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January, 2005, Iraq. Security is tight for the elections, but the ever-innovative terrorists discover ways to penetrate and kill. The event did receive some media notice, but those reports lacked the details provided by Iraq the Model
The suicide attack that was performed on an election center in one of Baghdad's districts (Baghdad Al-Jadeedah) last Sunday was performed using a kidnapped "Down Syndrome" patient.A few days earlier that month:
Eye witnesses said (and I'm quoting one of my colleagues; a dentist who lives there) "the poor victim was so scared when ordered to walk to the searching point and began to walk back to the terrorists. In response the criminals pressed the button and blew up the poor victim almost half way between their position and the voting center's entrance".
In a land where almost everyone has a horror story to tell, Jassem Aziz's experience of Sunni violence against Shias is particularly grisly. He holds back tears as he talks of how his cousin, Ahmed al-Bahadli, was murdered 10 days ago.A new year had begun.
A Shia Muslim from the Sadr City slums of Baghdad, Ahmed had joined the new Iraqi National Guard, only to be killed in his patrol car when a bomb planted by insurgents exploded.
The next day, as his family took his coffin for burial in the holy Shia city of Najaf, 100 miles south of Baghdad, they were stopped at what purported to be a police checkpoint near the town of Iskandaria and ordered out of their minibus.
Insurgents wearing fake police uniforms shot and beheaded six of the mourners, including Ahmed's mother. Then they ripped Ahmed's body out of the coffin and decapitated him too.
And what a year it would be. As three elections were held in Iraq, the predictions of a violent response from terrorists there were proven true. Attacks were increasingly aimed at civilians, and if there was any "increasing sophistication" displayed by the attackers it was in their ability to play to the media coverage - or lack thereof. 2005 would see many of the most appalling attacks ever in the 3-year conflict in Iraq, but although those assaults were met with condemnation from many, they also had great impact on the worldwide "anti-war" movement - providing a foundation to their claims of quagmire and defeat.
Exactly how solid a foundation remains questionable. But few could deny the impact of these words from Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska: "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq.".
Delivered in the middle of the year, those comments were cheered by al Jazeera and MoveOn - and no doubt by the many readers and devotees of both groups. Was he right? The following look back at the actions of the enemy in Iraq - and the response to those actions in the western media and political spheres - should provide readers a look at the nature of the beast, and ample opportunity to make that decision for themselves.
Coffins, small and large
BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden SUV killed at least 27, including an American soldier, late this morning in the deadliest insurgent attack in more than two months.One explanation could be found in the words of a terrorist in Syria, who had helped countless mujahedeen cross into Iraq:
Many, if not most of the dead were children loitering and playing near U.S. soldiers at an impromptu checkpoint in Baghdad al-Jadida, a lower-middle class residential district populated by Shiites, Sunnis and Christians.
At the nearby Kindi hospital, hundreds of distraught parents mingled in blood-soaked hallways shouting and screaming as they looked for their children, many of whom were badly mutilated.
"Most of them are children. The Americans were handing out sweets at the time of the attack," a duty policeman at the Kindi Hospital said.
"We have received the bodies of 24 children aged between 10 and 13," said an official in charge of the morgue.
"Why do they attack our children? They just destroyed one U.S. Humvee, but they killed dozens of our children," he said as women screamed, slapped their faces and beat themselves over the head.
"What sort of a resistance is this? It's a crime," he added.
At Kindi hospital, one distraught woman swathed in black sat cross-legged outside the operating room. "May God curse the mujahedeen and their leader," she cried as she pounded her own head in grief, reports the AP.
In the Syrian countryside north of Aleppo where Abu Ibrahim grew up and married, his fundamentalist impulses took their present shape when he met "a group of young men through my wife's family who spoke to me the true words of Islam. They told me Sufism was forbidden and the Shiites are infidels."The AP would note that "foreign fighters are the ones that most often are behind the wheel of suicide car bombs or most often behind any suicide situation" but they would add that this wasn't always the case. They cited an example of an Iraqi involved in a "suicide" bombing:
Abu Ibrahim credited Zarqawi with revitalizing the insurgency, especially since October, when he pledged fealty to Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader. Abu Ibrahim said that union helped cement an alliance among several resistance groups in Iraq that formed a joint treasury.
"Six months ago, Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden were different," he said. "Osama did not consider the killing of Shiites as legitimate. Zarqawi did that. Anyone -- Christian, Jew, Sunni, Shiites -- whoever cooperates with the Americans can be killed. It's a holy war."
On election day, Jan. 30, a mentally handicapped Iraqi boy wearing a suicide vest attacked a polling station.
"In war, innocent civilians should not be hurt. It happens. Now we have to see what to do to help the families that were hurt."In addition to unofficial ambassadors of peace, 2005 would also be the year that official representatives of many countries would return to Iraq.
- Marla Ruzicka, founder of CIVIC - the Campaign for Innocent Victims In Conflicts.
Why? Marla again:
"If we are fighting a war against terrorism, terrorism impacts innocent people, so we want to show them that we're against that, and that's why we need to help these families that are so desperate."
Marla's campaign led her to Afghanistan and Iraq, while bullets were still flying and explosions were part of the daily routine. A terrorist killed her last Saturday as she and Faiz, CIVIC's Iraq Country Director, traveled to visit an Iraqi child injured by a bomb. She was 28.
The group said in a statement posted on the Internet that it had killed the envoy, Ihab al-Sherif, but it did not say when or how. The group said "that the verdict of God has been implemented against the ambassador of the infidels, the ambassador of Egypt, thank God."But the insurgents would seek ways to counter that erosion.
"Egypt is one of those at the forefront of the war on Islam and Muslims," the statement said. "Its jails are full of mujahedeen." It showed a video of the blindfolded diplomat identifying himself but, unlike in other kidnappings, it did not show the killing itself, according to the Associated Press.
An insurgent recently told The Times that such scenes were eroding support for the armed group among ordinary Iraqis.
Sympathy for the Devil?
Tips On How To Beat US From Insurgents' ConsultantSome would acknowledge the enemy's "growing media sophistication". Representative K. Michael Conaway, (R, Tx.):
To gauge US public opinion, he has become an avid watcher of satellite news channels, and never misses the White House press briefings
To win the war against the US military and Badr, Colonel Jassam advises the Omariyun to follow two short-term goals - to cement mujahideen control over the Ramadi area, and to stage operations that will increase pressure on US opinion to withdraw troops.
To achieve their second goal, turning Americans against the war, the mujahideen need to shape their operations "to support anti- war sentiment in the west", he says.
Just four days prior to the referendum vote, U.S. intelligence officials released a letter from Ayman al-Zawahri, al Qaeda's No. 2 operative, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a leader of the insurgency in Iraq. In the letter, al-Zawahri predicted that American forces "will exit soon" and he acknowledges that the war in Iraq will be won "in the battlefield of the media." Al-Zawahri's belief that the insurgency must improve its efforts in engaging in geo-political warfare proves that the battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqi's still goes on. It should come as no surprise that al Qaeda members in Iraq are now attempting to denounce the letter as a fake.But the terrorists did garner some media sympathy.
The letter proves that the media war is a key aspect to their overall effort to thwart democracy in the Middle East. The 6,300-word document outlined the terrorist political campaign to defeat coalition troops in Iraq, not by traditional military victory, but by carefully plotting an offensive on American public opinion.
Their short-term objective is clear: The insurgency must succeed in defeating an emerging democratic Iraq by eliminating its current military protectors. The insurgents' plan is simple: Drag the fight on by continuing to murder innocent Americans and Iraqis until American public opinion has waned.
One of the hardest things about working on this story for me personally, and as a journalist, was to set my "American self" and perspective aside. It was an ongoing challenge to listen open-mindedly to a group of people whose foundation of belief is significantly different from mine, and one I found I often strongly disagreed with.But by October, Human Rights Watch would chastise the "insurgents" in Iraq, noting that "the disregard for the lives of civilians in the mostly Muslim country was backfiring in terms of popular support for the insurgency elsewhere in the Arab world." Media coverage would avoid the word "terrorist".
But going in to report a story with a pile of prejudices is no way to do a story justice, or to do it fairly, and that constant necessity to bite my tongue, wipe the smirk off my face or continue to listen through a racial or religious diatribe that I found appalling was a skill I had to practice. We would never walk in to cover a union problem or political event without seeking to understand the perspective from both, or the many sides of the story that exist. Why should we as journalists do it in Iraq?
Every one of the people involved in the resistance that we spoke to held us individually responsible for their security. If something happened to them -- never mind that they were legitimate targets for the U.S. military -- they would blame us. And kill us. We soon learned that they had the U.S. bases so well watched that we had to abandon our idea of working on the U.S. side of the story -- that is, discovering what the soldiers really thought about who might be attacking them. There were so many journalists working with the American soldiers that we believed that that story would be well told. More practically, if we were seen by the Iraqis going in and out of the American bases, we would be tagged immediately as spies, informants and most likely be killed.
As terrifying as that was to manage and work through, there was another fear that was just as bad. What if the American military or intelligence found out what we were working on? Would they tail us and round up the people we met? Would they kick down our door late one night, rifle through all our stuff and arrest us for "collaborating with the enemy?" Bear in mind that there are no real laws in Iraq. At the time that we were working, the American military was the law, and it seemed to me that they were pretty much making it up as they went along. I was pretty sure that if they wanted to "disappear" us, rough us up or even send us for an all expenses paid vacation in Guantánamo for suspected al-Qaida connections, they could do so with very little, or even no recourse on our part.
The audio tape thought to be by Zarqawi's voice was published on website believed to be owned by Al-Qaeda in Iraq and it his speech, Zarqawi said that Islam doesn't distinguish between people on the basis of civilian vs. military but on the basis of Muslim vs. kaffir (infidel) and that "an infidel's blood should be spilled regardless of his occupation or position unless he had a treaty or a promise of peace".
More coffins, small and large
How dangerous is Iraq? One reporter describes her experience there:
In all that time, as far as I knew, I was never in immediate danger. There was a grenade thrown once, ineffectually, at the back of a Warrior I was in. On one Blackhawk ride near Mosul machine gunners fired on men scrambling on the ground with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. In Fallujah I saw a single improvised explosive device explode, but from a safe distance. And I watched a car bomb burn at a police check point in Tall 'Afar, the explosion killing no one but the people inside the car -- a man, a woman and two young children.In short, very bad things will happen - if you're at the wrong place at the wrong time, as was the case for yet another group of Iraqi children in November:
A suicide attacker steered a car packed with explosives toward U.S. soldiers giving away toys to children outside a hospital in central Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 31 people. Almost all of the victims were women and children, police said.What motivates such attacks? A couple of failed suicide bombers from 2005 offered their unique perspective on the issue.
"It was an explosion at the gate of the hospital," a woman who had wounds on her face and legs told the AP. "My children are gone. My brother is gone."
With no room left at the hospital, emergency workers rushed victims to hospitals in Baghdad, about 15 miles to the north. And when the hospital morgue was full, the workers were forced to place the dead in the hospital garden so family members could find them.
His head and hands were wrapped in bandages and his uncovered face looked like bubbled tar.September:
The young Saudi man told investigators this month that he wants revenge against the Iraqi terrorist network that sent him on the deadly mission that he survived.
Ahmed Abdullah al-Shaya, 18, told Iraqi investigators during an interrogation early this month that he was recruited to drive a car rigged with explosives to Baghdad and blow it up.
He said the objective was "to kill the Americans, policemen, national guards and the American collaborators."
But Shaya said he was injured even before he went on the mission when insurgents detonated a truck bomb he was supposed to leave at a target site.
"They asked me to take the truck near a concrete block barrier before turning to the right and leaving it there," he says. "There, somebody will pick up the truck from you," they told him.
"But they blew me up in the truck," he says.
Ahmed's truck bomb killed nine people, including a family of seven in their house nearby.
A suicide bomber captured before he could blow himself up in a Shiite mosque late last week claimed he was kidnapped, beaten and drugged by insurgents who forced him to take on the mission. The U.S. military on Sunday said its medical tests indicated he was telling the truth.But children and hospitals weren't the only targets in November:
In a confession broadcast on state television Friday, Mohammed Ali, who claimed to be Saudi-born, said he was kidnapped and coerced to agree to the mission. He said he fled after another suicide attacker killed at least 12 worshipers Friday at a mosque in the northern city of Tuz Khormato.
Results from medical tests on the young man were "consistent with his story and characterization of his treatment," Col. Billy Buckner, a U.S. military spokesman said.
Iraq's most feared terror group warned foreign diplomats yesterday to flee the country after announcing it will put to death two kidnapped Moroccan Embassy employees.While the New York Times would report the insurgents were still developing new, sophisticated tactics:
The warning came in a statement posted on an Islamist Web site in the name of al Qaeda in Iraq, which also claimed responsibility for the July kidnap-slaying of two envoys from Algeria and one from Egypt as well as the abduction and beheading of many other foreigners.
On Thursday, another Internet statement attributed to al Qaeda said the two Moroccans had been condemned to death. There was no indication yesterday they had been killed.
"We are renewing our threat to those so-called diplomatic missions who have insisted on staying in Baghdad and have not yet realized the repercussions of such a challenge to the will of the mujahideen," yesterday's statement said. "Let them know that there is no difference in our judgment between the head of a diplomatic mission and the lowest-level employee."
In the deadliest assault, insurgents dressed in women's clothing attacked a police checkpoint in the town of Buhriz, 35 miles north of Baghdad, killing at least 6 police officers and wounding at least 10 others, American and Iraqi officials said. The guerrillas were armed with Kalashnikov rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars, and pulled up in five cars, an Interior Ministry official said. The police officers killed at least two of the gunmen, he added.We looked at the results of these many attacks here:
There's always grim news from Iraq - as the latest Iraq Index from the Brookings Institute confirms.Fighting Back
The number of daily attacks by insurgents trends upwards:
As do the numbers of multiple fatality bombings:
These statistics will be cited by some to support claims of a "growing insurgency". Others will counter that the terrorist attacks are confined to a very few provinces in Iraq:
But few will note one of the key results of those acts of terror:
As complete independence appears tantalizingly closer the people of Iraq grow increasingly angry at those who use terror to end that dream and prolong their agony. As more Iraqi forces replace Americans, expect to see those numbers presented in the final chart climb even higher. This is how the "insurgency" will be defeated.
And consider what tale the attack numbers also tell. A real count of terrorist fighters in Iraq, if such a thing were possible, would likely reveal their numbers are small - perhaps a few thousand - and their organization above small "squad level" non-existent. Al Qaeda in Iraq, probably the most formidable component of a fractious opposition, can accomplish little beyond sporadic (admittedly sometimes spectacular) violence. Their most "successful" attacks involve suicide bombers creating large numbers of casualties - and larger numbers of enemies to their cause. And the majority of their most "highly coordinated" suicide attacks fail, insofar as the attackers invariably die short of their goals.
They have succeeded in slowing progress in part of the country, but elsewhere they are non-entities. As prosperity fattens the pocketbooks of the Kurds in northern Iraq those in the south will notice; they will know why they lack the same, and have more reason to despise those who send human bombs into their markets.
I've been to Iraq - I've seen vulnerabilities. I know what an organized group numbering in the tens of thousands could do. That such things haven't happened can't be attributed to fear or reluctance on the part of the proven suicidal opponent in Iraq. They simply lack the numbers to carry out any truly effective tactical strike.
But a small but violent insurgency will always be able to replenish it's ranks - the presence of the foreign invader will always be sufficient incentive to attract at least enough fanatics to assure the numbers in the first two charts will be maintained. The tipping point in the war in Iraq will not come from killing off insurgents - it will be achieved by replacing the Americans who are killing them with Iraqi forces capable of doing the same.
Throughout the year the coalition offensive operations would focus on al Anbar province, the preferred path for foreign terrorists entering Iraq, and the site of several "insurgent strongholds" - strongholds that fell, one by one, to US and Iraqi soldiers.
But even the most positive trends can be turned. Fighting back against these monsters is to invite sympathy from their supporters, as the events of late 2005 made clear. Even as children and diplomats were butchered in the streets, world headlines were dominated by an ex-American soldier's claims that the US had used "chemical weapons" in the 2004 attack on Fallujah. The "chemical weapons" were white phosphorous smoke rounds - used to "smoke out" terrorists from fortified defensive positions.
Less reported were that same soldier's comments on the "insurgents":
The Iraqi insurrection, in itself, is what I believe to be an honest rebellion. Because it is a guerrilla war against an illegal occupation enforced by our conventional military force, with far superior weapons and technology, it seems obvious that acts of terrorism are also acts of desperation.That could be dismissed as a "fringe" opinion - but it represents many "mainstream" apologists too.
Representative John Murtha's (D - PA) declaration that the terrorists had defeated and demoralized US troops gained widespread media attention - but less noted was his declared opinion of the mujahedeen :
Bin Laden said he attacked the United States because of the troops in Saudi Arabia. That's terrorism. Terrorism was in London. Terrorism was in Spain. Terrorism was, obviously, in the United States.Even Zarqawi's attack in Jordan, perhaps his greatest miscalculation of the year, couldn't give the congressman pause. He blamed the US:
That's completely separate from what's going on in Iraq. Iraq is an insurgency.
"Very small proportion of the people that are involved in the insurgency are terrorists or how I would interpret them as terrorists."
If you remember in Jordan, the bomber said that the reason she became a bomber was because two of her relatives were killed in Fallujah. We lost the hearts and minds of the people.If congressman Murtha is correct, the US is defeated. But if congressman Conaway (see above) is correct...
Their short-term objective is clear: The insurgency must succeed in defeating an emerging democratic Iraq by eliminating its current military protectors. The insurgents' plan is simple: Drag the fight on by continuing to murder innocent Americans and Iraqis until American public opinion has waned....then the insurgets have no better friend than one ex-Marine.
And no greater enemy than the current ones. Marines, soldiers, and Iraqi troops continued to "clear and hold" throughout al Anbar, and by year's end the AP would report:
SAMARRA, Iraq -- After keeping their distance for months, Iraqis in this Sunni Arab city suddenly began cooperating with U.S. troops, leading them to insurgents and hidden weapons caches. The reason: anger over a local tribal chief's assassination by insurgents.And the London Times would offer the latest from Tal Afar
Iraqis in former rebel stronghold now cheer American soldiers
Visiting the city, nestled near the Syrian border in the north-west of the country, there is no doubt that something has been achieved.
New sewers have been dug and the fronts of shops, destroyed in the US assault, were replaced within weeks. Sunni police have been hired and 2,000 goats were even distributed to farmers.
More remarkably, the approach of an American military convoy brings people out to wave and even clap, something not seen since the invasion of spring 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.
On the final day of 2005, a tiny baby girl would arrive in Atlanta - her lifesaving trip from Baghdad made possible by soldiers of the Georgia National Guard. CNN would obscure the faces of the family in their photo and video coverage, out of fear that the "insurgents" may "retaliate".
If you've been reading Mudville for any time at all you must have gotten the message: the insurgents are on the ropes. Make no mistake about it - they are capable of killing people in large numbers, but their political effectiveness is virtually nil.
"Capable of killing people in large numbers" - proven.
"...but their political effectiveness is virtually nil". - Three successful elections in Iraq support the accuracy of the claim. But an unexpected element has boosted the political effectiveness of the killers of children, aid workers, diplomats, and anyone else finding themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time. No matter how high the body count or how heinous their crimes, terrorists now believe they have allies who won't abandon their cause - and that faint glimmer of hope seems to be all they need.
But if that support should fall in 2006, perhaps we'll have something more upbeat for photo of the year.
I got to the end, and I can't get the big grin off my face. NOBODY has "wrapped" up this year in Iraq, as good as you just did. Outstanding!
Could one imagine how fast this would have been done had our media been behind us, and the Democrat's beside us?
I shudder to think about it...
Out of shear rage.Posted by Patrick V.N. at January 2, 2006 09:29 PM
JS Narins ... al-Jazeera is a satellite network. To believe that:
1> Zarqawi is voluntarily complying with Iraqi law, and does not have a satellite receiver programmed to receive al-Jazeera ...
2> ... and Zarqawi's not that interested in what al-Jazeera -- an important part (unwittingly, or willingly?) in the AQ propaganda machine both inside and OUTSIDE Iraq -- is saying ...
3> ... and that AQ has no clue as to how fast their own "postal service" of couriers can deliver messages ...
is what's silly.
Let me clarify ... just because al-Jazeera is prohibited from reporting in Iraq, doesn't keep them away from anyone with a satellite dish ... or from reporting on other events outside Iraq that can impact public opinion there.
And the implication the "free press" rules that ban al-Jazeera reporting from Iraq is illegitimate censorship, assumes that al-Jazeera is a legitimate news source ... which is a pretty long stretch, given their recent history.
Yes, I'll agree that while we've some distance to go, trends are definately in our favor for victory.
And yes, Patrick, it is sad that so many in the media have such a superficial view of the war and print such tripe as they do, when they are not outright working against us.Posted by Tom the Redhunter at January 4, 2006 01:58 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(4) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)