End US Intervention in Iraq and Syria | Antiwar activists Marie Braun, Meredith Aby-Kierstead, Margaret Sarfehjooy

No War Demo Aug. 8 2015The following speeches were given at an antiwar demonstration and rally at Hiawatha and Lake Street in Minneapolis sponsored by the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition.

Meredith Aby: End US Intervention in Iraq and Syria

Speech given by Anti-War Committee member Meredith Aby-Keirstead at the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition protest on August 8, 2015 in Minneapolis.

We are here today to mark the one-year anniversary of the Obama administration’s bombing campaign in Iraq.  It is important to view this campaign as an escalation of the war on Iraq – a war the US has been waging in some form or another since 1991!  I have students who have never known a time the US hasn’t been at war with Iraq!  The US is using this new phase of the war on terror to send more troops to Iraq, to construct bases, to conduct daily aerial bombings, and to extend into Syria’s civil war next door.

Over 3,000 U.S. troops have been sent to Iraq in the past year.  There are an additional 1,200 forces from 17 other countries helping to train the Iraqi army.  The US has spent $500 million on its Syrian rebel training program which many of the recruits are now “unaccounted for” (ABC News, 8/7/2015).  As this war drags on we will be asked again if the US can send in more troops – and as the presidential campaign begins we will hear arguments for more troops and it is imperative that we stand up and say NO!

The US and Turkey declared a no-fly zone on the Turkey/Syria border last month.  We should see this for what it is – another escalation of the conflict – NOT a step towards peace.  In Libya in 2011 and in Iraq from 1991-1998 we saw that no fly zones were places where the US gave it self the complete power of the skies and that it used it for daily bombing campaigns.

ABC News reported yesterday, “the military coalition against ISIS has launched nearly 6,000 coalition airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria and the cost of U.S. military operations has risen beyond $3.2 billion.”  That’s an average of $9.4 million a day (ABC News, 8/7/2015)!  Imagine how many teachers we could hire for 9.4 million a day!  Imagine how much student loan debt the US could forgive for 9.4 million a day!  We need to be demanding money for human needs – not for war!

The cost to human lives is also significant. The people of Iraq and Syria do NOT see the daily bombing campaigns of the US or allied forces as “peaceful”. The Washington Post reported this week that Airwars, a London-based group of independent journalists, reports that at least 459 civilians have been killed by these strikes.

So 3.2 billion dollars and 459 civilian deaths later – Are we safer?  Is Iraq safer?  Is Syria safer?  No.

This is unfortunately not the only instance of US intervention in the Middle East. In other places like Yemen and Palestine the US uses it’s “allies” or puppets to achieve the similar consequences we see in Iraq and Syria.

The US is backing a Saudi lead campaign that killed 3,000 people and now 80% of the Yemeni population is dependent on aid to survive. The U.S. government has stepped up weapons shipments to Saudi Arabia, is refueling Saudi aircraft, and is providing logistics and intelligence to the Saudi military.  Just two days after Human Rights Watch accused Saudi Arabia of war crimes, Saudi Arabia and the US announced two new arms deals (Mother Jones, 8/5/15).

Similarly, the US has continued to give $3 billion annually to Israel – including last year during it’s war on Gaza which killed 2,200 people, 519 were children.  During last summer’s war in late July (July 23) the US tapped into a $1 billion weapons stockpile it keeps in Israel to resupply Israel’s ammunition in the name of protecting Israel’s “right to defend itself” (Electronic Intifada, 7/31/2014).  We obviously understand why Israel had run out of ammunition, and it wasn’t defending itself!

Militarily intervening in Iraq since 1991, escalating the civil war in Syria, arming governments like Saudi Arabia and Israel to the teeth are all a part of the US foreign policy for the 1% – the same 1% who profit from the sale of weapons and from the drilling of oil.

The Obama administration is fanning sectarian conflicts throughout the Middle East to weaken the progressive and anti-imperialist forces in the region so that the US will have less resistance to it’s foreign policy for the 1%.  No amount of US intervention will make things better.  US intervention is like pouring gasoline on a fire!

We, the global 99%, need to continue to stand up and oppose these US wars every day!  It’s good that we’re out here today, but today is not enough.  We need to keep organizing and mobilizing so we can get the US out of the Middle East!

Margaret Sarfehjooy: The Iran Nuclear Deal

Speech given by WAMM Middle East Committee member Margaret Sarfehjooy at the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition protest on August 8, 2015 in Minneapolis.

The Iran Nuclear Deal is a victory as it changes the direction of a war against Iran to one of peace.  For over 30 years, the US has tried to destabilize Iran by cyber attacks, threats, secretive military units, spies, isolation, military encirclement, assassinating Iranian scientists and military commanders, and endless media vilification.  The toughest sanctions in modern history were placed on Iran in the hopes that the Iranian people would blame their government for economic hardships and rise up and topple their government with the help of “friendly outside forces.”  This didn’t happen.  Iran became more self-sufficient.

However, the Iran Nuclear Deal is very fragile.  Washington can renew the sanctions at any time simply by making false charges against Iran, and remember, “All options (meaning an attack on Iran) are still on the table.” The Senate is reviewing the nuclear agreement with Iran, and pro-Israel lobby groups are spending tens of millions of dollars to rally the American public and U.S. lawmakers against it.

For years, Israel has successfully used the Iranian issue to deflect attention away from Israel’s continued occupation and colonization of Palestinian land and its brutal siege and attacks on the people of Gaza. The propaganda mantra of “Iran is a threat to Israel” helps to sustain the narrative of Israel as victim.  And, it helps Israel receive billions of dollars of US military aid.  The US has offered to increase military aid to Israel by another 1.5 billion per year (on top of the yearly 3 billion a year) as a way to soften Netanyahu’s temper tantrums, and we know this U.S. aid – our tax dollars – is being used to kill civilians in Gaza and the West Bank.

What can we do now to make sure the pro-Israel lobby doesn’t sabotage this historic deal?  We can call our Senators.  Obama said he would veto a Senate bill against the Iran Nuclear Deal. However, the Senate needs a 2/3 majority to override his veto.  So far, Franken and Klobuchar have not come out to openly support this, and they need to hear from us.  We do have a voice.

From the Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran:

We call on all responsible, non-violent groups to recognize this historic opportunity for peace and to support the present nonproliferation agreement. A coalition of powerful forces with deep pockets has enormous investments in hostile policies between Iran and US. Already millions of dollars are being poured into misinformation and propaganda campaigns to kill this agreement. Only by forcefully, publicly and proactively confronting the lies, can we defeat the coalition and preserve this historic chance for peace.

Addendum:  According to the Star Tribune (August 10, 2015) Klobuchar recently said that she supports the Iranian Nuclear Deal.

Marie Braun: We are here today to protest U.S. continued involvement in the Middle East.

Speech given by WAMM End War Committee member Marie Braun at the Minnesota Peace Action Coalition protest on August 8, 2015 in Minneapolis.

I am going to speak specifically about Iraq and the human costs of the our government’s attempts to control the oil and the flow of oil in the Middle East.

The U.S. has a long and sorted history of meddling in the affairs of Iraq. Back in the 1980’s, our government supported both sides of the Iraq-Iran war, a war which resulted in the deaths of more than a million people. Henry Kissinger’s response was “It is the best of all worlds. They are killing each other and they are doing it with our weapons.”

Iraq first came to the attention of many Americans in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait and our government began beating the drums of war. Initially, more than half of the people of the U.S. opposed military action and large anti-war demonstration were organized throughout the country.

But our government was determined to go to war and for 43 days the allied forces rained down bombs on Iraq. More bombs were dropped on Iraq in those 43 days than were dropped in all of World War II; the equivalent of 7 l/2 Hiroshimas. Within 43 days, Iraq went from a highly developed country to a country where its people had to cope with totally new circumstances: no electricity, no clean water, food and fuel shortages, transportation problems, and, for many, no job. People had to go to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers for their water, their refrigerators and stoves stopped working, sewage piled up in the streets, their toilets would not flush, and before long, their children, the most vulnerable among them, began to die . . .

For most Americans, the Persian Gulf War ended on February 27, 1991. But the war did not end for the Iraqi people; it had only begun. The new war of sanctions, which did not allow Iraq to import sufficient medicine and food, or to repair the infrastructure, continued for 13 more long years. This sanctions war was a low intensity war; it killed an Iraqi child every 10 minutes; it killed 3500-5000 children every month; it resulted in emotional, mental and physical disabilities in more than a generation of Iraqi children.

So extreme was the suffering caused by the sanctions that Dennis Halliday, the UN Coordinator of the “food for oil” program resigned, saying “We are in the process of destroying an entire society. It is as simple and terrifying as that. It is illegal and immoral.”

The first Gulf War and the sanctions so debilitated Iraq that it was never a serious threat to the U.S. or its neighbors. However, in 2003, the U.S. government declared a second war on that country – Shock and Awe – follow by 10 years of occupation.

There is no greater breach of trust than to mislead a country into war; to send young people to war under false pretenses. That is what our government did, with the aid of the U.S. mainstream media, prior to both of the U.S. wars in Iraq. In the first Gulf war, one of the lies was about Iraqi soldiers throwing Kuwaiti babies out of incubators; the big lie in 2003 was that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

So what are we to believe about the situation in Iraq now? One thing we know is that ISIS itself arose as a consequence of the brutal and failed U.S. invasions and occupation of Iraq. ISIS would not exist if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq.

So, how can anyone believe that more bombs, troops, weapons and so-called “advisors” will solve the problems there? Further U.S. military invovlement will only increase the violence – more killing, more destruction, more people driven from their homes, more chaos . . .

It is long past time to stop this ongoing military madness! The US should get out and stay out of Iraq. We say “bring the troops home now.”

WAMM. http://womenagainstmilitarymadness.org

Antiwar Committee Minneapolis.  http://antiwarcommittee.org/

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