Sunday, April 04, 2010

And the war drags on . . .

The blasts surely will color the intense political negotiations that are under way after the March 7 parliamentary election, raising questions about which candidates have the security credentials and the ability to cut across sectarian lines to lead a still-unstable Iraq after U.S. troops withdraw by the end of next year. The embassy bombings come barely two days after gunmen dressed in Iraqi army uniforms stormed a Sunni Muslim village south of Baghdad and killed 25 men and women in an execution-style attack that was reminiscent of Iraq's worst days of sectarian violence.

The above is from Laith Hammoudi's McClatchy Newspapers report on the bombing of embassies in Baghdad today. Bombings struck at Iran's embassy, Egypt's embassy and a third attack which may have been an attack on three embassies. The death toll is at least 41 with over 200 injured. Click here for a photo by Xu Yanyan (Xinhua) of the semi-standing Iranian Embassy after the bombing. From Alice Fordham's report for the Times of London:

"I heard the sound of the explosion and ran out into the street to see a big cloud of dust and smoke," said Ali Sanz Ali, 26, a labourer working close to the Iranian Embassy, near the city centre.
Cement walls outside the heavily guarded building had been flattened. "On the other side of the street, many cars had been destroyed and burnt. You could see the dead," he said.

Fordham also notes that the Iranian and Egyptian embassies were clearly targeted but the other bombing may have been meant for the Syrian Embassy, the Spanish Embassy or the German Embassy. Or it might have been a way to strike all three ("the third struck an intersection near the Germany, Spanish and Syrian missions"). Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) notes that they were suicide bombers who "detonated car bombs wihtin minutes of each other" at the three embassies with the Iranian Embassy being the third one attacked. Cab driver Abu Ahmed tells Prashant Rao (Australia's The Age), "The explosion was really strong. They never kill ministers, officials or heads of state. They kill tax drivers, public employees and shopkeepers. How much longer will this last?"

Over at the Los Angeles Times where Tina Susman and Alexandra Zavis used to make it the go-to for perspective, Ned Parker and Usama Redha offer: "The bloodshed raises fears that the security situation could unravel before Iraq's next government is formed, as armed groups and political parties look to exploit the uncertain period after last month's national elections. The conditions are reminiscent of early 2006 when Al Qaeda in Iraq took advantage of the transition between elected governments to blow up a major Shiite Muslim shrine and ignite a civil war between the country's Shiite majority and its Sunni minority, which dominated the government of President Saddam Hussein before he was toppled in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion." (Parker and Caesar Ahmed provide context of previous violence here.) Rod Nordland and Riyadh Mohammed (New York Times) do a better job noting that this is the third consecutive day of "violent attacks" and that these echo January Baghdad attacks on hotels. Jim Muir (BBC News) provides this context, "Each of the multiple bombings which have hit Baghdad over the past year has been 'themed' - clearly with the aim of conveying the message not only that the insurgents can strike several targets simultaneously, but that they can focus on a particular type of target each time."

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4386. Tonight? 4387. In some of today's other reported violence . . .

Reuters notes a Mosul car bombing which claimed 3 lives and left twenty-five people injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured four people, a second Baghdad roadside bombing which left two people injured,a third Baghdad roadside bombings which left nine people wounded, a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded one person, a second Baghdad sticky bombing which injured one police officer, a mortar attack on the Green Zone and, dropping back to Saturday for the rest, a mortar attack on the Green zone and a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 2 lives and left one person wounded.

Back to the embassy bombings that slammed Baghdad today, Martin Chulov (Guardian) gets reactions from Iraqi men and women such as Abeer Ahmed who states, "Security won't be sorted out here any time soon. Look at the situation. All our leaders are busy fighting with each other for good positions for themselves and leaving the country to drown in blood. My child refuses to go to school and how can I blame her. There are many partiest to blame for this carnage, firstly the current government, which can't stop it, and secondly the regional countries who are not happy with democracy in Iraq." Focusing on today's bombings and the violenct attack on Sahwa, Arab News editorializes, "Nevertheless, this said, the attention of Al-Maliki’s caretaker administration is clearly distracted by the wheeler-dealing that is going on among political leaders. The security of ordinary Iraqis is, therefore, very much in the hands of the Iraqi police and security forces as they await the emergence of their new political masters. This challenge is also an opportunity for them to demonstrate their efficiency and independence from overt political control. The rapid detention of suspects following the militia murders may go some way to calming fears among the Sunni community that they are now increasingly vulnerable." Also editorializing, the Palm Beach Post offers:

Perhaps the political fireworks will remain just that and won't escalate to actual, lethal explosions. But with Mr. Maliki's apparent defeat, the young Iraqi democracy has to deal with the challenge that defines a mature democracy -- the peaceful yielding of power from one party to its opponent.
If Mr. Maliki keeps power violently and/or illegally, the United States is in an untenable position. Troops are supposed to remain through next year. How can they if it's to protect a coup leader? What would be the consequences of deposing him?

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes Gabby Lennox' "Texas workers battle oil giant" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

A high-profile court case in the United States, involving British-based oil multinational BP, has hardly been reported here. Yet it tells us so much about how giant companies and the law operate.

In April 2007 toxic chemicals poured into the air at the BP refinery in Texas City. Workers started to feel dizzy and fell ill with a variety of symptoms.

They researched what had happened and came to the conclusion they had been exposed to carbon disulfide while working on two refining units.

The plant had a terrifying safety record. A 2005 explosion had killed 15 people and injured 170.

The chief government official investigating the explosions—appointed by George Bush and therefore no die-hard opponent of oil firms—said the accident was preventable and that “risk denial and risk blindness” had not been addressed.

Subsequent legal action saw BP forced to pay $2 billion in compensation—the US’s largest ever safety fine.

The company was determined not to repeat that experience. So when in 2007 around 140 staff asked for $5,000 each to cover hospital costs arising from the fume emissions, BP suggested to the press that the entire incident might be a hoax by “disgruntled workers”.

Bosses said this “odour event” was not toxic and that workers could have just $500 each.

The multinational’s lack of care enraged a group of workers who decided to go to court—and they won. They won big.

A jury decided BP was guilty of gross negligence and ordered the firm to pay punitive damages of $100 million to the ten workers who brought the case.

If BP had paid the 140 the $5,000 they had asked for it would have cost it just $700,000. Now it was looking at a possible bill of $1.4 billion.


But BP bosses were determined to change the decision. BP spokesperson Ronnie Chappell said the company was “shocked and outraged” by the verdict, which was “unjustified, improper and unsupportable”. So BP appealed against it.

Last week, soon after BP announced profits of $14 billion for 2009, the case came to court again—this time without a jury.

US district judge Kenneth Hoyt set aside almost all of the damages that had been won in the first court case. His ruling included the finding that “the nature of refinery work is that workers are subject to a variety of toxic odours at all times. The defendant, the employees and contractors are fully aware of the potential hazards that exist in a refinery.”

Judge Hoyt was very familiar with BP. He had enjoyed an all-expenses-paid trip to an “educational event” part-funded by the oil giant.

The three-day long programme was hosted by the George Mason Law and Economic Center (LEC), an organisation that hosts judicial conferences and is funded by the big business firms that appear in court before federal judges.

LEC is no stranger to controversy. Three years ago, federal Judge Andrew Kleinfeld reduced the penalty against Exxon Mobil for the Valdez oil spill in 1989 that saw 11 million gallons of oil ooze into Prince William Sound. He had been on LEC trips partially funded by Exxon.

A jury had ordered Exxon to pay $5 billion damages. A series of judges’ rulings left it facing a bill of one tenth of that sum.

Tony Buzbee, an attorney for the workers in the BP case, says the decision to slash the damages gave the industry “a free pass from gross negligence.

“The judge acknowledges that BP is a bad actor, but, for whatever reason, decides that a jury who hears three weeks of evidence should be ignored.

“As far as this court is concerned, BP and any other person or entity, can injure, kill, pollute with impunity as long as they monitor for it.”

Buzbee is bringing more cases to court, and is determined to bring BP to justice. But for the moment the company can relax, particularly if you are BP’s chief executive Tony Hayward who has just grabbed a 41 percent pay rise to just over £4 million a year.

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

Share this story on:

Delicious | Digg | reddit | Facebook | StumbleUpon

If you found this article useful please help us maintain SW by » making a donation.

» comment on article | » email article | » printable version

The e-mail address for this site is

the socialist worker