SPC Statement on the Situation in Iraq

This statement was approved by SPC’s Steering Committee on 5/22/03.

Over the last nine months, the Syracuse Peace Council (SPC) actively opposed the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy: first in the Bush Administration’s desire to attack Iraq, then in its invasion, and now in its occupation. While we agree that Hussein was a brutal and oppressive dictator and can understand why many Iraqis are glad that he is no longer in power, invading Iraq was not the answer. Human rights abuses by governments should be dealt with through the appropriate international institutions, such as the UN, the International Criminal Court and the World Court in the Hague.

If the Bush Administration were truly interested in the liberation of the Iraqi people it would have supported and strengthened those institutions instead of defying and undermining them. The Administration’s liberation argument was a cynical ploy. It played on the American people’s desire to see liberation and freedom throughout the world and manipulated us into supporting an illegal, immoral, and devastating war. There is no reason to believe that the Bush Administration was actually motivated by wanting to improve the well being of the Iraqi people. This is the same administration that supported the crippling sanctions which, according to UNICEF, killed 4500 children under the age of five every month for years. The Bush administration promoted liberation as a justification for warfare only after the majority of people in the United States and around the world refused to believe the allegations about “weapons of mass destruction” and the “al Qaeda connection.”
The immediate results of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq have been horrendous. Over 2,500 Iraqi civilians lost their lives as well as tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers who fought to defend their country and homes from an invading force. Over a hundred American soldiers were killed. Looting mobs wrought havoc on homes, schools, hospitals, museums, and historical sites throughout Iraq while the US military stood by. In a report released on May 14, 2003, UNICEF stated that the recent looting, the shortage of water, and the increasing insecurity in Iraq are contributing to a rapid increase in cases of diarrhoea in a children. They also reported that child malnutrition rates have doubled since last year and have been worsening in recent weeks.

The US seems to have no viable plan to assure that a legitimate, stable, and democratically elected Iraqi government will be a reality within the reasonable future. Instead, the initial efforts of government building have been met with fierce anti-American protests, and the process seems ready to spiral into conflict before it even gets off the ground. The complexity and instability of the situation in Iraq were predicted by a wide array of experienced observers and are another clear indication of why a war on Iraq was not an appropriate way to deal with the regime of Saddam Hussein

The war on Iraq was not a defensive war. Instead, it was an aggressive military invasion of a small Third World country that most experts believe had been largely contained, disarmed, and rendered unable to attack anyone. Such a pre-emptive attack, and the flouting of international institutions and law, set dangerous precedents and serve to make our world much less safe.

The US has become the military occupier of Iraq. As such, it has many responsibilities according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, an international agreement defining proper conduct for occupying forces. The Geneva Convention states that the US is now fully responsible for the well being and security of the Iraqi people, and must do everything in its power to make sure that their needs are taken care of. We call on the US to fully respect the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international laws by fulfilling all of its responsibilities and complying with all regulations.

Under International law, the occupying power has an obligation to properly maintain oil wells and other facilities. The US government should ensure that the oil resources in Iraq remain in the hands of the Iraqi people and that oil revenue is used for the betterment of Iraqis as determined by the Iraqis themselves. Revenues from oil should not be used to pay for the reconstruction of Iraq. The financial responsibility for rebuilding Iraq must be born by the US and its partner aggressors. Further, to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, US firms, particularly those associated with the Bush administration, should not be allowed to profit from the reconstruction of Iraq. The administration of the oil fields and the process to award reconstruction contracts should be completely transparent and out of the hands of US officials.

A US/UK proposal to remain occupying forces in Iraq for at least a year was recently passed by the United Nations. The US government is not a proper or legitimate entity for initiating or administering even a temporary Iraqi government. Thus far, the US has exhibited a severe lack of cohesive leadership on this matter and has failed to initiate a viable solution. The people of Iraq have the absolute and sovereign right to make decisions about their need for international assistance. Therefore, the attitude of Iraqis towards the US must be taken into account. There have been several massive protests of US attempts to establish an interim government. Leaders proposed by the US have repeatedly been exposed as unpalatable to the majority of Iraqis at best and convicted criminals at worst.
The UN is the appropriate body to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq. It is more likely than the US to succeed in facilitating the creation of a government that would be viewed as legitimate in the eyes of Iraqis and the rest of the world, and not as a puppet of the US.

Finally, it is our wish that the horrendous events in Iraq not be repeated elsewhere. We are concerned about US posturing towards other countries such as Syria, North Korea, and Iran. We believe that a new foreign policy must be articulated by the US, one based on true diplomacy, and geared towards disarmament through peaceful means of ALL weapons of mass destruction, including those of the US and its allies. Therefore, we see the strengthening of international institutions as crucial work to foster trust between all nations.