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Sectarian/Religious Violence

Muslims and Christians are killing each other in Nigeria. The article describing what's going on in Nigeria called it "sectarian violence," but it's not. It's religious violence because it's between followers of two differnet religions. The sectarian violence is, for example, in Iraq whre Muslims and Muslims are killing each other. Anyway, from the article about Nigeria:

ONITSHA, Nigeria Feb 23, 2006 (AP)- Christians in this southern Nigerian city burned Muslim corpses and defaced wrecked mosques Thursday, showing little repentance after days of sectarian violence that has killed more than 120 people across the country. Onitsha has borne the brunt, with at least 80 of the deaths. The violence followed weekend protests over the publication of cartoons of Muhammad, the Islamic prophet. "We don't want these mosques here anymore. These people are causing all the problems all over the world because they don't fear God," said 34-year Ifeanyi Ese, standing amid the concrete rubble of an Onitsha mosque. Thousands of Nigerians have died in sectarian strife since 2000, when mostly Muslim northern states began implementing Islamic Shariah law in late 1999. Nigeria's 130 million people are split between the two faiths, with Christians a majority in the south. The latest violence was touched off Saturday in the northern city of Maiduguri, when Muslim protests against cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad. The cartoons, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September, have set off sometimes violent protests around the world. The Maiduguri protests turned violent, and 18 people, most of them Christian, were killed. Twenty-five more died in similar violence in the northern city of Bauchi, sparking reprisals in Onitsha.

and from an AP article in the Toronto Star about Iraq:

Gunmen killed dozens of civilians today and dumped their bodies in a ditch, as the government ordered a tough daytime curfew of Baghdad and three provinces to stem the sectarian violence that has left at least 114 dead since the bombing of a Shiite shrine. Seven U.S. soldiers died in a pair of roadside bombings north of the capital, and American military units in the Baghdad area were told to halt all but essential travel to avoid getting caught up in demonstrations or roadblocks. As the country careened to the brink of civil war, Iraqi state television announced an unusual daytime curfew, ordering people off the streets Friday in Baghdad and the nearby flashpoint provinces of Diyala, Babil and Salaheddin, where the shrine bombing took place. Such a sweeping daytime curfew indicated the depth of fear within the government that the crisis could touch off a Sunni-Shiite civil war. "This is the first time that I have heard politicians say they are worried about the outbreak of civil war,'' Kurdish elder statesman Mahmoud Othman told The Associated Press.

The Art of Counterinsurgency

A rare positive story out of Iraq. From a Washington Post story by Thomas E. Ricks reproduced on

The last time the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment served in Iraq, in 2003-04, its performance was judged mediocre, with a series of abuse cases growing out of its tour of duty in Anbar province. But its second tour in Iraq has been very different, according to specialists in the difficult art of conducting a counterinsurgency campaign -- fighting a guerrilla war but also trying to win over the population and elements of the enemy. Such campaigns are distinct from the kind of war most U.S. commanders have spent decades preparing to fight. In the last nine months, the regiment has focused on breaking the insurgents' hold on Tall Afar, a town of 290,000. Their operations here "will serve as a case study in classic counterinsurgency, the way it is supposed to be done," said Terry Daly, a retired intelligence officer specializing in the subject. U.S. military experts conducting an internal review of the three dozen major U.S. brigades, battalions and similar units operating in Iraq in 2005 privately concluded that of all those units, the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment performed the best at counterinsurgency, according to a source familiar with the review's findings. "Every time you treat an Iraqi disrespectfully, you are working for the enemy," McMaster said he told every soldier in his command. He ordered his soldiers to stop using the term hajji as a slang term for all Iraqis, because he saw it as inaccurate and disrespectful. (It actually means someone who has made the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca.) One out of every 10 soldiers received a three-week course in conversational Arabic, so that each small unit would have someone capable of basic exchanges with Iraqis. McMaster, who holds a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina and is an expert on the Vietnam War, distributed a lengthy reading list to his officers that included studies of Arab and Iraqi history and most of the classic texts on counterinsurgency. He also quietly relieved one battalion commander who didn't seem to understand that such changes were necessary.

Direct Talks


The upcoming issue of Newsweek reveals that face-to-face talks are on-going between American officials and Iraqi insurgents:

American officials in Iraq are in face-to-face talks with high-level Iraqi Sunni insurgents, NEWSWEEK has learned. Americans are sitting down with "senior members of the leadership" of the Iraqi insurgency, according to Americans and Iraqis with knowledge of the talks (who did not want to be identified when discussing a sensitive and ongoing matter). The talks are taking place at U.S. military bases in Anbar province, as well as in Jordan and Syria. "Now we have won over the Sunni political leadership," says U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. "The next step is to win over the insurgents." The groups include Baathist cells and religious Islamic factions, as well as former Special Republican Guards and intelligence agents, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the talks. Iraq's insurgent groups are reaching back. "We want things from the U.S. side, stopping misconduct by U.S. forces, preventing Iranian intervention," said one prominent insurgent leader from a group called the Army of the Mujahedin, who refused to be named because of the delicacy of the discussions. "We can't achieve that without actual meetings."

Iraq's Enemy Within

Here's an interesting article by Ian Mather on about the insurgent groups in Iraq.

"There is no centre of gravity, no leadership, no hierarchy; they are more a constellation than an organisation," says Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at the Rand Corporation of the new-look insurgency. "They have adopted a structure that assures their longevity." As a result, even killing or capturing al-Zarqawi would not end the rebellion.

I'd Make the Decision Again

A few weeks ago I mentioned several things that bother me about Iraq and asked if it has been "worth it." Bush thinks it has been. From an article by Peter Baker in The Washington Post (reprinted in The Seattle Times):

Knowing what I know today, I'd make the decision again," Bush told a questioner after a speech here. "Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country.

I agree that the world is a better place without Saddam in power. But its not hard to think of better ways to make the world better with $220 billion. Bush also admitted for the first time that 30,000 Iraqis have died.


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