Huge Explosions At Us Base At Ramadi

*Huge explosions at the US base at Ramadi west of Baghdad, but no word on casualties as I write. Guerrillas killed one soldier, wounded two others outside the police station at Baquba, northeast of Baghdad.

*A large demonstration of 1000 in Nasiriya demanding that the US-appointed city council resign. The leading local Shiite clergyman, Sheikh Asad al-Nasiri, threatens a fatwa permitting the assassination of any council members who do not leave. Two resigned, 18 stood firm. the demonstrators promise to return the next day. They accuse the council members of looting the town more thoroughly than post-war looters stripped Iraq. There have in fact been problems of graft with US appointees to such positions, as in Najaf. Al-Nasiri’s threat of violence is disturbing. Nasiriyyah has a lot of members in the al-Da`wa al-Islamiyyah and possibly Asad al-Nasiri belongs to that party. If so, Ibrahim Jaafari, the head of the national Interim Governing Council, should intervene with him to stop such incitements to violence, which would be illegal even in the US under the “clear and present danger” rule. See http://www.bayarea.com/mld/mercurynews/news/special_packages/iraq/6510257.htm. Things have calmed a bit in Basra, only to flare up in nearby Nasiriya.

*US soldiers killed two Iraqi policemen in Baghdad in a friendly fire incident. The policemen were engaged in a firefight with looters or guerrillas, and the US soldiers took the wrong side. Uh, surely uniforms or walkie-talkies or something can be used to prevent such incidents . . . President of the Interim Governing Council, Ibrahim Jaafari, was deeply angered by this and other incidents: “We have insisted on several occasions to the coalition forces on the necessity of treating Iraqis properly,” otherwise “hatred [will] grow against them. Iraq has traditions and we must respect them and the blood of our compatriots has huge value in our eyes especially when soldiers kill innocent people.” He referred to Iraq openly as “occupied.” And this is the leading Iraqi ally of the US in the country. See http://www.riyadhdaily.com.sa/display_assay.php?id=35237.

*Some of the recent trouble in Basra may have been stirred up by Shiite cleric Sheikh Abu Salim, a follower of Muqtada al-Sadr, who claims that the Coalition is deliberately depriving Iraqis of electricity and gasoline so as to better control them. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,2763,1016770,00.html.

Iraqis in Basra complain that with little power, fresh water, or other facilities, “It’s a filthy life.” British officials are chafing that they are unable to influence the US rebuilding program, which has bureaucratic priorities. The British want to concentrate on electricity and fuel and water, but the Americans are busy refurbishing 200 schools–not the first priority of the local British adminsitration. See http://msnbc.com/news/951243.asp.

*Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, William Burns, has been trying to convince Arab League states to send troops to Iraq, in return for lucrative rebuilding contracts being awarded to businessmen from those states. So far the Arab League is saying “no.” I can’t understand why the US fights a unilateral war and then wants the kind of post-war cooperation that could only have come from multilateral coalition-building *before* the war. And, shouldn’t those contracts be based on open bids, i.e., which firms can do the best job for the least money from the Iraqi treasury, for the benefit of the Iraqi people?

*French President Jacques Chirac is now referring to Iraq as “Halliburton” (the US corporation that has been awarded a lot of Iraq contracts with no open bidding process. New contracts tend to go to Halliburton on the grounds that it now has more experience and assets on the ground than others!)

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