August 23, 2007


Sadr's army proves hard to beat: U.S. soldiers battling Al Mahdi fighters say that in the eyes of Baghdad residents, the militia offers more than they can. (Julian E. Barnes, 8/23/07, Los Angeles Times)

In the east Baghdad strongholds of the Al Mahdi militia, U.S. efforts to weaken ties between the militant Shiite Muslim group and the Shiite population are falling short, say American soldiers assigned to carry out the plan. [...]

"They want to have the militia here," said one experienced noncommissioned officer who has served multiple tours in Iraq. "So, why are we here?"

The Americans see the militia as a criminal organization engaged in racketeering and execution-style slayings of Sunni Muslims, but many Iraqis believe the militants offer the only protection against attacks by Sunni insurgents and are a reliable source for scarce fuel supplies. So many residents reject the American message of peace between Shiites and Sunnis and continue to support the militia.

"These people are not going to change," said the noncommissioned officer in east Baghdad, who, like other troops, spoke on condition of anonymity because his views differed from those of his commander. "They should stand up to the militia, but they want to have Shiite and Sunni separated."

The flaws underscore the difficulty of crafting a strategy that can work in an environment in which few trust the ability of U.S. forces or the central government to improve their neighborhoods.

Many soldiers also say practices that worked against insurgencies in other wars or in other parts of Iraq may not apply to Baghdad's Shiite neighborhoods.

The Al Mahdi militia is not a textbook insurgent group. To Iraqi Shiites, the militia offers a source for basic services and support for the political and religious work of popular anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada Sadr.

"The Mahdi militia provides services and protects the region," said a 25-year-old clothing salesman in the Shiite neighborhood of New Baghdad who gave his nickname as Abu Atwar. "Militiamen do some killings from time to time, but we do not care about the crimes they commit. Only God can make them pay for that because, as you know, no law is working in Iraq now."

We didn't fight the Christian Democrats in Germany after the war, we put them in charge.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 23, 2007 7:37 AM

The Christian Democrats did not work for the genocidal bolshevik regime next door.

Posted by: Peter at August 23, 2007 1:56 PM

You may believe that Shiism is potentially our ally if you wish. I've read Reza Aslan and many other writers who push the same line, and I'm unconvinced that it's anything but propaganda, but you obviously feel differently. However, to believe that ALL Shiites are therefore our allies (or even perhaps our friends), especially the likes of Sadr, is lunacy.

Posted by: b at August 23, 2007 2:29 PM


We did.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2007 3:35 PM

Quite, the notion that the Shi'ites are so different from the rest of the species that they are all one way or the other--unlike the Aussies, Israelis, Mongols, etc.--would be lunacy. Of course, that's just a non sequitir.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2007 3:39 PM

But first we executed the top dog Nazis.

Mookie is nothing but trouble. Kill him and perhaps other Shi'a can do the right things. Leave him, and he will always tempt the Shi'a to do the worst (at the bidding of Iran).

Michael Totten has written about the Shi'a militias and the Mahdi Army's particular unpopularity. Bullies like Mookie need to go down so that the rest of the populace can see how democracy works when someone refuses to conform to societal norms (unless, of course, your argument is that all Shi'a, indeed all Iraqis, are apes like Mookie). He wants to be Saddam - put him in a noose.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 23, 2007 5:58 PM

No, we left them in charge of Eastern Europe. We were the collaborators with the Bolshevik, not the Christian Democrats.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2007 9:02 PM

Democracy requires that opponents first be put down. The Sunni die hards don't get to object to the form of the government. You're insisting that the Christian Democrats accept the nazis.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2007 9:08 PM

The Shi'a nutjobs and thugs don't get to decide, either. Mookie's game of taking his ball and running to Iran when he feels like it is tiresome. Send him to Ahmadinejad in a box.

If Maliki is going to try to build a government (by reaching out to the Sunni tribal leaders, including al Douri), then he doesn't need a bully like Mookie thumping around. Obviously, it would be better if Maliki killed him, but it needs to happen soon.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 23, 2007 10:25 PM

Wesent him to Iran while we whacked the guys he couldn't control.

Maliki needs Mookie to provide security for the Shi'a of Baghdad and to liquidate Sunni extremists.

Posted by: oj at August 24, 2007 6:52 AM

Then why do the Mahdi terrorize everyone in Baghdad (Sunnia and other Shi'a), and why are they fighting open warfare against other Shi'a in the South?

Mookie is a rotten apple. Kill him before any seeds can sprout. Or, to put it in terms you might understand, he is Tom Tancredo or Ray Nagin taken to the extreme. No decent society elevates goons like that.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 24, 2007 7:17 AM

Tancredo taken to the extreme was Andrew Jackson. Manifest Democracy required putting down the Indians. No society can be decent until it is secure.

Posted by: oj at August 24, 2007 9:14 AM