Monday, February 05, 2007

Iraqis Say U.S. Is To Blame for Yesterday's Truck Bomb Explosion

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It seems William Kristol was wrong about the reason for the vastly increased violence in Iraq. "Sunni extremists" did not set off a truck bomb that killed at least 135 people in a Baghdad market because they "were worried about a doubling of U.S. forces in Baghdad" and "wanted to convey an impression of chaos." According to an NYT article by Damien Cave and Richard A. Oppel, Jr., a major reason why the terrorist attack happened is because the United States screwed up again -- and Iraqis are furious:

A growing number of Iraqis blamed the United States on Sunday for creating conditions that led to the worst single suicide bombing in the war, which devastated a Shiite market in Baghdad the day before. They argued that slowness in completing the vaunted new American security plan has made Shiite neighborhoods much more vulnerable to such horrific attacks.

The chorus of critics said the new plan, which the Americans have barely started to execute, has emasculated the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia that is considered responsible for many attacks on Sunnis, but which many Shiites say had been the only effective deterrent against sectarian reprisal attacks in Baghdad’s Shiite neighborhoods. Even some Iraqi supporters of the plan, such as Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi foreign minister who is a Kurd, said delays in implementing it have caused great disappointment.

In advance of the plan, which would flood Baghdad with thousands of new American and Iraqi troops, many Mahdi Army checkpoints were dismantled and its leaders are either in hiding or under arrest. With no immediate influx of new security forces to fill the void, Shiites say, Sunni militants and other anti-Shiite forces have been emboldened to plot the type of attack that obliterated the bustling Sadriya market in central Baghdad on Saturday, killing at least 135 people and wounding more than 300 from a suicide driver’s truck bomb.

“A long time has passed since the plan was announced,” Basim Shareef, a Shiite member of Parliament, said Sunday. “But so far security has only deteriorated.”

Moreover, new concerns emerged Sunday about the readiness of Iraqi military units that are supposed to work with the roughly 17,000 additional American soldiers who will be stationed in Baghdad under the new plan, which President Bush announced last month.

Iraqi and American military officials said the command structure of the Iraqi side had still not been resolved, although the plan is supposed to move forward this coming week. Naeem al-Kabbi, the deputy mayor of Baghdad and a senior official loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the powerful cleric who leads the Mahdi Army, said he believed the plan had been delayed “because the Iraqi army is not ready.”

American military officials have not laid out a precise timeline for the security plan, and would not say if undermanned Iraqi units had delayed its start. But American officials have said that Iraqi units arriving in Baghdad to fulfill their part of the new plan are only at 55 to 60 percent of their full strength.

The U.S. military's spokesperson in Iraq advises Iraqis to be patient:

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the American military spokesman in Iraq, called for patience as the new security plan rolls out. “Give the government and coalition forces a chance to fully implement it,” he said in remarks carried by several news services.

Can you believe that? Just be patient, while your children are being blasted through windows, while others choose to throw themselves out of windows rather than be burned to death. (Does that sound familiar?)

“I saw with my own eyes young children flying from the windows of the apartments on top of the shops when the explosion arrived,” said Haydar Abdul Jabbar, 28, a car mechanic who was standing near a barber shop when the bomb exploded. “One woman threw herself out of the window when the fire came close to her.”

Mr. Abdul Jabbar said he rushed to collapsed buildings trying to help the wounded but finding mainly hands, skulls and other body parts. At one point, he discovered the remains of a close friend, who was engaged to be married.

“How would you feel if you were in this position?” he said Sunday. “The government is supposed to protect us, but they are not doing their job. I watch the TV and see the announcements on the imminent implementation of the security plan. Where is it for God’s sake?”

“I wish they would attack us with a nuclear bomb and kill us all,” he added, “so we will rest and anybody who wants the oil — which is the core of the problem — can come and get it. [Emphasis added.] We can not live this way anymore; we are dying slowly every day.”

The truck exploded around dusk on Saturday at a market flush with crowded food stands. The crater from the blast was large enough to hold a sedan; the blast threw the truck’s gnarled engine block than 100 yards away.

As the sun rose on Sunday, the rescue effort continued with workers and relatives tugging concrete in a mad search for victims amidst the piles of debris where apartments and offices once stood. Processions heavy with death moved through the area: Men lashed simple wood coffins to the top of mini-buses for the long journey to cemeteries while families in the back of trucks wailed after collecting the bodies of relatives.

Perhaps Pres. George W. Bush can explain to Mr. Abdul Jabbar why the United States started a war that has made Iraqis suffer so much that they would prefer to be annihilated by a nuclear bomb than face one more day where they are.

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