Monday, October 22, 2007

Civilians slaughtered in Sadr City, tensions continue in the north

U.S. forces engaged in an hours-long gun battle with militants during an early-morning raid in the Iraqi capital's Shiite Muslim district of Sadr City on Sunday. American officials said as many as 49 people were killed in the fighting.
The Iraqi government said many of the victims were civilians and protested the action. The American military said that all of those killed were "criminals."
A freelance correspondent for The Times said he saw the corpses of a woman and two small children. The wounded included two boys, 8 and 11, who were interviewed in their beds at Imam Ali Hospital by The Times. Another man said his 18-month-old son was killed, as well as a neighbor's son who was the same age.

The above is from Christian Berthelsen's "Iraq says civilians killed in U.S. raid" (Los Angeles Times) and, as noted yesterday, Reuters reported one of their correspondents seeing the corpses of "two toddlers." And these deaths are surprising how? When you turn a heavily populated section of a city into a kill-zone (against the Geneva Conventions), you can lie and you can spin and claim everyone killed was an 'insurgent' or whatever, but the reality is innocent people died and their deaths are no surprise. This would be as if England occupied the United States and decided to drop bombs and shoot guns in Toledo and then attempted to claim, "Well we thought it was all bad guys."

Martha notes Ann Scott Tyson's "U.S. Planners See Shiite Militias as Rising Threat" (Washington Post):

Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker have concluded that Shiite extremists pose a rising threat to the U.S. effort in Iraq, as the relative influence of Sunni insurgent groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq has diminished drastically because of ongoing U.S. operations.
This judgment forms part of the changes that Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, approved last week to their classified campaign strategy for the country, which covers the period through summer 2009. The updated plan anticipates shifting the U.S. military effort to focus more on countering Shiite militias -- some backed by Iran -- that have generated new violence as they battle for power in the south and elsewhere in Iraq, said senior military and diplomatic officials familiar with the plan.

So the latest spin from Petraeus and Crocker serves multiple purposes. It comes in time to cover up the slaughter of civilians and it also lays the ground work for their next status report where they will argue, "The war is winnable! We've figured it out! We armed the wrong people! We supported the wrong people! We put the wrong people in government!" And then, after Sunni militias are armed and trained and doing their pay-back killing spree, maybe the liars can argue for another five years of illegal war claiming, "Okay! We got it now! We really got it!" The reality is that Sunnis have fled Iraq (and Shi'ites are now fleeing in large numbers because following the purges of Sunnis there was little else for the US armed thugs to go after) due to be targeting, due to the mass killings, and the US has turned a blind eye on the whole thing because things like setting up a puppet government to privatize the oil were far more important than anything else. (Equally true, creating the divisions that have led to the civil wars allowed the US to conduct their tag sale on all of Iraq's state-owned resources except the oil industry.)

People are dead, innocent civilians, and in their next status report to Congress, Petraeus and Crocker should really be pressed on this issue. It's nearly five years later and the 'new' 'plan' is to flip sides. Suddenly the Shi'ite militias are thugs and not to be trusted. After training, arming and placing them in key government positions, the US wants to say, "Woopsie! Can I get a do-over?"

And at some point, the two 'geniuses' may begin to turn their attention/excuses to northern Iraq where the PKK has been supported (despite the US and many other countries designating them as terrorist organizations) with the support going high up the chain of the US installed Kurdish government. CNN reports:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on the U.S. to take "speedy steps" towards cracking down on Kurdish separatists accused of launching attacks across the Turkish border from northern Iraq.
Erdogan said he had spoken to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice late on Sunday following a deadly ambush by Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighters that killed at least 17 Turkish soldiers in southern Turkey, according to a report in The Associated Press.
He said Rice had expressed sympathy over the attack and asked "for a few days." Last week Turkey's parliament voted overwhelmingly to authorize a possible military incursion against PKK bases inside Iraqi territory.

In the New York Times, Sabrina Tavernise reports:

A brazen ambush by Kurdish militants that left at least 12 Turkish soldiers dead touched off a major escalation in Turkey-Iraq tensions on Sunday, bringing fears that Turkey would retaliate immediately by sending troops across the border into Iraq. But Turkey's prime minister said he delayed a decision, after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice personally intervened.

Gareth highlights Michael Howard and Fred Attewill (Guardian of London) report which explains that Iraqi president Jalal Talabaini (Kurd) knows where the PKK is in northern Iraq -- how else could he boast that they've "appealed to the PKK to desist fighting" -- and that Talabani declares, "We will not hand any Kurdish man to Turkey, even a Kurdish cat." To be really clear, the thugs the US installed in that region are no more 'peaceful' than any others but they do their slaughters on the down-low. They attack sects and women and attempt to purge/'cleanse' their region but they are repeatedly hailed as the 'model' area. Human rights organizations and religious organizations have repeatedly documented the wide spread, ongoing slaughter but they have been repeatedly ignored by the mainstream press (and not just in the US). The PKK's goal is not all that different from Talabani's and that of other regional government in the northern area, to break off and create their own Kurdish states.

Annette notes Bob Kerr's "Dahlia Wasfi puts a face on the people" (Rhode Island's The Providence Journal):

As she was crossing from Iraq into Jordan in 2004, Dahlia Wasfi had one of those conflicting moments that often befall people who want to keep their anger over the war on high heat.
Behind her was a three-week visit with family during which she had seen the fear, deprivation and destruction the American occupation has created. She was heading back home to Denver with a full and infuriating load of painful images.
But there, at the border, she met a young American soldier. He was a kid from New Jersey, and he was incredibly polite and helpful. They talked about hometowns. He put a human face and human sensibility on a situation that she wanted to keep in its own dark place.
That meeting at the border has become part of what she takes on the road now. The small details of her travels back and forth to Iraq make up what has become one of the more prominent attempts to tell people here about life over there.
Wasfi was born in 1971 of a Jewish mother and Iraqi father who met during their college days in New York. She is a doctor, but she has put her medical career on hold to take the story of life in Iraq under U.S. occupation to as many places as she can. She brings it to the List Art Center at Brown University on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
"I wanted to put a face on the Iraqi people," she said during an interview from her home in Denver.
She tells a story too seldom told in the early days of the war and one that is still not given the attention it should have. It is the story of how once daily routine in Iraq has been turned into a hellish test of survival. It is the story of what we have done to people who never asked us to come on over and save them.

Annette also comments that Dahlia Wasfi is among the many voices excluded by Mother Jones "but they might have had to kick some military brass off their xenophobic panel to include an authentic voice."

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