Saturday, August 26, 2006

This Is What It Means To Be "Ethnically Cleansed"

composite graphic of refugee family attacked as they fled BaquobaThis is what it means to be "ethnically cleansed."

It means to be from Tahrir in Southern Baqouba … and to be the "wrong thing."

It means to be a family that's received death-threat after death-threat.

It means to be attacked on the very day you flee as you leave your home for the last time.

It means four of your family, two women and two children, gunned down in front of you.

It means a mortuary attendant closing your dead children's eyes.

It means weeping over your wounded son … and your wounded granddaughter.

It means waiting in a hospital corridor clutching your child and wondering desperately what will happen to you next.

This is what the American invasion and continued occupation has brought to Iraq.


You didn't ask who told them the body was in the river

Mrs HusseinThis grandmother led a cold-blooded mission to avenge the death of her son. Nine men were executed. Paul McGeough reports.

THE lined face peers from shrouds of mourning black. Wabila Felehi Hussein is a 50-year-old grandmother, and her life is imploding.


Even a short time spent with this family reveals the grandmother's towering strength. Until now, all the blood-letting has been laid at the door of organised insurgency cells, religious militias, death squads that operate within the national security forces and tribal gangs. But this woman is being hailed by thousands as the Shiite mother who spectacularly - and brutally - avenged her son's death.


"We searched for 10 days before someone told us that Muthanna's body had been dumped in the river at Arabjabour [which is inside the Triangle of Death]. I asked the police to get him back. They said it was too dangerous. The Iraqi Army and the Mahdi Army [a Shiite militia] refused to recover him, so I had to do it myself."

Her adult sons - Adel, Saad and Mohanad - feared for their lives, so she organised 16 other men, guns and cars. Saad explains how finally she shamed them into action, threatening to go alone if they would not go with her.

As the convoy set out for Arabjabour, Wabila Felehi was in the first of five cars. The family was armed with borrowed weapons - three rocket-propelled grenade launchers, a few AK-47s and a handful of pistols.


… after fleeing Hoorijab, the mother set her sons working their mobile phones, calling the few who they could still trust in Hoorijab to get the name of the alasa who might have given Muthanna's name to the insurgency. "They got the name of the son of a local tribal sheik who lived near their house," he says. "When she sent the boys, she insisted he must be brought back to Sadr City alive, because no one was to be killed unless they had proof of their involvement in Muthanna's death.

"He was interrogated and gave up nine more names. Eight of them were abducted and brought back for interrogation … and then they killed them with guns, knives and by bashing some of them. Adel killed six; Saad killed three."

So then, if this is democratic Iraq, Wabila Felehi Hussein is unimpressed with the new Middle East. But as she slip-slapped her hands in disgust, she was contemptuous. "This is not democracy … we have no stability, no future. It would be better if we all were dead … get me out of Iraq."

Tears streaming down her face, she hit bottom. "We were happy when the Americans came. They lifted the Saddam darkness, but now they have led us into a new, blacker darkness."

Full story here. Go read.


What We See And Hear Points To A Rise In Violence

Residents deny security getting better in Baghdad

Azzaman, August 24, 2006

The U.S.-led military operation has failed to improve conditions in Baghdad, residents said.

Contrary to U.S. reports that the operation has brought results, the residents confirmed that the heavy presence of U.S. and Iraqi troops on the streets of Baghdad has complicated rather than alleviated the capital's problems.

American and Iraqi officials have reported a dramatic drop in violence in areas of Baghdad where U.S. and Iraqi troops have been carrying out house-to-house searches.

But the residents, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the operation was alienating many Iraqis due to the humiliation they receive at the so many checkpoints currently available in Baghdad.

The operation has led to traffic congestions unseen even by the standards of the often heavily crowded streets of Baghdad.

Many Iraqis fail to reach their destinations and workers, public servants and private entrepreneurs say it has been extremely difficult for them to reach their offices, factories or shops.

Crossing a checkpoint is not easy. It may take several hours in Baghdad's blazing sun.

Analysts watching the operation closely said U.S. and Iraqi reports of that the military campaign was bringing results were premature.

"A resistance movement like the one raging in Iraq is difficult to subdue by force. It needs a little more effort than the fire power," said an analyst who did not want his name revealed.

Another said he believed the substantial increase in checkpoints and the heavy presence of troops and arms on the streets was sending the wrong message to many ordinary Iraqis.

"I do not think the operation has reduced the level of violence. On the contrary, what we see and hear points to a rise in violence not only in Baghdad but in many other provinces," he said.


If They Want To Leave, They Will Need A Helicopter

A view of life outside the U.S.-controlled Green Zone

By Naseer al-Zubaidi

Azzaman, August 5, 2006

All over the world people have the chance to give their dead a proper burial but in Iraq.

Iraq is perhaps the only country in the world where the dead are denied this privilege. But the dead are not the only ones who suffer. Iraqis who are still alive fare no better.

We who are still alive lack the basic means of living. We enjoy no stability. There are no public services. We enjoy none of the amenities which people across the world take for granted.

Therefore the Iraqi people are closer to death than life. We can safely say Iraqis are walking shadows. They are dead but still can use their legs to walk and their lungs to breathe.

Walking and breathing are no longer a blessing for Iraqis. If they walk, they will most probably end up victims of a car bomb attack, a stray or deliberate bullet from a passing U.S. convoy or hostages of a murderous criminal gang.

If they walk, they will most probably run into a check point manned by murderous militias. They will have no chance to survive if the militia men discover they are members of the opposite sect.

Breathing fresh air is no longer a pleasure in Iraq because simply there is no more fresh air to breathe. All over Baghdad it is the smell of death, explosions, car bomb attacks, raids and bombing that fills the air.

Some might say that I am a real pessimist for depicting such a gloomy picture of conditions in Iraq.

They may be right. And I fully understand their attitude and know exactly what they have in mind.

They are certainly referring to the few Iraqis who live together with their U.S. masters in the Green Zone in Baghdad which the U.S. occupiers have ringed with massive anti-blast walls.

This zone, created by U.S. marines following their invasion of the country, is the only spot in Iraq which is relatively safe and secure.

U.S. administrators and their Iraqi lackeys who run the country rarely venture outside this zone which the U.S. has turned into something like a citadel of reinforced concrete with several security barriers.

It is tragic to see that those supposedly working for the welfare of the Iraqi people, planning its future and laying down the foundations of a ‘new Iraq’ are so concerned bout their own safety and well-being at a time the whole country is burning.

The zone the U.S. has created in Baghdad to protect its administrators and Iraqi lackeys is the prison which the U.S. has built for itself in the country.

Those working, sleeping, drinking, eating, swimming and playing golf in the zone have become the enemies of the Iraqi people.

If they want to leave, they will need a helicopter because they do not belong to the people outside the zone. Those inside the zone know they are unwanted by the people outside the zone. For this reason they do not feel secure among the people they claim to serve and love.

These are our governing elites – the U.S. and its lackeys – who have practically lost all contact with the people they are supposed to serve.


Not Willing To Be In "The Coalition Of The Willing"

What Would Have Happen If We Had Been In Iraq?

As for one of a politician’s distinguishing characteristics, it is speaking half-truths or no truth, because his goal is to run the ship, i.e. getting support from society for policies he finds appropriate. The reason I am recalling this truth once again is the unbelievable statements Prime Minister Erdogan made to convince opponents, particularly those in his own party, to send troops to the UN peace forces in Lebanon. The statements the Prime Minister made at the JD Party”s MKYK meeting and which were published in the newspapers on August 17th are as follows:

"Developments are occurring around us that are of great interest to us... If we want to have a say in the region, we can’t sit in the audience; we have to be at the table on stage... If we had been in Iraq, we would have had a say. You only have control when you have a say. For this reason we have to be at the table. Think now, if we had been there, would the PKK be in Northern Iraq?... Look at Iraq. A Sunni-Shiite war is going on that has almost brought the country to the threshold of division... If we had been there, there would have been no Sunni-Shiite war... At least no one would have died in the region we were in." The Prime Minister’s words have nothing to do with the truth for these reasons:


Had the TSK entered Iraq with the March 1st memorandum, Turkey would have taken part in what UN General Secretary Kofi Annan called the "illegal" occupation of Iraq and would have been treated as "occupation forces" by the Iraqis. Just like American, British and other foreign soldiers (that were forced to leave), Turkish troops would have been the target of Sunni resistance groups and Shiite rebels. Al Kaida wouldn’t have hesitated to do its worst against Turkey. Why should Turkey, a close ally of the US and Israel, be treated any differently?

If Turkey is respected today in the Arab world, it’s not because the people are Muslim, but because it refused to cooperate with the US in the invasion of Iraq. If today all Arabs, including the Hezbollah, support Turkey’s participating in the Lebanese peace force, it’s because the Turkish Parliament showed the world that it would not cooperate with the US under all conditions.


In order to be a "party at the table," it’s necessary to be a party wanted on the stage. Because the US isn’t a party wanted on the stage, even if it sits at the "head of the table," it is completely helpless in Iraq. The party in control in Iraq is Iran, who’s not even on the stage. Situations imposed with armed force will boomerang. While attempting to establish an administration in Iraq that is friendly to America and favorable to Israel, the "head of the table" Bush Administration has raised enmity against the US and Israel to a peak. A government protecting the interests of Turkey has to remain distant in its relations with this US and this Israel.

Source Zaman Online


Friday, August 25, 2006

Notes on the reports of death sentences against nine defendants convicted of multiple crimes in Najaf

"I would suggest that barbarism be considered as a permanent and universal human characteristic which becomes more or less pronounced according to the play of circumstances." - Simone Weil

There's a story linked at today's Today in Iraq about death sentences handed down by the court in Najaf, if you follow the links you wind eventually up at this (English language) August 22nd story from the Kuwaiti News Agency "Iraqi court issues death sentences against nine in Najaf." I don't believe a word of it. I'm going to quote the whole thing:

" BAGHDAD, Aug 22 (KUNA) -- An Iraqi court on Tuesday issued death sentences against nine people charged with terrorism, manslaughter and looting-related crimes in a number of towns.

A spokesman in the Central Criminal court in Najaf said that beheading sentences were issued against nine suspects who have been indicted while 18 others were given life sentences.

A judicial source told reporters that crimes in the governorate of Najaf have jumped during the past eight months compared to last year.

He said that nearly 407 crimes have been committed during the first eight month of 2006 compared with 447 crimes last year. " (KUNA emphasis added - mfi)

Before I go further a declaration of interest; I'm adamantly opposed to the death penalty. I regard it as barbaric. I regard legal systems such as that in the USA which encourage and use it as neither more nor less than organised retribution masquerading as "law." It brings the law into disrepute and the judiciary down to the same level as a criminal guilty of murder for purposes of revenge:

Something else needs to be said at the outset. I don't regard KUNA as a reliable news source. I'll link to them, I'll quote them, but I never ever use something from them without first crosschecking it against (preferably) multiple sources. Never, if I can't crosscheck something from KUNA with other sources then I don't use it, ever.

So let's check that story against Al-Sabah Al-Jadeed which is a reliable (and Iraqi) source. They covered this story here [Arabic Language] here's a screenshot of the article:

Screen shot of article in al-Sabah al-Jadeed

The key information is in the first paragraph:

" وقال متحدث باسم المحكمة الجنائية المركزية في محافظة النجف: ان أحكاما بالاعدام شنقا حتى الموت صدرت على تسعة متهمين تمت ادانتهم في حين حكم بالسجن مدى الحياة على ستة اخرين والسجن المؤبد على 12 اخرين. "

The article is quoting a spokesman for the Central criminal court in Najaf as saying that 9 convicted defendants were sentenced to be hanged to death. "وقال متحدث باسم المحكمة الجنائية المركزية في محافظة النجف: ان أحكاما بالاعدام شنقا حتى الموت " there's absolutely no mention anywhere of beheading (life sentences were handed down to 12 others, all the defendants were convicted of terrorism, murder, and looting in the Eastern Euphrates region.) The second and third paragraphs are background information from the Court official ("Judicial associate" is the term used) briefing journalists that:

  1. There has been a marked increase in serious crime in Najaf in the first eight months of this year.
  2. That the rise in serious criminality is shown by the fact that thus far 407 crimes consisting variously of murder, robbery, theft, armed assault, swindling, and forgery have been carried out in the region while only 407 such crimes were reported in the region as a whole for all of last year.

Knowing what the hell you're talking about is important I don't believe the KUNA journalist did know what the hell he was talking about. So here goes:

  1. The Central Criminal courts in Iraq currently operating in Iraq were established by the Americans. Specifically they were established by the Bremer regime and still operate under the various orders establishing them the latest of which is CPA Order 13 as amended and promugated on April 22nd 2004 [pdf].
  2. As a means of putting somebody to death beheading in the Middle East is confined to:
    • Saudi Arabia.
    • Qatar.
    • Kuwait.
    • Yemen.

    Note that all three country's are heavily influenced by that branch of Sunni reformist theological thought properly called "Muwahhidun" and often wrongly referred to in the West as "Wahabbism."

  3. There are reports that there was one beheading in Iran in 2000 and another in 2003. The practise is theologically controversial in Iran and also in Iraq.

    In Iran (and throughout the Middle East) the most common way of carrying out a death sentence is death by hanging. The hanging is performed by hoisting rather than the "drop" method and is often preceded by a flogging. Iranian courts also impose sentences of death by stoning.

  4. It is more than ordinarily probable that were the Sharia to be established as the law of the land in Iraq, which at present it is not, that Iraqi judges would consider the Iranian sentencing model as a theologically reliable precedent, I cannot imagine any circumstances whatsoever in which an Iraqi court would follow the Muwahhidun inspired judicial practices of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, or Yemen. Neither can any Iraqi including several theologians to whom I wrote urgently asking about this today.

The kindest interpretation I can put on the report from KUNA is that a harried Kuwaiti stringer wrongly assumed that the Iraqi code was the same as that in Kuwait. This defies belief. I have no idea why anybody would believe what was written in that KUNA news story.


* Note to American Readers: I'm a very typical Catholic in this respect. The Church opposes the death penalty and Catholic activist groups actively campaign against the death penalty, Catholic action for example has organised campaigns against it since the 50s. You can't be "pro-life" and "pro-death penalty" at the same time. Think about it.

This isn't open to negotiation or dialogue if you support the death penalty don't bother leaving a comment in response to this posting. I long ago gave up "discussing" the death penalty with American "Christians" unable to contain their masturbatory glee at the prospect of somebody being killed "legally." If you do leave such a comment I'll rewrite it to reflect my contempt for the death penalty and for you personally and publish it under your name. - mfi

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hizbollah's reconstruction of Lebanon is winning the loyalty of disaffected Shia

Hizbollah's reconstruction of Lebanon is winning the loyalty of disaffected Shia
Published: 24 August 2006

Hizbollah has trumped both the UN army and the Lebanese government by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars - most of it almost certainly from Iran - into the wreckage of southern Lebanon and Beirut's destroyed southern suburbs. Its massive new reconstruction effort - free of charge to all those Lebanese whose homes were destroyed or damaged in Israel's ferocious five-week assault on the country - has won the loyalty of even the most disaffected members of the Shia community in Lebanon.

Hizbollah has made it clear that it has no intention of disarming under the UN Security Council's 1701 ceasefire resolution and yesterday afternoon, Major-General Alain Pellegrini, the commander of the UN Interim Force in southern Lebanon - which the Americans and British are relying upon to seize the guerrilla army's weapons - personally confirmed to me at his headquarters in Naqoura that "the Israelis can't ask us to disarm Hizbollah". Describing the ceasefire as "very fragile" and "very dangerous", he stated that disarming Hizbollah "is not written in the mandate".

But for now - and in the total absence of the 8,000-strong foreign military force that is intended to join Unifil with a supposedly "robust" mandate - Hizbollah has already won the war for "hearts and minds". Most householders in the south have received - or are receiving - a minimum initial compensation payment of $12,000 (£6,300), either for new furniture or to cover their family's rent while Hizbollah construction gangs rebuild their homes. The money is being paid in cash - almost all in crisp new $100 bills - to up to 15,000 families across Lebanon whose property was blitzed by the Israelis, a bill of $180m which is going to rise far higher when reconstruction and other compensation is paid. … … …

Full article here. I'd read it before it disappears behind the Independent's "pay to read" firewall if I were you :-)


History of Hezbollah, Part 3

Nur al-Cubicle has completed and made available her translation of the three part series "History of Hezbollah" published by L'Orient-Le Jour. Part 1 of her translation of the series can be found here. Part 2 can be found here. The final installment can be found here. As I said when I wrote about this on August 15th "I'd print them for re-reading if I were you."


But What About The Goat?

"I think that there's been great progress in the security front here recently in Baghdad," said Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, after meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

There were three car bomings in Baghdad today:

  1. The first explosion targeted a police patrol in A'dhamiyah four people were killed ten injured including four policemen.
  2. The second explosion in which two civilians were killed and four interior ministry commandos were injured could have been targetting either :
    • Either the interior ministry commandos checkpoint in Ruba'i Street (East Baghdad).
    • Or a convoy containing Lieutenant colonel Hussein Abdul-Wahed which was passing at the time. Nobody in his convoy was hurt.
  3. The third bombing was in al-Mashtal, it killed two civilians and wounded three others.

In another sign of great progress new security equipment has been installed at the entrance points to the Green Zone. It's currently being operated by the Georgian troops at the Karadat Mariam gate. According to an email I got today there's a bit of a problem with the new equipment. The metal detectors take between three to four minutes to scan each person. The result was a queue of about 500 people who had to wait for hours. That's a major bombing/rocket attack just waiting to happen. According to the mail I got tempers got a bit frayed. How would you like to wait for two hours in Baghdad's summer heat with a large "sitting duck" sign pinned to your chest?

Other signs of "great progress" were:

One U.S. soldier and two gunmen were killed in a clash in south Baghdad. Another U.S. soldier died in a car bombing (I haven't been able to find out anything about that bombing as yet.)

In Diyala governorate five civilians and three policemen were wounded in a bombing targeting a police patrol in Baquba. There was a rocket attack on the US base in Hit in al-Anbar.

Ben the goat at camp abu najiBut What About Ben?

But the big news of the day is that the British have scarpered from done a flit evacuated withdrawn from camp Abu Naji. That's the camp 5km south of Amara. They scarpered withdrew without notifying the provincial authorities - and who can blame them. Needless to say once word spread crowds of residents rushed to the camp and looted what the British left behind. Abu Naji has been under daily mortar attack lately. I hope when they did their flit withdrew they took Ben the goat (scroll down to the end of the linked page) with them. There's good eating on a goat.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Dire Straits - Part 2

Green zone government prime minister Nouri al-Maliki said today that forces loyal to the the green zone government would take over security throughout most of Iraq within months.

"The build-up of Iraqi armed forces will continue despite the fact that we now have a capable army and that our forces have taking the initiative," Al-Maliki said during a visit to the Iraqi Defense Ministry. If you read the KUNA report I linked to in the previous sentence you'll see that al-Maliki is making all the right noises and is well aware of what the basic problem is - the overlap between the security and economic crises.

Boy injured by bombing in Dora targetting Iraqi interior minister photographed in hospital being comforted by his motherThe explosion targetting al-Bolani's convoy killed two civilians, including a 12-year-old boy, and injured five traffic policemen, and several civilians including the child seen here being comforted by his mother in hospital.

The problem he faces is that he's not in control of events. If you read the Reuters report I linked to in the first paragraph you'll see a photograph of him speaking at press conference with his interior minister Jawad al-Bolani standing to his right. Al-Bolani who was a compromise candidate for the post after SCIRI vetoed Fuad Al-'Araji , the Americans vetoed Nasir Al-'Ameri, and the Sadrists vetoed Mowaffaq Al-Rubai'i, escaped a car bombing today. The bombing was in Dora, the same Dora that's just been "cleared."

This Reuters report explains what happens when an area is cleared:

"The militias are within the people. They blend in with the people. It is very difficult to identify them when they lay down their arms," Colonel Michael Shields told reporters in Baghdad.


The possibility that the operation, which has focused on the most volatile districts of Baghdad, had simply displaced death squads to other areas was also "a concern", he said.

Maliki is doing his best but he heads an increasingly shaky and fractious coalition. He doesn't control the operations going on in Baghdad, and the Americans vetoed his Amnesty proposals. That veto guaranteed that the forces fighting the green zone government will not lay down their arms, why should they? From their point of view they're winning. Not only are they winning but there's increasing links between al-Sadr and the Sunni community who recognise that:

  1. He's an Iraqi nationalist determined to hold Iraq together.
  2. Unlike the blatantly sectarian SCIRI his movement isn't determined to hold them down.

The number of US forces in Iraq has now climbed to 138,000 - in another context this would be called "throwing good money after bad" in this context it's called giving more "hostages to fortune."


Dire Straits - Part 1

There's an interesting article today in Aswataliraq [Arabic language] about a strike by bakeries in Diwaniyah. It graphically illustrates the dire straits in which the green zone government finds itself because of the fuel shortage in Iraq about which I wrote on Wednesday the 16th.

Background Information:

Diwaniyah's the capital of the of the Qadissiyah governorate in central Iraq and was estimated in 2005 to have about 390,000 inhabitants and is a major distribution centre and market for argricultural products particularly dates and grain. More to the point it was where leaders of the Ba'ath party were attacked with rockets in 2000, and was one of the five Shiite provinces in central Iraq that in 2004 voted to begin setting up their own autonomous region. These plans haven't been shelved and the five provinces have been quietly going about setting up the structures for autonomy.

Diwaniyah - strike

The article quotes Ali Mohammed a thirty five year bakery owner as saying that the reason for the strike was the scarcity of kerosene and the increase in the price of bread to the citizen caused by the higher black market prices for fuel. He was backed up Saad Hamid who said that the strike was organised by bakers in protest at the failure of the provincial government to distribute the ration of 660 Litres of fuel allocated to bakers.

Diwaniya's deputy governor, Wissam Kadhem, apologised and has promised to ensure adequate supplies saying that fuel was essential and all efforts by the local government to obtain sufficient quantities to ensure continuity would be supported. He invited the bakery owners, who have threatened a general strike, to a meeting to negotiate a solution.

Dire Straits

It's difficult to understate the seriousness of this for the green zone government. There's massive disillusionment with their performance amongst the Iraqi population. The fuel shortage means that people cannot cook and even when they can cook food is considerably more expensive because distribution costs have risen explosively. That's on top of the fact that a huge proportion of the population depend on food rations, and that the price of food has risen enormously because of economic "reforms" forced upon Iraq by the American occupiers who, together with the world bank now headed by Paul Wolfowitz one of the architects of the Iraq war, made it a condition of continuing financial flows to the green zone government.

The situation is particularly grim in Baghdad where there's been a concerted campaign targetting bakers, (who in Iraq tend to be Shia,) and their premises. Diwaniya's relatively peaceful, most of the population are Shia if the population there can't get fuel for cooking and are forced as the article says to stand in long queues for scarce and expensive bread then the place is on a very short fuse. People get angry, very angry, when their food supply is threatened. If the green zone government can't ensure food supplies then others will step in to do so.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Have A Xanax

Baghdad Deteriorates Further:

According to the green zone government last week saw a massive increase in the number "internally displaced families" in Iraq. This brings the green zone government's own statistics to 35,593 families who have registered as having been forced to flee their homes. The ministry reported last week that a total of 33,153 families were victims of forced evictions.

As you might expect most were from the northern, southern and western areas of Baghdad, the three districts particularly hard hit were:

  • Abu Ghraib.
  • al-Doura.
  • al-Mahmoudiya.

The ministry issues weekly statistics for displaced families. The figures show that the phenomenon is on the rise. The problem with their figures, as they themselves admit, is that their figures are woefully incomplete. Many, perhaps even most IDFs don't register with the green zone government for assistance, they go for help either to relatives, or if they're not able to do that they ask a local mosque for assistance.

Quick Round Up:

This boy shown in Baqouba hospital was injured by a mortar attack August 22nd 2006The boy, seen here in Baqouba hospital was one of eleven people injured in a mortar attack on a market Two shells landed in the market according to local police..

Before I wrote this posting I did a quick scan through reports from:

  • Al Sabah al Jadid newspaper - Baghdad
  • Al Taakhi newspaper - Baghdad
  • Hawlati newspaper - Al Sulaimaniyah
  • Al Mannarah newspaper - Basrah
  • Radio Annas - Baghdad

Here are the results:

  • Two People were killed in a bomb blast in Dhi Qar. The bomb disposal team were on their way to defuse it when it exploded according to Major Ali Siwan.
  • Three people were wounded in mortar a shelling in Basra when a mortar round hit their car.
  • A mortar attack on Muqdadiyah market on Tuesday wounded 15 Iraqi civilians. In a separate attack in the al-Askari neighborhood a man was killed and his wife wounded by gunmen outside their home.
  • There was a bridge bombing in Baghdad two people were wounded.

That's a tiny fraction of the daily misery brought to Iraq by America's illegal, racist, and brutal occupation of Iraq. When I said "quick scan," I mean it took me less than, considerably less than, five minutes. It took me longer to translate and type out the highly abreviated list above. Then I read this garbage from President Cheney's feral chimpanzee President Bush in response to a question from a sycophant White House pool reporter:

Gee Martha It Talks!

Q But are you frustrated, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Frustrated? Sometimes I'm frustrated. Rarely surprised. Sometimes I'm happy. This is -- but war is not a time of joy. These aren't joyous times. These are challenging times, and they're difficult times, and they're straining the psyche of our country. I understand that. You know, nobody likes to see innocent people die. Nobody wants to turn on their TV on a daily basis and see havoc wrought by terrorists. And our question is, do we have the capacity and the desire to spread peace by confronting these terrorists, and supporting those who want to live in liberty? That's the question. And my answer to that question is, we must. We owe it to future generations to do so. [ Emphasis added - mfi ]

The strain on Iraqi's psyche of having their country riven apart and seeing their families drown in a river of blood doesn't count of course. They're only brown people and guilty moreover of being Muslims what's important is the strain on the American psyche. Well boo hoo - Here have a xanax.


It's Déja Vu All Over Again


Monday, August 21, 2006


Composite graphicJuan Cole has an all too depressing round up of the aftermath of yesterday's attacks on pilgrims. The composite image to the left shows some of the human cost:

  1. Funeral Service at the Meshed Ali in Najaf.
  2. A policeman scans a body for explosives before the service.


Forward Together (Part 2)

Bombs Aimed at G.I.'s in Iraq Are Increasing

… … …

Bush administration officials now admit that Iraqi government's original plan to rein in the violence in Baghdad, announced in June, has failed. The Pentagon has decided to rush more American troops into the capital, and the new military operation to restore security there is expected to begin in earnest next month.

Yet some outside experts who have recently visited the White House said Bush administration officials were beginning to plan for the possibility that Iraq's democratically elected government might not survive.

"Senior administration officials have acknowledged to me that they are considering alternatives other than democracy,"
said one military affairs expert who received an Iraq briefing at the White House last month and agreed to speak only on condition of anonymity.

"Everybody in the administration is being quite circumspect," the expert said, "but you can sense their own concern that this is drifting away from democracy."

New York Times [Emphasis added - mfi]

There's been surprisingly little discussion about the underlying assumption in this story. Neither the status quo, nor the status quo ante are even remotely like democracy. The original US assumption was that was that any resistance to occupation amongst the hitherto dominant Sunni minority would be outweighed and overmatched by a grateful (and pro-USA) Shi'ite majority. When that didn't work the US occupiers plumped for working with a de-facto alliance between the secular Kurds [the KDP and PUK ] and the conservative sectarian Shiite movement SCIRI. SCIRI the reasoning went would work with the Kurds to prevent the emergence of a nationalist and pan-Iraq resistance. This strategy worked in 2004 but was overtaken by events. Specifically it was overtaken by the transformation of passive resistance to the occupation into active support for armed resistance even in the overwhelmingly Shi'ite south. At this point the occupiers opted for divide et impera. Special Police Commandos and the Badr corps death squads operating out of the Defense and Interior ministries targeted both Sunni leaders and the Mehdi militia. The results from a news point of view have been spectacularly gruesome but have failed to.

  • Disrupt the growing connections between al-Sadr's movement and Sunni militias.
  • Reduce the level of dissatisfaction with the green zone government's performance.
  • Reduce the level of attacks upon occupation forces.

Public dissent is now such that Maliki was forced to reshuffle his cabinet and criticise and apologise for the recent combined US/Iraqi attack on Sadr city. Far from dropping NYT article makes plain the level of attacks upon occupation forces has escalated and that the attacks are growing both in scale and sophistication as are the attacks upon areas controlled by SCIRI. the traditional Shi'ite establisment is becoming worried that they can no longer restrain their followers:

"We fear the coming of a day when we cannot restrain a revolution of the people, with all its unsavoury consequences." Grand Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi reported in Azaman [AR].

So now the US is considering getting rid of 'their' man?

"Al-Maliki became prime minister only because the U.S. and Britain were determined to get rid of his predecessor, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Al-Maliki is inexperienced, personally isolated without his own kitchen cabinet, guarded by U.S. guards and heavily reliant on shadowy U.S. advisers.

The quasi-colonial nature of the Iraqi government may not be obvious to outsiders who see that it has been democratically elected. But its independence has always been a mirage."

Such a step would be a disaster for the occupation. Its effect would be to galvanise the various resistance movements into unity and greatly assist al-Sadr's attempts to create a pan-Iraqi political coalition. The US has already committed the bulk of its reserve from Kuwait and would need to send in thousands more troops into Baghdad alone. I can't see that happening given the state of American public opinion. The interesting thing about this story is the mere fact that they should be considering such a step. It indicates the the dire straits in which the occupation finds itself.


Notes: See also Forward Together and It's Election Season In America

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Further Attacks on Returning Pilgrims Likely

The security measures announced by the green zone government desperate to prevent carnage during the weekend devotions in honour of the seventh Imam Musa al-Kazim ibn Jafar as Sadiq (الإمام موسى الكاظم‎) appear to have only partially paid off. Both the green zone government and the American army of occupation are aware that any incident comparable in scale to last years catastrophic al-Aa'ma Bridge tragedy would lead to retribution on a scale not to be contemplated and would undoubtedly lead to the complete collapse of the green zone government led by Nouri Al-Maliki. During last year's commemoration of the seventh Imam pilgrims panicked by rumours that suicide bombers were in their midst stampeded. This led to the railings of the bridge giving way and many people were forced off the bridge into the Tigris and drowned, others were crushed or suffered asphyxia. The full death toll is still not known the authorities have put provisionally put it at 965 but some people who went missing on that day have still not been accounted for and the figure does not includes rescuers who perished. The true fatalities figure is likely to be at least 1,000 people most of whom were women and children. The measures taken in addition to the existing nightly curfew in Baghdad between 09:00 p.m. and 06:00 a.m.include:

Some of the 10s of thousands of pilgrims marching to the Shrine of the 7th Imam August 20th 2006Tens of thousands of Shiite Pilgrims seen here making their way to the 7th imams shrine are taking part in the annual rituals of grief and commemoration for the death of Imam Moussa Kadhim.Mother and children mourning Wisam Ali, 13, who was killed on the way to the Imam Moussa Kadhim shrineWisam Ali, aged 13, was killed on the way to the Imam Moussa Kadhim shrine in al-Kadhimiya today August 20th 2006. His mother and siblings seen here mourning him are awaiting Wisam's father to return with his body.
  • A curfew until 6:00 a.m. Monday August 21st in the 11 districts surrounding al-Kadhimiya has been instigated by the Defense Ministry.
  • A large number of checkpoints and searches have been set up.
  • The security forces under Interior Minister Jawad Al-Bulani have greatly increased their presence at Imam Moussa Al-Kadhim's Shrine and it's environs.
  • In addition to the measures undertaken by the green zone government the Mehdi army militia loyal to Muqdata al-Sadr have mounted a massive operation to protect pilgrims travelling to Baghdad from the provinces for the festival. They appear to be being prevented from mounting a similar operation in the capital itself.

So far there have been a number of attacks on pilgrims. Yesterday (Saturday) was relatively quiet in Baghdad and as far as I can determine the only confirmed fatalities directly attributable to attacks upon pilgrims were the deaths by shooting of a group of seven pilgrims making their way on foot to al-Kadhimiya through the predominantly Sunni al-Adel district on Friday night.

Today's Attacks

The attacks today Sunday August 20th 2006 were mostly sniper attacks and seem to have been concentrated in the following districts:

  • Al-Fadl (central Baghdad.)
  • Al-Jihad (central Baghdad) and,
  • Haifa (western Baghdad.)

According to Dr. Jassem Latif, head of the health ministry operations room the toll so far from these attacks is 20 dead and 302 wounded. He expects this toll to go higher as most of the injuries "as most of the injuries were serious."

Blood Products and Fuel For Ambulance in Short Supply

As I have reported repeatedly Iraq's health system is close to collapse. At present Baghdad in particular is experiencing a fuel shortage and ambulance services are being affected by this. Additionally according to both to Dr. Lattif and email reports received by me today there is a serious shortage of blood and blood products in Baghdad's hospitals. Moreover the fuel situation coupled with Baghdad's dire power supply means that hospital generators cut out and patients in surgery or on life support machines die as a result. None of this augurs well for those already injured let alone any people wounded in further attacks.

Further Attacks on Returning Pilgrims Likely

It is likely that there will be further attacks upon pilgrims. In particular I expect there to be many attacks upon pilgrims making their way home to the provinces from the ceremonies. The number of Pilgrims this year was especially high because many people were determined to participate in memory of those who were killed in last year's catastrophe upon al-Aa'ma Bridge. At the time of writing the main ceremonies are now over and participants are making their way home. Fortunately a remembrance prayer event attended by thousands of pilgrims who gathered on al-A'ama Bridge to commemorate and pray for the more than 1000 people crushed to death or drowned in last year's in a stampede seems to have passed without incident.

This posting is respectfully dedicated to Othman Abdul Hafez, a sunni Arab teenager from the other side of the bridge. He kept on diving into the Tigris pulling people out and diving back in again. Eventualy he succumbed to exhaustion and drowned. God grant him eternal joy in paradise for his courage and compassion.


Eyewitness in Lebanon

This eyewitness video was shot by a Lebanese journalist Omar Nachabe. Scenes like this are broadcast all over the Middle East daily. It documents the destruction of villages in south Lebanon including Bint Jbeil as part of Israel's scorched earth policy.

Israel has now attacked again and today Hezbollah foiled the raid and one Israeli commando was killed Israel has also launched repeated violations of Lebanese air space with warplanes including today. Civilians are still being maimed and killed by unexploded Israeli ordinance (including the cluster bombs rushed to israel by the USA) to help kill as many civilians as possible.

All of this will be laid at the door of the US. The country that urged the Israelis to go to war, helped them plan it, gave them the money to do it, and are helping them stall the peacekeeping and reconstruction efforts. This isn't ethical or sensible, particularly not when you have more all those hostages, body bag occupants, soldiers in Iraq, particularly not when the US soldiers are acting seemingly exclusively againist one particular party in Iraq. The same party that controls your supply lines from the South. In your own interests get your Israeli ally under control, cut a deal in Iraq, take your quislings with you, and leave.