The Worst Vice President Ever goes to Baghdad and says:
“I was last in Baghdad 10 months ago, and I can sense, as a result of the progress that’s been made since then, that there have been some phenomenal changes, in terms of the overall situation, both with respect to the security situation, where Iraqi and American forces have done some very good work, as well as with respect to political developments here in Iraq.”
At sunset Monday, however, a female suicide bomber killed at least 40 people* and injured more than 50 when she blew herself up in a crowded pedestrian area near a Shiite Muslim shrine in the southern holy city of Karbala, according to government and hospital officials. Among the victims were several Iranian pilgrims who’d come to worship at the Imam Hussein shrine, one of Islam’s most sacred sites…
The majority of casualties in the Karbala suicide bombing were female pilgrims whoâ€™d gathered at refreshment stands about a half-mile from the shrine.The majority of casualties in the Karbala suicide bombing were female pilgrims who’d gathered at refreshment stands about a half-mile from the shrine, said Saleem Kadhim, a spokesman for the Husseini Hospital, which received 40 dead and 56 injured from the blast.
Medics from nearby towns were called in to help the overflowing hospital, and the government imposed an open-ended citywide curfew on Karbala.
“I was near the bus station when I saw a woman who was pushing others and then, a few seconds later, I saw a flame in the sky,” said Jassim Hussein, 32, who helped carry victims from the scene. “I blame the Baathists and members of the old regime. As you know, Karbala is a target for so many enemies, especially those against the Shiites. And I also blame the security forces because we don’t have checkpoints in this area.”
…In other violence Monday, a car bomb exploded at a busy intersection in the Baghdad neighborhood of Karrada, wounding eight people. Three separate roadside bombs in the capital also left casualties: One policeman was killed and one wounded when their patrol was targeted near a teachers’ training institute in Mansour; three Iraqi civilians died at a busy intersection near the Shaab Stadium in Zayuna; and one civilian was injured near the landmark Mr. Milk grocery store in Mansour.
And the U.S. military announced the deaths of two soldiers who were killed Monday when their Humvee struck a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, bringing the number of American troop deaths to at least 3,990 since the war began.
The media meme on Cheney’s trip is that it was a “surprise,” but when word of his trip to the Middle East came out last week, who didn’t think he would detour to Iraq? The bombings were probably all planned then.
Maybe he was there to crack the heads of Prime Minister Nouri al Malki and his government, but the trip comes off like one big photo op to give Cheney a platform for spouting administration talking points on the occupation: U.S. forces would “not quit before the job is done,” he said, without a trace of irony. And “[it] would be a mistake now to be so eager to draw down the force that we risk putting the outcome in jeopardy. And I don’t think we’ll do that.”
*Update: An Iraqi health official says the death toll in Monday’s bombing in Karbala near the shrine of Imam Hussein has risen to 52.