We call on those states responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq to terminate their illegal and immoral war, and express our solidarity with the Iraqi people in their struggle for peace, justice and self-determination.

In particular, we demand:

  1. An immediate end to the US and UK-led occupation of Iraq;
  2. Urgent action to fully address the current humanitarian crises facing Iraq’s people, including help for the more than three million refugees and displaced persons;
  3. An end to all foreign interference in Iraq's affairs, including its oil industry, so that Iraqis can exercise their right to self-determination;
  4. Compensation and reparations from those countries responsible for war and sanctions on Iraq;
  5. Prosecution of all those responsible for war crimes, human rights abuses, and the theft of Iraq's resources.

We demand justice for Iraq.

This statement was adopted by the Justice for Iraq conference in London on 19th July 2008. We plan to publish this more widely in future. If you would like to add your name to the list of supporters please contact us.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The US departure from Iraq is an illusion

James Denselow writes in The Guardian: 
Barack Obama has made good on one of his election promises,announcing: "After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over." The Iraqis' assertion of their sovereignty – meaning no legal immunity for US troops – was the deal-breaker, and 39,000 US soldiers will leave Iraq by the end of the year.
Jonathan Steele wrote that the Iraq war was over and the US had learned"that putting western boots on the ground in a foreign war, particularly in a Muslim country, is madness". Yet this madness may continue in a different guise, as there is a huge gap between rhetoric and reality surrounding the US departure from Iraq. In fact, there are a number of avenues by which the US will be able to exert military influence in the country.
These can be divided into four main categories:

Embassy, consulates and private security contractors

The US embassy – the largest and most expensive in the world – is in a green zone of its own in Baghdad, supplied by armed convoys and generating its own water and electricity, and treating its own sewage. At 104 acres, the embassy is almost the same size as Vatican City. It is here that the US is transforming its military-led approach into one of muscular diplomacy.
State department figures show that some 17,000 personnel will be under the jurisdiction of the US ambassador. In addition, there are also consulates in Basra, Mosul and Kirkuk, which have been allocated more than 1,000 staff each. Crucially, all these US staff, including military and security contractors, will have diplomatic immunity. Essentially, the Obama administration is reaping the political capital of withdrawing US troops while hedging the impact of the withdrawal with an increase in private security contractors working for a diplomatic mission unlike any other on the planet.
This "surge" of contractors has even raised the possibility of controversial firm Blackwater, now known as Xe, returning to the country. The firm was responsible for the deaths of 17 Iraqis in 2007 in the infamous Nisour Square massacre, yet president and chief executive Ted Wright told the Wall Street Journal recently that he would like to do business in Iraq again.
In 2008, much was made in of the fact that as part of the Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa) between the US and Iraq, contractors would lose their immunity. However, as a congressional research report noted: "The term defined in the agreement, 'US contractors and their employees', only applies to contractors that are operating under a contract/subcontract with or for the United States forces. Therefore, US contractors operating in Iraq under contract to other US departments/agencies are not subject to the terms of the Sofa."
Congressman Jason Chaffetz questioned the replacement of military forces with contractors, asking: "Are we just playing a little bit of a shell game here?" There is some irony in the fact that a decision by the Iraqi government to deny US soldiers immunity will result in an increase in the numbers of much hated and unaccountable security contractors.

Military trainers included as part of arms deals

There are an estimated 400 arms deals between Baghdad and Washington, worth $10bn, with an additional 110 deals, worth $900m, reportedly pending. Many of these, as part of the deal, require US trainers, who would be working through the Office of Security Co-operation in the embassy. Bloomberg news reported that this "newly established office will have a core staff of 160 civilians and uniformed military alongside 750 civilian contractors overseeing Pentagon assistance programmes, including military training. They will be guarded, fed and housed by 3,500 additional contract personnel", working in 10 offices around the country .
In September, Iraq made the first payments in a £1.9bn deal to buy 18 F-16s. The agreements mean that despite the claim that Iraq took full responsibility for its airspace in October, effective aerial sovereignty will be in the hands of the Americans for years to come as they help to patrol the country's skies and control its airspace, and train its air force. A senior Iraqi politician explained to me last week: "We are absolutely incapable of defending our borders. We don't even have one fighter jet to defend our airspace."

US moving under the Nato umbrella

Nato has a training mission in Iraq that will stay through 2013. The alliance is providing expertise in logistics and policing and Iraqi lawmakers are currently discussing an extension of the Nato mission that could see US military trainers move under the jurisdiction of an agreement originally made in 2004.

Drones and targeted assassinations

With the US in de facto control of Iraq's airspace, Obama is likely to increase his reliance on drones and targeted killings as a means of attacking al-Qaida targets. As the US is still at war with al-Qaida, it can find justification in self-defence and article 51 of the UN charter.
With continued concern over a potential conflict with Iran, it is perhaps unsurprising that the US is unwilling to surrender the ability to influence events on the ground in Iraq. Hillary Clinton told reporters on Sunday: "No one, most particularly Iran, should miscalculate about our continuing commitment to and with the Iraqis going forward."
In his speech on Friday, Obama said the US sought "a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect". Whatever shape the relationship between the US and Iraq takes in the long term, for the short term the US is definitely remaining in the country.

Friday, 28 October 2011

New regular column in East London News

From this week, Iraq Occupation Focus has a new regular column in the East London News.
Here's the first:
Is the Occupation of Iraq finally over ?

The Occupation of Iraq is finally winding down, nearly nine years after America, Britain and others invaded. The last US troops are due out by the end of the year, under an agreement signed in the last days of George W. Bush’s presidency.

But American forces are not going quietly. A growing chorus of Washington politicians are demanding the deadline be extended. Behind them stand the military hawks and war profiteers who have made a lot of money out of Iraq’s misery.

Will all US troops leave by the end of 2011? Firstly, large numbers of western private military contractors will remain indefinitely. Secondly, the US Embassy in Baghdad is by far the largest in the world - one and a half square miles, big enough for 94 football fields. It cost three quarters of a billion dollars to build.

The Iraqi Government says any US troops remaining will not get the blanket immunity that American forces have enjoyed for the last eight and a half years. This has become a major bone of contention between the US and Iraq.

“America's audacity is breathtaking,” said a recent Arab News editorial. “What are America’s brave soldiers afraid of if their hands are clean?”

It’s not surprising US officials want immunity. Everyone involved in this unjust war on Iraq could be tried for war crimes under international law. George Bush and Tony Blair lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and its ability to hit targets in Europe. These lies paved the way for aggression against a sovereign nation, which itself is an international war crime.

They are also guilty of violating the UN convention on torture at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere. Western forces killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Millions of Iraqis have taken refuge in neighbouring countries. It’s unlikely Iraqis will ever get justice for the crimes committed against them - but those who did it still demand indefinite immunity.

The Occupation of Iraq will have long term consequences, in terms of destroyed infrastructure, displacement, cancer-causing munitions and deaths and injuries. While the west moves on to new conflicts, Iraqis will pick up be picking up the pieces for many years.

For more information, see http://justiceforiraq.blogspot.com/. To subscribe to Iraq Occupation Focus’s free fortnightly electronic newsletter, go to https://lists.riseup.net/www/info/iraqfocus.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

US withdraw troops, contractors remain

Iraq rejects US request to maintain bases after troop withdrawal

The Guardian reports (October 21st): The US suffered a major diplomatic and military rebuff when Iraq finally rejected its pleas to maintain bases in the country beyond this year.

Barack Obama announced at a White House press conference that all American troops will leave Iraq by the end of December, a decision forced by the final collapse of lengthy talks between the US and the Iraqi government on the issue.


U.S. and Iraq Had Expected Some American Troops to Stay

NY Times reports (October 21st): This year, American military officials had said they wanted a “residual” force of as many as tens of thousands of American troops to remain in Iraq past 2011 as an insurance policy against any violence. Those numbers were scaled back, but the expectation was that at least about 3,000 to 5,000 American troops would remain.

But they misread Iraqi politics and the Iraqi public. Still burdened by the traumas of this and previous wars, and having watched the revolutions sweeping their region, the Iraqis were unwilling to accept anything that infringed on their sovereignty. Acutely aware of that sentiment, the Iraqi leadership quickly said publicly that they would not support legal protections for any American troops.


The Iraq War Ain’t Over, No Matter What Obama Says

Spencer Ackerman reports for Wired.com (October 21st): America’s military efforts in Iraq aren’t coming to an end. They are instead entering a new phase. On January 1, 2012, the State Department will command a hired army of about 5,500 security contractors, all to protect the largest U.S. diplomatic presence anywhere overseas.

The State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security does not have a promising record when it comes to managing its mercenaries. The 2007 Nisour Square shootings by State’s security contractors, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed, marked one of the low points of the war. Now, State will be commanding a much larger security presence, the equivalent of a heavy combat brigade. In July, Danger Room exclusively reported that the Department blocked the Congressionally-appointed watchdog for Iraq from acquiring basic information about contractor security operations, such as the contractors’ rules of engagement.


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Immunity in Iraq

A recent editorial from Arab News:

What are America’s brave soldiers serving abroad afraid of if their hands are clean?
America's audacity is breathtaking. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has demanded that Iraq provide total immunity to the US troops staying on beyond the scheduled pullout later this year. First, the US must invent a pretext to maintain its military presence in Iraq, not to mention thousands of “advisers,” private security contractors and mercenaries, notwithstanding President Barack Obama’s promised withdrawal from the Arab country. And now it has the temerity to demand “immunity” from Iraqi laws for its forces. Talk of adding insult to injury. The question is: What are America’s brave soldiers afraid of if their hands are clean? 
Truth be told, there is blood on the hands of folks who came claiming to liberate Iraq from tyranny and offer democracy and human freedom. As if the monumental lies about Saddam Hussein’s arsenal of WMDs before the invasion and the carnage and destruction that followed were not enough, the coalition of the willing had to visit every conceivable atrocity and savagery on a long-suffering and vanquished people.
A million lives have been lost — all for a lie and the Oedipal complex of an insecure president. A country that used to be one of the best in the region in terms of infrastructure, economic prosperity and development has been bombed back to the Stone Age. Indeed, the US invasion hasn’t just wrecked the oil-rich country, it has unleashed strife across the Middle East, dividing the whole region along sectarian lines — something that never happened over the past millennium and a half.
Is it any wonder then that most Arabs and Muslims believe that the US war in Iraq is spawned and driven by Israel and its friends in high places? And if the US troops in Iraq fear prosecution under Iraqi law for war crimes, they have every reason to be. Long after the fall of the Baathist regime in Baghdad, the coalition continued to routinely bomb heavily populated cities and towns and Iraqi families were gunned down as “terrorists” and insurgents at checkpoints.
The incidents such as the coldblooded killing of Iraqi civilians along with two Reuters journalists by the US troops in an Apache helicopter in 2007, revealed in a WikiLeaks video last year, were only a tip of the iceberg. The 2006 rape and killing of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl with her family in Mahmoudiya is only one of the many such crimes by the occupation forces that ordinary Iraqis wish could have been prosecuted in their own courtrooms.
Indeed, everyone who unleashed this unjust war on Iraq could be tried for war crimes under international law. They lied about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. They lied about Saddam’s links to Al-Qaeda and 9/11. They lied in the UN about mobile weapon labs, uranium from Niger, Saddam’s ability to hit targets in Europe and much else. These lies served as the pretext for aggression against a sovereign nation, which in itself is an international war crime. They are also guilty of violating the UN convention on torture — remember Abu Ghraib? — and the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Millions of Iraqis have taken refuge in neighboring countries. Can Iraqis ever hope for justice for these crimes? Or is international justice only reserved for the Saddams, Bashirs and Qaddafis of this world and the victors have a license to kill?  

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The last 100 days?

Iraq: 100 Days of Solidarity


Medea Benjamin writes for Counterpunch (September 30th): This week marks the beginning of what is supposed to be the final 100 days of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. But if U.S. troops are to leave Iraq at the end of this year as promised – repeatedly – it will take grassroots pressure to counter the growing “occupy-Iraq-forever” chorus in Washington.
Despite the fact that there is a Bush-era agreement with the Iraqi government to leave, despite the fact that the majority of Iraqis and Americans don’t support a continued U.S. presence, and despite the fact that Congress is supposedly in an all-out austerity mode, strong forces – including generals, war profiteers and hawks in both parties – are pushing President Obama to violate the agreement negotiated by his predecessor and keep a significant number of troops in Iraq past the December 31, 2011 deadline.
It’s true there has already been a major withdrawal of U.S. troops, from a high of 170,000 in 2007 to about 45,000 troops today (with most of the troops being sent over to occupy Afghanistan instead). That number, however, doesn’t tell the whole picture. As the New York Times notes, “Even as the military reduces its troop strength in Iraq, the C.I.A. will continue to have a major presence in the country, as will security contractors working for the State Department,” the latter to defend a U.S. embassy that’s the same size as  the Vatican.

A few days later, Al Jazeera had the following story:

Iraq denies immunity for US troops after 2011
Al Jazeera reports (October 5th): Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, has won enough backing from Shia, Sunni and Kurdish political blocs to keep some US soldiers in Iraq as military trainers, but without granting them immunity if they commit crimes.
Baghdad and Washington must still negotiate over how many troops will stay on and how long they will stay after the December 31 deadline for their withdrawal from Iraq.

US Defense Secretary has of course rejected the idea out of hand that his troops might lose their legal immunity. Meanwhile the State Department operation continues to expand:

State Department readies Iraq operation

Washington Post reports (October 8th): The State Department is racing against an end-of-year deadline to take over Iraq operations from the U.S. military, throwing up buildings and marshalling contractors in its biggest overseas operation since the effort to rebuild Europe after World War II.
While attention in Washington and Baghdad has centered on the number of U.S. troops that may remain in Iraq, they will be dwarfed by an estimated 16,000 civilians under the American ambassador — the size of an Army division.
The scale of the operation has raised concerns among lawmakers and government watchdogs, who fear the State Department will be overwhelmed by overseeing so many people, about 80 percent of them contractors. 

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Was the Iraq war a 'mistake'?

An excellent blog from Michael Parenti:

The Iraq War Is a Smashing Success by Michael Parenti

A reader recently reported on my Facebook wall that President George Bush had admitted to singer Tony Bennett that the Iraq war had been a "mistake." I beg to differ.

The Iraq war has not been a mistake. There was a miscalculation, it being assumed that the US invasion would be quick, easy and dearly welcomed by appreciative Iraqis. Instead the US has faced a bitter, destructive, protracted and costly conflict. There was a "mistake" in terms of operational expectations but Bush achieved what he intended and Obama is faithfully carrying on with the mission. The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld think tank, Project for a New American Century, had called for an invasion of Iraq over a year before 9/11. Iraq had to be taken out either with a quick easy war or a long tough one. In any case, the invasion and destruction of Iraq was not a "mistake."

The US destroyed a country that had the audacity to retain control of its own oil supply, kept its entire economy under state control (rather than private corporate ownership), and did not invite the IMF or the giant transnational corporations in. Iraq charted an independent course under a dictator who originally had served the CIA, and had destroyed the left progressive democracy that existed in Iraq since the 1958 revolution. But Saddam then retained control of the country's resources instead of throwing everything wide open to western investors.

Saddam also got out of line on oil quotas (wanting an equitable share of the international market). And he decided to drop the US dollar as the reserve currency and use the Euro instead. So he and his country have been correctly destroyed in keeping with the interests of the US-led global empire. Everything is now privatized, deregulated, devastated and poor--as with Yugoslavia and soon with Libya. Mission accomplished. Pace Tony. Read my book THE FACE OF IMPERIALISM if you ever find time.

Why I arrested Donald Rumsfeld

Nate Goldshlag writes for The Guardian (September 30th): On Monday 26 September, three members of Veterans For Peace and a member of Code Pink confronted Donald Rumsfeld at a Boston stop of his book tour. I attempted to make a citizen's arrest. Police hustled all four of us out, while a hostile rightwing crowd shouted and jeered.

Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and the rest of this crew are war criminals, according to international law. They lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They lied about Saddam Hussein being linked to 9/11. These lies were used as a pretext for initiating a war of aggression against a sovereign nation – an international war crime.