j.P Barlows Email aus Brasilien

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-----Original Message-----
From: John Perry Barlow
Sent: Sunday, March 23, 2003 9:05 PM
Subject: [BarlowFriendz] 9.2: War and Paz, the View from Brazil


I was deep in the heart of Brazil when I got the news.

I was in a serene little jewel of a former diamond-mining town called
Lençois. It's located in a remote part of Brazil's Bahia state called
the Chapada Diamantina, improbably beautiful country that would look
like Monument Valley if the buttes and spires of Southern Utah rose
from a blanket of rain forest.

I had been completely out of touch with the rest of the world for
three days at the International Rainbow Gathering, held even deeper
in the Chapada, eight hours of astonishingly bad road away from

But even if I'd been in downtown São Paulo, the events in Baghdad
would have seemed distant. Brazil is a floating world, a parallel
universe of such size and cultural density that little enters or
escapes its gravitational field. It is well accustomed to shrugging
at Northern madnesses and continuing to pursue its own profoundly
complex affairs.

Brazil is the world's largest Inside Joke. It is, to those who get
it, sufficiently involving to render even such external
considerations as the possible outbreak of Armageddon slightly

Besides, it seems to have an instinct for peace that runs the length
of its history and is wisely aware that even opposing the bellicose
behavior of less enlightened cultures adds energy to the cyclone of
war. Brazil doesn't study war no more. The only organized conflict
Brazil is likely to enter involves no weapon more lethal than a
soccer ball.

The cobble-stoned streets of Lençois were filling with the nightly
promenade of beautiful, chocolate-skinned young people when my cell
phone rang. "The war has started," said Lotte, my former Swedeheart,
in a voice as bleak as a Strindberg play.

Immediately, I lunged for a fat information feed, but there was
little to be had. The pousada where I was staying didn't have a
phone, so I couldn't jack my computer into the Internet. I found a
television, which is never hard to do in Brazil, but of course I
couldn't find one with any English programming. Why waste a channel
on CNN? Absolutely no one here speaks English and they certainly
don't need any more hallucinatory propaganda from The North.

What news I could find in Portuguese seemed to regard the outbreak of
American aggression against Iraq as just another news story. It was
nothing worth preempting the evening's soap operas over. I went to
bed even more in the dark than usual.

I had another 8 hour drive to Salvador the next day. I scanned the
radio constantly for news and heard little. I did hear President Lula
de Silva making a statement in the matter, which I later leaned
contained this perfectly reasonable statement: "All of us want for
Iraq not to have atomic weapons or weapons of mass destruction," he
said, "but that does not give the United States the right to decide
by itself what is good and what is bad for the world."

Now I'm Rio. I know everything that CNN and the New York Times web
site permit me to know, which seems to include things that might not
be true.

I know that, according to the Gallup poll, 76% of the American people
support the attack on Iraq. (Since I can only think of 5 people in my
considerable multitude of diverse acquaintance who share this
opinion, I have to wonder about this figure.)

I know that we can turn Baghdad - a town with 2 and a half million
children - into telegenic Disney Hell with several thousand tons of
high explosives and injure only Bad Guys. (Indeed, watching CNN, one
might wonder if anyone gets injured at all in this marvelously
surgical new form of war.)

I know that we have a lot of really cool toys in our arsenal. I know
that A-10 Warthog can fire over a thousand rounds a minute. (Though
no one in the media has mentioned that each of these bullets consists
of depleted uranium that will be radiating birth defects into the
Iraqi gene pool for many generations.)

I know that the only truly powerful country on the planet is
continuing to manufacture the perilous, conscience-stunting myth that
technology can make war relatively safe. Indeed, we are so delusional
on this subject that we believe that bombing the shit out of the
Iraqis is a humanitarian act.

This is a continuation of the same national system of denial that we
began to construct during Gulf War I. Ask a knowledgeable American
how many people died in that conflict and you will probably be told
that the death toll was somewhere around 150. (I seem to recall 138
American fatalities.)

You will probably not hear about the roughly 400,000 Iraqis we killed
during that bully outing. You will almost certainly not hear about
the retreating column of almost 50,000 Iraqi soldiers that were
incinerated on the highway from Kuwait on the orders of war
criminal-turned-Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey. While I think that Gulf
War I may have been justified and even necessary, the fact that we
were able to conduct it with so little empathic memory does not bode
well for Gulf War II. We should still be in mourning for all the
unwilling conscripts who died at the point of our surgically sharp
sword rather than wielding it again with so much less moral

But this is just one aspect of how we have blunted our national
conscience with media. Even more dangerous is our new willingness to
believe that America's agenda is more important than the preservation
of international law. The United Nations Charter explicitly prohibits
one nation from attacking another except in self-defense or with the
sanction of the UN Security Council. If our attack of Iraq is
self-defense, then I would be equally innocent if I returned to
Wyoming and killed everyone in Pinedale who is well-armed, doesn't
like me, and beats his wife. (This would require quite a killing

Even if this war is so sophisticated that very few "collateral
damages" are inflicted, even if the Ba'ath regime folds immediately
and our troops enter Baghdad festooned in the garlands of a grateful
and liberated populace, even in the extremely unlikely event that we
find a cache of Iraqi nuclear weapons, all packed up for delivery to
Al -Qa'ida , it will still be illegal and immoral. Victory will not
change that.

It is also profoundly impractical, when one considers the larger consequences.

Even if victory is swift and painless , we will have wounded, perhaps
mortally, the peace-waging capacity of the United Nations.

We will have sewn deep discord within the European Union and badly
damaged relations with two of our most important allies, France and

We will have destroyed remaining popular support for the governments
of Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, our three most important allies
in the Middle East.

We will have established - and not only for ourselves - the
legitimacy of preemptive attack.

We will have radicalized half a billion young Muslims, transforming a
monster into a martyr in their eyes.

We will have installed ourselves as the rulers of an energy colony
that will not be easy to govern, given the bitter - and, to us,
inscrutable - divisions that exist between its Shiites, its Sunni,
and its Kurds.

We will have brought ourselves to the brink of active hostilities
with Turkey, formerly a strong ally.

We will have bankrupted the teetering American economy.

We will have inserted long-term instability in world financial and
energy markets.

We will have devalued the currency of American moral authority to the
vanishing point. We will have turned America, long the hope of the
world, into the most feared and hated of nations. We will have traded
our national capacity to inspire for a mere capacity to intimidate.

And for what? To avenge 9/11 by punishing a regime that had no proven
role in it? Out of humane concern for the Iraqi people, whom we have
been, by our own policies, starving and impoverishing for the last
decade? In order to destroy possibly mythical "weapons of mass
destruction" in Iraq, even while we abide their proven existence in
such potentially irrational countries as Pakistan, Israel, India,
France, and, hardly least, the United States? The Administration
attacked before it ever provided a justification that would satisfy
any but the most TV-enchanted Christian soldier.

As you BarlowFriendz know, I thought Cheney, Bush, and Rumsfeld were
bluffing. I still think they were. But they painted themselves into
a terrible corner by failing to recognize the irrationality and
intransigence of Saddam Hussein as well as the powerlessness of his
people. When all their terrorism failed to either frighten him into
exile or frighten the Iraqis into thinking it would be safer to
attempt his overthrow, they had no choice but to pursue bluster by
another means, to paraphrase Von Clauswitz. (In his press conference
today, Rumsfeld said, repeatedly, words that amounted to: "Ok, we're
getting really mad now. If you don't pack up and go, Saddam, we'll do
something truly shocking and awful." As if we hadn't already...

Now, of course, these events have acquired all the terrible machinery
of tragedy. They have become horrible juggernaut that will roll
across the world leaving horror and change, mostly for the worse, in
its tracks. I doubt that even Dick Cheney could stop it now.

Meanwhile, life goes gloriously on in Brazil. While the North erupted
on Saturday in war and angry protests against war, Brazil was mainly
concerned with the championship match between São Paulo and
Corinthes. Indeed, the only visible war protest I saw were some
banners in the audience at the soccer game. (Though Michael Moore got
a huge cheer from the Oscar party I attended tonight when he took
after George Bush...)

As you might expect, I have much more to report from down here, where
I've now spent an utterly transforming month. Until now, I've been
having too much fun having adventures to spend my energies on turning
them into information.

I have just taken what is almost certainly the best short course in
Brazilian culture that anyone ever received. Just experiencing
Carnival - in Salvador, Recife, Olinda, Rio, and São Paulo - in the
immediate and continuous company of Gilberto Gil would have been a
lot. In addition to being the Minister of Culture, Gil *is* Brazil in
a way. In his music, his open heart, his sweetly melancholy optimism,
his energy, he represents everything this place rightly loves about

If Gilberto Gil were a member of our cabinet - if we had the kind of
country that would make him a member of the cabinet - we would be
waging peace rather than war and the world would be a lot more like
Brazil. One can only hope that one day it will be.

Paz e Amor,


John Perry Barlow, Cognitive Dissident
Co-Founder & Vice Chairman, Electronic Frontier Foundation Berkman Fellow, Harvard Law School

Home(stead) Page: http://www.eff.org/~barlow

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