Ashura Massacres Shake Iraq
At Least 130 Killed
The Western press reported on 130 of the iraqis killed in political violence in Iraq on Monday, and the some 200 wounded.
It isn’t ordinary time in Iraq for the Shiites, it is ritual time, sacred time. It is a time of deep mourning, of grief and the beating of chests and even flagellation with chains. It is the season for commemorating the martyrdom, the cosmically wrongful killing of al-Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, who led the people of Kufa in what is now Iraq against the tyrannical empire of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid. His generals cut the plucky scion of the House of the Prophet down without mercy, along with his relatives and followers. They are said to have carried Husayn’s head aloft on a stave and to have deposited it before the caliph in his palace in Damascus. The death of Husayn is the “passion” of Shiite Islam, their Good Friday. His shrine is in the Iraqi city of Karbala, where guerrillas dressed as American troops killed 5 American soldiers on Sunday. Emotions run high already. A sense of the meaning of the commemoration for Shiites can be gained from this British Shiite web site.
The Sunni guerrillas’ killing of over 100 Shiites in Baghdad and Khalis on Monday was therefore no ordinary carnage, even in an Iraq where to have 70 persons blown up by a single bomb is no longer a novelty to say the least. But for it to be done during these days is to drive Shiites wild with grief, to push them to take revenge. It is to universalize the martyrdom of Husayn, making all Shiites martyrs. The guerrilla movement depends on people taking revenge, from every side.
That blackhawk helicopter that crashed, killing 13 Americans on Saturday was probably shot down with a shoulder-held missile launcher. If the guerrillas ever get hold of a big supply of those, we’d be in big trouble. The Soviet-made SA-14s and SA-16s, with good guidance systems, are available on the international arms market and have occasionally shown up in Iraq. The more common SA-7s, mostly from a big batch made by the Soviet Union in 1971, are by now a hit or miss sort of thing.
Richard Engel points out that Bush’s escalation plan for Iraq concentrates solely on Baghdad and al-Anbar provinces, ignoring hotspots such as Diyala Province, where Sunni-Shiite violence is extreme.
Shiite militiamen have demanded that all Palestinians leave Iraq on pain of death. Yes, no doubt they should go back to their own country. Ooops. I forgot. They don’t have one.
So long, Iraqi Christians. Their new sobriquet? Syrian Christians.
On the all but forgotten eastern front, a suicide bomber in eastern Afghanistan killed 10 and wounded 14 just outside a US military base.