Today is the American retailers’ day where they hope their financial dreams come true. Millions, for some strange reason I still haven’t comprehended, rush out to crowd malls and shops to buy, buy, buy. Tonight’s news programs — local, national, and cable — will have reporters camped out all over the place to “report” on this phenomenon of consumer craziness following a nice, quiet, day of dinner with friends and family.
Many call today “Black Friday.”
For once, I agree with the labeling of this day, but not for the reasons that have just been outlined. No, today’s Black Friday should not be about wild and unhinged American consumerism. Rather, it should note the increasingly wild and unhinged problems that have been developing in Iraq since March of 2003 and have steadily grown worse.
Iraq Toll Rises; Shiite Militia Retaliates (New York Times):
Defying a government-imposed curfew, Shiite militiamen stormed Sunni mosques in central Iraq today, shot guards and burned down several buildings in apparent retaliation for a series of devastating car bombs that killed hundreds of people the previous day in a Shiite slum.
As the death toll from those bombings rose above 200, gunmen drove through neighborhoods in Baghdad and the nearby provincial capital of Baquba, shooting at mosques with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades on the Muslim holy day, when many Iraqis attend a weekly sermon.
From morning until afternoon, at least seven mosques were attacked in a single mixed neighborhood in the capital. Three were destroyed completely, and at least three guards were killed, an Interior Ministry official said. Iraqi security forces were either absent or unable to stop the gunmen. Residents blamed the attacks on the Mahdi Army, a powerful Shiite militia based in Sadr City, the area ravaged by the explosions on Thursday.
“I live near Akbar al-Mustafa Mosque, which came under attack by gunmen around 7 this morning,” said a man who gave his name as Abu Ruqaiya and lives in Hurriya, the neighborhood where violence raged all day. “Around 3 in the afternoon, those gunmen bombed this mosque and destroyed part of it. They left only after American and Iraqi soldiers arrived.”
The wave of revenge attacks came despite a traffic ban the Iraqi government had imposed across the capital starting Thursday evening, underscoring the ineffectiveness of the Iraqi security forces in tamping down on violence that is widening the Sunni-Shiite sectarian divide and pushing the country toward full-scale civil war. The assaults against Sunnis on Friday evoked the rampages by Shiite gunmen that took place in the hours after a revered Shiite shrine was bombed by insurgents last February in Samarra.
American troops stepped up patrols across Baghdad, setting up checkpoints and rolling down mostly deserted avenues in armored Humvees. In the far north, a suicide car bomber and a suicide belt bomber detonated their explosives in crowded areas in the insurgent-rife city of Tal Afar, killing at least 20 people and injuring at least 42.
The bloodletting over the 24-hour period amounted to one of the worst spasms of violence since the Americans toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. It comes before a meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki scheduled for Wednesday in Jordan. Both men face increasing pressure from their respective publics to come up with a successful strategy for stemming the growing carnage in Iraq, and both are navigating rising tensions between their two governments as they try to agree on a viable path forward.