50 Sadrists Killed by Americans in Karbala and Nasiriyah
Sistani’s House Sprayed by Machine Gun Fire
An aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani reports that his house in Najaf was sprayed with machine gun fire (-al-Hayat). (If Sistani gets killed in the current fighting in Najaf between the US and the Mahdi Army, there will be hell to pay.) Since the US is using Sistani, heretofore the most respected Shiite religious leader, couldn’t it at least keep his house from being shot up?
Heavy fighting continued on Monday in the holy city of Karbala near the shrine of Imam Husain, with the US killing about 30 fighters of the Mahdi Army loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr. Fighting in Nasiriyah, which the Sadrists control for the moment, was also fierce, and there was gunplay in Amara, as well, which produced most of the rest of the casualties. A wire service, probably AFP reported:
‘ Ali Al Khazali and his armed men huddled at the entrance of a shopping centre off Al Abbas street in the centre of Karbala, smoking cigarettes and taking turns to peer at US soldiers and tanks standing 100 metres away. “Everyone, I mean everyone, refuses to escape or surrender,” Khazali said. “The only way they (US forces) can go into Karbala is if their tanks crush our bodies.” He said that during lulls in fighting he and his men talked about what Hazrat Imam Hussein and his men lived through in this same spot about 14 centuries ago.
The Imam, a grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), led a revolt against the corruption and injustice of the ruling caliph at the time. He trekked with his family and followers from the Arabian Peninsula to Karbala, where most were martyred in battle with the caliph’s men. Legend has it that Hazrat Hussein’s brother Abbas kept on fighting until all his limbs were severed.
Both men are believed to be buried under the two sacred golden-domed shrines in the centre of Karbala.
“My men are saying that every day they feel they are getting closer to the chance of winning the same honours attained by Hazrat Hussein’s followers,” said the tall, bearded Khazali.
The Umayyad Caliph who sent military forces against Imam Husain, the grandson of the Prophet, and had him and his family and his party slaughtered, was named Yazid. The story of Yazid killing Husain is the central theological and ritual basis of Shiite Islam. It is like the passion of the Christ for devout Christians. And just as you wouldn’t want to be identified as Judas by believing Christians, so the last thing you would want if you were among Shiites would be to be seen as in some way like Yazid.
For many Iraqi Shiites, the United States has become Yazid. And that is not something a colonial power can easily recover from. It will get worse. If the US is responsible or perceived as responsible for Muqtada’s death, Muqtada will achieve iconic status as a martyr, as like Imam Husain, and his legend will inspire some portion of Shiites to fight the US to the death. Nor are Muqtada’s partisans afraid of martyrdom. Achieving death at the hands of the new Yazid brings them and their families honor. And, for these poor slum boys, life anyway hasn’t been that great. They know death; they are not afraid of it.
It was always my nightmare that the US Army would come to fight Shiites in Karbala and Najaf near the shrines. They seemed pretty canny about the dangers until about March of this year. And then all of a sudden, they risked being Yazid. I conclude that this does not come from the US officer corps. I conclude that it comes from the desk of George W. Bush. We don’t have any officers in Iraq stupid enough to want to be Yazid. But we have civilian politicians who know nothing about Iraq who gave them an order to get Muqtada at all costs. Why that was so urgent is still not obvious, but, like everything in this war, it will be revealed to be a plot.
Newsweek reports on what it is like to try to fight in Sadr City, the Shiite slum of East Baghdad, and mentions the possibility of it erupting again (which it will if anything happens to Muqtada al-Sadr).