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Forum Post: The Iraq War's Real Legacy

Posted 6 years ago on March 28, 2014, 3:50 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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The Iraq War's Real Legacy

Friday, 28 March 2014 10:54
By Jessica Desvarieux, The Real News Network | Video Interview


More at The Real News



JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: On a planned presidential trip to the E.U. headquarters, it was supposed to be all handshakes and photo ops about a new trade deal. But instead, President Obama, in his speech before the E.U., took to defending the United States' decision to invade Iraq.

BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq's territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people in a fully sovereign Iraqi state that can make decisions about its own future.

DESVARIEUX: But back home in Washington, the soldiers who fought that war and the Iraqi civilians who are still living through the aftermath had a much different take on the war's legacy. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war, and they took the opportunity to speak to the lasting impact of the war at a people's hearing.

YANAR MOHAMMED, PRESIDENT, ORGANIZATION OF WOMEN'S FREEDOM IN IRAQ: Sovereignty for whom? I think he's talking about the 275 or 300-something parliamentarians who are living inside the International Zone. (And that's the new name for the Green Zone. It's not "Green" anymore.) It's only the sovereignty for those people. And they have the whole wealth of Iraq, while the people are suffering. And there's a number that was produced by the UN reports: almost 38 percent of the Iraqi people are living under the poverty line. Sovereignty for whom?

DESVARIEUX: Many questions still remain for the people of Iraq after, almost 11 years ago, troops toppled the government of Saddam Hussein and brought to power the Shiite government of al-Maliki.

Iraqi labor organizer pointed out how the U.S.-backed al-Maliki government is more concerned with amassing wealth and seizing resources, and it aims to crush organized labor movements and remain in power.

FALAH ALWAN, PRESIDENT, FEDERATION OF WORKERS COUNCILS AND UNIONS: The new government, busy with how to redivide the wealth and how to seize the resources of the society and how to spend mountains of dollars and gold--and this corrupted government, supported directly by the U.S. government.

The new Iraqi authorities, despite the tragic situation in Iraq, they want to impose a new legislation, which enable them to be in power and [incompr.] in power by controlling the so-called elections and to issue new labor laws to control the workers and prevent them from expressing their demands and their interests, and keeping the old laws of Saddam, which would prevent the workers from organizing themselves, from holding strikes, from negotiating, from calling for their interests. All--we can talk about the tragedies day and night.

DESVARIEUX: The tragedies don't stop there. Speakers pointed out to the high levels of toxic chemicals in Iraq left over from depleted uranium used in both the 1991 Gulf War and the recent Iraq War. Also, abandoned bases, like this one in Basra, have left scores of military vehicles abandoned, leaving some scientists concerned over the exposure of chemicals like lead and mercury.

MOZHGAN SAVABIEASFAHANI, ENVIRONMENT TOXICOLOGIST: These abandoned sites, these abandoned military vehicles, are the perfect reservoir for toxic material to get into the environment, and eventually into the bodies of the people. Basra is one of the most highly impacted. People are suffering from cancers, birth defects. Dr. al-Sabbak, who is my collaborator in Basra maternity hospital, told me a story last few times I've talked to him. He has patients who've had--for example, a couple who've had 19 miscarriages. And on top of that, the woman is suffering from cancer. So imagine the kind of mental, emotional, physical pressure on the population of Iraq.

DESVARIEUX: The aftereffects are not only being felt by those in Iraq, but by the veterans who fought in the war. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2013, 22 veterans committed suicide everyday. That's one suicide an hour.

Many of these veterans suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder or other mental issues, veterans like Ramon Mejia, who spoke to the mental affects of war. He served in the Marines on resupply missions. When he returned from Iraq, he found himself walking up in the middle of the night with seizures, but no doctors could pinpoint the cause. Before the people's hearing he gave an emotional testimony to how he's been living since he returned.

RAMON MEJIA, MEMBER, IRAQ VETERANS AGAINST WAR: It's been difficult for me and family to not know why I have seizures. Either way, I was retired out of the military. I was, you know, sent home packing. They gave me some medication. And even then, after they gave me the medication, I didn't know what was wrong with me.

So I went back to Dallas. I started to heavily drink. In my neighborhood, you know, no one thinks about--other than just what--their own--just other than themselves. So in my neighborhood, you know, there's gang violence, there's drug sales. And that's who my friends were. My friends were drug dealers and my friends were gangsters. So I got mixed up into that whole lifestyle again.

And it wasn't until I finally questioned--. My uncle helped me. He was a Vietnam veteran. He was able to kind of help me out and pull me from the downward spiral of attempting to take my life. And my wife finally pulled me out of that environment, and we moved to Ohio. And that's when I kind of started to question the war. Sorry. Those questions started to rise up again.

And then, in the process of me questioning the war, questioning my intent, I ended up converting to Islam. And for a moment I found peace. And at this moment I am at peace. But these are issues that I still have to deal with on a daily basis.

DESVARIEUX: Another purpose of the hearing was for those to make the case that government U.S. officials who lead Americans into the war be held accountable.

PAMELA SPEES, SENIOR STAFF ATTORNEY, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS: Justice requires an accounting from those individuals who so perverted and twisted the truth and cavalierly drove this country into a war of aggression that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives of Iraqis and treated U.S. servicemembers like cannon fodder: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, and George W. Bush.

DESVARIEUX: The hearing pointed to the U.S. media's resounding silence leading up to the war in Iraq, and how even today Iraq still gets limited coverage.

JOHN TIRMAN, EXEC. DIRECTOR, MIT CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: --that the news media, which was almost completely silent about civilian suffering in Iraq, has constantly brought out the issue of human suffering in Syria, which of course is a good thing. But I did a quick count of references in The New York Times and The Washington Post, and in 2012--so I haven't even done it in the last year--in 2012, it was four times the number of references to Syrian civilians as there were to Iraqi civilians during the height of the war in 2006. And I think the reason for that is because we weren't doing the killing in Syria.

DESVARIEUX: Wrapping up the hearing, speakers addressed how to ensure that reparations go directly to the Iraqi people instead of the Iraqi government.

SPEES: There are other models for this, but the important thing is that communities that are affected be involved and have some say in what should happen. And one could envision a similar type of mechanism, where the funds could be channeled through it and for the betterment, with the involvement of people who are most affected.

DESVARIEUX: For The Real News Network, Jessica Desvarieux, Washington.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.



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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

Why Are So Many Migrants Here in the First Place?

Friday, 28 March 2014 10:24
By Henia Belalia, Waging Nonviolence | News Analysis


Often, for those of us fighting for migrant rights, the actions and campaigns we coordinate when loved ones are held in detention centers or imminent deportation dates are looming overhead have a sense of urgency. And it becomes a fight against the clock, in which we compromise the slow time of reclaiming stories that dig deep and far back into history.

As the migrant justice movement gets away from the divisive notion of “who deserves to stay,” we must also tackle the question of why people are migrating in the first place. The stories we tell must expose the neoliberal policies and practices that made our parents, grandparents and cousins leave their countries in the first place. We must debunk the U.S.-centered fairy tale that this county is the perfect model of democracy and the place where all dreams come true, and that those are reasons why so many millions of people have risked their lives to live here.

It’s a fairy tale that is commonly held among migrants moving to other imperial countries as well, such as when my family left Algeria for France. Harsha Walia (an organizer with No One is Illegal in Canada) defines this common global phenomenon as border imperialism. As she explains, seeing it through the lens of imperialism, “It take us away from an analysis that blames and punishes migrants, or one that forces migrants to assimilate and establish their individual worth. Instead, it orients the gaze squarely on the processes of displacement and migration within the global political economy of capitalism and colonialism.”

Today is a defining and pivotal moment – both for the government’s immigration policy and the migrant justice movement itself. Within a few weeks, Obama will have overseen more deportations in his last six years than any previous administration, for which he has earned himself the nickname “Deporter in Chief.” Despite the administration’s early promise to “use prosecutorial discretion to avoid deporting people with clean records and strong family ties to the United States,” close to two million families have been torn apart under his watch. The president recently voiced his “deep concern about the pain” that families have to shoulder when their homes are destroyed. He has asked Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh C. Johnson to consider more “humane practices.” Yet, I wonder what part of this traumatic and violent process holds any shred of humanity. The deportation quota is set at 400,000 a year, and the private-prison industry has a powerful vested interest in keeping detention centers filled. DHS has even conceded “detention bed mandates” to the for-profit industry, ensuring a certain number of migrants will be detained in order to maximize profits.

In response, the migrant justice movement has mobilized an unprecedented wave of protest, one filled with courage and radical reimagining. People have been coming out of the shadows, declaring, “Undocumented! Unafraid!” A spectrum of tactics have surfaced: lobbying Congress for a more comprehensive reform bill; petitioning news publications to drop terms like “illegal” immigrant; taking bold action to stop buses full of detainees in their tracks; converging at borders to cross back into the United States; and fighting back within the detention centers themselves, as they have most recently with the hunger strike at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

The framing of the movement has also shifted. More and more, groups are pushing beyond the dichotomy of “good” and “bad” immigrant — a framework that was imposed upon us and which artificially separates the “criminals” who crossed over with nothing more than the clothes on their backs from those of us who could afford the right kind of papers. Now, some are pushing to go even further and ground the migrant struggle, both explicitly and publicly, in an analysis of neoliberalism. It’s not an easy step to take. Even though the movement is escalating, it still feels like there’s a line we’re afraid to cross, an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist critique that we somehow are not allowed to make for fear of the consequences.

Community defender Simón Sedillo describes neoliberalism as “a military political economic system which prioritizes the roles of financial institutions and transnational corporations over the basic rights of communities. [It] subverts national sovereignty in order to ensure the flow of capital from the global south to the global north by taking natural resources, land and labor by force for profit.”

Under this system, Sedillo explains, “Farm workers, immigrants, students, workers, people of color, poor people, indigenous communities, women, and in particular indigenous women, are systematically devalued and considered disposable. If any of these sectors of society organize and resist, they are considered threats and become military targets. In other words, neoliberalism is the way in which banks, politicians and corporations conspire to subjugate the people as a whole. This is done with pretty words and faces, but it is still the same ugly way in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

Better understanding neoliberalism in the context of migration has helped one group that I work with, the Salt Lake Dream Team, during our ongoing campaign to stop the deportation of Ana Cañenguez and her four sons. After more than a year of court and legal proceedings, the Cañenguez family is applying for prosecutorial discretion and a stay of deportation in a last ditch effort to overturn a court’s decision for them to self-deport. They moved to Salt Lake City from El Salvador to escape poverty, domestic violence and gang threats.

Today, nearly one quarter of El Salvador’s population lives and works in the United States. The economy, which once relied on its coffee exports, now depends on the remittances of its workers abroad who send money back to their family. This exchange is expedited by the fact that since 2001, their official currency is the dollar. In other words, every deportation of a Salvadorean worker in the United States has a direct negative impact on the economy of this small Central American nation.

To understand this situation, it’s helpful to start with El Salvador’s 12-year civil war, which was to become the most costly U.S. intervention in Latin America.

The United States spent $1 million a day funding death squads and a far-right military government in efforts to ward off the spread of communism and “another Nicaragua.” As a result, the country was traumatized by massive human rights violations and the death of 75,000 people. But perhaps what really tipped the scales was the formation of U.S.-funded private development organizations like FUSADES, which furthered neoliberal programs inside the country. The United States has also meddled in elections and set preconditions for U.S. aid that incentivizes — one might say bribes — politicians to open up the country to foreign multinationals. The recent enactment of the public-private partnership law, for example, grants “the government the right to sell off natural resources, infrastructure and services to foreign multinationals.”

As with any place, the history of El Salvador is a complex one, rich in people and perspectives. Its sociopolitical system is intertwined with layers of inequality and resistance, of oppression and liberation. The question of U.S. involvement is not a simple one either, and this short history only skims the surface. But the question remains: What does it look like to take responsibility for these decades of conditions and back-door deals — and the social havoc these policies have created?

Standing with the Canenguez family goes beyond fighting for their choices or debunking such myths like that of migrants stealing jobs in an already fragile economy. It’s about telling the whole story, that of migration and leaving one’s home seeking asylum in a country that makes promises while shamelessly destroying other people’s backyards. It’s about demanding answers and accountability. To do this, we need to make the time to reflect, educate ourselves and connect the dots. It means movie screenings, study groups, book clubs, community dinners or two-hour tea-drinking sessions to gather the wisdom from our elders. It means taking the time to look at how neoliberalism has affected a family’s own life and making that reality a more focal part in the story we’ve been telling.

It also means overcoming the fear of crossing an uncrossable line — moving from a narrative in which families are pleading to stay to one in which they are demanding that right based on the United States’ decades of destructive international policies. In other words, telling the missing parts of the migrant story goes beyond creating a more comprehensive and accurate narrative. It also bears the weight of responsibility and action.

As Ana Cañenguez said, “We need to lose fear of speaking out … It would be beautiful if the 11 million lost fear. Everything would look different. The more people that lose fear, the more power we have. In unity there is power.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 0 points by nazihunter (215) 6 years ago

If you want to be ready to do business, don't cop someone else's words and belay the bottom line, Leo. Spit it out, man. Spit it out It's like this: Other countries need to take care of their own people. Sometimes they can't because meddlesome countries like the United States go there and fuck things all up. A lot of the bad bananas, (that's a pun son), are corporations. They win two ways, they get to conduct their business on the cheap overseas. Second, they cheapen the work pool here. Read up how Britain caused the migration of all the Irish here with their bullshit about so-called free markets. Watch the documentary, 'Confessions of an Economic Hit man.' Watch the movie 'Network' which tried to warn people way back in the 70s. Why was there nothing done? No critical mass. Not enough people standing up and saying this shit won't stand. At the same time, when things reach full tilt and people in this country start flooding other countries for work, how well will they be received. And don't fucking lie.