Iraq Occupation Focus logo US troops face Iraqi demonstrators in Baghdad, July 2003
Iraq Occupation Focus : Campaigning to end the occupation of Iraq
Join our mailing list
Subscribe to the Iraq Occupation Focus newsletter via
riseup.net
Support our work by becoming a member of Iraq Occupation Focus >>

Iraq Occupation Focus
PO Box 44680
London
N16 7XX

iraqfocus@riseup.net

Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 11
October 19, 2004

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.



The latest big lie

As Fallujah suffers nightly bombardment and British troops prepare to redeploy in support of the US in Baghdad, Tony Blair insists: “There is no occupation.” Yet just this morning (Tuesday, 19 October), a mortar attack on forces of the US-controlled Allawi government killed or wounded at least 100 in Mashahidan, 25 miles north of Baghdad. In Ramadi, occupation forces clashed with insurgents in the city centre. In northern Iraq, saboteurs blasted a key pipeline connecting the Beiji oil refinery with Turkey. Occupation forces surrounded the town of al-Dhuluaiya, north of Baghdad, raiding homes, detaining scores of people and calling in helicopter strikes on suspected hideouts in surrounding orchards.



Attack on Fallujah: crime against humanity

A city under siege:

BBC News Online spoke by phone to a reporter in Fallujah (Monday, 18 October): “It is the start of Ramadan, but there is nowhere to celebrate and no food to celebrate with. Falluja’s most popular kebab restaurant used to be the place to go at the end of the day to break the Ramadan fast – but that was bombed by the Americans this week ... Fighters are engaged in skirmishes with US forces in the eastern and southern areas ...

“No single militia force controls the whole city. Different clans in the city have their own militias but they all seem to be working together to fend off US forces. The people of Falluja are very clannish – but they have also always been very religious and right now faith is a stronger bond than family. Two elements have been running the affairs of the city – the police force and local militias. Relations between the two are good – I have seen policemen on the streets chatting to the fighters. I am not aware of any foreign fighters in Falluja ... Ninety-nine percent of the fighters here are Fallujans. Local clan leaders are broadly opposed to any kind of foreign presence in the city because they fear they may be spies ...

“Hospitals have all but run out of supplies and most people know this. But still the injured are being taken there – just so that they can be near the doctors and receive some comfort. The Iraqi health ministry has not sent any extra supplies. Food supplies are also running out. All shops are shut. ... The people believe they are being targeted because they inflicted heavy casualties on US forces during the siege earlier this year.”

Negotiations sabotaged:

Al-Jazeera reports (Tuesday 19 October): “A top Fallujah negotiator who has been released from US custody says peace talks with the interim Iraqi government have been called off. ‘The people of Falluja have suspended negotiations, despite the fact they had made progress, because of arrests like mine and American policies,’ Khalid Hamud al-Jumaili said.

“Al-Jumaili was released at 2am on Monday after his arrest three days ago. US marines detained him along with Falluja’s police chief Sabir al-Janabi and two other police officers ... Al-Jumaili said the four men were taken to a marine base outside Falluja and then transported by helicopter to another location – ‘a very far place’.

“Talks between al-Jumaili and the interim government aimed at securing a truce collapsed last week after Iyad Allawi threatened to attack the city unless it handed over al-Zarqawi and his followers. ‘I think the residents of Falluja don’t want this sort of peace. They want real peace, not a peace that stabs in the back and strikes and destroys homes and kills women,’ Jumaili said. ‘Who asks for peace while bombs strike? Who agrees to peace when women are being killed?’

Fallujah appeal to Kofi Annan:

14 October: “Now, while we are writing to Your Excellency, the American forces are committing crimes in the city of Fallujah. The American warplanes are dropping their most powerful bombs on the civilians in the city, killing and injured hundreds of innocent people ... On the night of the 13th October alone American bombardment demolished 50 houses on top of their residents ... It is obvious that the Americans are committing acts of terror against the people of Fallujah for one reason only: their refusal to accept the Occupation.

“Whenever they destroy houses, mosques, restaurants, and kill children and women they say, ‘We have launched a successful operation against Al-Zarqawi.’ ...The people of Fallujah assure you that this person, if he exists, is not in Fallujah and is probably not anywhere in Iraq. The people of Fallujah have announced many times that any person who sees Al-Zarqawi should kill him ... At the same time the representatives of Fallujah, our tribal leaders, have denounced on many occasions the kidnapping and killing of civilians, and we have no links to any groups committing such inhuman behaviour ... The city was very quiet and peaceful when its people ran it. We didn’t witness any disorder in the city. The civil administration was going well given its limited recourses. We simply didn’t welcome the occupation forces. This is our right according to the UN Charter, international law and the norms of humanity ...”

From: Kassim Abdullsattar al-Jumaily, President, The Study Center of Human Rights & Democracy, and on behalf of the people of Fallujah and for Al-Fallujah Shura Council, The Bar Association, The Teachers Union, Council of Tribes Leaders, House of Fatwa and Religious Education.



MASSIVE POST-ELECTION ASSAULT LOOMS – MOMENT OF TRUTH

Gabriel Carlyle, Voices in the Wilderness UK (www.voicesuk.org), writes: “All the signs are that a massive assault on Iraq’s cities is likely after the US Presidential election on 2nd November – whoever wins. On 11 October the Los Angeles Times reported that the ‘Bush administration plans to delay major assaults on rebel-held cities in Iraq until after US elections in November ... mindful that large-scale military offensives could affect the US presidential race.’ ‘When this election’s over, you’ll see us move very vigorously,’ a senior official told the paper. According to The Guardian’s Jonathan Steele the post-2 November onslaught could ‘cause more civilian casualties than last year’s invasion’. This is a moment of truth for the UK anti-war movement: will we be able to mount an effective response to this much-heralded escalation? Voices is urging groups and individuals around the country to organise NOW to resist these attacks.”

Emergency meeting: Voices in the Wilderness have called an emergency meeting to discuss contingency plans for action. This will take place at 7pm on Tuesday 26th October at 5 Caledonian Road, N1 (nearest tube Kings Cross).

NB: Voices have also produced a new, free campaign postcard – ‘Stop the Killing in Iraq’ – demanding an end to the carnage in Iraq and the US/UK military occupation. Ideal for stalls, mailings etc ... copies are available free on request from Voices: voices@voicesuk.org or 0845 458 2564 (local rate call). The card – which features recent images from Iraq – can be viewed on-line at www.voices.netuxo.co.uk/postcardtexts.htm.



Next Iraq Occupation Focus organising meeting

Tuesday, 9th November, 7:15pm
SOAS, Room G50, Thornhaugh Street, London WC1

Discussion: Trade unionism in occupied Iraq
With Sami Ramadani and Ewa Jasiewicz

Followed by work on practical initiatives, including upcoming IOF teach-in (see below). All welcome.

For more information contact: iraqfocus@riseup.net



US soldiers refuse orders, while others grow disillusioned

The New York Times reports (October 16): Some 18 members of the 343rd Quartermaster Company were detained at gunpoint for nearly two days after disobeying orders to drive trucks to Taji, about 15 miles north of Baghdad. Jackie Butler, wife of Staff Sgt. Michael Butler, said an officer from Iraq told her “that my husband was being detained for disobeying a direct order ... and he went on to tell me that it was a bogus charge that they got against him and some of those soldiers over there, because what they was doing was sending them into a suicide mission, and they refused to go.” It is unclear if this is the first time a group of soldiers in Iraq has refused to carry out orders, and the military is playing down the incident as an isolated event.

Patricia McCook told the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger that her husband, a staff sergeant, “understands the severity of disobeying orders but he did not feel comfortable taking his soldiers on another trip. ‘He told me that three of the vehicles they were to use were ... not safe to go in a hotbed like that.’ A mother of another soldier in the unit said her daughter told her: ‘They knew there was a 99 percent chance they were going to get ambushed or fired at’. Kathy Harris, mother of Aaron Gordon, who was among those detained, said conditions for the platoon have been difficult of late. Her son e-mailed her earlier this week to ask what the penalty would be if he became physical with a commanding officer, she said.”

The pervasive discontent among US troops in Iraq is revealed in the latest book from Michael Moore, Will They Ever Trust Us Again? Letters from the Warzone to Michael Moore (published on 7th October, Allen Lane). The Guardian recently published some of the soldiers’ letters, including the following shocking testimony to the brutality of the troops’ &145;mission’: “It’s hard listening to my platoon sergeant saying, ‘If you decide you want to kill a civilian that looks threatening, shoot him. I’d rather fill out paperwork than get one of my soldiers killed by some raghead.’ We are taught that if someone even looks threatening we should do something before they do something to us.” (from ‘Specialist Willy’, Tuesday March 9 2004).

In another letter a few months later, the same soldier explains: “People’s perceptions of this war have done a complete 180 since we got here. We had someone die in a mortar attack the first week, and ever since then, things have changed completely. Soldiers are calling their families urging them to support John Kerry. If this is happening elsewhere, it looks as if the overseas military vote that Bush is used to won't be there this time around.”



SUPPORT US SOLDIERS SEEKING ASYLUM IN CANADA

Three US soliders – David Sanders (20), Brandon Hughey and Jeremy Hinzman – are currently seeking refugee status in Canada. All three refuse to serve in Iraq on moral grounds and now await the determination of their claims to refugee status. It is crucial to put the Canadian Government under as much pressure as possible to accept these claims - not only for their sake but also for future US soldiers who may wish to flee to Canada.

PLEASE WRITE TO:

  • The Candian High Commissioner to the UK, Mel Cappe (1 Grosvenor Square, London W1K 4AB);
  • The Right Honourable Paul Martin, Prime Minister of Canada, Office of the Prime Minister, 80 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1A 0A2;
  • Hon. Judy Sgro, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Room 239, Confederation Bldg, House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6.
  • Urge them to recognise Hinzman, Sanders and Hughey's right to asylum in Canada.

    An up-to-the-minute interview with Hinzman and Hughey can be viewed online at http://www.democracynow.org/index.pl?issue=20041015.



    Iraq faces soaring toll of deadly disease and drug addiction

    The Independent (13 October) reports: “Soaring rates of disease and a crippled health system are posing a new crisis for the people of Iraq, threatening to kill more than have died in the aftermath of the war. Deadly infections including typhoid and tuberculosis are rampaging through the country, according to the first official report into the state of health in the country. ...

    “One third of the health centres and one in eight of the hospitals was looted of furniture, fridges and air conditioners or had equipment destroyed in the immediate aftermath of the war. Damage to water supplies and sanitation has led to a surge in typhoid, with 5,460 cases recorded in the first quarter of 2004. Almost one in five urban households and three in five rural households do not have access to safe drinking water.

    “Poverty has risen sharply, with an estimated 27 per cent of the population living on less than $2 a day in 2003, in a nation with among the richest oil reserves in the world. One in three children are chronically malnourished, putting their lives at serious risk from outbreaks of measles, mumps and jaundice, which are sweeping the country and infecting thousands.”

    Reports of the sharp rise in drug abuse in occupied Iraq began to circulate within a few months of the invasion (see Islam Online report, 2 June 2003). The problem appears to be deepening this year – perhaps fuelled, ironically enough, by 2004’s record-breaking opium crop from similarly ‘liberated’ Afghanistan.

    The latest entry (13 October) from the author of ‘Baghdad Burning’, one of many invaluable ‘blogs’ written by Iraqis living under occupation, paints a grim picture of the situation today: “Now, you can find drugs in several areas in Baghdad and all sorts of pills have become quite common in the south. People living in Basrah and Najaf and other areas in the south complain that Iranians are smuggling them into the country and selling them ... There are certain areas in Baghdad that are well-known for their criminals and various crimes, ranging from rape to kidnapping to killing. Often the culprits are junkies who do what they do because they’re high on something or another, or because they need the money.

    “There seem to be such bigger problems out there, that drugs seem to be the least of our worries. Schools have started again and parents worry that their kids will be abducted or blown to pieces. I think our growing drug problem hasn’t gotten that much attention with the media because, while it’s going to wreak havoc in the long run, drugs don’t suddenly blow off an arm or a leg, and they don’t explode inside of your car and they don’t come falling out of a plane to burn homes and families... in other words, people don’t perceive them as a very immediate threat.

    “It’s like discovering you have cancer while you're fighting off a hungry alligator – you’ll worry about the disease later.”



    Under the bombs in Baghdad: The camera as a stethoscope.
    A documentary film by doctor Geert Van Moorter

    Geert Van Moorter was in Iraq during and after the war for the Belgian NGO Medical Aid for the Third World and SOS Iraq. His last visit in Iraq was in May 2004. The film starts with the consequences of sanctions. Then come images of the invasion and the destruction that accompanied it: violations of the Geneva Convention, shootings of civilians, bombing markets and other civilian areas, use of cluster bombs, attacks on ambulances and medical staff, looting. The film ends in October 2004, with results of Dr Van Moorter’s research on health in Iraq. Footage can be seen at http://informationclearinghouse.info/article3450.htm

    The film is available on VHS cassette, MiniDV and DVD, in English and French. Duration: 44 minutes. Contact and more information: info@g3w.be



    School kids suffer

    The BBC reports: “The UN Children’s Fund, Unicef, says that millions of Iraqi children are attending schools that lack even basic water or sanitation facilities. Teachers and children also have to deal with the threat of bombings and attacks. A third of all primary schools currently have no water supply and nearly half no sanitation facilities. Since March last year over 700 primary schools have been damaged in bombing and over 3,000 looted.”



    Occupiers can’t account for billions of Iraq’s oil revenues

    Boston Globe (October 16, 2004) reports: “About half of the roughly $5 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds disbursed by the US government in the first half of this year cannot be accounted for, according to an audit commissioned by the UN. One chunk of the money – $1.4 billion – was deposited into a local bank by Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq but could be tracked no further: ...Auditors also said they could not track more than $1 billion in funds doled out by US authorities for hundreds of large and small reconstruction projects. The audit, released yesterday, found serious gaps in how the Development Fund for Iraq – a pool of money drawn from Iraqi oil revenues and international aid – was handled by American occupation officials ... Checks were made payable to the coalition authority’s senior adviser to the Ministry of Health, rather than to suppliers ... A number of projects were awarded without bids ... The coalition authority could not find an underlying contract or evidence of services rendered for a $2.6 million disbursement earmarked for the Ministry of Oil.”



    Report from the British zone: ‘peaceful’ south gets deadlier by the day

    Audrey Gillan reports in The Guardian (18 October): “In the past three months, British forces in Iraq have been attacked more often than at any time since the invasion. It is a largely untold story ... Last month, I spent 12 days working between the British stronghold in Basra and the more northerly town of Amara, dubbed the ‘wild west’. ... I discovered that in these areas, and on the roads in-between, troops are being shot at with small arms, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades every single day. Six have been killed in the past two months, and one described to me how he lost his kidney on a run-of-the-mill job to pick up mail and a broken television.

    “Soldiers told me the reason there had not been more casualties was poor shooting, but they didn’t expect such incompetence to last. ... In August, one unit was shot at more than any British battle group since the Korean war... The number of attacks has meant that troops are often unable to leave camp to work on the decrepit infrastructure...

    “Almost 65% of the population of Basra does not have a tap supplying drinking water, sewage runs in thick green channels along the sides of roads, 60% of the fuel is still smuggled out of the country while Iraqis wait in line for overpriced petrol and still the power works on a ‘three hours on, three hours off’ basis ...”



    Iraq’s new security service: a law unto itself

    Agence France Presse reports: “One of Iraq’s leading champions of the rule of law was sacked Monday, 18 October, fanning concerns that the US-backed government is adopting strong-arm tactics reminiscent of the old regime.

    “The Central Criminal Court’s chief investigating magistrate, Zuhair al-Maliky, said the authorities had given no reason for his dismissal, which came after repeated clashes with state security agencies ... The US-led coalition originally tasked Maliky with investigating alleged abuses by Iraq’s fledgling security apparatus. ‘There was a lot of cases of torture, illegal detention and corruption,’ recalled Maliky, adding that his investigation resulted in the arrest or conviction of at least 20 policemen. Five of the cases involved the use of electric shock on detainees, leaving one man partially paralysed... in June, his investigation ground to a halt as the insurgency grew and the government put a premium on restoring security.

    “Maliky locked horns with the security services in September after agents from Iraq’s new national intelligence service arrested 52 people at the Baghdad headquarters of Hezbollah, a mainstream Shiite religious party which has representatives in the interim government. Maliky ordered their release, but the intelligence service secured broader powers with its own special judges authorised to issue arrest warrants ...”



    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.

    STOP PRESS: Adam Price MP, sponsor of the Bill to impeach Tony Blair, has joined the roster of eminent guest speakers at the Teach-in.

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