Iraqi Insurgents Pound Green Zone

Shiite militants continued to pound the U.S.-protected Green Zone with rockets and mortars Thursday, the fourth day this week.

A helicopter flies past a column of smoke rising from the Green ZoneThick, black smoke was reported to be billowing from inside the heavily fortified home to the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government.

Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo said that no one was injured in the latest attack.

However, several Americans have been in injured in earlier attacks on the Green Zone and US embassy staff have been told not to leave reinforced structures in the diplomatic compound following the attacks.

A U.S. official said that personnel — who usually sleep two to a trailer on the embassy grounds — are now sleeping inside the former Saddam palace where their offices are located.

“There are cots everywhere,” the U.S. official said. “People are scouting out free couches.”

“There is a sense of hunkering down for a sustained period of time,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of security restrictions.

The Green Zone has long been a target for Iraqi insurgents. Last May, windows were rattled by explosions as Vice President Dick Cheney visited the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. The same month, a blast hit the British Embassy compound when then Prime Minister Tony Blair visited.

In March, a rocket or mortar round landed near Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office while he and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were holding a news conference. Ban ducked behind a podium as small chips of debris floated down from the ceiling.

An official — who has been through other attacks — described the most recent barrages as “qualitatively different.”

According to U.S. military officials the attacks are coming from breakaway factions of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.

The attacks follow a clampdown on Shia militias in the southern city of Basra, which have thus far claimed 130 lives.

A curfew has been imposed on Baghdad after clashes between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi security forces.

At least one death was reported earlier this week inside the Green Zone. Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo said a U.S. government employee was killed, but would give no further details until relatives are notified. Another American, a financial analyst who audited contracts in Iraq, was killed Sunday during an attack on the heavily fortified compound.

The fact that the deteriorating situation in Iraq is getting so little media coverage should tell us that the authorities don’t want us to know about it.

After all the very same media gave wall-to-wall coverage to stories about Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction prior to the invasion of Iraq.

Such speculation was a media staple for a while and helped pave the way for the Iraq invasion – until it was found that Saddam had no WMD’s, when all such speculation instantly evaporated.

Now, in contrast, the mainstream media is giving minimal time to reports from Baghdad.

Meaning that the situation there is probably going from bad to worse, particularly around the seat of U.S. power in Baghdad, the Green Zone.