Monday, December 06, 2004

 

As bad as it is for us, it's far worse for them.

But don't worry. The elections are coming up, and they'll solve everything!

INSURGENCY
Wave of Violence by Iraqi Rebels Kills 80 in 3 Days


By ROBERT F. WORTH

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 5 - Militants surrounded a bus full of unarmed Iraqi contractors employed by American forces as they rode to work on Sunday morning and gunned down 17 of them. It was the latest in a series of increasingly brazen attacks that have left more than 80 people dead in the past three days and deepened the sense of growing mayhem here as the January elections approach.

The bus ambush in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, also underscored the increasing risks faced by Iraqis who work for the American-led occupation and are singled out as collaborators. The ambush was part of an intensified insurgent campaign aimed at terrorizing Iraq's fledgling security forces and fomenting sectarian divisions that could undermine the elections or perhaps force a delay.

Since Friday, militants have detonated a car bomb in front of a Shiite mosque, singled out Shiite officers for slaughter in a police station attack, and killed 18 Kurdish militiamen.

:::snip:::

In the first attack on Sunday near Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, insurgents fired on a bus carrying Iraqi contractors on their way to work for the American military, killing 17 and wounding 20, said Capt. Bill Coppernoll, a spokesman for the First Infantry Division.

He said the attack began at 8:30 a.m., when a sedan overtook the bus and cut it off just before it stopped to let the contractors off. Several attackers leaped out of the sedan, another group in a second car drove alongside, and both groups opened fire on the bus with AK-47 rifles until they ran out of ammunition, then got back into their cars and fled, Captain Coppernoll said.

The contractors all worked on an American military program to gather and destroy the weapons storehouses that are found almost daily throughout Iraq, Captain Coppernoll said.

In a second attack, near the northern city of Bayji, a car packed with explosives drove into an Iraqi National Guard checkpoint and detonated about 9:30 a.m., Captain Coppernoll said. Immediately afterward, insurgents attacked the checkpoint with small-arms fire. Three national guardsmen were killed and 18 wounded, the captain said.

Also on Sunday, one Iraqi soldier was killed and four were wounded in Samarra, 60 miles north of the capital, when insurgents struck their combat patrol with rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire, Captain Coppernoll said.

Just south of Mosul, in northern Iraq, three Turkish truckers were killed when a bomb detonated near a military patrol they were traveling with, military officials said.

The slaughter of the Tikrit contractors on Sunday demonstrated the insurgents' renewed focus on terrorizing and intimidating anyone working with Americans. Iraq's newly formed police, army and national guard have been the main targets of that campaign, in a wave of violent attacks throughout the country that have ranged from armed assaults on military compounds to suicide attacks to beheadings and mutilations.

But during the past three days, the insurgents, believed to be mostly Sunni Arabs, have also made unmistakable efforts to foment ethnic and sectarian conflict by striking at Shiite Muslims and Kurds.

On Friday, a car bomb killed 18 people outside a Shiite mosque in Baghdad, mostly worshipers, heavily damaging the mosque. Almost simultaneously, several dozen militants attacked a police station elsewhere in the capital, killing 12 officers. All those killed were Shiite.

On Sunday, a Baghdad newspaper published an unusual statement purporting to be from Shiite seminary figures, deploring those two incidents and demanding an investigation. The authenticity of the statement could not be immediately confirmed.

On Saturday, a suicide bomber plowed into a bus full of Kurdish militiamen in Mosul, where tensions between the city's Arab and Kurdish populations runs high. At least 18 militiamen were killed.

Also on Saturday, fighting broke out in Latifiya, 25 miles south of Baghdad, between members of a newly formed Shiite militia and a group of Sunni militants who had been accused of killing Shiites on the road to the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, The Washington Post reported Sunday. That clash left more than 20 fighters dead, The Post reported. American military officials said they knew nothing about the battle, as did a spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry.

Shiite leaders in southern Iraq have deeply resented the killings of Shiite security officers and religious pilgrims in the Sunni-dominated area around Latifiya, and last month they began organizing hundreds of young men into so-called Anger Brigades. The stated goal of the brigades has been to kill militant Sunni Arabs in the area around Latifiya in northern Babil Province, known as the Triangle of Death.

It is not a defense of Saddam Hussein or a vile anti-American attack to point out that none of this would have happened if we hadn't invaded. Iraq was under the jackboots of a hideous dictator, but this kind of monstrous violence just was not happening. I'm not sure if Iraqis would feel the tradeoff was worth it. I'm not sure we had the right to impose the choice on them. And I certainly think it's long past time that our ultranationalists and pro-Bush tub-thumpers at least admitted the possibility that we maybe should not have invaded or at least done it differently.

Of course, I'd go much further. Considering that our excuses for invading were at best threadbare - Saddam didn't have WMD so he couldn't give them to terrorists, and he wasn't behind the 9-11 attacks - it is despicable for Americans not to take note of the savage civil war our invasion has unleashed. This is not going to calm down soon. This could end up being worse than what happened in Yugoslavia after Tito. And this we caused.

I don't even know that we can withdraw our troops anytime soon. I mean, we can - just load 'em up on planes, helicopters and trucks and ship 'em out - but can we? I mean, but for us, there would be no Iraqi civil war. And unlike us, the Iraqis can't leave. Can we just create a mess and then walk away for others to clean up? Yes, that's George W. Bush's entire life in a nutshell. For once, he's not simply walking away, although that's almost certainly because he doesn't recognize the problem or he refuses to admit he made any mistakes.

But the honor of the United States is at stake. We made this mess - we made it, even if I'm among the millions of Americans who opposed the invasion. Whether we like it or not, we did this to the people of Iraq. I'm not sure what the solution is - I'm not sure there really is a solution - and I doubt the United States can solve it on our own. But it certainly cannot be solved without our participation.

We can leave. The Iraqis can't. We did this to them. We have to do something to fix it.
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