Iraq now? was Re: [Marxism] Sadr militia leaves shrine, Sistani to take over; 77 reported dead overnight; US attacks Sadr City, bombs Fallujah
g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Fri Aug 20 18:21:43 MDT 2004
There are still conflicting reports coming out about this.
But it does look like some sort of deal is being thrashed
out. It also appears that this is a variation on the Fallujah
compromise. There ex-Baathists marched in and "took over".
In Najaf, the followers of al-Sistani are to assume control
of the shrine.
What is one to make of all this?
Well it would appear that it is very much a case of al-Sadr
lives to fight annother day. However this the second uprising
came closer to destroying him physically than did the
previous one. His army too has been dealt with most brutally
by the Americans. They are poorly armed and untrained and
have little but their courage to offer to the gunships, the
tanks and the war planes.
So is it a military defeat but a political victory for al-
It is close to irresponsible to attempt to answer that
question from this distance. But I am tempted to say that is
it neither a military defeat nor a political victory. His
army has been savaged, but there are signs that they are
beginning to realise that they have to get better at it. One
solution is to emulate the Sunni Resistance and move to low
intensity warfare. That would make Iraq ungovernable in the
short term and would in all probability lead eventually to a
draft in the USA.
Politically al-Sadr has become something of an icon of
resistance. Sunnis have, for instance, carried his portrait
in demonstrations in Fallujah. But his "program" would
appear to be little more than the imposition of an Iranian
style clerical dictatorship. I cannot see how Iraq can be
united around that. I noticed btw as the crisis deepened the
liberal, Juan Cole, began referring, on his web site, to the
Sadrists as "puritannical thugs".
Apart however from his inability to articulate a program
which would unite Iraqis, al-Sadr seems unable to unite the
Shia. The religious establishment grouped around al-Sistani
and the Da'awa Party, almost certainly okayed the assault on
Najaf, and as a consequence has been compromised by the
damage inflicted by the American military on the Holy City.
But they still seem to have a line which apparently makes
sense, namely that they hold back until the elections in
January, when they will presumably win a majority of seats.
So for now, events in Iraq will in all probability slip back
to where they were. The American writ will hold only in the
Green Zone and on cable television. They will win everything
on Fox News and on CNN. In the real world however their
ferocious deployment of tanks, bombs and rockets is a clear
sign of the military and political weakness.
I would emphasise the military aspect because lack of person
power on the ground has meant that they have had to resort
once more to air power. Useful for protecting forts such as
the Green Zone and for forays out, but of limited use as
providing protection against low intensity warfare.
For example this week the American military sent their tanks
into the slum city named al-Sadr city. It is unclear how
many of the slum kids they slaughtered. Now they have
withdrawn. What do they think will happen in the houses and
streets of the slums? How many friends do they feel they
have made? How many hearts and minds do they think they have
It is true that the American military once said in
Vietnam 'Grab 'em by the balls and their hearts and mind will
follow'. But it didn't work in Vietnam and it won't work in
Iraq. The assault on al-Sadr city and on Najaf was I feel a
clear sign of American weakness. It was demonstration in
extremis of their military power. That such a demonstration
was necessary at all, is a clear indication of the disastrous
failure they face in Iraq.
So what will happen now? It is a true sign of hubris to
attempt to answer that question. But we humans cannot cease
trying. I think that the al-Sadr movement will fall back on
its base – the slums of Baghdad. That is where they will
make another stand. The Americans will once more return to
their bases and as a result the destruction of the human and
material infra-structure of the Allawi regime will continue
After November the Americans will be faced with a decision –
to get out or to go for broke by instituting the draft and
putting in 500k soldiers to crush the resistance. Neither
choice is the Good News for the American ruling class. Indeed
I am confident that whatever the twists and turns that
eventuate over the coming months and even years, that the
Owl of Minerva will eventually declare the Second Iraq war
a ‘war too far’.
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