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Thursday, April 17, 2003  
[This blog was suspended after the US invasion, because the truth was obvious: US media was simply acting as a propaganda machine for the White House. There was little point in calling further attention to it. I'm focusing on my book, instead. The blog has not been changed.]
[This blog was opposed to the US invasion even assuming Saddam had WMD, because we could and did contain him. Now, knowing there was no WMD makes the case against Bush irrefutable. Bush must go. If this little blog could 'get it right', why couldn't Bush? See the weekly blog Archives:
Jan-I Jan-II Jan-III
Feb-I Feb-II Feb-III Feb-IV
Mar-I Mar-II Mar-III Mar-IV Mar-V 2003]

Those pictures of Saddam's statue being toppled, and draped with an American flag (no, wait, an Iraqi one), as Iraqis cheered? You know the ones, plastered over every US TV "news" show, and on every newspaper and magazine. They were staged. Photo-ops. Misleading. In a word: propaganda. Only 150 Iraqis showed up, and many of them were part of the puppet Chalabi government the US was trying to install. Click here for the photographic proof (<-- this is a "must see" link!!) That was the scene that Rumsfeld hailed as proof of "all the demonstrations in the streets," and said: "Watching them, one cannot help but think of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Iron Curtain." Um, no. The entire context is different. The miniscule size of the Baghdad gathering differs from the Berlin Wall episode by four orders of magnitude. Yet even weeks later ABC Nightline continues to replay carefully selected clips of this scene; closeups which show dozens of people jumping and beating on the statue and which imply it was a huge crowd, rather than the truth. (Why is the "news" media so willing to pimp for the White House? Did you think it a coincidence that the same man is shown on the covers of Newsweek, US News, and in the statue photos? See the new book by Rampton and Stauber, Trust Us, We're Experts).

Things have gotten even worse since Bush declared the 'end of hostilities'. It will not be long before more of our American sons and daughters are killed 'after' the war than during the invasion. And it now seems likely that Al Qaeda walked away with nuclear material for a dirty-bomb and perhaps more. Even Bush admits this.

Who is responsible? Bush and those who put him in power.

Are we safer? Hell no! We're far less safe than before Bush invaded Iraq, as critics of the US-UK invasion (including the CIA rank-and-file) said we would be. Invading Iraq has strengthed Al Qaeda, as critics said it would.

Consider the statements by Rand Beers. Beers' credentials are impeccable: he served two tours of duty in Vietnam as a Marine. He then worked for 30 years in the White House and DOS on counter-terrorism and intelligence. He worked in Ronald Reagan's NSC, big Bush's NSC, Clinton's NSC, and little Bush's NSC, where until recently he served as a special assistant to the President for combating terrorism. Now he has quit in protest, because Bush has been weak on homeland security.
Read the transcript of his interview on Nightline. He says: "I was deeply disturbed about what was going on in our counter-terrorism policy. ... I was concerned both about what was happening internationally in places like Afghanistan and what was happening domestically in the homeland security area."
Koppel: "long before most of us became aware of the fact that this Administration had ambitions to invade Iraq, the decision was made not to put as much money, manpower, effort, into Afghanistan because it was going to be needed for Iraq. Was that your experience?"
Beers: "I can't say whether it was reserved for that purpose. But it was certainly clear to me that the manpower and the money that I thought were necessary for Afghanistan were simply not there. And it was a very frustrating experience for me. ... One of the consequences was that the attack in Tora Bora ended up using surrogate forces and standoff US forces when US combat forces involved directly in that operation might actually have captured Osama Bin Laden, who we now know clearly was there. ... What I have understood to be the case was that we preferred to use surrogate forces because it was an easier way to run the operation, there would be fewer US casualties. ... I'm not in a position to say whether that was a political or a military decision."
Koppel: "Well, I mean, if it had been a military decision, the assumption would have to be that indigenous forces would do a better job of capturing Osama and his fellow leaders than American forces, right? And that doesn't seem very logical, does it?"
Beers: "That's one way to put it, yes."
Koppel: "So, one is left then with the conclusion that it, if it wasn't done for military reasons, then it would've had to be done for political reasons."
Beers: "I'm simply not in a position to confirm that. ...
Koppel: "[regarding Homeland Security...?]"
Beers: Well, I think, firstly, there is an inadequate amount of funding. ... most everybody, expect for the Administration, believes that there was an inadequate funding level in that budget. People voted for it because the alternative was not acceptable, to have no budget. That has been, to my knowledge, a continuous perspective that the Administration has had. They've been unable or unwilling to ask for sufficient funds to actually do the job. And then, they haven't followed through with the programs that actually would turn that money into activities in as rapid and forceful a fashion as I think that it should. One of the phrases that is used often within Washington is 'business as usual.' And I'm really concerned that this Administration, despite its rhetoric, has given the homeland security function a 'business as usual' mantra." ... "It's certainly true that the costs of fighting a war in Iraq as well as Afghanistan and homeland security, all together represent an enormous cost on the treasury. It's part of the national security function. And in some ways, yes, that's exactly right [that because Iraq has already cost billions of dollars and will cost billions more, that that is also one of the reasons that we're not spending enough on counter-terrorism here at home.] Those costs crowd out one another in some people's minds."
Koppel: "Was there a relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al-Queda ... that was a [legitimate] reason for going to war against Iraq...?
Beers: "The intelligence that I saw, and I'm not going to comment on it specifically, certainly didn't move me to come to the same conclusion."
Koppel: "Do you consider the danger that those weapons might now be in the hands of the very people we were trying to prevent them from reaching, could have happened?"
Beers: "I think we have to consider that as a real possibility. And it is what is most disturbing to me about not having located the weapons of mass destruction. ... I thought there were weapons of mass destruction to begin with. I understood that there were certain caveats, as we say in the bureaucratic framework, but that there was so much information about the size of the arsenal that there must have been weapons of mass destruction there. So, they have either been hidden so cunningly that 140,000 troops, thus far, haven't been able to find them. It's a possibility they will find them. Or they were destroyed by Saddam immediately before the war, or a short period before the war, and we simply didn't know that. Or they've fallen into the hands of people that cause us even more problems. ... I resigned because I was deeply concerned about the policy and did not see that policy changing. I would have focused on al-Qaeda more than I would have focused on Iraq if it had been my decision. Because I believe that al-Qaeda is a fundamental threat to the United States. And it is not clear to me whether Saddam had that same degree of threat and imminence. I think that what we have learned since the war is suggestive that Saddam was less, even less imminent a threat to us than it appeared that he was in the lead-up to the war."

Does it get any clearer, from any better source of information? Do you trust Rush Limbaugh and Roger Ailes (who moved from Reagan to Faux-TV "News") more than Rand Beers?

Which American leader (in the true sense of the word) has best advised the American public on the wisdom of using the strength of our global alliances to fight terrorism (instead of Bush's unilateral stupidity, which is creating more enemies)? Perhaps the next President of the United States, a Democrat. Perhaps Sen. John Kerry, who has a valiant military record, a lifetime of devotion to fighting special interests (he takes no PAC money), looks out for the public good, and is a strong leader and consensus builder. Or Governor Howard Dean, who has been endorsed eight times in a row by the National Rifle Association (the NRA), opposes gun control, has balanced a state budget every year he was in office, created jobs, provided health insurance for every child under 18, lowered taxes, and grown his economy. He is a medical doctor with a general practice until he became governor. Or General Wesley Clark, decorated war-hero, strong leader, with the courage to speak out against the invasion Iraq (as did Dean). Etc! ABB, anyone but Bush.


I am ending my daily updates of this blog, and focusing on getting a book out. I'll add a few key updates above as time permits, but for the time being, this blog is over. It has logged over 10,000 visitors, and I hope it helped in generating discussion and insight.


Saddam's regime was a horror, and it deserved to be ended--ideally by Iraqis themselves. But US TV coverage--where the majority of Americans get their news--leaves a misleading impression among viewers about the US invasion.

Consider just some of the fallout in the first month after the US invasion.
Tens of thousands of Baghdad Protesters Demand That U.S. Get Out of Iraq. Contrast this with the 150 people at the Saddam statue--and contrast the pitiful TV coverage. Even the pro-war Washington Post sees fit to print: >>>Tens of thousands of protesters demanded on Friday that the United States get out of Iraq while leaders of the Arab nation's neighbors meeting in Saudi Arabia also called for U.S. forces to leave quickly and warned Washington against trying to exploit Iraq's oil wealth. In the biggest protest since U.S. forces toppled Saddam Hussein's iron-fisted, 24-year-long rule nine days ago, Muslims poured out of mosques and into the streets of Baghdad, calling for an Islamic state to be established. Carrying Korans, prayer mats and banners, tens of thousands of people marched in a protest that organizers said represented both Iraq's majority Shi'ite Muslims and powerful Sunnis. "Leave our country, we want peace," read one banner. "No Bush, No Saddam, Yes Yes to Islam," read another. Organizers of Friday's mass demonstration in Baghdad called themselves the Iraqi National United Movement.<<< New York Times: >>>Shiite and Sunni Muslims united in a demonstration that railed against both the United States and Saddam Hussein, while an Iraqi exile backed by the Pentagon emerged from well-guarded seclusion in an exclusive club to stake a claim to a role in Iraq's future. At overflow Friday prayer services at the huge Abu Hanafi Mosque, a Sunni religious center that opened its doors to members of the rival Shiite sect in a rare [and temporary] demonstration of solidarity, hostility toward the Americans and the desire for an Islamic Iraq were on display. "No to sectarianism, one Islamic state," read a banner on the mosque, with the legend "No to America" emblazoned on top. "You are the masters today," Ahmed al-Kubeisy, the prayer leader, said of the Americans as he addressed a congregation that spilled out onto the sidewalks. "But I warn you against thinking of staying. Get out before we kick you out." ... The prayer service ended with a demonstration filled with banners denouncing the United States and Israel. "Muslims unite against the infidels!" one man shouted, jumping up and down in fury. "Get them out of our country."
Elsewhere in the capital, in a vast Shiite slum, more than 100 Shiite clerics met today inside a heavily guarded mosque. The gathering quickly became a power play by a radical faction that hopes to gain control over the often divided Shiites, who make up 60 percent of Iraq's population. At the prayer meeting in Baghdad, Sheik Kubeisy had little good to say about anyone, from Mongol conquerors in 1258 to Mr. Hussein and the looters who sacked buildings in recent days, but he reserved much of his wrath for America. "The United States is the enemy of mankind, we all know why they are here," he said, alluding to the widespread belief among Iraqis that the Americans only covet the country's oil.
A very different tone was struck at the news conference of Ahmad Chalabi, the 58-year-old scion of a wealthy Shiite clan who returned to his native Baghdad this week for the first time in 45 years. [The Iraqi National Congress and Mr. Chalabi have been the principal beneficiary of the millions of American dollars provided by the Congressional Iraqi Freedom Act passed under the Clinton administration, and have been favored by Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. He is accused by the Jordanian authorities of absconding with the proceeds of Petra Bank more than a decade ago. The disappearance of hundreds of millions of dollars ? along with Mr. Chalabi himself, who Jordanians say was smuggled out of the country in a Mercedes ? wreaked havoc with the Jordanian economy, bankrupting many small investors.] Mr. Chalabi is protected by American soldiers on a mansion-lined street in Baghdad's richest neighborhood. One of his supporters, Muhammad Zobaidi, was installed as city administrator at a chaotic meeting called by American officers on Sunday. Mr. Chalabi repeatedly declared today, in the well-worn tradition of political power brokers, that he was not a candidate for president. "I am not a candidate for any position in the interim government," he said. "My role is to rebuild Iraq."<<< The Pentagon Expects Long-Term Access to Four Key Bases in IraqThe United States is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq ["emerging government" ha!--why not print the truth instead of the "news": "the government the US is installing"], one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases. American military officials spoke of maintaining four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future: one at the international airport just outside Baghdad; another at Tallil, near Nasiriya in the south; the third at an isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along the old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan; and the last at the Bashur air field in the Kurdish north. Administration, Pentagon and military officials say it is unlikely that American forces will withdraw completely from the desert kingdom.
Meanwhile, Chalabi Backs U.S. Military Presence in Iraq. Why, what a surprise. >>>Chalabi on Sunday called for U.S. forces to remain in Iraq until the country holds elections, a process he said could take two years. "The military presence of the United States in Iraq is a necessity until at least the first democratic election is held, and I think this process should take two years." Analysts have said [Chalabi] is the U.S. choice to lead Iraq, [and he] said Islamic religious parties could participate in postwar Iraqi politics. "There is a role for the Islamic religious parties, including Shia religious parties, because they have some constituencies. But they are not going to be forcing any agenda or any theocracy on the Iraqi people," he said.<<< "Some constituencies"? They had tens of thousands of supporters rallying last week, compared to Chalabi's 150 people. But most of the US public won't know this, because the TV networks won't broadcast it. Dangerous strains of cholera, black fever, HIV, polio and hepatitis may have been stolen during the postwar looting of Iraq's key disease-control facility. The U.S. military is worried they may be used as weapons. And Saddam's WMD seem to have been spirited out of the country. This is exactly what war-critics feared would happen. If true, Bush must be held responsible for it. Bronwen Maddox reports in the London Times: "Why have American and British Forces not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? The most plausible answer is that there are none... It is an understatement to say that the failure to find such weapons is an embarrassment for the British and American governments."
What about the locations Powell identified at the UN, when he sold this war to the US public? No WMD there.
Groups representing the *majority* Shiite population are boycotting talks led by Jay Garner, and will not cooperate with a US administration of Iraq. So much for "democracy".
US troops kill 11 civilians, over two days, in Mosul. The civilians were demonstrating against the new US-backed governor.
Later in Mosul, Najaf and Kerbala, children are throwing stones at US troops. "Captain James McGahey, a company commander of the 101st Airborne Division who says almost every one of the patrols he sends out in the northern city of Mosul gets stoned. ... In one typical incident ... at least 200 children and a small group of adults were around them, and the stones came raining in from about a dozen of the older kids. ... The troops pulled away and took up a defensive position but even then the children and adults only dispersed when a warning shot was fired over their heads.
There is no water distribution system in Basra, the infrastructure was bombed and vandalized.
Angry residents greet marines in Tikrit. "Americans are against freedom and democracy!" shouted one man. "Saddam shall return!" shouted another.
Ethnic hatred and violence is gripping Kirkuk. In addition, landmines and other unexploded ordinance have killed 52 Kirkuk residents in the past week, mostly children.
We may end up causing more deaths through environmental destruction, than occured in the military invasion itself.
April 29, US troops kill 15 protesters and wound 53, in Fallujah. More killings there the next day (3 dead?). Then more killings a day later in Fallujah.
Fear reigns, as one detested militia is replaced by another--the Shia Badr Brigade, coming in from Iran. The Badr's leader, exiled Shiite Ayatollah Baqir al-Hakim called on Iraqis to rebel against the US administration.
Far from being a 'liberation', Iraqis are already complaining about the US occupation. Sporadic armed resistance to US troops remains.
The Shia of Najaf seethe ominously, fearing the yoke of US occupation Some 3,000 Shiites in Samawah demonstrated in favor of the Najaf religious establishment. They chanted, "No to colonial occupation, no to America, blessed be Iraq!" (The major media largely ignored this 3,000-strong demonstration).
"I want to cry, because these are only words," said a doctor who gave her name as Iman. "If they give us anything it is not from their own pockets. It is from our oil. Saddam Hussein was an unjust ruler, but maybe one day we could have got rid of him, and not had these foreigners come in to our country."
Many Iraqis Turn Anger Toward the U.S. "If Americans and British are here to destroy the regime and liberate Iraq, we welcome them," said Emad Fadil, a 26-year-old worker in Basra. "But if they come to occupy Iraq, we will fight them to the end -- like the Palestinians [do]."
Even Business Week has to concede: One War, Different Media Lenses: U.S. press and TV coverage of Baghdad's fall isn't matched overseas, where many see Western oppression rather than liberation.

In bombed neighborhoods, everyone 'wants to kill Americans'. "A year ago, on these streets, we would have yawned if someone had mentioned America to us," Khalid Tarah said. "Now, look what they have done to us. Everyone feels this pain. Everyone here now wants to kill. Everyone here now wants to kill Americans." "The people are paying for this war, not Saddam or anybody else. Really, we wanted to get rid from him, but not in this way," said Kawther Hussein, 46, a British-trained chemical engineer and mother of three who lives in al Kharnouq. "People lived here. Children lived here. Where will they live now?" a man in al Adhamiya said as the crowd picked up the bricks of a collapsed apartment building.
Cluster bomblets landed on softer targets - lawns and trees, and in one instance the asbestos roof of 60-year-old Sabih el Bazzaz's carport - cushioning their fall, and failing to trigger them. Residents say the closest anti-aircraft battery was on a highway a quarter-mile from their neighborhood. For them it is a sign that American forces didn't distinguish between the military and civilians in their so-called war of liberation. The toll, they said, was four civilians. The house of Rashid Majid and his sons Ghassan and Arkan had a black banner of mourning outside Tuesday, declaring them "martyrs of the American aggression." Around the corner, Uday al Shimarey's father said his son and the Majids were all killed because they were curious about the bombs and apparently leaned over to pick them up, or kicked them.
The view from al Adhamiya is just as bitter, though the U.S. bombing campaign left it largely unscathed. At 5 a.m. last Thursday, residents awoke to hear American tanks rolling down residential streets so narrow that a few got stuck. Thirty people were killed, though the circumstances were uncertain. Tarah said they were "defending their homes ... hoping to keep away thieves and robbers, when the tanks rolled in." He said a 10-year-old boy was shot as he watched what was going on. Thirteen more were killed when they rushed to protect the 1,000 year-old Imam al Nawman Mosque nearby. "There was no one here when the Americans arrived," Sheik Moaied al Aadhamiy said. "Those who came to defend the mosque arrived and tried to drive them away, when they were killed. But the mosque was empty when they did this." "I know the Americans said their war was with Saddam and not the Iraqi people," he said. "But this is now inside our hearts and will never leave. Each day when I come here, I have the same thought, everyone says the same thing. There is no other reaction. We hate the Americans."
Fisk writes: "For the people on the streets, this is not liberation but a new colonial oppression."

Baghdad's national art museum was ransacked, partly by some curators, partly by looters, and hundreds of pieces of priceless antiquities were stolen. Its national library and archives were looted and burned, with many one-of-a-kind ancient manscripts and historical records lost, going back hundreds if not thousands of years. Another museum in Mosul was looted, too. So was the Baghdad academy, and its library.
Bush's cultural advisers have quit in protest! They say: "If we understood the value of Sumerian cuneiform tablets to our past, as we do with oil getting us somewhere in our cars, I don't think this would have happened." "In a pre-emptive war that's the kind of thing you should have planned for." The US did protect the Oil Ministry, but Bush didn't care about museums, history, art--where's the bottom line on them? Rumsfeld made the problem worse: "The greatest damage might have been done by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who referred to the looting and rioting in Iraq as 'untidiness.' By pooh-poohing the problem, Ponessa said, 'Rumsfeld incited the country to riot.' " It turns out that Bush's own Office of Reconstruction (ORHA) had listed the museum as the #2 site to protect, after the central bank. Out of 16 other sites, the lowest-ranking (at #16) was the Oil Ministry--which was the only place that Bush/Cheney/Condoleeza Rice protected. (You do know that Chevron named a 130,000-ton oil tanker after Rice, don't you?) The OHRA warned that the museum was a 'prime target for looters' and that looting could mean 'irreparable loss of cultural treasures of enormous importance to all humanity.' Nonetheless, hundreds or even thousands of items were stolen, broken, or dislodged. Only a tiny fraction have been returned. The museum's sacking was 'completely predictable', says the president of the Archaeological Institute of America, Jane Walbaum. The AIA warned army officials in Kuwait, but no action was taken.
Contrast this with WWII: "In the spring of 1943, when victory over Nazi Germany was far from assured, the American military created what would become known as the monuments, fine arts and archives section. Art historians and scholars in the military worked throughout Europe to prevent damage to cultural sites and art and to protect them after hostilities ceased. Members of the section followed troops into war-torn areas to find, collect and repatriate art stolen by the Nazis."

The hawks continue to eye Syria. Richard Perle seems not to have learned anything. Yesterday at AEI he called for Congress to pass a "Syrian Liberation Act" modeled on the 1998 law that made regime change in Baghdad official U.S. policy. "There are many ways to fight these battles. ... I would hope that Congress would take a look at helping those who want to free Syria from the tyrannical rule of the Ba'ath Party." Even the Washington Times is critical of this. But the US would enter Syria in hot pursuit (as we warned), to capture Saddam. And in fact the US did kill 80 Syrians, including many civilians, in a mistaken-identity raid. Iran will not recognize a U.S.-installed interim administration in Iraq and will support Syria if it is attacked. (Syria is *not* a natural ally of Iran: it is secular and Sunni).

The media hooplah over "saving Private Lynch" is revealing. (One reporter even mistakenly referred to her as "Private Ryan" on air). The London Times reports that Iraqi doctors had in fact tried to bring her back to US troops the day before, but the US checkpoint guards fired at the taxi carrying her! And Iraqi troops had fled the day before US troops came storming into the hospital and tied up doctors who had cared for her. Will Hollywood portray the truth, when the movie comes out? Or will it perpetuate American imperialism through mythology?

Those reports of a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda which were "found" by a British "journalist" in the Iraqi Intelligence headquarters? They may have been forged. No link between Saddam and 9/11 has been found, despite extensive efforts by the Bush Administration and DOD's Office of Special Plans. Just like the documents which alleged Iraq was buying yellowcake uranium from Niger. Another "must read" article: Nicholas Kristof's NYT column 13 June 2003 , which details the potentially high crimes of the White House in lying to deceive the American public into supporting war. (Also: Amb. Joseph C. Wilson's report to the CIA and Cheney's staff, which denied the Niger rumor.) Tenet had this cut from Bush's October speech, yet it reappeared in his January UN address.
One can easily find *dozens* of lies and rumors spread by Bush and Blair which they used to gain support for the war. These include: uranium in Turkish taxi, the drone-plane "targeting the US" (7 Oct 02, turnedout to be held together with duct-tape), VX given to Al Qaeda, dual-use plants, mobile labs (for helium, sold by UK; contrary to Bush's 30 May 03 claims, in Poland, that "we found WMD"), alleged links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, links to 9/11 including Atta in Czech, aluminum tubes, Iraq was "six months away" from building a nuclear weapon (Bush, 7 Sept 02), Saddam "could launch a biological or chemical attack 45 minutes after the order is given" (still on the White House website, 20 July 03), massive *stockpiles* of CBW (not just programs), nuclear capabilities (Cheney on Meet the Press), Bush's and Rice's "mushroom-cloud smoking-gun" fear-mongering, Powell's misleading mistranslations before the UN, 20 large missiles, smallpox, alleged 'failure' of inspections, "We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in" (wrong), etc., not to mention mendacity about the economy and domestic issues. Even Powell's top aide, Greg Theilmann, admits Powell misled Americans. Contrast the GOP's double-standard on Bush's treasonous lying with their political-lynching of Clinton's personal peccadillos. Meanwhile, the US has failed to guard Iraqi nuclear sites, and radioactive material has been looted.

*If* true, the story that Bush's White House "outed" for partisan reasons a CIA undercover agent who was working to contain the spread of weapons of mass destruction, is astonishing. That she "happens" to be married to the Ambassador who exposed Bush's falsehood's on Niger uranium, makes this a bombshell.

8:00 PM

Sunday, April 13, 2003  
Boston Globe reports: In Shi'ite world, anger toward US seen growing. ''We don't want occupiers in our country. After the war against Saddam [Hussein] is over, the war against America will begin!'' Sheik Mohammad Ali Basri shouted to his followers, who had traveled from across the Shi'ite world to reap blessings at this holy site. ''All Shi'ites will fight the Americans' presence in Iraq,'' said the sheik, a religious teacher from Basra, Iraq, where British occupation forces have struggled to halt looting, revenge killings, and anarchy in the streets. The warning came before a senior Iraqi cleric, Abdul Majid al-Khoei, was slain Thursday by a mob as he visited the Grand Imam Ali mosque in Najaf, Iraq. The United States had enlisted Khoei, who returned April 3 after a long exile in London, to help administer Najaf. To many Shi'ite Muslims, Khoei's willingness to work with the Americans was nearly as abhorrent as the American invasion itself.
Shi'ite leaders and Islamic scholars say Washington has ignored the profound opposition among many of the world's 150 million Shi'ites to the Western occupation of Iraq. The Bush administration seemed to assume that the sect, long persecuted under Saddam Hussein, would welcome allied troops even though their route to Baghdad was through Najaf and Karbala, the most sacred sites for Shi'ite Muslims.
But most Shi'ite clerics and political leaders have publicly opposed the invasion. In their view, American domination is no improvement over Hussein's tyranny. ''The Shi'ites are horrified'' at the US-led war, said Hamid Dabashi, an Islamic scholar at Columbia University and an authority on the Shi'ite world. ''Not only are their fellow Shi'ites and, in fact, their fellow Muslims maimed and murdered right in front of their eyes by the Americans, but the most sacrosanct sites in their collective faith are now invaded by foreign armies. The next time the British and Americans ask themselves, `Why do they hate us?,' they better remember the horrid scenes of their armies trampling on the sacred sites.''
Bayon Jabor, the Syrian representative of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq, the group which considers Hakim its spiritual guide, said in an interview in Damascus: ''We don't accept the American leadership of Iraq, particularly if it will be long-term. We are not pro-American. We are Islamic and pro-Iraqi.'' Jabor plans to return to Iraq next week to participate in the formation of a postwar government. The Supreme Council poses another potential problem for Washington: Long supported by the clerics in Iran and shielded from Hussein's rule, the council is likely now to return the favor and allow Iran to develop a religious, if not political, influence inside Iraq.
Another US foe, the Shi'ite militant group Hezbollah, also has ambitious aims in Iraq, analysts say. Hezbollah has expressed its disdain for the US troops in Karbala and Najaf. ''Hezbollah in Lebanon or high-ranking Shi'ites in Iran may issue any number of edicts, encouraging their followers to fight the army that has invaded their homeland, and their fatwas would be perfectly binding,'' said Dabashi, the Columbia professor.

2:37 PM

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