ANOTHER VIETNAM? Syracuse Peace Council Statement on Iraq

By Jessica Maxwell

We have witnessed a horrifying escalation of violence in Iraq this past week. The violence raging in Iraq was not only predictable, but also unnecessary. As an organization committed to peace and social justice, we mourn for all those killed or injured and those who care about them. We also condemn US tactics that provoke increased violence, such as firing on nonviolent demonstrators and journalists, or as in Fallujah, targeting entire cities and towns, including large civilian populations.

All of the justifications used by the Bush administration to support the invasion have been proven false:

– No WMD’s have been found in Iraq

– No evidence of links to Al Qaeda or the 9-11 attacks has been found

– There is no indication that Iraq was in anyway a threat to the US

– Emerging evidence and statements from the intelligence community in the US and Britain indicate that crucial intelligence was deliberately misrepresented by the Bush administration to make the case for invading Iraq

US troops have been sent to die and kill in the name of an illegal and unjust war:

– Over 650 US soldiers have been killed and up to 13,000 have been evacuated for medical reasons

– It is estimated that between 10,000-40,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed during the first six weeks of the US invasion

– Over 10,000 Iraqi civilians have also been killed or wounded, and many more have lost their homes and property

The US government has already spent over $110 billion on the invasion of Iraq while eliminating necessary programs for education and healthcare in the US. Security both in the US and globally has been undermined by the unilateral invasion and occupation of Iraq. It has further legitimized the use of force to achieve political goals – exactly what the US government is condemning terrorist groups for. Anti-US sentiment has increased around the world, even among our closest allies.

We were told by the Bush administration that US troops would be welcomed as liberators. Instead, the resistance in Iraq continues to grow as ordinary Iraqis find themselves increasingly oppressed and frustrated by the US occupation, similar to what happened in Viet Nam in the 1960’s. A member of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council recently resigned in protest of US actions in Fallujah, where over 600 Iraqis have reportedly been killed in the last week by US forces, the majority of them women and children.

If the US government had any desire to improve life for Iraqis, it could have prioritized the basic needs of the Iraqi people, including: security, healthcare, access to water and electricity, jobs, education, and the ability to participate democratically in the decisions about the future of their country. None of these needs has been met under the US occupation, and instead:

– Women are afraid to leave their homes because of increased street violence

– Parents fear sending their children to school

– Unemployment is over 50% and wages remain lower than pre-war levels

– Many people still do not have access to clean water and electricity

– The US plan for a transfer of “sovereignty” has no meaningful input from the Iraqi people and contains no provisions for a democratic process to select an interim Iraqi government

The Bush administration continues to promote policies that prioritize US military control of the region and US corporate control of Iraqi resources and business opportunities. According to Bush’s plan for a June 30th transfer of power, the US military will retain control of security in Iraq. Reconstruction is being carried out primarily by US corporations who are less familiar with Iraqi infrastructure and culture than their Iraqi counterparts. Corporations such as Halliburton are already under investigation for overcharging for their “services” and failing to fulfill their contracts.

Given the immense failure of the US government to achieve its stated goals of liberation and democracy for the Iraqi people, the motivations of the Bush administration – including deep corporate ties within the oil industry – must be questioned. As citizens of the US we have a responsibility to use our democratic rights to insist that our government act as representatives of the people, rather than on behalf of corporate goals. It is clear what must be done to end the violence and oppression in Iraq:

– An immediate end to the US occupation of Iraq and withdrawal of US forces

– If the Iraqi people request the presence of the UN, Arab League or other international bodies, these groups should undertake that responsibility

– Contracts awarded to US or other foreign corporations under the US occupation should be invalidated

– Iraqi contractors and companies should lead the efforts to rebuild their country, and Iraqis should be in charge of allocating their own resources

– The US should pay reparations to Iraq for damages caused by the invasion and occupation

– The international community should support Iraq as it develops a new sovereign government

Liberation cannot be achieved through occupation. If the US government wants to support democracy, it should stop engaging in unilateral action and pre-emptive strikes, and instead work cooperatively with the international community.

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