State Destruction as a war aim
Reflections on the targeted killings of academics on the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the war in Iraq
Prof. Lieven De Cauter, President of the Brussells Tribunal (18 March 2010)
While the anniversary of the war in Iraq is approaching, I think of what I wrote seven years ago: that this illegal invasion had nothing to do with the war on terror but was planned well in advance and was not about bringing democracy but about the destruction of Iraq. I was openly taunted for it. At best, they considered me endearing or pathetic in my anger, but not on the level when it came to world politics.
In preparation for an evening on the occasion of this seventh anniversary on March 20, I am reading a book: Cultural Cleansing in Iraq. Why museums were looted, burned libraries and academics murdered. The basic thesis is, believe it or not, that the purpose of the war was from the onset the destruction of the Iraqi state. But there is more: cultural cleansing, tolerating the looting of museums, the burning of libraries and the murder of academics was part of the war strategy, the authors argue. State ending will certainly become established as a concept, alongside genocide and its derivatives as urbicide (destruction of cities), sociocide (destruction of the social fabric) mnemocide (destruction of the collective memory). We do hope so, because unfortunately these concepts and their intertwinement, do not only apply to Iraq.
There was a lot of press coverage about the looting of the museums, albeit the press reports didn’t put the responsibility with the occupying powers, as the international laws of war stipulate; and without identifying it as a strategy of “mnenocide”. In contrast, all these years a deafening silence has reigned on the hundreds of academics who have been victims of targeted assassinations. Strange. In the first three months of the occupation 250 academics were killed. The Brussells Tribunal has now a list of 437 casualties, a list that serves as a worldwide reference.
International Tribunal Because the professors, who documented these killings and disappearances, have been killed or fled the country, it is increasingly harder to keep this list up to date. According to the Christian Science Monitor, by June 2006 already 2500 academics were killed, kidnapped or driven out of the country. Nobody knows how many have been murdered until today. We do know that thousands have been threatened – often through envelopes with bullets – and fled. Alongside the academics also media professionals, doctors, engineers and spiritual leaders have been targets of intimidation, kidnapping and murder. It is important to know that, in the case of academics, it’s not about sectarian murders, because statistics show that there is no pattern in the killings. However, especially professors in leading positions have been targeted, and not just Baathists.
These murders have never being investigated, the culprits never found, let alone prosecuted. How come? Perhaps because both the occupiers and the new rulers thought it was not important. Or maybe because the use of death squads is part of the strategy, like formerly in El Salvador. That is what the book claims: the murder of academics was and is part of the “Salvador Option”.
Conclusion of the authors? The goal was to liquidate the intellectual class, which should be the basis for the new democratic state. It is that sinister. So sinister that it is difficult to believe. And yet it is true: the elimination of academics and other professionals from the middle class served the first and highest war aim: the destruction of the Iraqi state. “State-ending” instead of “nation building”. According to the editors of the book this war objective was a decision where three parties found each other: the neoconservatives who wanted permanent bases in a geographical strategy of military domination, the Israeli state that did not want a powerful state in its backyard and the oil industry that wanted to lay its hand on one of the largest oil reserves in the world. This I have also written seven years ago. Now it’s there, in black and white, with many footnotes, well documented in a book published by an internationally renowned publishing house (Pluto Press). Perhaps the world will now finally start to realize.
Worldwide protests from the academic community would be nice. But one minute of silence for their murdered colleagues will not suffice. Because, and that makes it so overwhelming, all this is just the tip of the iceberg: the children who are born severely deformed by the use of white phosphorus and depleted uranium, the lack of potable water, electricity and healthcare, the destruction of the educational system which results in a lost generation, the 1.2 million deaths and 5 million refugees – all these things combined make the war in Iraq the biggest war crime and the largest man-made humanitarian catastrophe in decades. And, it continues. There is little or no hope of improvement, especially not after the recent elections. Add to this the countless bomb explosions and the sectarian disintegration of the country and you have a picture of hell. And we, we all look more and more the other way. Because we are sick and tired of Iraq after seven years. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth to see that I have been proven right with my thesis about the destruction of Iraq, that so many thought was absurd. Even Bush has been proven right with his famous show on the deck of the USS Lincoln that first May of 2003: “Mission accomplished”. Indeed, Iraq is destroyed. Happy birthday, Mr. President! Yes, tu quoque Obama.
Lieven De Cauter,
philosopher, president of the Brussells Tribunal
Lieven De Cauter
Department of Architecture and Urban Planning, Kuleuven
Mediaschool Rits, Brussels
Berlage Institute, Rotterdam
Tel: 0032 2 428 47 41
Mobile: 0032 477 617 420
Member BRussells Tribunal Executive Committee
Coordinator SOS Iraq