Wednesday, November 14, 2007

NYT: Turkey & northern Iraq and Blackwater

Turkish military aircraft attacked a handful of abandoned villages in northern Iraq on Tuesday, Iraqi officials said, in the first confirmed cross-border assault since tensions between Turkey and Kurdish rebels began intensifying last month.
Turkish officials also said Kurdish militants in southeast Turkey had killed four Turkish soldiers and wounded nine in clashes.
It was unclear whether the confrontations were connected, but they appeared to signal a revival of the fighting between Turkish troops and the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or P.K.K., a nationalist group of militants in Turkey and Iraq. The attacks represented the most significant military action between the groups since a round of diplomacy among American, Iraqi and Turkish officials this month, but there were no immediate reprisals.

The above is from Damien Cave's "Turkish Aircraft Attack Abandoned Iraqi Villages" in this morning's New York Times and the paragraph after the excerpt above falters badly in the final sentence (forget planes or helicopters, is it really unclear what the strategical point of going after empty villages was?) he will go on to report the obvious (but unspeakable more often than not), no political progress in Iraq's puppet government (on non-Turkey related issues).

Staying with the Times and with the northern region of Iraq, Michael Kramer's "Kurds and Arabs Shelter Side by Side in Distrust and Misery" provides a brief sketch of the internally displaced (I thought the Iraqi puppet government and the US military said they no longer existed!):

On a barren, trash-strewn plain on the outskirts of this city, two groups -- one poor and Kurdish, the other displaced and Arab -- huddle side by side in distrust and suspicion.
They are united only in their misery, their fear of the coming winter and their envy of those thriving nearby in Sulaimaniya, the largest city in the Iraqi region of eastern Kurdistan.

But weren't they all returning? The internal and external. It was 'safe' and the way that was spun, they were all grinning and rapping, in an update to LL Cool J, "I'm going back to Baghdad to Baghdad to Baghdad, I'm going back to Baghdad . . . I don't think so."

Meanwhile AP reports:

Iraqi troops seized the west Baghdad headquarters of a powerful Sunni Muslim group Wednesday, cordoning off the building and ordering employees out, the group said.
Iraqi security forces dispatched by the Sunni Endowment, a government agency that cares for Sunni mosques and shrines, surrounded the mosque complex where the group is based at 9 a.m. and demanded that the building be evacuated before noon, the Association of Muslim Scholars said in a statement posted on its Web site.

For those who remember when northern Iraq shut down offices a few weeks back that they said were PKK or PKK related (depending upon the news outlet), they were told that everything would be fine -- don't take the computers, etc., nothing in the offices would be seized or touched -- the Sunni Endowment was told to take everything -- even furniture -- because anything remaining in the headquarters "would be destroyed".

On the subject of Blackwater, David Johnston and John M. Broder's "F.B.I. Says Guards Killed 14 Iraqis Without Cause" (New York Times) reports the latest on FBI's investigation into the mercenaries September 16th slaughter of civilians in Baghdad:

Federal agents investigating the Sept. 16 episode in which Blackwater security personnel shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians have found that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and violated deadly-force rules in effect for security contractors in Iraq, according to civilian and military officials briefed on the case.
[. . .]
Investigators have concluded that as many as five of the company's guards opened fire during the shootings, at least some with automatic weapons. Investigators have focused on one guard, identified as "turret gunner No. 3," who fired a large number of rounds and was responsible for several fatalities.
Investigators found no evidence to support assertions by Blackwater employees that they were fired upon by Iraqi civilians. That finding sharply contradicts initial assertions by Blackwater officials, who said that company employees fired in self-defense and that three company vehicles were damaged by gunfire.

It's interesting, by the way, how the reporters, covering the early findings in an ongoing investigation, findings that state Iraqi civilians were slaughtered, take the time to show a bit of concern for . . . Michael Mukasey. This might be 'difficult' for him. Poor fellow. A new job. The Senate confirmed him. And gosh darn it all, Iraqi civilians had to go and get themselves killed and now he might have some work to do -- in the post he wanted. Oh, the humanity! Oh, the humanity!

But hardly surprising. This is the same news source that regularly reported for Blackwater. The same news source that undercounted the Iraqis killed (even when other domestic, mainstream news outlets were reporting higher figures) and offered the breathless exclusive of how a US embassy report had found Blackwater to be innocent . . . while leaving out the fact that Blackwater wrote that report.

No, Mukasey is not the one 'suffering' but apparently it's too much to expect the paper to attempt to gather reactions to the early findings from the families of those slaughtered September 16th.

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