A need for dialogue

It is 12 January 2003 and US president Bush has rallied his troops for what he calls “The first war of the 21st century”. What is your view of this crisis, where, briefly, do you stand? This is the question we are putting to people around the world, especially those with their own public reputation and following. Our aim, to help create a truly global debate all can identify with.
Denis Halliday
12 January 2003


In relation to Iraq, UN sanctions and now the threat of another American war, I tend to hold the minority viewpoint. Now I find myself in line with the majority view - that is, the majority viewpoint of the Arab community. I base this on recent visits to Tunis, Cairo, Amman and Baghdad. I failed to find one Arab - offical or private citizen - who understands the current crisis between the USA and Iraq to be about weapons of mass destruction. The unanimous view from prime minister to taxi driver is that the conflict is primarily about oil - access, control and cheap! Nobody I talked with sees a threat from Iraq, be it in Turkey, Jordan or Egypt. Why is it that the Washington regime is apparently so threatened? Has it swallowed its own spin, propaganda?

Where is the middle ground? How do we find a solution that saves the face of our two ego-players - Presidents George Bush and Saddam Hussein? Let’s make sure there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and as required by UN Resolution 687, lets make sure the entire neighbourhood is equally clean. Let’s look at US oil needs, recognise the insecurity of the Saudi supply and have the US negotiate with Baghdad, as a trading partner not as a war-threatened state, a plan for the sale of Iraq's oil over the next 30-50 years at a fair market price. This would serve American interests and provide Iraq with the kind of sustained revenue needed for rebuilding the economy, and thereby restoring to the Iraqi people their economic and social rights.

As the same time, Iraq will want to move forward with a multi-party democratic system for which a constitutional change is now being written. The USA must begin to invest massively in renewable sources of energy while also imposing efficient means for reduced consumption of imported oil. Weaning itself from dependency on Middle East oil serves the best interests of Americans. Likewise, the move toward dialogue and trade would begin the process of restoring the lives of the people of Iraq tragically diminished under 12 years of deadly UN sanctions. This could produce a win-win situation for all concerned, including the United Nations, and the Arab community of the Middle East currently so deeply concerned about the catastrophic impact that an American war on Iraq would have on their well-being.

Originally published as part of a debate on 12 January 2003 Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. 1.

See also Writers, artists and civic leaders on the War: Pt. 2.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

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