Tuesday, April 8

Pray for the people of Basra, where there is great relief that the horrid threat of the Baath secret police and their torture prisons have gone, but where other matters are are going from bad to worse, and need to be fixed...soon.

In Basra, growing resentment, little aid:

By far the most common complaint -- voiced here repeatedly to any foreigner who stops a car and attracts a crowd -- is that Basra has descended into anarchy and British forces have done little to establish security.The looting frenzy has touched nearly everything. Government offices, banks, shops, hotels and homes have been stripped bare. Carjackings have begun as well. Tahrir Hospital, in the port area, reported one of its vehicles was taken at gunpoint this morning, a few hundred yards from the main gate. Another hospital reportedly had an ambulance stolen. Looters were later seen using the ambulance to load looted furniture from another house."Now that the British have military control, there's no law and order," said Andres Kruesi, the delegate here of the International Committee of the Red Cross. "People steal everything. They even steal fire trucks."

Catholic school teacher says she was fired for refusing to have her second-graders write letters to Bush opposing the war.

But diocesan spokesman Joseph McAleer said Lazor quit after refusing to fulfill the assignment. McAleer said the students were asked to write letters telling Bush they were praying for peace. ''It is perfectly appropriate for a Catholic school to ask its students to pray for peace,'' he said. McAleer said Lazor refused to follow instructions and walked out, taking her two children, who were students at the school, with her. According to the lawsuit, St. Ambrose Principal Sister Catherine Van Houtin told staff members said she wanted students to write letters to the president indicating they oppose military action in Iraq and asking for peace. Lazor said she objected to having children write politically charged letters without their parents' consent. Lazor reportedly told Houtin she did not agree with the principal's political views. 'Sister Catherine responded by saying that if the plaintiff held that belief, then she did not belong at St. Ambrose anyway,'' the lawsuit states.

This teacher was absolutely correct in her stance. No question. If Sister Catherine wanted her students to do something for peace, she should have hauled them into the church and led them in praying the rosary - for peace, justice, and an end to oppression of all kinds for all people.

The first battle for Hilla

..or so the Post says in this excellent-as-usual embed report, but there was action around Hilla last week, as I recall.

A report on the same battle from the NYTimes embed. What - how many embeds do each of these units have to haul around with them?

Those of you who follow this blog may have noticed one of many themes - me looking at different accounts of the same event. It's just the way I do things, and what feeds my mind. It's easy and satisfying to simply rely on accounts that are going to confirm your opinions, but where's the growth in that? What's interesting in that?

When I was in graduate school, I did a paper for a historiography seminar (for those of you who don't know - historiography is the study of the study of history. Got it?) examing the issue of female deacons in early Christianity. As you might expect, there aren't many primary sources to work with, so it's a good, narrow topic to use while examining certain issues in doing history. I read several studies that all used exactly the same primary documents and examined how they used these same sources and managed to come up with totally opposite conclusions about the existence and function of female deacons. I mean - totally opposite using the exact same sources.

I'm not saying, of course, that truth is relative. Not at all. I'm saying that in order to find truth we have to look at it from all sides. To do anything else would be boring, constricting and dishonest. At least that's the way I see it.

Knights of Columbus sending rosaries, prayer books to troops

Several people have sent me the link to this Policy Review essay - it's very good:

Rage, Hubris and Regime Change

And those of you who are interested in more discussions of post-war Iraq v. post-WWII Germany and Japan might check out this (mostly) intelligent comment thread in response to this post at Daily Kos

And while I'm pointing you that way, you might check out Daily Kos' latest post looking at possible post-war scenarios in Iraq

Tim Goodman says that the networks are doing a better job covering the war than the cable news joints.

A reminder:

Don't just come around here posting links in the comments boxes, with no comment. That's not what the comments are for. Post a link in the context of a comment, yes, but if you just throw up a link without even saying what it's about, I'll delete it forthwith.

There are hundreds of embedded reporters, and I can't read them all, but I will say that the reports this morning from the Washington Post are very useful for those wanting to understand what is happening on the ground in Baghdad.

Also, there's Anthony Shadid's report from the Baghdad hospitals

Through the door stood Qabil Khazzal Jumaa, a 30-year-old nurse. He was taking a drag on a cigarette on a much-needed break. Over the past few days, he said, hospital staff members were stacking bodies on top of one another in the morgue. The generator -- protected by sandbags stacked 10 high -- would break down, shutting off the refrigerators and leaving corpses to rot.Outside the morgue, six bodies in black bags lay in the street. They were tied with plastic on each end and at the legs, waist and chest. Some were still open to the air, and flies had descended. On one bag sat the driver's license of Amash Hussein Mohammed."This is a brutal war," Jumaa, the nurse, said. "This is not just. This is not accepted by man or God."

In the WSJ, Brendan Minter looks to Shiite Islam as a base for moderation in southern Iraq, basing his evaluation on, of course, Shiite hatred of Saddam, as well as the supposed fatwa issued by the Ayatollah in Najaf calling for his followers to cooperate with the Americans.

But the story about the Ayatollah is a bit more complicated

The meeting was partly an attempt to clarify the Grand Ayatollah's position on the presence of US forces in Iraq. On Thursday, US military officials said the cleric had issued a fatwa, or edict, declaring that Iraqi Shia should not interfere with US forces. The son, however, denied this, saying the fatwa said only that citizens should refrain from looting."There was nothing about American military in the fatwa," says Mr al-Khoi. "This he might have said to someone just in a conversation, but it wasn't a fatwa," which carries greater religious authority.

And then there are the ever-changing views of the primary Sunni religious leader in Iraq

Lack of fresh water threatens hospital work

A shortage of fresh water in Baghdad is threatening the ability of hospitals to carry out operations and depriving the population of sanitation, theInternational Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned yesterday.At least one hospital in the southern suburb of Mahmudiya has been overwhelmed by the number of civilian and military casualties, according to the agency's director of operations, Pierre Krahenbuhl. Another ICRC official described the situation as "extremely precarious". Water supplies stopped on Thursday because mains electricity, which powers the pumps, had been knocked out by the fighting. Red Cross teams have kept generators running and set up water treatment installations but have found it difficult to move as sporadic fighting spreads across the capital.

Franks visits Iraq and hears good news and bad:

In Najaf, where General Franks called the welcome given by civilians "very powerful," he heard from a special forces soldier of the difficulty of coaxing the local imam, Ali al-Sistani the leader of Shiite Muslims, into discussions about rebuilding Iraqi society after the fall of the Hussein government. "Sistani doesn't want to show his face yet," the Special Forces soldier said. "He'll only talk through his son."A member of the team from the 101st Airborne said that soldiers had captured a one-star Iraqi general the day before who had 21 binders of information about Iraqi forces. He also provided the Americans with names of potential suicide bombers in the area, and said that weapons and ammunition had been found in 110 schools in the Najaf area.General Franks noted that other government agency operatives and Special Forces troops had been active in the area "for a while now" and had provided a good intelligence base for securing Najaf. But nearby towns, particularly Hilla and Karbala, remained dicey."Hilla is a black hole," said the 101st Airborne's commander, Maj. Gen. David Petraeus said. "It's a Sunni town. We had a hell of a fight on the road into there the other day."

May I add that here is excellent evidence of the total inadequacy of television news coverage - even with four full time cable news networks, they each and every one fall prey to the Story of the Moment Syndrome - which all day Monday was chemical weapons and all evening was (understandably) the possible vaporization of Saddam. Is anything else going on? we wonder. God only knows you wouldn't know it from watching television..


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