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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 12
November 5, 2004

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.



Bush’s re-election and the tragic deaths of three UK soldiers in Iraq should be a signal for all those opposed to the occupation to renew and redouble their campaigning efforts. With the assault on Fallujah and Ramadi imminent, it’s time to escalate our activity. More than ever we need to focus on Iraq and step our demands for immediate, unilateral, and complete withdrawal of all UK forces from Iraq.

“I think they should just get them all out of there now, because if not we are going to lose a lot more like this,” said Craig Lowe, a serving soldier and the brother of one of the three British soldiers killed on Thursday by a suicide bomber near Baghdad. He added that his brother had blamed Bush for “starting a war over nothing, trying to get money and oil. That’s what we all thought.”



Fallujah assault imminent

The US military sealed off all roads into Fallujah on Friday and mounted air strikes on the city ahead of a major offensive. US forces used loudspeakers and leaflets to tell residents they would detain any man under 45 trying to enter or leave the city. Marine Colonel Michael Shupp told Reuters that final preparations were on and that it would be over soon. “We are just awaiting orders from Prime Minister (Iyad) Allawi,” he said. US warplanes and artillery bombarded Fallujah on Friday and fighters fired mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at US forces on the city outskirts.

For several days the city has been subject to intense bombardment by tanks and AC-130 aircraft - cargo aircraft equipped with cannon and machine guns. Speaking to Al-Jazeera from Falluja, Iraqi journalist Abu Bakr al-DulaimiÊsaidÊthe city’s citizens feel that US warnings about an imminent large-scale attack against their city and Ramadi are attempts to destroy their morale. “However, the possible attack on Fallujah does not affect their high spirits,” he added.Ê“Fallujah citizens have showed indifference towards Bush’s re-election as they believe the US policies are clear and consistent when dealing with Islam, Muslims and the Iraq case.”Ê US ground troops have encircled Fallujah since mid-October.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has warned the US and Britain that an assault on Fallujah could undermine planned January elections. Annan’s warning came in letters to Bush, Blair and Allawi sent late last week, UN officials said on Friday, speaking on condition of anonymity.



STOP THE ASSAULT ON FALLUJAH!

EMERGENCY DEMONSTRATION AGAINST THE LOOMING ATTACKS ON IRAQ’S CITIES


SUNDAY 7 NOVEMBER.
2pm. Parliament Square, Central London (Westminster tube)

Called by Stop the Attacks – an ad hoc collection of anti-war activists old and new. For more info. telephone 07818 651 124 or e-mail stoptheattacks@fastmail.fm

CONTINGENCY PLANS

The Stop The War Coalition has called for a demo on the night of the major onslaught (or the night after), 5pm–7pm, opposite Downing Street. For other venues and times across the country see www.stopwar.org.uk

DIRECT ACTION

At a meeting called by Voices in the Wilderness UK, an ad hoc group of people wishing to take part in non-violent direct action arranged to meet with like-minded folk on the night the big attack begins: Meet in London: 7pm at the statue of Edith Cavell (opposite the entrance to the National Portrait Gallery, north-east of Trafalgar Square). In Manchester: On day of onslaught (next day depending on timing), 5–7pm, Piccadilly Gardens, city centre.



Non-violent direct action training workshop

NOVEMBER 14, LONDON
11am - 4pm
7a Rampart Street (nearest tubes Whitechapel and Shadwell), London E1.

Angry about the killing in Iraq? Want to respond by taking part in – or organising – direct action or civil disobedience, but feel you lack the necessary skills or knowledge? Workshop by Seeds for Change (www.seedsforchange.org.uk). Includes legal briefing. Organised by Voices UK (www.voicesuk.org). tel. 0845 458 2564.



Lancet study: 100,000 Iraqis killed since invasion

The Lancet, journal of the British Medical Association, has released the most comprehensive and scientific survey to date of Iraqi fatalities since the invasion.

Researchers concluded: “The major causes of death before the invasion were myocardial infarction, cerebrovascular accidents, and other chronic disorders whereas after the invasion violence was the primary cause of death. Violent deaths were widespread and were mainly attributed to coalition forces. Most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children. The risk of death from violence in the period after the invasion was 58 times higher than in the period before the war. Making conservative assumptions, we think that about 100,000 excess deaths or more have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths.”



Intense struggle in Ramadi

Agence France Presse reports: “The bomb blast lifted the armoured vehicle into the air and sent flames licking around it. The US marine yelled ‘push, push’ and accelerated the Humvee, named Whiskey Six, down war-torn Ramadi’s main boulevard. The vehicle raced past a mural of a US flag, emblazoned with a swastika instead of stars, and a caption ‘This is the true America.’ Ramadi has been torn by almost daily street battles since April, reducing parts of the city to rubble. Neither side appears closer to a decisive victory today than they did seven months ago. A high-ranking American official in Baghdad said a key indicator for the US military that they are beating the insurgency will come when Sunnis finally start to provide significant intelligence on the resistance. This clearly is not happening in Ramadi. Marine officers are sceptical that they could deliver a knockout blow to insurgents before the January elections. One called the poll date ‘stretching it’. ‘It may take a little longer,’ said another. The two officers seemed certain the insurgency will rage on well into 2005 and thought its outright defeat was not yet in reach.”

The Chicago Tribune reports: “On one side is an American artillery platoon and light infantry, with all the latest technology the US Army can bring to bear. On the other is a team of Iraqi mortar men--probably working from the back of a car. ‘What we’ve learned about the mortar men is they’re very good. In fact, they’re experts,’ said Army Capt. Andre Takacs, 29. ‘It is next to impossible to catch them’, he said. ‘They know exactly when to fire, and move quickly afterward – They have accomplices who spot American troops and sometimes delay them, to prevent us from intercepting the mortar teams.’ Attacks on U.S. supply routes and installations in the area have been relentless. Nearly every day – often several times a day – that has meant mortar attacks on Camp Ramadi. The mortar teams have been firing from grassy areas or among crops, at least 150 yards from buildings, so that counterfire from the Americans doesn’t destroy civilian structures. ‘So they don’t lose the local support,’ Takacs explained. ‘Just like we are, they’re trying to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis.’”



Next Iraq Occupation Focus organising meeting

Tuesday, 9th November, 7:15pm
SOAS, Room G50, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1

Discussion: Trade unionism in occupied Iraq
With Sami Ramadani and Ewa Jasiewicz

Followed by work on practical initiatives, including upcoming IOF teach-in (see below). All welcome. For more information contact: iraqfocus@riseup.net



Attacks halt oil flow

As US voters went to the polls on Tuesday, insurgents mounted the biggest attacks yet on Iraq’s oil infrastructure, blowing up three pipelines in the north and sharply reducing crude oil supplies to Iraq’s biggest refinery at Baiji, according to news agencies. Attacks against oil facilities in north and central Iraq have intensified in the past few weeks as US forces have attacked cities in central Iraq. Imports of refined products have also been disrupted. Oil officials said relentless attacks since the war have cost the treasury billions of dollars in lost revenue.



Bush rejected Muslim peacekeepers

Newsday (New York) revealed on 18 October that Bush rebuffed plans for a Muslim peacekeeping force to help organize elections in Iraq.Ê “Muslim countries that were willing to provide troops were not willing to put them under the command of the US-led coalition,” said a senior Iraqi security official. “In many of these nations, there was too much domestic pressure for the governments to justify putting their troops under US control.” The White House confirmed that US military commanders raised objections because the Muslim troops would not have been under their control. “It was a serious issue for commanders of the Multi-National Force,” said a spokesman.



Vietnam tactics in Iraq: helicopters hover and kill

Associated Press reports: The US military is increasingly turning to attack helicopters to battle guerrillas in Iraq, using tactics closer to those from Vietnam or Israel than the Gulf war formations that blasted Iraqi tanks. The Army is also pushing its fleets of transport helicopters as hard as it can, ferrying US troops and Iraqi leaders by air, rather than letting them drive the country’s ambush-prone roads. Pairs of Apache, Kiowa and Marine Cobra attack helicopters often act as the eyes and arms for small bands of ground troops. They are expected to be critical to the forthcoming attempt to retake Fallujah.

Apaches and Kiowas operate in street battles much the same way as in the Israeli military: rocketing single cars or buildings sheltering insurgents. “You try to shoot them in an alleyway or shoot one car that’s moving along a street,” said Capt. Ryan Welch, 29, an Apache pilot with the 4th Brigade. “It’s not something we used to train for.” The urban fighting puts big decisions into the hand of a 20-something flier.



Zarqawi’s role in Iraq overstated, analysts say

The Boston Globe reports: American officials have grossly inflated the role of Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the violence in Iraq in their eagerness to blame foreign terrorists for the insurgency, according to Jordanian analysts and Western diplomats, who say Zarqawi’s group is just one of many factions and that Zarqawi’s capability and ties to Osama bin Laden have been exaggerated. “The bottom line is that America needs to create a serious public enemy who is not Iraqi so they can claim Iraqis aren’t responsible for the resistance,” said Labib Kamhawi, a Jordanian political analyst who regularly meets with Iraqi government leaders as well as opposition militants. A Western diplomat familiar with evidence against Zarqawi said the US government often paints terrorist activity in Iraq and Jordan with a broad brush, attributing the activities of a disparate array of terror groups and individual operatives to the “Zarqawi network.”

Last week, one fighter, a 37-year-old Jordanian named Hamad Saleh told an Iraqi reporter that he had abandoned his work as a truck driver to join the Iraqi resistance four months ago. But he said he loathed Zarqawi and his organization. Their fundamentalism and “un-Islamic” tactics, including suicide bombings and beheading hostages, Saleh said, had tainted the reputation of fighters who had come to Iraq to join conventional battle against US forces. “You should distinguish between Tawhid and Jihad, which ruined the reputation of the resistance, and those of us Arab fighters who answered Iraq’s call for help,” Saleh said. “We have nothing to do with Al Qaeda or Zarqawi.”



Iraqi regime slashes subsidies

The interim Iraqi government plans to phase out subsidies on basic products for its people, Al-Jazeera reports. CommoditiesÊsuch as oil and electricity, which comprise 50% of public spending, will be included, the interim planning minister hasÊsaid. Unveiling a three-year economic plan, compiled in cooperation with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Mahdi al-Hafidh pledged “a progressive programme to suppress subsidies [which] constitute a significant burden on public finances”. The subsidy systemÊ provides a lifeline for a large portion of the population, many of whom are unemployed or earn only a meagre wage.



Black Watch regiment in Baghdad

Milan Rai writes: “850 British troops from the Black Watch are moving into central Iraq for 30 days to free up 1000 US soldiers for aÊ planned assault on the rebel town of Fallujah. Leaks from the British forces indicate that political opposition at home could stop the Black Watch being replaced by soldiers from the Scots Guard at the end of their tour of duty in the Iskandariyah triangle.” (For more see http://electronicIraq.net/news/1690.shtml)



Journalists under attack

The targeted bomb attack on the Baghdad office of Arab television channel Al Arabiya at the weekend, in which a number of employees were killed, and the killing on Monday of Reuters cameraman Dhia Najim have confirmed Iraq as the world’s most dangerous country for journalists and bring the death toll of journalists and media staff this year to almost 100, says the International Federation of Journalists. On Saturday, bombers struck at Al Arabiya, killing seven people, including five employees. A group calling itself the Jihadist Martyrs Brigades said it was behind the bombing. Al Arabiya, which is largely Saudi-owned, has often been attacked and threatened by militants for being pro-Western, but since the invasion last year its staff have come under fire from all sides. Three of its journalists have died in incidents involving US troops. The killing of Dhia Najim, who was hit by a single bullet, came after he had been filming clashes between military and insurgents, but according to witnesses the exchanges had ended. US officials said he was caught in crossfire, however, colleagues and family say a US sniper shot him.



Justice for Iraq’s detainees: Speaking tour: 13–21 November

Peggy Gish, co-ordinator of the Christian Peacemaker Teams’ Iraq Project, who has spent much of the last 18 months in Iraq is touring the UK to report on the appalling treatment of detainees. See Voices in the Wilderness UK for details of Peggy’s tour, including venues of public meetings being held across the country.



Breaking Ranks: opposition to war and occupation in the US military

Mike Hoffman of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Lou Plummer of US Military Families Speak Out will be touring Britain in early December as guests of Iraq Occupation Focus.

Mike Hoffman is interviewed in US magazine Mother Jones: “If you talk to the majority of guys there [in Iraq], they just want to go the hell home. They don’t want to be there anymore. They don’t see a point to them being there. That’s the real kicker. They don’t understand why they are still there, they don’t see themselves doing any good. They know they’re not wanted by the people of Iraq, so why should they stay?”



Making A Killing: The Corporate Invasion of Iraq

Naomi Klein speaks in London

Friends House, Euston Road
Wednesday 24th November

Doors open 6:30pm
£5 waged/ £3 unwaged
Sponsored by: Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, Voices in the Wilderness UK, War on Want

For more information (and to reserve a seat) go to:
http://www.waronwant.org/naomiklein

For flyer go to:
http://www.waronwant.org/download.php?id=260

In The Guardian Naomi Klein writes about how the Carlyle Group was involved in a secret deal to profit from Iraq’s debt.



Occupation and Resistance in Iraq: An International Teach-in

Sunday 5 December 2004
11am-5pm
University of London Union
Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY

The British media has largely failed to report or explain the realities of the occupation and the resistance to it. At the teach-in, a wide range of speakers from Iraq, the USA and Britain will share their knowledge, expertise and experience. 5th December will be a day to inform ourselves about the situation in Iraq (and the USA), to strengthen our arguments against occupation and examine the challenges facing the anti-war movement.

STOP PRESS: We are delighted that Hassan Jumaa al Asaadi, General Secretary of the Southern Oil Company Trade Union and President of the Basra Oil Union will speak at the Iraq Occupation Focus international teach-in on the 5th and will then be meeting with trade union general secretaries and activists in order to raise awareness of the SOC Union’s achievements. For more information please contact: Ewa Jasiewicz, UK Contact for the Southern Oil Company Trade Union at: freelance@mailworks.org, +44 (0)7749 421 576.

For details of the teach-in, go to: www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk/teachin.htm.