The CODEPINK Tribunal taking place December 1 and 2, and live streamed by The Real News, is a historic collection of testimonies about the lies and costs of the Iraq war. It takes on new meaning with the incoming Trump administration, and the hawks who are flocking to join that administration with their sights set on starting yet another war in the Middle East, this time in Iran.
My testimony started with the first CODEPINK action against the war that took place in Congress. It was September 18, 2002, the day Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testified before the House Armed Services Committee about why the US military should invade Iraq. He accused Saddam Hussein of having and hiding weapons of mass destruction, raised the specter of an Iraqi-initiated September 11-style attack and told the Committee that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a global threat.
My colleague Diane Wilson and I were in the audience, just behind Rumsfeld and a row of generals. It was the first time we had ever attended a Congressional hearing. Shaking, I got up and belted out: “Mr. Rumsfeld, we need weapons inspections, not war. Why are you obstructing the inspections? Isn’t this really about oil? How many civilians will be killed? How many Iraqis will be killed?” We unfurled banners that said: UN Weapons Inspection, Not US War” and repeated that chant over and over until the police came to forcibly remove us.
Once we were out of the room, Rumsfeld joked about us and said: “Of course, the country that threw the inspectors out was not the United States. It was not the United Nations. It was Iraq that threw the inspectors out.”
That was a lie. Iraq did not expel the inspectors. In December 1998, the weapons inspectors withdrew for their safety in anticipation of a US-British bombing campaign. But this was just one of so many lies about Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and his unwillingness to yield to weapons inspections.
In February 2003, just weeks before the US invasion, CODEPINK led a delegation to Iraq. We wanted to see for ourselves what the Iraqis were thinking, particularly the women. We found them terrified at the prospect of a US invasion. Some said to us, in hushed voices, “Yes, Saddam is a dictator, but we don’t want the U.S. military to liberate us. That is something we must do ourselves.”