Saturday, June 24, 2006

Iraq Mess

This is progress? From the NY Times:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 23 — At least 12 worshipers died Friday as they left prayers at a Sunni mosque when a bomb exploded in Hibhib, the northern town where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed on June 7 by a pair of 500-pound bombs dropped by American warplanes.

Neither eyewitnesses nor an Interior Ministry official who confirmed the bombing could say if there was any connection to Mr. Zarqawi. But officials have warned of increased violence in the aftermath of his death.

The bombing came as the Iraqi government declared an afternoon curfew that nearly emptied the streets of cars, after gun battles in central Baghdad among local militias and Iraqi and American forces.

At least four Iraqis were killed in that fighting, the official said.

Deadly violence also reached the Iraqi south, when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in a line of people buying gasoline near a police station in Basra, killing four others, police officials there said. It was the fifth suicide bombing in Basra, a formerly placid port city, since the American-led invasion, and the second this month.

Recent days have been particularly bloody for the American military, which reported five more deaths on Friday, for a total of nine in two days. Two soldiers were killed Friday morning when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb southeast of Baghdad, the military said, and two marines died in combat in the western desert, in Anbar Province. One soldier died in an episode not related to combat, the military said.

Also on Friday, five bodies found floating in the Tigris River at Baghdad were determined to be the first confirmed deaths from the kidnapping on Wednesday of 50 to 100 people from a factory in Taji, a town just north of Baghdad.

Hope had risen when the kidnappers released some of the captives, and Iraqi police officers found 17 more alive during a raid on a farm. Dozens of others remain missing.

In addition, the Times reports that an affluent neighborhood in Baghdad analogous to the Upper East Side in Manhattan has been invaded by insurgent violence. The Times says the insurgent violence, once centered in Western Baghdad, is now spreading across the city:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 23 — Mansour is Baghdad's Upper East Side. It has fancy pastry shops, jewelry stores, a designer furniture boutique and an elite social club.

But it is no longer the address everyone wants.

In the past two months, insurgents have come to Mansour to gun down a city councilman, kidnap four Russian Embassy workers, shoot a tailor dead in his shop and bomb a pastry shop.

Now, Mansour, a religiously mixed area just three miles from the fortified Green Zone, feels more like wartime Beirut than Park Avenue, and its affluent residents worry that the wave of violence that has devoured large swaths of Baghdad has begun encroaching on them.

"It's falling to the terrorists," said Hasaneen F. Mualla, director of the Hunting Club, Mansour's social center. "They are coming nearer to us now. No one is stopping them."

For most of the past six months, Iraq drifted without a government and its security forces largely stood by and watched at crucial moments, like the one in February when Shiite militias killed Sunnis after the bombing of a sacred shrine.

Now, as Iraqi leaders in the Green Zone savor their recent successes — the naming of the first full-term government since the fall of Saddam Hussein and the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Iraq's most wanted guerrilla leader — Iraqis outside its walls are more frightened than ever. Neighborhood after neighborhood in western Baghdad has fallen to insurgents, with some areas bordering on anarchy. Bodies lie on the streets for hours. Trash is no longer collected. Children are home-schooled.

The paralysis that shut down life in western Baghdad is creeping ever closer to the heart of the city, and Iraqis in still-livable areas are frantic for the government to halt its advance, something the new leadership pledged to do when it started its new security plan for Baghdad last week.

"It's like a cancer, spreading from area to area," said a guard at Delta Communications, a Mansour cellphone shop that has been shuttered since a bomb blast in front of it last month.

The administration and the Maliki government have been desperate to build on the Zarqawi killing and the naming of the first full-term Iraqi government. The Maliki government in particular has taken extraordinary steps to bring security to troubled areas of Iraq by adding thousands of Iraqi troops to the areas and imposing curfews and limits on vehicular traffic.

The scary thing is, the steps may be coming too late. While the Iraqi government and the Bush administration understandably try to spin the conditions in country as "progress," articles like the two posted above seem to belie those claims.

According to the London Times, the Maliki government is reportedly set to offer Sunni insurgents a 28 point"peace plan" that offers inclusion into the political process and "amnesty" for if insurgents agree to lay down arms and renounce violence. If Sunni insurgents agree to the plan, the government will also offer:

a finite, UN-approved timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq; a halt to US operations against insurgent strongholds; an end to human rights violations, including those by coalition troops; and compensation for victims of attacks by terrorists or Iraqi and coalition forces.

It will pledge to take action against Shia militias and death squads. It will also offer to review the process of “de-Baathification” and financial compensation for the thousands of Sunnis who were purged from senior jobs in the Armed Forces and Civil Service after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The idea behind the offer is to separate Sunni insurgents from the Al Qaeda terrorists and jihadis and help forge a fragile coalition that could end the majority of the sectarian violence in the country. The plan may be the best, last-ditch effort to generate a positive outcome in Iraq.

The sticking point is the amnesty part of course, since it would also include amnesty for Sunni insurgents who have killed American soldiers during the war and occupation. And the amnesty plan should be a sticking point to this plan. While I can intellectually understand why it is essential to offer amnesty to Sunni insurgents, I cannot support it. Forget the political implications for a minute (and you can bet if a Democratic administration were set to offer amnesty to insurgents who have killed American soldiers during a war/occupation, Karl Rove and the GOP would use that repeatedly during the next six election cycles.) Just on a practical level, what message do you send to the rest of the terrorists in the world by rewarding insurgents who have killed American soldiers in Iraq with amnesty? Isn't that a mixed message that suggests terrorists can be rewarded for their crimes under certain circumstances?

In my opinion, the Maliki government and the Bush administration are going to have to figure out some other plan to Sunni insurgents that does not contain amnesty. And if the Bush administration insists that it must reward insurgents for killing American soldiers during the war in order for the plan to work, than they will have to be made to pay at the ballot box.

Which means both the Maliki government and the Bush administration still have their work cut out for them if they want to bring Sunni insurgents into the political process and end much of the sectarian violence across the country.

I think another sticking point will be withdrawing all foreign troops from Iraq. Clearly the Bush admin has other ideas.
Yeah, that's a point I mean to write about and forgot. I wonder how the administration and the Maliki gov't will reconcile that one.
If your going to quote from a self confessed liberal biasd source like the N.Y. times, you might as well quote the moveon types as well. I thought this was supposed to be reality based.
Yeah RBE. Where are the quotes from O'Reilly and Hannity? Everyone knows they're not biased, like that lowlife NY Times.

What responsible person even reads crap like that anymore? You can bet GW doesn't waste his time with it.
I assume you're being tongue in cheek, arch stanton.

The news sources I use in approximate order of frequency are 1) the Wash Post 2) the AP 3) the NY Times 4) Reuters 5) the LA Times 6) the Wall Street Journal

I also use on occasions the Financial Times, Knight-Ridder, Congressional Quarterly, the Cook Report, the National Journal, and Hotline. Sometimes I use CNN. I do use the MSNBC site frequently, but a lot of the time they're just rewriting the AP and/or Reuters articles and calling it MSNBC Newswire Services.

I think that's a pretty good cross-section of news sources. No Fox or National Review, it's true, but I have been known to also use the American Conservative for some posts.

In fact, I was reading a critical piece about the administration's surveillance programs in the June 19 American Conservative that I planned on blogging. Guess I'll have to get that up sometime this evening.

Like your humor. Of course while I would never suggest that anyone actually use the words of O’Reilly, Hannity et al. as they are biased as well, it is interesting to note that they have the integrity to admit their bias, which is a lot more than I can say about the Liberal N.Y. Times that feigns as journalism. Of course the ombudsman for the N.Y. Times let the cat out of the bag as to their bias once and I’m sure he got disciplined for it. (Glad I kept a copy of it)

But your right: A responsible person doesn’t read - or use to prove a point – crap like the N.Y. Times
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