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Sheehan in Sydney: its time to withdraw

peter mcgregor via sam | 29.05.2006 22:39 | Anti-militarism | Repression | Social Struggles | World

About 1000 people attended the Seymour Centre in Sydney on 23rd May to hear Cindy Sheehan and Dr Salaam Ismael. I summarize Sheehan in her own words as much as possible, but urge you to read the world between the lines in my shorter summary of Dr Ismael's material. Sheehan and Dr Ismael were welcomed to Australian soil with the story of Pemulway. Permulway died resisting the invasion, and then occupation of Australia, by the British. But the resistance did not die with him.

Read the world between the lines
Read the world between the lines

Sheehan and Dr Ismael were welcomed to Australian soil with the story of Pemulway. Permulway died resisting the invasion, and then occupation of Australia, by the British. But the resistance did not die with him.

1. Sheehan

Sheehan got to the point quickly, speaking easily, yet directly: "It's so urgent, that we get off our butts, and try to stop what's going on in Iraq".

She declared the mission of the US military is "to make the world safe for our corporations." The US, like Australia, "is a country that was built on violence and death." The mother of an Iraqi insurgent killed in the same battle that

Sheehan's son, Casey, was killed in, wrote to her saying "We don't want to kill your young people. We just want you out of our country." When she said "A war of aggression, a pre-emptive war is against all international treaties", she received thunderous applause. She added: "I wish they didn't have to, but the people of Iraq have the right to resist an occupation... if your country is attacked and occupied, you have a right to resist that". (As George Galloway also said on SBS’s Dateline last week.) She explained the people of Iraq are resisting an occupation, they are not terrorists. But when people ask her how a war on terror should be fought, her answer is "you don't fight a war on terror, with a war of terror". She pointed out that 9/11 was a criminal act, not an act of war.

Rather than find the perpetrators, the US used it as an excuse to attack and kill innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Downing Street memos show Bush and Blain trying to create pretexts for an attack. They had to create a pretext, because the facts showed there were no WMD, or links between Iraq and 9/11.

They were trying to hide the fact that the war "was about controlling Iraq's natural resources. It was about stealing their oil, it was about making their country devasted, so our companies, like Halliburton and Bechtel and Blackwater Security and Exxon and KBR, could profit." (And she suggested the US was an ‘equal opportunity’ war profiteer, the way in funded both Iran & Iraq in their war.) The US and its allies have committed crimes against humanity in this war. Torture, chemical weapons, the use of weapons on civilians, imposing an alien system of government on another country, are all war crimes. It is up to the citizens of the US and its allies to repudiate what their governments are is doing.

To repudiate it and to stop it, we have to realise "Our leaders work for us. We don't work for them. We pay their salaries, and we say 'you are our employees, it's time for a job review, and you're doing a crappy job. If you don't straighten up you're going to be fired". Interrupted by applause, she continued "Our government only can govern with our consent. It's time to withdraw our consent".

When she sat down in the ditch in Crawford, 51% of Americans disagreed with what Bush was doing. Now its over two-thirds. People are withdrawing their consent en masse: "Bush, Cheny, Rice, Rumsfeld, Gonzales- all of them cannot leave the comfort of the White House without being dogged, and heckled, and protested. And our media is covering it, which is another miracle in itself. Young people are standing up and turning their backs on them". She pointed out that impeachment only applies to a President who is elected. Bush was not constitutionally elected, he cheated his way in.

The people of the US are calling for his eviction. They have formed an organization,, to this end. On September 23 they are calling on Americans to surround the White House and declare "Get out of our House, you're defiling it". She concluded that "George Bush and the Neocons are killing the world, they are killing the planet." Hence, as well as being impeached, Bush - & Howard – should be prosecuted as war criminals.

She offered her personal struggle: "until my son was killed in Iraq, I thought that one person couldn't make a difference. After Casey was killed, I thought if I can't make a difference, at least I'm going to die trying. "If you get out and do, every step you take, every minute, every day, brings us closer to the end of this war, it brings us closer to George Bush and his fellow conspirators around the world being held accountable for what they did. "We can give our children a world where our leaders, solve their problems without violence.". "We can do this by not giving our children to these corporations to kill and be used as cannon fodder for their increased profits.

Our leaders are irresponsible, and they are greedy. And they will kill our children- not their children- they will kill our children to line their pockets. And I say we divest ourselves of this war machine. We shut it down by not giving it any food to eat anymore. I'm here in Australia to urge you to get up, to get on your feet, to hold your Government responsible… the world has forgotten the lessons of Vietnam, but I will never let the world forget my son, and what happened to him and the world… and the coalition troops that we have tragically lost, and the people of Iraq, will never be forgotten, because they'll be remembered as the last people killed in bullshit wars for profit. Thank you."

She received a standing ovation.

2. Dr Salaam Ismael.

Dr Salaam Ismael followed. He is one of a handful of doctors in Iraq. He has witnessed the carnage day after day, trying to cope with few resources. He began by pointing out that the Iraqi people had only become the numbers of deaths reported on Internet sites: 100000, 150000, numbers with no names. He is a founding member of Doctors of Iraq, the first group to make a protest against the occupation. The group defies racial categorization: Sunni, Shia and Christians.

His first slide showed an Iraqi holding his flag proudly on top of rubble. Despite the ruins, there is hope. Then he turned to the occupation. He described finding bodies by smell, in Fallujah. The destruction of the health infrastructure of Iraq. He used to think infrastructure meant buildings: but the whole system and framework of health care has been destroyed. There is little food, hardly any medicine. Hospitals completely looted. Water supply 40% less this year than last year. Corruption and profiteering following the privatisation imposed by the Coalition Provisional Authority. Doctors have fled Iraq- last year, 61 of them were assassinated. Medical schools are unable to offer much training, with few teachers remaining. There is no medical neutrality. His own father, a man of 65, was beaten when Dr Ismael was accused of treating insurgents. Wounded Iraqis are held for 6 to 8 hours at US checkpoints. During the second siege of Fallujah, general anaesthetic ran out.

He performed amputations under local anasthesia,patients had to be held down. He described the use of enhanced napalm. Napalm sticks to and burns exposed skin. Phosphorus burns clothes, everything, leaving nothing but bone. The US could deny using napalm alone: becasue they used this combination instead. The resultant heat of 3,000C sucks the oxygen out of the air. He found countless bodies without wounds. They had suffocated. He described the effects of cluster bombs. Villages where children not only lost their limbs, but had lost 16, 17, 18 members of their families. While the US makes the contents, Norway makes the casings. This is the source of money, for the Nobel Peace Prize.

I cannot present the power of his presentation, the utter devastation he described. Perhaps one fragment might. One slide showed a hospital with the letters "3 D B" painted on its shell-pocked wall. Dr Ismael explained what happened. When the Americans came, they had to evacuate rapidly. They could not go out the front because they would be shot. So they threw their patients over the back wall, to be ferried away by Iraqis waiting bellows. But three wounded patients were too heavy to be moved this way. They were left behind. Three Dead Bodies.

In his conclusion he echoed what Cindy Sheehan had said: "If we want to stop terrorism, we must know the reason for the hostility to the US.

The hatred isn’t of Americas because of their ‘values’, but rather of the arrogance of US foreign policy. Our responsibility is to take action. We must try to do what we cannot do."

Dr Ismael received a standing ovation.

And then, a wonderful surprise. The Opera House two, Will Saunders and David Burgess explained to a delighted audience, that they had collected $10,000 more than the $151,000 the Opera House claimed was needed to scrub the words "NO WAR" off. They presented the money to Dr Ismael, for Doctors of Iraq.

I had the personal pleasure of meeting Mamdouh Habib.

On June 13th, his action against the Australian Government will begin. Currently he is suing the Daily Telegraph for defamation. But you won't hear any of this in the mainstream media. It was a pleasure to meet him: for a man who has been through so much, he exuded gentleness, hope, and a fierce commitment to justice. He told me, with tears in his eyes, how young US soldiers were first sent to Guantanamo for training, prior to dispatch to Iraq. He said many of them suicided when the time for deployment came.

I congratulate the Sydney Stop the War Coalition for organising this event. Look them up at to find out what's happening in the peace movement in Australia and around the world, and how you can be a part of it. Its given me hope and determination.

Niko Leka (niko (at)

Just out:
Ken Knabb's analysis of the astonishing and in some ways unprecedented movement of demonstrations, occupations, blockades and "blitz actions".

peter mcgregor via sam