Sunday, February 3, 2008


It comes as no surprise to a former GI like myself that the U.S. military would shade the truth about the two young girls who were suicide bombers in Baghdad which left 99 dead and over 125 wounded were mentally ill and suffered from Downs Syndrome.

Not just in Iraq, but in many wars, the U.S. military has twisted the truth to make it appear as though the enemy was stooping to new lows in carrying out suicide bombings.

Some of it is true such as the Japanese Kamikaze pilots in World War II, and the hordes of Chinese troops who led Banzai suicide charges in the Korean War (I was a Cpl. E-4 in the United States Army Combat Engineers during the Korean War), but often times an overly enthusiastic U.S. military officer will release to the press a story that begs for further confirmation.

This, apparently is exactly what has happened in the twin suicide bombings at a Baghdad, Iraq pet market last Friday that killed 99 Iraqi citizens.

A top U.S. General said the young girls who carried out the suicide bombings were mentally ill and suffered from Downs Syndrome.

But were they?

A full-scale investigation is now underway to try and determine the real truth about the two girls who strapped explosives to themselves and went to a Baghdad pet market where they were blown up by a remote control device.

Commentary by Bill Corcoran, editor of CORKSPHERE, a blog that brings readers news and commentary about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Although most U.S. media are reporting it as a fact that the pet market bombers on Friday were women with Down Syndrome, and probably used unwittingly,
McClatchy continues to remind us that this is unconfirmed.

Excerpt:A top U.S. general said yesterday that the perpetrators of Friday’s suicide bombings in Baghdad - the deadliest attacks in the capital in nine months - might have been mentally impaired teenaged girls who carried out the attacks unwittingly.A British forensic expert cautioned, however, that suggesting the two bombers suffered from Down syndrome based on photographs of their severed heads was "dangerous."

He noted that the heads would have suffered massive trauma when the bombers’ explosives detonated.

"The diagnosis would have to be more scientific than that," said Bob Lamburne, director of forensic services for the British embassy here.Questions about the bombers’ mental capacity came as Iraqi officials raised the death toll from Friday’s bombings of two pet markets in Baghdad to 99, making them the deadliest attacks in the capital since April.

At least 125 people were wounded, and some might die from their injuries, authorities said.

At a news conference, Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond, who commands U.S. forces in Baghdad, showed reporters photos of the bombers’ heads, which typically are blown from the body in suicide attacks.

He said the broad foreheads, flattened noses and almond-shaped eyes were all suggestive of Down syndrome. "These two women were likely used because they didn’t understand what was happening and they were less likely to be searched," Hammond said.

But Hammond also acknowledged that authorities had yet to identify the two women and that there was no other evidence of their mental condition.

He declined to allow photographers to duplicate the photos, though video of one of the women’s heads is available on the Internet.

Lambourne, who helped open Iraq’s National Forensics Institute in Baghdad last year, said the violent explosion that rips a head from its neck would also affect muscles, bones and arteries and could distort the face. The explosion likely would exert pressure on the face similar to G-forces experienced by pilots, Lamburne said. "It would be dangerous to make that conclusion based on photos," he said of Down syndrome speculation.

Violence Draws Veil Over Iraqi Women

By Dahr Jamail and Ahmed Ali, IPS NewsPosted on February 1, 2008, Printed on February 3, 2008

Conditions are particularly difficult for women in Baquba, despite the relative lull in violence. The city, about 40 km northeast of Baghdad, is capital of Diyala province, amongst the most troubled regions of Iraq in recent months.

As in all conflict areas, women, along with children and the elderly, have suffered most. A large number of women have been killed or kidnapped during close to five years of occupation.

Before the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq, women in Iraq had jobs and enjoyed civil rights they can hardly dream of any more.

"My neighbor was killed because she was accused of working in the directorate-general of police of Diyala," resident Um Haider told IPS. "This woman worked as a receptionist in the governor's office, and not in the police. She was in charge of checking women who work in the governor's office."

Killings like this have led countless women to quit jobs, or to change them.

"I was head of the personnel division in an office," a local woman speaking on condition of anonymity told IPS. "On the insistence of my family and relatives, I gave up my position and chose to be an employee."

Women's lives have changed, and they are beginning to look different. They are now too afraid to wear anything but conservative dresses -- modern clothes could be a death warrant. The veil is particularly dominant in areas under the control of militias.

"My friend could not recognize his wife when she passed him on her way to school because she had her face veiled," Najmidden Khamis, a local grocer, told IPS. "Earlier some liked it and others rejected it, but now it is dominant given the lack of law and government."

"The veil is undesirable in university society," an academic speaking on condition of anonymity told IPS. "I myself reject the idea because if I do not see the face of my student, how is it possible to tell who it is, or even whether it is a man or woman, especially at examinations?"

But many women do wear the veil because they choose to. "The principles of Islam are that a woman should cover her whole body including the face," said a local woman employee in a public office. "Uncovering the face is a sin."

"This matter is controversial," says the sheikh at a local mosque. "The majority of specialists say that the woman should cover everything except the face and the palm of the hand. Many may put veils on the face because they are forced to."

That the issue is controversial is clear. "This is a violation and transgression of women's rights," a local communist supporter told IPS. It comes on top of severe restrictions on women these days, he said. "A woman is not allowed out of home freely, and she has frequently to be escorted by someone like her husband or her brother."
Women are paying a price for the occupation in all sorts of ways.

"Women bear great pain and risks when militants control the streets," Um Basim, a mother of three, told IPS. "No man can move here or there. When a man is killed, the body is taken to the morgue. The body has to be received by the family, so women often go alone to the morgue to escort the body home. Some are targeted by militants when they do this."

Confined to home, many women live in isolation and depression.

"Women have nowhere to go to spend leisure time," Um Ali, a married woman, told IPS. "Our time is spent only at home now. I have not traveled outside Baquba for more than four years. The only place I can go to is my parents' home. Housekeeping and children have been all my life; I have no goals to attain, no education to complete. Sometimes, I can't leave home for weeks."

Before the invasion, she said, "we, the family, used to go to Baghdad or other provinces to visit friends and places. We used to go with the children for festivals and vacations."
"Iraqi women lack the freedom to do anything, and this, of course, depends on the cultural status of the society in which they live," a local woman told IPS.

"The freedom given to women in Baghdad differs from that in Baquba or in the south of Iraq. But society in general and the family in particular enjoy absolute power over the woman nowadays."

"Women's status in Iraq needs a great revolution," the head of a division of the directorate-general of communications, and mother of two children, told IPS. "Things were going very well, but the absence of law that came with the occupation, which created the extremist militants, has ruined the prestige of woman. The bad status is a result of the bad security situation.

Any improvement in women's status means an improvement in the political situation."

Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who reports from Iraq. Ahmed Ali is IPS' correspondent based in Diyala province.