War on Iraq

Conscience Of a Juror

To ask why there is a World Tribunal on Iraq is like asking someone who stops at the site of an accident where people are dying, why did you stop?
The World Tribunal on Iraq wrapped its three-day session Monday in Istanbul, Turkey after three days of hearings in which they investigated various issues related to the war on Iraq, such as the legality of the war, the role of the United Nations, war crimes and the role of the media, as well as the destruction of the cultural sites and the environment.

The 17-member Jury of Conscience delivered its verdict at a news conference, reading in part: "Recognizing the right of the Iraqi people to resist the illegal occupation of their country and to develop independent institutions, and affirming that the right to resist the occupation is the right to wage a struggle for self-determination, freedom, and independence as derived from the Charter of the United Nations, we the Jury of Conscience declare our solidarity with the people of Iraq."

Arundhati Roy, Chair of Jury of Conscience, addressed the World Tribunal on Iraq, June 26, 2005:

When I was invited to be on the jury by the W.T.I. -- yesterday, when they were making a film, they asked me, "Why did you agree? You must have had so many invitations; why did you choose this?" And I said, you know, "I feel so hurt that you are asking me this question. Because it's ours. You know, where else would I be? What other invitations would matter to me when we have to attend to this, this huge, enormous bloody thing?" You know, since I'm not a lawyer, nor am I even much of an organizer, nor am I even somebody who has been particularly concerned about my legitimacy or, you know.

I don't think in sort of legal and bureaucratic terms, so you know, I didn't really go down the road of questioning who we are or who we represent, because to me it was a bit like somebody asking me whether I had the legitimacy to write a novel. I mean, we're just a group of human beings, whether we are five or ten or fifteen or ten million. Surely, we have the right to express an opinion, and surely, if that opinion is irrelevant, surely, if that opinion is full of false facts, surely, if that opinion is absurd, it will be treated as such, and if that opinion is, in fact, representative of the opinion of millions of people, it will become very huge.

So we don't need to really worry ourselves too much about defining ourselves. I think we need to worry about being very clear, being very honest, being very precise about what we think and express that fearlessly and in solidarity with the values that all of us have so clearly expressed in so many ways here today.

I really think this last three days...speaking as a writer, what I seek with complete greed, what I seek almost ruthlessly is understanding. You know, that is all that I ever ask for, an understanding of the debt of this world we live in. And that was a gift that one received, and I will always be grateful for it.

To ask us why we are doing this, you know, why is there a World Tribunal on Iraq, is like asking, you know, someone who stops at the site of an accident where people are dying on the road, why did you stop? Why didn't you keep walking like everybody else?

While I listened to the testimonies yesterday, especially, I must say that I didn't know -- I mean, not that one has to choose, but still, you know, I didn't know what was more chilling, you know, the testimonies of those who came from Iraq with the stories of the blood and the destruction and the brutality and the darkness of what was happening there, or the stories of that cold, calculated world where the business contracts are being made, where the laws are rewritten, where a country occupies another with no idea of how it's going to provide protection to people, but with such a sophisticated idea of how it's going to loot it of its resources. You know, the brutality or the contrast of those two things was so chilling.

There were times when I felt, I wish I wasn't on the jury, because I want to say things. You know? I mean, I think that is the nature of this tribunal, that, in a way, one wants to be everything. You want to be on the jury, you want to be on the other side, you want to say things. And I particularly wanted to talk a lot about -- which I won't do now, so don't worry, but I wanted to talk a lot about my own... several years of experience with issues of resistance, strategies of resistance, the fact that we actually tend to reach for easy justifications of violence and non-violence, easy and not really very accurate historical examples. These are things we should worry about.

But at the end of it, today we do seem to live in a world where the United States of America has defined an enemy combatant, someone whom they can kidnap from any country, from anyplace in the world and take for trial to America. An enemy combatant seems to be anybody who harbors thoughts of resistance. Well, if this is the definition, then I, for one, am an enemy combatant. Thank you.
Arundhati Roy lives in New Delhi, India. She is the author of "The God of Small Things" and "Power Politics" (South End Press).
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