Sunday, July 31, 2005

Iraq coverage from outside the US mainstream media

From the outside, it seems like chaotic violence. But it's worse than that. In Iraq, Sunni Muslim suicide commandos are launching bloodbaths among the Shiites, gradually edging the country toward civil war. Instead of becoming a democratic beacon for the entire region, Iraq is on the verge of disintegrating.
Some 80 suicide bombers, or about one a day, have lost their lives since April. They may believe that they are bound for paradise, but their last path on earth is full of treachery and deceit.
A young man was standing in front of Baghdad's old city airport trying to stir up a group of his unemployed contemporaries. "You're such fools," he said. "The guards are standing over there at the entrance, collecting their bribes -- and you stand around out here in the sun and don't even know that you're being duped."
The man waited quietly until the agitated crowd had pushed its way into a narrow passageway between three-foot concrete barriers at the entrance of an Iraqi police recruiting office. Then he strolled over to the crowd, forced his way through the barriers and detonated his belt of explosives. 25 people died.
A tanker truck stolen from the oil ministry had already been parked directly in front of the local mosque for some time. It was supposed to explode a few days later in the center of the city of Mussayib, half an hour's drive south of Baghdad -- but not until after 8 p.m., after the day's heat finally subsided. By then, shops in the bazaar would be opening for business and the faithful would be gathering for evening prayers. The assassin climbed under the truck and blew himself up. 98 dead.

The above is from Georg Mascolo and Bernhard Zand's "CRUMBLING IRAQ: Is the Country Heading for Civil War?" (Germany's Der Spiegel) and Cindy e-mailed on this article. It's Sunday, we're taking a look at what's being reported around the world, outside the US mainstream media. This is another focus on Iraq entry -- consider it the antidote to the Operation Happy Talkers.

Trina e-mails to note "Bomb suspect motivated by Iraq war, not religion" (The New Zealand Herald):

The suspected member of the July 21 bombings cell caught in Italy has said he was motivated by the Iraq war, not religion. Osman Hussain, who is suspected of trying to blow up commuters in Shepherd's Bush, west London, gave an extraordinary account of a plot hatched in a basement gym in Notting Hill, according to leaks from his interrogation by Italian investigating magistrates. The would-be bomber is reported to have denied links to the cell that killed 52 people two weeks earlier. But that outrage acted as a "signal" for the second gang to launch its own terrorist attack. The 27-year-old Ethiopian-born Briton, also known as Isaac Hamdi, was questioned by two judges after being arrested in Rome on Friday. He was said to have offered no resistence when he was captured. "Rather than praying, we had discussions about work, politics, the war in Iraq," Hussain said of the gatherings in the gym, according to La Repubblica newspaper. The would-be bombers watched films, "especially those in which you saw women and children killed and exterminated by the English and American soldiers, or widows, mothers and daughters who were crying".

Dominick e-mails to note Lee Keath's "Islam likely to be the main basis for Iraqi law" (The Irish Examiner):

THE framers of Iraq's constitution appear likely to enshrine Islam as the main basis of law in the country - a stronger role than the US had hoped for and one some Iraqis fear will mean a more fundamentalist regime.
Arab constitutions vary widely over the role of Islamic law, ranging from Lebanon, where the word "Islam" never appears, to Saudi Arabia, which says the Koran itself is its constitution. Culture weighs far more heavily than the constitution and law, particularly when it comes to women.
In Gulf nations - where the constitutions spell out a slightly lesser role for Islamic law, or Sharia, than in Egypt - women are more segregated and wear more conservative veils covering the entire face.
Kuwait, for example, bans alcohol and only gave women the right to vote this year, in contrast to Egypt, where beer, wine and liquor are sold openly and women have been voting since the early 20th century.
[. . .]
But in Iraq, some fear the Shi'ite Muslim leaders who want similar wording in Iraq's constitution and hope to lay the groundwork for a more fundamentalist rule.
Already, Shi'ite leaders in some southern cities have tried imposing Islamic-based rules, pressuring women to wear head scarves and forcing liquor stores and music shops to close.
A draft of the constitution published last week in the government Al-Sabah newspaper put Islam as "the main basis" of law. But the constitutional committee - made up of Shi'ites, Kurds and some Sunnis - is still haggling over the language.

Lynda e-mails to note Aljazeera's "Guard killed in Chalabi convoy attack:"

Unknown gunmen opened fire on the convoy injuring three as it was returning from the city of Karbala, Intifadh Qanbar, an official with Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress Party, said. Police said one bodyguard was killed.
Chalabi himself however was not aboard the vehicle.
"The attackers opened fire from both sides of the motorway," a guard said from Baghdad's Yarmuk hospital where he was being treated.
"We responded and exchanged fire for half an hour before the Iraqi army arrived."
Three of the attackers were killed and another wounded and captured, a Defence Ministry source said.
The ambush occurred in a town south of Baghdad, Latifiya. Two cars were destroyed during the attack.

Skip e-mails to note "PM urged to admit war raised terrorism risk" (Australia's ABC):

The Federal Opposition says the Federal Government must acknowledge that its decision to go to war on Iraq has heightened the terrorist threat to Australia.
A key suspect in the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta has linked the war in Iraq to the attack.
A transcript of the interrogation of 30-year-old Rois, reveals that he told police that the bombers' goal was "for Australia to stop repressing Muslims, especially in Iraq".
Rois also criticised Australia's interference in other Muslim countries, including Indonesia.
Labor's foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd says it is time for the Prime Minister, John Howard, to face up to the consequences of going to war in Iraq.
Mr Rudd says the suspect's comments only confirm what most people already believe.
"I think the Australian public have grown tired of John Howard trying to convince them that our involvement in Iraq has no impact whatsoever on Australia as a terrorist target," Mr Rudd said.
"It's time for the Prime Minister just to level once and for all with the Australian people on this. Tell them the truth."

Meanwhile Polly notes that her own PM, Tony Blair, is "shoulder deep in denial" and e-mails to note Graeme Smith's "Presence in Iraq not to blame for bombs, Blair says" (The Globe and Mail):

Tony Blair has angrily rejected the idea that the war in Iraq he supported gave terrorists an excuse to attack Britain, defying polls that show many British people draw a clear link between the British involvement in Iraq and the recent bombings in London.
The British Prime Minister faced a barrage of pointed questions about the Iraq war during a 90-minute press conference yesterday. While refusing to say whether the continuing military action increased the risk of terrorism in Britain, he emphasized that concern about Iraq only ranks among many dishonest causes extremists will inevitably exploit.

Pru e-mails Alex Callinicos' "Why the war won't go away" (the UK's Socialist Worker)

ONE OF the stupidest responses to the London bombings has been the effort to depoliticise them.
Respect MP George Galloway had told the truth--that the bombings, though "despicable", were a "predictable" consequence of the US-British invasion of Iraq. This led to tut-tutting from Labour MPs that it was somehow in bad taste to bring in controversial issues so soon after the atrocities had been committed.
This response is ridiculous--as if the victims and their families would somehow be helped if we refused to discover the causes of their suffering. But it also seeks to conceal the fact that the government had a very strong and highly political interest in shaping the public reaction to the bombings.
Andrew Rawnsley commented in the Observer the Sunday after the bombings, "Downing Street has always feared that an atrocity in London would provoke a massive public backlash against Britain’s participation in the war in Iraq."
Hence the ferocity with which Tony Blair and Jack Straw have greeted any suggestions that the bombings were a response to the war. Hence also the importance of London mayor Ken Livingstone's intervention on 7 July and after.
To quote Rawnsley, "Mr Livingstone took one of the most crucially supportive stances on the bombings", denying any connection between them and the Iraq war, which Livingstone had opposed. The pact that Blair struck with Livingstone when he was allowed to rejoin the Labour Party paid off.
Nevertheless, the official story didn't stick for more than a few days. It was holed below the waterline by two establishment reports.
First, Chatham House--formerly the Royal Institute of International Affairs, traditional haven of ex-diplomats, spooks and foreign policy intellectuals--said the invasion of Iraq had "given a boost to the al Qaida network".
Moreover, Britain's role in "riding as a pillion passenger with the United States in the war against terror" was impeding anti-terrorism efforts.
Then it emerged that the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, a government coordinating agency based at MI5, had warned less than a month before the London bombings that "events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and as a focus of a range of terrorist related activity in the UK".
But it didn't need these official confirmations to tell most people in this country what they knew already. A Guardian/ICM poll taken before they were published found that 64 percent held Blair "a lot" or "a little" responsible for the bombings.
By the middle of last week, ever sensitive to public opinion, Livingstone was on BBC Radio 4's Today programme relating the bombings to 80 years of Western intervention in the Middle East.
The problem with the government's line is that it insults people's intelligence. That arch-Blairite bully John Reid was reduced to arguing, also on the Today programme, that discussing whether there was a connection between Iraq and the bombings was itself a victory for the bombings. That angered even his normally toadyish interviewer James Naughtie.
A last line of defence was provided by a piece of twisted logic in the Guardian by Norman Geras--once a distinguished Marxist philosopher, now a miserable apologist for Bush and Blair.
"Causality is one thing and moral responsibility is another," Geras argued. Even if the Iraq war was "one of a number of influencing causes" of the bombings, it doesn't mean it was "a necessary, motivating cause".
Well, let's leave aside the evidence that's come from the 7 July bombers' families and friends that they were fired up about what the US and Britain have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let's consider, not their state of minds, but Tony Blair's.
On 10 February 2003 the Joint Intelligence Committee told him that "al Qaida and associated groups continue to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq".
The London bombings weren't just a predictable consequence of invading Iraq. They were predicted by Blair's own intelligence services. The fact that he nevertheless went to war makes him as guilty as hell.

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Krista e-mails to note "Car bomb kills five, wounds 10" (Ireland's

A car bomb exploded today south of Baghdad, killing five civilians and wounding 10, including two policemen, police officials said.

Heather e-mails to note "Ten U.S. troops killed in Iraq, 4 in one incident" (The Australian Herald):

Five Task Force Baghdad soldiers were killed Saturday during two separate bomb attacks while conducting patrols in Baghdad neighborhoods.
Multinational Force Iraq officials announced the details on Sunday. One soldier was killed when a patrol struck an improvised explosive device around 1:40 p.m. in al-Dora, south of Baghdad.
Four more soldiers were killed when their patrol southwest of Baghdad struck an improvised explosive device, around 11 p.m., officials said. Two soldiers were wounded in the al-Dora attack.

Via Watching America, Brady e-mails to note Baha'uddin Abu-Shiqqa's "America's Allies Better 'Wake Up From Their Slumber'" (Egypt's Al Wafd):

It is apparent, from all of the events that we've been witnessing, that the world has entered a dark tunnel with no end in sight. It is also plain to see that the United States is pushing every nation, even its closest allies, into murky uncharted waters; this due to its oppressive policies and its blatant disregard for international law since it crowned itself the only world superpower.
While Britain still smolders from the inferno of terror that burned up innocent people in the London subway explosions, Mr. Bush is busy flooding the world with the same statements that we've all memorized by heart; like some awful song that everyone is tired of listening to. He had this to say at Gaston College in North Carolina [July 15, 2005]:
"Today, we are fighting a global war on terror. ... We're fighting against people who celebrate the suffering of the innocent. ... [The terrorists] are ideologues. They hate freedom. They reject tolerance. They despise all dissent. They have objectives. Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own grim image of tyranny. They want to topple governments. They want to export terror. They want to force free nations to retreat. These people will not be stopped by negotiations. They're not going to be -- they won't change their mind because of concessions. There is no appeal to their reason. There is only one course of action. We will take the fight to the enemy, and we will stay in the fight until this enemy is defeated."
Bush's words are very nice and sweet, but also hollow and empty and have nothing to do with the real world! Everyone knows by now that these are words of deception: If all of this is really true and the terrorists want to overthrow governments, then the U.S. is following in the same path and with the same agenda. The United States backs its agents and spies and dissenters with cash and political support in its efforts to topple all sorts of governments, even the ones that toe the American line and answer to its beck and call. Didn't the U.S. do exactly that in Iraq and Afghanistan and other Middle East countries?

Kara e-mails to note Jim Lobe's "Civil War Spectre Spurs New Iraq Exit Plans" (IPS):

Growing pessimism about averting civil war in Iraq, as well as mounting concerns that the U.S. military presence there may itself be fuelling the insurgency and Islamist extremism worldwide, has spurred a spate of new calls for the United States to withdraw its 140,000 troops sooner rather than later.
Although resolutions to establish at least a timeline for withdrawal have so far gained the support of only about a quarter of the members of Congress, the absence of tangible progress in turning back the insurgency is adding to fears on Capitol Hill that the administration's hopes of stabilising the situation, let alone giving birth to a pro-western democracy in the heart of the Arab world, are delusory.
"In January, we had Congressional staff hanging up on us when we called to say that we want to discuss shifting U.S. policy from more guns and more troops towards withdrawal," said Jim Cason, communications director of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a lobby group. "Now they want to talk about it."
While the George W. Bush administration still insists that civil war will be avoided and current negotiations to produce a new constitution by the middle of next month remain on track, the continuing high level of violence and the strength and sophistication of predominantly Sunni insurgents and foreign fighters are clearly having an effect here.

Oliver e-mails to note Severin Carrell's "Iraqi abuses prompt limits to military power in inquiries" (UK's The Independent):

Defence ministers are to make sweeping reforms of military law after a series of botched investigations into the abuse and deaths of Iraqi civilians were exposed by The Independent on Sunday.
The move is seen as a dramatic admission that military police investigations into dozens of suspicious deaths and alleged torture cases involving British troops in Iraq have been mishandled or obstructed by senior officers.
Investigations by the IoS and human rights lawyers have uncovered more than 20 cases where inquiries into alleged abuse were blocked by army commanders. At least six prosecutions have collapsed because of inadequate police inquiries. As a result, military prosecutors will be brought in at a very early stage to direct military police investigations in all serious cases such as murder, rape or torture.
The move follows damning criticisms from High Court judges about the speed of the military police investigation into the death in British custody of the Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, in September 2003. It took until earlier this month for the Attorney General to announce charges in the case - 22 months after his death.
Lord Goldsmith said seven soldiers, including the then commander of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment, Colonel Jorge Mendonca, and two Intelligence Corps members, face a court martial over Mr Mousa's death and alleged ill-treatment of other detainees.
Army commanders have also been hit by damning criticisms from lawyers, MPs, the International Red Cross and Amnesty International over the official investigations into the abuse allegations. It is also facing legal action by the families of more than 50 Iraqi civilians killed, ill-treated or injured by British troops.

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