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 29 April 2012

Fisk in Fallujah

 The Children of Fallujah

The Independent reports (April 25th): After at first denying the use of phosphorous shells during the second battle of Fallujah, US forces later admitted that they had fired the munitions against buildings in the city. Independent reports have spoken of a birth-defect rate in Fallujah far higher than other areas of Iraq, let alone other Arab countries. No one, of course, can produce cast-iron evidence that American munitions have caused the tragedy of Fallujah's children.
Studies since the 2004 Fallujah battles have recorded profound increases in infant mortality and cancer in Fallujah; the latest report, whose authors include a doctor at Fallujah General Hospital, says that congenital malformations account for 15 per cent of all births in Fallujah.
The hospital of horrors

The Independent reports (April 26th): The pictures flash up on a screen on an upper floor of the Fallujah General Hospital. And all at once, Nadhem Shokr al-Hadidi's administration office becomes a little chamber of horrors. A baby with a hugely deformed mouth. A child with a defect of the spinal cord, material from the spine outside the body. A baby with a terrible, vast Cyclopean eye. Another baby with only half a head, stillborn like the rest, date of birth 17 June, 2009. Yet another picture flicks onto the screen: date of birth 6 July 2009, it shows a tiny child with half a right arm, no left leg, no genitalia.

"We see this all the time now," Al-Hadidi says, and a female doctor walks into the room and glances at the screen. She has delivered some of these still-born children. "I've never seen anything as bad as this in all my service, Dr Chris Busby, a visiting professor at the University of Ulster who has surveyed almost 5,000 people in Fallujah, agrees it is impossible to be specific about the cause of birth defects as well as cancers. "Some very major mutagenic exposure must have occurred in 2004 when the attacks happened," he wrote two years ago. Dr Busby's report, compiled with Malak Hamdan and Entesar Ariabi, says that infant mortality in Fallujah was found in 80 out of every 1,000 births, compared to 19 in Egypt, 17 in Jordan and only 9.7 in Kuwait." she says quietly.

Families fight back

The Independent reports (April 27th): In Basra, I found Dr Jawad Khadim al-Ali who had drawn maps of the clusters of the new child and adult cancer cases across southern Iraq, some of the children from the very battlefields in which US tanks fired DU munitions at Saddam's armoured forces. Even when I visited these sites I found farming families with new cancers. This, the doctors attributed to DU, of course, not phosphorous, although some researchers have suggested DU was also used at Fallujah in 2004.

What was astonishing, however, was the response. While The Independent's readers gave generously for medicines for the children, the British government's reaction was pitiful. Lord Gilbert at the Ministry of Defence, in a letter dripping with sarcasm, said that my account of a possible link between DU ammunition and children's cancer – "coming from anyone other than Robert Fisk" – would be "a wilful perversion of reality". Particles from DU warheads became difficult to detect, he wrote, "even with the most sophisticated monitoring equipment".

Yet when an Atomic Energy Agency official wrote to the Royal Ordnance in London in 1998, he said that the spread of radioactivity and toxic contamination would be "a risk to both the military and the civilian population" if not dealt with in peacetime.

Saturday 21 April 2012

interview with robert fisk: ‘freedom has a sour taste for many iraqis’

Widely read, respected and awarded commentator on regional issues, journalist Robert Fisk, recently made another visit to Iraq. NIQASH spoke with him about Iraqi media, the problem with bloggers and why some Iraqis might wish Saddam Hussein was still around.

NIQASH: You’ve been in Iraq many times over the past 34 years – in fact, you’ve witnessed some of this nation’s most recent, pivotal moments. In your opinion, what do you feel may be the solution to the country’s biggest problems now?

Robert Fisk: Education, education, education. Of all the problems Arabs suffer from – the problems that don’t involve outside powers – that is the basic problem I find here. When people can’t write their own names in Arabic, there’s something wrong. At the end of the day you have to put serious money into education. But in reality, what usually happens is this: “oh, you want to learn? Then you’ll have to go abroad”. So the indigenous population who either don’t want to leave, or who cannot afford to leave, remain ignorant of the world.

NIQASH: At least, post 2003 (when a US-led invasion toppled the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein), it’s possible to speak freely now?

Fisk: I’m not sure how freely you can in Baghdad. That was really well put to me by an Iraqi friend recently. When you got on the bus [and you were having a conversation], under Saddam, you knew what you couldn’t say. Now you don’t know what you can and cannot say – because you just don’t know who’s sitting next to you. 

When I first came here, Iraq was a very prosperous country – under Saddam of course. And in the aftermath of the 2003 chaos, with the murders and mass killings, Iraqis would often say to me: “do we want security and dictatorship? Or do we want freedom and anarchy?” And if you’re frightened your child would be kidnapped or that you would lose your family, you tended to say you preferred the old regime. Which was tragic and very sad but I suppose understandable.

Because of the appalling situation that the Americans permitted to happen after 2003 – which Donald Rumsfeld was very much responsible for, and Paul Bremer [head of Iraq’s first interim government post-Hussein] – and because of the resistance to the Americans, it gave freedom a sour taste for many Iraqis. 

NIQASH: So the biggest problem here isn’t sectarianism?

Fisk: All the Western governments that have been involved in the Middle East since the First World War have worked on the principle that the governments should work on a sectarian system. When the Americans arrived [here] they basically set up a sectarian government.

What happens is we create this sectarian system and we call it democratic – admittedly it’s a lot more democratic then under Saddam – but you lock [the country] in and then it becomes part of the national identity and you can’t get out of it.

But look at Lebanon. To become a modern state, it must abandon confessionalism. But if it did, then Lebanon wouldn’t exist anymore. If a society is tribal, that doesn’t mean it cannot have a civil society. But it is the Iraqis that have to do it [create a civil society for themselves]. 

NIQASH: In comparison to when you began reporting from the Middle East, Arab journalists appear to have much more of a voice, and much more visibility, in the Western media. There seems to be a lot more potential for them.

Fisk: It depends on the country. For example Egypt under the British had relative press freedom and they learned reporting responsibly, that you can’t just print the latest rumour or lie. Actually I think we’re doing that in the West now – we’re replicating the worst sins of the Arab press. Not on printed paper, but in blogs, that lie and abuse and that are fuelled by hatred. Anyway our Western reporting is appalling at times – I would rather that Arabs learn how they want to be journalists, with their own rules.

NIQASH: Please explain?

Fisk: Well, we’re talking about what journalists should be taught. But it’s the governments that should be taught - how to treat journalists. Journalists should challenge government. And when they challenge the government here [in Iraq] they are told they are unpatriotic and they are threatened.

We’re not threatened in Britain – well, we are in some ways – but here it’s the government that needs to be educated to respect the press and press freedoms, and to realise that the press also protects governments.

NIQASH: In your opinion, how can more balanced and independent reporting be encouraged in Iraq?

Fisk: One of the things you might do is see whether you can construct a consortium of Iraqis – perhaps those who live abroad, perhaps those who have money – that could establish a new kind of newspaper, a really fine newspaper, which represents the whole country. Let that newspaper represent all points of view and let it become a forum for everybody. There isn’t a paper anywhere in the whole of the country that does that.

But it would have to come from outside of Iraq. One of the many problems I have found in the Arab world is that patriotism often wins over freedom.

NIQASH: The question of whether journalists can ever be truly objective has been debated for decades. And a more recent discussion has centred on how much room more extreme viewpoints should be given, just for the sake of balance – even when they’re clearly more extreme and possibly even factually inaccurate. Reports coming out of Syria are a good example. Your thoughts on this debate, in a Middle Eastern context? 

Fisk: I’ve spoken about this before. If you’re reporting on a local football match or a government debate, you can give equal time to both sides. But the main issues in the Middle East are a bloody tragedy and my view is that you have to be biased toward the side of those who suffer. For instance, you can’t always give equal space to the Israelis and the Palestinians. Because Israel is occupying Palestine, Palestine is not occupying Israel. There’s a difference.
And if you were covering the slave trade in the 18th century, you wouldn’t give as much room to the slave traders.

NIQASH: And how do you feel about so-called “citizen journalism”?

Fisk: I like the phrase actually because it implies that journalism can be taken out of the hands of the rather pompous, arrogant senior correspondents. But my problem with citizen journalism is that some of it just isn’t true.

If you look at some of the stuff coming out of Syria – there are reports of somebody being beheaded and then they turn up on national television. Or the lesbian blogger in Damascus who turned out to be a man.  

And citizen journalism is also used to fuel hatred - bloggers lying or spending all their time saying other people are lying - then that just takes you back to the worst elements of dictator journalism.

You need a newspaper-type organisation really, and it doesn’t matter whether that is online or on paper. A big √©migr√©-backed Iraqi newspaper with the finest production techniques and tough, brave editors – that’s what is needed.

NIQASH: And finally, your advice to Iraqi journalists working today?

Fisk: Challenge everybody. 

Interview conducted by Henrik Ahrens, Director of the Media Academy Iraq, based in Erbil. The Media Academy hosted a lecture by Robert Fisk recently. Fisk has covered most of the major conflicts in the Middle East and holds more British and international journalism awards than any other foreign correspondent; he continues to write a regular column for the UK’s Independent newspaper.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Fallujah again

Those Laboratory Mice Were Children
Karlos Zurutuza reports for IPS (April 13th): At Fallujah hospital they cannot offer any statistics on children born with birth defects – there are just too many. Parents don’t want to talk. "Families bury their newborn babies after they die without telling anyone," says hospital spokesman Nadim al-Hadidi. "It’s all too shameful for them."

"We recorded 672 cases in January but we know there were many more," says Hadidi. He projects pictures on to a wall at his office: children born with no brain, no eyes, or with the intestines out of their body.

Facing a frozen image of a child born without limbs, Hadidi says parents’ feelings usually range between shame and guilt. "They think it’s their fault, that there’s something wrong with them."
According to a study released by the Switzerland-based International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in July 2010, "the increases in cancer, leukaemia and infant mortality and perturbations of the normal human population birth sex ratio in Fallujah are significantly greater than those reported for the survivors of the A-Bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945."

Nine years on

Massacre of a Country, April 9, 2003
Felicity Arbuthnot writes (April 11th): America’s 2003 assault on Iraq, already devastated by thirteen years of sanctions, infrastructure destruction consequently unrepaired from the 1991 bombing was, in the ridiculous annals of names the US military gives to their slaughter-fests, entitled “Shock and Awe.”

This approach to nation destruction is technically known – reminiscent of a sick sexual predator – as “rapid dominance”, the concept based on use of “overwhelming power.” It was devised by two arguably psychologically challenged military strategists, Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade, in 1996.

Their days devising Machiavellian “shock” included destroying all means of  “communication, transportation, food production, water supply, and other aspects of infrastructure must (cause) the threat and fear of action that may shut down all or part of … society  (rendering) ability to fight useless short of complete physical destruction.”

Further: “Shutting the country down would entail both the physical destruction of appropriate infrastructure … so rapidly as to achieve a level of national shock akin to the effect that dropping nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had on the Japanese.”

Sunday 8 April 2012

An interesting analysis

The irrelevance of America's withdrawal from Iraq
Foreign Policy in Focus reports (April 2nd):  Iraq today remains a violent, poorly institutionalized place with deep societal fissures and unresolved political tensions.  But little has happened in the months since the U.S. withdrawal which differs significantly from what had been happening while the U.S. remained. The negative trends are the same ones which plagued Iraq despite the presence of U.S. troops in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. The U.S. presence contributed to some of those problems, helped deal with some, and failed to resolve others. 
But the key point is that extending the U.S. presence beyond 2011 would likely have had almost no impact on any of these trends.  By serving as a lightning rod for political criticism in a very hostile Iraqi political arena, an unpopular extension might well have made them worse.  The argument that the U.S. would have more influence over Iraqi politics if it had not withdrawn its troops simply has very little foundation.