On March 18, 2003, the U.S. and their imperialist allies started bombing before invaded Iraq. Today, 13 years later, the statistics of life in Iraq are devastating. By various estimates at least 1 million people have lost their lives, the rate of cancer in the country has increased by 40 times, the infant mortality rate has increased 150 percent, 70 percent of Iraqis lack access to clean water and 80 percent lack proper sanitation. As if this isn't enough destruction, the occupation and war on Iraq by the U.S. and their imperialist allies like Canada continues today.
In order to mark this terrible anniversary and to invite people to get involved in organizing against war and occupation, Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO) organized two actions on March 18, 2016.
The first action was an antiwar and anti-occupation rally held at the busy Vancouver Art Gallery. Standing among bright banners and a bustling information tent, participants at the rally held signs demanding “Canada Out of Iraq! Canada Out of Afghanistan!” and “Stop War and Occupation, Not Refugees! Open the Borders!” as they invited people passing by to sign a petition demanding that the government of Canada take their hands off Iraq and Syria.
The program of the March 18 MAWO rally showed the diversity of people in Vancouver standing up against imperialist wars. Speakers included Dr Aladdin Al-Khafaji, an Iraqi-Canadian and Muslim community organizer, Charles Boylan from the CPC-ML and Jim McMahan from the International Action Center (IAC) in Seattle, U.S., as well as MAWO organizers and executive committee members. There was also a special musical guest, Thomas P. Radcliffe, a Vietnam era U.S. war resister and conscientious objector, who kept people singing for peace throughout the day.
Following the successful rally, Mobilization Against War and Occupation invited people to come to the second antiwar event for the day, a forum called “Building an Antiwar Movement in Canada.” With this forum, MAWO brought together a dynamic panel of speakers representing different generations and backgrounds to discuss how we can work to build a more united and effective antiwar movement. This included two speakers from the United States, Joe Lombardo, co-chair of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) in the United States, who spoke via video conference and Jim McMahan special guest from Seattle, Washington, long-time antiwar and social justice organizer with the International Action Centre. Other speakers included Mamdoh Ashir, an Iraqi-Canadian and Muslim community social justice organizer, Alison Bodine the chair of Mobilization Against War & Occupation (MAWO) and Azza Rojbi, a North African social justice organizer from Tunisia and MAWO executive member.
The public forum and the discussion that followed, both reviewed the history of the U.S.-led invasion, war and occupation of Iraq as well as explored the strategy of imperialism in the Middle East and Africa within the new era of war and occupation that began with the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. There was also an important focus on the necessity of building a broader and more united international movement against imperialist wars both at home and abroad.
Other elements of the evening included moving musical performances from Thomas P. Radcliffe and two of Vancouver's best hip-hop MC's and community organizers, Estea Elements and Trevor Mills.
The government of Canada is a close ally of the U.S. government in this vicious war drive. Not only did Canada play a big part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and continued occupation, the government of Canada is continuing to support and participate in imperialist wars and occupations in the Middle East and Africa today, from Syria and Palestine to Libya and the Saudi Arabian bombing of Yemen. Now it is more important then ever to get involved in building the antiwar movement in Canada and around the world. Join MAWO to organize against war & occupation!
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