US Relief Group Calls for Iraq Withdrawal
of the oldest U.S. overseas relief organizations has called for
the United States to immediately withdraw from Iraq in light of
the continuing carnage and Washington's failure to restore basic
services or revive the country's economy.
statement by the Philadelphia-based American Friends Service Committee
(AFSC) came a day after U.S. forces suffered their worst losses
from a single incident in Iraq when an apparent suicide bomber blew
himself up at U.S. military base in Mosul, killing at least 22 people,
including 14 U.S. soldiers and four U.S. contractors. The bombing
brings to 1,034 the number of U.S. troops killed in hostile action
since the March 2003 invasion.
also came as two new polls showed that U.S. public opinion has become
more pessimistic about the situation in Iraq and significantly more
skeptical about the decision to go to war.
majority of 56 percent of respondents in a Washington Post-ABC
News poll released Tuesday concluded that, given the cost in military
casualties, the conflict "was not worth the fight." That
marked an eight-point increase since last summer, and, as the Post
pointed out, "the first time a decisive majority of people
have reached this conclusion."
decision by AFSC's board of directors may feed the sense that the
war has been a serious mistake, even though the same poll found
that 58 percent of respondents still believe that Washington should
keep its military forces now numbering over 140,000
in Iraq until "civil order is restored."
poll released this week by the Pew Research Center for the People
& the Press found that 56 percent of its respondents believed
that U.S. troops should stay "until the situation has stabilized,"
against 40 percent who said they believe U.S. troops should be brought
to its Quaker roots, AFSC, which had an office in Baghdad coordinating
relief efforts from March, 2003 until last September when
the agency relocated its two expatriate workers there to Amman,
Jordan originally opposed the decision to go to war as "unnecessary,
immoral, and unwise." The agency was forced to relocate amid
a wave of kidnappings carried out by insurgents.
it subsequently expressed concern that an abrupt U.S. withdrawal
after the ouster of the Ba'athist regime might further destabilize
the country and increase the danger to its people. As the AFSC board
made clear in its statement issued Wednesday, however, it has again
reassessed its position.
are convinced that the presence of U.S. troops is a destabilizing
force in the region and contributes to the increasing loss of life,"
the board stated. "We are anguished by the damage and lasting
scars we are causing to another generation of American soldiers
who have been asked to serve in another war in a distant place for
addition to U.S. casualties, the board noted the recent study by
U.S. and British researchers published last month by the British
medical journal, The Lancet, that estimated that as many as 100,000
Iraqi civilians have been killed since the U.S. invasion.
believe it is now clear that the continuing U.S. Military presence
in Iraq is counterproductive and wrong. The occupation has lost
the trust of the Iraqi people. We abhor the violence each
day Iraq becomes less safe for the occupied, the occupiers, and
those who seek to relieve the suffering," the board stated.
board said that the violence has continued to escalate over the
past year even as U.S. forces resumed offensive actions this fall
that culminated in their November campaign against insurgents in
Fallujah. About one-third of the city's homes and buildings were
reported to have been destroyed in the campaign. At least three
U.S. Marines were reported killed Thursday in continued fighting
there, even as a few hundred of the more than 250,000 residents
who fled the city before the offensive began trickling back through
U.S. checkpoints this week.
international law, according to the board, the U.S. remains responsible
for the success or failure of the ongoing occupation. This in turn
will be measured by how well it establishes and maintains security
for Iraqis; restores basic services, including utilities, health
care, and education; and revives the local economy to meet day-to-day,
as well as recovery, needs of Iraqis. The U.S. is obligated to effect
rapid transition to a sovereign representative government; assure
the active presence of the international community in Iraq's rehabilitation;
and demonstrate responsibility in the allocation of Iraqi funds.
accounting for the expenditure of both its funds during the occupation
and those held in a special Iraqi oil account since the invasion
was strongly criticized in a high-level UN report earlier this month,
while a new study by a Norwegian institute found that the percentage
of Iraqi infants and young children suffering from malnutrition
has nearly doubled to 7.7 percent since March 2003.
all these points, the U.S. has failed," according to the AFSC
board, noting that the result was the loss of support for U.S. troop
presence in Iraq from both the Iraqi people, and "by most accounts,
the U.S. public." "All of these events confirm our long-held
belief that violence can only beget further violence."
U.S. must give way," said the board, so that the United Nations
and other agencies, working with the Iraqi interim government, can
try to achieve peace and stability. Washington itself retains a
moral responsibility to provide financial support to those efforts,
relief group, which was founded during World War I to carry out
humanitarian activities in Europe, is currently sponsoring "Eyes
Wide Open," a multimedia exhibition on the human cost of the
Iraq War in major cities of the United States.
Lobe is Inter Press Service's correspondent in Washington, DC.
© 2004 Inter Press Service