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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 17
April 9, 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.


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 today’s 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 Saddam’s 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-A’ani, 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 children’s 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 Saddam’s ouster in April 2003, said Jean Ziegler, the U.N. Human Rights Commission’s special expert on the right to food. ... Overall, more than a quarter of Iraqi children don’t 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 Blackwater’s president, Gary Jackson, the electronic newsletter adds that terrorists ‘need to get creamed, and it’s 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: “America’s 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 Army’s 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 Pentagon’s 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 Iraq’s 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 Iraq’s 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 country’s debt. TI warns that unless immediate corrective measures are taken, Iraq’s 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 Washington’s ‘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 Agency’s 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 contractor’s $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 Iraq’s 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 d’etat] was pushed aside by a secret plan, drafted just before the invasion in 2003, which called for the sell-off of all of Iraq’s oil fields. The new plan was crafted by neo-conservatives intent on using Iraq’s oil to destroy the Opec cartel through massive increases in production above Opec quotas. ...

“[Iraqi-born oil industry consultant, Falah] Aljibury, once Ronald Reagan’s ‘back-channel’ to Saddam, claims that plans to sell off Iraq’s 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, you’re losing your country, you’re 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.’”

 
IOF Factsheet: The Corporate Invasion of Iraq [PDF, 65KB] 

New IOF Factsheet available

Iraq Occupation Focus has just released a new factsheet on ‘the corporate invasion of Iraq’. The 2-sided A4 sheet gives a handy summary of topics such as Paul Bremer’s notorious CPA orders, the ‘reconstrcution racket’, the misappropriation of ‘reparations’ to benefit corporate greed, the future role of the IMF in Iraq, and Iraqi workers’ resistance to the takeover of their country.

Click here to download [PDF, 65KB]



Journalists continue to face grave dangers in reporting the real face of occupation

Only a brave few report the horrors of Falluja

Aljazeera reports (March 20th): “All is quiet in Falluja, or at least that is how it seems, given that the mainstream media has largely forgotten about the Iraqi city. But independent journalists are risking life and limb to bring out a very different story. The picture they are painting is of US soldiers killing whole families, including children, attacks on hospitals and doctors, the use of napalm-like weapons and sections of the city destroyed.”

Al-Arabiya reporter detained at airport with Fallujah footage

Al-Jazeera (28 March) reports: “Iraqi police have detained a correspondent of Dubai-based television [station] Al-Arabiya at Baghdad airport after confiscating film footage, the interior ministry confirmed. ‘He was arrested at the airport because police found in his baggage a cassette about Falluja,’ ... a ministry official said on Monday. [Al-Arabiya] said it was in contact with the ministry to secure the release of the correspondent, whom it named as Wail Isam. According to the station, another correspondent based in Falluja was detained for 11 days in November by the US military, which led the massive onslaught to wrest the city from anti-US fighters.”

CBS cameraman shot by US troops

The Guardian (8th April) reports: “Reporters Sans Frontieres today called for an investigation after a freelance cameraman working for CBS in Iraq was shot by US troops who mistook his camera for a gun. The cameraman, an Iraqi national who has not been named, sustained a hip injury after he was shot near the northern city of Mosul.

“It is the second time US forces have mistaken a camera for a weapon; the Reuters journalist Mazen Dana was killed on August 17 2003 in Baghdad when his camera was mistaken for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.”



More soldiers refuse to serve

The Guardian reports (March 19th) reports: “At the same time that Kevin Benderman’s unit was called up for a second tour in Iraq with the Third Infantry Division, two soldiers tried to kill themselves and another had a relative shoot him in the leg. Seventeen went awol or ran off to Canada, and Sergeant Benderman, whose family has sent a son to every war since the American revolution, defied his genes and nine years of military training and followed his conscience. As the division packed its gear to leave Fort Stewart, Sgt Benderman applied for a discharge as a conscientious objector ...

“They may not be part of any organised anti-war movement, but the conscientious objectors, runaways, and other irregular protesters suggest that, two years on, the war is taking a heavy toll. ‘They can’t train you for the reality. You can't have a mass grave with dogs eating the people in it,’ Sgt Benderman told the Guardian. ...

“Soldiers’ advocates and peace activists believe the first signs of opposition within the military could slowly grow – as it did for Vietnam – turning disgruntled soldiers and their families into powerful anti-war advocates. A number of Iraq veterans have begun to speak out. The root causes for more widespread dissent are there. Longer and repeat deployments have worn down regulars and reservists. So has the rising toll, with more than 1,500 US soldiers dead and 11,000 wounded. Recruitment and re-enlistment rates are down – especially for African-Americans, a 40% drop in the past five years – increasing the strain on the Pentagon.”

US military families march

North Carolina Independent Media Center reports: “On Saturday [March 19th] over 4,800 people came to Fayetteville, home of Fort Bragg, to protest against the war in Iraq. Sponsored by the North Carolina Council of Churches, United for Peace and Justice and scores of other social justice groups, the demonstration and rally marked the second anniversary of the commencement of war in Iraq, and brought together military members and their families, and civilians. ...

“Cindy Sheehan, a member of Military Families Speak Out, said from the stage at Rowan Park: ‘I often get introduced as a mother who lost her son in Iraq. I didn’t lose my son. I know right where he is. He’s in a grave in Baccaville, and I know who put him there: George Bush, and the rest of the arrogant and ignorant Neo-cons who murdered my son and tens of thousands of other innocent people.’”



Next Iraq Occupation Focus meeting

TUESDAY 12 APRIL
Iraq Occupation Focus monthly meeting
7:30pm, Conference room, Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square
London W1T 6AQ (nearest tube: Warren Street)

Guest speaker on women in occupied Iraq: Sana Al Khayyat (Act Together, sociologist and author of Honour and Shame: Women in Modern Iraq)
All IOF supporters welcome



Other upcoming events

21st–25th APRIL: PEACE CAMP AT RAF BRIZE NORTON
Spring peace camp with the main purpose of dialoguing with members of the military. Other activities include: march through nearby Carterton on the 23rd; speakers from Veterans for Peace and Military Families Against the War. Transport connections to Carterton from Oxford. General enquiries: (0117) 94 66 885, or e-mail Nabataat@yahoo.co.uk.

23rd APRIL: BLAIR’S WARS: FOREIGN POLICY UNDER NEW LABOUR
Day conference organised by Hands Off Forum (www.watchingthewarmakers.org.uk). 11am-3.30pm, Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton. Speakers include Sami Ramadani, David Chandler, Haifa Zangana, Ana Lekaj, Nicholas Gilby and Howard Davies. Contact info@watchingthewarmakers.org.uk.



Film of IOF teach-in now on the web

Filmmakers Against War have posted 19 film segments from the IOF teach-in (December 2004) on their website for free download. Go to:
www.filmmakersagainstwar.org/IOF_teach.htm



Winning entry from IOF poetry competition

Towards the end of 2004, Iraq Occupation Focus ran a poetry competition on the theme of war and occupation, in association with Red Pepper. the six prize-winning entries, selected by judge Adrian Mitchell, are being published in this newsletter. All winning and commended poems are also available on our website.

JOINT THIRD PRIZE (1 of 4)

The clouds

The Fifth Column was a pillar of smoke.
Haze launched a smear campaign
against the sun. Indefinables were growing.

Children pointed from pushchairs and asked
What do those clouds mean Mummy?
and were struck about the mouth because
children died knowing less than that.

Those we thought we talked to lessened
until there was nothing but the thinnest
of differences between them and air.
Friendships dissolved, bonds
and marriages slipped apart.

Language was the battle to define,
but neither words nor world stay stable.
A cloud of unmeaning took out the horizon.

There followed a phase in which
objects appeared that had no name:
in fields, street corners, bedrooms. They
buzzed or stayed still, misted and collapsed.

In the Ministry for Naming, the photocopier
disappeared paper, and there was no name for it.

Wind-sorted fliers flocked empty streets.
The State Department issued its last
statement. The media could not run
on stories that had no name.

I carried my body to the dump and
queued for hours for someone
to wrap me like a sweet and lie me in a line.

Other people sought asylum, flocked
into walls, crossed borders at night,
subliminally. With no one left,
there was nothing left to say.


Giles Goodland