A city council member in Mada’in (Salman Pak) abruptly opened fire on Americans who had been in a meeting with him. He killed 2 US troops and wounded 4 other Americans. He had been in India recently because Sunni-Shiite tensions made it too difficult for him in Mada’in. He had only been back one week as councilman. Although there is speculation that he was unstable, my own suspicion is that the continued US military occupation was just too hard for him to take. India has an anti-colonial atmosphere, after all. Here is some of what McClatchy reporters overhead the people of Mada’in say in the aftermath:
‘ Anti-U.S. sentiment remains widespread, with many locals viewing the American presence as an intrusion. As news of Ajil’s killings spread, some residents hailed him as a hero. Several uttered his name and added, “God rest his soul,” and a taxi driver at the scene pointed to the bloodstains and said, “the pigs deserved this.” ‘
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, in Amara, pledged to send his army in to restore order in Diyala Province next. Since Diyala is 60% Sunni Arab, and al-Maliki’s troops are disproportionately drawn from Shiite militias, it is not so clear that they will have an easy time of it.
I heard US Secretary of State Condi Rice on Sunday on Fareed Zakaria’s show call the al-Maliki government a ‘national unity’ government. Not so much. Not only has he not managed to bring the Sunnis back in, he is losing the Shiites.
An interesting idea: It is getting to the point where al-Maliki’s enemies in parliament could organize a vote of no confidence and make the government fall. If it was no longer the biggest party, some other coalition could hope to nominate the prime minister.
A roadside bomb targeted a National Police patrol in Waziriyah, near the cotton wool plant intersection at 11.30 a.m. Monday, injuring three policemen.
A roadside bomb targeted a US military convoy in Qahira, near the water reservoir at noon. No casualties were reported.
A roadside bomb targeted a US military convoy in Salahuddin Square, Kathimiyah neighbourhood at around noon. No casualties were reported.
A roadside bomb targeted a US military convoy in Adil neighbourhood at around 1 p.m. No casualties were reported.
Two unidentified bodies were found in Baghdad today; 1 in Hurriyah and one in al-Amin.
Mortar rounds fell on a Sahwa headquarters in al-Atheim district, 50 km to the north of Baquba at 8.30 p.m. Sunday, killing 10 members, injuring 24 others.
Gunmen opened fire on a checkpoint manned by Iraqi Police in New Mosul, south Mosul killing one policeman and one civilian female, severely injuring two civilians.’
The USG Open Source Center translates part of a statement form Ayatollah Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah of Lebanon condemning the Status of Forces Agreement being negotiated between the US and Iraq. Fadlallah at least used to be the spiritual guide of the Islamic Mission Party (Da’wa) that Nuri al-Maliki belongs to:
“Source: Lebanese National News Agency website, Beirut, in Arabic 0737 gmt 22 Jun 08
we call on the Arab and Islamic states not to comply with the security and military demands that the US Administration aims to accomplish through its keenness to influence Arab armies, impose its tutelage, and interfere in their [military] doctrine and special security features, because we know that the United States that has failed through its direct armies is attempting to accomplish its goals by using the Arab and Islamic forces. This not only constitutes betrayal, but also leads to the destruction of all security, and toppling the positions that everyone depends on to protect what can be protected, after the Americans used their chaos to tamper with the reality of our countries, peoples, sects, and denominations from within.
We reject the US tutelage, just as we reject other tutelages. We do not find any legitimacy to any authority that attempts to bestow legitimacy to this or that tutelage.”
Aljazeera International explains how high oil prices are hurting ordinary Saudis, driving up the cost of their food and imports. The petroleum is owned by the government and profits go to it. It is hard for the government to inject the money into the economy without risking high inflation (too much money chasing too few goods), which would create an effect like a dog chasing its tail. High inflation would eat up the value of the extra money. The extra money is therefore invested abroad. Good for us, bad for most Saudis.
So, yes, high oil prices are making ordinary Saudis poorer, just as with the rest of us.
Clark says McCain has always been for the use of force, and more force, when a president should view force as a last resort. He complains that when McCain talks about throwing Russia out of the G8 or makes up ditties about bombing Iran, he “betrays a disrespect for the office of the presidency.”
I do not wish to engage in a debate about the Iraq War. But the thought of planting a largely Christian army in the middle of the Muslim Middle East over the opposition of most countries in the region, when put as I have just put it, sounds daft. Why did it not ring bells of alarm to Americans in 2003 and after, especially as it became clear that our troops would be staying a long time and that no quick victory was possible? It did not because the administration saw to it that the issue was framed differently. We weren’t planting an army. We were spreading God’s miraculous gift of freedom to a benighted people very much in need of America’s missionary help. It was the triumph of myth over logic.
Why were Americans so susceptible to myth? Foreign policy specialists don’t usually spend a lot of time reflecting on this question. They should. It’s the key to what often goes wrong when foreign policy issues become the subject of public debate.
The answer is, I’m afraid, simple. Myths count more than facts in these debates because Americans don’t know many facts and don’t care to take the time to learn them. Unlike subjects with which they have first-hand experience–think gas prices–matters related to foreign countries are both exotic and incomprehensible to most Americans. This leaves them sitting ducks for wily pols who want to take advantage of their ignorance by playing on fear and patriotism.
The extent of Americans’ ignorance is underestimated. Only two in five know we have three branches of government and can name them. Only one in five know there are 100 US senators. And five years into the war in Iraq only one in seven can find Iraq on a map. Someone once said–the author is in dispute–that war is God’s way of teaching Americans geography. It’s a great line, but rather optimistic. A majority of Americans still haven’t bothered to take a look at the map of the country where we have been bombing and killing people since 1991.
Not all is grim. On the positive side, Americans did not make wholly irrational demands of their leaders after 9/11. American Muslims were not rounded up and sent to concentration camps after 9/11 (as Japanese-Americans were after Pearl Harbor). Mosques were not closed down. Nuclear weapons were not employed against our perceived enemies. And nobody was lynched. Given what has happened in American history any one of these responses or all of them might have been anticipated. That none occurred and that nothing like them occurred is worth noting.
But polls indicate that a significant segment of the American public was susceptible to wild conspiracy theories. A Scripps-Howard poll in 2006 found that 36 percent believe that it is “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that U.S. officials either allowed the attack to take place or were involved it.
Americans do not have a monopoly on conspiracy thinking. Nineteen percent of Germans said in a 2004 poll that 9/11 was the work of the CIA and Israel’s Mossad. The French turned Thierry Meyssan’s book The Appalling Fraud into a best-seller, despite the absence of evidence for its chief and crazy claim: that the Pentagon attacked itself on 9/11 with a cruise missile. Millions of Muslims around the world persist in believing that Jews were given advance warning of the attack on the World Trade Center.
But instead of the thoughtful debate we should by rights have had in this country, we settled for slogans:
We must fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here The Global War on Terror (GWOT) Mission Accomplished You are either with us or with the terrorists The axis of evil
To be sure the public eventually turned against Mr. Bush’s war in Iraq. The one thing the public usually gets is success and failure. And Mr. Bush’s war has been a spectacular failure when judged against all of the many measures by which he has asked us to judge it.
As we head into the Fall campaign and listen to the debates about the war we should keep in mind the limits of public opinion. If we don’t begin to address the problem of gross public ignorance there will be more Iraqs.
One poll finding we should all keep in mind is this. Even after the 9/11 Commission reported that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11 attack 50 percent of the country persisted in believing there was. The implications of this are mind boggling.
Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Awakening Councils are afraid they will be discarded by their American sponsors. Abi Abd, formerly a guerilla in the “Islamic Army,” formed the “Knights of Amiriya” in the Sunni Arab district of Baghdad near Sadr City, which kicked off the Awakening Council movement wherein former guerrillas took salaries from the US to fight Salafi Jihadis. Abi Abd said Sunday that he was afraid of being purged now as the need for the Awakening Councils declined. He has had to go into exile abroad after being accused of organizing murders and kidnappings. He denied the charges and said they were trumped up to force him out.
The Awakening movement that began in al-Anbar Province with Sattar Abu Rishah had had difficulty getting a foothold in Baghdad until Abi Abd announced his defection from the “Islamic Army” and his fashioning of the “Knights of Amiriya.” He now says he feels that the US used him and his like to take on armed groups in the Karkh district of the capital, but was now discarding him. He appears to have fled an attempt by Iraqi and US troops to arrest him. He said ruefully that ‘al-Qaeda in Iraq’ had all along predicted that the US would use the Awakening Councils and then turn on them when it achieved its goals. Abi Abd was wounded in a bombing two months ago for which ‘al-Qaeda in Iraq’ claimed credit. He had been leading 1,000 men, most of them young men who had helped expel the radicals from Adhamiya and helped bring Sunnis earlier ethnically cleansed back to their neighborhood.
Col. Sa`id `Aziz Salman, leader of the Awakening Council of Taji Shores in North Baghdad expressed the same fear of being tossed aside by the US once he was not needed any more to keep security. Salman said that the minister of the interior was trying to roll up the Awakening Councils, many of whose leaders and members did have a criminal past. He said he thought Abu Abd’s positive accomplishments more recently should outweigh any criminal activities of a couple of years ago. But a source in a security ministry told al-Hayat that on the country no one was above the law and if anyone broke it they would be prosecuted no matter who they are.
Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that the speaker of the house in Iraq, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, has issued a formal apology to female parliamentarians for the way they have been treated by his office. Women MPs had held a news conference Sunday to complain that they had been marginalized and subjected to “political violence.” MP Aliya Nasif Jasim said that the women parliamentarians had a lot of reservations about how things were handled in parliament, but that when they spoke up they had their views ‘embargoed’ and were subjected to ridicule. She said that these matters were contrary to the constitution, which guarantees the equality of women with men. She said that often women in parliament kept silent out of fear of how they would be treated if they spoke up. She said that the female MPs had been on the verge of walking out and boycotting parliament sessions if they did not get some satisfaction on this matter.
There are 76 women in the parliament of 275. Not only have they been silenced by the macho behavior of al-Mashhadani and other male colleagues, but they were hand picked by party lists and so far have tended to vote with their list, rendering them relatively toothless.
Al-Mashhadani’s apology said that the experiment in democracy was young in Iraq and that there would be many mistakes along the way, of which his behavior had been one.
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that the Kurdistan Alliance has forwarded a proposal to the Iraqi parliament requesting that it vote a resolution to ask that Iraq be admitted to NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Robert Reid of AP reports that on Sunday that a female suicide bomber in Baquba attacked a government complex, killing 16 and wounding 40. Eight of the dead were police, says al-Hayat, along with 2 women and a child. Of the wounded, 7 were policemen and several others were women and children. Al-Hayat makes clear what other reports do not, that this attack targeted Iraqi police, which in Baquba are disproportionately Shiite, with many drawn from the Badr Corps paramilitary of the pro-Iranian Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). It was the largest bombing since last Tuesday, when a Shiite market in Baghdad was attacked, killing over 50 and wounding dozens. Baquba is the capital of the mixed Diyala Province, which has a 60 percent Sunni Arab majority but is ruled by ISCI. The province also has Kurds, and the Kurdistan alliance wants to annex part of it. Sunni Arab guerrilla movements such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the 1920 Revolution Brigades have been fighting the Shiite government as well as one another.
In the major northern city of Mosul (pop. 1.7 million), meanwhile, McClatchy reports that “14 people were injured including four policemen when a suicide car bomb attacked a police checkpoint in al Wihda neighborhood in downtown Mosul city on Sunday afternoon.”
Guerrillas in the village of Fashka near the northern oil city of Kirkuk targeting a police patrol missed and hit a civilian car, killing 4.
In Kirkuk itself, a roadside bomb killed three and wounded 2. Two of the dead were women. The police in Kirkuk and surroundings are largely drawn from the Kurdish Peshmerga national guard. The Kurds are tying to annex Kirkuk province to their Kurdistan Regional Authority and meet opposition from Arabs and Turkmens. These bombings are part of a three-way power struggle over Kirkuk and its petroleum wealth.
By now, summer of 2008, excess deaths from violence in Iraq since March of 2003 must be at least a million. This conclusion can be reached more than one way. There is not much controversy about it in the scientific community. Some 310,000 of those were probably killed by US troops or by the US Air Force, with the bulk dying in bombing raids by US fighter jets and helicopter gunships on densely populated city and town quarters.
In absolute numbers, that would be like bombing to death everyone in Pittsburgh, Pa. Or Cincinnati, Oh.
Only, the US is 11 times more populous than Iraq, so 310,000 Iraqi corpses would equal 3.4 million dead Americans. So proportionally it would be like firebombing to death everyone in Chicago.
The one million number includes not just war-related deaths but all killings beyond what you would have expected from the 2000-2002 baseline. That is, if tribal feuds got out of hand and killed a lot of people because the Baath police were demobilized or disarmed and so no longer intervened, those deaths go into the mix. All the Sunnis killed in the north of Hilla Province (the ‘triangle of death’) when Shiite clans displaced from the area by Saddam came back up to reclaim their farms would be included. The kidnap victims killed when the ransom did not arrive in time would be included. And, of course, the sectarian, ethnic and militia violence, even if Iraqi on Iraqi, would count. And it hasn’t been just hot spots like Baghdad, Basra, Mosul and Kirkuk. The rate of excess violent death has been pretty standard across Arab Iraq.
As for the Iraqis killed by Americans, like the 24 civilians in Haditha, the survivors are not going to be pro-American any time soon. The US can always find politicians to come out and say nice things on a visit to the Rose Garden. But the people. I don’t think the people are saying nice things in Arabic behind our backs.
Although it is very good news that the number of Iraqis killed in political violence fell in May to 532 according to official sources, the number was twice that in March and April. And,it should be remembered that independent observers have busted the Pentagon for grossly under-reporting attacks and casualties. If someone shows up dead and they aren’t sure exactly why, it isn’t counted as political violence, just as an ordinary murder. Attacks per day are measured by whether the mortar shell scratches any US equipment when it explodes. If not, it didn’t happen. McClatchy estimated a year and a half ago that attacks were being underestimated by a factor of 10.
By the way, isn’t is a little odd that the death rate fell in the month of the Great Mosul Campaign? I conclude that either it can’t have been much of a campaign or someone is cooking the death statistics.
But over 500 a month dead in political violence is appalling enough. The Srebenica massacre in 1995 killed 8,000. At the average rate of death in Iraq this winter and spring, a similar massacre will have been racked up in 2008. In the Northern Ireland troubles over 30 years, about 3,000 people died, and it was widely considered a bad situation. That death toll is still being achieved every 6 months in Iraq according to the official May statistics.
And, of course, by the rule of 11,that death toll would be like nearly 6,000 Americans dying in political violence every month, or 72,000 a year. (Note that this 72,000 figure would only be political deaths, since it does not include criminal homicides). The annual total murder rate in the US is about 16,000, including political violence, what little there is. The US is one of the most violent societies on earth, and Iraq in May makes it look like a pacifist convention.
In these situations, typically 3 persons are wounded for every one killed. In Iraq, I suspect it is higher, because US bombings and guerrilla bombings are such a big part of the violence. But let us be conservative.
That would mean 3 million Iraqi wounded in the past five years.
Equivalent to 33 million Americans wounded, that is, the entire state of California crippled or in bandages.
As for the displaced (i.e. homeless), they amount to a startling 5 million persons. There were 1.8 million internally displaced in January of 2007, and by December it had risen to 2.4 million. There are 2.3 million externally displaced, 2 million of them in Jordan and Syria.
In fact 5 million displaced persons is almost the entire population of nearby countries such as Jordan or Israel! 5 million is about the number of Jews in Israel, for instance. In absolute numbers, that is how many Iraqis are living in some other country or some other province, having lost their homes.
Some 1.4 million Iraqis are stuck in Syria, many becoming increasingly penniless. Another 500,000 to 800,000 have been displaced to Jordan, which has now closed its borders to them. Please read this excellent piece of reporting, which points out that the US has done diddly squat for these millions of people upon whom it has visited a world class catastrophe, neither allotting meaningful amounts of aid nor admitting more than a token number as immigrants. Sweden has admitted 40,000 Iraqis, nearly 4 times what the US even plans to. Please write the Senate and the Congress and demand that something be done for these, our victims.
40% of Iraq’s middle class is outside the country.
Very few of the refugees abroad have returned, only a few thousand. Only 12% of the returnees say they are going back because they think it is safe now, according to UN border polls.
The refusal of the refugees to return makes me suspicious of the good news stories about security improvements in Iraq. There is an Arabic proverb that “The people of a house know best what is in the house.”
5 million displaced Iraqis would be like 55 million displaced Americans, or the equivalent of everybody in California and New York combined
American commentators peculiarly lack a social dimension to their analyses. So if PM Nuri al-Maliki sends some troops up to Mosul and the guerrillas there lie low for a while, that is “progress” and “good news.” Well, maybe it is, I don’t know.
I do know that the apocalypse that the United States has unleashed upon Iraq is among the greatest catastrophes to befall any country in the past 50 years. It is a much worse disaster over time than the Burmese cyclone or the Mississippi floods.
You won’t see it on television very much these days.
Even if it gets better, it won’t get better very fast for all those millions wounded, widowed, orphaned, and displaced; as for the 1 million dead, as they say in Arabic, God have mercy on them (Allah yarhamhum). Maybe it will get better sooner for the politicians in the Green Zone. They are the sort of people that the think tanks in Washington seem to care about.
- Around 1 p.m. a bomb planted in the car of the office manager of the Iraqi minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research exploded in Al Tobchi neighborhood injuring three including the minister’s office manager.
- Around 4 p.m. a bomb planted in a civilian car exploded in Al Nidhal Street injuring two Iraqi employees of a local LG Company branch.
- Around 5 p.m. a bomb planted in a police vehicle exploded in Al Andalus square injuring two policemen.
- Police found two dead bodies throughout Baghdad; one in Al Baladiyat, one in Mansour.
- Police found the bodies of two brothers, Ali and Mohamed Zaid, in Al Tahrir neighborhood in Baquba . . .
- Around 8 a.m. a car exploded in central Kirkuk injuring the two passengers in the car. Police said they suspect the two passengers were planning a car bomb attack. The two suspects are under investigation, police said.’
“I don’t believe that what I see in Iran today is a current, grave and urgent danger. If a military strike is carried out against Iran at this time … it would make me unable to continue my work . . .”
“A military strike, in my opinion, would be worse than anything possible. It would turn the region into a fireball . . .”
“If you do a military strike, it will mean that Iran, if it is not already making nuclear weapons, will launch a crash course to build nuclear weapons with the blessing of all Iranians, even those in the West.”