Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Iran wins again
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Maybe it’s too bad that Baghdad isn’t actually a part of the United
States, like, say, New Orleans. Bush administration loyalists would be
arguing that its make-believe “Green Zone” government had become the
ultimate welfare state and needed to be cut loose of its dependency on
U.S. dollars and military might lest it remain permanently crippled.
What’s more, they’d be right. Instead, the al-Maliki government’s
ill-advised attempt to overthrow its rivals’ control over the Iraqi port
city of Basra saw American soldiers enlisted as partisan fighters in
what is essentially a domestic quarrel. Why should we care which
Iranian-backed Shiite political party prevails there? With one crucial
exception, the differences among the three main parties concern Iraqi
civil and religious issues of no importance to Americans. How many
Americans should die over whether or not Iraqi women are forced to wear
veils? Don’t look to our own peerless leader for an answer. As usual,
President Bush limned the conflict in cartoonish goodguy-vs.-bad-guy
terms. He described the fighting in Basra and elsewhere as “a bold
decision” by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and predicted “a defining
moment in the history of a free Iraq.”

Most Iraqis undoubtedly saw the Basra offensive as a clumsy power play
to weaken so-called radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr before
scheduled provincial elections. Because it followed Vice President Dick
Cheney’s recent visit to Baghdad, al-Maliki’s gambit was assumed to have
received his approval. That would be the same “Big Time” Cheney who
recently made it clear that American public opinion means nothing to him
as he knows he’s right.

One can only imagine how little Iraqi public opinion means to Cheney.
The seeming success of Gen. David Petraeus’ “surge” has been due to two
factors: the willingness of Sunni tribes west of Baghdad to take U. S.
cash and weapons in return for resisting al-Qa’ida, and al-Sadr’s
cease-fire declaration in the Shiite south. His Mahdi Army’s temporary
truce greatly reduced Iraqi violence.

Some observers also wondered if the secondary purpose of the attack on
Basra was to drag nearby Iran into the conflict, justifying the U.S.
bombing raids that Cheney and his neo-conservative cabal have long
dreamed of. So infatuated was al-Maliki with dreams of martial glory
that he personally flew to Basra to mastermind the assault, issuing
demands that al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army disband and disarm, first in three
days, then 10, then....

Alas, a funny thing happened on the way to Tehran. Even with U.S. air
support power and heavy weapons, Iraqi government forces got nowhere
against the Mahdi Army. Despite five years of American training, intense
street fighting left al-Sadr’s forces unbowed. An Iraqi reporter for The
New York Times who made his way into Basra concluded that “[t]here was
nowhere the Mahdi either did not control or could not strike at will.”

Militarily, this shouldn’t be a big surprise. Iraq’s army remains
essentially a mercenary outfit serving what most regard as a U.S. puppet
regime. Al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army shouldn’t be romanticized. It’s full of
gangsters, thugs and religious fanatics who have indulged in brutal
ethnic murders. But they were also fighting for their very lives and
families on their own sacred turf. The concept of Iraq as a nation means
little or nothing to them. Clan, tribe and mosque mean everything.

Al-Sadr loyalists also staged uprisings in Kut, Amarah, Nasiriyah and
Diwaniya, the capitals of four southern provinces. Iraqi police
mutinied. Baghdad’s huge Shiite slums erupted in violence. Rockets began
raining down upon the Green Zone, killing two American civilians among
others. Hundreds of Iraqis died.

Meanwhile, with al-Maliki off playing at being an Arab Napoleon, members
of his own Dawa Party reportedly undertook a secret trip to the Iranian
holy city of Qom, headquarters of the Shiite ayatollahs who run the
country. There they met with Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, recently designated a terrorist
organization by the U.S. Senate (with Hillary Clinton and John McCain’s
support). With Suleimani’s help, they brokered a truce.

Speaking from an unknown location, al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army to
stand down contingent upon a cessation of government attacks. There
would be no disarmament. So far the cease-fire appears to be holding.
Al-Sadr also demanded a general amnesty and a release of Sadrist
prisoners not convicted of crimes. Should the October provincial
elections come off, it’s assumed his party will be a big winner. To
Iraqis, the humiliation of al-Maliki and the Americans could hardly be
more complete. Once again, the inadvertent beneficiary of Bush
administration policy turns out to be Iran. The only possible good news
is that what makes al-Sadr a “radical cleric” in U. S. journalistic
shorthand, besides his populist attacks on Iraq’s corrupt ruling class,
is that he’s also a fierce nationalist who demands that American
occupiers go home.

—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.


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