Friday, February 18, 2005


I have reprinted the Southern Oil Company Union's statement in the Guardian below. Another of their statements can be found here.

Guardian (London) - February 18, 2005

Leave our country now
From the first days of the US-British invasion of Iraq, oil workers have resisted foreign occupation

Hassan Juma'a Awad

We lived through dark days under Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. When the regime fell, people wanted a new life: a life without shackles and terror; a life where we could rebuild our country and enjoy its natural wealth. Instead, our communities have been attacked with chemicals and cluster bombs, and our people tortured, raped and killed in our homes.

Saddam's secret police used to creep over the roofs into our homes at night; occupation troops now break down our doors in broad daylight. The media do not show even a fraction of the devastation that has engulfed Iraq. Journalists who dare to report the truth of what is happening have been kidnapped by terrorists. This serves the agenda of the occupation, which aims to eliminate witnesses to its crimes.

Workers in Iraq's southern oilfields began organising soon after British occupying forces invaded Basra. We founded our union, the Southern Oil Company Union, just 11 days after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003. When the occupation troops stood back and allowed Basra's hospitals, universities and public services to be burned and looted, while they defended only the oil ministry and oilfields, we knew we were dealing with a brutal force prepared to impose its will without regard for human suffering. From the beginning, we were left in no doubt that the US and its allies had come to take control of our oil resources.

The occupation authorities have maintained many of Saddam's repressive laws, including the 1987 order which robbed us of basic union rights, including the right to strike. Today, we still have no official recognition as a trade union, despite having 23,000 members in 10 oil and gas companies in Basra, Amara, Nassiriya, and up to Anbar province. However, we draw our legitimacy from the workers, not the government. We believe unions should operate regardless of the government's wishes, until the people are able finally to elect a genuinely accountable and independent Iraqi government, which represents our interests and not those of American imperialism.

Our union is independent of any political party. Most trade unions in Britain only seem to be aware of one union federation in Iraq, the regime-authorised Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, whose president, Rassim Awadi, is deputy leader of the US-imposed prime minister Ayad Allawi's party. The IFTU's leadership is carved up between the pro-government Communist party, Allawi's Iraqi National Accord, and their satellites. In fact, there are two other union federations, which are linked to political parties, as well as our own organisation.

Our union has already shown it is able to stand its ground against one of the most powerful US companies, Dick Cheney's KBR, which tried to take over our workplaces with the protection of occupation forces.

We forced them out and compelled their Kuwaiti subcontractor, Al Khourafi, to replace 1,000 of the 1,200 employees it brought with it with Iraqi workers, 70% of whom are unemployed today. We also fought US viceroy Paul Bremer's wage schedule, which dictated that Iraqi public sector workers must earn ID 69,000 ($35) per month, while paying up to $1,000 a day to thousands of foreign mercenaries. In August 2003 we took strike action and shut down all oil production for three days. As a result, the occupation authorities had to raise wages to a minimum of ID 150,000.

We see it as our duty to defend the country's resources. We reject and will oppose all moves to privatise our oil industry and national resources. We regard this privatisation as a form of neo-colonialism, an attempt to impose a permanent economic occupation to follow the military occupation.

The occupation has deliberately fomented a sectarian division of Sunni and Shia. We never knew this sort of division before. Our families intermarried, we lived and worked together. And today we are resisting this brutal occupation together, from Falluja to Najaf to Sadr City. The resistance to the occupation forces is a God-given right of Iraqis, and we, as a union, see ourselves as a necessary part of this resistance - although we will fight using our industrial power, our collective strength as a union, and as a part of civil society which needs to grow in order to defeat both still-powerful Saddamist elites and the foreign occupation of our country.

Bush and Blair should remember that those who voted in last month's elections in Iraq are as hostile to the occupation as those who boycotted them. Those who claim to represent the Iraqi working class while calling for the occupation to stay a bit longer, due to "fears of civil war", are in fact speaking only for themselves and the minority of Iraqis whose interests are dependent on the occupation.

We as a union call for the withdrawal of foreign occupation forces and their military bases. We don't want a timetable - this is a stalling tactic. We will solve our own problems. We are Iraqis, we know our country and we can take care of ourselves. We have the means, the skills and resources to rebuild and create our own democratic society.

Hassan Juma'a Awad is general secretary of Iraq's Southern Oil Company Union and president of the Basra Oil Workers' Union

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Fake reporter unmasked at White House

I'm just going to let this story speak for itself for now. I've added some links. Oh, and I think the gay porn spin on this is horrendous. I know it's tempting in light of what the right often does, and it exposes the hypocrisy of the Bushites. But it shouldn't matter in assessing Gannon or the Bush method of media control. mjs

The Guardian (London)

February 11, 2005
Guardian Foreign Pages, Pg. 18

Fake reporter unmasked at White House

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington

The White House faced fresh accusations of a clandestine propaganda campaign yesterday after it emerged it granted regular access to a rightwing blogger with a habit of asking President Bush easy questions.

Jeff Gannon, who represented a rightwing site owned by a Texas-based Republican activist, had been a regular at White House briefings since 2003 but aroused reporters' suspicions after posing ideologically loaded questions.

The fake White House correspondent quit his job at the Talon News site on Wednesday after liberal bloggers found he had been operating under a pseudonym, and that he was linked to several gay pornographic web domain addresses under his real idenity, James Guckert.

The White House spokesman, Scott McLellan, has dismissed charges that Gannon was part of an underground propaganda effort as "just a wild conspiracy theory". But questions remained yesterday about why the White House suspended the normally rigorous vetting process to issue daily passes to an organisation rejected by the Senate last year for not being a legitimate media outlet.

The extent of Gannon's links to an earlier White House scandal - the leaking of the name of the CIA agent Valerie Plame - also remained unclear yesterday. Gannon has been targeted for questioning in that case.

"It's just common sense that the White House knew who Jeff Gannon was, and they were waving him in for a reason," said David Brock, director of Media Matters for America, the liberal monitoring group which named the reporter last week.

Gannon's unmasking comes only weeks after the Bush administration admitted paying handsome sums to three conservative commentators to promote its social programmes in print, radio and TV, and has led to calls from Democrats for an explanation."It appears that Mr Gannon's presence in the White House press corps was merely a tool of propaganda for your administration," the Democratic congresswoman Louise Slaughter wrote in a letter to Mr Bush.

In its investigations, Media Matters for America discovered that Talon News was owned by a Texas-based Republican activist called Roger Eberle, and that its so-called correspondent was in the habit of lifting verbatim large chunks of White House and Republican party press releases without attribution.

It also discovered a disturbing pattern at White House press conferences during the year or so when Gannon was a regular fixture. "You could see there was a pattern in which the White House press secretary, Scott McLellan, would be getting a more aggressive and less friendly question, and then would seem to call on Jeff Gannon to change the subject. And when he did he got a softball question in return," Mr Brock said. The fake reporter's downfall came last week when he attracted suspicion with a particularly loaded question to the president on how he would enlist Democratic support for his social security reforms.

After falsely attributing quotes to Democratic leaders, Gannon asked: "How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?" Mr Brock then launched his investigation. Subsequent inquiries by liberal bloggers uncovered Gannon's links to gay porn domain addresses under his real name, and a posted photograph of a man posing in his underwear with his initials.

The exposure prompted Gannon to resign his job at Talon, although he has shown no remorse about his conduct at the White House. "I asked a question at a White House press briefing and this is what happened to me. If this is what happens to me, what reporter is safe?" he told a newspaper in his hometown in Delaware yesterday.

Meanwhile, Talon News was looking for a replacement correspondent on its website yesterday.