RN: reader comments on Iraq bombing


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,    Dec. 23

While there is some relief that the bombing has ended, we know the killing
has not ended. It is more and more obvious that a military "solution" to the
Iraq situation is a dead end. 

In this posting, I would like to share comments and contributions from
readers. I think it is safe to say all of us deplore the bombing and
punitive sanctions being inflicted on the people of Iraq. But there are
differeing views on why the bombings took place and on what we ought to do
to promote peace. We do not need to all agree on these things, but having
some discussion beyond just denouncing the bombings would be helpful.

all the best, Jan
This is a long piece, but one which gives some insight into the thinking
behind the violence.

Here are the concluding lines, so you will know what action the author
advocates as you read the background material:

"The major priority for Arabs, Europeans, Muslims and
Americans is to push to the fore the issue of sanctions and the terrible
suffering imposed on innocent Iraqi civilians. Taking the case to the
International Court in the Hague strikes me as a perfectly viable
possibility, but what is needed is a concerted will on behalf of Arabs who
have suffered the US's egregious blows for too long without an adequate

Date: Sat, 19 Dec 1998 11:12:24
From: Bill Koehnlein <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Edward Said on Iraq Crisis / must reading

[Source: http://www.salam.org/iraq/apocalypse.html]
Apocalypse Now
by Edward Said

It would be a mistake, I think, to reduce what is happening between Iraq
and the United States simply to an assertion of Arab will and sovereignty
on the one hand versus American imperialism, which undoubtedly plays a
central role in all this. However misguided, Saddam Hussein's cleverness is
not that he is splitting America from its allies (which he has not really
succeeded in doing for any practical purpose) but that he is exploiting the
astonishing clumsiness and failures of US foreign policy. Very few people,
least of all Saddam himself, can be fooled into believing him to be the
innocent victim of American bullying; most of what is happening to his
unfortunate people who are undergoing the most dreadful and unacknowledged
suffering is due in considerable degree to his callous cynicism -- first of
all, his indefensible and ruinous invasion of Kuwait, his persecution of
the Kurds, his cruel egoism and pompous self-regard which persists in
aggrandizing himself and his regime at exorbitant and, in my opinion,
totally unwarranted cost. It is impossible for him to plead the case for
national security and sovereignty now given his abysmal disregard of it in
the case of Kuwait and Iran.

Be that as it may, US vindictiveness, whose sources I shall look at in a
moment, has exacerbated the situation by imposing a regime of sanctions
which, as Sandy Berger, the American National Security adviser has just
said proudly, is unprecedented for its severity in the whole of world
history. 567,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the Gulf War, mostly as a
result of disease, malnutrition and deplorably poor medical care.
Agriculture and industry are at a total standstill. This is unconscionable
of course, and for this the brazen inhumanity of American policy-makers is
also very largely to blame. But we must not forget that Saddam is feeding
that inhumanity quite deliberately in order to dramatize the opposition
between the US and the rest of the Arab world; having provoked a crisis
with the US (or the UN dominated by the US) he at first dramatised the
unfairness of the sanctions. But by continuing it as he is now doing, the
issue has changed and has become his non-compliance, and the terrible
effects of the sanctions have been marginalised. Still the underlying
causes of an Arab/US crisis remain.

A careful analysis of that crisis is imperative. The US has always opposed
any sign of Arab nationalism or independence, partly for its own imperial
reasons and partly because its unconditional support for Israel requires it
to do so. Since the l973 war, and despite the brief oil embargo, Arab
policy up to and including the peace process has tried to circumvent or
mitigate that hostility by appealing to the US for help, by "good"
behavior, by willingness to make peace with Israel. Yet mere compliance
with the US's wishes can produce nothing except occasional words of
American approbation for leaders who appear "moderate": Arab policy was
never backed up with coordination, or collective pressure, or fully agreed
upon goals. Instead each leader tried to make separate arrangements both
with the US and with Israel, none of which produced very much except
escalating demands and a constant refusal by the US to exert any meaningful
pressure on Israel. The more extreme Israeli policy becomes the more likely
the US has been to support it. And the less respect it has for the large
mass of Arab peoples whose future and well-being are mortgaged to illusory
hopes embodied, for instance, in the Oslo accords.

Moreover, a deep gulf separates Arab culture and civilization on the one
hand, from the United States on the other, and in the absence of any
collective Arab information and cultural policy, the notion of an Arab
people with traditions, cultures and identities of their own is simply
inadmissible in the US. Arabs are dehumanized, they are seen as violent
irrational terrorists always on the lookout for murder and bombing
outrages. The only Arabs worth doing business with for the US are compliant
leaders, businessmen, military people whose arms purchases (the highest per
capita in the world) are helping the American economy keep afloat. Beyond
that there is no feeling at all, for instance, for the dreadful suffering
of the Iraqi people whose identity and existence have simply been lost
sight of in the present situation.

This morbid, obsessional fear and hatred of the Arabs has been a constant
theme in US foreign policy since World War Two. In some way also, anything
positive about the Arabs is seen in the US as a threat to Israel. In this
respect pro-Israeli American Jews, traditional Orientalists, and military
hawks have played a devastating role. Moral opprobrium is heaped on Arab
states as it is on no others. Turkey, for example, has been conducting a
campaign against the Kurds for several years, yet nothing is heard about
this in the US. Israel occupies territory illegally for thirty years, it
violates the Geneva conventions at will, conducts invasions, terrorist
attacks and assassinations against Arabs, and still, the US vetoes every
sanction against it in the UN. Syria, Sudan, Libya, Iraq are classified as
"rogue" states. Sanctions against them are far harsher than against any
other countries in the history of US foreign policy. And still the US
expects that its own foreign policy agenda ought to prevail (eg., the
woefully misguided Doha economic summit) despite its hostility to the
collective Arab agenda.

In the case of Iraq a number of further extenuations make the US even more
repressive. Burning in the collective American unconscious is a puritanical
zeal decreeing the sternest possible attitude towards anyone deemed to be
an unregenerate sinner. This clearly guided American policy towards the
native American Indians, who were first demonized, then portrayed as
wasteful savages, then exterminated, their tiny remnant confined to
reservations and concentration camps. This almost religious anger fuels a
judgemental attitude that has no place at all in international politics,
but for the United States it is a central tenet of its worldwide behavior.
Second, punishment is conceived in apocalyptic terms. During the Vietnam
war a leading general advocated -- and almost achieved -- the goal of
bombing the enemy into the stone age. The same view prevailed during the
Gulf War in l99l. Sinners are meant to be condemned terminally, with the
utmost cruelty regardless of whether or not they suffer the cruelest
agonies. The notion of "justified" punishment for Iraq is now uppermost in
the minds of most American consumers of news, and with that goes an almost
orgiastic delight in the gathering power being summoned to confront Iraq in
the Gulf.

Pictures of four (or is now five?) immense aircraft carriers steaming
virtuously away punctuate breathless news bulletins about Saddam's
defiance, and the impending crisis. The President announces that he is
thinking not about the Gulf but about the 21st century: how can we tolerate
Iraq's threat to use biological warfare even though (this is unmentioned)
it is clear from the UNSCOM reports that he neither has the missile
capacity, nor the chemical arms, nor the nuclear arsenal, nor in fact the
anthrax bombs that he is alleged to be brandishing? Forgotten in all this
is that the US has all the terror weapons known to humankind, is the only
country to have used a nuclear bomb on civilians, and as recently as seven
years ago dropped 66,000 tons of bombs on Iraq. As the only country
involved in this crisis that has never had to fight a war on its own soil,
it is easy for the US and its mostly brain-washed citizens to speak in
apocalyptic terms. A report out of Australia on Sunday, November l6
suggests that Israel and the US are thinking about a neutron bomb on

Unfortunately the dictates of raw power are very severe and, for a weak
state like Iraq, overwhelming. Certainly US misuse of the sanctions to
strip Iraq of everything, including any possibility for security is
monstrously sadistic. The so-called UN 661 Committee created to oversee the
sanctions is composed of fifteen member states (including the US) each of
which has a veto. Every time Iraq passes this committee a request to sell
oil for medicines, trucks, meat, etc., any member of the committee can
block these requests by saying that a given item may have military purposes
(tires, for example, or ambulances). In addition the US and its clients --
eg., the unpleasant and racist Richard Butler, who says openly that Arabs
have a different notion of truth than the rest of the world -- have made it
clear that even if Iraq is completely reduced militarily to the point where
it is no longer a threat to its neighbors (which is now the case) the real
goal of the sanctions is to topple Saddam Hussein's government. In other
words according to the Americans, very little that Iraq can do short of
Saddam's resignation or death will produce a lifting of sanctions. Finally,
we should not for a moment forget that quite apart from its foreign policy
interest, Iraq has now become a domestic American issue whose repercussions
on issues unrelated to oil or the Gulf are very important. Bill Clinton's
personal crises -- the campaign-funding scandals, an impending trial for
sexual harassment, his various legislative and domestic failures -- require
him to look strong, determined and "presidential" somewhere else, and where
but in the Gulf against Iraq has he so ready-made a foreign devil to set
off his blue-eyed strength to full advantage. Moreover, the increase in
military expenditure for new investments in electronic "smart" weaponry,
more sophisticated aircraft, mobile forces for the world-wide projection of
American power are perfectly suited for display and use in the Gulf, where
the likelihood of visible casualties (actually suffering Iraqi civilians)
is extremely small, and where the new military technology can be put
through its paces most attractively. For reasons that need restating here,
the media is particularly happy to go along with the government in bringing
home to domestic customers the wonderful excitement of American
self-righteousness, the proud flag-waving, the "feel-good" sense that "we"
are facing down a monstrous dictator. Far from analysis and calm reflection
the media exists mainly to derive its mission from the government, not to
produce a corrective or any dissent. The media, in short, is an extension
of the war against Iraq.

The saddest aspect of the whole thing is that Iraqi civilians seem
condemned to additional suffering and protracted agony. Neither their
government nor that of the US is inclined to ease the daily pressure on
them, and the probability that only they will pay for the crisis is
extremely high. At least -- and it isn't very much -- there seems to be no
enthusiasm among Arab governments for American military action, but beyond
that there is no coordinated Arab position, not even on the extremely grave
humanitarian question. It is unfortunate that, according to the news, there
is rising popular support for Saddam in the Arab world, as if the old
lessons of defiance without real power have still not been learned.
Undoubtedly the US has manipulated the UN to its own ends, a rather
shameful exercise given at the same time that the Congress once again
struck down a motion to pay a billion dollars in arrears to the world
organization. The major priority for Arabs, Europeans, Muslims and
Americans is to push to the fore the issue of sanctions and the terrible
suffering imposed on innocent Iraqi civilians. Taking the case to the
International Court in the Hague strikes me as a perfectly viable
possibility, but what is needed is a concerted will on behalf of Arabs who
have suffered the US's egregious blows for too long without an adequate

This article was first published in Arabic in Al-Hayat, London, and in
English in Al Ahram Weekly, Cairo.
Following are a couple comments on the "wag the dog" theory:

From: "Adkins, Gerald" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: RE: "surprise" strike against Iraq
Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 09:06:12 -0800

This latest nonsense about IRAQ has nothing to do with IRAQ and its people
and everything to do with clinton trying to "WAG THE DOG".  Who in their
right mind would ever believe anything from the clinton administration.   

G. C.  Adkins, M.S. 
ph:  (360) 438 4495 

If you really want to be happy, nobody can stop you.
Sister Mary Tricky
Date: Wed, 16 Dec 1998 23:36:32 -0800
From: Jeff Jewell <•••@••.•••>
Subject: 'Desert Fox':  Who's Wagging Which Dog???

Once again much is being made of Clinton doing a Dog Wag with the intention of
distracting  public attention from his political scandal.

How absurd.  It is truly unthinkable that any US President [much less a
wounded one] could drag his nation to war unless it was in the service of
the CFR and the military industrial complex.  Just imagine an attempt to
initiate war for such self-serving purposes -- it would immediately be
exposed as the just cause for impeachment, and unanimously seen as such.

Instead, the way the world is being spun on this instance of unjustified
unilateral American aggression [the Brits are merely serving as useful
puppets to provide a phony facade of legitimacy] is that Clinton and his Dog
Wag are being used as the fallback cover story as to why this attrocity is
being committed.

The need for such reverse spin is revealed through a poll reported by CNN --
indicating that only about 62% of Americans actually believe that 'Desert
Fox' is justified -- while about 38% of Americans think they're now seeing
the Dog Wag movie in real life.  A fiendishly clever ruse, and a mighty
effective coverup!  After all, it would be rather dodgy going to war [in a
supposed democracy] with only 62% support -- unless the rest of the
population thought they understood the reason why.

  Jeff Jewell
  927 Hendecourt Place
  North Vancouver, B.C.
  Canada    V7K 2X5


Note from Jan: It may seem fanciful to suggest that thoughts, positive or
negative, can effect change. But how we think does matter; the first message
in this posting makes this obvious. Like Molly Cook, I think that prayer can
help. But prayer is only one type of action, prayer needs to be complemented
by other action to come alive.

Date: 17 Dec 98 10:30:57 +0100
From: Molly Cook <•••@••.•••>
Subject: RE>Action re: bombing

                      RE>Action re: bombing                        12/17/98
this is response from me personally not from CLD or the LC. The best course
of action should not be fear-based. Our creation energy is quite powerful
and we can create negative as well as positive with our thoughts. Prayer on
a collective level can be very transformative. The Earth has her own
consciousness and is moving into the 4th dimension whether we like it our
not -- we can stay in 3rd dimension, struggle with collective consciousness
issues like fear and hatred or we can refuse to be victim/victimizer any
longer, ask for divine assistance and intervention and with the power of
group thought prevent further violence on the skin of our Earth. We are in
every moment creating with our thoughts. Personal refusal on each
individual's part will prevent more energy going into a point-of-no-return
negative response. You have the power,  (ability, skill) and so does
everyone else. You only have to decide.

I have begun working extensively on this level  (though neglectfully not on
Iraq/U.S.) and it is long past time we as a group of human/earth-based
intelligent beings get out of heads and into our hearts.

best regards in/to the end to fear-based thinking
molly cook

Date: 18 Dec 98 09:49:22 +0100
From: Molly Cook <•••@••.•••>
Subject: RE>re: Action re; bombing
To: Jan Slakov <•••@••.•••>

                      RE>re: Action re; bombing                    12/18/98
Dear Jan,
My comments do not represent the policy, beliefs, etc. of the Center for
Living Democracy, the American News Service or the Learning Center at the
Center for Living Democracy -- they are mine and mine alone. It is only
because I am the recipient of general info that comes to the
•••@••.••• mailbox that I read and responded to your email.
You have my permission to forward my response to others but THIS DISCLAIMER
MUST BE ATTACHED to any email you send.

In Sincerity,

Molly Cook
Now, for those of you who are curious about the Center for Living Democracy,
here is some information based on and taken from material they sent me last

   -- Democracy is not what we _have_. It's what we _do_.--

The Center was co-founded by Frances Moore Lappé (author of _Diet for a
Small Planet and _Rediscovering America's Values_ and many other books, some
of which have been translated into 22 languages!) and Paul Martin Du Bois
(founder of a newspaper and three successful businesses in Rochester, NY,
also an author and a professor).

Mission: The Center for Living Democracy inspires and prepares people to
make democracy a rewarding, practical, everyday approach to solving
society's problems.

Vision: Something extraordinary is happening in America. Millions of regular
citizens are discovering that public life isn't just for officials and
celebrities - that each of us can have a voice in the direction of our
communities, workplaces, schools, media and government. They are learning
that democracy can work when it becomes not what we have, but what we do - a
way of life that sustains us daily. The Center for Living Democracy works to
accelerate this citizen-led revolution of hope, supporting all those who
want to learn how to "do democracy" to create a healthier society.

The following  programs help us to further this mission:

The American News Service researches and reports on the mostly "unseen"
problem-solving initiatives taking place in organizations and communities
across the country and provides stories of these innovations to hundreds of
major media, individuals and organizations. Visit ANS onlline
<http://www.americannews.com> for subscription information.

The Living Democracy Learning Center is helping people enhance their skills
to be most effective in their problem-solving efforts. The Learning Tools
Catalog provides access to hundreds of resources offering practical guidance
to citizens seeking to solve problems in their own communities. We have also
developed intensive, experiential workshops covering the concepts and skills
that citizens need for successful public problem solving.

The Interracial Democracy Program has researched the extent and nature of
interracial dialogue initiatives nationwide. Our findings are shared through
our newest publications, _Bridging the Racial Divide: A Repport on
Interracial Dialogue in America_ and Interracial Dialogues Across america: A
Directory_. Because one of the greatest barriers to living democracy is
racial division, the Center emphasizes interracial dialogue and
collaborative work in each of our programs.

For more detailed information about programs and initiatives of the Center
for Living Democracy, please visit our website at
http://www.livingdemocracy.org .

Note from Jan: While the above descriptions sound truly exciting, and the
Learing Tools catalog looks most useful, I cannot retype the above
descriptions without mentioning that, for many people, it seems presumptuous
for the US to call itself "America". (It is just part of North America :-)