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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 7
September 8, 2004

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US Military Families Speak Out – UK tour

From the Saturday 4th December to Friday 10 December, Lou Plummer of US Military Families Speak Out and Michael Hoffman from Iraq Veterans Against the War will be touring the country as guests of IOF. They will be available for media interviews, college and workplace and public meetings. They would especially welcome any chance to meet with their counterparts among British military families. We are seeking financial sponsorship for Lou and Michael’s visit (to defray cost of airfares). Please consider sending us a contribution.

For more about Lou and Michael, their tour and how to contribute see: http://www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk/speakertour.htm



 

The last few days saw US fatalities in Iraq pass the 1,000 mark. In August alone, more than 1,000 occupying troops were injured and at least 70 killed.

Neither the occupying forces nor their hand-picked interim Iraqi government keep records of the number of Iraqis killed. But in the six days since Friday, 3 September, clashes in all areas of the country appear to have left about two hundred dead and many more injured.



Falluja under fire

US fighter jets struck Falluja again on Tuesday night (7 September) and Wednesday morning (8 Septmber), killing at least six Iraqis and injuring 24 others, according to latest reports. A Falluja hospital spokesman said that a child and an elderly man were among the dead. There has also be fighting inside the city. Witnesses reported an intense tank and artillery barrage in the southern Shuhada district. Families in the affected areas as well as the Nazal neighbourhood have fled their homes. During the bombardment, no ambulance or medical team could reach the targeted areas to evacuate the casualties. A US military spokesman said: “Significant numbers of enemy fighters – up to 100 – are estimated to have been killed... We are responding after being under fire. We are hitting enemy positions ... using aircraft and artillery fire.” However, Iraqi sources said mainly civilians were killed in the barrage.

The assault was the latest in a series of attacks on Falluja by the occupying forces. On 1 September a US air strike killed 20 people, prompting a demonstration by protesters who called on US soldiers to fight them on the battlefield. On 6 September, the US military suffered its worst single human loss in months when a car bomb ripped through a convoy near Falluja, killing seven marines and three Iraqi national guards. Four Iraqi civilians were wounded in an ensuing gunbattle.



Deadly battle in Sadr City

At least 41 Iraqis and one US soldier were killed in clashes between US forces and fighters loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad’s Sadr City on Monday and Tuesday (6/ 7 September), al-Jazeera reports. Health Ministry official Saad al-Amili said there were also at least 193 injured. It was the most intense shelling of the district since the US troops arrived in Baghdad in March 2003. A spokesman for Al-Sadr said the clashes were a result of “arrest operations and provocative action carried out by the US forces every day... Houses and shops are being stormed every day.” The fighting brought an abrupt end to the lull following Al-Sadr’s call last week for a ceasefire. Al-Sadr aides said peace talks with the Allawi government had stalled because the authorities rejected the militia’s demands for US troops to keep out of Sadr City.



“Poor, innocent people being killed on both sides”

Rose Gentle, mother of 19 year old British soldier Gordon Gentle, who was killed in Iraq in June, has launched the Campaign for Justice for Gordon Gentle (justiceforgordongentle@yahoo.co.uk; 53 Templeland Rd., Glasgow G53 5PG; tel. 07780 757 415.)

“I want to see the troops brought home immediately,” Rose Gentle says. “If they can’t take home the troops, then what was the handover about? These are poor, innocent people being killed out there, on both sides. It’s the governments killing them off, really.”



An urgent appeal to the kidnappers of NGO workers from the Italian peace movement

“We, the Italian peace movement, brothers and sisters of Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, peace activists in Iraq, ask the people who are holding them, together with the two Iraqi volunteers, Ra’ad Ali Abdul-Aziz and Manhaz Bassam, to free them immediately.

“As the Union of the Islamic Communities in Italy stated, ‘Show that you are grateful towards those who have shared the suffering of the Iraqi people during the years of the embargo, who stayed in the country when bombs were falling from the sky, who have not abandoned the country even in these horrible months of confusion and violence.’

“We ask you not to break the thread of solidarity, which in spite of the choices of our government, people like our sisters have been maintaining bravely, as they did by bringing water to the besieged populations in Falluja and Najaf.

Un ponte per Baghdad (‘Bridge to Baghdad’), their NGO, together with hundreds of other organizations in our country, have organised huge demonstrations for peace and for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq and have been doing their best not to abandon the Iraqi people to the violence of the military occupation. In the name of this struggle, we implore you: free them immediately. We call on the Italian movement to gather in the streets, in every city, right now, with the colours of the rainbow of peace and in the name of our sisters and brothers who were kidnapped in Iraq.”

Issued by: Comitato Italiano Fermiamo la Guerra (the Italian ‘Committee to Stop the War’, organizer of the marches of February 15th 2003 and March 20th 2004) and Un Ponte per Baghdad (A Bridge to Baghdad). Send messages of support to Paola Manduca, Bridge to Baghdad, magma2@libero.it



Clerics order end to kidnapping

Iraq’s most senior Sunni religious body said it would issue a fatwa outlawing the abduction and execution of any foreigner in the country, the Daily Telegraph reports. At least 102 foreigners have been abducted since April. Twenty-eight have been executed. “We are going to issue a fatwa declaring that the kidnapping of foreigners in general is not Islamic and ordering that all hostages be released immediately,” said Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abdul Jabbar, a senior cleric.



Elections in doubt

A top US general says the authorities may exclude ‘hot spots’ from voting in the elections planned for January, 2005, according to an article in The Boston Globe. Lieutenant General Thomas F. Metz, operations chief of more than 150,000 mostly US troops in Iraq, said a contingency plan is to bypass Falluja and other ‘violent enclaves’ and concentrate on ensuring electoral security where hostility is lower. US-led forces, Metz said, have also not ruled out military action before the vote to win back control in Falluja and Samarra.

Meanwhile, in a report to the Security Council, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said that “in addition to severely disrupting everyday life for Iraqis, the ongoing violence could undermine confidence in the transitional political process, making it more difficult to create the conditions necessary for the holding of elections in January 2004... It must be recognised that the problem of insecurity can only be addressed through a political process. This requires a commitment to stop relying solely or mainly on threats or actual use of armed force.”



Oil sabotage continues

On 27 August, there were multiple attacks on pipelines and other oil facilities outside both Basra and Baghdad. On 1 September, an explosion on the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline sparked a huge fire that halted exports to Turkey. On 4th September, saboteurs reignited the blaze a day after it had been put out. Saboteurs also set ablaze a pipeline providing gas to a major power plant south of Kirkuk, threatening electricity supplies across northern Iraq. For updates see Iraq Pipeline Watch: www.iags.org/iraqpipelinewatch.htm.



Al-Jazeera ban extended indefinitely

The International Federation of Journalists condemned the indefinite ban on Al-Jazeera by the interim government. “Journalists inside and outside Iraq will be dismayed at this significant blow to hopes for democracy and free expression,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Iraq cannot shake off the legacy of war, intolerance and an era of tyranny by closing down independent voices just because rulers disagree with what they say.” Iraqi security officers raided the channel’s Baghdad offices at the weekend.



9/11 anniversary

Justice Not Vengeance has produced two 9/11 anniversary flyers (‘Are we safer’ and ‘Which way forward? Relatives Speak Out’) available to download.

Activities around the country on Saturday, 11 September:

Bury St Edmunds: 9/11 Anniversary Street Stall – call for Tony Blair’s resignation and an end to the occupation. 8.30am–4pm, Bury St Edmunds Market Place. Organised by Suffolk4Peace: www.suffolk4peace.org

Oxford: Vigil To Honour All The Victims Of The “War On Terrorism” Over The Past Three Years. From 6.30pm onwards, Cornmarket Street. Organised by Oxford Stop the War Coalition, oxford@stopwar.org.uk

Colchester: End The Cycle Of Violence – Bring The Troops Home. War Memorial, Colchester High St, by Castle Gates, from 1pm. Vigil to mourn the victims from New York to Najaf and demand an end to the occupation. Organised by Colchester Peace Campaign.

London: 9/11 – Visions Of Another World: Free Festival For Peace to coincide with the launch of the Peace Not War CD Volume 2. 1pm-1am at rampART Community Creative Centre and Social Space, 15-17 Rampart Street, London E1 2LA. Details: 07910 004410.



And coming soon...

13 September, Yeovil: Demo Outside Westland Helicopters. Vigil and street theatre: including simulation of the aftermath of a helicopter gunship attack on an Iraqi town. Meet at 8am at the main entrance to Westland, off Lysander Road, Yeovil. Contact 0845 456 1321 or globalpeaceaction@hotmail.com.

28 September, Brighton: ‘Warmonger out of Brighton’ – Sussex Action for Peace has called a demonstration outside the Labour Party Conference on the day Tony Blair speaks. Assemble 12.00 noon, Tuesday 28th September at the Peace Statue, Brighton seafront. www.safp.org.uk.

17 October, London: Stop Bush & Blair’s War; End The Occupation Of Iraq. National demo called by Stop the War Coalition, CND and the Muslim Association of Britain. Time and route to be announced. See www.stopwar.org.uk.

1–7 November: Seven Days For Iraq. Events to fund and equip a rehabilitation centre for children in Falluja. Organised by Stop the War in conjunction with CND and Child Victims of War. On the night of the US election (2nd November) there will be a reading of the names of those who have lost their lives in Iraq since the US and UK invasion somewhere in the vicinity of Trafalgar Square and a candlelit vigil outside Downing Street. STW is encouraging groups across the UK to stage their own events and hold similar readings on 2 November. Contact 020 7053 2153. www.stopwar.org.uk



Saturday 4 December: Iraq Occupation Focus day conference, central London

Speakers will include Tariq Ali, Christian Parenti (author of the forthcoming book The Freedom: Shadows and Hallucinations in Occupied Iraq; see his latest despatch from Iraq in The Nation), Lou Plummer from US Military Families Speak Out (www.mfso.org) and Michael Hoffman from Iraq Veterans Against the War (www.ivaw.org).



Video: US Labor Against the War in London

A ten minute video of the speech by US Labor Against the War co-convenor Gene Bruskin to the IOF meeting in London on 5 August is now available at filmmakersagainstwar.org.



IOF monthly organising meeting

Tuesday, 14 September, 7:15 pm,
SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, central London
Room G50

Guest speaker: Justin Alexander of Jubilee Iraq (anti-debt campaign) who has just returned from Iraq.

All welcome.