Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

AP: "Fighting rages as Iraq leaders seek calm"

Fighting rages as Iraq leaders seek calm

By THOMAS WAGNER, Associated
Press Writer

Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders called Sunday for an end to Iraq's sectarian conflict and vowed to track down those responsible for the war's deadliest attack.

But as they went on national television to try to keep Iraq from sliding into an all-out civil war, fighting between Iraqi security forces and Sunni Arab insurgents raged for a second day in Baqouba, the capital of Diyala province north of Baghdad.

By the end of the day, the province's latest casualty figures were a microcosm of the brutality in Iraq: 17 insurgents killed, 15 detained, 20 civilians kidnapped and three bodies found. The mayor of a municipality also narrowly escaped an assassination attempt that killed one of his guards and wounded three.

During Saturday's fighting in Baqouba, police killed at least 36 insurgents and wounded dozens after scores of militants armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked government buildings in the city center, police said. The fighting raged for hours in the city, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.

What is wrong with this AP story? Can you tell?

The folks over at AP are using “insurgent deaths” as a measure of todays “brutality.”

No, my dear AP—the same network that has yet to pull the bogus story of the “six Sunni
worshippers doused with gasoline and set on fire” that it ran two days ago—“dead insurgents” is a good thing. And when Iraqi policemen kill insurgents, it is not happening because the policemen are Shi'as and the insurgents are Sunni, no my dear AP, it is happening because the insurgents are trying to kill the policemen.

So, everyone, here is the basic formula:

dead insurgents=good news from and for Iraq

This was the fourth major offensive launched by insurgents against the Iraqi police and army in Baqouba over the past six weeks. The size of the attacking force gives every indication that the insurgents are trying to take over the city and hold down territory. But they have been driven back four times, and have sustained many casualties.

I don’t know why the Associated Press (or the New York Times for that matter, see today’s story by Kirk Semple, ‘47 Sunni Militants Die in Iraq Gunfights’) are misleading readers as to what is happening in Baqouba. I think that it is simply a symptom of a general misunderstanding of what is going on in Iraq as a whole on the part of the press corps and consequently on the part of the analysts who build their theses on the reportage coming out of Iraq. Here is the clearest example: Iraqi policemen are engaging and defeating insurgents. This is not Shi'a on Sunni violence. These policemen are standing their ground and firing back, before going on pursuit, as policemen are expected to do. Whether it’s a case of the policemen getting better at their jobs or the insurgents getting lousier at theirs, the story out of Baqouba should say that the Iraqi state is defeating those carrying arms against it.

It should be that simple.

But it isn’t, and that is why when the BS piles up, the toxic fumes drive juvenile authors like Jonathan Chait to pen a column with the title Bring back Saddam Hussein’ on the pages of the Los Angeles Times. This silly and misinformed column is the inevitable result of the shoddy reporting being done by most of Chait’s peers. Counterintuitive-ness should only go so far before being labeled egotistic and irresponsible. I wonder what Chait’s next piece is going to say? I hope it's not going to be “The Arabs hate America because we support Israel; Bring back Adolf Hitler”…? Because that would be just going too far, right? Well, now you know how an Anfal survivor would feel about Chait's title and thesis.


Blogger Bo Naidal said...

Wow, I'm totally lost when it comes to Iraq, but recently have been thinking about it. I've been reading different bloggers today, and really liked this post.

What really bothers me is just how little your average American (including me) knows. It's really disgusting. So I really appreciate someone like you whose trying to sort out the news and explain what's really going on.

Up until now I've totally missed this isue about dead insurgents.

Thank you!
Bo Naidal

7:56 PM, November 26, 2006

Blogger Tequila said...

Mr. Kazimi,

Given the degree of infiltration of the police forces by sectarian militias, who is exactly sure what any of these reports mean? Who is being classified as an "insurgent"? Were all these corpses the result of firefights instigated by said insurgents, or Iraqi police liquidating their rivals and calling them so?

10:44 AM, November 27, 2006

Blogger Nibras Kazimi نبراس الكاظمي said...

Hi bo, thanks!

Hi tequila, I'm glad you're back. I always appreciate your insightful questions: the case in Baqouba is clear cut: insurgent attacks are being pushed back by the police. The bodies belong to attacking insurgents, not detainees. You will also find that police units in mixed areas tend to be mixed too. The ratios of Sunnis to Shias or Arabs to Kurds within the police force may not be proportionate to those in Diyala's communal make-up, but they do approximate it to an extent. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a non-mixed unit in a mixed town like Baqouba. Furthermore, in a town like Mosul, the Sunni policemen are repelling similar attacks.

Recently there was a NYT (?) story about the police chief of Diyala being accused of pro-death squad sympathies. This assertion was made by a couple of US officers in that province. I looked into it, and it seems that the rift was personal in nature. This particular Iraqi commander was a bit surly when ordered around by these two US officers, and the mutual antipathy was spun into unfair allegations. The Iraqis accused the American officers of turning a blind eye to the corruption that finances the insurgency, in return for a cut.

Such animosities are understandable, but overall I think the Diyala police are doing a good job. That is not to say there isn't militia infiltration but rather that we have seen instances when the police fought bravely and expertly when attacked.



1:55 PM, November 28, 2006

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