Iraq Theater

Iraq marshlands: tentative recovery

AP Aug. 24 reports that Iraq's southern marshlands—drained by Saddam Hussein—are showing signs of rebirth; former residents are returning, and hunting and fishing are reviving. A new U.N. report sums up the progress, saying satellite imagery shows the marshes have regained 40 percent of their former reach. However, life in the wetlands remains hard—with much poverty, little clean water and rampant sewage problems, local residents complain. Violence has kept many international aid groups from working to help restore the area. "The life is still too hard to get back to our normal life of breeding cows and buffaloes, planting and fishing," said Sabah Mushen Hussein, who left his home in the marshlands in 1993. He still works as a taxi driver in Basra to support his family.

Joint anti-war rally called for Sept. 24; Iraq's secular left betrayed

With the following pithy statement, the two monoliths of the anti-war movement in the US have agreed to cooperate on a joint demonstration in Washington next month:

The two major antiwar coalitions that have initiated and organized for a massive anti-war March on Washington for September 24 have agreed to organize a joint rally followed by a joint march. Both coalitions will organize under their own banners, slogans, and with their own literature for the September 24 demonstration. The joint rally will begin at 11:30 am at the Ellipse in the front of the White House. We urge everyone around the country to unite and come out for the largest possible anti-war demonstration on September 24.

Cindy Sheehan: Mother Courage or "extremist"?

Cindy Sheehan's brave protest encampment down the road from the Bush ranch in Crawford, TX, where the commander-in-chief is vacationing as the corpses pile up in Iraq, has succeeded in grabbing national attention in a way that countless of unimaginative anti-war rallies never have. All too predictably, this success is being met with violent harassment--including intentional desecration of the "Arlington West" cemetery activists have established, made up of hundreds of white crosses emblazed with the names of soldiers killed in Iraq (including, of course, Cindy's son Casey). Reports William Rivers Pitt in an on-the-scene Aug. 16 account for TruthOut:

Iraq detainees charge Brits with torture

An Aug. 16 AFP account, online at TruthOut, reports the claims of former Iraqi prisoners claim on that evening's BBC Newsnight that British troops abused and humiliated them in the aftermath of the US-led invasion in March 2003. Two brothers, Marhab and As'ad Zaaj-al-Saghir, said they were beaten with sticks and denied water and sleep after being arrested in Basra and taken to an internment camp. One said a soldier urinated on his head. Newsnight said the accounts were similar to numerous other claims made in a confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Iraq: new constitution threatens women

The Abu Dubai-based Information & Technology Publishing's online magazine offers an Aug. 14 story by Rhys Jones, "Wronging Iraq’s rights," that paints a dire picture of the kind of oppressive theocracy that could be enshrined by the new constitution. The Aug. 15 deadline for the new charter has now been extended. But unless sweeping changes are made, "it seems increasingly likely to mean a huge erosion of human rights for Iraq’s 13 million women."

Yanar Mohammed speaks on Iraq's pending constitution

The Committee to Defend Women's Rights in the Middle East offers this commentary from Yanar Mohammed of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI):

Yanar Mohammed: Condemn a constitution of de-humanizing women
An era of post-occupation atrocities unfolded to disclose the final chapter of human rights abuse in Iraq: A constitution of legalizing women's discrimination.

King Abdullah: family tie to Iraq

Saudi religious leaders, tribal chiefs and government officials gathered in Riyadh to formally declare their loyalty to the new monarch King Abdullah, on the heels of foreign dignitaries including French President Jacques Chirac, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, and Britain's Prince Charles. Regional Saudi leaders waited their turn to file by the new king, shake his hand, and swear their allegiance. King Abdullah made brief remarks, telling his audience that he will continue the policies of his late predecessor and half-brother King Fahd, who died Aug 1. (VOA, Aug. 3) Although this is the first formal change in the throne in 23 years, he has been the kingdom's effective ruler for 10 years. Foreign press accounts have emphasized that he is seen as a reformer, and is related by marriage to US ally King Hussein of Jordan. (AP, Aug. 1) But the Israeli security-oriented website DEBKA noted last June, when the Iraq interim regime took over, that then-Prince Abdullah has marital ties to a powerful trans-border Arab tribe that the new interim president was also a member of—and has played a critical role in Iraqi politics.


Part Two in an Unfortunately Continuing Series

by Michael I. Niman

Earlier this year the media reported on "The Salvador Option," referring to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's stated intent to train and employ Salvadoran-style death squads to hunt down and kill or "disappear" suspected Iraqi resistance fighters and their alleged supporters. Such wholesale execution of political opponents resulted in approximately 70,000 deaths in El Salvador during Ronald Reagan's reign in the White House.

Knight Ridder correspondent Yasser Salihee also covered this story. Unlike stateside journalists doing research online, Salihee was on the ground in Iraq, compiling primary data--including damning evidence about extra-judicial killings. Knight Ridder, on June 27, published Salihee's preliminary findings. Working less than a week, Salihee and another Knight Ridder journalist turned up over 30 cases of suspected extra-judicial executions by U.S.-backed Iraqi death squads.

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