Morning Report 9/15/05
Worst Day in Baghdead — So Far

'I saw people's bodies flying in the air'

MNF-Tall-Afar-09.jpg

Alan D. Monyelle/U.S. Navy

Running for cover: A U.S. soldier heads for safety while Iraqi soldiers barge into another home in Tall Afar during a recent hunt for insurgents.

Yesterday was the most deadly day in Baghdad since the U.S. launched its unjustified and ill-advised invasion in March 2003.

And today got off to a terrible start, the Washington Post's Ellen Knickmeyer reports this morning on the Web:

    Two suicide car bombers struck back-to-back just half a mile apart in the Iraqi capital Thursday after another bombing hours earlier in the same neighborhood, bringing the day's death toll to at least 31 people in another day of deadly violence in Baghdad, according to Iraqi police.

    The three bombings in Baghdad's southern Dora neighborhood killed at least 23 Iraqi policemen and eight civilians and wounded at least twenty others, according to the Associated Press.

Suicide bombers and gunmen killed more than 160 people yesterday in the sweltering city, Knickmeyer wrote in this morning's print edition of the Post. And the Zarqawi faction — which didn't even exist in Iraq until after our invasion made the country a terrorist HQ — swore continuing "revenge" for the current U.S. assault on the far western insurgent stronghold of Tall Afar. By Knickmeyer's reckoning, yesterday was the single deadliest day in Baghdead since the invasion.

The battle between New Orleans and Baghdad for the most depressing news is neck-and-neck, as the Bush regime struggles to dry out one Gulf region and douse the other one.

Thank God the rest of Iraq is quiet, right? Well, not so quiet, as it turns out.

Down south, in Basra, which the Voice's intrepid foreign correspondent David Axe recently wrote about — and about which he'll have more shortly — the U.S. and British consulates were shelled on September 12.

And up north in Kurdistan, as the independent-minded Kurds refer to their fait accompli of having taken over complete rule of northern Iraq, a recent mass protest in the town of Kalar about shortages of water and electricity ended with 30 people injured. Kurdistan has been the most peaceful part of Iraq. But as Wyria Hama Tahir of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting wrote the other day:

    It is the first time that there have been protests of this size against government services in Iraqi Kurdistan. Such demonstrations have in the past been limited to other parts of the country, like Baghdad.

The U.S. has long since worn out its welcome even up north, where many Kurdish officials, who suffered mightily under Saddam Hussein, have long had a soft spot for us. Another IWPR reporter, Sahar Al-Haydaree, reported from Mosul on September 13, that the constant unauthorized use of people's rooftops by American troops looking for insurgents is getting on folks' last nerve. Of this habit of barging in, Al-Haydaree wrote:

    Residents are often reluctant to allow soldiers into their homes. But many feel they have little choice in the matter, fearing repercussions if they object.

    "If we refuse, they will arrest us or kill us for not cooperating," said Mosul resident Ibrahim Abdulhadi.

    Another local, Mahmud Adeeb, said a group of American soldiers who came to his house didn't even knock. "I ran to see what was happening and saw an American patrol pushing through the door, asking to be led to the roof," he said.

    "I did what they asked without any discussion," he went on. "They stayed two days and ordered us not to leave the house. It was a nightmare."

Yeah, well, our own soldiers aren't exactly yukking it up, as the photo above testifies. This is true especially in Tall Afar, where U.S. troops seem to be scooping up anyone who even looks like an insurgent — which, to our Western eyes, includes 100 percent of Iraq's 25 million people. The Washington Post's Jonathan Finer wrote a chilling piece on Tuesday about the Pentagon's roundup of the usual suspects, using the best soldiers it could find: our own Special Forces and the Kurdish peshmerga. Finer's account started like this:

    A masked teenager in an Iraqi army uniform walked slowly through a crowd of 400 detainees captured Monday, studying each face and rendering his verdict with a simple hand gesture, like a Roman emperor deciding the fate of gladiators.

    A thumb pointed down meant the suspect was not thought to be an insurgent and would be released by U.S. soldiers. A thumb pointed up meant a man would be removed from the concertina wire-encased pen, handcuffed with tape or plastic ties and taken by truck to a military base to be interrogated.

    "Another bad guy right here," an American interpreter shouted when the masked Iraqi singled out a man in a yellow dishdasha , or traditional gown, who shook his head and protested in Turkish. A captive who was spared exhaled with relief and placed his hand on his heart.

    This is how the 10-day-old invasion of Tall Afar unfolded Monday.

What we keep forgetting back here in America, though, is that Iraq is engaged in a civil war. Finer's piece spoke to that because he did a nice job reporting as many sides as he could of the young informant's work:

    "Your source is not good, these are all innocent men," said a detainee wearing a gray dishdasha, who said he was a student in the city of Mosul, 40 miles to the east. "We are all Sunnis. That is why he chose us. He is Shia," he said, referring to the informant. [Captain Noah] Hanners said the quality of the informants has varied widely. "Some seem to say what they think you want to hear," he said. "Others give us information that pans out."

    Another soldier, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he said he would be punished by commanders for his criticism, had a more negative view of the sources' performance. "We almost never get anything good from them," he said. "I think they just pick people from another tribe or people who owe them money or something."



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