• Iraq
  • April 19, 2007
  • 11 minutes read

Iraq Has Two Virginia Techs Every Day

I keep hearing from US politicians and the US mass media that the “situation is improving” in Iraq. The profound sorrow and alarm produced in the American public by the horrific shootings at Virginia Tech should give us a baseline for what the Iraqis are actually living through. They have two Virginia Tech-style attacks every single day. Virginia Tech will be gone from the headlines and the air waves by next week this time in the US, though the families of the victims will grieve for a lifetime. But next Tuesday I will come out here and report to you that 64 Iraqis have been killed in political violence. And those will mainly be the ones killed by bombs and mortars. They are only 13% of the total; most Iraqis killed violently, perhaps 500 a day throughout the country if you count criminal and tribal violence, are just shot down. Shot down, like the college students and professors at Blacksburg. We Americans can so easily, with a shudder, imagine the college student trying to barricade himself behind a door against the armed madman without. But can we put ourselves in the place of Iraqi students?

I wrote on February 26,

’ A suicide bomber with a bomb belt got into the lobby of the School of Administration and Economy of Mustansiriya University in Baghdad and managed to set it off despite being spotted at the last minute by university security guards. The blast killed 41 and wounded a similar number according to late reports, with body parts everywhere and big pools of blood in the foyer as students were shredded by the high explosives. ’

That isn’t “slow progress” or just “progress,” the way the weasels in Washington keep proclaiming. It is the most massive manmade human tragedy of the young century.

According to the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) actually trying to help the estimated 8 million Iraqis in dire need of aid . . . things are not going that well in Iraq.

Thousands of persons demonstrated Monday against the governor of Basra Province, complaining of poor social services and collapsing security, and demanding his resignation. Among the demonstrators were followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The Sadrists are not that numerous in Basra, so this demonstration was probably joined by other disgruntled groups, including the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Sawt al-Iraq reports in Arabic that the number of demonstrators totalled 20,000. Some Western wire services, however, suggested that there were as few as 3,000.

Guerrillas killed 5 US GIs on Monday in Baghdad and al-Anbar Province. The killings of 2 others on Sunday were announced Monday.

Sunni Arab guerrillas kidnapped 11 Shiite Turkmen from a town south of Kirkuk on Monday night. Such Shiite captives are often killed.

McClatchy reports that police found 11 bodies in Baghdad on Monday, down from Sunday’s total of 30. Several persons were killed by mortar attacks, roadside bombs, and sniping in the capital on Monday.

Police found 6 bodies in the streets of the northern, mostly Sunni Arab city of Mosul (pop. 1.5 million) on Monday. Also, “police said that 13 Iraqi army soldiers from the second battalion were killed and 4 others were injured when insurgents attacked their check point in Al A’daya village south west Mosul city today.” Guerrillas also shot down a lecturer and a dean at Mosul University.

In Tikrit, north of Baghdad, guerrillas killed 3 policemen and wounded 6 civilians with a suicide car bomb attack.

South of Baghdad at Mahmudiya, mortar shells killed 3 and wounded 17.

Iran condemned Sunday’s murder of 5 Iranian oil tanker drivers near Baquba.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports in Arabic that an official in the Baghdad municipal council told it that there are hundreds of thousands of orphans in Baghdad schools.* She said that no steps have been taken to provide special services to this sector of schoolchildren, for lack of resources, and that only 2,000 are receiving government aid. (The Lancet study published last fall found 605,000 excess violent deaths in Iraq since the US invasion. These were fairly evenly spread around the country, and Baghdad is a fourth of Iraq, population-wise. So 150,000 excess deaths should have occurred in Baghdad. If we assume for the sake of argument that 100,000 of those killed were child-rearing adults, and if we assume 5 children per family and assume that in most cases only one parent was killed violently, that would be 500,000 orphans in Baghdad. Not all would yet be in school. The official alleged 900,000 orphans,but that strikes me as too high. I’m not a demographer, though, and would be interested in knowing what the Public Health people think about this statistic.)

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-proclaimed “Islamic State of Iraq” says that Iraq under American military occupation is a “university for terror.”

To illustrate the point, the architect of the three massive bombings in Algiers, Algeria, last Wednesday says that he wants to turn Algeria into another Iraq. Muslim fundamentalists and the secular military government in Algeria fought a devastating civil war in the 1990s and into the zeroes of this century, which left an estimated 150,000 persons dead. The radical Salafis (Sunni revivalists), now calling themselves al-Qaeda in North Africa, are threatening to reprise that dirty war, which they lost. Some Algerian jihadis are getting training in Iraq, where they have gone as volunteers to fight US troops.

The Taliban in Afghanistan are also beginning to adopt the tactics of Iraqi guerrillas which include attacks on civilians in hopes of mobilizing them into the war on one side or another, on the theory that civil conflict is always good for growing an insurgency.

Fred Kaplan at Slate lays into Senator John McCain for admitting that if he is elected president, he’d quite possibly get out of Iraq, just as the Democrats he is now attacking propose.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, speaking in Australia, said he left it to Australia and the US whether to withdraw from Iraq or not. He said that he did want to stress that if the US and Australia withdrew, they should do so in such a way as to retain their authority and preserve their gains in the region.

The problem with this advice is that it is impossible to follow it. Any US withdrawal from Iraq will inevitably affect its prestige. But then, the quagmire is a daily reminder to everyone in the region of the limits of US power.

Olmert made a big deal about ’living in the region’ and therefore ’knowing something of its dynamics.’ I think his war on Lebanon last summer demonstrates the falsity of the latter claim, and my advice to Canberra would be pretty much to keep his track record in mind. Even in Israel, he is at 14% in the polls.

Anyway, I think the implication of his statement, despite his beating around the bush, is that he doesn’t relish a US and Australian withdrawal from Iraq because he thinks it will adversely affect Israeli security. Olmert doesn’t understand regional dynamics and doesn’t seem to see that the longer the US and its two remaining major allies in Iraq try to stay there, the worse the situation gets, which actually is the thing that is threatening to Israel.

The Belgian Minister of Defense has demanded that Israel pay for the clean-up of the 1 million cluster bombs Olmert ordered fired into south Lebanon, mostly in the last 3 days of the war last August. There was no military purpose to this act of vicious sabotage, and it was clearly a war crime. The goal was to injure Lebanese civilians returning to South Lebanon, and, since they largely support Hizbullah, to weaken that group in the south. Kudos to Andre Flahaut for daring stand up on this issue. Israeli politician Shimon Peres has admitted that deploying the cluster bombs was a “mistake.”

So if the Australians know what is good for them, they won’t pay too much attention to Olmert, perhaps the most inept prime minister Israel has ever had.

Juan Cole is President of the Global Americana Institute. Visit his blog www.juancole.com