HUNDREDS OF people have been shot dead in Iraq over the last three weeks. They are the victims of both US patrols and of rival gangs who have exploited the power vacuum created by the occupying powers. The UN children’s agency UNICEF also warns that the humanitarian crisis in the country is getting worse – with continuing blackouts, untreated sewage pouring into drinking water, food shortages and epidemics.
Alex Renton, Oxfam’s spokesperson in Iraq, says the US is ‘in breach of its obligations under the Geneva convention’ to prevent looting, particularly of medical supplies.
An Willens of Medecins Sans Frontieres says, ‘The Americans say now they could not have foreseen the problem of looting medical supplies. ‘But we had been telling them about this risk since just after the war started.’ Dr Hamas Assad Walid works on the paediatric ward of Khadessia Hospital in Thawra City, a shanty town of four million Shia Muslims on the outskirts of Baghdad.
He says, ‘We have been seeing some 1,000 patients a day and taking in about 60 to 70 a day – turning away hundreds of children.’ The hospital is full. The first children are now dying from dehydration and gastroenteritis, and from the first cases of jaundice and suspected cholera. While children are starved of medicine in Iraq, Western companies are queuing up for a feeding frenzy of reconstruction contracts.
The deals will be paid for from Iraq’s oil industry, which is now in the hands of the US and Britain.
THE US is illegally holding thousands of Iraqi prisoners of war and denying them access to human rights officials. The International Committee of the Red Cross says it has been denied access to as many as 3,000 prisoners held at compounds close to Baghdad international airport.
A camera operator for the France 3 TV channel was taken there as a prisoner. Leo Nicolian has papers signed by a lieutenant Brad Fisher acknowledging he was wrongly arrested. Nicolian was held in a converted tennis court along with 50 other prisoners. On his way out he said he passed a bigger encampment and saw hundreds of men hooded, with their arms tied behind their backs.
THE OCCUPATION is such a disaster that even some of those who were forced out of their homes under Saddam Hussein for opposing his regime say rule by the US is at least as bad.
Mother of six Sabrir Hassan Ismael has now been forced to take shelter in the abandoned Khan Bani Saad prison. It is filled with families who are victims, not of the war, but of the US-ruled peace. ‘Look at me,’ she told journalists. ‘Look at my family. We live in prison. We can’t buy food because we don’t have money. We have no gas to cook. We can’t sleep because it’s very hot. There are huge insects that bite us. All night my daughters cry and they can’t sleep. I live without hope. ‘ Mrs Sabrir is a member of the Arab Saraefien tribe.
Its opposition to Saddam Hussein led to large numbers of them being deported from the south of Iraq to the north to ‘Arabise’ areas the Kurds had been driven from. Mrs Sabrir welcomed the US invasion. But two days after the fall of Saddam Kurdish paramilitaries entered her town and forced all 15,000 Arabs to leave within 48 hours.
The tribe’s chief says, ‘The Americans promised us food and medicine and freedom. But we have lost our homes, our land, our crops.’
US COMMANDERS have admitted they may build an execution chamber at their Guantanamo Bay prison camp. The US is building a new facility, Camp Delta, to replace its notorious Camp X-Ray. Both are on the US-occupied part of Cuba.
The plans include a possible execution chamber admits Major General Geoffrey Miller, in charge of suspects already held in Camp Delta. Under the plans the new camp could house special military tribunals able to hand out the death sentence. The tribunals will not have juries.
There will be no appeals to higher courts. The only recourse prisoners will have is a review conducted by the US defence secretary, right wing hawk Donald Rumsfeld.
Protest at George Galloway’s suspension from the Labour Party 9-10am, Tuesday 10 June outside Labour’s NEC meeting at Labour Party headquarters, Old Queen Street, London SW1 (St James’s Park/Westminster tube)
Solidarity boosts NEU union members
News in brief from workers' struggles
Outsourced cleaners are fighting back