Monday, August 22


The story of why Casey Sheehan died, according to an embedded reporter who was in Sadr City on the day he was killed.

I had traveled to Sadr City to cover the Bush Administration’s undemocratic attack on the movement of Shi’ite cleric Muqtada Sadr. It didn’t matter that the cleric had millions of followers or that he was scion to an important political family with a history of standing up to tyranny. (His father was killed by Saddam’s regime for fomenting revolution in 1999. His uncle, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr, was killed for leading an insurrection against Ba’ath rule in 1980.)

It didn’t matter that Sadr’s forces were providing food aid to the poor, or organizing traffic patrol and garbage duty in an atmosphere with no basic services.

The problem for Bush and his Iraq Administrator L. Paul Bremer was that Sadr was against American occupation. So he had to be dealt with. First his newspaper was closed. Then his top advisor was arrested. Then, Bremer announced an unnamed judge was demanding Sadr be arrested on charges of murder.

"He's effectively attempting to establish his authority in place of the legitimate Iraqi government," US Administrator Paul Bremer told reporters. "We will not tolerate that."

That was the last straw. Until April 4, 2004 Muqtada Sadr had urged his followers to protest peacefully against American occupation. But the American assault lead him to urge his followers to “terrorize the enemy.”

In the first 48 hours of fighting Sadr's followers seized police stations and government buildings across the country including the Governor's Office in Basra. At least 75 Iraqis and 10 American servicemen were killed, among them Army Specialist Casey Sheehan.

So a year after the U.S. invasion of Iraq a popular cleric was organizing his people to provide services the U.S. didn't and encouraged his followers to protest (peacefully) the American occupation. We could have co-opted Sadr instead of seeing him as a threat to our puppet government, but we chose instead to try to crush him. Don't anyone try to tell me for one minute that BushCo didn't connive from the beginning to "own" Iraq -- the billion-dollar embassy and bases we've been building are clear indications of our intentions. We could have said, "Here you go, Saddam is gone and you have your country back" and left, with the thanks of the Iraqi people and a renewed respect on the part of many Muslims in the Middle East. But it was never meant that we should just topple Saddam and leave. We wanted the oil, we wanted the bases, and we wanted a client state. Anyone who thinks differently is either deceiving themselves or just plain naive.


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