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      March 18, 2003: The Day US Started Bombing Iraq,
      And 13 Years Later Iraq Is Nothing But A Shattered Land

      By Azza Rojbi & Janine Solanki

      “I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” — meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office — “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.””

      General Wesley Clark, Retired 4-star U.S. Army general and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO during the 1999 War on Yugoslavia, in an interview in March 2007 with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now.

      This quote demonstrates that the continuous string of imperialist wars, occupations and military interventions over the past 15 years are no accident. This has been part of the ongoing U.S.-led imperialist plan, the “New Era of War and Occupation” that was set into motion with the invasion of Afghanistan shortly after the September 11th, 2001 attacks. 15 years since the memo shared with General Clark, we can see the results of this plan. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Iran have all faced either war, occupation, sanctions or imperialist foreign military intervention.

      New Era of War and Occupation:

      Today's world-wide economic crisis has been met with a band-aid solution by advanced capitalist countries, led by the U.S. This has been to seek out new markets and resources to plunder, and to establish imperialist hegemony and domination over strategic regions. As we have seen in the last 15 years, this U.S.-led plan has been to dominate the Middle East and North Africa. The new era of war and occupation has also served to maintain a superior position over China and Russia, the biggest U.S. competitors for influence and control of global markets. The U.S. policy of asserting its own hegemony of the region has meant that any independent country needs to be brought under U.S. control. As in General Clark's interview above, going to war with Iran is a major goal of the new era of war and occupation. For decades the U.S. government has been vying to bring Iran under its command, especially as Iran has been a beacon of resistance against U.S. imperialism in the region since the 1979 Iranian revolution.

      One of the first targets in the new era of war and occupation was Iraq. This month, March 18, marks 13 years since the U.S.-led “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq. However March 18th, 2003 was not the first imperialist attack on Iraq. Following the 1990-1991 Gulf War, in 1998 the U.S. bombed Iraq in “Operation Desert Fox” and crippled Iraq with over 10 years of sanctions. The sanctions killed over 1.7 million innocent Iraqi people, half a million of which were children under 5 years old. During this time the U.S. has not once stopped their foreign meddling and provocations in Iraq. Since the 1998 “Iraq Liberation Act” the official U.S. policy towards Iraq has been for regime change.

      Going back to the period leading up to the war on Iraq, it was very clear to people around the world that the impending invasion of Iraq was based on lies and propaganda. U.S. politicians, most notably former President George W. Bush, claimed that Iraq was linked to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and that Iraq was building weapons of mass destruction. Despite the old trick of “say it enough times so people will believe it” the fact is that people around the world did not buy the war drive deceptions. Antiwar protests at that time were so large that they reached a world record, culminating in six to ten million people that joined a February 15, 2003 protests in 800 cities around the world, including here in Vancouver, Canada. It was not much of a surprise when the U.S. government had to admit that they did not find the hyped-up weapons of mass destruction and that their intelligence had been “faulty”. Iraqi people know too well that the only weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were those that the U.S.-led invasion inflicted upon the Iraqi people.

      Sad Numbers

      Today, 13 years of war and occupation by the U.S. and its imperialist allies have transformed the ‘Cradle of Civilization’ into a land of destruction and devastation. Over one million Iraqis lost their lives as a result of the Iraq war, according to the British polling group, Opinion Research Business. In addition to the tragic loss of life, the imperialist bombing campaign left the Iraqi people with the ongoing legacy of depleted uranium and other toxic weaponry, which contaminated wide areas of Iraq causing horrific birth defects, high cancer rates and environmental devastation. According to Iraqi government statistics, the rate of cancer in the country has skyrocketed from 40 cases per 100,000 people in 1991, to at least 1,600 per 100,000 in 2005. Other crucial health indicators in Iraq have worsened since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. The infant mortality rate increased 150 percent from 1990 to 2005. The World Health Organization has estimated that 70 percent of Iraqis lack access to clean water and 80 percent lack proper sanitation. The situation for women in Iraq has also deteriorated since the 2003 invasion. Many women have been forced into prostitution, and rates of rape and violence against women have risen under occupation. The Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq reported that “an estimated 4,000 Iraqi women, one-fifth of whom are under 18, have disappeared [in broad daylight] since the 2003 invasion; many are believed to have been trafficked.” From health to education, women's rights to child labour, employment rates to poverty, there is no shortage of statistics for how the U.S.-led war and occupation of Iraq has destroyed the lives of Iraqi people.

      Instability, poverty and sectarianism under U.S. occupation fueled the rise of extremist groups such as Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/IS). Now the U.S. and their imperialist allies have a new excuse to carry on another war in Iraq. They have created their own enemy in order to bomb the country again, now in the name of fighting Daesh.

      Today Iraq is not often front page news anymore. While the tragedy of war and occupation continues to plague Iraq, new fronts in the new era of war and occupation have taken the spotlight throughout the last 13 years. We have seen Libya thrown into chaos, Somalia, Sudan, Mali and Yemen targeted by imperialist-backed interventions, and Syria has been devastated by almost five years of U.S. fomented civil war and direct military intervention. Iran is still very much in the sights of U.S. imperialism, and has been subjected to sanctions, assassinations and provocations. After over 15 years of the new era of war and occupation, the crisis is now at the doorstep of imperialist countries which inflicted these wars to begin with. Europe and the world are now seeing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, as refugees are fleeing their homelands which have been made uninhabitable by imperialist wars and occupations.

      And Canada

      Throughout the new era of war and occupation, the government of Canada has worked closely with the U.S. in their war drive. It is no secret that Canada has its own imperialist aspirations. Canada’s 2005 International Policy Statement states that Canada needs to break through the “glass ceiling of its middle-power status” and compete economically in “a world of rising giants”. Besides Canadian military involvement in Afghanistan, Libya and most recently Syria and the new war on Iraq, Canada played a big part in the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. While not widely known, Canadian naval forces, military advisers and RCMP participated in the 2003 Iraq war, as well as Canadian weapons contracts supplied the Iraq war with ammunition.

      Leading the Struggle Against the New Era of War and Occupation in Canada

      Following the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the antiwar coalition Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) formed in Vancouver, Canada, and has since been at the forefront of antiwar organizing. From Afghanistan and Iraq to new imperialist wars and occupations throughout the Middle East and North Africa, MAWO has maintained a clear and unwavering independent working class and antiwar position. Reflected in slogans and demands, picket signs and banners, petitions and statements, MAWO's central guideline has been self-determination for all oppressed nations. While increasingly sophisticated imperialist propaganda tries to confuse and divide poor and working people, the principle of self-determination for all oppressed nations maintains that it is the people of a nation that have the right, and genuine interest, to determine their own future without any type of foreign intervention. It is with this foundation that Indigenous, poor and working people around the world, from Canada to Palestine, Ireland to Cuba, Iraq to Ukraine, can all realize that they have a common struggle against imperialism.

      Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, in Canada antiwar organizations have all but resigned from antiwar activity, to the extent that all major antiwar coalitions have collapsed or became inactive. This has been with the exception of MAWO and a very few numbers of smaller coalitions in which have remained active and consistent in antiwar actions. On an ongoing basis MAWO organizes educational events such as public forums and conferences, direct actions such as pickets, rallies and petition drives, as well as cultural nights and major festivals such as the Hip Hop for Peace Festival and Film Festival for Peace. MAWO has worked to build connections throughout Canada, the U.S. and internationally, in hopes that more antiwar organizations will take up a more consistent and united approach to antiwar activities. If the level of imperialist aggression and the new era of war and occupation is any indication, a higher level of antiwar organizing is imperative to meet this world-wide crisis.

      Armed with the slogan of “Self-determination for All Oppressed Nations” and “Out Now” Mobilization Against War and Occupation invites all peace-loving people to join in the struggle against imperialist wars and occupations. Join MAWO for two upcoming actions marking 13 years since the invasion of Iraq on Friday March 18, 2016:

      Monthly Antiwar Rally & Petition Drive: 4pm at the Vancouver Art Gallery in Downtown Vancouver Public Forum: “Building an Antiwar Movement in Canada” 7pm, at Joe's Cafe (1150 Commercial Dr.), Vancouver. For more information visit: www.mawovancouver.org or follow @MAWOVan

      Janine Solanki on Twitter:@janinesolanki
      Azza Rojbi on Twitter: @Azza_R14

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