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Booker Prize-Winning Author Arundhati Roy Slams U.S. Invasion as Protests Intensify and U.N. Security Council Members Voice Their Opposition

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Around the world, international leaders are condemning the U.S. war. Top officials from France, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Greece, Malyasia, Indonesia and New Zealand are among the countries opposing the attack. China called for an immediate halt to the attack. Indonesia requested an emergency meeting of the Security Council to stop the war. And New Zealand said it “won’t assist in a baseless war.”

Hours before the bombs fell, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said it was regrettable that war would soon begin. He reported to the Security Council that Iraqi disarmament of weapons could have been verified in a matter of months.

Then individual countries had the chance to respond. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer opened the debate, saying his country “emphatically rejects the impending war.” He said, “Why should we now — especially now — abandon our plan to disarm Iraq with peaceful means?”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Stephan Smith, “The Bell,” here on Democracy Now!'s War and Peace Report, part of national days of coverage, Pacific Radio, as the U.S. invasion of Iraq has begun. I'm Amy Goodman, here with Democracy Now! correspondent Jeremy Scahill, who has just returned from Baghdad. On the line with us in New Delhi is Arundhati Roy, the author of a number of books, including The God of Small Things, Power Politics. Her latest book is called War Talk.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Arundhati.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you share your response to what began last night at about 9:30 New York time, though many say it began long before that, the U.S. attack on Iraq?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, you know, I’m so surprised at my response, because of course I know that this war has been going on for years, and of course I know this phase of it was going to start, and of course I know that millions of Iraqis are dying under sanctions, and so I ought to just respond as somebody informed with that higher knowledge. But, you know, I find myself spending — and it’s not just me, but every person that I’ve spoken to on the street, in the bank, across the board. You know, all of us are having trouble just dealing with our own rage, with our own, you know, how to sound coherent about this, how to just deal with it as rational human beings, because you’re being pushed to a point where it’s unthinkable, you know, just the language that is being used, just the fact that you’re being treated like some inmate in a lunatic asylum, just the glee, you know, the grave glee on the face of all these TV reporters talking about these little toys. You know, it’s just outrageous. It really is outrageous.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Arundhati Roy, George Bush and other administration officials have bragged that they have more than 30 countries that are participating in this attack, and essentially saying that France and Germany represent Old Europe, that they have New Europe and that they have a “coalition of the willing” that represents international opinion.

ARUNDHATI ROY: That’s complete rubbish. You know, I mean, if you go and buy governments off, then, you know, that doesn’t mean that you have 30 countries lined up behind you, because they cannot be — I don’t think they could — I don’t think there’s anything in the recent history of the world where people are so outraged, you know, so absolutely outraged by this. And, you know, to try and use your economic muscle power to force people to fall in line does not mean in any way that you have the minds and hearts of people.

But the frightening thing now is, of course, that the media is going to go on this huge propaganda binge. And nobody is going to know what really happened in that war, like they didn’t in the '91 war. So, you know, we have to find a way of breaking through that. But it's so frightening to think what they’re going to do, what they’re going to plant, what they’re going to say, what lies they’re going to be fed. But once you know the general drift, you really feel as if you’re in a nuthouse when you watch all this, you know, when you watch it, when you hear the language, killing people, massacring people, and calling it, you know, “Iraqi freedom” and “awe” and “shock.” You know, even as a writer, I’m just outraged at the murder of language.

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, we wanted to play for you and for the listeners and viewers around the country a conversation I just had before the program with a former Iraqi official who was afraid to be identified, asked that we not use his name, but we reached him at home. He was distraught and angry.

FMR. IRAQI OFFICIAL: Why America come here, and why they want to play with — to change our government or to change — to hit us? Why? Why? What we have done? The whole story, America is behind our oil. That’s all. They want to control the Middle East. That’s it.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you taking —

FMR. IRAQI OFFICIAL: All they want, our oil. That’s it. OK.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you taking precautions to protect yourself?


AMY GOODMAN: Are you taking precautions to protect yourself?

FMR. IRAQI OFFICIAL: Well, there is no protection. You cannot take any kind of precaution. What we can do? We have nothing. We are going to pray for God to save us, and that’s it. We have nothing. But too bad, too bad, you know, for a such high-progress country like America hit and attack and invade a small country like Iraq, and which has been fighting and bombing Iraq for the past 12 years. You know, every day we have bombing in the south and north part of Iraq. Why? What we have done? Why don’t they go and see what Israel is doing now? Israel has all kinds of nuclear bombs, and they have all kinds of logistic bombs and biological weapons and all kind bombs and things, you know, all kind of major — you know, highest technology. They have everything, and they’re killng every day hundreds of Palestinians. And Israel is occupying Arabian lands, and America is doing nothing. On the contrary, they are helping Israel to do this. And we have done nothing, and now they want us to implement all the United Nations resolutions on us, although we accepted and we have done and we accepted everything, and still they want to attack. This story is very clear. They don’t want us; they want the oil. They don’t care for the people. They don’t care for the human people, for the civilians, or nothing but oil, the matter of interest, interest of Americans

AMY GOODMAN: Have the missiles fallen near you, that have been — that have hit the country already?


AMY GOODMAN: Do you know if there are —

FMR. IRAQI OFFICIAL: I didn’t hear you.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you know if there are any casualties from the missiles that have hit so far?

FMR. IRAQI OFFICIAL: I am sitting in my house. I know nothing. I have no information whatsoever. But I hear that there are, you know, bombs and all kind of noises and so on. Can’t do nothing, you know. You cannot move. You cannot go out. Well, this is really very, very, very sad, you know. I feel, you know, so sorry for the humans, you know, for the humanity, because one strong country hits and try to destroy a very small country for nothing but we are not obeying and following orders of Washington — that’s all — or Mr. Bush, the younger Bush. Too bad. Too bad. Too bad.

AMY GOODMAN: They say —

FMR. IRAQI OFFICIAL: We are really very, very sorry for what’s happening, you know, because all the world is just looking, and they will always see us on TV, how the country is going to be destroyed, how the people or the civilians will die, how our industry, how our, you know, civil service industries will be destroyed. And then they will come and rebuild for us. How will they come rebuild it for us? We don’t want you. We don’t want the Americans. We don’t want the English. We don’t want anybody. We want our country. We love our country. We don’t want anybody to come from outside to enforce us what we have to do or what kind of government to have. We have our government. We are going to stay as we are. And we are going to fight until we die, all of us even. We don’t care. Well, excuse me. I have to close. Hello?

AMY GOODMAN: Yes. Yes. Thank you for speaking to us. I want to ask — the U.S. government says they were trying to hit Saddam Hussein specifically. Do you know anything about that?

FMR. IRAQI OFFICIAL: Well, our president, right now he is on TV. And he made the speech a few hours ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you believe that it — do you believe that it is him? And do you believe that it was live, that he did it after the bombs hit?

FMR. IRAQI OFFICIAL: Well, please, this is a silly question. Please. We know our people, and we know what we are talking about. Excuse me to say this. OK. Bye bye.

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you.


AMY GOODMAN: And that was a retired Iraqi official, speaking from his home in Baghdad, Arundhati Roy, as you listen in New Delhi, your response? And also if you can tell us what is happening in India, as we’ve been marking protests around the world?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, I mean, how do you — how do you — how can people just listen to this? You know, I was just thinking that — what a horrible game. You use the U.N. to disarm people, to make them destroy their weapons. You kill their children. You starve this country to death. And when they’re completely down, when you’ve used all those mechanisms to disarm them, you go and attack them. Isn’t it the most cowardly thing you’ve ever heard of in the history of the world? You know, I mean, to disarm a country, to force them to its —force it to its knees, and then to attack, it is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever, ever heard of. It’s just beyond words. It’s beyond words. You know, people’s children are dying, just dying of cancer. And, you know, women are rushing to have cesarean in operations because they don’t want their babies to be born when there’s no electricity and there’s no water and there are bombs flying around. How can it be happening? You know? I mean, what kind of government is this? What kind of man is that?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Arundhati Roy —

ARUNDHATI ROY: In India — sorry.


ARUNDHATI ROY: Yeah. No, please, please.

JEREMY SCAHILL: We’ve seen an unprecedented level of resistance to this war, even before it officially began last night with the United States launching cruise missiles on Baghdad. But one of the things I think a lot of people find incredible is even the official kind of resistance that was put up by France and Germany, in particular, two very powerful governments. To what do you attribute it? I mean, these are not governments that necessarily care about the fate of ordinary Iraqi people; they care about their interests. Why do you think we’ve seen even France going so far as to say, “We’ll absolutely veto it under any circumstances”? Why have we seen this massive global opposition even from governments?

ARUNDHATI ROY: Well, look, it’s not for any altruistic reasons, as far as these governments are concerned. But there’s panic in the world about this kind of monstrous hegemony. It’s not just about the oil. It’s about global hegemony. You know, it’s about — it’s like putting a policy bag over the world and making it stop breathing. It’s going to burst open. You know, in what way, one doesn’t know. What form, one doesn’t know. But this kind of humiliation cannot be kept up, you know? Just think of what is happening to the world. It’s impossible to imagine what kind of quality of life is being offered even to Americans, who are at the — you know, who are supposedly the victors of all this. So, France and Germany and Russia and China are really struggling against that hegemony. It’s not because they love Iraqi people or that they love democracy. Come on. We’re talking about regimes that have historically, you know, colonized and committed genocide and supported apartheid and the whole thing. So there is no question of any morality here.

But, of course, the people of the world are protesting from a moral position. And what we are witnessing is really a crisis in democracy, you know, because what is happening is that governments who claim to be representing people are flying in the face of what people really want. And then, of course, there’s the manipulation. I mean, I believe The New York Times did a survey where something like 40% of Americans believe that, you know, Saddam Hussein was somehow directly responsible for September 11th. And, you know, this kind of corporate media disinformation is another huge factor, and it’s going to become an even bigger factor now. But, essentially, the problem is now that — and I don’t think, of course, George Bush is doing the people of America any favors by attacking Iraq now, because it is really an empire overstretching and somehow unable to put on the brakes. It doesn’t make any sense even in terms of his own survival, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, you mentioned the United Nations. And hours before the U.S. invasion began, chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix said it was “regrettable” that war was going to begin. This was just yesterday morning. He reported to the Security Council that Iraqi disarmament of weapons could have been verified in a matter of months, had the U.S. not attacked Iraq. And U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the council he would soon present proposals to deal with the humanitarian emergency, to deal with what he described as a, quote, imminent disaster. We want to hear the clips of the voices of U.N. Security Council members and the countries who spoke out yesterday, especially because they will fall by the wayside now that the bombs are falling, the deafening roar of those bombs. But this is what they had to say yesterday at the United Nations Security Council.

DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN: [translated] … call for the heads of state and government to meet here in the Security Council to respond to the major challenges that we are confronting today. Let us intensify our struggle against terrorism.

AMY GOODMAN: This the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin.

DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN: [translated] Let us fight mercilessly against [inaudible] networks, with every economic, legal and political weapon available to us.

FAROUK AL-SHARAA: [translated] Syria categorically rejects today the feverish calls for war against Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: The Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Farouk al-Sharaa.

FAROUK AL-SHARAA: [translated] Mr. President, within hours, a war of aggression will be unleashed in Iraq, as it was declared in Washington yesterday. Emotions are running high, perhaps as high as the temperature there. By now anyone with vision and insight have known that this war is unfair and unjustified. It will come back to haunt those who advocated and promoted instead of enhancing their status in history,

ADOLFO AGUILAR: [translated] President Vicente Fox, in his message to the nation on —

AMY GOODMAN: The Mexican Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar, through a translator.

ADOLFO AGUILAR: [translated] — on [inaudible] March, said that Mexico upholds the multilateral path to the resolution of conflict and deplores the path of war. The world, as the president said, and I quote, must continue to advocate solutions that are in compliance with the spirit and the letter of the Charter of the United Nations.

GABRIEL VALDÉS: [translated] Chile today reiterates its commitment to what the General Assembly —

AMY GOODMAN: Chilean Ambassador Gabriel Valdés.

GABRIEL VALDÉS: [translated] — at its special disarmament session said 25 years ago, and I quote: Authentic and lasting peace can only be built through the effective implementation of the system of collective security contemplated in the Charter of the United Nations and through the rapid and substantial reduction of weapons and armed forces through international agreements and by mutual example.

WANG YINGFAN: [translated] We express our utmost regret and disappointment at the situation where war may break out at any moment [inaudible] —

AMY GOODMAN: The Chinese Permanent Representative Wang Yingfan, through their translator.

WANG YINGFAN: [translated] We believe that it is possible to achieve the goal of disarming Iraq through peaceful means.

FRANÇOIS LOUNCÉNY FALL: [translated] Guinea, for its part, ventures to believe in the possibility of safeguarding peace and the [inaudible] —

AMY GOODMAN: The Guinean Foreign Minister François Louncény Fall, through a translator.

FRANÇOIS LOUNCÉNY FALL: [translated] — that we have — that is, the complete disarmament of Iraq.

IGOR IVANOV: [translated] Not one of these decisions authorizes the right to use force against Iraq —

AMY GOODMAN: The Russian foreign minister.

IGOR IVANOV: [translated] — outside the United Nations Charter. Not one of them authorizes the violent overthrow of the leadership of a sovereign state. If today we really had indisputable facts demonstrating that from the territory of Iraq there is a direct threat to the security of the United States of America, then Russia, without any hesitation, would be prepared to use all the means available, provided for under the United Nations Charter, to eliminate such a threat.

AMY GOODMAN: Some of the voices of the U.N. Security Council yesterday, just before the bombs fell. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called it a “sad day for the world” and reminded the United States of its responsibility toward civilians. Indonesia has called for an emergency Security Council meeting. The U.N. Security Council has turned its attention to fears of a humanitarian catastrophe, with officials working on plans to cope with the flight of as many as 600,000 Iraqi refugees. The German Foreign Minister Fischer said the task is now to do everything possible to avert such a humanitarian disaster. And we’ll end this segment with John Gilbert, who is a union member in Italy, one of the many who went on strike today. Can you tell us what’s happening, John Gilbert?

JOHN GILBERT: Yes. Millions of people went on general strike today in Italy. Already from early this morning, the trains were blocked across the country. Schools were occupied. Universities were occupied. There are demonstrations this afternoon in all of the major cities. And they’re deciding on the European general strike for tomorrow. So, things are really moving here at this moment.

AMY GOODMAN: John Gilbert, speaking to us from Florence, Italy. You’re listening to Democracy Now! Back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: Rahim AlHaj, “The Second Baghdad,” here on Democracy Now!’s War and Peace Report, as we go to the final words of Arundhati Roy, speaking to us from New Delhi, India. Arundhati?

ARUNDHATI ROY: I just wanted to say that, you know, while we feel despair about what America has done, we must feel — we must feel good about the fact that countries in the U.N. Security Council have taken a strong line. But I just want to say that it’s very, very important now that the U.N. doesn’t play the role of a sort of charwoman, you know, cleaning up after America makes its mess, and thereby legitimizing what it’s done. It’s very important that some important steps are taken against America for having behaved like this. It must be declared a rogue state. It is the only state that has used nuclear weapons ever. I think the U.N. headquarters should move out of America. You know, I mean, you can’t be crapped on and then continue to hang around then. You know, people have to really take a very strong position on this, because it’s humiliating.

AMY GOODMAN: Arundhati Roy, I want to thank you for being with us from New Delhi, India. Arundhati Roy, the author of The God of Small Things. Her latest book is called War Talk, and it’s published by South End Press.

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