today President Bush spoke to American war veterans. He
said "We care about the human conditions of those in
Iraq. In every way Allied forces are showing kindness and
respect to the Iraqi people." Later he also stated that
"every Iraqi atrocity has confirmed the justice and the
urgency of our cause." A few hours before two Allied
4,700-pound 'bunker busters' struck a communications
tower in Baghdad. A few ours later, Reuters brings two
stories on its front page:
die in Baghdad market
Fri March 28, 2003 03:55 PM ET
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqis said more than 50 people were
killed on Friday in an air raid they said targeted a
popular Baghdad market after the United States unleashed
some of the heaviest air strikes of the war on the
a Million Iraqi Children May Suffer Trauma
Fri March 28, 2003 01:52 PM ET - By Karen Iley
GENEVA (Reuters) - Half a million or more Iraqi children
caught in fighting may be left so traumatized they will
need psychological help, the United Nations children's
agency said on Friday.
"I suspect that some half a million children in Basra,
Najaf Kerbala and Baghdad would possibly be in need of
psycho-social rehabilitation once we go back in," Carel
de Rooy, UNICEF's Iraq representative told a news
I have met Carel de Rooy twice in Baghdad. He is an
extraordinary Head of mission of an extraordinary
organisation. He would not exaggerate the consequences of
President Bush is commander-in-chief of the US forces.
From today we know what it means when he talks about
kindness and respect. And about justice.
Today is not a good day for war
Today is not a good day for war,
Not when the sun is shining,
And leaves are trembling in the breeze.
Today is not a good day for bombs to
Not when clouds hang on the horizon
And drift above the sea.
Today is not a good day for young men to
Not when they have so many dreams
And so much still to do.
Today is not a good day to send missiles
Not when the fog rolls in
And the rain is falling hard.
Today is not a good day for launching
Not when families gather
And hold on to one another.
Today is not a good day for collateral
Not when children are restless
Daydreaming of frogs and creeks.
Today is not a good day for war,
Not when birds are soaring,
Filling the sky with grace.
No matter what they tell us about the
Nor how bold their patriotic calls,
Today is not a good day for war.
Santa Barbara, March 28, 2003
Saddam for our mistakes #2 - He bombs his
March 27, 2003 -
In that 200 mill dollar CentCom's press briefing room,
brigadier-general Vincent Brooks states that the missiles
that killed at least 15 civilians and wounded many more
in a poor market area of Baghdad yesterday could either
be one of "their own" falling down as they have no
guidance systems or a "deliberate attack" by the
government on its own people.
I have no way of knowing whether an Iraqi anti-air
missile has dropped down, but Robert Fisk's on-site
report and the pictures broadcast during the day from
that terrible scene makes me believe that this was hardly
cause by the free fall of an anti-air missile.
Common sense tells me otherwise. Saddam Hussein's
regime can not win this war by military means. Iraq can
survive - or make the war very costly to the invaders -
only if the people staunchly defend their homes,
villages, towns as well as their culture and pride.
Without this struggle Saddam would be finished quickly
and it is exactly this resistance and cultural pride the
US and the UK has miscalculated. Bombing your own
civilians would serve no purpose. If it was a deliberate
attack and it became known, people would rise against the
regime and join the US/UK forces.
But could it not be in the interest of the regime to
make it look like the Americans are killing civilians
rather than soldiers? Well, it could, but the Iraq
Body Count project tells me today that between 232
and 312 civlians have already died and Iraq's Health
Minister tells that ten times as many civilians have been
wounded. In addition we have witnessed 8 days with series
of "friendly fire" accidents and busses and schools and
apartment houses being bombed by the invaders. So there
would be little reason to cause such events deliberately.
No, I believe instead that the brigadier-general was
trying to create confusion - deliberately. Read Robert
Fisk's heart-breaking account here. I trust him more
than you, Mr Brooks!
Saddam for our mistakes #1 - He, not sanctions, caused
March 27, 2003 -
At today's press conference at Camp David Tony Blair
argued that 450,000 children have died the last five
years from preventable diseases and malnutrition due to
the character of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime. Donald
Rumsfeld said about the same yesterday. Unfortunately,
not one UN report supports this argument.
If Blair believes what he is saying, he must have
extraordinarily incompetent advisers. Alternatively, he
acts in collusion with mendacious spin doctors. See the
about the sanctions here. And be prepared for
repeated blaming of Saddam for all the political and
military mistakes the so-called coalition makes.
No journalist asked what Mr. Blair based his statement
lessons from the war - Nonviolence Security
March 27, 2003 -
One thing we might learn from the military is an "after
action evaluation "of what we all did, what worked, what
didn't work, and how in future we may improve. Activists
are impatient with basic research (and rightly so, people
are being slaughtered or about to be and what are we
going to do about it?)
It's a major task even to find out what knowledge is
available that might help us. Then it has to be put into
education and training for action. And when in action the
difficulties have to be relayed back for new knowledge or
new training to be successful. And some kind of
discipline action units have to be organised.
One approach would be a standing Global Nonviolence
Security Council --a civil society parallel to the UNSC--
at work all the time with an intelligence organisation no
less knowledgeable than the Intelligence Unit of the
It's easy to come up with ideas like this but
incredibly difficult to spend a lifetime to bring them
about. If you want to see excellent practical legislation
for a proposed U.S. Department of Peace that, if in
action would very likely have prevented the war on Iraq.
Please see the
site of U.S. Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich, Democrat
of Ohio, who is now running for President in 2004. and
click on "Peace."
You'll find seven assistant secretaries working on
most things the peace movement considers
important--including one that focuses on Domestic Peace
from violence in the family to all aspects of American
society. Another interesting provision is that the
Secretaries of State and Defense by law would have to
convince the Secretary of Peace that all nonviolent
alternatives have been exhausted before they could make a
recommendation for war to the President.
institutionalisation-problem engagement approach is, of
course, the bias of my book Nonkilling Global Political
Science (www.globalnonviolence.org.) It is a long-range
task, including asking what would have made even our
beloved hero Gandhi and heroine Kasturba and their
supporters more successful.
The task is just too big right now. But I just feel
that we are rushing from one awful conflagration to
another with a bucket of water to put out raging fires.
Yet if millions of people throw their buckets we can make
progress, but we also have to find a way to concentrate
on how to prevent the people who are starting the fires
in the first place. In the present Iraq case,
concentrating on 10 people around Bush and 10 people
around Hussein, what did we do, what could we have done,
what should we have done? And what should we be doing now
to stop the war and to restore human dignity among all
the victims including ourselves?
I admit failure. But also claim we need to keep steady
on course in whatever we are doing with decades and a
century of nonkilling scientific, educational, and
applied institutional development ahead. It cannot be
done alone or only with good will.
Neither Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Ghaffar Khan, King,
Kelly, Galtung, or thousands of martyrs have succeeded in
abolishing war, genocide, homicide, and other crude or
ingenious ways of annihilating human life. Or the
Christian Pope with all the resources of the Church to
stop the Christian Bush-Blessed Nation's Holy War on
We need to keep calm, keep focused, share and very
importantly seek adequate resources for the enormous
tasks before us. Is it not somewhat ridiculous that we
peace people beg and borrow from each other while the war
machines command billions of dollars and buy hundreds of
millions of human lives for multiple forms of
1. Basra - a
handy little public relations
March 27, 2003 -
Few outside Basra would know for sure whether there was
an uprising. And what defines an uprising? I believe
there are reasons to doubt it:
Fighting had gone on for quite some time with no
progress for the British troops. With its 1,3 million
people, Basra seemed to be a pretty big "pocket of
resistance." Presumably frustrated with the situation,
the commanders on March 25 declared Basra a "legitimate
I take that to mean that it could be pounded in a more
robust manner. That again means accepting the risk of
causing more harm and death to civilians. Now, the people
in the city were already suffering; whether on purpose or
not, the invasion and its bombardment had hit the
electricity and water system.
From my visit to Basra this January I know very well
that there were problems now and then with both water and
electricity. Basra was a sad view in many ways, a
consequence of the first Gulf War plus 12 years of
sanctions. On March 25 we heard that the poor citizens
were into their 3rd day and night without both. Something
must have happened, but no journalist asked what. Did
they believe that the citizens of Basra had no water and
electricity since the war with Iran in the 1980s or since
the sanctions began?
To pound a city of 1,3 million suffering people you
need a good public relations (PR) reason. I began to
understand what it was all about when a spokesperson for
the British Army called the local Baath party members
"fundamentalists" and when reports simultaneously stated
that regular Iraqi forces had moved around pushing
civilians in front of them as "human shields" to protect
them from British fire.
So, three public relations reasons were rapidly
a) we fight and honourable war for liberation of
civilians against cowardly Iraqi soldiers and
b) we want to bring in humanitarian aid to the people
of Basra and avoid a humanitarian catastrophe (that we
forget for the moment that have caused by our bombing and
c) we fight for and with the people rising up; by that
we help them in their liberation from Saddam Hussein; we
have a common cause in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Quite predictably, BBC World reported just a few hours
after Basra was declared "legitimate military target"
that British forces "are firing on Basra in support of
uprising" and in order to facilitate humanitarian aid
being brought in.
Night was falling and I couldn't help thinking of the
proud, good-hearted men and women I met in Basra and took
What would their night be like, how would they feel
about the assistance they would get and the promise of
humanitarian aid from those who invaded their country,
bombed their city and the day before seem to have hit a
girls' school? For 12 long hellish years no British or
American leaders had cared a bit about the consequences
of their sanctions on the people of Basra. Now, as part
of an invasion, they did.
As the media told us, it was the day when the
humanitarian aspects of the war came into focus.
On the morning of March 26, all media mentioned the
battle for Basra. But none mentioned the uprising.
Unfortunately, no one seems to have been able to confirm
that there was one and what it was like, how big and what
made people rise up. And some 500 had died - civilians,
soldiers, or both? - in battle in and around Nasiriyah;
and 15 innocent civilians were killed in a poor
residential area in Baghdad later that morning by a stray
On the 26th, CNN and others have been able to show us
pictures of soldiers delivering humanitarian aid. ICRC
has bravely brought water back to 40 per cent of its
inhabitants. They repair the damage done by the British
and American invaders who profess to be deeply concerned
about the plight of civilians under Saddam Hussein and
about avoiding civilian casualties.
I was watching and surfing to find an interview with
witnesses to the uprising or anybody who took part in it.
In vain. I see one Shia representative outside Iraq say
there was an uprising, another saying there was none and
a third saying there ought to be one. I see a headline
that Al Jazeera has reported that there was no uprising.
Reporters on different channels now begin to say that if
there was one, it was a "limited" uprising.
I am not saying there could not be reasons why some
people in Basra wanted to rise against the regime in
Baghdad. Perhaps some did and perhaps it was brutally
All we know is that all information is now biased.
Most of the immediate news on our screens come from
journalists "embedded" with the invading forces. That
can't be free media, but they will be the basis on which
many decision-makers operate from now on. Virtually every
information could, at a later stage, turn out to be
false, mistaken, propaganda or only part of a larger
truth. And it goes without saying that neither are Iraqi
So, if truth is at all possible, it lies somewhere out
there on many and different satellite channels and on the
Internet. Each one of us must search many and different
printed and electronic sources and employ our critical
common sense. Because, after all, in situations like
this, every single news bite serves a set of interests,
not a larger truth.
The media too are now at war
TFF & the authors 2003
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