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Thursday, April 24, 2008

War and Its Discontents: Khoury Understands Iraq

War And Its Discontents: Understanding Iraq And The U.S. Empire

At the second plenary session of the conference, Dina Rizk Khoury delivered a passionate and inspiring presentation on Iraq. She detailed her extensive research and oral histories collected in refugee communities among the two million women, men and children who are living in exile. Khoury framed her remarks in the context of thirty years of war. She used Iraqi voices to tell the story of how tribalism and sectarianism were fabricated over the last two decades. Her interviews revealed that lost memories surfaced and were invented as the disintegration of the Baathist movement and the Iraqi State after the Gulf War, associated with bombing and destruction in the 1990’s sewed the seeds of social and economic fragmentation. Following the invasion and occupation, traditional pre-modern social networks used by Saddam to hold onto power emerged. They were enabled and aided by Paul Bremer’s imposition of neo-liberalism associated with massive unemployment. Most importantly, Khoury concluded that on-going occupation was likely to intensify efforts by local warlords and paramilitary forces to secure and expand power. Her conclusion was that the pathway to end the war was in the hands of Iraqis and that immediate removal of foreign military forces was necessary but not sufficient. Khoury stressed the need for consideration of international action and reparations by those who bombed Iraq throughout the 1990’s, invaded, occupied and destroyed after 2003. She called for monitoring of sanctions and economic warfare against Syria and Iran, which threaten to expand the conflict and will be especially burdensome for Iraqi refugees, already living precarious and fragile lives.

David R. Applebaum
HAW Conference Committee

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