- The onslaught of Mosul has begun, as occupation forces
are launching attacks into Iraq's third largest city. While there are mass
resignations of police and elections polling staff there, yet another new
police chief has been awarded control of the 1,000 strong police force-which
was over 5,000 men just two months ago.
- In Ramadi fierce clashes continue between the bringers
of "democracy" and those resisting the occupation. It is reported
that five huge explosions hammered a US base near the city.
- Samarra wasn't without its share of "democracy"
as US soldiers opened fire on a car of civilians. The military spokesman
said warning shots were fired before the car was shot, wounding two people.
Iraqi police, along with several witnesses however, reported the car was
shot by a tank and four people died. Just yesterday a US soldier was killed
in Samarra, along with four Iraqi soldiers.
- Of course clashes persist in "stabilized" Fallujah.
Remember how the reason Fallujah bombed to the ground was to bring stability
and security for the "elections?" Remember how Iraq was invaded
because the past regime had weapons of mass destruction?
- Closer to home, an Iraqi Army patrol was attacked just
south of the capital, injuring two of them. Horrible as that is, they fared
better than 15 of their comrades who were kidnapped from a bus recently
- As the gas crisis persists and worsens by the day, 300
followers of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr began a sit-in today at the Oil
Ministry-their chief complaint is the question, "Why does the US military
have plenty of gasoline for their vehicles and Iraqis do not?"
- Good question.
- As I'm preparing for my day this morning the "green
zone" is mortared as I make some coffee. Just like yesterday. And
the day before that. Andwell, you get the idea.
- Of course these are only the highlights of the violence.
Stories of the new "freedom" being enjoyed by Iraqis abound in
daily life as well.
- Abu Talat's wife works in a bank and she told him many
of the banks in Baghdad are paying their employees in advance for the next
two weeks for fear of bank robberies during the "elections."
- We are driving by the Rashid Bank in the Karrada district
if Baghdad as he tells the story.
- Iraqi Army soldiers have sealed the road that runs in
front of the bank, most of them standing around with their black face masks
on smoking cigarettes, casually holding their Kalashnikovs.
- "My wife told me that four billion Iraqi Dinars
($2.6 million) were looted from a vehicle recently that was traveling between
Kut and Baghdad," he says, "Three of the guards were killed while
transporting the money to the Central Bank in Baghdad."
- In case a bank looting spree accompanies the "elections"
we go to collect some funds I had wired to a local bank.
- Most of the day has found our cell phones without signal.
Recently the Iraqi "government" announced that in order to provide
security for the polls on January 30, cell and satellite phones will be
cut, and the use of cars will be "limited" the day before, of
and after the "elections."
- I say "elections" because the Higher Commission
for Elections announced that it won't be releasing the names of the candidates
prior to the "elections." With four of Iraq's 18 governorates
unable to participate in them, an estimated 90% of the Sunni population
not voting, a sizeable amount of the Shia boycotting and a very large percentage
of Iraqis unwilling to vote because of the horrendous security situation,
calling them elections seems a bit of a stretch.
- Apaches rumble low overhead as we leave the bank and
head over to al-Dora to visit some friends. We weave through some concrete
barriers in the on-ramp to the highway.
- Once at our destination, we share coffee with some friends.
I ask one of them, a college student, how things are going.
- "The problems are endless," she tells me, "No
electricity, no jobs, and there is never enough money."
- Her sister tells us there has been fighting in Dora everyday,
and the electricity is usually cut when it occurs.
- We talk some more before taking off, as it's getting
dark. I recall that a friend of mine from Baquba told me earlier today,
when my mobile was actually receiving a signal, that there had been fighting
there everyday, and many home raids. He had even been detained for five
hours by the military. "I do not know why they detained me,"
he told me, "This is the freedom-they are free to detain anyone here
without a reason."
- We slowly make our way out of Dora, passing one black
banner (death announcements) after another. Some of them tell the cause
of death along with the person's name.
- "That man was killed by an explosion," Abu
Talat reads to me, "And that one by gunfire."
- The black banners are everywhere in Baghdad. Buildings,
fences and walls are darkened by them at every turn. They've always been
visible throughout the occupation, but now, like the beggars, they are
- The Guardian recently reported that "troops from
the US-led force in Iraq have caused widespread damage and severe contamination
to the remains of the ancient city of Babylon."
- The ancient city, south of Baghdad, has been used by
US and Polish forces as a military camp during the occupation, despite
objections from archaeologists.
- A study conducted by archeological experts found cracks
and gaps where people had tried to gouge out the decorated bricks forming
the famous dragons of the Ishtar Gate,
- "2,600 year-old brick pavement crushed by military
vehicles, archaeological fragments scattered across the site, and trenches
driven into ancient deposits."
- The story in The Guardian continues:
- "Outrage is hardly the word, this is just dreadful,"
said Lord Redesdale, an archaeologist and head of the all-party parliamentary
archaeological group. "These are world sites. Not only is what the
American forces are doing damaging the archaeology of Iraq, it's actually
damaging the cultural heritage of the whole world."
- Tim Schadla Hall, reader in public archaeology at the
Institute of Archaeology at University College London, said: "In this
case we see an international conflict in which the US has failed to take
into account the requirements of the Hague convention ... to protect major
archaeological sites - just another convention it seems happy to ignore."
- So Babylon is being destroyed. Along with the Iraqi people.