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[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #58 - 3 msgs

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Today's Topics:

   1. Juan Cole on Sadr (Mike Lewis)
   2. Freedom Fires /Naomi Klein (Hassan)
   3. FPIF News | Rise of Machines | Limited vs Civil War | Iraq vs Vietnam (IRC Communications)


Message: 1
From: Mike Lewis <>
Subject: Juan Cole on Sadr
Date: 07 Apr 2004 11:42:37 +0100

Juan Cole - The United States and Shi=91ite Religious Factions in
Post-Ba=91thist Iraq

This is not really a news report, and is too long to be reproduced in full,
but this prescient article by Juan Cole (Professor of History at the
University of Michigan) from the Middle East Journal (Autumn 2003) focusses
on the Sadr II movement, and gives valuable historical and post-Saddam
background on Sadr and the Mahdi militia.

I know embarrasingly little about Iraqi politics, religion or history, but
these seem to be some important points from his article:

- Cole suggests that "Their [the Sadr Movement's] political influence is
potentially much greater than their numbers" - He suggests that they are
the most weighty of all the non-secular Shi'ite groupings - The Sadr
Movement is unusually exclusivist compared to other Shi'ite groups, and
committed to a puritanical Khomeinist Islamic republic under the rule of
the clerical jurisprudent, in contrast to the quietism and greater
political pluralism of (ostensibly more important) Najaf clerics like
al-Sistani. Sadrists also insist that Iraq's Shi'ites be ruled by an Iraqi
(a blow against Iranian-born Sistani). - Cole argues that their support
base is young and poor, a Shi'ite component radicalised by repression and
sanctions far more than the US realised; and that it grew during summer
2003 when Sadrist militias and mobilisers filled the security and welfare
gap left after the invasion. They are particularly strong in East Baghdad
(in Sadr City, obviously!), Kufa, Samarra', and to some extent in Basra,
Najaf and Karbala. - Given present circumstances, Cole's conclusion is not
hopeful: "If the Defense Department scenario comes to fruition, and Iraq
holds relatively free and fair elections in late 2004 or early 2005, the
Sadr Movement=92s political power may be diluted in a new Iraqi parliament
that they cannot hope to dominate. Assuming they agree to field candidates,
they could only hope to play in it the sort of role that the Lebanese
Hizbullah does in the Lebanese parliament, where the radical party is often
forced to cooperate with the Maronite Christians and other forces. If, on
the other hand, Iraq begins to collapse into insecurity and angry urban
crowds seek an early exit of Coalition forces, the Sadr Movement networks
and militias will stand them in good stead in asserting power in East
Baghdad and the south."


Message: 2
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 2004 09:38:00 -0700 (PDT)
From: Hassan <>
Subject: Freedom Fires /Naomi Klein
To: CASI newsclippings <>

Freedom Fires

by Naomi Klein > April 5 2004

I heard the sound of freedom in Baghdad=92s Firdos
Square, the famous plaza where the statue of Saddam
Hussein was toppled one year ago. It sounds like
machine gun fire.

On Sunday, Iraqi soldiers, trained and controlled by
Coalition forces, opened fire on demonstrators here,
forcing the emergency evacuation of the nearby
Sheraton and Palestine hotels. As demonstrators
returned to their homes in the poor neighbourhood of
Sadr City, the U.S. army followed with tanks,
helicopters, and planes, firing on at random on homes,
stores, streets, even ambulances. According to local
hospitals, forty seven people were killed and many
more injured. In Najaf, the day was also bloody: 20
demonstrators dead, more than 150 injured.

In Sadr City Yesterday, funeral marches passed by U.S.
military tanks and the hospitals were overflowing the
injured: Ali Hussein, a sixteen year old with a bullet
in his spine fired from a helicopter; Gailan Ibrahim,
a 29 year old who was shot in the back by a U.S.
plane; Ali Faris, a 14-year-old whose bladder was
removed after a U.S. bullet sliced through the door of
his family home. =93The same thing happened to two other
children in the neighbourhood,=94 his grandfather told

Outside kids danced on a burned out American Humvee
and shouted the lesson that they had learned the night
before: =93George Bush is Saddam Hussein. George Bush is
terrorist!=94 By afternoon, clashes had resumed.

Make no mistake: this is not the =93civil war=94 that
Washington has been predicting will break out between
Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. Rather, it is a war
provoked by the U.S. occupation authority and waged by
its forces against the growing number of Shiites who
support Moqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr is the younger, more radical rival of the
Grand Ayatolla Ali al-Sistani, portrayed by his
adoring supporters as a kind of cross between
Ayatollah Khomeini and Che Guevara. He blames the U.S.
for attacks on civilians, compares U.S. occupation
chief Paul Bremer to Saddam Hussein, aligns himself
with Hamas and Hezbollah and has called for a Jihad
against the controversial interim constitution. His
Iraq might look a lot like Iran.

And it=92s a message with a market. With al-Sistani
concentrating on lobbying the United Nations rather
than on confronting the U.S.-led occupation in the
streets, many Shiites are growing restless, and are
turning to the more militant tactics preached by
al-Sadr. Some have joined the Mahadi, Moqtada=92s
black-clad army, which claims hundreds of thousands of

At first, Bremer responded to al-Sadr=92s growing
strength by ignoring him; now he is attempting to
provoke him into all out battle. The trouble began
when Bremer closed down al-Sadr=92s newspaper last week,
sparking a wave of peaceful demonstrations. On
Saturday, Bremer raised the stakes further by sending
coalition forces to surround al-Sadr=92s house near
Najaf and arrest his communications officer.

Predictably, the arrest sparked immediate
demonstrations in Baghdad, which the Iraqi army
responded to by opening fire and allegedly killing
three people. It was these deaths that provoked
yesterday=92s bloody demonstrations.

At the end of the day on Sunday, al-Sadr issued a
statement calling on his supporters to stop staging
demonstrations =93because your enemy prefers terrorism
and detests that way of expressing opinion=94 and
instead urged them to employ unnamed =93other ways=94 to
resist the occupation a statement many have
interpreted as a call to arms.

On the surface, this chain of events is mystifying.
With the so-called Sunni triangle in flames after the
gruesome Faluja attacks, why is Bremer pushing the
comparatively calm Shiite south into battle?

Here=92s one possible answer: Washington has given up on
its plans to hand over power to an interim Iraqi
government on June 30, and it is now creating the
chaos it needs to declare the handover impossible. A
continued occupation will be bad news for George Bush
on the campaign trail, but not as bad as if the
handover happens and the country erupts, an
increasingly likely scenario given the widespread
rejection of the legitimacy of the interim
constitution and the U.S. appointed Governing Council.

It=92s a plan that might make sense in meetings in
Washington, but here in Baghdad it looks like pure
madness. By sending the new Iraqi army to fire on the
people they are supposed to be protecting, Bremer has
destroyed what slim hope they had of gaining
credibility with an already highly mistrustful
population. On Sunday, before storming the unarmed
demonstrators, the soldiers could be seen pulling on
ski masks, so they wouldn=92t be recognized in their
neighbourhoods later.

And the Coalition Provisional Authority, which has
just hired a London advertising firm to convince
Iraqis that it is committed to democracy, is
increasingly being compared on the streets to Saddam
Hussein, who also didn=92t much like peaceful
demonstrations, or critical newspapers.

In an interview on Monday, Iraq=92s Minister of
Communication, Haider Al-Abadi blasted the act that
started the current wave of violence: the closing of
al-Sadr=92s newspaper, Al-Hawzah. =93It was completely
wrong,=94 he told me. =93Is this how we are going to run
the country in the future sending soldiers to shut
down newspapers?=94

Al-Ababi, who is supposedly in charge of media in
Iraq, says he was not even informed of the plan to
close Al-Hawza until the locks were on the door,
adding that Sadr=92s newspaper did nothing more than
speculate that the U.S. is behind some of the
terrorist attacks here. =93But these are rumours in the
whole country, I=92m hearing them everywhere.=94

Meanwhile, the man at the center of it all -- Moqtada
al-Sadr is having his hero status amplified by the

On Sunday, all of these explosive forces came together
when thousands of demonstrators filled Firdos Square.
On one side of the plaza, a couple of kids climbed to
the top of a building and took a knife to a billboard
advertising Iraq=92s new army. On the other side, U.S.
forces pointed tanks at the crowd while a loudspeaker
told them that =93demonstrations are an important part
of democracy but blocking traffic will not be

At the front of the square was the new statue that the
Americans put in place of the toppled one of Saddam
Hussein. The faceless figures of the new statue are
supposed to represent the liberation of the Iraqi
people. Today they are plastered with photographs of
Moqtada al-Sadr.

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Message: 3
From: "IRC Communications" <>
Organization: Interhemispheric Resource Center
To: "" <>
Subject: FPIF News | Rise of Machines | Limited vs Civil War | Iraq vs Vietnam
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 2004 16:07:37 -0600

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

What=92s New at FPIF
"Working to make the U.S. a more responsible global leader and partner"

April 7, 2004

Introducing three new commentaries from Foreign Policy In Focus

Rise of the Machines
By Conn Hallinan

The "rise of the machines" is at the heart of the Bush administration=92s
military budget. Sandwiched into outlays for aircraft, artillery, and
weapons, are monies for unmanned combat aircraft, robot tanks, submarines,
and a supersonic bomber capable of delivering six tons of bombs and
to anyplace on the globe in two hours.

Machines that think and kill are expensive, and very few companies have the
wherewithal to make them on the scale needed for the U.S. to continue its
reach. The synergy between the massive companies that benefit from empire,
and their ability to fill the election coffers of those who dream of a
more akin to the 19th than the 21st century, is a powerful one.

Add to that a military beset by re-enlistment difficulties, and the circle
comes complete: war that is costly but, for our side, largely bloodless=AD-=
virtual war.

Conn Hallinan <> is an analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus
( and a Provost at UC Santa Cruz.

See new FPIF commentary online at:

With printer friendly PDF version at:

Limited War Now Versus Civil War Later?
By Jim Lobe

With the Iraqi city of Fallujah under a U.S. Marine enforced lockdown,
U.S. military forces in Iraq opened a new front this week to quash an
uprising by a Shiite militia in Baghdad and the south, in what some experts
warn could be a major turning point in the year-old occupation. U.S.
appear to believe that the two shows of force--coming in the wake of some
the worst U.S. losses since the official end of major hostilities in Iraq
months ago--will remind both rebellious Sunnis and increasingly impatient
that Washington remains very much in charge of the ongoing "transition"

But some experts believe that both actions could well trigger even greater
resistance in the Sunni heartland, and, more dangerously, among the Shiite
community, which, with roughly 60% of Iraq=92s total population, could crea=
overwhelming problems for an increasingly beleaguered occupying force.
analysts, such as Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and
Studies, have long warned that active opposition by the Shiite population
doom the occupation and make Iraq ungovernable.

Jim Lobe <> is a political analyst with Foreign Policy
Focus (online at He also writes regularly for Inter Press

See new FPIF commentary online at:

With printer friendly PDF version at:

The Psychology of War: Iraq and Vietnam
By Colonel Daniel Smith, USA (Ret.)

President Bush effectively declared the war in Iraq to be "over" last May,
but the photos told a different story, one the administration has tried to
suppress in the consciousness of the U.S. public. Emblazoned on the front
of the April 7 editions of The New York Times and The Washington Post, the
photos showed U.S. soldiers carrying body bags of comrades killed in the
upsurge in violence in Iraq.

Two days earlier, in a Washington, DC speech, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
had articulated the question contained in the sad, silent images in the
will Iraq be George Bush=92s Vietnam?

Dan Smith <> is a military affairs analyst for Foreign Policy
Focus (online at, a retired U.S. army colonel and a senior
on Military Affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

See new FPIF commentary online at:

With printer friendly PDF version at:


Distributed by FPIF:"A Think Tank Without Walls," a joint program of
Resource Center (IRC) and Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).

For more information, visit If you would like to add a name
the "What=92s New At FPIF?" list, please email:,
giving your area of interest.

Also see our Progressive Response newsletter at:


Interhemispheric Resource Center(IRC)
Siri D. Khalsa
Outreach Coordinator

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