Occupation watch
May/June 2004

Al Jazeera journalist reports seeing abuse of children
ITV (Independent Television, U.K.) May 7 2004-- The US military has said it will investigate claims by a former inmate of Abu Ghraib prison that a girl as young as 12 was stripped and beaten by military personnel.

Suhaib al-Baz, a journalist for the al-Jazeera television network, claims to have been tortured at the prison, based west of Baghdad, while held there for 54 days.

Mr al-Baz was arrested when reporting clashes between insurgents and coalition forces in November.

He said: "They brought a 12-year-old girl into our cellblock late at night. Her brother was a prisoner in the other cells.

"She was naked and screaming and calling out to him as they beat her. Her brother was helpless and could only hear her cries. This affected all of us because she was just a child.

The allegations cannot be verified independently but Mr al-Baz maintains psychological and physical violence were commonplace in the jail.

He also claims that a father and his 15-year-old son were tortured in front of his cell.

He said: "They made the son carry two jerry cans full of water. An American soldier had a stick and when he stopped, he would beat him.

"He collapsed so they stripped him and poured cold water over him. They brought a man who was wearing a hood. They pulled it off. The son was shocked to see it was his father and collapsed.

"When he recovered, he now saw his father dressed in women's underwear and the Americans laughing at him.

Mr al-Baz claims the guards at the prison were keen to take photographs of the abuse and turned it into a competition.

"They were enjoying taking photographs of the torture. There was a daily competition to see who could take the most gruesome picture.

"The winner's photo would be stuck on a wall and also put on their laptop computers as a screensaver.

"I had a good opinion of the Americans but since my time in prison, I've changed my mind. In Iraq we still have no freedom or democracy. They are so cruel to us."

The International Committee of the Red Cross has said Iraqis held by US forces have been subjected to systematic degrading treatment, sometimes close to torture, that may have been officially condoned. ...

Full story at: http://www.itv.com/news/623337.html

Published on Tuesday, April 13, 2004 by the Mehr News Agency (Tehran, Iran)
BASRA - Fifty days after the first reports that the U.S. forces were unloading weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in southern Iraq, new reports about the movement of these weapons have been disclosed.

Sources in Iraq speculate that occupation forces are using the recent unrest in Iraq to divert attention from their surreptitious shipments of WMD into the country. An Iraqi source close to the Basra Governor's Office told the MNA that new information shows that a large part of the WMD, which was secretly brought to southern and western Iraq over the past month, are in containers falsely labeled as containers of the Maeresk shipping company and some consignments bearing the labels of organizations such as the Red Cross or the USAID in order to disguise them as relief shipments.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that Iraqi officials including forces loyal to the Iraqi Governing Council stationed in southern Iraq have been forbidden from inspecting or supervising the transportation of these consignments. He went on to say that the occupation forces have ordered Iraqi officials to forward any questions on the issue to the coalition forces. Even the officials of the international relief organizations have informed the Iraqi officials that they would only accept responsibility for relief shipments which have been registered and managed by their organizations.

The Iraqi source also confirmed the report about suspicious trucks with fake Saudi and Jordanian license plates entering Iraq at night last week, stressing that the Saudi and Jordanian border guards did not attempt to inspect the trucks but simply delivered them to the U.S. and British forces stationed on Iraq's borders. However, the source expressed ignorance whether the governments of Saudi Arabia and Jordan were aware of such movements.

A professor of physics at Baghdad University also told the MNA correspondent that a group of his colleagues who are highly specialized in military, chemical and biological fields have been either bribed or threatened during the last weeks to provide written information on what they know about various programs and research centers and the possible storage of WMD equipment.

The professor also said these people have been openly asked to confirm or deny the existence of research or related WMD equipment. A large number of these scientists, who are believed to be under the surveillance of U.S. intelligence operatives, have claimed that if they refuse to comply with this request, they may be killed or arrested on charges of concealing the truth if these weapons are found by the Bush administration in the future.

He said that the Iraqi scientists believe their lives would be in danger if they decline to cooperate with the occupation forces, especially when they recall that senior U.S. officer Michael Peterson once said, "Iraqi scientists are at any case a threat to the U.S. administration, whether they talk or not."

A source close to the Iraqi Governing Council said, "In the meantime, many suspect containers disguised as fuel supplies have been moved about by some units of the U.S. special forces. The move has been carried out under heavy security measures. Also, there are unofficial reports that the containers held biological and bacteriological toxins in liquid form. It is possible that the news about the discovery of the WMDs would be announced later." He also said that such mixtures had been used by the Saddam regime in the 1990s. ...
©2004 Mehr News Agency

Editor of US-funded Iraqi paper quits
Lee Keath, Associated Press
BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 4, 2004 - The head of a U.S.-funded Iraqi newspaper quit and said Monday he was taking almost his entire staff with him because of American interference in the publication.

On a front-page editorial of the Al-Sabah newspaper, editor-in-chief Ismail Zayer said he and his staff were "celebrating the end of a nightmare we have suffered from for months ... We want independence. They (the Americans) refuse."

Al-Sabah was set up by U.S. officials with funding from the Pentagon soon after the fall of Saddam Hussein last year. Since its first issue in July, many Iraqis have considered it the mouthpiece of the U.S.-led coalition, along with the U.S.-funded television station Al-Iraqiya.

Zayer said almost the entire staff left the paper along with him and that they were launching a new paper called Al-Sabah Al-Jedid ("The New Morning"), which would begin publishing Tuesday.

Zayer had sought to break Al-Sabah away from the Iraqi Media Network, which groups the paper, Al-Iraqiya and a number of radio station and is run by Harris Inc., a Florida-based communications company that won a $96 million Pentagon contract in January to develop the media.

"We informed (Zayer) that the paper would remain part of the IMN," said Tom Hausman of Harris' corporate communications. "He made the decision to resign."

Hausman said Al-Sabah would continue publishing on Tuesday with a new staff.

"We had a project to create a free media in Iraq," Zayer said of the founding of Al-Sabah. "They are trying to control us. We are being suffocated."

Zayer accused Harris of interfering in the paper's workings, including trying to stop some of its advertising and speaking to reporters about articles.

Among the ads that he said Harris tried to prevent was advertisement from a new political organization called "the Iraqi Republican Group." The ad ran in Monday's issue - the last put together by Zayer's staff.

The ad complained of the "griefs of occupation" and called on Iraqi elite to rally "to preserve our nation from destruction." Zayer said he was told by Harris that the ad was "too political."

Why were people in Falluja angry?
Rahul Mahajan
Baghdad, Iraq, April 8, 2004--[Excerpts]...We're being told a convenient and self-serving story about [the events in Falluja]. In that story, a few barbaric "isolated extremists" from the "Saddamist stronghold" of Falluja killed four contractors who were guarding food convoys in an act of unprovoked lawlessness. Moqtada al-Sadr is fighting the U.S. forces right now because, in the words of George Bush, he decided that "rather than allow democracy to flourish, he's going to exercise force."...

In fact, during the war, Falluja was not a hotbed of resistance. Its turn to resistance started on April 28, when U.S. troops opened fire on a group of 100 to 200 peaceful protesters, killing 15. They claimed they were returning gunfire, but Human Rights Watch investigated and found that the bullet holes in the area were inconsistent with that story -- and, furthermore, every Iraqi witness maintained that the crowd was unarmed. Two days later, another three protesters were killed.

These incidents caused many people in the area to join the resistance, forming their own groups ... Violence back and forth and frequent collective punishment measures levied on the town quickly turned it into a place seething with anger against the occupation -- to an even greater degree than other places.

The most recent incident, in which four mercenaries from Blackwater Security, a company formed by ex-Navy Seals (Blackwater people are performing many of the same functions as soldiers in Iraq and do get involved in combat), did not arise in a vacuum. In fact, just the week before, U.S. Marines had mounted heavy raids on Falluja, killing at least seven civilians, including a cameraman. Residents spoke of this as the reason for the attack on the Blackwater people and the gruesome spectacle that followed.

Rahul Mahajan publishes the weblog Empire Notes and wrote this from Baghdad.

Meanwhile ... Cuba
May 6, 2004 - U.S. Rep. José E. Serrano (D-NY) today criticized a new Bush plan to use military aircraft to broadcast the U.S. government-run stations Radio Marti and TV Marti into Cuba.

"This is a terrible policy. Entangling the military in our international broadcasting operations sets a dangerous precedent for military action and jeopardizes the credibility of our broadcasts. How would we feel if Havana began using military aircraft to broadcast into the United States?" Serrano said.

Bush formally announced the plan today, which aims to overcome Cuban jamming of Radio Marti and TV Marti. Both stations, which are produced by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), have been jammed since 1990.

Serrano also raised concern about the dangers of placing the aircraft in harm's way. "There is a real possibility that we will escalate military tensions with Cuba and place the lives of the American crews at risk. But then again, maybe a military crisis is exactly the excuse that this warmongering Administration really wants," Serrano said.

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