Interpreting genocide in Iraq
PART I available herePART II available here
6. Interpreting genocide in IraqFrom the strategic context mapped above, it is clear that the United States not only had a desire, but also in the minds of the neoconservative right has been compelled to pursue a strategy of genocide in Iraq. This strategy has taken two forms: 1) An overall genocide contained in, and following from, the imperative of destroying Iraq as a state and a nation; 2) Specific genocide pursued through the implementation of this agenda against definable groups within the nation of Iraq.
In the first instance, the combination of 13 years of sanctions and the ravages of the ground occupation have demonstrably subjected the Iraqi people as a defined national group to conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part. In reference to sanctions, in the words of Marc Bossuyt:
The sanctions regime against Iraq has as its clear purpose the deliberate infliction on the Iraqi people of conditions of life (lack of adequate food, medicines, etc.) calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part. It does not matter that this deliberate physical destruction has as its ostensible objective the security of the region. Once clear evidence was available that thousands of civilians were dying and that hundreds of thousands would die in the future as the Security Council continued the sanctions, the deaths were no longer an unintended side effect — the Security Council was responsible for all known consequences of its actions. The sanctioning bodies cannot be absolved from having the “intent to destroy” the Iraqi people.The destruction of the Iraqi state — a necessary condition of the implementation of US global, regional and national goals — has been an objective attempt to render “unviable” the nation of Iraq in the context of a strategy of partition, Balkanisation, the destruction of Iraq’s unifying Muslim Arab identity, and the erasure of the very concept of being “Iraqi”. Only by destroying Iraq as a state and nation could the United States advance in its bid for global hegemony and “full spectrum dominance.” Only by destroying the unifying Muslim Arab identity of Iraqis could the United States hope to control the 6,000-year old geopolitical entity that is Iraq.
In thinking about what the state is, we must bear in mind two aspects: 1) The state is the sum of the entire social, cultural, political and economic history of a given people, translated into language, social norms, customs, identifications, urban formations, patterns of life, and natural social unities that inform and mould the feeling of citizenship, and that exist independent of concepts as an historical reality; 2) The state is the historical guarantor of the propagation and development — the very existence — of a given people; it is indivisible and cross-generational, and is a necessity to existence itself.
In reference to post-invasion US policy, in the words of Abdul Ilah Albayaty:
Beside controlling and plundering the natural resources of Iraq, the United States’ plan consisted in abolishing the concept of citizenship — the basis of any modern state. It annulled sovereignty, destroyed heritage and memory, and took over Iraqi wealth in an attempt to divide the country and destroy its Arab and Islamic geopolitical and civilisation-based affiliations. The occupation has tried, and continues to try, to replace Iraq by a subordinate state based on ethnicity and sectarian identity: a state of parties, lineages and religious references rather than a state of equal and free citizens. By dividing the state into three or more weak and conflicting entities according to the virtual lines of blood and sectarianism, the US, in reality, draws a map corresponding to the occupation’s own interests in oil. This programmed division necessitated the abolition of the Iraqi state; the dismantling of its apparatus and institutions and an ongoing plan of privatisation of state-owned industries, buildings, lands and services.DeBaathification is another pretext for the same ends. Given its centrality in the operation of the state, destroying the Baath Party — an openly stated objective of the US military intervention, consciously planned in advance — necessarily subjected the entire Iraqi population to conditions of insecurity and mass deprivation. In reality, deBaathification is nothing more than collective punishment and a canard used to justify disbanding the army, the police, the education system, and the entire administrative cadre.
Further, the systematic destruction of education, heath care, and all primary services, demonstrates US refusal that Iraq — and by example any Arab state — independently develop conditions of national development and life sustainability. The systematic assassination of academics, health professionals, engineers, journalists, scientists, and lawyers throughout the period of US occupation reveals an objective attempt to liquidate, or forcedly expel, the educated Iraqi middle class that possesses the scientific, technical, administrative, civil and military skills necessary to guide Iraq on the strategic path of independence, democracy and development.
The US project of destroying the Iraqi state and nation, however, cannot but fail:
The United States established a collision course confrontation with Iraqi society when it liquidated the Iraqi state, destroying its accomplishments and erasing its memory. It was oblivious to the simple truth that society is not just a political movement that can be conquered, or a number of individuals who may be apprehended, bribed or even killed. It is all the living people in a given country. Like other live societies, Iraqi society possesses huge capabilities — a sophisticated legacy, ancient civilisations and an experienced patriotic movement. American strategists, while building their model for Iraq, missed or disregarded the fact that social movements are based on solid realities and lived experience, and cannot just be created on the whim of a political decision or through insidious forms of pressure.To the extent to which US strategists continue to refuse to recognise — or are not forced to recognise — this reality, the slow genocide of Iraq as a state and nation will continue.
In regards to specific genocide, it appears clear that: 1) Sunnis in Iraq have been disproportionately targeted by US military action and the constitution of a sectarian environment that criminalises Sunnis and militates towards their erasure for being Sunni. This constitutes genocide of a religious group as defined by the Genocide Convention; 2) Members of the Iraqi Baath Party have been targeted not only for assassination but also dispossessed of their material means of survival. That members of the Iraqi Baath Party adhere or not adhere to a political programme is irrelevant; their primary identity is their Iraqi citizenship, and they constitute an Iraqi national group objectively and by ideology, the loss of which in whole or substantial part renders the state of Iraq unviable as an entity, threatening the survival of the Iraqi nation; and 3) The targeting of the Iraqi middle class, as an ethnic group as enumerated in US Code, has also rendered the state of Iraq unviable, threatening the survival of the Iraqi nation.
In sum, the colonial nature of US policy is manifest, suggesting, along the lines set out by Sartre, that intent to commit genocide is inherent to its rationality. Certainly “submission” amounts to genocide for the Iraqi people; not only socially and culturally, under the yoke of sectarian forces imposed on Iraq by the US, but also economically, given that the overall US strategy is clearly defined as seizing Iraqi oil and controlling Iraq as a whole as part of a global strategy of commanding the resources of the entire Middle East and Eurasian area. The plunder and expropriation of the primary wealth-creating natural resources of a foreign state and nation by definition is an act that denies that state and nation its primary conditions of development and life.
Further, in the context of popular resistance, the “logic” of neo-colonial genocide is present. With the United States choosing a “surge strategy” over a timetable for withdrawal, it appears that a strategy of annihilation — tested and devolved into attempts to spark civil war until now — has been embraced in full. The overall tendency is not only towards the continuance of the slow genocide of Iraq as a nation, having destroyed the central state and brought about conditions of mass deprivation, but a possible spike in conscious extermination as the occupation struggles to survive in the face of overwhelming civil resistance.
For Sartre two conditions, in such a situation, lead to the only way out — the withdrawal of the colonial power: 1) Domestic unrest within the colonial state, opposing the barbarity of what is done in the name of “national interest”; and 2) A realisation on behalf of colonial state military commanders that the war cannot be won, leaving withdrawal as the only option.
The second condition appears present. Dissent within the US military — and not only at the level of ground troops — is growing. Only the arrogance and disregard for life and coexistence that is embodied in the ideologues and officials of the current US administration blocks common sense from prevailing. As Sartre stated 40 years ago, the United States is not guilty of having invented genocide; it is guilty of having “preferred a policy of war and aggression aimed at total genocide to a policy of peace, the only other alternative, because it would have implied a necessary reconsideration of [its] principal objectives.” This guilt, indeed, is summed up in the very notion of the “Project for a New American Century”.
As to the first condition, a mass injection of energy is needed. It is sad but a fact that people grow accustomed to atrocity. But Sartre’s analysis should be binding, for we have in mass action a chance to help bring all of this to an end. It is the decisive struggle of our time.
7. ConclusionWhat has happened in Iraq is more than simple divide and rule. The biggest lie is that the US occupation of Iraq is a blunder. Analysis of the strategic logic for destroying Iraq, as well an understanding of the nature of colonial war and how the US occupation has unfolded, reveals that it is not the occupation that veered from its aims, but rather the Iraqi people who in courage resisted. The longer the situation persists, the more proven is the fortitude of the Iraqi people.
The US’s declaration of global permanent war has revived the strategy of total conquest, entailing a reduction of human life as a whole to its bare essence where people no longer have a history as such but are mere things. Akin to a domestic state of emergency, the global “war on terror” declared and policed by the United States presages a generalised suspension of customary global civil rights and inaugurates an era that militates towards total conquest or total destruction. While Iraqis have borne the brunt, in reality it is an attack on the whole of humanity.
As such, the ongoing US genocide on Iraq is clearly and demonstrably a threat to international peace. International law must be wrested from its foundation as a means of legitimising and humanising war and instead criminalise it unequivocally. Establishing as criminal US imperial policies is the first step towards forging the alternative world the bulk of humanity hopes for and believes in. Under customary international law, genocide is a crime over which any state can exercise universal jurisdiction. That states have fallen silent leaves agency to the people of the world.
To end this genocide unfolding in front of us, unity of purpose is necessary across the multiple fronts of action for social justice. Global civil disobedience need not be conceived along the lines of a single plan. Resistance is always a matter of situation. The aim must be coordinated action at local, national and international levels, in shifting alliances that gather and displace while maintaining pressure on all fronts.
Save the humanity in you by being against this genocide.
Whereas thousands of Iraqis are falling, in reality, the United States cannot make its strategy work. In pursuing a policy of genocide the United States has committed moral suicide. The people of the world can and must step into the vacuum its moral collapse opens. We must remember and claim what modern states supposedly concede: that people are the sole source of sovereignty, and that international law is the patrimony of the development of human civilisation.
In defending both, we defend the Iraqi people.
8. AppendixAccording to Article 2 of the Genocide Convention, the following arguably constitute qualifying acts of genocide in Iraq, 1990-2007. All have been conducted by US forces, multinational forces, and/or US-supported death squads, militias or Iraqi security forces under the final military authority of the United States:
(a) Killing members of the group
Use of disproportionate and indiscriminate forceDisproportionate killings of members of the middle class as a defined national groupDisproportionate killings of Sunnis as a religious groupWilful destruction of electricity and water infrastructureWilful destruction of sanitation infrastructure.Widespread forced disappearancesAssassinations of members of the Baath Party as a defined national groupAssassinations of doctors as members of a national groupAssassinations of academics as members of a national groupAssassinations of lawyers as members of a national groupAssassinations of journalists as members of a national groupKillings by US-supported death squadsKillings by US-supported sectarian militiasInstigation of sectarian strife leading to tit-for-tat killingsWidespread use of DU leading to cancer and leukaemiaWilful destruction of the healthcare system leading to mass preventable deaths
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Widespread use of torture1990-2003 sanctions regimeUse of disproportionate and indiscriminate forceWidespread use of DU leading to cancer, leukaemia, sterility and birth defectsWilful dismantling of the state in all its aspects, individually and severallyWilful destruction of electricity and water infrastructureWilful destruction of sanitation infrastructureWilful destruction of Iraqi heritageWilful destruction of religious sitesWilful destruction of Iraqi civil infrastructureDisproportionate killings of members of the middle classDisproportionate killings of SunnisWidespread forced disappearancesAssassinations of members of the Baath PartyAssassinations of doctorsAssassinations of academicsAssassinations of lawyersAssassinations of journalistsUS support for death squadsUS support for sectarian militiasInstigation of general terrorInstigation of sectarian strifeMass arbitrary detentionMass kidnappingMass extortionMass rapeMass corruptionMass humiliationInstigation of a drug cultureInstigation of prostitutionMass unemploymentMass impoverishmentMass malnourishmentGhettoisationRestrictions on movementUrbicideHistoricideSociocidePolicide
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
1990-2003 sanctions regimeUse of disproportionate and indiscriminate forceWidespread use of DU and the contamination of land and water resourcesWilful dismantling of the state in all its aspects, individually and severallyWilful destruction of electricity and water infrastructureWilful destruction of sanitation infrastructureWilful destruction of Iraqi heritageWilful destruction of religious sitesWilful destruction of Iraqi civil infrastructureDisproportionate killings of members of the middle classDisproportionate killings of SunnisWidespread forced disappearancesAssassinations of members of the Baath PartyAssassinations of the Iraqi resistanceAssassinations of doctorsAssassinations of academicsAssassinations of lawyersAssassinations of journalistsUS support for death squadsUS support for sectarian militiasInstigation of general terrorInstigation of sectarian strifeMass arbitrary detentionMass kidnappingMass extortionMass tortureMass rapeMass corruptionMass humiliationInstigation of a drug cultureInstigation of prostitutionMass unemploymentMass impoverishmentMass malnourishmentGhettoisationRestrictions on movementUrbicideHistoricideSociocidePolicide
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
Widespread use of DU leading to sterility and birth defectsInstigation of general terrorMass arbitrary detentionMass impoverishmentMass malnourishmentGhettoisationRestrictions on movementUrbicideSociocide
According to Article 3, the following arguably constitute qualifying crimes in Iraq:
All aspects noted above, individually and severally
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
US strategic agenda in Iraq, 1990 to the presentOngoing US strategic adjustmentsAll members of Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I), individually and severallyThe Iraqi government as an arm of the occupationAll members of the United Nations, individually and severally, who supported sanctions and the 2003 invasion
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
“Shock and Awe”Statements of US neoconservativesStatements of US “liberal hawks”Right wing and liberal US media alike in contributing to the vilification of IraqisRight wing and liberal US media alike in contributing to the vilification of the Iraqi Baath PartyRight wing and liberal US media alike in contributing to sectarianUS corporate propaganda
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
All aspects noted above, individually and severally
(e) Complicity in genocide.
All members of MNF-I, individually and severallyThe Iraqi government as an arm of the occupationAll members of the United Nations, individually and severally, who failed to stop sanctions and the 2003 invasion
PART I available herePART II available here
A full pdf version is available here
Marc Bossuyt, “The adverse consequences of economic sanctions on the enjoyment of human rights,” August 2000, UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/33) http://iraq.powerfoundation.org/Bossuyt.pdf↩
Abdul Ilah Albayaty, “Why the US will lose,” Al-Ahram Weekly, Issue 767, 2-9 November 2005. http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2005/767/op8.htm↩
The Future Iraq Project advocated deBaathification “of all facets of Iraqi life.” http://thememoryhole.org/state/future_of_iraq/↩
Theodor Meron, “International Criminalization of Internal Atrocities”, American Journal of International Law, Volume 89 (1995), p. 569, Kenneth C Randall, “Universal Jurisdiction under International Law”, Texas Law Review, Volume 66 (1988), pp. 785, 835-837.↩No Comments, Comment or PingReply to “Notes on genocide in Iraq, Part III: Interpreting genocide in Iraq”
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