Monday, August 23, 2004

Moqtada Sadr

Moqtada Sadr is the new bogeyman in Iraq. As Saddam awaits trial, our forces have had Sadr and his ragtag militia surrounded in Najaf's holiest shrine. Sadr is a religious extremist and a apocalyptic type -- some accounts have him and his followers believing that his rise to power leads to a return of certain biblical and Koranic prophets, the end times and all that blah, blah, blah. Charismatic religious extremists are always dangerous, but especially in a war zone where they can raise armies of hopeless youths willing to die for a bit of hope.

Or, is he more than that?

From Slate's "Today's Papers": Even as Sadr's forces fought with American troops, the papers note that he was able to convince kidnappers to free American journalist Micah Garen and his Iraqi translator, both of whom had been held since August 13. They are now in U.S. custody and were unharmed.

Think about that -- think about all the kidnappings and beheadings of foreigners in Iraq and how we and the Iraqis have been able to do nothing about them. And yet Sadr, himself under the threat of death by U.S. and Iraqi provisional government forces has the influence to get a hostage freed. Maybe we need this guy.

I'll say that again. Maybe we need this guy. Maybe killing him would be a big mistake and not just because it would martyr him and inflame his followers. Maybe we need him because he has legitimate influence over the militants in Iraq.

In a situation like this, you don't want to go around rewarding every psycho who can put a militia together. But, it's also important to recognize that some people who have that ability and who can demonstrate influence over the hearts and minds of the populace during times of war need to be brought into the fold of power. They need to be elevated to a position of responsibility within the new government. I think it's at least possible that, should Sadr be granted some influence that he would lead his followers in a less radical way because he and his people would no longer be hopeless and they would no longer feel disenfranchised. Is Sadr, in the end, a fiery talker with a more practical mind? I think we need to test this out. It would certainly lend our enterprise more credibility if we brought an independent mind to some sort of power in the new government. And, it would take the fighters from Najah, at the moment revolutionaries, and allign their interests with the interests of Iraq's new government, turning them from rebels into members of the establishment. Turning them, indeed, from potential guerilla fighters and kidnappers into people who will feel responsible for stopping guerilla attacks and kidnappings. And, they wouldn't need machine guns to end the violence. They might have the clout to use words with the most extreme hold-outs in this ongoing war.

I might be 100% wrong in this. But I have a feeling that demonizing or ostracizing this guy is a bad idea and that killing him would be the worst.


At 8:40 AM , Blogger adriana said...

so...uh, mike...when are you running for office?


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