Democracy Now! May 7, 2003

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Democracy Now! May 7, 2003
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At least when Saddam was here there may not have been freedom but there was security: Democracy Now! producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports from streets of Baghdad; As President Bush names a new ruler of Iraq, humanitarian groups say the US is more concerned with building an administration than with the health and well-being of the people: Doctors without Borders says the US is breaking international law; Iraqi civilians sue General Tommy Franks for war crimes: we ll hear from their lawyer in Belgium; Survivors of the worst industrial accident in world history to confront Dow Chemical at shareholder s meeting: over 20,000 people were killed in Bhopal, India

8:00-8:01 Billboard 8:01-8:10 Headlines 8:10-8:11 One Minute Music Break 8:11-8:20: The Washington Post is reporting that U.S. occupation authorities have allowed scores of Baath members to reclaim jobs including some of the most senior positions inside such ministries as trade, industry, oil, irrigation, health and education. U.S. officials said the only Baath members automatically disqualified are the 55 senior officials in Hussein's government deemed most wanted by the United States, as well as those believed to have been involved in human-rights violations or terrorism. We go to Baghdad to speak with Democracy Now! producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous who just arrived in Iraq. * Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Democracy Now! producer speaking from Baghdad 8:20-8:21 One Minute Music Break 8:21-8:30: Once again, Iraq has a new ruler. President Bush yesterday named L. Paul Bremer the 3rd as his special envoy to Iraq. That means Bremer will replace retired General Jay Garner as the American in overall command of occupied Iraq. The New York Times reports the power shuffle is intended to resolve a major dispute between the Pentagon and the State Department over control of Iraq. The Pentagon is insisting Iraq remain under military control while the State Department says that a civilian with diplomatic skills and foreign policy experience should be in charge. Senior administration officials told The New York Times Bremer s appointment: underscores the White House s intention to speed the transition from a military occupation toward civilian administration. But Bremer will be reporting directly to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Anonymous officials quoted in the New York Times say Rumsfeld personally chose Bremer and has known him for years. Bremer is also close to leading neoconservatives in the Pentagon. L. Paul Bremer III served in the State Department for 23 years. He headed the counter-terrorism department under Ronald Reagan. After leaving government, he became the managing director of Kissinger Associates, a global consulting firm run by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. The power shuffle may also help the Bush administration in its propaganda efforts. Even Jay Garner s supporters acknowledge he has not been a successful statesman. Last week, reporters pressed Garner about the shortcomings in the effort to restore civilian order and services to Iraq. Garner replied: We ought to look in a mirror and get proud, and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say, Damn , we re Americans! Still, National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack told the Times while Bremer will guide overall reconstruction policy, Jay Garner will still handle the day-to-day work. All of this infighting comes as the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders says the US is breaking international law in Iraq. As the occupying power, the US is required to ensure the health and well-being of the Iraqi people. But Doctors Without Borders says the US is giving priority to building an administration rather than meeting its humanitarian obligations. Well today, we are joined by Nicolas De Torrente, Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders. * Nicolas De Torrente, Executive Director, Doctors Without Borders/Medecins San Frontiers. Link: 8:30-8:40: As the Bush administration gives the leadership in occupied Iraq a face lift, Iraqi civilians are preparing to sue Gen. Tommy Franks and other U.S. military officials for war crimes in Iraq. Lawyer Jan Fermon says the complaint will be presented in a Belgian court next week. It will state that coalition forces are responsible for the indiscriminate killing of Iraqi civilians, the bombing of a marketplace in Baghdad that killed scores, the shooting of an ambulance, and failure to prevent the mass looting of hospitals. Meanwhile, the BBC has uncovered evidence that US troops not only failed to prevent mass looting in Iraq, but encouraged it. Eyewitnesses told the BBC US troops encouraged looters to storm the campus of Nasiriya's Technical Institute. The institute's acting dean, Dr Khalid Majeed, said he appealed to US troops to prevent the looting. They refused. When his colleague manage to rouse some Americans based near the local fire station, they arrived in five vehicles and fired several dozen rounds at the college's south wall. Now the college of higher education is a shell, its laboratories and lecture rooms charred almost beyond recognition. Washington has reacted angrily to the lawsuit. The US State Department has told Belgium not to allow its laws to be used for "political ends". A senior Bush administration official warned there will be diplomatic consequences for Belgium if the complaint is taken up by a court. * Jan Fermon, Belgian lawyer who is filing a complaint against General Tommy Franks on behalf of 19 Iraqis who say he committed war crimes in Iraq. 8:40-8:41 One Minute Music Break 8:41-8:58: Tomorrow, the survivors of the worst industrial accident in world history will confront the company responsible at its annual shareholders meeting. On the night of December 2nd, 1984 in the city of Bhopal, India, unknown tons of lethal gases leaked from a U.S. pesticide factory into the air. The factory s safety systems were either malfunctioning or turned off. Clouds of suffocating gases blanketed the city of half a million people. Residents awoke with throats burning and tears streaming. They began a desperate flight through the dark streets. The gases produced so much fluid in people s lungs that many drowned in their own body fluids. Many fell dead as they ran. No alarm ever sounded a warning and no evacuation plan was prepared. When victims arrived at hospitals breathless and blind, doctors did not know how to treat them because they had no idea what chemicals they were dealing with. It was only when the sun rose that the magnitude of the devastation became clear. Dead bodies of people and animals lay in the streets. Leaves on trees had turned black. Thousands of people had died and unknown tens or hundreds of thousands injured. To date, more than over 20,000 have lost their lives due to the Bhopal disaster. The factory was owned by a U.S. company called Union Carbide. In 1987, the Bhopal District Court charged Union Carbide and its officials, including CEO Warren Anderson, with culpable homicide, grievous assault and other serious offences. Union Carbide and its officials have repeatedly ignored the Court's summons. In 1989, Union Carbide and the Indian Government arrived at a negotiated settlement of $470 million for all gas-disaster related injuries. The average pay out for personal injury was between some $400 per person. In comparison, the penalty for the Exxon Valdez disaster, where no human lives were lost, was $5 billion. In 2001, Union Carbide was bought out by US multinational Dow Chemical. Dow Chemical is holding its annual shareholders meeting tomorrow in Midland, Michigan. Well, a few days ago I had the opportunity to talk two people about the Bhopal disaster. Rashida Bee survived the disaster. But she has lost members of her family to cancers from the gases. She is partially blinded by Carbide s gases, suffers from psychiatric problems and is on continuous medication despite which she has been on several hunger-strikes over the past 18 years. In Bhopal, she is legendary for having once led over hundred women from her organization and children on a month-long march to India s capital city, New Delhi, to present a petition to the Prime Minister. And Satinath Sarangi is a metallurgical engineer turned activist who arrived in Bhopal a day-after the disaster and stayed on to become a key figure in the struggle for justice in Bhopal. He also translated Rashida Bee. * Rashida Bee, is a survivor of the Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal. She has lost five gas-exposed members of her family to cancers. She is partially blinded by Carbide s gases, suffers from psychiatric problems and is on continuous medication despite which she has been on several hunger-strikes over the past 18 years. In Bhopal, she is legendary for having once led over hundred women from her organization and children on a month-long march to India s capital city, New Delhi, to present a petition to the Prime Minister demanding their rightful wages. Starting on June 1st 1989 in the middle of a brutal Indian summer they covered a distance of 750 kms (468.75 miles) on foot. ( More recently, in October 2002 as a leading member of the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, she went to Italy and Belgium to deliver brooms to Dow officials and in January 2003 to Netherlands to return tons of solid toxic waste from Carbide s abandoned factory site to its new owner Dow Chemical which has till date refused to clean-up its mess in Bhopal. Contact: * Satinath Sarangi, (known as Sathyu) is a metallurgical engineer turned activist who arrived in Bhopal a day after the disaster and stayed on to become a key figure in the struggle for justice in Bhopal. He is a founding trustee of the Sambhavna Clinic, a non-profit clinic dedicated to the holistic treatment of gas-affected persons in Bhopal. He is also an organizer with the Bhopal Group for Information and Action. 8:58-8:59 Outro and Credits Democracy Now! is produced by Kris Abrams, Mike Burke, Angie Karran, Sharif Abdul Kouddous, Ana Nogueira, Elizabeth Press with help from Noah Reibel and Vilka Tzouras. Mike Di Filippo is our music maestro and engineer. Thanks also to Uri Galed, Angela Alston, Emily Kunstler, Orlando Richards, Simba Rousseau, Rafael delaUz, Gabriel Weiss, Johnny Sender, Rich Kim, Karen Ranucci, Fatima Mojadiddy, Denis Moynihan and Jenny Filipazzo.

Date Recorded on: 
May 7, 2003
Date Broadcast on: 
May 7, 2003
Item duration: 
59 min.
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WBAI; Amy Goodman, host., May 7, 2003
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