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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 28
October 15, 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.


US forces continue rampage through western cities

US launches assault in west Iraq

BBC reports (October 1st): US soldiers have embarked on a major assault on al-Qaeda-linked militants in western Iraq, the US military says. Some 1,000 ground troops stormed Sadah, a town near the Syrian border in Anbar province, following earlier helicopter strikes, officials say.

Local doctors told the BBC at least 10 civilians have died in the operation. The dead - who include at least three children - were reportedly travelling in two vehicles carrying fleeing families.

Thousands flee US military onslaught on Haditha

IRIN report (October 6th): Nearly 1,000 families have fled their homes in Haditha in western Iraq following the launch of a US-led military operation to hunt down in insurgents in the town in the Euphrates river valley, according to residents in the area.

The combined military operation by 2,500 US and Iraqi government troops backed by warplanes began in Haditha on Tuesday and followed on from a similar offensive against Islamic insurgents in villages near al-Qaim on the Syrian border which began on 1 October.

The main hospital in al-Qaim said it had treated dozens of civilians who had been injured in crossfire between the insurgents and 1,000 US troops conducting house-to-house searches and had admitted several bodies of people who had been killed.

People abandoning Haditha said they feared the US-led military operation would lead to massive damage in the town.

“My wife was hurt as we ran out of our house in an exchange of fire between those inhuman US soldiers and the insurgents. Our city will be destroyed like Fallujah and it is the innocent people who will suffer as a result,” moaned Salah Kubaissy, 46, who was seeking shelter in an abandoned school.

Medical sources said the US-led forces had arrested two doctors at the main hospital in Haditha. US troops burst in complaining that everyone there was part of the resistance, they said. “They entered our hospital without the minimum of respect to our patients and arrested many of them. Even two doctors were arrested as they were carrying out a small surgical operation,” said Haki Hadethi, a senior doctor at the hospital.

More civilians flee al-Qaim as US offensive continues

IRIN report (October 4th): More than 900 Iraqi families have fled from the al-Qaim district near the Syrian border to escape a US military offensive against Islamic militants and the exodus is continuing, humanitarian workers in al-Qaim said.

“We can see raids inside the village and every house they (the US troops) enter, they leave in a state of total destruction,” said Abdul Kareem Muhammady, who was holed up with his family in the village of Romanna.

“We cannot leave our house and we are here without food and water, because if we tried to venture out we could be shot dead by either US troops or insurgents,” he told IRIN by telephone.

‘Emergency room’ set up to look after large-scale displacement

Azzaman reports (October 2): An emergency committee has been set up to cater for possibledisplacement of tens of thousands of people due to continuing U.S. and Iraqi military operations, according to a cabinet minister. U.S. marines are involved in continuous assaults on Iraqi cities, towns and villages particularly in the so-called Sunni-Triangle. Their last month’s assault on Tal Affar has displaced more than 90% of the town’s 200,000 inhabitants.

The troops are currently involved in fresh assaults in western Iraq with reports of thousands of people fleeing the affected areas.



Marsh Arabs demonstrate in Basra

Azzaman reports (October 4): Thousands of marsh Arabs have demonstrated in Basra demanding better living conditions and amenities. The demonstrators raised placards denouncing what they described as “negligence” on the part of the Iraqi government and international aid groups. The demonstration was led by Marsh Arab tribe elders and hundreds of sympathizers from Basra.

The demonstrators assembled before the provincial headquarters and handed in a letter summarizing their demands. It said reports that the devastated marshes were being revitalized were not “true” and very little has changed on the ground since the fall of the former leader Saddam Hussein.



25,000 Iraqis killed since U.S. invasion, group says

Azzaman reports (October 2): The U.S.-led war and military operations in the country have killed or injured 67,365 Iraqi civilians, according to a new study. The study, published on the website of Iraq Body Count, said more than 24,865 of these civilian casualties were fatal.

However, the group said, this is count should not be taken as thorough as it does not cover all the victims everywhere in Iraq. It said it reached the result by sifting through more than 10,000 media reports published between 2003 and 2005. One of each 10 Iraqis reported killed was below 18 years and one in each 200 was below two years. One out of every thousand Iraqis has been killed since March 2003 when U.S. troops landed in Baghdad, the group said.



Constitution vote marred by rule changes, violence and US interference

The Iraqi national assembly was at the centre of controversy last week over the rules for the forthcoming referendum on the new constitution. Having voted to reinterpret the rules in way that would make it much harder for opponents of the proposed constitution to defeat it, the assembly came in for sharp criticism from the UN (Times, 4 October).The assembly quickly backed down and voted to restore the original rules (Guardian, 5 October).

Iraqis vote on ‘invisible’ constitution

The Independent on Sunday reports (9 October): Millions of Iraqis are expected to go to the polls on Saturday to vote on a constitution they have never seen, as increasing violence and worsening communal tensions hamper distribution of the document.

Although distribution of the constitution has begun in a few areas of Baghdad, many other parts of the capital and the rest of the country are unlikely to receive copies. The only ones available in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town, were brought from Baghdad by Sunni politicians urging a "no" vote.

The constitution will fail if two-thirds of the voters in any three of Iraq’s 18 provinces reject it. Four have Sunni majorities, but violence is expected to prevent sufficient numbers of voters reaching the polls to defeat it. In Baghdad, according to Peter Galbraith, a former US peace envoy, there are 1,000 murders a month, apart from those killed in suicide bombings.

According to a study by the Liberal Democrats, an average of 53 people a day have been killed in Iraq during the record-length House of Commons recess. A detailed analysis of the casualties shows ordinary Iraqi citizens account for more than 90 per cent of fatalities.

The Illegality Of Iraq’s Constitution

Dahr Jamail reports (October 7th): US influence in the process of drafting a constitution for Iraq is excessive and "highly inappropriate", a United Nations official says. "It is a matter of public record that in the final weeks of the process, the newly arrived US ambassador [Zalmay Khalilzad] took an extremely hands-on role," Justin Alexander, legal affairs officer for the office of constitutional support with the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq told Inter Press Service (IPS). "Even going so far as to circulate at least one US draft."

Alexander, who oversaw the recent proceedings in Baghdad, added: "This involvement was highly inappropriate for a country with 140,000 soldiers in country." Zaid al-Ali, a legal expert who also oversaw the drafting process in Baghdad, made a similar case at a meeting at the International Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies in London.

"There are three ways in which the occupation intervened in the context of Iraq’s constitution-writing process," he said. "First, the occupation authorities selected and affected the makeup of the commission that was charged with drafting Iraq’s transitional law and its permanent constitution. Second, the occupation determined the limits and parameters within which the constitution was to be drafted. Third, the occupation authorities intervened directly in order to safeguard its interests in the context of the constitutional negotiations."

Al-Ali said it was significant that one article in the draft constitution on foreign military bases was dropped from the final version.



More US figures favour pull-out

U.S. Generals Now See Virtues of a Smaller Troop Presence in Iraq

The LA Times reports (October 1st): The U.S. generals running the war in Iraq presented a new assessment of the military situation in public comments and sworn testimony this week: The 149,000 U.S. troops currently in Iraq are increasingly part of the problem.

During a trip to Washington, the generals said the presence of U.S. forces was fuelling the insurgency, fostering an undesirable dependency on American troops among the nascent Iraqi armed forces and energizing terrorists across the Middle East. For all these reasons, they said, a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops was imperative.

During his congressional testimony, Army Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said that troop reductions were necessary to "take away one of the elements that fuels the insurgency, that of the coalition forces as an occupying force."

Among Americans, support for the war continues to dwindle, as growing numbers conclude that U.S. troops should be partially or completely withdrawn. Only 32% of those surveyed for a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released last week approved of Bush’s handling of Iraq, compared with 40% in August and 50% earlier this year.

The survey also showed that 59% considered it a mistake to have sent U.S. forces to Iraq, up from fewer than half during the summer. And 63% said the troops should be partially or completely withdrawn, up 10 percentage points from August.

Top Democratic senator urges consideration of Iraq pullout

AFP report (October 10th): The senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee said the US should put withdrawal from Iraq on its political agenda if ethnic and religious factions in the country fail to reach a political settlement before the end of the year. “The administration should tell Iraqis if they do not reach a political settlement by year’s end, we will consider a timetable for our withdrawal,” Senator Carl Levin said.



US applies pressure on Iraq coverage

Dahr Jamail reports (September 28th): In a previous weblog, I wrote about how a newspaper in Turkey had been pressured by the US Embassy to run fewer news stories about Iraq from journalists like myself, Robert Fisk and Naomi Klein.

Here in DC, I spoke with Stelios Kouloglou, a journalist with Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation in Greece. On the one year anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, April of 2004, his station broadcast a documentary he produced entitled, “25 Lies to Sell the War,” a title which needs no explanation to anyone who is not fully encapsulated in denial.

“I found out through a leak that the US embassy in Greece was applying political pressure to our government in order for them to pressure my television station for running my documentary,” he told me at his hotel.

“The US embassy began asking for our program to be discontinued. They were telling this not just to our program spokesperson, but directly to our government!” “I’ve never experienced political pressure like this, not even in Russia when I was being critical of Gorbachev, nor in Yugoslavia when I was being extremely critical of Milosevic,” he added.



Ministers in dock over missing billions

The Times reports (October 8th): Five Iraqi ministers who held posts in the interim Government installed by the United States last year are facing charges of corruption and abuse of power, a senior Iraqi judge said yesterday. Among them is Hazem Shaalan, the former Defence Minister in the Government of Iyad Allawi, according to Judge Radhi al-Radhi, head of the Commission on Public Integrity. Under Mr Shaalan’s leadership, an estimated £1.3 billion went missing, auditors believe.

Judge Radhi told The Times that Iraq’s fight against terrorists and insurgents had been severely handicapped by the corruption and incompetence of the interim Government, which was selected by the US-led occupation authority to accept the transfer of sovereignty in June last year. The other former Cabinet ministers under indictment are those for Trade, Labour, Housing and Transport. The former Transport Minister has since disappeared and Interpol has issued a warrant for his arrest.

"What amazes me is that there were foreign experts there at the time,” Judge Radhi said. “Why did they turn a blind eye and say nothing? If they were serious and honest, it would have limited the number of both Iraqis and Americans who have been killed.”



Traumatised young Iraqis turn increasingly to hard drugs

IRIN reports (October 11th): The Ministry of Health has warned that drug abuse is rising steadily among men and women of all ages in Iraq, especially in the capital Baghdad and in the south of the country.

Many consumers of heroin and cocaine say they have been traumatised by the increasing cycle of political violence in Iraq. And drug pushers told IRIN they had found a lucrative market amongst soldiers in the US-led occupation forces. Many of the foreign troops ask their counterparts in the Iraqi security forces to buy on the street for them, they added.

According to Kamel Ali, director of the Ministry of Health’s drug control programme, the number of registered addicts in suburban Baghdad has more than doubled over the past year, rising to over 7,000 from 3,000 in 2004. In Kerbala, meanwhile, the number of registered addicts has tripled, he said. The city now has 1,200 known drug users, up from 400 a year ago.



Upcoming events

Sunday 16 October 2005 (3:00 pm) LONDON: WMD: WEAPONS OF MASS DECEPTION (Film Documentary screening)
Venue: Everyman Cinema, Hampstead, London. With filmmaker Danny Schecter (from the US).
‘WMD, Weapons of Mass Deception’, is an award-winning documentary by journalist/filmmaker Danny Schechter. The film, which won Best Documentary at both the Denver and Austin Film Festivals depicts a media guilty of selling the Iraq war instead of telling the truth, by adopting a patriotic correctness and a uniformity of perspective that is undermining democracy in America.

Wednesday 19 October, DEVON: FILM SCREENING of ‘A letter to the Prime Minister: Jo Wilding’s Diary from Iraq’.
7.30pm, Friends Meeting House, The Wharf Car Park, Tavistock, Devon.
email: tavistockpag@yahoo.co.uk

Thursday 20 October, BRIGHTON: IRAQ INVADED & OCCUPIED, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
7.30pm - 9.00pm, St Joseph’s Church Hall, Milton Road. Org. by the Hands Off Forum.
Will withdrawal make the situation worse for the Iraqi people? Is there a responsible exit strategy? Talk and discussion with anti-war activist Milan Rai, author of ‘War Plan Iraq’ & ‘Regime Unchanged.’

Friday 21 October, READING: ONE DAY FOR IRAQ.
Activities include: 11am ‘withdrawal from Iraq’ petition drive followed by noon silent vigil to remember the victims of war (both outside the old Town Hall, Blagrave St); 3pm screening of "The Oil Factor"; 4.30pm workshop "The peace we couldn’t win" with John Hoggett; 7.30pm talk on DU with Rashid Salim; and 8.30pm evening of traditional Iraqi music and song.
Contact Emanuella on 0118 967 1362 or
email: readingpeaceworks@yahoo.co.uk.

Saturday 22 October 2005 (10am – 5pm) LONDON: Palestine Solidarity Campaign International Conference: Palestine, Israel & the Law.
Venue: Logan Hall, Institute of Education, Bedford Way, London WC1.
Tickets £10 (concessions £5) from PSC.
Website: http://www.palestinecampaign.org

Sunday 23 October 2005 (11am-5pm) LONDON: Freedom to Protest Conference.
Venue: The Resource Centre, 356 Holloway Rd, London N7. Admission free.
Org. by the FTP Network.
Contact: conference@freedomtoprotest.org.uk

Saturday 26 November 2005 (10am - 5pm), LONDON: “Voices from Occupied Iraq”
Themes: Corporate invasion; democratic, civil and human rights; resistance.
Organised by Iraq Occupation Focus.
Venue: University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1.
http:// www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk/teachin
Email: iraqfocus@riseup.net