Tsunami donation

B2I money goes to tsunami relief efforts

The B2I fund has been languishing in PayPal limbo for some time, so I was surprised today when I checked it to see there is $800+ in there. My apologies for not acknowledging the donations. But what I’ve decided to do is donate the entire amount in the account to one of the aid agencies for tsunami victims. (Probably ICRC or MSF.) Since I’m not actively soliciting donations anymore, nor blogging as much, I think this is a much better use of the donated funds than wasting them on my sorry ass in Baghdad.
I just wanted to let everyone know that that’s what their donations have gone to.
UPDATE: Just to let you all know… I’ve sent in $885.40 to Doctors Without Borders and marked it for special distribution to the tsunami victims. I hope it can do some good.
Please, if you feel the need to donate, do it to someone who can help those folks and not me. I don’t need the cash, but thousands and thousands of people do. Try the following aid agencies:
* “American Red Cross”:https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation-form.asp
* “UNICEF”:http://www.unicefusa.org/tsunami
* “Médecins Sans Frontières International”:http://www.msf.org/donations/index.cfm
* “Oxfam”:https://secure.ga3.org/02/asia_earthquake04
* “Direct Relief International”:https://www.directrelief.org/sections/support_us/d_donate_now.html
I hope that people will help through these agencies.

Christmas in Baghdad…

Christmas in Baghdad kind of sucks.

Happy Holidays, everyone!
Baghdad is cool and slow today, this Christmas Eve, and the Green Zone has become even more fortified, if that’s possible. The entrance where journalists are allowed to go in looks like Normandy Beach, with tank caltrops, razor wire and sandbagged defensive positions that have taken over half of Tahir Square. A Bradley squats in the middle of a briar patch of concertina wire facing out into the city, ready to shred whoever would be so foolish as to attempt to storm this Fortress America.
There were very few Iraqi civilians manning the checkpoints, too, and when I asked one of the 1st Cav soldiers if they had fired the Iraqis, he said, “We didn’t get rid of them; I guess they just decided not to show up today.”
Perhaps the Mosul suicide attack have led to a breaking of the trust between Iraqis and Americans working together. That would be a crushing win for the insurgents. Or it just might have been Friday evening on Christmas Eve, and no one wanted to work. Many of the Iraqis working in the Green Zone are Christians.
Speaking of Christians, this is possibly the “worst Christmas ever”:http://washingtontimes.com/world/20041224-090128-5890r.htm for Iraq’s Christians. What used to be a pretty fun holiday for all Iraqis has almost completely vanished from the streets. Iraq’s Christians are staying in, keeping their heads down and hiding their faith because of fears from _jihadis_ who have bombed churches, threatened families and leafletted neighborhoods warning the Christians either to convert, to leave or else.
Back in September, I wrote about the “Christians’ flight from Iraq for TIME”:http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,995198,00.html. (Paid archive, sorry. Note to TIME: Let the stories go free!) This modern exodus has continued apace, with Christians numbering about 500,000 now, down from 800,000 before the war. And even that’s down from a population of 1.2 million before the Gulf War in 1991. It’s yet another tragedy in the breakdown of Iraqi culture since the invasion in March 2003 — especially since George W. Bush has made his own Christian faith the central pillar of his personality and presidency. Ironic, no?
Finally, I will be on a C-SPAN call-in show at 7:30 a.m. EST (egad) with Robb Harleston on Sunday, Dec. 26. I understand the questions on such shows can be … creative.
Happy Holidays everyone. Wish us peace here in Iraq. We need it.

Suicide bombing?!

Mosul appears to have been a suicide attack by Ansar al-Sunna. I’m stunned they were able to pull this off.

The Pentagon has admitted that it appears the Mosul attack was a suicide bomber. From a press release:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 2004 — It appears that a suicide bomber was responsible for the attack on the mess hall at Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul that killed 22 people Dec. 21, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during a Pentagon news briefing today.
Of the 22 dead, 13 were U.S. servicemembers, five were U.S. civilian contractors, three were Iraqi security force members and one a “non-U.S. person,” Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers said. Myers briefed the press with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
A total of 69 others were wounded: 44 U.S. servicemembers, seven U.S. contractors, five Defense Department civilians, two Iraqi civilians, 10 contractors of other nationalities and one of unknown nationality and occupation. “Twenty-five of the 69 who were wounded were returned to duty,” Myers said. Others are being transported to Landstuhl Army Medical Center in Germany.
The chairman said investigators in Mosul said that at this point it “looks like it was an improvised explosive device worn by an attacker.”

Well, looks like my “lucky shot” thesis was wrong. Really wrong. I just didn’t imagine that a suicide bomber could get on a Forward Operating Base, walk into a dining hall and blow himself up.
What the hell? How the hell does this happen? He must have had help from inside, which means the Iraqis working with U.S. forces in the bases have just had their lives changed forever. Whatever bonds of trust between Iraqis working with U.S. forces have been frayed — perhaps to the breaking point.
I’m just stunned that insurgents were able to get inside and do this. This also makes the debate over whether the still-under-construction concrete dining facility was behind schedule moot. A concrete roof wouldn’t have made a whit of difference. This was an attack from inside.
How was this allowed to happen?

Hell in the North

The attack in Mosul was the single biggest attack in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. It won’t be the last.

The attack in Mosul yesterday was the single worst attack against U.S. military personnel in Iraq to date. U.S. military spokesmen in Baghdad say 19 American soldiers were killed and three other military personnel were killed. (Probably Iraqi military, as I don’t think there are too many other nationalities up there.) Other reports put the number of dead at 24 and include contractors and Iraqi civilians in the toll. Needless to say the situation is confusion and such discrepancies are normal in the “chaos following such events”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17891-2004Dec21.html.
[UPDATE 1150 +0300 GMT: In a release dated today, the U.S. military says, “Of the 22 people killed, 14 were U.S. military personnel and the remainder four U.S. civilians and four Iraqi Security Forces. Of the 72 wounded, 51 were U.S. Military personnel and the remainder U.S., other country civilians and ISF. Twenty-nine people have been released from the hospital.”
“Other reports”:http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2002127159_iraq22.html say 15 U.S. military dead and five civilian contractors. Two Iraqi soldiers were killed. The same report says the attack was a 122-mm rocket, although “some security experts said the extent of injuries indicated that it was possible a bomb had been planted inside the hall.”]
_The Washington Post_ “reports”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A17892-2004Dec21.html: “Before yesterday, the worst incidents were the deaths of 17 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division in the November 2003 collision of two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, also in Mosul, and, two weeks before that, the loss of 15 soldiers when a CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter crashed west of Baghdad. All three occurred after President Bush’s May 2003 declaration that major combat operations in Iraq had ended.”
The insurgent group Ansar al-Sunna claimed responsibility. An offshoot of the Ansar al-Islam group, which operated mainly on the Iranian border near Halabja in the Kurdish areas before the war, Ansar al-Sunna is made up of Salafists and a few nationalists and former Ba’athists. It is friendly with the Wahhabi groups such as Abu Massoud al-Zarqawi’s Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and it has a significant Kurdish membership, reflecting its roots in the north.
I’m doubtful that it conducted a suicide operation, as Ansar al-Sunna has claimed on its Web site, although I suppose it’s possible. It’s more likely it was a mortar or a rocket that finally managed to hit something. U.S. bases are peppered everyday with incoming indirect fire, but they usually fall harmlessly. This time, however…
But a real question is why were these soldiers sitting down to lunch in a soft-roofed structure? They were in a tent with concrete walls while a hardened dining facility (DFAC) was being built nearby. The new DFAC was supposed to be ready by Thanksgiving, I’m hearing from my guys up there, but it wasn’t. Why not? Was there a screw-up? Was it just that some things take longer than expected in the military some times? Was it because of too many attacks that slowed down the construction? I don’t know, and I’ve not been able to get any answers, because the public affairs officer for Camp Marez turned his phone off last night or it was out of the coverage area.
Iraq is beginning to look more and more like Lebanon in the 1980s. Sectarian violence, a brewing civil war and now a large attack on U.S. forces. In 1983, “241 Marines were killed”:http://www.beirut-memorial.org/ in a suicide truck bombing that led to the pullout of U.S. forces from that beleaguered country.
In the same _Post_ article I referenced above, experts are worried that this attack may show either the ability to gather precise intelligence from _inside_ U.S. bases or mark an escalation of violence that could end in a storming or ground assault of a U.S. base.
As the article continues: “If anti-American violence does hit a new level, pressure is likely to increase on the Bush administration to either boost the U.S. military presence in Iraq or find a fast way to get out.”
Indeed. And neither option is a good one for the White House. With the war already “increasingly unpopular”:http://news.ft.com/cms/s/846d780a-5394-11d9-b6e4-00000e2511c8,dwp_uuid=c1a5b968-e1ed-11d7-81c6-0820abe49a01.html, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld even more so, what will the political fallout of this attack be? Especially if it turns out that the Camp Marez dining tent was the equivalent of a “hillbilly armor” humvee?
In all of this, please remember that although for the American public, the deaths of their countrymen and countrywomen obviously hit close to home, it is the Iraqi public that is really suffering. The twin attacks in Karbala and Najaf two days killed more than 70. and literally hundreds of Iraqis die every week month in violence. The security situation is dire and it’s likely to get worse as the elections approach. There will be many more grieving families in America and Iraq before this is all over.