An activist, clown, trainee lawyer and writer from England. I was in Iraq several times, most recently Nov 03 to May 04, still writing about Iraq and passing on my friends' stories from there.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Julia Guest's film about some of my time in Iraq is now finished and available. It's called A Letter to the Prime Minister (12 Certificate - no nudity, mild language, "some moderate injury" (eg. bodies destroyed by bombs)) and it includes footage from our work documenting civilian casualties during the invasion, from the circus and Falluja, among other things. You can order it or find out more by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

People have been writing to ask what they can do to help the Iraqi people. By now you’ve either broken all your new year resolutions, in which case it’s time to try again, or you’ve kept them all, in which case you’re on a roll and may as well make some more. Either that or you never made any and it’s time you did. Helpful as ever, I offer some suggestions. Take this as How to Stop Wars, How to Protect the Environment, How to Take Action on Human Rights, Trade, Debt, whatever’s bothering you – it’s all the same at the roots.

1. Join a co-op. Getting your food through a food co-op is cheaper and also breaks down the supermarkets’ dominion over your food supply, farmers’ conditions of work and trade and town planning. Living in a housing co-op means you no longer pour your wages away in rent, slave to a mortgage or fret constantly about being evicted from a squat. Using your labour in a workers’ co-op means you control your own work and working conditions, rather than being under the orders – and often exploitation – of a boss. You and your co-owner-directors decide what the company does so you can’t be forced to make something unethical or trade on unfair terms with other workers. You challenge the stranglehold of the multinationals (who encourage, fuel and profit from wars) and make yourself happier and healthier at the same time. Info on how to do it and where to access finance: www.ica.coop

2. Plan some protest action for the G8 summit in Gleneagles, July 6th (but then join a co-op because we won’t really change anything till we seize control of the economy). www.schnews.co.uk and www.dissent.org.uk or for international info and co-ordination, e mail international-g82005-subscribe@lists.riseup.net

3. Adopt an arms dealer, military base or dodgy multinational in your neighbourhood and plague it (and then join a co-op so you can take the power away from the military-industrial capitalist economy which sustains them). Among the top war profiteers in Iraq are Aegis (1), Bechtel (3), Halliburton (7). More on war profiteers on www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk and www.corpwatch.org Arms trade info on www.caat.org.uk

4. Boycott Coca Cola because they’re murdering trade unionists and opponents in Colombia, India and elsewhere and funding Bush and his wars. Stick anti Coca Cola stickers telling the truth about them on every single vending machine you pass. www.mtcp.co.uk (Mark Thomas’s website) and www.colombiasolidarity.org.uk for the Coke workers’ call to boycott and the names of some of the workers murdered by Coke in recent years.

5. Transfer your electricity supply to Good Energy (formerly Unit E) or other green energy supplier so you don’t buy nuclear. It costs a little bit more because renewable sources don’t get any of the massive subsidies poured into nuclear power. www.ethicaljunction.org and www.greenenergy.org.uk

6. Transfer your phone provision to the Phone Co-op because it’s a good deal and almost all the other Telecommunications Companies are huge and unpleasant multinationals (lots of which are ‘investing’ in Iraq) and for all the reasons above. www.thephone.coop

7. Investigate the possibility of running any cars you use on bio-diesel. It doesn’t create the harmful emissions that oil does and uses either waste cooking oil or the whole of cereal plants which are normally only grown for the grain. Despite George Monbiot’s ill thought out nonsense in the Guardian, it is a really useful and practical solution to a lot of the oil-use problems. www.biodiesel.org

8. Alternatively or as well, join a car club or co-op if you need to use a car, so you use it less, don’t have to take up parking space and promote common ownership instead of private buying of more and more stuff.

9. Get on your bank’s case about what and who they invest in. if it’s arms dealers, dictators or sweat shops, and if you can’t remove your custom to the Co-op Bank (and tell your old bank why), then bother them relentlessly till they stop it. www.mindbranch.com/listing/product/R310-0154.htm and www.ethicalconsumer.org

10. Get on politicians’ cases to drop all the debts of poor countries – if the countries hit by the Tsunami on Boxing Day hadn’t been so poor, chances are they’d’ve had an early warning system already, which might’ve saved hundreds of thousands of lives. If the Maldives hadn’t mined so much of its coral reef to provide hotels for tourists it might’ve had a bit more protection. Yes, this disaster was caused by events beyond our control but we’re working on creating a load more environmental catastrophes and debt and poverty accelerate the causes and worsen the effects. And remember that more people die of starvation every year than were killed in the tsunami. They die because the global system denies them a right to food and healthcare. We’ve got to respond to man-made disasters as well as the ones that aren’t our fault. www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk and www.data.org and www.jubileeiraq.org

11. Go vegan or vegetarian. There’s no other single thing you can do to reduce your impact on the environment. You use less water, less land and less fossil fuels and create less of every major greenhouse gas and most air, water and soil pollutants, lessen your personal impact on the rainforests and soil erosion generally. During the 1984 famine in Ethiopia, food was still being exported from there to feed farm animals in the UK and Europe. Your decision to switch from animal- to plant-based eating would immediately free up hundreds of litres of water and several acres of farmland. www.viva.org.uk

12. Write a letter to a prisoner. People are in jail for protest actions all over the world and they need letters to keep their spirits up. It can just be a postcard saying hello or a letter about you or almost anything, just so they know they’re not forgotten. It doesn’t have to be an obvious protest – people are in jail for all kinds of reasons to do with poverty and illness, not just badness and greed – in fact the baddest and greediest people are mostly running the country and the big corporations and not in jail at all, but I digress. www.spiritoffreedom.org.uk

13. Impeach Tony Blair. Adam Price MP (with a little help from a few activists who had been there) had articles of impeachment drawn up against Blair for his actions in Iraq. Some MPs have signed up to it from various parties but not Labour – not even the anti-war Labour MPs. Anyone in the UK, or with friends, relations, etc in the UK can write to their MP and ask them to sign up. MPs assume that for every letter they get, another 300 people felt the same but didn’t bother to write, so your one letter counts for 301 votes, and so does the letter from every other person you persuade to write. Find out more about the case against Blair on www.impeachblair.org or just Google ‘impeach Blair’ Also www.peacerights.com and www.publicinterestlawyers.co.uk

14. Do more dancing. It’s organic, fair trade, emission free and it makes you happy.

That’ll do for February.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Read this and then do something...

Centre for Research on Globalisation
Centre de recherche sur la mondialisation

The Ultimate War Crime: Breaking the Agricultural Cycle
Edited by Iman Khaduri, http://abutamam.blogspot.com/ January 2005
www.globalresearch.ca 25 January 2005
The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/KHA501A.html


For the record: “U.S. declares Iraqis can not save their own seeds”
"As part of sweeping "economic restructuring" implemented by the Bush Administration in Iraq, Iraqi farmers will no longer be permitted to save their seeds, which include seeds the Iraqis themselves have developed over hundreds of years. Instead, they will be forced to buy seeds from US corporations. That is because in recent years, transnational corporations have patented and now own many seed varieties originated or developed by indigenous peoples. In a short time, Iraq will be living under the new American credo:
Pay Monsanto, or starve ."

"The American Administrator of the Iraqi CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) government, Paul Bremer, updated Iraq's intellectual property law to 'meet current internationally-recognized standards of protection'. The updated law makes saving seeds for next year's harvest, practiced by 97% of Iraqi farmers in 2002, and is the standard farming practice for thousands of years across human civilizations, to be now illegal.. Instead, farmers will have to obtain a yearly license for genetically modified (GM) seeds from American corporations. These GM seeds have typically been modified from seeds developed over thousands of generations by indigenous farmers like the Iraqis, and shared freely like agricultural 'open source.'"

Iraq law Requires Seed Licenses November 13, 2004

"According to Order 81, paragraph 66 - [B], issued by L. Paul Bremer [CFR], the people in Iraq are now prohibited from saving seeds and may only plant seeds for their food from licensed, authorized U.S. distributors.

The paragraph states, "Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties or any variety mentioned in items 1 and 2 of paragraph [C] of Article 14 of this chapter."

Written in massively intricate legalese, Order 81 directs the reader at Article 14, paragraph 2 [C] to paragraph [B] of Article 4, which states any variety that is different from any other known variety may be registered in any country and become a protected variety of seed - thus defaulting it into the "protected class" of seeds and prohibiting the Iraqis from reusing them the following season. Every year, the Iraqis must destroy any seed they have, and repurchase seeds from an authorized supplier, or face fines, penalties and/or jail time."

Iraqis Can't Save Seed January 19, 2005

The original article on this topic: Iraqi farmers aren't celebrating October 15, 2004

As per an Iraqi proverb, the day will come, sooner rather than later, when the Iraqis will shred Bremer’s Laws, soak them in water and offer the glass to Bremer to drink.

Monsanto has got many, many offices all over the world. Take your friends and you mischief and mayhem and pay them a visit. They've got to stop privatising food, not just in Iraq but everywhere. We've got to stop them doing it.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

A Brief Guide to the Iraqi Elections

1. Iraqis are voting not for a party or an individual but for a list.
• There are a very few individuals and parties standing as such but the majority are part of lists. There is, for example, a ‘main Shia list’ and several other Shia lists, some Kurdish lists, and so on.
• The lists contain, between them, over 7000 candidates, many of whom are not even named for security reasons.
• That means people are more or less compelled to vote not according to the credibility or policies of a person or party but for an ethic group, a national group or a religious faction.

2. Iraqi people have no opportunity to elect their president or prime minister.
• The elections will create a 275 member National Assembly which will select a 3 member presidency council, which in turn will select a prime minister. It’s assumed, but nowhere stated in the ‘transitional law’ that these selections would come from among the 275 elected members.

3. None of the elected members of the National Assembly will represent a locality.
• Former US viceroy Paul Bremer decided the entire country should be a single constituency so the electoral system creates a national proportional representation.
• Anyone who gets a 275th of the vote will get a seat, regardless of how many others are elected from their city or province.
• The system creates a likelihood of over-representation at the national level for groups which turn out in high numbers. For example, in Kurdistan, where security is much better and people are more in favour of the elections, far more people are likely to vote, giving the Kurds greater representation than their numbers warrant. Of course, they were unrepresented, to all intents and purposes, for decades (thanks to Winston Churchill and all who followed him) but the solution isn’t to simply shift the inequalities.

4. Large areas of the country are not expected to be able to vote.
• Interim leader Ayad Allawi stated that there are 4 provinces where the security situation militates against voting – he didn’t mention that they include Baghdad, and up to half of the population.
• The people of Falluja have not been registered to vote or given voting cards.
• A lot of Iraqis believe that a lot of the attacks and unrest have been orchestrated by the occupying forces using covert operations, stock-in-trade of both the interim prime-minister Allawi and the current US viceroy (‘Ambassador’) John Negroponte. The areas where security ‘militates against voting’ are those where voters can’t be relied on to vote for someone ‘unpalatable’.
• There’s been intimidation in some areas – Felicity Arbuthnot reported a case of a family visited by their local shopkeeper who asked for their ration book ‘for safekeeping’. Ration books are needed as ID for voters and the family refused. Later the shopkeeper came back in tears – he’d been threatened, on his family’s lives, to collect all the ration books.

5. The rules for polling and who can or can’t be a candidate were set, essentially, by the US.
• Rules were set by the Independent Iraqi Electoral Commission, or some similar arrangement of those words. The group, bar one or perhaps two members, were appointed by Paul Bremer, before handing over “power” in June.
• The Commission has absolute power to bar any candidate or organisation. It has banned a number of candidates but is so secretive that nobody knows who has been forbidden or for what reason. There’s been no due process, no establishing a case against a candidate before barring.
• Candidates and organisations taking part have to swear allegiance to Bremer's law
• One of the bars is “moral turpitude”. That in itself is not unusual- many countries don’t allow a person with certain convictions, for example, from standing. The bar does not, though, apply to either Ahmed Chalabi, a US appointee to the interim government who has been convicted (in his absence) of massive fraud, or Ayad Allawi, US-appointed interim prime minister, who was a covert CIA operative commanding bombings including a school bus and a cinema in Iraq during Saddam’s rule.

6. Expat voters are expected to decide the result.
• A huge number of people living outside Iraq will be allowed to vote. There are 3 polling stations in the UK, several in the US and others in fourteen countries around the world. Contacting of expats to invite them to register appears to have been selective.
• The UN opposed the expat vote as highly vulnerable to fraud but the election planners chose not to listen.
• Because expat voters don’t face the security risks of Iraqis in-country, a higher proportion of those eligible are expected to turn out.
• It’s a bit unclear exactly what are the criteria for being allowed to vote but it appears to be possible even for people who have never lived in Iraq but whose parents did.

7. Certain parties and individuals have also been funded by the US.
• The International Republican Institute, an organisation linked to the US Republican party has been funding certain groups in their campaigning, giving a massive advantage.
• It is also believed to be organising the exit polls.
• It orchestrated, among other things, the coup in Venezuela.

8. Whoever wins, the occupation will go on.
• The US has built enormous bases in Iraq which it has no intention of withdrawing from.
• The US has already spent more than $100,000,000,000 on the war in Iraq – that’s a hundred thousand million to most of us, a billion to the US. Bush is requesting another 80 thousand million dollars to carry on.
• US officials, mainly remaining anonymous, have made it abundantly clear that the elections are free only within the parameters set by the US government. The US is prepared to ‘tolerate’ a limited form of theocracy, according to one.
• Iraqi candidates are aware that there are ‘red lines’ as an unnamed Shia official put it – the election winners will not be at liberty to set any policy they choose.

9. The new government is already bound.
• The next plebiscite (on a permanent constitution) has to be held under Bremer's law too: any three of the eighteen governorates can veto the constitution, even if the constitution wins 90% of the total vote.
• It was unlawful for Bremer or the occupying powers to enact any laws, because an occupier is not allowed to change the laws of the country seized. Nevertheless, Bremer ruled, and the interim governing council signed into law, that everything in Iraq is to be privatised, open to 100% foreign ownership or at least foreign leasehold for forty years. That includes resources, amenities and public services.
• Because of the lack of security, little has yet been sold off but the law, though illegitimate, is expressed as binding on future governments.
• Iraq is the most indebted country in the world in terms of its debt to export ratio. Saddam’s wars built up massive debts, now at $180 billion. Western countries and the IMF were happy too carry on funding Saddam with loans and to sell him weapons, including the chemical weapons and related hardware to attack the Kurds. Added to that are compensation claims ($30 bn) from the invasion of Kuwait, mainly ‘owed’ to incredibly wealthy oil companies and such like. Now, with the constant addition of compound interest throughout the sanctions, when Iraq was unable to pay off any debts at all, the debt is immense.
• The Paris Club and others have agreed to a package of debt relief which is linked to a programme of ‘structural adjustment’ whereby Iraq has to follow Argentina, Romania and others into disastrous policies of global capitalism. 30% of debt relief is unconditional, 30% depends on adopting a ‘standard IMF policy’ and 20% hangs on a three year review of implementation of the IMF policy. Iraq hasn’t got any bargaining power to resist.
• Two of the IMF’s conditions are the ‘opening up’ (read cheap sell off to Bush’s pals) of the Iraqi oil industry and the rollback of the food ration, currently the only major social welfare programme, presumably because it means people with no money get stuff free instead of paying for it. The leading candidates have agreed to all this – that’s why they got the money to become leading candidates.
• The debts left over after the promised, but conditional, relief are still more than enough to keep Iraq in servitude for many, many decades to come.

10. Iraq has no free press.
• Allawi and co issued a rule that the press have to publish versions of events which put the government’s point of view.
• Press ‘disrespect’ to Allawi is banned.
• Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya and an unknown number of smaller outlets have been banned already for refusing to conform.

11. The Iraqi people fought for this election.
• Last year, Iraqi people held massive demonstrations for elections. Other demonstrations had been fired on by coalition troops so it’s no exaggeration to say people risked their lives for elections.
• It was only when they realised they faced unrest from thousands and thousands of ordinary people, including the ethnic and geographical groups which had been quiet till then, that the occupying powers backed down and started working on ways to distort the election and turn it to their advantage.
• Opposition is nation-wide to the distortions imposed on the election. Thousands of anti-occupation activists are being arrested across Iraq (under martial law).
• Though the preferable option, clearly, must be an end to the occupation, there were demands from the Iraqi National Foundation Congress – a far more representative group than the interim government, never mind the electoral commissioners, that would have made the elections substantially more fair:
1. That the elections are supervised by a commission of figures with known credentials of impartiality and integrity, internationally and in the Arab and Islamic world.
2. That this commission supervises all the local committees in all phases of the elections.
3. That essential changes are made to the still anonymous Permanent Election Commission¹ appointed by the American ex-governor contrary to any criteria of transparency and integrity. As a minimum:
a. to include a representative from each competing list
b. to include a number of Iraqi active and veteran judges with known integrity
c. to remove the right to arbitrarily bar any candidate in the election except through
legal process of incrimination.
4. That measures are taken to ensure safe and fair conduct of elections in all cities and country towns as follows:
a. an immediate halt to all military operations against towns and neighbourhood.
b. withdrawal of all occupation forces from all towns and neighbourhoods at least
one month before election date.
c. release of all political prisoners regardless o their political affiliation especially
those not specifically charged.

…with thanks to Dahr Jamail, Ewa Jasiewicz, Gabriel Carlyle from Voices in the Wilderness and countless friends in Iraq for helping me make sense of it all.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

This is a reply from Naomi Klein to the US acting ambassador who wrote to the UK Guardian newspaper in response to one of Naomi's columns, in which she accused the US of eliminating witnesses in Falluja. I'm forwarding it because it's important and also accords with what we saw in Falluja in April. Two unembedded French journalists we met - the only unembedded foreign journalists who were there - were taken prisoner by the US troops and held, blindfolded and filmed with their own camera equipment to prevent them continuing to record what was happening in Falluja.

You asked for my evidence, Mr Ambassador. Here it is...
In Iraq, the US does eliminate those who dare to count the dead

by Naomi Klein
Saturday December 4, 2004
http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,5078311-103390,00.htmlThe Guardian

David T Johnson,
Acting ambassador,
US Embassy, London

Dear Mr Johnson,
On November 26, your press counsellor sent a letter to the Guardian taking
strong exception to a sentence in my column of the same day. The sentence
read: "In Iraq, US forces and their Iraqi surrogates are no longer bothering
to conceal attacks on civilian targets and are openly eliminating anyone -
doctors, clerics, journalists - who dares to count the bodies." Of
particular concern was the word "eliminating".

The letter suggested that my charge was "baseless" and asked the Guardian
either to withdraw it, or provide "evidence of this extremely grave
accusation". It is quite rare for US embassy officials to openly involve
themselves in the free press of a foreign country, so I took the letter
extremely seriously. But while I agree that the accusation is grave, I have
no intention of withdrawing it. Here, instead, is the evidence you

In April, US forces laid siege to Falluja in retaliation for the gruesome
killings of four Blackwater employees. The operation was a failure, with US
troops eventually handing the city back to resistance forces. The reason for
the withdrawal was that the siege had sparked uprisings across the country,
triggered by reports that hundreds of civilians had been killed. This
information came from three main sources: 1) Doctors. USA Today reported on
April 11 that "Statistics and names of the dead were gathered from four main
clinics around the city and from Falluja general hospital". 2) Arab TV
journalists. While doctors reported the numbers of dead, it was al-Jazeera
and al-Arabiya that put a human face on those statistics. With unembedded
camera crews in Falluja, both networks beamed footage of mutilated women and
children throughout Iraq and the Arab-speaking world. 3) Clerics. The
reports of high civilian casualties coming from journalists and doctors were
seized upon by prominent clerics in Iraq. Many delivered fiery sermons
condemning the attack, turning their congregants against US forces and
igniting the uprising that forced US troops to withdraw.

US authorities have denied that hundreds of civilians were killed during
last April's siege, and have lashed out at the sources of these reports. For
instance, an unnamed "senior American officer", speaking to the New York
Times last month, labelled Falluja general hospital "a centre of
propaganda". But the strongest words were reserved for Arab TV networks.
When asked about al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya's reports that hundreds of
civilians had been killed in Falluja, Donald Rumsfeld, the US secretary of
defence, replied that "what al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and
inexcusable ... " Last month, US troops once again laid siege to Falluja -
but this time the attack included a new tactic: eliminating the doctors,
journalists and clerics who focused public attention on civilian casualties
last time around.

Eliminating doctors
The first major operation by US marines and Iraqi soldiers was to storm
Falluja general hospital, arresting doctors and placing the facility under
military control. The New York Times reported that "the hospital was
selected as an early target because the American military believed that it
was the source of rumours about heavy casual ties", noting that "this time
around, the American military intends to fight its own information war,
countering or squelching what has been one of the insurgents' most potent
weapons". The Los Angeles Times quoted a doctor as saying that the soldiers
"stole the mobile phones" at the hospital - preventing doctors from
communicating with the outside world.

But this was not the worst of the attacks on health workers. Two days
earlier, a crucial emergency health clinic was bombed to rubble, as well as
a medical supplies dispensary next door. Dr Sami al-Jumaili, who was working
in the clinic, says the bombs took the lives of 15 medics, four nurses and
35 patients. The Los Angeles Times reported that the manager of Falluja
general hospital "had told a US general the location of the downtown
makeshift medical centre" before it was hit.

Whether the clinic was targeted or destroyed accidentally, the effect was
the same: to eliminate many of Falluja's doctors from the war zone. As Dr
Jumaili told the Independent on November 14: "There is not a single surgeon
in Falluja." When fighting moved to Mosul, a similar tactic was used: on
entering the city, US and Iraqi forces immediately seized control of the
al-Zaharawi hospital.

Eliminating journalists
The images from last month's siege on Falluja came almost exclusively from
reporters embedded with US troops. This is because Arab journalists who
had covered April's siege from the civilian perspective had effectively been
eliminated. Al-Jazeera had no cameras on the ground because it has been
banned from reporting in Iraq indefinitely. Al-Arabiya did have an
unembedded reporter, Abdel Kader Al-Saadi, in Falluja, but on November 11 US
forces arrested him and held him for the length of the siege. Al-Saadi's
detention has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders and the
International Federation of Journalists. "We cannot ignore the possibility
that he is being intimidated for just trying to do his job," the IFJ stated.

It's not the first time journalists in Iraq have faced this kind of
intimidation. When US forces invaded Baghdad in April 2003, US Central
Command urged all unembedded journalists to leave the city. Some insisted on
staying and at least three paid with their lives. On April 8, a US aircraft
bombed al-Jazeera's Baghdad offices, killing reporter Tareq Ayyoub.
Al-Jazeera has documentation proving it gave the coordinates of its location
to US forces.

On the same day, a US tank fired on the Palestine hotel, killing José Couso,
of the Spanish network Telecinco, and Taras Protsiuk, of Reuters. Three US
soldiers are facing a criminal lawsuit from Couso's family, which alleges
that US forces were well aware that journalists were in the Palestine hotel
and that they committed a war crime.

Eliminating clerics
Just as doctors and journalists have been targeted, so too have many of the
clerics who have spoken out forcefully against the killings in Falluja. On
November 11, Sheik Mahdi al-Sumaidaei, the head of the Supreme Association
for Guidance and Daawa, was arrested. According to Associated Press,
"Al-Sumaidaei has called on the country's Sunni minority to launch a civil
disobedience campaign if the Iraqi government does not halt the attack on
Falluja". On November 19, AP reported that US and Iraqi forces stormed a
prominent Sunni mosque, the Abu Hanifa, in Aadhamiya, killing three people
and arresting 40, including the chief cleric - another opponent of the
Falluja siege. On the same day, Fox News reported that "US troops also
raided a Sunni mosque in Qaim, near the Syrian border". The report described
the arrests as "retaliation for opposing the Falluja offensive". Two Shia
clerics associated with Moqtada al-Sadr have also been arrested in recent
weeks; according to AP, "both had spoken out against the Falluja attack".

"We don't do body counts," said General Tommy Franks of US Central Command.
The question is: what happens to the people who insist on counting the
bodies - the doctors who must pronounce their patients dead, the journalists
who document these losses, the clerics who denounce them? In Iraq, evidence
is mounting that these voices are being systematically silenced through a
variety of means, from mass arrests, to raids on hospitals, media bans, and
overt and unexplained physical attacks.

Mr Ambassador, I believe that your government and its Iraqi surrogates are
waging two wars in Iraq. One war is against the Iraqi people, and it has
claimed an estimated 100,000 lives. The other is a war on witnesses.

·Additional research by Aaron Maté


Please also sign Naomi and Avi's petition in support of the Zanon factory workers in Patagonia - they took over their factory when Argentina went bankrupt, refused to stop working and became a workers' co-operative, believing that the machinery belongs to the people because of the massive subsidies paid to the factory owner out of taxpayers' money. Now the federal forces are threatening to illegally evict the workers and sieze the machinery.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Please see:
http://www.grain.org/articles/?id=6#for news of Iraqi farmers being prevented from saving
seeds and forced to use genetically modified seeds
bought at huge cost from US / multinational

for a report on the dropping of charges against two UK
activists for disrupting the Iraq Procurement
conference in London earlier this year, on the basis
that it was plunder and illegal. The prosecution
accepted their not-guilty pleas after they stated that
they would contest the legality of the event they

Also this from Ewa Jasiewicz from Falluja contacts:

Fallujah News

Breaking News from Fallujah

Over half of Fallujah still un-pacified by Occupation
Forces. Aid Convoy
Fired Upon. Chemical warfare used against civilians.
Villages and towns
surrounding Fallujah under siege. 14-year-old boys
being arrested. House
to house fighting and house to house searches.
Witnesses fleeing
Fallujah report that Red Cresecents estimation of 170
families still
holding out in US Occupied areas in Fallujah is
inaccurate  they
estimate it as up to 3 times higher. Ramadi on Fire.

This is news gathered from a UK contact working for a
small relief
organisation based in Baghdad. He has been in regular
contact with
relief staff on the ground in Iraq who for the past
two weeks  since
November 10th - have been trying to get convoys of aid
into Fallujah but
have been prevented from doing so by Occupation
Forces. The first time
they tried to get a convoy in was June. The convoy was
halted and in
effect stolen, confiscated, by Iraqi soldiers under
the command of
Occupation Forces. The Iraqi soldiers confiscated
medical supplies 
penicillin, syringes, consumables, bandages, plastic
gloves, and
sanitary equipment. No reason given by individual
Iraqi soldiers was We
need it more than they do  these are the exact words
used. The soldier
then announced that the goods would be taken in the
name of the Ministry
of Health. The incident happened on the road between
Baghdad and

The most recent Convoy was attacked by Occupation
Forces on Wednesday
24th November. It was part of 3 trucks laden with aid.
It contained
blankets, water, medical supplies, cooking gas, and
basic foodstuffs
such as rice, flour, sugar, salt etc. Troops fired on
the truck hitting
it 6 times. Noone was injured but the convoy was
forced to turn back.
There was no dialogue with the soldiers.

The NGO trying to carry out this work cannot be named
for security
reasons. Staff report a climate of fear where speaking
out about
occupation violations can result in targeting,
censorship and possible
shut-down of operations by the neo-Baathist Alawi
government. Staff have
been processing and supporting families fleeing
Fallujah and have been
listening to their stories.

There is a need for these stories and testimonies to
be heard but those
involved do not want their names revealed for fear of
retaliation. Such
constraints make journalistic reporting difficult.
Confirmation of
sources is hampered by a lack of personal access to
Fallujah and Baghdad
and the situation on the ground. Reliance on
testimonies through third
parties is also problematic yet this is the best that
can be done under
the circumstances. The news below is corroborated by
similar reports in
the Arabic and mainstream media.

Here are examples of reports from Fallujah as conveyed
to Iraqi relief
staff in Baghdad:

Hay Julan  residents of the Hay Julan area who were
able to flee
Fallujah described an apple smelling chemical with
which they were
exposed to before the main onslaught into Fallujah.
There was a break of
about half a day between the presence of the
gas/chemical and when the
main assault started. The chemical created open wounds
on the skin which
were very hard to treat. After a while all exposed
areas on the skin
were cracked and bleeding. People came out of Fallujah
with these
injuries. They described smoke, a sweet smell and when
they were exposed
to the smoke, they coughed up blood and had cracked
bleeding skin. Most
of these families were hiding. When they smelled the
gas they thought
this was a gas attack and fled their homes and made
their way through
small backroads unoccupied by Occupation Forces. This
happened at the
beginning of the attack on Fallujah  around 2 weeks

There were many families who left young people to
guard their homes  18
years old and younger, teenagers, people of not
fighting age who they
thought would be too young to be targeted by troops. A
common theme
running through each family grouping which fled
Fallujah is that they
elected one or two people to stay behind and look
after their houses.

One woman said she wanted to commit suicide as shed
left her son there
and her home was no longer there. A lot of families
said they could not
understand the figure of 170 families being put
forward by the Red
Crescent Society (Arabic medical relief agency). Their
estimation was
3-4 times larger. They were aware of a significant
number of families
left behind. The explanation offered by them was that
they must have
fled to another part of Fallujah or been killed.

The families said they were prevented from returning
to Fallujah to pick
up dead bodies of relatives. One family which had had
their home shelled
went to Saqlaawiya which is a village just outside of
Saqlaawiya and Ameriyaht Fallujah (1700 families from
Fallujah are
living there in tents, provided by aid organisations)
are under siege by
Occupation Forces. This is where families are able to
go. In the
beginning of the invasion of Fallujah, there was a
missile attack on
Saqlaawiya. Noone knows what happened in the aftermath
of this. A group
of Saqlaawiya families have been trying to return to
pick up their dead
but have been prevented.

The main areas housing recent refugees (many of the
initial refugees
went to Baghdad) are: Saqlaawiya, Baquba, Ameriat
Fallujah, and Heed and
this is where the information is coming from.

Latest News

Conveyed today through the NGO contact in the UK:

There are systematic arrests by Occupation Troops of
boys aged 14-years
and upwards are taking place in Heed, Baquba,
Ahmeriyat Fallujah,
Saqlaawiya and Ramadi. House to house searches.

Ahdemeeya in Baghdad is a no-go zone. Pitched battles
are taking place
between the resistance and occupation forces. British
troops are
carrying out house-to-house searches in properties
along the Euphrates
River edging towards Baghdad.

Statement from NGO co-ordinator in UK after contact
with Baghdad office:

The situation is more volatile than previously
assessed. An Iraqi
journalist was trying to take pictures of our convoy.
A car pulled up, a
civilian car from Fallujah, and accused the journalist
of being a spy.
The driver pulled out a gun and pointed it at the
journalist and accused
him of working for the Iraqi Mokhabarat (Intelligence
services) and
threatened to shoot him dead. This happened in the
vicinity of Fallujah.
Had it not been for intervention from those
accompanying the aid agency,
the situation could have escalated.

Every day we are trying to send convoys into Fallujah
but we are being
blocked by occupation troops. The psychology of the
situation is very
dangerous. There is a ruthlessness and blind reaction
by people to
perceived threats, as the incident with the journalist
shows us. People
have lost their familes, their loved ones, their
homes. There is a lot
of psychological damage and instability.

Our co-ordinator has said that it is not safe to talk
to the media about
what is happening. (People are afraid of being accused
of scaremongering
and fomenting or inciting violence against the
government or coalition
troops which is an offence under Bremers Order on
prohibited media

The number of families which got out in the last few
days is 2-3 times
greater than previously estimated from all areas. At
first we had 150
families come out from Fallujah to Heed. Now we have
seen over 1000
families come to the Heed and Ameriyaht area. Now they
cannot leave
these areas. Americans control the whole area. Aid has
definitely been
let into Ameriyaht. But it has been limited in Baquba
and Ramadi. The
situation is a crisis.

The Americans have been allowing families out of
Fallujah. But there are
170 families remaining in the area controlled by the
Americans which is
only about 45% of Fallujah. This means that most of
Fallujah is still in
the hands of the resistance. Under US control are the
Al Wahde, Julan
and Hay Sinai areas in the North of Fallujah. But
there is still
sporadic fighting in these areas and all over the
place. The fighting
never stops. Guerilla fighters move from house to
house, they never
stop. And there are areas within these areas which are
still changing
hands. There was fighting in the Julan area today this
morning. All the
main roads are not safe. Water and electricity in the
city is still cut.
It is a bonus if people can move and survive.
Resistance fighters are
moving in and out quickly of areas as they know that
if the military
identifies those areas it will bomb them from the air.
They keep moving.
They can escape as they know every inch of the city.
This is the tactic.
Almost every house in Al Wahde, Julan and Hay SinaI
has been searched.

There are families trapped in the desert close to
Fallujah without
anything. They have no tents, nothing, they are just
in the bare desert,
these families are seen from Convoys trying to deliver
aid. If you stop
or leave roads already known then there is fear of
being targeted by US
snipers. The situation is not secure for vehicles to
break away from
Convoys to come out and deal with them as they are too
close to Fallujah
and this means people coming to them are perceived as
a security threat
to the Americans. There are 10s of families there but
there are no
specific numbers. We have managed to help families in
other parts of the
desert, further away from Fallujah itself.

This was put together by Ewa Jasiewicz, an activist
journalist with 9
months experience living in Occupied Iraq

For further news from the ground in Iraq see:

Thursday, November 25, 2004

For Immediate Release:
Friday November 19th 2004

Press Conference with Naomi Klein:
‘Now we’re taking you to court!’ - Protestors insist on trial as government and ‘plunder promoter’ drop charges

In what is believed to be a politically motivated decision, the Crown Prosecution Service has dropped charges of ‘Aggravated Trespass’ against two female protesters who demonstrated inside an Iraq privatisation conference last April.

Ewa Jasiewicz, activist Jounalist had recently returned from 9 months solidarity work with trade unionists, families, refugees and women’s groups in Iraq. Pennie Quinton is an Indymedia activist and journalist.

The Crown stated that ‘there is not enough evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction’.

Ewa and Pennie have been charged with intending to disrupt a “lawful activity” when they entered the Iraq Procurement Conference, unfurled banners, and addressed the delegates as collaborators in the daily massacres in Iraq. Their actions caused the conference venue to be evacuated and all activity to be suspended.

Naomi Klein, award-winning journalist and author of No Logo, had been scheduled to give evidence at the trial. She will take part in a press conference alongside the defendants and their lawyer at The National Union of Journalists, 308 Grays Inn Road, WC1, 4pm this Tuesday 24th November.

Pennie and Ewa are claiming their right to trial under Section 23 of the Prosecution of Offenses Act 1985. This means they are in effect, taking the government and event organisers Windrush Communications to court. Prosecution witnesses from Windrush have refused to attend the trial. They will now be witnessed-summoned. Windrush have failed to disclose evidence, in violation of repeated court orders, to reveal invitations, attendees, order of business and contracts procured, relating to the event. They will now be ordered to submit again.

The defence will continue to argue that the meeting was not a lawful event as it was facilitating acts in breach of the Iraq constitution - illegal under the Hague Regulations of 1907 and Geneva Conventions 1949. Britain and the US are signatories to both the Hague Regulations and Geneva Conventions.

In a leaked memo dated March 26th 2003, UK Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith advised Prime Minister Blair that in his view, 'the imposition of major structural economic reforms would not be authorised under international law'. (Source: Guardian, 7 November 2003, “Pillage is forbidden: Why the privatisation of Iraq is illegal“ Aaron Mate).

This case will be the first time the legality of the pillage of Iraq is challenged in court. The defendants hope the court will rule that the conference was unlawful as occupying forces must comply with international law.

Ewa and Pennie regard the prosecution’s climb-down as a victory and a total vindication of the validity and necessity of their actions and legal argument.

They state: ‘The decision undertaken by Windrush Communications to back down when faced with the legal consequences of their actions – in our belief, aiding and abetting pillage in Iraq in contravention of international law – is an open door to other activists to take further action to expose the ‘unlawful’ activity of companies and event organisers like Windrush’.

For information, contact the former defendants –
Ewa Jasiewicz at freelanceATmailworks.org or 07749 421 576
Pennie Quinton at pennieqATyahoo.com.

Related Information:

Iraq business deals may be invalid, law experts warn (Source: Thomas Catán, Financial Times September 30th 2003)

The US-led provisional authority in Iraq may be breaking international law by selling state assets, experts have warned, raising the prospect that contracts signed now by foreign investors could be scrapped by a future Iraqi government.

International businesspeople attending a conference in London October 2003 heard that some orders issued by the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) may be in breach of the 1907 Hague Regulations and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

"Is what they are doing legitimate, is it legal?” asked Juliet Blanch, a partner at the London-based international law firm Norton Rose. "Most [experts] believe that their actions are not legal", she said. "There would be no requirement for a new government to ratify their [actions]."

International law obliges occupying powers to respect laws already in force in a country "unless absolutely prevented" from doing so.

According to international law experts, that throws doubt on the legality of the CPA's September 19 order opening the Iraqi economy to foreign investment. In what amounted to a blueprint for transforming Iraq into a market economy, Order 39 permitted full foreign ownership of a wide range of state-owned Iraqi assets, barring natural resources such as oil.


1 - Windrush Communications organised the Iraq Procurement Conference, bringing together:

“Over 200 companies and organisations from around the world … to discuss the wide range of economic opportunities available. The event was open to interested businesses and organisations from all countries, immediately following the awarding of up to $18.4 billion in contracts from the US Congress and prior to the handover from the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to the new Iraqi government on 30 June.” (Source: http://www.iraqprocurement.com)

1- On the Iraq Procurement Conference, Jasiewicz says-

The decisions which set the living standards and possibilities for generations to come; The decisions which determine who will starve and who will survive and who will live and who will die, are not made on the battlefield by people in uniform, they are made by people in suits behind closed doors, in soft-carpeted hotels and function rooms. They are made in private and demand absolute silence. They are made by the powerful and remorseless. They are made by those who legitimise theft, excuse crimes against humanity, and seal the fate of an entire country’s future with a pen’s stroke. There are made in events like Iraq Procurement 2004.

You make history, when you do business – Barbara Kruger

3- Relevant Links:

http://www.iraqprocurement.com/ - website of the Iraq Procurement Conference

http://www.cpa-iraq.org - website of the Occupation Administration - Orders can be found in the Documents section. Of particular relevance are Orders 30 and 39 plus Orders on Taxation Strategy

http://www.iraqoccupationfocus.org.uk/ - Up-to-date info and analysis on the continuing occupation and traumatisation of Iraq

http://www.workersliberty.org/files/Occupied_Basra_19.pdf - Ewa Jasiewicz's 3 month research report on workers struggle in British Occupied Basra

http://www.occupationwatch.org/article.php?id=2180 SOC Workers Throw Out KBR, Reconstruct Their workplaces Autonomously article by Ewa Jasiewicz

http://www.labournet.net/world/0312/Iraq3.html - Iraqi Workers Threaten General Strike, Armed resistance - article by Ewa Jasiewicz

http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2004/01/283668.html - Basra Braces Itself for Industrial Shut-Down - article by Ewa Jasiewicz on Electricity Sector workers threatening strike action

http://www.kclabor.org/occupied_basra_electricity_worke.htm - Update on Electricity Workers Strike article by Ewa Jasiewicz

http://www.infoshop.org/inews/stories.php?story=04/02/09/2722630 - Umm Qasr workers wrestle with the prospect of forming a union. There is now a trade union at Umm Qasr! International Longshore and Warehouse Union members, employed by SSA Marine (formerly known as Stevedoring Services of America), the company which has been responsible for Umm Qasr since the occupation began sent a letter of solidarity and encouragement to the workers at the key Port. It is thought this helped workers gain the confidence and build on the already existing desire to form a union.

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