Posts Tagged ‘Lieven De Cauter’

Will Obama Vacate Iraq?

April 8, 2009

Nasir Khan, April 8, 2009

On February 27, 2009 President Barack Obama delivered his much-anticipated policy speech on Iraq. The important point in his announcement was the withdrawal of some U.S. troops from Iraq by August 31, 2010. However, it did not mean an end to the American occupation of Iraq, or an end to an illegal genocidal war that the Bush-Cheney administration had started. Despite his high-blown rhetoric about withdrawing from Iraq, Obama did not deal with many important questions. Thus what was not said cannot be regarded as an oversight but rather as an indication of how the new administration intends to pursue its policy objectives. Those who had wished to see a break by the new administration with the Bush-Cheney administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are concerned because they detect the continuation of the goal of the U.S. domination, which the American rulers usually refer to as the ‘U.S. interests’ in the region.

At present the U.S. has 142,000 combat troops in Iraq. But what is often glossed over is the fact that there is almost a parallel army of American mercenaries and private military contractors whose numbers range from 100,000 to 150,000. Thus both the regular fighting force and these mercenaries are virtual foreign occupiers. However, the planned withdrawal of U.S. troops will not amount to ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Obama wants to keep more than 50,000 occupying troops in Iraq. His innovation, if we can call it so, lies in classifying them as ‘non-combat’ troops or a ‘transitional force’. And what will they be doing? It is worth noticing how Obama formulates the policy objective that shows the real intentions of the occupiers: ‘we will retain a transitional force to carry out the three distinct functions: training, equipping , and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counterterrorism missions; and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq.’

So, instead of ‘combat brigades’, the re-labelled ‘transitional force’ will carry on the ‘targeted counterterrorism missions’! This cannot fool anyone. What this in effect means is that that the 50,000 soldiers will continue to accomplish the ‘mission’ that the former U.S. president George W. Bush had laid out for them.

President Obama has plans to remove all such remaining U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. But things are far from certain. What will happens if the resistance against the occupier and its puppet regime in Baghdad continues and the U.S. policy-makers and military planners conclude that the challenge to American hegemony and its geopolitical interests in Iraq persists? In that case, this plan can be replaced with a new one neatly drafted by the Pentagon. Such concern was aired by the NBC’s Pentagon’s correspondent Jim Miklaszeswki on February 27, 2009 that ‘military commanders, despite their Status of Forces agreement with the Iraqi government that all U.S. forces would be out by the end of 2011, are already making plans for a significant number of troops to remain in Iraq beyond that 2011 deadline, assuming that the Status of Forces Agreement would be renegotiated. And one senior military commander told us that he expects large number of American troops to be in Iraq for the next 15 to 20 years.’ In case of such need to keep the American forces in Iraq, the puppet regime in Baghdad will hardly be in a position to resist the American diktat and pressure. That means the colonial occupation of Iraq according to U.S. designs and interests will continue.

There are a number of important issues that President Obama did not touch in his speech. What will happen to more than 100,000 mercenaries and private military contractors operating in Iraq? Dyncorp, Bechtel, Blackwater have been used by American military and they have been immune to any accountability for killing Iraqis. The recent change of name from Blackwater to ‘Xe’ does not change the mission of the mercenaries and their crimes in Iraq. Again, the ultimate responsibility for the actions of such people lies with the American government. The peace movement should demand the Obama administration to redress the issue.

In Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, the Bush administration built the largest embassy of any nation anywhere on Earth, a sprawling complex of buildings to accommodate up to 5,000 American diplomats and officials. That shows what long-term objectives the Bush administration had for Iraq and the Middle East. Besides, it was again the illegal action of the occupying military power in which the people of Iraq had no say. An embassy is meant for diplomatic relations between two states. But the gigantic building to accommodate thousands of officials in the capital of an occupied oil-rich country shows the true intentions of the American rulers. These buildings should be closed down or handed over to the Iraqis.

The United States has 58 permanent military bases in Iraq, as a part of the larger network of American military bases around the world. President Obama should give a clear indication that when the American troops are withdrawn, the illegal use of Iraqi military bases will also come to an end.

Let us hope that President Obama’s words match his actions; actions that will signify a change in the direction of American imperial policy. It was encouraging to see that when he turned to the Iraqi people and said: ‘The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country.’

The American rulers have inflicted immeasurable death and destruction on the Iraqi people and the infrastructure of their country. They have caused untold humanitarian disaster and suffering in Iraq. The people of Iraq have seen only death, destruction and barbarity at the hands of the occupiers since the U.S. invasion of their country. The Belgian philosopher, Lieven De Cauter, the initiator of the BRussells Tribunal, writes: ‘During six years of occupation, 1.2 million citizens were killed, 2,000 doctors killed, and 5,500 academics and intellectuals assassinated or imprisoned. There are 4.7 million refugees: 207 million inside the country and two million have fled to neighbouring countries, among which are 20,000 doctors. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is a country of widows and orphans: two million widows as a consequence of war, embargo, and war again and occupation, and five million orphans, many of whom are homeless (estimated at 500,000).’

For us the ordinary human beings, such a degree of inhumanity shown by the rulers of the United States towards the people of a great country and callous imperviousness to the suffering of so many people is hard to understand. In addition, Iraq, the cradle of human civilisation eventually fell in the hands of the American occupiers and they vandalized the ancient treasures and artifacts, which were the common heritage of all humanity.

In sum, the peace movement should demand the complete withdrawal of all U.S. troops, the withdrawal of all mercenaries and military contractors hired by the Pentagon. All American military bases in Iraq should be closed and the full sovereignty of Iraq over its land and air be respected. All lucrative oil contracts the occupiers made with the puppet regime in Baghdad should be held null and void. Above all, the United States should be held accountable to pay reparations for the damage it caused and pay compensation to the victims of aggression. We should demand that the International Criminal Court takes steps to indict the alleged war criminals. The governments of the United States and Britain have a special responsibility to hand over the principal war criminals to The Hague and to facilitate the task of such trials.

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Iraq: A forgotten humanitarian disaster

March 23, 2009

Lieven De Cauter, BRussells Tribunal

dead_baby_in_rubble.jpeg

Uruknet.info, March 21, 2009

The sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is a sad occasion for the balance sheet: during six years of occupation 1.2 million citizens were killed, 2,000 doctors killed, and 5,500 academics and intellectuals assassinated or imprisoned. There are 4.7 million refugees: 2.7 million inside the country and two million have fled to neighbouring countries, among which are 20,000 medical doctors. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is now a country of widows and orphans: two million widows as a consequence of war, embargo, war again and occupation, and five million orphans, many of whom are homeless (estimated at 500,000). Almost a third of Iraq’s children suffer from malnutrition. Some 70 per cent of Iraqi girls no longer go to school. Medical services, not so long ago the best in the region, have totally collapsed: 75 per cent of medical staff have left their jobs, half of them have fled the country, and after six years of “reconstruction” health services in Iraq still do not meet minimum standards.

Because of the use of depleted uranium in ammunition by the occupation, the number of cancer cases and miscarriages has drastically increased. According to a recent Oxfam report, the situation of women is most worrisome. The study states that in spite of optimistic bulletins in the press, the situation of women keeps deteriorating. The most elementary supplies are still not available. Access to drinkable water is for large parts of the population a problem and electricity is functioning only three to six hours a day, and this in a state that was once a nation of engineers. More than four in 10 Iraqis live under the poverty threshold and unemployment is immense (28.1 per cent of the active population). Besides 26 official prisons, there are some 600 secret prisons. According to the Iraqi Union of Political Prisoners, over 400,000 Iraqis have suffered detention since 2003, among which 6,500 minors and 10,000 women. Torture is practiced on a large scale, and some 87 per cent of detainees remain uncharged. Corruption is immense: according to Transparency International, Iraq, after Somalia and Myanmar, is the most corrupt country in the world. The American Foreign Affairs journal calls Iraq “a failed state”. This is symbolised by the fact that Iraq, a state that has the third largest oil reserves in the world, must import refined oil on a massive scale. Authorities are on the verge of giving oil concessions for 25 years to international (also European) oil companies, though they have no mandate or legal authority to do so. Instead of being paid reparations for the enormous destruction wrought on the infrastructure of the country, entailing billions in oil revenues lost, Iraq is again in line to be robbed. There is large scale ethnic cleansing going on against the Turkmen, the Christians, the Assyrians and the Shebak. Kirkuk is being “Kurdicised” by massive immigration and illegal settlements (of Israeli inspiration) and its history falsified.

This data, referenced in numerous reports, was presented during an information session in the European Parliament organised by the BRussells Tribunal on 18 March by a panel of Iraqi specialists. On 19 March, there was a session in the Belgian Parliament where a national representative after the statement of Dr Omar Al-Kubaissi, a renowned Iraqi cardiologist and expert on health, frankly admitted that he had no idea of the scale of the humanitarian disaster. Who can blame him? In the European press we hear little or nothing concerning this humanitarian disaster. In the newspapers there is talk of elections, of an occasional bomb attack, of the political process, of the positive results of the “surge”, etc, but concerning the suffering the Iraqi people … next to nothing. We have fallen asleep and we console ourselves: Obama plans the retreat American troops; therefore the issue of Iraq is off the agenda. The truth is that we want to forget this humanitarian disaster, because the West is responsible. Of course, in the first and last instance the administrations of Bush and Blair, but also the Netherlands, Denmark, Hungary, Poland and Italy were part of the coalition and hence accessory while Antwerp was a vital transit port for the invasion. Therefore also Europe bears a heavy responsibility. How is it possible that we can dissimulate the impact of the war, which initially stirred world public opinion, in spite of the flow of shocking reports? “Darfur” sounds a bell meanwhile (and correctly so) as a sort of African holocaust, but the crimes against the humanity of a near “genocidal” scale in Iraq are swept under the carpet. If the press does not do its job, how can public opinion be touched? Even activists and well meaning politicians are not on the level. This type of disinformation, and the indifference that comes with it, one could call a form of negationism, or at least a type of immoral ignorance. Wir haben es nicht gewusst, we will say. But the people of the Arab region will not forgive us. Let this be clear.

Lieven De Cauter

philosopher, initiator of the BRussells Tribunal

20 March 2009


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