FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Letter to the People of Iraq from an Anti-War Activist

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

I’m sorry.

I’m going to try to explain why I was a part of a movement that opposed the war that freed you of this tyrant. Many of you may be wondering why many decent people around the world marched against this war.

Throughout the whole ordeal, I knew that this war would be better for you than a continuation of the sanctions plus Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. I knew that we misspoke when we called the recent invasion of your county “the war” as if what had been happening for the past 13 years was not worse than war. Yes, the choices were horrible: sanctions plus Saddam versus cluster bombs and a government selected under occupation.

I’m sorry we did not manage to alter those choices. That’s our biggest failing.

As the fog of Saddam’s disinformation gradually lifts from Iraq, you will learn that much of what Saddam Hussein said was lies, but you already knew that. What may be surprising is that some of what he claimed about the sanctions was correct. It was indeed the United States and United Kingdom, the self-described coalition, that unilaterally blocked many life-sustaining supplies from entering your country. Over the past decade, many good people have fought against — and documented — the cynical, calculating, cruel means by which our governments restricted your ability to live a decent life. Read Tom Nagy: He unearthed that U.S. bombed your infrastructure in the first Gulf War fully aware of its disastrous consequences for civilians . Or Joy Gordon: She showed how the U.S. vetoed the means of fixing your ruined infrastructure And say hello to Bert Sacks when you see him again: He got fined $10,000 by the U.S. government after admitting to carrying much needed medicine into your country, for your children.

It is a sordid story, indeed.

Saddam Hussein did not care about the people of Iraq and knew the sanctions helped keep him in power. Madeleine Albright, while ambassador to the United Nations, chimed in and declared that half a million of your children dead due to the sanctions was “worth it.”

I knew that past and present anti-war movements had forced enough civilization on the war-makers that the number of civilians killed would not be as bad as the numbers killed by the continuation of the status quo. Yes, as a society, we are guilty of caring more about people who die due to our projectiles — that is, unless they are soldiers many of whom are guilty only of being forcibly conscripted — than those who die due to our policies. Unfortunately, you make our lists of the dead if you die by tomahawks, cluster bombs and bullets instead of easily preventable diseases, starvation or lack of simple medicines.

In other words, I knew that if one counted correctly, the war wasn’t worse for you than the existing “containment” strategy. After all, UNICEF calculated that about 5,000 children a month died from the sanctions; adding the dead, the disappeared and the maimed by your government, the balance was clear.

So, you may ask, why did I abandon you? Why did I oppose this war which would get rid of Saddam Hussein’s regime that held you hostage?

Let me first say that it wasn’t the idea that sovereignty allows governments to commit crimes against humanity. If there were a way to intervene without engendering far worse consequences, I would not hesitate.

Unfortunately, the removal of this brutal regime is done by the hand that perpetuates a world order that is brutal and cruel.

In a nutshell, the problem is this: the power that occupies you right now sits on top of a world order in which the rich and the powerful are robbing world’s children of a meaningful future.

The methods are many.

Sometimes, it is called “debt repayment,” where money squandered by dictators supported by the rich countries is paid back into the coffers of the already obscenely rich by charging curious children for going to school and thirsty babies for clean water.

Sometimes they call it “structural adjustment programs” and use the country’s economy and the national budget to siphon off resources to foreign banks and domestic elites.

Sometimes it’s carried out under “intellectual property rights regimes” in which giant pharmaceutical companies are bequeathed monopoly licenses to essential drugs and then it’s declared illegal to provide those drugs to people too poor to pay for them at anything less than the decreed price.

Sometimes this world order works by crushing people fighting for better working conditions and better pay by branding them anti-business and anti-trade. Sometimes it just goes in and robs them directly; this is called “privatization.”

Other times it forces countries to stop providing affordable food; the powers-that-be call these “subsidies” and allow them only in rich countries.

In this world, governments that dare to be more responsive to their citizens are called undemocratic and controversial. Bloody “regime change” operations await them — ask the people in Chavez’s Venezuela, in Allende’s Chile, in the Sandinistas’ Nicaragua.

It’s a world where all restrictions against pillage and plunder are called “restrictions to capital movements” or “restrictions on trade” and forbidden. Meanwhile, restrictions on human movements are called measures against “illegal immigration” and constantly reinforced.

Under the rules of this world order, attempts to demonstrate against secretive, top-down, undemocratic entities are called riots or disturbances of the peace and declared illegal, impolite and uncivilized. However, walled-off meetings by the superrich held in inaccessible islands and mountaintops in Doha, Davos, and the Azores are called “summits”, “negotiations” and “forums.”

“What does that have to do with me,” you ask. I’m ashamed to bother you with all of this while I watch pictures of you digging the harsh ground with your hands, hoping against hope that your child who was disappeared years ago is still alive in the tyrant’s dungeon.

I’m sorry. All I can say is that I know you will understand when I say there are other, millions and millions of sons and daughters out there who are in danger, right now. I know that in many instances people who have lost so much can be infinitely nobler than people who have only privilege, complicity and comfort to lose.

I am in no position to ask you this by right, I do so only by faith that your humanity will triumph over our failures.

As you know, the same ground that swallowed too many of your children is also cursed with the resource which is crucial to the running of this truly odious machine. If the powers-that-be, the ones that control the world’s biggest military and economic institutions, can control this resource and use it as a weapon against the rest of the world it will be much easier for them to perpetuate the evils of this system. If they can have bases in your county, stocked with the mightiest killing machines; if they can install a government whose loyalty is to them and not to you; if they can use their presence and their control over your country to beat back any plausible opposition to their dominance — then many will die and many will starve and almost all will be unfree.

Yes, I hear you: How can we in the rich countries, blessed with freedoms and rights that you can only dream of, expect you to be more mindful of the suffering of the world than we seem to be? If what I say is true, why don’t those of us with privilege elect better leaders and reform our system?

Yes, we are yet failing miserably. We are against formidable foes but yes, you are right, they are not unbeatable. I wish we could claim more success. No excuses can hide such a shameful failure, and I won’t bother listing them.

Nonetheless, the danger that the world faces is real and urgent, which is why I must ask for your help. I am asking you to overlook our failures and listen to what we do know about the world order. And don’t just listen to us in rich countries; people in Nigeria, Chiapas, and East Timor can tell you the whole story. Ask people in Bolivia who continue to fight against Bechtel’s attempts to steal their water in order to sell it back at extravagant prices. That’s the same Bechtel that’s just been assigned a major contract to build many things in your country, including “rehabilitating the water systems”. [http://www.corpwatch.org/news/PND.jsp?articleid=5728]

I am asking you not to let your oil become a sword that will be used to cut down other sprouting life. I am asking you to dignify your grief for your lost children with caring for the ones that are trying to hang on to life in slums in Caracas, refugee camps in Angola, brothels in Thailand, sweatshops in Indonesia.

I must also confess, I’m secretly hoping your refusal to accept your designated role will show us here that it is possible to refuse to be blinded by propaganda, bribed by a share of the spoils, or intimidated by might.

Truly sincerely,

ZEYNEP TOUFE

ZEYNEP TOUFE is a doctoral student in Austin, TX; she can be reached at zeynep@tao.ca

 

More articles by:

January 17, 2019
Stan Cox
That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant
David Schultz
Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall
Paul Cochrane
Europe’s Strategic Humanitarian Aid: Yemen vs. Syria
Tom Clifford
China: An Ancient Country, Getting Older
Greg Grandin
How Not to Build a “Great, Great Wall”
Ted Rall
Our Pointless, Very American Culture of Shame
John G. Russell
Just Another Brick in the Wall of Lies
Patrick Walker
Referendum 2020: A Green New Deal vs. Racist, Classist Climate Genocide
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Uniting for a Green New Deal
Matt Johnson
The Wall Already Exists — In Our Hearts and Minds
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Flailing will get More Desperate and More Dangerous
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Three
January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail