Calling for the immediate withdrawal of as many American soldiers as possible from the Iraqi theater of war, Iraq Occupation Watch (IOW) was co-founded in 2004 by Medea Benjamin (the pro-Castro founder of Global Exchange and Code Pink) and Leslie Cagan (the longtime pro-Castro communist who founded United for Peace and Justice). The IOW agenda is to: (a) undermine the Bush administration’s reconstruction efforts in Iraq through propaganda and dissimulation in the American media; (b) demoralize U.S. troops by relaying tales of wavering public support; and (c) encourage widespread desertion by “conscientious objectors.” The ultimate aim is to create a Vietnam-style defeat for America, the nation that IOW’s founders consider the cause of most the world’s social, economic, and humanitarian crises.
In April 2003, Medea Benjamin laid out a skeletal blueprint for IOW in her essay “Toward a Global Movement,” which was published in The Nation. “Working with local communities where U.S. troops are based,” she wrote, “let’s start a ‘Bring All the Troops Home’ campaign to stop the expansion of U.S. bases and start dismantling some of the hundreds of existing bases overseas.” She also called upon these “grassroots teams” to “link up with appropriate local and regional groups” in terrorist states, in an effort to “channel the bursting anti-American sentiment overseas.”
As they prepared to launch IOW’s activities in Baghdad in 2004, Benjamin and Cagan told American authorities that their organization was intended merely to serve as a “watchdog,” reporting “possible violations of human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.” Once IOW was firmly established in Iraq’s capital city, however, its mission suddenly changed to the aforementioned effort to promote widespread desertion by U.S. military personnel. Though Benjamin claims that it was only after she returned from Iraq on July 14, 2004 that IOW modified its mission, her Nation article demonstrates months of premeditation.
At least one member of the IOW Advisory Board, author Tariq Ali, has called for the murder of U.S. troops and anti-Saddam Hussein Iraqis. Ali made his goals explicit in the May-June 2003 issue of New Left Review. Contemplating where one could find “any serious obstacle” to the “re-colonizing” of Iraq, Ali forecasted: “First of all, naturally, in the region itself. There, it is to be hoped that the invaders of Iraq will eventually be harried out of the country by a growing national reaction to the occupation regime they install, and that their collaborators may meet the fate of Nuri Said [a pro-Western Iraqi ruler who was murdered in 1958, and whose corpse was then dragged through the streets of Baghdad by his killers] before them.”
Other luminaries on the IOW Advisory Board include:
Pratap Chatterjee, Managing Editor of the Berkeley-based, anti-capitalist CorpWatch, and a reporter for Berkeley’s Pacifica radio station KPFA
Rania Masri, Coordinator of the Iraq Action Coalition, National Board member of Peace Action, member of the United for Peace and Justice steering committee, and Board member of the American Civil Liberties Union’s North Carolina chapter
Maria Luisa Mendonca, who sits on the Organizing Committee of the World Social Forum, whose meetings draw neo-Communist organizers from around the world