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by Captain Doughfish
Monday, Apr. 21, 2003 at 4:35 PM
It ain't over yet, and even when it ends, it still won't be over ( see http://newamericancentury.org )
Comments and article:
Friday night on C-Span, during a Future of Iraq
conference, A military official (marines?) said that
the current phase of war in Iraq is a guerilla war
that is expected to last 3-5 years and require 60,000
troops. He said that it would be different from
Vietnam because it's taking place in the cities
instead of the countryside. The so called "liberal
press" has already declared victory, except for
"pockets of resistence". It will soon be forgotten.
That just shows that the political spectrum is a joke.
No doubt the war will be reported once in a while as
a war against scattered pockets of religious fanatics.
In dictatorships, those who consent are "good". Those
who oppose are "evil" and expendable. Shiites and
Sunis are not only protesting our troops and urging
alliances, but in many cases threatening to kick them
out of the country. Here's an article about that from
sf-frontline, compiled from many sources:
By Frontlines correspondents, with additional
information from AFP, Reuters, AP, Al-Jazeera,
Al-Arayiba and Abu Dhabi
Tens of thousands of Iraqis demonstrated following
Friday prayers. There were Shias from the Eastern
parts of the City and Sunnis from the West and Central
Baghdad: clerics, Muslim organizations, but also
members of professional associations, small merchants,
lower strata of the Baath Party and students, some of
them from the left wing Iraqi National Liberation
The largest of the demonstrations occurred when 50,000
people jammed the streets of Al-Sadr City, formerly
known as Saddam City, patrolled by
But other hundreds of thousands poured out of mosques
around the city and in a number of other cities around
the country, like Najuf, Karbala, Mosul and Basra, and
demonstrated against Washington's presence.
While some mainstream media reports in the US focused
on one of the demonstrations, with 12,000 people who
marched through Downtown Baghdad, the scope and
breadth of the mass mobilizations at many other sites
went mainly unreported.
Baghdad: Downtown Demonstration
The marchers came from several mosques and converged
in a central district, Aadhamiya, for the peaceful
One of the biggest columns came from Abi Hanifah
Nouman mosque. Its dome was bombed during the recent
Earlier, each Mosque had its own rally and marches
through different neighborhoods.
``Leave our country, we want peace,'' read one banner
aimed at the Americans who seized control nine days
ago but failed to check looting, power blackouts and
chaos in the aftermath.
``No Bush, No Saddam, Yes Yes to Islam,'' read
Some of the organizers of the "unity march" in
Downtown Baghdad called themselves the Iraqi National
United Movement and said they represented both Iraq's
majority Shi'ite Muslims and powerful Sunnis.
Shi'ites, close to Iran's leaders, were marginalized
under Saddam's Sunni-dominated government and some
Iraqis have feared sectarian clashes could erupt.
``No Shi'ites, No Sunnis, Yes Yes for United Islam,''
another banner read.
Strong opposition to US occupation
The sermons around the capital offered a taste of the
first clear reaction among Muslim clergy to the
three-week war and US occupation.
At the Al-Hikma mosque Sheikh Mohammad Fartusi said
the Shia would not accept a brand of democracy “that
allows Iraqis to say what they want but gives them no
say in their destiny.”
“This form of government would be worse than Saddam
Hussein,” he said. He also urged the faithful to
follow the Hawza in Najaf.
According to Al-Jazeera "If they initially offered a
cautious hand, Iraqis are becoming increasingly
critical of the US failure to restore order and basic
services such as water and electricity."
But others at the demonstrations offered a different
explanation: that Iraqis are not only against the US
presence because of its failure to restore order and
stop looting, but also because the US attacked the
country with no reason but to take over the oil and
impose a government that would obey orders from
The head of the Tehran-based Supreme Assembly of
Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SAIRI), which has a major
following in Iraq, has called for a “political regime
guaranteeing liberty, independence and justice for all
Iraqis under the reign of Islam.”
Lebanon's top Shia cleric Sheikh Mohammad Hussein
Fadlallah urged Iraqis on Friday to open their eyes to
the US occupation and to rebuild Iraq without
Washington or London supervision.
“We call on the oppressed good people of Iraq…to
prevent the birth of a new dictator from inside and
abroad and to open their eyes to the methods of the
occupier,” said Fadlallah in his sermon.
“We trust you…to come together without American or
British oversight to build a new Iraq that respects
the people and gives them their rights,” he said.
The Mosques and neighborhoods are now patrolled by
Kalashnikov-wielding volunteers who are trying to
control looting. These volunteers, most of them young
Iraqis, were also in force to protect demonstrations.
Waving banners in English and Arabic reading “Leave
our country, we want peace,” protestors outside of the
Abu Hanifa Al-Numan Mosque chanted “No to America, no
to Saddam” and “This homeland is for the Shia and
Sunni,” in a sign of unity among the two groups. One
of the groups, about 500-strong, carried a banner
saying "Iraq for the Iraqis."
"US out now! The Iraqi people never let you in!" said
another sign. Many demonstrators were holding signs
reading "US=UK=Star of David=Killers; That is what we
Both at the entrance of Mosques and outside, there
were impromptu speeches by clerics, but also by
secular student and community activists.
A Shia neighborhood activist who was heading a
delegation from the Al-Sarl City, formerly Saddam
City, in the Eastern District told the crowd "the time
for revolution has come, now is not the time of
confrontation amongst us, but a time to kick out
Americans from our soil."
The majority of Iraq's 25-million strong population is
60 percent Shia, which has been ruled ruthlessly under
Saddam Hussein's mostly Sunni elitist regime. In
recent days however, there has been mounting
discontent from among the Shia to Washington's
presence in Iraq.
There were also increasing signs of rejection of the
obvious maneuvers by the Anglo-American forces to
split the Shia community between "collaborators" and
Protestors called for unity among Iraqis and urged all
to put aside past conflicts and differences. There
were leaflets and some periodicals being distributed
among the crowd, the first signs of organized
political and religious groups coming to the fore.
"Whe should not be divided by the invaders" - said a
young Iraqi who climbed on the shoulders of another
student - "we must fight together against them."
Al-Jazeera TV correspondent Youseff Al-Shouly reported
it was the first non-state organized protest in the
Iraqi capital in decades, describing it as a
In the first Friday prayers since US tanks rolled into
the heart of Baghdad last week, Imam Ahmad Al-Kubaisi
said in his sermon that the United States invaded Iraq
to defend Israel and denied that Iraq possessed
weapons of mass destruction.
One of the leaflets being circulated stated, "we have
been betrayed by Arab leaders who are now buckling
under the yoke of US imperialism."
Many in the demonstration talked about the
self-appointed "Iraqi leaders, who are stooges for the
Meanwhile, Iraqi Christians marked Good Friday with
prayers for resurrection of peace and normality at
several churches. But many Christians expressed
concern that the collapse of Hussein's government and
the advent of democracy in a Muslim majority nation
could spell an end to the relative religious freedom
they enjoyed under the secular Baath Party.
Hundreds of Christians also marched to mosques around
town to join Muslims in anti-US demonstrations and to
link with Muslims. "We are a minority and our fate is
linked to the kind of political system we are able to
create out of the ashes of our country" - said a
Christian activist at the demonstration - "we need to
fight for unity as Iraqis, first and above all."
Simultaneously with the demonstration, the Arab TV
station Abu Dhabi released a video tape depicting
Saddam Hussein speaking to a crowd of Iraqis and
claimed the video was recorded on April 9, the same
day that two hundred Iraqis cheered the destruction of
Saddam's statue by US Marines.
In the tape, Saddam said "We will win at the end." US
High Command cast doubts about the date of the tape
and recognized that many at the demonstration in
Baghdad were demanding that Iraqis will self-rule.
May US journalists and the US High Command raised
doubts about the authenticity of Saddam’s tape, but
Abu Dhabi executives offered to disclosed proof of the
authenticity of the film and signed affidavits of many
people who witnessed Saddam’s appearance.
Many observers and journalists in Baghdad said that
they were surprised by the size and organization of
the 12,000-strong demonstration. While at the same
time ignoring the 50,000-strong march in the Eastern
side of the city and many others taking place
"This is not spontaneous activity" - a French reporter
noted - "you can see many banners, slogans, organized
groups coming from different parts of the city, this
is without doubt something that was prepared during
the week, with meetings and groups being assigned
US troops maintained their distance from Al-Sadr city,
except for rapid raids at specific targets, mostly at
abandoned sites. During Friday's demonstrations around
Baghdad, US troops were ordered to maintain their
distance and avoid confrontation.
Among the US soldiers were a variety of reactions to
the demonstrations. Some showed nervousness and shock:
“Why are they protesting against us?” – said a Marine
at the entrance of the Palestine Hotel – “We came to
liberate them and now WE are the enemy?”
Shia clergy call for US withdrawal from Iraq
According to Al-Jazeera, a cleric at one of Shia
Islam's holiest shrines in the Iraqi city Karbala
denounced the presence of US troops in the country
during Friday prayers, saying it amounted to
imperialism by “unbelievers.”
“We reject this foreign occupation, which is a new
imperialism. We don't want it anymore,” Sheikh Kaazem
Al-Abahadi Al-Nasari told thousands of Muslim faithful
at the mausoleum of Imam Hussein, revered by the Shias
as the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad.
An Iraqi Shia woman takes her child to the Imam
Hussein mosque in Karbala, some 100 km south of
Baghdad for preparations ahead of the anniversary of
Imam Hussein's death next week.
“We don't need the Americans. They're here to control
our oil. They're unbelievers, but as for us, we have
the power of faith,” she said.
Friday prayers resumed at this sacred site last week
for the first time since May 2002 after being banned
by deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, fearful of
Shia opposition to his rule.
Iraq's 25-million strong community is 60 percent Shia
who were violently repressed and not represented
politically under Hussein.
The Shias are flexing their new political muscle
Sheikh Nasri denounced “those politicians who are
coming back to Iraq supported by the Americans and
British, who given the opportunity would only obey
His speech may have been a veiled jab at Ahmad
Chalabi, who bills himself as a secular Shia, and who
is reportedly a Pentagon favorite for leading Iraq.
Chalabi, who left Iraq in 1958 and returned in recent
months, said Friday he had no plans for running the
Sheikh Nasri also called on Shias to back the Hawza,
the Shia religious school in another holy city Najaf,
which has witnessed violence in recent days over who
will lead the religious community.
Many Iraqi leaders, both from the Shia and Sunni
communities, stated their belief that the US
encouraged the looting and civil disorder following
the US takeover of Baghdad is order to justify its
presence in the years to come. "They [US and Britain]
would do everything in their power to show we are
incapable of governing ourselves" - said one of the
speakers at the main demonstration on Friday - "they
will try to make us believe that we are children who
need the protection of the big parents of the world.
But we should fight against the division in our ranks
and start ruling ourselves."
At the moment of this writing, reports about
demonstrations in Mosul, Basra and Najuf are starting
to appear in some Arab media.
Towards a new resistance movement?
It is too early to tell whether this growing
opposition movement against the US/British presence in
Iraq will develop into a powerful movement of
resistance or will be channeled by Shia and Sunni
leaders into pressure movements to obtain better
positions for emerging leaders of both communities in
the face of the collapse of Saddam's regime and the
deep crisis of the Baath Party.
An Italian journalist in Baghdad told Frontlines that
“I see the evolving political situation as a very
complex one. The removal of Saddam Hussein's regime
from power has removed a heavy lid that maintained all
the issues of Iraqi society unresolved, but also
created new issues as important as those.”
He explained that old political and social issues,
long repressed under Saddam Hussein, like the
oppression of Shias, are now coming to the fore. “But
they are now mixing with new issues, like the future
of the largest, and formerly dominant, minority in
Iraq, the Sunnis.”
“They have points of differences” – he said – “but
they are also united in the common goal to get rid of
the US occupation.” There are also small but powerful
layers of society that would like to see a separation
between religion and the state or even secular rule by
“At any rate – the Italian said – there is also the
question of the exiles, particularly Chabali and
others – coming from without and trying to buy
positions of power.”
There were 2 million Baath Party members, out of which
probably 60,000 were very active and many still remain
active. They are not a homogenous force any more. Many
felt betrayed by the leadership in their struggle
against the invasion, and their structures, mostly
around the state apparatus, have been destroyed. “But
it was clear at today's demonstrations that many of
them were active and they are the ones pushing the
line of 'forget past differences, now we have a common
With the passage of time, and the uncertainty about
jobs, health services, water and power, the lack of
money, food, and continuous looting and thousands of
other day to day problems, a large layer of society
will turn their eyes to the past “there are already
many people in Baghdad that say that 'under Saddam we
did not have these problems'”
On the other hand, there are many Iraqis that seem to
believe that the US is not about to liquidate the
former Baath Party structures, but is working towards
integrating parts of those structures to its own
They point to the fact that Ahmad Chalabi, the
self-appointed leader of the Iraqi National Congress
(INC), the most pro-US grouping of exiles, is in favor
of only going after the high echelon of the former
regime, and is for preserving the Baath Party's ranks
to “reconstruct Iraq.”
On Wednesday, two close associates of an Iraqi
opposition leader said that they had been elected
governor and mayor of Baghdad by tribal and religious
chiefs acting with the consent of occupying US troops.
Shia and Sunni leaders in Baghdad, however, stated
that most people working with Chalabi were former
beneficiaries of Saddam Hussein's regime and “very few
“Chalabi is a crook, a US puppet and he is playing a
very dangerous game” – they said – “one in which he
plans to transform the militias he armed with the help
of the US Special forces into an 'Iraqi' army and buy
as many former Saddamists as possible to construct his
own power base. Won't work as most Iraqis are against
both a new dictatorship based on force and against the
According to Al-Jazeera, Captain Joe Plenzler, a
spokesman for the US Marines here, shot down the
claim. "Anyone declaring themselves as mayor or
anything else is just not true. The US government has
not appointed anyone."
"Anyone can call themselves anything they want to,"
Plenzler said, adding "But future appointments like
this will be handled through USAID (the US Agency for
Mohammed Mohsen Zubeidi, a veteran anti-Saddam Hussein
politician, earlier looked official enough with a huge
media entourage to boot as he proclaimed himself head
of a new interim administration for Baghdad. His
“appointment” was one of the two denied by the US.
Zubeidi is closely associated with Chalabi.
Zubeidi said Iraq's political life was reawakening,
and that he had beeen coordinating with the US forces
here and meeting with them every day. But he said he
has had no contact so far with Jay Garner, the retired
US general named by Washington as civil administrator
to overlook the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.
In spite of Captain Joe Plenzler's assertion, both
Chalabi and Zubeidi are accompanied by US Marines and
US Special Forces at all times and US High Command's
spokesperson Gral Brooke stated that they “are
emerging leaders with whom we are working … they had
not been appointed or elected as far as we know, but
that does not mean we would not collaborate with
Contradictorily, the pro-US Iraqi politician Ahmad
Chalabi returned to Baghdad on Wednesday on his first
visit to the city since the overthrow of the monarchy
in 1958. "Our plans are to establish ourselves here,
to set up an office and begin the work towards
reconstructing democracy and civil society in Iraq,"
said a Chalabi aide Zaab Sethna.
"His first plan is to go see his old home and then
start building democracy in Iraq," added Sethna. A
statement by the Iraqi National Congress of which
Chalabi is head said he and the leaders of four other
political groups would meet in Baghdad shortly to
constitute the Iraqi Leadership Council.
The council of five, which could be expanded, will not
have anyone from the US in it. Besides Chalabi, the
others are Shia Supreme Council for the Islamic
Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) representative Abdelaziz
Hakim, Ayad Allawi of the Iraqi National Accord and
the heads of two Kurdish groups -- Massoud Barzani and
But the common objectives of Chalabi and SCIRI on one
hand and those of the Kurdish leaders and Chalabi and
SCIRI are tenuous at best.
According to a report from AP news services,
representatives of other groups jockeying for power in
postwar Iraq were unimpressed. Mahmoud Osman, a
Kurdish leader living in London, said Chalabi looked
like "an American propagandist."
Hamid al-Bayati, a British representative for the
Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq,
said Chalabi might be "gambling on running for office"
despite his claims to the contrary.
The Baghdad meeting announced by Chalabi is said to be
complementary to the consultation process which began
in Nassiriya on Tuesday under US chairmanship. US
sources, however, showed concern about Chalabi's moves
that they view not as complementary but in
contradiction to the US-sponsored Nasariyah meeting
which Chalabi refused to attend.
According to the London-based Guardian, who attended
the first press conference of Chalabi, he was clear on
his support for US imperial grabbing of Iraq:
"The US has a record of supporting the liberation of
Iraq. President Bush very courageously took up the
cause on September 12 2002," he said.
"The security council has been less than helpful in
liberating Iraq. It dealt with Saddam Hussein as
though he ran a normal state. The UN is not capable
and does not have the credibility in Iraq to play a
major role. The moral imperative is on the United
He accused France and Germany, which opposed the
attack on Iraq, of being "de facto allies of Saddam
Hussein". Insisting he merely wanted to help to
rebuild civil society, Mr Chalabi said he was not a
candidate for any government office. But he slipped up
when he said that in spite of the French and German
positions, "we will maintain... I expect the future
government of Iraq will maintain democratic relations
with all countries."
Asked whether the war had been worth it, Mr Chalabi
said: "It certainly is. The number of Iraqis getting
killed now is far less than the number who would have
been killed on a daily basis under Saddam."
“Chalabi is both the agent of the US, and a practical
politician – observed an Iraqi journalist working for
an European TV station – he knows that he can't do
anything without the support of the US and the
remnants of Saddam's regime, since most other people
in Iraq look at him with scorn. The widespread view
inside Iraq is that those who stayed and suffered in
Iraq are the ones who should shape its future.”
Chalabi will probably become, together with his bosses
in Washington and other collaborators with the
occupation, the common enemy of all those in other
layers of Iraqi society. This will be the closest to
an emerging mass movement against the colonial rule of
the country. That is probably why Chalabi is trying to
show some independence from both the US and the more
radical oppositionists of the US occupation.
International events to help shape Iraq's future
One of the effects of the global anti-war movement on
the Iraqi people is that ordinary Iraqis are well
aware of the world's opposition to the invasion of the
US. This, in fact, is a topic of discussion and
conversation in cafes and gatherings of Iraqis in
Baghdad and elsewhere.
Even religious Shia activists are impressed with the
role of the anti-war movement in Europe, the Arab
countries and even in the US. This is clearly shown by
the fact that while many activists revile the role of
the US/British governments in Iraq, most of the time
they qualify their comments by saying that they are
not against the people in the US and Britain.
On the Arab mass movement against the US invasion,
Iraqis feel lots of closeness with the protesters,
with as much intensity as they despise the Arab
leaders. Many Iraqis hold the view that the people of
the Middle East should rid themselves of “the Saddams
of their own countries” for the Middle East to be able
to rid itself of both “the US and the Zionists.”
Iraq then, and its occupation, may very well be
transformed into a critical point for political change
in the Middle East and also on the international
level. “Our Arab brothers are demoralized, betrayed –
said one of the speakers at Friday's demonstration –
because they expected us to do more to defend
ourselves against occupation and get rid of Saddam
Hussein ourselves. Maybe this show of force would
encourage them to fight again, not only in solidarity
with our cause, but against their own rulers …”
Contacts from other countries in the Middle East and
the growing opposition inside Iraq are not limited to
the agents of governments but also to organizations,
both Muslim and left wing groups, active in Syria,
Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Iran.
Over time as communications are reestablished,
contacts between groups and organizations in the
anti-war movement on other continents and those
resisting inside Iraq will increase. More and more, a
global anti-imperialist movement needs to take shape,
based on the right for self-determination of nations
combined with mutual help and aid to stop the US
Empire from further attacks.
One obstacle, however, is the fact that the anti-war
movement around the world is now in a downward spiral
because of the sense that US/British imperial forces
achieved a decisive and total victory. Yesterday's
demonstrations seems to indicate that this is not the
“One of the dangers – antiwar activists in the US told
Frontlines – is that many people bought the US
propaganda that US forces were received as
'liberators' by the Iraqi people. The Anglo-American
occupation of Iraq is not the end, but the beginning
of a new phase of the movement.”
Update: Numbers at demonstrations.
50,000 at Al-Sarl City (formerly Saddam City)
15,000 at Downtown Baghdad
Aproximately 30,000 at other Mosques in Mosaud
District, Aadhamiya, Abi Hanifah Nouman mosque and
Mosul: Over 10,000
Kut: 5,000 converged at this town's City Hall that
remains occuppied by Shia activists.
Submit articles and reports to the Frontlines
by the way, in the signature below, replace "100" with
--"Is there any man here... who does not know that the seed of war in
the modern world is industrial and commercial rivalry?... This war, in
its inception, was a commercial and industrial war. It was not a
political war." - President Woodrow Wilson, St. Louis, September 11, 1919
--"America is not good and Saddam is not good. My people refused Saddam
Hussein, and they will refuse the Americans." "If this continues in
Baghdad, we'll kill any American or British soldier." -2 of 100 Jubilant
Iraqis tearing down a Saddam statue among empty streets lined with tanks
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