“Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators. Your wealth has been stripped of you by unjust men … The government of Iraq , and the future of your country, will soon belong to you. … We will end a brutal regime … so that Iraqis can live in security.”
General F. S. Maude, commander of the British forces, to the people of Mesopotamia , 1917
“At any rate, it is clear that America, in the absence of a civil war, will assume the inheritance of Germany and will become profoundly Nazi.”
(“….in ogni caso è chiaro che l’America, in assenza di una guerra civile, assumerà l’eredità della Germania e diventerà profondamente nazista.”)
Pier Paolo Pasolini
This analysis of the Iraq war by a group of intellectuals under the title of The BRussells Tribunal is over a year old. Yet, nothing in it has been demonstrated to be fallacious. And, the mounting evidence that the United States of America used Weapons of Mass Destruction, also against the civilian population calls for us to denounce this war and its atrocities louder than ever. It is a terrible, terrible tragedy, and it is not nearing its end.
Conclusions of the commission
Consistent with the tradition of the 1967 Russell Tribunal on the Vietnam War and the work of the People’s permanent tribunal and other similar tribunals such as the one held in Brussels in 1991, the BRussells Tribunal met on 14-17 April 2004. This Tribunal is the opening session of the World Tribunal on Iraq, a series of hearings scheduled to conclude in Istanbul in 2005.
The BRussells Tribunal focused on the programs and policies proposed by “The Project for the New American Century” (PNAC), a predominantly neo-conservative “think-tank” that has advocated global US hegemony, primarily through the threat or use of military power. The objective of the Tribunal, working as a commission of inquiry, was to establish whether there was a link between PNAC’s proposals and the foreign and military strategy of the current US government, and the subsequent invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Commission also examined the impact of policies and programs advocated by PNAC on the stability and security of international relations.
To establish its findings and shape its report the Commission heard testimony from specialists on international affairs and witnesses knowledgeable about the current conditions in Iraq. The Commission also relied on PNAC’s reports and official US government documents, as well as written analyses (*). The Commission came to the following conclusions:
First. The PNAC program consists of three main components:
to establish US hegemony in the new century, relying primarily on military and technological superiority; to prevent the emergence of any competing global or regional powers by imposing what is sometimes termed a “Pax Americana”; to exercise pre-emptive action against all perceived threats to American “interests” and security.
Second. A significant number of signatories to PNAC’s 1997 founding Statement of Principles” became senior members of the current US administration, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. The adoption of those principles by this administration is evidenced by official White House documents such as “The National Security Strategy” of September 2002. These principles have been put into action through the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Third. According to a clear majority of States and a large consensus of legal experts, the invasion of Iraq constitutes an act of aggression, a breach of one of the most fundamental norms of the international legal order. This demonstrates that the implementation of policies emanating from PNAC and endorsed by the current administration runs counter to the principles of the UN Charter and undermines the United Nations itself, which bears the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.
Fourth. The invasion of Iraq has resulted in more than 10.000 civilian deaths. With each passing day of occupation, the number of victims grows, as do the gross violations of humanitarian law and human rights, such as arbitrary detention, ill-treatment and deprivation in regard to basic needs. The situation of the Iraqi people has clearly deteriorated and the promises of democracy and freedom have proved to be illusory. The constant use of the words “democracy”, “freedom” and “human rights” in such a context amounts to a complete perversion of those terms.
Fifth. Far from bringing stability and peace in Iraq and the region, the invasion and occupation have created instability and chaos. Moreover, the deliberate destruction of Iraq has effectively promoted the Israeli government’s policies of further unlawful expansion and de facto annexation of territories as well as further annihilation of the rights of the Palestinian people. The Tribunal noted that PNAC itself called explicitly in 2002 for the US administration to align itself with the views of the Israeli government. These developments increase hostility between the peoples of the region and the West, contrary to the proclaimed objectives of making the world a safer place.
Sixth. There is evidence of a consistent US strategy, as envisioned by the PNAC report entitled “Rebuilding America’s Defences”, to establish global domination by military means. Contrary to claims that this domination would be a “benevolent hegemony”, it is more likely to lead to a state of permanent war. PNAC policies are based on brutal unilateralism and disregard for legality. As such, the ideas of PNAC constitute an intellectual crime. The war in Iraq is only one element of a global agenda which is linked with logics of the dominant economic system, inspired by neo-conservative ideology and supported by religious fundamentalism.
Seventh. Due to the growing resistance encountered by the occupying powers in Iraq and other unanticipated difficulties, the United States and United Kingdom have made cynical requests for the involvement of the United Nations in Iraq, thereby pre-empting the sovereign rights of the Iraqi people to determine their future. The United Nations should avoid complicity with — let alone legitimise in any way — the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Any such action would further discredit this world body. The UN should restore its legitimacy through ensuring the complete withdrawal of all occupying forces and assisting the Iraqi people in recovering their full sovereignty. Any involvement of the European Union or of NATO to help the occupying powers should be refused.
Finally, the Tribunal calls upon the peoples of the world to demand that their governments deny military, political, financial or any other support to the occupying powers; and oppose the illegal implementation by occupation forces or their surrogates of any plans for the wholesale privatization of the Iraqi economy. The Tribunal also expresses its solidarity with the Iraqi people and its support for their attempts at recovering their full sovereignty.
Saturday April 17 2004.
François Houtart, Prof. Emeritus UCL, director of Centre Tricontinental;
Pierre Klein, prof. International Law at ULB;
Ludo Abicht, Prof. Emeritus UA, author
Samir Amin, author and director of “Forum du Tiers Monde”;
Denis Halliday, Former UN assistant secretary general to Iraq;
Sabah Al Mukhtar, president of the Arab Association of Democratic Lawyers;
Nawal El Saadawi, medical doctor and novelist
[*] The oral and written testimonies as well as official documents are reproduced in a preparatory dossier entitled “Questioning the New Imperial World Order”.*
The formal presentation of the conclusions of the BRussels Tribunal was followed by an energetic debate between the public and the members of the commission. Read edited extracts from responses by Samir Amin and Dennis Halliday to questions raised from the floor