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Now the U.S. military is assassinating Iraqi peace workers

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At 3 a.m. on the 4th of July, U.S. military forces and Iraqi national guards opened fire with a barrage of bullets and grenades on the Baghdad home of Abdel-Hussein Saddam. The severely wounded Abdel-Hussein was taken away and his 18-year-old daughter was left alone, injured and bleeding on the floor. Abdel-Hussein’s beaten body turned up at the Yarmouk Hospital morgue on July 6.

The murder of Abdel-Hussein was the most devastating of four attacks by the U.S. military on the Iraq Freedom Congress in the past 10 months. The IFC is an organization comprised primarily of trade unionists, community leaders, and women’s and children’s rights workers who are determined to look after their own. IFC’s goals are to salvage the lives of as many Iraqis as possible, and to end the occupation and sectarian fighting. Its slogan: "No Shiite… No Sunni… Ours is Human Identity.”

The IFC has 22 offices or “wards” in Iraq cities and neighborhoods. It establishes where and when it is invited by local community leaders. Since 2005 the IFC has been working toward a progressive democratic non-sectarian government in Iraq. It is as critical of the violent political Islamic forces as of the violent U.S. occupiers.

Abdel-Hussein, 50, was born in Basra, and was a resident of Baghdad’s Alattiba neighborhood at the time of his death. He was the head of the IFC’s Safety Force, an organization of men who volunteer to protect and defend both Sunni and Shiite citizens from sectarian gangs. He spent two years of his life in jail in the 1990s for opposing the Saddam Hussein regime.

“Throughout the period of his leadership of the Safety Force, there had been no killing based on identity in the area where he lived and in other areas with the presence of the Safety Force,” the IFC said in a written statement. An IFC spokesman says the “cowardly attack is part of Bush’s surge which is aimed at suppressing Iraqi political opponents. It could be, too, that IFC’s growing influence as a protector and unifier within Iraq’s pulverized society is seen as a threat to U.S. government objectives. A peaceful sovereign Iraq will not turn over its rich oil reserves to foreign invaders.

The day before Abdel-Hussein’s abduction, the IFC-sponsored SANA TV gave its inaugural broadcast over a satellite network. The program ran a story about the recent mass demonstration against the proposed oil law being pushed by the Bush administration. The program included an overview of the IFC’s Safety Force and interviewed some of the five IFC members who had been arrested by U.S. and Iragi national guards June 7. Those arrested, Mohamed Karim, Ali Hussein, Mohamed Mahmoud, Hussam Salim and Abdul Amir Saleh, were interrogated at the U.S. base in Baghdad’s Rustumiyyah neighborhood and then transferred to the local police station before being released 11 days later.

An IFC spokesman said the Iraqi police intentionally misled US forces, stating that the IFC was part of the sectarian Al-Mahdi Army that was planning to expand into the Al-Askary neighborhood, and therefore a terrorist organization. In fact, the IFC Safety Force had already confronted the scouts of Al-Mahdi and prevented them from establishing a foothold.

The IFC won the detainees’ release by waging a political campaign both locally and globally, as well as a judicial battle. It filed a lawsuit against the U.S. agents for raiding the office without judicial authorization or an arrest warrant.

SANA is funded by IFC allies around the world, but primarily by Japanese supporters. Besides its 22 chapters in Iraq, there are five chapters in Japan and south Asia, five in Europe and Scandinavia, and two in North America (one in Canada and one in the United States). IFC has ongoing collaboration with the 10 million member US Labor Against the War, and the IFC-US chapter carried the IFC banner during the January 27 protest in Washington D.C. SANA intends on using its solidarity network “to amplify the voice of freedom, peace and the equal rights of all people in Iraq and the Middle East,” said Nadia Mahmood Al-Sanna, a SANA producer.

The IFC Safety Force recently graduated its third group of volunteers who are trained in mediation and self defense. Besides protecting citizens from marauding sectarian gangs, the Safety Force provides escorts to people who are in danger, and has a proactive outreach program calling for an end to sectarianism. The IFC tries to influence citizens against falling for the trap of retaliation. The so-called “insurgents” have also organized recreational play days for children, economic survival conferences for women, teams of doctors who go to the homes of people too ill or too afraid to travel to the hospital, raised money for food and medicine, and attended funerals to shield mourners from further violence. A primary goal of each project is to bring together Shiites and Sunnis in a spirit of cooperation and non-violence.

IFC Executive Committee Member Amjad Al-Jawhary (Abdel-Hussein also served on the committee), said the U.S. administration is targeting efforts such as IFC that “aim to restore security, safety, freedom, and prosperity. They [US] well know that such forces will jeopardize the presence of the occupation and threatens to undermine its determination and prestige.” The IFC is trying to provide some semblance of public safety without government resources or sanction during a humanitarian crisis. Neither the trillion-dollar U.S. military led by the dazed and confused Bush administration, nor the dysfunctional police and army under Bush’s puppet leader Al-Maliki have provided any measurable safety for Iraqis. If anything, civilian killings are growing by the day.

Abdel-Hussein was a courageous man, someone an American would look up to, like John Wayne – only real. What will be the result of this all too common incomprehensible killing?

It brings to mind an observation Cindy Sheehan shared when speaking in Minneapolis this year. “It’s common sense that when you kill an innocent person, it’s going to piss off their relatives. I don’t know why George Bush hasn’t learned that from me.”

I’m very pissed off, too. And deeply saddened for what we have become.

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Kathlyn Stone is a Minnesota-based writer covering science and medicine, health care and related policies.ï She publishes www.fleshandstone.net, a health and science news site.
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