Seeds of nonviolent resistance sown in Iraq
A dozen friends have formed a political group to protest the US
occupation. By Orly Halpern
The Christian Science Monitor
BAGHDAD In one of Baghdad's fiercest hotbeds of anti-American
violence, something different is happening: Two weeks ago, young men
and old walked down the street holding up banners protesting US
military incursions. They used their mouths, not their guns.
Adhamiyeh, historically a Sunni Muslim quarter loyal to Saddam
Hussein's Baath Party, is routinely visited by US soldiers who clash
with the muqawma - local fighters resisting the occupation.
Normally it is the sound of semiautomatic machine-gun fire that fills
the air of this district. Indeed, for the residents of Adhamiyeh,
protest is completely novel, something that never happened while Mr.
Hussein was in power. But in January a dozen residents - a group of
childhood friends - decided that people needed a voice for their
political views and formed a nonviolent political group. While some
residents remain skeptical - some are unsure of the direction it will
take, others say that Americans will only listen to force - many hope
this is the seed of a new movement.
"We want to be assured the resistance will respect democracy, rights
of women, different religions. We don't want types like Al Qaeda ...
and Saddam," says Wahdi Nadhmi, a political analyst and professor at
Baghdad University. "If the patriotic elements start a civil
struggle, it will be welcomed by most Iraqi people."
After Friday prayers, some 150 people walked down the steps of the
Abu Hanifa Mosque and joined in a demonstration. They decried the
entry of US soldiers and search dogs into the mosque a few days
Two tanks loomed in the distance. Curious onlookers surrounded the
mostly male group, who yelled, "God is great and America is our
enemy." They neared the tanks, which did an about-face and drove away.
"They ran away, they were scared of us," said a young man excitedly,
holding a banner's edge.
The group made its way back to the mosque and promptly burned an
American flag before Arab satellite TV cameras.
It's a scene that has only been repeated once before, residents say,
after the announcement that their beloved leader Saddam Hussein was
captured. Then neighbors spontaneously took to the streets; when US
forces showed up a clash ensued and four demonstrators were killed.
This time, the dozen friends hope nonviolent protest becomes the
norm. They formed the Asshoura Council of Adhamiyeh to act "as a
political front for Adhamiyeh," says Sheikh Mahmoud al-Adhamy, the
Sheikh Mahmoud, as he is called, lives in the tough neighborhood of
Safinneh, where foreigners are advised to stay away and where many of
the clashes between muqawma and American forces take place.
"When the Americans are not coming in and starting a fight with the
muqawma, then the muqawma goes and hits their base," says Seif Husham
Sabar, a local resident.
Although Mahmoud does not condemn the violent route of the muqawma,
he says that a parallel political route must be taken. "The
resistance has a direct way," explains the sheikh. "It shows its
disagreement by killing. We are a political front, and we publicize
our ideas by fliers, banners, and demonstrations."
But some of Adhamiyeh's residents are cynical about the council and
its efforts. "None of those people has the right to say they
represent the people of Adhamiyeh," says Abu Tareq, a former high-
ranking Army officer.
Mr. Tareq was walking home as the march proceeded toward the
tanks. "This demonstration has no value, and it has no supporters,"
he says, noting the relatively small number of participants. "The
Americans will not listen to this. It is just an outlet for the
Tareq says he does not oppose negotiations with the coalition, but he
says that it must be based on equal levels of power. "The Americans
forced their way in and must be forced out," he says. "America needs
to be challenged because she respects those who challenge her. We
don't have the planes, the tanks, or the heavy weapons, but we have
the will to fight."
Some say the council is made up of the "elite" who "haven't done a
thing while everyone else is fighting," says Mr. Sabar.
Husham Sabar Wahid, Sabar's father, suspects that the council is
working with the Americans. But Sheikh Mahmoud insists that his group
has no connection to American forces.
The demonstration was a trial run, he says. "We wanted to see if the
media would actually cover the event and send out our message."
And in his desire to get the message across, Mahmoud is opening doors
normally closed to foreigners: his own. Talking to an American
reporter in his living room, he says: "We want to tell the Americans
that [American soldiers] entering mosques and homes will increase the
acts of the resistance against them."
Another visitor listens quietly but at last speaks up. "I oppose the
Ashura because the Americans won't listen," says Abu Muayed. "The
Americans told many lies about hidden weapons of mass destruction and
plans for reconstruction. None of it came true. So, some of the
Iraqis started resisting, and God help them."
But according to Dr. Nadhmi, not everyone is able to resist using
violence. "People have jobs, families, health problems." he says.
Consequently, he says, this is the beginning of a peaceful movement
in the normally violent district. "Even [those who] wholeheartedly
support the resistance will tell you that no one wants a
confrontation with the mightiest force in the world," he says.
New leaders face a skeptical Iraq
By Nicholas Blanford | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
BAGHDAD After a bitter last-minute tussle over the choice of
president, Iraq's transitional government was unveiled Tuesday,
setting in motion the final countdown toward the transfer of
sovereignty from the US-led coalition at the end of the month.
But the new government faces daunting tasks. With an undiminished
presence of foreign troops, it has to convince a skeptical Iraqi
public that it is a genuinely autonomous institution and not a fig
leaf for a continued US occupation. And a series of bomb attacks that
left at least 14 people in Baghdad and northern Iraq dead served as a
grim reminder that restoring security is the principal challenge over
the course of its seven-month mandate before full elections are held
at the end of January.
"They must concentrate on the issues of security, electricity, the
economy, and the life of the people," says Saad Jawad, professor of
political science at Baghdad University. "They should work hard on
these issues, and if they do, they stand a chance of being supported."
The formation of the government was announced after a deadlock over
the choice of the president was resolved. Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar, a US
and Saudi-educated businessman and tribal leader, was selected as
president after his rival, Adnan Pachachi, an 81-year-old Sunni
politician, declined the post.
Although the presidency is largely a ceremonial position, Sheikh
Yawar is widely respected among Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish communities
as well as his own Sunni constituency. He has been critical of US
military policy, and in his first public remarks as president-
designate, Sheikh Yawar called on the UN to approve full sovereignty
for his country.
"We the Iraqis look forward to being granted full sovereignty through
a Security Council resolution to enable us to rebuild a free,
independent, democratic, and federal unified homeland," he said.
His appointment ended a bitter last-minute wrangle between the US-
appointed interim Governing Council on the one hand and Paul Bremer,
the US administrator in Iraq, and UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi,who was
charged with helping establish Iraq's transitional government.
Shortly after his position was confirmed, the council voted to
dissolve, a decision described by one member as its "final victory."
Of the 24 members of the council, three have made it to the
transitional government. The powerful premiership has gone to Ayad
Allawi, a Shiite ex-Baathist who heads the Iraqi National Accord and
has close ties to the CIA. The third council member is Ibrahim
Jafari, the head of the Shiite Dawa Party, who was appointed a deputy
The remaining 31 seats in the new government are apportioned to a mix
of technocrats, politicians, and civil servants. "I think it's a step
forward," says Mahmoud Othman, an independent Kurdish member of the
The chief problem remains security. A roadside bomb attack outside a
US military base at Bayji, 125 north of Baghdad, left 11 people dead,
while a car bomb outside the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan in central Baghdad killed another three. Several blasts of
suspected mortar rounds were heard near the headquarters of the
Coalition Provisional Authority while the Governing Council was
meeting with Mr. Bremer and Mr. Brahimi. "We were reminded ... that
security in the No. 1 problem," Mr. Othman says.
One reason Mr. Allawi was selected as prime minister was his
experience in security affairs and his willingness to employ former
Baathist military personnel to help quell the violence, reversing
Bremer's much-criticized de-Baathification policy. "The American
forces have failed [to achieve security] and now it is the duty of
the Iraqis to do it," says Professor Jawad. "They can do it, but they
have to go back on stupid decisions like dissolving the police and
the Army, and stop speaking about de-Baathification."
Still, few Iraqis expect an imminent and tangible improvement in
security. "The first thing people will be looking for is whether they
can stop the Americans driving around the country," says Sheikh Ayad
Awad, a Sunni cleric who preaches at the Al Nour Mosque in the
Baghdad suburb of Saydiyeh. "If the government does not succeed [in
curbing the US military presence], it will be seen as a protector of
Coalition troop numbers are not expected to decline any time soon,
and Allawi admitted that the new government would still need
coalition help. "We will need the participation of the multinational
forces to help in defeating the enemies of Iraq. We will enter into
alliances to accomplish that," he said.
But US troops will remain targets of the insurgents as long as they
remain on Iraqi soil, says Sheikh Awad. "The jihadis will defend
their country against all occupiers as well as politicians who seek
to attack the jihadis," he says, using a sympathetic term.
Is Allawi such a politician? "Of course. Allawi is an American
soldier, supporting the line of the CIA," he says.
It is sentiments such as that and the skepticism aired on Baghdad's
streets Tuesday that suggest the new government faces an uphill
struggle in convincing ordinary Iraqis that it is a genuinely
sovereign body. "It's not an end to the occupation because America is
not the kind of country that will pay all these efforts to come to
Iraq, stay for one year, and then leave," says Anwar Jassem, a
Kurdish shopkeeper. "They are controlling everything, and they will
always be there controlling everything from behind the curtain and
the Iraqi government will just be the face."
Tribal Sunni Chief Will Lead Iraq Gov't
Tue Jun 1, 7:30 PM
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi officials prevailed in their choice for
president over the candidate favored by the United States, allowing a
U.N. envoy Tuesday to appoint an interim government reflecting Iraq's
religious and cultural diversity to rule after the return of
sovereignty June 30.
Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer, a Sunni Muslim critic of the occupation,
was named to the largely ceremonial post. Al-Yawer was the choice of
the U.S.-picked Iraqi Governing Council, which dissolved itself
immediately so that the new government can start work even before it
takes power from the American-led coalition at the end of the month.
Among its first tasks will be to negotiate a crucial agreement on the
status of U.S.-led international forces that will remain here after
sovereignty is restored and to tackle the country's tenuous security
At the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday, the United States and
Britain circulated a revised resolution that would give the interim
government control over the Iraqi army and police and end the mandate
for the multinational force by January 2006 at the latest.
Critics - namely France, Russia and Germany - had said the previous
U.S. resolution did not go far enough in granting Iraqis genuine
power over their own national affairs. Iraq's new foreign minister,
Hoshyar Zebari, was traveling to New York on Tuesday to join the
Strong explosions rolled through the heart of the capital even as
word emerged of al-Yawer's selection. A car bomb at the headquarters
of a pro-American Kurdish party killed three people, wounded about 20
and sent a mushroom cloud of smoke rising over the capital.
A car bomb also exploded outside a U.S. base in the northern town of
Beiji, killing 11 Iraqis and wounding more than 22 people, including
two U.S. soldiers. Fighting broke out between American soldiers and
radical Shiite militiamen in the southern town of Kufa and a Shiite
neighborhood in Baghdad.
The new Cabinet - a prime minister, a deputy premier for security and
31 ministers who include six women - will take over day-to-day
operations of government ministries immediately, although the U.S.-
run Coalition Provisional Authority remains the sole sovereign power
in Iraq until June 30.
British-educated Shiite politician Iyad Allawi, a longtime opposition
figure known for his close ties to the State Department and the CIA,
was named prime minister on Friday.
The Cabinet draws its membership from Iraq's ethnic, religious and
cultural mosaic, bringing together lawyers, politicians, academics,
human rights activists, engineers and businessmen from a broad
spectrum in contrast to Saddam Hussein's regime, which revolved
around a Sunni Muslim clique from his hometown of Tikrit.
President Bush said Tuesday's announcement brought Iraq "one step
closer" to democracy, but warned against a spike in violence as the
date for the restoration of sovereignty draws near.
Security remains the primary threat facing the new government, which
will rule until national elections by Jan. 31. The ceremony
introducing the new government took place under tight security in the
heavily guarded Green Zone headquarters of the U.S. occupation
Heavily armed U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces ringed the two-
story building where the ceremony was held. U.S. Army helicopters
hovered above and snipers were stationed on the roof. Sniffer dogs
searched for bombs. Those present included L. Paul Bremer, Iraq's
American governor; U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi; and Lt. Gen. Ricardo
Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
During the ceremony, Allawi focused on security, saying he would ask
Iraq's allies for help "in defeating the enemies of Iraq." He also
pledged to strengthen the army and raise soldiers' pay. Iraq's
security forces, he said, will be a "pivotal partner" with U.S. and
other coalition troops in the fight to restore security.
Switching from Arabic to English for the benefit of coalition leaders
in the audience, Allawi said: "We're grateful to the national
alliance led by the Americans who have sacrificed so much to liberate
More than 800 U.S. service members have been killed since the
invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Coalition troops are fighting a Sunni insurgency in the capital and
areas to the west and north as well as a Shiite revolt in Baghdad and
in the south. Suicide bombings have claimed hundreds of lives across
The lack of security is blamed for everything from insufficient power
supplies to a slow economic recovery.
"The world and your neighbors expect you to bring about security,
stability for the people of Iraq who have suffered enough," Brahimi,
the U.N. envoy, told the new government.
Tuesday's announcement capped four weeks of deliberations by Brahimi,
the coalition, the Governing Council and thousands of Iraqis whose
advice and views he sought.
The deadlock over the presidency delayed the Cabinet announcement by
one day and threatened a rift with the Americans at a time when
Washington is under pressure internationally to grant Iraqis full
According to Iraqi politicians, the Americans insisted that Adnan
Pachachi, a former foreign minister, become president. Most of the
Governing Council wanted al-Yawer, a 45-year-old engineer and tribal
leader. Pachachi, an 81-year-old Sunni Muslim, told reporters he
turned down the presidency for "personal reasons."
The two vice presidencies went to Ibrahim al-Jaafari, of the Shiite
Muslim Dawa party, and Rowsch Shaways, speaker of parliament in the
Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq.
At the welcoming ceremony, al-Yawer pledged to rise "above
sectarianism and divisions" and restore Iraq's "civilized face."
Al-Yawer has repeatedly spoken against the U.S.-led occupation, but
never advocated violence. He hails from the northern city of Mosul
and has engineering degrees from Saudi Arabia's Petroleum and
Minerals University and Georgetown University.
The presidency is a symbolic position, but al-Yawer - as the highest-
ranking Sunni in the government - will likely hold considerable
influence through his elaborate network of contacts among the tribes
and clans of Iraq.
In contrast, Pachachi came from a family that produced several top
politicians over the past 50 years but has no power base in Iraq
after more than 30 years in exile in the United Arab Emirates. His
ties to the Americans did not help his standing among Iraqis
frustrated by and distrustful of the occupation.
The Bush administration official in Baghdad said the United States
had no preference and was pleased with al-Yawer's selection.
One of the first tasks facing new government will be to negotiate an
agreement governing the status and conduct of international troops
after June 30. The Iraqis are seeking a greater say over operations
of the 135,000 American troops and other coalition forces on Iraqi
soil. The administration official in Baghdad said negotiations would
begin "fairly soon."
Several key Iraqi figures, including Pachachi, were sharply critical
of April's three-week Marine siege of Fallujah, a Sunni city west of
Baghdad, in which hundreds of Iraqis died.
The Bush administration asks Congress for $25 billion fix that will
just carry the war occupation efforts in Afganistan and Iraq until
after the election, when a much larger bite than this stopgap will be
required to really fund the operations intended in the continuing
Bush-promised Kerry-promised War on Terror.
Was It Really Worth It, Mrs. Albright?
By Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair
What moved those kamikaze Muslims to embark, some many months ago on
the training that they knew would culminate in their deaths as well
of those (they must have hoped) of thousands upon thousands of
innocent people? Was it the Koran plus a tape from Osama bin Laden?
The dream of a world in which all men wear untrimmed beards and women
have to stay at home or go outside only when enveloped in blue tents?
I doubt it. If I had to cite what steeled their resolve the list
would surely include the exchange on CBS in 1996 between [Bill
Clinton?s (Zionist) Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright and then
US ambassador to the United Nations and Lesley Stahl. Albright was
maintaining that sanctions had yielded important concessions from
Stahl: "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean,
that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And you know, is the
price worth it?"
Albright: "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price we
the price is worth it."
They read that exchange in the Middle East. It was infamous all over
the Arab world. I'll bet the September 11 kamikazes knew it well
enough, just as they could tell you the crimes wrought against the
Palestinians. So would it be unfair today to take Madeleine Albright
down to the ruins of the Trade Towers, remind her of that exchange,
and point out that the price turned out also to include that awful
mortuary. Was that price worth it too, Mrs. Albright?
Well, the typists and messenger boys and back-office staffs
throughout the Trade Center didn't know that history. There's a lot
of other relevant history they probably didn't know but which those
men on the attack planes did. How could those people in the Towers
have known, when US political and journalistic culture is a
conspiracy to perpetuate their ignorance? Those people on the Towers
were innocent portions of the price that Albright insisted, in just
one of its applications, as being worth it. It would honor their
memory to insist that in future our press offers a better accounting
of how America's wars for Freedom are fought and what the actual
price might include. CP
SOURCE : www.counterpunch.com
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