Rene — Iraq War: Report Calls on UN to End "Complicity of Silence"

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Iraq War: Report Calls on UN to End “Complicity of Silence”
Inter Press Service
Published on Thursday, June 14, 2007
UNITED NATIONS – The U.S. Coalition is the principal cause of Iraq’s
current woes, charges a report released Wednesday by the Global Policy
Forum (GPF), a New York-based watchdog group.
Since the March 2003 invasion, the U.S.-British occupation of Iraq has
“utterly failed to bring peace, prosperity and democracy, as originally
advertised,” says the report, entitled “War and Occupation in Iraq”.
“The United Nations and the international community must end the
complicity of silence and they must vigorously address the Iraq
crisis,” it says.
Produced by GPF and 29 international non-governmental organisations
(NGOs), the report was released to coincide with U.N. Security
Council consultations on the Iraq problem. The 117-page report
assesses conditions in the country, especially the responsibility
of the U.S.-led Coalition, for violations of international law
and concludes with recommendations for action, including a speedy
withdrawal of Coalition forces.
It covers areas such as destruction of cultural heritage, unlawful
detention, killing and torture of civilians, displacement, corruption
and fraud, attacks on cities and long-term military bases.
“This is ongoing, is not under control, and is something the Coalition
is saying it is doing under mandate of the U.N. Security Council,”
James Paul, GPF’s executive director, told reporters Wednesday.
“It’s time for a new approach,” Paul stressed. “The Security Council
has done virtually nothing on this subject; [it] has to take its head
out of the sand.”
GPF has shared the report with all the members of the Council.
“Many members took interest in the report,” Celine Nahory, GPF’s
Security Council programme coordinator, told IPS.
Several delegations have complained that data on Iraq must be compiled
from numerous sources to get a clear picture of the situation on
the ground, Nahory explained, and the report condenses much of that
information in one place.
Asked if GPF had received any feedback from Security Council members,
Nahory said that several former ambassadors had spoken privately
about the difficulty of raising the issue of Iraq in the Council.
“One ambassador was told quite bluntly that the U.S. has the lead on
this issue,” Nahory said.
U.S. President George W. Bush delivered his “mission accomplished”
speech on May 2, 2003, yet the conflict has continued for more than
four years.
Thousands of innocent people are now dead and wounded, millions
are displaced, several of Iraq’s cities lie in ruins, and enormous
resources have been squandered, according to the report.
The increasing bloodshed and sectarian division among Iraqis is
abhorrent, the report emphasises, but whatever responsibility Iraqis
themselves bear for the present impasse within the country, the primary
responsibility lies with the U.S. and its Coalition, whose military
occupation gave rise to these groups and whose policies have failed
to protect the Iraqi people.
The U.S. and its allies ignored the warnings of NGOs and scholars
concerning the protection of Iraq’s cultural heritage, including
museums, libraries, archaeological sites and other repositories, and
as a result arsonists badly burned the National Library and looters
pillaged the National Museum, according to the report’s chapter on
destruction of cultural heritage.
The chapter on detention details the U.S. Coalition and its Iraqi
government partners’ practice of holding large numbers of Iraqi
citizens in “security detention” without charge or trial, in direct
violation of international law.
“More than 40,000 Iraqis are being held,” Paul stressed.
Detainees lack fundamental rights and they are kept in deplorable
physical conditions, many for long periods, according to the GPF
report, which tallies with recent reports published by Human Rights
Watch and Amnesty International.
Torture and secret interrogations increasingly take place in Iraqi
prisons, apparently with U.S. awareness and complicity, according to
the report.
It also addresses U.S. Coalition forces’ attacks on Iraqi cities
on the grounds that they were “insurgent strongholds”. Besides
the well-publicised case of Falluja, there have been assaults on a
dozen other cities, including al-Qaim, Tal Afar, Samarra, Haditha,
and Ramadi. The attacks include intensive air and ground bombardment
and cutting off electricity, water, food and medicines, according to
the report.
The attacks have left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and
in displacement camps, according to U.N. figures.
A 2006 Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study conducted
together with the Al Mustansiriya University in Baghdad estimates that
there have been 654,965 “excess” deaths in Iraq since 2003. Deaths
from all causes — violent and non-violent — are far greater than
the estimated 143,000 deaths per year that occurred from all causes
prior to the March 2003 invasion.
“If these numbers are projected forward, there have now been close
to one million Iraqi deaths as a result of the general environment,”
Paul said.
“Four million Iraqis are displaced, 50,000 leave their homes every
month and more than half the population lives on less than one dollar
a day, yet the Security Council has never addressed the humanitarian
crisis in Iraq,” Nahory said, stressing that the “numbers in Iraq
are more than double those in [Darfur] Sudan.”
The report also recounts how under the control or influence of U.S.
authorities, public funds in Iraq have been drained by massive
corruption and stolen oil, leaving the country unable to provide
basic services and incapable of rebuilding.
Billions of dollars have disappeared, the report stresses.
To avoid accountability, the U.S. and Britain undercut the
U.N.-mandated International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB),
according to GPF.
“The IAMB hasn’t discovered a single instance of fraud or malfeasance,”
Paul said, emphasising that the Security Council “hasn’t taken a
single step to strengthen the IAMB.”
Iraq has suffered from stolen cash, padded contracts, cronyism,
bribes and kickbacks, waste and incompetence, as well as shoddy and
inadequate contract performance, the report alleges. Major contractors,
mostly politically-connected U.S. firms, have made billions in profits.
An analysis of contracts was conducted by Iraq Revenue Watch,
a project of the New York-based Open Society Institute (OSI), in
recognition that lack of proper stewardship over oil resources has
resulted in corruption, the continued impoverishment of populations,
and abuses of political power
The OSI study shows that 74 percent of the total contracts worth
1.5 billion dollars — paid with Iraqi funds — were awarded to
U.S. firms.
British and U.S. companies received 85 percent of the value of all
such contracts. Iraqi firms, by contrast, received just 2 percent of
the value of contracts. Sixty percent of the value of all contracts
paid with Iraqi funds went to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown &
Root (KBR). These contracts were not put out for bid.
The responsibility of the U.S. Coalition is especially grave because
the U.N. Security Council gave it a mandate, according to GPF.
Though the Council had refused to authorise the war, just a few months
later it mandated the Coalition as a “multinational force.”
Council members at the time hoped that the U.N. would assume a
“vital role” in Iraq, leading the way back to peace and international
legality. But this did not happen.
GPF urges the Security Council to assume its responsibilities and
examine alternatives for the future.
“The Security Council could reconsider the mandate right away,”
Nahory noted.
The U.S. Mission to the U.N. did not respond to an IPS request for
comment on the findings and recommendations of the GPF report.