Now More Than Ever, We Must Tell the Truth About the Iraq War
“The only silver lining of the Brexit vote is that it will reduce medium term attention on Chilcot – though it will not stop the day of publication being uncomfortable,” former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the previous U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in a July 4th email obtained by the Intercept.
As it turns out, these words would be prescient. The Chilcot Report, a damning 12-volume, 2.6-million-word inquiry into Britain’s role in the Iraq War, did not get much attention on either side of the pond upon its July release. The probe was overlooked at a time that the Iraq War was still raging even though everyone thought it was over, and the millennials I talked to had little idea of the lies or the costs. This summer and fall, it became increasingly clear that the tumultuous U.S. election cycle will not propel anyone with a peace platform to the presidency. I decided I needed to do something that will be useful in the face of even more wars after the election madness is over.
So we launched a People’s Tribunal on the Iraq War as a tool to bring the anti-war movement together and build what is needed for 2017. We aim to lay the lies and costs at the feet of President Barack Obama and call for a commission on Truth and Accountability. There are years’ worth of testimony in reports, lawsuits, books and articles. We have read the facts about the lies and costs over the years. But the totality has never been been pulled together to show the breadth of all effected.
According to a report released last year by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), Physicians for Global Survival and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the U.S. invasion and occupation killed at least one million Iraqi people. That would be more 10 million people in the United States if we compared it in terms of percentage of the population. Imagine the effect of 10 million people dying.
There are over 100,000 casualties on the side of the U.S. and the coalition of the willing, with a small percentage of those dead. The rest are living with permanent physical and psychological wounds, some so bad that U.S. military veterans are committing suicide at a rate of 20 a day. In 2012, suicides surpassed war as a the leading cause of death in the U.S. military.
Since 2001, U.S. wars have cost taxpayers nearly $5 trillion, according to a new report from Brown University’s Watson Institute. But few can understand what that number actually means. Nor does this amount count the cost to people in Iraq or other members of the coalition of the willing.
I have heard these reports at various tribunals over the years. But numbers and facts don’t change hearts and minds. This tribunal will be different. It will be a people’s tribunal, to be witnessed by the public, which will be presented with a large body of evidence.
The participants on the days of the tribunal will be “delivering” evidence with a five-minute statement about the meaning of that evidence. Dennis Kucinich will present the letter he wrote to Congress in October of 2002 outlining his research which showed there was no operational connection between the Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda or weapons of mass destruction. Jeremy Corbyn will deliver the Chilcot Report. Elizabeth Holtzman, the member of Congress in the 1970s recognized as the woman who impeached Nixon, will deliver her book calling for the Impeachment of George W. Bush.
We will be joined by people from across the United States and world. The World Tribunal on Iraq, which culminated in Istanbul, Turkey and has held sessions across the globe, will deliver all of these testimonies. The Brussels Tribunal will deliver the book and testimony that emerged from their efforts. Inder Comar will deliver the documents that make up the ongoing class action suit against six members of the George W. Bush administration alleging that the Iraq War constituted a war of aggression. There will be over 50 offers of testimony each day.
On day one, December first, we will focus on the lies that fed the drive to war. On day two, we will hear more than 50 people testify to innumerable costs of U.S. war in Iraq, which in fact goes back at least 25 years.
Yes, there is a staggering cost to U.S. taxpayers—but also the cost to the planet and the militarization of our cities and police departments. We will hear from the mother of a young black man who was killed the last week of high school by a cop who was a veteran of the Iraq War suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. We will hear from soldiers who were raped by fellow soldiers. Rabbis and priests will discuss the cost to our morality. We will hear about the costs of the U.S. use of depleted uranium to Iraqis and the children of American soldiers who served there.
The event will be live streamed on The Real News, with testimony delivered in person, by live stream or by video. The combination of all the testimony will be delivered to Obama and Congress.
But the real work has already begun. The coalition is using the tribunal to gather local communities to discuss the cost of war to them, encouraging them to review what they could have had instead of war. Such collective exercises demonstrate how the costs of war come home, literally.
Most of the members of our coalition are outreaching to their lists to join with a call to Obama for a Commission on Truth and Accountability. Other partners are outreaching for voices that still need to join those testifying. When the election is finally over, testifiers will begin to discuss their testimony in the media, laying a path to the tribunal of details, broken hearts, destroyed communities and devastated families.
We must tell our truth as passionately and effectively as the architects of war tell their lies. We must come together and gather the stories of destruction and loss, in order to witness and remember. Join in. Make it your own. Share with your community. Raise awareness. The time to stop the next war is now.