Rosen Violence Is Relentless Clerics

Rosen: The Violence is Relentless; Clerics Speak of Jihad against Infidel Americans

Freelance journalist Nir Rosen, who has been living in the real Iraq unembedded, lets loose with what the Sunni heartland of Iraq is actually like under US occupation. It is, clearly, a hellhole that has all the stability of a pressure cooker with the lid on tight and no release valve.

Excerpts:

“The violence is relentless. Explosions from bombs, rocket propelled grenades and artillery as well as guns firing can be heard all day and night, but their locations are usually impossible to determine, even if you are foolish enough to search for them after dark, when gangs and wild dogs own the streets. There are systematic assassinations of policemen, translators, local officials, and anybody associated with the occupiers. The pace of the violence is normal and mundane, so nobody cares . . .

Mosques are attacked every night and clerics killed, leading to retaliations against the opposite sect. Mosques now have armies of young volunteers wielding Kalashnikovs guarding them. Soon neighborhood mosques will unite to form neighborhood armies, to fight rival mosques or rival neighborhoods. (Even many journalists now travel with armed bodyguards; in at least one incident they returned fire, making them combatants) . . .

Though clerics from both sects are assassinated weekly, the culprits are unknown and the leaders exhort their flock to be patient, blaming the “Anglo American Zionist conspiracy.” After the March 2 explosions in Karbala and Baghdad, where I saw piles of body parts, scalps, hands, and fly-covered pieces of flesh, the fury was directed at the Americans. Immediately after the three suicide bombs struck in Baghdad, spraying blood even on the mosque’s ceiling, the loudspeakers urged people to be calm and accused the Americans and Jews of attacking them. Shi’ite mosques sell CDs of the riot in Kadhim, when thousands of Shi’ite men attacked American military medical vehicles that came to help, and then chased them to the base, throwing shoes, stones and epithets, waving flags and taunting the reviled occupiers. The American retreat into the base was a great victory for the shocked Shi’ites.

Though Shi’ite and Sunni leaders hastened to mouth professions of unity following the attacks in Karbala and Kadhimiya, they hate each other. Sunni and Shi’ite newspapers have grown more brazen in their attacks against each other. The only things they agree on are the need for an Islamic government (though they disagree on what it will look like) and their insistence that the Jews and Americans are to blame for all their woes. The Sunnis are scared, they fear the impending Shi’ite takeover of Iraq if anything resembling a democratic election takes place. Sunnis view Shi’ites the way white South Africans viewed blacks, and now feel disenfranchised, seeing the barbaric heathens threatening to rule their country. Many Sunnis cling to the fiction that they are in fact the majority, and the Shi’ites are all Iranians . . .

But Sunni Arabs don’t scare Shi’ites anymore. The threat is America now. Only America can thwart the long-suppressed Shi’ite hope to control Iraq and establish a theocracy. Their expectations are high. Now is their time to inherit Iraq and only America stands in the way. . . [R]adical clerics such as Muqtada Sadr speak of a jihad against the infidel Americans who have come to kill the Mahdi (Shi’ite messiah). Radical Sunnis and members of the resistance hate the compromising Sistani but respect Muqtada for his defiance. In every mosque and religious center in the country one can purchase the DVDs, CDs, tapes and literature of the Islamic revolution that rejects “American democracy” and “American freedom.” In Shi’ite stores you can buy books about Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, and in Sunni stores you can buy radical Sunni magazines published in Saudi Arabia.

Sunni and Shi’ite leaders were quick to condemn the new interim constitution for its secularism. They were united in calling the Quran their only constitution . . .

Meanwhile over ten thousand Iraqi men are being held prisoner, and most of them are innocent. Iraqi security guards as well as American soldiers hate the explosive-sniffing dog in front of the Sheraton and Palestine hotels, because they, like the rest of us who live in the area, are subject to its olfactory whims as it imagines every day that it smells a bomb and they must close off the street for several hours. Two of my friends were arrested for not having a bomb last week, when the dog decided their bag smelled funny. They were jailed for four days though they were not carrying a bomb. Unlike the murderous accuracy of the Israeli security forces, who at least speak Arabic, the American security forces are a blunt instrument. They arrest hundreds at once, hoping somebody will know something. One morning in the village of Albu Hishma, the local US commander decided to bulldoze any house that had pro-Saddam graffiti on it, and gave half a dozen families a few minutes to remove whatever they cared about the most before their homes were flattened.”