Posted by lex, on August 6, 2008
But failure has a better publicist.
Which is why, I suppose, Paris Hilton’s response to the John McCain celebrity ad drew more attention across the blogosphere than did the news yesterday that Moqtada al-Sadr is telling his thugs to stack arms.
The story, broken yesterday by the Journal’s Gina Chon, marks the latest of serial defeats for Mr. Sadr, beginning in February 2007 when he was forced underground (reportedly to Iran) in anticipation of the surge of U.S. troops. More recently, the Mahdi Army was defeated and evicted from Basra and other southern strongholds by an Iraqi-led military offensive. The Mahdi Army capitulated without a fight from its Baghdad enclave of Sadr City. Now the young cleric will focus his group’s efforts on politics and social work, perhaps while he pursues theological studies in Iran. He wouldn’t be the first grad student in history with a tendency toward rabble-rousing.
In many respects, the story of the Mahdi Army’s decline follows the same pattern as al Qaeda’s: Not only was it routed militarily, it also made itself noxious to the very Shiite population it purported to represent and defend. It enforced its heavy-handed religious edicts, coupled with mob-like extortion tactics, wherever it assumed effective control. The overwhelming Shiite rejection of this brand of politics is another piece of good news from Iraq, as it means that Iraqis will not tolerate Iranian-style theocratic rule.
On the topic of Basra and the Mahdi Army, here is news I’d rather not have read:
A secret deal between Britain and the notorious al-Mahdi militia prevented British Forces from coming to the aid of their US and Iraqi allies for nearly a week during the battle for Basra this year, The Times has learnt.
Four thousand British troops – including elements of the SAS and an entire mechanised brigade – watched from the sidelines for six days because of an “accommodation” with the Iranian-backed group, according to American and Iraqi officers who took part in the assault.
I’ve never heard anyone complain about the valor and professionalism of Tommy in the trenches, or for that matter, any of the fighting forces who trace their lineage back to the Olde Empire. Soldiers often wish that the same could be said of their political masters.