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March 1, 2006
Meanwhile, Back at the FrontBy Greyhawk
Events in Iraq are ocurring too swiftly to await the weekend for this update, so here's a special mid-week edition of our roundup of news from Iraq.
Today we meet the takfiri...
At Iraq the Model, Mohammed notes that the shrine attack was out of character for even the most ardent followers of the main religious groups in Iraq, and offers a convincing theory on the shrine bombing.
The reason I believe it's the Salafis who did it comes from their own ideology which considers all mosques built upon tombs as places of polytheism and infidelity and thus must be destroyed. This also applies to Sunni shrines like Abu Haneefa and al-Gailani; Salafis consider the Shia and the Sufis their worst enemies and they commonly refer to them in their speech with the term "tomb worshippers" or Mushrikoon Quborioon in Arabic.Last summer the Washington Post profiled a member of the Salafi sect, one who was busily smuggling fellow jihaddists into Iraq from Syria:
His father was a Sufi Muslim, devoted to a tolerant, mystical tradition of Islam. But Abu Ibrahim said he was born a rebel, gravitating early in life to the other end of the spectrum of Islamic belief.Within hours of the shrine bombing, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani accused the "takfiris" - those Muslims who regard other Muslims as infidels - of carrying out the attack in order to cause sectarian sedition. Takfiri is the somewhat cautious term used to indicate those enemies of Iraq described above. Used in a "politically correct" sense to avoid pinpointing (or enraging) a specific group before all the facts are in, everyone in Iraq knows what it means. There's a good reason to strike a balance between being specific and non-specific when addressing the masses in Iraq, as Mohhamed explains in his story of how violence spread last week:
Ayatollah Sistani issued a fatwa on Wednesday that sounded peaceful and normal from the first look but if you look closer at each word you will find that the "safety valve" became the igniter this time.Still, the majority of demonstrations were peaceful, though in the vicinity of Sadr city area of Baghdad in particular followers of the radical Shiite cleric did attack Sunni Mosques.
But after meeting with the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, Sadr specifically condemned the takfiri for the shrine attack:
"This demonstration, for Iraq and for God’s prophet, will also aim at condemning the actions of the Takfiri (extremists) and Baathists who represent the knife with which occupants strike at us," he said.Following the meeting, representatives of Al-Sadr's group and the Association of Muslim Scholars issued a statement condemning the takfiri attack against the shrine, along with all attacks on mosques and prayer houses. They further issued condemnation of "every statement aiming at dragging the Iraqi people into civil war and stirring up sedition," calling for imposing "the maximum penalty on those who make such statements."
"We condemn the acts of terrorism carried out by the takfiris against Islam in general and the Iraqi people in particular."
Sadr took the opportunity to lash out at Americans too, calling for a "march to demand the departure of the occupation forces from Iraq". But that's opportunism defined. And few will accept that the U.S. gained anything from the shrine attack and subsequent events. Others have blamed Sadr's group, acting under Iranian sponsorship, for the crime. But some gain for Sadr or Iran in the bombing also seems unlikely; any potential political stature achieved would hardly be worth the risk. (Although much will be made in the American media of Sadr's increase in stature following these events - but he has actually lost face as a result of his inability to control his militia's response.)
So the takfiri seem the most likely suspects. The attack was designed to foment civil war in Iraq - few other credible explanations are available. The bombing itself was step one of a larger plan. Step two was to await the predictable response of the more radical elements in the Shiite population, step three to offer inflated claims of the nature of that response, and let the media act in an even more predictable fashion to further fan the flames.
Step two did not occur as hoped, though step three was a smashing success - the media surprised no one in their coverage. The Iraqi blogger at 24 Steps to Liberty:
I was amazed how only the provocative and civil-war-style quotes were published today in the newspapers. Almost no newspaper showed how great, it appeared to us, the solidarity among Iraqis was yesterday. It is true that Sunni mosques were attacked by unknown men yesterday, and some Sunnis were killed. But that wasn’t the only thing happened as a reaction. Newspapers should have been neutral, as we were taught, and show both sides. Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds, Arabs, Christians, Sabians, Turkumans, and others publicly condemned the attack, but no one wanted to show the truth. I am not saying there will be no riots in Iraq to react to the shrine attack. I am not saying there weren't mosques that were attacked yesterday and burned down. I am not saying that Shiites and Sunnis kissed and hugged after the attack yesterday. All what I am saying is that the news made Iraqis look like if they were fighting each other widely in the streets, which is not true. The news only made Iraqis sound like barbarians killing each other. There are barbarian Iraqis, like other people in the world, I am not saying all Iraqis are perfect and compete with angels in their manners. But why when anything good happens, they show the bad side of it too in their stories, but when any bad thing to happen, they only write about it and not the good sides around it?A perfect example would appear a day later, on February 24, as U.S. media hysteria reached it's peak. The New York Times declared in a banner headline that More Clashes Shake Iraq; Political Talks Are in Ruins. Not jeopardized, not threatened, but ruined. The Iraqi Consensus Front, a key Sunni Arab political bloc, had pulled out of talks to form a government with the Shiite and Kurdish parties. (Demanding apologies for attacks on Sunnis, and compensation to repair mosques - though most reports were still unconfirmed.) According to the Times, civil war was looming - perhaps had even begun.
It had to be painful for the same reporter to file this story with the Times 48 hours later
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 26 — Leaders of the main Sunni Arab political bloc have decided to return to suspended talks over the formation of a new government, the top Sunni negotiator said Sunday. The step could help defuse the sectarian tensions that threatened to spiral into open civil war last week after the bombing of a Shiite shrine and the killings of Sunnis in reprisal.Could defuse the tensions. Maybe. Possibly. Might.
A government mandated curfew had actually already prevented violence from spiraling further out of control. It's worthwhile to look again at the words of Ayatollah Sistani from his initial response. He called on the government of Iraq to restore order, adding that if they could not then the 'believers' would be forced to do so themselves. In media accounts this was interpreted as evidence of failure of the Iraqi government, with a focus on the Shiite militias as the real source of power in Iraq. But the statement was not an indicator of Sistani's expectation of government failure - it was a message to his followers to let the government have a chance before taking actions of their own.
And the government was in action. Within hours of the bombing Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari addressed his country via televised news conference:
We were honored today by the visit of the heads of the Sunni Waqf Office and the Shiite Waqf Office. They are two gentle and good- willed persons. The head of the Shiite Waqf told his brother the head of the Sunni Waqf: I am the head of the Sunni waqf and you are the head of the Shiite waqf. Exchanging such words during such a crisis has a special great meaning and reflects a special transparency. I received our two brothers, along with a number of Shiite and Sunni scholars. We exchanged views and discussed the current situation and how to use Friday sermons in the best possible way to strengthen relations between the scholars, who will deliver Friday sermons in order to guide the people in this crisis. I listened to them as they talked about certain points. I did not find any difference between their positions with regard to the need to emphasize unity among Iraqis and to inform people of the importance of unity, particularly under these current circumstances.And by first hand accounts, the government was about as successful as could possibly be expected. As American troops remained as far in the background as possible, the situation began to appear less like civil war, and more like ongoing violence.
And this week American reporters ventured out to find the story. Louise Roug of the LA Times:
Shortly before 6 a.m. at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, 1st Sgt. Dave Meyer gave the mission brief to his soldiers: Patrol the streets, but keep a low profile. Don't engage locals. Let Iraqis take the lead.Max Boot, in the LA Times:
Lt. Col. Thomas Fisher, who commands the Army battalion stationed in Baqubah, a city of 450,000, was forced to deal with the fallout. I spent a day riding in his armored Humvee as he moved around town trying to figure out what was going on (Why were the 47 men killed?) and how he should respond (Should he step up his raids or let Iraqi security forces step forward?).The earlier media coverage prompted this response from Victor Davis Hanson - who had just returned from Iraq himself:
But here at home you would have thought that our own capitol dome had exploded. Indeed, Americans more than the Iraqis needed such advice for calm to quiet our own frenzy. Almost before the golden shards of the mosque hit the pavement, pundits wrote off the war as lost -- as we heard the tired metaphors of "final straw" and "camel's back" mindlessly repeated. The long-anticipated civil strife among Shiites and Sunnis, we were assured, was not merely imminent, but already well upon us. Then the great civil war sort of fizzled out; our own frenzy subsided; and now exhausted we await next week's new prescription of doom.And this more blunt assessment from Ralph Peters, reporting from Iraq for the New York Post:
The reporting out of Baghdad continues to be hysterical and dishonest. There is no civil war in the streets. None. Period.But this commentary from Iraq pundit preceded them both:
Why do these reporters want to see a civil war so badly in Iraq? It looks to me that they hate Bush so much that they will stop at nothing to prove that he's wrong about Iraq and they are right. The reporters have sunk so low as to take this cheap angle of insisting that an all out civil war has been underway for three years. When will they wake up and realize that this is not a White House scandal. This is about Iraq and its people. Yes some people are being aggressive and I pray that the violence doesn't spread. But why do the media report exaggerated numbers of attacks and damage when it can only make a bad situation worse. What ever happened to checking for accuracy? Iraq the Model posted a list of numbers of what really was damaged.Meanwhile:
"That crisis is over," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad declared.There was a step 4 to the plan, by the way. That would be the violent takfiri "response" to the desired Shiite response to the shrine bombing. While that Shiite response was less than anticipated, the response of the media met the planners expectations to the point they could move forward anyway, so we're seeing elements of step 4 enacted now with continuing violence across Iraq. More people are dying, but no, you're not seeing civil war.
And don't offer undue credit to the American troops. You are seeing proof of what they all know to be true - violence is ongoing, but the Iraqis are increasingly capable of handling it themselves. A few more "civil wars" like this one and the troops will indeed be home.
Update: On and on and on it goes:
Iraq's Cabinet, meanwhile, disputes a Washington Post tally of 13-hundred Iraqi dead in the past week, calling that number "inaccurate and exaggerated."That's a fog of war issue - but as a rule first reports are always wrong, and any specific numbers delivered confidently from the midst of chaos should be looked at with suspicion. (Via Gateway Pundit)
Last weekend's edition of Meanwhile Back at the Front - a look at the early evolution of this story and the use of media by the terrorists can be read here.
(The author of these compilations, an Iraq war veteran, runs the web log The Mudville Gazette.)
Posted by Greyhawk / March 1, 2006 9:51 PM | Permalink
I had earlier questioned the numbers proffered by the Washington Post in the violence that ensued after the Golden Dome was destroyed by terrorists. Instapundit links to Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette who also takes the WaPo to task. Read More
First of all, emphasis on could. What I am talking about is the bombing of the shrine of Imams Ali al-Hadi and Al-Hasan al-Askari. Why do I say this? Because up to now all of the various interest groups have Read More
I've heard it on the TV or radio a bazillion times since the bombing of the golden-domed al-Askariya shrine in Samarra: "More deaths from sectarian violence today in Iraq..." The next sentence or phrase invariable mentions a suicide bomber or a ... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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