Sunday, April 11, 2004

One year after Saddam

A whole year has passed now and I can't help but feel that we are back at the starting point again. The sense of an impending disaster, the ominous silence, the breakdown of most governmental facilities, the absence of any police or security forces, contradicting news reports, rumours everywhere, and a complete disruption in the flow of everyday life chores.
All signs indicate that it's all spiralling out of control, and any statements by CPA and US officials suggesting otherwise are blatantly absurd.

The chaos and unrest have rapidly spread to several other cities in Iraq such as Mosul, Ba'quba, and Kirkuk. The situation in Fallujah looks terrible and bleak enough from what Al-Jazeera is showing every hour. Ahmad Mansour reported that they keep changing their location for fear of being targetted by Americans. The town stadium has turned into one large graveyard, and the death toll is 500 Iraqis until now with over a thousand injured, a huge price to pay for 'pacification'. The insurgents in Fallujah who are using mosques and house roofs to wage their war against the Marines are equally to blame for the blood of the civilians who have been caught in the crossfire. A ceasefire has been announced by the Americans and is supposed to be in effect but Al-Jazeera reports that fighting continues. What kills me is the absence of any serious effort by Iraqi parties, organisations, tribal leaders, or clerics to intermediate or try to put an end to the cycle of violence. All we hear is denunciation and fiery speeches as if those were going to achieve anything on the ground.

An anonymous group announced that it held 30 foreign hostages today according to Al-Iraqiya tv. Two Germans were also kidnapped recently, as well as an Italian. There have been rumours on the Internet that the three Japanese hostages faked the video that was displayed two days ago with the help of Iraqis in an attempt to pressure the Japanese government in withdrawing their troops. All three of them are anti-war activists. Noriaki Imai was in Iraq researching the effect of Depleted Uranium on Iraqis. Nahoka Takato works with an NGO helping Iraqi children orphaned from the war, and Soichiru Koriyama is a freelance journalist who has been in the Palestinian occupied territories recently. I find it hard to believe they would go this far. The fear and horror in their eyes was very evident in the video, if it is a hoax then they certainly have a promising future in Hollywood. I also received an incredible number of emails and appeals from Japanese citizens and organizations asking me to spare the lives of the Japanese hostages (do they think I have something to do with the kidnapping??) and to tell the 'mujahideen' that the hostages were all against the war (as if that would make any difference to the kidnappers).

In Karbala, a Mahdi Army figure announced yesterday that they have suspended all operations in the holy city until the Shia Arba'ieniya ceremonies are over. Preparations for the event have not been interrupted by the situation in the country, and Shia pilgrims continue to pour into Karbala, which is totally under control of Al-Mahdi. The spokesman congratulated Zainab bint Ali (Imam Hussein's sister) for the 'liberation' of her brother's city in his speech. Any terrorist attacks against the visiting Shi'ites in the next 24 hours would most probably plunge the country into a disaster. And I can't see how Al-Mahdi are going to prevent attacks if any local or foreign powers decide to. A new popular hossa (tribal battle cry) amongst Mahdi militiamen is 'Fallujah wa Al-Kufa, hatha alwatan men'ufa' (Fallujah and Kufa, this country we will not abandon). Some Iraqis have been circulating another controversial hossa being used by Mahdi "Excuse us Imam Ali, but Muqtada is our weli". This slogan is considered very insulting and offensive to the majority of Shia, since in their doctrine only Imam Ali (Muhammed's cousin and son-in-law) is considered to be their weli or guardian. There has also been talk about Muqtada being referred to as Al-Mahdi (Shi'ite twelfth lost Imam and Messiah), but Shia regard that as an outrageous allegation.

As to Al-Sadr's relation with Iran, I would think it highly improbable that he is an Iranian puppet, although his ties to the Grand Ayatollah Kadhum Al-Ha'eri (Iraqi exiled cleric in Iran) are well known (Muqtada himself confessed once some time ago that he was Al-Ha'eri's agent in Iraq which was the main reason he gathered such a following as well as his father's reverence by Iraqi Shia). I admit that is highly possible that he has recieved financial support from Iran but not to the extent as to work in behalf of them in Iraq. There are rumours of existing training camps for Al-Mahdi volunteers in Iran along the Iraqi border, but I think it is very improbable that the Iranian regime would be so open in their support for the dissenting cleric. However, it is also hard to believe that a young and inexperienced cleric with no real popular support from the Hawza would succeed in recruiting, financing, and training an army of 10,000 Shi'ites, as well as setting up offices, newspapers, and a huge propaganda machine all by himself. All of his aides and supporters are young and impoverished, a large number of them are known to people as criminals, thieves, looters, and unemployed illiterate slum dwellers. They would never show such dedication to their cause unless they were being rewarded. And any one who suggests that they rebelled for nationalist reasons can never be more far from reality. This is NOT a Shia rebellion or Intifada. The only case where a Shia uprising would take place is if the Grand Ayatollah Ali Taqi Al-Sistani issues a fatwah to that effect, along with the support of the other three leading Shi'ite clerics (Ayatollah Mohammed Sa'eed Al-Hakim, Ayatollah Bashir Al-Najafi, and Ayatollah Mohammed Ishaq Al-Fayyadh) who constitute the Hawza alilmiyyah of Najaf. And Sistani might lose patience any moment and do so considering the deteriorating situation. An agent of Sistani was quoted once saying "We receive so many requests each day from Iraqis asking us to issue a fatwa for Jihad against the Americans. We say no, but this No will not be forever".

It is becoming increasingly evident from all the violence we have witnessed over the last year, that a proxy war is being waged against the US on Iraqi soil by several countries and powers with Iraqis as the fuel and the fire, just like Lebanon was during the late seventies and eighties. The majority of Arab regimes have a huge interest in this situation continuing, not to mention Iran, and Al-Qaeda. I am not trying, of course, to lift the blame from Iraqis, because if Iraqis were not so divided the way they are, these powers would have never succeeded. I never thought that Iraqis would be so self-destructive, I thought that they had enough of that. But with each new day I am more and more convinced that we need our own civil war to sort it all out. It might take another 5, 10, or even 20 years, and hundreds of thousands more dead Iraqis but I believe it would be inevitable. Yugoslavia, South Africa, Lebanon, Algiers, and Sudan did not achieve the relative peace and stability they now enjoy if it weren't for their long years of civil war. If the 'resistance' succeeded and 'liberated' Iraq, the country would immediately be torn into 3, 4, 5 or more parts with each faction, militia, or army struggling to control Baghdad, Kirkuk, Najaf, Karbala, and the oil fields. It will not be a sectarian war as many would imagine, it would be a war between militias. We already have up to 5 official militias, not to mention the various religious groups and armies.

It is the most foolish and selfish thing to say "pull the troops out", or "replace them with the UN or NATO". Someone has to see us through this mess to the end. Only a deluded utopian (or an idiot peace activist) would believe that Iraqis would all cosily sit down and settle down their endless disputes without AK-47's, RPG's, or mortars in the event of coalition troops abandoning Iraq. Please please don't get me wrong, I am not in the least saying that I enjoy being occupied by a foreign force, I am not a dreamer who believes that the USA is here for altruistic reasons, I am not saying that I am happy with what my bleeding country is going through, believe me when I say it tears my heart every day to witness all the bloodshed, it pains me immensely to see that we have no leaders whomsoever with the interest and well-being of Iraq as their primary goal, it kills me to see how blind and ignorant we have all become. Iraqis are dying inside every day, and we are committing suicide over and over and over. Some people call me a traitor or a collaborator for all the above and for speaking the truth as opposed to rhetorical, fiery speeches which have been our downfall.