War News for Monday, December 12, 2005
Bring 'em on
: An empty minibus loaded with explosives detonated near a hospital in east Baghdad today, killing three people and injuring 13, police said. Other violence in and around Baghdad killed another six people, bring the total to nine. A total of 21 people were injured. In the minibus attack, Lt Mohammed Khayoun of the Baghdad emergency police said it exploded near the al-Kindi hospital and east Baghdad’s Nadhaa bus station. The driver of the van abandoned it on the street and ran, he added. All three killed were Iraqi civilians, while the injured included five police officers, he said. In Baghdad, police said that a number of clashes between the unidentified gunmen, police and the Iraqi army resulted in the deaths of two police officers and the injury of another nine. A police sergeant was reportedly killed by an American patrol, police Capt Taleb Thamer said. In Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, a roadside bomb killed an Iraqi woman and injured five other people. Police also reported that a businessman, identified as 43-year-old Mohammed Yousif, was kidnapped along with his 23 year-old son in Baghdad’s upscale Mansour district. No other details were available. Another two people were killed in an early morning drive-by shooting in Baghdad southern Dora district.
Bring 'em on
: A US soldier assigned to the 2nd Marine Division was killed in a suicide car bomb attack near the western city of Ramadi, the US military said today. It said the soldier was killed yesterday during combat operations near the restive city of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad. The name of the soldier was withheld pending notification of next of kin. The soldier was the eighth American service member killed by hostile fire in the Baghdad area since Thursday. That brought to at least 2,143 the number of US military members who have died since the war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
: On Anthrax Vaccines.
Call for Withdrawal
: A pact of honor, calling, among other things, for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, has been signed in Baghdad. The signatories include “more than 57 political parties and influential tribes in the country,” said Bahaa al-Araji of the Sadr movement which helped drafting the pact. “The groups agreeing to our pact of honor represent all hues of the Iraqi society,” Araji said. He said any government assuming power after the December 15 elections will have to taken the signatories’ demands into account. The Sadr movement, led by the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, wields tremendous power among impoverished Shiite across the country. Among the signatories were Ahmad Jalabi, current deputy prime minister and representatives from influential Shiite and Sunni factions.
: Nine Iraqi provinces have taken yet another step to consolidate their efforts to establish a semi-independent region, a move many see as the harbinger for the disintegration of the country. On Thursday, security and police leaders in southern Iraq held a meeting in Najaf in which they publicly called for the creation of an autonomous region modeled on the Kurdish self-rule administration in the north.
: Iraqis have begun voting in hospitals, military camps and prisons, a few days in advance of general elections to be held on 15 December. At Baghdad's Yarmuk hospital on Monday, election officials said the first of 1500 patients began voting. Voting should end at 5pm It will not be the only early voting in advance of general elections.
BBC Opinion Poll
: When asked to choose a priority for the new government due to be formed after this week's parliamentary elections, 57% wanted to focus on restoring public security. Removing US-led forces from Iraq came second with 10%, while rebuilding the country's infrastructure was third. Half of those questioned felt Iraq needed a single, strong leader following December's vote, while 28% thought democracy was more important. However, opinions changed when people were asked about what Iraq would need in five years' time. Support for a strong leader fell to 31% and that for democracy rose to 45%. The support for democracy does not translate into support for Iraq's political parties. Only 25% had confidence in Iraq's politicians - far lower than the 67% who trust its religious leaders and army.
: Moderates are imploring colleagues in Congress to tone down the rhetoric on Iraq as debate about President Bush's war policies has become increasingly bitter and partisan. Their pleas are likely to be ignored. The war is expected to be front and center in the upcoming congressional election year, particularly in several races where candidates are Iraq war veterans. Neither party has much incentive to pull its punches, with Republicans eager to paint Democratic critics of Bush's Iraq policies as soft on defense and Democrats looking to exploit his woes as polls show declining support for the war.
: An Iraqi search of a government jail in Baghdad operated by the Interior Ministry found 13 prisoners who had been subjected to serious abuse, The Washington Post reported on Monday. An Iraqi official with firsthand knowledge of the search said at least 12 of the prisoners had suffered "severe torture," including electric shock, the newspaper said. "Two of them showed me their nails and they were gone," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
: The Sadrists also have proven to be good politicians. Their three Cabinet members — running the health, transport and civil society ministries — are widely thought to have been among the better Cabinet performers, gaining a reputation for integrity and hard work. Al-Sadr's movement has broadened its support among Iraq's Sunni-dominated Arab nationalists by opposing the introduction of a federal system of government in Iraq's new constitution that will let provinces cluster in self-rule regions. Nationalists believe that federalism could lead to the breakup of Iraq.
Opinion and Commentary
For long Iraqis have been complaining of the behavior of the trigger-happy private guards or contractors, but to no avail. Local newspapers frequently publish horrifying stories of innocent Iraqis killed or maimed by this gang of reckless mercenaries but the power they exercise and the rights they enjoy makes them accountable to no authority in the country. At least 20,000 of these heavily armed guards roam the streets of Baghdad and other major cities. They race in their SUVs, totting their guns, firing at suspected vehicles or individuals and anyone failing to understand their threatening body language.
The hapless families of these mercenaries’ victims, contracted by the U.S. to protect its officials and construction schemes none of which has borne fruit yet, file complaints with Iraqi police or send petitions to local newspapers. But like the occupation troops, these mercenaries have immunity from prosecution inside Iraq and are only accountable under their countries’ laws which they always circumvent.
The oppression these mercenaries inflict on the Iraqi people is only matched by that the U.S. troops, the insurgents and terrorists exercise in Iraq. Unfortunately the world only rose to this new tragedy when early this month a British newspaper made public a so-called trophy video showing these mercenaries – or private contractors in the language of international media – firing at Iraqi civilians as an Elvis song played in the background.
There is not meaning for sovereignty or national government or general elections when foreign mercenaries disdain Iraq’s legislation, kill, maim and insult its citizens as they ply the streets under the pretext of protecting important people. Iraq was never in need of ‘foreign contractors’ for protection. This is yet another stigma of the country’s humiliation at the hands of U.S. occupiers.Jordan Prince
Prince Hassan of Jordan says that US-led forces in Iraq have run out of goodwill and must change tack to prevent growing instability in the Middle East. The brother of the late King Hussein and an influential Arab leader, the prince wrote in The Sunday Telegraph in London that elections on 15 December will do little to solve the problem of Iraq's Sunni Muslim group feeling isolated.
"The core of the Iraqi insurgency has too much support, both active and passive, to be defeated militarily," the prince wrote. "Only the horror of an all-out civil war, with perhaps a million more dead, could bring an uncertain end by arms to this ongoing tragedy. "Nor will insurgents be drawn into politics by inertia. Dialogue, negotiated agreement and compromise must be the tools used to bring Iraq's fragmented representation to the table.
"Only then can Iraqi nationalists be freed from a temporary and forced alliance with the radicals who claim to represent them." Prince Hassan said that Iraqi liberation now meant freedom not from Saddam Hussein, the former president, but from the threat of civil war - and the presence of foreign troops. "Many Iraqis welcomed the arrival of the coalition, and with good reason," he said. "But the currency of goodwill was quickly spent.