Monday, April 11, 2005

War News for Monday, April 11, 2005 Bring 'em on: Two car bomb explosions and subsequent firefight between US forces and insurgents reported in al-Qaim. Bring 'em on: Confirmation that the missing Pakistani diplomat was in fact kidnapped in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Four civilians injured in car bomb explosion near a US convoy in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: American soldier wounded in car bomb attack on US convoy in Ramadi. Bring 'em on: Member of provincial council and his driver shot dead by gunmen in Mosul. Bring 'em on: One Iraqi guardsman killed and three others wounded in roadside bomb attack in Farhad. Bring 'em on: Manager of power station kidnapped in Buhruz. Bring 'em on: Three Iraqis gunned down on the roadside in Iskandariya. Bring 'em on: Sunni muslim scholar shot dead in Mahmudiya. US soldier died Sunday of non-hostile injuries sustained last Wednesday. The Independent report that there are signs that there is growing discontent amoung Iraqis that some hardcore insurgency/terrorist groups are targeting Iraqis as well as occupying forces. The Iraqi Government are reported to have captured the son of a half-brother of Saddam Hussein. The Daily Mirror breaks with a story that US troops are scheduled to stay in Iraq until 2009 (and by implication British troops also) because contract tender forms for civilian workers disclose a huge expansion of interrogation and detention centres in Iraq to remain in place for a minimum four more years. The paper reports that the proposed employment contract contains the following term: "No persons supporting operations will be allowed to reside off a US secure facility, or travel unless in a military secured convoy." The Financial Times report that followers of Moqtada al Sadr plan to stage an even bigger protest than the 300,000 who attended last Saturday's rally in Baghdad campaigning for the withdrawal of occupation forces from Iraq. International Law and the Geneva Convention Who said Quaint? American forces were yesterday accused of violating international law by taking two Iraqi women hostage in a bungled effort to persuade fugitive male relatives to surrender. US soldiers seized a mother and daughter from their home in Baghdad two weeks ago and allegedly left a note on the gate: "Be a man Muhammad Mukhlif and give yourself up and then we will release your sisters. Otherwise they will spend a long time in detention." It was signed Bandit 6, apparently a military code, and gave a mobile phone number. When phoned by reporters an American soldier answered but he declined to take questions and hung up. Salima al-Batawi, 60, and her daughter Aliya, 35, were blindfolded, handcuffed and driven away in a Humvee convoy on April 2, leaving the Arab Sunnis of Taji, a suburb north of the capital, incandescent. Instead of surrendering, her three sons, Ahmad, Saddam and Arkan, alerted the media. None of them are called Muhammad, but it is believed that the note referred to Ahmad and that the Americans wanted all three brothers. The brothers have spent time in Abu Ghraib jail, but have never been charged and say they are citrus farmers with no connection to the insurgency. Lieutenant Colonel Clifford Kent, of the 3rd infantry division, said the women had been seized as suspected insurgents in their own right and not as a bargaining chip. After six days in a US jail near Baghdad airport the women were released without charge. Journalists demand answers Remember Eason Jordan and now this? The Institute of Maltese Journalists has joined the International Federation of Journalists in calling on the United States government to end all speculation over "targeted killings" of journalists and media staff by providing "credible and convincing" reports on incidents in which 14 media staff have been killed since the invasion of the country in March 2003. "The United States stands accused of failing to meet its obligations to deliver justice and fair treatment to the victims of violence by its own soldiers," said IFJ general secretary Aidan White in a letter to President George Bush on Friday. Similar letters calling for the US to carry out an exhaustive investigation into these cases have been sent by IFJ affiliates to US officials. April 8 marks the second anniversary of the US attack on Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, which at the time contained scores of reporters and media people reporting on the US invasion. Two journalists were killed and others wounded. On the same morning, a journalist was killed when the Baghdad offices of the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera was attacked by US fighter planes. The IFJ says there are another 11 other cases of unexplained killings in which US soldiers were involved that require answers. The Real Story on Election Day The real story on Election Day was that the Sunnis didn't vote. If the election was to mark the point from which Iraqis would settle their differences through politics and not through violence, it failed; for those responsible for the insurgency -- not only those planting suicide bombs but those running the organizations responsible for them and the leaders of the community that has shown itself sympathetic enough to the insurgents' cause to shelter them -- did not take part. The political burden of the elections was to bring those who felt frightened or alienated by the new dispensation into the political process, so they could express their opposition through politics and not through violence; the task, that is, was to attract Sunnis to the polls and thereby to isolate the extremists. And in this, partly because of an electoral system that the Sunnis felt, with some reason, was unfairly stacked against them, the election failed. The images could not show, finally, the peculiar system of government under which those elected are now struggling to function -- a system in effect imposed by the American occupation in the interim constitution, known as the "transitional administrative law." That system demands, among other things, that the national assembly bring together two thirds of its votes to confirm a government, a requirement found in no other parliamentary system in the world. That requirement is an artifact of the larger conundrum of Iraqi politics: it was demanded by America's critical Iraqi ally, the Kurds, who are deeply ambivalent about their connection to and role in an Iraqi state dominated by Shiites, and it was supported by the Americans. In effect the two-thirds requirement, and the political impasse it has fostered, is a legacy of the Americans' reluctance to confront the logical implication of their war to unseat Saddam Hussein and his Sunni elite: that there will come to power in Iraq a government dominated by the Shia, powerfully influenced by Islamic law and favorably inclined toward the United States' foremost enemy in the region, the Islamic Republic of Iran. As I will write in a further article, these facts are vital to comprehending the dramatic difference between the encouraging images we are shown and the stubborn and bloody reality on the ground. Vote Rigging Zimbabwe or Ukraine? No. Great Britain. On April 4, Richard Mawrey QC, acting as an election commissioner, issued a judgement in a civil hearing quashing the result of two local authority elections in Birmingham held June 10 last year. Mawrey’s 192-page judgement stated that the polls in the Aston and Bordesley Green electoral wards were corrupted by “massive, systematic and organised” vote-rigging by Labour members, with the aim of offsetting a collapse in the party’s vote due to the Iraq war.


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