Monday, January 01, 2007

Two Detroit Anti-War Demonstrations in As Many Days

Two Demonstrations in as Many Days in Detroit

By Abayomi Azikiwe,
Pan-African News Wire

There have been two demonstrations in Detroit organized by anti-war activists since December 30. The Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) staged a protest in front of the McNamara Federal Building on Saturday afternoon to denounce the legal lynching of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

This demonstration gained international press coverage. Some of the news sources covering the event through the Associated Press reporting on the Detroit, Boston and New York City demonstrations included: USA Today,,, New York Newsday, W-CBS TV New York, Wood TV, Grand Rapids, the New York Sun, The Hindu International, the Jerusalem Post, the International Herald Tribune, the Pan-African News Wire as well as upcoming coverage from Workers World and the Michigan Citizen newspapers.

In addition, on the "Fighting for Justice" radio broadcast aired every Sunday from 10:00-11:00 a.m. over 1310 AM, WDTW, the Detroit affiliate for the Air America radio network, co-hosts Abayomi Azikiwe, Ron Scott and Sandra Hines, criticized the execution of Saddam Hussein. One caller to the program asked: when will the crimes carried out by the Bush administration be punished? Not one caller phoned in to express support for the American war policy, including the execution of Saddam Hussein.

Below is the Detroit Free Press article on the December 31 demonstration outside the Spirit of Detroit downtown, protesting the officially reported 3,000 American soldier deaths since the occupation began in March of 2003. This demonstration was organized by Jeanne Coopman of MECAWI.


Detroit rally protests Iraq war toll

3,000 U.S. troops have died in fighting

January 1, 2007

Demonstrators gathered in downtown Detroit on Sunday to call attention to the grim milestone of the last day of 2006 -- the death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq reached 3,000.

More than a dozen war protesters braved strong winds and chilly rain to hold signs that read "3,000 dead" and "Impeach Bush" at the corner of Woodward and Jefferson.

"How many of these dead soldiers would have been scientists or doctors?" asked Westland resident Jeanne Coopman, the demonstration's organizer. "How many children are left without a parent? We need to get our troops out of Iraq."

The protesters spoke of war crimes, impeachment and oil profits. They also read some of the names of Michigan soldiers who were killed fighting the war. The idea was to take advantage of New Year's Eve traffic to expose what they consider a hopeless war.

Coopman organized similar demonstrations in Livonia when the U.S. death toll reached 1,000 and 2,000.

The 3,000th death came at the end of the deadliest month for U.S. military personnel in Iraq in the past year. At least 820 troops died in that country in 2006, according to the Associated Press. President George W. Bush said he plans to devise a new strategy for the war.

Demonstrator Victor Kittila of Eastpointe said he sees no end to the conflict until Bush is impeached.

Damon Watson, 28, of Detroit said young people need to become more active to pressure the government to bring home the troops.

"To me, it seems that until the youth and the underprivileged understand this is a war against the underprivileged, it won't end," he said.

Contact STEVE NEAVLING at 586-469-4935 or


Pan-African News Wire said...

Rising opposition to US troop increase

By Edward Luce in Washington
January 1 2007 17:33

George W. Bush is facing mounting opposition to plans to reinforce America’s military presence in Iraq, as he prepares to unveil his administration’s new strategy for dealing with a conflict that has now claimed the lives of 3,000 US soldiers.

The US president is expected to announce a “new way forward in Iraq” sometime before his annual State of the Union address to Congress in late January.

According to a spate of leaks to the US media, Mr Bush is looking at a proposal to increase the number of US troops by between 20,000 and 30,000 as a short-term boost to the existing 140,000 level, with the aim of stabilising the violence in Baghdad and surrounding provinces.

But criticism of the planned
“surge” in US forces is growing from within his own party as the death toll of US troops in Iraq rises. The figure last month passed the toll from the September 11 attacks and at the weekend independent groups confirmed the death of the 3,000th US soldier in the country.

In the past two days, a number of prominent Republican senators, including Arlen Specter and Richard Lugar, the outgoing chairmen of the Senate judiciary and foreign relations committees, have voiced strong scepticism about an increase in troops.

Although Mr Bush could expect the support of John McCain, the 2008 presidential hopeful, and Lindsey Graham, another Republican senator, the Republican tide appears to be moving against boosting troop levels. A number of Republicans have pointed out that Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, is also opposed to a beefed-up US military presence.

Mr Bush is also likely to face implacable opposition to any increase in US troop levels from the Democratic party, which controls both houses of the new US Congress that commences on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration faces the likelihood of tough senate hearings throughout January that Joseph Biden, the new Democratic chairman of the foreign relations committee, plans to hold from next week.

Democratic leaders have also hinted that they could use their control over the budget process to make life difficult for the Bush administration if it chooses to step up the US military presence in Iraq. This would require higher funding than the estimated $110bn (€83bn, £56bn) the war will have cost in the fiscal year ending in April.

Mr Bush is also expected to push for more funding to expand the overstretched US army, which senior generals have warned is close to breaking point. However, any permanent increase in size would take years to come on stream.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

Iraq to probe filming of Saddam hanging

By Steve Negus, Iraq Correspondent and Reuters
January 1 2007 18:41

The Iraqi government launched an inquiry on Monday into how guards filmed and taunted Saddam Hussein on the gallows, turning his execution into a televised spectacle that has inflamed sectarian anger.

Many in Iraq were transfixed by the footage, apparently shot on a videophone.

With Saddam executed, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki now faces the job of trying to impose state authority upon a shattered society that is on the verge of sectarian civil war. The run-up to Mr Saddam’s death illustrates how difficult that task will be.

As the noose was tightened around the deposed president’s neck, several in the chamber began to chant a slogan affiliated with the radical Shia Sadrist movement, whose founder, the Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, was assassinated by presumed agents of Saddam in 1999.

Despite pleas from one unidentified voice in the room to allow Saddam a dignified end, the chanting of the name of the ayatollah’s son and the movement’s new leader built up to a crescendo – “Moqtada! Moqtada! Moqtada!”

The moment captured the extent to which the Shia radicals associated with the Sadrs have imposed their agenda on the Iraqi state and its institutions, and the magnitude of the task facing Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, as he tries to impose his authority on a deeply fractured and radicalised country.

Further emphasising the splits within Iraqi society was the pilgrimage of hundreds of mourners to Saddam’s tomb in the town of Awja, where he was born in 1937. Mr Maliki’s government appears to have rejected initial plans to bury the former leader in an unmarked grave, and Saddam’s body was flown to the town in a US helicopter.

Much of the confusion that reportedly surrounded Saddam’s last hours is probably down to the uneasy relationship between Mr Maliki and the Sadrists, who are one of the key parties in his ruling coalition but whose militias are also blamed for a large share of the sectarian killing.

Saddam’s swift execution has been a central demand of the Sadrist movement ever since his capture in December 2003. Rushing the former president to the gallows may have afforded the prime minister a rare opportunity to look decisive in front of his core constituency.

The Sadrists control 30 seats in the 275-member parliament, which makes them one of the three largest forces in Mr Maliki’s Shia-led coalition but belies their true strength as what is almost certainly Iraq’s largest mass movement.

Although Mr Maliki, a member of the Shia Islamist al-Dawa party, has received Sadrist support in the past, recently their relationship has been strained, with the radicals accusing Mr Maliki of bowing to US pressure to reach out to the Sunni. The Sadrists, who control three main ministries, announced last month they were boycotting Iraq’s government in protest at Mr Maliki’s decision to meet US President George W. Bush in Jordan.

The execution may allow Mr Maliki a window of political opportunity. For the Sadrists, as for many other Shia, Saddam’s hanging represents a point of no return for the old Sunni-dominated political order, and evidence that his former ruling Ba’ath party, which has a strong role in the insurgency, can no longer dictate events.

Iraq will now see what Mr Maliki does with this opportunity. Mr Maliki has suggested he would attempt early in the new year to disarm Shia militias, of whom the Sadrists’ Mahdi Army is by far the largest. The government has also said it would consider allowing members of the former ruling Ba’ath party, purged from public life in 2003, to be rehabilitated.

But Shia leaders have been under pressure from the US and others to reach out to the Sunni for well over a year, but have consistently put off key decisions. It is not yet clear whether the swift execution of Saddam has given Mr Maliki the political capital he needs to take steps that will almost certainly be criticised by the Sadrists, if he even wants to do so at all.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

Pan-African News Wire said...

Protests condemn Saddam execution

Saddam's daughter led the protests in Jordan

Thousands of people joined protests both inside and outside Iraq on Monday condemning the execution of Saddam Hussein.

Iraqis in the central Sunni area of the country, many of them armed, protested against the killing of the former president and blamed Shias for carrying it out.

The protests came as the Iraqi government ordered the closure of a popular independent television channel, Al Sharqiya, for inciting sectarianism.

In other news, US forces killed six people during a raid on a house in Baghdad.

US soldiers came under fire as they approached an suspected hideout of the al-Qaeda in Iraq group, the US military said in a statement on Monday.

"Coalition forces received heavy automatic fire and hand grenades from the top of several nearby buildings", it said.

One of the buildings belonged to Saleh al-Mutlaq, head of the National Dialogue Front, a Sunni political party, the military reported.

An Iraqi security official gave a different version, saying four civilians were killed in a firefight late on Sunday as a result of clashes between al-Mutlaq's guards and those of a Shia parliamentarian, Salama al-Khafaji.

He said the two groups clashed in the al-Jamel area of western Baghdad, after which US troops, including military helicopters, arrived to quell the fight.

Four members of a family were killed and two of al-Khafaji's guards wounded, he added.


In Al-Dawr, close to Saddam's home village of Awja where he was buried on Sunday, hundreds of his supporters gathered.

In the nearby town of Tikrit, a bastion of Saddam supporters, dozens of mourning tents were erected for the late leader and the town was sealed off for a third straight day by security forces fearful of reprisal attacks.

Men, women and children sat in queues facing each other in the tents as volunteers served out the bitter black coffee customary during mourning.

The execution was also denounced in neighbouring Jordan.

Raghad Hussein, Saddam's eldest daughter, told protesters in Amman: "God bless you! I thank you for honouring Saddam the martyr."

Saddam was hanged at dawn on Saturday for his role in the killing of 148 Shia civilians after an assassination attempt against him in 1982 in the town of Dujail.

Footage of his final minutes showed him being taunted by his executioners, who chanted the name of Shia leaders before hanging him.

The Iraqi government has launched an inquiry into how guards filmed and taunted Saddam on the gallows, turning his execution into a televised spectacle that has inflamed sectarian anger.

'False news'

Al-Sharqiya TV became on Monday the latest channel to incur the wrath of the Iraqi government. Brigadier Abdul Karim Khalaf, an interior ministry spokesman, said the government had ordered the channel to close indefinitely.

"We have warned them many times not to broadcast any false news that would increase tension in Iraq," he said, declining to specify which particular reports were false.

Owned by a London-based Iraqi businessman, the channel says it takes an independent editorial line, though many viewers see it as leaning towards a Sunni Arab viewpoint.

Al-Sharqiya was still broadcasting on Monday, as it broadcasts from Dubai, and it was not immediately clear what impact the government's order would have.

Pan-African News Wire said...

Sunday December 31, 11:15 AM

Timing of Saddam execution risks Arab backlash: analysts

Images of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein being led to the gallows on one of Islam's most important feast days risk further alienating public opinion in an Arab world already bristling at perceived Western insensitivity, analysts have warned.

Even the West's leading Middle East allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, publicly spoke out against the choice of the first day of the Muslim Feast of Sacrifice to put Saddam to death.

The ousted strongman was executed in Baghdad at dawn on Saturday as Muslims began celebrating the Eid al-Adha in which a sheep is traditionally slaughtered in memory of Abraham, who according to the Koran, was about to sacrifice his son Ismail on God's orders, but was sent a sheep instead.

Grainy footage of a grey-bearded and calm-looking Saddam being prepared for the gallows was aired on Iraqi state television and re-broadcast across the Arab world.

"Saddam was being dragged away like he was the sheep waiting to be slaughtered," said Emad Gad, researcher with the Cairo-based Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies.

"The main issue here is that the execution took place on the morning of the Eid al-Adha," Gad told AFP. "This will stir anger and humiliation in people, whether they supported him or not.

"Generally in the region, people's emotions are already anti-US, and these images will add to that feeling," he warned.

The executive editor of the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news channel, Nabil Khatib, agreed.

"The pictures will re-create the anger and frustration among a large part of the Arab masses," Khatib told AFP.

"Once more, ordinary Arabs felt that there is a conspiracy against their symbols."

The newsman said the impression was all the greater because Saddam was not the demon to Arab public opinion that he had become in the West.

The ousted Iraqi president had successfully projected himself among ordinary Arabs as the one leader in the region "who confronted external threats on behalf of the Arabs ... who fought Iran and launched missiles at Israel," Khatib said.

Samer Hamzeh, news consultant for state-run Dubai Media Incorporated which groups Dubai Television and three other channels, warned that the graphic footage of the erstwhile Arab hero being led to the gallows risked sparking a violent backlash.

"This is not our daily news picture. It is a historic, very emotional picture ... and the effect of emotional pictures does not show right away," he said.

Hamzeh said the fact that Saddam looked composed as he was readied for execution would not diminish the negative impact of the footage.

"It is not about his behaviour. The normal viewer will see the picture as humiliating," he argued. "Humiliation can provoke anger, violence."

Egypt, the biggest recipient of US aid after Iraq and Israel, openly criticised the choice of execution date and voiced concern it might stoke further violence inside Iraq.

"Egypt regrets the fact that the Iraqi authorities carried out the execution of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and that it took place on the first day of Eid al-Adha," foreign ministry spokesman Alaa al-Hadidi told the official MENA agency.

The timing of the execution "did not take into consideration the feelings of Muslims and the sanctity of this day which represents amnesty and forgiveness," Hadidi said.

"We hope that the execution of the former president at this time... will not lead to more deterioration in the situation and inflame the spirit of revenge, instead of efforts to ensure Iraqi unity."

The Saudi official media voiced similar criticism.

"There has been a feeling of surprise and dismay that the implementation of the (death) sentence (against the former Iraqi president) came ... on the first day of Eid al-Adha during which... Muslims come together," said a commentary carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.