Iraq Occupation Focus
Newsletter No. 2
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The handover has come and gone and the occupation continues as does the resistance it has bred and the insecurity, human rights abuses and economic exploitation that accompany it.
Official Iraq worse off under occupation
The US General Accounting Office, Congress investigative agency, published a 105-page report on June 29 showing that daily life for Iraqis was worse now than before the invasion.
In 13 of Iraqs 18 provinces, electricity was available fewer hours per day on average last month than before the war. Nearly 20 million of Iraqs 26 million people live in those provinces. Only $13.7 billion of the $58 billion pledged and allocated worldwide to rebuild Iraq has been spent, with another $10 billion about to be spent. The biggest chunk of that money has been used to run Iraqs ministry operations.
The country's court system is more clogged than before the war, and judges are frequent targets of assassination attempts. The new Iraqi civil defence, police and overall security units are suffering from mass desertions, are poorly trained and ill-equipped. The number of what the now-disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority called significant insurgent attacks skyrocketed from 411 in February to 1,169 in May.
The cause of all these problems is the Americans. We need for them to go.
Christian Parenti reports from Baghdad (1 July) in The Nation: At Sadr Citys Al Jawadir hospital the halls are crowded with worried-looking men and women. An emaciated, greenish man is wheeled by on a gurney. Here one clearly sees the social impact of the [water and sanitation] problem and the general chaos of which it is a subset. The hospital director, Dr. Qasim al-Nuwesri, explains that the hospital serves at least a million and a half people and sees 3,000 patients a day, but suffers for lack of adequate medicine, equipment, clean water and security. We have to get clean water shipped in, he says. A German NGO delivers it in a tanker truck. Typhoid is rampant, he adds, and an outbreak of hepatitis E is gathering momentum, with forty new cases a week.
The coalition promises money and supplies, but there is never enough, says the director. I am forced to reuse needles and deny people anesthesia. We only do serious emergency surgeries.... Since April, US troops have raided the wards on three different occasions, looking for wounded Jeshi Mahdi fighters. They interrogated the wounded and searched in a very rough way and tore down religious posters, says a young physician. Several wounded Mahdi men, as well as civilians, have fled the hospital in fear of the raids. I know that some of these people died because they hid in their homes and we could not treat them, says Ali. We could have saved them. The cause of all these problems is the Americans. We need for them to go.
According to an article in USA Today, 6 July, suspected foreign fighters account for less than 2% of the 5,700 captives the US says it is holding as security threats in Iraq, a strong indication that Iraqis are largely responsible for the stubborn insurgency. According to USA Today: The numbers represent one of the most precise measurements to date of the composition of the insurgency and suggest that some Bush administration officials have overstated the role of foreign holy warriors, or jihadists, from other Arab states.
The figures also suggest that Iraq isn't as big a magnet for foreign terrorists as some administration critics have asserted. In Ramadi, where Marines have fended off coordinated attacks by hundreds of insurgents, the fighters are all locals, says Lt. Col. Paul Kennedy, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment.
A stubborn insurgency
The New York Times reports: American commanders concede that they are far from quelling a stubborn and increasingly sophisticated insurgency. It has extended well beyond Saddam Hussein supporters and foreign fighters, spreading to ordinary Iraqis seething at the occupation and its failures. They act at the grass-roots level, often with little training or direction, but with a zealousness born of anticolonial ambitions.
American commanders acknowledge that military might alone cannot defeat the insurgency; in fact, the frequent use of force often spurs resistance by deepening ill will. This war cannot be won militarily, said Maj. Gen. John R. S. Batiste, commander of the First Infantry Division, which oversees a swath of the northern Sunni triangle slightly larger than the state of West Virginia. It really does need a political and economic solution.
US short-changes Iraq on reconstruction
The US government has spent just 2% of the $18.4bn (ú10bn) it had obtained from Congress for the urgent reconstruction of Iraq', according to a White House budget office report. The report showed that the US occupation authorities had spent NOTHING on healthcare or water and sanitation. In contrast, a total of $9m was spent on administrative expenses.
Reconstruction money has largely been drawn from Iraq's oil receipts, with some $19bn of a $20bn fund spent during the Coalition Provisional Authority's tenure in Iraq. The White House budget office said the largest disbursement so far was for rebuilding Iraq's police and military, with $194m spent a tiny fraction of the planned spending of $3.2bn on security.
Despite the erratic power supply, just $109m was spent on repairing Iraq's electricity grid, compared with the $5.4bn allocated in the reconstruction fund. Other urgent needs were also unmet. Although Iraq has an unemployment rate of 30%, the fund created only 15,000 jobs, compared with the 250,000 that had been mandated. For more see The Guardian
Opposition to occupation in US military communities
Increasing numbers of US soldiers and their families are turning against the occupation. Activists with Military Families Speak Out have been working to reach active servicemen and encourage resistance to the occupation. MFSO says: Many Americans do not want our troops there. Many military families do not want our troops there. Many troops themselves do not want to be there. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis do not want US troops there... Bush says Bring 'em on. We say BRING THEM HOME NOW!
Michael Hoffman served with the US marines in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and is now active in MFSO. Michael told Iraq Occupation Focus: Being in today's military can be a very tough thing, a feeling that is even worse when you don't believe in what you are fighting for. I was in that situation a year ago when I was in Iraq with the 1st Marine Division. The greatest surprise to me since coming home is that people have actually listened to me. Average people want to hear my thoughts and experiences, both good and bad. Many people still don't know how they feel about what is going on in Iraq. The voice of someone who has served there carries more weight then you could ever imagine. Those of us with direct experience in this disastrous occupation need to make our voices heard.
MFSO Member Adele Kubein, speaking on April 15, 2004 at Oregon State University, described her daughter's experience: She enlisted in the Oregon National Guard in 1999. She is a highly trained Army engineer... She needed college money. She is a real person. She could not stop thinking of the Iraqis as real people too, and that knowledge haunts her today. Her unit was told they would build schools and homes in Iraq, that they would be welcomed as liberators. Instead she was put behind a 50 calibre machine gun, with no body armor, or even any ammo at first, to protect Kellog, Brown, and Root convoys in Northern Iraq... When she called me sobbing and told me she looked in a young man's eyes as he died from her bullet, she knew she had lost her humanity for a time. She will bear the burden for the rest of her life, just as most veterans do. Right now my daughter awaits surgery on a base in Colorado, and she wakes screaming from dreams of death at night...
For more on dissent in the US military and in military communities see:
US Marine speaks out: I killed innocent people for our government
Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey had served in the Marines for nearly twelve years before he went to Iraq. The brutality of what he did and saw there has moved him to speak out. He told the US publication War Times: The cause of the Iraqi revolt against the U.S. occupation what they need to know is [that] we killed a lot of innocent people... There was this one particular incident that really pushed me over the edge. It involved a car with Iraqi civilians. From all the intelligence reports we were getting, the cars were loaded down with suicide bombs or material. They came upon our checkpoint. We fired some warning shots. They didn't slow down. So we lit them up [fired machine guns]. Every car that we lit up we were expecting ammunition to go off. But we never heard any. Well this particular vehicle we didn't destroy completely, and one gentleman looked up at me and said: Why did you kill my brother? We didn't do anything wrong. That hit me like a ton of bricks.
We lit up a rally. On the outskirts of Baghdad . Near a military compound. There were demonstrators at the end of the street. They were young and they had no weapons. They were only holding a demonstration. The order to shoot the demonstrators, I believe, came from senior government officials including intelligence communities within the military and the U.S. government... I killed innocent people for our government. For what? Where is the good coming out of it? I feel like I've had a hand in some sort of evil lie at the hands of our government.
Media: Where are the anti-occupation voices?
The mainstream media, especially the BBC, continue to exclude opponents of the occupation from their Iraq coverage. We need to step up pressure on the media to cover the realities of the occupation and the views of those who oppose it. Whenever you see or hear an item (especially on the BBC) that distorts or ignores vital facts or arguments about the occupation, please complain by phone, email or fax. The BBC keeps a record of all complaints. If they reach sufficient volume, it does make a difference. Keep your complaints brief and polite. And please send a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org
- BBC TV Centre switchboard: 0208 743 8000
- BBC Newsnight: 0208 624 9830
- BBC South East newsroom: 020-8228-8888
- BBC radio newsroom: 0208 624 9910 (editor); 0208 624 9900
- Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC news email@example.com
- Roger Mosey, Head of BBC TV News firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kevin Bakhurst, Editor, Ten O'Clock News, BBC1 email@example.com
- Mark Popescu, Editor, BBC News 24 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Peter Barron, Editor, Newsnight, BBC 2 email@example.com
- Kevin Marsh, Editor, Today Programme, Radio 4 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Peter Rippon, Editor, PM Programme, Radio4 email@example.com
- Pete Clifton, Editor, News Online firstname.lastname@example.org
- John Humphrys, Presenter, Today Programme, email@example.com
- Andrew Marr, Political Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
- Sarah Montague, Presenter, Today Programme, email@example.com
- James Naughtie, Presenter, Today Programme, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Points of View (BBC TV feedback) email@example.com
- For feedback on all BBC radio go to www.bbc.co.uk/radio/feedback
And finally... Good news from South Korea
The trade unions at South Koreas two airlines, Korean Air and Asiana Airlines, declared on 23 June that they will refuse to transport anything related to the troop deployment in Iraq, including Korean soldiers, armour and equipment. The Association of Airline Unions said that in accordance with the policy of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, they are against sending more troops to Iraq and will launch an all-out struggle against the deployment. Both Korean Air and Asiana Airlines should not sign contracts with the government to transport troops to Iraq... If they sign such contracts, the security of our union members cannot be guaranteed as they may become a target of terror during operation... Also, in order to show our rejection to a war of invasion, we will suspend all flights.