Sunday, June 04, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, JUNE 4, 2006 An Iraqi soldier walks on a stain of blood at the entrance of al-Arab Sunni mosque in the southern city of Basra, following a disputed incident in which 9 people inside the mosque were killed by police. (AFP/Essam Al-Sudani) SECURITY INCIDENTS Gunmen kill 21 commuters, many high school students, in apparent sectarian attack near Baqoubah. Attackers stop 3 minibuses, separate out 4 Sunni Arabs, kill Shiites and Kurds. Nine killed in Sunni mosque in Basra by Iraqi police. Specifics of the incident are disputed between the local (Shiite) police and Sunni clerics. According to AFP, 2 police were also killed in this incident. Death toll in yesterday's market bombing in Basra now stands at 28, with 62 injured. KUNA reports several incidents: Later KUNA dispatch has additional incidents: Reuters has additioanl incidents: Political News and Other Developments Yet another deadline passes with failure to name security ministers. Reuters Account:
Government sources had said leaders were close to a deal to present to parliament on Sunday former Shi'ite army officer Farouk al-Araji for interior minister and Sunni General Abdel Qader Jassim, commander of Iraqi ground forces, for defense. But deputy speaker Khaled al-Attiya said on Sunday the parliament session had been postponed "until further notice." Political sources said the powerful Shi'ite Alliance was deadlocked on a nominee for the Interior Ministry post. They said the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, part of the Alliance, had threatened to reject Araji's nomination. Some members of the Alliance said a deal could still be struck later on Sunday. But even so, there are no guarantees the successful candidates will be able to stabilize the country.
Read in Full Iraqi Interior Ministry denies earlier reports that 4 abducted Russian diplomats have been released. UN news agency reports on crisis of unemployment in Iraq. Excerpt:
According to Mohamed Taha al-Mousawi, an adviser at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the national unemployment rate surpassed 60 percent last year. “And the rate rose further in the first quarter of this year, as many policemen and army members quit their jobs due to threats by militants groups,” al-Mousawi said. He added that his ministry had no plans to promote employment until the security situation had improved. Iraq’s high unemployment rate was also recently acknowledged by the First Lady. Speaking at an international conference devoted to women in business in London on 23 May, the wife of President Jalal Talabani stressed that high unemployment levels made disaffected youths easy targets for recruitment by extremists. Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, a respected businesswoman and founder of the Kurdistan Women's Union, agreed. She warned that that joblessness could be expected to increase further, especially in central and southern Iraq. “Unemployment levels have exceeded all limits,” she said. Locals, meanwhile, especially those with big families, complain bitterly about job scarcity. “I can work only two or three days a week due to the huge labour pool,” said Ahmed Fiza'a, a 25-year-old day labourer, as he stood amid a group of about 100 workers in Baghdad's northern Kazimiyah district. “I earn about US $8 a day, and I'm the eldest in an eight-member family...I have to feed them all.”
Read in Full IRIN also reports 180,000 Iraqis now displaced by sectarian violence. This is the official Iraqi government figure, no doubt an understatement -- C.Red Crescent fears water shortage in refugee camp. IRIN also reports situation of Iraqi refugees in Syria is dire: Excerpt:
DAMASCUS, 1 Jun 2006 (IRIN) - Iraqi refugees in Syria are facing a crisis, with prostitution and child labour increasing among the rapidly swelling community. But, more than three years into the US-led war in Iraq, the international community has continued to turn a blind eye to their plight, say Damascus-based aid agencies. “With the extreme political sensitivity of the situation in Iraq, the international community continues to say that things aren’t that bad,” said Ann Maymann, protection officer at the UN refugees agency UNHCR in Damascus. “Who wants to admit that the US-led war created the conditions for this crisis?” According to the first comprehensive report by international aid agencies into the plight of Iraqi refugees in Syria since the start of the war in March 2003 – a copy of which was obtained by IRIN – an estimated 450,000 Iraqis in Syria “are facing aggravated difficulties” as a result of their “ambiguous legal status and unsustainable income”.
Read in Full Iraqi VP Tareq Hashimi calls for a joint Iraq-U.S. commission, or a UN commission, to investigate U.S. troops' behavior in Iraq. Family of aid worker Margaret Hassan, believed murdered in fall 2004, blames UK government for refusing to communicate with her captors. Doubts Continue Over U.S. Account of Ishaqi Incident The bodies of 3 Iraqi children killed in a U.S. raid in Ishaqi, Iraq, on March 15, lie on the ground after neighbors pulled them from their house. The Pentagon insists that only one child died in this operation. (Photo by AFP, via Chris Floyd) I hesitated to post this photo here, but there are far more gruesome examples. The corporate media in the U.S. have not published any of these pictures, as far as I know. Chris Floyd reviews the Ishaqi story. Excerpts:
What happened in the village of Abu Sif (Isahaqi), north of Baghdad, on Ides of March? The murk of war – the natural blur of unbuckled event, and its artificial augmentation by professional massagers – shrouds the details of the actual operation. But here is what we know. We know that U.S. forces conducted a raid on a house in the village on March 15. We know that the Pentagon said the American troops were "targeting an individual suspected of supporting foreign fighters for the al-Qaeda in Iraq terror network," when their team came under fire, and that the troops "returned fire. utilizing both air and ground assets." We know that the Pentagon said that "only" one man, two women and one child were killed in the raid, which destroyed a house in the village. We know from photographic evidence that the corpses of two men, four shrouded figure s (women, according to the villagers), and five children – all of them apparently under the age of five, one as young as seven months – were pulled from the rubble of the house and laid out for burial beneath the bright, blank desert sky. We know that an Associated Press reporter on the scene saw the ruined house, and a photographer for Agence France Presse took the pictures of the bodies. We know that two Iraqi police officials, Major Ali Ahmed and Colonel Farouq Hussein – both employed by the U.S.-backed Iraqi government – told Reuters that the 11 occupants of the house, including the five children, had been bound and shot in the head before the house was blown up. We know that the U.S.-backed Iraqi police told Reuters that an American helicopter landed on the roof in the early hours of the morning, then the house was blown up, and then the victims were discovered. We know that the U.S.-backed Iraqi police said that an autopsy performed on the bodies found that "all the victims had gunshot wounds to the head." We know that the U.S.-backed Iraqi police said they found "spent American-issue cartridges in the rubble." We know that Ahmed Khalaf, brother of house's owner, told AP that nine of the victims were family members and two where visitors, adding, "the killed family was not part of the resistance, they were women and children. The Americans have promised us a better life, but we get only death." We know from the photographs that one child, the youngest, the baby, has a gaping wound in his forehead. We can see that one other child, a girl with a pink ribbon in her hair, is lying on her side and has blood oozing from the back of her head. The faces of the other children are turned upwards toward the sun; if they were shot, they were shot in the back of the head and their wounds are not evident. But we can see that their bodies, though covered with dust from the rubble, are otherwise unmarked; they were evidently not crushed in the collapse of the house during, say, a fierce firefight between U.S. forces and an "al Qaeda facilitator." They died in some other fashion.
Read in Full Warning! This site contains numerous disturbing photographs Floyd comments today on the Pentagon "exoneration" of U.S. forces in this incident. Raw Story also posts some of the photos, and reviews the Reuters account of the incident. Editor and Publisher's Greg Mitchell reposts his earlier account, which draws on Knight-Ridder reporter Matthew Schofield's work. Reuters reports that locals in Ishaqi are terrified of Americans. Excerpt:
Ishaqi, 90 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, is the type of place where the American strategy of winning hearts and minds could go a long way. It is one of a string of villages and towns that are strongholds for Sunni Arab insurgents that U.S. troops face in many parts of Iraq. So any locals brave enough to provide U.S. soldiers with tips would be invaluable allies in the war against the insurgency, which American commanders say can only be won with good intelligence. But these days, helping Americans seems out of the question in Ishaqi. The extended family of the victims of the raid are still collecting evidence, in the hope that it might ease their grief. Recalling the sounds of gunfire and explosions, Khalaf stands over what was once his brother's bedroom and remembers some of the dead, like Osama, 7. He clutches death certificates. "They (U.S. troops) went into the house and fired for about 30 minutes," he said. The Ishaqi findings come amid an investigation into allegations U.S. Marines massacred up to two dozen unarmed civilians in the town of Haditha in November. Several other killings are also under investigation. New Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has promised Iraqis justice and criticized the American actions. But judging by the mood in Ishaqi, Iraqis have learned not to expect too much from their new U.S.-backed democracy. "We know these probes never lead to anything," said Kassim Jaafar, 25. Some of the victims were teachers. So villagers built a school at the site of the attack to honor their memory. It's therapy for some but others are still looking for protection from any future American operations. "Our government will just leave us to the mercy of American soldiers," said Dhiya Ahmed.
Read in Full COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS Boston Globe's Bryan Bender attributes crimes by U.S. troops to the stress of repeated deployment. This story highlights the little-noticed fact that 9 soldiers have already been convicted of killing Iraqi civilians who were not in custody. Most have received what would ordinarily be considered extremely light sentences for murder, they have received sentences ranging from dismissal, to 45 days in the brig, to 3 years. One, however, was sentenced to 25 years. Excerpt:
A Globe review of the nine cases that have yielded convictions in military courts showed that most involved soldiers who had been exposed to frequent guerrilla attacks and feared for themselves or their comrades, a situation many psychologists have said makes soldiers more prone to disregard laws of war that prohibit targeting civilians. One soldier, Staff Sergeant Johnny Horne Jr. , was sentenced to three years in prison for executing an unarmed teenager who had been wounded in crossfire during fighting in Baghdad's volatile Sadr City neighborhood in August 2004, according to military documents. ``I fired a shot into his head, and his attempts to breathe ceased," he testified to a military judge in December 2004. Also among the convictions, according to military records and court proceedings reviewed by the Globe: Two soldiers sentenced to prison for the premeditated murder of two unarmed civilians immediately after their patrol unit had escaped sniper fire and ambushes in Sadr City in August 2004 -- a sequence similar to the Haditha case, in which a group of Marines allegedly killed up to 24 civilians last November after becoming enraged when a roadside bombing killed one of the Marines' comrades. Like the Third Battalion of the First Marine Regiment in Haditha, the unit involved in both Sadr City cases -- the First Battalion of the 41st Infantry Division of the Army National Guard -- had served multiple tours of duty in Iraq, thereby increasing the kinds of pressures that psychologists say can lead to attacks on civilians.
Read in Full. WHISKER'S ROUNDUP OF THE WOUNDED Because today's post is already so long, I have posted Whisker's roundup here. While we focus on the terrible suffering of the Iraqi people, we must still remember the price paid by U.S. military personnel and their families. Most of them are just trying to do their jobs. AFGHANISTAN Thanks to Whisker for these items: Canadian military convoy attacked by suicide car bomber near Kandahar airfield. Several Afghan civilians injured. Second attack in Kandahar targets provincial governor travelling with Canadian troops, four civilians killed and 13 wounded. Note: These appear to refer to separate incidents but it is possible that the first account is a garbled or incomplete version of the same attack as the second. In Zabul province, Afghan troops say they killed 4 Taliban, captured 3. In Paktika, govt. health official assassinated, his brother also killed. In Pakistan's North Waziristan border province, attack on military convoy kills 2 Pakistani soldiers, injured 2 others. Quote of the Day We get the illusion that we are seeing what might be happening in Iraq. But what we’re getting is a massive censorship by omission; so much is being left out. We have a situation in Iraq where well over 100,000 civilians have been killed and we have virtually no pictures. The control of that by the Pentagon has been quite brilliant. And as a result we have no idea of the extent of civilians suffering in that country. -- Reporter John Pilger, interviewed by Sophie McNeill. (Recommended reading -- C.)


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