US plots 'new liberation of Baghdad'
Pacifying the lawless capital is regarded as essential to establishing the authority of the incoming government and preparing for a significant withdrawal of American troops. Sources close to the Pentagon said Iraqi forces would take the lead, supported by American air power, special operations, intelligence, embedded officers and back-up troops.
Helicopters suitable for urban warfare, such as the manoeuvrable AH-6 "Little Birds" used by the marines and special forces and armed with rocket launchers and machineguns, are likely to complement the ground attack.
Blair envoy reveals plight of Iraqis lost in jail maze
The Observer reports (April 9th): Iraqis arrested by coalition forces have disappeared into a 'black hole' with no records of where they are being held, Tony Blair's personal envoy on human rights has warned.
Ann Clwyd said if the scandal of the missing prisoners had been taken more seriously from the start by the US, it could have helped prevent the abuse of detainees in their jails.
Life under occupation
Baghdad Morgue Overflowing Daily
"The average is probably over 85," said the employee on the morning of April 12, as scores of family members waited outside the building to see if their loved ones were among the dead.
Three years after looting of Iraqi National Museum: an official whitewash of US crime World Socialist web site reports (April 7th): Three years have now passed since thieves looted the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad following the American invasion. The government was warned about the danger of looting to archaeological sites. In the Washington Post of April 14, 2003, archaeologist McGuire Gibson of the Oriental Institute in Chicago described discussions before the war with Pentagon officials: "We told them looting was the biggest danger."
During the first Gulf War, Dick Cheney as defense secretary collected "detailed advice on the cultural heritage of Iraq and Kuwait. The military used this in 1991, and did not damage any important sites. During the planning of the military action in 2002-03, someone or some group must have taken a positive decision to scrap the US's established protection policies. The looting of the Iraqi National Museum must be taken in the context of the cultural "policy" of the American invasion. The burning of libraries and the looting of many other museums accompanied the thefts from the Iraqi National Museum.
The former British arts minister, Mark Fisher, in his January 16 Guardian piece noted that "the [sites of] Sumerian city-states (Lagash, Uruk and Larsa) have been so badly damaged by looters that observers have described them as resembling devastated lunar landscapes, with craters 5m deep."
In a recent interview a former antiquities smuggler remarked, "There is an ocean of material coming from Iraq on a daily basis." One collector in New York "has organized a complete system of looting archaeological sites in Iraq. He has thousands of pieces in his collection."
The United States military has built a berm around Samara that cuts though archaeological sites. Only one conclusion is possible: a sustained and deliberate war against Iraq's rich cultural heritage began with the invasion three years ago.
US colonel offers Iraq an apology of sorts for devastation of Babylon
The Independent reports (April 15th): In an act of at least partial contrition, an officer in charge of the US military occupation of Babylon in 2003 and 2004 has offered to make a formal apology for the destruction his troops wrought on the ancient site. After entering Babylon in April 2003, coalition forces turned the site into a base camp, flattening and compressing tracts of ruins as they built a helicopter pad and fuel stations. The soldiers filled sandbags with archeological fragments and dug trenches through unexcavated areas, while tanks crushed slabs of original 2,600-year-old paving.
Doctors, NGOs warn of high infant mortality in Basra
IRIN reports (11th April): As a result of water-borne diseases and a lack of medical supplies, infants born in the southern city of Basra are subject to abnormally high mortality rates, say officials of an international NGO devoted to child health issues. Many doctors in the area say that the local health situation has deteriorated markedly since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003.
'National Day' passes without festivity
Azzaman reports (April 10th): The third anniversary of the U.S. occupation of Baghdad and the removal of its dictator Saddam Hussein was declared a 'National Day' by the government. But it passed without any festivities. On the contrary, thousands of people went to the streets in Mosul, Iraq's second largest city denouncing the occupation and condemning the government for declaring the day (April 9) a national holiday.
How Massacres Become the Norm
Dahr Jamail reports (April 4th): Robert J. Lifton, a prominent American psychiatrist, believes it does not require an unusual level of mental illness or of personal evil to carry out war crimes. Rather, these crimes are nearly guaranteed to occur in what Lifton refers to as "atrocity-producing situations."
Iraq today is most certainly an "atrocity-producing situation," as it has been from the very beginning of the occupation. The latest reported war crime, a US military raid on the al-Mustafa Shia mosque in Baghdad on March 26th, which killed at least 16 people, is only one instance of the phenomena that Lifton has spoken of.
On March 15th, 11 Iraqis, mostly women and children, were massacred by US troops in Balad. Last November 19th in Haditha. American troops, in retaliation against a roadside bomb attack, stormed nearby homes and shot dead 15 members of two families, including a three-year-old girl. During an attack on a wedding party in May 2004, US troops killed over 40 people, mostly women and children, in a desert village on the Syrian border of Iraq.
Standing with US soldiers at checkpoints and perimeters of operations in Iraq, I have seen them curse and kick Iraqis, heard them threatening to kill even women and children and then look at me as if they had merely said hello to them. On the 23rd November during Ramadan, US soldiers raided a home where a family was just sitting down together to break their fast.
Three men of the family had their hands tied behind them with plastic ties and were laid on the ground face down while the women and children were made to stand inside a nearby storage closet. Khalil Ahmed, 30 years old, the brother of two of the victims and cousin with a third, wept when he described to me how after executing the three men the soldiers completely destroyed the home, using Humvees with machine guns, small tanks, and gunfire from the many troops on foot and helicopters.
We're helpless says Iraqi surgeon
Daily News reports (April 13th): Iraqi doctors are being stretched to their limit having to treat war casualties with little medical supplies, staff and time, says a top plastic surgeon.
Iraqi consultant plastic surgeon Dr Zakaria Arajy, from Baghdad, said there were huge numbers of war casualties needing reconstructive surgery but due to the lack of medical resources and too few doctors, waiting lists were becoming longer and people of all ages were suffering.
"There are also severe shortages in pharmaceuticals, suturing materials and anaesthetics. Another problem is the experienced surgeons, scientists and medical brains have been killed, kidnapped and threatened and lots of people have left the country."
Gay Iraqis fear for their lives
The BBC reports (April 17th)"I don't want to be gay anymore. When I go out to buy bread, I'm afraid. When the doorbell rings, I think that they have come for me." That is the fear that haunts Hussein, and other gay men in Iraq. They say that since the US-led invasion, gay people are being killed because of their sexual orientation. They blame the increase in violence on the growing influence of religious figures and militia groups in Iraq since Saddam Hussein was ousted.
U.S. arming of Iraq cops skates close to legal line
Chicago Tribune reports (April 15th): U.S. officials are doling out millions of dollars of arms and ammunition to Iraqi police units without safeguards required to ensure they are complying with American laws that ban taxpayer-financed assistance for foreign security forces engaged in human-rights violations, according to an internal State Department review. The previously undisclosed review shows that officials failed to take steps to comply with the laws over the past two years, amid mounting reports of torture and murder by Shiite-dominated Iraqi security forces.
Among the shortcomings in compliance identified by the State Department is the fact that U.S. officials have not tracked the arms they distribute nationwide to local Iraqi police, nor have they vetted the units receiving those weapons to make sure they have not committed human-rights violations.
Rebuilders short on money: Reconstruction falling short
AP report (April 9th): After three years in which the U.S. government allocated more than $20 billion for Iraq reconstruction, a bill now making its way through Congress would add only $1.6 billion this year, $100 million of it for construction - not for schools or power stations, but for prisons. Even after billions were spent on power plants and substations, electricity generation still hasn't regained the level it had before the U.S. invasion of 2003.
Barely one-third of the water-treatment projects the Americans planned will be completed. Only 32 percent of the Iraqi population has access to clean drinking water now, compared with 50 percent before the war, according to the U.S. special inspector-general for Iraq reconstruction.
About 19 percent of Iraqis today have working sewer connections, compared with 24 percent before 2003. Of more than 150 planned health clinics, 15 have been completed, under a contract ending this month.
South Africa to bring 'dogs of war' to heel
Sunday Herald reports (April 9th): Some 5000 to 10,000 of the hired guns in Iraq are South Africans. So alarmed is the South African government at the number of personnel quitting special units - such as the South African police service's elite task force, which protects President Thabo Mbeki and top government ministers, and the South African army - to join security companies in Iraq that an anti-mercenary law has been introduced.
Controversy May Sap Bush's Credibility
LA Times reports (April 9th): Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff has testified that he gave classified information about U.S. intelligence on Iraq to New York Times reporter Judith Miller in 2003 after Cheney told him that Bush had personally approved the secret disclosure.
Libby's leak apparently was intended to encourage Miller to write an article saying that U.S. intelligence agencies genuinely believed that the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein had sought nuclear weapons.
More US generals turn on Rumsfeld
The Guardian reports (April 14th): Two more retired US generals called on Donald Rumsfeld to resign as US defence secretary, adding to a deepening rift within the Pentagon. Six generals - two of whom commanded troops in Iraq - have now called on Mr Rumsfeld to stand down over his leadership of the war.
White House admits Iraq WMDs error
The Guardian reports (April 13th): The White House has acknowledged for the first time that the declaration by George Bush that "we have found the weapons of mass destruction", was based on intelligence known in Washington to be false.
The president's assertion on May 29 2003 that Saddam Hussein's arsenal had been located was based on the capture of two trailers claimed to be mobile biological warfare labs. However, the Pentagon had sent nine US and British weapons experts to Iraq to examine the trailers, who concluded they had nothing to do with biological weapons, and transmitted their finding to Washington on May 27 2003.
Wisconsin Residents Vote to Withdraw Troops From Iraq
ABC reports (April 5th): Voters in 32 Wisconsin communities had their say on the Iraq War in a referendum, and they decreed that enough is enough. Residents in 24 of the 32 towns and villages voted to start bringing the troops home now, a greater victory than supporters of the referendum had hoped to get.
The vote has no legal power, but it could be seen as indicating increasing discontent with the toll of the Iraq War, both in lives and money. Steve Burns, program coordinator of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice, which organized the referendum, said the results are "yet more evidence of a new anti-war majority in Wisconsin."
Burns pointed out that 12 of the 32 communities that voted against the war also voted for President Bush in 2004. Supporters say the referendums passed by a statewide margin of more than 14,000 votes.
Soldiers families go on attack
They are to lobby Downing Street, making Tony Blair the first serving Prime Minister of modern times to be lobbied by military families for the withdrawal of British troops from action overseas.
The protests on 26 April are expected to involve more than 40 close relatives of soldiers posted to Iraq and Afghanistan and relatives of the 103 British personnel killed in Iraq, as well as four Iraq veterans. The families are due to hand in to Mr Blair at No 10 an anti-war petition that also calls for the Prime Minister to meet the families of dead soldiers.
News from Military Families
Military Families Against the War have launched a new petition in support of Flight Lieutenant Dr Malcolm Kendall-Smith who was last week jailed for 8 months. Please sign and distribute. The petition can be found here at petitiononline
Send a message of protest to John Reid using our online letter or write your own. See www.mfaw.org.uk We will put a copy of any messages you send on the site.
Finally please don't forget to sign our online petition TONY BLAIR - MEET THE FAMILIES. We have had a good amount of media interest in the Lobby of Parliament on April 26th due to the number of military signatories on the petition. See petitiononline
New Neil Young song protests war
LA Times reports (April 18th): Joining an escalating pop music outcry against the Bush administration's wartime policies, Neil Young has recorded a new album, "Living With War," that reportedly includes a song called "Impeach the President." =2E.. The Dixie Chicks, Pearl Jam and Paul Simon have also recently recorded songs that, respectively, skewer the president, criticize American involvement in Iraq and plead for an end to war.
22-23 April 2006 Madrid International Seminar on the Assassination of Iraqi Academics and Health Professionals
Within the framework of the conclusions of the World Tribunal on Iraq, CEOSI, The BRussells Tribunal and the New York-based International Action Center (IAC) will convene an international seminar on the assassination of Iraqi academics and health professionals in Madrid, Saturday 22 April 2006.
On Sunday 23 April will follow an international meeting of both European and US organizations with the purpose of encouraging international solidarity with Iraq.
Iraqi guests will participate in the public session, including:
* Eman A Khamas, journalist and writer, former director of Occupation Watch
* Dr Ali Abdulah, professor of molecular genetics, University of Baghdad
* Dr Sami Wasfi FRCS, expert in cardiothoracic surgery. Dr Wasfi was the target of a failed assassination attempt
* Dr Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar, engineer, leading voice in the anti-sanctions movement
Venue: Escuela Juli=E1n Besterio, Calle Azcona, 53
SECOND THURSDAY OF EVERY MONTH, LONDON: MONTHLY MEETING OF IRAQ OCCUPATION FOCUS.
7.30 - 9.30pm, Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square, W1T 6AQ (nearest tube Warren Street).
The dates for the this year's meetings are: 11 May, 8 Jun, 13 Jul, 10 Aug, 14 Sept, 12 Oct, 9 Nov and 14 Dec.
April, Around the country: SPEAKING TOUR BY ACTIVIST MILAN RAI (author of Chomsky's Politics and War Plan Iraq) on his new book 7/7: the London bombings, Islam and the Iraq war.
* 21 Apr, Reading, 6 for 6.30pm: RISC One World Shop, 35-39 London Street, Reading. Info: 0118 958 6692 www.risc.org.uk
* 23 Apr, Hereford, 7pm: Friends Meeting House, 21 King St. Access via a narrow passage adjacent to an estate agent. Info: email@example.com
* 24 Apr, Hebden Bridge, 7.00pm for 7.30pm: Hope Street Baptist Church Hall, Hebden Bridge. Info: 01422 320139
* 29 Apr, Aberystwyth; 4.30pm-5.30pm: (signing) Ottakars, 27 Great Darkgate Street, Aberystwyth Info:www.socialforumcymru.org.uk/ or Ottakars 01970 611222
24 APRIL, LONDON: WHAT'S THE REAL COST OF THE WAR?
Public meeting with Jane Shallice (STW), Alan Simpson MP, Sami Ramadani (Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation). Walter Wolfgang and Ben Griffin (ex-SAS soldier, resigned over Iraq).
7.30pm, Wessex House, 1a St John's Hill, Battersea (opp. Clapham Junction station).
More info: 0795 1199 672.
26 APRIL, LONDON: LOBBY OF PARLIAMENT organised by Military =46amilies Against the War. 12 noon. See www.mfaw.org.uk
June 16th, Iraq Occupation Focus Public Meeting: Anthony Arnove - US activist and author of The Logic of Withdrawal, Tariq Ali - writer and activist, Glen Rangwala - who exposed the Blair Government's 'dodgy dossier'
7.00pm Main Hall, Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square, nearest tubes: Warren Street, Euston Square.