Some in the anti-war movement are discussing what slogans and demands they should raise. The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition demands, "Bring the troops home now, end the occupation of Iraq." Some other groups call instead for turning the Occupation Authority over to the United Nations. This important political discussion needs clarification.
1) Self-determination for the Iraqi people
The Iraqis have shown they want no foreign, imperial forces to be the arbiters of their political and economic process. They would disagree with those who claim the Iraqis are not "up to the task" of building an independent Iraq. They would rightly believe that this argument is based on conscious or unconscious paternalism and even racist stereotyping.
The Iraqi people have a fundamental right to determine their own destiny. Iraq has been nominally independent for eighty years. Since 1958, when a mass uprising overthrew the British-imposed king, Iraq has been a genuinely sovereign country. Only through an illegal invasion and occupation imposed with the use of almost limitless violence could the U.S.- British alliance end Iraqi self-rule and seize nationalized Iraqi oil.
2) The UN history of war on Iraq
Given the UN's record in Iraq over the past thirteen years, why would the Iraqi people agree that this same UN should be the institution to serve as the guarantor in a transition to renewed sovereign control?
There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that the UN will suddenly stand up to U.S. pressure after having failed to do so for thirteen years. This opinion is confirmed by the recent comments of Dennis Halliday, a former UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq:
"The West sees the UN as a benign organization, but the sad reality in much of the world is that the UN is not seen as benign. In Iraq, the UN imposed sustained sanctions that probably killed up to 1 million people. Children were dying of malnutrition and water- borne diseases. The U.S. and UK bombed the infrastructure in 1991, destroying power, water and sewage systems against the Geneva Convention. It was a great crime against Iraq. Thirteen years of sanctions made it impossible for Iraq to repair the damage. That is why we have such tremendous resentment and anger against the UN in Iraq. There is a sense that the UN humiliated the Iraqi people and society.
"I would use the term genocide to define the use of sanctions against Iraq. Several million Iraqis are suffering cancers because of the use of depleted uranium shells. That's an atrocity. Can you imagine the bitterness from all of this?" (Sunday Herald, Aug. 24, 2003)
3) The soldiers want to come home
Many U.S. soldiers were willing to risk death and injury because they believed the president when he said that Iraq posed a grave and imminent danger to the people of the United States. Having learned that this was in fact a lie, the idea of sacrificing even one more life becomes too much to bear. Why should U.S. soldiers or any foreign soldiers be put in a situation where they must kill and be killed for an illegal and immoral occupation? These soldiers want to come home, not tomorrow, but today. Neither we nor they created this crisis. The Bush administration did not speak for the people when it carried out its illegal, reckless and criminal endeavor.
The anti-war movement must fully embrace the slogan "Bring the troops home now."
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