INDIAN TRUCK drivers who were offered lucrative contracts in Iraq have come away with a low opinion of US troops.
Harnek Singh returned to India with 18 other truckers. He says, “We took food for [the US army] in 60-foot trucks.
“But once inside the army camps we were held captive at gunpoint by American soldiers and not allowed to leave. Their treatment was horrible.
“As far as their bravery is concerned, the less said the better. When a convoy was attacked, the escort vehicles would simply speed off in different directions and leave the hapless truck drivers to fend for themselves.”
Tarlok Singh told journalists about one attack on a convoy: “As the convoy of 18 trucks moved from Kuwait to Tikrit via Baghdad, we came under heavy fire soon after we had passed the Iraqi capital.
“A glass splinter entered the eye of Abdul Shakoor of Kolkata, who was driving the first truck.
“Another driver, Aroop Singh, was hit in both thighs and was bleeding, but did not stop.
“The three escort vehicles in the front simply sped off, and the one at the back took a U-turn and sped back to Baghdad.
“We sped on, touching speeds of 135 kilometres per hour. The bodies of the trucks had gaping holes all over.
“It was only after we had covered six kilometres that the firing finally stopped. Once we reached Tikrit, we got Aroop admitted to a hospital. And 15 days later he was taken back to Kuwait, but only after we raised a hue and cry about it.”
Russia has US cheats in its sights
A BIZARRE international patent row has broken out.
The US has for many years attacked Russia as being a source of pirated software, films and music.
But now the Russian government has responded by criticising the US for pirating one of the most famous of all Russian exports—the Kalashnikov rifle.
The Kalashnikov, or AK-47, is one of the world’s most effective and deadly weapons.
During the Cold War huge numbers were pumped out of works in Izhmash and Izhevsk to arm the Russia army and its allies.
The US army quickly realised the value of the Kalashnikov.
It has four things that work in its favour— it is cheap, it is incredibly reliable, it can be used in all climates and it requires little training.
So the rifle became the weapon of choice for armies and liberation movements across the Third World during the Cold War.
Today the US has found a new use for the Kalashnikov. It supplies the weapons to the troops patrolling Afghanistan and Iraq on its behalf.
But most of the rifles are produced as cheap “pirate” versions of the gun.
Many of the guns are imported from Eastern Europe, or from Jordan, for as little as $60 each.
Ashcroft’s got a little list
NUNS, PERFORMANCE artists and environmental activists beware. These dangerous groups have all been on the receiving end of the US’s “anti-terrorism” Patriot Act.
US attorney general John Ashcroft recently went before Congress claiming the act had led to 310 suspected terrorists being charged over the last year.
There is, he said, “a mountain of evidence that the Patriot Act continues to save lives”.
But this mountain of evidence includes several incidents that seem rather less than lethal.
Cases included in Ashcroft’s figures include:
Blair’s singin’ the blues
Organisers of a forthcoming exhibition asked politicians to choose songs to go with their pictures.
Tony Blair chose Robert Johnson’s Crossroad Blues, which goes, “Standin’ at the crossroads, tried to flag a ride. Didn’t nobody seem to know me, everybody pass me by. Lord, baby I’m sinkin’ down.”
Don’t offend B-52 David
A GUARDIAN reader got a shock when he tried to sign up for an online “webchat” with columnist David Aaronovitch. He found his chosen user name, “exlabourvoter”, was rejected. It was “deemed offensive”.
In this week - 185 years ago - 1819
TENS OF thousands of workers demanding political reform gathered at St Peter’s Fields, Manchester. Most workers had no right to vote.
Magistrates from the city claimed the rally was the start of a revolution, and unleashed the yeomanry on the unarmed and peaceful crowd, butchering 11 people and leaving over 400 wounded.
The massacre became known as “Peterloo”, a mocking reference to the battle of Waterloo. The poet Shelley penned “The Mask of Anarchy” in response.
Figure it out - $1.9 billion
is the amount of Iraqi money paid to Halliburton and other US contractors. US firms charge ten times more than Iraqi firms for reconstruction work.