Yesterday Iraq's Minister of Defense, Sadoun al-Dulaimi,
announced that starting Saturday 40,000 Iraqi troops will seal Baghdad and begin
to "hunt down insurgents and their weapons." Baghdad will be divided
into two main sections, east and west, and within each section there will be
smaller areas of control.
There will be at least 675 checkpoints and al-Dulaimi said this is the first
phase of a security crackdown that will eventually cover all of Iraq.
Keep in mind that most of Iraq has remained in a "state of emergency"
since the beginning of the siege of Fallujah, on November 8th.
"We will also impose a concrete blockade around Baghdad, like a bracelet
around an arm, God willing, and God be with us in our crackdown on the terrorists'
Also at the press conference was Bayan Jabor, the Minister of Interior who
added, "These operations will aim at turning the government's role from
defensive to offensive."
This is really, really bad news.
The Iraqi security forces already have an extremely bad name throughout much
of Baghdad. I've had three Iraqi doctors tell me, in different hospitals
at different times, that they call the Iraqi National Guard the "dogs of
Another close friend of mine in Baghdad, also a doctor, wrote me recently to
"Iraqi forces now have what they call 'liwaa al deeb,' which means the
Wolf Brigade. This is a very American name, and is an ugly name which gives
the impression of violence. In the past the Iraqi troops held names of some
famous Muslim and Arabic symbols which were more accepted. Anyway, the name
wouldn't matter if their behavior was straight….they now practice a kind
of state sponsored terrorism."
He went on to give an example of their not-so-straight behavior…
"Eyewitnesses in Al-Saydia area to the south of Baghdad told me that recently
when a car bomb detonated and destroyed the area nearby, people were astonished
to see the so-called police looting a destroyed mobile phone store that was
nearby! The police now are a bunch of thieves. Many of then are already criminals
who were released from Abu Ghraib prison before the war."
When I was in Baghdad in January, I was shot at by Iraqi police on two different
occasions simply because our car drove too close to them.
Hence, out of concern for his family, Abu Talat has returned to Baghdad. He
fears that his two youngest sons will be detained simply because they are of
"military age," according to the US military.
Even now in Haditha, where the US military is engaged in an operation called
"Operation New Market," (where do they get these names?) somewhat
similar to the recent attack on al-Qa'im, where around 1,000 troops are raiding
homes. They have set up sniper positions, and according to an Iraqi doctor I
spoke with today that has colleagues in Haditha, "The Americans are detaining
so many people there, any man between the ages of 16 and 25 years is being immediately
detained without question."
So Abu Talat is back into the fire…needless to say, I support his decision
to go back to look after his family, but not without deep concern and sadness.
"What else can I do, habibi," he asks me while holding up his hands
So we say goodbye yet again, which in this situation is always a difficult
thing to do. Will I see him again? Will his family be alright? What if…?
Life in occupied Iraq. On any given day, anything can happen. It's a numbers
He or any of my other friends there could end up like the three civilians who
were shot dead by US soldiers yesterday while they were traveling in a minibus
in al-Dora, Baghdad.
Lieutenant Jamie Davis, a spokesman for the US military, said of the slaughter,
"The details are sketchy and we don't know who was involved."
According to AFP, the bus driver who survived the incident said US troops opened
fire after he pulled over to get out of their way.
Now with over 675 checkpoints to be manned by the "dogs of the Americans,"
we'll all have to get used to countless more civilian deaths where "the
details are sketchy."