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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk
Newsletter No. 18
April 30, 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.


Will Tony Blair finally be made to pay the price for Iraq?

Bereaved families take on the government

The Guardian (30th April) reports: “Anti-war groups yesterday launched a series of lawsuits against the government in light of the publication of the attorney general’s advice on the legality of the invasion of Iraq.

“Reg Keys, father of a military policeman killed in Iraq, who is standing as an independent in Tony’s Blair’s Sedgefield constituency, has joined forces with others in Military Families Against the War and the Stop the War Coalition. They include Rose Gentle, whose son, Gordon, 19, was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra in June last year. She said she would fight ‘tooth and nail’ to take Mr Blair to court.

“Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers, which is acting for the anti-war groups, said three actions were being prepared against the government. On Thursday, they will present a case before the international criminal court in The Hague. The court is already considering what it describes as a ‘most significant’ application relating to war crimes charges by anti-war groups.”

Do you want to vote against war and occupation on May 5th?

For guidance on how to use your vote to support candidates that opposed the invasion of Iraq, visit the following websites:

www.stopthewarmongers.org.uk
www.strategicvoter.org.uk
www.voteagainstwar.org.uk
www.vote4peace.org.uk

To read more on the election campaign in Sedgefield, where Reg Keys is standing against Tony Blair, visit:

www.keysforsedgefield.org.uk
www.blairditchproject.com

Benjamin Zephaniah writes: “Reg Keys is doing a very honourable thing by standing against Tony Blair in Sedgefield... War is about sons and daughters and fathers and mothers being killed, about real people dying and not about plastic politicians and their policies. Most people know that the politics behind the war is wrong, but I get the feeling that in this election campaign the parties are colluding in not speaking about it. They talk about being tough on crime – this war is the biggest crime we have seen, the biggest illegal act that has happened for many years, and they are not talking about it.”



Reports that attacks have increased since the election

The Guardian (28th April) reports: “The Pentagon has said that Iraq’s insurgents have lost none of their ability to inflict devastating attacks over the past year, further deflating hopes for a post-election respite. In recent weeks the pace of attacks has approached the violence of last spring, undermining claims by Washington that the US was making progress in Iraq.

“‘In terms of the number of incidents, it’s right about where it was a year ago,’ said General Richard Myers, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, at a press conference on Tuesday. ...

“The past week has seen a rise in attacks to 50 or 60 a day: bombings, shootings, rocket and mortar attacks. About 60 people – Iraqis, Americans and others - are injured or killed each day. The figures mark a steady rise from the average of about 40 attacks a day in the weeks immediately after the election.”

No news is good news

The Independent on Sunday (April 17th) reports: “The upsurge in violence across Iraq in recent days has left claims made by the Pentagon that the tide is turning in Iraq and there are hopeful signs of a return to normality in tatters....

“Ironically, one reason why Washington can persuade the outside world that its venture in Iraq is finally coming right is that it is too dangerous for reporters to travel outside Baghdad or stray far from their hotels in the capital. Most violent incidents in Iraq go unreported. Last year US soldiers told the IoS that they do not tell their superiors about attacks on them unless they suffer casualties. This avoids bureaucratic hassle and ‘our generals want to hear about the number of attacks going down not up’.”

Insurgency has grown over past year

Green Left Weekly (20th April) reports: “US officials have cited a decline in US troop fatalities in Iraq since the January 30 elections as evidence that the anti-occupation resistance is waning. However, in testimony given [on 17th March] to the US Senate armed services committee, Vice-Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, said that the ‘insurgency in Iraq has grown in size and complexity over the past year’. After noting that attacks on US forces ‘numbered approximately 25 per day one year ago’, he said that ‘since the January 30 election, attacks have averaged around 60 per day’. ...

“A major factor in the decline in attacks on US forces and therefore in US fatal casualties since the end of January has been a decision by the Pentagon to push the puppet Iraq security forces into playing a more active role. As a result, while the rate of US casualties has fallen back to one or two fatalities and 10-20 wounded per day, an estimated 200 US-recruited Iraqi security personnel were killed in March.”

Bombers continue to strike US military

Al-Jazeera (30th April) reports: “Two car bombs targeting military patrols have exploded in Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding 10 others, police said. Fighters opposed to the presence of foreign troops detonated one car bomb alongside a joint Iraqi and US military patrol in the Zayuna district of eastern Baghdad, as it passed near a police station on Saturday, killing two passersby, one of them a child, and wounding 10.

“A second car exploded near a US military convoy in the west of the capital, police said. It was not immediately clear whether there were casualties from that blast. The explosions came a day after a series of coordinated strikes in Baghdad and nearby areas killed more than 50 people and wounded at least 114.

“Elsewhere in Iraq, six US soldiers have been killed in bomb attacks in the past two days, the US military has said. Four soldiers were killed and two wounded by a bomb on Thursday in Tal Afar, about 390km north of Baghdad, the military said in a statement on Saturday.”



Weapons sites looted while the US bungled the hunt for WMD

The Guardian (April 27th) reports: “US military interrogators botched the questioning of Iraqi scientists in the search for weapons of mass destruction and their detention ‘serves no further purpose’, a new CIA report has found. The report says that in many cases the wrong people were detained, and subjected to questioning by ‘inexperienced and uninformed’ interrogators. It estimates that 105 scientists and officials suspected of involvement in WMD programmes are still in detention.”

Associated Press (27th March) reports: “Dozens of ballistic missiles are missing in Iraq. Vials of dangerous microbes are unaccounted for. Sensitive sites, once under UN seal, stand gutted today, their arms-making gear hauled off by looters, or by arms makers.

“The world now knows that Iraq had no threatening WMD programs. But two years after US teams began their futile hunt for weapons of mass destruction, Iraq has something else: a landscape of ruined military plants and of unanswered questions and loose ends, some potentially lethal, a review of official reporting shows. The chief UN arms inspector, Demetrius Perricos, said that outsiders are seeing only a ‘sliver’ of the mess inside Iraq. He reports that satellite images indicate at least 90 sites in the old Iraqi military-industrial complex have been pillaged.

“The US teams paint a similar picture. ‘There is nothing but a concrete slab at locations where once stood plants or laboratories,’ the Iraq Survey Group said in its final report.”



 
Red IOF t-shirt (thumbnail image) 

IOF t-shirts – only �

Now that the weather is getting warmer, why not kit yourself out in an Iraq Occupation Focus t-shirt? Our t-shirts are printed on front and back and are available in a full range of men’s and women’s sizes. For more images and details on how to order, visit:

www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk/resources



More Europeans pull out

The BBC (April 12th) reports: “Poland has said it will pull its [1,700] troops out of Iraq when the UN mandate for the stabilisation mission expires at the end of this year. ... Italy, with just over 3,000 troops in Iraq, has said it wants to pull its contingent out as soon as possible. The Netherlands (about 800 troops) and Ukraine (1,600 troops) have begun phased withdrawals of their contingents. The last Ukrainian troops are due to leave by mid-October. Bulgaria (about 500 troops) also wants to pull its troops out this year.”



Iraqi workers organise against the corporate profiteers

A conference on privatisation, scheduled for May 2005, is to be held in Basra, Iraq, organised by the General Union of Oil Employees in Basra. The GUOE is an independent trade union representing 23,000 workers in 10 union councils in the oil sector in Basra, Amara and Nassiriyah. Messages of solidarity and support are welcome. This follows a similar conference involving the GUOE organised by the Third World Studies Centre of the University of the Philippines.

More corporate scandals

The Nation (April 13th) reports: “A State Department draft report ... does make one thing clear: the Pentagon misjudged post-war Iraq on nearly every front: ‘The Pentagon failed to account in its planning for four key factors that have contributed to the slow pace of the reconstruction: insurgent violence, an infrastructure system near the point of collapse from a decade of sanctions, the use of “restrictive” US contracting laws and so-called cost-plus contracts.’

“Halliburton subsidiary KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown & Root) tops the list of culprits in this ‘free-fraud zone,’ as former CPA senior advisor Franklin Willis describes Iraq today. KBR overcharged the US government $400 million for a contract to rebuild Iraq’s oil fields. Pentagon auditors believe that $212 million of a $1.69 billion plan to import fuel under a no-bid contract may have been skimmed off the top, with $800 million in audits still unexamined. Finally, auditors also found $1.8 billion in ‘unsupported costs’ as part of a massive $10.5 billion KBR effort to supply the troops with food and shelter.

“More unbelievably, the Bush Administration doesn’t seem to care. In November 2003, the US Army learned that contractor Custer Battles had double-billed its salaries and charged the Army for work never completed. When two whistle-blowers sued to recoup the $50 million in fraud, the Administration refused to take part. KBR has even been able to black out virtually every negative reference in the Pentagon’s audits.”



Human rights abuses still rampant

Amnesty: Torture continuing in Iraq

Al-Jazeera (28th April) reports: “Amnesty International has said there are signs of fresh torture and sexual abuse in Iraq by prison authorities. The human rights group on Thursday also blasted the United States for failing to launch an independent investigation into the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, a year after images of abused detainees first shocked the world.

“‘People around the world will be recalling the horrific images they saw a year ago and wondering what happened to those prisoners,’ Amnesty secretary-general Irene Khan said, pointing out that only a handful of low-ranking US soldiers had been prosecuted or disciplined over the outrage. ... A year after the scandal broke, only five of seven US guards have been punished. ...

“Amnesty also said there were new reports of torture carried out by the new, US-trained Iraqi security forces. In February, three men died in custody after being arrested at a police checkpoint ... The bodies ‘were found three days later, bearing clear marks of torture from beatings and electric shocks’, it said.

“The rights group also spoke about cases of torture carried out at Iraq’s Interior Ministry and said the US authorities were aware of them. It cited one former prisoner, Ali Safar al-Bawy – an Iraqi resident in Sweden – describing how he was given an electric shock while held captive for three weeks in July last year. The man also alleged that a child prisoner had been sexually abused by Iraqi guards.”

US military held Iraqis hostage

The New Standard (22nd April) reports: “Evidence suggesting systemic abuse and torture at US-run prisons throughout Iraq continues to mount as Army documents surface. The latest records suggest hostage-holding and beatings were approved policy.

“Newly released government documents reveal that US military personnel arrested and detained Iraqi civilians in an attempt to pressure relatives suspected of involvement in the insurgency to turn themselves in. ... On numerous occasions, Iraqis have accused US troops of arresting women to pressure wanted male relatives into surrendering themselves. According to Amnesty International, such arrests are a breach of international law.”



Doctors warn of increasing deformities in newborn babies

IRIN (27th April) reports: “Doctors in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, have reported a significant increase in deformities among newborn babies. Health officials and scientists said this could be due to radiation passed through mothers following years of conflict in the country.

“The most affected regions are in the south of the country, particularly Basra and Najaf, according to experts. Weaponry used during the Gulf war in 1991 contained depleted uranium, which could be a primary source for the increase, scientists in Baghdad said. ‘In my experiments we have found some cases where the mother or father were suffering from pollution from weapons used in the south and we believe that it is affecting newborn babies in the country,’ Dr Ibraheem al-Jabouri, a scientist at Baghdad University, told IRIN.

“According to Dr Nawar Ali, at the University of Baghdad, who works in the newborn babies research department, a significant number of cases of deformed babies had been reported since 2003. ‘There have been 650 cases in total since August 2003 reported in government hospitals – that is a 20 percent increase from the previous regime. Private hospitals were not included in the study, so the number could be higher,’ Ali warned.”



US troops assault assembly member

James Cagan (22nd April) reports: “An incident on Tuesday [19th April] graphically illustrates the real relationship that exists between the US military forces in Iraq and the newly-elected, so-called ‘sovereign’ Iraqi national assembly. At a vehicle checkpoint controlling the entrance to the ‘Green Zone’ compound where the assembly’s building is located, a US army private threw an assembly member’s identity card in his face, pulled him from his car, handcuffed him and dragged him away in front of stunned onlookers. ...

“In a teary-eyed speech, Fatah al-Shaik, a member of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the predominantly Shiite coalition that holds 140 of the 275 seats, recounted what had taken place: ‘While I was on my way this morning to the national assembly, US forces surprised me by kicking my car several times ... When I took out my MP badge and showed it to him, he threw it in my face, opened the car door and pulled me out. When I told the translator with the soldier that I was a member of the national assembly, he answered, “To hell with you and the national assembly”. The soldier twisted my hands to the back in an effort to handcuff me. The soldier began to beat me and put his arm firmly around my neck. Then they pulled me off to a nearby room 10 metres away...’”



Next Iraq Occupation Focus meeting

TUESDAY 10 MAY
Iraq Occupation Focus monthly meeting
7:30pm, Conference room, Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square
London W1T 6AQ (nearest tube: Warren Street)



Other upcoming events

TUE 3rd MAY, LONDON: FORUM ON THE HEALTH OF CHILDREN IN IRAQ
Organised by Medical Aid for Iraqi Children (www.maic.org.uk). With Dr Jawad Khadem Al Ali, head of oncology at Basrah Paediatric Teaching Hospital, Dr Hussein Malik from Central Paediatric Teaching Hospital, and Dr Ali Rashed Hamed, a founding member of the Iraqi Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Program 7:00-8:30pm (followed by reception) at The Royal Geographical Society, 1 Kensington Gore London SW7 2AR. Tickets: � / � concessions; please make cheques payable to ‘MAIC’ and forward to: MAIC, 26 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3DL.

WED 4th MAY, LONDON: PROTESTS AT BAE AGM
BAE is one of Britain’s leading war profiteers. Protests organised by Campaign Against Arms Trade. Token shares available. Protest and street-theatre outside the meeting from 10am – 1pm. All welcome! Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre, Broad Sanctuary, opposite Westminster Abbey (nearest tube, Westminster or St James’s Park). Contact 0207 281 0297 or see www.caat.org.uk/campaigns/bae-agm/baeagm05.php.

TUE 24th MAY, LONDON: JO WILDING FILM PREMIERE.
World premiere of ‘A letter to the Prime Minister: Jo Wilding in Iraq’ (Julia Guest, 2005, UK), followed by panel discussion with Jo Wilding, Julia Guest, John Pilger and Eric Herring. Org. by Voices. 7pm, Barbican Cinema, Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London EC2Y 8DS. Tickets: �.00 / �50 Concs (book tickets on Barbican website). More info: www.voices.netuxo.co.uk/jowildingfilm.htm.

WED 29th & THU 30th JUNE, LONDON: PROTEST OUTSIDE ‘IRAQI PETROLEUM CONFERENCE 2005’
On 29th and 30th of June there is an Iraqi Oil conference at the Hilton, Paddington, London. It is advertised under the slogan “time to rebuild and develop the oil and gas fields in a country contain the second largest oil and gas reserves.” The Hilton, Paddington. Time tba. Called by the Stop the War Coalition.



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 (2 of 4)

 
The earth is fruitful
 
Slow paced stragglers Lose a branch
Big bomb shelters Sprouting out
Little shoots struggle No drink
No chance
 

 
It’s too hot On the alleys and paths
The land is parched
 
Seeds scorched
 
But there are rumours Of fertile soil
Deep underground
 
Further down
 
Under the celebrated Hanging garden
A collateral bloom Drops with love
All know rain Is a gift from above
The roaring sandstorm
 
Hits the town
 
Streets and stems Wilt in the heat
If they had strength
 
They would weep
 
This is no place To stand and stare
But Look over there
 
Yes over there
 
Another blossom Hits another bridge
It bursts into petals
 
Melting metal
 
And I hear children Have been dead-headed
Homes turned over Hospitals raked
All the Schools Hoed into shape
Opportunity
 
Gathers pace
 
The air raid harrowing Is successful
A bountiful harvest For all to see
Then they’ll dig A deep dark yield
Gather up the gold Plenty to eat
Satisfied sleep
 

 
The earth is fruitful The earth is fruitful
Let it be known
 
The earth is fruitful
 
The roots laugh
 
 
And begin to trickle
 


Jonathan Wilson