I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Iraq Pop Quiz

When you read things like the following report from Edward Wong in today's New York Times, reporting from Baghdad, do you:

(a) marvel at the utter chaos and worsening violence which our invasion has spawned;

(b) find the notion absurd that we are anywhere even remotely near being able to turn over Iraq to Iraqis;

(c) wonder about how Iraq is ever going to be sufficiently peaceful and stable for us to leave without it looking like retreat and defeat; or,

(d) all of the above.

A suicide car bomb exploded Thursday near an American convoy at the entrance to the main hospital in the volatile town of Mahmudiya, killing at least 30 Iraqis and wounding dozens of others in a burst of fire and shrapnel.

At least 15 other Iraqis died Thursday, including the police commander of Mahmudiya, while 5 American soldiers were reported killed in three separate incidents over the last two days.

Even by the violent standards of this war, the bombing in Mahmudiya was particularly vicious, taking place outside a hospital as visitors and the sick were coming and going. The blast flung bystanders and body parts through the air and shattered the facades of buildings for blocks around. Policemen and Iraqi Army soldiers quickly sealed off the town's main streets while American helicopters circled the scene of carnage. . . .

Mahmudiya lies in a restive part of the Euphrates River valley south of Baghdad that is commonly called the Triangle of Death, because of the frequency of ambushes by guerrillas and bandits there. The American military has often tried sweeps of towns and villages there, only to find that the residents had cleared out well before the operations began.

Some of the worst sectarian violence of the post-Saddam Hussein era has taken place in the area, as Sunni Arabs and Shiites struggle for control of the towns and of the major arteries leading south from the capital to the Shiite holy cities of Najaf and Karbala. Shiite pilgrims traveling to those cities have often turned up dead alongside the main road, known as the Highway of Death. The executions have incited so much fury that Shiites in the south have announced the creation of vengeance-seeking militias in response to the slayings.

The sectarian nature of Iraq's low-level civil war is evident in virtually every major attack that takes place now. A surge in such assaults has roiled the country in the last week and tested the limits of Shiite patience.

Last Friday, a pair of suicide bombers attacked two Shiite mosques in the Kurdish town of Khanaqin, killing at least 70. A car bombing at a Shiite funeral the next day killed at least 30. By the end of the weekend, at least 155 Iraqis and 8 American and British soldiers had been killed over a three-day period.

In violence elsewhere on Thursday, a car bombing in the southern town of Hilla killed at least 3 people and wounded at least 14, the Interior Ministry official said. Gunmen in southern Baghdad opened fire on a convoy carrying the minister of industry, killing at least three guards and wounding a civilian, and an adviser to Ayad Allawi, the former prime minister and a candidate for Parliament, was shot dead in his car in the evening.

An Iraqi Army major, a police officer and an Iraqi commando were gunned down in separate incidents in Baghdad. A roadside bomb explosion in the Baghdad suburb of Doura killed one policeman and wounded two, while a police colonel and his son were killed when guerrillas sprayed their house with gunfire. A girl was killed when "unknown explosive ordnance" detonated near an engineering convoy in Diwaniya, the American military said.

The American military said a soldier died Wednesday of a gunshot wound in central Baghdad, and two died the same day of gunshot wounds southwest of the capital. Two other soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb explosion on Thursday, also southwest of Baghdad. At least 2,104 American troops have died in the war.

The recent spate of suicide bombings has called into question the American military's assertions that it has effectively clamped down on such attacks. The American command says suicide bombings dipped somewhat from early summer to late summer, and officers attribute the decline to operations in the desert regions of western Anbar Province, near the Syrian border. These operations were aimed at disrupting the flow of foreign fighters and munitions, the officers say.

I choose (d). A country with places of active killing referred as the "Triangle of Death" and "Highway of Death," and plagued with sectarian violence that is increasing in hatred, intensity and slaughter, doesn't sound like a place on its way to stability and prosperity.

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