Monday, August 23, 2004

Sadr Is Winning

Over the past 17 days the standoff between Sadr's Shia militia and Iraq's US-backed interim government has been portrayed as a conflict that the renegade cleric will eventually lose. In fact, he is winning.

The above quote is from The Observer, a pro-war British weekly.

They also compare last Friday's charade of the Allawi 'government' claiming the control of the Imam Ali Mosque, and the capture of 400 fighters, to Comical Ali's propaganda. A propaganda that, unlike Comical Ali's, most of the Western TV news media - and not just the American - bought into anyway. It is amazing how they fall for every new US/US puppet government propaganda line, even after two years of being proven wrong in short notice.

And then there is the Christian Science Monitor. Tough certainly not a pro-Bush outlet, their reporter filed two reports from Najaf, filled with hypothetising about various dangers the Mahdi Army could pose to his life - but the only civilian dead he saw was shot from a US Bradley. In the second report, linked above, he also mocks a Sadrist who told him about awaiting martyrdom, just because he won't reveal his full name - the reporter, after weeks in Iraq, seems unaware of the long-running Iraqi tradition of persecuting relatives. But it is an interesting report anyway - and there is a nudget that brings us back to the propaganda lie theme; in light of the US Army's denial today of having fired the shot that damaged an outer wall of the Imam Ali Mosque:

"You realize that what you are doing is risky," said a US Army major, whose last name was Robertson. "That shrine might not be around much longer."

The painful thing about Sadr winning is that while Sadr is a freedom fighter, and according to CPA polls but contrary to what you read in most reports he is popular, but he is also a fighter for theocracy most of his compatriots don't want. This is something many in the anti-war camp, sticking to a simplistic script themselves, tend to overlook or dismiss. And it doesn't help that possibly most members of the Mahdi Army aren't really religious fanatics - as has been reported, some drink beer, most are disaffected ghetto youth, and the Iraqi nationalism part in Sadr's credo seems to have more pull - if you consider Khomeini. Khomeini was another freedom fighter who also fought for theocracy, and his takeover after the victory of the Iranian revolution resulted in the loss of freedom just won not just for the wide masses, but many of the actual revolutionaries too. Even some high-ranking clerics who didn't agree with Khomeini were arrested or put under house arrest.

Ever since the US invasion begun, all realistic choices for Iraq I saw were bad choices. I still do. Now the two I deem most likely are:

  1. In a protracted struggle taking further years under whoever wins the November US elections, Sadr wins, and as unifying figure, becomes Iraq's de-facto leader in one form or other, and builds a theocracy less formal but just as opressive as Iran's - and then enters a long struggle with Iran for dominance in the Shi'a world.

  2. In a protracted struggle taking further years under whoever wins the November US elections, Sadr is killed, but the US is ultimately driven out, while Iraq falls apart - not into the Sunni/Shi'a/Kurd subsets uninformed Westerner journalists expect, but kind of city-states and some larger regions, all controlled by militias.

On this subject, I recommend people to read the first dozen posts in Salam Pax's second blog. you may think he was away in London for too much time to truly relate to Iraqi relality, you may think he is wrong about whom to blame for the Najaf battle (see previous post), yet you have to contemplate that for him it is not just the progress of US imperialism and the legality of the invasion and justice done for past war crimes that is at stake, but his personal future - and as a gay liberal secular Iraqi, he doesn't have the luxury to accept any solution to the former.


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