No. 257, Dec.18-24, 2003

To read an article, click on the headline.

Violence rages in Iraq after
Hussein's capture

Iraqis shout anti-American slogans at US soldiers, while holding pictures of arrested Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, during a rally supporting him in Mosul, December 16, 2003.

Photo by Reuters/Ceerwan Aziz

Pro-segregation Thurmond
fathered mixed-race daughter

Mushrraf narrowly escapes
assassination attempt

It all starts locally
Group calls for boycott of Grove Prk Inn
We caught the wrong guy
AIDS activists slam new Medicare bill
The privtization of war
There are only briefs this week
Biogas - using organic waste to generate renewable fuel
Vietnam's lingering voice
Corporate media ignores US hypocrisy on war crimes
EEUU-IRAQ: Interrogando al antiguo amigo

Quote of the Week

“With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them.”

- U.S. battalion commander in Iraq,
New York TImes, December 7, 2003

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Violence rages in Iraq after Hussein's capture
Eighteen protesters killed by US troops

Compiled by Eamon Martin

Dec. 17 (AGR)— Joy at the capture of Saddam Hussein gave way to resentment towards the United States on Monday as Iraqis confronted afresh the bloodshed, shortages and soaring cost of life under US occupation.

While Washington and London were still congratulating themselves on the capture of Hussein, US troops shot dead at least 18 Iraqis protesting in the streets of three major cities in the country.

Dramatic videotape from the city of Ramadi showed unarmed supporters of Saddam Hussein being gunned down in semi-darkness as they fled from American troops after a rally of up to 750 people. Eleven of the 18 dead were killed by US soldiers in Samarra. All of the killings came during demonstrations by Sunni Muslims against the American seizure of Hussein.

Many had hoped Hussein’s capture would put an end to the Iraqi insurgency that has been carrying out escalating deadly attacks against US troops every day. Any such hope was swiftly crushed the day after, when suicide bombers killed eight Iraqi policemen and injured at least 30 civilians in two suicide bomb attacks in Baghdad.

In what may well be a clear indication that the resistance to US occupation will continue despite the capture of the former Iraqi leader, occupation security documents showed there were 30 attacks on US forces around Baghdad alone in the first 24 hours after Hussein’s incarceration.

Two car bombs were detonated outside Iraqi police stations in different parts of the city on Dec. 15. The attacks in the Husainiyah and Ameriyah neighborhoods followed a similar car bomb attack the day before in which 17 people were killed in Khalidiyah, just 12 hours after the former Iraqi leader was taken into US custody.

As mentioned before, US forces also met civil resistance on the streets. Pro-Hussein demonstrations were immediately held in several Iraqi towns, casting doubts on claims by the US-led occupation that the people of Iraq universally welcomed his arrest.

In Tikrit, 10 miles from where Hussein was captured, about 700 people rallied in the town center chanting “Saddam is in our hearts, Saddam is in our blood.” The US army later sent hundreds of troops and dozens of tanks through the center of the town to calm locals whom 122 Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Steven Russell described as “uppity”. Police had earlier fired in the air to disperse a protest by 250 girl students in the tense city.

In Fallujah, troops killed another two Iraqis on Monday night, police and journalists said, after pro-Hussein demonstrators sacked regional government offices, forcing police to flee.

The pair were shot inside a car, said Iraqi police Lieutenant Hamid Ali Bardi.

After attacking the government building, Iraqi demonstrators broke up furniture, computers, air conditioning units, and destroyed several documents. They then set all of the wreckage alight in a huge bonfire outside, journalists said. Two large pictures of Hussein and Iraqi flags were hung from the top of the building.

United States: more sovereignty = more violence

After Hussein’s capture, US President George W. Bush predicted that there would be continuing violence. “The terrorists in Iraq remain dangerous. The work of our coalition remains difficult and will require further sacrifice,” he said at a press conference in Washington.

“We expect to see an increase in violence as we move forward towards sovereignty,” Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top US commander in Iraq, said in a frank assessment this week echoed by Bush and L. Paul Bremer III, the occupation’s administrator.

Bush warned that catching Hussein would not end attacks by people who do not “accept the rise of liberty in the heart of the Middle East,” implying a pledge for a better life many Iraqis say Bush is failing to keep.

Bush said he doubts that Saddam Hussein will have much reliable information to share about the resistance inside Iraq, or about the existence of those elusive weapons of mass destruction, the given reason for the US-led invasion in March. Bush described his defeated adversary as “a deceiver, a liar, a torturer and a murderer.”

So far Hussein has denied under interrogation that his government had links with international terrorism, and has repeated his assertion that the alleged weapons of mass destruction do not exist.

Bush said Tuesday that Hussein deserves the “ultimate penalty” but it will be up to the people of Iraq to decide whether he should be executed.

Iran meanwhile headed a chorus of voices demanding Hussein be tried before an international court.

An international court “should determine who equipped this dictator to disrupt our region and impose three big crises,” an Iranian government spokesman said, referring to Hussein’s invasion of Iran, Kuwait, and then this year’s US invasion of Iraq itself.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians died in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, a conflict in which the United States, Britain, France, and as well as a number of key Arab states, backed Iraq when it invaded its neighbor.

“It’s great that he’s caught, but it wasn’t him who screwed up the petrol and the electricity and everything else so badly; so now a canister of gas that was 250 dinars costs 4,000, if you can get one,” said Ghazi, a 52-year-old dentist, from his car as he waited to buy gasoline with hundreds of other drivers in Baghdad.

Other drivers echoed the complaints of chronic fuel shortages in a country with the world’s second-largest oil reserves, as well as of their treatment at the hands of troops who have killed civilians.

“The Americans promised freedom and prosperity; what’s this? Go up to their headquarters, at one of those checkpoints where they point their guns at you, and tell them that you hate them as much as Saddam, and see what they do to you,” said Mohammad Saleh, 39, a building contractor.

“The only difference is that Saddam would kill you in private, where the Americans will kill you in public,” he said.

“The Americans can think what they want, but Saddam was not a symbol for us,” said Hamjed Abdullah who is studying to be an imam. “We are fighting for our country and our religion. We are not fighting for Saddam.”

Abdullah was speaking at the Garden of Paradise Martyrs’ cemetery on the grounds of Baghdad’s Abu Hanifa Mosque, an area of stiff opposition to foreign presence in Iraq.

“It is the same whether Saddam is alive or dead,” said cemetery caretaker Abdel Hadi Jasem, 57. “The resistance will continue bombing their [US] tanks and their headquarters. We must kick them out.”

Iraqi protesters oust appointed governor

Last week, Iraqi demonstrators in Hilla converged on the US-installed provincial governor’s office on Dec. 7 with banners, sleeping mats, cooking pots and a simple demand: Iskander Jawad Witwit should quit.

After three days and nights of continuous protests, Witwit did just that. But the demonstrators have refused to budge.

As soon as Witwit resigned, the local representative of the US occupation authority appointed a former Iraqi air force officer as acting governor. To the protesters, that was unacceptable. The new governor, they insisted, should be chosen not by an American but by Iraqis —through an election.

“Yes, yes for elections!” shouted the protesters, a collection of students, clerics and middle-aged professionals whose ranks swelled to more than 1,000 on Dec. 11. “No, no to appointment!”

The protesters have pledged to continue their sit-in outside the governor’s office — they have erected tents and dug latrines — until their demand is met.

“President George Bush promised us democracy,” said Kadhim Abbas, the owner of a carpet factory, who brought three dozen employees to the protest. “How can you have democracy without elections?”

Sources: Agence France-Presse, Associated Press, Independent (UK), Los Angeles Times, Reuters, Washington Post

Pro-segregation Thurmond fathered
mixed-race daughter

By Rupert Cornwell

Washington, DC, Dec. 15— After a lifetime of silence, a retired teacher in Los Angeles has confirmed that she is the illegitimate mixed-race daughter of Strom Thurmond — the former South Carolina senator who for decades led the segregationist movement in the American south.

On Wednesday, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, now 78 years old, will make an official announcement about her secret past in Columbia, the capital of her father’s home state. In doing so she will confirm a story that had long swirled around Thurmond, who died aged 100 last June just five months after retiring as the longest-serving senator in American history.

To the very end of his career he was as famous for his eye for the ladies as for any legislative achievement.

Until now Washington-Williams has denied the rumors, insisting that she and Thurmond were merely “friends.” Despite recent money problems - she received intermittent financial help from the former senator but declared personal bankruptcy in 2001 - she insists her motive in going public is not to seek money from the Thurmond estate. Most of Thurmond’s fortune has been divided between his three surviving children from his second marriage. “I want to bring closure to this,” she told The Washington Post. “This is part of history.”

Washington-Williams was born in October 1925, the daughter of Essie Butler, then a 16-year-old who did cleaning work at the Thurmond family home in Edgefield, South Carolina. At the time the young Strom, then 22, was a teacher and a high school sports coach.

At the age of six months, Essie Mae was taken by her aunt to live with relatives in a suburb of Philadelphia.

At 16 she met her father for the first time when she returned to Edgefield to see her mother, who was dying of an incurable kidney disease. Essie Mae’s mother insisted she meet Thurmond, by then a prominent local lawyer and state senator, and took Essie to see him in his office.

The meeting lasted around 20 minutes. He called her “a very lovely daughter,” and Washington-Williams was equally delighted. “I was very happy. I knew I had a father somewhere, and it was wonderful to meet him,” she said.

At the time Thurmond was a racial progressive who favored greater educational opportunity for black people, and who sought to prosecute whites who carried out lynchings. But in 1948 he changed political course, running for president on a “Dixiecrat” program, backing segregation and carrying four Deep South states.

In 1957, he conducted a 24-hour filibuster, still the longest in Senate history, against a civil rights bill. And in the mid-1960s, he left the Democratic party in protest against President Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights program and became a Republican.

The secret of Thurmond’s liaison remained intact despite regular visits by Ms Washington-Williams to the US capital, where she met her father in his Senate office. At the end of each trip he would give her money, and in 1998 she sent him a Father’s Day card, receiving a personally-signed thank-you note in return.

While Thurmond was alive she denied all suggestions that the two were any more than family friends. Her motive, she told the Post, was to protect Thurmond’s political career and spare herself and her own four children from embarrassment. But now Thurmond is dead, the story has emerged - a 20th-century equivalent of the alleged relationship between Thomas Jefferson, the third US president and author of the Declaration of Independence, and his slave girl Sally Hemmings. Washington-Williams confirmed through her lawyer at the weekend that she is prepared to take a DNA test to prove her claims.

Source: Independent (UK)

Mushrraf narrowly escapes assassination attempt

By Phil Reeves

Dec. 15— Pakistani authorities on Dec. 14 were investigating whether the country’s military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf, was the target of an assassination attempt after a bomb detonated on a road minutes after his motorcade passed.

The explosion happened about a mile from the Islamabad International Airport as the president was returning home after a visit to the southern city of Karachi. Witnesses said the blast occurred at a bridge close to a military compound. Sheharyar Khan, whose car was stopped at a roadblock shortly afterwards, said, “As the president’s motorcade passed, a huge explosion blew up the bridge.”

A military spokesman, Maj Gen Shaukat Sultan, said Musharraf was “safe and sound.” He said it was a “terrorist act,” but only an investigation would determine whether it was aimed at the Pakistani leader.

However, another official confirmed that the president, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, was the target of the bomb. An Interior Ministry official told the Associated Press: “Definitely, definitely, it was meant for President Musharraf.”

Police and soldiers cordoned off and searched the area. There was a large crater in the road where the bomb exploded.

Musharraf has long been considered at risk of attack, despite the strength of support he has from Pakistan’s military and intelligence services. He has angered Pakistan’s militant Islamist groups by backing the United States after the 11 September terrorist attacks, for which he was rewarded with substantial financial aid from abroad. But that also made him many enemies at home, especially among the religious militant groups.

He has led a nationwide hunt for al-Qaida suspects that has resulted in the capture of hundreds of guerrillas, many of whom have been handed over to the US. They include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected planner of the Sept. 11 attacks who was caught in Rawalpindi earlier this year. The hunt is continuing for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, believed by some to be hiding near the Afghan-Pakistan border.

There have been at least two prior attempts to kill the Pakistani leader. In October a court convicted three Islamic militants for attempting to assassinate him in Karachi last year, handing them 10-year jail terms. The militants belonged to al-Almi faction of Harkat-ul Mujahideen, a group also accused of planning a suicide attack last year outside the US consulate in Karachi which killed 12 Pakistanis.

Yesterday’s developments were watched closely in neighboring India. Relations between India and Musharraf reached a low point last year, when the countries massed their armies along the border, but tensions have eased in recent months.

Talat Masood, a former senior defense official, said it was too early to say who was behind yesterday’s attack, but the most likely suspects were extremist religious forces opposed to Musharraf’s policy on Afghanistan and his efforts to reform Islamic schools that have become hotbeds of radicalism.

Masood said: “I think these are the forces who want to eliminate him.”

The explosion happened on the same day that Indonesia’s President, Megawati Sukar-noputri, arrived in Pakistan on an official visit; she is to meet with Musharraf today. Pakistan and Indonesia are the world’s two largest Muslim nations. Pakistan has been ruled by its military for more than half of its 56 years. Musharraf held legislative elections in Pakistan last year, but remains in charge of the country, having amended the constitution before the vote to give him the power to dismiss parliament and the prime minister.

In 1999, the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif refused to allow an aircraft Musharraf was on to land; the military then seized control of the country and arrested Sharif.

Source: Independent (UK)