For the last several days, at least 6,000 US soldiers
along with approximately 4,000 Iraqi soldiers (read: members of the Kurdish peshmerga
and Shia Badr Army) were laying siege to the city of Tal
Afar, near Mosul in northern Iraq. It is estimated that 90 percent of the
residents have left their homes because of the violence and destruction of the
siege, as well as to avoid home raids and snipers.
The Fallujah model is being applied yet again, albeit on a smaller scale. I
haven't received any reports yet of biometrics being used (retina scans, finger
printing, bar-coding of human beings) like in Fallujah, but there are other
striking similarities to the tactics used in November.
While the U.S. military claims to have killed roughly 200 "terrorists"
in the operation, reports from the ground state that most of the fighters inside
the city had long since left to avoid direct confrontation with the overwhelming
military force (a basic tenet of guerrilla warfare).
Again like Fallujah, most of the families who fled are staying in refugee camps
outside the city in tents amid horrible conditions in the inferno-like heat
of the Iraqi summer.
The L.A. Times reported
that Ezzedin Dowla, a Turkmen leader in the area said, "Families are homeless
and the government has not provided any shelter, food, or drink for them."
Nor has the U.S. military.
The targets of this military operation are the Sunni Turkmen who are politically
on the side of the Sunni Arabs. Most Sunnis will be voting against the constitution
during the coming vote of Oct. 15.
The Cheney administration is desperate for something it can spin as "good
news" from Iraq; thus it most certainly behooves them to have the referendum
on the constitution to boast about. But in order to do so, the voting ability
and power of the Sunni (and Sunni Turkmen) must be severely compromised, as
well as punishment meted out for rightfully assuming what will be a Sunni no-vote
on the constitution.
Both the Cheney administration and its current puppet government in Iraq benefit
from destroying the voting (and living) ability of the majority of people in
the "Sunni triangle," so we have the operation in Tal Afar, most likely
to be followed by similar operations in al-Qa'im, Haditha, Samarra, and possibly
In Tal Afar, the propaganda spewed by the U.S. military (and the Iraqi "government")
was that the operation was to fight terrorists coming into Iraq via Syria. If
that were true, why did the U.S. military remove troops from the border with
Syria who were supposed to be preventing infiltration by foreign fighters? Instead
of guarding the border, as they should, they engaged in the operation against
Iraqi Sunni Turkmen. Working in unison, the U.S. military launched the heavy-handed
attack with the "authorization" of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari,
the leader of the Shia Da'wa Party. Jaafari even went so far as to venture to
Tal Afar on Tuesday to visit troops and have his photograph taken.
"Authorization" was given by the Iraqi government for the attack
on Tal Afar, just as "authorization" was given by then-interim Prime
Minister Iyad Allawi for the November 2004 massacre in Fallujah. "Authorization,"
when the U.S. military would never, ever allow any foreign power jurisdiction
over American forces, least of all a puppet government.
Correspondents with Azzaman media in Tal Afar miraculously made it into the
city and reported that residents are disputing reports that U.S. and Iraqi soldiers
have killed scores of "insurgents." Like Fallujah, these residents
of Tal Afar are reporting that most of the people killed were civilians who
had no place to go so they chose to stay in their homes. People also stayed
because they feared persecution at the hands of the peshmerga and Badr Army.
I recently interviewed an Iraqi man from that area at the Peoples' UN Conference
in Perugia, Italy. He told me, "Most people in Mosul and Tal Afar would
rather be detained by the Americans now, because they know if Iraqi soldiers
or Iraqi police detain them they will be tortured severely, and possibly killed.
This gives you an idea of how bad it is with these Iraqi soldiers, even in the
shadow of what the Americans are still doing in Abu Ghraib."
As for "foreign fighters," one of the Azzaman correspondents quoted
a resident of Tal Afar as saying, "We used to hear [from news reports]
of the presence of some Arab [foreign] fighters in the city, but we have seen
none of them."
Life in Iraq remains a living hell. Blood flowed in the streets of Khadamiya
yesterday as a horrendous car bomb killed 112 people in the predominantly Shia
neighborhood. And once again, calls of solidarity were made from the nearby
Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiya, and residents emerged from their homes to help
their brothers and sisters across the river, just as they did after the panic
and chaos that recently took the lives of nearly 1,000 Shia.
The horrendous totals from yesterday were 160 dead, 570 wounded Iraqis as the
result of the string of attacks and at least a dozen car bombs. The blowback
from the Jafaari "authorized" state-sponsored terrorism in Tal Afar
took little time to materialize in the capital city.
If Jafaari were more honest with his press appearances, along with his photo-op
in Tal Afar he should have had his photo taken amid the charred, smoking body
parts strewn about the streets of Khadamiya, which was a result (albeit just
as horrific) of his Tal Afar "authorization."
On that note, Jalal Talabani, Iraq's puppet president, was at a press conference
in Washington D.C. with Mr. Bush just hours before the blowback began.
Meanwhile, one of my friends in Baghdad writes me, "Dear Dahr, how are
you dear pal? I am very sorry for what happened after Hurricane Katrina. It
is a real tragedy. I hope none of your friends or family was affected. It is
a tragedy which makes one speechless."
This when he goes to work each day hoping to make it home alive to see his
wife and newborn daughter.
And another of my friends in Baghdad wrote me recently, "I'm so sorry
that I didn't e-mail you the previous days
the situation in Tal Afar
has become so much worse for the people. It is terrible what is going on there
and nobody can say anything because as usual the military operation is still
going on and they are trying to keep all the media out. They have also started
another operation in another area of al-Anbar province, and they will soon start
one in Samarra."
My interpreter when I'm in Iraq, Abu Talat, has been willing to take the
risk of working with me there. To give you an idea of the lengths he's
willing to go to, he gave me the green light to come to Iraq last November,
just before the massacre in Fallujah began. It is safe to say times were quite
tense then, with kidnappings and beheadings having long since become the norm.
"The minister of defense is threatening not only Fallujah but all of the
Ramadi governorate, I can tell you very surely about that," he wrote in
a recent e-mail to me and a colleague who was hoping to enter Iraq to work as
a reporter. (Today, U.S. warplanes began dropping bombs inside the city of Ramadi.)
"No one can support you working here. We are having a very critical situation.
For this reason, I think that coming to Iraq in this critical time is not accepted.
I was very, very welcoming to any of your friends, Dahr, but not in this time.
Sorry, but for your own safety. Take good care of yourself."
Today at least 30 more Iraqis
have died in violence across their occupied country, and it will only continue