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Catfish and Cod
Monday, October 20, 2003
Al-Sadr's making trouble: II.
(Link path: Healing Iraq)

Wow, what a difference a day makes. Twenty-fours go by and I get linked as the go-to guy for "an interesting and very accurate timeline for all Al-Sadr related trouble in Iraq since September 29." Amazing what three hours of obsessive Google News reading will get you these days, isn't it?

Zayed has corrected my interpretations of who is leading whom, and gives some kickass insight into the inner workings of Shi'a politics. I defer to his superior knowledge. And my list of players in the post below has been changed to reflect his critiques.

All I wanted to do was get a comprehensive description of what was going on in Iraq. The problem with the Feiler Faster news cycle is that lingering stories get split up into short 24-hour-or-less newsbytes that don't show the linkages between events. From the stories you see on U.S. media, you'd think each of these incidents was an isolated event. The Washington Post connected some of the dots (about one quarter of the points in my timeline are from their story on Page A24 of yesterday's paper), but no one else seems to have really tried. This is not due to ideological bias; FOX News is as shallow in its own way as CBS. It has to do with the way the US news is managed right now.

What emerged is this creepy situation, with three threads of major incidents: Karbala, Sadr City, and southwest Baghdad near the Ali Bayaa mosque. At all three spots, al-Sadr keeps the pressure up continuously. As soon as one situation is resolved, his people immediately start another incident. (He seems to have enough followers in Najaf to try there as well, but doesn't dare do so with al-Sistani and the rest of the Hawza right on his doorstep.) I don't know whether this is because his yahoos are such morons that they can't help but make fools of themselves in front of their enemies, or that it's a deliberate incitement campaign masterminded by "Muqty" and his Iranian puppetmasters. But whatever it is, it stinks.

By himself, al-Sadr can't do anything. His only real source of influence is his last name. Ayatollah Mohammad Sadek al-Sadr was a real power in Shi'a, but "Muqty" is not his father by a long shot. He's a chump, and an idiot too. But as Lenin noted long ago, there are plenty of "useful idiots" out there. al-Sadr's real power is to spur the rest of Shi'a Iraq to move. And that's what may be happening. Al-Sistani has blamed the central government for letting al-Sadr get away with his tricks. He's calling for restrictions on illegal arms possession (which he'll probably get) and rapid elections for constitutional convention delegates (a much less likely proposition).

Here's a eyewitness account of the Karbala shootout at the home of al-Hassani on October 16. Seems like the US forces tried very hard to resolve the situation. Lieutenant Colonels don't show up on the front line of a battle in today's Army unless they are trying to negotiate a settlement. And here's something else that hasn't been mentioned in press reports: although neither al-Sadr nor al-Hassani are in custody, 40 other al-Mahdi were grabbed and 17 of them are still being held.

And here's the word on the Karbala street on al-Hassani:

''This man is a criminal. He bought all his followers. He recruited my best friend who died in a gunbattle in a prison. Hassani went around preaching Islam while he drank alcohol,'' Rashid Kathim said.
''He had about 400 armed men. They created so many problems for us. After the incident (Thursday's shootout) his men screamed Allahu Akbar (God is great) and they asked us to protect them from the Americans. We all said no.''

Meanwhile, the British in Amara have co-opted the local upstart and have the situation temporarily well in hand. Wonder how they did that?

And finally, Zayed worries:

It's at times like these that I start worrying and get pessimistic about the future of freedom in this country. I see many people reject it, because 'its an American and zionist plot to spread immorality and degradation in our virtous society'. Then they give me all the holy crap. The problem with their logic is that they are not even holy themselves. I don't want to believe in their scriptures. I don't want to be forced to fast in Ramadan. I want to be able to freely criticize them without being burnt at a stake. I want to be able to buy my vodka without having to look left and right. I want to be able to walk with my girlfriend in the street while holding hands together without people glaring at me. Is this TOO MUCH to ask? Do I have to immigrate and leave my country for wanting to do all that?

No, Zayed. No one should have to leave their home to be who they are. And no one's home should be dominated by sanctimonious hypocrites.

There was a fellow once who was very critical of sanctimonious hypocrites. I think he was from Nazareth...

Other episodes: I. II. III. IV. V. VI.