Iraq Occupation Focus
Newsletter No. 17
April 9, 2005
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Iraqis take to the streets in protest as occupation enters its third year
Today (9th April) marks the second anniversary of the seizure of Baghdad by invading US forces the moment generally seen as marking the transition from war to occupation. But, just as the number of coalition casualties during the past two years far exceeds those inflicted during the three-week invasion, so for Iraqi civilians, occupation has proved far more bloody and devastating than the brief war proper, and recent reports of their continuing suffering can be found below.
It is not surprising, then, that Iraqis chose to meet todays grim anniversary with the largest anti-American demonstration since the US-led invasion (Press Association, 9th April). Chanting No, no to the occupiers, tens of thousands of young and old men gathered in the poor Shia district of Sadr City on Saturday to begin a planned peaceful march to al-Firdos Square, the central Baghdad spot where Saddams statue was torn down two years ago. (Al-Jazeera, 9th April)
The Associated Press (9th April) reports: Tens of thousands of Shiites marked the anniversary of the fall of Baghdad with a protest against the American military presence at the square where Iraqis and U.S. troops toppled a statue of Saddam Hussein two years ago. ...
This huge gathering shows that the Iraqi people have the strength and faith to protect their country and liberate it from the occupiers, said Ahmed Abed, a 26-year-old who sells spare car parts. ...
The protesters filled Firdos Square and spilled onto nearby avenues, waving Iraqi flags. Mimicking the famous images of U.S. soldiers and Iraqis pulling down a statue of Saddam as Baghdad fell, protesters toppled effigies of President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Saddam all dressed like Iraqi prisoners in red jumpsuits. Other effigies of Bush and Saddam were burned.
Force the occupation to leave from our country, one banner read in English. ... Roads in central Baghdad were closed to traffic as streets filled with people.
Other marches were held across the country to demand that the United States set a timetable for its withdrawal. In the central city of Ramadi, thousands of protestors demonstrated in the al-Sufayaa neighborhood and at Anbar University, demanding that U.S.-led coalition forces set a withdrawal date.
70% of Fallujah destroyed
IRIN (4th April) reports: Government studies suggest that 70 percent of buildings were destroyed in the city [of Fallujah] during the last conflict between US troops and insurgents. This left thousands of families still encamped on the outskirts of the city, waiting for a government solution to their problem. ...
Muhammad Abdul al-Aani, deputy minister for industry, told IRIN that of the total number of houses damaged in the city, only 90 families had received compensation of around US $1,500 each so far. ...
Doctor Hafid al-Dulaimi, director of the Commission for the Compensation of Fallujah Citizens (CCFC), established by the government, told IRIN that a study had been carried to assess the scale of destruction. He reported 36,000 destroyed homes in all districts of Fallujah, along with 8,400 shops. Al-Dulaimi pointed out that 60 childrens nurseries, primary and secondary schools and colleges were destroyed and 65 mosques and religious sanctuaries were almost demolished by the attack, with 13 government buildings requiring new infrastructure.
Infant malnutrition twice as common after occupation
Associated Press (30th March) reports: Malnutrition among the youngest Iraqis has almost doubled since the U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, a hunger specialist told the U.N. human rights body Wednesday in a summary of previously reported studies on health in Iraq.
By last fall, 7.7 percent of Iraqi children under 5 suffered acute malnutrition, compared to 4 percent after Saddams ouster in April 2003, said Jean Ziegler, the U.N. Human Rights Commissions special expert on the right to food. ... Overall, more than a quarter of Iraqi children dont get enough to eat, Ziegler told the 53-nation commission...
The mercenary viewpoint: shooting people is fun
The Observer (3rd April) reports: One of the biggest private security firms in Iraq has created outrage after a memo to staff claimed it is fun to shoot people. Emails seen by The Observer reveal that employees of Blackwater Security were recently sent a message stating that actually it is fun to shoot some people.
Dated 7 March and bearing the name of Blackwaters president, Gary Jackson, the electronic newsletter adds that terrorists need to get creamed, and its fun, meaning satisfying, to do the shooting of such folk.
Human rights groups said yesterday that the comments raised fresh questions over the role of civilian contractors operating in Iraq and other world flashpoints. ...
Among its various roles in post-war Iraq, Blackwater has guarded provincial outposts for the Iraqi coalition provisional authority and had the contract to keep former chief US envoy Paul Bremer alive.
Prisoner abuse approved by top US commander
The Independent (3rd April) reports: Americas leading civil liberties group has demanded an investigation into the former US military commander Iraq after a formerly classified memo revealed that he personally sanctioned a series of coercive interrogation techniques outlawed by the Geneva Conventions. ... Documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reveal that Lt General Ricardo Sanchez authorised techniques such as the use of dogs to intimidate prisoners, stress positions and disorientation. ... The ACLU says that at least 12 of the techniques listed in the [September 2003] memo went beyond the limits for interrogation listed in the US Armys field manual.
The Pentagon originally refused to release the memo on national security grounds, but passed it to the ACLU after the group challenged it in court. Mr Rumsfeld last week dismissed suggestions that it had been withheld to save the Pentagons embarrassment. But the ACLU said the reason for the delay in delivering the more than 1,200 pages of documents in which the memo was contained was evident in the contents, which included reports of brutal beatings and sworn statements that soldiers were told to beat the fuck out of prisoners.
Cronyism and corruption blight US-led reconstruction
The New Standard reports (March 22nd) reports: Nearly two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, according to findings issued last week by an international corruption watchdog, the reconstruction of Iraqs dilapidated infrastructure and the revitalization of its economy are becoming models of cronyism, bribery and irresponsible privatization.
An annual report on Global Corruption produced by Berlin-based Transparency International (TI) sharply criticizes the US for mismanaging Iraqs oil revenues and for using faulty procedures for awarding reconstruction contracts. The report also criticizes efforts to rapidly privatize Iraqi assets and industries as a means of reducing the countrys debt. TI warns that unless immediate corrective measures are taken, Iraqs reconstruction could become the biggest corruption scandal in history.
The US has also been a poor role model, according to TI, in how to keep corrupt practices at bay, as exemplified by Washingtons highly secretive methods of awarding contracts for reconstruction projects in Iraq, which TI said lend themselves to cronyism.
Full scale of Halliburton scandal starts to emerge
The Guardian (16th March) reports: The Pentagon stood accused of sitting on a damaging report from its own auditors on a $108.4m (�.6m) overcharge by Halliburton for its services in Iraq yesterday.
In a scathing letter to George Bush, Democratic congressmen Henry Waxman of California and John Dingell of Michigan said the Defence Contract Audit Agencys audit was completed last October before the election. They also note that 12 separate requests to the Pentagon to view the completed audits on the contractors $2.5bn contract to supply fuel and other services in post-war Iraq had been ignored. ...
Some $1.6bn of the $2.5bn Halliburton contract was funded from Iraqi oil revenues overseen by the UN. The evidence suggests that the US used Iraqi oil proceeds to overpay Halliburton and then sought to hide the evidence of these overcharges from the international auditors, the letter says.
In the most startling transaction, [Halliburton] charged the Pentagon $27.5m to ship $82,100 worth of cooking and heating fuel to Iraq from Kuwait 335 times the actual cost of the liquified petroleum gas, a charge the Pentagon auditors said was illogical. ...
The audit released this week covers only one of 10 task orders undertaken under the $2.5bn no-bid contract awarded immediately after the invasion of Iraq. However, the overcharges identified in the single task order already dwarf the $61m (�m) in previously discovered overcharges. Halliburton charged army corps of engineers $875m (�7m) to supply fuel from May 2003 to March 2004. Auditors questioned $108.4m (�.6m) of those costs.
The corporate invasion of Iraq
US plans for oil sell-off backfired
Greg Palast reports for BBC (March 17th): Two years ago ... protesters claimed the US had a secret plan for Iraqs oil once Saddam had been conquered. In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of Big Oil executives and US State Department pragmatists. ...
The industry-favoured plan [for a forced coup detat] was pushed aside by a secret plan, drafted just before the invasion in 2003, which called for the sell-off of all of Iraqs oil fields. The new plan was crafted by neo-conservatives intent on using Iraqs oil to destroy the Opec cartel through massive increases in production above Opec quotas. ...
[Iraqi-born oil industry consultant, Falah] Aljibury, once Ronald Reagans back-channel to Saddam, claims that plans to sell off Iraqs oil, pushed by the US-installed Governing Council in 2003, helped instigate the insurgency and attacks on US and British occupying forces. Insurgents used this, saying, Look, youre losing your country, youre losing your resources to a bunch of wealthy billionaires who want to take you over and make your life miserable, said Mr Aljibury from his home near San Francisco. We saw an increase in the bombing of oil facilities, pipelines, built on the premise that privatisation is coming.