The First Stone

Joel Bleifuss

Iraqis dissent
Many exiled Iraqis are speaking out against the looming war with Iraq. Three Iraqi dissidents, members of Iraqis in Exile Against the War and Sanctions, write in the current issue of Red Pepper: “Iraqis are not being allowed the space to develop their own resistance or to rebuild their country and institutions with their own resources. They are confronted with a stark choice between Saddam’s dictatorship and a U.S. war. Iraqis are aware of the interaction between domestic and external factors, and many would argue that the regime could be gradually stripped of power if there was a real desire in the outside world. This would mean supporting and empowering the people and placing the emphasis on human rights instead of the convenient and well-worn weapons issue. It is perfectly possible to address the weapons issue through the inspection system and permanent monitoring, while lifting economic sanctions at the same time. The introduction of human rights monitors would strengthen civil society and help keep tyranny in check. … However much we loathe the regime, most of us are wary of the U.S. agenda which we see as having little to do with us. War would be cataclysmic, and would lead to civilians being crushed between Bush’s hammer and Saddam’s anvil.”

An oily situation
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told 60 Minutes in December that oil is not part of the equation in a war with Iraq. “Nonsense,” he said, “it has nothing to do with oil, literally nothing to do with oil.” Ahmed Chalabi, the man whom the Bush administration plans to replace Saddam Hussein with, is not so categorical. Chalabi is head of the Iraqi National Congress, a group that was created and then financed by the CIA. Chalabi, who has recently been meeting with oil industry officials, told the Washington Post, “American companies will have a big shot at Iraqi oil.”

Out damn sect
International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) has refused to allow Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of Tikkun, to address the February 16 antiwar rally in San Francisco. Lerner has spoken out against Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories, has signed the Not in Our Name petition against the war, and has endorsed ANSWER rallies in the past. So what’s the problem? ANSWER has deemed Lerner a supporter of Israel and will not allow a “pro-Israel” speaker on to the podium of any rally it sponsors.

A host of anti-war activists have signed a letter being widely circulated on the Internet that, while encouraging people to participate in the demonstration, concludes, “At a time when the antiwar movement needs as broad a platform and as broad an appeal as possible, ANSWER has chosen instead to put the interests of sectarianism ahead of the interests of all those who oppose this foolish and unnecessary war. We believe this is a serious mistake, and that it exemplifies ANSWER’s unfitness to lead mass mobilizations against war in Iraq.”

Everybody join in
At John Ashcroft’s Justice Department, where the private parts of the statues Spirit of Justice and the Majesty of Law have been draped in blue cloth, prayers before meetings are a matter of course. The liturgy has recently been embellished by patriotic music. Song sheets of “Let the Eagle Soar,” the attorney general’s ode to America, are now being passed out at department meetings/sing-a-longs. Asked by the Guardian of London why she was reluctant to join the heavenly chorus, a department lawyer replied, “Have you heard the song? It really sucks.” How much does it suck? Hear for yourself.

Slaughterhouse Five, the song
For a more melodious tune, try “Tock Tick,” a new single CD collaboration between Kurt Vonnegut and composer Simon Heselev. Heselev, a Melbourne native who works in Los Angeles writing music for TV, has set Vonnegut reading an excerpt from Slaughterhouse Five to music that he describes as “live electronica.” In the excerpt, Billy Pilgrim, having “come unstuck in time,” witnesses a World War II movie backwards. “I did this song a year ago, using a sample of Kurt I found on the Internet,” says Heselev. “It’s the most efficient anti-war statement there is. It couldn’t be better.” Check out “Tock Tick” on Vonnegut’s website.

White House Drug Czar John Walters is refusing to reveal how much the federal government spent campaigning against Question 9, the Nevada marijuana initiative that was rejected by voters last November. Responding to a request for such information from Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller, Walters claimed that he was “immune” from Nevada’s campaign finance law “as a federal officer acting within the scope of duties, including speaking out about the dangers of illegal drugs.”

Steve Fox of the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project, which sponsored the initiative, was not impressed: “Claims that he was just doing his job by speaking out about the dangers of marijuana are absurd and insulting. He campaigned against Question 9 overtly and energetically, most likely spending tens of thousands of dollars of the taxpayers money in the process. All we ask is that he follows the law and play by the same rules we had to obey. We reported our campaign expenditures, and he should report his.”

Total Poindexter awareness
SF Weekly columnist and patriot Matt Smith thought it would be a good idea to subject former Iran-Contra felon and current Bush administration official John Poindexter with a dose of his own Total Information Awareness Project. Smith writes: “He says his personal-information-collecting idea is to look for patterns of potential terrorist activity. I say we all band together and look for patterns in John and Linda Poindexter’s personal activity. Why for example, is their $269,700 Rockville, Md., house covered with artificial siding, according to Maryland tax records? Shouldn’t a Reagan conspirator be able to afford repainting every seven years? Is the Donald Douglas Poindexter listed in Maryland sex-offender records any relation to the good admiral? What do Tom Maxwell, at 8 Barrington Fare, and Games Galvin, at 12 Barrington Fare, think of their spooky neighbor.”

Smith wanted some questions answered, so he called John and Linda at (301) 424-6613. He got through once, but John wasn’t home and Linda said she was on the other line.

‘No Muslims—No Terrorism’
That was the message on a bumper sticker that was being hawked for $3.95 at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference that featured Vice President Dick Cheney as its luncheon speaker.

Interned for their own good
Rep. Howard Coble (R-North Carolina), speaking on a radio call-in show, responded to a suggestion that Arabs be interned in camps, by defending the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. “We were at war. They [Japanese-Americans] were an endangered species. For many of these Japanese-American, it wasn’t safe for them to be on the street.“

Thank God it wasn’t 7-11
Rep. Sue Myrick (R-North Carolina) of Charlotte is apparently worried about Arab merchants slipping something in her Slurpy. “Look at who runs all the convenience stores across the country,” she said.

This painting by Naman Hadi is part of Iraqi Art Now: Looking Out, Looking In, an exhibit of paintings, sculpture drawings and prints by Iraqi artists on exhibit at the DePaul University Art Gallery in Chicago through March 16. “The exhibition puts names, faces and lives of the people of Iraq in front of us. It reminds us to think not only of Iraq, but also of Iraqis,” says gallery director Louise Lincoln. Of the 33 artists featured, most live in Western Europe, three reside in the United States, and five make their home in Baghdad.

So who’s the Anti-Christ?
Phil Sheldon’s e-mail alert Christian Response is spreading the word: “The Bible prophesies a war that will kill 2 billion people. This war will begin in the area of the Euphrates River. Most of the Euphrates is in Iraq. The United States plans to attack Iraq in a matter of weeks. It appears that the time for this unprecedented war has arrived. Will one-third of mankind die in 2003?”

According to The Book of Revelation they will: “I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, Saying to the sixth angel which had the trumpet, Loose the four angels which are bound in the great river Euphrates. And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men.” Need more convincing? Send $20 to Endtime Magazine for an hour-long apocalyptic video.

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Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.

Illustrated cover of Gaza issue. Illustration shows an illustrated representation of Gaza, sohwing crowded buildings surrounded by a wall on three sides. Above the buildings is the sun, with light shining down. Above the sun is a white bird. Text below the city says: All Eyes on Gaza
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