125 Killed Hundreds Wounded By

125 Killed, Hundreds Wounded by Bombings, Assassinations
Guerrillas kill 4 US Troops
UN Says 34452 Iraqi Civilians Killed in 06
Resolution Condemning Escalation Introduced in Senate

Reuters reports that the death toll from the bombings at Mustansiriya University on Tuesday rose to 70, with 180 wounded. A lot of them were 17 and 18 year-old girls. I report these attacks every day, and have seen some violence in my time, but this one is tough. You think about 70 families in black, their little girl’s or little boy’s pieces laid quickly to rest. And the wounded. How many disfigured or left incapacitated for life by a raging fireball enveloped by black smoke?

McClatchy’s reporting was hard to read: ‘One man searched for his son and finally found his head and torso but no legs. “Where is his other half?” he asked and then shook with violent sobs. ‘

The female university students are among Iraq’s few hopes for the future. Iraqi women were once 75% literate, but US/UN sanctions and the poor economy of the 1990s drove down the percentage to only 25%. So women well-educated enough to get to university are a small minority in Iraq. Fewer and fewer families feel comfortable letting their girls go out under these circumstances.

We should be clear why these bombings are taking place. It is because Bush’s policy in Iraq was total victory, along with his Shiite and Kurdish allies, over the previously dominant Sunni Arabs. Bush did this thing as a zero sum game, one where there is only one pie and if one person gets a bigger piece, someone else gets a tiny sliver. The Sunni Arabs– among the best educated and most capable people in the country– were offered the tiny sliver. They won’t accept US troops in their country for the most part, and won’t accept reduction to a small powerless minority. They have succeeded in provoking the Shiites to form guerrilla groups and engage in reprisal killings, as well, as a way of destabilizing the country. Bush’s allies won’t share power and wealth with them, and Bush himself keeps pushing for what he calls “victory.” Today is what his victory looks like after nearly 4 years, and it is highly unlikely to look different any time soon.

On any other day, the killing of 4 US troops in Mosul, Ninevah Province, would itself be the big news. Bush withdrew 3,000 troops from Mosul and sent them to Baghdad for “Operation Forward Together,” which did not operate, did not go forward, and did not create togetherness. That left US troops in Ninevah more exposed.

Another horrible piece of violence that would have been enough on its own: Al-Zaman reports that guerrillas set off a roadside bomb and then a motorcycle bomb near the Sunni shrine to Sufi saint Abdul Qadir Gilani in Baghdad, killing 15 and wounding 70. The Qadiriya Sufi order that coalesced around him in the medieval period is still popular in Sunni Iraq, West Africa, Pakistan and India. All we need is for another shrine to get blown up. Devotees mind that sort of thing.

Read the Reuters and McClatchy links above for more. It is difficult to stomach, but it is important to see reality with a clear and unflinching gaze. If more Americans had done so in 2003, we might not have come to this pass.

KarbalaNews.net reports that a joint American-Iraqi (apparently American-led–see the picture) force invaded the offices of the elected provincial council of Wasit in the Shiite South and arrested two elected members of the council. They took away Qasim al-A’raji and Fadil Jasim Abu al-Tayyib without making any announcement of the charges.

This is sort of as though in the US, federal troops attacked the South Carolina State House and arrested the elected secretary of state and treasurer.

Presumably the arrestees are suspected of militia activity. But I don’t know. You can’t celebrate elections and purple fingers and self-determination, and then have foreign troops involved in arresting elected officials. It looks colonial.

The Sunni Arab Gulf states gave a lukewarm endorsement to Bush’s plan after some of them met with Secretary of State Condi Rice. Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, among the more anti-Iranian, anti-Shiite figures in the cabinet, put the onus for improving things in Iraq on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, leader of the fundamentalist Shiite Islamic Call (Da’wa Islamiya) Party.

One thousand active-duty soldiers and Marines have come out to call for a quick US withdrawal from Iraq. Take that, Frederick Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute!

Senators will introduce a bipartisan resolution in the senate condemning Bush’s escalation of the Iraq War with an extra 21,500 troops.

I remember doing a briefing on the Hill in June of 2004 on Iraq, to a distinctly less than full room of staffers and I think no congressional representatives. Some of the staffers came up and gave me their cards and sheepishly admitted that it was very hard to get their bosses interested in taking a stand on Iraq. It seemed to me that Congress had completely abdicated its Constitutional authority over war-making. This resolution and the new energy in both houses of Congress are such welcome signs of change on this front.

If the newly elected Democratic majority didn’t do anything about Iraq, I think they would risk public wrath. The public wants us out of there. Before Bush made a big push for it, 11% thought sending more troops would be a good idea. Concern is being expressed that Republicans might vote for a non-binding resolution condemning the plan but then vote money for sending extra troops, succeeding in having it both ways with the public. I don’t know if I would worry too much about that. The public seems to have figured out which is the war party. And the trend lines for their awareness show a sharp upward curve over time (look at the difference between 2004 and 2006).

Al Franken had me on his radio show on Air America Tuesday and suggested that Congress and Bush could play bad cop, good cop with PM al-Maliki. As I understood the argument, he suggested that Congress cut off funding for the extra troops such that it would run out by the end of this summer. Bush could then tell al-Maliki that there has to be substantial progress on curbing militias and national conciliation by then, because Bush can’t guarantee a sustained US commitment now that his party has lost Congress. I told Al that his plan sounds good to me. I do think a lot of the problem here is that the top Shiite and Kurdish leadership doesn’t feel a need to compromise with the Sunni Arabs because they know if the latter make trouble, the US will deal with them. They might not be so cocky, and might compromise more readily, if they thought they’d have to fight them themselves.

The UN estimates that over 34,000 civilians were killed in political violence in Iraq in 2006. The Lancet study suggests that if you count everyone killed by violence, including criminality and clan feuds, above what was common in 2002, actually it would be 200,000.

Ben Lando of UPI writes on the possible consequences to south Iraq, fuel convoys, and petroleum export of a US attack on the Mahdi Army.