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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 21
July 2, 2005

This IOF Newsletter is produced as a free service for all those opposed to the occupation. In order to strengthen our campaign, please make sure you sign up to receive the free newsletter automatically – go to: http://lists.riseup.net/www/info/iraqfocus. Please also ask all those who share our opposition to the increasingly brutal US-UK occupation to do likewise.


“To most ordinary Iraqis it is evident that life over the past year has been getting worse”

In The Independent (28 June), Patrick Cockburn draws a harrowing balance sheet of the occupation: “The news now from Iraq is only depressing. All the roads leading out of the capital are cut. Iraqi security and US troops can only get through in heavily armed convoys. There is a wave of assassinations of senior Iraqi officers based on chillingly accurate intelligence... A total of 52 senior Iraqi government or religious figures have been assassinated since the handover. In June 2004 insurgents killed 42 US soldiers; so far this month 75 have been killed... the number of Iraqi military and police being killed every month has risen from 160 at the handover to 219 today... To most ordinary Iraqis in Baghdad it is evident that life over the past year has been getting worse ... ”

Meanwhile, the World Tribunal on Iraq, at the end of hearings held in Istanbul between 23-27 June, issued a powerful indictment of the war and occupation:

“The Anglo-American occupation of Iraq of the last 27 months has led to the destruction and devastation of the Iraqi state and society. Law and order have broken down completely, resulting in a pervasive lack of human security; the physical infrastructure is in shambles; the health care delivery system is a mess; the education system has ceased to function; there is massive environmental and ecological devastation; and, the cultural and archaeological heritage of the Iraqi people has been desecrated.”



Occupying forces on rampage in western Iraq

Dahr Jamail reports (23 June): “One of my sources in Baquba told me today: ‘Near the city of Buhrez, 5 kilometers south of Baquba, two Humvess of American soldiers were destroyed recently. American and Iraqi soldiers came to the city afterwards and cut all the phones, cut the water, cut medicine from arriving in the city and told them that until the people of the city bring the “terrorists” to them, the embargo will continue.’ The embargo has been in place now for one week now. He continued: ‘The Americans still won’t let anyone or any medicines and supplies into Buhrez, nor will they allow any people in or out. Even the Al-Sadr followers who organized some help for the people in the city (water, food, medicine) are not being allowed into the city. Even journalists cannot enter to publish the news, the situation there is so bad. The Americans keep asking for the people in the city to bring them the persons who were in charge of destroying the two Humvees on the other side of the city, but of course the people in the city don’t know who carried out the attack.’”

The Doctors for Iraq Society reports (26 June): “An urgent humanitarian crisis is unfolding in occupied west Iraq. US soldiers have conducted simultaneous military operations in cities across the area. Between May-June 2005 the heaviest of these attacks took place in the cities of Haditha and Al Qa’im. These cities and surrounding villages are home to an estimated 300,000 people. Eyewitness and medical personnel in the area have described how US soldiers prevented food and medication reaching Haditha and Al Qa’im and targeted the cities’ two main hospitals, medical staff, and ambulances. US soldiers violated the Geneva Convention and international law by preventing civilians from accessing healthcare. Eyewitness reported at least one patient being shot dead in his bed on a hospital ward. Doctors were prevented from assisting patients and civilians in need. A number of doctors and medical personnel were killed in the attack and others were arrested by US forces in the hospital. They were later released, along with the hospital manager who was detained for two days. The huge military operation in the area has caused widespread damage and an unknown number of civilians were killed and injured during the attack. Video footage shot by doctors shows a badly damage medical store in the Haditha hospital and damaged surgical theatres. The medical store contained medicine and equipment for all hospitals and medical centers in the west of Iraq. Staff and patients say the damage was carried out by ‘by violent and barbaric US soldiers’.

“The Doctors for Iraq Society and other Iraqi organisations working in the area are asking for urgent assistance from outside Iraq to help equip the hospital with medication and other essential supplies. Staff and patients also need urgent protection from the ongoing brutal actions of US occupation forces who continue to violate international law by carrying out attacks on patients and medical staff in Iraq. The Doctors for Iraq Society is calling on human rights organizations to conduct an urgent investigation into what happened in Haditha and Al Qa’im, and to take testimonies from eyewitnesses and medical staff in the area.”

For more information about the attack and the hospital contact:
Doctors for Iraq Society at: info@doctorsforiraq.org
Dr. Salam Ismael at: salam.obaidi@gmail.com



Iraqi MPs, student unions call for end to occupation

Al-Hayat reports (20 June): “Just under one-third of the members of the National Assembly (83 MPs out of 275) have asked for a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq, accusing the Assembly itself of not caring ‘about the demands of millions of Iraqis.’ Falah Hassan Shneishel MP, a member of the Independent National Bloc, said that ‘the presence of the occupation forces gives a pretext for the continuation of violence and terrorism that have taken the lives of thousands of Iraqis.’ Karim Najati MP, a member of the United Iraqi Alliance, described the government’s request of the extension of the presence of multinational forces in Iraq as ‘shameful and disgraceful.’ He pointed to the fact that ‘there are members in the US Congress opposed to the occupation of Iraq whereas we ask for the troops to stay,’ adding that ‘no Arab or Muslim can accept’ what al-Jaafari’s Government did.

“Another member of the UIA, Abdul-Rahman al-Neeimi, said that the presence of these troops ‘confused the security issues.’ He accused the multinational forces of standing behind attempts at igniting a civil war, asserting that ‘they have used all possible means in order to provoke sectarian strife in Iraq, but have failed thanks to God.’ He concluded saying ‘We tell the occupation forces: Hands off the Iraqi people and let us heal our wounds by our own means.’

“The 83 MPs signed a petition accusing the National Assembly of ‘blatantly ignoring the demands of the MPs.’ ‘The most serious fact,’ the petition maintained, ‘is that the Government asked the UN Security Council to extend the duration of the presence of occupation forces without consulting the people’s representatives in the National Assembly, who have the right to vote on such decisive issues.’ The petition also stated: ‘From the standpoint of our historical responsibility, we refuse that the occupation be legalized and repeat our demand that its forces get out.’”

Al Hayat reports (24 June): “Eleven student unions approved the call made on al-Jaafari’s Government to put a timetable for the withdrawal of multinational forces and considered that the request made [by the Iraqi government at the UN] for the extension of their presence is ‘an infringement on Parliament’s prerogatives.’

“The student unions’ statement said: ‘We have taken part in the election and voted, risking our lives going to the polling stations, only for one essential issue that the electoral slates adopted and put in their political programs, and that is the demand for the withdrawal of occupation troops from Iraq.’ The unions called on the lists that won the election ‘to remain faithful to their promise and put their political programs into practise so that the people could respect them.’ ... The statement also expressed bewilderment at ‘al-Jaafari’s and his Government’s support for maintaining occupation troops at a time when the US Congress is asking for their withdrawal.’Ê The statement was signed by the student unions at the Universities of Baghdad, Mustansariyya, Kufa, Qadissiyya, Basra, Diali, Ramadi, Mosul, the Technological University, the Islamic University and the Organism of Technical Education.ÊThe president of the Student Union of the University of Baghdad, Mustafa Shabar, said that ‘the students of Iraq are resolute to get the Government and the National Assembly to abide by anti-occupation demands.’”



Treatment of detainees evokes Hussein Era

The Los Angeles Times reports (19 June): “The public war on the Iraqi insurgency has led to an atmosphere of hidden brutalities, including abuse and torture, carried out against detainees by the nation’s special security forces, according to defense lawyers, international organizations and Iraq’s Ministry of Human Rights. Up to 60% of the estimated 12,000 detainees in the country’s prisons and military compounds face intimidation, beatings or torture that leads to broken bones and sometimes death, said Saad Sultan, head of a board overseeing the treatment of prisoners at the Human Rights Ministry. He added that police and security forces attached to the Interior Ministry are responsible for most abuses. The units have used tactics reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s secret intelligence squads, according to the ministry and independent human rights groups and lawyers, who have catalogued abuses. ‘We’ve documented a lot of torture cases,’ said Sultan, whose committee is pushing for wider access to Iraqi-run prisons across the nation. ‘There are beatings, punching, electric shocks to the body, including sensitive areas, hanging prisoners upside down and beating them and dragging them on the ground.’”

Meanwhile... US to expand prisons across Iraq

Al Jazeera reports (27 June): “The United States is spending $50 million to build new prisons to house the thousands of suspected fighters its forces are capturing in Iraq. With anti-US violence in Iraq continuing to rage, American forces are now holding more than 10,000 people they classify as ‘security detainees’ in their three main jails in Iraq. This is nearly double the number they held a year ago.

“The new constructions will give the United States the capacity to hold up to 16,000 people in Iraq ... US forces will build a new prison at a former military barracks in Sulaimaniya, 330km north of Baghdad, and add room for 2000 more prisoners at Camp Cropper near Baghdad airport, which now holds just 125 detainees including former President Saddam Hussein. The biggest US-run prison, Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr in the south, will also be expanded to hold an additional 1400 detainees. Abu Ghraib has just been expanded to house 400 more detainees and will get room for another 400. The US-run camps are for ‘security detainees’ held by Iraqi and US-led international forces as suspected ‘insurgents’. Ordinary Iraqi criminals are held in regular Iraqi jails. In a recent report, New York-based Human Rights Watch said ‘harsh and coercive interrogation techniques such as subjecting detainees to painful stress positions and extended sleep deprivation have been routinely used in detention centres throughout Iraq’.

Abductions in Kirkuk

The Washington Post reports (15 June): “Police and security units led by Kurdish political parties and backed by the US military have abducted hundreds of minority Arabs and Turkmens in this intensely volatile city and spirited them to prisons in Kurdish-held northern Iraq, according to US and Iraqi officials, government documents and families of the victims... The detainees, including merchants, members of tribal families and soldiers, have often remained missing for months; some have been tortured, according to released prisoners and the Kirkuk police chief. A confidential State Department cable, obtained by The Washington Post, said the ‘extra-judicial detentions’ were part of a ‘concerted and widespread initiative’ by Kurdish political parties ‘to exercise authority in Kirkuk in an increasingly provocative manner.’”



Water shortage adds to Iraqis’ misery

The Daily Telegraph reports (25 June): “At a conference in Brussels this week, the Iraqi government briefed representatives from more than 80 countries and organisations on its programmes to rebuild the county and listed its achievements. In Baghdad, meanwhile, crowds of thirsty people waited for hours at emergency water pipes to fill jerry cans and buckets, while women washed clothes in the dirty waters of the Euphrates.... electricity output in the capital has decreased in the past five months – averaging only 854 megawatts per day now, compared with 2,500 megawatts before the war. The rationing system for sugar and baby milk collapsed at the beginning of the year, forcing many to go without. Sadr City, the vast slum in the capital’s west, is in the grip of a hepatitis outbreak. Forty per cent of Baghdad’s homes have reported sewage on the streets. Fresh water had finally returned to most of the city by last night – but for only two hours a day.”

Al Jazeera reports (29 June): “Iraq needs up to $15 billion to repair a dilapidated water system crippled by war and neglect, the country’s water minister said. More than two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the country of the Euphrates and the Tigris is struggling with recurrent water shortages in Baghdad and other large cities, poor sanitation and a shattered irrigation network.”

And there’s a food shortage as well...

The Los Angeles Times reports (16 June): Shrinking subsidized rations are blamed on corruption, security problems or the US. The UN World Food Program, which monitors the distribution of rations, recently reported ‘significant countrywide shortfalls in rice, sugar, milk and infant formula.’ Families in Baghdad haven’t received sugar or baby milk since January. Newspapers have also begun reporting that the tea and flour handouts contain metal filings and that people have fallen ill after consuming food rations. ... More than half of Iraq’s population lives below the poverty line. The median income fell from $255 (£144, €211) in 2003 to about $144 in 2004, according to a recent UN survey.”



Fallujah: ongoing atrocity

Dahr Jamail in Iraq reports (3 June): “‘There are daily war crimes being committed in Fallujah, even now,’ said Mohammed Abdulla, the executive director of the Study Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Fallujah (SCHRDF). ‘Now we have none of the rebuilding which was promised, which people need so desperately in order to get their lives back in order,’. Doctors working inside the city continue to complain of US and Iraqi security forces impeding their medical care. Along with the continuance of strict US military checkpoints, residents in the city say the treatment they receive from both the US military and Iraqi security forces operating inside Fallujah is both degrading and humiliating.

“Dr Riyad al-Obeidy, who is currently volunteering inside Fallujah, said: ‘People are living as refugees inside their city, living in tents – so we have lack of clean water and hygiene, so there is rampant spreading of typhoid. With summer coming, this will all get worse.’ Southern districts of Fallujah remain closed and only 10% of the buildings and homes destroyed have been rebuilt – by residents themselves. To date, only 10% of the promised compensation had been paid out. Dr. al-Obeidy added: the health situation is ‘horrible, we are now having cholera outbreaks’. Recent drinking water tests performed by SCHRDF found that there was no potable water available inside Fallujah.”



“We can’t kill them all”: Occupiers’ military campaign bogged down

News agency Knight-Ridder reports (13 June): “‘This insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations,’ Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said last week, in a comment that echoes what other senior officers say. ‘It’s going to be settled in the political process.’ ... Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman, who works with the task force overseeing the training of Iraqi security troops, said the insurgency doesn’t seem to be running out of new recruits... ‘We can’t kill them all,’ Wellman said. ‘When I kill one I create three.’”

The Boston Globe reports (10 June): “Military operations in Iraq have not succeeded in weakening the insurgency, and Iraq’s government, with US support, is now seeking a political reconciliation among the nation’s ethnic and tribal factions as the only viable route to stability, according to US military officials and private specialists. Two years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, the Iraq conflict has evolved into a classic guerrilla war, they argue ... ‘We are not going to win the unconditional surrender from the insurgents and have no choice but to somehow bring them into society,’ said retired Army Colonel Paul Hughes, an Iraq war veteran who is now at the government-funded US Institute for Peace.”

The Washington Post reports (10 June): “Young Iraqi soldiers, ill-equipped and drawn from a disenchanted Sunni Arab minority, say they are not even sure what they are fighting for. They complain bitterly that their American mentors don’t respect them. In fact, the Americans don’t. Frustrated US soldiers question the Iraqis’ courage, discipline and dedication and wonder whether they will ever be able to fight on their own, much less reach the US military’s goal of operating independently by the fall.”

BBC News reports (15 June): US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has acknowledged that security in Iraq has not improved statistically since Saddam Hussein’s fall in 2003... More than 900 people, mostly Iraqis, have died in insurgent attacks across the country since the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafaari took office six weeks ago. ... In an interview for the BBC’s Newsnight programme, Mr Rumsfeld said Iraq had passed several milestones, like holding elections and appointing a government. But asked if the security situation had improved, he admitted: ‘Statistically, no.’”



Mounting domestic pressure on Bush

The Associated Press reports (24 June): Americans overwhelmingly oppose reinstatement of the military draft and most say they wouldn’t encourage their children to enlist in the service either, an AP-Ipsos poll found... The Army has repeatedly missed its monthly recruiting goals this year, falling short by 42 percent in April. And all four branches of military service are having trouble attracting recruits to their reserve forces. Despite the recruiting problems, seven in 10 Americans say they oppose reinstatement of the draft.

Newsday (New York) reports (15 June): “Pentagon advisers who have travelled in the region say beating back the Iraqi insurgency could take three to five years and possibly as long as a decade to truly bring it under control. ... Nearly six in 10 Americans in a Gallup poll released Monday [13 June] said they support partial or complete withdrawal of US troops in Iraq, the highest level ever recorded for that question. For the first time, more than half also said they’d be upset with President George W. Bush if he sent more troops, while a majority in this and a Washington Post-ABC News poll in the past week said the war wasn’t worth fighting.”

Tom Engelhardt reports (24 June): Republican Congressman Walter B. Jones (famed for insisting that the Congressional cafeteria re-label French fries as ‘freedom fries’ on its menu) voted enthusiastically for the Iraq War, but recently changed his mind. Last week, he became one of four congressional sponsors of a resolution calling for a timetable for withdrawal. ‘Do we want to be there 20 years, 30 years?’ he said at a Capitol Hill news conference. ‘That’s why this resolution is so important: We need to take a fresh look at where we are and where we’re going.’”



British and US campaigners seek truth

Military Families Against the War in Britain and AfterDowningStreet.org in the US are working together to demand answers to the questions raised by the “Downing Street Minutes”, which suggested that the rulers of both nations conspired to deceive the public on the reasons for invading Iraq. AfterDowningStreet.org is a coalition of US-based organizations, including Gold Star Families for Peace, Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out. In the UK, Military Families Against the War, an organisation of people directly affected by the war in Iraq, is preparing to take Tony Blair to court to demand an independent and effective public inquiry into the decision to go to war in Iraq.ÊThe legal action is being taken in the names of 18 of the families whose sons and husbands have been killed in Iraq.



“Our Home in Iraq” appeal

Journalist Lee Gordon was in Basra reporting on child survivors when he met Zeynab, a skinny little girl on crude wooden crutches, playing in the street among open sewers. Seventeen members of Zeynab’s family, including her mother and her brothers and sisters were killed in a bombing raid. Her father dragged Zeynab, then nine, out of the rubble. Her right leg was badly damaged and was amputated. He managed to bring Zeynab to London and with the help of his contacts, got a new prosthetic leg fitted and she began to learn to walk again. In January, Gordon took Zeynab home to be with her father. He is determined she won’t become a forgotten victim. There are thought to be between 3,000 and 4,000 amputees in southern Iraq, most of them children, who are continually being injured by landmines. Gordon hopes to raise £100,000 by the end of year to fund a specialist clinic for amputees at the hospital in Basra. He has raised around £25,000 so far and has put his house up for sale to release funds for the clinic. Anyone wishing to donate should send cheques payable to Our Home in Iraq Appeal, c/o Camden News Journal, 40 Camden Road, and London, NW1 9DR. For more information call 07890 444142.



THE G8 SUMMIT - 2–8 JULY, SCOTLAND
Bush and Blair will be there, will you?

Actions include:

Saturday 2 July: ‘Make Poverty History’ march in Edinburgh, meet 11am in The Meadows (www.makepovertyhistory.com) followed by Stop the War Coalition rally in the evening (www.stopwar.org.uk or 020 7278 6694)

Sunday 3 July: Naming the Dead ceremony in Edinburgh, organised by the Stop the War Coalition. Assemble 6pm corner of Princess Street/The Mound to march through Edinburgh to Carlton Hill.

Monday 4 July: The G8 Faslane Blocakde. Organised by Scottish CND and Trident Ploughshares.

Monday 4 July: Holding Blair to Account: Military Families Against War Rally. 5.30pm, St Augustine’s Church, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. Speakers: Rose Gentle, Judy Linehan (Military Families Speak Out, US).

Wednesday 6 July: International Day of Action Against the G8 including public blockades of the delegates as they arrive.

See www.dissent.org.uk for more information.



Other events...

MON 4th JULY, MENWITH HILL: INDEPENDENCE FROM AMERICA DEMO
outside Menwith Hill spy base, Yorkshire, 12 noon – 4/5pm. Guest speaker former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter. Music by Chumbawamba. Organised by the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB). http://cndyorks.gn.apc.org/caab/ or 01482 702033

WED 6th JULY, LONDON: PUBLIC MEETING WITH SCOTT RITTER,
former UN weapons inspector. 7pm, Wilson Room, Portcullis House.

WED 6th JULY, LONDON: SCHOOL STUDENTS WALKOUT
to coincide with the start of the G8. 12 noon, assemble Parliament Square. 4.30pm, Rally Parliament Square

EVERY TUESDAY, LONDON: SOAS STOP THE WAR OPEN DISCUSSION FORUM.
6pm - 7pm, Thornhaugh St. Organised by SOAS students and staff, all welcome.



Next Iraq Occupation Focus Meeting

Tuesday 12th July
Iraq Occupation Focus monthly meeting
All welcome
7:30pm, Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square
London W1T 6AQ (nearest tube: Warren Street)