Sunday, September 27, 2009

IOF Newsletter No 130

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Military news

US Sending 1,000 More Troops to Iraq reports (September 15th): Though the Iraq War has long since become an after-thought amid Obama Administration claims that the “drawdown” in on track, the Pentagon is reporting today that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has approved a request to send about 1,000 additional troops to Iraq. The latest report comes less than a week after it was revealed that the Pentagon has added thousands of additional contractors to Iraq, ostensibly to replace US troops during the drawdown.

2 Iraqis slain in Baghdad raid by U.S.-backed security forces

LA Times reports (September 10th): Iraqi forces, backed by U.S. soldiers, entered a residential street in southeast Baghdad's Zafaraniya district during a security sweep. When the mission was over, two men were dead and their relatives and neighbours were accusing the Iraqi forces of murder.

Relatives and neighbours said troops set off explosives that knocked down the gates and doors to a home, where they detained an Iraqi military intelligence officer and killed two civilians. Their bodies were discovered with dog bites and gunshot wounds on a kitchen floor, which was streaked with blood, the witnesses said.

Iraqi man shot after throwing slipper at US troops

The Guardian reports (September 17th): American troops have shot and wounded an Iraqi man who hurled a slipper at a military convoy in the former insurgent stronghold of Falluja. A joint patrol of US and Iraqi troops is believed to have mistaken the flying shoe for a grenade. The incident came just a day after the release from prison of Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at George Bush.

Jumaili, a 30-year-old mechanic, said he threw his leather slipper in a knee-jerk reaction. "When I saw Americans patrolling the streets of Falluja I lost my temper, I don't want to see them in Falluja," he told the Associated Press news agency. "Troops have withdrawn from cities, so why they still patrolling here in Falluja?"

McClatchy adds (September 19th): The man from Fallujah who picked up his sandal and threw it at an American military convoy died in hospital.

Big U.S. Bases Are Part of Iraq, but a World Apart

NY Times reports (September 8th): It takes the masseuse, Mila from Kyrgyzstan, an hour to commute to work by bus on this sprawling American base. Her massage parlor is one of three on the base’s 6,300 acres and sits next to a Subway sandwich shop in a trailer, surrounded by blast walls, sand and rock. At the Subway, workers from India and Bangladesh make sandwiches for American soldiers looking for a taste of home. When the sandwich makers’ shifts end, the journey home takes them past a power plant, an ice-making plant, a sewage treatment centre, a hospital and dozens of other facilities one would expect to find in a small city.

They are a world apart from Iraq, with working lights, proper sanitation, clean streets and strictly observed rules and codes of conduct. Some bases have populations of more than 20,000, with thousands of contractors and third-country citizens to keep them running.

The facilities, like much in Iraq, are run by KBR, a company based in Houston. But as Americans prepare to turn bases over to Iraqis, they are working to bring in Iraqi companies to run some facilities, a process that has been slow and complex largely because of safety concerns.


Ex US soldier jailed for Iraqi rape and murders

AP reports (September 11th): A former soldier received five consecutive life sentences for his role in the rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager and the slaying of three of her family members.

What the defendant did was horrifying and inexcusable," US District Judge Thomas Russell said in sentencing to Steven Dale Green, 24, of Midland, Texas. "The court believes any lesser sentence would be insufficient."

Iraqi shoe-thrower claims he suffered torture in jail

The Guardian reports (September 15th): Missing a tooth and draped in an Iraqi flag, Muntazer al-Zaidi used his first hours of freedom since hurling his shoes at George Bush to angrily defend his action, and claim he was tortured by government officials after his arrest. Zaidi gave a detailed account of being tortured after his arrest, and vowed to reveal the names of senior officials in the Iraqi government and army who he said had been involved in his mistreatment.

He was beaten with cables, wires and whips and immersed in cold water, he said. He now feared for his life, and believed US intelligence agents would pursue him. "These fearsome services, the US intelligence services and its affiliated services, will spare no efforts to track me as an insurgent revolutionary ... in a bid to kill me.”

British soldiers accused of raping Iraqi man

The Guardian reports (September 14th): The Royal Military police have launched a criminal investigation into allegations that British soldiers repeatedly raped and mutilated an Iraqi civilian, the Guardian has learned. The man was working for the British army as a labourer at Camp Breadbasket in Basra, the scene of other abuse allegations.

He alleges that two soldiers raped him, subjecting him to a 15-minute ordeal, then slashed his arms and body with a knife. The victim was 18 at the time and said he was so traumatised he tried to kill himself.

A deadly interrogation in Iraq

LA Times reports (September 11th): A U.S. soldier who lost two of his men questions a suspected insurgent about the attack. Afterward, a slain, naked Iraqi -- and the truth about what befell him -- are left behind in a dark culvert.

In the open desert outside Baiji, Iraq, a naked man with a thick black beard crouched in the dust of a railroad culvert at twilight. Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna stood over him in the grainy darkness, his Glock pistol racked and pointed down at him.

"If you don't talk, I will kill you," Behenna said. There was a muzzle flash, with the sharp crack of the Glock, and then another. The squad sergeant ran back with his rifle raised and saw the naked body pumping blood onto the broken concrete.

They picked up the man's clothes. The sergeant took an incendiary grenade from his flak vest, placed it near the man's head and pulled the pin.

Behenna was removed from his command a few weeks later in June. On July 31, 2008, he was charged with premeditated murder.

Torture Case Against Iraq Contractors Is Dismissed

Reuters report (September 11th): A federal appeals court dismissed a 2004 lawsuit against two American military contractors by Iraqi victims of torture, saying the companies had immunity as government contractors. The suit was filed on behalf of Iraqis who say they or their relatives had been tortured or mistreated at Abu Ghraib prison. The plaintiffs sued CACI International, which provided interrogators, and L-3 Communications Holdings’ Titan unit, which provided military interpreters.

In Iraq's prisons, a culture of abuse

Christian Science Monitor reports (September 13th): In a room thick with heat and sweat, light from a small window falls on rows of squatting prisoners and plastic bags of belongings hung from nails on every inch of the wall. The guard explains that 74 men live in this room, which is roughly 10 by 20 feet. A further 85 are usually in the corridor, he adds, while 12 are kept next to the toilet.

This is Hibhib prison on the outskirts of Baquba, the dusty, volatile capital of Diyala Province roughly 40 miles from Baghdad. It is just one of the prisons in the province where detainees and US forces allege overcrowding, lengthy pretrial detention, and torture used to extract confessions. Iraq's national detention system as a whole has been harshly criticized by Western human rights organizations.

An Interior Ministry official who was inspecting Diyala prisons told the Monitor "Yes, there is violence" in Diyala jails…"There are violent punishments, they hang them from their arms, beat them with sticks and [punch them], kicking, [using] electricity, stubbing out cigarettes on the skin." He described a practice, also detailed by former prisoners, in which prisoners are forced to drink water and then prevented from urinating by a method too unpleasant to be described here.

Blackwater guard saw Iraqi killings as 9/11 revenge

Raw Story reports (September 8th): Did Blackwater mercenaries murder Iraqis to satiate their thirst for 9/11 revenge? According to Department of Justice files, at least one did. The revelation was torn from documents relative to the prosecution of Blackwater Worldwide guards involved in a 2007 Baghdad massacre that left 17 dead.

According to the documents, guards “routinely acted in disregard of the use of force policies,” and one, known as “Raven 23,” allegedly bragged that disregard for Iraqi lives stemmed from a desire for revenge after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Daily Life

In Anbar Province, New Leadership, but Old Problems Persist

NY Times reports (September 12th): It has been just more than seven months since a mainly tribal coalition came to power here in Anbar Province, but already its leaders are being accused by many of doing little for most citizens while seeking to enrich themselves through sweetheart business deals. “The majority of them are after personal gains,” said Sheik Ghazi Sami al-Abed, a prominent local businessman recently. “Few are looking to rebuild the country.”

“They are thugs; they became politicians and now they have a lot of money,” said another Anbar businessman about the province’s current political leaders.

Corruption sting nabs Iraqi deputy minister

CNN reports (September 7th): Iraq's deputy minister of transport has been arrested after investigators taped him taking a $100,000 bribe.

It's the latest sting aimed at what many Iraqis say is rampant corruption in the country. The anti-corruption body said this was the first time such a high-level Iraqi official was caught in the act of taking a bribe.

The announcement, made on the [Iraq Integrity] commission's Web site, said investigators detained Deputy Minister Adnan al-Obaidi.

Iraq Freedom Congress condemns oil ministry

Iraq Freedom Congress reports (September 10th): Once again the Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani, has issued an arbitrary decision by relocating a number of labour leaders and activists in the oil sector in Basra.

Imad Mohsen Jaafar, Executive bureau member of Oil Federation and chairman of the Oil drilling Union in North Rumaila, Safaa Gaber, media relations secretary of the oil drilling union in Northern Rumaila, Mohammed Abdullah Ateeq, Executive bureau member of Oil Federation and chairman of the Oil drilling Union in Albirjsiya and Abdelbaki Rady Nabhan, media relations secretary of the oil drilling union in Albirjsiya, have received a notice of relocation in the wake of organizing and leading a labour demonstration last July in front of the headquarters of the Iraqi Drilling Company in Albirjsiya to claim the entitlements of workers, including benefits and bonuses.

The persistent attempts of the Minister of Oil, his fellow cabinet members and the Iraqi parliament in suppressing freedom and human rights is mainly intended to prevent the emergence of a strong protest movement, a movement that seek a better living conditions for workers and all Iraqis.

Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki accused of sinister purge to become dictator

The Times reports (September 10th): The Iraqi opposition accused Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, of purging the American-trained security apparatus so that he could attain quasi-dictatorial powers.

Mr al-Maliki, who is facing a tough election battle, has dismissed three high-profile members of the Ministry of Interior, which oversees the fight against insurgent groups. He has also forced the resignation of the head of the intelligence service and replaced several police and army commanders in the last few weeks.

The moves provoked outrage among political opponents, who worry about the rise of a new police state and accuse the Prime Minister of using the aftermath of last month’s massive bomb attack in Baghdad to make a power grab. The sacked officials are expected to be replaced by al-Maliki loyalists.

Corporate takeover

US actually increasing personnel in Iraq: More contractors, fewer troops

Raw Story report (September 9th): Despite President Barack Obama's pledge to withdraw US troops from the war-torn country, the US is planning to award contracts to protect US installations at a cost to taxpayers that could near $1 billion.

In fact, the Multi-National Force-Iraq just awarded $485 million in contracts just last week, while Congress enjoyed its summer recess. Five firms will handle private security deals to provide security for US bases. It's a neat rhetorical loophole that will allow US officials to say that the country has withdrawn from Iraq, while its contractors remain.

The Pentagon's "quarterly report on contracting showed a 19 percent increase from the three previous months in the number of security guards in Iraq hired by the Defense Department.

Canada's Halliburton?

Anthony Fenton reports for (September 17th): Way back in September 2004, the story broke that the Canadian engineering and construction firm SNC-Lavalin would be manufacturing 300-500 million bullets for the U.S. military through its subsidiary SNC-TEC.

Having steered clear of Iraq since then, earlier this month it was announced that SNC-Lavalin has been short-listed for a $255-million contract to install gas turbines and power stations in Iraq. Approval for the deals could come at any time. Perhaps SNC's attempt to enter the (still-) war-torn country under more benign pretenses will allow them to avoid the negative scrutiny that bullet-riddled Iraqis drew to them at the war's onset.

Anti-war news

Iraqi shoe thrower Muntazer al-Zaidi inundated with offers and gifts

The Guardian reports (September 9th): When journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi walks out of prison, his 10 raging seconds, which came to define his country's last six miserable years, are set to take on a new life even more dramatic than the opening act.

Across Iraq and in every corner of the Arab world, Zaidi is being feted. The 20 words or so he spat at Bush – "This is your farewell kiss, you dog. This is for the widows and orphans of Iraq" – have been immortalised, and in many cases memorised. Pictures of the president ducking have been etched onto walls across Baghdad, made into T-shirts in Egypt, and appeared in children's games in Turkey. A new four-bedroom home has been built by his former boss. A new car – and the promise of many more – awaits.

Pledges of harems, money and healthcare are pouring in to his employers, the al-Baghdadia television channel.

'Most against' UK troops in Iraq

BBC reports (September 10th): Six out of 10 people think UK troops should not have gone to Iraq, a survey for the National Army Museum has found. A fifth of the 2,000 polled backed the policy, while the remaining 20% were either neutral, undecided or abstained.