Meanwhile, Back at the War

It's not getting any better. The Washington Post reports that an al-Qaeda force has taken over Qaim, an Iraqi town near the Syrian border, proclaiming "an Islamic kingdom liberated from the occupation." Most government workers, except teachers and doctors, are being killed by the foreign-led insurgents, according to "tribal leaders and other residents in the city," says WaPo.

[Abu Musab] Zarqawi's fighters had shot to death nine men in public executions in the city center since the weekend, accusing the men of being spies and collaborators for U.S. forces, said Sheikh Nawaf Mahallawi, a leader of a Sunni Arab tribe, the Albu Mahal, that had battled the foreign fighters. Dozens of families were fleeing Qaim daily, Mahallawi said.

There's no help from the U.S., whose forces doubt the violence that WaPo reports.

U.S. Marine spokesman Capt. Jeffrey Pool in Ramadi, capital of the western province that includes Qaim, said Marines in the area of Qaim had no word of any unusual activity in Qaim. Numerous Marines are stationed near the town, although Marines said they were not involved in recent ground fighting between pro-government tribal fighters and Zarqawi's group. According to Pool, the Iraqi government has no forces in Qaim.

Hat tip to Salon, which also notes that 12 Americans have died in Iraq since Katrina took over the spotlight, upping the US war toll to 1,887 dead, 13,877 wounded.