Empty Days

Sunday, April 04, 2004



Fallujah as the turning point

It was lost on no one in the wide public and the big media (yeah, believe it or not) that the massacre in Fallujah did not at all look like an isolated incident by "some thugs" non-reflective of the general state of affairs in Iraq regarding negative sentiment against USA control. [Addenda: heh, turns out Slate's F.Kaplan also called Fallujah a "turning point" - I guess it's in the air. Voice it for us, big guys, speak the collective mind.]
Today more *very bad* news. Juan Cole draws a very detailed picture:
Shiite Clashes in with Coalition in Najaf Baghdad: Phase II of the Anti- Occupation Struggle Begins

Nine Coalition Troops Killed, Dozens wounded in Confronting Uprising


The always tense relationship between the Sadrist movement among Iraqi Shiites and the US and its Coalition partners has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. Perhaps a third of Iraqi Shiites are sympathetic to the radical, Khomeini-like ideology of Sadrism, and some analysts with long experience in Iraq put it at 50%. Earlier Muqtada Al-Sadr, the movement leader, had called on his forces to avoid violence against Coalition forces. As of Sunday, he has decided that the Coalition means permanently to exclude his group from power, and has decided to launch an uprising. This uprising involves taking over police stations in Kufa, Najaf, Baghdad and possibly elsehwere. The Sadrist militia now controls Kufa, according to the New York Times, and probably controls much of Sadr City or the slums of East Baghdad, as well, though it has been expelled from the police stations it had occupied there.
...
So far, about 60% of clashes with Coalition troops had occurred in the Sunni heartland of Iraq. But the violent clashes in Najaf, Baghdad, Amara and Nasiriyah may signal the beginning of a second phase, in which the US faces a two-front war, against both Sunni radicals in the center-north and Shiite militias in the South.
...
The problem began in some ways on Sunday March 28, when Paul Bremer decided to close the main Sadrist newspaper, al-Hawza, purportedly for publishing material that incited violence against Coalition troops.
...
The outbreak of Shiite/Coalition violence is a dramatic challenge to US military control of Iraq. The US is cycling out its forces in the country, bringing in a lot of reserve and national guards units, but will go from 130,000 to only 110,000 troops. It is too small a number to really provide security in Iraq, but the country has not fallen into chaos in part because the main attacks have come in the Sunni heartland and because the Coalition has depended on Shiite militias to police many southern cities. If the Shiites actively turn against the US, the whole military and security situation could become untenable. The US is already losing its Spanish coalition partner. The Japanese and Korean contingents are explicitly not there to fight. The Thais may decamp. The coalition partners probably provide a division altogether, and if they pulled out, the US would have to find a division to replace them. It only has 10 itself, and nobody else is going to come in under these circumstances--certainly not the UN and probably not NATO.
If you want to know how many Coalition troops were killed in all of this, look in the news stories. Like this one from NYTimes: Violent Disturbances in Iraq From Baghdad to Southern Cities:
As the fighting raged, Mr. Sadr called on his followers to "terrorize" the enemy as demonstrations were no longer any use. Last week, his weekly newspaper, Hawza, was shut down by American authorities after it had been accused of inciting violence. The closure began a week of protests that grew bigger and more unruly at each turn.

"There is no use for demonstrations, as your enemy loves to terrify and suppress opinions, and despises peoples," Mr. Sadr said in a statement distributed by his office in Kufa today.
In light of the preceding post about just how rotten and ignorant is the CPA authority, I guess the only thing to do at this point is to dismantle and reform that particular "club" in a very visible, brutal and open way. Perhaps, maybe, god help - it will appease the minds.

Juan Cole has this to say on the question:
Iraq Information or Party Propaganda?

The Guardian has a story [Bush Loyalists Pack Iraq Press Office] on Sunday about how the Iraq Information Office is not just a Coalition Provisional Authority way of getting the news out about their activities, but is essentially an arm of the Republican National Committee dedicated to reelecting George Bush. The goal is to keep the bad news from Iraq from hurting Bush in the presidential campaign.

I have for some time been wondering why the US press reporting about Iraq was so much sunnier and optimistic than what one hears from Iraqis or from freelance reporters on the ground in the country. To any extent that the mainstream Western press takes its cues from Dan Senor and Rich Galen, that would help explain it.
Maybe Bush will get impeached in the end over this mess? I'd love to see that. And Rumsfield/Cheney/Wolfowitz out of politics forever.





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