Saturday, May 03, 2008

Strategic silence (Updated)

Here are the opening sentences of the three latest news-items on, a major Sadrist online news outlet.

(1) Dateline Saturday May 3: An American convoy supported by aircraft and Iraqi forces attempted to force its way into Shaala City at 3:00 in the morning today, on orders of the Maliki government, and this led to renewed fighting. Smoke rose as a result of airstrikes on the City using weapons prohibited internationally, which led to the martyrdom of some citizens...

(2) Dateline Saturday May 3: Members and leaders of tribes in Sadr City issued a statement in reply to the statements of the head of the Maliki government, and the statement, of which AlKufa News obtained a copy, said: "First we greet the members and leaders of the genuine Iraqi tribes of the South and Center, and of the Mid-Euphrates, and of the Western sector, and all of the zealous tribes : We the leaders of the fighting [mujaahid: one dictionary translation is "freedom-fighters"] tribes of Sadr City...

(3) Dateline Friday May 2: Friday prayers at the Great Kufa Mosque led by Imam Sheikh Asad al-Nasari: [Prayers to Mohammed] ...for the victory of the oppressed throughout the whole world...for the demand for the acceleration of the judgment for the execution of Ali Hasan al-Majid and the gang that was with him...for the demand for the prompt trial of the accused person Nuri Kamal al-Maliki for what he has undertaken by way of crimes against humanity...

That's the news: Continued American bombing of residential areas with prohibited weapons; solidarity with nationalist tribes elsewhere in Iraq in the fight against oppression; "the accused person Maliki" lined up with the criminals of the prior regime on the path leading from major crimes to eventual execution. This is the current news for a very large part of the Iraqi population.

I could quote more, you could discuss whether these weapons are really "prohibited internationally" and in what sense; what is he depth of the solidarity with tribes elsewhere; the sectarian implications of the prayers against accused Sadaamists; and so on. Will this be fitna or a national uprising? And so on. But what's the use? The Americans along with Maliki have driven a stake through the heart of peaceful national reconciliation, and the policy-groupies who are lining up to advise the incoming Democratic administration are saying absolutely nothing about it. That's the only point worth making.

Update: Here's part of the the AFP report on the US rocket attack on (a shack just outside the) AlSadr Hospital in Sadr City earlier this morning (Saturday May 3):

"I can confirm that we conducted a strike in Sadr City this morning," a US military spokesman told AFP. "The targets were known criminal elements. Battle damage assessment is currently ongoing."

However, witnesses and an AFP reporter at the scene said the main Al-Sadr hospital had been badly damaged and a fleet of ambulances were destroyed.

Just outside the hospital, a shack which appeared to be the target was reduced to a pile of rubble.

The military said it destroyed a "criminal element command and control centre" at approximately 10 am (0700 GMT).

"Intelligence reports indicate the command and control centre was used by criminal elements to plan and coordinate attacks against Iraqi security and coalition forces and innocent Iraqi citizens."

Hospital staff said at least 20 people wounded in the air raid were taken to the same hospital which had its glass windows shattered, and medical and electrical equipment damaged.

Doctors and hospital staff were livid they had been hit.

"They (the Americans) will say it was a weapons cache (they hit)," said the head of Baghdad's health department, Dr Ali Bistan. "But, in fact they want to destroy the infrastructure of the country."

He charged that the attack was aimed at preventing doctors and medicines reaching the hospital which is located inside an area of increased clashes between American troops and militiamen.

And in America, more silence. The silent democracy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then there's this morning's strike. Bombing the shit out of the Shaheed al-Sadr hospital in Sadr city. The damage is fairly extensive apart from all the glass some of the partition walls in the wards have collapsed and large parts of the electric works throughout the hospital have been shorted out.

But then the Americans have made rarther a habit of bombing the shit out of hospitals from the moment they started their "shock and awe" tactics.

9:42 AM  
Blogger badger said...

I'm at a loss for words. Reports on this at,, and one by AFP, which is linked-to in an update to the post.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bombing a hospital seems like pretty idiotic counterinsurgency strategy. If you're trying to win over the local population so that support for Sadr and insurgents among the local population decreases, why bomb a hospital and alienate the locals? (I'm neither denying that the U.S. did this or that the actual American strategy is to win over the local population.)

So what's the motivation behind this attack? Either there were targets the U.S. saw as legitimate around the area of the hospital, or the U.S. is trying to pummel the area in order to create fear among the population, so that they realize that supporting Sadr and Shia fighters is not an option, as they can't provide protection.

Or perhaps there's some other explanation; I'd be interested in any informed speculation.

2:35 PM  
Blogger badger said...

troll alert

2:49 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Nope, that was me, I've posted here before. Maybe I'm confused or ignorant, but not a troll. I'm not making this point: it would make no sense for the U.S. to bomb a hospital, so why would you create this post, Badger? Rather, I'm honestly asking what the motive behind the attack was.

2:53 PM  
Blogger badger said...

The head of the Baghdad Health Dept told AFP what he thought the motive was. You don't think they'd do something like that, because it alienates people and the purpose of the airstrikes is to win friends, that's all you're saying. They hit the hospital in Falluja too, if you remember, but I guess that made no sense either.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Badger, I don't mean to argue with you because I respect your blog and the information you provide, but you're arguing against a position I don't hold. I took it for granted that the U.S. army did this, and was just asking about the motivation. To clarify, I don't think that bombing a hospital and destroying ambulances and wounding patients is an unusual move on the part of the U.S., after such incidents as the blockage of Sadr City, the destruction of Falluja, events in Haditha, and so on.

I guess there was just some cognitive dissonance on my part. The narrative about the U.S. trying to win support among Iraqis by improving their circumstances (politically, materially) is just pushed so hard, that sometimes an American can get a bit confused. I didn't mean to cast any doubt on your post, and I'm not one of those military psy-ops guys. I guess it's just staggering (not unbelievable) that the aim of the U.S. really is to destroy the infrastructure of Iraq and that this contrasts so sharply with the story about the war being told by the progressive bloggers, newspapers such as the NYTimes, etc.

3:55 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Mike, thanks for taking the trouble to explain that. I understand what you're saying. I think a whole lot of people, each in his own way, are having trouble getting their heads around the enormity of what's going on. People (Americans anyway) are trained not to talk or even think about what's happening to the people of Gaza, and so it's easy to get into the habit of thinking "well, it's not in the papers so it must be basically okay..." And as you point out, the progressive bloggers (by and large) aren't helping either. (I don't know if you read, but since the Sadr City campaign started, something has shut his mouth and he says nothing about it). It is a process that is spooky for many people). I'm sorry I winged you like that. Put it down to the fog of war.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What better way to collectively punish a population, destroy the hospitals so everyone knows that if they are injured, through participating, there will be no medical assistance. For all those out there who believe the U.S. is practicing COIN tactics to win the hearts and minds of Iraqi's - forget about it, it's just a propaganda ploy to make Petraeus look innovative. Truth is that jacking up the number of air strikes 6 or 8 times in urban areas, ghettoizing all the major the cities, and totally failing to carry out any reconstruction all not only not COIN policy, but are in fact run counter to COIN.

anna missed

7:53 PM  

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