Sunday, February 25, 2007


A woman cries, as she waits to claim the body of her son who was killed in a suicide bomb attack at Mustansiriya University's Economy and Administration college, outside a hospital morgue in Sadr City, Baghdad, February 25, 2007. A suicide bomber wearing a vest packed with explosives killed up to 40 people in a Baghdad college on Sunday, a day after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki expressed optimism about a security crackdown in the capital. REUTERS/Kareem Raheem (IRAQ)

Note: I always hesitate to post these photos that intrude on people's private grief, but I also think it's important to connect the grim statistics to their real meaning to individual people. What do you think? -- C

Army Spec. Ethan Biggers of Ohio dies of injuries suffered March 5, 2006 in a sniper attack in Baghdad. He had never regained consciousness.


At least 38 killed in suicide bomb attack on the business college of Mustansiriyah University. At least 44 were injured. (Latest reports have a higher death toll. This is a satellite campus about 1 1/2 miles away from the main campus, that was attacked last month.) (See below, McClatchy News Service blog, for the perspective of the father of a college student in Baghdad.)

Katyusha rocket attack on a Shiite neighborhood in southern Baghdad kills at least 10. AP adds that It happened after an artillery and mortar duel between U-S forces and suspected Sunni insurgents," suggesting that this may have been "collateral damage," but the circumstances are not clear.

Artillery and mortar duel between insurgents and U.S. forces in southern suburb of Boaitha "rocks Baghdad with thundering blasts This appears to be the incident AP refers to in connection with the civilian deaths, above.

2 killed, 4 injured when a Bus explodes in a parking lot near the Iranian embassy. Not clear whether the embassy was the target.

Car bomb in Karrada market injures five.

Car bombing in "central Baghdad" kills one, injures four. (Not clear if this is a separate incident from the above.

Iraqi police arrested ten employees of "an Iraqi media company." We would certainly like to have more information about this. This seems to be a trend -- U.S. and Iraqi forces targeting media and journalists. See below, essay by Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily.

Al-Iraqiya state television quotes Baghdad security chief Brigadier Qassim Moussawi saying that Iraqi forces killed 11 "militants" on Saturday and captured 75.


Death toll in yesterday's mosque bombing rises to 52, 74 injured. I believe word of the extent of this incident may have come too late for yesterday's post.


One policeman was killed and six others wounded in an explosive charge blast near their patrol in the district of al-Muqdadiya, 45 km northeast of Baaquba, an official security source said on Sunday.

Near Tikrit

Police said on Sunday they found two bodies without heads or hands near a checkpoint close to Suleiman Beg, in northern Iraq near the city of Tikrit.


Two labourers were killed and one wounded by a roadside bomb in the disputed northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Separate incident?A roadside bomb seriously wounded three people in the northern city of Kirkuk, police said. (We often see reports of incidents that seem similar but have differing casualty tolls. There may be no way to tell for sure if they refer to the same event.


Gunmen stormed the house of Ibrahim Hemdan, a former senior member of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, and shot him dead on Saturday.

Also from Reuters, U.S. forces killed two insurgents and captured a suspected senior al-Qaeda leader [That would be #57] during a raid in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. Five other suspected insurgents were detained during the raid, the U.S. military said.

Anna (Anbar Province)

U.S. forces detonated a post and communications center in the town of Anna, 330 km west of Ramadi in the Sunni majority province of al-Anbar, local residents said on Sunday. "U.S. forces backed by Hummer and Humvee [sic] vehicles pushed deep into Anna and placed explosives inside a post and communications center and blew the building up, causing damage to a nearby hospital building," an eyewitness told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).


Ammar Hakim goes on television to denounce his treatment by U.S. forces, among other accusations claims they stole $6,000 from him, as Shiites demonstrate against the occupation. (Note that Sadrists have joined SCIRI followers in these demonstrations. It is obvious that the Shiite political leadership has seized on this incident to try to distance itself from its U.S. sponsors. It also should make us ponder what happens to Iraqis who aren't politically connected, who are picked up by U.S. forces. -- C) Excerpt:

Christian Berthelsen in Baghdad: The son of one of Iraq's most prominent Shiite politicians has lashed out at the US in an incendiary televised appearance a day after he was arrested by American troops. Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets across the country on Saturday to protest at the detention of Ammar Hakim, whose father's political party has been an important US ally, chanting "Down with America" and calling Western forces "occupiers" who must leave the country.

The arrest and subsequent protests come at a sensitive time, as the US tries to build relationships with the Iraqi people amid a continuing security crackdown. It signalled a further deterioration in relations between Iraq's Shiite majority and the US forces who toppled the Sunni-dominated regime of Saddam Hussein.

Mr Hakim was arrested and held for several hours because of what were said to be questions about his passport as he crossed into Iraq from Iran. He said soldiers stopped him without good reason, treated him rudely and roughly, and appeared to have kept seven AK-47s, 14 pistols and more than $US6000 ($7500) in US and Iraqi currency taken from him and his bodyguards. "The US troops said that they treated me politely, which is not true," Mr Hakim said in a televised news conference. One soldier "kicked me violently against the wall. He handcuffed me. He bound my eyes."

Iraq's President, Jalal Talabani, said the US soldiers who held Mr Hakim should be disciplined, and called for "guarantees such unjustifiable actions will not be repeated with other politicians and national figures".

The arrest has angered followers of the moderate Shiite party led by his father, Abdelaziz Hakim, and provided common ground with more radical followers of the anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. US policymakers have advocated isolating Shiite radicals from more moderate figures. But at rallies across the country, members of Sadr's Mahdi Army, longtime rivals of the Hakim family, protested alongside members of the elder Mr Hakim's Badr Brigade militia.

"We condemn this trespassing act of the US forces that is illegal and against the human rights," said Sheik Suhail Uqabi, a spokesman for Sadr in the city of Najaf. "This reveals the reality of double standards in the US policy towards the Iraqi people."

Condoleeza Rice, on This Week, claims that it is impossible to distinguish what is going in Iraq from the larger fight against al-Qaeda, says that proposed Congressional action to limit Bush's warmaking authority would constitute "micromanagement" and disrupt the chain of command.

Australian PM John Howard gives visiting Dick Cheney something of a cold shoulder. (If Tony Blair has been Bush's poodle, Howard has been his bichon frise. Apparently Australian public opinion is starting to squeeze him a bit. -- C) Excerpt:

By Tim Johnston: Vice President Dick Cheney received a less than effusive welcome during a three-day visit to Australia that ended Sunday, amid lingering tensions over China and the war in Iraq. Australia remains one of Washington's strongest allies, but as the country heads into an election year, Prime Minister John Howard's interaction with Cheney appeared perfunctory and brief. The Australian leader waited 36 hours after the vice president's arrival before meeting him, and even then spared Cheney barely an hour of his time before giving a notably short joint news conference.

"The trip emphasizes the relationship between these governments, and the Bush administration is much less popular in Australia than the alliance," said Michael Fullilove, program director for global issues at the Lowy Institute, a think tank based in Sydney. Although a recent survey indicated that 70 percent of Australians think the alliance with the United States is important to their country's security, the Bush administration and the war in Iraq are far less popular. The continuing detention of the Australian citizen David Hicks, who has been held in Guantánamo Bay for more than five years without trial, has also angered Australians.

Cheney assured Howard that Hicks would be among the first to face the military tribunals that Washington has created to try non-American suspects held as "enemy combatants." The vice president also said that Australia may redeploy its forces in the war on terror as it sees fit.

"I want to emphasize that the decision about what Australia does, going forward, with respect to force levels is a decision for the government of Australia," Cheney told journalists after his meeting with Howard.

Australia is the only country to have stood alongside the United States in every major conflict of the 20th and 21st centuries. President George W. Bush even suggested, embarrassingly, that Australia could play the role of "deputy sheriff" in Asia. But Australia's growing economic dependence on China complicates Canberra's traditional relationship with the United States, analysts say.

Kurdish leadership reportedly approves draft oil law.

NYT's Damien Cave writes that Muqtada al-Sadr has reined in his militia, is trying to impose discipline and end sectarian violence.

However, al-Sadr has called on Iraqi forces to stop cooperating with the U.S. Excerpt:

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urged Iraqi security forces not to work with US troops in enforcing a new Baghdad security plan, in a message read to his supporters on Sunday. The Shiite firebrand's location has been a mystery for several weeks. Iraqi and US officials say he has decamped to Iran, a claim furiously denied by both Tehran and Sadr's movement.

On Sunday, Shiite cleric Abdulzahra al-Suweidi read a purported statement from his leader to a 1,000-strong crowd of cheering supporters in Sadr City, a bastion of Sadr's Mahdi Army militia in east Baghdad. "I say to the Iraqi security forces, police and army: 'You are able to protect Iraq and the Iraqi people with your faith, your sacrifice, and your patience and your unity'," Sadr said, according to the document. "You don't need the occupiers with their tanks and their planes."

This month, Iraqi forces and US backers have mounted a large-scale security operation in Baghdad in a bid to quell a year-long bout of vicious sectarian bloodshed that has pitched Shiite death squads versus Sunni insurgents. Since the plan was launched, Sadr's black-clad Mahdi Army militia fighters have melted away, allowing the security forces to patrol their former strongholds, and sectarian murders have dropped off considerably.

There are persistent reports Sadr has given Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki the green light to arrest rogue elements of his organisation but that he and senior Mahdi Army commanders are lying low to avoid arrest. Sadr's party says publicly that it supports Maliki's security plan, but the statement on Sunday showed that the movement remains firmly opposed to the ongoing participation of tens of thousands of US troops.

"Any security plan led by the enemy occupier can do no good for Iraqis," Sadr's statement said, to loud acclaim and shouts of "Moqtada is a bridge to heaven" from the crowd. "God will protect you from their evils. Make your plan an independent Iraqi plan to be victorious," the statement said. "You have the credibility to protect Iraqis and the plan is honorable. Beware of treachery." Sadr repeated his demand for a timetable for a rapid American withdrawal for Iraq and urged Sunnis and Shiites to unite. "Let the shedding of Iraqi blood be forbidden," the statement said, according Suweidi.


Iraqis on the staff of McClatchy News Service blog about their lives and their country. This blog is one more way in which McClatchy is standing out among U.S. journalistic enterprises in telling the story of Iraq. Here's the latest posting -- written before the horrific attack today on Mustansiriyah University Business College. Note that for obvious reasons, all these posting are anonymous. -- C

At last my heart and mind are at rest, until tomorrow. I was waiting for a phone call from my daughter to tell me she is home safely. She, like thousands of university students in Iraq, is taking her mid-term tests, starting today. They have a fixed schedule, i.e. are sitting ducks - for ten days.

Since the beginning of this academic year, the students in her college have been led quite a dance; a deadly dance. The college is situated in an area that has become more like a war zone than a normal neighborhood; it is too near Haifa Street for it to quiet down for more than a few days at a stretch. They started out by going to college every day. Their college more like a fortress for its security, than an educational facility.

Attack after attack on the surrounding residential area frightened the Dean into improvising a random lecture schedule that allows them to attend their lectures in no pattern that lasts more than one week. Result: the administrator of the adjoining hospital was abducted, and then killed. Snipers pick inhabitants and students walking from college to hospital or back. One car stops in front of the entrance, lets out one handcuffed young man, waits for him to take a few steps away … and then he is shot, bait, it turned out. Naïve students run to his aid only to be shot at by snipers on a rooftop of a high building in Haifa Street. My daughter was not more than twenty meters away.

Close Down.

Two weeks later. Students are told to attend lectures at Mustansiriya University campus. A large well protected campus … protected by a militia … where no month passes without an abduction incident … abduction of females that usually ends in rape and murder, in twos and threes. With heavy heart I am won over by her insistence, and she attends the random lectures for three weeks.

A great big double explosion takes place at the main entrance of Al-Mustansiriya one Tuesday, killing more than 120 students and wounding more than 200, most of whom were female students. One car bomb and one explosive belt … body parts were brought down from the date palms, as were remnants of their uniforms. Although hurting for all the families that were devastated that afternoon, I thanked God my daughter was not harmed.

At home for another two weeks.

Go attend Baghdad University. Also protected. No way. All this time studying at home and online, doing her best not to lose yet another year to chaos, she is now taking her mid term exams at her college. A sitting duck. She is mad to continue. I am mad to let her.

Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily on occupation attacks on Iraqi media. Excerpt:

BAGHDAD, Feb 23 (IPS) - Iraqi journalists are outraged over yet another U.S. military raid on the media. U.S. soldiers raided and ransacked the offices of the Iraq Syndicate of Journalists (ISJ) in central Baghdad Tuesday this week. Ten armed guards were arrested, and 10 computers and 15 small electricity generators kept for donation to families of killed journalists were seized.

This is not the first time U.S. troops have attacked the media in Iraq, but this time the raid was against the very symbol of it. Many Iraqis believe the U.S. soldiers did all they could to deliver the message of their leadership to Iraqi journalists to keep their mouth shut about anything going wrong with the U.S.-led occupation.

"The Americans have delivered so many messages to us, but we simply refused all of them," Youssif al-Tamimi of the ISJ in Baghdad told IPS. "They killed our colleagues, closed so many newspapers, arrested hundreds of us and now they are shooting at our hearts by raiding our headquarters. This is the freedom of speech we received."

Some Iraqi journalists blame the Iraqi government. "Four years of occupation, and those Americans still commit such foolish mistakes by following the advice of their Iraqi collaborators," Ahmad Hassan, a freelance journalist from Basra visiting Baghdad told IPS. "They (the U.S. military) have not learned yet that Iraqi journalists will raise their voice against such acts and will keep their promise to their people to search for the truth and deliver it to them at any cost."

There is a growing belief in Iraq that U.S. allies in the current Iraqi government are leading the U.S. military to raid places and people who do not follow Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's directions. "It is our Iraqi colleagues who pushed the Americans to that hole," Fadhil Abbas, an Iraqi television producer told IPS. "Some journalists who failed to fake the truth here are trying hard to silence truth seekers by providing false information to the U.S. military in order to take advantage of their stupidity in handling the whole Iraqi issue."

Seymour Hersh discusses the Cheney administration's new strategic stance in the Middle East, now perceives Iran and the Shia political revival as the major threat, is allying with so-called "moderate" (i.e. pro-U.S.) regimes, notably Saudi Arabia, against Shiites. However, this poses an obvious contradiction for the policy in Iraq. Excerpt:

In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. Its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made defiant pronouncements about the destruction of Israel and his country’s right to pursue its nuclear program, and last week its supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on state television that “realities in the region show that the arrogant front, headed by the U.S. and its allies, will be the principal loser in the region.”


London Sunday times reports that senior U.S. generals are prepared to resign if Bush orders attack on Iran. Excerpt:

Michael Smith and Sarah Baxter, Washington: SOME of America’s most senior military commanders are prepared to resign if the White House orders a military strike against Iran, according to highly placed defence and intelligence sources. Tension in the Gulf region has raised fears that an attack on Iran is becoming increasingly likely before President George Bush leaves office. The Sunday Times has learnt that up to five generals and admirals are willing to resign rather than approve what they consider would be a reckless attack.

“There are four or five generals and admirals we know of who would resign if Bush ordered an attack on Iran,” a source with close ties to British intelligence said. “There is simply no stomach for it in the Pentagon, and a lot of people question whether such an attack would be effective or even possible.”

A British defence source confirmed that there were deep misgivings inside the Pentagon about a military strike. “All the generals are perfectly clear that they don’t have the military capacity to take Iran on in any meaningful fashion. Nobody wants to do it and it would be a matter of conscience for them. “There are enough people who feel this would be an error of judgment too far for there to be resignations.”

Deja vu all over again: LA Times reports U.S. intelligence tips to UN on Iran's nuclear program all turn up bogus. Excerpt:

By Bob Drogin and Kim Murphy, Times Staff Writers February 25, 2007 VIENNA — Although international concern is growing about Iran's nuclear program and its regional ambitions, diplomats here say most U.S. intelligence shared with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency has proved inaccurate and none has led to significant discoveries inside Iran.

The officials said the CIA and other Western spy services had provided sensitive information to the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency at least since 2002, when Iran's long-secret nuclear program was exposed. But none of the tips about supposed secret weapons sites provided clear evidence that the Islamic Republic was developing illicit weapons. "Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that's come to us has proved to be wrong," a senior diplomat at the IAEA said. Another official here described the agency's intelligence stream as "very cold now" because "so little panned out."


n November 2005, U.N. inspectors leafing through papers in Tehran discovered a 15-page document that showed how to form highly enriched uranium into the configuration needed for the core of a nuclear bomb. Iran said the paper came from Pakistan, but has rebuffed IAEA requests to let inspectors take or copy it for further analysis.

Diplomats here were less convinced by documents recovered by U.S. intelligence from a laptop computer apparently stolen from Iran. American analysts first briefed senior IAEA officials on the contents of the hard drive at the U.S. mission here in mid-2005. The documents included detailed designs to upgrade ballistic missiles to carry nuclear warheads, drawings for subterranean testing of high explosives, and two pages describing research on uranium tetrafluoride, known as "green salt," which is used during uranium enrichment. IAEA officials remain suspicious of the information in part because most of the papers are in English rather than Persian, the Iranian language. "We don't know. Are they genuine, are they real?" asked a senior U.N. official here. Another official who was briefed on the documents said he was "very unconvinced."

Whisker's Roundup of the Wounded

I'm just going to give a brief selection today since this is a long post. There are plenty more where these came from -- C

During Cristian Valle's two tours in Iraq, the Army sergeant survived six close calls with roadside bombs. Not a scratch. Then came the seventh blast. In a split second, shrapnel ripped off his left leg at the thigh and shredded much of his right leg. When he awoke the next day at a military hospital in Germany, he saw that doctors had amputated his right leg below the knee. After about 13 months of hospitalization and rehabilitation at an Army hospital in Washington, Valle returned to the Bay Area in December and is glad to be back.

The first round blew through Maj. K.C. Schuring's, 37, helmet, creased the top of his head and popped out through his goggles. The second round felt as if Tigers slugger Magglio Ordonez were teeing off on the center of his back. But it wasn't until rounds three and four blasted through each thigh that the big Marine went down, a pool of his blood spreading in the street in Ramadi, Iraq. Lying in the street on that sunny morning, Nov. 14, Schuring was determined not to add to the total of dead.

Cpl. John Lockwood, a Washtenaw County sheriff's deputy, was manning a machine gun atop a Humvee during a Nov. 19 mission to root out insurgents in Fallujah, Iraq. The 26-year-old Saline native helped stake out a position, then stayed with Lance Cpl. Jeremy Shock, the driver, to guard their vehicle as their comrades searched nearby buildings. That's when a bomb, hidden 5 inches below the road surface, blew up. The explosion killed Shock of Tiffin, Ohio. Lockwood suffered a litany of injuries: two broken feet. Two broken legs. Broken bones in both hands. A nose more crushed than merely broken. Legs peppered with shrapnel wounds. A left eye lost to more shrapnel. He woke briefly at some point, then spent the next two weeks in a medically induced coma while surgeons opened his wounds every 48 hours to clean them. The frequent surgeries help fight infection. Four months later, Lockwood is still healing.

All Bleill, 29, really remembers about the moments before the explosion that took both his legs and killed two comrades is gazing out his Humvee window in Fallujah. "You're always looking outside," explained Bleill, 29, whose civilian job is running a call center in Indianapolis. "You're looking for anything suspicious." Bleill woke up in Germany with his jaw wired shut days after he was injured Oct. 15. Medical staff explained his injuries to him while he was groggy: the loss of both legs above the knee, a broken jaw, a pelvis shattered so badly it required 32 pins to piece together.

Cpl. Eric Frazier's story is similar. The 20-year-old from McMinnville, Tenn., was heading out to count Iraqis for a local census when a bomb destroyed his Humvee on Oct. 23. "It blew up right underneath the driver and killed him instantly," said Frazier, a factory worker. A second Marine also died. The blast took both of Frazier's legs -- one above the knee -- lacerated his liver and a kidney, fractured his pelvis in three places, and broke a vertebra, one arm, a wrist, his jaw and several fingers. "I guess it wasn't my time to go," said Frazier. "I died out there in the streets of Fallujah, and no one can explain how they brought me back." Quote of the Day

Late Saturday, the US Air Force launched a series of bombing raids on southeast Baghdad. This is absolutely shameful, that the US is bombing from the air a civilian city that it militarily occupies. You can't possibly do that without killing innocent civilians, as at Ramadi the other day. It is a war crime. US citizens should protest and write their congressional representatives. It is also the worst possible counter-insurgency tactic anyone could ever have imagined. You bomb people, they hate you. The bombing appears to have knocked out what little electricity some parts of Baghdad were still getting.

Juan Cole


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