Monday, March 15, 2004
TORTURED CONSTUCTIONS #3
There are more articles on this subject at:
TORTURED CONSTRUCTIONS #1
TORTURED CONSTRUCTIONS #2
HOW WE SURVIVED JAIL HELL
THE OBSERVER (UK)
David Rose March 14, 2004
For two years the Tipton Three have been silent prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Now, in this remarkable interview with David Rose, they describe for the first time the extraordinary story of their journey from the West Midlands to Camp Delta
'When I woke up I didn't know where I was. I'd lost consciousness at the side of the container, but when I woke up I was in the middle - lying on top of dead bodies, breathing the stench of their blood and urine.
'They'd herded maybe 300 of us into each container, the type you get on ordinary lorries, packed in so tightly our knees were against our chests, and almost immediately we started to suffocate. We lived because someone made holes with a machine gun, though they were shooting low and still more died from the bullets. When we got out, about 20 in each container were still alive.'
In a safe house in southern England at the weekend, Asif Iqbal was describing his survival, together with his friends Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul, after a massacre by US-backed Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan - the start of a 26-month nightmare which ended last week with their release from the American detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.
Their faces gaunt with accumulated stress and exhaustion, they spoke softly, still stunned by the change in their circumstances: 'I just can't believe we're sitting here,' Ahmed says. 'This time last week, we were in the cages at Guantanamo.'
The horror of their story needs no embellishment. One day, perhaps, there will be an inquiry into Guantanamo. Until then, some of their allegations - which, it can be assumed, America is likely to deny - cannot be corroborated. However, many of the experiences they describe, including gunpoint interrogations in Afghanistan and random brutality both there and in Guantanamo, have been related in identical terms by other freed detainees. Last October I spent four days at Guantanamo. Much of what the three men say about the regime and the camp's physical conditions I either saw or heard from US officials.
Having escaped the truck container massacre, they endured near-starvation in a jail run by the Afghan warlord, General Dostum. When the Red Cross appeared and promised to make contact with the British Embassy in Islamabad they thought they were going home. Instead, with the apparent agreement of British officials, they were handed over to the Americans, first for weeks of physical abuse at a detention camp in Kandahar, followed by more than two years in the desolation of Guantanamo.
Month after month they were interrogated, for 12 hours or more at a time, by American security agencies and, repeatedly, by MI5 - in all, they say, they endured 200 sessions each. But when they re-emerged to freedom on Wednesday after two final days of questioning at Paddington Green police station, every apparent shred of evidence had melted away. Iqbal, Rasul and Ahmed, together with the other early arrivals at Guantanamo, had been described by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as 'the hardest of the hard core', lethal terrorists 'involved in an effort to kill thousands of Americans'. Even last week the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, was claiming America had been justified in holding them.
Yet despite the denial of legal rights or due process, the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have been forced to accept what the three men said all along - that they were never members of the Taliban, al-Qaeda or any other militant group. The Americans had justified their detention by claiming they were 'enemy combatants', but they were never armed and did not fight.
'They formally told us we were going home last Sunday [several weeks after this news was relayed to the media],' Rasul said. 'We had a final meeting with the FBI, and they tried to get us to sign a piece of paper which said something like I was admitting I'd had links with terrorism, and that if I ever did anything like this again the US could arrest me.' Like the other two detainees freed last week, Tarek Dergoul and Jamal al-Harith, they refused.
'They took us to the airport in chains,' said Rasul, 'and when we got there this huge plane was surrounded by armed men. As we walked towards the steps they had guns trained on us. This military police guy hands us over to the British, takes off our shackles and tells the Brit he can put on the handcuffs. But the British policemen say, "no, no, there's no need for handcuffs". We walk up the steps and they're not even touching me.
'For the first time in two years I'm walking somewhere without being frogmarched. We get to the door and someone says: "Good morning. Welcome aboard." '
Rasul, 26, Ahmed, 22, and Iqbal, 22, were boyhood friends from the Midlands town of Tipton. In Septem ber 2001 they travelled to Pakistan ahead of the marriage Iqbal's parents had arranged for him to a woman in Faisalabad. Ahmed was to be best man; Rasul hoped to do a computer course after the wedding.
The three were in no sense fundamentalists: their brand of Islam, they say, was never that of the Taliban. But like many young Muslims in Pakistan they crossed the border into Afghanistan in October 2001, as it became clear that, in the wake of the 11 September attacks on America, one of the poorest countries in the world was about to be attacked. They had no intention of joining the fighting, they insist, but only of giving humanitarian aid. In England, none of them was rich, but in Asia, the little money they had could go a long way. For a short time they used the savings accumulated for their trip to buy food and medical supplies for Afghan villagers.
But in Taliban-led Afghanistan one aspect of their appearance made them dangerously visible - they had no beards. Travelling through a bombed landscape, they tried to escape in a taxi. But instead of reaching safety they were driven further into danger - to the city of Kunduz, which was promptly surrounded and bombarded by Dostum's troops. Aware that a bloodbath was imminent, they tried to leave on a convoy of trucks but their own vehicle was shelled, killing almost everyone on board. 'We were trapped,' says Iqbal. 'There was nothing we could do but give ourselves up. They took our money, our shoes, all our warm clothes, and put us in lines.'
They were part of a vast column of prisoners, around 35,000, says Rasul: 'You'd look down the slope and there were lines and lines of people, as far as the eye could see. We went through the mountains and the open desert. There were these massive ditches full of bodies. We thought this was the end. We thought they were going to kill us all.' Many of the prisoners were wounded and died by the wayside.
After two days they ended up outside Shebargan prison and crammed into the containers - it was night, says Iqbal, and the massacre began under the glare of spotlights which the three men claim were operated by American special forces. 'The last thing I remember is that it got really hot, and everyone started screaming and banging. It was like someone had lit a fire beneath the containers. You could feel the moisture running off your body, and people were ripping off their clothes.'
When he came to, Iqbal had not drunk for more than two days. Maddened by thirst, he wiped the stream ing walls with a cloth, and sucked out the moisture, until he realised he was drinking the bodily fluids of the massacred prisoners. 'We were like zombies,' Iqbal says. 'We stank, we were covered in blood and the smell of death.'
Freed from the trucks which had become mass graves, they were taken into Shebargan prison, where they were held in appalling conditions for the next month. Much was open to the elements, and to make room inside its bare communal cells the prisoners lay down in four-hour shifts. They were fed a quarter of a naan bread a day, with a small cup of water: sometimes, says Rasul, there were fights over the rations. Often snow blew into the buildings.
Rasul says: 'There were people with horrific injuries - limbs that had been shot off and nothing was done. I'll never forget one Arab who was missing half his jaw. For 10 days until his death he was screaming and crying continuously, begging to be killed.'
A few days earlier Taliban prisoners had organised the uprising against their captors at Qala-i-Jhangi Fort at Mazar-e-Sharif, and western reporters paid a visit to Shebargan. They seemed blind to the misery there, Rasul says. 'All they seemed to be interested in was if any of us knew the American Taliban John Walker Lindh.'
After 10 days the Red Cross arrived, bringing some improvement and an increase in the water supply. But by now all three were malnourished and suffering from amoebic dysentery. Ahmed says: 'We were covered with lice. All day long you were scratching, scratching. I was bleeding from my chest, my head.' Iqbal adds: 'We lost so much weight that if I stood up I could carry water in the gap between my collar bones and my flesh.'
Prisoners died daily: of the 35,000 originally marched through the desert, only 4,500 were still alive, the three men estimate. All this time they could see American troops 50 metres from their prison wing on the other side of the gates.
After a month of this living hell, on 27 or 28 December, the Red Cross spoke to the three and promised they would contact the British Embassy in Islamabad and ask them to intervene on their behalf and notify their families that they were alive. Rasul's brother, Habib, says he had contacted the Foreign Office at the end of November and asked for help in tracing his missing brother.
In fact, very soon, the three would meet British officials. But Habib would be told nothing until February 8 - three weeks after his brother's arrival in Guantanamo.
Two days after the three talked to the Red Cross, Dostum's troops put them in chains, marched them through the main gate and handed them over to American special forces. Ahmed says: 'They put something like a sandbag over my head so you could see nothing. Then we got thrown on to a truck. They taped the sacks at the bottom of our necks, making it difficult to breathe.'
The Americans took them to Shebargan airport, where they were beaten, then loaded on a plane. 'I wanted to use the toilet,' Rasul says. 'Someone smacked me on the back of my head with his gun. I started peeing myself.'
Trussed like chickens, their chains replaced by plastic ties, they were flown to the US detention centre at Kandahar. The weather was freezing. Wearing only thin salwar kameez, with no socks or shoes, they were tied together with a rope and led into the camp, where they waited to be processed.
In the very different setting of a sitting room in suburban England, Iqbal demonstrates how they were made to kneel bent double, with their foreheads touching the ground: 'If your head wasn't touching the floor or you let it rise up a little they put their boots on the back of your neck and forced it down. We were kept like that for two or three hours.'
Rasul adds: 'I lifted up my head slightly because I was really in pain. The sergeant came up behind me, kicked my legs from underneath me, then knelt on my back. They took me outside and searched me while one man was sitting on me, kicking and punching.'
All this time they were still wearing their hoods. Then one soldier took a Stanley knife and cut off their clothes. Naked and freezing, they were made to squat while the soldiers searched their bodily cavities and photographed them. At last, they say, they were frog-marched through a barbed wire maze and put into a half-open tent where they were told to dress in blue prison overalls.
They had not washed since the container massacre a month earlier. There, Iqbal had sustained a ricochet wound to the elbow. Displaying an ugly purple scar, he explains that by the time he reached Kandahar, it had become infected. It was late at night by the time they had been processed, but next morning, they say, they were taken straight to their first interrogation. Rasul says: 'A special forces guy sat there holding a gun to my temple, a 9mm pistol. He said if I made any movement he'd blow my head off.'
Each endured several such sessions at Kandahar: each time, they say, they were questioned on their knees, in chains, always at gunpoint. Often they were kicked or beaten. (Other released detainees have described Kandahar in similar terms.)
Not all their interrogators were American. Iqbal and Rasul also describe an English officer in a maroon beret who said he was a member of the SAS. 'He had a posh English accent,' Rasul says. 'He mentioned the names of British prisons like Belmarsh and said we'd end up there.' Iqbal says the SAS officer told him: 'Don't worry, you won't be beaten today because you're with me.'
Ahmed says he was also questioned by an officer from MI5 and another Englishman who said he was from the British Embassy. 'All the time I was kneeling with a guy standing on the backs of my legs and another holding a gun to my head. The MI5 man says: "I'm from the UK, I'm from MI5, and I've got some questions for you." He says he was called Dave. He told me: "We've got your names, we've got your passports, we know you've been funded by an extremist group and we know you've been to this mosque in Birmingham. We've got photos of you." None of this was true.
'The second occasion was on the morning I left - they said I was going home. In fact I was on my way to Cuba.'
As Muslims, they were shocked when in repeated 'shakedown' searches of the sleeping tents, copies of the Koran would be trampled on by soldiers and, on one occasion, thrown into a toilet bucket. Throughout their stay at Kandahar the guards carried out head-counts every hour at night to keep the prisoners awake.
Rasul says: 'You'd just be dozing off and then you were made to get up, and that's the way it was all the way to morning.'
At 3AM on 13 January 2002, Rasul was moved to a new tent with Iqbal. Next morning their numbers were called out and they were made to sit while soldiers chained them tightly, sat them in a tent and attached another chain to a hook on the floor. 'These guys came in with clippers,' Rasul says, 'they shaved my hair and my beard; they cut all my clothes off and threw this medication over me, to kill the lice. Then they unlocked me from the floor and led me into another tent naked where they forced me to squat again and did another intimate cavity search.'
Instead of the blue overalls they were dressed in orange jumpsuits, chained and cuffed and made to wear thick gloves taped to their sleeves. Then, says Rasul: 'They made us sit outside on the gravel while they processed everyone. We had no water all day, but towards the end they gave us an MRE [a ready-to-eat US army meal] but no spoon. I had to try and trough it like an animal.'
The restraint device they were now forced to wear would become extremely familiar for the next 26 months - the 'three-piece suit', a body belt with a metal chain leading down to leg-irons with hand-shackles attached to it. Rasul says: 'I told the guard they'd put it on much too tight and he said: "You'll live." '
Before boarding a military aircraft they were dressed in earmuffs, goggles and surgical masks. Inside, they were chained to the floor with no backrests, and even when they requested the toilet, they were not released from their chains. 'Basically people wet their pants. You were pissing all over your legs.'
'The only thing that relieved the sensory deprivation and occupied me for the 22-hour flight was that I was in serious pain,' Rasul says. 'The guards told me to go to sleep but the belt was digging into me - when I finally got to Cuba I was bleeding. I lost feeling in my hands for the next six months.'
Rasul and Iqbal were on the second flight to the new Camp X-ray - the first had been three days earlier. (The Australian David Hicks and another British prisoner, Feroz Abbasi, were on that first flight.) Ahmed followed on 10 February on the fifth flight from Kandahar to Guantanamo Bay. 'When I got there,' he says, 'I was half dead. We had a two-hour stopover somewhere in Turkey. As we were being frog-marched from one plane to another, one of the guards stamped on the metal body bar of my three-piece suit so the leg-irons bit deeply into the flesh of my ankles.'
But Ahmed, at least, had been told where he was going. When Rasul and Iqbal landed they had no idea where they were: 'All I knew was that I was somewhere with intense heat,' Rasul says. 'An American voice shouted: "I am Sergeant so-and-so, US Marine Corps, you are arriving at your final destination." '
The Guantanamo airstrip lies a three-mile ferry journey across the bay from the detention facilities, a journey the prisoners made in a school bus. Iqbal says: 'The boat was moving in the swell, making the bus rock and the American guy says: "Stop moving." I couldn't stop, so he hit me.' Rasul made the mistake of telling a guard he was English. 'Traitor,' he yelled. Later, when Ahmed took the ferry, he heard a guard whispering: "This motherfucker speaks English." Repeatedly the guard kicked his leg: 'I couldn't move it for days, it was so badly bruised.'
At last they arrived at Camp X-ray, and became part of the group of orange-jumpsuited prisoners kneeling in the dust, still shackled and blindfolded, whose images went round the world. Rasul says: 'They made us kneel in that awkward way, and every time you moved, someone would kick you.
'The sun was beating down and the sweat was pouring into my eyes. I shouted for a doctor, someone poured water into my eyes and then I heard it again: "Traitor, traitor." ' Rasul was the last one processed, and by the time he got to his cage it was dark. First he was stripped naked and, still wearing his goggles and chains, he was given a piece of soap and told to shower for the first time since his capture. 'I looked around and I thought what the hell is this place?'
Iqbal recalls the moment his goggles were finally removed: 'I look up and I see all these other people who hadn't yet been processed in orange suits and goggles and I think I'm hallucinating.' Two days after arriving in Guantanamo Bay, with his family still desperate for information as to his whereabouts, Rasul was taken in his three-piece metal suit to an interrogation tent. 'I walk in and this guy says: "I'm from the Foreign Office, I've come from the British Embassy in America, and here is one of my colleagues who's from the embassy as well." Later he added his colleague was actually from MI5.'
Rasul asked where he was and the British officials replied: 'We can't disclose that information.' His family heard nothing for another three weeks. It would be many months before the British Government - which, in public, was voicing deep concerns about the lack of legal process at Guantanamo, and claiming it was trying to exert diplomatic pressure - would confirm that its own Security Service had connived from the outset.
In the early days at Camp X-ray, the conditions of detention were extreme.
The detainees were forbidden from talking to the person in the next cell and, Rasul recalls, fed tiny portions of food: 'They'd give you this big plate with a tiny pile of rice and a few beans. It was nouvelle cuisine, American-style. You were given less than 10 minutes to eat and if you hadn't finished the Marines would just take your plate away.' After a few more days Rasul was questioned again by MI5. The officer asked how he was. 'I started crying, saying I can't believe I'm here. He says: "I don't want to know how you are emotionally, I'm only interested in your physical state." '
After about a week the prisoners were allowed to speak to detainees in adjacent cells, and a few weeks later still were given copies of the Koran, a prayer mat, blankets and towels. Yet all witnessed or experienced brutality, especially from Guantanamo's own riot squad, the Extreme Reaction Force. Its acronym has led to a new verb peculiar to Guantanamo detainees: 'ERF-ing.' To be ERFed, says Rasul, means to be slammed on the floor by a soldier wielding a riot shield, pinned to the ground and assaulted.
Iqbal and Rasul were at opposite ends of the same block and were forbidden from talking to each other. There was almost nothing to do. 'Time speeds up,' Rasul says. 'You just stare and the hours go clicking by. You'd look at people and see they'd lost it. There was nothing in their eyes any more. They didn't talk.'
As the weeks of detention became months they would sometimes see psychiatrists. The response to any complaint was always the same: an offer to administer Prozac. (On my visit to Guantanamo, the camp medical staff told me that at least a fifth of the detainees were taking anti-depressants.)
It was almost impossible to master the rules and know how to avoid punishment. There was only one rule that mattered, Rasul says: 'You have to obey whatever US government personnel tell you to do.'
In mid-2002 the prisoners were moved from the open cages with mesh walls at Camp X-ray to the pre-fabri cated metal cellblocks of Camp Delta. There, the standard punishment was transfer to solitary confinement in the sensory deprivation isolation wing. Once, Ahmed says, he was given isolation for writing 'Have a nice day' on a polystyrene cup. This was deemed 'malicious damage to US government property'. On another occasion, he was punished for singing.
The cells were about the size of a king-size mattress, made of mesh and metal, exposed to the relentless tropical heat, with no air conditioning. They contained a hole in the floor for a toilet, a tap producing yellow water which was so low they had to kneel to use it, and a narrow metal cot. Apart from interrogation, the only break in this confined monotony were showers and 20 minutes' exercise, two or three times a week. 'When we were on a block with English speakers, we'd go over the conversations again and again,' Ahmed says. 'Often they'd start by someone asking if you remembered a particular kind of food. Soon you'd exhaust the possibilities, repeat the same stories four or five times.'
Even this, however, was better than the isolation punishment block, or the fate which Iqbal endured for five months in 2002 - being placed in a wing where all the other prisoners spoke only Chinese.
The three Britons were visited at least six times by MI5 and Foreign Office staff, Rasul says: 'Every time the Foreign Office came we asked about what was going on, and whether we had solicitors. His reply was "I don't know, all I know is what's been on TV. Your case hasn't been on TV." '
In fact, their families had engaged lawyers in Britain and America soon after learning of their whereabouts in February 2002, and a federal lawsuit was launched in their name which, had they not been released, would have been argued before the Supreme Court next month. They were told of this by a guard a few weeks ago, almost two years after the suit was first filed.
In September 2003 Rasul was visited on consecutive days, first by the man from the Foreign Office, then by an MI5 officer. He asked the Foreign Office man about his legal status and was told: 'You should ask the MI5 guy who's coming tomorrow.' When he did so next day, the MI5 agent said: 'You should have asked Martin from the Foreign Office yesterday.' How long had they thought they would be at Guantanamo? I asked the three men. They reply in unison: 'Forever!'
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004
Monday, February 23, 2004
WHERE ARE IRAQ'S PENTAGON PAPERS?
By Daniel Ellsberg, 2/22/2004
AS MORE and more of our young men and women come home from Iraq crippled or in body bags this election season, Americans ask, with increasing urgency, "Why did we send our children to die in Iraq? Was this war necessary?" Indeed, Tim Russert asked the president precisely that on "Meet the Press" a few weeks ago: "In light of not finding the weapons of mass destruction, do you believe the war in Iraq is a war of choice or a war of necessity?"
President Bush replied "It's a war of necessity. . . . the man was a threat. . . . the evidence we have uncovered so far says we had no choice."
To the contrary. The evidence uncovered so far says that Saddam was not a threat, to us or his neighbors. Nor -- lacking any evidence of complicity in 9/11 or links to Al Qaeda -- was there a persuasive case that he would have been a significant threat even if he had possessed WMDs.
In order to bolster their arguments and gain congressional, public, and international support, high officials chose to conceal the fact that their belief in the existence of Iraqi WMDs was entirely inferential, reflecting flimsy evidence and testimony from sources whose reliability was highly controversial. This actual state of inadequate information, well known to the US and British intelligence community, was deliberately denied by the highest officials in repeated phrases such as, "we know . . . ," "bulletproof evidence," "beyond any doubt," "Saddam possesses. . . ," "British intelligence has learned," and "these are not assertions, these are facts." The euphemism for such descriptions of the strength of evidence favoring the need to go to war is "exaggeration." A more accurate term is "lies."
I've been here before. On my first full-time day of work as a high-level staff aide in the Pentagon, Aug. 4, 1964, I heard President Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara explain our first bombing raids against North Vietnam as a response to "unequivocal evidence" of an "unprovoked" attack on our destroyers "on routine patrol" in the Tonkin Gulf. Already that night I knew, along with many other Pentagon insiders, that each of these statements was a lie.
"Unequivocal"? I had personally read, 10 hours before our bombers were launched, a "Flash" cable from Captain Herrick, commanding the destroyers, which put in doubt all of his cables that had crossed my desk earlier that day reporting up to 21 torpedoes fired at his ships. Attributing the prior reports to "freak weather effects and an overeager sonarman," Herrick recommended that no further action be taken till there had been complete evaluation, including daylight reconnaissance.
Congress was given no hint of this recommendation (which his superiors ignored) or the uncertainties emphasized by Herrick, in the top secret testimony it received from McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk before it passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution three days later with only two dissenting votes. In hearings in February 1968, Senator J. William Fulbright said that if he had known of the Herrick cable alone, he would not have managed the Senate passage of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, "a great disservice to the Senate" which he regretted "more than anything I have ever done in my life."
He hadn't known of that cable because I, among many others, didn't tell him. I didn't dream of doing such a thing at the time; and if the thought had occurred to me, I'm sure I would have rejected it. Now I wish fervently that I had made those cables -- along with the rest of the contents of my safe in August 1964, demonstrating the equal falsity of the other statements about "unprovoked" attacks, "routine patrols," and "we seek no wider war" -- available to Congress and the electorate that same autumn, before the bombs had started falling. When I finally did so belatedly in 1971, former Senator Wayne Morse, who had cast one of the two dissenting votes in 1964, told me that if I had given him those documents at that time, "The Tonkin Gulf Resolution would never have gotten out of committee. And if it had been brought to a vote, it would never have passed." That's a heavy burden to bear.
However, just as Senators Byrd and Kennedy, the only two remaining in the Senate who voted for the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, learned from an error they have regretted for almost 40 years and tried to warn their current colleagues against repeating it last fall, so can insiders such as I once was do better than I did then. Individuals inside government, from low-level clerks to Cabinet members, have the power -- to be sure, at the risk of their careers -- to tell the truth. There are surely drawers full of documents in Washington right now -- the Pentagon Papers of Iraq -- that, if leaked in bulk, would drastically alter the public discourse on whether we should have sent our children to kill and to die in Iraq, and more urgently, whether we should continue to do so.
I urge patriotic and conscientious Americans who have access to these documents, and who know it is wrong for their bosses to lie to the public about why we are in this war, to consider doing what I wish I had done in 1964 or early 1965, years earlier than I did: Go to Congress and the press; tell the truth, with documents. The personal risks are real, but a war's worth of lives are at stake.
Wednesday, January 21, 2004
Sunday, April 06, 2003
EVERY WAR IS A CIVIL WAR: Power, A Divinity Professor Says, Does Not Bestow Morality Or Infallibility On Any Nation
By Rev. Peter Storey (Williams Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry, Duke University Divinity School) February 28, 2003
Anything the church says about the looming attack on Iraq is deeply compromised because of our disobedience to Jesus on the issue of war itself.
After 300 years of pacifism, the church, in exchange for Caesar’s dubious friendship, made peace with war. The nonviolence of Jesus was quietly shelved, and the church was left with the contradiction of trying to rationalize the barbaric act of war, while simultaneously attempting to hedge its barbarism around with a list of rules – the "just war" doctrine.
Caesar has exploited that contradiction ever since, both flouting the rules and claiming religious sanction for his war-making. Christian pacifists are convinced that so long as people place their trust in what seminary professor and author Walter Wink calls "the myth of redemptive violence," nations will continue to sacrifice their citizens and kill other people in the vain belief that war actually solves anything.
However, given that most Christians today are not pacifists but claim to adhere to a "just war" ethic, there are a number of reasons – valid for pacifist and "just war" Christians alike – why we should question President Bush’s unseemly rush toward war. Coming from Africa, I offer them together with something of a Third World perspective on this crisis.
First, we need to remember that war is always about lying, and when leaders everywhere decide on war, they tend to be less than candid, emphasizing what they think will gain support and downplaying less worthy motives. Even if some of what they say is true, there is often a subtext not offered to the public. American leaders are no exception, and have frequently deceived their people about war aims. We should view the stated reasons for war on Iraq with skepticism.
A second concern is Mr. Bush’s outrageous doctrine of "pre-emptive war," in which the military power of the United States will be used against a nation because of something it might do, rather than what it has done. How can he claim that this illegal action would be in "the highest moral traditions of our country"? The notion of "pre-emptive war" negates all "just war" criteria and flouts international law.
In the rest of the world, we are extremely concerned that such behavior by the United States will invite similar "pre-emptive" violence in places where nations have fragile relationships or records of past hostility with their neighbors. The Korean Peninsula, the Indian subcontinent and the Lakes Region of Africa are scary examples.
The breathtaking inconsistency of U.S. foreign policy provides a third concern. Iraq is singled out for disarmament by war because it has produced weapons of mass destruction and defied the United Nations. Israel, funded and armed by the United States, treats equally important U.N. resolutions with contempt by occupying territory not its own – and it has secretly produced nuclear devices. If the fear is that Iraq might assist terrorists, the obvious question is why this U.S. administration will not use its enormous leverage to secure a just settlement of the bleeding Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Resentment of the U.S. role in that conflict is surely the primary reason for most Arab-sponsored terrorism.
Would Mr. Bush be as bellicose if it were not for the fact that war-making may have become too easy for this nation? Since the Gulf War, in Kosovo and Afghanistan, U.S. technology and weaponry have made it possible to win wars, often from 30,000 feet, with minimal American casualties. Relying increasingly on professionals to wage its wars, the rest of America can go about its business as if nothing is happening. When wars can be virtually bloodless for "our" side, an important brake on war-making in a democracy is removed.
This becomes more serious when those with the most power to wage war have had no experience of war on their own soil for more than a century. The terrible atrocities of 9-11, horrific as they were, do not compare with the ravages wrought by years of sustained war in large parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. Yet, given the inordinate degree of fear and horror among Americans after that single morning of terrorist butchery, one would expect a greater curiosity about the death and suffering this war might bring to other people just like them. I detect little such curiosity.
One of the most sickening things about reading and listening to U.S. commentators is the disproportionate value that they seem to place on American lives, compared to those whom Americans might kill. In the Gulf war, more than 200,000 Iraqis were killed. How many will die this time? As a Third World friend said not long ago, "America goes to war; war comes to us."
Allied to this is the question of outcomes. Theologian and pastor Harry Emerson Fosdick reminded this nation in the 1940s that the only certainty about war is that it always produces consequences different than those originally intended. In the case of Iraq, there is a legitimate concern that war there might bring a conflagration in the world’s most volatile region, offering an even more pressing reason to search for every possible alternative to war.
"Just war" proponents agree that war should be an absolute "last resort," after all other options have been exhausted. The problem with this is that the great powers explore so few other "resorts," and, apart from economic sanctions, seem to be out of ideas. If even 1 percent of military budgets had been expended on developing alternative, nonviolent means of pressure to deal with cruel dictators like Saddam Hussein, the world would have a wider range of options to choose from.
And why should the United States assume that it alone has the right to decide when the "last resort" has been reached? Could it be that in this administration, we are seeing the arrogant face of empire? It may be that those who lead this most powerful nation in the world are more sure than they should be that they can control even unintended outcomes.
I was born into the last days of the British Empire, upon which, we were told, the sun would never set. As I look back on that empire, I recall how sure we were about how good we were and how right we were. I know now how often we were neither. Power, of itself, does not bestow morality or infallibility on any nation.
Why is President Bush so determined to make his war a litmus test for the United Nations? It is an open secret that there are those in his administration who despise the United Nations as an irritating stumbling block. Christians in the United States need to be reminded that their sisters and brothers in many smaller countries regard the United Nations, with all its failings, differently. We resent this president, who has so little knowledge or even curiosity about the rest of the world, lecturing the United Nations like a petulant schoolmaster.
We know from experience that the United States has not always been on the right side of history, and the world body has sometimes had to give moral leadership where the United States could give none. An example is the tacit and sometimes active covert support given to the South African apartheid regime by more than one U.S. administration. It was the U.N., not the U.S.A., which led the anti-apartheid struggle, until a growing number of American Christians mobilized to shame their government into joining it.
The millions across the world who turned out to demonstrate on Feb. 15 were not only protesting the impending war. They were also expressing their frustration at this careless new confidence that might is right. Other nations of the world look to the United States for something nobler than another empire. We hope for something more than the outworn ways of war. We look for vision and moral leadership, compassion and justice.
If we are Christians, we have an even higher reason, pacifist and non-pacifist alike, to press this administration to resist the temptation of war. Ultimately, Christians have a higher loyalty than that of flag or nation. We belong to a wider commonwealth. When Christ was nailed to the cross, he nailed us to our neighbors, breaking down the divisions between us. All Christians, whether pacifists or proponents of the "just war" theory, are bound to acknowledge that for those who follow Jesus, all wars are civil wars. All wars, everywhere, are a form of fratricide.
That, above all, is reason to pause.
This article originally was written for the United Methodist News Service.
Rev. Peter Storey is a former president of the Methodist Church of South Africa and a former bishop of Johannesburg. He was an anti-apartheid activist and served as Nelson Mandela’s prison chaplain.
NO, THIS WAR WOULD NOT BE MORAL: Divinity Professor Says the U.S. Must Realize That It Isn't Defeating "Evil" by Going to War
By Stanley Hauerwas (Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke University Divinity School) February 28, 2003
The impending war against Saddam Hussein seems morally coherent to many because Saddam is "evil." After all, who in the world is against eliminating evil? Well, I am, if war is the means for its elimination. I am an advocate of Christian nonviolence, but I don't think that means I have nothing to say about the war fever gripping much of America. I believe that Christians, of all people, should worry when the President of the United States uses the word evil to justify war.
I have no doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator. And I am well aware that he has failed to live up to the conditions of the 1991 truce. But I doubt that any of this makes him more "evil" than a number of other current officeholders around the world. Nor do I understand why President George W. Bush thinks it is the job of the U.S. to eliminate brutal dictators. America's foreign policy has often supported these same brutal dictators—including Saddam—when they have been on "our side." Bush's use of the word evil comes close to being evil—to the extent that it gives this war a religious justification (which Christians should resist). For Christians, the proper home for the language of evil is the liturgy: it is God who deals with evil, and it's presumptuous for humans to assume that our task is to do what only God can do. Advocates of "just war" should be the first to object to the language of evil because that characterization threatens to turn war into a crusade.
Does that mean there is nothing we can do? No, I think that a lot can be done—once we free our imaginations from the presumption that the only alternative is capitulation or war. Nonviolence means finding alternatives to the notion that it is ultimately a matter of kill or be killed. Christians might consider, for example, asking the many Christians in Iraq what we can do to make their lives more bearable. A small step, to be sure, but peace is made from small steps.
At the same time, we must insist on being told the truth about why this war seems so inevitable. The moral justifications for war against Saddam would surely lack any persuasive power had Sept. 11, 2001, not happened. As Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has rightly observed, any attempt to sustain truthful speech was lost as soon as the word war was used to describe the events of Sept. 11. What happened on that day was not war; it was murder. In his rush to assure the American people that everything could return to normal, President Bush declared a "war on terrorism." Oddly, knowing we are at war makes many Americans feel safe. Thus the metaphorical wars against drugs and crime are now stretched beyond all sense to become a war on terrorism. It's not clear, however, what it means to fight a war against terrorism. How do you fight a war against a phantom?
What a gift Bush gave Osama bin Laden. Prior to the President's declaration of war, bin Laden had been a murderer. But Bush's response made bin Laden what he so desperately wanted to be—a warrior. And by declaring war against terrorism, Bush was able to fight an undeclared war against Afghanistan. Now his Administration is trying to justify an impending war against Iraq as a continuation of the war against terrorism.
G.K. Chesterton once observed that America is a nation with the soul of a church. Bush's use of religious rhetoric seems to confirm this view. None of this is good news for Christians, however, because it tempts us to confuse Christianity with America. As a result, Christians fail to be what God has called us to be: agents of truthful speech in a world of mendacity. The identification of cross and flag after Sept. 11 needs to be called what it is: idolatry. We are often told that America is a great country and that Americans are a good people. I am willing to believe that Americans want to be good, but goodness requires that we refuse to lie to ourselves and our neighbors about the assumed righteousness of our cause.
That the world is dangerous should not be surprising news to Christians who are told at the beginning of Lent that we are dust. If Christians could remember that we have not been created to live forever, we might be able to help ourselves and our non-Christian brothers and sisters to speak more modestly and, thus, more truthfully and save ourselves from the alleged necessity of war against "evil."
This article originally ran in the Feb. 23 Time magazine
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
KUCINICH: "STOP THIS WAR NOW."
The following is a speech delivered on April 1, 2003, in the U.S. House of Representatives, by Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH). Kucinich has opposed the US/UK invasion of Iraq war more vigorously than the vast majority of his Democratic colleagues in the House. (Indeed, his web site describes the Congressman as "lead[ing the] opposition to the War in Iraq within the House.") He has declared his candidacy for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Among those Democrats currently seeking their party's presidential nomination, Kucinich would seem to be the one most opposed to the invasion. In the speech, which is on the web site of his presidential campaign, Kucinich calls for an immediate end to the war. FWIW, I think it's an excellent idea.
"Stop the war now. As Baghdad will be encircled, this is the time to get the UN back in to inspect Baghdad and the rest of Iraq for biological and chemical weapons. Our troops should not have to be the ones who will find out, in combat, whether Iraq has such weapons. Why put our troops at greater risk? We could get the United Nations inspectors back in.
"Stop the war now. Before we send our troops into house-to-house combat in Baghdad, a city of five million people. Before we ask our troops to take up the burden of shooting innocent civilians in the fog of war.
"Stop the war now. This war has been advanced on lie upon lie. Iraq was not responsible for 9/11. Iraq was not responsible for any role al-Qaeda may have had in 9/11. Iraq was not responsible for the anthrax attacks on this country. Iraq did not tried to acquire nuclear weapons technology from Niger. This war is built on falsehood.
"Stop the war now. We are not defending America in Iraq. Iraq did not attack this nation. Iraq has no ability to attack this nation. Each innocent civilian casualty represents a threat to America for years to come and will end up making our nation less safe. The seventy-five billion dollar supplemental needs to be challenged because each dime we spend on this war makes America less safe. Only international cooperation will help us meet the challenge of terrorism. After 9/11 all Americans remember we had the support and the sympathy of the world. Every nation was ready to be of assistance to the United States in meeting the challenge of terrorism. And yet, with this war, we have squandered the sympathy of the world. We have brought upon this nation the anger of the world. We need the cooperation of the world, to find the terrorists before they come to our shores.
"Stop this war now. Seventy-five billion dollars more for war. Three-quarters of a trillion dollars for tax cuts, but no money for veterans ' benefits. Money for war. No money for health care in America, but money for war. No money for social security, but money for war. We have money to blow up bridges over the Tigris and the Euphrates, but no money to build bridges in our own cities. We have money to ruin the health of the Iraqi children, but no money to repair the health of our own children and our educational programs.
"Stop this war now. It is wrong. It is illegal. It is unjust and it will come to no good for this country.
"Stop this war now. Show our wisdom and our humanity, to be able to stop it, to bring back the United Nations into the process. Rescue this moment. Rescue this nation from a war that is wrong, that is unjust, that is immoral.
"Stop this war now".
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
OPPOSITION GROWS TO US ARMY USE OF SHANNON
The Irish Examiner 19 Mar 2003
By Mary Dundon, Political Reporter
HE Government is facing mounting political and public opposition to the US army's use of Shannon Airport.
Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen said yesterday the Cabinet would review the Government's position on Shannon at a meeting this afternoon. (Wednesday)
An official motion will be formulated and put to a special Dáil session tomorrow.
Opposition parties have indicated they will oppose any Government motion that would allow the US military to continue using Shannon without a UN mandate.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
NEW WORLD ORDER REMAKING THE UNITED NATIONS
Leader Tuesday March 11, 2003
As matters stand, the result of the security council's forthcoming vote on Iraq will almost certainly be rejected by the "losing" side. From this likely failure to attain consensus on a matter as significant as the invasion and occupation of an independent, sovereign state, far-reaching consequences may flow for the UN itself. If the US and Britain are unable to win majority support, and even if the resolution is vetoed, they are expected to go to war regardless. If the resolution is carried, opponents will still justly maintain that it does not explicitly authorise force, contravenes international law, is driven by political considerations and is partly attributable to US vote-buying. This is no mere passing difference of opinion. It could mark a potentially fatal rupture to the UN's founding principles.
Both sides claim to act in the UN's best interests. US and British officials say the UN must act on Iraq now or be rendered irrelevant, perhaps permanently. This argument ignores the fact that the UN is already acting, principally through the inspections process. What they really mean is that if the UN does not deliver the outcome they want, they will ignore it. George Bush's clear message is that if and when such disputes arise in future, the US might bypass the UN altogether.
In their corner, French and German officials argue the opposite - that the UN will only remain relevant and effective if the previously agreed Iraq policy of coercive disarmament and, more broadly, traditional security council procedural and legal norms are upheld. This is entirely reasonable, up to a point. But what they and other opponents fail to address, at least in public, is the more fundamental dilemma of how best to co-opt or contain one UN member - the US - that is uniquely and disproportionately powerful; how best to work with the US instead of being steamrollered by it.
This problem has been brewing ever since the US emerged as sole superpower. But it has taken a rogue US administration ideologically antipathetic to multilateral restraints as typified by the UN and by international treaties to bring the problem to a head. In this wider context, Iraq is but a harbinger of things to come. For this reason, it is a watershed event.
Some common sense, common ground reminders are needed at this point. If the UN did not exist, it would have to be invented; a globalised society requires a primary global forum to oversee its affairs. But the UN is the sum of its parts. If it fails, it does so because its controlling national components fail. To say, with Mr Bush, that the US can act without the UN in Iraq is foolishness. UN agencies will have a crucial post-war role to play and sensible US policymakers recognise this fact. Only the UN can confer international legitimacy on such a US policy. Without legitimacy and the active support of other nations, US hopes to implant democracy in Iraq and nurture a wider regional reformation will founder.
In other words, the mutuality of interest upon which the UN has always rested still applies, possibly even more so now. Powerful though it is, the US must recollect and embrace this basic fact of inter-dependence that it once understood so well. Ironically, the sheer scale of post-war problems may force it to do so. Other states, from Britain and France to developing country alliances, must meanwhile join in redressing the imbalance of power through reform of security council membership along supranational or geographical lines and by pooling sovereignty. Mr Bush may not get it - but he will not be president for ever. A renewed, imaginative commitment to cooperative internationalism is the only way ahead.