Haaretz (Israeli daily)
Saturday, January 04, 2003
`This war is genocide'
By Timna Rosenheimer
NEW YORK - Now it's clear. Whether in January, February or March, the
United States will go to war against Iraq. For weeks on end, American
television stations have been constantly repeating the slogan of the
world war against terrorism, urging viewers to support the military
A wave of conservatism is washing over post-September 11th United
States. The public is showing an inclination to return to the values
of tradition, clear messages and simplicity. There is no place for
questions or for political and ideological skepticism, and President
Goerge W. Bush is giving America what it wants: quick, clear answers,
projecting strength and power. As for the price, the true motives, the
rational solutions and the future implications - these are questions
no one talks about.
Within this hegemonic posture, the critical voice of Ramsey Clark
against America's military policy around the world stands out. He is
70-something, reedy and fragile in appearance. In the 1960s, he was
the attorney general of the United States in the administration of
Lyndon B. Johnson, and already then he was known as an enthusiastic
advocate of the civil rights movement.
Although at the time he did not espouse the radical anti-war views he
is now voicing, Clark led the American justice system to some fine
achievements: He oversaw the framing of the law to extend the
franchise, ordered errant police officers to be placed on trial,
refused to sanction FBI wiretapping of Martin Luther King, Jr., and
fought bitterly against the death penalty - a campaign that succeeded
in putting a stop to federal executions until the case of Timothy
McVeigh, the Oklahoma bomber.
After failing in a bid to enter the Senate in 1976, Clark resigned
from his public positions and took up the cause of victims of
oppression, many of them controversial. He also established the
International Action Center, the largest anti-war protest movement in
the United States.
The most pacifist territory in New York - downtown, and more
precisely, the West Village - looks like a battle zone. A wood floor
and a few worn carpets are heaped with piles of paper and cartons
stuffed with documents in no particular order, and long rows of legal
books are carelessly placed on metal shelves. Old copies of The New
Yorker lie on a small wooden table at the entrance, and posters along
with a few gloomy oil paintings hang on the walls. Still, there is
something happy and amusing in the atmosphere amid the chaos and
neglect in the office of this eccentric lawyer.
None of this seems to bother the battalion of Koreans who have invaded
the large office. Along with their television crews, they have come to
meet Ramsay Clark. There has been another case of a violation of human
rights by American soldiers against local women in South Korea, and
Clark, as usual, has been recruited for the cause.
A few weeks ago, Clark delivered a lecture in a trendy gallery in
fashionable Chelsea to an audience of several hundred people. He spoke
against an American invasion of Iraq and was applauded. His
conciliatory, somewhat childish features clash with his harsh words,
which outrage many, but he wins people's sympathy. Some, though, have
tired of him. He is undeterred in any case, fighting the strong and
standing up for the weak.
Clark won fame and glory when he led the movement to withdraw the
American forces from Vietnam. Since then he has been a radical peace
activist, and today he is one of the key leaders of the American
protest movement against an invasion of Iraq. He is also known as a
fierce critic of American foreign policy.
As he once said in an interview: "Our foreign policy has been a
disaster for a long time. Our overriding purpose, from the beginning
right through to the present day, has been world domination - that is
to build and maintain the capacity to coerce everybody else in the
planet: nonviolently, if possible; and violently if necessary. But the
purpose of our foreign policy of domination is not just to make the
rest of the world jump through hoops; the purpose is to facilitate our
exploitation of resources. And in so far as any people or states get
in the way of our domination, they must be eliminated - or, at the
very least, shown the error of their ways."
Clark spends most of his time on legal matters which involve
international issues in connection to war-torn places. Last year he
was involved in two international war crimes tribunals, the first
since Nuremberg; one on Rwanda and the second, the former Yugoslavia.
Clark believes that in both cases, the tribunals made an unjust use of
their legal power in order to control one side.
"The real solution," says Clark, "is the international criminal court
in The Hague, but the United States will not sign and join because it
does not intend to be judged. One hundred and two countries have
already signed the 1998 Treaty of Rome and 60 have recognized it. Bush
has said that he will never sign it as he is afraid that Americans
could be accused of war crimes.
"There is no doubt that there have been many U.S. interventions and
bombings all over the world that amount to war crimes. The bombing of
the El-Shifa plant [in Sudan] in 1998 by the Americans is one
And with regard to Iraq?
"We are currently in a state of emergency. We have been working for a
long time to try and prevent an attack, another catastrophe. In the
1991 Gulf War, the people of Iraq were persecuted. There were 100,000
separate aircraft attacks on Iraq by the U.S. and the joint forces.
Over 88,500 tons of bombs, which are 7.5 times the Hiroshima bomb,
were dropped on Iraqi soil. Over 150,000 people were killed. The UN
sanctions killed 1.5 million people, 50 percent children under the age
of five and nearly half of them under the age of one.
"Some 23 million people have suffered all this, while in 43 days of
fighting, only 155 American and Egyptian troops were killed from
friendly fire and accidents. We from here are trying to get the
American people out."
Do you believe you have a chance? The American consensus for a war on
Iraq is massive and only few see the wider picture.
"It took us years to build up a substantial front against the war in
Vietnam. But we had 100,000 people protesting in Washington and 50,000
in San Francisco on October 26, 2002, and another million in Florence.
Of course I would like to see 100 million out on the streets.
"I do not believe the polls; I do believe we would get to these
numbers, but the main issue is how to reach the people. We are
excluded from the mass media because it is owned by major corporations
that indirectly elect Congress and the president. This is economic
power. A lot of them have an interest in war which makes them money
through sales of arms and petrol."
If for a moment we put the Iraqi people to one side, why do you choose
to ignore the crimes of Saddam Hussein, which no one denies?
"We as citizens need to announce our principles and force our
government to adhere to them. When you see your government violating
these principles, you have the highest obligation to correct what your
government does, not to point the finger at someone else."
Israelis are in a complete panic with regard to the possibility of an
Iraqi attack on Israel.
"The sanctions have weakened the Iraqis tremendously. They cannot
defend themselves and both the sanctions and this war are genocide. I
visit Iraq on a regular basis and I was there recently. The misery and
deprivation of the Iraqi people is unimaginable. There is no way they
could attack anyone - let alone defend themselves. They are in
So why the dramatic focus on Iraq? There are still enough dictators
around the world?
"It is clearly contrived and done to justify American domination of an
important region, and of course there is the issue of domination of
oil supplies for our own needs. The price of oil and the cost of
gasoline will go down, yet that is short-range, because prices will go
up again. The major part of the profits will go into U.S. corporate
pockets and will consolidate control over the most important
geopolitical region, which has been an American aim for years.
"Of course he [Saddam Hussein] is not a threat. Why did he not do
anything in 1991 when he had the power, the equipment and a large
army? Everybody knew how to support him when he was at war with Iran.
"The proudest achievement of the CIA was placing the Shah of Iran on
the throne. It also went on to fully equip his army during the Cold
War; between 1972-1976 America handed over to the Iranians arms worth
$27 billion. America is the biggest arms supplier in the world.
"Terrorism, everybody is talking terrorism now. The Israeli code of
fear is now shared by the world. Violence and terrorism are not moral,
though defining an act of terrorism is difficult. I think there can be
solutions with no violence. After years of oppression, you will always
have years of misery.
"I will say something that people do not like to hear: Governments are
responsible for most of the acts of terrorism. I wrote a piece a while
ago that estimated that more than 98 percent of all terrorist acts are
committed by governments. In Argentina most of the people who
disappeared were a result of government actions.
"In Israel, 90 percent of the terrorism can be attributed to the
government; preventing people from work, school, bulldozing their
homes, torturing, living under curfew. America with its bombing of
Afghanistan, Iraq and much before that caused the deaths of hundreds
of thousands of innocent citizens all over the world.
"I went to North Vietnam in 1971, when the U.S. was trying to destroy
civilian dikes through bombing. Our government figured out that if it
could destroy Vietnam's capacity for irrigation, it could starve the
people into submission. Nearly all the history of oppression comes
from governments and its aim is mostly to preserve and enlarge its
How do you explain the massive American support of Israel, a support
which reaches far beyond what we call "the Jewish lobby."
"Americans are saturated with one-sided presentations. They have
prejudices against minorities, whom are usually the poor who have no
voice. The events of 9/11 also helped to intensify support of Israel.
"In any American newspaper, you will find that the terrorism against
the U.S. and Israel is treated identically and must be addressed in
unison. Of course this is not the case. In the Israeli case, it is
their presence in Palestine, and in the U.S. case it is caused by
being in places it should not be."
This is not the way the American people see it, and Bush's popularity
has never been higher.
"One must remember that Bush won the presidency, but did not win the
elections. The current popularity means nothing. In March of 1991, his
father's popularity reached the highest ever in American history: 20
percent more than his son's today. But 20 months later, he lost the
elections to a guy from Arkansas whom no one had heard of."
Are you an optimist?
"Yes, I definitely am. I have to be. Sometimes you see things that you
have done have helped. The civil rights movement did change things. I
think we have now reached a critical stage. If we do not start
addressing the growing number of poor people in the world and the
growing gap between rich and poor we will be back in the Dark Ages."
Clark has visited Israel many times, and he once spent four days as an
official guest of the Israeli government. In recent years, he has been
representing the Palestinian Authority in the American courts against
law suits filed by Israeli terror victims who carry dual nationality.
"The current situation [in Israel] is absolutely tragic. It has
degenerated into pure violence. People must step back and say `this
does not work.' People must recognize that they cannot control it all,
and go ahead with peace talks. The recent Labor Party elections have
shown that some people do want to have something better than violence.
"Do not be mistaken. I do love the Israeli people, but I always like
the people who suffer the most."