Two Months After Zarqawi

It’s been two months since George Bush announced the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The Bush administration said Zarqawi was a terrorist mastermind, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a man who organized attacks on innocent civilians, American troops, and the Iraqi police and military. But two months after his killing, violence and death in American-occupied Iraq has only increased.

“Life is a hell in Iraq at the moment,” explains Houzan Mahmoud of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.

Officials at Baghdad’s morgue announced almost 2,000 bodies arrived in July – a far greater number than in May, the last full month of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s life. The head of the morgue told Reuters about 90 percent died violently. He said most had gunshot wounds to the head. Some were strangled, and others were beaten to death with clubs.

“Imagine,” Mahmoud says, “you live in an occupied country with the presence of Islamic militias, gangsters, terrorists who prevent women from going out, kidnapping children, kidnapping people for ransom. No one in Iraq knows if they’re going to be alive for the next three minutes.”

In Baghdad Wednesday, gunmen killed five people and wounded two when they opened fire on a street vendor grilling fish. Elsewhere in the capital, police found nine bodies killed by gunshots. An additional civilian was killed in a roadside bomb on a U.S. patrol.

In Baquba, between Baghdad and the Iranian border, five people were killed and 20 wounded overnight when a rocket hit a three-story building. On roads to the northern oil city of Kirkuk, three Iraqi soldiers were injured and one civilian was killed and one wounded by separate roadside bombs. Southwest of the city, police found a beheaded body of a man. It’s not clear who killed him.

Hamit Dardagan, a researcher with the group IraqBodyCount.org, says Zarqawi’s killing has had no effect on the scale and nature of the violence.

“If someone sets off a bomb in a marketplace, even if a report says ‘insurgents did this,’ it’s clear that nobody has a clue what happened in the marketplace,” he says. “That kind of death increased throughout 2005 and is still increasing now.”

Two U.S. Marines were missing in Iraq Wednesday after a Black Hawk helicopter with six men aboard crashed during a reconnaissance mission. Just under 2,600 American soldiers have died since the war began.

Amid the rising violence, a group of 50 Iraqi journalists petitioned the U.S. military calling for the harassment of reporters to end. The reporters, based in Kirkuk, say the military has prevented them from taking photos at the scene of attacks, turning their guns on journalists when they arrive on the scene.

“Things are getting worse, and in response, the security forces are directing an increasing amount of their energy and anger against the press,” Saman Fakhri of the Iranian-owned al-Alam satellite network told al-Jazeera. “We’re under attack from all sides: the Iraqi police, the Iraqi army, the emergency services, Coalition Forces, and the political parties are subjecting us to physical and verbal abuse."

The reporters say this began after Zarqawi’s death.

With developments like these, perhaps there’s a reason why the Bush administration hasn’t done anything to call attention to the two-month anniversary of the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Read more by Aaron Glantz