Not an anniversary to celebrate: Dahlia Wasfi on six years of the Iraq War
Dr. Dahlia Wasfi was born to a Jewish-American mother and a Muslim-Iraqi father. She has been educating people from all over the world about America's brutal occupation since visiting her family in Basrah and Baghdad in 2006.
One source of Dr. Wasfi's determination is the inspirational story of Rachel Corrie, whom she calls an "American Hero." Four days after Corrie's murder by the Israeli military America invaded Iraq under several false pretenses, including the claim that they would bring 'freedom' to the Iraqi people and protect the U.S. from the threat of nuclear weapons that Iraq never possessed.
The Israeli government has never apologized to the United States for Corrie's murder and the U.S. administration has yet to compensate the Iraqis for the brutal illegal war they have waged on their sovereign country.
On the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq by American and coalition forces, Jasmin Ramsey interviewed Dr. Wasfi to discuss the war and continued occupation, now entering its seventh year.
Jasmin Ramsey: Half your family lives in Iraq. What kind of freedom do they have today? What affect has six years of occupation had on them?
Dahlia Wasfi: They have been freed from electricity, potable water and security! They do their best to maintain a positive outlook. My relatives from Baghdad are still displaced in Jordan and Syria as far as I know. I believe that they want what most families want -- the opportunity to live their lives and raise their children in their homeland and have self-determination -- not military occupation.
JR: The bulldozer that killed Rachel Corrie was paid for in part by the American people, who provide billions of dollars of 'aid' to Israel every year from their own pockets through tax dollars. In light of the current economic situation, wherein thousands of Americans are losing their jobs every month, do you think the American people will begin re-evaluating this 'special' relationship that the American administration has with Israel?
DW: I believe that most Americans are ignorant of the amount of money that goes to support Israel's army in violation of international and domestic law, like the U.S. Arms Export Control Act.
If Americans knew the truth about U.S. monies to Israel, as well as the connection between that "special" relationship and the U.S. occupation of Iraq (namely, the deposing of Saddam Hussein for Israeli national security) there would be outrage. That's why I often refer to the website by Alison Weir, www.ifamericansknew.org, which reports the facts on the ground in the illegal occupation of Palestine. I believe that the recent massacres in Gaza, beginning December 2008, have opened a lot of people's eyes to the realities of Israeli aggression and ethnic cleansing in Palestine.
JR: President Barack Obama announced the details of his "Withdrawal Plan" from Iraq at the end of February 2009. What do you make of his decision to leave behind a "residual force" which includes thousands of troops and permanent American bases? How has the antiwar movement in America responded to this?
DW: Barack Obama is referred to as the "antiwar" candidate, which is a farce; however, many people in the antiwar movement worked very hard to get him into office believing that his administration would bring about the change we -- and the world -- need.
The goal was to defeat McCain, who was identified as the candidate of "Bush's third term." In reality, the policies of the Obama administration aren't much different from what we saw under George W. Bush. However, the image of change has pacified many who struggled for justice. Many Obama supporters want to give the new president time to prove himself. I believe time will show that Obama is guided by the same interests that guided previous administrations. An African-American commander in chief bringing about the same death and destruction as Bush is not enough change for me.
JR: The number of people demonstrating against the American invasion and occupation of Iraq is dwindling as the years go by. Why do you think this is and what does this reveal about the anti-war movement?
DW: We have a short attention span in the U.S. Many Americans withdrew support for the occupation of Iraq not because of the illegality and massacres but because we weren't winning. The mainstream media has put Iraq not just on the backburner but behind the stove. And now as our economy is circling the drain, the focus is on our pocketbooks, with little connection made between the billions going to corporations of the occupations and our domestic finances.
I see the U.S. antiwar movement as continuing practices that we know don't end occupation -- meetings and marches and rallies on Saturdays. They are valuable efforts, but they do not achieve our ultimate goal. Cindy Sheehan's remarkable stand in Crawford, Texas in 2005 was a watershed moment for the antiwar movement. It's time for another one, but unfortunately, you cannot plan spontaneity.
JR: There has been a significant growth in the number of Americans who are now against the war on Iraq. On the other hand, many Americans still believe the war on Afghanistan is the "good war." Why do you think this is?
DW: Ignorance, misinformation, and a desire to feel good about ourselves. Western corporate media has failed at its job to be a watchdog of the government; rather, it has acted as its lapdog.
Few Americans understand the pipeline agenda that the U.S. administration had for Afghanistan, which the Taliban refused. Few Americans know that the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, both worked for the UNOCAL oil company. Few Americans know that the mujahedeen who drove back the Soviet invasion in the 1980s were armed and financed by the U.S.-through their CIA operative, Osama bin Laden.
American society is obsessed with winning. With the destruction of Iraq identified with Bush, and Obama emphasizing an opportunity to "win" in Afghanistan, I think many Americans see an opportunity for "redemption" in Afghanistan. But the goal is continued colonial occupation.
JR: Bush was elected twice by the American people. He is now known as one of the most notorious war criminals in the world. Do you think Americans have really learned a lesson from the Bush years?
DW: I don't think Bush was elected twice! I believe there is sufficient evidence to show that the U.S. Presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 were marred by corruption. Yet, that the American people -- and their representatives in Washington, D.C. -- would ultimately allow that to happen is very telling. We still live in the atmosphere of fear and intimidation that was developed in the last eight years. But that makes the negligible changes of a new administration pacifying. We will send more troops into Afghanistan instead of Iraq. Instead of extraordinary rendition, we'll resume just ordinary rendition. We will not torture; we will fully outsource torture. The Bush years are part of a continuum of Democratic and Republican administrations who serve corporate interests. So far, the Obama administration is serving the same, and there is little outcry.
JR: During his last appearance in Iraq Bush narrowly dodged the shoes of Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi who famously said: "This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog." How do you think Obama will fare in the Iraqi national memory?
DW: I believe that Iraqis will resist occupation until they achieve self-determination, no matter who the commander-in-chief is.
Jasmin Ramsey is a Vancouver-based writer and photographer.