Weekly News Review

World Says No to Iraq War

Roundup: Up to 30 million people demonstrated worldwide, including around 6 million in Europe, according to figures from organisers and police, although most conceded there were too many people in too many places to count. Go to  this website

Pix:  Go to this website for links to pictures of the protest march worldwide.

Illegal White House usurper's "uphill battle"

"President Bush has long argued that a U.S. invasion of Iraq is urgent, just and inevitable. But instead of gaining support for an attack, Bush is fighting an uphill battle against public opinion increasingly opposed to war." Read the rest at here

First-Hand Comments on the Feb. 15 Demo in New York by Victor Wallis

I was one of the 1500 or so people who went to New York on charter buses from the Boston area. Arriving at our drop-off point -- 42nd Street & 2nd Avenue -- shortly before noon, I went (together with my wife) directly to the main rally site, which was on 1st Avenue (assigned to the blocks running along this avenue from 49th Street north). We had to walk North to 61st Street on 2nd Avenue before being allowed to go East to 1st Avenue.

The rally itself was indisputably exciting -- diverse, imaginative, and huge (I'm thinking here of the crowds rather than of the program, which, despite its importance, gives nowhere near as much of a thrill as do the people who are all around you). This much you may have gathered from media reports, but you have to experience it for yourself. If you are politically engaged, you can never get enough of it.

As we later learned, however, a great number of people (in the tens of thousands) who arrived later than we did were not allowed through to the 1st Avenue site, no matter how far north they walked.

This brings up the main issue about the event that has not received proper attention in the mass media, namely, the increasing trend on the part of the authorities to control and limit the expression of dissent.

The original request of the organizers to march past the United Nations was denied by the city. Federal officers were present at all court-hearings and news conferences. At the appeal-hearing, they were introduced but made no statements; the judge read a pre-prepared decision just a few minutes after the hearing ended. The city had initially indicated that it would allow a different march-route, but later disallowed any march, permitting only the stationary rally.

The further decision to not allow more than a certain number of people onto the avenue reserved for the stationary rally was never publicly formalized, but appears to have been what occasioned most of the police-confrontations & resulting arrests (numbering well over 200). From several accounts I heard, the police responded aggressively and violently to demonstrators -- including

conservatively dressed older people -- who merely wanted to gain access to the authorized rally-site. (We heard from one such woman who had been peppered-sprayed in the face.)

Along 1st Avenue itself, we attempted to walk North to see how far the crowd extended. At 69th Street, however (with the crowd still extending as far as the eye could see), we were stopped by the police and not allowed to go any further.

Again, after the rally ended, when we returned to our bus-pickup point, which was next to a broad and largely empty sidewalk, even a small group of us (five or six people with no signs) was not allowed to stand in one place.

While the latter detail may seem trivial, it is consistent with the entire discourse of pseudo-security that has defined official behavior. The police, instead of facilitating the originally planned march, was assigned to obstruct public expression and to harass & in some cases intimidate people who were doing nothing unlawful. The "disorder" that resulted was created by

the police itself.

On a small scale, we experienced the logic that has defined the entire policy of the Bush administration, which is to raise the level of fear, and then to use the resulting anxiety about something that supposedly "might" happen (even though the whole setting -- whether in Iraq or near the U.N. buildings -- is thoroughly patrolled) as the official justification for its policy.

Victor Wallis is one of the editors of Socialism & Democracy and Monthly Review, the websites of both of which can be found on our "Progressive Press" alphabetical list. Thanks to Victor for this account.

"On streets of beauty, the warm people inched along or stood and chanted and laughed against a war and for peace and their warmth made the winter temperature irrelevant.

They were summer people in winter clothes.

They were the largest and happiest crowd seen in this city maybe ever, outside of a war's end in 1945."

 Read the rest of Jimmy breslin's account of New York's rally for peace here

Read the New York Times' take on the demonstrations here

Sidney's biggest demonstration since the Vietnam war is reported here

In New Zealand, "cops riot"...go here

Glasgow had 80,000, a number boosted by the presence in town of the lunatic Blair. Go here

And Tel Aviv: Adam Keller of Gush Shalom reports

The setting was familiar. We have done this many times before, in moments of crisis when the need for a mass protest was evident: gathering in front of the Tel-Aviv Cinematheque, with contingents arriving by bus from all over the country; marching in our thousands down the wide Ibn Gvirol Street; a living forest of colourful banners and placards and hand-painted signs, Jews and Arabs together with slogans chanted alternately in both languages and occasionally in English; reaching the Museum Plaza for a prolonged rally, with speakers addressing the crowd from the steps of the Public Library (as always, the allocation of speaking slots had been accompanied by some undignified infighting between the various participating groups...)

Still, tonight was also different and new: never before had Israeli peace activists found themselves so much an integrated part of a world-wide movement of protest; never before did our particular concerns, in this miserable torn country, mesh so closely with the anxiety and alarm and anger of so many people in so many countries around the world. Somebody had taken the initiative of producing an Israeli version of the "No War" sticker, familiar from CNN reports of the protests in Europe and the US; it was avidly taken up and placed on clothes together with Gush Shalom's Two Flags or the competing emblems of the Hadash and Balad parties. The veteran slogan "Shalom Ken - Kibush Lo" (Peace Yes - Occupation No") needed only a slight change in order to be transformed into an anti-Bush chant. And demonstrators accustomed to sending Sharon to the Hague War Crimes Tribunal tonight consigned Bush to the same destination with the same cadence. "Bush, Blair and Sharon are the true axis of evil" was an improvised new slogan, chanted as the banner "Israelis and Palestinians oppose the war" was unfurled.

It was not just a slogan. Underlying the cheerfulness and some ribaldry was a deep anxiety about what this country may face in the coming months if Bush does launch his attack. Daily the papers fill with dire predictions of deadly Iraqi missiles landing in spite of all the official reassurances of "a low probability", or of a new upsurge of suicide bombings, more terrible than ever, starting concurrently with the attack upon Baghdad. And a worry widespread in this evening's crowd, is that in such circumstances Sharon would find a pretext and opportunity to carry out his barely-secret true agenda: mass expulsion of Palestinians and destruction of their leadership.

"What plans are already prepared in meticulous detail at some headquarters, just waiting for Bush to provide the smoke screen for their implementation? How many trees are already slated for uprooting? How many houses are to be demolished? How many people have already been placed under a secret sentence of expulsion or death?" cried Haim Hanegbi of Gush Shalom.

"The darkness is fast approaching, threatening to engulf us all" said the feminist writer Rela Mazali, on behalf of the Women's Peace Coalition - part of "An open letter to a friend who did not come to this event", addressing the very many Israelis who share our abhorrence of the coming war and whom we nevertheless failed to bring to our "too radical" or "too Arab" event.

Indeed, some of the Tel-Avivians seemed a bit alienated when long speeches in Arabic followed each other from the podium - the kind of feelings usually preserved for the Arab participants

in Israeli events... Haneen Zuabi and Aida Toma, two young and fiery women spoke Arabic while representing respectively Balad and Hadash, giving only a summary in Hebrew.

Dr. Haidar Abdel Shafi, old and respected Palestinian statesman, addressed the rally in surprisingly strong and confident words of solidarity, in Arabic and English, by phone from beleaguered Gaza.

There was much cheering when Yesh Gvul speaker Dan Tamir, a reserve captain and refuser of service in the occupied territories, read a letter written this morning by the young refuseniks incarcerated at Military Prison 4 and calling upon American and British soldiers to follow on the path of refusing service in oppressive and aggressive warfare.

Azmi Bdeir of Ta'ayush, who moderated the event concluded:

"This coming war which looms over us is not a natural disaster. It is man-made. Human beings planned it, human beings intend to carry it out. Human beings can also stop it. We, among very many people all over the world".

This was the concluding communique put out by the organizers

Over 3,000 Israelis Demonstrated Today Against the War on Iraq in Partnership with a Palestinian Demonstration in Ramallah and Over 600 Demonstrations Worldwide

Today, Saturday February 15th, over 3,000 Jews and Arabs demonstrated against the war on Iraq in Tel Aviv Museum’s square. The demonstration was held in partnership with a Palestinian demonstration held in the center of  Ramallah and simultaneously with over 600 demonstrations worldwide.

A joint Palestinian Israeli petition was read at the demonstration calling: “No to the war against Iraq! End the Israeli occupation! For a life of just peace in the Middle East! We, Israelis and Palestinians, are opposed to this war. This is not a war for the sake of security or justice, but rather a war for power, hegemony, control and greed. We are determined that security and freedom for the sake of all the people of the Middle East will not be achieved by war, violence and death.”

Speeches were held during the vigil by representatives of the Israeli organizations who coordinated and participated in the demonstration as well as by Heider Abdel Shafi, a Palestinian peace activist from Gaza, who spoke by way of telephone from his home in Gaza.

The current list of US "Cities for Peace" is here -- 93 resolutions have been passed opposing the war, including cities, counties, and state legislative bodies.

Go here to read how Austria has joined the resistance to the Bush junta's plans for world domination.

So why don't the Bushies bomb them all?

The Bush junta has repeatedly cited violations of UN Security Council resolutions as key reasons for its policy on Iraq. But several nations have Security Council resolutions pending against them, including Indonesia, Armenia and Croatia. And the violators with the most Security Council resolutions -- more than Iraq -- are Israel (over 30), Turkey (over

20) and Morocco (over 15). A partial listing of UN Security Council resolutions being violated by U.S. allies is available here

Saddam's unforgivable sin

According to Clare Foss, "Iraq has been accused of many crimes, but topping the list is the unforgivable sin of trading their oil for Euros instead of American Dollars." Read the rest here

“I want to live, I want to study”.

Luisa Morgantini Member of the European Parliament for of Refondazione Comuniste (Italy), recently visited Iraq as part of a delegation of progressive MEPs. Her report is translated from her article which appeared in Liberazione, on 9th February

“We had begun to breath again after the terrible years of total embargo, after the destruction from the l991 war.  There were some openings to the world, not only through the “Oil for food” program, but also through new commercial agreements.  Finally a few of the embassies were reopening, and the staff of international agencies was being increased. Bagdad airport was open again, with flights from Amman, Damascus, Cairo, and also between Baghdad and Bassora.  Now it will start all over again, we are here waiting for the bombs which will soon be falling.  Why don’t they let us live in peace?  I really don’t know but I don’t believe that we have nuclear weapons, while Bush and Israel certainly have many.  So why?  Can’t we decide for ourselves whether or not we want Saddam?  I’m young, I want to live, I want to study, I love the products of the land, I’m studying agriculture but I don’t even have books with which to study”.  Karim is a timid student who I met him while  trying to join the European parliamentarians with whom I was travelling.  He drives a taxi in order to earn money.  He wanted to invite me to his house for lunch .  His family isn’t poor, his mother is an elementary school teacher, his father was killed in the war with Iran. 

As we drove towards the hotel we looked at the new buildings in Baghdad:  the TV center, ministries, wide streets, bridges, overpasses, tunnels.  Karim said “In this street there were old  Ottoman baths. They were in a beautiful building, but it was destroyed to make way for this street. By doing this we lost a piece of our history, of our culture,  but we needed this street”. 

I had not been to Baghdad for three years.  I was surprised by the changes, the orderly look of the city,  the reduction in poverty which I noticed in some areas.  We went to Saddam City, the poorest area, where the drains are still open, where there is still misery, a lack of work, and a lack of infrastructure.  Nevertheless Baghdad appears to have grown a lot in the last three years, although talking to people I learned that teachers still earn $8-10 a month, doctors $11, and all are totally dependent on food rations which are distributed through the  “Oil for Food” program.  However in discussing this, our delegation concluded that this food was not coming from the international community but rather from resources which belong to Iraq, that is from the proceeds  from sales of oil which cannot be used freely by the Iraqi government, but which must be used according to precise rules set out in the US resolutions.  As the UNDP representative in Baghdad put it, this is  humiliating for the Iraqi people who do not have control over their resources.

We passed through crowded neighbourhoods ; people were in the shops buying, shops which are full of goods.  Karim said that everyone is buying because next week there would be a Moslem holiday.  I felt disoriented.  I looked at the houses, the shops, the people, the many children playing in the streets.  I saw no sign of aggressiveness, but rather of an underlying resignation.   Yet our press and our governments are giving us a view of these people as fanatical and cruel.  I thought with despair that all of these people, these lives, these buildings, the efforts of so many, could all be reduced to dust in 15 days time.  The three thousand bombs promised by Bush could rain down upon them.

Our entire delegation – we were 30 European parliamentarians from a wide range of parties, from our group GUE-Nordic greens, to the Green Alliance, to European socialists (only a few) and a Danish parliamentarian from the group  “differences and diversities”, accompanied by many European journalists –  felt anxiety over the amount of destruction which Bush’s war would bring.  The common denominator of this delegation was its refusal to accept this war. Some of us thought that it is necessary to give more time to the UN arms inspectors, and that if they really do find weapons of mass destruction perhaps they would not oppose an attack.  But most of us are totally against the war and are convinced that Bush’s aim is an extension of power, not only for control of Iraqi oil but also as a new form of colonialism in the whole of the Middle East, looking towards Asia and the future of China as well.

The delegation decided not to meet with members of the Government in order to demonstrate our opposition to Saddam Hussein.  This was a difficult decision to take.  Some of us thought that such a meeting would not have indicated our approval of Saddam Hussein’s policies, but would have given us an opportunity to express our opposition not only to the war but also to the policiis of oppression and control which the regime exercised over the population.

We went to the ancient city of Bassora,  the center of which was dirty and  crumbling, its houses devastated first by bombings during the war with Iran, then by the civil war between the Shiits and the Sunnites  and after that by American bombings.  Children ca me out through the old wooden doors.  We met with Iraqi parliamentarians and they, like Karim, asked us why, but they had a reply:  “America wants our oil, and they want to keep us underdeveloped.  How is it that you Europeans don’t understand this?  This war is also against  you.  America is afraid of a united Europe”.

We saw from afar an oil refinery, flames emerging from its smokestacks.  If there is a war will all the oil wells be destroyed?  We visited a maternity hospital.  We saw horrifying pictures of babies born deformed.  The director of the hospital told us that the number of deformed births had increased dramatically in recent years as a result of the depleted uranium used in American bombs.  We visited different hospital wards.  We saw malnourished children and women staring blankly into the distance.  A cameraman asked if he could check the reading of his light meter against a doctor’s white coat.  The doctor answered “Sure, take my picture, it could be the last time that my picture is taken, when you come back we could all be gone”.  This is how people are living, waiting for the bombs to rain down on them.  But then the doctor added:  “Don’t think that we won’t resist.  They won’t be able to destroy everything.  And if American soldiers come to occupy our country I too will use a gun”.

We watched Colin Powell speaking to the United Nations in the Iraqi press room.  Powell doesn’t present real evidence.  The Iranian expert Saidi, in a press conference held immediately afterwards, said to the journalists:  “There was no proof given.  The photos shown are of places that the inspectors visited.  The telephone call is a trick;  telephone calls can easily be rigged.  Links with Al Qaeda?  Ridiculous.”

We must stop this war.  We must do the impossible.  We must disarm Saddam Hussein as we must also disarm Sharon, Bush and Al Qaeda.  On the 15th of February there must be millions of people demonstrating in the streets throughout the world.  It is time for all of those who want peace and justice to do the impossible to stop this war.  Bush’s policy would lead us to a total catastrophe.

Turning Turkey

"Turkey said on Sunday the United States should not expect immediate permission to deploy tens of thousands of troops on its soil ahead of a possible war in Iraq.

Washington sees the arrival of troops in the NATO member as a key step ahead of any Iraq war, while some of Turkey's European allies fear conflict may become inevitable if the U.S. military build-up against Baghdad continues unchecked.

A top-level meeting of Turkish civilian and military officials on Sunday failed to set a date for parliament to vote on the arrival of the soldiers, which the United States has hoped would be secured by Tuesday.

"America may have expectations of Turkey as it does of other countries, but we have not yet decided on a date to deal with the proposal," Deputy Prime Minister Abdullatif Sener told a televised news conference after the meeting." Read the rest here

Yanks go home?

"NEU-ISENBURG, Germany For some angry U.S. lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the best punishment for Germany's refusal to back a war against Iraq would be to scale back the number of American troops stationed here. The Pentagon, they were told last week, is weighing the idea. Ask the residents of this German village what they think, and they say it could not happen soon enough."  Go to here

The Reemergence of Balance-of-Power Politics

"People speak and write today about feelings of utter powerlessness to

prevent the coming war. So powerful is the US. And so determined to strike.

Impotence in the face of the supremely powerful. With our imagination

limited by memories of the superpower standoffs and ambiguous victories and

defeats of the Cold War period, it is tempting to see the current situation

as unique." Read the rest of Walden Bello's analysis


Argentine novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote this letter to junta leader Bush:

"on September 11, 2001"

How do you feeel? How does it feel when the horror explodes in your patio and not in the living room of your neighbour? How does itr feel with fear clutching your chest, the panic from the deafening noise, the flames out of  control, that terrible smell which goes to the bottom of your lungs, the eyes of the innocents walking covered with dust and blood?

How is it to lie for a day in your own house with the uncertainty of what is going to happen? How does one get out of shock? On the 6th of August, 1945 the survivors of Hiroshima walked in a state of shock. Nothing in the city remained standing after t he North American bombardier of the Enola Gray dropped the bomb. In a few seconds 80,000 men, women and children had died, Another 250,000 would die in the following years from the radiation. But this was a far away war and television did not yet exist. How did it feel when the terrible television images told you that what happened on the fatal 11th of September was not in a far away land, but in your own homeland? Another 11th of September, but 28 years back, a president named Salvador

Allende was killed resisting a coup d'etat your government had planned. There, also, were times of horror, but this happened far away from your frontiers, in an unknown little South American republic. The little republics are in your back yard and nothing disturbs you when your marines go in with blood and fire to impose your points of view. Do you know that between 1824 and 1994 your country carried out 73 invasions of various countries of Latin America?

The countries were Puerto Rico, Mexico, Nicaraugua, Panama, Haaiti, Colombia, Cuba, Honduras, Dominical Republic, Virgin Islands, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Granada. For almost a whole century your governments have been at war.

From the beginning of the XXth century, there has been hardly a war in the world in which the people of your Pentagon have not participated. Obviously, the bombs always burst outside

of your territory, except for Pearl Harbor, when Japanese aircraft bombed your Seventh Fleet in 1941. But always the horror was far away.

When the Twin Towers came down in a cloud of dust, when you saw the pictures on television or heard the cries because you were in Manhattan, did you think for even a second of what

the peasants of Vietnam felt for many years? In Vietnam the people screamed because napalm continues burning the flesh for a long time and death is frightful, as much as for those who fall in a desperate leap into space.

Your aircraft did not leave a factory or a bridge standing in Yugoslavia. In Iraq there were 500,000 dead. Operation Desert Storm took half a million lives. How many people bled to death in places as exotic and distant as Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Libya, Angola, Somalia, Congo, Nicaragua, Dominicana, Cambodia, Yugoslavia, Sudan, and an endless list.

In all these places the projectiles were manufactured in your factories, in your country, were aimed by your boys, by people  paid by the State Department, and only so that you could continue enjoying the American way of life. It is almost a century that your country has been at war with the whole world. Curiously, your country launches the horsemen of the Apocalypse in the name of liberty and democracy. But you should know that far away peoples of the world, (on this planet 24,000 inhabitants die every day from hunger or curable illnesses), the United States does not represent liberty, but a distant and terrible enemy who only sows war, hunger, fear and destruction. These always have been distant armed conflicts for you, but for those who live there it is a sad and near reality, a war where the buildings collapse under the bombs and where the people meet a horrible death. And the victims have always been, 90 percent of them, civilians, women, old people, children - collateral damage.

How do you feel when the horror knocks at your own door for just one day? What do you think when the victims in New are secretaries, exchange operators, cleaning workers, who regularly pay their taxes and wouldn't hurt a fly?

How does fear feel? How do you feel, Yankee, to know that the long war, finally, on September 11, reached your home?

Thanks to John Manning for supplying the translation.

Mossad fronts fail in attempt to hoodwink European Parliament

At the European Parliament plenary session last Thursday, the Conference of Presidents of the Political Groups of the European Parliament refused to agree to the request for the creation of a temporary committee of enquiry into the use of EU funds in Palestine. The call for a special temporary committee, a body which is established only in the most extreme circumstances, followed the flooding of the Parliament with black propaganda by secretive pro-Israeli organisations. Material alleging that funds to the Palestinain Authroity had been channelled to terrorist groups carried URLs of non-existent websites, names of non-existent organisations and so on. Unfortunately, some of the deputies conned by Mossad came from progressive groups, sewing deep confusion amongst MEPs. In the end, however, only the far right group of the Union of a European of Nations voted in favour of this request that had been signed by 157 MEPs. A routine foreign affairs committee working group was established to oversee the disbursal of funds in Palestine, as is right and proper given that what is being spent are your tax Euros (and ours!). The working group will look into the fate of all EU funds, including the issue of millions of Euros' worth of infrastructure destroyed by the stormtroopers of the Israeli Defence Force.

The Labour Euro-Safeguards Campaign has brought out another of its regular bulletins on EU affairs. This time LESC turns its attention to the Constitutional Conventional, a body "all too likely further to reinforce all the trends in the eU which have been so clearly manifest over the last half century since the Common Market was established." Such as? The "growth in the power and influence of the unelected Commission and the corresponding erosion of the status of the democratically elected national parliaments in the constituent Member States." Go to http://www.lesc.org.uk to find out more about LESC and read back copies of its bulletin.

Finally, on a lighter note, Jacob Söderman, the European Parliament Ombudsman has complained that the EU Council of Ministers has refused to let him have a copy of a paper on....access to documents.