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Fred's son

Registered: 10/19/00
Posts: 12,949
Loc: Dominican Republic
Last seen: 3 years, 4 months
An Iraqi sees something familiar
    #2614662 - 04/29/04 04:03 AM (14 years, 30 days ago)

Iraqi revolutionaries
Saddam may be out of the picture, but his methods are living on just fine in the new Iraq

Ghaith Abdul Ahad
Tuesday April 27, 2004
The Guardian

The Iraqi holy city of Najaf is the Shia version of the Vatican. The shrine of Imam Ali, the main religious seminaries and the biggest Shia cemetery are all there, and it has always been the residence of the grand ayatollahs. But unlike the Vatican, gold in Najaf can be found publicly only in two places - the dome of the shrine and the teeth of the old merchants selling religious objects to the Iranian pilgrims. The houses roundabout are crumbling, the streets filthy with rubbish and dust.

Also unlike the Vatican, the Shia have many popes at one time. The grandest is Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is in his 70s and has not left his house for 20 years. With Allah's blessing he holds the future of Iraq in one hand while playing with his prayer beads in the other.

A political analyst once told me: "Iraq is blessed to have a moderate cleric like Sistani. Imagine what would have happened if we had a radical one." Well, actually, I can't understand the blessing in having an old cleric dictating the political process of my country. I can't see the difference between that and the system we had before. But then who am I to ask these big questions?

Lately, however, the old man and his Vatican are facing some problems. Moqtada, a chubby young guy with a fussy beard, started a so-called revolution three weeks ago, putting the Americans, who always claimed that they came to liberate the Iraqis - and especially the Shia - in a difficult position. I spent almost a week in Najaf, attended Friday prayers, talked to about a million clerics, watched the Mahdi army fighting and imposing their new-found authority on the people of Najaf and on the old man.

One of the clerics was a friend of mine who I first met in April last year when he was still thrilled about the liberation. Now he has different ideas and has become one of Moqtada's lieutenants. He was carrying a mobile phone in one hand and a satphone in the other, coordinating militia "activities". He asked me to walk with him to the shrine of Imam Ali and told me all about the new victories they have achieved. All the time he kept his left hand hidden under his cloak. When we got to a militia staff room he produced a big sniper rifle and gave it to a guy there. "Take it to the guys on the roof - they'll need it," he said.

He is a pleasant young man in his early 30s with a charming smile and an impressive beard. He speaks some English but his main talent, apart from smuggling weapons into the shrine, is computer graphics. He showed me his latest achievement: a picture of St George killing the dragon, except that St George was Moqtada and the dragon was Bush.

The "revolutionaries" are men mainly from the Baghdad slums and the poor south. They wear plastic sandals and carry pictures of Moqtada on their chests. They are armed with grenades strapped to their waists and a whole package of conspiracy theories.

There is a disturbing similarity between what these people are doing and saying and what the Ba'athists used to do and say. Since Moqtada's troops took over they have been acting thuggishly, in harmony with our great despotic traditions. I think there is something in the air that makes us yearn for a dictator to mess us around.

So the great holy fighters are manning checkpoints, detaining people and even have their own secret police. A cleric can order any of his thugs to take you to the religious court, where only Allah and Moqtada can release you.

When clashes erupted on the outskirts of the city, the new mojahedin, carrying RPG rockets without launchers and weapons looted from the Iraqi police, driving looted Iraqi police pick-up trucks and chanting "Moqtada", all rushed to the fighting. Ten minutes later, with the same war cries, they were running back. According to a senior fighter, what I was seeing was a "tactical withdrawal".

After Moqtada's Friday prayers, I went looking for my phone (phones are not allowed in the mosque for security reasons). I was waiting outside an office when I saw through a window four of the cleric's bodyguards dressing up another who was as chubby as the "leader" with a black turban and a black robe just like Moqtada's. Then they opened the door and ran outside with one guy shouting, "Long live Moqtada." While the crowd surrounded them, the real Moqtada slipped out of the mosque.

It's reassuring to see the traditions of my country still thriving: one man is given the holy right to lead the nation, while young kids with RPGs terrorise everyone.




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Registered: 10/15/02
Posts: 4,770
Loc: London UK
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Re: An Iraqi sees something familiar [Re: Phred]
    #2615170 - 04/29/04 09:10 AM (14 years, 30 days ago)

bloody liberal media.

Always Smi2le

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Registered: 02/26/01
Posts: 9,134
Re: An Iraqi sees something familiar [Re: Phred]
    #2615712 - 04/29/04 12:26 PM (14 years, 30 days ago)

An Iraqi sees something familiar

An american 500lb guided missile flying towards them?

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Registered: 02/26/01
Posts: 9,134
Re: An Iraqi sees something familiar [Re: GazzBut]
    #2615722 - 04/29/04 12:28 PM (14 years, 30 days ago)

bloody liberal media

Arn't they terrible? If only we could get Fox news for the REAL story... :laugh:

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old hand

Registered: 02/14/04
Posts: 4,102
Last seen: 8 years, 16 days
Re: An Iraqi sees something familiar [Re: Phred]
    #2616118 - 04/29/04 02:23 PM (14 years, 30 days ago)

Good article. What a fucking mess.

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