Friday, July 14, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, July 14, 2006 Photo: Armed supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stand behind a makeshift Lebanese flag in Baghdad's Sadr City. Iraqis from both sides of the country's sectarian divide have condemned Israel's attacks on Lebanon and Gaza.(AFP/Wissam Al-Okaili) Gunmen ambushed an Iraqi army checkpoint in northern Iraq, killing 12 soldiers and wounding one, in one of the deadliest single attacks in months against the U.S.-trained Iraqi forces. (…) Gunmen in four cars and armed with rocket-propelled grenades and machineguns attacked an army checkpoint in the town of Rashad near Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, Iraqi army Major General Anwar Hamad Ameen said. "This area is a stronghold for Takfirists and terrorists," Ameen told Reuters. Takfirists is a term used to describe al- Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists. The Defense Ministry confirmed the incident, one of the worst setbacks in months for the U.S.-trained Iraqi forces that Washington hopes will take on most security tasks to allow for the withdrawal of the roughly 140,000 U.S.-led troops in Iraq. OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS Baghdad: A bomb planted in the street killed at least seven people and wounded five as they left a Sunni mosque in northern Baghdad after Friday prayers. Further details of the incident at the Ismail al-Qubaisi mosque were not immediately available. Gunmen killed a taxi driver in a drive-by shooting in the Dora neighborhood of southern Baghdad. Gunmen opened fire on a bus in western Baghdad, wounding three passengers. Gunmen sprayed a minibus with machinegun fire southeast of Baghdad, killing five Shi'ite pilgrims, including a woman and a child. Captain Mohammed al-Shimari of Kut police said the pilgrims had been travelling to the holy Shi'ite city of Kerbala when gunmen attacked them on the outskirts of Kut. Two insurgents were killed, one wounded and another detained on Thursday morning after a firefight with U.S. soldiers in northern Baghdad, the U.S. military said. Five people were also wounded in the bomb attack against the Ismail al-Qubaisy mosque in Al-Qahira neighbourhood. A civilian was killed and nine others were wounded in a mortar attack in Baghdad's Zafaraniyah neighbhourhood. Balad Ruz: Six mortar rounds hit a Shi'ite mosque, killing two people and wounding four in the town of Balad Ruz about 40 km (25 miles) southeast of Baquba. The bodies of two brothers and a cousin were found, apparently the latest victims of a mass kidnapping that took place in the town of Muqdadiyah not far from Balad Ruz on Wednesday. Tikrit: An Iraqi contractor working with the US forces was shot dead by gunmen close to the northern city of Tikrit. The contractor's 18-year-old son was also wounded in the attack when gunmen ambushed the car in which they were travelling. Mosul: A policeman was shot to death in front of his home in the northern city of Mosul. A bodyguard of a judge were shot dead by gunmen in Mosul. Kirkuk: One policeman was killed and another wounded when gunmen opened fire on their car in central Kirkuk. Tal Afar: Police found 12 bodies dumped in a deserted cemetery in Tal Afar, about 420 km (260 miles) northwest of Baghdad. Hospital sources said it was thought they had been strangled four or five months ago. A sniper killed two policemen manning a checkpoint in Tal Afar on Thursday. >> REPORTS The US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants said last month that there were 644,500 Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan in 2005 - about 2.5 per cent of Iraq's population. In total, 889,000 Iraqis had moved abroad, creating "the biggest new flow of refugees in the world", according to Lavinia Limon, the committee's president. >> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS A GREAT STEP FORWARD IN IRAQ! Foreign occupying forces will hand Muthanna province (which is mostly desert) over to the Iraqi security forces! Prime Minister Maliki was there to celebrate, but "Most of his speech at the ceremony to mark this historic event went unheard because the sound system failed due to a power cut." The Indy continues:
There were no members of the public present at the 'Olympic Stadium' of the sleepy and dusty provincial capital, Samawa, to witness the Prime Minister's tussles with broadcasting. All those present were invited, and the date of the handover had not been publicised to prevent an attack by insurgents.
read in full... FORWARD TOGETHER? There are two horrific stories in today's azzaman.com (Al-Zaman) the first which can be found here [Arabic text] says that the militias who conducted what is best described as a pogrom on July 9th in Baghdad's Jihad neighbourhood knew who they were looking for. Here's what Juan Cole has to say about the same story.
"Shiite militamen who undertook the killings had with them long lists of ex-Baathists who had held office under the old regime but had been purged by the Debaathification Committee. The Debaathification Committee has been dominated by Ahmad Chalabi, and much of the documentation for its work was turned over to Chalabi by Donald Rumsfeld's Department of Defense. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki also played a central role in the Debaathification Committee."
Go read the whole posting on "Informed Comment," Cole entirely correctly discusses the role of the Debaathification Committee and explains its connection both to Ahmed Chalabi and Nour al-Maliki but I think that Cole is missing the significance of some very important points towards the end of the story. The first is that according to the witnesses quoted in the story the killers were young, relatively well armed, well dressed, and not particularly choosy about who they killed - if they couldn't find the person they were looking for from their list they just killed somebody else in their place. The second though is a bit more telling. According to al-Zaman they co-ordinated their actions using walkie-talkies and radios, NOT, mobile 'phones and that they were observed using these apparently to "screen" people whom they had captured, the implication of the story being that they were asking for and getting orders about who to kill. That doesn't sound like any of the various groups loosely associated with Muqata al-Sadr's movement to me, and it certainly doesn't sound like his Mahdi Militia. The membership of the Mahdi militia are young, true, but they're also impoverished and have to buy their weapons and other equipment out of their own pockets - even allowing for a certain amount of racketeering and "protection" money they just don't have the cash to equip themselves with sophisticated comms equipment. 'Nor is it likely that such equipment was "borrowed" from, for example the Ministry of Health, (which is under Sadrite control) because to the best of my knowledge and belief they don't have a plethora of such equipment either. Furthermore involvement by the Mahdi militia in such a pogrom would put the kybosh on al-Sadr's efforts to reach out to Sunnis. It's far more likely that this pogrom is associated with much more avowedly sectarian elements within the green zone government, some have suggested Badr brigade involvement which is far more intuitively plausible. The second story can be found here [Arabic text] it describes how residents in Amiriyah, Al-Dura (Dora), Ghazaliyah, Khadra, Jihad, and Sayyidiyah which are largely Sunni districts in Western baghdad have formed vigilante associations to keep deathsquads out. Cole has picked up on this article too but his posting is short, and some context is needed here's what he has to say:
"Al-Zaman/ DPA say that Sunni Arabs in the West Baghdad districts of Amiriyah, Khadra, Jihad, Ghazaliyah, Sayyidiyah and Al-Dura (Dora) have formed emergency neighborhood patrols for fear that Shiite militias from nearby Shiite-dominated districts to the east will make further raids into their areas. Muezzins or callers to prayer in the Sunni mosques of the Khadra district used amplifiers to call for volunteers, and dozens of young men responded by taking up arms. They especially hastened to do so after armed militiamen attacked the Muluki Mosque in al-Amiriyah District near Karkh late on Wednesday. They set up concrete blocks as barriers barring entry to the Khadra District. As soon as the callers to prayer broadcast the attack on the Muluki Mosque, shopkeepers and merchants in the commercial district closed their establishments.
This narrative of innocent Sunni Arabs policing their neighborhoods from predatory Shiite attacks on mosques obscures those other processes that PM al-Maliki described, whereby the Sunni Arab guerrilla movement is trying to take over these districts politically and extend its sway to Karkh [see: sidebox - mfi]. In a civil war, disentangling offense and defense is no easy task." I don't agree with Juan that this is a case of a narrative being obscured. In a sense there's nothing particularly new about this development. Vigilante groups in Baghdad's middle-class and upper-class suburbs first sprang up in as a defense against looters in the chaos immediately following the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime. Residents manned checkpoints to protect their homes and shops. It makes sense in the current climate for residents particularly residents who feel themselves to be under threat to mount checkpoints again. This needs to be seen as part of post-Samarra Iraq. The post-Samarra bombing violence has come in two waves: • The first targeted Sunni mosques and the offices of political parties. • The second wave is targetting people and it is in response to this second wave of violence that these vigilante neighbourhood defense groups are re-forming. As you might expect these groups are almost exclusively centred around mosques. There are three reasons for this: 1. Mosques are social focal points, even in "secular" areas. They make natural storage points for arms and medical supplies. 2. Their architecture (high rooves and minarets,) make them natural vantage points from which to keep watch. 3. Mosques typically have reasonably powerful public loudspeakers (business for these is booming) also and these can be and are used to broadcast alerts to residents to get their guns and rush to defend the barricades. As yet these groups aren't large armed formations. They typically operate as small separate groups of up to about 50 volunteers who take guard duty in shifts. So far they are are primarily defensive and are not formally linked to the anti-occupation fighters. I have no idea why on earth Juan Cole thinks Maliki's claims in this regard are reliable. When you read the article on azzaman.com it's describing a very typical "neighbourhood watch"/protection scheme. There are concrete and wire barricades put up to control access to the neighbourhood. These are typically manned by young volunteers. In the event of an attempted incursion or of an attack a combination of calls for defenders broadcast from the mosque and mobile telephone alerts issued by the perimeter defenders causes residents to pick up their guns, rush to close the roads into the neighbourhood, and repel the attackers. This pattern is identical to that everywhere else in Baghdad, Sunni, Shia, and mixed alike. In the light of the horrific events in Jihad on the 9th it is completely unsurprising that residents in Amiriyah, Dora, Ghazaliyah, Khadra, Jihad, and Sayyidiyah would step up their defenses. It is also completely unsurprising that people in those areas would ask why it is that many of these death squads seem to know who to look for and where they live. The article quotes one resident in particular - 75 year old Abu Omar as saying that the increasing attacks on mosques, especially after nightfall, have made these precautions necessary. Saying that there had been repeated attacks in Amiriyah, Jihad, and Sayyidiyah by attacksers wearing the uniform of the police. The article quotes other residents as saying that it was their duty to repel attacks by militia elements and that the absence of the State [would] create a law of the jungle and the rule of organised crime syndicates, the forces of terrorism and subversion, and out-of-control militias. It's worth noting that in al-Jihad, Sheikh Hussein, like al-Sadr preaches unity saying "It's the occupation which wants us to fight each other," and that the same is being said by community leaders in al-Furat, which unlike al-Jihad is almost entirely Sunni. Cole and other western commentators seem absolutely determined to decree that full scale civil war has erupted. Baghdadis are by no means convinced of this, what they are convinced of is that it is the occupation itself which is driving the country towards one. link SECTARIAN RHETORIC The predominantly Sunni Al-Adhamiya district, the predominantly Shia Al-Sadr City, the predominantly Sunni Al-Anbar province, the predominantly-Shia Missan district... this is how Iraqi locales are depicted every day in the media. Whether discussing security or politics, economy or services, the labelling is there for all to see and hear. If anything, such rhetoric tells the Shias to leave cities in which they are not a majority, and the Sunnis to do the same. This message, hideous as it is, is latent in the language of the media. The media may seem objective, informative, even hi-tech, yet its message can be as crude as it is tendentious. Still it broadcasts this same message day in, day out. What next? What happens once demography catches up with prophecy? What happens once the districts of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities turn into ethnically pure zones? Once the factional lines are drawn, do we have much hope of avoiding a sectarian war? Invisible hands are at work, inspiring the media, dictating its message. And the best writers are falling for it. Even the most neutral and independent media is buying into the charade. Even Iraqi media has been dragged into the habit of categorising, classifying and labelling. Consequently, the pace of forcible evictions is picking up in various parts of Baghdad and around the country. Meanwhile, journalists from various nationalities have become targets of terror, victims of pre-planned and pre-meditated attacks. On one day, four journalists were killed. Then for months no journalist was harmed. It's all taking shape according to plan. The media speaks of each area in Iraq as being "predominantly" this or the other. Paradoxically, the same media often opposes the restructuring of Iraq along a federal axis, although similar moves towards federalism have succeeded everywhere in the Arab world, and in areas less ethnically diverse than Iraq. The media claims that federalism in Iraq would weaken it, drive it towards partition, and make it easy prey for its strong neighbours. Let's assume that this argument is valid. Let's assume that the worst imaginable thing is for Iraq to become a federal system with three autonomous provinces. If that's so, why are journalists bent on fuelling sectarian strife in each neighbourhood and city in the country? Doesn't this defeat the argument the media is making? Worse still, Iraqi journalists now speak of Kirkuk Arabs, Kirkuk Kurds and Kirkuk Turkomans, as if Kirkuk has become a separate world onto its own. It is as if Kirkuk is no longer part of Iraq. So now you have Kirkuk Arabs who are not to be confused with the rest of the Arabs in the country. And you have Kirkuk Kurds who are similarly not to be confused with other Kurds. Such categorisation creates a mindset of discrimination and momentum towards sectarianism. Unfortunately, rhetoric is becoming real. Words are becoming self- fulfilling prophecy. The truth some people seem to have forgotten is that Iraq is a diverse country, but it is still a country nonetheless. Iraq has its own Arabs and Kurds, Turkomans and Yazidis, Sunnis and Shias -- and yet they are all Iraqis. link AMERICA'S MORAL ABYSS In early 2003, an Arabic-language newspaper ran a cartoon depicting the nation of Iraq as a young girl being raped by a US soldier while several Arabs in traditional garb enthusiastically egged the soldier on. The message was simple: Iraq was about to be plundered of its wealth, stripped of its manpower, its expertise, its middle and educated classes, its infrastructure and its knowledge base. Like a rape victim, the country would be scarred, mutilated and contorted, never again to appear fully sovereign. This vision became horrific reality in the town of Mahmoudiya in March 2006 when 16-year-old Abeer Qassem Hamza Al-Janabi was raped, shot and burned by a team of US soldiers. (...) For Iraqis, Abeer's rape and murder mirrors the fate of the nation of her birth. Her attackers stalked her, watching her house for a week before launching their offensive. In the minds of many, this is synonymous with preparations for the invasion of Iraq itself, certain world powers continuously targeting Iraq, gathering intelligence (later proven misleading if not fabricated) and finalising plans that violated in totality the sovereignty of the country. Further, Abeer's complaints of harassment are synonymous with appeals made by Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion; that it was not affiliated with Al-Qaeda nor did it possess weapons of mass destruction. Iraq appealed to neighbouring countries and the United Nations to bring to a halt the military juggernaut massing on its borders. But just as Abeer's neighbours proved unable to help in time, so too did the world community in failing Iraq. Abeer's life as a whole is testament to the suffering of the Iraqi people. Born the year Iraq invaded Kuwait, Abeer lived out her infancy under the punitive sanctions regimen. She grew up different from other girls in the Arab world: an innocent child, yet punished for wrongs she could not begin to understand. By the time she turned 13, Iraq had been invaded and entire cities and villages were soon under siege. In the great war of liberation allegedly waged to stifle terrorism and liberate the Iraqi people from the stranglehold of tyranny, Abeer paid with her life at the hands of the liberator. read in full... THE HIDDEN WAR ON WOMEN IN IRAQ Abu Ghraib. Haditha. Guantanamo. These are words that shame our country. Now, add to them Mahmudiya, a town 20 miles south of Baghdad. There, this March, a group of five American soldiers allegedly were involved in the rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza, a young Iraqi girl. Her body was then set on fire to cover up their crimes, her father, mother, and sister murdered. The rape of this one girl, if proven true, is probably not simply an isolated incident. But how would we know? In Iraq, rape is a taboo subject. Shamed by the rape, relatives of this girl wouldn't even hold a public funeral and were reluctant to reveal where she is buried. Like women everywhere, Iraqi women have always been vulnerable to rape. But since the American invasion of their country, the reported incidence of sexual terrorism has accelerated markedly. -- and this despite the fact that few Iraqi women are willing to report rapes either to Iraqi officials or to occupation forces, fearing to bring dishonor upon their families. In rural areas, female rape victims may also be vulnerable to "honor killings" in which male relatives murder them in order to restore the family's honor. "For women in Iraq," Amnesty International concluded in a 2005 report, "the stigma frequently attached to the victims instead of the perpetrators of sexual crimes makes reporting such abuses especially daunting." This specific rape of one Iraqi girl, however, is now becoming symbolic of the way the Bush administration has violated Iraq's honor; Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has already launched an inquest into the crime. In an administration that normally doesn't know the meaning of an apology, the American ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad and the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. both publicly apologized. In a fierce condemnation, the Muslim Scholars Association in Iraq denounced the crime: "This act, committed by the occupying soldiers, from raping the girl to mutilating her body and killing her family, should make all humanity feel ashamed." Shame, yes, but that is hardly sufficient. After all, rape is now considered a war crime by the International Criminal Court. read in full... WEAPON OF MASS DESTRUCTION The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that Iraq, with a population of about 26 million, in the year 2000 had a total of 195,374 new cases of cancer and 126,677 cancer deaths, most of them children. From 1990 to 1999, the cancer rate rose 242 percent in southern Iraq alone and birth defects increased tenfold. Before the 1991 Gulf War, children made up 13 percent of cancer cases. By 2002, 56 percent of all cancer cases were in children under 5. Of the 580,400 U.S. troops that served in the six-week Gulf War, 11,000 had died by the year 2000, and 325,000 are on permanent disability for physical or emotional injuries. Only 269 died in combat, while only 457 were wounded. In 2001, I visited the Basra Children's Hospital in Iraq. All rooms and hallways were overflowing with children dying from various forms of cancer. Many others were dying from diarrhea due to sewage-polluted water. Water refineries had been bombed during the war. The bombing of water treatment plants, power plants and the like are considered a war crime according to the UN. The head doctor told us the children would all die because of U.S.-imposed sanctions. Due to the sanctions, medicine and parts to repair the water plants could not be obtained. He gave us dozens of pictures of the hundreds of deformed babies born in the area. Here in the U.S., I have been in touch with Birth Defect Research for Children. This organization has compared the number of birth defects in children born to Gulf War veterans with the number for the average American family. Their research surveyed almost three dozen birth defects normally caused by exposure to radiation and revealed that babies born to the veteran parents had two to four times as many of certain specific defects. What can be the cause of all these cancers and birth defects? Medical experts throughout the world agree that the depleted uranium used in our weapons and military equipment is responsible, despite U.S. officials' claims that they have no idea as to the cause. read in full... MURTHA: COMPARING THE COST OF WAR AND DOMESTIC EXPENSES We are spending $8 billion a month in Iraq. That equates to $2 billion a week, or $267 million a day, or $11 million an hour. The following are some comparisons between what we are spending in Iraq as we "stay the course" indefinitely and what those funds could be used for instead. I've been fighting for our military to get out of Iraq because I'm concerned about the loss of our troops and the future of our military, and also because I believe they have accomplished their mission there and the Iraqis must resolve their internal conflict themselves. However, I also wanted to demonstrate what these expenses mean to domestic policy in the United States and give you an idea of just some of the things that we could accomplish with this amount of money. read in full... "THIS IS GOING TO BE A BIG WAR" [Abu Talat, an Iraqi acquaintance of Dahr Jamail he is meeting in Damascus, Syria] tells me how horrible it is in Baghdad. He lists his family members and relatives, one by one, who have left already for good. "Those who can afford to fly are purchasing one way tickets Dahr," he says, "For they have no intention of coming back. Aside from my own children and wife, I am the only one of my relatives left in Iraq." The fighting is everywhere, he tells me. Now that the U.S. military/Rumsfeld (who was just in Baghdad) and Khalilzad have declared war on the Shia Mehdi Army, accusing them of terrorism, all bets are off. Of course, the timing of this with Israelis attacks against Hezbollah couldn't be more perfect. Coincidence? "The fighting is everywhere, and there is no way the Americans can control it now," Abu Talat adds, "The Shia are fighting each other for control of Basra, while also fighting the Sunni." "It is civil war now in Iraq, no doubt," he continues, "But no matter who you ask, no one will admit it. Because people are too afraid to admit this. People prefer to deny it." Even back at our hotel, there are at least two other Iraqis, who have come here for surgery, since all of the senior doctors have long since left Baghdad to save their own lives. The next day, Thursday, we awoke with our eyes glued to al-Jazeera on the television. Israeli warplanes bombed Beirut's Rafiq al-Hariri airport. At least two air strikes were reported while Lebanese anti-aircraft guns fired feebly at the jets, according to witnesses. Israeli jets also bombed bridges linking south Lebanon to the rest of the country, and 22 civilians were killed last night by Israeli attacks in southern Lebanon. In response to the bombings, Hezbollah claims to have fired 60 rockets into northern Israel. The Israeli justification for bombing the airport in Beirut and pushing into southern Lebanon is that two of their soldiers were captured. In classic newspeak, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said of the incident, "It is an act of war by the state of Lebanon," conveniently omitting the bombings in the occupied territories, including civilians on a beach, by Israeli forces over the last weeks. "This is going to be a big war," Abu Talat tells me while we watch plumes of smoke billowing from locations within Lebanon, "This is even more important for us to cover than Iraq, and you know how much I love Iraq." read in full... >> BEYOND IRAQ Afghanistan: A Dutch Apache helicopter made a precautionary landing in Afghanistan on Sunday after it was damaged by ground fire. The helicopter was fired on with a small calibre weapon and suffered damage to its hydraulic system and tail section. The two-man crew returned safely to the Dutch base at Tarin Kowt. PIG And some people thought Bush's lack of concern over Hurricane Katrina was an anomaly. Nope.
"Apart from the pig, Mr. President, what sort of insights have you been able to gain as regards East Germany?" a German reporter asked the American leader. "I haven't seen the pig yet," said Bush, sidestepping the question about insights gained from his two-day visit to this rural seaside region that once rested behind the Iron Curtain in a Germany divided between East and West.
And when an American reporter asked Bush whether he is concerned about the Israeli bombing of the Beirut airport and about Iran's failure to respond to an offer for negotiations that the U.S. and European allies have made, Bush replied with more boar jokes before delving into the substance of the questions.
"I thought you were going to ask about the pig," said the president, promising a full report from the barbecue. "I'll tell you about the pig tomorrow."
The Middle East is on a short fuse, and this sociopathic little prick is riffing about a goddamn pig. link QUOTE OF THE DAY: "A local journalist told me bitterly this week that Iraqis find it ironic that Saddam Hussein is on trial for killing 148 people 24 years ago, while militias loyal to political parties now in government kill that many people every few days. But it is not an irony that anyone here has time to laugh about. They are too busy packing their bags and wondering how they can get out alive." -- Baghdad starts to collapse as its people flee a life of death by James Hider, of The Times, from Baghdad


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