"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."-Winston S. Churchill

"The wandering scholars were bound by no lasting loyalties, were attached by no sentiment of patriotism to the states they served and were not restricted by any feeling of ancient chivalry. They proposed and carried out schemes of the blackest treachery."-C.P. Fitzgerald.

Friday, August 29, 2003

The Passing of al-Hakim 

NajafIraqi policeman waves civilians through blast area in An NajafOf course, the assassination of Ayatollah Mohammed Bakir Al-Hakim is a huge blow to the idea of Iraqi unity. In the short term, it is also going to make it that much harder for Paul Bremer to bring some order to Iraq. However, in a perverse way, it may make it easier to secure Iraqi cooperation in the long run.

The attack itself was the most squalid of crimes. The attackers, either Ba'athists or Al Qaeda, went right after a soft target and set the bomb off in such a way as to cause maximum civilian casualties. The car bomb exploded right as men were coming out of Friday prayers. Later in the day, after the dead and the wounded had been unearthed near the Ali Mosque, doctors at the local teaching hospital confirmed at least 75 dead and at least double that number wounded. Coalition troops were not involved in the rescue efforts, as the American command had been asked by the clerics to withdraw their forces from the city limits.al-Hakimal-Hakim in May, 2003

What this does do, of course, is increase instability in Iraq in the short run. It will also lead to a spate of vendetta killings, as partisans of Hakim take the opportunity to settle old scores with rival Shi'a. It may also lead to some Shi'a-Sunni sectarian violence, as many Shi'a suspect that Saddam's Ba'athists or the Wahabist fanatics of al-Qaeda had something to do with this. Iraq is not a part of the world where people sit down in an encounter group and talk out their feelings. Nope. Blood will be shed.

However, as with the UN bombing of a week ago, I suspect that even more Iraqis will come forth to identify the local "Saudi" or "Yemeni" who looks out of place in their neighborhood. The Iraqis are going to come to the conclusion that the other Arabs are not only trying to keep them poor, stupid, and enslaved under the boot-heel of fascism, but are also trying to kill them, as well.

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