Resistance against the U.S. occupation of Iraq has spread across the country from as north as Kirkuk down to southern Iraq.
The U.S.-occupying forces have lost control of at least three cities, Najaf, Karbala and Kufa to followers of the Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr.
Facing the increasing resistance, the Pentagon signaled on Wednesday that it would probably delay bringing home as many as 25,000 soldiers from the First Armored Division as scheduled. At least 40 U.S. soldiers have died in the past week–the most in any week since the fall of Baghdad.
The fiercest fighting occurred in Falluja where Sunni Iraqis still maintain control of three quarters of the city where the U.S. has staged a large offensive involving over 2,000 Marines. On Wednesday the U.S. purposely bombed a mosque that they claimed was being used by the resistance. Witnesses said 40 people died but the military said only one person was killed in the attack. The head of Falluja’s main hospital reports at least 280 Iraqis have died since the U.S. sealed off the city. 400 have been wounded. The Independent of London is reporting the US has blocked all traffic from entering Fallujah including ambulances.
Falluja has become a leading symbol of Iraq nationalism among both Sunni and Shiites. In Baghdad hundreds of Iraqis lined up in the streets to give blood to the victims in Fallaja.
One Iraqi told reporters "We are giving our blood and money here now, but this is just the start. We will give our souls. This will be worse than Vietnam. The Shia and Sunni will fight together."
Sadr also issued a statement Wednesday making a comparison to Vietnam. He said "I call upon the American people to stand beside their brethren, the Iraqi people, who are suffering an injustice by your rulers and the occupying army, to help them in the transfer of power to honest Iraqis. Otherwise, Iraq will be another Vietnam for America and the occupiers." ’ Sadr also urged the Kuwaiti government to expel the U.S. military from that country.
More signs emerged that Sunnis and Shiites are joining together to oppose the US occupation. Posters of the Shiite leader Sadr have been pasted throughout Sunni areas of Baghdad. Shiite clerics are urging followers to support their Sunni brethren in Fallajah. In the northern city of Kirkuk, U.S. forces killed eight Iraqis who were protesting the U.S. raids in Fallajuh.
In Washington, the Bush administration continued to downplay the Iraqi uprising. At a press conference on Wednesday Donald Rumsfeld said, the fighting was just the work of "thugs, gangs and terrorists," and not a popular uprising. General Myers added that "it’s not a Shiite uprising. Sadr has a very small following."
But the New York Times reports otherwise. Experts within the intelligence community said the U.S. is facing a broad-based Shiite uprising even if the rebellion has not been explicitly supported by the country’s chief Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Sistani.
On Wednesday Sistani gave his first official statement on the recent uprising. He called for a peaceful resolution but said "We condemn the way the occupying forces are dealing with current events."
On Capitol Hill senior Senator Robert Byrd called for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq but Rumsfeld vowed to stay the course.
Rice to Testify Before 9/11 Commission
President Bush’s National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice will go before the 9/11 commission today for two hours of public questioning under oath. White House officials said Wednesday that Rice has no plans to make a public apology for the Sept. 11 attacks.
Amnesty International has issued a report that found the U.S. and three other countries were responsible for 84 percent of the executions around the world last year. The other three countries are China, Iran and Vietnam. China executed 726 people. Iran executed 108 and the U.S. was third with 65 executions.
In India, a landmine blast has killed at least 26 policemen.