Legacy of Poison: Remembering Iraq
Drypoint on 240gsm Arches etching paper, 2009, Ed 25. by Chris Diedericks
The Iraq War, also known as the Second Persian Gulf War, the Occupation of Iraq, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, is an ongoing military campaign which began on March 20, 2003 with the invasion of Iraq by a multinational force led by troops from the United States and the United Kingdom.
Prior to the war, the governments of the U.S. and the UK claimed that Iraq's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) posed an imminent threat to their security and that of their coalition allies. United Nations weapons inspectors found no evidence of WMD, giving support to earlier criticism of poor intelligence on the subject. After the invasion, the U.S.-led Iraq Survey Group concluded that Iraq had ended its WMD programs in 1991 and had no active programs at the time of the invasion, but that they intended to resume production if the Iraq sanctions were lifted. Although some degraded remnants of misplaced or abandoned chemical weapons from before 1991 were found, they were not the weapons for which the coalition invaded. Some U.S. officials also accused Saddam Hussein of harboring and supporting Al-Qaeda, but no evidence of any collaborative relationship was ever found.
Other reasons for the invasion stated by U.S. officials included Iraq's financial support for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, Iraqi government human rights abuses, and an effort on the part of the coalition forces to spread democracy in the country and region. Some officials said Iraq's oil reserves were a factor in the decision to invade, but other officials denied this.
In the name of the "war on terror”, many countries globally, but especially the U.S. government, has subjected people who have not been charged with or convicted of any crime to:
• Torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
• Abductions (known as extraordinary rendition), "disappearances," and secret detention.
• Illegal and indefinite detention in Guantanamo, Bagram, other U.S. facilities, and secret CIA sites.
• Denial of legal rights, including fair trials and habeas corpus--the right to challenge the legality of one's detention.
Additionally, the U.S. government has employed companies that have been implicated in cases of killings, torture, and rape, and has failed to adequately investigate and prosecute abuses. These practices are wrong. They are illegal under U.S. and international law. They violate American principles of justice. Military and intelligence experts have said these practices are ineffective. Amnesty International calls on the United States government to end these human rights violations immediately and hold accountable all those who authorized and implemented them. Detainees must be charged and given fair trials, or be released to countries where they will not be at risk of human rights abuse.
As a result, in March 2009, the Obama administration requested that Pentagon staff members avoid use of the term, instead using "Overseas Contingency Operation". The administration has re-focused US involvement in the conflict on the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq, the closing of Guantanamo Bay detention camp, and increasing the number of troops in Afghanistan.
Legacy of Poison: Remembering Iraq could be viewed as a continuation of ideas expressed in my work Guantanamo Bay. However, Legacy of Poison deals more head-on with blatant murder, often slyly camouflaged as suicide and/or listed as a “death due to natural causes”. It is my personal opinion that no other historical incident since the Holocaust in Nazi Germany accentuated Otherness as viciously as the Americans’ so-called “War on Terror”. A recent trip to the USA and witnessing the openly hostile treatment of especially Muslim people at JFK Airport mortified me and I knew instantly that the incident would result into a visual comment.
However, Legacy of Poison: Remembering Iraq also includes other metatexts. The very people who are persecuted and murdered for being Muslim, too are killing their own merely for being Other. Women and gay men/women in all Islamic countries are still persecuted and murdered for merely loving differently, hence the depiction of the patriarchal figure with the Mickey Mouse ears (America) on the lazy chair in the work. The death penalty is proscribed for homosexuality even in "moderate" Islamic countries. I hope to believe that this paradox evokes many other questions about Otherness and the persistent global intolerance of minorities.
The embroided scull on the final image is symbolic of the time passed in prison, with inmates often engaging in craft in order to pass the long days. The iconographic meaning of the scull is that of physical harm, torture or even death - the evidence of a person made of flesh and blood, inside a faceless skin.