Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- April 24th edition

April 24, 2005: U.S. Marines from the 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion stack in formation for an assault on a building believed to be a site where improvised explosive devices are being constructed in Anbar province.

April 24, 2002:

Iraq's middle class wiped out

In the days before the Gulf War, people in the Arab world mocked big spenders by telling them to stop being such Baghdadis.

But since 1991, life in Iraq has changed dramatically - the country's GDP has dropped from US$3,000 to $715 and doctors have had to learn anew how to treat diseases that had disappeared from Iraq in the 1980s such as cholera and diphtheria.

For the past 12 years, the country has been struggling under UN-imposed sanctions, which have greatly affected the life of the Iraqis but done little to undermine the power of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Read the rest at the BBC

April 24, 2003:

Shiite clerics challenge U.S. goal in Iraq

President Bush promised a democracy in Iraq, but if elections are held, they might deliver instead a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy at odds with nearly every strategic aim of the U.S.-led invasion.

The large -- and often vocally anti-American -- Shiite pilgrimage and demonstrations in southern Iraq over the past week, and the violent power struggles among competing Shiite clergy, have troubled administration officials.

It is no small irony that some clerics, now freed by the U.S. military to speak, are advocating a theocracy modeled on neighboring Iran, which Bush included as a member of the "axis of evil" with Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Indeed, U.S. fears of Iran were so great during the 1980s that the Reagan administration supported Hussein as a counterweight.

Experts from across the political spectrum criticize the administration for being unprepared, despite many warnings, to fill the vacuum left in the wake of Hussein's fall.

Read the rest at the SF Chronicle

April 24, 2004:

Pentagon tries to ban first photos of coffins returning from Iraq

The Pentagon yesterday sought to ban the release of photographs of American coffins arriving home from Iraq after hundreds of images were published on American websites and picked up by media outlets.
"We don't want the remains of our service-members who have made the ultimate sacrifice to be the subject of any kind of attention that is unwarranted or undignified," said John Molino, a deputy undersecretary of defence.

The photographs were released last week to Russ Kick, a freedom-of-speech activist who had filed a request under the freedom of information act. After Kick posted more than 350 photographs on his website, the Pentagon barred their release to other outlets. Most of the photos were taken at the mortuary at Dover air force base in Delaware.

At a rally in Dover last month, protesters criticised the convention that the public and media are not allowed to see the arrival of remains at the base.

"We need to stop hiding the deaths of our young," said Jane Bright, whose son, Evan Ashcraft, 24, was killed in combat in July. "We need to be open about their deaths."

Read the rest at the Guardian

April 24, 2005:

Bush credits Mideast progress to Iraq war

Two years after his much-maligned "mission accomplished" speech aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln, President Bush and his foreign policy team are trumpeting developments in the Middle East as a vindication of his Iraq policy.

The orderly selection of a new government in Iraq, the announced departure of Syrians from Lebanon, the election of a new Palestinian leader, and elections in Egypt and Saudi Arabia have breathed life into a foreign policy that many predicted would be the president's undoing.

Hardly a day goes by without Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice or another senior administration official speaking publicly about the "march of freedom" and the success of the Iraq invasion in securing peace.

"There's a movement toward freedom around the world," Bush said in an interview with a Lebanese television station this past week. "I believe that a true free society, one that self-governs, one that listens to the people, will be a peaceful society -- not an angry society.''

The notion that the world is more peaceful as a result of the U.S. invasion, let alone that the mission was a success, is far from universally accepted.

In the two years since Bush declared an end to "major combat operations," thousands of Iraqis and nearly 1,500 Americans have been killed; U.S. taxpayers have spent more than $200 billion to secure the peace; troops discovered no weapons of mass destruction, which was the principal reason stated by Bush to justify the attack; and a majority of Americans now say they disapprove of the president's handling of Iraq.

Read the rest at the SF Chronicle

April 24, 2006:

U.S. troops train, warily monitor Iraqi forces

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. troops aren’t just training Iraqi forces, they’re also keeping an eye on them, watching for signs they could be moonlighting in the Shiite death squads that target Sunnis.

Bound and tortured bodies — both Sunni and Shiite — turn up every day in the capital, dumped in the streets. Sunni Arabs say their people are the victims of Shiite militiamen who have infiltrated government forces, especially paramilitary commando units of the Shiite-led Interior Ministry.

In Dora, one of the Baghdad’s most violent neighborhoods with a mix of Sunnis and Shiites, U.S. troops working with Interior Ministry units say they can feel the Sunni mistrust.

“There’s a fear that when (the Interior Ministry) comes in, it may not be on a legitimate mission, unless they’re with us,” said Lt. Col. Greg Butts, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Regimental Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division that oversees Dora.

Gaining public acceptance of the Interior Ministry commandos, recently renamed the “National Police,” has become a priority for U.S. forces. American commanders plan eventually to hand over counterinsurgency operations in large swaths of Baghdad and other cities, including Samarra, to the Interior Ministry as part of the broad effort to move U.S. troops into a background role — and eventually out of Iraq.

Read the rest at Newsweek