Sunday, May 07, 2006

And the war drags on . . .

Dozens of people were killed in three car bomb attacks in Iraq on Sunday, officials say.
A car bomb in the holy city of Karbala, southwest of the capital, Baghdad, has killed at least 15 people and wounded dozens of others, local officials said.
The bomb reportedly went off near the city's central bus station. Smoke could be seen rising from the blast site and cars in the area were on fire.
The attack occurred around 0930 local time, when many people were returning to work after the weekend.

The above, noted by Lynda, is from "Dozens killed in Iraq car bombs" (Al Jazeera). Chaos and violence continue in Iraq. But Bully Boy just knows we're 'turning a corner'! (Or says we are, in an attempt to calm fears before an impending election.) Combat the myth with the true. Thomas P. Healy's "An Interview with Anthony Arnove: Out Now" (CounterPunch) will provide you with some (and Arnove's book is noted in The Third Estate Sunday Review's "Book: Anthony Arnove's IRAQ: The Logic of Withdrawal.")

Dilip Hiro is the author of Cindy's highlight and the author of, among others, Secrets & Lies -- a book worth reading (and then some). From Hiro's "A Setback for Democracy" (Yale Global via Common Dreams):

Those who loudly advocated an invasion of Iraq by the US confidently predicted a scenario of democratic Iraq in the post-Saddam Hussein era becoming a beacon of democracy, good government and rule of law for the rest of the Arab world. Three years after the overthrow, the reality is chaos and violence.
Two elections have exposed the sectarian and ethnic fault lines of the Iraqi society that had been masked by the iron hand of the Baath Party and Saddam Hussein.
The Bush administration compounded its ignorance of the culture and history of Iraq with its staggeringly disastrous policy of not just toppling the Saddam Hussein regime, but also smashing the state machinery by letting all the ministries, except oil, be looted and burnt by the mobs and -- worse still, instantly disbanding the military, police and intelligence apparatus.
The vacuum, created by the dissolution of the all-pervasive, Sunni-dominated Baath Party and the coercive organs of the state, was quickly filled by the hitherto extensive underground network of the Shiite religious establishment. The militias of the Shiite religious parties followed, including the leading one established in Tehran during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War.
The subsequent elections enabled the Shiite parties to consolidate their positions by securing popular mandates. The same happened in the case of the two main Kurdish parties. Finding themselves marginalized, minority Sunnis -- sulking over the loss of power in Iraq after more than 350 years -- also opted for parties based on sectarian loyalties.
By now sectarian or ethnic identity has superseded the national identity. Unlike Kurds, ethnically different from Arabs who have traditionally been the inhabitants of the northeastern mountainous region, Sunni and Shiite Arabs have co-habited the Mesopotamian plains since the rise of Islam in the 7th century.

Warning, I've only now arrived home, I've had no sleep since I got up Saturday morning, don't expect much. (And carry that over to tomorrow morning's entry or entries.) (And to check out Arnove's book, click on Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal -- it's an important book.)

And as England deals with the death of five troops in Basra, all British members note that the coverage of Iraq, by the British press, picks back up. (They've noted how it's slacked off.) Polly notes the BBC's "Fresh violence hits Iraq cities:"

It is feared the Karbala attack is aimed at provoking further communal violence between Iraq's Shia and its minority Sunni Arab community, says our correspondent.
Most of the bodies found recently are suspected to have been murdered in the spate of violence that began after a major Shia shrine in Samarra was bombed in February.
All the bodies discovered in the past 24 hours belonged to men who were "handcuffed and shot in the head" , according to an interior ministry official quoted by AFP news agency.
Twenty-eight were found in Baghdad's western Kharkh area, while another 15 were recovered from the eastern Rusafa district, the unnamed official told AFP.
Elsewhere, an Italian soldier has died from his injuries gained in a blast last month in the southern city of Nasiriya, bringing to five the number of foreign soldiers killed in the 27 April attack.

Chaos and violence continue. That's a given with an illegal war and an illegal occupation.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.

-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the American military fatality count stood at 2400. Tonight? 2418. And that doesn't include anyone who leaves Iraq and then dies from the wounds. (As was the case for an Italian soldier this weekend.) The war drags on and the fatalities and casualties mount. For everyone in Iraq.

Life on the ground in Iraq for Iraqis? Gareth notes Natasha Walter's "'No one knows what we are going through'" (Guardian of London):

Rayya Osseilly is an Iraqi doctor who cares for other women in the beleaguered city of Qaim. Unsurprisingly, her tale is not a happy one. "I never feel that today is better than yesterday," she says. "It always seems that yesterday was better than today." Looking at the bombed-out remains of the hospital where she works, it is clear she is struggling against the odds.
It is unusual to see at close quarters what is going on for women in cities like Qaim, which last year came under heavy attack from American troops. Access for the western media is severely restricted. Now, though, we have a window on to Qaim thanks to another Iraqi woman, a film-maker who has travelled through the country speaking to widows and children, to doctors and students, in pursuit of the reality of her fellow country-women's lives.

The film-maker, who lives in Baghdad, wants to keep her identity secret because she fears reprisals, so I'll call her Zeina. When I spoke to her by telephone, the first first thing I asked her was why it is that she feels she has to hide her identity, and in her answer she does not distinguish between the government and the insurgents, in the way that we are taught to do here. "I feel the threat from the government and from the sectarian militias," she says. "The danger in Iraq comes from the Americans, from the sectarian militias - and, of course, it also comes from the crime, the gangs, the random kidnappings."
She decided she wanted to make this film because the things she saw every day were not being seen by the outside world. "No one sees what we are going through. All Iraqis are psychologically traumatised by what is happening. I have seen an eight-year old child who has involuntary tremors, whenever she hears an aeroplane or sees soldiers. I have seen families displaced. I have seen women forced into prostitution because of the poverty of their families."

It's what is still rarely talked about. (Democracy Now! and many Pacifica programs noted it when a delegation of Iraqi women came to the United States on the CODEPINK sponsored speaking tour. Did many other broadcast outlets?) It's just something that's not talked about it in the mainstream. It refutes the "Things are getting better!" myth. On the topic of things we don't talk about, Tasha notes Chris Floyd's "Blood Pact" (Moscow Times):

The U.S. conquest of Iraq is an emotional matter. Passions flare at white heat on both sides of the issue. This is understandable. It is indeed very difficult to remain dispassionate while watching a mass murder take place. Opponents of the conquest are naturally driven into chaotic furies of outrage and despair, while supporters are necessarily pushed to rhetorical and political extremes in their frantic attempts to countenance such an appalling crime. It is not a situation conducive to rational analysis.Nevertheless, it is instructive to step back from the barricades now and again to remind ourselves of the reality so often obscured by the blood-red mist of emotion clouding our eyes. The chief reality, of course, is that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is primarily about oil and the preservation of the American way of life. It is based on the premise that the latter is a question of supreme importance, a moral value overriding all others. That "the American way of life" is itself riddled with gross inequalities is beside the point here, for these inequalities greatly benefit all those who have the power to make or influence policies in "the national interest."
Once this basic premise is accepted, the conquest -- which otherwise seems a pointless, reckless paroxysm of elitist greed -- can be seen as a logical if difficult step undertaken in accordance with a carefully reasoned strategy. War, mass death, torture, repression and the monstrous lies surrounding the instigation of the conquest can thus be justified as "necessary evils" to secure a greater good.

Tony Blair was suffering fallout (and facing rebellion) before the recent helicopter downing in Basra. It's only increased since then. Gareth also noted Patrick Wintour's "Brown camp seeking coup, say Blair allies" (Guardian of London):

The crisis at the top of the Labour government reached a new peak yesterday with allies of Tony Blair accusing supporters of Gordon Brown and leftwing MPs of seeking to stage a coup in which Mr Blair is before the summer forced to agree a timetable for leaving No 10.
Mr Blair's allies claim that he recently offered Mr Brown a fresh private reassurance on the date of the handover of power, including the circumstances of the transition, but the levels of distrust between the two are such that only a public promise to stand aside would assure the increasingly impatient chancellor. One Blair ally said the proposed date "was not soon enough" to satisfy the Brown camp.

With more on that topic, James in Brighton steers us to "Blair's terrible legacy: UK soldiers dig in after five killed" (Independent of London):

April 2003: British soldiers are greeted as liberators as they patrol Iraq's second city. The Parachute Regiment dispenses with hard helmets in favour of red berets as it adopts a softly-softly approach to foster good relations
May 2006: Five British soldiers die as a missile brings down their helicopter. Iraqis celebrate and a firefight kills five more as UK forces rush to the scene. Iraqis continue to be killed in vast numbers throughout the country
A crowd cheers the shooting down of a British military helicopter; petrol bombs set fire to Warrior armoured vehicles; accusations are made that British troops are responsible for civilian deaths, including two children. This is Basra, three years after Iraq's "liberation".
At the end of a week of turmoil for the British Government - John Prescott's humiliation over his adultery, Charles Clarke's departure over the foreign prisoners fiasco, and open rebellion against the Prime Minister - a weekend of violence in Iraq provided a stark reminder of the most serious issue to overshadow the Blair administration.

It's not just the Bully Boy who refuses to face reality. It's Tony Blair. It's John Howard. On the topic of Australia, Skip highlights "Fresh troops for southern Iraq" (Australia's Herald Sun):

FRESH Australian troops would deploy to southern Iraq in a third rotation of the Al Muthanna Task Group (AMTG), Defence Minister Brendan Nelson said today.
Dr Nelson said the 470 troops would stay for six months and continue to provide security for the Japanese Iraq Reconstruction and Support Group (JIRSG) and assist in the training of local Iraqi Army units.
It was expected that the Japanese government would probably announce the withdrawal of their engineers during that time, he said.

Brendan Nelson, Australia's Donald Rumsfeld (I'm thinking in terms of Jake Kovco's family and how hurt and betrayed they felt by Nelson shooting off his mouth, but it's also true that he and Rumsfeld hold similar positions). So from Nelson to Rumsfeld, Zach's highlight, Robert Parry's "Rummy Logic & Enduring Lies" (Consortium News):

Rebellion was in the air, with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld acting like a crafty minister to an embattled king, fending off citizens outraged over government lies and the growing death toll from a war built on deception.
As hecklers at a speech in Atlanta on May 4 accused the Bush administration of lying and then were dragged away one by one, Rumsfeld appealed for civility and for renewed faith in George W. Bush's honesty.
"You know, that charge [of lying] is frequently leveled against the President for one reason or another, and it's so wrong and so unfair and so destructive of a free system, where people need to trust each other and government," Rumsfeld told a crowd of international affairs experts.
Anyone who's followed the twisted course of Iraq War rationales had to marvel at Rumsfeld's chutzpah, putting citizen accusers on the defensive and turning government deceivers into defenders of "a free system." How could he expect such a transparent ploy to work?
But the cagey Pentagon chief may have recognized that he could still score with two target audiences: die-hard Bush loyalists and the Washington press corps. The word "lie" -- when applied to Bush -- sends Bush's backers into a fury and thus is studiously avoided by the mainstream press.
The two groups especially reject the l-word when the evidence shows that Bush and his top advisers have lied about the Iraq War. Indeed, one of the most enduring and successful lies has been Bush's insistence that he treated war with Iraq as a "last resort" and that Saddam Hussein was the one who "chose war" by refusing to let United Nations weapons inspectors in.
The reality, however, was that Hussein told the truth when he said his country no longer had weapons of mass destruction, as U.S. weapons inspectors later discovered, and he did let in U.N. inspectors to search wherever they wanted for several months before Bush launched the invasion on March 19, 2003. But Bush is almost never challenged when he misrepresents these facts. [For details, see's "
President Bush, With the Candlestick..."]

As always, Pru gets the last highlight -- Simon Assaf's "Iraq -- the crisis deepens" (Great Britain's The Socialist Worker):

US troops and their Iraqi allies are facing a better coordinated and more effective insurgency. Over the last month 81 coalition troops have been killed, the highest tally since November 2005. The resistance is staging an average of 75 operations a day.
In Ramadi, in the western Anbar province, US troops have been involved in street battles with insurgents for a week.
Baghdad and Fallujah remain the most dangerous places for US troops, while Italian and British soldiers have come under repeated attacks by Shia fighters in the south.
The US plan to shift the burden of counter insurgency onto Iraqi units has been a dismal failure.
Many units will not fire on resistance fighters while others have refused deployment after they have completed training.
On 30 April Iraqi recruits resigned on mass when they discovered they would be deployed outside their home towns. Meanwhile, US officers constantly complain that they train Iraqi troops only to face them on the battlefield.
Attempts to form a compliant Iraqi government has deepened the crisis. After five months of wrangling, Jawad al-Maliki has been appointed prime minister of a government that the New York Times describes as "barricaded inside the Green Zone" and "largely irrelevant to the realities unfolding on the ground".
Life in the country continues to deteriorate.
An Iraqi minister admitted that over the last three months 14,000 families have fled their homes fearing sectarian attacks, and everyday there is a grim tally of bodies found bound, tortured and executed.
Ordinary Iraqis are barricaded inside their neighbourhoods as up to 20,000 people have been kidnapped by criminal gangs since the beginning of the year.
The electricity supply in the country is close to collapse.
In March 2004, one year into the occupation, a household in Baghdad could expect around 16.4 hours of electricity a day. Two years later this had dropped to 7.5 hours a day.
One in five Iraqi children are malnourished, disease is rife, and less than one in ten homes are connected to the sewage system in what was once one of the most developed countries in the Middle East.
The US has blamed the failure of the reconstruction on the resistance.
But this is only part of the story.
The vast majority of projects were derailed through incompetence, fraud and corruption. In one case US contractors failed to rebuild a section of pipeline destroyed during the invasion.
The contractors -- Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of US multinational Halliburton -- drilled the "wrong size" hole, before abandoning the project and walking away with £42 million.
A report by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction discovered that only six out of the promised 150 health clinics have been built since the invasion.
Opposition to the occupation is hardening in Iraq, Britain and the US.
In a poll conducted in January 87 percent of Iraqis wanted US troops to leave as soon as possible.
The latest poll, conducted by the right wing US International Republican Institute, discovered that three out of four Iraqis were pessimistic about the future, with only 51 percent believing life will improve in the next five years, down from 85 percent in a similar poll conducted in April 2005.
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