Iraq carnage newsworthy again

Perhaps it is a sign of the turning of the tide, evidenced by Congressional demands for a timetable on troop withdrawals this week. Or maybe it was just the magnitude of the death toll. But after weeks of burying the near-daily ethno-religious carnage in Iraq deep in the paper, the New York Times finally put the latest outrage in the front page Nov. 19.

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Nov. 18 – As worshipers gathered for Friday Prayer, a pair of suicide bombers wearing explosive belts demolished two Shiite mosques in the northern Kurdish town of Khanaqin, killing at least 70 people and wounding more than 100.

Hours earlier, two suicide truck bombs struck a hotel in downtown Baghdad that houses many foreign journalists, killing at least 6 Iraqis and wounding more than 40. A neighboring apartment building crumbled to the ground in a plume of dust.

The Khanaqin attacks are especially ominous, as they could represent a destabilization of the northern Kurdish autonomous zone, which has thus far been spared chronic terror attacks but holds much potential for ethnic violence (see our recent report). As BBC noted, “The town lies within a Kurdish-controlled area that has so far escaped much of the violence that has afflicted other parts of Iraq.” The last major terror attack in the Kurdish zone was in February 2004.

As for the Baghdad attack—it seems journalists have become fair game for all sides in this war. We can’t help but note that when US forces have targetted journalists, the anti-war left (such as Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting) has been —appropriately— outraged. Maybe the adoption of such criminal tactics by the jihadis will cause the idiot left to rethink their kneejerk support of the Iraqi “resistance.”

However, the UK Guardian points to sectarian motives in the Baghdad blasts, rather than the targetting of journalists (not that that’s any better):

Residents in the Jadriya district of Baghdad, where one of the two truck bombs apparently intended for the journalists’ hotel hit an apartment building killing eight people, said the attack was a reprisal against Shia Muslims.

The blast struck close to an interior ministry bunker where US forces this weekend found around 170 mainly Sunni Arab prisoners, some of whom had apparently been abused, beaten, starved and tortured.

The discovery fuelled sectarian tensions over the Shia-led interior ministry, which Sunnis accuse of allowing militias and police “death squads” to harass and detain Sunnis suspected of involvement in the insurgency.

“They targeted Shia houses here regardless of the hotel,” Hameed Taha told Reuters. “I had to pull a 15-year-old girl from the rubble.”

In a Nov. 20 front-page story, “Sectarian Hatred Pulls Apart Iraq’s Mixed Towns,” the NY Times also shows signs of smelling the proverbial coffee. Here’s one sadly ironic passage:

Some Iraqis, despite years of mass killings of Kurds and Shiites during Mr. Hussein’s rule, still argue that sectarian divides did not exist in Iraq before the American invasion. But scratching just beneath the surface turns up hurt in most Shiite homes. Abu Noor recalls asking a high school teacher in Tarmiya the meaning of the word shroogi, a derogatory term for Shiite. Shiites tried to hide their last names. The military had a glass ceiling.

These days, sectarian profiling on the part of the government, which is Shiite, runs in reverse, with some people buying fake national identity cards to hide last names that are obviously Sunni Arab.

Ah, progress.

Of course WW4 REPORT warned in January 2003 that Iraq could become the “next Bosnia” if the US invaded. But, hey, nobody ever listens to us!

See our last post on Iraq.