Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Baghdad slammed with another bombing

Jenny Booth (Times of London) reports a Baghdad suicide car bombing has targeted the police forensic service. Booth notes many dead and "Around 80 people were injured in today's attack. Hospitals in the Iraqi capital reported receiving a surge of wounded people and dead bodies." Yousif Bassil (CNN) counts 18 dead in addition to the eighty wounded. Al Jazeera explains the forensic services were part of the Interior Ministry and adds "Five of the dead and 25 of those injured worked in the interior ministry building." John Leland and Anthony Shadid (New York Times)add, "The bombing set cars ablaze and sprayed glass through the assortment of nearby restaurants and shops, wounding several people, according to news reports, and rescuers picked through the rubble of the damaged forensics department building, looking for anyone buried in the blast." Saad Shalash, Khalid al-Ansary, Michael Christie, Missy Ryan and Noah Barkin (Reuters) quote eye witness Hassan al-Saidi stating, "I've heard many explosions in the past, but nothing like this."

The bombing follows yesterday's bombings which slammed Baghdad. As many are noting (NPR, for example) the bombing 'pattern' appears to have changed or been modified with today's big bombing immediately following one the day before instead of being spaced out with a month or so in between. The death toll on today's bombing may increase as more reports are filed. Jenny Booth reports the death toll of Monday's bombings has risen to 41. Yesterday's bombings targeted hotels -- hotels many journalists are housed in. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy writes at Inside Iraq:

Moving our office from Hamra Hotel is the main reason that kept me alife to write these words this moment after the massive destruction that was caused by the explosion of Monday afternoon that targeted seven hotels in downtown Baghdad including the area where our hotel locates with three other ones.
For me, going to the explosion was not only to cover thenews but to check about people that I have been living with since July 2006.
Like the eye of eagle, I started looking at the faces checking them one by one. With no hesitation, I started hugging everyone I saw. Thanks God I could see all the people I love. Talking to them and hearing their voices was heaven for me.

Leila Fadel (Washington Post) also offers a first-hand report:

Our office manager, Abu Mohammed, walked in, holding his bleeding head. One of Alwan's arms was wounded and his ribs were bruised. He told no one, ignored the pain and pulled others into the room, until he collapsed.
We had no idea who was dead and who was alive. A colleague who had arrived in Baghdad hours earlier was upstairs, changing after a shower, when the bomb went off, flinging her to the ground.
Someone pulled out a first-aid kit and wrapped Abu Mohammed's head. Another colleague, Naseer Fadhil, also suffered a head injury.
We waited together in the dark room, fearing more blasts. Ten minutes later, we walked out. I thought of all the ways this day could have been worse.

Liz Sly provides the blow-by-blow for the Los Angeles Times:

Half a dozen or so employees of the bureau huddled in an inside corridor for what seemed like an eternity. Then, the shooting, much of it from Iraqi guards in the compound risking their lives to protect us, briefly subsided.
I noticed that Usama Redha, one of our Iraqi interpreters, wasn't with us, so I ventured into our office and found him sitting in front of the television, watching for news reports of the attacks.
At that moment, the bomb exploded. A blast of hot air washed over me. Everything, it seemed -- ceilings, windows, doors -- came crashing down
We dived -- or were blown, it's hard to tell -- toward the corridor.
Usama was crying, "I've been hit, I've been hit!" as blood oozed from his chest. We were plunged into darkness as the electricity went out, and the air was thick with dust and debris. It was a terrifying moment.

And we'll note the Times of London's Oliver August again (he was noted in yesterday's snapshot):

Then there was shooting below us at the fortified gate to the Hamra hotel, our home of six years. Haider, our Iraqi colleague, and I cowered on the balcony as hotel guards fired in all directions. I could see someone running away from a white minibus at the gate. Then the van started moving, seemingly regardless of the firing guards, and drove at high speed through the main entrance. Haider and I curled up behind a thick concrete wall. Someone said later that they saw a red flash just before the explosion. All I saw was the contents of my office, my bedroom, my kitchen flying through the room. The windows were blown out, pictures and bookshelves lay strewn across the floor.
"Yasser" was the first thing that I heard Haider say. "Where is Yasser?" Haider and Yasser, two brothers, have worked for The Times since the invasion in 2003. I had sent Yasser on an errand and he was due back soon.

One Times of London employee remains missing as do three Washington Post correspondents. March 7th, elections are supposed to be held in Iraq. CORRECTION: 3 Post correspondents were wounded. The violence is seen by some as having something to do with that. The legitimacy of the elections has been thrown into question as a result of an extra-legal body being allowed to selectively ban candidates. The Council on Foreign Relations' Greg Bruno interviews Reidar Visser about the bannings:

Can we point a finger, then, at the perpetrators of this round of disqualifications? Give us a sense of who this Accountability and Justice Board is, and about the connections to [Ahmed] Chalabi.

This whole incident serves as a wake-up call for deeper systemic problems concerning Iranian influence in Iraq, because the individuals who have been driving this forward are very close to Iran--like Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami, who are directing the Accountability and Justice Board. They spend lots of time in Iran--Chalabi was often in Iran last year working to put together the new Shiite alliance for the elections. Much of that took place in Tehran, and lots of Shiite Iraqis traveled to Tehran last May. Chalabi orchestrated the creation of the new Shiite alliance. And so if you look at the leading personalities in the Accountability and Justice Committee, that's where it's possible to do some specific finger-pointing. But what is equally remarkable is the fact that no one of the others within the Iraqi system bothered to resist it. That is what I find particularly alarming: the lack of resistance from the rest of the system. The elections commission said, "Go ahead with it." The parliament said, "You can go ahead with it." The government said, "Go ahead with it." The federal supreme court has not intervened yet. That absence of resistance says a lot of about the continued influence of Iran.

Can you just remind us why the Ba'athist issue is such an appealing target for Iraqi politicians?

It's an interesting question, because the realities are that before 2003, lots of Iraqis were in one way or another cooperating with the regime--Shiites and Sunnis and Kurds-- in the tens of thousands. It was not, as is frequently portrayed in the West, an extremely Sunni-dominated regime. It was certainly Sunni-dominated at the very top, but there were tens of thousands of Shiites who worked for the system. The politicians who came to dominate after 2003 were the exiled politicians, and those politicians had not collaborated with the regime simply because they were not in the country at the time. They imposed this narrative of a squeaky clean de-Ba'athified society and a complete break with the Ba'ath Party, which of course was impossible. We saw that when [former American administrator of the Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority] L. Paul Bremer announced the dissolution of the Iraqi army. It was a major problem, and it would have been impossible to rebuild Iraqi society without co-opting many ex-Ba'athists. What happened was that this was done in a very selective way. The Shiites and Kurds were silently un-Ba'athified, to put it that way. They were silently put back in service, whereas Sunnis were very often excluded. So, in practice, de-Ba'athification turned into an attack on the Sunnis. That's why I find the whole narrative related to these de-Ba'athification issues to be highly hypocritical, because the Shiite Islamist parties continue to say that Ba'athists are a major problem, whereas at the same time they have silently co-opted and reinstated lots of Ba'athists just because they were Shiites.

Biden in Iraq

US Vice President Joe Biden was in Iraq at the end of last week, attempting to explain why the bannings were not helpful to Iraq or the world. He told the Iraqis the Justice Dept would appeal the recent decision regarding Blackwater (Judge Ricardo Urbina threw the case out noting the prosecutorial misconduct). Michael McGough (Los Angeles Times) observes:

This is no mere technicality, and the government's appeal -- which the Justice Department says it decided to file on its own without White House pressure -- seems like a long shot.
So why encourage the Iraqis, many of whom are not sophisticated about the American legal system, to hope that the Obama administration can make things right? It will only deepen the disappointment and suspicion if the appeal fails.

The following community sites updated last night:

Lastly Scott notes this from Chris Hedges' "Democracy in America Is a Useful Fiction" (Information Clearing House):

Liberals, socialists, trade unionists, independent journalists and intellectuals, many of whom were once important voices in our society, have been silenced or targeted for elimination within corporate-controlled academia, the media and government. Wolin, who taught at Berkeley and later at Princeton, is arguably the country's foremost political philosopher. And yet his book was virtually ignored. This is also why Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich and Cynthia McKinney, along with intellectuals like Noam Chomsky, are not given a part in our national discourse.
The uniformity of opinion is reinforced by the skillfully orchestrated mass emotions of nationalism and patriotism, which paints all dissidents as "soft" or "unpatriotic." The "patriotic" citizen, plagued by fear of job losses and possible terrorist attacks, unfailingly supports widespread surveillance and the militarized state. This means no questioning of the $1 trillion in defense-related spending. It means that the military and intelligence agencies are held above government, as if somehow they are not part of government. The most powerful instruments of state power and control are effectively removed from public discussion. We, as imperial citizens, are taught to be contemptuous of government bureaucracy, yet we stand like sheep before Homeland Security agents in airports and are mute when Congress permits our private correspondence and conversations to be monitored and archived. We endure more state control than at any time in American history.
The civic, patriotic and political language we use to describe ourselves remains unchanged. We pay fealty to the same national symbols and iconography. We find our collective identity in the same national myths. We continue to deify the Founding Fathers. But the America we celebrate is an illusion. It does not exist. Our government and judiciary have no real sovereignty. Our press provides diversion, not information. Our organs of security and power keep us as domesticated and as fearful as most Iraqis. Capitalism, as Karl Marx understood, when it emasculates government, becomes a revolutionary force. And this revolutionary force, best described as inverted totalitarianism, is plunging us into a state of neo-feudalism, perpetual war and severe repression. The Supreme Court decision is part of our transformation by the corporate state from citizens to prisoners.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.

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