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Year 2005 No. 128, November 14, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Campaign for Blair’s Impeachment Renewed

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

Campaign for Blair’s Impeachment Renewed

France:
No to the State of Emergency
Paris Suburbs March for Peace

Iraq:
US Forces "Used Chemical Weapons" During Assault on City of Fallujah
"Steel curtain" in Iraq – Another US War Crime

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Campaign for Blair’s Impeachment Renewed

MPs are set to renew the campaign to impeach Tony Blair by tabling a motion to set up a House of Commons committee to examine "the conduct of ministers" both before and after the Iraq war.

The committee, comprising seven privy counsellors, would have the power to see all sensitive documents and call any British witnesses, including intelligence chiefs.

Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party were at the forefront of the move to set into motion the impeachment process at the end of last year. Now Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said his party had not supported earlier attempts to impeach the prime minister but was in no doubt that parliament should hold its own inquiry. "Information that has emerged, in particular the memos leaked to The Sunday Times, strengthen overwhelmingly the case for an inquiry into the judgments of ministers, and in particular the prime minister, in the run-up to war and thereafter," he said. The inquiry, besides focusing on the Prime Minister, would also examine the conduct of Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, Geoff Hoon, then the defence secretary, and Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general. The inquiry is also expected to look at the secret air war against Iraq that began in May 2002. This was initiated only weeks after Blair had agreed that Britain would take military action with the US to illegally overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein.

MPs organising the campaign to impeach Tony Blair have said that they believe there is enough support to force the inquiry. The impeachment process, which had previously won the support of 23 MPs, has been given fresh impetus by the scale of the government's defeat on its "anti-terror" legislation last week when 49 Labour MPs voted against the government.

Organisers say they are expecting 200 cross-party signatures, including those of former government ministers, to force the Commons to set up a Privy Council investigation that would examine in detail the case for impeachment against Blair.

SNP leader, Alex Salmond, one of the key figures in the impeachment campaign, said he now believed that the cross-party attempt to bring the government to account over the Iraq war "would become more urgent than predicted problems associated with social legislation in England and Wales". Potential backbench revolts are also predicted if Blair makes any move to update the Trident nuclear programme or tries to introduce a new era of nuclear-generated energy.

An organiser of the impeachment campaign told the reporters : "We have been promised 200 signatures and are now hopeful this process will go ahead as it should have last year. There will be a vote and an investigation will be set up. Does this have the potential to finish Tony Blair? Yes it does."

Article Index



France:

No to the State of Emergency

On November 8, 2005, a number of French associations and NGOs, including the Syndicate de la Magistrature (a left wing judges' union), the lawyers' trade union Syndicate des avocats de France, the Green and French Communist parties and the Ligue des droits de l'homme, issued a joint statement to criticise the calling of a state of emergency. We are posting the joint statement in a translation by Statewatch.

Faced with a revolt that was born out of the inequalities and discrimination in the suburbs and poor neighbourhoods, the government has just entered a new phase, extremely serious, in the securitarian escalation. Even in May 1968, when the situation was much more dramatic, no emergency law was used by the public authorities. The announcement of the state of emergency is a response to a revolt whose causes are deep-rooted and well known, solely based in the field of repression.

Beyond the symbolic reference that will foster references to the Algerian war, it is not simply a matter of the "curfew" which, in itself, falls within the logic of warfare. In fact, the government has knowingly lied. The law of 3 April 1955 authorises the prohibition of residence for "every person […] whose activity proves dangerous for public security and order", the closure of "gathering places of any nature" and the prohibition of "gatherings whose nature is to provoke or support disorder". The government has even envisaged night-time searches. Moreover, it can "adopt any measure to ensure the control of the press and of publications of any kind", and grant competence to military jurisdictions in association with ordinary judges.

Stopping the violence and re-establishing solidarity in the suburbs is a necessity. Does this imply subjecting them to emergency legislation inherited from the colonial period? One is aware of where the well known cycle that concatenates provocations and repression leads, and what results it allows to obtain. The suburbs do not need a state of exception: they desperately need justice, respect and equality.

Signatories:
Alternative Citoyenne, ATMF, CEDETIM, Comité des sans-logis, CRLDHT, Fédération syndicale unitaire, Ligue communiste révolutionnaire, Ligue des droits de l'Homme, MRAP, Parti communiste français, Syndicat des avocats de France, Syndicat de la magistrature, Union syndicale Solidaires, Les Verts.

Article Index



France:

Paris Suburbs March for Peace

Residents representing about 160 Paris suburban communities prepared for a massive peace march Friday at the Peace Wall on the Champ de Mars, near the Eiffel Tower, to call for an end to over two weeks of unrest across France.

The civic groups timed their protest to coincide with the Armistice Day holiday, marking the end of World War I, hours after the annual military parade for the commemoration.

Police tightened security in the French capital on Friday as the country began a holiday weekend, blocking off large swaths of central Paris, with trucks of riot police deployed along the Champs-Elysees and near the presidential palace. Some 715 officers were brought in from other districts, raising the full deployment to 2,220.

The unrest has declined under the state-of-emergency measures enacted Wednesday and a heavy police presence. The 15th consecutive night of violence, Thursday, saw fewer skirmishes and fewer cars burned, 463, down from 482 the previous night, police said.

The first night of violence on October 27 was touched off by youths angered over the accidental deaths of two teenagers who believed they were being chased by police. The teens hid in a power substation and were electrocuted.

The unrest quickly spread from the northeastern suburban Paris town of Clichy-sous-Bois into a nationwide wave of arson and nightly clashes between rioters armed with firebombs and police retaliating with tear gas.

President Jacques Chirac acknowledged on Thursday that France must confront the social inequalities and discrimination that has fuelled the violence, France's worst since the 1968 student-worker uprising.

"There is a need to respond strongly and rapidly to the undeniable problems faced by many residents of underprivileged neighbourhoods around our cities," Chirac told a news conference.

Finance Minister Thierry Breton said in an interview published on Friday that the government was considering relaxing restrictions on highly regulated service industries and business start-ups to help create jobs in poor suburbs.

(Prensa Latina, Paris, November 11)

Article Index



Iraq:

US Forces "Used Chemical Weapons" During Assault on City of Fallujah

Peter Popham, The Independent, November 8, 2005

Powerful new evidence emerged yesterday that the United States dropped massive quantities of white phosphorus on the Iraqi city of Fallujah during the attack on the city in November 2004, killing insurgents and civilians with the appalling burns that are the signature of this weapon.

Ever since the assault, which went unreported by any Western journalists, rumours have swirled that the Americans used chemical weapons on the city.

On 10 November last year, the Islam Online website wrote: "US troops are reportedly using chemical weapons and poisonous gas in its large-scale offensive on the Iraqi resistance bastion of Fallujah, a grim reminder of Saddam Hussein's alleged gassing of the Kurds in 1988."

The website quoted insurgent sources as saying: "The US occupation troops are gassing resistance fighters and confronting them with internationally banned chemical weapons."

In December the US government formally denied the reports, describing them as "widespread myths". "Some news accounts have claimed that US forces have used 'outlawed' phosphorus shells in Fallujah," the USinfo website said. "Phosphorus shells are not outlawed. US forces have used them very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes.

"They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night, not at enemy fighters."

But now new information has surfaced, including hideous photographs and videos and interviews with American soldiers who took part in the Fallujah attack, which provides graphic proof that phosphorus shells were widely deployed in the city as a weapon.

In a documentary to be broadcast by RAI, the Italian state broadcaster, this morning, a former American soldier who fought at Fallujah says: "I heard the order to pay attention because they were going to use white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military jargon it's known as Willy Pete.

"Phosphorus burns bodies, in fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the bone ... I saw the burned bodies of women and children. Phosphorus explodes and forms a cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 meters is done for."

Photographs on the website of RaiTG24, the broadcaster's 24-hours news channel, www.rainews24.it, show exactly what the former soldier means. Provided by the Studies Centre of Human Rights in Fallujah, dozens of high-quality, colour close-ups show bodies of Fallujah residents, some still in their beds, whose clothes remain largely intact but whose skin has been dissolved or caramelised or turned the consistency of leather by the shells.

A biologist in Fallujah, Mohamad Tareq, interviewed for the film, says: "A rain of fire fell on the city, the people struck by this multi-coloured substance started to burn, we found people dead with strange wounds, the bodies burned but the clothes intact."

The documentary, entitled Fallujah: the Hidden Massacre, also provides what it claims is clinching evidence that incendiary bombs known as Mark 77, a new, improved form of napalm, was used in the attack on Fallujah, in breach of the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons of 1980, which only allows its use against military targets.

Meanwhile, five US soldiers from the elite 75th Ranger Regiment have been charged with kicking and punching detainees in Iraq.

The news came as a suicide car bomber killed four American soldiers at a checkpoint south of Baghdad yesterday.

Article Index



Iraq:

"Steel curtain" in Iraq – Another US War Crime

By Bill Van Auken 8 November 2005, World Socialist Web Site

Once again the US military has laid siege to an Iraqi city. Dubbed "Operation Steel Curtain", the offensive launched by some 2,500 American troops and 1,000 US-trained Iraqi forces entered its third day Monday in the Euphrates River market town of Husaybah.

The town of 30,000 is a suburb of al-Qaim, which has about 150,000 residents, and is 200 miles northwest of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.

Major US media outlets – the New York Times and CNN – have their reporters embedded with the assault troops, reporting on their progress. They uniformly talk of troops battling "al Qaeda-led insurgents" and an operation designed to halt the influx of "foreign fighters" into Iraq.

As to the impact of such a military operation upon the people who live in Husaybah, the media is relatively silent. Needless to say, none of their reporters are embedded with the men, women and children facing this onslaught.

Nonetheless, there is enough in even these reports – despite their slant toward military propaganda – to establish that the Bush administration and the Pentagon are conducting another war crime against the Iraqi people.

"US forces have used Hellfire missiles and dropped 500-pound bombs on homes believed to house insurgents," CNN reported. "Marine Capt. Brendon Heatherman said troops were clearing every home in central Husaybah, looking out for homemade bombs and ‘bad guys,’" the network added

"It’s a cesspool; it’s time for this area to get cleaned up," Col. Stephen W. Davis, of the Second Marine Division, said of Husaybah," the Times reported

"Some officers called in airstrikes," the newspaper reported. "Others ordered Abrams tanks to blast away with their main cannons. ‘I got bombs; he got bombs,’ Colonel Davis said. ‘I got more bombs than he got.’"

"There had been an exodus of families during the past several weeks, officers said," according to the Times, which added, "The Marine Corps says it plans to go through all the residences in Husaybah and the immediate area, a total of 4,000 homes."

What are the effect of Hellfire missiles and 500-pound bombs on mudbrick Iraqi homes? What happened to those who joined the exodus from the city? What becomes of those who remain behind, when heavily armed combat troops told they are being sent into a "cesspool" kick down their doors? Neither the Times nor CNN provide any insight on such matters.

There are reports that give at least a partial answer to these questions, but they find little reflection in the American mass media.

According to the United Nations-affiliated news agency, IRIN, scores of civilians have been killed and thousands driven from their homes by the offensive against the impoverished city near the border with Syria.

"The situation is becoming critical," Ferdous al-Abadi, spokesman for the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) told IRIN. "People are seriously suffering."

According to the news agency, "One doctor in al-Qaim said [on Saturday, the first day of the offensive] that the US military’s regular use of anti-personnel cluster bombs had left at least 31 dead and 44 wounded, among them women and children."

According to the International Red Crescent Society, people began fleeing Husaybah a week before the US onslaught began, IRIN reported. It added that the relief agency’s local volunteers put the number of displaced persons at 4,000, many of whom are living in makeshift camps and tents in the desert.

The Arab satellite news agency Aljazeera reported that strikes by US warplanes in al-Jamahir, al-Risala and other Husaybah neighbourhoods had demolished homes and killed or wounded dozens of people.

Quoting an Iraqi journalist, the news network reported, "The US shelling has demolished government buildings, including al-Jamahir primary school, al-Qaim preparatory school for boys, the educational supervision building, al-Qaim post office and communication centre, al-Qaim education directorate and two mosques in the city."

The journalist added, "The city is suffering a complete lack of all of life’s basic necessities. There is no fuel and winter is upon us. There is no food and there are no services whatsoever, not even health services." He added that ambulances cannot respond to emergencies because they face being fired upon by US forces.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, reported that "Scores of terrified Iraqis fled the besieged town of Husaybah Sunday, waving white flags and hauling their belongings to escape a second day of fighting..." The news agency added, "Residents said coalition forces warned people by loudspeakers to leave on foot because troops would fire on vehicles."

The Pentagon chose to launch the offensive on the final day of Eid al-Fitr, a three- day festival that is one of Islam’s principal holidays. The Washington Post, which had an Iraqi correspondent in Baquba, spoke by cell phone to a 45-year-old government employee as he trudged out of Husaybah with his wife and three children: "We are in the third day of Eid," he said "We are leaving the town not for fun but to save ourselves from death. Instead of having my family for a picnic in an amusement park, I am taking them out of the town, walking and expecting death every moment. Let Bush see how he created a generation that hates the Americans."

The violence unleashed against Husaybah follows a series of bombing raids against neighbouring al-Qaim on October 31. The US military said that the air raids involved the use of "precision guided munitions" and destroyed two "terrorist safe houses."

According to a doctor in the city, however, the bombs killed and injured scores of people and made hundreds homeless. The local hospital put the number of dead at 43, including a large number of women and children. A local tribal leader insisted that there were no "terrorists" in either the demolished homes or the surrounding neighbourhood.

Once again, Washington claims that it is unleashing murderous firepower in order to defeat "Al Qaeda" and "foreign fighters." It was the same a year ago in Fallujah, when it could claim to have killed only 35 such "foreigners" – Arabs who share with the Iraqis a common language, culture and history of struggle against foreign imperialist oppression – out of some 2,000 people massacred there.

While the US military has reported arresting hundreds in Husaybah, it has given no indication as to the nationality of those detained. The Associated Press indicated that the prisoners were members of "a pro-insurgent Iraqi tribe." No doubt, if the Pentagon could identify Syrian or other "foreign" fighters, it would do so to further the Bush administration’s lying claim that the struggle in Iraq is one being waged to defeat "terrorism."

This is clearly not the case. The US occupation forces are waging a dirty colonial war against the Iraqi people with the purpose of suppressing mass opposition to the country’s subjugation.

The methods that are being employed in Husaybah, like those used in Fallujah a year ago, constitute war crimes under the terms of the Geneva Conventions and the precedents set by the Nuremberg trials of the leaders of Germany’s Nazi regime.

In defending the administration’s policy in Iraq before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared: "Our political-military strategy has to be to clear, hold and build: to clear areas from insurgent control, to hold them securely, and to build durable, national Iraqi institutions."

In reality, this strategy has been reduced to "clearing" cities with massive violence, only to see resistance re-emerge as soon as the operation has ended. This is the third such major offensive that the American military has conducted in the area in the last few months. Last May, the Pentagon declared "Operation Matador" a success, and then it launched two such offensives – "Operation Iron Fist" and "Operation River Gate" in the same area a month ago.

The New York Times article acknowledged in a rare moment of candour that it is "as hard as ever for the Americans to win widespread support among the people." As Colonel Davis told the paper, "We don’t do a lot of hearts and minds out here because it’s irrelevant."

Meanwhile, one US marine was shot to death in Husaybah and another four US soldiers were killed south of Baghdad Monday when a suicide car bomber drove into a checkpoint they were manning. These latest casualties bring the total number of American soldiers killed since the war began to 2055. Twenty-six troops have been killed in the first week of November alone, a rate that is on track for making the month the deadliest since last year.

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