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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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The deal struck to return the shrine in Najaf to civil control through the good offices of Ayatollah Sistani is merciful but, in all likliehood, represents a significant setback for the prospects of a civil and secular state in Iraq.

The essential trade off was al-Sadr's (and his remaining militia)freedom in exchange for a peaceful transfer of the shrine. While this spares any number of young Shi'tes a quick martyrdom, it sets a horrible precedent. al-Sadr has now beaten the outstanding charge of murder which is what this entire matter was about. In effect, the deal negates the civil authority's capacity to apprehend and try any alleged criminal in Iraq.

It leaves al-Sadr free to organize politically and it leaves his milita in the position of having stared down the US Marines.

al-Sadr and the people in Iraq and Iran who support him have learned a dangerous lesson: there are deals to be done with the United States even when you are surrounded, outgunned and unpopular.

Ian Welsh
has, on a number of occassions, from a different perspective, suggested that the Americans are lousy colonialists. I don't for an instant agree that the American aim in Iraq is colonization; but, pro tem, the Americans have been put into the position of being a colonial government. The events in Najaf suggest they have not got the toughness and the inflexibility required for that mission.

Sadly for the Iraqi people if the Americans do not have that essential, core, toughness it is time for them to leave. Quickly. Because the events in Najaf will embolden the holdouts, the Islamic terrorists and the little, fat cleric who used the religious shield to such effect.

I wrote this post without going over to Ian's - I now have and leave the subject with a quote,
In the crowd the remaining Mehdi army fighters will slip away, and neither Allawi nor the Americans will be seen by Iraqis as having broken the Mehdi fighters (a hopeless brave fight against great odds is not something to be ashamed of, it is a rallying cry. Remember the Alamo?)
tilting at windmills

Light blogging

I am in an all out push to get my little office finished so I am going to be doing very little blogging for a day or two.


Three Purple Hearts and you're out

In Viet Nam, three wounds and a soldier got a trip home. A hero.
GARRETT: And questions keep coming. For example, Kerry received a Purple Heart for wounds suffered on December 2nd, 1968. But an entry in Kerry's own journal written nine days later, he writes that, quote, he and his crew hadn't been shot at yet, unquote. Kerry's campaign has said it is possible his first Purple Heart was awarded for an unintentionally self-inflicted wound.

I really feel for the people working on the Kerry campaign. It seems they're kept in the dark and then when are pressed hard (ie on the Christmas in Cambodia story and now this) they're forced to guess at his web of lies. It's interesting that they're not exactly sure but said it was possible that the Purple Heart was awarded for a self-inflicted wound. Kerry lies and leaves his campaign workers flapping in the wind.
josh ferguson
Wrechard recognizes that the Swift boat story is the best example to date of the crumbling of the gatekeeping function of big media - at least in the US.
The power of the Mainstream Media lay in the fact that they controlled the generation of news objects; how they arose, what they did, how they ran their course. They were the news object foundry; able to make them "type safe"; define what they could do, and what they could not. And that power was enormous....So when the Swiftvets story shouldered its way into the public consciousness despite the best efforts of the "gatekeepers" to consign it to oblivion, it posed an existential challenge to the news foundries. For where one could come, more would follow.
belmont club


How Canadian

There are two Supreme Court of Canada Justices to be named on Tuesday. In a blinding show of democracy,
On Wednesday, a panel will be able to question Justice Minister Irwin Cotler about the two justices to be named, in the first-ever parliamentary hearings into Supreme Court nominees.

The panel, consisting of three Liberal and four opposition MPs, and two independent legal experts, will table a report after the conclusion of the hearings.
I suppose the nominees are incapable of speaking for themselves. But that would not be the Canadian way.

Now imagine you were the sort of person who is nominated for Supreme Court vacancies. Could you imagine anything more humiliating than having to sit silent while a Cabinet Minister and a bunch of MP's discuss your qualifications and then write a report?

This is one of those classic Canadian compromises which entirely miss the point. Either the Supreme Court Bench is in the Prime Minister's gift or there should be real hearings in which the nominees actually discuss theirrecord and answer MP's real questions.

The later would, of course, be out of bounds because it would give MPs actual power and would be, well, rather American.

Mockumentaries and Cunning Ignorance

A longer consideration of the fat bastard and the general idea behind using film for propaganda is up at Long Posts.

Canadian Literary Blogging

The Ottawa Citizen finally ran my piece on Canadian Literary blogs this weekend. Which is grand but it is behind the firewall; I have posted it to Long Posts.

Rave at Najaf

The political conditions under which the campaign against Sadr is being conducted has created scenarios that have no parallel in military history bar none, and quite possibly, since the world began. Rice and sauce served to all comers beside field hospitals; chanting punctuated by heavy machine firing; extreme vitality juxtaposed with death. Here is camaraderie souped up with adrenaline and fame, where the difference between momentary celebrity as the object of interest of a Newsweek reporter and the cold silence of the tomb are the seconds it takes for an 81 mm mortar round to arc over a thousand yards. The gulf between Moqtada Al Sadr's boys and the followers of Grand Ayatollah Sistani may in the end be wider than Koranic learning. It is generational. Sadr, a young man still in his thirties, has provided that magnetic, almost irresistible draw: a place for young people where something is happening. He sets up the situation, America provides the music and the rave begins. 'I tell ya, I wuz there man', in Arabic, casts the same spell it does for youth the world over. The strange thing is that the Marine teenagers on the other side will be writing the same lines, in English, to their parents and friends back home, where in exact symmetry their elders are debating Najaf not in terms of the Koran, as Sistani's adherents are wont, but through the prism of riverine actions in Vietnam thirty five years ago, and congratulate themselves for being more scientific.
belmont club
Wrechard is, as ever, interesting. More than interesting if you consider that the population of the Muslim world is heavily skewed towards youth.

One of the worries I have about Bush and his advisors is that they seem somewhat out of touch with the possibility that the clash of civilizations is not being fought by the elders but by the kids. On both sides as Wretchard points out.

The implications of the new generation gap are difficult to articulate. They do, however, include the comfort the younger generation has with the internet, the huge impact of global brands and the pervasive influence of American music even in Muslim countries.

Globalization is both economic and cultural and it is at the cultural level that the teenage Marines and the young milita members are most likely to have something in common. Something which, once the shrine has been cleared and al-Sadr contained, may create the basis of an understanding.

The other aspect of the suicidal rave at Najaf which is flying under the radar is the essential place voluntary martyrdom holds in Shi'ite theology. There is a great article in the Christian Science Monitor written by Scott Baldauf which explains the martyr traditon. He quote Juan Cole,
"Martyrdom is the central concept of the Shiite religion," says Juan Cole, a Shiite expert and historian at the University of Michigan. "At the holiday of Ashura, people listen to sermons of how the martyrs died, and people weep and cry, beating their chests, regretting that things didn't turn out right. It is said that when one weeps for the death of Hussein's martyrdom, one will have a guaranteed place in Heaven."
Baldauf also notes that al-Sadr's father and grandfather died martyrs.