Monday, June 19, 2006

Today in Iraq:

As the US death toll in Iraq went over 2,500 and the much ballyhooed security crackdown in Baghdad seemed to be failing to do much of anything it was advertised to do, all the euphoria about the killing of Abu Musab Zarqawi appears to be fading pretty quickly (though it did get W.'s approval rating up to 38%, mission accomplished!). Already al-Qaeda in Iraq has a new leader, according to the pentagon, and mortar attacks, suicide bombings and Shiite death squads are keeping the morgues busy. It's as if Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki's much vaunted "Iron Fist" is made out of oatmeal or something.

There are still large swaths of Iraq's capital city that are completely out of the control of the new "government of national unity" which W. was talking-up so positively last week. Many neighborhoods are barricaded to try and protect the residents from; the Shiite death squads, the Sunni insurgents or just the run of the mill criminal gangs that run rampant in Baghdad. And then, of course, there are the random groups of armed men rolling around that no one seems to know who they are.

As the security "crackdown" took effect mass abductions continued --- in one case 10 bakers were yanked out of their bakeries and put in to waiting vehicles in broad daylight never to be seen again ---and the bodies keep popping up all over the place. Yesterday, the bodies of four women and a teenager were among 17 bodies found with their hands tied and bullets in their heads. So, I'm not really getting the sense that much has changed since W. got back from his big adventure to Baghdad to look al-Maliki in the eye.

One positive step al-Maliki has taken is to talk about giving amnesty for those fighting the government in an effort at reconciliation. Now, W. said last week that he didn't like the idea of giving terrorists amnesty and suggested that he didn't think that if someone had committed a crime the Iraqi government would be "that lenient, frankly," but one man's terrorist is another man's resistance fighter it appears.

Last week the WaPo reported that Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, a top advisor to al-Maliki, when asked about clemency for insurgents who had killed American troops answered that, "That's an area where we can see a greenline. There's some sort of preliminary understanding between us and the MNF-I [The U.S.-led Multi-National Force Iraq] that there is a patriotic feeling among the Iraqi youth, and the belief that those attacks are legitimate acts of resistance and defending their homeland. Those people will be pardoned defiantly I believe."

Shortly after saying this al-Kadhimi was fired, the WaPo reported on Friday. "Maliki's office issued a statement earlier Thursday saying, 'Mr. Adnan Kadhimi doesn't represent the Iraqi government in this issue, and Mr. Kadhimi is not an advisor or spokesman for the prime minister." But another aide condition of anonymity (so he wouldn't be fired too) said alMaliki was clear "saying those whose hands weren't stained with Iraqi blood" may be eligible for any amnesty.

Sounds like amnesty for insurgents to me, but I guess the Iraqis are now acting like that's not what it means under pressure from the US, although I hear that Iraq now has a completely sovereign government that could do whatever they want to do.

Meanwhile, as this news settles in, we've got two GIs from the 101st Airborne missing who were presumably kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents in the town of Youssifiyah last Friday. The WaPo reports that over 8000 US troops have been searching the area south of Baghdad lovingly called the "Triangle of Death" for their missing comrades but to no avail so far. Their capture comes at a real bad time for them as allegations of marines killing civilians in cold blood in Haditha and elsewhere have been swirling around this month.

Note to marine corporal Joshua Belile: you may think your little ditty about killing Hadji girl's family was "supposed to be funny," but I doubt Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, Tex., and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore. and their families are laughing right now you dimwit!


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