This month on War News Radio, “Forward Thinking”, we first discuss the future of Iraq in light of the ten year anniversary this past March. Then, we hear about a Philadelphia-based peace group protesting research on drone technology. Finally, we hear a Rwandan genocide survivor’s perspective on justice, forgiveness, and life in America.
Text by Sabrina Singh
A decade after American troops invaded Baghdad in 2003, news coverage of the the anniversary remains dismal. News of the war either elicits either apathy or what Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy calls “American Strategic narcissism.” Even if there is a moral and ethical reason to include Iraqi voices in the commentary, Lynch points out that between Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, Foreign Policy and The New York Times, there was exactly one Iraqi writing on this anniversary.
The official statement from President Obama made no reference to Iraq’s current state, but focused instead on the need to honor American casualties. Former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney made no public comments.
Tim Arango of The New York Times noted that the war goes on for Iraqi civilians. With political instability in the country, the conflict is not yet “for the history books,” and the anniversary is by far not the most pressing issue for citizens. In particular, problems like sectarian violence, unemployment, corruption, and internally displaced people persist.
For Iraqis interviewed by War News Radio in this month’s show, their most immediate commentaries have been things like rush-hour traffic, unemployment, reminiscing about the pre-war era and playing war video games. It is stories from ordinary civilians like these – of human costs and the lived-experiences of war – that mainstream American coverage lacks.
The four Iraqis featured in the piece below tell a story of a remembered landscape. It’s a story about how war blackened the city of Baghdad, split its neighborhoods along sectarian lines, and left its streets crammed with checkpoints and traffic. War News Radio’s Sabrina Singh and Amy DiPierro co-produced this piece on memories of the past and hopes for the future. Sabrina narrates the piece.
On Thursday, Iran, North Korea, and Syria blocked the passing of the final draft of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a U.N. effort to set standards and regulations for the cross-border arms trade. Approval of all 193 nations of the United Nations would have been necessary for the treaty to pass.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claimed that the draft had “loopholes” that did not ban sales of weapons to rebel groups. Syrian ambassador Bashar Ja’afari echoed Iran’s concerns, adding that “[Syria’s] national concerns were not taken into consideration.”
The ATT covers weapons systems that include tanks, combat aircraft and missiles. First negotiated in New York in July 2012, it failed to pass when the United States, Russia, and China, all large weapons exporters, rejected the treaty due to a lack of consensus on its details.
The bid for ATT was revived this year on March 18 when Mexico issued a U.N. statement signed by 120 countries in support of the treaty. “Our voice must be heard,” their statement read.
For signatories, the United States’ willingness to sign the treaty this year had been a cause for optimism. Like other members of the permanent five (P5) nations of the UN Security Council, the United States had balked at the prospect of signing and ratifying the ATT last year. Stewart M. Patrick, Senior Fellow at Council on Foreign Relations, writes that this unwillingness was in part because “the Obama administration did not want to hand Republicans a red meat issue in the run-up to the November elections.”
Pre-election season politics did not affect the United States’ stance this year, nor did the contentious issue of drone warfare, which was absent from this year’s draft treaty.
Human rights groups like Amnesty International have pressured the US government to support the treaty, but gun rights groups like National Rifle Association say the treaty, though it does not address domestic arms commerce, poses a threat to Second Amendment rights in the U.S. constitution.
To challenge the opposition from Iran, Syria, and North Korea, the treaty could be referred to the General Assembly for another vote as early as next week.
By Sabrina Singh
Last week, on February 14, people in 203 countries danced to raise awareness about gender-based violence as part of One Billion Rising (OBR), a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about gender-based violence through the medium of dance. Hundreds of flashmobs and performances from Miami to Khartoum, Bali to New Delhi, called attention to a recent United Nations report, which finds that one out of three women – one billion in all – will be raped or beaten during her lifetime.
The One Billion Rising campaign was initiated by Eve Ensler, writer of The Vagina Monologues, through her organization V-Day. The campaign garnered support from organizations like Amnesty International, celebrities like Katie Couric and Anne Hathaway, and even from the United Nations itself. It has also leveraged public support with dance tutorial videos from choreographer Debbie Allen and a short film with over 900,000 views on YouTube.
However, the campaign has raised eyebrows among some feminists. In The Huffington Post, Natalie Gyte, head of communications at Women’s Resource Centre, a London-based charity that supports women’s organizations, criticized OBR as a classic case of relatively privileged, often Western, feminists’ paternalism. “It’s patronising and it denies not only the causes of violence, but also the devastating and long lasting effects,” wrote Gyte, who is skeptical that OBR will accomplish anything with its one-day dance.
Yet organizers and participants of OBR do feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose. “Our event focused people’s attention on gender-based violence, but from a joyful point of view,” said Beatriz Sotomayor, organizer of an OBR event in Santiago, Chile in an email interview. “People did not become overwhelmed, they did not think, ‘Oh my god the world is such a cruel place.’ Instead, they started asking me, ‘What can we do next?’ As an organizer, it was truly satisfying.” For activists like Sotomayor, OBR’s goal and success lie in the consciousness it has raised about gender-based violence. Sotomayor added that she will continue organizing dance campaigns to raise awareness about this issue.
Aditi Adhikari, a participant of an OBR flashmob in Atlanta, USA, reported that more than 20,000 people attend the event. “The writer of the ‘One Billion Rising’ song as well as the daughter of Martin Luther [King, Jr.] and Coretta Scott King were with us,” said Adhikari in an email interview, also expressing satisfaction with overall turnout.
Turns out #Feb14 – the rallying cry of the anti-monarchy protests that began in Bahrain two years ago today – isn’t the only conflict-themed hashtag making waves right now. Here are my favorite #dronevalentines so far.