Iraq: The difference beetween “war,” “liberation,” and genocide

2007-03-07 00:00:00

The main topic of the presentation by Medea Benjamin of Code Pink during the second press conference on Tuesday was the War in Iraq, or more accurately, the Invasion of Iraq, and its relation to the U.S. military bases.

Benjamin’s group’s name, “Code Pink,” refers to the system of colors used to alert the U.S. American public to the level of terrorist threat as assessed by the U.S. government. Benjamin’s objective is to demonstrate that the most effective way to achieve national security is to resolve international conflict peacefully. Benjamin is the director of Code Pink that was established before the U.S. invaded Iraq in an effort to organize to stop the war in Iraq before it began.

The reality in Iraq, according to Benjamin, is that the U.S. is perpetuating an irrational conflict: the Iraqis’ living conditions are worse than they were under the dictatorial regime of Sadaam Hussein. They get by without electricity, safe drinkable water, or adequate medical attention, and live with fear, insecurity, and death on a daily basis. Experts have calculated that more than 650,000 civilians have died, though the U.S. denies this statistic. In addition, more than 3,100 U.S. soldiers have died.

“We have to recognize that one of the reasons that we were attacked on September 11, 2001 was because we have foreign bases in Saudi Arabia, at one of the most sacred Muslim sites” in the world, said Benjamin, explaining the reach of the conflict generated by the U.S.’ global military presence. There are 70 bases in Iraq, a fact that demonstrates the U.S. interest in staying in the Middle East permanently in order to maintain control over the area’s oil. Furthermore, bases in Germany contribute to the conflict, serving as transfer centers for soldiers on their way to or from Iraq.

After September 11th, the military bases have filled a role as retention centers for prisoners that the U.S. considers terrorists. For example, the base in Guantanamo, Cuba holds more than 400 prisoners, the majority of which are Muslim, who have no access to democratic judicial process and are subject to frequent human rights abuses. Prisoners face a similar situation in Bagram, Afghanistan. Because many governments have signed agreements allowing U.S. military presence, it is difficult to determine what illegal activity is occurring in these covertly operated bases.

The way to stopping the construction of new bases and close “permanent” bases is by coming together to organize, says Benjamin. Vicenza, Italy offers a clear example of the power of organizing; led by the women, the community has mobilized and sustained a fight against the construction of a new U.S. military base.

The official statistics provided by the U.S. government indicate that there are 737 military bases in 130 countries around the world. However, the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador has claimed that there are only 34 U.S. bases and the rest are other kinds of military installations. Benjamin points out that this play of worlds is representative of the U.S. government’s manipulative use of language with the media. The Bush administration’s habit of calling the Iraq conflict a project of “liberation,” not war or occupation, is another example. This rhetoric has expertly divided the world into good and evil and boosted support for the war on terror.

The population of the United States remains ignorant of the extensive network of military bases. Benjamin related an interesting encounter with conservative family members who were indignant that the U.S. would spend so much money “providing security for other countries.” Inspired by this reaction, Benjamin proposed a potential alliance against foreign military bases: “the right doesn’t want to pay for other people’s security and the left knows that it isn’t for the security of others.”

In November of 2006, for the first time the U.S. American people exercised their democratic right to oppose the politics of Bush: they voted for a democratic majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives. However, the Democrats have used the war to their benefit in the game of politics and have failed to effectively advocate for an end to the war. On the 14th of March, representatives will decide whether or not to increase spending for the war on terrorism to 93 billion dollars. It is anticipated that this budget increase will be passed.

Medea Benjamin concluded by saying that the U.S. has a lot left to do to educate its people about the U.S. military regime. Changing people’s minds is urgent because insecurity that springs from a fear of “terrorists” is growing. In addition to educating people, Benjamin concluded by declaring that the fight within the U.S. must also take advantage of the alliances and support from other countries. This support has the potential to reinforce the movement within the United States that is working to change the minds and actions of the U.S. American people and government.