*Guerrillas in Falluja set off a bomb that wounded four US soldiers on Thursday. Hundreds of townspeople rallied after the attack for a march through town, chanting slogans in favor of Saddam Hussein and against George W. Bush. In a macabre scene, some displayed charred cloth that they said came from the clothing of some of the wounded soldiers. US soldiers searched part of the town after the attack. In the south on Weds. night, one British soldier was killed and another wounded in the village of Ali al-Sharqi, where they appear to have been ambushed by an angry mob, from which they took rpg fire. This incident recalls the attack at Majar al-Kabir at the end of June. Although the South is quieter than the Sunni Arab triangle, it can be dangerous as well. The reporting does not really give any motive for the attack.
*Al-Qaeda has posted a new letter on its site, written by a fallen leader killed in a gun battle in Saudi Arabia recently, which addresses the Iraq situation. Al-Qaeda feels that the fall of the Baath is favorable to the radical Islamist cause, since it discredits secular Arab nationalism. Al-Qaeda is convinced that radical fundamentalism (of course they don’t call it that) will fill the vacuum created by the collapse of the regime. The scarey thing is that if Falluja and Ramadi are any guide, they might be right, at least about the Sunni Arab Iraqis.
Arabic URL: http://www.asharqalawsat.com/
*About 35 Iraqis are murdered in Baghdad alone every day, most in gang-related violence, according to Rosalind Russell of Reuters. That is an annual murder rate of nearly 13,000, for this one city, population 5 million. The murder rate for the United States, a country of over 280 million, in 2000? 16,000! Nor is Iraq just a violent society; physicians at Baghdad hospitals say they have never seen anything like it! Baghdad was quite safe under Saddam as long as you weren’t involved in dissident politics. I’d say that for the US to allow this level of homocide is probably even a violation of its duties under the Fourth Geneva Convention, as an Occupying Power. No wonder women are afraid to go to hospitals for health care. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld likened the homicide rate in Iraq under US rule to that of Washington DC (in 2002 there were 163 murders in this city of 570,000. If DC were ten times as big, i.e., as big as Baghdad, that would only be 1,630 per year.) Nope, Mr. Rumsfeld, the comparison doesn’t work. He was talking, of course only about US military deaths (which are already rather more than the number of murder victims in DC, anyway); I guess Iraqi murder victims don’t count. But guess what? The Iraqi public really minds this crime wave, and it is turning them off to cooperation with the US.
Al-Zaman led yesterday with a horrifying story of burglars killing two families in Baghdad and attempts at looting a moneychanger’s office and car theft by criminal gangs, if corroboration were needed. AFP says that families with missing members throng to the morgue in fear of finding them there.
*It has for some time been clear that much of the inaccurate information the US and Britain received about alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction came from Iraqi expatriates and defectors. NYT correspondent Judith Miller has been exposed by her colleagues as relying on corrupt financier Ahmad Chalabi, head of the Pentagon-backed “Iraqi National Congress” for her reporting about Iraqi chemical weapons. We all saw former Iraqi nuclear scientist Khidir Hamza come on television all last year insisting that Iraq had a big nuclear weapons program even after 1998 (he was contradicted by other expatriate Iraqi nuclear scientists, but somehow Hardball and O’Reilly and Hannity and Colmes did not have them on. Now the LAT and UPI are reporting a US government theory that some of the expatriates were fed disinformation by Saddam before they left, because Saddam hoped that the US would be afraid to attack him if he had big WMD stockpiles. Well, anything is possible. But Chalabi and Hamza had been outside Iraq for 40 and for 12 years respectively, and their misiniformation wasn’t from the Baath. The US was snookered by these expatriates, all right, but it wasn’t mostly Saddam’s doing. Chalabi has been rewarded for lying to us (not to mention embezzling millions) by an appointment to the Interim Governing Council. I don’t know what happened to Hamza, but I imagine he’ll do all right for himself out of it all. And, of course, there were those forged letters purporting to be from Niger, which presumably came from the expats or from other forces (Israeli PM Ariel Sharon is another potential suspect) who wanted a US war against Iraq.
You can’t blame the expats for wanting the US to overthrow Saddam, really, or for lying to get that result. What is shocking is that high officials of the US government like Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush should have based so much of their policy on the gossip of expats who had no real on the ground intelligence to share. This whole experience should make the US doubly suspicious of Iranians who want Washington to overthrow the mullahs in Tehran, and of those who are allied with these expats, such as the pro-Israeli Washington Institute for Near East Policy, whose deputy director Patrick Clawson has been vocally supporting the terrorist group Mujahidin-e Khalq. (Makes you wonder what kind of deal the MEK has cut).
*US military spokesmen have acknowledged at last that a military helicopter deliberately blew down a Shiite banner from a telecom tower, which resulted in demonstrations in Baghdad. They at first denied it. The helicopter crew will apparently be reprimanded for poor judgment. The banner addressed the Imam Mahdi, or Shiite promised figure analogous to the Return of Christ, and its dislodging was viewed as a slap in the face by the Sadrist sect in Baghdad.
*The rector of al-Azhar seminary in Cairo, Dr. Muhammad Tantawi, has repudiated a fatwa or legal ruling given by one of his colleagues, which forbade Muslims to cooperate with the Iraqi Interim Governing Council appointed by the Americans. Tantawi said that the ruling was merely the opinion of a private individual and did not represent the views of al-Azhar as an institution, which concerns itself in any case only with Egyptian affairs. -Al-Hayat. This backtracking almost certainly comes as a response to severe pressure from the Egyptian government, which in turn was probably pressured by the US embassy in Cairo. That the Hosni Mubarak regime does favors like this for the US is one reason that there is no US pressure on it to democratize, in contrast to Iraq. The US is still a status quo power in the Middle East, despite all the neocons’ talk about democratization, and Egypt is a pillar of the status quo, what with its peace treaty with Israel and military alliance with the US.
Arabic URL: http://www.daralhayat.com/arab_news/
A debate has broken out in Bulgaria about whether to send 15-20 civilians to help administer the city of Karbala, now under military control of the Bulgarian contingent. Some fear that the civilians’ lives will be put in danger.