We call on those states responsible for the invasion and occupation of Iraq to terminate their illegal and immoral war, and express our solidarity with the Iraqi people in their struggle for peace, justice and self-determination.

In particular, we demand:

  1. An immediate end to the US and UK-led occupation of Iraq;
  2. Urgent action to fully address the current humanitarian crises facing Iraq’s people, including help for the more than three million refugees and displaced persons;
  3. An end to all foreign interference in Iraq's affairs, including its oil industry, so that Iraqis can exercise their right to self-determination;
  4. Compensation and reparations from those countries responsible for war and sanctions on Iraq;
  5. Prosecution of all those responsible for war crimes, human rights abuses, and the theft of Iraq's resources.

We demand justice for Iraq.

This statement was adopted by the Justice for Iraq conference in London on 19th July 2008. We plan to publish this more widely in future. If you would like to add your name to the list of supporters please contact us.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Soldiers to face 11 more 'trials' over Iraq deaths

Sunday Telegraph reports (December 8th): British troops are facing 11 separate inquiries into their conduct in Iraq after a “human rights” ruling by the High Court, it can be disclosed.
The inquest-style hearings were ordered by the Ministry of Defence into the deaths of 11 Iraqi civilians during the British presence in the country after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


Trade unions in Iraq may gain real legal status for the first time in decades if a proposed new labour and trade union law is passed by parliament.

IFOU Vice-President Ibrahim Rhadi and sixteen other union activists face fines totalling more than US$600,000 and possible jail time  (Photo/David Bacon)
IFOU Vice-President Ibrahim Rhadi and sixteen other union activists face fines totalling more than US$600,000 and possible jail time (Photo/David Bacon)

But even if it abolishes Iraq’s anti-labour restrictions which stem from the eras of Saddam Hussein and the US occupation, the situation facing trade union leaders in Iraq’s all-important oil sector is as tenuous as ever.
“The government wants to destroy our union,” Hassan Juma’a Awad, President of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU), toldEqual Times. “They will not allow us to work as a union.
“Law 150, passed under Saddam Hussein, is still being enforced, and the Iraqi government uses this law to prohibit the operation of Iraqi unions. Another law, special to our union, doesn’t allow the workers in the general labour department to join.”
On 10 November, 2013 a court in Basra dismissed, for the second time, charges against Juma’a.
However, IFOU Vice-President Ibrahim Rhadi and sixteen other union activists are still being prosecuted, and face fines totalling more than US$600,000, an impossibly large sum for oil workers to pay.
Rhadi’s fine alone is US$30,000. “If Ibrahim doesn’t pay, he’ll be fired from his job,” Juma’a says. “Then they will put him in jail.”

The charges stem from protests organised by the union early this year, when hundreds of workers demonstrated on three separate occasions outside the building of the state-owned South Oil Company (SOC) in Basra, calling for its director and his aides to resign.
The strikes were fuelled by poverty among oil workers, despite the billions of dollars in oil they produce. “Iraqi workers are in a very unstable situation,” Juma’a charges.
“Our wages are very low. We can’t live on the salaries we make. There are no social guarantees or health insurance. There is no modern labour law to give us our rights.
Workers also accuse the company of refusing to pay contractual bonuses due since 2010 (over US$303 million), and reneging on promises to build housing and provide medical care, especially to workers suffering exposure to depleted uranium used during the war.
SOC and the transnational companies entering Iraq to exploit the oilfields also tend to rely on temporary workers instead of permanent employees, to avoid requirements that 85 per cent of the workforce be made up of Iraqi nationals.
When charges were brought by SOC the court dismissed them in July, because the company could not provide any evidence that the work stoppages caused any damages.
The company appealed, however, and a higher court ordered the charges reinstated.
On 10 November, 2013 the lower court again noted that the company had provided no evidence, and dismissed them.
“The government put charges against me because of the strikes,” Juma’a says.
“I told workers to demand their rights, and was accused of organising an illegal work stoppage because I’m the union president.”

Meanwhile, however, the Ministry of Oil, which owns and directs the SOC, imposed administrative fines on Rhadi and the others, in retaliation for their roles in organising worker protests.
Another SOC worker, Alaa Abdul Redha, was stripped of benefits and transferred to a distant location, a punishment used against other oil union activists in the past.
The oil union in Iraq is hobbled in its efforts both to bargain for its members, and to defend them against criminal and administrative punishment for their union activity, because it is still subject to Saddam Hussein’s notorious Law 150.
Passed in 1987, it forbids unions in the public sector, which encompasses 80 per cent of all industry, including the state-owned oil sector.
In 2005 the country adopted a constitution that requires the government to permit unions, but no labour and union law has been passed that implements that goal.
Meanwhile, Law 150 remains on the books, as it did throughout the US occupation.
Unions with no legal recognition have immense problems collecting dues, opening offices, or even bank accounts.
To coordinate efforts to win a new law, six Iraqi unions joined IndustriALL, and in July created a new National Council in Baghdad.
IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan met with Iraqi government officials to press them to act.  “If the trade union legislation is not adopted now, nobody knows when the next opportunity will be, and we cannot wait years and years for this,” he said in a press statement.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow criticised some of the most recent drafts for “failing to address the major flaws of the Hussein-era legislation, including to extend the legal right to freedom of association to the vast public sector.
This is unacceptable. We urge the parliament not to squander this opportunity to at last bring its laws into line with international standards.”
IndustriALL has launched a campaign to support the passage of the law, and US Labor Against the War is calling for letters and actions to support Rhadi and the other oil union leaders still in danger.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Latest reports

Living in fear of Baghdad's dirty squad
Al Jazeera reports (November 11th): Adhamiya, in the northeast of Baghdad,  has been spared the worst of the violence that has plagued the city, and many people here feel safe enough enough to take advantage of the cool night air to hang out with friends.
But not everyone can do so. Inside the mosque is a man who is afraid to be seen in public. I meet him in a back room to hear his story of the night of October 3.
Firas tells me he was asleep at home."Suddenly I heard a huge crash and men shouting. It was 2am. I was with my wife and children in our room. Suddenly soldiers appeared from nowhere. They punched and kicked me and my wife. My children sat in the corner screaming in panic. They hit me with sticks.
"I was pulled out from the house in my underwear, thrown into a pickup truck and driven to a prison in Baghdad airport. With me was a cripple, a 70-year-old man. None us knew why we had been taken."
Firas says he was tortured at the prison. He says his captors beat him regularly and denied him food and water.


US soldier charged with murdering Iraqis
Al Jazeera reports (November 16th): A United States army soldier has been charged with premeditated murder in the deaths of two civilians during the Iraq war.
Sergeant Michael Barbera was charged over the deaths of two Iraqis near the village of As Sadah in Diyala province on March 6, 2007, the army said.


Harsh Tactics in Advance of Holy Month
HRW reports (November 15th): Iraqi security forces have been surrounding and closing off majority Sunni neighborhoods, effectively shutting residents inside, raiding homes, and carrying out mass arrests in advance of the Muslim holy month of Muharram, Human Rights Watch said. The Iraqi government should take measures to prevent the escalation of sectarian attacks on Shia during the holy month without resorting to repressive measures such as indiscriminate arrests.


Iraq executes 12 amid international disquiet
AFP reports (November 18th): Iraqi authorities announced the execution of a dozen terrorism convicts, defying widespread international condemnation of the country’s use of the death penalty.
The latest executions, carried out on Sunday, bring the number of people put to death by Iraq this year to about 144, compared to 129 last year.


Monday, 4 November 2013

No more arms to Iraq, Obama

Haifa Zangana writes for The Guardian (November 1st): Barack Obama is meeting Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, in Washington today. According to the official Iraqi story, they are to discuss Maliki's plea to train and equip Iraqi forces with advanced weapons to fight terrorism. If this is heeded, it will add to the crimes committed by the US against Iraqis since the invasion of 2003, as weapons and equipment made available to the regime have, to date, been used only against Iraqi people.
The Maliki regime blames all terrorist acts (frequent car explosions, often in markets, cafes and mosques) on al-Qaida, selectively choosing not to mention the regime's own militias: Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Iraqi Hezbollah, factions of the Mahdi army, the Badr brigades and the Mokhtar army.
A common belief among Iraqis is that only agents connected to the nearly 1 million strong army and security forces, and especially to the Special Forces (inherited from the occupation, trained by the US and now attached directly to Maliki's office) could carry out such sustained and widespread campaign of terror.

Read more here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/01/no-more-arms-to-iraq-obama-nouri-al-maliki

Friday, 25 October 2013

More on that WHO report

Charlie Pottins posted the following. The original is here: http://randompottins.blogspot.co.uk/

LAST month the World Health Organisation (WHO) published a long-awaited report summarising the findings of an investigation into congenital birth defects in Iraq which many people had expected would point to a link between their prevalence and the use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions by US and allied forces. 

To the surprise of those who had awaited it, this 'summary report' finds:
"The rates for spontaneous abortion, stillbirths and congenital birth defects found in the study are consistent with or even lower than international estimates. The study provides no clear evidence to suggest an unusually high rate of congenital birth defects in Iraq."
Although critics have suggested there were odd features to this report, Jaffar Hussain, WHO's Head of Mission in Iraq, said it was based on survey techniques that are "renowned worldwide" and that the study was peer reviewed "extensively" by international experts.
Writing in the Guardianthis week ,Dr.Nafeez Ahmed reminds us of the Iraqi Health Ministry officials who told the BBC there would be "damning evidence" of the links between depleted uranium use and birth defects.

"For years, medical doctors in Iraq have reported "a high level of birth defects." Other peer-reviewed studies have documented a dramatic increase in infant mortality, cancer and leukaemia in the aftermath of US military bombardment. In Fallujah, doctors are witnessing a "massive unprecedented number" of heart defects, and an increase in the number of nervous system defects. Analysis of pre-2003 data compared to now showed that "the rate of congenital heart defects was 95 per 1,000 births - 13 times the rate found in Europe."

Nafeez Ahmed quotes  Dr. Keith Bavistock of the Department of Environmental Science, University of Eastern Finland,  a retired WHO expert on radiation and health who says the WHO 'summary document' is  "disappointing."
"This document is not of scientific quality. It wouldn't pass peer review in one of the worst journals. One of the biggest methodological problems, among many, is that the document does not even attempt to look at existing medical records in Iraqi hospitals - these are proper clinical records which document the diagnoses of the relevant cases being actually discovered by Iraqi doctors. These medics collecting clinical records are reporting higher birth defects than the study acknowledges. Instead, the document focuses on interviews with mothers as a basis for diagnosis, many of whom are traumatised in this environment, their memories unreliable, and are not qualified to make diagnosis."
Asked whether there was reason to believe the WHO report had been politically compromised, Dr. Baverstock  said:
"The way this document has been produced is extremely suspicious. There are question marks about the role of the US and UK, who have a conflict of interest in this sort of study due to compensation issues that might arise from findings determining a link between higher birth defects and DU. I can say that the US and UK have been very reluctant to disclose the locations of DU deployment, which might throw further light on this correlation."
Dr.Ahmed says this has happened before:
"In 2001, Baverstock was on the editorial board for a WHO research project clearing the US and UK of responsibility for environmental health hazards involved in DU deployment. His detailed editorial recommendations accounting for new research proving uranium's nature as as a genotoxin (capable of changing DNA) were ignored and overruled:
"My editorial changes were suppressed, even though some of the research was from Department of Defense studies looking at subjects who had ingested DU from friendly fire, clearly proving that DU was genutoxic."
Baverstock then co-authored his own scientific paper on the subject arguing for plausibility of the link between DU and high rates of birth defects in Iraq, but said that WHO blocked publication of the study"because they didn't like its conclusions."
"The extent to which scientific principles are being bent to fit politically convenient conclusions is alarming", said Baverstock.
The British medical journal, The Lancet, reports that despite the study's claims, a "scientific standard of peer review... may not have been fully achieved."
One scientist named as a peer-reviewer for the project, Simon Cousens, professor of epidemiology and statistics at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), told The Lancet that he "attended a relatively brief meeting of around one and a half hours, so just gave some comments on an early presentation of the results. I wouldn't classify that as thorough peer review."
Nafeez Ahmad also contrasts the WHO findings with those of a Japanese-based human rights network which investigated recorded birth defects at a major hospital in Fallujah for the year 2012, confirmed first hand birth defect incidences over a one-month period in 2013, and interviewed doctors and parents of children born with birth defects. The report concluded there was:
"... an extraordinary situation of congenital birth defects in both nature and quantity. The investigation demonstrated a significant rise of these health consequences in the period following the war... An overview of scientific literature relating to the effects of uranium and heavy metals associated with munitions used in the 2003 Iraq War and occupation, together with potential exposure pathways, strongly suggest that environmental contamination resulting from combat during the Iraq War may be playing a significant role in the observed rate of birth defects."
The report criticised both the UN and the WHO for approaches that are "insufficient to meet the needs of the issues within their mandate."
Hans von Sponeck, former UN assistant secretary general and UN humanitarian coordinator for Iraq,says it would justify public skepticism:
"The brevity of this report is unacceptable", he told me:
"Everybody was expecting a proper, professional scientific paper, with properly scrutinised and checkable empirical data. Although I would be guarded about jumping to conclusions, WHO cannot be surprised if people ask questions about whether the body is giving into bilateral political pressures."
Von Sponeck said that US political pressure on WHO had scuppered previous investigations into the impact of DU on Iraq:
"I served in Baghdad and was confronted with the reality of the environmental impact of DU. In 2001, I saw in Geneva how a WHO mission to conduct on-spot assessments in Basra and southern Iraq, where depleted uranium had led to devastating environmental health problems, was aborted under US political pressure."
Asked whether such political pressure on the UN body could explain the unscientific nature of the latest report, Von Sponeck said "It would not be surprising if such US pressure has continued".
"There is definitive evidence of an alarming rise in birth defects, leukaemia, cancer and other carcinogenic diseases in Iraq after the war. Looking at the stark difference between previous descriptions of the WHO study's findings and this new report, it seems that someone, somewhere clumsily decided that they would not release these damning findings, but instead obscure them."


Monday, 30 September 2013

More executions

Iraq's latest surge: state executions

The Guardian reports (September 17th): In the bloody shadow of Iraq's recent surge in violence lurks another troubling statistic: this year, Iraq has executed nearly 70 people accused of terrorist-related activities, including 17 men and women last month alone.


Iraq executes 13 men following unfair trials marred by torture allegations

AI reports (September 25th): All executions in Iraq must be halted immediately, Amnesty International urged after 13 men were executed in Baghdad.

Today, the organization has been able to confirm the names of nine of the men, who were executed on 22 September following death sentences imposed after unfair trials and based on “confessions” allegedly extracted under torture. Four others were also executed that day, bringing the total number of executions in Iraq so far this year to at least 73.


Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The spectre of Iraq

When commentators claimed after last week’s parliamentary vote that Iraq had played a key role in motivating MPs  to vote against military intervention, it was an important public acknowledgment of the ongoing disaster wrought by US-UK foreign policy. Gone was the New Labour narrative that Iraq today is better off than under Saddam Hussein. Although it rarely makes the front pages, the sheer volume of bad news from this country will not have escaped many MPs.

Take the Wikileaks and related whistle-blowing stories that dominated the summer headlines. Iraq was at the centre of the most damaging revelations. Hundreds of incidents of abuse and torture of prisoners by Iraqi security services, up to and including rape and murder, were documented. US forces are alleged to have colluded in these activities, as well as themselves continuing to abuse prisoners long after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in 2004. US forces operating helicopter gunships were also accused of killing 14 unarmed civilians in a series of previously unreported incidents.

British troops were also deeply implicated. The Guardian reported that 90 complaints involving 128 Iraqi civilians were being investigated in the aftermath of the Wikileaks revelations. Earlier this year lawyer Phil Shiner took 180 different statements –  with another 871 to follow – before a judicial review hearing at the high court in London in a claim seeking to demonstrate that Britain broke international laws of war by pursuing a policy of systematic torture.

The long-term social consequences of invasion also constitute a lasting deterrent to intervention elsewhere. One in two households in Baghdad alone have lost a family member. A million have died. A further million have been left disabled.  One in six Iraqis is an orphan. An estimated sixteen percent of the Iraqi population has been uprooted. There are an estimated 450,000 Iraq refugees in Jordan alone.

Drinking water remains unsafe. Basic foods and necessities are beyond the reach of ordinary Iraqis, thanks to soaring inflation unleashed by the occupation's free market ideology. Unemployment is regularly estimated at over fifty percent. Seventy percent of doctors are estimated to have fled the country. Homelessness is widespread. Water shortages are destroying agriculture, power shortages crippling industry. Permanent damage has been inflicted on the country’s historic cultural heritage. Besides the looting and deliberate destruction of historic sites by the US military, tens of thousands of historic artifacts are now in US hands.

Some of the long-term effects of the occupation are most felt in the city of Falluja.
US forces flattened three-quarters of the city in their 2004 bombardment, with up to 6,000 people killed. The US admits that it used white phosphorous as a battlefield weapon in its assault on Fallujah. Repeated studies now show a dramatic spike in birth defects in the city of Falluja. One suspected cause of the birth defects is depleted uranium shells, fired in 2004 by US forces in the city, which contain ionising radiation. A recent survey in the city showed a four-fold increase in all cancers and a twelve-fold increase in childhood cancer in under-14 year olds. The UK also used depleted uranium weapons during the invasion. It will cost about $30m to clean DU from around 300 sites in Iraq. Meanwhile, similar post-war health problems are being documented in other Iraqi cities.

Politically, Iraq is also becoming increasingly authoritarian. There has been a surge in the use of the death penalty. Brutality and torture are rife in its jails. Rape of women in prison is widespread. Additionally, new laws have been passed to crack down on the independent media. According to the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, the first two years following the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq were the worst since the fall of the former regime in terms of violations of press freedoms.

The position of trade unions has also deteriorated significantly in Iraq. There are reports too of police crackdowns on gay people. The Education Ministry has banned theatre and music classes. Many girls still dare not go to school or college because of violence and kidnappings. Women’s equal rights in law have been replaced with statutes giving tribal leaders the power to regulate family affairs according to their traditions - a huge step back.

At the heart of the problem is the sectarianisation of the state. When elections were first held, occupation forces organised them on the basis of Shia and Sunni slates. Thenceforth, religious affiliation could be a deciding factor in whether you worked or had state protection, and thus became a significant source of friction. But, conveniently, it did allow the occupiers to reinvent their role as that of arbitrator between warring religious factions.

After the 2010 elections, it took several months and several visits from the US Vice President and State Department officials to cobble together a government. When a government finally did emerge, one politician claimed that Cabinet seats had been bought at a secret meeting in the house of an Iraqi businessman. “Buying” a ministry is nothing new in Iraq. The ritual of power-sharing is all about sharing the spoils of power among political parties and transforming state institutions into fiefdoms of competing groups.

The Electricity ministry best illustrates the complete corruption of the Iraqi state. The money the government has poured into the electricity sector would have bought every Iraqi family a modern furnished flat in a western country, the Oil and Energy Commission of the Iraqi parliament said in July. The commission estimated that the hard cash spent on the electricity sector “equals ten times the annual budget of Bahrain.”

But this corruption was inherited from the US reconstruction programme. A recent report to US Congress said private defence contractors, which had some 170,000 employees on the ground, reaped some $140 billion in profits in Iraq. Halliburton alone, whose former CEO was Dick Cheney,  made $39.5 billion on Iraq. Some of these profits came from flagrant overcharging, such as the contractor that billed the US government $900 for a switch that was valued at $7.05, a 12,000 percent mark-up. In 2012 Transparency International ranked Iraq 169th out of 175 countries for corruption. More than three quarters believed it had got worse in the last three years.

The division of ministries among competing elites, with different sectarian affiliations, was probably the cause of this year’s Abu Ghraib prison breakout of 850 prisoners. That’s the accusation of the Ministry of Justice against the Interior Ministry, whom it accuses of collusion in the incident. Others accuse the security forces of allowing sectarian militias to set up checkpoints and carry out attacks on civilians. Here too the role of US occupiers can be traced - a recent documentary highlighted the role of US Special Forces operatives in training sectarian militias to commit acts or torture that helped fuel the narrative of a civil war.

Dominating all this is the sheer level of violence in Iraq. Government figures show 989 people were killed in July, making it the deadliest month in five years. The origins are complex, given the role of US special forces and the Iraqi state itself, the attribution of a lot of the violence to Al Qaeda and a renewed Sunni insurgency reacting against a Shia sectarian bias evident in many state institutions that denies Sunnis work and rights.

The crisis in Syria exacerbates these problems. Some commentators point to the role of Assad in fuelling violence within Iraq for geopolitical reasons. Others argue that the activities of a Sunni-led armed opposition in Syria strengthen Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Faced with mounting violence, Iraq’s  government is now turning back to the US for lethal aid.

Reuters reported recently: “The United States and Iraq agreed to boost cooperation to keep Iran from flying weapons over Iraq to Syria, and to curb the radicalization of young Iraqis and other spillover effects from the Syrian conflict.” The irony is that the US invasion of Iraq and the occupation-organised elections actually strengthened Iranian influence in the region. So Iraq also stands for many policymakers as a testament to US incompetence.

Anti-war activists can take some credit for keeping these issues alive. It wasn’t just the sense of betrayal, having been lied to by Tony Blair ten years ago over WMD, that motivated some Labour MPs to rule out military action against Syria. It was also the pickets of their surgeries, the anger of their constituents and other ongoing efforts of peace activists that made MPs uncomfortable about voting for intervention this time on the basis of flimsy intelligence, incoherent military strategy and no search for a diplomatic solution.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Iraq’s Dysfunctional Elite

Global Research, August 13, 2013
Al-Monitor 9 August 2013
Last month, demonstrators in the southern Iraqi cities of Nassiriya and Basra organized nightly rallies to protest the government’s failure to provide enough electricity for households during the notoriously hot summer. With temperatures exceeding 113 degrees Fahrenheit during July and August, most households get less than 12 hours a day of electric power. The Iraqi government spent $28 billion to reform electricity services, which became one of the most critical problems in the country since the second Gulf War in 1991.
The failure to handle this problem is another cause for the increasing disillusionment with the government. Responding to the popular rage, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said in a TV interview that he was manipulated by the minister of electricity and his staff, who provided him with incorrect information about their system’s capacity. Although the minister of electricity position has been rotated among five people since 2006, none of them managed to make tangible improvements. But this did not prevent political parties from competing to obtain this position, a contest driven less by a “commitment” to social welfare and more by the fact the ministry is contract-rich. During a TV interview, Khalaf al-Ileyan, whose party was “awarded” this ministry according to a 2006 power-sharing agreement, said that he was offered a $2 million “down payment” and a monthly $1 million if he accepted a nomination for this position.
This confession might be shocking, but in fact it reflects habitual relations within Iraqi elite. “Buying” a ministry is nothing new in Iraq. The ritual of power-sharing has become all about finding ways to distribute the growing oil revenues among political parties and transforming state institutions into fiefdoms of competing groups. Initially, the power-sharing formula was presented as a method to create an inclusive system of government that departs from the legacy of exclusionary politics. In practice, power-sharing has become a power apportionment, what Iraqis call: Muhasesa. This is partly because it emphasized ethnic and sectarian categories in determining political weights, which turned institutions into instruments of political conflicts rather than being frameworks to solve them.
Maliki has exploited the failures and gaps of this system to create a shadow state that is loyal and responsive to him. He managed to maneuver this system and build strong personal influence within the security institutions, armed forces, independent institutions and Iraq’s judiciary. In an oil-dependent country like Iraq, the executive branch tends to become stronger than the legislative branch because it manages more resources and more complex networks of patronage. But these measures have only intensified political conflict while failing to make the state more efficient.
Divided between Maliki’s camp, whose authoritarian disposition is increasing, and his rivals’ camp, whose only alternative is more “apportionment” politics, the political elite is evidently out of touch with the demands of average citizens. Maliki accuses his rivals of doing everything to hinder his government; his rivals say that the failure is caused by his policies. Their contest is more about finding a scapegoat and less about identifying new ways to address the state’s failure.
The problem overrides this short-sighted dispute among opportunistic politicians. It is rather about the way Iraq’s economy is working and the way in which the lack of strong institutions affects a responsible and wise management of the wealth. The Iraqi constitution stipulates: “Oil and gas are the Iraqi people’s property,” but the true story is different. According to the UN Development Program, 75% of Iraqis identified poverty as the most pressing need, 79% of households rated electricity as “bad” or “very bad,” and only 26% of the population is covered by the public sewage network. This, despite Iraq’s GDP growth from $20 billion in 2002 to $128 billion in 2012, thanks to growth in oil production, which accounts for 60% of GDP and 90% of government revenue.
For years, it has been repeated that Iraq is a rich state and a poor society. The path Iraq has taken has only confirmed this saying, despite the improvement in per capita income. Powerful political parties managed to extract their revenues through the networks of patronage they run within state bodies. One way to do so was by awarding governmental contracts to real or fake companies in exchange for bribes or commissions.
One example is the Ministry of Interior’s $40 million contract with a British businessman, James McCormick, to import “bomb detectors” that turned out to be dressed-up divining rods. McCormick was convicted on four accounts of fraud in England, yet his devices were still used by Iraqi security. Some officials, including the prime minister himself, insist that not all these devices were fraudulent. After two years since Iraqi authorities arrested Maj. Gen. Jihad al-Jabiri, the army’s bomb squad commander, on corruption charges for taking bribes to purchase McCormick’s fake explosive detectors, he was recently released and the charges against him were dropped.
Security-related ministries have seen the worst examples of corruption because of their huge budget allocations, poorly monitored US financial support and the urgent need to build them from scratch. There are reports by the Integrity Committee, the US general inspector in Iraq and the Parliamentary Security and Defense Committee, on the hundreds of millions wasted because of corruption in these ministries. Yet, except for a few mid- or low-level officials who found no political sponsor, all partisan senior officials managed to escape punishment or accountability. As the highest constitutional body with a mandate to monitor executive officials, the parliament was supposed to play a crucial role in addressing this corruption. In reality, it did nothing but deepen it by relating accountability to sectarian targeting and behind-the-scenes compromises on the basis of “let my guy go, I let yours go.” Among average Iraqis, the parliament itself is very notorious, especially for legislation it passed to provide its members with huge salaries and benefits.
The state in Iraq has always been the main shaper of social change and hierarchies. Post-Saddam Iraq is no exception. In the last few years, and as a result of the flourishing clientelism and political nepotism, new alliances have emerged between political groups and sectors of the business class in a sort of collaboration based on crony capitalism. Each major group has its own favorite entrepreneurs, who benefit from contracts awarded by the group’s representatives in the government and, in turn, they support the group financially.
Politics is mixed with business everywhere, but in Iraq this takes the form of direct looting of “national” wealth by a new oligarchy composed of conflicting political groups and their economic and bureaucratic clients. The political process which was initially intended to break with the authoritarian past is becoming more influenced by elite politics and interests than people’s needs. Politicians resort to identity politics and ethnic and sectarian incitement to overshadow their personal benefits generated by a process which, instead of solving ethno-sectarian tensions, reproduces them.
Harith Hasan is an Iraqi scholar and the author of Imagining the Nation: Nationalism, Sectarianism and Socio-Political Conflict in Iraq. On Twitter: @harith_hasan

Sunday, 7 July 2013

GICJ calls to restore justice and accountability for Iraq

GICJ reports (June 2013): During the 23rd session of the Human Rights Council, on behalf of over 300 NGOs, a number of statements were delivered by Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ). The statements addressed key issues such as the total breakdown of public services, the disastrous situation of the Iraqi judicial system, the excessive use of force, extrajudicial executions, torture and abuse as well as the recent killing of demonstrators. The NGOs exposed how the US-invasion is responsible for the disastrous situation and reminded the United Nations of their responsibility to restore justice and accountability. They reiterated their on-going demand to appoint of a Special Rapporteur on Iraq and called to send clear message to the Government of Iraq that it can no longer execute at will and with impunity.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Parliament debates the tenth anniversary of the war in Iraq

Three months later than the actual anniversary of the war in Iraq, left MPs managed to secure a parliamentary debate on an issue most would rather not talk about. Caroline Lucas introduced, saying:
“It is a grim understatement to say that the Iraqi people do not have security. There are deep concerns about human rights, massive corruption, unemployment and miserable basic services, such as electricity and water supplies. But even if Iraq finds a way out of its current difficulties, as we all fervently hope it will, there is the legacy of the last 10 years of warfare and terrorism as well. Part of that legacy is the deeply disturbing cases being taken to our High Court, involving more than 1,000 killings and acts of torture committed in Iraq by UK forces. We must have public scrutiny of the systemic issues arising from these cases and look to reform the training and oversight of our armed forces.
What of our own country? Do we feel more secure? Is the terrorist threat diminished because of those 10 years of bloodshed and chaos? In fact, the contrary is true. According to the former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, the Iraqi invasion increased the terror threat in Britain, radicalising a generation of young British Muslims and substantially increasing the risk of a terrorist atrocity on UK soil. A major unprovoked attack without UN authorisation took place with dire consequences. These terrible and deeply troubling outcomes add real substance to the argument that this was the biggest foreign policy failure of recent times.
As an individual, I opposed the war in Iraq because it was my view that the burden of justification for undertaking a major unprovoked attack had not been met. I joined the anti-war protest in February 2003, which saw between 1 million and 2 million people marching in London, the biggest political demonstration in history. In successive polls by different and reputable agencies, around two thirds of British citizens say the Iraq war was a mistake.”

The Government’s position was predictably pathetic, cheerily quoting
IMF reports about Iraq’s recent economic growth - hardly surprising
given the long years of economic sanctions the west imposed on it
before invading, and at the same time hiding behind the years-overdue
Chilcot Report in terms of UK culpability.

In response to Caroline Lucas’s suggestion that future voted on going to war be unwhipped, Jack Straw and others suggested the whip on this issue ten years ago was pretty informal. Paul Flynn MP responded:
“I have received a message during the debate from someone expressing, in very strong language, incredulity at the suggestion that there was not a strong Whip on that day in March. I have been here for 26 years and it was the strongest Whip I have ever encountered. Many of those who were opposed to the war—about 30 or 40 of them—who had signed motions and early-day motions against it were bribed, bullied and bamboozled into changing their minds to either abstain or vote in favour of it. Almost all of them regret that bitterly. It was the most important vote of our careers and it is not true to say that it was easy to make our minds up. It was not. The threat was there that we would lose our seats and that the Prime Minister would resign. Members who were in any doubt were called in to see Ministers to be persuaded. Members of the Committees who had knowledge that we did not have, such as the Intelligence and Security Committee, went around cajoling Back Benchers saying, “If you knew what we know, you’d vote for war, but we can’t tell you because it’s all secret.” They were being fed nonsense and exaggerations as well.
Our reluctance to accept the truth seems extraordinary to me. It would be flattering to describe today’s speech from the Government Front Bench as vacuous. Even now, the Government cannot admit that there were no weapons of mass destruction. It is little short of insanity to suggest that anyone still believes that there were such weapons.
Members have questioned whether anyone foresaw what would happen. A great many people foresaw it at the time. To suggest otherwise is another attempt to rewrite history. I have dug out a letter that I sent to the then Prime Minister in March 2003 to point out what the consequences of the invasion would be. I see with nausea that Tony Blair is now explaining that the inherent nature of the Islamic religion was responsible for the terrible event that took place in Woolwich a few weeks ago. It was not. That event was a reaction to what happened in 2003.”
The following are just extracts from speeches that can be read in full here:
jeremy Corbyn MP: “It was a shameful day for Parliament, and it was a shameful day for the whole political system in this country. Outside in Parliament square, there were thousands of people. They thought, naively perhaps, that they would be listened to. Some 1 million and more had marched in central London—maybe 2 million were on the streets of London that day—and 600 demonstrations on every continent of the world, including Antarctica, had been held a month before, and the opinion polls all showed that there was no support for this war against Iraq. They thought that Parliament would reflect their views and their wishes.
The vote that day in which Parliament, sadly, endorsed going to war not only did enormous damage to Parliament, but did enormous damage and a disservice to a whole generation, because they had put their hopes in the political process to carry out their wishes and it did not do so. That engendered cynicism and we are still dealing today in many ways with the legacy of the war in this country.”
Katy Clark MP focused on “the effects of depleted uranium and other weaponry used in Iraq. It seems to have resulted in very unusual levels of birth defects and other conditions, especially among children who were conceived during the Iraq war. I intend to focus on those issues mainly because they are not often talked about and because those are issues on which the Government could be taking more action so that we can understand what happened and learn the lessons from that for the future.
The use of depleted uranium in weapons has been controversial from its development in the 1960s to the present. Much of the work in this area has been done on the effects on veterans, rather than on civilian populations. The Ministry of Defence discovered in the early research and development programme that depleted uranium released a chemical that was toxic and radioactive and that contaminated areas that it had been fired into. The scientific work that has been done, as I said, related mainly to veterans, but in recent years more evidence has been collected from civilian populations, including in Iraq.
The work relating to veterans shows clearly that in certain circumstances depleted uranium has the potential to cause cancer and damage to DNA. It can lead to birth defects and contaminate soil and ground water. Depleted uranium was used in the first conflict in Iraq in 1991 and also in the more recent conflict in very significant quantities. It is thought that 290,000 kg of depleted uranium was fired during the Gulf war in 1991, and that in the first six months of the Iraq invasion 140 kg of depleted uranium was used. Studies of the effects on civilian populations which have been made public so far show a staggering rise in birth defects among Iraqi children conceived in the aftermath of the war, with high rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs. Compelling evidence seems to link these birth defects and miscarriages to military assaults.
We cannot sure whether these are due to depleted uranium or the effects of other ammunition used in the area, but it is clear that there are particularly high levels of birth defects, for example, in Falluja, where the United States has admitted using white phosphorous shells, although it has not admitted using depleted uranium. Findings published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology are the latest in a series of studies suggesting a link between bombardment and a rise in birth defects. Its findings in 2010 prompted the World Health Organisation to launch an inquiry into the prevalence of birth defects in the area affected. Although that report was expected to be published last year, it still has not appeared. Some claim that it is being buried and 58 scientists have written to the Iraqi Government and the World Health Organisation calling for its immediate publication. It is right that we, as elected politicians, ask the British Government to use their influence and power to do everything they can to ensure that as much information about these issues is brought into the public domain.
As a result of previous work, the Work Health Organisation is looking at nine high-risk areas in Iraq, including Falluja and Basra. We need to say clearly that we want that information in the public domain. We must do more to work out exactly the impact that some of the weaponry used in modern warfare has on civilian populations. Perhaps in previous centuries the effects of war were felt predominantly by military people and those who went to war, but one of the clear effects of modern warfare is that many of the types of weaponry used have long-term implications for civilian populations.
Of the studies that have been made available in the public domain, one shows that more than half of the babies born in Falluja between 2007 and 2010 were born with a birth defect. Before the siege the figure was more like one in 10, and prior to the turn of the millennium fewer than 2% of babies were born with a birth defect. According to that study, in the two years after 2004 more than 45% of all pregnancies surveyed ended in miscarriage, whereas the figures before the bombing were below 10%. Between 2007 and 2010, one in six of all pregnancies ended in miscarriage. The research that is in the public domain is clearly incredibly concerning.
Another piece of research looked at the health histories of 56 families in Falluja and examined births in Basra in southern Iraq, which was attacked by British forces in 2003. It found that more than 20 babies in 1,000 were born with births defects at the maternity hospital in 2003, which is 17 times higher than the rate recorded a decade previously. In the past seven years, the number of malformed babies born has increased by more than 60%, to 37 in every 1,000.
We have spoken a great deal today about the politics that led up to the decision to take forces into Iraq in 2003, and that is absolutely proper, but the reality is that families in Iraq are now dealing with the aftermath of decisions that might have been taken by the British Government and the action of British and other troops. I think that it is beholden on Parliament to insist that the Government do everything they can to ensure that this is researched more thoroughly.”

Friday, 14 June 2013

Parliament debates tenth anniversary of the Iraq war

A Parlaimentary debate on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war took place yesterday. The media have not reported this at all. The full test is available here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmhansrd/chan17.pdf - pages 522-594.

It was introduced by Caroline Lucas MP and there were particularly strong speeches from Paul Flynn MP from p568 onwards, Jeremy Corbyn MP from p580 on and Katy Clark MP from p585, concentrating particularly on the catastrophic effects on health resulting from munitions used in the conflict.

The Government's position was predictably pathetic, cheerily quoting IMF reports about Iraq's recent economic growth - hardly surprising given the long years of economic sanctions the west imposed on it before invading, and at the same time hiding behind the years-overdue Chilcot Report in terms of UK culpability.

Iraq ten years on: lessons still not learnt - by Michael Meacher MP

Blair, pic by Kennard PhillipsThe facts, no longer seriously in dispute, are stark. The US went to war over Iraq because of oil and to assure themselves of a platform for control of the Middle East region, as set out in the Project for the New American Century document published for the Bush election team in September 2000. As we now know from Bush’s first Treasury Secretary O’Neill, that was was planned from the first days of the Bush Administration. Then 9/11 simply provided the pretext for launching it.

The UK went to war over Iraq because President Bush wanted British support. At the Crawford summit in April 2002 Blair in effect committed to providing that, publicly pledging to stand shoulder to shoulder with President Bush. From that point on, the assessment of intelligence data conflated analysis into advocacy in order to find a rationale for the war that had alreadcy been decided on for other reasons.

Blair’s deceit

The decision having been made to go to war, Whitehall provided a briefing that any rationale depended on being able to show incontrovertible evidence of ‘large-scale’ activity by Iraq in weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, because the UN inspectors left Iraq in 1998, the evidence was almost non-existent. The CIA admitted that its resources on Iraq were ‘thin’, and the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee had already concluded in March 2002 that intelligence on Iraq’s WMD and ballistic programmes was ‘sporadic and patchy’.
The key point is that, in the evidence put together in the crucial 5 months from the Crawford summit up till the publication of the September dossier to justify the war, we now know that all the specific data were flawed:
  1. The inventory of chemical and biological weapons and weapons parts that Blair presented to the House dealt with weapons unaccounted for since the first Gulf War 12 years before. They were not presented as weapons unaccounted for, however; they were presented as weapons that were believed definitely to be currently possessed by Saddam.
  2. The 45-minute claim referred to battlefield nuclear weapons, but the impression was given that the threat went much wider. Accordingly when it was reported thus, no attempt was made to correct the misreporting despite the belief that it was wrong.
  3. The claim that Iraq tried to buy 500 tonnes of yellowcake – a requirement for nuclear fission – fromNiger was still included in the dossier, despite the fact that it was known that a visit made to Niger by a former US ambassador to that country had confirmed 6 months before that the claim was completely bogus.
  4. Blair claimed to the House on 25 February 2003 – and I think this is very important, yet has had virtually no attention – that the defection of Hussein Kemal, Saddam’s son-in-law, in 1995 had revealed “the offensive biological weapons and the full extent of the nuclear programme”. But as we now know from a Newsweek exclusive a few weeks later, what Hussein Kemal actually said in his de-briefing was exactly the opposite: “all weapons – biological, chemical, missile, nuclear – were destroyed”.
As the Butler report pointed out so poignantly, all the ifs and buts, qualifications and caveats in the raw intelligence data were dropped from the dossier, while the positive allegations were distinctly over-hyped. Sources were treated as reliable when they clearly were not , and they were not checked with the expertise of intelligence staff.
Anyone who reads appendix B of the Butler report, which is well set out, can see step by step how the process of massaging and accretion steadily accumulated until we were finally told in the September dossier that Saddam’s WMD programme was “active, detailed and growing”, and that the intelligence on which the judgement was based was “extensive, detailed and authoritative”, despite Blair having been told a month before by the UK intelligence community that: “We know little about Iraq’s chemical and biologival weapons work since late 1988″.
The first great issue therefore is accountability in regard to Blair’s judgement, his deceitful presentation, and over-eagerness to take this country into a war on grounds that far exceeded the available evidence to justify it. One cannot take a country into a war under false pretences and then proclaim, as Butler does, that nobody can be held responsible.

Failure of accountability

The most striking characteristic of the Butler report is the disjunction between analysis and judgement. It catalogues a litany of failures and then pulls all its punches by declaring that in effect no-one is to blame. George Tenet was sacked as head of the CIA for intelligence failures over Iraq, but John Scarlett who was responsible for exactly the same intelligence failures in this country, is still recommended by the report for promotion, despite all the damning evidence to the contrary. It is a very British Establishment charade but, as an exercise in accountability which is what is needed, it is utterly unacceptable.
I believe there are two issues on which those responsible must be held to account:
  1. The presentation of the evidence that persuaded the House to agree to war. Being sinuous with the truth may not be lying, but it is certainly not open or honest. Presenting a seriously misleading account of the facts may not be lying, but it is not truthful or straightforward either.
  2. The framework of governance that allowed the decision to go to war to be taken. On that point we still await the final decision and recommendations of the Chilcot report which has been going now 4 years and their report is already far too long delayed.
Even 10 years on we still haven’t had published the secret pledges that Blair made to Bush at his Crawford ranch ten months before the war began and before any consultation with Cabinet, Parliament of the British people. Chilcot has seen this evidence, but is being prevented from publishing it, even though Blair himself, Powell and Campbell have disclosed privileged information when it suited their case. Being told, as we have been, that ‘it is not in the public interest’ is the strongest possible indication that it is very much in the public interest that it should be revealed.

The consequences of the war

A second fundamental dimension of this whole saga is clearly: what did this war achieve in the long-term? At this tenth anniversary it has been said that the US won the war, Iran won the peace, and Turkey won the contracts. But did the US win the war? At a cost of over £1 trillion – which Joseph Stiglitz, a former member of the Presidential Economic Council puts at twice that level – and a death toll of 4,500 US troops, 32,000 wounded and thousands still struck down with post-traumatic stress disorder, what did the US achieve? They completely failed to anticipate the insurgency which eventually forced them out. After all the wasted blood and treasure they were left with the one result they were desperate to prevent – a Shia autocracy in Iraq reinforcing a a resurgent Shia Iran. And even the US goal of securing control of the enormous Iraqi oil reserves, second only to Saudi Arabia’s, they were forced to forego. If one had to pinpoint the moment when the US lost its unipolar power as the world’s hegemon, it must surely be the total disaster of the Iraq war.
As for Iraq itself, it remains a bitterly divided and violent country. It’s not only the hundreds of thousands of dead and at its height the 4 million refugees, but after 9 years of US and British occupation thousands are still tortured and imprisoned without trial, health and education has dramatically deteriorated, the position of women has gone horrifically backwards, trade unions are effectively banned, Baghdad is still divided by checkpoints and blastwalls, electricity and water supplies have all but broken down, and people pay with their lives for speaking out.
In the longer term the war has undermined the moral standing of the US and UK. It generated an al-Qaeda presence in Iraq and beyond that has not been there before. And it has sent a clear message, which has emboldened Iran and North Korea, that the only way to deter blackmail and attack from the US was indeed to acquire WMD. It could even be said that the greatest WMD were those wielded by the Americans – the systematic demolition of Fallujah, the US-led massacres at Haditha, Mahmudiyah and Balad, and the biggest refugee crisis in the Middle East since the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.

What we should learn

The third consideration lies in the lessons that should be drawn from this disaster.
The first is that in any such future scenario the House of Commons vote must be taken, not on the very eve of war when with 45,000 British troops already deployed in the field it was virtually impossible to draw back, but rather at a much earlier stage when war was first being seriously contemplated, and in addition at that stage the documentation purporting to justify war must be fully disclosed to the House before the vote.
The second lesson is that Blair’s power and wilfulness brazenly overrode normal democratic procedures in a manner that must never be allowed to recur:
  • He made the commitment to go to war at Bush’s Crawford ranch ten months beforehand without any prior consultation with anybody else.
  • He regularly told Parliament right up to the very start of the war that no decision had been taken, when clearly an unstoppable momentum had already deliberately been built up.
  • He leant heavily on his Attorney General between 7th and 17th of March to induce him to change his warning that the war could not be legally justified.
On 15 February he ignored and dismissed the biggest protest demonstration in Britain’s history involving up to 2 million members of the public marching against the war. According to Meyer, Britain’s ambassador to the US, Blair was even rung up by Bush to suggest he could “sit out the war” while the Pentagon’s Donald Rumsfeld was happy to go in alone, but Blair was obsessive about seeing it through.
In an interview in December 2009 he was asked: “If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?to which he replied “I would still have thought it right to remove him” (i.e. Saddam). To that end he even colluded with what his own head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, said in July 2002, 8 months before the war, that “intelligence and facts were being fixed round the policy”.
It is that background of the contumacious wilfulness and high-handedness of a Prime Minister dragging this country virtually single-handedly into war that makes it the duty of this House to set down the inviolable conditions to prevent any such catastrophe ever happening again. That must at the very least embrace unquestionable compliance with UN Resolutions, a clear and unwhipped vote of the Commons long before any envisaged hostilities, and full disclosure of all relevant evidence before that vote.
This is based on the speech made in the House of Commons debate on the Iraq war yesterday.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Dahr Jamail reports

Iraq's invisible refugee crisis
Al Jazeera reports (May 12th): According to UNHCR figures, there are currently 450,000 Iraqis in Jordan.
But what there aren't figures for, is a growing influx of Iraqis fleeing the increasing violence wracking Iraq.
"Most everyone in my city in Iraq are now hoping to leave," a man from Iraq's western al-Anbar province, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

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.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

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.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Oil workers on the march

Ten years after the occupation of Iraq, trade unions are fighting back, reports Mike Phipps

On April 16, over a thousand workers from the Basra oilfields converged on the head quarters of the Southern Oil Company. They came to demand unpaid bonuses, the upgrading of temporary workers to permanent status and other elementary rights. A tent city was set up - the workers are digging for a long haul.

This protest came despite the prosecution of Hassan Juma, President of the Federation of Oil Unions in Iraq, who has been  charged by the Ministry of Oil for allegedly organising strikes. The court case has been repeatedly postponed, however, due to the inability of the oil companies to present a shred of evidence.

The union’s campaign began in mid-February against the practices of major multinational oil companies in the region, including BP. It quickly turned into a fierce battle with the Iraqi Government that threw its security and intelligence apparatuses against the workers.

Some of the unpaid bonuses go back years. When the mass demonstration converged on the Company headquarters, the general manager came out  and informed the angry protesters that he had met with the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Minister of Oil Al Shahristani, who authorised him to release 50% of the accumulated production bonuses from 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Union leaders were more sceptical. They declared that they would see if the Government would keep its word before demobilising. Iraq exports about 80% of its oil through Basra's oil fields and the workers’ conditions, including in the multinational firms, are no better than in Saddam Hussein’s time.

Hassan Juma faces a possible jail sentence of up to five years under a 1987 law banning public sector employees from organising protests or strikes that could harm the economy. This is one of the few pieces of Saddam Hussein-era legislation that American authorities left on the books after the 2003 takeover. Juma accuses the Government of “overriding the Iraqi constitution, which gave the right to protest and strike, and which acknowledges the right of any citizen to express his opinion in a civilized manner, provided there is no damage to public property.”

Iraq's oil unions have positioned themselves as a guardian of Iraq's oil on behalf of the Iraqi people. In March 2007, Juma helped organise a prospective strike against an oil law that some workers judged as too generous to foreign companies. It was his union that insisted no oil law be signed, while the occupation was still ongoing.

Oil, probably the central reason for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, remains a vital part of Iraqi identity. The civil society campaign against the oil law the multinationals wanted led to its being voted down by the Iraqi Parliament in 2007. The agreement eventually signed fell far short of the companies’ demands.

US Labor Against the War is calling on all supporters to sign a letter calling on the Iraqi Government to drop the charges against Hassan Juma. Please see https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2488/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1270876

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Daily life

The deadliest war for journalists
Al-Jazeera reports (April 11th): The invasion and subsequent nine-year occupation of Iraq claimed the lives of a record number of journalists. It was undisputedly the deadliest war for journalists in recorded history.
Disturbingly, more journalists were murdered in targeted killings in Iraq than died in combat-related circumstances, according to the group Committee to Protect Journalists.
CPJ research shows that "at least 150 journalists and 54 media support workers were killed in Iraq from the US-led invasion in March 2003 to the declared end of the war in December 2011."
Iraq executes 7 convicts over terror charges
Xinhua reports (April 7th): The Iraqi Ministry of Justice announced that it has executed seven convicted prisoners over terror charges.
"The executions were carried out today by hanging for the seven terrorists in accordance with Article 4 from the anti-terrorism Law," the ministry said in a statement.
Iraq struggles to solve electricity crisis
BBC reports (April 12th): Thick clusters of electric wires hang low from tilted wooden poles, winding their way through Baghdad's alleyways to distribute privately generated electrical power.
It is one of the most common scenes across Iraq's urban landscapes and seems to reflect much of what is wrong with the country's electricity sector - crumbling infrastructure, unreliable services, and a tangled web of bureaucracy and corruption.
‘US illegally obtained and kept thousands of Iraq’s cultural treasures’
Russia Today reports (April 9th): One of the gravest casualties of the 10-year US-led war in Iraq is the destruction of the country’s cultural heritage, Iraqi archaeologist and architect Ihsan Fathi told RT.
On top of thousands of looted or illegally obtained cultural artifacts during the war, billions of dollars have also been transferred out of “Iraq’s Central banks to US without any paper trail.”
“I’m sure that everything that was stored in the Central and other banks was sent to the US without any documentation and now is kept in archives,” Fathi said. “Huge amounts of documents representing historical importance that cannot be assigned a monetary value were taken by the US.”