Archive for category Mahdi Army

the UN, NATO, and the trip-wire

I’m so sorry to write this missive as a lead article (for 15 minutes) but I don’t remember how to find the comments and respond to them. The lonely little side-bar response to my article I’ve not seen, except for half a sentence. It seemed to be saying that the old days are gone now, and so we need NATO and the JN. I agree. With NATO, it is the trip-wire provision that we go to war, automatically if any NATO nation is attacked, regardless of who the attacker is. This takes not only the United States Congress, but the president, as Commander in Chief, from the decision to go to war. I support both the UN and, if handled correctly, NATO. But President J. Reuben Clark and I oppose the automatic going to war. Just like the fools, the ancient general staffs of all sides in WW I. No one wanted that war. There was no Adolph Hitler in that war that destroyed the entire 20th century. Better to have shot the general staffs, who came to deserve exactly that. What President Clark called for, and I, are what the United States has always done, before NATO. That is, to have treaties of peace and friendship with our allies and then, should hostilities commence, such treaties would call for all parties to go to war, or not, as their constitutions provide. In this way, we don’t declare war against a nation, and surely all the people, have not yet been born. How, pray tell, do we justify going to war against, and for, people not, or no longer, live on earth. With a few caveats, ditto for the UN. No provision of law allows the UN to overreach Congress in the decision for war or peace. For anyone interested, read my book with the late Francis Wormuth, To Cain the Dog of War. It is by odds the best book ever written on the way we go to war. Every single war we’ve ever fought, including our wars against the Indian tribes, is there analyzed. Francis did not live to see this book in print. I worked two years after his death to finish it. And I updated it 4 or 5 times, alone. I still put my dear friend’s name first, because I am honored to be linked, now, forever. Something like Mormon marriage through time and eternity. ed firmage xoxo


Al-Sadr Underestimated Again


Moqtada al-Sadr is once again looking like the future of Iraqi politics, playing kingmaker in the wake of recent elections. The Sadrist movement occupies a unique position as the strongest unified faction. Their leaders are respected for having stayed in Iraq during Saddam’s regime when many others (including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki) fled into exile. The Sadrist Mahdi Army fought against the U.S. and British occupation forces, and unlike the Sunni insurgency was never bought off with American money.

Now the Sadrists are again staking a claim to power and emphasizing their numbers, by holding their own election for prime minister of Iraq today and tomorrow.

The decision to hold the referendum shows that Mr Sadr is more guileful and politically astute than his critics give him credit for. “It’s symbolic and populist and trying to display a measure of strength,” Michael Hanna, an Iraq analyst based in New York, told the Associated Press. “[It says that] our position is a reflection of the will of the people,” said Mr Hanna.

Mr Sadr’s promise that his movement would be bound by the result in its choice of prime ministerial candidate marks it out as more democratic than the other parties, which are notorious for the secret negotiation of deals to divide up the spoils of office.

The election result proved that Mr Sadr retains his support in the working class Shia slums and was able to get them to the polls. His success showed that his popularity had recovered from military defeat in 2008 when his Mahdi Army militia was crushed in its strongholds of Baghdad, Basra and Amara by the Iraqi army backed by American forces.

Not a surprising development, but no doubt a disappointment to those who hoped that a more pro-American government would be formed under the leadership of Ayad Allawi.

Related One Utah posts:
Al-Sadr: End U.S. Occupation of Iraq Or Else (November 14, 2008)
‘We will not stop resisting the occupation until liberation or martyrdom’ (June 14, 2008)
Mahdi Army the leading provider of humanitarian assistance in Iraq (April 24, 2008)
Al-Sadr: ‘I Am Giving The Last Warning’ (April 19, 2008)

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‘Victory’ Update: Baghdad Protesters Burn Bush in Effigy

Protester strikes Bush effigy
A protester uses his shoe to strike an effigy of U.S. President George. W. Bush, in an expression of contempt, as thousands of followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, Iraq for a mass prayer to protest a proposed U.S.-Iraqi security pact on Friday, Nov. 21, 2008.(AP Photo/Karim Kadim)

From the Associated Press:

BAGHDAD (AP) — Followers of a Shiite cleric on Friday stomped on and burned an effigy of President George W. Bush in the same central Baghdad square where Iraqis beat a toppled statue of Saddam Hussein with their sandals five years earlier.

Chanting and waving flags, thousands of Moqtada al-Sadr’s followers filled Firdos Square to protest a proposed U.S.-Iraqi security pact that would allow American troops to stay for three more years. The Bush effigy was placed on the same pedestal where U.S. Marines toppled the ousted dictator’s statue in one of the iconic images of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

It can’t be said often enough that the very people now filling the streets of Baghdad in protest against the U.S. occupation of Iraq are those who were most oppressed under Saddam Hussein’s regime. They are the ones Vice President Dick Cheney was thinking of when he predicted U.S. forces would be greeted as liberators.

Peter Juul of the Center for American Progress points out the obvious. The so-called status of forces agreement (SOFA) is not just an “executive-level agreement,” as the Bush administration claims. It’s a treaty that must be approved by the U.S. Senate:

[T]he SOFA is, in fact, a treaty committing the United States to act in the defense of Iraq if its security is threatened. Even if it does not rise to the level of a firm security guarantee, the SOFA’s language is close enough to a treaty that Congress should have a say in it.

Related One Utah post: Neocon Insanity: Those Iraqi Ingrates (November 18)


Al-Sadr: End U.S. Occupation of Iraq Or Else


Moqtada al-Sadr has renewed threats
to resume attacks on U.S. forces if they don’t leave Iraq. A statement by the Iran-based cleric that was read to supporters gathered for Friday prayers in Baghdad’s Sadr City district and the city of Kufa, south of Baghdad.

“I repeat my call on the occupier to get out from the land of our beloved Iraq, without retaining bases or signing agreements,” al-Sadr said. “If they do stay, I urge the honorable resistance fighters … to direct their weapons exclusively against the occupier.”

Al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia fought U.S. forces in 2004 and again this past spring. In July, al-Sadr said he was disbanding most of the militia, but would keep a small combat unit of seasoned and loyal fighters in case they are called upon to fight the Americans again. In Friday’s statement, al-Sadr for the first time gave that unit a name: “The Promised Day Brigade.”

Nouri al-Mailiki’s cabinet is expected to vote on a proposed treaty with the United States in the next couple of days. The latest draft, now referred to as a “withdrawal agreement,” stipulates that American forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 2009 and from the country by the end of 2011. The U.S. military has already begun redeploying units out of urban areas and back to outlying bases. The British have negotiated a separate agreement to withdraw completely from Iraq by the end of next year.

Last month, thousands of Sadrists marched in Baghdad to protest the proposed treaty and demand an immediate end to the occupation, burning effigies of President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Remember, these people are the same Shiites who were so oppressed by Saddam Hussein, the ones the invasion of Iraq was supposed to help.

Most Shiites in Iraq reject the treaty draft, including the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council which is a key Maliki political ally. More ominously, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has vowed to intervene if there are any concessions of Iraqi national sovereignty.

In other news, the year-long effort to re-take control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from Sunni insurgents has made little progress, according to Danger Room’s David Axe. An Iraqi soldier shot and killed two U.S. soldiers and wounded at least six others in Mosul on Wednesday.

CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has finally admitted that Iraq, contrary to years of Bush administration propaganda, is not the “central front in the war on terror.” We knew that, but it’s nice to hear the CIA say it for attribution.

In January, when President-elect Obama takes office, there will still be more American troops in Iraq than there were in April 2003 when Baghdad fell. This is the legacy of President Bush’s so-called “surge.” Our new commander-in-chief has a powerful mandate to make a bold decision to call off a pointless occupation, while U.S. right-wingers moan about how “victory” was “in sight” and Iraqi Sadrists try to claim credit for forcing us to withdraw.

In the Army, we used to refer to leadership in tough situations as “an opportunity to excel.” President Obama will have an opportunity to excel.


Pessimistic Iraq NIE Will Be Kept Secret Until After Election Day

McClatchy News Service has interviewed more than a half-dozen officials on condition of anonymity about a new top-secret National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq. Such estimates reflect the consensus of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.

This NIE completely contradicts recent claims by the McCain campaign that “victory in Iraq is finally in sight.” It warns that unresolved ethnic and sectarian tensions in Iraq could unleash a new wave of violence, reversing short-term security improvements seen over the last year.

Sons of Iraq
“Sons of Iraq” on patrol with U.S. soldiers in Baghdad

Here are the details leaked to McClatchy:

  • The draft NIE warns that modest steps in security and political progress, like the recent passage of a provincial election law, are threatened by lingering disputes between the majority Shiite Arabs, Sunni Arabs, Kurds and other minorities.
  • Sources of tension include a struggle between Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen for control of the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk; and the Shiite-led central government’s unfulfilled vows to hire former Sunni insurgents who joined Awakening groups.
  • The NIE also raises worries about what would happen if Moqtada al-Sadr, the anti-U.S. cleric, decides to reassert himself and his Sadrist movement. If Sadr abandons his cease-fire, it is unclear whether his Mahdi Army fighters would be harder to control this time.
  • The embattled “Sons of Iraq” program may prove to be the ultimate challenge to sustained stability. The mostly Sunni former insurgents who are being paid by the U.S. military to protect their neighborhoods and to stop shooting at Americans are now facing persecution. Many of the roughly 100,000 men of the mostly Sunni paramilitary groups have fled to Syria, while others remain in Iraq, worried that the Shiite government will disband and detain them.
  • The NIE findings parallel a Defense Department assessment last month that warned that despite “promising developments, security gains in Iraq remain fragile. A number of issues have the potential to upset progress.”
  • The findings of the intelligence estimate appear to be reflected in recent statements by Army General David Petraeus, the former top U.S. commander in Iraq, who has called the situation “fragile” and “reversible” and said he will never declare victory there.

Of course, none of this information is really secret. It’s not even news to One Utah readers and many other people who get their information from reliable sources on the Web. The Bush administration is planning to keep this NIE classified top secret at least until after the election, however, because they cannot afford to release this kind of authoritative official confirmation of the facts on the ground in Iraq.

Previous One Utah posts:

Bush Administration Hiding Afghanistan NIE Until After Election (September 23)
Mosul: ‘People think the war is over, but they don’t realize the amount of contact that we receive out here’ (September 22)
CNN’s Michael Ware: McCain ‘has no idea what is going on in Iraq’ (September 10)
Iraqi Troops and Kurdish Peshmerga Forces are Bracing for Conflict (September 3)


Forgotten But Not Gone Update: Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri

Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri

Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri, Saddam’s successor, now claims the title, “leader of Resistance and Liberation, general secretary of the Socialist Baath Party.”

Al-Douri’s latest statement reiterates what the Iraqi resistance is fighting for: national self-determination. Despite a one-time alliance of convenience, he now regards the al-Qaeda agenda as a disastrous diversion. Bear in mind that al-Douri is referring to al-Qaeda in Iraq, the group founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and not Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. The Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr is depicted as well-meaning but incompetent.

Badger of Missing Links offers a better translation of some of al-Douri’s rhetoric:

O tyrannical aggressor: Our resistance is not official armies, arranged so that your official armies, superior in numbers and equipment, can mobilize against them, winning a victory today in this city and tomorrow in that one. They are not Al Qaeda which offered itself up to you on a silver platter so that you could slaughter them; and they are not the Mahdi Army, which pleased you, and in fact which encouraged you, with their backward (meaning “undeveloped” or primitive) way of doing things, to liquidate them militarily–with all my respect, esteem, pride and love for all those who fight against you upon the land of Iraq for the liberation of Iraq.

…Likewise I call on all of the jihad factions of all affiliations and all origins to unite and to aim first and foremost in their operations at the occupier, because he is the head of the snake. And then at the agents who blatantly represent the agent authority, and the symbols of the great betrayal. And not to fight against anyone but them, unless they fight against you. And not to get involved with sellouts and agents, or with the agencies of government, including the so-called army and the police, and the Awakenings and the administration, because all of these are with the people and with the heroic resistance. They have been compelled by need and by destitution to go over to these agencies. Fight the symbols (or the embodiments) of agency and betrayal, who have been involved in capital offenses with the occupation, and in the killing and expulsion of its people.

Note that al-Douri, like Moqtada al-Sadr, is urging a unified resistance that avoids fighting fellow Iraqis except in self-defense. It will be interesting to see if this commonality of purpose goes anywhere. The Sunni and Shiite fighters last allied against U.S. forces in 2004, before the Iraq civil war erupted. At this point, with 100,000 Sunni militiamen temporarily on the American payroll (aka the “Awakening”), al-Douri may not command more than a few thousand die-hards in Mosul, Baquba, Fallujah and a few other places.

Previous One Utah posts:
Remember This Guy? (January 11, 2007)
Forgotten But Not Gone (September 13, 2007)
Who Are We Fighting in Iraq? (January 18, 2008)

Iraq news updates:
AP: Iraq’s government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh: hope U.S. withdraws combat troops by 2010
Reuters: Obama meets with U.S. commanders in Iraq
CNN: Baghdad hit by deadly car bomb as Obama meets with Iraqi officials
Voices of Iraq: Iraqi parliamentary elections postponed to December 22
The New York Times: Iraq Prime Minister Maliki Specifically Endorsed Obama’s Withdrawal Plan

Iraq NewsLadder

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‘We will not stop resisting the occupation until liberation or martyrdom’

Moqtada al-Sadr

Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr is establishing a new fighting force to battle U.S. troops in Iraq, he said in a letter read in Iraqi mosques Friday. Bill Roggio has more on The Long War Journal.

“The resistance will be exclusively conducted by only one group,” Sadr said. “This new group will be defined soon by me. The weapons will be held exclusively by this new group, and they should be pointed exclusively at the occupier. We will not stop resisting the occupation until liberation or martyrdom.”

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki publicly rejected key U.S. terms for a permanent occupation of Iraq. American demands include rights to 58 military bases, extraterritoriality for U.S. soldiers and civilians, control of Iraqi airspace, and the right to conduct military operations anywhere without notification. Maliki has accused the U.S. government of planning to attack Iran.

UPDATE: The Sadrist movement announced on Saturday that they will boycott the Iraqi elections. “We don’t want anybody to blame us or consider us part of this government while it is allowing the country to be under occupation,” said Liwa Smeisim, head of the Sadr movement’s political committee.

Recent related One Utah posts:
‘More abominable than the occupation’
Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under permanent US occupation

Iraq NewsLadder

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If you think things can’t get any worse in Iraq…

If you think things can’t get any worse in Iraq, think again. The Associated Press reports that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has issued fatwas encouraging armed resistance against the U.S. occupation. Assuming this is true (and it fits what we know of Sistani and the current situation), at the very least it ends the neocon fantasy of establishing permanent military bases.

Grand Ayatollah al-SistaniAl-Sistani is often described as Iraq’s most influential Shiite cleric, but his influence also extends to Shiite believers everywhere in the world. Al-Sistani’s distaste for the U.S. presence is no secret, but he has previously avoided answering even abstract questions on whether fighting the U.S. presence in Iraq is allowed by Islam.

According to the AP article, al-Sistani may be expressing opposition to any agreement by Baghdad to allow a long-term U.S. military foothold in Iraq — part a deal that is currently under negotiation and could be signed as early as July. If so, he is likely to have the final word. The Iraqi parliament is unlikely to ratify any such deal over his opposition.

What has happened? The recent successes of the Mahdi Army in defending Basra and Sadr City from U.S., British and Maliki/Hakim forces may have made a difference. Writes Matt Duss on Think Progress:

I think it’s possible that Sistani is responding to pressure from Sadrists who condemned him for his silence during the U.S. and Iraqi army siege of Sadr City. It’s also striking how closely the language of these edicts appears to accord with what Muqtada al-Sadr himself has advocated and prohibited in terms of resistance to foreign occupiers. Contrary to some reports, Sistani did not advocate the disbanding of the Mahdi Army, but rather simply did not rule on the question, effectively leaving the Mahdi Army intact. While Sistani may regard Sadr as an unruly upstart, Sistani also recognizes that Sadr represents a massive constituency that cannot be ignored.

If there is indeed an unacknowledged U.S. strategy of trying to stay in Iraq by setting rival Shiite politicians and militias against one another, it appears to have failed.

UPDATE: Washington Monthly’s Kevin Drum says, “this ranks fairly high on the worry meter.”

UPDATE: A source close to the office of al-Sistani in Najaf has offered a clarification: “Sistani supports resistance to the occupation, but not by military means, at the present time.”

UPDATE: Spencer Ackerman weighs in regarding Sistani’s opposition to the U.S.-Iraq long-term security agreement (aka permanent occupation).

Iraq NewsLadder


No End in Sight to Sadr City Resistance

There is still no end in sight after seven weeks of fighting Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Sadr City, reports Bill Roggio on The Long War Journal. U.S. Army units building a three-mile-long wall through Sadr City continue to meet heavy resistance.

The attacks occurred during construction on the barrier along Qods Street, the main thoroughfare that divides the southern third of Sadr City from the northern neighborhoods. The US military used air weapons teams armed with Hellfire missiles, Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, and infantry to beat back the attacks.

Sadr City WallWhat is the fighting about? Sadr’s followers accuse their rivals, especially the Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), a powerful Shiite party led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, of using the U.S. military and Iraqi security forces in an attempt to alter the balance of political power before provincial elections scheduled for October. The combination of ISCI and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party is known as the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).

It remains to be seen if the Sadrists have been weakened or if they have actually gained support among Iraqis by holding ground against a determined offensive by eight U.S. battalions and various units loyal to the Maliki government.

Sadr City building hit by Hellfire missile

Smoke rises from a building hit by a U.S. Hellfire missile in the Shiite enclave of Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, May 12, 2008. The building that was used by insurgent snipers was just north of the 12-foot concrete barrier that is being built along a main street dividing southern Sadr city from north, where Mahdi Army fighters are concentrated. U.S. commanders hope the wall will effectively cut off insurgents ability to move freely around Baghdad and hamper their ability to fire rockets at the Green Zone. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

One indisputable result of the fighting: hundreds of noncombatant casualties, widespread destruction by air strikes and artillery, and thousands made homeless. Sudarsan Raghavan of the Washington Post offers a glimpse of the plight of civilians displaced by the Sadr City offensive.

[T]wo women clad in head-to-toe black abayas walked in clutching two photos of a car riddled with bullet holes, its body crushed. They said U.S. troops had shot at the car, then driven over it with a tank.

“My husband was killed,” one of the women said. “I have six kids, and my husband used to be a taxi driver. So what can I do?”

A couple of dozen families have found refuge in a soccer stadium that was set up as a temporary camp a week ago by the Maliki government. Most have stayed away because they distrust the regime.

“We wish we could go back today to our house,” Sabah said. “But the American soldiers are standing across the street from our house. Once you step out of the house, you will be shot by the snipers.”

A widely-heralded May 12 cease-fire agreement between the Sadrists and the UIA has yet to end the fighting, because the U.S. government was not a party to the agreement. In fact, the deal omits any mention of Americans except to warn that “foreign forces” are to have no role in providing security in Sadr City. Aside from a promise to halt the mortar and rocket bombardments of the Green Zone, the Mahdi Army did not commit to stop fighting. They agreed to allow Iraqi units to peacefully enter the city if unaccompanied.

For their part, the U.S. military seems determined to continue the offensive for the time being rather than leave Sadr City under the control of an anti-occupation Shiite militia.

Previous One Utah post: U.S. Ignoring Sadr City Cease Fire (May 11, 2008)

Sadr City conditions worsen, according to a reporter who “asked to remain anonymous because of security concerns.”

Michael Gordon of the New York Times reports on the “daily battle of attrition” as the Sadr City wall nears completion.

The formal truce that was announced in the Green Zone with great fanfare on Monday has meant nothing here. Shiite militias have been trying to blast gaps in the wall, firing at the American troops who are completing it and maneuvering to pick off the Iraqi soldiers who have been charged with keeping an eye on the partition.

American forces have answered with tank rounds, helicopter rocket strikes and even satellite-guided bombs to try to silence the militia fire. On some stretches, the urban landscape has been transformed as the Americans have leveled buildings militia fighters have used as perches to mount their attacks.

Iraq NewsLadder

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U.S. Ignoring Sadr City Cease Fire

Sadr City operations map
Map of Sadr City and vicinity: Green lines indicate completed sections of wall, red is uncompleted wall. Blue diamonds are joint security stations (forts). Yellow symbols are checkpoints sealing off the area of operations, where more than two million people live.

From Bill Roggio on The Long War Journal:

US and Iraqi forces continue to strike at the Mahdi Army in Baghdad despite the agreement reached between the Iraqi government and the Mahdi Army late Friday. Seventeen Mahdi Army fighters were killed in northeastern Baghdad over the past 24 hours.

In a briefing today, Brigadier General James Milano, the Deputy Commanding General for Multinational Division Baghdad, said that the American-built wall dividing Sadr City is now 80 percent complete (see map).

In the tentative cease-fire agreement, brokered by the Iranian government, political party representatives acting on behalf of Iraq’s Green Zone Government (GZG) headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accepted 14 points laid out by Moqtada al-Sadr’s Sadrist movement. Under the agreement, al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia would allow Iraqi (but not American) forces into Sadr City, and promised to halt indirect fire attacks on the Green Zone. Mahdi Army fighters would not disband, and would also be allowed to keep their weapons.

The day after the cease-fire was announced, U.S. attack helicopters conducted what was described as a “heavy bombardment” of Mahdi Army positions in Sadr City.

On Sunday, a GZG armored column tried to enter Sadr City but immediately ran into a Mahdi Army ambush. Three improvised explosive devices wounded several soldiers, including a battalion commander. If the cease-fire takes effect, the GZG hopes to deliver aid and food to the besieged residents.

Previous One Utah posts:
Helen Thomas on Sadr City: ‘Why are we bombing these people?’ (May 7, 2008)
Sadr City and The Folly of Fixed Fortifications (May 5, 2008)
Sadr City: Why are we doing this? (April 30, 2008)
Winning Hearts and Minds in Iraq – Not! (April 27, 2008)
Al-Sadr: ‘I Am Giving The Last Warning’ April 19, 2008)
Iraq: Staring Into the Abyss (March 27, 2008)
Mahdi Army Cease Fire Expires Saturday (February 20, 2008)
The Walls of Baghdad: ‘We feel like prisoners in our own country’ (December 11, 2007)

[NOTE: I check the Utah Bloghive daily, and it’s been almost a month since any of the right-leaning blogs have posted anything at all about Iraq or Afghanistan.]

Cease-Fire Fails To Pacify Sadr City

Iraq NewsLadder

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Helen Thomas on Sadr City: ‘Why are we bombing these people?’

Via The Washington Independent we learn that Helen Thomas went to Tuesday’s White House press briefing with Dana Perino and asked the questions few dare to ask, even of the most unpopular administration ever:

THOMAS: Yesterday, according to The New York Times, we dropped a bomb on a home in Sadr City and burned alive a pregnant woman and her children. How long is the siege of Sadr — how long are we going to keep bombing Iraqis?

PERINO: Well, I’m not aware of that particular report. I have not — I’ve not seen it.

THOMAS: Well, it was pretty buried in the story.

PERINO: Okay. Well, the operation against the militias in Sadr City will continue until they root them out. And that is expressly in order to protect people like you just mentioned.

THOMAS: Root who out, Iraqis, in their own country?

PERINO: It is Prime Minister Maliki’s government which is going after the militia, which is appropriate.

THOMAS: Why are we bombing these people?

PERINO: Any time anyone that is an innocent civilian is hurt in a conflict, we obviously regret it, and we go out of our way to make sure it doesn’t happen.

THOMAS: Thank you.

UNICEF reports that 150,000 civilians are trapped by the fighting in Sadr City, and thousands more have fled. Those unable to leave their homes face shortages of water, food and medicine. Civilian casualties so far have exceeded 1,000 people killed and 2,500 wounded.

Helen Thomas is a national treasure. Why is she the only MSM reporter asking these questions?

All the Bush administration can say is that our forces are killing these noncombatants to “protect” them.

Residents flee battered Sadr City in search of safety, food
Iraq prepares for Baghdad exodus
Baghdad stadium to shelter Iraqis fleeing Sadr City danger

Iraq NewsLadder


Sadr City: Why are we doing this?

Think back to when President Bush and the neocons wanted to justify the invasion of Iraq. We heard the same words over and over. The Iraqis were “terrorized, tortured, and brutalized” by Saddam Hussein. Saddam “used weapons against his own people.” After it was clear that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction, the alleged benefits of deposing a terrible dictator morphed into the number one reason for going to war.

Now, let’s observe the present situation. Iraq has no effective national government, but Nouri al-Maliki’s Green Zone regime has ordered the deaths of thousands of Iraqis in torture chambers and in the streets of Iraqi cities. Over the last two months, Maliki has advocated violence against his fellow Shiites. Many policemen and soldiers refused to carry out his orders. Now the battles in Baghdad, Basra and other cities are being fought primarily by American and British soldiers.

The US Army is building a wall to divide the densely populated section of Baghdad known as Sadr City, home to three million people and an unknown number of Mahdi Army fighters loyal to Moqtada al-Sadr. The wall is intended to keep the Mahdi Army from setting up Katyusha rocket launchers within range of the Green Zone. It is unclear how this is going to work. The wall is being built at approximately the 7 km mark and the 107mm rockets have a reported effective range of 9 km, however at the limit of their range they are accurate only to a 1 km radius of the intended target.

The Mahdi Army gets these rockets from Iran (either bought from arms smugglers or provided by the Iranian military). It’s worth noting that Iran has much longer-range rockets, such as the types they provide to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

As noted in a previous post
, our attack on Sadr City is causing as many or more casualties among innocent civilians than among the Mahdi Army fighters who are defending the area.

Tahseen al-Sheikhly, the spokesman for the civilian side of Baghdad security operations, said Wednesday that a total of 925 people had died and 2,605 were wounded in Sadr City. A member of the Iraqi Accord Front (biggest Sunni bloc in parliament) Ahmed Radhi, who was in Sadr City on Sunday as part of the multi-party sit-in, said: “The majority of those who are being killed are civilians, and not armed persons.”

MLRS launcher firing

Helicopters were grounded by a sandstorm yesterday, so the US Army unleashed heavy artillery on Sadr City, using a Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) battery. Each MLRS fires guided 227 mm rockets at a rate of 12 per minute. The barrage lasted for hours, killing 24 civilians and wounding 60. Most were reported to be women and children. The US Army reports that 28 Mahdi Army fighters died in the battle, some probably killed by the artillery.

The Associated Press reported that at least three buildings were destroyed by the heavy artillery fire.

House destroyed by artillery
AFP photo: An Iraqi cries over the dead bodies of his neighbors and relatives on the ruins of a house hit by US artillery.

AP Television News footage showed a school that had been badly damaged by an explosion on Tuesday. Parts of the two-floor building had pancaked as the result of the blast. Desks were hanging down from the slanting classrooms where the outer walls were blown out by the blast.

In Sadr City, the US Army is killing many more civilians than enemy combatants. This is an apparent violation of the law of land warfare, as explained in Army Field Manual FM 27-10 (PDF).

“[L]oss of life and damage to property incidental to attacks must not be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage expected to be gained.”
(HR, art. 23, par. (g); GC, art. 53)

This rule is based on prohibitions contained in international law, specifically the Annex to Hague Convention No. IV, 18 October 1907, embodying the Regulations Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land (HR) and the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, 12 August 1949 (GC).

US military spokespeople always emphasize that our forces do not deliberately target civilians. However, as noted above, that is not enough. The prohibitory effect of the law of war is not minimized by military necessity. Every violation of the law of war is a war crime.

Why are we doing this? I got into a somewhat heated discussion yesterday on the The Long War Journal. Some said that the assault is being conducted at the behest of the Maliki Green Zone regime, which desires to defeat a rival Shiite militia. Others claimed that General Petraeus planned this, and he must know what he’s doing because he’s a four-star general. Nobody argued that anybody in Washington was in control, although I find it interesting that this fiasco-within-a-fiasco got started just after VP Dick Cheney paid a visit to Maliki.

See after the jump for updates, including links to video of the aftermath of the artillery barrage…
Read the rest of this entry »


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