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.

Friday 27 April 2018

Launch of Iraq Solidarity Month - highlights

Speech by Mike Phipps- Editor of the book For the Many  at the launch of Iraq Solidarity Month

Two months ago a global donor conference pledged £21bn to help Iraq rebuild after the war against Islamic State (IS). Turkey was one of the biggest donors - odd, because its troops are still on Iraqi soil, which at least one leading Iraqi official has characterised as an “invasion”.

Much more than this will be needed to reconstruct parts of Iraq after the months-long US-led aerial bombardment against IS. The UN says bombs will continue for a decade to come to litter Mosul, where 10,000 people were killed in the latest phase of the war. Only 10% of health facilities in Nineveh governorate are functioning at full capacity. Yet none of the worst war-ravaged areas expect to see any of the promised money soon. Iraq is rated the tenth most corrupt country in the world.

The US was not at the conference and will not pledge a cent. This is despite the fact that it has visited unprecedented destruction on Iraq in recent years. First, the debilitating sanctions imposed on the country after the 1991 Gulf War. Then the 2003 invasion, which caused over  two million deaths, both directly and as a result of side-effects from the damage to infrastructure and the environment. It created five million refugees, a million people with disabilities and half a million orphans.

In Falluja, the US massacred “on a scale greater than any known act of barbarity by Saddam Hussein's regime in its final twelve years,” to quote from Glen Rangwala’s article in Labour Briefing at the time. It also used banned weapons against civilians whose toxic effects are reflected in birth defects that may continue for generations to come. A recent survey in the city showed a fourfold increase in all cancers and a twelve-fold increase in cancer in under-14 year olds.

This toxic legacy needs underlining. It’s estimated around six billion bullets were expended into the Iraqi environment between 2002 and 2005 alone - which, along with bombs, have led to widespread public contamination. As former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter's observed: “The irony is we invaded Iraq in 2003 to destroy its non-existent weapons of mass destruction. To do it, we fired these new weapons, causing radioactive casualties.”

Beyond the loss of human life, there was the cultural destruction. The US used ancient historic archaeological sites as military bases, such as Babylon where 300,000 square metres of the site were flattened - including 2,600 year old paving stones, by US tanks. One million books, 10 million documents and 14,000 archaeological artifacts have been lost in the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq – the biggest cultural disaster, say some,  since the descendants of Genghis Khan destroyed Baghdad in 1258. To this should be added the impact on education: about 500 academics were killed just from the Universities of Baghdad and Basra alone.

The latest phase of the war was entirely as product of the US invasion and militarization of the country.

It is now widely understood that IS began its existence in the US’s  torture centres,  most notably Abu Ghraib, where Iraqi detainees were systematically sexually assaulted and brutalised. Three years ago, IS was able to take over Mosul and other swathes of the country with barely a shot being fired, thanks to the flabbergastingly corrupt Iraqi army fleeing in the face  of their advance. As it fled, it abandoned to the enemy huge amounts of US-donated military equipment. This included 2,300 armoured vehicles - a majority of all the armoured vehicles the US had delivered to Iraq - which made the subsequent war against IS all the more protracted.

That war is now largely over. Once again, a terrible price was paid in the Iraqi loss of life. Meanwhile, |NATO troops remain in the country, despite the opposition of Iraq’s Parliament.

And victors’ ‘justice’ ensures there is unlikely to be a lasting peace. Amnesty International report that Iraqi women suspected of family links to Islamic State extremists are facing a campaign of sexual violence and exploitation in displacement camps inside the country. Iraqi courts have sentenced 212 people to death in Mosul and surrounding areas, most of them for complicity with Islamic State. In one ten minute trial, a 42-year-old housewife had two minutes to defend herself against charges of supporting the Islamic State, before she was sentenced to death by hanging. All this is likely to lead to a strong sense of injustice and renewed conflict in the future.

And this is why we continue to produce a fortnightly e-newsletter on Iraq, which has now run to over 350 issues.

Fifteen years on, what lessons do we draw?

1. Removing Saddam Hussein was just a by-product of another objective: dismantling the Iraqi state and its institutions. This can be achieved in a many ways. It Iraq one of the most effective was the sectarianisation of politics. From the outset, the Governing Council, established in July 2003, had the names of its members each followed by their sect and ethnicity. This institutionalization of an ethno-sectarian quota system was toxic, allowed the US and its allies to pursue a ‘divide and rule‘ strategy and even threaten the dismemberment of Iraq.

2. The regional impact has been destabilising. The creation of Islamic State, straddling the border with Syria has created new dimensions to the conflict in that country. The chronic weakening of the Iraqi state has allowed Turkey to encroach into Iraq to pursue its relentless war against the Kurds.

3. The global impact too is worth noting. Jonathon Shafi says: “The war sent shockwaves into the political system. Large sections of the population already deeply cynical of the political system after the war would go on to see the bailout of the banks, and then a package of brutal austerity measures that would decimate public services, and ruin living standards. The failure of Iraq, followed by the injustice of austerity, came together in a general crisis for the legitimacy of politicians and elites. Today this crisis is only growing in momentum.”

4. In the UK: It discredited Tony Blair. It discredited New Labour. As a lifelong member of the Labour Party I take no pleasure from the fact that the considerable achievements of the Labour governments of 1997 to 2010 are entirely overshadowed by this monumental betrayal of everything decent democratic socialists stand for.

The Iraq war fatally discredited Labour in Scotland and fuelled demands for Scottish independence. It polarised. It also made the public and MPs extra-cautious about rushing to war ever again on a false prospectus. Its delayed impact was to produce the  vote against military action in Syria in 2013.

 “While Tony Blair was in the war room with Bush, Corbyn was on the streets and addressing the anti-war demonstrations. Now he leads the Labour party.”

Gary Younge has pointed out that Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on the war is a significant element in his appeal. “When he stood for leader he said it was illegal, that if elected he would apologise for it, and that if it were ever deemed a war crime, Tony Blair should go on trial. All his opponents who were MPs at the time voted for it; the one who wasn’t, Liz Kendall, voted against investigating it. It is also one of the reasons Corbyn’s parliamentary colleagues struggled to find a viable candidate to oppose him when they launched their coup. They were sufficiently aware of the popular mood to realise that they needed someone who wasn’t tainted by having voted for the war. That counted out most senior Labour parliamentarians.”

Iraq is also a key reason for the collapse in public trust in the government. Younge says: “Playing fast and loose with facts, misleading the public, producing dossiers full of lies, and ignoring or distorting expertise – all of which were central to the war effort – helped contribute to a culture in which experts are not valued, and facts are considered optional.” http://www.stopwar.org.uk/index.php/news-comment/2954-fifteen-years-on-the-iraq-war-is-still-poisoning-our-national-life

This disconnect between public and politicians is part of the reason why, in the eyes of former UN Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, British people voted for Brexit - people felt their views were not taken into account by those in power. Ironically in that campaign too, misinformation and derision of experts dominated.

The 2017 election manifesto, about which I have recently edited a book, (http://www.orbooks.com/catalog/for-the-many-preparing-labour-for-power/), makes one reference to the Iraq war but it’s a significant one. It says the lessons of the Chilcot Report - nine years in the making - should be learned. This is more than what is in the manifestos of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, which is nothing. For them Iraq is forgotten.

But amnesia is the privilege of the powerful. The dispossessed of Iraq are not so lucky. The war has abated for now. Things are returning to normal. which means: Iraq has resumed paying Kuwait compensation for the destruction of Kuwaiti oil fields and facilities during the 1990-91 Gulf War. But for Iraq, no compensation, no reparations.

Fifteen years on, Iraqis are still a long way from getting any kind of justice, or compensation or reparations, let alone seeing anybody prosecuted for the terrible crimes committed against their country. Sadly, no major force in the anti-war movement seems inclined even to commemorate the anniversary of the destruction unleashed by western forces. As in previous years, it falls to Tadhamun, this small but dedicated organisation of activists, to mark the occasion. We in the anti-war movement salute the work you do to keep the crimes against Iraq alive in our collective memory, so that we do not forget, we do not “move on” and we never forgive the politicians that perpetrated this colossal evil. There may be a long wait, but there will be a reckoning - there will be justice for Iraq.

Iraq Solidarity Month: Looking Back to Move Forward

In a conflict-ridden world, yesterday’s carnage and massacre are quickly consigned to oblivion in the waste bin of history as the conveyor belt moves on. The fifteenth anniversary of the April 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq by the US and its allies thus passed the world by with little notice.

In spite of little media coverage over the past few years, with the exception of bloody massacres to liberate towns from ISISthe occupation and the war in Iraq are very much alive. According to UN figures, at least “104 Iraqi civilians were killed and another 177 injured in acts of terrorism, violence and armed conflict in Iraq in March 2018”. At the end of 2017, there were around 9000 US soldiers in Iraq, in addition to almost daily air strikesby coalition forces, leading to hundreds of civilian deaths and the risk to civilians frompopular mobilisation unit (PMU) militias
Around 3 million people are internally displaced, almost half of whom are children, often with no access to education or healthcare. Capitalising on media silence, European statesand the US have started to reject asylum claims by Iraqi claimants and deport individuals at serious risk back to a combat zone many of them are actively engaged in.
Timely and relevant, in view of similar circumstances in other conflicts in the Middle East region, on Thursday 26 April 2018, Tadhamun, an Iraqi women’s organisation, launched “Iraq Solidarity Month” at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. The well attended event was sombre and reflective in tone rather than celebratory in view of the immense task ahead of the Iraqi community and its supporters. The aim is to provide “a reminder of the crimes committed in dismantling a state and culture so they are not repeated” and celebrate “Iraq’s history, resistance and aspiration for peace based on equality and justice”.
Introduced by Prof Wen-chin Ouyang from SOAS, she emphasised the loss to the academic world the war in Iraq has presented through the murder and targeting of academics as well as the destruction of heritage sites from both Iraq’s ancient and more recent history.
Sana Al-Khayyat, an Iraqi sociology and academic based in London, explained why Iraq Solidarity Month matters: calling the 2003 invasion “deliberate” and “planned”, following the destruction of the 1991 Gulf War, she stated that there can be “no peace without genuine justice”. Iraq Solidarity Month is about remembering the destruction of Iraq, but also its long history and heritage with justice for the Iraqi people at its heart.
Denis Halliday, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq in 1997-1998, provided important background on how the UN’s failure to protect the Iraqi people in 1991 paved the way for the 2003 occupation. He called the economic and social sanctions theUN imposed on Iraq in 1990, following the invasion of Kuwait, a crime against humanity leading to the “shock and awe” campaign in 2003.
Halliday, who resigned from the UN in protest, stated that the UN Security Council is corrupted by greed and vested interests in warfare, choosing warfare over diplomacy in 1991. The UN did nothing to condemn or stop the use of depleted uranium (DU) in Iraq in 1991, and instead unleashed its own violence through further sanctions, leading Iraq to accept the Oil-for-Food programme in 1995, funded entirely by oil revenues. The funds were inadequate and sanctions killed over half a million Iraqi children by 1995 due to a lack of healthcare and adequate nutrition. The use of DU, used again after 2003, led to ahuge increase in different types of cancer.
Halliday hopes that Iraq Solidarity Month will offer an opportunity to hear Iraqi voices talk about the future and rebuilding of the country, as too much overseas advice and interference in the region has been “rapacious and catastrophic”.
Journalist Victoria Brittain then chaired a panel of speakers from organisations that have been working on Iraq for the past 15 years. Iraqi Novelist Haifa Zangana from the organisers Tadhamun spoke about the work the small British-Iraqi women’s organisation does. She stated that the women’s struggle in Iraq had been disrupted by war and that they work on two levels: to ensure equality for women in Iraq, in employment, education and the public sphere, as well as recognition of violence against women as an aspect of war. Over the past 12 years, largely through seminars and conferences, they have covered many aspects of the Iraqi conflict, such as the trauma of internally displaced persons, the fragmentation of Iraqi national and cultural identity, memory and identity, and the meaning of democracy. She stated that if a small group of women can do something so can everyone else.
Ayca Çubukçu, associate professor of human rights at the London School of Economics then spoke about the World Tribunal on Iraq which took place in Istanbul in June 2005. Modelled on Bertrand Russell’s Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal, activists at the World Social Forum decided to capitalise on the largest anti-war mobilisation since Vietnam to document war crimes so that they are not forgotten. Over two years, a network of global tribunals came together in Istanbul, led by Prof Richard Falk. It heard testimonies for 3 days and produced a declaration. Since then, the issue of what is to be done next remains. She hoped that Iraq Solidarity Month can help revive international solidarity with the Iraqi people.
Dirk Adriaensens spoke on behalf of the Brussels Tribunal, which held the first of the international tribunals on Iraq. In 2005, they started a campaign against the assassination of academics and death squads. They also supported the full spectrum of the Iraqi resistance, regardless of ideology. He stated that it is a moral and legal obligation for people in European and western countries to hold their governments responsible for their actions in Iraq. It is important to provide external support for initiatives in Iraq by Iraqis but that Iraqis must be allowed to determine their own future, without outside interference, whether western or regional.
Mike Phipps, editor of Iraq Occupation Focus, talked about the impact on political life beyond Iraq. He stated that the current phase is the result of US occupation: ISIS was created in US-run torture centres, such as Abu Ghraib and corruption within the Iraqi army made it easy for ISIS to take over areas and access US weapons left behind. More recently, an Amnesty International report has revealed that displaced women who are suspected of having family ties to ISIS are being sexually abused, more than 200 have been sentenced to death unfairly due to alleged links to ISIS, broadening the circle of injustice and violence.
As well as destabilising the wider region, it discredited Tony Blair and the New Labour government, undermining public trust in the government. Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on the Iraq War has been a key element of his appeal. He stated that there has been no compensation or reparations for Iraq as well as no prosecutions. He said it was regretful that no major anti-war movement had marked the 15th anniversary.
Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop The War Coalition, also spoke about the domestic impact of the war and the UK and the US’ responsibility. She stated that it is important to remember, because the UK government, which has been at the centre of such imperialistic attacks for decades, wants the public to forget.
Zainab Khan from Tadhamun then presented a clip from a new CD available from Tadhamun on the destruction of Fallujah. Using music, poetry and testimonies, “And peace be upon you o Fallujah” looks at the bloody consequences of the resistance of the people of Fallujah since 2004.
Nazli Tarzi, journalist and Tadhamun activist presented a letter and slides from Iraqi architect Ihsan Fethi on the destruction of Mosul and the opportunities presented by the reconstruction of the city.
Algerian activist from War on Want Hamza Hamouchene offered a positive view of his visit to Baghdad in September 2016 to attend the Iraqi Social Forum. He reported on the positive civil society outlook and action by grassroots groups and trade unions in the country in spite of the violence and difficulties faced on a daily basis.
Iraqi-British rapper and activist Lowkey spoke about some of the victories of Iraqi civil society over attempts to imposed unfair laws and opportunities for action for Iraqis to rebuild their country.
The event was played out on a positive note by oud player Ihsan Al-Imam. As stated by one of the Tadhamun contributors reconstruction and healing wounds takes time and requires patience. It also requires solidarity from others.