The battle the US wants to provoke
April 6, 2004 2:43 AM   Subscribe

The battle the US wants to provoke Make no mistake: this is not the "civil war" that Washington has been predicting will break out between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. Rather, it is a war provoked by the US occupation authority and waged by its forces against the growing number of Shia who support Moqtada al-Sadr (by Naomi Klein in Baghdad).
posted by acrobat (49 comments total)
it is a war provoked by the US occupation authority

She doesn't provide any evidence for this, its no more convincing than Bremer's interpretation or of any of the other op-ed pieces about the causes of the events of the last few days, and less convincing than most as it seems pretty self serving. She sounds like someone on a Mefi rant.
posted by biffa at 4:18 AM on April 6, 2004

I heard her float this conspiracy theory on the radio this weekend. What is she doing in Iraq anyway? If this is the type of stuff she's digging up she might be slightly out of her element.
posted by raaka at 4:37 AM on April 6, 2004

lIt is nonsense like this that helps me to understand why those not far enough to the Left often wonder about their colleagues...Perhaps we ought not be in Iraq at all but that does not mean that we are trying to see how many Americans and others we can help to get killed.
posted by Postroad at 4:59 AM on April 6, 2004

Boy, there's alot of talk about how the Bush Administration is sending this country straight down the crapper, and I, for one, happen to think that's not far off.

Global Journalism, on the other hand, is sending the whole world straight down the crapper, and this is an excellent example. I mean jeeesh! Just because a guy runs a paper that prints terrorist propaganda, trains his own army, and then has some opposition religious leader murdered! Can't a fundamentalist have a little fun during a reconstruction?
posted by ewkpates at 5:02 AM on April 6, 2004

Even if the allegations against Bremer are factually true, an article is not going to prove them true or false. That kind of article can be an alarm bell allright, but it is as revealing as an "embedded journalists" work.
posted by elpapacito at 5:06 AM on April 6, 2004

This is not a conspiracy theory.

From a Washington Post story, released shortly before the confrontations with Moqtada Al-Sadr's supporters commenced:

a source in the State Department said "We're coming to the point that there's likely to be a confrontation, as there's no chance he or his people will break up and move into Iraq's new security forces."

So, first they shut down his newspaper so that he can't encourage insurrection -- yet they don't provide a single example of what the paper did which was against the law.

And then they start up with the arrest warrants, whose timing was, according to Mr. Bremer's spokesman, coincidental.


And then, of course, there are all the dead protesters, in a morning that started with peaceful prayers and unarmed protests, but which escalated into violence, chaos, retribution, and bloodshed, as followers of Sadr who converged on Najaf for prayers and the protest returned to places like Baghdad and Basrah, intent on revenge.

Only after hundreds of casualties did Moqtada Al-Sadr angrily denounce the use of protests against "terrorists". Only then did he urge his followers to resort to "other means". Sure, Sadr is no saint, but all the evidence indicates that Sadr never intended for this conflict to happen, and it's noteworthy that neither the U.S. nor the Spanish forces have provided any convincing evidence that Sadr's forces started the bloodbath.

I'm sorry, but what the CPA has to say on this just isn't credible. For that matter, neither is the CPA. They have been caught in numerous lies already, so the idea that we should blindly trust them to be the guardians of the truth is frankly ludicrous.
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:12 AM on April 6, 2004

The other option: the "occupation forces" think that closing down a critical newspaper contributes to democracy and nation-building. How very Saddam of them!

Twisted plan or obvious foolishness - because two choices are always better than one (hey, that is what democracy is all about!!!).

Just because a guy runs a paper that prints terrorist propaganda, trains his own army ...

IOW: The rights that US citizens enjoy are not suitable for Iraq people (and are thus taken away by foreign troops). First it's "do as I say, not as I do" and then insults followed by bullets. A winning proposition indeed.

I'm so impressed that I will shut up now and simply bask in the glory of such marvelous accomplishments.
posted by magullo at 5:14 AM on April 6, 2004

"Just because a guy runs a paper that prints terrorist propaganda..."

Cite concrete examples, please.

"trains his own army"

The Madhi Army is indeed a paramilitary force. That said, it is not an armed force, and not the only such religious "army" in Iraq. The video of the protest showed none of the black-clad Madhi Army members brandishing weapons during the protest. Even the video of the gunfights after the protest primarily show people who aren't wearing the "all black" of the Mahdi Army.

"...and then has some opposition religious leader murdered!"

Unfounded speculation. Al-Khoei was killed by a crowd of people who may have been Al-Sadr supporters, but there is no evidence available linking him to the attack. Innocent before proven guilty.
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:26 AM on April 6, 2004

insomnia_lj: I'm not saying that it's possible that we're not getting the full story but Klein has knocked out her 1000 words without presenting anything in the way of evidence. I'd love to know how things kicked off and accept there are a range of possibilities. If we're going to find out something like the truth then we will need good investigators on the ground, but this article isn't anything to do with investigation, its just politically motivated heckling.
posted by biffa at 5:28 AM on April 6, 2004

I believe the US authorities knew they would provoke a pretty serious reaction by shutting down the newspaper and arresting a senior aide of Al-Sadr's, one event occurring after the other. I mean, when I read about the newspaper being shutdown, I (playing armchair governor as you do) thought straight away that it sounded like a dangerous move, knowing of Al-Sadr and his standing in the Iraqi Shiite community. But maybe it was a necessary action by the authorities? Those reports that peaceful demonstrations were fired upon are another matter though. There's certainly no justice in actions like those, if they did occur.
posted by Onanist at 5:33 AM on April 6, 2004

I'm not saying that Klein isn't slanted in her view of the incidents. That said, she does, at least, have the benefit of being a media witness to what happened.

She says that on Sunday Iraqi soldiers put on ski masks and then opened fire on pro-Sadr demonstrators on Baghdad when as they were returning home from the violent protest near An-Najaf... and you know what?

I believe her. Why? Because she has no clear motive to lie. Worse still, I believe her because I have nobody else credible to believe.

(Certainly not my own government. Dig deep enough to find firsthand accounts and you might find your own reasons to doubt your government too.)
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:42 AM on April 6, 2004

Almost every commentator I have heard or read agrees that the worse it is in Iraq, the worse it is for Bush's re-election chances. If you accept that then Klein's argument just doesn't make sense.
posted by johnny novak at 5:54 AM on April 6, 2004

But johnny, there's worse, and there's worse. It's reasonable to believe that us staying in control and presenting it as "doing it for the Iraqis, and helping them against the powers that don't want democracy to flourish" is less damaging to Bush's relection chances than turning it all over to a puppet regime, and watching hell break loose.
posted by amberglow at 6:02 AM on April 6, 2004

By that argument, we shouldn't be in Iraq at all.

Bush and his chickenhawks started one conflict already in Iraq, thinking that it would all be over in months. Why not a second one? And in the same country too! How convenient!
posted by insomnia_lj at 6:04 AM on April 6, 2004

I already doubt both our governments, though I'd be surprised if Blair would support what Klein suggests here, less surprised that Bush might. Klein certainly has an agenda though and getting Bush out would, I imagine, be on it.
Frankly, I have no idea who to believe, but it would be useful if they brought some decent evidence with them.
posted by biffa at 6:13 AM on April 6, 2004

Are op-ed pieces necessarily supported by evidence?

I thought they were just opinions or commentaries. That's how I've always read them. Is this correct?
posted by davehat at 6:21 AM on April 6, 2004

This is the greatest success of the neo-cons: you just don't know who to believe anymore. But you can use your heads. You have a lying government; you have a freaked-out, trigger happy army in a country they don't understand; you have a media that serves not the truth but the people in power; you have embedded journalists. And you have people like Fisk and Klein who are liberals, yes, but they are there, in Baghdad, and the only thing they have to defend (because, somehow, liberal=suspicious) is their own integrity. There's more from Klein, but again, you have to do your own digging to check it out:

«As the June 30 "handover" approaches, Paul Bremer has unveiled a slew of new tricks to hold on to power long after "sovereignty" has been declared.

Some recent highlights:
At the end of March, building on his Order 39 of last September, Bremer passed yet another law further opening up Iraq's economy to foreign ownership, a law that Iraq's next government is prohibited from changing under the terms of the interim constitution. Bremer also announced the establishment of several independent regulators, which will drastically reduce the power of Iraqi government ministries. For instance, the Financial Times reports that "officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority said the regulator would prevent communications minister Haider al-Abadi, a thorn in the side of the coalition, from carrying out his threat to cancel licenses the coalition awarded to foreign-managed consortia to operate three mobile networks and the national broadcaster."

The CPA has also confirmed that after June 30, the $18.4 billion the US government is spending on reconstruction will be administered by the US Embassy in Iraq. The money will be spent over five years and will fundamentally redesign Iraq's most basic infrastructure, including its electricity, water, oil and communications sectors, as well as its courts and police. Iraq's future governments will have no say in the construction of these core sectors of Iraqi society. Retired Rear Adm. David Nash, who heads the Project Management Office, which administers the funds, describes the $18.4 billion as "a gift from the American people to the people of Iraq." He appears to have forgotten the part about gifts being something you actually give up. And in the same eventful week, US engineers began construction on fourteen "enduring bases" in Iraq, capable of housing the 110,000 soldiers who will be posted here for at least two more years. Even though the bases are being built with no mandate from an Iraqi government, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of operations in Iraq, called them "a blueprint for how we could operate in the Middle East."

The US occupation authority has also found a sneaky way to maintain control over Iraq's armed forces. Bremer has issued an executive order stating that even after the interim Iraqi government has been established, the Iraqi army will answer to US commander Lieut. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. In order to pull this off, Washington is relying on a legalistic reading of a clause in UN Security Council Resolution 1511, which puts US forces in charge of Iraq's security until "the completion of the political process" in Iraq. Since the "political process" in Iraq is never-ending, so, it seems, is US military control.»
posted by acrobat at 6:45 AM on April 6, 2004

Sadr's paper blamed the US for the Ashura attacks-- an explosive allegation and totally false.

Ji seems to beleive that the CPA is the only actor here, that Sadr and his folk are just reactive, which is just silly. Clearly, Sadr loses unless there is a major conflict before the handover. He was polling about 2% in national polls. Go back and look at the Khomeinist takeover in Iran. They provoked the conflict with the US to marginalize their domestic rivals. Same thing here.

The CPA has been confident of Sadr's role in Khu'i 's murder for at least six months. Apparently, they have an eye witness to the order. They had hoped that him knowing that they know would be enough to keep him in line. They were wrong. The really interesting bit is what role will Sistani and other Shi'i powers play. Sadr is a marginal figure to many Shi'i, and his rivals may be waiting for the US to eliminate him so they don't have to.
posted by ednopantz at 7:00 AM on April 6, 2004

Granted, granted, granted. But let's distill:

If you had to pick someone to run your country after having had Saddam for a dictator, wouldn't you pick the CPA over Sadr?

And certainly, its just that simple. Is the CPA an imperfect imperialist office? Do solders in the middle of armed conflict make mistakes? Is the Bush Administration a bit short of the ideal? Is it hard to get accurate accounts out of Iraq? Are Iraqis a mix of paranoid and ashamed about what is happening in their own country?

Yes to all of it.
posted by ewkpates at 7:08 AM on April 6, 2004

the US army followed with tanks, helicopters and planes, firing at random on homes, shops, streets, even ambulances.

I'm not sure I trust Naomi Klein's opinion of crowd control techniques or military maneuvers

According to local hospitals, 47 people were killed and many more injured. In Najaf, the day was also bloody: 20 demonstrators dead, more than 150 injured

Local hospitals ae very likely controlled by al-Sadr, and would not be bastions of impartiality.

Rather, it is a war provoked by the US occupation authority and waged by its forces against the growing number of Shia who support Moqtada al-Sadr.

As discussed in this thread (many links towards the beginning), al-Sadr's group is of dubious strength, influence and numbers, even within the Shi'ite community. What happened could hardly be considered a "war". It remains to be seen if the situation escalates, but for now, al-Sadr incited a riot spewing invective and hate to anyone who would listen, his people fired RPG's and machine guns, and the authorities forced them to stop and issued an arrest warrant for al-Sadr. Maybe this is glib, but I'm not sure how thousands of armed men marching down the street chanting death to the jews and the americans can really be considered a peaceful protest. I certainly wouldn't want them marching in front of my house.

At first, Bremer responded to Sadr's growing strength by ignoring him; now he is attempting to provoke him into all-out battle.

Please. As others have said, where is the evidence of Bremer's intentions? Is it not more likely that al-Sadr was ignored until he became so belligerent that he was impossible to ignore?

Another issue this raises, in my opinion, is the necessity for using tactics that are unpleasant and distasteful in normal circumstances. I am not, in general, a supporter of clandestine operations and secret destabilization pacts, but I am in favour of taking a long term approach to problems. I don't believe that these al-Sadr riots were anything more than a criminal letting his mob loose for personal gain, but if this was part of a grand plan on the part of the administration, maybe it's for the best to get rid of the influence that al-Sadr wields now, before it's too late. This boils down to whether one is willing to accept the risk of short term strife and violence in exchange for long term benefits. 30 years from now, the past few days may be a footnote in history, and the world may not have had a new Fateh or Hizbullah to deal with. Again, not that I think this is the case here.
posted by loquax at 7:13 AM on April 6, 2004

And, here's some more from the liberal (I know, I know: some kind of agenda, unreliable source, no links etc.) Fisk:

«Two Thursdays ago, a rocket smashed into a hotel in southern Baghdad. The spanking new Arab news channel Arabia sent its crew to cover the story. The two Alis arrived with their driver, Abu Mariam, at the scene of the attack, parked their car 250m away and went up to speak to the US troops guarding the road. They were told they could film, but could do no "stand-uppers" - face-to-camera shots in front of the building. They completed their report, returned to their car and prepared to leave.

But as they did so, a 67-year-old man called Tariq Abdul-Ghani drove his Volvo down the road towards the US checkpoint, unaware that anything was amiss. He drove into a hail of American gunfire. His family - to whom I also spoke at length - says he received 36 bullets to his body. The Volvo crashed into one of the US vehicles. Tariq's widow and son say that he could not have seen the US checkpoint. The two reporters and their driver, Abu Mariam, were 120m from the scene. Ali al-Khatib, the reporter, told Abu Mariam not to follow the Volvo, but to turn the car across the low median and drive away in the opposite direction.

Abu Mariam obeyed the instruction. "We crossed the median and began to drive away down the opposite side of the road away from the Americans," he says. "We had gone quite a way when bullets hit our car. The bullets came through the back window. The cameraman was hit in the head, then Ali al-Khatib, the reporter, suddenly lay his head on my shoulder and said: 'Abu Mariam.' I made a right turn. Our Arabia colleagues called me on the phone and said, 'What is happening?' I said: 'Fuck you, I've got to find a hospital - I don't know where the nearest hospital is.' I took them to the Ibn al-Nafis hospital. Ali al-Amairi was dead on arrival. The other Ali died the next day."

Three more civilians had died in "liberated" Iraq. The Arabia channel responded with fury. They demanded an enquiry from the Americans and they decorated their head office in Baghdad with mourning posters. At first, the Americans announced that they could not have killed the reporter and cameraman. Both were killed with single shots to the head. How was it possible for US troops so far away to have been so accurate in killing two men with single shots to the head? Good point.

So with the son of the Volvo driver, Ali Tariq al-Hashimi, I visited the police station where he wished to register his father's death. The Iraqi police major at the Mesbah police station was polite, sympathetic and showed the documents on the case to the Volvo driver's son - and to me. The son asked for the car and its contents. You must ask the Americans for them, he was told.

"I went to the US base at the presidential palace," he told me. "They said I could not have the car back. I asked for my father's wallet and his money and his wristwatch and his ring. The soldier was on the phone and he said to me: 'You must forget the car - why do you want it?' I said I wanted to put it in my garden because this would be a symbol of my father's death. He was kind. He lowered his head and shook my hand and said how sorry he was."

Even more disturbing were the words of the major in the Mesbah police station. He told me that, shortly after the incident, American troops had come to the police station and had smashed the back window of the Volvo so that no traces remained of the bullet holes. Horrifically, the brains of Ali al-Amairi still lay on the back seat. But I climbed into the vehicle and counted nine rounds through the vehicle - through the back seats and the front window.

A few days later, the Americans came up with a new version of the killing. The Volvo had approached the checkpoint at speed. The soldiers thought they were under attack, fired at the vehicle and some of their bullets must have hit the Arabia car as it sped away. The US troops did not know they had hit the journalists. The Americans admitted responsibility, but it was not deliberate.

Hmmm. But there's a problem. The journalists crossed the median because the Volvo was a target. They didn't turn before the gunfire. So how could they have been hit by the same rounds that killed 67-year-old Tariq Abdul-Ghani when he was dead before they decided to leave? And why did American troops smash the back window of the Arabia car hours later when the bullet holes would have proved how many rounds had been fired at the car?»

If you felt a bit sick in your stomach it's ok. If you didn't, well...
posted by acrobat at 7:13 AM on April 6, 2004

I generally find this saying to be true:

Never contribute to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence.

Judging by past actions of this administration, I'm even more sure this can all by explained plainly by ignorant and or arrogant bumbling.

Besides, the "handover of power" doesn't need to be anything more than a symbolic act. They certainly haven't announced any formal plan -- hell, last night on the news hour republican senator Lugar, chairman of the senate foreign relations committee was openly criticizing administration for telling him and the rest of the senate nothing about their plan for June 30th.

My guess? They don't have much of one, they actually believed their own bullshit about being greeted as liberators.

So, since they haven't told anyone what the plan is for June 30, even republican senate leaders, they can make it purely symbolic. They can have one of their appointed iraqi's do the talking instead of bremer, and everything else can remain the same. They never, to my knowledge, said anything like "we're pulling every soldier out on June 30th".

Honestly, no need for a conspiracy here, it's just more examples of a profound lack of foresight in this administration.
posted by malphigian at 7:17 AM on April 6, 2004

The CPA has been confident of Sadr's role in Khu'i 's murder for at least six months.

Then why didn't they arrest him six months ago, instead of sitting on a murder warrent until it was politically convenient? How many other warrents are the CPA sitting on until they need them?
posted by kirkaracha at 7:27 AM on April 6, 2004

I certainly wouldn't want them marching in front of my house.

loquax, would you like a whole foreign army (plus mercenaries) walk all over your country?

malph, of course they never said "they are pulling every soldier out on June 30th". They want to hang in there indefinitely. They have the whole Middle East to sort out. There is no plan for the 30th. The plan is to keep the country occupied, with an Iraqi puppet regime in place taking orders. Why is that so difficult to grasp?
posted by acrobat at 7:32 AM on April 6, 2004

Acrobat, can you stay off your own thread for more than two comments at a time? Or at least decide if you are outraged over the Sadr confrontation or the checkpoint dead reporters mess or transfer that doesn't fulfill your expectations or the fact that some of us are apparently too stupid to share your enlightened opinions?

You might as well just get your own blog and disable comments if you only want to hear yourself talk.
posted by ednopantz at 7:47 AM on April 6, 2004

"Never contribute to conspiracy what can be explained by incompetence."

That's no comfort when people are dying. Trying to impose a US-controlled secular puppet state in Iraq is sheer madness. I think this is only the beginning of an escalation of violence in Iraq. The CPA (much like the US administration that created it), says one thing then does another. And as the bodies pile up we are radicalizing people who might have been friendly if we did what we said we were going to do.
posted by black8 at 8:10 AM on April 6, 2004

That was one highly convincing ... something, ednopantz
posted by magullo at 8:17 AM on April 6, 2004

"al-Sadr's group is of dubious strength, influence and numbers, even within the Shi'ite community"

That's rubbish -- the kind of CPA-sponsored minimalizing that we've seen time and again when it comes to articles on Al-Sadr. They use talking points to minimalize him, if you've ever noticed -- always using words like "young", "firebrand", "headstrong" -- I swear I haven't seen the word used firebrand so much in any other context in my entire life. They sometimes even wheel out a CPA-sponsored Iraqi "spiritual leader" to say bad things about him too. Note that it's *NEVER* Sistani, however, or indeed, never even any spiritual leader of note in Iraq. Most of the time, it's an unknown exile who rode back into Iraq on Chalabi's coattails.

First off, Al-Sadr isn't *just* a religious leader -- he's also secular. In the days after the war, before the U.S. ever got around to helping the people of eastern Baghdad, Al-Sadr's people were providing a level of security and social welfare which was unseen anywhere else in the country. He's also consolidated real political power in the south of Iraq, and has lots of his people on local councils.

I could explain it all to you, but I would recommend you read this post by Raed.

Raed is one of those Iraqis, you know... and he might just have something to tell you about his country if you paid attention.
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:29 AM on April 6, 2004

would you like a whole foreign army (plus mercenaries) walk all over your country?

No of course not, but if given the choice between the US army and al-Sadr's militia, or Saddam's army, I think the choice is clear. This isn't a comment on the war, or anything else, I'm just saying arming the mob and taking to the streets doesn't help anyone, least of all the people of Iraq.
posted by loquax at 8:37 AM on April 6, 2004

Whether or not this is a conspiracy theory, over the past few days whenever I've seen Bremer and other CPA/army people on the news, I've thought they've sounded as if they'd completely lost it; "Iraq will be pacified ...", etc.
posted by carter at 8:53 AM on April 6, 2004

insomnia, I wasn't trying to minimize his support or buy into CPA propaganda. Just pointing out that his organizational strength is open to interpretation. There are a lot of links in this thread that discuss him and sadrism.
posted by loquax at 9:07 AM on April 6, 2004

"if given the choice between the US army and al-Sadr's militia, or Saddam's army, I think the choice is clear"

You don't get it.

Prior to the entrance of Al-Sadr into the conflict, a little over 20% of Iraqis supported armed conflict against the Coalition.

Now, of course, you can add at least another 10% to that figure.

... and add another 10% once the crackdown hits Fallujah.
... and another 10% when they shoot up hundreds, if not thousands, of Iraqis in a sacred mosque in order to get at Al-Sadr.
... and 5% more for the violence in Basra, when they try dislodging the Sadrists from the Governor's mansion.
... and extra points if any of this happens during the religious holiday that's coming up later this week.

What is happening here is that we are polarizing Iraqi society and giving the extremists ammunition with every wrong step we make. This makes it harder, of course, for pro-democracy Iraqis to assert themselves. It also makes the reconstruction that much harder too.

The Iraqi resistance doesn't need majority popular support in order to succeed. All it needs to do is get the Coalition to overreact. When they do, popular support inevitably swings in the direction of the resistance.

That is why you can have secular Palestinians who think that suicide bombers are dangerous extremists, but can still have 70% of the population who believe in violent resistance against the occupation. That's also why you can have major anti-war movements in the U.S. led by a pro-communist organization.

The bigger issue outweighs the sins of the messenger.
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:08 AM on April 6, 2004

ji, instead of trusting one Iraqi's opinion, why not listen to 2,737 of them?

Most Shia don't support attacks on CPA forces and Sadr himself comes in at 1% in national polls. This could change as a result of this power play (indeed, that is his aim), but for the present, he is a marginal figure.
posted by ednopantz at 9:09 AM on April 6, 2004

One can ruminate on the wisdom or effectiveness of closing Al Sadr's newspaper, but I don't know that one can make that argument on restriction of free speech grounds. If Iraq had a conition exactly like our 1st Amendment, then calling for the killing of occupation soldiers would definitely be covered by "fighting words."
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:20 AM on April 6, 2004

ednopantz, interesting poll, hadn't see that.

I wonder if the pollsters here really accounted for regional and economic group concentrations, I'd imagine it's pretty hard to do good polling in the current situation.

Anyway, a quote:
And only one in 10 Shiites says attacks on coalition forces are acceptable, compared with three in 10 Sunni Arabs and seven in 10 Sunnis in the Anbar province

Let's extrapolate:
25 million iraqis, 50% (at least) shia, so 12.5 million shia.

Assuming no margin of error, that 1.25 million shia who support attacks on colation forces. That'd be in addition to the millions of Sunni who do.

Obviously, these million people aren't all ready to pick up guns, and as you say, if the poll is accurate only 125,000 name Sadr a leader.

But none of those numbers are trivial, even 125,000. Marginal, sure, but he can't exactly be ignored.

Ignatius: Did the paper ever say that? It was my understanding it was closed for printing lies about various attacks around iraq being american bombs, not iraqi insurgents.
posted by malphigian at 9:22 AM on April 6, 2004

redundant - interesting links.

insomnia - I hear what you're saying. I don't necessarily agree that opposition to the CPA is growing at the rate you suggest, but that possibility certainly exists. All I meant was that no matter who you are, or where you are, al-Sadr's mob is a bad bad group to run into, and needs to be contained somehow. I hear condemnation of CPA tactics in doing so, but how do you control a group like that? He's learned his gameplan from Fateh and Hizbollah. So what do you do? Let him control whatever he likes? Sit him down for a chat? Bribe him? Maybe it's the CPA's fault, but that doesn't change the fact that he's a criminal out to polarize people himself, for his own dubious aims.
posted by loquax at 9:26 AM on April 6, 2004

redundant - interesting links.

Sorry, I don't know where I got "redundant" from. I meant ednopantz. The perils of posting from work...
posted by loquax at 9:28 AM on April 6, 2004

I'll shoot myself before someone else does:
Given some of my posts...some would say it is a Freudian slip.

Thank you. I'll be here all week. Make sure to tip your waitress, she is working hard.
posted by ednopantz at 9:31 AM on April 6, 2004

Saying that only a bit over 1% trust Al-Sadr most is somewhat meaningless, especially after the past few weeks. Almost everyone trusted Sistani the most, as is appropriate for their culture. It should be pointed out that Chalabi polled in at .2%, so that goes to show that power doesn't necessarily equate with trust.

You could create a similar poll in the U.S. and throw Clinton into the mix and he would poll the same, but if people could have him as their leader, they would in a heartbeat. Obviously, the desirability of someone to lead doesn't always equate with trust either.

As for whether Shi'ites support attacks, like I said, more support attacks now than before the recent violence. Even then, the poll mentioned 17% of Iraqis supported attacks. 51% of those taking the poll were opposed to a foriegn presence in Iraq, compared to 39% in favor.

If you calculate the number of Iraqis who favor attacks against Coalition forces, that equals roughly the number of Arabs who reside in Israel AND Palestine. Of course, not all of the Israeli/Palestinian Arabs favor violent confrontation, so even before Sadr got into the conflict, we had a problem potentially greater than the Intifada on our hands. Now, of course, it's considerably worse.
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:43 AM on April 6, 2004

"how do you control a group like that? He's learned his gameplan from Fateh and Hizbollah. So what do you do? Let him control whatever he likes? Sit him down for a chat? Bribe him?"

Minimalize him. Isolate him. Don't directly confront him yourself. Isolate the CPA/U.S. from the repurcussions of what is, essentially, an Iraqi criminal case. Don't incite him or his followers. Don't make a hero or a martyr out of him. Make your legal case against him public before he's arrested, if necessary.

Ultimately, there will always be radicals with violent tendencies. If it wasn't Al-Sadr, it would be somebody else. Al-Sadr isn't the problem so much as the symptom. The symptom is very significant. The person, himself, however, is not. Treat the symptom, and then people like Al-Sadr won't have a leg to stand on.
posted by insomnia_lj at 10:03 AM on April 6, 2004

Thanks for the callout. Juan Cole has a couple of links to old wire stories, but I didn't really represent them well.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 10:04 AM on April 6, 2004

I suspect the fact that Sadr polls at 1% is irrelevant because it works against your argument that the CPA is provoking a foolish confrontation with powerful force capable of inflicting great harm on the CPA.
I would hold that the initiative here does not lie with the CPA, but rather with Sadr, and moreover that this was an inevitable confrontation, assuming Sadr wants power. Sadr is not just another radical representing popular opinion. He is a guy who wants power, has some following for purely family reasons, but not nearly the religious or political experience to make use of that. He isn't an ayatullah, he isn't a marji' al-taqlid, he is a angry young man with a pedigree. He is alive because he wasn't worth Saddam's bullets.

So the best possible solution is for his ragtag militia to be clobbered by western armies in short order (they lost a battle to the Italians people), Sadr himself arrested, and his organization dismantled/overtaken by actors with some vested interest in avoiding civil war/prolonged militia nonsense that has reduced whole chunks of the Arab world to misery.

This is going to take a two-pronged approach of stomping the guys in black one one hand and giving away the farm to everyone else on the other. Sistani will be a big winner in all of this.
posted by ednopantz at 10:28 AM on April 6, 2004

Now what do you do with him?
posted by loquax at 11:28 AM on April 6, 2004

As the fighting flared, al-Sadr, who sparked the violent clashes between his supporters and U.S. troops, was planning to take refuge in Imam Ali mosque, according to a posting on his Web site.

Anyone know where his website is? Or if it's in English?
posted by loquax at 11:31 AM on April 6, 2004

Is the CPA an imperfect imperialist office?

No, it's a foreign branch of the Republican party.
posted by riviera at 12:13 PM on April 6, 2004

I have seen only a passing mention of any civilian casualties in this latest quagmire. Undoubtedly woman and children are going to die so the US forces can pacify the resistance. I wonder how the American public will like hearing about civilian casualties caused by their military? If they hear about it that is.
posted by cmacleod at 9:29 PM on April 6, 2004

"al-Sadr's group is of dubious strength, influence and numbers, even within the Shi'ite community"

"That's rubbish -- the kind of CPA-sponsored mineralizing that we've seen time and again when it comes to articles on Carlsbad. They use talking points to minimalize him, if you've ever noticed -- always using words like "young", "firebrand", "headstrong" -- I swear I haven't seen the word used firebrand so much in any other context in my entire life." -

I've actually heard more extreme characterizations on (my darling) US public radio - Al-Sadr is a religious extremist and a "thug", (and so on) but he has only "thousands" of supporters.

Well then, it must be so.
posted by troutfishing at 10:05 PM on April 6, 2004

"over the past few days whenever I've seen Bremer and other CPA/army people on the news, I've thought they've sounded as if they'd completely lost it; "Iraq will be pacified ..."(Carter) - My thoughts, more or less.

Incompetence? Or is there a method to the madness?
posted by troutfishing at 10:10 PM on April 6, 2004

Today (April 7th), a UPI reporter in Iraq declared that fighting was going on between a very small number of al-Sadr's rebels and US troops. In some cities, the correspondent attributed to the fighting to as few as several dozen rebels. I'm a bit dubious of these claims.
posted by troutfishing at 9:34 AM on April 7, 2004

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