Over 90 Dead In Civil War Violence

Over 90 Dead in Civil War Violence
Shiite Militiamen Kill 27 Sunnis at Balad

Two more US troops were announced killed on Saturday.

Enraged by the kidnapping and killing of 17 Shiite farm workers at Dhuluiyah by Sunni Arab guerrillas, Shiite militiamen came up to nearby Balad (a Shiite city with a Sunni minority near Dhuluiyah) and massacred the Sunnis. Some 27 corpses had been brought to the hospital by the time Sunday’s WaPo had been put to bed.

Aljazeera early Sunday morning is reporting that the people of Dhuluiyah are defending themselves from invading militiamen. It appears that the Shiite militias marched on Dhuluiyah after their massacre of Sunnis at Balad. WaPo reported that the former had been arming themselves and preparing for such an attack.

This sort of open militia violence between cities such as Dhuluiyah and Balad was the sort of thing I was afraid would happen if the US withdrew precipitately. If, however, 141,000 US troops are actually in the country near to these events and they cannot stop company-sized attacks, then they really should depart. Their presence is causing a lot of resentment and violence to begin with, and if it isn’t offset by effective action to stop militia reprisal killings, it is a net negative.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that
Iraqi authorities announced the deaths of 30 more persons in political violence around the country by late afternoon Saturday. Some 8 of them died in a suicide bombing at a market in al-Qaim, on the border with Syria. In addition, patrols discovered 25 cadavers in Baghdad, bearing the evidence of having been tortured. 7 bodies were found in other cities.

In south Baghdad, gunmen killed a family of 10 in the al-Sayfiyah district. 5 women and 3 children were among the dead.

In a village south of Baqubah, 7 persons were killed in a firefight between gunmen and security forces. Police say 6 of those killed were guerrillas. The 7th was a woman. In Baqubah itself, guerrillas killed 2 persons.

Also in Baqubah, police found 3 corpses. In Suwayrah, 4 headless bodies were found.

A former director of legal affairs in Maysan was kidnapped and killed by gunmen. A drive-by shooting in Diwaniyah killed a teacher. In Samarra, gunmen shot a shopkeeper.

In Nasiriyah police claimed to have captured 38 persons specializing in abducting women, one of whom is also accused of laying roadside bombs against British patrols.

Reuters reports further political violence.

Clashes between guerrillas and police in Kirkuk left two guerrillas dead.

Borzou Daragahi of the LA Times profiles an Iraqi professional charged with plugging the holes in Iraqi dams, whose life has been made a mess by the situation produced by the US occupation, and who relaxes by watching Dr. Phil with Arabic subtitles.

The US commitment to rebuilding Iraq has faltered, and many projects have been left unfinished. As the American contractors leave, the Iraqis seem likely to have trouble keeping up the repairs. The $18 bn. Congress appropriated for this purpose seems likely to end up having had little effect, in the face massive guerrilla sabotage and insecurity.

With regard to the controversy over the remarks of the top British general about the need to get British troops out of Iraq, where they are probably provoking more problems than solving them, an informed reader wrote me on Friday:

A BBC reporter in Baghdad said on the Today programme this morning that 1) Donnat’s bombshell reflects the view of the senior British officers in Iraq; and 2) were it purely a British decision, purely a military decision the Brits would have got out a long time ago.

So why haven’t they? Again, in the phrasing on the Today programme this morning, that “would leave the Americans without their wing man”.

Blair was up in Scotland last night concerning himself with the Northern Ireland intransigencies. So much for his stiff brandy and chance to put his feet up. Radio 4’s political reporter Nick Robinson said on the Today programme that the government was thrown into such a tizzy by the Dannat bombshell that the hastily arranged [damage limitation] teleconference went on late into the night…and that – and this may be the most important point of all – “the Americans wanted to take part in the teleconference but had to be dissauded from doing so.”

Now, think this one through. There is no question at all that the Brits would have contacted the White House to tell them that they were going to have a late night, emergency teleconference. It will have been the other way around. The Bush operation will have jumped down Blair’s throat about this – “what’s all this shit about, what are you going to do about it?” Wetting himself, Blair would have squeaked out something about his “teleconference”…the Americans would have tried to “kick that door in”, as in “we’re gonna take part in that teleconference”…and somehow, it’ll be a first, needless to say, Blair found the cojones to say no to them. “Dissauded them”.

What also needs to be highlighted is Donnat’s use of that word “break”. In the sense that the British army is so overstretched that it is in danger of breaking. The BBC report said – and I’m quoting – what was in question was “the survival of the British army if it stays too long in Iraq”.

As the Today programme said shortly after 8 am, in its interview with the Lib Dems leader, the bombshell “goes right to the heart of the mission”. The Lib Dems leader, needless to say, hit that one out of the park: “exactly, on every count: the circumstances in which it began, the preparations not made for the aftermath, and the fact that we are today very much part of the problem.” Game. Set. Match.

Update. In the News at One the General is now saying that he and the Prime Minster are in full agreement. In other words, he’s been got to. But the damage has already been done. No way they’re going to be able to spin this one . . . the levee’s been breached. Disastrously so. ‘

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