Reuters Australian News Rocket

*Reuters & Australian News: A rocket propelled grenade badly wounded a US soldier early Monday morning as he drove his vehicle toward the Baghdad Airport. (By the way the airport’s opening has been postponed a month). Either in this incident or in another one, a US soldier was killed, and four were wounded. The news services are not sure whether the US military spokesman was reporting two incidents or one. That is, perhaps there was a second attack somewhere in which someone was killed and others wounded. Or perhaps the “badly wounded” soldier of the initial report later died. It seems to me as though the US military has a duty to clarify things like this so that the reporters at least understand what is being said. It isn’t irrelevant whether we had one man seriously wounded and another dead early Monday, or just one person who was so badly hurt he then died.

On Sunday, US soldiers came under fire at a checkpoint in Baghdad. When an Iraqi policeman tried to come to their aid, he was killed. Also, someone set off a bomb in Baghdad near a police station, killing at least one and perhaps two Iraqis. A group claiming to be linked to al-Qaeda took credit for this bombing.

*Shiite cleric Muhammad Bahr al-`Ulum, member of the new Governing Council in Iraq, spoke out at the initial session against the satellite news networks, including the BBC, for failing to support the Iraqi opposition to Saddam Hussein, saying they treated the dissidents like “firewood for their fire.” Reporters present commented that the session had turned into an opportunity to bash the BBC (-az-Zaman). AP has put out a useful set of thumbnail sketches of the members of the Governing Council. By my count, at least 9 of the 25 are from religious parties or tendencies. That seems disproportionate. It is ironic that the US went to war to put into power in Iraq a ragtag group of Muslim activists, some of them with a terrorist past, along with the Communist Party.

*Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor, was great on Wolf Blitzer’s show on Sunday. He said right out loud that it was increasingly “ludicrous” for the US to claim that the Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction were there, but had been “hidden.” He argued that the US told the world that it had incontrovertible proof that the weapons were there, and that Saddam was dangerous and had to be removed for that reason. They even specified particular buildings. But the Iraqis used no such weapons in the war, and after months in Iraq, the US still hasn’t found either stockpiles or firm evidence of large programs. Now the Bush administration is saying that they are “hidden” and will eventually be found. Brzezinski thinks the entire line of reasoning is simply ridiculous and that US credibility has suffered an enormous blow. The next time the US goes to the world community about a threat, he says, it will be seen as crying wolf. I guess the unilateralists in Washington believe they won’t ever need the world community, and will go on doing as they please.

*Patrick Seale’s incisive comments about the origins and politics of the recent Iraq war, disguised as a review of Bass’s new book on John F. Kennedy and the beginnings of the US-Israeli alliance, is just out in The Nation. It has just been reprinted on the Web by Gulf News and is well worth reading.

*Iranian historian Hashem Aghajari was sentenced to four years in prison for the speech he gave last summer advocating individual religious conscience. He had originally been sentenced to death, but the appeals court has reduced the sentence. This outcome is less tragic than the hardliners initially wanted, but it is an outrage nevertheless. People are always asking me if I have been back to Iran. Since I am a historian who believes in individual religious conscience, I don’t think it is a system I would do well in.