Bring the Troops Home Now

September 23, 2005     In solidarity with national actions against the war   page 2

One of the ways that Iraq's people were supported prior to the imposition of UN sanctions was the nationalization of most industries, especially the oil industry. Now, with the US playing a lead role, many of those industries are being privatized. The Times (UK) noted on August 12: "Before the US proconsul Paul Bremer left Baghdad, he enacted 100 orders as chief of the occupation authority in Iraq. Perhaps the most infamous was Order 39 which decreed that 200 Iraqi state companies would be privatized, that foreign companies could have complete control of Iraqi banks, factories and mines, and that these companies could transfer all of their profits out of Iraq... The funding of massive contracts [largely to US firms such as Bechtel and Halliburton] has largely come from the Iraqi oil revenues expropriated for US corporate use. The oil money is held in the US Federal Reserve, and the US Government is determined to keep control of it under an international board. Whether this enforced takeover of the economy and imposed privatization across the board of all the main economic sectors is in accordance with international law is now much disputed."

The Iraqis are not much better off for all this private investment. In early September, the US announced it had to stop work on rebuilding some of Iraq's power and water plants because it had spent most of the allocated funds on security. "More than two years after Congress approved funding for the rebuilding effort, electricity and oil production in Iraq are at or below prewar levels; and unemployment remains high. Less than half of the US reconstruction money has been spent. US officials said security costs [are] now estimated to account for 22% of all reconstruction contracts" (LA Times, 9/8).

US Desperate for Troops

With the mounting death toll and growing political opposition from military families, particularly the spotlight put on the war by Gold Star Families for Peace's Cindy Sheehan, many are reluctant to join the military. As of late July, all branches of the US Army were missing recruiting goals, with the regular Army 11% behind, the reserve 20% low, and the National Guard down 23% (Reuters, 8/11). And while much of the disarray in the wake of Hurricane Katrina pointed out the error of a policy that has deployed many National Guard members overseas for long tours of duty, the recruiters are using that tragedy to try meeting their goals. "US Army recruiters are offering volunteer help for Katrina evacuees at Houston's Astrodome. But the recruiters, struggling to keep enlistment up during Iraq war, are also available with options for the jobless" (Wall Street Journal, 9/11).

The Real Oil-for-Food Scandal

A recent independent report on the so-called "oil-for-food scandal" lays blame on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for hundreds of millions of dollars which made their way to Saddam Hussein in the form of "surcharges" and enriched UN officials including Benon Sevan, who headed the program. However, the real scandal was the sanctions regime that spawned the "oil-for food" program, as pointed out in an editorial in London's Guardian newspaper on August 19 by Alain Gresh, editor of Le Monde diplomatique. America and Britain vetoed contracts for much-needed supplies, claiming Iraqis would use them to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. Up to 30% of the oil money generated by Iraq for the program was used for "compensation" of companies which claimed they were harmed by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. "Sanctions did not penalize the regime's leaders. But sanctions do explain the problems now encountered in rebuilding the country... Sanctions caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians. Who will guarantee that the US and the UN will not again choose to impose sanctions on a country and punish all of its people for the crimes of its leaders?"

The Best Way to Support the Troops is to Bring Them Home Now!!

The US does not look like it will be leaving any time soon. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani stated in early September that he believes at least until 2007, "We need American troops to intimidate our neighbors" (Associated Press, 9/9).

Hassan Juma'a Awad, President of Iraq's General Union of Oil Employees, who visited Portland in June, put it this way: "I want the occupation forces to leave now... Even if the Iraqis fight among themselves, we are sure that peace will come about."

Governor Ted Kulongoski, a former Marine who has attended the funerals of most of the roughly 40 Oregonians who have died in Iraq, said of Iraqis, "These are very proud and inde-pendent people and they will not tolerate very long an occupying army in their country." He added, "It is unfair and it is actually unconscionable to me that the Defense Department thinks that they can rotate these National Guard troops two, three and four times into these areas of conflict" (KATU-TV, 6/16).

Meanwhile, several members of Congress have begun calling for at least a timetable for withdrawal. In mid-August, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) called for all the troops to be home by December, 2006. House members Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Walter Jones (R-North Carolina--who wanted to call french fries "Freedom Fries") introduced a resolution to begin withdrawal by October 1, 2006 (House Joint Resolution 55, "Homeward Bound.").

Logically, though, the longer US forces remain, the more will die. The guerilla resistance will not rest until they have driven out the occupying American troops. Several groups have come up with ideas to hasten the withdrawal, including that the US should:
* disavow any plans for permanent military bases or control of Iraqi oil;
* conduct immediate peace talks with the Iraqi opposition to begin a political settlement; and
* increase aid to/cancel the debts of/pay reparations to Iraq.

Join the growing movement to bring the troops home! For more information contact the Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group (which created this flyer) at: 503-236-3065 or iraq@pjw.info; our website is at <http://www.pjw.info/Iraq.html >. Look for links to other peace organizations including Military Families Speak Out, NW Veterans for Peace, Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, and others supporting the national day of action against war September 24, 2005.

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