Education for Peace in Iraq Center

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The Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC) is a Washington, DC-based organization concerned about humanitarian issues and human rights in Iraq. Its About Us section of its website states:

The Education for Peace in Iraq Center promotes freedom, security, and genuine democracy for the people of Iraq. Founded in 1998 by American veterans and human rights advocates, EPIC is the only Iraq-focused organization of its kind in Washington, DC. We work closely with concerned Americans, policy analysts, Iraqis, and national veteran, religious, labor, and human rights organizations.[1]

Controversy over Fayetteville Protest

In March 2005, on the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, peace groups and activists held an anti-war protest in Fayetteville, North Carolina, the home of Fort Bragg. [2]

EPIC released a statement on the action, which declared the organization's "strong support for peace rallies," and its "concern over [their] 'immediate withdrawal' message." EPIC did not attend the Fayetteville action, because, in the words of EPIC director Erik Gustafson, "The call for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq made by some of the organizers of this weekend's protest may represent a way to save American lives in the short-term, but offers no solution to the violence and instability plaguing the people of Iraq." The EPIC statement continued, "EPIC questions the withdrawal of UN-sanctioned forces until Iraq is able to provide for its own security." [3]

In response, Stan Goff, a former U.S. Special Forces officer and anti-war activist, wrote that "EPIC's website claims it 'was' against the war, but now... here's the uniform mantra among these fronts... WE cannot 'abandon' Iraq. The caps are intentional, and the claim is mendacious. Their opposition was not to invading and occupying Iraq, but to the way in which the neocons went about it ... that is, without a resolution from the UN Security Council. ... Even my movement allies in the hardly-seditious North Carolina Council of Churches -- who co-sponsored the Fayetteville action -- know that support of ANY continuation of ANY imperial military occupation is NOT antiwar. If you support a military occupation, then you are supporting a war." [4]

EPIC's Call for Transition, Not Withdrawal

EPIC's refusal to support calls for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign militaries in Iraq generated controversy beyond the Fayetteville action.

In an April 1, 2005 editorial titled "Why You Can't Be Antiwar and Pro-Occupation," the Socialist Worker wrote, "Erik Gustafson, executive director of Education for Peace in Iraq Coalition (EPIC), said in a statement that the March 19 antiwar protests across the country were 'about pulling U.S. forces and abandoning the Iraqi people...The only responsible way out of Iraq is through nation building.' EPIC’s statement also implied that those fighting U.S. forces - rather than the occupation itself - are the source of violence in Iraq. ... By lending credence to the Bush administration’s characterization of the Iraqi resistance as 'terrorists,' EPIC’s statement breathes life into Bush’s last justification for the occupation - that the U.S., whatever its mistakes, is creating a better regime than Iraqis, under the control of a 'small and violent minority,' could do for themselves." [5]

On April 20, 2005, EPIC's Erik Gustafson debated journalist and author Naomi Klein on the matter, on Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" During that discussion, Gustafson stated: [6]

It's not about being for or against withdrawal. The Education for Peace in Iraq Center, of course, wants to see U.S. forces withdraw and to see a process that moves in that direction. However, the question is whether or not U.S. forces can leave tomorrow. And the answer is, no. Iraq's security forces are insufficient to provide the security that the Iraqi people need. We would leave a tremendous vacuum behind. ... There aren’t police to be able to maintain the law and order that's required. And there aren't security forces to guard against a tremendous power vacuum. The question would be, who would step into the power vacuum? We have terrorism going on in Iraq. We have militias, Islamist fundamentalist militias. Is that what we're going to pass Iraq's future on to? I don't think so. I think that there has to be a process.

Klein responded:

The militias that Erik is warning about already control large sectors of Iraq, because providing security for the people of Iraq has never, from day one, been a priority of this occupation. We saw the abandonment immediately by allowing the looting to take place and only guarding the Ministry of Oil, and it’s only gotten worse. ... The other issue is this idea that somehow U.S. forces are helping to train Iraqi police, and that it's just a problem of training. ... The greatest liability for Iraqis to gain control over their own country security-wise, is the fact that the security forces have been embedded in the occupation itself and are seen as an extension of the hated and loathed occupation. So they get attacked as collaborators and slaughtered. They're not provided with any protection, and so on. So the best way for them to build up their own force and their own credibility, which is really what's needed, is a clear break with the occupation, which means immediately announcing a withdrawal of troops and setting up a transition plan. The first step has to be the announcement of troop withdrawal.

EPIC's "Suggested Reading" List

On its website, EPIC lists "relevant books pertaining to Iraq, its history, and its future." The organization clarifies, "Not all the opinions expressed in these books are representative of EPIC, however by showing a broad range of ideas and opinions we hope to foster informed debate." [7]

Some peace activists have questioned EPIC's inclusion of Noah Feldman's What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building in its book list, since Feldman was appointed by Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority to rewrite the Iraqi constitution. Another questioned inclusion is a book by Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi pundit and former Ba'athist regime member who was in favor of the war.


Board of Directors

Contact Information

Education for Peace in Iraq Center
1101 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20003
Phone: +1 202.543.6176

Related SourceWatch

External links