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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 10
October 11, 2004

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Fallujah: civilians under fire

Al-Jazeera reports (Friday 8 October 2004): US warplanes struck a building in Fallujah killing 13 people, including a groom on his wedding night, and wounded 17 others. The US military said the attack early on Friday targeted the al-Zarqawi network. The attack came despite negotiations to bring Iraqi government forces back into Fallujah. Dr Ahmad Sayyid said his hospital received 13 dead, including a groom, and 17 wounded, including his bride. He said most of the injured were female relatives of the groom who were staying at the house after the wedding celebration. Muhammad Jawad, who lives next door, said he had just moved into the central neighborhood to escape repeated shelling on Fallujah’s outskirts. His brother and six nephews were killed in the strike, which damaged their house. “This attack shows that there is no safe place in Fallujah, and the Americans are not differentiating between civilians and armed men.”

Condemning the US strikes, Muslim clerics in Iraq said it was part of Washington’s “scorched earth” policy. “Fallujah is being hit every day under the guise of striking al-Zarqawi, and residents take out a two-year-old child from under the rubble. Is this al-Zarqawi?” asked Shaikh Abd al-Ghafur al-Samarrai in a sermon at Baghdad’s Umm al-Qura mosque on Friday. “The Americans are using Sharon’s scorched earth and collective punishment policy.” Referring to the ongoing negotiations in Fallujah, Shaikh Ahmad Hasan al-Samarrai at a sermon in Baghdad’s Abu Hanifa mosque said: “Some members of the delegation say the talks are going well ... and then we have an operation that kills and wounds people.”

Reuters reports: The US military offered Abu Ghanem Awuud compensation for the death of his wife and five children in a US air strike. He turned it down. “I said to the American officer: ‘Is this the logic of your civilization? How can money compensate me for the loss of my family? I await compensation from God to kill all of you in Iraq’.” Militants and ordinary Iraqis in Fallujah say heavy-handed military tactics have fueled hatred of American troops and boosted the ranks of insurgents. “I supported the arrival of the U.S. forces in the hope that we would live in freedom and prosperity,” one Fallujah rebel said. “I have never regretted anything in my life as much as I regret welcoming the Americans.“ He says he joined the insurgency after US forces detained him without charge for four months in Abu Ghraib, a prison now infamous for U.S. troops’ abuse of Iraqi detainees. “I admired the United States. I thought it was the state of progress, democracy and civilization. Unfortunately I was greatly mistaken,” he said. Sheikh Abdullah al-Janabi, spiritual guide to some of the Fallujah rebels, said this week he would support, not fight, the elections. “We are against everything America does in Iraq, except the elections,” one rebel said. “This is an Iraqi matter in which we must participate so that the US entourage do not dominate again,” he said, referring to the present US-backed government.



WARNING: Occupation forces plan assault after US elections
Fallujah to be “flattened”

The Scotsman reports (3rd October): “After November 2, the gloves can come off, allowing Bush the chance to launch a no-holds barred blitz on the insurgents in the two month window until the January elections. And if some reports from the intelligence community are correct, Bush is planning an all-out crackdown with some suggesting it would involve practically flattening Fallujah ...”

The New York Times reports (8 October): “Pentagon planners and military commanders have identified 20 to 30 towns and cities in Iraq that must be brought under control before nationwide elections can be held in January ... As American military deaths have increased in Iraq and commanders struggle to combat a tenacious insurgency and a deadly spate of bombings, even administration officials involved in creating the plan acknowledge that American forces face an extraordinarily difficult task and that success is far from guaranteed ... The new strategy was written this summer and laid down in a series of classified directives to the new American Embassy in Baghdad and to the United States military headquarters there.

“... Defense Department and other administration officials say the recent offensives in Samarra and northern Babil Province, as well as airstrikes against the network of the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, are all part of a new strategy for American and Iraqi forces to pick the time and place of their offensives, instead of responding to insurgent uprisings, as happened in Najaf in April and August. ‘What you have here is a new approach,’ one senior administration official said. ‘Najaf was not planned. We didn’t plan to go in and have to do that. But we know, once we got that behind us, where do we have to work? We have to work Samarra. We have to work Ramadi. We’ve done our bit in Samarra. Now we’re consolidating and cleaning up. We’re doing kinetic strikes in Fallujah.”



RESIST THE ASSAULT ON IRAQ’S CITIES:

Emergency meeting to discuss contingency plans for action will take place at 7pm on Tuesday 26th October at 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 (nearest tube Kings Cross). Called by Voices in the Wilderness UK (www.voicesuk.org). All welcome.



Iraq Occupation Focus at the ESF

Seminar: Ending the Occupation and liberating Iraq
Friday, 15th October
4–6pm
Alexandra Palace, Cancun room

With: Haifa Zangana (Iraqi-born novelist); Nahla Chahal (CCCP, France); Eric Toussaint (CADTM, Belgium); Mike Marqusee (Iraq Occupation Focus, UK); Gabriel Carlyle (Voices in the Wilderness), Walden Bello (Focus on the Global South).

The occupation of Iraq remains a central issue for the global justice movement. The numbers who protested against the invasion were huge; but where do we go now? How do we generate wider activity against the occupation? We need to understand what is happening in Iraq and build international links among anti-occupation activists.

Organised by: Iraq Occupation Focus (UK); Jubilee Iraq (UK); Voices in the Wilderness (UK); CADTM (Belgium); Focus on the Global South (Asia)



US plan for covert influence of Iraqi election

Time magazine (4 October) reports a secret proposal written several month ago for a covert CIA operation to aid candidates favoured by Washington. “A source says the idea was to help such candidates but not necessarily to go so far as to rig the elections. But lawmakers from both parties raised questions about the idea when it was sent to Capitol Hill. Condoleeza Rice’s spokesman Sean McCormack said, ‘There have been and continue to be concerns about efforts by outsiders to influence the outcome of the Iraqi elections, including money flowing from Iran. This raises concerns about whether there will be a level playing field for the election. This situation has posed difficult dilemmas about what action, if any, the U.S. should take in response. In the final analysis, we have adopted a policy that we will not try to influence the outcome of the upcoming Iraqi election by covertly helping individual candidates for office.’ Another senior US official hinted that the Administration scaled back its original plans. ‘This was a tough call. We went back and forth on it in the US government ... Our embassy in Baghdad will run a number of overt programs to support the democratic electoral process,’ as the US does elsewhere in the world.”



The cost of “retaking” Samarra

The Independent reports: The Americans insisted that the estimated 125 people killed in the storming of Samarra were all insurgents. Doctors and local people reported women, children and the elderly among the dead, and that bodies were still being brought into hospitals. There also appeared to have been discord over the military action between members of the US-sponsored Iraqi interim government. The Interior Minister, Falah Naqib, echoed the American line that no civilians had been killed and only “bad guys and terrorists” had suffered. It was, he said, a “great day for Samarra”. But the Human Rights Ministry, in a letter to the Iraqi Red Crescent, described what happened in the city as a “tragedy” and called for urgent emergency assistance. Local people in Samarra claimed that many of the 1,000 insurgents the Americans were targeting had escaped before the attack, and civilians had borne the brunt of the casualties. Of 70 bodies brought into Samarra General Hospital, 23 were children and 18 women, said Abdul-Nasser Hamed Yassin, a hospital administrator. There were also 23 women among the 160 wounded. Families trying to bury the dead found the road to the cemetery had been blocked by American soldiers. One man, Abu Qa’qa, claimed he had seen dogs picking at corpses in the street. Abdel Latif Hadi, 45, said: “The people who were hurt most are normal people who have nothing to do with anything.” Another resident, Mohammed Ali Amin, said: “There were American snipers on rooftops who were shooting people trying to get to their homes. Even at the hospital the Americans arrested injured boys of 15 saying they were insurgents.” CNN television was told by one man that his sister-in-law and her six daughters were killed when the vehicle they were travelling in was hit by an US air strike. Aid organisations said there was acute concern about continuing lack of water and electricity in Samarra and the difficulties faced by people attempting to seek medical treatment. More than 500 families had fled the city.



URGENT APPEAL: BASRA OIL UNION

The Southern Oil Company trade union is the biggest union in southern Iraq and, with the paralysis of the Northern fields since last November, represents workers at the only company regularly exporting oil The SOC Union is a leading force in the newly established Basra Oil Union which represents over 30,000 oil sector workers in the British-occupied region. The BOU has stressed its autonomy and independence from any political parties and opposition to governmental co-optation.

SOC workers have collectively expelled both Baathist managers and Kellogg Brown and Root employees. Since the beginning of the occupation, they have carried out autonomous reconstruction of their workplaces. They see it as a matter of pride and control, as well as a way of smashing the myth of “West knows best” and the domination of western corporations.

SOC Workers also succeeded in raising their own wages. In December they threatened to “shut down Iraq from North to South” and go on armed strike against the occupation’s Order Number 30 which set the minimum wage for all Iraq state sector employees at 69,000 ID per month (£35). The occupation authorities capitulated and agreed to 102,000 ID per month. Southern Oil Company workers and Basra Pipeline workers also shut down all exports for a period during the attack on Najaf this August.

The Basra Oil Union needs your help. Please pass resolutions of support in union branches. Write messages of solidarity direct to Basra oil workers (these help make trade unionists in Iraq make feel less isolated and vulnerable and also show employers and occupation officials that there are people watching). Messages of support will be complied into an international solidarity portfolio and taken to Iraq shortly. Raise money for the Union; funds will go towards autonomous reconstruction, strike support, publicity and out-reach. Provide research on British companies currently active in the British-occupied south. This information can be translated into Arabic and distributed in Iraq.

For more information or for speakers please contact: Ewa Jasiewicz, UK Contact for the Southern Oil Company Trade Union (and Iraq Occupation Focus activist) at: freelance@mailworks.org, +44 (0)7749 421 576.



Families of children killed in blast blame occupiers

The Associated Press reports: Families of the 35 children who died in a string of bombings in Baghdad blamed American troops for the tragedy, accusing them of attracting children to a ceremonial opening of a sewage plant where the attacks occurred. Residents said that before the start of the celebration, US soldiers called upon children through loudspeakers to join the crowd, promising them sweets. “I blame the Americans for this tragedy. They wanted to make human shields out of our children. They should have kept the children away from danger,” said Abdel-Hadi al-Badri, a cleric at the al-Mubashroun al-Ashra mosque. Al-Badri’s son lost his right leg in the explosion after he ignored his father’s warnings to stay away from the US troops. “The Americans are the first terrorists and the people who carried out the attack are the second terrorists,” he added. It was the largest number of children killed in any single insurgent attack since the conflict erupted 17 months ago. Dharar Ahmed, a policeman, who lost two children in the blast, said that there was no reason to stage a large celebration for a small sewage plant that was already partially operating. “The Americans were attracting the children by offering sweets. They should not have done this,” he said amid the sounds of wailing women.



Big lie of “foreign fighters”

Bush, Kerry, Blair and Allawi all insist that “foreign fighters” represent the main resistance to the occupation, But a report in the Los Angeles Times suggests otherwise. “They say these guys are flowing across [the border] and fomenting all this violence. We don’t think so,” said a senior military official in Baghdad. “What’s the main threat? It’s internal.” Allawi estimated that foreign fighters constituted 30% of insurgent forces but in a TV interview, Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the US Central Command, estimated that the number of foreign fighters in Iraq was below 1,000. US military officials said the core of the original insurgency in Iraq had been Hussein loyalists but the insurgents’ ranks have been bolstered by Iraqis who grew disillusioned with the US failure to deliver basic services, jobs and reconstruction projects. It is this expanding group, they say, that has given the insurgency its deadly power and which represents the biggest challenge to an Iraqi government trying to establish legitimacy countrywide. “People try to turn this into the mujahedin, jihad war. It’s not that,” said one US intelligence official. “How many foreign fighters have been captured and processed? Very few.”



From Baghdad: A Reporter’s E-Mail to Friends

Farnaz Fassihi, Wall Street Journal correspondent in Iraq, sent a powerfully realistic account to friends:

“It’s hard to pinpoint when the ‘turning point’ exactly began. Was it April when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq’s population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush’s rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a ‘potential’ threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to ‘imminent and active threat,’ a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come ...

“A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive, cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there were a dozen landmines per every ten yards. His car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq ...

“America’s last hope for a quick exit? The Iraqi police and National Guard units we are spending billions of dollars to train. The cops are being murdered by the dozens every day-over 700 to date – and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly.”



Freed Italian hostage calls for end to occupation

One of the Italian humanitarian workers held hostage last month in Iraq said that guerrillas were right to fight US-led forces and their Iraqi “puppet government.” Simona Torretta also called on the Italian government to withdraw its troops from Iraq. “I said it before the kidnapping and I repeat it today,” she told Corriere della Sera newspaper. “You have to distinguish between terrorism and resistance. The guerrilla war is justified, but I am against the kidnapping of civilians.” Describing the administration of Iyad Allawi as “a puppet government in the hands of the Americans,” Torretta said elections planned for January would have no legitimacy: “During my days in detention ... I came to the conclusion it will take decades to put Iraq back on its feet.” She said she did know whether Italy bought her freedom from the kidnappers: “If a ransom was paid then I am very sorry. But I know nothing about it ... I believe that (the kidnappers) were a very political, religious group and that in the end they were convinced that we were not enemies.”



Occupation and Resistance in Iraq: An International Teach-in

Sunday 5 December 2004
11am–5pm
University of London Union
Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY

The British media has largely failed to report or explain the realities of the occupation and the resistance to it. At the teach-in, a wide range of speakers from Iraq, the USA and Britain will share their knowledge, expertise and experience. 5th December will be a day to inform ourselves about the situation in Iraq (and the USA), to strengthen our arguments against occupation and examine the challenges facing the anti-war movement.

For details of the teach-in, go to: www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk/teachin.htm.



About Baghdad – special London screening, 28 October

Filmmakersagainstwar.org will be showing the acclaimed documentary About Baghdad at The Other Cinema, London, Thursday 28th October, at 9pm. The makers of the film are travelling from the USA to be at the screening. For more on the film see www.aboutbaghdad.com



Next IOF organising meeting

Tuesday, 12 October
7:15pm
Room G50, SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1

We’ll be discussing plans for the Teach-in and proposals for action after the US presidential elections.