Across the Bay

Monday, November 22, 2004

Pressed for Reality

IraqPundit gives the NYT a piece of his mind in a post that relates well to my own on "Romanticism and Fascism."

Sure enough, IraqPundit shatters the romanticism. Here's a quote:

"If the major press has missed the fact that the Anbar has been ruled by psychotics, many citizens of Fallujah have not. The Times of London quotes one of them:

"A man in his sixties, half-naked and his underwear stained with blood from shrapnel wounds from a US munition, cursed the insurgents as he greeted the advancing marines on Saturday night. "I wish the Americans had come here the very first day and not waited eight months," he said, trembling."

Although I'm not sold on Gilles Kepel's thesis, the above squares fine with his theory that the Islamists are alienating the larger Muslim population:

"The crucial issue now is whether Iraq is the new land of jihad or of fitna – a war in the heart of Islam that threatens the faithful with community fragmentation, disintegration and ruin (my book takes its French title from the term).

The example of Algeria in the 1990s is relevant here. Until 1996, militant Armed Islamic Group (GIA) or Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) movements controlled large parts of Algeria, and the regime seemed doomed; then, for disputed reasons – military security operations, infiltration activities and other provocations, the internal dynamics of the GIA – the Islamists suddenly seemed to have alienated the bulk of the Algerian population. They even lost support among those who had previously voted for them.

Today in Iraq, there are daily images of hostages being beheaded as traitors, of corpses of policemen in the rivers – a spectacle of horror designed to convince that jihad is on the rise and that the US will never prevail. Yet jihadi Islamism in Iraq can draw on only the 17% of the population who are Sunni Arabs. The Iraqi Kurds and Shi’a are beyond their reach.


the Sadrists’ feeble insurgency collapsed when Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani made a remarkable political move – mobilising all the clerical resources of Shi’ism, and returning to Najaf and Karbala, to compel al–Sadr’s young school dropouts to pay their respects instead to him. As a result, Iraqi Shi’a representatives – Sistani and al–Sadr alike – have now agreed to take part in Iraq’s elections in January 2005.

Why have they agreed – and in a way that runs counter to the wishes of the insurgents in Fallujah, Ramadi, and Samarra? Because a large majority of Iraqis killed by car–bombings and assassinations each week are Shi’a, and the perpetrators radical Sunni.

This confirms the fact that the Sunni insurgents can rely only on a limited band of support in Iraq. The daily media diet of beheadings can so easily and wrongly suggest that the American army is being defeated. Terrorism, in order to win, has to gain momentum over time, by making an investment. It is the return on that investment that counts. In Iraq, it may not be in their favour.

Jihad or fitna in Iraq? We are approaching a watershed. If the majority of Iraqis decide that this is fitna and rejects the Iraqi radicals – then they have lost, as they lost in Algeria. But for this to happen, the concerns of the Iraqi population must be heard.

Yet somehow, if you caught him on Lehrer the other night, Mark LeVine was saddened by the fact that there is only a Sunni insurgency in Iraq and not a pan-Arab one, that transcends (to use the recently elected Pope Juan Cole's term) sectarian divisions. He only begrudgingly admitted that to his interviewer, as if it had ruined his wet fantasy. You really needed to see his facial reaction, but his words will suffice:

"MARK LEVINE: Well, I would agree with the general. I think the most important thing that we see from my perspective is the fact that the Shia communities did not show the same solidarity with Fallujah as they did in April.

When I was there and the invasion was about to start and afterwards you could see a lot of Shia having sympathy, doing supply caravans. At this point, with this invasion, Sistani has said almost nothing. Even Muqtada al-Sadr has been very quiet, threatened to suspend his participation in the election, which is basically a meaningless statement this far in advance.

If the U.S. and the Allawi government can turn this, as the Gen. said, from an Arab/Iraqi revolt to a Sunni revolt, then that's a very big strategic victory for them.
" (Emphasis added.)

The fool still doesn't realize that it was never anything else, regardless of Juan Cole's useless piece in Le Monde Diplomatique in April, where his ideology (yet again) blinded his analysis driving him to speculate about a "transcendent nationalism" based on Sadr's insurgency!!! This is precisely what LeVine is referring to. The infuriating part is that this ideological romanticist fantasy and irresponsible activism (and that's all it ever was) passes for "expertise."