Mobilize to stop the Gulf War

Published February 4, 1991 in The New Federalist
  

Speech from autumn of 1990

Dr. Said, a Palestinian-American, recently returned from a September 1990 trip to Iraq and Kuwait, where he met with Iraqi officials and Iraqi and Kuwaiti citizens. Dr. Said is the chairman of the Arab-American Association against Intervention in the Gulf, a regional representative of the Islamic Medical Association, and the U.S. congressional representative of the National Association of Arab-Americans. He is the vice chairman of the Grant County Democratic Central Committee, and he resides in the state of Washington. He addressed the conference on December 16. An edited transcript of his speech follows.

I recently went to Kuwait, and some of you might have seen me on CNN, since I was allowed to take a video camera into Kuwait, and I was probably the only American so far who has been allowed to go there.

I went there, basically to try to help to defuse this crisis, and prevent this madness of going to war.

Two years ago, when I was in Atlanta representing the state of Washington at the Democratic National Platform Committee, I had a chance to meet some of the LaRouche people, and I had a chance to read their publications, and some of their papers, which were excellent, and were very impressive. It is so ironic that Mr. LaRouche, who should be, in this critical time, helping to defuse this crisis, because of his stature, because of his relationship with the people in the Middle East, is in jail for a stupid reason, or probably for no reason….

I am very much involved with what’s going on in the Gulf, because I myself am a Palestinian-American, born in Haifa, Palestine, which is now a part of Israel. I emigrated to Canada, then to the United States, but my roots are still there, my family, my relatives, etc. So, anything that effects the Gulf crisis one way or the other, is directly going to affect the Palestinian people.

The people who are pushing for this war, mostly are not the American people; it’s from foreign countries, and I mention particularly the Israelis, the Kuwaitis, and to a lesser extent, the Saudis. Unfortunately, in this country. those who are pushing for war, are some of those Establishment figures, who are looking to destroy Iraq, not worrying about, really, Kuwait—they don’t give a damn about Kuwait, they just want to destroy Iraq. This way, they keep Israel as a free hand.

Israel is the most powerful country in the region with its expansionist policy, and probably will make a provocative action, to expel what’s remaining of the Palestinian people from the West Bank and Gaza. In this way, they plan to make more room for the Soviet Jews coming from the Soviet Union. It’s a conspiracy. The United States said before that we would not give trade status to Russia because [they barred] the emigration of Jews. Suddenly, when they opened this door to let them go, we shut our door here, to let them go to Israel, at the expense and misery of the Palestinian people.

I went to Kuwait, and I went to Baghdad in late August and early September. I met with high officials there, I shot videotapes, and I witnessed what is happening there. Of course, there is a lot of exaggeration about the atrocities committed against the Kuwaitis, and I went myself to hospitals there, and I interviewed doctors who are Kuwaitis, and I questioned them particularly about the rumors, or the widespread reports, such as that the incubators were taken to Baghdad, and Kuwaiti babies were left to die. That is absolutely false. I mentioned this when I showed my video at the United Nations. The day they voted for that last resolution, to send the military, I had a press conference at the United Nations at 10 am., before they had the vote, although we knew ahead what was going to happen. And, I showed my video, and gave interviews … and answered lots of questions about Kuwait.

Call for Linkage

So, in my judgment, a linkage between the Palestinian issue and, the withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait, is very important, and this is what the Palestinians want. The reason is very simple because the Palestinians gave more than the “extra mile” to recognize Israel’s right to exist; indeed, I was one who drafted that famous resolution at the Democratic State Convention in Washington State, calling for a Palestinian state, and self-determination for the Palestinians, alongside Israel. We passed that resolution two years ago, by a unanimous vote. And, believe me, when I went to Denver, Colorado, to represent the state on the national platform committee, I was shocked to find out that what the people want, and what the people decide, has nothing to do with what those behind the scenes—Kissinger and all of his disciples— what they decide.

When I arrived there, I found that the Democratic Party did not even want to mention the word “Palestinians” in the platform. And, when the vote came, two [other members] of the Platform Committee who had voted for our resolutions at the state level, voted against a milder resolution at that convention. I asked them, “look here, what’s happening?” They said, “sorry, this is something coming down from headquarters.” So, I really lost my faith in the party—as an establishment to give any justice for the Palestinians.

This year, it happened again. When I was elected as a delegate, and we went to the state convention in Spokane, in June, we had the same resolution. So, I found out, a few days before 1,500 of us arrived there at the convention, the ADL [Anti-Defamation League] and the AIPAC [American-Israeli Political Action Committee], the pro-Israeli factions, had circulated a letter to the convention to defeat our proposal. That letter was on the letterhead of Mr. Jim McDermott, the congressman from Seattle. And, that letter was signed by 83 elected officials from the state of Washington, including the senator, congressmen, governor, everybody against the resolution for the Palestinians.

I introduced a new resolution at that time, including an invitation to Chairman Yasser Arafat to come to the United States; and another resolution to cut aid for Israel, unless they addressed the human rights of Palestinians. The convention voted for those two, and they passed as part of the platform of the Democratic Party. We also passed the resolution to make the Middle East free from nuclear and chemical weapons, which means that, when the American people, just the average people, know the facts, they will react. However, our elected officers are far from that… They try to do whatever they want.

For me, this linkage is very important. Be- cause, when the Palestinians went this extra mile, to give the Israelis, who expelled them from their homes [a settlement]. When the Gulf crisis came, I thought, again, linkage is important, the linkage of withdrawal of Iraq from Kuwait, [to a settlement of the Palestinian crisis]. I issued a report, of which I will leave a copy here, in the name of the Arab-Americans Against U.S. Military Intervention. As the chairman, I published that statement on August 7, and again on August 16. It mentions the linkage. This statement asks that the United Nations be fair, and apply the same standard to the Israelis as they have to the Iraqis. Now, there is a double standard, and hypocrisy will not be accepted.

Two Tactics

The second issue is: What can we really do? Unfortunately, there are many forces trying to push this issue to war—which, as many of you heard in the testimony of former chiefs of staff and others, is going to be very messy. And it’s not really just the war itself, it’s the consequences after that.

We formed a group in Seattle, it’s called the Uniting for Peace delegation. Of course, action against the war is spread all over; not just our group, but other denominations as well. You heard about the Council of Churches and the Catholic Bishops—all are against the war.

So, who is for the war? I don’t know. I have to question the 45 pro-Israeli organizations, who met with President Bush. I have to question Henry Kissinger, and Rep. Stephen Solarz, who is always coming out as a liberal, he is for the Filipinos, he is for this, for that. To hell, what about the Middle East? He doesn’t care about sending tens of thousands of soldiers for the sake of making the Israelis strong. This is not in the national interest. This is not patriotism.

So, we have, really, two things to do.

One is very short-term: try to prevent this war very quickly, to do our best, and we are planning to do two things in the next 15 days. We are going to fast, conduct a hunger strike for peace, and we hope it will be nationwide, on January 10. And, we would like to have tents, or something, in front of congressmen’s homes. Each one, from his own city, goes and puts a tent or a mobile home, something, in front of his congressman or his senator’s house, and fasts. On January12, there are going to be demonstra- tions all over. Not just in the United States, but all over the world, including Europe and everywhere.

You have heard about the Gulf Peace organizers, who are trying now to put a camp, with tents, between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. They are also making headway…

We would like also to get some volunteers to go to Baghdad. Baghdad is not piles of sand, like Kuwait. What is Kuwait? I know Kuwait, I was there. The state of Kuwait is the city of Kuwait City—it’s just a little city. That’s all. So, if the troops have to go into Kuwait, they have to go all the way to liberate Kuwait City, because otherwise there is nothing but sand. You get out of Kuwait City 12 miles, and there is absolutely nothing. And, except for 300,000 ethnic Kuwaitis who have full rights, the residents—one and a half million—have very few rights. They could not own property; they could not have a business, except in the name of a Kuwaiti, even if the Kuwaiti contributes absolutely nothing. And, if the business prospers, the Kuwaiti comes and takes it over.

This is why, you may have heard about three years ago, there was a hijacking of a Kuwaiti airplane by a Jordanian. The reason: They took his business. He wanted just to get his money back. … Have you heard that in Kuwait, if a non-Kuwaiti crossed the traffic red light, he could be deported? Just like that. There is no fine, no prison. Just deportation from the country. This is the discrimination there.

War for Princes?

You have heard many reports about the Emir of Kuwait, who had more than 70 wives. That’s what we are fighting for? And, we’re fighting for 500 princes in Saudi Arabia with 15.000 wives there? It’s ridiculous. This is what we’re fighting for? They don’t even allow U.S. troops to display the flag. This is the ultimate hypocrisy, because if they wanted to be nationalist, and truly Muslim, or whatever, they should not invite the Americans in in the first place.

There is disinformation about [the Middle East] in this country. Many things are not really told by the news media.

And, what can we do? I think, believe me, we can do a lot … We have to reach the people. That’s the main thing. Reach the people, the average people, and they respond.