The Statement of Kani Xulam
‘Lies, 9-11, and the War on Iraq’ Rally at Dupont Circle
Thursday, September 11, 2003
The violence of a disease is a source of work and income for a physician. The 9-11 itself, and the corrupting debate that has followed it since, has ignited an interest in the advocates of Islam, war, peace, and even the Kurds and Kurdistan for some clarity in our understanding of what went wrong on that fateful morning two years ago, today. As a Kurdish activist, I am honored to find myself behind this podium for my own musings on this vexing issue and its offspring, the war in Iraq. Let me at this time also note the hard work of DC Anti-War Network (DAWN) activists for bringing us together here and for their courage to stand up against the unbridled jingoism of the powers-that-be with a gentler and kinder message of truth, love, hope and sensible patriotism that, if it is heard in this country, could bring some humility to the current occupant of the White House.
It goes without saying that while I am pleased to see an interest in the Middle East replace, the one shark attack on the two beachgoers off the coast of Virginia in the last innocent summer of our times — never had a spell of irresponsibility so wicked and so through had corrupted the national discourse for so long — as headlines, I was nevertheless, horrified like many of you, the way it happened. A student of nonviolence, I can hardly bring myself to thanking Osama Bin Laden for it. A lover of humanity, I wonder to myself, as well as aloud, why were we, so oblivious of the nexus between ignorance and evil? Did the person who coined the phrase, “Ignorance is bliss”, ever thought of its happy go lucky disciples who could turn planes into missiles or the greatest military power on earth that christens its bombs, smart ones, when, well in advance, it knows that some of them are dumb, and will kill innocents just like the way they were murdered in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia?
I was among the millions of farsighted Americans who were filled with the painful apprehensions of this war. I joined thousands, often, against the wishes of my majority fellow Kurds, to shout as well as hold my quaint signs, one of which read, “No War, Down With Saddam Hussein” in this circle and the Mall. My fellow peace activists, frequently ignoring me, did not want the name of their country to be associated with death and destruction. I was all for them, and one other thing for the Kurds. That other thing was the issue of how to distance Saddam Hussein from his finely tuned killing machines. I wanted, like all Kurds and some of the well-informed activists, to see him booked for a room with Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague. I wanted the man who had rained chemical weapons on my people in broad daylight to be separated from not just them but also the Arabs and possibly the Americans.
Some in this crowd then, and I might even say now, were more afraid of President Bush than that abomination called Saddam Hussein that ruled Baghdad with an iron fist. I would never wish the fate that he inflicted on the Kurds on any living organism, let alone the humans, and let me just throw one statistic at you, half a million of my compatriots remain crippled in Iraqi Kurdistan, suffering from exposure to chemical weapons. The war lovers, on the other hand, had no compunctions about their means as well as their ends. The Kurdish dead, gassed en masse 15 years ago, were discovered in their forgotten mass graves, dangled before a clueless and innocent audience to rouse a country for the war effort. Concealed in the darkness of that blasphemous ignorance or manipulation of facts was the struggle of the Kurds for self-determination with its horrendous cost. The jaded left had no interest in it. The unscrupulous right was more than happy to use it for its nefarious ends.
The great hearted Greek statesman Pericles once noted, “ We alone regard a person who takes no interest in public affairs not as harmless, but as a useless character.” In the increasingly interdependent world that we have inherited as a generation, it is not enough for us peace lovers to demand that our countries not be the authors of misery in the world. If the disciples of hateful ideologies and war lovers can engage in their commerce of death without regards to borders, it behooves us to do a better job and engage the world with genuine love and in the words of Mahatma Gandhi, bring its adversaries to their senses as opposed to their knees. Milosevic in Belgrade, Botha in Johannesberg, Marcos in Manila and Jaruzelski in Warsaw faced not just their enraged populations, but also an informed citizenry that spanned the globe and supported the revolutionaries through demonstrations as well as dollars.
Why did we not witness something similar in Baghdad? How come the Left, the progressive community, and even the pro-lifers were and are so clueless about the horrendous suffering of the Kurds? Did it surprise anyone in this crowd that the warmongers would use the Kurdish dead to drum up support for the war and now that they are in Baghdad will not touch, even with the longest pole, the deepest yearnings of the Kurds, freedom from the yoke of the majority population, the Arabs, the right to enjoy the mastery of their homes, their land, and their country, Kurdistan?
Let me be the first to tell you that the Middle East, once the cradle of civilization, has become the most fertile ground for the mass production of tyrants with the amplest support of the United States of America. The one person, whose name will live, as long as America lives, is Osama Bin Laden and the Central Intelligence Agency of this government is his foster parent or should I say his godfather. Saddam Hussein, the thug from Tikrit, who could not tell the difference between biology and chemistry, was actively courted, supported, and supplied all kinds of weapons, including the frightening ones, biological and chemical concoctions, by no other than the present occupant of the Department of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. The Fahd family of Saudi Arabia, the Mubareks of Egypt, the Sabahs of Kuwait and even the generals of Turkey, the other despots of the Middle East, people you would avoid at any cost if you knew what they do to their dissidents, enjoy your government’s largess, produce monsters in torture chambers that equate you and your loved ones with their scarred bodies and seared souls. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden’s second in command, never finished college, he originally wanted to become a doctor and cure people of their pains, but in the prisons of Egypt, he was tortured so badly that after his release, he became a specialist on how to inflict pain, especially on the innocents.
The honest voice of history must rise above the din of lies that dominate the airwaves. You and your compatriots must hear it and come to terms with yourselves as well as the world, if you want to see a world at peace with itself, a world in which love has triumphed over war, hope over despair, care over hatred and friendship over enmity. It was President Reagan who first sowed the wind of Islamic fundamentalism, the type that believed in enforced ignorance, in the mountains of Afghanistan, which turned into a whirlwind that brought down the Twin Towers. When Saddam Hussein rained chemical concoctions on the Kurds, the first time use of these abominable weapons on a civilian population, it was business as usual, here in this city of patron-tyrants. But after 9-11, the so called statesmen of this town, who had slept through the death of innocent Kurds before, began worrying and losing sleep over the death of innocent Americans at home.
Confronting one’s adversary is not a good policy if it involves trampling on the rights of the innocent. Faith in smart bombs is a poor substitute for faith in truth, justice, humanity, and political wisdom. Hatred, the abundance of it in the world and the way it manifests itself against you and your loved ones, should make you wonder if some of it has to do with your arrogance. The difficult road ahead can only be overcome with one word and that word is love, the greatest and only weapon that can bring a semblance of peace with justice to the world. In Iraq, its belated application can cure us of the war fever, put the Kurds and Kurdistan on the path of freedom and independence, and bring the Arabs to their senses for the monstrosity they committed against the Kurds, which corrupted their soul and debased them in the sight of God and humanity for as long as we live.