Skip to comments.Najaf Sees Worst Fighting Since 2003
Posted on 08/06/2004 1:57:22 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
NAJAF, Iraq - U.S. helicopter gunships and fighter jets pounded Iraqi insurgents hiding in a sprawling cemetery Friday in the most intense fighting in this Shiite holy city since the fall of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites). The U.S. military said 300 militants were killed in the past two days.
The clashes between coalition forces and militant Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army flared in Shiite communities across the country, killing dozens of other Iraqis, according to Iraqi officials and the militants.
The fighting threatened to re-ignite the bloody, two-month Shiite insurrection that broke out in April and the heavy U.S. response appeared designed to quash militia activity quickly and prevent a repeat.
Al-Sadr on Friday blamed all the violence in Iraq (news - web sites) on the United States, which he called "our enemy and the enemy of the people," in a sermon read on his behalf at the Kufa Mosque near Najaf.
A renewed uprising among the country's majority Shiites would cause severe problems for Iraq's fledgling interim government as it tries to gain popular support and for coalition forces that are already struggling against Sunni militants.
The Iraqi government said it was determined to crush all militias in the country, including the Mahdi Army, and Najaf Gov. Adnan al-Zurufi gave the insurgents 24 hours to leave the city.
"We believe that the end of the military operations is dependent on the exit of the armed militias from Najaf," he told reporters.
The Mahdi Army has proved difficult to put down in the past. It persisted despite heavy casualties during its first uprising, and U.S. commanders hesitant to carry out a full-fledged assault in the holiest Shiite city were forced to back down from vows to uproot the militia. A series of truces finally brought calm in June.
Intense pre-dawn clashes hit Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, where 20 people were killed and 114 wounded during two days of fighting, the Health Ministry said. Separate attacks blamed on al-Sadr's followers wounded 15 American soldiers in Baghdad, the U.S. military said Friday.
Amid the violence, which began early Thursday, al-Sadr's aides called for a return to the truce and asked for the United Nations (news - web sites) and the government to step in.
"We call upon the government that has announced that it is sovereign to intervene to stop the American attacks," said Mahmoud al-Sudani, an al-Sadr spokesman.
Shiite leaders said they were working to restore the cease-fire.
"We are sparing no effort to reach a peaceful settlement by opening a direct dialogue between Muqtada al-Sadr's representatives on the one hand and the transitional government on the other," Ammar al-Hakeem, a leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a top Shiite political faction, told Al-Jazeera television.
The fighting on Friday dwarfed the clashes seen in the spring, residents said. Two U.S. Marines and an American soldier were killed in Najaf on Thursday, and 12 troops were wounded, the military said. The two days of fighting in Najaf also killed at least 13 civilians and wounded 58 others, according to hospital officials.
Gunfire and explosions rocked Najaf on Friday as helicopters flew overhead. The streets were nearly deserted, shops were closed, and some residents near the cemetery fled with their belongings on carts. A dead woman lay abandoned on an empty sidewalk, Associated Press Television News footage showed.
Fire tore through a nearby outdoor market and smoke rose from several parts of the city.
U.S. Marines chased the militants into the massive cemetery, which the militants had been using as a base, military officials said. Helicopter gunships slammed insurgent positions in the cemetery, and Marines were sent in to root out militiamen, the military said.
The insurgents have taken advantage of the cemetery's location in the so-called Exclusion Zone where U.S. forces were forbidden under the truces to use as a base for attacks and a weapons storage site, said Lt. Col. Gary Johnston, operations officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
After the militiamen attacked a police station from the cemetery early Thursday, the U.S. military retaliated, he said.
U.S. Col. Anthony Haslam, chief of operations in Najaf, said 300 militants out of a total force of about 2,000 had been killed in Najaf since Thursday.
There was no independent confirmation of that number, which would be among the largest militant death tolls in a single engagement since the end of the war last year. The militiamen, who have their own clinics, rarely take their dead or wounded to city hospitals.
Ahmed al-Shaibany, an al-Sadr aide in Najaf, said only nine militants were killed and 20 injured in the city.
Al-Zurufi, the Najaf governor, estimated 400 militants were killed and 1,000 arrested. He also said 80 of the fighters at the cemetery were Iranian. "There is Iranian support to al-Sadr's group and this is no secret," he said.
Guerrillas attacked a convoy of U.S. Humvees at dawn in the city of Samarra, 60 miles north of the capital, witnesses said, and U.S. helicopters responded with rockets at insurgent positions. At least two people were killed and 16 injured during the fighting, said Ahmed Jadou'a, an official at Samarra Hospital. Two houses were also destroyed.
In southern Iraq, British troops backed by tanks fought with al-Sadr militiamen who seized four police stations on the outskirts of Amarah. The troops secured the main police station, said Maj. Ian Clooney, a British military spokesman. It was not clear if they recaptured the others.
In Nasiriyah, assailants attacked Italian troops early Friday with automatic weapons and targeted a police station, an Italian military spokesman said. Eight Iraqis, including five militants, were killed, and 13 were wounded, according to Abdul Khuder al-Tahir, a senior Interior Ministry official. There were no coalition casualties, the Italian spokesman said.
Insurgents also attacked a Romanian patrol outside Nasiriyah with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades, said Gelaledin Nezir, the Romanian Defense Ministry spokesman. No injuries were reported.
Assailants also attacked a police station and City Hall in the southern city of Basra, wounding three police and five civilians, police and hospital officials said.
Violence in Basra since Thursday killed five al-Sadr fighters, said As'ad al-Basri, an al-Sadr official in the city.
Also Friday, Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said four Lebanese truck drivers had been taken hostage in Iraq as they drove from Baghdad to Ramadi.
good point .. less folks get their info/news from the tube and talking heads these days.
gee.. I wonder why? ;-) lol
PING - IRAQ GOOD NEWS
God bless those who fight for FReedom and will not surrender to forces of darkness and oppression
Salvadoran President Antonio Saca speaks to the media after attending a mass in San Salvador (news - web sites)'s cathedral, August 6, 2004. Saca will send a third contingent of his nation's troops to Iraq (news - web sites) after a purported radical Islamic group called Mohammed Atta-al Quaeda Yijad posted a warning on a web site threatening actions in El Salvador (news - web sites) if the nation maintained a presence in Iraq. REUTERS/Luis Galdamez
I'd love to but I'm preserving the integrity of the original posting of the article as titled and posted by the wire folks.. :-)
I agree tho, this is a major whack against the forces of Sadr! Leave it to some to mask it as best they can..
Some others need to see this.
A member of an Iraqi special rapid reaction police force patrols the port of Umm Qasr, south of Basra.(AFP/Saeed Khan)
Well, there's a good guy!
I'm not sure I'd like to wear the neon yellow uniform. Yikes!
I couldn't imagine how hot those guys are .. whew!!!
That vest is sure to get him lit up.
Are the police afraid to reveal their identities? Is that why they wear a mask in the blistering heat?
Considering the number of police station bombings, I would suppose that they are somewhat fearful.
In any event, not finishing off Sadr is turning into a bigger mistake by the day. It's still not too late to kill this SOB.
And it is a must that you read this Blog containing just an incredible tale of the huge Firefight these guys were in:
THE REAL IRAQ STORY How the major media misreport today's biggest event
By Karl Zinsmeister
How insightful is the Iraq reporting that you've been consuming? Take a little test.
If I tell you that scores of Iraqi detainees have been killed and maimed this year in Abu Ghraib prison, you may not be surprised. But you're probably guessing wrong about who hurt them. The moronic American guards who are now on trial for improperly humiliating some Iraqis caused no deaths or injuries: The many casualties in the prison were all inflicted by Iraq's guerilla terrorists.
During this spring's frenzy of reporting on the plight of detainees at Abu Ghraib, I was surprised that none of the stories mentioned what anyone who has spent time at the prison (as I have) knows is the central danger to the prisoners there. By far the gravest threats to the Iraqis in that facility are the mortars and rockets that guerillas regularly lob into the compound knowing full well that the main victims of their indiscriminate assaults will be fellow Iraqis. One attack on April 21 of this year, for instance, killed 22 detainees and injured another 91.
The number-one priority for Arabs and Americans concerned about the rights of Iraqi detainees, therefore, ought to be eliminating the merciless assaults of the terrorist insurgents. The sexual indignities imposed by the prison's rogue guards would have to come second on any sensible list.
Shouldn't the reporting on Abu Ghraib have provided some context along those lines? Wouldn't a fuller media presentation of these facts on the ground in Iraq have given the public a better perspective on the various problems at the prison?
Or take another of the Iraq stories most loudly trumpeted in our media: the electricity shortages. You know Baghdad continues to suffer periodic blackouts news reports remind us of that ad nauseum. Just one more example of U.S. ineffectiveness in this war: The generating system is broken and nothing gets fixed, right?
Wrong. Despite continuing efforts by guerillas to sabotage the grid, Iraq is now generating more electricity than existed in the country before the war. So why do we continue to hear about shortages? Two reasons:
First, Saddam shamelessly hogged the country's electricity in his capital, shunting 57 percent to Baghdad while the provinces were starved for juice. Today, power is distributed fairly to all population centers, and Baghdad gets 28 percent of the total. Though that means occasional shortages in privileged neighborhoods unused to such things, Iraqis as a whole are better off.
Second, Iraq is in the midst of a consumer surge. The economy will grow an estimated 60 percent this year. Iraqis, who have flocked to cell phones and imported a million cars, are also snatching up washing machines, air conditioners, and electronic devices never before available to them. A third of the country now has satellite TV. Electricity demand is thus rising even faster than the steady increases in generation.
Certainly there are problems that stem from growing electricity demand and a new fairness in distribution. But they are "nice" problems, not simple indicators of failure. Now let me ask: Has any of this been adequately explained in the Iraq reporting you've seen?
THE REST OF THE STORY Over the last year and a quarter, America's major media have given us millions of words about the Iraq struggle, most of them accurate. Yet they've often done a poor job of communicating the big, important truths about developments in that country. The very largest, most critical truth they've missed is that the Shiite middle has stuck with us through many travails.
This was demonstrated again when the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr went on the warpath during the spring. Scads of reporters and newsroom analysts declared a general uprising, the loss of majority Shiite support, the beginning of the end for the U.S. in Iraq. "United States forces are confronting a broad-based Shiite uprising," announced the lead sentence of an April 7 New York Times story written from Washington. A Newsweek headline on April 10 screamed: "THE IRAQI INTIFADA: Suddenly the insurgency is much broader and much more dangerous than anyone had imagined it could become."
These reports were wrong. Ordinary Shiites and Shia leaders alike subsequently made it clear that the mad cleric does not speak for the majority of them. They quietly plotted amongst themselves and with the Coalition to neutralize Sadr. His uprising petered out.
As someone who has recently spent three months on combat patrols with Coalition soldiers, I'll be the first to acknowledge that the U.S. is facing a hard guerilla fight in Iraq. It is, however, not a mass revolt, or a broad popular insurgency.
If you're a regular NRO reader, that's not news to you. But for many Americans, that is news. They shouldn't feel bad. The fault lies with reflexively alarmist and often incomplete reporting. Over the last 16 months I've published two books about the Iraq war based on my own experiences as an embedded reporter. In both I found it necessary to include an entire chapter about problems in media coverage I observed.
Many factors have skewed our Iraq reporting. Deadline pressure, sensationalism, and sometimes just laziness create a negative bias. The easiest reporting from a war zone is simply to point a camera at something that's on fire. A hundred counterparts that aren't in flames are "not a story."
But getting the full picture in a guerilla war requires more than just showing up for the explosions; you need to study and then describe the deeper, glacial changes taking place in society, the public temperament, the tactics of the terrorists, etc. Alas, few reporters show the appetite, endurance, or creativity for this slower style of reporting.
This bias toward failure is fanned by what Michael Barone calls the "zero defect standard" of today's media. For months, armchair journalists without the slightest understanding of what real war is like have howled that this guerilla struggle hasn't been run according to a tidy "plan." Why did we "allow" the looting? How come nobody anticipated the IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) threat? Isn't it wrong for GIs to invade people's houses?
Policy nerds and media critics imply that the transformations being attempted in Afghanistan and Iraq should have been smoothly orchestrated like some kind of grand Super Bowl game. Of course even Super Bowls, we've learned, are subject to "wardrobe failures" and other breakdowns. But wars never proceed according to plan; they are always fought by the seat of one's pants, through constant improvisation.
On D-Day (one of the most carefully "planned" military events ever), 4,649 American soldiers were killed within just a few hours many through what an accusatory mind could characterize as "screw-ups" (gliders and paratroopers landing in the wrong places, amphibious and landing craft unloading in water that was too deep, Air Force and Navy failures to suppress German fire on the beaches). At its recent 60th anniversary, the Normandy invasion was remembered for its high import and the majesty of its sacrifices. Yet by standards of war invoked by some contemporary media observers, those landings could be viewed as traumatic bungles.
British Labour-party leader Tony Blair recently complained that Western reporting on today's Iraq war had become "appallingly one-sided." He cited several examples of inexplicably negative and critical coverage of encouraging developments. Why, he asked, would reporters casually tar as "an American stooge" Raad Juhi, the bright, courageous, and principled Iraqi judge who signed the warrant to arrest Moqtada al Sadr for murdering a moderate fellow cleric, and who then arraigned Saddam Hussein?
Some of the antagonistic coverage is undoubtedly linked to ideological imbalances in today's press corps. A string of studies since the 1980s have shown that elite reporters vote for Democrats over Republicans, liberals over conservatives, by around ten to one. In a war that has taken on intense partisan connotations, the personal dispositions of reporters will inevitably affect the stories.
Today's war coverage is also often colored by the cultural gap that separates many reporters from soldiers. As Kate O'Beirne only half jokingly put it a couple of years ago, "You've got to remember, most journalists spent their high school years being stuffed into lockers by the kind of males who are running our military. Now they're determined to get even."
The individuals who make up our media elite didn't used to be so disconnected from military life. During World War II more than 700 Harvard men perished in combat. But in a typical class at many Ivy-level colleges today you can count on one hand the number of individuals who do military service. Most of the reporters who shape today's national news now come out of institutions where they have not a single friend or acquaintance or relative with military experience. This doesn't encourage sympathetic understanding of military work or military people.
The gulf between journalists and warriors doesn't always lead to hostility, but it regularly creates misunderstandings and ignorant claims. Editor and columnist Michael Kelly noted in a 1997 Washington Post column that "my generation of reporters" (the baby boomers) "is, in matters military...forever suffering a collective case of the vapors. At the least exposure to the most unremarkable facts of military life...we are forever shocked."
BIAS MATTERS Does incomplete and unduly negative reporting matter in this war? It certainly matters to the public. The American people do not give our media high grades for their coverage of the Iraq war. Only 30 percent told the Pew Research Center they have a great deal of confidence "that the press is giving an accurate picture of how the war is going." Droves of viewers concerned they are being manipulated with negative imagery have migrated to alternative outlets (like Fox, the only news organization that has enjoyed clear net increases in audience and consumer trust over the last year and a half).
Many other Americans have simply tuned out or cancelled their subscriptions. In different polls, large majorities of the public now say that our news organizations are more inaccurate than accurate, and that reporters "get in the way of solving social problems" (Gallup and Princeton Survey Research). Fully 72 percent of Americans now say "the news media have too much power and influence in Washington" (Harris). As someone doing a lot of speaking on this subject, I can tell you that a substantial portion of the American public (and most of the soldiers serving in the war theaters) is dissatisfied with the last year's journalism from Iraq.
Unbalanced war reporting can have fatal effects. Any guerilla war is as much a struggle of truthful images as it is a military encounter. Unbalanced coverage can demoralize forces of good, and encourage the sowers of chaos.
Jim Marshall is a Vietnam combat veteran, a Congressman serving on the House Armed Services Committee, and a Democrat. After returning from a fact-finding trip to Iraq he had this to say: "I'm afraid the news media are hurting our chances. They are dwelling upon the mistakes [and] not balancing this bad news with the 'rest of the story,' the progress made daily. ... The falsely bleak picture weakens our national resolve, discourages Iraqi cooperation, and emboldens our enemy."
Tony Blair went even further in April 2004. He warned that some journalists and opinion shapers would like to see President Bush and "the power of America" defeated in Iraq. "The truth is," Blair wrote in Britain's Observer, "faced with this struggle on which our own fate hangs, a significant part of Western opinion is sitting back if not half-hoping we fail certainly replete with schadenfreude at the difficulty we find."
Karl Zinsmeister, editor in chief of The American Enterprise, has just published Dawn Over Baghdad: How the U.S. Military is Using Bullets and Ballots to Remake Iraq. His previous book about the 2003 hot war is Boots on the Ground: A Month With the 82nd Airborne in the Battle for Iraq.
Well, they were nice enough to make it easy to bury 'em...
The Fifth columnist mediots of America have kept this so quiet that most of us didn't they had sent two groups over.
Holy Shi'ite, Mr. Beach - that was one incredible story. A lot of Men In Black just met the best...