Annals of Liberation: Beer-Busting and Blood-letting in Iraq

"One woe doth tread upon another's heel, so fast they follow." -- Hamlet

The "All Day Permanent Red" in Iraq roars on relentlessly, a churning spiral of death, chaos, terror and sorrow. This week brings reports of fresh horrors in the supposedly secure south, the British-held territory long cited by the apologists for aggression as a shining example of the Bush-Blair philosophy of "democracy at gunpoint." Armed gangs of religious extremists now control Basra, where the U.S.-backed Iraqi officials report that at least "one person is being assassinated every hour." Coalition authority has collapsed in the city, where British troops are now largely confined to their fortified outposts, unable to face the violent wrath of the population they "liberated."

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, the last remnants of the cosmopolitan secular culture once enjoyed by Iraqis (some recompense, perhaps, for the political repression they endured under the former US ally Saddam Hussein) are rapidly disappearing beneath the onslaught of sectarian repression. More and more women are being forced to the veil, secular academics are being systematically cut down -- even the simple pleasures of sitting down with friends for a cool beer in the evening are now being denied by violent zealots.

Worst of all, the agony h imposed for years on the children of Iraq by the US-UK sanctions regime -- which led to the unnecessary deaths of at least 500,000 people -- is now accelerating under the occupation. As Patrick Cockburn reports below, the number of children between six months and five years old suffering from acute malnourishment has more than doubled since the ouster of Hussein. It you take the severe developmental problems associated with chronic malnourishment in early childhood, and compound them with the intense psychological and emotional trauma of life in the midst of violence, brutality, fear and deprivation, then you have laid the foundation for a lifetime of suffering and hardship, for millions of people.

This is the human reality of what is happening in Iraq; this is what has been done in the high and mighty name of civilization. This is a vast crime whose malign effects cannot be undone. And still it goes on, day after day, week after week, year after year, life after life falling into the pit.

From The Independent: Basra carnage escalates as one person killed every hour.
Excerpts: One person is being assassinated in Basra every hour, as order in Iraq's second city disintegrates, according to an Iraqi Defence Ministry official. And a quarter of all Iraqi children suffer from malnutrition, a survey of 20,000 households by the Iraqi government and Unicef says.

The number of violent killings in Basra is now at a level close to that of Baghdad, and marks the failure of the British Army's three-year attempt to quell violence there. Police no longer dare go to the site of a murder because they fear being attacked. The governor of Basra, Mohammed Misbahal-Wa'ili, is trying to sack the city's police chief, claiming that the police have not carried out a single investigation into hundreds of recent assassinations...

Insurgent attacks on American and British troops are also proving more lethal, with 44 US soldiers and seven British killed so far this month, and with daily losses exceeding anything seen for more than a year. Majid al-Sari, an adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, describing the situation in Basra to the daily al-Zaman, said that on average one person was being assassinated every hour. Militiamen and tribesmen are often the only real authority...

The number of Iraqis killed as a result of violence receives some international attention, but many others, particularly young children, die because they are malnourished and vulnerable to disease. A quarter of all Iraqi children suffer from chronic malnutrition, according to an Iraqi government survey of more than 20,000 households, backed by Unicef's Iraq Support Centre. The number of children between six months and five years old suffering from acute malnourishment rose from 4 per cent in 2002, the last year of Saddam Hussein's rule, to 9 per cent in 2005, Unicef said. [End excerpt]

From Reuters: Beer bombers set tone for Islamist Baghdad.
Excerpt: Leaflets threaten women who do not wear veils. Militias bomb and burn beer shops and music stores at dawn. Rumors swirl of men shot... for wearing shorts. Hopes for secular democracy in Iraq three years after U.S. forces invaded are being challenged by militants seeking to impose their own strict version of Islamic sharia law on the streets of Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. In the latest attack against alcohol sellers in Baghdad, bombs on Tuesday damaged three shops that sold beer and other liquor in the central commercial district of Karrada...

The increasing intimidation by militants seeking to impose Islamic customs in Iraq, a society with a liberal tradition, pose a particular dilemma for the ruling Islamist parties, engaged in forming a broad-based government Washington hopes will foster stability and help end sectarian strife. Some of the militias suspected of being behind the attacks or the threats are linked to Shi'ite parties in power. Sunni militants have adopted similar stances in some areas -- barbers have been killed and men ordered not to shave in some towns.

Salah Boshi, head of the non-government Human Rights Association, said competing militias were taking advantage of Iraq's security chaos to consolidate their political power and using Islam as an excuse."These activities are devastating human rights and will end up destabilizing democracy in Iraq," he said.A 33-year-old woman who refused to be named for fear of retribution said she started wearing a veil last week when militants circulated leaflets warning women to wear an "Islamic dress" near her workplace in Amriya, a Sunni area in Baghdad...