Iraq Occupation Focus
Newsletter No. 35
January 23, 2006
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The human cost
How Many Iraqis Have Died Since the US Invasion in 2003?
Counterpunch reports (January 6th): President Bush's off-hand summation last month of the number of Iraqis who have so far died as a result of our invasion and occupation as "30,000, more or less" was quite certainly an under-estimate. The true number is probably hitting around 180,000 by now, with a possibility ... that it has reached as high as half a million.
[A] team led by Les Roberts of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health ... researched death rates ... in Iraq before and after the 2003 invasion. Making "conservative assumptions" they concluded that "about 100,000 excess deaths" (in fact 98,000) among men, women, and children had occurred in just under eighteen months. Violent deaths alone had soared twentyfold. But, as in most wars, the bulk of the carnage was due to the indirect effects of the invasion, notably the breakdown of the Iraqi health system.
CounterPunch's consultant statistician, Pierre Sprey ... reviewed not only the Iraq study as published in the Lancet, but also the raw data collected in the household survey ... Sprey's results make it clear that the most cautious estimate possible for the Iraqi excess deaths caused by the US invasion is far higher than the 8,000 figure [cited by] the Johns Hopkins team ... Assuming the rate of death has proceeded at the same pace since the study was carried out, Sprey calculates that deaths inflicted to date as a direct result of the Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq could be, at best estimate, 183,000, with an upper 95 per cent confidence boundary of 511,000."
The financial cost
U.S. winding down Iraq reconstruction
The Washington Post reports (January 2nd): The Bush administration does not intend to seek any new money for Iraq reconstruction in the budget request going before Congress in February, officials say. The decision signals the winding down of an $18.4 billion U.S. rebuilding effort in which roughly half of the money was eaten away by the insurgency, a build-up of Iraq's criminal justice system and the trial of Saddam Hussein. Since the reconstruction effort began in 2003, midcourse changes by U.S. officials have shifted at least $2.5 billion from the rebuilding of Iraq's decrepit electrical, education, water, sewage, sanitation and oil networks to build new security forces for Iraq and to construct a nationwide system of medium- and maximum-security prisons and detention centres that meet international standards, according to reconstruction officials and documents.
Dahr Jamail and Arkan Hamed report (January 10th): Many Iraqis see dismal days ahead in the face of rising violence and the decision by the U.S. administration not to seek any further funds for reconstruction. "It is obvious that the situation is much worse than it used to be," retired army general Ahmed Abdul Aziz told IPS. "Can you walk free in the streets? Did you receive your food ration last month? When you go to the hospital, do you find medicines? The answer is no medicines, no services, no sheets or pillows, no beds, no nursing, and no ambulances to carry you from your house."
People have no recourse to law any more. "We are not living in a proper way," restaurant owner Qassim Abdul Hamed told IPS. "We are suffering at the hands of those who come in their vehicles just to have meals free of charge." The restaurant has to go on serving free meals to the Iraqi police, he said. "We can't say a word because they have guns."
Iraq war could cost US over $2 trillion
The Guardian reports (January 7th): The real cost to the US of the Iraq war is likely to be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion (£1.1 trillion), up to 10 times more than previously thought, according to a report written by a Nobel prize-winning economist and a Harvard budget expert. The study, which expanded on traditional estimates by including such costs as lifetime disability and healthcare for troops injured in the conflict as well as the impact on the American economy, concluded that the US government is continuing to underestimate the cost of the war.
The paper on the real cost of the war, written by Joseph Stiglitz, a Columbia University professor who won the Nobel prize for economics in 2001, and Linda Bilmes, a Harvard budget expert, is likely to add to the pressure on the White House on the war. It also followed the revelation this week that the White House had scaled back ambitions to rebuild Iraq and did not intend to seek funds for reconstruction.
Jobless Iraqis clash with police
Al-Jazeera report (January 4th): Clashes have broken out in Nasiriya in southern Iraq between Iraqis demanding employment and police. Several hundred protesters gathered in front of the Nasiriya governorate headquarters, demanding that job promises previously made to them by local authorities be kept. The rallyists said the authorities had been pledging to provide decent job opportunities since the past two years, but to date nothing had materialised. Police used force to disperse the crowds, triggering a violent response. Protesters burned several cars and exchanged fire with policemen. The confrontation left 25 people injured.
IMF Occupies Iraq, Riots Follow
The Progressive reports (January 3rd): Bad enough that the U.S. military is occupying Iraq. Now the IMF is occupying the country.
In December, the International Monetary Fund, in exchange for giving a loan of $685 million to the Iraqi government, insisted that the Iraqis lift subsidies on the price of oil and open the economy to more private investment. As the IMF said in a press release of December 23, the Iraqi government must be committed to controlling the wage and pensions bill, reducing subsidies on petroleum products, and expanding the participation of the private sector in the domestic market for petroleum products.
The impact of the IMF extortion was swift and brutal. Since the Dec. 15 parliamentary election, fuel prices have increased five-fold, mostly because the outgoing government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari has cut subsidies as part of a debt-forgiveness deal it signed with the International Monetary Fund, the Los Angeles Times reported on December 28.
Oil Ministry says corruption hindering output, distribution
Azzaman report (January 7th): The Ministry of Oil and its subsidiaries are under mafia-like gangs that have permeated all levels of production and distribution, high-level ministry sources said. The sources, refusing to be named, said the ministry was under the grip of what they described as an intensive circle of corruption which they blamed for the latest hike and scarcity of fuel in a country sitting on massive oil reserves.
Long queues of Iraqis have formed at the filling stations some of which have already run out of stocks. Iraqi oil exports are falling, hitting their lowest level in three years last December. Heating and cooking fuel is hard to obtain and some families complain that they have not received their rations for months.
Prices have spiraled almost out of control mainly due to severe shortages emanating from lack of security and corruption. Almost all of our oil is now in the hands of the black market, said Adel Hassan, who complained that his family had not received its gas ration for cooking.
Official US agency paints dire picture of 'out-of-control' Iraq
The Guardian reports (January 18th): An official assessment drawn up by the US foreign aid agency depicts the security situation in Iraq as dire, amounting to a "social breakdown" in which criminals have "almost free rein". The USAid analysis talks of an "internecine conflict" involving religious, ethnic, criminal and tribal groups. "It is increasingly common for tribesmen to 'turn in' to the authorities enemies as insurgents this as a form of tribal revenge," the paper says, casting doubt on the efficacy of counter-insurgent sweeps by coalition and Iraqi forces.
Dahr Jamail reports (January 8th): Fierce clashes broke out between resistance fighters and US forces in Fallujah when armed men battled with the US troops in al-Tharthar Street in the eastern part of the city as the latter tightened security measures, blocking all main entrances to the city. Local residents also reported fierce clashes between US soldiers and resistance fighters on Arba’ien Street in central Fallujah.
Earlier in the day, a roadside bomb went off at about 7:30 a.m. (0430 GMT) in eastern Fallujah as a US military patrol was passing by, destroying a US Humvee, killing or wounding the soldiers aboard, the source said. An Iraqi doctor from Fallujah General Hospital was killed by a US sniper, according to residents.
Governor says Mosul quiet; residents speak of escalating violence
Azzaman reports (January 7): The northern city of Mosul has seen no quiet in the nearly three years since the U.S. invasion and the security situation, according to residents, is now extremely dangerous. The city’s Sunni majority is suspicions of the increasing presence of Kurdish peshmerga fighters and is unhappy with the predominantly Shiite police and army forces striving to pacify Mosul. Conditions fare no better in Mosul’s outlying districts like Tel Affar, a major stronghold for anti-U.S. Iraqi groups. Inside the city, tensions are high and armed groups have spread a reign of terror on the population. Two student union leaders from Mosul University were killed and their bodies dumped on the campus following a demonstration they led protesting a government decision to raise fuel prices.
Anger as Britain admits it was wrong to blame Iran for deaths in Iraq
The Belfast Telegraph reports (January 5th): MPs and soldiers' families have demanded an explanation from the Government after a U-turn over claims that Iran was complicit in the killing of British soldiers in southern Iraq. Britain has dropped the charge of Iranian involvement after senior officials had repeatedly accused the Tehran regime of supplying sophisticated explosive devices to insurgents. Government officials now acknowledge that there is no evidence, or even reliable intelligence, connecting the Iranian government to the infra-red triggered bombs which have killed 10 British soldiers in the past eight months.
The twist comes three months after British officials first made strong assertions, widely reported in the media, of an Iranian hand in killing British soldiers. The allegations had also been confirmed by Tony Blair at a joint press conference in Downing Street with Iraq's President Jalal Talabani. The apparent U-turn last night prompted the mother of a young soldier killed in Iraq to accuse the Government of making political capital out of her son's death.
US troops seize award-winning Iraqi journalist
The Guardian reports (January 9th): American troops in Baghdad blasted their way into the home of an Iraqi journalist working for the Guardian and Channel 4, firing bullets into the bedroom where he was sleeping with his wife and children. Ali Fadhil, who two months ago won the Foreign Press Association young journalist of the year award, was hooded and taken for questioning. He was released hours later.
Dr Fadhil is working with Guardian Films on an investigation for Channel 4's Dispatches programme into claims that tens of millions of dollars worth of Iraqi funds held by the Americans and British have been misused or misappropriated. The troops seized video tapes he had shot for the programme. These have not yet been returned. The director of the film, Callum Macrae, said yesterday: "The timing and nature of this raid is extremely disturbing. It is only a few days since we first approached the US authorities and told them Ali was doing this investigation, and asked them then to grant him an interview about our findings."
Senior British officer brands US soldiers 'racist' in Iraq
The Scotsman reports (January 14th): A senior British officer has launched a scathing attack on the United States army and its operations in Iraq. Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster accused the Americans of "cultural insensitivity" that amounted to institutional racism and "moral righteousness" which led in extreme cases to distorted military judgments.
Writing in the US army-published Military Review magazine, Brigadier Aylwin-Foster, who was the deputy commander of a programme training the Iraqi military, said the failings may have spurred the growth of the insurgency. Brigadier Aylwin-Foster said of his US colleagues: "While they were almost unfailingly courteous and considerate, at times their cultural insensitivity, almost certainly inadvertent, arguably amounted to institutional racism."
Army Papers Show Abuse Case Closed Without a Full Inquiry
The LA Times reports (January 13th): The Army closed an investigation of an Iraqi detainee's allegations of abuse last year even though no Americans involved in the case were questioned and related documents were declared lost in a computer malfunction, according to Pentagon records.
The Iraqi, captured Jan. 4, 2004, alleged that he was kicked in the stomach once and punched in the spine once by interrogators. He said he was placed in front of an air conditioner after being stripped and having a bag placed over his head. Cold water was poured over the bag every few minutes, he said, and he was dragged around a room by his arm. The investigation documents were among thousands of pages of records released by the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained them in a Freedom of Information request.
The documents include numerous references to investigators being blocked, yet the matter was closed on June 17, 2005. A February 2005 report said that even though the Iraqi had given a detailed description of possible suspects, "no effort was made to identify and interview the interrogators and screening personnel."
Iraqi widows feel lost in land that cannot provide
Reuters report (January 9th): Behind the daily bloodshed and attacks that make headlines across the world, there is a growing population of widows. Traditionally, Iraqi widows have been supported by their late husband's family or other relatives, but in a country brought to its knees by violence and war, there is now little to spare for the most vulnerable members of society.
"We don't have enough money to clothe our children," said Nawal Ayob, who lost her husband during the bombings in the first Gulf War in 1991 "We have no salaries, no support. How can we survive?" The Ministry of Women's Affairs has recorded at least 206,000 widows in Iraq, outside of Kurdish provinces. Women's groups, however, say anecdotal evidence suggests the number of widows is far higher, with some estimates putting the number in Baghdad alone at 250,000 out of a population of about 7 million.
227 Iraqi Ballot Boxes Tossed Amid Fraud
AP report (January 16th): Iraq's electoral commission said that 227 ballot boxes from the Dec. 15 parliamentary vote would be thrown out because of fraud, less than 1 percent of the country's ballot boxes. Iraqis last month cast ballots into almost 32,000 boxes, meaning the 227 boxes being thrown out will have little effect on the overall vote. Elections officials annulled some of the boxes because fake ballots were used, said Hussein Hendawi, an official with the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. About 53 ballot boxes were annulled because they contained too many votes, he said. Fewer irregularities occurred in last month's election than in last year's Jan. 30 parliamentary vote, he said.
Impeach Blair on Iraq, says general
The Guardian reports (January 10th): A former general has called for impeachment proceedings against Tony Blair, accusing the prime minister of misleading parliament and the public over the invasion of Iraq. General Sir Michael Rose, commander of UN forces in Bosnia in 1994, writes in today's Guardian: "The impeachment of Mr Blair is now something I believe must happen if we are to rekindle interest in the democratic process in this country once again". Britain was led into war on false pretences, he says.
Activists call for protection of academics
IRIN report (January 15th): Activists and journalists have called for the protection of local academics and higher level educational institutions. The appeal, launched this month by the Brussells Tribunal, a worldwide network devoted to campaigning against the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, notes the systematic liquidation of the country's academics. According to conservative estimates, over 250 educators have been assassinated while hundreds more have disappeared, the network’s website states.
URGENT APPEAL TO SAVE IRAQ'S ACADEMICS.
Sign the petition online
A little known aspect of the tragedy engulfing Iraq is the systematic liquidation of the country's academics. With thousands fleeing the country in fear for their lives, not only is Iraq undergoing a major brain drain, the secular middle class which has refused to be co-opted by the US occupation is being
decimated, with far-reaching consequences for the future of Iraq. According to the United Nations University, some 84 per cent of Iraq's institutions of higher education have already been burnt, looted or destroyed. With this petition we want to break the silence.
1. We appeal to organisations which work to enforce or defend international humanitarian law to put these crimes on the agenda.
2. We request that an independent international investigation be launched immediately to probe these extrajudicial killings. This investigation should
also examine the issue of responsibility to clearly identify who is accountable for this state of affairs. We appeal to the special rapporteur
on summary executions at UNHCHR in Geneva.
*You can sign this petition online www.petitiononline.com/Iraqacad/petition.html or write to email@example.com
This petition was launched by the Tribunal and is already endorsed by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Tony Benn, Harold Pinter, Eduardo Galeano, John Pilger and Michael Parenti and many others. See also the call for action underneath and more information on www.brusselstribunal.org/Academics.htm
New dates for Iraq Occupation Focus monthly meetings
Please note that, from now onwards, IOF monthly organising meetings will take place on the second Thursday of every month at the Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square, London W1T 6AQ (nearest tube: Warren Street). Meetings start at 7.30pm sharp and and finished by 9.30.
Meeting dates for 2006:
- Thursday 9 February
- Thursday 9 March
- Thursday 13 April
- Thursday 11 May
- Thursday 8 June
- Thursday 13 July
- Thursday 10 August
- Thursday 14 September
- Thursday 12 October
- Thursday 9 November
- Thursday 14 December
Meeting details may be subject to change. Please check this newsletter for any updates.
Monday 30 January, LONDON: PEACE NOT WAR: UNITING LONDON WITH UK HIP HOP. The best of worldwide Hip Hop brought together with the premium UK flavour by the Peace Not War crew. 9pm 3am, £10 tickets in advance (www.ticketweb.co.uk), more on the door. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 07779 276 575. See also www.peace-not-war.org
Friday 3 February, LONDON: PEACE NOT WAR LIVE MUSIC ROOM AT THE SYNERGY PROJECT. A five-room spectacular at SeOne Club, with a diverse showcase of positive anti-war musicians. Contact email@example.com or 07905 514049. See also www.peace-not-war.org
Saturday 18 February, LONDON: Anti War Action Forum (later forum dates tba) 2-5pm, London Action Resource Centre, 62 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel, London E1 1ES (nearest tube Aldgate East). See www.londonarc.org
Saturday 18 March, LONDON: NATIONAL DEMONSTRATION Troops Home From Iraq Don't Attack Iran Assemble 12noon, Parliament Square. See www.stopwar.org.uk