Najaf Crowd Pelts US Troops with Shoes; Al-Zaidi in Military Custody; Bush Wars Cost $900 Bn.

Thousands of Iraqis demonstrated on Monday, demanding the release of Muntazar al-Zaidi, the journalist who threw shoes at Bush.

In the Shiite holy city of Najaf, south of Baghdad, crowds threw shoes at an American military patrol.

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that tribal chieftains in Kirkuk and Diyala Provinces showed solidarity with al-Zaidi and demanded his release. Hugo Chavez and many Arabs praised al-Zaidi.

AP reports that al-Zaidi has been turned over to the Iraqi military, specifically the prime minister’s special security guards. Al-Zaidi, AP, was handed over “to the prime minister’s security guards to face further investigation by the military agency in charge of enforcing law in Baghdad.”

Iraqis are deeply suspicious that the US military will not honor its obligations under the Status of Forces Agreement, which calls for US troops to be out of the cities by the end of June,2009, and out of Iraq by 2011.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh says he was misquoted by the press over the weekend. He said he meant only to say that it would take 10 years to build the Iraqi army, not that US troops would be needed in the country for that period of time.

The cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars now stands at over $900 billion, with nearly $700 billion of that accounted for by Iraq alone. When the cost of past US wars is adjusted for inflation, only the expenditures on WW II exceed the price of the Iraq War. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz expects the total cost, when health care for wounded vets over their lifetime is taken into account, to reach $3 trillion.

Human Rights Watch has issued a report deeply critical of the Iraqi criminal court system. It alleges that Iraqis wait months and sometimes even years in custody without being formally charged. When they finally come to court, they are often disadvantaged by secret evidence given against them by anonymous accusers. The report adds:

‘ Torture and other forms of abuse in Iraqi detention
facilities, frequently to elicit confessions in early stages of detention, are welldocumented.
117 The reliance on confessions in the court’s proceedings, coupled with
the absence of physical or other corroborating evidence, raises the possibility of
serious miscarriages of justice. In at least 10 investigative hearings and two trials
that Human Rights Watch observed, defendants renounced confessions submitted
as evidence. In most of those cases, the defendants said they had been physically
abused or threatened by interrogators.’

The report is here in .pdf form.

The Iraqi Oil Report considers the move in Basra province toward the declaration of the province as a Regional Government with special claims on proceeds from new petroleum finds.

Iraq will buy equipment from General Electric and Siemens in a bid to boost the country’s electricity production.

Attacks and bombings killed at least 20 persons on Monday, and wounded dozens. Near Fallujah, a big bombing of police was especially destructive.

Reuters also reports political violence in Iraq on Monday:

‘ * KHAN DHARI – Nine policemen were killed and 31 wounded when a suicide bomber drove a car full of explosives at their checkpoint in Khan Dhari, in the western outskirts of Baghdad, police said. Another police source put the death toll at three, with 30 wounded.

* TARMIYA – A female suicide bomber detonated an explosive vest in the town of Tarmiya, 25 km (15 miles) north of Baghdad, killing the leader of a U.S.-backed neighbourhood patrol, police said. The man’s son was also wounded.

MOSUL – Gunmen killed seven people from a single family, members of the minority Yazidi sect, when they stormed into their home in the town of Sinjar, west of Mosul. Mosul is 390 km (240 miles) northwest of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL – Gunmen killed a woman in her home in eastern Mosul, police said. ‘