Every day were in Iraq, situation gets worse

In the wake of the U.S. assault on Fallujah, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Louise Arbour, called for investigation of possible violations of international laws on treatment of civilians and war prisoners in Iraq.

News reports and photos show women, old people and children among the killed and injured. Some bodies lying in the streets have been eated by stray dogs and cats, witnesses said. A father of seven told Reuters his children were sick with diarrhea and hadn’t eaten for days.

Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, who lives in Fallujah, reported on the aftermath of the U.S. assault, “Destruction was everywhere. I saw people lying dead in the streets, wounded were bleeding and there was no one to come and help them.” When U.S. soldiers started firing on houses in his neighborhood, he panicked and headed to the river to swim across to safer ground. “But I changed my mind,” he later told reporters, “after seeing U.S. helicopters firing on and killing people who tried to cross the river.” A family of five was shot dead as they tried to cross, he said.

Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions spokesperson Abdullah Muhsin said the IFTU opposes the use of military force against civilian areas like Fallujah, and called for “a far greater effort” to negotiate a peaceful end to “lawlessness, violence and imposition of … extreme fundamentalist rule” by armed groups.

“We opposed the war, invasion and occupation of our country because we knew the deadly consequences. Those who suffer are the unarmed civilian population,” Muhsin told a meeting of Britain’s biggest union, UNISON, Nov. 12.

Condemning efforts to “divide working people on the basis of their religion or nationality,” he said, “the majority of Iraqis are determined to keep Iraq together free from fanatics, fundamentalists, Saddam loyalists and foreign troops.”

The U.S. was on the defensive over a filmed report showing a Marine shooting to death an unarmed wounded Iraqi prisoner in Fallujah. “All violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law must be investigated,” the UN official said, and those responsible “must be brought to justice, be they members of the Multinational Force or insurgents.” U.S. military officials say they are investigating.

The Marine involved had been shot in the face the day before the killing, but had been returned to combat almost immediately. Now, he has been taken out of combat.

Barry Romo, a national coordinator of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, commented on the incredible pressure faced by soldiers who “are being put back in combat the day after they’re wounded, while generals are living in air-conditioned houses in the ‘Green Zone.’” Romo said that pressure is taking a toll on troops.

In a letter to President Bush before the U.S. assault on Fallujah, the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), said, “There is no question our troops have the ability to take the city, but at what cost and to what end? A year from now will Fallujah be just another graveyard in a country teeming with anti-American sentiment?” They urged Bush to “rethink the overall strategy in Iraq” and move toward “Iraqi self-determination with the help and participation of the United Nations.”

In a statement last month, Kucinich condemned the administration’s request for an additional $70 billion for the Iraq occupation, which will hit Congress when it re-convenes in January.

“The continued U.S. presence in Iraq is counterproductive,” Kucinich charged. “Every day that we are inside Iraq the situation gets progressively worse.” The additional $70 billion “to continue a failed policy” pushes the total taxpayer cost to $225 billion, the congressman said. “That is $225 billion that has not gone to our economy, schools, or health care system.”

Kevin Martin, executive director of Peace Action, said he would like to see an alternative, a “real ‘Support Our Troops’ Act.” Such a measure, he told the World, would include funds to bring our troops home safely, funds for Iraq’s reconstruction, “controlled by the Iraqi people, not by the U.S.,” and “funds for here at home.” That could pay for veterans’ care and other health and social needs.

Violence escalated this week in Mosul, Iraq’s third largest city with a population of 1.5 million, and other cities in the county’s north and center.

A leading member of the Iraqi Communist Party, who was also a member of the interim National Assembly, was ambushed and killed along with two comrades near the northern city of Kirkuk, Nov. 13. Wadhah Hassan Abdul Amir, also known as Saadoun, had joined the party in early youth, and served in the party’s underground partisan movement in Kurdistan, waging armed struggle against the Saddam Hussein dictatorship, the ICP said in a statement. His leadership in these struggles “won him the admiration and affection of the people of Kurdistan.”

A senior official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the Kurdish region’s two main parties, charged the Ba’ath Party has reconstituted itself in Mosul and is coordinating attacks against Iraqi police, government, and the city’s Kurdish and Christian minorities. “The Ba’ath Party is working to create an ethnic civil war,” the Kurdish official said.

Also this week, news media reported that kidnapped aid worker Margaret Hassan had been killed, shot in the head. Hassan, an Irish-born Iraqi citizen, had lived in Iraq for 35 years. She had opposed the U.S. occupation.

The author can be reached at suewebb@pww.org.