Manila peace conference calls for solidarity with Iraq’s civil resistance

From the Iraq Freedom Congress (IFC) and US Labor Against the War (USLAW):

Joint Report to the IFC and USLAW
on the 2007 Manila International Peace Conference, April 27-29

The 2007 International Peace conference was held in Manila from April 27-29. It was hosted by the Japanese National Assembly for Peace and Democracy (ZENKO) and Parents and Children Against War and Violence in the Philippines (MALAPAD KA). Over 100 delegates from 5 countries: the Philippines, Iraq, Japan, the U.S., and Indonesia attended; the largest delegation was from Japan.

Samir Adil represented the IFC and Bob Muehlenkamp represented USLAW at the Conference.

The goals of the conference were:

* To increase international solidarity to end the war in Iraq
* To increase international solidarity in support of the IFC as the organization working for a non-sectarian, non-religious, non-nationalist government, and a peaceful, civil society in Iraq
* To end the so-called “War on terror”
* To raise money and assist in the programming of SANA, the satellite TV station recently launched by the IFC

After 2 days of considerable debate, the Conference issued the attached Resolution, which has 5 main points:

1. To build international support to end the war in Iraq now, and if the war is not ended by September 2007, to join in international peace protests in September.
2. To support the IFC as the leading voice in Iraq struggling for a non-sectarian, civil society, including the building and uniting of independent unions.
3. To strengthen the ties between the IFC and anti-war organizations around the world, uniting with those in the U.S., particularly with United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and USLAW.
4. To stop the so-called “war n terror” which is being used an excuse around the world to suspend civil liberties, to place the social and economic needs of working families in secondary priority, and to suppress movements for political and economic change, especially those in the Philippines.
5. To struggle in common against the world-wide neo-liberal policies which make it impossible to meet the needs of families and children for peace and security and a better way of life.

The main issues in the debate were:

* Should we say that the international peace movement is “determining” international policies on the war in Iraq and the war on terror, or is that too strong a statement?

Some delegates from the Philippines, based on their own experience with the Arroyo government using the soc-called “war on terror” as an excuse to suppress movements for change, including the “extra-judicial” murder in the last 4 years of 842 civilians, did not think the peace movement is having more than minimal effect on stopping the war.

Other delegates pointed out that democracy works differently in different countries, and that the peace movement was decisive in Spain and Italy and other countries in leaving Iraq and in forcing the UK government to announce it will be leaving. In the U.S. we made it clear that while polls and the 2006 election show that a strong majority of Americans oppose this war and want it ended, only a broad based, unified, and well organized peace movement will focus that political pressure on the Congress, the President, and in the upcoming elections and bring an end to the war.

The wording was kept.

* Some Delegates from the Philippines initially expressed concern about referring to the second enemy in Iraq as “political Islam” because it might feed “Islamphobia.” Samir made it clear that every poll shows that over 80% of people in Iraq oppose the political violence against civilians and want a secular non-religious government and that “political Islam” is now accepted in Iraq as a way to clarify the distinction between those who practice a religion and those who want to impose an interpretation of that religion on everyone through political means, including violence against civilians.

For us, these were the most important results of the conference:

1. Presentations from the Philippines, Iraq, and the U.S. made it dramatically clear that while the conditions of working families are obviously vastly different in all 3 countries, what they have in common is a deterioration of the living conditions of working families, all caused by the same “neo-liberal” and, in some cases, “neo-conservative” policies. All of us share the common goal of changing these policies.

2. Samir’s report made it clear that events are moving in 2 different directions in Iraq. The U.S. occupation and the violence of political Islam continue to make life worse for people. At the same time the IFC is gaining support because, at least for now, people want a “third option,” i.e., a way to achieve a civil society without the American occupation.

For us in the U.S. this is very important. The American people want the war ended but they are being confronted with only 2 options: Bush’s war and the violence of political Islam. The IFC offers a third alternative: a non-sectarian, civil society that rejects political Islam’s violence and goal of a government based on a fundamentalist interpretation of a religion. We in the U.S. should be clearer about these 3 options and, in supporting the third option, should call on the peace movement in the U.S. to support the IFC as the key to a post-war Iraq.

3. The Conference called on the international peace movement to support the Non Defense Locality (Peace Zone) movement as one important way to create a non-militarized world.

4. It became very clear in the course of the discussion on the main resolution that all countries are suffering from the 2 enemies Samir identified in Iraq: the U.S. occupation and war on terror and political Islam. In order to deal with the second, we must first deal with the first. We must end the occupation. And we must end the Bush so-called “war on terror,” which is serving as an excuse to threaten civil rights and crowds out all other political discussion, making it impossible to advance policies and spend money based on the urgent needs of working families.

5. The great focus of the Conference on the rights and conditions of children and the need for “Welfare not Warfare” emphasized how important it is to end this war and end it now.

6. SANA, the IFC’s newly launched satellite TV station should be supported by USLAW and the peace movement both financially and with program assistance. So far the Japanese peace movement has raised all of the $400,000 in the initial budget for SANA.

Perhaps the most important message to come out of the Conference is for the people of Iraq to know that they are not alone, that they too have allies who support their efforts to build a non-sectarian society, allies who share and support their dreams for a better life for them and for their children.

Samir Adil

President of Iraq Freedom Congress

See our last posts on Iraq, the civil resistance, the anti-war movement and the Philippines.