United For Peace and Justice was founded in 2002 to oppose the illegal and immoral, pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. Eight years and nine months after “Shock and Awe” U.S. troops have finally left Iraq. For that we must largely thank the Iraqi people, who refused to accept permanent occupation.
The costs of the war have been horrendous – most of all for the Iraqi people. The quality of life and security in Iraq is much worse than before the U.S. led invasion and occupation. An unknown number of Iraqis have died as a result of hostilities and the impact of the war. The count ranges from hundreds of thousands to over a million. More than four million have become refugees or have been internally displaced. All live in a country that has been destroyed – where one in four do not have access to clean drinking water, electricity is unreliable, violence is rampant, schools and hospitals no longer function and citizens’ human rights and civil rights are frequently violated. In many Iraqi cities and towns the environmental pollution caused by the war has produced an epidemic of birth defects and cancers.
The war has also wreaked havoc on our people and our economy. U.S. service members have paid a high price with 4,484 dead and 33,186 with physical wounds including traumatic brain injury, and loss of limbs and eyesight. Tens of thousands return with the unseen injuries of post-traumatic stress disorder. All return to a dismal economic outlook with many unable to find jobs; the unemployment rate for veterans 18 to 24 is an astounding 37.9%. Thousands are either homeless or one step away from it. Ultimately we see the pain of war reflected in the epidemic suicide rates of service members and veterans, reaching one death every 36 hours and one every 80 minutes, respectively.
In a nation where millions have lost their homes and millions more are unemployed, the trillions of dollars wasted to carry out this war is money desperately needed to invest in our nation’s future. With the country facing staggering debt and limited resources to address domestic human needs at a time of economic crisis, the war in Iraq proved to be a war of depravity and inequality at home enriching war profiteers and corporations at the expenses of the poor and middle-class.
U.S. troops have left Iraq, but has the occupation actually ended? The U.S. has built the largest embassy in the world in Baghdad – the footprint of our military is being replaced by that of the State Department and thousands of private security contractors in its employ. As UFPJ members protested the war, we must also protest this new form of corporate occupation.
U.S. troops have left Iraq, but is there peace? There can be no peace without justice. We must insist that the U.S. government end its interference in the affairs of Iraq. We must support the struggles of the Iraqis for jobs, security, and human rights. The Iraqi people deserve reparations from the U.S. for the damages and destruction that the immoral invasion and occupation spawned. In 2012, UFPJ will be exposing the impact of the war and advocate for the reparations and restitution that the U.S. government owes the Iraqi people.
As we move into 2012, we thank you for your dedication and perseverance. The world’s continued resistance to U.S. military aggression has made a significant difference. The people in the streets around the globe on February 15, 2003 were indeed a “second superpower.” We still have that power and in the coming year we will continue to use it to move forward the cause of peace and justice. In the face of a global recession and a sick U.S. economy, our message of peace and our solutions are more relevant than ever.
UFPJ will continue to call for an end to occupations and U.S. military aggression around the world. We will continue to pressure for a shift in spending priorities from war making to human needs. As part of the 99% we call on the wealthy and on corporations to pay their fair share, especially in this time of need. In 2012 we will continue to advocate for a vision of a world beyond war, where political and economic equity and peace and justice are shared aspirations.
Our work is not yet done, and new opportunities to create peace and justice emerge every day. Power To The Peaceful and persistent!