PEPE ESCOBAR, THE REAL NEWS ANALYST: It’s been five years since George W. Bush proclaimed Mission Accomplished in Iraq. Now take a very good look at these images. Yes, they are disturbing. You won’t see them on Western TV networks. And no, there’s not a hint of mission accomplished about them. These are innocent civilians-– poor Shi’ite Arabs living in the three million-strong Sadr City in Baghdad, one of the largest slums in the world. As The Real News has reported Sadr City is being walled in–- transformed into a gulag, and pounded relentlessly by US air strikes. The Pentagon-–and the Iraqi government–-say they are “protecting the Green Zone” by attacking Sadr City.
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As if that traumatic scene of the helicopter leaving the roof of the US embassy in Saigon in 1975 was rattling too many military minds. 1745 Iraqi civilians were killed in April-– against 159 policemen and 104 soldiers. Over 400 people were killed in Sadr City alone. Only 10% were guerrillas. This carnage is a direct consequence of Dick Cheney’s recent tour of the Middle East, Iraq included. This carnage is a direct consequence of Gen. David Petraeus’ surge. These are victims of a vicious political battle between the al-Maliki government in Baghdad, supported by the al-Hakim family, and the US, against Muqtada al-Sadr, who they fear will win the next elections in October-–because, of course, he is immensely popular. And in the big picture, these deaths are a graphic example of how the sophisticated Pentagon machine plans to deal with “problematic” urban slums in the future. We wall them, we isolate them, and we bomb the hell out of them. Who cares about collateral damage? It may be very harsh to say, but that's how it is.
Based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Pepe Escobar writes The Roving Eye for Asia Times Online. He has reported from Iraq, Iran, Central Asia, US and China. He is the author of the recently published Red Zone Blues. Pepe is a regular analyst for The Real News Network.