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Inspecting the Peace Process in Sri Lanka
is Keith Locke’s mission this week. Keith left for for Sri Lanka on 24 October on a fact-finding mission into the peace process underway there.
“I will be interested in finding what other things New Zealand can do to help advance peace and reconstruction in Sri Lanka, “said Keith.” New Zealand is already funding a de-mining programme and I’d like to see how that is going.” Read
The Australian Senate Sends the Message
to George W. Bush that Green Senator Kerry Nettle was prevented from giving to him in person last week. On 29 October it passed a motion incorporating the key content of the letter from Maha Habib to President Bush that Senator Kerry Nettle was prevented for handing to Mr Bush in last week’s special joint sitting of parliament. The content of the motion will now be passed on to the Government to be forwarded to the US authorities.
Speaking to the motion, Senator Nettle said: “I was physically restrained from delivering this plea for justice in the House of Representatives last week. I’m very pleased to have the support of the Senate today. Yesterday, Senator Hill refused to acknowledge that the fate of the two Australians is ultimately at the whim of the US President, who by US military order has the final say over the judgement of a military tribunal. That is clearly not justice as Australians understand it.
“The Greens will continue to raise this issue of fundamental human rights until the US authorities comply with the international law.”
The motion reads : ”That the Senate
- That Mamdouh Habib is currently incarcerated at Camp X-Ray in Guantanemo Bay, Cuba, without charge.
- That Mr Habib’s wife, Maha Habib, has attempted to communicate her concerns regarding her husband’s status to the United States Government.
- That Mrs Habib wrote to the US President that her husband: “… has not been charged with any crime – not under American law, Australian law or any law. In his two years of imprisonment I have not been able to speak with him. How are his rights being protected by the United States? It is beyond understanding how he could have been caught up in all of this… If the United States Government considers that he is a threat to its security, then please inform us of his crime and press charges against him. If not, then please return him to his family and his country.”
- Calls on the Federal Government to convey the Habib family’s request to the United States Government as soon as possible.”
A Trust Fund
for Ahmed Zaoui’s legal costs has been established. Money raised is being held in a trust account and will be used to bring overseas witnesses here for a hearing with the Inspector General. If you are in a position to make a contribution to the legal costs involved in trying to gain justice for Ahmed Zaoui, please make your cheque out to the Human Rights Foundation and post to ‘Friends of Ahmed Zaoui, c/o Holy Trinity Cathedral, PO Box 37 148, Parnell, Auckland. Remember to include your name and address if you wish to be sent a receipt.
Most Iraqis see U.S. Forces as Occupiers
. While polls of US public opinion on the Occupation of Iraq are commonplace, far rarer and perhaps more interesting are polls of Iraqi public opinion. The quoted sections below are from from the fullest reporting on the poll we could find: a report at the Yahoo Asia site.
“Most Iraqis regard the U.S.-led forces in their country as occupiers rather than liberators, with many more now taking that view than did so just after U.S. troops overthrew Saddam Hussein in April, according to a poll…
“The poll results, released on Thursday [24 October], showed that 67 percent of Iraqis see the U.S.-led coalition forces as “occupying powers”. The figure is up from 46 percent in a survey conducted shortly after the war that ousted Saddam.
“Fifteen percent consider the coalition forces “liberating forces”, down from 43 percent six months ago. One in 10 sees them as peacekeepers, twice as many as in April.”
the full article
. During his recent flying visit to Manila George Bush showed a remarkable lack of historical reality which doesn’t bode well for the Iraqi people in saying “America is proud of its part in the great story of the Filipino people. Together our soldiers liberated the Philippines from colonial rule” and “Democracy always has skeptics. Some say the culture of the Middle East will not sustain the institutions of democracy. The same doubts were proven wrong nearly six decades ago, when the Republic of the Philippines became the first democracy in Asia”.
These quotes do not, of course, tell the full truth, at the time of the ‘liberation from colonial rule’ Mark Twain wrote “Why, we have gotten into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I’m sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation.”
The usually forgotten (outside of the Philippines) history of the US ‘liberation’ of that nation during and after the Spanish-American war involves over a quarter of a million Filipino dead in the first few years and decades of occupation and occasional uprisings. Two articles which explore the issue following Bush’s link are: ”
Confusing Occcupation with Liberation
” and ”
From Baghdad to Manila: Another lousy analogy for the occupation of Iraq
What is Happening in Iraq?
As the (official) ‘post-war’ death toll for the US occupying forces in Iraq surpasses the ‘war’ death toll, William Pitt Rivers, in an article entitled ‘
The Ramadan Offensive
‘, makes some interesting parallels with the Tet offensive in Vietnam in 1968.
”The Ramadan Offensive 28 October 2003
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
W.B. Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’
History loves to repeat itself.
On January 31, 1968, soldiers from North Vietnam launched what has become known as the Tet Offensive. The attacks were breathtaking in scope: North Vietnamese soldiers stormed the highland towns of Banmethout, Kontum and Pleiku, invaded 13 of the 16 provincial capitols in the Mekong Delta, attacked the headquarters of both America’s and South Vietnam’s armies, stormed the U.S. embassy compound in Saigon, and took the city of Hue. The attacks came as a complete shock to American forces. A 1968 CIA report concluded, “The intensity, coordination and timing of the attacks were not fully anticipated.” The report went on to state that, “another major unexpected point” was the ability of the North Vietnamese to strike so many targets at the same time.
In the technical jargon of war, the attacks were a failure, as the North Vietnamese soldiers were eventually beaten back. General Giap, commander of Vietnamese forces, had a different perspective. “For us, you know, there is no such thing as a single strategy,” said Giap after the war. “Ours is always a synthesis, simultaneously military, political and diplomatic – which is why quite clearly, the Tet offensive had multiple objectives.”
The political aspect of the offensive worked. By March of 1968, President Lyndon Johnson’s approval rating had fallen to 30%, and approval for his handling of the war had fallen to 26%. Walter Cronkite, the most trusted voice in American television journalism, stated publicly that the war was unwinnable. An explosion of dissent rocked the American homeland, culminating in Johnson’s decision not to seek re-election, and in the police riot at the doorstep of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
The two lessons from Tet: 1) Underestimating a guerilla enemy that is fighting on its own ground is deadly policy; 2) The American people will not long stand for a bloodbath in a faraway land that has no clear objective, spends the lives of American soldiers to no good end, and costs billions and billions of dollars better spent elsewhere. The Tet Offensive in January 1968 began a long, slow slide into ignominy and defeat for the United States that, to this day, still echoes long and loud along the hallways of power and the streets of everyday America.
It is happening again. In the last 72 hours in Iraq, a dizzying series of attacks have rocked Baghdad. It began with the downing of a Blackhawk helicopter. It did not end there.
Several missiles were fired at the Baghdad Hotel where Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz was staying during his tour of the war. Wolfowitz, one of the chief architects of the conflict, escaped unharmed but was visibly shaken after the attacks. An American officer was killed in that attack.
In separate attacks, three American soldiers were killed and four wounded. Two of the deaths came when a patrol from the 1st Armored Division was struck by a roadside bomb. The third death came in Abu Ghraib, on the western edge of Baghdad, when a Military Police unit was attacked. There have been 349 American soldiers killed in Iraq during this conflict, and thousands more wounded. Since George W. Bush strutted across an aircraft carrier in the garb of a combat pilot in May, after he said, “Bring ’em on” in June, there have been 211 American soldiers killed. Put another way, we have lost more troops in the nine months of this war than we had lost in Vietnam by 1964. History tells us quite clearly that our Vietnam casualty rate skyrocketed in the years to come.
Four different Iraqi police stations were bombed in Baghdad on Monday, and a massive explosion tore into the offices of the International Red Cross. 34 people were killed, and 224 were wounded. The attacks took place in rapidfire succession between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. local time, strongly suggesting a high degree of coordination.
The similarities to Tet are chilling. In 1968, the attacks came at the onset of the Vietnamese New Year, a holiday that American command believed would herald a temporary quieting of the violence. In Iraq, these attacks come at the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The American command in Baghdad believed the holiday would bring a slacking of the attacks that have been plaguing American forces. This assumption ran so strong that the Baghdad curfew was partially lifted by American forces just before the brunt of the attacks hit.
One difference between Tet and Baghdad is that we knew, in Vietnam, who was attacking us. We have no idea who has been behind these attacks in Iraq. The inability to even identify the attackers beyond the catch-all “Evildoers who hate freedom” means we have little hope of thwarting future attacks.
The most pointed similarity is clear: These attacks are meant to cause a political reaction. The United States military, on the whole, will not be undermined by these attacks or by the loss of four more soldiers. The political ramifications, however, are a different story, and in the long run the political reaction will directly affect the military.
The Bush administration has been trying to sell a rosy perspective of this war to the American people, a perspective that was eviscerated by these attacks. Worse, the attacks will have a further chilling effect upon the administration’s attempts to bring the international community into this fight, something even the most hard-core go-it-aloners in Washington have come to see as absolutely necessary. With every explosion at a non-American outpost, with every targeting of the United Nations and the Red Cross in Iraq, this war becomes more and more the sole property of the United States and the Bush administration. Each time this happens, it becomes less likely that an international coalition will be formed to bail America out in Iraq. The old sign above the cash register at your corner store says it all: “You break it, you buy it.”
George W. Bush responded to these most recent attacks by saying the intricately coordinated and highly effective attacks were a sign that the unidentified insurgents were becoming “desperate.” He described the attackers as people who “hate freedom” and “love terror.” This is the reaction of a man residing comfortably in Bizarro World, a land where up is down, black is white, and reality has no place at the table. Basically, Bush is trying to tell us that these attacks are good news, that these “desperate” moves are a sign of looming American victory.
Ask the thousands of dead Iraqis if this is good news. Ask the Red Cross, which is strongly considering pulling out of Iraq, if this is good news. Ask the international community, which is being pressured into leaping aboard this sinking ship, if this is good news. Ask the families of the dead and wounded American soldiers if this is good news.
Ask al Qaeda, and they will tell you this is nothing but good news. This war on Iraq, built on a foundation of misinformation and lies, has led to the greatest recruiting drive in that group’s bloody history. The opportunity to kill more Americans is good news for them. The ability to rock the American government is good news for them. Osama bin Laden smiles today, and it was George W. Bush who put the grin on his face.”
(William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of truthout.org. He is a New York Times and international best-selling author of three books – “War On Iraq”, “The Greatest Sedition is Silence”, and “Our Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism”).
JustPeace was produced by Christine Dann, Tim Hannah and Keith Locke, MP
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