IraqiBacter: Pathologies of Intervention and the decades of US-led wars in Iraq

By Omar Dewachi
Submitted to Session P5052 (International Law in the Contemporary Middle East: Impeding or Facilitating Violence? (Part 2), 2017 Annual Meeting
LCD Projector without Audio;
The neutrality of medicine vis-à-vis international humanitarian law (IHL) has come under scrutiny in recent years with the increasing targeting of medical facilities and professionals in conflict settings (in Syria, Palestine, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen). While reporting individual incidents is an important process that needs to continue to document all violations, a more systematic approach to understand how these attacks are entangled in long-term consequences of the devastating impacts of contemporary war and violence is required. Furthermore, the failure of international legal processes and institutions to prevent such assaults or to prosecute those responsible raises questions about the Eurocentric system of checks and balances that shape IHL and its invocation as a “legal” and “moral” framework. Where analysis of the reach and limits of the law have tended to focus on the changing logics, politics and ethics of contemporary warfare practice, in this talk I will attempt to shift the analytical gaze from the legal to the medical—and back again. Building on an ongoing ethnography of injured Iraqis seeking care across the ME, I explore how the toxicity and biosocial life of their war wounds lends an insight into the changing war ecology--with the rise of superbugs resistant to antibiotic treatment. I show how chronic warfare and decades of US-led interventions in Iraq have contributed to the changing social and material life of populations and generations—in both their human and non-human forms. I would like to suggest that it is not enough to identifying war acts as legal or illegal. It is equally important to document how contemporary wars, epitomized in the US-led “war on terror,” have produced far more devastating consequences on the social and environmental milieu--a problem often obscured by humanitarian and legal discourses about the consequences of war in Iraq.