the irony
April 7, 2004 2:52 PM   Subscribe

the city of najaf is no longer under coalition control, ahead of an important pilgrimage. the secretary of state: "people who are considering engaging in the pilgrimage ought to very carefully calculate because we're not in a position to provide protection."
posted by coyroy (31 comments total)
BREAKING NEWS: Iraq is an anarchic war zone.
posted by PrinceValium at 3:06 PM on April 7, 2004

I'd be curious to see some kind of map, like we used to see prior to "the end of combat operations", showing how much and where in the country is safely and happily under coalition control, how much is barely under control, and how much is under open revolt.

I'm no fan of this war, and that we've bungled it hardly seems in dispute, but I suspect that the current problem areas are smaller than, well, I'd suspect. (Which makes no sense logically, but then so little does)
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 3:14 PM on April 7, 2004

John, The green areas are kinda touchy ;-)

More seriously, there are all kinds of nice maps of Iraq showing all sorts of different information here. Compare the population density map with the ethnic groups map to get a super-oversimplified view of where there might be trouble.
posted by whatnotever at 3:31 PM on April 7, 2004

and that we've bungled it hardly seems in dispute

Are you just not paying attention?
posted by techgnollogic at 3:48 PM on April 7, 2004

Get your maps here.
posted by techgnollogic at 3:56 PM on April 7, 2004

The "problem areas" are pretty much the major centers of Iraq as shown in this BBC map, which doesn't contain Kirkuk further up North where 8 Iraqi demonstrators were murdered by the occupation forces yesterday...
Killing worshipers at Mosques, or women and children in hospitals, isn't gonna help much with the few areas not in revolt either. The depravity of the occupiers is now at a par with that of the sort of people that blew up the train station in Madrid. Only they're better armed.
"...And the thing happening in Iraq right now, killing hundreds of Iraqis and dozens of coalition soldiers, is NOT just another mob. It is an uprising."
posted by talos at 4:18 PM on April 7, 2004

yeah, we're just running around shooting innocent people... that's how we operate, yup.
posted by techgnollogic at 4:32 PM on April 7, 2004

In The Fog of War McNamara talks about how we (America) just didn't get what was happening in Vietnam. We thought we were over there fighting to keep out the Commies. It turns out the Vietnamese didn't really care about the Commies, they were fighting a war of independance, and so they were willing to lose everything to get back their country.
posted by bshort at 4:53 PM on April 7, 2004

Colateral damage, techno. Yes, that is how we operate. Just because you wish to accuse others of a false accusation doesn't make it any less true. As I'm sure you know, there's a huge difference between targeting (your false accusation of false accusation) and shooting (shit, its war, that happens). Can you say Strawman? There, I knew you could.
posted by Wulfgar! at 4:55 PM on April 7, 2004

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan...
posted by homunculus at 5:10 PM on April 7, 2004

A war of independance?
I was under the impression it was a civil war, and part of the whole reason it was such a bloody mire was that there was in fact foreign support from communist countries - both neighbouring countries and mother Russia - continually driving it. And it's not like the communists were nice people that brought puppydogs and flowers to the oppressed people of south Viet Nam. Or medical care.

I mean sure it was all fucked up and atrocities were committed and we probably shouldn't have been there, but it's not like we were the bad guys and the communists were the good guys. Pretty much everyone had both good and bad guys playing for them and it was just all kinds of fucked up.

"I'm no fan of this war, and that we've bungled it hardly seems in dispute"

Signs you pull your view of society from mefi, number 423.

It's hotly in dispute, and I'm sorry, but you can't just dismiss everyone who disagrees with you as an idiot, moral or otherwise. The actual invasion took less than a month, and relative to other occupation efforts in history, casualties have been low. Most of the bungling I've seen reported is on the level of reconstruction services, and that's incredibly hard to guage from where I sit on my ass in the states. All I've got to go on are reports from the region - so there's some guy saying an anonymous schoolteacher avowed to him that the subcontractors that are supposed to repair his school suck, and then CNN with an Army officer going "look here we fixed this and it's awesome" and my Kuwaiti/American friend saying "my dad and his friends who are engineers say they could have had the power back on within a couple days and it wasn't" and jesus christ who the fuck is to be believed?

So anyways. The armed forces decided to stay the fuck out of a holy area occupied by hostile guerrillas while religious pilgrims will be milling about, ripe for footage of holy areas splattered with the blood of children killed by a grenade which might or might not have ever touched an American hand. Seems sensible to me.
posted by kavasa at 5:15 PM on April 7, 2004

Reasonably good map.
posted by kablam at 5:45 PM on April 7, 2004

Well fucking great. This war is going to be the death of us all yet.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:21 PM on April 7, 2004

Our enemies are much, much closer to all dying than killing us all.
posted by techgnollogic at 6:49 PM on April 7, 2004

Our enemies are much, much closer to all dying than killing us all.

Good, when we kill all the Iraqis, who's next?

I'm looking at you Iran!
posted by eyeballkid at 7:02 PM on April 7, 2004

Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Other than the unscheduled remarks on Iraq, Bush did not alter his plans for the day. His stops in Charlotte and St. Louis were en route to an eight-day stay on his ranch in central Texas.
posted by amberglow at 7:13 PM on April 7, 2004

Well, what's the worst thing that could happen if GWB disappears on the ranch for a while?

Uh, oh yeah....
posted by subgenius at 9:49 PM on April 7, 2004

"In Iraq ... we are transforming a place of torture chambers and mass graves into a nation of laws and free institutions."

George W. Bush
Address to the Nation
September 7, 2003

"Marine engineers patrolling near Ramadi on Wednesday reported coming across a mass grave containing up to 350 bodies of Iraqis who appeared to have been killed in the fighting. It wasn't clear whether the bodies belonged to combatants, civilians or both."

Knight Ridder Newspapers
Intense fighting continues across Iraq
April 7, 2004

(thanks to billmon)
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:07 PM on April 7, 2004

On Politics and War, II

Scarborough: As one who served proudly in Vietnam for this country, do you agree that Iraq is going to be George W. Bush‘s Vietnam, or is that a bit of a political overstatement by Senator Kennedy?

Gen. Wesley Clark: Well, I think there‘s a difference in the amount of—in the cost to the American armed forces of fighting in Iraq and Vietnam. We‘ve lost over 600. We were losing over 300 a week at the height of the Vietnam War. And yet, there is this important similarity. In Vietnam, our military was asked to use its tactics on the battlefield to try to accomplish something that the strategists and the politicians and the diplomats couldn‘t quite envision.

Scarborough: Right.

Clark: And that‘s the same thing that‘s happening in Iraq. For all the president says about wanting to create a democracy in Iraq, it‘s pretty clear the conditions for democracy aren‘t there.

He‘s got a lot of rhetoric out there. But where‘s the concrete political plan for how you surface these differences in the Shia community, reconcile them politically with the Sunni community and the Kurds and bring this country together? It‘s not happening. In the meantime, our armed forces, our young men and women are shedding their blood to try to maintain order. Well, they‘ll do that. But we won‘t ultimately be successful unless we can have a political strategy. The military can‘t do it alone.

Shockwave: Kut evacuated, Poll numbers hit

The signs are that there are now armies on the ground in Iraq, opposing Coalition forces, capable of operational level discipline. This drastically increases the complexity and difficulty of crushing the resistance. And yet, the US and UK have made defeating them a matter of confidence. The future of Bush and Blair is now on the line, failure to crush Sadr and the uprising will be failure in the eyes of the public.
posted by y2karl at 12:37 AM on April 8, 2004

Oh, that's just delicious irony, isn't it, foldy?

Here's some more talk of mass graves for your reading pleasure: Iraq's Legacy of Terror: Mass Graves .pdf available for the full report, including stories from a few survivors.

From the report:

Some graves hold a few dozen bodies—their arms lashed together and the bullet holes in the backs of skulls testimony to their execution. Other graves go on for hundreds of meters, densely packed with thousands of bodies.

"We've already discovered just so far the remains of 400,000 people in mass graves," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair on November 20 in London. The United Nations, the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) all estimate that Saddam Hussein's regime murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people. "Human Rights Watch estimates that as many as 290,000 Iraqis have been 'disappeared' by the Iraqi government over the past two decades," said the group in a statement in May. "Many of these 'disappeared' are those whose remains are now being unearthed in mass graves all over Iraq."

If these numbers prove accurate, they represent a crime against humanity surpassed only by the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Pol Pot's Cambodian killing fields in the 1970s, and the Nazi Holocaust of World War II.


Keep telling yourself Iraq was better off with Saddam in power.
posted by David Dark at 12:48 AM on April 8, 2004

Bopnews has interesting writers. Tet Mau Than:
A short primer on how to lose a television war.

Are we creating the elements of a "Tet Moment" in Iraq? In 1968, North Vietnam, coordinating with the revolutionary elements in South Vietnam launched an "all in" gamble on the lunar New Year now known as "The Tet Offensive".

A second look at the Tet offensive is in order, as Iraq continues to slide down the scale of order into chaos, or, as David Neiwert remarked "a vast apocalyptic playground".

Tet was a twofold turning point in that war, because it broke both public and political will. US interventions are now timed by how long it takes to reach, a "Tet Turning Point". Where the US can get in and get out before that moment, there is success. Where, as in Somalia and Beirut, we cannot, the US withdraws.

posted by y2karl at 12:53 AM on April 8, 2004

So anyone go any ideas of what can be done to create a better Iraq for its people? If we pull out, the fanatics will have a free-for-all slaughter as they battle for power, and the people will end up just as repressed as before. If we stay, then we will see years of terrorist tactics against the troops and civilians.

One problem is that the Iraqi insurgents are playing by different rules to the coalition. No doubt if the roles were reversed, they'd have no hesitation sterilizing the cities with nuclear weapons. But carpet bombing cities of civilians is something we thankfully put behind us after the end of WWII.

So, is there a relatively peaceful way out of this? Or is there, in reality, no solution that does not involve the application of extreme violence?
posted by Meridian at 1:56 AM on April 8, 2004

Here are some interesting statistics from a poll taken of Iraqi citizens back in February. A majority want democracy to succeed in some form, so that's a good thing.

I think what Iraq needs most right now is for Sistani to come forward urging restraint more strongly than he has. He could probably stifle some of the situation if he were to condemn Sadr's tactics and ask the people of Iraq to do the same. Unfortunately, he wasn't very happy with the first draft of the interim constitution, so this is highly improbable.

I don't think Falluja will take long to stabilize. The insurgents there are suffering heavy casualties. It was a mistake for them to attempt to stand and fight. The point of guerilla warfare is to attack the enemy when he's weak, then run and hide and hopefully disappear so you can live to launch another surprise attack. Trying to remake the Alamo in Falluja is a bad idea for them. They won't be able to hold the city for long.

Sadr seemed to realize this when he abandoned his hold in Kufa in favor of slipping away to Najaf. I also don't think Sadr has as big of a following as he'd like us to believe. He's either very smart or very stupid, and I haven't decided which I believe it is yet. I thought it was a mistake that he tipped his hand so early in the game and gave the Coalition a good reason to go after him. Here's the impression his forces gave a NY Times reporter a few days ago in Kufa. They don't sound like an impressive bunch, but who knows. Regardless, he's a thug and a convicted murderer, and needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later. It appeared for a few days that he was willing to martyr himself in Kufa to create a widespread uprising, which worried me because of that possibility, but now he appears to be rethinking that stance. I think he's decided he wants to live and reap the rewards of the revolution he's trying to start.

Apparently, his group now claims to have hostages, which is troublesome. Can't confirm or find a number, but they're reported to be Spanish and possibly American.

If Sadr's army folds, it will actually be better in the long run that this happened now. If it doesn't, then all bets are off. However, the situation is a ticking timebomb, and if it's not diffused correctly, this is going to get very, very ugly. The next few weeks are going to be crucial, and we can't afford any major blunders.
posted by David Dark at 3:33 AM on April 8, 2004

Regardless, he's a thug and a convicted murderer, and needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later.

And he was convicted of any crime when and by what court?

Or is this one of those I'd volunteer if there was a draft moments?
posted by y2karl at 8:25 AM on April 8, 2004

Also: Account of Broad Shiite Revolt Contradicts White House Stand

United States forces are confronting a broad-based Shiite uprising that goes well beyond supporters of one militant Islamic cleric who has been the focus of American counterinsurgency efforts, United States intelligence officials said Wednesday.

That assertion contradicts repeated statements by the Bush administration and American officials in Iraq. On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that they did not believe the United States was facing a broad-based Shiite insurgency. Administration officials have portrayed Moktada al-Sadr, a rebel Shiite cleric who is wanted by American forces, as the catalyst of the rising violence within the Shiite community of Iraq.

But intelligence officials now say that there is evidence that the insurgency goes beyond Mr. Sadr and his militia, and that a much larger number of Shiites have turned against the American-led occupation of Iraq, even if they are not all actively aiding the uprising.

posted by y2karl at 9:49 AM on April 8, 2004

Hey, David Dark, if you want to make yourself useful, why don't you do what y2karl does: find some good documentation from alternative media sources that support your sunshine-and-lollipops position on the war?

If this IraqFilter threads are unbalanced by the homogenous groupthink that MeFi is becoming reknown (at least in the minds of the rightwingnuts) for, then help to balance it out by doing a little work, eh? Find us well-written reports that support your agenda.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:03 AM on April 8, 2004

yeah, karl, I retract the word 'convicted'. It was 3 AM, I apologize. Here's the judge's account of the murder crime he's accused of for which one of the three warrants was issued.

Hey, fivefreshfish, if that's what you'd like, then please provide the following:

A detailed and thorough explanation of what constitutes 'good documentation', including at least three examples.

A complete up-to-date list with links of what you consider 'alternative media sources' that are balanced and support no agenda.

This means that you yourself will have to 'do a little work, eh', which means that it won't be done. Unemployed Canadians can't be bothered with such tediousness, I'm sure.

My comment was an attempt to answer Meridian's question, which called for more than just a y2karl cut and paste job with or without a one-liner lefty cheapshot. I linked to sources to support my position. If you don't consider them 'good documentation' from 'alternative media sources', I really don't give a damn. Kinda how I feel about Canadians whose envy of my country has festered into petty hatred and obsession. Go figure.

And really, fish, 'sunshine and lollipops'? You need testosterone supplements.
posted by David Dark at 12:35 PM on April 8, 2004

You're a keeper, Dark, a real keeper. [kiss]
posted by five fresh fish at 2:00 PM on April 8, 2004

Interesting. I'd throw all five of you back.
posted by David Dark at 2:39 PM on April 8, 2004

I can tell that you're sweet on me!
posted by five fresh fish at 3:31 PM on April 8, 2004

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