Iraq Occupation Focus
Newsletter No. 32
December 12, 2005
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Hundreds of families flee fighting in Ramadi
IRIN reports (December 6th): Hundreds of families have fled Ramadi, capital of the western Anbar Province, amidst fierce fighting between US military forces and Iraqi insurgents, according to aid agencies. The current offensive is only the latest to target the Anbar Province, where the US military hopes to disrupt the activities of terrorists. Were aware of the situation in the area, and are preparing for the worst, IRCS spokeswoman Ferdous al-Abadi said on Monday. Food, tents and medicine have already been sent, but much more is needed.
Iraq minus another town
Azzaman reports (December 6): In the aftermath of a joint U.S. and Iraqi attack, Hasiba is now a ghost town. It is the latest in a series of Iraqi villages, towns and cities bearing the brunt of the destructive machine of the mighty U.S. military power. Hasiba, like many other Iraqi towns, has been a victim of the ongoing, ruinous war pitching U.S. troops against rebels determined to beat America. In the middle are the inhabitants of these towns whose dislike of the U.S. is only matched by their hatred of these rebels, most of whom fled the town before the U.S. military advance.
Nonetheless, we were subjected to heavy bombardment. There is large-scale destruction, said Abdula al-Dulaimi, a Hasiba inhabitant. He said only a few rebels had remained behind giving the U.S. the excuse to inflict destruction on the town.
Abuse worse than under Saddam, says Iraqi leader
The Observer reports (November 27th): Human rights abuses in Iraq are now as bad as they were under Saddam Hussein and are even in danger of eclipsing his record, according to the countrys first Prime Minister after the fall of Saddams regime. 'People are doing the same as [in] Saddams time and worse,' Ayad Allawi told The Observer. The brutality of elements in the new security forces rivals that of Saddams secret police, he said.
Trophy video exposes private security contractors shooting up Iraqi drivers
The Sunday Telegraph reports (November 27th): A "trophy" video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis.
The video, which first appeared on a website that has been linked unofficially to Aegis Defence Services, contained four separate clips, in which security guards open fire with automatic rifles at civilian cars. In one of the videoed attacks, a white civilian car is raked with machine gun fire as it approaches an unidentified security company vehicle. Bullets can be seen hitting the vehicle before it comes to a slow stop.
Private Security Guards in Iraq Operate With Little Supervision
The LA Times reports (December 4th): Private security contractors have been involved in scores of shootings in Iraq, but none have been prosecuted despite findings in at least one fatal case that the men had not followed proper procedures. The contractors function in a legal grey area. Under an order issued by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority that administered Iraq until June 2004, contractors suspected of wrongdoing are to be prosecuted in their home countries. The contractors have immunity from Iraqi courts and have so far not faced American prosecution, giving little recourse to Iraqis seeking justice for wrongful shootings.
A Times survey of nearly 200 "serious incident" reports filed by private security firms since November 2004 shows that 11% of the incidents involved contractors firing toward civilian vehicles believed to be a threat.
Iraq misses deadline for probe on torture allegations
USA Today/AP report (November 30th): Iraqs government missed a two-week deadline to complete an investigation into torture allegations at an Interior Ministry lockup, a probe which Amnesty International warned may show a pattern of abuse of prisoners by government forces.
A Sunni Arab politician, Mohammed al-Mishehdani of the Sunni-led National Council for National Dialogue, said simple cases of torture reported in the past were never solved so he had few expectations for this investigation, especially since a general election is due in two weeks.
Children as Human Shields
Empire notes, a blog by Rahul Mahajan, reports (November 25th): A suicide bomber blew up his car outside a hospital in Mahmudiya, killing 30. It was targeted because a U.S. civil affairs team was there (supposedly assessing ways to upgrade the hospital) and because U.S. troops were there handing out toys and candy to children.
It goes without saying that this was a depraved act by the suicide bomber. The first time something like this happened, I linked to a U.S. soldiers blog in which he said (on a different occasion), Im going to probably buy a lot of candy when I go to the PX in the camp. That way, I can hand it out to the kids. Theyll be more likely to help us avoid things we wouldn't otherwise be able to avoid if not for them.
These candy episodes are, at the least, unbelievably irresponsible and show a depraved indifference to the possibility of children being killed. Beyond that, however, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that some U.S. soldiers are very explicitly seeing and using children on these sorts of operations as human shields.
US paying Iraqi press to run favourable stories
The Financial Times reports (November 30th): As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.
The articles, written by U.S. military information operations troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defence contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.
Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents, and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country.
Up in the air
Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker reports (November 28th): A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the Presidents public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the overall level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what.
There are grave concerns within the military about the capability of the U.S. Army to sustain two or three more years of combat in Iraq. Many of the militarys most senior generals are deeply frustrated, but they say nothing in public, because they dont want to jeopardize their careers. Within the military, the prospect of using airpower as a substitute for American troops on the ground has caused great unease. For one thing, Air Force commanders, in particular, have deep-seated objections to the possibility that Iraqis eventually will be responsible for target selection. Will the Iraqis call in air strikes in order to snuff rivals, or other warlords, or to snuff members of your own sect and blame someone else? another senior military planner now on assignment in the Pentagon asked.
Kurdish Oil Deal Shocks Iraqs Political Leaders
The LA Times reports (December 1st): A controversial oil exploration deal between Iraqs autonomy-minded Kurds and a Norwegian company got underway this week without the approval of the central government in Baghdad, raising a potentially explosive issue at a time of heightened ethnic and sectarian tensions.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls a portion of the semi-autonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, last year quietly signed a deal with Norways DNO to drill for oil near the border city of Zakho. This is unprecedented, said Alaa Makki, a leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party. Its like they are an independent country. This is Iraqi oil and should be shared with all the Iraqi partners.
Ukraine begins troop withdrawal from Iraq
The Hindustan Times reports (December 2nd): Ukraine has begun the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq with the pulling out of 69 soldiers. The remaining 858 Ukrainian soldiers stationed in Iraq were due to leave by December 30.
Iraqis turn to drugs to escape reality
Al-Jazeera reports (December 4th): On Saddun Street in central Baghdad, there is a pharmacist who does not like to sell his products. Dozens of people come every day to buy tranquilizer pills, but we know now which ones are addicted and we refuse to sell to them, he said, adding that many of the addicts are criminals and thieves.
But Iraqs rising drug problem is not limited to select neighbourhoods, as young people are increasingly seeking solace in prescription drugs to escape a world of violence, unemployment and despair.
In the troubled neighbourhood of Battawin, this problem affects more than 1000 homeless, most of them children said an official in the Ministry of Interior, who declined to be identified. In addition to drugs, they often abuse alcohol and sniff glue, he added.
Many Iraqi voters want Americans to go home
Reuters report (December 4th): Anti-Western feeling is running high ahead of Iraqs election this month and many voters think sending U.S. troops home should be the priority of the next government, an informal survey by Reuters indicated. In the Reuters survey, 59 of the 131 people who indicated a preference said that the withdrawal of foreign troops was the most pressing priority for the next government. These included respondents from Hilla and Najaf, which are mainly Shi'ite towns supportive of the present, Shi'ite-led government.
Civil rights groups protest sex segregation in schools
Azzaman reports (December 4): Civil rights groups have protested new rulings that make segregation of sexes in Iraqi schools compulsory. Education ministry has issued regulations under which mixed teaching even at university level will be forbidden. In some universities and schools, girls are forced to wear the veil or scarf and forced to attend classes separately. Mixed education at the primary and tertiary levels was part of the countrys secular system until the 2003 U.S. invasion of the country.
Cost of British operations in Iraq soars to �5bn
The Guardian reports (December 6th): The government has nearly doubled its estimate of the cost of British military operations in Iraq, according to figures revealed by Gordon Brown. The chancellor has now agreed to set aside more than �5bn to pay for the operations. At the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, ministers allocated �n to cover what they called the full costs of the UKs military obligations there. Mr Brown has now made clear that this sum was a huge underestimate.
Liam Wren-Lewis, a member of the Iraq Analysis Group, said yesterday: This latest provision continues a steadily increasing trend in the cost of the Iraq war to UK taxpayers.
Cross-party initiative in Parliament
A cross-party motion has been tabled in Parliament to set up a Select Committee to investigate the conduct of the Governments policy in going to war in Iraq. The names appearing on the Early Day Motion include Alan Simpson (Labour), Kenneth Clarke and Douglas Hogg (Conservatives), Menzies Campbell (Liberal Democrats), Alex Salmond (SNP) and Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid Cymru).
Please encourage your local MP to sign this Early Day Motion, and thank you for continuing support.
ON THE DEATH OF THE 100TH BRITISH SOLDIER IN IRAQ, AROUND THE COUNTRY: The day the 100th British soldiers death is reported members of Military Families Against the War (http://www.mfaw.org.uk/) will lead a vigil in Parliament Square and the names of these 100 soldiers and of 100 Iraqi dead will be read out. The next day there will be 100 similar protests in 100 towns across the country. The Stop the War Coalition is calling on all anti-war groups around the country to prepare for this now. See www.stopwar.org.uk.
Tuesday 13th December, LONDON: MONTHLY MEETING OF IRAQ OCCUPATION FOCUS. 7.30pm, Diorama 2, 3-7 Euston Centre, Regents Place,
London NW1 3JG (near Warren St tube map and directions).
Friday 16th December (1.00pm)
LEEDS: CND: Now More Than Ever The Story of a Peace Movement: a talk by Kate Hudson. Venue: Leeds Met Civic Quarter, LS1.
Leeds Coalition Against the War, PO Box 192, Leeds LS16 5WS. Phone: 07875 666239
Saturday 17th December, SHEFFIELD: STOP THE DEPORTATIONS IRAQ IS NOT SAFE. Demo. at 12 noon, at the Peace Gardens in Sheffield City Centre. Called by the Campaign Against Detention and Deportation of Iraqis. Contact: 07913-701-740 / 07704-266-613