[Marxism] On the Ground in Iraq

Russell Morse russell.morse at yahoo.com
Sat Mar 18 18:22:16 MST 2006


http://bostonreview.net/BR31.2/rosen.html

On the Ground in Iraq
The roots of sectarian violence

By Nir Rosen

[a long, detailed, first-hand report from
the March/April 2006 issue of Boston Review -
concluding paragraphs as follows]

[...]

My last night I sat with friends in my favorite fresh fruit juice and
ice cream place, Sandra. I was happy that the owner still recognized me
and remembered my usual drink, a strawberry and banana milkshake. One
friend, a Sunni, confided to me that things had been much better under
Saddam. Another was annoyed that Iraqis could be celebrating and
ignoring the horror around them. A young Shia man, educated and secular,
said he felt stultified, with few options. I asked him if, with all this
violence, crime and radical Islam, it was not better under Saddam. “No,”
he said, “they could level all of Baghdad and it would still be better
than Saddam. At least we have hope.”

A few weeks later, after the elections, the same friend e-mailed me:

[quote] I’m living here in the middle of shit, a civil war will happen I’m sure
of it. People became more aggressive, in the way they talk, before they
would care a little bit about Shia or Sunni, but now it is like you
can’t be comfortable talking with a man until you know if he was Shia or
Sunni, the situation is like this, and beside what do you need to start
a civil war? Religious difference (Shia, Sunni), Weapons, Militias,
Politicians don’t trust each other, People don’t trust each other,
Seeking Revenge, Weak government, Separate regions for the opponents,
some mixed regions from both with a lot of problems inside, Tribal
feelings and loyalty. To be clear, now Shia are Iranians for the Sunni,
and Sunni are Salafi terrorists for the Shia. We have a civil war here;
it is only a matter of time, and some peppers to provoke it. [end quote]

Those peppers may have been the February 22 bombing of the Shia shrine
in Samara. Angry Shias came to the streets, attacking hundreds of Sunni
mosques, killing Sunni clerics, and for the first time demonstrating to
Iraq’s Sunnis who really had the power in the new Iraq. Sunnis donned
black clothes like al Qaeda’s and protected mosques in their
neighborhoods. This angered Shias, who were only partially deterred by
fatwas calling for restraint. Shias occupied Sunni mosques in Baghdad
and renamed them after the destroyed shrine in Samara. In Radwaniya,
Sunnis angry at the Association of Muslim Scholars for not doing enough
to protect them collected their guns and prepared for a counterattack.
Members of Muqtada’s Mahdi Army were losing what little discipline they
had and ignoring their leaders’ calls for peace. While the all-out
nihilism that accompanies full-scale civil wars had not yet taken hold,
leaders on all sides traded accusations. In the days that followed,
attacks on mosques increased. Officially, Muqtada opposed attacks on
Sunnis, but he had unleashed his fighters on them. Sectarian and ethnic
cleansing continued apace. In Amriya, dead bodies were being found on
the main street at a rate of three a day. People were afraid to approach
the bodies or call an ambulance or the police for fear that they would
be found dead the next day. In Abu Ghraib, Dora, Amriya, and other mixed
neighborhoods, Shias were being forced out. In Maalif, Sunnis were being
targeted. Those who were expelled from their homes would not soon forget
it. They would join militias seeking revenge. 


		
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