December 23, 2002: A Report from Cairo on the International Campaign Against US Aggression on Iraq
by PETER PHILIPS
Cairo. Bid-Meellah-E Rahman-E Al Rahim, In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, was the prayer by President Ahmad Ben Bella of Algeria introducing the start of the International Campaign Against Aggression on Iraq. The Conrad Hotel on the Nile River in Cairo served as the gathering place for over 400 people from some twenties countries on December 18-19, 2002. We assembled to launch an international effort to prevent United States military aggression and in the hope of stimulating worldwide protest against the pending war on the people of Iraq. There was a shared belief among the participants that a unified "Cairo Declaration" from the center of the Arab world would contribute to the growing millions of people worldwide who have protested and marched against what is now being described as Bush's War.
President Ben Bella, hero of the Algerian revolution, expressed what were to become common themes at the conference: that Regime change in Iraq would only be the first Arab country to be attacked, and that Iran, Syria, and even Egypt would follow. "Oil is Islam," declared Ben Bella, the United States is part of a long line of colonial powers. Each in turn has been destroyed and nothing else is possible for the United States. Arab peoples will not be subject to colonial rule; continued struggle will emerge to defeat the invaders. Arab civilization is the "museum of humanity' and will not be the subject of a "New World Order" or a final crusade.
In private Ben Bella was less than optimistic about the chances of avoiding war. At 85 years of age, he is a striking six feet four inches tall with a firm handshake. When finding out I was an American he said through a translator, tell the American people that "they are the only ones who can stop this war." I told him of our anti-war protests and marches but he said we must try harder.
For two days speakers from Europe, the Arab world and the Americas expressed solidarity with the people of Iraq and outrage at U.S. unilateralism.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark spoke of the "great urgency" facing the world. He described the huge U.S. Military build-up taking place in the Gulf and how if the U.S. attacks we will become the "enemy of humanity."
John Rees from the Stop the War Coalition, in Great Britain, said that over two thirds of the British oppose the war, and that over half a million marched in London already, and by February 15th millions will march in every city in Europe.
Mr. Saad K. Hammoundy, Iraq's ambassador the Arab League, sees U.S. aggression as militarily inter-linked with the globalization of capital investments. American capital penetration requires a military presence to insure its security. The quest for the control of oil lead the U.S. to steal Iraq's weapons declaration from the United Nations in order to change it and find an excuse for an invasion. The U.S. cooked the Iraq report he claimed. Hummoundy went on to say that the U.S. can teach nothing about Democracy to a country that first had a parliament 3000 years ago and continues to have deep democratic traditions.
Denis Halliday, (Ireland) was the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General heading the Oil-for-Food program in Iraq up through 1998. He resigned in protest of the genocide the embargoes were having on Iraq. Halliday described how the UN Security Council is afraid to stand up to the United States ambitions for a global empire.
Halliday's successor as the UN director of the Oil-for-Food program, Dr. Hans Von Sponeck, resigned from his 30 year UN career rather than carry out a "genocide of truth" and "information cleansing," associated with the Oil-for-Food program. Dr. Von Sponeck's calculations showed that Iraq people are expected to live on only $174.00 per person per year under UN sanctions. He describes the 150% increase in child morality from 1990 to 1999 as genocide and a "Dictatorship of the Security Council."
Throughout the conference powerful descriptive words like hegemony, imperialism, colonialism, and fascism were used to describe U.S. policy. There was a clear smoldering anger towards the U.S. labeling of resistance fighters as terrorists. Dr. William Ottman, representing the International Federation of Journalists, reminded the conference participants how as a young Dutch resistance fighter in World War II he was labeled by the Nazis as a terrorist. His companions were hunted down and murdered much like the license the CIA now holds to assassinate "terrorists" anywhere in the world.
Summarizing on the second day of the conference, George Galloway, Labor member of Parliament in the UK, exclaimed, that the charge that Iraq holds weapons of mass destruction is simply "pulp fiction." "Everyplace visited by the inspectors so far has been completely empty," he stated. Galloway warned the Arab countries that Great Britain and the U.S. behave as imperial powers because they are imperial powers." In reference to the post-WWI division of the Middle East into regions controlled by France and Great Britain, he exclaimed that today, "the powerful are deciding on new kings, new countries, and new slave centers."
During the course of the two 12 hours days, dozens of Arab speakers, pounding fists and yelling outrage, demonstrated a united hatred for U.S. policy. It was pointed out that even after capturing Afghanistan the U.S. still could not rule there. The people will not permit it, and it won't be any different in the Arab world. Empires are never secure because there is always an underlying resistance that will inevitably rise up and destroy the occupier.
The Cairo Declaration
We the participants in the Cairo meetings launch the International Campaign against U.S. Aggression on Iraq.
The Cairo meeting is not an isolated event, but an extension of protracted international struggle against aggression and hegemony form Seattle, Genoa, and Lisbon.
U.S. global strategy, designed to insure enduring economic and military ascendancy, is now fully operationalized in a post 9/11 era.
The suffering of the Arab people and the persistence of the U.S. government to continue aggressive policies and unwavering support to the government of Israel will only lead to continued violence.
We declare our total opposition to war on Iraq.
We prepare ourselves to send human shields to Iraq.
We will coordinate popular action to boycott U.S. and Israel commodities.
We affirm the rights of the Iraqi and Palestinian people to resist external occupation.
That the conference happened at all was in doubt until the last day before leaving. The Egyptian government officially canceled the conference two days before, and then reconsidered and allowed it to happen the day before we left. There were widespread rumors that the U.S. State Department was actively involved in attempting to repress the gathering. It should also be noted that the conference was originally schedule to be held at the Sheraton Hotel in Cairo, but the Sheraton canceled without reason at the last minute forcing a quick change to the Conrad Hotel.
As one of eight people from the United States, I never felt personally threatened or identified with U.S. government policy in any way. There was a clear distinction made between the people of the U.S. and Israel and the policies of our respective governments. I left Cairo with a greater respect for the national sovereignty of Arab peoples, a clear sense that they; hold strong democratic values, believe firmly in human rights, and value above all else peace for their families and homelands. I can say that I support in principle the Cairo Declaration and encourage its widespread discussion in the United States. I want to thank the Egyptian organizing committee, especially Engineer M. Sami and Dr. Soheir Morsy, for their gracious hospitality. Sara Flounders and Elias Rashmawi were most helping in coordinating the U.S. delegation.
Peter Phillips is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and director of Project Censored a media research organization.