Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Iraq - Four years of war, no sign of peace

Four years after the invasion of Iraq and the violence is still continuing. Suicide bombings and other attacks occur daily, killing hundreds every week. But there have been successes in battling the continuing insurgency. Last Friday the US military said it had captured 16 suspected insurgents and a possible top al-Qaeda leader [BBC]. And on Monday it was announced that three top al-Qaeda suspects were to be the subject of hearings to determine if they should be subject to military trials [CNN]. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected 9/11 mastermind, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, another key 9/11 planner, and Abu Faraz al-Libby, a top al Qaeda planner, separately appeared before three-judge panels last week, the Pentagon said.

At least 75 have died in Iraq in the last week. Wednesday saw a bomb attack at a Baghdad cafĂ© killing at least 26 and injuring 29 others [BBC]. There were also attacks on the long convoy of Shi’ite Muslims making their religious pilgrimage to Karbala. At least 9 were killed in a series of separate attacks [BBC]. On Saturday reports emerged of the kidnapping of two German nationals [BBC]. The militant group, which calls itself the Arrows of Righteousness, said on a video released via the internet, "We give the German government 10 days from the date of this statement to announce and start the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan." The video shoed a woman and a man said to be her son.

Sunday brought further devastating attacks. More than 40 were killed in a series of car bombs in Baghdad [BBC]. And in Mosul three guards were killed after insurgents attacked the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party.

UK and US soldiers’ health treatment following their return from the battlefield has been in the spotlight over the last few weeks. In the US one hospital was said to be overrun with rats and cockroaches. Black mould also covered walls of many rooms in which injured soldiers, returning from Iraq, were being treated. Following the reports about the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the US Army’s Lt. General Kevin Riley has resigned [BBC].He is the third top official to resign over the scandal which was highlight by the Washington Post.

The row over soldiers’ treatment crossed to Britain this week with allegations of maltreatment. The Observer newspaper described the conditions at Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham as “a shocking picture of neglect”. In the article published on Sunday the paper said how one soldier was not administered adequate pain relief. It was also alleged that his colostomy bag overflowed and that he contracted MRSA twice. A military spokesman described the reportage as “unhelpful”. The hospital, which has treated 150-200 soldiers since 2001, said many of the allegations were unfounded [BBC]. Criticism was not only confined to the healthcare received by injured combatants. In an exclusive interview with Hans Blix, Sky News revealed how the former UN weapons’ inspector considered the Iraq war to be illegal. He also said that the British Prime Minister Tony Blair had used ‘excessive spin’ to justify the case for war and that the US had implemented a “witch hunt” in the lead up to the invasion [Sky News]. He added that the war had been a tragedy. “I think everything in Iraq after the invasion has been a tragedy. The only positive thing I think is the disappearance of Saddam Hussein,” he told Sky News reporter Anna Botting. And he held little hope for the future for the country saying that the US were “unlikely to succeed” in making a peaceful and safe Iraq. The interview was part of a series of in depth reports that Sky News has broadcast as part of its Inside Iraq week.
The gloomy picture painted by Generals, commentators and the media have all served to increase the demands for a withdrawal from a war weary public. In the US a recent poll suggests 58% of the American public want a speedy withdrawal of troops [CNN]. The CNN poll suggested that as much as 21% percent wanted an immediate pull-out. But their was a sense of support in allowing George Bush’s new initiative a chance to work with 58% of those polled saying that a withdrawal should be made by 2008.

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