Hostages & Threats

Jo Wilding, with the circus troupe in Iraq, on the hostage situation and threats against foreigners.

    I expect everyone knows by now about the kidnapping of three Japanese civilians and the threat to burn them alive unless the Japanese government withdraws its troops from Iraq. Anxious, everyone huddled round the satellite TV in one of the apartments. The tape from the kidnappers showed them crouched, blindfolded, knives to their throats.

    “It’s them!”

    Nayoko [Nahoko Takato] used to bring food for the street kids and wash their clothes for them, the boys who later stayed in the shelter in Bab a Sherji and now live in the Kurdish House. She wasn’t with an NGO at all, just an individual who raised some money to come over and help the kids and did it, learnt some Arabic, quietly got on with it. As a result no one, no embassy, no organisation, knows anything about her. The Japanese embassy thought all three of them had just arrived.

    And it makes no difference, of course it makes no difference, that I know them; it makes no difference to the terror on her face, the young woman who used to help the street kids on Abu Nawas, the man who was investigating depleted uranium contamination. It makes no difference that their faces are familiar, that I used to see them at the internet on Karrada Dakhil and wander down the street with them. But it feels horrible. … read more

Bush Neocons-Clueless On Iraq

Bush’s Neocons still clueless

As a week of mounting U.S. casualties in Iraq drew to a close, the Bush administration pledged Friday to take the fight to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and other Iraqi resisters.

“We’re worried, but I am not panicked about it,” said Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage of the upsurge in resistance to U.S. occupation.

“They’ve chosen to fight,” Armitage told the semiofficial Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. “We’ll fight. And they will see that we understand strength as well.”

The cleric’s militia has been in battle with U.S. and other coalition forces this week. Armitage dismissed the al-Sadr offensive as inevitable.

“Sooner or later this was going to happen,” he said. “Sooner or later we were going to have to disarm the militias. There is no question.”

In the fight, Armitage said, Iraqi civilians are being killed “and our soldiers are as devastated as anybody.”

“We do not want to use force indiscriminately,” he said. “We bleed when this happens.”

So, the answer to the uprising in Iraq is….TAKE THEIR GUNS AWAY! How brilliant, how…practical.

The idea of actually addressing the Iraqi’s grievances doesn’t cross their minds. Of course, addressing their grievances would likely involve leaving Iraq and these power-tripping wannabee emperors don’t have that on their agendas at all. No, their still in flight-suit cowboy mode. They’re going to take the fight to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and other Iraqi resisters. Like they did with Fallujah. We all know what a rip-roaring success that’s been.

As Steve Gilliard wrote today:

The sad fact about Iraq is that no one gets the scale of the tragedy. Not only are the theocrats going to win, but the scale of killing is vast. Over 40 Americans and 300 Iraqis have been killed in fighting.

There is this arrogant idea that all the US has to do is kill enough people and the resistance will end. Dan Barlett, the White House spokesman making the rounds of the morning shows, said “we’re fighting evil”.

When I heard that, my mouth fell open. Hasn’t anyone in the White House noticed most Iraqis are on the fence, and many more have decided to oppose the occupation. They are not supporting us. They are not taking our side, except when we pay them. There isn’t one pro-american group native to Iraq. No one cares about Chalabi’s henchmen.

I heard a Lt. Col say “we’re winning every firefight.” So? Why are you in firefights? Why are people killing your Marines? Doesn’t that speak of a massive policy failure. Now, I know he has to win a battle, but the idea that we’re fighting in Iraq is insane. We were supposed to liberate these people, not have them turn on us.
[…]

This fight, which I think was pushed by Chalabi and his neocon buddies, to get the Sunnis under heel and Sadr out of the way, is a complete disaster. US troops, from now, until the day we leave Iraq, will face gunfire in Sadr City. Our supply lines will face random attacks. The Sunni tribal towns will never permit Coalition troops in their borders without a fight. Every Iraqi we kill is one who has to be avenged.
The US started a fight with people who don’t quit. CENTCOM says “we control Iraq”, well no, you don’t and can’t. So what if you took back Kut, the Al Mahdi boys just went home. They will be back. Maybe at night, when a convoy comes by. Maybe on the rail lines. They may back down from gun battles in the street, but we’ve just started the Shia insurgency. Shias have always opposed Americans, some joined the insurgency from day one. Now, the masses are deciding it’s time to kick the Americans out.

Now, when the masses decide you’re out, you’re toast – got it, neoboobs? Yeah, I know…they don’t and will never get it. The question is simply how many people are going to die before they’re forced out – whining, spinning, lying and killing as they go.

Oh, and by the way, has anyone heard anything out of that big-mouth blowhard swindler, Ahmed “Hero in Error” Chalabi lately? What could possibly shut him up, beside the need to lay low until the blood from his last caper dries?

Americans missing in Iraq

Two U.S. Troops, Civilians Missing in Iraq -Official

Two American troops and an unknown number of civilian contractors are missing in Iraq after an attack on a fuel convoy west of Baghdad, a Defense Department official said on Friday.

“We do have the two U.S. service members unaccounted for, and an unknown number of contractors,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

No other details of those missing were immediately available.

Witnesses at the scene of the convoy attack said at least nine people were killed. Several vehicles were ablaze and overturned.

A Reuters photographer on the scene said the convoy included U.S. military vehicles and fuel tankers.

More detail on the incident in question here: Insurgents Hold Highway

Insurgents Hold Highway

The main highway west out of Baghdad is held by the Iraqi insurgents. They’ve destroyed a fuel convoy, killing nine people. Most news stories are reporting one US soldier dead in this incident so presumably the other 8 are Iraqi.

Hundreds of militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and Kalashnikov assault rifles were running along the highway or hiding in houses nearby, the correspondent said.

US troops were positioned on a bridge that links the old and new highway while insurgents controlled the stretch of highway between Abu Gharib and Fallujah further west.

Armed militants were also stationed outside Abu Gharib prison, an infamous jail under Saddam Hussein’s ousted regime which has been reopened by the US-led coalition.

“Thursday night there was a violent attack against the prison and the Americans left their positions,” one of the insurgents said who declined to be named.

“Around 55 prisoners managed to escape,” he added.usmilitaryuniformiraqishighwayconvoy

His claims could not be immediately confirmed from coalition sources.

In the distance a battle raged. Loud blasts and automatic weapons fire could be heard.

An AFP photographer reported earlier that fierce clashes pitted US troops against insurgents in Abu Gharib.

US tanks commanded the entrance to the town, 10km west of Baghdad, but insurgents armed with anti-tank rockets and Kalashnikov assault rifles were seen running through the streets.

Apparently the Americans haven’t tried to retake the highway. It is unclear at this time what the status of the prison at Abu Gharib is. There are reportedly thousands of prisoners, mostly Iraqi, held there. From the above report it appears that some have escaped. Reuters is running the above rather disturbing photographs. On the left two Iraqi boys are holding an American military uniform. On the right they are looting a flaming military vehicle.

Remembering the Dead

What is it about putting on a uniform that makes the person in it no longer an individual? I guess that’s part of the purpose, to make them less of an individual, less human. And if that person is killed, they often become just a name and number on a casualty list. The young men and women who have died serving in Iraq were real people with families and hobbies and pets, with jobs and plans for a future that now no longer exists for them. Please let’s not forget their lives, as we step up the rally to bring the rest of the troops home.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has done a fine job in keeping their memories alive with individual biographies. Please take the time to at least acquaint yourself with a few of these soldiers who have given their lives:

Profiles of Americans Who Have Died

US “Storms” Kut – No Resistance

The accounts of the American assault on Kut indicate that the resistance had left before the US arrived.

U.S. troops fanned out across Kut, southeast of the capital, after meeting little resistance in the city, witnesses said, in a major foray by the U.S. military into the south, where U.S. allies have struggled to deal with the uprising by the al-Mahdi Army, led by a radical Shiite cleric.

U.S. forces moved into Kut two days after Ukrainian forces abandoned the city in the face of heavy fighting with followers of the anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Police in several cities have also abandoned their stations or stood aside as the gunmen roam the streets – raising concerns over the performance and loyalty of a force U.S. administrators are counting on to keep security in the future Iraq.

This “retaking” of Kut is the reason the 1st Armored Division, which was to be rotated out of Iraq next week, was held over.

Signaling a strategic shift, the Pentagon has directed elements of the Army’s 1st Armored Division, which has patrolled Baghdad since May and was scheduled to go home within weeks, to move south. Those seasoned troops are needed to help retake cities from Sadr’s militia and to patrol parts of the country that had been occupied by multinational troops of varying combat readiness.

“We are waiting for American forces to come in and restore the peace,” said a coalition official in the south who asked for anonymity because his comments were not in keeping with the coalition’s upbeat public message. “The multinational forces will not do this – they refuse to leave their bases and do routine patrols. In some cases, they’ve withdrawn and refused to fight or hold their ground against minimal attacks.”

So, I think we can conclude that the Americans moved massive firepower into Kut while Sadr’s guerillas faded away leaving the Americans as sitting ducks, trying to hold territory. This American response to Sadr’s guerilla army is a monumental blunder. The Americans seem obsessed about taking government buildings and police stations back from Sadr’s men, when undoubtedly the goal of taking the police stations and government buildings in the first place has already been accomplished by Sadr’s insurgents, which would be to take all weapons and ammunition and wreck communications. Why take back a stripped building? What’s the point?

The NYTimes reports today: Also, the Pentagon has received new intelligence reports warning that Sunni and Shiite militia groups have been ransacking Iraqi police stations in some cities, and then handing out both weapons and police uniforms to angry mobs, government officials said.

Clearly, there are not enough American troops to hold all Iraqi territory militarily. A political solution is necessary to end the violence, but the Americans in Iraq seem incapable of dropping their bravado military stance in favor of negotiation.