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Bangladesh Media

The sanctions which emasculated Iraq's economy and its people for the last more than a decade are to go cannot be in doubt. In fact, what lends a greater urgency to the task of doing away with the longstanding paralytic fetters is that a war has come on top of it devastating the residual economic, marketing and service infrastructures of Iraq…the paramount task before the international community now is humanitarian and security-centred; it is certainly not one of free trade and distribution of contracts. From that standpoint, the US initiative sounds premature, self-willed and unilateral smacking of the approach with which the war had been originally waged against Iraq…The EU summit in Athens is on to bridge the gaps between pro- and anti-war leaders within the fold as they face the stupendous task of getting Iraq back to its feet. Kofi Annan was present at the venue conveying UN's concern for the plight of Iraqis as well as over the divisions within the EU which needed to be reconciled for a peaceful world order.

Let's hope they make a common cause of helping the Iraqis out of their worst crisis in history and save the world from any domino effect of the war.

-- Editorial, The Daily Star, Dhaka, April 18, 2003

The war on Iraq has left a trail of devastation, and assessing the damage caused by it is an enormous task. Most significantly, the latest reports show that not only the people of Iraq and their earthly possessions but also priceless relics of the great Babylonian civilisation may have been lost through plunder and looting…It is one of the saddest events of modern times that such relics have been allowed to be vandalised, with the American troops silently watching the death blows being dealt to the remains of the Babylonian civilisation. The war leaders have shown a very poor sense of history little realising that the current level of human civilisatoin is deeply rooted and thus indebted to the best of mankind's recorded past. The indifference to the Iraqi treasures is patently indefensible. Seemingly, their penchant for a new beginning has got the better of the fact that Iraq cradled a civilisation that couldn't be left to the vagaries of looting…We recall that Americans had used strong words to condemn the vandalisation of the statues of Buddha at Bamian, Afghanistan, by Taliban zealots only a few years ago. But how will they now assess their own failure to save the priceless museum pieces in Baghdad?

Mortified as we are, we look to the UNESCO's concern for world heritage coming into play here. Sincere efforts need to be made now to save whatever is still left of the museum of civilisation. What is more to the point, however, is that some determined police work is undertaken to recover the lost treasure and restore it to the museum.

Editorial, The Daily Star, Dhaka, April 15, 2003

The picture in Iraq looks chaotic. Whether the war is over or not, a very ugly scene of the turbulence is unfolding in capital Baghdad and other cities. An administrative hiatus is always dangerous, all the more so in a war-torn country. Looting and arson are reportedly going on unchecked…It is the duty of those who control, or aspire to control, Iraq to enforce law and order and ease civic conditions. Cities are without water and electricity and the essential utilities. A danger associated with unchecked looting is that it signifies the first phase of anarchy. The longer looting persists, the more difficult will it be for any authority to re-establish order…the modern world affords many examples where religious and ethnic peace enforced under dictators proves deceptive. One may recall Yugoslavia. As soon as the dictator leaves the scene, the outburst occurs. And unlike Marshal Tito Saddam did not even try to do justice to all ethnic and religious groups and his own tribe and region had an unchallenged predominance at all decision making levels.

If the chaos persists, humanitarian aid cannot be reached and people's sufferings will intensify. Shortage of water in the cities is already posing a health hazard. The UN must play its part to enforce order and bring about normalcy. If the UN is assigned a subordinate role, we are afraid, the turmoil may be prolonged because no other controlling authority will command universal acceptability.

-- Editorial, The Independent, Dhaka, April 13, 2003

There are all the signs of an uncontrollable descent to chaos in Iraq. With civil disorder reaching a critical point, the chances of the war-ravaged country recovering quickly have been badly jolted. Yet, the occupying forces are unwilling to police the cities that they have taken over, after three weeks of bloody war. They may not have the training or the experience to handle a situation like this, but leaving an occupied country to the looters or anarchists amounts to a clear violation of the Geneva Convention. The war strategists should have been able to envision the situation that they now find themselves in. It was not unexpected that law and order would collapse after the fall of the regime in Baghdad. But the troops are apparently not ready to deal with the sudden turn of events…the coalition commanders are making a mockery of their 'liberation plan' by failing to bring back order to the areas that they control…nothing would be more unkind than leaving the people on their own to deal with this unusually complicated situation, for which they are by no means responsible.

An interim administration authorised by the UN is the crying need of the hour and that would be the first step towards reorganising the civil administration of the shattered country. The international community, which has so far observed with great consternation an illegitimate war taking a heavy toll of human lives, should intensify the pressure on the coalition leaders to put an interim administration in place and make the people of Iraq the rightful arbiters of their political destiny.

-- Editorial, The Daily Star, Dhaka, April 12, 2003

Baghdad, the citadel of Saddam's power, has fallen before an overwhelming military campaign of the coalition forces. But the war is not over yet…It will be skin-deep to regard the scene of jubilation in a Shia district of Baghdad or snap-shot thumbs-up signs as being representative of the majority Iraqi sentiment…The coalition forces' victory has one big missing element, which is legitimacy. Let's not forget, the war was waged without UN sanction. So the lack of legitimacy will stalk the victory as well as reconstruction work so long as the UN is not allowed to play its due role with a multilateral authority right from this point in time onwards…The first task before the UN is to establish an interim authority in Iraq. That done, its specialised agencies will be in a position to rebuild the lives of the Iraqis. Then, the UN takes on a role to maintain peace and security, something which we believe has been ignored in the case of Afghanistan…The vision of the ultimate political set-up for Iraq will have to come from the UN Security Council, not from the conquerers making a war entirely of their own volition.

No international solution to the Iraq question can be credible, acceptable and durable unless the UN becomes the sole guarantor for a government by the Iraqis, of the Iraqis and for the Iraqis. It will be an act of perfidy on international law if the Iraqis are not given charge of their destiny.

Editorial, The Daily Star, Dhaka, April 11, 2003

As the on-going invasion of Iraq is devoid of all ethics and morality, all rules have been dispensed with, a fact manifested by mounting civilian deaths. One more evidence is the killing of journalists. Journalists who cover war do run great risk but in this case twelve journalists are reported dead in nineteen days of the war. What is more, seldom in the previous wars was the allegation made that journalists were deliberately targeted…Tarek Ayoub, cameraman of Al Jazeera TV network was killed after US fighter jets bombed the network's Baghdad office. Two other journalists, an Ukrainian and a Spanish, were killed when the Palestine Hotel, in which journalists were lodged, was shelled by US forces…Al Jazeera had incurred the wrath of the invaders by not parroting the Anglo-American commanders' claims and was trying to give a balanced picture of the war. It cannot be assumed that it was biased in favour of Iraq and the fact is that at one stage the network was prohibited by the Iraqi government to work in Iraq.

The media has been throttled from the first day of the aggression. A Portuguese journalist had been mercilessly beaten up. Not only was truth suppressed but false information has been planted. The Nobel laureate Gunter Grass says he is seeing information terror in this conflict. A story was planted that Iraq had purchased uranium from Niger. The US seized upon this apocryphal story to incriminate Iraq and create an international scare. Later both Niger and Iraq denied the story but by then the propaganda machine had moved into full gear.

Editorial, The Independent, Dhaka, April 10, 2003

The war on Iraq, which has been a humanitarian disaster in every sense of the term, has also proven costly in terms of the lives of journalists. So far at least 12 journalists covering the war have been killed. Never in the past so many mediamen lost their lives while covering a war in such a short time…but the biggest embarrassment coming in the US administration's way was the shelling of a Baghdad hotel, which left a Reuters cameraman and a Spanish television journalist dead. The shelling, claims the Pentagon, was a counter-attack after the US troops came under sniper attacks. The US general commenting on the sad incident made a point of mentioning that the soldiers had the right to defend themselves when they were attacked. He also tried to give a picture of the battlefield where the general rules are often nullified by the heat and fury of fierce encounters…The attack on Al-Jazeera television's Baghdad station, which killed one journalist, is an even more agonising example of what the journalists, except those embeds, have been subjected to. Al-Jazeera has certainly emerged as a credible alternative to BBC and CNN in giving the 'other side' of the story. But its footage on the coalition PoWs caused much consternation and a mood of disagreement in the countries like the United States. So the fear that they could make an attempt to settle scores with the television channel was not altogether unfounded.

Most of the journalists killed in the war were professionals of the highest standard and some of them had the experience of covering six to twelve conflicts in the past. So their deaths must have been a terrible blow to the organisatons that they belonged to, and an even greater setback to the cause of truth that they stood for.

Editorial, The Daily Star, Dhaka, April 10, 2003

When this word (Liberation) is applied to the on-going military operation in Iraq where civilians are dying by the thousand, hospitals are overfilled with the wounded, largely women and children, bombs and missiles are flattening cities and towns, columns of smoke are constantly obscuring the skyline of beautiful and legendary Baghdad and archaeological remains from the earliest civilisations are in danger of being wiped out, we are kept guessing what more crimes remain to be committed in the name of liberty and democracy…One of the casualties of this invasion is credibility of the Western media. The Information Age was in exile and military commanders decided what news deserved to be spoon-fed to the eager people, forgetting that adults are not to be sedated with lullaby... Whether Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction is still a matter of speculation, but the Anglo-American forces are free to deploy whatever killer devices they think are necessary to "shock and awe". All kinds of weapons and destructive components that the invaders have used are legitimate weapons including cluster bombs, bunker busting bombs and Depleted Uranium. As this war lacked even a shred of moral validity to begin with, certain niceties of ethics and semantics have been discarded early on, as is evident from some audacious phrases - "shock and awe", "decapitation", etc…For the first time American political leadership is being governed directly and unabashedly by business interest. We have no idea what rank has been reserved for the USA by Transparency International, which has placed Bangladesh at the top of the list of corrupt countries. Even the hunt for Osama bin Laden seems to have become secondary because that will not bring business.

Even at the stage of post-war reconstruction the US is unwilling to cede any important role to the UN. The logic is plain. Since USA has given blood, USA alone will handle the reconstruction. Without UN participation, the people of Iraq will never be won over and it will make the whole process of reconstruction look like enjoyment of war booty. In this business-driven operation contract for reconstruction has already been given to an American firm, according to a report. The man likely to be placed in charge of post-war Iraq is a retired American General, J. Garner. Yes, he too is a weapons merchant. The territorial integrity of Iraq and protection of its oil looks more and more problematic.

-- Editorial, The Independent, Dhaka, April 9, 2003.

As the thoroughly unequal war on Iraq reaches a climactic point, differences are surfacing in the US establishment over a possible UN role in the post-conflict Baghdad... powerful segment of the US government is making no bones about its agenda for a dominant American role in the administration of post-war Iraq. We expected that after waging a fundamentally unexplained war the hawks will be sensible to try and make up with the doves and, by the same token, with the dissenting world public opinion, by agreeing to the primacy of the UN…Condoleezza Rice, the close confidante of US President George Bush has made it clear that a retired US army general is to take over Iraq's administration. Even who might that administrator be and what his mandate would be, seem to have been already decided upon in the typical colonialist tradition of, what one would have thought, a by-gone era…Significantly, Condoleezza came out with a statement that read like 'a clarification' of what Secretary of State Collin Powell had to say at the Brussels meeting of European foreign ministers. He spoke of a possible UN involvement in a partnership role with the US. Even that 'partnering' appears shrouded in clouds after the latest positioning by Bush's advisor. What seemingly throws a spanner on the wheels of UN primacy is the claim to a predominant US role in the so-called post-conflict Iraq on the ground that America gave life and blood in the war. The question is, such sacrifice as the sacrifice on the Iraqi side as well, could all be avoided if the war was not waged in the first place.

Just look at the plight Iraq has been reduced to. It deserves better than a military government from an occupying power. If it is not truly a conquest of Iraq but an intervention to win the hearts and minds of the people, then the centrality of the UN role must be accepted by the belligerent party. That is the only way to help the Iraqis build a future for themselves.

-- Editorial, The Daily Star, Dhaka, April 7, 2003

The allied command is claiming that it has moved within a striking range of invading Baghdad… Baghdad with its five to six million people is bracing for the terrible showdown. But one could not say with any degree of certitude that it will mark the climactic phase in the war. There are reasons to believe that the guerilla-style resistance is likely to continue against the operations of US-British ground forces that are regarded by all the indigenous people as an alien invading and occupying power…There has been a steep rise in the number of civilian casualties lately; hospitals and civilian structures have been bombed in reckless desperation, including a Red Crescent maternity infirmary and an annual trade fair venue…Simultaneously, the UNSC needs to be moved to pass a resolution seeking an early end to the war with a ceasefire brokered between the parties at once. This will help save lives on all sides besides preserving precious cultural and religious sites in Iraq, which are the heritage of mankind. Above all, there is the question of civilised conduct in international affairs.

To our mind, there is an added rationale for all this to happen. So far the allied operations have drawn a blank on weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq. Is it not a big irony that the US is warning Syria against its alleged supply of conventional weapons to the Iraqi regime when it was suspected to be possessing WMD?

-- Editorial, The Daily Star, Dhaka, April 4, 2003

President Bush has once again tried to portray himself, in his latest speech, as a saviour of Iraqi people …But the ground reality of the battlefields, where Iraqis are fighting desperately to slow down the advance of the coalition troops, is different. The American troops admitted yesterday that they killed seven (10 according to a report of the Washington Post) Iraqi women and children travelling in a van, after the vehicle failed to stop at a checkpoint in central Iraq. The US troops, fearing further suicide attacks, forgot, for once, that they were supposed to project themselves as liberators…The massacre of innocent civilians will also lend credence to the popular belief that the Americans are in Iraq to occupy the land at any cost, bothering little about the lives of Iraqi citizens. Besides, there is one additional worry -- more and more people in the Arab world will opt for desperate measures against the attackers. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has warned that another 100 Osama bin Ladens might be born out of the rubbles of the Iraq war.

The coalition leaders should heed Mubarak's warning. The war has created an opportunity for the extremist groups to find new recruits, seething with anger and hatred against the United States and its allies. The warmongers cannot realistically hope that they will commit mass murder and still maintain peace and order all over the world. It is still not too late for them to realise that the war is going to be too costly in terms of men and material, and, as such, it should be stopped immediately.

-- Editorial, The Daily Star, Dhaka, April 2, 2003

As the war in Iraq rages for the second week running, Bangladesh has to seriously count the adverse effects of the war on its economy. Professor Mustafizur Rahman, a leading researcher at the Centre for Policy Dialogue, figures that export trade of Bangladesh could be disrupted to the tune of US$ 700 million by the Iraq war…Foreign exchange remittances by wage earners abroad are also on the decline. Out of 2.7 million Bangladeshis employed abroad, 1.8 million are employed in the Middle East. Many of them are not receiving their salaries from their employers under the uncertainties of war effects…Finance Minister Saifur Rahman, however, is holding out assurances that the government would "face and manage the situation through institutional measures and capacity building," and thinks there is no cause for alarm. Businessmen, on the other hand, are perturbed already and are demanding that a high-powered committee headed by the Prime Minister be formed immediately to devise ways to absorb the shock of the war on Iraq and its aftermath.

We believe, more than stopgap austerity measures, it is time that heads are put together to work out a flexible strategy to protect the economy from vicissitudes like the war on Iraq, that might recur in the days to come in a global order under flux. In the anatomy for change within and without the nation-states, private enterprise has assumed a significant position. It is advisable that government increases scope of high powered consultation with business leaders, not only for crisis management as demanded by the exporters but also to work out a master strategy for economic growth.

Editorial, The Independent, Dhaka, March 29, 2003

President George W Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair again expressed their firm resolve, during the meeting at Camp David, that war on Iraq will continue until Saddam Hussein's regime is finished--protests though are mounting all over the world against the military operations, a direct attack on Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity…It has been reported that the US is not showing much enthusiasm about having the UN 'on board' during the post-war reconstruction of the country -- a point raised by Tony Blair during his talks with the US president.

The British prime minister is absolutely right in seeking a UN role in Iraq after the war is over. But what he has sidetracked is that the UN should also have a role in conflict resolution -- effecting an early cease-fire in this particular instance. If Blair now wants the UN to be involved in post-war reconstruction -- leaving it out of the military operations against a sovereign country -- the real intent behind his move might come under international scrutiny. It sounds like an attempt to bring the UN in to give a politically and morally unjustifiable war a degree of legitimacy.

Editorial, The Daily Star, Dhaka, March 29, 2003

The US-led war in Iraq launched with the much-touted promise of being 'bitter and brief' seems stuck in quicksand. Already into its eighth day, it shows no sign of abating with growing uncertainties stalking its future course. It looks set to escalate and become more complicated with each passing day…The US has opened a new front in northern Iraq apparently to play the referee between the Kurds and the Turks; but principally it is a self-confidence building measure on the part of Pentagon. On the back of the reverses the allied troops have faced in the southern parts of Iraq, they felt the need for a link-up with the friendly Kurdish north…Strategically, the war is becoming a costly venture for the US and UK. Longer their supply-line of armoured convoys, greater has been its exposure to guerilla sniper, even rocket launcher attacks…How heavy a cost the war is exacting has to be measured in terms of the divisions and breaches it has created in the UN, EU and NATO, let alone driving wedges between the governments and the peoples in various countries… the whole world naturally looks for an assertive UN role to bail us all out, Bush and Blair included, from the catastrophic repercussions of a prolonged war in the Gulf. Let there be a serious UNSC initiative calling for an immediate cease-fire in Iraq and disengagement of forces before the question of Baghdad's compliance with resolution 1441 is dealt with in a new perspective.

-- The Daily Star, Dhaka, March 28, 2003

The indiscriminate bombing in Baghdad professedly aimed to 'administer shock and awe to the Saddam regime' has resulted in heavy civilian casualties with women and children being the worst-hit victims. When three hundred missiles are dropped in a single night on a city of five to six million people, it's a hypocritical nonsense to claim that they being precision-guided pay-loads targeted at specific installations civilian lives would be spared… The humanitarian tragedy in Baghdad itself, which is being turned into a waste-land by heavy bombardment is likely to take on yet more horrendous proportions as the coalition armies press on from the south to move up to the capital city.

In this dreadfully developing scenario, we fully endorse Dhaka's call for an immediate end to US military action on Iraq and stoppage of the indiscriminate bombing in Baghdad which has drawn a universal reaction of rejection and condemnation world wide.

- Editorial, The Daily Star, Dhaka, March 24, 2003.

No one is surprised but everyone is saddened. In defiance of world opinion, in defiance of the UN, the war has started. The outcome of this unequal war is a foregone conclusion. Indeed this war is so unequal that it will not perhaps be appropriate to call it a war; it is essentially an aggression. Needless to mention, the party which is capable of firing satellite guided missiles and Tomahawk cruise and smart bombs and make use of its virtually limitless fire power will doubtless win, maybe in hours, days or weeks… Iraq's defeat is only a matter of days or hours; but Iraq is no factor here. One devastating consequence of the attack is that the UNO has been made irrelevant. Although the UN was powerless against the big powers, it did effectively control transgressions by small and medium-size countries. There is no dearth of rogue states in the world.

- Editorial, The Independent, Dhaka, March 21, 2003.

As the world braces for a war in the Gulf, the question is: how prepared are we to minimise its impact on Bangladeshi Diaspora, and above all, on our national economy? … There are quite a few areas where some immediate steps must be taken to meet any emergency that may arise with a war breaking out in the Gulf. We have to safely evacuate the Bangladeshis living in Iraq and other countries in the region. The diplomatic personnel are back; the rest need to be moved to safety. With 50 Bangladeshis in Iraq, the task looks manageable. But it will take a lot more effort to ensure the safety of the huge number of Bangladeshis living in places dangerously close to Iraq. It is reassuring to learn though, that Saudi Arabia may help us evacuate some in this respect. We must be in touch with the relevant UN and international NGO organisations. Then there will be the problem of rehabilitating the Bangladeshis returning home. The government should carefully assess the situation -- though it is too early to say what actually will be the magnitude of the problem -- and chalk out a rehabilitation plan for the returnees.

Next comes the question of how the prices of oil will behave. Though the OPEC chief has said that there will be no oil crisis, perception of past events leads us to a different conclusion… The government is reported to have negotiated with Singapore for obtaining silo facilities to store oil bought or being procured from some friendly countries. Such measures are certainly needed to face any critical situation during and after the war.

- Editorial, The Daily Star, Dhaka, March 20, 2003.

The war we had dreadfully feared and yet thought wouldn't somehow happen, has got underway. There were early morning Cruise missile and Tomahawk air attacks with the limited and focussed objective of decapitating top leadership in Baghdad so that Iraqi resistance didn't take off at all. This fell short of full scale air strike which by the look of things seems some way off at the time of writing this editorial. And since ground operations follow the softening of command and control structures by repeated air strikes, one could also say that ground operations would take some time to start. Still the war has begun. It is an unjust war, unfair war and an unnecessary war; all this primarily because it is a war between Goliath and David… The fundamental point at issue is, as the war gets intensely more high-tech, the fear of casualties on the part of the superpower is diminished in direct proportion to that increasing in the country facing the war. This is the tragic lesson we must be prepared to learn from the current conflict.

- Editorial, The Daily Star, Dhaka, March 21, 2003.






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