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No. 220, Apr. 3-9, 2003

Scores of civilians slaughtered in Iraq
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An Iraqi man cries over the bodies of his children in the town of Hilla, some 110 kms south of Baghdad, after US troops bombed a residential quarter Apr. 1, 2003.
Reuters/Akram Saleh

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Women In Black arrested in
Vance monument shutdown
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Women in Black, shown above on Mar. 28, 2003, have been holding a silent vigil for peace at the Vance Monument at Pack Square in Asheville every Friday for the last 16 months. Photo by Sebastian Collett

Hunger alive in a wealthy nation
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“We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world, a nation of bastards and bullies who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us.”

—Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom Of Fea


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Scores of civilians slaughtered in Iraq

Compiled by Eamon Martin

Apr. 3 (AGR)— Just two weeks into the war on Iraq and top US military planners went on the defensive against widespread criticism that the invasion wasn’t going according to plan. Eight thousand bombs had already been dropped since Mar. 20 and Pentagon officials announced that 120,000 reinforcements were being summoned to assist the 90,000 US-led troops now inside the country.

On the ground, military commanders were forced to concede that they had grossly underestimated Iraqi resentment and resistance to their presence. US president George W. Bush’s insistence that the war is for Iraqi “liberation” is now at odds with what is quickly transforming into a patriotic Iraqi uprising against a widely perceived act of “colonialism”. This week, the escalated, round-the-clock bombing of several Iraqi cities, and reports of mounting civilian slaughter seemed to only exacerbate this view.

US aircraft hit a Red Crescent maternity hospital in Baghdad, the city’s trade fair, and other civilian buildings on Tuesday, Apr. 2, killing several people and wounding at least 25, hospital sources and a Reuters witness said.

The attacks caught motorists by surprise as they ventured out during a lull in the bombing. At least five cars were crushed and their drivers burned to death inside.

Patients and at least three doctors and nurses working at the hospital were among those wounded.

At the same time, forty-eight more civilians, including children, were killed and 310 wounded in US-British bombings around the southern province of Babylon near Hilla. The deaths brought to 73 the number of Iraqi civilians who have died under allied bombings just within two days.

Terrifying film of women and children later emerged after Reuters and the Associated Press were permitted by Iraqi authorities to take their cameras into the town. Their pictures – the first by Western news agencies from the Iraqi side of the battlefront – showed babies cut in half and children with amputation wounds, apparently caused by American shellfire and cluster bombs.

At Basra’s largest hospital, a little girl of perhaps four is seen being brought into the operating room on a trolley, staring at a heap of her own intestines spilling out of her stomach. Other harrowing scenes show the partially decapitated body of a little girl. Another small girl was lying on a stretcher with her brain and left ear missing. Much of the videotape was too terrible to show on television and the agencies’ Baghdad editors felt able to send only a few minutes of a 21-minute tape that included a father holding out pieces of his baby and screaming “cowards, cowards’’ into the camera. Two lorryloads of bodies, including women in flowered dresses, could be seen outside the Hilla hospital.

One woman, Alia Mukhtaff, is seen lying wounded on a bed; she lost six of her children and her husband in the attacks. Another man is seen with an arm missing, and a second man, Majeed Djelil, whose wife and two of his children were killed, can be seen sitting next to his third and surviving child, whose foot is missing. The mortuary of the hospital, a butcher’s shop of chopped up corpses, is seen briefly in the tape.

On Monday, edgy US troops fired on a van which failed to stop at a desert checkpoint near Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, only to find it was full of women and children. US Central Command in Qatar said seven of the 13 women and children in the van were killed and two wounded. A Washington Post correspondent near the scene said 10 people were killed.

In the village of Janabiyah, bloodied school books and children’s shoes lie amidst animal carcasses on the road leading to a farm where two missiles fired by coalition warplanes on Saturday night caught five sleeping families. The raid left 20 people dead - eleven of them children, seven women and two men. “Five children were turned into human torches in this house because of the gas cylinders inside,” one of two survivors said. A neighbor, with missile debris in his hands, said: “That is Bush’s democracy. They want us to welcome them with flowers. Look what they’ve done to our families.”

In one raid, US bombers destroyed a children’s hospital in Rutbah, according to the Associated Press.

A Central Command official said the military was ready for heavy casualties to oust Saddam Hussein. “We’re prepared to pay a very high price,” the official said. “If that means there will be a lot of casualties, then there will be a lot of casualties.”

Referring to nights in World War II “when we’d lose 1,000 people,” he added: “There will come a time maybe when things are going to be much more shocking.”

At the base camp of the Fifth Marine Regiment in Diwaniya, Sgt. Eric Schrumpf, 28,reflected on a recent mission: “We had a great day. We killed a lot of people.

“We dropped a few civilians,” Schrumpf said, “but what do you do?” To illustrate his point, Schrumpf described one instance in which he shot a female civilian because, “the chick was in the way.”

Fifty-three Americans have been reported killed, and 17 reported missing in the Iraq war so far. Britain has reported 26 deaths.

Opposition turns on US,

not Hussein

Only a couple of weeks ago, Saddam Hussein’s appearance on television triggered jeers and boos from opposition Iraqis. Not any more.

Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Kaftaro, Syria’s top Muslim religious leader, called last Thursday for suicide bombings against US and British invaders in Iraq.

“Resistance to the belligerent invaders is an obligation for all Muslims, starting with Iraq,” the mufti said in a statement.

This is the first time a senior Syrian religious leader has called for suicide attacks against US and British troops in Iraq.

Ali Jafar, editor of the Iraqi opposition newspaper ‘The Other Direction’ published in Damascus says that the story now is changed. “Any harm to Iraq will bring the people together,” Jafar said this week. “Now all Iraqis are fighting against new colonialism. The US and British troops are regarded as occupiers.”

A US marine had briefly raised an American flag over the fallen southern town of Umm Qasr, but long enough for it to be filmed and shown repeatedly on Iraqi television and other Arab channels. It is not a sight that Iraqis can forget, whether Shia or Sunni.

About 65 percent of Iraqis are Shias, but they have long been oppressed by the more powerful Sunni Muslims who dominate Iraqi politics. A Shia uprising in the south was brutally crushed by Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War in 1991.

But a café in Sayeda Zeinab on the outskirts of Damascus was the scene of unusual prayers Sunday. A group of Iraqi Shias sat praying for Saddam Hussein, and for the US to be taught a lesson.

Bush and his aides clearly believed their soldiers would be welcomed by most Iraqis, particularly Shias, that the Iraqi Army would self-destruct, and that it would be a matter of days before they “got” Saddam Hussein. British and American intelligence reports had suggested that the south, dominated by Muslim Shiites, would fall into their hands.

Instead, British forces have stopped outside Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, engaging Iraqi forces when they attack but avoiding entering the city of more than 1 million for fear of becoming trapped in urban warfare.

A suicide bomb attack - the hallmark of Islamic extremism - killed four US soldiers near the holy Muslim Shia town of Najaf south of Baghdad. The suicide bomber was a Shia.

A new solidarity is fast emerging between Syrian and Iraqi people, across any religious or national divide. About 250 volunteers from Baalbeck, near the Syrian border, left Monday to fight in Iraq against coalition forces, said Lebanese security sources in the area.

A resident of nearby Nahleh, who declined to give his name or his age, said, “I am on the list to go, I know I might die, I don’t want to kill people, but I will if I have to, to protect people like those children with their heads missing.”

The Iranian Badr Brigade with a reported strength of about 4,000 is also reportedly preparing for a proxy war against the US-British forces in northern Iraq. The brigade comprising mostly Shia dissidents was trained to wage guerrilla warfare against Iraqi forces during Iran’s war with Iraq from 1980 to 1988.

In a complete turnaround from the war with Iraq in the eighties, the Iranian government is fully backing the Hussein government against the US and British forces. The Iranian state-run media calls this a “war of hegemony” and a “war for oil.”

Last week, American tanks and other heavy armor surrounded Najaf, home to the shrine of Ali, cousin of the Prophet Muhammad and spiritual leader of the Shiite branch of Islam. A total of about 1,000 Iraqis were killed in a series of engagements during which lightly armed Iraqis in pickup trucks attacked American tanks. Some of them were simply crushed under the tracks of the M1A1 Abrams tanks.

“The Americans and even the British did not read their history,” Sabah Jawad, an Iraqi dissident who had to leave the country for opposing Saddam Hussein said. “It was a long struggle to get the British colonialists out of Iraq in 1958. Why did they think that anyone in Iraq would now want them back?”

No Iraqi can forget the consequences of the sanctions over the last 12 years for which they blame the US, he said.

Hani Lazim, another expatriate Iraqi, who has spent much of his life opposing Saddam Hussein, says, “The Americans and the British underestimated the effect that sanctions have had on the people of Iraq. When people see children die for lack of medicines, and school teachers who have to sell cigarettes on the streets, they are not going to welcome the people who brought this situation upon them.”

When the Americans come rolling into Baghdad, Ghazwan Al-Mukhtar will kill as many as he can.

“The more of those American bastards I get, the happier I will be,” says the father-of-three.

Ghazwan, 59, is no friend of the Iraqi regime.

“I loved both Britain and America, but you idiots have turned me against you,” he says. “You impose punitive sanctions on this country which bring us to our knees. And now you want us to roll out the red carpet for you - you must be joking. Saddam Hussein is no friend of mine. But when your troops come down my street I’ll be shooting at your boys all the way. But it won’t be for the president. It will be for Iraq. Now you say you are bombing us into democracy. Yet since you’ve unloaded thousands of missiles on us, I don’t feel more democratic. So you should unleash another thousand - or double that, triple that or more. Maybe then I will feel more democratic.”

In Nasiriya, US Marine Corporal Ryan Dupre explained his understanding of Iraqi liberation: “The Iraqis are sick people and we are the chemotherapy. I am starting to hate this country. Wait till I get hold of a friggin’ Iraqi. No, I won’t get hold of one. I’ll just kill him.”

Sources: Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Guardian (UK), Independent (UK), Inter Press Service, Daily Mirror (UK), New York Times, Qatar News Agency, Reuters, South African Press Agency, Sydney Morning Herald, Washington Post

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Women In Black arrested in
Vance monument shutdown

By Seán Marquis

Apr. 1 (AGR)— Ten women with Asheville Women In Black (WIB), a nonviolent peace group, were arrested on Friday, Mar. 28 for violating the city-ordered closure of Vance Monument.

“They [the city] cited public safety [for the park closure],” said Jodi Rhoden, 26, who was one of the women arrested. “But the real reason is to quash dissent.”

Rhoden said she chose to take part in the action and risk arrest “to challenge the illegal closure of a public park as well as to demonstrate my grief ... for the current war and all the wars ... under the American imperialist impulse.”

Since George W. Bush launched his war of aggression against Iraq, Vance Monument — a public park — had been a gathering place for peace and anti-war activists as well as a handful of pro-war stalwarts. On Mar. 26 the city ordered the park closed claiming reasons of “public safety” and “traffic congestion”. But with spring weather and tourists coming back to town the city may be barring free speech at the monument for more economic reasons.

According to a Mar. 27 article in the Asheville Citizen-Times, “The war demonstrations at the Vance Monument may not have had an impact on the war effort, but they were having some effect on the businesses around Pack Square.”

The Citizen-Times then quoted a restaurant manager and the owner of another restaurant — both on Pack Square — as saying that protests at the monument were a problem for their businesses.

“I have empathy with local business owners … and their ability to conduct their business,” said Anne Craig, 52, another of Friday’s arrestees.

“However,” she added, “the actions of this administration [of president George W. Bush] are so horrendous, that people of conscience are going to congregate where and when they will to bring attention to these actions. That’s part of living in a democracy.”

WIB had been meeting every Friday from 5-6pm at the monument for the last 16 months and when they found out about the park’s closure they decided to hold their weekly vigil regardless of police barricades and “No Trespassing” signs.

A crowd of between 150-200 gathered in support of nine women as they crossed the barricades, mounted the wall, and unfurled their banner.

A tenth woman joined the group on the wall after being swept up in the power and solemnity of the moment.

For some of the other women present, it was their first time as well.

Denise McClellan, 55, said, “It was the first time I ever stood with the Women In Black,” and she chose to do so because of the closing of the monument.

She added that because of all the support of passersby and motorists saying “thank you,” she felt like she was “representing people” during the vigil.

The vigil itself consisted of the ten women dressed in black standing in respectful silence.

Of the power of the moment, McClellan said, “sometimes silence makes a lot of noise.”

Rhoden also spoke specifically of the choice of silence for the WIB.

“Words are so abused in this historical period that we’re in,” she said. “Politicians lie, [the] military lies, we’re surrounded by lies and we’re surrounded by words being misused. So it seems like the most appropriate response sometimes is to say nothing … in rejection of the violence those lies represent.”

After about fifteen minutes police officers very slowly and carefully arrested each of the women. The only noise coming from the crowd for the duration of the action and arrests was a round of applause for the women after the last one was loaded onto the paddy wagon.

Craig, who has been taking part in the WIB vigil at the Vance Monument since the beginning, said, “I felt that the people gathered [in support] entered into the spirit of the Women In Black … it was an amazing experience.”

All ten were later released after being charged with second degree trespass.

McClellan felt that more people needed to get out of the comfort of their lives and address their concerns.

“This is the time for everybody to get rid of their apathy,” she said.

Women In Black is an international peace network which started in Israel in 1988 by women protesting against Israel’s Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

They wear black as a symbol of sorrow for all victims of war, for the destruction of people, nature, and the fabric of life.

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Hunger alive in a wealthy nation

By Haider Rizvi

New York, New York, Mar. 26 (IPS)— While the US government spends billions of dollars to wage war against Iraq, some 30 million people in the United States go hungry, 12 million of whom are children, says Anuradha Mittal, co-director of the California-based Institute for Food and Development Policy (IFDP).

An estimated 33 million US residents live below the poverty line, according to the most recent Census Bureau figures, which identify children, single mothers, and the elderly as most likely to face hunger.

The US poverty rate was 11.7 percent in 2001, up from 11.3 percent in the year before, with rates nearly double that among Latinos and blacks, the two ethnic minorities suffering most from hunger and poverty, given their share in the US population.

The administration of George W. Bush aims to spend up to $400 billion this year on defense, while allocating only $16 billion to welfare, says Mittal, who has spent years researching global food distribution systems.

“This is not just a war on Iraq. This is a war on the poor people in America,” according to the expert for the IFDP, an independent think-tank that advocates environmentally sustainable and socially just food systems in the world.

“They want to fund this war from cuts in domestic funding on health and children’s education,” added Mittal. “The United States has fallen short of commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human rights,” she said. “The right to food, clothing, shelter, education, health, and employment are fundamental to survival. Poverty, sickness, and illiteracy undermine human dignity as effectively as military dictatorships.

The activist points out that the US Senate has not yet ratified the International Pact on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights approved by the United Nations in 1966 and signed by the government of Jimmy Carter (1977-1981).

The Latino and black populations in the United States, the largest minorities with 37 and 36 million people, respectively, continue to suffer from economic hardships as a result of the education factor, say authors of a recent study, “Falling Behind or Moving Up,” sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California.

“Slow economic progress by Mexican Americans is a serious public policy concern,” said Jeffrey Grogger, co-author of the study, who teaches public policy at the University of California. “Finding a way to eliminate this disadvantage would go a long way toward bringing Mexican-Americans into the economic mainstream.”

According to the Census Bureau, 37 percent of households led by Latino women — mostly Mexican — remain below the poverty line.

Between 1991 and 1998, more than seven million immigrants entered the United States. Of those, about three million came from Latin America. According to the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), Mexico is the single largest sender of immigrants to the United States.

“I have been cleaning houses for the past 15 years,” said Isabel, a mother of two in her late 50s. “I want to go back to the Dominican Republic, but I can’t. I need more money. The money is here.”

Isabel and her children have no health care insurance, just like about 40 million other people in the United States, most of whom are minorities and find themselves working for minimum wage.

In a city like New York, where the immigrant population is enormous, Isabel is not alone in suffering economic hardship. There are perhaps tens of thousands of unemployed people, some of whom are living on the streets and are not even counted by the Census Bureau.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican and a billionaire, wants the city to “do more with less” and reduced the number of summer jobs for working class youth from 36,000 last year to 5,600 this year.

“Hunger leads to lost knowledge, brainpower, and productivity for our nation today and in the future,” said the Institute for Food Policy in a recent statement. “Hunger affects not only the poor children and their families, it threatens the future of the US.”

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