Follow the Policy

“It’s been 12 years. Why hasn’t Saddam Hussein complied?” So many ask.

“Follow the money” it’s been said is the way to get at the truth. It’s a good adage, but in this case: Follow the policy.

In his report Friday, UNMOVIC head Hans Blix claimed that “If Iraq had provided the necessary cooperation in 1991, the phase of disarmament — under resolution 687 — could have been short and a decade of sanctions could have been avoided.”

Blix also indicated that Iraq only complies because of the threat of use of force. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw went to town with this particular notion to the applause of some in the Security Council chamber.

One problem with such thinking is that it violates the U.N. Charter, which prohibits “the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.

Another problem is that it ignores U.S. policy over the last dozen years, which has discouraged compliance with the arms inspectors. Ignoring the realities of U.S. policy is something the head of UNMOVIC should not do. Consider:

The original post-Gulf War U.N. Security Council resolution 687, passed in April of 1991, made lots of demands on Iraq — but, as Blix indicated, specified that once Iraq complies with the weapons inspection regime, the economic sanctions “shall have no further force or effect.

The problem, and it’s a big problem, is that this declaration was rendered ineffective. President George Bush in May of 1991 stated: “At this juncture, my view is we don’t want to lift these sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.” This was no slip of the tongue. The same day, then-Secretary of State James Baker sent the same message: “We are not interested in seeing a relaxation of sanctions as long as Saddam Hussein is in power.” So regardless of what Hussein did, comply or not, the sanctions would stay in place. He played games with the inspectors as it suited him. [See a timeline.]

And what would Clinton’s policy be? Just before getting into office, in an interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Clinton said: “I am a Baptist. I believe in death-bed conversions. If he [Hussein] wants a different relationship with the United States and the United Nations, all he has to do is change his behavior.” The following day, faced with attacks for articulating such politically incorrect notions, Clinton backtracked: “There is no difference between my policy and the policy of the present administration.” This meant that the crushing economic sanctions would stay in place on Iraq for eight more years, dooming hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people to premature deaths.

It’s notable that Friedman has falsified this subject, writing from Qatar in February of 2001: “Saddam totally outfoxed Washington in the propaganda war. All you hear and read in the media here is that the sanctions are starving the Iraqi people — which is true. But the U.S. counter-arguments that by complying with U.N. resolutions Saddam could get those sanctions lifted at any time are never heard. Preoccupied with the peace process, no senior U.S. officials have made their case in any sustained way here, and it shows.”

So Friedman, from his media perch, actually helped ensure that Clinton would continue the policy of keeping the sanctions in place no matter what Hussein did; resulting, by Friedman’s own admission, in “starving the Iraqi people.” And then he pretends that the policy does not exist, mocking Arabs for believing such a thing.

Just to be clear about it, in March of 1997 Madeleine Albright, in her first major foreign policy address as Secretary of State, proclaimed: “We do not agree with the nations who argue that if Iraq complies with its obligations concerning weapons of mass destruction, sanctions should be lifted.” I was there, at Georgetown University when she said that. This was on par with Albright’s infamous remark on CBS’s “60 Minutes” the previous year that the sanctions, after already killing half a million children, were “worth it.”

Through out the late 1990s, there were a series of standoffs between the Iraqi and the U.S. governments around weapons inspectors. In December of 1998, UNSCOM head Richard Butler issued a report (which the Washington Post would later reveal was shaped by the U.S. government) claiming Iraq wasn’t cooperating with the inspectors and withdrew them just before the U.S. launched the Desert Fox bombing campaign. Some might remember this was on the eve of Clinton’s scheduled impeachment vote.

In January of 1999 — after UNSCOM was destroyed by its own hand — the U.S. media reported that, contrary to U.S. denials, UNSCOM was in fact used for espionage as the Iraqis had been alleging, in part to track Hussein. (We’d do well to keep this in mind as those U2 flights go over Iraq.)

So Iraq kept the weapons inspectors out for four years. Why did the U.S. use the inspectors as spies? Why did it say that the sanctions would stay put regardless of what Iraq did? These would hardly seem to be the policies anyone would adopt if they really wanted disarmament.

There are other recent examples of the U.S. government adopting policies that betray an actual desire for Iraqi non-compliance. On October 1, 2002, just as Iraq was deciding whether or not to let inspectors have total access to presidential palaces, Ari Fleischer talked of “the cost of one bullet” being less than the cost of invasion. Was that supposed to help convince Saddam to say yes to letting inspectors into his palaces?

And now, just as Iraq begun destroying Al-Samoud missiles, the U.S. government is escalating its bombing of the “no-fly” zones — an ongoing, increasing years-long attack without legal justification.

So the U.S. policy of maintaining the sanctions in place no matter what Hussein did gave him incentive for non-compliance with the inspectors. Now, the U.S. policy seems to be invasion no matter what Hussein does. It’s hard to believe that this will ensure anything other than more massive violence from many quarters.

Or we could choose a different path. If the Bush administration were to state that it would respect resolution 687 and ensure the lifting of the economic sanctions on Iraq when it is verifiably disarmed, then that ostensible goal could well be reached without invasion, killing and slaughter. But that would mean that the stated goals have some relation to actual goals. The way to cut through illusions and rhetoric is to follow the policy.

SAM HUSSEINI is communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy. He also recently launched the web page Compass Roses. He can be reached at: sam@accuracy.org

[originally published on CounterPunch on March 8, 2003; posted on posthaven Dec. 15, 2015]

Compass Roses: From the Seeds of Antiwar to the Flowering of Global Democracy

As Bush plunges us into war, he forces our hands.

He forces our hands to reach out to our neighbors to talk to them about war, to share information not polluted with propaganda. He forces our hands to join with others around this world and the vast majority who do not want war.

He forces our hands to act, to organize, to draw lines of our own in the sand.

As an unprecedented day of protest takes place globally today, we have the opportunity to go from the seeds of antiwar to the flowering of Global Democracy. We are not just against Bush. People attuned to conscience and vision must be for something and must show it.

The world should be one. For that not to be means continued needless suffering on a massive scale. From war, from exploitation. Nation and civilizations pitted against each other for the illusionary benefit of a few.

We must make our mark. We must claim the Earth for peace and justice. We must make it visible. We must make our conscience and our consciousness of one world visible. While we protest today and thereafter.

One world. Everwhere is Holy. No place should rule over any other. In New York this day, friends and I will draw compass roses on the sidewalks and the streets.

Compass roses -- www.compassroses.com -- like on old maps. East, West, South, North. Get a compass out. Look to the East -- think of what is there, what people, places things. To the West and all that lies there. To the South, all that has been and might be. To the North, think. Think of the reality of all that is around you. Of the people around this globe that sustains us.

Compass roses -- drawn on the sidewalk in front of the White House and in front of a storefront mosque in DC; on Wall Street near where the World Trade Center stood and on 125th Street in Harlem; by the Grand Canyon and by the river Jordan; in front of the US mission to the UN and in front of the Iraqi mission. Each compass rose is different, yet they all point in the same directions. They will fade away, but they will still be true. Compass roses -- in subways and elevators -- where people are not cognizant that they are on "land" or part of the "Earth." All places are holy. We are inter-connected. The compass rose is an immediate symbol of the fact that we are all on the same planet; simultaneously global and local.

Draw your own compass roses copy designs you have seen -- of compass roses, or patterns that are like compass roses. Or could be. Or make up your own. Draw them outside. Draw them where people can see them. Draw them where no one can see them. Draw them here, draw them there. Think of the East, the West, the South the North. Think of what is in each direction. Think of where you are and what you can do to connect with people around our globe. Draw compass roses. Note the web page -- www.compassroses.com -- on the side if you like, so people who see it can find more. Draw compass roses with chalk, with pastels, with paint, with lined-up stones, with sand, in the sand, in the snow -- anyway, anyhow, draw them. Open your heart to the World, make a mark alone or with a friend and claim the Earth.

Compass roses in front of embassies and missions. All diplomats must begin to understand that we are all one. Compass roses in front of schools, teaching the next generation better than we have been taught. Compass roses where rich dwell and where poor struggle. Compass roses as a constant reminder of what we all know:

As Studs Terkel has written: "Four hundred years ago, Galileo challenged the doctrine of the announced idea. On seeing the heavens through his telescope, he discovered that Copernicus was right. The earth was not the center of the universe, but merely one part of a greater whole. A respected part, but no more than a part. And what is the great discovery of our age? It is that no one race, no one people, no one land ... is the center of the earth. Rather, all races, all lands, all societies are individual centers, all respected parts of a greater whole -- the Earth."

Martin Luther King, Jr.: "In Christ there is no East nor West. In Him there's no North and South, but one great Fellowship of Love throughout the whole wide world."

Joseph Campbell: "The only myth that is going to be worth thinking about in the immediate future is one that is talking about the planet ... and everybody on it."

But the reality of one world is no myth. It's the clear reality. Nations are hallucinations. People are real. Nature is real. Peace is real. Justice is real. One World is real. It must be One -- and it must be won.

Sam Husseini has helped launch the web page www.compassroses.com which goes up today.

[originally published at husseini.org on Feb. 15, 2003]

A New Way To Vote -- As A Duet

Come election day, millions may vote for George W. Bush and Al Gore while not believing in them. Doubtlessly, some will vote for one of these two enthusiastically, but sometimes it seems neither of these candidates has inspired many beyond their immediate family and those on their campaign payroll. Many unimpassioned voters would consider backing a third party candidate, like consumer advocate Ralph Nader - or Pat Buchanan or the Libertarian or Natural Law candidates. But voters are scared.

Many are frightened that Gore will win - so they plan to vote for Bush; many others are afraid that Bush will win - so they're looking at voting for Gore. Are we becoming a nation that votes its fears rather than its hopes and convictions? A vote should be a statement of what someone believes - and indeed millions will do that come November 7. However, many feel sidelined, their heart tells them to vote for a third party candidate, but their head tells them to go for the "lesser of two evils."

Even with these shackles there are solutions - if people really do think it through. One answer is suggested by the group Citizens for Strategic Voting, which is taking out ads in newspapers urging people in states in which Gore or Bush does not have a chance of winning to vote for Ralph Nader. People could thus vote for Green Party candidate Nader without feeling they are helping whichever of the major party candidates they want to keep out of the White House. This is of course because the president is elected by winning a majority of the electoral college and the candidate who wins a given state gets all the electoral votes from that state. And if Nader gets 5 percent of the popular vote, as Ross Perot did in 1996, the Green Party gets federal money in 2004.

Good enough. But what if you live in one of those "swing states," (like Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, Oregon, Washington) or if you don't believe the polls?

Here's a sure-fire solution - if you are close to (and trust) someone who is on the other side of the two party divide in your state.

Say a husband plans to vote for Gore since he thinks Bush is dim. His wife plans to vote for Bush because she thinks Gore is deceitful. If they both - in the their hearts would like to vote for some third party candidate - they can do so, by trusting each other and both voting for the third party candidate.

If they had just gone along with the husband voting for Gore and the wife voting for Bush, in effect they would cancel out each other's vote. But if they both vote for a third party candidate, they can magnify their votes. For example, if instead of one for Gore and the other for Bush they both voted for Nader, they would not change the balance between Gore and Bush, but they would give Nader two votes. Instead of "wasting" their votes (by canceling out each other), they would double their vote by giving both to the candidate they truly want. They would vote their conviction without helping whichever politician they least want. Of course, people can do this with any third party candidate, and indeed, with any two third party candidates (a husband can vote for one third party candidate, the wife for a different one). This would send a strong signal that people are not satisfied with the major parties.

A would-be Republican voting for Nader is not as unlikely as it might seem to some. Nader's attraction comes largely from his intelligence and integrity. In his address at the Green Party convention, he welcomed "authentic conservatives" - as opposed to "corporatists." He stands for community, for family, for accountability - as well as for social justice, the environment and peace. He stands against abusive power, whether by corporations - or the government.

This "vote swap" option is exercised by politicians all the time. One congressman votes for another's dam project in return for a vote for his military base. Maybe it's about time that the public used such tactics.

So there are solutions. People don't need to feel bound by the "lesser of two evil argument." Step one: vote your convictions; Step two: figure out what's happening in your state and vote with your head; Step three: find a friend, relative or co-worker who was planning on voting for the other "less of two evils," make a pact and double your heart instead of canceling out each other on election day.

[originally published on Common Dreams on Oct. 29, 2000; posted on posthaven Dec. 17, 2015]

U.S. Abdicates Justice

President Clinton said he wants to break the "cycle of violence" between the Israelis and Palestinians, but his refusal to do justice actually plants the seeds of oppression and violence.

Shortly after the Israeli military began killing scores of Palestinians, the United Nations Security Council voted 14 to 0 — including Britain, Canada and the Netherlands — for a resolution condemning Israel's "excessive use of force against Palestinians." But the U.S. government abstained, making clear that it is outside world consensus.

And when the U.N. tried to follow up on that resolution, the Clinton administration moved to block it, insisting instead on the Sharm el Sheik "peace summit," where the administration calls the shots.

Clinton now says that we shouldn't assign blame for "the violence." But it was Clinton who blamed Yasser Arafat for not signing the Camp David agreement Clinton was trying to force this summer. And talking about "the violence" is a way of trying to hide the fact that about 100 Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli occupation soldiers, while a few of those soldiers have perished.

When Palestinians protest against the Israeli military Goliath, they are saying "give me liberty or give me death." Instead of getting help from the U.S. government, they are shot at by helicopter gunships paid for by our tax dollars.

Why are the Palestinians so fed up? While the Israeli government has been talking peace for the past six years, Palestinians have seen 50,000 more Jewish settlers illegally put into the West Bank and Gaza; Israel has demolished nearly 1,000 Palestinian homes; there has been a threefold increase in Palestinian unemployment; the Israelis have arrested 13,000 Palestinians, and they have restricted Palestinians' freedom of movement, keeping them on little Swiss cheese patches of land on the West Bank.

Israel refuses to comply with international law, which mandates that it withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza (including East Jerusalem) and that it allow the Palestinian refugees living in squalid refugee camps to go back to their rightful homes, from which they were driven by Israeli forces.

Only by addressing these serious issues — not by photo ops — can a lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians be achieved.

[originally published on Common Dreams on Oct. 18, 2000; posted on posthaven Dec. 17, 2015]

Palestine: No Less Than Equal Partners

While the United States and Israel boast of their democratic values, they continue to wreak havoc on Palestinian self-determination, as the Palestinian Authority is pressured, cajoled and offered inducements to accept agreements that most Palestinians clearly do not want.

This is not to say that most Palestinians don't want an agreement--just that they want a fair one. But the current discussions are based on massive disparities of power: Israel is a major military force; the Palestinians don't even control their own borders. True, they have international law, Geneva conventions and human rights on their side, but that doesn't speak nearly as loudly as Israel's military machine (including an estimated 200 nuclear weapons) and its multifaceted U.S. backing.

The Palestinians are also hampered by a leadership that seems more interested in preserving its status and lining its pockets than in achieving the rights of the people. It's a disquieting paradigm: The powers collude and the people get shafted.

The Israel strategy seems to be to take something by force and then give back a small portion of it, labeling it a "concession" and expecting to be thanked. International law calls for the return of all Palestinian refugees forced from their homes in 1948, along with compensation for them. It calls for Jerusalem to be an international city shared between a Jewish and Palestinian state, and for the Palestinians to have a state larger than what they are currently striving for on the West Bank and Gaza. International law would call for the removal of all Israeli settlers in the West Bank and Gaza; they have been placed there while the land is under occupation, and ethnic transfers under occupation are illegal.

It would not have been much of a "concession" for Saddam Hussein to give back part of Kuwait. Would Clinton have negotiated with Milosevic to let some of the ethnic Albanians back into Kosovo? What Israel has done to the Palestinians is no more legitimate.

Having only recently waged war on Yugoslavia because of its "ethnic cleansing," Clinton now puts his political muscle into trying to get the Palestinians--the world's largest refugee population--to give up hope of returning to their rightful homes. An opportunity to do justice was once again missed. Instead, the politics of illusion seem to have come to the Mideast with a vengeance. It appears the Palestinians have been offered a "Jerusalem" that is not Jerusalem; the right of return for only a nominal number of the Palestinian refugees; a "state" without control over water, borders or real sovereignty; "territory" that is not contiguous; and symbols of nationhood that would become more signs of shame than of pride for an injured people.

On Jerusalem, the trick was to expand the city to include a village named Abu Dis and claim "That's Jerusalem." It's as though another country conquered Washington, D.C., and Takoma Park, expanded the boundaries of Washington to include Takoma Park and then said that it was going to give back that "part of Washington" as part of a fair "compromise."

The cruel twists of fate against the Palestinians cannot be overcome by such sleight of hand. True peace will come as a consequence of doing the hard work of justice, not through ambiguous agreements worked out in secret. The ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians must be acknowledged in a forthright fashion.

Palestinian refugees must be allowed back to their homes, and not just enough to provide pretty pictures for the cameras. There are about 4 million displaced Palestinians. In effect, Israel says it will not allow significant numbers to return because that would shift its demographic balance. But that attitude is morally and legally illegitimate.

Talk of the Palestinians getting 90 percent of the West Bank masks the reality that that is only 22 percent of historic Palestine, that Israel seems to be insisting on leases, the dubious promise of future pullbacks and the fragmented nature of Palestinian-"controlled" territories, as well as the lack of actual Palestinian control over travel, imports, exports and water resources.

This was in a sense the opposite of the original Camp David accords, which were fundamentally based on international law: full Israeli withdrawal and removal of the illegal settlements. Similarly, in South Africa, the final state--the end of apartheid and creation of a multiethnic democracy with one person, one vote--was the explicitly stated end point. The Palestinians, if the Oslo process continues, seem doomed to having bantustans and permanent subjugation.

Such a situation should not be appealing to Israelis. Do they want a genuine peace that gives them real security or a feeling of perpetual guilt over knowing that their neighbors feel righteous resentment over what they have done to them? Genuine peace would mean real acceptance of the people of Israel as equal partners in the Mideast, neither military-economic conquerors nor an outcast, outlaw nation.

[originally published on Common Dreams on July 27, 2000; posted on posthaven Dec. 17, 2015]