[Marxism] Mehdi army grows

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed May 26 09:16:21 MDT 2004


http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=5601
Mehdi Army Grows
by Dahr Jamail
The NewStandard  May 26, 2004

Baghdad, May 25 -- While US troops continue to damage mosques in heavy 
fighting against resistance forces they say are holed up in holy sites 
of Kufa and Kerbala, men in the Sadr City area of Baghdad rushed 
yesterday to join the Mehdi Army, a militia force loyal to rebel cleric 
Muqtada Al-Sadr.

The recruitment surge followed bloody overnight fighting here that left 
many Iraqis dead. Not surprisingly, accounts of the overnight battle, as 
with most recent engagements, differ greatly depending on whom one asks.

Residents of this vast, impoverished area of over one million saw US 
troops battle members of the Mehdi Army early yesterday morning. 
According to Agence FrancePresse, hospitals counted 18 civilians killed 
in the fighting, but Captain Brian O'Malley of the 1st Brigade Combat 
Team, operating in the area, said US forces killed 26 Iraqis, all of 
them militiamen loyal to Muqtada Al-Sadr.

The heavily resisted assault on targets in Sadr City by US forces came 
less than a day after the US 1st Cavalry Division completed a weapons 
purchasing program in the district, through which the Army bought 
assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades, mortars and artillery shells, 
among other weapons, "at or above market prices." The Army boasted. that 
thousands of weapons were turned over by Sadr City residents, but the 
real effect of the program was unclear at the end of last yesterday's 
fighting, which was possibly the fiercest this neighborhood has seen 
since tensions between US forces and Muqtada Al-Sadr escalated in late 
March.

As men congregated around the newly rebuilt office of Muqtada Al-Sadr in 
order to join his militia, Sheikh Hassan Al-Adari, a spokesman for 
Al-Sadr, claimed that many of the people killed last night were 
civilians and said such a slaughter will only serve to draw angry Iraqis 
to the resistance.

"It's normal to see people coming here from all over Baghdad to join us 
in defending against the occupiers," he said, "especially when the 
Americans are killing civilians and attacking our holy places."

Al-Adari also said that followers of Al-Sadr, along with the vast 
majority of Iraqis, are enraged at what he and others here call "the 
wedding massacre." He was referring to the incident in the tiny village 
of Makr Al-Dib last Wednesday, where US gunship crews killed more than 
40 Iraqis in overnight airstrikes. Numerous Iraqi eyewitnesses, as well 
as home videos obtained and other footage shot by the Associated Press 
Television Network, suggest the victims were civilians who had attended 
a late night wedding celebration.

The US military insists the target was a terrorist safe house and has 
images it says contradicts the locals' version of events.

Eman Ahmed, director of the Baghdad office of International Occupation 
Watch, who visited the site of the bloodbath, located near the Syrian 
border, offers an account that supports statements by local residents. 
"I saw it with my own eyes," she recounted during an interview at her 
home in central Baghdad. "It is only a sheep ranch and there were no 
fighters there, nor any evidence of weapons."

Ahmed described a horrendous scene of bullet-riddled musical instruments 
from the 13 band members killed in the assault, blood and pieces of 
flesh drying in the sand, and mourning neighbors and family members of 
slain wedding celebrants.

A list of victims from last week's attack showed that 12 women and seven 
children under the age of 18 lay among the dead, including a 4 year-old 
girl named Fatima, as well as Ra'ad, a one month-old baby boy. The list 
was provided by Dr. Hambdi Al-Rawi, director of the hospital in Al-Qaim.

"Iraqis everywhere are saddened by what happened there," said Ahmed. 
"But they are even more enraged at the lying of the American military 
and their complete disrespect towards the Iraqi people."

Her outrage is shared by participants of a funeral wake in Sadr City 
yesterday for Amir Yassin, a member of the Mehdi Army killed while 
fighting US forces Monday morning. "We are fighting to protect our homes 
here," said a Mehdi fighter who asked to remain nameless but grew 
excited as he spoke.

"Even though the Americans only come here at night now, they are still 
invading our city and killing our civilians. We are only guarding our 
homes and our people."

Yassin is married and has six children, but said he will be honored to 
become a martyr if he is killed fighting against foreign troops 
occupying his country. "God will save my children if I die because the 
Mehdi is the army of the people," he stated. "This is an intifada of the 
people," the man continued, using Arabic that roughly translates to 
"shrugging off." He added, "Our parents encourage us to get revenge for 
every death."

A man identified as commander of two brigades of the Shi'ite-run Mehdi 
Army in Sadr City, who also asked to remain anonymous, said Sunni 
Muslims have joined the Shi'ite-led resistance force. "We have 700 
Sunnis fighting with us here," he said, "because we are fighting so that 
our holy places aren't destroyed like they are in Najaf, Kut and 
Kerbala." He angrily added, "The Americans invaded us, and now they have 
made this a holy war."

A spokesperson at the Coalition Press Information Center who refused to 
provide a name also declined to relay any information concerning the 
nature of the US military operation in Sadr City.

-- 

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