"Today, today is peaceful, tomorrow, tomorrow is war"

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at gmx.net
Thu Aug 14 01:35:12 MDT 2003

Washington Post reporting from Baghdad's Sadr City:

Flag Is Flash Point In a Baghdad Slum
Perceived Insult Ignites Anti-U.S. Unrest
By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, August 14, 2003; Page A11

BAGHDAD, Aug. 13 -- The U.S. military helicopter flew low over Baghdad's
largest slum today, about an hour before noon prayers. For a while, it
hovered near a transmission tower. Then, Sheik Ahmed Zarjawi said, a U.S.
soldier tried to kick the black flag that fluttered atop the tower,
inscribed in white letters with the name of one of Shiite Islam's most
revered figures.
There followed a day of anger and fervor in a Shiite neighborhood already on
edge. Protesters incensed at what they saw as a religious insult poured out
of houses and shops. In some of the worst unrest since Baghdad fell to
U.S.-led forces on April 9, clashes erupted with an American patrol, killing
one Iraqi and wounding at least three others.
Into a sweltering evening, hundreds of demonstrators waving religious
banners and rallied by neighborhood clergy moved across streets awash in
sewage, calling for a day of reckoning with U.S. troops, who they said they
no longer wanted to enter their neighborhood.
"When the Americans came, we welcomed them and received them," said Jabbar
Qassem, 20. "But this is our faith. This flag, it represents our faith. Why
would they do this? Now we will allow no American to wander through here."
Some U.S. officials have become increasingly worried about the influence of
Sadr, a junior cleric who has little religious standing but heads an
organization that enjoys support among the poorest and most disenfranchised
in some Shiite cities.
After the clash, his clerical followers staged a rally atop a fire station
near the transmission tower, with a crowd of hundreds waving banners below.
Darraji, one of Sadr's followers, then delivered their demands: The
Americans must stage a "complete and comprehensive withdrawal" within a day,
issue an apology, provide compensation to the families of the dead and
wounded and deliver their written agreement in English and Arabic.
"We give them one night to implement these demands without any maneuvers or
delays," Darraji said.
At times in the speech, the crowd broke into chants. "Today, today is
peaceful, tomorrow, tomorrow is war," one went, as the sun set over the
neighborhood. "We are preparing your army, Mahdi," another intoned.


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