Holy Shiite!


There isnít enough sand in Iraq to cover up Paul Bremerís incompetence.

by Al Uthman

Things really donít seem to be going too well in Iraq lately, do they? What ever happened to our easy in-out feel-good liberation war, our pick-me-up to get over the 9/11 hangover? We did. We happened. As a nation, our utter incapacity to perceive our own blatant hypocrisy is nothing short of stunning. There are so many recent examples of this that a comprehensive list would require a stack of newspapers to print, but hereís a few off the top of my head:

1. Recently abducted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide needed to be removed from power, due to extremely dubious misgivings about truly minor election discrepancies not even pertaining to his own election, but "whiny liberals" who complain about Florida or fret about the new, easily rigged, record-free touch screen voting machines which will play a major factor in November are paranoid traitors.

2. Somehow, the people of America are safer when they have no idea what their leaders are doing.

3. An executive branch full of shmoes who managed to avoid the draft are brave and strong, while a guy who went to Vietnam, got shot up, and then had the balls to admit the war was pointless and wrong is some kind of softy.

4. Biblical minutia, such as the one line in appendix z-12 about gay people, is absolutely carved in stone, but "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is, well, really more of a guideline.

And then thereís my current favorite:

5. In order to better foster freedom and democracy in Iraq, we had to forcibly shut down a newspaper there.

Moqtada Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric whose weekly paper, Al-Hawza, was officially put under a sixty day ban March 28th, is not a cool guy by any means. He is a religious fundamentalist, and that sucks in any flavor. Contrary to cultivated belief, most Shiites are more moderate, and donít favor a strictly religious Sharia-style government. But Sadr isnít one of them. Heís a nut, and heís got followers. Armed followers. He has advocated violence against US troops, and now heís committing it.

It should be said, however, that his violent distrust of the US is not so unreasonable, considering our foul bait-and-switch move in Gulf War 1, when George Bush 1ís dishonorable betrayal of both Shiites and Kurds triggered a mass slaughter and forever damaged our already shaky credibility in the region. It should also be said that many of the viewpoints he espouses are not so far off the mark (namely the not-so-unreasonable assertions, really lessons learned over the last few wars, that America is not to be trusted, that we work hand in hand with Israel, and that free and fair elections are not in the cards while we continue to occupy Iraq, despite our "Democratic" rhetoric).

While the Kurds, desperate for even a temporary and conditional ally, seem more inclined to get whatever help they can from us, Sadr has been intent from early in the game on the overthrow and expulsion of what he considers to be an imperial occupying force.

Paul Bremer, sent in to replace Jay Garner as the US administrator of Iraq, is almost single-handedly screwing up the whole occupation, quickly blundering his way into a Vietnam-sized snafu. What was once largely avoidable is now an intractable and bloody conflict.

Bremerís own vanity, cultural insensitivity and strategic ineptitude led us here. His decision to finally squash Al-Hawza may have had something to do with the front-page headline "Bremer Follows in the Footsteps of Saddam," accusing Bremer of intentionally starving Iraqis. Ironically, that is precisely whatís happening now, as US troops divert shipments of food and medical aid headed to Falluja, donated by the Sunnisí former enemies.

Bremerís decision to close the paper is now widely regarded as a gross miscalculation, as was the clearly revenge-motivated attack on Falluja, which has only served to turn the whole town against us and become another rallying point for the expanding resistance. While my TV reports an "uneasy ceasefire," "Democracy Now" tells of women and children continuing to be sniped in the street as they step outside their homes.

While the idea itself of censoring a publication out of existence for holding forth opinions extremely critical of US policy should just sound wrong to any real American, it seems we are all too effortlessly eased out of one dogmatic paradigm and into the next. Remember how dearly we held our bill of rights not so long ago, when the Soviet specter was the murderous boogeyman du jour? Censorship was the purview of the Evil Empire, and we were different. Some may find it repugnant, but an American could call the president whatever he wanted; it was his right. Now protesters are herded into "Free Speech Zones" far from the leaders they wish to engage, you can go to jail for saying "Someone should shoot George Bush" to someone at a bar, and the word "Orwellian" is becoming a tired clichť, perhaps on its way to becoming a compliment.

In fact, it seems that all of the criticism in the mainstream press argues that the decision to ban the paper came too late to be effective. There is something to this: Sadr has been building an armed militia, and by the time Bremer confronted him, he was too powerful to contain. But by attempting to, Bremer did the impossible: united the long-distant Shiite and Sunni resistance movements against a more powerful common enemy: us. Perhaps he really is the right guy for the job.

My problem is this: by suppressing Sadrís undoubtedly hate-filled and rabblerousing paper, we played right into his hands, confirming once again that weíre a nation that knows how to talk the talk, but absolutely refuses to get out of its chair. And if we ever wanted to succeed in capturing the "hearts and minds" of Iraq, it is totally essential that we walk it like we talk it. These people have been repeatedly victimized by some of the most exquisitely brutal victimizers in the world, and they can smell bullshit coming from miles away or across the globe.

We were once promised that our troops would be received as "liberators," and they actually were, albeit hesitantly. Now, however, the honeymoon is definitely over. Hundreds of soldiers and Iraqis have died in recent days, as well as about a hundred of the estimated 18,000 ex-soldier mercenaries who are also stationed there, including the four "civilian contractors" who were so shockingly blown up and then publicly displayed by chanting crowds in Falluja. An estimated 40 or so hostages have been taken, mostly Asians whose marginally involved countries have been deeply shaken by the ordeal. Even the US-appointed governing council is turning on us. All this almost a year after Bush declared "mission accomplished" while pretending to have landed a plane on a boat.

How did we get here? How did such a pushover nation, grateful to have finally been relieved of a truly monstrous tyrant (even if by the same people who brought him in), evolve in one year into a total quagmire, an obvious no-win situation in which our options are either to bail out and let the chips fall or to violently suppress the will of the natives, and force them to play nice as they occasionally blow us up?

Now thereís a report out of Iran that mysterious trucks with phony plates are breezing through checkpoints, uninspected and unnoticed due to the twin battle distractions, on their way to plant a payload of WMDís somewhere in Iraq, presumably to be Ďdiscoveredí at a politically opportune time. Iím not sure whoís doing the fact-checking in Tehran, and itís hardly a credible story, but I offer it for a reason: I would have simply dismissed such a story as ridiculous at a different point in my life, but I found myselfÖwondering. After all, if thereís anything Bushís inner circle has revealed to us in the last three years, itís that they will stop at nothing to get what they want. Theyíve been working quickly since the attacks, weakening the bill of rights, consolidating media sources, forcing through cash giveaways to their sponsors. It seems almost as if they have hit upon a brave new formula of extreme deniability: the more outrageous and impossibly brazen the stunt they pull, the less likely people are to believe it. It seems that a lot of you, more than half, at least, simply cannot handle the real facts about what your government has become, choosing instead to block out the increasingly critical, dire, and documented truths that are even seeping in through the drying, choked-off tributaries to the mainstream. But itís time we faced it. Still-resolute Bush/Cheney supporters know in their heart of hearts that theyíre dishonest crooks, but they see the whole thing as more of a sporting event than anything else. All they know is, theyíre not going to let those liberal weirdos win. They define themselves in negative, as an opposite to those they resent.

So, were these guys to attempt a stunt like that, and should reports surface of it in more dependable news sources, a loyal Fox News watching Bush supporter wouldnít have to think twice about his response: "liberal media propaganda!" then Bush would make a rare appearance, stammer his way through some clumsily glib denial as naked fear and confusion periodically crossed his face, and that would be that. And that is how it has gone, through Halliburton scandals, cocaine scandals, courtroom scandals, energy scandals, and now the 9/11 scandal. In front of the world, Bush addressed reporters and made the infuriating case that a memo titled Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US "Said nothing about an attack on America." He went on to complain that the memo didnít provide a time and place of imminent attack. Balls. No one ever gets that. Itís obvious that these guys just kind of missed this stuff, and I for one would have a little more respect for the guy if he just said, "Listen. I was on vacation, OK? I donít know anything about what goes on around here anyway. Go bother an adult, willya?" Incurious George canít even testify in secret without uncle Dick to protect him. How do Bush supporters defend that tactic, I wonder? Iím sure they have a line for it, one that sounds simple, and spells easy. And thatís that.

But thatís not that. This isnít a sport. These guys are lying, and you all know itóall of you. Stop helping them; theyíre not helping you, unless you make enough money not to have to pay taxes at all, like Pepsi. Theyíre keeping everything they do secret, and totally refusing to budge on letting anyone, even congress or the courts, in on it. We all know theyíre hiding something with that energy committee. Antonin Scalia wonít let anyone tape record himówhy? Is he afraid of losing profits to bootleggers, who will sell numerous copies of twelfth-generation tapes to roving bands of Scalia-heads? Why would anyone continue to associate themselves with this gang of power mad sociopaths, let alone defend them? The truth will out eventually. The writing is on the wall, folks, and itís written in the blood of our slack-jawed young soldiers. Youíd better rethink this election thingódonít you want to be on the winning team?

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