Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Fraudulent "Appeal to Save Iraq's Academics"

I was responding to a few pieces of the usual left-wing "anti-war" propaganda about Iraq forwarded to me by a friend who goes for that sort of stuff ... including this petition that struck me as especially detached from reality ... and, the more I thought about it, even more offensive than usual.
--Jeff Weintraub
==========
Subject: Re: "Urgent Appeal to Save Iraq's Academics"
Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2006 20:00:20 -0500
From: Jeff Weintraub
To: X
[....]
This "Urgent Appeal to Save Iraq's Academics" is quite bizarre, and the fact that people like John Pilger have put their names to it shows that sometimes chutzpah has no limits. It's absolutely true that there has been a devastating pattern of attacks and assassinations not only against Iraqi academics but also against journalists, doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. (The dangerous and difficult situation of Iraq's academic community was captured in a genuinely urgent and concerned Joint Statement by MESA, the AAUP, & the AAAS back in November 2004.) But the implication that this campaign is somehow being carried out by (or with the approval of) the US occupation authorities is ludicrous. We all know who is doing this killing--Pilger's friends in the various branches of the so-called "resistance" (including, in this respect, not only the Ba'athists and jihadis in the Sunni Arab "insurgency" but probably also some Shiite fanatics linked to Naomi Klein's hero Muqtada al-Sadr). At the beginning, some academics may also have been caught up in revenge killings against former Ba'athists (real or alleged), and of course they've also been hit very hard by kidnappings and other kinds of ordinary crime. But the idea that all this is happening to them as punishment for the fact that "the secular middle class ... has refused to be co-opted by the US occupation" is either delusional or (in the popular sense) Orwellian.
Naturally, I am pleased to see that John Pilger is concerned about the "brain drain" from Iraq and the decimation of "the secular middle class"--both of them real and terrible problems "with far-reaching consequences for the future of Iraq.". Of course, Pilger may have forgotten that while good old Saddam Hussein was still running the country, over 3 million Iraqis had already fled abroad, including large numbers of educated people, and the ones still in Iraq weren't doing so well, either.
But it's too easy to ridicule Pilger, since he has made it abundantly clear that he is simply an idiot not worth being taken seriously either morally or intellectually. On the other hand, as you know, despite all the foolish, pernicious, and sometimes outright dishonest things that Robert Fisk has said over the years, I believe he cannot be dismissed quite so easily. However, if he really did write this ...
Already on July 14, 2004, veteran correspondent Robert Fisk reported from Iraq that: "University staff suspect that there is a campaign to strip Iraq of its academics, to complete the destruction of Iraq's cultural identity which began when the American army entered Baghdad."
... and if he really meant it (i.e., he was not simply repeating conspiracy talk he heard in Iraq), then that might be a sign that he's going over the edge, too. Could be, and he's certainly done it from time to time ... but I suspect that even Robert Fisk doesn't believe such obvious drivel.

Yours for reality-based discourse,
Jeff Weintraub

P.S. By the way, I strongly agree with certain parts of this petition, for example ...
2. We urge that academic institutions and organisations declare solidarity with their Iraqi colleagues.
3. We urge that academics forge links between Iraqi educators, both in exile and in Iraq, and universities worldwide.
4. We urge that student organisations link with Iraqi student organisations.
5. We urge that educators mobilise colleagues and concerned citizens to take up the cause of the salvation of Iraq's intellectual wealth, by organising seminars, teach-ins and forums on the plight of Iraq's academics.
These are all great ideas, and in fact I wish they had been carried out decades ago, but it's never too late. However, for anyone who genuinely wants to do these things now, the crucial first step would be to denounce the people circulating this appalling petition, who (among other things) supported leaving Iraq under the control of a genocidal fascist regime and now either call for abandoning Iraqis to the fascists and Islamist fanatics of the so-called "insurgency" or, in some cases, actually support these murderers outright and without subterfuge.
==========
----- Original Message -----
From: moderator@portside.org
To: portside@lists.portside.org
Sent: Friday, January 13, 2006 10:48 PM
Subject: Urgent Appeal to Save Iraq's Academics

URGENT APPEAL TO SAVE IRAQ'S ACADEMICS.
Call for action to save Iraq's Academics
<http://new.petitiononline.com/Iraqacad/petition.html>
To: special rapporteur on summary executions at UNHCHR in Geneva and international Human Rights & Law organisations
URGENT APPEAL TO SAVE IRAQ'S ACADEMICS.
A little known aspect of the tragedy engulfing Iraq is the systematic liquidation of the country's academics. Even according to conservative estimates, over 250 educators have been assassinated, and many hundreds more have disappeared. With thousands fleeing the country in fear for their lives, not only is Iraq undergoing a major brain drain, the secular middle class - which has refused to be co-opted by the US occupation - is being decimated, with far-reaching consequences for the future of Iraq.
Already on July 14, 2004, veteran correspondent Robert Fisk reported from Iraq that: "University staff suspect that there is a campaign to strip Iraq of its academics, to complete the destruction of Iraq's cultural identity which began when the American army entered Baghdad."
The wave of assassinations appears non-partisan and non-sectarian, targeting women as well as men, and is countrywide. It is indiscriminate of expertise: professors of geography, history and Arabic literature as well as science are among the dead. Not one individual has been apprehended in connection with these assassinations.
According to the United Nations University, some 84 per cent of Iraq's institutions of higher education have already been burnt, looted or destroyed. Iraq's educational system used to be among the best in the region; one of the country's most important assets was its well-educated people.
This situation is a mirror of the occupation as a whole: a catastrophe of staggering proportions unfolding in a climate of criminal disregard. As an occupying power, and under international humanitarian law, final responsibility for protecting Iraqi citizens, including academics, lies with the United States.
With this petition we want to break the silence.
1. We appeal to organisations which work to enforce or defend international humanitarian law to put these crimes on the agenda.
2. We request that an independent international investigation be launched immediately to probe these extrajudicial killings. This investigation should also examine the issue of responsibility to clearly identify who is accountable for this state of affairs. We appeal to the special rapporteur on summary executions at UNHCHR in Geneva.

This petition was launched by the Brussells Tribunal and is already endorsed by CEOSI (Spain), the Portuguese hearing of the WTI, Iraktribunal.de (Germany), the Swedish Antiwar committee, the IAC (USA), the International Association of Middle East Studies (IAMES), the German Middle East Studies Association (DAVO) and the European Association for Middle Eastern Studies (EURAMES), and several personalities, like Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Tony Benn, Eduardo Galeano, John Pilger and Michael Parenti. See the list of endorsers.
See also the call for action underneath and more information on www.brusselstribunal.org/Academics.htm
___________________________

Call for action to save Iraq's Academics
1. We call upon all people, especially academics and students, to help end the silence that surrounds the ongoing crime of the assassination of Iraqi academics and the destruction of Iraqi's educational infrastructure, and support Iraqi academics' right and hope to live in an independent, democratic Iraq, free of foreign occupation and hegemony.
2. We urge that academic institutions and organisations declare solidarity with their Iraqi colleagues.
3. We urge that academics forge links between Iraqi educators, both in exile and in Iraq, and universities worldwide.
4. We urge that student organisations link with Iraqi student organisations.
5. We urge that educators mobilise colleagues and concerned citizens to take up the cause of the salvation of Iraq's intellectual wealth, by organising seminars, teach-ins and forums on the plight of Iraq's academics.
The world's academics and intellectuals must act now to save the lives of their colleagues in Iraq.

[The Brussells Tribunal, in cooperation with other organisations, has started to build a network of contacts and raise public awareness and can provide information and support to individuals and groups who wish to mobilise on this issue. We are able to act as a depository and hub for this campaign]
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