Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Intentions and Consequences

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As war supporters and milbloggers rhapsodize about today's start of a "major offensive ... to clear the Sunni extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq from its new stronghold in Diyala province north of the capital," at least 78 Iraqis were killed and 218 wounded when a truck bomb exploded in central Baghdad, outside a Shiite mosque:

The thunderous explosion at the Khulani mosque in the capital's busy commercial area of Sinak sent smoke billowing over concrete buildings, nearly a week after a bombing brought down the twin minarets of a revered Shiite shrine in the northern city of Samarra and two days after officials lifted a curfew aimed at preventing retaliatory violence from that attack.

Gunfire erupted after the blast, which police said occurred in a parking lot near the mosque, causing the outer wall and a building just inside it to crumble.

Police and hospital officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared retribution, said at least 78 people were killed and 218 were wounded, adding that the toll could rise as bodies were pulled from the debris.

One officer said the explosives-packed truck was loaded with fans and air coolers to avoid arousing the suspicions of security forces guarding the surrounding area, which is full of shops selling electrical appliances.

Six of those killed lived in a house behind the mosque that also collapsed, the officer said, adding that 20 cars were burned and 25 shops were damaged.

The mosque's imam, Sheik Saleh al-Haidari, said it was a truck bomb and the explosion hit worshippers as they left afternoon prayers.

Remember that Diyala province is where Sunni/Al Qaeda insurgents moved to after Pres. Bush's surge sent 25,000 U.S. troops into Baghdad to clear the city of Al Qaeda fighters. Now that this "major offensive" has been launched to clear Al Qaeda out of Dyala, it seems they are moving back to Baghdad.

I am reminded of Amy Tan's fable about saving fish from drowning, which she places at the beginning of her book of the same name:
Throughout the novel, Tan also deals with "ugly Americans" and their ignorance of other cultures. One clueless tourist, for example, urinates on a sacred shrine, and they all carry a sense of entitlement.

As one of their Asian guides remarks: "Being American has ... more to do with the assumptions you hold dear and true — your inalienable rights, your pursuit of happiness. I, sad to say, don't possess those assumptions. I cannot undertake the pursuit." Others in the group believe their good deeds and money can help change a country's politics. When they object to the sight of dying fish in a marketplace, one of their guides says fishermen approach fishing with reverence. "They scoop up the fish and bring them to shore. They say they are saving fish from drowning. Unfortunately ... the fish do not recover."

Dwight, one of the tourists, comments that it's "no worse than what we do to other countries ... killing them as an unfortunate consequence of helping them."

As in Iraq right now, where 10,000 American soldiers are fighting in Diyala province to dislodge Al Qaeda fighters who moved there in response to thousands of American soldiers trying to dislodge Al Qaeda fighters from Baghdad. The irony is rich, and bitter:
U.S. troops backed by helicopters and Bradley Fighting Vehicles launched a major offensive Tuesday to clear the Sunni extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq from its new stronghold in Diyala province north of the capital, the U.S. military said in a statement.

About 25 miles to the southwest in Baghdad, a truck bomb tore through a Shiite mosque in a commercial district, killing 75 and injuring more than 200, the Associated Press reported.

The thunderous explosion at the Khillani mosque came from a vehicle parked in a nearby parking lot, officials told the wire service, and hit worshippers as they were leaving Tuesday's afternoon prayers. It was the first significant attack on a mosque since Sunday, when officials lifted a curfew aimed at preventing retaliatory violence after last week's bombing of a Shiite mosque in Samarra. Police warned that the toll of dead and injured could rise as bodies are pulled from the debris.

The Diyala offensive involves about 10,000 U.S. soldiers, making it one of the largest military operations since the Iraq war began more than four years ago. The operation, code-named Arrowhead Ripper, is focused in the area around Baqubah, the capital of Diyala, a mixed Shiite-Sunni area that in recent months has become one of the most violent regions in Iraq.

The offensive began under cover of darkness "with a quick-strike nighttime air assault" by the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, the military statement said. "By daylight, attack helicopters and ground forces had engaged and killed 22 anti-Iraqi forces in and around Baqubah," it said.

There were no reports of U.S. casualties.

The statement said that the operation was "a large scale effort to eliminate al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists operating in Baqubah and its surrounding areas."

"The end state is to destroy the al-Qaeda influences in this province and eliminate their threat against the people," Brig. Gen. John M. "Mick" Bednarek, deputy commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division, was quoted as saying. "That is the number one, bottom-line, up-front, in-your-face, task and purpose."

That is the intention -- at least the stated one. The consequences lie elsewhere.

Cross-posted at Liberal Coalition.

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