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August 19, 2009

…And Back To The War

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by Alan Chin

This photograph, by AP photographer Khalid
Mohammed, shows the aftermath of a massive truck bomb at Baghdad's
Foreign Ministry, the battered white building of which is visible on
the left. It was part of a coordinated series of attacks today which
left at least 95 dead and 600 injured, staggering numbers that we have
wishfully come to associate with the bad old days of the Bush
Administration and the terrible headlines of 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Iraqi
Prime Minister Maliki was feeling confident enough in recent weeks to
order the removal of blast walls which had become a ubiquitous part of
the capital's landscape, a very public sign of a much trumpeted return
to normalcy parallel to the withdrawal of American troops from urban
areas. But as the New York Times' Sam Dagher wrote, "Nearby American soldiers stood by helplessly — despite the needs of
hundreds of wounded — waiting for a request for help from Iraqi
officials that apparently never came."

Notwithstanding
the horrific human toll and how all it takes is one or two spectacular
attacks to shatter any sense of accomplishment or victory, Dagher's
reporting suggests that the underlying command structures,
rules-of-engagement, and delicate compromises of an occupation in its
sixth year and under a new administration remain as confused,
inefficient, and incompetent as ever.

On a more personal note,
my collaboration with BAGNewsNotes began in 2005 when I was in Iraq and
covering the beginning of the sectarian civil war, when not a day went
by without at least one and usually several suicide bombings. Khalid
Mohammed, the AP photographer who took this photo today, at that time
joked with me that we were running into each other so much at these
bombing sites that it might be nice to hang out somewhere else other
than amidst tangled wreckage and body parts. I got to leave; he is
sadly still at it. 

 (8/22 – corrected number of injured)

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