Thursday, January 04, 2007

What effect will the execution videotape have on Iraq?

That is the $64 billion question, but here are a few reactions from people with expertise.

First, Robert Baer, who is a former CIA case officer, author of both "Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul For Saudi Crude" and of "See No Evil" the book that eventually became the movie Syriana. In fact, George Clooney plays Baer's character in the movie. Baer has a new op-ed in Time which begins...

"The cat is out of the bag. Thanks to images from a cell phone, we now know that the Iraqi National Police unit we turned Saddam over to was in fact a Shi'a lynch mob."

On the subject of what this means to a future Iraq and the question of the effect of our presence there Baer writes:

"Only time will tell us what Sadr intends do with Iraq if he ever does take over. But the Sunnis today will tell you they don't need to wait. On Saturday, they saw all the evidence they needed: the symbolism of executing Saddam on the Muslim High Holiday of Id al-Adha as a gift to the Shi'a, and and the decision of Maliki to get special approval from Iraq's senior Shi'a clerics, the "marja'iya," to carry out the execution on that day. No one is ever going to take a poll, but it's safe to say that most Sunnis fear that Ayatollah Sadr's dream of an Iraqi Shi'a Islamic republic has already come true."

Second, CBS/AP reports that "After Hussein's burial Monday, rage over the hanging spilled into the streets in many parts of the Sunni Muslim heartland Monday, especially in Samarra where a mob of angry protesters broke the locks off the badly damaged Shiite Golden Dome mosque and marched through carrying a mock coffin and photo of the executed former leader." The article continues:

"Sunni extremists had blown apart the glistening dome on the Shiite holy place 10 months earlier, setting in motion the sectarian slaughter that now grips the troubled land.

The Samarra protest was particularly significant because it signaled a widening expression of defiance among Sunnis, the minority Muslim sect in Iraq that had enjoyed special status and power under Saddam and had oppressed the now-ascendant Shiite majority for centuries."

Third, Professor Juan Cole describes this Sunni protest of the Saddam execution as:

"Folks, this is very bad news. The Askariyah Shrine (it isn't just a mosque) is associated with the Hidden Twelfth Imam, who is expected by Shiites to appear at the end of time to restore the world to justice. (For them, the Imam Mahdi is sort of like the second coming of Christ for Christians). The Muqtada al-Sadr movement is millenarian and believes he will reveal himself at any moment.

The centrality of the cult of the Twelfth Imam, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad who is said to have vanished in 873 AD, helps explain why the bombing of the Golden Dome on February 21 of 2006 set off a frenzy of Shiite, Sadrist attacks on Sunni Arabs. Last February, stuck in a Phoenix hotel because of a missed flight and without an internet connection for my laptop, I blogged from my Treo that it was an apocalyptic day. Sadly, it was, kicking off a frenzy of sectarian violence that has grown each subsequent month.

For Sunni Arabs to parade a symbolic coffin of Saddam through the ruins of the Askariya shrine won't be exactly good for social peace in Iraq. Can't that site be properly guarded or something?

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that hundreds of demonstrators marched in Dur, near Tikrit on Monday, protesting the execution of Saddam Hussein. Young men carried machine guns and fired them in the air, chanting "Muqtada, you coward," and "Hakim! Yellow-belly! Agent of the Americans!" They unveiled an enormous mosaic of Saddam Hussein inscribed, "The Martry-Hero."

There was also a demonstration in the northern Baghdad district of Adhamiya, at which protesters shouted condemnations of Muqtada al-Sadr, according to al-Zaman. Some of those present at Saddam's execution shouted "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada!" Saddam mocked them, asking if this was their sign of manliness. (Personally, I believe this is Saddam's reference to rumors in Iraq that Muqtada's wife left him, saying that he is actually gay. He is saying that chanting Muqtada's name is a sign that they are also not real men.)"

(To get to Cole's comment, scroll down to the "Tuesday, Jan. 2" entry)

Bottom Line: If Baer is correct that "most Sunnis fear that Ayatollah Sadr's dream of an Iraqi Shi'a Islamic republic has already come true" and Cole is correct that the Sunni break-in/ coffin protest at the "badly damaged Shiite Golden Dome mosque" is "very bad news" and not "exactly good for social peace in Iraq," where do we really stand in Iraq? And what will the future look like?

Is there any hope of "victory" for an occupying power in the midst of this current and potentially worse future bloodshed? Of course, to the right, the answer is simple. The killing is not a sign of failure but a reason for hope. As Dean Barnett puts it, on Hugh Hewitt's blog, in a post entitled "A Moment of Savagery - Now a New Hope?:"

"The only answer, as it always has been, is to stamp out that savagery ferociously and totally. At the end of this war, Iraq must necessarily be composed of people who always wanted to live in peace and the one-time enemies of peace who have come to realize they have no other choice but to live in peace. How much killing will this take? That will depend on how many enemies of peace there are and how determined they are to live in a state of war."

In other words, we are assisting in killing off the "bad" Iraqis, even though 1 in 20, at least, has now been killed. Just a little more progress, Barnett believes, and the good Iraqis, the ones who want to live in peace, will be left and the mission will be accomplished.

Amazingly, Barnett concludes his paragraph above with this prediction:

"One thing's for certain - the more resolute we are, the less killing there will be."

We have a President who just recently dropped the theme of "stay the course" and now, when 1 in 20 Iraqis is dead in the post Saddam era, after the "liberation" if we just stay "resolute" Barnett somehow has the gall to predict that the killing will stop.

Barnett then concludes his piece with these words about the "best news" coming out of Iraq:

"The best news of the past few days actually wasn’t Saddam’s execution, even though Saddam facing justice (in spite of the primitive savagery of the execution itself) is something that every American can feel proud of. The even better news than Saddam’s death is that (according to the reliable Strategy Page), American and Iraqi forces have begun to make war on the Sadr militia."

The worse the news is, the more it is spun as "progress" by the increasingly isolated Bush cabal. One in 20 is already dead after the "liberation" and U.S. forces now attacking the Shiite leader's militia is considered "good news."

Kurt Vonnegut described the Decider playing with U.S. forces like a rich kid playing with toy soldiers. While the analogy is fitting, the killings are real and the future for Iraq, and our forces, is bleak and bloody.

Who will be the last to die for Bush's mistake?

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