Saturday, January 08, 2011

Moqtada al-Sadr advocates violence in speech

Roy Gutman and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) state that "Muqtqada al Sadr called on his followers Saturday to abandon the use of violence" -- but he did no such thing. If Isaac Newton were a modern-day reporter can you imagine the trouble the whole earth would be in right now. You get Nouri stating that the SOFA stands UNLESS Parliament pushes for a new agreement. Sam Dagher and Kelly McEvers run with that claiming that Nouri said the SOFA stands and leaving out the "unless." Moqtada al-Sadr calls on Iraqis not to attack one another but to instead focus their anger and violence on Americans and Gutman and Hammoudi are calling that a cry "to abandon the use of violence". Again, what kind of world would we be living in today if Isaac Newton were a modern-day reporter?

In his report of the speech, Jim Muir (BBC News -- video) observed that "he said the resistance goes on by whatever means and so on." (For a text report by Muir, click here.) Here's Aaron C. Davis (Washington Post): "His followers, he said, must continue to focus on fiercely resisting the United States, but perhaps also targeting their own government if it cannot restore services or security and hold to a timeline for a full U.S. military withdrawal by the end of 2011." Does that sound like the end of violence? No, it does not. And here's Ned Parker, Saad Fakhrildeen and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times):

Sadr once more sounded the call of war against U.S. forces, and was answered back with a hearty, "Down, down, America!" But if before he encouraged violence, many would say recklessly, now he weighed his every word, emphasizing the need for discipline.
"Resistance, yes, resistance, but not everyone will carry weapons," he told the crowd. "Only those qualified will carry weapons."

Anthony Shadid files a strong report for the New York Times

Mr. Sadr's challenge now is to reshape a powerful street movement into a political one, and to reconcile its self-image as the permanent face of opposition even as its ministers and deputies fill the government.
In his 28-minute address, delivered in a warren of streets near his home in this sacred city, Mr. Sadr sought to have it both ways, calling for the expulsion of American troops but allowing time for a withdrawal, and offering support for a new government but conditional on its effectiveness.
"We are with it, not against it," he said, speaking forcefully and deliberately, with a confidence he once lacked. "The government is new, and we have to open the way for it to prove it will serve Iraq's people."

Jason Ditz ( notes that the speech's end may not have been its intended ending, "It appears however that the crowd was a bit too much to handle for the cleric, and as the cheers and chanting grew more and more raucous, the cleric made a final call for the release of Mahdi Army detainees from Iraqi prison and abruptly left. Some reports suggest that was not designed to be the end of the speech but that the cleric decided to end early to avoid riling up the crowd even more." AP's report notes that the US Embassy in Baghdad has stated the speech was "nothing new."

What would be really good right about now would be some sort of analysis. Moqtada al-Sadr has people in his movement, in leadership, who have been leading and aren't thrilled he's now present in the flesh. His movement includes people who do not agree with renouncing violence against other Iraqis. His movement includes people who feel that their families were targeted and Moqtada al-Sadr did nothing about it. (Or did nothing about it until he was ready to return to Iraq.) There are some who have lived with the ideal of Moqtada as opposed to the reality they'll now be present with. The strongest rallying point for him in the last five years was in 2008 when he decried the assault on Basra and Sadr City. Equally true, any manager or leader used to issuing orders from afar has to readjust once he's no longer at a distance from those he or she supervises.

And, equally true, though the Najaf appaerance Wednesday was an attempt to soothe relations, he and al-Sistani are still not close and, especially with al-Sistani's advanced age, there are a number who might feel they were next in line when al-Sistani passes and look to the non-Ayatollah al-Sadr as someone dashing back into the country to usurp what should be the natural chain of order among the religious clerics.

Those are only some of the variables at play -- and we've ignored Nouri and Ayad Allawi's variables with al-Sadr but they do exist -- but the print press really isn't providing analysis at this point. Hopefully several columns -- either by their own reporters or by outsiders -- will be written and published next week. And before someone e-mails a bad analysis by a wire service, that's not the kind of analysis I'm talking about. Like the reporting, it treats Moqtada al-Sadr as a rock star. Daily reporting can be influenced by the crowds and the throngs. That's understood. But everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Moqtada al-Sadr's -- especially if he's as important as the press is making him out to be -- need to be analyzed. The wire service piece presumes that the hype is true -- a sign of a shoddy mind. Any real analysis questions all premises and only accepts as factual actual facts.

Reuters notes an Abu Ghraib roadside bombing which injured eight people,
a Khan Bani Saad roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another injured, a Baquba bombing which claimed the life of 1 woman "and her four-year-old nephew," 1 police officer was shot dead in Taji and, dropping back to Thursday night, 1 Ministry of Health employee was shot dead in Baghdad. Press TV notes a Diyala Province chicken coop bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi children and, dropping back to Friday for both that follow, a Dhi Qar car bombing claimed the lives of 2 men and a bombing at a military checkpoint wounded one Iraqi soldier.

Meanwhile, AP reports, "Joseph Daniel Rios has been listed as AWOL by his unit at Fort Riley in Kansas since November 2008. He contacted The Associated Press through e-mail from South America to tell his story and his desire to return to Kansas to face his punishment." Jeff Hanks went AWOL when the military failed to provide treatment for his PTSD and turned himself in on Veteran's Day. CBS News reports that he's been order to deploy to Afghanistan in the coming days and he states he feels he has no choice but to deploy (despite suffering from PTSD). CBS News notes these two previous reports they've done on Jeff Hanks:

AWOL Soldier Returns on Veterans Day
Army Reports Record Number of Suicides

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