Meet the U.S. War Machine's worst nightmare
by Tarnjit Johal and Anita Krajnc
April 11, 2008
Last month, for the first time, the Iraqi-Canadian community came
together to organize a week of action in Toronto to commemorate the
5th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. rabbletv covered this
historic occasion and interviewed the keynote speaker, American-Iraqi
peace activist Dr. Dahlia Wasfi.
Dahlia Wasfi left her medical career in 2002 and became a full-time
activist and speaker calling for an immediate and unconditional
withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. She uses personal stories and
hard-hitting analysis of the conditions faced by Iraqis combined with
a passionate and often highly comedic delivery to put a human face on
the conflict. In her powerful oratory, she is a blend of Martin
Luther King and Malcolm X or maybe Karl Marx and Groucho Marx, as one
commentator on an Internet message board put it. In April 2006, she
appeared before the Democratic progressive caucus's congressional
forum on Iraq.
As the daughter of an Iraqi Muslim father originally from Basra, Iraq
and an American Jewish mother from New York City, she says both sides
of her family have faced genocide. First, her Ashkenazi Jewish
grandparents fled the Nazis in Vienna in the 1930s. Now the Iraqi
side of her family is facing genocide as a result of the U.S. attack
and occupation of Iraq.
She describes the situation of her relatives on her father's side:
"[They] are not living, but dying, under the occupation of this
[Bush] administration's deadly foray in Iraq. From the lack of
security to the lack of basic supplies to the lack of electricity to
the lack of potable water to the lack of jobs to the lack of
reconstruction to the lack of life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness, they are much worse off now than before we invaded. 'Never
again' should apply to them, too."
"I have the credibility," Wasfi says, "to come forward and I'm
willing to risk the false label of anti-Semitism to condemn the
policies of the United States and Israel and its continued oppression
of the Arab world."
In the rabbletv interview, Dahlia Wasfi confronts the complacency and
fatigue that characterizes the reporting of the war in mainstream
media. In a country that worships its military, the U.S. corporate
media has failed to acknowledge the concerns of returning war
veterans. There was a complete blackout, in mainstream U.S. media, of
the recent Winter Soldier testimonies, which ran March 13-16 in
Silver Spring, Maryland. U.S. veterans who served in the occupations
of Iraq and Afghanistan testified to give an accurate account of what
is really happening on a daily basis on the ground in these
countries. rabbletv broadcast independent media coverage of these
testimonies by DemocracyNow! and The Real News.
Wasfi strongly supports the stance of Iraq Veterans Against the War,
the group that organized the Winter Soldier testimonies. "They call
for just three things: bring the troops home immediately, take care
of the troops when they get here, and pay reparations to the Iraqi
people. And I think that is an important stand because they know the
ground truth. They witnessed the horrors of the reality of the
occupation and they're recognizing that we have to make up for what
has been done by us and in our name."
In her presentation she exposed as a myth – one encouraged by much of
the mainstream media – the notion that U.S. forces need to remain in
Iraq to quell the civil war. Wasfi argues that the occupation is
actually driving the sectarian strife. The U.S. military machine has
instigated sectarian warfare in Iraq, invoking the "Salvador Option."
American Special Forces, she says, are using many of the same tactics
that were previously used in the "dirty wars" of Latin America,
including the recruitment and training of Iraqi death squads.
For decades Iraqi society was secular and many people are of mixed
background. For example, Wasfi's grandfather was Shia, and her
grandmother was Sunni and from the north of Iraq, "So she also had
some Kurdish blood."
"There has never been a war between Sunni and Shia in the region of
modern day Iraq since the sects were established 1400 years ago,"
says, "and the violence will dramatically fall once U.S. troops
leave." For example, she notes, "2.5 million Iraqis have fled to
neighbouring countries, and they didn't bring violence with them. The
violence is centred in Iraq where the CIA, U.S. forces and Mossad
[the Israeli intelligence agency] are fomenting it. The same people
who are telling us that it's a civil war are the same people who told
us that Saddam had WMDs and ties to Al Qaeda."
The present conflict in Iraq reminds Wasfi of a joke her father told
her of Britain's earlier colonial strategy, "If you see two fish
fighting in the sea, look around for the British guy who started it."
It's the strategy of divide and conquer.
Wasfi says, however, that Iraqis are literally fighting over life and
death issues and will continue to resist on multiple fronts:
economic, military, and political. She likes to quote Malcolm X on
the best place to look for the truth: "Time is on the side of the
oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. Truth is on the side of
the oppressed today, it's against the oppressor. You don't need
When U.S. administrator Paul Bremer showed up in Baghdad, the U.S.
violated the Geneva Convention by changing the government it was
occupying. Bremer set forth, eliminating most of the rules of the
last regime. But, Wasfi notes, "There were a few they held onto and
one of them was a ban on unions."
In spite of the limitations and the repression by the government, oil
workers, electricians, and public workers formed unions. "And what
they seek to do is defend the country's resources and prevent the
economic occupation that they know we have planned after the military
occupation ends." There is international solidarity for Iraqi unions,
Wasfi says, citing the example of U.S. Labor Against the War. "There
is a lot of solidarity because it is the working class in both
countries that is being decimated by this continued illegal occupation."
When it comes to Iraqi military resistance against the invasion and
occupation, the American peace movement has been hesitant in
vocalizing its support. Wasfi says that she knows peace groups "are
all on the same wavelength in terms of ending the brutality," but she
sometimes puts the peace movement in quotes for failing to recognize
the legitimacy of the military resistance in Iraq.
"It's incredibly frustrating for me when individuals say 'well, we're
not going to defend the resistance in Iraq. It's different than it
was in Vietnam.' How so? You have people who were attacked. We [the
U.S.] are in blatant violation of international law and they [the
Iraqi resistance] are kicking out the illegal invaders." Wasfi argues
that the best way to address this is for the peace movement to have
stronger connections with Iraqi activists.