PM wants UN to solve issue of Iraq - Two Letters
In a speech in Glasgow the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has said he continues to want to solve the issue of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction through the United Nations.
The Prime Minister also made reference to letters he has received from two Iraqi's who are in exile in this country.
Read the first letter from Dr Safa Hashim below...
15 February 2003
The Right Honourable Mr Tony Blair
Dear Prime Minister
Perhaps I can speak for a silent majority of the Iraqi people which includes 85% of Shias and Kurds. I was hesitant to write to you and make my view public. The Iraqi agents are still here and that is why most of the Iraqis find it extremely difficult to express their view in fear of retaliation from the regime against their families who are still in Iraq. They are scared to criticise the regime even when it is perhaps at its weakest moment since the take- over 35 years ago. The Iraqis have had enough and this perhaps is a golden opportunity to get rid of the brutal dictatorship for ever. Iraq and the Iraqi people by the wealth of their culture, religions, history and substantial resources are capable and qualified to implement the rules of democracy and join peace and freedom loving nations.
I have lived in Glasgow for 22 years having left Iraq in 1980. When I was a university student in Basrah I saw tens of my closest colleagues disappear from classes, both Shias and Sunnis. No one could even mention their absence! My family has also suffered executions and imprisonments. The only equality and justice Saddam applied is that no ethnic, political or religious group escaped his acts of terror.
We have listened to the latest announcements from your government and opposition stating that your main objective is not the regime change but disarmament! This is worrying for the Iraqi people. We believe that the only way forward is simultaneous removal of any weapons of mass destruction and regime change. This would be the starting point of restoring any peace in the Middle East. Stability obviously includes your serious effort to find a solution for the Palestinians.
The principal of opposing war by the good British public is being received warmly by Iraqis both inside and outside Iraq. This principle reflects a great level of sympathy towards Iraqis and a desire to spare them the misery of another war. On the other hand by doing so, the British public is missing the point, especially since inside Iraq the people are definitely FOR it! The level of their suffering is beyond anything that British people can possibly envisage let alone understand his obsession to develop and possess weapons of mass destruction. Do the British public know that it is normal practice for Saddam's regime to demand the cost of the bullet used in the execution of their beloved family members, and not to even allow a proper funeral?
Recently, Saddam gained a propaganda point by allowing a few Iraqis who were forbidden to travel in the past to go home. They were encouraged by his agents. I know a t number of people who have recently returned to Glasgow from their visit and I "swear" each one confirmed that Iraqis are waiting for war desperately, including some of those who are currently working for the regime.
The main fear of Iraqis of war largely comes from the dissidents abroad. They feel that although the war could be swift, Saddam would order the killing of Iraqis possibly using chemicals and to blame this on the "invading" force. I believe the Iraqi people will seize the opportunity again to uprise against Saddam, despite the bitter fact that Mr Bush senior let the Iraqi people down in 1991. That was the gravest mistake according to recent American announcements. We will need assurance from yourself and President Bush that this will not be repeated.
Some of the public and politicians in Britain base their opposition to war on two factors. These are the creation of a vacuum at the departure of the regime and possible overtaking of the country by "extremist" groups. They also fear the prospect of unrest and civil war. These fears have no foundation. The democracy in Iraq goes back to the 40s and 50s and was lost when the Baathest regime took over in the 60s leading to the emergence and controls of Saddam (basically an uneducated thug who is governing the cradle of civilisation.) Iraqis have inherited great values from Abraham to Nebuchadnezzar through to the time Baghdad was the centre of the Islamic world.
In the midst of all the debate it is important for the Iraqi people that there is clarification about the nature of the "take-over" from Saddam. Who is going to take his place, will democracy really be restored and which Allies will be there to ensure it does? The idea of having a military presence would be beneficial in the short -term; however this should not be extended unnecessarily. We recognise that the American and Allies' presence in Afghanistan is necessary to restore a legitimate government but we think that the Iraqi Opposition is more prepared and qualified to implement democracy on its own. Unlike governments in the past, including the current one, we believe that the new one should recognise the need to respect the diversity of the society in its religious, ethnic and political beliefs.
I am sure you have heard the horrific facts of how the Iraqi regime is lead and controlled by Saddam directly. Allow me to repeat, he invaded two countries, committed countless human right abuses and as result of this brutality, one million lives were lost and more than four million Iraqi people were displaced abroad. They left either as a result of fear for their lives or felt the political climate in Iraq to be too "uncertain". May I point you to the fact that Iraqis are not migrants in nature; we are the people of Mesopotamia and very much attached to the Tigress and Euphrates. Never in the history of this region have we experienced such mass migration, this has only been by force! The regime promoted migration in an effort to rid itself of any opposing voice.
Iraqis are peace loving, well educated people who would rarely be found supporting or leading terrorism abroad or promoting civil wars inside their own country. The only civil wars since the foundation of modern Iraq have been committed by the various regimes imposed on them by the past colonial West. These were aimed at the Shias and Kurds. Saddam's civil war however has been more brutal than any other dictator the world has known. He is the only known terrorist in Iraq, for example his men assassinated an ex-Iraqi Prime Minister (Abdul Razaq Al-Nayff ) and trained Iranian terrorists who occupied the Iranian Embassy, both in London in the 80s.
However, if the International community does not take note of the Iraqi people's plight but continues to address it casually this will breed terrorism and extremism within the Iraqi people. This cannot be allowed to happen.
We understand the dilemma you are facing to convince the public of the need for a possible war. It's important that they take a closer look. We know that no swift war in Iraq could ever be more devastating than the losses we have incurred over the last 35 years. Doing nothing to Saddam and his weapons can only increase the possibility of more devastating wars and bring terrorism closer to home.
Dr Safa Hashim, From The Iraqi Community
PS: Please also find enclosed letter from a Cambridge University student
Iraq and "War"*
I am writing this email after a lot of deliberation about whether I have the right to use my strange and unique position (within our group) to argue the case FOR an invasion in Iraq. But in the end I have decided that I have more to lose if I keep quiet.
Firstly, my parents, my family, are from Iraq. My parents fled from Iraq some 23 years ago leaving everything and everyone behind when at that point 17 of our relatives had been "disappeared" or imprisoned for no reason whatsoever. They sought refuge in Kuwait for 4 years, but once again were forced to flee with us (my brother and I) in tow when Saddam had the Kuwaitis deport the Iraqi men back to Iraq. On the border he had these returnees shot dead.
We were lucky; we made it safely to Britain. My father was lucky - his brother was caught trying to escape and tortured. So here I am, 19 years later, never having set foot in the country of my parents.
The anti-"war" feeling prevalent amongst people I speak to seems to me totally misjudged and misplaced. I have to be honest here and say that I feel it is based partly on a lot on misunderstanding of the situation in Iraq and partly on people's desire to seem "politically rebellious" against the big, bad Americans. And let me say, that I also agree the American government is indeed big and bad; I have no illusions about their true intentions behind an attack on Iraq.
More than you or I, the Iraqis know the ignorant and truly atrocious attitude of the American government towards most of the world's population. Iraqis felt the effect of this when America (and the rest of the West in fact) eagerly supported and supplied Saddam when he waged his war-of-attrition against Iran causing the death of 1 million Iraqis and Iranians and the disappearance of many more - there was no anti-war movement to help them.
They felt the effect of this attitude when America and the West ignored, supplied even, Saddam's use of biological weapons on the people of Halabja, killing 5000 people in one day, and causing the deformed births of babies in the area to this day.
Iraqis know well the untrustworthy nature of the Western governments when the coalition gave Saddam permission, a few days after the end of the Gulf War, to massacre the uprising peoples of Iraq when they had wrested control from him in most cities of Iraq.
The people of Iraq echo our discontentment with America and the West's policy in Iraq, for they know the realities of such a policy far better than any of us shall ever know.
I want to ask those who support the anti - "war" movement (apart from pacifists - that is a totally different situation) their motives and reasoning behind such support. You may feel that America is trying to blind you from seeing the truth about their real reasons for an invasion. I must argue that in fact, you are still blind to the bigger truths in Iraq. I must ask you to consider the following questions:
Saddam has murdered more than a
million Iraqis over the past 30 years, are you willing to
allow him to kill another million Iraqis?
Out of a population of 20 million, 4 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their country during Saddam's reign. Are you willing to ignore the real and present danger that caused so many people to leave their homes and families?
Saddam rules Iraq using fear - he regularly imprisons, executes and tortures the mass population for no reason whatsoever - this may be hard to believe and you may not even appreciate the extent of such barbaric acts, but believe me you will be hard pressed to find a family in Iraq who have not had a son/father/brother killed, imprisoned, tortured and/or "disappeared" due to Saddam's regime. What has been stopping you from taking to the streets to protest against such blatant crimes against humanity in the past?
Saddam gassed thousands of political prisoners in one of his campaigns to "cleanse" prisons - why are you not protesting against this barbaric act?
An example of the dictator's policy you are trying to save - Saddam has made a law to give excuse to any man to rape a female relative and then murder her in the name of adultery. Do you still want to march to keep him in power?
I remember when I was around 8 I went along with my father to a demonstration against the French embassy when the French were selling Saddam weapons. I know of the numerous occasions my father and many, many others haves attended various meetings, protests and exhibitions that call for the end of Saddam's reign. I have attended the permanent rally against Saddam that has been held every Saturday in Trafalgar Square for the past 5 years. The Iraqi people have been protesting for YEARS against the war - the war that Saddam has waged against them. Where have you been?
Why is it now that you deem it appropriate to voice your disillusions with America's policy in Iraq, when it is actually right now that the Iraqi people are being given real hope, however slight and precarious, that they can live in an Iraq that is free of the horrors partly described in this email?
Whatever America's real intentions behind an attack, the reality on the ground is that many Iraqis, inside and outside Iraq support invasive action, because they are the ones who have to live with the realities of continuing as things are while people in the West wring their hands over the rights and wrongs of dropping bombs on Iraq, when in fact the US & the UK have been continuously dropping bombs on Iraq for the past 12 years.
Of course it would be ideal if an invasion could be undertaken, not by the Americans, but by, say, the Nelson Mandela International Peace Force. That's not on offer. The Iraqi people cannot wait until such a force materialises; they have been forced to take what they're given. That such a force does not exist - cannot exist - in today's world is a failing of the very people who do not want America to invade Iraq, yet are willing to let thousands of Iraqis to die in order to gain the higher moral ground. Do not continue to punish the Iraqi people because you are "unhappy" with the amount of power the world is at fault for allowing America to wield. Do not use the Iraqi people as a pawn in your game for moral superiority - one loses that right when one allows a monster like Saddam to rule for 30 years without so much as protesting against his rule.
Some will accuse me of being a pessimist for accepting that the only way to get rid of Saddam is through force. I beg to differ; I believe I have boundless optimism for the FUTURE of Iraq, where Iraqis are able to rebuild their shattered country, where Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheists, communists - all peoples of any and all backgrounds are able to live in peace and safety and without fear of persecution. I beg you to imagine such an Iraq, such a democracy in the Middle East, and ask where in that do you see pessimism? Such an Iraq is what is being envisaged and sought by many millions of Iraqis; such an Iraq is where I hope I will be able to take my children.
If you want to make your disillusions heard then do speak out, put pressure on Blair, Bush & Co to keep to their promises of restoring democracy to Iraq. Make sure they do put back in financial aid what they have taken over the years, and make sure that they don't betray the Iraqis again. March for democracy in Iraq. If you say that we can't trust the Americans then make sure that you are a part of ensuring they do fulfil their promises to the Iraqis.
So I conclude by asking you to consider your REASONS for supporting the anti-"war" movement, and if you are going, the anti-"war" demo. If you still feel that what I have said does not sway you from this stance, then I can do no more.
In some ways I do admire the movement because it proves what people can achieve when they come together and speak out. Unfortunately for Iraq nobody spoke out earlier.
Please feel free to email me with your counter-arguments, comments, thoughts etc.
(* I use apostrophes with "war" because in truth it will be no war, but an invasion. A war presumes relatively equal forces battling against each, with resistance on both sides. A US-led force will encounter NO resistance from the Iraqi people or the army.)