Monday, April 09, 2007

Marching Through Najaf

Despite repeating the received wisdom that Muqtada al-Sadr yesterday called upon his supporters and other Iraqis to attack US troops, the corporate media today can't seem to avoid reporting that, as Jim Henley suggested yesterday, that doesn't actually seem to to be the case.

First, the Chicago Tribune:
Sadr is engaged in an uneasy cooperation with U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad, particularly in his stronghold of Sadr City. He has ordered his fighters to stand down as U.S. troops patrol and conduct security sweeps and to avoid being provoked into battle.

It is unclear whether Sadr ordered the Diwaniyah clashes, rogue elements of the Mahdi Army rose up or individual militiamen were defending their homes.

"Up until now, we have not made any decision to clash against the American or the Iraqi forces," Sheik Salah al-Ubaidi, a close aide to Sadr, said from Najaf.
Then the AP, reporting about massive demonstrations against the US-led occupation in a piece that also notes the US military's spin on the marches:
Iraqi soldiers in uniform joined the crowd, which was led by at least a dozen turbaned clerics — including one Sunni. Many marchers danced as they moved through the streets.

Col. Steven Boylan, a U.S. military spokesman and aide to the commander of all U.S. forces in Iraq, praised the peaceful nature of the demonstration, saying Iraqis "could not have done this four years ago."

"This is the right to assemble, the right to free speech — they didn't have that under the former regime," Boylan said. "This is progress, there's no two ways about it."
Now that Iraqis have the freedom to hate us and want us out of their country, don't you think it would be a good idea to oblige?

It's important to the pro-war crowd to talk up Sadr as a threat to US troops and as a sectarian bully-boy ready to kill Sunnis by the thousands as soon as the US turns it's back. He fits nicely into the anti-Iran narrative too, as he's meant to be one of Iran's proxies in attacking the US. But there's a lot of evidence that Sadr is genuinely and simply an Iraqi out for Iraq's sake. He's been a key voice in attempts at a nationalist non-sectarian political coalition and is seen by Iraqis as far less in Iran's pocket than the ruling SCIRI party. That's not to say that he isn't out for power - of course he is - but that power seems to be focussed for now on peaceful means of expression. That's a good thing and something to be encouraged, I would think. Instead the diplomatic skills of the folks in the White House, wormtongued as they are by think-tankers who believe war is how America can best define itself, should ensure it doesn't last.

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