Ten years after the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq began, U.S. troops are gone and U.S. bases shut down or turned over to Iraqi troops. But Iraq remains one of the most violent countries in the world, the U.S.-backed Iran-oriented government remains as corrupt as ever, and the sectarian legacy of the U.S. occupation remains powerful. Iraqis still face widespread unemployment, poverty, and massive shortages of clean water and electricity.
But faced with such continuing crises, Iraq’s people are rising up to reclaim their country and their rights. Civil society organizations – trade unions, women’s associations, environmental organizations, youth movements, peace mobilizations and many more are gaining strength and influence throughout the country. What is our responsibility – as a peace and justice movement that fought to prevent the war, and then to end it? What can we do as civil society and social movements, and what should we be demanding of our government today?
Gene Bruskin recently spent a week in Basra, Iraq as part of a U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) delegation to the International Civil Society Solidarity Initiative Conference. The conference brought together trade unionists and other supporters from the U.S. and Europe with labor, women’s, student, environmental and other Iraqi organizations seeking to develop popular campaigns for labor rights and justice for Iraqi working people. The oil workers union, organizing those who run Iraq’s most important industry under conditions of rising repression, is building wide-ranging international ties. Organizers among Iraq’s southern marsh-dwellers are working to reclaim the damaged marshes from the effect of dams built to destroy their millennium-old way of life. These are just two of the organizations we will hear about.
Gene will present photos and video footage of his trip and discuss how we can make a difference by being in solidarity with Iraqi workers and other civil society movements. Phyllis Bennis from the Institute for Policy Studies will introduce some ideas regarding responsibilities of our peace movement in light of the current dire situation in Iraq, and will lead a discussion around the lessons to be learned from the 9 year Iraq war and its aftermath for our work back here in the U.S. Anas (“Andy”) Shallal, founder and owner of Busboys and Poets, and a longtime Iraqi peace activist, including co-founding Iraqis for Peace in Washington DC, will discuss current conditions in Iraq facing ordinary families.