5/17: Iraq Occupation Focus Newsletter




Iraq Occupation Focus
Newsletter No. 224
May 17th, 2013

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Military news
Hawija: Chronicle of an Announced Mass Murder

BRussells Tribunal reports (April 23rd): At least 38 protesters (some reports say 50) were killed and hundreds injured when Maliki’s security forces stormed an anti-government protest camp in Hawija near Kirkuk on Tuesday 23 April and turned a peaceful demonstration into a slaughterhouse.

Scores killed in two days of Iraq clashes

Al-Jazeera reports (April 25th): More than 100 people have been killed in two days of violence across Iraq after a raid on a camp of mostly Sunni Muslim protesters ignited the fiercest clashes since US troops left.

Fighting broke out for a second day between government troops and protesters in the country's north, after the deaths of at least 56 people at a protest camp in Kirkuk province.
Iraqi inquiries find excessive force in Sunni protest camp raid

LA Times reports (May 2nd): Iraqi security used disproportionate force, including shooting unarmed civilians, during a raid on an encampment of Sunni Arab protesters last week that left 45 people dead, according to two government investigations and foreign diplomats.

The predawn raid in the city of Hawija in Kirkuk province April 23 involved security forces demanding that protesters hand over demonstrators suspected of killing an Iraqi soldier four days earlier, officials said.
Children killed in violence at Iraq April protest: UN

AFP reports (May 4th): A UN official said on Saturday that violence at the site of a north Iraq protest in late April killed up to eight children and wounded up to 12 others.

Marzio Babille, Iraq representative of UNICEF, said in an emailed statement that several of the injured children had received severe gunshot wounds.
Iraqi army losing hold on north to Sunni and Kurdish forces as troops desert

The Independent reports (April 28th): Soldiers are deserting a beleaguered Iraqi army as it struggles to keep its hold on the northern half of Iraq in the face of escalating hostility from Sunni Arabs and Kurds who dominate in the region.

'The civil war in Iraq has already begun': Politician claims conflict has started

The Independent reports (May 2nd): Iraqi leaders fear that the country is sliding rapidly into a new civil war which “will be worse than Syria”. Baghdad residents are stocking up on rice, vegetables and other foodstuffs in case they are prevented from getting to the shops by fighting or curfews. “It is wrong to say we are getting close to a civil war,” said a senior Iraqi politician. “The civil war has already started.”

This is borne out by the sharp rise in the number of people killed in political violence in Iraq in April, with the UN claiming more than 700 people were killed last month, the highest monthly total for five years. The situation has suddenly deteriorated since the killing of at least 36 Sunni Arab protesters at a sit-in in Hawijah on 23 April. An observer in Baghdad, who did not want to be named, said “ever since, Hawijah people are frightened of a return to the massacres of 2006”.
The brutal death of Baha Mousa

AT Williams writes for The Guardian (May 3rd): First, there was a farcical court martial. Seven soldiers were prosecuted for the death, the ill-treatment of nine other prisoners held with Mousa, or neglect of duty. But those soldiers who came to give evidence suddenly could no longer remember what had happened; the judge advocate lamented the collective amnesia that had set in and had little choice but to dismiss most of the charges. Six defendants were acquitted. The seventh, Corporal Donald Payne, was convicted only because he pleaded guilty to inhuman treatment; he was sentenced to 12 months in prison. No one was held responsible for Mousa's killing or even for allowing the system of torture (for that was what it was: hooding, handcuffing, enforced stress positions, sleep deprivation, beatings) to become an institutionalised practice.

My book A Very British Killing, which has just been shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, is an attempt to make sense of all this. It became a forensic detective story of sorts. The details of the military police investigation and the legal hearings that followed needed to be laid out with precision. I hope that was achieved. But the shame is that ultimately it's a detective story without resolution. Despite all the available evidence, a damning report at the end of the Baha Mousa inquiry in 2011, and army generals queuing up to lament this "stain on the British army", still no one has been brought to justice.
New Scandal inside Abu Ghraib Prison

PNN reports (April 24th): On Wednesday 24th April, Iraqi activists published on Youtube a video from Abu Ghraib jail, whose name was changed to Central Baghdad Prison, featuring guards torturing the prisoners and brutally assaulting them. The Arab Organization for Human Rights confirmed that they received a distress call from the prisoners of Abu Ghraib, west of Baghdad, after the head of the prison and the guards stormed the prisoners' cells and assaulted them without revealing any reasons behind the storming.

Daily life
Are the taps flowing?

IRIN report (April 22nd): For much of the past decade, Iraqis have cursed about two things: ‘maya’ and ‘kahraba’ - water and electricity.

These are more than petty complaints; they have become a benchmark by which Iraqis judge progress in their country. A recent survey by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) found that 42 percent of 2,000 Iraqis surveyed considered basic services - like water and electricity - among the top two concerns they want the current government to address.
The 'magic' bomb detector that endangered lives all over the world

The Guardian reports (April 23rd): Jim McCormick's claims about his range of detection devices were extraordinary. He said the Advanced Detecting Equipment (ADE) he developed at his Somerset farm could pick up the most minuscule traces of explosives, drugs, ivory and even money.

It was all nonsense, albeit potentially lethal for the people of Iraq, where 6,000 of the fraudulent gadgets formed a first line of defence against car bombs and suicide bombers at checkpoints. When the devices were opened, it emerged that cable sockets were unconnected and supposed data cards were linked to nothing. One scientist told the jury who on Tuesday convicted McCormick of three counts of fraud that the antenna intended to point to suspect substances was "no more a radio antenna than a nine-inch nail". It is now alleged that a key reason such a business could make tens of millions of pounds is the corruption of Iraqi officials. McCormick's success was fuelled by the payment of tens of millions of pounds in bribes to Iraqi officials and middlemen, it is claimed.
Economy grows, but how many benefit?

IRIN reports (April 24th): Iraq’s development has historically been linked to its ability to sell and produce oil, and to world oil prices. Yet oil-related measures of economic growth may obscure some of the economic conditions facing ordinary Iraqis.

Economists and aid workers say much of the newfound wealth has not trickled down, largely due to Iraq’s economic dependence on oil, government corruption, a lack of capacity to execute budgets and a failure to develop the private sector. A survey by the National Democratic Institute (NDI) late last year found that more than half of Iraqis - 55 percent - named unemployment as one of their top two concerns for the government to address.
Executions Surge but No Action on Reform

HRW report (April 25th): A striking increase in executions in Iraq points out the failure of Iraq’s justice system to meet international fair trial standards. The surge in judicial killings came shortly after the government conceded that justice system reforms are desperately needed.

Attacks against Christians in Iraq ongoing

Christian Today reports (April 24th): Islamist extremists want Iraq to be a "Muslim only" country. As a result, Christians in Iraq remain continuous targets of violent attacks.

Each month Open Doors field workers receive sad phone calls and emails of Christian acquaintances who report attacks against the Christians near them. While most of them are part of the general violence, such as bomb attacks and mortar fire which intensified during provincial elections, a part of the violence can be labelled as specifically targeted against Christians.
Iraqis see some irregularities in provincial vote

AP reports (April 21st): Iraqi election monitors reported multiple irregularities in the country's first provincial vote since U.S. troops left, but were unclear as to whether results would be affected.

In one instance, Hoger Jato of Shams said some security force members had helped specific campaigns while on duty, with some advising voters at polling centers on who to support. Elsewhere, electoral commission employees reportedly failed to check the identities of voters, allowing them to cast ballots on behalf others.
Iraq suspends 10 TV channels for 'sectarianism'

The News reports (April 28th): Iraq suspended the licences of 10 satellite television channels, including Qatar-based Al-Jazeera, for promoting violence and sectarianism, an official from the country's media regulator said.

The suspended channels included pan-Arab network Al-Jazeera and Sharqiya, a leading Iraqi station. "We're astonished by this development. We cover all sides of the stories in Iraq, and have done (so) for many years. The fact that so many channels have been hit all at once, though, suggests this is an indiscriminate decision," an Al-Jazeera spokesman told AFP.
Situation of children in Iraq 'a neglected crisis'

BBC reports (May 1st): The situation of children in Iraq is "one of the world's most neglected crises", the charity War Child says.

Ten years on from the US-led invasion, violence is increasing, life expectancy is falling and children are falling behind in education, a new report says.
Violence destroyed industry in restive province

Azzaman reports (May 2nd): The violence that swept Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003-U.S. invasion has destroyed the industrial base in the Province of Diyala, a senior provincial official has said.

Abdulhusain al-Shammari, head of Diyala’s municipality, said there were 85 major factories which were burned, ransacked or looted after the U.S. invasion.
Toxic aftermath
Birth defects soar in Fallujah, key battleground in Iraq War

AJW reports (April 2nd): An alarming number of children have been born with abnormalities in Fallujah, which was besieged by U.S. forces in 2004 a year after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Experts say it is possible the deformities were caused by U.S. munitions, something the Pentagon denies. Samira Alaani, a pediatrician who was formerly with the Fallujah General Hospital, has kept a record of children with congenital anomalies, including a child with two heads, one with a single eye and one without a brain. One child is added to her file every day.
War leaves lasting impact on healthcare

IRIN reports (May 2nd): Of all the areas of Iraq’s development that were affected by the US-led invasion 10 years ago, healthcare has probably taken the biggest hit.

The impact of the 2003 invasion and subsequent conflict on Iraq’s healthcare system has been well-documented. The conflict shattered Iraq's primary healthcare delivery, disease control and prevention services, and health research infrastructure. Attempts to resurrect Iraq's healthcare system remain hindered by a number of factors, including fragile national security and lack of utilities like water and electricity.
Corporate takeover
Order for Iraq will keep Lockheed F-16 line going four more years

Dallas Business Journal reports (May 2nd): An $830 million order for 18 Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets for Iraq will keep the company producing the jet for at least four more years.

Unreported Afghanistan
UK base carrying out Afghan drone strikes

WSWS reports (April 30th): The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that remote controlled armed drones, used to murder and maim insurgents and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, are now being operated from the UK for the first time.

The UK’s armed forces have been using drones, officially known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), to monitor and attack insurgents in Afghanistan for at least six years. Previously these missions had been operated from the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, as the British military did not have the capability to operate them from UK soil.
International Intervention in Afghanistan Has Led to Heroin Resurgence

Truth Out reports (April 29th): A new United Nations report on the state of opium cultivation in Afghanistan reveals a worsening situation, after more than a decade of US and NATO occupation. It confirms the failure of counternarcotics missions in the country.

In 2012, poppy cultivation rose for a third year in a row and now extends over 154,000 hectares, an 18% increase over 2011. The last time cultivation had spread to such a large area was in 2008. Production is concentrated in the south and west of the country, particularly in the provinces of Helmand, Kandahar and Farah. Jean-Luc Lemahieu, of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime representative in Afghanistan, said that "opium cultivation is heading toward record levels." The country is the global leader in heroin production, accounting for 75% to 90% of the raw materials needed to make the drug.
Afghan president says CIA payments to continue

Times of India reports (May 4th): Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the CIA's station chief in Kabul has assured him that the regular funding that the US intelligence agency gives his government, will not be cut off.

Karzai had earlier confirmed that his government had received such payments following a story published in The New York Times that said that the CIA had given the Afghan National Security Council tens of millions of dollars in monthly payments delivered in suitcases, backpacks and plastic shopping bags.
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