Monday, October 26, 2009






Sunday Baghdad saw bombings resulting in a higher death total than Black Wednesday, Bloody Wednesday, Gory Wednesday August 19th. Eleanor Hall (Australia's ABC's The World Today -- link has text and audio) explained, "Twin suicide bombers targeted the Iraqi Ministry of Justice all but destroying the government department's headquarters, which are just outside the high-security 'green zone' in the centre of Baghdad." Shane McLeod added, "The sound of the second blast was captured by a mobile phone video camera being used to survey the aftermath of the first. Targeted was the headquarters of the Ministry of Justice, just a few hundred metres from the fortified green zone in Baghdad." Sahar Issa and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) report that Iraqi government figures are stating that "a water tanker and a refrigerated food truck" were used in the attacks. This morning, Jack Kimball and Michael Christie (Reuters) report that the death toll has climbed and is currently at 155 with over five hundred left injured. Rod Nordland (New York Times) observes that "an uncertain number of children" are among the dead. CBS News and AP add that 24 "children who were killed were on a bus leaving a daycare center near the Justice Ministry when the attack occurred".

Ned Parker and Caesar Ahmed (Los Angeles Times) sketch out yesterday's assault, "Cars clogges the road as tehy approached the traffic circle in front of the Justice Ministry, with its statue of modern Iraq's first ruler, King Faisal, mounted on a horse. An old white pickup truck had broken down by the traffic circle and its driver approached a policeman and started yelling. [. . .] It was then that the first of two car bombs exploded on opposite ends of the block." Xinhua adds, "Xinhua correspondent at the scene said that he saw ponds of blood and parts of human bodies scattered close to the blast site near the Mansour Hotel where the wreckage of dozens of civilian cars could be seen near the site." Martin Chulov (Guardian) offers, "Witnesses described body parts sprawled across the area. Mohammed Falah, was caught in the blast: 'There was a woman's leg next to me. I picked it up and gave it to the ambulance'."

Sharif Abdel Kouddous (Democracy Now! -- link has text, video and audio) asked Rick Rowley for his take on the bombings today:

Well, first of all, the first thing to say is that, you know, there is no peace in Iraq, that these bombings, first of all, put the lie once again to the three myths that we've been pushed about the war in Iraq: first, the story that the war is over; second, that we won the war; and third, that the lessons of this victory can be applied to Afghanistan. The fact is that what passes for calm in Iraq today isn't peace at all; it's a fragile, fraying truce after a brutal sectarian civil war, and it's a truce without reconciliation that -- because it's put in place a system that is a continuing engine for violence, and tragedies like these are a legacy of the American occupation and will remain one for years to come. So, bombings like these today -- or on Sunday were attempts -- I mean, you know, they're being blamed on al-Qaeda in Iraq, and it seems likely that it was a group like al-Qaeda in Iraq that carried them out. And there are attempts by those extreme elements inside the Sunni insurgency to target the Shiite-led government, which they see as their sectarian enemy, but also to try to draw the Shiite militias back into an all-out civil war that could unite the Shiites again in their resistance. I mean, bombings like the ones on Sunday are remarkable for their massive scale, the carnage they cause, but there are multiple bombings in Iraq every single week.

[. . .]

And yeah, absolutely, I mean, the government in Baghdad is seen by al-Qaeda in Iraq and by the extremists inside the Sunni resistance as a proxy, as an Iranian proxy, dominated by the Supreme Council and by the Dawa Party, both parties that were -- well, I mean, the Supreme Council was formed in Iran, and Dawa, you know, spent most of its existence in Iran. And, you know, these parties were put by the US in mid-2004, were put in charge of the government, and their militias were turned into the core of the Iraqi security structure. So, as the civil war kicked off, the main protagonists in the civil war were militias inside the police force that were -- came from these parties and, you know, versus Sunni insurgents on the outside who were doing bombings and these kinds of soft-target attacks on civilians. So, you know, clearly, I mean, institutions and ministries that are controlled by ISCI, the Supreme Council, and by Dawa are definitely seen as sectarian enemies. I mean, the Ministry of Justice, as well, you know, it's -- the police and the court system have been seen in the -- I mean, not so much the court system. The police and the prison system in Iraq have been seen as one of the tools in the sectarian fight that the Shiite militias have used from the very beginning.

Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) noted yesterday that the charge of "al Qaeda in Iraq" was instantly being made by some including Nouri al-Maliki, US-installed thug of the occupation. Mohammed al Dulaimy and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers -- link has text and video) add, "Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, released a statement blaming elements of Saddam Hussein's predominantly Sunni Baath Party and militants from al Qaida in Iraq for the attack. As of late Sunday, no group had claimed responsibility." Yes, Maliki couldn't wait to start (yet again) blaming former Ba'athists.

ELEANOR HALL: Given the number of people killed though in these two recent attacks and the outrage from the public that we are already hearing, I mean what is this attack and the August one likely to mean for the elections in January?
SAM PARKER: Well, clearly it undercuts Prime Minister Maliki's main narrative which is Iraq was chaos and he brought it back from the brink. It definitely hurts him and certainly if you look at what has followed the August bombings there has been a lot of that, a lot of finger pointing and a lot of people saying your claims are bogus. That Iraq is just as unsafe as it has always been and that generally is not true.I mean, yes you can point to these like high-profile mass casualty attacks and as tragic as they are, overall death counts in Iraq are still, even despite these attacks, are still much lower than they have been at any period except for right after the invasions. So for the entire war, we are still at the lowest points and so these large scale attacks largely had propaganda value to them.

Liz Sly and Usama Redha (Los Angeles Times) explain, "It is Maliki who stands to lose the most from a security breakdown, because he is campaigning on his record as the leader who helped restore a good measure of security after the sectarian warfare that raged after the U.S.-led invasion. Overall, violence is down 90% since the peak in 2006, U.S. commanders say." Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) adds, "The attacks came at a precarious moment in Iraqi politics. Parliament has yet to agree on legislation to organize the planned Jan. 16 vote, despite warnings by the United States and the United Nations that time will probably run out by next weekend. Critics have also complained that some of the key officials charged with security -- Maliki and Interior Minister Jawad Bolani -- are more engaged in the election than in running the country." Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman tells Al Jazeera, "This sends two messages, one of them is to the investment conference in Washington held just a few days ago as if to tell investors not to come to Iraq . . . At the same time I think it may be a message to the meeting today of the political council of national security." Baghdad governor Salah Abdel Razaq tells Elizabeth Palmer (CBS News), "The bodies I have seen -- these innocent people, what have they done? To have this destiny, it is very terrible." Timothy Williams (New York Times) explains, "In large part, Mr. Maliki's popularity has rested on the belief that he has kept the country reasonably safe. But the bombings at four high-profile, well-protected government buildings within a two-month span led some Iraqis to say Sunday that they were reconsidering their support for Mr. Maliki." It should be noted that "Mr. Maliki's popularity" -- like Ashlee Simpson's talent -- is something that's been assumed but never verified. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) provides a voice for people on the streets such as vendor Abbas Fadhil who states, "This is all from the political parties -- they want to gain seats in the election." Um Ali tells Arraf, "There had to be someone with official backing behind this -- how could they get through the checkpoints? Why are our children, our sisters still being killed? For 20 years we've been fighting."

Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) puts the bombings into the larger instability landscape that is Iraq: "The timing of the Sunday bombings coincided with plans by Iraq's top political body, the Political Council for National Security, comprising top political leaders and cabinet ministers, to consider ways to end a stalemate over a crucial election law needed to begin work ahead of the vote. The legislation has stalled over disagreements between factions over how the vote will be conducted in Kirkuk, an oil-rich region in the north torn by sectarian and ethnic tensions among the area's Kurds, Arabs and Turkomen."

Ranj Alaaldin (Guardian) offers his take on the bombings:

A broad analysis suggests complicity on the part of the Sunni-Arab world: keep Iraq unstable and you stop the country from becoming an effective Iranian client state when the US withdraws; or, at the very least, facilitate terrorist attacks in the country and you have some form of a counter-measure to Iran's unmatched influence. Alternatively, the attacks on Kurdish-run and Shia-run ministries may have sought to encourage incorporation of the Sunnis, specifically the Sons of Iraq fighters, into the Shia-led government, which has so far been slow in doing so. The objectives are not necessarily independent of each other.
A more straightforward analysis suggests prime minister Nouri al-Maliki as the prime target of all this: destabilise Iraq in the run-up to January's parliamentary elections and you hurt Maliki's chances of success, as he will be campaigning on the same security platform that won him this year's provincial elections. Indeed, things are not looking too rosy for the premier now that he has lost his security card. Iraqis will struggle to list his achievements in recent times and find the country no closer to better services and increased employment levels.

As far as observations go, James Denselow (Guardian) is on stronger ground than anyone when he observes:

It takes a certain death toll for Iraq to make it back on to the headlines. Despite the presence of some 120,000 US troops (and 100 or so British naval trainers who were recently let back into the country) Iraq appears to be old news. In many people's minds it is yesterday's conflict; the surge was a success and the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is a democratically mandated strongman who is bringing economic success to the country -- or so the narrative goes.

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