Friday, October 05, 2007

Targeting officials, Blackwater

A police chief, a government official and a tribal leader who allied with American forces were killed in separate attacks across Iraq on Thursday.

That's from Alissa J. Rubin's "Iraqi Allies of U.S. Forces Are Killed in Three Attacks" in this morning's New York Times. In the Los Angeles Times, Tina Susman's "Iraqi mayor, four guards die in blast" offers this:

The mayor of Iskandariya, Abbas Hamza Khafaji, and four of his bodyguards were killed in the blast about 9:30 a.m., Babil provincial police said. The city is 25 miles south of Baghdad.
The attack came a day after three roadside bombs placed near the Polish Embassy in Baghdad exploded as the ambassador's convoy passed, injuring him slightly and killing one of his bodyguards. In August, two provincial governors were killed in separate roadside bombing attacks.
Both the slain governors were members of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the country's leading Shiite religious political group. Khafaji also was loyal to the council, which is involved in a power struggle in the south with a group led by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr.

So that's two who have noted it but it is surprising how little attention it's getting when that's been one of the most notable trends in the last weeks -- the increased targeting of officials.

Turning to the topic of the mercenaries at Blackwater, Martha notes Sudarsan Raghavan, Joshua Partlow and Karen DeYoung's "Blackwater Faulted In Military Reports From Shooting Scene" (Washington Post):

U.S. military reports from the scene of the Sept. 16 shooting incident involving the security firm Blackwater USA indicate that its guards opened fire without provocation and used excessive force against Iraqi civilians, according to a senior U.S. military official.
The reports came to light as an Interior Ministry official and five eyewitnesses described a second deadly shooting minutes after the incident in Nisoor Square. The same Blackwater security guards, after driving about 150 yards away from the square, fired into a crush of cars, killing one person and injuring two, the Iraqi official said.

The U.S. military reports appear to corroborate the Iraqi government's contention that Blackwater was at fault in the shooting incident in Nisoor Square, in which hospital records say at least 14 people were killed and 18 were wounded.

Not the upbeat report we heard last week but that two page summary allegedly coming from State Department employees at the US embassy in Iraq was actually outsourced to Blackwater to pen. On the public relations wars Blackwater and the State Department seem to believe will blot out reality, AP notes:

Public relations giant Burson-Marsteller has vast experience steering companies through tough times. But there's a limit to how much it can help Blackwater USA, a new client that's been battered by negative publicity.
The State Department, which pays Blackwater hundreds of millions of dollars to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq, has stringent rules barring the private security contractor from discussing with the media the details of its work, according to those familiar with the arrangement.

The State Department's 'closeness' with Blackwater remains a closed subject (as anyone who followed the Congressional hearing this week grasped) so it's probably a good thing that the FBI and not the State Department is now over the investigation into Blackwater.

In bigger liar of the day news, Susan notes "Obama says critics 'unfair' on war stance" (Nashua Telegraph):

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said it's either "misinformed or unfair'' to claim he downplayed opposition to the war in Iraq following his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate until he began exploring a run for the White House.
"I think the critics are either misinformed or unfair to say I was silent or I understated my opposition to the war in Iraq,'' Obama told The Telegraph during a telephone interview.
"My initial belief was to work to establish an orderly exit from Iraq and my entire Senate career was consistent with that, unlike some of my opponents who had to significantly reverse their own positions.''

Peddle that elsewhere, Obama. Elaine and I attended a 2004 fundraiser for Obama's Senate run. We both went in thinking we'd donate, thrilled to be able to support a Senate run of someone against the illegal war. To our stunned faces, Obama explained that he wasn't for withdrawal. He was against the illegal war, sure, but now that it had started, we couldn't withdraw. He made that statement to our faces, we both remember it, we immediately left the fundraiser, we did not donate and he made similar statements publicly in 2004 and they were reported in real time. The GOP has only mildly noted one time of that but they do have other examples at the ready should he win the nomination. If you think John Kerry was made to look like a flip-flopper, what they'll do to Obama will be even more intense. Reality may be uncomfortable for him but his continuing to obscure the truth is harmful to the Democratic Party and harmful to his own campaign. He needs to get honest because if he ends up the Democratic nominee (or v.p. nominee), the GOP will make sure the entire country knows about Obama's evolving (regressive) stance and it will be too late to explain to Americans who have seen him get up on stage repeatedly this year crowing, "I was against the war before it started!"

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