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  Saturday  August 28  2004    10: 30 AM


Transition time in Najaf and all Iraq?
by Helena Cobban

The latest reports from Najaf show a point in Iraq's history that seems to be a real turning-point. The Greek word for that is "crisis". It seems the situation still could go either way; and no doubt about it, the stakes are very high.

From here, it could go radically either toward fitna (widespread breakdown) or toward peace.


Thousands Stream into Shrine of Ali
Muqtada orders Followers to Disarm
by Juan Cole

Winners and losers:

I think the big losers from the Najaf episode (part deux) are the Americans. They have become, if it is possible, even more unpopular in Iraq than they were last spring after Abu Ghuraib, Fallujah and Najaf Part 1. The US is perceived as culturally insensitive for its actions in the holy city of Najaf.

The Allawi government is also a big loser. Instead of looking decisive, as they had hoped, they ended up looking like the lackeys of neo-imperialists.

The big winner is Sistani, whose religious charisma has now been enhanced by solid nationalist credentials. He is a national hero for saving Najaf.

For Muqtada, it is a wash. He did not have Najaf until April, anyway, and can easily survive not having it. His movement in the slums of the southern cities is intact, even if its paramilitary has been weakened.


2004 Iraq deaths now exceed 2003 deaths

It happened this week almost without notice: The number of Americans killed in Iraq during 2004 now exceeds the number killed in 2003.

More remarkably, the 488 killed thus far this year died in just 239 days (2.04 daily average), while the 482 killed last year died during fully 287 days (1.68 daily average), which means that not only has 2004 been bloodier than 2003 in absolute terms, but in relative terms as well.



Steve puts it very well...

Meanwhile, back in Najaf
by Steve Gilliard

The better part of a combined brigade of US heavy armor and Marines could not defeat an insurgency of pissed off ghetto teenagers. Think a pissed off group of bloods and crips with high explosives and religious support. The US could not close and kill with them, even before they got to the Imam Ali shrine.

The point of this is simple. We have no ability to even face down some teenagers without restaging Kharkov in the sand. When people say the Army is stretched thin, this is what they mean. In the last week, I've posted about an ANG member impressed into convoy duty, and a jobless cook impressed into the infantry. One committed suicide within 24 hours of his return, the other was killed in Iraq.

The Army has to basically press gang soldiers psychologically untrained to deal with infantry combat into infantry combat. There is a large social and mental gap between the 11 Bravos and their elite cousins and the rest of the Army. The infantry (11 Bravos-Army, 0300's- Marine riflemen) are the hardest of the hard. Even though most are apple cheeked 19 year olds, they're the reason the Army exists, and other soldiers, the vast majority, are wary of them and not too eager to enter their world. And the recruiters tell them any story that they want to hear. Like the poor cook turned grunt. He wasn't told he was going to Iraq, his poor mother didn't even consider it. Now, he's dead.

What people don't get, Michael O'Hanlon of Brookings is especially dense on this point, is that the US is facing the best armed guerrilla movement in history, one with a substantial grounding in basic military tactics and no small inventiveness. The US public is not being told about the insane level of hostiliy US troops face on a daily basis. Like children spitting at US soldiers on patrol.

It goes without saying that Sadr shouldn't have dragged Najaf into this fight, and his actions are grossly irresponsible. Stocking guns in the mosque is an offense. But, the fact is that he's wearing the mantle of both state and God and people will forgive his transgressions, but they will forever hate the US for ours.


Steves post has some interesting comments...

This is like a pathetically bad chess player is playing chess: go for the seemingly best move... immediately do it... loose in less than 2 minutes... smash the chessboard... go home... come back next day... start a new game... go for the seemingly best move... immediately do it ... loose... smash... on and on and on...

and still stand proud and tell everybody what a great chess player you are, and how you changed the world of chess for the better.