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January 15, 2007

OT 07-006

News & views ... an open thread

Posted by b on January 15, 2007 at 6:50 UTC | Permalink

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Guardian: Next target Tehran

The evidence is building up that President Bush plans to add war on Iran to his triumphs in Iraq and Afghanistan - and there is every sign, to judge by his extraordinary warmongering speech in Plymouth on Friday, that Tony Blair would be keen to join him if he were still in a position to commit British forces to the field.

"There's a strong sense in the upper echelons of the White House that Iran is going to surface relatively quickly as a major issue - in the country and the world - in a very acute way," said NBC TV's Tim Russert after meeting the president. This is borne out by the fact that Bush has sent forces to the Gulf that are irrelevant to fighting the Iraqi insurgents. These include Patriot anti-missile missiles, an aircraft carrier, and cruise-missile-firing ships.
...
Donald Rumsfeld and the AEI have developed a strategy for regime change in Iran that does not involve a ground invasion. Weapons of mass destruction will provide the rationale for military action, though it won't be limited to attacks on a few weapons factories. It will include limiting Iranian retaliatory capability, using bombers to destroy up to 10,000 targets in the first day of any war, and special forces flying in to destroy anything that's left.

In the aftermath, the US will support regime change, hoping to replace the ayatollahs with an Iran of the regions. The US and British governments now support a coalition of groups seeking a federal Iran. This may be another neocon delusion, but that may not be the point. Making Tehran concentrate on internal problems leaves it unable to act elsewhere.
...


Posted by: b | Jan 15 2007 9:40 utc | 1

"regime change in Iran that does not involve a ground invasion"
Since when do insane ignorant morons make foreign and military policies?
And crippling Iranian defense and military will be of much help when tens of thousands of Iraqis will assualt US bases and supply lines. Yeah, it'll be of great help, without any doubt.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Jan 15 2007 9:58 utc | 2

Pat Lang War Against the Boogey Men

After watching the Sunday newsies with clips of Bush, Cheney on camera and Hadley the functionary, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that we, Americans are chasing phantoms in the world, phantoms carefully cultivated in a surfeit of seminars and an excess of Jungian memory.
...
"Freedom" and "Islamic Fascism" clearly have "special" meanings here. I say that "freedom" as the bushies use the term is code and really means westernization and "globalization" in the sense that we want to see the world "ironed out" flat so the it meets the egregious Friedman's dream of a homogeneous world. "Islamic Fascism" means, I think, simply "Islam." That is, Islam as it has been understod by millennia of Muslims. That is, as an all encompassing view of the world and man's relationship to God. "Ah, but these are not real Muslims," I can hear the outcry now. Rubbish. We non-Muslims can not dictate to any particular group of Muslms what Islam means to them. We want an Islam similar in its role in life to the emasculated role that Christianity plays for most Americans in their lives? Sorry! We do not get to choose for them.
...

Posted by: b | Jan 15 2007 11:09 utc | 3

"Exaggerated" ...

Halutz: Talk of imminent war with Syria is 'exaggerated'

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz on Sunday dismissed speculations of an imminent war with Syria as "premature and exaggerated," Army Radio reported.

When asked to comment at the weekly cabinet meeting on reports indicating the possibility of a war this summer, Halutz said "we are always preparing," but added, "The Syrians have also heard these comments. Sometimes speculation can bring about consequences that nobody wants."

The timing, this summer, is no coincidence ...

Posted by: b | Jan 15 2007 12:59 utc | 4

Tomgram: Klare, The Pentagon as an Energy-Protection Racket

Today, Michael Klare, an expert on resource wars and the author of the indispensable Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum, offers a startling vision of the grim energy future that the Pentagon is actually helping to create -- as well as the ruthless scrambles for energy resources, the Great Power energy races, and the kind of Big Brotherhood that may lie in our near future. This is the first of a major two-part Tomdispatch series on the possible emergence of a new phenomenon in our world that Klare dubs "Energo-fascism."

Posted by: b real | Jan 15 2007 16:42 utc | 5

secrecynews: Army Establishes Psyops Branch

"Effective 16 October 2006, Psychological Operations was established as a basic branch of the Army, pursuant to the authority of Section 3063(a)(13), Title 10, United States Code."

That is the substance of General Order 30 (pdf) issued by Secretary of the Army Francis J. Harvey on January 12, 2007.

According to the Department of Defense Dictionary (JP 1-02), psychological operations are defined as "planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. The purpose of psychological operations is to induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to the originator's objectives. Also called PSYOP."

Posted by: b real | Jan 15 2007 16:52 utc | 6

Guardian: Six Planned Suicide Bombing (in London)

The timing of the release of this story (which apparently occurred in JULY 2005) is beyond suspicious -- it is ludicrous. I am linking to the cover page, not the story itself, so you can also see the parade of faces that accompanies it... so reminiscent of the photos of the 9/11 hijackers...

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. - Roosevelt
The only thing we have is fear. - Billmon, parroting Pres. George Bush.

Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me.

How many times will they resort to the same tired tricks to stir up Islamophobia and justify their heinous and ignoble aggressions?

Posted by: Bea | Jan 15 2007 18:03 utc | 7

The McClatchy (ex KnightRidder)folks deserve a price for their straight reporting:

Administration leaving out important details on Iraq

President Bush and his aides, explaining their reasons for sending more American troops to Iraq, are offering an incomplete, oversimplified and possibly untrue version of events there that raises new questions about the accuracy of the administration's statements about Iraq.
...
That version of events helps to justify Bush's "new way forward" in Iraq, in which U.S. forces will largely target Sunni insurgents and leave it to Iraq's U.S.-backed Shiite government to - perhaps - disarm its allies in Shiite militias and death squads.

But the president's account understates by at least 15 months when Shiite death squads began targeting Sunni politicians and clerics. It also ignores the role that Iranian-backed Shiite groups had in death squad activities prior to the Samarra bombing.

Blaming the start of sectarian violence in Iraq on the Golden Dome bombing risks policy errors because it underestimates the depth of sectarian hatred in Iraq and overlooks the conflict's root causes. The Bush account also fails to acknowledge that Iranian-backed Iraqi Shiite groups stoked the conflict.
...
Much like the administration's pre-war claims about Saddam's alleged ties to al-Qaida and purported nuclear weapons program, the claims about the bombing of the Shiite mosque in Samarra ignore inconvenient facts and highlight questionable but politically useful assumptions.
...
Beginning in 2002, the administration's case for a pre-emptive war in Iraq was plagued by similar oversights, oversimplifications, misjudgments and misinformation. Unlike the administration's claims about the Samarra bombing, however, much of that information was peddled by Iraqi exiles and defectors and accepted by some eager officials and journalists.
...
The administration has continued to offer inaccurate information to Congress, the American people and sometimes to itself. The Iraq Study Group, in its December report, concluded, for example, that the U.S. military was systematically under-reporting the violence in Iraq in an effort to disguise policy failings. The group recommended that the military change its reporting system.

Whether many of the administration's statements about Iraq for nearly five years have been deliberately misleading or honest but gullible mistakes hasn't been determined. The Senate Intelligence Committee has yet to complete an investigation into the issue that was begun but stalled when Republicans controlled the committee.

Posted by: b | Jan 15 2007 18:10 utc | 8

For the records: Iran says pressing ahead with expanded enrichment

A senior diplomat familiar with
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections in Iran said on Monday there was no evidence yet Tehran had started centrifuge installation in the cavernous underground section of the Natanz enrichment complex, but said there were indications this could begin in a few days.
...
Iran already operates two experimental cascades of 164 centrifuges, which spin at supersonic speeds to purify uranium.

Another senior diplomat versed in the operations of the IAEA, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, said Tehran still appeared to be both feeding uranium into these centrifuges, enriching token amounts, and test-running them empty, a pattern prevailing for some months.
...
Senior IAEA inspectors went to Natanz last week for a fresh look at both the above-ground research wing and the underground hall and were expected to return to Vienna later this week.

The diplomat said the inspectors did not expect to find any change in operations in the experimental section.

"At last report, they had not yet installed piping and casing in the (underground section) required to put in the centrifuges, so we will now see how far along they are with preparations," he said.

But diplomats close to the IAEA said Iran looked unlikely to bring on line 3,000 centrifuges by its announced deadline of March 20, the end of the Iranian year. "It will probably take some months yet," the second senior diplomat said.

Diplomats said the pace of enrichment at Natanz still seemed slow and cited several possible reasons -- technical problems; political second thoughts after moderates counseling nuclear restraint did well in nationwide elections against hardliners close to Ahmadinejad; or a secret plant where Tehran had already mastered the process -- there is no known intelligence information to suggest that.

Iran has struggled to get centrifuges to run smoothly. Fifty of them blew up during testing last April when their power supply regulator malfunctioned, atomic energy organization chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh was quoted as saying by local media.
...
Iran has a plan to build 20 nuclear power plants and says it wants to make the low-enriched fuel itself, rather than rely on imports. Its first atomic plant is being built with Russian help.

"We need to produce fuel on an industrial scale for those power plants," Elham said.

Posted by: b | Jan 15 2007 20:17 utc | 9

If the Iranians are serious about atomic power as a hedge against the eventual depletion of their fossile fuel resources, they would be fools not to have access to preparing the fuel for reactors themselves. As I understand it, the fuel for the reactors they have and plan to build use enriched uranium. Do they have plans for heavy water reactors (which produce plutonium)?

If I recall rightly, enriched uranium is extracted through cascades of centrifuges making use of the fact that the more fissile istope U235 is lighter than the much more stable U238.

There has to be a cascade because what is being done is like unto fractional distillation or fractional crystalisation.

Reactor grade uranium is a far cry from weapons grade which requires a much higher grade of refinement -- and more centrifuges. Furthermore, an uranium bomb is a rather more tricky gadget than a plutonium bomb -- that's why they didn't bother to test the Little Boy design but tried out the Fat Boy design on July 16, 1945 -- they couldn't be sure damn thing would work.

My guess, based on my tremendous ignorance, is that if the prime objective of the Iranian nuclear program was to make the Bomb, they have not chosen the most cost effective program. This doesn't mean that they haven't seen that their program could give then the material for a couple of "Fat Boys", but can hardly be the main goal.

Therefore, the hysteria about the threat of Iran's nuclear threat is being foamed up for other reasons, objectives and goals.

All that said, nuclear powered production of energy is not cost effective enviromentally, not in the long run.

Posted by: Chuck Cliff | Jan 15 2007 21:01 utc | 10

"There's a strong sense in the upper echelons of the White House that Iran is going to surface relatively quickly as a major issue - in the country and the world - in a very acute way," said NBC TV's Tim Russert after meeting the president.

JesusH-, isn't there a padded room @St. Elizabeths, down the hall from where they stash John Hinkley for safe keeping, that the Secret Service could sequester these clowns for the safe keeping of the Republic?

I stopped by to post link to Mike Klare's always impt. piece, only to discover that happily b real was on top of it. But I'm really having trouble reading this stuff anymore... Pain, fear, despair, incredulity...etc. are overtaking me.

P.S. Does everyone around here (Americans at least, but perhaps Eurobarflies as well) have a few weeks stash of food just in case? Or am I being goofy thinking maybe I should stock up.

Posted by: jj | Jan 16 2007 1:05 utc | 11

The Iran thread seemed a bit old, so I'm posting this here, to assure everyone sees it.

If it's Monday, it promises a new col. by our fave former Ed. of WSJ Editorial Page...He does not disappoint. Impeach Bush—Stop Iran Invasion

As usual, he does not disappoint. I started to post excerpts, but perhaps someone else can do that. This is one of those in which every paragraph is equally compelling. The only thing askew is that he's only focused on Israeli component, not the energy component. On further thought, those interested in extracting ME oil, & those who'd like Israel to continue existing in ME stand to lose so much, should they attack Iran, that I would think sane heads in both lobbies would be intensely opposed to such madcap plans...but then I'm not a zealot...

Posted by: jj | Jan 16 2007 1:44 utc | 12

Lithwick, who writes about legal issues at Slate, discusses torture and unconstitutional detention as acts that are motivated by the demand for dictatorial powers by the Bush League.

But Guantanamo Bay stays open for the same reason that Padilla stays on trial. Having claimed the right to label enemy combatants and detain them indefinitely without charges, the Bush administration cannot retreat from that position without ceding ground. The president is as much a prisoner of Guantanamo Bay as the detainees are. Having gone nose to nose with Congress over his authority to craft stripped-down courts, guaranteed to produce guilty verdicts, Bush cannot call off the trials. The endgame in the war against terrorism isn't holding the line against terrorists. It's holding the line on hard-fought claims to limitless presidential authority.

Enter these signing statements. The most recent of the all-but-meaningless postscripts Bush tacks onto legislation gives him the power to "authorize a search of mail in an emergency" to "protect human life and safety" and for "foreign intelligence collection." There is some debate about whether the president has that power already, but it misses the point. The purpose of these signing statements is to plant a flag on the moon -- one more way for the chief executive to stake out the furthest corners in the field of his desired powers.

Last spring, the New Yorker's Jane Mayer profiled David Addington, Cheney's chief of staff and legal adviser. Addington's worldview in brief: a single-minded devotion to something called the New Paradigm, a constitutional theory of virtually limitless executive power, wherein "the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries, if national security demands it," Mayer describes.

...how much longer will Congress bend over and let the Bushies have their way with them?

Posted by: fauxreal | Jan 16 2007 3:50 utc | 13

This is an excellent diary over at DKos:

Frederick Kagan is an Unqualified Fraud: Read His CV Here

A fun, if unsettling, read.

Posted by: Bea | Jan 16 2007 4:21 utc | 14

Robert Parry on the "logic" of a wider middle east war from the neocon pov.

At a not-for-quotation briefing before his national televised speech on Jan. 10, Bush and his top national security aides stunned senior TV news executives with suggestions that a major confrontation with Iran is looming.... Russert said Bush defended his invasion of Iraq by arguing that he had headed off a hypothetical Iraqi-Iranian nuclear arms race.

“That’s the way he sees the world,” said Russert, looking slightly perplexed. “His rationale, he believes, for going into Iraq still was one that was sound.”
so, via 60 Minutes, and now via the pre-speech press briefing we see that Bush is certifiably insane...that he has no grip on reality. incredible, really.

As investigative reporter Seymour Hersh wrote in The New Yorker, a number of senior U.S. military officers were troubled by administration war planners who believed “bunker-busting” tactical nuclear weapons, known as B61-11s, were the only way to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities buried deep underground.

A former senior intelligence official told Hersh that the White House refused to remove the nuclear option despite objections from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Whenever anybody tries to get it out, they’re shouted down,” the ex-official said. [New Yorker, April 17, 2006]

By late April 2006, however, the Joint Chiefs finally got the White House to agree that using nuclear weapons to destroy Iran’s uranium-enrichment plant at Natanz, less than 200 miles south of Tehran, was politically unacceptable, Hersh reported.

“Bush and [Vice President Dick] Cheney were dead serious about the nuclear planning,” one former senior intelligence official said. [New Yorker, July 10, 2006]

Again, how much more evidence does Congress need that these men are too dangerous to allow to remain in office??

The Sunday Times of London reported on Jan. 7 that two Israeli air squadrons are training for the mission and “if things go according to plan, a pilot will first launch a conventional laser-guided bomb to blow a shaft down through the layers of hardened concrete [at Natanz]. Other pilots will then be ready to drop low-yield one kiloton nuclear weapons into the hole.”

The Sunday Times wrote that Israel also would hit two other facilities – at Isfahan and Arak – with conventional bombs. But the possible use of a nuclear bomb at Natanz would represent the first nuclear attack since the United States destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan at the end of World War II six decades ago.

While some observers believe Israel or the Bush administration may be leaking details of the plans as a way to frighten Iran into accepting international controls on its nuclear program, other sources indicate that the preparations for a wider Middle Eastern war are very serious and moving very quickly.

The analysis includes the idea that Bush and Olmert need to attack in order to recover politically from the disasters in Iraq and Lebanon...

Posted by: fauxreal | Jan 16 2007 4:36 utc | 15

Tomorrow an appeal for redress signed by close to 1,000 uniformed members of the military will be delivered to Congress. The appeal states:

"As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for US troops to come home."

Two articles from Truthout discuss the organizers, 29-year old Seaman Jonathan Hutto and Sergeant Liam Madden (USMC), the signers, and their objectives: "Iraq Vets Call on Congress to End War" by Stacey Bannerman and "Breaking Ranks: Troops Call for Iraq Withdrawal" by Charles E. Anderson. The plan is for Hutto and Madden, joined by sailors, Marines and airmen, soldiers and supporters, to deliver a copy of the signed document to Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and other members of the Out of Iraq Caucus on Capitol Hill.

Will Bush listen to them? - unlikely, but hopefully Kucinich and other Congressfolk will. Impeachment begins in the House.

Posted by: conchita | Jan 16 2007 4:54 utc | 16

BREAKING: Israel and Syria announce they have held secret talks for two years (2004-2006), reached secret understandings for a peace agreement.

Front page in Haaretz

Not sure yet what it all means, but if indeed it is true, it would be huge news indeed.

Posted by: Bea | Jan 16 2007 4:56 utc | 17

OK, that will teach me to judge from a headline only. It seems these contacts, while extensive, were unofficial. When Syria wanted them upgraded to an official level, Israel said no and the US refused.

The final document was formulated in August 2005, and has since been changed slightly. The final meeting took place a year later, in the midst of the second Lebanon war, on a day in which eight Israelis were killed by Hezbollah-fired Katyusha rockets in the Galilee. Suleiman announced that the Syrians had done all they could with the covert channel and were suggesting a meeting between a Syrian representative at the rank of deputy minister and an Israeli official at the rank of director general. They asked that C. David Welch, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, also participate in the meeting.

That was the end of the story.

Which makes the publication of this story right now almost even more interesting.

Sorry for not reading the whole thing before posting -- it was surreal to see that headline.

Posted by: Bea | Jan 16 2007 5:13 utc | 18

Glenn Greenwald riffs on Lithwick's article, (linked in #13, above) and calls the failed Bush presidency "truly historic." Greenwald goes on to note:

The reason Bush violated the [FISA] law when eavesdropping is the same reason Lithwick cites to explain his other lawless and extremist measures -- because he wanted purposely not to comply with the law in order to establish the general "principle" that he was not bound by the law, to show that he has the power to break the law, that he is more powerful than the law. This is a President and an administration that are obsessed first and foremost with their own power and with constant demonstrations of their own strength. Conversely, what they fear and hate the most is their own weakness and submission to limitations.

For that reason, the weaker and more besieged the administration feels, the more compelled they will feel to make a showing of their power. Lashing out in response to feelings of weakness is a temptation most human beings have, but it is more than a mere temptation for George Bush. It is one of the predominant dynamics that drives his behavior.

Greenwald thinks that Bush, like a cornered rat, is more dangerous now, based upon his demand to be above the law...which leads to the actions Parry noted in #15 above. Greenwald links to a post by Digby that also cites Parry, while Digby reminds us of the Blair/Bush leaked memo in which Bush ponders ways to get Iraq to attack Americans in order to justify an invasion.

I think this post
from Digby is useful in its look back at Cheney's support of Iran-Contra crimes as support for a "unitary executive" in Reagan's time.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman (liberated) compares the "surge" to the S&L disaster (before it was uncovered)

The Hail Mary aspect — the off chance that somehow, things really will turn out all right — is the least of their motivations. The real intent is a form of looting. I’m not talking mainly about old-fashioned war profiteering, although there is no question that profiteering is taking place on an epic scale. No, I’m saying that the hawks want to keep this war going because it’s to their personal and political benefit.

Posted by: fauxreal | Jan 16 2007 13:13 utc | 19

This guy is simply crazy:

PELLEY: Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?

BUSH: That we didn't do a better job or they didn't do a better job?

PELLEY: Well, that the United States did not do a better job in providing security after the invasion.

BUSH: Not at all. I am proud of the efforts we did. We liberated that country from a tyrant. I think the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude, and I believe most Iraqis express that. I mean, the people understand that we've endured great sacrifice to help them. That's the problem here in America. They wonder whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq.

PELLEY: Americans wonder whether . . .

BUSH: Yeah, they wonder whether or not the Iraqis are willing to do hard work necessary to get this democratic experience to survive. That's what they want.

Link

On to Iran, maybe the Persians will show some "gratitude".

Posted by: b | Jan 16 2007 14:48 utc | 20

Vote for anti-war campaigner Brian Haw

Pass it on.........

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jan 16 2007 15:15 utc | 21

meters to be installed on Iraq's oil wells

h/t to bartcop

Bartcop predicts this means that U.S. soldiers will come home in October 2008 as the easy profit pickings drop off. Maybe so, maybe the hundreds of billions coming under Democratic oversight will actually start to provide too little profit. I wonder, though, since there seem to be about a hundred thousand contractors employed there, and even oversigted contractors are probably pretty profitable, even if a lot of them had to go out of business for doing nothing of value.

Still, why not spread around good news: "U.S. to start monitoring whether or not contractors (or anyone else) are stealing Iraqi oil."

Posted by: citizen | Jan 16 2007 17:08 utc | 22

Much Ado About Nothing?

Both Syria and Israel deny reports of unofficial talks or agreements between their countries and call the story "nonsense."

Posted by: Bea | Jan 16 2007 18:16 utc | 23

i don't recall seeing anyone mention this yet
Unconventional Warfare: Are US Special Forces Engaged in an ‘Offensive War’ in the Philippines?


Since January 2002, US Special Operations Forces (SOFs) have been stationed in the southern Philippines and have not left since then. Their deployment has significant implications for issues of peace and security in the southern Philippines, on democracy in the country and its sovereignty, on the geo-political balance in the region, and on the US’ global military posture. But – because of domestic historical factors and the current balance of political forces – it is on the claim that the US Special Forces are not engaged in “actual combat” that their continuing presence in the Philippines seem to stand.

Five years after the initial deployment, this report gathers the available information and evidence regarding this claim. It relies on publicly available information provided by US troops themselves who, in writing about their missions for military publications, have gone on record to describe their experiences in ways that cast their operation in a different light. It is based on first-hand interviews with witnesses who have dared to come out and who claim to have seen US troops in action. It gathers various separate news articles, reports, and papers offering little-known or little-discussed information on the mission and puts them together to provide a bigger and more coherent picture. Finally, it studies and analyzes overall US global military strategy in order to contextualize their mission.

It finds that the US troops may not only be waging war within the Philippines, they may also established a new form of U.S. bases in the country.

(this is walden bello's de-globalization NGO)

Posted by: b real | Jan 16 2007 20:24 utc | 24

Bush The Empire Slayer

powerful, extremely well-written and annotated rant by bernard chazelle, professor of computer science, at princeton. chazelle takes no prisoners. so strong that choosing a paragraph to cite hasn't been easy, but as a recent traveler this one spoke to me:

Historians will ponder how one gangly caveman and nineteen scrawny associates turned America into the land of the kind-of-free (53rd freest press in the world, tied with Botswana (9)) and the home of the petrified. The sons and daughters of the nation that stood up to Hitler and Tojo now file through airport security barefoot, much as they would walk, shoeless, into a mosque—a mosque, they pray, empty of Muslims.

Posted by: conchita | Jan 16 2007 23:29 utc | 25

My favorite passage from the Empire Slayer, thanks conchita, a fine wine that.


Of course, no account of MSM malfeasance would be fitting without at least a passing glance at the yapping chihuahuas. Newsweek's Howard Fineman woofed a few choice words of his own: “We had controversial wars that divided the country. This war united the country and brought the military back.” (37)  Well said, Howard. His colleague Chris Matthews yaks at such vertiginous speeds that his brain emits exotic particles of synchrotronic quirkiness. One month into the war, he blurted out, “We're all neocons now.” A few weeks later, Matthews highlighted a side of war that too often gets short shrift: what great, clean fun it is! “Check it out. The women like this war! I think we like having a hero as our president.” (37)  Must a TV show be pornographic just because it's called “Hardball”?

The war has given the American mainstream media a brilliant opportunity to prove its essential worthlessness. It has shown itself to be little more than a circus of entertainers and cheerleaders for whom every season is the silly season. Tragically, the media has failed in its sacred duty to keep a vigilant, skeptical, critical eye on the centers of power. Who is the American Robert Fisk, Gideon Levy, or Amira Hass? Whoever they are (and Sy Hersh proves they exist), why are their writings not filling the op-ed pages of the great American newspapers? How can the nation that produces the bulk of Nobel prize winners be stuck with such a sullen bunch of journalistic mediocrities? The sycophantic enablers of the Fourth Estate have blood on their hands.


Posted by: anna missed | Jan 17 2007 1:27 utc | 26

Doug Thompson at Capitol Hill Blue opens his rant Time to Remove a Dictator with "Enough of this pussyfooting: It's time to impeach" and concludes with:

America is a country out of control, led by a government that doesn't listen to its people. Bush, on national television Sunday night, admitted he doesn't much care what the American people think about him or his war. He's going to do whatever he damn well pleases because he knows no one has the power or the balls to stop him.

Sadly, he's right. Bush consolidated his power by leveraging a shell-shocked, Republican-led Congress after 9/11 to give him everything he wanted. Democrats share the blame. Most of them also voted for the war and for the USA Patriot Act.

The Republican leadership may be gone but the Democrats who replaced them aren't listening to the voters who put them into power. They talk lamely of non-binding resolutions against the war, hearings ad infinitum and the standard political rhetoric that has, for too long, replaced any real
leadership in the halls of Congress.

The time has come to stop talking. The time has come to act. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi must remove the shackles from her colleagues who want to impeach a President who has, with the help of Congress, overthrown the government of this country and established - for all practical purposes - a
dictatorship that answers to no one.

If Pelosi refuses to act, then let her term as Speaker be a short one and put the reign of the party of the jackass into mothballs when our turn comes again at the ballot box. The Republicans failed and the Democrats seem destined to follow. Let's scrap the two-party system in this country and look elsewhere for our leaders. Perhaps a third party or perhaps no party. The political system in America is an outmoded, scandal-ridden, corrupt dinosaur that no longer listens to the will of the people or cares a rat's ass about the nation.

Bush must go. So must Cheney. And if the Congress won't do the job, then they must go too.

The only real questions are how and how soon? Can Americans afford to wait until 2008 to lance the festering boils on the body politic?

I'm not sure we can.

I know it's Capitol Hill Blue, but seems like we've been hearing the I word a lot lately. Exactly what are they waiting for?

Posted by: conchita | Jan 17 2007 3:52 utc | 27

Peter Dale Scott with video version of War Conspiracy on google video

Posted by: fauxreal | Jan 17 2007 5:21 utc | 28

it has been a quiet night here tonight so i will post one more.

all day today there has been a diary on the recommended list at dkos by one of my favorite diarists, welshman. finally tonight i read it and understand why it has been there since this morning.

in the diary welshman cites a nyt article "Pressure Builds Over Plan for Troop Increase" which reports stephen hadley as saying:

Mr. Bush's National Security Adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, said in an interview on "Meet the Press" on NBC that the White House has sufficient money under its control to deploy the troops as planned, and he suggested that once the troops are in place, Congress would be reluctant to cut off funding.


"I think once they get in harm's way, Congress's tradition is to support those troops," Mr. Hadley said.

welshman asks his reader to consider the meaning of this statement and what it reveals about this administration. after considering, if you want to read his provocative diary, he spells it out very clearly.

Posted by: conchita | Jan 17 2007 5:53 utc | 29

Since Atrios has been pondering why he opposed the war from the start, and didn't have a coherent single post on the subject, I was wondering if there was a coherent, and still true, anti-war position that I was associated with. I managed to dig up my college community's official position, written in February 2003.

As people in a nation whose government has in the past chosen violence over diplomacy, secrecy over public discourse and fear over understanding, we are deeply saddened and angered that the call to war has been made in such haste. As the hundreds of millions who share our sentiments around the United States and around the world have already stated, we, the members of Antioch College, declare that we will not support a war without boundaries, without rationality and ultimately without just cause. This declaration is a plea for international diplomacy and due process over unwarranted bloodshed and the fervent rush to war with Iraq.

A pre-emptive strike against Iraq will not protect our national security, but may, in fact, threaten it.

The Bush Administration has failed to present irrefutable evidence of an imminent danger to our national security.

Waging war against Iraq without United Nations consent violates International law.

Given the current domestic economic situation, we believe that the funds allocated toward a war effort would be better spent on education, housing, health care, job training, and renewable energy.

Due to the inevitable effects of war: loss of civilian life, destruction of infrastructure, displacement of peoples, and environmental devastation; all avenues to a peaceful resolution should be seriously pursued to avoid armed conflict. A pre-emptive war and a regime change will only serve to destabilize the region.

Given that a disproportionate percentage of the U.S. armed forces are working-class and people of color, the burden of war will rest unjustly on their shoulders.

The continued bombing and economic sanctions have primarily impacted the civilians of Iraq; another war will further deprive the Iraqi people of their basic human rights.

We believe that American interests as defined by the Bush Administration are not synonymous with the public interests. The true beneficiaries of this war will be the few privileged enough to shape the consequences.

Let this declaration not stand as the end to discussion and deliberation, rather, let it be an invitation to further debate within our campus and our country. Education only happens through discourse; therefore we welcome all who wish to take part in the larger conversation.

"Let us not be content to wait and see what will happen, but give us the determination to make the right things happen." -Horace Mann


It's fairly vague, and while I might quibble with some of the language, it makes most of the relevant points still being made by those increasingly opposed to the war. I realize that its information nothing new to the barflies here, but, I mean, if a handful of college students (the authors of the statement) in the cornfields of Ohio could see this so clearly....I dunno. It's hard to have hope in American democracy.

(the resolution passes the college community overwhelmingly, at nearly a 20-1 ratio.)


Posted by: Rowan | Jan 17 2007 6:12 utc | 30

Ican agree to some extend with Bush here - watching TV is certainly a sacrifice:

Bush was also asked by Lehrer why he was not willing to ask more Americans to sacrifice something, given the importance he has attached to the struggle in Iraq.

"I think a lot of people are in this fight," Bush replied. "I mean, they -- they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is -- it is somewhat down because of this war."

President Says His Iraq Policy Was Failing

Posted by: b | Jan 17 2007 9:17 utc | 31

conchita @29

going through the comments of the diary you linked to I came up with this little gem.

Mr. Hadly seems to have forgotten that using funds for purposes for which they were not allocated is an impeachable offense. It doesn't matter if the White House has "control" of the funds, it matters what they were appropriated for in the first place. And if it wasn't for the "surge" then using them for that is illegal. Impeachment time is right around the corner. This is a blatant "fuck you!" to the Congress, and through them, the American people. The difference between this one and the others that have recently been revealed is that this one we can prosecute him for. It's not just words anymore, it's a crime. So let's get on the ball, audit the war costs and find out what that money was appropriated for, and if he uses one single penny for the "surge", impeach.

I guess this is what we have to do now, we all have to chant impeach until it becomes so loud that the congresscritters can no longer ignore it.

let's see if kos will shoulder the burden.

btw, thanks for cruising dailykos for the rest of us, I am put off by the short comments and all the back slapping that goes on there so I tend not to visit very often.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 17 2007 10:37 utc | 32

I find this line very disturbing - let me know what's wrong with it.

From WaPo Bombings Kill 60 at University In Baghdad

About 24,000 students attend state-run Mustansiriya University's three colleges, in a middle-class Sunni Arab and Shiite Muslim neighborhood.

Posted by: b | Jan 17 2007 12:00 utc | 33

@b #33

I'll take a guess - I think it's disturbing for two reasons. First, it identifies a neighborhood by its ethnic composition which, while in today's context might seem "normal," is in fact not how Iraqis ever thought of themselves before a year or two ago. But second and more important is the asymmetry (and inaccuracy) of reference. Why are the Sunnis referred to as "Arabs" and the Shiites as "Muslims?" Are they somehow confusing Iraqi Shi'a (who are mostly Arabs) with Iranian Shi'a (who are mostly Persians, not Arabs)? Are they so totally clueless about the Middle East? Iraq is an ARAB country. Iran is a PERSIAN country. They are both MUSLIM countries. Iraq has a Shiite majority and a Sunni minority... but they are all ARABS. Iraq has a tiny non-Arab Shiite population who are Kurds. Since the Kurds primarily live in the north, this article obviously was not referring to them. Was the writer of the article intending to imply that the Shia of Iraq somehow are not Arabs? Whoah...

Not the mention the fact that to say "Shiite Muslim" is redundant. Like saying "Episcopalian Christian."

Anyway, in the wake of such a bomb as this near the university, you can be assured that education in Baghdad, whatever of it was still functioning, will probably grind to a halt for a while -- for all Iraqis of every ethnic sect.

Posted by: Bea | Jan 17 2007 13:53 utc | 34

well I wrote and asked him. let's see if he answers

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 17 2007 14:04 utc | 35

dan- I also appreciate that conchita reads dkos and passes along some of the good stuff. I don't like the site either...not so much for the back slapping as for the wrist slapping. I also detest boards that rate posts...there is no real value in this practice in so many ways.

however, I do appreciate the kossacks ability to create a sort of lobbying group. they're powerful enought to piss off some ppl who "matter," so that's a good thing.

b- shite's and sunnis, one would assume, are both arab and muslim. why label one as one thing and the other as something else? also Riverbend wrote before about the mixed neighborhoods and families in her life, so I assume such distinctions are created by American observation, rather than the facts of others' existence.

btw, I find this use of "existential threat" interesting. Olmert has said Iran's weapons pose an "existential threat" to Israel. Cheney also used the exact same expression. in the meantime, georgie was reading Camus over the summer...maybe so he'd know what his buddies were talking about.

Why don't the settlers and Israel's refusal to remove them pose an existential threat to Israel? Why doesn't the gaza strip pose an existential threat? -- or the treatment of the Palestinians? Why is it that an "existential threat" is always from the other, rather than the internal processes of a nation? The use of the phrase really undermines Sartre's meaning of the idea, if you ask me, the "you are totally responsible for your destiny by your actions" foundations that made it possible for him to discuss resistance or collusion with Nazis, for instance.

Posted by: fauxreal | Jan 17 2007 14:54 utc | 36

@fauxreal

Apropos "existential threat" -- Certainly most Israelis have no awareness of the fact that the greatest existential threat to the state is in fact from its own domestic policies, both toward settlers and toward the Palestinians. Also have you ever noticed that Israel never ever thinks about or acknowledges the fact that it is in fact posing a real "existential threat" to the Palestinians? It is as if no one but Israel is entitled to feel threatened. And this is the fatal error as it were -- the insistence on security for only one group while any other group be damned. This, in effect, guarantees perpetual insecurity... a totally (and tragically) self-fulfilling prophecy.

Posted by: Bea | Jan 17 2007 15:03 utc | 37

rowan- your college group seemed to understand geopolitics better than the faith-based nutjobs in BushCo.

along with your statement, many many cities in the U.S. also had anti-invasion statements that their local constituents voted to approve. a symbolic measure, for sure, but one that puts reasons for opposition to the war in terms much like the ones your group used. these statements came from cities across the U.S. I remember seeing a map with flags to mark all the cities with such resolutions. they came from every part of the U.S.

Posted by: fauxreal | Jan 17 2007 15:05 utc | 38

fauxshite's and sunnis, one would assume, are both arab and muslim. why label one as one thing and the other as something else?

sunni's are all arab and muslim but shiites are not. sadr is and many shiites are but hakim and shiites from iran (badr brigades) aren't arab they are persian. i am ceratinly not an expert but there is a distinction. they are all muslim tho, i think.

Posted by: annie | Jan 17 2007 15:24 utc | 39

@bea - 34

You are of course right, but after thinking about it what really disturbs me is the framing that is currently taking place:

Sunni Arabs = friends of the US (Saudi, Kuwaiti ..)
Shia Muslim = enemies of the US (Iran of course and Sadr)

That might not have been intended here, but it fits the anti-islamic trend on the right.

Posted by: b | Jan 17 2007 15:38 utc | 40

I knew that Iranians were Persian and also Shia, but I also assumed that anyone who lived in Iraq would be considered "arabic" because they're not Iranian...if that makes sense.

I suppose I have a problem understanding the Iran=Shia issue in Iraq because it seems to play into the Iran is fomenting insurgents w/o any sort of Iraqi nationalism involved.

Posted by: fauxreal | Jan 17 2007 15:52 utc | 41

bea #37, well stated.

#34 Iraq has a tiny non-Arab Shiite population who are Kurds.

kurd are sunni and 20% of iraqs population. not exactly tiny. tho they are non arab which kind of debunks my earlier statement claiming all sunnis are arab. maybe there are some shiite kurds, but for the most part the are sunni.

Iraq has a Shiite majority and a Sunni minority... but they are all ARABS

really? this can get awfully confusing.

Posted by: annie | Jan 17 2007 15:52 utc | 42

@fauxreal,

Yeah, I know lots of cities did - wonder what happened to that when the war started? - I just picked the one I debated and voted for.

The way this happened, I think is a combination of groupthink and the myth of expertise. I've read some things Malcolm Gladwell has written about how people who consider themselves experts in a given field manage to convince themselves that they can see so well under the surface that they take blatantly stupid positions. I kind of wish we had someone in the cabinet whose job it was to not watch the news or read the newspaper, and whenever big decisions were being made, just to ask questions like "Really? You think that we can bomb them to hell and destroy their infrastructure and they'll LIKE us afterward?"

Posted by: Rowan | Jan 17 2007 15:59 utc | 43

I read Digby's post on this issue and for some reason I'm having weird problems with firefox and safari and no comments even show up there. however, I noted in a private email that Scott Ritter wrote a book with Will Pitt that was more fact-based than anything the neocons were saying.

Hersh's work about "stovepiping" didn't come out until after the invasion. Same with Karen Kwiatkowski's articles first in The American Conservative.

However, one ambassador resigned and opposition to the invasion was his sole reason. He wrote an op-ed for the NYTimes.

Also Ray McGovern had lots to say before the fact, as well as Vets for Peace, iirc.

anyway, there were tons of sources with info to contradict the hawkish views...but the hawks, rather than being the "hard-hitting realists" are, to me, totally guided by fear. They cower in a corner because they may not be able to dominate everyone's world and would thus have to treat others as equal human beings. THAT is the big issue behind the hawks regarding the invasion of Iraq. Cheney is on record on this issue in his doctrine whose name I cannot recall...the one bit of maybe fact makes it okay to invade and kill innocents anywhere doctrine. maybe you know the newspeak name.

now I really, really have to go and work work work work for hours and hours and hours.

Posted by: fauxreal | Jan 17 2007 16:10 utc | 44

hmm..kurds, a non-Arab Middle Eastern minority population that inhabits the region known as Kurdistan,

Ethnically close to the Iranians, the Kurds were traditionally nomadic herders but are now mostly seminomadic or sedentary. The majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslims.

Posted by: annie | Jan 17 2007 16:19 utc | 45

@annie

maybe there are some shiite kurds, but for the most part the are sunni.

Yes, you are right about the Kurds being mostly Sunni, but I believe there are a fraction who are Shiite, but they are only a fraction; this is why I said "tiny..." I could be wrong about this. Now I want to know for sure...I will try and come up with some definitive numbers from a source other than the CIA(!) sometime later today. Meanwhile I found this map which helps considerably.

And it gets confusing -- yes well, welcome to the Middle East. It is always confusing -- but endlessly fascinating. And it behooves us to keep learning more since simplifications of the sort the US government and media always make will only lead us to make very wrongheaded policy decisions and embroil us in genuine fiascos. It is Americans' (and by this I don't mean you of course) tendency to want everything clearcut and simple ("them" versus "us") that enables Middle Eastern players who are very well-schooled in the complexities and have so much diplomatic savvy (ie, Iran) to lead us into dead ends over and over and dance away, laughing. If we are hell-bent on being colonialists, well then, we better bite the bullet and learn about the region in all its glorious complexity, which includes thousands of years of history that most Middle Eastern children can cite chapter and verse... This is what makes the unbelievable stupidity of the Bush Administration's dissing all its regional experts and consulting only political loyalists on these decisions even more self-destructive.

Of course it goes without saying that I personally want nothing whatsoever to do with being a colonialist, but I do want to be well-informed, as I know you do too. :) And that is why I hang around here -- where we all learn from each other every day.

Posted by: Bea | Jan 17 2007 16:39 utc | 46

Kuwait tells U.S. to talk to Iran, Syria

Kuwait's emir told Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice that Washington should talk to Syria and Iran to improve the situation in Iraq, the Kuwaiti foreign minister said Wednesday.
...
He quoted the emir as telling Rice it was important to have a "dialogue with Syria, in particular, and with Iran in the interest of Gulf security in general."
What does that say? No sorties flown out of Kuwait against Iran, no Patriot missile defense for Kuwait?

Posted by: b | Jan 17 2007 16:53 utc | 47

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jan 17 2007 17:07 utc | 48

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jan 17 2007 17:11 utc | 49

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Jan 17 2007 17:24 utc | 50

And it gets confusing -- yes well, welcome to the Middle East.

lol, thanks bea. yeah, i learn so much from everyone here, i just found out kurds were sunni the other day reading somewhere (here) about the complexity of using peshmerga troops for the surge. i guess they can't use other shia troops against sadr so they are importing them, yet sunni kurds against sunni resistance is going to cause more divide and conquer secreatrian strife...

moving on to a topic i can't seem to shake lately..the samarra mosque bombing

from beq's link.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, first of all, let's start with the Samarra bombing. And there was actually a fair amount of constraint by the Shias after the Samarra bombing, which took place I think in February or March last year. And the sectarian violence really didn't start spiraling out of control until the summer. Part of the failure for our reaction was ourselves. I mean, we should have found troops and moved them. But part of it was that the Iraqis didn't move troops. And I take responsibility for us not moving our own troops into Baghdad -

seems we have heard many referneces lately from the administration regarding the samarra mosque bombing, why? drip drip. used to justify the escalation, used to wrongly establish sunni blame for the secretarian violence. in this latest round starting w/bush in is surge speech to the nation, then rice at the congressional hearing. now bush again but this time w/a further spin that is simply not true.

although bush statement is a little vague regarding just whose troops he is referring to ( " we should have found troops and moved them"), one would assume he means ours. he prefaces this with another of his newly found admissions of failure which i find suspicious as it highlights the assertion. as a listener one may focus on the admission as the lie somehow becomes incorporated in the 'official story'.

has enough time passed that the general public will forget no one came forward to claim responsibility for the mosque bombing? when did this leap occur when the propaganda push for sunni responsibility become the norm?

americanthinker 2004

After a month in Iraq working alongside the veteran 4th, they were ready. The 1st ID's 2nd 'Dagger' Brigade, consisting of the 1/18th Infantry, 1/26th Infantry and 1/77th Armor became responsible for the sector that included Samarra.

clip
To help the Samarrans with their problems, personnel from the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion and the 324th Psychological Operations Company began operating in the city.

While talking with the people and handing out candy and toys to the children, they assessed the situation. Psyops soldiers distributed radios so inhabitants could listen to the new station about to go on the air.

Meanwhile, men from the 202nd ING Battalion began establishing their presence in their city.

clip
Operation Baton Rouge. Participating Iraqi forces were Samarrans from the 202nd ING Battalion and the 7th Iraqi Army Battalion. Together with 1st ID 2nd Brigade soldiers, they secured key government buildings and other strategic points throughout the city 'to facilitate orderly governmental processes; to kill or capture antiIraqi forces, and to set the conditions to proceed with infrastructure and quality of life improvements for the people of Samarra.'

Through the lens of history, which also teaches patience and perseverance, we can see Iraqis in the near future realizing their dream of independence; freedom glinting from the dome of the Great Mosque, democracy resonant in a clear blue sky

nty magazine 2005

It was in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, where, in early March, I spent a week with Adnan........Before the show began that evening, Adnan's office was a hive of conversation, phone calls and tea-drinking. Along with a dozen commandos, there were several American advisers in the room, including James Steele, one of the United States military's top experts on counterinsurgency. Steele honed his tactics leading a Special Forces mission in El Salvador during that country's brutal civil war in the 1980's. Steele's presence was a sign not only of the commandos' crucial role in the American counterinsurgency strategy but also of his close relationship with Adnan. Steele admired the general. ''He's obviously a natural type of commander,'' Steele told me. ''He commands respect.''

cut (pg3)
U.S. soldiers and officers are increasingly moving to a Salvador-style advisory role. In the process, they are backing up local forces that, like the military in El Salvador, do not shy away from violence. It is no coincidence that this new strategy is most visible in a paramilitary unit that has Steele as its main adviser; having been a key participant in the Salvador conflict, Steele knows how to organize a counterinsurgency campaign that is led by local forces. He is not the only American in Iraq with such experience: the senior U.S. adviser in the Ministry of Interior, which has operational control over the commandos, is Steve Casteel, a former top official in the Drug Enforcement Administration who spent much of his professional life immersed in the drug wars of Latin America.

pg 5
There were just a few hundred G.I.'s in Samarra....One team was composed of Special Forces soldiers, another was drawn from the Wisconsin National Guard and the third, with which I spent most of my time on patrol, was staffed by soldiers of the Third Infantry Division.

we have always had a strong presence in samarra. a psyops and special forces presence. i don't buy this framing of 'it's partly our fault for not reacting sooner by moving in more troops'. we had experts in samarra, i posit our reaction was exactly as we intended.

Posted by: annie | Jan 17 2007 17:45 utc | 51

hakim and shiites from iran (badr brigades) aren't arab they are persian

You keep repeating this fallacy and no one challenges it.

In fact, Hakim is Iraqi, was raised in Najaf, and only fled Iraq for Iran (self-imposed exile) when Saddam began killing off his entire family.

Several thousand of such exiled Iraqis grouped together in Iran to form the Badr Organization. True, it was financially supported by Iran (for their own interests), and there were a small number of Iranian members, but it was principally an organization of exiled Iraqis.

There were also other organizations of Iraqi exiles formed in Iran, such as Al-Da'wa, of which one of its leaders, Al-Jaafari, served as Prime Minister. Why don't you refer to them as "Iranians?"

In the two 2005 elections the United Iraqi Coalition, with Hakim as Badr's top member, garnered 48%, and 40% (over 5M) of the vote respectively, more than three times as much as any other non-Kurdish group. Badr represented about 28% of the alliance -- the largest group, by far.

Surely you do not mean to imply that there are 1.5M voting Iranians seeded throughout Iraq, or that 1.5M Iraqis were somehow fooled into voting for Iranians, do you?

Without greater clarification, I must conclude that you are simply wrong, and that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Posted by: | Jan 17 2007 18:13 utc | 52

Oops, that was me above.

Posted by: Bob M. | Jan 17 2007 18:14 utc | 53

very nice work annie.

as for the original question b posted about Sunni Arabs and Shiite Muslims, maybe special correspondents Saad al-Izzi, Naseer Nouri and Waleed Saffar who contributed to the report have an agenda. IIRC the Shia are poorly regarded by traditional Islam. Probably akin to how the Catholics look upon the Protestants. If those correspondents are Sunni they may have let their own views slip through.

I posed the following question to the writer of the article

in your article Bombings Kill 60 at University In Baghdad you write...

"in a middle-class Sunni Arab and Shiite Muslim neighborhood"

my question is, why do you say that? are the Shiite living there not Arab? are the Sunni not Muslim?

Please take a moment to answer. I am most curious.

thanks

dan

his reply was

Hi, that's a good question and one i wondered also when I began writing about this place. Basically we do it to make a distinction between the Kurds, who are also predominantly Sunnis. But yes, Shiites and Sunnis are both Muslims and both Arabs.
thanks for writing, Josh

so, who knows?

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 17 2007 18:25 utc | 54

@dan of steele

Thanks for taking the initiative to inquire - that is interesting.

@all

Here is a good opinion piece in the Baltimore Chronicle:

Death Watch in the Persian Gulf and Washington

It spells out in additional detail what might be the consequences of an attack on Iran, and makes some (to me) new suggestions about what the American public might do to stop it.

Posted by: Bea | Jan 17 2007 18:36 utc | 55

For a change of pace, read Libby Trial Jury Selection - Day One of Libby Trial .

I found it very satisfying.

Note: You may have to scroll down a bit to find the post.

While no one has yet mentioned this here, the trial is getting a fair amount of attention over here.

Posted by: Bea | Jan 17 2007 18:59 utc | 56

Thanks Dan - interesting "no answer" from that guy ...
---

Sunni - Shia - Is There a Sunni Majority in Iraq?

The United States based its policy on Iraq on two primary so-called facts:

1. The Sunnis are a 20 % minority.

2. The Sunni minority and Saddam Hussein ruled the Shiite majority in Iraq.

Thus, the U.S. Iraq policy -- as set by the Bush Administration, and the Neoconservatives--both before and after the 2003 war and occupation, was based on this false premise. Because of this, the Sunnis were marginalized and power was handed over to the Shiite religious parties and Kurdish parties by the occupation force CPA, Ambassador Bremer, and later Ambassador Negroponte.
...
The actual, real percentages of various groups in Iraq is outlined below. Statistics come from the Al- Quds Press Research Center, London Study (www.qudspress.com) and, with reference to the map on the distribution of religious groups, from the Baker--Hamilton Committee report page, 102).

As Nationalities
Arabs 82 - 84%
Kurds, Turks, etc. 16 - 18%

Religions
Moslems 95 - 98%
Christians and others 2 - 5%

Moslem Sects
Sunnis 60 - 62%
Sunni Arabs 42 - 44%
Sunni Kurds and Turks 16 - 18%
Shiites 38 - 40%
Shiite Kurds and Turks 2 - 4%
Percentage of Sunnis, Shiites, Arabs, and Kurds
...

Posted by: b | Jan 17 2007 19:25 utc | 57

"hakim and shiites from iran (badr brigades) aren't arab they are persian"

bob mYou keep repeating this fallacy and no one challenges it.

i don't think i have ever repeated this, and excuse me for my misunderstanding. i ceratinly don't speak w/any authority about any of this and did state that is is confusing to me. of course i am aware hakim is iraqi and never meant to imply otherwise.

i am ceratinly not an expert but there is a distinction. they are all muslim tho, i think.

perhaps i should have said "i am ceratinly not an expert but there is a distinction (and my uncertainty is uncertain in this regard) . they are all muslim tho, i think.

The Badr Brigade was formed by the Iranian government to fight Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime in Iraq. Its members were drawn from pro-Iranian Iraqi Shia political and religious dissidents. The Badr forces fought alongside Iran in the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). Before 2003, it was based in Iran for two decades during the rule of Saddam Hussein.

my impression is there is some ethnic difference between different shia, tho i'm not sure of the breakdown. i don't think it is a case of 'no one challenges' it is because this conversation is new, i only made the post this morning, and hopefully we will hear more informed sources w/more expertise.

sorry, if i offended you w/my naivette.

Without greater clarification, I must conclude that you are simply wrong, and that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

well, lets just hope no one around here falls off a cliff reading my posts!

ps, could someone clarify for me.. are all iraqis arabs?

Posted by: annie | Jan 17 2007 20:04 utc | 58

annie @ 58

ps, could someone clarify for me.. are all iraqis arabs?

I think b did that in # 57

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 17 2007 20:11 utc | 59

via cursor, http://rigint.blogspot.com/2007/01/we-are-family.html>this article is a good example of a kind of preferred "leftist" view of the doctrine of "divide & conquer" in which the occupation can steer, with a magus-like ingenuity and precision, the behaviors of a colonized people. this strikes me as a chauvinism operating in the guise of a self-deprecatory "left" critique of a power so thoroughly masterful that the victims--the iraqis--are just automatons programmed by US central command. all you have to do is occupy, hack the cultural mainframe with antagonisms creating an efficient set of "others," and voila! victory.

the white man is clever, i tell you.

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 17 2007 20:24 utc | 60

i'm still confused..please be patient w/me

As Nationalities
Arabs 82 - 84%
Kurds, Turks, etc. 16 - 18%

Religions
Moslems 95 - 98%
Christians and others 2 - 5%

Moslem Sects
Sunnis 60 - 62%
Sunni Arabs 42 - 44%
Sunni Kurds and Turks 16 - 18%
Shiites 38 - 40%
Shiite Kurds and Turks 2 - 4%
Percentage of Sunnis, Shiites, Arabs, and Kurds

why are sunnis who aren't kurds and turks called sunni arabs yet shia who aren't kurds and turks aren't called shia arabs?

all muslims aren't arabs are they? because persians aren't arabs (or are they?) when i add up those percentages of muslim sects it comes to 165%

Posted by: annie | Jan 17 2007 20:27 utc | 61

there are chaldean orthodox christians. remember: aziz is one. but a tiny minority.

cole's sacred spaces is a fine resource to answer these questions.

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 17 2007 20:27 utc | 62

@annie, #61:

That confused me, too, until I realized that the list has both major and sub- categories together. (So, for example, it claims that Sunnis make up 60 - 62% of the population, of which Sunni Arabs are 42 - 44% and Sunni Kurds and Turks are 16 - 18%.) Bad presentation, but that may or may not be a reflection on the quality of the data.

Posted by: The Truth Gets Vicious When You Corner It | Jan 17 2007 20:33 utc | 63

as it was explained to me so many years ago, to be an Arab you need to meet three conditions: live in the middle east, believe in God (whether it be the Jewish, Christian, or Muslim model makes no difference) and speak Arabic.

that would make the Kurds non-Arabs because they do not speak Arabic as well as the Iranians who speak Farsi.

Even though there are about a billion Muslims in the world, only a small percentage are Arabic.

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 17 2007 20:41 utc | 64

Funny numbers at odds with all that I have read. Here is what I find:

Muslim Sects and Organizations in Iraq

Arab Shi'ites are currently the majority in Iraq, comprising between 55 to 60% of the population; Sunni Kurds are estimated to comprise 20% and Arab Sunnis 15- 20% of the total population (Chibli Mallat, "Iraq," Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, 1995, vol. 2, p. 237). In 1997, the official estimate of the population of Iraq was 22,017,983 (UK, Country Assessment, 2.3, appears to be based on the Europa Yearbook and the US. Dept. of State Report on Human Rights Practices). (The percentage of Christians is commonly cited at 3%. See below for Iraqi Christians.

Posted by: Bill Galt | Jan 17 2007 20:49 utc | 65

live in the middle east, believe in God (whether it be the Jewish, Christian, or Muslim model makes no difference) and speak Arabic.

lol, that certainly simplifies it dan! for some reason i thought it was an ethnic classification.

thanks bill galt, slothrop, TGV, i appreciate everyones patience w/me.

there's also wikipedia

Persian Arab generally refers to people who are of both Arab and Persian ethnic and/or linguistic ancestry. Many Arabs in Iraq ,Bahrain , and the UAE are of Persian descent.

Posted by: annie | Jan 17 2007 20:56 utc | 66

@Bill Galt - any link to that?

I am sure the source I linked to is biased, but it has some arguments that seem to be sound. I definitly would like to get to some real numbers ...

Main argument I can accepet from the piece I linked to:

The Shia had only one list (UIA) in the election. Sistani told them all HAVE to vote and they seem to all have voted. But even when some Sunni did boykott the vote, the Shia didn't come up with 50%.

Hmm ... but they are said to make up 60% of the population - something just doesn't fit here.

Posted by: b | Jan 17 2007 21:24 utc | 67

though I fear the horse is dead, I will beat it just one more time.

@Bill Galt, the CIA agrees with your sources on the makeup of Iraq too

The author (Faruq Ziada) of the article b pointed to is supposedly an Iraqi ambassador though the only reference to him in Google is to the Is There a Sunni Majority in Iraq?

Perhaps Bob M will share some of his knowledge here....

Posted by: dan of steele | Jan 17 2007 21:39 utc | 68

I have not seen this one linked here:

Residents say snipers are firing at random on Haifa Street

Eight days after a joint U.S.-Iraqi offensive began to take control of the Haifa Street area in central Baghdad, residents said they had no water and no electricity and that people seeking food had been shot at random. They said they could see American soldiers nearby, but that the Americans were making no effort to intervene.

"The Americans are doing nothing, as if they are backing the militias," said one resident, who asked to be identified only as Abu Sady, 36, for security reasons. "This military siege is killing us. ... If this plan continues for one more week, I don't think you will find one family left on Haifa Street."

From McClatchy

So american troops backing ethnic cleansing. Actively fermenting the civil war. Slothrop, I do not think you ever told me what positive end you see in the american troops staying.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Jan 17 2007 22:42 utc | 69

haven't chimed in here folks - knew i would be in over my head. i remember being corrected a few years back by my step brother who had just finished the school of international and public affairs program at columbia and had been living with a persian. i made the elementary mistake of referring to all of the m.e. as arab. wrong i learned.

thanks for all the contributions to clarification. much appreciated here.

Posted by: conchita | Jan 17 2007 22:59 utc | 70

I don't know who the author, Faruq Ziada, is. But Counterpunch has a pretty good record on accuracy, and they have demonstrated the ability to print an apology when proven wrong.

I, like b, have long suspected something was wrong with the data that nearly eveyone was presenting as apparent. For one, there's b's quick analysis of the data. But beyond the data, there is the greater question of identity, and what that really means. And any simplistic analysis of this complex question is prone to political manipulation for partisan ends.

Firstly, I suspect that Iraq was a far more integrated society in the past then is being let on. The divisions were based more on who got the spoils, than sectarian identity -- and the spoils were far more equally divided than now. It is politically inconvenient to emphasize the rise of sectarian divisions under US hegemony.

Remember, during the initial invasion that we were told that Saddam's son Uday commanded a vast Shiite Army (large numbers of whom were mysteriously incinerated by unknown weaponry in the battle for the airport)?

I also suspect that in Iraq geography played a large part in identity, the major divisions of north, central, and south, being as important, if not more so, as US divisions of east, south, midwest, and west.

Next, let's think of the US today. What if we suddenly were forced to take sides, to fit into a clear religious category. How many of us have Lutheran fathers and Baptist mothers, Jewish fathers and Catholic mothers, Salvation Army fathers (yes, it is a real sect) and Seventh Day Adventist mothers, UU fathers and Athiest mothers? How many of us have changed our religion from that of both our parents? How many of us have studied Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism? Now, quick, which single box would you jump into if forced?

And how do the statisticians end up with a convenient 100%? The data we have been presented with is just too neat to be believable. There is too much room for politically convenient massaging.

In a society with many intermarriages, especially as one climbed the class ladder, I suspect that many people simply called themselves Iraqi.

One must also recall that Juan Cole, among others, were all too happy to inform us at the beginning of this war/genocide that many Iraqis were more loyal to tribal groups and leaders, many of which were composed of mixed sects, rather than the sects themselves. That fact apparently dropped down the memory hole.

Finally, the anthropologists among us will remind us that identity is both a self-defined attribute and a label applied to categorize others, or more generally, "otherness". They will also note that identity -- no matter who defines it -- is, and can be, mutable based upon numerous other societal attributes, factors, pressures, and stresses. During the Spanish Inquisition, was it healthier to be a Jew or a converso, a Moor or a morosco, a Lutheran or toast? Any northern European will tell you, and a quick winter jaunt to the south of Spain will quite readily confirm, that a mass rapid change in identity did little to alter the deep sultry beauty of the populace.

My larger points are that all questions of, and definitions of, identity have far-reaching political implications; and that we should be suspicious of vast simplifications of complex societal roles; and that we should always examine carefully the political aspirations of the claimant.

Finally, annie, I didn't mean to jump down your throat, but you did make this very same claim several days ago, and I brought it up briefly, and it went unnoticed. But, if this serves to allow a deeper examination of the questions of identity, than all the better.

Posted by: Bob M. | Jan 17 2007 23:13 utc | 71

b @ 67,

good point. As I recall, there were delays in the vote count and I - many - were fully expecting the big Shia blowout w/very high percentage of the vote, but my thought as the results were finally announced was that they had been manipulated so that Sunnis would not appear as a too small minority.

Posted by: Hamburger | Jan 17 2007 23:22 utc | 72

bob @ 71,
very good points, though I did not expect the Spanish inquisition.

When religion is also intersected with skin color, language, cultural habits and other divisions it does get messy. To answer a question from annie, I believe "arab" is perceived to be an ethnic group but its ethnicity is based more on language and culture then skin-color and genetic heritage.

During and after the yugoslavian break-up much efforts was invested in carving out different languages from Serbo-croatian (as it was called at the time). Though the primary ethnic difference was religion (orthodox christian (serb), catholic christian (croat) and muslem (bosnian)) other differences was accentuated to create different groups. Just as a lot of effort previously had been invested in creating a common yugoslavian identity.

I remember Riverbend being very worried in the beginning of the occupation because of all the emphasis on division in subgroups along ethnic and religious boundaries. Combined with the persistant talk of civil war (before there was any) it was not all that hard to see where it was heading.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Jan 17 2007 23:58 utc | 73

this is annecdotal and may not be helpful, but thought i would mention it. my corner deli is owned by a palestinian. working the different shifts (open 24 hrs.) are palestinians, jordanians, yemenites, egyptians, etc. although, not all arab, they are all muslim. a few weeks ago, i asked the day shift - a jordanian and a palestinian if they were sunni or shia - and they told me in a nice way that my question was nonsensical, that it was like looking at various protestant sects.

also from an annecdotal source, i used to work with an iraqi jew. no mention of iraqi jews in these summaries. i know from cursory reading that most iraqi jews left iraq around 1950 and that in 2004 there were fewer than 100 left in the country. something tells me that number is probably close to zed now and that may explain why iraqi jews are not included in these lists.

Posted by: conchita | Jan 18 2007 0:01 utc | 74

I suspect that Iraq was a far more integrated society in the past then is being let on.

from what iraqis say it was very much integreted. not sure what you mean by 'being let on' but it seems fairly obvious we have fuel secretarian divisions since the onset and the rabid propaganda spinners have always trumped the lie iraq had huge divisions they didn't.

The divisions were based more on who got the spoils, than sectarian identity

i think anyone not supportive of sadam was up shit creek. sadam wasn't secretarian (at least according to iraqi bloggers i've read) nor was the baath party, he wanted loyalty and it was deadly to be otherwise, sunni or shia.

Finally, annie, I didn't mean to jump down your throat, but you did make this very same claim several days ago,

feel free to jump anytime, my skin is thick. i have no recollection of making such 'claims' but that means nothing since i forget a lot. no recollection whatsoever. but you mentioned yesterday you had only posted around 10 times previously so it wouldn't be that difficult to track down if i was so inclined, or even interested.

Posted by: annie | Jan 18 2007 0:12 utc | 75

askod I believe "arab" is perceived to be an ethnic group but its ethnicity is based more on language and culture then skin-color and genetic heritage.

i am starting to realize more fluidity in my concepts surrounding what is arab.

i used to work with an iraqi jew. no mention of iraqi jews in these summaries. i know from cursory reading that most iraqi jews left iraq around 1950 and that in 2004 there were fewer than 100 left in the country.

conchita, i never realized this when you spoke of him. they have fascinating story. baghdad treaasue did a post that revealed quite a history. i will look for it.

Posted by: annie | Jan 18 2007 0:21 utc | 76

askod, no one expects the spanish inquisition!

(could not resist ;-))

Posted by: conchita | Jan 18 2007 0:24 utc | 77

calling all hamburg moonbats - tear yourselvs away from moa and check your email.

Posted by: conchita | Jan 18 2007 0:27 utc | 78

Perhaps my reference to the Spanish Inquisition was a bit obscure. I was refering to the current sectarian violence, how neighborhoods are being ethnically cleansed, and how people feel compelled to have an ID with the right sounding last name when passing through a neighborhood -- that is, the changing of one's own identity in order to survive.

Posted by: Bob M. | Jan 18 2007 1:58 utc | 79

@ Bob M, #71--this is somewhat OT, but you sound like maybe you hang out with UUs (I'm just guessing, because most non-UUs just say Unitarian and hardly anyone mentions the Universalists). Not the point of your post, obviously, but I worked in a UU church for 9 years. I was raised Methodist by Methodist mom and non-church-going dad, gave it up as a teen, read Heinlein and Wilson instead--the UU's resocialized me to some extent.

One of my favorite authors, John Crowley, points out in his novel AEgypt that history, like myth, being a narrative form, tends to gravitate toward simple, memorable, "magickal" numbers: 3 wise men, 12 disciples, 1001 Arabian nights, 7 Samurai, six million Jews....of course, when the numbers get high, it's a matter of rounding off (christ, the carnage of the two world wars).

Posted by: catlady | Jan 18 2007 2:09 utc | 80

human rights watch and amnesty int. have vast documentation of systemic abuses by saddam of shia, kurds. the top leadership, w/ exception of aziz, were sunni ba'ath.

under king faisal, shia were marginalized politically and economically. shioa were persistently oppressed by sunni ruling elite.

ottomans of course established the tradition--shia were excluded from political participation for nearly three centuries.

now, where in this history is the pleasant comity of secular nationalism found?

it's completely ridiculous to claim, against overwhelming evidence, the u.s. manufactured interfaith/ethnic rivalry in iraq.

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 18 2007 3:34 utc | 81

for a conniving rightwing imperialist stooge, professor cole's book yields surprisingly useful info about iraq shia. who'd a thunk it?

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 18 2007 3:36 utc | 82

IRAN – IRAN – IRAN-

Here is an excellent short radio program looking at the big picture in the Middle East.

NPR All Things Considered, January 17, 2007:
Listen

The Middle East's conflicts are connected by a larger issue: a confrontation between Iran and the United States for power and influence in the region, analysts say.
From protesters trying to bring down Lebanon's Western-backed government to violence among Palestinian factions, some experts say the common theme is the jockeying for power between the two larger rivals.
Iraq is another arena in the confrontation between the United States and Iran. And for Washington, it's the most important one.

Interesting quote by Gary Sick (approx.5 minutes into the program): “Iran is fighting the Americans in Iraq so they don’t have to fight them in Iran.”

Posted by: Rick | Jan 18 2007 4:43 utc | 83

it's completely ridiculous to claim, against overwhelming evidence, the u.s. manufactured interfaith/ethnic rivalry in iraq.

hmm

Juan Cole, a well-known historian of the Middle East, has pointed out on his blog, Informed Comment, that the split between Sunni and Shiites in Iraq is of relatively recent origin:

I see a lot of pundits and politicians saying that Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq have been fighting for a millennium. We need better history than that. The Shiite tribes of the south probably only converted to Shiism in the past 200 year s. And, Sunni-Shiite riots per se were rare in 20th century Iraq. Sunnis and Shiites cooperated in the 1920 rebellion against the British. If you read the newspapers in the 1950s and 1960s, you don't see anything about Sunni-Shiite riots. There were peasant/landlord struggles or communists versus Baathists. The kind of sectarian fighting we're seeing now in Iraq is new in its scale and ferocity, and it was the Americans who unleashed it.

Posted by: annie | Jan 18 2007 5:10 utc | 84

{Annie – you beat me to the punch, but said it so much better in quoting Juan Cole. Here is what I started to write anyway…}
Slothrop: “…it's completely ridiculous to claim, against overwhelming evidence, the u.s. manufactured interfaith/ethnic rivalry in iraq.”
If you believe that “manufactured” is not the correct term or completely incorrect in any sense, would you at least acknowledge that the U.S., in working with Iraqi Shiites, especially after the Iraq elections yielding Shiite success/control along with Iranian influence, enflamed such conflicts?
Of course, any person who may be connected with the U.S. occupation, regardless of race, religion, or nationality, becomes a target for death. With this fact in mind, there can be no reasonable argument that continued U.S. occupation, on any scale, is healthy for Iraq.

Posted by: Rick | Jan 18 2007 6:08 utc | 85

I've been trying to resist slothrop's bait on this one , but annie's Cole quote "and it was the Americans who unleashed it" pretty much sums it up. The U.S. did'nt manufacture interfaith/ethnic rivalry in Iraq, they dont know enough about the subtlties involved to even come close to doing that. As Cole alludes, what the U.S. did do, was to essentially, remove the pan Iraqi and secular layers of culture that had accumulated over the tribal and sectarian interests. How else to explain why Iraq had the reputation of being the most secular and most liberal country in the middle east -- and in many respects, the country least likely to fall into sectarian and civil war.

Virtually every "rule" imposed by the CPA had the effect of dismanteling whatever gains, in the interest of nationalism over sectarainism, that had been gained post colonialism. The disbanding of the secular army, the de-nationalism of state industry, the complete economic upheaval of the economy/tax structure/ social service, and yes the de-Baathification (many in the Baath were Shiite) all had/have the effect of removing socio-political-economic structures that had givin rise to Iraq's secular exceptionalism. And what remained in place of these structures and/or even a functioning government were the older tribal and religious structure that all Iraqi's are necessarily by birth a part of, even if it had become a secondary part of everyday life. What we have seen in Iraq, is that these sectarian interests have come to replace governmnetal function, offering services, employment, and security -- all outside, or partially outside the "official" governmental functions. It might even be argued that the sectarian/militia interests are the real government and the greenzone government merely an interlocutor between the militias and the occupation.

At any rate, these "sectarian governments" are not governments in the sense of "state(s)" and are necessarily isolated and in competition with each other, as their older structure is essentially totemic and geared to their own intertribal differentiation. All of which have been exasperated and intensified by the demands of the occupation -- which HAS stripped off the veneers of nationalism, in order to enforce subjugation.

Posted by: anna missed | Jan 18 2007 6:14 utc | 86

All of which is a recipe for civil war.

Posted by: anna missed | Jan 18 2007 6:19 utc | 87

I think we're dealing with a bit of a false dichotomy here. Sectarian religious violence, and revolution, take place within political context. It occurs in cases where power dynamics change dramatically, leaving a vacuum which needs to be filled both with people taking power, and an explanation for their deserving power. Religion can be used as an explanation for the new power dynamics, as in Iraq currently, or it can be created on the fly to start a revolution or justify an already existing one - for example, the Chinese Taiping Rebellion was based around a bizarre form of Christianity which spread like wildfire once the handful of adherents started defeating the incompetent imperial Qing authorities.

In Iraq, this pragmatic view of the role of religion can be seen by the fact that we've reified the country into three factions: two religious, and one ethnic. That the question "What sect are the Kurds?" has come up is quite illustrative. And whose side, politically, are the Kurds on?

The American invasion removed previous Us vs. Them concepts, which I'm no expert on, but I'll guess they were along the lines of Baathist vs. non-Baathist, or favored-politically vs. out-of-favor. The new ones could have been picked from a variety of other formations: bourgeois vs peasant being a classic, for example, but the Shia/Sunni/Kurd formulation has won the day. The Americans seem to have encouraged this fairly strongly, but make no mistake: given the invasion's removal of power and Americans' lack of power to make it even Iraqi vs invaders, there would be some level of sectarian violence, regardless of which sects are on which side. You could call it divide-and-conquer, but that assumes a coherent plan. I'd call it conquer-creates-divisions.

Or, to be pithy about it, if the Shia and Sunnis didn't exist, the invaders would have had to invent them.


(to be clear, I don't want to this to be read as ENTIRELY pragmatic in regards to religion. There is history between Sunni and Shia, of course, and some of it is specifically theological. I just believe that and choice of what religion to follow it, up to killing and dying for it, is a mixture of politics, economics, personal charisma, family ties, and even, occasionally, doctrine. In this case, Sunni and Shia might have been the most likely division, or even inevitable given invasion, but it was the circumstances which pushed for some kind of violence to occur, which has been given a religious form.)

Posted by: Rowan | Jan 18 2007 6:22 utc | 88

Here are some links, they seem to be in general agreement:
Univ of Ga
Islamicweb
wikipedia
CIA

Posted by: Bill Galt | Jan 18 2007 7:32 utc | 89

@68 - Dan of Steele

The author (Faruq Ziada) of the article b pointed to is supposedly an Iraqi ambassador though the only reference to him in Google is to the "Is There a Sunni Majority in Iraq?"

Not really - he at least existed before that article:

IRAQ
Faruq S. Ziada
Counsellor
Permanent Mission of Iraq to the
United Nations
NYU - Multinational Institute of American Studies - Seminar in American Politics for United Nations Delegates -
INSTITUTE FELLOWS 1986

Posted by: b | Jan 18 2007 7:35 utc | 90

@Bill Galt - 89

Thanks for the links - let's see:

Univ of Georgia says its source is:

Chibli Mallat, "Iraq," Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World, 1995, vol. 2, p. 237

Islamicweb says iabout its source:

The first statistic was all taken from the British Encyclopedia for the year 1997.

In the second statistic on the Islamicweb link it says:
This statistic was all taken from many independent sources for the year 1999. It is more accurate than the previous one.

Iraq - Percentage of Shia to Muslims - 65-30%

Upps - quite a range ...

Wikipedia (corrected link) says:

Proportions: There are no official figures available, mainly due to the highly politically charged nature of the subject. Source: Britannica: Shi'a 60%, Sunni 40% Source: CIA World Fact Book: Shi'a 60%-65%, Sunni 32%-37%

The CIA World Fact Book does not give a source, but I bet they have some British Encyclopedia available at Langley.

To me this looks like like all the four "sources" you linked are actually based on one and the same principle source - a British one that is.

Again: I am not saying the numbers are wrong, but as these numbers are an important base of policy, they certainly deserve some scrutinity.

Posted by: b | Jan 18 2007 7:52 utc | 91

Typical:

For all the bills introduced yesterday, none is likely to force President Bush to change course in Iraq. Proposals such as Biden's are "nonbinding" and others don't have enough votes to pass. "There is very little chance in the short run that we are going to pass any legislation," Clinton confided during her news conference. Asked to elaborate, she explained: "I can count."

If anything, the competing proposals could strengthen Bush's hand. Though largely united in opposition to Bush's plan, members of Congress, carved up by the presidential ambitions of Clinton, Obama, Dodd, Biden and others, can't unite around an alternative.

Congressional Procession of Iraq Proposals Likely to Lead Nowhere

Posted by: b | Jan 18 2007 8:03 utc | 92

I am all for efforts to pin down the Iraqi population. And I want to look further into this.

At the same time, I am struck by the fairly obvious fact that whatever numbers are in these sources from a few years ago are no longer reliable, given the huge number of deaths and refugee "relocations" that have occurred in the upheaval of the past few years, not to mention the decade of sanctions that preceded it.

And of course without a functioning national government, there is no reliable way to gather updated statistics.

I just thought we should keep that caveat in mind as we pursue the best possible version of the demographics that we can come up with. And I do think it is an important and valuable exercise.

Posted by: Bea | Jan 18 2007 11:45 utc | 93

Bea #93,

I think it may be all but impossible now to gather reliable data on current demographics. I have heard estimates that over a thousand people a day are leaving Iraq, millions have left already, and millions relocated. Even the statistics on deaths caused by U.S. destruction and upheaval vary from over 1 million to the upper tens of thousands.

Also, interesting would be population statistics on "well-being" - I would love to hear the old Republican phrase "Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?" rephrased concerning Iraqi's and thrown back as a loud insult to the Bush Administration and Congress, especially Republicans. Of course, those with more money and means have either left Iraq, been killed or are laying low. I have no idea of the real data, but am quite sure the answer is obviously horrible except for some Iraqi's in Kurdish areas or those living in the Green Zone. (Oh, and maybe some of those running a lucrative kidnapping business would say they are better off. Gee, it's always nice to have employment opportunities besides that of joining the police force.)

Posted by: Rick | Jan 18 2007 16:13 utc | 94

i also think it is important to view the percentages in their context. regardless of the fact there is a secretarian conflict currently in full bloom, i do think it was fueled by outside forces and continues to be.

helena cobban

(4) As noted here previously, the vast majority of the western MSM has ignored or systematically the Iraqi nationalist narrative. This is most likely through some combination of (a) their unfamiliarity with Iraqi politics, (b) their susceptibility to, and in many cases reliance on, the Bushists' spin, and (c) intellectual laziness.

i will continue to believe iraqis who have assured me personally in private conversation the secular nature of their society prior to the invasion. many iraqis, especially the youth, do not identify themselves as one sect as they do w/their identity as iraqis

(2) This is far from the first time that a "battle of the narratives" of such broad and far-reaching proportions has been at issue during a bloody and very lethal battle in that region. Back in 1980 after Saddam launched his extremely aggressive and ill-starred invasion of Iran, there were huge questions about the loyalty to their respective national capitals of (a) the millions of ethnic-Arab Shiites of Iraq, and (b) the millions of ethnic-Arab Shiites of the south of Iran. But it was the citizenship that members of each of these groups had at that time won out over, in the case of the Iraqi Shiites, their sectarian sentiment, and in the case of the ethnic-Arab Iranians, their ethnic identity.

anna missed points out above (many in the Baath were Shiite).
more than one iraqi blogger (omar from 24 and kid) have stated the majority of baathist were shiite. i may be wrong about this but it is my understanding to be in the militry one had to be a member of the baath party. sadam was fixated on loyalty. the 148 shiites he was convicted of murdering were involved in a plot to assassinate him. while some could construe he massacred people because their sect he also killed had no problem killing disloyal sunni, including his relatives. iraqis will tell you he was a secular dictator.

i guess my point, is that this drumbeat of measuring the percentages discounts the nationalists nature of factions in all sects.

(1) In the present situation in Iraq, the two main narratives that I see as competing for the hearts and minds of (Arab) Iraqis are not the two sectarian narratives described above, but rather, the Bushist narrative and the Iraqi-nationalist narrative.

The advocates of each of these two large competing narratives are currently fighting to manipulate the loyalties of the Iraqi supporters of both the sectarian narratives in the direction they want them to go.

In the case of the Iraqi nationalists they want and need to win to their own cause the loyalties of Iraqis who might currently be supporters of one or the other sectarian narrative.

In the case of the Bushists, they want to enlist as many Arab Iraqis as they can to their "moderates vs. extremists" narrative. But even the very dumbest Bushists must understand there is little likelihood of achieving a winning coalition in that way. So more than that, they are probably seeking to pump up both the two sectarian narratives, as a way of minimizing the support for the nationalist narrative, and then to let the proponents of the competing sectarianisms escalate their conflict against each other in a perpetuation of the classic divide-and-rule tactics Washington has been pursuing inside Iraq since April 2003.

one more thing that looms in my mind is that map, designed prior to the invasion, prior to a secretarian conflict. without fermenting a civil war, how exactly were the PTB planning on reshuffling the population into those states divided by sect? if iraq was going to be divided for conquering purposes what other models might they have followed? what other country in the ME that claims to be a 'democracy' is actually identified thru its religion ( and anyone critical of its foriegn policy deemed a racist)?

can anyone imagine the absurdity of states in the US being divided by religion? we've got utah for the mormons, lets shuffle all those unitarians to maine! who gets ny?

Posted by: annie | Jan 18 2007 16:39 utc | 95

@annie #95

Yes, you nailed it. The whole sectarian agenda for Iraq is perhaps a push for "sectarianizing" the entire Middle East because for certain parties, the opposite course (ie, "secularizing it") would be tantamount to "destruction."

Posted by: Bea | Jan 18 2007 16:57 utc | 96

One Iraq or Three?: Other People's Maps

Seems like an appropriate place to post this recent analysis by Reidar Visser, research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs with a background in history and comparative politics (University of Bergen) and a doctorate in Middle Eastern studies (University of Oxford). His site is www.historiae.org.

Posted by: Bea | Jan 18 2007 17:00 utc | 97

From http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Space-Holy-War-Politics/dp/1860647367/sr=8-1/qid=1169139313/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-1721290-7144635?ie=UTF8&s=books>juan cole’s book:

[4] The Ottoman-ruled Arabophone Shi'ite communities included the Twelvers of Jabal 'Amil near Tyre and Sidon, of Baghdad and Basra in what is now Iraq, and of al-Hasa further down the Persian Gulf littoral. The Ottomans made a major distinction among Twelvers, reserving harshest treatment for those who adhered to the esoteric sect of Safavid followers known as Qizilbash. Clearly, they feared the Qizilbash Twelvers more for their political support of the Safavid leaders than for their doctrines, and their jurists declared them apostates who should be killed and against whom holy war was necessary. The Ottoman-Safavid international political struggle often had unfortunate repercussions for Arab Twelvers, whom the Ottomans feared as a pro-Safavid fifth column behind their own lines. The very aggressiveness of Safavid Shi'ism toward Sunnis caused a backlash against Arab minorities.

Twelvers suffered disadvantages in Iraq, which the Ottomans took from the Iranians in 1534 and held thereafter, with a hiatus of Safavid reconquest 1623-1638. This region constituted a frontline in the two powers' tug of war, and the loyalties of the Twelvers in Baghdad, the shrine cities, and Basra were always suspect. Once they had conquered territories beyond Basra on the coast of the Persian Gulf, the Ottomans treated the Shi' ites in the area known as al-Hasa (eastern Arabia) harshly. The Twelvers who lived in what is now Lebanon were not the objects of as much Ottoman suspicion, probably because they were far from the border with Shiite Iran, and some of their clans were incorporated into the Ottoman military and administrative apparatus.

The eighteenth century was a disastrous one for Twelver Shi'ism. Sunni Afghan tribal cavalries overthrew the Shi'ite Safavids in 1722, initiated a long period of political chaos in Iran and of Sunni rule or of the rule of chieftains not particularly sympathetic to the Shi' ite clergy. In the first six decades of the century the conservative, literalist Akhbari school of jurisprudence appears to have become dominant in many Shi'ite centers, especially outside Iran. But in the last quarter of the eighteenth century the more scholastic, clericalist Usuli school witnessed a resurgence in the shrine cities near Baghdad, allowing its partisans to train the next generation of Shi'ite clergymen in Iran and even places like India, and ensuring its eventual victory nearly everywhere save Bahrain.

This development was important because the Usuli school gives a special place to the clergy, valuing their scholastic reasoning in the law, and insisting that all lay believers follow and emulate their rulings and example. The Ottoman Shi'ites probably benefited from the political decentralization that the empire underwent in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, allowing local Shi'ite Arab notable families more space to maneuver. But the Tanzimat ("reorganization") reforms that began in 1826 led to a gradual tightening of the Ottoman grip. Thus, the province of Baghdad was restored to direct Ottoman rule in the early 1830s, and in the 1840s strong measures were taken to end the semiautonomy of the Shi'ite shrine cities.

[18]
… Clearly, they feared the Qizilbash Twelvers more for their political support of the Safavid leaders than for their doctrines. In the condemnation of this group issued at the request of Sultan Selim 1, Ottoman jurisconsult Ibn Kemal Pashazade referred to them as a "sect (ta'ife) of the Shi'a" and declared them apostates whose men must be killed, whose wealth and women are allowed to any Sunnis who wish to usurp them, and against whom holy war is incumbent. 4 Against the Qizilbash Twelvers, the Ottomans showed a willingness to resort to extreme measures such as population transfer and extermination. After an Anatolian rebellion in 1501 Bayezid relocated some 30,000 extremist Shi'ites to Morea in Europe, and in 1514 Selim I ordered a massacre of 40,000 Anatolian Qizilbash.s The Ottoman attitude toward quietist Twelver Shiites in the Arabic-speaking provinces was often quite different, but Shi'ites of any sort always risked be conflated with Qizilbash, especially on the Ottoman-Safavid frontiers.

Thus, an important cause for continued Ottoman hostility towards Twelvers was the rise of the Twelver Safavid state in Iran during the sixteenth century, and its fierce enmity with Istanbul. This international political struggle often had unfortunate repercussions, not only for Anatolian Qizilbash, but also for Arab Twelvers, whom the Ottomans sometimes feared as a pro-Safavid fifth column behind their own lines. The very aggressiveness of Safavid Shi'ism toward Sunnis caused a backlash against Arab minorities. Prominent Twelvers dwelling in the Hijaz wrote to Safavid religious authorities protesting that Iranian attacks on Sunnis and public cursing of the caliphs whom Sunnis revered had provoked hostility toward Shiites in the holy cities. 6

Twelvers also suffered disadvantages in Iraq, which the Ottomans took from the Iranians in 1534 and held thereafter, with a hiatus of Safavid reconquest 1623-1638. This region constituted a frontline in the two powers' tug of war, and the loyalties of the Twelvers in southern Iraq were always suspect. Ottoman administrators in sixteenth century Baghdad lamented that there was "no end to the heretics and misbelievers."' Ottoman policy toward Twelvers in Iraq varied with political circumstances. In the early 1570s Istanbul ordered the execution of men who secretly took a stipend from Shah Tahmasp to recite the Qur'an at shrines for the Iranian monarch, forbade the granting of fiefs to locals, whom it ordered watched for signs of heresy, and in Mosul forbade 'Ashura' ceremonies mourning the martyred grandson of the Prophet, Imam Husayn.

But in this period the Ottomans sought to avoid acts so grave that they might provoke hostilities with Iran. Witch-hunts for Qizilbash sympathizers of the Safavids turned up fief-holders, local notables in the cities, and even the administrator of a sanjak, some of whom were accused of being in league with Bedouin and Turkoman tribespeople.s During the Safavid reconquest of Iraq Sunnis were massively persecuted and the shrine of 'Abd al-Qadar Gilani in Baghdad damaged; on the Ottoman retaking of Baghdad in 1638 Hasan Pasha ordered the Sunni shrine repaired, largely with receipts from confiscated Twelver lands, and a general slaughter of all persons of known Persian descent took place.'

The Ottomans, once they had extended their lines down to the western littoral of the Persian Gulf to conquer al-Hasa in 1550, expropriated lands of Twelvers and closed off the trans-Arabian pilgrimage route so as to deny Twelvers access to Mecca and Medina. Even after 1590, when they once more allowed trade and pilgrimage from al-Hasa to the Hijaz, they forbade Twelvers to pursue it and so hurt merchants of this community. Despite the Arab ethnicity of the area's Imamis, the Ottoman authorities saw them as Iranians (acem).'°

Twelvers' spiritual, ritual and legal life nevertheless went on under the Ottomans. Their ulama traveled from Ottoman Sidon to Ottoman Najaf for studies. Indeed, such travel for study played so important a role in the cross-fertilization of ideas that the Second Martyr's own sons from Jabal 'Amil learned much that they did not know from their father's old students in Iraq." The network of students, teachers, and pilgrims crisscrossed imperial borders as well as provincial ones, so that many Twelvers from Jabal 'Amil went to make their fortunes in newly Shi'ite Iran, where 'Amilis became almost a clerical caste, or in the Twelver-ruled state of Golconda in southern India.' 6
Because of the importance of foreign patronage to Twelver ulama and notables, the fall of Safavid Iran to Sunni Afghan invaders toward the end of this period, in 1722, and the decades-long disestablishment of Shi'ism as a state religion can only have had a dramatic impact on Twelver morale in Jabal 'Amil, Iraq, and al-Hasa. The Iraqi shrine cities, already under Sunni Ottoman rule, had at least looked to the Safavids for infusions of wealth, gilding of shrines, and contributions to the ulama. Now the proud Isfahani clerical families themselves crowded into Najaf and Karbala as refugees, ironically seeking the protection of Ottoman law and order from the Afghan Ghilzai marauders.

In the period 1500-1750, then, the Ottomans engaged in a rhetoric of forced assimilation (or in the case of the "Qizilbash" even extermination) toward the Twelvers, while in fact practicing in most Arab regions a policy of simple subjugation. The consequences of this subjugation [22] varied by social class. Twelver magnates and intermediate strata certainly suffered by being denied opportunities of advancement and patronage (intisap) in Istanbul, or even in provincial capitals like Damascus and Baghdad, (though some, especially in the Levant, attained local power as emirs and a subordinate feudal position in the Ottoman military). Social segregation and constriction of opportunities therefore did follow from Ottoman prejudices. Conflict, economic exploitation, reduction in minority power and status deprivation all also characterized relations of the Sunni majority with the Twelver minority before 1750.

Twelvers kept a strong sense of demotic identity, despite their marginal condition, through several rituals. First, they frequently mourned the martyred Imams or scions of the Prophet's House, especially Husayn. In Nabatiya, these rituals came to be especially bloody, involving public self-flagellation.' 7 Such rituals included not only the self affirmation of pledging fealty to the Twelve Imams, but also the cursing of the early Caliphs, whom they saw as usurpers. Sunnis felt that the Twelvers, in insisting on such cursing, kept a dirty little secret. Their ceremonies, in this view, had at their core a mysterious blasphemy. For Twelvers, however, the ritual mourning of Imam Husayn carried with it a dual message, of patient perseverance in the truth even unto martyrdom, and of courageous battle with steel against tyranny. At various times, either of these Janus heads might be emphasized.

Second, where the social conditions threatened believers with death, Twelver jurists required pious dissimulation (tagiyya) or the denial that they were Shi'ites. This verbal self-negation was designed to substitute for physical annihilation. Some Twelvers argued against holding communal Friday prayers in the absence of the Imam, for fear it would provoke violence among Sunnis. Others insisted on the prayers despite their provocative nature. The sense of danger, the need to conceal, informed all religious observances performed by Twelver Shi'ites in places where they formed a minority.

As noted, from 1826 the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II began an effective centralization of the empire. In 1831 direct Ottoman rule was reestablished over Iraq and the slave-soldiers ousted. The ;sultan's modernization of his armed forces, however, could not alone have rescued him from the ambitious viceroy of Egypt, Muhammad 'Ali, who made a bid to take over the empire in the 1830s. Only European intervention saved the sultan from losing this Ottoman civil war. After the 1840 Treaty of London, however, the process of centralization continued apace outside Egypt.

It met opposition from the Twelvers of southern Iraq, who, especially in their shrine cities, had attained a sort of autonomy. When the city of Karbala unanimously refused to accept a Turkish garrison, hard line Ottoman governor Najib Pasha ordered an invasion that crushed the Imamis' opposition in January of 1843 and left some five thousand dead. The cruelty of Ottoman troops toward the civilian population, which had wholeheartedly supported the rebellion, carried with it the emotional baggage of Sunni hostility toward Twelvers. So too did the Ottoman policy of making Imami shrines into barracks for rowdy infantrymen. The Ottomans continued thereafter aggressively to face down the Twelvers, whether in the shrine cities or in the hinterland where tribespeople roamed, and once again to collect from them taxes and tribute."

Some disabilities of Twelvers in nineteenth century Ottoman Iraq derived more from their social position than their perceived heterodoxy. Thus, the Twelver Khaza'il tribespeople often participated in revolts against Baghdad's attempts to extract more money from them or to manipulate their politics, and it would be difficult to prove that such conflicts differed substantially from those between the Ottomans and the Sunni Kurdish clans. In the south, tribal coalitions formed easily across sectarian lines in the face of imperial encroachments. The Ottomans launched campaigns against the tribes and marsh Arabs and even went so far as to drain swamps in order to control them. As the century wore on, the modernizing Ottomans increasingly gained the military advantage over the Khaza'il and other Shi'ite tribes. 33

Twelver peasants, tribespeople, and marsh Arabs in southern Iraq suffered from the economic changes in the second half of the nineteenth century, as well. Ottoman land-registration practices and enforced sedentarization reduced many proud Twelver pastoralists to landless peasants laboring for their chief, who became a large landlord. The opening of the Suez canal in 1869 favored the cultivation of cash crops and the Sunni urban brokers. The economic gap between urban Sunnis and the Twelver marsh Arabs widened considerably. 34

The rise of Ottoman reformism and the promotion of an ideology of Ottoman nationalism that would offer all subjects of the sultan equal rights should on the face of it have benefited the empire's Twelvers. But even the application of greater rationalism in government can prove invidious. The career of reformer Midhat Pasha provides several anecdotes that demonstrate how differently the "reformers" might look to a Shiite. On becoming governor of Baghdad province in 1869, Midhat's first task was to subdue the largely Twelver tribes to the south in order to increase state revenues.

He initiated the Ottoman reconquest of the Twelver region of al-Hasa in 1871, with an eye both to military strategy and to tax income (Twelvers in the Gulf may have preferred Ottoman rule to that of the Wahhabis, but they did complain of mistreatment and overtaxation at the hands of the Ottomans). Midhat then had the treasures and offerings stored at Shiite shrines in Najaf appraised at TL 300,000, and proposed an auction so that the proceeds could be used for public works like a railway line. Midhat's son sadly reported that "this reasonable proposal, however, was vetoed by the Persian Ulemas." In the 1890s the government of Sultan Abdulhamid 11 (r. 1876-1909) attempted to curb Shi'ism and to proselytize Twelvers, hoping to convert them to Sunnism. The central government dared not go too far in this direction, however, lest it provoke rebellion in the Iraqi south 3s

[29]

In the Ottoman Empire, vigorous demotic Shi' ite communities had existed long before the advent of the Safavids in Iran, in Jabal 'Amil, alHasa, and some cities of Iraq. As most of these came under Ottoman rule, the political rivalries between Iran and the Ottomans made them suspect as a fifth column in the eyes of Istanbul. These Arabic-speaking Shi'ites had no local courts to receive gifts, favors or support from the Safavids and their successors. Most of them could benefit from Shi'ite ascendency in Iran only indirectly, by studying there or developing contacts with its nobles.

From the mid-nineteenth century, Twelver minorities lost whatever previous semi-autonomy they had gained during the age of the politics of the notables. They were forced to submit once again to more direct Ottoman rule in Iraq, al-Hasa and the Levant. In the first phases of Ottoman reassertion, rebellious Twelvers in Iraq were dealt with harshly by their Sunni vanquishers, their institutions disrupted, shrines desecrated, populations sometimes displaced, local leaders deposed. That is, after a period during which Ottoman weakness had led to greater de facto toleration of Shi' ites, the Tanzimat reforms involved a policy toward them of renewed subjugation.

The Ottomans subjugated the Levant with less violence, whereas in Karbala, which was resisted, the Ottomans showed themselves entirely capable of massacring the recalcitrant Shi'ites. Especially from 1856, changes occurred in the ideology of the empire. The Tanzimat decrees of equality for all Ottoman subjects marked a move toward a majority policy of pluralism, where cultural variability is permitted as long as it does not threaten national unity and security. …

[174]
The formation of new nation-states in Iraq and Lebanon gave impetus to the development of localistic Shi'ite identities. The Arab Shi'ite communities began the century as peasants or pastoral nomads living under an agrarian bureaucracy staffed by Sunni, Ottoman Turkishspeaking officials. Twelver Shi'ites have in the twentieth century been greatly affected by and often involved in the making of new national states that broke away or were detached from the Ottoman empire. Yet their sectarian distinctiveness has made their integration into a national ethos based on Arab nationalism difficult, and offered little hope of a better deal for the poverty-stricken Shi'ites. The Shi'ites' characteristic position at the bottom of the economic scale has tended to impede escape from their rural, and more lately urban, ghettoes. This marginal status in the new Arab states made Shi'iteszparticularly susceptible to the panIslamic or pan-Shi'ite ideology promulgated by Iran's clerics during and after the Islamic Revolution of 1978-79.

The breakup of the Ottoman Empire in World War I and the rise of independent Arab states changed the framework within which Twelvers competed for resources. Not only did the modem national state differ from the empire in the way it governed and redistributed resources, but opportunities arose for minorities to redefine their identities. Secular Arabism and socialism provided, at•least potentially, alternative ways of seeing themselves. Many hoped that it would matter little whether the Arabs of Iraq were Twelver or Sunni if all were Arabs or all were socialists. The Comtean shock of the twentieth century, however, has been precisely the continuing importance of religiously based group identities, and thus of religious influences from Shi'ite Iran.

The British invasion of Iraq during WW I was seen by some Twelvers (especially Sayyids) as an opportunity to escape Ottoman Sunni rule. At first some Twelver leaders seemed amenable to the idea of British rule replacing that of Istanbul, but events following the British occupation of the shrine cities in 1917 caused the estrangement of their inhabitants from the Europeans. In the three subsequent years many Shi'ite ulama and notables made common cause with local Sunni nationalists in hopes of seeing an Arab, Muslim state emerge. The 1920 declararation of a British mandate, however, disappointed nationalist hopes in Iraq and Twelver ulama, notables and tribal leaders joined in the country's revolt against British rule. The chief mujtahid in the shrine cities declared all service with the British illicit, and other ulama and nationalist leaders cooperated in urging rebellion.' Of all the new Arab states, the Twelvers participated most actively in the formation of Iraq, even though its subsequent mandate status and Sunni domination disappointed them.

In April of 1922 a major conference of Imami ulama from both Iraq and Iran met at Karbala to denounce any treaty with the British. Some also wanted half of government posts, including the cabinet, reserved for Twelvers, and a declaration of holy war against the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia. The following year the leading mujtahids of Kazimayn, Karbala and Najaf issued rulings requiring a boycott of forthcoming elections under Faisal's cabinet. This rejectionist policy set them against, not only the British, but King Faisal, who wanted a treaty with London. His cabinet expelled the most uncompromising mujtahid from the country, and other major ulama left for Iran in protest, remaining there about a year. A reconciliation of sorts was effected with the distribution of finance and education portfolios to Twelver ministers, and the ulama ultimately acquiesced in the elections. 2 In the Iraq that emerged, Twelvers formed about 55 percent of the population, with Sunni Arabs at 22 percent and Kurds at 14 percent, according to rough British censuses of the early 1920s. Despite the Imami majority the community subsisted as a functional minority. 3 The 1920s witnessed the sharp decline of Iranian influence. Iranian residents in Iraq had their privileges removed and were forced to become citizens of the new state if they wished to continue to reside there. For its part, the new nationalist, secular government of Reza Shah Pahlevi attempted to limit Iranian Shi'ites' pilgrimages to the Iraqi shrine cities and drastically reduced links between them and Iran. 4

The new Iraqi state made some efforts to placate Arab Shi'is, as in the early decision that civil status cases among Imami parties would be tried by Imami jurists, in contrast to the Ottoman practices Although the Iraqi bureaucracy and educational system discriminated heavily against Twelver Arabs, the Shi'ites over time clearly adopted a specifically Iraqi identity. Their linguistic and ethnic identity was as important to them as the religious, and the pull of Iran was spiritualrather than separatist. Foir many Shi’ite intellectuals, it was more important to be an Iraqi and an Arab than to be a Shi’ite.

well, we know how that last bit turned out.

indeed, a little bit of knowledge doesn't go very far at all.

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 18 2007 17:02 utc | 98

From http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Space-Holy-War-Politics/dp/1860647367/sr=8-1/qid=1169139313/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/103-1721290-7144635?ie=UTF8&s=books>juan cole’s book:

[4] The Ottoman-ruled Arabophone Shi'ite communities included the Twelvers of Jabal 'Amil near Tyre and Sidon, of Baghdad and Basra in what is now Iraq, and of al-Hasa further down the Persian Gulf littoral. The Ottomans made a major distinction among Twelvers, reserving harshest treatment for those who adhered to the esoteric sect of Safavid followers known as Qizilbash. Clearly, they feared the Qizilbash Twelvers more for their political support of the Safavid leaders than for their doctrines, and their jurists declared them apostates who should be killed and against whom holy war was necessary. The Ottoman-Safavid international political struggle often had unfortunate repercussions for Arab Twelvers, whom the Ottomans feared as a pro-Safavid fifth column behind their own lines. The very aggressiveness of Safavid Shi'ism toward Sunnis caused a backlash against Arab minorities.

Twelvers suffered disadvantages in Iraq, which the Ottomans took from the Iranians in 1534 and held thereafter, with a hiatus of Safavid reconquest 1623-1638. This region constituted a frontline in the two powers' tug of war, and the loyalties of the Twelvers in Baghdad, the shrine cities, and Basra were always suspect. Once they had conquered territories beyond Basra on the coast of the Persian Gulf, the Ottomans treated the Shi' ites in the area known as al-Hasa (eastern Arabia) harshly. The Twelvers who lived in what is now Lebanon were not the objects of as much Ottoman suspicion, probably because they were far from the border with Shiite Iran, and some of their clans were incorporated into the Ottoman military and administrative apparatus.

The eighteenth century was a disastrous one for Twelver Shi'ism. Sunni Afghan tribal cavalries overthrew the Shi'ite Safavids in 1722, initiated a long period of political chaos in Iran and of Sunni rule or of the rule of chieftains not particularly sympathetic to the Shi' ite clergy. In the first six decades of the century the conservative, literalist Akhbari school of jurisprudence appears to have become dominant in many Shi'ite centers, especially outside Iran. But in the last quarter of the eighteenth century the more scholastic, clericalist Usuli school witnessed a resurgence in the shrine cities near Baghdad, allowing its partisans to train the next generation of Shi'ite clergymen in Iran and even places like India, and ensuring its eventual victory nearly everywhere save Bahrain.

This development was important because the Usuli school gives a special place to the clergy, valuing their scholastic reasoning in the law, and insisting that all lay believers follow and emulate their rulings and example. The Ottoman Shi'ites probably benefited from the political decentralization that the empire underwent in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, allowing local Shi'ite Arab notable families more space to maneuver. But the Tanzimat ("reorganization") reforms that began in 1826 led to a gradual tightening of the Ottoman grip. Thus, the province of Baghdad was restored to direct Ottoman rule in the early 1830s, and in the 1840s strong measures were taken to end the semiautonomy of the Shi'ite shrine cities.

[18]
… Clearly, they feared the Qizilbash Twelvers more for their political support of the Safavid leaders than for their doctrines. In the condemnation of this group issued at the request of Sultan Selim 1, Ottoman jurisconsult Ibn Kemal Pashazade referred to them as a "sect (ta'ife) of the Shi'a" and declared them apostates whose men must be killed, whose wealth and women are allowed to any Sunnis who wish to usurp them, and against whom holy war is incumbent. 4 Against the Qizilbash Twelvers, the Ottomans showed a willingness to resort to extreme measures such as population transfer and extermination. After an Anatolian rebellion in 1501 Bayezid relocated some 30,000 extremist Shi'ites to Morea in Europe, and in 1514 Selim I ordered a massacre of 40,000 Anatolian Qizilbash.s The Ottoman attitude toward quietist Twelver Shiites in the Arabic-speaking provinces was often quite different, but Shi'ites of any sort always risked be conflated with Qizilbash, especially on the Ottoman-Safavid frontiers.

Thus, an important cause for continued Ottoman hostility towards Twelvers was the rise of the Twelver Safavid state in Iran during the sixteenth century, and its fierce enmity with Istanbul. This international political struggle often had unfortunate repercussions, not only for Anatolian Qizilbash, but also for Arab Twelvers, whom the Ottomans sometimes feared as a pro-Safavid fifth column behind their own lines. The very aggressiveness of Safavid Shi'ism toward Sunnis caused a backlash against Arab minorities. Prominent Twelvers dwelling in the Hijaz wrote to Safavid religious authorities protesting that Iranian attacks on Sunnis and public cursing of the caliphs whom Sunnis revered had provoked hostility toward Shiites in the holy cities. 6

Twelvers also suffered disadvantages in Iraq, which the Ottomans took from the Iranians in 1534 and held thereafter, with a hiatus of Safavid reconquest 1623-1638. This region constituted a frontline in the two powers' tug of war, and the loyalties of the Twelvers in southern Iraq were always suspect. Ottoman administrators in sixteenth century Baghdad lamented that there was "no end to the heretics and misbelievers."' Ottoman policy toward Twelvers in Iraq varied with political circumstances. In the early 1570s Istanbul ordered the execution of men who secretly took a stipend from Shah Tahmasp to recite the Qur'an at shrines for the Iranian monarch, forbade the granting of fiefs to locals, whom it ordered watched for signs of heresy, and in Mosul forbade 'Ashura' ceremonies mourning the martyred grandson of the Prophet, Imam Husayn.

But in this period the Ottomans sought to avoid acts so grave that they might provoke hostilities with Iran. Witch-hunts for Qizilbash sympathizers of the Safavids turned up fief-holders, local notables in the cities, and even the administrator of a sanjak, some of whom were accused of being in league with Bedouin and Turkoman tribespeople.s During the Safavid reconquest of Iraq Sunnis were massively persecuted and the shrine of 'Abd al-Qadar Gilani in Baghdad damaged; on the Ottoman retaking of Baghdad in 1638 Hasan Pasha ordered the Sunni shrine repaired, largely with receipts from confiscated Twelver lands, and a general slaughter of all persons of known Persian descent took place.'

The Ottomans, once they had extended their lines down to the western littoral of the Persian Gulf to conquer al-Hasa in 1550, expropriated lands of Twelvers and closed off the trans-Arabian pilgrimage route so as to deny Twelvers access to Mecca and Medina. Even after 1590, when they once more allowed trade and pilgrimage from al-Hasa to the Hijaz, they forbade Twelvers to pursue it and so hurt merchants of this community. Despite the Arab ethnicity of the area's Imamis, the Ottoman authorities saw them as Iranians (acem).'°

Twelvers' spiritual, ritual and legal life nevertheless went on under the Ottomans. Their ulama traveled from Ottoman Sidon to Ottoman Najaf for studies. Indeed, such travel for study played so important a role in the cross-fertilization of ideas that the Second Martyr's own sons from Jabal 'Amil learned much that they did not know from their father's old students in Iraq." The network of students, teachers, and pilgrims crisscrossed imperial borders as well as provincial ones, so that many Twelvers from Jabal 'Amil went to make their fortunes in newly Shi'ite Iran, where 'Amilis became almost a clerical caste, or in the Twelver-ruled state of Golconda in southern India.' 6
Because of the importance of foreign patronage to Twelver ulama and notables, the fall of Safavid Iran to Sunni Afghan invaders toward the end of this period, in 1722, and the decades-long disestablishment of Shi'ism as a state religion can only have had a dramatic impact on Twelver morale in Jabal 'Amil, Iraq, and al-Hasa. The Iraqi shrine cities, already under Sunni Ottoman rule, had at least looked to the Safavids for infusions of wealth, gilding of shrines, and contributions to the ulama. Now the proud Isfahani clerical families themselves crowded into Najaf and Karbala as refugees, ironically seeking the protection of Ottoman law and order from the Afghan Ghilzai marauders.

In the period 1500-1750, then, the Ottomans engaged in a rhetoric of forced assimilation (or in the case of the "Qizilbash" even extermination) toward the Twelvers, while in fact practicing in most Arab regions a policy of simple subjugation. The consequences of this subjugation [22] varied by social class. Twelver magnates and intermediate strata certainly suffered by being denied opportunities of advancement and patronage (intisap) in Istanbul, or even in provincial capitals like Damascus and Baghdad, (though some, especially in the Levant, attained local power as emirs and a subordinate feudal position in the Ottoman military). Social segregation and constriction of opportunities therefore did follow from Ottoman prejudices. Conflict, economic exploitation, reduction in minority power and status deprivation all also characterized relations of the Sunni majority with the Twelver minority before 1750.

Twelvers kept a strong sense of demotic identity, despite their marginal condition, through several rituals. First, they frequently mourned the martyred Imams or scions of the Prophet's House, especially Husayn. In Nabatiya, these rituals came to be especially bloody, involving public self-flagellation.' 7 Such rituals included not only the self affirmation of pledging fealty to the Twelve Imams, but also the cursing of the early Caliphs, whom they saw as usurpers. Sunnis felt that the Twelvers, in insisting on such cursing, kept a dirty little secret. Their ceremonies, in this view, had at their core a mysterious blasphemy. For Twelvers, however, the ritual mourning of Imam Husayn carried with it a dual message, of patient perseverance in the truth even unto martyrdom, and of courageous battle with steel against tyranny. At various times, either of these Janus heads might be emphasized.

Second, where the social conditions threatened believers with death, Twelver jurists required pious dissimulation (tagiyya) or the denial that they were Shi'ites. This verbal self-negation was designed to substitute for physical annihilation. Some Twelvers argued against holding communal Friday prayers in the absence of the Imam, for fear it would provoke violence among Sunnis. Others insisted on the prayers despite their provocative nature. The sense of danger, the need to conceal, informed all religious observances performed by Twelver Shi'ites in places where they formed a minority.

As noted, from 1826 the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II began an effective centralization of the empire. In 1831 direct Ottoman rule was reestablished over Iraq and the slave-soldiers ousted. The ;sultan's modernization of his armed forces, however, could not alone have rescued him from the ambitious viceroy of Egypt, Muhammad 'Ali, who made a bid to take over the empire in the 1830s. Only European intervention saved the sultan from losing this Ottoman civil war. After the 1840 Treaty of London, however, the process of centralization continued apace outside Egypt.

It met opposition from the Twelvers of southern Iraq, who, especially in their shrine cities, had attained a sort of autonomy. When the city of Karbala unanimously refused to accept a Turkish garrison, hard line Ottoman governor Najib Pasha ordered an invasion that crushed the Imamis' opposition in January of 1843 and left some five thousand dead. The cruelty of Ottoman troops toward the civilian population, which had wholeheartedly supported the rebellion, carried with it the emotional baggage of Sunni hostility toward Twelvers. So too did the Ottoman policy of making Imami shrines into barracks for rowdy infantrymen. The Ottomans continued thereafter aggressively to face down the Twelvers, whether in the shrine cities or in the hinterland where tribespeople roamed, and once again to collect from them taxes and tribute."

Some disabilities of Twelvers in nineteenth century Ottoman Iraq derived more from their social position than their perceived heterodoxy. Thus, the Twelver Khaza'il tribespeople often participated in revolts against Baghdad's attempts to extract more money from them or to manipulate their politics, and it would be difficult to prove that such conflicts differed substantially from those between the Ottomans and the Sunni Kurdish clans. In the south, tribal coalitions formed easily across sectarian lines in the face of imperial encroachments. The Ottomans launched campaigns against the tribes and marsh Arabs and even went so far as to drain swamps in order to control them. As the century wore on, the modernizing Ottomans increasingly gained the military advantage over the Khaza'il and other Shi'ite tribes. 33

Twelver peasants, tribespeople, and marsh Arabs in southern Iraq suffered from the economic changes in the second half of the nineteenth century, as well. Ottoman land-registration practices and enforced sedentarization reduced many proud Twelver pastoralists to landless peasants laboring for their chief, who became a large landlord. The opening of the Suez canal in 1869 favored the cultivation of cash crops and the Sunni urban brokers. The economic gap between urban Sunnis and the Twelver marsh Arabs widened considerably. 34

The rise of Ottoman reformism and the promotion of an ideology of Ottoman nationalism that would offer all subjects of the sultan equal rights should on the face of it have benefited the empire's Twelvers. But even the application of greater rationalism in government can prove invidious. The career of reformer Midhat Pasha provides several anecdotes that demonstrate how differently the "reformers" might look to a Shiite. On becoming governor of Baghdad province in 1869, Midhat's first task was to subdue the largely Twelver tribes to the south in order to increase state revenues.

He initiated the Ottoman reconquest of the Twelver region of al-Hasa in 1871, with an eye both to military strategy and to tax income (Twelvers in the Gulf may have preferred Ottoman rule to that of the Wahhabis, but they did complain of mistreatment and overtaxation at the hands of the Ottomans). Midhat then had the treasures and offerings stored at Shiite shrines in Najaf appraised at TL 300,000, and proposed an auction so that the proceeds could be used for public works like a railway line. Midhat's son sadly reported that "this reasonable proposal, however, was vetoed by the Persian Ulemas." In the 1890s the government of Sultan Abdulhamid 11 (r. 1876-1909) attempted to curb Shi'ism and to proselytize Twelvers, hoping to convert them to Sunnism. The central government dared not go too far in this direction, however, lest it provoke rebellion in the Iraqi south 3s

[29]

In the Ottoman Empire, vigorous demotic Shi' ite communities had existed long before the advent of the Safavids in Iran, in Jabal 'Amil, alHasa, and some cities of Iraq. As most of these came under Ottoman rule, the political rivalries between Iran and the Ottomans made them suspect as a fifth column in the eyes of Istanbul. These Arabic-speaking Shi'ites had no local courts to receive gifts, favors or support from the Safavids and their successors. Most of them could benefit from Shi'ite ascendency in Iran only indirectly, by studying there or developing contacts with its nobles.

From the mid-nineteenth century, Twelver minorities lost whatever previous semi-autonomy they had gained during the age of the politics of the notables. They were forced to submit once again to more direct Ottoman rule in Iraq, al-Hasa and the Levant. In the first phases of Ottoman reassertion, rebellious Twelvers in Iraq were dealt with harshly by their Sunni vanquishers, their institutions disrupted, shrines desecrated, populations sometimes displaced, local leaders deposed. That is, after a period during which Ottoman weakness had led to greater de facto toleration of Shi' ites, the Tanzimat reforms involved a policy toward them of renewed subjugation.

The Ottomans subjugated the Levant with less violence, whereas in Karbala, which was resisted, the Ottomans showed themselves entirely capable of massacring the recalcitrant Shi'ites. Especially from 1856, changes occurred in the ideology of the empire. The Tanzimat decrees of equality for all Ottoman subjects marked a move toward a majority policy of pluralism, where cultural variability is permitted as long as it does not threaten national unity and security. …

[174]
The formation of new nation-states in Iraq and Lebanon gave impetus to the development of localistic Shi'ite identities. The Arab Shi'ite communities began the century as peasants or pastoral nomads living under an agrarian bureaucracy staffed by Sunni, Ottoman Turkishspeaking officials. Twelver Shi'ites have in the twentieth century been greatly affected by and often involved in the making of new national states that broke away or were detached from the Ottoman empire. Yet their sectarian distinctiveness has made their integration into a national ethos based on Arab nationalism difficult, and offered little hope of a better deal for the poverty-stricken Shi'ites. The Shi'ites' characteristic position at the bottom of the economic scale has tended to impede escape from their rural, and more lately urban, ghettoes. This marginal status in the new Arab states made Shi'iteszparticularly susceptible to the panIslamic or pan-Shi'ite ideology promulgated by Iran's clerics during and after the Islamic Revolution of 1978-79.

The breakup of the Ottoman Empire in World War I and the rise of independent Arab states changed the framework within which Twelvers competed for resources. Not only did the modem national state differ from the empire in the way it governed and redistributed resources, but opportunities arose for minorities to redefine their identities. Secular Arabism and socialism provided, at•least potentially, alternative ways of seeing themselves. Many hoped that it would matter little whether the Arabs of Iraq were Twelver or Sunni if all were Arabs or all were socialists. The Comtean shock of the twentieth century, however, has been precisely the continuing importance of religiously based group identities, and thus of religious influences from Shi'ite Iran.

The British invasion of Iraq during WW I was seen by some Twelvers (especially Sayyids) as an opportunity to escape Ottoman Sunni rule. At first some Twelver leaders seemed amenable to the idea of British rule replacing that of Istanbul, but events following the British occupation of the shrine cities in 1917 caused the estrangement of their inhabitants from the Europeans. In the three subsequent years many Shi'ite ulama and notables made common cause with local Sunni nationalists in hopes of seeing an Arab, Muslim state emerge. The 1920 declararation of a British mandate, however, disappointed nationalist hopes in Iraq and Twelver ulama, notables and tribal leaders joined in the country's revolt against British rule. The chief mujtahid in the shrine cities declared all service with the British illicit, and other ulama and nationalist leaders cooperated in urging rebellion.' Of all the new Arab states, the Twelvers participated most actively in the formation of Iraq, even though its subsequent mandate status and Sunni domination disappointed them.

In April of 1922 a major conference of Imami ulama from both Iraq and Iran met at Karbala to denounce any treaty with the British. Some also wanted half of government posts, including the cabinet, reserved for Twelvers, and a declaration of holy war against the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia. The following year the leading mujtahids of Kazimayn, Karbala and Najaf issued rulings requiring a boycott of forthcoming elections under Faisal's cabinet. This rejectionist policy set them against, not only the British, but King Faisal, who wanted a treaty with London. His cabinet expelled the most uncompromising mujtahid from the country, and other major ulama left for Iran in protest, remaining there about a year. A reconciliation of sorts was effected with the distribution of finance and education portfolios to Twelver ministers, and the ulama ultimately acquiesced in the elections. 2 In the Iraq that emerged, Twelvers formed about 55 percent of the population, with Sunni Arabs at 22 percent and Kurds at 14 percent, according to rough British censuses of the early 1920s. Despite the Imami majority the community subsisted as a functional minority. 3 The 1920s witnessed the sharp decline of Iranian influence. Iranian residents in Iraq had their privileges removed and were forced to become citizens of the new state if they wished to continue to reside there. For its part, the new nationalist, secular government of Reza Shah Pahlevi attempted to limit Iranian Shi'ites' pilgrimages to the Iraqi shrine cities and drastically reduced links between them and Iran. 4

The new Iraqi state made some efforts to placate Arab Shi'is, as in the early decision that civil status cases among Imami parties would be tried by Imami jurists, in contrast to the Ottoman practices Although the Iraqi bureaucracy and educational system discriminated heavily against Twelver Arabs, the Shi'ites over time clearly adopted a specifically Iraqi identity. Their linguistic and ethnic identity was as important to them as the religious, and the pull of Iran was spiritualrather than separatist. Foir many Shi’ite intellectuals, it was more important to be an Iraqi and an Arab than to be a Shi’ite.

well, we know how that last bit turned out.

indeed, a little bit of knowledge doesn't go very far at all.

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 18 2007 17:02 utc | 99

oops.

also, keddie's books and hana batutas giant study are helpful.

Posted by: slothrop | Jan 18 2007 17:04 utc | 100

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