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* Military Offensive <#Military>
Assault on Ramadi
Dahr Jamail writes (June 15th): www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=10433 Fearful residents are now pouring out of Ramadi after the US military has been assaulting the city for months with tactics like cutting water, electricity and medical aid, imposing curfews, and attacking by means of snipers and random air strikes. Thousands of families remain trapped in their homes, just like in Fallujah during both attacks on that city. Again, many who remain in the city cannot afford to leave because they are so poor, or they lack transportation, or they want to guard their home because it is all they have left.
Sheikh Fassal Guood, a former governor of al-Anbar said of the situation, “The situation is catastrophic. No services, no electricity, no water.”
Fear of Big Battle Panics Iraqi City
LA Times reports (June 11th): www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/iraq/complete/la-fg-ramadi11jun11,1,4679833.story?coll=la-iraq-complete Fears of an imminent offensive by the U.S. troops massed around the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi intensified, with residents pouring out of the city to escape what they describe as a mounting humanitarian crisis.
The image pieced together from interviews with tribal leaders and fleeing families in recent weeks is one of a desperate population of 400,000 people trapped with food and medical supplies running low, U.S. and Iraqi forces had cordoned off the city by Saturday [June 10th]. Airstrikes on several residential areas picked up, and troops took to the streets with loudspeakers to warn civilians of a fierce impending attack.
Ramadi Becomes Another Fallujah
Brian Conley reports (June 5th): www.aliveinbaghdad.org/?m=200606 These days, Ramadi is nearly impossible to enter. IPS has received reports of civilians killed by snipers, and homes occupied with American snipers on their roof, while families were detained downstairs.
Witnesses’ stories describe death happening any moment, without signals or warning. “The American snipers don’t make any distinction between civilians or fighters, anything that moves, he shoots immediately. They are killing lots of civilians who are not fighters.” Many people have been killed in Ramadi because they simply do not know which parts of the city are now no-go zones.
The local phone service and the train station has been completely destroyed.
U.S. Marines storm al-Dhaloiya; civilians bear the brunt of attack
Azzaman reports (June 7th): www.azzaman.com/english/index.asp?fname=news%5C2006-06-07%5C208.htm U.S. marines backed by several contingents of Iraqi army have retaken the city of al-Dhaloiya and are conducting house-to-house search amid mounting resentment and fury from the local people.
Some residents say scores of people have been arrested and several civilians killed or injured in the attack. Residents say the troops, instead of rounding up the rebels, normally pour their wrath on unarmed civilians. The town has been under siege for nearly three weeks and residents say its nearly 50,000 inhabitants are in dire need of basic humanitarian supplies.
Source: Killing of Iraqi may have been ‘premeditated’
CNN report (June 6th): edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/06/05/iraq.probes/index.html Navy investigators have evidence that U.S. Marines may have committed “premeditated” murder in the April shooting death of an unarmed Iraqi man in Hamdaniya, a military officer close to the inquiry told CNN.
Some of the Marines in pre-trial confinement have admitted the circumstances of the man’s death were staged, said the officer.
Their statements form part of the evidence suggesting Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, murdered the man, the source said.
Investigators have concluded U.S. Marines dragged the man from his house and shot him before placing the shovel and AK-47 next to his body, implicating him as an insurgent, the official told CNN.
US troops out of control in Haditha
The Guardian reports (June 5th): www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1790499,00.html The marine unit involved in the killing of Iraqi civilians in Haditha last November had suffered a “total breakdown” in discipline and had drug and alcohol problems, according to the wife of one of the battalion’s staff sergeants.
“There were problems in Kilo company with drugs, alcohol, hazing [violent initiation games], you name it,” she said. “I think it’s more than possible that these guys were totally tweaked out on speed or something when they shot those civilians in Haditha.”
Detainee report slammed as `whitewash’
AP report (June 18th): www.taipeitimes.com/News/world/archives/2006/06/18/2003314258 Murky procedures, lack of oversight and inadequate resources led to mistakes in the way US troops treated Iraqi detainees. But two Pentagon reports, released publicly for the first time, found no widespread mistreatment or illegal actions by the military. A human rights organization called the reports released on Friday a whitewash that ignored countless documented accounts of detainee abuse.
One report by Army Brigadier General Richard Formica on specials operations forces in Iraq detailed several incidents in 2003-04. It said interrogators fed some Iraqi detainees only bread and water for up to 17 days, used unapproved interrogation practices such as sleep deprivation and loud music and stripped at least one prisoner.
“Both reports demonstrate that the government is really not taking the investigation of detainee abuse seriously,” said Amrit Singh, an ACLU attorney. In particular, she said, there have been numerous documents showing that special operations forces abused detainees, but Formica only reviewed a few cases.
Another US Cover-Up Surfaces in Iraq
Dahr Jamail reports (June 13th): www.antiwar.com/jamail/?articleid=9131 Reports of another atrocity have surfaced in which U.S. troops killed two women in Samarra, and then attempted to hide evidence of their responsibility.
According to an earlier account, Nabiha Nisaif Jassim, a 35-year-old mother of two, was killed in firing along with her 57-year-old cousin Saliha Mohammed Hassan on May 30 when they were being transported to Samarra General Hospital for Nabiha to give birth.
What was not reported, according to an Iraqi human rights investigator who spoke with IPS on condition of anonymity, was that both women were shot in the back of the head by U.S. snipers. “I investigated this incident myself, and both of these women were shot from behind,” said the investigator.
US Troops Covering Their Tracks in Samarra
Karen Button writes (June 14th): karenbutton.blogspot.com/ In Samarra, another incident reveals a disturbing trend. According to surviving family members, US troops killed three unarmed civilians, one a mentally disabled man, in their home on the evening of 4 May and then attempted to cover their tracks.
According to witnesses, troops broke down the door to the house and began “shooting everywhere”. The “Americans were yelling, ‘fuck you, shut up,’” says one of the survivors, 36 year-old Shireen, whose mother, brother and sister were killed in the incident. There were mostly women and children in the room, she says.
Shireen’s mentally disabled brother, 40 year-old Khalid Zaidan Khalif, put his arms around his 66 year-old father, Zaidan Khalif Habib trying to protect him. Troops shot Khalid and then pushed the father onto the floor, says Shireen.
According to Iraqi police who said they witnessed the event, the civilians were unarmed. “They were not armed and there were no gunmen in the house,” said an officer from the Joint Coordination Center, which acts as liaison between Iraqi and US security forces.
According to survivors, troops attempted to cover up their wrong doing by methods becoming disturbingly more common. Shireen says before leaving, soldiers dragged her brother out into the corridor, shot him in the chest three more times, placed a gun next to his legs to make it appear he was armed, and then took pictures.
U.S.-Led Forces in Iraq Kill 9 in Raid
AP report (June 12th): www.wjla.com/news/stories/0606/335416.html U.S.-led forces raided a house near a volatile city northeast of Baghdad on Monday, killing nine people, including two children, the military said. Local residents accused the Americans of targeting civilians, and a man held up the charred body of a toddler whose head had been blown in half.
Freed prisoners speak of violations, torture
Azzaman reports (June 12th): <www.azzaman.com/english/index.asp?fname=news%5C2006-06-12%5C211.htm Prisoners freed by U.S. troops recently have spoken of violations and torture at the hands of their U.S. jailers. One prisoner, released recently and refusing to be named, said U.S. jailers “used humiliation techniques and resorted to torture and violated prisoner rights.”
Another said U.S. jails are crowed and the jailers “put 50 inmates in cages less than 50 square meters.” “Conditions are subhuman and the inmates face torture. They are subjected to heating in summer and cooling in winter. Mass punishment is normal,” a prisoner said.
Marine Apologizes, Says Song About Killing Iraqis Was Joke
LA Times reports (June 15th): www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/iraq/complete/la-fg-marinevideo15jun15,1,6820638.story?coll=la-iraq-complete A Marine corporal seen in a video singing about killing members of an Iraqi family says the song was a joke. In a four-minute video posted on the Internet called “Hadji Girl,” a singer-guitarist who appears to be a Marine tells a cheering audience about gunning down members of an Iraqi woman’s family.
Bullets ‘flooding Baghdad market’
The BBC reports (June 15th): news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/5081360.stm Research carried out by the UK-based charity Oxfam says Baghdad’s black market is awash with new ammunition. Much of it originated from factories in Eastern Europe and Russia, according to the report. It says the ammunition was either smuggled in or leaked from the supplies imported by coalition forces.
NGO warns of rising rates of child labour
IRIN report (June 15th): www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=53955&SelectRegion=Middle_East&SelectCountry=IRAQ Child labour remains an overriding concern in Iraq, according to one local NGO.
“We found that child labour has increased by nearly 15 percent, with many children working in unsafe environments,” said Saleh Muhammad, spokesperson for the Baghdad-based Children Saving Association. In April 2005, a survey conducted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs found that children between the ages of two and five years (some 7 percent of the total) were engaged in child labour, usually in the form of street-begging.
Local NGO warns of rising cases of sexual abuse
IRIN report (June 14th): www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=53936&SelectRegion=Middle_East&SelectCountry=IRAQ There has been a massive increase in reported cases of sexual abuse in Iraq, according to the Women’s Rights Association (WRA), a local NGO. We’ve observed an increase in the number of women being sexually abused and raped in the past four months, especially in the capital,” said Mayada Zuhair, spokeswoman for the WRA, adding that this is causing panic among women who have to walk alone.
Activists say the main reasons for the increase is the marginalisation of the population, lack of security and the negative psychological effects associated with war.
Hundreds of Iraqi soldiers deserting
UPI report (June 10th): www.politicalgateway.com/news/read/18314 Erratic pay, inadequate food and poor living conditions are driving several hundred Iraqi soldiers out of the army every month.
Lt. Moktat Uosef is a company commander in the 4th Brigade of the 7th Iraqi Army Division. U.S. Marines working with the brigade told Stars and Stripes, the U.S. armed forces newspaper, that its strength dropped from 2,200 soldiers in December to 1,400 in May. “Many of my soldiers have not gotten paid in six months,” Uosef said. “Sometimes, they don’t eat for two or three days at a time. I tell my commander, but what else am I supposed to do?”
Hundreds of Iraqi Detainees Get First Taste of Freedom
The New York Times reports (June 7th): The first of 2,500 Iraqi prisoners set for release stepped off a bus to freedom at Baghdad’s central bus station. The Americans were accusing me of being a terrorist, but even their own investigators did not believe it,” said Khairallah Ibrahim Muhammad, a 37-year-old man. He was among about 500 Iraqis released at various points across the country. None of the men released had been convicted of a serious crime, including aiding the insurgency, American officers said. Even so, some of them had spent more than a year in prison.
Iraq Exodus Ends Four-Year Decline in Refugees
IPS reports (June 14th): www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=33613 An exodus of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis escaping growing violence in their homeland last year increased the total number of refugees around the world to some 12 million, according to the World Refugee Survey 2006. That total marked a reversal of a four-year trend of declining numbers of refugees.
Fleeing chaos of Iraq, Palestinians at border look to Damascus
IRIN report (June 13th): www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=53899&SelectRegion=Middle_East&SelectCountry=SYRIA Many Palestinians have left – or are in the process of leaving – Iraq after being targeted by resentful locals, who say that Palestinian communities were favoured by the former regime of Saddam Hussein. According to Moussa Abdul-Mutalleb, Palestinians in Iraq are now subject to “severe harassment”. “I hope to enter Syria because a return to Iraq means certain death,” he said.
Oozing oil bogs dumped by Iraq threaten a region
Chron.com report (June 8th): www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/world/3981552.html Iraqi officials say that in a desperate move to dispose of millions of barrels of an oil refinery byproduct called “black oil,” the government pumped it into mountain valleys and leaky reservoirs near to the Tigris River and set it on fire.
The resulting huge black bogs — in the heartland of Iraq’s northern Sunni-led insurgency — are threatening the river and groundwater in the region, which is dotted with villages and crisscrossed by itinerant sheepherders. An Iraqi environmental engineer said clouds of smoke “were so heavy that they obstructed breathing and visibility in the area and represent a serious environmental danger.”
The area contains perhaps 30 villages on both sides of the Tigris River. The villages average perhaps 2,500 residents each.
Babil residents protest poor services, demand official resignations
IRIN report (June 8th): www.irinnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=53802&SelectRegion=Middle_East&SelectCountry=IRAQ Nearly 1,200 angry residents of Babil province, some 100km south of the capital, Baghdad, took to the streets on Wednesday to protest poor services and demand the resignation of several local officials.
“If these officials aren’t up to the responsibility, they should resign,” said Hussam Mustafa, a 25-year-old employee at the city’s civil defence directorate. “We have no potable water, and must bring water from the river,” he said. “We have just three hours of electricity every day, and no fuel at the petrol stations.”
Iraq contractors make billions on the front line
CNN report (June 13th): edition.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/meast/06/12/iraq.contractors/index.html Private military contractors are earning billions of dollars in Iraq — much of it from U.S. taxpayers. Lucrative U.S. government contracts go to firms called on to provide security for projects and personnel — jobs that in previous conflicts have been done by the military.
A single contract awarded to Britain’s AEGIS Specialist Risk Management company by the Pentagon was worth $293 million, and while the government says it cannot provide a total amount for the contracts — many of which are secret — industry experts estimate Iraq’s security business costs tens of billions of dollars.
Funds for Iraq run low
Christian Science Monitor reports (June 15th): www.csmonitor.com/2006/0615/p01s02-usfp.htm Time and money are running out on the US-directed reconstruction effort in Iraq. The main conduit for American rebuilding aid – the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) – is scheduled to close at the end of this year. Almost all the cash Congress has allocated for the fund, some $20 billion in all, has been spent, or will be, in coming months.
Yet many important efforts remain unfinished, for reasons ranging from insurgent attacks to incompetence and contractor corruption. More than 75 percent of oil and gas restoration projects are incomplete, as are 50 percent of electrical and 40 percent of water and sanitation projects, according to the April report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
House Approves $94.5 Billion for Iraq War and Katrina Aid
New York Times reports (June 13th): The House of Representatives approved an additional $66 billion for military operations [in Iraq] and in Afghanistan. When combined with earlier bills, the House-Senate compromise brings the tally for the three-year-old war in Iraq to about $320 billion.
When Soldiers Refuse to Fight
Truth Out reports (June 14th): www.truthout.org/docs_2006/061406R.shtml US Army First Lieutenant Ehren Watada says, “I’ve come to believe this is an illegal and an immoral war, and the order to have us deploy to Iraq is unlawful. I won’t follow this order and I won’t participate in something I believe is wrong.”
On Wednesday, June 7th, Lieutenant Watada became the first commissioned officer to publicly announce his refusal to deploy to Iraq. The very next day, Watada’s commanding officers opened an investigation into his alleged violations – conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, and making “contemptuous” statements against the president.
The Pentagon recently announced that 8,000 soldiers had gone AWOL during this Iraq war.
A US Lieutenant Refuses Deployment to Iraq
Left Turn reports (June 9th): www.truthout.org/docs_2006/061406R.shtml Watada expects to receive orders to deploy in late June and will become the first Lieutenant to refuse orders to deploy to Iraq, setting the stage for what could be the biggest movement of GI resistance since the Vietnam War. He faces a court-martial and up to two years in prison.
Italian forces to leave Iraq by December
The Guardian reports (June 7th): www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1792196,00.html The new Italian administration confirmed all Italian troops would withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year. Italy’s foreign minister, Massimo D’Alema, said the government would start reducing the number of troops in Iraq this month and the Italian military presence in Iraq would end by December.
When AWOL Is the Only Way Out
Peter Laufer writes (June 5th): www.alternet.org/waroniraq/36899/ As explained in a new book, Mission Rejected, the sight of U.S. troops kicking the heads of decapitated Iraqis around ‘like a soccer ball’ made Army soldier Joshua Key desert to Canada.
Joshua thinks exhaustion was generated intentionally by his commanders. “You’ll do whatever the hell they say just to get that sleep. That’s the way they controlled us.” Food and water were inadequate, he says. “When we first got to Kuwait we were rationed to two bottles of water a day and one MRE [meals ready to eat]. In the middle of the desert, you’re supposed to have six bottles of water a day and three MREs. They tell us they don’t have it.”
Field commanders tell Pentagon Iraq war ‘is lost’
Capital Hill Blue reports (June 5th): www.capitolhillblue.com/artman/publish/article_8790.shtml Military commanders in the field in Iraq admit in private reports to the Pentagon the war “is lost” and that the U.S. military is unable to stem the mounting violence killing 1,000 Iraqi civilians a month.
Even worse, they report the massacre of Iraqi civilians at Haditha is “just the tip of the iceberg” with overstressed, out-of-control Americans soldiers pushed beyond the breaking point both physically and mentally.
US ‘biggest global peace threat’
BBC reports (June 14th): news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/5077984.stm People in European and Muslim countries see US policy in Iraq as a bigger threat to world peace than Iran’s nuclear programme, a survey has shown. The survey questioned 17,000 people in 15 countries, including the US.
US death toll in Iraq hits 2,500
BBC reports (June 15th): news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/5084068.stm The number of US troops killed in Iraq has reached 2,500 with the death of a marine, the Pentagon has announced.
SECOND THURSDAY OR EVERY MONTH, LONDON: MONTHLY MEETING OF IRAQ OCCUPATION FOCUS.
22 JUNE, BRISTOL: BENEFORT GIG FOR BRISTOL STW with Attila the Stockbroker and David Rovics.
23 JUNE, LONDON: DEMO FOR IRAQ’S WAR WIDOWS on International Widows Day. With Tony Benn and others.
28 JUNE, LONDON: A NIGHT OF CONSCIENCE FOR LIEUTENANT MALCOLM KENDALL-SMITH (given an 8 month sentence for refusing to serve in Iraq – and ordered to pay £20,000 costs – this April).
Tickets are available from Stop the War Coalition at £15 You may also pay by credit/debit card by calling 020 7278 6694 or by sending a cheque made payable to ‘Stop the War Coalition’ to Stop the War Coalition, 27 Britannia Street, London WC1X 9JP.
1 JULY, FARINGDON: ANNUAL FARINGDON PEACE FETE.