Has Two Virginia Techs Every Day
By Juan Cole
19 April, 2007
keep hearing from US politicians and the US mass media that the "situation
is improving" in Iraq. The profound sorrow and alarm produced in
the American public by the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech should
give us a baseline for what the Iraqis are actually living through.
They have two Virginia Tech-style attacks every single day. Virginia
Tech will be gone from the headlines and the air waves by next week
this time in the US, though the families of the victims will grieve
for a lifetime. But next Tuesday I will come out here and report to
you that 64 Iraqis have been killed in political violence. And those
will mainly be the ones killed by bombs and mortars. They are only 13%
of the total; most Iraqis killed violently, perhaps 500 a day throughout
the country if you count criminal and tribal violence, are just shot
down. Shot down, like the college students and professors at Blacksburg.
We Americans can so easily, with a shudder, imagine the college student
trying to barricade himself behind a door against the armed madman without.
But can we put ourselves in the place of Iraqi students?
I wrote on February
' A suicide bomber with a bomb belt got into the lobby of the School
of Administration and Economy of Mustansiriya University in Baghdad
and managed to set it off despite being spotted at the last minute by
university security guards. The blast killed 41 and wounded a similar
number according to late reports, with body parts everywhere and big
pools of blood in the foyer as students were shredded by the high explosives.
That isn't "slow progress" or just "progress," the
way the weasels in Washington keep proclaiming. It is the most massive
manmade human tragedy of the young century.
According to the Non-Governmental
Organizations (NGOs) actually trying to help the estimated 8 million
Iraqis in dire need of aid . . . things
are not going that well in Iraq.
of persons demonstrated Monday against the governor of Basra Province,
complaining of poor social services and collapsing security, and demanding
his resignation. Among the demonstrators were followers of Shiite cleric
Muqtada al-Sadr. The Sadrists are not that numerous in Basra, so this
demonstration was probably joined by other disgruntled groups, including
the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Sawt
al-Iraq reports in Arabic that the number of demonstrators
totalled 20,000. Some Western wire services, however, suggested that
there were as few as 3,000.
killed 5 US GIs on Monday in Baghdad and al-Anbar Province.
The killings of 2 others on Sunday were announced Monday.
Arab guerrillas kidnapped 11 Shiite Turkmen from a town south of Kirkuk
on Monday night. Such Shiite captives are often killed.
reports that police found 11 bodies in Baghdad on Monday,
down from Sunday's total of 30. Several persons were killed by mortar
attacks, roadside bombs, and sniping in the capital on Monday.
Police found 6 bodies in
the streets of the northern, mostly Sunni Arab city of Mosul (pop. 1.5
million) on Monday. Also, "police said that 13 Iraqi army soldiers
from the second battalion were killed and 4 others were injured when
insurgents attacked their check point in Al A’daya village south
west Mosul city today." Guerrillas also shot down a lecturer and
a dean at Mosul University.
In Tikrit, north of Baghdad,
guerrillas killed 3 policemen and wounded 6 civilians with a suicide
car bomb attack.
South of Baghdad at Mahmudiya,
mortar shells killed 3 and wounded 17.
condemned Sunday's murder of 5 Iranian oil tanker drivers near Baquba.
al-Awsat reports in Arabic that an official in the Baghdad municipal
council told it that there are hundreds of thousands of orphans in Baghdad
schools.* She said that no steps have been taken to provide
special services to this sector of schoolchildren, for lack of resources,
and that only 2,000 are receiving government aid. (The Lancet study
published last fall found 605,000 excess violent deaths in Iraq since
the US invasion. These were fairly evenly spread around the country,
and Baghdad is a fourth of Iraq, population-wise. So 150,000 excess
deaths should have occurred in Baghdad. If we assume for the sake of
argument that 100,000 of those killed were child-rearing adults, and
if we assume 5 children per family and assume that in most cases only
one parent was killed violently, that would be 500,000 orphans in Baghdad.
Not all would yet be in school. The official alleged 900,000 orphans,but
that strikes me as too high. I'm not a demographer, though, and would
be interested in knowing what the Public Health people think about this
Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-proclaimed "Islamic State
of Iraq" says that Iraq under American military occupation
is a "university for terror."
illustrate the point, the architect of the three massive bombings in
Algiers, Algeria, last Wednesday says that he wants to
turn Algeria into another Iraq. Muslim fundamentalists and the secular
military government in Algeria fought a devastating civil war in the
1990s and into the zeroes of this century, which left an estimated 150,000
persons dead. The radical Salafis (Sunni revivalists), now calling themselves
al-Qaeda in North Africa, are threatening to reprise that dirty war,
which they lost. Some Algerian jihadis are getting training in Iraq,
where they have gone as volunteers to fight US troops.
Taliban in Afghanistan are also beginning to adopt the tactics of Iraqi
guerrillas which include attacks on civilians in hopes
of mobilizing them into the war on one side or another, on the theory
that civil conflict is always good for growing an insurgency.
Kaplan at Slate lays into Senator John McCain for admitting
that if he is elected president, he'd quite possibly get out of Iraq,
just as the Democrats he is now attacking propose.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking in Australia, said he left it to
Australia and the US whether to withdraw from Iraq or not.
He said that he did want to stress that if the US and Australia withdrew,
they should do so in such a way as to retain their authority and preserve
their gains in the region.
The problem with this advice
is that it is impossible to follow it. Any US withdrawal from Iraq will
inevitably affect its prestige. But then, the quagmire is a daily reminder
to everyone in the region of the limits of US power.
Olmert made a big deal about
'living in the region' and therefore 'knowing something of its dynamics.'
I think his war on Lebanon last summer demonstrates the falsity of the
latter claim, and my advice to Canberra would be pretty much to keep
his track record in mind. Even in Israel, he
is at 14% in the polls.
Anyway, I think the implication
of his statement, despite his beating around the bush, is that he doesn't
relish a US and Australian withdrawal from Iraq because he thinks it
will adversely affect Israeli security. Olmert doesn't understand regional
dynamics and doesn't seem to see that the longer the US and its two
remaining major allies in Iraq try to stay there, the worse the situation
gets, which actually is the thing that is threatening to Israel.
Belgian Minister of Defense has demanded that Israel pay for the clean-up
of the 1 million cluster bombs Olmert ordered fired into
south Lebanon, mostly in the last 3 days of the war last August. There
was no military purpose to this act of vicious sabotage, and it was
clearly a war crime. The goal was to injure Lebanese civilians returning
to South Lebanon, and, since they largely support Hizbullah, to weaken
that group in the south. Kudos to Andre Flahaut for daring stand up
on this issue. Israeli politician Shimon Peres has admitted that deploying
the cluster bombs was a "mistake."
So if the Australians know
what is good for them, they won't pay too much attention to Olmert,
perhaps the most inept prime minister Israel has ever had.
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