September 11, 2008

Letters Against the War, and where to read it in English

One of the best books I ever read is "A Fortune Teller Told Me" by Tiziano Terzani. It was given to me as a present several years ago, and it was the type of book that I couldn't put down. The kind of book that when you're reading it, makes you reluctant to go to the dinner party or movie that you made plans for, because you'd rather be reading your book. Naturally, when I was finished, I looked around for other books by the same author and found several that have all been translated into English (from Italian).

Terzani published a book titled Lettere contro la guerra, or "Letters Against the War," in 2002, and I assumed I would be able to find an English translation in bookstores eventually. I mean, Terzani is a pretty well-known author and journalist. A good friend of mine who is fluent in Italian kept recommending this book to me and I kept wondering, why on earth can't I find this in English? Why can't I just go to Amazon and order it?

Here's the answer from Terzani himself, which I copied directly.

Florence (Italy) early December 2002

Dear Friends,

The year that is about to end has been dramatic for all of us. Never before has each one of us been so unequivocally confronted with the question of war and peace. Back from a long trip into Pakistan and Afghanistan, I started the year publishing, first in Italian and then in various other European languages, a booklet dedicated to my 3-year old American grandson, Novalis. The book "Letters Against the War" was meant to raise questions about the way to face the situation created by the events of September 11th and to suggest that violence might no longer be the best solution for this and future conflicts of mankind.

The book was an immediate success in Italy (for 18 weeks it was among the top 10 best sellers). It was well received, reviewed, and sold in France, Germany, and Spain. Somehow, continental Europe with her, by now almost genetic, memory of war and destruction, seemed extremely responsive to the neo-pacifist appeal of the "Letters." Wherever I went to talk about my experiences as an old war correspondent, big crowds gathered to listen and to discuss.

Unfortunately this was not at all the reaction of the Anglo-Saxon world, particularly of the UK and the USA, whose governments and press have taken a very bellicose, pro-war stand. All attempts to have the "Letters" published in English failed. All the English and American publishers who has printed my previous books responded with a "No, thank you" note. I did not give up. I had the book translated myself and offered it again to all kinds of publishers in London and New York.

To no avail. Even my offer to give the book for free failed.

Finally, a publisher in New Delhi (India Research Press) dared to take up the offer and his Indian edition remains the ONLY English version of the "Letters Against the War" now available in print. Now to allow as many people as possible to have access to the book, I decided, together with Massimo De Martino who in his spare time, generously run the T.T. fan Club founded three years ago, to post the whole book on the internet. You can download it for free and I would be most grateful if you circulate text among you friends and "adversaries."

It is time to think, to discuss, to argue and finally to raise our consciousness and to save ourselves. Nobody else can do it for us.

Thank you very much,

Tiziano Terzani
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You can download the entire book for free here. If for any reason that link gives you difficulty, just let me know and I can email it to you.

When I think about how many lives were lost on September 11th, I don't just count the people that died that day. I'm counting the thousands of people all over the world who have died as the result of the US waging a war that still continues to this day. Unbelievable to think that seven years later, Iraqi and American and other foreign troops are still dying, and you'll still hear September 11th used as an excuse to justify it all.

3 comments:

Blank Xavier said...

But what do you do when someone else brings war to you? Take Holland - they never wanted war; they were invaded by Germany and spent five years in a living hell.

And what do you do when you see a country which is in thrall to an overwhelming evil? if you could invade and end the torture, the misery, the wasted, broken lives - wouldn't there be an ethical imperative upon you to do so?

Another American Expat said...

there's no way you can compare WW2 and the Nazi invasion to the US invasion of Iraq. When another country invades and removes people from their homes because of religion or race, ships them off to concentration camps, and destroys a society, that is a reason to fight back. That's genocide. When genocide threatens to take place, I believe it is the responsibility of the entire world to pay attention and put a stop to it.

What is going on in Iraq isn't about genocide. And it's not even about what happened on September 11th, because Iraq had nothing to do with those attacks.

The US president and vice president are guilty of crimes against humanity, in my opinion. The US government has not followed the rules of the Geneva convention, they go against UN policy, and they break the rules of international law. So what do we do about that? Will these people ever be bought to justice? Not likely.

The fact is, the US has failed, miserably, to end the torture, misery, and broken lives. The excuse the US used to invade was "weapons of mass destruction," which was proved to be a lie - we declared war on a country that did not threaten us, and we simply failed. It doesn't matter about all the times in history you can point out where the US has done good things to help end wars or genocide or "stopped the bad guys," because this time that is not what happened. Saddam Hussein fell from power years ago, yet we're still at war, still killing, still being killed.

Blank Xavier said...

another american expat wrote:
> there's no way you can compare
> WW2 and the Nazi invasion to the
> US invasion of Iraq.

Yes, this is true. But I am not - the first point is a general one; war is appalling, but what happens when it is the least worse choice?

I was thinking of the war in Iraq with regard to the ethical imperative to act when one can act to relieve others of evil. (Actually, I'm not sure that imperative exists - Thoreau argued we only had the duty not to *impose* evil on others - there
was no duty upon us to *relieve* others of evil, since we were not responsible for it).

> When another country invades and
> removes people from their homes
> because of religion or race,
> ships them off to concentration
> camps, and destroys a society,
> that is a reason to fight back.
> That's genocide. When genocide
> threatens to take
> place, I believe it is the
> responsibility of the entire
> world to pay attention
> and put a stop to it.

I agree from an ethical point of view (on the basis that there are approximate values of what we would call good and evil which we as humans need to adhere to
or be miserable). I certainly would am deeply unhappy when such things occur.

Realpolitik has a different ethic which revolve national self-interest. It is essentially about survival and competition. As such, the behaviour we would like to see does not typically occur.

> What is going on in Iraq isn't
> about genocide. And it's not
> even about what
> happened on September 11th,
> because Iraq had nothing to do
> with those attacks.

Yes. But I hope you're not about to say it's about oil!

> The US president and vice
> president are guilty of crimes
> against humanity,
> in my opinion.

For what, though?

Historically speaking, the USA has been unique among nations in having really acted in the geopolitical arena from its internal, cultural beliefs about
right and wrong. This, when it started to happen (say, Wilson and the fourteen points and the end of WW1) was an entirely new phenomenon. Unfortunately, it
didn't work - probably *doesn't* work - and it was one of the primary causal factors of WW2.

I may be completely wrong, but I think that a part of the motivation for the second invasion was simply to remove Saddam Hussein from power because he was so absolutely evil.

Certainly since them the US Army has done terrible things - but this is not a phenominon unique to the US Army. All armies do this. They are men trained to kill. They are not policemen. They should be kept well away from civilian populations.

> The US government has not
> followed the rules of the Geneva
> convention, they
> go against UN policy,

No bad thing, IMHO. The UN is a great talking shop but when it comes to the rights and wrongs of a situation and acting in a prompt and effective manner to save lives, they're useless. Rwanda, Burundi, Darfur, etc, etc, etc.

> and they break the rules of
> international law. So what do we
> do about
> that? Will these people ever be
> bought to justice? Not likely.

Indeed so. For who is to do it?

> The fact is, the US has failed,
> miserably, to end the torture,
> misery, and broken lives.

Hmm. Yes and no. Iraq is a disaster and the violence there is appalling. The US failed to plan for the post-war situation and screwed up hugely.

But Iraq before the war - people seem not to know what it was like - how profoundly evil it was. Doctors ordered by the State to amputate the hands of theives. All
pervasive State surveillence - is your friend an informer? can you trust your wife? arbitrary extra-judicial execution. No freedom, no hope, no future. A dictator who killed a few *million* people in a war against Iran because he hoped to take over. The use of chemical weapons against civilians. I could go on forever.

Better Iraq now, even the disaster it is, than what was there before.

> The excuse the US used to invade
> was "weapons of mass
> destruction," which was proved
> to be a lie - we declared war on
> a country that did not threaten
> us, and we simply failed.

I could be wrong, but I suspect that was for public consumption. I
don't think it was a real motive.

> It doesn't matter about all
> the times in history you can
> point out where the US has done
> good things to help end wars or
> genocide or "stopped the bad
> guys," because this
> time that is not what happened.
> Saddam Hussein fell from power
> years ago, yet we're still at
> war, still killing, still being
> killed.

Yes. It takes generations to form a state. Iraq was formed, by us Brits, in 1926 and became nominally independent six years later. (Not genuinely independent at all, although the Iraq monarch did a good job of keeping some measure of control). Most successful countries in the
world today are hundreds or thousands of years old. Iraq is going to be bloody and violent for decades to come, because that's how long it takes for things to change, especially when you've got three groups who basically hate each other - Kurd, Sunni and Shia.