Monday, May 05, 2008

Anna Badkhen returns to Iraq

In this morning's New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin's "4 Marines Are Killed by a Roadside Bombing in Iraq" (A10) which includes the news about the assassination attempt on Hiro Ibrahim Ahmed, Iraq's First Lady, and the deaths of the 4 US service members. On the latter, we'll note:

The death of the marines in Anbar, in an attack on Friday that the military reported Sunday was one of the deadliest in months on American troops in the province. For much of the past 18 months, Anbar, once one of the most violent places in Iraq has been mostly quiet. But recently there have been several suicide bombings and other attacks, primarily aimed at Iraqis who havejoined the Awakening movement, groups of former fighters and tribal members who decided to work with the American military to fight Islamic extremists.

Of course the "Awakening" Council is (a) not a movement, (b) motivated by their lust for currency and (c) targeted by those not fond of turncoats including yesterday in Diyala Province where a bombing killed one member (another was wounded).

Anna Badkhen will be filing from Iraq for Salon. This is from her piece which went up today, "Back to Baghdad:"

This is my 10th reporting trip to Iraq since the war began, and my fifth trip as an embedded reporter. My last trip was in 2006. When I land in Baghdad, I think I am familiar with the travel routine: I will catch a Black Hawk ride from Baghdad International Airport, where I arrived, to the Green Zone, where I will get my accreditation and continue to the 4th Infantry Division, the unit with which I will be embedded for the next 18 days. As I wait on the landing strip for my ride, I notice that since I was here last most helicopter crews have given their Black Hawks names and written them in large black letters on the helicopters' hulls. There's the Dark Angel, all covered in dust. There's the Hillbilly Deluxe. I get to ride on the Nomad, with two Iraqi employees of the U.S. Embassy.
The crew leaves the doors of the helicopter open, and the stench of decomposing garbage pours into the cabin as we fly low over Baghdad. I see kids playing soccer on a grassless field, swimming pools empty of water and entire courtyards and rooftops of abandoned houses covered in trash. Behind the green curve of the Tigris I see the landing strip where I'm supposed to disembark, LZ Washington.
The helicopter lands, but the rotors are still going and it's too loud to talk. I show the helicopter gunner three fingers, like a "W," for "LZ Washington," to ask if this is my stop. He nods. The two Iraqis get out first. I am about to get off, too, but all of a sudden the gunner is yelling at the Iraqis to run and waves violently at me, throws my bags back into the cabin and jumps in, and we take off again, rising sharply and turning. I see a plume of black smoke rising in the air several blocks away. Mortar.
"Lately we've been hit at least once a day, at different times," explains one American soldier when my Black Hawk finally lands and I'm allowed to step out. A siren goes off soon after I arrive, and a male voice, pumped through invisible speakers, announces: "All clear. All clear." The soldier smiles. "Sometimes you hear a siren and then you hear: Boom! It's not a siren, it's a rocket."
American troops blame Shiite militias for lobbing mortars and rockets into the Green Zone, a heavily protected enclave that houses the Iraqi Parliament, much of the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy. The shelling has intensified in recent weeks, and in the past month the attacks have killed more than a dozen people, including at least three Americans.

Badkhen previously covered Iraq for the San Francisco Chronicle. She left the paper in 2007. At the paper's website, Andrew S. Ross noted:

Anna Badkhen's reporting, in her five plus years at The Chronicle, stamped her as one of the finest foreign and national correspondents in the profession. The response from readers, colleagues and the numerous awards she received are testament to that.
Whether in Iraq, the Middle East, Kashmir or Chechnya -- or nearer home, in Katrina-traumatized New Orleans -- Anna's goal was always to bring out the human dimension of conflict. This she did consistently, often heartbreakingly, and in many cases, under fire -- a price she paid for physically.
Anna goes on to assuredly greater triumphs at the Boston Globe. She goes with the fondest of wishes from all who knew her here.

The San Francisco Chronicle blog she wrote can be found here. Speaking of blogs, at the Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond, Asso Ahmed has a photo essay of Kurds in nothern Iraq living in tents following the latest air assault by the Turkish military.

Meanwhile Leila Fadel and Shashank Bengali (McClatchy Newspapers) offer "Iraq backs off allegations that Iran is behind violence:"

The Iraqi Government seemed to distance itself from U.S. accusations towards Iran Sunday saying it would not be forced into conflict with its Shiite neighbor. And Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki ordered the formation of a committee to look into foreign intervention in Iraq.
As the government appeared to back down from its hardening stance against Iran, four marines were killed in Anbar in the deadliest attack in the Sunni province in months.
The government spokesman, Ali al Dabbagh, told reporters Sunday that a committee was formed to find "tangible information" about foreign intervention, specifically Iran's role in Iraq rather than "information based on speculation."
"We don't want to be pushed into any conflict with any neighboring countries, especially Iran. What happened before is enough. We paid a lot," Dabbagh said, referring to the eight years war between the two nations in which an estimated 1 million people died.
While the Iraqi government has long said they would not be used for a proxy war between the U.S. and Iran at odds over Iran's nuclear aspirations, the statement came as the Iraqi government had taken tough stances towards Iran in the past week. This included sending a delegation last week to Iran to urge them to stop the flow of weapons and to refrain from funding Shiite militias battling Iraqi Security Forces.

Pair the above with Walter Pincus' "In Southern Iraq, an Upgrade for U.S. Facilities" (Washington Post):

The United States is moving south in Iraq, planning to upgrade facilities at Camp Delta and the Al Kut Air Base, which is about 140 miles southeast of Baghdad and just 35 miles from the Iranian border.
The base, which is about 37 square miles, is to be elevated from a contingency operating base to a strategic overwatch base, according to Navy Lt. David Russell, a press officer for Multi-National Forces-Iraq.
There has been no public announcement. But two weeks ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers posted modifications to an earlier notice that disclosed it is seeking construction companies or joint ventures interested in bidding to design and build two "life support areas" at Camp Delta -- one to house 2,000 troops and the other 4,000.
In a second notice, the Corps is seeking construction firms to build a large dining facility, gymnasium and post exchange -- with room for four food-court vendors -- at Camp Delta.

Randall notes "MUST READ: Salem Statesman Journal Endorses Hillary Clinton" (

Today the Salem Statesman Journal endorsed Hillary Clinton, saying she has a record of producing real results and will be the best candidate to represent Oregon in the White House.

Excerpts follow below:

"But Hillary Clinton does get things done.

"After leaving the White House, she handily won election in New York, where she proved that she's not simply an urban lawmaker. Rural New Yorkers speak highly of Clinton, praising her for paying attention to their parts of the state.

"In the Senate, she has achieved influence much greater than one would expect for her seven years on Capitol Hill.

"Clinton "gets" the concerns of the middle class that dominates the Mid-Willamette Valley.

She was the first candidate to offer Oregon a "compact" of campaign promises on state-specific issues such as restoring county timber payments and giving the state say about siting of liquefied-natural-gas terminals."

Click here to read the full endorsement.

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