Thursday, April 29, 2004

Atrocities in Sudan

atrocities / sudan / invisible
The reason you don't hear much about it is because it's in Africa... The enormity of what is happenning should be front page news everywhere...

"The first sign is the ominous drone of a plane. Ageing Russian Antonovs sweep over the remote Sudanese village, dispatching their deadly payload of crude barrel bombs. They explode among the straw-roofed huts, sending terrified families scurrying for safety - but there is none.
Next comes the Janjaweed, a fearsome Arab militia mounted on camels and horses, and armed with AK-47 rifles and whips. They murder the men and boys of fighting age, gang-rape the women - sometimes in front of their families - and burn the houses. The villagers' cattle are stolen, their modest possessions carted off..."

My only quibble with the story is the dichotomy between Arabs and "black Africans", implying some sort of racial dividing line... in Sudan you have black African Arabs as well...

J.G.Ballard meets William Gibson in the middle of the Pacific...

domains / unsinkable
...and they go surfing:
"[If the islands sink under the Pacific] Tuvalu might then leave a legacy imagined only in science-fiction novels. It could become the first virtual nation — a country that exists only on the Internet. If Tuvalu's land disappears, its population will disperse, yet Tuvalu under international law will remain a sovereign nation even though its only "real estate" will be the .tv Internet domain."

Monday, April 26, 2004

Yes and No, the Cyprus referenda

cyprus / referenda
No links this time. Just a few words:

It is unfortunate, in my humble opinion, that the Greek Cypriots chose to vote "No" on the Annan plan. Not because the plan was some sort of fair deal, but because given the current political climate and Turkey's role, this is pretty much what a "bizonal, bicommunal" state can look like. Also because the balance of power on the ground in Cyprus was never so conducive to a settlement... Denktash and the T/C far-right marginalized, demonstrations for reunification on the North, and the virtual certainty that the left is the only power that could bridge both communities and govern with a real agenda of reunification.
Having said that, I cringe at the way this vote has been interpreted by pundits and diplomats alike. The idea that this was all about the economic cost of reunification and/or hostility towards T/C from the G/C side is ridiculous.

The Athens daily "Eleftherotypia", published a poll today which showed that among the "No" voters, 75% stated as a main reason for their decision "security issues". Only 13% mentioned disinclination to coexist with T/Cs as a reason for their vote and a mere 5% the economic costs of the reunification. What does that mean? It means that a large majority of G/C (even among the "Yes" voters, I'd wager) did reasonably feel that there was not the slightest guarantee in the Annan plan that Turkey would follow through on its disarmament or non-intervention obligations, or that the Turkish army wouldn't stir up the neo-fascist Grey Wolves to cause intercommunal trouble as an provocation to legitimize further actions against the G/C majority... Why would that happen? Well, there's a power struggle going on in Turkey and the generals have temporarily lost the total control over foreign policy they enjoyed, but they are still a force to be reckoned with (unbelievably for a democracy, the Army chief of staff in Turkey feels justified to hold a press conference to state the army's position and to agree or disagree with the elected government - imagine that in the UK or France...) If for some external reason Turkey's EU accession stumbles (and it is a possibilty) the Turkish Army might gain complete control again and destroy much more than the implementation of the plan. Remember that most "benefits" for G/C happen according to the Annan plan over the next 3-15 years, while most benefits for the T/C community are immediate. So if Turkey decides that it won't give up i.e. Morphou in a few years, for whatever reason, there is nothing in the plan that would "punish" the Turkish government or force it to obey the timeline. Also the plan allows Turkey to intervene to "protect" the T/C (whether they ask for it or not), a great incentive for the Turkish far right to stir up trouble any chance they get...

So security is the problem in Cyprus, not "nationalism", the "priests" (the Archbishop of occupied Morphou was a supporter of the "yes" vote) or narrow economic self-interest. In this light, the position of the largest G/C party, AKEL, is very instructive. Although its leadership was in favour of the Annan plan, it realized that the party voters wouldn't follow (the conservative leadership said "yes" and were abandoned by 80% of their voters) and rather than insist on a yes vote (a losing proposition), they decided to say "no" until "serious guarantees" were given by the international community and then insisted on the "no" vote, aiming to bring the plan (with a serious implementation plan and guarantees) to vote this autumn with a much better chance of winning.

So let me make a prediction: there is a good chance that a new referendum will be held in free Cyprus this autumn or winter, with the backing of the Cypriot Communist party, the largest in the island, the "yes" vote will have a much better chance of passing. The plan is not dead yet. There will be some extras (i.e. more and more diverse UN troops and punitive clauses for non-compliance etc.) but the plan will be put to vote within the next few months, certainly less than a year. AKEL has started campaigning on this already.

In the meantime, the Cyprus government has already made clear that it will advocate for more money for the North in the EU, it is considering independent financial aid to the T/Cs and it will probably set up voting booths for T/C on the Green Line for the coming European Elections. So much for "selfishness"...

About the history and the real issues behind the Cyprus question I've already written a few things... I'll be back with more, as invective and oversimplification about the Cyprus vote are bound to multiply in the blogosphere and beyond, and a response will be in order...

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Stalin vs. Hitler - The Authorized Annotated Translation

history / research / comics
This is too wonderful for words:
Joseph Stalin is © & TM by the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks). Inappropriate usage will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law with expelling from the Party and ten years of hard labor.

Adolf Hitler is © & TM by the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Inappropriate usage will be reported to the appropriate authorities. We cannot guess what they are gonna do, but it will definitely be something unpleasant as well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

So we killed a few hundred civilians... Big Deal!

USA / apparat / Pravda
No, seriously... FAIR reports that the CNN anchor had the following to ask while interviewing Al Jazeera's editor-in-chief, about Al-Jazeera's coverage of the massacre in Fallujah:

"Isn't the story, though, bigger than just the simple numbers, with all due respect to the Iraqi civilians who have lost their lives-- the story bigger than just the numbers of people who were killed or the fact that they might have been killed by the U.S. military, that the insurgents, the people trying to cause problems within Fallujah, are mixing in among the civilians, making it actually possibly that even more civilians would be killed, that the story is what the Iraqi insurgents are doing, in addition to what is the response from the U.S. military?"

This is pure, Soviet era Pravda style... There is no Al Jazeera journalist that would ask a similarly doubleplusgood kind of question to an American journalist. CNN is rapidly turning into Fox-news: Soviet style propaganda by indoctrinated minions that pass for journalists...


Kosovo / peacemakers / armed and dangerous
This would be stuff that comedy is made of, if it didn't result in tragedy. US and Jordanian peacekeepers in Kosovo shoot each other over Iraq! The UN denies this but Balkanalysis doesn't believe them.
Meanwhile in other Kosovo-related news, "the World Court has begun hearings to decide if it has jurisdiction in a case against Nato for the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo crisis.
Serbia and Montenegro, Yugoslavia's successor state, accuse eight Nato countries of genocide and violating international law on the use of force.
The Nato members, including the UK, France and Germany, say the court is not competent to hear the case."

A different voice from Cyprus

politics / cyprus / bicommunal

Turgut Durduran has been, as long as I remember, a Turkish Cypriot voice on the web (and usenet) that was impossible to dismiss... His knowledge of the Cyprus issue (from up close - he is the son of a Turkish Cypriot dissident) was always accompanied by a deep humanism, making him a different kind of voice on the issue. He would like to go beyond the Annan plan, swiftly. Here's an excerpt, but read the whole thing:

"There is an obvious problem with this document [the Annan plan]; it proposes a very complex but at the same time backwards system. It is hard to image, ofcourse if we forget the realities on the ground, why anyone would want to create a 'new Cyprus' based on a massive amount of limitations on civil and economic liberties and freedoms. Are we forgetting the basic, modern principles that we expect modern states to live up to? Specially states that are members of the European Union.
I do not dream of a Cyprus where divisions are entrenched all over the legislative. A Cyprus where ethnicity defines rights. A Cyprus that has not become independent of the grip of the 'motherlands'. But am I shocked that this document does exactly the opposite? No, I am not. It was obvious to me that with every opportunity missed, we were moving towards such a settlement. What I was trying to ignore, however, was that when this happens a good chunk of Cypriots will see this as a way out of the current stalmate and ignore these problems. I knew I would be sympathetic towards this. I knew this would be a giant step forward. But I did not know that once we break certain bariers, for example achieve the semi-porous state of the Green Line since April 2003, that we still would not be able to develop political organizations that cared for all Cypriots. I was being too optimistic.
So, yeah, my principles and my dreams are being crushed. At least for now, that is what 'post-Annan-plan' Cyprus is supposed to be like..."

Sunday, April 18, 2004


politics / greece
Doug Merrill has posted a piece on Cyprus on Fistful of Euros, giving me an opportunity to state a few obvious things carefully avoided by most European commentary on the issue.

Some background material first: A very thorough recap of Cyprus' history from antiquity to now. A detailed account of the background of the Cyprus issue including a description of past plans for settlement.
For an even thorougher discussion I would recommend Christopher Hitchens' book on Cyprus (from back when he was sane), an anathema both to Turkish and Greek nationalists: Cyprus, Prisoner of History.

It is striking that almost totally absent from the discussion of the Cyprus issue is this basic fact: the "Republic of Northern Cyprus" is the outcome of an illegal invasion, occupation and ethnic cleansing of 200.000 Greek Cypriots (the majority in the area) from Northern Cyprus. Turkish troops invaded the island after a Greek junta/CIA coup against Makarios - and refused to leave or allow the return of the refugees even after democracy was restored in Cyprus. The extent of the crimes committed by the invaders of "Attila I & II), were well documented by the European commission of Human Rights. As Matthew Stowell pointed out in an article published November 2000:

Placing Turkey's invasion of neighboring Cyprus in a contemporary context, four times as many Greek Cypriots were killed by Turkish troops as Albanians were killed in Kosovo prior to NATO's intervention--and in one-sixth the time frame. Yet Serbia was bombed back to the Stone Age, while Turkey's occupation of Cyprus continues to enjoy tacit US support.

I would add that the scale of the cleansing is certainly comparable to Bosnia...

It is therefore not some small "concession" that the Greek Cypriot refugees are to make by not being able to return to their ancestral homes - all of them. It is a major point of huge sentimental significance - but also a matter of international law, justice and consistency. The Annan plan, among other things, not only overlooks the fact that an illegal invasion took place, but asks the Greek Cypriot community to pay for the remuneration of all property Greek Cypriots lost during the invasion, legitimizes settlers from Turkey (a war crime if I'm not mistaken), and allows Turkish troops (troops involved in war crimes against Greek Cypriots, that is) to remain on the island, for a practically indefinite period of time. The Annan plan, having provided for highly unusual arrangements that make a workable government difficult if not impossible, would lead to Cyprus' healthy democratic institutions being replaced by a system that gives final political authority to unelected judges, the chief of which will be a non-native: that's pretty close to becoming a protectorate and pretty far from democratic rule. The Greek Cypriots' security will depend on the goodwill of the Turkish troops as any disturbances (staged or otherwise) would allow the Turkish army to "intervene".
So at least one would expect there to be some guarantees from the UN, from the EU, somewhere, that the terms agreed will not be unilaterally annulled when and if powers in Turkey decide that they no longer serve their purposes. To be explicit: I am very worried about a possible change of political climate in Turkey (what happens if for some unrelated reasons Turkey's relations with the EU are seriously compromised?) and the army's role and views in general: the fact is that Turkey is a country where the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces actually gives a press conference to state the army's position on a matter of external policy. Will these guarantees be given? (If they are, there is a slight possibility that the "yes" vote might prevail.)

All this, plus the fact that Greek and Cypriot governments alike are under obscene pressure to say "yes" by the US (seen as a force that failed to protect international law in the island when it mattered - it helped stage the G/C coup in 1974 and supported the Turkish invasion) and the EU, for reasons that have little to do with the well being and security of either Turkish or Greek Cypriots... It isn't surprising that a majority says "no" ... More time was needed for a really thorough discussion among Greek Cypriots.

Having said all that, I do think that this is the last chance for peace and coexistence for both communities. I am reluctantly optimistic that the plan with all its shortcomings might lead in 10 or 15 years to something resembling a unified Cyprus, mainly because I see a will among Turkish Cypriots, to live together with their Greek Cypriot compatriots. The moving demonstrations against Denktas and the more recent ones, urging AKEL (the Greek Cypriot Communist party) to rethink its position (something that is not unlikely it seems) and support the "yes" vote, combined with the fact that the EU will provide a framework that might be able to see the new state through the less than perfect provisions of the Annan plan, lead me to see this plan as preferable to the realistic alternatives, the most likely of which is the de facto annexation of occupied Cyprus to Turkey (or the recognition of an unviable national entity, which boils down to pretty much the same).
If mainland forces from either Greece or Turkey don't interfere, and if the settlers are prevented from causing trouble, I think that Greek and Turkish Cypriots can live together with no major problems, and together find a modus vivendi that will make the Annan plan less important...

So, in the end, I hope that the "yes" vote prevails next week. It still seems unlikely. Even if both the two largest G/C parties support it.

I hope I made the reasons that this will happen clear. I will return to the issue of Cyprus and the consequences of this deal for the EU, as well as the stakes hanging on next weeks vote, soon...

Friday, April 16, 2004


iraq / reporting / live
An English activist in Iraq, covers events and keeps us up to date, from the perspective of a worried outsider.
Bless him.

US tactics condemned by British officers

war crimes / USA
"Senior British commanders have condemned American military tactics in Iraq as heavy-handed and disproportionate.

One senior Army officer told The Telegraph that America's aggressive methods were causing friction among allied commanders and that there was a growing sense of 'unease and frustration' among the British high command.
The officer, who agreed to the interview on the condition of anonymity, said that part of the problem was that American troops viewed Iraqis as untermenschen - the Nazi expression for 'sub-humans'."

And the senior army official continues:

"When US troops are attacked with mortars in Baghdad, they use mortar-locating radar to find the firing point and then attack the general area with artillery, even though the area they are attacking may be in the middle of a densely populated residential area.

"They may well kill the terrorists in the barrage but they will also kill and maim innocent civilians. That has been their response on a number of occasions. It is trite, but American troops do shoot first and ask questions later. They are very concerned about taking casualties and have even trained their guns on British troops, which has led to some confrontations between soldiers.

The report is from the Torygraph, mind you, not the Socialist Worker...

This has to be seen in the context of the war crimes committed in Fallujah:

As I was there, an endless stream of women and children who'd been sniped by the Americans were being raced into the dirty clinic, the cars speeding over the curb out front as their wailing family members carried them in.

One woman and small child had been shot through the neck -- the woman was making breathy gurgling noises as the doctors frantically worked on her amongst her muffled moaning.

The small child, his eyes glazed and staring into space, continually vomited as the doctors raced to save his life.

After 30 minutes, it appeared as though neither of them would survive.

One victim of American aggression after another was brought into the clinic, nearly all of them women and children.

The 60.000 refugees (KAradzic has nothing on the US marine corps) are understandably furious:

Fudella told her story from a crowded, dank, bomb shelter in Baghdad, alongside some 60 other Fallujan women and children. With tattooed hands and black veils wrapped around their faces, the women shouted out accusations of reckless killings by the US forces the say they witnessed: a neighbor's house bombed, killing all 19 people inside; a 5-year-old gunned down by a sniper on a minaret; an old man mowed down by helicopter fire.

It's been over a year already.

Thursday, April 8, 2004

Easter break and football

vacation / time
I'll be off-line and off city limits for a week or so. Happy Easter to all the people reading this. I'll be back with more than a few words on Cyprus among other things, words which I might actually be sharing with Living in Europe, an excellent project, despite my participation I assure you.
But let me take this festive opportunity to wander off from the horrible events that are happenning, and rejoyce briefly at the destruction of Sylvio's (Il Duce II) team at the hands of the brilliant La Coruna, which - coupled with the defeat of the team with a budget the size of the GDP of Argentina or something, makes this year's CL even more interesting than usual.
The only bad news is the fact that the Russian Mafioso's team made it as well - each Chelsea transfer is payed by the transfer of 0.5 % of the Russian GDP approximately to various teams in Europe and beyond.
But one can root for a Monaco - Porto final, can't one?

Kosovo And Iraq: Now that you know they are liars go back a little

politics > imperial > bipartisan
I've written about it before. Kosovo is often hailed as some kind of "successful case study" for bombing countries back to the stone age. It wasn't...

"What is so striking about the US-UK government case for war against Serbia is the familiarity of much of the propaganda. In a key pre-war speech on March 18 last year, Blair said of Iraq:

'Looking back over 12 years, we have been victims of our own desire to placate the implacable... to hope that there was some genuine intent to do good in a regime whose mind is in fact evil.' ('Tony Blair's speech', The Guardian, March 18, 2003)"

The Iraqi Inferno

terrorism > state
..."An Associated Press reporter in Fallujah saw cars ferrying the dead and wounded from the Abdul-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque. Witnesses said a helicopter fired three missiles into the compound, destroying part of a wall surrounding the mosque but not damaging the main building.

The strike came as worshippers had gathered for afternoon prayers, witnesses said. Temporary hospitals were set up in private homes to treat the wounded and prepare the dead for burial..."

"...Sixteen children and eight women were reported killed when warplanes struck four houses late Tuesday, said Hatem Samir, a Fallujah Hospital official..."

"...In a significant expansion of the fighting, Iraqis protesting in solidarity with Fallujah residents clashed with U.S. troops in the northern town of Hawijah, near Kirkuk. Eight Iraqis were killed, and 10 Iraqis and four Americans were wounded, police said..."

"We're not the terrorists as Bush said" [a Fallujah man declared]. "The terrorist is the one attacking me in my country in my home."

"The news of Falluja is not clear,
But I heard that people are arranging a blood donation campaign.
They say that hospitals are full with injured and killed people.
Only god can protect us from what’s happening…
These days are much darker than the days of Saddam Husein.

"Now it seems we are almost literally reliving the first few days of occupation… I woke up to the sound of explosions and gunfire last night and for one terrible moment I thought someone had warped me back a whole year and we would have to relive this last year of our life over and over again...
...And as I blog this, all the mosques, Sunni and Shi’a alike, are calling for Jihad...

"The difficulty the United States and its allies are having in regaining control of the major cities of the Shiite south is breathtaking in its implications. There is little doubt that they can prevail eventually in a military sense. But if the Sadrist uprising were a minor affair of a few thousand ragtag militiamen, it is difficult to understand how they could survive the onslaught of 150,000 well-armed and well-trained European and North American troops for more than a day. Rather, it is clear that urban crowds are supporting the uprising in some numbers..."

"The Iraqi holy city of Najaf, where radical Shiite Muslim leader Moqtada Sadr has reportedly taken refuge, is not under the control of US-led coalition forces, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said..."

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

100 days of genocide

rwanda > genocide
10 years after. From the BBC... In memory of all of the slaughtered victims. Let's not forget.

Georgia on their mind

politics > caucasian > not so velvet
The velvet revolution in Georgia isn't exactly the triumph of democracy the West has been talking about now, is it?

..."Sandra Roelofs, the Dutch wife of the new Georgian president and hence the new first lady of Georgia, explained that her husband aspires to follow in the long tradition of strong Georgian leaders 'like Stalin and Beria'. Saakashvili started his march on Tbilisi last November with a rally in front of the statue of Stalin in his birthplace, Gori. Unfazed, the western media continue to chatter about Saakashvili's democratic credentials, even though his seizure of power was consolidated with more than 95% of the vote in a poll in January, and even though he said last week that he did not see the point of having any opposition deputies in the national parliament."

Fascinating article, disposes nicely of some current myths.
via the ever profound Barista

Monday, April 5, 2004

Brain Transplantation - Be Young Again! Change Your Body - Keep Your Soul!

hoaxes > weird
"When you car too old to fix it, you are buying a new car. Would it be wonderful if you will be able to change you human body as easy as you can change a car. Let say that your identity is a driver, and your body is a car. Moving your identity into a new, younger human body will make you young again! Brain Transplantation made it possible. We can preserve your identity by moving you brain into new body. See what we can do for you... "

The ominously Russian-flavoured broken english, the floating brain, the pictures of "recent patients", the non-disclosure of the "company's" exact location "in the Asian region",make this a glorious hoax site (or is it!!!!????).

Apparently though the whole idea is taken seriously by some scientists. More:

Q: So when will we see the first head/brain transplant in a human?

A: I have no doubt that sometime before 2050 this operation will be undertaken, perhaps sooner. A number of countries have offered me laboratories to begin the initial experiments, but they don't have the money. In terms of equipment, I've worked all that out -- I even have the equipment to support the brain in transit without compromising its vascular sensitivity. During surgical transfer you just use deep hypothermia, deep freeze, or mechanical support. It's not a problem.

Friday, April 2, 2004

The story behind the recent events at Fallujah

iraq > politics > bestial
A version of this story, fuelled by that utterly shocking video, suggested that the people lynched were civilian conractors. Apparently this isn't true. The manner of their deaths was atrocious but these people were pretty much foreign troops, stationed in an occupied country. Troops, furthermore, involved in recent atrocities against Iraqis - and I must remind people, it seems, that the vast majority of civilian casualties in Iraq are indeed Iraqis.

What amazed me about the attack was the blazing blind hatred against those (not incorrectly it seems) perceived as US spies. For a random crowd (including children for chrissake) to reach this state of frenzied, unstoppable murderous violence... this doesn't happen because of the "evilness" of the people or their "backwardness"... it happens because they themselves have been brutaly killed, violently hacked down in their own homes by foreign occupation forces. The story reminds me of the tales I've heard of popular lynchings of nazi collaborators after the war. The people who lynched the collaborators (responsible for an untold number of deaths) were treated like heroes (at first - then the quislings took over again - but that's another story...). And killing German soldiers was a badge of honour that one wore proudly for the rest of his life... I expect that local attitudes in Fallujah are quite similar.

I'm including a large excerpt of the UN Observer report because it provides an important piece of the story that might help to understand what is happenning and what happenned in Fallujah...

"The US government and military have stated that the four Americans were contractors working for the private security firm, Blackwater Security, and employed to protect food deliveries in the Fallujah area. No explanation has been given as to why they were so far inside the city. AP cameras filmed a US Department of Defence identification card among the wreckage, giving rise to suspicions that the men may have been American intelligence operatives.

The passions of the crowd reflect the hostility toward the US invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq. In the last week, the American military has intensified the repression of the 500,000 residents of Fallujah. On March 24, the California-based First Marine Division took over control of the area, which has been one of the centres of opposition and armed resistance to the US. The newly arrived troops have been attempting to assert their control using brutal tactics.

Last Friday morning, hundreds of marines with tanks and armoured vehicles deployed into the city in force - the first time American troops have done so for months. Exchanges of mortar and gunfire flared throughout the day, especially in the working class suburb of al-Askari where the marines fought battles with local resistance fighters. Most of the 15 Iraqis killed and many of the wounded were non-combatants gunned down by the Americans.

A farmer, Jamal Mahesem, told the Washington Post he was shot in the leg while he was walking down a road. "I didn't even see the American soldiers," he said. "I don't know why they started shooting. I didn't hear anyone shooting at them."

Another wounded man, Ahmed Yusuf, who claimed he was shot as he turned his car into a side street, told the Post: "They think that they're going to control the city by doing this? They're wrong. They will never be able to control the city like this. They will turn the situation here to a war situation.” The man in the car behind him was shot in the head.

Among those killed by American bullets was Mohammed Mazhour, a freelance cameraman working for US ABC News. Hospitals reported treating at least 25 wounded, including five children.

The marines’ offensive continued over the following days. The major roads in and out of Fallujah were blockaded by US tanks and troops until Tuesday, with hundreds of people being subjected to vehicle searches. On Monday and Tuesday, marines carried out house-to-house searches for insurgents in three suburbs, including al-Askari. An unknown number of men were detained. A local, Khaled Jamaili, told AP: “If they find more than one adult male in any house, they arrest one of them. Those marines are destroying us. They are leaning very hard on Fallujah.”

As they rampaged through the city, the marines tossed Arabic leaflets into the streets that provocatively read: “You can’t escape and you can’t hide.”
The offensive has inflamed what was already a population fiercely opposed to the US occupation. Fallujah was a centre of support for the former Baathist regime and fighting has not stopped since the US-led invasion. As a result, the city has suffered considerably at the hands of the USA military. In April 2003, unarmed demonstrations were fired on by American killing and wounding scores of civilians. In the months since, resistance fighters have killed and wounded dozens of Americans."

See also this relevant BBC article:

Although several Marines have been killed, the Iraqi casualty figure [in Fallujah] has been much higher.

Some 30 are thought to have been killed in the last two weeks of March alone.

Many were simply caught in crossfire, and inevitably, that continues to fuel the tensions.

Update April 2: According to the Washington Post the slain Americans were "among the most elite commandos working in Iraq to guard employees of U.S. corporations and were hired by the U.S. government to protect bureaucrats, soldiers and intelligence officers."


"U.S. government officials said yesterday that they suspect that the men were not victims of a random ambush but were set up as targets, which one defense official said suggested "a higher degree of organization and sophistication" among insurgents."

So much for the "random slaughter" scenario... Also, from Newsweek, a highly recommended article by Rod Nordland, adding some perspective, "Open Season": "It is tempting to argue that the brutality in Fallujah is not typical of the rest of Iraq. But it would be wrong"... the article states, and goes on:

...Wednesday's attack itself was hardly the worst thing we've seen; in fact, since the victims had been armed, attacking them was arguably within the rules of war. Many of the attacks we've seen in just the past 10 days were clearly not; the victims often were attacked merely because they were civilians, many of them not even from Coalition countries. They included two Finnish businessmen, a German and a Dutchman, four missionaries working on a water project and a Time magazine translator. It's become increasingly clear that any foreigner, and anyone working even remotely with foreigners, has become what the opposition regards as fair game, armed, or not. Attacks on Iraqis have been—if possible—even more savage, and divorced from any possible justification. Suicide bombs and ambushes of Iraqi policemen, who have now lost more men than the occupation forces, are one thing; the Americans chose and trained them. But the Shia who were slaughtered by teams of suicide bombers during the Ashoura festival in Karbala last month were doing nothing more than peacefully exercising their religious beliefs—something denied them under Saddam's Sunni rule...