A Day of Living Dangerously

"I swear I saw dogs eating the body of a woman." – Iraqi man fleeing Samarra

Is the fight for the city of Samarra the beginning of the final battle for Iraq? With the pacification of the city proceeding at a timely clip, is the U.S. finally turning the corner in Iraq? U.S. Major General John Batiste, Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan, and Iraqi Interior Minister Falah Al-Naqib seem to think so. They all believe a new day is dawning for that troubled city and for the entire country.

Speaking on CNN , Major General Batiste said that the military operation – which included 3000 U.S. marines and 2000 Iraqi national guard troops backed by tanks, warplanes and attack helicopters – resulted in the death of 125 suspected insurgents and the capture of 88. "This is great news for the people of Samarra, 200,000 people who have been held captives, hostages if you will, by just a couple of hundred thugs," Major-General Batiste said.

"It is over in Samarra," Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan told the Al-Arabiya network on October 3. And Iraq's Interior Minister, Falah Al-Naqib, a former member of the Samarra provincial administration, claimed the Iraqi Government was "moving from a defensive to an offensive position to regain control over all of Iraq."

While the U.S. and the Iraqi military claimed they had killed only the bad guys, the Human Rights Ministry, in a letter to the Iraqi Red Crescent, described what happened in the city as a "tragedy" and called for urgent emergency assistance, London's Independent reported. According to the Associated Press , "Of the 70 dead brought to Samarra General Hospital since fighting erupted, 23 were children and 18 were women, hospital official Abdul-Nasser Hamed Yassin said. "Another 160 wounded people also were treated," Yassin added.

In addition, the Independent reported, Samarra residents claimed said that many of the 1,000 insurgents believed to be in the city had escaped before the attack began.

If the pacification of Samarra is good news for the Bush Administration, what are we to make of the following events in Iraq? (The following summary was pulled together by Randy Gould, the editor of the always informative online newsletter, The Oread Daily):
At least 22 were dead and 96 injured in two car bomb attacks Monday, October 3, outside Baghdad's Green Zone government center and in the hotel district. Two American troops were killed by small arms fire at a checkpoint in Baghdad. The Italian Foreign Ministry has notified the family of a kidnapped Iraqi businessman – a longtime resident of Italy – that he has been killed in Iraq. A car bomb exploded near a primary school in the city of Mosul killing seven people, including two children.

Early Monday, U.S. warplanes bombed Fallujah, killing at least 11 people, according to hospital officials. Doctor Adel Khamis of Fallujah General Hospital said seven of the dead were women and children. Another strike in the central al-Jumhuriyah area killed nine people, including three women and four children, said Dr. Khamis – twelve were wounded, including six women and three children, he said. A second strike in the city's southern Al-Shuhada (Martyrs) neighborhood killed two more people, according to Dr. Khamis.

A senior official at Iraq's science and technology ministry was shot dead along with a female civil servant by unknown attackers in Baghdad. A roadside bomb detonated in the city of Ramadi, killing two Iraqis. "Two people were killed and six others injured in a bomb blast ... in the west of the city," said Atallah Dlimi, a police lieutenant. A 13-year-old school girl was killed by mortar fire in a residential area of Baquba, police said, adding that another seven people were injured in the attack.

Poland, a highly-trumpeted U.S. ally in Iraq, should withdraw its troops from the Mideast nation at the end of next year, Poland's defense minister said.
A leading Sunni Muslim religious group blasted the U.S. led Samarra operation calling it a "massacre" and warned the interim government that its U.S.-influenced strategy will plunge the country into more chaos.

Baghdad Burning, a remarkable web log written by a woman in Iraq, pointed out that "Watching the military attacks on Samarra and hearing the stories from displaced families or people from around the area is like reliving the frustration and anger of the war. It's like a nightmare within a nightmare, seeing the corpses pile up and watching people drag their loved ones from under the bricks and steel of what was once a home.

"To top it off, we have to watch American military spokespersons and our new Iraqi politicians justify the attacks and talk about 'insurgents' and 'terrorists' like they actually believe what they are saying... like hundreds of civilians aren't being massacred on a daily basis by the worlds most advanced military technology."

Now, attention will shift back to the long troubled city of Fallujah, the supposed headquarters of Jordanian-born militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Although the U.S. has been carrying out bombing raids over the past several weeks, will the Bush Administration risk a major attack on the city and a series of bloody battles before November 2?

According to the Independent , a coalition spokesman, commenting on an air attack over the weekend said: "A large number of enemy fighters are presumed killed." But residents tell a different story. According to them, the air strike "had killed eight people at the home of Hamad Hdaib Mohammedi, who was known for his opposition to the militants." In addition, "television footage showed the body of a small girl being pulled from the rubble of the house."

On October 5, the Coalition Press Information Center issued a press release that could presage the future: "Iraqi and Multi-National forces today kicked off their most sweeping operation to date in Northern Babil, moving against multiple targets across the central Iraqi province in a continuing campaign to restore security and stability here."
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