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US Papers Monday: Saddam-era Tactics Return
American deaths hit 4,000; Secular visions of Iraq still alive; Media AWOL?
By CHRIS ALLBRITTON 03/24/2008 01:29 AM ET
The coverage the day after Easter is dominated by the Washington Post's story on the brutal tactics in Fallujah, but The New York Times also comes on strong with good work on the attacks on the Green Zone. The Christian Science Monitor likewise has a good story on secular Iraqis' possibly lost cause.

Over there
The Post's Sudarsan Raghavan travels to Fallujah to examine the fragile peace the city "enjoys" and finds that Saddam-era tactics are what keeps the place together. Iraqi security forces are brutal, beating and torturing suspects that fall into their custody. With an enemy like al Qaeda in Iraq, how can officials show mercy, asks Col. Faisal Ismail al-Zobaie, a former Republican Guard member, insurgent and now the city's police chief.

In Zobaie's world, to show mercy is to show weakness. In a land where men burn other men alive, harsh tactics are a small price to pay for imposing order, he said.

"We never tortured anybody," he said. "Sometimes we beat them during the first hours of capture."

It's a harsh piece, one that will generate a lot of controversy for this line: " American ideals that were among the justifications for the 2003 invasion, such as promoting democracy and human rights, are giving way to values drawn from Iraq's traditions and tribal culture, such as respect, fear and brutality." The story is mostly about Zobaie and his tactics. It's hard to know how much of this can be extrapolated to the rest of Iraq, but anyone with experience there will recognize the impulses behind the police chief's actions: restore order, sow fear and never give an inch. Even his harshest critics admit that Fallujah -- and Iraq -- needs a man like Zobaie to bring it around.

Erica Goode of the Times reports on the fusillade of mortar shells that hit the Green Zone, ushering in "a day of violence around the country that claimed the lives of at least 58 Iraqis and four American soldiers." That means, according The Associated Press and icasualties.org, 4,000 American troops have now died in Iraq. The intensity of the violence hints that insurgents have upped their op-tempo, possibly into a spring offensive. Yesterday's violence struck all over Baghdad, the northern part of Iraq and Diyala.

The Post's Sholnn Freeman details the carnage, and leads with the deaths by an IED of four U.S. soldiers on patrol. Freeman gets up high that the mortar attack on the Green Zone probably originated in Sadr City, and that it may have been carried out by what the U.S. military calls Shi'ite extremist groups.

The Christian Science Monitor's Sam Dagher leads with the attack's apparent Sadr City origin, and reports that observers believe the cease-fire imposed by Moqtada al-Sadr may be unraveling. The U.S. military is going out of its way not to blame the Mahdi Army, but "rebels" disobeying Sayyid Moqtada. "Logic dictates that these groups cannot be part of his organization," Said Maj. Mark Cheadle, a military spokesman.

Dagher also profiles the Chadirij family, a wealth Sunni family that's a dying breed: a non-sectarian, liberal, secular political family. Kamil Chadirij, a deputy minister of municipalities and public works, wants to turn Iraq away from the religious parties now dominating its government and back toward the educated middle-class that existed and ran the place before the Ba'ath Party takeover in the 1960s.

USA Today's Charles Levinson profiles Ali Hatem al-Suleiman, leader of the Dulaimi tribe who also wants nothing to do with the religious parties. What's interesting about him is that he comes from a traditional tribal culture of Anbar. Now, he's looking to move into the political realm after helping found the Awakening movement. He's an interesting guy, and the profile has its share of telling details -- Suleiman likes to play "Black Hawk Down" on his Xbox -- but the key point is made far down. "What you're seeing is the rise of the insiders, the guys who were here during the whole Saddam era," said Sam Parker, a Baghdad-based Iraq analyst with the U.S. Institute of Peace. "They are immature politically, but they are powerful."

Business dealings
The Wall Street Journal reports that Iraq's Oil Ministry invited international companies to bid for the development of the Akkaz natural-gas field, which has estimated reserves of more than 2.15 trillion cubic feet.

IN OTHER COVERAGE

Christian Science Monitor The Monitor reports on the continuing Iraqi flag flap, and, interestingly, all the players are featured in other stories by either the Monitor or USA Today. A controversial early flag resembling the Israeli flag was designed by Rifat Chadirij, son of Kamil Chadirij and any change in the flag is opposed by Ali al-Hatem al-Suleiman, sheikh of the Dulaimi tribe.

New York Times
Neil Genzlinger reviews "Bush's War," a two-part series for PBS Frontline. He says the program is a little late to the party.

Richard Pérez-Peña complains that the Iraq war has faded from the front pages and newscasts of American media.

Lawrence Downes reports on the bureaucratic hell wounded vets and their families must endure after returning home.

Washington Post
The Post editorial board calls on the United States to try to ensure fair treatment of Mohammed Munaf and Shawqi Ahmed Omar, two U.S. citizens imprisoned in Iraq and facing trial in Iraqi courts. Needless to say, the punishments are harsh and the treatments are brutal.

Wall Street Journal
A Journal editorial board continues to flog the "Saddam played footsie with al Qaeda" theory, using the ambiguities in the recent Pentagon report to bolster its case. You might say they cherry-picked the evidence they wanted to see.

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