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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 19
May 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.


Occupation still mired in violence

US military face 20 attacks per day in Baghdad area alone

Associated Press (3rd May) reports: “Earlier this week the Pentagon released the names of two soldiers killed April 29 in Baghdad when an IED detonated near them. A day earlier, in the northern city of Tal Afar, four soldiers in a Stryker light-armor infantry vehicle were killed when a roadside bomb exploded near them. ...

“[In a report released on 1st May] the U.S. military disclosed that there had been 3,306 attacks of all kinds in the Baghdad area from Nov. 1, 2004, to March 12. Of that total, 2,400 were directed against U.S.-led forces. The number aimed at U.S. forces equates to roughly 20 a day in the Baghdad area, which has been the focus of insurgent violence since major U.S. combat operations were declared over on May 1, 2003. The military unintentionally released the figures on attacks in the BaghdadÊarea; it normally provides only Iraq-wide statistics.”

Civil strike in Ramadi

Juan Cole (9th May) writes: “The NYT reports that guerrillas killed eight US servicemen in separate incidents over the weekend. On Sunday, bombings in Samarra and Khalidiya killed three US servicemen. In Haditha on Saturday, guerrillas attacked and captured a hospital, killing 3 US Marines and a sailor when the US attempted to take it back.

“What is going on in Sunni Iraqi cities, which might account for this violence? ... Al-Zaman says Ramadi and some of the towns around it were gripped by a civil rebellion on the part of virtually all the townspeople on Saturday and Sunday. It comes in response to the Friday prayers sermons in the city’s mosques and appeals by the city’s clergy, who called for a strike to protest against the US encirclement of the city and against what they called random arrests, which have resulted in the imprisonment of many young men of Ramadi. Everyday life has ground to a standstill. The streets are empty of passers-by, shops are shuttered, and bazaars are closed. Schools, universities and government offices are likewise closed. ...

“If the Al-Zaman report is at all accurate, it suggests that the counter-insurgency campaign in Ramadi to date is a political failure, whatever its tactical successes.”

Iraqis angry at US failure to stem bombings

The Guardian (12th May) reports: “In July 2003, when President George Bush was asked about the growing number of attacks by insurgents in Iraq, he said: ‘Bring them on. We have the force necessary to deal with the situation.’

“That assertion was being questioned again yesterday after a fresh wave of suicide bombings that has killed nearly 400 people in the past fortnight.

“According to a western diplomatic source in Baghdad, 135 car bombs exploded in Iraq in April, up from 69 in March. And if May continues as it has started, it could be the worst month yet.

“The situation is causing consternation and frustration among some in the new Iraqi government. One Iraqi government official told the Guardian yesterday that the US had ‘failed to stem the strategic insurgency’. ‘Millions of dollars have gone on military and intelligence actions, and training up the Iraqi forces, but innocent people are still killed and terrorised every day,’ said the official, who requested anonymity. ‘[Iraqis] are very angry and disillusioned.’”



Al-Sadr emerges from hiding to denounce occupiers

The Associated Press (16th May) reports: “Anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr came out of hiding Monday for the first time since his fighters clashed with American forces in August, delivering a fiery speech demanding that coalition forces leave Iraq and that Saddam Hussein be punished.

“Al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric whose militia battled U.S. forces in Baghdad and Najaf last year, held a press conference in his father’s home in this holy Shiite Muslim city, 100 miles south of Baghdad. Al-Sadr criticized the American-led occupation and called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq.

“Al-Sadr also accused the United States of trying to foment a sectarian conflict, and he demanded the coalition release all detainees.

“‘The occupier is trying to make up a sectarian war between the Sunnis and Shiites,’ al-Sadr said. ‘It is not acceptable to direct the allegations of ugly acts committed by the occupier against the Shiites, to the Sunnis, we also condemn and denounce all the terrorist acts.’

“He did not elaborate but apparently was referring to a spate of violence since the April 28 announcement of Iraq’s new, Shiite-dominated government. More than 450 people have been killed in insurgent-related activity that has raised fears of an outbreak of a wider sectarian conflict.”



Disillusioned Iraq vet uses photo album to show America the real face of war

The New York Times (5th May) reports: “One of the distinctive things about the war in Iraq is the extraordinary proliferation of photos taken by G.I.’s that document the extreme horrors of warfare and, in many instances, the degrading treatment of Iraqi civilians by American troops.

“When [Aidan] Delgado returned to Florida last year from a tour of Iraq that included a traumatic stint with a military police unit at Abu Ghraib prison, he thought he could pretty easily resume the ordinary life of a college student and leave his troubling war experiences behind. But people kept asking him about Iraq. And he had many photos, some of them extremely difficult to look at, that were permanent reminders of events that are likely to stay with him for a lifetime. There are pictures of children who were wounded and barely clinging to life, and some who appeared to be dead. There was a close-up of a soldier who was holding someone’s severed leg. ... There were photos of G.I.’s happily posing with the bodies of dead Iraqis.

“Mr. Delgado, 23, is a former Army reservist who was repelled by the violence and dehumanization of the war. He completed his tour in Iraq. But he sought and received conscientious objector status and was honorably discharged last January. ...

“Several months ago Mr. Delgado gave a talk and presented a slide show at his school, New College of Florida in Sarasota. To his amazement, 400 people showed up. He has given a number of talks since then in various parts of the country. His goal, he said, is to convince his listeners that the abuse of innocent Iraqis by the American military is not limited to ‘a few bad apples,’ as the military would like the public to believe. ‘At what point,’ he asked, ‘does a series of “isolated incidents” become a pattern of intolerable behavior?’”



Anti-war candidates take votes from Labour in UK election

Anti-war candidates throughout the country received excellent votes. In East Kilbride Rose Gentle received over 1500 votes and in Sedgefield more than 4000 voted for Reg Keys. The question of the war was the central reason given by political commentators for the decline in the Labour vote and the reduction of its majority. Throughout the country candidates from Respect and the Green party received good votes. In Bethnal Green and Bow, Stop the War Vice President, George Galloway overturned a massive majority to remove Oona King – a strong supporter of the war. In Wales, Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price who has been a strong supporter of the anti-war movement tripled his majority. Elsewhere Lindsey German, Stop the War convenor, came second with 19.5% in West Ham and Salma Yaqoob, chair of Birmingham Stop the War Coalition, came second in Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath with 27.5% of the vote.



Basra Oil Union Organises Historic Anti-Privatisation Conference

May 25-26th will see Iraqi trade unionists and civil society activists gather at the Oil Institute of Basra for a two-day conference aimed at fighting the privatisation of Iraqi oil. The organiser of the conference, the General Union of Oil Employees, is a union resolutely opposed to the Occupation, the former regime and current plans to privatise Iraq’s oil industry.

Six papers written by six professors from Basra University on the subject of privatisation will be presented and discussed on the first day of the conference. The following day will be dedicated to international contributions and messages of solidarity.

Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis have dedicated their film ‘The Take’ to the conference. It will be the Arabic langauge and Iraq premiere of a film dedicated to the courage, militancy, co-operation and autonomy of a group of [Argentinian] workers, not unlike those currently feeling the might of the neo-con free market dictate in Iraq.

For further information please contact: Ewa Jasiewicz, UK Contact for the General Union of Oil Employees, freelance@mailworks.org or Munir Chalabi, UK Contact for the General Union of Oil Employees, munir@chalabi.screaming.net.



Americans still hold the reins in Iraq

Almost a year since the official ‘handover of sovereignty’, and more than three months after the Iraqi elections, the US occupiers still control a growing prison population and the country’s intelligence service reports to the CIA.

US prison system expands to house ever more Iraqi detainees

The Washington Post (10th May) reports: “The number of prisoners held in U.S. military detention centers in Iraq has risen without interruption since autumn, filling the centers to capacity and prompting commanders to embark on an unanticipated prison expansion plan.

“As U.S. and Iraqi forces battle an entrenched insurgency, the detainee population surpassed 11,350 last week, a nearly 20 percent jump since Iraq’s Jan. 30 elections. U.S. prisons now contain more than twice the number of people they did in early October, when aggressive raids began in a stepped-up effort to crush the insurgency before January’s vote.

“Anticipating continued growth in the detainee population, U.S. commanders have decided to expand three existing facilities and open a fourth, at a total cost of about $50 million. ...

“The large number of detainees and uncertainty about their fates have become a political issue, with representatives of Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority demanding that the inmates be tried quickly or released. More than three-fourths are Sunnis, a fact that U.S. military officers here say reflects the dominant role Sunni groups have played in the insurgency. ... But [Maj. Gen. William H. Brandenburg, who oversees U.S. military detention operations in Iraq.] acknowledged that the prisons were filling up faster than cases could be reviewed. ‘We’re still getting more detainees in than we’re getting rid of,’ he said.”

CIA keeps control of Iraqi intelligence service

Knight Ridder Newspapers (8th May) reports: “The CIA has so far refused to hand over control of Iraq’s intelligence service to the newly elected Iraqi government in a turf war that exposes serious doubts the Bush administration has over the ability of Iraqi leaders to fight the insurgency and worries about the new government’s close ties to Iran.

“The director of Iraq’s secret police, a general who took part in a failed coup attempt against Saddam Hussein, was handpicked and funded by the U.S. government, and he still reports directly to the CIA, Iraqi politicians and intelligence officials in Baghdad said last week. Immediately after the elections in January, several Iraqi officials said, U.S. forces stashed the sensitive national intelligence archives of the past year inside American headquarters in Baghdad in order to keep them off-limits to the new government.

“Iraqi leaders complain that the arrangement violates their sovereignty ... The Iraqi intelligence service ‘is not working for the Iraqi government – it’s working for the CIA,’ said Hadi al Ameri, an Iraqi lawmaker and commander of the Badr Brigade, formerly the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. ... ‘I prefer to call it the American Intelligence of Iraq, not the Iraqi Intelligence Service ... If they insist on keeping it to themselves, we’ll have to form another one.’...

“Senior members of [he two strongest Shiite parties: SCIRI and Dawa], however, suspect the real reason behind U.S. reluctance to hand over the archives is that Americans don’t want them to know the extent of U.S.-led spying on the Shiite politicians Iraqis risked their lives to vote into office.



Pentagon looks to block disclosure of future scandals

The New Standard (6th May) reports: “The Department of Defense is pushing for a new rule that would make it easier for the Pentagon to withhold information on United States military operations from the public. The provision, proposed by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in the 2006 National Defense Authorization Act, would render so-called ‘operational files’ fully immune from requests under the Freedom of Information Act, the main mechanism by which watchdog groups, journalists and individuals can access federal documents.

“Under the current proposal, once officials designate a file as FOIA-exempt, there will essentially be no opportunity to remove the exemption until ten years later, when officials conduct an internal ‘decennial review’ of the file’s ‘public interest’ value. ...

“Critics say the FOIA exemption would impact both historical and contemporary investigations into international military affairs, especially those that could shed light on human rights violations. ... The rule could, for instance, frustrate the work of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other organizations, which have relied on the Freedom of Information Act to uncover more than 30,000 documents on the US military’s involvement in the torture and mistreatment of foreign detainees in Afghanistan; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and Iraq, including the Abu-Ghraib prison scandal.”



US facing growing struggle to find willing foot soldiers

Troop shortfall may necessitate draft

Michael Schwarz reports for TomDispatch (27th April): “After two years of intensive fighting in Iraq, the Pentagon is feeling the strain in every military muscle and has been looking for relief in just about every direction but one – the draft.Ê... A key reason for the ever-more-evident strain on military resources is that more than 40% of the 150,000 soldiers in Iraq are Army Reserves and National Guards.

“Last fall the military manufactured a 40% increase in the pool of candidates available for the Guard and Reserve by relaxing entry standards and raising the enlistment age to 40 years. It added thousands of new recruiters (1400 for the National Guard alone) and equipped them with an array of new inducements, including signing bonuses as high as $20,000 (for those with previous experience) and up to $70,000 in college credits for new enlistees. Re-enlistment bonuses, depending on specialty, can now reach $100,000. The Defense Department also launched a new $180 million recruitment campaign...

“The withdrawal of American troops ... is ‘unthinkable’ to the Bush administration. ... According to former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, avoiding this unthinkable option would require ‘500,000 troops, $500 billion and the resumption of the military draft.’ The need for a draft has been seconded by a wide range of military experts.”

Iraq war has made it harder for US military to recruit

Reuters (3rd May) reports: “The U.S. Army missed its April recruiting goal by a whopping 42 percent and the Army Reserve fell short by 37 percent, showing the depth of the military’s wartime recruiting woes. With the Iraq war straining the U.S. military, the active-duty Army has now missed its recruiting goals in three straight months, with April being by far the worst of the three, and officials are forecasting that it will fall short again in May. ...

“The Army National Guard said it did not yet have its April numbers, but has missed its recruiting goal in every month of the current fiscal year through March and was 23 percent behind its year-to-date goal at that time. It missed its fiscal 2004 annual goal.

“Military recruiters have said potential recruits and their parents were expressing wariness about enlisting during the Iraq war.”

US army cuts tour of duty as recruitment declines

The Guardian (14th May) reports: “The US Army has begun offering 15-month active duty tours rather than the usual four-year enlistment as it struggles to halt a growing crisis in recruitment caused by the rising number of casualties in Iraq.

“Major General Michael Rochelle, the head of army recruitment, said this was the ‘toughest recruiting climate ever faced by the all-volunteer army’ with the war raising concern among potential recruits and their families.”

"I have a higher duty to my conscience"

Reuters (12th May) reports: “A U.S. sailor, whose refusal to go to Iraq has become a rallying point for anti-war activists, on Thursday had his pay cut and was sentenced to confinement to his base and hard labor.

“Navy Petty Officer Pablo Paredes, who refused to board the USS Bonhomme Richard as it was preparing to sail from San Diego with 2,000 Marines in December, ... said he refused to board the ship because he believed the war in Iraq was illegal and that taking part would mean participating in a war crime. ...

“Paredes’ case has prompted demonstrations in San Diego by those opposed to U.S. policy in Iraq. ...

“On Thursday, before sentencing, Paredes spoke to the court about his decision not to go to Iraq. ‘I believe as a member of the armed forces that, beyond having a duty to my chain of command and my president, I have a higher duty to my conscience and to the supreme law of the land,’ he said. ‘I feel in my mind and heart that this war is illegal and immoral.’”



More dirty tales of where the money’s going

US agents ‘washed accounts’ to hide missing millions

Associated Press (4th May) reports: “U.S. civilian authorities in Iraq cannot properly account for nearly $100 million that was supposed to have been spent on reconstruction projects in south-central Iraq. There are indications of fraud in the use of the $96.6 million, according to a report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. A separate investigation of possible wrongdoing continues. More than $7 million of the total is unaccounted for, the report said. An additional $89.4 million in payments do not have the required supporting documents. The report accused civilian contract managers of ‘simply washing accounts’ to try to make the books balance. ...

“A congressional critic of U.S. reconstruction spending in Iraq said Wednesday the findings showed ‘disorganized, sloppy management.’ ‘The U.S. risks fostering a culture of corruption in Iraq,’ said Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis. ...

“Part of the problem was a last-minute push to spend millions on reconstruction projects before the interim Iraqi government took over, the report said. One agent got $6.75 million in cash a week before the handover, with the expectation that the money would be spent before the Iraqis took power, the report said.”

Laundering Halliburton style ($100 dollars a wash)

Green Left Weekly (4th May) reports: “While nearly 100,000 Iraqis and 1600 US troops have died as a result of the Iraq war and tens of thousands have been severely wounded, the war has proven to be extremely lucrative for the Houston-based oil services company Halliburton ...

“Nearly a third of Halliburton’s revenue – about $1.5 billion – now comes from Iraq-related work, principally through its Kellog, Brown and Root (KBR) engineering and construction unit. KBR personnel were in Iraq within 72 hours of the US-led invasion on March 20, 2003, and KBR is the biggest contractor to the US military in Iraq, handling most support services from mail delivery to providing food for troops.

“KBR was paid more than $3.6 billion by the US government for Iraq-related work in 2003 and $5.4 billion for such work in 2004. However, the company is being probed by several US government departments over whether it overcharged for services.

“One former Halliburton employee, Mike West, told NBC News last July 26 that he was paid $82,000 a year to be a fore in Iraq, but never had any workers to supervise. ‘They said just log 12 hours a day and walk around and look busy’, he said.

“Another former Halliburton employee, Marie deYoung, who audited accounts for KBR... produced documents detailing scamming even on routine services: $50,000 a month for soft drinks, at $45 a case; $1 million a month to clean clothes – or $100 for each seven-kilogram bag of laundry. ‘It’s just a gravy train’, she said.”



Events

FRI 20th – SUN 22nd MAY, NOTTINGHAM: G8 ORGANISING GATHERING.
Org. by Dissent! See http://www.dissent.org.uk/content/view/188/108/ for more info.

SAT 21st MAY, LONDON: 'SUSPECT COMMUNITIES: THE REAL "WAR ON TERROR" IN EUROPE'.
Conference organised by CAMPACC (www.cacc.org.uk). With Hikmat Tabak, Paddy Hillyard and Liz Fekete among others. 9.30–6pm. London Metropolitan University, Holloway Road. tel. 020 7586 5892 or e-mail estella24@tiscali.co.uk

TUE 24th MAY, LONDON: WORLD FILM PREMIERE
A Letter to the Prime Minister: Jo Wilding in Iraq (Julia Guest, 2005, UK). Followed by panel dicussion with Julia Guest, Eric Herring, John Pilger and Jo Wilding, moderated by Gareth Evans (Vertigo and Voices UK)
7pm, Barbican Cinema, Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS. Organised by Voices in the Wilderness UK. Tickets £11 (£9.50 concessions). Book on-line or call the Barbican box office on 0207 638 8891. More info: www.voices.netuxo.co.uk/jowildingfilm.htm.

WED 25th MAY, LONDON: THE ART OF POLITICAL PROTEST.
Launch of Stop the War: The Story of Britain’s Biggest mass Movement with Peter Kennard, Martin Rowson and Steve Bell. 6.30 – 8pm. Bookmarks, 1 Bloomsbury Street, WC1. To reserve tickets phone 0207 637 1848.

FRI 3rd JUNE, READING: SCREENING OF ‘THE OIL FACTOR.’
Documentary featuring interviews with Noam Chomsky, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Ahmed Rashid, and the Director of the Project for the New American Century. 7.15pm, Reading International Solidarity Centre (35-39 London Street, RG1 4PS). Org. by Salaam & Reading Rising Tide.

WED 29th JUNE, LONDON: IRAQ PETROLEUM CONFERENCE
STOP THE PLUNDER OF IRAQ’S OIL! Protest outside ‘Iraqi Petroleum Conference 2005’ 10.30am, 29 June, The Hilton, Paddington. Assemble 10.30am Edgware Rd tube (Edgware Road exit). Caled by Corporate Pirates and supported by Iraq Occupation Focus. Contact 07810 867476 or email stopthepillage@yahoo.co.uk. More info on: http://www.radicalactivist.net/corporateiraq.shtml



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.

JOINT THIRD PRIZE (3 of 4)

Rafah

                              ...so-called “innocent civilians.”
                         Not a stereotype, stereotype
                    is just - and “a schoolgirl riddled
               with bullets” is a phrase used
          by journalists to sell newspapers
     to bleeding hearts. Bleeding hearts sell –
The incident was looked into – look –
     no, let me – the incident was looked into
          and there is no evidence – no evidence – no
               let me – no, she knowingly entered the forbidden –
                    She knowingly. With a satchel, for Christ’s sake.
                         She knowingly and in full. Well obviously
                              she was being used to lure soldiers.
                         Under the rules of engage. Under the. Under the.
                    Under the rules of engagement she may, she may, yes,
               be wounded, yes. Under the rules. She may.
          Yes, I know she was shot dead, that is what. Yes,
I know the satchel was shot, because it could so easily.
     It could so easily have been an explosive device.
          That is normal procedure for. And no-one, no Palestinian, not one,
               can explain what she was doing in the forbidden zone.
                    So I don’t think. Shed tears for.
                         Look. That is what. Is being. Is being.
                              Looked in- Cleared already? The Unit
                         Commander has come under very heavy
                    fire for his decision. Yes, I know he was cleared but.
               I know some soldiers are complaining,
          some soldiers are always.
     Thirteen times? Look, there was
clear evidence she was carrying a bomb.
     Suicide bombers are getting younger
          every day, so. No, no, wait, he turned away,
               but then, thinking she might still be alive
                    and a very real threat –
                         no well you say she was already shot three times
                              and then he switched his rifle to automatic
                         and fired thirteen shots into her,
                    in fact it was ten. “He emptied his
               clip into her?!” No, that is what. No, that is what.
          Is being looked into. And I have no doubt.
     I have no doubt. That we shall find. That –
no let me finish. No. That we shall. Find.


Josh Ekroy