Saturday, April 08, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SATURDAY, APRIL 8, 2006 Photo: Rescuers remove a body from inside a mosque after a suicide bombing in central Baghdad April 7, 2006. (Ceerwan Aziz/Reuters) Bring ‘em on: Iraqi soldier allegedly kills US Marine in Qaim. Bring ‘em on: US Soldier killed in Baghdad by small arms fire on Friday. A US Marine was killed in al Anbar province on Thursday. Security Incident: Suicide bombers, one dressed as a woman, blasted worshippers as they left a Shiite mosque after Friday prayers, killing at least 79 people and wounding more than 160 in the deadliest attack in Iraq this year. Rescuers raced to and from the mosque, ferrying bodies from the walled compound on blood-soaked wooden pushcarts and loading them on the beds of pickup trucks. City officials urged Iraqis to donate blood for the wounded. Inside the mosque, blood stained the chipped and crumbling floor next to a red prayer rug and spattered the dingy white walls of a nearby corridor, where a cupboard and plates lay shattered. A firefighter wearing a yellow helmet and yellow gloves kneeled down to inspect the scene in the main prayer room. Police said there were two suicide bombings at the mosque, and an Associated Press photographer saw evidence of two blasts — one at the outer wall surrounding the compound and another at the entrance to the mosque building. The blast in the entrance likely killed some worshippers inside. But Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, the preacher at the mosque and one of the country's leading politicians, said there were three bombings. One assailant came through the women's security checkpoint and blew up first, he said. The preacher, who was not injured, said another raced into the mosque's courtyard while a third tried to enter his office before they both detonated their explosives. Al-Sagheer accused Sunni politicians and clerics of waging "a campaign of distortions and lies against the Buratha mosque, claiming that it has Sunni prisoners and mass graves of Sunnis." UPDATE: The toll has risen to 85 killed. (Another report says 90. – Susan) 156 are reported injured. Police said there were two suicide bombings at the mosque, and an Associated Press photographer saw evidence of two blasts — one at the outer wall surrounding the compound and another at the entrance to the mosque building. The blast in the entrance likely killed some worshippers inside. Security Incidents: US soldiers arrested a tribal leader and four members of his clan in Tikrit. Among the arrested was a policeman. In the town of al Suwaira, police discover the bodies of three members of the security forces with their hands cut off. One was an Iraqi soldier and another a lieutenant-colonel. A decapitated body of a man wear a military uniform was found in al Shahaimiya. Security Incident: A tailor shot dead by gunmen inside his shop in al Zab area, about 40 miles southwest of Kirkuk. Security Incident: US soldiers accidentally kill a civilian by mortar in village south of Sinjar. More Security Incidents (thanks, whisker, for sending them): Baghdad: #1: Three Iraqis were killed and another two injured in Bab-Alsharqi area of Baghdad when mortar shells landed on Naji AL-Khudhairi Mosque and several neighboring houses. #2: Two civilians from the same family were killed when a bomb exploded at the door of their house in central Baghdad, police said. #3: Two Swedes were killed and six injured in Friday's suicide bomb attack on a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, Sweden's foreign ministry said Saturday. The victims were a Swedish man, Asaad Alsuheil, and his six-year old son. Six more Swedish people were injured. #4: (north of Baghdad) Elsewhere, police on Saturday found four headless bodies showing signs of torture that were dumped on a farm about 20 mile north of Baghdad. #5: In neighboring Saydiyah, gunmen shot and wounded a barber as he was leaving his home, #6: and back in Dora, another man was shot and wounded while driving his car. A pistol and wads of American dollars were found in the car, police said. #7: a mortar round hit a house near the Education Ministry in central Baghdad, killing two men, police said. #8: In the southern neighborhood of Dora, gunmen killed a Shiite cigarette vendor and police found the body of a man killed by a roadside bomb... Baqubah: #1: Armed men opened fire on a group of five flour mill workers who were on their way to work southwest of Baquba, killing two and wounding the other three, police said #2: two police bomb squad members were wounded when a roadside bomb went off after they had defused another similar device. The second bomb went off as they were approaching it to defuse it, police said. Three civilians from the same family were also wounded in the blast. #3: Gunmen ambushed and killed Iraqi army Lieutenant- Colonel Mohammed Abdullah Jasim with his bodyguard in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. #4: Four policemen and four civilians were wounded when gunmen ambushed a police patrol in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. Musayib: #1: A CAR bomb killed at least six Shi'ite pilgrims today near a shrine in a town south of Baghdad, a police official said. The bomb exploded in the mostly Shi'ite town of Musayib a day after a triple suicide bombing... Karbala: #1: In...Karbala, seven bullet-riddled bodies were received by the local hospital on Saturday. Four bodies were of men in Iraqi army uniforms, Karbala hospital director Anwar Saduk said, adding that all the bodies showed torture marks. Tikrit: #1: Four other bodies were found by police late Friday near Tikrit. Kirkuk: #1: Iraqi Police of Kirkuk said Saturday morning that two Police personnel were injured when an explosive device blew up on the Kirkuk-Mosul road. #2: Police found the bodies of four Iraqi soldiers shot in the head with signs of torture dumped at the side of a road near the Himreen mountains 120 km (75 miles) south of the northern oil city of Kirkuk, police said. The soldiers were abducted in Tikrit on Thursday. #3: A police major and his two sons were wounded when a bomb exploded near his house in Kirkuk on Friday, police said on Saturday. Tuz Khumato: #1: An Iraqi contractor working for the U.S. military was abducted from the town of Tuz Khurmatu 70 km (40 miles) south of Kirkuk, police said. Riyad: #1: Six policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb detonated near their patrol in Riyad, 60 km (40 miles) southwest of Kirkuk, police said. Fallujah: #1: "Fierce clashes erupted in the afternoon between Iraqi military forces and insurgents in the Nazzal neighborhood in southern Fallujah and in the center area of the city, killing two soldiers and wounding three others," local witnesses Ramadi: #1: In Ramadi, some 110 km west of Baghdad, insurgents clashed with U.S. troops in the center of the city for several hours in the morning, local resident said. However, it was not clear whether there were any casualties on both sides as the U.S. troops blocked all the entrances of the city, they said. REPORTS Official Admits Iraq is In State of Civil War A senior official in the Iraqi government has for the first time said Iraq is in a state of civil war. The deputy interior minister, Hussein Ali Kamal, was speaking a day after suicide bombers killed at least 70 people at a Shiite mosque in Baghdad. A further 160 were injured when three suicide bombers struck the Bharatha mosque. Abdullah Haziz Akim, the leader of Iraq's largest Shiite political grouping told a gathering of his supporters the aim of the attacks was to stop efforts to form a government of national unity. But he said everyone had to work together, including Iraq's Sunnis to try to unify the country. Sunni extremists are being blamed for the attack and there is still real fear some Shiite groups will launch reprisals against the minority Sunni community Iraq Braces for Reprisals After Mosque Attack Iraqi and US officials clamoured to stop a vicious cycle of sectarian violence from spiralling out of control Saturday a day after three suicide bombers killed at least 79 people at a Shiite mosque. We condemn this most recent bombing of a mosque in Baghdad. There was significant loss of life," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters at a briefing in Washington. "This was clearly perpetrated by those who wish to divide Iraq, who wish to encourage sectarian strife. And it was perpetrated by individuals who clearly have no respect for religion." He said the US government would work with Iraqi authorities to try to "prevent similar types of attack" despite escalating violence against the Shiite community by minority Sunni Muslim extremists. The attack was also condemned by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Saghir's mosque packs thousands of worshippers every Friday. The cleric is known for his fiery sermons promulgating the rights of Iraq's Shiites. "This is a filthy war against the Shiites," Saghir told the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite channel. He blamed newspapers close to the ousted Sunni elite linked to deposed president Saddam Hussein for provoking the attack by waging "a campaign defaming our mosque, saying that some Sunnis were detained in the mosque." Iraq's powerful Shiite politician Abdel Aziz al-Hakim of Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the main party in the Shiite alliance, blamed the attack on Hussein loyalists. "These mobs of Saddamists do not care about innocent lives and they are perpetrating genocide against Shiites," Hakim said. In his Friday sermon, Sadr blamed US forces for the Najaf bombing. "This is not the first time that the occupation forces and their death squads have resorted to killings," the cleric said. Chronology of Major Attacks on Shi’ite Targets Here is a short list of some of the recent major attacks on Shi'ite targets: March 2, 2004 - Bombers killed 171 people in Baghdad and the Shi'ite holy city of Kerbala. The coordinated attacks came as majority Shi'ites marked Ashura, one of their holiest days, for the first time since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Dec 19, 2004 - A suicide car bomb killed 52 and wounded at least 140 near the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf. Feb 28, 2005 - A suicide car bomb attack in the largely Shi'ite southern town of Hilla killed 125 people and wounded 130. It was postwar Iraq's worst single blast. July 16, 2005 - A suicide bomber in a fuel truck killed at least 98 at a Shi'ite mosque in the town of Mussayib, near Kerbala. Sept 14, 2005 - A suicide bomber killed 114 people and wounded 156 in a crowded Shi'ite district of Baghdad, while gunmen killed 17 north of the city. Nov 18, 2005 - Seventy-seven people were killed and 80 wounded by suicide bombers inside two Shi'ite mosques in Khanaqin. Jan 4, 2006 - A suicide bomber killed 36 and wounded 40 at a Shi'ite funeral in the town of Miqdadiya northeast of Baghdad. Feb 22, 2006 - A blast at the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest sites in Shi'ite Islam, triggered a explosion of sectarian violence, pushing Iraq to the brink of civil war. April 7, 2006 - Three suicide bombers, dressed as women kill 70 people at a Baghdad mosque which belonged to SCIRI, the most powerful party inside the ruling Shi'ite Alliance. At least 158 are wounded in the blasts. Life in Iraq: Day At a Glance (this story is a continuation of yesterday's link) NEWS 1851: Sheikh Jalaluddin al-Saghir, the prayer leader at the Buratha mosque and an Iraqi MP, accused Sunni politicians and clerics of waging "a campaign of distortions and lies against the mosque, claiming that it includes Sunni prisoners and the mass graves of Sunnis". "Shias are the ones who are targeted as part of this dirty sectarian war waged against them as the world watches silently," he told al-Arabiya, a pan-Arab TV station. UPDATE 1840: Three suicide bombers kill at least 69 people and wound 130 others at a Shia mosque in northern Baghdad. Worshippers were leaving the mosque after Friday prayers. The attacks took place outside the Buratha mosque, one of the most important Shia mosques in the capital. Its prayer leader, Sheikh Jalaluddin al-Saghir, is a member of parliament and an important figure in Iraq's largest Shia political party, the United Iraqi Alliance. Police said he escaped unhurt, the Associated Press reported. Soon after the attack, appeals were broadcast on TV for members of the public to give blood. The injured were ferried to five hospitals across the capital in ambulances and private cars. An Iraqi security official told AFP that two of the bombers were disguised as women. UPDATE 1809: Al-Iraqiya TV reports that as least 69 people were killed and 130 injured in a suicide bomb attack on a Shia mosque in northern Baghdad. NEWS 1805: A US soldier has died of wounds sustained during a patrol in western Baghdad, the US military says. The statement says the soldier's patrol came under small arms fire. Iraq Three Years On: Don’t Look Away A cruel and bloody civil war has started in Iraq, a country which Bush and Blair promised to free from fear and establish democracy. I have been visiting Iraq since 1978, but for the first time, I am becoming convinced that the country will not survive. The bombing of the mosque, a religious complex linked to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, pushes Iraq well down the road to outright civil war between Sunni and Shia Arabs. Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, the preacher in the Buratha mosque, declared: "The Shia are the target and it's a sectarian act. There is nothing to justify this act but black sectarian hatred." Men screamed in anger and fear as they rolled the bodies of the dead on to wooden carts so they could be loaded into ambulances and pick-up trucks. "This is a cowardly act. Every time I see these bloody scenes it tears apart my heart," said Jawwad Kathim, a fireman. I have been covering the war in Iraq ever since it began three years ago and I have never seen the situation so grim. I was in the northern city of Mosul last week protected by 3,000 Kurdish soldiers, but even so it was considered too dangerous to send out heavily armed patrols in day time. It is safer at night because of a curfew. In March alone the US military said 1,313 people were killed in sectarian attacks. Many bodies, buried or thrown in rivers, are never found. The real figure is probably twice as high. George Bush and Tony Blair have for the past three years continually understated the gravity of what is taking place. It has been frustrating as a journalist to hear them claim that much of Iraq is peaceful when we could not prove them wrong without being killed or kidnapped. The capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the handover of sovereignty in 2004, the elections and new constitution in 2005 have all been oversold to the outside world as signs of progress. Killed for the Sake of a Name For police in Baghdad's Al Adil neighbourhood, the 14 corpses looked like the products of just another night's work in Iraq's sectarian war. All were young Sunni men, all had been killed with a bullet to the head and all were found dumped at a tip. Only when they noticed their identity cards - carefully placed on the victims' chests - did officers realise what else they had in common. All shared the same first name: Omar. The victims' only crime, it seemed, was to be namesakes of Imam Omar, a prominent historical figure in the Sunni religious tradition. Until recently, it would have been no more a statement of faith than a Christian being called John, Peter or Paul. But in Iraq's increasingly polarised religious climate, their name alone seems to have been enough to earn them a death sentence - either from Shia extremists bent on avenging sectarian murders by Sunnis, or from foreign terrorists intent on fomenting civil unrest. Whoever the culprits, the murders marked another appalling low in the random, tit-for-tat violence that threatens to edge the country into a full-scale civil war. (The bodies were found last Sunday. – Susan) War –Hit Iraqi Patients Feel Secure in Mental Asylum During the US-led invasion of Baghdad, looters laid waste to Iraq's largest mental health facility, causing nearly all 800 patients to flee into the anarchy and chaos that gripped the capital. Three years of violence, insecurity and unrest later, nearly all of them have returned to the Al-Rashad mental institute, along with hundreds of new patients struggling to deal with the trauma of post-invasion Iraq. "Saddam used to beat us and then (US President George W.) Bush sent his army to beat us and now my father beats me I just can't take it any more," said one patient to Dr Ali Farhan, director of the institute, after his father brought him in for violent and unstable behavior. "After three years of invasion in Iraq, the entire country needs therapy," said Farhan. "The situation is becoming unbearable, the scenes of bloodshed in the street during the day and on television during the night are making people go insane." The institute, near the sprawling Shiite suburb of Sadr City, tries to filter out the daily background violence of Baghdad as much as possible. Televisions in the wards, fixed behind wire cages, broadcast only Arabic and Iraqi music. "We do not broadcast news because all the violence in the country doesn't help the healing process," explained Farhan. Founded in 1950, Al-Rashad is the largest mental health facility of its type in the country and was originally established for paranoid schizophrenics who could no longer function in society. After the fall of the old regime, and as the US military looked on, the hospital was looted, four women were raped inside its walls and it lost all its patients. They soon came back, however, and over the next three years, were joined by groups of newcomers. A four-month-long study conducted by the Association of Psychologists in Iraq published in February found that 92 per cent of 1,000 children surveyed suffer learning problems directly linked to the climate of fear and insecurity. Getting treatment, however, is difficult, especially since the popular perception of psychology in Iraq, like many places around the world, is that it is just for treating the insane. " Jordan: Open Border to Palestinians Fleeing Iraq Jordan should immediately reopen its border to Palestinian refugees fleeing violence in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today. The international community should assist Jordan by offering to resettle these Iraqi Palestinian refugees in third countries acceptable to them. On April 4, a group of 35 Iraqi Palestinians arrived at the border, fleing from Baghdad, adding to the 94 Iraqi Palestinians already stranded on the Iraqi side of the border. They have fled lethal violence and threats to their lives in Baghdad, where they have lived for decades. The refugees told Human Rights Watch that they fled after seeing scores of their compatriots killed in Baghdad in recent months. Unlike Iraqi nationals, these Palestinians cannot enter Jordan on tourist visas. "Jordan is slamming the door in the face of a small, but desperate group of people, who have seen their relatives murdered in Baghdad," said Bill Frelick, refugee policy director at Human Rights Watch. "Jordan should not treat Iraqi Palestinians fleeing persecution more harshly than other Iraqis fleeing violence, who have generally been allowed to enter Jordan." Mass Graves Found in Iraq With 1,000 Bodies Eight mass graves containing around 1,000 bodies have been found near Iraq's northern oil hub of Kirkuk, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) announced on Thursday. "Most of the victims were Kurds, as well as some Christians and Turcoman, who lived in these two majority Kurdish villages," the PUK said in a statement. Also included among the victims were Shiites killed during the 1991 repression of an uprising by former dictator Saddam Hussein, it said. The graves were found in the villages of Al-Asri and Tubazawa, west of Kirkuk. (I have been keeping an informal count of the number found in mass graves from Saddam’s regime, as I see them in the news. It numbers about 12,000 –14,000 at this point. – Susan) Life in Iraq: Ask Our Panel Q: What can you tell me about how Sunnis and Shias in Iraq relate to each other? Samir: It's a religious difference. The schism is related to historical approaches in Islam, to who has the right to interpret the Koran. It's a historical issue started more that thousand years ago. Relations between Shia and Sunni were very good before the occupation. There are many mixed marriages. Nobody will be willing to give his daughter to man who he dislikes. But in the last few months there has been a tense environment between the two parties. It's its all about differences between the political rivals. I think if politics in Iraq wasn't sectarian, things would have been much better. Those parties are based on sectarian principles each wants his sect to be the dominant one. That is why there is conflict. Despite this, there is still a healthy relationship between Shia and Sunni - there are mixed marriages. Q: In your opinion, from where do the intense violence and infighting come? Zeynab: I think the occupation; the Iraqi army and the police are all responsible for the current situation. The Iraqi security forces are now sectarian and they coordinate with the occupation to carry out this terror. The army during Saddam's time was multi-ethnic (Shia, Kurd and Sunni) their mission was to protect Iraq and Iraqis but now nobody is defending the Iraqi people. Q: Zeynab, your courage is to be commended. As a fellow primary school educator, my students and I are interested in how your classroom and school has changed over the past few years. How do your students view their country's current situation and what are their feelings about the future? What problems do you and your students face every day? Zeynab: There was a reconstruction plan but this was applied only to the outer face of the buildings. Inside the building it remains the same, if not worse. We have only one source of light inside classrooms and this is insufficient. Before the war we used to have cleaning service employees but now the students have to leave their classes and do the cleaning themselves. Some students are decided. They will help to build the country in the future but others are very frustrated and don't care about studies anymore because they see no horizon. The major problem which we face every single day is the security issue, I myself moved my son from Al Mansour (Baghdad) school which is the best school in the area to another less prestigious school, I took this decision when the school guard was killed and also in order to avoid car bombs. I'm grateful to you and every one who is concerned about my country and as a colleague I wish you all the best, Thanks a lot. Q: Do you think Iraq would be safer if the U.S. troops left right now? Why or why not? Samir: No, I don't think it would be safer. There would be a civil war. But they [the US troops] are dealing with the situation in the wrong way. They should leave the cities and the roads, get away from our homes. They are trying to enter our homes and search our homes. We don't know why - we don't believe their excuses for it. But we need them to support our country. Iraq needs the Americans to get out of this bad situation. I think most Iraqis hate them, dislike them - but they're not afraid of them, I don't think. Zeynab: No, I don't think so. Not now. If they go now Iraq wouldn't be safer. The Iraqi army and the police can't maintain security in this stage, they won't be able to do the job. Mateen: No, I think it would be a fatal mistake for allied forces to withdraw from Iraq immediately without preparation and making sure the country is strong enough to cope with security problems. I assure you, the country would separate immediately into several entities - it would be worse than Somalia. I don't think the US and UK would make that mistake. If they left, everyone would be in trouble, the country would separate. The current government is not strong enough at the moment to control the security situation and face the security threat. Iraq has a very difficult geopolitical position. Iraqis Daily Lives Throughout 7 April, the BBC News website asked people from all walks of life, all over Iraq to tell us about their everyday experiences. Almost three years after Saddam Hussein's government was toppled, life remains uncertain for many Iraqis. Read the entries below to see how their day unfolded. LULU: I heard about the executions in the mosque today. The television news is saying that many people have been killed and injured. My brothers and sisters feel bad about this. My sister should have stayed here with me until sunset, but she's gone home early in case there is further trouble or a curfew later on. We are afraid. We now have two days' holiday in Iraq, but we can't do much, or go anywhere, because we're afraid that something might happen. I've cancelled an appointment with the dentist because the clinic is near the mosque that was attacked, and I expect the worst if I leave the house. Life must continue though - I'll go another time. Haider (TV chat show host): We are trying to get people to talk in a frank way, a truthful way. But it is difficult. We are a new democracy. And everyone knows there are red lines - issues you cannot talk about. Religion is the first red line here. Security is another one. People are blaming all three sides for the problems with the economy - the local government, the foreign forces and the central government. People say the local government should be more active in their work. They blame the central government for not ending the political problem. And thirdly, people are blaming the multi-national forces because they say they have the technology, they have the money to help, but they suspect that in fact they don't want stability in Iraq. Um Mustafa: There has been a large explosion at a Shia mosque in the city. I heard a loud bang, but it seemed like it came from far away. Then I saw the news on the TV. Work went on as usual. Thank God, work was alright today. Iraq Discovers Oil In Kurdistan "We have discovered oil at Zakho, 470 kilometers (292 miles) north of Baghdad," announced Iraq's deputy oil minister Motassam Akram. He said Saturday the oil wells were drilled by a Norwegian company, DNO and added that the actual crude reserves would be known "soon". In March, the Kurdish authorities had announced the signing of a contract with a Canadian company, Western Oil Sands, to survey the region of Garmain, 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Sulaimaniyah. Most of Iraq's crude reserves are in Shiite-dominated southern regions and are exported through the two southern terminals. Exports from Iraq's northern fields around Kirkuk, just south of Kurdistan, have effectively been shut down by insurgent attacks. US Military Short on Bomb Teams in Iraq The Army doesn't publicize such numbers, citing security concerns, but soldiers everywhere tell stories of "waiting for EOD," sitting exposed on Iraqi roads while overstretched teams scramble from place to place to disarm unexploded devices, either at a distance with robots, or by hand, dangerously close up, in more difficult cases. "We had to wait 24 hours at one IED site for EOD to show up," Sgt. Robert Lewis of the Georgia National Guard's 48th Infantry Brigade told a reporter visiting his base in insurgent-filled western Iraq. Threat of Shiite Militia Now Seen As Iraq’s Most Critical Challenge U.S. military and diplomatic officials say….. And most officials agree….. U.S. and Iraqi officials here have yet to implement, or even publicly articulate…… U.S. officials say…… …..said a U.S. official…. U.S. officials say….. Shiite militiamen are believed to number…… Other estimates for the groups…… calling the claims "a rumor by the occupation forces……” A Mahdi Army member, who did not want to be identified by his real name….. Dressed in a suit and seated at a large wooden desk, the commander of a company……. U.S. and British advisers…….. Some U.S. officials and military commanders argue…….. U.S. officials….. (Who are these people? My conclusion is this type of reporting is just cr*p. – Susan) POLITICS US Report Predicts Rapid Progress on Iraq Unity Government The State Department predicted "rapid and substantial results" in forming a national unity government in Iraq in an upbeat annual progress report to Congress. The report came the same day suicide bombers attacked a major Shiite mosque in Baghdad, killing at least 79 people and wounding 164 more as they were leaving at the end of Friday prayers. But the State Department report maintained progress has been made on the political front despite the upsurge in sectarian violence since the February 22 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. It said that despite setbacks due to the violence and a highly polarized political landscape, Sunni leaders were re-engaging with Shiite and Kurdish leaders across party lines. Despite soaring reconstruction costs due insurgent violence, the report said the Iraqi economy has made "measurable progress," growing from 18.9 billion in 2002 to 33.1 billion dollars in 2005. It put the number of Iraqi security forces at 240,000. But it said reductions of the 132,000-strong US force in Iraq will depend on "conditions on the ground," not on how many Iraqi forces have been trained and equipped, the report said. "There is no specific threshold for the number of IPS (Iraqi police) that must be trained and equipped to maintain law and order and thereby enable US force levels to be reduced," it said. It said the 111,000 members of the Iraqi armed forces that have been trained and equipped so far account for 85 percent of its ultimate end strength. US Congress on Vacation After 2 Weeks of Work Congressional schedule-keepers had planned for a two-week sprint between vacations to produce weighty reforms on immigration, pensions and tax policy. But Friday, at the finish line, all of those measures were missing. The 16-day Easter break began just the same. US ‘In Talks With Iraq Militants’ Mr Khalilzad told the BBC that he believed the talks had had an impact, as the number of attacks on US troops by Iraqi militants had fallen. But he ruled out negotiating with those he called Saddamists or terrorists. He also urged Iraq's politicians to break the deadlock over who should lead the new government of national unity. Iraq's President Jalal Talabani has said the dispute, four months after elections, is one of the main obstacles to political progress in the country. The current prime minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, has rejected growing pressure to resign, saying Iraqis must be allowed to choose their leader democratically. Iraqi Shi’ite Leader Blames US for Attempting to Cause Internal War Iraqi Shiite Leader Mouqtada Sadr on Friday addressed to the Iraqis that gathered for the Friday Prayer in Iraqi city of Qufa. In his address he held the US-led-coalition in Iraq from yesterday's bomb attacks in Iraqi city Najaf. He said, "This is not the first crime that occupying forces have committed so far." Iraqi Women Argue, But Agree On Their Special Role "If the Iraqi woman has the support of other women, then we will change the country, believe me," says Ms. Warda, who was a minister in the interim government under Allawi who now works to empower women. So what does she make of the divisions so evident among the Iraqi women? "It is important to see that it is not a division of religions, no - it is the past and the present, those who were OK with the time of Saddam Hussein and those who were not." Like others, she insists the sectarian strife roiling Iraq today is fed by political leaders looking to advance their own power. "In Iraq we have no religious fanaticism, please say that," says the Chaldean Christian. "It is the politicians using the religious card to arrive at their own political gains." Rashad's organization also serves the growing number of war orphans, either by helping them find family members to live with, or by opening orphanages in places like Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, and the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad. An opponent of US military presence in Iraq, Rashad blames the Americans as much as anyone else for Iraq's slide into sectarianism: She says they raised sectarian profiles by forming post-Hussein governments on the basis of ethnic criteria rather than skills. "They started to speak in that way. And it was the wrong way," she says, shaking a finger. "Whether the Americans knew it or not, they arranged for this." But she sees a role for American assistance. Citing an American woman who sent three computers so her organization could teach computer skills, Rashad says, "Imagine what more we could do if America's money was not for war but to assist and educate the Iraqi people?" COMMENTARY Iraq Illusions Shattered, With a Terrible Cost What's the underlying message of the frenzied commotion over establishing a government in Iraq? Last week, word emerged that President Bush wants to get rid of Iraq's prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who doesn't seem able to put together a government and has aroused the enmity of parties in and out of his own Shiite community. Mr. al-Jaafari reacted with the assertion that it wasn't up to the president of the United States to decide who should be the prime minister of Iraq. But what does he know? The White House denied the president had said any such thing. It came from aides to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the two biggest parties in Iraq's dominant Shiite bloc. They revealed that Zalmay Khalilizad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, had passed on the Bush message. Then Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Minister Jack Straw went to Baghdad to put the pressure on Mr. al-Jaafari, making it clear they want him out. Mr. Straw was even more emphatic, defending the right to interfere: "We are entitled to say that while it is up to you, the Iraqis, to say who will fill these positions, someone must fill these positions and fill them quickly." The underlying message I see is that Washington and London have looked at the future in Iraq, and it's terrifying them. The message is: Get a government, anything we can call a government, so we can get away from this place. For that matter, it would be helpful if that government were to ask us to leave. (I think he is wrong on this last point. What they want is someone other than Jaafari, because he is not compliant enough for them. And I think the US/UK is a large part of what is holding up this process. – Susan) It's good to see the administrations of Mr. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair look into the future. If they had done that in the first place, their governments and their armed forces might have been better prepared for the chaos and bloodletting that would fill the vacuum left behind by Saddam Hussein's defeat, beginning with the looting of Iraq's treasures and culminating these days with internecine bloodshed that is killing scores of Iraqis every week. Noam Chomsky on War Crimes in Iraq In November 2004, U.S. occupation forces launched their second major attack on the city of Falluja. The press reported major war crimes instantly, with approval. The attack began with a bombing campaign intended to drive out all but the adult male population; men ages fifteen to forty-five who attempted to flee Falluja were turned back. The plans resembled the preliminary stage of the Srebrenica massacre, though the Serb attackers trucked women and children out of the city instead of bombing them out. While the preliminary bombing was under way, Iraqi journalist Nermeen al-Mufti reported from "the city of minarets [which] once echoed the Euphrates in its beauty and calm [with its] plentiful water and lush greenery… a summer resort for Iraqis [where people went] for leisure, for a swim at the nearby Habbaniya lake, for a kebab meal." She described the fate of victims of these bombing attacks in which sometimes whole families, including pregnant women and babies, unable to flee, along with many others, were killed because the attackers who ordered their flight had cordoned off the city, closing the exit roads. Al-Mufti asked residents whether there were foreign fighters in Falluja. One man said that "he had heard that there were Arab fighters in the city, but he never saw any of them." Then he heard that they had left. "Regardless of the motives of those fighters, they have provided a pretext for the city to be slaughtered," he continued, and "it is our right to resist." Another said that "some Arab brothers were among us, but when the shelling intensified, we asked them to leave and they did," and then asked a question of his own: "Why has America given itself the right to call on UK and Australian and other armies for help and we don't have the same right?" After several weeks of bombing, the United States began its ground attack in Falluja. It opened with the conquest of the Falluja General Hospital. The front-page story in the New York Times reported that "patients and hospital employees were rushed out of rooms by armed soldiers and ordered to sit or lie on the floor while troops tied their hands behind their backs." An accompanying photograph depicted the scene. It was presented as a meritorious achievement. "The offensive also shut down what officers said was a propaganda weapon for the militants: Falluja General Hospital, with its stream of reports of civilian casualties." Plainly such a propaganda weapon is a legitimate target, particularly when "inflated civilian casualty figures" -- inflated because our leader so declared -- had "inflamed opinion throughout the country, driving up the political costs of the conflict." The word "conflict" is a common euphemism for U.S. aggression, as when we read on the same pages that "now, the Americans are rushing in engineers who will begin rebuilding what the conflict has just destroyed" -- just "the conflict," with no agent, like a hurricane. Some relevant documents passed unmentioned, perhaps because they too are considered quaint and obsolete: for example, the provision of the Geneva Conventions stating that "fixed establishments and mobile medical units of the Medical Service may in no circumstances be attacked, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict." Thus the front page of the world's leading newspaper was cheerfully depicting war crimes for which the political leadership could be sentenced to severe penalties under U.S. law, the death penalty if patients ripped from their beds and manacled on the floor happened to die as a result. The questions did not merit detectable inquiry or reflection. The same mainstream sources told us that the U.S. military "achieved nearly all their objectives well ahead of schedule," as "much of the city lay in smoking ruins." But it was not a complete success. There was little evidence of dead "packrats" in their "warrens" or on the streets, "an enduring mystery." US forces did discover "the body of a woman on a street in Falluja, but it was unclear whether she was an Iraqi or a foreigner." The crucial question, apparently. Additional effects of the invasion include the decline of the median income of Iraqis, from $255 in 2003 to about $144 in 2004, as well as "significant countrywide shortages of rice, sugar, milk, and infant formula," according to the UN World Food Program, which had warned in advance of the invasion that it would not be able to duplicate the efficient rationing system that had been in place under Saddam Hussein. Iraqi newspapers report that new rations contain metal filings, one consequence of the vast corruption under the U.S.-UK occupation. Those Ungrateful Iraqis! AT LAST, there's consensus on who's to blame for the mess in Iraq: the Iraqis! From the beginning, there were ominous signs that the Iraqis weren't going to play the game right. More than a few neocon hearts were broken by the Iraqi refusal to greet us with flowers and champagne as we marched into Baghdad, and the snub still hurts. Just this week, Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum and an unrepentant hawk, complained about "the ingratitude of the Iraqis for the extraordinary favor we gave them: to release them from the bondage of Saddam Hussein's tyranny." The "after all we've done for you!" theme is more than a little jarring, coming as it does from the architects of the war. The Iraqis didn't beg us to invade their country. We invaded Iraq for reasons quite unrelated to the welfare of the Iraqi people (and, it turned out, for reasons unrelated to the welfare of the American people as well). Though most Iraqis were delighted to see the last of Hussein, the war that caused his ouster has had a far higher price tag for Iraqis than for Americans. Iraq's economy is in a shambles, and insurgent and sectarian violence continue unabated. Although solid figures are impossible to come by, most estimates suggest that at least 30,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed as a result of the war in Iraq, along with thousands of Iraqi soldiers and police. Last week, Rice breezily acknowledged the "thousands" of "tactical errors" the U.S. has made in Iraq. She later insisted she was speaking "figuratively, not literally," but even if our bloopers only numbered in the dozens, some of them were pretty big, and all of them have contributed to the current fiasco. If Rice is concerned that we're not getting a great return on our investment in Iraqi democracy, she should consider that — despite the ringing pro-democracy rhetoric — direct U.S. investments in Iraqi democracy have been embarrassingly small. The lion's share of U.S. funding for Iraq has gone to the Pentagon, with little left over for the slow but essential work of training legislators, building accountable political parties and fostering strong civil-society institutions, all crucial to the development of sustainable democratic institutions. On the eve of the Iraq war, former Secretary of State Colin Powell is said to have cautioned President Bush by citing the "Pottery Barn Rule": "You break it, you own it." Rice's suggestion that the Iraqis now owe it to the United States to move forward with democratic reform is a twisted echo of her predecessor's words. Today, Iraq is broken — and even though we're the ones who broke it, our current secretary of State thinks we deserve a refund. PEACE ACTION: No More Victims was founded in September 2002. We work to find medical sponsorships for war-injured Iraqi children and to forge ties between the children, their families and communities in the United States. We believe one of the most effective means of combating militarism is to focus on direct relief to its victims. We are committed to developing information and strategies that empower local communities to engage in direct aid and advocacy. QUOTE OF THE DAY: Anyone who has proclaimed violence his method inexorably must choose lying as his principle: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn


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