Iraq declares victory for people power
Iraqi television said late Thursday that Nov. 20 would be declared "The Day of the People," to be marked every year to celebrate the victory of the people over "the foreign enemies and the covetous ones."
Reminiscent of "People Power" which prevented a military assault in the Philippines, the announcement signalled an end to the current 3 week military standoff with the US. It was interpreted as testament of thanks by the government of Iraq to the people who camped in at strategic factories and the Presidental Palace offering themselves as a human shields should the United States attack and a tribute to the children and adults who had taken to the streets and public squares.
Thousands of Iraqis poured into the streets to celebrate once again chanting `Our soul, our blood, we sacrifice for you, Saddam,'' ``This is the first step toward lifting the sanctions,'' Saad Qassim Hamoudi, the head of parliament's foreign relations committee, told a gathering of unionists in Baghdad. ``America has failed in its conspiracy!'' shouted back the demonstrators.
Iraq and Russia reached an agreement for all weapons inspectors to come back and for Russia to work for the lifting of U.N. Security Council sanctions on Iraq only hours before. The resolution of the crisis came in the form of a joint communique between Russia and the government of Iraq. ``An agreement has been reached that Iraq will accept the return of the Special Commission in its entirety and the resumption of its work starting today, November 20, 1997,'' said the text of an INA statement.
It said ``that Russia on its part will participate to implement U.N. resolutions related to the quick lifting of the sanctions and especially the implementation of article 22 of resolution 687.'' Iraq's National Assembly went into session Thursday morning 9 a.m. (0600 GMT) to discuss the agreement. INA said the assembly was briefed by its speaker, Sadoun Hamadi, ``on the important results'' of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz's visit to Moscow ``on the road to lifting the unjust sanctions imposed on Iraq.''
Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov had announced a compromise was reached after a hastily arranged, middle-of-the-night meeting in Geneva among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. A statement issued after the meeting in Geneva gave no specifics of the compromise. It said the U.N. Special Commission in charge of monitoring Iraq's weapons program would meet in New York on Friday.
The foreign ministers of the United States, Russia, Britain and France and a representative of China issued a joint statement after emergency middle-of-the-night talks in Geneva on the crisis over Iraq's expulsion of American members of the U.N. arms control team.
"Mr Primakov felt able to indicate that a decision by Iraq in that direction was imminent or in any case expected in the very near future," Vedrine told reporters. "That makes it possible to envisage an end to the immediate crisis."
Albright insisted the United States had agreed to nothing in exchange for an Iraqi climbdown. But France, Britain have all hinted in the last two days that UNSCOM could alter the balance of nationalities on its inspection teams once Iraq reversed its decision, although all have said there must be some Americans.
"There will be no public pledge to reduce the number of American inspectors, since that would look like we were yielding to Iraq's demands. Anything that did happen would be tacit," the European official said.
Iraqi officials have said that some American inspectors could return under a balanced political settlement. At the UN in NewYork, Richard Butler, head of the weapons inspectors, said that if all goes well, ``We'll be on the plane tomorrow morning and back in business on Friday.'' Iraq's UN Ambassador Nizzar Hamdoon said, ``I think the crisis is over,'' adding that Iraq had received a better ``hearing'' of its grievances about the inspection program.
In Amman, Jordan, a U.S. humanitarian group ``Voices in the Wilderness'' campaigning for an end to sanctions said it would leave for Baghdad Friday to deliver medical supplies in defiance of U.S. law and the possibility of a US strike. Washington will still dispatch a new force of 32 U.S. Air Force warplanes to the Gulf this weekend US defense officials said Thursday. They will include F-16 and F-15 fighters, B-1 long-range bombers, refueling planes and soldiers to man Patriot air defense missiles. They will use the gulf island nation of Bahrain as their base.
Antiwar protests rock UK and US
Antiwar activists in the US and UK made rapid response demonstrations to the Clinton administration's attempts to whip up an anti-Iraq war fever.
Around 200 protesters angrily besieged the US Embassy in London,Wednesday evening, demanding an immediate end to the military threats by the US and Britain against Iraq. Passers-by expressed support for the demonstrators, who gave a clear and forceful warning of the depth of feeling among many sections of public opinion against the US aggressive policies to which the British government has been so spectacularly subservient.
Media from around the world, including Middle Eastern and US television stations, relayed the news of this significant protest around many countries of the world, where it will certainly make an impact on public opinion elsewhere as well, showing that the Blair government's stance is not the view of the ordinary people of Britain, who desire peace and the immediate lifting of the sanctions blockade on Iraq.
Protesters had come from many areas, including Cambridge, Sussex, Birmingham and elsewhere in Britain, and representatives of a number of community, political and religious organisations were in attendance. Messages of greetings were received from public figures including Tony Benn MP and George Galloway MP, and among those present were members of the Labour Party, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and community groups including the Indian Workers' Association (GB) and the South Islington Bangla Desh Association.
Many of those in attendance were trades unionists, including members of the Transport and General Workers Union, the Amalgamated Electricians' Union, the National Union of Journalists, UNISON, the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, the First Division Association, the National Union of Railwaymen, etc., as well as members of local Trades Councils, including those of Brent, and Hammersmith and Fulham. Also present were members of the Darvell Bruderhof and Beechgrove Bruderhof, and the Nation of Islam. Notable among those attending the protest were representatives of the Iraqi and other Arab communities living in London. A deputation of children from Iraqi families delivered a protest letter addressed to President Clinton to embassy officials.
In the U.S. anti-war groups took to the streets Nov. 17-19 to demonstrate in 15 American cities in broad cooperation despite ideological differences.
On Nov. 17, demonstrators in downtown Baltimore carried signs reading "Fight racism and police brutality, not Iraq." Organizer Sharon Ceci said: "Responses to the 700 leaflets we handed out were all positive. Most simply thanked the picketers for being there."
In Boston the same day, people came from as far as 50 miles away--the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Some brought hand-lettered signs. "Many passersby expressed their support for the anti-war action," reports Mahtowin. "Two homeless men--both of them Vietnam veterans--stopped to read the fliers. One said, `We sure don't want to see anyone else get suckered like we did.'"
Vice President Al Gore was in Cleveland Nov. 17. He became a target of the protesters, who braved an early Midwestern winter to picket the federal building. One of the chants, said Martha Grevatt, was "Hey Bill Clinton, hey Al Gore, we don't want another war."
The New York demonstration in Times Square, also on Nov. 17, drew activists from many groups. It also included people who heard it announced on the radio or joined it from the streets. IAC organizers called for a united front of all those opposing U.S. war plans. One New York participant was a Swedish veteran of the UN Peacekeeping Force stationed in northern Iraq. He had been wounded there by the Iraqi army, but his first-hand knowledge of how the Iraqis were suffering made him sympathetic to them.
The next day in Washington, people from the IAC, the Peace Center and the Nicaragua Network defied the cops to demonstrate at the White House. A protest at the downtown federal building in Los Angeles drew representatives from the Islamic Public Affairs Council, American Friends Service Committee (Pasadena), Coalition in Solidarity with Cuba, and Palestinian and Egyptian activists.
According to the IAC, protests were also held in Madison, Wis., Chicago, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Honolulu and Houston. and San Francisco
Sources: John Catalinotto, Workers World Service ; Hugh <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Wik native title movement grows
What began as small movement of individuals concerned about the moral implications of the Australian Government's 10-point plan (or Wik legislation) to amend the Native Title Act has become a social uprising attracting actors, musicians, intellectuals, community activists and church leaders.
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches Wednesday joined the growing ranks of opposition to ammendments to Australia's native title bill. The Reverend Dr Konrad Raiser, head of the ecumenical body which represents about 400 million Christians worldwide, was in Sydney for meetings with Australian church and indigenous leaders. He says the Federal Government is using fear to sway voters on the issue of native title, at the expense of the rights of Indigenous Australians.
And in response to the Prime Minister's call for church leaders to show restraint on speaking out against the Wik legislation, he says the church teaches to support marginalised groups, such as Aborigines. "Churches would certainly not claim a moral authority that is superior to anybody else's moral authority," he said. "But since this is a basic moral issue facing Australian society, the churches can not possibly keep quiet."
Mining companies and pastoralists endorsing Howard's 10-point plan pale against a united front of church leaders, international human rights experts, artists and entertainers.
The head of the Catholic Church in Australia, Cardinal Clancy, said Thursday churches have a right and a duty to proclaim right and justice, as they see them. Cardinal Clancy has dismissed a call from within the Federal Government for parishioners to boycott churches over native title. "To make that blanket assertion that church spokesmen are uninformed, unobjective and not constructive, that I reject," he said. Cardinal Clancy has warned the Prime Minster's handling of the Wik debate could provoke a racist election.
The Body Shop stores in Melbourne yesterday sold out of armbands proclaiming "Stick with Wik" and "Coexistence, Justice, Reconcilliation", three days after they went on sale.The manager of one of two Melbourne Body Shop stores selling the armbands, Ms Angela Mazzini, said the stock of 200 had sold, and the Bourke Street store had been overwhelmed by requests and telephone orders.
The money on the $5 red, yellow and black armbands went to the Mirimbiak Nations Aboriginal Corporation.Ms Liz Conor, the convenor of the Melbourne-based Stick with Wik campaign, says the campaign has raised $30,000 and could use the funds to take the fight to the airwaves.
Mahathir wins vote of confidence
Malaysia's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a motion of confidence Wednesday supporting Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and censuring the United States
"To accuse Prime Minister Mahathir of being anti-Semitic is not accurate," Anwar said in introducing the motion. "We must separate our attitude toward Israel, Israel's cruelty to Palestinians, with our attitude toward Jews who are not all involved in the cruelties," he said later.
The motion was approved by a voice vote after members of two leading opposition parties walked out. "Because I do not hear any opposing voice, the motion is passed unanimously," the chairman of the parliamentary session said at the end of the vote, which followed four hours of debate. But DAP leader Lim Kit Siang said his party opposed the U.S. congressional resolution and the Petronas investigation, but that the motion of confidence was "an overreaction." Mahathir's 14-party coalition controls 168 votes in the 192-seat lower house.
The motion criticized a resolution before the U.S. Congress demanding that Mahathir apologize for remarks about Jews or resign, as well as a U.S. investigation into a gas deal in Iran involving Malaysia's state oil firm, Petronas.
The vote culminated a week of sharp criticism by the government of the U.S. resolution and investigation and days after U.S. ambassador to Malaysia, John Malott urged Malaysians to stop ``America-bashing.''
``I am concerned about the growing tendency to blame everything that is happening on foreigners, usually Americans, or on the foreign press, usually American-owned,'' the U.S. ambassador told a news conference. However the US envoy also criticized a resolution in the U.S. Congress demanding that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad apologize for recent remarks about Jews or quit.
US opposition to a recent oil deal in Iran involving French, Malaysian and Russian companies was raised by French President Jacques Chirac when he arrived in Malaysia Sunday for talks with Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad .
Suffering under sanctions in Iraq
by Deirdre Sinnott
When I say that the sanctions against Iraq are a weapon of mass destruction it's not rhetorical. It's real. I've just been there. I saw it.
Basra is in the southern part of Iraq. The city suffered heavy bombing during the Gulf War in 1991. Just to the south of Basra lies the "Highway of Death" where U.S. aircraft firing depleted uranium rounds strafed more than 60 miles. The area in and around Basra is littered with some of the 300 tons of uranium left over from the intensive U.S. bombing.
In early November our delegation visited two hospitals in Basra. The Saddam Training Hospital does mostly surgical procedures. The General Hospital is the oldest hospital in Iraq. Both offer free treatment, as they did before the Gulf War.
The conditions in the hospitals are horrifying. As we entered the Training Hospital I was struck by the darkness. The power was working at the time, but the halls and stairways were dark. There is a shortage of fluorescent light bulbs. The hospitals smell of disease. Doctors explained that there is no detergent to clean or disinfect.
The Iraqi health-care system was among the best in the Middle East. But now workers can't even provide clean sheets and towels for the patients. The hospital's walls and stairs are crumbling. There is a shortage of building materials.
Minister of Health Umeed Madhat Mubarak said it would take approximately $2 billion to rebuild the hospital system to its pre-war condition. Many doctors train in surgery at the Training Hospital. The doctors and nurses are all heroes--but they are frustrated. Dr. Hydar Muhammad said: "To relieve pain and suffering is the job of a doctor, but we can't do it. We have no medicines to give, not enough pain kill ers or antibiotics or other medicines."
Most of the diagnostic equipment and life-sustaining machinery that I saw was not operating. There are not enough spare parts. So many machines lie idle.
We met a young girl who has leukemia. There are no drugs to treat her. She is listed as terminal--although leukemia is a treatable disease, and with medicine she might have a chance at a remission.
There has been a sharp increase in leukemia, lymphoma, cancer, tumors, birth defects and miscarriages that may be related to the DU used by the U.S. forces during the war. In August 1995 Iraq presented a study to the United Nations, demonstrating an increase in leukemia and cancer in the Basra region. This 14-year-old girl is the real-life proof of that study. I took a picture of that little girl and her mom asked me to send it to her. I hope it gets there.
The water is still not purified. The bombing destroyed most of the sewage and water systems. The Iraqis can't import chlorine and other chemicals to clean the water. Why not? Because these are classified as "dual use" chemicals--meaning they could be somehow used in weapons production. So they are banned from import.
Things we take for granted. The water is what makes a lot of people sick. Life is very hard for the Iraqi people. Just having to get water from a truck and carry it home makes each day a trial for many people. But we encountered a fighting spirit. They are not defeated.
The trip was very important. The Iraqis need solidarity. The pressure to end the sanctions must come from outside. We must do our part here in the United States. I will because I looked into people's eyes and I won't ever forget their suffering. We all have the responsibility to act.
[The writer was part of an International Action Center solidarity delegation that traveled to Iraq in early November to gather information on the effects of the United Nations/United States sanctions against that country.]
From Workers World Service:
UN asserts need for Palestinian Self-Determination
Under a draft resolution by the social commiteee Wednesday the UN General Assembly would urge all States and the specialized agencies and organizations of the United Nations system to continue supporting and assisting the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination.
The draft was approved by a vote of 141 in favour, to 2 against (Israel, United States), with 7 abstentions (El Salvador, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Georgia, Norway, Uruguay).
The draft was sponsored by Afghanistan, Algeria, Andorra, Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Cyprus, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Guyana, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Monaco, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Netherlands, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam and Yemen.