Sunday, July 23, 2006

Jameelah market (Sadr City) Bombing In Context

There are times when I despair. The leaflet shown in the photo below reads; 'there is a new face of courage, terrorism has no shelter!' It was Leaflet handed out to residents in Sadr city after raid leaflet readshanded out after a raid by U.S. and Iraqi troops loyal to the green zone government troops in Sadr City after a raid in al-Shula that freed two hostages. The residents don't seem impressed. As I said in my posting on the Al-Ula market bombing;

"As might be expected from the name Sadr City it's a stronghold of Mehdi Army militiamen loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr and as such has often been targeted for bomb attacks. "

and then again on my posting on the Kufa bombing:

"As one might expect the local reaction was the same as the July 2nd al-Ula market bombing in Sadr city and for much the same reasons. Al-Sadr's movement is particularly popular amongst poor and disenfranchised Shia who believe that only he has an agenda to alleviate their economic and social plight. As at al-Ula residents vented their fury at the local police and demanded that the Mehdi militia take over security. The crowd stoned local police screaming at them that they were "traitors," "American agents" and "useless" police fired into the air to disperse the crowd. This attack is one of many aimed at al-Sadr the goal is to undermine his position. I sincerely hope that this campaign fails, despite what you may read in the western media al-Sadr has had considerable success in restraining his followers. Should that restraint weaken or fail the ensuing bloodletting will dwarf that seen so far."

Sure enough hot on the heels of the raid on al-Shula came another car bombing attack on Sadr city. The Jameelah market was bombed and by mid-morning the toll was 32 dead and 63 sufficiently seriously wounded to require hospitalisation [Arabic language link.] The bomb was at the entrance to the market place and police estimate that the payload was in the region of 200kg of plastic explosive. The green zone government and the American occupation have just launched a reconciliation process. Nobody, least of all me is going to deny that there is a serious problem with sectarian militias and death squads. But there's a problem - here's how AP are reporting the bombing and the preceding raid:

"Key to ending the reprisal attacks is to rein in sectarian militias and death squads that U.S. officials say are a greater threat to Iraq than the Sunni insurgents who have been fighting the coalition since 2003. The Mahdi Army is believed to be the biggest Shiite militia.

Before dawn Sunday, Iraqi troops and U.S. advisers raided Sadr City and the mostly Shiite district of Shula, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. The sounds of explosions and bursts of automatic fire echoed through the heart of the capital" [Emphasis mine - mfi]

Both in Baghdad and in the South the US led occupation of Iraq has been gunning for al-Sadr for years, so have their local allies such as SCIRI and western reporting particularly from the wire services reflects that.

I have no doubt that armed militiamen loyal to al-Sadr's movement are engaged in some very unsavoury activities but I very much doubt that the Mahdi army is the biggest Shiite militia, and I very much doubt that they're the ones running the death squads of people in Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Defence. But what I, or any other westerner, think is irrelevant. What's relevant is how the vast majority of al-Sadr's constituency see things. And how they see the situation is:

  • Al-Sadr's movement is led by people who didn't flee Iraq but who stayed and resisted Saddam.
  • Al-Sadr has consistently resisted attempts to split up Iraq.
  • Al-Sadr is consistently critical of Iranian efforts to increase their influence in the country.
  • Sadr city Shiite clergyman visiiting young bombing victim in hospital July 23rd 2006Al-Sadr has flown in the face of the price rises in fuel, food, clothing, and the ration reductions imposed by the green zone government at the behest of the American led occupation.
  • They see and hear the green zone government talking of dividing up Baghdad.
  • They see Nouri al Maliki going to Washington to be feted by the very people whose racist and brutal occupation has unleashed a tide of blood upon their homeland (and are now trying to pin the blame upon them.)
  • They see their hero, and his followers:
    • Visiting the wounded in hospital.
    • Providing comfort to the afflicted.
    • Seeing to it that the families get some food and money to tide them over.
    • Doing their best to protect them and their homes and children.
  • They see that al-Sadr and his followers are doing the things that citizens expect a real government to do in an emergency.

If you lived in Sadr city or the South who would you believe? Would you believe a pack of murderous foreigners and their puppets or would you believe what you see with your own eyes day in day out?


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