Iraq 3: Iraq for the Iraqis

February 19, 2003

CONTENTS

1. "Our hour of liberation is now beginning"
2. "Anti-war protests complicate America's PR effort on Iraq" (AP, Feb. 19, 2003)
3. "Iraq for the Iraqis: After the invasion, leave it to us to establish democracy" (By Ahmad Chalabi, Wall St. Journal, Feb. 19, 2003)
4. "Iraq scientist says Saddam hiding arms underground" (Reuters, Feb. 18, 2003)
5. "This is not Israel's war, but it would benefit" (By Yossi Alpher, Financial Times, Feb. 17, 2003)
6. "Western 'human shields' hold first war council in Baghdad" (IslamOnline.net, Feb. 18 2003)


“OUR HOUR OF LIBERATION IS NOW BEGINNING”

[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach five further articles connected to Iraq, with a brief summary first for those who don't have time to read them in full:

1. "Anti-war protests complicate America's PR effort on Iraq" (AP, February 19, 2003). The U.S. administration mounted a public relations campaign in an effort to liken the protests to demonstrations against NATO's staging of missiles in Germany in the early 1980s rather than to the massive protests against the Vietnam War three decades ago.

2. "Iraq for the Iraqis: After the invasion, leave it to us to establish democracy" (By Ahmad Chalabi, Wall St. Journal, February 19, 2003). Chalabi, head of the exiled Iraqi National Congress, writes: "Our struggle for freedom has been a long epic, but our hour of liberation is now beginning ... This cooperation between the Iraqi people and the U.S. also has the potential of being a historical watershed between the Arab and Muslim world and America ... But the liberation of our country and its reintegration into the world community is ultimately a task that we Iraqis must shoulder. This is why the proposed U.S. occupation and military administration of Iraq is unworkable and unwise."

Chalabi adds: "The Baathist ideology is rooted in the racist doctrines of 1930s fascism and Saddam has used the Baath to create a one-party totalitarian state. For Iraq to rejoin the international community under a democratic system, Iraq needs a comprehensive program of de-Baathification even more extensive than the de-Nazification effort in Germany after World War II ... We are ready to assume responsibility for the transition to democracy."

3. "Iraq scientist says Saddam hiding arms underground" (Reuters, February 18, 2003). A former top Iraqi scientist said on Tuesday he believed Saddam Hussein had dismantled his nuclear program but was making chemical and biological weapons that were hidden deep underground beyond the eyes of U.N. inspectors.

4. "This is not Israel's war, but it would benefit" (By Yossi Alpher, Financial Times, February 17 2003). "In recent months, Arab commentators and others have sought to identify Israel as a key catalyst of the US effort to remove the Saddam Hussein regime. Before the war starts, it is important to set the record straight. Israel has a far-reaching strategic interest in the destruction of the non-conventional capabilities of Mr Hussein's regime, along with the elimination of its support for Palestinian suicide terrorism. All the other talk of an Israeli role or interest is largely without foundation."

5. "Western 'human shields' hold first war council in Baghdad" (IslamOnline.net, February 18 2003). The first "war council" opened late Monday in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, with the human shields planning to select their targets carefully and split up into different units while coordinating the action once the battle gets underway.

For Ben, a 25-year-old American, there's a lot of work to be done. "We have no plan. We don't have an organization. We don't have a leadership," he admitted at the opening of a first war council of the "human shields" who have come to Baghdad. "We are here to protect the population in Iraq, we want to make the American government change its plans," said Ross, a journalist, poet and writer and resident of Mexico who has renounced his U.S. citizenship. "We have written to ask (former South African president) Nelson Mandela to join us here in Baghdad as a voice for peace," said Canadian Roberta Taman, a leading member of the first group, which arrived in Baghdad a week ago.

-- Tom Gross


FULL ARTICLES

ANTI-WAR PROTESTS COMPLICATE AMERICA’S PR EFFORT ON IRAQ

Anti-war protests complicate America's PR effort on Iraq
The Associated Press
February 19, 2003

President George W. Bush is shrugging off global anti-war protests, saying his role as a leader is to put national security first and confront Saddam Hussein.

Yet the size of the protests, drawing millions to the streets of world capitals last weekend, complicated White House efforts to rally world support for disarming the Iraqi leader.

The administration mounted a public relations campaign Tuesday in an effort to liken the protests to demonstrations against NATO's staging of missiles in Germany in the early 1980s rather than to the massive protests against the Vietnam War three decades ago.

"I respectfully disagree" with those who doubt that Saddam is a threat to peace, Bush said. "I owe it to the American people to secure this country. I will do so."

The weekend demonstrations, the largest anti-war protests since the Vietnam era, presented an unwelcome distraction to the White House as it joined with Britain in pressing for a new Iraq war resolution before the U.N. Security Council. More demonstrations are scheduled for March 1 in Washington and San Francisco.

"These marches are 1983 all over again," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, referring to angry street protests against NATO's positioning of intermediate-range missiles in what was then West Germany.

In that case, the missiles helped contribute to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany, Fleischer suggested.

"There is no question that, as a result of peace through strength, communism was defeated and the Berlin Wall came down," Fleischer said.

"The point I'm making is that mass street protests don't always lead to the results people think," the spokesman added. "Often the message of the protesters is contradicted by history."

He also noted that there was substantial anti-war sentiment in the United States in the late 1930s and early 1940s, but that President Franklin D. Roosevelt rallied the U.S. public in World War II "to save the world."

Historians and analysts suggested that the recent demonstrations are not really comparable to those against the Vietnam War held as the war was going on and as thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were losing their lives.

Such protests "are not going to have the same policy implications as Vietnam, because this war is going to be over fast even if it goes badly," said Michael O'Hanlon, an analyst with the Brookings Institution. "So you're not going to have that sense of a protracted military stalemate."

As with those missile protests in Europe, the current demonstrations are "serious but ultimately containable," O'Hanlon said. Even so, he said, the missiles-in-Germany flap "had the potential to really divide the alliance. And it took a lot of work to get beyond it."

At the very least, O'Hanlon said, the level of global opposition now to war in Iraq makes it harder for Bush to press ahead with military action anytime soon.

Bush talked about the protests in a question-and-answer session Tuesday with reporters after a White House swearing-in ceremony for new Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman William H. Donaldson.

"Democracy is a beautiful thing," Bush said. "I welcome people's right to say what they believe."

But he said neither the size of the protests nor the anti-war message of the demonstrators would sway him. That would be "like deciding ... policy based upon a focus group. The role of a leader is to decide policy based upon the security in this case, the security of the people," the president said.

"War is my last choice. But the risk of doing nothing is even a worse option as far as I'm concerned," Bush said.

As to negative public reaction, particularly in countries that are traditional U.S. allies, Bush said, "I think anytime somebody shows courage, when it comes to peace, that the people will eventually understand that."

Polls show that Bush has persuaded a majority of Americans about the need for military action against Iraq, but most want more time for the United Nations to build a broad alliance.

 

IRAQ FOR THE IRAQIS

Iraq for the Iraqis
After the invasion, leave it to us to establish democracy.
By Ahmad Chalabi
The Wall St. Journal
February 19, 2003

We the Iraqis are ready to embark on a final journey to fulfill our destiny as a dignified and free nation. Here in northern Iraq, I am surrounded by fellow Iraqi patriots, many of whom are now gathering in this liberated zone. We have long been united around the goal of claiming our country from the hands of tyranny. Our struggle for freedom has been a long epic, but our hour of liberation is now beginning.

While the day of Iraq's freedom is at hand, a day of reckoning for U.S.-Iraqi relations is also close by. After decades of struggle the Iraqi people, with the assistance of the U.S., have a chance finally to construct a free and democratic society at peace with itself and with the world. This cooperation between the Iraqi people and the U.S. also has the potential of being a historical watershed between the Arab and Muslim world and America.

No doubt the U.S. will carry the heavy burden of the immediate military campaign. However, we in the democratic Iraqi opposition have been carrying the equally heavy burden of the political struggle against Saddam for many long and lonely decades. The polite term of "regime change" is new in the American political vocabulary. But the idea of democracy in Iraq and liberty for the Iraqi people have been in the conscience of Iraqis for three generations. We have sought it, dreamed of it, and fought for it--always paying a high price in lives lost. As deliverance approaches, we therefore intend to be full participants in shaping the future Iraq. American help is essential and is welcomed in winning the fight against Saddam. But the liberation of our country and its reintegration into the world community is ultimately a task that we Iraqis must shoulder.

This is why the proposed U.S. occupation and military administration of Iraq is unworkable and unwise. Unworkable, because it is predicated on keeping Saddam's existing structures of government, administration and security in place albeit under American officers. It would ultimately leave important decisions about the future of Iraq in the hands of either foreign occupiers or Saddam's officials. Unwise, because it will result in long-term damage to the U.S.-Iraq relationship and America's position in the region and beyond.

The current U.S. plan proposed for Iraq, as outlined by senior officials in congressional testimony and in discussions with the Iraqi opposition, calls for an American military governor to rule Iraq for up to two years. American officers would staff the top three levels of Iraqi government ministries with the rest of the structure remaining the same. The occupation authorities would appoint a "consultative council" of hand-picked Iraqis with non-executive powers and unspecified authority, serving at the pleasure of the American governor. The occupation authorities would also appoint a committee to draft a constitution for Iraq. After an unspecified period, indirect elections would be held for a "constituent assembly" that would vote to ratify the new constitution without a popular referendum.

Here in Iraqi Kurdistan, it is easy to sense the people's mood of jubilation as President Bush moves closer to ending Saddam and his Baath party's 35-year reign of terror over Iraq. The Baathist ideology is rooted in the racist doctrines of 1930s fascism and Saddam has used the Baath to create a one-party totalitarian state. For Iraq to rejoin the international community under a democratic system, it is essential to end the Baathist control over all aspects of politics and civil society. Iraq needs a comprehensive program of de-Baathification even more extensive than the de-Nazification effort in Germany after World War II. You cannot cut off the viper's head and leave the body festering. Unfortunately, the proposed U.S. plan will do just that if it does not dismantle the Baathist structures.

We deserve better. The U.S. has a moral obligation to Iraqis to fight for more. Apart from the practical and ethical problems in terms of loss of Iraqi sovereignty, it is a recipe for disaster on two grounds. First, it puts Americans in the position of having to defend Baathists. What will happen when Iraqis step forward to accuse Baathist officials of torture and crimes? Will American soldiers protect these officials?

Second, it forces American officers to make difficult decisions about Iraqi society and culture with very little knowledge. For example, will an American colonel at the ministry of education decide on the role of Islam in school curricula? How will American officials determine issues of compensation and restitution for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people returning to their homes, which may be occupied by others? Will America have a seat at OPEC and the Arab League, or the Islamic Conference? Will it redesign Iraq's flag or, even worse, keep the existing one, which was created by Saddam?

The truth is, there is more to the liberation of Iraq than battlefield victory or the removal of Saddam and his top-tier cadre of torturers. The transition to democracy the task of exorcising Saddam's ghosts from the Iraqi psyche and society can only be achieved through self-empowerment and a full return of sovereignty to the people. This is our job, not that of a foreign officer. We are a proud nation, not a vanquished one. We are allies of the U.S. and we welcome Americans as liberators. But we must be full participants in the process of administering our country and shaping its future.

Today, members of the Iraqi opposition and representatives of the many resistance groups inside government-controlled areas are gathering for a conference that marks the beginning of the final phase of our struggle. The biggest joke here is the criticism from our opponents in the West that we are fractured. Iraq is a diverse society and this multifaceted nature of the opposition is not its weakness it is our core strength on the road to democracy. In embarking on a journey toward freedom in Iraq, the U.S. does not need to handpick a successor to Saddam, nor does it need to predetermine every single step in the post-Saddam era. But we expect the U.S. to make a full commitment to accepting the will of the Iraqi people and not fail us in our desire for justice. The idea that those who struggled against tyranny with blood and lives should have less of a say than those who have found a way to get by inside the tyranny is outrageous. We hope Washington and other allies of the Iraqi people will hear the message from this conference. We are ready to assume responsibility for the transition to democracy.

(Mr. Chalabi is head of the Iraqi National Congress.)

 

IRAQ SCIENTIST SAYS SADDAM HIDING ARMS UNDERGROUND

Iraq scientist says Saddam hiding arms underground
By Ruben Alabastro
Reuters
February 18, 2003

A former top Iraqi scientist said on Tuesday he believed Saddam Hussein had dismantled his nuclear program but was making chemical and biological weapons that were hidden deep underground beyond the eyes of U.N. inspectors.

Hussain Al Shahristani said the Iraqi president did not have the capacity to deliver a payload of the weapons to distant countries but could pass them to overseas cells of supporters which he had built up over the years.

"There's no way that they can really find them, unless by pure accident," Shahristani, a former chief scientific advisor to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, told a briefing organized by an association of foreign journalists in the Philippines.

"These materials are hidden deep underground or in a tunnel system."

He said he was jailed for 11 years by Saddam's regime for refusing to develop banned weapons but that he escaped from Iraq in 1991. He now lives in London.

Shahristani said his information came from former colleagues and dissidents who had recently fled the country.

"My understanding is that the nuclear program has been, for all practical purposes, dismantled," he said. "But the program to produce chemical and biological weapons continued even during the years when the inspectors were in Iraq in the 1990s."

Hans Blix, chief weapons inspector for the United Nations, said in a report to the world body's Security Council on Friday that his teams had discovered no banned weapons in Iraq.

The report was seen as a setback for U.S. and British efforts to get U.N. endorsement to use military force against Iraq over its alleged failure to get rid of weapons of mass destruction.

Shahristani said he believed Saddam planned to make his last stand in Baghdad in the event of a U.S.-led attack and use the capital's four million residents as human shields.

Reports that Saddam had look-alikes to confuse potential assassins were "absolutely true," Shahristani said.

"I have seen them," he said. "There are usually between four and eight convoys that leave the palace through different doors identical convoys of black Mercedes each of them having one who looks like Saddam. They leave in different directions."

 

THIS IS NOT ISRAEL’S WAR, BUT IT WOULD BENEFIT

This is not Israel's war, but it would benefit
By Yossi Alpher
The Financial Times
February 17, 2003

In recent months, Arab commentators and others have sought to identify Israel as a key catalyst of the US effort to remove the Saddam Hussein regime. It is even alleged that the real goal of the war is somehow removing Yassir Arafat from power, ending the Palestinian uprising and compelling Arab states to make peace with Israel.

Before the war starts, it is important to set the record straight. Israel has a far-reaching strategic interest in the destruction of the non-conventional capabilities of Mr Hussein's regime, along with the elimination of its support for Palestinian suicide terrorism. All the other talk of an Israeli role or interest is largely without foundation.

In recent decades Israeli strategic planners have focused on three main threats to the country: large scale conventional attack by our neighbours; terrorism aimed at undermining the resilience of the state and its citizens; and non-conventional attack by one of the region's radical states Iran, Iraq, Syria or Libya. Over the years, the Israeli threat assessment has evolved to the point where conventional attack is now assigned low probability, while terrorism and non-conventional attack are in some instances seen as a single threat for example, Iraq or Syria pro viding radical Palestinians with a non-conventional capability.

Until recently, Israel essentially faced these threats alone. In recent years, it became increasingly concerned about the difficulty of mustering the resources to deal with distant hostile states such as Iran as their nuclear and missile programmes advanced. From an operational standpoint, it was clear that the dramatic attack on Iraq's Osiraq reactor in 1981, which set back Baghdad's nuclear programme for a decade, could not easily be repeated. Washington was supportive financially, technologically and in pressing Russia to deny critical nuclear knowhow to Tehran. But at the end of the day, we knew we were on our own.

Then came the tragic events of September 11 2001, which led the US to revise its view of the threat posed by radical states and movements. Some question the logic and order of the US priorities that have emerged from this reassessment. Some say that September 11 merely reinforced the existing inclination of the administration's neo- conservatives. From the Israeli standpoint, such debates are legitimate but largely irrelevant.

The US and UK have now concluded that Iraqi, Iranian and Syrian weapons of mass destruction, and support for terrorist organisations such as Hizbollah and Hamas, also threaten them and their legitimate interests. At the 11th hour, Israel finds itself no longer alone - a source of immense relief.

Israel stands to gain from an allied attack on Iraq. The Iraqi dimension of the two most pressing strategic threats non-conventional attack and financial incentives for Palestinian suicide terrorism will be dealt with by means far more effective than Israel could muster on its own.

Some in Israel and in Washington (and even here and there in the Arab world) have persuaded themselves that getting rid of Mr Hussein will also somehow democratise the Middle East, render Israel's neighbours more friendly, or moderate the Palestinian independence movement. This is wishful thinking that appears to have little basis in the likely postwar reality.

Indeed, the very opposite scenario a wave of anti-American radicalism and terrorism sweeping the Middle East, Iraq engulfed in ethnic unrest, and millions of refugees destabilising neighbouring countries is equally plausible. But Israel can reasonably hope that Mr Hussein's forcible removal by a US-led invasion will prove sobering for Iraq's immediate neighbours, Iran and Syria. It should also deter North Korea, which already supplies most of the missiles to the region and is liable to begin offering nuclear weapons as well.

Washington has wisely asked Israel to sit this war out. Israel would benefit from the war, but did not instigate it and Israel-related considerations are secondary to the US war effort. But if Israel is attacked by Iraq and serious losses of life are incurred, Jerusalem may insist on retaliating. Israel may also be the target of attacks by Hizbollah or Palestinian terrorists designed to change the nature of the war in Arab eyes. So Israel may pay a price. But support among Israelis for an offensive against Iraq is near-universal. It would be worth the risk.

(The writer is co-editor of bitter lemons.org, an internet-based Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. He was formerly director of the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.)

 

“HUMAN SHIELDS” HOLD FIRST WAR COUNCIL IN BAGHDAD

"Human shields" hold first war council in Baghdad
Western human shields in Baghdad, America may bomb them?
IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
February 18, 2003

The first "war council" opened late Monday, February 17, in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, with the human shields planning to select their targets carefully and split up into different units while coordinating the action once the battle gets underway.

For Ben, a 25-year-old American, there's a lot of work to be done. "We have no plan. We don't have an organization. We don't have a leadership," he admitted at the opening of a first war council of the "human shields" who have come to Baghdad, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Their ambitions run high. They hope to prevent thousands of tons of U.S. bombs raining down on Iraq at the launch of any campaign to (allegedly) overthrow President Saddam Hussein for allegedly concealing banned arms programs in defiance of the United Nations.

Gathered in a smoke-filled hall of a Baghdad hotel, they have come from around the world in a bid to keep at bay the armada mobilized around Iraq by the United States and Britain.

Westerners in Palestinian keffiyehs (head covers) and dungarees mingle with Islamic scarves worn by young women from Turkey, as some 30 activists huddle in a circle to debate how to combat the mighty war machine.

"We have to decide where, when and how we want to be human shields," he told the meeting on the first floor of the Andalous Hotel.

John Ross, 65, surveys the meeting with one eye, the other one hidden behind a black patch since he lost it in an accident. A veteran fighter for causes, he wears his white hair in a pony-tail.

"We are here to protect the population in Iraq, we want to make the American government change its plans," said Ross, a journalist, poet and writer.

For the resident of Mexico who renounced U.S. citizenship, the Iraq crisis brings back memories of Vietnam.

"I was the first conscientious objector to be sent to prison. I went to jail on August 4, 1964," just three days before Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which launched the Vietnam war, he said.

A translator is busy at work for the hefty contingent from Turkey, as the chief of staff meets to draw up a plan of action for the 200 or so human shields who have arrived so far in the Iraqi capital.

Gordon, a young and athletic man, reasons that they should be careful with the choice of sites to be protected.

"We should choose the best sites. If we go to a purification plant, it should be the one that produces the best water," he recommends to his fellow human shields.

A fellow American, Bruce, who sports a tan, is worried and says they must deploy quickly. He proposes drawing up a list of priority targets.

"It gives us hope in the future," said Ross, pointing to the group of young men and women who have come from as far a field as New York, London and Istanbul to fight against all odds.

Godfrey Meynell, in his late 60s, says he had no hesitation in joining the "crusade", although the grueling double-decker bus journey from London has left his legs weak.

JAPANESE “HUMAN SHIELDS”

On Sunday, nine Japanese anti-war activists left Tokyo for Baghdad to act as human shields in the event of a U.S.-led attack against Iraq.

The nine were traveling with 20 Japanese peace activists, including a 18-year-old high school girl.

They held a banner at Japan's Narita international airport that read "Iraq-Japan: Peace and Friendship" and two young men carried placards that said: "I am going to Iraq to stop war" and "Do not attack Iraq!"

Japan on Friday advised its nationals in Iraq to leave immediately, saying it was getting difficult to secure departure flights from the country.

On Saturday, thousands of people took to the streets of downtown Tokyo to join a global protest against a possible war.

MANDELA INVITED TO JOIN THE CLUB

On Thursday, February 13, the mostly western human shields said they had invited Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela to join their "voice for peace."

"We have written to ask (former South African president) Nelson Mandela to join us here in Baghdad as a voice for peace," said Canadian Roberta Taman, a leading member of the first group, which arrived in Baghdad a week ago.

"We have not had a response from him yet, but we know that he has said he would come to Baghdad if he was invited. So we have extended that invitation and are waiting to hear from him," she told a press conference.

Taman said her group of 15 volunteers comprised two Canadians, a Spaniard, a Turk and 11 Italians. The group brought with them food and medicine supplies to distribute as well as a Saint Bernard dog.

"More are on their way. There are 40 Italians arriving tomorrow, some people from Spain, a large group from Turkey," she said.

"We are here as part of our own 'human shields' effort; we are here independently as a group of people representing families from each of our countries," she said.

"We came independently. Nobody is funding us. Nobody asked us to come," she added.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.