Sunday, March 02, 2003

Do Westerners sometimes say the truth?

For us Iranians having Russian planes carrying French made bombs crossing over our heads for eight years, it is difficult to imagine that the true intention of Jacque Chirac and Putin in objecting American military attack on Iraq is to defend innocent civilian people of this country. As many Iranian soldiers wounded by chemical bombs that Saddam Hussein’s army poured on their heads refused to go to the well-equipped hospitals in Germany for treatment because they had heard knows Germany supplied the raw material of these bombs. Similarly they do not believe that Gerhard Shroder is against American military invasion of Iraq for humanistic reasons. We tell ourselves the fight is over something else.
But among millions of pessimistic people who see Iraq crisis as another game over oil, some are optimistic too. They are the people who tell themselves that the world has changed and the twenty first century with the collapse of the Communist Block and Information revolution and the world’s attention to human rights is the beginning of a new era in human civilization. In the new struggle and challenge that has started in the world, they are hoping to receive their own piece of cake and that is freedom of people from the grip of despotic reactionary fundamentalist rulers who live in the Middle Ages.
Which one of these two groups is right? Would the clamor that started a day after September 11 and following the overthrow of Taliban Government in Afghanistan is now aiming at Iraq have any effects on the historical fate of the people of Middle East? Would it help the reformist movements shaping in the Middle East countries to exit the vicious circle of backwardness and attain democracy without violence and in a peaceful way?
On September 22, 1980 I had taken my son to the city center of Tehran to do some shopping for him as the next day was the beginning of Autumn and the new school year was to begin. My son was six years old then and he was to start school and like other human beings it was a great day for us. But suddenly around noon the sound of sirens filled the air and an hour later Radio announced that Iraqi army has attacked large cities in Iran. We spent the night in the dark basement and the pleasant memory of the first day of school had already disappeared from our mind and the nights and days of horror and bombardment and massacre had started. An event that continued until my son was thirteen and started high school. Throughout those eight years of war, it was America and Europe that by selling arms to Saddam – and sometimes Iran-- made the continuation of all that senseless blood shed and demolitions possible. In the world of politicians, their approach was called ‘the policy of dual containment’ but the people who were killed and their cities were demolished knew nothing of the terms of the diplomatic world.
Two weeks ago when Colin Powel American Foreign Minister announced in UN that Iraqi army had bombarded its neighbor Iran with chemical bombs several times and never hesitated to kill even its own people, an Iranian satirist wrote, ‘Indeed the news reach New-York very late, after twenty years.’
When the first Iraqi chemical bomb fell on an Iranian city near the frontier, not a single American or European statesman condemned this event. The German hospitals where a group of Iranians wounded by those chemical bombs was hospitalized refused to announce the real cause of those wounds and did not mention the word chemical in their documents and bills. If they were ready to testify that all those people were suffering from the wounds of chemical bombs, then could Iranians complain to the International courts against German companies selling chemical materials to Iraq?
Akbar Hassani, the Iranian soldier wounded by Iraqi chemical bombs who lived under the oxygen tent for twenty years suffering from the most excruciating pains and experiencing death several times due to asphyxia died a couple of weeks ago in Tehran. Before his death, when Hassani heard that in their speeches British Prime Minister and President Bush talk about what Saddam Hussein did to his neighbor, he smiled and thanked god.
After the impending American military invasion of Iraq, would Hassani’s fatherless children live in a world where nobody would no longer die of pains and wounds of chemical bombs? This is what if Iranians and other people of the world who demonstrated in hundred cities with the slogan of No War believe, will not then have anything against the invasion of Iraq and disarmament of Saddam Hussein and his overthrow. The problem is that it is something difficult to believe.
Two weeks ago when Naji Sabri, Iraqi foreign Minister traveled to Iran, a group of Parliamentary Members impeached Iranian Foreign Minister who had gone to the Air Port to welcome Sabri. 63% of Iranian MPs have lost one of their family members in the war with Iraq. They were angry to see such a warm welcome to Saddam’s representative. In response, the government tells people that the purpose of military invasion of Iraq is not to punish Saddam Hussein, the murderer of your children and fathers, but is oil. Most of the people believe that, as thousands people in America and Europe believe the same.
Without such skepticism, when America made Taliban with its medieval aged government flee from Kabul and now when it is sending thousands of its youth to the Middle East to overthrow Saddam’s government, surely Iranian people who have awful memories of both of these neighbors should have been and should be the only people in the world praying for America and its allies and send them flowers.
It is over twenty years that Iraqi people are living under the oppression of the despotic regime of Saddam Hussein who has killed thousands of them for being Kurd, Shiite, Communist, dissident, criticizing and protesting against his dictatorial regime. Surely, these people should pour flowers under the feet of American soldiers who are going to overthrow Saddam Hussein and according to their Arabic tradition, burn harmel for them and jubilate. But it is not like this and everybody knows that it is not going to be this way and in Iraq even if people do not attempt to build small ambushes and show individual resistance as Bin Laden had advised them in the message he has sent them, they will not welcome the invading forces even as much as Afghans.
Even the horror that the dictatorial governments of the Middle East are now feeling because of the impending American attack on Iraq should be the best news for the people awaiting freedom for years, but it is not.President Bush’s government had to spend a year on the controversy over military invasion of Iraq to convince the people of the world, and particularly of the Middle East that a better life is awaiting them. Even if the regimes of this region that are not true representatives of were convinced, the problem would not be solved. As exerting pressure on European governments to accept war and cooperate with America will not solve the problem. What is President Bush’s policy to convince the people of the world?
Last week, in a gathering in Tehran, Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful statesman of Iran said, “If their ( American) intention is to take away the oil and distribute it justly, then there is no need for military force and war as this is exactly what we want too.” This is the free-spoken expression of what the majority of leaders of the region speak in their negotiations behind the closed doors. It is evident that American power show has been quite effective up to now. When the most outspoken dissenter of America that is Iranian clerics that following the occupation of American embassy in Tehran and keeping the American stuff as hostages twenty four years ago, have been insisting on the slogan of Death to America and are not ready to give it up even now has reached such a point, it is obvious that Untied States and her allies do not have much difficulty in winning the rest of the regimes of the region.Whether America is contemplating on military invasion of Iraq with the intention of fighting against terrorism and destruction of mass massacre armaments as President Bush’s government claims, or is preparing for a war for the purpose of its supremacy and control over future oil market in the region as anti-war demonstrators believe, nevertheless it still needs to convince the public opinion of the whole world. In one word, the poor and oppressed people of the Middle East should be convinced that after taking such a risk, they will live in better and freer countries. They should believe that the world has changed. They should believe that twenty first century that began with total supremacy of America, will be a different century, a more humane century.
The twentieth century was a century when people of the Middle East experienced nothing except pain. America and Europe sold arms to Saddam Hussein, Taliban, Saudi’s Sheikhs and Kuwait for years and were silent toward their despotism and violence. And they never talked about human rights when they sat around the negotiation tables for Trade, in the Arab-Israel dispute, they only backed one side, they even sometimes supported fundamentalism, gave the dictators the chance to do whatever they wished, to fight with each other and to buy more arms by selling oil.
If the new century is going to be another century, it should be proved to people. Before that, in any war or dispute or discord that happens, people will automatically look back at the history of the Twentieth century and will compare it to one of the events of those hundred years such as world wars or other wars. And they are right to write like that Iranian poet wrote, ‘on the day when the last drop of oil comes out the wells we will be left alone with thousands tons of metallic decomposed fish, hills of revenge and enmity and arms that we need for killing each other. Even then we still would not know how to fish. In those empty lands and crowded cities we will remember only one thing, that on the other side of waters nobody says the truth.’
In this poem, fishing means human rights, means hygiene, means education, means better life, means to accept that sometimes Westerners many say the truth.