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May 30, 2008


Is that a Radiohead reference? Bravo, now I need to go relisten to Kid A and Amnesiac...

Indeed twas. Actually one of my favorites off Amnesiac.

Eric, please add your byline at the top of your posts.

Reading this story from a few days ago, I was struck by, of all things, the parallels between Moqtada and Bush:

"Sadr, the third of four sons, was born in Najaf into one of the most revered clerical families in Shiite Islam. His father's cousin, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr al-Sadr, was an adored religious figure who founded a school of thought that became the Sadrist movement, which argued that the clergy should actively engage in politics to aid the downtrodden Shiite masses. When he was tortured and killed in 1980 by Saddam Hussein's government, Moqtada's father, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, also a grand ayatollah, took his place as the head of the movement and became a chief opponent of Hussein's rule.

Moqtada at first attended public schools, but around ninth grade he switched to the hawza, the seminary in Najaf that is the center of Shiite learning, in part because he struggled with his studies, neighbors said. He earned the nickname Moqtada Atari because of his love of video games.

"His brain was thick," said Abu Hawra, 47, a merchant in the Hannaneh neighborhood, where Sadr grew up, who would not give his full name. "His father used to complain a lot about his attendance at school. Moqtada was the source of great concern and discomfort for his father."

Two brothers, Mustafa and Muammal, were considered the heirs apparent to the family legacy. "His father used to consider them his right and left arm," Abu Hawra said. Another son, Murtada, reportedly suffers from long-standing medical problems.

Moqtada, his friends said, has always been a prankster, in ways both innocuous and macabre. Once, he made a big show of offering a 7-Up to a student, who was then surprised to learn that Sadr had filled the bottle with water. In a more recent incident, he anonymously sent Shaibani, the aide, text messages threatening to kill him, only to reveal later with laughter that it was all a practical joke.

Sadr, known in his youth for stuffing himself with as many as a dozen falafel at a time, was treated no differently than other students in the seminary, according to neighbors. (...)

Then, on Feb. 19, 1999, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr and his two sons, Mustafa and Muammal, were assassinated by machine-gun-toting men. Moqtada was propelled into the leadership of the movement."

I was going to blog it, but somehow didn't get around to it.

Sorry Nell. Still not used to that extra step.

I was struck with the similiarity I see between Moqtada's conservative, anti foreign anti elite brand of political action and that described by Thomas Franks for the "con cons" in Kansas. Bush et al went for the group of the most moderate/assimilated Iraqis they could find and thought that this group could represent and control a much larger group of lower/working class Iraqis with utterly different interests and culture. Boy were they wrong--in a democratic system, or an anarchic system with lots of armed bodies, the person who speaks to the dreams and fantasies of the largest number of voters/gun owners is going to win hands down. Its bodies, bodies, bodies that matter. People like Bush who rode into town on the backs of a manufactured enthusiasm and duped voters simply have no idea what it takes to really create and control a grassroots movement and they have no real appreciation for grassroots movements and their enthusiasms and their power.


aimai, that is a great, great comment.

@Eric: Just trying to fulfil my role of being a polite scourge. ;> You've remembered more often than you've forgotten.

hilzoy, thanks for that excerpt. Some parallels are there, clearly, but to me the big difference in how the troubled son comes to power dwarfs them. The powerful father and the successful brothers being wiped out in an instant, thrusting power onto the unlikely successor... versus the powerful father and the successful brothers engineering the nowhere near-as-capable son's rise to the top.

Thank you Eric Martin, that was a great, great post with so much in it to chew over that I'm bookmarking it for further study. My apologies for the double post.


Thank you Eric Martin, that was a great, great post with so much in it to chew over that I'm bookmarking it for further study. My apologies for the double post.



As long as we are tossing out links to background info re: Moqtada al-Sadr, Nir Rosen caught my attention back in early 2006 with a lengthy and detailed account of Iraqi politics predominantly from the Sadrist viewpoint.

Sounds like I will need to add Patrick Cockburn to my ever growing reading list.


That was a great Rosen article. I've cited it more than once. That's how rich it is.

I also highly recommend Babak Rahimi:




(click on his name in the second link for a list of his Jamestown articles)

This ICG report was also very informative:


I could praise you at great length, Eric, but anyone who has been reading you for any length of time -- let alone those of us who have read and blogrolled American Footprints back through previous names -- knows how well you know your stuff, and we almost take for granted, sadly, your insight and breadth of knowledge and sense.

Alternatively, we could simply compare your posts to the posts of those with true insight, and say: Eric, you loser-defeatist slut.

Eric, you loser-defeatist slut.

I am not a loser-defeatist!

"Sounds like I will need to add Patrick Cockburn to my ever growing reading list."

Patrick Cockburn has been doing some of the best reporting from Iraq, on his many tours for The Independent since the war got under way. People who haven't been reading him since 2002 have to have less complete knowledge of Iraq than those who have regularly read him, unless they're Iraqis.

One can't link to the results, but go here and enter "patrick cockburn," and read as you like.

Or start here.

By the way, who remembers our little debate here on the Down's Syndrome bombers in Baghdad?

Sebastian? Comment?

I expect it will be that Cockburn is clearly in sympathy with AIF ("anti-Iraqi forces" and his reporting can't be trusted because of his slant; but I'm always thrilled to be pleasantly surprised.

Reading this story from a few days ago, I was struck by, of all things, the parallels between Moqtada and Bush

There may be some differences but two major differences stand out: Sadr seems to be a good tactician, knowing when to pile on attacks, and when to level off, when to accept a cease-fire and when not to. Bush as a tactician? It is to laugh.

Also, Sadr seems to care about the populace of Sadr City. Who, besides himself and his cronies, does Bush care about?

Dr. Juan Cole has been writing about Sadr for quite some time. He's stated all along that Sadr has a large influence among the working/lower class Shiites. He's a nationalist of the truest sort and his alledged alliance with Iran is mostly propaganda.

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