We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

High Noon in Najaf: a disastrous mistake?

It appears that Sadr and his Islamo-fascist militia will be allowed to slip away from the Mosque of Ali in Najaf without further harm. Even if they are indeed disarmed (yeah, right) before they withdraw, the fact their organisational infrastructure will be left intact calls into question the whole point of opposing him in the first place.

It seems to me that there are really only two sensible ways to see this:

Either conclude that following a policy of using force to confront Islamic extremism is too bloody to stomach, leading inevitably to adopting a policy of withdrawal from wherever Islamic terrorism threatens modern global civilisation…

…or conclude that once a decision to use force is taken, it will be followed through robustly and ruthlessly with the intention of killing fundamentalists leaders like Sadr and ideally as many of his hardcore supporters as is practical as well.

In reality I expect neither clear conclusion will be reached in the corridors of power in Washington DC (and do not get me going about the buffoons who run the Foreign Office) and a middle-way fudge that is already being offered up in the established media will be the perceived wisdom as key elements of the political classes work to keep the world safe for Sharia, legally enforced burquas, clitoridectomy and judicial amputations.

Surely the best way to ensure the survival of a tolerable regime in Iraq is to fill the graveyards with as many Islamic extremists as possible. If that policy is not acceptable, then surely one has no business using force to begin with as it seems perverse to kill people unless you are willing to do so for a damn good reason… either fight a war or do not, the middle way just gets you the worst of both worlds: you are hated for the people you kill and held in contempt for the people you would not kill.

The opportunity was there to turn the mosque of Ali into a funeral pyre of Islamic political aspirations. Today was the very last chance to do exactly that but it looks like the opportunity will drift away by this evening.

What a pity.

47 comments to High Noon in Najaf: a disastrous mistake?

  • Tony Di Croce

    Again and again, the world has been taught this lesson by the PLO and it’s agents…. Apparently we still have not learned… The ONLY way to deal with radical extremism is with equally radical action…

    Their are only two options for long term peace in Iraq… Al Sadr in the ground, or Al Sadr on a throne…

    tanstafl@gmail.com

  • Richard Easbey

    I cast my vote for Sadr in the ground, please.

    Thanks!

  • Grant Gould

    While I applaud your general thoughts, the fact is that getting the mosque clear and intact is a far bigger victory than stomping Sadr. The mosque of Ali is the single most important site in Shi’a Islam; to fight a damaging battle there would have created a lot more anti-US partisans than it would have killed off.

    With Sadr out of his politically invulnerable fortress, he’ll be limited to the slums of Baghdad to continue his fight. Those are far less likely to be missed if he must be rooted out with general devastation. And, without the faux legitimacy that the Shrine of Ali provides to his bizarre messianic dreams, there is every possibility that his movement will just fizzle.

    It’s a shame that he might live through this all, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a defeat. Returning the Shrine of Ali to a more legitimate government is a tremendous victory in and of itself — far greater than the momentary loss of Sadr.
    –G

  • Daniel

    PDH-

    While I’m not on expert on it by any means, I believe the Soviets followed a strategy similar to the one you’re suggesting in Afghanistan. We all know how that turned out.

  • Stan

    Why are you bothered? America has already lost over there.

  • Simon

    I have no desire to see Al Sadr on the throne but I welcome his exit from Najaf. Like the Palastinians tried to do at the Church of the Nativity in April 2002, al sadr was using his position within the holy city to prevent the us military and iraqi army from using the full force of their arsernals. Lets hope Ayatollah Ali Sistani and the Iraqi police can keep Al Sadr and his militia out of the cities and next time trouble starts up, bring in the B52s and howitzers.

  • While I’m not on expert on it by any means, I believe the Soviets followed a strategy similar to the one you’re suggesting in Afghanistan. We all know how that turned out.

    Really? I am not sugesting the allies follow the inept and undifferentiated ‘scorched earth’ policy of the Soviets, just that when the US has a large concentration of their armed enemies trapped in a single well defined location who are asking for ‘martyrdom’, that they be given their wish with all due haste. The Mosque of Ali was not the Panshir Valley full of well supplied, well trained and brilliantly lead Masoud soldiers, it was a small encircled ‘target rich’ environment full of truly loathsome people.

  • A_t

    What Grant said. You coulnd’t have done this without creating far more enemies than you killed, and making many Iraqis hate their own government.

  • Joe

    “Surely the best way to ensure the survival of a tolerable regime in Iraq is to fill the graveyards with as many Islamic extremists as possible.”

    That displays a complete lack of the type of war we are fighting.

    There are 3 groups in Iraq, Kurd, Sunni, and Shia. The Shia are the majority. The Kurds are already on our side. The Sunni are the big issue for now (and that will change). There is absolutely no reason to annoy the Shia. US strategy, which I think is correct, is composed of the following:
    1) Continue to work with, and impress, Sistani. The number one thing we could do to mess up Iraq would be to alienate Sistani. Where Sistani goes, goes Iraq.
    2) Strengthen the government. Sure, it would be easy for the Marines to take out Sadr. It’s more important for the Iraqi government to show they are in charge.
    3) Minimize the non-governmental powers. Sadr is just one. Sadr has been minimized while we avoided (1). Killing Sadr would not have went well with Sistani or the rest of the Shia.

    Sadr is now permantly dimished. Threat reduced. That was all we needed to do.

    Stan, I disagree. We are winning. We won as soon as Sistani started working with us.

  • BB

    This is a perfect example of why war should be fought out of need, not choice. The US does not hold the moral high ground in this war. We attacked a weak nation without clear need to do so. We are hesitant to unleash our full power on a target like Najaf, because we are not exactly sure what our goal is. But we are sure that civilian deaths will hurt our image and give the enemy resolve. Yet allowing enemies to escape emboldens them and makes us look weak. At Tora Bora we had every moral reason and duty to destroy our enemy, even if it meant the unintended deaths of civilians (in spite of this moral clarity, we did not accomplish our mission). We do not have that moral clarity in Iraq. Too much force and collateral damage makes the US look like a bully and alienates civilians already unsure of what we are doing there. Letting terrorists escape makes us look weak and incompetent. In other words, we are damned if we do, damned if we don’t. Which is why we should have thought a lot more about what we wanted to achieve with an invasion of Iraq. Given that we are already there, I favor a policy of de-escalation and withdrawal. In a no-win situation we are better off killing fewer people.

  • Tony Di Croce

    We could have gotten al Sadr without any damage to the shrine by completely encircling it with troops and waiting… A couple of months is all it would take… Eventually, they would have run out of food and would have either made a suicidal charge, or attempted to sneak out individually… No American troops need set foot on shrine grounds….

    Besides, I disagree wholeheartedly with the very concept that we need to tremble before the wrath of the martyrists… al Sadr brought the fight to the shrine, and is theirfore responsible for any damages to it… By bending to the illogical, we guarantee a future of more of the same…

    tanstafl@gmail.com

  • Joe

    “The US does not hold the moral high ground in this war. We attacked a weak nation without clear need to do so.”

    Somebody has been avoiding the sites showing the mass graves. As to the reason to do so, we very much had a reason. It’s pretty simple:
    Saddam attacked Kuwait. We pushed him out with troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. The troops being in Saudi Arabia lit a fire under too many people. To remove the US troops from Saudi Arabia, we took out the reason that they were there. And no, Iraq isn’t Saudi Arabia. People that don’t see the difference don’t understand Islam. Or the role of Saudi Arabia to it.

    “because we are not exactly sure what our goal is.”
    Our goal is a stable democratic Iraq sans Saddam. Pretty simple really.

    “But we are sure that civilian deaths will hurt our image and give the enemy resolve”
    Glad you are sure. What I am sure of is the civilian deaths are being caused by Sadr to a much greater extent. Our refusal to take action that causes extensive deaths (like destroying the city to get Sadr) is impressing the Iraqi people.

    “Yet allowing enemies to escape emboldens them and makes us look weak.”
    Bloodthirsty are you? See point above regards restraint.

    “At Tora Bora”
    This topic is Iraq. Stay on topic please. Different cures for different areas.

    “We do not have that moral clarity in Iraq”
    Please don’t use “we,” it is inclusive where it isn’t. I see no issue with our moral clarity. The point was already covered above. Moral clarity will have us diminish Sadr without killing needlessly.

    “Which is why we should have thought a lot more about what we wanted to achieve with an invasion of Iraq.”
    Strengthen the government. Quell the uprisings until the government takes over that role. What’s so tough to understand?

    “I favor a policy of de-escalation and withdrawal.”
    Wow. You really don’t get it.

    “In a no-win situation we are better off killing fewer people.”
    We either fight in the M.E. or we fight at home. Given the choice of fighting in the M.E. where my side is Marines, versus fighting here where my side is unarmed civilians, guess which I take?

    And yes, it is a choice between those two.

    The people in the Middle East are being flooded with American culture. That is the real war. We just need to keep the military situation on “simmer” instead of boil until that war is further along. It’s going to take a while. The end is inevitable.

  • There is the beginning of explicit recognition that we are in a Moral Superiority War (not a culture war). All intellectually honest folk SHOULD be enraged at the press, my point #2 below.

    http://tomgrey.motime.com/1093544824#329796
    The 3 big issues the Kerry Lie brings up (Lies):
    1) Kerry’s Lie mean he is unfit to be commander in chief; he will be sunk by the Swifties.

    2) The press & academia has been enabling Kerry for years, covering up his lies. The PC beliefs of most press reporters, and their censorship of discussion & cover up of the facts, has been enabling Kerry’s Lie, and most in the press are still trying to. Bush-hate by the press is no excuse for a press cover-up.

    3) Kerry’s Lie helped create Political Correctness: “ending the Vietnam war, now” as the morally superior position. This is the Kerry Lie sand that PC is built on, and it is now developing cracks.

    What is worth fighting for, what is worth fighting against?
    The evil commies deserved to be fought against;
    Saddam deserved to be fought against.
    To fight means to kill, die, and even kill some innocents. The real alternative is surrender.

    The desire to avoid killing innocents is good. That’s what war crimes is all about. The evil guys don’t have war crimes trials. Christian based Civilization, Moral Human Rights Civilization, might allow war trial fears to stop us from winning.
    Evil genocide in Cambodia was allowed because of such morals – it couldn’t be stopped without fighting.
    Such morals are not superior.
    Kerry will lose the “moral high ground”, and the election.

    Applying this to Najaf — Joe is more right than Perry, doing what Sistani wants is the big, long term victory.

    Iraq needs local elections and Iraqi responsibility — whether it’s to let Sadr live or kill him AND damage the shrine. It’s no slam dunk that “blow it up is best”. But the USA must keep fighting for the moral high ground. And be willing to fight, and kill terrorists.

  • BB

    Joe,

    You see the role of the United States as policeman of the world. I do not. My point is simple: When you fight a war, fight it all the way (as Perry suggests in his initial posting). In order to do so you must have a cause that generates deep and wide support at home, and in the case of nation building, support in the occupied country as well. Mass graves in Iraq mean little to most Americans. Protecting dictatorships like Kuwait (’91) and Saudi Arabia rub many the wrong way. You say our goal is “a stable democratic Iraq sans Saddam. Pretty simple really.” This shows how detached from reality you are. It may be our goal (that is not clear), but it is certainly not simple. I will add that I do not think Sadr has the moral high ground. It is not an either / or question.

  • R C Dean

    This is what happens in the transition phase of nation-building.

    Allawi calls the strategic shots, for better or worse, because he is the one that power is flowing towards.

    On the military front, now that Sadr has been flushed out of his sanctuary (again), I can only hope that this time someone puts a bullet in him. I suspect that when the Shiites find out that their precious gewgaws were looted while he had the keys, we won’t need to contract the work out, either.

  • Joe

    “In order to do so you must have a cause that generates deep and wide support at home”

    I don’t think this is possible. Large numbers of people have been mentally molded where they would die rather than fight. I often wonder if that is the lesson I learned from the holocast.

    “This shows how detached from reality you are. It may be our goal (that is not clear), but it is certainly not simple.”

    Very simple. We just keep the lid on until the government takes over.

    Keep the war in the M.E.. Subvert/neutralize governments there until they keep the lid on themselves. Let Hollywood and Nike take it from there.

    Have you been reading Iraqi blogs? We are winning. Sunni teenagers interacting with the west. That is what will win in the end.

    And no, I don’t see us as the “world’s policeman.” I do see us taking out threats however we must. I prefer to take them out with capitalism and culture but do understand sometimes we must use M-16s and AH-64s.

  • Joe

    I do wonder if we will turn the middle-east into a cultural satrapy before they turn Europe into an Islam satrapy.

    Read the blog “Iraq the Model.” First couple of posts are instructive on the culture war.

    His “Appeasment and impatience” post covers Iraqi reaction to the Iraqi government and Sadr.

    The ultimate answer is this article:
    http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1093558211623&call_pageid=968332188854&col=968350060724

    We played Sistani right.

  • Shawn

    I’m as hawkish as anyone about the war, but I think Perry has got it wrong.

    Sadr is a fringe Shia figure who does not have wide support from the Iraqi Shia people, nor any support from Iran. His defiance of the US/Coalition had more to do with posturing for power in post Saddam Iraq than any actual anti-Wesern cause.

    The Mosque is the holiest shrine in the Shia world. Getting Sadr out of it without damaging it would have been a nightmare. The possibility for really pissing the Shia Iraqi’s off was a serious risk.

    The guy surrendered. His so-called “army” has disarmed. In many respects he was humiliated. He got himself into a position where he was dead meat, and had to be rescued.

    And the fact that al-Sistani worked with us is a major victory. Make no mistake, had Sadr not surrendered I would have supported dealing to him permanetly 100%. But this is a much better outcome. We stood up to him and refused to back down and he surrendered. Whats not to like?

  • BB

    Joe,

    You say – “Very simple. We just keep the lid on until the government takes over.” And what if that government looks like Iran? What do we do then? The hard part is making the government look the way we would like it to look. This is another gross over simplification on your part.

    How do we keep the war in the M.E.? How do we guarantee that? How are we sure this is not creating new cells who want to open a front in the US? I have no proof that this is happening, but you have no proof that it isn’t. Is there something in the terrorist handbook that says Saudi terrorists cannot attack the US until we are our of Iraq? If we were fighting conventional armies I would support this argument. But that is not the case.

    If you support taking out threats in Iraq I can only guess you support invasions / nation building in Iran, Saudi, Pakistan etc… (as your last post suggests). If not, I am curious as to why not. They are certainly threats of equal or greater concern than Iraq.

  • It is quite puzzling indeed. Somehow, we can afford to go thousands of miles out of our way, at great risks and cost, to depose a murderous dictator and his illegitimate, corrupt minions.

    But getting rid of a thug like Sadr is too risky, or dangerous ? Go figure.

  • BB is correct. We don’t have clear moral superiority in this particular conflict: Al Sadr’s followers are not Al Qaeda. In any event, there are always limits to how ruthless one can get, even when one has clear moral superiority. For example, we never tried to annihilate all Nazis: if we had tried, WWII would never have ended. “Good enough for government work” applies to wars too.

  • Shawn

    I personally never said that taking Sadr out was too risky, merely that his surrender is the better outcome.

    “If you support taking out threats in Iraq I can only guess you support invasions / nation building in Iran, Saudi, Pakistan etc…”

    This is a false choice, the “all or nothing” argument. Different countries require different tactics. In Saudi Arabia and Pakistan we have a degree of co-operation from elements with the respective governments, especially in Pakistan, which has caught more al-Qaeda operatives than any other. Achieving anything in Iraq required getting rid of Saddam. Iran though may well require intervention.

    The point is that we should fit the tactics to the country.

  • R C Dean

    We don’t have clear moral superiority in this particular conflict

    Sadr is an Iraqi catspaw, trying to set up his own little theocratic satrapy in Najaf and foment armed revolt.

    Just because he and his idiot followers don’t recognize our moral superiority doesn’t mean we don’t have it.

  • BB

    Shawn,

    I do not see my “what about Iran?” argument as a false choice. I do wonder about the choice we made. There seems little question that Iran has made it’s nuclear program an open priority since the US invasion of Iraq. This could have been predicted. Or Bush should have at least considered that a US presence in Iraq would trigger events he could not predict. Wars have unexpected consequences. We see this both within and outside of Iraq.

    Much like Sadr on a larger scale, we let Iran march forward after we bitch-slap Iraq. We take out Saddam and tap dance around a thug like Sadr. What message does that send? Is our priority a nation-building project in Iraq or protecting the US from terrorist attacks?

    We may (or may not) have elements of cooperation within governments of dubious allies like Saudi and Pakistan. But the governments are not really our concern, are they? Terror is a method. A method used by non-state forces. Our concern should be the populations in these nations, not just the governments which most of the radicals see as US puppets anyway.

  • BB

    RC,

    “Just because he and his idiot followers don’t recognize our moral superiority doesn’t mean we don’t have it.”

    And just because we have moral superiority over Sadr doesn’t mean the Iraqis see our occupation as justified. The argument is not whether we are morally superior to Sadr. There is no question we are. We were also morally superior to the communist in Vietnam.

    You must consider the big picture in the eyes of the occupied. The US invaded a country with a prewar GDP smaller than that of Fairfax County, VA. Iraq was weakened by sanctions and did not even control all of it’s territory. It was no conventional threat to the US. The 9/11 attacks did not originate in Iraq. We eliminated Saddam, supported Chalabi and don’t know what to do with Sadr. No consistency. Whether it is true or not (I happen to think it is not true) we are viewed by many Iraqis as bullies. This does matter. You seem to be sure we are right. More important is what the Iraqis and others in the region think.

  • GCooper

    Shame on you Perry de Havilland.

    You wrote ‘Najaf’ without the apparently obligatory ‘The holy city of..’ which seems to have been imposed by the style-mullahs at the BBC.

    Funny how we never hear of ‘the holy city’ of Rome, or Canterbury, isn’t it?

    Expect a fatwa any day now…

  • joe

    BB, we are hijacking Perry’s thread. I stand by the statement that causing excess damage would have been counter-productive. Sistani is a bigger fish and we got his cooperation. Without angering the locals.

    Regards your post:

    “You say – “Very simple. We just keep the lid on until the government takes over.” And what if that government looks like Iran?”
    What if it looks like Germany? One never knows if one never tries.

    “What do we do then?”
    Deal with it.

    “The hard part is making the government look the way we would like it to look. This is another gross over simplification on your part.”
    Who said it must look like we want it to? We just need it to be non-malignant to a certain level. Egypt and Libya don’t have governments that look “like we want” but are managable.

    “How do we keep the war in the M.E.?”
    By chosing the field. We didn’t do that in NYC but have done that in Afghanistan and Iraq. Libya too for that matter (see their recent movements). Let’s call it 2 1/2 done.

    “How do we guarantee that?”
    I can’t guarentee that my car will start tomorrow. But I do rely on it to get to work. Why do you need everything 100% guarenteed before trying? I know it’s 100% guaranteed to fail if we don’t try at all.

    “How are we sure this is not creating new cells who want to open a front in the US?”
    Been lost of attacks in the US lately?

    “I have no proof that this is happening, but you have no proof that it isn’t.”
    But I don’t have building falling down in NYC. I also don’t have Afghanistan as a training ground. Regards Iraq, nation building is underway. I’m not expecting Germany or Japan levels of success but not having Saddam fund the families of terrorists and harboring Abu Nidal is good.

    “Is there something in the terrorist handbook that says Saudi terrorists cannot attack the US until we are our of Iraq?”
    Why would we surrender the initiative to them?

    “If we were fighting conventional armies I would support this argument. But that is not the case.”
    Different strokes for different folks. Would I rather have them thinking of ways to get to the US to kill us or have them looking for a ride to Iraq to fight Marines? Marines for me.

    “If you support taking out threats in Iraq I can only guess you support invasions / nation building in Iran, Saudi, Pakistan etc…”
    Yes I do. Different strokes for different folks though. Pressure is already being applied to Saudi and Pakistan. Libya is a success (as far as we need).

    “(as your last post suggests). If not, I am curious as to why not. They are certainly threats of equal or greater concern than Iraq. ”
    Not applicable. I do support working on them. Add N Korea, and Syria. ;)

    On to your next post. It was addressed to Shawn but why not?

    “I do not see my “what about Iran?” argument as a false choice. I do wonder about the choice we made. There seems little question that Iran has made it’s nuclear program an open priority since the US invasion of Iraq. ”
    Disagree. I think it was a priority already. The invasion of Iraq scared Libya and Khadaffi narked out Iran. They are just more overt now. Another benefit of the Iraq invasion.

    “This could have been predicted.”
    I believe you have constructed this on a false premise. Noted above.

    “Or Bush should have at least considered that a US presence in Iraq would trigger events he could not predict.”
    What makes you think he didn’t? They didn’t like the table in the Middle-East and are rolling the dice. Risk takers may succeed or they may fail. Not being a risk taker surely failed (reference 9/11 and Clinton’s response to terrorism. Tar Bush 1, Reagan, and Carter with that same brush).

    “Wars have unexpected consequences. We see this both within and outside of Iraq.”
    Why is that a bad thing? Maybe Syria deciding to go straight will be a consequence. Would you have predicted the Libyian reaction? Smoked out the multi-nation nuke program. And hurt it. Not all consequences are bad.

    “Much like Sadr on a larger scale, we let Iran march forward after we bitch-slap Iraq.”
    Look at a map of Iran in 1999 with the surrounding countries. Color in red those that are hostile to us. Color that map today. Interesting isn’t it?

    “We take out Saddam and tap dance around a thug like Sadr.”
    Sadr isn’t Saddam.

    “What message does that send?”
    That Saddam needed a different cure than Sadr. Saddam was an extra-national threat. Sadr is a thug that needs to be handled within Iraqi channels. Dimishes Sadr. Point made. Reference Sistani taking over the shrine…

    “Is our priority a nation-building project in Iraq or protecting the US from terrorist attacks?”
    Why do you think the two are exclusive? There was no nation-building after WW1 in Germany. Did that help? There was nation-building in Germany and Japan after WW2. Did we fight round 3 with them?

    “We may (or may not) have elements of cooperation within governments of dubious allies like Saudi and Pakistan.”
    They aren’t “allies.” No more than France, Germany, Japan, England. They are other countries that we need to manage our relationship with.

    “But the governments are not really our concern, are they?”
    Who better to handle internal police duties? The UN? If we can get Saudi Arabia to behave like Egypt, are we better off? You can’t remove the threat with a magic brush. You manage at many levels.

    “Terror is a method. A method used by non-state forces.”
    And getting other states to help manage it helps us.

    “Our concern should be the populations in these nations, not just the governments which most of the radicals see as US puppets anyway.”
    I thought you were against Iraq and nation building? You wrore above that you want to bail. Now you want to nation-build?

    “I favor a policy of de-escalation and withdrawal. In a no-win situation we are better off killing fewer people.”
    and
    “Our concern should be the populations in these nations, not just the governments which most of the radicals see as US puppets anyway.”

    That is not a consistent position.

  • flaime

    Well, the interim Iraqi government is supposed to be sovereign. They are the ones who made the decision to negotiate. They are the ones who have to live with the consequences.

    I firmly believe that nation building in Iraq will fail and another fundamentalist Islamic state will rise there, and this just adds to that belief.

  • BB

    Joe,

    Your posting is too long to reply to in detail. Your logic that we can somehow “choose the field” of battle and that the lack of attacks in the US is directly related to our occupation of Iraq displays how poorly you understand the situation.

  • BB

    Here is a relevant piece on Sadr just posted by William S. Lind.

  • mike

    flaime:

    “I firmly believe that nation building in Iraq will fail and another fundamentalist Islamic state will rise there, and this just adds to that belief.”

    Why? Why do you believe that nation building in Iraq will fail – and what is the ‘this’ which adds to your belief? Sadr surrendering from the shrine?

    For myself I don’t quite see the point of having ‘beliefs’ about how nation-building in Iraq will turn out. Isn’t it more accurate to say simply ‘I don’t know’, rather than ‘I believe’? Also, should we accept the possibility (which surely we all do) that things may turn out well in Iraq – whatever liklihood we attach to this possibility becoming a reality – then we can say we have something we *hope* for. But this is still different from a belief – and as Joe has mentioned, unpredicted consequences being both good and bad – and essentially hard to know in advance, I don’t see how anyone could rationally ‘believe’ that things will turn out either well or dire in Iraq. What we do have is hope – and hard work by the chaps on the ground.

    Stirling job there Joe.

  • Jacob

    Perry,
    The “kill the bastard” position is somewhat simplistic and instinctive. Avoiding a bloodbath (of militants and civilians alike, it’s hard to distinguish between them) and avoiding the destruction of the mosque are important objectives too.
    Maybe killing the bastard by the indirect approach – i.e. by some sort of covert operation – is better. (I don’t know if that is the intention of the US army and Iraqi Gov. ).

    Anyway – the situation there is complicated, and I’m afraid I know far too little about it to form a competent opinion. I think that holds for all people which have no first hand knowledge of Iraq.

  • joe

    BB:
    “Your posting is too long to reply to in detail. Your logic that we can somehow “choose the field” of battle and that the lack of attacks in the US is directly related to our occupation of Iraq displays how poorly you understand the situation.”
    Oh, I’d say I understand it very well. My position is consistent. If my post, responding to all the points you made, is too long, why did you make so many assertions? Feel free to pick one…

    Mike:
    “Stirling job there Joe.”
    Thanks. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t know how it will all turn out, but I do know standing on the sidelines acting out the part of Eeyore isn’t much of a position. To steal a line from a movie, “so many negative waves.”

    I saw a magazine the other day. It was a lady’s fashion magazine from 1947. One of the main articles was “Are the Germans human?”

    Seems appropriate. One of the stars of the Iraqi war was a gay 20 something Iraqi (where is Raed?). The stars of the post-war are a 20 something dentist and his teenage brother. They are trying to be just like us. Reading the Iraqi blogs gives me hope. Reasoned voices in an insane world.

  • Julian Morrison

    Kill Sadr he becomes a martyr, especially if they kill him where he was. He was not rallying people to the mehdi army in person anyway, but rather to his name and cause, and that would work just as well with him dead. Better, because dead men can’t surrender.

    Please don’t think that you can just kill off the extremists and the rest of the population are moderate. The mehdi army is not al-quaeda, they are not ideological islamists, or no more so than Ahmed Average thereabouts. They’re just a local politically shia rebellion. Rather like the IRA are “politically catholic”. The tactics against them are much the same: if you can draw them into the democratic mainstream, they quit being a problem.

    As I see it, the strategy is to teach them “you can’t win by fighting”. They were only protected from being squashed because of the mosque. They could not expand their operations nor did they spark off a wider rebellion. They had blatantly hoped to achieve more than sitting in a mouse-hole just out of paw-reach. So now the route into party politics is open, and they hope Sadr will take it and drag his followers along behind.

  • mike

    Let me add a clarifying comment to my last post. As I said I don’t quite see the point of having beliefs about how the situation in Iraq will turn out – that is beliefs about *liklihood* of either broad outcome – however, one thing we can do is list the reasons why we believe there is a possibility of one of these outcomes occuring (without saying anything about liklihood). The weighing up of the reasons we have for believing each outcome to be possible in order to arrive at some judgement of liklihood seems to me difficult due to the complexity of the issues.

    But let’s have a go at just one little bit. The Najaf deal in which Sistani takes over the Shrine from Sadr & co and (some of) the US chaps get a little R&R maybe seems as good as far as it goes. But how good is the deal? Sadr is still kicking about right? He may be about to ‘diminish’ now, but I wonder how long this will last for; negotiations for the constitution are due to start next year am I right? Surely Sadr will want to get in on the action in some way. However, if his power-base really has been diminished when the time comes, perhaps his impact will be minimal – let’s hope so. Some factual questions; how would we measure Sadr’s ‘diminishment’?; assuming he goes covert in any recruiting of followers, is there anything specifically we can do to stem his recruitment – for instance by boosting our aid to the Iraqi goverment in the recruitment and training of Iraqi police? And would events (e.g. accidents occuring during reconstruction jobs which cost lives and invite the spreading of blame – like shit from a fan) spark any fuel Sadr & co have left.

    But now I’m talking imponderables – and I sympathise with Joe about risk taking (we might even replace the word ‘risk’ with ‘responsibility’) – when faced with uncertainty you either muck about or you get stuck in. Besides – it’s usually the actions we *don’t* take that we regret the most, not the actions we do take.

  • So now the route into party politics is open, and they hope Sadr will take it and drag his followers along behind

    That is exactly what I am afraid of and why I would rather Sadr and the hardcore around him were still being killed rather than being given safe passage. Dead men do not generally run for office or vote others into office (except in Chicago, I hear :-)).

  • Ric Locke

    There’s one other point. Let’s keep our eyes on the ball.

    The goal in Iraq is a sovereign government which can and will take charge of the fundamental duty of government: to establish and maintain a monopoly on the use of force or violence to compel obedience. A secondary goal, almost equally important, is that that government be one that promotes the welfare of its people rather than that of a small group of elites. We want those things because it is our experience that governments with both characteristics are unlikely to meddle destructively in the affairs of others. Not that it doesn’t happen, but that it’s less likely — especially in contrast to government by elite, which always meddles, if for no other reason than to keep the population’s eyes away from their misdeeds.

    What we do not want is to be that government. That is an Imperial ambition, and imperialism is no part of the U.S.’s intent in Iraq. The reason for that is not altruistic, nor is it Lefty goodness. We don’t want to govern Iraq because there’s no profit in it for us. We don’t even want the oil, because our economy works in such a way that we prefer to have competitive producers of fungible commodities; competition then keeps the price down, especially compared to the bureaucracy we’d have to establish to manage the oil once seized.

    So even if we don’t agree with the decisions of the new Iraqi government, unless they are blatantly and intentionally intolerable it is better to go along with them whatever they are. If the United States is seen as dancing to Allawi’s tune, it enhances the prestige and therefore the power of the Iraqi government — and that’s a desirable thing over and above any immediate gratification we might get out of simply blowing away threats.

    I have no idea whether or not al Sadr will again be a threat after this. I do know that I want the Iraqi government, and al Sistani the establishment religious figure, to be seen as in charge, and to receive the respect of the rest of the Iraqi people. Between them they made the decision, and that’s really all we need. If it turns out badly, well, we’ll be there again to help if they need it — but, in parallel, we (and they) are also training up the IP and the ING so they can do it themselves. They’ve tried before, and failed, for certain values of “failed.” But they get a little better each time, and that’s the significant thing, not whether or not any particular Iraqi decision is sound.

    The other good thing here — I’ve seen, elsewhere, that Sistani is in process of generating a Moslem version of Enlightenment philosophy of government, including separation of Church and State and responsibility of the government to the people. If that’s truly the case, hot Damn do I want him seen as strong and important, even if he doesn’t like us much. I can think of no, repeat no, development that would be more favorable to our interests in the Middle East — and to my mind, our interests in the Middle East include them becoming fat and prosperous. Shit, I wish they were all Lefty blue-staters, pacifists to a man (and woman.) Such people don’t hijack airplanes, as a rule.

    Regards,
    Ric Locke

  • Joe

    Ric, you nailed it. Perfect. That is what I was trying to say.

  • Ole

    Joe: “Somebody has been avoiding the sites showing the mass graves.”

    Which mass graves? Let me site the Senate Intelligence Committee on Iraq: “According to comments from IC analysts who spoke to Committee staff, a large part of the information available to the IC concerning human rights abuses was from refugees, defectors and opposition groups. The IC also depended on the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS). In all cases, verification of the reporting on human rights abuses was difficult… Unfortunately, the immigrant/refugee reporting usually could not be verified on the ground in Iraq.”

  • Julian Morrison

    Perry says: “That is exactly what I am afraid of and why I would rather Sadr and the hardcore around him were still being killed rather than being given safe passage. Dead men do not generally run for office or vote others into office”

    I recognise what you mean, you don’t want the shia and particularly Sadr getting political control of the area.

    Pragmatically: in terms of democratic votes, you’re more likely to get extremists voted in if the locals are feeling disenfranchised. That’s basically the reason that the “mehdi army” exists at all. Kill Sadr and they’ll take their anger to the ballot box, Northern Ireland style. A living Sadr can change his mind, discredit himself, or become boring. A dead Sadr remains a symbol for as long as people care to remember him.

    Ethically: what on earth are you thinking? You want to murder him in cold blood so as to keep him out of politics? Have your morals really fallen so low?

  • LoveSupreme

    editors note: Comment deleted. We have already banned you. Changing your name is not enough. Get lost.

  • Ole, what a dumb thing to ask, but since you do, here is one answer(Link) which you could have found in five seconds with Google.

    The Senate Intelligence report refers to those abuses the intelligence agencies documented from their sources; just because the specific cases of individual abuse reported by a few intel sources do not pan out does not imply there are no mass graves. NGOs, the U.N. and other agencies have verified their existence on the ground; in fact, the question is not their existence, but, for people who care, their preservation.

  • in terms of democratic votes, you’re more likely to get extremists voted in if the locals are feeling disenfranchised.

    I do not want to disenfranchise anyone, I just want to remove certain voting options by killing Sadr.

    Ethically: what on earth are you thinking? You want to murder him in cold blood so as to keep him out of politics? Have your morals really fallen so low?

    Ethically speaking, I have no problem at all with killing a person who not just wants to impose a theocratic tyranny on others but looks like they have a realistic chance of actually doing so. Sic semper tyrannis and all that…

  • Joe

    Ole, if you wish to keep your blinders on, don’t visit this:
    http://www.usaid.gov/iraq/legacyofterror.html

    “By mid-January, 2004, the number of confirmed sites climbed to fifty-three. Some graves hold a few dozen bodies—their arms lashed together and the bullet holes in the backs of skulls testimony to their execution. Other graves go on for hundreds of meters, densely packed with thousands of bodies.”

    Explain away the pictures Ole.

  • Julian Morrison

    Perry:

    “I do not want to disenfranchise anyone, I just want to remove certain voting options by killing Sadr.”

    That’s precisely what “disenfranchise” means, to “remove voting options”. Like eg: skinheads in England would feel disenfranchised if you lined up the BNP against the nearest brick wall and machine-gunned them. For all that that might seem like a nice idea, it would be counter-productive.

    “Ethically speaking, I have no problem at all with killing a person who not just wants to impose a theocratic tyranny on others but looks like they have a realistic chance of actually doing so.”

    Hmm, reminds me of the old ethical question, “if you could go back in time to Hitler when he was a painter, and kill him, would you?” The only ethical answer has to be “no”. You cannot try, convict, and execute someone for “precrime”.

    BTW, you malign Sadr by calling him a theocrat. He’s only a middling-grade cleric and not especially ideological. He’s an ambitious localist rabble-rouser in the old style, against America-the-occupier not America-the-concept, an open rebel not a terrorist. That means he can be negotiated with.

  • You cannot try, convict, and execute someone for “precrime”

    Sure, but I would argue that actively working to enslave people under Sharia is a crime in and of itself, so again, I have no problem with shooting people who are working towards establishing tyranny whenever it is practical to do so (which is an important proviso).

    Shooting neo-fascist BNP types in the UK is not appropriate because they are like an ongoing farce within a self-committing asylum. If they ever had a serious chance of gaining meaningful political power, then yes, violence is an entirely appropriate response if that is the only realistic way to make sure they cannot establish the sort of regime they would want to.

    If democracy (and politics generally) is a menu of options to choose from, I do not think certain sets of policies is an acceptable choice for anyone (‘killing all the Jews/blacks/catholics/whatever’ may be quite popular in some parts, but that does not mean I think it should be something that can even legitimately be voted on (because for a system to allow that means even if it has ZERO chance of gaining enough support to pass, to even allow a vote means it can become policy in principle should the simple numbers change some time in the future)…and I have no problem with putting a bullet in the head of people who think otherwise under certain circumstances.

    The notion that some things are beyond political reach is actually at the heart of power-limiting constitutional republics like the US or Switzerland and I have no problem with that idea being backed by force as a concept.

  • Shawn

    Perry claims that it would have been fine to kill Sadr on the basis that he was a theocrat who wanted to place people under the authority of Sharia law.

    Firstly I think Perry is wrong about Sadr. He was not Osama bin Laden. He was as others have said little more than a fringe figure trying to grow his support base. So long as he used violence against the new government then I have no problem with killing him, if it had come to that. But it didint. He surrendered. Problem solved.

    As to the desire of any Muslim leader to have Sharia the law of the land, so what? My own views on Sharia are well known. It has no place in any Western or any Christian nation. But in Muslim nations I could care less.

    Perry’s views on the use of violence against those who political opinions he disagrees with a frightening. More so given that some of my own political opinions are not that different to some of the BNP’s. But that aside, I find it difficult to believe that someone who believes in freddom could countenance simply shooting anyone who has different views on some issues and is poltically successful.