Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Bombings In Iraq, And How The Western Media Misinterpreted Them

August 15, 2011 was one of the most violent days in Iraq in months. People are killed in the country all the time, but yesterday was extreme with attacks in more than half of Iraq’s 18 provinces resulting in more than 300 casualties. The Western press tended to make the superfluous connection between the violence and the U.S. troop withdrawal, and then portrayed the day’s events as part of an orchestrated campaign launched by Al Qaeda in Iraq, even though they were probably only responsible for a few of the incidents. The day showed that Iraq’s insurgents are still capable of horrendous acts, but that the Western media regularly misinterprets their deeds.

The U.S. withdrawal and Al Qaeda in Iraq were constants throughout the English language reporting on yesterday’s attacks. Martin Chulov of England’s Guardian for example, wrote that the day’s bombs were all coordinated, and blamed Al Qaeda in Iraq using an Islamist website that praised the attacks as proof. The Los Angeles Times put one of those themes explicitly in its article title, “Iraq attacks raise new concerns about U.S. pullout.” It went on to say that the days’ attacks were a warning that the Iraqi security forces might collapse after U.S. forces withdraw, and interviewed an Iraqi security expert who blamed Al Qaeda in Iraq for the violence. The Associated Press talked to a security analyst from a Dubai think tank that put forth the convoluted argument that the militants might want to sow chaos to keep the American troops in Iraq to show that they were liars, having promised to leave, but then reneged, and stayed because of the insurgency. Almost every single Western article was similar to these. The problem with these pieces is that there is absolutely no connection between the day’s attacks and the American withdrawal. There is violence today with U.S. troops in Iraq, and if they get an extension to stay as trainers there will be violence, and when they go there will still be violence. Every insurgent group wants the foreign forces out, but they also have problems with the Iraqi government, which means they will continue their resistance whether the U.S. is in the country or not. The other problem was that of the 26 attacks that occurred, the police blamed Al Qaeda for only one of them, and only one other was probably their work as well. The reporters seemed to forget that there are several other insurgent groups active in Iraq such as the Baathist Naqshibandi, Hamas al-Iraq, Jaish al-Islami, Ansaral-Sunna, and Jaish Muhammed. Al Qaeda in Iraq is also almost exclusively focused upon high-profile attacks that will gain as much media attention aspossible so that it can raise money. Very few of the attacks on August 16 met those criteria. Overall, the English language media placed their own concerns in their writing, ignoring Iraq’s.
Click on image for larger view (Global Security)

On August 15, there were attacks in ten of Iraq’s 18 provinces. Starting in southern Iraq, a bomb hidden in a freezer went off in a goldsmith’s market in Kut, Wasit. When rescue workers and security forces arrived, a second bomb exploded. In total, 35 people were killed, and 71 wounded. Three were killed, and 42 wounded when a car bomb went off near an oil tanker in Hindiya, Karbala. In the city of Karbala, a suicide bomber crashed his car into a police checkpoint killing six, and wounding 32, while a bomb hidden in a parked car killed three policemen. In the central section of Iskandiriya, Babil, two were killed and two wounded by a car bomb. Six bombs went off in Baghdad, starting with one in the southern district of Dora that killed one civilian and wounded 7 others. The second was in western Mansour that targeted a motorcade from the Ministry of Higher Education that left five civilians wounded. The third, exploded in northern Taji near an Army patrol killing one soldier, wounding four others, along with five civilians. The fourth occurred in southeastern Zafaraniya killing one civilian, and wounding five. The next was in northwestern Ghazaliya leaving five casualties. The last was an assassination attempt on the head of the Technical Education Commission. In western Iraq, two bombs went off near a police patrol killing three of them and wounding two in Ramadi, Anbar province. The northern governorates of Diyala, Salahaddin, Ninewa, and Tamim were all hit as well. In Tikrit, Salahaddin, a high-ranking counterterrorism officer was killed in his office along with two bodyguards. The assailant was wearing an army uniform, which allowed him access to the counterterrorism building. Afterward, a second suicide bomber tried to get into the facility, but was noticed by the police leading to a gunfight.  The bomber ended up throwing a few grenades before he blew himself up leaving 13 police wounded. Also in Salahaddin, a car bomb went off near an army patrol killing one in Taji, and another in Balad wounded six civilians. Moving east to Diyala, a car bomb went off in the Muqtadiya district killing 14. In the provincial capital of Baquba, seven bombs went off leaving 2 police, 3 bodyguards, and 22 civilians wounded, and insurgents attacked an army checkpoint killing four soldiers in a shootout. The final attack was aimed at the city’s mayor who escaped unharmed. That was the third attempt on his life this year. In Mosul, Ninewa, 1 civilian was killed, and four wounded by sticky bombs attached to power poles and a bomb left in a box. Finally, a car bomb exploded outside of a Christian church in Kirkuk leaving no casualties. The day actually could have been deadlier if the security forces hadn’t found eight other bombs and disarmed them in Diyala, Salahaddin, Najaf, and Tamim governorates. In total, there were 28 bombings and one armed assault leaving 83 dead, and 238 wounded. The last time that many people were killed in one day was March 29, when 71 died in an attack upon the provincial council building in Tikrit, and six others died invarious acts of violence around the country. Of all those attacks, the authorities only blamed Al Qaeda in Iraq for the assault upon the counterterrorism office in Tikrit. That kind of well-planned attack has the hallmarks of one of their operations. The bombing in Kut might also be their work because the number killed would gain media attention. The Islamists might have been involved in some of the other incidents, but they seem like more typical insurgent attacks. Now Al Qaeda might have cooperated with other groups like Naqshibandi that they’ve been known to work with before, because there haven’t been that many attacks in one day for years. For now it’s impossible to tell who was responsible for what.

The Western media wants to put their own spin on the events in Iraq. That’s clearly shown in their reporting on violence there. While the press often notes that security is much better, they tend to blame everything on Al Qaeda in Iraq, and give the impression that the country is about to fall back into chaos sometimes. Because the Americans might leave, reporters also tend to make any assaults a reflection upon the U.S. as if it is the only thing that can maintain stability. That’s part of the contradictory nature of reporting on Iraq. Almost everything is related to the American presence, most of the violence is placed on Al Qaeda, and the internal struggles that cause instability are hardly mentioned. All of those trends were shown in the reports about the attacks on August 15. Other insurgent groups were involved in the violence, but not noted, an American withdrawal was portrayed as bad, and very few journalists took the time to try explaining why such attacks continue to plague the country. Luckily for Iraqis and reporters, the insurgency is only capable of such horrendous acts every couple months, so the media either has to focus upon non-security matters or not write about Iraq at all.


Abdullah, Mazen and al-Haffar, Hassoun, “Dozens dead in countrywide bombings,” AK News, 8/15/11

Arrange, Tim, “Iraqi Hostages Die in Attack on Leadership of Province,” New York Times, 3/29/11

Aswat al-Iraq, “2 civilians killed, 2 others injured in Iskandaria, Babel,” 8/15/11
- “3 persons killed, 31 injured in 5 Baghdad attacks,” 8/15/11
- “Booby-trapped car blows up near Karbala’s Hindiya bridge,” 8/15/11
- “Chairman of Iraq’s Technical Education Commission escapes assassination,” 8/15/11
- “Civilian killed, 4 others injured in 2 Mosul explosions,” 8/15/11
- “Final result of Hindiya casualties – 3 killed, 41 injured,” 8/15/11
- “Five booby-trapped cars dismantled, gunmen in Kirkuk, Kut, Tikrit arrested,” 8/15/11
-“Four persons killed, 17 others injured in 2 Najaf blasts,” 8/15/11
- “Iraq’s Baaquba city’s governor escapes assassination,” 8/15/11
- “Six civilians injured by blast in Balad, Salahal-Din,” 8/15/11
- “Three cops killed, 2 others injured in Ramadi blasts,” 8/15/11
- “URGENT: 34 killed, 60 injured in central Kut explosion,” 8/15/11
- “URGENT: Two suicide men brake through Directorate of Terrorism in Salahal-Din,” 8/15/11

BBC, “Iraqi cities hit by deadly wave of violence,” 8/15/11

Chulov, Martin, “Iraq bomb blasts across 13 cities leave dozens dead,” Guardian, 8/15/11

Al Dulaimy, Mohammed and Bengali, Shashank, “With U.S. forces set to go soon, Iraqi police step up,” McClatchy Newspapers, 1/21/11

Fleishman, Jeffrey and Salman, Raheem, “Iraq attacks raise new concerns about U.S. pullout,” Los Angeles Times, 8/15/11

Gowen, Annie and Majeed, Asaad, “More than 70 killed in attacks across Iraq,” Washington Post, 8/15/11

Hammoudi, Laith, “Explosions rip Iraq from North to south, killing at least 64,” McClatchy Newspapers, 8/15/11

Iraq Body Count

Al Jazeera, “Multiple blasts kill dozens in Iraqi cities,” 8/15/11

Knights, Michael, “The JRTN Movement and Iraq’s Next Insurgency,” CTC Sentinel, July 2011

National Iraqi News Agency, “3 policemen injured by IED explosion downtown Ramadi,” 8/15/11
- “Breaking news . 31 people killed, more than 60 injured by motorcycle explosion in Kut city,” 8/15/11
- “Breaking news . five civilians wounded in a car bomb blast west of Baghdad,” 8/15/11
- “Casualties toll up to 20 / dead and wounded in Bani Saad car bomb in Diyala,” 8/15/11
- “Four soldiers killed , two policemen and 20 wounded in a series of explosions and armed attacks in Diyala,” 8/15/11
- “IED blasts near police station northern Babel,” 8/15/11
- “Karbala blast, Casualties up to 30 killed and injured,” 8/15/11
- “Kirkuk / Nina / --A car bomb exploded after last night midnight near a church in Kirkuk city,” 8/15/11
- “One civilian killed ten others wounded in two separate explosion in Baghdad,” 8/15/11

Radio Free Iraq/Radio Liberty, “Dozens Killed In Iraq Bombings,” 8/15/11

Santana, Rebecca and Ahmed, Hamid, “Bombs tear through 17 Iraqi cities, 63 killed,” Associated Press, 8/15/11

Schmidt, Michael and Ghazi, Yasir, “Wave of Attacks in Iraq Leaves at Least 68 Dead,” New York Times, 8/15/11


Joel Wing said...

Iraq Body Count claims the final count for yesterday's violence is 88 dead.


Anonymous said...

Superb post! Thinking out the box also we could try to remember the 3 car bombs that we had in Amarah in 2007. In Amarah most of the people blamed the bombs on Badder and Mahdy militias...Also high quantity of casualties is not just the hallmark of AlQaeda Iraq, Mahdy-Special Groups/Abu Dera/Hizbollah Kataib...all of them under Iranian payroll.

Joel Wing said...

The two assassination attempts yesterday could've been done by anybody because Sunni and Shiite groups have been involved in them before. The bulk of yesterday's attacks however, look to be the work of insurgents with a couple likely done by Al Qaeda. Besides the assassinations, Shiite groups look to be targeting the Americans mostly these days.

Anonymous said...

Isn't there usually a spike in Ramadan?

It can be mere coincidence that so many attacks happened on the same day.

Joel Wing said...

Yes, Ramadan has been known for insurgent offensives. Yesterday was definitely an exceptional day for violence. I just doubt that Al Qaeda was behind it all. The majority of attacks were just like normal militant activity, just more of them on one day. Today also went back to just a few incidents, so it doesn't look like much of a campaign yet if there is one going on.

Iraqi Mojo said...

"all of them under Iranian payroll."

That must make a lot of sense to Sunni Arabs and Republican Americans!

"There seems little doubt that most of the attacks were carried out by Sunni Arab militants opposed to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Islamist, given the nature of the attacks and the types of targets: Security officials supporting his writ, civilians in largely Shiite towns in the south, and Sunni Arabs who had joined hands with the government."

Anonymous said...

I'm torn between calling this borderline insanity and another western hysteria propaganda. The west needs decide whether or not they want their troops out of Iraq, and for that they need to keep in mind their own economic conditions, NOT their self taken role of "international peacekeepers". Also, the media seriously needs to stop blaming AlQaeda for everything. It's not synonymous with "all terrorist attacks when viewed on a global scale".
PS: Awesome article. Well done. Its refreshing to read something like this once in a while.

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