Thoughts on the restoration of basic human and professional ethics

Thoughts on the restoration of basic human and professional ethics
Published in Planning News, Volume 29 No. 3 May 2003
In response to the article “Dreaming of Baghdad” (Planning News, Volume 29 No. 3 April 2003)

War on Iraq is illegal, unjustified and a crime. Surely the prevention of war and the consequent destruction should be debated by planners and not presented as an opportunity for innovative planning or worse, ardently supported as a way to “suggest” western planning standards.

The refusal by Australia to support the UN is central to any discussion before any cake is divided up between coalitions or consortiums of willing planners “Dreaming of Baghdad”.

Basic professional ethics should have motivated us to oppose this war and the subsequent murdering of civilians, the destruction of their infrastructure and heritage. It is not acceptable that we "professionals" will profit from the reconstruction of Iraq - this is immoral and unethical. As professionals we should continue to denounce the practice of profiting from people's suffering and the violations of their human rights, the destruction of their cities and environment, their sovereignty and dignity.

A tourist guide, The Arabian Nights and a pamphlet on Baghdad monuments coupled with pre-emptive Planning zeal hardly seem a justification for a war. Peter’s insightful observation that Iraqi citizens are just the same as us, is simply a transparent excuse for the bonanza to befall arrogant and unethical planners. They are the same - we should have acknowledged this before the war - they grieve their children deaths as we would for our own children - no collateral excuse can ever justify 2,425 civilian deaths to date.

Far from even questioning the basis and the devastating impact of war on the built environment, imbedded planners like Peter are drooling with the taste of some regulation (definitely western) for post Saddam Iraq. Don’t taste the water or the soil, because despite the weapons of mass destruction that, yet to be found, are the justification for this murder and destruction, you may be a little depleted by the uranium left by the occupying forces.

Freedom of choice sings from this Jewell in the crown of either ignorance or imperialism. There is perhaps a choice between the 300 tonnes of ammunition containing depleted uranium (DU) from George Bush Senior’s Gulf war in 1991, brutally and endlessly maiming and killing of untold thousands of Iraqi children and Saddam’s gas of 1985 killing 5000. Topped up with George Bush Junior’s DU deposits, the canaries that Peter wants us to hear sing should have been substituted for doves for all including the Kurds. Not that Peter Planners would advocate a Kurdish State in the name of liberty and the ballot, because that may not only upset the planning regulations for a unified Iraq but would have the Turkish Government on the back of the US administration. And Turkey is not a rogue state despite their treatment of the Kurds.

Bellicose support for the smart bombing of Iraq doesn’t acknowledge the crime committed against civilians nor comprehends the early warning of many, including the UNESCO, to protect and to prevent the ransacking of the Library and the National Museum. Not a word from willing planners to the smart generals calling for any action to protect 7,000 years of the history of civilization. Too busy protecting the oil wells that will pay for the reconstruction of the destruction, by the planners for the people’s own good. Australia has no knowledge of struggle within our territory and only exports such misery overseas sure in our myths about tolerance and equality while our own indigenous people don’t rate a mention.

Peter would like to encourage “risk taking” by Iraqis. Haven’t they risked enough in a lifetime? Would anyone in their right mind willingly bring about the bombing of their cities as we have seen in Baghdad? No, we never asked them. Some would say, they had no right to express their will under the regime of Saddam Hussein – neither did we have that chance, by the way – as the invaders and killers of people who have never harmed us.

He definitely doesn’t understand the role of a plaza/piazza. How about we obliterate the Piazza Novana Allagata as a symbol of Roman Imperialism, Piazza de San Pietro in the Vatican for the crusades, or the Plaza Zocalo in Mexico City? I understood that the Russians and the East Germans destroyed their own icons of oppression, not an invading force. History is multi layered. Has Peter any sites planned for the next smart bombs to hit rogue states. Kim-Il-Sung Statues, Tiananmen Square, Ho Chi Min City (oops, they actually beat the most powerful nation in the world), any other parts of history you plan to erase?

Just so pre-emptive Peter can lay his plans on the table; I think he should put in a bid for the War on Planning. Let’s pick a rogue state and see if we can assist the next coalition of the willing to hit the right targets and even have the legislation, regulations and designs ready to go to win that first contract. Perhaps we could run a virtual competition in the universities so that everyone knows the rules for being a competent planner in a global world. Of course not.

Planners, architects, urban designers, let’s remember that Iraq has its own professionals, and its own way to go about re-building the cradle of civilisation. After the atrocities committed in our name, we should only humbly and ashamedly offer our assistance if Iraqi’s professionals so require it, on their terms, to enhance their culture and not for financial gain.

Let’s please go back to our basic human values - in which profits and egos are not above our ethical responsibilities and in solidarity with our colleagues in Iraq. We need to demonstrate with actions, that we respect other nations, as equals in their differences and rights, by not inflicting on them what we would not inflict on ourselves.

For a peaceful world, free from double standards, imperialist despotism and wars.

Beatriz C. Maturana
B.Arch M.Urb.Des. MPIA


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