[pjw] REPORT BACK/FACTS: Iraq 17 Years Later rally and march

Peace and Justice Works pjw at pjw.info
Sat Mar 21 15:53:37 EDT 2020

Supporters of peace and justice

Before I get to the report back on yesterday, it's always nice to see some 
progress in our demands, even if there are other underlying reasons. 
Yesterday it was reported that some of the US troops still in Iraq are 
being withdrawn from bases due to the coronavirus.


Officials also say they were planning to pull back some troops now that 
the US is claiming to have defeated ISIS.

Here is a report back on yesterday's Friday Rally, which was as expected 
sparse enough where we could stay 6 feet apart, but plentiful enough to 
make some noise.

There were six people at the rally and five of us went on the march. We 
had no run-ins with security, police, or (for the most part) naysayers 
about our message. Most of the people we did see were supportive, 
including a group that cheered us on from on top of a parking garage. 
While downtown felt a little like a ghost town, especially as we passed 
the restaurants and bars on our usual route (and the Apple Store, which is 
shut), there were plenty of people walking on the sidewalks, driving or on 
public transportation.

Unfortunately, we did not draw any media attention to the issue of the 
ongoing occupation of Iraq, but plenty of people saw us and we were able 
to hand out about 20 fact sheets (or give them out from a dispenser 
attached to the little green wagon of peace).

The fact sheet can be found at
and the text is pasted in below. Feel free to share!

Several of us saw cars bedecked with health care for all and no war 
slogans driving around downtown just before our rally started. This turns 
out to be the Democratic Socialists of America doing a creative "Caravan 
against Covid Capitalism" where people were isolated by being in separate 
vehicles. (Though it may not have been the most environmentally friendly 
protest, it was likely more than offset by the incredible downturn in 
airplane, car, truck and other traffic now underway on the planet.)


Important note: Over the next few days, PPRC is going to discuss whether 
to suspend their sponsorship of the Friday rallies. It is likely that, so 
long as there is not a full-fledged "shelter in place" order, PJW will 
hold down the corner as long as possible to keep the message visible and 
got as far past 960 weeks as possible. It appears that the news 
conference held by Mayor Wheeler and Governor Brown last night left 
people confused about how far the "stay home, stay healthy" order they 
DID issue actually goes. We will keep people posted.

dan handelman
peace and justice works iraq affinity group


17 Years Since the Iraq Invasion: TIME TO END ALL US WARS

March 20, 2020


Seventeen years ago, on March 19, 2003, the United States launched a 
military campaign dubbed "shock and awe," then sent in troops to invade 
and occupy the country of Iraq. Prior to that from 1990-2003, Iraq was 
subjected to some of the most stringent sanctions in history, resulting in 
limited access to electricity, medicine and food. These problems still 
persist as a result of the US invasion and occupation, leading to ongoing 
protests inside Iraq. The 2003 attack led to the deaths of tens of 
thousands of Iraqis, both at the hands of the US coalition and militant 
groups emboldened by the destabilization caused by the war. The US 
declared "Mission Accomplished" on May 1, 2003, but the war in Iraq 
continues today. After President Trump ordered the assassination of an 
Iranian general inside Iraq in January, the Iraqi parliament voted to 
demand the US leave their country. Rather than respect their sovereignty, 
Trump threatened sanctions and demanded to be paid for the US military 
bases set up in Iraq.

The Iraqi government called on the US not to have any combat troops in 
their country and to stop using their airspace (Agence France Presse, 
January 29). Despite this, on March 12 the US bombed sites inside Iraq 
without the government's permission in what they called retaliation for 
rocket attacks on American troops in Iraq the previous day. The two 
incidents call into question why the US is in Iraq at all.

Andrew Jones, a legal expert from Coventry University. notes that while 
international law allows a country like Iraq to invite foreign troops on 
their soil, "there are rules on when a state overstays its welcome and 
becomes in breach of its international obligations." Jones notes that the 
refusal to leave is a violation of Article 2(4) of the United Nations 
charter (The Conversation, February 6). And yet, somewhere around 5000 US 
troops remain in Iraq.

Beginning with the "Gulf War" in January 1991, continuing through the 
invasion in 2003, the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria 
(ISIS) which began in August 2014, and the assassination of General 
Soleimani (as well as an Iraqi militia leader) in 2020, the US has never 
really stopped its attacks in Iraq. In 2002, Congress approved an 
Authorization for Use of Military Force, designed to remove Saddam Hussein 
from power. Although that goal was accomplished, the 2002 AUMF remains in 
effect today and was used to justify the war on ISIS. The House of 
Representatives voted 236-166 on January 30, 2020, to repeal the 2002 
AUMF, with 11 Republicans joining Democrats. The Senate did not act on the 

In late 2011, President Obama followed up on a pledge made by President 
Bush to withdraw US combat troops, but left about 500 military personnel 
there as "advisors" and to protect the US embassy in Iraq. The fight 
against ISIS led that number to swell to roughly 9000 under Presidents 
Obama and Trump. In the efforts to push ISIS out of Mosul, the US damaged 
or destroyed all of that city's bridges and hundreds of homes. The US 
claimed victory after the "liberation" of Mosul. However, to defeat the 
Islamic State, they caused the deaths of roughly 9600 civilians 
(Associated Press, December 20, 2017). The "good news" is that although in 
2017, the year of the mass bombing of Mosul, 36,898 people were killed in 
Iraq, "only" 7201 were killed in 2018 and 3092 in 2019 (Antiwar.com). So 
far in 2020, at least 208 more people have been killed or found dead 
(Antiwar.com, February 1 and March 1). Overall, just since 2014, roughly 
200,403 people were killed in war-related violence in Iraq-- equivalent to 
almost 1/3 the population of Portland.

The cost in American lives has been far less, but that is not to minimize 
the deaths of the 4576 people who fought and died in this war. The cost to 
the US population in dollars has been extremely high, with an estimated 
$1.992 trillion spent in the 17 years of warfare (The Conversation, 
February 4). That money alone could go to bolstering this country's 
medical capabilities for emergencies like the coronavirus.

The US invasion and occupation was based on knowingly false information 
presented by the George W Bush administration alleging that Iraq possessed 
weapons of mass destruction. After the invasion, no such weapons were 
found. Similar lies about the alleged attack on a US naval destroyer in 
the Gulf of Tonkin helped justify the Viet Nam war. The current President, 
who criticized the Iraq war, has made up similar lies to justify violence 
against Iranian nationals inside Iraq (and Syria)'s borders. Regardless of 
whether American troops leave, the US embassy in Baghdad is the world's 
largest, despite Iraq being the 36th largest country by population (39 
million people) and 58th largest in size (169,000 square miles, less than 
1/20th the size of the US).

Control of the world's oil was one of the main reasons the US attacked 
Iraq in 1991, though that war was ostensibly to eject Saddam Hussein's 
troops from Kuwait. Donald Trump told NBC in January 2017: "We should've 
kept the oil when we got out"-- as if the US had the right to take Iraq's 
oil. For the past few years, the US has been setting up Venezuela to be 
the next Iraq, demonizing the elected President Nicolas Maduro and trying 
to provoke a military conflict, bypassing the United Nations to send in 
humanitarian aid (Reuters, February 6, 2019). Venezuela has the world's 
largest known oil reserves, more than Saudi Arabia, Iran or Iraq. However, 
with the price of oil tumbling, Iraq is facing an even more difficult 
economic future as that is the source of 90% of its income (AFP, March 

In February, the US signed an agreement with the Taliban to end the 
18-year-old war in Afghanistan, but deliberately did not include the 
Afghan government in talks, so the hope of true peace there is elusive. 
Trump also said he would pull US troops out of Syria, which were 
originally sent in without Congressional, UN or Syrian approval to defeat 
ISIS. Following an incursion by Turkey in December, the US returned after 
a short withdrawal, with the explicit mission to guard Syria's oil fields. 
The US continues to support Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in 
their war on Yemen, in part because Trump has vetoed two congressional 
efforts to limit US involvement there. Since Trump took office, the US has 
exponentially increased its airstrikes in Somalia from 14 in 2016 to 63 in 
2019 (Stars and Stripes, December 30). And while the number of US drone 
strikes in Pakistan have gone down precipitously-- the last one reported 
was in mid-2018 (Radio Free Europe, July 4, 2018), there were at least 550 
such strikes in Libya from 2011 to 2019 (the Intercept, June 20, 2018).*-1

Through its diplomatic and military actions, the US is also indicating 
they could start wars in Iran, North Korea and maybe Russia. The military 
budget proposed by President Trump is roughly $750 billion as he plans 
once again to cut social safety nets (National Priorities Project, 
February 10). Supposedly one of the wealthiest nations on earth, America's 
infrastructure is crumbling and thousands of people have no homes or 
health care. It is clear the US wants to stay in Iraq to control the oil 
resources not just in Iraq but in the entire region. It is time to end all 
US wars and bring the troops home!


  * -1 Peace and Justice Works also notes that March 19 marks nine years 
since the US attack on Libya unleashed turmoil in that country.

  This flyer was prepared in March, 2020 by the Peace and Justice Works
  Iraq Affinity Group PO Box 42456 iraq at pjw.info Portland, OR 97242
  www.pjw.info/Iraq.html (503) 236-3065 Contact us about our meetings !

  Meetings usually 2nd Mondays, 7 PM; next one is April 13.

  March 20 event cosponsored by Portland Peaceful Response Coalition,
  CODEPINK, War Resisters League Portland and
  Veterans For Peace Chapter 72.

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