Sunday, February 05, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

The Al-Jazeera bureau in Afghanistan was bombed by U.S. warplanes in 2001. During the invasion of Iraq, U.S. tanks shelled Al-Jazeera journalists in a Basra hotel. Shortly after, its office in Baghdad was hit by a missile from a U.S. warplane; correspondent Tareq Ayoub was killed. Al-Jazeera reporters have been detained by U.S. forces and placed in prisons in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
It has weathered verbal attacks from U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and from government officials in many countries in the Middle East..
"I can definitively say that what Al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable," Rumsfeld told reporters Apr.. 15, 2004 after Al-Jazeera showed the bodies of women and children killed by U.S. bombs in Fallujah.
U.S. President George W. Bush attempted to convince British Prime Minister Tony Blair to agree to bomb the headquarters of Al-Jazeera in Doha in Qatar in November that year, according to a report in Britain's Daily Mirror citing "top secret" minutes of the meeting where this was discussed.
At an Al-Jazeera forum on the media in Doha this week, IPS asked Samir Khader, programme editor for Al-Jazeera, if the report of a plan to attack their headquarters had affected their work. "Do you think that because of such a memo we have to stop working," he said. "Of course we can't. We have to do our job. If the memo was true and George Bush wanted to bomb Jazeera, what can we do? They can do that, and the whole world will know."
Khader added, "It's not that because a journalist is threatened he will not do his job."
Asked if Al-Jazeera received an explanation on the report, Khader said, "No. The official spokesman of the British government said there was nothing in that memo that referred to Al-Jazeera, and Tony Blair also said that in the House of Commons. But in answering other enquiries from British nationals, the same spokesman recognised that this memo exists, and there is a reference to Al-Jazeera. So there is a contradiction in their own statements.."

The above, noted by Doug, is from Dahr Jamail's "Al-Jazeera Succeeding Under Pressure" (IPS). Will the memo see the light of the day? The one where Bully Boy wants Al Jazeera attacked? Who knows? But the occupation continues as do the Bully Boy's lies. It's Sunday, where we take a look at reporting from outside the US mainstream media.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale).

The war drags on. The so-called coalition continues to splinter as it does. Olive notes "Japan to pull out of Iraq within months: report" (AFP via Australia's ABC):

Japan will pull its troops out of Iraq within the next few months, a top government minister was quoted as saying Sunday, in the first such indication of a timeframe for withdrawal.
"The Ground Self-Defence Force (GSDF) will be withdrawn within months," Kyodo News quoted Assistant Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kyoji Yanagisawa as saying in a speech in Tokyo.
"The exit from Iraq is this year's biggest theme," he added, without offering a more specific timetable.
The report said Tokyo would decide when to pull the troops out depending on the movements of British and Australian forces in the region and the general security situation.
Kyodo quoted other unnamed government sources as saying Japan's 600-odd troops would start pulling from the relatively stable southern Iraqi city of Samawa by the end of May.

Gareth notes Francis Elliott, Raymond Whitaker and Marie Woolf's "Home by May: 2,000 British troops to withdraw from Iraq" (The Independent of London):

Britain plans to begin withdrawing 2,000 troops from Iraq, starting this spring, according to a secret blueprint agreed with allies.
The pull-out plan would see an initial 500 British troops depart from southern Iraq by the end of May, a Whitehall source confirmed. By the end of the year, under a schedule revealed at a meeting of military commanders and diplomats last month, Britain intends to withdraw up to 2,000 soldiers - a quarter of its total force in Iraq.

The plan there is to focus British troops on Afghanistan, another war the Bully Boy started that went to hell but few notice. As Japan and England prepare to exit, the fatalities on the ground continue. Iraqis? No official count ever released. Which says a great deal about just how "humanitarian" Bully Boy's spreading of "democracy" was from the start. American military fatalities in Iraq for the month of January? 62. For the month thus far? 10. Since the start of the invasion? 2252.

How long before elected leaders join together to insist we bring the troops home? Who knows. But Pru steers us to Saad N Jawad's "Iraq: an occupation in crisis" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The US is still caught between a rock and a hard place in Iraq, writes Saad N Jawad, and recent elections have only made matters worse
The US can draw little comfort from the recent elections in Iraq. The poll itself is mired in controversy, with both the winners and losers accusing each other of ballot rigging and political manipulation.
Even the winning list, the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), is unhappy about the results. It is the biggest party in the new parliament, but has fallen short of an overall majority.
The UIA is an alliance of Shia parties. Moqtada al-Sadr's group is the largest among them -- and they are fierce opponents of the occupation. The other groups in the alliance, such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, are influenced by Iran.
The politicians championed by the US have been the biggest losers in the elections. The US has made many serious mistakes in Iraq, but one of their biggest was to assume that the people living in Iraq were too incompetent to perform their national duty, while all the exiles were competent.
The experience of the last few years has shown that these exile politicians are incapable of doing anything beyond helping themselves. The economy is deteriorating, politics is deteriorating, social life is deteriorating and security is non-existent.
So the US has been forced to look for new allies among the parties that have popular support. But this is now backfiring.
The UIA claims that the US has deliberately blocked its majority in order to force it to include pro?US politicians in government -- even though these politicians were rejected at the polls.
The deep suspicion of the US has led the Shia list to turn to Iran for support. During the elections the US military said it had intercepted two trucks with ballot papers trying to cross into the country from Iran.
No evidence was produced for this claim, but it seems to confirm the Shia allegations that the US was determined to block the UIA.
So the US is in a dilemma.The occupation has failed and everyone in the region considers the US to be vulnerable. Anti-US voices in the Iranian government have grown louder. Everyone in Iraq accepts that the US is in an impossible situation and, even though it still controls much of Iraqi politics, all the parties are working on the assumption that the US is losing influence.
Now we have the strange spectacle of the US trying to win favour with the Sunni Muslims in order to counterbalance the growth of Shia parties. There are even rumours that the US has been trying to approach sections of the resistance--but the resistance is in no mood to negotiate.
The political process championed by the US has not delivered, and meanwhile opposition to the occupation continues to grow. The resistance is still strong and getting stronger--the number of military operations against the US has increased and the numbers joining the resistance has grown.
The resistance has also developed and acquired new weapons. But resistance is still not unified, and differences over ideology and strategy means it cannot, as yet, drive out the US occupation.
Despite the fact that the majority of Iraqis voted on sectarian or narrow national lines, the last elections witnessed a slight shift away from sectarianism.
In the January 2005 elections the sectarian parties were the big winners, but now that is not the case. There is a slow but gradual move towards a national movement.
The dangers and consequences of sectarian politics -- the massacres, kidnappings and so on -- have alerted ordinary Iraqis to the fact that this road will lead to the disintegration of our country.
So even inside the UIA there are those who are opposed to the break up of Iraq and who want to make common cause with the Sunni parties.
There are several possible outcomes of these elections. The first is that all the parties will have to negotiate to form a government of national unity. But this will be very difficult to achieve.
The other possibility is the creation of an emergency cabinet made up of technocrats, with the parliament reduced to a monitoring role.
Finally there is the prospect of a coalition government between the Shia list and some Sunni or Kurdish parties. The US would like a coalition that would give their candidates some control, but these politicians are tarnished by failure.
On every front the US occupation is in trouble, and far from relieving their problems, the elections have only deepened them.

Saad N Jawad is professor of political science at the University of Baghdad. He is a member of the Iraqi National Foundation Congress
© Copyright Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original and leave this notice in place.

More reality comes via Kyle who notes "Iraqi Sunnis Threaten Civil Disobedience Over Abuses" (

Iraqi Sunnis threatened Wednesday, February 1, a campaign of civil disobedience if their concerns about ongoing arrests and security sweeps against them are not met.
"(The coalition) has presented ten demands, which if they are not met, will result in a campaign of civil disobedience throughout the entire country," said Tariq Al-Hashemi, a leader of the Sunni National Concord Front, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported.
Iraqi Sunnis have long complained of campaign of revenge, crackdown, and assassination against members of their community being carried out by Shiite militias with links to security services.
Sunni leaders have specifically accused the Shiite-dominant interior ministry of taking a leading role in severe abuses, including the targeting of Sunnis by "death squads".

Due to problems with Blogger/Blogspot on Friday, after several hours of attempting to post here with no success, we did an indymedia highlight focused on England's losses. Any member who did not receive that in their inbox, let me know. (And thanks to Kat and Wally for their help on that.) But England did reach a milestone and Pru notes this report on the protests "Vigils around Britain over death of 100th British soldier" (The Socialist Worker):

People took part in vigils and protests across Britain this week after the tragic death of the 100th British soldier in Iraq. The anti-war protesters demanded that British troops are withdrawn immediately from Iraq. In many places protesters read out the names of the British and Iraqi dead.
Over 150 people gathered outside parliament on Tuesday evening after the announcement of the death of the 100th British soldier. Tony Benn and Respect MP George Galloway read out the names of the dead. A number of students and school students joined the vigil.

On Wednesday over 100 people gathered in Manchester's Peace Gardens. After the naming of the dead ceremony protesters walked the short route to the city's war cenotaph to lay a wreath of 100 white poppies and to hold a minute's silence.
This event and the death of the 100th British soldier in Iraq has been a big local news event. The local BBC radio sent journalists to the city centre during the day to do vox pop interviews with the public on the issue of Iraq. They admitted that they could find no one in support of continuing the British presence in Iraq.
Other vigils took place in Stockport, Bolton and Bury.
Richard Searle
Around 50 people attended a vigil in Queen Street, Cardiff on Wednesday.
Local Stop the War Coalition publicity officer Adam Johannes said, "What we want to see is no more British troops dying in this illegal occupation. Tony Blair should take the advice of opinion polls and bring the troops home."
Labour councillor Ray Davies, who served in the King's Own Regiment, in the 1940s, said, "I'm totally against this war because we've got Saddam on trial for killing 1,500 Iraqi people, but we've already killed 100.000 Iraqi people. This occupation must stop."
Des Mannay
Clapham Junction
About 20 people turned up for a vigil outside Clapham Junction station in south London on Wednesday.
At first we were handing out leaflets in silence, with little success.
But that changed when we started to use a megaphone for the naming the dead ceremony, alternating the names of UK soldiers and Iraqi civilians.
We got a good response from commuters, and after an hour we'd given out 1,000 leaflets.
Ben Windsor
Anti-war campaigners held a candlelit vigil in St Mary's Square in the centre of Watford. The vigil was attended by two local councillors, the Liberal Democrat Maria Green and Steve Rackett of the Green Party.
Jon Gamble
People in Broadstairs, Kent, gathered at the War memorial on Wednesday.
Group member Christine Tongue said, "The hundred dead British soldiers are a terrible loss, but of course this is on top of the dead soldiers from other countries and the many thousands of Iraqi dead.
"There are not even official figures for the numbers of Iraqis killed in the war.
"The forces of occupation are part of the problem not part of the solution. They should leave now."
Some 20 protesters gathered outside Southend's Victoria station for a candlelight vigil. Hundreds of leaflets were distributed to office workers and students.
We had a very positive response -- many people were strongly in our favour. The deaths have obviously touched a nerve with a lot of people who are sick of the endless war and the inevitable casualties.
Tim Sneller
Students from Plymouth University Stop the War group held a peace vigil by the main entrance to the campus. Activists organised the making of 100 white crosses marked with the names of the dead soldiers. Many students signed petitions for the troops to be withdrawn, and for the student union to fund transport to the national demonstration in March.
A group of new students were moved enough to join the StWC members as we marched through the city with the 100 crosses, and plaques remembering the Iraqi dead, and placed them around the city's war memorial.
It was clear that the message resonated strongly in a city with such close military connections, and the general sentiment expressed by the passers by was that the troops should be withdrawn, and this unnecessary war stopped.
Alison Smith
Fife Stop the War Coalition held a one hour vigil in Kirkcaldy.
A group of 18 individuals gathered to remember the dead of the Iraq war.
One hundred candles were lit and members of the group read out the names of the 100 British soldiers as well as the names of 100 Iraqi civilians.
"We are all deeply saddened by the death of another young soldier in Iraq," said Carlo Morelli of Fife Stop the War Coalition. "It was particularly poignant to hear each name read aloud and deeply saddening to realise that the Iraqi names only represented a small fraction of the civilians killed."
Jan Benvie, treasurer of the group, spent six weeks last summer in Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams.
"This war has ravaged an already fragile country." said Jan "Iraq was once prosperous, but Saddam's war against Iran, his invasion of Kuwait and years of sanctions have destroyed the infrastructure. Everyone I spoke to wanted the foreign troops to leave.
"Our continued presence only prolongs the suffering both of families in this country and of people in Iraq."
Some 60 people attended a vigil on the steps of Coventry Cathedral. Their grief and anger was visible as the names of 100 dead British soldiers and 100 dead Iraqis were read out.
The overall message from the many present who signed up for the national demo on 18 March was a continued determination to protest until the occupation is ended and the slaughter stopped.
Dave Goodfield
Around 100 people gathered in Liverpool on Wednesday. Liverpudlians marked more unnecessary bloodshed for oil and corporate profits.
"Brave soldiers should not die for Shell, Exxon Mobil and the Carlyle Group," said Mark Holt, chairman of the Merseyside Stop The War Coalition. "It's a joke that the Blair administration refuses to mark the 100th death fearing they’ll be doing 'the terrorists dirty work'. The Bush/Blair war has created thousands of new terrorists. If Blair won’t remember the deaths then we will."
Mark Henzel, Carly Neill, Martin Timpson, and Father Fitzgerald of St. Michael's church read out the names of the dead soldiers, as well as 100 names of killed Iraqis.
Local clergy, CND members, Iraqi citizens and working class Scousers all lit candles for the fallen troops. Bob Wareing, MP for Liverpool West Derby, sent his support.
Stuart Brown
Over 50 people protested outside Hackney Town Hall in east London. A full council meeting was in session and the Stop the War vigil joined demonstrators already protesting against the New Labour council's privatisation and cuts plans.
Demonstrators had no difficulty relating the terrible cost of the occupation in lives and money to New Labour's endless cuts and sell offs in Britain.
Ken Olende
Around 70 peace activists gathered outside the guildhall in Cambridge to light candles and read out the names of British soldiers and Iraqis killed in the War and occupation of Iraq.
Dan Swain, of the Cambridge University student union executive said in a personal capacity, "We want to send a very clear message to Tony Blair that the war was wrong and based on false information and so is the occupation. We don't want to see any more British soldiers die."
Tom Woodcock
Around 30 people attended the candle lit vigil outside the Forum in the centre of Norwich outside the offices of BBC radio Norfolk and Archant’s Eastern Daily Press. Two Stop the War Coalition members alternatively read names of British and Iraqi casualties punctuated by intervals of silence.
Earlier interviews and notification of the event had been broadcast on Radio Broadland and Radio Norfolk along with coverage in the local Evening News.
Around 30 people braved the freezing cold on Wednesday night to join a lively protest outside Southampton Civic Centre. Protesters held a banner calling for "Troops Out Now" and led anti-war chants demanding an end to the occupation.
Steve Squibbs
Up to 100 people, including school students, students and local workers, stretched a line of 100 coffin-shaped placards right across the steps of the fake imperial facade of Nottingham's council house.
Each placard, edged in black, showed the name of one of the British service personnel killed so far in Iraq. Speakers from the local Stop the War Coalition pointed out the names of Lance Corporal Thomas Keys and Fusilier Gordon Gentle, whose relatives have done so much for Military Families Against the War.
We emphasised that although we were marking the 100th British death, we were also there to remember the 100,000 Iraqi dead, and the 2,200 US dead. We wanted an end to the occupation and an end to the killing. The names of the 100 were read.
In less than an hour passers by in the Old Market Square took virtually every one of our 1,000 leaflets, which explained why we were there, why we wanted the troops out now, and urged them to join the national demonstration in London on 18 March.
We have decided to repeat the event this Saturday morning.
John Shemeld
A hundred and sixty five protesters gathered in Bristol city centre on Wednesday. There were a wide range of impresive banners, with slogans including, "Unelected state assassin", and "Rich man's war, poor man's blood: How many lives per gallon?".
The spirit of the demonstration was very much one of seeing the accumulated Iraqi dead and the dead British soldiers as common victims of Bush and Blair's law-breaking and gangsterism in the MIddle East -- a war against the interests of ordinary people. Various people took part in the reading out of the names of alternate British and Iraqi dead through the megaphone.
This was interspersed by the singing of various rousing protest songs by the local Red Notes socialist choir.
Despite the freezing weather almost 100 people attended the vigil in Leeds Town Centre on Wednesday. They included Greg Mulholland, the Leeds North West Lib Dem MP.
People walked in silence behind two banners -- one with the names of the 100 dead British soldiers and the other with the statement, "100,000 Iraqis dead -- stop the slaughter, end the occupation". White flowers were laid on the cenotaph.
Greg Mulholland, Leeds Coalition Against the War, Respect, the Grand Mosque, the Labour Party and a representative from World Peace all spoke. People took leaflets away with a determination to make sure 18 March was as big as possible.
Sally Kincaid, Co-chair Leeds Coalition Against the War
Some 40 council workers, students, representatives of Dundee Trades Council, the Scottish Socialist Party, World Development Movement and Dundee Stop the War Coalition attended the vigil in Dundee on Wednesday.
Reverend Eric Cram spoke in memory of the dead, and his words were followed by a minute’s silence.
Peter Allison
Three hundred people braved the bitter cold on Wednesday evening to fill Glasgow's Suspension Bridge, crossing the River Clyde, to show their solidarity with military families speaking out against the occupation of Iraq and solidarity with the Iraqi people.
The turnout showed once again our movement is alive and kicking, although the mood was a sombre one. Beginning with a minutes silence the protestors started what was a very powerful and moving event.
Rose Gentle and her daughter Pamela began the naming of the dead. They were joined by a local Labour councillor, a Glasgow actor and actress, a reverend from the Church of Scotland, Palestinian human rights activists, members of Glasgow Stop the War, and Glasgow University Stop the War, SCND, Islamic Relief, Campaign Against an Attack on Iran, G8 Alternatives, SSP, plus members of the EIS & NUJ trade unions.
Raymie Kiernan
Around 50-60 peace protesters gathered in Brighton on Wednesday for a candlelit vigil.
It was a good mix of people, including newcomers who hadn't been to other protests. A group of 10 to 15 children from the left wing Woodcraft Folk movement attended with their group leaders.
The names of 100 Iraqi dead were read out by Omar Deghayes' brother while a peace activist read out the names of the 100 British soldiers.
Speakers included representatives from the Brighton and Hove Muslim Forum and the Save Omar Deghayes Campaign. They all spoke very movingly, making it clear that we mourn all the unnecessary deaths in this war and are determined to continue in our opposition to the illegal occupation of Iraq.
Cath Senker
Around 150 people came the vigil on Wednesday. Susan Smith, whose son Phillip Hewitt died in the war last July spoke of her anger at her son's death, those of other soldiers, and all the mothers just like her in Iraq. Salma Yaqoob, chair of Birmingham Stop the War, also spoke.
The rally had a good contingent of students.
Helen Salmon
Thirty people marched to thge war memorial in Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square on Wednesday afternoon. We read out statements from Rose Gentle, Reg Keys and Cindy Sheehan who have all lost sons in the war.
Ex-servicemen laid a wreath at the war memorial and we then picketed the army recruitment office.
John Molyneux
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