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.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Iraq - it could take years

Ten weeks after Parliament voted to bomb IS (Islamic State) in northern Iraq, US Secretary of State has admitted that it could take years for them to be defeated. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/03/us-isis-iran-islamic-state Since Parliament’s vote in September, other European countries have lined up to take part in the campaign - but it remains uncertain whether these actions will materially alter the balance of forces on the ground.

The murderous nature of IS is not in question. Three months ago they kidnapped hundreds of women from the Yazidi sect and subjected them to physical and sexual abuse, slavery and forced marriage. http://www.niqash.org/articles/?id=3575
 In Iraq, there are reports of former election candidates being hunted down and publicly executed in areas now under their control.
http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/isis-militants-hunt-down-publicly-execute-former-election-candidates-n257616  In Syria, children are being recruited, given religious training and sent off to fight. http://news.yahoo.com/islamic-state-group-recruits-exploits-children-110950193.html

But serious questions are now being raised about the air strikes intended to destroy their forces by the US and its allies. There is evidence of 100 or more non-combatants killed since the US bombardment began in August. In one particular incident, an estimated 65 civilians, mainly women and children, were bombed in a crowded market, an atrocity scarcely reported in western media. http://ninanews.com/english/News_Details.asp?ar95_VQ=HHEGIH
Yet the Pentagon has no plans to pay compensation for those killed in error - a significant departure from its practice in recent conflicts.

A recent article in Foreign Policy in Focus expresses fears this might play into IS hands. It quoted a terrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch: “The U.S. and its allies began making no-fault payments for civilian casualties in Afghanistan after their failure to acknowledge these tragedies created a backlash and handed a recruiting card to groups like the Taliban. While states have no international legal obligation to compensate for so-called ‘acceptable collateral damage,’ doing so is the right move morally and strategically.” http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/12/03/pentagon-in-denial-about-civilian-casualties-of-u-s-airstrikes-in-iraq-and-syria/?wp_login_redirect=0

The US-led Coalition against IS continues to grow. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE are bombing IS targets in Syria and the Europeans - the UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, France, Belgium, as well as Canada and Australia - are active in northern Iraq. In a move that could well backfire politically, Iran too has joined the bombardments. Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of the action. Singapore is the latest country to send military personnel. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/141202/singapore-sends-personnel-combat-terrorism-iraq-and-syria

Boots on the ground are supplied by the notoriously corrupt Iraqi army. Patrick Cockburn has documented how salaries and  equipment were claimed for some 50,000 “ghost soldiers”. It was this state of affairs that led to the army’s military collapse in Mosul earlier this year, leading to the town’s seizure by IS.

The New York Times confirms this: “The Iraqi military and police forces had been so thoroughly pillaged by their own corrupt leadership that they all but collapsed this spring in the face of the advancing militants of the Islamic State — despite roughly $25 billion worth of American training and equipment over the past 10 years and far more from the Iraqi treasury.”

Despite the removal of former prime minister Nouri Al-Malaki whose sectarian policies fuelled the Sunni uprising from which IS extremists have profited, the Iraqi military continues to behave in a sectarian manner, targeting Sunnis indiscriminately. According to a recent New York Times report, when the Euphrates Valley farming town of Jurf al-Sakhar was recaptured from IS, the town's last remaining civilian residents - about 70,000 Sunnis -were driven out of town. The army was helped in its work by the Shia militias that accompanied it.  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/06/world/middleeast/sunnis-fear-permanent-displacement-from-iraqi-town.html?ref=middleeast&_r=0  There have been reports of these militias carrying out the most brutal reprisals. http://online.wsj.com/articles/shiite-militias-win-bloody-battles-in-iraq-show-no-mercy-1417804464

In a classic mission creep, US combat troops are gradually returning to Iraq too. Under the new puppet prime minister Haider al_Abadi, the Pentagon has secured for its forces what was denied by his predecessor: immunity for US soldiers from prosecution for any offence. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/04/us-troops-in-iraq-will-get-immunity Bush’s discredited war looks like being part of Obama’s legacy too.

In the UK, it’s tempting to be discouraged by the large numbers of MPs who voted to join the bombing of northern Iraq eleven years after British forces invaded. But talking to some of them, it’s clear that they are profoundly ignorant of the situation. They have bought the line that IS are “pure evil” and that other forces in play are well-meaning, including the puppet Iraqi government, that is in fact led by the same Shia party that unleashed a sectarian conflict in Iraq that fuelled the Sunni rebellion that IS have been able to capitalise on. It’s worth trying to explain patiently to some of these MPs - especially those who rebelled against the 2003 invasion - what’s really happening.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre

As journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti observed in 2004, “Fallujah was once called the city of minarets. It once echoed the Euphrates in its beauty and calm. It had plentiful water and lush greenery. It was a summer resort for Iraqis. People went there for leisure, for a swim at the nearby Habbaniya lake, for a kebab meal.”
At that time, Fallujah was a centre of resistance. Fallujah was the symbol of a whole region in defiance of an occupation. That is why Fallujah was destroyed – now 10 years ago. In Fallujah, the largest high-tech army in history applied its fire-power on one of the most densely populated areas in Iraq.
Fallujah was largely treated as a “free-fire zone”. Before ground forces searched houses for “terrorists”, homes were flattened with bulldozers – regardless of the consequences. Fallujah is Guernica, Fallujah is Grozny. Fallujah is the Srebrenica of the USA. But the Fallujah massacre has been kept in silence.
During the US/Coalition-occupation of Fallujah, which started after the Iraq War of 2003, aggressive street patrols, house raids, intimidations, detentions into Abu-Ghraib prison and killings of Fallujah’s citizens provoked resistance against the Coalition. The people of Fallujah were consequently labelled as “insurgents” and “terrorists”. That was a distortion. Essentially, the uprising in Fallujah was a legitimate resistance that struggled against an illegitimate foreign occupation.
In 2004, the US/Coalition army set up a “counterinsurgency operation” in Fallujah to crush the resistance. In reality, the “operation” resembled collective punishment. This was indicated by the “operation’s” designs and outcomes, “Eight weeks of heavy bombardments expelled about two thirds of Fallujah’s 300,000 inhabitants. Many people stranded in “squatters’ camps without basic facilities” and tens of thousands have remained refugees for years to come.”
In early November, Fallujah was sealed off, while males between the age of 15-55 where prevented from leaving the city. The military “cut off the city’s water, power and food supplies”.
In his book Failed States, Noam Chomsky commented as follows, “The plans resembled the preliminary stage of the Srebrenica massacre, though the Serb attackers trucked women and children out of the city instead of bombing them out.”
US/Coalition forces conducted a full-scale military attack. The US/Coalition used heavy weapons and ordnance such as AC-130 gunships with automatic cannons, Cobra gunships firing anti-tank missiles, F-18s, Abrams tanks firing 120mm rounds, Bradley tanks firing 25mm rounds, explosive coils to clear minefields containing 1,800 pounds of explosives, 500 and 2,000 pound bombs, rocket assisted shells with a 55 yard killing range, 155-millimeter artillery shells, howitzer shells, mortar rounds, heavy cannons, and high velocity machine guns.
On 10 November, the German Süddeutsche Zeitung published a report by Reuterswhich cited Lt Col. John Morris stating that US troops would slog through Fallujah “like a fist” (US-Truppen Erreichen Zentrum Falludschas,” Süddeutsche Zeitung, 10 November, p. 1., 2004).
How the military hit through Fallujah can be read from exemplary descriptions in newspaper coverage. In the Independent, Kim Sengupta and Justin Huggler reflected on early operational tactics, “An AC-130 gunship raked the city all night long with cannon fire as heavy explosions from US artillery continued well into the morning. The city was pounded all day with air strikes, artillery and mortar fire. War planes carried out some two dozen sorties against the city, and four 500-pound bombs were dropped over Fallujah before dawn.”  (Battle for Fallujah Rages,” The Independent, 9 November, pp. 1, 4, 2004)
The New York Times’ Dexter Filkins, who was embedded with the US military in Fallujah, depicted the soldiers’ “firing a 200-yard cord containing 1,800 pounds of explosive southward from the berm, toward downtown Fallujah” (Urban Warfare Deals Harsh Challenge to Troops,” New York Times, 9 November, p. 1, 2004). This was a mine clearing-system called Miclic that had firstly been used on D Day to sweep the beaches of the Normandy. The Times’s defence editor Michael Evans commented:
“The Miclic is normally designed for open spaces because it generates tremendous pressure, setting off mines over a large area. […] It is highly effective but also indiscriminate, and not normally considered suitable for an urban environment.” (Deadly Rockets Blast Way Through,” The Times, 10 November, p. 9, 2004)
Robert F. Worth, of the New York Times cited a website journal by NBC journalist Kevin Sites, who was embedded with Marines in Fallujah and who wrote that the military had operated “with liberal rules of engagement”. According to Worth, the writing went “on to quote a marine saying everything to the west of his position in Falluja was ‘weapons free.’ It continues, ‘Weapons free means the marines can shoot whatever they see – it’s all considered hostile.’” (Newsman Who Taped Marine Shooting Captive Keeps Silent,” New York Times, 18 November, p. 15, 2004)
Consequently, and as Jacqui Spinner wrote in the Washington Post, civilians in Fallujah had stated “they had simply been caught up in a sweep for insurgents that unfairly targeted all military-age males” (Fallujans Staying at Mosque Get Grim Task: Grave Digging,” Washington Post, 20 November, p. A 12, 2004).
In fact, there is evidence that US/Coalition forces may have indiscriminately killed civilians. For example, US-American independent journalist Dahr Jamail reported at the time in the New Standard online newspaper, “Men now seeking refuge in the Baghdad area are telling horrific stories of indiscriminate killings by US forces during the peak of fighting last month in the largely annihilated city of Fallujah.”
In an interview with The New Standard, Burhan Fasaâ a, an Iraqi journalist who works for the popular Lebanese satellite TV station, LBC, said he witnessed US crimes up close. Burhan Fasaâ, who was in Fallujah for nine days during the most intense combat, said Americans grew easily frustrated with Iraqis who could not speak English. “Americans did not have interpreters with them,” Fasaâ a said, “so they entered houses and killed people because they didn’t speak English. They entered the house where I was with 26 people, and [they] shot people because [the people] didn’t obey [the soldiers’] orders, even just because the people couldn’t understand a word of English.”
Consider that according to official estimates by The Emergency Working Group which comprised of the UN, the Red Cross/Crescent and various ministries of the Iraqi Interim Government, about 50,000 civilians were expected to hide in Fallujah, a dense city with the size of about 3 x 3,5 kilometers in square. Consequently, the “operation” destroyed about 70% of the city and killed up to an estimate of 6,000people.
In a documentary for the RAI broadcasting channel, Italian Journalists Sigfrido Ranucci and Maurizio Torrealta called this event The Hidden Massacre.
Yet, until today, Fallujah has largely not been described as a massacre in Western intellectual and media culture. Without any legal investigation, the Fallujah massacre has been kept in silence.