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"It's Another Holocaust Mrs. Albright"
MER WEEKEND READING:
"La tastawishu tareeq el-aq, min
qilit es-sa'ireen fihi"
"Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it"
"I need to speak about Iraq because I think
there is a genocide. It's another holocaust."
MID-EAST REALITIES - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 6/10/00:
A few weeks ago they honored Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the University of California at Berkeley. George Washington University -- here in Washington, DC -- did the same a few days later. Honorary University Degrees for the first American woman Secretary of State. Who cares what her policies are. Who cares how much human suffering and misery she is responsible for. Who cares how much blood is shed, how many tears dropped, how much carnage results. How revolting this whole mindset; especially coming from the major centers of learning and education in today's America.
University administrators, especially at the better universities, have become all too entwined with today's political and financial power structure in the US. The old values of academic integrity, intellectual honesty, and humanistic concerns, have been tragicly replaced with the mentality of hussling businessmen, stock-market manipulators, and "yes men". Education has more and more become just another money-making enterprise; just one more institution sucking up to those with the power and the bucks. And government has more and more added a hodge-podge of strings and "incentives" to how universities functions, what students learn, and who gets the all-important government grants.
At GWU a very thoughtful and courageous lone sophomore, of Indian Muslim background majoring in communications, got up with a sign to protest Madeleine's genocidal proclivities toward Iraq -- but none of the professors educating her had even mentioned to her the name Noam Chomsky. Also at GWU a brave professor delivering the faculty address warned all of America's dangerous hubris and rampant nationalism. Madeleine sat through it, said not a word, few noticed or understood, worst of all very few seemed to care.
At Berkeley Madeleine and university administrators got together and figured out she should't sit through the upcoming speech by the distinguished history major Fadia Rafeedie - a brilliant graduate headed toward Yale Law School and of Palestinian descent. Even though Rafeedie's speech had been "read and approved" in advance, it was decided the schedule would be changed at the last moment, Madeleine would speak before Rafeedie and then be gone -- not the way these things are usually done at all.
But so it was.
And so in proper response Fadia Rafeedie put aside her long and carefully prepared remarks (unlike Madeleine by the way who gave the same speech with the same cheap jokes at both Berkeley and GWU) and said the following which we should all take to heart:
Thank you, that was way too generous, Chancellor Berdahl. It makes me sound, you know, a lot better than I am. I had a speech and it's right here.
It took me so long to draft it and I kept re-drafting it, and this morning I changed it again, but I'm just going to put it to the side and I'm going to talk from my heart because what I witnessed here today, I have mixed feelings about.
I don't know why I'm up here articulating the viewpoints of a lot of my comrades out there who were arrested, and not them. It's not because I got, you know, straight A's or maybe it is. Maybe that's the way the power structure works, but I'm very fortunate to be able to give them a voice. I think that's what I'm going to do, so if you give me your attention, I'd really appreciate it.
I was hoping to speak before Secretary Albright, but that was also a reflection of the power structure, I think, to sort of change things around and make it difficult for people who are ready to articulate their voice in ways they don't usually get a chance to.
So I'm going to improvise, and I'm going to mention some things that she didn't mention at all in her speech but which most of the protesters were actually talking about. You know, I think it's really easy for us to feel sorry for her, and I was looking at my grandmothers who are actually in the audience - my grandmother and her sister - who weren't really happy with all the protesters, and I think they thought that wasn't really respectful of them, and a lot of you didn't, I don't think, because you came to hear her speak. But I think what the protesters did was not embarrass our university. I think they dignified it.
Because secretary Albright didn't even mention Iraq, and that's what they were here to listen to. And I think sometimes NOT saying things not mentioning things - is actually lying about them.
And what I was going to tell her while she was sitting on the stage with me, I was going to remind her that four years ago from this Friday when we were freshmen, I heard her on 60 Minutes talking to a reporter who had just returned from Iraq.
The reporter was describing that a million children were dying [died] due to the sanctions that this country was imposing on the people of Iraq. And she told her, listen, "that's more.. children than have died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Do you think the price is worth it?" [Albright] looked into the camera and she said, "the price is worth it.
"Since that time, 3 times that number of people have died in Iraq. And I was going to tell her, "do you really think the price is worth it?" We are about 5000 here today, next month, by the time we graduate, that's as many people who are going to die in Iraq because of the sanctions. This is what House Minority Whip David Boniors calls 'infanticide masquerading as policy.'
Now, I don't want to make the mood somber here because this is our commencement, but commencement means beginning, and I think it's important for us to begin where civilization itself began, and where it's now being destroyed. [applause]
Let me talk to you a little bit a little bit more about the sanctions, because I think it's very important. Now, I'm a Palestinian, I would really love to talk about the struggle for the liberation of my country, and to talk about a whole bunch of other things and I see some people maybe rolling their eyes, and other people nodding these are controversial issues, but I need to speak about Iraq because I think what's happening there is a genocide. It's another holocaust.
And I'm a history major, and sometimes I look back at history and I see things like the slave trade, the Holocaust you know, I see I see people dropping atomic bombs and not thinking what the ramifications are, and I don't want us to think about Iraq that way. It's already a little too late because 2.5 million people have died and yet these sanctions continue.
For the last 10 years, you wouldn't imagine the kinds of things that aren't being let into this country: heart machines, lung machines, needles, um infrastructural parts to build the economy. Even cancer patients sometimes some of the medicine will be let in, but not ALL of the medicine.
It's very strategic what's let in at what time, because what it does is it prolongs life, but it doesn't save it.
In Iraq, the hospitals they clean the floors with gasoline because detergent isn't even allowed in because of the sanctions.
These are all United States policies.
And Secretary Albright - I have no conflict with HER, as an individual. I don't happen to RESPECT her, but she belongs to a larger power structure. She's a symbol.
And when the protesters are protesting, it's not because they want to pick a fight with the woman who you guys all happen -well, many of you - happen to love. She was introduced as the 'greatest woman of our times.' Now see, to me that's an insult. [applause] This woman is doing HORRIBLE things. She's allowing innocent people to suffer and to die.
Iraq used to be the country in the Arab World that had the best medical services and social services for its people, and NOW look at it. It's being OBLITERATED.
And a lot of times you might hear it's because of Saddam Hussein and I'd like to talk a little bit about that. He's a brutal dictator - I agree with her, and I agree with many of you. But again, I'm a history major, and history means origins. It means beginnings. We need to see who's responsible for how strong Saddam Hussein has gotten.
When he when he was gassing the Kurds, he was gassing them using chemical weapons that were manufactured in Rochester, New York.
And when he was fighting a long and protracted war with Iran, where 1 million people died, it was the CIA that was funding him. It was U.S. policy that built this dictator. When they didn't NEED him, they started imposing sanctions on his people. Sanctions - or any kind of policy - should be directed at people's governments, not at the people.
The cancer rate in Iraq has risen by over 70 percent since the Gulf War. The children who are dying from these malicious and diseases, weren't born when the Gulf War happened. The reason that the cancer rate is so high is because every other day our country is bombing Iraq STILL. We're still at war with them. They have no nuclear capabilities. In fact, just last week, the United Nations inspectors found [again] that Iraq has no nuclear capabilities and yet WE are BOMBING them every other day with depleted uranium. And what this does is it releases a gas that the people breathe. It's making them ill, and they're dying and they don't have medicine.
I saw some of my friends, even, being arrested here today. One of them was Lillian. Her aunt did a documentary about this depleted uranium, and it showed that it's being MINED by Native American populations in the United States. THEY'RE getting sick. Their children are getting sick. And that depleted uranium is going from HERE, to our MILITARY, to Iraq, and it's decimating populations. This is a big deal.
And I'm embarrassed that I don't even get to talk about Columbia, because I saw a few signs about that, too. And my colleague here, Darren Noy, who's also a Finalist, is very interested in these issues. We don't stand alone. I'm on stage with allies, I'm looking out at allies, we need allies, my allies have been taken away [today].
But in general, I mean, I'm speaking to a crowd that gave a standing ovation to the woman who typifies everything against which I stand, and I'm still telling you this because I think it's important to understand.
And I think, that if I achieve nothing else, if this makes you think a little bit about Iraq, think a little bit about U.S. foreign policy, I've succeeded.
I don't want to take too much of your time, but I want to end my speech with a slogan that hangs over my bed in Arabic. It says, "La tastaw7ishu tareeq el-7aq, min qilit es-sa'ireen fihi" and that translates into, "Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it." I think our future is going to be the future of truth, and we're going to walk on that path, and we're going to fill it with travelers.
Thank you very much.
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