"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."


July 3, 2014

[NOTE TO READERS: We consider the present crisis in Iraq to be an epochal one and are therefore taking the opportunity to review at some length our engagement with the issues it raises.]

On June 25, Prof. Juan Cole said that "the whole country of Iraq . . . is in its last throes."  The vast plain where the Tigris and the Euphrates meander toward the Persian Gulf has often witnessed historic spasms.  Iraq is part of the Tigris-Euphrates watershed known as Mesopotamia, where the Romans fought it out with the Parthians and suffered one of their most serious defeats when Crassus and seven Roman legions were defeated at Carrhae in 53 BCE.  Negotiations over a truce went sour, and Crassus, the wealthiest man in Rome, was killed.

That was only one of dozens of epochal moments in a region that European imperialists like Halford Mackinder (1861-1947) identified as a "pivot" or "heartland" of world history in his famous 1904 article, "The Geographical Pivot of History."  The region's centrality goes back to the days when Bronze Age societies initiated the first real arms race.  It's telling that for all the subsequent (and current) hand-wringing about democracy in Iraq, the initial (and fraudulent) justification of the United States in Iraq invoked new weapons technology.

Now Iraq seems to be breaking apart.

Extraordinary events are occurring.  On June 29, a restored caliphate was declared on Iraqi territory in the west.  To the north, the Kurds of Iraq, who make up about one sixth of Iraq's population and have enjoyed effective autonomy from Baghdad for years, announced on July 1 that in a few months they will hold a referendum on independence; few doubt the outcome.  The rest of the country is now involved in a sectarian war.  American diplomats call for unity, but when they had power in Iraq they used sectarian tensions to combat the appeal of pan-Iraqi nationalism.  The American adventure in Iraq has come a cropper.  A conflict that has cost the United States more than $2 trillion and will cost it more than $1 trillion more in years to come (by Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz's estimation) is now morphing into a regional conflagration erasing historical boundaries.  It is sure to continue for many years more.  The United States began an avalanche, and now the avalanche is sweeping down the mountainside.  The mountain is not geographical, however, but socio-historical in nature, and none of us is wise enough to understand its shape or its force.

It is not our intention to dehumanize the conflict with the metaphor of an avalanche.  But in cultures of honor (as opposed to cultures of law) a cycle of violence isn't ended easily.  In the West, conscience and law, generalized duties and rights often take the place of the group loyalty and obligations that dictate others' judgments, so it easier to oppose war.  But in Iraqi culture, and more generally in Arab, Persian, Pashtun, and Turkish societies, as well as in Italy, Poland, Spain, Portugal, and the Southern U.S., traditional concepts of honor and shame have a stronger grip on human imaginations.  This hold on human souls is often expressed in the military and in warfare, and experienced as a violent imperative.

Given these realities, we know that calls for peace in today's Iraq will get no traction.  The avalanche will continue to barrel down the mountain, sweeping away thousands more, guilty and innocent alike, in its path.  The U.N. has just announced that 2,417 people were killed in Iraq in June 2008, making it the most deadly month since 2008.  It will get worse.  Meanwhile, the U.S. national security state continues its practices.  It is keeping a sharp eye on control of resources, formulating justifications that help obeisant Americans to sleep soundly, and generating corporate profits.

UFPPC was formed in November 2002 to oppose the Iraq War.  We've organized marches and demonstrations, lobbied elected officials, done research, and hosted speakers.  But we've also put our views on the record from time to time.  True, we have none of the resources of the U.S. national security state:  no spies, no satellites, no troops or contractors to order about, no salaries for stables of "fellows" to proclaim the wisdom of our policies.  But perhaps all those things make it harder to read the handwriting on the wall.  So before we address the present situation, let's take a moment to review what this group of part-time peace activists has had to say about Iraq over nearly twelve years.

Here's a review of some of the statements UFPPC has adopted over the years about Iraq.

* In February 2003, we rebutted Colin Powell's presentation to the U.N. Security Council, calling it "unconvincing," and warning of the "horrific costs and incalculable consequences" of a war on Iraq.

* In early March 2003, we accused President George W. Bush of ignoring the will of the international community and the U.N. Security Council, but also the will of the people of the United States in pursuing his march to war.  When the U.S. invaded two weeks later, we declared it to be "a disaster for the nation, and a disaster for the world," one "misusing our troops and trouncing their high ideals."

* In May 2003, given the facts on the ground, we urged an effort to turn over administrative responsibilities to the United Nations to the extent possible.

* In August 2003, when the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad was bombed, UFPPC said it showed that "the war is not over," that the Iraq war was "the expression of values and attitudes that are not those of the American people and that cannot be the basis of a sound national policy," and accused the Bush administration of waging "a systematic campaign of disinformation and lies designed cynically to manipulate not only our fears but also the very ideals we hold dear as a people."  And we went further.  We asserted that the Iraq war was revealing that "our government has become the captive of groups that do not represent the will or the interests of the American people, democratically expressed."

* In January 2004, we saw through the ruses of the Bush administration, which was only pretending to be "preparing a transition to a democratic sovereign government [in Iraq], and said it had really "covertly adopted a strategy of beefing up special forces" in order "to crush the Iraqi insurgency" with "a new Special Forces group, designated Task Force 121, . . . assembled from Army Delta Force members, Navy SEALs, and CIA paramilitary operatives" to effect "the neutralization of the Baathist insurgents, by capture or assassination."  With a view to the upcoming elections, we insisted it was necessary to "hold the Bush administration accountable to the people of the United States."  Later that month, we expressed dismay that Paul Bremer's Provisional Governing Council was actually cancelling Saddam Hussein-era family laws protecting women's rights, substituting for them provisions of sharia law.  We also recommended platform planks on Iraq for the Washington State Democratic Party convention.

* In March 2004, we noted that former U.S. "terrorism czar" Richard Clarke had told the 9/11 Commission that "by invading Iraq the president has greatly undermined the war on terrorism."

* In April 2004, as renewed fighting broke out in Iraq, we raised thousands of dollars to place a full-page ad in the Tacoma News Tribune calling for a reversal of course in Iraq.  Hundreds signed on and contributed money. We declared that "Inadequate planning, bungling, and self-interestedness on the part of the Coalition authorities have made it impossible for the United States to play a positive constructive role in Iraq."   When the situation degenerated in Fallujah, we said the obvious: the American policy of "revenge killing" and "collective punishment" was "wrong."  "We opposed the 'taking' of Fallujah," we said, noting that it was clear that the war on Iraq had "unleashed a cycle of violence that has, in recent weeks, spun out of control."

* A month later, terrible revelations of American torture at Abu Ghraib led us to denounce "a pattern of illegal conduct by the President of the United States and the high civil officers appointed by the President."  We called for investigations and, should the evidence justify it, impeachment proceedings against President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and Attorney General Ashcroft.  At the end of the month, we offered our own five-step plan to end the war in Iraq.

* In June 2004, we endorsed the essence of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1546, even as we recognized how slim were its chances of bringing peace.  And later that month, precisely ten years ago, we applauded a group of diplomats and military leaders who issued a statement saying the Bush administration had adopted "an overbearing approach to America's role in the world, relying upon military might and righteousness, insensitive to the concerns of traditional friends and allies, and disdainful of the United Nations."

* In July 2004, noting how difficult it was to make our views understandable to our media-besotted fellow citizens, we analyzed how "the pursuit of unjust national aims through war" was effecting the corruption of our very language. Torture could not be called torture, it seemed, crime could not be called crime.  We said:  "Those in power . . . insist on descriptive terms that justify their actions, while finding the means to suppress, censure, or marginalize true descriptions."  (In May 2011, when Obama bin Laden was hunted down, we extended our analysis of national security state mystification when we noted the president spoke more about 9/11 than about bin Laden in announcing his death, and concluded that al Qaeda had come to function in our national discourse as a "floating signifier," signifying whatever those in power want it to signify in order to legitimate their power.)

* In August 2004, as the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq neared 1,000, we refuted the "many Americans [who] imagine that it can be right for our military to continue to occupy a country where it was wrong for it to go in the first place." We saw that our fellow citizens were exempting themselves from basic moral principles:  "No one should be judge in their own cause—but many Americans believe that the Pentagon is capable of judging its own misdeeds in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you—yet millions of Americans take for granted that the United States should dictate to others policies that it would never be willing to accept for itself," etc.  By spurning these principles, we said, "the security and foreign policies that have been pursued by the Bush administration are recipes for disaster that are making us more insecure with every passing day."

* In September 2004, when the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq passed 1,000, we declared: "the war in Iraq has turned into a textbook case of a quagmire."  Later that month we applauded the first timid signs of resistance in Congress to the pretense that the Iraq war was part of a "Global War on Terrorism."

* In October 2004, we denounced "corruption on a scale that takes the breath away" when James Baker used his position as special envoy to renegotiate Iraq's foreign debt to "attempt a scheme to enrich the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm he joined in 1993."  We called for congressional investigations that never happened.  We also expressed our support for U.S. service members who were refusing to serve in Iraq.  This engagement would intensify when Lt. Ehren Watada refused deployment to Iraq: see our statements of June 2006 and August 2006

* In November 2004, when President George W. Bush obtained a second term, we said he had been reelected by "insisting upon what is manifestly untrue."

* In January 2005, as a civil war in Iraq ramped up, we said that "The Bush administration is caught in a catch-22 of its own making.  There are no good solutions to the catastrophe that American mistakes and crimes have wrought," but that there was "no end in sight."

* In February 2005, we said the U.S. should "declare victory [in Iraq] and bring home the troops," which is essentially what the U.S. did almost seven years later.

* In March 2005, noting that almost all our past predictions had come to pass, we endorsed an antiwar march in Seattle.

* In April 2005, we noted that as a candidate in 2000 George W. Bush had denounced "nation building," but as president undertook the most criminally irresponsible attempt at nation building American history has seen.   Later that month, when clear evidence of their lying to the American people about Iraq emerged, we called without qualification for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

* In May 2005, when the Downing St. memo came to light, we reaffirmed our call for impeachment.

* In June 2005, we turned our attention to the role of oil in U.S. foreign policy and said that "the Global War on Terrorism is also a Global War for Oil."  We also denounced the president's snubbing of the ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the U.N. Charter.

* In August 2005, we expressed solidarity with Cindy Sheehan.

* In October 2005, we urged the enactment of the McCain amendment forbidding torture of prisoners and called for investigation of the Abu Ghraib scandal.

* In November 2005, we marveled at "the pretense mainstream media are maintaining that there is doubt and hesitation over whether the Iraq war was a product of 'mistakes' or 'misleading statements.'" (This pretense continues to this day.)

* In January 2006, we reviewed nineteen truths that were unmentionable in American mainstream media.

* In July 2006, we urged voters to pledge not to vote for any candidate who did not support "a speedy end to the war in Iraq."

* In October 2006, when the Lancet study revealed that the Iraq invasion had cost more than half a million Iraqi deaths, we said it was proof that "United States policy in Iraq is counterproductive, exacerbating the very problems it purports to address."  We said that the "the Vietnam moment is at hand" in Iraq and that it was time to leave.

* In January 2007, after Democratic victories in congressional elections, we complained that Democratic leaders were adopting an agenda that shied away from what needed to be done: eliminating military tribunals, curbing the NSA, revising the Patriot Act, and confronting Bush's Iraq war policies.  We identified the cause of this problem:  Congress was no longer "the servant of the people who elected it," but "just a branch of the corporatocracy."

* In March 2007, we expressed our support for the port militarization resistance (PMR) movement, which roiled the Port of Tacoma for several weeks . In April 2007, we denounced the practices of the Tacoma Police Department during those demonstrations.  And in November 2007, we denounced the unprovoked police violence that greeted the Olympia Port Militarization Movement.

* Meanwhile, in Iraq, in May 2007 we began to discern the early signs of the collapse of Iraq that we are now seeing, though as we noted they were going unreported in U.S. media.

* In August 2007, we endorsed the Iraq moratorium.

* In December 2007, with Democrats failing to respond to the national desire to end the illegal war in Iraq, we declared that the American Republic was threatened by a "profound political crisis" that legitimated civil resistance.  (Little did we know then that U.S. military operatives like John J. Towery had already begun to spy on UFPPC and other groups and to feed information to the secretive, shadowy network of "fusion centers.")

* In November 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president, UFPPC noted that he had won the nomination of the Democratic Party "in large part because of the support of antiwar voters." In campaigning, Obama had promoted himself as a wise steward of foreign policy, but at UFPPC we already prepared for disappointment:  "We lost any illusions about Barack Obama being an antiwar leader two years ago, when UFPPC's Monday-night book discussion group conducted a study circle entitled "Barack Obama and the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr." . . . It was clear from the ambiguous formulations to be found in, especially, The Audacity of Hope, that Sen. Obama had decided to proceed only part of the way down the road toward the "radical revolution of values" that Martin Luther King Jr. called for in his "Beyond Vietnam" speech. . . . We fear . . . we'll never hear him say as president the words 'militarism' or 'military-industrial complex.'"

* In July 2009, when the administration began to announce its plans for eventual withdrawal, UFPPC saw through the pretense:  "One way or another they intend to stay in Iraq for a hundred years—until the oil runs out."

* In September 2010, when President Obama declared that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended," UFPPC said that "what we are witnessing is not the end of a war but a transition to a privatized phase of occupation."   It was our view that "the declaration that 'combat' is over is merely a neo-Orwellian 'information operation' of the U.S. national security state."

* In November 2010, we noted that the war in Iraq was "scarcely mentioned in the election campaign.  News of horrific acts of violence in Baghdad . . . and revelations about U.S. war crimes from WikiLeaks came out during the campaign, but, as usual, scarcely any of it registered in the corporate press as worthy of front-page coverage, editorials, or further investigation.  Like quite a few of our 31,929 veterans wounded in Iraq, stories like these have no legs."

* In July 2011, we reviewed what our Pierce County congressional representatives were saying about Iraq, and reached the surprising conclusion that Norm Dicks, having admitted in 2005 that the Iraq war was a "mistake," had become the most vocal critic among them of U.S. foreign policy.

* In July 2012, we said that "A casual observer could almost get the impression Americans celebrating the Fourth of July think that with the war in Iraq 'over' and the war in Afghanistan 'winding down,' the United States is in a peaceful phase of its existence.  It isn't true, of course."

* In October 2012, we denounced drone warfare as something that should be banned internationally.  (Drones are already emerging as the one of the principal elements to the U.S. approach to the current Iraq crisis.)

* In March 2013, we said that if whistleblower Chelsea Manning was guilty, "then so are we."

* In April 2013, we called for the trial of James Steele, David Petraeus, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney for war crimes committed when they organized death and torture squads in 2004 to fight the Sunni insurgency in Iraq.

* In May 2013, we insisted once again that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp must be shut down.

* In June 2013, with the effort to prosecute Edward Snowden, we lost our last shred of hope in Barack Obama, and said:  "We still agree with Barack Obama that hope is 'that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it.'  We still agree with him that hope is 'the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.'  But we no longer think that he is one of them."

* In November 2013, we said that by pursuing in Iraq and elsewhere its policies of resource warfare instead of adapting to the exigencies of global warming, the U.S. was literally "reaping the whirlwind" of extreme weather events.

Now, in July 2014, Iraq is coming apart.  The process may take months, or it may take years.  But when it happens, the United States will have been the chief proximate cause of the event.  What should the United States do now?

Initially, on June 13, President Barack Obama said that "American combat troops are not going to be fighting in Iraq again."  But on June 16, he informed Congress that "up to approximately 275 U.S. Armed Forces personnel are deploying to Iraq. . . . This force . . . is equipped for combat."  On June 19, the announced he was sending "additional American military advisers—up to 300."  And on June 30, he announced the dispatch of 300 *more* troops.  The advisers he is sending are supposedly not "combat troops," because by a sleight of hand the administration does not define Special Forces like Green Berets, Army Rangers, and Navy SEALs as "combat troops."  But even CNN said the decision amounted to "U.S 'boots on the ground' in Iraq, no matter how the administration characterizes it."

Supposedly, President Obama is trying to set preconditions to U.S. strikes inside Iraq:  either "a direct threat to U.S. personnel or a more inclusive and capable Iraqi government" are supposed to precede more American military involvement.  So far there are no signs of such a "more inclusive and capable" government, but that strikes are coming is as predictable as the profits at Northrop Grumman.  Who can miss the irony?  Having won the presidency because of his opposition to the Iraq war, Obama is now returning American soldiers to Iraq.

Barack Obama seems to be making a tragic mistake.  It makes sense to regard the new outbreak of violence in Iraq as the beginning of a new war, the fourth in thirty years, after the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), the Gulf War (1990-1991), and the Iraq War (2003-2011).  The U.S. did not fight in the first of these wars; it should not be involved in this one.

The United States cannot save Iraq, and the path the president is choosing will lead to deeper U.S. involvement in the conflict in Iraq's neighbor, Syria, where three years ago Obama and other international leaders covertly determined to overthrow the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.  This proved easier said than done, and it was ever-increasing support for rebel forces in Syria that strengthened the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham to the point that it was able to initiate in early June the lightning campaign that has allowed it occupy much of Iraq and to declare itself to be "The Islamic State."

It is manifest that the United States cannot save Iraq, and history demonstrates that the more the U.S. military intervenes in Iraq, the worse the outcome will be.  Americans should not kill and die to defend boundaries European imperialists secretly drew and imposed a century ago.  Haven't we done enough?  Our nation is responsible for setting the stage for the present disaster.  We should not turn our backs on the ruin we caused, but future American involvement in Iraq should be in the nature of humanitarian reparations and should be administered through the institutions of the international community.


"We nonviolently oppose the reliance on unilateral military actions rather than cooperative diplomacy."