"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday tried to dispel concern over the possibility that a civil war could erupt in Iraq between Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs.
"People have been moving together, talking, discussing things," Rumsfeld said. "You can always find someone who's going to try to be a dead-ender and say, 'If you don't do this, I won't do that.' But that's part of negotiation. We see that in the Congress and we see it in democratic systems all over the world."
His remarks came amid a report that a Sunni Arab official believes civil conflict could arise from differences over the draft constitution.
There, now, isn't that great news? No less a personage than Little Donny Rumsfeld himself, our very own bag man in Baghdad, assures us that there will not be a civil war. That's simply outstanding! And it's a good thing, too, because without Rummy's reassurance it might be easy to misinterpret this sort of thing:
Fighting broke out in Baghdad and the holy city of Najaf on Wednesday between rival Shi'ite militias, raising fears of a renewed uprising by radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army against the U.S.-backed government.
At least eight people were killed and dozens wounded, health officials said, in street battles in Najaf involving pro-government Badr Organisation fighters and supporters of Sadr, who has joined Sunni Arabs in denouncing a constitution the Shi'ite-led government is preparing to force through parliament.
More from Christopher Allbritton, who is in Baghdad:
Earlier this evening, Najaf police units, led by a Badr Organization commander, descended on Moqtada’s office in Najaf, located on the main street approaching the Imam Ali Shrine. In the clash, Moqtada’s office, only four meters from the shrine, was burned to the ground, according to Abu Hazzim, who worked in the Najaf office and fled for his life to Sadr City. He says 23 people have been killed, most of them Moqtada’s supporters, while media reports put the number between five and eight. Iraqi Army and police have been involved in the fighting. Many of the police and army units in the south are packed by Badr militiamen with more loyalty to the party than to the state. As I write, clashes continue.
Moqtada has put out an alert for the jaysh al-Mahdi militia to be on high alert in Sadr City, Najaf, Nasriyah, Amarah and Basra. In Sadr City and Basra, jaysh al-Mahdi members have asked to occupy/attack SCIRI and Badr offices, but so far they’ve been kept in check by Moqtada and Fatah al-Sheikh, one of Moqtada’s supporters in parliament.
Or at least he was. Earlier this evening, Moqtada gave the Jaafari government an hour to explain, pull back or apologize for these attacks. He also called on his supporters in parliament, Fatah and others from the NICE list, to resign because “Moqtada now considers the government illegal,” according to Abu Hazzim. Fatah has told me he has resigned. A press conference is imminent.
Fortunately, however, Secretary Rumsfailed has made it quite clear that there will not be a civil war in Iraq. I believe him, too, because he's been right about practically everything so far: WMD, our troops being greeted as liberators, the utter impossibility of theocratic values being enshrined in any Iraqi constitution, etc. So we can be quite certain that, no matter how many Iraqi militias slaughter each other in the streets of Baghdad, there will not - repeat, not - be a civil war in Iraq.