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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 16
March 19, 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.



Two years on: the world still says No!

On the second anniversary of the launch of the US and UK invasion of Iraq, demonstrations have taken place around the world calling for an end to the occupation. In the largest UK demonstration since the ‘Stop Bush’ march in November 2003, tens of thousands marched past the US embassy in London. “Two former British soldiers placed a cardboard coffin bearing the words ‘100,000 dead’ outside the embassy.” (read more reports on London’s protests.) Thousands protested in Istanbul, Athens, New York, Tokyo, while protestors also took to the streets in dozens of other cities around the world.

Iraq’s recent elections have done nothing to resolve the crisis of legitimacy of the occupation of that country by the US and its dwindling allies. New allegations, detailed below, continue to surface of the human rights abuses committed against Iraqi civilians. The high-profile coverage of the US army’s firing of several hundred rounds at a convoy carrying a newly released Italian hostage, killing one official, underlines the plight daily facing Iraqis who fall foul of undeclared roadblocks and unannounced curfews.

Since the elections, much mainstream news coverage of Iraq has lost interest in the US military offensive against whole sections of the population, notably in Mosul and Ramadi, making it even more important for activists in the anti-war movement to share and distribute information ourselves. IOF’s newsletters are a part of that work and we apologise to our regular readers for the delay since the last issue, due to technical difficulties. We aim to return to a regular edition, on a roughly fortnightly basis.



Occupiers to wash their hands of torture jails
Yet the scale of the abuse is still just emerging

Abu Ghraib’s hidden victims: children and ‘ghosts’

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been using US Freedom of Information laws to obtain and release shocking new documentation of torture by American personnel in Iraq’s jails.

Associated Press (11th March): “[Brig. Gen. Janis] Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib from July to November 2003, said she often visited the prison’s youngest inmates. One boy ‘looked like he was 8-years-old,’ Karpinski said. ‘He told me he was almost 12,’ Karpinski said. ‘He told me his brother was there with him, but he really wanted to see his mother, could he please call his mother. He was crying.’

“The documents released by the ACLU quote an unnamed Army officer at Abu Ghraib as saying military intelligence officers and the CIA worked out a written agreement on how to handle unreported detainees. ... The Pentagon has acknowledged holding up to 100 ‘ghost detainees,’ keeping the prisoners off the books and away from humanitarian investigators of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he authorized it because the prisoners were ‘enemy combatants’ not entitled to prisoner of war protections.

Detainees faced contempt from US Generals and sadism from Marines

The same batch of documents “quoted several senior generals in Iraq as making callous statements about prisoners. Karpinski said Maj. Gen. Walter Wodjakowski, then the No. 2 Army general in Iraq, told her in the summer of 2003 not to release more prisoners, even if they were innocent. ‘I don’t care if we’re holding 15,000 innocent civilians. We’re winning the war,’ Karpinski said Wodjakowski told her.”

Reuters (10th March): Another document released by ACLU “quotes an unidentified soldier as stating that the then-top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, said of detainees: ‘Why are we detaining these people, we should be killing them.’ This soldier stated that this comment contributed to a climate in which ‘deeds not consistent with military standards would be tolerated if not condoned.’”

It’s almost a year since the chilling results of this policy began to be exposed, but new reports of gruesome torture techniques continue to emerge. Other documents released to the ACLU in late 2004 describe US Marines:

  • ordering four Iraqi juveniles to kneel while a pistol was “discharged to conduct a mock execution”
  • severely burning a detainee’s hands by covering them in alcohol and igniting them
  • shocking a detainee with an electric transformer, causing the detainee to “dance” as he was shocked.

At least 108 died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan

Al-Jazeera (17th March): “At least 108 detainees have died in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to new government data released by the Associated Press news agency. The agency said that most deaths were violent and about 25% of the cases are being investigated as possible abuse by U.S. forces.

“The figure – far higher than previously estimated – was based on information the AP obtained from the U.S. military, navy, CIA and Justice Department.

“At least 65,000 people have been detained by the U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The AP showed that of the 108 prisoner deaths in U.S. custody: More than 26 cases have been classified as criminal homicide involving prisoner abuse ...[and] More than 20 deaths were due to ‘justifiable homicide’, where army investigators claimed that U.S. soldiers used deadly force ‘appropriately’.”

Shamed US to hand over Abu Ghraib prison to Iraqis

The Guardian (10th March): “American forces have agreed to hand over control of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison to the newly elected Iraqi authorities in an attempt to draw a line under one of the most shameful episodes of the Iraq war.

“Two other locations in the centre of Iraq and a British-run prison in the south will also be handed over to Iraqi control. The US-run prison system in Iraq is currently bloated with detainees. More than 10,000 are estimated to be behind bars – the highest number since the insurgency began in 2003. Their ranks have swollen during the crackdowns by US and Iraqi security forces before and after the January 30 elections.”



US lost control within three months

World Tribune (7th March): “A report by the U.S. Army official historian said the military was hampered by the failure to occupy and stabilize Iraq in 2003. As a result, the military lost its dominance by July 2003 and has yet to regain that position.

“‘In the two to three months of ambiguous transition, U.S. forces slowly lost the momentum and the initiative gained over an off-balanced enemy,’ the report said. ‘The United States, its Army and its coalition of the willing have been playing catch-up ever since.’

“The report was authored by Maj. Isaiah Wilson, the official historian of the U.S. Army for the Iraq war. His report, not yet endorsed as official army history, has been presented to several academic conferences. ... Wilson said army planners failed to understand or accept the prospect that Iraqis would resist the U.S. forces after the fall of the Saddam regime.”



UNCC awards $265m more reparations against Iraq

Jubilee Iraq (11th March): “The UN Compensation Commission, holding it’s 55th session in Geneva from 8–10th March has awarded an additional $265m of reparations against Iraq. This raises the total reparations awards made so far to $52.1bn of which Iraq has paid over $19bn. Jubilee Iraq continues to argue that Iraqis should not be paying these reparations payments for Saddam’s crimes, while receiving no reparations themselves for their suffering under Saddam and the destruction caused in wars and occupation. The next, and possibly final, meeting of the UNCC will be on 28-30th June and Jubilee Iraq and partners will use the occasion to focus world attention to this great injustice and change it.”



The costs of empire

The Daily Star (24th February): “The fiscal year 2005 Defense Department budget that Bush signed last August was $417.5 billion, and the $80 billion supplemental brings military spending to nearly $500 billion. In real terms, that means that U.S. military spending is near an all-time high – exceeded only by spending in 1945-46 at the end of World War II and in 1952 at the height of the Korean War.”



Coalition of the unwilling: Part II
More of America’s allies decide it’s time to leave

In our last newsletter we reported the decisions by Ukraine and the Netherlands to withdraw their forces from Iraq. This process is now underway. Meanwhile Poland and Italy, the two leading European contributors to the occupation forces after the UK, have both started to talk about pulling troops out. In Italy’s case, Berlusconi seems to have overstepped the mark in his efforts to appease an angry electorate – always opposed to the war and furious at the recent shooting of an Italian intelligence officer by American soldiers. By the end of the week he appeared to be back-pedaling on his suggestion of pulling out from Iraq, perhaps as a result of US pressure. Another recent ‘friendly fire’ incident, this time involving a Bulgarian soldier killed by American forces in Iraq, probably helped push the Bulgarian government towards announcing their own phased withdrawal from the occupation. If American forces continue in this pattern of shooting their allies they may find themselves alone in Iraq before too long.

European allies are gradually going home

Al-Jazeera (15th March): “Under a program to cut down the Ukrainian contingent in Iraq, the first group of the Ukrainian troops deployed in the country started withdrawing on Tuesday. Earlier, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that about 140 Ukrainian servicemen will return to Ukraine on two defense ministry planes later on Tuesday.

“About 150 Dutch troops arrived in their country on Monday. There are still about 800 Dutch soldiers in Iraq, and they are expected to leave the country next month. While Ukraine is expected to complete its troops withdrawal by 15 October.”

Associated Press (11th March): “Poland, the fourth-largest contributor of troops to the U.S. led occupation of Iraq, plans to withdraw several hundred of its 1,700 soldiers from the country in July, the defense minister said in an interview published Friday. ‘I can only say that we assume a reduction of the Polish contingent by several hundred troops,’ Jerzy Szmajdzinski told the Rzeczpospolita daily when asked whether Poland would reduce its troop level with its next regular rotation, scheduled for July.”

Berlusconi announces that Italian forces will pull out...

The Washington Post (16th March): “Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, one of the United States’ most ardent supporters on Iraq, said Tuesday he intended to begin withdrawing his country’s troops in September. That makes Italy the latest country to announce that it will reduce or eliminate its military contingent in the U.S.-led force.

“At its peak, the U.S.-led force totaled about 300,000, with 38 countries contributing troops. The number of contributing nations has fallen to 24, with overall foreign troop strength at about 170,000, about 150,000 of them American. Spain, which had dispatched about 1,300 soldiers, was the first of 10 nations to withdraw from Iraq last year. In February, Portugal withdrew its force of 127 and Moldova pulled its 12 soldiers.”

...and then changes his mind

ABC Australia (18th March): “After a phone conversation with US President George Bush, [Berlusconi] said he had not set a fixed date for any pullout. The centre-left leader, Francesco Rutelli, has described the prime minister’s announcements as a world record, saying he has withdrawn an announced withdrawal in just half a day. Mr Berlusconi has also taken a battering from the Italian media, which has accused him of being forced to backtrack by his more powerful allies.”

But elsewhere... “Bulgaria has announced it is reducing its troop commitment in Iraq and could withdraw all its troops by the end of the year. Eight Bulgarians have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war and last week’s shooting of a junior sergeant by US forces triggered calls from opposition parties, the public and media for the country to set a timetable to pull out.

“Bulgaria has close to 500 troops in Iraq but it is planning to pull out almost 100 soldiers in June ... Defence Minister Nikolai Svinarov told reporters. The Parliament will meet next week to discuss whether to keep Bulgarian troops in Iraq after that.

“Polls show more than 70 per cent of Bulgaria’s eight million people disagree with the war and the opposition Socialists have promised to pull out if they win general elections expected on June 25.”



Iraq allies accused of failing to investigate civilian deaths

The Guardian (11th March): “Experts in public health from six countries, including the UK, have castigated the British and American governments for failing to investigate the deaths of civilians caught up in the conflict in Iraq.

“Twenty-four experts from the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, Spain and Italy say the attitude of the governments is ‘wholly irresponsible’. They say the UK government’s reliance on ‘extremely limited data’ from the Iraqi ministry of health is ‘unacceptable’ because it is likely to seriously underestimate the casualties. Their hard-hitting statement, published online by the British Medical Journal, comes nearly five months after the Lancet published a household survey of civilian deaths in Iraq which estimated that about 100,000 civilians had died – most of them women and children.”



US occupiers allowed looters to strip Saddam’s weapons plants bare

The New York Times (13th March): “In the weeks after Baghdad fell in April 2003, looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein’s most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms, a senior Iraqi official said this week in the government's first extensive comments on the looting.

“The Iraqi official, Sami al-Araji, the deputy minister of industry, said it appeared that a highly organized operation had pinpointed specific plants in search of valuable equipment, some of which could be used for both military and civilian applications, and carted the machinery away. ‘They came in with the cranes and the lorries, and they depleted the whole sites,’ Dr. Araji said. ‘They knew what they were doing; they knew what they want. This was sophisticated looting.’”



Iraq vets increasingly important in US movement to end the occupation

The Nation (9th March): “On a Sunday afternoon in February a young man made a plea to a room full of 400 antiwar activists who had gathered in St. Louis for three days of strategizing on how to end the war in Iraq. ‘I’m probably the most experienced activist in my organisation and I’ve been an activist for one year,’ 25-year-old Michael Hoffman said, ‘so we need your help with logistics.’ In return, he promised that his group would serve as a shield. ‘When there are massive protests, we will be out front. We will say that you are doing everything you can to support the troops by demanding that this war is ended, and ended now, so that the troops are brought home and cared for when they return.’ ... Hoffman is a co-founder of the fledgling organization Iraq Veterans Against the War and also a centerpiece of the peace movement’s emerging strategy. Antiwar activists are determined to make the military a major pillar of the movement, both by homing in on one of the war effort's weak spots – the military’s faltering campaign to recruit new soldiers – and by embracing antiwar troops.”

Other veterans speak out

US soldier: “Why I’m against Bush’s war for oil”
“The irony of a US administration, which ostensibly came to Iraq to spread free speech and democracy, shutting down Moqtada al Sadr’s printing press because we did not like what it was saying caused me a great deal of reflection.

“Suddenly, we were facing an entirely new war; we were now facing a group that represented the overwhelming majority of Iraqis. US intelligence then went into full attack mode, referring to the Mahdi Army, along with the rest of the insurgents struggling against us, as ‘anti-Iraqi forces’. I asked how could they be ‘anti-Iraqi’ if they were, in fact, Iraqis themselves?

“We also received new ‘rules of engagement’, which stated that we could fire on an entire crowd of civilians if we could identify them harbouring a member of al Sadr’s Mahdi Army. We came to Iraq to take out Saddam and, we were told, to free the Iraqi people from tyranny. Now, we were fighting the same people that we had come to help.”

US soldier: “We kill civilians all the time”
“We kill innocent Iraqi civilians all the time. That’s the way it is. I believe they need to withdraw all foreign military troops in Iraq right away. And I say this about other soldiers: to avoid punishment or reprisals by the military, they don’t want to talk and admit that killing terrorists is not our mission. It’s to kill innocent civilians.”

A conscientious objector speaks
“People would ask me about my war experiences and answering them took me back to all the horrors – the firefights, the ambushes, the time I saw a young Iraqi dragged by his shoulders through a pool of his own blood or an innocent man was decapitated by our machine gun fire. The time I saw a soldier broken down inside because he killed a child, or an old man on his knees, crying with his arms raised to the sky, perhaps asking God why we had taken the lifeless body of his son.”



Upcoming events

1–6 APRIL: WEEK OF ACTION AGAINST THE CORPORATE PLUNDER OF IRAQ (LONDON)
Called by Corporate Pirates
Contact: stopthepillage@yahoo.co.uk or 07931 337890.

FRIDAY 1st APRIL: April Fools Day Pro-Privatisation Party
A party outside the offices of corporate pirates Windrush Communications Ltd to celebrate the privatization of Iraq. Come dressed up as pirates and join their pro-plunder celebrations.
11am, outside the offices of Windrush Communications Ltd, Mark Street, London EC2A.

SATURDAY 2nd APRIL: Nonviolent Direct Action (NVDA) Training Workshop
12-5pm, RampART Social Centre, 15/17 Rampart Street, London E1 2LA.

MONDAY 4th APRIL, London: Public Meeting
Buried treasure: corporate plunder and the reality of occupied Iraq
7.30pm, London School of Economics, Room D202, Clement House, Aldwych, London W1. Speakers: Yaser Hassan (Jubilee Iraq); Haifa Zangana (Iraqi writer, exiled by Saddam’s regime); Ewa Jasiewicz (Iraq Occupation Focus, human rights activist), plus speakers from Rising Tide and Stop the War Coalition.

TUESDAY 5th APRIL: Vigil
8.30am onwards, outside the offices of Windrush Communications, Ltd, Mark Square, London EC2A.
PLUS: Creative Forum, 7pm. LARC Centre, 62 Fieldgate Street, E1. Films and much more.

WEDNESDAY 6th APRIL: Say Farewell to Windrush
Protest outside their offices (Mark Street, London EC2A) at 12 noon.


THURSDAY 14th APRIL: IRAQI WORKER SOLIDARITY GROUP MEETING (LONDON)
With speaker (Yahia Said) on academic life and student organisation in Iraq today.
6.30pm in the Golden Lion, Britannia St / Kings Cross Road (near Kings Cross).



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



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.

SECOND PRIZE

Interim Constitution

        When the tank came
        and blew the end of our house away
        it was
“A decisive moment in the history of Iraq”
        it was
        terrible because mama was out.

        The furniture fell into the street
                and water spurted everywhere.
        We hid in the corner under the door
                covered in dust, until the dark.
        When it got light again, Tameem cried.

        We shared some bread that I found.
“It is the Middle East’s first Bill of Rights”
        Rasha must have some because
                she is only a baby and needs food.
        Tameem must have some because
                his arm still bleeds where the wall fell on him.
        And I must have some because
                I am eight and must look after us all
        Until mama comes back.

        For two days we have tried
                to stay hidden, though the door
        is too heavy for me to fix
“There are still issues to be resolved”
        and the water still pours down the wall.
                We get in mama’s bed
        because it is the biggest for the three of us
“Shias, Kurds and Sunnis will be equally empowered
to veto majority decisions”

        and because it is the only one left

                No one has come for us.
        But there is shooting in the street
                and I am afraid to go out.
“This is not the time to err on the side of caution”
        There is no food left
                and I am head of the family now,
        – until mama comes back.


Graham High