Statement by Brooklyn For Peace on Withdrawal of US Troops from Iraq
Brooklyn For Peace welcomes the removal of all American ground troops from Iraq. We are relieved that thousands of American soldiers will be coming home to their communities, and that the Iraqi people will be free of foreign occupation.
These developments are the long overdue and long awaited result of the persistent work of the international peace movement and the formidable resistance inside Iraq. In the absence of these pressures, it is clear that US military forces would have remained beyond the end of 2011–the deadline set down in the Status of Forces Agreement signed by President Bush.
Here in Brooklyn, so close to the site of the 9-11 attack, the overwhelming sentiment of our families, friends and neighbors has been for peace. We are especially appreciative of the thousands of local residents, who over the span of many years, signed petitions, staffed tables, sent emails and phone messages, attended rallies and marched against the war in Iraq. We want to particularly acknowledge the courageous stand of Congressman Major Owens, Congressman Ed Towns, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Congressman Nadler for their clearly stated opposition to the American invasion. And we wish to thank as well our Brooklyn Congressional delegation, including Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, for their consistent demand for troop withdrawal.
The American invasion of Iraq was a crime committed in plain sight. Many of its consequences were easily predicted. On March 16, 2003 (just three days prior to the assault) Brooklyn for Peace sponsored a candlelight vigil outside the home of Senator Charles Schumer. In our statement, we said then:
“Our hearts go out to the innocent people of Iraq–men, women and children–who will face in a matter of days, the full wrath of an American attack. For twelve years this population has suffered from inadequate food, medicine, shelter and supplies. Five hundred thousand children have died. They are the dual victims of Saddam Hussein’s merciless dictatorship and of a merciless United States.
“Our hearts go out as well to the young Americans in the armed forces, now poised for combat in the Middle East. These youngsters volunteered to protect their country from attack. Betrayed by their leaders, they are now compelled to risk their lives to invade a country that never harmed the United States. Many of them will never see the age of thirty. Many of them will lose limbs. Many of them will carry images of horror that will never leave them. Many of them will be sick for the rest of their lives.”
All of these fears, so obviously warranted in March 2003, soon materialized. We could not then envision the specifics—that more than 100,000 Iraqis would perish along with 4400 Americans, that prisoners would be tortured in Abu Ghraib, that the city of Fallujah would be leveled and poisoned by depleted uranium, that millions of Iraqis would be driven from their homes, and that the US would spend close to one trillion dollars to pay for this project.
But more than enough was known then–including the scarcity of evidence about “weapons of mass destruction,” or an Iraqi connection to the events of 9-11 and Al Qaeda, to make it clear that the planned invasion would be as disastrous, as it was unnecessary. And yet no public official or politician has ever been held responsible for this human calamity. Here in New York, Senators Hilary Clinton and Charles Schumer voted to authorize the President’s use of force against Iraq, but have expressed no regret over the tragic human results. Both continue to hold high office and to expect public acclaim.
As we join together in welcoming the end of the Iraq War, our relief is tempered by this profound failure of accountability. The U.S. troops leave behind a country with a devastated infrastructure, widespread unemployment and dangerous sectarian tensions stoked during the long American occupation. We recognize as well that our work will not be done until there is restitution to the Iraqis for the harm that has been inflicted on their country and a decision to withdraw the still thousands of private security contractors from their territory.
We are also mindful of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, where 90,000 of our soldiers are continuing to fight in a futile effort to transform another nation. We know that our work will not be done until these troops are brought home and there is a fundamental shift in the American approach to national security, so that diplomacy rather than military power becomes the preferred solution to international problems.