View Full Version : Who Listens To The Iraqis? What Iraqi Poets And Authors Say

03-04-2003, 07:53 PM
(excerpt #1)

"Could I have the microphone for one minute to tell the people about my life?" asked the Iraqi grandmother.

I spent part of last Saturday with the so-called "anti-war" marchers in London in the company of some Iraqi friends. Our aim had been to persuade the organisers to let at least one Iraqi voice be heard. Soon, however, it became clear that the organisers were as anxious to stifle the voice of the Iraqis in exile as was Saddam Hussain in Iraq.

The Iraqis had come with placards reading "Freedom for Iraq" and "American rule, a hundred thousand times better than Takriti tyranny!"

But the tough guys who supervised the march would have none of that. Only official placards, manufactured in thousands and distributed among the "spontaneous" marchers, were allowed. These read "Bush and Blair, baby-killers," " Not in my name," "Freedom for Palestine" and "Indict Bush and Sharon."

Not one placard demanded that Saddam should disarm to avoid war. The goons also confiscated photographs showing the tragedy of Halabja, the Kurdish town where Saddam's forces gassed 5,000 people to death in 1988....

(excerpt #2)
..."Are these people ignorant, or are they blinded by hatred of the United States?" Nasser the poet demanded.

The Iraqis would have had much to tell the "anti-war" marchers, had they had a chance to speak. Fadel Sultani, president of the National Association of Iraqi authors, would have told the marchers that their action would encourage Saddam to intensify his repression.

"I had a few questions for the marchers," Sultani said. "Did they not realise that oppression, torture and massacre of innocent civilians are also forms of war? Are the anti-war marchers only against a war that would liberate Iraq, or do they also oppose the war Saddam has been waging against our people for a generation?"

Sultani could have told the peaceniks how Saddam's henchmen killed dissident poets and writers by pushing page after page of forbidden books down their throats until they choked.

'Deep moral pain'

Hashem Al Iqabi, one of Iraq's leading writers and intellectuals, had hoped the marchers would mention the fact that Saddam had driven almost four million Iraqis out of their homes and razed more than 6,000 villages to the ground.

"The death and destruction caused by Saddam in our land is the worst since Nebuchadnez-zar," he said. "These prosperous, peaceful and fat Europeans are marching in support of evil incarnate."
He said that, watching the march, he felt Nazism was "alive and well and flexing its muscles in Hyde Park."

Abdel-Majid Khoi, son of the late Grand Ayatollah Khoi, Iraq's foremost religious leader for almost 40 years, spoke of the "deep moral pain" he feels when hearing the so-called " anti-war" discourse.

"The Iraqi nation is like a man who is kept captive and tortured by a gang of thugs," Khoi said. "The proper moral position is to fly to help that man liberate himself and bring the torturers to book. But what we witness in the West is the opposite: support for the torturers and total contempt for the victim."

Ismail Qaderi, a former Ba'athist official but now a dissident, wanted to tell the marchers how Saddam systematically destroyed even his own party, starting by murdering all but one of its 16 original leaders.

"Those who see Saddam as a symbol of socialism, progress and secularism in the Arab world must be mad," he said.

Khalid Kishtaini, Iraq's most famous satirical writer, added his complaint. "Don't these marchers know that the only march possible in Iraq under Saddam Hussain is from the prison to the firing squad?" he asked. "The Western marchers behave as if the U.S. wanted to invade Switzerland, not Iraq under Saddam Hussain."


The Iraqi people are begging for relief from their tyrant. Yet the anti-war crowd just doesn't care to listen. Do the sincere anti-war activists just assume they know what is best for the Iraqi people? How arrogant. Why don't they listen to what the Iraqis are saying??? Every Saturday there is an Iraqi demonstration calling for liberation of Iraq, held in _______ Square (sorry I forgot the name of the square since I read of it several days ago and I only have 3 minutes to edit this post).

God forbid that the anti-war crowd should ever be under the heel of a Saddam, a Hitler or a Stalin: the irony of having to endure the interminable horrors and listen to demonstrators and politicians saying a war of liberation would be the worst choice for them, would surely be enough to drive one mad.

03-04-2003, 09:38 PM
You spend an awful lot of time and energy arguing against nobody on this one. Everyone agrees that Hussein is a bad guy, and Iraq would be better off with a good guy (or guys) in power. It's the killing lots of them in order to install our guy (good or bad is open to debate) that people have a problem with.

Likewise, your "anyone is better than him" argument is worthless. While the odds certainly favor that eventuality, I'm certain you appreciate the immorality of gambling with a nation's future. A better approach would be to argue for an actual solution, as opposed to "any solution is fine so long as he's gone". There are lots of potentially good solutions. Getting rid of him and figuring it out later isn't one of them.

The issue isn't whether the Iraqi people have a dictator - the issue is how to deal with it. Is it our responsibility? You apparently think it is, I think that's an arrogant, ethnocentric, egocentric viewpoint - it's based on the idea that not only are we better, but we will make them better just like us. (The first is defensible, the second not.) And even if you believe it is our responsibility to fix the world's ills, there are a lot of other ways to encourage or force regime change (this country practically wrote the book on the topic) as opposed to launching an all-out military invasion.

03-04-2003, 10:02 PM
Apparently you missed the point Irish.

The Iraqi people want a war of liberation--casualties and all--and they've been calling for one--but they can't have it without help.

The people who "have a problem with it", as you put it, aren't the Iraqis--the Iraqis are the ones who for years have been calling for action to remove Saddam by force (since they believe that is the only way he can be removed).

03-05-2003, 09:15 AM
The 'people' I was referring to were those discussing these issues on this forum.

03-05-2003, 10:12 AM
The "ant-war" protesters don't give a damn about the plight of the Iraqi people who have to heel under the oppressive boot of Hussein. I would think that they would be embarassed in their inhibiting free speech but I doubt if they are. Who's funding these protesters anyway? As someone pointed out in another post "follow the money" and I think you'd find some very interesting financiers of the protestors.

03-05-2003, 11:42 AM
So some people outside Iraq are basically the ones opposed to war, while the Iraqi people have been calling for forcible removal of Saddam for a very long time.

Put in this light, who's really the "arrogant" side in this matter: those outsiders who resist the idea of giving the Iraqis what they want and have been asking for (which is deliverance from Saddam by forcible means), or those outsiders who are willing to step in and provide this desperately needed relief?

I think the answer should be obvious--especially since those who resist a war of deliverance are doing so despite the stated wishes of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi exile groups.

03-05-2003, 03:15 PM
My heater doesn't work, and without it I will be very cold this winter. I'd like you to fly here and fix it. (I consider this the only solution, and furthermore, you have a moral obligation to do so, since I might freeze to death otherwise.) Thanks.

03-05-2003, 03:53 PM
IrishHand: "My heater doesn't work, and without it I will be very cold this winter. I'd like you to fly here and fix it. (I consider this the only solution, and furthermore, you have a moral obligation to do so, since I might freeze to death otherwise.) Thanks."

That's a despicable parallel--you should be deeply ashamed of trivializing the plight of the Iraqi people, and further you are mocking the fact that they cannot help themselves out of this dilemma alone. This is probably the most obscene post I have ever read on this forum.

Try this parallel:

Half of my family's been killed by kidnappers, and they're holding the rest of us. They're torturing my child now as we speak. This has been going on for years and nobody is helping us. Please come and save us from the thugs because we are powerless to fight them all by ourselves.

response: You guys are better off being tortured and held by the kidnappers because some of you might get killed if we intervene, and it's none of our business. In fact we're going to organize demonstrations to try to convince others not to help you either.

Now that's a little more parallel.

But your response is worse by far. You are essentially saying that they have a non-problem and that they're idiots to not be able to fix it themselves, and further, that they are jerks for asking for help.

You have demonstrated both a complete lack of empathy and an inability to draw meaningful parallels with this post. In addition this is a very mean-spirited post, written in a particularly insidious manner. You are on my ignore list now (the first ever!) and I'll just say that I find your views truly disgusting. In fact after this last post of yours I have actually developed a greater revulsion towards you than towards anyone I can recall meeting in the last decade or longer, and I'm pretty sure this is reflective of your true character.

If you saw some kids torturing a dog to death--would you intervene or would you laugh? I think anyone who reads through your post in context and sees the underlying psychology at work might already know the answer to that question.

03-05-2003, 04:07 PM
we helped theiu out pretty good. but the damn ungrateful people didnt thank us.

03-05-2003, 05:19 PM
What on God's earth are you ranting on about? I wasn't drawing a parallel - I'm completely serious. My heater doesn't work and both I and my pets have been cold for the last month. I have read your posts, and come to the conclusion that you would be highly motivated to come fix my heater. I have expressed to you my need, and you are both in a position to fix my need and would feel morally inclined to ensure that I have heating, such that I might experience the same positive, happy and warm life that you do.

03-05-2003, 05:44 PM
At least now you are not even trying to appear genuine and you are letting it be clear that your sole purpose on this forum is to be inflamatory.

03-05-2003, 05:45 PM
How is my being cold inflammatory?

I realize my plight pales in comparison to that of the Iraqis, but I was confident that M isn't actually going to do anything to help them. Given his views on the world, I thought he'd jump at the chance to help me (especially in light of the fact that - unlike him - I will be assisting in the renovation of Iraq). My mistake. No worries though - I'll just deal with my problem myself. /forums/images/icons/smile.gif

John Cole
03-05-2003, 08:45 PM

If you missed this Frontline episode, you might find this revealing.


John Feeney
03-05-2003, 08:50 PM

It's an interesting article, but how does it tell us what that Iraqi people want? It tells us, perhaps, what one group of them want. Have you looked into this more extensively? If that is truly the general will of the Iraqis, it would be important to know that. But though I've only looked into it a little, it appears to me the Iraqi people are divided on it. I heard a young Iraqi woman speak in San Diego very supportively of anti-war efforts. The Iraqi store owner down the street is opposed to the war. Others, of course, support it. I'd guess the comments (http://www.npr.org/programs/morning/transcripts/2002/oct/021021.edwards.html) of Edward Peck, former chief of mission in Iraq, sum it up. For instance, he says:

If you had an American occupation, you would have some people who would behave like conquered peoples anywhere. You would have others who would try to use that occupation to promote their own sectarian or ethnic interests at the cost of others. You would have another group who would look for ways to make the occupation unpleasant.

I wish we could really know what percentage of Iraqis want the war. But even if a majority support it, we're not in the clear, as previous similar miltary efforts have apparently seen reversals of popular sentiment following some period occupation in which many of the people's hopes were not realized.See some comments here (http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2002/10/17/zinni/), for instance.

03-05-2003, 09:11 PM
Well I did miss it asince I still don't have a TV;-)--but I recently read of Schwarzkopf's granting of permission, at the end of te war, to Saddam's forces for the use of military helicopters--ostensibly for other purposes--but which in fact became the tool used to put down the rebellion the US had encouraged. Sad, tragic, even negligent, indeed.

On the brighter side, as flippant as this may sound, it looks like we won't make that same mistake the second time around.

Haven't the Iraqi people suffered too much already? How can we consign them to 20 more years of torture, disappearances, rape and murder? Especially since there now appears to be a convergence of their interests and ours in removing Saddam?

03-05-2003, 09:25 PM
You think Hussein will both live to the age of 85 and continue to rule Iraq for the next 20 years?

03-05-2003, 09:39 PM
Your concerns occurred to me also.

It would be safe to say that more Iraqis want Saddam removed (somehow) than want Saddam removed (by force) than want (this war). Yes, opinions are divided somewhat. However consider that both the Kurds in the North and the majority Shi'a population in the South are extremely oppressed. Saddam's Baath party is a minority ruling by extreme force and fear.

From what I've gathered by various readings over time(admittedly not in great depth, but from quite a few sources), most Iraqis want regime change but are simply powerless. The Iraqi exile population in Europe may be the most vocal in this regard as they no longer fear for their own immediate safety. A rally is held every Saturday, if I'm not mistaken, in Trafalgar Square.

It's a shame we didn't support the Iraqi opposition/resistance after the Gulf War. There were certainly plenty of them.

The current leader of the INC, as I recall from a recent article, expressed concern over what form the new government might take--that after the transition period it should be Iraqi, for Iraqis--certainly a reasonable concern.

It appears we have partially successfully transitioned Afghanistan--if not to our full standards of liberty, at least to a government far better, and more representative of the Afghanis, than was the Taliban.

Finally, if you lived under a Saddam, where nearly all families have been touched by "disappearances", torture and state murder, wouldn't you favor a war of liberation--or at least regime change (by force if necessary)?

nicky g
03-06-2003, 09:06 AM
Are you going to be calling for a war on Burma any time soon?

03-06-2003, 10:12 AM
You have to pick your spots. Apparently by your logic if the USA CAN'T help EVERY oppressed populace it should help none.

nicky g
03-06-2003, 11:17 AM
"Apparently by your logic if the USA CAN'T help EVERY oppressed populace it should help none."

Not by my logic, because I don't believe humanitarian concerns have anything to do with the coming war, and that's the point I was trying to make. Given that there are equally bad regimes as Saddam's, and that the US has supported some of the most tyrannical regimes of the age, I think it's clear that such concerns have nothing to do with the motives for war.

If you think this is simply a case of the US having limited resources and only being able to help ONE suffering nation out of many, then explain to me why Iraq was picked, and please try to keep a straight face when you say that oil isn't the deciding factor. Or was it picked out of a hat?

If Bush and co want to argue that allieviating the suffering of the people would be a pleasant effect of the war, that's fair enough, but it doesn't give us a duty to go towar because it's not the war aim. If they want to argue that we have a moral duty to liberate the Iraqis from Saddam's tyranny, then I want to know why we start with Saddam and ignore others. I also want to know why it's immoral to let innocent people suffer under Saddam, but it's perfectly OK to let billions suffer in miserable poverty and starvation across the world in the name of free markets, to have added to the sufferings of Iraqis by imposing sancions on civilian goods, to allow the Israelis to impose terrible suffering on the Palestinians, etc etc

To repeat: I am not saying that if we can't help everyone we should help noone. My point is that those of us who oppose the war are castigated as villains because Saddam is a tyrant even though the vaunted purpose of the war is not the liberation of the Iraqi people, it's disarmament, and the arguments used against us could just as easily be applied in favour of going to war with Burma, Egypt, Eritrea and others. If the rationale is "we have a duty to oppressed peoples, but we can only afford to go after one tyrant", then there should at least be a rational discussion about which one we go after. Given that that clearly isn't true anyway (the US could easily go after other tyrannical regimes, and put pressure on dictatorial allies), it shows even more how hollow and cynical the "liberation" arguments are. It makes no logical sense to say: "We're going to war to disarm this guy, and if you oppose us, then you're a bad person because he jails innocent people." I'm not arguing that these points I make prove that there SHOULDN'T necessarily be a war, though I don't think there should be; just that they show that the case being made FOR a war isn't at all convincing.

03-06-2003, 12:31 PM
All of the factors listed below are reasons for war with Iraq. Certainly the importance of various factors is debatable, but let's just start with a quick listing in no particular order. In other words even if you think some of these are fairly minimal in importance, they still make the list.

1. Security considerations/non-proliferation of WMD/removing the regional threat (and possibly, at some point, what would be global threat) of Saddam Hussein permanently

2. Oilfield security/prevention of oilfield blackmail/ensuring access to world markets for the oil

3. A strategic base from which to further prosecute the war on terror/terrorist manhunts/ability to strike groups such as Hizbollah which have threatened the USA

4. A strategic base from which to pressure other regional sponsors of terror including states

5. A base from which to lend assistance to the people of Iran should they wish to overthrow the ayatollahs (the pro-democracy movment in Iran is strong but suffering under arbitrary arrests and executions imposed by the religious government)

6. A chance to actually start to change the face of the Middle East from totaliraian, despotic rule to democracy (an uphill struggle which may not come to pass, but Iraq may be a start anyway)

7. Aiding a severely abused and oppressed people who are living under the heel of absolute tyranny

8. The ability to effectively and probably quickly win this war

So we have many reasons to go to war with Iraq. How many reasons do we have to go to war with Burma?

I don't understand the objection of many which appears to be: we should be less eager to aid those countries which need it as long as we also benefit from so doing (because our motives are impure, or because we might not really be trying to help them and are instead concerned with only helping ourselves.

I see it differently: if we can't aid everybody, let's use a set of triple priorities:

1) the degree to which they need help

2) the degree to which it helps us to help them

3) the degree to which we actually can help them (pragmatically speaking)

All three criteria score very high in the case of Iraq.

In other words, where our interests and their interests overlap, there is more reason to get involved, not less...and let's throw the "guilt trip" out the window.

And in the case of Iraq, these people do desperately need outside force to help rid themselves of their true tyrant.

nicky g
03-06-2003, 02:26 PM
Good post, though you didn't actually respond to any of the points I made directly, so I'll respond to some of yours. "1. Security considerations/non-proliferation of WMD/removing the regional threat (and possibly, at some point, what would be global threat) of Saddam Hussein permanently"

I don't think the case they've made for Saddam being a threat is at all convincing; we've had this discussion before. I think one of the reasons other reasons are being pressed so much now is because Blix's reports are fairly posistive, and the security threat clearly doesn't strike a lot of people as serious, or as serious as many others.

2. "2. Oilfield security/prevention of oilfield blackmail/ensuring access to world markets for the oil".

Clearly this is one of the reasons. Iraq is a sovereign nation; at the end of the day, doesn't it have a right to do what it wants with its oil?

"3. A strategic base from which to further prosecute the war on terror/terrorist manhunts/ability to strike groups such as Hizbollah which have threatened the USA
4. A strategic base from which to pressure other regional sponsors of terror including states."

Again, Iraq is a sovereign nation; surely after the war it should be a free, independent one too? Does the US have the right to take it over/occupy it as a strategic base? I don't see that it does. I also don't think Hizbollah is a serious threat, whatever it's said. It hasn't engaged in much beyond internal Lebanese politics and attacks on the disputed zone with Israel for a very long time.Futhermore, the US has plenty of strategic bases in the Middle East: Saudi, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Israel (next door to Lebanon), Egypt and others.

"5. A base from which to lend assistance to the people of Iran should they wish to overthrow the ayatollahs (the pro-democracy movment in Iran is strong but suffering under arbitrary arrests and executions imposed by the religious government)"
See above; furthermore, why does there need to be a local base to assist the pro-democracy movement? For an invasion? Is that coming next? The US collaborated with the Shah to overthrow the last democratic governement of Iran and I don't see it being particularly welcome in trying to establish a new "democracy." If it wants to assist reformers, great; why it needs to take over Iraq to do so, I can't see. What about Saudi Arabia and Egypt again?

"6. A chance to actually start to change the face of the Middle East from totaliraian, despotic rule to democracy (an uphill struggle which may not come to pass, but Iraq may be a start anyway."

Depends on if it does implement a genuine democracy. As I said before, if it wants democracy in the Middle ast, it could start with its client dictatorships such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. I think the US has very little interest in Middle Eastern democracy as a host of anti-US Islamists would take power; one of ther reasons the US refused to support the Shia uprising after the last Gulf War and , as you note, provided Saddam with the means to crush it.

"7. Aiding a severely abused and oppressed people who are living under the heel of absolute tyranny."
Ok. Good. I don;t think this is remotely believable or credible (or legal) as a war aim, but should that happen as a result of other war aims, that's great, as long as the price in war terms is not too high.
"8. The ability to effectively and probably quickly win this war."
Hopefully, as long as that doesn't mean bombing Iraq back to the stone age in 48 hours, which the plans seem to suggest.

I take the points at the end of your post. My objection is not to them, but to the way people are made to feel guilty by opposing the war with the "liberation" perspective, as if that is what the war is all about. It's not; it's largely about the other things you list. The current tack of Blair, Powell and so on is to talk as if this was the sole war aim - to liberate the people of Iraq from a tyrant. THat's nonsense - it just happens to coincide with the real aims of the war. Noone bothered to liberate Kuwait of its repressive rulers afer they threw Saddam out in '91. That doesn't mean it should not be done this time, of course not - but can't you see how unconvincing it is for people to be asked to drop their objections because the war may liberate the Iraqis, while we go on backing up other repressive regimes?

As I said, these are not reasons why the war is necessarily wrong (though the use of Iraq as a strategic base leans that way) - they're reasons why the case for war is not convincing/invalid/not proven, which I think is essential if you're going to start killing lot of people.

03-06-2003, 02:34 PM
Soon the Iraqi nation will have free elections and we'll find out what the will of it's people is on all of these issues.

nicky g
03-06-2003, 02:42 PM
Except the dead ones.

Seriously, lets hope so. I have my doubts: I imagine there's a strong possibility that some Western-friendly ethnic mishmash will be cobbled together and forced on Iraq with a vague veneer of "democracy" as happened in Afghanistan; but let's hope you are right.

03-06-2003, 02:58 PM
I agree with much of what you wrote. One small point: Yes, Iraq, that is the people of Iraq, should have the right to do with their oil what they wish. However Saddam torched the oilfields once before--that surely wasn't the will of the people--and if he tries it again, or tries to hold the entire regional oilfields hostage to some future nuclear threat, that probably won't be the will of the people either.

I've said all along that the reasons for war with Iraq are primarily strategic, not humanitarian--but the humanitarian argument is strong. I see the strategic reasons as more valid than you do; OK--and I take your caveat about the cost of liberating the Iraqis through war too--which must be weighed also against the cost of leaving to his people to suffer and die for the next decades if we do nothing. Given that Saddam has murdered over 500,000 of his own people over close to three decades, why should it not be assumed that he (and his sons after he passes on) will not continue in this vein. So left alone, we can probably expect hundreds of thousands of Iraqi political murders, and this, as well as the suffering diue to torture and fear, must be considered against the immediate cost of lives in war.

Now add all the other reasons, weighting them however lightly as you see fit, and I think the pro-war argument still outweighs the anti-war argument.

Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia--the regional sponsors of terror--will have to be dealt with too, in some fashion. And North Korea, if it starts producing nuclear materials in bulk, which can be sold to al Qaeda (al Qaeda operatives are already prepared to receive these materials in the Pacific Rim and Southeast)--North Korea will absolutely have to be dealt with, because we cannot allow the DPRK to sell highly enriched plutonium to al Qaeda or to rogue nations.

Shortly after Iraq, I think Bush needs to seriously consider taking out North Korea's nuclear facilities. A private ultimatum to Kim Jong-il (in order to save face) might be in order. The problem will only get much, much worse if North Korea is allowed to produce dozens of nuclear weapons each year.

03-06-2003, 03:10 PM
The US government isn't really very happy with how the new government in Afghanistan turned out, and we're probably going to have military governorship in Iraq for quite a while until a solidly pro-democratic Iraqi government can be established. So your fears of a quickly cobbled-together government are probably unfounded;-)