On March 19, 2013 we submitted a request for a Thematic Hearing before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 149th Period of Sessions. This Preliminary Report was submitted in support of the request.
The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, begun on October 7, 2001, is now the longest running officially declared war in U.S. history. Followed by the invasion of Iraq less than two years later on March 19, 2003, based on false claims about Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, the combined so-called “War on Terror” has, by conservative estimates, resulted in deaths due to direct war violence of at least 330,000 people – including civilians, humanitarian workers, journalists and combatants of different nationalities. The number of indirect deaths due to after-effects of fighting, unexploded munitions, malnutrition, damaged health infrastructure and environmental degradation resulting from these conflicts is likely four times the number of direct deaths – or more than one million. Moreover, these figures do not include the toll the U.S.’s global “war on terror” has taken on people and communities in other countries where the U.S. war-making has spilled over, as in Yemen, nor the countries where the U.S. operated or made use of black sites and torture programs. The violent consequences of these wars have resulted in additional hundreds of thousands of casualties – physical, mental and emotional injuries to individuals and communities that in some cases cannot be healed and in others will take decades, indeed generations, to overcome, even with due and adequate reparations, which have not been made. For the millions of civilians impacted by these wars, who have lost loved ones, been displaced, harmed and terrorized by the direct and indirect effects of the war-marking policies and practices of the U.S. and its few allies, the so-called war on terror has been instead a global war of terror.
On the ten-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, U.S. veterans of the war and civil society in Iraq unite in their struggle to heal and demand that the U.S. government take responsibility for the enduring harms inflicted by these misguided and illegal wars. Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, and the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq jointly submit this request to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for a thematic hearing to identify and acknowledge the devastating and long-lasting health effects suffered by Iraqis and U.S. servicemembers and the constellation, magnitude and scope of the grave human rights violations perpetuated by the U.S.’s conduct of the war and its responsibility for these harms. This report focuses in large part on harms that Iraqis and U.S. servicemembers share – physical and psychological trauma, serious health effects of exposure to highly toxic and carcinogenic materials and effects of sexual and gender-based violence by, and within, the military.