The Ultimate Sadrist Spin
Muqtada al-Sadr throws down his arms at Maliki’s feat in the last act of his months-old saga of surrender; he officially disbands the Mahdi Army to everyone’s disbelief, including mine, yet the Washington Post chooses to interpret his submission as a reactivation of his militia.
In a story bylined under the names Amit Paley and Karen De Young that ran as the WaPo’s lead front-page copy today, it is alleged that Sadr has created a new armed wing of the Mahdi Army militia that is tasked with attacking U.S. targets in Iraq.
I read Sadr’s directive yesterday: I have to admit that at first I dismissed it as a forgery, seeing that it appeared on an anti-Sadrist website that had peddled forged statements attributed to Sadr in the past. Not only was the wording weird and disjointed, but Sadr actually demobilizes the Mahdi Army, going far beyond “freezing” its activities as he did twice in the past year. He limits “resistance” to a “group that shall be authorized to do so by us in writing soon” and that they alone were the ones allowed to carry arms. Everyone else must turn pacifist.
Blustering about “resistance” is nothing new, as the WaPo sensationalizes, after all, who was doing all that shooting in Basra, Sadr City and elsewhere if not Sadr’s minions? Who were those 700-800 militiamen who ended up dead in the last two and half months?
The only value behind the WaPo’s story is that it seemingly confirms that Sadr did indeed release this statement, as evidenced by the alleged reactions of his aids “some of whom appeared surprised by the cleric’s announcement”—surprised? Why of course, that would be the natural reaction to a declaration of surrender!
But Mr. Paley, the cub reporter with no grounding in Iraqi affairs whose prior wilted laurels were earned reporting on education issues back in the U.S. (…he had to retract some of his reporting, it seems); this hapless wanna-be that’s been dispatched to cover really confusing and convoluted political terrain in the WaPo’s infinite staffing wisdom; has seemingly internalized every high note of the Sadrist chime: no matter what the story may be, Muqtada always wins.
So if Sadr would appear in a YouTube video snuffing himself in a dank apartment somewhere in Qum, the WaPo would run ‘Radical Cleric Sheds Earthly Body, Gains Celestial Powers’ across its masthead.
What an exercise in redundancy!
But the real surprise is the New York Times editorial admission today: “…in recent months there has been some tentative progress in Iraq. American and Iraqi casualties have declined, and there are signs that the central government is beginning to assert its authority against Shiite militias in Basra and Sadr City and against allies of Al Qaeda in Mosul.”
However, as Paley chases phantoms, and the NYTimes begrudgingly updates its gloomy forecasts, the Iraqi Army is just now beginning the operation to smash the last Sadrist stronghold in Maysan Province, as first revealed on this blog about three weeks ago. It’s only natural that neither the Washington Post nor the New York Times mention Maysan in their Iraq stories today; hey it took the latter paper seven weeks to send a reporter down to Basra after the fighting had started, so we can expect that the Maysan story may get the same treatment. It’s not that Maysan won’t get written about eventually, it’s just that the writing will get done without the facts on the ground getting in the way, given the journalistic trends that we’ve been seeing as of late.