DAILY WAR NEWS FOR WEDNESDAY, January 24, 2007
: Iraqi youths return from school as a police pickup truck burns in the district of Amariyah in Baghdad, Iraq, Wednesday Jan. 24, 2007 after it was struck by a suicide car bomber. According to eyewitnesses, all three or four policemen inside the truck were killed. ( AP Photo/Asaad Mouhsin)
U.S. and Iraqi troops clashed with gunmen firing heavy weapons from concrete high-rises
in a Sunni insurgent stronghold north of the heavily fortified Green Zone on Wednesday. Iraqi's defense ministry said as many as 30 militants were killed and 27 captured.
Apache attack helicopters buzzed past the tall buildings and radio towers, with several Humvees on the tree-lined street below. Gunfire rang in the background as shells fell, according to AP Television News footage.
Black smoke rose from the area, on the west bank of the Tigris River about one mile north of the Green Zone, site of the U.S. and British embassies as well as the Iraqi government headquarters. The clashes were the second major fighting to break out in the area in less than a month.
There were conflicting numbers of insurgents reported killed and captured in the fighting, which began before dawn.
Iraq's Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari told The Associated Press 30 insurgents were killed and 27 were arrested, including four Egyptians and a Sudanese man.
The U.S. military said seven suspected insurgents were detained and rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank rounds and 155 mm artillery rounds were seized. The American statement did not mention deaths.
The Sunni Association of Moslem Scholars condemned the military operation launched by Iraqi and U.S. forces in central Baghdad's Haifa Street as an "annihilation campaign" against people there. The residents of Haifa Street and areas around it are facing "an annihilation and liquidation campaign launched by joint forces of the government and the occupation," the association said in a statement received by the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).
"The forces launched after midnight a brutal attack on those areas using their weapons of destruction and aggression, shelling the areas with mortars and rockets, and the attack is still going on until now," the statement said.
Bring 'em on
: A U.S. soldier was killed by small arms fire in central Baghdad, the U.S. military said. It was not immediately clear if the soldier was killed in the Haifa Street operation. A U.S. statement said the soldier had been "participating in a combined security operation in the area, aimed at disrupting and isolating militia activity". It said two other soldiers were wounded.
Bring 'em on
: One Marine assigned to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group and one Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5 died today from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in Al Anbar Province. (MNF - Iraq)
OTHER SECURITY INCIDENTS
The Iraqi minister of higher education on Wednesday escaped unhurt an assassination attempt
when his motorcade came under heavy firing in southern Baghdad which claimed casualties among his bodyguards, a ministry official said.
The house of Sunni leader Adnan al-Dulaimi was attacked with mortars
, wounding one of his guards, a security source said.
A suicide car bomber blew up near a police patrol
, killing four policemen and wounding three civilians in the western Sunni Arab Amiriya district.
Several mortar rounds landed on Baladiyat residential district and wounded a man.
Three mortars landed near City Hospital in central Baghdad, killing two people and wounding 20.
Gunmen opened fire on a minibus carrying Shi'ite pilgrims and wounded two of them
in the southern Saydiya district of Baghdad.
Gunmen killed Dhiyaa al-Mugoutir, a professor at Mustansiriya University, in a drive-by shooting
on Tuesday in the northern Adhamiya district of Baghdad.
The body of a Sunni woman bank employee kidnapped on Monday was found in Baghdad's morgue
on Wednesday, the Sunni Muslim Scholars Association said in a statement.
1 civilian was killed and 4 wounded in a parked car bomb explosion in Sheikh Omar neighborhood downtown Baghdad.
4 civilians were killed and 7 injured in a parked car explosion in Karrada neighborhood.
3 policemen were injured when an IED explosion targeted their patrol in Wahran square in Baladyat neighborhood
east of Baghdad.
A total of 17 bodies were found, shot dead, in different districts of Baghdad
on Tuesday, police said.
U.S. and Iraqi forces killed five suspected insurgents and detained eight more during a patrol near Latifiya
, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
Gunmen killed an Iraqi translator who worked with the U.S. forces in the city of Kut
, 170 km (105 miles) southeast of Baghdad, police said.
Clashes erupted between gunmen and Iraqi army and police, wounding six soldiers in the town of Suwayra
, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. Three soldiers were reported missing after the clashes.
Police source in Basra province said that a civilian was killed in an IED explosion in Haqil Sabba area
70 kms west of Basra city. The IED targeted an American convoy.
The spokesman of the MNF in the south Katy Brown said that 7 British soldiers were injured last night in two separate incidents
, two of them were injured severely. She explained that 5 of them were injured outside of Basra city on the highway when their vehicle crashed into a civilian vehicle. The spokesman said that two Iraqi civilians were injured in the incident, one seriously. The other two soldiers were injured by a katusha rocket attack on the British consulate downtown Basra city and one of them was severely wounded.
The spokesman of the MNF in the south of Iraq said that the British forces found a weapons cache west of Basra city
. 100-150 mortar shells were found in the cache which were exploded in a controlled explosion.
Iraqi police source said that the American forces arrested last night the chief of Tikrit local council
Aarif Jabbar Motar and Sheikh Khaleel Al Ejili, a member of the Muslim Scholars Association and the imam of Omar Bin AL Khattab mosque. The two men were arrested in the house of the Iraqi army intelligence officer Captain Maeen Al Dulaimi. The two men were in a visit to the officer to mediate in releasing Dr. Basim Al Jishi, a member of the MSA and its spokesman in Tikrit and Sheikh Hamid Ugab, a member of Tikrit council and a member of Salah Ad Din tribes who were arrested two days ago by American forces. The MSA in Tikrit issued a statement condemning the arrests, describing it as a shameful operation for the American forces to apply the new policy of Bush.
A source in Tikrit governorate said that Sheikh Hamd Ugab had been released early morning today.
About 1000 people demonstrated in Tikrit condemning the policy of arresting the religious and the patriotic characters of the governorate. The demonstration started from Arba'een St. near the big mosque downtown Tikrit city today morning.
The Multi-National forces in Iraq said their troops detained three gunmen during a raid on Wednesday morning north of Baghdad in which a child was killed.
The raid targeted "an individual with ties to a senior al-Qaida leader who has executed Iraqi civilians and conducted extortion operations against the Iraqi people," the forces said in a statement.
The statement said that during the raid "Coalition Forces used a small explosives charge to gain entrance into the building. Once inside, Coalition Forces detained the targeted individual and two others."
Coalitions Forces provided immediate medical care to a 12-year old male injured during the forced entry. Coalition forces then evacuated the child to a local medical facility but he died upon arrival, it added.
Four of the five Americans killed when a U.S. security company's helicopter crashed in a in central Baghdad were shot execution style in the back the head
, Iraqi and U.S. officials said Wednesday.
A senior Iraqi military official said a machine gunner downed the helicopter, but a U.S. military official in Washington said there were no indications that the aircraft, owned by Blackwater USA, had been shot out of the sky. Two Sunni insurgent groups, separately, claimed responsibility for the crash.
In Washington, a U.S. defense official said four of the five killed were shot in the back of the head but did not know whether they were still alive when they were shot. The defense official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
The helicopter was shot down after responding to assist a U.S. Embassy ground convoy that came under fire in a Sunni neighborhood in central Baghdad, said a U.S. diplomatic official in Washington.
A second helicopter also was struck, but there were no casualties among its crew, said the diplomatic official, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to make statements.
A US Senate panel approved a measure condemning Bush's strategy to pour more US troops into Iraq
, dealing the president an unprecedented rebuke.
One day after he pleaded with the country to give his plan a chance to work, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, by a vote of 12 to nine, condemned Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq, as part of an administration effort to stabilize the war-torn country.
Dozens of Republican leaders joined Democrats in taking aim at Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Facing a split within his own party and sagging approval ratings over Iraq, the president faced a major challenge: to win over the American public and to win back the support of prominent Republicans, who oppose his strategy for Iraq.
In Bush's 50-minute speech, he implored Congress to back his plan to send more troops: "Give it a chance to work."
But over the next two hours, a bipartisan group assailed his policies. Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter both attacked the president's plan for a troop buildup.
Iraqi politicians on both side of the sectarian divide saw little new in Bush's State of the Union address in which he urged critics to give his plan to increase American troops in Iraq a chance.
A truce between insurgents and the U.S. forces in Iraq is possible if the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad is dismissed
and new elections are held, a prominent Sunni tribal leader said Tuesday.
Until a truce is agreed, insurgent attacks on U.S. troops will continue and even escalate in line with instructions from Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam Hussein's deputy and perceived successor, said Sheik Majeed al-Gaood, a tribal leader in Anbar province, the heartland of the insurgency.
"Mr. al-Douri's instructions came in a handwritten letter weeks before President Saddam was martyred," al-Gaood told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his house in Amman, Jordan's capital. "He demanded escalated attacks against certain targets, not civilians," he said.
"The targets are U.S. occupation forces and the military affiliated with the traitor government in Baghdad."
Al-Gaood is a leading member of a Sunni family that plays a major role in tribal politics in Anbar. The family has extensive business interests in Iraq, owning stores and transport companies. Many of its members are currently outside the country for fear of the kidnappings and killings taking place in Iraq. (...)
Al-Gaood heads the "Wahaj el Iraq" or "Flame of Iraq" group. It is one of several Sunni-dominated Iraqi political factions that are believed to have close ties to Saddam's disbanded Baath Party.
Wahaj el Iraq is one of several groups that threw their support behind al-Douri following Saddam's execution on Dec. 30.
Al-Gaood said Iran was a "worse enemy for Iraq than the United States."
"Tehran is our real enemy because it wants to control my country, and then the entire Arab world." he said. "It constitutes a real threat to U.S. interests in the region, especially the Gulf Arab states."
Al-Gaood urged the United States to open a "real and substantive dialogue" with Iraqi insurgents.
"To save face, the Americans need not speak to Iran or Syria - who will not be of any use to get them out of their troubles in Iraq - but to the real representatives of Iraq, the Iraqi resistance."
A license plate from a car registered to Iraq's minister of trade was found on an SUV used by the gunmen who killed five American soldiers
in the city of Karbala on Saturday, an Iraqi police official said Monday.
Maj. Gen. Qais al Maamuri, a police commander in Hilla, said the plate had been stolen from a BMW that belongs to Abdul Falah al-Sudani, a member of the Shiite Muslim Dawa Party. He said Sudani wasn't a suspect in the attack.
The link, however, deepened the mystery surrounding the Saturday attack as the second double-car bombing in Baghdad in seven days provided additional evidence that it will be difficult to quell the violence, even with the additional U.S. troops President Bush is sending to Iraq. (...)
U.S. officials confirmed Monday that five Americans were killed in Saturday's attack, but they revealed no information about how the gunmen obtained a top Iraqi official's license plate, U.S. and Iraqi army uniforms and identification cards and vehicles like the ones used to carry U.S. officials.
Most Iraqi officials live in the American-protected Green Zone, where entry is strictly controlled. If the license plate were stolen from Sudani's car inside the Green Zone, that would suggest an inside job.
IraqSlogger: ANOTHER BLACK DAY FOR BLACKWATER
At 10:30am Baghdad time yesterday (Jan 23, 2007 a Blackwater personal security detail (PSD) was escorting a State Dept official to a ministry meeting in the Fadhi district of Baghdad. The convoy began to take small arms fire. They called for backup and the Blackwater quick reaction force team responded from the Green Zone. They were also ambushed by machine gun fire from the left and right. They limped back to the Green Zone with two blown out tires. There were violent attacks on two more Blackwater QRF teams and insurgents took a number of casualties.
Blackwater dispatched their Little Bird helicopters to provide aerial cover and suppressing fire. Blackwater has three Boeing MD series Little Birds (similar to the Hughes 500) based out of the Green Zone. Each helo is unarmed but carry two pilots and two door gunners each. The two door gunners hang out of the rear doors of the helo with straps and use their with SAWs (Squad Automatic Weapons) to provide suppressing fire.
Four Blackwater mobile teams were sent to recover and secure the downed helicopter. In addition a U.S. QRF was dispatched. An Army Apache helicopter and a Stryker company came upon the downed helicopter first and said that the weapons had been stripped but the bodies were intact. (...)
Once the Little Birds engaged the insurgents, one door gunner was killed and the rotor blades were damaged, and it returned to base. Another Little Bird was shot down instantly killing all four aboard. The shoot down and crash was described as quick and no radio call was sent before impact. (...)
The five dead mentioned include the one door gunner and the entire crew of the relief Little Bird. There are also unconfirmed reports of additional casualties among the Blackwater security detail on the ground.
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BBC Baghdad Diary: SNUFF FILM
It will probably be one of the most bizarre press conferences I will cover, certainly the most grotesque.
Right up to the moment it started, none of us there really knew what to expect.
But the way we were searched beforehand told us something.
An unusually determined crowd of Iraqi police officers surrounded the entrance to the room.
We had to give up all our cameras, mobiles and microphones. One notebook and pen was all we were allowed. Some journalists had watches and sunglasses taken away, in case they held some kind of recorder.
The New York Times
correspondent even had his hair searched.
It was the day Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein's half brother, and Awad al-Bandar, the former chief judge of his revolutionary court, had been executed.
We had had a clue that yet again, something had gone wrong.
We got word that the two men had been executed early in the morning and reported it. But then some officials started to deny they had announced the execution. The government would not confirm it had happened officially.
Eventually, by late-morning, Ali Dabbagh, the Iraqi prime minister's spokesman announced the news - and nervously added the unfortunate detail.
The head of Saddam's half brother had become "separated" from his body. The hangman had got his macabre calculations of his weight wrong and given him too much rope.
But he said no video of the event would be shown this time.
By the afternoon though, the first conspiracy theories were circulating on the streets of Baghdad. As with Saddam's execution, it was taking on sectarian overtones. Some were saying the Shias had beheaded Barzan, a Sunni.
So we journalists were called in, to try to scotch the rumours. "We want you to be eyewitnesses, as if you were there at the execution," said Ali Dabbagh. But the video will not be released, he said.
"This was an Act of God." "But please," he said, before starting the video. "No prayers or chanting in any religious way."
The first surprise once the film started was what the two men were wearing - orange jump suits of the kind that have become infamous from Guantanamo Bay.
In some ways it was no surprise. The two men were in US custody. But you would have thought someone would have seen the potential downside of having them appear on the execution stand in those clothes.
Both men appeared to be on the verge of tears - faces stretched in anguish. But there was no sound. So, even now, we do not have a full picture of what happened.
Then the final moment came. The trap doors opened beneath the feet of the two men. Almost instantaneously the rope round Barzan al-Tikriti's neck jerks upwards. And then the camera man panned down to the pit below where we saw his body and the head, still covered by a hood, lying some distance away.
There was a stunned silence in the room. But not just because of what we had seen, I think. Also because of what this meant - that the Iraqi government is so worried and insecure, it has to show videos like this.
>> COMMENTARY AND ANALYSIS
Roads to Iraq: US OCCUPATION SOLDIERS HARASSING IRAQI WOMEN-MPS
- Iraqi parliament spokesman Mahmoud Almshahadani accused American soldiers of harassing Iraqi women-representatives using filthy sexual words.
Commenting on the complaint by woman-representative about abusive behavior of the Americans soldiers, Almshahadani said he protested to Ambassador (Super State) [sarcasm reference to the American ambassador in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad], but nothing had happened. He added that these soldiers are (cowards, and sons of cowards), admitted that Iraq is un-sovereign country and he can do anything to stop these abuses.
Pepe Escobar: ONE, TWO, A THOUSAND FALLUJAHS?
What both Zawahiri and Muqtada are saying [in a video starring al-Qaeda's No 2, Sunni Arab Ayman al-Zawahiri, and an interview by Iraqi Shi'ite nationalist leader Muqtada al-Sadr] torpedoes the heavily spun Bush-system propaganda according to which Iranian "networks" inside Iraq are allied with the Iraqi resistance to kill Americans. The last thing on Earth Iranian Shi'ites would do is smuggle weapons to Ba'athists, Saddam allies and/or al-Qaeda. The surefire way for the leadership in Tehran to raise hell in Iraq against the United States would be to help the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq's (SCIRI's) Badr Organization, or the Mehdi Army for that matter, to launch its own anti-US guerrilla war. That is obviously not happening - at least while Iran has not been the victim of a US/Israeli attack.
The winner in the short term in Iraq will be the clever chess player who has managed to ingratiate himself as Bush's man - apart from the momentarily shadowy Allawi: SCIRI's Abdulaziz al-Hakim, whose Badr Organization, holed up in the Ministry of the Interior, actually deploys anti-Sunni death squads.
Why is he Bush's man? Simple: he supports the soon-to-be-voted-on Iraqi oil law, the Holy Grail for Anglo-American Big Oil. Muqtada, on the other hand, is fiercely against it. From the Bush/Cheney system's perspective, two crucial "sins" - Muqtada's courtship of moderate Sunnis to get their act together against the occupation, and his admiration of Hezbollah's strategy - pale before the ultimate sin: Muqtada wants Iraqi oil for Iraqis.
The US plan B anyway is on. If Maliki does not deliver and defang the Mehdi Army - as he certainly won't - a US-engineered white coup will be inevitable, and there are only two possibilities: "Saddam without a mustache" Allawi, or a Hakim-blessed candidate.
Hakim is already cleverly manipulating the US escalation to strike against his two real mortal enemies - the muqawama
(resistance) and the Mehdi Army - at the same time. No wonder Sunni tribal leaders started accusing the US of ethnic cleansing in Baghdad. So there's no way for Iraqification-cum-surge to appeal to Sunnis. The muqawama
knows it - and it is already making plans to lie low at times, hide its constant flow of weapons bought with funding from private, wealthy Saudi and Persian Gulf individuals, or retreat from Baghdad and melt away in the desert province of al-Anbar.
Bush's surge is perfect if the template is divide and rule. The Battle of Sadr City will divide the Shi'ites into a pro-US "elite" (SCIRI and Da'wa) and a guerrilla force of the damned (the Sadrists). It will divide the Shi'ites from the Kurds (peshmergas from Kurdistan killing Shi'ites in Baghdad). It will keep Shi'ites and Sunnis bitterly divided (the other battle front in the surge is against the Sunni Arab resistance). Hakim may consider himself the winner. But Zawahiri, of course, will also love it, confident that his emirate in al-Anbar - led by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir - will ride the storm. Like the White House/Pentagon, al-Qaeda after all insists on also fighting a two-pronged war, in al-Qaeda's case against the Americans and the Shi'ites.
With Baghdad to be divided into nine military districts, each with its dedicated Iraqi army/police and its embedded US battalion, the muqawama
is also more than relishing the prospect of laying siege to the sitting-duck Fort Apaches that will spring up in each of these districts. What happened in Karbala last Sunday will be quite common in Fort Apache land: attacks by guerrilla commandos disguised as American soldiers, driving in a convoy of GMCs. And Black Hawk Down will be endlessly replayed - just like last Saturday, when a helicopter was shot down by a clumsy Russian SA-7 shoulder-fired missile.
Most of all, the dire prospect is of a devastating air war over Baghdad - followed by wholesale slaughter of Sunnis and Shi'ites alike as counterinsurgency fails (there are no hearts and minds to be won; everyone wants US troops out). But as US bombs and missiles now define who is a "terrorist" and who is not - see the recent bombing of Somali nomadic herdsmen sold as dangerous al-Qaeda operatives - Iraqification-cum-surge will be a disaster mostly for every Baghdadi caught in the crossfire.
The Pentagon cannot at the same time launch the Battle of Sadr City, fight the muqawama
spread out and in control all over western Baghdad, and fight al-Qaeda in al-Anbar province. Or maybe it could: if bombs and missiles from above are The Great Decider on who's a terrorist, why not take out everybody down there on the ground? Forty years after Che Guevara's "one, two, a thousand Vietnams", meet "one, two, a thousand Fallujahs".
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Born at the Crest of the Empire: THE REASON THE IRAQ NIE HAS BEEN DELAYED
The National Intelligence Estimate on the current state of Iraq has been slowrolled, but Pincus may provide the outlines of why this has been so, it's content.
The draft of a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq says it will be "very difficult" but "not impossible" for the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to succeed in providing better governance in that war-ravaged country, a top intelligence official told a Senate committee yesterday.....
Fingar added that in the NIE, there are "a lot of conditional statements, but it is not impossible."
Imagine the politics for Bush's "surge" if this NIE was already out saying Maliki has, at best, a slim chance of success.
World Socialist Web Site: US OCCUPATION TURNS 3.7 MILLION IRAQIS INTO REFUGEES
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported this month that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq has forced one out of every eight Iraqis to flee their homes-more than 3.7 million people. The agency described the refugee crisis caused by the Iraq war as the worst in the Middle East since the ethnic cleansing that accompanied the creation of Israel in 1948. The Zionist military and paramilitary death squads drove an estimated 711,000 Palestinian Arabs from their land.
UNHCR estimates that two million Iraqis are now living outside the country-including those who left before 2003 but have failed to return due to the country's catastrophic situation. Some 50,000 Iraqi émigrés returned in 2005, but just 1,000 came back last year.
Another 1.7 million Iraqis have been internally displaced. At least 500,000 people fled their homes in 2006 as a result of US military repression and the dramatic rise in sectarian violence between rival Shiite and Sunni militias in the wake of the destruction of a prominent Shiite mosque in Samarra last February. It is thought that 80,000 to 100,000 people are joining the ranks of internal and external refugees each month.
The cause of the refugee crisis is the political, economic and social collapse in Iraq after close to four years of US occupation. The UN Human Rights Office report for the period November 1, 2006 to December 21, 2006, stated: "The civilian population remains the main victim of the prevailing security situation, characterised by terrorist acts, action by armed groups, criminal gangs, religious extremists, militias, as well as operations by security and military forces. The resulting insecurity, sectarian prejudice, and terror negatively and comprehensively affect the enjoyment of basic rights and freedoms by the population at large. In addition, growing unemployment, poverty, various forms of discrimination and increasingly limited access to basic services, prevent most citizens from realizing their economic, social and cultural rights."
The UN specifically condemned the actions of the US military: "Armed operations by the Multinational Forces-Iraq [the official title of the US-led occupation forces] continued to restrict the enjoyment of human rights and to cause severe suffering to the local population. Continued limitations of freedom of movement and lack of access to basic services such as health and education are affecting a larger percentage of the population and depriving it of basic rights for extended periods of time."
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Dissident Voice: ALIENS IN AN ALIEN LAND _IRAQ THROUGH THE LENS OF SOLDIERS' MEMOIRS
Not so many years ago, perhaps five, there was a country known as "Iraq." That Iraq no longer exists. It has been replaced by two Iraqs. No, I am not referring here to the Kurdish Autonomous Region, nor to the nascent Shia statelet likely about to be created in the south, though either of these could be considered as break-up products of that former country.
I am, rather, referring to the two zones into which Iraq has become divided, the Green Zone and the Red Zone. The Green Zone, a.k.a. the "International Zone," the "Ultimate Gated Community," or more appropriately, the "United States of Iraq," is the place where the various would-be rulers of Iraq have congregated since the March-April 2003 invasion. The colonial administration, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), set up its headquarters here. After the June 2004 handover of "sovereignty" but little power to an Iraqi Interim Government with its Prime Minister forced upon United Nations officials nominally in charge by the United States, this government made its home in the Green Zone. The current "elected," but largely powerless, Shia-dominated government also "rules" from this zone.
For the Americans there, life in the Green Zone resembles life in the United States, with just enough of an exotic tinge to make it interesting. Night clubs serve liquor, women jog in shorts and sports bras, and pool parties sometimes get wild. McDonalds and Burger King are available, though, just as in many modern American cities, kebabs served by real natives are available for the daring.
For the time of the CPA, the Green Zone was a nice career stop-over point for those hoping to get some attention in the modern Republican Party. A few months there helped get that coveted PR job back in the States. Of course there was the occasional mortar shell to contend with, but the hint of danger helped relieve the boredom that was, perhaps, the greater risk of service in the colonies.
So what of the Red Zone? It is the place where those Iraqis not cleared to get near the occupation forces live. The place where people go about their lives in a situation economically much worse off than that before the invasion. In the Red Zone people die by the tens or hundreds of thousands, from bombs and bullets, yes, both Iraqi and American, but also from crime, from disease, and from lack of basic medical care. In the Red Zone clean water is scarce, electricity available but a few hours a day, if that, and doctors are increasingly rare as the few remaining flee to the safety of exile. And boredom, that plague of the Green Zone, also plagues the Red Zone as millions of women and children, and increasingly men as well, are afraid to step outside the house for months on end as fear of murder and abduction keeps them under long-term house arrest.
The Green Zone sometimes sees conflict between US political officials with their fantastic visions of an occupied Iraq willing and able to submit to every whim of the occupiers, and the Iraqi officials with their visions of an ascendant Shia state. The Red Zone, in contrast, sees daily conflict between numerous militias with varied political and governmental loyalties, some labeled police, army, special Interior Ministry death and torture squads, others known as the militias of various political parties and organizations, while yet others are labeled as "insurgents," "terrorists," "jihadists," or "freedom fighters" depending on who is doing the labeling.
As Iraq is divided into these two separate but unequal worlds, there are those who go between them, who cross the barriers separating the two worlds. Among these are the US soldiers, the "grunts," upon whom the day-to-day tasks of occupation fall. Unlike the politicians, bureaucrats and corporate scam artists of occupation, who can often do their jobs without stepping foot in the Red Zone, these soldiers cross the border between the two Iraqs on a regular basis. Can these ambassadors of freedom, and of occupation, bridge the two Iraqs? How do they construe the situation thrust upon them? Perhaps the experiences of these soldiers can shed light upon the evolving relations of the two Iraqs, relations so complex as to challenge the pundits who attempt to make sense of the Iraqi mess for the folks back home.
Insights into the experiences of the US soldiers in Iraq can be found occasionally in the accounts of reporters and in the torrent of memoirs pouring out from those veterans desperate to tell their story as they seek, somehow, to fit back into a land they believed they were defending, but into which they no longer seem to fit.
I examined three early specimens of these memoirs -- Colby Buzzell's My War: Killing Time in Iraq
; John Crawford's The Last True Story I'll Ever Tell: An Accidental Soldier's Account of the War in Iraq
; and Kayla Williams' Love My Rifle More Than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army
-- for insights into the experiences and inner lives of GIs in Iraq. (...)
Noticeably absent from these motivations was any interest in helping the Iraqi people, or even in removing those dreaded WMD. In fact, one of the characteristics of these books is that Iraqis are at best bit players in the story, referred to as they are by the varied terms: hajji, raghead, towelheads, camel jockeys, or "the fucking locals." (Williams, p. 200) None of these authors devoted much energy to trying to comprehend why thousands of Iraqis were risking their lives to fight the US troops in their country. None of these three books even mentions the divisions that divide Iraqi society and have become the basis for the developing civil war. In reading them I did not notice even the words Sunni or Shia. Kurds are hardly mentioned, and Arab-Kurd tension does not appear. (...)
Crawford conveys the overall sense of alienation from Iraqis when he describes meeting a dog who licked his face: "At least someone in Iraq was glad to see me." (p. 43) When an Iraqi came to inform the Americans about an insurgent house, he describes the troops' reaction: "I didn't care about the informant . . . -- none of us did. I figured that killing him would only serve to decrease the hajji population by one, so fuck him." (p. 68)
At another point Crawford relays a conversation with one of his comrades about the Iraqis who drink on the banks of the Tigris:
"You know there used to be bull sharks this far north in the Tigris?" Sellars told me once. He had just read a book about man-eaters. "It got too polluted for them to live here. Too bad there aren't any now. Wouldn't that be some shit? Fucking Hajji getting eaten up."
"Yeah, I'd pay a dollar to see that." (pp. 116-117)
Not surprisingly Crawford and his buddies raided these Iraqis to steal their beer, appearing to resent, especially, that these Iraqis could party and feel at home while the soldiers were aliens in this land. (...)
As the Green Zone became a microcosm of modern American life, with its Burger Kings and its nightclubs, the American soldiers were those representatives of the occupation forces who were not allowed to remain in relative safety, oblivious to the dangers of the Red Zone outside. The various military bases sometimes came to resemble mini-Green Zones, but the soldiers who lived in them had to cross the barrier into the Red Zone. If the authors of these memoirs are at all representative, real engagement with the lives of the Iraqis they met was essentially impossible. They remained as alien to the country as the political appointees flitting through the Green Zone on their way to Republican Party advancement. Regardless of the justification for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the occupation was doomed by its inability to make real contact, and hence to develop any understanding of the lives of most Iraqis. Absent any understanding of their way of life, the only way to make contact, real or imagined, was through death.
Seen in the light of the experiences described in these memoirs, the horrors of Haditha and the other massacres coming to light were likely, perhaps even inevitable, consequences of the occupation of a once-proud land by aliens for whom Iraq could only represent otherness, "not home," and for whom the people of this alien land would forever remain "hajjis."
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
: ""It could." -- Lt. Gen. David Petraeus' reply at the Senate Armed Services Committee after being pressed by Sen. Carl Levin on whether the flow of additional U.S. troops could be halted in midstream if the Iraqi government failed to meet its commitment to provide thousands more Iraqi troops.