69 Dead in Bombings, Shootings;
Al-Maliki Stops Wall-building at Adhamiya
Reuters reports that a lot of wounded vets from the Iraq War are having to turn to private care. A chilling passage: “Of the nearly 24,000 wounded soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, about a third suffer from some degree of traumatic brain injury, or TBI, according to the General Accounting Office.”
What? A third have brain injuries! That’s 8,000 persons!
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki asked Sunday that the US military halt its construction of a security wall around the Sunni Arab district of Adhamiya. Al-Maliki spoke from Cairo where he is meeting with foreign ministers of Iraq’s neighbors.
The mainstream US media will sidestep this point, but al-Maliki pretty explicitly said that the reason he called off the wall building is that he doesn’t want his government compared to that of Israel. That is, the Adhamiya wall is being likened in the Arab world to the Apartheid Wall being built by the Israelis in the West Bank. Al-Maliki made the statement in Cairo, and when he referred to the “other walls” he didn’t want the one in Adhamiya compared to, he pointed toward Israel. The Western press is bringing up the Berlin Wall as part of his meaning, but the videotape makes it absolutely clear that his referent was Israel’s project. On the other hand, Nassar al-Rubaie, a Sadrist member of the Iraqi parliament, did warn that the US is building a series of Berlin Walls in Baghdad.
The politics of the wall points to the ways in which the Israeli-Palestinian issue is absolutely central to the difficulties the United States is having in being accepted in Iraq. Many Iraqis perceive the US presence as just an extension of Israeli occupation of Arabs and Arab land, and routinely refer to US troops as “the Jews.”
The Israeli government has grossly mistreated the Palestinian people, the current condition of which is grave. The wall the Israelis are building is built on Palestinian land and has stolen more land from Palestinians and has in some instances run through Palestinian villages, cutting them in two and separating families. The Apartheid Wall has provoked demonstrations.
So being a foreign military force in an Arab country and looking like they are building security walls similar to that of the Israelis just puts the US and its ally, al-Maliki, in a very difficult position.
Not to mention that walling people up is intrinsically unappealing as a governing strategy. Mahmud Osman, a member of parliament in the Kurdistan Alliance and a former member of Paul Bremer’s Interim Governing Council, told al-Zaman that the Adhamiya wall is “the peak of failure” for the new security plan and “a violation of human rights.” He added that the wall “is a clear sign of the failure of the American and government policy for safeguarding security.” Other MPs complained that the policy would create and reinforce sectarian divisions in the capital.
The US military had planned to build 5 such walls around Sunni Arab districts in Baghdad. It is not now clear if any will be built. Another corner of this story is the unpredictability of the political environment for the US military. It is inconceivable that al-Maliki did not earlier sign off on the Adhamiya wall, but then he changed his mind. The US officer corps in Iraq must be fit to be tied.
Some 69 Iraqis were killed in political violence on Sunday. 11 bodies were found in the capital on Sunday. Suicide bombers in Baghdad hit a police station, striking a blow at the new security plan, killing 12 and wounding 95. Another car bomb in the Saidiya district in the south of the capital killed 6 and wounded 37.
Up north around Mosul, Sunni Arab guerrillas captured a bus with Christian and Yezidi Kurdish passengers, separated them out by religion,and then executed 23 Yezidis. The murders were said to come from a local dispute stemming from the marriage of a Yezidi girl to a Sunni, and consequent Yezidi attacks on the groom.
The word Yezidi comes from the ancient Iranian Izad, a word meaning “God,” and is related to the Persian “yazdani,” meaning “divine.” The religion is a survival of ancient Iranian beliefs and motifs shaped by a Muslim social context. Thus, the 7 angels they revere are probably originally 7 Indo-European gods. The chief angel, Melek Ta’us (“King Peacock”), is said to have extinguished the fires of hell with his tears, so that Yezidis do not believe in hell and are universalists. There are Zoroastrian influences on their beliefs and rituals, though these may actually derive from a common Indo-Iranian ancestry. It is not true, as some outsiders have alleged, that Yezidis are devil worshippers. They believe Melek Ta’us was a good angel, not satan. For a blogger’s encounter with Iraqi Yezidis, see this site.
Indo-European peoples called Parsumash immigrated into what is now Iran and Iraq from about the 800s BC, according to the Assyrian clay tablets. These were probably tribal predecessors of the Medes and the Persians. The Kurds are linguistic and cultural heirs of these ancient Iranians, whose mythology was similar to what is in the Vedas. Most Kurds converted to Islam, but some retain older religious ideas.
This incident demonstrates that if the Iraqi conflict escalates (yes, it still can get worse), the Kurds may well get drawn in, willy nilly.
Guerrilla groups in South Iraq are saying that they will attempt to capture Prince Harry and use him to release imprisoned colleagues when he deploys to Basra. This article misidentifies the groups. Thar Allah is not an “Iranian-backed Sunni” group (it is rather Shiite), and I can’t find any evidence that the Malik ibn al-Ashtar Brigade is Mahdi Army.
Mohamad Bazzi of Newsday considers the rising importance of young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr for the future of Iraq’s government.
How many terrorists are there in Iraq? Good question. Of 18,000 persons in US custody, only 250 are foreign fighters.