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Genocide in Iraq: when will it end?

ISIS destructionTwelve years on from the 2003 invasion of Iraq, there is no let-up in the misery being inflicted on the Iraqi people. The UN mission to Iraq says violence in the country claimed the lives of at least 1,100 Iraqis in February, including more than 600 civilians.

The war crimes of Isis are well-documented: summary executions including of children and people on account of their sexuality; men flogged for using mobile phones; the kidnapping of hundreds of women from the Yazidi sect, who were subjected to physical and sexual abuse, slavery and forced marriage.

Thousands of rare manuscripts in Mosul’s library have been destroyed along with priceless antiquities at the museum. ISIS has blown up the historic wall of Nineveh and destroyed the ancient Assyrian site of Nimrud and 2,000 year-old ruins at Hatra.

These are a form of genocide, aimed at erasing the collective identity of the Iraqi people. But is it so different from the mentality of the US, who permitted looting of treasures in the early days of the occupation? A total of 15,000 invaluable Mesopotamian artefacts disappeared from the national museum, as Haifa Zangana pointed out recently. 

The US also used ancient historic archaeological sites as military bases, such as Ur, capital of the 3,000 old Sumerian civilisation, or Babylon where 300,000 square metres of the site were flattened – including 2,600 year old paving stones, by US tanks.

It is worth considering this because what we are told about Isis again and again is that they are uniquely evil. But actually there are recent precedents for many of their crimes from the very forces now ranged against them.

It’s reported that ISIS used chlorine gas in an attack on Iraqi soldiers. International law prohibits this. But in Falluja, the US used banned weapons against civilians whose toxic effects are being reflected in birth defects that could continue for generations to come. A recent survey in the city showed a four-fold increase in all cancers and a twelve-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14 year olds.

And like all previous conflict in the last 12 years in Iraq, caught between these opposing forces, it is the civilians who are suffering. The country’s Human Rights Commission reported recently that Iraqis under siege by Isis militants in the town of al-Baghdadi are turning to grass and weeds as means of sustenance.

Meanwhile as tens of thousands flee the Isis-controlled city of Tikrit, the US Human Rights Commission has called on Iraqi forces to protect civilians from revenge attacks by pro-government militias. According to Al-Arabiya, “By U.S. Army General Dempsey’s admission, Iran’s proxy Shiite militias make the overwhelming majority of the forces fighting ISIS in the Iraqi town of Tikrit. Out of roughly 25,000 fighters, 20,000 of those, said Dempsey, are from militias funded and trained by Iran, thus highlighting Tehran’s rising influence and dominance in neighboring Iraq.”

The Iraqi government has earmarked $60 million to Shiite militias. It’s part of the tribalisation of a country that was once a beacon of anti-colonial nationalism against western imperialist interests.

In Mosul itself as many as one million people could flee the city if the Iraqi army, backed by US air strikes, seeks to recapture it, aid agencies say. Dozens of homes have had letters left on the doorstep by a shadowy group calling itself the Freemen of Mosul saying “vengeance is coming,” and containing threats of retribution.

Serious questions are also being raised about the air strikes intended to destroy Isis forces by the US and its allies. There is evidence of scores of non-combatants killed since the US bombardment began in August. In one particular incident, an estimated 65 civilians, mainly women and children, were bombed in a crowded market, an atrocity scarcely reported in western media. Just last week, 22 Iraqi soldiers were killed by US aircraft “friendly fire” on the edge of Ramadi.

The UK, Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, France, Belgium, as well as Singapore, Canada and Australia – are active in northern Iraq. Last week the Brits sent another 60 military personnel. To do what? Last month a House of Commons Select Committee report was absolutely scathing about Coalition aims in Iraq. It declared itself “shocked by the inability or unwillingness of any of the service chiefs to provide a clear, and articulate statement of the UK’s objectives or strategic plan in Iraq. There was a lack of clarity over who owns the policy – and indeed whether or not such a policy exists.”

But this confusion is not unique to Britain, US CIA Director said recently, that in Iraq the “good guys and the bad guys” are “tough to sort out.”

A lack of strategy, policy, understanding and leadership – but that won’t stop Britain and the US running their bombing raids – as if all Iraq needed was more bombs.

Over the next few weeks, millions of ordinary people will be talking politics and all over the country, election hustings are being organised. We should go to these meetings and ask: Twelve years on from the invasion of Iraq, when is it going to end? When will you stop the endless war and bombing and western-inflicted misery on the Iraqi people? When will the Iraqi people get justice, some reparations for the damage done to their country, prosecutions of the war criminals who inflicted it, control over their own natural resources, an end to foreign interference, and an end to western military intervention?


  1. Robert says:

    Blair sorted out and gave them freedom, or so we are told, now it’s up to Iraq to do the rest.

  2. James Martin says:

    Yes, it was the illegal war of Bush and Blair followed be a disastrous occupation that created support for the fundamentalists like al qaeda and now ISIS where little existed before, and opened up wide the religious sectarian fault-lines with dangerous consequences that could last a very long time.

    However, we are where we are. The ISIS fascists and psychopaths are in control of huge areas of land and millions of people. The barbaric executions, the sex slavery and subjection of women and gay people are there for all to see. Therefore how do we remove them given this is the only way to stop it?

    And this is where the answers become harder. You see it is perfectly true that the greed of colonial Britain and France in particular directly led to the rise of extreme German nationalism under the Nazis following the humiliating Weimar Treaty and occupation of the Ruhr. But then what was to be done when Hitler was in power and socialists, gays and Jews were all being systematically slaughtered? To say that because we were in part responsible for German facsism we should stay out of it? Or was the war against fascism that cost so many lives justified?

    And I do worry that if we continue to say that events in Iraq is largely all our fault (true as that statement is) and so we should stop intervening, that cuts the legs away from the very real need to support those like the Kurds (and particularly of course the socialist, secular and feminist YPG fighters). And the problem right now is that some tut tutting and fist shaking at either ISIS or western leaders doesn’t cut it. The YPG don’t need our good wishes, they need guns, bombs and more fighters. And ISIS will not be removed by head shaking but by killing them, just as we needed to kill a lot of Nazis once. As I say, we are sadly where we are and it is only politics by other means that will do what now needs to be done.

  3. Robert says:

    Yes but the Nazi were the political party not the people, the people who were killed were Germans.

    Not forgetting when the UK and USA forces landed on D day they were ordered not to take any more prisoners but to execute those captured so the army could move forward and not be stopped looking after prisoners .

    It’s war it’s not nice those Nazi were in the main conscripted young men who fought because they were told to do so, not because they were in the Nazi political party.

    ISIS is basically the same converts join because they think they are helping to Muslims to win a war and we have allowed the mosques freedom to teach hate , we have allowed the people who go around teaching hate to carry on, now we are paying the price.

    We now have a duty to Iraq to help them but we have no money to do it.

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