1.The Ecological Implications of the War
2.World Tribunal? What World Tribunal?

The first item below is an excerpt from a presentation at the World Tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul last month to assess the impact of the US/British invasion and occupation of Iraq.

The full text of this presentation can be found at:

For more on the World Tribunal on Iraq see: and item 2 below, which also looks at the failure of mainstream media coverage of the Tribunal.

QUOTE: "The Occupation undermines an 8000 year-old collective practice that has sustained the ecologically rational form of society known as the Commons... Thus are eight millennia wiped out by fiat of the Proconsul... In other societies of the South, mechanisms of indebtedness have had the same result; and perhaps Iraq would have gone this way, too, But this ecological insult is specifically a product of the US invasion." (item 1)

1.The Ecological Implications of the War (excerpt)
by Joel Kovel (Professor of Social Studies at the New York Bard College)

...The goal of war is to dominate another's society. To do this, armies since the beginning of history have recognized, without of course using the word, that destruction of the ecosystems upon which life depends is as essential as defeating the opposing army, whether this entails the annihilation of cities or the interruption of basic envionmental inputs like water. He who makes war enters into a systematic and deliberate attempt to tear apart existing ecosystems on an expanding scale in order to get his way - and it follows that he who makes war aggressively, attacking a nation which has not threatened him, and violating the truth to do so, has committed this offence on a larger scale. Therefore the United States/British war on Iraq is prima facie an ecological catastrophe because it sets into motion an expanding and chaotic breakup of ecosystemic relationships. From this standpoint the invasion/occupation and the insurgency against it are both implicated - although from a legal or moral standpoint the primary burden of responsibility must fall upon the aggressor who sets the whole catastrophic mass into motion.

Aggression, moreover, extends beyond the realm of the military, and this lesson applies to ecological damage as well. War is always an ecological devastation, yet an ordinary, well-functioning economy can also be ecologically devastating and a ruined economy that causes the social ecosystem to collapse can be paradoxically less of an ecological insult to the planet as a whole. For example, as a result, in great part, of the protracted assault upon it since 1991 by the United States and Great Britain, Iraq by the end of 2002 was consuming 47.2 million BTU of energy per capita while the United States consumed 339.1 million BTU per capita. This translated to the release each year of 3.2 metric tons of C02 per capita for Iraq compared to 20.0 tons for each citizen of the United States, almost a 7:1 ratio. Given the absolute difference in size between the two countries, we have roughly a hundredfold greater negative impact on the global ecology by the United States as against Iraq. The reason is that America aggressively sucks resources and energy from the rest of the planet by a combination of economic exploitation and the projection of brute military force, and in the process inflicts a burden on the planetary ecosphere such as has never before been seen. This is what it means to be a "superpower," or in the case of the United States, a "hyperpower," and the invasion and occupation of Iraq is no small part of the process. Every war diminishes and afflicts humanity. But the war against Iraq acquires special status because of its strategic value to the hyperpower, and its ecological costs are planetary and not limited to this one country.

It is said that the Iraq war is about much more than oil. Well, that is no doubt true. But try to imagine what would have happened if the chief product of Iraq were sunflowers, and you will not get the same story. The key fact is that Iraq sits atop the second-largest - and largely unexplored -reserve of hydrocarbon fuel on a planet facing static or declining supplies. Its Oil Ministry was, along with the Ministry of the Interior - ie, the keeper of police records - the only official institution that the invading forces took care to physically protect. In addition, exceptional care was taken to immediately seize the oil fields themselves in order to prevent a repetition of Saddam Hussein’s unconscionable fire-setting of 1991 after his defeat became inevitable.

From this standpoint it will be argued by those who would buy into the Bush-Rumsfeld line, that just as America is bringing the blessings of democracy and progress to Iraq, so has the invasion been "environmentally friendly" compared to Saddam. Now there can be no doubt that the Saddam Hussein regime was an odious one from every angle, including the ecological. Nonetheless, there is no question of the greater ecodestructive impact of the American-led invasion, inasmuch as the havoc America has wrought in Iraq occurs as part of a desperate search to prolong the hydrocarbon era that has fueled capitalist industrialization and has led to global warming, massive species extinctions and general planetary degradation of a degree that threatens the very future of civilization and the human species itself. By comparison, Saddam's regime was a retail operation, multilateral and more negotiable compared to the brutal seizure represented by the invasion. Make no mistake, it is the success of the American effort to "modernize" Iraq that will raise the level of threat to planetary ecologies well beyond the immediate damage to this one country. Certainly nothing will be done by a fully victorious America, with another 120 billion barrels of crude petroleum under its control, to encourage nations to bring hydrocarbon emissions under control. We may have been spared the gruesome spectacle of burning oil fields this time around, but what is the overall benefit if that fuel is burnt more slowly in millions of automobiles and diesel trucks, with all the associated ecological devastation, from urban sprawl to endless degrees of pollution and the degradation of everyday life, that this mode of transport has brought about? The fact that the Iraqi resistance has so far been successful in resisting America's petroleum ambitions is to be registered therefore as both an ecological and an anti-imperial advance.

Another complication in defining culpability for ecosystemic destruction in Iraq arises from the unprecedented and wanton manner in which the military invasion has provided cover for a second invasive wave, of privatization. As soon as Paul Bremer (who had been on the corporate board of Bechtel) took command of the occupation, he proceeded to open the country to investment. The strategy reached fruition on September 19, 2003 when Bremer issued Executive Order #39, mandating privatization and guaranteeing 100% repatriation of profits for 40 years for all enterprises save natural resource - ie, oil-extraction (though including water in the zone of privatization - see below). Never has a nation been turned over so swiftly to "Free Enterprise" and rampant profiteering - only compare in this respect the re-installation after World War Two of the national bourgeoisies of Germany and Japan, countries that had inflicted incomparably more harm on humanity in general and the United States in particular than Saddam Hussein's Iraq. In the earlier case it was a matter of restoring a global capitalist system that had gone haywire, whereas Saddam's Iraq had essentially stood apart from such a system except for providing some of its fuel.

Be that as it may, the opening of Iraq to US capital also opened it to what capital does ecologically, which is to destabilize ecosystems by converting nature to commodities on an expanding scale. This has profound and negative ecological consequences; yet though it would never have happened absent the invasion, the ecodestructive effects are not seen as such by most people, nor are they appreciated as invasion's necessary consequence. To cite one example, no sooner had big business established its beachhead in the country than it proceeded to destabilize ancient foundations of Iraqi agriculture. As a recent study put it:

For generations, small farmers in Iraq operated in an essentially unregulated, informal seed supply system. Farm-saved seed and the free innovation with and exchange of planting materials among farming communities has long been the basis of agricultural practice. This is now history. The CPA has made it illegal for Iraqi farmers to re-use seeds harvested from new varieties registered under the law. Iraqis may continue to use and save from their traditional seed stocks or what's left of them after the years of war and drought, but that is the not the agenda for reconstruction embedded in the ruling. The purpose of the law is to facilitate the establishment of a new seed market in Iraq, where transnational corporations can sell their seeds, genetically modified or not, which farmers would have to purchase afresh every single cropping season. While historically the Iraqi constitution prohibited private ownership of biological resources, the new US-imposed patent law introduces a system of monopoly rights over seeds. Inserted into Iraq's previous patent law is a whole new chapter on Plant Variety Protection (PVP) that provides for the "protection of new varieties of plants." PVP is an intellectual property right (IPR) or a kind of patent for plant varieties which gives an exclusive monopoly right on planting material to a plant breeder who claims to have discovered or developed a new variety. So the "protection" in PVP has nothing to do with conservation, but refers to safeguarding of the commercial interests of private breeders (usually large corporations) claiming to have created the new plants.

The Occupation undermines an 8000 year-old collective practice that has sustained the ecologically rational form of society known as the Commons, in the process opening Iraqi society to ravaging by the global Market. Thus are eight millennia wiped out by fiat of the Proconsul. All is made to look normal, and celebrated by the propagandists. In other societies of the South, mechanisms of indebtedness have had the same result; and perhaps Iraq would have gone this way, too, But this ecological insult is specifically a product of the US invasion.

2.World Tribunal? What World Tribunal?

...A blanket of almost total media silence covers Bush and Blair's crimes in Iraq, and their support for relentless corporate exploitation around the globe. These war criminals continue to be presented as world-straddling father figures who could "solve" poverty in Africa and so become the beloved figureheads of a "great generation".

Consider that virtually the entire British media ignored the deliberations of the World Tribunal on Iraq in Istanbul from June 24-27. Modelled on Bertrand Russell’s tribunal on the US invasion of Vietnam, the tribunal consisted of hearings into numerous aspects of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. A jury of conscience from ten different countries listened to the testimony of 54 advocates. This jury declared the war one of the most unjust in history:

"The Bush and Blair administrations blatantly ignored the massive opposition to the war expressed by millions of people around the world. They embarked upon one of the most unjust, immoral, and cowardly wars in history. The Anglo-American occupation of Iraq of the last 27 months has led to the destruction and devastation of the Iraqi state and society. Law and order have broken down completely, resulting in a pervasive lack of human security; the physical infrastructure is in shambles; the health care delivery system is a mess; the education system has ceased to function; there is massive environmental and ecological devastation; and, the cultural and archeological heritage of the Iraqi people has been desecrated." (World Tribunal on Iraq, ‘Press Release about Jury Statement,' June 27, 2005)

The jury presented 13 findings against the US and UK governments that included:

Planning, preparing, and waging the supreme crime of a war of aggression in contravention of the United Nations Charter and the Nuremberg Principles.

*Targeting the civilian population of Iraq and civilian infrastructure.

*Using disproportionate force and indiscriminate weapon systems.

*Failing to safeguard the lives of civilians during military activities and during the occupation period thereafter.

*Using deadly violence against peaceful protestors.

The jury also levelled charges against the security council of the United Nations for "failing to stop war crimes amongst other crimes". It also charged "private corporations for profiting from the war" and accused the corporate media of "disseminating deliberate falsehoods and failing to report atrocities". (ibid.)

Veteran activist Walden Bello, reporting from Istanbul, pointed in particular to the "combination of eyewitness accounts that made clear beyond a shadow of doubt that the siege of Fallujah in November 2004 was a case of collective punishment". (Bello, 'The Perfect Storm: the World Tribunal,' June 28, 2005)

Bello noted, too, that the tribunal clearly showed the extent of "the western media's participation in the manipulation of public opinion".

At a press conference after the tribunal, jury chairperson Arundathi Roy said: "If there is one thing that has come out clearly in the last few days, it is not that the corporate media supports the global corporate project; it +is+ the global corporate project."

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