Sunday, October 31, 2010

And the war drags on . . .

Ernesto Londono and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) report that, tonight in Baghdad, Iraqi forces invaded Our Lady of Salvation Church where people were being held hostrage. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy's Miami Herald) reports, "Insurgents seized control of a church in central Baghdad on Sunday, taking hostages during evening mass after attacking a checkpoint at the Baghdad Stock Exchange." Graham Fitzgerald (Sky News) observes, "Apparently no attempt was made to negotiate with them and bring the siege to a peaceful conclusion." John Leland (New York Times) cites Ministry of Interior source for these numbers: 100 hostages, 30 of them killed, 7 Iraqi forces killed, fifteen Iraqi forces inured and forty-one hostages injured. Leland quotes police officer Hussain Nahidh stating, "It's a horrible scene. More than 50 people were killed. The suicide vests were filled with ball bearings to kill as many people as possible. You can see human flesh everywhere. Flesh was stuck to the top roof of the hall. Many people went to hospitals without legs and hands." This is not slamming Leland for his numbers. He cites a source and those numbers may or may not be correct but everyone's reporting different numbers -- not just of dead and wounded but of how many hostages there were. Lara Jakes (AP), for example, reports there were 120 hostages in the church. She notes the US military is insisting the death toll is 19, the Iraqi military going with ten less than that, and that Iraqi "police and medical officials" are stating the death toll is 37. Ned Parker and Jaber Zeki (Los Angeles Times via Sacremento Bee) count 39 dead and they report, "The Iraqi police immediately sealed off the surrounding area in the busy Karada commercial district. The American military was called in to help. As U.S. Army helicopters buzzed overheads, American officers accompanied Iraqi commanders and shared satellite imagery, according to Iraqi police and the U.S. military. A caller to the Baghdad satellite channel Baghdadiya, who insisted he was one of the attackers, said the group was demanding the release of al-Qaida prisoners in Egypt and threatened to execute the hostages if the authorities failed to meet their demands."

Lewis Smith (Independent of London) quotes hostage Marzina Matti Yalda, "As we went outside the hall to see what was happening, gunmen stormed the main gates and they started to shoot at us. Many people fell down, including a priest, while some of us ran inside and took shelter in a locked room as we waited for the security forces to arrive." The Telegraph of London quotes a young male hostage (unnamed) stating of the hostage takers, "They entered the church with their weapons, wearing military uniforms. They came into the prayer hall, and immediately killed the priest." Martin Chulov (Guardian) adds, "The priest they call Father Rafael is believed to have survived, but his colleague, Father Wissam, is believed to have been killed." Jim Muir (BBC News) offers a video report and an Iraqi female hostage states, "Gunmen entered the church and started to beat people. Some of the people were released but others were wounded and some died and one of the priests was killed." Muir points out that churches in Iraq have been attacked before "but there's never been anything like this."

Possibly due to the large number of reported dead and wounded, the US military is maintaining they had a tiny role in the whole thing. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) quotes a US military spokesperson insisting, "The U.S. only provided UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) support with video imagery. As always we have advisers with the ISF (Iraqi security forces) command teams."

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, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4429. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4430.

It was another violent day in Iraq. In addition to the assault on the church . . .


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two people, a second Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded two police officers and one by-stander, a third Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of Sahwa leader Adnan Attallah and wounded three-bystanders, a Baquba sticky bombing which wounded the husband of Shaima Mohammed who serves on the Diyala provincial council, a Khalis roadside bombing which claimed the life of Taha Dira's office manager and wounded one of his bodyguards, a Mosul mortar attack which wounded four Iraqi soldiers, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded three police officers, a Mosul suicide bombing which claimed the life of the bomber, 1 police officer and left seven people injured, and, dropping back to yesterday, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded three people. Xiong Tong (Xinhua) explains Adnan Atta-Allah was the "leader of Awakening Council group of al-Risalah neighborhood in Taji area."


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Wujaihiyah -- teenage brothers "shot in the head and chest."

As the violence continues, so does the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "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 seven months and twenty-four days and still counting.

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes Sian Ruddick's "Iraq war logs expose murder, abuse and torture" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Thousands of leaked US military documents have revealed the grisly reality of the murder, torture and abuse of prisoners by US, British and local pro-occupation forces in Iraq.

The Wikileaks website released nearly 400,000 army field reports itemising death and abuse by US military action and the bitter sectarian division the occupation caused.

The reports run from January 2004 to January 2010. They reveal torture carried out by police officers, army personnel, prison staff and border guards.

The majority of victims are young men. But there are also occurrences of abuse towards women—including serious sexual assault—and of attacks on disabled and old people.

The reports show that much of the abuse by Iraqi forces was either witnessed by US soldiers or reported to them.

Batteries with exposed wires and hoses appear often. Prisoners are kicked, beaten, sexually abused and humiliated, burnt with flame and chemicals and put in stress positions.


Despite the widespread evidence of torture, the US government issued order “Frago 242” in June 2004, ordering coalition troops not to investigate any breach of the laws of armed conflict unless it directly involved members of the US’s coalition side.

Where the alleged abuse is committed by an Iraqi towards an Iraqi, “only an initial report will be made… No further investigation will be required unless directed by HQ”.

One example from the log reports film footage showing: “Ten Iraqi army soldiers were talking to one another while two soldiers held the detainee.

“The detainee had his hands bound. The footage shows the IA soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him and shooting him.” The logs conclude, “No investigation is necessary.”

In reality, things were no different when abuse was carried out by US or British soldiers—the history of the occupation has been one of cover-up and corruption.

The leaks contain the reports of over 100,000 civilian deaths.

But even this is a gross underestimate. Surveys by ORB and the Lancet estimate that well over a million Iraqis have been killed. The war and occupation have displaced millions more.

Some incidents are documented in forensic detail. For instance the “Crazyhorse 18” Apache helicopter gunship crew were following a truck driven by two men they suspected of carrying explosives.

The men got out of their vehicle to surrender.

The Apache crew radioed base and were told by a lawyer that it was not possible to “surrender to an aircraft”.

The helicopter unleashed missiles killing both men. More civilians were injured.


Another report states how US interrogators threatened to hand detainees over to the Wolf Brigade if they wouldn’t talk.

Iraqi prisoners accused the brigade of torturing prisoners with electric drills and sometimes executing suspects.

It was set up by the US military and directed by Colonel James Steele, who had acted as a US advisor to death squads in El Salvador in the 1980s.

These reports confirm again that the invasion was never about liberating the Iraq, only asserting US power.

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