Friday, March 28, 2008


For all of George Bush's triumphant nonsense on how the Iraqi Army is taking it upon itself to fight the "criminal" elements in Basra and throughout the rest of Iraq, we learn today from The Washington Post that the U.S. Army has taken over the fighting.

Sudarsan Raghavan and Sholnn Freeman report:

"U.S. forces in armored vehicles battled Mahdi Army fighters Thursday in the vast Shiite stronghold of Sadr City and military officials said Friday that U.S. aircraft bombed militant positions in the southern city of Basra, as the American role in a campaign against party-backed militias appeared to expand. Iraqi army and police units appeared to be largely holding to the outskirts of the Sadr City fighting, as American troops took the lead.

"Four U.S. Stryker armored vehicles were seen in Sadr City by a Washington Post correspondent, one of them engaging Mahdi Army militiamen with heavy fire. The din of American weapons, along with the Mahdi Army's AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, was heard through much of the day. U.S. helicopters and drones buzzed overhead.

"The clashes suggested that American forces were being drawn more deeply into a broad offensive that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, launched in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, saying death squads, criminal gangs and rogue militias were the targets. The Mahdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite rival of Maliki, appeared to have taken the brunt of the attacks; fighting spread to many southern cities and parts of Baghdad."

So much for the Bush spin that the surge was allowing Iraqis themselves to maintain civil society and the rule of law. The whole offensive by the Iraqi Army against the Mahdi Army in Basra was flawed and poorly thought out. It might cause the whole of Iraq to break out into civil war. Furthermore, lots of personnel in the Iraqi Army are themselves Shiites and have relatives in Basra. How can they possibly be expected to fight and kill their own relatives and co-religionists? We all know Bush and Cheney pressured Al Maliki to begin military action against the Sadr militias in Basra. Maliki and the Iraqi Army are merely surrogates for Bush and the U.S. military.

Write Raghavan and Freeman:

"As President Bush told an Ohio audience that Iraq was returning to "normalcy," administration officials in Washington held meetings to assess what appeared to be a rapidly deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country.

"American forces were involved in approximately a dozen firefights on Thursday in Baghdad alone, with fighting spread across six neighborhoods, according to information released by the U.S. military Friday morning. U.S. ground patrols in areas like Kadhamiyah and New Baghdad repeatedly came under attack from small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades, responding with their own weapons and in one case calling in helicopter support. In that incident, the helicopter fired a hellfire missile into a group of militants that had attacked U.S. troops manning a checkpoint in Kadhamiyah, killing three of them. When the militants renewed their attack, the helicopter returned and killed 10 more using a 30mm gun, according to a U.S. military release.
In all, U.S. troops killed 42 in Thursday's Baghdad fighting, a sign of their growing engagement in the Iraqi-designed offensive."

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