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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Najaf? What's Najaf?

Hurricane Charley blew away more than a bunch of mobile homes and shoddy developments in Florida. Along with the Olympics, the New Jersey governor, and even the referendum in Venezuela, it managed to blow the ongoing atrocity in Najaf off of the front pages. Heck, CNN is back to covering the Peterson trial, now entering its third decade (or so it seems, anyway). Kobe and Michael can't be far behind.

Nevertheless, the killing and destruction (aka "desecration" if you happen to be a Shiite Muslim) continues in Najaf. Juan Cole is following the situation closely, and it isn't good:
Dean Yates of Reuters reports that fighting broke out in Najaf again on Monday between US troops and the Mahdi Army militia.

In the heart of Najaf, U.S. forces backed by tanks exchanged fire with militiamen entrenched around the sacred Imam Ali Mosque and an ancient cemetery. Explosions boomed and the crackle of machinegun fire echoed across the city, 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad.

A U.S. military spokesman revealed that Mahdi Army fighters had killed three US troops in fighting on Sunday.

Thousands of civilians have marched to Najaf to surround the shrine of Ali as human shields. Reuters quotes one of them, Fadil Hamed, 30, as saying, "I will lie on the ground in front of the tanks, or I will kill the Americans to defend Sadr and Najaf."
Cole also has an interesting take on Senator Tom Harkin's labelling Dick Cheney a coward. Cole suggests that "hypocrite" is the more appropriate label for the Veep from the Deep.