[Marxism] A united resistance

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Apr 7 07:04:30 MDT 2004

Boston Globe, 4/7/2004
Sunnis and Shi'ites unite in resistance
By Thanassis Cambanis

BAGHDAD -- Two neighborhoods accustomed to looking at each other over 
the barrels of drawn guns yesterday found common ground in their hatred 
of America.

Aadhamiya, a Sunni Muslim stronghold that has been a hotbed of 
resistance in the capital since US forces entered this city a year ago 
this week, and Kadhimiya, the heart of Baghdad's middle class and most 
politically moderate Shi'ite Muslim community, face each other across 
the Tigris River. Over the last year, they have seen sporadic sectarian 
violence, with Sunnis and Shi'ites crossing the bridge dividing their 
two neighborhoods to kill rival clerics and suspected collaborators.

Yesterday, however, gunmen in both neighborhoods had nothing but kind 
words for one another, as Sunni insurgents mounted a surprise attack on 
US troops, capitalizing on the strife and disorder created by the 
violence in Shi'ite areas of the city under the sway of the radical Army 
of the Mahdi.

"I think the Shi'a should have started earlier. We welcome them to the 
struggle," said Ali Midhat, 31, a devout Sunni who works in a stationery 
store 30 feet from the Aadhamiya police station entrance and watched the 
fighting that raged there for six hours after evening prayers.

An urban guerrilla war of resistance -- even if it does not rise to the 
level of a mass popular uprising -- is one of the greatest fears of the 
US-led occupation authority and the American-appointed Iraqi Governing 
Council charged with leading the country to independence. If the 
situation does spiral into a broader-based resistance -- one that draws 
together Iraqis across the religious and political spectrum -- it would 
look a lot like Aadhamiya and Kadhimiya did yesterday.

"The Americans crossed oceans to come to us and spread their Western 
culture, molding our religion into their Western model," Midhat said. 
"This is why the Muslims rise up in jihad."

On Monday night, insurgents in Aadhamiya staged their boldest and 
largest attack against US troops since April 10 of last year, when 
fighters of Saddam Hussein's fanatical Fedayeen militia battled 
advancing Americans from the Abu Hanifa mosque until 20 of them were 
killed, in some of the city center's fiercest fighting.

The predominantly Sunni fighters in Aadhamiya are called mujahedeen, or 
freedom fighters, although in conversation some of them betray their 
pasts by referring to themselves as Fedayeen.

More than 100 insurgents, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, hand 
grenades, and machine guns, surprised US troops in the neighborhood with 
a two-pronged attack Monday night.

First, gunmen fired in the air in front of Abu Hanifa mosque, "to draw 
them onto the field of battle," said a 22-year-old who gave only his nom 
de guerre, Abdullah. Then they attacked a police station about a 
half-mile away.

"They took the bait," he said.

His left hand is disfigured from a bullet wound that etched a spiderweb 
of scars from his wrist to the base of his fingers, and left his pinky 
finger hanging limp and useless; he was shot defending the Baghdad 
airport from US troops last April, he said.

His right hand was still covered in blood yesterday, half a day after 
the fighting ceased. He had dragged the body of a fellow fighter, Ahmed, 
and his rocket-propelled grenade launcher, from the street after he was 
shot to death by US troops the night before.

"We don't want the Americans and we don't want their freedom," Abdullah 
said, standing by a Volkswagen crushed by a tank. "Iraq will be their 

The people of Aadhamiya have built a special graveyard for "freedom 
fighters" who were killed fighting the Americans. That's where the 
fighters Ahmed, 21, and Yasir, 19, were buried yesterday, in the shade 
of a fig tree, the mounds of earth covered with an Iraqi flag and marked 
with fresh-cut palm fronds. They joined 60 others killed and buried at 
Abu Hanifa since last April 10.

"I hope the graveyard fills up," said its caretaker, Mohammed 
al-Shalchi. "That means the resistance has not ceased."

On Monday night, US soldiers called in tanks and helicopter gunships to 
drive back an estimated 100 fighters who fired rockets at the police 
station and peppered it with gunfire for about six hours after 
nightfall, Iraqi police sergeant Ali al-Louabi said.

A US sergeant in the First Armored Division said the attacks caught the 
Americans by surprise. As his commander searched Aadhamiya's Nouman 
Hospital around noon yesterday for wounded fighters who might have 
sought treatment there, about 10 hours after the last firefight, the 
sergeant described Aadhamiya as "not very friendly." But, he added, 
troops only expected new attacks in predominantly Shi'ite neighborhoods.

Kadhimiya, the city's oldest Shi'ite neighborhood, has been generally 
calm because the people there have lived in Baghdad for generations and 
consider themselves a class apart from the poorer Shi'ites who follow 
cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

That calm was shattered late Monday and early yesterday, when three US 
soldiers were killed in Kadhimiya in separate ambushes using 
rocket-propelled grenades.

Yesterday, more than a hundred members of the Army of the Mahdi crammed 
the courtyard of Sadr's headquarters, just down the street from the 
gold-domed shrine of al-Khadum. "What are you doing in here? Get out on 
the streets! Get out on the rooftops!" a commander screamed after taking 
orders from the senior cleric, Sayyed Hazim al-A'aragi, who reported 
that American soldiers had entered a nearby Sadr office.Within a 
half-hour, Mahdi fighters ordered civilians to flee the streets; two of 
them lugged a heavy-caliber machine gun to the street leading to the 
local US Army base and fired about 60 rounds. American troops returned 
fire selectively, and ultimately eight Iraqi police vehicles screamed 
onto the scene. Officers arrested one fighter while the other fled.

"These guys are simply mercenaries," spat Omar Zaidan, 60, who watched 
the abortive firefight from a couch in front of his furniture store. 
"They are just a bunch of thieves and looters who just want to disturb 
peace over here so they can have a chance to steal from the shops."

Nearby, though, another Kadhimiya resident, Mohammed Ali Hussein, 36, 
had a different view, as he proudly surveyed the Mahdi fighters and 
declared the "clans and the clerics" in control of the streets. Since 
Sunday, he said, Shi'ite militiamen and Sunni mujahedeen have, for the 
first time, fought together.

"We are united," he said, echoing his Sunni rivals just across the 
river. "Saddam Hussein committed injustices against us for 35 years. It 
is impossible that we let America do the same. We will kill them with 
knives. We will eat them."


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