(Thanks to Rob Couto – no relation to Mia Couto – for bringing this to our attention.)
Mia (Antonio Emilio L). Couto, one of Mozambique’s most prolific and best known authors, is the author of this open letter to George W Bush, appealing for common sense to prevail in American foreign policy. (It was first published in Savana, a Mozambican weekly newspaper.)
Our ‘Weapon of Mass Construction’
I am a writer from a poor nation, a country which has already been on your black list. Millions of Mozambicans wondered what evil they had ever done to you.
We were small and poor: what threat could we represent? Our weapon of mass destruction was, after all, targeted upon ourselves: it was famine and poverty.
Some of us were surprised at the reasoning which led our name to be besmirched, while other nations basked in your friendship. For example, our neighbour – the South Africa of Apartheid – was perpetrating flagrant violations of human rights. For decades we were the victims of aggression from that regime. But the “apartheid” regime received the favour from you of a much more benign response: the so-called “positive involvement”. The ANC was also on the black list as a “terrorist organization!” A strange criterion which would lead, many years later, to the Taliban and even Bin Laden himself being termed “freedom fighters”by your North American strategists.
Well I, a poor writer from a poor country, have had a dream. Just like Martin Luther King once dreamed that America was a nation that belonged to all the peoples of America.
For I have dreamed that I was not a man, but a country. Yes, a country that could not sleep. Because my waking life was constantly jolted by terrible facts. A terror that forced me to issue a demand. A demand that has to do with you, Mr President. I demanded that the United States of America should undertake the elimination of all its weapons of mass destruction. Because of the terrible dangers, I demanded something more: that UN inspectors were sent to your country. What were these terrible dangers that assailed me? What were the fears instilled in me by your country? They were not the result of a dream, unfortunately.
It was facts that fed my mistrust. The list is so long, I have chosen only a few:
- The United States is the only nation in the world that has dropped atomic bombs on another nation;
- Your country is the only nation to have been condemned for “illegitimate use of force” by the International Court of Justice;
- American forces have trained and armed the most extremist Islamic fundamentalists (including the terrorist Bin Laden) under the pretext of bringing down the Russian invaders of Afghanistan;
- The regime of Saddam Hussein was sustained by the USA while it carried out the worst atrocities against Iraqi citizens (including the gassing of the Kurds in 1998);
- Like so many other legitimate leaders, the African Patrice Lumumba was assassinated with the help of the CIA. After being captured, tortured and shot in the head, his body was dissolved in hydrochloric acid;
- Like so many other puppet leaders, Mobutu Seseseko was brought to power by your agents and granted special US espionage facilities: the CIA headquarters in Zaire became the largest in Africa. The brutal dictatorship of this man was totally ignored by the USA until he stopped being useful any more, in 1992;
- The invasion of East Timor by the Indonesian military received the compliance of the USA. When the atrocities were discovered, the Clinton Administration’s response was “the matter is the responsibility of the Indonesian government and we do not wish to detract from that responsibility”;
- Your country has harboured criminals like Emmanuel Constant, one of the most bloodthirsty leaders of Tahiti, whose para-military forces massacred thousands of innocent people. Constant was tried in his absence and the new authorities requested his extradition. The American government denied that request;
- In August 1998, the United States Air Force bombed a factory making medicines in Sudan, called Al-Shifa. A mistake? No, it was in retaliation for the Nairobi and Dar-es-Saalam bombing attacks;
- In December 1987, the United States was the only country (together with Israel) to vote against a motion condemning international terrorism. Even so, the motion was approved by the votes of one hundred and fifty three countries;
- In 1953, the CIA helped to prepare a coup d’etat against Iran subsequent to which thousands of Tudeh communists were massacred. The list of CIA-provoked coups is literally as long as your arm:
- Since the Second World War, the USA has bombed: China (1945-46), Korea and China (1950-53), Guatemala (1954), Indonesia (1958), Cuba (1959-1961), Guatemala (1960), Congo (1964), Peru (1965), Laos (1961-1973), Vietnam (1961-1973), Cambodia (1969-1970), Guatemala (1967-1973), Grenada (1983), Lebanon (1983-1984), Libya (1986), El Salvador (1980), Nicaragua (1980), Iran (1987), Panama (1989), Iraq (1990-2001), Kuwait (1991), Somalia (1993), Bosnia (1994-95), the Sudan (1998), Afghanistan (1998), Yugoslavia (1999);
- Acts of biological and chemical terrorism have been carried out by the USA: Agent Orange and other defoliants in Vietnam, and a plague virus against Cuba which devastated pig farming in that country for years;
- The Wall Street Journal published a report announcing that 500,000 Vietnamese children had been born deformed as a consequence of chemical warfare by North-American forces.
Yes, I have awoken from the nightmare of my dream to face the nightmare of reality. The war that you, Mr President, have stubbornly set about initiating may actually liberate us from a dictator. But we shall all be left the poorer. We shall face greater hardships with our already shaky economies and we shall have far less hope of a future based on reason and morality. We shall have a diminished faith in the regulating force of the United Nations and the conventions of international law. We shall, in short, be more alone and more unprotected.
Iraq is not Saddam. It is 22 million mothers with their children and men who work and have a dream, just like any other normal North Americans. We are worried about the evils of the Saddam Hussein regime which are certainly very real. But you forget the horrors of the first Gulf War in which more than 150,000 men lost their lives.
The mass destruction going on in Iraq is not the result of the weapons of Saddam. It is the sanctions which led to a humanitarian situation so grave that two UN aid co-ordinators (Dennis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck) resigned in protest against these very sanctions.
Explaining the reasons behind their resignation, Halliday wrote: “We are destroying a whole society. It is as simple and terrible as that. And it is illegal and immoral”. This system of sanctions has already led to the death of half a million Iraqi children.
But the war against Iraq is not just beginning. It began a long time ago. In the northern and southern No-Fly Zones bombardments have been going on for 12 years. It is believed that since 1999 a total of 500 Iraqis have been killed. The bombing included the mass use of depleted uranium (300 tonnes, or 30 times more than that used in Kosovo).
We shall rid ourselves of Saddam. But we shall continue to be the prisoners of the logic of war and arrogance. I do not want my children’s lives (nor their children’s) to be dominated by the spectre of fear. Nor for them to think that, in order to live in peace, they have to build themselves a fortress. Nor that they can only be safe by spending a fortune on arms. Just as your own country spends 270,000,000,000 (two hundred and seventy billion) dollars a year maintaining its arsenal of war. You know very well what an amount of money like that could do to change the wretched plight of millions of human beings.
The American bishop, Monsignor Robert Bowan, wrote to you at the end of last year in a letter entitled “Why does the world hate the USA?”. The bishop of the Catholic Church in Florida is an ex-combatant from the Vietnam War. He knows what war is like and he wrote: “You claim that the USA is the target of terrorism because we defend democracy, freedom and human rights. How absurd, Mr President! We are the target of terrorism because, in a major part of the world, our government has defended dictatorship, slavery and human exploitation. We are targets for terrorists because we are hated. And we are hated because our government did hateful things. In how many countries have agents of our country deposed popularly elected leaders and substituted them with military dictators, puppets willing to sell their own people to the multinational corporations of America?” The bishop concluded: “The people of Canada enjoy democracy, freedom and human rights, just like the people of Norway and Sweden. Have you ever heard of attacks on Canadian, Norwegian or Swedish embassies? We are hated not because we practise democracy, freedom and human rights. We are hated because our government denies these things to Third World countries, whose natural resources are coveted by our multinationals.”
Mr President: you do not seem to require any legitimate international institution to legitimise your right to military intervention. At least let us find some morality and truth in your arguments. I, and millions of other citizens throughout the world, were not convinced when we saw you justify this war. We would prefer you to have signed the Kyoto Convention to arrest the effects of global warming. We would prefer to have seen you in Durban at the International Conference on Racism.
But don’t worry, Mr President. We, the small nations of this world, would never dream of asking for your resignation because of the support which your administrations have granted to no less a litany of dictators. The biggest threat posed to America is not the weapons of the rest of the world. It is the universe of lies which have been built around your very own citizens.
The danger is not the regime of Saddam, nor any other regime, but the sense of superiority which seems to inspire your government. Your biggest enemy is not on the outside. It is within the USA. That war can only be won by the Americans themselves.
I should like to be able to celebrate the downfall of Saddam Hussein. Even to celebrate along with the Americans. But without hypocrisy, without argument and without having to swallow the consumerised pronouncements of the mentally impaired. Because we, my dear President Bush, we, the people of the smaller countries of this world, have a “Weapon of Mass Construction”: the ability to think.