News Release

* Iraq * Israel * WTO — Interviews Available


Benjamin, the founding director of the international human rights group Global Exchange, is also co-founder of the Occupation Watch Center in Iraq. Paul Bremer, in Washington mid-week, repeatedly cited the Iraqi Governing Council in his remarks. Benjamin said today: “The Bush administration wants the Iraqi Governing Council to rubber-stamp policies coming from Washington and to take the blame when things go wrong. The problem for the administration is that some members of the Council have begun to question U.S. policies, such as opening Iraq to foreign investment or the U.S. plan for writing and approving the constitution. So now there are rumors that the U.S. wants to get rid of the Council in favor of a more pliable transition team. But any new team will come up against the same contradiction: it is impossible to find Iraqis who are both legitimate leaders and willing to blindly do the U.S. bidding.”
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Shapiro is an organizer with the International Solidarity Movement. He traveled to Iraq this summer and is now working on a documentary titled “About Baghdad.” He said today: “The recent CIA report confirms what many of us have been saying: the Iraqis are ‘losing faith in the U.S.-led occupation forces’ and this is ‘increasing support for the resistance.’ In Baghdad, Iraqis told us that if the situation of the people does not improve, if clean water, electricity and jobs are not available soon, more people will start sympathizing with, if not joining, the resistance. Turning things over to the handpicked Governing Council would not necessarily help; the Iraqis we spoke to could not name a single official on the Council…. The bombing of the Italian police headquarters confirms our observations in Iraq that the Italians, British, and other small numbers of foreign troops in Iraq are all seen as part of the U.S.-led occupation.”
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The United Nations Commission on Human Rights released a report Wednesday warning of “an imminent humanitarian catastrophe” for the Palestinians under Israeli occupation. Mendez, acting executive director of the Palestine Center in Washington, said today: “It is significant to note that on the same day as a report on the horrific conditions which the Palestinian people are subjected to by the Israeli occupation forces, atrocities such as home demolitions, closures, extrajudicial assassinations, and illegal searches and seizures have increased. While this report stresses the dire humanitarian situation in July, the conditions today are much worse. The main findings of the report include: 22 percent of Palestinian children under five are suffering from malnutrition — a three-fold increase from 2000; 9.3 percent suffer acute malnutrition — an eight-fold increase from 2000; food consumption has fallen 30 percent per capita; 60 percent of Palestinian households now live in acute poverty and 50 percent are dependent on international food aid.” [The full text of the report in PDF is at:] More Information

Hahnel is professor of economics at American University and author of Panic Rules! Everything You Need to Know About the Global Economy. He said today: “The administration’s response to the WTO’s ruling — that the tariffs imposed on steel imports in March of 2002 are a violation of WTO rules — is further proof that while the U.S. government preaches free trade for others, the U.S. has no intention of practicing it ourselves when we find it inconvenient. Now, like Frankenstein’s monster, the WTO has turned on the master who created it, the U.S. government…. While some voices in the administration might threaten to leave the WTO, that will only be grandstanding for the unilateralist faction of the Republican Party. U.S. corporations benefit tremendously from the unfair and undemocratic procedures the WTO has imposed on other countries. Slaps on the wrist like this one are the relatively small cost of that terrific deal: the WTO prevents developing countries from being able to protect their economies, requires them to enforce international copyrights and patents that cost them a fortune, and bans them from treating large multinational corporations differently than they treat domestic ones. In short, the WTO gives multinational corporations free rein and makes it impossible for Third World governments to promote economic development…. On the home front, the benefits of the steel tariffs accrue disproportionately to the steel companies who are busy demanding give-back contracts from their employees. Steel workers would be better served by adequately funded retraining and job creation programs where laid-off workers draw unemployment benefits until they are placed into equally well-paying, unionized jobs in their hometowns.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167