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Iraq Occupation Focus
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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 25
September 6, 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.


Iraq buries its dead but recriminations from the stampede have barely begun

The Independent reports (September 2nd): Families of the hundreds of people who died in Wednesday’s catastrophic stampede in Baghdad have begun burying their dead amid bitter recriminations over the failure of the government to prevent the tragedy. A protest march towards the bridge over the Tigris, where the stampede started, ended in more panic and injuries when guarding soldiers began firing in the air.

Stampede illustrates Iraq tensions

The BBC reports (September 2nd): Within hours of Wednesday’s disaster the Health Minister, a Shia was calling on the Defence Minister, who is a Sunni, to resign, accusing him of having failed to protect the worshippers from harm. Abdul Mutalib Ali also called for the resignation of the Interior Minister, a Shia.

And while cabinet members argue among themselves, the government as a whole has hardly helped lower the temperature by pinning the blame for Wednesdays tragedy squarely on Saddam loyalists. It accuses them of infiltrating the crowds and spreading rumours of an imminent suicide attack in a calculated attempt to cause panic.

Critics believe the government is simply trying to deflect attention away from what they claim was its woeful mismanagement of security for the Shia ceremony.

Badly-Placed Barricades Caused Stampede in Iraq

Zaman.com reports (September 2nd): According to The Times, the disaster took place when security forces blocked the exit of the bridge to prevent a possible suicide attack and tried to search the participants who were about to gather for a commemoration ceremony. Shiite worshippers who could not jump over the barricades threw themselves to the Tigris River to rescue themselves from the stampede.

It stresses that if the barricades had been set up at the entrance to the bridge instead of the exit, the calamity could not have occurred.



How the US got its neoliberal way in Iraq

Asia Times reports (September 1st): Last June 30, the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada published a draft of the Iraqi constitution that wanted to build a Scandinavian-type welfare system in the Arabian desert, with Iraq’s vast oil wealth to be spent on upholding every Iraqi’s right to education, health care, housing, and other social services. Those involved in drafting the constitution, wanted nothing of the kind of economic and political system that Bremer and other US officials had been attempting to create in Iraq ever since the occupation began. What the occupation authorities wanted was to fulfil “the wish-list of international investors”, as The Economist magazine described the economic policies they began imposing in the country in 2003.

By the time the next version was leaked in late July, the progressive provisions in the draft constitution had disappeared. Playing a central role was newly appointed US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, a member of the Project for a New American Century who had called for invading Iraq since 1998. Complained Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of the constitution committee Kurdish member of the constitutional committee who was involved in the caucuses: “The Americans say they don’t intervene, but they have intervened deep. They gave us a detailed proposal, almost a full version of a constitution.”

By the time it was served on the table on August 28, gone was the article proclaiming adherence to social justice as the basis of the economy and gone was the provision affirming the Iraqi people’s collective ownership of Iraq’s oil and other natural resources and obliging the state to protect and safeguard them. Instead, a new article lays the legal ground for selling off Iraq’s oil and putting it under the control of the big multinational oil companies.



US forces, fighters clash in Iraq town

Al-Jazeera report (27 August): At least 20 people have been killed after heavy fighting erupted between US forces and armed men in al-Qaim city, 340km west of Baghdad, medical sources say.

Scores also were wounded in clashes in the town near the Iraq-Syria border, an eyewitness told Aljazeera. Hassan Jasim, who spoke to Aljazeera from al-Qaim, said US forces made announcements through loudspeakers instructing people to leave the city because warplanes would launch heavy air strikes on the positions of the armed men.

Jasim, a resident of al-Qaim, said, “US troops have launched a savage attack against the city and a large number of people have been killed and injured.” He said water and electricity were cut because of the air strike. “The streets are filled with dead and injured people and no one could reach or help them due to the fighting,” he said.

Earlier this year US forces hit the same desert region with heavy artillery, destroying parts of the city. The military then said it was targeting “foreign fighters” in the area who slip through the border. Iraqis in al-Qaim, however, said there are no foreigners among them.



Haditha under fire

Azzaman reports (August 22): It was Friday, August 5, when the bombs started falling on our city. They came in like heavy rain and their thunder broke the silence and early morning calls to prayer from the mosque’s minarets. When the shelling subsided, U.S. commanders ordered their marines to storm the city. They searched Haditha quarter by quarter, house by houses and arrested scores of young men and even women and prevented us from holding the afternoon Friday prayers.

In one bloody incident I saw the marines killing two unarmed inhabitants. One of them was in his bed in the Sheikh Hadid district, where Sumaidi was born. The second was killed as he strolled in his garden. More residents began falling. In our area only the marines killed five people, all of them unarmed and had nothing to do with the insurgents.



Troops Target Homes in West Iraq

LA Times report (August 31st): U.S. warplanes bombed several Iraqi houses along the Syrian border, killing a man described by the military as a “known terrorist” and destroying what officials called three insurgent safe houses. A U.S. military statement gave no overall casualty estimate for the attacks on the remote border towns of Karabila and Husaybah, but residents estimated that more than 50 people were killed. The military statement said there was little damage to surrounding buildings. Iraqi residents, however, said there had been massive property damage and high civilian casualties. Residents put the death toll for the bombings at 56, and said U.S. warplanes also attacked rescuers attempting to extract survivors from the debris.



US probes killing of Iraqi by marines

Reuters report (August 21st): The U.S. military said it had opened a criminal investigation into the killing by U.S. Marines of a relative of Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations. A statement from the military said the commanding general of the II Marine Expeditionary Force had referred the case of the death of Mohammed al-Sumaida'ie to the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service for further investigation.

Mohammed al-Sumaida'ie, the son of ambassador Samir al- Sumaida'ie’s first cousin, was shot dead near Haditha, western Iraq, as Marines were searching his family’s home on June 25. In July, ambassador Sumaida'ie, who has been Iraq’s representative at the United Nations since last year, accused U.S. troops of killing his 21-year-old relative, an engineering student, “in cold blood” and demanded a full inquiry.



Iraq general says US troops shot him

Reuters report (August 20th): An Iraqi general who commands the country’s border defence force was shot and wounded while driving in Baghdad late on Saturday and accused U.S. troops of firing on his car, police and hospital sources said.

Major General Ali Hamadi told doctors at Yarmouk Hospital, who treated him for a gunshot wound to the abdomen, that U.S. forces fired on him as he was driving himself to a doctor’s appointment, a source at the hospital told Reuters.

Iraqis daily accuse American troops of opening fire on motorists, often killing them.



Tens of thousands languish in jail

The Washington Post reports (August 24th): Since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, the military said it has arrested more than 40,000 people. The population today at the three U.S.-run prisons Bucca, Abu Ghraib and Camp Cropper near the Baghdad airport, where former President Saddam Hussein and his lieutenants are being held is 10,600, double the number of a year ago. The average incarceration at Bucca is a year. The military attributes the surge in detentions to an increase in combat operations and the inability of the nascent Iraqi justice system to handle the crushing caseload.

Many of the freed detainees express bewilderment at why they were held; even the U.S. commander who oversees Bucca, Col. Austin Schmidt, 55, of Fairfax, estimated that one in four prisoners “perhaps were just snagged in a dragnet-type operation” or were victims of personal vendettas. “This is like Chicago in the ’30s: You don’t like somebody, you drop a dime on them,” Schmidt said. “And by the time the Iraqi court system figures it out, they go home. But it takes a while.”



“No special consideration for journalists”

The Guardian reports (August 26th): The US military has told journalists working in Iraq they will be given no special consideration after Reuters demanded an explanation for the continued detention of its cameraman in the country’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison. Reuters has been denied access to Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani since he was arrested by US troops at his home in Ramadi on August 8.

Military sources told the news agency Mashhadani was a “security detainee”, implying suspected links to insurgents, but have refused to give details of any suspicions or accusations.

International press freedom groups have spoken out against the arrest, pointing out that journalists’ work is likely to put them into contact with insurgents. “There is an intolerable denial of basic rights here,” said Aidan White, the general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists. “This man is being denied visitors and there is growing concern about his welfare. The US authorities should reveal what, if anything, he is charged with or free him immediately.”



Radioactive Wounds of War

In These Times reports (August 25th): Gerard Matthew returned from his Iraq tour a year and a half ago alive but learned that a bunkmate, Sgt. Ray Ramos, and a group of N.Y. Guard members from another unit tested for depleted uranium (DU) contamination, and had tested positive. Matthew, 31, decided that he’d better get tested too. It turned out he was the most contaminated of them all.

Matthew immediately urged his wife to get an ultrasound check of their unborn baby. They discovered the fetus had a condition common to those with radioactive exposure: atypical syndactyly. The right hand had only two digits.

Uranium is also a highly toxic heavy metal. According to Mt. Sinai pathologist Thomas Fasey, who participated in the New York Guard unit testing, the element has an affinity for bonding with DNA, where even trace amounts can cause cancers and fetal abnormalities.

No one knows how many U.S. soldiers have been contaminated by DU residue. Despite regulations authorizing tests for any military personnel who suspects exposure, the U.S. military is avoiding doing those tests梠r delaying them until they are meaningless.



Iraqi unions face threat to independence

Scottish Socialist Voice reports (August 25th): The Iraqi government is attempting to control trade union activity by overturning an agreement that allowed unions to operate without any undue interference or harassment from the state.

A new decree adopted by the Iraqi Council of Ministers stated that the government would be “taking control of all monies belonging to the trade unions to prevent them from dispensing any such monies”. Ominously the decree also says that new proposals on how trade unions should function, operate and organise will be prepared. The proposals have drawn protests from UK trade unions.

One example of the growing union activity saw health care workers in the hospital and medical centres in Kirkuk and its suburban cities organising a two-hour general strike against pay cuts imposed by the Health Ministry. And the dangers faced by trade unionists were highlighted last week when a US military helicopter attacked workers gathered in Alawi Al-Hilla district in Baghdad on 15 August 2005, where the Transport and Communication Workers’ Union has its head office, injuring 26 workers who were taken to hospital. Unions have protested about the attack to the Iraqi authorities.



People falling ill from contaminated water

IRIN report (August 25th): Numerous cases of people falling ill from contaminated water in districts across Baghdad have been reported by local doctors and the Ministry of Public Works this week.

“We have registered dozens of cases of people falling ill from dirty water in the past four days and we have found that the water used was from taps water inside the homes,” Dr Hassan Adnan, a paediatrician at Yarmouk Hospital, said.

Doctors have informed the ministries of Public Works and Health and asked for urgent assistance, especially in districts where there are large numbers of people falling ill.



Condemnation of scheduled executions

IRIN report (August 24th): International human rights groups have condemned the passing down of the first death sentence in Iraq since US-led forces invaded the country in April 2003 and ousted former leader Saddam Hussein. Three men will be executed in the first week of September, officials said.,/p>

The death penalty, which was used to punish criminals during Hussein’s regime, was abolished by US forces in 2003, but reinstated in August 2004 during the rule of former prime minister, Iyad Allawi.

A senior Ministry of Human Rights official, Ahmed Subhi, said that they believe the implementation of the death penalty was not a solution. Amnesty International also condemned the execution order, saying it was concerned that dozens of death sentences had been handed out in recent weeks and that in this case there was no difference between the time of Saddam and the present.



Iraq war “costlier than Vietnam”

BBC reports (August 31st): The monthly cost to the US of the war in Iraq is now greater than the average monthly cost of the Vietnam War, a report by two anti-war groups says. The report put costs in Iraq at $500m (�8m) a month more than in Vietnam, adjusted for inflation. This makes Iraq the most expensive US war in the past 60 years, they say. The report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF), called The Iraq Quagmire, calculates the cost of current military operations in Iraq at $5.6bn (�1bn) every month.



Iraqi hospitals ailing under Occupation

Dahr Jamail reports (issued on June 21st and endorsed by the Brussels Tribunal): Hospitals in Iraq continue to face ongoing medicine, equipment, and staffing shortages under the US-led occupation. Many doctors in Iraq believe that, more widely, the lack of assistance, if not outright hostility, by the US military, coupled with the lack of rebuilding and reconstruction by foreign contractors has compounded the problems they are facing ...

Doctors from Fallujah General Hospital, as well as others who worked in clinics throughout the city during the US siege of Fallujah reported that US Marines obstructed their services and that US snipers intentionally targeted their clinics and ambulances.



Economic Occupation of Iraq on Trial

Four British human rights activists face trial for attempting to prevent the alleged criminal activity of London-based Iraq privatisation organisers Windrush Communications. The defendants have applied for disclosure of all advice given by the Attorney General to the British Government. Their defence statements will be challenging the legality of the economic reforms imposed by coalition authorities in occupied Iraq.

The defendants will be arguing that they were attempting to prevent crimes being committed under the International Criminal Court Act 2000. The ICCA allows for the prosecution of war crimes committed in Britain or by British Nationals.

Steven Barnes 30, Nick Gill, 28, Ewa Jasiewicz, 27, and Yasmin Khan, 24 will appear at Bow Magistrates Court on September 14th, 16th, and 19th 2005. The four were originally arrested for ‘Aggravated Trespass’ – disrupting a lawful activity – when they besieged the offices of Windrush Communications in December 2004.

For more information: http://www.radicalactivist.net/corporateiraq.shtml and http://www.basraoilunion.org



Upcoming events

10 September 2005, LEEDS: 'Anti-Occupation March'.
Assemble 12 noon outside Leeds City Art Gallery, Headrow. Organised by Leeds Stop the War.

11 September 2005 (1-7pm),HASTINGS: Green Fair 2005 Alexandra Park. Free Admission. JNV stand and workshop

11 September 2005 (10am-6pm), SALFORD: International Conference Against Terrorism. Salford University.
With speakers Mark Curtis (‘Unpeople’), Dr. Jan Hancock (Centre for International Politics, University of Manchester) and others.
Tickets � available from ‘The Basement’ bookshop, 24 Lever Street (off Picadilly Gardens). 07881 798960 or email amirriaz100@hotmail.com

14 September 2005 (10am), LONDON: Trial of Activists Arrested for Occupying the Office of Windrush Communications.
The organiser of a series of business conferences re. Iraq. 10am, Bow Road Magistrates Court.
E-mail:yas_khan@yahoo.com for more info.

17 September 2005 (11.30am), LONDON: Islington Carnival for Peace. Highbury Fields. March to Islington Green for rally with Jeremy Corbyn MP

21 September 2005, LONDON: Public Meeting organised by Brent Stop the War. Pakistani Community Centre.
Contact: brent@stopwar.org.uk

Saturday 24 September 2005 (1pm), LONDON: National Demo
Stop the War Coalition with CND and MAB have called a National Demonstration to Stop the Bombings, Stop the War, Bring the Troops Home, Defend Civil Liberties and Defend the Muslim Community.

Sunday 25 September 2005 (7–9pm), BRIGHTON: Labour Against the War at the Labour Party Conference fringe. IRAQ: END THE OCCUPATION, BRING THE TROOPS HOME.
Venue: Friends Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton.
Chair: Alan Simpson MP. Confirmed speakers: Tony Benn, Michael Meacher MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Gerry Doherty (General Secretary TSSA), Christine Shawcroft (LP NEC), Sami Ramadani (Senior lecture, London Metropolitan University), Reg Keys.



“Voices from Occupied Iraq”
An International Teach-in

Saturday 26 November 2005
Themes: Corporate invasion; democratic, civil and human rights; resistance.
Organised by: Iraq Occupation Focus
Sponsored by: Voices In the Wilderness, Labour and Trade Union Review/Bevin Society.
Venue: University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1.
10am – 5pm (Registration: 10 am).

Speakers include:
Gilbert Achcar, author The Clash of Barbarisms: September 11 and the Making of the New World Disorder
Ismeel Dawood, human rights activist, Baghdad
Jeremy Dear, General Secretary National Union of Journalists
Hassan Juma’a, General Secretary, General Union of Oil Employees,Basra
Rahul Mahajan, author of Empire Notes (http://www.empirenotes.org)
Professor Kamil Mahdi, Exeter University Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies
Sami Ramadani, lecturer, Iraqi-born activist, regular contributor to The Guardian,
Haifa Zangana, Iraqi-born novelist, activist and former political prisoner in Iraq, regular contributor to The Guardian

Registration �(waged), �(unwaged). Creche available if booked in advance.
To register in advance, or for further information contact Iraq Occupation Focus, http://www.iraqoccupationfocus.org/ or PO Box 44680, London N16 7XX, email: iraqfocus@riseup.net