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Situation Grim With Religious Violence in Iraq.--

In his Thursday post, the Iraqi blogger, Iraq the Model, reports tense and worrisome developments and news reports. According to unconfirmed reports by factions in Iraq, more than 120 mosques have been attacked, burned, or blown up.

Spokesmen of the Islamic Party and Muslim Scholars claim more than 120 mosques have been blown up, set ablaze or came under small arms and RPG fire including the Um al-Qura mosque which is the HQ of the Association of Muslim Scholars which came under several drive-by shootings.

Radio Sawa reported a short while ago that the central morgue in Baghdad received some 80 bodies of people who were killed with gun shots since Wednesday afternoon.

In our neighborhood the Sadr militias seized the local mosque and broadcast Shia religious mourning songs from the mosques loudspeakers. In several other cases, worshippers were turned away by "gunmen in black" who surrounded the closed mosques. Other mosques are encircled by razor-wire to stop anyone from approaching them.

The sense in the streets and the statements given by some Shia clerics suggest that retaliation attacks are organized and under control and are focusing on mosques frequented by Salafi and Wahabi groups and not those of ordinary Sunnis.

Iraq the Model's late Wednesday afternoon post was, if anything, even more harrowing:

-President Talabani promises to make rebuilding the shrine his personal responsibility and to donate the required money from his own.

-Head of the Sunni endowment sheikh Ahmed al-Samarra'I announces that he will allocate 2 billion dinars (~1.4 million $) for the rebuilding of the shrine from the treasury of the Sunni endowment.

-Huge demonstrations in many of Iraq's provinces including Samarra and Mosul where thousands of people condemned the attack.

-The top 4 Shia Ayatollahs hold a meeting at Sistani's home to discuss the situation.

-The Association of Muslim scholars and the Islamic Party condemn the "criminal act".

-Retaliatory attacks on reportedly 29 Sunni mosques and the Accord Front warns from the consequences of such violent reactions.

-Jafari in a press conference calls for national unity and the leaders of the UIA hold a meeting. A press release is expected to come soon.

-The Iraqi TV opened the phone lines to receive the reactions of the audience to the attack and hosts Sunni clerics and politicians in an attempt to relieve the tension.

-Baghdad is in undeclared emergency situation, shops closed and streets nearly empty.

-Tight security around the shrine of Abu Haneefa in Aazamiya district of Baghdad, this is considered the top shrine/mosque for Sunni Muslims in Iraq.

-Masked gunmen attack Shia protestors in at least one neighborhood in western Baghdad and armed clashes in Ghazaliya and Hay al-A'amil.

One Pakistani cleric has said the the same forces who published the cartoons are behind the original bombing (tip to Tim Blair):

Allama Syed Sajid Ali Naqvi, said that the explosion in the shrine was carried out by the same people who supported the derogatory cartoons published in European newspapers.

"The strike is a continuation of the blasphemy on the holy family members of the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and a ploy to divert the attention of the Muslim world from the imperialist forces' diabolical designs against Islam."

This situation is bad enough, but if the attempts to blame the U.S. or the West succeed, things could get even worse.

Justin Kee (mail):
It is strikingly sad to watch Iraq disintegrate.
2.24.2006 2:47am
ADB:
It blows my mind how our own hubris led us to think we could really improve Iraqi lives through occupation and installation of a new democracy.

If anything, we should have learned that it wasn't force of arms that won the cold war. Levi's jeans, McDonald's and Starbucks have a much better chance of success.

If Iraq falls into civil war and our image continues to take a hit in the middle east, we will find ourselves with even fewer allies than we have today in the region (because it will be very unpopular for secular Arab governments to befriend and help us).
2.24.2006 3:45am
ADB:
Just wanted to change my post after reading more on the Iraq the Model blog to:

It blows my mind how our own hubris led us to think we could really improve Iraqi lives through occupation and quick installation of a new democracy.

If anything, we should have learned that it wasn't force of arms that won the cold war. Levi's jeans, McDonald's and Starbucks have a much better chance of success.


I hope that Iraq can survive this challenge. If Iraq falls into civil war and our image continues to take a hit in the middle east, we will find ourselves with even fewer allies than we have today in the region (because it will be very unpopular for secular Arab governments to befriend and help us).
2.24.2006 4:01am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
It is scary. I think that the WSJ article today adds a little more context. They point out that "Killing Shiites to foment civil war has been the explicit strategy of the Saddamists who dominate the insurgency and their jihadist allies like Abu Musab al Zarqawi", and, in particular, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has been a major ally here in quieting Shiite responses to this.
2.24.2006 4:16am
Medis:
As the WSJ also acknowledged, I'm more than a little concerned about how Sistani appeared to shift his response this time.

More broadly, it seems to me that even if this particular episode quiets down--and hopefully it is doing so already--this is an unfortunately useful roadmap for those in Iraq who do want to spark a civil war.
2.24.2006 7:15am
Walk It (mail):
Any chance, Jim, you might persuade your colleagues or those so inclined, that now would not be the time to gather publicly in DC marching around with pictures of Allah just to demonstrate their Free Speech?

Maybe all those concerned with Free Speech could spend that non-protest time with a good book instead, of their own choosing. Might add more overall.
2.24.2006 7:17am
Walk It (mail):
Also, you wrote:

"... the attempts to blame the U.S. or the West succeed, things could get even worse." I assume you mean direct responsibility for bombing the mosque.

Because, of course, the invasion and occupation have led to this civil strife in the streets, I hope we're not denying that.

America's actions, though well intentioned, have effectively destabilized a country. Those purple-finger pundits, well intentioned in pushing the benefits of democracy, better stick it out.
2.24.2006 7:23am
Ross Levatter (mail):
It's at times like these I recall the argument that, granted it turns out it was wrong to have gone in, we can't just pull out, as there would be chaos.
2.24.2006 8:27am
Bottomfish (mail):
There has of course been plenty of religiously based violence in the West, most of it associated with the Reformation in Europe and the wars that followed. I wonder if anyone can tell me if any cathedrals were destroyed in those times. I have not heard of such a thing.
2.24.2006 8:57am
Some Guy (mail):
It is strikingly sad to see how spineless many of today's youth have become. Thank God our colleges were still turning out men in the 40's, today's pansies would have left the world under the fascist boot.

The only way we win is if we display unshakable resolve to do right by the Iraqi people and every Arab who yearns for freedom. The only way we lose is if we allow the weak-sisters to convince us to turn tail and run.
2.24.2006 9:18am
Scaldis Noel:
Hopefully, things aren't quite as bad as they seem. This post from Power Line indicates that the mosque bombing may be backfiring on the culprits trying to start a civil war. Read especially the last couple lines of the post. Much will depend on the Shia and Sunni religious leaders efforts to convince the people that the blame lies with those trying to foment civil war.
2.24.2006 9:22am
Scaldis Noel:
Not sure why but the link didn't post, let's try it again.

2.24.2006 9:24am
Scaldis Noel:
Apparently something isn't working, so here is the url
http://powerlineblog.com/archives/013235.php
2.24.2006 9:25am
Ross Levatter (mail):
Some Guy (unfortunately many guys) says:

The only way we lose is if we allow the weak-sisters to convince us to turn tail and run.

Actually, the only way we lose is if we forget or ignore the wisdom of our founders, who spoke in favor of republics and against empires. Oh, wait...too late. We've already lost. Some guy just doesn't know it.
2.24.2006 9:47am
Houston Lawyer:
Since we've already lost this war, shouldn't we just impose Sharia here now and start stoning gays. 48 hours of bad news and the I Told You So's are back in full force. The right people in Iraq are saying the right things, working for calm. More than can be said for this string.
2.24.2006 10:00am
Walk It (mail):
"Since we've already lost this war..."

We haven't lost anything. The fight is just beginning.

Now is the time we see who are the summer soldiers, bandying about pretty purple fingers (ie, Buy My Book Reynolds), and the more realistic "I told you so" crowd, who understood all along the real color of war is red and black (blood and stumps).

Denial won't help the growing death counts. "Hopefully, things aren't quite as bad as they seem."
2.24.2006 10:16am
MDJD2B (mail):
There has of course been plenty of religiously based violence in the West, most of it associated with the Reformation in Europe and the wars that followed. I wonder if anyone can tell me if any cathedrals were destroyed in those times. I have not heard of such a thing.

The large churches in Amsterdam have clear glass windows and plain interiors. I was told when I visted them that the staied glass and the altars were removed during the Reformation. I also understand that England's monasteries (though not cathedrals) were destroyed during the Reformation.
2.24.2006 10:20am
Walk It (mail):
Heh. Reynolds is gonna ask one of his Marine buddies to review a book on Vietnam. He is tougher than he looks.

And Althouse is all about thongs and costumes in figure skating competition.

The Volokh crowd, meanwhile, is endorsing a "Support the Danish" social meetup.

Keep quiet now pundiddies (pundits and kiddies). Let the fighters do their jobs; remember to rub hand cream on your hands in this weather to keep your hands soft.

Heh!
2.24.2006 10:22am
pbswatcher (www):
2.24.2006 10:28am
frankcross (mail):
Houston Lawyer, Shari'a is the government of the people we put into power. Not the people we're fighting.
2.24.2006 10:34am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Hopefully this violence is just a massive pothole on the road to a democratic Iraq. Anger is flaring, but the motives for this attack are so transparent, to draw Iraqis into a civil war. Many leaders are saying the right things right now; let's hope cooler heads prevail. Hopefully the US presence there will help bring that conclusion about.

Some Guy calls for "unshakable resolve"; he overlooks the fact that the mistakes made in the way this war was conducted, and sold to the American people, has led 55 percent of Americans to call the war a mistake. The fact is that war opponents who called Iraq a Yugoslavia-in-the-making were right. Rhetorical flourishes haven't brought victory in Iraq. Simply calling for resolve and criticizing those who accurately predicted the difficulties in rebuilding Iraq is a recipe for failure.

Donald Rumsfeld has directed his staff to consider the possibility that our presence in Iraq is encouraging and creating more jihadis than it is deterring, preventing, and interdicting. That's an empirical question. We've been too driven by rhetoric and ideology in our conduct of this war; it's way past time to get serious about facts. Is our presence enhancing US security or not? Is our presence enhancing Iraqi democracy or detracting from it? Obviously our presence isn't solving all problems, but it's not clear that there are better options.
2.24.2006 10:43am
eddie (mail):
Mr. Walkit

Does it somehow make you feel more like a man to spout meaningless tripe concerning the ways of the world?

Do you really think that the U.S. army can bring the disparate parties of Iraq together to live in peace and harmony simply by staying the course. This is not some computer role playing game. This is the real world where the very presence of U.S. troops give one of the factions daily grist to whip up its followers. So do we win when all of those obvious "deadenders" are simply killed? Or perhaps simply cutting the entire population in half would quell the unrest?

What is the strategy, because simply carrying a big stick and grunting will not accomplish the task (or perhaps we should just find another thug like Saddam)?

Do you really believe the things you are saying or do they simply give you a sense of power in a world where such power is meaningless?

This is the twenty-first century and you sound like some vassal stuck in the middle ages.

I find this type of "rational" discussion disheartening on a site dedicated to law and logic.
2.24.2006 11:21am
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Bob Bostein:

[Some Guy] overlooks the fact that the mistakes made in the way this war was conducted, and sold to the American people, has led 55 percent of Americans to call the war a mistake.


Easy on the statistics there Bob. Even if 55% would agree with the blanket statement that the war was a "mistake," and you can count me among those 55%, there are many of us who feel that we must not cut and run just because we initially bungled the reconstruction strategy. Too much is at stake not to get this right.

Also Bob, is it really the way this war was "conducted, and sold to the American people," that leads to apparently widespread belief that it's a "mistake?" I tend to agree with - I think it was Some Guy - that we've turned largely into a country of sissies, with a professional fighting class that does the fighting - while the rest of us sip tea on the sidelines. If my peers (I'm 26) are any indication, most Americans today don't have the backbone for any war, winnable or not, right or wrong.
2.24.2006 11:24am
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Eddie:

I find this type of "rational" discussion disheartening on a site dedicated to law and logic.

Really? What I find disheartening is some pseudo-enlightened "worldly" pessimist, resorting to amateur psychoanalysis and personal insults, all in the guise of a serious debater. Well, Eddie, pardon us poor serfs, who are yet to achieve the state of enlightenment that you apparently possess.
2.24.2006 11:28am
Medis:
It is silly to talk about this issue in terms of "having resolve". The precise problem is that if Iraq descends into a full civil war, there is really very little we can "resolve" to do. Are we going to pick a side and help them win? No. Are we going to stick our troops in between the sides and hope they stop shooting? Also no. Basically, about all we could do is help patrol the borders, and maybe carve out some safe zones, and otherwise get out of the way.

And whether or not Iraq descends into a full civil war at this point is largely out of our hands as well. I hope that doesn't happen, but I really see nothing we can do to prevent it if the Iraqi people insist.
2.24.2006 11:50am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Hey Mike-- I agree, if 95% of people think it was a mistake, but it's still important, then we should do it. Just like the Marshall Plan, which initially had like 7% support or something. But the fact that 55% say the war was a mistake (have at the phrasing of the question if you like, but this still indicates a pretty substantial level of disapproval) suggests that simply urging "resolve" isn't cutting it among Americans anymore.

I also agree that our generation (I'm 27) is pretty wussy. But I also remember that pessimism about America (vis a vis Germany and Japan) was rampant 15 years ago; I'm not giving up on us yet.

As to why things are getting unpopular, look, we were told that this war would last months not years, that we would be greeted as liberators, that we had to fight this preemptive war because of an imminent WMD threat from Iraq, that we would turn the corner after this or that political development, and that the insurgency was in its final throes. None of these have been true. Also, those who made the decisions have been ideology-driven civilians, not experts on military affairs or nationbuilding.

I supported the war, and I support staying. But I don't support ignoring the reasons why things haven't gone as well as we expected-- or the reasons why our expectations were off to begin with.
2.24.2006 11:51am
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Oh, and btw, I'm not accusing the administration of "lying us into war" for oil profits or some such thing. I think they genuinely believed what they said. But they were mistaken. I also think a more sober, professional evaluation of the intelligence would have led to a different evaluation.
2.24.2006 12:03pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Bob, with respect to your last post, I couldn't agree more. If StratFor was right, and I think they were, we chose Iraw simply because we (a) needed a foothold and an example; and (b) of all the countries in the region, Iraq would be the easiest sell.

The mistake, as far as I'm concerned, was letting the Iraqi army walk of the field. Instead of making back-door deals with generals to take their soldiers home, we should have fought how wars are supposed to be fought - aggressively. It wouldn't have endeared us to Iraqi mothers and widows, but fighting soft may prove more cruel in the long run, and certainly less efficient.

When I was in the Army, I had a team leader with very formalistic views of the Geneva convention. He said - when you are overrunning the enemy, make sure you put two shots in him before, you step over his body, because after you step over it, he is a POW, if still alive. I hate to say it, but that would have been a better large scale strategy than the one we employed.
2.24.2006 12:08pm
DK:
Some Guy is also overlooking the fact that in the 30's and 40's before WWII hit, colleges were probably turning out the most pacifist generation of students ever. Sorry, you can make a lot of claims contrasting modern students to the "greatest generation," but blaming their colleges for a lack of manliness is not one of them.
2.24.2006 12:27pm
Steve:
The US as a whole was awfully isolationist leading up to WWII, in sharp contrast to the fortitude displayed both at home and on the home front once we got dragged into it.

The lack of resolve in our current situation might be attributed to a defect of national character, I suppose, but it might also be the fact that our cause in Iraq bears absolutely no resemblance to the stakes at issue in WWII.
2.24.2006 12:35pm
Colin:
Mike,

As an aside, three cheers for StratFor. I worked there as a (very) junior analyst about ten years ago, working on minor Asian political issues, and was deeply impressed by the quality of thought and sober analysis they produced. I certainly wish some of their analysts had been with the government before Iraq. Even more, I wish their culture of skepticism and clear thinking had been with the government before Iraq.
2.24.2006 12:45pm
Perseus (mail):
the government of the people we put into power.

That's the government that the Iraqi people voted into power, which is a distinction lost on Mr. Cross (and the bulk of my colleagues in the academy).
2.24.2006 1:45pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
There's an article and discussion on the topic of whether we should stay over at TNR.

Can't resist quoting two at length, not that I agree with all they say...

TNR has played the game of "how the Pentagon could be smarter and win" for too many years now. It's as if they believe the Pentagon might *actually get smarter and win* -- maybe by consuming magic beans, or being visited by the Ghost of Iraq Future. The plain fact is that the Bush Administration and the Pentagon are NOT paying attention to their past errors, they are NOT adjusting their failed strategies, and they are NOT going to reverse the slide of Iraq into chaos.


Another person writes:

Should American soldiers remain there while the Iraqis eventually come to terms within the inherent contradictions and divisions in their socitey? How many more American soldiers must die before this goal is achieved? My heart goes out to the American soldiers even though my mind tells me that enough is enough already. I am conflicted because I served as a medical corpsman in Vietnam before, during and after the Tet Offensive of 1968 in Vietnam. So I really know what the American soldiers must be feeling at this point in the occupation of Iraq. And like in Vietnam, they will continue to bring honor and pride to the civilians back home in America. I just can not envision some light at the end of the tunnel, as I could not when I served in Vietnam. And I would have to say that this conclusion brings no joy to my heart and mind.
2.24.2006 2:25pm
davod (mail):
I am with those who point out that every time there is a set back, and this one, the Chicken Little's come out running around in circles.

They little chickadees are out in force and they may be right. After all, sooner or later they have to get one right.

I prefer to look at every one of these setbacks as just another way of making Iraq stronger as a nation.

Those of you who bother to look past the headlines might see that there is a lot of Suuni/Shiite cooperation to stop the risng tensions. Shiites protecting Suuni Mosques and vice versa.

Those that defield the shrine may well rue the day they did it.

PS: My general comments also relate to the WOT and Afghanistan.
2.24.2006 4:51pm
Seamus (mail):

It is strikingly sad to see how spineless many of today's youth have become. Thank God our colleges were still turning out men in the 40's, today's pansies would have left the world under the fascist boot.



In the 1940s, as you may recall, those college grads didn't sign up to go smite our enemies until after Japan attacked us and Germany declared war on us. Before that happened, the products of our colleges (like the rest of the country) were pretty intent on staying out of the war.

If, on the other hand, the Iraqis had pulled a sneak attack on us (9/11 doesn't count, however, much the Bush Administration tried to pin that one on Saddam Hussein), I'm pretty sure those "pansies" would have been down at the recruiting offices just as eagerly as they were after December 7.
2.24.2006 4:51pm
davod (mail):
Steve:

I do not think we have a defect in national character so much as a dearth of objective information so people can make informed decisions.

How can you expect any other reaction if there is a constant drumbeat from the press and politicians that the war is wrong, Bush lied, and we have become the oppressors of the world.

Couple that with declaring any attempt to get an unbiased picture out to be propoganda and you have all the ingredients for a badly informed public.
2.24.2006 4:59pm
Bob Bobstein (mail):
Not that anyone's still reading down here, but I wrote above that I didn't think the administration had lied us into war, rather that they had taken a too loose, undisciplined approach to intelligence.

Well, maybe I was mistaken.

From DoD staffer Stephen Cambone's notes from meetings with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, re attacking Saddam.


"Go massive . . . Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

Several lines below the "judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. at same time" line, Cambone's notes from the conversation read: "Hard to get a good case."
2.25.2006 10:36am