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 Iraqs 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 doesnt 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 Pentagons 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 Iraqs 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 assemblys building is located, a US army private threw an assembly members 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 Britains 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 Jamess 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)