FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Grisly Rituals in Iraq

by PATRICK COCKBURN And LEYLA LINTON

Baghdad.

Two car bombs in the city of Hillah that killed at least 23 civilians and a rocket attack that left dead two children who were playing on the bank of the Tigris River in Baghdad have raised the political temperature before Wednesday’s transfer of sovereignty. A further 58 people were injured in the blasts in Hillah, south of Baghdad, including Noor Ahmed, a two-year-old whose right arm had to be amputated.

Yesterday’s rocket attack in Baghdad, which came as President George Bush posed for a photograph with other Nato leaders in an Ottoman palace in Istanbul, was followed by the seizure of a US Marine. The hostage, like three Turks whose capture was announced on Saturday, has been threatened with beheading. The cycle of violence appears to be worsening in the run-up to the handover of sovereignty from the US-led occupation to the interim Iraqi government on Wednesday. The toll from the Hillah bombs, late on Saturday night, mean that more than 100 people have died and 300 been injured in bomb attacks in Baghdad and four other Iraqi cities in the past few days.

Iraqi insurgents tightened their stranglehold on Baghdad yesterday when they hit an aircraft taking off from the airport with ground fire. It had to turn back; one person on board was killed. The attack threatens for the first time the main lifeline to the Iraqi capital, which is already partly cut off from the rest of the country by guerrillas in control of the roads.

The US military sought to play down the importance of the C-130 transport plane being hit by gunfire. The military spokesman, General Mark Kimmitt, stressed that “there was no significant damage to the aircraft”. Insurgents have tried in the past to shoot down aircraft using the vast airport west of Baghdad but have until now failed to kill anybody flying into or out of Baghdad. Since last November guerrillas have had more success in shooting down US military helicopters with ground-to-air missiles.

The US military command has been surprised by the ferocity of the co-ordinated assaults by insurgents on cities across central and northern Iraq. The threat to Baghdad’s air-link to the outside world and the ground assault led by Islamic militants shows that the overall military situation in Iraq is still deteriorating. American officials in Baghdad have been trying to foster a sense that the worst of the crisis in Iraq has now passed in the run-up to the handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government.

The captured marine, who is of Pakistani origin, was seized by gunmen who said they would kill him within three days unless Iraqi prisoners were released. “This man was taken after an attack on a US base in Balad,” said one of the masked gunmen on a tape released last night by Arabiya television. “You must release our prisoners held near the US base in Balad, in Dujail, in Yathrib, in Samarra and near Abu Ghraib. You have three days from the date of this recording and after that we will behead him. We have warned you.”

Militants are also threatening to behead the three Turkish hostages tomorrow during the Nato summit. They demanded that Turkey stop working with the US forces in Iraq.

The grisly rituals surrounding the murder of foreign hostages in Iraq are now well established. A video sent to an Arab television station shows the three Turks kneeling in front of two black-clad gunmen. Behind them is the black banner of the organisation led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant seen by the US as the mastermind of terror in Iraq.

The Turkish government dismissed the kidnappers’ demands contemptuously, saying: “Turkey has been fighting terrorist activity for more than 20 years.”

Iraqis, like many of the foreigners in their country, are nervous as the so-called transfer of power looms. Some Baghdad businessmen have fled to Jordan or Syria.

The belief that insurgents will launch suicide bombers into Baghdad as sovereignty is being transferred is widespread. In the Iraqi capital residents say they will avoid all but the most essential journeys over the next few days. When they do travel, they try to avoid US or Iraqi government positions.

There were also explosions yesterday in the the Green Zone, where the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority has its headquarters. The US army said that three mortar bombs or rockets had landed but had caused no damage and inflicted no casualties. It is a measure of the failure of the US army over the past year to gain military control of Iraq that the bombardment of US headquarters in Baghdad by guerrillas is now a matter of routine, drawing little comment.

Iraqis would like the government of Iyad Allawi to succeed, but fear that it will be a puppet of the US. Earlier this month General Kimmitt said that for US armed forces in Iraq, all that was happening was a change of name. “I don’t think that July 1st is particularly significant on the part of the coalition military operations, with the exception we will now be known as the multinational forces.”

Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
Farzana Versey
Of Beyoncé, Trudeau and Culture Predators
Pete Dolack
Fanaticism and Fantasy Drive Purported TPP ‘Benefits’
Murray Dobbin
Canada and the TPP
Steve Horn
Army of Lobbyists Push LNG Exports, Methane Hydrates, Coal in Senate Energy Bill
Colin Todhunter
“Lies, Lies and More Lies” – GMOs, Poisoned Agriculture and Toxic Rants
Franklin Lamb
ISIS Erasing Our Cultural Heritage in Syria
David Mihalyfy
#realacademicbios Deserve Real Reform
Graham Peebles
Unjust and Dysfunctional: Asylum in the UK
Yves Engler
On Unions and Class Struggle
Alfredo Lopez
The ‘Bern’ and the Internet
Missy Comley Beattie
Super Propaganda
Ed Rampell
Great Caesar’s Ghost!: A Specter Haunts Hollywood in the Coen’s Anti-Anti-Commie Goofball Comedy
Cesar Chelala
The Public Health Impact of Domestic Violence
Ron Jacobs
Cold Weather Comforts of a Certain Sort
Charles Komanoff
On the Passing of the Jefferson Airplane
Charles R. Larson
Can One Survive the Holocaust?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail