Monday, July 09, 2007
Operation Arrowhead Ripper: Two Points of View [updated]
Juan Cole 11 days on OAR:
His alarm has been illustrated by the difficulties the U.S. and Iraqi militaries faced in the recent offensive operation dubbed "Operation Arrowhead Ripper," aimed at subduing Baquba (pop. 300,000), the restive capital of Diyala province, located 31 miles northeast of Baghdad. American generals admitted that 80 percent of the guerrilla leadership there had slipped away, and that the Iraqi army lacked the equipment and training to hold areas taken in difficult hand-to-hand fighting. The U.S. military compounded its public-relations problem by implausibly branding virtually everyone it fought or killed in the Sunni-majority city as "al-Qaida."
Like many things in Iraq, the question of whether or not the murderers were al Qaeda is flawed from beginning. Al Qaeda is not a union, it doesn’t issue passports. What is al Qaeda but the collection of people who claim to be al Qaeda? Those responsible for murdering and burying those bodies in al Ahamir (or al Hamira) had the markers of al Qaeda, the same al Qaeda that had boastfully installed itself as the shadow government of Baqubah. The al Qaeda who committed atrocities in Afghanistan, New York . . . the list is long. As for al Ahamir, the massacre “walks like a duck.” It happened in duck headquarters. The people here say the duck did it. The duck laughs.
Earlier in this post, he wrote:
No one can claim with certainty that it was al Qaeda, but the Iraqis here seem convinced of it. At a meeting today in Baqubah one Iraqi official I spoke with framed the al Qaeda infiltration and influence in the province...His opinion, shared by others present, is that al Qaeda came to Baqubah and united many of the otherwise independent criminal gangs.
Speaking through an American interpreter, Lieutenant David Wallach who is a native Arabic speaker, the Iraqi official related how al Qaeda united these gangs who then became absorbed into “al Qaeda.” They recruited boys born during the years 1991, 92 and 93 who were each given weapons, including pistols, a bicycle and a phone (with phone cards paid) and a salary of $100 per month, all courtesy of al Qaeda. These boys were used for kidnapping, torturing and murdering people.
At first, he said, they would only target Shia, but over time the new al Qaeda directed attacks against Sunni, and then anyone who thought differently. The official reported that on a couple of occasions in Baqubah, al Qaeda invited to lunch families they wanted to convert to their way of thinking. In each instance, the family had a boy, he said, who was about 11 years old. As LT David Wallach interpreted the man’s words, I saw Wallach go blank and silent. He stopped interpreting for a moment. I asked Wallach, “What did he say?” Wallach said that at these luncheons, the families were sat down to eat. And then their boy was brought in with his mouth stuffed. The boy had been baked. Al Qaeda served the boy to his family.
Sam Dagher of the Christian Science Monitor reports on the gray fog that the U.S. and the Iraqis face in Diyala against al Qaeda with:
- AQ infiltrators in the Iraqi Army
- Iraqi leaders protecting Sunni milita members still allied to AQ
- Al Qaeda and the Shi'a Mehti Army continuing to justify each other's existance