Press Roundup for Wednesday 12/22
Josh White of the Washington Post reports that US soldiers at a base near Samarra routinely take mortar and machine gun fire, and that an incident similar to the luncheon massacre in Mosul could easily happen at other bases in the country.
Skyrocketing security costs have forced Contrack International, a major US contractor in Iraq, to pull out of that country. It had a $325 million contract to rebuild Iraq’s transportation system. This news is the best indicator yet that the insurgents are winning the Iraqi Guerrilla War of 2003- . The US military can theoretically go on taking its current level of casualties for some time to come, though it probably cannot maintain its current troops strength in Iraq. But if all the civilian companies doing reconstruction pull out, along with most of the NGO’s (non-governmental organizations), then it will be extremely difficult for the US to achieve the sort of reconstruction that might help Iraq turn a corner.
Az-Zaman: A cold wave has gripped Baghdad, leaving 16 children dead from exposure. Electricity has been unreliable recently because of sabotage, and there are heating fuel shortages for the same reason.
Vanessa Gezari has some further reflections on Sunni-Shiite relations in Iraq after the Najaf and Karbala bombings of this weekend. She is to be congratulated for seeking comment from experts like Abdulaziz Sachedina of the University of Virginia and Stephen Humphreys of the University of California, Santa Barbara. They know whereof they speak. The only dissent I would offer is that I don’t think the shrine city bombing were done by “Wahhabis.” I think they were the work of Baathists, and I think most of the violence in Iraq has all along been by the Baathists, along with a few radical Sunni Arab groups.
Ash-Sharq al-Awsat reports that the bombings in the shrine cities were condemned by President Ghazi al-Yawir and by the conservative Association of Muslim Scholars. The latter, Sunni clerics who are sometimes close to the guerrillas, expressed their profound pain at the injury dealt to the body of Iraq by these bombings at noble Najaf and Karbala. (That is, the Sunnis resorted to a nationalist language of soil and the national “body” to express their disapproval of the attacks on Shiite shrines).
Talib Ibrahim Dhahir, a member of the municipal governing council of Baqubah and a former nuclear scientist, was gunned down by unknown assailants on Tuesday.
Justin Raimondo has some interestng thoughts on the rift between the Neoconservatives and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. But I would just add that the disgruntlement with Rumsfeld is broad and deep among Republican senators, as well.
Raimondo also has an update on the IraqTheModel website, and the persistent questions about who is backing it and why, with information about the resignation of one of the brothers from the blog, writing, “the act of some Americans that made me feel I’m on the wrong side here. I will expose these people in public very soon and I won’t lack the mean to do this, but I won’t do it here as this is not my blog.”
The Guardian notes that the American Civil Liberties Union acquired documents about the treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners that suggest that torture was used, and that it was actually authorized by President Bush. The documents also reveal that one torture technique was to wrap a prisoner in an Israeli flag. I’m puzzled by that one (my readers, incidentally, allege that the New York Times omitted to mention this particular technique, which was reported by the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post). My guess is that the prisoners’ pictures were taken while wrapped in the Israeli flag, as a way of humiliating and possibly blackmailing them. You just have to scratch your head and wonder if the Bush administration is determined gradually to give supporting evidence for every single one of the anti-American stereotypes current in the Muslim world.
I suppose it doesn’t occur to the US interrogators that the Israeli flag has the Star of David on it, which is at least to some degree a religious symbol, and that they were desecrating a Jewish icon. If I were the Israelis, I’d complain loudly about this blasphemy.