Human Shield Action (Iraq)
On the 25th of January, 2003, thirty human shield volunteers and three double-decker buses left London for Iraq, picking up other volunteers throughout Europe on their way. At their peak in Iraq they numbered approximately 500.
The action’s primary goal, instigated by Ken O’Keefe, was simple; get thousands of (mostly white) Westerners to Iraq to make the bombing and invasion of Iraq politically untenable. In this goal the action obviously did not succeed, not in the least because of time constraints.
As it became increasingly clear that the U.S. would invade Iraq a secondary goal was developed; volunteers would place themselves at strategic sites critical to the well-being of Iraqi civilians in order to make the bombing of these sites politically untenable. Two water plants, two power plants, a food silo, a communications facility and an oil refinery were chosen. Along with others the U.S. and UK governments were notified of these positions. It is a war crime to harm infrastructure critical to civilian well-being. This did not stop the U.S. from targeting and bombing these sites in the 1991 Gulf War, causing untold sufferering for millions of Iraqis (of whom just under half were children).
Of these sites only one was bombed in 2003; the communications facility, a day after the human shields pulled out of it.It is difficult to know to what extent this action had an effect, but we do know that were it not for the pressure brought to bear on our governments by the unprecedented size of the global peace movement and the implementation of our secondary goal the war criminals in power may well have bombed these sites as they did in 1991.