Published Apr 27, 2006
Representatives from anti-war groups in eight countries met here the weekend of April 21 to 23 to discuss a grim emergency: the assassinations and disappearances of hundreds of Iraqi scientists, doctors, teachers and other intellectuals under the U.S.-UK occupation. They heard firsthand the plight of Iraqi academics and medical professionals who struggle to live amid constant threats, physical violence, kidnappings and the operation of death squads.
Academic officials and trade union leaders in the Spanish state also spoke out at a seminar against the U.S. occupation. Evidence was presented that the U.S. occupation is responsible for the suffering of the Iraqi people, including the assassinations, and that the U.S. has the motive and means for carrying them out.
The main callers of the conference were this country’s Statewide Campaign to End the Occupation and restore the Sove reignty of Iraq (CEOSI), the BRussels Tribunal from Belgium and the Inter national Action Center from the United States. Other groups from Germany, Sweden, Britain and Portugal, which had been active in the World Tribunal on Iraq, also contributed to the discussions.
CEOSI and the BRussels Tribunal have documented the killings of 220 health professionals and 190 academics in Iraq. They say the occupation planned or at the minimum allowed these killings to take place. Such destruction of the intellectual capital of the country threatens to destroy Iraqi society, eliminating its future just as the pillage of its museums eliminated its past.
The discussions were carried out within the framework of the conclusions of the World Tribunal on Iraq, which last June in Istanbul found the U.S. guilty of war crimes for its invasion and sided with the Iraqis’ right to resist the occupation, including by armed struggle.
Iraqi speakers included Eman Khamas, a journalist, author and former director of the group Occupation Watch in Baghdad; Professor Ali, a teacher of molecular gen etics at the University of Baghdad, and Dr. Sami, a surgeon at the Hospital for Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery at Bagh dad’s General University Hospital. All three held the occupation responsible for the crimes being committed against the Iraqi people.
Khamas had just finished a six-week tour of the United States. She made a strong point that the U.S. was still actively carrying on a war against the Iraqi people. "Bush said on May 1, 2003, that the war was over. He lied. The U.S. has continued the war against the Iraqi people. Cities, hospitals, schools are still being bombed." She said that even when schools are functioning, they are often closed for security reasons—such as when the National Assembly is meeting. Khamas pointed out that up to 300,000 Iraqis have been killed since the invasion of March 20, 2003.
She raised the question of security under the occupation. "Many women," said Khamas, "don’t go to school or college because they are afraid." Meanwhile, political events that are made much of in the U.S. media and by politicians in Washington "are completely irrelevant to the ordinary Iraqi people."
'Hell on Mesopotamia’
Professor Ali, a scientist, was held in prison for months under suspicion of working on weapons of mass destruction —which turned out not to exist. He was held in the same prison as high-level politicians of the Baathist regime. He called the occupation "hell on Mesopotamia, where chaotic disorder and organized crime flourish."
Dr. Sami had been threatened with death and fired at while in his office. He had received all his education free from the Iraqi government, including post-doctoral training, and noted that since 1990 the U.S. has targeted the education and health systems in Iraq while "before 1991 the entire educational system was free for Iraqis."
The general tone of the seminar was that nothing good could come from the occupation, that it should end as soon as possible, and that the Iraqi people have the right to drive out the foreign troops.
Participants from Spanish universities included Carlos Varea of CEOSI, who had been in Iraq during the war in 2003 as an observer, Prof. Pedro Martinez Montavez, who pointed out that Iraqi society had never before the occupation been split in a sectarian way as it is now, and Rosa Regas, general director of the National Library, who noted that if terrorism were measured by the number of civilians killed, then Bush would be the number one terrorist.
The meeting was held in the Julian Besteiro School, an extensive training school for trade union organizers and cadres. Many trade unionists participated in the discussion, including Manuel Bonmati, in charge of international relations for the UGT union confederation.
International speakers in the seminar discussion included Joachim Guilliard from the German Iraq Committee, Man uel Raposo from the Portuguese Tribunal, Dirk Andriaensens of the BRussels Tri bunal, Prof. Ian Douglas, a visiting professor from Scotland at the University of Nahah in Palestine, and John Catalinotto of the International Action Center in the U.S.
During the second day, participants focused on what actions can be taken to bring global attention to the destruction of Iraq’s intellectual and professional resources and hold accountable those directly responsible, including the occupying power. These include appeals to organizations of university professors, the United Nations and other bodies that could possibly support an independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding these killings.
The texts of talks at the seminar will be posted at the sites of CEOSI, the BRussels Tribunal and the IAC (www.iacenter.org).