Sixty-seven people in three cities have died in Iraq today. The deadliest attack came in Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit: 30 people — “mostly day laborers waiting to get picked up for work at construction sites” — were killed and 75 wounded.
The nation’s death toll, in less than two weeks, is over 365.
Along with his bodyguards, the governor of Anbar — where Marines are conducting an Iraq/Syrian border offensive — was kidnapped on a 200-mile journey from Qaim to Ramadi.
Below, how the U.S. is winning hearts and minds, and today’s analysis by Seymour Hersh:
Asked at a Pentagon briefing if the kidnapped governor of Anbar had requested U.S. escorts, Lt. Gen. James T. Conway — who used to command Marine forces in Anbar — said, “Not that I’m aware of.”
“Last August,” reports the New York Times, “a previous American-appointed Anbar governor was forced into a humiliating resignation by insurgents who kidnapped his three sons, then forced the weeping official, on a videotape sold in Anbar marketplaces, to quit his job as the price of saving his sons from beheading.”
Hinting at the underlying reason for the border assault, Gen. Conway told reporters at the Pentgon briefing that “there had been a reported sighting of Mr. Zarqawi ‘within the last three weeks’.”
Seymour Hersh today on Democracy Now! says that every time there is a series of bombings, the U.S. responds with publicized raids.
The U.S., he says, created an “image” by predicting increased insurgent attacks after Jan. 30’s elections.
How would the U.S. know, Hersh asks. “We have no intelligence. We have no idea what they’re going to do. These are tiny cells — 3-4 man cells.”
Hersh is on for the full hour this morning. Listen or watch. The transcript will be up before noon.
Hersh accuses the U.S. of a “macabre” plan to make the Sunnis more afraid of the U.S. military than they are of the insurgents. “It’s a desperate game plan. It won’t work.”
About that Sunni intimidation strategy, The Los Angeles Times reports this morning:
Mohammed Dayini of the National Dialogue Council, which favors participation in the government, said 17 people had been detained in a raid on council offices but were released.
In a simultaneous raid a few miles away, he said, soldiers detained Hassan Zaidau Lihabi, a member of the council; his son; and 13 of his guards. Eight of the guards were released, but the others remained in custody, Dayini said.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman denied that Americans were involved.
Instead of alienating more Iraqis — particularly politically active Iraqis — the U.S. should concentrate on a massive training program:
The army “needs collective experience and long training,” new Defense Minister Saadoun Dulaimi told Al Arabiya television in an interview Monday. Though he said those with a bloody past would not be hired for security jobs, he said the experience of some former Baath Party officials could be useful. “I wish the ministry to be the gathering point of all the Iraqis,” he said.
Both photos: New York Times