March 14, 2023

Marking 20 years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the UMass Amherst history department’s Feinberg Series hosted an online panel with U.S. and Iraqi scholars, activists, and journalists to assess the gap between the Iraqi experience of the invasion and occupation and how the conflict is commonly understood and remembered by Americans.

Titled “Resisting Imperial Memory,” event presenters included Iraqi environmental and human rights activist Salman Khairalla (CEO and cofounder of Humat Dijlah); political analyst and journalist Nazli Tarzi; Purdue University anthropologist and expert on militarism and counterinsurgency in Iraq Kali Rubaii; and attorney executive director of Just Atonement Dave Inder Comar, who litigated a first-of-its-kind lawsuit seeking reparations from high-ranking members of the Bush administration for Iraqi civilian victims. Historian and veteran Ross Caputi, co-author of The Sacking of Fallujah: A People’s History (University of Massachusetts Press, 2019), served as moderator. Tarzi, Rubaii and Caputi are also co-founders of Archive Iraq, an open access, digital collection of primary and secondary source materials of Iraqi history.

Event organizers note that “the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 was catastrophic for Iraqi society, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, eliciting sectarian animosities, and leaving the environment toxic and irradiated.” Yet despite this, “Iraqi suffering is barely present in American memory of the conflict.” Aiming to counteract this erasure and to re-open serious debate about the U.S. right to intervene in the affairs of other nations, the event explored the legality of the invasion and occupation, the forms of hard and soft power exercised by the U.S., the impacts of the war on Iraqi society, and Iraqis’ lived experiences.

The event is part of the yearlong Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series, “Confronting Empire,” which has been attended by thousands of people across the U.S. and world. Series events traced histories of U.S. imperialism and anti-imperialist resistance. The Feinberg Series is presented by the UMass Amherst Department of History in collaboration with the Ellsberg Initiative for Peace and Democracy and more than three dozen university and community and university partners. Visit the Feinberg Series website for more information and to access resources related to this event.