Monday, July 10, 2006

NYT: "Baghdad Erupts in Mob Violence" (Kirk Semple)

The violence coincided with an announcement by American military officials that they had formally accused four more American soldiers of rape and murder, and a fifth soldier of "dereliction of duty" for failing to report the crimes, in connection with the deaths of a teenage Iraqi girl and three members of her family.
With movement in Baghdad difficult after a military cordon was established to suppress the violence, facts were hard to ascertain. The death toll from the shootings alone ranged from fewer than a dozen, according to the American military, to more than 40 reported by some news services. The bombing near the mosque later claimed at least 19 lives and left 59 wounded, officials said.

[. . .]
Only seven weeks old, Mr. Maliki's government is facing increasingly difficult obstacles. Worsening violence has undermined his intention to disarm the country's sectarian militias. At the same time, the growing furor over criminal accusations against American troops has tested Mr. Maliki's divided loyalties to his American allies and to an Iraqi public that has grown weary of the American presence.
The killings on Sunday in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Jihad began in late morning, near the site of a car bomb explosion in front of a Shiite mosque on Saturday, residents and officials said. Initial reports said the bombing had killed three people, but the American military said Sunday that at least 12 people, including 3 children, had died in the blast, and at least 18 had been wounded.
According to some residents and Sunni Arab officials interviewed by telephone, the gunmen, whom they accused of being members of a feared Shiite militia, the Mahdi Army, set up checkpoints around the neighborhood, indiscriminately pulled scores of Sunni Arabs from their homes and cars and killed them on the street. Other bodies were found with their hands bound behind their backs and gunshots in their heads, residents said.

But as often happens in Iraq, accounts of the violence varied widely. Residents and some Iraqi officials said in interviews that more than 35 people had been killed in the attacks. The Associated Press quoted Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razzaq of the Iraqi police as saying that 41 bodies had been taken to hospitals. And an official at Yarmouk Hospital, the main medical center in western Baghdad, said in a telephone interview that at least 23 bodies had been delivered from Jihad, and 10 people had arrived wounded from the shootings.

The above is from Kirk Semple's "Baghdad Erupts in Mob Violence" in this morning's New York Times. For the Times, this is a strong article. There are other sections we could pull from for excerpts. Within their framework, their universe, it's really quite good. Outside the "balance" (which tips in favor of 'officials' always and in favor of US 'officials' above all else), there are obvious problems. For instance, a paper more concerned with events than officials wouldn't make so little of the fact that Abeer Qassim Hamza's passport shows that she was fourteen-years-old. A paper more concerned with events would, for instance, when writing the above excerpt note something to the effect of: "US officials say that the deaths were fewer in number than what they've been reported. US officials also stated that Abeer Qassim Hamza was at least twenty-years-old; however, a passport has been discovered establishing the girl's age at fourteen."

Abeer Qassim Hamza was allegedly raped by US forces. She and three members of her family were murdered (there's no 'alleged' about that fact -- who murdered them may be alleged, but they were murdered). And to repeat, Semple notes a passport for the young girl was found and it shows her to have been fourteen-years-old.

As for the number of the dead, Semple's clear that he can't verify any numbers. Personally? AFP, Reuters and AP reported higher figures than the US 'officials.' With stringers and a few reporters not confined to the Green Zone, their figures are probably more reliable and, again, US 'officials' have a history of downplaying events (of which Abeer Qassim Hamza's age is only the most obvious and recent example). Martha notes Joshua Partlow and Saad al-Izzi's "Scores Of Sunnis Killed in Baghdad: Neighborhood Residents Describe Signs of Torture" (Washington Post):

Shiite Muslim militiamen rampaged through a Sunni Arab neighborhood in Baghdad early Sunday morning, killing more than 50 people and discarding bodies in the streets, according to Iraqi officials and witnesses. Hours later, attackers struck back, detonating two car bombs near a Shiite mosque.
Sunni politicians described the violence against the Sunni residents of the al-Jihad neighborhood in western Baghdad as one of the deadliest waves of murder since the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

The killings occurred on a day when the U.S. military announced charges against four soldiers in the alleged rape and murder of a girl and the killing of three members of her family in the southern Iraqi town of Mahmudiyah. [Details, A14.]

Remember to listen, watch or read (transcripts) of Democracy Now! today -- Rod passes on a scheduled topic:

Award-winning journalist Robert Scheer on his new book, "Playing President: My Close Encounters with Nixon, Carter, Bush I, Reagan, and Clinton - and How They Did Not Prepare Me for George W. Bush"

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