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Vol. XVIII, Number 1                                         Fall, 2003



 

DIALOGUING

 

LETTER FROM AHMED BOUZID ON
CNN'S
BAGDAD CONFESSION

 

Wed, 7 May 2003

     On Friday, April 11, 2003, when it became more or less certain that Saddam Hussein's regime had fallen and that the war had crossed the point of no return, The New York Times published an op-ed in which CNN's chief executive of news, Eason Jordan, confessed that his network had for years suppressed news and cowered under Iraqi threats in order to maintain a presence in Iraq. Mr. Jordan gave harrowing examples of how the lives of journalists and others were constantly on the line as reporters and executives negotiated the delicate and dangerous dance of survival with the ruthless Iraqi security apparatus.

     The op-ed was of course a classic self-serving pre-emptive move -- well in tune with the mood of the times! -- to get the truth out with one painful swipe rather than have the news leak out one corroding drop at a time until CNN had to 'confess' under duress. But on the record, Mr. Jordan was offering his 'confession' as a belated release from  a heavy burden he could not wait to unload off his shoulder, arguing that the main reason why he did not step forward until the day he did was because he feared for the life and well-being of his Iraqi staff.

     There is no doubt that Mr. Jordan and CNN had been carrying a heavy load on their conscience, and that the collapse of the Hussein regime at long last afforded them the chance to come clean.  But the important question to ask now is: what has CNN and other media outlets learned from this sad episode and how will they change the way they do business (and I stress the word) from now on?

     Tellingly enough, Mr. Jordan does not tell us what CNN has learned or how it intends to make sure that it will never find itself in a situation where it has to compromise its coverage and deliver less than the truth to its viewers.  Instead, he treated the Iraq debacle as an isolated case, and rather than offer at least the promise to learn, he ended his mea culpa with a less than impressive whimper: 'at last, these stories can be told freely.'

    So then we must ask - since the world continues to turn, even after the fall of Iraq -- how about other troubled spots around the world where journalists are STILL under fire, where their work is STILL being seriously hampered?

     How about, for instance, the West Bank and the other Palestinian Occupied Territories?

     Indeed, just this past May 3rd, The Committee to Protect Journalists drew up the top 10 most dangerous places for journalists, and among the top ten in the list was the West Bank.

     According to the report, 'Indiscriminate gunfire from the Israeli army made the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip a treacherous beat. Three journalists have been killed by Israeli gunfire there in the last 12 months, including cameraman Nazeh Darwazeh, who was shot in the head at close range by an Israeli soldier in April despite being well marked as a member of the press. Israeli soldiers are rarely punished when they shoot journalists.'

     Moreover, last year's report ranked the West Bank on top of the list: 'At the top of the list is the West Bank, where Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's government has used extraordinary force to keep journalists from covering its recent military incursion.'

     Where was Mr. Jordan's indignation back then? Where was his op-ed against Israeli assault against journalists, especially given that Iraq back then did not even make the top ten list?

     And how about now: where is Mr. Jordan's wringing of the hands over the safety of his reporters on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza -- many of whom have indeed been shot at and wounded? Why is he not speaking up NOW?

    Or do we have to wait until after the story over there is over for Mr. Jordan to come around sheepishly explaining how it was difficult to take a stand?

Ahmed Bouzid is president of Palestine Media Watch and author of Framing the Struggle, available at: http://www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/book_detail.asp?isbn=0%2D595%2D27215%2D0. He can be contacted at bouzidat@yahoo.com.

 

 

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LETTER OF URI AVNERY,
"A DRUG FOR AN ADDICT"
8/23/03

From Gush Shalom, pob 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033, Israel, www.gush-shalom.org

 

     It was a putsch. Like any classic putsch, it was carried out by a group of officers: Sharon, Mofaz, Ya'alon and the army top brass.

     It is no secret that the military party (the only really functioning party in Israel) objected to the hudna (truce) from the first moment, much as it opposed the Road Map. Its powerful propaganda apparatus, which includes all the Israeli media, spread the message: "The hudna is a disaster! Every day of the hudna is a bad day! The reduction of  violence to almost zero is a great misfortune: under cover of the truce, the terrorist organizations are recovering and rearming! Every terrorist strike avoided today will hit us much harder tomorrow!"

     The army command was like an addict deprived of his drug. It was forbidden to carry out the action it wanted. It was just about to crush the intifada, victory was just around the corner, all that was needed was just one final decisive blow, and that would have been that.

     The military was upset when it saw the new hope that took hold of the Israeli public, the bullish mood of the stock exchange, the rise in value of the shekel, the return of the masses to the entertainment

centers, the signs of optimism on both sides. In effect, It was a spontaneous popular vote against the military policy.

     Ariel Sharon realized that if this went on, reality would overturn his long-term plans. Therefore, right at the beginning of the hudna, he adopted three immediate goals:

     First, to topple Abu-Mazen as soon as possible. Mahmud Abbas had become the darling of George Bush, a welcome guest at the White House. The unique standing of Sharon in Washington was in danger. The pair Bush-Sharon, which was mutating into a single Busharon unit, was in danger of becoming a triangle: Bush-Sharon-Abbas. There is no greater danger to Sharon's plans.

     Second, to wipe out the Road Map in its infancy. The Map obliged Sharon to remove immediately about 80 settlement outposts, freeze all settlements, stop the building of the wall and withdraw the army from all West Bank towns. Sharon never dreamt of fulfilling even one of these obligations.

     Third, to put an end to the hudna and give the army back its freedom of action in all the Palestinian territories.

     The question was how this could be achieved without a trace of suspicion attaching itself to Sharon. The great majority of Israelis, who had greeted the hudna, could not possibly be allowed to suspect that their own leaders were responsible for extinguishing this glimmer of hope. Even more important, it was imperative that no such pernicious idea should enter the innocent head of the good George W. All the blame must fall on the Palestinians, so that the affection for Abu-Mazen would turn into contempt and hatred.

     The means for attaining this goal were selected with great care, taking into account the simplistic world of Bush with its Good Guys and Bad Guys. The Bad Guys are the terrorists. Therefore, it was advisable to kill Hamas and Jihad militants. That would not upset Bush. In the eyes of the President, to kill terrorists is a Good Thing.  And as a result, the Palestinians would be compelled to break the hudna.

     This is how it happened:

      On August 8, Israeli soldiers killed two Hamas militants in Nablus. But the retaliation was restrained: on August 12, a Hamas suicide bomber killed one Israeli in Rosh-Ha'ayin and another bomber killed one person in the Ariel settlement. Both suicide bombers came from Nablus. Hamas announced that the hudna would continue. On August 14, the Israeli army killed Muhammad Seeder, head of the military wing of Hamas in Hebron. Five days later, on August 19, a suicide bomber from Hebron blew himself up in a Jerusalem bus, killing 20 men, women and children. Two days later, on August 21, the army assassinated Isma'il Abu-Shanab, the fourth ranking leader of Hamas.

     This time it was not even possible even to pin on the victim the appellation "ticking bomb", as is usual in such cases. The man was a well-known political leader. Why was he of all people chosen for assassination? A military correspondent on Israeli TV made a slip of the tongue: Abu-Shanab was killed, he said, because he was "available". Meaning, he was an easy target because he did not go underground after the bus bombing, as did the leaders of the military wing.

     This time, at long last, the aim was achieved. The Palestinian organizations announced that they were calling off the hudna. Sharon and Co. rejoiced. Within hours the Israeli army had again penetrated into the centers of the Palestinian towns, starting an orgy of arrests and house demolitions (more than 40 in a single day).

    The addict leapt for the drug. His crisis was over, the officers could do all the things they had been prevented from doing for nine long weeks.

     But the situation will not revert to the status quo ante intifada, so to speak. The attacks and killings will be more numerous and more cruel. The construction of the Wall deep in the Palestinian territories will be accelerated, along with the building activity in the settlements.

     The army propaganda machine is already preparing the public for the "expulsion of Arafat". "Expulsion" is a euphemism produced by the "verbal laundry" section of the army, one of its most creative departments. The intention is not to expel the leader from his Ramallah compound, nor from Palestine, but from this world. The reaction of the Palestinians and the whole Arab world can be predicted. It would be a historic point of no return, perhaps eliminating the chances of peace for generations.

     And the Americans? Never has the Bush administration looked so pathetic as here and now. The unfortunate Colin Powell arouses compassion with his stuttering and his emissary, John Wolf, a wolf without teeth, will go the way of all his predecessors.

     After the implosion of the new order in Afghanistan and the classic guerilla war now engulfing the universally hated occupation regime in Iraq, the collapse of the Road Map will put an end to any presidential pretensions. It is much easier to have one's picture taken in the uniform of a glorious victor with a background of army extras than to steer the ship of state.

     The renewal of the cycle of violence will, of course, exacerbate the economic depression in Israel. The crisis will deepen. Together with the hudna and the Road Map, tourism, foreign investment and the recovery will also die.

     The economy, too, is an addict who needs his drug: nine billion dollars in US government loan guarantees are waiting for Sharon in Washington. That should be enough for the political and military elite.

Only the poor will become poorer. But who cares?

     All this is being done without consulting the Israeli public. There is no open discussion, no debate in the tame media, the silent Knesset and the cabinet of marionettes. That's what makes it a putsch.

    To sum up: The road Map is dead, because Sharon was against it from the beginning, Bush saw it only as a photo opportunity on a nice background and Abu-Mazen did not get from Israel and the U.S. anything that he could present as a Palestinian achievement.

     What will happen now? After the shedding of yet more blood and many tears, the two peoples will arrive once more at the conviction that it is better to come to an agreement and make peace. Then they will be compelled to learn the lesson of the last chapter: It must all start from the end. Only after the picture of the final settlement clearly emerges can one deal with the immediate problems. Anything else would be a road map to the abyss.




 
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LETTER FROM JOEL FEDERMAN ON

ASSESSING THE GOALS AND STRATEGIES OF THE PEACE MOVEMENT

Dear colleagues,

    I am writing to enlist your help at the beginning of an ongoing initiative called the Peace Movement Goals and Strategies Project.  The purpose of the project is to provide activists and scholars ongoing opportunities for reflection and assessment regarding the peace movement's overall goals and strategies. More specifically, the project's goal is to help the movement build on previous successes and become more effective in achieving its objectives.

    The initial phase of the project involves compiling interviews with movement leaders and reviews of publicly available movement organization literature that pertains to the project themes.  As the project develops, additional elements may include leadership retreats, public opinion surveys, issue reports, and strategy briefs. Early summary findings of the initial interviews will be reported at the PJSA conference next month. Ongoing findings of the project will be also published in a variety of formats, including independent reports, magazine articles (e.g. for The Nation, The Progressive), and as scholarly journal articles.

    If you have time and interest, please feel free to contribute ideas in response to the following questions:

  1. I currently plan on interviewing representatives of International ANSWER, United for Peace and Justice, Peace Action, Moveon.org, and Global Exchange.  What would be your best estimate short list of names of people and organizations to interview for such a project?

     2.  For the initial interviews, I have compiled a draft list of questions. The initial interview questions are below:

        Peace Movement Goals and Strategies Project Initial Interview Questions

        a. How did the coalition for the February 15, 2003 global demonstrations get built?  What were and are the strengths and weaknesses of that coalition?  What were the strengths and weaknesses of that event?  What do you think it would take to recreate that event?

        b. How would you describe the state of existing networking and strategic coordination among peace groups nationally and internationally?

        c. Is there a difference between strategic and tactical objectives for your organization/the movement as a whole?  What are the principal strategies/tactics?

       d. To what degree, in your opinion, are the peace movement and social justice (globalization) movements linked in terms of participants and goals?  Do you think those links need to be strengthened, or are there advantages to independence of the movements?


 
Are there additional questions that you think would be valuable to ask?  Are there better ways to frame the questions as drafted?

       3.Any other suggestions?


Please email me directly with your thoughts.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Best wishes,

Joel Federman

Part-Time Faculty

Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center


 

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LETTER FROM STEVE SACHS ON
TERRORS OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION

 

     I am appalled and saddened to realize that a credible case can be made that the Bush administration is the best friend al Qaeda has in the United States. The argument runs something like this: Prior to Bush launching an invasion of Iraq, that regime was stable, though tyrannical, contained in its aspirations for expansion by military losses and international pressure, and prevented from using any weapons of mass destruction that it possessed by threat of massive retaliation by the United States (as demonstrated by Iraq's failure to use these weapons during the first Gulf war, or subsequently). Moreover, the Iraqi regime was contemptuous in the eyes of al Qaeda, and while a few people related to al Qaeda were in the country, some of whom may have had some contact with the Iraqi government, available evidence is clear in showing that the Iraqi government gave no support to al Qaeda, nor did it support other international terrorist organizations or actions.

     By invading Iraq essentially unilaterally (without either a UN resolution or wide and strong international support), without either adequate planning or a sufficient force for the post-invasion stage of operations (and continuing to refuse to bring in a major international military force and reconstruction presence), Bush acted directly in the interests of al Qaeda. A once united Iraq has been considerably destabilized, with the possibility of slipping into an uncontrollable civil war, if there are a sufficient number of further acts of what may be interpreted by the victims as inter-ethnic attacks, such as the bombing of the Shiite Mosque, with a leading Shiite cleric among the victims. The now possible collapse of Iraq, under any of a number of scenarios, might destabilize the whole region, giving al Qaeda and those of similar persuasion innumerable opportunities to gain strength, and possibly regimes friendly toward them.

     The unilateral intervention and the subsequent guerilla resistance cause the U.S. appear to be seen  as an imperialistic invader to many people in Iraq and the Middle East, making it easier for al Qaeda and other extremist groups to gain supporters, funds and supplies, and recruits for terrorist and guerilla operations. Pro al Qaeda fighters have now been able to enter Iraq, inflicting military and political casualties on the U.S. force, and perhaps even gaining access to weapons of mass destruction, or materials for them, which al Queada sympathetic groups did not previously have, as illustrated by the break in and taking of some radioactive waste at an Iraqi nuclear facility (though, by good fortune, it seems probable that none of that material got in to the hands of terrorists or their potential suppliers). As reported above, Bush's unilateralism and lack of diplomacy and cultural sensitivity on numerous occasions concerning a number of issues, combined with his insistence on having the U.S. rush into Iraq as he did, have made the U.S. as unpopular as it has ever been in the Middle East, and, to a lesser degree, throughout the Muslim world, including the rise of anti Americanism in places in Africa where the U.S previously enjoyed favorable public opinion (as reported in the World Developments section of the last issue).

     The Bush intervention in Iraq, takes U.S. attention and resources away from Afghanistan and nations in the Caucuses, where, even before hand, the U.S, had failed to meet aid commitments. In Afghanistan, as reported above and in previous issues, a failure, much like its lapses in Iraq, to provide appropriate and sufficient security and economic development assistance has led to a resurgence of the Taliban and al Qaeda that threatens the stability of the Karzai regime. Meanwhile, the Bush administration's reliance upon uncritical use of military aid to countries in the Caucuses is reminiscent of U.S. Cold War military assistance to most any nation or insurgent group claiming to be anticommunist, that was a major contributing factor in the turmoil and collapse of Somaila, and to much of the chaos that has been plaguing many areas of Africa.

     Bush's tying up U.S. troops, intelligence and other resources in the wrong war, for very little gain at much coast and with great risk, makes those resources unavailable where it might be appropriate to employ them, potentially giving al Qaeda and similar groups more freedom elsewhere. Moreover, to the extent that the Iraqi military adventure is unproductive on the one hand, and costly in lives and resources on the other, it may make proper deploying of U.S. military force (as deterrent or intervention) politically impossible, or at least difficult, in the future.

     While there is no question that the administration has taken some useful security steps since 9/11, and exercised some important leadership in opposing acts of prejudice against Muslims and Middle Easterners in the U.S., the targeting of Middle Eastern people by U.S. police authorities, the long detentions, some times with out information to families and access to attorneys, plus the abuses described in the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General's June report, particularly under the excessive provisions of the Patriot Act not necessary for enhancing security (as opposed to a few useful provisions in the administration originated bill) combined to alienate members of the very communities whose cooperation is most needed in properly combating terrorism in the United States.

     These excesses also contributed to Time Europe's finding on asking readers, “which country poses the greatest danger to world peace in 2003?” that 88% of the 687,000 who replied, said, "the United States". Thus one of the over all impacts of the Bush Administration's words and acts has been to make it more difficult to gain allies, particularly in combating international terrorism, that can only be effectively checked by concerted international cooperation. Certainly, the growing enmity toward the United States among Middle Eastern and Muslim publics, combined with the avoidable difficulties experienced by the U.S. forces in Iraq, along with the security problems and slowness of restoration of services for the Iraqi people, make it more difficult for the U.S. to gain the cooperation of Middle Eastern governments in antiterrorist measures. Another impact of the decline in regard of the United States by residents of other nations has been a reduction in foreigners coming to the U.S., which has a negative effect on the U.S. economy at a time when it is struggling to recover from a recession.

     Far more important in economic terms, is the cost of the unnecessary war in Iraq. As reported above, the administration has already requested $160 billion (a small portion of which is for additional Afghanistan and home security monies, with more still required in both areas) and at least $20 billion more will be required this year, if the U.S. continues to go it virtually alone. Successful reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan will require several years, and many billions of dollars, toward which Iraqi oil will only be able to pay a portion, if and when it is back in production, when it might produce $30-$50 billion a year. Meanwhile, Bush's policies have been ineffective in ending the recession. This is in part because his massive tax cuts, targeted mostly at the wealthy, have not lead to a high percentage of the money returned to tax payers being spent or invested in the U.S., as would have happened if the tax reductions had been appropriately targeted. At the same time, those massive tax cuts have brought about a huge deficit combined with reductions in federal domestic programs and additional unfunded mandates to the states, at the very moment when the recession is putting most states in a financial squeeze. The result is massive cuts in governmental programs, so that even in education, which Bush supposedly cares about, the reality is "an every child left behind program," while lowered governmental spending reduces jobs and takes money out of the economy, slowing recovery. If federal deficits continue to grow, for the first time, there will be a danger that the U.S. treasury will have difficulty selling bonds abroad to finance the government. That would cause a credit crunch, raising interest rates, and slowing economic development. The long run effect could be a two pronged weakening of the U.S. capability to project power. First, the ability of the federal government to spend money for any purpose, including security, would be reduced significantly. Second, the reduction in government services would damage the economy, and further exacerbate the human problems of poverty, increasing more rapidly as the widening gap between rich and poor is accelerated, further decreasing the security capabilities of the nation.

     Bush claims to be a compassionate conservative. But there is, in actuality. little compassion in his actual programs, and he is hardly a conservative, in practice. Indeed, it is the conservatives who should be the most alarmed at the actions of the Bush administration, which is in reality "destructionist." Certainly, his foreign policy, in practice, has been destructive of U.S. interests, with an over reliance on the military, which has not been properly applied; a unilateralism, lack of sensitivity to the views and cultures of leaders and people in other nations, and poor sense and use of diplomacy, that has alienated much of world opinion, especially in the Middle East and in Muslim nations, making it more difficult to develop international cooperation on terrorism and other issues. Bush's environmental policy has been more damaging than conserving, often promoting the short run interest of major oil corporations, to which he and several other leading members of his administration have connections, increasing U.S. reliance on Mid East oil, by refusing to increase fuel efficiency. The combination of policies that essentially hold the line on domestic programs, with innovations mostly taking funds from other projects, and radical fiscal policy which has slowed recovery from the recession, already caused reductions in public programs (particularly by the states), and threatens to reduce the federal government's ability to fund all programs. Some persons in and close to the administration would like to see the government get out of providing social security, Medicare and social programs in general, and thus apparently approve of reducing federal financial capacity. The problem is, even in these people's terms, that by working to cut domestic programs by reducing governmental economic power, they also reduce defense and internal security capacity. Furthermore, it can be argued that real security is founded in the human condition of the citizenry, which requires adequate health, education, etc. for all.

     It may be said that what has happened is not what the Bush administration intended: that it is the result of the idealism of some of its members. The response is that politics, by its nature, is pragmatic, and that while good intentions are laudable, in themselves, in the political realm they are not enough. What is needed is a combination of ideals, or vision, that is appropriate to the will and needs of the people, to guide competent action founded on explicit knowledge of real world conditions. Since the United States is a major league power, the world can not afford it to have a Bush league administation.

 

 

  

 

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©2002, 2003, 2004,2005. All rights reserve. The Nonviolent Change Journal is published by the Research/ActionTeam on Nonviolent Large Systems Change - an interorganizational and international project of The Organization Development Institute.

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