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 25 December 2011

Iraq's conflict of the powerful

Sami Ramadani writes for The Guardian (December 23rd):  Baghdad, the city of my childhood, is again being terrorised by cowardly attacks aimed at spilling the blood of as many workers, students, shoppers and bystanders as possible. As I write, the facts are becoming clearer: the hundreds of murdered and injured men, women and children are Shia, Sunni, Christian, Arab, Kurd, Turkuman – a cross-section of the mosaic of peoples who have inhabited Mesopotamia for more than 1,000 years.
So, who is killing the innocent in Baghdad today, and why?
In the rush to provide an explanation for the nihilistic violence, the same old simplistic mantra is trotted out. Thursday's co-ordinated, simultaneous attacks are invariably described by the media as sectarian. Few pause to ask why a "sectarian" attack would be aimed at all sects and ethnicities equally. Only a handful raise the possibility that these attacks are not sectarian in motive, or a reflection of sectarian hatred on the streets, but are instead designed to create sectarian entrenchment and animosity, and ignite street conflict.
Similarly, analysts are quick to conclude that both the power strugglewithin the political elite, and the explosions are the result of the withdrawal of US troops. They portray the US forces as the good Samaritan who prematurely left the scene. Too few examine the legacy of the occupiers' poisonous presence at the heart of Iraqi society for nearly nine years, or ask why the US has built the biggest embassy in the world in Baghdad, staffed by 15,000 personnel and spies.
Today's bitter power struggle can be traced back to the measured 2003 decisions made by Paul Bremer . Bremer, a Bush "civilian" appointed to rule Iraq, continued the military occupation under a different guise. Faced with massive popular opposition and armed resistance to the US-led invasion, the US recognised in 2003 that the occupation of Iraq could not continue without a prominent Iraqi component, so Bremer formed the Iraqi governing council while retaining control of all levers of power.
The mix of the 25-member council was carefully calibrated, with quotas to reflect Iraq's sectarian and ethnic makeup. That sectarian formula was to be mirrored in all Bremer's appointments. Far from preventing sectarianism, it introduced it to all the political and military institutions created by the occupation.
For the US, such divide-and-rule tactics remain the only viable weapon they have to control or influence the Iraqi political scene. Another example is the plan by the US vice-president, Joe Biden, to divide Iraqinto three autonomous regions based on ethnic and sectarian divisions. The Biden plan is now backed in Iraq by supporters of factions opposed to the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, grouped in a political bloc led by the self-confessed former CIA asset, Iyad Allawi, and the vice-president, Tariq Hashimi. This is taken as evidence that Iraqis themselves want their country to be divided in this way. But few media analysts have questioned the ramifications of such an approach. There is today no part of Iraq that is purely Shia, Sunni, Christian, Arab, Kurd or Turkuman. In Baghdad, where more than a quarter of Iraq's population live, you will still find Iraqi people in all their multi-layered social complexity. Not even Bremer's concrete walls that so disfigure the city have succeeded in creating sectarian hatreds there. Instead, they quickly became one of the most hated symbols of the occupation. The Biden plan, if implemented, could almost certainly lead to large-scale ethnic cleansing to create religiously and ethnically demarcated lines.
Such is the anger at the occupation that many Iraqis think the US was behind Thursday's attack. This belief is dismissed as conspiratorial, but it is widely held. There is a reason for this. Apart from the horrific violence committed directly by the occupation forces and Pentagon-contracted mercenaries, the US also created Iraqi secret militia, and smuggled tens of thousands of weapons and tons of explosives into Iraq through private firms in Bosnia. Bremer was unable to tell a congressional committee how he spent an unaccounted-for $8.8bn dollars, but many Iraqis suspect that it was used to fund violent sectarian forces. Indiscriminate killings and terrorist attacks were a permanent feature of the US-led occupation, and to many ordinary Iraqis, Thursday's bloodshed is just more of the same.
Similarly, ordinary Iraqis see their current rulers, who arrived with the occupation, as self-seeking, corrupt politicians who use religious and ethnic differences to perpetuate sectarianism as a means of creating power bases. Though no angel himself, the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr spoke for many when he described the current so-called sectarian divisions as "a conflict of the powerful", and the terrorist attacks as the product of "continued US influence and presence in Iraq".

Sunday 18 December 2011

Will Iraq's 1.3 million refugees ever be able to go home?

The Independent report (December 16th): Eight years and three months after "liberating Iraq", a time of unrelenting savage strife in which tens of thousands died and a society was torn apart, America has formally ended its war in Iraq.
After the colours of the US forces were lowered and the "Last Post" was played, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta told troops: "You will leave with great pride, lasting pride, secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to cast tyranny aside and to offer hope for prosperity and peace to this country's future generations."
The ceremony, just 48 minutes long to limit the scope of any possible attack, was held behind high, fortified walls in a concrete courtyard at the airport in Baghdad. "We spilled a lot of blood here," Mr Panetta acknowledged. But, he insisted: "It has been to achieve a mission making the country sovereign and independent and able to govern and secure itself."
Not far from where the speeches were taking place lay grim evidence which refuted the claims that the Americans were leaving behind a land of stability and prosperity. More than 8,000 people are living in squalor in a field of mud and foetid water, with huts made of rags and salvaged pieces of wood.
The residents of Al-Rahlat camp are among 1.3 million refugees in their own country; families driven out of their homes by the sectarian violence spawned by the war. Another 1.6 million fled Iraq for neighbouring states, mainly Jordan and Syria. Those in Syria, with its escalating violence, are now having to seek another place of safety.
There is a third group who are particularly vulnerable – around 70,000 people who worked for the US military. They were promised the offer of refuge in the US, but little has been done fulfil the pledge. Barack Obama, while campaigning for the White House four years ago, berated the Bush administration over the issue, saying: "The Iraqis who stood with us are being targeted for assassination, yet our doors are shut. That is not how we treat our friends." In 2008 Congress passed a bill for special immigration visas to be issued for 25,000, but only 3,000 have been processed during Obama's presidency.
Around 450,000 of the IDPs (internally displaced persons) are living in the worst conditions, crammed into 380 street settlements scattered around the country. They have little or no access to clean water, sanitation or medical care. Many of these people, deemed to be illegally squatting, cannot get the documents necessary to register for welfare relief or take up jobs, or enrol their sons and daughters in schools. The tension and claustrophobia of such an existence has led to psychological problems, especially among children. Domestic violence is rife.
Hakim al-Ibrahimi, a 47-year-old unemployed bricklayer, has been stuck at Al-Rahlat camp, in the Shia enclave of Sadr City, for the past two years with his wife and four children. "I was staying with my brother and his family. But there were 11 of us in a flat with two bedrooms, it became impossible," he said.
"Officials tell us to go back to our home. But what home? We used to live in Adhamiya [a mainly Sunni area] and we had to escape otherwise we would have been killed. That was four years ago and I know someone else is living in my house with his family. Life here is really bad, but if we go back to Adhamiya we won't be safe."
The turbulence of Iraq's recent history had taken its toll on Amal's family (not her real name). Her husband was killed in the war with Iran and a son, Akram, was executed by Saddam Hussein's regime after joining the underground opposition. A second son, Mazruq, died in a sectarian attack. Amal lives at a camp with her daughter, Radwa, and three grandchildren. She has not received compensation under a scheme set up by the Iraqi government for civilian victims of the war.
The International Rescue Committee, which provides humanitarian assistance, has taken up the case of Amal and dozens of others. The IRC said: "As the US government withdraws its troops, it leaves behind a major crisis in the region. The US has a responsibility to aid Iraqis uprooted by war it started and to protect the most vulnerable."
Laura Jacoby, with the IRC in Baghdad, said: "The main worry is that with the US forces leaving, international donors may go as well. The Iraqi government is organising assistance, but we face a very serious problem inside Iraq and in Syria and Jordan as well."
Case study: The Hayali family
What happened to Mohammed and Nadia al-Hayali, a decent couple bringing up two young children in Baghdad when US and British forces invaded, is a poignant illustration of how lives were destroyed in the unleashed violence.
I met them in 2004, 18 months after George Bush had declared "mission accomplished". Although the insurgency was already under way, with dead bodies turning up in the streets, relentless bombings and power cuts, the Hayalis hoped that peace would eventually prevail.
Nadia, 39, a Shia, and Mohammed, 40, a Sunni, lived in al-Jamiya, a "mixed" middle-class neighbourhood, where previously sectarian labels did not matter.
A year later things had changed for the worse. Suicide bombings were a daily occurrence, death squads roamed the streets and kidnappings had become common. My visit to their home had to be carefully planned. Groups of men in dark glasses cruised around in Audis and BMWs; they were insurgents looking for US or security convoys.
The middle-class exodus from Iraq was under way. The Hayalis, like many, decided to go. "What is left now? The place is destroyed. That is what liberation had done to us," said Mohammed.
He did not make it. A little later Nadia, Mohammed, their 10-year-old son Abdullah and daughter Dahlia, eight, were taken away by Sunni gunmen looking for "collaborators".
Mohammed was raising funds for small businesses and this brought him into contact with government officials. He was executed with a bullet to his head. Nadia now lives in Sweden with her children.
Kim Sengupta

Thursday 15 December 2011

Latest East London News column

UK torture and inhumane treatment: case continues

The British Government may have withdrawn its troops from Iraq but that hasn’t ended our entanglement with that country. Iraqis are still trying to get justice in British courts for the treatment they received at the hands of our soldiers.

On 22nd November, The Guardian reported, “More than 100 Iraqis who were taken prisoner by British troops in the years after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 have won a court battle that could lead to an independent investigation into allegations that they were subjected to serious mistreatment.”

The court of appeal ruled that a police inquiry set up by the Ministry of Defence to look into the issue was fatally compromised because some of its investigators served with a military police unit responsible for detaining the men.

The Ministry accept the Iraqis – most of whom were civilians – have an ‘arguable’ claim that they were tortured or suffered other forms of inhumane treatment. There have also been allegations that a number of men were unlawfully killed while in British military custody.

The most high-profile case to come before the UK courts was that of Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel worker who was beaten to death by British soldiers in 2003. An official report into the killing in September found “grave and shameful errors” in the conduct of British soldiers. Banned interrogation techniques were routine.

The Government has already paid out millions of pounds in compensation. It has also said that it plans to continue two controversial techniques. The first is hooding a detainee in sandbags. Human rights lawyer Phil Shiner wrote  recently: “Forcing a person into a sandbag (or two), especially in hot conditions, is cruel, barbaric and medically dangerous. It increases inhalation of carbon dioxide, makes it difficult to radiate heat from the head and induces panic and disorientation.”

The second technique is “harshing” - where a detainee is screamed at and abused at a range of six inches, in order to instil absolute fear and panic. This too is now likely to be challenged in the courts.

The Government’s clear commitment to these techniques underlines that the mistreatment of detainees may be much more than just a few “bad apples”.

Sunday 11 December 2011

Birth defects, rubble still scar Iraq's Falluja

Reuters reports (December 7th): As U.S. forces pull out of Iraq, residents and officials in Falluja say they leave behind bullet-riddled homes, destroyed infrastructure and a worrying increase in birth defects and maladies in a city polluted by weapons and war chemicals.
Amir Hussain and Awfa Abdullah got married in Falluja in 2004 but their lives were turned upside by the birth of their two babies.
Their first child, a baby boy born in 2006, had brain damage and died last year. The second, a baby girl who was born in 2007, suffers from severe skin rashes and has one leg longer than the other.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Further Destruction Of Iraq's Higher Education

 A very interesting overview of what has happened to Iraq's universities from the BRussells Tribunal, here: 

Sunday 27 November 2011

The Under-Examined Story of Fallujah

An interesting report from Foreign Policy in Focus:
FPIF reports (November 23rd): Seven years after the U.S. invasion of Fallujah, there are reports of an alarming rise in the rates of birth defects and cancer. But the crisis, and its possible connection to weapons deployed by the United States during the war, remains woefully under-examined.
Thirty to fifty thousand people were still inside the city when the U.S. military launched a series of airstrikes, dropping incendiary bombs on suspected insurgent hideouts. Ground forces then combed through targeted neighborhoods house by house. Ross Caputi, who served as a first private Marine during the siege, has said that his squad and others employed “reconnaissance by fire,” firing into dwellings before entering to make sure nobody inside was still alive.
By the end of the campaign, Fallujah was a ghost town. Though the military did not tally civilian casualties, independent reports put the number somewhere between 800 and 6,000. As The Washington Post reported in April 2005, more than half of Fallujah’s 39,000 homes were damaged, of which 10,000 were no longer habitable.
Of the current problems in Fallujah, the most alarming is a mounting public health crisis. In the years since the invasion, doctors in Fallujah have reported drastic increases in the number of premature births, infant mortality, and birth defects—babies born without skulls, missing organs, or with stumps for arms and legs. Fallujah General Hospital reported that, out of 170 babies born in September 2009, 24 percent died within the first seven days, of which 75 percent were deformed.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Cultural destruction in Iraq

The latest column in East London News:
At the beginning of November, an article appeared in an Egyptian newspaper, wondering what had happened to Iraq’s massive state archive which had been seized by American forces when the occupation of the country began. Would it ever be returned? And what would happen to the country's Jewish archive of books and manuscripts, which was also moved to the United States. Some Iraqis fear some of them might have already ended up in Israel.

The scale of the cultural destruction in Iraq since the western invasion has been immense. Some 15,000 artefacts disappeared from the National Museum and many more from 12,000 sites across the country - a breach of the UN Convention. “Iraq may soon end up with no history,” said one archaeologist.

One of the greatest losses is at the National Library, where 60% of the state archives’ documents, some going back to the 15th century, were destroyed. Much of the destruction was deliberate. Cultural sites were turned into military bases. Babylon was one of them. Occupation forces bulldozed part of the site for a helicopter landing strip and used the site’s soil – together with fragments and shards - to make thousands of sandbags. Massive and extensive damage was done.

Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, 84 per cent of its higher educational institutions have been looted, burned or destroyed. Academics have been assassinated and driven out of the country. Half of all students have dropped out.

“By destroying their culture, you destroy a people’s sense of identity,” says Professor Zainab Bahrani, a specialist in the art and archaeology of ancient Mesopotamia. “So the destruction of cultural heritage is not secondary – it’s directly connected to human rights.”

Some say this was deliberate. The authors Cultural Cleansing in Iraq: Why museums were looted, libraries burned and academics murdered (Pluto Press, 2009) suggest that one of the goals of the occupation was to replace the idea of a unified Iraqi nation in people’s minds with a story of ethnic and religious sectarianism. This was certainly how Iraq was portrayed in western media, as if the invaders bore no responsibility for the damage they unleashed. Now the occupation appears to be ending, it’s time this myth was debunked.

Sunday 20 November 2011

Corporate takeover from the air

U.S. Hiring Mercenary Air Force for Iraq Rescues


Danger Room reports (November 14th): The State Department has already requisitioned an army, part of the roughly 5,000 private security contractors State is hiring to protect diplomats stationed in Iraq. Now, State is hiring someone to provide a little help from the air: an “Aviation Advisor” responsible for “Search and Rescue (SAR), medical evacuations (ME), transporting Quick Reaction Forces (QRF) to respond to incidents, and provid[ing] air transportation for Chief of Mission personnel.” It’s not a familiar job for the diplomatic corps, which is why State is seeking to bring in someone from the outside.

There are lots of contractors with long experience in search and rescue and other air operations. The secretive Virginia company Blackbird Technologies, staffed with U.S. special operations veterans, won an$11 million contract in 2010 to rescue missing or kidnapped U.S. troops in Iraq, one of the military’s most important missions.

Sunday 13 November 2011

Latest column for east London News

Iraqis still paying for the invasion with their health

US President Obama announced recently that the last American troops in Iraq will be out before the end of 2011. Yet several thousand private military contractors will remain and Iraq will be a regional hub for the US for years to come.

The overall costs of the war have been calculated by the Nobel prize-winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, at a staggering $3 trillion. But the human cost of  the war is far more difficult to calculate.

On every level, the Occupation of Iraq was a catastrophe for the Iraqi people. A million dead. A million left disabled. Around 16% of the Iraqi population uprooted. Unemployment at 50%. Access to safe water and electricity far below what it was ten years ago.

In 2004, US forces flattened the city of Falluja. Around 5,000 civilians were killed. There were reports of US soldiers shooting civilians who were waving white flags while they tried to escape the city, women and children included. Witnesses saw American tanks rolling over the bodies of the wounded lying in the streets.

The aerial bombardment was ferocious. It was only later that the US admitted using white phosphorous as a battlefield weapon in the assault.

Last year, the BBC reported that doctors in Falluja were reporting high levels of birth defects. Some were blaming weapons used by the US. The level of heart defects among newborn babies was reported to be 13 times higher than in Europe. City officials warned women that they should not have children.

Now a new study by the research group Conflict and Health has unearthed fresh evidence about the high levels of cancers and birth defects. These symptoms are linked to the use of uranium in battlefield weapons used by US forces.

Falluja is not the only city to produce such findings. Research published in the American Journal of Public Health documents a tripling of leukaemia in children in the Basra region. War-related nerve agents and the widespread use of depleted uranium munitions by the US, are believed to be largely responsible.

The US may have formally withdrawn from Iraq. But Iraqis will be living with the consequences of the invasion for generations to come.

To subscribe to Iraq occupation Focus’s free fortnightly electronic newsletter, go to https://lists.riseup.net/www/info/iraqfocus.

Occupation legacy - the links unmangled...

Iraq’s Interior Ministry Denies Torturing Prisoner To Death

The daily struggle of Iraq's widows of war

Study Details Sex-Traffic in Post-Saddam Iraq


In Iraq, U.S. turns to more private contractors


Sunday 6 November 2011

Universities and the Costs of the Iraq War

An interesting report from the BRussells Tribunal on higher education in Iraq can be found here:

 Hugh Gusterson writes for the BRussells Tribunal (September 15th):   The political scientist Mark Duffield has observed that the effect of Western intervention in Iraq has actually been to “demodernize” that country.  ]This is ironic given that the military campaigns against Iraq and Afghanistan have been accompanied by narratives of the West’s obligation to modernize backward nations.  Nowhere is the truth of Duffield’s observation clearer than in the story of what has happened to Iraq’s education system, especially its higher education system.   Western intervention has ended up destroying Iraq’s universities, formerly among the best in the region, as functional institutions. “Up to the Early 1980s, Iraq’s educational system was considered one of the best in the Middle East.  As a result of its drastic and prolonged decline since then, it is now one of the weakest,” concludes a 2008 official report.

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.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Some everyday stories from Iraq

Iraq’s southern province – an environmental nightmare

Azzaman reports (September 23rd): The southern Iraqi Province of Missan sits on five million landmines and remnants of unspecified quantities of depleted uranium, the head of the province’s Health Department Dr. Maythan Lafta said.

In an interview with the newspaper, Lafta said the province was facing “an environmental catastrophe.”

In postwar Iraq, housing is scarce and pricey


Washington Post reports (September 23rd): As Iraq’s economy rattles awake after years of war, the country is experiencing a real-estate boom, with choice properties in Baghdad or in towns such as Karbala or Irbil selling for $500,000 to more than $1 million.
Years of violence, sectarian tensions and international sanctions have left the country with an acute housing shortage that is driving up prices, experts say. The growing country of 30 million needs about 2 million housing units, according to a United Nations estimate.

Iraqi Christians find safety in north, but no jobs

Reuters report (September 21st):  Menas Saad Youssef no longer fears being blown up while praying in a church. But she and many other traumatised Christians who fled Iraq's capital for safer areas have a new crisis -- no jobs.
Almost a year since a deadly church siege in Baghdad that killed dozens of people and prompted her family to seek refuge in the prosperous northern Kurdish region, Youssef sits at home, frustrated about her future.
The 28-year-old academic, who is still haunted by images of her friends lying in pools of blood at the cathedral where she prayed every Sunday, misses her job as an architecture professor in Baghdad.

As an Iraqi, I am very pessimistic

Peter Kandela writes for The Guardian (September 18th): For the Iraqi people, life has deteriorated dreadfully. Security remains a major problem. Kidnapping, corruption, suicide bombing and general lawlessness all continue, major religious groupings mainly live in closed neighbourhood and minorities like the Christians have largely been forced out of the country. Reluctantly, all my close relatives, except one sister, have fled abroad in fear of their lives.

Then there is the more insidious form of fear, which accompanies poverty and lawlessness. A recent feature on the Iraqi website Aljeeranshowed the very large numbers of women and children forced to beg on the streets, and highlighted their sexual vulnerability. This is an entirely new phenomenon in Iraq.

The right to security is paramount, but what about the right to clean water and power? Most people have given up on the expectation of a regular electricity supply. 

Antiwar.com reports (September 18th): It is common sense that the massive death toll over the eight years of occupation in Iraq would create more widows. But a new study by the humanitarian aid organization Relief International has found the problem far greater than anyone likely imagined.

The study found that some 10 percent of the women in Iraq are widows, about 1.5 million of them. Of these, 59 percent lost their husbands during the period since the US occupation began in 2003.