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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 9
September 28, 2004

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Fallujah: Civilians pay the blood price Fallujah: victims of latest American air strikes

The city of Fallujah has been under attack from US-led occupying forces throughout the past week. US military sources claim the attacks are ‘precision strikes’ aimed at ‘terrorist’ supporters of Al-Zarqawi, but doctors, residents and journalists on the scene report otherwise.

On Saturday, at least 8 people were killed and 15 wounded. Doctors said four Iraqis were burnt alive in a car hit by fire from a US tank.

On Sunday night, US warplanes, tanks and artillery units renewed their assault, killing at least 15 people and wounding 25. Fallujah medical sources say their hospital wards are filled with dead and wounded women and children. An Iraqi journalist told al-Jazeera that the US raid targeted a residential area in the Jolan area of Falluja. Abu Bakr al-Dulaimi said “US forces always claim the targeted sites host followers of al-Zarqawi, but they are citizens’ residences... There is no single neighbourhood in Fallujah that is safe or secure. People fleeing the city do not head towards other neighbourhoods, they leave it.”

A doctor said: “I have nine children in the children’s [ward] from yesterday’s and today’s bombing. Every day we receive women, children and elderly people and I confirm that the casualties, at least all those I have received at the hospital, were civilians.”

On Monday, Mahmud al-Jarisi, Fallujah city commissioner, told al-Jazeera that the neighbourhoods targeted by US forces were in the heart of Fallujah and crowded with civilians. “The city houses large numbers of people,” he said. “They cannot all leave the city due to their huge number and miserable living situations... The last bombing targeted a residential area and casualties were all civilians. Fallujah’s civilians are paying the price of the US forces’ mistakes and strikes.

On Tuesday morning, hours before Tony Blair rose to address the Labour party conference, at least four people were killed and ten injured as US warplanes again bombed Fallujah, targeting the area of al-Askari and the industrial neighbourhoods near the main highway east of the city, Iraqi journalist Husain al-Shammari told al-Jazeera.

Fallujah: Casualties of US bombardment Fallujah: Recovering victims from bombing site

Pictures: al-Jazeera



Sadr City assaulted by US warplanes

US-led forces launched fresh strikes on the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City on Monday night and Tuesday morning (27/ 28 September). The airstrikes caused a power outage across the district. They were the latest in a series of assaults launched by occupying forces in an attempt to crackdown on al-Sadr’s al-Mahdi Army. On Wednesday (22 September), 22 people were killed and 48 wounded in clashes. On Saturday night (25 September), a five-year-old Iraqi child was killed and nine people, including another child, were injured in a US airstrike. On Sunday night (26 September), another strike by US forces killed five people and wounded 46, including women and children. Residents said loud explosions echoed throughout the night and US jets repeatedly swooped low over the sprawling slum.



US bombs Kut, kills 75, wounds 148

The Press Trust of India reports (27 September): Early on Monday morning, US forces subjected the southern city of Kut to two hours of bombardment. Many of the dead and wounded were women and children, said Kut hospital director Khader Fadal Arar. “We have 75 killed and 148 wounded,” said the Iraq health ministry.



British troops killed

As Tony Blair prepared to address the Labour party conference, two British soldiers were killed in Basra, when a British military convoy came under attack. A spokesman for the British army said that the first vehicle in the convoy was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. When soldiers from the second vehicle tried to rescue the injured, they came under attack from small arms fire.



Violence surges across Iraq

Sunday, 26 September, witnessed attacks and clashes across the country. Two Iraqis were killed in an explosion in the al-Amil neighbourhood of Baghad. A car bomb near Samarra killed an Iraqi soldier and wounded three US troops. Another three Iraqi soldiers were wounded when fighters exploded a car bomb as a joint US-Iraqi patrol approached a four-door sedan. Four Iraqis were killed and one injured in a roadside bombing in the town of Khan Bani Saad, northeast of Baghdad.

A US fuel tanker was burned when a military convoy came under attack on the highway near Al-Adli neighbourhood, west of Baghdad. In the Yusifya area south of Baghdad, a booby-trapped car exploded when a US military patrol drove by. Three Iraqis were killed in western Ramadi when rockets hit houses in the Tamim neighbourhood. Medical sources said 10 people were killed and 26 wounded in an assault on a convoy of petrol tankers south of Baghdad. According to Iskandariya police Lieutenant Muhammad Masudi, fighters opened fire on the convoy, setting all five trucks ablaze and damaging three Iraqi National Guard vehicles escorting the convoy.

On Monday, in northeast Baghdad, a US military Hummer was damaged when an explosive device detonated at the entrance of Miqdadiya city. A car bomb exploded in the northeastern city of Mosul as a seven-vehicle Iraqi National Guard patrol was passing by, killing three policemen and injuring five others. Mortar bombs were fired at a police academy in eastern Baghdad.

Early on Tuesday, a roadside bomb exploded on a main Baghdad thoroughfare, wounding three civilians. The blast on Karrada street damaged several vehicles and shattered windows.

Reports from Al-Jazeera



“Occupying forces kill twice as many Iraqis as insurgents”

Operations by US and allied forces are killing twice as many Iraqis – most of them civilians – as attacks by insurgents, according to statistics compiled by the Iraqi Health Ministry and obtained by news agency Knight Ridder.

The ministry recorded 3,487 Iraqi deaths in 15 of the country’s 18 provinces from April 5 until Sept. 19. Another 13,720 Iraqis were injured. Many Iraqi deaths, especially of insurgents, are never reported, so the actual number killed could be significantly higher. Iraqi officials said the statistics proved that U.S. airstrikes intended for insurgents also were killing large numbers of innocent civilians. “Anyone who hates America has come here to fight: Saddam’s supporters, people who don’t have jobs, other Arab fighters. All these people are on our streets,” said Hamed, a ministry official. “But everyone is afraid of the Americans, not the fighters. And they should be.”

To compile the data, the Health Ministry calls the directors general of the 15 provinces and asks how many deaths related to the war were reported at hospitals. Families often bury their dead without telling government agencies. Others are treated at facilities that don’t report to the government. The ministry is convinced that nearly all of those reported dead are civilians, not insurgents. “People who participate in the conflict don't come to the hospital. Their families are afraid they will be punished,” said Dr. Yasin Mustaf, assistant manager of al Kimdi Hospital near Baghdad’s Sadr City. “Usually, the innocent people come to the hospital. That is what the numbers show.” The numbers also exclude those whose bodies were too mutilated to be recovered.

At al Kimdi Hospital, Dr. Mumtaz Jaber, a vascular surgeon, said that three months ago, his 3-year-old nephew, his sister and his brother-in-law were driving in Baghdad at about 9 p.m. when they saw an American checkpoint. His nephew was killed. “They didn’t stop fast enough. The Americans shot them immediately,” Jaber said. “This is how so many die.” At the Baghdad morgue, Dr. Quasis Hassan Salem said he saw a family of eight brought in: three women, three men and two children. They were sleeping on their roof last month because it was hot inside. A military helicopter shot at them and killed them: “I don’t know why.”



US troops question occupation

US soldiers in Iraq reveal their feelings on Bring Them Home Now:

‘Heretic’ writes from near Baqubah (15 September): The temperature dropped to sixty degrees last night while I huddled in a ditch near Diyala Bridge. The breeze off the river crawled into my heart and the sudden chill reflects my current mood. I found out earlier that night that I had been extended an additional two months on top of my previous stretch... three soldiers in our unit have been hurt in the last four days and the true amount of casualties leaving Iraq are unknown. The figures are much higher than what is reported. We get awards and medals that are supposed to make us feel proud about our wicked assignment... I have more trust with some of the Iraqi locals than my own command sometimes...

‘SPC’ writes from northern Iraq (13 September): My name is nothing but “jundi” in Arabic, which means soldier, but to my loved ones I am a piece of their heart. I am the rank of Specialist in the United States Army. I was a reservist for about 6 months, only to be called up out of college for “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. For some of us who are over here, that title is dreadfully wrong and insufficient... Morale is lower than ever before here. The only thing I hear anymore is “I just want to go home.”... I still am asking why is this happening. I do not support this war. Not even the slightest bit.



Cancel Iraq’s debt

Jubilee Iraq reports: We are entering a critical period in the negotiations on Saddam’s debts, with the G7, World Bank/IMF, Paris Club and Donor Conference meetings coming up. With the G8 calling for a Paris Club deal on debt by the end of 2004, before Iraqi elections, there are fears that a compromise will be reached with creditors at only about 70% reduction, potentially leaving $40bn or more debt and requiring at least $2bn debt service next year. This reduction will be processed through the Paris Club over a long period, requiring Iraq to obey the dictates of the IMF for many years. Also, war reparations against Iraq continue to grow. On 23rd September the UNCC awarded $377m reparations [http://tinylink.com/?A2nKUn29qG], bringing Iraq's total unpaid burden to $30.3bn so far.



Baghdad Year Zero

Naomi Klein traces the disastrous attempt to impose neo-liberal economic policies on Iraq in Harpers magazine: “Despite having been granted the first license for a foreign bank to operate in Iraq in forty years, HSBC still hasn’t opened any branches, a decision that may mean losing the coveted license altogether. Procter & Gamble has put its joint venture on hold, and so has General Motors. The U.S. financial backers of the Starwood luxury hotel and multiplex have gotten cold feet, and Siemens AG has pulled most staff from Iraq. The bell hasn’t rung yet at the Baghdad Stock Exchange – in fact you can’t even use credit cards in Iraq’s cash-only economy. New Bridge Strategies, the company that had gushed back in October about how ‘a Wal-Mart could take over the country,’ is sounding distinctly humbled. ‘McDonald’s is not opening anytime soon,’ company partner Ed Rogers told the Washington Post. Neither is Wal-Mart. The Financial Times has declared Iraq ‘the most dangerous place in the world in which to do business.’ It’s quite an accomplishment: in trying to design the best place in the world to do business, the neocons have managed to create the worst, the most eloquent indictment yet of the guiding logic behind deregulated free markets.”



Iraq’s new model army

The BBC reports (Sunday 26 September) that a senior officer in the Iraqi National Guard has been arrested for suspected links with insurgents. Gen Talib al-Lahibi, in charge of security for Diyala province north-east of Baghdad, was detained on Thursday. Gen Lahibi, who served in Saddam Hussein’s army, is the most senior member of the new Iraqi security forces to be detained on suspicion of collaborating with militants. He commanded three battalions in the area around the town of Baquba. The US appointed him last week after he had been nominated by fellow guardsmen to replace his predecessor, who was assassinated in August.



Realities behind Bush’s fantasies

Agence France Presse reports that Pentagon documents available to US Congressmen contradict George Bush's assertions about progress in Iraq. Bush said Iraq’s electoral commission was up and running and told Americans on Saturday that “United Nations electoral advisers are on the ground in Iraq”. He added that nearly 100,000 “fully trained and equipped” Iraqi soldiers, police officers and other security personnel were already at work, and promised more than $9 billion would be spent on reconstruction in Iraq over the next several months.

None of these claims is true. A top Republican aide briefed by the administration said that “at best” the $9 billion would be disbursed by late 2005 or early 2006. So far, only $1.2 billion of the $18.4 billion allocated by the US Congress for Iraqi reconstruction has been spent.

Pentagon documents indicate that of the nearly 90,000 currently serving police officers, only 8169 have had the full eight-week academy training. Another 46,176 are listed as “untrained” and it will be July 2006 before the administration reaches its goal of a 135,000-strong, fully-trained police force. Six army battalions have had “initial training” while 57 National Guard battalions, 896 soldiers in each, are still being recruited or “awaiting equipment”. Just eight National Guard battalions have reached “initial [operating] capability”. Democrats on the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee estimated that 22,700 Iraqi personnel had received enough basic training to make them “minimally effective at their tasks”, in contrast to the 100,000 figure cited by Bush.

The status of election planning in Iraq is also in question. Of the $232 million in Iraqi funds set aside for the Iraqi electoral commission, it has received a mere $7 million, according to House staff. While Bush said the commission had already hired personnel and begun setting election procedures, congressional aides have said preparations are almost non-existent.



Iraq Occupation Focus International Teach-in

Occupation and Resistance in Iraq
Sunday, 5th December
11am – 5pm
University of London Union, Malet Street, central London

Plenaries and workshops with:
Christian Parenti; Michael Hoffman (Iraq Veterans Against the War); Lou Plummer (US Military Families Speak Out); Phil Shiner (human rights lawyer representing Iraqi families); Haifa Zangana; Tim Gopsill (NUJ); Dr. Kamal Mahdi; Bridges to Baghdad; Milan Rai; Ewa Jasiewicz; Jo Wilding; Justin Alexander (Jubilee Iraq); Mike Marqusee; plus special guests from Iraq.



Poetry Competition

Have you written a poem on the theme of war and occupation? Then enter the Iraq Occupation Focus-Red Pepper open poetry competition, to be judged by Adrian Mitchell, our “shadow poet laureate”. For details and an entry form see www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk/competition.htm.



Articles of interest: