Appeal for Help as I File Stories from Baghdad


1. Background (A): Sacrificing Everything for Peace

For justice and peace, we must be prepared to sacrifice everything,
including life itself. A just peace will not come to the Middle East
until ordinary citizens rise up.  We plain folk must show by our
nonviolent sacrifices of health and life, if need be in the very
crossfires of the battlefields, that we are more devoted to peace than
the soldiers are devoted to war.

The new century may well see an increasing application of this deeply
physical line of thought. I imagine in today's Iraq crisis a couple of
hundred, but in tomorrow's crises many thousands, of pacifists
inserting themselves into conflict zones. This, I repeat, may well
become a reality of military affairs in our new century - just as our
new century may well see the advent of the planet-wide full-text
universal-access "World Wide Library"; or just as our new century may
well (to take a more talked-about example) see the replacement of
fossil fuels with a hydrogen economy.

Trying to do my bit to move that pacifist development forward, I
applied yesterday for an Iraqi visa. My career is therefore at a
crossroads. If the visa is granted in time, I go to Baghdad as a
peacemaker. If the visa application is denied, I have to rethink my

2. Background (B): The Case against the Envisaged War

The case against the envisaged war has been argued in many ways.

I myself argued it last August, in an open letter to Donald
Rumsfeld. (The letter was published in the Toronto Estonian community
press, but is more conveniently available in the "Literary" section of
my Web site.) My thesis back then was that the war planners regard
Iraqi lives as less valuable than American lives, contrary to the
political ideals of America's founders.

That same approach to the case is hinted at in the Toronto _Globe
and Mail_ for 2003-02-08, in a fine letter from Toronto
 reader Richard Bingham:


The one incontrovertible fact of empires is they all eventually end.
I strongly suspect that when some future Edward Gibbon writes of
America's "decline and fall", he will identify George Bush's Iraq
vendetta as the point at which this empire decisively, finally and
fatally abandoned the virtues that made it great.


The case was interestingly argued earlier this week by legal scholars,
many of them British, who considered the envisaged war a breach of
international law.

Some modest sign that something is wrong, some beginning of an argued
case, emerges also from plain news reports, outside the editorial
sections of our press.  A few weeks ago, Downing Street was
embarrassed to have been caught plagiarizing from a decade-old
graduate-student paper on the Iraqi organs of control. Mr Blair's
government had led many in the British public to think that its
plagiarized briefing conveyed the results of up-to-date professional
military-political research.  Today the newspapers tell us that key
documents purporting to detail Iraq's nuclear ambitions are in the
opinion of the relevant United Nations experts forged. (The documents
include letters representing Iraq as seeking to purchase uranium from
Niger. The forgery was committed by a con man who sold his artistry to
a gullible European intelligence operative.) Are we not here seeing
Washington and London bluffing, formulating policy in a
military-intelligence vacuum?

I conclude my sketch of the antiwar case by citing a peculiarly
authoritative writer.  On 27 February, the _New York Times_ published
the following letter of resignation, from American career diplomat
John Brady Kiesling, to American Secretary of State Colin Powell. Mr
Kiesling's American embassy postings had included Tel Aviv,
Casablanca, and Yerevan:

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I am writing you to submit my resignation from the Foreign Service of
the United States and from my position as Political Counselor in U.S. 
Embassy Athens, effective March 7. I do so with a heavy heart. The
baggage of my upbringing included a felt obligation to give something
back to my country.

Service as a U.S. diplomat was a dream job. I was paid to understand
foreign languages and cultures, to seek out diplomats, politicians,
scholars and journalists, and to persuade them that U.S. interests and
theirs fundamentally coincided. My faith in my country and its values
was the most powerful weapon in my diplomatic arsenal.

It is inevitable that during twenty years with the State Department I
would become more sophisticated and cynical about the narrow and selfish
bureaucratic motives that sometimes shaped our policies. Human nature is
what it is, and I was rewarded and promoted for understanding human
nature. But until this Administration it had been possible to believe
that by upholding the policies of my president I was also upholding the
interests of the American people and the world. I believe it no longer.

The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with
American values but also with American interests. Our fervent pursuit of
war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy
that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense
since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest
and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever
known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not

The sacrifice of global interests to domestic politics and to
bureaucratic self-interest is nothing new, and it is certainly not a
uniquely American problem. Still, we have not seen such systematic
distortion of intelligence, such systematic manipulation of American
opinion, since the war in Vietnam. The September 11 tragedy left us
stronger than before, rallying around us a vast international coalition
to cooperate for the first time in a systematic way against the threat
of terrorism. But rather than take credit for those successes and build
on them, this Administration has chosen to make terrorism a domestic
political tool, enlisting a scattered and largely defeated Al Qaeda as
its bureaucratic ally. We spread disproportionate terror and confusion
in the public mind, arbitrarily linking the unrelated problems of
terrorism and Iraq. The result, and perhaps the motive, is to justify a
vast misallocation of shrinking public wealth to the military and to
weaken the safeguards that protect American citizens from the heavy hand
of government. September 11 did not do as much damage to the fabric of
American society as we seem determined to so to ourselves. Is the Russia
of the late Romanovs really our model, a selfish, superstitious empire
thrashing toward self-destruction in the name of a doomed status quo?

We should ask ourselves why we have failed to persuade more of the world
that a war with Iraq is necessary. We have over the past two years done
too much to assert to our world partners that narrow and mercenary U.S.
interests override the cherished values of our partners. Even where our
aims were not in question, our consistency is at issue. The model of
Afghanistan is little comfort to allies wondering on what basis we plan
to rebuild the Middle East, and in whose image and interests. Have we
indeed become blind, as Russia is blind in Chechnya, as Israel is blind
in the Occupied Territories, to our own advice, that overwhelming
military power is not the answer to terrorism? After the shambles of
post-war Iraq joins the shambles in Grozny and Ramallah, it will
be a brave foreigner who forms ranks with Micronesia to follow where we

We have a coalition still, a good one. The loyalty of many of our
friends is impressive, a tribute to American moral capital built up over
a century. But our closest allies are persuaded less that war is
justified than that it would be perilous to allow the U.S. to drift into
complete solipsism. Loyalty should be reciprocal. Why does our President
condone the swaggering and contemptuous approach to our friends and
allies this Administration is fostering, including among its most senior
officials? Has "oderint dum metuant" really become our motto?

I urge you to listen to America's friends around the world. Even here in
Greece, purported hotbed of European anti-Americanism, we have more and
closer friends than the American newspaper reader can possibly imagine.
Even when they complain about American arrogance, Greeks know that the
world is a difficult and dangerous place, and they want a strong
international system, with the U.S. and EU in close partnership. When
our friends are afraid of us rather than for us, it is time to worry.
And now they are afraid. Who will tell them convincingly that the United
States is as it was, a beacon of liberty, security, and justice for the

Mr. Secretary, I have enormous respect for your character and ability.
You have preserved more international credibility for us than our policy
deserves, and salvaged something positive from the excesses of an
ideological and self-serving Administration. But your loyalty to the
President goes too far. We are straining beyond its limits an
international system we built with such toil and treasure, a web of
laws, treaties, organizations, and shared values that sets limits on our
foes far more effectively than it ever constrained America's ability to
defend its interests.

I am resigning because I have tried and failed to reconcile my
conscience with my ability to represent the current U.S. Administration.
I have confidence that our democratic process is ultimately
self-correcting, and hope that in a small way I can contribute from
outside to shaping policies that better serve the security and
prosperity of the American people and the world we share.

I hope that those among my readers who work in the UN Security Council
will take Mr Kiesling's letter particularly to heart. Council
delegates! We look to you to represent honestly the interests of the
world, including the world's poor and weak nations. Do not betray that
trust, however severe the great-power diplomatic pressures may become
Sunday and Monday, as you prepare for Tuesday's vote!

Many people say that if we are to oppose war, we must offer a concrete
alternative. So we must. Here is my alternative: Let there be a hefty
United Nations inspection presence in Iraq not as a temporary measure,
but more or less permanently. Let it be understood that the
intrusivity of the insepctions is variable, with the number of
inspectors on the ground liable to increase sharply if the level of
cooperation from the Iraqi government declines. If, for the sake of
the argument, we ignore the sanctity of human life, and consider only
dollar costs, we may well find a massive, permanent inspection force
to be expensive, yet cheaper than war and its aftermath.

Am I wrong in my conjuecture regarding comparative dollar costs? Then
let us have Washington and London move rational debate forward by
disproving my conjecture, with a budgetary analysis such as we may
legitimately demand from our architects of public policy.

Whatever may have been the political climate in the 1990s, Iraq cannot
now dare make inspectors unwelcome.  If inspections failed in a
technical sense in the 1990s, having failed to uncover necessary
information, that was not because the idea of inspections as such was
impractical.  It was, rather, because insufficient technical resources
and Western political will were devoted to the task at that time.

Fifteen or so years ago, I visited the United Nations tower in New
York. Furniture, decor, and fittings are of little intrinsic
importance.  Nevertheless, such things are clues to underlying
administrative realities. My little visit, my little inspection of the
physical tools available, suggested to me that the United Nations back
then was not a particularly well-resourced enterprise.  I understand
that inspection of that same physical plant this year would yield the
same verdict.  Is the day finally dawning when we see that the money
we have been pouring into weapons systems would be better spent on the
United Nations?

Let me make that point again, in a rather sharp tone. The United
States spends a billion dollars a day in defence. Various other
countries (Canada comes to mind) keep their own security spending low
by trusting to American arms, happy enough to benefit from a daily
billion-dollar military outflow from the American exchequer. Isn't it
time all of us rearranged our financial priorities - even at the cost
(if we can't make programme cuts anywhere) of sharply increased taxes?
Are higher taxes, perhaps, a fair and reasonable exchange for enhanced
world peace?

Of course, once we do consider the sanctity of human life, we find
that any expenditure at all, no matter how ruinous, is preferable to a
war, no matter how cheap.

3. What I Hope to Accomplish in Baghdad

One of my aims in travelling is to write.  I hope to produce short
journalistic pieces on the realities of Baghdad life, and later to
pull those pieces together, or have someone pull them together on my
behalf, into a short book.  (Among the possible book titles:

Another of my aims is to counsel the Iraqi leadership, using a few
simple, yet not completely conventional, diplomatic resources.
(Whatever the strict theory of international law may prescribe, the
practical political realities now, of course, dictate that the
leadership save the nation it purports to serve by voluntarily
relinquishing power. Given the intransigence of the American State
Department, I shall probably be in no position to offer any happier
solution.) Although my chances of success in that diplomatic
initiative are nearly nil, I can perhaps try to establish a certain
common ground with my fellow Catholic Mr Tariq Aziz.

Should access to Mr Aziz be granted me, I may be able to make some
mildly creative use of my indirect links, or more accurately my
potential indirect links, with the government of Estonia. I propose to
travel not only with my Canadian passport, but also with my Estonian
citizen-identity card, using the passport in crossing international
borders. My Estonian citizenship I would hold in reserve for
diplomatic work.

I stress that I am prepared to make any sacrifice - reputation,
health, sanity, life - if I can thereby secure the peaceful departure
from power of the current lamentable Iraqi administration.  Current
American official attitudes, however legally incorrect they may be,
seem to make that the only way to save lives.

Above all, though, I aim to strengthen, by my mere physical presence
in Baghdad, the message of the human shields to the sorely misgoverned
Iraqi people. That blindingly obvious message: not only do many
ordinary people in the West oppose this war; further, significant
numbers of them (with the recent peace-shield flights to safety, still
perhaps two hundred of them) are prepared to die demonstrating their
unflinching opposition to this most injust, illegal, irrational,
reckless, heartless war.
How high, I now ask myself, is the probability of my own death? I
propose to take normal risks, not extravagant ones. I do not, in other
words, seek suicide by politics. Even should the mean Mr Bush and the
desperate Mr Hussein together unleash a holocaust, the city of Baghdad
is unlikely (I subjectively judge) to see more than a million dead,
out of a total population five or six times that size. The odds of my
returning alive are thus in a crude mathematical sense
favourable. Indeed I somehow foresee the whole episode ending happily,
so far as I am myself concerned, with my resuming ordinary
nonpolitical duties in Toronto, alive and well after only a few weeks'

4. How You Can Support this Initiative

This mail will have been brought to the attention, in the majority of
cases indirectly and discreetly, of several hundred publishing
professionals.  That tightly knit community essentially comprises
copyeditors and substantive-stylistic editors, many of them
freelancing for book houses, across Canada. If you are a member of the
community, you can help make my envisaged writing a success.  You can
put yourself at my disposal when I am in Baghdad, making yourself
ready to receive my e-mails, or my live phone calls, or even
conceivable crude Canadian-produced tape recordings of my live phone
calls.  These communications will convey my successive essays, perhaps
in many cases at a length of around 700 or 1000 words, perhaps
typically at the rate of one essay per day.

Your job will start with applying the polish that I do not have time
to apply in the field, where rapid writing is essential. You know the
kind of polish such writing needs. It will often be necessary to
substitute a plain, honest word for some excessively fancy word, as
stress drives me more and more out of the Anglo-Saxon vernacular into
over-intellectualized academic English.  Sometimes it will be
necessary for you to clarify my narrative flow by rearranging
paragraphs.  In an extreme case, you might even have to ghostwrite, on
the strength of mere clause-form points that I transmit to you in

Your job will continue with getting my pieces into the hands of the
newspapers, to the extent that I cannot attend to newspaper relations
myself. (I'll try to do my bit.)

Finally, your job will involve maintaining connections with our
selected book house, ensuring that the essays are quickly assembled
into a simple, hard-hitting volume in the tradition of the early
George Orwell's social reportage, and that the book presses can start
up rapidly in the event of my textual flow coming to an end. (In
specifying Orwell's early period, I wish to focus your editorial
judgement not on his celebrated late works, _1984_ and _Animal Farm_,
but on the straight was-there-saw-that output, such as _The Road to
Wigan Pier_, with which he began his writing life.)

It may be necessary to bring out some of my material in a condensed
form in newspapers, and at full length only in the book. Here your
editorial project-management skills will prove helpful.

If you are not a member of the Canadian publishing community I have
just described, you can still do your bit. I need some technically
inclined people to help me with research into satellite phones, into
power supplies which take in the Iraqi mains current and put out 110 V
60 Hz AC, and into the more general topic of laptop-computer battery

I also need people who can run numerous small, occasionally delicate,
not particularly technical, errands.

One such errand is the preparation of a set of cloth attachments for
my clothing and baggage, showing the peace symbol in reflective
tape. (If you not only can manipulate reflective tape, but also are
one of that hard-to-find elite which understands Arabic script, all
the better.)

Another such errand, for which I can even pay eight (8) Canadian
dollars an hour through a lawyer, is filling in for me in NASA
nearby-stars electronic spectroscopy at the David Dunlap Observatory
in Toronto's suburbs. Enthusiasm for astronomy would help. But your
main task in this case is to be physically present in a control room
through the approximately five March nights scheduled in my
Baghdad-probable calendar segment, so that the telescope operator is
not left alone.  If, as is highly unlikely, an accident occurs to the
operator, it becomes your duty to summon help from the other
scientists living on the observatory grounds, or from the local
emergency services.

To volunteer your assistance, please write, in some crude and simple
way, sacrificing elegance for speed, to ((verbum@interlog.com)). Use
the subject heading (that is, the e-mail software "Re:" line)
"HELPING iraq antiwar".


Toomas (Tom) Karmo



DOCUMENT-IN-A-NUTSHELL: letter asking for help in Iraq antiwar travel/writing

__Toomas (Tom) Karmo = {t.karmo} 

__definitive archived version 
  is on {t.karmo} Linix workstation veritas.localdomain 
__convenient-reference version
  is in "Technical" section of http://www.metascientia.com 
  __mirrored at http://www.interlog.com/~verbum/


  __added remarks to satisfy a specific debater's 
    request for my concrete
    policy alternative to Mr Bush's envisaged war

  __prepared base version, quite hastily 


__long, elaborate letter disseminated in the following ways
  over the period 20030309T014202Z/20030311T235959Z,  
  and possibly disseminated in other ways at later times:  
  * by direct e-mail to many or all of the recipients of 
    my 20030307T042318Z e-mail 
    __that was an e-mail bearing subject line
      "SEVERE!! I go Iraq, as Human Shield?"
  * by direct e-mail to various individuals who should have
    received my 20030307T042318Z e-mail, but whom I failed, 
    under the stress of the moment, to include in the transmission
  * by way of e-mail cc to the team of Iranian charge d'affaires
    Mr{mamdouh.mustafa} in Ottawa, 
    via the one e-mail address I currently know for the Iraqi
    Embassy in Ottawa, ((iraqyia@on.aibn.com))
  * by way of individual e-mails to the desks of the United Nations
    Security Council delegations
  * to the United States State Department, 
    through the Web public-feedback interface at 
  * by way of a short discrete, indirect, nationwide listserv posting
    at a certain professional organization for Canadian editors
    __the posting reaches several hundred editors
    __ths short posting invites its readers to consult 
      the upload of this letter to my Web site 
  * certain Estonian circles, by various 
    (_essentially indirect) means
__all readers are free to publish this letter, to forward it, 
  or to publish a URL allowing others to find it on the Web