November 24, 2006

Burned to Death Outside Their Mosques

Sunni worshippers have been burned to death in Baghdad today:

In one attack, black-clad gunmen grabbed six Sunnis as they left worship services, doused them with kerosene and burned them alive near an Iraqi Army post.

Given events like these, how can we possibly take seriously a sitting Vice-President who says the Iraqis are doing "remarkably well"? How can we possibly take seriously a Secretary of Defense who preens his DoD "(l)iberated 26.7 million Iraqis"? How can we possibly take seriously a President of the United States who says, with Vladimir Putin standing beside him: "I talked about my desire to promote institutional change in parts of the world, like Iraq where there's a free press and free religion, and I told him that a lot of people in our country would hope that Russia would do the same." What kind of freedom of religion does one have when you can be burned to death outside of your places of worship by vengeful mobs massacring your religious kin?

I mean, are there no senior public servants with the courage to tell the President, very directly, how awful the situation has become--so as to better snap him out of his 'freedom is on the march' reverie? Can we no longer expect even a modicum of reality-based competence and seriousness from our most senior political leaders? Don't 300 million Americans deserve better than this, finally? They're fed up, of course, and have registered their disapproval in the recent election, so we now at least have the prospects of real (rather than totally supine) Congressional oversight. But while these investigations are critical, the crisis in Iraq is now, and I have zero faith in either Rumsfeld (still with us for a couple months) or Cheney's ability to grapple with this situation. We desperately need a Wise Men style intervention, and some of us are hoping that such an intervention might be provided via the Iraq Study Group. But they will not wield any miraculous and easy-to-implement panaceas, and regardless the President is so bull-headedly messianic no one knows if he'll even accept some of their most important recommendations (not to mention his grossly simplistic world-view too). In short, we are facing a crisis of leadership in this country, and it's very sad indeed that the most powerful democracy on earth cannot find better leaders than those we find ourselves with today.

UPDATE:

Some accounts treat as unconfirmed rumor that some Sunni worshipers were burned to death. From the WaPo:

Friday's reprisal attacks underscore how powerful the Mahdi Army and other militias have become in Iraq, operating above the law, spreading violence even under an indefinite 24-hour lockdown of the capital.

By Friday evening, the attacks were still unfolding. With no other alternative, many Sunnis were hoping for the intervention of U.S. forces.

"Up till now we are waiting for the American forces, and they haven't shown up yet," said Salman al-Zobaye, imam of al-Hashab mosque, in a telephone interview. An attack on the mosque by Shiite militiamen killed four guards.

Throughout Friday, rumors of new atrocities committed against Sunnis floated across Baghdad, including one in which six Sunnis were doused with kerosene and torched to death in Hurriyah . But two local imams, in an interview, denied such an attack took place.

But there was no shortage of confirmed incidents. In Hurriyah, militiamen Friday morning expelled Sunni families who were living near tea warehouses, and more than 90 Sunni families received letters threatening them if they did not leave their houses within 72 hours, authorities said.

Most news organizations, however, appear to be going with the story.


Posted by Gregory at November 24, 2006 10:36 PM
Comments

Oh Jesus....

We have GOT to get out now. There is nothing we can do to stop this madness..... and no one else is going to get involved unless and until we leave.

Posted by: p.lukasiak at November 24, 2006 11:32 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Bush is in no reverie---he just doesn't care how many Iraqis die.
I infer that besides Bush's stubborn determination that the next President be the one to leave and thus "lose" Iraq, the construction of the permanent bases is of such importance that our troops will not leave.
There is no hope that Bush will come to his senses.
Impeachment is the ONLY way to allow for a change of course on Iraq, and of course it is merited 100 times over.
In my opinion, impeachment ought to proceed mainly or even solely on the grounds of leading the country into a war crime (aggressive war) on false grounds.

Posted by: Marky at November 24, 2006 11:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

9-11 changed everything, indeed.

Yankee, go home.

Posted by: me at November 25, 2006 12:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

S'truth, impeachement isn't going to happen for a host of political reasons so would people please stop harping on it? There will be two more years of this WH no matter what, accept that and try to find some useful achievable policy to get behind, just as we have to accept the catastrophic failure of our heroic, Kirk and Spock-style intervention in Iraq.

Posted by: Antiquated Tory at November 25, 2006 12:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

S'truth, impeachement isn't going to happen for a host of political reasons so would people please stop harping on it?

I think you underestimate the depth of cynicism in our government.

Impeachment is a way to blame it all, every last bit, on Bush/Cheney. When the time comes, the GOP will pile on.

Posted by: J Thomas at November 25, 2006 02:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

J. Thomas -- I'd never considered that, even though I fully expect Bush and Cheney to be devoured in a GOP recrimination frenzy before the end of the decade. Your comment gives hope.

Posted by: sglover at November 25, 2006 04:49 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The "original" Wise Men -- former senior officials of earlier administrations -- were assembled to advise President Johnson on Vietnam within about 15 years or less of the time they left office. In other words they were still vital and well-connected, at least with respect to the broader Cold War if not with Vietnam specifically. Moreover many of these people were men of great and genuine distinction, having worked in administrations with many historic achievements to their credit.

There isn't really a comparable group today. There is a small number of very old people who worked in senior positions in the Nixon/Ford and Reagan administrations; there is Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's not especially successful NSA; and there is Baker and a few of his associates (there are also, of course, several people who worked in foreign policy positions in the first Bush administration and are serving in this one also). Overall the pool of potential "wise man" talent is much smaller now than it was in the late 1960s -- and President Johnson chose to be associated with the original group because he thought appearing to seek their counsel made him look better. President Bush, as we know, resists seeking this kind of advice because he thinks it makes him look weak.

In the event, the most the original Wise Men accomplished was probably to help nudge Johnson toward a bombing halt and his decision not to seek reelection in 1968. Even Johnson resisted taking direction from former officials, most of whom were at least initially reluctant to tell a President of the United States that his Vietnam policy had gone off the rails and needed to be changed. If Bush could somehow contrive the appearance that a major course correction was entirely his idea, one might happen, but his record to date suggests that even if the rather small group of Wise Man types extant today got together today in the Oval Office he would be afraid to act on recommendations for a major change in Iraq policy.

I suppose Gates' appointment could mean a major course correction that the White House could insist was nothing of the kind. I've not yet heard anything of Gates or Baker's commission that leads me to think that recognition of the need to liquidate the commitment in Iraq nooner rather than later -- essential to any course correction meant to serve American national interests -- grounds their policy recommendations to this point. But we'll see.

Posted by: Zathras at November 25, 2006 04:52 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


I don't think impeaching Bush/Cheney on aggressive war will work, because too many Democrats are complicit. Saying they were duped themselves is fine for campaigning, but it won't hold up under scrutiny.

Many of the things for which Bush deserves impeachment are, sadly, popular. I expect the Republicans to stand by Bush, and accuse the Democrats of being soft on terror and of wanting revenge for Clinton's impeachment. Politically I think it would be a net minus for the Democrats, though hopefully a small one. Bush himself would probably get a small boost in popularity.

As I've said before, I think impeachment would be for the long-run good of the country, even without conviction. But conviction and removal, even if they happen, will come too late to salvage U.S. foreign policy. Pelosi, or whoever succeeded Bush/Cheney, would come to office already a lame duck. A fundamental change in foreign policy will have to wait for 2009 in any case.

I'm not so pessimistic about Bush changing course in Iraq. The Republicans will want us to be on the way out when they stand for election in 2008. Does Bush want to spend his ex-presidency in his own party's doghouse?

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 25, 2006 04:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I suspect that once the subpoenas start flying, and 3rd- or 4th- or 5th-tier administration tools start thinking long and hard about legal bills and the real history of that vaunted Bush "loyalty", there'll be plenty of material for impeachment proceedings -- even aside from the many shameful rollovers and sellouts that the Dems are burdened with. And I don't think there's a helluva lot of eagerness among many Congressional Republicans to play defense for a President who may be discrediting their party for a generation.

Posted by: sglover at November 25, 2006 10:46 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Memeorandum links this:

http://www.floppingaces.net/2006/11/25/getting-the-news-from-the-enemies-mouth/

So who is this Jamil Hussein anyway?

Posted by: Chuck at November 26, 2006 05:57 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wise Men: daddy's buddies who got us "fifty years of peace". Can't wait for the next "fifty years of peace"

Posted by: WiseGuy at November 26, 2006 08:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink


It seems there's another source.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,176-2472223,00.html

On Friday, suspected Shi’ite militiamen seized six Sunnis as they left prayer services in Hurriyah and burned them alive.

“They threw handgrenades at houses and shops in the street,” said Emad al-Hashemi, a resident who saw the gunmen jump out of a convoy of four-wheel drive vehicles. “They followed people into the mosques and pulled out six civilians and poured petrol over them and set fire to them.”

Posted by: David Tomlin at November 26, 2006 11:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Is Instathug still promoting the pathetic lie that the violence in Iraq has gone down ?

Posted by: Mr Hyde at November 26, 2006 03:19 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Here is a press release from Centcom which questions the validity of this claimed atrocity and of the source:

"Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Dear Associated Press:

On Nov. 24, 2006, your organization published an article by Qais Al-Bashir about six Sunnis being burned alive in the presence of Iraqi Police officers. This news item, which is below, received an enormous amount of coverage internationally.

We at Multi-National Corps - Iraq made it known through MNC-I Press Release Number 20061125-09 and our conversations with your reporters that neither we nor Baghdad Police had any reports of such an incident after investigating it and could find no one to corroborate the story. A couple of hours ago, we learned something else very important. We can tell you definitively that the primary source of this story, police Capt. Jamil Hussein, is not a Baghdad police officer or an MOI employee. We verified this fact with the MOI through the Coalition Police Assistance Training Team.

Also, we definitely know, as we told you several weeks ago through the MNC-I Media Relations cell, that another AP-popular IP spokesman, Lt. Maithem Abdul Razzaq, supposedly of the city’s Yarmouk police station, does not work at that police station and is also not authorized to speak on behalf of the IP. The MOI has supposedly issued a warrant for his questioning.

I know we have informed you that there exists an MOI edict that no one below the level of chief is authorized to be an Iraqi Police spokesperson. An unauthorized IP spokesperson will get fired for talking to the media. While I understand the importance of a news agency to use anonymous and unauthorized sources, it is still incumbent upon them to make sure their facts are straight. Was this information verified by anyone else? If the source providing the information is lying about his name, then he ought not to be represented as an official IP spokesperson and should be listed as an anonymous source.

Unless you have a credible source to corroborate the story of the people being burned alive, we respectfully request that AP issue a retraction, or a correction at a minimum, acknowledging that the source named in the story is not who he claimed he was. MNC-I and MNF-I are always available and willing to verify events and provide as much information as possible when asked.

Very respectfully,

LT XXXXXX

XXXX X XXXXXXXX
Lieutenant, U.S. Navy
MNC-I Joint Operations Center
Public Affairs Officer"

We need to keep our skepticism alive if we are to be effective, regardless of viewpoint!

Michael

Posted by: Michael Pecherer at November 28, 2006 04:39 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I know we have informed you that there exists an MOI edict that no one below the level of chief is authorized to be an Iraqi Police spokesperson. An unauthorized IP spokesperson will get fired for talking to the media.

We can tell you definitively that the primary source of this story, police Capt. Jamil Hussein, is not a Baghdad police officer or an MOI employee. We verified this fact with the MOI through the Coalition Police Assistance Training Team.

Also, we definitely know, as we told you several weeks ago through the MNC-I Media Relations cell, that another AP-popular IP spokesman, Lt. Maithem Abdul Razzaq, supposedly of the city’s Yarmouk police station, does not work at that police station and is also not authorized to speak on behalf of the IP.

It sounds like their crime was giving their names to the press.

Meanwhile, MNC-I (and MNF-I couldn't find anybody who would talk to them about the incident.

We need to be skeptical, yes. Who do we need to be more skeptical of, the media that published sources the censors don't like, or the censors?

Posted by: J Thomas at November 28, 2006 08:34 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Aren't the Baghdad Police Shi'ites?

Posted by: farmgirl at November 28, 2006 07:18 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.


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