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Shocking and Awful: A Grassroots Response to War and Occupation

StoryFebruary 15, 2005
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As President Bush requests $80 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we play an excerpt from a new 13-part series produced by Deep Dish TV featuring interviews with Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali and Larry Everest. It is narrated by David Barsamian. [includes rush transcript]

A new documentary about the war and occupation of Iraq has been released. Deep Dish TV has collected and produced thirteen programs, which are being distributed to communities all over the United States on Free Speech TV and on community access channels.

The documentary series is titled, “Shocking and Awful: A Grassroots Response to War and Occupation.” It is produced entirely by independent video activists.

We are joined by the coordinator of Shocking and Awful, Brian Drolet. He is a long time Community TV activist with Deep Dish Television.

  • Brian Drolet, long time Community TV activist with Deep Dish Television. He is the co-coordinator of the documentary series “Shocking and Awful: A Grassroots Response to War and Occupation.”
  • Excerpt from “Shocking and Awful: A Grassroots Response to War and Occupation” featuring interviews with Noam Chomsky, Tariq Ali and Larry Everest. It is narrated by David Barsamian.

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

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined by the project coordinator of Shocking and Awful, Brian Drolet, a long-time community activist with Deep Dish TV. Tell us what Deep Dish TV is, and welcome, Brian.

BRIAN DROLET: Deep Dish is really the first grassroots satellite network it began about 15 years ago, providing programming to public access channels around the country. And in that time, in the last 15 years, it’s produced, I don’t know upwards of 30 series, the latest one being Shocking & Awful, that’s now played on over 100 public access stations around the country.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you get this footage from all over the world from video activists?

BRIAN DROLET: We put out a call for the footage, and the co-coordinating producer on the series, Dee Dee Hallek has been a public access —


BRIAN DROLET: Force. Diva maybe … for many years. She has been extremely important in helping to build public access in this country for many years. So we put out a call to video activists through the public access network, through the independent media network and we got a tremendous response. Through the process, we developed 13 themes, and built half-hour shows around each theme.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about the themes?

BRIAN DROLET: Well, if you look at it this way, that the United States tried to shock and awe the Iraqi people into submission and acceptance of the occupation. And most of the people in the world saw this as shocking and awful. And they responded. And this series is really a response to that global movement in opposition to the U.S. Occupation and takeover of Iraq. So, we look at all of the different aspects of this occupation. What does it look like on the ground from the point of view of Iraqis to have American soldiers breaking into your homes and arresting your fathers and your brothers and taking them away without any explanation. What does it mean for a culture when their heritage is destroyed as happened in Iraq? What does it mean for the women of Iraq to have more of their — to have many of their rights that they enjoyed previously taken away again and be under the threat of perhaps a fundamentalist law? What does it mean when millions of people literally on February 5 — on February 15, rose up and took the streets of the world to oppose the war, and yet didn’t quite have the strength to stop it. So, we tried to look at the entire scope of this war, including the takeover of the Iraqi economy. So, I think that it’s probably a very unique series that touches on many aspects you won’t see on corporate television.

AMY GOODMAN: Introduce this clip, Brian Drolet, that we are going to see.

BRIAN DROLET: The clip that we’re going to see know is a brief history of Iraq that was recorded by David Barsamian of Alternative Radio. It’s a history that should be obvious and well-known to every American, but in fact, it’s not. It actually has many important parallels to what’s happening today.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s roll.

DAVID BARSAMIAN: Baghdad, April, 2003. A city which had seen numerous conquering armies now fell to the armed might of the United States. In the days after the U.S. invasion, the pillage of priceless ancient treasures from Baghdad’s museums symbolized the destruction and humiliation America brought this land, the cradle of civilization.

Iraq, the ancient land of Mesopotamia, the Greek word for the land between the rivers. Over 5,000 years ago, the Sumerians created humanity’s first stable, city-based agriculture society, invented the plow and writing. This is where law and accounting were invented and where the Old Testament placed the Garden of Eden.

Down through the millennia, the flow of human migration, war and conquest brought a succession of civilizations. In the 13th century, Baghdad was destroyed by the invading Mongols and the region remained economically weakened until it fell under the domination of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. Under Turkish rule which lasted until World War I, Iraq consisted of three administrative provinces, Mosul, Baghdad, and Basra.

By the end of the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was in decline and the Middle East had had become a scene of growing rivalry among the world’s colonial powers. A resource that transcended all others, oil, provided the fuel for the expansion of European and then U.S. imperialism in the region. And oil made the Middle East what the U.S. State Department later called “the greatest strategic prize in history.” The Anglo-Persian Oil Company, now, British Petroleum began producing oil in neighboring Iran in 1908. Winston Churchill converted the Empire’s ships to oil in 1912. Airplanes and tanks made their first combat appearance in World War I, underscoring petroleum’s new strategic value. During the war, the British, most famously through their operative, T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, promised independence to the people of the region provided that they allied with Britain against the Ottoman Empire. At the same time they were promising independence, the British and the French were negotiating the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, to carve up the Middle East between them. The British got Iraq, Palestine and Jordan, and the French took greater Syria, including Lebanon. Like his American counterparts today, British General Stanley Maude declared after taking Baghdad, “Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators.” The new rulers of Mesopotamia and their imperial cartographers further inflamed the region by detaching oil-rich Kuwait from the province of Basra and formally making it a British colony. The British-French betrayal triggered a revolt for the independence of Syria, Palestine and Iraq. The people fought so fiercely that British leaders used chemical weapons against them. Winston Churchill said, “I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I’m strongly in favor of using poison gas against uncivilized tribes.”

Confronted with massive resistance, Britain’s Lord Curzon proposed creating an Arab façade behind which the British would rule. Modern day Iraq was created at a closed-door meeting of British officials at the Semiramis Hotel in Cairo, Egypt. Two pro-British Iraqis were present to witness the scene. The British anointed one of the sons of Sharif Hussein, the Hashemite ruler of Mecca which is now in Saudi Arabia, as king of Iraq. His brother was made king of Jordan. There was no Iraqi national anthem, so during the coronation the British military band played “God Save the King.” Their puppet King Faisal was forced to sign a 75-year concession granting the foreign-owned Iraq Petroleum Company all rights to the country’s oil. The British ruled Iraq directly and indirectly from the end of World War I until a nationalist coup overthrew the Hashemite monarchy in 1958. After World War II, British hegemony in the Middle East was challenged and eventually supplanted by the American empire and its voracious appetite for oil and power.

REVEREND BILLY: We must end the — we must colonize the people in Colombia, the people in Grenada, the people in Panama and the Philippines, every day, every year, every month. Bombing brown people. How people get elected here. How people run politics here. It’s been going on since 1846. It’s been going on since 1790. How did it get start here? How can it be stopped? Hallelujah!

LARRY EVEREST: This wasn’t a war to liberate anyone, this was a war of conquest. And most importantly, this war was not a diversion as a lot of the mainstream democrats describe it, from the war on terror, it’s the embodiment of the war on terror, which is actually a war of terror against the people of this planet, for greater empire.

HAMID DABASHI: I think that the most immediate purpose is oil. I have no question in my mind, but the more long term issue is the strategic control of the region of the Persian Gulf area that substantial interests of the United States as an empire. And they have the potential imperial tendency by China or Russia or Europe. As potentially, so, the United States is positioning itself in — in a place that can have global control.

TARIQ ALI: The problem is that empires, whether it’s the British or the French or the Germans in the 19th and 20th centuries or the American empire before it game became a global empire always act in their own interests. That’s the only reason they are there. It’s in their own interests. It’s not to do the good. It’s not to do war of good versus evil. It’s a war of national or imperial self-interests. That is why they are there. And the reason why the whole region is dotted with military bases, and you have the largest foreign base of the United States, the Al Abib base in Qatar, a tiny principality. That’s where you have it, why? Because of the oil. I don’t think that the war in Iraq was exclusively about oil, but oil was ever-present in the discussion. If you read these memoirs dictated by Paul O’Neill to Ron Suskind which have been published recently, they are revealing, saying that the plan to take Iraq predated 9/11 and was discussed within the first three weeks of the Bush Administration. And it included how they would divvy up the oil. Now this is O’Neill talking, this is not some conspiracy theorist in cyberspace.

AMY GOODMAN: “Empire and Oil,” part of the 13-part series, Shocking & Awful, that is available to public access TV and PBS stations around the country. For more information, you can go to Brian Drolet, project coordinator, thank you for joining us.

BRIAN DROLET: Thanks for having us.

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