It has been hard not to notice the deafening silence here on Blogcritics regarding the barbarity in Fallujah last week. I know in my case I was stunned and disgusted, and any particular comment I might have had would have had no significance against the enormity of the horror at hand.
BHW sort of broke the spell earlier today with an honest and deeply pained admission that she doesn’t have much regard for any Iraqis right about now. I don’t blame her in the least. But we DO have to try to separate out those who are, from those who are not pulling with us to create a functioning democracy in Iraq: a democracy that will be to the benefit of the people of Iraq AND to us.
Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down, addresses what must be done in Iraq now:
- It is a mistake to conclude that those committing such acts represent a majority of the community. Just the opposite is true. Lynching is most often an effort to frighten and sway a more sensible, decent mainstream. In Marion it was the Ku Klux Klan, in Mogadishu it was Aidid loyalists, in Fallujah it is either diehard Saddamites or Islamo-fascists.
The worst answer the U.S. can make to such a message — which is precisely what we did in Mogadishu — is back down. By most indications, Aidid’s supporters were decimated and demoralized the day after the Battle of Mogadishu. Some, appalled by the indecency of their countrymen, were certain the U.S. would violently respond to such an insult and challenge. They contacted U.N. authorities offering to negotiate, or simply packed their things and fled. These are the ones who miscalculated. Instead the U.S. did nothing, effectively abandoning the field to Aidid and his henchmen. Somalia today remains a nation struggling in anarchy, and the America-haters around the world learned what they thought was a essential truth about the United States: Kill a few Americans and the most powerful nation on Earth will run away. This, in a nutshell, is the strategy of Osama bin Laden.
Many Americans despise the effort under way in Iraq. They opposed overthrowing Saddam Hussein by force, and disbelieved the rationale offered by President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. There may well be a heavy political price to pay for the mistakes and exaggerations; President Bush faces a referendum in just seven months. But however that election turns out, and however imperfectly we have arrived at this point, the facts on the ground in Iraq remain. Saddam is gone and Iraq, thanks to U.S. intervention, is struggling toward a new kind of future. Its successful transformation into a peaceful, democratic state is in everyone’s interest except Saddam’s extended family and the Islamo-fascists. It’s time for opponents of the war to get real. Pictures
like those we saw from Fallujah last week should horrify us, but they should also anger us and strengthen our resolve. The response should not be to back away from the task, but to redouble our efforts.
Which means recognizing that the gory carnival on the streets of Fallujah is not evidence of the mission’s futility, nor is it something to chalk up to foreign barbarity. It was deliberate and it must be answered deliberately. The lynching of African-Americans would have ended decades earlier if authorities had rounded up and punished those participating in crimes like the one in Marion. Somalia would be a vastly different place today if the U.S. and U.N. had not backed away in horror from the shocking display in Mogadishu.
The rebels in Iraq who ambushed those American security workers in Fallujah ought to be hunted down and brought to justice, but they are not the only ones responsible. The public celebration that followed was licensed and encouraged by whatever leadership exists in Fallujah. Whether religious or secular, its insult, warning, and challenge has been broadcast around the world. It must be answered. The photographic evidence should be used to help round up those who committed these atrocities, and those who tacitly or overtly encouraged it. A suitable punishment might be some weeks of unearthing the victims of Saddam Hussein’s mass graves. [Wall Street Journal, subcription required]
Mass grave digging might be suitable for those who celebrated the abomination, but for those who participated, a very public death is the only answer. And then a very genteel handling of their filthy corpses.
This is where we are right now:
- U.S. troops surrounded the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, poised for a major operation in response to the grisly slaying and mutilation of four American civilians by insurgents there last week. A Marine was killed Monday in the Fallujah area, the military said, without providing details.
Even more immediately, U.S. administrators in Iraq declared a radical Shiite cleric an “outlaw” today and announced a warrant for his arrest:
- American officials would not say when they would move to arrest Muqtada al-Sadr, who is holed up in the main mosque in Kufa, south of Baghdad, guarded by armed supporters.
….The showdown with al-Sadr threatened to heighten tensions with Iraq’s Shiite Muslim majority at a time when U.S. troops are burdened by the Sunni guerrillas’ bloody insurgency. But American officials apparently hope the Shiite public – many of whom distrust al-Sadr – will not rally around the cleric.
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said the potential for violence depended on “whether (al-Sadr) decides to come peacefully or whether he decides to come not peacefully. That choice is the choice of Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr.”
Al-Sadr, a 30-year-old firebrand who frequently denounces the U.S. occupation in his sermons, vowed to resist.
….Several hundred of his armed militiamen control Kufa, holding its police station and blocking a road leading to the main mosque.
Sheik Abu Mahdi al-Rubaie, a 35-year-old al-Sadr follower at the mosque, warned that any U.S. move against al-Sadr would be “a very dangerous thing.”
“They will pay a heavy price. We will not allow them to enter Kufa … We are ready to lay down our lives for al-Sayed,” he said, using the Arabic word for “master” to refer to al-Sadr.
U.S. officials said the warrant against al-Sadr – on charges of murdering a rival cleric – was issued months ago by an Iraqi judge and that Iraqis only now want to carry it out. The crackdown on the opponent of the U.S. administration also comes as the June 30 deadline approaches for the transfer of power from the Americans to the Iraqis.
President Bush on Monday portrayed al-Sadr’s removal as a step toward protecting democracy. “This is one person that is deciding that rather than allowing democracy to flourish, he’s going to exercise force,” he told reporters. “We just can’t let it stand.”
….Al-Sadr’s main support is among young seminary students and impoverished Shiites, devoted to him because of his anti-U.S. stance and the memory of his father, a religious leader gunned down by suspected agents of Saddam Hussein in 1999.
However, al-Sadr’s religious status is low, giving him less influence than more moderate Shiite leaders. And many Shiites see him as erratic.
The arrest warrant against al-Sadr is on charges of involvement in the April 2003 murder of al-Khoei, who was stabbed to death by a mob in a Shiite shrine in Najaf soon after Saddam’s fall, said coalition spokesman Dan Senor.
Sunday’s violence was touched off by the arrest of Mustafa al-Yacoubi, a senior aide to al-Sadr, on similar charges. A total of 25 arrest warrants have been issued in the case, and 13 suspects are in custody, an official at coalition headquarters said.
UPDATE on Fallujah from the Washington Post:
- As more than 1,000 U.S. Marines and two battalions of Iraqi forces surrounded the city, military officials said several of their positions were hit by rocket and mortar fire, and one unidentified Marine was killed. Sporadic gunfire was heard all day and into the evening.
U.S. troops dispatched tanks and armored Humvees to block all major highways and roads leading to Fallujah, a city of 250,000 situated 35 miles west of Baghdad. In the city they distributed leaflets warning people to stay at home. They said that no one would be permitted to carry a weapon and that a 7 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew would be imposed.
….”The city is surrounded. It’s an extended operation. . . . We are looking for the bad guys in town,” Lt. James Vanzant of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force told journalists at a U.S. military base several miles from Fallujah. “We want to make a very precise approach.”
U.S. officials here have vowed to hunt down those responsible for the slayings Wednesday of the four security contractors, two of whose bodies were burned, mutilated and dragged through the streets of Fallujah.
Officials said the operation, called Vigilant Resolve, would not involve massive or random searches but would focus more narrowly on finding individuals believed linked to the killings. Fallujah has long been a hotbed of anti-American violence, and the operation had already been planned as part of a broader crackdown.