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May 12, 2004

Heads, You Lose

In a cruel twist of fate, Americans who have been screaming for the rhetorical head of Sec'y Rumsfeld have been handed instead the real head of Nick Berg. We have jihadists to thank for this.

I've spent a bit of time reading Juan Cole this afternoon. His angle generally is of the tenor that we don't understand Iraqis well enough to deal with the subtleties of their complaints and are irrevocably retarded and therefore not worthy of engaging them militarily. This is particularly interesting considering his identification of the 'Sadrists' as a legitimate faction whose future needs assurance in the new Iraq. His enthusiasm to identify this group early on may overstate their importance or influence around the country. But there seems to be some contradiction in his coverage over whether or not these vaunted Sadrists are indeed responsible for the Fallujah bridge lynching. Cole is eager to point out that while the Sadrist militia, the 'Al-Mahdi Army' are few in number, the Sadrists themselves number in the tens of thousands. Thus any military action against the militia, while appearing effective only enflames the multitudes. Adding one important point, the CPA and the President have called for the head of the leader of the Sadrist, Muqtada alSadr himself.

The reason I bring this up is because I too think it's important to understand with some clarity, exactly who is doing what to whom and for what reasons. So I question first whether or not the beheaders of Berg are Sadrists, and if so whether Cole and those following his reading of events feel it necessary for them to remain at large given the CPAs calling for his arrest. If not, and the beheaders are truly AQ, what does that say about the Sadrist followers and Sadrist supporters internationally? The point being, there may be complicated links between Iraq and international terrorism now, but if the Sadrists are any indication, then jihadist groups anywhere may be likely to oppose America in similar, popular militant ways.

Stratfor says War:

There are some who argue that it is not reasonable to speak of the
confrontation between the United States and al Qaeda as a war. It certainly
does not, in any way, resemble World War II. It is nevertheless very much a
war. It consists of two sides that are each making plans, using violence and
attempting to shape the political future of a major region of the globe --
the Muslim world. One side masses large forces, the other side disperses much
smaller forces throughout the globe. But the goals are the goals of any war:
to shape the political future. And the means are the same as in any war: to
kill sufficient numbers of the enemy in order to break his will to fight and
resist. It might not look like wars the United States has fought in the past,
but it is most certainly a war -- and it is a war whose outcome is in doubt.

The war against Saddam is over. So who is fighting Americans and coalition members? They are Iraqi militants who are too impatient for the handover, and their violent resistence catalyzes the Islamic partisans whose families are faithful.

What remains to be seen is how long seething resentment can motivate radical militancy and to what extent other partisan groups are willing and able to provide real justice. Whatever happens to Americans, the response is going to be disproportionate. We're big. Deal with it. But I have confidence that our forces are going to strike at the proper partisans. So if we are at war with jihadists (and we are) will enough sensible Iraqis know to move out of the way?

They had better.

Posted by mbowen at May 12, 2004 07:07 AM

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They had better?

You're somebody's daddy, and a smart human being, so I have a hard time believing you are really that pompous. (There are clearly a great number of idiot daddies, but you are certainly not one of them.)

It's hard for me to say who is suffering more in Iraq, simply because every act of theirs against us is so so so publicized, but logic says that the Iraqis are suffering more. In that case, yes, they had better, as you said.

But what if we're suffering more?

Then "they had better" really makes no sense.

New topic now...

You have confidence that we will strike at the correct partisans? Since when does your confidence have anything to do with anything? The strength of your belief is enough to foretell the future?

Have you been in a war or something, and not mentioned it on your blog? And I'm not taking the moral high ground here -- I've never even been in a school yard fight, and feel leg pain just climbing subway stairsn -- I'm just trying to suss out why your confidence in anything means anything, has any substance, proves or shows anything other than the state of your mind and what you want to happen.

And who says that the people fighting Americans are only Iraqi militants? You? Well, I guess our government says it. But isn't it funny how we get to decide what "Iraqi militant" means? Seems like it just refers to anyone who doesn't do what we want, and lives in Iraq.

And even if you are right -- if it is just evil Iraqi militants ruining it everyone and egged on by "Islamic partisans" (whatever that means) -- what else could they have to do to get us to listen to them? They asked for power nicely, and we said no. So now, all they can do is take it.

What would you have them do?

I suppose that logic says DUH, might is right, so they need to shut up. But they are human, even if we think they are dumb for fighting. I think the more we fight them, the more they'll resist. And the more they resist and get beaten, the more they look like martyrs. The more martyrs, the more people willing to become martyrs. Isn't that how revolution works?

I guess the real question is -- how many of those "partisans" are out there? And do they represent overall public sentiment? If they do, well, I guess WE had better.

New topic...

On the other hand, I don't get why folks are so upset over the prison rapes and pictures of Iraqi prisoners being mistreated. Isn't that just what happens in war? Or does war, like my friend Maclamity pointed out, look like this?

p.s. I'm sure a million people have said this, but I just wanted to point out that my browser really doesn't like your site right now, because it has a big black box at the top that contains a broken picture.

Posted by: TLL at May 12, 2004 10:34 AM

I was thinking precisely about your point about my confidence and what I might be convinced about. It's both a problem and a strength of this blog. I don't try to be authoritative and researchy. Instead I walk through logical arguments and positions, while expressing my gut feelings and describing where they come from. I think if the blogosphere weren't just 1% African-American, I'd have a lot more traction. I'm trying to say this is where I think a lot of people would come at this issue...

With that in mind I probably haven't said enough about why I think blackfolks aren't a bit surprised about the prison abuse. What's there that our history doesn't show on chain gangs in Mississippi?

I think there is a war of jihadism against the US and that this is in some ways an affirmation of the Baby Bin Laden theory. But I also think that's a small minority of the Iraqi population's position - the AlSadr represents a predictable faction. I think he would continue to cause trouble beyond our departure, and the kinds of concessions that are being made to him are precisely the things that encourage dictators. He's an asshat, he's like Louis Farrakhan with an army. And maybe he's 8-20% of the Iraqi sentiment. But do we give him a pass and a place in the new government if what he does is take ordinary Iraqis and turns them into the kind of folks who do Fallujah bridge lynchings? If we say OK to Al Sadr in the interests of peace, is that a desireable peace or the kind that will take Iraq into civil war when the CPA steps down?

I think he should be arrested and tried for the murder of rival cleric Abdul Majid al-Khoei.

Again, I cannot get over the fact that some Iraqis are refusing the CPAs efforts as militants. These are not only remnant Baathists but jihadists - the Sadrists in particular. They refuse to wait until June, they refuse the judicial process. They are suicidal! And to the extent that this suicidal mentality is spread by wankers like Al Sadr into the general population, then Iraqis are choosing War, when they might have had simply Occupation.

I am sure we are striking at the proper partisans. We are not shooting down Kurds in Mosul. The majority of Iraqis are not engaged in military skirmishes, and the Marines have been sitting ducks in Fallujah under their modified rules of engagement. Iraqis came out in Najaf to demonstrate and kick the Mahdi Army out. In fact, if Spain hadn't turned tail, we wouldn't have even been in Fallujah because that was their responsibility.

What I would have them do is shutup and wait a year. Do they want the authority to run their own country or the authority to shoot at Americans? Do they want the ballot or the bullet? If they choose the bullet, they will be crushed. And people who have information about those who choose the bullet will be arrested and dragged off to interrogation - and you all know how the story goes. Somebody in Iraq MUST have heard of Martin Luther King, so why the fuck are they trying to be Nat Turner? They're fucking with the US Marines, dumbasses. The people who just crushed the man who had been crushing them for 30 years. What are they trying to prove, because they are going to die trying.

What's going on here is a kind of ghetto logic. You live in the ghetto and live in fear of the gangs. The police come in and beat down the gangbangers and you hate the police. What kind of logic is that? There may be revolutionaries in Iraq, but there will be no revolution. The sooner people recognize, the sooner elections are going to mean something there.

Posted by: Cobb at May 12, 2004 11:50 AM

I've always wondered why a sizeable portion of Arab Muslims have never tried Mahatma Gandhi's nonviolence techniques. Is it religious chauvinism?

It worked for India, we black Americans Christianized Gandhi's approach to work for us. South Africa and places in Eastern Europe have, in turn, done the same drawing upon our movement.

The Palestinians would've probably had a state by now had they deployed that strategy. I recall seeing images of nonviolent Palestinian boys going up against Israeli tanks in the early 1990s, and that seemed to sway U.S. mood (and swaying such mood is critical to the Palestinians' goals, given our support of Israel). However, the Palestinians lost a lot of my sympathy after I saw them dancing in the streets after 9/11.

Yes, you risk death. However, Arab Muslims ain't the first ones to risk death using Gandhi's technique. As a strategy, that would REALLY give them moral high ground and would've turned far more U.S. public opinion against President Bush.

Posted by: shay at May 13, 2004 12:07 AM