Monday, March 19, 2012

Legacies of War in Iraq

“This is a choice we know will have enormous and tragic consequences – many as yet unimagined – for the Iraqi people, for our nation and for the world. It is a choice we believe was unnecessary, immoral and unwise…” - Quaker Statement On Launch of War, March 2003

"Iraq since 2003 represents everything that we want to avoid in the Arab world – foreign invasions, simplistic American political engineering, sharp internal polarization, ethnic cleansing and warfare…” - Rami G. Khouri

"There is no victory and no victors in the 20-year war. Except for a few war profiteers, everyone has lost." - Raed Jarrar

Click on the image above for the audio recording of the event below. Click here for the AFSC background paper, and here for a timeline.

Legacies of War in Iraq
28 December 2011 | Friends Center | Philadelphia

For 30 years the Iraqi people have endured three wars and for 20 years suffered under some of the most severe and comprehensive economic and political sanctions ever imposed against a nation and its people.

A war of choice starting in 2003 destroyed the infrastructure, left hundreds of thousands dead, opened the way to civil war/ethnic fighting, and created the largest movement of refugees and internally displaced in the region since the creation of Israel in 1948.

With the withdrawal of US combat troops by the end of this year it is time to look back on the past to better understand future challenges. Join us to explore the legacies of war in Iraq: A war that has gutted our economy.


Kathy Kelly is a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, an outgrowth of a campaign to end economic sanctions against Iraq. She lived in Iraq during the 2003 U.S. invasion and initial weeks of the U.S. Occupation. She is in Kabul, but sent us a video presentation.

Mary Trotochaud was the AFSC country representative from 2004 – 2007. She worked with Iraqi women in early efforts to help create a new vision for their country. She later worked in Washington with the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL).

Rick McDowell has lead fifteen delegations to Iraq (1996-2003) to witness the impact of comprehensive economic sanctions. In 2002 he led a group of Nobel Laureates and was the AFSC Iraq Country Representative from 2004-2007 before working with FCNL.

Raed Jarrar is an Iraq specialist, political analyst and former AFSC consultant based in Washington, D.C. After the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Raed became the country director for CIVIC Worldwide, the only door-to-door casualty survey group in post-war Iraq.

Abdulla Al-Obeidi grew up in Baghdad. As a refugee in Egypt he worked with other Iraqi teens. He is now studying sociology/pre-med at Rowan University and active on campus – and community – efforts to bridge the gap between Middle Eastern and US cultures.

Celeste Zappala is a Gold Star Mother for Peace. Her son, PA Guard Sgt. Sherwood R. Baker, was killed in Iraq on April 2004. His unit was in charge of guarding those looking for Iraq's non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Moderator: Peter Lems, AFSC Program Director, Education and Advocacy for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Excerpts –
“In April of 2003, the country lay in ruin. The infrastructure had been decimated. As we drove from Baghdad to Mosul, we passed miles of high tension electric wires that were lying on the ground as the towers that held them were melted by stinger missiles. Bomb craters dotted the countryside with clear evidence of the use of cluster munitions littering agricultural fields. Ministry buildings and cultural centers like the national theater were bombed out shells. Ministries which had not been bombed were empty carcasses looted completely bare. Communication centers were rubble leaving much of the country without phone service. The streets were full of tanks and military vehicles but they were empty of people. Stores were closed, boarded up, burned out or looted. Schools were bombed or looted. Hospitals were overflowing with injured but depleted of medical supplies. Electricity was scarce or nonexistent.

The neighborhoods were no longer safe for women and children. With the first waves of lawlessness, the children who flew kites in front of our house were locked away in their homes. A child in our neighborhood was kidnapped and held for ransom. A family in the neighborhood was robbed at gunpoint in their home. Women stopped driving and going to the store. Barricades went up at the ends of our street to keep bandits out. The wife and children of our landlord and neighbor, fled to Amman among the first wave of refugees to flee the violence. There was no law and order as there was no government. As life became more insecure, people armed themselves and looked to groups that might protect them. Group identification, by tribe, religion or political affiliation, became increasingly important as a means to security. Armed militias were formed.” - Mary Trotochaud

"In 2004, following the hanging of 4 Blackwater contractors in the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah, the US commanding officer, who would lead the siege on Falujah stated: The enemy has got a name. He's called Satan. He's in Falluja and we are going to destroy him.

The Lt. Col was good to his word: all males between 15 and 45 were denied safe passage, while ¼ million people became refugees. Of the 50,000 who stayed 6,000 died, including those whose skin was melted from their bodies from the illegal use of phosphorus bombs. 3 of the city’s water plants were destroyed the fourth crippled. 70% of buildings were damaged or destroyed. Studies have traced the use of enriched uranium in US weapons systems. US forces believed they had to destroy Fallujah to save it, while the international relief community in Iraq tried to figure out how to get emergency medical supplies, food and water to the besieged people." - Rick McDowell

Additional Resources

Falling in and Out of War | Bill Keller | 18 March 2012
"WHEN you’ve been wrong about something as important as war, as I have, you owe yourself some hard thinking about how to avoid repeating the mistake. And if that’s true for a mere kibitzing columnist, it’s immeasurably more true for those in a position to actually start a war."

A Hard Look at Why I Wanted War | Bill Keller | September 2011
"During the months of public argument about how to deal with Saddam Hussein, I christened an imaginary association of pundits the I-Can’t-Believe-I’m-a-Hawk Club, made up of liberals for whom 9/11 had stirred a fresh willingness to employ American might. It was a large and estimable group of writers and affiliations, including, among others, Thomas Friedman of The Times; Fareed Zakaria, of Newsweek; George Packer and Jeffrey Goldberg of The New Yorker; Richard Cohen of The Washington Post; the blogger Andrew Sullivan; Paul Berman of Dissent; Christopher Hitchens of just about everywhere; and Kenneth Pollack, the former C.I.A. analyst whose book, “The Threatening Storm,” became the liberal manual on the Iraqi threat. (Yes, it is surely relevant that this is exclusively a boys’ club.)

In several columns I laid out justifications for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. There were caveats — most significantly, that there was no reason to rush, that we should hold off to see whether Iraq’s behavior could be sufficiently contained by sanctions and inspections. Like many liberal hawks, I was ambivalent; Pollack said he was 55 to 45 for war, which feels about right.

But when the troops went in, they went with my blessing. Of course I don’t think President Bush was awaiting permission from The New York Times’s Op-Ed page — or, for that matter, from my friends in the Times newsroom, who during the prewar debate published some notoriously credulous stories about Iraqi weapons. The administration, however, was clearly pleased to cite the liberal hawks as evidence that invading Iraq was not just the impetuous act of cowboy neocons. Thus did Tony Judt in 2006 coin another, unkinder name for our club: “Bush’s Useful Idiots.”

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