May 18, 2010

AWRF10 - Friday May 14: Michael Otterman - Erasing Iraq


Jo Davidson's sharp mind stands her in good stead in her job as ACL Serials Librarian. At AWRF 2010 she put it to another good purpose by going to hear Michael Otterman, author of "Erasing Iraq", interviewed by Sean Plunket.  Here's what she took away from this important event.

Otterman's contention is that the American occupation of Iraq has led to conditions approaching ‘sociocide’, that is, the destruction of the Iraqi foundations of society. This conclusion doesn't rest only on civilian loss of life – the total is hotly disputed but may be as many as one million if all those who succumbed as a result of the 12 years of economic sanctions from 1991 to 2003 are included. It is also measured by the number of displaced people which, at over 5 million, is the largest movement of people since the creation of Israel in 1948.

The book also details the cultural loss resulting from the looting of the country’s libraries, museums and archaeological sites while the occupation forces stood by and watched, securing only the Oil and Interior Ministries. Donald Rumsfeld’s comment on this was that “Freedom’s untidy”.

The use of embedded journalists whose output is vetted by the military and the self-censorship of the mainstream media has led to little information being available on the effects of the occupation on the Iraqi people. Interestingly, two-thirds of Americans polled after the first Gulf War of 1991 felt that “military censorship is more important than the media’s ability to report important news”.

Any positives? According to Michael Otterman the proliferation of Iraqi bloggers telling their stories has helped redress the lack of information and he points to the last elections in Iraq which saw a shift away from fundamentalism back to secular parties.

Is there anything concerned individuals can do? Give the message to politicians that we could help by taking more Iraqi refugees. Sweden has 50,000. New Zealand has 86.

The predominantly over-50’s audience listened attentively to Michael Otterman but unfortunately there was little time for questions. Sean Plunket introduced the session with an anecdote relating to a game of golf he played with a stranger in Queenstown in 2001 who turned out to be a former top aide of Richard Nixon. When asked what the American military planned to do after going into Afghanistan in 2001, the aide said go back to Baghdad to finish the job started in 1991, then on to Iran or Syria – they weren’t sure which yet.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 02:30
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