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The Trouble in Najaf

by MIKE WHITNEY

 

“Keep fighting even if you see me a prisoner or a martyr. God willing, you will be victorious.”

Muqtada al Sadr

“Our blood will pave the way for those who will liberate Iraq and protect the holy shrines and for those who have refused to disgrace themselves through collaborating with the occupation forces.”

Spokesman for Muqtada al Sadr, al Darraji

“The Americans have turned the holy city into a ghost town. They are now seen as full of hatred against Najaf and the Shia. Nothing I know of will change this…I do not understand why America craves crisis. A peaceful solution to the confrontation with Muqtada could have been reached. We were hoping that Prime Minister Iyad Allawi would lead the way, but he sided with oppression.”

Bahr al Ulum, former US ally and president of the Iraqi Governing Council

We all understand the basic principle involved in democratic government.

The will of the people is articulated through the popular vote and the candidate who gets the most votes wins. Excluding America, (where the decisions are now entrusted to a Supreme Court) this is how representative government is established.

By any objective standard, Muqtada al Sadr is one of the most prominent figures in the Iraqi political spectrum and, therefore, a legitimate representative of his people. Even with the sketchy polling data we have, his popularity (when polls were taken during the original siege of Najaf) ranked in the 90% range. No one else even comes close. (except for religious leader Ayatolla Ali Sistani)

It makes no difference that he is unpopular with the Bush Administration. We might find that the Bush Administration is not that popular with many Iraqis. (In fact we have. More than 94% of Iraqis want the Americans to leave Iraq as soon as possible)

What matters is that al Sadr embodies the collective will of the Iraqi people (if only temporarily) to a greater extent then the American installed alternative, Ayad Allawi. This suggests that the US should try to negotiate a political solution with him to the current crisis.

That’s how democracy works.

In Bush-world, however, things tend to operate a bit differently.

Rather than a popular representative of the Iraqi people, the Administration is anxiously promoting its own “hand-picked” interim Prime Minister, Allawi. (No one questions the absurdity of having a Prime Minister without a Parliament) Allawi’s bone fides include a career in Saddam’s Secret Police, a brief stint as a CIA operative, and a role as “terrorist bomber” in Baghdad during the mid 1990s.

He is widely seen as an American pawn who merely serves as the mouthpiece for further aggression.

Needless to say, he is not at all popular. (His popularity is somewhere in single digits, perhaps 9%)

He represents no one.

Never the less, Allawi has been useful in disguising the Administration’s machinations and the media (ABC, CBS, FOX, MSNBC and CNN) has complied by scrupulously referring to this new “appointee” as the legitimate leader of Iraq.

In real democracies, leaders embody the will of the people. The “Social Contract” (Rousseau) is an agreement between the people and their government that is validated by the popular vote. Without that mandate, it is impossible to talk about legitimacy.

Allawi, of course, has never submitted to the electoral process, so his authority is entirely provisional.

Rather than tackle this issue head-on, the Bush Administration has decided that the more expeditious approach is simply to kill Muqtada al Sadr. This is consistent with the administration’s propensity to resolve every problem with some variant of coercion; in this case murder.

They have decided to defend the “imaginary” sovereignty of an unelected government and press to annihilate any resistance to their plans.

But, who is being fooled?

We already know that Paul Bremer unilaterally passed 93 edicts that control every area of Iraqi commerce.

We already know that Bremer appointed more than 20 colleagues to ministries that control every aspect of Iraqi government.

We already know that the 140,000 occupying troops undermine any real authority of an Iraqi sovereign.

And, we already know that all oil revenues are completely under the control of the Bush administration.

So, where’s the sovereignty? And, more importantly, who is taken in by this ruse?

Having foreclosed on all the legal means of expression (street demonstrations; newspapers), the American Occupation has forced al Sadr to pursue his last option; rebellion. It is precisely the type of rebellion that is sanctioned in the Declaration of Independence;

“That to secure these rights (life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness), Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Isn’t that what al Sadr is doing; “altering and abolishing” tyranny?

How else does one explain the bombing of wedding parties, the arbitrary detentions, the siege of Falluja, the suppression of populist leaders and the widespread torture and abuse?

Doesn’t that explain his burgeoning popularity?

The “radical cleric” (as the western press has dubbed him) has become the icon of resistance throughout the Muslim world. His defiance is not limited to just the current occupation in Iraq, but a struggle against the ongoing repression in Palestine, the escalating hostility towards Syria and Iran, and resistance to 60 years of American support for the puppet regimes throughout the Middle East.

His stature has been miraculously enhanced by an Administration that refuses to engage in either politics or diplomacy; only force.

Now the US military has elected to demonstrate its recklessness in one foolhardy move; a full blown assault on Najaf, the center of the Shiite cosmos. The battle (as of this writing) has already taken the lives of hundreds of Iraqis (many of them civilians) and reportedly wounded al Sadr. The conflict is being covered in the Muslim world for what it is; a direct attack on Islam.

And, for what? What exactly is Muqtada al Sadr’s crime?

Is he a former Ba’athist who seeks to reinstate the Saddam regime?

No.

Is he a terrorist who is encouraging the random bombings and kidnappings around Baghdad?

No.

Is he a “foreign fighter” who has entered Iraq to destabilize the country and undermine its prospects for democracy?

No.

Al Sadr’s crime is that he is an Iraqi nationalist and a popular leader who categorically rejects the colonial aspirations of the Bush administration.

Period.

His al Mahdi Army does not function as a aggressive militia, but only defends the cities and shrines that that belong under the control of legitimate Iraqi leaders.

He may well be a “firebrand” as the American press suggests, but his resolve to terminate the occupation and liberate his country reflects the sentiments of many Americans (who see the war as a deliberate act of aggression) and the majority of the world’s population.

His cause is just.

As the conflict unfolds, and the resistance is inevitably ground down by the superior firepower of the superpower, the vulnerability of Iraqis defending their own country against the invaders will become even more apparent.

How long will it be before these loosely organized militias devote themselves entirely to finding a viable deterrent to American aggression?

Isn’t this precisely why Bush and co. have dedicated themselves to disarming the world? (WMD)

In the meantime, the resistance has grown increasingly sophisticated.

The kidnapping campaign has attracted the most public attention and has produced admirable results.

Already, a number of countries have left Iraq taking their contractors with them.

This situation threatens to further isolate the US in the world community and amplify the error of the invasion.

This can only be considered positive development. (although it will probably will cause more erratic behavior on the part of the occupation forces)

The attacks on oil facilities are another indication that the resistance understands the occupation’s weaknesses.

The empire runs on oil. Any disruption in that supply (especially, now, with oil selling at $46 per barrel) can have catastrophic political affects.

Currently, all oil shipments have been successfully stopped through northern Iraq leaving Basra as the only possible point of exit.

Currently, Al Jazeera is reporting that, “Workers at an oil-pumping station in southern Iraq said on Wednesday they have stopped operations in protest against the government’s backing of the US offensive against followers of al-Sadr.”

“We stopped pumping in protest of the inhuman conduct of the interim government and its cooperation with the occupation forces to ransack the holy city of Najaf and insult the Shia, their symbols and holy places,” the statement said.

If this report is true, the military will have to act fast in Najaf or the consequences on world oil prices will be dire. (as will George Bush’s political future)

The resistance has also succeeded in enlisting more and more Iraqis who were originally sympathetic to the goals of the occupation.

Even Iraq’s Vice President, Ibahim al-Jaafari has urged US forces to leave Najaf and end the fighting. .

“I call for multinational forces to leave Najaf and for only Iraqi forces to remain there,” he said. We must “put an end to this phenomenon of violence in this city that is holy to all Muslims.”

The deputy governor of Najaf Jawdat al Kuraishi also resigned in protest of American hostilities. “I resign from my post denouncing all the US terrorist operations that they are doing against this holy city,” al Kuraishi said.

These views are illustrative of growing antipathy to the American occupation and the growing support for the resistance in Iraq and throughout the world.

Najaf is shaping up to be another massacre in the order of Falluja. And, while the violence and suffering should be rightfully despised, it may be one more step towards galvanizing public opinion against an empire that rules by force alone.

(Note: It should be apparent now why PM Allawi was encouraged to expel Al Jazeera from Iraq. It’s clear that the siege of Najaf was planned well in advance and that the Bush Administration (Rumsfeld) wanted to exclude “unreliable” media from covering what may have turned out to be a “bloodbath”.)

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He can be reached at: fergiewhitney@msn.com

 

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MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

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