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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Car Bombs and What They Bring

I don't pretend to have any factual idea of who is behind today's bombing in Baghdad, or, for that matter, any of the other acts of terror and violence being perpetrated in the country since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime. I'm not sure anyone does. Insurgents, foreign fighters, jihadis, terrorists; there's any number of possibilities.

I suppose a case could be made that this was indeed an attack against suspected collaborators, to show those who would act in collusion with the Americans that they would meet a dire end. But the amount of civilians killed in the process was very excessive if the target was meant solely to be the police station and the young Iraqi men lined up there looking for work. The killing of civilians can only serve to turn the masses of Iraqis against the insurgents' cause. From the NY Times report:

Since the handover of sovereignty, insurgents have staged scores of attacks, kidnappings and assassinations against the new interim government, which they do not view as legitimate.

But the scale of the bombing on Wednesday seemed to signal a willingness by the insurgents to attack Iraqis with the same ferocity as they have Americans - and it may force the new prime minister, Ayad Allawi, into stiffer and more concrete action against them....

...In Baquba today, Kahtan Thaier, 25, urged Dr. Allawi into sterner action. "The bombings are going to get worse every day," said Mr. Thaier, who said the violence already scared him out of his job as a police officer. He now drives a taxi. "We ask Ayad Allawi to find us a solution because it is really getting hard to make a living."

And, as always at such attacks, many people expressed despair that so many civilians died at the hands of people who say they are fighting in the names of Iraq and of Islam.

"Can anyone tell me what the terrorist accomplished?" asked Luay Edan, 35, the owner of a restaurant near where the bomb went off. "He killed innocents. He is an infidel."

And, from the AP coverage, a show of compassion from the Allawi government:

The Iraqi government declared the victims martyrs, entitling their families to pension benefits, Saleh said. It was believed to be the first time the new government had promised such benefits to victims of an attack.

Unfortunately they will undoubtedly be far from the last. The AP report goes on to note that Islamist websites have been debating "the morality of killing Muslims who work for U.S. coalition forces in Iraq."

In an audio recording posted Wednesday on one site, a speaker purported to be the spiritual adviser of an Iraqi insurgency group justified killing fellow Muslims when they protect infidels and also the deaths of bystanders in an attack.

"If infidels take Muslims as protectors and Muslims do not fight them, it is allowed to kill the Muslims," said the speaker, identified as Sheik Abu Anas al-Shami, spiritual leader of Tawhid and Jihad, a group led by al-Qaida-linked Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The speaker also said that if Muslims who "mingled" among infidels were killed in an attack, that would be justified because killing infidels is paramount. The tape was recorded before the June 28 handover of power.

If this is the case, the door is open for more of these type attacks, targeting civilians as well as collaborators, Iraqis more than Americans. If this is the case, something, of course, must be done. Allawi has his plan; again, the Times:

Prime Minister Allawi has said his first order of business is to crack down on insurgents. Soon after taking power, the government approved a broad emergency security plan allowing for curfews, the banning of groups considered seditious and detention of suspected insurgents. But while Iraqi security forces have carried out many patrols and raids in recent weeks, Dr. Allawi has not yet put into action any of the tougher measures.

All of this comes exactly one month after the "transfer of sovereignty," and as the AP notes, "just three days before the country is to convene a national conference that will choose an interim assembly - considered a crucial step toward establishing democracy." Should some sort of attack come during the conference, I'm afraid PM Allawi may indeed be forced to enforce his threats of martial law. For the good of the Iraqi people, of course. I guess we'll see.

Just in the interest of encouraging debate, let me remind y'all of this biographical information on Allawi that came in Seymour Hersh's Plan B from the New Yorker a week before the early handover:

But his role as a Baath Party operative while Saddam struggled for control in the nineteen-sixties and seventies—Saddam became President in 1979—is much less well known. “Allawi helped Saddam get to power,” an American intelligence officer told me. “He was a very effective operator and a true believer.” Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former C.I.A. case officer who served in the Middle East, added, “Two facts stand out about Allawi. One, he likes to think of himself as a man of ideas; and, two, his strongest virtue is that he’s a thug.”...

...“If you’re asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London, the answer is yes, he does,” Vincent Cannistraro, the former C.I.A. officer, said. “He was a paid Mukhabarat agent for the Iraqis, and he was involved in dirty stuff.” A cabinet-level Middle East diplomat, who was rankled by the U.S. indifference to Allawi’s personal history, told me early this month that Allawi was involved with a Mukhabarat “hit team” that sought out and killed Baath Party dissenters throughout Europe. (Allawi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.) At some point, for reasons that are not clear, Allawi fell from favor, and the Baathists organized a series of attempts on his life. The third attempt, by an axe-wielding assassin who broke into his home near London in 1978, resulted in a year-long hospital stay.

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