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August 18, 2004

I've just got back to confront hundreds of spam mail. I quickly glanced at this commentary about the battle for Najaf in Iraq. Gary Leupp says:

"The Mahdi Army cannot, in my view, really liberate anyone with its fundamentalist religious agenda, and this, perhaps, many of its adherents will come to understand. But for the time being, it presents the imperialists with their thorniest challenge. The warriors of this jihad know that their countrymen will desert, or defect to themselves, rather than serve the infidels in Najaf. The original sin of the occupation is that it is, after all, an occupation. Worse, one based on lies. Justified after the fact, after the bogus rationales were all discredited, by the boast, "We overthrew a dictator," the occupation now faces the jihadis' charge that it is worse even than Saddam."

So what happened at Najaf? Juan Cole's judgement about the battle of Najaf is that the:

"The Marines in Najaf were acting like just another militia, engaging in a local turf war with Muqtada and his men, and giving no thought to the consequences of behaving barbarically in the holy city of Najaf."


Cole's comments are based on this report. That says:

"Marine officers said they turned a firefight with al-Sadr's forces on Aug. 5 into a eight-day pitched battle -- without the approval of the Pentagon or senior Iraqi officials. It was fought out in bloody skirmishes in an ancient cemetery that brought them within rifle shot of the Imam Ali Mosque, Shiite Islam's holiest shrine....As a reconstruction of the battle in Najaf shows, the sequence of events was strikingly reminiscent of the battle of Fallujah in April. In both cases, newly arrived Marine units immediately confronted guerrillas in firefights that quickly escalated. And in both cases, the U.S. military failed to achieve its strategic goals, pulling back after the political costs of the confrontation rose."

The pathway to democracy taken by gungho US Marines is what Australia is tacitly supporting with its all the way with the USA: strike quick before the inevitable political storm breaks.

An analysis by Helena Cobban can be found here

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:12 PM | | Comments (0)