By Jim Harding
While the Bush regime and its shrinking number of international supporters try to shape the future of Iraq to their liking by force of arms, corporate power and limited democracy, others are working for a very different future. Iraqi nationalists are trying to take back their country through the limited electoral process allowed by the occupying force and the insurgency. Anti-occupation protests have continued worldwide on the second anniversary of the invasion. And, unbeknown to most North Americans, an unprecedented process of resistance to Bush’s imperial future has been occurring on a global scale.
The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI) has been working since 2003 to ensure that there is no impunity for the Bush regime and its allies who lied and killed their way into Iraq. It is modelled on the Bertrand Russell-inspired Tribunal on the war on Vietnam in 1967. Now, even more than then, deception and manipulation have become institutionalized into USA imperial politics. In this climate of deceit and fear the WTI “is aimed at challenging the silences of our time around aggression against Iraq and seeking the truth about the war and occupation in Iraq. This,” says the WTI’s Framework Statement, “will be a record of wrongs, violations and crimes as well as suffering, resistance and silenced voices.”
The Tribunal is not taking on this mammoth task to be righteous, but to directly affect the future. It is pursuing its aims “To continue and strengthen the mobilisation of the peace movement and the global antiwar struggle, to restore truth and to preserve the collective memory of humanity against the constant rewriting of history.” But it has a very pragmatic agenda, “to prevent future illegal acts by judging the recent past, to formulate recommendations on international law and expand the notions of justice and ethical-political awareness, to provide alternatives to victor’s justice.”
Its mandate and processes are vast. The WTI is probing “the legality and legitimacy of the war in Iraq and the occupation of Iraq; the criminality of the conduct of the war and occupation in Iraq; the failure of political institutions, both national and international, to disenable the prosecution of the war.” But it goes further, investigating “the complicity of the media and information agencies in all the aforementioned crimes and violations: the grave liability of the political-economic project behind the war and the future threat it entails.”
The Tribunal has been active since November, 2003 when, in a session in London, it investigated war crimes committed by Coalition forces. Since then it has investigated war crimes against women (at a meeting in Mumbai); the legality of the war (Copenhagen); the violation of international law and the UN Charter (New York); crimes against cultural heritage (Istanbul); use of depleted uranium (Hiroshima); the social and economic consequences of the war and occupation (Stockholm); the complicity of the media (Rome) and much more.
Its sessions have continued into 2005, in such new locations as Lisbon, Cairo and Genoa. Sessions are still planned for Pakistan and India. The WTI’s work now spans five continents, and will culminate in Istanbul, Turkey this coming June. This final session will draw conclusions on whether the war violated the UN Charter and international law, including humanitarian law; on whether there have been human rights abuses; and on the conduct of the media and the United Nations itself. It will decide whether this was a war of aggression, whether Iraq’s sovereignty was violated, and whether other governments are guilty of complicity. This will all be done with the most thorough documentation, anywhere to date, of events that have been denied or sidestepped by the White House and have “slipped through” the very large cracks of the corporate media.
The final Istanbul session will also be “a point of departure for future initiatives.” While its vast documentation will be invaluable for public education, peace and justice activism, and future legal actions, the WTI knows it must also address the new international realities that have been created in the aftermath of the Bush regime and the war and occupation of Iraq. The “war on terrorism,” the right-wing politics of public security, the Pax Americana manipulation of democratization, and the new nuclear arms race in the wake of the USA doctrine of pre-emptive aggression, all threaten human security, human rights and ecological stability worldwide.
If the WTI is to have any lasting effect it therefore has to help set another course for the future of humankind. Nothing more and nothing less will do. Of course this won’t happen without worldwide citizen involvement and support. The lack of any serious coverage of this global citizenship initiative in the Canadian and American corporate media just underscores the need for it. There is a direct link of the work of the WTI to Saskatchewan, through depleted uranium, and to Canada, through complicity. Please do what you can. The WTI website is www.worldtribunal.org.
Jim Harding, Adjunct Professor of Justice Studies at the University of Regina and author of After Iraq: War, Democracy and Imperialism, has been invited to present at the final, Istanbul session of the WTI.