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Do the al-Sadr Chant!

Muqtada al-Sadr has been stuck in the Imam Ali Shrine for a while now. (I'm still waiting patiently for the outraged, howling denunciations of him for carrying out military attacks from a holy site — the holiest site in the Shia religion — but I think I'll be waiting a while…) Saturday he gave a speech:

"Nobody can force me to leave or depart you," al-Sadr said. "We got rid of Saddam [Hussein] only to have him replaced by something worse than him."

Wow! That's efficient falsehood, right there. (al-Sadr and Michael Moore should be pen pals.) First of all, what's this we business? I don't remember anything about the Mehdi Army bravely fighting the Republican Guard. And this talk about the Iraqi interim government being worse than Saddam is just bizarre. But I think I can understand it! The interim government issued a warrant for his arrest, and Saddam didn't. Ergo, they're worse than Saddam for him, personally. Of course, I don't know why he expects anyone to care about that.

But this is the best part:

Al-Sadr led the crowd in chants of "No, no to occupation," "No, no to America," and …

…… wait for it ……

"No, no to Israel."

<buzz> We have a winner! Congratulations, Muqtada, for carrying on the fine tradition of racist scapegoating that the rest of the world has come to expect from mideast intellectuals, politicians, religious figures, and in fact pretty much everybody. I'm not sure how his mind connects Israel to the seige he's under, but it really doesn't matter, because my eyes are already rolling.

I'll take mideast complaints seriously as soon as they have a little more substance to them than "Israel bad! Hulk smash!"

UPDATE 2004-08-15 19:16:03 UTC: Belmont Club has been doing a fabulous job covering this. It's long past time I blogrolled it. And he has these excellent words to say about the use of holy sites for military purposes (from the first of those links):

… sanctity … has become an object that can always be pressed into service to shield Islamic fundamentalists though it provides none for those they would slay. That becomes the danger itself; for the shameless abuses of Sadr and similar thugs inevitably cheapen and corrode the very restraints upon which civilization depends; that distinguish the civilian from the combatant; the church from the battlefield. When like the Najaf necropolis, sacred objects finally lose their power to restrain, it more than brick that is destroyed. The real metaphor for the terrorist war on civilization is not wide-bodied aircraft crashing into the twin towers. It is mortars firing from the courtyard of the Imam Ali Shrine by men who don't even sandbag their positions, secure in the knowledge that they can slay men too decent to fire back.

Meanwhile, over at Crooked Timber, John Quiggin trumpets the standard trope likening Muqtada al-Sadr to Obi-Wan Kenobi:

Sadr would be far more dangerous dead than alive. As the grandson of an Iraqi prime minister and the son of a social activist, both of whom were murdered by Saddam Hussein, he would make the perfect martyr for a Shi'ite equivalent of Al Qaeda. If you wanted to supply the basis for a claim that Bush=Saddam, you could scarcely do better than martyring Sadr.

The only remotely feasible option is to make a place for Sadr and his supporters in the political process, and to hope that he is moderated by the attractions of office, as has happened in many cases before.

Textbook appeasement. Give him what he wants and he'll be good. Fortunately, the commenters take him to task. (And that's on a hard-left blog; I shudder to think of the reception it would've gotten elsewhere…)

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