Saturday, October 09, 2010

Somewhere, Beyond This Vale of Tears

This man is laughing.

It's not a happy laugh, but it is from way down deep and it shivers the stones.

You want to know why?

Read on (all emphasis added by me)...

From Joe Klein at "Time Magazine" a few days ago:

"Victory" in Iraq
Posted by Joe Klein Friday, October 1, 2010 at 8:05 pm

It now appears that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is going to form a new government--with the support of none other than Muqtada Sadr, who is always called a "radical cleric" by the western media and whose Mahdi Army militia inflicted some of the worst losses on the U.S. military during the recent war. Sadr is a curious figure--a populist nationalist who is intermittently close to Iran (right now he's in a 'close' phase). He spent the last several years in Iran, studying in Qom, the religious center of Shi'ism. His long-term plan probably doesn't involve civilian government, but perhaps religious authority on the order of Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the most revered figure in both Iraq and Qom. Some say Sadr doesn't have the chops to be an ayatollah; he does have the family roots, however--both his father and uncle were revered figures, murdered by Saddam Hussein.

The Maliki-Sadr deal raises an absolutely crucial question: what about the Sunnis? This is precisely the government that the Sunni minority feared; they backed secularist Ayad Allawi, the top vote getting in last spring's elections, who will now be firmly shut out of power. This may see a revival of the Sunni insurgency that David Petraeus quelled with cash in 2007.

And what about, It is not certain that the Maliki-Sadr alliance will tilt toward Iran. Sadr has been anti-outsiders of all sorts in the past. But this does look like something less than the "victory" that John McCain and others were noisily touting last month. It looks, in fact, like an ongoing mess

Pretty fucking dire, no? But hey, war is a complicated thing, and Iraq is a complicated country with a long and omnipresent history.

I mean, its not like anyone could have predicted or cautioned against any of this, right?

From the late Steve Gilliard (pictured above), damn near four years ago:

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Ethnic Cleansing in Baghdad

Please. If he can't control the execution of Saddam, people better realize what this plan really is, the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad and breaking the Sunni blockade of the city. The US will be assisting Sadr in gaining control of the Baghdad region. Because someone better realize that the Saddam execution and the Sistani quashing of the coup means the last man standing is the guy with the funny teeth and black turban.

Bush is so clueless and desperate that he doesn't realize he's being coopted into assisting ethnic cleansing. At the end of this, Sadr will be in near total control of most of Iraq's population.

Petraeus should know better. While US troops are getting killed killing Sunnis, Sadr will increase his control over the military and police. He thinks they're going to disarm the Mahdi Army? Hell no. The Mahdi Army are the real protectors of the Shia population, they have won support on the ground by saving lives and feeding people. The government is subordinate to Sadr and his supporters, and Sistani made that happen.

Bush and his supporters live in a cloud cuckoo land where they don't understand how they have been manuvered into this mess. Americans troops are being asked to die to establish a Shia theocracy in Iraq.

And again...

A matter of terms

6) Despite all their blather, few people realized what this war was quickly turning into. They talked about Al Qaeda and dead enders, but in less than a year, the Shia were running major attacks on them. Only Sistani's intervention prevented a full scale war on the Americans. The US was falling into the trap of fighting a colonial war, while all the warbloggers talked about Islamofascism. While they were attacking Cindy Sheehan, they forgot one thing: her son was killed by the Sadrists. Which went against the narrative we had been fed.

7) By the time the Iraqis finally had elections, what you had was all the factions, excluding the Sunnis, in parliment, and they wanted revenge. The government forces quickly fell under the spell of various militias and while we trained them, they didn't improve their effectiveness. But the Mahdi Army did. SCIRI did, the guerrillas in Anbar Province did.

While there was a great deal of rhetoric about a united Iraq, the US was playing the game of divide and conquer. Their trump move was to install Hakim's puppet over Maliki. Until Sistani said no, and left the power in the hands of Sadr. The exact opposite of their plans.

It wasn't bungled execution.

No Iraqi government not controlled by the Sadrists could have survived. Because they are the majority. They had no interest in sharing anything or a democratic government. Because this is a colonial war, and no structure set up by the US would have had any credibility.

And again...

Why escalation won't work

January 04, 2007

As they hung Saddam, every man in that room was a Mahdi Army member.

Think about that.

When the state of Iraq decided to execute Saddam, the people who did it was the Mahdi Army. Maliki rushed the execution on the orders of Sadr, and Sadr's people made sure the job was done.

Now, what exactly are US troops going to do? Secure Iraq from the militias?

Hello, the militias seem to be the state now.

The reason Bush dropped training is simple. We would be training the Mahdi Army.

So what are we supposed to do? Send more men to protect the government, which is now run in effect, by the Sadrists? Who we want to attack to eliminate his power.

The Sadrists are not going away. We cannot attack them and expect to win or even keep the support of the government if we do.

So the point is?

And again...

Gunpoint at Democracy

The brutal reality is that the only voting in Iraq will be to confirm whoever Sadr chooses as president.

And again...

Fuck Zakaria


His plan is bullshit, pure and unfiltered

One simple point: what kind of idiot thinks Maliki can make a deal that can be kept? The Iraqi government was elected during an occupation, like Vichy. Who would trust them to do anything to protect the country?

The simple fact is this: Iraq will be one country. It will be run by the Shia. The odds are high that Shia will be Moqtada Sadr or a disciple of his. The Sunnis will cut their deal with him, kill the AQ lunatics and then join the Turks and Iranians in repressing the Kurds.

Gilly, from damn-near five years ago...

It's Sadr's Iraq and we're just waiting to be asked to leave

Younger Clerics Showing Power in Iraq's Unrest
Published: February 26, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 25 — American officials have been repeatedly stunned and frequently thwarted in the past three years by the extraordinary power of Muslim clerics over Iraqi society. But in the sectarian violence of the past few days, that power has taken an ominous turn, as rival hard-line Shiite clerical factions have pushed each other toward more militant and anti-American stances, Iraqi and Western officials say.

Even Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the paramount Shiite cleric to whom the Americans have often looked for moderation, appears to have been outflanked by younger and more aggressive figures.

Many of the retaliatory attacks after the bombing were led by Mahdi Army militiamen loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric whose anti-American crusades have turned him into a rising political power.

His main rival, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a cleric and the leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, or Sciri, defended the right of Shiites to respond to the bombing. He has shown a new willingness to publicly attack the American role in Iraq, once the preserve of Mr. Sadr, and he also commands a powerful militia, the Badr Organization.

"There are clerics who are very moderate and who understand what the current situation demands, and there are clerics who have political agendas and who marshal forces for their own gain," said Joost Hiltermann, the Middle East director of the International Crisis Group. "Those are the dangerous ones."

But the Americans seemed unaware of the complex and deadly rivalries among Iraq's religious factions. After being brought back to Iraq by the Americans in 2003, Mr. Khoei was stabbed to death in the Shiite holy city of Najaf by followers of Mr. Sadr. That killing led the American occupation authority to issue an arrest warrant for Mr. Sadr, which was dropped after he led two bloody uprisings in 2004 and became one of Iraq's most powerful figures.

Mr. Sadr's family has long been engaged in a rivalry with the Shiite religious establishment in Iraq, known as the Hawza. Under the rule of Saddam Hussein, Mr. Sadr's revered father, Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, was one of the few clerics to openly defy the dictator. He also expressed contempt for Ayatollah Sistani and other senior clerics, calling them the "Silent Hawza" for their complacent attitude in the face of tyranny. The young Sadr claimed his father's mantle after Mr. Hussein had the elder Sadr and his two eldest sons killed in 1999.

Which is why he will run Iraq. He is the one person who didn't go into exile, who's family always opposed Saddam and can talk with the authority of a survivor.

And again...

Meet the New Boss

Iraq's new president, Moqtada Al- Sadr

Bush goes to Jordan, indicating some level of crisis in the US-Iraqi relationship, and the Iraqi prime minister refuses to meet with him?

Who refuses to meet with the US president? When he has troops in your country and is keeping your country on life support.

Read the lame excuse a humiliated White House came up with.

Can we cut the bullshit and admit that Sadr now runs Iraq.

And finally, from six-and-one-half years ago, during one of Gilly's routine excoriations of pro-war liberals (A spectrum which contained the likes of Peter Beinart, the aforementioned "Jokeline" Joe Klein and Joe Lieberman...all whom, the Alert Reader will notice, despite having been stubbornly and spec-tac-u-lar-ly wrong for years, have never missed a meal or an hour out of the spotlight.)

Why supporting the war was wrong

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Atrios is running Big Media Matt's exculpation on why he supported our current folly in Iraq. His excuses are rather pathetic and ahistorical, but at least he admits they're wrong.

The idea among the pro-war liberals that we could save the brown people from themselves is as deeply racist and ingrained as belief in the Super Bowl as a national holiday. They listened to exiled Iraqis talk about how they would do better than nasty, evil Saddam and how we could enlighten the whole region, let women drive and have the vote.

What they missed, of course, was that Iraq under Saddam had granted more rights to women than any subsequent government would. They would never admit that they thought what those wogs needed was a little enlightenment. They thought the average Iraqi was like Kenan Makiya, author of Republic of Fear, the first popular book on Saddam and the reign of terror which was the Baath Party.

A lot of liberals recoiled when faced with the culture of the Arab world and thought a chance to remake it would bring their values to that part of the world. They can say now that they didn't want Bush to screw it up, but to be fair, George Marshall would have screwed it up. What pro-war liberals wanted was nothing less than a new culture to be implanted in Iraq, one which would meet their goals, and one which had no historical support.

For over a year, Kos and I wrote, repeatedly, that this wasn't going to happen. Societies faced with radical political change can go in many ways, some quite reactionary. What stunned me was the way that the pro-war liberals thought Iraqis would embrace our ideas of what their country should be with acceptance. After all, they listened to the same exiles who only knew the Iraq of their childhood, not the Iraq of war and privation.

No implantation, whether done by the inept Bush or a competent administration, would have worked, because Iraqis have their own history and culture. They are a fiercely nationalistic people and one who would never accept outside change easily. They have also suffered a great deal since 1980. The idea that a bunch of well-heeled academics, traitors to Iraq and shady liars could be an effective government was a fantasy quickly rejected by the Iraqi people. Why liberals thought the most independent minded of Arab peoples would accept our lectures on how to live is beyond me.

There are other, practical, reasons on why our efforts in Iraq were doomed from day one. Very simply, the US forces supported no one with a base of support in Iraq. Chalabi was unknown in Iraq and when he was known, became quickly reviled as a con man and American puppet. SCIRI, the Hakim's organization, was renowned for torturing Shia POW's to get them to join up. So when we get there and remove Saddam, the last men standing are the clerics, and they don't like the US much, forget any liberal ideas of remaking their society.

We tried to ignore Sadr, who's appeal is closer to the Black Panthers with vastly more guns and no drug dealing. Sadr's power comes from living and working with the oppressed. You can call him a thug all you want, and fairly so, but he's the voice of the poor and and his father lost his life standing up for them.

We tried to pretend that Sistani was a friend, when he would never let an American darken his door. No pictures with Viceroy Jerry for him. Unlike when Hirohito allowed pictures with MacArthur, giving the imprimatur of support for the occupation, Sistani hs never allowed a CPA official to hold a meeting with him. He sits in Najaf, sends his aides out and keeps waiting for the CPA to hand him power.

What the liberals never got, and this goes deeper than the CPA's incompetence and bad management, was that we are neither trusted nor liked in the Middle East, and a major reason is our culture. Remaking Iraq, especially when we had no real allies, even the Kurds are gaming us, was impossible. Only a racist arrogance encouraged us to think it was possible. One, more than a few liberals bought into, thinking all Iraq needed was a dose of Western culture and not realizing they would kill to protect their own, no matter how we viewed it.

And again...

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Sadr wins

Our friend Sadr gets to have his militia kill Americans, avoid arrest and according to the NY Times, may well get to live in Tehran for a month or two.

The Iranians, eager to avoid the near-apocalyptic bloodbath which would come from an attack on Najaf, have tried to negotiate a settlement where Sadr escapes martyrdom and the US escapes enraging the Muslim world.

This is, without question, a complete and total victory for Sadr and a humiliating defeat for the US. Our big talk strategy has ended with US forces looking impotent and ineffective. US forces are effectively stalemated in Fallujah, taking casualities and unable to control the city. Now, after demanding Sadr surrender, not only will his militia be "disbanded", which is semantics for sent home with their guns, he'll be allowed to escape.

He's been turned from a pest into a major player in Iraqi politics. His willingness to fight the Americans, force Sistani to defend him and serve as a voice for the poor, as well as having his militia kill Americans without sanction, has allowed him to win respect that he didn't have before. He may have been fading before two weeks ago, but now, no deal in Iraq can happen without him.

Dear Teabaggers,

However loudly and often you tell yourself otherwise in the privacy of your of demented little clubhouse, history did not begin on January 20, 2009.

And during that long, pre-Obama period that you want so desperately to wish away, while the Right was merrily --
  • squandering trillions of dollars, thousands of lives and every last bit of our post-9/11 global goodwill to enrich Dick Cheney's friends,
  • playing some fucked up game of Randite Build-a-Bear with whole countries half a planet away that they did not remotely understand,
  • calling liberals "America-hating fags",
  • jerking off to Ann Coulter hateporn, and
  • generally tossing George Bush's political salad,
-- we here on the Socialist, cheese-eating surrender-monkey Left were up into the wee hours every night reading cold, reality-based horror stories like these and desperately trying to stop you from fucking this country irreparably up.

Or don't you remember America waaaaay back when the very air was being turned to IQ-lowering sludge with braying, faux-patriot drivel like this cultural skidmark

as every basement-dwelling Yellow Elephant was suddenly Born Again Hard?

Because we sure do.

Your history is a long, shameful and (boo-hoo for you) inconveniently well-documented one. Your movement was ecstatically-wrong in the 80s...hysterically-wrong in the 90s...recklessly, gutlessly and fatally wrong during the Age of Bush...and it finally, completely snapped the day the black guy put his hand on the Bible.

And however many lies you tell yourselves -- however many thousands of gallons of 'Don't Tread on Me!' Lethe Instant Forgetfulness Patriot Tea you gargle -- as long as you live you will never wash the taste of failure, collusion and George Bush's ass out of your mouth.

UPDATE 1: Welcome Vanity Fair/James Wolcott readers.
UPDATE 2: Welcome Daily Kos readers.
UPDATE 3: Welcome Raw Story readers.


Anonymous said...

Ow. I truly miss that man. Thanks for posting.

StringonaStick said...

We were right, and yet assholes like Klein and Lieberman are on TV, free to be spectacularly wrong again, again, and again. At what point does the bankrupting of our country, financially and morally, finally make these teabagging idiots endure the public ridicule and shaming they so richly deserve?

Anonymous said...

In the few arguments I find myself trapped in to these days about Iraq, my opponent, after being enlightened about the true nature of the "surge" ...i.e. "paying our enemies not to kill us", will immediately assume the fall back talking point of "so you think the world would be better off if Sadam were still alive"?
I used to hedge on this, but anymore, I loudly proclaim: You are damn straight!
A large, secular middle class, where women could walk freely without having to dress like bee keepers. The non-deaths of 100,000+ citizens, 2 million refugees living in their own country. Not to mention the fact that by this time, Sadam would most likely have been overthrown and executed by his own military, rendering the whole argument depressingly stupid from the beginning.
....and the whole mind numbingly inept execution of the entire thing, the amazing waste of life and treasure, none of this lives in the memories of the baggers at all!
Remember when Shrub couldn't even explain the difference between the Sunni or Shia...3 years in to the fucking war! Is there a bagger or for that matter prominent conservative who could accurately describe the internal demographic of Iraq to this very day?
I very much doubt it.
God what a monumental, self inflicted tragedy of sheer ignorance. One that should have doomed the right in this country to the dust bin of history....and yet they live on.

Anonymous said...

Those articles are reminiscent of I.F. Stone's early columns on Vietnam.

US Blues said...

Damn Drfity, coming aboard this morning to find the visage of Steve looking me straight in the eye from the Spirit World, followed by his prognostications of EPIC FAIL oracled so long ago, makes this anniversary of John Lennon's birth ("all we are saying, is give peace a chance") even more spine tingling.

Bravo. And thank you.

Anonymous said...

That was a glass of fine wine.Thanks!

prof fate said...

Damn. Here you go reminding me how much I miss Steve's insightful and razor-sharp prose.

Thanks for the flashback, drifty. Something to put away lovingly, and bring out whenever a Villager utters their self-absolutory catch-all excuse: "Who Could Have Predicted?"

anna missed said...

Most excellent post. I never read Steve in real time, but have posted on the same Sadr thesis for years. To the same collective deaf ears, I might add.

Anonymous said...

Aw, come on. You know that HISTORY will be the judge of whether we succeeded in Iraq. Eleventy-billion years from now is the soonest anyone can tell whether it worked and until then we can only proceed as if it were a brilliant success so SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP and by the way the stimulus was a failure because it didn't reduce unemployment to 0.4% instantly and yes I can say those two things at once why are you trying to silence me?

Rick Massimo

Tata said...

Gilly was the only person who made sense of the whole clusterfuck, and it seemed so logical when he wrote it that you wondered how anyone could apprehend it differently. I still wish I could ask him questions.

Plummet said...

I wish I had a nickle for every time I read something stoopid* and wondered what Gilly would have to say about that. What a great talent.

and fuck the fucking Yankees!

tokyoterri said...

it's still a shock.
thank you Drifty.

thank you James.

miss you Steve.

(there ought to be a book. I'm so sorry that doesn't seem to have happened...)

Anonymous said...

miss steve.
very glad you carried on drifty.

Gray said...

Here's to Steve! Still right on the important issues of tosay. What a razor sharp intellect, what a loss. Miss you, man!

Magnus the Destroyer said...

And so you assholes are trying to paint this as some big liberal victory?

Steve didn't predict anything that anyone who didn't have their head up their ass was saying was going to happen.

This is a self-masturbatory strawman of vulgar proportions. The "Teabaggers" weren't even around when this fiasco started, so I'm not sure how they fit in here.

Fucking liberals and conservatives are all equally retarded. Go fuck yourselves collectively. Fuck you and your "left/right paradigm". You're a disease of equal pain and suffering on America. Go commit suicide with your ideologically opposed twin and leave the rest of us out of it.

Magnus the Destroyer said...

HA! And just like that, the critic is expelled from the realm.

Fuck you fags. Can't take the truth.

Enjoy your nigger.

driftglass said...

I can think of no more fitting commentary tribute to Gilly than a bunch of nice, insightful thoughts...followed by one, unhinged, racist imbecile shouting out from his mommy's basement :-)

Gilly from Beyond said...

Gilly would've called you a fag also. Fag.

Green Eagle said...

Just wait- someday, oh, around the year 2500 or so, the Iraqis are going to elect a democratic government, at which point someone at the Washington Post is going to write an article about how the surge worked.

jurassicpork said...

To the ignorant, racist confederate flag waving three-toothers who've weighed in, Gilly was the guy who kicked Drifty out of his site and told him to set up his own shingle.

Isn't it funny, DG, that every time one of us lauds a black man there's always a Tea Bagging douchebag with a David Duke poster on his basement wall who will chime in with a racist epithet. It's inevitable, I suppose, a product of their Juke genes.

Btw, here's my two cents' worth on Gilly and this post.

Mel said...

I hadn't heard of Mr. Gilliard, RIP, until reading about him here at Driftglass' place - the Hari Seldon comparison is spot on.
Magnus the Shithead's genes and/or basement dwelling excuse nothing. I wouldn't mind seeing his excrement removed, but then I'm kind of a softy that way.

driftglass said...


Gilly's blog was like a fine, divey internet bar with the loudest, funniest and (usually) well-informed clientele around because the proprietor ran it that way. Trolls came and went (Hello Bloomie!) and fights broke out all the time, but short of threatening grievous bodily harm or the violent overthrow of whatever (or mass threadjacking), assholes generally never got bounced or deleted, and Steve's roadhouse rules of etiquette were applied to friend and foe. Sometimes Steve would come in to kick someone's balls into orbit but he was a single-shingle operation (Jen helped, but he carried the place virtually solo) was usually working on the Next Post, but we Gilliardians formed a critical mass that was large enough and tuned into the sensibility of the place enough that we usually were more than able to take care of matters below-decks. There was no "Party Line" and no cult of personality: if you could go toe-to-toe, back your shit up with facts and passion, argue like a grownup and not otherwise be an utter dick, you were welcome. It was a real, distinct but ineffable quality which Steve worked very hard to cultivate, which I have never found in the same proportions elsewhere and which I miss very much.

And as much as a nod to him as anything else, I generally try to let assholes hang themselves (they almost always do) and try to zap comments only when they rise to the level of a physical threat.

Of course, like Mr. Gilliard and every other good bartender I have known, I reserve the right to be completely idiosyncratic, unfair and an absolute tyrant when it suits me :-)

Mel said...

I hear you . . . and I sure hope I never provoke the House's ire here.

jurassicpork said...

Did you read my post, DG?

driftglass said...

I did, yes. It was nicely done.

ThePoliticalCat said...

Goddamn, drifty, you sure do wield a polished pen-equivalent. Thanks for bringing Gilly back for just a bit. He is terribly missed.

Anonymous said...

Aw. I was there when that picture was taken.

I miss Steve like burning.