Friday, April 09, 2004

"Freedom Fighters" and the Occupation of Babylon

Just days ago, I was still reading reports that Iraq's Shia majority were solidly behind the Coalition Provisional Authority and the American presence in Iraq. Supposedly, their natural rift with the largely Sunni Ba'athist government of Saddam Hussein meant that they wouldn't join the insurgency. In a manner of days, that has changed. The people of Iraq (with the exception of the Kurds, who will never expand out of the north) are rising up to smite their "enemy" and they are doing it regardless of sectarian divisions.

Robert Fisk, a journalist for the Independent (UK), has illuminated the state of affairs in Iraq and he reminds us that the supposed "civil war" is not materializing. Shi'ites and Sunnis are appearing to put their differences aside and join the resistance as a unified force (even if operations are being carried out sporadically without any centralized leadership).

Muqtada Al-Sadr, a relatively low-level Shi'ite cleric and son of a former spiritual leader (for whom Sadr City in Baghdad was named after Saddam was overthrown), has declared that all Iraqis must resist the occupation of their lands. He has also called for an Islamic state and formed both a shadow government for all ministries & a paramilitary force to protect the interests of his faction.

There is historical evidence that the occupation will fail. Remember the American revolution? How about the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets? I must agree that not all guerrilla movements are successful, and the examples I've cited may have certain fundamental differences (the American revolution was backed by France & Spain, while England could not commit enough troops to secure their colonies in North America; Afghanistan is a mountainous country and the Mujahadeen were supported by America and England in order to disrupt the Soviet plan of conquest).

Even so, they do show that if a populace is united behind a cause, it is very difficult for a foreign power to retain control of their nation. By launching a Hellfire missile and dropping a 500-LB laser-guided bomb on the wall of a Fallujah Mosque on Wednesday, the American forces may have given the Sunnis and Shi'ites a reason to join hands and aim at the same target, that being the American flag.

Imagine if the situation were reversed and America were being invaded by a largely Muslim force. If they attacked a Church (especially in the Reverent South), every Christian denomination would put their differences aside and rise up against the invasion.

Granted, there was apparently a rocket-propelled grenade fired from the Mosque's general area and this shot was directed at an American Humvee. Apparently, this voids the protection afforded to places of religious worship under the Geneva Convention, since once you use a Church or a Mosque as a base of military operations, military forces are free to fire at will.

Sadly, eyewitness accounts have announced that as many as 40 innocent civilians were killed just for being inside the Mosque at the time. They are caught in the crossfire and their deaths will only incite further Iraqis to join the resistance. They have been martyred for their cause and the ranks will surely swell. The only way out of this situation is to renounce all claims on Iraq and to hand over power to a United Nations-led peacekeeping force. It may even be too late for this.

Perhaps we will have another Iran on our hands, if Al-Sadr rises above his shortcomings (he isn't placed high enough in Shi'ite circles to really convince everyone to follow him, due to his lack of religious training), he may gain a high enough profile to be considered the leader of the movement, and therefore a potential leader or president down the line.

Christ said to turn the other cheek, not to preemptively invade your neighbours house because he may be building weapons. The Americans should have known better. And if they were just doing it to free the Iraqi people, why did they support Saddam's regime for so long? Why did they provide him with satellite information on Iranian troop movements, so that he could unleash the chemical weapons that they (and other G8 nations) sold to him for billions of dollars?

I truly hope that Iraq retains some freedoms no matter which side wins. If the resistance movement succeeds, hopefully they won't end up with a dictator like Saddam Hussein. If the Americans win the war, hopefully they won't trample the Iraqi's demands for a religious-minded theocratic democracy.

When I read about the insurgents invading Kut, driving out the Ukranian forces, raiding their base and stealing their weapons and supplies, and then raising their flag above a grain silo, I was reminded of an American computer game. It is called "Freedom Fighters" and involves liberating America from a foreign occupier (in this case, communist Russia). At the end of each level, you symbolically raise your flag above the highest building available to show the people that you are resisting and winning. Looks like the Iraqis are winning.

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