Thursday, April 20, 2006

What I Heard About Iraq

A month ago, on the 20th of March, it was the annivrrsary of the "Political Lie" In response, readings of the text "What I heard about Iraq" were organized in cities around the world, including Athens, Basel, Berlin, Bruxelles, Calcutta, Durban, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, New York, Prague, Zurich and other cities. One of those places was Beloit, Wisconsin.

I attended this reading, and now a month later there are parts of it that I want to quote here. You can read the whole text, by Eliot Weinberger, here. I must warn you that it is long, but totally worth it. It quotes the American administration's lies, and American soldiers, and ordinary Iraqi citizens. It's a good reminder of the reality of the what happened inIraq after 9/11.

Here are the parts that I thought were most important:

I heard the vice president say: "I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators"

I heard the president tell the Iraqi people, on the night before the invasion began: "If we must begin a military campaign, it will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you"

I heard the Pentagon spokesman say that 95% of the Iraqi casualties were "military-age males"

I heard the Red Cross say that casualties in Baghdad were so high that the hospitals had stopped counting.

As the riots and looting broke out, I heard a man in Baghdad market say: "Saddam Husseins greatest crime is that he brought the American army to Iraq"

I heard it would be a matter of months before Starbucks and McDonalds opened branches in Baghdad. I heard that HSBC would have cash machines all over the country"

I heard Colonel Nathan Sassaman say: "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them"

I heard that 7% of all military American deaths in Iraq were suicides.

I heard the president say "I wouldn't be happy if I was occupied either"

I heard Makki Al-Nazzal, who was managing a clinic in Fallujah, say, in unaccented English: "I have been a fool for 47 years. I used to believe in European and American civilization."

I heard an American soldier say: "It's kind of bad we destroyed everything, but at least we gave them a chance for a new start"

I heard that the American ambassador, John Negroponte, had requested that $3.37 billion intended for water, sewage and electricity projects to be transferred to security and oil output.

I heard 100,000 Iraqi civilians were dead.

I heard the US military had purchased 1,500,000,000 bullets for use in the comming year. That is 58 bullets for every Iraqi adult and child."

Let's not forget what this political lie has led to!

Chris Hedges

If you havn't heard about this guy, its about time you do. Chris Hedges is a "Pulitzer Prize-winning veteran foreign correspondent, having covered foreign conflicts in Argentina, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Columbia, Guatemala, Bosnia, Iraq, Sudan, Algeria, India, Israel/Palestine, Turkey, and Kosovo"

This book of his is really interesting because it gives you insight on wars from a person who has experienced them and not in one region. I read this book in Bahrain and never thought I would meet the author. But last week Mr. Hedges came to Beloit Campus to speak out against the war in Iraq. Before comming here he was booed off the stage on another campus for being anti-war.

One of my favourite parts of his speech is when he answered one of the audeince questions, this is how it went:

"Why is the American administration trying to impose American style democracy in the world?"

"They don’t have any interest in imposing democracy at all.They don’t want democracy in Iraq or anywhere else. Democracy- that’s what they use to sell it. And if democracy ever is on the rise and it's not in their ineterest, you can be very sure they will work behind the scenes to crush it. All of these enterprises are given moral language, as a kind of cover. I mean what was the first Gulfwar about? We consume 25% of the world petrol, and that war was about our right to keep consuming a disproportionate share of the world’s petrol at a cheap price. And the message it gave to the dispossessed of the world, is that we have everything and if you try to take it away from us, we’ll kill you. Now they all get it, and we don’t."

I was lucky to meet Hedges personally after his speech, and I asked him about his experience in Palestine. He told me that he published his diary which he wrote in Gaza, and he got into alot of trouble here in the US because of that. I will quote a small part of this diary:

"Children have been shot in other conflicts I have covered - death squads gunned them down in El Salvador and Guatemala, mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights and watched them crumple onto the pavement in Sarajevo - but I have never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport."

You can read his Gaza Diary here

I give all my support to Chris Hedges and all activists like him who arn't afraid to speak the truth.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Powerful Poems

I read these poems by the Yemeni activist Zain Alsaqqaf and I was really moved.
Zain Alsakkaf was a man who believed in freedom and fought for it, and his dedication to the cause will contnue to inspire people even after his death.

Situation Announcement

The dress of our illusions is worn out
Holes widened from every side
I begged her… mom, stop mending it
It’s useless!
We need new attire
That’s fit for our glories!


He sleeps on the sidewalk
And when he wakes up from his heaven,
He wanders around the streets
Walks in the markets
His palm spread in front of him
Begging for an apple!

In the Cage

I know that the yearning comes with the clouds
It might rain here, or in other places
But I am not waiting for the clouds of nostalgia
I am waiting for my belovedI know the signs of her coming
From the color of the horizon,
And the smell of the wind,
From the shivering of my eyelashes
And the taste in my mouth
I know these signs are never mistaken
I am here,
Waiting for freedom’s arrival
full of the scent of dignity…

The Cave and I

It doesn’t make a difference for me
If u don’t come tomorrow
For you did not come yesterday
I have been waiting for a century:
For love, and bread
For work, and hope
Whether standing or walking,
I am still waiting
In this cave that’s called home
It doesn’t really matter
But what I am afraid of
Is that because of my long stand, waiting,
I’d grow a tail!
So, if you finally come,
And see what I fear you would,
Don’t be scared,
Nor sad
If I drag behind me,
A long tail… of disappointments...

note: the poems were translated from arabic.