Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday's attack on Iraqi churches continue today

Meanwhile, six bombs exploded outside churches around Baghdad, killing four and sowing fears among the country's dwindling Christian minority that they may be subject to a fresh round of persecution now that U.S. forces have withdrawn from Iraq's cities.
The deaths occurred when a car bomb detonated outside Virgin Mary Church on Palestine Street in east Baghdad as worshipers were leaving evening Mass. Sixteen others were wounded in the attack.
"This is going to make the Christians scared," said Bishop Shlemon Warduni, who was in his office at the back of the church when the bomb went off. "They will be scared to come to services, and maybe more will leave the country."

The above is from Liz Sly's "Churches in Iraq targeted in bombings; 4 killed" (Los Angeles Times) on yesterday's bombing which saw Iraq's increasingly small Christian population targeted. From summer to fall of 2008, Iraqi Christians in and around Mosul were targeted. Yesterday's attack on Iraqi Christians in Baghdad was the most visible attack on Iraqi Christians in months; however, it is a slow and steady trickle of weekly and daily attacks that have gone on since the start of the illegal war. Steven Lee Myers' "Churches and Envoy Attacked in Iraq" (New York Times) adds:

In the worst attack, a car bomb exploded just before dusk outside the Church of Mariam Al-Adra, or the Church of the Virgin Mary, part of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Iraq, in central Baghdad. The blast, which reverberated across the city, damaged the church and scorched cars near a park on Palestine Street. The blast killed and wounded Christians and Muslims.
"The terrorists don't distinguish if they were Muslims or Christians," said Khodor Mohammed, 71, who was wounded in the back, crying as he spoke. "They are killing Iraqis. The blood of Christians and Muslims was mixed today."

And the 'response'? There's only one response ever, the same response Nouri's done over since being installed by the US in 2006: crackdown. Aseel Kami, Tim Cocks and Richard Balmforth (Reuters) explain Mosul is now under curfew while, at present, nothing different is taking place in Baghdad. The Arab Times presents the continued talking point offered by both the US government and its puppet government in Iraq:

The Iraqi military on Sunday predicted that insurgent attacks, though declining, could continue for a few years, raising the prospect of militant violence after the scheduled withdrawal of all US troops by the end of 2011. The comments by Gen Babaker B. Shawkat Zebari, the army chief of staff, came several hours after gunmen fatally shot a government financial officer in northern Iraq and one day after bombs in Baghdad and a village near Mosul killed 10 people. Violence is sharply down in the war that began with the US-led invasion in 2003, but militants still carry out lethal attacks on a regular basis. The US military completed a withdrawal of combat forces from Iraqi cities to outlying bases last month as part of a plan to let Iraq take the lead on ensuring its own security. Zebari said insurgents once held sway in cities and provinces, but had been whittled down to a few highly dangerous cells that he expected would continue attacks for "a year or two or three." He said the Iraqi military would get help from American forces if needed, but would also rely on assistance from its own citizens.

Michael Ware (CNN -- video) reports
on yesterday's violence including the attempted attack on US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill (who wasn't hurt). Ware explained, "Here in Iraq a string of church bombings targeting once more the Christian population of this country, hundreds of thousands of them have been forced to flee this nation. [. . .] It can't be stressed strongly enough that this was going on under the US command on the US watch and it's continuing now. There's been spikes and spasms of violence throughout the history of the US led phase of the war. And it is with some regret that I report that they will continue now under Iraq command of this war."
From the exchange that follows his report:

Naamua Delaney: Michael you also talked about the mass exodus of Christians from Iraq. How many are left at this point?

Michael Ware: Well that's very difficult to say. There's no precise figures on what was originally the Christian population in this country; however, most people seem to agree it was around a million Christians in Iraq. Most people now seem to agree that anything from 600,000 to 800,000 of that million have fled. Indeed we know that just say last October there were reports that in the northern city of Mosul which is one of the last urban strongholds of al Qaeda in Iraq as many as a thousand Christian families left the city and left the country at that time after they faced a threat from Islamic militants to convert or to die.

CNN notes that another church has been bombed today, this one in Mosul (the curfew doesn't appear to have helped, now did it?) with three children (possibly more) left injured.

Last week, the US army released their latest suicide data (for the month of June). Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports this morning, "Army commanders are failing at the day-to-day task of monitoring troubled young soldiers in their barracks back home, which is helping push suicides to record numbers, the head of the Army's suicide task force [Brig Gen Colleen McGuire] says."
In this morning's New York Times, James Dao's "Veterans Affairs Faces Surge of Disability Claims" which tracks Iraq War veteran Damian J. Todd's attempts to get his claims filled by the VA in order to put a human face on the non-stop, never-ending delays by the VA. Dao notes that the VA's unprocessed claims are "now over 400,000, up from 253,000 six years ago, the agency said." Actually, they're a lot higher.

The June 25th snapshot notes that day's House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity hearing on the Post-9-11 GI Bill which requires new payments starting August 1st.
[If you qualify or think you may for the new education benefits, you can refer to the VA's GI Bill website as a resource. For those with limited internet access or who would prefer the human interaction, the toll free number is 1-888-GI-BILL-1 or 1-888-442-4551. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has a webpage that gives you a historical overview and also allows you to locate a VFW service officer who can assist veterans with the application process.] The VA's Director from the Office of Education Service Keith Wilson testified that, due to the number of applications which had come in up to that point, there might be a last minute crunch of applications as people rushed to put their paperwork through in order to qualify for the fall semester.

In addition, Dao notes, "Veterans advocates say the actual backlog is nearing one million, if minor claims, educational programs and appeals of denied claims are factored in." DAO also notes the high number of those suffering from PTSD:

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, has emerged as one of the most prevalent disability claims, after ailments like back pain and knee injuries. Not only are many new veterans receiving a diagnosis of the disorder, but an increasing number of Vietnam veterans are also reporting symptoms for the first time, officials and advocates said.
Delays in getting PTSD claims approved have prompted members of Congress to propose legislation that would reduce the documentation required to prove that a veteran’s disorder was caused by specific combat events. Finding such documentation can be difficult for Vietnam veterans, whose memories of events 40 years ago may have grown hazy. Records from that era are also often difficult to find, advocates said.

PTSD is a serious issue and it is a mental condition and diagnosis, no matter how badly some journalists and their friends might prefer it not be and might prefer to pretend the brain (an organ) is a "bone" that can be mended. (Best comment on that in the four columns in last week's gina & krista round-robin was ". . . and even bones have to be set to heal correctly.")

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Republican Dream" went up last night.

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