Voices From Najaf

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A battle between American forces and the so-called Mahdi Army of Moktada al-Sadr is being fought near Najaf (noted earlier here). Over the weekend, Najaf's clerics spoke out forcefully against one of those forces: al-Sadr's.

"It's not brave to take refuge in the house or the mosque or the markets and use women and children as human shields," said the Shiite imam Sadr al-Din al-Kubanchi to worshippers. Kubanchi said that Sadr's forces are "people who are trying to cheat you ? They want to drag you into battle to be destroyed."

According to The New York Times, the Najaf standoff had "turned into a showdown between the clerics of the city and Mr. Sadr." Times journalists wrote that the city's clerics "know that the hopes of a majority of Shiites of overcoming the long-running domination of Sunni Muslims rest with the success of the Americans' efforts to establish a largely democratic Iraq. They know, as well, that by advocating armed rebellion, Mr. Sadr's forces play into the hands of the violent Iraqi insurgents who seek to drive the United States out and reassert Sunni dominance."

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  1. I wonder if that was an anti-war poster, or someone trying to discredit anti-war posters.

  2. It’s hard to tell the difference these days.

  3. “…know that the hopes of a majority of Shiites of overcoming the long-running domination of Sunni Muslims rest with the success of the Americans’ efforts to establish a largely democratic Iraq.”

    They do? One election hardly makes for a “democracy.”

  4. Interesting that the clerics express support for democracy and opposition to Sadr based on they’re being good for the Shiites. We can only hope such sentiment spills over into support for genuine pluralism.

  5. I wonder if the provoking of Sadr into rebellion was done intentionally. They certainly seemed to have more or less picked their moment with the revelation of the months old arrest warrant. Perhaps the Shia leaders and the coalition decided that he needed to be taken out prior to transfer of sovereignty.

    Guess we won’t know for several years, if ever.

  6. Shannon Love,

    If they purposefully provoked him, as well as the people of Falluja, they did it at the worst time; during the turn-over of the 82nd Airborne to the Marine Expeditionary forces (how stupid could they be?). I know your first instinct is to spin anything into some overarching “master plan” of the so-called brilliant Bush administration, but such doesn’t fly here.

    Its evident that the US is blind in Iraq; doesn’t understand the cultural ground they are working in (especially in Falluja); shifted forces at the most inoppurtune time; allowed Sadr and others to create militia groups when they should have stopped that from the start (truly stupid and the biggest mistake the US has committed so far); have introduced too lightly armed forces into the most fiercely fought occupation areas (this is especially true of the Marine Expeditionary forces – who simply are not trained for this sort of combat, no matter what the DoD says); etc.

  7. Ok, I have to know – Shannon, are you and Jean former lovers? Did you dump him or cheat on him or something? Did you steal his girl? His boy? Kill his puppy or wreck his car? Why does he hate you so much more than anyone else? There are lots of commenters on this site whose views and politics are obviously different from Mssr. Bart’s, but only you seem to twist his panties so tightly.

  8. Marine Expeditionary forces … simply are not trained for this sort of combat…
    Do tell, Gen. Jean Bart, for what combat are MEFs trained?

  9. Also, searches of both anti-war.com and anti-state.com turned up no mention of Spc. Tillman.

  10. Jean Bart says:
    “Its evident that the US is blind in Iraq; doesn’t understand the cultural ground they are working in (especially in Falluja); shifted forces at the most inoppurtune time; allowed Sadr and others to create militia groups when they should have stopped that from the start (truly stupid and the biggest mistake the US has committed so far); have introduced too lightly armed forces into the most fiercely fought occupation areas (this is especially true of the Marine Expeditionary forces – who simply are not trained for this sort of combat, no matter what the DoD says); etc. ”

    Can we please ‘outsource’ the management to the French? At a minimum, this will save us from JB’s rants.

  11. I’ll volunteer what the Marines are trained for:
    “Hi diddle diddle. Straight up the middle.”

    However, before that can happen, the Army or somebody has to separate the women and children from the enemy. And, since that isn’t about to happen, the Marines are amphibians out of water.

    And with the Marines high and dry, Bush is fucked.

  12. I say get the Brits involved in Fallujah and Najaf. Or study their tactics. Or put them in charge. Their “softly softly” approach works much better.

  13. just a reminder
    “Beyond the Euphrates began for us the land of mirage and danger, the sands where one helplessly sank, and the roads which ended in nothing. The slightest reversal would have resulted in a jolt to our prestige giving rise to all kinds of catastrophe; the problem was not only to conquer but to conquer again and again, perpetually; our forces would be drained off in the attempt.”

    Emperor Hadrian AD 117-138

  14. JB: “they (USMC) are trained to kill people without mercy; they are trained to secure areas of hostiles. They are not trained to police and fight a discriminating war amongst a civilian population.”

    JB, I disagree. USMC has some of the best MOUT training of anyone. They, much more than the US Army, have adopted to the post-Soviet Union requirements of the United States. MOUT is a big part of that.

    The USMC has a history, based on a series of brush wars, of waging counter-guerilla warfare dating back to before our involvement in WW1. This history, and the knowledge base and theories it provided resulted in very different USMC and ARmy tactics in Vietnam (with the Army emphysis on engaging major VC/NVA forces, and the USMC emphysis on defending population centers from enemy attack).

  15. Joe:
    Good point, but I do hope your kidding with the “Bush is Hitler” comment. It’s too bad Bush didn’t spend more time reading than drinking in his youth (and middle age).

    Brennan:
    Contractors do perform useful functions, but they can’t be used to do house-to-house searches. One of the benefits of having large numbers of troops in Germany was that they could be mustered in large numbers to clear an entire city of weapons and arrest large numbers of “troublemakers”.

  16. “I’m sorry, Jean Bart, since when has the 82nd been ‘trained to police and fight a discriminating war amongst a civilian population?'”

    Perhaps you should address my claim rather than fabricating one yourself for me.

    Don,

    “MOUT is a big part of that.”

    I believe that you are wrong.

    “The USMC has a history, based on a series of brush wars, of waging counter-guerilla warfare dating back to before our involvement in WW1.”

    Its not been one where they discriminated hostile from civilian.

  17. ‘How come Shinseki, Powell and Franks are “professional military men” and General Myers is a “pathetic ass kisser”?’

    I’ve been wondering that myself. Ambition? Overpromotion?

  18. BTW, it should be noted that the British have far less problems than the Americans do; indeed, Americans are even having problems with shi’ites, which explains away the notion that Basra is a “special case.” The British warned the U.S. from the start that theit tactics and strategy were incorrect; America is now paying the price for that.

  19. There have been many mistakes, but the worst was/is the pitifully small number of troops in Iraq. I supported the war, and still do, but the Bush administration has its collective head up its ass thinking that this thing can be done with 120-130 thousand troops. Here’s Bush’s biggest problem: He doesn’t know shit for military history. A small amount of reading about the occupation of Germany after WWII would have shown him how to “do” Iraq. But no, he had to believe that a small number of troops with lots of big guns would do the job. Sure, it could win the initial conflict. But to pacify a nation that has craploads of small arms and bombs takes many, many boots on the ground.

  20. “They do? One election hardly makes for a ‘democracy.'”

    Nor does one election = “establish”, but you knew that, right, troll?

  21. Why shouldn’t Sadr be allowed to form a militia?

    I admit I don’t like the idea, but the Iraqi National Congress has a militia, the Kurds have a militia and there’s probably a militia in Southern Iraq in Um Qasr and Basra. The occupational authority may not like militias working parallel to the Coalition forces, but why should they be disbanded by the Coalition unless they’re working against them. Sadr’s militia was working against the Coalition, but it didn’t start that way.

    Bill: 120-130 troops are in Iraq. How many contractors are there? Security personel alone is estimated at 40,000. Troops today are not performing near the amount of tasks that troops of post WWII were performing. DoD outsources many of these jobs to civilian contractors.

  22. Who’s Mark Danner? Should I recognize the name?

  23. “Here’s Bush’s biggest problem: He doesn’t know shit for military history.”

    There is a long list of things Bush doesn’t know shit about. This was well known during the campaign. His answer was, “I’ll surround myself with capable advisors.” Which he did – Gen Shinseki, Gen Powell, Gen Franks. Unfortunately, like Hitler, he decided to ignore what the professional military men had to say, and let military strategy be dictated by ideologues who know more about how things work in their dreams than on a battlefield (Cheney, Feith, Rummy, Perle, Wolfowitz), and only allowed uniforms occupied by pathetic ass kissers (Myers) come within speaking distance of him.

    “Hey, joe said Bush was a Nazi!”

  24. Joe: Are you Mark Danner?

    How come Shinseki, Powell and Franks are “professional military men” and General Myers is a “pathetic ass kisser”?

  25. Of course, as I wrote earlier, if they had stopped these militias forming in their genesis, you wouldn’t have this problem.

    This is very possibly true. However, it’s also very possibly true that had the Coalition prevented (or attempted to prevent) the formation of Sadr’s militia early on that the situation we’re seeing now would’ve just happened earlier, and/or could’ve been worse. Who knows? It appears that the Coalition was willing to let them form and do what they will all the while hoping that the more moderate Shi’a clerics would temper Sadr’s rantings. It seems to me to have been a worthwhile gamble given the possibility that bloodshed might’ve been avoided entirely.

    Win some, lose some.

  26. Gold Star,

    “Do tell, Gen. Jean Bart, for what combat are MEFs trained?”

    I never reached the rank of general; they are trained to kill people without mercy; they are trained to secure areas of hostiles. They are not trained to police and fight a discriminating war amongst a civilian population. Of course, as I wrote earlier, if they had stopped these militias forming in their genesis, you wouldn’t have this problem.

    zorel,

    It is as Powell said; you “own it.”

  27. kwais,

    It wasn’t the 82nd’s fuck-up; they did what they were told to do by their commanders at DoD, etc.; indeed, I know from direct experience that you will not find a finer group of fighting men in your military than the 82nd Airborne.

  28. Here are some new lyrics. We all know the tune…

    HEY HEY WHAT ARE WE FIGHTING FOR?…WELL IT AINT WORTH A DAMN…NO WMD AND WE ALREADY GOT SADDAM…HEY HEY YOU KNOW IT’S A CRYIN SHAME…A WHOLE LOTA FOLKS MET THEIR MAKERS… CAUSE OUR GOVERNMENT’S FULL OF FAKERS…

    Dedicated to the children of all nationalities who have to grow up without one or both parents because our government decided that they wanted war, and then deceived a decent people into supporting it.

  29. I’m sorry, Jean Bart, since when has the 82nd been “trained to police and fight a discriminating war amongst a civilian population?”

  30. JB, the MEF replacing the 82nd felt that the Army had been too heavy-handed with the civilians. It was the Marines who were advocating a “softer” approach, at least with respect to the general population.

  31. http://slate.msn.com/id/2096027/

    Several quotes:

    “With CAP, the Marines are betting that a kinder, gentler approach to Iraqis will pacify the bloody Sunni Triangle more effectively than the 82nd Airborne’s harsh tactics have.”

    “CAP was designed by Marine strategists as an alternative to the Army’s “search and destroy” tactics used throughout the Vietnam War. From 1965 to 1973, Marine platoons-along with South Vietnamese Popular Forces, or PFs-spent months living in villages in Central Vietnam.”

    “By living among the Vietnamese instead of on a fortified American base, CAP Marines forged relationships that helped develop a web of local intelligence.”

    “I did everything I could to drag [the Marines] out and get them to fight,” Army Gen. Harry Kinnard of the Army’s 1st Cavalry Division remarked in a 1982 interview. They “came in and just sat down and didn’t do anything. They were involved in counterinsurgency of the deliberate, mild sort.”

    don’s note: the original CAP tactics were based upon the Marines long experience in counterinsurgency warfare.

  32. A Different Sean,

    No I didn’t.

  33. JB, You had said that the 82nd was better trained for their mission than and MEF. When asked why the MEFs were inadequate, you said they “had not been trained to police and fight a discriminating war amongst a civilian population?”

    I was confused, because I thought the 82nd’s training was pretty similar. I wasn’t sure how the 82nd would be any better at the police/discriminating war thing.

    I don’t suppose I’ll get a genuine reply from you, anyhow.

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