Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Tikrit assault

Jomana remembers a trip to a U.S. military base in Tikrit in 2008, where she met up with Sabah.
Because this was in his province, Sabah displayed the renowned Iraqi hospitality.
After lunch, he grabbed some fruit and put it in Jomana’s bag. She did not find it until hours later, when she got back to Baghdad.
Like most Iraqis we know and we work with, Sabah has hesitated for years about leaving Iraq to escape the threats and the violence - because he loved his country.
But a few weeks ago, Sabah asked Mohammed for his help and finally applied for asylum in the U.S., saying:
"I don't want to live in Iraq least not in the next five years... It is going to be very difficult."

The above is from Mohammed Tawfeeq, Yousuf Basil and Jomana Karadsheh's "Remembering a Fallen Colleague" (CNN) about journalist Sabah al-Bazee who died in Iraq yesterday. They noted he had freelanced for CNN since 2006. Chris Cheesman (Amateur Photographer) notes that the 30-year-old who "died after suffering shrapnel wounds" was also a freelancer for Reuters beginning in 2004. Cheesman notes this online portfolio of some of Sabah al-Bazee's work. I find it interesting that the New York Times 'notes' his death was announced by Reuters when, in fact, it was noted by Al Arabiya TV -- where he also worked -- and then picked up by AFP before Reuters ever weighed in. Peter Graff (Reuters) has a piece remembering Sabah al-Bazee which also includes several photos al-Bazee took for Reuters:

Like many of our Iraqi colleagues, he was young. Just 23 or so when he started taking pictures of war for a living. He had boundless energy, constantly pestering our reporters, photographers and cameramen for tips at how to hone his skills. How do you square that boisterousness with the bone-chilling images he photographed over the seven years he worked for us?
"Sabah was an enthusiast, always on the phone, keen to get the news and to tell it," writes Alastair Macdonald, Baghdad bureau chief from 2005-07. "He had an energy and courage that meant he thought nothing of driving the 100 dangerous miles between Tikrit and Baghdad at any hour to deliver video and pictures. I recall that his work rate could sometimes exhaust colleagues, and yet Sabah never seemed to stop smiling."

He was killed in Tikrit yesterday when unknown assailants (wearing Iraqi security forces uniforms) attacked the provincial government building. Tim Arango (New York Times) reports, "The assault turned into a hostage standoff that lasted for hours on Tuesday afternoon, until Iraqi security forces retook the building in the early evening using grenades and small arms fire, with American warplanes overhead, according to a witness. The American military did not participate in the retaking of the building but observed from nearby, according to a military spokesman." Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) quotes US military spokesperson Col Barry Johnson stating, "Our assistance has been limited to providing aerial surveillance of the scene and keeping our soldiers on site to receive further requests for assistance if needed." Meanwhile on the ground, Mohanned Saif and Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) report, "Over several hours, the attackers went room to room, tossing grenades down hallways and through doorways and killing local politicians and government workers with shots to the head, according to Iraqi security forces and two witnesses who escaped by jumping out of a second-floor window." Dar Addustour notes the death of al-Bazi (their spelling) but also notes that "a number of other journalists from local TV channels were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes at least one other journalist died (unnamed) and includes this: "Al-Bazi was a freelancer who worked with Reuters, CNN and Al-Arabiya, according to his cousin Mahmoud Salih, also a freelance journalist. Salih -- who said al-Bazi died in the car bombing -- told CNN his cousin contacted him 30 minutes before he died, asking him whether he wanted to film ammunition seized by security forces." Hisham Rikabi (Al Mada) reports that yesterday evening the Director of Health in the province stated that "most of the bodies that have arrived at hospitals recently were charred and the majority of those killed were Iraqi forces who stormed the building to free the hostages." Al Rafidayn also notes the "charred bodies" (citing Tikrit General Hospital sources) and reports 65 people died (citing Iraqi security sources) and "approximately one hundred others were wounded."

The following community sites -- plus Military Families Speak Out, ACUL, and War News Radio -- updated last night and this morning:

Bonnie notes that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Son of a Bush" went up yesterday. And we'll close with this from Paul Craig Roberts' "Obama Raises American Hypocrisy to Higher Level" (World Can't Wait):

What does the world think? Obama has been using air strikes and drones against civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and probably Somalia. In his March 28 speech, Obama justified his air strikes against Libya on the grounds that the embattled ruler, Gadhafi, was using air strikes to put down a rebellion.
Gadhafi has been a black hat for as long as I can remember. If we believe the adage that “where there is smoke there is fire,” Gadhafi is probably not a nice fellow. However, there is no doubt whatsoever that the current US president and the predecessor Bush/Cheney regime have murdered many times more people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia than Gadhafi has murdered in Libya.
Moreover, Gadhafi is putting down a rebellion against state authority as presently constituted, but Obama and Bush/Cheney initiated wars of aggression based entirely on lies and deception.

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oh boy it never ends