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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Did We Cut & Run, or Was It Just the Press? 

Since we have finally bestowed the priceless gift of self-determination upon our Iraqi friends, feel free to ignore the following, which is really, we're sure you'll agree, not our problem any more:
A wave of attacks across Iraq left more than 100 people dead yesterday as insurgents signalled their determination to disrupt the country's political process and derail the reconstruction effort.

It was Iraq's bloodiest day since the US formally handed over sovereignty to an Iraqi administration led by the prime minister, Ayad Allawi, on June 28.

The violence came three days ahead of a national conference, proposed by the UN, that will bring together 1,000 delegates from Iraq's disparate ethnic, religious and tribal communities to elect an interim national assembly.

The worst attack occurred in the central Iraqi city of Baquba, 40 miles north-east of Baghdad, where a car bomb exploded outside a police recruiting post, killing 70 people and injuring more than 30. The authorities said it was a suicide attack.

But there was also a fierce battle in the town of Suwariya, 40 miles south-east of Baghdad. Seven Iraqi soldiers fighting alongside multinational troops were killed in fierce clashes that also left 35 insurgents dead.

There were also shootings and clashes in the western city of Ramadi and the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk.

Central Baghdad, meanwhile, descended into chaos after a rocket hit a busy street, killing two people and wounding four, including three children.

Television pictures showed dead bodies and body parts strewn across the street.

Another passing minibus was destroyed by the blast, which killed all 21 passengers inside. One body could be seen flattened under a concrete slab. Another was slumped over the charred bonnet of a car.
Mr. Allawi is getting the hang of this democracy thing, but very, very gradually; his basic philosophy of governance seems to draw heavily upon the collected works of Alberto Gonzales. From Newsday:
The Intelligence Service has its own secret prison. Criminals wear uniforms and collect police salaries. Senior security officials hand out jobs to family members. Investigators charged with being watchdogs over the police say they have little or no power. They report to the interior minister rather than to justice itself. The police arrest the innocent, beat them, and imprison them without charge; and in at least one case, police shot dead an innocent bystander.

This is not Saddam Hussein's corrupt police state. This is the new Iraq run by interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the man the international community is hoping will shepherd Iraqi democracy into being early next year. There are so many corrupt, violent and useless police officers in the new Iraqi police force that, according to a senior American adviser to the Iraqi police, the U.S. government is about to pay off 30,000 police officers at a cost of $60 million to the American taxpayer . . . .

The main examples of Allawi's authoritarian style so far have been two large police raids on neighborhoods of Baghdad. While apparently popular, witnesses said the raids were violent events that swept up many people regardless of evidence. Security officials acknowledge that in the first raid, only 60 of 147 arrested remain in custody. In the second, 100 of 470 arrested remain behind bars.

One of the 147 people arrested that day was Faris al-Taher, a soft-spoken 28-year-old immigrant from Sudan who had been in Iraq for only one month, looking for a long-lost brother and a job. He was in a friend's store when the police came, he said last week. They dragged him into the street and herded him with about 15 others to another street. There, he said, they handcuffed him - he still has the scars on his left wrist - and beat him with sticks. Once, he said, an officer clubbed him on the back of his head with a rifle. One took about $500 from his trouser pocket, he said.

No one told al-Taher why he was being arrested.

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