Mike Phipps

Launch of Iraq solidarity month

Mike Phipps
Launch of Iraq solidarity month

LAST MONTH 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. One leading Iraqi official has characterised this 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 to litter Mosul for a decade to come, 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, there were the debilitating sanctions imposed on the country after the 1991 Gulf War. Then there was the 2003 invasion, which 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 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.

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.

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 flabber-gastingly 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. In the broader region and beyond, however, tensions remain strong. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu observed, “The immorality of the United States’ and Great Britain's decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilised and polarised the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history.”

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, a small but dedicated organisation of women activists, to mark the occasion with the launch of Iraq Solidarity Month. As it says in the publicity for the event: “It will be a reminder of the crimes committed in dismantling a state, society and culture, so that they are not repeated. It is also a celebration of Iraq's history, resistance and aspiration for peace based on equality and justice.”

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Thursday 26th April 2018, 7pm

SOAS Alumni Lecture Theatre (S) ALT, Paul Webley Wing (Senate House North Block), University of London, 10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG


Denis J. Halliday: Head of the Humanitarian Programme in Iraq 1997-98

Ayça Çubukçu: Assistant Professor of Human Rights and Director of the Human Rights Programme at the LSE

Lindsey German: Stop the War convener

Hamza Hamouchene: Algerian activist Senior Programme Officer - North Africa and West Asia at War on Want

Mike Phipps: Editor of the fortnightly Iraq Occupation Focus e-newsletter.

Victoria Brittan: Journalist and author of several books and plays about the war on terror and Guantánamo Bay

Haifa Zangana: Iraqi author and journalist Ihsan al Imam

Iraqi musician Lowkey: British-Iraqi rapper and activist