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Press Release Friday 18 April 2pm Voices in the Wilderness UK 0845 458 2564 / 07791 486484 www.voicesuk.org US military in Baghdad bans American peace campaigners from Palestine Hotel press centre after revelations of humanitarian planning failure. Less than 24 hours after issuing a press release highlighting the failure of the U.S. military to provide for humanitarian relief in Iraq, members of Voices in the Wilderness have been banned from meeting with the U.S. Civil Military Operations Center and with international journalists working out of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. The peace activists from the campaigning organisation Voices in the Wilderness are part of the Iraq Peace Team (1) which has been in Iraq since September 2002. On April 16, members of the Iraq Peace Team (IPT) had a meeting with representatives of the US Military's Civil Operations Center (CMOC) where they discovered that CMOC is only now considering drawing up a plan to restore essential services and that they will only share the plan with organisations and NGOs which agree to waive their neutrality and work with the US military. The discussions also suggested that CMOC are deliberately side-lining UN agencies, the Red Cross and other organisations which have been working in Iraq for many years and which could provide vital information about Iraq's civilian infrastructure. CMOC appears to lack basic knowledge of what is happening in Iraq and also of American organisations that were set up by the Pentagon to help with relief work and which are not even in the country. After the meeting the IPT issued a press release (2), critical of the military's handling of the humanitarian crisis. The following day (17 April) Voices in the Wilderness members were banned from the Palestine Hotel, home not only to CMOC but also the international press corps. (See http://www.electroniciraq.net/news/677.shtml). In their press release (2) the IPT commented that, "prior to the war, the Pentagon set up Humanitarian Operations Coordination Centers (the HOC in Qatar and Kuwait, and the HAC in Jordan), as well as disaster assistance response teams (DART), to coordinate relief efforts between the U.S. military and United Nations and non-governmental organizations. Not only are HOC, HAC, and DART personnel not in Baghdad yet, CMOC was not even aware of the existence of these other military-humanitarian coordinating bodies. "CMOC reported that they did not yet have a plan for how to restore essential services in Baghdad, but are working on creating such a plan today. However, that information will not be publicly available for review, and will only be shared with organizations that agree to work with the U.S. military in Baghdad - cutting out any humanitarian agency that insists on maintaining neutrality. "CMOC also reported that they spent several days locating hospitals, power plants, and water & sanitation plants in order to do needs assessments. Apparently no one in the U.S. military thought to ask the United Nations, or other international organizations working in Iraq, for any of this information prior to, or even after, the fall of Baghdad. The World Health Organization and the Red Cross have been working in Iraq for years. The United Nations Development program has been working to assist Iraq in restoring electricity since 1996. "When told that of rumors of a cholera outbreak in Hilla, CMOC even asked Voices in the Wilderness where that neighborhood was located in Baghdad - unaware that Hilla is a major Iraqi city located approximately 1 hour south of Baghdad!" Notes 1. The Iraq Peace team (http://www.iraqpeaceteam.org) was initiated by members of Voices in the Wilderness US (campaigning against economic sanctions and war on Iraq) and have been in Iraq since September 2002. They report regularly on http://www.electroniciraq.net. 2. For the full version of the IPT press release, Heavy-handed and hopeless, the U.S. military doesn't know what it's doing in Iraq, see http://www.electroniciraq.net/news/674.shtml -- Emma Sangster _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk