Monday, July 24, 2006

Iraq snapshot

Chaos and violence continue.

But will you hear about it? (How bad is the coverage -- in terms of quanity? So bad that Mark Silva's Chicago Tribune article is titled "Remember Iraq?") And, if you do, will you hear of the 'relative calm' or any other dubious phrase?

Following Sunday's bombings that claimed the lives of at least 66 and left over 200 wounded, today's events may not 'impress' enough to get the coverage they deserve.

It's after 10:00 pm in Baghdad, here are some of the events reported from Iraq.


Reuters reports two roadside bombs in Baghdad (one killing an Iraqi solider and wounding three more ; the other killing a civilian and wounding three police officers); a car bomb in Mosul killed five Iraqi soliders and wounded four; a roadside bomb killed one person in Mosul; and mortar bombs in Baghdad wounded at least eight people. CBS and the AP report a car bomb in Samarra that killed two Iraqi police officers and wounded 17. That would be six bombings with ten killed (plus the driver of the car bomb in Mosul for eleven -- Evening Echo News notes that the "car driver accelarted toward the house before detonating the explosives" -- the police were using the house as a command station). Of the car bomb in Mosul that killed the Iraqi soldiers (not the police officers), RTE News notes: "The Iraqi vehicle was driving behind a US patrol at the time of the explosion, although no US personnel were reported injured in the blast."


Reuters reports "an agricultural engineer" was shot dead near Kerbala; gunfire near Hilla left two dead and 17 wounded; and four died from shootings in Mosul. AFP reports the shooting death of "a bodyguard of a Sunni politician" in Baghdad. That would be eight dead.


AFP reports 23 corpses were discovered in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi prime minister (in name if not deed) Nouri al-Maliki splits from Iraq and goes to London. James Hider and Jenny Percival (Times of London) note the departure this way: "As he flew out of his embattled capital yesterday at least 63 people were killed in bomb attacks and a dozen were shot dead in relentless drive-by shootings or kidnapped and murdered." Or, as Paul Schemm (AFP) worded it: "Nevertheless, while Maliki began a trip to Britain and the United States, the violence raged on at home."

The BBC reports that on their radio program Today, Nouri al-Maliki has declared that Iraq "his country would not slide into a civil war." Reuters quotes him saying, "Civil war will not happen." CBS and the AP report him declaring, "There is a sectarian issue, but the political leaders have succeeded and they are working on putting an end to the sectarian issue. There is continuing efforts in that direction, the civil war will not happen to Iraq." The Puppet meets the Bully Boy in DC on Tuesday while he preps new 'believeable' lines -- possibly that no one takes a cut off the house's take in Vegas?

This as Patrick Cockburn (London's Independent via Belfast Telegram) reports on a conversation with Hoshyar Zebari (Iraqi Foreign Minister) who spoke of how "in theory the government should be able to solve the crisis because Shia, Kurd and Sunni were elected members of it. But he painted a picture of a deeply divided administration in which senior Sunni members praised anti-government insurgents as 'the heroic resistance'."

Meanwhile Mark Silva (Chicago Tribune) quotes an unidentified White House flack saying: "In terms of the civil war question, I would simply say there has been a rise in sectarian violence.. . That in itself does not constitute a civil war,’’ the official said." In terms of the news value of that quote, I would simply say there is none. That in itself, a flack lips flapping, does not constitute news.

AP reports that Muqtada al-Sadr's followers have released a statement on the impending meet up between Bully and Puppet: "We want him to cut his visit and not to sign any paper leading to occupation forces remaining in Iraq." And Robert H. Reid (AP) quotes one al-Sadr 'follower,' Jalil al-Nouri, stating: "We are the only group that rejects the occupation because we are nationalists. We are the only political group that rejects their presence in the country and we demand that they leave. We are to the point, and we are clear."

But with al-Maliki due in DC tomorrow, don't be surprised to see the days events described as 'calm' or 'relative calm' (on a day with at least 19 reported dead and 23 corpses discovered) and the rah-rah-'liberation' noises to start up all over again. Don't expect to read many pieces like Michael Gregory's "None left untouched by daily violence in Baghdad" (Reuters) which notes: "President George W. Bush will hear the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, in Washington on Tuesday tell him of plans for stemming bloodshed in Baghdad and repeat assurances he gave on Monday that Iraq is not at war with itself. But talk to people at random in the capital and a picture quickly emerges of a city where virtually everyone has a friend, relative or neighbour who has fallen victim to the sectarian shootings and death threats that Washington accepts are now an even bigger threat than the 3-year-old Sunni insurgency."

In Australia, the inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco in Iraq continues. Last week, it was decided (or "decided" since the board of inquiry appears to change its mind regularly -- Olive writes that Judy Kovco should call it the "Keystone Court" as she called the police the "Keystone cops" last week) that the former roommates of Kovco, in the room when he died, would testify from Iraq via videolink. James Madden (Daily Telegraph) reports that has changed and now the board has decided to summon the two roommates to testify in person. Madden also notes that Dectective Sergeant Phillip Elliott testified to the inquiry that "Pte Kovco's body was washed and his two roommates were allowed to shower after the shooting. The bed linen and the soldiers' clothes were washed, and blood spatter was thought to have been removed from the ceiling and furniture." Australia's ABC notes that Kovco's "clothes were destroyed" prior to Elliott's arrival for the investigation. Malcom Brown (Sydney Morning Herald) reports: "In answer to Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Holles, for Private Kovco's parents, Sergeant Elliott said Private Kovco's roommates, Soldiers 17 and 19, differed as to where Soldier 17 was sitting at the time of the shot. Soldier 17 had said he was sitting at the foot of the bed and Soldier 19 said Soldier 17 was sitting at the middle. [. . . .] Sergeant Elliott agreed the two also differed in their accounts of where Private Kovco lay after he fell. Bloodstains on the floor were consistent with him having been turned over after he fell." Austraila's ABC notes, of the decision to have the former roommates testify, "The inquiry has agreed to the application, but it is not yet known when the soldiers will return to Australia."

Meanwhile, the Herald Sun reports that a witness known only as "Soldier Two" will testify with regards to how Bosnian Juso Sinanovic's body ended up being shipped to Australia instead of the body of Jake Kovoco.

In peace news, it's day 21 of The Troops Home Fast (21 days since it started, 21 days for those who have been fasting since the Fourth of July -- but you can join the fast at any time). Robert C. Koehler (Tribune Media Services) writes of his decision to fast for one day and join the efforts organized by CODEPINK, Global Exchange and Gold Star Families for Peace: "We have a war machine that's fed by hate and fear - indeed, by the need for enemies without the least humanity, because that absolves us of the need to have any ourselves. It's the age-old formula for war, but we have entered a time when it is globally life-threatening. When the world's only superpower swaggers through the Middle East with that kind of delusional anger and a military budget of half a trillion dollars that requires annual justification, watch out. It is time for new priorities."

And Christopher J. Stephens writes, in The National Ledger, of the cases of Ehren Watada and Suzanne Swift noting: "Veterans for Common Sense [VFC] wrote an open letter to President Bush in March 2005 that noted some ominous possible results of the war in Iraq: 1.26 million Iraqi children under the age of five will die, 500,000 will need immediate medical attention, and 2 million will become homeless. Signatories to this letter included two Navy Vice Admirals, a Brigadier General, 14 Colonels, and 4 Captains."