"Basra uprising beats occupiers"
by Simon Assaf
The mass revolt that broke out across Iraq last week has exposed the hollow claim that the occupation has won a "strategic victory" in Iraq.
The Iraqi army launched an assault on Basra that claimed to be an effort to deal with the presence of "criminal gangs", but which was in reality an attempt to crush the popular resistance to occupation.
In an angry response to the army, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets.
The US and Britain had invested heavily in the belief that Iraqi troops could police the country on their behalf while they slowly draw down their own troops. George Bush declared the assault a "defining moment" for his "surge" strategy.
But many Iraqi soldiers and police refused to fight, while others retreated or defected to the rebels.
Now Britain's defence minister Des Browne has ripped up plans to cut the number of British troops in southern Iraq.
The revolt began when Iraq’s prime minister Nuri al-Maliki attempted to seize control of the oil rich city of Basra from the Mehdi Army, a popular nationalist movement led by rebel Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
The leader of Iraq’s main oil workers' union Hassan Juma relayed a message to Socialist Worker which explained how whenever Iraqi troops attempted to move into Basra’s poor neighbourhoods, they met determined resistance.
"The Iraqi army assault began with intense shelling and fire from all sorts of weapons," the message states.
"The heroic neighbourhood of Hayania prevented the puppet Iraqi army from entering the city."
British troops had been training Iraqi forces for the decisive showdown with the rebels who had driven the British out of the city six months ago. This strategy has now fallen apart.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in mass demonstrations – taking control of the southern cities of Nassiriya, Kut, Hilla, Diwaniya, Ammara, Kerbala and Shia Muslim neighbourhoods of Baghdad.
The Sunni Muslim resistance organisations also declared their support for the rebellion -- overcoming the crippling sectarian divisions that have plagued the country for the last two years.
In a statement the Association of Muslim Scholars, the mouthpiece for the predominantly Sunni resistance organisations, called for "all Iraqis to show unity and solidarity and prevent the threats against the people who oppose the occupation".
By last Saturday the assault on Basra had stalled, with a large part of the city under the control of the resistance. The occupation responded with ferocious attacks.
Coalition warplanes killed scores of people in the cities of Hit and Basra, while US troops fired artillery barrages into Baghdad’s poor neighbourhoods in a desperate attempt to cover the Iraqi army's rout.
Finally, with the Maliki government facing humiliation, Iraqi officials brokered a truce with the help of Iranian officials.
On Sunday the government offered to stop their raids and release some of the captured fighters if Sadr ordered an end to the revolt. The government dropped all demands that rebels hand over their weapons. Later that evening Sadr instructed his commanders to withdraw from the streets.
This latest uprising comes after Sadr ordered a ceasefire last August.
He argued that a key element of the US surge was to "disarm the militias" -- a thinly veiled threat against his movement -- and feared a direct confrontation would see a repeat of the murderous attacks by US warplanes on the densely crowded neighbourhoods already visited upon the country.
Although the truce has thrown a lifeline to a government that had staked its credibility on crushing the resistance, the uprising has revealed the depth of anger at the occupation.
Izzat al-Shahbander, a pro-occupation Iraqi MP, admitted to the Reuters news agency, "What has happened has weakened the government and shown the weakness of the state. Now the capability of the state to control Iraq is open to question.'"
This is not exactly the "decisive moment" that George Bush had hoped for.
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Thank you to Pru for reminding me (in the roundtable for the gina & krista round-robin tonight) that I never used her highlight Sunday. My apologies. She's substituted this one for Sunday's choice. This is talking entry. And we're going to address a few Iraq topics that are coming up in the e-mails to the public account.
There are two threads of thought from visitors: "You're supporting Moqtada al-Sadr!" and "Why won't you support Moqtada al-Sadr!" I don't know al-Sadr. I have no reason to support him or oppose him.
Since at least September, I have made the observation that a leader doesn't move away from the people especially when they feel they are under seige. That's basic revolution, rebellion and resistance in any Poli Sci class. You may not like it but it's neither an attack on al-Sadr nor an endorsement of him, just the way it works.
By not being in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad when so many of his followers felt they were under assault, he was weaking his power position. Again, this is basic political theory. This wasn't a case of a revolutionary heading for the hills because they were under personal attack and threat. This was a case of his deciding to pursue his studies. If you feel the US occupation is making you and your neighbors a victim, then you're going to be very offended your leader is choosing not to be around. As a result of that, his hold was weakening.
The US government didn't have to do a thing (if their objective was to take away al-Sadr's power -- and that has been their stated objective). al-Sadr was throwing his leadership away all by himself. If you're house is being raided, you're really not in the mood to go to your mosque and hear an edict read from your leader who has decided to pursue other activities while you're left in the midst of the occupation. It breeds resenment and it leads to others asserting themselves as leaders.
Renewing the truce found al-Sadr residents going public with their complaints. Not surprising complaints and political theory would have told you those were coming. Ignoring the trouble brewing al-Sadr remained outside Baghdad. That only added to the resentments. (Think of the US being occupied and our leaders deciding to go elsewhere.)
The assault on Basra was a crime against humanity. But, in terms of basic theory, it was a huge mistake the moment it started because, with the US wanting to strip al-Sadr of his power, you don't create an opportunity for him to empower himself. al-Sadr, for whatever reason, elected to stand up as the assault was going on. The minute that happened, he had more power than he ever did before. Forget earlier times when he stood up. The Iraq War is over five years old and what Iraqis see is accommodation on the part of their 'leadership.' So al-Sadr standing up at that moment was heroic in the eyes of many.
That's why you saw the massive demonstrations take place. Basra revealed al-Maliki to be even more inept than most thought he was. (The assault was a war crime. That's not in dispute by me. I'm speaking of the messages sent worldwide and within Iraq by his actions throughout the war crimes.) His claims that he had won only made him a bigger joke.
I'm not aware of a large number of members of the US Congress who praise al-Maliki. Those objecting to comments quoted hear from hearings need to take that up with the Senator or Representative who uttered them.
In terms of the hearings this week. The point is for Congress to set down a framework within which the realities of Iraq can be measured. They didn't do that in September. It's why Operation Happy Talk was so successful. They also need to be doing their own research so that they're not just saying, "Well get back to me with that information." They need to be prepared to challenge and back up their challenges when Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker testify.
That is what Joe Biden's hearings (yesterday and today) have been about and that is what US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's press conference was supposed to be about today.
An angry vistor writes that I ripped Pelosi apart for no reason and was gunning for her before the press conference. Actually, I assumed Pelosi would have her act together for this and that I wouldn't be offering any negative critique.
That she didn't was appalling. Her remarks (prepared) delivered were lackluster (in their delivery). Her spontaneous remarks were unneeded (and if you're going to dash in to say thank you or introduce one person, you do it for all). The Q&A was awful.
Rahm Emanuel doesn't usually get praise from me at this site (I honestly believe that was the first time I've praised him here) but he salvaged the Q&A. He couldn't save it because too much damage had been done. But he salvaged it. She should be very glad he rushed to the microphone when he did.
Pelosi's eyes darted everywhere and the simplest question (on topic) seemed to throw her. She would issue a statement and then try to backtrack (another sign that she was neither focused nor prepared). It was embarrassing.
This was hoped to be the moment of the morning that would shape the day's coverage. You can't wing that. She was ill prepared and it showed.
As noted in the snapshot, she early on noted that she was only going to discuss the topic at hand (as she should have). But right after saying that, she starts offering additional remarks. And she did that over and over. By the time everyone else had exited, she was gabbing about her trip to India. She was defocused.
She shouldn't have taken the question on a Senate proposal that had nothing to do with Iraq. What's being quoted is her backtracking. She made a statement and then she offered the quote apparently because she thought her initial refusal might appear harsh. The topic was Iraq. It's not harsh to say, "We're hear to talk about Iraq." It's not harsh to say, "I'll be happy to meet with you at another time for a discussion of other issues but this morning we are focusing on Iraq." It's not rude to call an end (someone should have) to the meandering Q&A by saying, "If no one else has a question regarding Iraq . . ."
Instead, she's meandering off about her trip to India. And the reporters faces during that was priceless.
As bad as that was, she then made it even worse.
The purpose was to create a framework for Iraq. Nothing else should detract from that. If the hottie of the week had said, "I want to stand next to Nancy," he should have been turned down because it would be "____ at press conference!" in the coverage. You do nothing to detract from Iraq. You give nothing but Iraq so that those at the press conference have the option of either ignoring it (as many did) or else writing about it.
You certainly do not take it to a water cooler topic. But Nancy Pelosi did just that. She wasn't asked her opinion on super delegates in the press conference. But suddenly, with a look of inspiration flashing across her face, she brings that up. As study after study has shown, the election is getting more attention than Iraq. The last topic she needed to go to was the election.
But she did. And she needs to be asking herself what the purpose of the press conference was and how she thinks she served that purpose.
This isn't All About Nancy. This is about, day after day, laying down a framework by which to evaluate the escalation. Pelosi blew it. And she wasn't even asked the question. She volunteered it, at the end, and it's what most reporters were talking about after. Naturally because it's a water cooler topic, one that lends itself easy to gas baggery.
You don't do that. Think of what's going on as promotion (if you're not grasping that purpose of laying down a framework). If you're promoting something, that's what you work. You work it over and over. You don't bring up other projects or products. You stick with what you're supposed to be promoting. You have no control over whether anyone will report on it. But if you introduce a new element (super delegates) into the proceedings, you are giving them every reason not to write about it and instead run with "Pelosi Weighs In On Super Delegates!"
It was a huge mistake. It was unprofessional, it was uncalled for, it was embarrassing and it was a slap in the face to all the members of Congress who are attempting to create an environment in which Iraq can be properly evaluated.
The illegal war needs to end and that's not going to come about by Nancy Pelosi talking about her trip to India or offering her opinion on the election. In terms of the Democratic Party itself, it is to its own interest that it be seen as trying to address Iraq. They disappointed a lot of voters after the 2006 election. They need to make it very clear that the war can end now if the White House wasn't stubborn. They need to do that for the 2008 elections.
So Pelosi failed Congress and she failed her own party.
Did she fail the country? I don't think so because I'm not expecting the illegal war to end this year. (It needs to but I don't think that's happening.) But considering all the work that so many others in Congress are doing, the only evaluation for her performance is failure.
Again, Rahm Emanuel salvaged the press conference. Had he stayed until the end, he might have salvaged her outburst (super delegates). But he's not Pelosi's minder. It's a sad thing that she needs one; however, after today, she probably shouldn't be doing press conferences if she can't do the intensive and extensive prep-work needed beforehand.
The hearing Joe Biden chaired today (Senate Foreign Affairs Committee) was an academic excercise and I'm not really sure it served the purpose all that well either. But it didn't undercut it. Yesterday's hearings were important. Congress was hearing from and weighing the importance of withdrawal.
One visitor e-mails that this was undercut with today's hearing that called for US occupation through 2012. That's your opinion but I didn't hear cries (from witnesses or Senators) that the US had to stay until 2012. It was more like a symposium on where Iraq might be in 2012. The witnesses were largely weak and too many had their own pet issues to push which is how you got predictions passed off as realities. (Again, one witness used "might" repeatedly. All should have followed his lead but some had pet issues to push and went with that instead of sticking to the topic.)
One feels it was unfair to dismiss one witness (my dismissal) and my reply to that is don't waste my time making me take notes if at the end of the hearing you're going to state that your opinion is now different and not elaborate on that. You've just taken the eraser to the chalkboard and there's really no point in including anything you said. (Equally true, nothing she said was of any value. Even before she chose to delete it.)
It was an academic exercise and not as focused as yesterday's hearings were. It did keep Iraq on the radar and, since that is the point of what Congress is currently doing, it was a success.
Pelosi was a failure. She failed at that aim because she couldn't stay focused on it and then she went to a "hot topic" (with no prompting from the press) that was most likely to be the pull quote from the entire press conference -- one that had NOTHING to do with Iraq. She failed. She was an embarrassment.
Jess and I discussed one visitor's e-mail and it'll be addressed in this entry. The visitor was offended that all the candidates are not mentioned and meant Cynthia McKinney. McKinney gets plenty of coverage at this and other sites. For what she's doing, she probably gets too much.
Ralph Nader actually gets less coverage than he's earned and that's due to the fact that he and Cynthia may end up in competition. He is not running for the Green Party's national endorsement; however, he may get the endorsement from some state Green Party's. (He may not.) But Nader is running more of a campaign than McKinney is at this point.
With some Dem candidates, such as Mike Gravel, they appeared to believe the press was supposed to come them. That the press was supposed to pick up the phone every time they filed a Democratic Party primary story. Gravel ran a bad campaign (hopefully he'll improve now that he's running for another party's nomination). You have to do something, anything, daily. You have to issue statements. It's not enough that you're running. Dennis Kucinich understood that and that's one reason he was so easy to cover when he was in the race. It was a rare weekday when his campaign didn't offer something. Go to Cynthia's website and you'll find weeks where one thing is offered. You'll find the week of the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War where they're offering up that she gave a speech on Venezuela. That's no way to run a campaign. Maybe someone thought it was "alternative programming"?
In fairness, the Green Party will decide their nominee via delegates since they don't have primaries or caucuses in every state. But in terms of creating daily excitement, her campaign's not doing that currently. Her supporters are excited. She'd make a wonderful nominee. But right now, she's really not offering anything online. And, as stated earlier, Nader's getting short changed here as a result. That's not going to continue. We won't wait for the McKinney campaign to have something to offer up before we can note Nader in the future.
If you're offended by that, take it up with the McKinney campaign and tell them they need to be a presence because right now they really aren't.
As everyone now knows, I don't like Dennis Kucinich as a presidential candidate and didn't before he declared. But he ran a campaign and he got noted, more so than any other Democratic candidate up until Iowa. It wasn't about my playing favorites. By the same token, Ralph Nader getting noted won't be about my playing favorites of him over Cynthia McKinney. Either would make a strong president. But one's running a campaign right now and the other's not. You can argue that McKinney's doing this or that. Well after the New York Times reports (last week) that even big dailys are not sending reporters on the campaign trail with Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama (the cost is $2,000 a day to travel with Obama), candidates better grasp that they need to use their websites the same way they would a campaign office. Nader's site is far from perfect but there is an understanding that you don't ask people to fight for you every day and just offer them something once a week. Third Party candidates, shut out by the media, especially need to use their own outlets to regularly keep in touch with voters.
Cynthia McKinney may not be concerned with that. If so, it may be due to the fact that the party holds their convention in July and she's taking time to focus on other things. But it is a mistake because she has a large number of supporters (in this community and out of it) who are eager for information on a daily basis.
She is also a strong voice on Iraq and you really don't grasp that from a casual visit to her website. She has the record Barack wishes he did. That point should be stressed at her website over and over.
It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goesNa na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)
Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4004. Tonight? 4013. Just Foreign Policy lists 1,196,514 up from 1,193,619 as the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the Iraq War.
Congress isn't trying to end the illegal war this week, they are trying to set up criteria by which to judge events in Iraq. Nancy Pelosi offering her views on super delegates isn't helping anyone. She needs to stop pimping her candidate and start doing her doing damn job. She's Speaker of the House, not the director of the Obama Campaign. If Obama's campaign is taxing her so much, she might need to step down (a question she took with regards to others and the cost for new elections). If she's not prepared to be Speaker of the House all this time later, she needs to step down. She pulls another stunt like today, Democrats need to call for her to step down. She pushed her candidate, she pushed her trip to India. That wasn't the issue Dems were supposed to be focusing in the press conference.
And her defocusing brings the illegal war no closer to an end.
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i hate the war