Thursday, September 13, 2007

With Abu Risha's Death, The Cheerleaders Are Jubilant

Hurray, the anti-war bigots are shouting. Abu Risha is dead! I find it hard to stomach that so many Americans do cartwheels when something goes wrong in Iraq. But they're doing it again. Their hope for failure in Iraq is palpable and pathetic.

Today in a car bomb explosion prepared by al Qaeda, Abdul Sattar abu Risha and some of his body guards were killed.

The assassination Thursday of the leader of the Sunni Arab revolt against al-Qaida militants dealt a setback to one of the few success stories in U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq, but tribesmen in Anbar province vowed not to be deterred in fighting the terror movement.

American and Iraqi officials hoped the death of Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha would not stall the campaign to drive al-Qaida in Iraq from the vast province spreading west of Baghdad and reconcile Sunnis with the Shiite-led national government.

And there was glee in the streets of anti-war America! Rob Kall of Op-Ed News gloats

"What's the bottom line to this killing,"- I asked.

Rowley answered, "It puts the lie to the statement that there's security in the region."-

"Bottom line," finishing my interview with Rowley, I said, "This is a charade, a chimera, this success which Petraeus portrays is actually something that will fall apart when the money stops coming in and could actually explode into far worse conflict, when the troops leave."

That statement is far from necessarily true, and can only be interpreted as a not-so-subtle hint of a hope of failure in Iraq.

The previous excerpt was from an interview Mr. Kall had with a so-called reporter in the region, a Rick Rowley, who clearly has an opinion and an axe to grind. Mr. Rowley's main sources, besides himself, for his claims are members of the al Dulaimi clan, who are know to have had serious disagreements with abu Risha.

As the Associated Press reported

"This is a criminal act and al-Qaida is behind it," said Sheik Jubeir Rashid, a senior member of Abu Risha's council. "We have to admit that it is a major blow to the council. But we are determined to strike back and continue our work. Such attack was expected, but this will not deter us."

Ali Hatem al-Sulaiman, deputy chief of the province's biggest Sunni tribe, said that if "only one small boy remains alive in Anbar, we will not hand the province over to al-Qaida."

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who had been reluctant to support Abu Risha, expressed "great sorrow" over the killing, but said he was confident "that this criminal act will strengthen the determination of Anbar people to wipe out the terrorists."

Meanwhile, someone who is constantly mingling with the military and with the Iraqis in Anbar and elsewhere, Michael Yon, has a completely different perspective. Here are some excerpts from his recent dispatches.

Back in 2005, many Iraqi Soldiers and Police preferred to hide their identities.Today it seems that most Iraqi Soldiers and Police want their photos taken. Their confidence is growing and their attitude toward the terrorists is increasingly one of being more the hunter than the hunted.

Shops in Anbar [are] reopening. Cigarettes [are] for sale. Just recently, al Qaeda was executing people who smoked, but this shop was selling cigarettes on the street.

To many of the Iraqis I’ve spoken with, terrorists are fair game. Kill them. But if we kill justice while doing so, we will create terrorists out of farmers. Here the Marines are creating farmers, police officers, shepherds, and entrepreneurs out of insurgents. To do that, they have to be seen as men who respect and honor legitimate systems of government and justice.

The sheiks of Anbar turned against al Qaeda because the sheiks are businessmen, and al Qaeda is bad for business. But they didn’t suddenly trust Americans just because they no longer trusted al Qaeda. They are not suddenly blood allies. This is business, and that’s fine, because if there is one thing America is good at, it’s business.

This conflict is often cast as either a battle between good and evil, or as a clash of religious ideologies, perspectives that fill cemeteries with brave souls willing to die for something they believe most fervently.

Reframed thus from a position of strength, this stage of the Anbar-war is more a sort of business transaction, where alliances beneficial to all sides—except al Qaeda—are formed. From this perspective, there is now a moment of genuine ground-floor opportunity in Anbar, if the people here can see that by doing business with the Coalition, everyone benefits—except al Qaeda, an exclusion that most can live with.

Politics often sucks. But beyond the politics are the people, in this case, the Iraqi people. Far beyond the news headlines, many stories are being made. Stories of success. Stories of friendship. Stories of improving lives.

I think I trust Michael Yon more than I trust Mr. Rowley.

I wish the anti-war cheerleaders would change their cheer for a while. Little by little, it's working. People's lives are better. Life in Anbar is improving.


robkall said...

True progress in Iraq would be wonderful. But, when the leader of the region is so easily killed, you have to question whether claims of progress are legitimate. If they are not legitimate, then maybe they are lies. The Bush admin has a long, despicable history of lying about things in Iraq. Is it unpatriotic to distrust a chronic liar and to want to know the truth. You don't "buy" the message of the Liar-in-Chief's chosen messenger. You scrutinize it carefully, double checking the claims. It took one event, 48 hours after Petraeus started his testimony, to demonstrate just how unsafe Anbar still is. And Risha, when you take a look at who he is/was, does not look like the kind of partner who would provide the kind relationship with integrity that you describe as best.

But hey, they're buying cigarettes. Things must be good. Let's all run up a flag celebrating retail sales (and don't give me crap about being a socialist. I own and run a small business with employees.)

As far as your talk of Victory, or Winning in Iraq, here's my take:

Time to Confront the Desperate Losers Who Speak of Victory in Iraq

rob kall
publisher, the news site for progressives and others who support democracy, the constitution and protection of the freedoms the founders of America envisioned.

Frank Staheli said...

I wouldn't call you a socialist. I share your dismay for George W. Bush. But I have a hope for freedom in Iraq that tempers my anger, which I sometimes think you don't.

I appreciate that you scrutinize it carefully. You are very likely right. I'm just saying, look at both sides of the issue. Michael Yon is an excellent example, as are multitudes of American and Iraqi military members. Behind the generalities are people trying to make a better life. And in many cases they are succeeding.

rmwarnick said...

Frank, I don't know who is doing cartwheels. Where do you get that? It's an overwhelming feeling of despair that Bush's continued occupation of Iraq is causing so much death. Let's face it, if the Marines had left Anbar for good a year ago this assassination and hundreds more like it would not have happened.

OTOH Abu Risha wasn't a good guy, let's have no illusions about that. At best, he was an opportunist.

From Time Magazine:

"Sheikh Sattar, whose tribe is notorious for highway banditry, is also building a personal militia, loyal not to the Iraqi government but only to him. Other tribes — even those who want no truck with terrorists — complain they are being forced to kowtow to him. Those who refuse risk being branded as friends of al-Qaeda and tossed in jail, or worse. In Baghdad, government delight at the Anbar Front's impact on al-Qaeda is tempered by concern that the Marines have unwittingly turned Sheikh Sattar into a warlord who will turn the province into his personal fiefdom."