16 April 2003
A world in resistance/The burning of books...
'For almost a thousand years, Baghdad was the cultural capital of the Arab world, the most literate population in the Middle East. Genghis Khan's grandson burnt the city in the 13th century and, so it was said, the Tigris river ran black with the ink of books. Yesterday, the black ashes of thousands of ancient documents filled the skies of Iraq. Why?' (item 3)
'The candles in windows did not stop the cruise missiles. The demonstrators did not block the tanks rolling north to Baghdad. Pope John Paul II did not stop President George W. Bush. Yet against all expectation, a global contest whose consequence far transcends the war in Iraq had arisen.
Dr. Robert Muller of Costa Rica, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, caught the mood of the new peace movement when, at age 80, he received an award for his service to the UN. He startled his discouraged audience by saying, "I'm so honored to be here. I'm so honored to be alive at such a miraculous time in history. I'm so moved by what's going on in our world today." For "never before in the history of the world has there been a global, visible, public, viable, open dialogue and conversation about the very legitimacy of war." This was what it looked like, he said, to be "waging peace." It was "a miracle." Shock and awe has found its riposte in courage and wonder.' (item 4)
1.NGOs Oppose GM Food Dumping In Iraq
2.NGO says 'no thanks' to funding by Short and DfID
3.So yesterday was the burning of books...
4.THE OTHER SUPERPOWER - a world in resistance
items 3 and 4 via THE AGRIBUSINESS EXAMINER EXTRA, April 16, 2003,
1.NGOs Oppose GM Food Dumping In Iraq, Favour UN Role
2.Focus on the Global South say 'No!' to funding by Short and DfID
Focus on the Global south which works in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia, became the first NGO to reject future funding from Clare Short's Department for Internationsl Development. The reason is the government waging war on one of the poorest countries in the world. The leading economist, Walden Bello, its executive director, is none too happy with Short either after she called Blair's behaviour 'extraordinarily reckless' the "put her career ahead of principle. This is regrettable," he says.
information taken from 'eco soundings', The Guardian, April 16 2002
for more on Short, see George Monbiot's 'Angel of Death'
3. So yesterday was the burning of books...
ROBERT FISK, INDEPENDENT: So yesterday was the burning of books. First came the looters, then the arsonists. It was the final chapter in the sacking of Baghdad. The National Library and Archives, a priceless treasure of Ottoman historical documents, including the old royal archives of Iraq, were turned to ashes in 3,000 degrees of heat. Then the library of Korans at the Ministry of Religious Endowment was set ablaze.
I saw the looters. One of them cursed me when I tried to reclaim a book of Islamic law from a boy of no more than ten. Amid the ashes of Iraqi history, I found a file blowing in the wind outside: pages of handwritten letters between the court of Sharif Hussein of Mecca, who started the Arab revolt against the Turks for Lawrence of Arabia, and the Ottoman rulers of Baghdad.
And the Americans did nothing. All over the filthy yard they blew, letters of recommendation to the courts of Arabia, demands for ammunition for troops, reports on the theft of camels and attacks on pilgrims, all in delicate hand- written Arabic script. I was holding in my hands the last Baghdad vestiges of Iraq's written history. But for Iraq, this is Year Zero; with the destruction of the antiquities in the Museum of Archaeology on Saturday and the burning of the National Archives and then the Koranic library, the cultural identity of Iraq is being erased. Why? Who set these fires? For what insane purpose is this heritage being destroyed?
When I caught sight of the Koranic library burning --- flames 100 feet high were bursting from the windows --- I raced to the offices of the occupying power, the U.S. Marines' Civil Affairs Bureau. An officer shouted to a colleague that "this guy says some biblical [sic] library is on fire." I gave the map location, the precise name --- in Arabic and English. I said the smoke could be seen from three miles away and it would take only five minutes to drive there. Half an hour later, there wasn't an American at the scene --- and the flames were shooting 200 feet into the air. . .
In the National Archives were not just the Ottoman records of the Caliphate, but even the dark years of the country's modern history, handwritten accounts of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, with personal photographs and military diaries, and microfiche copies of Arabic newspapers going back to the early 1900s. But the older files and archives were on the upper floors of the library where petrol must have been used to set fire so expertly to the building. The heat was such that the marble flooring had buckled upwards and the concrete stairs that I climbed had been cracked.
The papers on the floor were almost too hot to touch, bore no print or writing, and crumbled into ash the moment I picked them up. .
For almost a thousand years, Baghdad was the cultural capital of the Arab world, the most literate population in the Middle East. Genghis Khan's grandson burnt the city in the 13th century and, so it was said, the Tigris river ran black with the ink of books. Yesterday, the black ashes of thousands of ancient documents filled the skies of Iraq. Why?
4. The other superpower
THE NATION, April 14, 2003
As the war began, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld promised a "campaign unlike any other in history." What he did not plan or expect, however, was that the peoples of earth--what some are calling "the other superpower" --- would launch an opposing campaign destined to be even less like any other in history. Indeed, Rumsfeld's campaign, a military attack, was in all its essential elements as old as history. The other campaign --- the one opposing the war --- meanwhile, was authentically novel... If news has anything to do with what is new, then this campaign's birth and activity are the real news. What emerges is a portrait of a world in resistance.
Although there is an abyss of difference between the means of the two campaigns, there are also a few notable similarities. Both are creatures of the Information Age, which underlies the so-called "smart" technology on display in the war as well as the Internet, which has become the peace movement's principal organizing tool. Both are global--the United States seeks to demonstrate its self-avowed aim of global military supremacy, and the peace movement is equally determined to reject this. Not only is the whole world watching, as people used to say, the whole world is defending itself. Yet both campaigns are at the same time surprisingly agile, able to change their tactics and timing in response to events. Most interesting, perhaps, both conceive of power at least as much in terms of will as of force.
...The global peace movement, too, makes its appeal to the will, but in a diametrically opposite spirit. It encourages people not to give up their beliefs in obedience to the dictates of force but to act on those beliefs in the face of force. The war, we are told, is being fought for freedom. But who, we may ask, are the free ones--those who knuckle under to violence or those who defy it? The new superpower possesses immense power, but it is a different kind of power: not the will of one man wielding the 21,000-pound MOAB but the hearts and wills of the majority of the world's people.
Its victories have been triumphs of civil courage, like the vote of the Turkish Parliament to turn down a multibillion-dollar bribe and, in keeping with public opinion, refuse the United States the use of Turkish bases in the war, or like the refusal of the six small, nonpermanent members of the United Nations Security Council to succumb to great-power browbeating and support its resolution for war. The question everywhere was which superpower to obey --- the single nation claiming that title, or the will of the people of the earth. Outside the imperial counsels, the people of the earth were prevailing.
Never, in fact, had this will been expressed more clearly than in the moments leading up to the U.S. assault. On the brink of the war no public but the Israeli one supported it under the conditions in which it was being launched --- that is, without UN support. Public-opinion polls showed that in most countries opposition to the war was closer to unanimity than to a mere majority. A Gallup poll showed that in "neutral" (and normally pro-American) Switzerland the figure was 90%, in Argentina 87%, in Nigeria 86%, in Bosnia (recently the beneficiary of NATO intervention on its behalf) 91%. In all of the countries whose governments supported the war except Israel's, the public opposed it. The "coalition of the willing" was a coalition of governments alone.
A new phenomenon of rolling demonstrations circled the world --- not only in the great capitals but also in provincial cities and even small towns. (There was a demonstration in Afghanistan, the last scene of "regime change.") Most newspapers outside the United States opposed the war. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed his chagrin. The Pope said the war "threatens the destiny of humanity." For once, the majority of the world's governments spoke up unequivocally for the majorities of their peoples.
The candles in windows did not stop the cruise missiles. The demonstrators did not block the tanks rolling north to Baghdad. Pope John Paul II did not stop President George W. Bush. Yet against all expectation, a global contest whose consequence far transcends the war in Iraq had arisen. Dr. Robert Muller of Costa Rica, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, caught the mood of the new peace movement when, at age 80, he received an award for his service to the UN. He startled his discouraged audience by saying, "I'm so honoured to be here. I'm so honored to be alive at such a miraculous time in history. I'm so moved by what's going on in our world today." For "never before in the history of the world has there been a global, visible, public, viable, open dialogue and conversation about the very legitimacy of war." This was what it looked like, he said, to be "waging peace." It was "a miracle." Shock and awe has found its riposte in courage and wonder.