Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Club Kids: The Ugly Side of Excess





Baghdad has again been slammed by bombings. BBC News counted "at least 28 people" dead and another seventy-five injured following multiple bombings in the Iraqi capital this morning. The link has video as well as text and the video shows rubble and people attempting to clear it. AFP explains, "Ambulance sirens were heard across the city as emergency service workers rushed to the scenes of the blasts, and a large plume of smoke rose from near a destroyed building in the neighbourhood of Allawi, central Baghdad." Xiong Tong (Xinhua) adds that the death toll increased to 35 and the number injured to 140 and cites a source in the Ministry of the Interior for those numbers and for the assertion that there were seven bombings today. DPA observes, "Tuesday's deadly attacks came only two days after three, apparently coordinated, car bombs killed dozens of people and injured hundreds in the capital, amid tense negotiations on forming a new government after March 7 parliamentary polls." On NPR's hourly news break at 9:00 a.m. EST, Quil Lawrence went with 35 dead and 140 injured as well and noted seven bombings, some of which were strong enough to "bring down buildings." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) adds, "Security sources said the attacks were implemented by bombs planted near the gates of the buildings in the neighborhoods of Chkook, Shaula, Alawi Al Hilla, Shurta the 4th, Amil and Elam. The attacks came two days after explosions that targeted diplomatic missions in the Iraqi capital, in which more than 40 Iraqis were killed and 224 were wounded." Hammoudi and Hannah Allam also reported that it appears vacant apartments were used as the staging platform for the bombings and they note that, "The story was the same in at least three of the bombed residential complexes: Residents said that unknown renters had leased space in the two-story buildings and never moved in." Echoing that Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) state, "In some of the cases, unknown men had rented rooms in buildings around the city, wired them with explosives and detonated their devices on Tuesday morning." Leila Fadel and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) remind, "A similar tactic was used on Election Day, when more than 30 people were killed." Timothy Williams and Yasmine Mousa (New York Times) add, "At least five of the bombs were homemade devices placed inside apartment buildings, an unusual tactic. A parker car packed with explosives was also detonated in a Shiite neighborhood in south Baghdad." On today's The World (PRI), the BBC News' Jim Muir.

Marco Werman: Jim, it's kind of rare for these attacks to target apartments, randomly killing these civilians so what do these targets have in common?

Jim Muir: Well they had in common, as you say, that they hit residential buildings. What I would say is this, that since last year we've seen that these coordinated waves of attacks have what I'm calling "themes" to them. Last year, they were hitting government buildings and ministries and so on. In January, we saw a series of attacks, coordinated suicide attacks, nearly simultaneous, on some of the big hotels in Baghdad. This Sunday, it was the turn of foreign embassies in various parts of Baghdad. And now we have the ordinary residential buildings with no particular special people or special facilities there -- just ordinary buildings housing ordinary people. You may ask why? I think they're partly out to show that they can hit all over town at a selected kind of target. They may also be trying once again to provoke the Shi'ite population because most in fact all of these buildings were in areas mainly populated by the Shia Muslims. Now when you had those kind of provocative attacks four years ago it did trigger off a very vicious two years of sectarian warfare which everybody hopes has run its course but the insurgents may be trying to -- or hoping -- to trigger it off once again.

Marco Werman: So if these apartment buildings were targeted in part because they're in Shi'ite neighborhoods -- I mean, does this mean that somebody's trying or some group is trying to stoke sectarian hatreds again?

Jim Muir: That definitely seems to be part of the sub-theme. I mean, I think the overall message is, as I say, they're trying to show that Iraq is deeply unstable, that the political progress and the security progress of the last three years are for nothing and that the insurgents can still strike at random. [. . .]

"Actually, the security situation has improved." Who said that? Here's your hint: Biggest Idiot in US Government. Usually forgets to comb what's left of his hair. Chris Hill. Ambassador to Iraq. Imran Garda (Al Jazeera) spoke with Hill following Sunday's bombings (link has video) and Hill was trying to Happy Talk his way through the interview. They ought to take that one sentence and just show it over and over at the top of each hour. "There's clear improvement in the security situation," insisted Hill. Hill's US stupid. There's a lot of stupid to go around. But let's move to the White House where the laughable White House press corps asked one of those oh-so-rare questions about Iraq leading Robert Gibbs, White House spokesperson and Spanx spokesperson, to respond, "Well I think many expected that insurgents would use this time to roll back the progress, both militarily and politically, that we've seen in Iraq. The leadership and team here have spoken with our ambassador and with General [Ray] Odierno. He believes that this does not threaten our ability to draw down our roces later in the year. And obviously we are very focused on, and Vice President [Joe] Biden is very focused on, the steps that need to be taken to ensure political advancement in Iraq after these elections." Whole lot of stupid to go around, remember?

None of the reports noting the obvious, maybe in an effort to make-nice with Nouri? But the bombings took place today, yes. Baghdad was slammed with bombings today. And what was the world told yesterday? That's kind of a key detail.

On Monday, Nouri put security forces on high alert. Doubt it? AFP: "Iraq's security forces were on high alert Monday after three suicide car bombs targeting regional and European embassies rocked Baghdad, killing 30 people. [. . .] Incumbent Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, whose coalition finished second in the March 7 general election, held a meeting with Iraq's national security council over Sunday's blasts, a statement from his office said." Wait, it gets better. Sundays bombings? AP reported Monday that one suicide bomber was taken alive, "The official said Iraqi forces were tipped off about a possible attack against diplomatic targets and had begun beefing up security precautions Saturday -- measures he credited with keeping the embassies themselves from serious damage." Beefing up security in Baghdad on Saturday but unable to stop the bombings you've been tipped off regarding. High alert starting Monday and Baghdad's again slammed today by bombings.

Conventional wisdom continues to be that Iraq's elections resulted in 'confusion' and a 'power vacuum' now exists leading to violence. Sounds like too many reporters talking to themselves. It's not as if Nouri doesn't remain sitting prime minister today with the same security forces and militia at his command. He may be ineffective but, even so, that's not a new development. Violence has increased? Following the election? Like the 2005 election? Well the key there, according to poli sci analysts, was not a power vacuum but the stoking of sectarian tensions as campaign strategy. That may or may not be what's happening currently. However, the conventional wisdom doesn't hold up to scrutiny though it does increase in popularity (Allawi is now repeating it).

In other reported violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing injured one person, a Baquba sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left three preople wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing injured a child, 1 car mechanic was shot dead in Mosul and, dropping back to Monday, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left five people wounded.

As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Wikileaks released video Monday of the deaths of Reuters reporters Nami Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh, killed by the US military. For a critique of Tom Bowman's Morning Edition nonsense, click here. Today, Neal Conan spoke to the Washington Post's David Finkel (who's written about the incident in The Good Soldiers and link has an exerpt of the book) on NPR's Talk of the Nation.

David Finkel: These guys, the Reuters guys, walked into the hottest spot of a very hot morning. There had been running gun battles, there had been a lot of RPG grenade fire and so on. And they were doing what journalists do. They heard about something. They came to it. And they just wanted, from everything I've learned since, they were just there to get that side of the story.
Neal Conan: Can you understand the pain of their families at seeing these videos at last because they'd been pressing for them, Reuters had been pressing for their release, and saying, "How could those helicopter pilots not see that my son was carrying a camera?"

David Finkel: Sure, sure. I can't imagine what it would be like to be them, to be those families and suddenly this video pops up and it would be unimaginable. It's -- I wasn't up in the helicopters, I think that's fair to say. They were a good distance. I'm not quite sure how clear their monitors are. I was told they're only a few inches wide. We're hearing basically intercom chatter [on the video]. It's not like clear radio chatter. Nonetheless, uhm, here comes a group of guys and one of the things they cited on that led to the first burst of fire was an RPG launcher that turned out to be a telephoto lens hanging around a guy's neck.

Finkel did not weigh in on responsibility and noted specifically that he was not villifying anyone or justifying anyone. He repeated this point more than once. We emphasized the above to note the reporters. Jenny Booth (Times of London) profiles the two reporters and quotes the then-chief photographer for Reuters Bob Strong stating, "Namir was an editor's dream . . . on top of every story. His nose had been broken more than once, he'd been shot in the leg, detained, harassed and threatened, but his quick smile and energy never faded." Of Saeed, Chris Helgren states, "Saeed had a reputation of being fiercely loyal and appeared fearless to me. If you ever needed to get quickly to a dangerous area, passing chicanes of barbed wire and boobytraps, Saeed was your man. But he also had a very quiet, loving side and spoke often of his kids." Mujahid Yousef (New York Times) reports:The family of a Reuters photographer killed in an American military airstrike watched the video of it late Monday and burst into tears as they saw what appeared to be the crews of two American Apache attack helicopters kill their son and 11 other people, gloating at what the crewmen seemed to think was a successful strike on insurgents. "At last the truth has been revealed, and I'm satisfied God revealed the truth," said Noor Eldeen, the father of the photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, who was 22 when he was killed in July 2007. "If such an incident took place in America, even if an animal were killed like this, what would they do?"

Kim Sengupta (Indpedent of London) adds:

Reuters had consistently pointed out that its staff were simply carrying out their job. David Schlesinger, the editor-in-chief of Reuters news, said the footage was "graphic evidence of the dangers involved in war journalism and the tragedies that can result".
In Baghdad, the Iraqi Journalists' Union called on the government to carry out an investigation into the killings. The Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York, supported the demand for an inquiry.

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