Strange doings in Iraq

With troubling reports emerging from the U.S.-occupied country, the president needs to pay more attention.

Topics: War Room,

Salon editorial fellow Aaron Kinney checks in with a summary of recent news from Iraq.

When a reporter asked him in Mississippi earlier this month if he could provide adequate attention to both the needs of the Gulf Coast and the foreign relations issues that confront him, George W. Bush got a little indignant. “I can do more than one thing at one time,” he snapped. “That’s what — I hope you — by the time I’m finished president, I hope you’ll realize that the government can do more than one thing at one time, and individuals in the government can … And so if I’m focusing on the hurricane, I’ve got the capacity to focus on foreign policy, and vice versa. But I thank you for asking that question.”

Bush is touring the Gulf Coast yet again today, and that got us to thinking about another question for the president — how are things going in Iraq on your watch?

Here’s the news we’re hearing, which includes a mounting death toll and two stranger-than-fiction mysteries.

The number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq has moved past the 1,900 mark with the deaths of five more U.S. soldiers: Four were killed by roadside bombs near Ramadi, while a fifth died in an explosion near Baghdad. Four more Americans, a U.S. diplomat and his security team, were killed today in a suicide bombing. Also, an Iraqi freelance journalist who worked with the New York Times was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head on Monday in Basra.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Iraqi authorities are preparing an arrest warrant for the former defense minister under the Bush-appointed interim government of Ayad Allawi. The minister, Hazim Shaalan, who is “understood to be living in Jordan,” is implicated in what Iraq’s senior anticorruption official calls “possibly the largest robbery in the world” — the bilking of more than $1 billion from the Iraqi treasury. According to the official, Judge Raid al-Rahdi, as much as $2.3 billion has “disappeared” from Iraqi government accounts, in part through multimillion-dollar arms deals, not vetted through proper channels, in which grossly inflated prices were paid for outdated or substandard equipment.

And back in the United States and Britain, television viewers must be puzzling over the reports they’re seeing of British troops in Basra using an armored vehicle to smash into an Iraqi police station. There are conflicting reports, but we know that Iraqi authorities took two undercover British soldiers into custody after they got into a gun battle with Iraqi police that resulted in the death of at least one traffic police officer — a CNN report indicated that the soldiers began “firing on civilians in central Basra,” while British authorities claim the incident began when the undercover soldiers were stopped by the police.

You Might Also Like

In a statement issued today, British Brigadier John Lorimer explained what happened after the soldiers were arrested. The British soldiers were supposed to be handed over to coalition authorities, but this never occurred, despite the orders of Iraq’s interior minister, Lorimer said. Fearing that the soldiers’ lives were in danger, Lorimer ordered the assault on the police station. The team discovered the soldiers had been moved — the men had been handed over to Shiite militia men, according to the AP — and was able to rescue them at a house nearby.

The raid on the police station produced scenes of Iraqis — who CNN reported were members of the Mehdi Army, a militia controlled by Muqtada al-Sadr — attacking the British forces and of one British soldier catching fire from a burning tank. CNN described “dozens of Iraqis surrounding British armored vehicles and tossing gasoline bombs, rocks and other debris at them.”

The details of the event remain unclear, but it appears that the incident in Basra is an example of the tension in Iraq between military officials who have sworn to serve the Iraqi government and the American-led coalition and militiamen loyal to Shiite clerics, who were unwilling to see the British soldiers’ actions go unpunished.

However all of this plays out — a good first step, in the case of the missing billions, would be for the American media to start reporting on it — these incidents serve as yet another reminder that the situation in Iraq is tenuous and complex, and requires the kind of hands-on and nuanced approach from the U.S. government that President Bush hasn’t found the time to provide.

Aaron Kinney is a writer in San Francisco. He has a blog.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>