Saturday, April 14, 2007

This Is Not Progress

George W. Bush, DeadEye Dick Cheney, John McCain and Joe Lieberman have all claimed Bush's Iraq surge policy is making progress in bringing security and stability to Baghdad. U.S. military officials have also said there have been some encouraging signs that the security crackdown is working but say they will not be able to tell for certain until the end of the summer.

The Associated Press reports, however, that while Iraqi casualties in Baghdad are down, Iraqi casualties outside the capital are up by 50% while U.S. military casualties in the capital have also increased. The AP also says that though sectarian killings in Baghdad have decreased, sectarian tensions in the capital are as high as ever.

In addition, security inside the highly defended Green Zone - a 10 square kilometer area that is supposed to be the most secure place in Iraq - has been repeatedly breached over the last two months. Insurgents were able to bomb the Iraqi parliament building on Thursday, killing eight. Last month, two suicide bomb vests were found inside the zone, the deputy prime minister of Iraq was injured when a suicide bomber targeted his home, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon was shaken when a mortar round hit near where he was holding a press conference.

The U.S. military says the Baghdad security plan is working despite these breaches of security.
But Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the author of a book on life in the Green Zone - Imperial Life in the Emerald City, says the Parliament bombing really undermines any progress claims the U.S. and Iraqi government have made about the surge:

"The current Bush administration security plan for Baghdad, this troop surge, is based upon this notion that if you create pockets of security in Baghdad, political leaders will come together to make the necessary compromises to move forward on important pieces of legislation aimed at national reconciliation," Mr Chandrasekaran said.

"But if your parliament has been blown up, if legislators don't feel secure coming to work, it's hard to see how you can move forward with those very important political reconciliation initiatives."

Thursday's violence didn't end with the parliament bombing. Sarafiya Bridge - a "storied" bridge on the Tigris River - was blown up. 10 people were killed. The LA Times reports that the destruction of the bridge has really hit the people who lived around it very hard:

Focus on the steel-frame bridge, where a truck bomber killed at least 10 people early Thursday, was quickly diverted by the lunch-time attack at the heavily guarded parliament building. That's not unusual in Iraq, where brutal mornings often give way to uglier afternoons.

But to those who lived near the fallen bridge, the loss was as heartbreaking as a death in the family. Not only did the structure serve as a symbol of better times, when children frolicked in the water below and trains chugged along its railway tracks.

It was an icon that had endured in a place where many have perished.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, Iraqis have watched their historical treasures fall to the ensuing chaos. The capital's National Museum was beset by looters as Saddam Hussein fled, and ancient treasures were lost. Archeological sites have been picked over by robbers looking to profit from sales of antiquities. Mosques have been bombed. The storied Mutanabi Street book market in Baghdad was ripped apart by a bomb last month, one of several famous bazaars that have been targeted.

The Sarafiya Bridge fell into the Tigris River shortly after 7 a.m. Thursday when a truck loaded with explosives blew up. The frame cracked, and huge chunks fell away. Vehicles tumbled 30 feet into the water below. Some people swam to safety, but at least 10 died. The bridge was left a mangled wreck.

"Last year I lost my elder brother," said the man sitting in front of his house, Sahib Abdul-Razzaq, 67. "Believe me, I feel today as if my other elder brother has died."

Asad Ibrahim, 41, grew up near the bridge and remembered when people in fancy clothes used to stay out until dawn in the casinos and restaurants lining both sides of the river.

"How many times we swam under this bridge since our childhood!" Ibrahim, an engineer, said. "When we were kids, we would watch the train passing over it. It is a heritage site."

Unfortunately, the violence in Iraq didn't stop with Thursday's bombing of the Sarafiya Bridge and the parliament building. Insurgents targeted both pilgrims and another bridge in violent attacks today:

BAGHDAD - A car bomb blasted through a busy bus station near one of Iraq’s holiest shrines on Saturday, killing at least 56 people, police and hospital officials said.

Separately, a suicide car bomb killed 10 people on a major bridge in downtown Baghdad — the second attack on a span over the Tigris river this week, police said. The Jadriyah bridge suffered little damage.

The bus station bombing occurred about 200 yards from the Imam Hussein shrine in Karbala, where the grandson of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad is buried — one of the most important sites for Shiites.

State television aired footage from the scene, in which rescue workers could be seen evacuating casualties. The charred body of a child laid motionless on a stretcher.

At least six children were among the dead, according to an official at Al-Hussein Hospital. Iranian and Pakistani pilgrims were also among the casualties, he said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

“I want my father. Where is my father?” cried out 11-year-old Sajad Kadhim as he lay in the grounds of the hospital, where doctors were treating his burns.

“All I remember was we were shopping. My father was holding my hand and suddenly there was a big explosion. I don’t know where my father is. I want my father,” the boy cried.

The meme "Give the surge a chance" has been repeated ad nauseum by the preznut and his remaining Republican Party apologists (+ Joe Lieberman), but the bombing of the Iraqi parliament, along with the rising violence outside Baghdad and the resurgent violence inside Baghdad suggests no matter how long the surge policy is given, it's not going to work.

The Associated Press took a close look at the Sarafiya Bridg bombinge and noted that the destruction of the bridge seemed emblematic of the condition of Iraq as a whole:

The parliament attack overshadowed the incredible bombing of one of Baghdad’s nine Tigris River spans, an incident that would have been difficult to imagine even on a particularly violent day in Baghdad.

The two attacks draw stark attention to the country’s deepening Sunni-Shiite divide, and the difficulty of spanning them. The bridge fell physically, but was also a symbol of how Baghdad’s once vibrant and mixed neighborhoods now slowly are becoming almost solely Sunni or Shiite, with the Tigris as boundary.

40,000 additional surge troops in Baghdad and 175,000 U.S. troops overall (all of whom have had their deployments extended so the Pentagon can keep them in country longer) are not going to change that deepening Sunni-Shiite divide no matter how much p.r. we hear from Bush, Cheney, McCain, Lieberman et al.

The surge is not working.

The other day, I heard an interview with someone that I recall as being a highly-placed Iraqi official. He pointed out that security within the Green Zone has been so compromised that the insurgents have spotters within the zone relaying adjustments to outside mortar crews, making the subsequent rounds more accurate.

The surge is working, all right -- just not for the US.
Wow. That says it all about the state of security in Iraq and the possibility for things to improve any time soon.
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