US Ordered Spanish to Bring in Muqtada ‘Dead or Alive’
Spanish Command predicted “Large-Scale Military Response”
The new Spanish Minister of Defense, Jose Bono, is drawing the curtain from some of the events of early April when the US authorities in Iraq decided to attempt to arrest Muqtada al-Sadr in the wake of his self-identification with Hamas. It appears that at first the Coalition Provisional Authority and the US military command approached the poor Spanish about carrying out the arrest of Muqtada. The Spanish were in charge of Kufa and Najaf, where Muqtada is based.
The post-Franco, post-fascist Spanish military must have been absolutely astounded and disgusted by the Texan demand that they deliver Muqtada to the US “dead or alive.” And, they immediately refused. Obviously, if the Spanish had taken the US bait and carried out the arrest, their forces would have faced the full fury of the Sadrists, who are capable of quite a lot of fury. This whole episode strikes me as shameful and cowardly on the Americans’ part. It seems obvious that Bush, who must have made the decision to launch the largely unprovoked attack on Muqtada, was hoping to make the Spanish the fall guys. (Two pieces of evidence point to Bush: 1)We now know he was the one who ordered that “heads must roll” at Fallujah, so these major military campaigns are his idea; and, 2) the phraseology “take him dead or alive” is distinctively his.)
The Spanish response? “Fool me once, shame … shame on … you.” Long, uncomfortable pause. “Fool me — can’t get fooled again!”
The Spanish commanders also appear to have worried about the possibility of being implicated in American war crimes. They insisted, as of April 13, that the situation around Najaf was no longer covered by UN Security Council resolutions 1483 and 1511, which they felt authorized their participation in peace-keeping operations in Iraq, but did not cover military aggression of the sort the US was pursuing against the Sadrists.
This anecdote sheds further light on the haste with which Prime Minister Zapatero has withdrawn Spanish troops from Iraq. The knowledge that the US tried to arrange for the Spanish to take the fall for going after Muqtada must have convinced him that he should get out quick before the US dragged his country into deadly confrontation. The Spanish, having been in Najaf and Kufa for eight months, and, unlike the Americans, having actually made a study of the local situation, knew very well that going after Muqtada would stir up a hornet’s nest, and perhaps plunge the south into a “large-scale military conflict” or at least a continuing low-grade guerrilla conflict, with themselves on the front lines.
The revelations also cast the Americans in an even poorer light as ignorant and arrogant incompetents. They were clearly completely unprepared for the insurgency throughout the South mounted by Muqtada’s followers beginning April 4, the day after they came after his aides. It is one thing to be unprepared for a major military confrontation. It is another to be unprepared for it after you were warned about it by your close ally who was in charge of the affected area!
Here’s the passage (my humble attempt at translation):
the Diario Malaga reports that, ‘ The minister of Defense, Jose Bono, revealed yesterday that the Spanish troops in Iraq were asked “to turn over dead or alive” “a certain religious leader”, a reference the radical Shiite Muqtada Al Sadr, something which the Spanish command refused to do. In fact, the highest ranking Spanish officers in the Arab country sent a report at the beginning of April to the North American command in which they argued that increased harassment of the devotees of al-Sadr would trigger an aggravation of the situation.’ But the Spanish refused: ‘ “The Occupying Powers can engage in offensive operations. The countries that are simply in the coalition, as in the case of Spain, cannot participate in offensive operations and, therefore, we said clearly that we were not prepared to deliver, as had been requested, a certain religious leader dead or alive.” ‘
“We were there to help with pacification,” [Bono] said. The highest-ranking Spanish military officers in charge in Iraq sent a report at the beginning of April to the North American command in which they observed that increased harassment of Al Sadr and his devotees would aggravate the situation in Iraq and would provoke “a large-scale military operation”. ‘