AT U.S. BASE, IRAQIS MUST USE SEPARATE LATRINE
FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, Iraq The sign taped to the men's
latrine is just five lines:
"US MILITARY CONTRACTORS CIVILIANS ONLY!!!!!"
It needed only one: "NO IRAQIS."
Here at this searing, dusty U.S. military base about four miles west
of Baqouba, Iraqis including interpreters who walk the same foot
patrols and sleep in the same tents as U.S. troops must use
Another sign, in a dining hall, warns Iraqis and "third-country
nationals" that they have just one hour for breakfast, lunch or
dinner. American troops get three hours. Iraqis say they sometimes
wait as long as 45 minutes in hot lines to get inside the chow hall,
leaving just 15 minutes to get their food and eat it.
It's been nearly 60 years since President Harry Truman ended racial
segregation in the U.S. military. But at Forward Operating Base
Warhorse it's alive and well, perhaps the only U.S. military facility
with such rules, Iraqi interpreters here say.
It's unclear precisely who ordered the rules. "The rule separating
local national latrines from soldiers was enacted about two to three
rotations ago," Maj. Raul Marquez, a spokesman for the 3rd Brigade
Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division, from Fort Hood, Texas, wrote
in an e-mail. That was before his brigade or the 3rd Stryker Combat
Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division, from Fort Lewis, Wash., the
other major combat force here, was based at Warhorse.
There's also disagreement on the reason.
Marquez cited security. "We are at war, and operational security
(OPSEC) and force protection are critical in this environment,"
Marquez wrote. "We screen all our local nationals working and living
in the FOB, however, you can never know what's in their mind."
Other soldiers traced the regulations to what they called cultural
differences between the Iraqis and the Americans.
"We've had issues with locals," said Staff Sgt. Oscar Garcia, who mans
Warhorse's administrative hub. "It's not because we're segregating."
Garcia said some Iraqis squatted on the rims of unfamiliar
American-style toilets or had used showers as toilets, forcing private
contractors who maintain the facilities to clean up after them.
Another soldier at the administrative hub who declined to give his
name or rank cited conflicts over hygiene habits. "We can't accept
people washing their feet where I brush my teeth," he said.
"It's to keep problems from happening," said Army Capt. Janet Herrick,
a public affairs officer. "It's a preventive measure . . . so no one
But the Iraqis who're paid $80,000 to $120,000 a year for their
interpreting services are offended.
"It sucks," Ahmed Mohammed, 30, said of the latrine policy. He called
the signs in English and Arabic "racist."
He's worked as an interpreter for the U.S. military since 2004. He's
college educated and well versed in the ways of Western plumbing. He
said Warhorse was the only American base where he'd encountered
U.S.-only signs on latrines and country-of-origin restrictions on
"I live in the same tent with 80 Americans," he said.
Mohammed works for L-3 Titan Group, a unit of New York-based L-3
Communications. He declined to have his picture taken for publication.
He fears for his life. He said his brother was killed last year in
Baghdad for working for an American company.
Mohammed has sold his house and has squirreled away enough money to
buy visas for his family of four. He said he intended to quit soon and
emigrate to Germany. The latrine policy is part of the reason, he said.
L-3 officials didn't respond to a request for comment.
"On one hand we're asking Iraqis to help us," often at great risk,
said Laila al Qatami, spokeswoman for the American-Arab
Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington. "But at the same time
we're saying, 'We want to keep you at a distance.' It's a mixed
message we're sending.
"I don't understand having separate bathrooms. It seems to go against
everything that the United States stands for."
Iraqis Agree on Secret Peace Plan
September 3, 2007
Iraqi Sunni and Shia representatives have agreed on a peace plan
during secret talks in Finland.
"Participants committed themselves to work towards a robust framework
for a lasting settlement," said a statement issued on Monday by the
Crisis Management Initiative, a conflict-prevention group that
organised the meeting.
In an agreement released by CMI, the participants "agreed to consult
further" on a list of recommendations to begin reconciliation talks,
including resolving political disputes through non-violence and democracy.
The recommendations also included the disarming of factions and
forming an independent commission to supervise the disarming "in a
The four-day meeting which ended on Monday brought together 16
delegates from the feuding groups to study lessons learnt from
successful peacemaking efforts in South Africa and Northern Ireland.
Among those reportedly at the talks were representatives of Shia
leader Muqtada al-Sadr; Adnan al-Dulaimi, a leader of the largest
Sunni Arab political group; and Humam Hammoudi, the Shia chairman of
the Iraqi parliament's foreign affairs committee.
Jeffrey Donaldson, a Northern Ireland legislator, said the "road map"
to Iraqi peace included key principles of the British territory's own
Donaldson and British government officials confirmed that the Northern
Ireland delegation included Martin McGuinness, the veteran Irish
Republican Army commander now the senior Catholic in Northern
Ireland's power-sharing government.
South Africa was represented by members of Nelson Mandela's first
unity government following the end of apartheid, African National
Congress activist Mac Maharaj and National party reformer Roelf Meyer.
Political objectives agreed to include moving away from sectarian and
ethnic disputes, ending the displacement of Iraqi refugees, and
terminating the presence of foreign troops according to a "realistic
The participants also agreed to deal with militias by arming and
training security forces to become "an effective national force",
while fostering economic development across the country.
Members of armed groups that "are not classified as terrorist" would
be encouraged to adopt "peaceful political means" and given jobs
within the state administration.
CMI, overseen by Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president, has
facilitated peace talks for other conflicts.
In 2005, Ahtisaari helped end 30 years of fighting between Aceh rebels
and the Indonesian government with peace talks in Finland which he
initiated and mediated in.
4.2 MILLION IRAQIS ARE NOW DISPLACED
More than 4 million Iraqis have now been displaced by violence in the
country, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday, warning that the figure
will continue to rise.
The number of Iraqis who have fled the country as refugees has risen
to 2.2 million, said Jennifer Pagonis, spokeswoman for the U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees. A further 2 million have been driven from
their homes but remain within the country, increasingly in
"impoverished shanty towns," she said.
Pagonis said UNHCR is receiving "disturbing reports" of regional
authorities doing little to provide displaced people with food,
shelter and other basic services.
"Individual governorates inside Iraq are becoming overwhelmed by the
needs of the displaced," Pagonis told reporters in Geneva, where UNHCR
has its headquarters.
More than half of Iraq's 18 governorates are preventing displaced
people from entering their territories, either by stopping them at
checkpoints or by refusing to register them for food aid and other
Astrid van Genderen Stort of UNHCR said checkpoints are increasing in
northern governorates, specifically along the "green line" that
divides Kurdish-controlled zones from the rest of the country.
Displaced people are also being stopped on the roads leading out of
the cities of Karbala and Najaf, which are both south of Baghdad and
considered holy by Shiite Muslims.
While many of the checkpoints were originally established for security
reasons, they are being increasingly used to prevent displaced Iraqis
from moving around the country, van Genderen Stort said.
Almost half of all displaced people have no access to official food
distribution programs, according to U.N. estimates.
IRAQ: ANGER BUILDS IN BESIEGED FALLUJAH
FALLUJAH, Iraq - The city that was mostly destroyed by the US military
operation Phantom Fury in November 2004 has been under curfew for more
than two weeks, with no signs of relief.
Located 70 kilometers west of Baghdad, the city made headlines when
four Blackwater security mercenaries were killed and their bodies
horrifically mutilated on March 31, 2004.
That April the city was attacked by the US military, but resistance
fighters repelled occupation forces. That set the stage for the
November siege that left about 70% of the city destroyed and turned a
quarter of a million residents into refugees.
A recent spike in attacks against Iraqi and US forces in and around
the city has prompted harsh measures by the US military, including
imposing curfews, limiting movement in and out of Fallujah, and
setting up more checkpoints throughout the city - moves which have
greatly angered residents.
On May 19, most of these measures, perceived by many people here as a
form of collective punishment, began to be more strictly enforced.
"Americans and their Iraqi collaborators are blaming us for their
failure in controlling the city and the whole country," Ahmed Alwan of
a Sunni religious group, the Muslim Scholars Association, told Inter
Press Service (IPS). "This kind of collective punishment only means
slow death to the people of the city and is adding to their agonies
that have continued since April 2003."
As the US occupation continues with no end in sight and the level of
violence and chaos increases daily, more and more people believe that
violence against the occupation is the solution.
"Day by day we find more people believe in violence as a best solution
to face American war crimes," said a human-rights activist in
Fallujah, speaking on condition of anonymity. "To impose a curfew in a
city that was already destroyed more than once is indeed a major crime
Many people in Fallujah believe the harsh tactics are revenge by US
troops and the George W Bush administration for the city's attitude
against the occupation.
"We know what they are doing and why they are doing it," said a local
community leader, also speaking on condition of anonymity because he
feared US reprisals. "They hate this sacred city because it was the
first to stand against their dirty occupation since it started."
On a side street of Fallujah, a man with his face covered by a kefiyeh
, commonly worn by resistance fighters to hide their identity, stopped
an IPS reporter and said he wanted to "deliver a message to the
"Fallujah City has become a symbol for all Iraqis and all good people
in the world who decided to fight this monstrous American occupation,
and no siege will stop the great victorious resistance that represents
the voice of all Iraqis who believe in Allah and in the dignity of
Iraq," he said. "We can see the world is sleeping while America is
conducting a dirty plan to enslave all the human beings on earth."
Residents told IPS how their lives are being affected by the ongoing
US-Iraqi government crackdown.
"They [Iraqi security forces] are dividing the city into sections in a
way that does not allow people to move and make their living," said
Jabbar Amir, a shopkeeper in the main market area. "It takes me four
checkpoints to reach my shop, and most of the week I cannot make it
there. This new security force is worse than the Americans - who give
them full support regardless of what they do to people."
The US military brought in members of the Shi'ite Badr militia and the
Kurdish Peshmerga militia to run patrols and checkpoints throughout
the city after the devastating November 2004 siege. Many residents
believe that this was an act of provocation and an attempt to foment
Concrete walls have been set up by the US military to partition the
city into small areas, possibly in advance of a new wave of raids by
The US military is now supported by an Iraqi security force known as
the "Anbar revolutionary force", which is accused of carrying out
dozens of executions during the past months, as well as detaining
hundreds of young men for no obvious reason.
"Human life is worth nothing in Fallujah these days," said Jameel
Nassir, a 21-year-old university student. "The government soldiers
executed so many young men, just like what happened in Haditha, and
the new security force conducted massive killings against us while
Americans pay both armies millions of dollars to do the dirty work for
This sentiment is common now in Fallujah.
"All army and security forces in Fallujah are monsters," Bilal
Ibrahim, a journalist in training in Fallujah, told IPS. "I watched
one of their inhuman acts today and realized how brutal they really
are. A young man jumped in the river for a swim near the hospital, but
he was swept by the current and he was screaming for help. We were
ready to save his life, but soldiers started shooting at us and they
were laughing at the drowning guy until he died."
IPS learned that the young man's name was Mohammed Hikmet and he was a
member of a well-known family in the city.
"They know this will fail in stopping armed attacks against them just
like all their failures, but they want to plant the seed of division
among people in the city and Anbar province," said a city councilman,
speaking on condition of anonymity. "Now our sons are killing each
other in vain while Americans dream of moments of peace that they will
never get as long as they do not show clear signs of intentions to
leave the country for its people."
The man was referring to the numerous attacks against US and Iraqi
forces during the curfew. Many US and Iraqi soldiers have been killed
by car bombs, suicide bombers and mortars that appear to underscore
the failure of imposing more drastic security measures.
Last Thursday, a suicide bomber attacked a police recruiting center in
Fallujah, killing at least 25 people and wounding 50.
As has become the norm in Fallujah, civilians continue to pay the
highest price despite the security measures that are supposed to be
Ali al-Fadhily, the IPS correspondent in Baghdad, works in close
collaboration with Dahr Jamail, IPS's US-based specialist writer on
Iraq who travels extensively in the region.
For an Iraq Cut in 3, Cast a Wary Glance at Kurdistan
By EDWARD WONG
The New York Times
QARADAGH, Iraq -- -THE Kurdish policeman's mother died in 1988 when a
boulder crushed her as she fled to Iran after the aerial bombardment
of their village. His older brother had been killed earlier, in combat
with Saddam Hussein's troops.
"But I don't just hate Saddam," the policeman, Lt. Ismail Ibrahim
Said, 29, said in this mountain town's station house before the start
last week of Mr. Hussein's trial on the charge of genocide against the
Kurdish minority. "I see it in the new government of Iraq. When they
have power, they'll oppress us like Saddam did."
The policeman's sentiments, widely shared across the autonomous
Kurdish homeland, reflect a lack of will among many Iraqis to forge a
unified nation, and could herald the breakup of the country into three
self-governing regions. As Iraq writhes in the grip of
Sunni-versus-Shiite violence, a de facto partitioning is taking place.
Parts of the country are coming to look more and more like Iraqi
Kurdistan, with homogenous armed regions becoming the norm.
But if Kurdistan increasingly portends the future shape of Iraq, it
also signals the hazards inherent in a fracturing of the country.
American and Iraqi officials agree that the greatest danger to a
politically divided Iraq, or to an Iraq riven by civil war, is hostile
intervention by the country's neighbors. The resulting regional
conflagration could remake the Middle East through mass bloodshed.
Here in Kurdistan, interference by border nations is already happening
more overtly than elsewhere in the country.
More than a week ago, Iran lobbed artillery shells for several days at
villages around Qandil Mountain in the remote north of Iraqi
Kurdistan, killing at least two civilians, wounding four and driving
scores from the area, said a senior politician, Mustafa Sayed Qadir.
Iran has been shelling the area sporadically for months, he said.
Qandil Mountain is a base for militant groups fighting for Kurdish
independence or autonomy in Turkey and Iran. Like Iran, Turkey has
been increasing the pressure against Kurds who are pushing for
self-governance. This month, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime
minister, warned Tariq al-Hashemi, the Iraqi vice president and a
Sunni Arab, that the Iraqi government needed to take "satisfactory
steps" against the Kurdistan Workers Party, a guerrilla group with
hideouts in this region. Turkish officials have also warned Iraqi
Kurdistan against seizing control of the oil city of Kirkuk.
The top Kurdish politicians in Iraq officially are not pushing for an
independent Kurdistan. They are all too aware that a Kurdish nation
would draw intense hostility from Turkey, Iran and Syria, which all
have Kurdish minorities chafing to raise their own flag. Kurds in
those countries and in Iraq have long dreamed of uniting to form the
nation of greater Kurdistan, encompassing up to 30 million people and
stretching from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean to southern Iraq.
"Both Turkey and Iran are not happy with what's going on in Iraqi
Kurdistan having a special region, having a government, having a
Parliament, and so on," said Mahmoud Othman, a senior Kurdish member
of the Iraqi Parliament. "That's why they do those special operations,
those bombings. It's a blow against the Kurdish government in
Kurdistan.""We have to be very careful, and we are very careful," he
The type of cross-border disputes occurring in Kurdistan could spread
across Iraq should the country splinter. Some Shiite leaders are
working to create a nine-province autonomous Shiite region in the
south, one that would include the oil fields around Basra. If this
were to happen in the context of a large-scale civil war, Saudi Arabia
and Syria, countries with Sunni Arab majorities, could openly back
Sunni militias in Iraq against the Iranian-supported Shiite fief.
Yet whether Iraq's neighbors like it or not, this country's regions
are heading toward greater autonomy, not less. Iraqi Kurdistan has
been virtually independent of the national government since 1991, when
the American military established a no-flight zone across the region.
The toppling of Mr. Hussein in 2003 only pushed the Kurds to reinforce
their autonomy. Seeing that, many Shiites in the south began clamoring
for the same.
The endgame for this nation, however bloodily it may come, could be an
Iraq divided into three self-governing regions dominated respectively
by Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs and Kurds. (The Shiite Arabs make up 60
percent of Iraq's population; the other two groups 20 percent each.)
Here in Kurdistan, the people are open about their reluctance to
participate in the project of a greater Iraq. In January 2005, 98
percent of Kurds voted for independence in an unofficial referendum.
The Kurds often point out the artificial nature of Iraqi nationhood,
created when colonial powers carved up the Ottoman Empire after World
War I, and ask why the people should be expected to possess a strong
sense of Iraqi identity now when they never really had one.
"Iraq was never a unified country," said Asos Hardi, editor in chief
of Awene, an independent Kurdish newspaper. "When you released the
only factor keeping this country together, Saddam, all the problems
came to the surface." In the market square of Sulaimaniya, the main
city of eastern Kurdistan, a schoolteacher said the historical enmity
between Arabs and Kurds would not disappear anytime soon.
"The Kurds and the Arabs have been like neighbors, but the Arabs have
always been occupiers on this land," said the teacher, Anwar Abu Bakr
Muhammad, 33, as he chatted with friends before dusk. "Being separated
from them is much better."
The drive for independence is evident simply from a glance around the
square. On one side of a building is a towering painting of Sheik
Mahmoud al-Hafid, who fought for a Kurdish homeland in the early 20th
century. The square's center is dominated by a bust of Piramerd, a
poet best known for his writings on Kurdish nationalism. Across
Kurdistan, the Iraqi flag is almost nowhere to be seen. The red, white
and green banner of Iraqi Kurdistan, with a yellow sunburst in the
middle, flutters along streets and from government buildings.
Children are not required to learn Arabic in schools, which means an
entire generation is growing up without the ability to communicate
with other Iraqis. Arabs arriving from other parts of the country have
to register with local security forces. The Kurdish regional
government has its own militia, called the pesh merga, which is
estimated to number more than 100,000 and operates checkpoints on the
border between Kurdish Iraq and Arab Iraq.
Moreover, the rift between Arabs and Kurds could be widened rather
than healed by the trial of Mr. Hussein and six aides for their brutal
1988 military campaign against the Kurds, called Anfal. Survivors on
the stand last week used a term that has recently entered the Kurdish
vocabulary to describe the fate of relatives taken by government
forces and never seen again: "Anfalized."
Such memories of suffering might hinder Iraqi unity, but they serve to
reinforce the foundation of Kurdish nationhood. "The Arab nationalists
think of us as inferior to them," said Bahman Jabar, 30, another
teacher in Sulaimaniya's market square. "It'll be better for us to
split from the Arabs and have our Kurdish state."
Yerevan Adham contributed reporting from Sulaimaniya for this article.
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