Remembering Rachel Corrie

Remembering Rachel Corrie: “Rachel is the American woman who was crushed to death by an Israeli D-9 bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on March 16, 2003. The bulldozer, like all the bulldozers used by the Israeli army, is manufactured by Caterpillar–an American company–and sold to the Israeli government as part of its military aid package. Rachel was defending the home of a Palestinian physician, with just her body and her defiance, when the driver put the lever into gear and drove forward and then backward, crushing Rachel beneath the blade not once, but twice. Immediately, allegations of tunnels under the home were used to malign Rachel’s extraordinary courage. However, no tunnels were ever located. These facts did not stop the Israeli army from demolishing this house two months ago, along with dozens of other homes in Rafah, in the latest wave of home demolitions carried out by US-built Caterpillar bulldozers.

Following Rachel’s death, many of us expected the US government to investigate what happened and to work to bring those responsible to justice. After all, just a day after Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping in Pakistan, FBI agents were dispatched to Karachi to help with that investigation. But the US government remains silent, as neither the FBI nor the State Department nor Congress has mandated an independent investigation.”

See the link for the full story.

Iraq Body Count

“Change the channel”
– Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt’s advice to Iraqis who see TV images of innocent civilians killed by coalition troops.

The website Iraqi Body Count is keeping a record of Civilians reported killed by military intervention in Iraq.

Todays count: 8,865 – 10,715.

Afghanistan was something similar – I’ll have to see if I can track that down.
I’ll get the World Trade Center attack numbers to – I think there is a bit of disparity.

The Sharon-Bush Axis of Occupation

In “The Nation” today:
The Sharon-Bush Axis of Occupation: “Sharon will give Bush’s declining popularity a boost when he helps the US President reframe our current war against the people of Iraq as a struggle against terrorism. For thirty-seven years Israeli governments have used that approach to justify their own occupation of the West Bank and Gaza–and it has worked politically to convince many Israelis to ignore the evidence that it is the occupation that causes the terror and not vice versa.

President Bush may hope that Americans can be convinced that the United States should follow Israel’s example and respond to both terror and legitimate resistance with heightened repression. Israel has just assassinated the leading sheik associated with Hamas terrorism, and the Sharon government has refined a technique of collective punishment so that over the years it has punished millions of Palestinians for the acts of a handful of terrorists. While Sharon’s policies have actually generated an increase in the number of Israelis hurt by terror, the impression of ‘standing tough’ has worked to retain his popularity among many Israelis who have become convinced that Israel has every right to hold on to the West Bank. If the strategy works for Sharon, it might work for Bush’s adventure in Iraq as well–if Bush can find a way to convince Americans that the Israeli strategy America seems to be following in Iraq is precisely the way to stand strong against terror.”

Siege Redefines Conflict for Iraqis in Capital

Anthony Shadid detailed in the Washington Post today, the US Marine siege of Fallujah has produced a powerful backlash in Baghdad and the rest of Iraq. Hospitals report as many as 600 Iraqi civilians have been killed by US troops so far, while media accounts this morning suggest an escalation of violence with US F-15 jet fighters firing cannons at unidentified targets in the city.

Iraq Under the U.S. Thumb

I was thinking back to this article I mentioned earlier in this blog, and the comment about Order 39:

Iraq Under the U.S. Thumb: “‘ The laws include Mr. Bremer’s Order 39, which drastically changes Iraq’s previous constitution to allow foreign companies to own 100 per cent of Iraqi assets (except in natural resources), and to take 100 per cent of their profits out of the country, paving the way for massive privatizations.”

When you think of this in conjunction with the fact that British foreign aid is now targeted at countries willing to sell off their assets to big business, it makes all this World Bank, foreign aid stuff that I always thought was great looks like a sham.

These superpower funded aid agencies just seem to be a cover for taking over the assets of poor countries. Block their trade, wait for them to go bust, and then go in and clean up.

Fury Ignites Solidarity in Iraq

Published on Friday, April 9, 2004 by the Los Angeles Times

BAGHDAD – April 9, 2003, was the day this city fell to U.S. forces. One year later, it is rising up against them.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld claims that the resistance is just a few “thugs, gangs and terrorists.” This is dangerous, wishful thinking. The war against the occupation is now being fought out in the open, by regular people defending their homes — an Iraqi intifada.

“They stole our playground,” an 8-year-old boy in Sadr City told me this week, pointing at six tanks parked in a soccer field next to a rusty jungle gym. The field is a precious bit of green in an area of Baghdad that is otherwise a swamp of raw sewage and uncollected garbage.

Sadr City has seen little of Iraq’s multibillion-dollar “reconstruction,” which is partly why Muqtader Sadr and his Al Mahdi army have so much support here. Before U.S. occupation chief L. Paul Bremer III provoked Sadr into an armed conflict by shutting down his newspaper and arresting and killing his deputies, the Al Mahdi army was not fighting coalition forces; it was doing their job for them.

After all, in the year it has controlled Baghdad, the Coalition Provisional Authority still hasn’t managed to get the traffic lights working or to provide the most basic security for civilians. So in Sadr City, Sadr’s so-called “outlaw militia” can be seen engaged in such subversive activities as directing traffic and guarding factories. It was Bremer who created Iraq’s security vacuum; Sadr simply filled it.

But as the June 30 “handover” to Iraqi control approaches, Bremer now sees Sadr and the Al Mahdi as a threat that must be eliminated — at any cost to the the communities that have grown to depend on them. Which is why stolen playgrounds were only the start of what I saw in Sadr City this week. At Al Thawra Hospital, I met Raad Daier, an ambulance driver with a bullet in his abdomen, one of 12 shots he says were fired at his ambulance from a U.S. Humvee. At the time of the attack, according to hospital officials, he was carrying six people injured by U.S. forces, including a pregnant woman who had been shot in the stomach and lost her baby.

I saw charred cars, which dozens of eyewitnesses said had been hit by U.S. missiles, and I confirmed with hospitals that their drivers had been burned alive. I also visited Block 37 of the Chuadir District, a row of houses where every door was riddled with holes. Residents said U.S. tanks drove down their street firing into homes. Five people were killed, including Murtada Muhammad, age 4.

And Thursday, I saw something that I feared more than any of this: a copy of the Koran with a bullet hole through it. It was lying in the ruins of what was Sadr’s headquarters in Sadr City. A few hours earlier, witnesses said, U.S. tanks broke down the walls of the center after two guided missiles pierced its roof. The worst damage, however, was done by hand. Clerics at the Sadr office said soldiers entered the building and shredded photographs of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the top Shiite cleric in Iraq. When I arrived at the destroyed center, the floor was covered with torn religious texts, including copies of the Koran that had been ripped and shot through with bullets. And it did not escape the notice of the Shiites here that hours earlier, U.S. soldiers had bombed a Sunni mosque in Fallouja.

For months, the White House has been making ominous predictions of a civil war breaking out between the majority Shiites, who believe it’s their turn to rule Iraq, and the minority Sunnis, who want to hold onto the privileges they amassed under Saddam Hussein. But this week, the opposite appeared to have taken place. Both Sunnis and Shiites have seen their homes attacked and their religious sites desecrated. Up against a shared enemy, they are beginning to bury ancient rivalries and join forces against the occupation. Instead of a civil war, they are on the verge of building a common front. You could see it at the mosques in Sadr City on Thursday: Thousands of Shiites lined up to donate blood destined for Sunnis hurt in the attacks in Fallouja. “We should thank Paul Bremer,” Salih Ali told me. “He has finally united Iraq. Against him.”

Naomi Klein is author of “Fences and Windows: Dispatches From the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate” (Picador, 2002).

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

Iraq Under the U.S. Thumb

Recent Articles by Naomi Kline

Iraq Under the U.S. Thumb
The White House Wants to Make the Iraqis Seem to Be Out of Control, Incapable of Governing Without US Direction”

….On March 19, an anti-occupation march designed as a show of unity between Sunni and Shia Muslims was much smaller than organizers had hoped, and no wonder: Less than three weeks ago, 70 people were killed in a horrific attack on the same Shia mosque where demonstrators were meant to gather. To underscore the threat, U.S. occupation chief Paul Bremer chose the day of the planned protests to predict that more such major attacks were likely “when you have masses of Shia together.” Those who dared to show up despite the warnings glanced around nervously, while men armed with Kalashnikovs lined the streets and rooftops, looking for signs of trouble…..

…It now looks almost certain that Iraq’s first “sovereign” government will be created by a process even less democratic than the abandoned caucus system: The U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council will simply be expanded in size.

This body is so discredited here that it is called the “governed council,” but widespread objections have so far been drowned out by the nightly attacks.

Mr. Bremer has also managed to use the terrorist attacks to make sure that Iraq’s next government will be able to do nothing but implement his orders. Earlier this month, his plan to push through an interim constitution seemed doomed, with several members of the Governing Council refusing to sign the contentious document. But after the devastating attacks on Shia religious sites on March 2, Iraqi leaders came under pressure to sign the document as a show of national unity and stability.

The interim constitution, signed two weeks ago, states that, “The laws, regulations, orders, and directives issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority . . . shall remain in force.” The laws include Mr. Bremer’s Order 39, which drastically changes Iraq’s previous constitution to allow foreign companies to own 100 per cent of Iraqi assets (except in natural resources), and to take 100 per cent of their profits out of the country, paving the way for massive privatizations.

Defying Mr. Bremer’s orders won’t be an option after the “handover.” The interim constitution clearly states that the only way these laws can be changed is by a three-fourths vote by the Iraqi transitional government. According to the same constitution, that body won’t exist until elections are held in early 2005.

In other words, on June 30, the occupation won’t end, it will simply be outsourced to a group of hand-picked Iraqi politicians with no democratic mandate or sovereign power. With its new Iraqi face, the government will be free from the ugly perception that Iraq’s national assets are being auctioned off by foreigners, not to mention being unencumbered by input from Iraqi voters who might have ideas of their own. ….

The U.S. is Sabotaging Stability in Iraq

….make no mistake: This is not the “civil war” that Washington has been predicting will break out between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. Rather, it is a war provoked by the U.S. occupation authority and waged by its forces against the growing number of Shiites who support Muqtada al-Sadr…..

….The trouble began when Mr. Bremer closed down Mr. al-Sadr’s newspaper last week, sparking a wave of peaceful demonstrations. On Saturday, Mr. Bremer raised the stakes further by sending coalition forces to surround Mr. al-Sadr’s house near Najaf and arrest his communications officer.

Predictably, the arrest sparked immediate demonstrations in Baghdad, which the Iraqi army responded to by opening fire and allegedly killing three people. It was these deaths that provoked yesterday’s bloody demonstrations.

At the end of the day on Sunday, Mr. al-Sadr issued a statement calling on his supporters to stop staging demonstrations “because your enemy prefers terrorism and detests that way of expressing opinion” and instead urged them to employ unnamed “other ways” to resist the occupation, a statement many interpret as a call to arms.

On the surface, this chain of events is mystifying. With the so-called Sunni triangle in flames after the gruesome Fallujah attacks, why is Mr. Bremer pushing the comparatively calm Shia south into battle? Here’s one possible answer: Washington has given up on its plans to hand over power to an interim Iraqi government on June 30, and is now creating the chaos it needs to declare the handover impossible.

A continued occupation will be bad news for George Bush on the campaign trail, but not as bad as if the handover happens and the country erupts, an increasingly likely scenario given the widespread rejection of the legitimacy of the interim constitution and the U.S.-appointed government.

It’s a plan that might make sense in meetings in Washington, but here in Baghdad it looks like pure madness. By sending the new Iraqi army to fire on the people it is supposed to be protecting, Mr. Bremer has destroyed what slim hope it had of gaining credibility with an already highly mistrustful population. On Sunday, before storming the unarmed demonstrators, the soldiers could be seen pulling on ski masks, so they wouldn’t be recognized when they returned to their neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, Mr. al-Sadr is having his hero status amplified by the hour. …