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Monday, May 24, 2004

Destroy the Village to Save It

The World Socialist Web Site reports on the destruction in Karbala:
The conduct of the American military in Karbala has received virtually no attention in the international media. The US assault has left entire streets of the old city around the shrines in ruin. Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Saturday: “Buildings are gutted, walls blown off and businesses reduced to towering piles of rubble, with twisted wires sticking out of the wreckage... destroyed and burnt-out vehicles littered the ground, as upset residents stumbled across fallen electricity cables.” Much of the Mukhaiyam mosque has been damaged. Bullets and shrapnel have scarred hundreds of houses.

Karbala has effectively been held to ransom by the US military—with the implicit threat that unless Sadr’s militia ceased their resistance the Shiite shrines inevitably would be damaged by the shells and machine-gun fire being unleashed all around them. On Friday morning, a school and other buildings directly behind the Hussein shrine, where Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia allegedly had their headquarters, were shelled by tanks and strafed by an AC-130 gunship. Al Jazeera reported that at least nine civilians were killed. An American officer described the area to the south of the shrine as “complete, total destruction”.
And while the Abu Ghraib atrocities and the Chalabi scandal are getting more press here, the "Arab street" is incensed by the attacks on Karbala and Najaf:
A Shiite demonstration was held on Friday in Bahrain—a US client-state and the main American naval base in the Persian Gulf. More than 20 people were injured in clashes when police attempted to disperse the rally. Highlighting the explosive situation, the king of Bahrain sacked his interior minister for ordering the police attack and issued a statement declaring he shared “the anger of our people over the oppression and aggression taking place in Palestine and in the holy shrines”.

In Lebanon, up to 300,000 people took part in a demonstration on Friday in Beirut called by the Shiite Hizbollah movement “in defence of the religious holy Shiite shrines in Karbala and Najaf against the US-led occupying forces in Iraq”. Tens of thousands of Lebanese Shiites wore white funeral shrouds and carried portraits of al-Sadr. Thousands of Palestinians also marched, denouncing the Israeli military atrocities in Gaza.

Hezbollah secretary-general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah told the mass rally: “The Iraqis can decide when, how and where to fight for the liberation of their country. However, when it comes to Najaf and Karbala, we consider ourselves directly involved. In wearing our death shrouds, we show the enemies our readiness to fight and die in defence of the holy shrines and sites.”
Bush is giving a speech tonight. I know he'll repeat the same lies and platitudes, and introduce some new ones. But if he finally decides that it's time to really start addressing the problem as opposed to continuing to create it, I suggest that he steal these words spoken by a slightly more honorable warmongering president from Texas 36 years ago:
Believing this as I do, I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year.

With America's sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office--the Presidency of your country.

Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.
LBJ had some atrocious attitudes and escalated a stupid and pointless war. But at least it seemed to BOTHER him.

Reading LBJ's speech, I'm struck by how long it was, and how he withheld his bombshell (so to speak) announcement until the very end. The speech covers a lot of detail about Vietnam, as well as talking about the budget and other matters. I would have thought that a major announcement, such as "I'm not running for re-election," would have been the entire focus of the speech. I wonder if he was considering leaving out the three paragraphs quoted above while he was reading the rest of the speech.