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Articles from the Peace News log: Iraq

Articles from the Peace News log.
For articles in this category from the whole site, look here

Ian Sinclair looks beyond the "babbling brook of [mainstream media] bullshit" about the Iraq crisis.

ImageJust over ten years since it failed the public so completely over the 2003 Iraq War, the mainstream media’s coverage of the current Iraq crisis has been predictably awful.

“Stop droning on Mr Cameron… SEND IN THE DRONES” was The Sun’s considered front page on 4 September 2014. At the opposite end of the British press spectrum The Independent’s front page read “Your move, Mr President”. Egging the US and UK on, The Independent noted “The leader of the free world has begun to look alarmingly impotent.” The other liberal outpost of the British media, The Guardian, supports the US air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS or Islamic State).

As always, the BBC has been working hard to amplify the British elite’s concerns. On 4 September 2014 the BBC Today Programme invited on Jack Straw, the former Foreign Secretary who played a central role in the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq, to speak in the prime interview slot about why he supports the bombing of ISIS. Interviewing former Chief of the Defence Staff David Richards the next morning, Today Programme presenter John Humphrys made the following biased statement: “We have this bunch of mad men rampaging across the Middle East and they have to be stopped. They have to be not only contained but – I don’t know whether you’ll agree with this – but destroyed.”

Then there was the 30 August 2014 BBC Newsnight special on the fallout from the August 2013 parliamentary vote against UK military action in Syria. The diverse range of studio guests invited to discuss the topic were former Defence Secretary Liam Fox MP, Paddy Ashdown, former First Sea Lord Lord West, former Head of the British Army Lord Dannatt, Neo-Conservative Francis Fukuyama and Professor Mary Kaldor (Kaldor was able to squeeze in a couple of sentences pushing for a more measured response to ISIS before she was cut off).

Reading, watching and listening to this “babbling brook of bullshit”, like many people I’m sure, I’ve become increasingly angry at the narrowness of the debate and just how closely the media’s framing of the issue follows that of the US and UK governments. Therefore, I’ve decided to pull together some of the pertinent facts and arguments that the media refuses to mention and discuss.

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Iraq is the forgotten war that continues to destroy lives, writes a long-time visitor to Iraq, US peace activist Cathy Breen.


Building in Mosul, Iraq, decimated by bombing, March 2018. Photo: Abu Mohammed


Naomi Shihab Nye is a poet and professor of Creative Writing at Texas State. Her father was Palestinian and a refugee journalist. In one of her poems after 9/11, entitled 'Blood,' she writes:

I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air:
Who calls anyone civilised?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?

I myself tried to write something for the 15 year 'commemoration' of the US war against Iraq, but wasn’t able to complete it. It was too much for me. A couple of months ago I was invited to go to the Northwest to speak about 'Fifteen Years After the War.' It was too much for me emotionally, and somewhat shamefully I had to decline.

As I write, I have the phone next to me. I am texting a young Iraqi boy who is alone in Turkey. About 10 months ago, he was kidnapped in Iraq. Through a chain of events, he ended up in Syria. About two months ago, his father was contacted and was able to get his son smuggled across the border into Turkey. Last month, his son turned 18 years of age and was eligible to register as a refugee with the UN refugees' agency, UNHCR. But he will not get an interview for many months to come.

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With the publication of the Chilcot report, watch the trailer for "A Letter to the Prime Minister", made during the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, and sign up on the website to see the entire feature length film.

I just read the transcript of the evidence given by John Chilcot, head of the Iraq Inquiry, to parliament's foreign affairs committee on 4 February. I was staggered to read in a footnote that they are going to publish 1,500 British government documents alongside the Chilcot Report itself (which will be hundreds of pages long).

The report refers to 7,000 government documents. They looked at 150,000 documents. These are big numbers.

The MPs on the foreign affairs committee tried to get Chilcot to say that his former colleagues in the civil service had delayed the publication of the report by dragging their feet over the declassification of relevant secret documents. Chilcot (who was permanent secretary at the Northern Ireland Office for most of the 1990s) avoided saying anything critical of the government, the civil service or the decision makers from 2003 who are going to be criticised in the report.

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A sceptical look at the evidence given to the British government's Chilcot Inquiry into the 2003 Iraq war by Richard Dearlove, head of MI6 at the time. Dearlove sticks to his WMD story but it has a big hole in it....

In the run-up to the publication of the Chilcot Report into the Iraq war, I've been thinking I might try to read all the evidence given during the inquiry. There's quite a lot of it up on the inquiry website. For no particular reason, I started with the evidence given in a private session by Richard Dearlove, who was head of the secret intelligence service (better known as MI6) at the time.

The transcript of Dearlove's first round of testimoney is hilarious in terms of the massive amount of redaction going on. I counted 19 pages which are completely redacted, there is not a single declassified word on them, just the names of the people who said the things that we're not allowed to read.

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Ian Sinclair speaking at the University of Southampton about his book 'The march the shook Blair' that also featured Matt Barr who has recently returned from Iraq.

ImageIn 2003 the UK and US invaded Iraq without a UN resolution. This is common knowledge to anyone who was old enough to pay attention to the news at the time and the following years. Many in my generation also attended the anti-war marches that were organised not only in Britain but across the world, although the London march, attracting between one and two million people according to different estimates, was clearly the largest and attracted the most attention.

What may not be as common knowledge is what has happened in the years following the invasion and this was the topic of the event at University of Southampton on May 29th. The event brought together Matt Barr, a PhD student at the university who specialise in post-conflict decision-making focusing on Iraq, and Ian Sinclair, a freelance journalist and author of the book ‘The march that shook Blair: An Oral History of 15 February 2003’.

Matt who has travelled to Iraq on multiple occasions, including during the 10th anniversary of the invasion, spoke about his experiences there and the impact that the sanctions and the war has had on the people and their communities in Iraq. This could be simple things, like the story Matt told about how after a confrontation involving guns outside the house he was staying the neigbour’s young child knew that a bullet cartridge that has just been fired would be hot so did not pick it with their hands but instead used the cloth of their shirt to prevent getting burnt. Speaking to a mixed academic audience of undergraduates, postgraduates and professors these stories about the people Matt met out in Iraq showed a side to the war, and perhaps more importantly the aftermath, that we were all probably aware of, but knew little about in specific detail and about specific people.

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REPORT FROM IRAQ: Non-violent protests by the people of Halabja at the 25th anniversary commemorations of the town's gassing help highlight the political misuse of the massacre.

ImageSaturday was the 25th anniversary of the March 16, 1988 gassing of the town of Halabja, which is north-east of Baghdad and whose backdrop is the mountains that make up part of the Iran-Iraq border. This attack killed upwards of 5000 civilians, mostly women and children, injuring thousands more as Iraqi planes dropped chemical bombs on the town.

Having previously visited the town in April 2009 I returned to Halabja on Saturday to be part of the commemorations, although, for reasons I'll explain later, this most recent trip can only just be described as an actual visit to Halabja as it was a very sanitised version of the town, where the true impoverished nature of the place was kept hidden from visiting eyes.

Away from ceremony and international attention, the first time I visited Halabja I met a man who had lost 24 members of his family of which he was the only one to survive, he lost brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, nieces, nephews, his parents and his grandparents. He himself only survived because he had been injured in a previous 'conventional' attack a couple of days earlier and had shrapnel in his leg. For this reason alone he was outside the centre of the town receiving treatment as the chemical attack rained down on his family and all the others that were murdered on that March day in 1988.

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REPORT FROM IRAQ: Cross-border Turkish bombings continue to claim civilian lives and disrupt livelihoods in northern Iraq.

ImageBack in November I wrote a blog piece for Peace News about what was essentially a media blackout on cross-border attacks by the Turkish military into the northern regions of Iraq. These Turkish attacks into Iraq have a long and deadly history, taking and disrupted many lives and have historically, in the main, been largely under-reported or simply unreported. It is in part due to this lack of coverage and critical challenge in the media that these attacks have been able to continue, resulting in more lives being lost and torn apart. As such, it is more than unfortunate to report that Turkish cross-border bombings have continued in the months since.

In writing the blog in November last year I cited a human rights organisation that have a team based in Iraqi Kurdistan, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), who had met with one of those who was injured during the Turkish bombings in November, Rebaz Ahmed Ismail. At that time only the wire agencies had carried news reports on the deployment of Turkish ground troops into Iraq, an event that is now relatively rare as most of the attacks are carried out from the air, and even then these agencies misreported the fact that civilians had indeed been killed during these attacks; CPT reported the day after the attacks that at least two civilians had been killed in a single Turkish bombing raid along the Iraqi border with Iran.

The last time I myself was in Iraq was in April-May 2009 and I had gone specifically to support the work by international NGOs to document these cross-border attacks that were claiming the lives of many and disrupting the livelihoods of even more who farm and herd animals on the grasses high in the Iraqi mountains. The lushly green covered mountains offer grazing, particularly in the summer months, when the lower lands become arid due to the heat. One only has to look at a map to see that the Turkish-Iraqi-Iranian border region of Iraq is mountainous and fertile compared to the rest of Iraq which is mainly flat and outside the banks of its two major rivers distinctly lacking in plant life. One of the people I traveled to Iraq with in 2009 now works full time in Iraqi Kurdistan and was one of the CPT members that met with Rebaz, who lost a leg and two friends in an F16 fighter-aircraft attack in early November 2012.

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New book from Peace News Press to be launched on 10th anniversary of 15 February 2003 march, followed by UK speaking tour.


Thanks to your generosity we've already reached our original goal of raising £1,250 towards the costs of publishing Ian Sinclair's new book "The march that shook Blair: An oral history of 15 February 2003" (see below). However, further backing is still very valuable, as this will enable us to do additional promotional work for the book; and pay for some of the unpaid work that has already gone into the production (eg. proofing). So please visit the Kickstarter site, check out the new video and list of rewards, and make a pledge if you can! Here's the link: http://tinyurl.com/marchthatshookblair.

We've also confirmed the details for the book's launch: 7pm, Friday 15 February 2013 in the Bloomsbury Suite at Friends House in London (173 Euston Road,NW1 2BJ). Please put this date in your diary now, and invite your Friends on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/193870487420468/

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On-going cross-border military actions in northern Iraq are killing civilians and being underreported.

ImageOmission is a key part of the propaganda model proposed by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in their classic text on the subject and it can also be used to ascertain bias within the media. Whilst recent media attention has rightly been focusing on military actions in the Middle East in relation to both Syria and to Israel there has been a virtual blackout on reporting when it comes to this month’s military incursions by Turkey into the predominately Kurdish areas of northern Iraq.

Outside of the wire agencies it is hard to find western reporting on these most recent attacks; following a fairly extensive search I’ve yet to find anything in any of the UK broadsheets or in any of the leading US papers on the issue. Indeed, a lengthy article in Sunday’s Washington Post (25/11/12) on the ‘resurgent Kurdish threat’ to Turkey failed to even mention any historic incursions into northern Iraq but did mention a single PKK (Kurdistan Worker’s Party) suspected deadly car bombing on three separate occasions in the article.

Human rights organisations have reported that 40,000 people have been killed and numerous human rights abuses have been committed in the on-going conflict between Turkey and the PKK.

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