June 7, 2007

California Chaos?

Authorities in California said that 145 people were killed or were found dead Saturday, including those killed by bomb blasts at an open air market near Los Angeles. Of the total, 19 were found dumped in the capital of Sacramento; most of the bodies showed signs of torture.

The market bombing was the deadliest attack since Nov. 23, when suspected gang members hit Compton with a series of car bombs and mortars that killed at least 215 people.
Twelve days ago, not far from the site of Saturday’s blast, a suicide bomber crashed his car into the City Walk at Universal Studios, killing 88 people.

In Orange County, a pair of suicide bombers detonated explosives Thursday among shoppers in a crowded mall, killing at least 73 people and wounding 163.

The California National Guard reported the deaths of five more soldiers: four in fighting and one of an apparent heart attack. All died Friday.

Between San Diego and Escondido, another police helicopter was shot down, bringing the total to five helicopters lost in combat during the past three weeks alone.

Nearly two million Californians have fled fierce gang fighting and estimates are as many more could be internally displaced within California. Neighboring Arizona, Nevada and Oregon have absorbed most of the refugees, severely straining their economies.

Unbelievable? The numbers are all accurate. Only names have been changed from places like "Baghdad" and "Hillah" to well-known California cities. The purpose of this exercise is twofold: 1) to bring home the devastation the U.S. invasion and occupation have wielded upon the Iraqi people and 2) to illustrate how utterly ludicrous and irresponsible it is to compare crime rates in California cities–or any other major U.S. city–to the carnage that is post-Saddam Iraq.

Yet Daily Advocate Editor Bob Robinson maintains, through some kind of miraculous equation giving a whole new meaning to the term "fuzzy math," that California, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C. are more dangerous for Americans than Iraq.

The key to this of course is callously stripping Iraqi casualties from the equation. Using "only" the 3,000 + American war dead, spread out over the last 4 years and averaging a monthly total, the statistics can be easily skewed to whitewash the violence in Iraq.

It would be interesting to see how the number of American wounded compares– you know, amputees, blind, deaf, brain damaged. They number at least 23,417 according to CNN.

Yet war proponents still claim imbedded journalists, television reporters and newspaper editors are all part of a vast liberal media conspiracy to undermine the war effort. In other words, traitors.

The media is criticized for not reporting the good news coming out of Iraq; the good work American soldiers are doing in rebuilding Iraq. Sorry, but when pieces of 145 people litter the streets of what used to be a vegetable market, photos of soldiers passing out M&M’s to Iraqi kids get moved to the back burner.

We’re rebuilding roads, schools, hospitals, you say? Ask yourself: "Why do roads, schools and hospitals need rebuilt?" The answer is simple: American bombing campaigns wiped out most of the Iraqi infrastructure. During the attack on Fallujah alone in 2004, clinics, hospitals and residential areas were flattened, all in a failed attempt to locate Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and destroy his supporters. I’m sure that campaign won friends and influenced people...for the insurgency.

It is naive to think bombs have become any "smarter" since the years after the first Gulf War. Civilian deaths due to U.S. and British patrols enforcing the "no-fly" zones over northern and southern Iraq mounted to 300 dead and 800 wounded in an 18-month period alone. Many of the victims were shepherds in rural areas, miles away from any military outpost.

Risk of death by violence for civilians in Iraq is now 58 times higher than before the invasion (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School, Baltimore). Moreover, unemployment rate has reached 70%, according to a study by the college of economics in Baghdad University. Besides, if there was any good news to report, why have nearly two million Iraqis fled to neighboring states? Iraqis now comprise the second-largest group of refugees worldwide, Palestinians being the largest.

And speaking of Palestinians, what has happened to those living in Iraq? Many found safe haven in Iraq after the U.N. created Israel; they enjoyed a special status under Saddam Hussein’s administration.

They are refugees again, fleeing persecution by Shia militias in the ever worsening sectarian civil war. Currently, 700 Palestinians remain stranded in the no-man’s land between Iraq and Syria, trapped since May 2006. The Syrians refuse to admit them; to return home means certain death.

But surely there is good news coming from the semi-autonomous Kurdish north? Good news for Kurds; bad news for civilians in Eastern Turkey. Kurdish terrorists, emboldened by their new status, are training at camps in northern Iraq. Subsequently, they carry out bombings in Turkey with the goal of creating an independent Kurdistan from parts of Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Syria. Several months ago, a Kurdish separatist attack on a school in Turkey killed seven children and three other civilians.

As the debate whether to hold a debate or not in Congress rages on, so too does the civil war in what used to be a secure, sovereign nation. And that civil war will continue with or without American troops present. Let us all hope Congress uses the power of the purse to end this debacle once and for all, bringing American soldiers home as soon as is logistically possible.

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