Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the George W. Bush administration’s illegal invasion of Iraq this weekend, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights on Wednesday renewed its call for reparations “for those harmed as a result of the U.S.’s unlawful act of aggression in its cruel, senseless, and baseless war-for-profit.”
“Ten years ago, we teamed up with Iraqi civil society groups and U.S. service members to demand redress,” the nonprofit explained, “and this need only becomes more urgent as the incalculable human toll of the war continues to grow: hundreds of thousands dead, some two million disabled, some nine million displaced, environmental devastation, countless people tortured, traumatized, or otherwise harmed in ways unseen, occupation and embrace of torture as policy in the so-called ‘War on Terror,’ and an entire generation that was born and raised in only war.”
As Common Dreams reported earlier Wednesday, the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs estimates that already, “the total costs of the war in Iraq and Syria are expected to exceed half a million human lives and $2.89 trillion” by 2050.
The project also said that “an estimated 300,000 people have died from direct war violence in Iraq, while the reverberating effects of war continue to kill and sicken hundreds of thousands more.”
“Justice also entails accountability for the perpetrators of these horrific crimes, including those responsible for the torture.”
Such figures have fueled calls from groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which asserted that “reparations are rooted in precedent and international law, as well as a strong tradition of justice-based organizing by civil rights movements, and we should not let the difficulty of securing justice deter us from seeking it—for Iraqis and for all others harmed by U.S. imperialism, exploitation, and genocide.”
“Justice also entails accountability for the perpetrators of these horrific crimes, including those responsible for the torture” in Iraq and beyond, argued the center—which since 2004 has filed three lawsuits against U.S.-based military contractors on behalf of Iraqis tortured at the Abu Ghraib prison and also sued Erik Prince and his company Blackwater over the Nisour Square massacre
“Legal efforts against high-level political and military leaders for the invasion itself and the many crimes committed in the ‘War on Terror’ pose a different set of challenges, as demonstrated by our efforts to hold high-level Bush-administration officials accountable at the International Criminal Court for crimes in or arising out of the war in Afghanistan or under universal jurisdiction,” CCR noted. “Those of us pursuing accountability can draw inspiration from activists in other countries like Argentina and Guatemala who waged successful campaigns over several decades.”
Highlighting that “Congress continues its overbroad authorizations for use of military force,” the center argued that “such authorizations must be repealed, and the unlawful policies of endless war and militarization must be replaced with international-law-based, rights-respecting policies and practices.”
The U.S. Senate is expected to vote Thursday to repeal both the 1991 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force against Iraq. While the measure’s sponsor, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), has been publicly optimistic about passage, it would then need approval from the GOP-controlled House of Representatives before being sent to President Joe Biden’s desk for signature.
In a move decried by progressives as “madness,” the president last week proposed a budget for fiscal year 2024 featuring a historic $886.4 billion in military spending, including $397.5 million to fight what is left of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Meanwhile, as CCR pointed out Wednesday, “just this month, the House voted 414-2 to maintain unilateral sanctions on Syria even though—or because—they have caused widespread suffering and hindered earthquake relief efforts. The U.S. has imposed similar deadly sanctions on Cuba for decades. Such manifestations of imperialism differ from the war on Iraq only in degree. Indeed, deadly sanctions on Iraq were a precursor to the U.S. invasion.”
In its lengthy statement, the center also said that “as we call for justice for Iraqis, we stand in solidarity with all people who live in countries targeted by U.S. imperialism, and in particular, in Afghanistan, whose civilians have been subjected to endless war and destruction, politicization, and then abandonment of human rights protections, and state-facilitated humanitarian suffering.”
“They include not only those killed and maimed by the U.S. military and its proxies but also those harmed by U.S. sanctions and coups, corporate plunder and extraction, and austerity regimes imposed by U.S.-dominated colonial institutions,” the center added, pointing to the International Monetary Fund. “It also includes Palestinians, who are subjugated by Israel, a U.S. imperial outpost.”
“U.S. warmaking has long fed fascism at home,” the group continued, calling out police violence, immigration restrictions, racial and religious profiling, and mass surveillance. “The trillions of dollars spent on militarism and criminalization abroad and in the U.S. must be reallocated to address the material needs and fulfill the human rights of our most marginalized communities.”
“On this ignominious anniversary,” CCR concluded, “we recommit to our vision of a world in which revolutionary movements across countries and continents struggle together for liberation from U.S. imperialism and all other oppressive systems of power.”