People’s Tribunal on the Iraq War Set to Open Thursday
CODEPINK cofounder Jodie Evans and attorney Inder Comar say Bush administration officials need to be held accountable for the deaths, costs, and violations of international law due to the 2003 invasion and subsequent occupation
KIM BROWN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Kim Brown in Baltimore.
So, to date, no one has been held accountable for the disastrous war in Iraq where at least half a million Iraqi civilians were killed and nearly 5,000 US troops died. It’s not hard to see that the lead-up to the war, basically a campaign of disinformation and the manipulation of intelligence, as anything short of intentional. And, in an effort to ascribe responsibility for what happened in Iraq and the lead up to the invasion, there will be a people’s tribunal on the war and it will be held this weekend, December 1st and 2nd at the University of the District of Columbia, sponsored in part by Code Pink, and we will be live-streaming it right her on The Real News Network.
And joining us to discuss and to preview the tribunal, we’re joined with Inder Comar, he is the Legal Director at Comar LLP. He’s also the Executive Director of Just Atonement which is the legal non-profit dedicated to tackling the issues of war and climate change. He lives and works in San Francisco and in New York. And we’re also joined today with Jodie Evans, she’s the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Code Pink. Thank you both for so much for being here.
JODIE EVANS: Thank you for having us.
INDER COMAR: Yes, thank you.
KIM BROWN: Well, Jodie, let’s get started with you. So you are a Co-Founder of Code Pink. Code Pink is putting this tribunal together this weekend here in Washington, DC. So give us an idea of what to expect over the two days of testimony. I know there’s different presentations to be made on the 1st and on the 2nd.
JODIE EVANS: So, you know, the tribunal was created because Obama said when he came into office, “We’re going to look forward and not backward.” And by looking forward and not backward we’ve missed the opportunity to hold those accountable for the lies that took us into the Iraq War and the costs are innumerable, but they’re not talked about.
And what’s great is Inder Comar, who’s an attorney, who has the only lawsuit against the Bush Administration, has been calling on accountability but this tribunal is a people’s tribunal that says, “Here are the lies. Here are all the lies that happened.” And we will hear from Generals and members of the State Department, to the media that perpetrated the lies and how they saw that happening, including an editor at Fox News, who is the editor to the White House where he was told to push the lies, even though they knew they were lies. There’ll be someone from the CIA who talked about how, at the CIA, they were told to try to drum up evidence that wasn’t available. We will hear from soldiers and families of soldiers who were killed and who committed suicide. We will hear from people in cities, the cost to the cities and it ends with Ciara Taylor of Dream Defenders exposing, you know, how these costs affect poverty, racism, Islamophobia and the militarization of our cities. And we see this around our country right now where US cities look just like what’s happening in Baghdad or even Gaza.
And I was in Standing Rock last weekend, and there we were crossing the river to stand against the drillers, and above us were men in uniforms that looked like military uniforms and behind them were tanks. So, we want to show that it was lies that took us to war, it was an illegal, immoral and unjust war and the consequences, the costs of that war are innumerable. They are global and they are local.
KIM BROWN: Inder, talk to us about your lawsuit that Jodie just mentioned that you have pending.
INDER CUMAR: Yes, absolutely. So, I represent an Iraqi woman who filed a lawsuit in 2013 against members of the Bush Administration under international law, principles of international law, alleging that members of the Bush Administration, including President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, committing what’s known as the Crime of Aggression against the People of Iraq. And, as a result, led to trillions of dollars of military expenditures and damages against the Iraqi people. And so, the case is pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. We had a scheduled hearing date on December 12, which, if it happens, and it looks like it might, will be deemed the first time since World War II that an American judge or judges will hear allegations of aggression against another country and whether or not leaders should be responsible for that.
So, the case is really trying to make a point that leadership should be held accountable for these acts. And, you know, as part of the pleadings, we’re making the point that this just wasn’t a mistake, it’s not like people mistakenly decided to invade Iraq. The allegations are that this was intended, it was intentional. It was knowing and it was illegal and unlawful. And we’re asking the courts to review the allegations and the complaint, strip away the immunity that was given to the defendants by the District Court and to let the case proceed in a civil matter in the District Court.
KIM BROWN: Jodie, at the end of the tribunal over the weekend, what do you intend to do with this testimony and the evidence presented? Do you intend to bring this to maybe a larger body like the International Criminal Court? Is this going to stay in the US or are we doing something additional with this information once you all have it, after people give their testimony?
JODIE EVANS: Since we started the tribunal we’ve been collecting signatures to present to President Obama, calling him to create a Commission on Truth and Accountability, and also to stop the authorization of the use of military force, 2001 and 2002. In addition, the tribunal is going to live online and all the tribunals that have happened before around the Iraq War are partnered with this tribunal — the World Tribunal on Iraq, the Brussels Tribunal, the Russell Tribunal, the Kuala Lumpur Tribunal — and it’s all the evidence pulled together and it will be available in a way that’s easily accessible. I’d say we’ve created five books and three documentaries, but they’re in bite-sized pieces where you’re led in by a four-minute testimony into the work of 15 years, and sometimes 25 years, of the person testifying.
And so, we’ve learned in creating the tribunal that there is a whole generation that’s really grown up inside the war on terror and doesn’t know anything different and knows little about the lives and the cost of the Iraq War, all that affect them now and affect their future. So, we hope to continue it as a tool, continue for it to grow and continue it to support raising the costs and the lies that take us to war, including into 2017 when, as we know, when things get bad, presidents like to take us to war where we can raise it up easily and it’s also been something really united, the anti-war movement, we’ve come back together. Many of the partners that have worked for the last 15 years together so that we can be united and ready or whatever comes in 2017.
KIM BROWN: Inder, do you think anyone from the Bush Administration ought to be indicted for war crimes as a result of the role that they played leading up to the Iraq invasion? And is there any possibility or an opening for that?
INDER COMAR: Well, I think at minimum there needs to be some type of legal proceeding, a legal investigation into what happened in Iraq. I think as time goes on, it comes abundantly clear that crimes were committed. And we know for a fact that torture happened in Iraq and probably in Afghanistan and Guantanamo and these places. We knew for a fact that there were potentially war crimes that have been committed. And what International Law says and what the Nuremberg Trials say in law, is that the root cause of all those war crimes is the initial act, a crime of aggression, going to war unlawfully, illegally.
So, I do think there needs to be at least a minimum of legal investigation into what happened by a prosecutor or by a court, with subpoena power, to investigate these crimes and to remind leaders all over the world that there are rules in place, there are laws in place, especially when it comes to war and that after World War II there was a system that was created that attempted to unite nations around this principle of collective action and collective security. The idea being that the world’s a safer place when countries can sit and discuss their problems and not rush to war. And what we saw with Iraq, unfortunately, was such a horrible attack(?) pattern where leaders decided, I think, and what we allege in the case, they decided intentionally to disregard all those rules and norms to execute an invasion that they had wanted to do and that … was inspired by neo-conservative ideology about American military supremacy.
And that’s going to make the world a much less safe place. It has made the world a much less safe and secure place for everybody, including Americans. People died, so yeah, I think there does need to be at least some type of investigation and, if warranted, under various rules of procedure there ought to be indictments involved.
KIM BROWN: Jodie, I know you mentioned that you wanted to present this information collected at the tribunal to the Obama Administration in hopes that he creates a committee, I think as you mentioned, of Truth and Accountability. But does President Obama have any complicity here? We know he was not in power in 2003 when the Iraqi invasion began. However, he did promise to end the war and if you Google the Iraqi War it says it technically ended in 2011 but there are still currently 5,000 US troops in Iraq right now, as far as, from all points and purposes they are engaged in combat activities. So does President Obama have any complicity for the perpetuating the ongoing conflict in Iraq that still engages US troops?
JODIE EVANS: Well, the people that we’ve been interviewing in Iraq certainly believe so. But the complicity is in a way he’s turned his back on giving Iraq to Iran. And that the process of who is in control in Iraq right now is really mafias. And mafias that have been building themselves up over 20 to 25 years, some of them with the help of the United States, and that because Obama doesn’t like conflict, they feel that he’s not engaged. He hasn’t responded to their needs and they very much hold him accountable for what’s happened.
But I think the United States is responsible for a lot of what’s happening the Middle East because we continue to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, this is… we’re kind of above a proxy war being played out by Iran and Saudi Arabia which has been going on for a very, very long time. And it’s really criminal that we’ve been the weapon dealer for this war that so many people are at the effect of. If you follow the thread it comes back to United States and that’s part of what we want to be able to do in the tribunal is show some of these lies and show where we try to obfuscate them by lying and by really not showing where we’re playing the game and blaming it on others.
KIM BROWN: Indeed. Well, the People’s Tribunal on the War in Iraq will be held this weekend December 1st and 2nd at the University of the District of Columbia at their Law School. It’s being brought to you by Code Pink and it will be live-streamed right here on The Real News Network. Today we have been speaking with Inder Comar, he is the Legal Director at Comar LLP, also the Executive Director of Just Atonement. And we also have been joined with Jodie Evans she is a Co-Founder and Co-Director of Code Pink. Thank you both very much for being here.
JODIE EVANS: Thank you for having us.
INDER COMAR: Thank you.
KIM BROWN: And thank you for watching The Real News Network.