On Tuesday, June 13, while Mr. Bush spent a brave
five hours in the "green zone" of Baghdad with puppet Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri
al-Maliki, at least 36 people were killed across Iraq amid a wave of bombings.
Eighteen of those died in a spasm of bombings in the oil city of Kirkuk in the
The minute word hit the streets in Baghdad of Bush's visit, over 2,000 supporters
of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took to the streets in protest. The protesters
chanted "Iraq is for the Iraqis," and Sadr aide Hazem al-Araji publicly condemned
the peek-a-boo visit of the man he referred to as "the leader of the occupation."
The very next day, not coincidentally, Maliki
instituted the biggest security crackdown in the capital city since the U.S.
invaded Iraq, dubbed "Operation Forward Together." An estimated 75,000 U.S.
and Iraqi soldiers clogged the already seriously congested streets of Baghdad,
using tanks and armored vehicles to man checkpoints, impose a more strict curfew
in liberated Baghdad (9 p.m.-6 a.m., as opposed to the more generous 11 p.m.-6
a.m.), and attempt to impose a weapons ban.
Just after "The Operation" began, a car bomb detonated, killing one person
while wounding five others. Major General Mahdi al-Gharrawi, who commands "public
order forces" under the deadly umbrella of the controversial Interior Ministry,
made a statement for which George Orwell would have been proud: "Baghdad is
divided according to geographical area, and we know the al-Qaeda leaders in
each area," he told reporters. "We are expecting clashes will erupt in the predominantly
Sunni areas." So Sunnis in Iraq, according to Gharrawi, are tied to al-Qaeda.
Lest we forget, the Iraqi "army" ran a similar draconian security crackdown
in Baghdad in May 2005 called Operation Lightning. That one, too, was tens of
thousands of Iraqi "police" and "soldiers" backed by American troops and air
support. Civilians across Baghdad complained about the mass detentions, random
violence, and torture meted out by the death squads during that "operation."
And we see how well that operation managed to improve security in Baghdad over
the last year.
So here we go again – only this time with even more troops, raiding even more
homes, manning more checkpoints, and of course more death squads operating –
with backup support from American soldiers and, of course, their air strikes.
Iraq's puppet prime minister, in an effort to soothe the fear in the hearts
of Baghdad's residents who are concerned about more detentions, random violence,
and "torture by electric drill," which the U.S.-backed Shia death squads prefer
with their victims, told reporters of the operation, "The raids during this
plan will be very tough … because there will be no mercy towards those who show
no mercy to our people."
The same day Operation Forward Together began and the day after Bush bid farewell
to Baghdad, Bush dismissed calls for a U.S. withdrawal as "election-year" politics.
Refusing to give a timetable for withdrawal or some kind of benchmark with which
to measure success that may allow troops to be brought home, Bush said simply,
"It's bad policy," at a news conference in the Rose Garden. He thought it would
"endanger our country" to pull out of Iraq before we "accomplish the mission."
Of his visit to Baghdad, Bush said, "I sense something different happening in
While pounding his fist on the podium set up for him at the press conference,
Bush proudly repeated his mantra of propaganda: "If the United States of America
leaves before this Iraqi government can defend itself and sustain itself and
govern itself, it will be a major blow in the war on terror."
Thursday morning the Pentagon announced the
death of the 2,500th U.S. soldier in Iraq.
Meanwhile, back in liberated Baghdad, also on that same day, I received an
e-mail from a very close friend of mine. It is a sobering glimpse into Operation
Forward Together and what Bush alluded to when he said, "I sense something different
happening in Iraq."
"Habibi, we are divided in three houses today. I am at our home in
Adhamiya. My wife and two youngest boys are at her sister's house in Bab Al-Moudam
because it's safer for them. It's a mixed Sunni and Shia area, so there are
no detentions. Our daughter is with her husband in their home, and my oldest
son is at his house with his wife and baby, although he is not in a safe area.
There is often fighting there, but not too many detentions.
"Today Adhamiya is totally under occupation since early morning. None
of the shops are open, the soldiers are holding up all cars and searching them,
and home raids are happening. The city is a city of ghosts. This situation is
the same in all the Sunni areas. Checkpoints are all over Baghdad, the highways
between Baghdad and the other cities are all closed and nobody can go on them.
The airports are closed, and no flights are coming in or out of Baghdad.
"We cannot leave the country until the beginning of next month. By
the way, three of my son's friends were killed by explosions two days ago while
they were having fruits in the market. He came home crying because of that.
The situation is very bad. The son of Abdul Sattar Al Kubaisy, who is in the
Ministry of Interior, has been kidnapped from inside the Ministry. He was found
in one of the trash cans outside the Ministry of Interior building … so even
the offices of the government are no longer safe!!!
"God is with us insh'allah [God willing]."
On Friday, a hospital source in Fallujah reported
that eight Iraqis, some of whom were women and children from the same family,
were killed and six wounded when U.S. warplanes bombed a home in the northeastern
Ibrahim Bin Ali district of the city.
That same day, a story titled "Shi'ite
Militias Control Prisons, Officials Say," was released by the Washington
Post Foreign Service.
The story reads,
"Iraq's prison system is overrun with Shi'ite Muslim militiamen who
have freed fellow militia members convicted of major crimes and executed Sunni
Arab inmates, the country's deputy justice minister said in an interview this
"'We cannot control the prisons. It's as simple as that,' said the
deputy minister, Pusho Ibrahim Ali Daza Yei, an ethnic Kurd. 'Our jails are
infiltrated by the militias from top to bottom, from Basra to Baghdad.'"
The story continued,
"In an interview this week, Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zobaie,
the top Sunni Arab in Iraq's new government, showed photographs taken from one
recent inspection of an Interior Ministry detention center. An inmate in one
of the photos held out his misshapen, limp hands for the camera. The man's hands
had been broken in a beating, Zobaie said. Other inmates showed massive, dark
bruises on their skin; one bore a large, open infected sore.
"Inmates in another photo clustered around chains hung from the middle
of one of the crowded cells. The chains were used to hoist prisoners by their
bound hands, Zobaie said. The practice, noted frequently in inspection reports
of Interior Ministry detention centers, often results in the dislocation of
"Ninety percent of the men crowded into Interior Ministry detention
centers are Sunni Arabs, Zobaie said."
On the previous Saturday,
"[A] group of parliament members paid a surprise visit to a detention
facility run by the Interior Ministry in Baqubah, north of Baghdad. 'We have
found terrible violations of the law,' said Muhammed al-Dayni, a Sunni parliament
member who said as many as 120 detainees were packed into a 35-by-20-foot cell.
'They told us that they've been raped,' Dayni said. 'Their families were called
in and tortured to force the detainees to testify against other people.'
"'The detention facilities of the ministries of Defense and Interior
are places for the most brutal human rights abuse,' he added."
"Despite broad U.S. efforts to encourage the Iraqi government to improve
conditions in prisons, the problem of militia control could prove particularly
intractable. Shi'ite militias such as the Badr Organization and the Mahdi Army,
loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, are backed by dozens of members of parliament
whose political parties run the armed groups.
"'You can't even talk to the militias, because they are the government,'
Yei said. 'They have ministers on their side.'"
Saturday evening, two U.S. soldiers were detained
by resistance fighters just south of Baghdad. With a Bush administration that
openly advocates the use of torture and props up a Shia prime minister in Iraq
who says things like "there
will be no mercy" when referencing his new "security operation," their fate
is indeed a dark one.
At least 40
people were killed and over 80 wounded amid a rash of bomb and mortar attacks,
most of which took place in Baghdad. The deadliest attack occurred at an Iraqi
police checkpoint, while another car bomb targeting the Iraqi army and police
killed another 11 people. Meanwhile, 15 others were wounded at a joint Iraqi
army and police checkpoint, also in Baghdad.
10 bakery workers from a predominantly Shia neighborhood in Baghdad. Ten
bullet-riddled bodies of men who had apparently been tortured were also found
in Baghdad. A mortar
round hit al-Sadiq University on Palestine Street in the capital city –
five students and one teacher were wounded. The U.S. military continued to search
in vain for its two missing soldiers. Residents continued to stream out of the
capital city of al-Anbar province, Ramadi, due to the threat of an all-out U.S.
assault on the city. Thousands of the refugees are wandering around the province
with nowhere to go.
Coming Days, Weeks, Months, Years?
With Operation Forward Together
off to a dazzling beginning, how long will the occupation be allowed to continue?
Each passing day only brings the people of Iraq and soldiers serving in the
U.S. military deeper into the quagmire that the brutal, despicable, tortured
occupation has become.
This piece originally appeared at Truthout.org.