the views of eight respected educators and scholars in our segment
on Ethics - Statesperson or Politician - seems most appropriate
as we transit the second third of January 2003:Publisher
WAR OF LIBERATION WORTH FIGHTING FOR
Salman Rushdie writer
is a strong, even unanswerable case for a "regime change"
in Iraq that ought to unite Western public opinion and all those
who care about the brutal oppression of an entire Muslim nation.
Hussein and his ruthless gang of cronies from his home village of
Tikrit are homicidal criminals, and their Iraq is a living hell.
This obvious truth is no less true because we have been turning
a blind eye to it and "we" includes, until recently,
the government of the United States. Nor is it less true because
it suits the politics of the Muslim world to inveigh against the
global bully it believes the United States to be, while it tolerates
the all-too-real monsters in its own ranks.
opposition groups in exile have been trying to get the West's attention
for years. Now, there's a change in Washington's tune. Good. One
may suspect the commitment of the Wolfowitz-Cheney-Rumsfeld axis
to the creation and support of a free, democratic Iraq, but it remains
the most desirable of goals.
complicating factors, sadly, are this U.S. administration's pre-emptive,
unilateralist approach which looks like bullying because, well,
it is bullying. And the United States' new pre-emptive strike policy
would, if applied, make America itself a much less safe place, because
if the United States reserves the right to attack any country it
doesn't like the look of, then those who don't like the look of
the United States might feel obliged to return the compliment. It's
not always as smart as it sounds to get your retaliation in first.
does America's vagueness about its plans for a post-Hussein Iraq
and its own "exit strategy" inspire much confidence.
These are some of the reasons why I have remained unconvinced by
President Bush's Iraqi grand design. But as I listen to Iraqi voices
describing the numberless atrocities of the Hussein years, then
I am bound to say that if, as now seems possible, the United States
and the United Nations do agree on a new Iraq resolution; and if
Hussein gets up to his old obstructionist tricks or refuses to accept
the new U.N. resolution; then the rest of the world must stop sitting
on its hands and join the Americans and British in ridding the world
of this vile despot and his cohorts.
should be said loudly that the primary justification for regime
change in Iraq is the dreadful and prolonged suffering of the Iraqi
people, and that the remote possibility of a future attack on America
by Iraqi weapons is of secondary importance. A war of liberation
might just be one worth fighting. The war that America is currently
trying to justify is not.
NEED FOR DIALOGUE
United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq
relation to Iraq, UN sanctions and now the threat of another American
war, I tend to hold the minority viewpoint. Now I find myself in
line with the majority view - that is, the majority viewpoint of
the Arab community. I base this on recent visits to Tunis, Cairo,
Amman and Baghdad. I failed to find one Arab - official or private
citizen - who understands the current crisis between the USA and
Iraq to be about weapons of mass destruction. The unanimous view
from prime minister to taxi driver is that the conflict is primarily
about oil - access, control and cheap! Nobody I talked with sees
a threat from Iraq, be it in Turkey, Jordan or Egypt. Why is it
that the Washington regime is apparently so threatened? Has it swallowed
its own spin, propaganda?
is the middle ground? How do we find a solution that saves the face
of our two ego-players - Presidents George Bush and Saddam Hussein?
Let's make sure there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
and as required by UN Resolution 687, lets make sure the entire
neighbourhood is equally clean. Let's look at US oil needs, recognise
the insecurity of the Saudi supply and have the US negotiate with
Baghdad, as a trading partner not as a war-threatened state, a plan
for the sale of Iraq's oil over the next 30-50 years at a fair market
price. This would serve American interests and provide Iraq with
the kind of sustained revenue needed for rebuilding the economy,
and thereby restoring to the Iraqi people their economic and social
the same time, Iraq will want to move forward with a multi-party
democratic system for which a constitutional change is now being
written. The USA must begin to invest massively in renewable sources
of energy while also imposing efficient means for reduced consumption
of imported oil. Weaning itself from dependency on Middle East oil
serves the best interests of Americans. Likewise, the move toward
dialogue and trade would begin the process of restoring the lives
of the people of Iraq tragically diminished under 12 years of deadly
UN sanctions. This could produce a win-win situation for all concerned,
including the United Nations, and the Arab community of the Middle
East currently so deeply concerned about the catastrophic impact
that an American war on Iraq would have on their well-being.
NOT INDIVIDUAL GUILT
writer and critic
write in a night of shame.
fear that U.S. military forces will soon be launching its "preventive"
war against Iraq. Others hope that this can be avoided. Between
the announced decisions and the secret calculations, everything
is kept unclear, since lies prepare the way for missiles.
shame I do not mean individual guilt. Shame, as I'm coming to understand
it, is a species feeling which, in the long run, corrodes the capacity
for hope and prevents us looking far ahead. We look down at our
feet, thinking only of the next small step.
shame begins with the contestation (which we all acknowledge somewhere
but, out of powerlessness, dismiss) that much of the present suffering
could be alleviated or avoided if certain realistic and relatively
simple decisions were taken.
understand and take in what is happening, an inter-disciplinary
vision is necessary in order to connect the "fields" which
conventional arguments keep separate. The precondition for thinking
on a global scale is to see the unity of the unnecessary suffering
taking place. Any such vision is bound to be, in the original sense
of the word, political.
write in the night, but I see not only the tyranny. If that were
so, I would probably not have the courage to continue. I see people
sleeping, stirring, getting up to drink water, whispering their
projects or their fears, making love, praying, cooking something
whilst the rest of the family is asleep, in Baghdad and Chicago.
(Yes, I see too the forever invincible Kurds, 4000 of whom were
gassed with US compliance by Saddam Hussein.) I see
pastry cooks working in Teheran and the shepherds, thought of as
bandits, sleeping beside their sheep in Sardinia, I see a man in
the Friedrichshain quarter of Berlin sitting in his pyjamas with
a bottle of beer reading Heidegger and he has the hands of a proletarian,
I see a small boat of illegal immigrants off the Spanish coast near
Alicante, I see a mother in Mali, her name is Aya which means Born
on Friday, swaying her baby to sleep.
is a proposal (rarely realised) about decision making; it has little
to do with election campaigns. Its promise is that political decisions
be made after, and in the light of, consultation with the governed.
This is dependent upon the governed being adequately informed about
the issues in question, and upon the decision makers having the
capacity and will to listen and take account of what they have heard.
Democracy should not be confused with the "freedom" of
binary choices, the publication of opinion polls or the crowding
of people into statistics. These are its pretense.
the fundamental decisions, which effect the unnecessary pain increasingly
suffered across the planet, have been and are taken unilaterally
without any open consultation or participation. The new tyranny,
like other recent ones, depends, to a large degree, on a systematic
abuse of language. Together we have to reclaim our hijacked words
and reject the tyranny's nefarious euphemisms; if we do not, we
will be left with only the word shame.
is written in the night. In war the dark is on nobody's side, in
love the dark confirms that we are together.
©John Berger 2003.
HORSES OF BUSH
Pervez HoodbhoyPakistani nuclear physicist
horses draw George W. Bush's furiously racing chariot of war. Their
names are Vengeance, Greed, and Fear. Vengeance is a young steed
born on 11 September 2001, and gallops well. Greed is old but sturdy,
can smell oases of oil from afar, and understands his master's corporate
compulsions. The third horse, Fear, is weak and anaemic. Despite
lashes from the Texan's whip, he is a drag on the team. Nevertheless
he is indispensable for convincing the American public that a puny
Saddam Hussein, castrated of weapons of mass destruction, remains
a mortal threat to a superpower many oceans away. So far the finest
spin doctors in Washington have failed to make Fear strong, and
Hans Blix has not been totally helpful. Fortunately, Vengeance and
Greed have made up admirably well.
fanatical hordes spilling out of Pakistan's madrasas see not the
horses, nor care about them. But they do imagine seeing Richard
the Lion Hearted bearing down upon them. It is, for them, a war
between Islam and kufr (unbelief). Sword in hand, they pray to Allah
to grant war. Belief in final victory is, of course, never doubted
by the faithful. They seek the modern Saladin, one who can miraculously
dodge cruise missiles and turn them back to hit their launchers.
Who will he be? How many decades, or centuries, shall the modern
Crusades last? Surely, a lot longer than you and I will be around
PREDATORY AND DISHONEST WAR
is High Noon for American democracy. The rights and freedoms that
have made America the envy of the world are being systematically
eroded. A new McCarthyism is abroad. Bush tells us that those who
are not with him are against him. I am not with him.
American over-reaction is beyond everything Osama could have hoped
for in his nastiest dreams. But this war was planned long before
Osama struck, and it is Osama who made it possible. Without him,
the Bush junta would have been mired in Enron, electoral scandal
and taxation sleeze. Thanks to Osama, Americans are instead being
daily misled by their leaders and by their compliant corporate media.
is a stink of religious self-righteousness in the air that reminds
me of the British Empire at its worst. I cringe when I hear my Prime
Minister lend his head prefect's sophistries to this patently self-interested
adventure to secure our oil supplies.
"But will we win, Daddy?"
"Of course we will, child, and quickly, while you are still
"But will people be killed, Daddy?"
"There will be a few Western casualties. Very few. Go to sleep."
"And after that, will everything be normal? Nobody will strike
back? The terrorists will all be dead?"
"Wait till you're older, dear. Goodnight."
"And is it really true that last time round Iraq lost twice
as many dead as America lost in the entire Vietnam war?"
"Hush child. That's called history."
the hurry? Iraq is a vile dictatorship, and Saddam is a monster
who sits on the world's second largest oil reserves. But there is
ample time to consider how to unseat him before we plunge into this
predatory and dishonest war. Leave the UN inspectors there. Convene
Iraq's neighbours. And consider for a moment where the will came
from to make this war in the first place.
can still awake to the shame of what is being done in their name.
is half way there. The French and Russians have been bribed and
browbeaten into submission. Only the good Germans have so far succeeded
in sticking to their silent guns. I wish profoundly that the rest
of us Europeans, in the spirit of a nobler President, would declare
ourselves to be citizens of Berlin.
AN EXACT REVERSAL OF CHRIST'S STATED MISSION ON EARTH
supported the United States in 2001 when it had a clear right to
pursue the murderers of 3,000 of its residents and citizens. To
me, the invasion of Afghanistan was justified and inevitable.
after the assault on his own country, President Bush made an explicit
promise that he would work to help reinforce the move towards democracy
for the Palestinians, and to reinforce security for the Israelis.
Since the beginning of the second intifada, nearly 3000 people have
also been killed, over two-thirds of them Palestinian, a majority
on both sides, like those in the Twin Towers, innocent victims of
a violence in which they themselves had no part.
Bush has since reneged on all his promises. By his failure of purpose
in the Middle East, he has sanctioned extremists who pursue mayhem
and murder in pursuit of ultimately unobtainable goals on
one side, continued occupation and expansion ; on the other, an
end to the state of Israel.
has been, thus far, the most self-righteous, dangerous and inadequate
President in American history.
exponent of American foreign policy has been able to explain why
one UN resolution that voted through recently against Iraq
should be made a matter of military urgency, while another,
far more pressing resolution the one which demands the withdrawal
of Israeli troops to pre-1967 borders has been allowed to
stand for thirty years, unenforced, mocking Western claims of impartiality
cannot understand a species of Christian zealotry prevailing in
the White House which seeks only to prioritise the strong over the
weak and the rich over the poor an exact reversal of Christ's
stated mission on earth.
unsanctioned invasion of Iraq has no legitimacy. Its arbitrariness
is a hearty gesture of encouragement to terrorists all over the
world. Like everyone else, I wish an end to dictatorship
in Pakistan and in Saudi Arabia, in Burma and in China, as well
as in Iraq. But, most of all, I wish for an American government
which has the guts and the vision to imagine a policy for justice
and peace in the Middle East.
©David Hare 2003
AMERICAN INTENTION, TO LIBERATE NOT TO ENSLAVE
philosopher, novelist and composer
assessing US foreign policy it is important to remember that America
has often intervened around the globe, and is unique in seeking
instantly to withdraw thereafter.
withdrew from Europe after the two world wars, and from Korea, Japan,
and (wrongly) Kuwait and Iraq last time round. The Americans tried
to withdraw from Vietnam, having established what they believed
to be a friendly regime in the South.Of course, the Americans do
not withdraw, as a rule, until securing a settlement in their own
favour. But such a settlement, they believe, will be one in which
the people of the countries involved have acquired the right to
elect their own governments. It is very difficult to object to a
policy of intervention, when the intention is not to enslave a foreign
people, but to liberate them.
course, Americans are bluff optimists, often insensitive to history,
to local culture, to traditional allegiances and to the balance
of power. This may mean that things are less stable after an American
intervention than before - as was Europe after Woodrow Wilson's
input into the Treaty of Versailles.
compare the Soviets in Ethiopia and North Yemen, in Eastern Europe
or the Baltics; compare the Chinese in Tibet or the Syrians in Lebanon.
The vices of the USA are always before us; but the virtues are not
attracts blame because it responds to blame. Criticism of the Soviet
Union was always met with a blank wall of indifference, and in any
case could not be publicly voiced within the Soviet Empire itself.
Hence, during the Cold War, the US was continually singled out as
the source of conflict - notably by people on the Left, who often
turned a blind, or at any rate myopic, eye, as did Christopher Hill
and Eric Hobsbawm to name but two, to the incredible and still unatoned-for
crimes of the Soviet Communist Party.
tyrannical regimes there is no point in criticism from outside,
and death or imprisonment is the reward of criticism from inside.
That is why intellectuals brought up under tyrannies end up in the
USA. It is the one place where they can criticize freely, not just
the countries they have fled from, but the country which has offered
them refuge. In the face of virtues like these, the Chomskian and
Pilgerish criticisms of US foreign policy begin to look, to say
the least, one-sided.
US foreign policy isn't always right. But it emerges from a rational
process - one in which criticism is permitted, and accountability
assumed. The foreign policies of North Korea and Iraq issue from
no such rational process: which is one reason for using force in
order to prevent them from issuing at all.
Edwin Morgan poet
deplore the idea of a declaration of war
- or even worse, a military attack without such declaration - on
Iraq. I retain the rather forlorn hope that diplomacy will still
find a way out of the present impasse without the loss of face,
but the steady build-up of American forces (tagged by a token tail-wagging
British contingent) may already have acquired a momentum of irreversibility.
Who thinks of the consequences? 'Regime change'? By imposition?
How about regime change in Jerusalem? In Riyadh? In quite a few
other places it would not be hard to name? What looks like the arrogance
of American selectivity is of course no more than the reality of
power, and it is not new in the world. But there is all the more
reason to out it, to question it, to satirise it, since the stakes
today are so high. The so-called Gulf War was not really a war but
a one-sided massacre. Is British public opinion happy to underwrite
what President Bush clearly regards as the finishing of unfinished
business? Perhaps it is. If so, these are bad times!
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