Condoleeza Rice in Rome Italy
Protest calling for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire in Lebanon
July 26, 2006
On July 26, 2006, USC4P&J organized a sit-in in front of the US Embassy, together with Italian activists including Un ponte per..., to demand an immediate and unconditional cease-fire in Lebanon and a stop to the delaying tactics of Condoleeza Rice and the Bush Administration.
The sit-in took place the same day as delegations from countries from around the world met in Rome at the Farnesina (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to seek an end to the Lebanese conflict. USC4P&J had originally asked the Questura for permission to stage the protest in the morning, while the Conferenza sul Libano was taking place. The police refused so the sit-in was moved anticlimactically to the afternoon. Protesters did however get the chance to yell at the heavily guarded limousines whisking delegates away from the Conference and past the Embassy.
Besides giving out a hundred leaflets to the passers-by, the nearly 35 protesters had a letter to consign to the U.S. delegate at the Conference, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, criticizing her delaying tactics (“A cease-fire can wait”, she had declared previously and, at the Conference, imposed that policy on everyone). But how to consign the letter? A long discussion ensued with the plain-clothesmen from the DIGOS (the Italian political police) who did not want any American citizen from USC4P&J to enter or even approach the embassy. A compromise was finally reached: a representative from the Embassy was telephoned by the DIGOS and accepted the envelope at the Embassy gate, which bore a U.S. postal Office stamp, promising to put it in the U.S. Mail box inside the compound. Cleverly, before introducing himself and taking the envelope, the man waited until the TG3 television camera and the newspaper photo-reporters were all busy shooting pictures of the flag-burning event staged by Un ponte per... So the consignment of our letter went unrecorded.
The flag-burning event was a powerful image, indeed. Instead of the usual burning of an American (or, in this case, Israeli) flag, Fabio and Paola of Un ponte per... did just the opposite: they had an activist, wearing a Condoleeza Rice mask and dressed in a typical suit worn by the Secretary of State, set fire to a peace flag and then trampled on it. “Peace can wait” she declared and then turned around showing an Israeli flag she wore as a dangling shawl. The message was clear: the U.S. and Israeli governments are acting back to back to extend the military crisis in the Middle East at the cost of peace.
On the downside, the 4 to 6 pm sit-in lacked real cohesion between the U.S. and Italian groups – there were no commonly worked out slogans so none were chanted at all; there was no common policy on activities, so while the Americans wandered around leafleting, the Italians were in a circle discussing events. But since the sit-in was organized in only 3 days' time, perhaps the fact that it actually came off is reason enough to be satisfied.
The sit-in ended with a beautiful Special Event: a short talk and a song offered by peace activist Jean Rohe – the student from the New School in New York City who, at her graduation ceremony held in Madison Square Garden last May in the presence of special guest Senator John Mc Cain, changed her commencement address at the last moment and rebuked Mc Cain publicly for his pro-war views. Jean was passing by Rome on her way back home from the Montreux jazz festival in Switzerland, where she had just sung, when she ran into USC4P&J at the march for Lebanon the week before. She promised she would come to sing for the sit-in and she did. Her musical offering was “We're living on a living planet, circling a living star” and her voice left the public breathless.
26 July 2006
To Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice:
We, US Citizens for Peace & Justice, have written Ambassador Spogli voicing our concerns over American foreign policy. We feel that to achieve peace and to improve the reputation of the US worldwide, the United States must cease being seen as an aggressor in illegal wars. Our letters have been ignored and remain unanswered.
Ignored we're used to. Without the lie that Saddam Hussein was linked with Al Qaeda how many Americans would have wanted an unjust war with Iraq? Not many, as polls show today. But the administration you serve – and that you counsel – ignored public sentiment and took us into war anyway. Your administration has consistently manipulated intelligence and lied to the United Nations, lied to the citizens of the world, lied to the American people that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein could launch nuclear attacks on the United States. By terrorizing with words, you multiplied the fear Americans have felt since the attacks of September 11th and you set in place the war the Bush Administration wanted. Over two hundred thousand Iraqi civilians have been killed to the great shame of our country. Almost as many U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq as civilians killed on 9-11. You justify this killing with the convoluted logic that attacking and occupying Iraq is getting back at Al Qaeda.
No wonder, then, that you see Israel's attack on Lebanon as defending herself. You see taking the lives of innocent civilians as fair game. It is not. It is a war crime.
The Bush Administration, and your untiring efforts in aiding its doctrine, have brought the world into this new, dark age of injustice; you have given us a world in which nation states may break international law, disregard calls for peace in the UN; you have given us a world in which highly militarized nation states feel impotent against terrorists, are intolerant of political resistance, utilize international organizations only to promote their own agendas, not to seek compromise: you have played a crucial role in giving us a world in which military powers are the bullies of the world.
No wonder you tell us ceasefire is something we should wait for; you don't want something that is “only temporary”; you share a vision with George Bush of a war that will be decades long; yet you tell the world you want to build a lasting peace. Do you expect to be believed?
Waging war on civilians, devastating infrastructure and national economies, using illegal weapons, committing war crimes do not build lasting peace.
Lying to the UN, sharing faulty and manipulated intelligence with other governments and occupying other countries does not build lasting peace.
Imprisoning people without charge, attempting to by-pass international law and determining Geneva Conventions to be “irrelevant” does not build lasting peace.
Never finding fault with Israel's actions, faithfully vetoing resolutions that call for Israel to abide by international law, being the largest weapons supplier to Israel – all the while playing “neutral peace-broker” – does not build lasting peace.
When the world learned there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, you and the Bush Administration changed your battle cry to “Democracy in the Middle East.” How is aiding and abetting Israel's attacks on its democratic neighbor, Lebanon, and perpetuating the lie in our media that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, supposed to “spread democracy”? How does saying no to Lebanon's call for an immediate ceasefire reflect US support of a fellow democracy?
Secretary Rice, nation states do not have the right to attack the citizens and infrastructure of other countries in retaliation for terrorist or resistance groups working within such borders.
We, U.S. Citizens for Peace and Justice, will not stand for the killing of innocents and therefore call for a cease-fire to save innocent lives. Your insistence on permitting Israel time to complete its mission and attaching conditions for ceasefire that the Hezbullah cannot possibly accept suggests a (not so well hidden) “˜hidden agenda”. The US collusion with Israel is in fact being speculated upon in the press and in living rooms across the world as the attempt to create a pretext to invade Syria and Iran. It's no secret the Bush Adminstration will lie, erode the Constitution, break international law and sacrifice innocent lives to serve its ideology.
If you truly want lasting peace and credibility, you will join us in calling for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire in Lebanon.
U.S. Citizens for Peace and Justice
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U.S. Citizens for Peace & Justice - Rome, Italy