Environmental Justice Statement against the War in Iraq

April 23rd, 2003 - by admin

by The Environmental Justice Movement –

The following networks, organizations, institutes, individuals and allies of the environmental and economic justice movement oppose the war against Iraq. We declare that this war is racist and unjust, and that this war is driven by a US political and corporate agenda that seeks global economic control at the cost of human suffering and environmental damage. Our opposition to this war reflects our deep commitment to developing community-based leadership and power to counteract and ultimately transform the structures and processes that continue to promote militarization and violence in its many forms in our communities.

Many Asian and Pacific Islander communities within the environmental and economic justice movement understand deeply the costs and impacts of war by the US The scars of war live in our current and historical memory โ€” from Japanese internment in World War II to the Vietnam War that expanded to Laos. As immigrant and communities in this country, we have experienced first-hand war that tears apart our families, our homeland countries, our cultures and our livelihoods. Many of us who fled our homeland countries did so to find refuge from the terrors of war. Many in our communities face fear and confusion, many know that this is an unjust and unfair war. We do not want to relive those memories of war, or experience again its detrimental impact on our communities.

The historical memory of African Americans includes the fact that Blacks fought and died disproportionately and by the thousands in the racist war against Vietnam. We have fought and died in other major US wars abroad only to return home to: racism, inequality, racist violence and repression, police brutality, an unjust criminal justice system, Jim Crow racist segregation and poverty and economic inequality. It is because of the Black historical experience in the US and its racist foreign policy. A US foreign policy which has included support for apartheid and colonialism in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia. As a result of this experience that African Americans have great mistrust and suspicion about US reasons and motives for waging wars abroad, in mostly people of color and less industrialized nations. This holds true today as the Bush Administration wages an unjust and unnecessary war against the government and people of Iraq. Like other people in the US opposing the Iraq war, a majority of Black communities are showing opposition to the war in Iraq and believe that Bush’s motives are dishonest and wrong.

Latinos in the environmental and economic justice movement are vehemently opposed to the war in Iraq. Latinos currently are the fastest growing sector in the US, and as a people, have been living in the reality of policies like the US Homeland Security for over 20-plus years under repressive immigration policies. Our people are over represented in the military as well as in the prison system. Our young people are duped into the military service with promises of money for education, and because of this intentional targeting of our youth; we have become a principal supply of cannon fodder.

On the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, the US Navy initiated a campaign of forced expropriation of territory and has held the whole population under occupation to conduct military training maneuvers and bombings to aid in their military intervention worldwide. The Latino people are concerned the military, if they leave, will refuse to take responsibility not only for the clean up and mitigation of environmental damages and could refuse to compensate for the deprivation that for generations its peoples have suffered.

Our experience first hand is “as targets” of intentional destabilization in our Latin American countries by the US by means of support to neo-liberal government puppets put in place to promote a new world order. These policies lead to the shooting of innocent people by the agencies like the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, governmental militia, the US military, and recently white-lead vigilante militias calling themselves People for Homeland Security on the Mexico/US border in Arizona.

Native Americans have historically experienced the wrath of the “shock and awe” of military-type strategy since the beginning of US colonization. Native peoples have a long history of victimization of militarization including genocidal practices and policies of extermination, termination, assimilation, and the subversion of our cultures and the denial of our collective right to self-determination.

The current environmental crisis which confronts our communities arising from militarism include the degradation and toxification of our natural resources and territories, economic poverty and a growing threat to our traditional sources of food. Native American and Natives of the Pacific have historically been targeted by nuclear colonialism by the US from uranium mining to the testing, research and bombing of our communities and territories, including oceans. US has a history of bio-chemical warfare against Native Americans through issuing, in the 1800’s, smallpox infested blankets to our peoples.

It must be recognized, that despite the brutal and cruel US massacres of Native peoples at Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, and many other places โ€” including the over throw of the Native Hawaiian empire โ€” Native Americans have enlisted and served in the US military in higher percentage then any other population in the nation. Additionally, Native American code-talkers played a role in War World II. Many Native Americans from the continent, Hawaii and the Pacific trust territories oppose the Iraq war and stand in unity with others in the environmental and economic justice movement.

Since September 11, thousands of immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East have been unfairly targeted, detained or deported in the name of “homeland security”; We have also witnessed members of our community encouraged to cause divisions within the community by acting as spies on anyone they see as suspiciously unpatriotic.

As networks, organizations, individuals, institutes and allies of the environmental and economic justice movement, we understand the environmental, social and economic consequences of war. The billions of dollars spent on the war are money that will never be used to fund and meet basic human needs. People of color and Indigenous peoples will be hardest hit by the economic, social, environmental and political policies of the advanced US warfare state. Our communities are also experiencing the effects of massive state and federally-funded tribal budget deficits, and resources that could be used to provide food, housing, education, health care and other services that are largely being redirected towards this war effort.

The US policy on war is an assault on civil liberties and civil rights, and is a policy that promotes environmental racism. Increased militarism means polluting weapons and military industrial production facilities and the disposal of its waste will end up disproportionately in our communities. The production and use of depleted-uranium weapons on uninformed communities and exposed soldiers in Iraq will leave long lasting chemical and radiation damage that will effect human and ecological health for generations to come.

This war continues a long history of militarism, aggression and genocide on which this was founded, and we recognize that war and militarism impact different parts of our communities in different ways. The geopolitical and racist values which gave rise to old world colonization are the same which underlie the war being pursued by the US military industrial complex against the peoples of Iraq.We are observing the role of war as a justified means to intensify systematic oppression based on race, religion and community, and to undermine civil liberties as we have seen in the attacks on Arabs, South Asians and Muslims.

We see that behind this war is an agenda of greed and power. The primary motivation for the Iraq war is the political agenda of the US to advance economic globalization and to control and consume the world’s resources. Because the Middle East, including Iraq, is one of the major oil-producing regions in the world, the Bush administration hopes to gain complete control and power of the oil economy in this region, and thus, control of the world economy.

We recognize the destructive results of a fossil-fuel-based economy, not only on people’s health but also on the global climate. In addition to oil, rich water resource in Iraq is an asset within this economic and political power equation. In its rapacious pursuit of global domination, the US, through its foreign policy, is now subverting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the peoples of the world and their cultures. In these times, we stand firm in upholding the Principles of Environmental Justice (1991)*, and we recognize that this war explicitly violates these Principles, especially the following:

Principle 1: Environmental justice affirms the sacredness of Mother Earth, ecological unity and the interdependence of all species, and the right to be free from ecological destruction.

Principle 5: Environmental justice affirms the fundamental right to political, economic, cultural and environmental self-determination of all peoples.

Principle 10: Environmental justice considers governmental acts of environmental injustice a violation of international law, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and the United Nations Convention on Genocide.

Principle 15: Environmental justice opposes military occupation, repression and exploitation of lands, peoples and cultures, and other life forms.

War and militarism directly increases rape, sexual exploitation of children, women and girls, and overall violence against children, women and girls, including the super-exploitation of their labor. Women are the “First Environment” of our families, communities and nations. We recognize that women and children are not collateral damage. They are the primary victims and casualties of war. Furthermore, women and children are the majority of the refugee populations in the world. Youth, particularly poor and working class youth of color are victims of war and militarism through forced inscription, economic draft and placement to the frontlines.

We oppose the use of our valuable public dollars to support this war effort and recommit ourselves to transforming the imbalance of power in public policymaking. A US public policy that places greater value in supporting military might and subsidizing corporate profit over ensuring people’s right to education, housing, adequate food, safety, true security and a sustainable environmental and quality of life. We challenge the power of decision-making that rests in an elite few rather than to all peoples.

It is in these times that we recognize and reaffirm the importance of our grassroots work for justice and peace in low-income, peoples of color and Indigenous peoples’ communities. And we recognize and reaffirm the necessity of the work of our allied organizations and others who build alternate models and strategies in communities throughout the world that expand our notions of hope, compassion, or sense of community and our feeling of what’s possible.

We raise our voices to protest this war and we join with the growing millions of others throughout the world who call for peace. We call for an immediate end to this war and we call for a movement to stop the Bush administration’s war agenda at home and abroad in his pursuit of global economic and political power. We reaffirm our commitment to the protection of our sacred Mother Earth and in the capacity of peoples of diverse cultures to find peace through diplomacy, open communication and cultural mechanisms for conflict resolution. We invite you to join us and to express your public opposition to this war and your public support for peace.

*The 17-Point “Principles of Environmental Justice” are from the proceedings to the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit held on October 24-27, 1991, in Washington DC.

Networks, community based organizations, individuals, institutes and allies present at the Environmental Justice meeting that endorsed this Statement:

Network/Organization/Institute/Program City/State
Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, New Orleans, Louisiana
African American Environmental Justice Action Network, Atlanta, Georgia
Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Oakland, California
Bus Riders Union, Los Angeles, California
Center on Race, Poverty &the Environment, San Francisco, California
Citizens for Environmental Justice, Savannah, Georgia
Community Coalition for Environmental Justice, Seattle, Washington
Communities for a Better Environment, Huntington Park, California
Farmworker Support Committee/CATA, Glassboro, New Jersey
Indigenous Environmental Network, Bemidji, Minnesota
Indigenous Women’s Network, Austin, Texas
Just Transition Alliance, Washington, DC
Labor/Community Strategy Center, Los Angeles, California
National Community Development Institute, Oakland, California
NCABL Land Loss Prevention Project, Durham, North Carolina
Seventh Generation Fund, Arcata, California
Southern Organizing Committee for Economic & Social Justice, Atlanta, Georgia
Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice, Albuquerque, New Mexico
SouthWest Organizing Project, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Strategic Interventions, Inc, Washington, DC
Urban Environmental Health Initiative, Boston, Massachusetts

Individuals City/State
Vivian Buckingham, Washington, DC
Veronica Eady, Tuft University, Medford, Massachusetts
Sheila Foster, New York, NewYork
Jerilyn Lopez Mendoza, Los Angeles, California
Olga Pomar, Camden, New Jersey
Janette Wipper, Baltimore, Maryland

Other networks, community based organizations, institutions, individuals and allies working in support of the Environmental Justice Movement that endorse this Statement:

Network/Organization/Institute/Program/Individual City/State
American Friends Service , New Mexico
Tonantzin Land Institute, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Indigenous Peace Action (IPA), Arcata, California

Individuals City/State
James Jennings, Tuft University, Medford, Massachusetts
Molly Mead, Tuft University, Medford, Massachusetts

Participants at the Environmental Justice meeting held at Warrenton, Virginia, March 27-31, 2003, express their thanks to the Asian Pacific Environmental Network for providing the basis of this statement. African American, Latino and Native American participants provided their input to make this a statement of networks, community organizations, institutes, individuals and allies within the Environmental Justice Movement standing in solidarity in opposition to the war in Iraq.
For information, contact: Asian Pacific Environmental Network, 310 8th Street, Suite 309, Oakland, CA 94607, (510) 834.8920 x305, fax 510.834.8926, lisa@apen4ej.org