DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2006
PHOTO: Iraqis look at a body of a youth killed during an air raid in a village near Thar Thar Lake in Salahuddin province northwest of Baghdad, Friday, Dec. 8, 2006. U.S.-led coalition forces killed 20 insurgents, including two women, Friday in an attack targeting al-Qaida in Iraq militants, the U.S. command said. (AP Photo/Hameed Rasheed)
[See article below “Iraq and US Dispute What Kind of Iraqi Killed In Raid In Ishaqi” and judge for yourself whether this was a civilian or an al Qaeda militant. One thing we can say for sure: this will inspire more people to use violence against US forces in Iraq and possibly against US citizens in the home country. – dancewater]
Security Incidents for December 8, 2006
Mohammed Haidar Sulaiman, a professor at a sports education college, was killed when gunmen opened fire while he was driving in eastern Mosul, said police Brig. Abdul Karim Jubouri.
An improvised explosive device detonated near a Multi-National Division - Baghdad patrol, killing one Soldier in the Iraqi capital Thursday. The combat patrol was conducting joint operations with the Iraqi Army to prevent sectarian violence in a western neighborhood of the city when the bomb exploded near one of their vehicles.
An improvised explosive device detonated near a Multi-National Division – Baghdad patrol, killing two Soldiers south of the Iraqi capital Dec. 7. The Soldiers were conducting a dismounted patrol responding to a possible IED, south of the city, when a roadside bomb detonated, killing two Soldiers and wounding two others.
at 9 o'clock this morning 5 unknown gunmen kidnapped 5 truck drivers in JISER DIYALA area southern Baghdad .
at 6 o'clock this evening 4 mortars fell in al nahrawan area southern Baghdad, 4 civilians were killed and 8 others were injured .
today 18 dead bodies were found in Baghdad , 2 were found in jihad area, 3 dora, 2 jeafer, 2 amil, 1 saidiyah, 3 kamaliyah, 1 new baghdad, 1 rashad, 2 madaain and 1 zayuna.
Brigadier General Humam Nuri, head of customs in the city of Najaf, was killed along with his brother in Baghdad on Friday, Interior Ministry sources said.
One person was killed and three wounded when gunmen attacked a crowd in the religiously mixed area of Amil in southwestern Baghdad, police said.
North of Baghdad, in Diyala province, a drive-by shooting killed a civilian, and a roadside bomb killed one police officer and wounded another, police said.
according to a medical source from diyala health directorate this morning that the morgue has received unknown dead body which was left on the roadside at the centre of baquba city in a taxi . another 2 dead bodies were found and were handcuffed, blindfolded and tortured with a letter beside the bodies saying 'this is the fate of the SAFAWI'S in diyala province. a fourth unknown body was found by the police patrol in AL ZANDAN area in muqdadiyah town 45km eastern baquba.
according to a security source in DIYALA police that a group of about 10 gunmen stormed last night HIBHIB police station near khalis city 15km north of baqouba and kidnapped 2 of the detainees without one bullet fire from the police guards and its employees.
Iraqi police and local officials said at least six children and eight women were among 32 people killed in a U.S. air strike on Friday which the U.S. military said killed 20 al Qaeda militants, including two women. Police Major Khedr Hussein said 32 people were killed at Ishaqi, 90 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad. Mayor Amer Alwan told Reuters U.S. aircraft bombed two homes around 1 a.m (2200 GMT). He said 32 people were believed to be inside and that of 25 bodies pulled so far from the rubble, eight were women and six children. U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver said the raid in Ishaqi was one in which U.S. ground troops with air support killed 20 al Qaeda suspects in the Thar Thar area of Salahaddin province and recovered weapons.
In Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, a 7-year-old girl was killed when she was caught in crossfire of fighting between insurgents and police, said police Col. Abdel-Karim Khalaf.
Al Anbar Prv:
(update from six killed)Seven U.S. servicemembers died in Al Anbar Multi-National Corps – West PAO. Three Soldiers assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, one Marine assigned to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group and one Marine assigned to 15th Marine Expeditionary Force died Wednesday from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province. One Marine assigned to Task Force Military Police, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force died Wednesday from non-hostile causes while operating in Al Anbar Province. One Soldier assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division died today from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operation in Al Anbar Province Wednesday. (This is the same individual whose death was mentioned earlier today in MNC-I Press Release 20061207-06.)
Police said fighting involving Sunni Arab insurgents in Ramadi occurred from 4 p.m. Wednesday to noon Thursday. Twelve civilians were killed and nine wounded, a police officer and a hospital official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The U.S. military said it could not immediately confirm that.
A car bomb targeting an Iraqi army checkpoint in the town of Tal Afar, 420 km (260 miles) north of Baghdad, killed three civilians and wounded 15 people, police said.
Thanks to Whisker for the links above.
REPORTS – LIFE IN BAGHDAD
Psychiatrist Who Treated Iraqi Distress Shot Dead
One of Iraq's best-known psychiatrists, Al Harith Hassan, who frequently appeared in the local media to comment on the emotional toll of daily violence on Iraqis, has been killed, a close relative said on Thursday. Hassan, dean of Baghdad University's pyschiatric centre, was driving to work on Wednesday morning when gunmen pulled up to his car at an intersection in the Jadriya district and shot him seven times. His driver and another passenger were unharmed. The relative, who asked not to be named, said Hassan, 56, died on his way to hospital. It was not clear why he had been targeted, but sectarian death squads targeting Sunni Muslims or Shi'ites roam the capital, killing scores of people every day. Many university lecturers and teachers have also been targeted and killed. Hassan had been due to travel to Syria on Friday to present a paper at a conference in the capital, Damascus, before heading to Beirut to arrange the publication of a new book detailing his work on the mental scars of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship and the violent anarchy that has followed his overthrow. "I believe that clear and pure love is the ideal way of resolving all conflicts and clashes and is the path to peace," said a message on his Web site on Thursday. The relative said he and his wife had often discussed joining the brain drain of professionals who are among the estimated 100,000 Iraqis fleeing the country each month. But he always had one reply: "He would say 'How can I leave my family and my patients?' He lived for people," the distraught relative told Reuters. Hassan, who had also studied in Edinburgh, London and Dublin, had a private practice that was inundated by people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression in the chaos that followed the U.S-led invasion in March 2003. He saw his role as an educator and he spent much of his time trying to persuade frustrated young Iraqi men to steer clear of violence and seek employment or an education instead. "How can Iraqis understand what a human right is when they never had one?" he told Reuters in an interview in October 2004 in which he also spoke of his strategies for resolving conflict and building peace. "We can only stabilise the country when Iraqis begin to learn about a new way of life." He recalled one woman patient whose father, brother and husband were shot dead as they travelled in their car. "Three bullets wiped out her family in a second. She may never know who killed them. I felt shocked and depressed." Hassan was well known for his television appearances and for his comments in local newspapers on the state of the national psyche, scarred by sectarian and insurgent conflict that the United Nations estimates kills 120 people a day. On Wednesday morning, Hassan became part of that statistic.
School’s Out As Baghdad Bloodshed Kills Education
Ahmed waits outside his school's gates on a chilly midweek morning, holding his textbooks by his side. But as the majority of pupils and teachers fail to arrive, the 18-year-old, who is in his final year at high school, has to put off learning for yet another day. "It's cancelled again today," he said, visibly frustrated. "Only 15 out of 200 students in my year turned up." Three years ago, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, teachers and students talked excitedly about excising the compulsory pages on the dictator from their textbooks and freeing academia from interference from the ruling Baath party. Now, sectarian venom has struck deep at the heart of Iraq's education system as militants from both Sunni and Shi'ite groups attack schools, universities and personnel. The prevailing anarchy has also poisoned society, bringing casual violence into classrooms in a way not seen before. Mohammed, a teenager at school in central Baghdad's Karrada district, told this week how he leapt a wall to escape as militiamen dragged his headmaster, pleading for his life, through the school yard in revenge for an alleged insult. Abu Abdullah, once a teacher at Baghdad's Al Quds secondary school, says he quit after a student he caught trying to cheat in an exam brought a gang into school to attack him.
Battle for Baghdad Spurs ‘Sectarian’ House Market
Fearful of sectarian reprisals that have killed thousands, families from the Shi'ite Muslim majority and the Sunni minority in Baghdad are quietly moving from their homes in mixed areas to relocate in religiously homogenous districts within the capital in a pattern that is consolidating a de facto division. Baghdad, a city of 7 million, has been religiously mixed for most of its history since it was founded 1,000 years ago -- for centuries it was known as the "City of Peace." But with death squads forcing many to flee, a new city is emerging -- one with a mostly Sunni west and mainly Shi'ite east divided by the Tigris, which acts as a kind of Beirut-style "Green Line", the front-line that divided the Lebanese city during its war in the 1980s. The trend has sparked a "sectarian" house market in Baghdad, where demand to move to better neighbourhoods is not dictated by traditional real estate considerations such as local schools, transport or parks but by ethnic make-up, estate agents say.
Violence, Inflation Eat Into Baghdad Stores
Soaring inflation, bombs, kidnaps and shootings at markets and on bandit-ridden roads used by supply trucks are stifling Baghdad's shops and businesses, wrecking the brief economic revival that the end of United Nations sanctions brought to the capital and stifling Iraqis' once-famous joie de vivre. Small shop-owners and businesses are struggling to keep stocks running on everything from light bulbs to toothbrushes, chocolate bars to disposable razors. Lina, 33, is in despair. "When my friend married in July it was bad but this is worse. I'm terrified to go shopping. I should be happy, but I don't feel like a bride." Baghdad's wholesale Shorja market, one of the city's oldest and a key supplier for countless small shops scattered across the capital, has been bombed frequently. In a brazen daylight attack last month, gunmen kidnapped dozens of porters at the market, which has recently cut its business hours. "There is stagnation in the market," complained Wisam Badia, a 40-year-old shopkeeper in central Baghdad. "A year ago I used to make $100 a day. Now I make $50 a day." Abdul Hussein, another shop-owner, said it was getting harder for small businesses to purchase their goods at wholesale markets such as Shorja because of the violence. "The vehicles that carried the goods used to have big posters painted on them advertising the goods they deliver, but not any more. They've erased these posters. They are afraid they might be killed or kidnapped." Pointing at a U.S. military convoy rumbling past, he asked: "How do you expect people not to be afraid when you see scenes like this?” …..Inflation is running above 50 percent a year but lately prices of some imported luxuries such as coffee and chocolate have leapt by 50 percent in just a week or so. Many stores in Mansour, once an upscale shopping district with lively restaurants, are shuttered with signs reading "For Sale". Mass kidnappings -- a common plague in Baghdad -- have taken place in neighbourhood shops, restaurants and electronics businesses. Barbers and bakers have been gunned down. Butchers at a meat factory outside Baghdad were kidnapped recently. With Islamic militants pressing their agenda for a strict interpretation of Islamic law, alcohol shops in Christian areas have been bombed and set on fire.
Mistrustful Baghdadis Keep One Eye Open At Night
As the sun sets and residents of Baghdad's Hurriya district hurry home, Firas Hasan and his friends grab their Kalashnikov rifles and head onto the deserted streets. The volunteers are not insurgents but members of one of dozens of armed "neighbourhood watch" groups that have appeared across the capital as areas are increasingly carved out between rival religious communities amid mounting sectarian bloodshed. "The terrorists target us because we're Shi'ite Muslims," Hasan said. "We can't trust anyone. We've established our presence in the area by questioning strangers and stopping cars to deter these criminals." Hasan says the group began patrolling the streets three months ago when Sunni insurgents from a nearby area drove into the district and dumped a large sack on the pavement. Inside were the remains of one of their friends who was kidnapped a day earlier. "When we opened up the sack we found Khalil's head and chopped-up body parts inside," he recalled as he wiped the barrel of his rifle. "From then on, we knew we needed to protect ourselves so we formed this group at his funeral." Across the Tigris river, in the mainly Sunni Adhamiya district, Abu Anas says his group of armed men is on alert for Shi'ite militiamen, especially after six bombs in nearby Sadr City killed over 200 people two weeks ago.
A City On The Brink
Iraq may already be in a civil war or just on the brink of one. But whatever it is, the focus is Baghdad, where all aspects of life are ever more disrupted by sectarian violence and its people ever more weary and afraid. Drive around this city of 7 million in daylight and the signs are clear -- rows of shuttered shops, barricaded roads, empty homes, bustle that is brief and subdued. At night, under curfew, gunmen take command. Talk to the people of Baghdad and one hears the voice of a fractured, terrified community. "We're afraid, depressed, frustrated," said one woman for whom this month should have been among the happiest of her life. Lina -- who like most in the city on the banks of the Tigris River is too frightened to use her full name -- is about to be married but the 33-year-old said: "I feel such a burden when I think of what might happen on our wedding day." This year, weekly death tolls in the capital have risen from the dozens to the hundreds, notably since February's destruction of a major Shi'ite shrine in Samarra touched off a wave of reprisals. Two weeks ago, bombs that killed over 200 people in the capital in the worst attack of the conflict caused another quantum leap in the fear factor, driving the mildest of men to take up Kalashnikovs and roam the streets to defend their homes. Already 100,000 Iraqis a month were fleeing abroad, many of them part of a "brain drain" of Baghdad's skilled classes. Now, even more of those who remain are moving, seeking safety in numbers among people of their own sect, Sunni or Shi'ite Muslim. The exodus -- which would be equivalent in terms of its population to a million Americans emigrating every month -- is hitting business, deadening the city's economy, which briefly flourished when the U.S.-led invasion ended sanctions.
VIDEO: Alive In Baghdad, First Hand Accounts
"We are striving to build journalism in the voice of locals, so that people in different parts of the world can communicate almost directly to their audience around the world." The footage is shot by Iraqis and edited in the United States. The website has survived until now on donations from foundations and individuals. Staff in Iraq receive a small salary. US staff are not paid. The team in Baghdad face the same personal risks and professional limitations facing all journalists in Iraq. AiB's co-ordinator in Baghdad is 21-year-old Omar Abdullah. He says levels of suspicion and violence in Baghdad can make it hard to find willing subjects, but people overcome their fear.
VIDEO: Perspectives on Electricity Problems in Baghdad
The Electricity in Baghdad, and indeed all of Iraq, has been an ongoing problem. As the war and occupation nearly approach their 4th anniversary, these problems continue. Although the press generally doesn’t touch on such issues, even today in much of Baghdad, residents only receive a few hours of electricity per day from the grid. Those who could afford it have taken to using private generators for much of their electricity supply. In areas of unrest, these private generators have often come under attack, one of many non-traditional targets in a non-traditional war. The electricity problems have also been a huge rallying point for Anti-American, and sometimes even pro-Saddam sentiment. Iraqis are quick to remind foreigners that in Saddam’s time, after the utter destruction of the electrical grid during the Gulf War in 1991, the electricity had basic functionality within 3 months.
US Targeting Shi’ite Militia Strongholds
In pursuit of a missing soldier, U.S. and Iraqi special forces units have staged dozens of operations in Shiite Muslim neighborhoods that once were ruled off-limits by the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government. The raids into territory dominated by the Al Mahdi army, a militia loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr, risk exacerbating tensions within the government of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, who has shown a new willingness to confront paramilitary forces believed to take part in kidnappings and death squad operations. "We have carte blanche at this point," said one high-ranking U.S. military commander. "Whereas before we had to tippy-toe around these areas, now we can go in there as we like to search for our missing soldier." U.S. Army Reserve Spc. Ahmed Qusai Taei, 41, an Iraqi American immigrant, disappeared Oct. 23 while making an unauthorized visit to relatives in Baghdad. U.S. military officials believe that Taei is being held in Sadr City, an Al Mahdi stronghold in the capital, and have offered a $50,000 reward for help in finding him. Military officials say more than 2,100 U.S. troops and 1,200 Iraqis have taken part in 57 operations to look for the missing American soldier, and that in the process they have detained 49 people. ………. "Most of the raids take place in [central] Sadr City," said Qahtan Sudani, a Sadr representative in Baghdad. "When the raids happen, they avoid the main entrances to the neighborhood. "Most times they are accompanied by the 'Dirty Iraqi Division.' This division doesn't follow the orders of the Iraqi government." Nasir Saidi, a Sadr legislator, accused U.S. and Iraqi troops of using the search for the missing U.S. soldier as a pretext to strike his movement. "They raided with fighter jets, armored vehicles and infantry," he said. "Some of them were members of the 'Dirty Iraqi Division,' who will be punished."
REPORTS – LIFE IN THE REST OF IRAQ
Iraq and US Dispute What Kind of Iraqi Killed In Raid In Ishaqi
Iraqi and U.S. officials disputed each others' accounts of an overnight raid and air strike on Friday that killed up to 20 people in a new sign of friction over allegations of American troops killing civilians. The U.S. military said ground forces with air support killed 20 suspected al Qaeda militants, including two women, in an area north of the capital where the Sunni Arab insurgency is strong. Police and officials in Ishaqi, 90 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad, said the bodies of 17 civilians, including six women and five children, were found in the rubble of two homes. "The Americans have done this before but they always deny it," Ishaqi Mayor Amer Alwan told Reuters by telephone. "I want the world to know what's happening here." ….In Ishaqi, grieving relatives showed the bodies of five children wrapped in blankets to journalists. The houses, surrounded by open fields, were flattened in the raid, leaving little but rubble and twisted steel rods. In a statement, the U.S. military said the operation in Salahaddin province followed intelligence reports that al Qaeda militants operated in the area. It said rocket-propelled grenades and explosive suicide vests were found. Only a handful of complaints involving civilian deaths in Iraq have led to criminal investigations by the U.S. military. [And even fewer to convictions and fewer still to any change in behavior of any substantive nature. One fact not in dispute by any reality-based person is that Iraq is a much more horrible state than it ever was under Saddam, and that more Iraqis have been killed by Mr. Bush’s war than were ever killed by Saddam. There is also no dispute that al Qaeda was not in Iraq prior to the US invasion. – dancewater]
Iraqis Say Raid Killed 32, Including 6 Children
Iraqi police and local officials said at least six children and eight women were among 32 people killed in a U.S. air strike on Friday which the U.S. military said killed 20 al Qaeda militants, including two women. Police Major Khedr Hussein said 32 people were killed at Ishaqi, 90 km (50 miles) north of Baghdad. Mayor Amer Alwan told Reuters U.S. aircraft bombed two homes around 1 a.m (2200 GMT). He said 32 people were believed to be inside and that of 25 bodies pulled so far from the rubble, eight were women and six children.
Major Operation Launched in Basra
British and Danish troops backed by tanks seized five suspects accused of attacks on coalition forces in Iraq on Friday in the largest operation of its kind since the U.S. invasion, the British military said. Some 1,000 troops launched pre-dawn raids on five homes in the densely populated northern al-Hartha district of Basra, where rival Shi'ite militias are battling for control of the city's oil wealth and coalition troops are sometimes attacked. British military spokesman Major Charlie Burbridge said a mainly Danish force had struck from the north while an amphibious assault team crossed the Shatt al-Arab waterway and a force of Challenger main battle tanks from the south. "As the armoured battle group crossed over the bridge in al -Hartha it came under heavy rocket-propelled grenade and small arms fire. We returned fire with the tanks' chain guns and other small arms," he told Reuters. He described the five targets of the raid, which began at 3 a.m. (0000 GMT), as "rogue elements of militia". [Also could be described as “Iraqis”. – dancewater] "One is a significant individual while the others are second tier involved in planning and direction of criminal activities. These individuals were involved in kidnapping, murder and attacks on coalition forces." He said a search of the five homes had unearthed heavy machineguns and artillery shells wired up to be used in the next 48 hours as roadside bombs.
VIDEO: Basra Night-time Raid
[The announcer makes the claim that the raid was successful and large amounts of bomb-making materials were found. However, it is not shown in the video and that claim is not made by British troops. – dancewater]
Roundup Of Violence In Iraq for 8 December
The daily Iraq violence report is compiled by McClatchy Newspapers Special Correspondent Mohammed al Awsy in Baghdad from police, military and medical reports. This is not a comprehensive list of all violence in Iraq, much of which goes unreported. It’s posted without editing as transmitted to McClatchy’s Washington Bureau.
Baghdad . -- at 9 o'clock this morning 5 unknown gunmen kidnapped 5 truck drivers in JISER DIYALA area southern Baghdad. -- at 6 o'clock this evening 4 mortars fell in al nahrawan area southern Baghdad, 4 civilians were killed and 8 others were injured. -- today 18 dead bodies were found in Baghdad , 2 were found in jihad area, 3 dora, 2 jeafer, 2 amil, 1 saidiyah, 3 kamaliyah, 1 new baghdad, 1 rashad, 2 madaain and 1 zayuna.
SALAH AL DIN province: -- according to the Iraqi police and the ISHAKI district manager AMER ALWAN , the American forces surrounded al ishaki 120km northern Baghdad last midnight and made an air strike on 2 houses, 32 people were killed mostly women and children, this two houses belongs to 2 brothers [mohammed hussain jalmood and mahmood hassan jalmood , until this afternoon 10 bodies [men] were extracted from the 2 destroyed houses , 4 women and 10 children between 2-14 years, some of the bodies had gunshots on their bodies and that shows they were shot at before the air strike according to the district manager. this afternoon the American forces made an air drop near the 2 houses which made the rescue people run way and leave everything behind and a number of dead bodies still under wrecks. -- according to the Iraqi police in DIJEL area 40km northern Baghdad, 4 gunmen were killed this morning in clashes with the American forces, the bodies of the gunmen still being left at DIJEL police station.
BASRA . According to the spokesman of the multinational forces in the south [captain tane donlop ] a joint forces from the british forces and Danish forces (1000 ) soldiers , have made a raid and search operation north of basra. the forces surrounded a number of neighborhoods and villages in al haritha area 20km north of basra. the spokesman have clarified that clashes occurred between the MNF and unknown gunmen but no casualties were reported, also added that the MNF made an arrest of 4 suspected people and found a number of light weapons.
DIYALA province: -- according to a medical source from diyala health directorate this morning that the morgue has received unknown dead body which was left on the roadside at the centre of baquba city in a taxi . another 2 dead bodies were found and were handcuffed, blindfolded and tortured with a letter beside the bodies saying 'this is the fate of the SAFAWI'S in diyala province. a fourth unknown body was found by the police patrol in AL ZANDAN area in muqdadiyah town 45km eastern baquba. -- according to a security source in DIYALA police that a group of about 10 gunmen stormed last night HIBHIB police station near khalis city 15km north of baqouba and kidnapped 2 of the detainees without one bullet fire from the police guards and its employees.
MOSUL province. At 5 o'clock this evening a car bomb with a suicide man exploded at an Iraqi army checkpoint in HAY AL MUTHANA area in TALAFAR west of mosul, and according to a medical source said that 12 people were injured 2 soldiers were among the injured people, the buildings near the explosion were damaged and a number of civilian cars were damaged .
Horrors of Closet Civil War
Diyala is Iraq's province of death. No one knows how many people die violently here every week. Batches of bodies are dumped by the roadside almost every night. Many go missing, their corpses never found. Unlike Baghdad where news of murder is widely reported, Diyala is part of Iraq's invisible war. Its horrors go unrecorded even though it has become a microcosm of the country's two inter-connecting wars - the battle between insurgents and the Americans, and an increasingly virulent conflict between Sunnis and Shias. Ten bodies of Shias were dumped at the bus station in Baquba, the provincial capital, last Tuesday, as a warning to the whole community. A few days earlier 20 Kurds were killed. On Wednesday the Iraqi army found 28 unidentified bodies in a mass grave just south of the town. The province's least dangerous towns are Khanaqin and Mandeli, two dusty places surrounded by semi-desert. Every day new refugees reach them with chilling stories. In a small building on Khanaqin's main street, a place advertising itself as a training centre run by the Kurdish Women's Union, the receptionist described the escalating pattern of violence. Just arrived from Baquba and too afraid to give her name, she said: "People come in the night and write on the house wall, 'leave, you are Shia, you are unbelievers'. There was shelling, bombing, people slaughtered in front of our house. US helicopters were hovering all the time. We couldn't go out to buy food." With her father, the receptionist had fled Baquba a month ago. After renting a house and getting jobs they were planning to drive back to the city to bring her mother and two younger brothers and their furniture. "My mother rang yesterday. She said it was terrible. The terrorists blew up an American Humvee, and there has been shelling for several days. The Arabs are killing each other, just like in Baghdad. As Kurds we have nothing to do with it and try to stay clear." She was dreading the trip home, afraid of what could happen on the road.
History: On The Road To Baghdad
It was dawn on March 23 2003 when marines from Task Force Tarawa approached the town of Nasiriya in southern Iraq. They had been assigned a routine manoeuvre, taking two key bridges to open up a route to Baghdad. Nasiriya was a predominantly Shia town that had rebelled against Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf war. US intelligence suggested that as soon as the Americans rolled into town, the city's defenders would lay down their weapons and, as one marine commander expressed it, "put flowers in our gun barrels, hold up their babies for us to kiss and give us the keys to the city". But when Task Force Tarawa's lead units reached the outskirts they came across the burnt out remnants of several vehicles of the US army's 507th Maintenance Company. A captain in the 507th told wide-eyed marine commanders how his convoy had taken a wrong turn at night, driven into Nasiriya and been attacked by Iraqi fighters. Several US soldiers were still missing, including a young army private, Jessica Lynch. It was her fate that attracted attention in the days following. But it's what happened to Task Force Tarawa that is most instructive about the nature of the Iraq war and about what life would be like once coalition forces got to Baghdad. As marine units moved into Nasiriya they were attacked by massed numbers of Iraqi fighters. To the surprise of marines on the ground, few of the Iraqi combatants seemed to be wearing military uniforms. Many were dressed in the distinctive black pyjamas worn by Shia Muslims, and much of the gunfire came from dwellings flying black flags, denoting them as Shia homes. And yet the Shias were supposed to be on the Americans' side. What's more, as the marines were drawn into a raging battle in the city centre, more and more people came out of ordinary homes to take up arms. One group of young marines, separated from their unit and forced to commandeer a house, found themselves under attack for several hours from what appeared to be armed civilians. They had been expecting to fight Iraqi soldiers. Instead they found themselves shooting at old men, women, even children. Of course, there were Sunni-led fedayeen troops and foreign fighters who fought that day. But some who picked up weapons were also civilians intent on defending homes against foreign invaders. The potent and complex mix of insurgency - Sunni and Shia militants, civilians and foreign fighters - that causes such chaos in Iraq today was already apparent during the battle of Nasiriya. Intelligence about the terrain was also sorely lacking. Marine tanks spearheading the manoeuvre took a route that led to a bog where they sank, mired uselessly in thick mud, while the battle raged. This is more than just a metaphor for coalition forces post-invasion, in towns such as Falluja and Samarra. It was the product of a rush to arms without adequate intelligence or planning. At one stage in Nasiriya, in a friendly-fire incident, US planes fired at marines on the ground, killing up to 10. Radio communications repeatedly failed. Units lost contact with each other and went missing in the city. Faced with an increasingly determined enemy, marine commanders thought they might just lose the battle. It showed another truth, obscured during the march to Baghdad, that has become strikingly apparent since. There is a limit to what armour and technology can do against a people with faith, who fight because they feel their country has been violated. There were other incidents in Nasiriya, minor at the time, that foreshadowed events that would become an international embarrassment. At one point, a marine commander came across a gruesome scene: young marines, standing over a pile of Iraqi corpses, taking photos of each other, thumbs up and grinning inanely. One year later the first photos of US soldiers grinning over the bodies of abused prisoners emerged. But what was most striking at Nasiriya in those very early days of the war was the absence of that grand coalescence of freedom-deprived Iraqis who were to come forward and support coalition forces. At best, civilians stood by and watched the US war machine thunder into town. At worst, they ran to arms staches, grabbed AK47s and took to the streets. And that did not bode well for life in post-invasion Iraq. Instead of coming together, Iraqis would fall back into their faiths and tribes and end up killing coalition forces, and each other. Eighteen marines died in Nasiriya that day in what turned out to be the bloodiest phase of the Iraq invasion. Four days later the city was finally declared secure. One week after that American forces triumphantly entered Baghdad and toppled Saddam's statue. There was much praise for the speed and efficiency with which US forces had fought their way to Baghdad. And the trauma of Nasiriya was forgotten. And that was a shame. If the intelligence from Nasiriya had been gathered, recognised and analysed more soberly early on - instead of trampled in a rush of triumphalism - coalition forces might have learned useful lessons for the reconstruction of Iraq: the limits of military power; the importance of understanding the complexity of a place and its people; the perils of underestimating an enemy. Instead, George Bush stood on the USS Lincoln and made his hubristic speech announcing the end of combat operations under a banner that read "Mission Accomplished". The battle of Nasiriya taught that there was, contrary to first appearances, no simple route to Baghdad. It should also serve to remind those in London and Washington that there will be no simple route out of it, and that the next move Britain and the United States make in Iraq should be handled with less haste, more care, more sensitivity, and more humility. [There were hundreds killed in Nasiriya, and a good number of them were women and little children during this time period. One was under one month old. – dancewater]
REPORTS – US/UK/OTHERS IN IRAQ
Oil for Sale: Iraq Study Group Recommends Privatization
Baker had much to gain from increased access to Iraq's oil. According to author Robert Bryce, Baker and his immediate family's personal investments in the oil industry at the time of the first Gulf War included investments in Amoco, Exxon and Texaco. The family law firm, Baker Botts, has represented Texaco, Exxon, Halliburton and Conoco Phillips, among other companies, in some cases since 1914 and in many cases for decades. (Eagleburger is also connected to Halliburton, having only recently departed the company's board of directors). Baker is a longtime associate and now senior partner of Baker Botts, which this year, for the second year running, was recipient of "The International Who's Who of Business Lawyers Oil & Gas Law Firm of the Year Award," while the Middle East remains a central focus of the firm. This past July, U.S. Energy Secretary Bodman announced in Baghdad that senior U.S. oil company executives would not enter Iraq without passage of the new law. Petroleum Economist magazine later reported that U.S. oil companies put passage of the oil law before security concerns as the deciding factor over their entry into Iraq. Put simply, the oil companies are trying to get what they were denied before the war or at anytime in modern Iraqi history: access to Iraq's oil under the ground. They are also trying to get the best deal possible out of a war-ravaged and occupied nation. However, waiting for the law's passage and the need to guarantee security of U.S. firms once they get to work, may well be a key factor driving the one proposal by the Iraq Study Group that has received great media attention: extending the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq at least until 2008. As the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group are more thoroughly considered, we should remain ever vigilant and wary of corporate war profiteers in pragmatist's clothing.
Setting The Limits Of Invasion Journalism
In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger reports an unprecedented study by three UK universities which found that, contrary to myth, 80 per cent of the media followed "the government line" on Iraq and only 12 per cent challenged it. He analyses the subtleties and insidious nature of censorship in free societies and asks why this is neglected by many media colleges. On 14 November, Bridget Ash wrote to the BBC’s Today programme asking why the invasion of Iraq was described merely as “a conflict”. She could not recall other bloody invasions reduced to “a conflict”. She received this reply:
You may well disagree, but I think there’s a big difference between the aggressive “invasions” of dictators like Hitler and Saddam and the “occupation”, however badly planned and executed, of a country for positive ends, as in the Coalition effort in Iraq.
Assistant Editor, Today
In demonstrating how censorship works in free societies and the double standard that props up the facade of “objectivity” and “impartiality”, Roger Hermiston’s polite profanity offers a valuable exhibit. An invasion is not an invasion if “we” do it, regardless of the lies that justified it and the contempt shown for international law. An occupation is not an occupation if “we” run it, no matter that the means to our “positive ends” require the violent deaths of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, and an unnecessary sectarian tragedy. Those who euphemise these crimes are those Arthur Miller had in mind when he wrote: “The thought that the state... is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.” Miller might have been less charitable had he referred directly to those whose job it was to keep the record straight. The ubiquity of Hermiston’s view was illuminated the day before Bridget Ash wrote her letter. Buried at the bottom of page seven in the Guardian’s media section was a report on an unprecedented study by the universities of Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds on the reporting leading up to and during the invasion of Iraq. This concluded that more than 80 per cent of the media unerringly followed “the government line” and less than 12 per cent challenged it.
This unusual, and revealing, research is in the tradition of Daniel Hallin at the University of California, whose pioneering work on the reporting of Vietnam, The Uncensored War, saw off the myth that the supposedly liberal American media had undermined the war effort. This myth became the justification for the modern era of government “spin” and the “embedding” (control) of journalists. Devised by the Pentagon, it was enthusiastically adopted by the Blair government. What Hallin showed – and was pretty clear at the time in Vietnam, I must say – was that while “liberal” media organisations such as the New York Times and CBS Television were critical of the war’s tactics and “mistakes”, even exposing a few of its atrocities, they rarely challenged its positive motives – precisely Roger Hermiston’s position on Iraq. [And, with the advent of the internet and direct stories coming directly from the people affected, WITHOUT corporate media censorship, we are seeing the beginning of the end of corporate media. At least, I hope so. Media Reform Conference next month in Memphis. – dancewater]
OPINON: No Middle Ground
Given the specific lineup of the 10 wise men and women serving on the Iraq Study Group, the most conspicuous absence is that of supermodel Heidi Klum. Sure, she has no relevant experience in foreign policy, nor any real knowledge of Iraq -- but neither do commissioners Sandra Day O'Connor, Vernon Jordan, Alan Simpson, or Edwin Meese. What Klum does have to offer is a lesson completely lost on the commission, one taught each week on her hit reality show Project Runway: you're either in, or you're out. When it comes to Iraq, it's good advice. From the commission's perspective, however, such advice would represent a dangerous breakdown of Washington's most enlightened foreign-policy tradition -- that is to say, bipartisanship. The Iraq Study Group, led by George H.W. Bush's secretary of state, James Baker, and 9-11 Commission co-chairman Lee Hamilton, made a point from the outset of its work to rule out the outer boundaries of the Iraq debate. Its report refuses to bless the idea of sending new combat forces to Baghdad, the favored solution of hawks like Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman; and it also blanches at what Baker called "precipitous withdrawal," the position held by many in the Democratic Party, the country as a whole, Iraq, and the world. A safe consensus is what the commission is out for, as reflected by the name for their strategy: "responsible transition." [And that means hundreds of thousands more will die to save face for the stupid evil little politicians in the USA. It is now official that we lost the war (took them three years to recognize this fact). – dancewater] The trouble is that the Iraq Study Group is ultimately providing false hope for an extended war. Its assessment is appropriately bleak. For example, "Key Shia and Kurdish leaders," the commission finds, "have little commitment to national reconciliation." Now, given that these leaders comprise the Iraqi government, one might think that would lead to the conclusion that Iraq is doomed to an intensifying sectarian conflict, and unless one believes it is in the United States' interest to pick a side in someone else's civil war, that means it's time to go home. Instead, the commission, despite its own better judgment in its report, is gearing up for what Hamilton called "one last chance at making Iraq work." It's hard to see what's responsible about this.
OPINION: If Not Now, When?
Whatever its limitations, the report is unquestionably the latest centre piece and climax of a rapid nationwide recognition in the United States that the Iraq war has failed. "The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating," the group pronounce in their first sentence. This frankness has many echoes in post-midterm elections America. At the weekend, even Donald Rumsfeld was shown to have informed Mr. Bush that the strategy in Iraq was not working. On Tuesday, Mr Rumsfeld's prospective successor Robert Gates dramatically admitted that the US is not winning. Shamefully and distressingly, such candour has not yet been matched in this country. Before flying off to America yesterday, Mr. Blair told MPs in the Commons that while the war was not being won, the important thing was "that we do go on to succeed in the mission that we have set ourselves". That is at best misleading - British policy on the ground increasingly embodies an acknowledgement of defeat that is in conflict with the prime minister's insultingly rosy rhetoric - and at worst the comment of a man in denial. It is imperative in Washington today that Mr Blair puts himself publicly and unambiguously on the side of Messrs Baker and Hamilton. Even at this late stage, the prime minister must not go to the White House counselling caution in the acceptance of the study group's proposals. He should use his influence - if it exists at all - to demand broad changes of US policy in the region, especially over Israel-Palestine, and make clear both to the president and in public the increasing reality that Britain is getting out of southern Iraq as soon as practicable anyway. No grovelling. No blurring of advice. Just hand Mr Bush the revolver and tell him he must do the honourable thing with his failed policy. There is no guarantee that the Iraq Study Group's approach offers a sure path to success. A continued slide into chaos could sweep away the al-Maliki government and plunge the country into an even greater catastrophe than the one that exists now, drawing in Iraq's neighbours. The window of opportunity for the Baker-Hamilton policy may already have closed. Much now rests on Mr. Bush. Does he have the vision, commitment and willingness to make bold strategic changes that are now required? His abysmal record says no. But the imperatives of the current disaster brook no alternative. The central political allure of the report - an end to the US combat role in Iraq before the 2008 presidential election campaign - is surely tempting even to a leader who may go down in history as America's worst. It is still possible for America to minimise the damage not only in Iraq but to the US's role in the region and the world. And if not now, when?
OPINION: FROM SENATOR FINEGOLD
The fact is this commission was composed apparently entirely of people who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place, and did not have the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism. So that's who is doing this report. Then I looked at the list of who testified before them. There is virtually no one who opposed the war in the first place. Virtually no one who has been really calling for a different strategy that goes for a global approach to the war on terrorism. So this is really a Washington inside job and it shows not in the description of what's happened - that's fairly accurate - but it shows in the recommendations. It's been called a classic Washington compromise that does not do the job of extricating us from Iraq in a way that we can deal with the issues in Southeast Asia, in Afghanistan, and in Somalia which are every bit as important as what is happening in Iraq. This report does not do the job and it's because it was not composed of a real representative group of Americans who believe what the American people showed in the election, which is that it's time for us to have a timetable to bring the troops out of Iraq. [Sadly, this man will not run for President. – dancewater]
VIDEO: No More Victims!
Its time we did something to help repair the broken bodies of children who have been injured by U.S. bombs and bullets. Our government has spent hundreds of billions to destroy Iraq and hundreds of thousands of children have been injured. No More Victims works 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. Please visit No More Victims so that we may help as many injured Iraqi children as possible.
UPDATE ON LT. WATADA
In a pre-trial victory for Lt. Watada, the Army has retreated on all counts of “content towards government officials” – specifically President G. W. Bush. The last known prosecution of this article was in 1965 resulting from Lt. Henry Howe’s opposition to U.S. foreign policy during the Vietnam War. Lt. Watada’s defense team believe the military favors the conduct unbecoming charges for their overly broad nature, versus the more controversial “contempt of officials” that would have opened the door to the obvious question, “can speech be contemptuous, if it is factual?” Lt. Ehren Watada responds: "The referral of the charges was not unexpected. I'm moving forward as I always have with resilience and fortitude to face the challenges ahead . . . I think the recent elections show more and more Americans are opening their eyes, but we aren't there yet. I hope that actions such as mine will continue to help expose the truth behind the fundamental illegality and immorality of the war," said Lt. Ehren Watada. December 8-10 days of action to support Lt. Watada and all GI resisters. Visit www.ThankYouLt.org for up-to-date information for the campaign to support Lt. Ehren Watada.
Oppose "Supplemental Appropriation" for Continued U.S. Occupation of Iraq. Write your Member of Congress.
Quote of the Day: “Well, it was a grim 118 days. We suffered from the deprival of our freedom, and we were given very little food. We were in a constant state of fear and anxiety about what was going to happen to us. But, yes, it was an awful experience, but we really desire that we want good to come out of this. And we are very, very concerned that the death penalty is on the table for these men. They could face execution, and that would be the worst possible outcome for us. We -- you know, Bishop Tutu has this phrase, you know: there’s no future without forgiveness. And for us, forgiveness opens up possibilities. It opens up the future, that something different can happen than what happened in the past. And what happened in the past was -- it was awful. And Tom was killed in that. And we want something different. We don't want more people to be killed. We want the possibility of restoration and a justice that is about healing the relationships that have been broken.” – James Loney, one of the Christian Peacemakers Team members kidnapped in Iraq. For the rest of the interview, go to Democracy Now!