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30 million to join world protest tomorrow. Edward Said urges us to join them--Will you be one of them?

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  • Tarek Fatah
    Friends, The British newspaper Mirror predicts that at least 30 million people around the world will march tomorrow (Saturday) to protest the planned American
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2003
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      The British newspaper Mirror predicts that at least 30 million people around
      the world will march tomorrow (Saturday) to protest the planned American
      invasion of Iraq; 10 million in Europe alone.

      Here in Toronto, tens of thousands plan to rally at Dundas Square (in front
      of EATON Centre) at 1PM tomorrow. Will you be part of history, or will the
      freezing cold force you deeper into your slumber?

      Wake up and face the chill; we don't have a choice. Whether you are in
      Bangkok or Bombay; Karachi or Cairo; Toronto or Toledo; come out tomorrow
      and march to show that you will not put up with the Bush-Blair banditry. And
      as you march, don't forget to chant:

      "George Bush, we know you,
      Your Daddy was a killer too."

      Edward Said writing in Al Ahram yesterday says, "Every one of us must raise
      our voices, and march in protest, now and again and again..." He says that
      6,000 cruise missiles are ready to rain down on Baghdad and in a reflecting
      mood asks, "What sort of God would want this to be a formulated and
      announced policy for His people? And what sort of God would claim that this
      was going to bring democracy and freedom to the people not only of Iraq but
      to the rest of the Middle East? "

      Here is the Al Ahram article by Edward Said. Read and reflect.

      Tarek Fatah
      13 - 19 February 2003

      A monument to hypocrisy

      By Edward Said
      Weekly Al-Ahram

      It has finally become intolerable to listen to or look at news in this
      country. I've told myself over and over again that one ought to leaf through
      the daily papers and turn on the TV for the national news every evening,
      just to find out what "the country" is thinking and planning, but patience
      and masochism have their limits. Colin Powell's UN speech, designed
      obviously to outrage the American people and bludgeon the UN into going to
      war, seems to me to have been a new low point in moral hypocrisy and
      political manipulation. But Donald Rumsfeld's lectures in Munich this past
      weekend went one step further than the bumbling Powell in unctuous
      sermonising and bullying derision. For the moment, I shall discount George
      Bush and his coterie of advisers, spiritual mentors, and political managers
      like Pat Robertson, Franklin Graham, and Karl Rove: they seem to me slaves
      of power perfectly embodied in the repetitive monotone of their collective
      spokesman Ari Fliescher (who I believe is also an Israeli citizen). Bush is,
      he has said, in direct contact with God, or if not God, then at least
      Providence. Perhaps only Israeli settlers can converse with him. But the
      secretaries of state and defence seem to have emanated from the secular
      world of real women and men, so it may be somewhat more opportune to linger
      for a time over their words and activities.

      First, a few preliminaries. The US has clearly decided on war: there seem to
      be no two ways about it. Yet whether the war will actually take place or not
      (given all the activity started, not by the Arab states who, as usual, seem
      to dither and be paralysed at the same time, but by France, Russia and
      Germany) is something else again. Nevertheless to have transported 200,000
      troops to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, leaving aside smaller deployments
      in Jordan, Turkey and Israel can mean only one thing.

      Second, the planners of this war, as Ralph Nader has forcefully said, are
      chicken hawks, that is, hawks who are too cowardly to do any fighting
      themselves. Wolfowitz, Perle, Bush, Cheney and others of that entirely
      civilian group were to a man in strong favour of the Vietnam War, yet each
      of them got a deferment based on privilege, and therefore never fought or so
      much as even served in the armed forces. Their belligerence is therefore
      morally repugnant and, in the literal sense, anti-democratic in the extreme.
      What this unrepresentative cabal seeks in a war with Iraq has nothing to do
      with actual military considerations. Iraq, whatever the disgusting qualities
      of its deplorable regime, is simply not an imminent and credible threat to
      neighbours like Turkey, or Israel, or even Jordan (each of which could
      easily handle it militarily) or certainly to the US. Any argument to the
      contrary is simply a preposterous, entirely frivolous proposition. With a
      few outdated Scuds, and a small amount of chemical and biological material,
      most of it supplied by the US in earlier days (as Nader has said, we know
      that because we have the receipts for what was sold to Iraq by US
      companies), Iraq is, and has easily been, containable, though at
      unconscionable cost to the long-suffering civilian population. For this
      terrible state of affairs I think it is absolutely true to say that there
      has been collusion between the Iraqi regime and the Western enforcers of the

      Third, once big powers start to dream of regime change -- a process already
      begun by the Perles and Wolfowitzs of this country -- there is simply no end
      in sight. Isn't it outrageous that people of such a dubious caliber actually
      go on blathering about bringing democracy, modernisation, and liberalisation
      to the Middle East? God knows that the area needs it, as so many Arab and
      Muslim intellectuals and ordinary people have said over and over. But who
      appointed these characters as agents of progress anyway? And what entitles
      them to pontificate in so shameless a way when there are already so many
      injustices and abuses in their own country to be remedied? It's particularly
      galling that Perle, about as unqualified a person as it is imaginable to be
      on any subject touching on democracy and justice, should have been an
      election adviser to Netanyahu's extreme right- wing government during the
      period 1996-9, in which he counseled the renegade Israeli to scrap any and
      all peace attempts, to annex the West Bank and Gaza, and try to get rid of
      as many Palestinians as possible. This man now talks about bringing
      democracy to the Middle East, and does so without provoking the slightest
      objection from any of the media pundits who politely (abjectly) quiz him on
      national television.

      Fourth, Colin Powell's speech, despite its many weaknesses, its plagiarised
      and manufactured evidence, its confected audio-tapes and its doctored
      pictures, was correct in one thing. Saddam Hussein's regime has violated
      numerous human rights and UN resolutions. There can be no arguing with that
      and no excuses can be allowed. But what is so monumentally hypocritical
      about the official US position is that literally everything Powell has
      accused the Ba'athists of has been the stock in trade of every Israeli
      government since 1948, and at no time more flagrantly than since the
      occupation of 1967. Torture, illegal detention, assassination, assaults
      against civilians with missiles, helicopters and jet fighters, annexation of
      territory, transportation of civilians from one place to another for the
      purpose of imprisonment, mass killing (as in Qana, Jenin, Sabra and Shatilla
      to mention only the most obvious), denial of rights to free passage and
      unimpeded civilian movement, education, medical aid, use of civilians as
      human shields, humiliation, punishment of families, house demolitions on a
      mass scale, destruction of agricultural land, expropriation of water,
      illegal settlement, economic pauperisation, attacks on hospitals, medical
      workers and ambulances, killing of UN personnel, to name only the most
      outrageous abuses: all these, it should be noted with emphasis, have been
      carried on with the total, unconditional support of the United States which
      has not only supplied Israel with the weapons for such practices and every
      kind of military and intelligence aid, but also has given the country
      upwards of $135 billion in economic aid on a scale that beggars the relative
      amount per capita spent by the US government on its own citizens.

      This is an unconscionable record to hold against the US, and Mr Powell as
      its human symbol in particular. As the person in charge of US foreign
      policy, it is his specific responsibility to uphold the laws of this
      country, and to make sure that the enforcement of human rights and the
      promotion of freedom -- the proclaimed central plank in the US's foreign
      policy since at least 1976 -- is applied uniformly, without exception or
      condition. How he and his bosses and co- workers can stand up before the
      world and righteously sermonise against Iraq while at the same time
      completely ignoring the ongoing American partnership in human rights abuses
      with Israel defies credibility. And yet no one, in all the justified
      critiques of the US position that have appeared since Powell made his great
      UN speech, has focused on this point, not even the ever-so- upright French
      and Germans. The Palestinian territories today are witnessing the onset of a
      mass famine; there is a health crisis of catastrophic proportions; there is
      a civilian death toll that totals at least a dozen to 20 people a week; the
      economy has collapsed; hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians are
      unable to work, study, or move about as curfews and at least 300 barricades
      impede their daily lives; houses are blown up or bulldozed on a mass basis
      (60 yesterday). And all of it with US equipment, US political support, US
      finances. Bush declares that Sharon, who is a war criminal by any standard,
      is a man of peace, as if to spit on the innocent Palestinians' lives that
      have been lost and ravaged by Sharon and his criminal army. And he has the
      gall to say that he acts in God's name, and that he (and his administration)
      act to serve "a just and faithful God". And, more astounding yet, he
      lectures the world on Saddam's flouting of UN resolutions even as he
      supports a country, Israel, that has flouted at least 64 of them on a daily
      basis for more than half a century.

      But so craven and so ineffective are the Arab regimes today that they don't
      dare state any of these things publicly. Many of them need US economic aid.
      Many of them fear their own people and need US support to prop up their
      regimes. Many of them could be accused of some of the same crimes against
      humanity. So they say nothing, and just hope and pray that the war will
      pass, while in the end keeping them in power as they are.

      But it is also a great and noble fact that for the first time since World
      War Two there are mass protests against the war taking place before rather
      than during the war itself. This is unprecedented and should become the
      central political fact of the new, globalised era into which our world has
      been thrust by the US and its super-power status. What this demonstrates is
      that despite the awesome power wielded by autocrats and tyrants like Saddam
      and his American antagonists, despite the complicity of a mass media that
      has (willingly or unwillingly) hastened the rush to war, despite the
      indifference and ignorance of a great many people, mass action and mass
      protest on the basis of human community and human sustainability are still
      formidable tools of human resistance. Call them weapons of the weak, if you
      wish. But that they have at least tampered with the plans of the Washington
      chicken hawks and their corporate backers, as well as the millions of
      religious monotheistic extremists (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) who believe in
      wars of religion, is a great beacon of hope for our time. Wherever I go to
      lecture or speak out against these injustices I haven't found anyone in
      support of the war. Our job as Arabs is to link our opposition to US action
      in Iraq to our support for human rights in Iraq, Palestine, Israel,
      Kurdistan and everywhere in the Arab world -- and also ask others to force
      the same linkage on everyone, Arab, American, African, European, Australian
      and Asian. These are world issues, human issues, not simply strategic
      matters for the United States or the other major powers.

      We cannot in any way lend our silence to a policy of war that the White
      House has openly announced will include three to five hundred cruise
      missiles a day (800 of them during the first 48 hours of the war) raining
      down on the civilian population of Baghdad in order to produce "Shock and
      Awe", or even a human cataclysm that will produce, as its boastful planner a
      certain Mr (or is it Dr?) Harlan Ullman has said, a Hiroshima-style effect
      on the Iraqi people. Note that during the 1991 Gulf War after 41 days of
      bombing Iraq this scale of human devastation was not even approached. And
      the US has 6000 "smart" missiles ready to do the job. What sort of God would
      want this to be a formulated and announced policy for His people? And what
      sort of God would claim that this was going to bring democracy and freedom
      to the people not only of Iraq but to the rest of the Middle East?

      These are questions I won't even try to answer. But I do know that if
      anything like this is going to be visited on any population on earth it
      would be a criminal act, and its perpetrators and planners war criminals
      according to the Nuremberg Laws that the US itself was crucial in
      formulating. Not for nothing do General Sharon and Shaul Mofaz welcome the
      war and praise George Bush. Who knows what more evil will be done in the
      name of Good? Every one of us must raise our voices, and march in protest,
      now and again and again. We need creative thinking and bold action to stave
      off the nightmares planned by a docile, professionalised staff in places
      like Washington and Tel Aviv and Baghdad. For if what they have in mind is
      what they call "greater security" then words have no meaning at all in the
      ordinary sense. That Bush and Sharon have contempt for the non-white people
      of this world is clear. The question is, how long can they keep getting away
      with it?
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