OVER 10,000 Shia and Sunni Muslims marched through Baghdad on Monday to oppose the US occupation. US snipers overlooked the demonstration from rooftops as protesters chanted against the new US governor in Iraq, Paul Bremer, and his plans for a delayed Iraqi government in the future.
A sign of the tensions the occupation has thrown up between rival groups in Iraq came the same day in Kirkuk, the oil-rich city in the north of the country. Clashes between Arab and Kurdish fighters left ten people dead.
AN INDEPENDENT organisation, Iraq Body Count, has put the number of dead from the US bombing and invasion at between 4,065 and 5,223 civilians. The figure comes from meticulous checks of casualty reports. The actual number of dead is likely to be far greater as Iraq Body Count use a highly conservative method of counting the casualties.
Their single largest entry – between 1,482 and 2,009 dead – comes from the 19 Baghdad hospitals most likely to receive the dead and injured in the capital, according to the Red Crescent. This was during the period 19 March to 9 April.
THE US and Britain have left a deadly legacy in Iraq. Cluster bombs are still maiming and killing children. The US has still not reconnected the water, sewerage and electricity supplies it bombed during the war, which is endangering the health of thousands of families. The charity UNICEF brings in 67 tankers of water via Kuwait every day.
These service less than 10 percent of Iraq’s population. Some 40 percent of Basra in southern Iraq still have no water. The World Health Organisation has already warned about major illnesses like cholera. It has declared an outbreak in southern Iraq.
Kenny Gluck of Medecins Sans Frontieres says, ‘The health system is in such disarray that healthcare staff have lost the capacity to deal with even common problems.’
He condemned the coalition forces, saying, ‘They haven’t even bothered to provide hospitals with what they need to keep functioning.’
DUST FROM depleted uranium munitions means civilians will be dying for many years to come. The US and Britain dropped up to 2,000 tons of depleted uranium on Iraq. This is three times the amount used in the first Gulf War. This toxic heavy metal is used in shells and missiles and can contaminate water and food supplies with radioactivity for years.
This death and destruction in Iraq was necessary, we were told, because Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). But Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, admitted last week that evidence of this may never be found.
This was the last desperate excuse Bush and Blair came up with to justify their war. They claimed Saddam could launch chemical or biological attack in 45 minutes. Now Straw is saying it is ‘not crucially important’ to find any of the alleged WMDs.
IRAQI GOVERNOR Paul Bremer announced last Friday he was scrapping plans for a transitional government. Bremer, a protege of US war criminal Henry Kissinger, replaced the unpopular US general Jay Garner. He will report directly to the US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The US does not want to hand over government, even to the Iraqi exiles and opposition leaders it has been grooming.
US and British diplomats have ruled they will remain in charge for an indefinite period. Bremer has been forced to say that the administration is weeding out members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party from running authorities and ministries. This comes after widespread anger at US appointing Ba’ath Party members as police officers and other positions, claiming they needed their ‘expertise’. But the people the US is putting in instead are hardly popular.
About 100 bus drivers in Baghdad protested last weekend for the reinstatement of the head of their company, even though he was a Ba’ath Party member.
PHILIP Carroll, the US businessman installed to run Iraq’s oil industry, has financial links to the Fluor company. It is bidding for multi-billion dollar contracts for reconstruction work in Iraq. Fluor has teamed up with Amec, the British construction company, to bid for a £4 billion contract.
Carroll gets $1 million a year from Fluor in retirement benefits and bonuses tied to Fluor’s performance. He has begun a review of options for Iraq’s oil industry which include privatising it and opening it up to foreign investors and oil companies.
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