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Sunday, May 09, 2004

Today's Lesson


At least five people were killed Sunday in an explosion at a crowded Baghdad market, police said, while coalition forces in Najaf stepped up operations against radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his banned Mehdi Army militia.

Among the dead was a child, police said. Thirteen people, including six police officers, were wounded, according to police. One of the wounded police officers was in critical condition, police said.


A bomb has exploded outside the Four Seasons Hotel in Baghdad, injuring up to eight people.

The hotel, which is located in the centre of the city, is frequently used by foreign contractors.
The explosion occurred just hours after an explosion at a busy Baghdad market...
"Is this the freedom that they want? People cut into pieces?" cried one person at the scene [of the market bombing]. "What did we do wrong?"

Elsewhere, three Iraqi police officers died when a coalition patrol was attacked, US military spokesman Brig Gen Mark Kimmit told reporters during a news conference in Baghdad. Two civilians were also killed in that skirmish.

Earlier Sunday, a soldier from the US 2nd infantry division's Stryker Brigade was killed in a mortar attack.

Another soldier was also wounded in the attack on a coalition base in the northern city of Mosul, the US command said.

A third soldier from the unit died in what was called an "electrical accident", the command said.


U.S. forces stepped up pressure on Shiite gunmen loyal to radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, pushing with tanks into the holy city of Kufa and assaulting militia positions in the narrow streets of a Shiite enclave in Baghdad. At least 34 Iraqis were killed.

Seems like this violence has been going on forever. Why is this happening? Because we lost the war last year:

[T]he next three months are crucial...The Iraqi population has exceedingly high expectations, and the window for cooperation may close rapidly if they do not see progress on delivering security, basic services, opportunities for broad political involvement, and economic opportunity. The "hearts and minds" of key segments of the Sunni and Shi'a communities are in play and can be won, but only if the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and new Iraqi authorities deliver in short order.

That's from a CSIS report last July. These are the folks Rummy himself sent to Iraq to assess the situation. The US had a window of opportunity, but we squandered it. Even back then, it was clear that a potent insurgency would likely derail our efforts:

Iraqis say life is worse now than under Saddam Hussein and many will attack the troops they thought had liberated them.

Power blackouts, water shortages, no work and no pay are the reasons for the anger.
[D]emand for electricity and drinking water has risen sharply but is not being met.

Meanwhile queues stretch around the white facade of Baghdad's Central Bank building waiting to withdraw what little they have under the gaze of British troops. Elderly exhausted women who have waited, they say, for five hours are too poor to pay for a sip of cloudy water from the bucket carried around by an enterprising boy, one of whose arms is scarred by burns. It would never have happened in Saddam's time, they say.

We had until October at the latest to try to overcome the perception that things were better under Saddam. We failed miserably. In our giddiness and arrogance following the fall of the Iraqi regime, we ignored reality and allowed whatever good could've been made in Iraq slip away.

Atrios reminds us that Condi was put in charge of the so-called Iraq Stabilization Group in early October, which was a little late if she was supposed to do any good. Since then, 678 Iraqi civilians have been killed and 1727 wounded in "mass casualty" attacks, according to Brookings' Iraq Index. 1441 have been killed in "acts of war", as have 50 non-Iraqi civilians1. 455 US troops have also died in this span.

The murder rate in Baghdad is more than 1.6 times that of Washington, DC, and now we discover that we've been engaging in torture and abuse of prisoners since May, 2003. Is it any wonder that Iraq has spun out of control? Riverbend tells us the score:

People are seething with anger- the pictures of Abu Ghraib and the Brits in Basrah are everywhere. Every newspaper you pick up in Baghdad has pictures of some American or British atrocity or another. It's like a nightmare that has come to life.

Everyone knew this was happening in Abu Ghraib and other places… seeing the pictures simply made it all more real and tangible somehow. American and British politicians have the audacity to come on television with words like, "True the people in Abu Ghraib are criminals, but…" Everyone here in Iraq knows that there are thousands of innocent people detained. Some were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, while others were detained 'under suspicion'. In the New Iraq, it's "guilty until proven innocent by some miracle of God".

People are so angry...There was a time when people here felt sorry for the troops. No matter what one's attitude was towards the occupation, there were moments of pity towards the troops, regardless of their nationality. We would see them suffering the Iraqi sun, obviously wishing they were somewhere else and somehow, that vulnerability made them seem less monstrous and more human. That time has passed.
I sometimes get emails asking me to propose solutions or make suggestions. Fine. Today's lesson: don't rape, don't torture, don't kill and get out while you can- while it still looks like you have a choice... Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We’ll take our chances- just take your Puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go.

Sound advice. "Staying the course" will not solve anything. Let's get the hell out of Dodge.


1 - I added today's various casualties to the Brookings tallies.

May 9, 2004 | Permalink


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