Thousands Demonstrate in Najaf;
Sunnis Clash with Gov’t in Baghdad over Saddam Sentence;
Ford blasts W., Cheney on Iraq
Thousands of protesters came out into the streets in the holy Shiite city of Najaf on Wednesday, protesting the killing by US troops of Sahib al-Aamiri in a raid on his home. The US military accused him of being involved in setting roadside bombs. Shiites in East Baghdad also protested, but the demonstrations turned into bloody clashes between Mahdi Army militiamen and US troops.
Najaf Demo courtesy KarbalaNews.net.
Al-Aamiri was a leader of the Sadr Movement in Najaf, which follows young nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. KarbalaNews.net in Arabic quotes a leader of the Sadrist bloc in parliament, Nassar al-Ruba’i, expressing condolences for the death of this “martyr” who “was killed by the American forces,” after he had performed his dawn prayers, “in front of his wife and children.” He added, “This action is considered a clear violation of Iraqi sovereignty, especially coming only days after the security file in Najaf was surrendered last week.” He demanded that the Iraqi government open an urgent inquiry into the killing. Family members said that US troops assaulted his home in the wee hours and killed him, accusing him of resisting capture. Al-Ruba’i accused the US of trying to bring down the government of Nuri al-Maliki, whose Da’wa Party is allied politically with the Sadrists.
Another Sadrist MP, Baha’ al-A`raji, said, “We demand that political forces take a united stand against the Occupation forces and in favor of a timetable for their withdrawal, because silence will lead to a timetable for the expulsion of Iraqis from their own country by the Occupation, and to the Americans remaining in Iraq.”
WaPo reports that the US military is saying that the raid was led by the 8th Iraqi Division. But the article also implies that the political leaders of Najaf were unaware of the planned raid.
The Iraqi army still reports to US officers [An informed reader points out that 3 divisions do not, and that the 8th is one of these; regret the error]. And, the 8th Army is largely Shiite and likely linked to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and its Badr Corps paramilitary, which means that the decision to raid the home of a Sadrist rival might not be purely a matter of law enforcement.
Mark Santora of the NYT explains what is meant by “civil war” in Iraq. There are two sides and they are fighting each other over territory and political power. They kill many more of each other than of the US troops, who willy nilly mainly take the side of the Shiites and Kurds, who dominate the elected government.
By the way, the October 2005 referendum on the new constitution demonstrates conclusively that the Shiites are a majority in Iraq. The Sunni Arabs participated heavily in that voting, and they were universally against the constitution, but they were only able to reject it in three provinces. Sunni Arab Iraqis widely believe that the Sunni Arabs are a majority, or that Sunnis are a majority if you count the Kurds. None of the ways we have of measuring these things (including the Dec. 2005 parliamentary elections) points to this conclusion.
The LAT on Sunni Arab snipers in al-Anbar province that manage to pick off US troops.
Saddam Hussein, condemned to death and with all appeals exhausted, is trying to turn his death into a “sacrifice” for the Iraqi nation. In April 2003 Saddam was universally reviled but the country is now in such a horrible state that some Sunni Arabs do see Saddam as a symbol of the united Iraqi nation. Saddam, however, spoke in his typical racist way of the need to fight the “raiders and the Persians”, according to al-Hayat in Arabic (i.e. the Americans and the Shiites). Sadr Movement spokesmen demanded that he be executed on the eve of the Day of Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha)–i.e. this weekend.
Al-Hayat reports that several Sunni Arab districts of Baghdad saw armed men come out into the streets and engage in bloody clashes with Iraqi security forces, apparently in protest against the confirmation of Saddam’s death sentence.
Al-Hayat also says that a communique from the Baath Socialist Party of Iraq posted at a web site threatened to hit US interests around the world if Saddam was executed. So like the Baath Socialist Party of Iraq would be nice to the US if only Saddam were kept alive? Really.
‘ “Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. They put the emphasis on weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Ford said. “And now, I’ve never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error in how they should justify what they were going to do . . .”
Mr. Ford took issue with the notion of the U.S. entering a conflict in service of the idea of spreading democracy. “Well, I can understand the theory of wanting to free people,” Mr. Ford said, referring to Mr. Bush’s assertion that the U.S. has a “duty to free people.” But the former president said he was skeptical “whether you can detach that from the obligation No. 1, of what’s in our national interest.” He added: “And I just don’t think we should go hellfire damnation around the globe freeing people, unless it is directly related to our own national security. . .”
“He was an excellent chief of staff. First class,” Mr. Ford said of Mr. Cheney. “But I think Cheney has become much more pugnacious” as vice president. He said he agreed with former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s assertion that Mr. Cheney developed a “fever” about the threat of terrorism and Iraq. “I think that’s probably true.”
“I don’t think, if I had been president, on the basis of the facts as I saw them publicly,” he said, “I don’t think I would have ordered the Iraq war. I would have maximized our effort through sanctions, through restrictions, whatever, to find another answer.”
Ahem. I wrote yesterday, “The blowback from that Reaganesque era of private armies of the Right helped push the US after 2001 toward an incipient fascism at which Ford, the All-American, the lawyerly gentleman, the great Wolverine, must have wept daily in his twilight years.”
Some of Ford’s points would have made good additions to my Top Ten Myths about Iraq 2006.