Three Us Troops Were Killed On

*Three US troops were killed on Wednesday, according to a military spokesman. In Tikrit, assailants hit a US convoy, killing one soldier and wounding another. In Mahmudiyah (which lies to the south of Baghdad), two soldiers were killed in an ambush by small arms fire on Wednesday evening. This must be a one-day record since the supposed end of hostilities on May 1. If it got so this was a regular thing (God forbid), you’d be looking at a thousand combat deaths a year, and General Franks now says this may go on for 4 years. I very much doubt the patience of the American people will extend that far.

*Muhammad Bazzi of Newsday did an excellent piece for Newday in which he interviews an Iraqi insurgent who says the Fedayee Saddam are far more organized than the US realizes. “Khaled” said, “”We have many more people and we’re a lot better organized than the Americans realize. We have been preparing for this kind of guerrilla war for a long time, and we’re much more patient than the Americans. We have nowhere else to go.” The Fedayee Saddam are a special death squad unit organized by Saddam’s son Udayy in 1995, and they were extremely effective in brutalizing the Shiites of the south into a kind of dazed, terrified submission. They are now calling themselves the Iraq Liberation Army. All this raises the question, is this situation like Algeria 1956 for the French? If so it is very bad news for the US occupation authority; the French got kicked out of Algeria.

*The newly installed Iraqi police in Falluja are threatening to resign if the US troops that trained them don’t leave the city. They say US forces in the city are a threat to their own lives. The people of Falluja (pop. 256,000) really despise the Americans and offer them resistance on several fronts. Some are Saddam loyalists, others Sunni fundamentalists and al-Qaeda wannabes, yet others want the US out for reasons of clan autonomy; still others have a feud with the US troops over earlier incidents in which their relatives were killed. I keep remembering all those talk shows on Fox Cable News on which Frank Gaffney, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Ken Adelman, Bill Kristol, and so on kept assuring us that “the Iraqis” would be jumping up and down for joy if the US overthrew Saddam. I thought to myself at the time that, well, the Shiites and the Kurds might be happy to see Saddam go, but the Sunni Arabs under Saddam were like the whites in South Africa in the 1950s. They benefited from that system, which threw the country’s resources to them. They, I thought, are highly unlikely to be happy to see GIs stomping around in their neighborhoods, setting up a government in which the Shiites would dominate the Sunnis. But to be fair, it is not as if any of the people I just named knew the slightest thing about Iraq. They just wanted to have our troops invade it and take it over. Why would you need to know anything to do that?

*Journalist Hazim al-Amin is writing a six-parter for al-Hayat about radical Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr and his background. Today’s installment focuses on East Baghdad, which he says is generally called Thawrah City, though many call it Sadr City (it was Saddam City under the Baath). He says most of the Shiites there are conscientious about choosing a cleric to follow, and that they speak in remarkably religious terms about law and everyday life. He says most follow Muqtada al-Sadr, and only a minority follow Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. He says that Thawrah City was founded by Iraq’s military dictator Abdu’l-Karim Qasim (who came to power in a coup in 1958), and that Shiite tribespeople from the south settled it by chain migration. He talks about the ways in which tribes in particular neighborhoods retain tribal customs and loyalties, rather than having merged into a melting pot. He suggests that the triangle of tribe, state and Shiite clerical authority will determine the future of politics in East Baghdad. Note that Muqtada al-Sadr has not finished his higher studies and is not an independent jurist, so people have no business following him according to Shiite law, but they are doing so anyway. The legal fiction is that he is the agent of Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri, who lives in exile in Qom. Muqtada refuses to cooperate with the US administration and reportedly turned down an offer to serve on Bremer’s appointed council. If the situation is as al-Amin describes it, Bremer’s council simply will not represent the slums of East Baghdad, and it is probably a bad idea for him to let them feel politically disenfranchised. Some less rigid Sadrist should be found who would serve (some of the Sadrist clerics in East Baghdad are cooperating with US community projects).

*Oh, great. Now Kurdish militiamen have driven 7,000 Arab Shiites out of Kurdistan. They had been driven from their own homes in the south by Saddam and forcibly relocated in places like Khaniqin. All we need is bad blood between Kurds and Shiites.