[Marxism] Andrea Schmidt: Report from Occupied Iraq (6)

Raymond Chase r_chase at sympatico.ca
Fri Apr 23 03:25:49 MDT 2004


Hello !

below is the sixth report of Andrea Schmidt, Iraq
Solidarity Project delegate, still in Baghdad.

Once a week, Andrea also gives interviews on
CKUT (90,3 fm), during the Off the Hour news program
(daily, 5-6pm).  Every program can be downloaded in
mp3 format, including Andrea's most recent interview,
done live, last Friday, during the picket at the US
Consulate.  For more info on this, see last part of this
message.

In solidarity,

Raymond Legault
OCVC (Objection de conscience / Voices of Conscience)
and Iraq Solidarity Project

=============

Our Borders Are Blast Walls
by Andrea Schmidt (report # 6)

April 19 2004
Occupied Baghdad

As the US pursues its War of Terror in Iraq, the kidnappings of foreigners
by the muqawama (resistance fighters) has grabbed the media spotlight.  In
response to the kidnappings, many international NGOs and humanitarian aid
organizations have moved their foreign staff to Amman. Foreign journalists
who haven't already left the country are nearly paralyzed, reporting from
their seats in front of TV sets in hotel compounds 'secured' by blast
walls, armed guards and the right connections.  This isn't a huge change
for the staffs of some news channels  ­  for security reasons, CNN hasn't
let its foreign journalists out on the streets of Baghdad after 4 PM for
the past year of  occupation.  But for many reporters, both independent
and mainstream, the current immobility is insanely frustrating.

Those of us who came here as anti-war or anti-occupation activists intent
on bearing witness to the injustices perpetrated by occupation authorities
aren't managing a whole lot better. I haven't even really been out walking
on the streets of Baghdad for a week now, and have submitted, in spite of
my better sense of moral judgment, to  being driven between 'safe' houses
where sympathetic Iraqi and international friends have extended their
hospitality.

The concrete blast walls that surround NGO, humanitarian aid
organizations, ministry buildings, political party headquarters, the CPA
and hotels frequented by foreigners in Iraq have always struck me as
obscene. They are obscene because of the way in which they demarcate the
lives that are considered worthy of 'protection' from those which are not,
in the context of this occupation in which one of the most common
complaints heard from ordinary Iraqis is the almost total lack of security
that for themselves and their  families.

The blast walls are also obscene because of the hypocrisy of NGOs and
humanitarian organizations that they make manifest in concrete.  They are
barriers that prevent Iraq's 'multitudes' -- the poorest people, the
unemployed families whose women and children panhandle in the streets,
people without the mandatory identification or the right contacts  ­ from
entering the very organizations and institutions that purport to be
present to 'help' them. The blast walls send a message: "We will help you,
but only at a distance, and only at a level of risk that WE choose and can
control."

At the same time as the fear of being kidnapped has paralyzed foreigners
in Iraq, US Occupation Forces have massacred hundreds of people in the
town of Falluja, a hundred people in Sadr City,  bombed practically every
one of Moqtada Al-Sadr's offices in Baghdad and have announced that they
will capture him dead or alive (essentially threatening to martyr him as
Saddam martyred Moqtada's father before him).   Explosions resound across
Baghdad at intervals throughout the day and night.  The helicopters fly so
low that the windows rattle.

This crossroads of terror has made me think constantly about the blast
walls. I remember an observation made several weeks ago by a perceptive
friend. For those of us who are  'first-class' citizens of North American
or European countries in a global system best characterized as one of
apartheid, our borders are blast walls.  They shield us from the conflict
and the poverty that our governments and our corporations create and
profit from in the rest of the world.

Iraqis didn't choose their country to be the battleground for George W.
Bush's War on Terror.  And I don't think that most of them would even have
chosen it as the battleground for a righteous stand against US
imperialism. That doesn't mean that various sections of Iraqi society
aren't fighting and won't continue to fight to resist the occupiers. They
are and they will ­ and if the US forces that surround holy town of Najaf
at this moment actually invade the town, Shiite resistance will begin in
earnest and "it won't ever stop."  At least that is the prediction of an
acquaintance of mine, a Shiite man and an ex-officer in the Iraqi army who
participated in the 1991 uprising against Saddam. But he also added,
referring to the current Intifada, "we are not fighting for an anti-war or
an anti-imperialist movement. We are fighting for the people of Iraq."

If our borders are blast walls, then they are what many of us -- as
anti-war and anti-imperialist activists living in Western countries --
rely on to keep a safe distance between ourselves and the danger-filled
reality that Iraqis, peoples of other occupied and colonized nations, and
people displaced by war, poverty and occupation have no choice but to
survive on a day-to-day basis.  Maybe solidarity and justice demand that
we stop playing it so safe. Maybe it is time to put our own bodies at risk
in the sort of direct actions that confront the empire within its own
fortress. Maybe it is time to move the battleground within our own
borders, and to become the resistance inside the blast walls ­ the sort of
resistance which would effectively take them down.

------
This report was written by Andrea Schmidt for the Iraq Solidarity Project.
The Iraq Solidarity Project is a Montreal-based  grassroots initiative to
provide direct non-violent support to Iraqis struggling against the
occupation; strengthen the mobilization against economic and military
domination and anti-war work in Quebec and Canada; and build links of
solidarity between struggles against the occupation of Iraq and struggles
against oppression in Canada and Quebec.

While in Iraq, Andrea can be reached by email at andrea at tao.ca or
andreaschmidt2004 at yahoo.ca.

To get in touch with the Iraq Solidarity Project in Montreal, email
psi at riseup.net or call (514) 521-5252.


==========================================
 on CKUT  ::  Andrea Schmidt REPORTS FROM IRAQ ::
==========================================
 mp3 - http://ftp.radio4all.net/pub/radio/1604andrea.mp3
 www - http://www.radio4all.net/proginfo.php?id=9041

One Year Later: Iraqi Activist speaks on Surviving Occupation

Sad Maliki, a Peace Activist (Iraqi Democratic Movement),
and Andrea Schmidt report from Baghdad about the ongoing occupation.

Featuring questions by Dave and Michael
(Friday Morning After Producers,  07-09h CKUT 90.3fm - Mtl)
Recorded: 04/16/2004
Length: 18:58

Andrea Schmidt reports weekly from Occupied Iraq
on Off the Hour (17-18h Weekdays - 90.3fm Mtl).

!! TUNE-IN & Download DAILY !!
Off the Hour can be downloaded daily
at CKUTs MP3 Archive
(http://ckut.ca/archives.php).

Please contact us for any assistance
with this archive or if you would like
a CD copy of anything we have aired.
Contact news at ckut.ca / 514.398.6788





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