Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Other (Original) Disaster

Ariana Huffington over at HuffPo (the Huffington Post) reminds us that we there's still a lot of important news coming out of Iraq that's being under-reported here in the States due to our internalized focus on the Hurricane Katrina aftermath (which, I'd say, is wholly justified). Here are a couple of examples:

And, oh yeah, the war itself continues to be a bloody debacle. Nineteen U.S. soldiers have died since Katrina made landfall on August 29 -- and the bodies of dead Iraqis continue to pile up all across the country. This one AP recap gives a sense of the hell enveloping Iraq, with mortar rounds hitting the Green Zone in Baghdad, a roadside bomb killing four in Basra, two clerics shot and killed in Baqouba, a minivan blowing up in Hilla, a former judge murdered in Sadr City, reports of a bounty being offered for the assassination of key Iraqi officials, including $100,000 for whoever might kill Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. And on and on it goes. Disastrous -- and underreported.

Equally under-reported, and perhaps even more troubling, is the woeful state of the reconstruction effort. Twenty-eight months after Bush prematurely announced “Mission Accomplished”, and despite the $24 billion in taxpayer money earmarked for reconstruction, the Iraqi people are still facing massive energy shortages, inadequate water and sewage systems, mile-long lines for gas, and a surge in dehydration among children and the elderly. Plus, sky-high unemployment and infant mortality rates. As Don Sherwood, a House Republican, put it: “It seems almost incomprehensible to me that we haven’t been able to do better.”

And then there's this disturbing report from the London Times:

A TERRORIST mastermind has united insurgent groups in Baghdad to target the Iraqi Shia Muslim community with the aim of bringing civil war to Iraq, The Times has learnt.

According to US military intelligence sources, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man responsible for the bloodiest acts of terror in Iraq over the past two years, now commands thousands of fighters from various rival groups and is set to order further waves of bombings.

Yesterday the self-styled “emir” of Iraq was blamed for a dozen co-ordinated bombings in Baghdad that killed 152 people, the single worst death toll in the city since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Most of the dead were poor Shia labourers killed by a huge car bomb in a busy square.

“The al-Qaeda organisation in Mesopotamia is declaring all-out war on the Rafidha [a pejorative term for Shias], wherever they are in Iraq,” said the 38-year-old in an audio message released on an Islamic website. He urged Sunni Muslims to “wake up from your slumber” and joint the fight.
An intelligence summary, citing the conglomeration of insurgent groups under the al-Qaeda banner to be the result of rebel turf wars, money, weaponry and fear, concluded that of the estimated 16,000 Sunni Muslim insurgents, 6,700 were hardcore Islamic fundamentalists who were now supplemented by a possible further 4,000 members after an amalgamation with Jaysh Muhammad, previously an insurgent group loyal to the former Baathist regime.
Coalition intelligence sources said that a culmination of signal, image and human intelligence had alerted the coalition to a huge al-Qaeda attack planned for Baghdad in August, which had been aborted at the last minute.

They said the yesterday’s attack was likely a rescheduling of the original operation, and broadcast for propaganda purposes as retaliation for recent government successes in Tal Afar, northern Iraq.


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