Sunday, January 21, 2007


A policeman stands guard in front of a burning minibus shortly after a bomb attack in Baghdad, January 21, 2007. A bomb killed two people and wounded seven when it destroyed a minibus in Karrada, in central Baghdad, police said. (Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters) Note: Death toll has been updated to six.

One British soldier killed, four injured, in roadside bombing in Basra. One injury said tobe "very serious."

A second roadside bomb attack on British troops near Basra causes damage but no casualties. British base in former presidential palace is attacked with Katyushas, again no casualties.

TIKRIT– A Task Force Lightning Soldier assigned to 105th Engineer Group, died Saturday of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle while conducting combat operations in northern Iraq.

Four U.S. soldiers and a Marine were killed during combat in Anbar province, the Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, the military reported Sunday. The five newly reported deaths on Saturday raised that day's toll among American forces to at least 24, the third deadliest single day for U.S. troops since the war began in March 2003. The military gave no details on the Anbar fighting and said the identities of the dead were being withheld until family could be notified.

MNF corrects death toll in Blackhawk crash to 12 from 13. Borzou Daragahi reports that the aircraft was evidently shot down. "An Iraqi witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the helicopter was felled by ground fire. "I'm not sure if it was a rocket or other projectile," said the man, a farmer. "After the helicopter was fired upon, it was obvious that it was losing control. Then it crashed with an explosion and the smoke started." The farmer said he and others dared not approach the wreckage to look for survivors, fearing that U.S. forces arriving on the scene might fire at them."

AP's Bushra Juhi provides details on the incident yesterday in Karbala. "The gunmen who killed five U.S. troops in the Shiite holy city of Karbala wore military uniforms and used vehicles commonly driven by foreign dignitaries -- an apparent attempt to impersonate Americans, Iraqi officials said Sunday. . . .In Karbala, provincial Gov. Akeel al-Khazaali, who was not at the security meeting, said the SUVs were able to get through a checkpoint on the outskirts of the city, 50 miles south of Baghdad, because police assumed it was a diplomatic convoy and informed headquarters that it was coming. "The group used percussion bombs and broke into the building, killed five Americans and kidnapped two others, then fled," the governor said, adding that Iraqi troops later found one of the SUVs with three bodies dressed in military uniforms. . .A security official in Karbala, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information to the media, said the convoy of gunmen drove to Babil province after the attack. The Babil police commander confirmed that they entered the region before disappearing. [Note: The U.S. denies that two soldiers were kidnapped.]

VoI report adds to the confusion. "Hilla, Jan 21, (VOI) - Iraqi policemen and army soldiers found on Saturday the bodies of three U.S. soldiers and another wounded in north of Hilla, a source within Babel police command said on Sunday. The army and police forces in Babel province found the bodies and the injured soldiers inside five BMA vehicles in the village of al-Bu Ulwan (13 km north of Hilla)," the source, who declined to be named, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI). The source said the U.S. army received the bodies after it was notified of the incident, which, he believed, has to do with the attack on the Karbala province building on Saturday."

(So, there seem to be various possible interpretations. One is that the bodies dressed in U.S. military uniforms found in the vehicles were in fact Iraqi militants in disguise, although it is not clear what killed them. Another is that the attackers did indeed kidnap, and later kill, Americans, as was initially reported by Iraqi sources, in spite of the U.S. denial. Or, perhaps the three were counted in the previously released total of five dead, but the U.S. military preferred not to reveal the actual circumstances. Hopefully this will all become clear eventually. -- C)

Other Security Incidents


A bomb killed at least six people and wounded 15 when it destroyed a minibus in Karrada, in central Baghdad, police said. It was not clear how many people were on board the bus, which was gutted and burned fiercely. Reuters also reports:

Bomb in a parked car outside a restaurant in eastern Baghdad wounds six.

Kirkuk region

Gunmen attacked guards protecting oil facilities, seized their weapons and vehicles and set an oil well on fire in the town of Dibis, police said.

Also from Reuters:


Gunmen attacked a police patrol and killed two policemen in a drive-by shooting, police said.


A suicide car bomber targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed one woman and wounded five other people.

In various locations, U.S. says its forces have made arrests and killed one suspected militant. " In al-Anbar province, six Iraqis, believed to have ties to 'a weapons and bomb facilitator' were detained. In Mosul, one militant was shot down after a brief exchange of fire with the US forces. In and around Fallujah, Tikrit, Karmah and Balad, 12 more suspects were rounded up. Weapons caches were also seized, the US military said, while documents were found concerning 'a coalition forces member stationed at a nearby US military installation.' "


Sadrist bloc agrees to end boycott of parliament, after agreement that parliament will consider demand for end to occupation. Excerpt:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Ending a two-month boycott, the powerful political movement of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr will return to Iraq's parliament, the parliamentary speaker announced Sunday. Politicians backing al-Sadr withdrew participation in Iraqi politics in a protest over Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's November meeting with President Bush in Jordan. The al-Sadr bloc controls six government ministries and holds 30 of the 235 seats in parliament. At a joint news conference with members of the al-Sadr bloc, parliamentary speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani said the boycott ended after negotiations with parliament members who said they would consider the group's demands -- which al-Mashhadani called "national demands." Those demands include setting a timetable for withdrawal of U.S.-led coalition troops from Iraq. Al-Mashhadani said the Iraqi parliament will assign three of its committees to work on a plan to present to parliament members.

However, controversy between Sadrists and the government continues over the detention of Sheikh Abdel-hadi al-Deraji. From DPA:

The arrest of Sheikh Abdel-hadi al-Deraji had triggered anger among al-Sadr supporters, who described the arrest as 'malicious', and this spread Sunday even to MPs not affiliated with al-Sadr. Abdel-Karim al-Anzy, member of the United Iraqi Alliance which has 128 seats in parliament, said the government should have been pre- informed of the arrest, which had been 'a political decision,' and warned such high-profile arrests could threaten the country's already wavering stability.

An al-Sadr-affiliated MP was more outspoken, telling the press that the arrest of al-Deraji was 'inhuman, against human rights' and noted that one of al-Deraji's guards was killed during the arrest. 'Al-Deraji's arrest is not right, and we hope that the government would take serious and real steps in order to release him,' said Falah Hassan Shanshal, who added that the Sadrists would work to put an end to unwarranted 'random detentions.'

Although the government was partly blamed for not pushing for the release, a government spokesman quoted by pan-Arab Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper said al-Maliki was unaware of the arrest. Ali al-Dabagh said al-Maliki 'was not aware of the arrest of al- Deraji' and that 'he will be released.' Al-Dabagh insisted however that 'doubts' still surround al-Deraji and that he will be 'questioned and interrogated' in regards to these suspicions.

An unnamed source from the Sadr faction told the newspaper that raids against his group have continued over the past two days.

Kurdish troops ordered to Baghdad are deserting. (This never did seem like such a terrific idea in the first place, now did it? -- C)

By Leila Fadel and Yaseen Taha, McClatchy Newspapers | January 21, 2007

SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq -- As the Iraqi government attempts to secure a capital city ravaged by conflict between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslim Arabs, its decision to bring a third party into the mix may cause more problems than peace.

Kurdish soldiers from northern Iraq, who are mostly Sunnis but not Arabs, are deserting the army to avoid the civil war in Baghdad, a conflict they consider someone else's problem.

The Iraqi Army brigades being sent to the capital are filled with former members of a Kurdish militia, the peshmerga, that's the armed wing of President Jalal Talabani of Iraq's political party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Most remain loyal to that militia.

Much as Shi'ite militias have infiltrated the Iraqi security forces across Arab Iraq, the peshmerga fill the ranks of the Iraqi Army in the Kurdish region in the north, poised to secure a semi-independent Kurdistan and seize oil-rich Kirkuk and parts of Mosul if Iraq falls apart. One thing they didn't bank on, they said, was being sent into the "fire" of Baghdad.

"The soldiers don't know the Arabic language, the Arab tradition, and they don't have any experience fighting terror," said Anwar Dolani, a former peshmerga commander who leads the brigade that's being transferred to Baghdad from the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah.

Dolani called the desertions a "phenomenon" but refused to say how many soldiers have left the army. "I can't deny that a number of soldiers have deserted the army, and it might increase due to the ferocious military operations in Baghdad," he said.

"This is the biggest performance through which we can test them," said Lieutenant General Ali Ghaidan, the commander of land forces for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. The Kurdish soldiers will be using translators, and they'll start off doing less dangerous tasks such as manning checkpoints with Arab soldiers, he said.

In interviews, however, soldiers in Sulaimaniyah expressed loyalty to their Kurdish brethren, not to Iraq. Many said they'd already deserted, and those who are going to Baghdad said they'd flee if the situation there became too difficult.

"I joined the army to be a soldier in my homeland, among my people. Not to fight for others who I have nothing to do with," said Ameen Kareem, 38, who took a week's leave with other soldiers from his brigade in the Kurdish city of Erbil and never returned. "I used to fight in the mountains and valleys, not in the streets."

Kareem said he knew that deserting was risky, but he said he'd rather be behind bars in Kurdistan than a "soldier in Baghdad's fire." Without the language and with his Kurdish features, he was sure he would stand out, he said. He's a Kurd, he said, and he has no reason to become a target in an Arab war.

Read in Full

Second Brigade of the 82d Airborne arrives in Iraq, designated as the first soldiers of the "surge."


Tom Engelhardt gets to the heart of the Bush administration alternate reality. Excerpt:

The Look of a War against Islam

By Tom Engelhardt

Just five days after the September 11th attacks in 2001, in a Q and A with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House, a President with a new mission, a new cause, and a new purpose in life told the American people that, though they had to "go back to work tomorrow," they should now know that they were facing a "new kind of evil." He added, "And we understand. And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while."

This crusade, this war on terrorism. It had such a ring to it; in the Arab world, of course, it was a ring many centuries old and deeply disturbing. And it came so naturally, so easily off the President's tongue (though it took days of backtracking by his spokesmen and prominent presidential references to "the peaceful teachings of Islam" perverted by "a fringe form of Islamic extremism" to begin to make up for it). But that little "slip" of the tongue spoke volumes. It signaled that George W. Bush was already in his own heroic dream world and, only those few days after the 9/11 attacks, had both a "crusade" on the brain and "victory" in that crusade firmly in mind. As a result, he made this promise to the American people: "It is time for us to win the first war of the 21st century decisively, so that our children and our grandchildren can live peacefully into the 21st century."


The Bush administration (along with its NATO allies) is involved in a war in Afghanistan that is growing ever fiercer; it is in a heavily armed near-conflict with Iran and threatening more to come; and, of course, it's thoroughly bogged down in a war/civil-war and occupation of Iraq, where the response to ever worse news and a clear public desire in the U.S. as well as Iraq for American troops to depart has been the much-publicized "surge." The Bush administration, which armed and supported the unsuccessful but remarkably destructive Israeli thrust into Lebanon last summer to take out Hizbollah, has reportedly just let the CIA loose in that country in support of an ever weaker Lebanese government against an emboldened Hizbollah; similarly it supported democracy among the Palestinians only until they voted in Hamas and has since been eager to undermine and revoke the results; American Special Operations forces and Air Force gunships have recently been loosed on an Islamic movement -- previously unsuccessfully opposed by the CIA (which funded local murderous warlords) -- that had brought order to Somalia for the first time in memory, and its fingerprints are all over an invasion of that Islamic land by a harsh and autocratic Ethiopian regime that is largely Christian. (The quick Ethiopian invasion "victory" in Somalia threatens simply to repeat the quick American invasion "victory" in Iraq in 2003 with an insurgency and chaos almost certain to follow.) The same administration is now issuing hardly veiled threats against Syria; it is also bringing a new carrier task force into the Persian Gulf, emplacing Patriot anti-missile batteries in some of the smaller Gulf oil states (an act that can only be aimed at Iran), and has been raiding Iranian diplomatic offices and missions in Iraq under a presidential order Bush evidently issued some months ago, all framed by a possible future air assault on Iran. As Juan Cole put the matter recently, "The difficulties faced by the U.S. military occupation of Iraq itself may well be made the pretext for aggressive action against Iran."

The President no longer spends his time reminding Americans of the "peaceful teachings" of Islam; instead, he regularly speaks of the ideology of "Islamo-fascism," of those "radical Islamic extremists" intent on building a "Caliphate," a "radical Islamic empire" from Afghanistan to Gibraltar. Such references to Islam fit well with the tunnel vision he and his compatriots imposed on that arc of instability. As if to bring their wildest fantasies to life, they have indeed managed to create what looks remarkably like a crusader map of the region. In the process, they have certainly given "instability" a new, more menacing meaning.

And please do Read in Full

Kurdish commentator Ardalan Hardi ramps up the rhetoric against Turkey, calls the referendum over Kirkuk inevitable. (Note: This doesn't get a lot of attention in the U.S., but it is a very dangerous situation. I'm offering this Kurdish nationalist perspective but if anybody has a Turkish or Sunni Arab commentary on Kirkuk we'd certainly like to see that as well. -- C)

The unrealistic approach of Turkey’s meddling in the Kurdish city of Kirkuk and Ankara’s threats on implementing Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution have created a political quagmire in President Bush’s foreign policy in the Middle East region. It is clear that there’s nothing Ankara can do to stop the Kirkuk referendum. Yet Turkish government continues with its warnings and threats to further destabilize the region and derail the recent success of the Kurdish government in Iraq.

Turkey continually uses excuses like (PKK) Kurdistan Workers' Party or the Turks who are Iraqi citizens as a reason to legitimize its interference in Iraq’s affairs. Turkey now claims it acts to protect the Turkmen community in Kirkuk, but what Ankara’s government chooses to overlook is that the Turks that live in Iraq are Iraqi citizens not Turkish. Turkey has no legal grounds to tell the sovereign nation of Iraq how to deal with their citizens. Consider this, the U.S. has a large population of Mexicans that chose to leave their country of origin and live in U,S, By doing so, they gave up their rights as a Mexican citizen. Does Mexico then have a right to tell the U.S, government how to deal with its Mexican population when it comes to constitutional rights? The answer to that is very obvious.

Turks, Arabs, Kurds, and all other minorities in Iraq have to abide by and uphold the laws of the state. That law is the constitution that was voted in by the electorate of Iraq when they went to the polls on October 15, 2005 and it was approved by a wide margin nationwide. That constitution includes the implementation of article 140. Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution indicates how to normalize the situation in the city of Kirkuk followed by a referendum on the fate of the province. Turkey has no legal grounds to create more obstacles or intervene in Iraq’s sovereignty.

Read in Full

Kos diarist puts the Blackhawk shootdown in Diyala in the context of Lt. Gen. Odierno's ongoing crackdown in the region.

FBI says motorcycle and street gang members are joining the military, are serving in Iraq.

Motorcycle and street gang members have joined the U.S. military and served in Iraq, a new FBI report says. The FBI described the gang presence as a growing threat, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The military enlistment of gang members could ultimately lead to the worldwide expansion of U.S.-based gangs, the report said. The Defense Department does not track gang membership in the military. But FBI investigators believe the reduction in enlistment standards -- due to recruitment pressure related to the Iraq War -- has brought more gang members in.

Recruiters are not trained to look for signs of gang membership, the report said. Others ignore criminal records of willing volunteers -- such as the recruiter who concealed the fact that a member of the Latin Kings was awaiting trial for a razor assault on a New York police officer.

The FBI said some gangs recruit veterans or serving members of the military because of their experience with explosives and firearms. Other gang members may join up to get access to weapons and equipment.

Whisker's Roundup of Wounded

Sgt.Eric Edmundson was injured Oct. 2, 2005 by an improvised explosive device while serving with the 172nd Stryker Brigade in Iraq. The 26-year-old Army sergeant had injuries to his abdomen, right leg and two vertebrae. Complications from cardiac arrest while awaiting transport to Germany caused anoxic brain injury, leaving him unable to walk, talk, eat or drink.

Pfc. Daniel Tingle, 21, was injured Jan. 7 in a mortar attack in Baghdad. He is undergoing treatment at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston. Luce said it's still too early to tell whether her son will lose his left foot. Doctors cleaned his wound and were getting him up and around. Luce said his left ankle was shattered and six bones were broken in his left foot. He also suffered shrapnel wounds in both legs and has undergone several surgeries to repair the damage.

Marine Corporal Joseph T. Pawlowski, 23, of Harrison, was shot and wounded Dec. 28 while serving in Iraq. After being stabilized at a military hospital in Germany, Pawlowski was transferred to Balboa Naval Hospital at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, California, where he has undergone surgery. Additional surgery has been scheduled for Jan. 20.

28-year-old Sgt. Luke Shirley stepped on a land mine, severing his right arm and leg and piercing his body with metal shards.

Lance Cpl. Patrick Howard was seriously wounded in Iraq last summer. "The first mortar round landed and hit the back of the chair that I was sitting in," Howard said. "It picked me up about 20 feet in the air and dropped me. Then, about 20 seconds later I had another mortar round land about 10 feet to my left. It filled my body with metal and shrapnel. I was bleeding all over the place." Howard has since recovered from his broken pelvis and leg.

A 33-year-old former Alliance resident is recovering from a gunshot wound he suffered while serving in Iraq. Steve Holloway is a platoon sergeant with the U.S. Army and a 1991 Alliance High School graduate. He is currently in the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Details of the shooting have not been made available, but his father said Holloway apparently was shot in the back. He underwent surgery Wednesday morning and is expected to undergo another surgery on Friday.

Quote of the Day

Every piece of evidence from these past nearly four bloody years makes clear that many Sunnis and Shiites alike are driven to rage by the very presence of American soldiers walking Iraqi streets, barging into Iraqi homes, and arresting or killing people who may or may not be insurgents. Furthermore, the people arrested or killed, however unsavory, are sometimes the only force protecting their communities against attacks from the opposite side in an extremely bitter civil war. Therefore, as sociologist Michael Schwartz explained the matter some six weeks ago, a previous joint U.S.-Iraqi counterinsurgency drive in Baghdad, of exactly the type now being planned, actually increased civilian casualties.

Adam Hochschild


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