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Tilting at Windmills

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February 22, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

SADR'S CEASE-FIRE....This is good news from Iraq:

Influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Friday ordered his Mahdi Army militia to extend a cease-fire for another six months, a decision that U.S. and Iraqi officials believe will strengthen a growing sense of stability in Iraq.

....Sadr's cease-fire, which began last August, is widely credited with helping to reduce levels of violence in Iraq. Other factors in quelling the violence have been the birth of a Sunni volunteer force that turned against radical jihadists and the U.S. military "surge" involving thousands of reinforcements.

....Those who honor Sadr's pledge will be treated with respect and restraint, the U.S. military said, adding that it would welcome any opportunity to participate in dialogue with the Sadrists.

Elections are in October. Keep your fingers crossed that the Sadrists, the Hakims, and the U.S. military can keep things from spiralling out of control before then. This is a hopeful start.

Kevin Drum 2:47 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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And how much are we paying him to do this? And exactly what weapons will be bought with this money, and against whom will those weapons be used? And how much ill will are we engendering among those who are Sadr's opponents? And what reaction can we expect from them?

The hole is deep enough. It's time to stop digging. Good news? No. Good news would be a staged withdrawal/redeployment starting in five minutes.

Posted by: Noam Sane on February 22, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

It is good news for two reasons.
1. It is likely to continue to keep the violence down, although not enough.
2. It might, if publicized enough help people to realize that the "Surge" was only partially responsible for the reduction of violence. If Sadr had not declared the truce initially, I doubt if we would have seen any significant reduction.

Another possible positive is that just perhaps the US will get smart and actually start talking to Sadr. He may be the best hope for an Iraq which is not overly under the influence of Iran.

Posted by: John on February 22, 2008 at 3:08 PM | PERMALINK

Sadr's positioning himself effectively to take over after we leave. He'll be the only Shiite leader with real nationalist credibility; his Shiite rivals are all tainted with the "US puppet" charge. He's also managed to distance himself from some of his more unsavory followers. If he can make his cease-fire stick, I think you'll see efforts to somehow delay the elections, or otherwise create conditions where the Sadrists don't participate (like jailing Sadrist politicians) lest the voters kick out Maliki and Hakim's parties in favor of the Sadrists.

Posted by: Joe Buck on February 22, 2008 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK
Keep your fingers crossed that the Sadrists, the Hakims, and the U.S. military can keep things from spiralling out of control before then. This is a hopeful start.

If the US is going to withdraw soon, the various local factions are going to have to either find an accommodation or leap on each others throats once that happens. Sadr, not being backed by the US, has no motivation to trigger the latter before the US withdraws if there is any prospect of that happening soon, since it makes it more likely that the US intervenes against him.

OTOH, Sadr's local Shi'ite opponents have little incentive to to push it to a fight while the US is there if there is reasonable prospect of the US withdrawing soon even if the issue isn't resolved, since it reinforce their (actual and apparent) dependence on the US at a time when the form and substance of US support in the near future is up in the air.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2008 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Standard issue reply by the US government on Iraq War progress:

Things are going well. Sadr issued a cease-fire. Freedom is on the march. Less bombings and killings but we still have a long way to go since the country is in ruins, there are no jobs, soldiers get blown up regularly and a few stray rockets always seem to go off in the wrong places. Overall, we're cautiously optimistic.

Repeat over and over again for the next 50 (100?) years or before the oil runs dry.

Posted by: Dr WU-the last of the big time thinkers on February 22, 2008 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Those who honor Sadr's pledge will be treated with respect and restraint,

Well, that's the rub. We've been attacking some of the Sadrists, though some say they're only militants that Sadr wants purged anyway. The man's going to make a move at some point and we'll be in trouble when he does.

Posted by: tomeck on February 22, 2008 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

The NIE that took the heat off of Iran, the passage of the 3 bills joined together last week, and Sadr renewing his ceasefire...these are all good things. Hopefully the Iraqis will start getting fired up for their elections in October. Democracy takes practice, and they've been too long without an election. This one will have Sunni participation in it post-awakening, which will change everything.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 22, 2008 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

The US military will be unable to provide anything hopeful in Iraq.

Posted by: Brojo on February 22, 2008 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

And all of this only took the slaughter of a hundred thousand innocents. What some might call "nearly cost free."

Some people are monsters and morons.

Posted by: heavy on February 22, 2008 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps someone knows if the Mahdi Army has been responsible for the deaths of any American soldiers.

Posted by: robota on February 22, 2008 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps someone knows if the Mahdi Army has been responsible for the deaths of any American soldiers.

Aside from perhaps the Kurds, what Iraqi factions have not been responsible for the deaths of at least some American soldiers? How is that relevant to establishing a stabilized situation in the country?

And all of this only took the slaughter of a hundred thousand innocents.

Most likely a significant underestimate.

Posted by: JM on February 22, 2008 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

The extension of the cease fire makes a lot of sense for various reasons. One that hasn't been mentioned yet is that I heard he is supposed to be studying to be an Ayatollah and that engaging in sectarian strife would tarnish his future political reputation.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on February 22, 2008 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

The sectarian killing is down and there are fewer car bombings - but still far more than were occurring before the U.S. invaded and occupied this sovereign country. People seem to forget that the number of car bombings in Iraq before we arrived was exactly ZERO!

Now the very best we can hope for in this ruined country is a backward, medieval, highly Balkanized Islamic nation with a ruined infrastructure, depleted uranium and unexploded cluster bombs everywhere, two million refugees, an uneducated and malnourished population and the highest levels of internecine violence on the planet.

And this represents a "hopeful start" how, Kevin???

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 22, 2008 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

I have only one quibble with you TCD, it was my understanding that there were something like twice that many refugees.

The assholes who started this clusterfuck had better hope that I'm right about something else too (I mean besides it being a terrible idea to slaughter 100,000 people, and likely more, to get one petty tyrant) - that there is no god. Because if there is a god, the warmongers whose idiocy has resulted in the ruined nation we now see will get an up-close and personal tour of hell (rather like the one they have gifted to the Iraqis). No god who loves humanity could ever forgive them.

Posted by: heavy on February 22, 2008 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

...to get one petty tyrant
Posted by: heavy

Only a creep would think that someone who killed over 300,000 of his own countrymen in genocide is a "petty tyrant."

Posted by: sjrsm on February 22, 2008 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you dissapoint me, how nieve are you? Sadr has been paid off to keep the violence down until AFTER the US Elections. I mean it is a obvious as the nose on your face. No matter how often or blatant this administration gets people just look right past it. Think of this as Christmas in Feb for John McCain a gift from Bush, much like the one the NY Times is giving him now.

Posted by: latim on February 22, 2008 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

Only a cultist who reveres death would accept 100,000 dead innocents as an acceptable price for avenging 300,000 deaths.

What the fuck is wrong with you? How can you cheer the death of 100,000 innocents? Are you really that fucking warped?

Posted by: heavy on February 23, 2008 at 5:29 AM | PERMALINK

One of the oddest things is to read SJG's posts about me. It is simply beyond his imagination that someone could support the United States and still not thing that the military is above reproach. See the many posts where he literally accuses me (someone who reviles murder) of being in league with Al Queda. Or, in his latest fantasy, of being on the payroll of the dead tyrant Saddam Hussein.

This is exactly what one would expect from someone of rather limited intellect and imagination. To the simple mind of SJG it isn't possible to agree that a tyrant is evil and also recognize that the only way his removal is a good thing is if there are mechanisms to ensure the safety of the people involved.

Odder still is the insistence that those murdered by a tyrant are human beings and those murdered by the "good guys" are a) not murdered, and/or b) not important.

Here's a clue you fucking psychopath: the innocent Iraqis murdered by the unprovoked assault on the nation of Iraq? Those were human beings until the American forces turned them into bloody chunks of flesh. Those people are just as dead as the people Saddam Hussein killed. And as of this moment your brutal occupation has resulted in the deaths of 1/3 as many innocents as someone actively trying to kill innocent people. The death toll is rising. How long before your benevolence results in the same number of dead as your ideological soulmate Saddam Hussein?

Posted by: heavy on February 23, 2008 at 5:41 AM | PERMALINK

Arg, the line is "not think" though that should be obvious enough to SJG, it's his default mode.

Posted by: heavy on February 23, 2008 at 5:53 AM | PERMALINK


You just don't get it. Bush "regrets" the loss of innocent human life, so that makes it ok. Killing civilians is only bad when done by USA Officially Certified evildoers.

Posted by: tomeck on February 23, 2008 at 6:10 AM | PERMALINK

There are lots of brutal dictators in the world who kill their own people, sjrsm - they reside in Congo, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, to name a few. However, that alone does not justify the United States in invading and occupying a sovereign nation and slaughtering 100,000 people and dislocating 2 million more in the process - particularly under false pretenses! Bush and Cheney are war criminals. Period. Full stop. And none of your canned, right-wing lines about "spreading democracy", mass graves or WMDs changes that.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 23, 2008 at 6:29 AM | PERMALINK

Well if the US tries and signs any greedy oil laws, all bets are off. And of course, Bush only has one objective over there.

But we also have Turkey sending their military across the border in Northern Iraq right now - it's either central chaos or Northern chaos - so it still an iffy investment that could rightly go South in a real hurry, an explosive moment that could happen at any time.

You can keep you're fingers crossed Kevin however, I don't think I use finger-crossing as an investment tool.

Posted by: me-again on February 23, 2008 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK


You are so right. I completely forgot to multiply the deaths under the "Officially Certified Evildoer" by 100 and divide the deaths under Bush (who regrets the loss of life) by the same factor.

Once that's done suddenly there is a world of difference between the 30 Million killed by Saddam Hussein and the 1,000 killed by Bush.

And now I see the light, only a madman would find those numbers comparable. I guess I owe an SJG an apology.

Posted by: heavy on February 23, 2008 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

And back in the real world from Juan Cole:
Muqtada al-Sadr extended his freeze on militia activities of the Mahdi Army through August.

Since the US is finishing off his hard line Sunni Arab enemies for him, and is restoring discipline to the Sadr Movement by arresting rogue elements not loyal to Muqtada, it is hard to see what the down side is for him in accepting to renew the Mahdi Army freeze.

A rocket barrage struck the Green Zone where the US embassy and other American offices are located.

As Solomon Moore of the NYT explains, Basra is a security mess rife with Shiite militias, assassinations, murders, kidnappings for ransom and gasoline smuggling on a vast scale.

Posted by: klyde on February 23, 2008 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

who killed over 300,000 of his own countrymen

Jebus they're still flogging that myth. Even Tony "the poodle" Blair was forced to admit to that lie.

Posted by: klyde on February 23, 2008 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Hey creep,

So how many do you have to kill to get promoted beyond "petty tyrant"? And what is the next step up the rung? Nothing that a good hug can't fix, eh?

Unlike you, I'd like to live in a world where Saddams and Pol Pots aren't tolerated. And I'm willing to do something about it and have done so. In Iraq twice and Kosovo once. You, on the other hand, most likely have done nothing but post hate-filled rants that provide cover to genocidal maniacs and downplay their evil.

Petty indeed.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 23, 2008 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Give it up Mike.

1.) There are dozens and dozens of brutal dictators over the past 50 years we have successfully ignored, some like the Shah of Iran and the Saud family are considered our "friends".

2.) A good portion of your 300 million that Hussein killed were during the time period when he was our "friend".

3.) 100 million of those killed were in southern Iraq, that the US urged to rebel against Sadam, then we refused to support them as he slaughtered them. Technically, this was a civil war and Sadam, as the leader of Iraq, had justification to kill them.

4.) Life was much better for Iraqis before the invasion than after the invasion. If we accepted Sadam's 1billion bribe to leave Iraq, everyone would have come out ahead, except for the sick bastards who needed Arab blood for vindication.

Posted by: says you on February 23, 2008 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Where, between 100,000 and 300,000, is the line that separates George W. Bush from being a genocidal tyrant?

Posted by: heavy on February 23, 2008 at 7:24 PM | PERMALINK

Answer the question, creep.

Personally. Are you all talk and no action? Ever serve in the peace corps? Volunteer somehow? Do something to make a difference? Or just sit in front of your monitor and spew your missives and feel like you've done something?

Posted by: sjrsm on February 23, 2008 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

I'll make you a deal, we'll play your game after you answer my question: where is the line for genocidal tyrant? Obviously 100,000 dead Iraqis under their tyrant George W. Bush hasn't led you to believe that he is one. And we know that you are obsessed with the 300,000 Saddam Hussein killed. So, one logically must assume that the line is somewhere in there.

But then I remember that you are part of the organization that bombed the fuck out of the innocent Vietnamese people and the death toll there was around 1,000,000. Three times greater than that of Saddam Hussein's entire career. I must admit, this makes you seem like a bit of a hypocrite.

Oh, and then there's the small matter of destabilizing Cambodia and giving rise to Pol Pot. Another United States Military Special. So over the course of 20 years, you guys managed to kill 3,000,000 souls.

Bastards. That's not fucking deterrence. And it is ten times the number you keep quoting like a talisman to protect you from remembering all the innocent Iraqis' blood on your hands.

You imagine that your career makes you actively good.

It does not.

Do you know why no serious person focuses their discussion on the clowning skills of John Wayne Gacy? Because he was a fucking serial killer. See, the lapse in judgment that allowed him to murder 30 people makes him a monster.

You not only support, but you demand (and pretend it is the mark of an American rather than a supporter of the Taliban which you have pretended I am, or a supporter of Saddam Hussein which you have likewise dishonestly claimed I am) that others support the brutal assault on the Iraqi people.

Your service in the service of a noble cause would be reason to celebrate you. But you threw that away with your cheerleading on Iraq.

Here's what you can do, aside from shutting the fuck up on any and all issues related to national security: start learning the names of every human being murdered by your glorious leader. It will remind you that they, unlike you, were innocent human beings killed in the most inept assassination ever. You killed 100,000 people to get one guy, you fucking boil on the ass of decency.

Posted by: heavy on February 23, 2008 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

I'll make you a deal, we'll play your game after you answer my question...

No game and no deal. Just tell me what you've actually done to make a difference, other than rage impotently on the internet.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 23, 2008 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

In fact, given your support for any and all murders by the United States government it looks like your good deed was purely an accident. You happened to be in the service under someone who wasn't a sociopath and who used the military for a good purpose. But you don't really appear to care. You just like dropping bombs on people's heads.

By the way, please. Do try to keep up. I manage to be creative, even amusing, in my posts. You are so fucking boring it's amazing your fingers don't strangle you rather than type yet another brain-dead insult that can't possibly hurt someone like me who is so clearly your superior both morally and intellectually.

Posted by: heavy on February 23, 2008 at 10:38 PM | PERMALINK

Listen you twisted goon: you've actively done evil. Your support for the slaughter of a hundred thousand human beings means that even if my entire life was in front of this computer I would still have done more good than you simply by not fucking up the world. How many of your victims were "collateral damage?"

The world is a better place for having me, and a worse one for having you. It's that simple. But now I have more important things to do than to educate you on moral issues.

Remember, start learning the names of the Iraqi dead. It will help remind you how much you fucked up and maybe it will keep you from ever posting your ignorant views again.

Posted by: heavy on February 23, 2008 at 10:44 PM | PERMALINK

Technically, this is trolling since I am writing this without even knowing if Mary has once again posted and will leave it without bothering to look for a response, but notice what Swaggering Jingoistic Goon is doing here.

He cannot win on the merits. There simply are no merits when one must take the side of slaughtering 100,000 people over the benefits of not doing something that monstrous. So he wants to play on the heartstrings of those who think the military is above reproach. He is using the basic argument that the Republicans accused John Kerry of using � that his service trumps everything.

He simply cannot answer the question of how many people can be killed before one turns into a �genocidal tyrant� because to do so would be to accept that the people he�s responsible for killing are actual human beings. One might expect that, being the very same kinds of people killed by the �genocidal tyrant� Saddam Hussein that his (Goon�s) victims would be equally human. But here Mary�s brain protects her by simply ignoring the line of questioning. She cannot accept the premise that her actions have had bad consequences. So the answer, for her, of how many people need to be killed before one becomes a �genocidal tyrant� is subject to who is doing the killing. For Saddam Hussein the number is less than 300,000. For George W. Bush and for America�s military, the answer is (obviously) greater than 3,000,000.

And yes, there should have been at least one place where I point out that Melinda�s story about being in the service is probably a lie and that the kind of swaggering jingoism she represents dishonors the military where she pretends to have served. But I�m too tired to bother with that right now.

Posted by: heavy on February 23, 2008 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

Technically, this is trolling

creep, you've been doing nothing but trolling for months.

He simply cannot answer the question of how many people can be killed before one turns into a �genocidal tyrant�

creep, I essentially asked you that question first in my 4:27 PM post. I'm waiting...

creep, you are all lather and no rinse. Brave on the internet, physical and moral coward otherwise. End of story.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 24, 2008 at 8:00 AM | PERMALINK

sjrsm: You seem to lack a basic understanding of military matters. This is quite surprising from one who claimed to serve!
If you are still alive, you have not done a thing. Why did you not stay in the Armed Forces until you accomplished something?
My father was an officer, and he would never have accepted a cheap excuswe like that! "I've done my share" He warned me about fakers like you! "If you're still breathing, you haven't done shit!" is what he always told the men under his command.
You don't think those Al Queada guys serve a couple years and then go home, on a generous pension? No Way!
Just another summer soldier, doing just enough to make him a legend in his own mind.
Now get back in their and fight Soldier!

Posted by: Mooser on February 24, 2008 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, sjrsm, it's because of phony patriots like you we never had the showdown with the Ruskies my father always said would seperate the wheat from the chaff. He sayd we sold the wheat to Russia, and kept the chaff here in the US!
That's what he said, right up till the day they fragged him.
So you can comment again when you've given at least half of the full measure of devotion you were supposed to, coward!

Posted by: Mooser on February 24, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Mellisa, you failed to answer the question I asked of you. The post you reference does nothing to help determine when you will start calling George W. Bush a genocidal tyrant. In fact, you've failed to even notice that you've helped murder 100,000 people.

My answer is going to remain the same. We are debating, not comparing personal stories and, let's be honest here, your argument isn't stronger when you point out that you killed people for money.

Posted by: the on February 24, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, Kevin, your post is supposed to be funny, right? I mean, it's ironic, or satirical, or parodical, or something.

You can't be that... never mind, I remember your thoughts about the WMD, and yes, you can.

Posted by: Mooser on February 24, 2008 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK



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