Four back-to-back explosions at two markets in central Baghdad killed at least 67 people and wounded 155 on Monday, charring drivers in their cars, shredding stores and setting ablaze a seven-story building full of clothing stores that burned for more than six hours, witnesses and officials said.
The blasts -- three at Shorja market, the capital's largest bazaar, and one at Bab al-Sharji a few blocks away -- struck shortly after Iraq's Shiite-led government marked the first anniversary, by the Islamic calendar, of an attack last year that destroyed a revered Shiite mosque in Samarra.
[. . .]
The explosion, witnesses said, set the building on fire, trapping workers amid mannequins and clothing that burned like kindling and belched out smoke. Firetrucks arrived but were unable to put out the blaze for hours, leading some merchants to question whether the firefighters had enough water.
In the streets, bodies sat in cars, blackened. Young men pushed wooden carts with wounded survivors, their heads and bodies bandaged.
The above is from Damien Cave's "Two Markets Bombed in Central Baghdad, Killing at Least 67 and Wounding 155" in this morning's New York Times. Cave's got a naty case of low balls today, the number's higher in other reports this morning. Same topic, Borzou Daragahi and Said Rifai "Scores killed in blasts at 2 Baghdad marketplaces: Nearly 90 die and 185 are hurt amid the stalls run and frequented mostly by Shiites" (Los Angeles Times):
Ordinary life became engulfed in fire, twisted metal, collapsed buildings, shattered glass, black smoke and blood. At least 78 Iraqis were killed in the attack and 166 injured. They were among the victims of sectarian violence that left more than 100 dead Monday in the capital alone.
"Every day we pray before going to work because Shorja has become a repeated target," said Ahmed, the pottery store owner, recovering from injuries to his back and head at the capital's Medical City Hospital. "But what can we do? We have to work to put food on the table for our families."
Iraqi officials said the blasts were caused by two car bombs and one improvised explosive hidden inside a basement. Minutes earlier, an explosion caused by a suicide bomber wearing an explosives-packed belt ripped through a crowd at the nearby Bab al Sharji marketplace, killing at least nine people and injuring 19. The attacks coincided with the Islamic lunar calendar anniversary of last year's bombing of a Shiite Muslim shrine complex in Samarra that intensified the country's slide into sectarian civil war.
Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) also runs with 76 dead but notes the wounded as 180. CNN still stands with 90.
Two political things.
Molly notes Ken Silverstein's "Kerry Was Right: bad students are getting stuck in Iraq" (Harper's magazine):
When Senator John Kerry said last fall that students who didn't do well in school were more likely to "get stuck in Iraq," he was immediately attacked for insulting the intelligence of U.S. troops. Kerry later insisted that he was actually trying to make a joke not about the troops, but about President Bush. Looking back, however, he had no reason to hedge. His comment as it was first reported was entirely accurate--not because American soldiers in Iraq are dumb, but because the Pentagon, in seeking to overcome serious recruiting shortfalls, has enlisted growing numbers of high school dropouts.
I recently spoke about this with my friend Eli Flyer, a longtime Pentagon consultant on military recruiting, who painted a grim picture of the Army's current recruiting strategy. In 2005, Flyer noted, the Army fell far short of its goal of attracting 80,000 enlistees. It managed to meet that same target last year by deploying about 1,400 new recruiters, by offering larger enlistment bonuses and other incentives, and by systematically lowering educational standards for new recruits. For example, the portion of non–high school graduates in last year's enlistee pool was 27.5 percent, up from 17 percent in 2005. In the 1990s, non-grads (most of whom do have a G.E.D.) made up only about 5 percent of new Army recruits.
There has also been an increase in the number of recruits coming in with "moral waivers" for a criminal history (a story covered last year by the Los Angeles Times). Last year, one in ten recruits had a prior misdemeanor or felony conviction. That adds up to 7,500 individuals, up from 4,000 in 2004. Meanwhile, a Hartford Courant series last year found that the military is enlisting (as well as redeploying) a growing number of mentally-troubled soldiers.
Recruits with a criminal history and non-high school grads are far more likely to perform poorly, commit acts of misconduct, and fail to complete their scheduled tours of duty. Judging from past results, about half of the non-grads will not complete their first four years of active duty, versus an expected "attrition" rate of about one third for high school graduates. The Army is aware of these statistics, Flyer explains, but--having found no other way to meet its recruiting goals--it has looked the other way.
By the way, John R. MacArtuher is a guest on Democracy Now! today (KPFA doesn't get to hear him).
A number of e-mails noted Democracy Now!'s clip and a few ask about the online, latter day Dylan. Maybe he should be e-mailed the headline if he's claiming to be unable to get a hold of the remarks? Here are the remarks:
Sen. Clinton Refuses to Admit Mistake Over Iraq Vote
In other political news, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Hillary Clinton is continuing to refuse to acknowledge she made a mistake in voting for the Iraq war. On Saturday, during a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, a local resident named Roger Tilton questioned her.
Roger Tilton: I want to know if right here, right now, once and for all and without nuance, you can say that war authorization was a mistake. I, and I think a lot of other primary voters -- until we hear you say it, we're not going to hear all the other great things you are saying.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: Well I have said, and I will repeat it, that knowing what I know now, I never would have voted for it. But I also (applause), I mean obviously you have to weigh everything as you make your decision. I have taken responsibility for my vote. The mistakes were made by this president who misled this country and this congress into a war that should not have been waged.
My opinion -- Bully Boy can't admit his mistakes and we hold him accountable, Clinton needs to admit her mistake if she believes it was one. If she doesn't or can't, she'll have to live with people concluding that she doesn't think this was a mistake.
Secondly, a visitor writes to ask if "now" I'll put the photos out? I'm assuming he's referring to what Jim's noted online at least twice, that he'd like to use some photos of Hillary Clinton for The Third Estate Sunday Review. I've said no and may continue to. But my "no" is based on the fact that they are my personal photos. There's nothing shocking about them. We may use some of them, we may not. But my objection has never been on the photos contents (I think she looks wonderful in all of them, especially from 1992 but there's a more recent one that Jim really wants to use). My objection has been that these are from my personal collection and I'm not sure I want to share them online (one did run in the gina & krista round-robin I don't care about that, that's the same as showing photos or slides to friends). But there's nothing shocking about the photos, nothing bad about them, I don't think she even has a hair out of place in any of them over the years (an accomplishment I couldn't match). I'll probably stand by that unless she comes out strongly against the war (along the lines of Russ Feingold). If that happens, one photo may go up because Jim thinks it's the best photo of her and keeps asking, "Can we use it?" (I agree it's a good photo.) (That said, a photo of someone else will probably pop up sometime in the next few weeks in one of Ava and my TV reviews.)
Returning to the issue of the previous post, from Jonathan S. Landay's "Joint Chiefs chairman sees no evidence of meddling by Iran's regime" (McClatchy Newspapers):
A day after the U.S. military charged Iran's government with shipping powerful explosive devices to Shiite Muslim fighters in Iraq to use against American troops, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Monday that he hasn't seen any intelligence to support the claim.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace's comment could make it harder for the Bush administration, its credibility about Iran questioned because of its false pre-war claims about Saddam Hussein, to make its case that Iranian meddling in Iraq is fueling sectarian violence and causing U.S. casualties.
At a briefing Sunday in Baghdad, U.S. military officials said the al-Quds Force, an elite Iranian paramilitary organization, is sending arms into Iraq that include bombs that shoot molten metal jets through the armor of American tanks and Humvees.
They said these "explosively formed projectiles," or EFPs, have killed 170 U.S. troops and wounded more than 600 others and are "coming from the highest level of the Iranian government."
Asked about the briefing during a visit Monday to Canberra, Australia, Pace said he couldn't substantiate the assertion that the clerical regime in Tehran is shipping such devices to Shiite militias in Iraq.
"We know that the explosively formed projectiles are manufactured in Iran. What I would not say is that the Iranian government per se knows about this," Pace replied. "It is clear that Iranians are involved and it is clear that materials from Iran are involved. But I would not say based on what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit."
Neither the White House nor the Pentagon responded to requests for an explanation of the apparent contradiction between the nation's highest-ranking military officer and his subordinates in Baghdad.
And today, the US military announced: "A soldier assigned to Multi-National Force-West was killed Sunday while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province.
Finally, on the topic of Ehren Watada, Patrik notes Ann Wright's "Watada Follows Military Rules on Dissent" (Truthout):
Courage is not only shown on the battlefield by military personnel. It takes guts and courage for a soldier to refuse to deploy to Iraq with one's unit because he believes the war is illegal. Very few in our country resign from their careers, much less risk imprisonment, on a point of principle and conscience.
First Lt. Ehren Watada is the latest in a series of war resisters. He went in front of a military court-martial for his belief that the war in Iraq is a war of aggression based on untruths told to the American public and Congress. As a war of aggression, Watada has characterized the war as a crime against peace, and hence, according to international law, a war crime. Going to Iraq would make him complicit in a war crime. Two other US Army soldiers will be court-martialed within the next month for their opposition to the Iraq War, making seventeen who have faced jail rather than compromise their conscience.
I attended Lieutenant Watada's general court-martial February 5, 6 and 7, 2007, at Fort Lewis, Washington. The military law judge, Lt. Col. John Head, declared a mistrial on the third day of the trial before the defense had presented its case. While Watada stipulated the fact that he missed his unit's deployment to Iraq, he pled not guilty to the charge, as he maintained he did not have criminal intent in refusing to deploy, but instead his refusal was to prevent his complicity in a war crime. As to the stipulation of fact that he had spoken in a public forum in June and August, he would argue that his statements about the illegality of the war were based on facts provided by international law experts, Congressional testimony and comments by retired general officers.
The defense was to consist of only two witnesses, one of whom was to be Watada himself. Eight witnesses, including leading international war experts and analysts, had been struck from the defense witness list by the judge in a January 2007 pre-trial hearing. The judge ruled that evidence concerning the legality of the war on Iraq was off-limits during the trial. As one can imagine, the courtroom dance of not mentioning the "ultimate question," of whether a soldier can question the legality of a war, proved to be an incredible obstacle to justice in the case of a military officer facing prison time for his beliefs.
The US Army prosecution called only three witnesses to meet its burden of providing evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Lieutenant Watada had failed to deploy to Iraq and had committed conduct "unbecoming an officer" for public statements about the war on Iraq he made in June and August 2006.
Ironically, in my opinion, the testimony of the prosecution witnesses underscored Lieutenant Watada's professionalism, dedication to duty and respect for the chain of command as he attempted to resolve his ethical and moral concerns about the war. In effect, prosecution witnesses undercut the prosecution's own case against Watada before the jury panel of seven US Army officers.
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