Tuesday, March 25, 2008

UM-Dearborn Gets Empowered Over Iraq

In case you hadn’t heard, it was “Iraq Awareness Week” in Dearborn last week. (“Students protest on war anniversary”). Yeah, I didn’t know about it, either. Anyway, the Students United for Peace and Justice (SUPJ) are at it again, holding a protest last Tuesday at UM-Dearborn “to highlight the death and destruction of the Iraq war.”

“Five years ago, the United States of America began its war on Iraq without the permission of the United Nations in search for weapons of mass destruction,” said SUPJ President Rashid Baydoun. “Since then, the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and American soldiers have been lost. $500 billion later, the war is still an on-going issue which the current administration plans to put no stop to.”

It’s obvious Rashid has a bet going on campus as to how many misstatements he can cram into two lines. When a guy at a war protest even gets the cost of the war wrong by drastically underestimating it, I have to think he’s really not showing up for these things very well prepared.

Speaking of Rashid’s concern for “innocent…American soldiers,” he was the one who refused a polite request from Iraq War veteran and UM-D student J. David McHann, to remove offensive posters hung on campus by the SUPJ depicting American soldiers threatening Iraqi women and children with their weapons, and captioned: “Oppression.” How can Rashid’s be concerned for the innocent soldiers when he doesn't think there are any?

Considering that the stated goal of the effort is to “educate” the UM-D campus about the war, (as well as, of course, to “empower the campus about this war,” but that goes without saying), you’d think the organizers would trouble themselves to gather a fact or two.

Even guys who are paid to be prepared show up with notes scrawled in crayola. According to The Arab American News, last Wednesday’s lecture by Dr. Hashim Al-Tawil “The liquidation of Iraq: Five years later,” focused on “the impact of the war on the country, the destruction of the social and political structure.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d think that once you tipped your hand by speaking of Iraq as a place that had been “liquidated” five years earlier, there wouldn’t be much of an impact left to make? Or maybe it’s a really slow liquidation, like those 3-days-only sales Art Van has been throwing since 1966.

For all it matters, Al-Tawil is an Art History professor at Henry Ford Community College, and his criteria for a good society seems to be limited to whether or not the modern art scene is fluorishing. Apparently a scant few social institutions escaped Saddam's totalitarian bootheel, includng the modern art scene. As Al-Tawil tells it,

“Fine art in pre-occupation Iraq was thrilling since the sixties and seventies,” says Dr. Hashim Al-Tawil, Professor of Art History at Henry Ford College in Michigan and former Iraqi active artist and faculty member of the college of Fine Arts at the University of Baghdad.

Dr. Al-Tawil said that Baghdad was the center of art activities on a national and international scale for over three decades, from the period of 1960-1990. Arab art Biennials, international exhibits and conferences, and national annual exhibits were commonplace in Iraq all year long.

“It [fine art] was hindered temporarily by the Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988), but was not affected substantially,” Dr. Al-Tawil told Fine Art Registry (FAR). “That cultural activity was severely wounded by the US bombing of 1990-91 followed by 13 years of brutal sanctions and isolation ended by the US-British invasion of 2003 which has paralyzed every cultural activity in the country.” ("Iraq’s Forgotten MODERN Art").

Things were great under Saddam, It was those fucking Americans and Brits who ruined everything.

Art activities weren't the only things Baghdad was the center of under Saddam, but Al-Tawil didn't seem to notice the mass killings, the secret police and torture, or the rape rooms, what with all the important artwork on display. Which proves one thing--Muslim, Christian, atheist, or Jew, art assholes speak the same language all across the globe.

I’m too tired to organize yet one more itemized list of how, even with all the violence and setbacks, (and even after the looting of the Iraqi Museum of Modern Art, formerly known as the Saddam Center for the Arts), the social and especially the political life in Iraq has been on a steadily upward curve. Before March 2003 Iraq’s social and political life under Saddam were in a poison-induced, death-like sleep: not that mention of that is ever made up at these events.

At one point, according to The Arab American News, “’From sea to shining sea, we want Iraqis to be free,’ rang through the air.”

I agree completely. So why, I ask, should we abandon the Iraqis to their enemies?


Anonymous said...

Salam (Peace) I don't appreciate this. I really don't. Rashid is a hard worker and he is a leader and a great activist. Dr. Al-Tawil has discovered the whole world. He was invited to Sicily for lost artifacts in Islam's history. So hes not just this "art" teacher. Hes a great leader, an art teacher, humanities teacher and also started Arab American Studies at UMD. Please research more before you assume everything. Thank you

T.R. Clancy said...

I'm sorry you feel let down, and I aprreciate your continuing to return to comment in spite of what you read here. But you must have read a few of these posts and realized we draw sharp lines here at DU. The opinions are strong ones, but we do are best to base them upon the facts. Did you read the article about the Iraqi artists and how fine everything was for them under the Sadaam dictatorship, because THEY were left alone? http://www.fineartregistry.com/articles/durrani_

You will find not ONE word criticizing the conditions created by Saddam. EVERYTHING is the fault of the Western powers who fought Saddam in 1991 and 2003.

Dr. Al-Tawil's art credentials aren't in question, but they don't entitle him to state mistruths about the war in Iraq. He was speaking at an anti-war rally, against a war he doesn't like, from what I have been able to learn, because he thought the artistic community was better off under the murderous, terrorizing, Saddam dictatorship. Shame on him. He also spoke falsely when he characterized the coalition invasion to depose Saddam in 2003 as the "liquidation" of Iraq. This is not only false, but rather absurd, IMO. I criticized him so harshly for the awful viewpoint he seems to hold that several hundred thousand corpses in many mass graves are a fair bargain if you have "important" modern art being subsidized and sponsored by the state murderer regime.

I quote:

“One of the most popular misconceptions regarding Saddam's rule is that his general policy applied to the arts as well. Ironically Iraqi artists who throughout the 20th century were active in creating a national Iraqi visual culture were not traditionally known to produce politically active works of art,” explains Dr. Shabout. “They will all tell you that Saddam did not really affect what they created. They were mostly left alone to develop their art.”

"She said under Saddam Hussein, artists could benefit financially if they produced a presidential portrait, statue or executed a State commission or if they were chosen as official artists to be Iraq's art representatives internationally. However, she said most established artists did not choose to do so and were still able to produce their work. “He actually appreciated the progressive and mature work of Iraqi artists as one of the leading movements in the region,” adds Dr. Shabout."

Rashid Baydoun may be a hard worker, but he doesn't work hard at being informed. As an avid supporter of our military effort in Iraq, I don't appreciate him sounding off on a subject he obviously knows nothing about--such as what is going on in Iraq. Everything he was quoted to say was wrong, and inexcusably wrong. He only got away with it because he was addressing a sympathetic crowd.

I'll put my research against his any time.

Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

Salam) peace) you said this:

Rashid Baydoun may be a hard worker, but he doesn't work hard at being informed. As an avid supporter of our military effort in Iraq, I don't appreciate him sounding off on a subject he obviously knows nothing about--such as what is going on in Iraq. Everything he was quoted to say was wrong, and inexcusably wrong. He only got away with it because he was addressing a sympathetic crowd.

Now heres my response: I know Rashid personally. Hes passionate about what he does. He supplied American flags to the Iraq rally. Those crosses on the Lawn represented every Michigan Solider that died. The rally was against the war and bring our troops home safely because he doesn't want people to die. Neither do I. Now if you think it was just a sympathetic crowd, then I guess I should be included because I was with him?? Hes very informed. So why is he president of the Students United for Peace and Justice. Because he wants peace around the world?? Do you even know him or do you know him by word of mouth?? You need to seriously get your facts straight because he knows a lot more than you do.

As for Dr. Al- Tawail I will get back to you. No doubt. Tomorrow God willing I will.

Anonymous said...

Salam (peace) so I promised a response about Dr. Al- Tawil and here you go:

What are your creditals about Iraq? How do you believe you know so much more and he knows so much less? Are you an Iraqi or do you just watch Iraq on the telly, study the history, maybe read some sites online? I'm not Iraqi myself. I don't know how bad it was over there or good it was over there in the past. I talked to many Iraqis prior to the US invasion. I'm not standing up for Saddam. I'm not saying he was a great guy either. In my view and what I hear from Iraqis like Chaldean's, Muslims and Kurds, they all have different views. I encourage you to read Baghdad Diaries. The book is about a women that lived in Iraq during both wars and how it was in between both of them. She is a Muslim, but not a religious one. I encourage you to also check out history about Ancient Babylon. Currently today and this is even on Google Earth is that the US illegal paved a helicopter pad and a road on ancient Babylon and made a base out of it. I saw it from my own eyes and encourage you to research that. Also I don't doubt that artists that made self portraits of Saddam benefited. I really don't doubt that, remember this was a dictatorship and thats how it usually is. Remember Naploean he crowned himself emporer back in the day and destroyed a lot of the views during the Romantic period in Europe those values he abandoned and did his own thing. From an Iraq Chaldean point of view, my old friend didn't have problems with Saddam. Other ones were forced to learn Arabic. The Kurds are for the war, but see the thing is this. This is the sceranio with the Kurds. They are a people from Northern Iraq that wanted to create their own country, wave their own flag, and have their own money system. How about if one day the State of California decided to just split apart from the USA and called the country of California. They developed their own money, there own laws, had a different government and everything. The USA will not agree with this and eventually try to overturn the government of California into what they wanted. Of course California is a state not a country. They abide by the law of the USA not California government. Of course there are state laws but you get my point. They wave the US flag and they should. But see the Kurds do not like waving the Iraqi flag. They have their own flag and to me thats wrong, thats abandoning where you are from. As for Muslims I talked to, it wasn't good on either side, Saddam was a bully for sure but it is worse now then what it was. Yes there was torture in prisons people died. But we as Americans when we travel over seas for pleasure or representing our country as a military need to stop and think and respect the culture of Iraq and their beliefs. We shouldn't have tortured people in Abu Gharib prison, and we certainley should close down G- Bay. This hurts our image and it will only get worse. I have never been in a war zone but many of my friends have and they had post traumatic stress and afraid of even sometimes sleeping at night. Imagine hearing bombs falling and when you hear it go boom thats a signal saying you survived another bomb. Dr. Al- Tawil was not at the rally, he had a discussion on the arts of Iraq and what happened. He didn't make that sign either of the Liqudiation of Iraq, someone else did. You need to get more of your facts right Im sorry and you also need to get out of the box you think in and read other sources. I venture out of my sources, I watch Fox News that is so biased in my eyes because I want to see what they say. I read Debbie Schussel, and I read Jewish websites. However Mr. Clancy you do not and you need to get more facts straight and better sources before you make a blog like this. Thank you

T.R. Clancy said...

Thanks for replying. I have to respect a guy who sticks with it.

But see here: I don’t have to be an Iraqi to be entitled to an informed opinion. If my facts are wrong, point that out, otherwise my not being an Iraqi is irrelevant. Same with Rashid Baydoun’s knowledge or lack of same. My opinion about what he does or doesn’t know is based solely on what he says when he speaks in public, when he's holding himself out as an informed "educator" on the situation in Iraq. He may actually know more than he lets on, but then misstate facts for his own reasons, I don’t know. But what he was quoted to say (and the article may misquote him,) were factual errors. If Rashid Baydoun wants to clarify his quoted statements, he can comment here, or email me at http://www.contactify.com/dd68d .

It's true Dr, Al-Tawil did not speak at the rally, but his lecture was a part of the Iraqi Awareness Week operation. I wasn’t referring to any sign that mentioned liquidation if Iraq, but to Al-Tawil’s own lecture entitled "The liquidation of Iraq: Five years later."

I’m afraid there is little anyone could say that can make me sympathize with an artistic community, heavily subsidized by the state (that is, by Saddam), and arbitrarily free from persecution, that simply adopts a position of not caring about the rest of their countrymen’s agony because they themselves are making out okay. And then has the chutzpah, after their countrymen are liberated, of whining about how good things were when that brute was in charge!

I’m glad you venture out of your sources. We all should, and off course, any of us can always do more, including me, but don’t assume my sources are narrow. The facts are the facts.

“We” didn’t torture people in Abu Ghraib. A very small number of misfits did so, (and it hardly rose to torture), and they did it without one shred of official sanction; and those guards were already on their way to being punished with courts martial and prison for it months before it was even reported for the first time in the news. Or are we supposed to believe that a poorly-supervised prison guard in a force of 180,000 can’t break the rules on the job without a direct order from the Dept. of Defense?

Some proportion: No one died at Abu Ghraib, no one had his tongue ripped out, nor his arm chopped off, nor his family raped before his eyes, nor was starved. In other words, no one suffered what he would have suffered under the Baathists.

A little proportion and balance would help when throwing around terms like torture. The ringleader sergeant at Abu Ghraib was a prison guard in civilian life and probably learned his abusive, sadistic habits there. What he did to Lynndie England (got her pregnant, then got her court-martialed) was worse than what he did to captured terrorists. I’m tired of being blamed for Abu Ghraib.

Anonymous said...

Salam (Peace) Ill be responding thursday

T.R. Clancy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
T.R. Clancy said...

I look forward to it. I hope you're preparing with a lot of facts and documentation.

Anonymous said...

Salam ( Peace) I apologize for my delay but I'm starting to get a big work load at school and cant reply as soon as I want to. I like to stick to my promises and never break them. Any who Of course you don't have to be an Iraqi for your opinion thats fine, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I respect that. I just want you to put yourself in an Iraqi shoes, how they live, how they feel, and what they go through everyday, and trust me its hard, because me personally I never experienced war and I cant speak on your behalf. I am also not saying Rashid knows everything, of course no one knows everything but you can be well educated in this area. He gets his information for experiences when he lived in Lebanon and also for great sources that actually lived in Iraq and also by taking history classes and sorts of other ways to get news. He reads both sides, don't think he doesn't and I do read both sides too. It was the liquidation of Iraq. Many artifacts were stolen by their own people and OUR soldiers. I even have Iraqi money on my wall that was stolen from one of Saddam's palaces as a solvenior. That was Iraq's money and that shouldn't of been stolen or touched. Just like other artifacts. I have a great movie that you should seriously watch about how media goes through the government to your telly in your house. Its called Peace, Propogranda and the Promised Land. Most of the people that were actually interviewed and they talked to were Jewish, some including Rabbi's. However, you cant believe everything online. Read this stuff: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info

very good website you wont hear about from CNN or Fox.

When we go over seas as Americans with our American passports we have to represent this country with some form of status. We have to set an example. The "misfits" that did torture Abu Gharib prison were representing Americans just like they do at G-bay in Cuba. This is in the news all around the world. Thats what serious some believe we do, torture people and our bullies. I know thats not all Americans. I know many good people here. But I also know some bad people here. Thats like me saying I hate blacks because they stoled my car. Not all black are bad but the one that stoled my car was. I shouldn't stereotype a whole race based solely on one bad incident. I was basing this example on a sceranio that has never happened to me. However you get my point. If someone hears on the news constantly about Islam does this, and Arabs do this, of course Americans will get a bad image of them. They don't know better because they are basing their sole examples from the telly or narrow minded news sources. Also Im not saying under Saddam's rule people were tortured. I know he did and thats how he represented Iraq which was really bad. You saying no one got raped in that prison? Wheres your proof on that? There were little boys that were molestated in front of men and women for fun so please don't tell me that fact they weren't. In G-bay they get meal maybe 3-4 times a week if lucky. Some sections get better treatment then others but that still doesn't give us a right to put people in a tiny dog cage or make them listen to load music. Look at our president he thinks water boarding is not a sign of torture. Ok if your drowning pretty much just to stay alive you would say anything seriously. You would admit to it just to survive. Wouldn't you?? I'm sorry if you took offense of me blaming you for Abu Ghraib but our image of Americans were jeopardized by this torture and thats how I meant to say it.

T.R. Clancy said...

No need to apologize. These discussions get too lengthy, and beyond a certain stage, serve no useful purpose.

I think Rashid should be able to speak for himself. But when he spoke for himself in the newspaper, he didn’t make much sense.

I’ve been putting myself in Iraqi shoes since 1990, when I first supported Desert Storm. Placing myself in Iraqi shoes, I would prefer liberation from a horrible dictator, with two young sons waiting to continue his torture/police state regime for another 50-60 years after the Old Man died, to living in constant, mortal terror of secret police, arbitrary murder, rape of my female relatives, etc. etc., etc...

99% of people who’ve died in Iraq since March 2003 died because a) somebody (NOT the USA), wanted Saddam back in power, or b) somebody (NOT the USA) wanted to take Saddam’s place--and in both cases a) and b) are perfectly willing to kill lots and lots of Iraqi women and children to get their wish. Their blood is NOT on American hands. But if we flee Iraq and let a) and b) take over, no one's going to want to be in Iraqi shoes then. And then their blood WILL be on our hands.

It seems out of all proportion to me to describe a nation being “liquidated” because some “artifacts were stolen.” Liquidation means it doesn’t exist anymore, like what the Middle Eastern nations want to make happen to Israel. Under the Third Reich in Europe lots and lots of art was systematically stolen, over years, from rightful owners (mostly Jewish)—trainloads shipped to Germany--much worse than anything Iraq has seen, and I don’t think anyone ever claimed that France, Belgium, Holland, etc. had been “liquidated.” Nothing on this scale, or even remotely so—ever happened in Baghdad in 2003. What did happen has been exaggerated by anti-war people. Kind of silly, if you ask me. When human lives are at stake, art objects shouldn’t count for much. Or if you’re much of a history student, you may wonder how many times the place we now call Iraq suffered military depredations, occupations, war, and looting since, oh, 2000 B.C.? (Including, by the way, the occupation and conquest of the Christians and Monophysite Arabs by the Muslims:

“The attack on Babylonia took place on two fronts which corresponded precisely to the densest Arab settlements: in the south around Ubulla; and slightly higher up the Euphrates in the Hira region. Large numbers of Christian Arab tribes fought on the Persian side, but others, long settled in these regions and attracted by booty, went over to the Muslims….After their [the Muslims] victory at al-Qadisiyya (636) they invaded the Sawad (Babylonia), the villages along the Tigris and Euphrates. These raids were supported by Umar who sent reinforcements from Medina. The monasteries were pillaged, the monks killed, and Monophysite Arabs massacred, enslaved, or Islamized by force; in Elam the population was also decimated, and in Susa the notables were put to the sword. The conquest of Mesopotamia took place between 635 and 642.”
The Decline of Eastern Christianity, Bat Ye’or, (1996), p. 46.

I have a little more confidence in the toughness of Mesopotamian civilization than to think it's going to disappear because a gang of Iraqi looters robbed one of THEIR OWN national museums.

We already discussed Abu Ghraib. It is simply unreasonable to claim that 7 members, out of a military force of 180,000, 7 members acting on their own, unsupervised on a night shift, represent American official national policy, or are comparable to or can be equated with a state-controlled, systematic torture regime of Saddam’s in which the Revolutionary Guard officers and the state police force, the law courts, in addition to the dictator’s own sons, were engaged in the torture, legalized rape, and arbitrary murders of Iraq’s citizens. You say that serious people believe we're bullies. I say they can't be that serious, if that's all the effort they put into thinking the thing through.

Now you wrote:
"In G-bay they get meal maybe 3-4 times a week if lucky."

Puh-leeeeze!!! Where on earth are you getting this disinformation? Sources, please. There’s no excuse for having this poor a grasp of basic facts!!! It has been well-reported that the Gitmo prisoners are a) extremely well fed, b) food prepared according to Islamic requirements, and c) gain weight.
Here are a handful of my sources, none of them conservative:




I’m not offended at being blamed for Abu Ghraib, since my conscience is perfectly clear.

Anonymous said...

Salam (Peace) I guess I wont waste my time on you since they serve no useful purpose. Thanks for the 99% of broken links and mostly a narrowed minded sources. At least I read Jpost, Fox News, CNN, Al Jeezera, BBC, and more. Seems you sir have one source and thats called the infiltrated Israeli media called the American Media. I do commend you for supporting America, thats good, this is your country and I totally respect that. You have knowledge and you do your research, but I'm not saying everything is right though. Take care