Tuesday, October 17, 2006

NYT: "Iraqis Ask Why U.S. Forces Didn't Intervene in Balad" (Michael Luo)

In the aftermath of the reprisals, some residents of Balad asked why American troops had not intervened when the killings began in earnest on Saturday. One of the largest American military bases in Iraq, Camp Anaconda, which includes a sprawling air base that serves as the logistical hub of the war, is nearby.
"People are bewildered because of the weak response by the Americans," said one Balad resident who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals. "They used to patrol the city every day, but when the violence started, we didn't see any sign of them."
The situation in Balad, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, appears, in stark form, to show the dilemma for American military commanders at a time when they are hastening the transfer of wide areas of the country to Iraqi forces. They are also insisting that those troops take the lead in quelling violence, leaving American forces to step in only when asked.
It also highlighted yet again the powerlessness of the Iraqi forces to stand in the way of such sectarian violence.

The above is from Michael Luo's "Iraqis Ask Why U.S. Forces Didn't Intervene in Balad" in this morning's New York Times. Violence in Balad claimed an estimated 91 lives from Friday to Monday alone and, by Monday, people were fleeing. The city and violence is also the topic of Martha's highlight, from Ellen Knickmeyer and Muhanned Saif Aldin's "Families Flee Iraqi River Towns On 4th Day of Sectarian Warfare" (Washington Post):

Families fled in search of safety Monday as open warfare raged for a fourth day between Shiite militias and armed Sunni men in Tigris River towns north of Baghdad. Militias allied with Iraq's Shiite-led government held sway in Balad city, forcing out Sunni families and leaving the bodies of slain Sunni men to rot in the streets, according to police, residents and hospital officials.
The Iraqi government deployed still more reinforcements to try to calm the embattled towns and hold open the main roads, Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Kareem al-Kinani said in the capital. But local police officers accused Shiite-dominated government police forces of working alongside Shiite militias in executing Sunnis and appealed for more help.

The escalating violence in the Tigris River towns in many ways serves as a microcosm of the daily violence roiling Iraq. Sectarian attacks have increased more than tenfold since the start of the year and now claim more than 100 victims a day, according to the Iraqi government.

Vic highlights "Cinematheque Ontario’s Inextinguishable Fire, and the Heart and Mind of Director Peter Davis" (The Torontoist):

Torontoist, recently, has been living in the early 70's. Or at least it feels like it. Having only just read Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 we wonder if the American electorate will be doomed to make the same mistakes forever, and having had the chance to see some of the films from Cinematheque Ontario's frankly timely season, Inextinguishable Fire: The Vietnam War, well, we wonder if America in general is just plain doomed to make the same mistakes forever. It's a series of films, including the likes of the recent Sir No Sir! and the harrowing Winter Soldier, that yes, burn with a vital fire that we can but hope the best documentaries about the Iraq war will.
1974's best documentary Oscar winner, Hearts and Minds, is perhaps the most incendiary of a series of explosive films, and we had a chance to catch up with director Peter Davis on Friday, before yesterday's screening of Hearts and Minds, which was itself followed by a lively discussion.

Torontoist: What spurned you to make a film about Vietnam?
Peter Davis: I was aware that the war had been in living rooms every night for 10 years, and that there were also several good documentaries made about the war, but, there was something very much lacking in all the war coverage. And I felt it was a longer, more inquiring view of the entire relationship between the United States and Vietnam.
I reduced all of this to three questions. Why did we go to Vietnam? What was it that we did there? And what did this do in turn to us? I would never be so arrogant as to claim that it answers those questions, but every sequence in the film addresses one, or more of those questions.

[. . .]
T: I guess that takes us to where we are now; the parallels…
PD: As it happens, I also did go to the Iraq war, I wrote about it for The Nation magazine, and what I saw were many difference, and, unfortunately a few really horrific similarities. Such as that we were lied into war, and the lies for the Iraq war was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, which of course he didn’t. And now the administration is lying again to say that they never claimed that he had weapons of mass destruction; well of course they did, and the footage was all over American television screens.
The other lie of course was the attempt to link Saddam Hussein with Osama Bin Laden, and of course, they've never been linked at all.
That's a similarity that began the war, and the other similarity is that we've never taken the trouble to under stand the actual culture of Iraq, and the rest of the Middle East for that matter. So we're trying to bring a popular Americana to a region that we haven't taken the trouble to even inform ourselves about. It isn't just a language we don't know but a history, a culture, the politics, and of course, most of all, the religion.
All of that was true to a slightly lesser degree in Vietnam. This is worse. The Iraq war is in its way, much worse and has many more ramifications; all a result of our decision to try to force Iraq to become Connecticut.

[. . .]
For readers who missed Saturday's screening of Hearts and Minds, the film will be shown again on Wednesday the 18th at 8:45pm. Scott Camil, one of the major subjects of Winter Soldier, will be talking today following a screening of the film at 3:00pm. All showings at Jackman Hall, AGO, 317 Dundas W.

If you haven't seen Hearts & Minds, it's been remastered on DVD (Criterion Collection) and it's a great documentary. Another thing to check out, Caleb who already had one site, has started another called Youth Democracy to motivate and cover the young people's political involvement.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.