Thursday, April 08, 2004

More horrors, Ranter proved right. Sometimes I really don't like me

In a long post on the Shia uprising in Iraq on Tuesday, I argued that the Mahdi Army was following a strategy seen in numerous civil wars - seizing the locations of legitimate power and co-opting the police and administration. According to this story in the Indy, I was right..
""The Americans are just as bad as Saddam Hussein," said Hamid al-Ugily, the leader of six men from Sadr city carrying a green flag who are spending two to three days walking to Kerbala. "We think they will attack Muqtada in Najaf. We will defend our religious leaders." What is menacing for the US is that all of the men marching to Kerbala, something they once did secretly under Saddam Hussein, are soldiers in the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps (ICDC)."

And there's more..
"If the US army uses its massive fire power to fight its way into Najaf in pursuit of Sadr it well be seen by Shias as a repetition of the Iraqi army offensive. This was against rebels in Najaf and Kerbala during their great uprising against Saddam Hussein at the end of the first Gulf War in 1991.

In many of the southern cities of Iraq where Shia are the majority of the population, the local Iraqi police and paramilitary units - supposedly under orders from the coalition - have shown they are not prepared to fight fellow Shia in the Mehdi army."

Indeed. With the police, paramilitaries and others either supportive or thoroughly intimidated and at least one coalition force (the Ukrainians in Kut) apparently beaten, it isn't looking good. But this is futile gloating in the light of the US airstrike on a mosque in Fallujah, in which as many as 40 people may have died. US officers quite correctly referred to international law, citing the principle that a protected location or person loses that status if they are used for military purposes. Quite right, although one might argue that the attack was disproportionate to the direct military advantage expected, a test which is used in this case. Not that this will do any good in terms of ethics, or of policy.

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