Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Kamal died from lack of medicine 3 days after this picture.
photo by Alan Pogue (www.documentaryphotographs.com)

A family fleeing Iraq during sanctions, some 1 million fled!
photo by Bert Sacks (www.concernforiraq.org)

August 12th

Four Hiroshimas and No One Knows

What will it take for us to reckon with U.S. foreign policy

(published in Real Change newspaper on August 19, 2009 -
footnotes are hyperlinks but also refer to comments below. )

Guest Writer

We can learn a great deal from the date August 12.

Many will associate Aug. 6 with the deaths of 125,000 civilians at Hiroshima.

Very few will associate Aug. 12 with the ongoing deaths of 500,000 children.

Ten years ago on Aug. 12, UNICEF reported on preventable deaths in one country over the years 1991-98 compared to 1990 and found half a million children had died.(1) (2)

But this UNICEF survey of the deaths of 500,000 infants, toddlers and pre-school children was not mentioned
at all on the nightly national news of ABC, CBS, or NBC.(3)

Meanwhile, 48 of the top 50 U.S. papers that printed
any story omitted the most simple, telling statistic: that half a million children had died.(4)

The first point to be learned from Aug. 12: If you get your news
only from U.S. mainstream sources, you can expect not to be told about certain major stories.

You might wonder how could 500,000 preventable children’s deaths not be reported?

The terrible and obvious answer is because they were Iraqis, and we caused their deaths.(5)

Because of our deliberate Gulf War destruction of Iraq’s electricity — which stopped the pumping of sewage and the processing of safe water — many children died from water-borne diseases. Years of U.S.-supported sanctions led to malnutrition and many more deaths.(6)

If the report had said Saddam Hussein caused those deaths, it would be in big headlines!

The second, important point to be learned is this: mainstream news programs claim objective reporting. But how do they decide what stories to cover and what to ignore?

Especially in time of war, manipulation of media coverage has become an art form. With a few admirable exceptions, our mainstream media has not stood up to that manipulation.

One example is Madeleine Albright’s claim on CBS’ “
60 Minutes” that Iraqi children died because Saddam Hussein spent $2 billion building palaces. Simple arithmetic shows Saddam’s expense comes to four cents per Iraqi per day. Did any media ever do that calculation? And on that same program, she also said that half a million children’s deaths were “worth the price”!(7)(8)

Which brings up a third point to learn from the non-coverage of the Aug. 12, 1999 report.

The primary intelligence failure leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq was the media’s failure to report publicly available information and to draw the obvious conclusions.

We were told the reason we had to go to war was the existence of WMDs in Iraq. Two months before the U.S. invasion, I said to a large public audience, “This has always been about regime change. It has never been about weapons of mass destruction.”(9)

How did I know this?

Secretary of State James Baker III said so.

Three months after the end of the Gulf War he told Congress, “[We will maintain] UN sanctions in place so long as Saddam Hussein remains in power.” That statement completely removed any incentive Saddam had to disarm. And it proves that our goal was not to disarm but to overthrow him.(10)

If our goal was regime change, how did we plan to accomplish it?

Under Dick Cheney as Secretary of Defense from 1989 to 1993, the U.S. strategy for the Gulf War and after was simple. It was to make life very terrible for the Iraqis: unsafe drinking water, no reliable electricity in 100-degree temperatures, few medicines, little food, and many, many deaths.

To stop this, we thought the Iraqi generals would replace Saddam Hussein.

It did not happen, but hundreds of thousands of children, the sick, and the elderly died.

It’s media’s job to explain this. By and large our mass media failed miserably in that task.

Jonathan Shay’s 1995 book “Achilles in Vietnam” noted that vets suffering from post-traumatic stress injuries from that conflict have a problem called “lack of communalization”: a dearth of people who can hear their difficult truths. As a result, the vets suffer. And we fail to comprehend Vietnam.

The same applies to Iraq.

By using air power to destroy Iraq’s infrastructure — and sanctions to “keep the pressure on” — we had hoped to avoid sending American troops in to overthrow Saddam Hussein. But by causing massive suffering and death, we created hatred toward us around the world.

George H.W. Bush — who was Commander in Chief during the 1991 Gulf War — shamefully said, “I’ll never apologize for the United States of America, ever. I don't care what the facts are.” Media pundits who specialize in anger and outrage — in verbal violence — claim that those who wish to report difficult facts are “Blame America first” critics. But those who “don’t care what the facts are” leave us in a profound ignorance.

The reality of Iraq from 1991 to today remains shrouded in a deliberately created “fog of war.” If we don’t pierce it, we will be easily manipulated into the next war … and the next.


(1) See 4th paragraph in this UNICEF news release: http://www.unicef.org/newsline/99pr29.htm

(2) Plot from the original UNICEF report in endnote 1 above: http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0ATJ2K9oVI5oDZGZqajRycHFfMjIxaHE5azZyaHI&hl=en

(3) See http://southendpress.org/2004/items/Iraq for the book “Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War,” Chapter Six, “The Media’s Deadly Spin on Iraq,” especially p 103.

(4) Author’s search with Lexis-Nexis database of top fifty U.S. newspapers for the word “UNICEF” in conjunction with the word “half a million” OR the number “500,000”.

(5) See ConcernForIraq.org/infrastructure.htm – especially article from the Washington Post; Pentagon bombing planners make it very clear the consequences of the bombing were understood.

(6) http://www.scn.org/ccpi/infrastructure.htm#nejm is September 1992 report from the New England Journal of Medicine reporting 46,900 excess deaths of Iraqi children under the age of five compared to 1990.

(7) http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0ATJ2K9oVI5oDZGZqajRycHFfMjI4MnpodG56Y20&hl=en contains Ms. Albright’s comment (fn 46) and significant misleading material from the U.S. State Dept. attempted “rebuttal” of the UNICEF report a month later called "Saddam Hussein's Iraq".

Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq for some 24 years: during the first 12 years (when he had our support for his invasion of Iran and his use of WMDs against Iran) health care, literacy, basic infrastructure all improved; during the second 12 years (when we destroyed Iraq's electricity and imposed sanctions) health care, literacy and basic infrastructure all showed significant deterioration. Yet it was almost a national mantra in our media and with our politicians that "It's all Saddam's fault!"

Madeleine Albright (as our UN Ambassador) stated that "if sanctions weren't in place, [Saddam Hussein] would be selling oil for tanks." Yet during the first 12 years of his rule, there continued to be significant improvement in the health statistics of the country. Therefor the U.S. State Dept had to create a plot (with no sources! see next endnote) which denied what UNICEF and NEJM show.

L. Paul Bremer, U.S. Administrator of Iraq in 2003, said "Because ... this country's capital was stolen and put in places like this (palace), ... there is no reliable infrastructure here" and "Saddam's neglect of the power system meant that Iraq did not have enough power even before the war." Mr. Bremer completely ignored the evidence of U.S. bombing of 97% of Iraq's elelctricity in 1991. (See endnote 5, Pentagon statements and survey of post-Gulf-War Iraq.)

The Oil-for-food program of the UN was heralded as the answer to Iraq's humanitarian crisis. Yet few people are aware that the U.S. allowed funding (from Iraq's own oil revenues) at 25 cents per Iraqi per day initially, finally increasing to an average of 53 cents per Iraqi per day for all of the needs of each Iraqi: food, water, sewage, health care, transportation, education. The first two UN heads of that program resigned in protest, calling the funding "woefully inadequate" and genocidal.

In a lawsuit against the federal government for this 12-year policy towards Iraq, one contention was that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children came to constitute genocide. The federal judge ruled that, even if this was genocide, in federal law it did not matter: Congress passed a law saying no one has any rights in the matter: http://concernforiraq.org/JudgeRobartPage7ofDecision22Oct04.htm See also the full legal challenges on this matter up to the U.S. Supreme Court on this blog (at right).

There are many excellent sources of information about the 12-year period leading up to the 2003 invasion: http://www.casi.org.uk/ and http://vitw.org/ and http://www.ConcernForIraq.org/ As an example, http://www.casi.org.uk/info/unicef/990816qa.html contrasts sharply with the level of detail, sourcing and credibility compared with the U.S. State Department's report "Saddam Hussein's Iraq" (see this endnote 7).

(8) http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0ATJ2K9oVI5oDZGZqajRycHFfMjIzaGZienZjZ3o&hl=en is a plot from the State Dept. “Saddam Hussein’s Iraq” showing the 1991 Gulf War having a positive health impact in the North and no impact in the rest of Iraq; compare this with endnote 2 above, the actual UNICEF plot. The State Dept. report has not a single source to explain where any of its data comes from.

(9) http://bertoniraq.blogspot.com/2005/10/two-months-before-us-invasion-of-iraq.html See 7th paragraph: "I contend, and this document I’m giving you is the first piece of evidence that came my way, that this has always been about regime change. It has never been about weapons of mass destruction."

(10) http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0ATJ2K9oVI5oDZGZqajRycHFfMjQwY242N21namo&hl=en

15 Years of War On the Iraqi People

These photos show the real price of war:
one million dead and one million refugees

In 1990 the United States imposed economic sanctions on the country of Iraq. They were supposed to be a non-violent means to force Iraqi troops from Kuwait. But during the ensuing Gulf War the U.S. bombed and deliberately took out 96% of Iraq’s electrical capacity. (1)

This had a predictable, disastrous effect on Iraq’s water and sanitation. The New England Journal of Medicine reported epidemics of water-borne diseases and concluded that from January to August 1991, the 'excess' deaths of Iraqi children came to 46,900.(2)

These facts were available from very credible sources, yet they were virtually unknown to most Americans. If I could get the issue of economic sanctions on Iraq into a U.S. court of law, I believed the facts would be heard and the disaster of these sanctions might be ended.

In 2002 I got my wish. The U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a $10,000 administrative fine against me for traveling to Iraq to bring medicine to children without asking them for approval. (3)

Under what conditions should the government prevent a citizen from bringing medicine to relieve suffering and save lives? Common sense and decency says there must be a very good reason. OFAC has never offered any. The Geneva Convention actually prohibits restrictions, stating that parties to the treaty "shall allow free passage of medical and hospital stores ... even if the latter is its adversary." (4)

This seemed like a clear-cut instance of the U.S. government violating the Geneva Convention. After all, even the U.N. sanctions had never included or restricted medicine. How could the government lawyers possibly respond? And how could the judge justify the violation?

Based on legal arguments that the Geneva Convention is not "self-executing" and that I do not have a "private right of action" against the federal government, on October 22, 2004, Judge Robart ruled that "The Medicine Restriction is a valid exercise of authority ..." (5)

But what about the consequences of this policy of bombing a country's infrastructure, re-imposing draconian sanctions that prevent it from being able to feed it's people, and then restricting the free passage of medicine to children, even when hundreds of thousands of them die as a result. When does this come to constitute the crime of genocide?

At the stage we were at in our legal case against the federal government, Judge Robart had to consider that all of our claims were true since we had not yet been given an opportunity to present evidence to support them. How did the Judge rule on a policy that arguably came to constitue genocide against the Iraqi people?

Here is Judge Robart's ruling from his decision of October 22, 2004: "Although the United States has ratified part of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, it also provided that the Convention creates no 'substantive or procedural right enforceable by law by any party in any proceeding.'" (emphasis added) (6)

We are currently appealing this decision to the Ninth Circuit Appellate Court. We might have a decision by the end of this year. Still, whatever the Ninth Circuit rules, there is important clarity that is coming out of this legal process for me ... and, I hope, for others as well.

There has been a denial of the right to life for half a million Iraqi children -- simply because they are Iraqi and we wanted to coerce their leader. So far we have not yet managed to have this human-rights violation weighed on the scales of justice of our legal system.

Bert asks Dan Rather his Question, 9/25/08

Bert Sacks Asks Dan Rather a question on KUOW’s Weekday program, 9/25,08:

Bert Sacks: I’d like to ask Mr. Rather a question about a story that was first broken in a major way on CBS’ 60 Minutes. This was in 1996 when Madeleine Albright was asked famously if she thought the deaths of half a million children was “worth the price” – and she answered, Yes. My first question is, Do you remember that story, Mr. Rather?

Dan Rather: No I don’t. What was the context? Half a million children had been killed where?

Bert Sacks: In Iraq, because of the sanctions.

Dan Rather: Oh, during the mid-1990s. I don’t remember the piece, I don’t think I saw the piece.

Bert Sacks: My question is, Two years later UNICEF reported they had completed a study, and the study concluded that 500,000 children had … 500,000 children would be alive if things had continued the way they were in 1990, before we bombed all the electrical plants and turned the country into a place without ability to pump water and process sewage.

Friends of mine studied the transcripts of not just CBS but all three networks for the ninety days following and there was not a mention of this report of 500,000 children. Now my question is, The investigation didn’t require anyone to go anywhere, they just needed to get on the UNICEF website and read the report. And yet it was virtually ignored by not just the three major networks but by 48 of the 50 (top US) newspapers.

Are you familiar with the report? And secondly, how do you understand the fact that it received so little coverage when you … in my opinion … that massive number of deaths, which we would call genocide if they took place in Rwanda or other countries – is so not reported here – and yet is so relevant to the belief that we would be welcomed when we went into Iraq to, quote, liberate the country?

Dan Rather: Well, there is a lot in that, and I’m not sure that I can address very much of it. But let me be specific on two things: One, I do vaguely remember it, and only vaguely remember, that such a report or something similar to that was put out – I don’t remember the source of it – I do vaguely remember it. Two, how do I explain that it did not, in your judgment, get the attention that it deserved? Frankly, sir, and I appreciate your question, and I understand I think the thrust of the question, there are plenty of times when I have to say, I don’t know, and this is one of those times. I don’t know.

300 words on sanctions and war

I wrote this warning about our rush to war
some 6 months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq

It ends: "A second [war] may just overflow the reservoir
of anger and hatred we've created by our policies." (7)

Before we rush to war with Iraq again, Americans must know what happened in the last war. In 1991, we bombed Iraq's civilian infrastructure to "accelerate the effect of sanctions" knowing it would shut down their water and sewage systems. (1) The UN reported there would soon be "epidemic and famine" and "time was short" to prevent it. We said that "by making life uncomfortable for the Iraqi people we would encourage them to remove President Saddam Hussein." (2) And we waited for this to happen.

We used epidemic and famine as tools of our foreign policy. We did it to cause suffering--and death--to get regime change at low cost. We tried to force the Iraqis to do it. But it was not low cost.

We learned from the New England Journal of Medicine in 1992 what happened: "These results provide strong evidence that the Gulf war and trade sanctions caused a threefold increase in mortality among Iraqi children under five years of age. We estimate that an excess of more that 46,900 children died between January and August 1991." (3)

That report was virtually ignored in this country, so that by 1999 UNICEF had to report on 500,000 excess Iraqi children's deaths. (4)

A World-Trade-Center's worth of Iraqi children continue to die every month. Diarrhea is "the prime killer." (5) Meanwhile we live in a fantasy world of surgical bombing, with few civilian casualties, and the untrue belief that the oil-for-food program could possibly meet Iraq's needs. (6)

But these basic facts are unknown to most Americans. A second Gulf War, done the same way as the first, may just overflow the reservoir of anger and hatred we've created by our policies. No one knows what will happen then. Until we recognize what we've done, we cannot judge what might happen. (7)

Posted originally on August 11, 2002.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Two months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a talk that warned of what was coming and why

“Iraq, Sanctions, the Media, and Nonviolence”

a talk by Bert Sacks

at Trinity United Methodist Church, Ballard
Seattle, Washington -- January 3, 2003

[Excerpts of the talk below]

[download audio of talk]

Let’s talk about what the intelligence agencies of the United States have been behind. And you know, a common question that’s often asked when you talk about Iraq – you’ll hear it on the radio sometimes – is, “Why didn’t we march to Baghdad in 1991? Why didn’t we finish the job?” as it was.

Well, I’ll give you three serious, good reasons, because they all have some relevance right now.

The first reason we didn’t march to Iraq is we had no authorization to do that at all. You remember, the only authorization we had was to have Iraqi troops leave Kuwait. And certainly the United Nations didn’t give any support to this notion of regime change.

Second reason is, if we had done that, it certainly would have fractured the coalition.

And the third reason is – and maybe this was the most overwhelming in terms of the calculations at the time – American troops would have died. Urban fighting inside Baghdad.

What did we do, though?

I contend, and this document I’m giving you is the first piece of evidence that came my way, that this has always been about regime change. It has never been about weapons of mass destruction.

And we wanted to wage the Gulf War in such a way that we would get regime change without having American soldiers die. How did we do that? In the targeting of the Gulf War, the United States’ Pentagon bombing strategists said, “We are going to bomb Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, up and down the country, taking out all the electrical generating plants, so that they have, in the end, 94% of the electricity gone that they had in 1990.

We did that. You realize that takes out water and sewage, especially in the South and Central regions which are very flat – you can’t pump water. We also hit some water and sewage targets.

What that was going to do, I’ll read to you in just a minute. But the second thing we wanted to do is to reimpose economic sanctions on Iraq. The sanctions, you remember, were supposed to be a less violent way to solve the conflict of Kuwait. And they ended – their excuse, their justification ended – when Iraq troops left Kuwait. So we needed some other reason to reimpose them and that other reason was, “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, we say they have to get rid of them.”

But what were the consequences of reimposing economic sanctions and having bombed the civilian infrastructure of Iraq? Three weeks after the end of the war, the United Nations told us precisely what those consequences are. It’s a document from the New York Times, March 22nd, 1991.

If you read the very last paragraph, and I’ll read it to you for those of you that don’t have it, the UN told us, “It is unmistakable that the Iraqi people may soon face a further imminent catastrophe, which could include epidemic and famine, if massive life-supporting needs are not rapidly met. Time is short.”

That’s the UN telling us what conditions were like in Iraq three weeks after the war: Epidemic and famine.

What was our position? This is the reporter speaking of the U.S. administration’s view and position about sanctions. “The United States has argued against any premature relaxation [of the economic sanctions] in the belief that, by making life uncomfortable for the Iraqi people, it will eventually encourage them to remove President Saddam Hussein from power.”

Have you got it? We are publicly saying that we intend to use epidemic and famine against a civilian population as tools of our foreign policy in order to get what we want – and what we want is regime change. What we want is our guy in Baghdad who’ll give us control of the oil. That’s not very nice. That’s not very pretty, and it needs to be said.

Because if we don’t know what we are doing, the rest of the world does.

I want to give you another handout. This is more evidence related to both our targeting and the economic sanctions, and one small glimpse at the kind of sophisticated public relations responses our government has made over three administrations with regard to this war that has gone on against a civilian population for 12 years.

So let me give you another sheet. Appropriately it’s a legal-sized sheet, and it’s my effort to put on one sheet on two sides the essential facts from the most credible sources about the bombing and about the sanctions and the Oil for Food Program.

Two sides to this sheet. The first side is about water and about the destruction of the infrastructure, and I’ll read you just a couple of quotes. And these are credible because of the nature of the quotes and the fact that they came from U.S. Pentagon bombing planners and are reported in the Washington Post the summer after the Gulf War.

One planner says, “‘People say you didn’t recognize that it was going to have an effect on water or sewage,’ said the planning officer. ‘Well, what were trying to do with the UN sanctions – help out the Iraqi people? No, what we were doing with the attacks on infrastructure was to accelerate the effect of the sanctions.’” We knew it. Bad water. Epidemics.

And the other man who’s identified, Colonel John Warden, says we took out the electrical generating plants because it “gave us long-term leverage.” We don’t have incubators, we don’t have hospitals, we don’t have a way to process the sewage, pump the water, do agriculture.

And at the very bottom, you’ll see one of the first indications of what happened, this was actually reported much earlier, but Representative Tony Hall, Democrat from Ohio, went to Iraq in 2000. “The prime killer of children under five years of age, diarrheal diseases, has reached epidemic proportions.”

Bad water is the prime killer of children in Iraq today. And I joked with Congressman McDermott that water that I gave him, the bottle of water over here, did not come from Iraq. We do not drink water when we go there. We don’t drink their water.

What did the Oil for Food Program give to the Iraqi people? This is from the Economist magazine, dated April 8th, 2000. “Originally the Security Council authorized Iraq to sell $1.32 billion worth of oil every month to cover humanitarian imports. Large as that sum sounds, it provided little more than a dollar a month to cover food and medicine for each Iraqi, not to mention repairs to the infrastructure.”

Did you know that? A dollar a month? Why couldn’t anyone who is a journalist who covers this translate the billions of dollars you always hear the program specified in, in terms of how much it is per person? That’s do-able. We could do that, if we wanted to know. If we wanted to tell people.

And that brings me to the second point I’d like you to leave with. And that is, what were the consequences, and how were we told about the consequences of this policy?

And I contend that probably the least reported, most important story I know, in the past decade, is the one I’m going to pass out to you. It comes from the New England Journal of Medicine from 10 years ago. The date’s September 24, 1992. Let me give that to you. Here’re our doctors from Johns Hopkins, Harvard School of Public Health, Oxford University, our most credible institutions and maybe our most believable medical journal, and they said, “These results (of their study they did in 1991 and published in 1992) these results provide strong evidence that the Gulf War and trade sanctions caused a threefold increase in mortality among Iraqi children under five years of age. We estimate that in excess of more than 46,900 children died between January and August, 1991.”

Fifty-thousand children, fifty-thousand – does fifty-thousand, does that number not ring any bell with you, call any image to mind, like the number of names that are on the Vietnam Veterans’ Wall in Washington, DC? Fifty-thousand-plus American names.

Now take every name there, an American name, and imagine it in Arabic with the name of a child under five years of age. That’s what this report is talking about. It’s hard for us to grasp. The Vietnam Veterans’ Wall of children’s names occurring not just once, in a war, but every year, year after year after year. Fifty-thousand kids over 10 years.

And the second key that you should know, when I did a search using Lexus/Nexus database to see how the newspapers covered this, of the top 50 papers in this country, I could find only three newspapers that gave any significant coverage to the reported deaths of 50,000 children.

One of them, to its credit, was the Seattle Times, which had an op-ed of 800 words. Another was a paper in Texas. But the best paper, sort of, was the New York Times, which did several thousands words covering this report, and, get this, and they printed it only in the Long Island Edition. They treated it like a local news story because there was a doctor from Long Island who had gone to Iraq. OK, fifty-thousand kids’ deaths was not a story that we had to know about, in the eyes, nationwide, of the New York Times.

The second point is our media, in the mainstream, is terrible. In fact, I contend, criminally complicit in the deaths of these children.

And there have been very bright exceptions, like the Seattle Post Intelligencer that sent their foreign editor Larry Johnson to travel to Iraq with us. He was there with Jim McDermott.

And they did an eight-page, great story in 1999 when we were there, so that’s a bright spot. But on the editorial side there’s been almost nothing.

On the other side, the Seattle Times did a series of six great editorials when Mindy Cameron was still the editorial page editor. And some of the best in the country, and this is because of our work with Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility. Jim McDermott’s a member. He’s an MD by the way, if you didn’t know. Because of our work with the papers we’ve had some success. But the news side of the Seattle Times has been terrible. They do a whole story, a 12-page section on understanding the conflict, and the only thing they say about Iraq and sanctions is “Saddam Hussein has long complained that sanctions cause suffering among his children.”

The UNICEF report of ‘99 said 500,000 children would be alive today if the declining mortality rate in that country had continued. The New York Times tells us, from the kind of stuff that passes as news in this country, that Saddam Hussein complains that sanctions cause suffering. I think Jim McDermott is very right and you cannot look to our papers. You have to look to alternative sources, like coming out to events like this and going onto websites and reading the information yourself to educate yourself to know what’s going on.

The Wall Street Journal did a front-page story with my picture – you know, engraved, I’m engraved on the Wall Street Journal – because I went to talk to the Wall Street Journal reporter in Baghdad because my work is to try and get this story out.
And I gave him exactly this sheet of paper which said 500,000 children have died, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund – they reported that August 12th, 1999. August 13th, the entire coverage of the Wall Street Journal is two sentences. It does not appear in the news index. It’s not a news story, even, it doesn’t even appear in their index. The first sentence omits the statistic. And the second sentence says, basically, “It’s all Saddam’s fault.”

And if you think that’s just because that’s a business paper, then how about the New York Times. They gave 800 words to this, and said the same thing basically. Omitted the statistic, “It’s all Saddam’s fault.”

That’s part of what we have to deal with very much. And that’s coming out -- that’s a meta-issue -- which is to learn not to believe the media. And that’s good.

I go to kids in high school and I say to them, have you seen the Truman Show? I’m just curious, how many people have seen the Truman Show? Ninety percent of them had seen the Truman Show. I say, you are living in the Truman Show. You get it. It’s an artificial world, created by the media, for its purposes. It’s not real. And I say to the kids, I say to you, it’s our choice. We now know that the world -- that if you go home and turn on our television and try and listen to the nightly news you won’t know about that world. I didn’t even say this, that the nightly news on the three commercial networks never said one word about the report from UNICEF of 500,000 deaths.

If you wanted to know one fact about the state of American democracy, I would say maybe it’s that. What’s the point of voting if you don’t have information in your heads? If you don’t know the basic essential facts of what’s happening? I want to do a poll sometime where I think I’d find that maybe 5% of Americans have ever heard of this report. Five percent of Americans ever heard of 500,000 children.

That’s shocking.

Third point. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. And asking myself the question, what’s the most essential thing that made this possible? – this whole policy, the whole military policy, the whole media policy, the fact that we don’t know this, and the fact that maybe this is our policy.

This is the way we trade off American soldiers’ lives at the price of 3,000; 5,000 children every month in the countries that we’re attacking.

I contend that, in 1990, in preparation for the war, we unleashed, not there but here, what’s maybe the most deadly virus. Only it’s not an external material virus, it’s a virus that works inside.

And the name of that virus is called demonization.

We said in order to go to war we’re going to demonize one man. We’re going to ignore anything that he did that might be positive. And we’re going to take everything he did that was bad and even exaggerate it and lie about it, like the incubator story. And we’re going to completely ignore the context and our responsibility for supporting a man who invaded a foreign country, used poison gas against Iranians, used poison gas against the Kurds in Halabja; and all of that time in ‘83 Reagan sent the same Donald Rumsfeld to shake Saddam’s hand, take him off the list of terrorist countries, begin to give him military, economic and diplomatic cover and support, while he’s waging this war using weapons of mass destruction. Jim is right – we have the receipts for these weapons.

And in 1999, the year after Halabja, Bush, Sr. signed a National Security Council finding that it is in the interest of the United States of America to maintain and create warm, good relations with Iraq. We knew about Halabja.

Amnesty International … that I’m a member of and you all should, if you want to know about human rights, and the human rights that we’re ignoring, become a member of ... Amnesty’s report that I have says, with quite [a lot of] anger, the situation in Iraq is using, we are using, selectively and manipulatively, human rights violations in that country. So, I’ve come to the conclusion and I think it, I mean this in most seriousness, that if we who want to work for peace in the world understand how we got where we are, and how our sense of vision is not clear – it’s so distorted by demonization – we cannot demonize. And here’s the hard one – it means not just that we can’t demonize the people over there, we can’t demonize our leaders. We can’t demonize anyone that does something bad we have to remember we are all human.

And so I have come to the conclusion that the root of the work we have to do is to
stop pointing the finger out there, to recognize the angers, the violence, the greed, all those states of mind that are in us, and work to clear ourselves out, to get our act together so we can be better examples of peace and we can be more peaceful, while at the same time standing up and opposing as skillfully and effectively as we can the dangerous and misguided policies of our government.


Friday, October 07, 2005

Ohio State Radio Interview

U.S. Policy on Iraq: Discussion with Fred Andrle, Bert Sacks & Donald Abenheim (11/13/01) on WOSU AM radio
listen to streaming mp3