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Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter

Iraq Occupation Focus
Newsletter No. 47
July 5th 2006

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   * Military Offensive <#Military>
   * Daily Life <#life>
   * Abuses <#Abuses>
   * Cost <#Cost>
   * Anti-war news <#Anti-war>
   * Upcoming events <#events>

Military Offensive

Residents Struggle to Survive

Dahr Jamail and Ali Fadhil write (June 23rd): <> In Ramadi residents are suffering from lack of water, electricity, cooking gas and medical supplies for the hospitals. The streets are eerily empty, with armed resistance groups controlling vast swathes of the city, and other areas subject to frequent shooting from U.S. snipers on the rooftops of houses.

Correspondents with the London-based Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) in Baghdad reported: “People in Ramadi… estimate that about 70 percent of the city’s population have fled in the last week, many of them holding white flags for fear of being shot at by Marine snipers.”

Report from Ramadi

Dahr Jamail writes (June 28th):
A refugee from Ramadi recently found his way to Baghdad. The man, Ahmed, reported the following to my colleague Nora Barrows at KPFA radio about the condition in his city, which is being assaulted by US forces: “There were many helicopters, and the market area was burned while the helicopters were shelling. Most of the bullets and bombs were coming from the sky, and they burned many stores and cars that used to belong to civilians. Anything that moved – cars, people, anything – they got bombed and shot at.”

U.S. terror from the skies

Socialist Worker reports (June 30th):
U.S. TROOPS, backed up by helicopter gunships and air strikes by American warplanes, are picking their way through Ramadi, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

Ramadi is normally home to some 400,000 residents. Today, only 150,000 people remain. The rest have fled because of a suffocating U.S. siege. Beginning weeks ago, the U.S. closed all but one of the roads into and out of the city and began cutting water and electricity supplies, imposing tight curfews, stationing snipers on rooftops, limiting medical aid and—most terrifying of all—carrying out random air strikes.

“They’re using the Falluja model,” said Beau Grosscup, a professor of international politics at California State University-Chico.

Bush’s visit

Dahr Jamail reports (June 22nd):
The minute word hit the streets in Baghdad of Bush’s brave five hour visit in the “green zone”, over 2,000 supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr took to the streets in protest. The very next day, not coincidentally, prime minister Maliki instituted the biggest security crackdown in the capital city since the US invaded Iraq, dubbed “Operation Forward Together.” An estimated 75,000 US and Iraqi soldiers clogged the already seriously congested streets of Baghdad, using tanks and armoured vehicles to man checkpoints, impose a more strict curfew and attempt to impose a weapons ban.

On the second day of “Operation Forward Together,” a hospital source in Fallujah reported that 8 Iraqis, some of whom were women and children from the same family, were killed and six wounded when US warplanes bombed a home in the northeastern Ibrahim Bin Ali district of the city.

That same day, the Washington Post Foreign Service reported: “Iraq’s prison system is overrun with Shiite Muslim militiamen who have freed fellow militia members convicted of major crimes and executed Sunni Arab inmates, the country’s deputy justice minister said in an interview.” We cannot control the prisons. It’s as simple as that, said the deputy minister, Pusho Ibrahim Ali Daza Yei. An inmate in one of the photos held out his misshapen, limp hands for the camera. The man’s hands had been broken in a beating.

According to the same Washington Post story, “A group of parliament members paid a surprise visit to a detention facility run by the Interior Ministry in Baqubah, north of Baghdad. “We have found terrible violations of the law,” said Muhammed al-Dayni, a Sunni parliament member, who said as many as 120 detainees were packed into a 35-by-20-foot cell. “They told us that they’ve been raped,” Dayni said.

Curfew escalates chaos as Baghdad battle rages

Seattle Times reports (June 24th):
Iraq’s prime minister tightened an already draconian security clampdown in the capital in an attempt to restore order on downtown streets during an hours-long gun battle that at times involved Iraqi and American troops fighting Shiite and Sunni Arab gunmen.

Some frightened residents were caught away from home when the expanded curfew was declared at midmorning, virtually shutting down the city.

15 killed in US raids in farmland near Baquba

Middle east on line reports (June 20th):

The US military said it killed 15 “terrorists” during overnight raids in farmland near the restive town of Baquba but Iraqis insisted the dead were innocent poultry farm workers.

Iraqi police, relatives of those killed and a human rights organisation in Baquba said the victims were all poultry farm workers who had been sleeping in the fields of Bushaheen village when US troops raided the area.

On June 12, the US military said it killed seven Al-Qaeda-linked operatives in the village of Hashmiyat in an air strike after US soldiers patrolling the area came under fire. But witnesses said the firefight was triggered when a guard in the village mistook US soldiers in the distance for gang members and began firing towards them. Two of the dead were children.

Daily Life

Rebuilding Not Yet Reality for Fallujah

Dahr Jamail and Ali Fadhil write (June 24th):

One and a half years after the November 2004 U.S. military assault on Fallujah, residents tell of ongoing suffering, lack of jobs, little reconstruction and continuing violence.
The U.S. military destroyed an estimated 70 percent of the buildings, homes and shops, killing between 4,000 and 6,000 people, according to the Fallujah-based non-governmental organisation the Study Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (SCHRD). IPS found that the city remains under draconian security, with retina scans, fingerprinting and X-raying required for anyone entering the city. Fallujah remains an island: not even the residents of the surrounding towns are allowed in.

The Fallujah General Hospital “is more a barn than a hospital,” said one doctor. “There is a horrible lack of medical supplies and equipment,” added another doctor. He said people are too afraid of seeking medical attention in any of the Baghdad hospitals for fear of being kidnapped and killed by death squads. The situation is further complicated by the fact that Ramadi General Hospital is no longer accessible due to the ongoing U.S. military siege of that city.

Ali Ahmed, a 17-year-old student, said that the U.S. military continues to kill and arrest people for any reason whatsoever, and sometimes for no reason. Security has eaten up as much as 25 percent of reconstruction funding, but even more has reportedly been siphoned off by corruption and overcharging by contractors.

Oil union bank account frozen

NAFTANA report (June 20th):
The Iraqi regime has frozen all the bank accounts of the Iraqi oil workers’ union, both abroad and within Iraq.

The Iraqi regime’s decision comes in the wake of a series of anti-union measures, including the disbanding of the council of the lawyers’ union, freezing the writers’ union accounts and the September 2005 decree making all trade union activity illegal. For that anti-union act the regime used the pretext of promising the promulgation of a future law to ‘regulate’ trade union organisations and their activities.

Sharp increase in rents hurting people in Dahuk

IRIN reports (June 22nd):
A sharp increase in house rents is hurting people in the northern Dahuk governorate – local officials say. Following a large inflow of internally displaced people (IDPs) from other volatile regions of the country, there has been a shortage of housing. This has prompted landlords to cash in – leaving many with no choice but to stay in cramped and poor unhygienic conditions. Salar Khalil, an estate agent in the governorate confirmed that prices have tripled since 2004 when IDPs first started arriving.

Concern over reports of child trafficking

IRIN report (June 29th):
Local officials and aid workers have expressed concern over the alarming rate at which children are disappearing countrywide in Iraq’s current unstable environment.

“At least five children are disappearing every week,” said Omar Khalif, vice-president of the Iraqi Families Association (IFA), an NGO established in 2004 to register cases of missing children. Officials confirm that there are organised international gangs carrying out the trafficking in collaboration with Iraqis who are arranging the abductions from their own country.

Poor sanitation poses serious health risks, say experts

IRIN report (June 29th):
Inadequate investment in sanitation projects and an atmosphere of general insecurity have made controlling illnesses much more difficult, say health workers.

“We’ve observed a 30 percent increase in cases of waterborne diseases, especially cholera,” said Dr Muhammad Khalid, a paediatrician at the Children’s Teaching Hospital in Baghdad.


How Doctors Got Into the Torture Business

Time reports (June 23rd):,8816,1207633,00.html
A new book based on 35,000 pages of government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act called Oath Betrayed by medical ethicist Dr. Stephen Miles is a harrowing documentation of how the military medical profession has been corrupted by the Bush-Rumsfeld interrogation rules.

At Camp Na’ma, where the unofficial motto was “No blood, no foul,” doctors essentially signed off on torture in advance. At Abu Ghraib, according to the Army’s surgeon general, only 15% of inmates were examined for injuries after interrogation.

Some of the medical involvement in torture defies belief. In one high-level interrogation, that of Mohammed al-Qhatani, doctors were present during the long process of constant sleep deprivation over 55 days, and they induced hypothermia and the use of threatening dogs, among other techniques. “An anesthesiologist repeatedly dropped a 2-lb. bag of intravenous fluid on a patient; a nurse deliberately delayed giving pain medication, and medical staff fed pork to Muslim patients.”

Of the 136 documented deaths of prisoners in detention, Miles found, medical death certificates were often not issued until months or even years after the actual deaths. One certificate claimed a 63-year-old prisoner had died of “cardiovascular disease and a buildup of fluid around his heart.” According to Miles, no mention was made that the old man had been stripped naked, doused in cold water and kept outside in 40 cold for three days before cardiac arrest.

In Mosul, according to Miles, one medic witnessed guards beating a prisoner and burning him by dragging him over hot stones. The prisoner was taken to the hospital, treated and then returned by doctors to his torturers.

The Occupation of Iraqi Hearts and Minds

Nir Rosen writes (July 2nd):
The Army unit I was living with went on a raid targeting alleged Al Qaeda cells. There were 62 names on the wanted list. A minimum of 29 locations would be raided.

The raids began at night. The convoy approached the first house and the teams charged over the rubble from the wall, breaking through the door with a sledgehammer and dragging several men out. The barefoot prisoners, dazed from their slumber, were forcefully marched over rocks and hard ground. Each male was asked his name. None matched the names on the list. A prisoner was asked where the targeted military officer lived. “Down the road,” he pointed. “Show us!” he was ordered, and he was shoved ahead, stumbling over the rocky street, terrified that he would be seen as an informer in the neighborhood, terrified that he too would be taken away.

Home after home met the same fate. Some homes had only women; these houses too were ransacked, closets broken, mattresses overturned, clothes thrown out of drawers. Men were dragged on the ground by their legs to be handcuffed outside. One bony ancient sheik walked out with docility and was pushed forcefully to the ground, where he was wrestled by soldiers who had trouble cuffing his arms. A commando grabbed him from them, and tightly squeezed the old man’s arms together, lifting him in the air and throwing him down on the ground, nearly breaking his fragile arms.

Ugly Americans in Iraq

Nir Rosen reports (July 2nd):
Interview with US soldier: “My platoon raided a local house, which including the standard demolition of a locked gate door with a linear charge, we launched into the family’s two-story house with three fire teams. Our entrance included accidentally stepping all over the family’s freshly prepared lunch of salad and kabobs—Arabs typically eat on the floor. After kicking down every door, busting open every cabinet and flipping over every mattress, unearthing every prayer rug and breaking every lock in the house in the search for weapons and bombs, we proceeded to detain a 15-old-kid (’male of active age,’ i.e. possible insurgent) and tossed him in our Humvee while his mom cried and pleaded with us that he was innocent.

“If I were an Iraqi under the U.S. occupation, I’d be an insurgent. I could never escape the impression from our heavy-handed insertions into hundreds of family homes that our presence only fueled more and more hatred. For every insurgent or jihadist we caught, we created two times as many future fighters.

Five US soldiers in Iraq rape and murder inquiry

The Guardian reports (July 1st):,,1810326,00.html
The Pentagon said it was pursuing a new war crimes investigation into five American soldiers, alleged to have raped and murdered a young Iraqi woman and killed three members of her family in their home.

In the latest suspected war crime, it is believed the woman’s body was burnt, and that a child was killed along with two other Iraqi adults in the family’s home.

The alleged rape and murders are believed to have taken place in the town of Mahmoudiya, about 18 miles south of Baghdad several months ago. The events were brought to the attention of the authorities on June 23 by two soldiers who saw blood on their comrades’ clothing and heard them talking about the incident.

Three US soldiers charged with murdering Iraqi prisoners

The Guardian reports (June 20th): <,,1801415,00.html> Three US troops have been charged with murder for shooting three Iraqi prisoners and threatening to kill a fellow soldier who wanted to report the incident. The three men killed were among 200 Iraqis held after a raid on a former chemical factory south-west of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, the Pentagon charge sheet said.

The conduct of US forces in Iraq was also under scrutiny in Italy where prosecutors called for the indictment of an American soldier for the shooting of an Italian intelligence agent at a checkpoint in Iraq last year.

Basra residents call for human rights recognition

IRIN report (June 28th):

Residents of Basra are calling for recognition of their human rights following a series of allegations of abusive treatment by local police.

“We urge the government and human rights groups to open their eyes to what is happening in Basra with regard to the lack of human rights, “ said Hussein Haydary, a resident of Basra and spokesperson for the Peace Movement for Human Rights (PMHR). Ali Jalil, a local resident, who said: “Just because I told them [police] that they do not have the right to search my home without an official letter from the Ministry of Interior, they hit me and my son.”

Jalil went on to claim that he was arrested without any evidence, was tortured for three days in prison and then was dropped some 30km from his home with a stern warning to never disobey the police again.

Australia apologises for killing of minister’s guard

The Guardian reports (June 23rd): <,,1803891,00.html> The Australian government apologised for a shooting incident in which a bodyguard for the Iraqi trade minister and a civilian were killed by security forces guarding the Australian ambassador. The gun battle happened in the trade ministry car park when the men guarding Howard Brown, who was going into the building for a meeting, opened fire thinking they were threatened by security men assigned to the trade minister, Abdul-Falah al-Sudani.

Torture of women

Haifa Zangana writes (June 22nd):
Amnesty International interviewed several female victims of maltreatment and torture after their release from Abu Ghraib. Many complained of having been beaten, threatened with rape, verbally abused and held in solitary confinement for long periods of time. One of the rare occasions in which Anne Clwyd, the British human rights envoy to Iraq, was moved to speak out about human rights violations after the invasion was when she learned of the arrest and subsequent torture of a 70-year-old woman, whose torturers forced her into a makeshift bridle and then mounted her like a donkey.

A report by the Iraqi Women’s Will organisation listed the types of physical and psychological torture inflicted upon women in Iraqi jails. Amongst the most degrading is being brought in nude for questioning. Prior to this, detainees are routinely threatened to be deprived of water, food, have been confined to small cages inhibiting all movement, exposed to extremes of heat and cold, and subject to forced sleep deprivation.

Hoda Al-Ezawi relates that she was kept in solitary confinement for 156 days. Then her sister was arrested and thrown into the cell with her, along with the corpse of their dead brother.

Suheib Baz, a cameraman for Al-Jazeera, told The Independent that he had personally seen a 12-year-old girl being tortured: “She was naked, and crying out to me for help while being beaten.” He also relates that prison wardens would photograph these horrors.

According to a report of the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq, Iraqi police tortured a woman detained in Diwaniya police station since March 2005. The victim recounted that electric shocks were applied to her heels. She was told that her teenage daughter would be raped if she did not supply the information her interrogators wanted.


A Shocking Waste of Money

Alternet reports (July 2nd):
By April 2006, a Congressional Research Service (CRS) inquiry concluded that around $261 billion had already been spent. Before it ends, the war will likely cost somewhat more than the $549 billion spent (adjusted for inflation) in the much more lethal Vietnam War. But even this figure will likely prove to be off by hundreds of billions of dollars because it accounts only for funds directly appropriated for war fighting.

The shocking truth, according to Bilmes and Stiglitz, is that if one applies the Congressional Budget Office’s basic assumptions about the duration of the conflict (”a small but continuous presence”), it will cost nearly a staggering $1.27 trillion dollars before all is said and done.

Anti-war news

Japanese troops to be withdrawn

The Guardian reports (June 21st):,,1802349,00.html

Japan became the latest member of the US-led “coalition of the willing” to announce its withdrawal from Iraq. The prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, said Japanese troops would end their humanitarian mission in Samawa, southern Iraq, as soon as British and Australian troops in the area handed over responsibility for security to Iraqi forces.

Slovak election winner says withdrawal from Iraq being readied

Yahoo reports (July 1st):
Slovak election winner and likely prime minister Robert Fico reportedly said that the new government being formed was preparing to pull its troops out of Iraq.

Romanian PM demands referendum on troops withdrawal from Iraq

People’s Daily reports (July 1st):
Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu called again for the withdrawal of Romanian troops from Iraq, demanding a referendum on the issue.

Open Letter From Mother of Lt. Ehren Watada, Resister of Illegal War

Carolyn Ho writes (June 24th):
I am the mother of Lt. Ehren Watada, an officer stationed at Ft. Lewis. He is part of a Stryker brigade unit deployed to Iraq. Despite an unflinching commitment to his men and to democratic ideals, he chose not to accompany his men. After weighing the evidence, he came to the conclusion that he could no longer be silent while atrocities were committed in the name of democracy. He could no longer be a tool of an administration that used deception and lies to make the case for pre-emptive war. As a member of the armed forces, sworn to uphold the US Constitution, he refuses to blindly participate in a war of aggression, an illegal war that undermines who we are as a nation and violates international law.

Celebs to Join Cindy Sheehan in Hunger Strike reports (June 22nd):
Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan announced Wednesday that she plans to begin an “open-ended hunger strike” on July 4 to urge the Bush administration to bring troops home from Iraq.

The fast, organized by Code Pink and Sheehan’s Gold Star Families for Peace, will begin on Independence Day in Washington, D.C. In her statement Sheehan said she would move the fast to Crawford, Texas, where the president owns a ranch and often vacations.

Upcoming events

IOF monthly meeting: Thursday 13 July, 7.30pm, Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square, WC1 (nearest tube Warren Street):
Guest speaker: Hassan Juma’a, President of the General Union of Oil Workers in Basra.

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