Off-Target, Yet Again
"U.S. forces staged airborne raids on Sunni insurgents Thursday as a first session of the new Iraqi parliament was reduced to an empty gesture..." To avert civil war, forming a unity government was seen as vital, but remains in deadlock. According to media reports, the assault north of Baghdad was the biggest US air offensive since the 2003 invasion.
As the US airborne raids continued, Human Rights Watch issued a new report, "Off Target: The conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq, asserting that US airborne tactics led to many unnecessary casualties.
"All too often civilians pay with their lives when American bombs fall in Iraq," said Marc Garlasco, senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch. "The U.S. military has in the past launched 'decapitation' strikes aimed at top leaders but based on bad intelligence, and also used cluster munitions in populated areas of Iraq." [...]On the eve of the third anniversary of the US invasion, Reuters reporters ventured out to interview Iraqis on the question: "Better or worse? Iraqis ponder life after Saddam." Of nineteen Iraqis quoted in the article, only two clearly preferred the current post-Saddam conditions. Two typical comments were:
Human Rights Watch found that U.S. forces could have prevented hundreds of civilian casualties by abandoning two faulty military tactics – the use of cluster munitions and heavy reliance on "decapitation" strikes designed to kill Iraqi military and political leaders.
"If the percentage of the good life was one percent before, it is zero percent now," Salim Mahmood, 46, said gloomily as he sold tea and coffee near a Baghdad restaurant.US Secretary of state Rice was met in Australia with "protesters' cries of 'war criminal' and 'murderer'," as she "defended her government's role in Iraq ... and said patience and sacrifice were needed to finish the job."
"Before, people feared prison. Now people fear everything. Even in your own house you can't feel safe or trust your neighbour," said Basra housewife Um Ahmed, 35.
Speaking to students at the University of Sydney's Conservatorium of Music, Rice said she understood why people found it hard to be positive about Iraq when all they saw on their television screens was violence.
"I am confident that the Iraqis will triumph, that we will win in Iraq but we must be patient with these people," said Rice, who repeatedly thanked Australia for being among the first allies to send troops to Iraq.
And there was no news on Thursday of the three CPT peaceworkers held captive in Iraq since November. We repeat our urgent call for them to be set free, safely and at once!