Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Questions regarding yesterday's bombings

Four large bombs exploded near education facilities, judicial complexes and other targets in Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 127 people and triggering recriminations against the Iraqi government and its security forces. Nearly 500 people were wounded, according to Iraqi police officials.

That's from Ernesto Londono's "Baghdad bombings kill at least 127" (Washington Post) on "Bloody Tuesday." (In Iraq, every day bleeds.) Warren P. Strobel and Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) quote Mohamed Hussein who was in the court house during one of the bombings, "My colleagues and I were fine, but as I ran out of the room and outside the building I saw the female employees and other men injured and running, not knowing where to run. We carried our general director and other employees to the hospital." The Daily Mirror offers a photo of two injured little girls, sisters, who were wounded in yesterday's bombings.

Yesterday, Robert Knight ( KPFA's Flashpoints Radio) noted "the US-installed regime was quick to blame al-Qaeda" and that "Obama's Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insisted that today's bombings mean the country is 'going in the right directions' and asserted that it was the attackers who he believed were threatened, rather than the Iraqi public." CBS News' Charlie D'Agata reported on the bombings (link is video):

Charlie D'Agata: Suicide bombers used cars as weapons, unleashing one blast after another across Baghdad. This woman screams for her daughters, victims of at least one of four explosions. Three of the bombs blew up within minutes of each other

Eyewitness Ahmed Jabbar [through translator]: He says children and women are buried under the rubble. Why did Iraqi troops let this car bomb pass?

Yesterday, Glenn Reeder (The Pacifica Evening News -- heard on KPFA, KPFK and other California outlets and streamed online) observed that "authorities also faced angry questions about how bombers found holes in Iraqi security again." This is echoed by Michael Jansen (Irish Times) who observes, "However, many Iraqis ask why, after more than five years of US training, the country's post-war police and security forces are unable to halt the bombings, particularly at high profile government institutions." (Mike noted that last night and passed it on to me, thank you Mike.) Meanwhile, Alsumaria reports that the Minister of the Interiror, Jawad al-Boulani, is saying he will appear before Parliament "to clarify security conjunctures around Iraq." Oliver August (Times of London) adds:

The Prime Minister and several senior ministers are expected to appear in Parliament today to justify the current safety precautions and give details of the attacks that killed at least 127 and injured more than 500.
Abbas al-Bayati, the head of Parliament's Defense Committee, said Iraq must have an emergency plan to deal with violence ahead of the elections. "The Iraqi people need convincing answers from the security commanders," Mr Bayati told state run television. "If the security falls apart, then everything will collapse."

The NewsHour (PBS) reported on it yesterday (link has text, video and audio options) as Washington Week's Gwen Ifill spoke with the Christian Science Monitor and GlobalPost's Jane Arraf.

JANE ARRAF: And this was kind of more of the same. The attacks were government institutions. And, in fact, two of them, connected to the finance ministry and the justice ministry, were based in buildings that were actually moved after their major ministries were bombed earlier in the year. So, this really is connected, a lot of people think, to undermining the government, undermining faith in the security forces, and, a lot of people believe, geared at influencing the elections.

GWEN IFILL: Well, that's what I was going to ask next, whether it's a coincidence that these attacks should occur just as people were -- as they were announcing this March 7 date for these elections.

JANE ARRAF: Probably not a coincidence, but, certainly, the feeling is that it takes more time than a couple of days to plan these kind of attacks. And the cycle of what we have seen is actually that they have been about two months at a time. Now, these have probably been in the works and probably have been sitting in some car bomb factory somewhere waiting to be detonated and waiting to set out into the city. But that is one of the issues that Iraqi security forces are grappling with.

Arraf offers a hypothesis (and doesn't present it as fact -- that would be Julian E. Barnes appearing on NPR's To The Point yesterday -- don't get me started). It's presented as such. We're drawing a wall between the bombings and the Parliament measure because there's nothing known. Arraf's quoted because she's not saying "This happened because . . ." In fact, she notes that these had to have been planned for some time. (Possibly six or so weeks judging by the pattern for the last three Big Baghdad Bombings?) A few have felt that Crazy Ass Patrick Cockburn had improved in recent weeks and I was watching to see if we could note him? The Eva Braun to Nouri's Hitler has yet again gone extreme nutty. For just a few moments, Patrick's Eva bravely stood up to Nouri. He's fallen to his knees yet again. At the Independent of London today, Crazy Ass Cockburn is telling the world the bombers were Sunni. Really?

Goodness Paddy, Barbara Slavin just 'knew' Friday where Osama bin Laden was. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates explained on ABC's This Week Sunday, the US government doesn't know where he is. Like Slavin, Paddy just 'knows' stuff that he doesn't in fact know. Who's responsible? Who knows. A bombing took place near Allawi's headquarters. But, of course, no one was harmed. He's a Shi'ite. He's a Shi'ite challenging Nouri. He's got CIA connections. I'm surprised in all the 'theories' tossed around, no one's wondered about Allawi. I'm not accusing him but I'm saying it's past time for everyone to stop being SHOCKED . at each of these bombings and start asking who wins? "SHOCKED." is not a punctuation error. The point is the reaction repeatedly is "SHOCKED." It stops with large scale shock, it doesn't go further. It's a loop and it's not led to any developments or progress on the part of any commentators (let alone the Iraqi or US governments).

The consensus appears to be that the 'winning' is in discrediting Nouri -- proving that he's not brought security to the country and harming him in the elections. Well, goodness, if I wanted to harm someone in the elections, I might also want to help someone in the same elections. Goes to reason, doesn't it? So at some point, it might be worth asking: If Nouri's hurt, who is helped by these bombings?

Ayad Allawi would appear to be one of the names on that list. Equally true is that Nouri gets to thump his chest at each bombing and play the "Only I care for Iraq! Only I bleed! Only me!" and he should be on the list as well. Everyone's a suspect if you're going to start playing the 'I know' game. But the reality is no one knows who is responsible (other than the ones actually responsible who, apparently, aren't talking). And the reality is that Patrick Cockburn remains Nouri's girlfriend to the bitter end. Look for them to die together in the bunker. Ned Parker, Raheem Salman and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) report from the real world and not from Nouri's bedroom:

It was not known who was responsible for the bombings. Some believe political blocs in the central government could be sponsoring attacks in an attempt to bring down Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. Others believe that dissidents, including some army and police officers resentful of the political order installed by the United States, are intent on overthrowing the system.

On Tuesday's broadcast of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, Katie addressed the bombings in the following segment.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Katie Couric: Earlier today I spoke with the commander of US forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno. I asked him whether today's attacks, believed to be the work of al Qadea and Saddam loyalists are an indication that violence in that country is on the rise?

Gen Ray Odierno: I think it's an anomaly. I think it's more difficult for them to conduct attacks in Iraq. But, as we saw today, they're still capable of doing it and, as you said, killing a hundred innocent civilians.

Katie Couric: Does it make you rethink the strategy of withdrawing US forces from major cities?

Gen Ray Odierno: Uh, no, it doesn't. That's what they'd like us to do, frankly. I-I think it's important for Iraqi security forces to secure their own people. Combating suicide bombs is a very difficult business. But they are doing very well at it and we'll continue to support them in all their endeavors.

Katie Couric: Having said that, why weren't the Iraqi security forces better able to protect these innocent people?

Gen Ray Odierno: Yeah. Well, in two cases today -- in two of the bombs, actually, they were stopped at police checkpoints. Unfortunately one of the bombs went off near a school, a college, which killed many young people and children as well. And frankly, what it's doing is turning the Iraqi people more and more against their movement. So I think it's a strategy for them that's not going to work. And it just is so painful for me and for everybody to see these innocent people killed.

Violence continues today. Pliny (Xinhua) reports two Baghdad bombings today which have claimed 4 lives and left eighteen injured.

TV notes. Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings), NOW on PBS asks: "Why are we sending thousands of military personnel to Guam?"

Over the next five years, as many as 30,000 servicemembers and their families will descend on the small island of Guam, nearly tripling its presence there. It's part of a larger agreement that the U.S. signed with Japan to realign American forces in the Pacific, but how will this multi-billion dollar move impact the lives and lifestyle of Guam's nearly 180,000 residents? On Friday, December 11 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW on PBS travels to the U.S. territory of Guam to find out whether their environment and infrastructure can support such a large
and quick infusion of people, and why the buildup is vital to our national security.

This Sunday the History Channel airs The People Speak, Anthony Arnove notes it's "the long awaited documentary film inspired by Howard Zinn's books A People's History of the United States and Voices of a People's History of the United States." It airs Sunday, December 13th at 8:00pm EST and 7:00 Central (8:00pm Pacific as well):
Using dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries and speeches of everyday Americans, the documentary feature film THE PEOPLE SPEAK gives voice to those who spoke up for social change throughout U.S. history, forging a nation from the bottom up with their insistence on equality and justice.

Narrated by acclaimed historian Howard Zinn and based on his best-selling books, A People's History of the United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People's History, THE PEOPLE SPEAK illustrates the relevance of these passionate historical moments to our society today and reminds us never to take liberty for granted.

THE PEOPLE SPEAK is produced by Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Chris Moore, Anthony Arnove, and Howard Zinn, co-directed by Moore, Arnove and Zinn, and features dramatic and musical performances by Allison Moorer, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Robinson, Christina Kirk, Danny Glover, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, David Strathairn, Don Cheadle, Eddie Vedder, Harris Yulin, Jasmine Guy, John Legend, Josh Brolin, Kathleen Chalfant, Kerry Washington, Lupe Fiasco, Marisa Tomei, Martín Espada, Matt Damon, Michael Ealy, Mike O'Malley, Morgan Freeman, Q'orianka Kilcher, Reg E. Cathey, Rich Robinson, Rosario Dawson, Sandra Oh, Staceyann Chin, and Viggo Mortensen.

The e-mail address for this site is

the washington post
ernesto londono
mcclatchy newspapers
warren p. strobel
mohammed al dulaimy

now on pbs