Thursday, September 15, 2005

OVER 160 IRAQIS WERE KILLED TODAY IN BAGHDAD in a coordinated series of suicide bombings. At least 540 people were injured, many very seriously. The worst of the attacks killed about 112 Shiite day laborers; the insurgents actually lured them to the spot with promises of work. When the workers got there, the suicide bomber detonated.

Al Qaeda took responsibility for the bombings, saying they were payback for last weekend's Tal Afar offensive on the Syrian border, which was conducted by joint Iraqi and U.S. forces, and which killed about 200 insurgents.

According to an AP article by Steven Hurst, the wave of bombings began at 6:30 a.m., and continued for the next nine hours. Can you imagine how terrifying that must have been? Personally, I can't. I've never been through anything remotely like that. I feel sick inside thinking about it.

The official U.S. response, and that of the U.S.-picked Iraqi prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, were predictably unhelpful and hypocritical. Al-Jaafari repeated the illogical claim that the attacks showed how "desperate" the insurgents were because of all their "setbacks." And Adam Ereli, a spokesman for the State Department, said:

"This is an horrific act of terror that hurts innocent civilians and needs to be condemned clearly and unequivocally. ... [It's]another case of people with no more agenda other than to kill, maim and destroy."

Ereli might want to read Anthony Shahid's descriptions of the terror and outrage Baghdadis felt during "Shock and Awe," when U.S. bombers dropped thousands of tons of bombs on residential neighborhoods, killing hundreds of civilians in the first weeks of the invasion alone. Shahid, a Lebanese-American who won a Pulitzer prize for his on-the-scene reporting during the early days of the invasion, has a new book out, called "Night Draws Near." I'm reading it right now; and the disconnect between the absolute conviction of many Americans that Iraqis welcomed the U.S. invasion and were grateful to Americans for "liberating" them from Saddam Hussein; and the actual, real experiences and feelings of Iraqis living in the war zone, is very depressing. Iraqis lived in a constant state of fear so overwhelming it can't even be imagined by those who have not experienced war. The protestations of Bush supporters that the civilian deaths were "unintentional" and "unavoidable" in war don't cut the mustard with the Iraqi civilians who were living under the bombs. They felt targeted; and the despair, trauma, and grief they felt knowing their homes could be blown up at any time and their loved ones killed, was just as terrible as the despair, trauma, and grief being felt right now by the friends and relatives of the insurgents' victims.

Here's the bottom line: None of this would have happened if the United States had not thought it had the right to preemptively invade a country that had done us no harm whatsoever. There would have been no insurgency. Tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis who are dead would still be alive. Iraq would not be on the verge of civil war. This day of horror would not have happened.

Every drop of blood that was spilled today, and every one of the tears shed by parents, brothers and sisters, friends, and children sobbing for the people they loved more dearly than anything in the world, are on the conscience of Pres. Bush and his administration, just as much as they are, or should be, on the consciences of the men who actually blew themselves and their victims out of existence.

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