Shiites in Revolt: Why Paul Wolfowitz Is in a State of Shock
Mr. Cole is professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian History at the University of Michigan and author of Sacred Space and Holy War: The Politics, Culture and History of Shiite Islam (I.B. Tauris, 2002). His weblog is www.juancole.com.Religious Shiite parties and militias in Iraq have recently stepped into the gap resulting from the collapse of the Baath Party, especially in the sacred shrine cities. This development must have come as a shock to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who in early March preferred Iraqis as US allies to Saudis, saying that they are secular and "overwhelmingly Shia, which is different from the Wahhabis of the peninsula, and they don't bring the sensitivity of having the holy cities of Islam being on their territory." Wolfowitz and other pro-war policymakers were right that large numbers of Shiites, from the educated middle class to factory workers, are secular Iraqi nationalists. But they were dead wrong to discount the power of the religious forces, and seem ignorant of the centrality of the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala. The neo-conservative fantasy of Iraq is now meeting the real Iraq, on the ground, in the shrine cities as well as in the smaller, mostly Shiite towns in the south of the country. Western audiences are discovering that Iraqi Shiites, while perhaps unified in their hatred for the dissipated Baathist regime, are not unified in their vision for a post-war Iraq.
The leading cleric at Najaf -- shrine city of holy figure Ali b. Abi Talib, cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad -- is Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, age 73. Born in Mashhad, Iran, he came to Najaf (pop. 560,000) in 1952 and settled permanently. Like most of the Najaf establishment, he rejects Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's theory of clerical rule or the "guardianship of the jurisprudent" - the doctrine by which Khomeini overturned centuries of quietism among Shiite clergy, helping to fuel the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Sistani and his circles have also been critical of human rights abuses in post-revolutionary Iran. Not long after US troops entered Najaf on April 8, 2003, he was reported to have made an oral proclamation urging Shiites not to interfere with the soldiers, a statement eagerly cited by Wolfowitz as the "first pro-American fatwa." (The statement was not actually a fatwa.) The following week, however, Sistani insisted that Iraq must be ruled "by the best of its children." His spokesman and eldest son, Muhammad Rida Sistani, probably distilled his father's thoughts when he said, "The Americans are welcome, but I don't think that it's a good thing that they stay for long."
When the US military apparently briefly arrested Sheikh Muhammad al-Fartusi and two other clerics who had been sent to Baghdad on April 21, it immediately provoked a protest of 5,000 angry Shiites across from the downtown Palestine Hotel. Al-Fartusi had been sent by the Najaf establishment to Baghdad to preach the Friday prayer sermon at the al-Hikma mosque to a congregation of 50,000. His sermon said in part that the US could not impose a formal "democracy" on Iraq that allowed freedom of individual speech but denied Iraqis the ability to shape their own government.
Sistani emerged as the most senior ayatollah in Najaf after the 1999 assassination of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, killed on the orders of Saddam Hussein's elder son Uday for defying the deposed Iraqi dictator. Today Muqtada al-Sadr, the 30 year-old son of the martyred cleric, is among Sistani's most important rivals in Najaf. In 1999, after his father was killed, Muqtada went underground. He organized the desperately poor Shiites of Najaf and nearby Kufa, and established authority, as well, in the Shiite slums of eastern Baghdad, home to 2 to 3 million people. The Sadr movement that he leads insists that only the rulings of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr may be followed, and is opposed to immigrant Iranian clerics like Sistani having authority in Iraq. These ideas are unorthodox in the mainstream Usuli Shiism which predominates in Iraq and Iran. According to these mainstream teachings, it is forbidden to follow the rulings of a deceased jurisprudent, and it is recognized that Shiites may follow any learned, upright jurisprudent they choose. Muqtada is young to gain such authority.
SADDAM CITY RENAMED
The Sadr movement appears to be intolerant and authoritarian, and to have a class base in the poverty-stricken neighborhoods brutalized by Baath Party goons. Eyewitness accounts of the mob killing on April 10 of an American-backed rival ayatollah, Abd al-Majid al-Khoei, flown into Najaf from a decade-long exile in London, implicate the Sadr movement. Members of this movement then surrounded the houses of Sistani and Ayatollah Said al-Hakim, nephew of Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), demanding that these two leave Najaf immediately. This attempt at a coup in the clerical leadership of the shrine city was forestalled when 1,500 Shiite tribesmen came in from the countryside to protect Sistani and al-Hakim.
Muqtada views Sistani as spineless for having refused to step out of his quietism and oppose Saddam Hussein. He views expatriate politicians and clerics now returning to Iraq in the same light, heaping abuse on Ahmad Chalabi and the secular-leaning Iraqi National Congress, for instance. The Sadr movement wants an Islamic republic in Iraq, even if not one exactly like the one Khomeini built in Iran. Press reports from the slums of Baghdad suggest that Muqtada is idolized there and that most of the armed militiamen now patrolling the neighborhoods of the renamed Sadr City (formerly Saddam City) are his followers. One report said that they had repelled an attempt to infiltrate the city by a rival Shiite militia, the Tehran-based Badr Brigade of SCIRI. Like most other Iraqi Shiite clerics, Muqtada wants the Americans out of Iraq on a short timetable.
SCIRI, headed by Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, is in essence an offshoot of the revolutionary al-Da`wa al-Islamiyya Party founded in the late 1950s. Al-Hakim was forced abroad to Tehran in 1982 by Saddam's persecution of key al-Da`wa figures. SCIRI has a paramilitary wing of 10,000 to 15,000 armed fighters, likely trained by Iran's Revolutionary Guards and commanded by Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim. The al-Hakims are said to be close to hardliners like Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Khomeini's successor as Supreme Leader in Iran. SCIRI formed part of the Iraqi National Congress and was given 15 out of 65 seats on the provisional governing council formed at the Iraqi opposition meeting in London in December 2002. SCIRI figures attended State Department meetings about overthrowing Saddam, and spoke to the press about their negotiations with the office of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about a role for the Badr Brigade in fighting alongside US troops during an invasion. Since the Bush administration had labeled SCIRI's backers in Iran part of the "axis of evil," this initial willingness to cooperate with them was breathtaking in its cynicism.
From January of 2003, however, ideology asserted itself over pragmatism, and the Bush administration suddenly broke with SCIRI. Attempts were made by US National Security Council official Zalmay Khalilzad, reportedly in coordination with the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, to dilute SCIRI influence within the INC. Then, at meetings with the opposition groups in Turkey in late January, Khalilzad made it known that the US intended to administer Iraq itself for some time after "regime change," instead of working through an Iraqi provisional government. Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim immediately denounced this plan as equivalent to a US colonial occupation, and threatened that the Badr Brigade would attack US troops if they overstayed their welcome. He clearly felt betrayed by this dramatic turnabout in US policy.
The US warned Iran not to allow Badr Brigade forces into Iraq during the US invasion. Al-Hakim maintains that they slipped into the country even so. As of April 17, Badr Brigade gunmen controlled the town of Baquba (pop. 163,000) near the Iranian border, and a Badr Brigade force allowed SCIRI cleric Sayyid Abbas to occupy the mayor's mansion in Kut (pop. 360,000). When Marines attempted to intervene, a crowd of 1,200 townspeople gathered, chanting slogans against INC leader Ahmad Chalabi, and the soldiers decided to back off. US officers marginalized Abbas at a town hall meeting on April 19, but afterward, the cleric held an afternoon rally that was reported to be "bigger than ever." According to the Daily Telegraph's correspondent, "Mr. Abbas voiced what are quickly becoming the standard demands: an Islamic, Shia-dominated state for Iraq, and an end to American occupation."
Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, deputy head of SCIRI, returned to Iraq on April 16, arriving at Kut to cheers, presumably preparing the way for his older brother to do the same. In a press interview, the younger al-Hakim pledged that SCIRI would work together with other parties in the new Iraq. In Kut on April 18, he gave an interview with Iranian television in which he said, "we will first opt for a national political system, but eventually the Iraqi people will seek an Islamic republic system." He added that the will of Shiites for an Islamic system would prevail in democratic elections, since they are 60 percent of the population.
On April 18 Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, still in Tehran, called upon Shiites to converge on the shrine city of Karbala on April 22 "to oppose a US-led interim administration and defend Iraq's independence." SCIRI spokesman Abu Islam al-Saqir added, "To the Iraqi people, US domination is no better than the dictatorship of the ousted brutal regime of Saddam Hussein." Tens of thousands of Iraqi Shiites are currently on their way to the city to commemorate the martyrdom of the prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein, who died in a battle on the Karbala plain in the seventh century. Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim's appeal to the symbology of Karbala for political purposes is an attempt to depict the US military as equivalent to Yazid, the opponent of Hussein in the epochal battle who is viewed by Shiites as the martyred imam's oppressor.
"NO ONE REPRESENTS US"
Despite having birthed SCIRI, the Al-Da`wa al-Islamiyya Party itself remains a separate organization, with a commitment to Islamic government. It has London, Tehran and Iraq-based factions, of which only the London representatives have been willing to talk to the Americans. Some reports say many in the Iraqi al-Da`wa are loyal to Lebanese Hizballah leader Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah. Fadlallah was born and educated in Najaf, going to Lebanon only in 1965. Hizballah has threatened violence against US troops in Iraq. Other than its Tehran branch, al-Da`wa, like the Sadr movement, is oriented toward an indigenous Iraqi politics and rejects Khomeini's "guardianship of the jurisprudent" in favor of the theories of Islamic government developed by Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who was killed by Saddam Hussein's regime in 1980. (This figure is the uncle of Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, eponymous founder of the al-Sadr movement, also murdered by the late regime.)
A somewhat more moderate al-Da`wa leader, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, refused to attend the US-sponsored leadership meeting near Nasiriyya on April 16, saying he objected to cooperating with a US military administration. His view seems to have predominated in the party. Al-Da`wa organized the demonstration held on April 15 at Nasiriyya (pop. 535,000) to protest the conference being presided over by retired Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, head of the Office of Humanitarian Aid and Reconstruction charged by Washington with administering post-war Iraq. Press reports said "thousands" demonstrated. They chanted, "No, no Saddam! No, no United States" and "Yes, yes for Freedom! Yes, Yes for Islam." Their placards read: "No one represents us in the conference." On April 19, al-Jaafari signed a letter to a meeting of countries neighboring Iraq, calling for the immediate establishment of a technocratic provisional government, suggesting that al-Da`wa remains less clerically oriented than other Shiite factions. Among the al-Da`wa leaders in Nasiriyya is the newly returned former exile, Muhammad Bakr al-Nasri, a prominent cleric. He is said to be the party's "philosophical guide." Al-Da`wa Party officials fear that they will be locked out of political competition by the superior paramilitary capabilities of SCIRI and the Sadr movement.
Among the big surprises of the two weeks following the fall of the Baath Party in Iraq is the way in which Shiite religious leaders and parties moved immediately into the vacuum. This process was facilitated by the thinness on the ground of US troops, in accordance with the Rumsfeld military plan that rejected Pentagon requests for larger military forces. Eastern cities like Baqubah and Sadra are reportedly under Shiite control with apparent backing from Iran. Some Failis or Shiite Kurds who largely emigrated to Iran under Saddam Hussein's regime are now coming back to Iraq with Iranian backing (a Faili militia from Iran is reported to have recently taken over the eastern city of Badra). SCIRI has also attempted to assert itself in Kut, and has stymied the Marines there because of popular support. Nasiriyya appears to be virtually ruled by the al-Da`wa Party. Sadr City is patrolled by militias of the Sadr movement, and it is powerful in Najaf and Kufa. The other sacred city, Karbala, has also established a council of clerics and tribal sheikhs for self-rule.
Among major Shiite population centers, only Basra appears to have resisted this trend, in part perhaps because of different policies pursued by the British commanders there, and in part because of the influence of the secular Shiite middle and working classes. Outside Basra, secular-leaning Shiites have been hampered in asserting themselves by their lack of organization and lack of any paramilitary force. It may be that many are also stunned by the humiliating defeat of an avowed champion of secular Arab nationalism by a Western power.
It remains to be seen if the US interim administration can disarm the Shiite religious militias and recover enough control of the Shiite urban areas to allow something like free multi-party politics to emerge. Certainly, the Sadr movement mobs in Najaf would not countenance such a thing if they can stop it. Nor is SCIRI probably interested in genuine popular politics. The Shiite religious political parties and movements tend to be hierarchical and authoritarian despite their popular appeal, in accordance with Usuli convictions about the need to give blind obedience to trained jurisprudents. Shiite religious demands for an Islamic state are foredoomed to created conflict with Sunni Arabs and Kurds, who will not tolerate rule by ayatollahs or imposition on everyone of strict Shiite law. The Kurds, of course, have their own militias. Historian Ervand Abrahamian has compared the ideology of Khomeini's Iran to the corporatism that prevailed in the Argentina of Peron. At least initially, the neo-conservatives, who hoped that Shiite militias would fight Saddam Hussein's armies alongside invading US soldiers, may have unleashed this sort of mass politics in the formerly rigidly controlled Iraq.
This article was first published by the Middle East Report Online, April 22, 2003, under the title:"Shiite Religious Parties Fill Vacuum in Southern Iraq" at this link: http://www.merip.org/mero/mero042203.html
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Hugh Graham - 1/1/2004
Dear Juan Cole-
I have been a follower of Informed Comment since the fall and remain highly impressed. I've been collecting a great deal of data on the Shiites in postwar Iraq from different sources, you included: a magazine will be sending me to Iraq in February or March to a story about the Shiites. Any advice, contacts or tips you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
mike wargo - 8/19/2003
You have got to be kidding me, you liberals have your head so far in the sand it seems hopeless. Bill Clinton must take huge responsibility for the attacks. On sept 11, Bush was in office for just 9 months while Bill Clinton had eight years to do something about Bin Laden. If you recall correctly he was more preoccupied with polls and Monica than any kind of solid effort to rid the world of Bin Laden. On Clinton's watch we had the first WTC bombing, the bombings of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the most insulting the bombing of the USS Cole. Besides lofting a few token cruise missles, Clinton did NOTHING. This gave Bin Laden more confidence to plan bigger and better things. You liberals always whine about the election..The "fair" media did many recounts in Florida and the results were still the same, Bush won. Believe me, CNN would be crying every night if they found just one Gore win. I thank GOD every day Gore lost. Unlike popular liberal opinion Mr. Kriz doing nothing only appeases men like Bin Laden and Hussein. We all wish we could live in a world of peace and love where there is no violence, but once again you must pull your head out of the sand and wash your eyes. While I never embrace war, force is the only thing these people understand and going into Afghanistan and Iraq showed these people we are serious. Your ideas are very dangerous politics, imagined if we would have done nothing about Hitler? While I am not happy Iraqi civilians died, I still can't stop thinking about 3000 innocent americans. Thank God we have a President who is finally facing these problems..I feel much safer with Bush in power than your Clinton Ignore, I mean Gore team.
stonefruit - 5/1/2003
who's behind it all? the profit motive and transnationals. not complicated. cfr, bilderberg et al are just calibration devices. http://www.democracyunbound.com
crispy - 5/1/2003
Herodotus - 5/1/2003
The part I love most about the conspiracy theorists is that they can't come to any agreement about who _really_ lies behind it all...within this article we've got "the jews" and "the corporate Americans". Who's next? The joggers? Cthulu?
Herodotus - 5/1/2003
Gee, and I thought the Masons were behind everything.
Please remove your tin foil hat at the door.
boilerman10 - 5/1/2003
To Anita, the Iraq Gambit seems to have exposed some cracks in the Bush junta. The infighting over Colin Powell, revelations of bypassing reporting/screening requirements about the health of our troops, and the surfacing of highly inflammatory charges about the 9/11 attacks, to say nothing of the the sudden "unpopularity" of discussions about our primary "causis belli", WMD's......."Oh, they're not important.......", leave an impression that Bush is presiding over a "disorderly house." A web of lies? That's just the beginning! And think, there are administration types who want more war in Islamic Asia!
The NetArchitect - 5/1/2003
You tate that Bush has made the world a more dangerous place, but thats not quite the truth of it. So many people are busy looking in the wrong places, for the answers, when they stare you each and every one in the face every time you see the news. It is not that Bush, or Haliburton or the Carlyle group have made the world a more dangerous place, although they most assuradly have not helped any with their Money Grubbing Zionist Ways. They are the puppets, the talking heads, the front men, but while you are all busy blaming the puppets, you have missed the real criminals... the ones who got away.
The puppet-masters have done in a matter of months, what All the world could not achieve in 200 years, and that is to make the USA Synonomous with the Racist State of Israel. You remember them guys right? The only state on the planet dedicated to being Completely Jewish. While you were sleeping America, the Paul Wolfowitz's and the Ari Fleichers and the Richard Pearles, and the putz who keeps enforcing the Patriot Act, which is the largest Crock of Horsecrap I have ever seen, and it will become the last straw on the backs of Americans you can be sure. The FBI has gone to hell in a handbasket, becoming nothing more than an arm of the ADL which is a racist organization dedicated to keeping the white American down, if the words white, and power, or white and america are placed together in the same sentence. They evoke the Nazi paranoia on America whining "America is a Multi-Cultural Nation. No, its not, it was never intended to be, and it will not last as one. I will leave you with the words of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, have a nice day...
They (the Jews) work more effectively against us, than the enemy's armies. They are a hundred times more dangerous to our liberties and the great cause we are engaged in... It is much to be lamented that each state, long ago, has not hunted them down as pests to society and the greatest enemies we have to the happiness of America.
I agree fully with General Washington - that we must protect this young nation from an insidious influence and impenetration. That menace, gentleman is the Jew.
In whatever country Jews have settled in any great numbers they have lowered its moral tone; depreciated its commercial integrity; have segregated themscives and have not been assimilated; have sneered at and tried to undermine the Christian religion upon which that nation is founded by objecting to its restrictions; have built up a state within a state; and when opposed have tried to strangle that country to death financially, as in the case of Spain and Portugal.
For over 1700 years the Jews have been bewailing their sad fate in that they have been exiled from their homeland as they call Palestine. But, gentlemen, did the world today give it to them in fee simple, they would at once find some reason for not returning. Why ? Because they are vampires, and vampires do not live on vampires. They cannot live only among themselves. They must subsit on Christians and other peoples not of their race.
If you do not exclude them, in less than 200 years our descendants will be working in the fields to furnish them substance, while they will be in the counting-houses rubbing their hands. I warn you gentlemen, if you do not exclude Jews for all time, your children will curse you in your graves.
Let the Jews, gentlemen, be born where they will, or how many generations they are away from Asia, they never will be otherwise. Their ideas do not conform to an American's and will not even though they live among us ten generations. A leopard cannot change its spots. Jews are a menace to this country if permitted entrance, and should be excluded by this Constitution.
Chad Nagle - 4/30/2003
This is a scholarly and very thought-provoking piece of work. It would have been good to see such analysis gain more currency before the invasion was launched. But since the war party falsified the conclusions of intelligence reports, it can be little wonder it ignored such sober thinking as this.
Mike - 4/30/2003
>> Secondly, that the Sunnis and Kurds will not, as Professor Cole noted, tolerate being ruled by Shiite ayatollahs. Even backed by the entire armed forces of Iran, the Sadr militants do not have the power to defeat the United States, the Kurdish militias and the Sunnis combined.
George "Ghengis" Bu$h - 4/30/2003
Do you honestly think that Bu$h did any of this on his own? Bu$h Sr., Cheney and Rumsfeld are running the country, not the monkeyboy puppet they use to fool the world into thinking that Amerika is being run by a harmless idiot. Amerika is run by Halliburton, Brown & Root, the Carlyle Group and a whole host of other corporate fascists, the power of Hollywood pales in comparison to the power these corporations have. I'm sure this is probably too much for you to believe, or you might think this is insulting and "anti-American", but it's no different than the end result some of our more honest presidents have warned us about many times in the past. America's Democracy was short-lived, America started as an Oligarchy and it is now dying as an Oligarchy. The same Anglo fundamentalist Christian financiers we had fought to gain independence from control America again, they are using America as a weapon against the world.
Richard H. White - 4/30/2003
Ghandi got the British to leave India without a shot being fired.
Why could not Bush do the same in Iraq?
What did the Taliban do with the $43,000,000 million money gift that Bush gave to the Taliban in May of 2001? Where did that money go?
wk - 4/30/2003
Iraqian Democracy will be an actuality. Enjoyment of religious freedom in Iraq will exist only when all are allowed to refuse religion as a way of life.
If one is not greatfull for thier release,
then darkness will forever fill thier heart,
Some Iraqis should re-remember one notion... Iraq is similar to many other nations world-wide... that itself is composed of more than one type of person, one group, or one distinct way of life.
Welcome back, GET ALONG or else !
Stephen Kriz - 4/29/2003
Gus Moner - 4/29/2003
Let me squeeze in a comment, NY Guy. We have for centuries been hearing the vey tall tale of fighting "this" war to make the world safe for our children or grandchildren, or as you put it, (enabling) "my grandchildren to live in a peacefulful world" yet it seems that lucky, peaceful generation never quite arrives. It's because each war begets another.
We fought to make the world safe for democracy once, and it is still "unsafe". We fought the war to end all wars to save our children from fighting a war in their lifetime, and more were (and are) indeed forthcoming.
So, enough rubbish and propaganda. We fight wars to obtain people's resources, compliance or the economic and geo-political position and resources to obtain or maintain the supremacy the NSC says we must have.
March along, to the next war to end all wars or to save us from WMD, bring democracy somewhere, or whatever, whatever they tell you next time. The only certain thing is that the next war, like all the others, will bring huge benefits to those who wealthy men promote it.
Stephen Kriz - 4/28/2003
I made no such connection between the fact that Chuck Hagel owns a significant share of Diebold, Inc. and the election fraud perpetrated by Katherine Harris and her (ick!) lover, Jeb Bush. Two separate things - it should be fairly clear to any intelligent reader. I am just saying that the Dirty Tricks Party (i.e. the GOP) has so many ways to commit electoral fraud that any chance of getting a fair national election is all but gone. Far more significant than the fact that the Palm Beach county ballots were so poorly designed that they caused several thousand voters to cast their ballots mistakenly for Pat Buchanan was the illegal purging of voter rolls undertaken by the mascara-caked Katherine Harris and her minions. Greg Palast in his book "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" estimates that as many as 50,000 Democratic votes were lost by this illegal purging of votes. In other words, Gore would have won handily, were it not for Harris' treachery. The confusion over the Palm Beach ballots that you are referring to was even acknowledged by Pat Buchanan, who stated that he knew that those elderly people, many of whom were Jewish, never intended to vote for him. To mock elderly people for their confusion over a horribly designed ballot shows the depth to which Republicans will sink to justify the unelected moron in the White House. Must be more of that "compassionate conservatism".
Spin all you want, we have the wrong man in the White House, the electoral college system has failed the American people and democracy in America is dead.
Stephen Kriz - 4/28/2003
Actually, most objective researchers have concluded that Al Gore would have won in Florida, had all the votes been counted. Bush only won based on the selective recount of the four counties that were contested. If a full state recount had occurred, that is, if the SCOTUS not stopped it prematurely, Al Gore would and should have been president. The SCOTUS decison in Bush v. Gore was the most political and treacherous Supreme Court decision in American history. In my view, American democracy died that day, December 12, 2000. And WE WILL NEVER, EVER GET OVER IT!
As far as Bush making the world safer, my God man, open your eyes! This world is a lot more dangerous place as a result of this misguided and foolish man. Don't absolve Bush of blame for 9-11, either! 9-11 happened on his watch, not Bill Clinton's. Clinton and his aides, most notably Sandy Berger, gave Bush's team plenty of warning about bin Laden, which they ignored. Bush callously took the entire month of August 2001 off to do what he does best - nothing. Meanwhile, Mohammed Atta, Marwan al-Sheehi and cronies were buying plane tickets with fake IDs, wiring money all over the globe and doing other things that should have aroused suspicions, while Bush and his band of incompetents did nothing. I blame George W. Bush for 9-11, not Bill Clinton. Being the heartless fool that he is, Bush even uses 9-11 as a campaign prop now, going into the 2004 re-election campaign. The man is mindless and shameless and as Helen Thomas put it, "he is the worst president in all of American history."
Finally, I wouldn't gloat too much over the swift American victory in Iraq. After all, we were fighting a Third World country where many of the soliders hadn't eaten in days, had no shoes and were using 40 and 50 year old munitions. Some victory. It wasn't a war, it was a massacre. More like Wounded Knee than the Battle of the Bulge. The U.S. spends several hundred times what Iraq spends on defense (read, war). Quite a mismatch. Also, since Iraq had destroyed any WMDs they did have (which Bush knew and lied to the American people repeatedly about), they really had no defense and in fact, put up a much stronger defense than one would think they could have. So, gloat if you want, but I still say this is a war that should never have been fought. I hope you are also pleased with all the deaths of Iraqi civilians (over 3,000) that occurred.
No, don't think the war on terror is over. We just created a new generation of terrorists in Iraq, who are hatching plots to fly airplanes into our skyscrapers, nuclear power plants and chemical plants. I bet there are dozens of terrorists plotting misdeeds even as we exchange words over the Internet and accomplish nothing. Bush is making this a dangerous and evil world - Do not be deceived.
Peace is the only answer.
mark safranski - 4/28/2003
Let me get this straight - a guy who owns the majority stock in a voting machine company votes Republican. Therefore, Democratic voters being too ignorant,hurried or lazy to mark their ballots properly for Deomcratic judges in Democratic precints in Democratic Florida counties is the fault of a mysterious ( and technologically inexplicable ) GOP conspiracy ?
I believe there is an opening for a new member of the " Bush is Hitler " crowd that posts on Atrios' comment board.
NY Guy - 4/28/2003
The title of the article for us who read it was "Shities in Revolt: Why Paul Wolfowitz is in a state of Shock." Your responded was about the 2000 election, which independant researchers have already determined that George Bush won. I missed the connection, since the Florida election issue had been discussed ad nauseum, and Bush always wins, and I Did not see the connection to the current article. Please explain.
The second boring comment refers to the U. S. being a democracy, which it is. And since anti-war forecasters have been completely wrong about the rapid outcome of the Iraqi war I found your speculation boring to try again to determine the outcome of the huge success the U. S. experienced in Iraq.
Your comments about what my political views are just as unfounded as your other conclusions. What does Rush Limbaugh have to do with me or your inability to coherently frame an answer to the issue at hand.
Perhaps I did jump to a conclusion about having a script, but my experience is that if one does not have a counter argument they are advised to read P XXX of there script, and launch a counter attack on the person who opposes your comments. Which is what you have done.
I don't understand what your comment on peace is about. Explain to me what peace is and what period of peace are you referring to. I remember seeing people taking a header out 50,60 and 70 story windows in NYC and imagine they experienced peace when they reached ground level. I don't know what peace means when North Korea says they will build more nuclear weapons and use them as they want. I do know that I feel safer knowing that George Bush is doing something about protecting the Grand Ole U. S. A., and preventing a nuclear war which will enable my grandchildren to live in a peacefulful world and thereby allow you to publish your own thoughts in the Grand Ole U. S. A. We both should be thankful for this.
I appreciate your comments as they enable us to see how others portray the Grand Ole U. S. A. and enables us to be prepared to not only understand your position, but also encourage us to respond to it. Don't be a whinner like the hollywood types who like to have freedom of speech but get upset when others exercise their own freedom of speech and action. Tell us how you truly feel feel about America.
Keep posting. I want to hear what you have to say, and how you say it. Very informative.
Stephen Kriz - 4/27/2003
I don't know what could be boring, since what I just posted is something I have never posted. But, I guess it's easier than addressing the fact that Bush is an unelected tyrant who is systematically dismantling the Bill of Rights. Truth is a hard thing for conservatives to accept, hence the popularity of Rush Limbaugh, a confabulist of the highest order.
Peace be with you.
NY Guy - 4/27/2003
Boring, Boring, Boring. Get a new script.
Stephen Kriz - 4/27/2003
Bush presupposes his re-election in 2004, because nefarious forces are afoot to ensure that happens. Republican operatives own or control most of the voting machine manufacturers in the U.S. and expect more electoral fraud of the sort we saw in Florida in 2000 - counting military ballots that were sent in late or unsigned, purging voter rolls selectively to ensure potential Democrats can't vote or their votes won't count and intimidation or harrassment of canvassing boards by hired goons like what happened in Miami-Dade county in 2000. If George's re-election is looking iffy, count on a terrorist event or other manufactured crisis, where martial law is declared and the elections are suspended. Make no mistake - the U.S. is in the middle of a slow motion coup d`etat.
Maybe we should be working to bring democracy to America, instead of Iraq, where they don't want it and it won't work anyway. Count on an Islamic theocracy of one flavor or another in Iraq. It is inevitable.
Pray for peace.
mark safranski - 4/25/2003
I'm not so certain that everyone in the administration - we have to include the NSC and State specialists and the CIA analysts and their NIO for the Middle East - were caught unawares. Since S.O.P. in national security bureaucracies is to C.Y.A. I'm sure worst case scenarios percolated upwards to Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell and Cheney, even if they were in less vehement form then some of the analysts would have wished. The President was probably briefed not once but many times on the possible outcomes of an occupation of Iraq.
However, a budgetary decision was most likely made that adding " X" number of additional divisions costing " Y " billions was not worth it to possibly achieve the level of security over the population centers of Shiite areas that Mr. Cole ( or myself for that matter) might consider optimum. This is because the additional troops might not be able to guarantee those good results at such greater cost while a heavier American presence might serve as a focal point of Shiite-American friction.
It's worthwhile to remember that if the pro-Iranian factions among the Shiites were all-that powerful they would have overthrown Saddam themselves. Secondly, that the Sunnis and Kurds will not, as Professor Cole noted, tolerate being ruled by Shiite ayatollahs. Even backed by the entire armed forces of Iran, the Sadr militants do not have the power to defeat the United States, the Kurdish militias and the Sunnis combined. Some degree of realism will eventually sink in if the Shiites are made to realize that their only road to power lies through democratic elections in a de-centralized, federal Iraq. If the U.S. gives secular Iraqi elements time and space to organize politically, the religious parties will have many competitors.
Suetonius - 4/25/2003
Mr. Cole's piece is very useful, for it is the first time I've come across something that lays out the various factions (one cannot always trust the intrepid newspaper reporters to keep factions straight).
What I wonder about, however, and what Mr. Cole has not provided much evidence for, is the degree and significance of the "surprise" in the administration over these developments. For example, was it always in the game plan that local Shi'ite uprisings would occur, or was the game plan that there would be none at all? Was the U.S. desirous of having only some rise up and not others? I don't mean to minimize the danger that certain Shi'ite groups pose to the smooth transition to democracy in Iraq, as Cole ably lays out. Still, a little more evidence on just how the administration was caught aback by this would help the context and allow me to be conviced that they were in fact surprised by this.
Charley - 4/25/2003
Well, sure. It has been two weeks and the Bill Of Rights has not yet been adopted in Iraq.
The radical Shia represent about 20% of Shia. That is about 12% of the total Population. Unlikely to be able to control the country. Certainly able to create problems for any successor government, though.
Those Shite Mullahs are not interested in power. That is why some "religious students" got into a battle and killed tow of them last week. Religion of Peace.
Does Juan Cole have a PhD in SpinMeister?
Anita Wills - 4/24/2003
It is too bad that Bush Junior did not listen to Daddy Bush. Bush Junior listened to advice from those who believe might is right. The Shiites, watched as Bush Junior did their dirty work (got rid of Saddam), and now they look like the good guys. Any action taken against the Shiites is going to strenthen their position against us. It would have been easier for Bush to have the UN lift sanctions against Iraq, and negotiate with Saddam. We are now billions of dollars into Iraq, with no chance of recouping any funds in the near future. The Bush Administration is acting as if they have already won the 2004 election. No President should make policies that will negatively affect Americans long after they are gone. At most it is an eight year job, and the dog should wag the tail, not vice versa. That is why we live in a democracy, isn't it? Bush is assuming that he will be re-elected in 2004, when he should be giving us reason to keep him in office.
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