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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 6
August 22, 2004

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US-UK offensive leads to standoff in Najaf

After relative calm on Saturday the US resumed its aerial assault on central Najaf early Sunday morning as AC-130 warplanes strafed Mahdi army positions.

As we go to press, hundreds of unarmed human shields remain inside the shine, and hundreds of Mahdi Army militia remain in place defending it. A claim by the US-appointed interim government that Iraqi police had taken control of the shrine has been declared false by journalists present at the scene and by US soldiers. For latest update see Al-Jazeera.

In addition to the fighting in Najaf, US-led forces have continued their assaults on other centres of opposition. On Thursday morning, dozens of tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles overran Baghdad’s Sadr City suburb, home to some 2 million people, mainly poverty-stricken Shia. According to the US military, fifty Mahdi army fighters and two US soldiers were killed in the course of the US advance.

On Thursday night, the US conducted yet another air raid against Fallujah, reportedly killing five people and wounding six. According to Al-Jazeera: “US warplanes have bombed the mainly Sunni town of 200,000 almost daily over the past week.”

In recent days, insurgents have targeted oil infrastructure in both south and north of the country. Late Thursday evening supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr raided the Basra headquarters of Iraq’s Southern Oil Company and set its warehouses and offices on fire. In the last week there have been further attacks on oil facilities in and around Kirkuk, Baghdad, Amarah, and Nassiriyah. For updates on attacks on Iraqi oil facilities see www.iags.org/iraqpipelinewatch.htm.



Olympic bulletin: Iraqi footballers denounce occupation

Members of Iraq’s Olympic football team have told the popular US magazine Sports Illustrated just how they feel about the occupation. Star midfielder Salih Sadir denounced Bush’s attempt to exploit the Iraqi presence in the Olympics in his election campaign. (To see the Bush advert, click here.) “Iraq as a team does not want Mr. Bush to use us for the presidential campaign,” said, Sadir, who was once the star player for the football team in Najaf. “I want the violence and the war to go away from the city... We don’t wish for the presence of Americans in our country. We want them to go away.”

Ahmed Manajid, another member of the Iraqi team, asked of Bush: “How will he meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women? He has committed so many crimes.” Manajid, hails from Fallujah. Coalition forces killed his cousin, who was fighting as an insurgent, and several of his friends. “I want to defend my home,” he says. “If a stranger invades America and the people resist, does that mean they are terrorists? Everyone [in Fallujah] has been labelled a terrorist. These are all lies. Fallujah people are some of the best people in Iraq.”

All Iraqi Olympic competitors have made clear that they are delighted to be rid of the former Olympic committee head Uday Hussein, son of Saddam, who was responsible for the serial torture of Iraqi athletes. But they do not support the US’s actions in Iraq. “My problems are not with the American people,” says Iraqi soccer coach Adnan Hamad. “They are with what America has done in Iraq: destroy everything. The American army has killed so many people in Iraq. What is freedom when I go to the [national] stadium and there are shootings on the road? Many people hate America now. The Americans have lost many people around the world – and that is what is happening in America also.”



Typhoid, hepatitis E rampant as sewage taints water supply

The Los Angeles Times reports: “The price of bicycle pumps has more than quadrupled in Sadr City, for reasons that have nothing to do with cycling. Residents of Baghdad’s worst slum use them to coax water from the district’s battered supply lines. It’s either that or use their mouths as though they’re siphoning gas. But there’s a problem – the water is making them sick. Typhoid and hepatitis E are running rampant through Sadr City this summer... health officials and Sadr City residents expect the infection rate of both diseases, and the death toll, to keep rising... The cause is as plain as the solution is seemingly distant. ‘Improve the services, improve the drinking water, fix the sewage network,’ said Nuwesri, the hospital director. But US Army commanders in the area acknowledge that almost no serious reconstruction has been accomplished in Sadr City... Nuwesri said his hospital often uses water that’s ‘just as contaminated as the water in the homes.’ Even that tainted supply has been known to disappear for up to 18 hours.”



‘Clueless’

Dr Muthana al-Dhari, editor-in-chief of Al-Basaer newspaper and media officer of the Association of Muslim Scholars was detained for four days by US forces earlier in August. He described his interrogation to Al-Jazeera: “They asked me, why we hate them? I told them that we do not hate the American people, they are welcomed as tourists, traders, etc but not as occupiers... I got the impression that US interrogators and CIA officers have not a clue about what they are doing. Their questions were shallow and indicated serious ignorance of the Iraqi scene. I also noticed they are so keen to mock, ridicule, and insult us. Some of them are good people, and are very angry at George Bush, one of them told me if he (Bush) loves Iraq so much, why does he not bring his family and live here! But interestingly some of them (US soldiers) are just thieves. They stole my agenda and wrist watch in front of my eyes.”



Occupiers can’t account for $8.8 billion of Iraqi assets

An audit by the former Coalition Provisional Authority’s own Inspector General blasts the CPA for “not providing adequate stewardship” of at least $8.8 billion from the Development Fund for Iraq that was given to Iraqi ministries. [read story] The fund is made up of proceeds from Iraqi oil sales, assets frozen by foreign governments and surplus from the UN Oil for Food Programme. Among the audit’s startling findings were that payrolls in Iraqi ministries under CPA control were padded with thousands of ghost employees.



New ‘transitional council’ rigged

The ‘National Conference’ held last week in the US-protected Green Zone in Baghdad chose a new 100-member ‘transitional council’ to oversee the US-appointed interim government. According to agency reports, independent delegates said the council was “stacked with government supporters and would be no more than a rubber stamp”. Several delegates to the conference withdrew in protest. “The makeup and list of people on the national council has largely been decided already,” admitted a senior member of the official preparatory committee, “Leaving it to a truly open vote may bring in people that would threaten the strategic plan that has already been charted for Iraq.” Nineteen of the seats had already been assigned to members of the defunct governing council, created by the US. “One of our main disagreements with the preparatory committee is that political parties should not dominate the process and that the average Iraqi must feel that this is truly an opportunity for him or her to enter political life,” said former oil minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulum. Many inside and outside the event charged that the process was manipulated from the start, including the selection of delegates by parties supported by the US. “Sidelining certain Iraqis and treating them like minors in need of a guardian will just be another form of dictatorship,” said Hunain Hamoud al-Qadur, a Sunni from Mosul.



Free anti-occupation postcards, placards and window posters

Voices is the Wilderness’ new campaign postcard calling for ‘US and British forces [to] stop killing Iraqis and end their military occupation of Iraq’ are now available at 0845 458 2564, voices@voicesuk.org. The card, featuring the powerful artwork of long-time anti-war artist Emily Johns, can be viewed on-line at www.voicesuk.org. A window poster (‘Stop Killing Iraqis, End the Occupation’) and five placard designs are also available at the web-site for download as PDF files – or can be obtained free on request from the Voices office.



IOF day conference on the occupation

Saturday, 4 December, 2004
central London

Participants will include Tariq Ali, US Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, plus speakers from Iraq. Workshops on educational and campaigning themes. Put the date in your diary.



Next IOF monthly organising meeting

Tuesday, 14 September, 7:15 pm,
SOAS, Thornhaugh Street, central London
Room G50

Guest speaker: Justin Alexander of Jubilee Iraq (anti-debt campaign). Justin has just returned from Iraq.

All welcome.