War News for Sunday, October 9, 2005
Bring 'em on: Child killed and six wounded in car bomb attack in Basra
Bring 'em on: Five Iraqi soldiers wounded by roadside bomb in Latifiya
Bring 'em on: Two US soldiers killed by small arms fire in Haqlaniya
Bring 'em on: Two civilians killed and three policemen wounded in car bomb attack in Kirkuk
Bring 'em on: Member of city council shot dead in Kirkuk
Bring 'em on: Three oil security guards killed in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: Four US marines killed by roadside bomb in Fallujah
Bring 'em on: Child killed and five wounded in mortar attack in Riyadh
Bring 'em on: Two US soldiers killed in bomb attack in Al Qaem
Bring 'em on: One civilian killed and three wounded by roadside bomb in Iskandariya
Bring 'em on: No reports of casualties as US patrol hit by roadside bomb in Baghdad
Bring 'em on: US forces kill three after mortar attack in Fallujah
Bring 'em on: Seven killed after suicide bomb attack on police patrol in Baghdad
: Despite their minority status in Iraq as a whole, the Sunnis could in theory block adoption of the new constitution by voting massively against it in the three provinces of the country where they form the majority. These are Anbar in the west, where US forces launched a pre-referendum offensive against insurgent forces earlier this month, and Salaheddin and Nineveh in northern Iraq.
Sistani pissed off
: Though his precise views are rarely clear, Sistani appears to have let it be known through various followers that he is unhappy with their performance -- a dismay that is echoed among many of the long-oppressed Shi'ite poor, who complain that they have yet to see economic benefits from majority rule. The beneficiaries at the election, expected on Dec. 15 under a constitution expected to be ratified at a referendum on Saturday, could be other Shi'ite movements and leaders, now in opposition, such as nationalist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and secular former prime minister Iyad Allawi.
: The American operator of a Web site which posted grisly pictures of people killed in the Iraq and Afghan conflicts was arrested on obscenity charges unrelated to the war photos, police officials in Florida said.
: Iraq is on the verge of civil war and there is no clear strategy or leadership to reconcile the different communities, the head of the Arab League said on Saturday.
Opinion and Commentary
Tuesday in Baghdad
Woke up, 7 a.m., gunfire outside. Decided to read in the windowless bathroom, then take shower and brush teeth, using bottled water, of course.
9 a.m. Kevin, a former British Royal Marine commando who's in charge of security for Knight Ridder, warns that things might be heating up, so be careful out there. He reads the daily reports of violence all over the country.
"Out where?" I ask. "I'm not leaving the building, am I?"
"Yes," I'm told, "You're on for the Green Zone" the supposedly secure city center that is home to most of the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy.
10 a.m. Go have breakfast. Kevin carries a blue backpack containing an AK-47. He says that I need some exercise and that he's willing to cover me if I go for a swim later. I think he's joking.
11 a.m. We leave the 10-foot-high blast walls that surround the hotel complex in a two-car convoy. The rear car's job is to run interference in case "bad guys" try to intercept "the package" [that would be me].
Noon Dropped off several blocks from the Green Zone and walk to Checkpoint 3 [the main entrance]. Walking because on Monday Iraqi army soldiers pushed me back inside the car, while pointing a machine gun at my head and shouting. They fired at reporters warning shots, the reporters think from National Public Radio and The Wall Street Journal. The three incidents prompted a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman to start a briefing with journalists by saying, "OK, raise your hand if you were shot at today."
As I'm walking, phone rings. I answer. My Iraqi colleague Mohammed, who reports full time for Knight Ridder, takes the phone from my hand, whispering fiercely, "No English here. Be very, very afraid here."
I get inside and call the number back, reaching a very nice U.S. Army major who says we need to meet to discuss how to make the entrance to the Green Zone safer for journalists. "Can you meet in about an hour?" he asks. I agree, and he says he'll pick me up at the National Assembly building at 12:50 p.m., and we'll walk together to Checkpoint 3.
12:10 p.m. Get inside National Assembly building. Someone steals my watch at the final security check.
12:30 p.m. Talking to Saddam Hussein's old translator. He explains that democracy in the new Iraq is a fiasco. Bush's fault, and Bush will have to face the judgment of history for his mistakes. [All times from here are approximate; see above.]
12:50 p.m. The major is late so I decide to head down to the checkpoint and wait for him. Mohammed says, "No, you're not. You're waiting for his call."
1 p.m. On phone with the major, who's apologizing for being late when a car bomb explodes at Checkpoint 3 entrance. Gunfire ensues.
1-3 p.m. Locked down in National Assembly building with legislators while bomb debris and bodies are cleared from the street.
3:15 p.m. The major calls back. Come on out, he says. I join him walking to Checkpoint 3.
3:25 p.m. We step around football-sized chunks of bomber hanging like gruesome Christmas ornaments from the razor wire. I point out the journalists' security fears, being forced to walk through a dangerous area to get to Iraqi government and U.S. Embassy briefings. He is concerned. "Wow, that's dangerous," he says, pushing aside a smoking piece of car interior with a booted toe. "I think the problem is, the guys here are nervous whenever cars come near, especially if they stop, like yours do, to drop you off."
"No kidding," I say, just avoiding treading on an eyeball.
4 p.m. We work out a system, as the major agrees that it's not safe for us to walk the route we have been. He says he'll contact the U.S. Army guards, the Iraqi army guards, the private guards, the Georgian army guards, the Iraqi police and the Iraqi traffic cops, all of whom are on duty within 50 yards. I thank him and tiptoe back toward the National Assembly building.
4:30 p.m. Walk a razor-wired path under gunpoint for several blocks to find waiting driver. He was 100 yards away and watching the entrance during the explosion, then hiding as bullets started raining down. He's happy to leave.
5:30 p.m. Arrive back inside hotel blast walls, go to room and write story about Iraqi politics.
8:30 p.m. Order dinner hamburger with an egg and cheese-ish stuff on it. Kevin notes that it may not be the healthiest meal on Earth.
9 p.m. The booms are now pretty constant in southern part of town. Kev says it's no big deal. Last night he said the same thing, "It's a gun battle across the street. No big deal." Tonight he notes, "The heavy stuff is a ways away." I look at a map. Three miles.
10 p.m. And so to bed.
Mohamed ElBaradei, who angered the Bush administration by disputing its claims that Saddam Hussein's regime had an active nuclear weapons program, won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, sharing the award with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN agency he leads.
ElBaradei, as the IAEA's director general, has been a central figure in efforts to monitor the nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran, and he had pressed publicly for his agency's weapons inspectors to be given more time to search Iraq for weapons of mass destruction before the American invasion.
Seeking a third four-year term this year as head of the IAEA, ElBaradei was opposed initially by the Bush administration. His popularity with other member countries was such that the administration dropped its opposition and ElBaradei was re-elected.
"I'm extremely humbled and honored," he said Friday at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, after being taken by surprise when he saw the Nobel announcement live on television at his home. "I think the prize recognizes the number one danger we are facing today, and that is the threat of proliferation of nuclear weapons."
Freedom on the March
Senior US officials have begun to question a key presumption of American strategy in Iraq: that establishing democracy there can erode and ultimately eradicate the insurgency gripping the country. The expectation that political progress would bring stability has been fundamental to the Bush administration’s approach to rebuilding Iraq as well as a central theme of White House rhetoric to convince the American public that its policy in Iraq remains on course.
But within the last two months, US analysts with access to classified intelligence data have started to challenge this precept, noting a “significant and disturbing disconnect” between apparent advances on the political front and any progress in reducing insurgent attacks. Now, with next Saturday’s constitutional referendum appearing more likely to divide than unify the country, some within the Bush administration have concluded that the quest for democracy in Iraq, at least in its current form, could actually strengthen the insurgents.
The commander of US forces in Iraq, Army Gen. George W. Casey, has acknowledged that such a scenario is possible, while officials elsewhere in the administration, all of whom declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, said they shared similar concerns about the referendum. Iraq’s Sunnis, who form the core of the insurgency, are bitterly opposed to a constitution drafted mainly by the country’s majority Shia sect and ethnic Kurds. Yet from all indications, they will fail to muster enough votes to defeat it.
“It could make people on the fence a little more angry or [make them] come off the fence,” said a senior US official who requested anonymity. A growing number of experts outside the administration and in Iraq agree with such assessments. “If the constitution passes in a non-amicable way, the violence will increase,” said Ali Dabagh, an Iraqi National Assembly member who is believed to be close to Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari. The White House has consistently linked the building of democracy in Iraq and the broader Middle East with the defeat of the insurgency there.