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.

Saturday 15 June 2013

Parliament debates the tenth anniversary of the war in Iraq

Three months later than the actual anniversary of the war in Iraq, left MPs managed to secure a parliamentary debate on an issue most would rather not talk about. Caroline Lucas introduced, saying:
“It is a grim understatement to say that the Iraqi people do not have security. There are deep concerns about human rights, massive corruption, unemployment and miserable basic services, such as electricity and water supplies. But even if Iraq finds a way out of its current difficulties, as we all fervently hope it will, there is the legacy of the last 10 years of warfare and terrorism as well. Part of that legacy is the deeply disturbing cases being taken to our High Court, involving more than 1,000 killings and acts of torture committed in Iraq by UK forces. We must have public scrutiny of the systemic issues arising from these cases and look to reform the training and oversight of our armed forces.
What of our own country? Do we feel more secure? Is the terrorist threat diminished because of those 10 years of bloodshed and chaos? In fact, the contrary is true. According to the former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Iraqi invasion increased the terror threat in Britain, radicalising a generation of young British Muslims and substantially increasing the risk of a terrorist atrocity on UK soil. A major unprovoked attack without UN authorisation took place with dire consequences. These terrible and deeply troubling outcomes add real substance to the argument that this was the biggest foreign policy failure of recent times.
As an individual, I opposed the war in Iraq because it was my view that the burden of justification for undertaking a major unprovoked attack had not been met. I joined the anti-war protest in February 2003, which saw between 1 million and 2 million people marching in London, the biggest political demonstration in history. In successive polls by different and reputable agencies, around two thirds of British citizens say the Iraq war was a mistake.”

The Government’s position was predictably pathetic, cheerily quoting
IMF reports about Iraq’s recent economic growth - hardly surprising
given the long years of economic sanctions the west imposed on it
before invading, and at the same time hiding behind the years-overdue
Chilcot Report in terms of UK culpability.

In response to Caroline Lucas’s suggestion that future voted on going to war be unwhipped, Jack Straw and others suggested the whip on this issue ten years ago was pretty informal. Paul Flynn MP responded:
“I have received a message during the debate from someone expressing, in very strong language, incredulity at the suggestion that there was not a strong Whip on that day in March. I have been here for 26 years and it was the strongest Whip I have ever encountered. Many of those who were opposed to the war—about 30 or 40 of them—who had signed motions and early-day motions against it were bribed, bullied and bamboozled into changing their minds to either abstain or vote in favour of it. Almost all of them regret that bitterly. It was the most important vote of our careers and it is not true to say that it was easy to make our minds up. It was not. The threat was there that we would lose our seats and that the Prime Minister would resign. Members who were in any doubt were called in to see Ministers to be persuaded. Members of the Committees who had knowledge that we did not have, such as the Intelligence and Security Committee, went around cajoling Back Benchers saying, “If you knew what we know, you’d vote for war, but we can’t tell you because it’s all secret.” They were being fed nonsense and exaggerations as well.
Our reluctance to accept the truth seems extraordinary to me. It would be flattering to describe today’s speech from the Government Front Bench as vacuous. Even now, the Government cannot admit that there were no weapons of mass destruction. It is little short of insanity to suggest that anyone still believes that there were such weapons.
Members have questioned whether anyone foresaw what would happen. A great many people foresaw it at the time. To suggest otherwise is another attempt to rewrite history. I have dug out a letter that I sent to the then Prime Minister in March 2003 to point out what the consequences of the invasion would be. I see with nausea that Tony Blair is now explaining that the inherent nature of the Islamic religion was responsible for the terrible event that took place in Woolwich a few weeks ago. It was not. That event was a reaction to what happened in 2003.”
The following are just extracts from speeches that can be read in full here:
jeremy Corbyn MP: “It was a shameful day for Parliament, and it was a shameful day for the whole political system in this country. Outside in Parliament square, there were thousands of people. They thought, naively perhaps, that they would be listened to. Some 1 million and more had marched in central London—maybe 2 million were on the streets of London that day—and 600 demonstrations on every continent of the world, including Antarctica, had been held a month before, and the opinion polls all showed that there was no support for this war against Iraq. They thought that Parliament would reflect their views and their wishes.
The vote that day in which Parliament, sadly, endorsed going to war not only did enormous damage to Parliament, but did enormous damage and a disservice to a whole generation, because they had put their hopes in the political process to carry out their wishes and it did not do so. That engendered cynicism and we are still dealing today in many ways with the legacy of the war in this country.”
Katy Clark MP focused on “the effects of depleted uranium and other weaponry used in Iraq. It seems to have resulted in very unusual levels of birth defects and other conditions, especially among children who were conceived during the Iraq war. I intend to focus on those issues mainly because they are not often talked about and because those are issues on which the Government could be taking more action so that we can understand what happened and learn the lessons from that for the future.
The use of depleted uranium in weapons has been controversial from its development in the 1960s to the present. Much of the work in this area has been done on the effects on veterans, rather than on civilian populations. The Ministry of Defence discovered in the early research and development programme that depleted uranium released a chemical that was toxic and radioactive and that contaminated areas that it had been fired into. The scientific work that has been done, as I said, related mainly to veterans, but in recent years more evidence has been collected from civilian populations, including in Iraq.
The work relating to veterans shows clearly that in certain circumstances depleted uranium has the potential to cause cancer and damage to DNA. It can lead to birth defects and contaminate soil and ground water. Depleted uranium was used in the first conflict in Iraq in 1991 and also in the more recent conflict in very significant quantities. It is thought that 290,000 kg of depleted uranium was fired during the Gulf war in 1991, and that in the first six months of the Iraq invasion 140 kg of depleted uranium was used. Studies of the effects on civilian populations which have been made public so far show a staggering rise in birth defects among Iraqi children conceived in the aftermath of the war, with high rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs. Compelling evidence seems to link these birth defects and miscarriages to military assaults.
We cannot sure whether these are due to depleted uranium or the effects of other ammunition used in the area, but it is clear that there are particularly high levels of birth defects, for example, in Falluja, where the United States has admitted using white phosphorous shells, although it has not admitted using depleted uranium. Findings published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology are the latest in a series of studies suggesting a link between bombardment and a rise in birth defects. Its findings in 2010 prompted the World Health Organisation to launch an inquiry into the prevalence of birth defects in the area affected. Although that report was expected to be published last year, it still has not appeared. Some claim that it is being buried and 58 scientists have written to the Iraqi Government and the World Health Organisation calling for its immediate publication. It is right that we, as elected politicians, ask the British Government to use their influence and power to do everything they can to ensure that as much information about these issues is brought into the public domain.
As a result of previous work, the Work Health Organisation is looking at nine high-risk areas in Iraq, including Falluja and Basra. We need to say clearly that we want that information in the public domain. We must do more to work out exactly the impact that some of the weaponry used in modern warfare has on civilian populations. Perhaps in previous centuries the effects of war were felt predominantly by military people and those who went to war, but one of the clear effects of modern warfare is that many of the types of weaponry used have long-term implications for civilian populations.
Of the studies that have been made available in the public domain, one shows that more than half of the babies born in Falluja between 2007 and 2010 were born with a birth defect. Before the siege the figure was more like one in 10, and prior to the turn of the millennium fewer than 2% of babies were born with a birth defect. According to that study, in the two years after 2004 more than 45% of all pregnancies surveyed ended in miscarriage, whereas the figures before the bombing were below 10%. Between 2007 and 2010, one in six of all pregnancies ended in miscarriage. The research that is in the public domain is clearly incredibly concerning.
Another piece of research looked at the health histories of 56 families in Falluja and examined births in Basra in southern Iraq, which was attacked by British forces in 2003. It found that more than 20 babies in 1,000 were born with births defects at the maternity hospital in 2003, which is 17 times higher than the rate recorded a decade previously. In the past seven years, the number of malformed babies born has increased by more than 60%, to 37 in every 1,000.
We have spoken a great deal today about the politics that led up to the decision to take forces into Iraq in 2003, and that is absolutely proper, but the reality is that families in Iraq are now dealing with the aftermath of decisions that might have been taken by the British Government and the action of British and other troops. I think that it is beholden on Parliament to insist that the Government do everything they can to ensure that this is researched more thoroughly.”

Friday 14 June 2013

Parliament debates tenth anniversary of the Iraq war

A Parlaimentary debate on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war took place yesterday. The media have not reported this at all. The full test is available here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/chan17.pdf - pages 522-594.

It was introduced by Caroline Lucas MP and there were particularly strong speeches from Paul Flynn MP from p568 onwards, Jeremy Corbyn MP from p580 on and Katy Clark MP from p585, concentrating particularly on the catastrophic effects on health resulting from munitions used in the conflict.

The Government's position was predictably pathetic, cheerily quoting IMF reports about Iraq's recent economic growth - hardly surprising given the long years of economic sanctions the west imposed on it before invading, and at the same time hiding behind the years-overdue Chilcot Report in terms of UK culpability.

Iraq ten years on: lessons still not learnt - by Michael Meacher MP

Blair, pic by Kennard PhillipsThe facts, no longer seriously in dispute, are stark. The US went to war over Iraq because of oil and to assure themselves of a platform for control of the Middle East region, as set out in the Project for the New American Century document published for the Bush election team in September 2000. As we now know from Bush’s first Treasury Secretary O’Neill, that was was planned from the first days of the Bush Administration. Then 9/11 simply provided the pretext for launching it.

The UK went to war over Iraq because President Bush wanted British support. At the Crawford summit in April 2002 Blair in effect committed to providing that, publicly pledging to stand shoulder to shoulder with President Bush. From that point on, the assessment of intelligence data conflated analysis into advocacy in order to find a rationale for the war that had alreadcy been decided on for other reasons.

Blair’s deceit

The decision having been made to go to war, Whitehall provided a briefing that any rationale depended on being able to show incontrovertible evidence of ‘large-scale’ activity by Iraq in weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, because the UN inspectors left Iraq in 1998, the evidence was almost non-existent. The CIA admitted that its resources on Iraq were ‘thin’, and the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee had already concluded in March 2002 that intelligence on Iraq’s WMD and ballistic programmes was ‘sporadic and patchy’.
The key point is that, in the evidence put together in the crucial 5 months from the Crawford summit up till the publication of the September dossier to justify the war, we now know that all the specific data were flawed:
  1. The inventory of chemical and biological weapons and weapons parts that Blair presented to the House dealt with weapons unaccounted for since the first Gulf War 12 years before. They were not presented as weapons unaccounted for, however; they were presented as weapons that were believed definitely to be currently possessed by Saddam.
  2. The 45-minute claim referred to battlefield nuclear weapons, but the impression was given that the threat went much wider. Accordingly when it was reported thus, no attempt was made to correct the misreporting despite the belief that it was wrong.
  3. The claim that Iraq tried to buy 500 tonnes of yellowcake – a requirement for nuclear fission – fromNiger was still included in the dossier, despite the fact that it was known that a visit made to Niger by a former US ambassador to that country had confirmed 6 months before that the claim was completely bogus.
  4. Blair claimed to the House on 25 February 2003 – and I think this is very important, yet has had virtually no attention – that the defection of Hussein Kemal, Saddam’s son-in-law, in 1995 had revealed “the offensive biological weapons and the full extent of the nuclear programme”. But as we now know from a Newsweek exclusive a few weeks later, what Hussein Kemal actually said in his de-briefing was exactly the opposite: “all weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear – were destroyed”.
As the Butler report pointed out so poignantly, all the ifs and buts, qualifications and caveats in the raw intelligence data were dropped from the dossier, while the positive allegations were distinctly over-hyped. Sources were treated as reliable when they clearly were not , and they were not checked with the expertise of intelligence staff.
Anyone who reads appendix B of the Butler report, which is well set out, can see step by step how the process of massaging and accretion steadily accumulated until we were finally told in the September dossier that Saddam’s WMD programme was “active, detailed and growing”, and that the intelligence on which the judgement was based was “extensive, detailed and authoritative”, despite Blair having been told a month before by the UK intelligence community that: “We know little about Iraq’s chemical and biologival weapons work since late 1988″.
The first great issue therefore is accountability in regard to Blair’s judgement, his deceitful presentation, and over-eagerness to take this country into a war on grounds that far exceeded the available evidence to justify it. One cannot take a country into a war under false pretences and then proclaim, as Butler does, that nobody can be held responsible.

Failure of accountability

The most striking characteristic of the Butler report is the disjunction between analysis and judgement. It catalogues a litany of failures and then pulls all its punches by declaring that in effect no-one is to blame. George Tenet was sacked as head of the CIA for intelligence failures over Iraq, but John Scarlett who was responsible for exactly the same intelligence failures in this country, is still recommended by the report for promotion, despite all the damning evidence to the contrary. It is a very British Establishment charade but, as an exercise in accountability which is what is needed, it is utterly unacceptable.
I believe there are two issues on which those responsible must be held to account:
  1. The presentation of the evidence that persuaded the House to agree to war. Being sinuous with the truth may not be lying, but it is certainly not open or honest. Presenting a seriously misleading account of the facts may not be lying, but it is not truthful or straightforward either.
  2. The framework of governance that allowed the decision to go to war to be taken. On that point we still await the final decision and recommendations of the Chilcot report which has been going now 4 years and their report is already far too long delayed.
Even 10 years on we still haven’t had published the secret pledges that Blair made to Bush at his Crawford ranch ten months before the war began and before any consultation with Cabinet, Parliament of the British people. Chilcot has seen this evidence, but is being prevented from publishing it, even though Blair himself, Powell and Campbell have disclosed privileged information when it suited their case. Being told, as we have been, that ‘it is not in the public interest’ is the strongest possible indication that it is very much in the public interest that it should be revealed.

The consequences of the war

A second fundamental dimension of this whole saga is clearly: what did this war achieve in the long-term? At this tenth anniversary it has been said that the US won the war, Iran won the peace, and Turkey won the contracts. But did the US win the war? At a cost of over £1 trillion – which Joseph Stiglitz, a former member of the Presidential Economic Council puts at twice that level – and a death toll of 4,500 US troops, 32,000 wounded and thousands still struck down with post-traumatic stress disorder, what did the US achieve? They completely failed to anticipate the insurgency which eventually forced them out. After all the wasted blood and treasure they were left with the one result they were desperate to prevent – a Shia autocracy in Iraq reinforcing a a resurgent Shia Iran. And even the US goal of securing control of the enormous Iraqi oil reserves, second only to Saudi Arabia’s, they were forced to forego. If one had to pinpoint the moment when the US lost its unipolar power as the world’s hegemon, it must surely be the total disaster of the Iraq war.
As for Iraq itself, it remains a bitterly divided and violent country. It’s not only the hundreds of thousands of dead and at its height the 4 million refugees, but after 9 years of US and British occupation thousands are still tortured and imprisoned without trial, health and education has dramatically deteriorated, the position of women has gone horrifically backwards, trade unions are effectively banned, Baghdad is still divided by checkpoints and blastwalls, electricity and water supplies have all but broken down, and people pay with their lives for speaking out.
In the longer term the war has undermined the moral standing of the US and UK. It generated an al-Qaeda presence in Iraq and beyond that has not been there before. And it has sent a clear message, which has emboldened Iran and North Korea, that the only way to deter blackmail and attack from the US was indeed to acquire WMD. It could even be said that the greatest WMD were those wielded by the Americans – the systematic demolition of Fallujah, the US-led massacres at Haditha, Mahmudiyah and Balad, and the biggest refugee crisis in the Middle East since the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.

What we should learn

The third consideration lies in the lessons that should be drawn from this disaster.
The first is that in any such future scenario the House of Commons vote must be taken, not on the very eve of war when with 45,000 British troops already deployed in the field it was virtually impossible to draw back, but rather at a much earlier stage when war was first being seriously contemplated, and in addition at that stage the documentation purporting to justify war must be fully disclosed to the House before the vote.
The second lesson is that Blair’s power and wilfulness brazenly overrode normal democratic procedures in a manner that must never be allowed to recur:
  • He made the commitment to go to war at Bush’s Crawford ranch ten months beforehand without any prior consultation with anybody else.
  • He regularly told Parliament right up to the very start of the war that no decision had been taken, when clearly an unstoppable momentum had already deliberately been built up.
  • He leant heavily on his Attorney General between 7th and 17th of March to induce him to change his warning that the war could not be legally justified.
On 15 February he ignored and dismissed the biggest protest demonstration in Britain’s history involving up to 2 million members of the public marching against the war. According to Meyer, Britain’s ambassador to the US, Blair was even rung up by Bush to suggest he could “sit out the war” while the Pentagon’s Donald Rumsfeld was happy to go in alone, but Blair was obsessive about seeing it through.
In an interview in December 2009 he was asked: “If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?to which he replied “I would still have thought it right to remove him” (i.e. Saddam). To that end he even colluded with what his own head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, said in July 2002, 8 months before the war, that “intelligence and facts were being fixed round the policy”.
It is that background of the contumacious wilfulness and high-handedness of a Prime Minister dragging this country virtually single-handedly into war that makes it the duty of this House to set down the inviolable conditions to prevent any such catastrophe ever happening again. That must at the very least embrace unquestionable compliance with UN Resolutions, a clear and unwhipped vote of the Commons long before any envisaged hostilities, and full disclosure of all relevant evidence before that vote.
This is based on the speech made in the House of Commons debate on the Iraq war yesterday.