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Stockholm Conference: Iraq from a Distance - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A Conference about Iraq was convened in Stockholm last week while President Bush was speaking to the Air Military Academic cadets in Colorado. In both events, President Bush and Secretary Rice were speaking about an Iraq that exists only in the minds of the speakers, and is so far removed from the reality that millions of Iraqis widows, orphaned children and the physically maimed in addition to a million Iraqis who lost their lives and five millions displaced. Bush speaks about fighting enemies and adversaries in any place in the world, but who is the enemy and the adversary as far as he is concerned? “When rulers know we can strike their regime while sparing their populations, they realize they cannot hide behind the innocent, and that means they are less likely to start conflicts in the first place”. If we were to apply this statement to Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan, can President Bush say that he has hit the regimes and saved the people? What kind of saving is President Bush speaking about when we recall what has happened to the Iraqi people of death and destruction?

Perhaps what the members of American administration say about Iraq should be read in the light of what is taking place in Iraq, and in the light of what few Americans, who were liberated of the administration pressures, say about Iraq such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter and the latest is Scott McClellan, who was the spokesperson in the White House from 2003 -2006 and whose book was recently published under the title: “What Happened: Inside The Bush White House and Washington Culture of Deception” in which he explains how did Bush mislead the US and the world about the war on Iraq and how the war on Iraq was not necessary: “the decision to invade Iraq”, he says, ” was a serious strategic blunder”. Richard Clark, the previous head of countering terrorism in the White House, said that leaving the American forces in Iraq is helpful to al-Qaeda. Ricardo Sanchez, who was the commander of the American forces in Iraq, also wrote a book entitled: “Wiser in Battle: a Soldier’s story” in which he illustrated the lies of the ex-American Minister of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and other Senior officials in order to justify their wars and, in particular, their war on Iraq.

McClellan emphasized that both Bush and his advisers confused propaganda with news. He also accused two previous senior advisors of Bush, Karl Rove and Louise Libby, of deceiving him in order to lie about their role in leaking the name of the CIA agent Valerie Plame in vengeance of her husband Joseph Wilson, who unraveled the deliberate lies of the Bush administration about Iraq buying Uranium from Niger for military purposes which turned out to be a lie as well. McClellan says they “both encouraged me to repeat the lie time and again” claiming that he did not discover that it was a lie until journalists started digging for the truth after two years. Thus we discover that the machine of the supposedly “free Press” is being used in order to market fabricated lies for pre-designed purposes which bring death and destruction to millions of innocent people in different parts of the globe. In such a climate truth becomes the only orphan searching for an exit within an ocean of lies and waves of propaganda campaigns. It is quite telling that the Time newspapers of May 28, 2008 said, “Carter is right to say the unsayable’ and the unsayable is the truth of Israeli possession of 150 nuclear heads directed against the people of tens of Arab capitals. Carter has said the unsayable before, though, when he published his book in 2006 under the title: “Palestine, Peace and Apartheid”, which caused him a storm of false accusations and irresponsible responses from groups who support occupation, settlement and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, the indigenous people of Palestine. Carter’s visit to the region and his meeting with Hamas has also gained him the anger of pressure groups who only pressure against Arabs and for the sake of Israel no matter how horrid the Israeli measures against innocent Palestinians and Arabs are.

But the unsayable truth is also being said today by Desmond Tutu, who is the head of the investigation committee formed by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the massacre perpetrated in Beit Hanon by the Israeli occupying forces in 2006 whose result was the killing of an entire family of al-Athamna among which were five women and eight children who were killed in their homes by Israeli Shelling. Tutu said: what is happening in Gaza is unacceptable and is disgraceful to the entire humanity. This also falls within the unsayable because no one is expected to highlight the horrors of what Israel is perpetrating against the Palestinians because these horrors are not consistent with the image of a democratic state as it is portrayed in the propaganda campaigns which are taking the place of investigative and objective journalism. Propaganda campaigns also target British Academicians who are trying, for the third time running, to boycott Israeli universities because of the role they are playing in supporting the policies of Israel in killing and destroying the Palestinians. We have to remember that Britain took a leading role in highlighting the crimes of the South African Apartheid system in the seventies and eighties of the last century, and today British academicians are the pioneers of pointing out the only way to uncover the real face of Israeli racist and settlement policies and their disastrous consequences on the indigenous people of Palestine.

The only reasonable conclusion is that, Iraq and the Middle East, both seem bright and prosperous from Stockholm for those who are conveyed in their luxurious private jets from their air-conditioned and comfortable offices to seven stars hotels and who have the ability to speak about humanity and peace in a way that makes them look human to the audiences of satellite TVs. But Far away from them are the people of Palestine and Iraq who can only smell death and blood and who cannot find white cloth to wrap their dead children in preparation for their burial. Between those in Stockholm who express great care about the lives of the Iraqis, and the hell created by them for Iraq and the Iraqis, is a huge gap filled by millions of displaces people, by a way of life that is totally destroyed and by the fear and concern that this is not the end of the story. The speeches from Stockholm and the Bush speech in Colorado are another addition to the propaganda war that is removing the truth of things so far away from the eyes and hearts of the people who would love to know. Modern technology that was supposed to make things closer is, also, used to make things so far removed as if they happen on another planet. This is another challenge the victims of these wars are facing, a challenge that is so difficult to address and overcome. What is needed is to take a plane to the theatre of events and see, as our grandfathers did, with our own eyes what is happening and then reach a judgment and a conclusion as a result.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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