Missoula Jubilee Network
A Fast for Economic Justice
Economic violence claims innocent victims as cruelly as other deadly weapons. The suffering and loss of life and hope is no less and we as a people realize we must demand an end to this complicity in all countries being forced to pay illegitimate and odious debts. Iraq is burdened with financial claims incurred by Saddam Hussein and his regime. When payment is demanded the needs of the people go unmet. Food subsidies, medical aid and other essentials for survival are eliminated in order to make payment. International financial institutions and governments capitalize on disaster. This disastrous situation was caused by the current invasion/occupation of Iraq. Payment of war reparations and odious debt has taken precedent over the needs of the people. However, this injustice is being exposed. The people who are suffering did not have a voice in the either the decision to invade Kuwait or to receive loans that provided no benefit-and in fact, often supported their oppression. Both military and economic violence must be opposed.
The United Nations Compensation Commission was determining the continued payment of money to those seeking war reparations. This commission is made up of the P5 or permanent members of the UN Security Council (US, UK, China, Russia, France) as well as the rotating membership. The work of this commission has been non-transparent. The fast brought attention to their role. We feel that our demands were heard as they had claims for up to 65 billion but gave out slightly less than 436 million most of these to individuals which were considered legitimate.
Iraq’s debt is not only odious but another example of capitalizing on disaster. It exacerbates the suffering of people through International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank imposition of destructive Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP’s), and economic domination through free market privatization. SAP’s are strict conditions placed on a country before a loan is made. The situation is only going to get worse with the role of Paul Wolfowitz as architect of the invasion and now head of the World Bank.
Iraq is so much in people’s minds and hearts and in the news that it is a perfect example to use to help the American public understand external debt as well as “odious debt.”
I participated because of my role in the Jubilee justice movement calling for unconditional cancellation of illegitimate and odious international debt. The economic injustice created by the external debt crisis must end; the people do not owe and should not have to pay.
Rationale for participation was:
- There are many more countries throughout the Global South whose illegitimate and odious debts should be declared null and void, this fast brought attention to the injustice of debt and helped us to build the case for other nations.
- The crisis in Iraq is serious. The IMF and the World Bank are demanding the elimination of Iraq’s food ration program as a condition for debt relief and for the new loans that have been made in deals (signed under occupation.). This adds to the humanitarian crisis since 60% of the population is dependent on this program for nutrition.
- Respect for International Law is an important consideration in terms of both the invasion/presence in Iraq and as a precedent for cancellation of odious debt.
- The United Nations has a history of responding to wars and natural disasters-and should be held accountable.
- During the Global Connections Tour, Magda Lanuza from Nicaragua talked about how the South now views making demands before the UN as critical to their campaigns.
- United Nations agencies historically responded to wars and natural disasters. Now the response often comes from international finance institutions whose “help” comes with huge debts and economic restructuring at a time when a disaster has left a country with little recourse.
- This was also an opportunity for powerful solidarity and relationship building with groups in the US and internationally.
Both the US and the UK were represented in the fast. There were ten main “fasters” from diverse groups, and ages ranging from 22 to 75 years old. Kathy Kelly of Voices in the Wilderness asked me to attend because of my work for peace through justice with Jubilee. Caoimhe Butterly from Europe works in the Middle East, but also worked with returned refugees in Guatemala, and in Chiapas learning and accompanying a community practicing non-violent resistance. The youngest member, Farah Mokhtareizadeh, works for social transformation with faith-based activists in the US. Cynthia Banas had spent her 70th birthday at the WTO protests in Seattle. Two members participated in solidarity fasts, Justin Alexander, founder of Jubilee Iraq, fasted in Amman, Jordan, and Paul Frazier before the UN in New York. Most participants have received awards for peace, justice and/or humanitarian service.
Solidarity from other individuals occurred around the fast. There was a chance to interact with former Iraqi citizens-a man who worked with Bridges to Baghdad who was kidnapped last fall and an Iraqi Doctor who worked for the World Health Organization and his wife who is from the US. A young Iranian student also helped with solidarity, logistics, translation, and general support. The International Red Cross Museum staff were very gracious.
I have many stories to tell about the fast experience and the insight into the UN role. In the meantime, go to www.jubileeusa.org and www.jubileeiraq.org to learn why I am working for economic justice. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My participation also brought attention to the Montana Peace Seeker network some of which are now members of Jubilee Montana Network. Support and solidarity during this challenging experience was so important. Thank you.