Sunday, September 19, 2010

And the war drags on . . .

Baghdad was slammed with bombings today. You know, over in that war that's 'over.' Timothy Williams and Stephen Farrell (New York Times) explain, "The blasts were the latest in a series of attacks across Iraq during the past several weeks, coinciding with the country’s political crisis. Iraq held parliamentary elections more than six months ago, but political leaders have failed to agree on a coalition government, and insurgents have sought to exploit the power vacuum." Shashank Bengali and Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Twin car bombs exploded within moments of each other around 11 a.m. in Baghdad — one near a facility housing federal police, which killed 19 people, the other a few miles away at a busy intersection in the Mansour neighborhood, killing 10, Iraqi authorities said. More than 110 people were injured. Hours later, a suicide bomber drove into an Iraqi army checkpoint in central Fallujah, a heavily guarded city 40 miles west of Baghdad. Three soldiers and three civilians were killed, and 14 others were injured." Jamal Hashem (Xinhua) reports that Xinhua correspondent Bashar was there when the suicide car bombing "struck an office of a mobile phone company Asiacell, destroying the company building and a building nearby" and quotes him stating, "I am safe, but it was a very huge blast that collapsed the front part of Asiacell building, and I can see several cars either charred or badly damaged." Janine Zacharia and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report, "Traffic snarled in parts of Baghdad as Iraqi police tightened checkpoints after the twin car bombings struck at 10 a.m. in the Mansour and Kathumya neighborhoods, killing 29 people and wounding 111, according to Iraqi security authorities." Barbara Surk (AP) explains, "Most of those killed in Sunday's apparently coordinated attacks in Baghdad were civilians, and residents of the areas bombed directed their anger at a government they feel has left the city vulnerable to repeated attacks despite a network of police and army checkpoints paralyzing traffic." Ned Parker and Jabr Zeki (Los Angeles Times) count 33 dead from the 2 Baghdad bombings and the Falluja one and report, "A man who gave his name only as Majid described in a phone call people walking around in a daze. Some screamed 'God is great!' in grief for the dead while others expressed anger at the country's politicians. 'G** damn the government!' he heard one man shout in anger over what is widely seen as a deteriorating security situation." Doesn't read like the war is over. And the 2 deaths of US service members in Iraq last week don't play like it's over. I'm not buying it. The plot points aren't there and it requires too much suspension of disbelief.

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 4423. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4424. The three bombings were only part of today's violence.

Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports mortar attacks on the Green Zone with two hitting the American Embassy, a Baghdad sticky bombing next to the Green Zone, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people, and a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the lives of 1 father and 1 son with four more people wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer, a second injured a police officer, a third injured "a man and his son" and a fourth Mosul bombing left two people wounded.

Violence continues in Iraq, so does the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's six months and twelve days with no government formed.

Ma'ad Fayad (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) speaks with Ayad Allawi and reports, "Allawi went on to say 'Maliki must understand ... no one stays in power forever'. He added 'I think that matters will be highly tempestuous within the country, and I expect, god forbid, a reaction against democratic principles and policies. I don’t think that the Iraqi people will believe in going to the polls in the future, and this will lead to further divisions on the Iraqi streets'." Colin Freeman (Telegraph of London) also speaks with Allawi:

Whatever the outcome, he predicts his new job will be every bit as tough as it was during his first time in office from 2004-2005, when the Iraqi insurgency erupted into its full fury. Despite general improvements since the US-led troop surge in 2007, he feels the country is still teetering on the edge of the abyss.

"Violence is increasing, services are stagnant, the economy is extremely poor, and unemployment is rising," he said. "For the last six months the government has been without leaders, and unfortunately we are seeing the problems increase as the US draws down."

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes Guy Smallman's "Harassed and raided: another day under occupation in Afghanistan" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

It was 1am and 64-year old Mohammed Akram was playing chess with a family friend when 30 soldiers came crashing through the door of his Kabul apartment.

Within a few seconds everyone in the flat was being held at gunpoint by a mixture of Afghan and Nato Special Forces.

They hooded all the men present, including Mr Akram’s 16-year old son, and bound their hands behind their backs.

The women, including his wife and two daughters, were held in a separate room and frisked, despite being in bed when the raid had started.

This cycle of dawn raids, intimidation and violence has happened thousands of times over since the war began.

The soldiers proceeded to search the flat, destroying furniture and belongings for around two hours. Like so many other raids, they found nothing incriminating.

As they ransacked the apartment, a laptop belonging to Mr Akram’s seven-year old grandson was discovered.

He was dragged from his bed—soldiers demanded the password with a gun held to his head. Paralysed with fear he was unable to remember it as the soldiers questioned him again and again. Eventually he typed in the correct code—they found nothing but a few computer games.

The men were then taken away. Mr Akram’s wife was not told where they were being taken or even who the kidnappers were. None of them were displaying any insignia and at no point did they identify themselves.

She then discovered that the family safe had been raided and all the money was gone.

Afghan police told Mrs Akram that the men had been taken to the notorious torture prison at Bagram Airport. Instead they were still in Kabul at a local detention facility.

The men were finally released a day later—though no apology or explanation was forthcoming.

For some families caught up in the terror US and Nato forces mete out, the results have been more horrific—detention often lasts for months and hundreds have disappeared after such raids.

One relative commented, “Even if they had been terrorists, no family should be treated like this, with machine guns being pointed at children.”

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