139 Killed, as Iraqi Public Doubts Security Plan
16,000 Demonstrate in Karbala
AP reports that political violence killed 139 persons in Iraq on Monday and must have wounded hundreds more. The biggest loss of life came with three coordinated truck bombings of the Shiite Shurja market, which brought down buildings and killed 70. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was giving a speech at the time and the enormous explosions cause his aides to flinch on camera, then a plume of smoke is visible.
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that eyewitnesses report that a nearby market took mortar fire at the same time as the bombings. The “Times of Baghdad” says that the enormous explosions and massacre of innocents, coming on the heels of a similar attack last week, has shaken the confidence of the Iraqi public in the new security plans of PM al-Maliki and of the Bush administration.
Reuters reports other political violence on Monday, including other bombings of Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad! In the northern city of Mosul, six policemen were wounded in a firefight with guerrillas. Some 27 bodies were found in the capital on Monday, as usual.
Al-Zaman reports in Arabic that the editor of the Iraqi newspaper al-Safir, Husain al-Juburi, suffered deep wounds in an assassination attempt in the Dura district of Baghdad. He was transferred to hospital.
In the holy Shiite city of Karbala, Some 16,000 demonstrators came out on the anniversary, in the Islamic lunar calendar, of the blowing up of the Askariyah Shrine in Samarra in February, 2006. This report says,
‘ About 16,000 demonstrators flooded the main street of the southern city of Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, marching toward Shia shrines there. Participants rallied with placards reading, “No to terrorism” and “Iraqis are one people, whether Shia or Sunni.” Hundreds of policemen guarded the area, and no violence was reported.’
And, begging is the least of it. Street children are being drawn into drug use, criminality, prostitution, and even terrorism.
If last fall’s Lancet study is correct and 600,000 extra Iraqis have died from violence since April 2003, that would have created a lot of widows, orphans and street children.
A new crisis is brewing for Iraqis caught in the crossfire of violence at home, who wish to emigrate. Syria is closing its borders to new immigrants and imposing relatively restrictive visa rules. Syria, with a population of 19 million, has over 800,000 Iraqi refugees, and they have increasingly become an economic burden. The Bush administration, whose policies helped create the crisis in Iraq, has been offloading costs like refugee care onto regional governments. The US has admitted on the order of 200 displaced Iraqis. The local countries are now saying, “no more.” Egypt and Jordan have come to the same conclusion. A demand on Europe and the US for money to care for the refugees seems the likely next step.
The Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference warns that if the US just pulls up stakes and leaves Iraq with no force replacement, all hell will break loose. The OIC is the regular conference of the foreign ministers of Muslim-majority states. Last summer at an OIC meeting, the Malaysian prime minister raised the possibility of providing peacekeeping troops to Iraq. The Reuters report says,
‘ However Ihsanoglu also warned that apportioning blame would not prove helpful in resolving the crisis, adding that under current conditions a “withdrawal of American troops from Iraq would, without having substitutes from national forces and international forces, lead to more bloodshed”.
Quoting a Turkish proverb which says that “if a mad man throws a stone in a well, 40 wise men would find difficulty in getting this stone out of the well”, he said: “Whom to blame is not the issue. The issue is how to find a way.” ‘
Well, if Ihsanoglu is offering peacekeeping troops, someone quick take him up on it!
Some 15 percent of US veterans of the Iraq War suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome, but only 2,000 have been diagnosed with it. Various pressures, some of them possibly political, militate against their problems being recognized and properly treated. In other words, in addition to nearly 25,000 killed or wounded in combat, we can expect to have a similar number with significant psychological problems.