Saturday, November 20, 2004

Here come the madmen

Here come the madmen, they're too excited for atoning
"Burn the mosque" they're shouting, "Burn it down!"
-- "Share the End" words & music by Carly Simon & Jacob Brackman

As if the actions in Falluja weren't enough, today's New York Times reports that:

American and Iraqi troops raided a prominent Sunni mosque in Baghdad on Friday, killing at least three Iraqis in an opertation that may have been aimed at a cleric said to have incited insurgent violence.

The story's tucked inside on page A7 as opposed to on the front page where one would think it belongs. Guess "At Penn State, Concerns Grow Over a Fading Football Legend" among other front page stories impacts our lives more?

Common sense dictates that this is a front page story. Common sense also asks what's being accomplished other than enraging people? Raiding mosques as a way to spread democracy (the stated goal for staying in Iraq)?

The Times' "G.I.'s and Iraqis Raid Mosque, Killing 3" goes on to note:

At the mosque, called Abu Hanifa, blood was splattered on the floor after what witnesses described as a chaotic raid in which Iraqis soldiers opened fire after becoming involved in a melee with enraged worshipers.

Dahr Jamail goes a little deeper than the Times' James Glanz & Richard A. Oppel Jr. , he adds perspective and the kind of details that are missing from the Times' report:

Abu Talat calls me frantic. The deafening roar of hundreds of people in a confined area yelling, “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest) reverberate behind his panicked voice.
“I am being held at gunpoint by American soldiers inside Abu Hanifa mosque Dahr,” he yells, “Everyone is praying to God because the Americans are raiding our mosque during Friday prayer!”
He makes short calls, updating me on the atrocity. After a few sentences of information he hangs up because he is trapped inside the mosque and trying to let me know what is happening. Being Friday, the day of prayer and holiday, this was supposed to be an off day for us.

The stated reason for these actions is to prepare Iraq for January elections. You don't have to be a middle east expert or someone who's followed every event since we invaded to wonder how actions in Falluja or Baghdad or elsewhere are going to calm things down for elections in two months. You only need to use some common sense. You're worshipping in the place of your choice and suddenly, as you pray, you're under attack? Is this spreading hope, goodwill? Or is it further inflaming tensions?

The administration wanted this war. But they've yet to demonstrate that they want peace. The situation grows ever more deadly for Iraqis as well as for U.S. troops on the ground. Does the administration have any kind of a plan?

Or are we left with only planned chaos as Naomi Klein argued so well in her piece "Baghdad Year Zero" ( )?

This is Bush's war. He initiated it and now he needs to figure out how he's going to end it. Attacking mosques, denying people the basic things they need (such as clean water), destroying homes -- none of those things are winning hearts and minds.

And yet today's Times tells us, via their choice for front page stories, that whether or not Joe Paterno steps down as head coach of Penn State is a more pressing concern than what happens in Iraq. I can think of two things missing from the editorial choice the Times made today, perspective and common sense.