FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Shia Pilgrims Die Despite US Offensive

 

Some 93 Shia pilgrims were killed and 150 wounded by two suicide bombers in the town of Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad yesterday. The attack is likely to lead Shia leaders to say that the US military offensive in Baghdad is failing to defend their people.

The Shia are particularly vulnerable to such attacks because hundreds of thousands are taking part in the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala. The slaughter in Hillah will strengthen demands that Shia militiamen such as the Mehdi Army return to the streets to provide security.

Roadside bombs have killed nine American soldiers north of Baghdad, showing that the three-week-old US offensive in the capital is also failing to reduce American casualties. The attacks took place in Salahudin and Diyala, two provinces where Sunni insurgents are aggressive.

American soldiers are dying at a rate of between two to four a day, in addition to the 600 wounded every month. This level of casualties, which has been steady for three years, is likely to ensure that the war remains unpopular in the US in the run-up to the presidential election in 2008.

The US military is moving into Sadr City, bastion of the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army militia, but so far there have been no clashes.Mr Sadr evidently believes it is in the interests of his movement to avoid a confrontation with the US at this stage.

The drive into Sadr City has been heavily publicised but it is being carried out by just 600 US and 550 Iraqi troops, who can only have a marginal impact on this densely populated area. The much-heralded “surge” by the US in Baghdad has reduced the level of death squad killings but has not eliminated them.

About 26 bodies were picked up by the police on Monday. One Sunni from west Baghdad, who delayed his flight to Syria to see if the situation would improve, said: “The security plan is not working and there are bodies turning up in my neighborhood again.”

The surge has failed to stop attacks aimed at Shia targets. Some 38 people were killed when a car bomb exploded in al-Mutanabi Street, site of Baghdad’s book market, earlier this week.

This area was once considered the hub of Baghdad’s intellectual life. The booksellers were regarded with suspicion by Saddam Hussein and were often arrested for selling forbidden books. Many of the shops are burnt out and their stock destroyed. The pilgrimage to Karbala, to commemorate the death of the Imam Hussein in the Battle of Karbala in AD680, is making the Shia easy targets for Sunni insurgents. Sunni bombers know only Shia will be taking part and therefore Sunnis are unlikely to be killed.

Although international focus is on the number of Iraqis dying in sudden violence, many others, particularly young children, are dying because of poor water and food supplies. Unicef says 4.5 million Iraqi children are malnourished.

About 60 per cent of Iraqis depend on government rations to survive but these are now less than they used to be. Many people have been forced to flee their own districts and are not allowed to get rations from shops in district where they have sought refuge.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of ‘The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq‘, a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006.

 

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

January 22, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
On the Brink of Brexit: the Only Thing Most People Outside Westminster Know About Brexit is That It’s a Mess
Raouf Halaby
The Little Brett Kavanaughs from Covington Catholic High
Craig Collins
Why Did Socialism Fail?
Dean Baker
The Trump Tax Cut is Even Worse Than They Say
Stanley L. Cohen
The Brazen Detention of Marzieh Hashemi, America’s Newest Political Prisoner
Karl Grossman
Darth Trump: From Space Force to Star Wars
Haydar Khan
The Double Bind of Human Senescence
Alvaro Huerta
Mr. President, We Don’t Need Your Stinking Wall
Howard Lisnoff
Another Slugger from Louisville: Muhammad Ali
Nicole Patrice Hill – Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Scarlet “I”: Climate Change, “Invasive” Plants and Our Culture of Domination
Jonah Raskin
Disposal Man Gets His Balls Back
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
January 21, 2019
W. T. Whitney
New US Economic Attack Against Cuba, Long Threatened, May Hit Soon
Jérôme Duval
Macronist Repression Against the People in Yellow Vests
Dean Baker
The Next Recession: What It Could Look Like
Eric Mann
All Hail the Revolutionary King: Martin Luther King and the Black Revolutionary Tradition
Binoy Kampmark
Spy Theories and the White House: Donald Trump as Russian Agent
Edward Curtin
We Need a Martin Luther King Day of Truth
Bill Fried
Jeff Sessions and the Federalists
Ed Corcoran
Central America Needs a Marshall Plan
Colin Todhunter
Complaint Lodged with European Ombudsman: Regulatory Authorities Colluding with Agrochemicals Industry
Manuel E. Yepe
The US War Against the Weak
Weekend Edition
January 18, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump
John Davis
“Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need
Joshua Frank
Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites
Louisa Willcox
Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North
Robert Fisk
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East
Robert Fantina
Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran
David Rosen
The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?
Nick Pemberton
Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal
Steve Early - Suzanne Gordon
Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping
Andrew Levine
The Tulsi Gabbard Factor
John W. Whitehead
The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone
Dana E. Abizaid
Kafka’s Grave: a Pilgrimage in Prague
Rebecca Lee
Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors
Dahr Jamail
A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s On Us
John Feffer
Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over
Dave Lindorff
Shut Down the War Machine!
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt  
Mark Ashwill
The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam
Ramzy Baroud
The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba
Ron Jacobs
Allen Ginsberg Takes a Trip
Jake Johnston
Haiti by the Numbers
Binoy Kampmark
No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail