From: Lawrence DeBivort (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Mon 11 Nov 2002 - 18:03:57 GMT
Here is a letter from two Americans actually in Baghdad which provides an
anti-US viewpoint. They are trying to get counter-memes launched. The letter
was circulated to a large list, not particularly associated with Iraq or
Middle East issues. The memetic war continues....
From our dear friends and comrades, Elizabeth (Rabia) Roberts and Elias
Amidon, who have been social activists for over 30 years. They direct the
Spirit in Action program on pilgrimage and conduct peacemaker trainings for
spiritually-engaged activists and community organizers in the U.S., Europe,
the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Founders of the Boulder Institute for
Nature and the Human Spirit, they lead interfaith wilderness quests and
spiritual retreats. Elizabeth lectures internationally on values and
leadership, women's empowerment, and health and the environment. Elias has
taught the principles and practice of sustainable urban design and community
architecture. They are authors of the The Soul of the Oasis, a book on
ecological design of desert cities, and the best selling books, Earth
Prayers, Life Prayers, and Prayers for a Thousand Years
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2002 08:00:57 -0700
Subject: Letter from the Road, Iraq 1
From: Elias Amidon <email@example.com>
9 Nov. 02 Baghdad
We arrived in Baghdad at 1 AM in the morning to a decaying six-story hotel
next to the Tigris River. The lobby smells of kerosene used to wash the
floors in the absence of detergent. A monkey behind the registration counter
climbs to the top of his cage and peers at us curiously as we surrender our
passports. A parrot sleeps in another cage, her head buried in shoulder
Our room is cramped and decrepit. On the wall is a single painting of two
ghostlike soldiers with mournful expressions, painted in a pale transparent
blue. One sits in a boat, waiting, his head in his hands, while the other
gives a brightly colored doll with hollow eyes to a little girl who accepts
it sadly. Her mother stands behind her with the vacant look of a new widow.
The painting casts a pall over the room, a constant reminder of the broken
lives of this sad land.
In recent weeks the Iraqis have restricted the number and duration of visas
being issued to all foreigners. Most reporters have had to leave and are
only gradually being re-admitted. The Iraq Peace Team's ranks have thinned
from about twenty five down to eight. The vision of bringing in hundreds of
Americans to witness conditions for Iraqi citizens before and during a U.S.
attack is still held, but no one is sure when it will be realized. Kathy
Kelly, the head of IPT, is a very special human being - a brilliant,
articulate activist with compassion and kindness for everyone. Rabia says
she looks like an angel. "You have to understand how the Iraqis feel," Kathy
says. "They're at war and we're from the aggressor country. What if people
from Osama Bin Laden's home town wanted to wander freely around the U.S.?"
With that insight our "minders" from the Department of Intelligence become
more human. They worry we will stray and they will be held responsible. They
get tired from looking after so many of us, and want to see their families.
They dread the war we all sense is coming.
In the morning we drive across Baghdad to visit a children's hospital,
getting to see the city for the first time in the morning light. Though it
looks generally like I imagined, I am shocked by the recognition that this
is the capital city of the "enemy". The neighborhoods are a jumble of two-
and three-story buildings, tired and dusty, strung with makeshift electrical
and phone wires, the sidewalks broken. There are larger buildings here and
there, some in better shape, but the overall impression is one of exhaustion
- the city is exhausted and worn out. The cab we ride in is a good example. The dashboard has a large section broken off, the inner panel of the door is missing, as is the window crank, the speedometer doesn't work, and the body is an assemblage of colors, its sections repaired over time from different wrecks. It reminds me of Managua and Havana, other erstwhile enemy cities brought down by American sanctions. On the streets are thousands of vehicles like our cab, all groaning forward, belching smoke, sagging buses with dirty windows and dented sides, filled with people who fit the overall theme of the city, tired and cheerless.
This is our enemy? This is what the U.S. considers a threat to the
geopolitical balance of power in the world? It is incomprehensible. As I
write this we have been here for four days and have made several trips
around the city - this impression has only grown stronger. The U.S. wants to
bomb this place? What misguided cruelty is this? I think of Dick Cheney,
Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz gliding around Washington in their sleek
black limousines on smooth roads with curbs, tidy tree-lined streets,
impressive buildings with elevators and computer-operated security systems,
buildings whose windows are washed on schedule, carpets vacuumed each
evening, with their computers humming vast interconnected information
systems. Here in Baghdad completing a simple telephone call is a major
Today all the talk is about the unanimous U.N. Security Council resolution
to send in weapons inspectors. Over lunch I naively suggest it may not be
such a bad thing - the Iraqis have the opportunity to make an aikido move
and allow the giant aggressor to fall on its face by submitting to all
inspections. The old hands here patiently describe to me how the U.S. will
make it impossible for Iraq to comply - in the past they have accused the
Iraqis of blocking access because of a traffic jam! Because of a blown tire!
Because of a lost key! But all this is not the point, I am told by a
well-spoken Irishman on the Peace Team. The U.S. is not interested in making
successful weapons inspections, he says. They want them to fail. They are
interested in the huge sea of oil underneath this land, and in controlling
its sale so that the cash spent for it is recycled back into the U.S.
economy through purchase of U.S. goods.
I go away hoping he's wrong, hoping against hope that my government's only
motive is to eradicate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But later in the
afternoon I read an article on the internet from today's New York Times that
contains this passage:
Despite the administration's professed confidence in the inspections, there
is a deep-seated unstated fear that President Saddam Hussein of Iraq will
only seem to cooperate and the inspectors will find little or nothing
incriminating. That would leave the administration with insufficient
evidence to persuade the Security Council, its potential allies - or even
Americans - that a war is necessary.
Which means to say the judgment has already been made. It is impossible for
Iraq to successfully comply with these inspections even if it tries.
The bridges over the Tigris, most of them bombed out during the Gulf War,
are now repaired. As we drive over one I look out at the city and imagine
another U.S. attack, this time even more ferocious since it would be
followed by invading U.S. and British troops with their high-tech gear,
M-16's, Bradley tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and Humvees. I ask the
soft-spoken cab driver, an out-of-work architect and father of five, what he
thinks would happen if American and British troops entered Baghdad.
He said - and Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Cheney, listen carefully! - he said, "Let me
tell you something. The people here would resist them. Even people who might
have disagreements with the government here would fight the invaders. Excuse
me, but we will fight the Americans if they invade our city. We will not
stand for an American occupation."
At the children's hospital we spoke with the sad-faced director who recited
the now familiar statistics - lack of medicines, broken, un-repairable
equipment, no money to pay staff, post-natal child mortality rates now eight
times what they were in 1990. "Iraq has eight machines for radiation therapy
to treat cancer. Five are completely broken. The remaining three have no
radioactive source. We need cobalt for this, not uranium! But the sanctions
do not permit the import of cobalt."
Two days ago several of us went out to the U.N. headquarters to hold a
vigil, a daily occurrence. We stood next to the busy highway holding banners
which read, "No U.S. War on Iraq!", "Peace" in English and Arabic, "Let Iraq
Live!", etc. Cars honked, drivers waved. The Iraqi guards around the U.N.
building were solemn-faced. After about 15 minutes two cars pulled up
delivering several reporters hung with cameras and microphones. Then a bus
drove up and out spilled a most amazing sight - twenty Italian musicians
with drums, saxophones, violin, tambourines, and they immediately greeted us
with rambunctious, infectious gaiety! In a moment they were wailing away
wild jazzy tunes, dancing up and down, laughing and grinning. They had come
to Iraq for the week as ambassadors of good will, and good will it was! The
scene quickly became something out of the sixties - everybody grinning,
dancing, the guy on the saxophone bobbing and jumping, his eyes squeezed
shut. Cars pulled over, people got out, more soldiers came out of the
buildings to keep a lid on things, but the Italians were irrepressible. Soon
even the soldiers were grinning and clapping to the music, posing for
photographs with the musicians, and everybody was interviewing everybody,
the buttoned-up lady from the Christian Peacemaker Team was surrounded by
Italian drummers, each taking snapshots of each other, everybody was
laughing, swaying, clapping - as if, for a moment, all of us forgot the
poverty, the need, the threat of war, and peace just broke out, happy
careless loving peace, right there on the side of the road.
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
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