Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily / Inter Press Service & Sarah Posner / AlterNet – 2007-01-18 22:05:57
The War Becomes More Unholy
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily / Inter Press Service
FALLUJAH (January 18, 2007) – A stepped up military offensive that targets mosques, religious leaders and Islamic customs is leading many Iraqis to believe that the US-led invasion really was a “holy war.”
Photographs are being circulated of black crosses painted on mosque walls and on copies of the Quran, and of soldiers dumping their waste inside mosques. New stories appear frequently of raids on mosques and brutal treatment of Islamic clerics, leading many Iraqis to ask if the invasion and occupation was a war against Islam.
Many Iraqis now recall remarks by US President George W. Bush shortly after the events of Sep. 11, 2001 when he told reporters that “this crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.”
“Bush’s tongue ‘slipped’ more than once when he spoke of ‘fascist Islamists’ and used other similar expressions that touched the very nerve of Muslims around the world,” Sheikh Abdul Salam al-Kubayssi of the Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS), a leading Sunni group, told IPS in Baghdad. “We wish they were just mere slips, but what is going on repeatedly makes one think of crusades over and over.”
Occupation forces claim that mosque raids are being conducted because holy places are being used by resistance fighters.
A leaflet distributed in Fallujah by US forces late November said mosques were being used by “insurgents” to conduct attacks against “Multinational Forces,” and that this would lead to “taking proper procedures against those mosques.”
The statement referred to daily sniper attacks against occupation forces in Fallujah in which many US soldiers have been killed.
Local people refute these claims made by coalition forces.
“Fighters never used mosques for attacking Americans because they realize the consequences and reactions from the military,” a member of the local municipality council of Fallujah told IPS on condition of anonymity. “Nonetheless, US soldiers always targeted our mosques and their minarets.”
During Operation Phantom Fury of November 2004, scores of mosques in Fallujah were damaged or destroyed completely. Fallujah is known as the city of mosques because it has so many.
Many of these are Sunni mosques. AMS leaders are now enemy number one for US occupation forces as well as the Shi’ite-dominated government.
Through continuous arrests of its members and the raids against mosques all over the Sunni areas of the country, including their headquarters on the outskirts of Baghdad, the AMS has often expressed feelings of persecution.
On the other hand, the occupation forces have been supportive of clerics who took part in the political structure that the US coalition created in Iraq. These include Shi’ite clerics and political leaders like current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of the Dawa Party. Maliki has called AMS leader Dr. Harith al-Dhari a “terrorist leader” and a murderer.
Many Sunnis who are more secular also feel persecuted by the occupation.
“I am not a follower of al-Dhari or any other leader,” Prof. Malik al-Rawi of the National Institute for Scientific Research of Baghdad told IPS. “In fact most Sunnis do not literally follow any leader for religious reasons. Yet after we found Americans targeting our religious symbols, we had to stand together around the man who did not sell us to the occupation.”
Dr. Rawi, avowedly a secular Sunni, told IPS that the number of Iraqis who believe the occupation is waging a “religious war” increased dramatically after the 2004 attacks on Fallujah.
“Those sieges, along with all the events that followed in Samarra, al-Qa’im, Haditha and now Siniya have led people to think of the crusades,” he added. “Americans do hate us for some reason and we do not find any reason but religion.”
It is not just Sunni Iraqis who claim that their mosques are not respected by occupation forces. The mostly Shi’ite city of Najaf was exposed to massive US military assaults during August 2004. Many attacks came dangerously close to the sacred Imam Ali shrine, damaging its outer walls.
Other US raids on Shi’ite mosques in Baghdad have infuriated Iraq’s Shi’ite population.
Some Iraqi analysts say the perceived religious conflict seems to have expanded as the occupation has progressed.
“The world must be aware that this US administration is pushing the situation to the black hole of a new religious conflict by giving the green light to their soldiers to attack mosques and arrest clerics whenever they feel like it,” Kassim Jabbar, an Iraqi political analyst from Baghdad University told IPS.
“Even people with the highest education standards are wondering why US leaders have not restricted attacks upon religious symbols in our country.”
Ali al-Fadhily is our Baghdad correspondent. Dahr Jamail is our specialist writer who has spent eight months reporting from inside Iraq and has been covering the Middle East for several years.
As Bush’s War Strategy Shifts to Iran, Christian Zionists Gear Up for the Apocalypse
Sarah Posner / AlterNet
(January 18, 2007) — Christian Zionists are dancing the hora in San Antonio. Armageddon appears to be at hand.
As George W. Bush sets his sights on Iran, even Republicans are wondering how to constitutionally contain the trigger-happy king. But for an influential group of Christian fundamentalists — White House allies that garner not only feel-good meetings with the President’s liaisons to the “faith-based” community but also serious discussions with Bush’s national security staff — an attack on Iran is just what God ordered.
Biblical literalists, convened together through San Antonio megapastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI), are now seeing the fruits of their yearlong campaign to convince the Bush administration to attack Iran.
Hagee came to Washington last summer on the warpath, and many Republicans — and even a few Democrats — welcomed him as an alleged supporter of Israel. More than 3,500 CUFI members fanned out across the Capitol to meet with their congressional delegations.
Televangelist power brokers, like rising star Rod Parsley of Ohio, who serve as directors of CUFI, now proudly display photographs of their meetings with senators, brows furrowed over the seriousness of the task at hand. But probably Hagee’s most important meeting was smaller and not public, at the White House with deputy national security adviser and Iran Contra player Elliott Abrams.
Did the two men talk dispensationalism or diplomacy? That the president’s top national security advisor on Middle East policy met with the popular author of a best-selling book that claims that God requires a war with Iran demonstrates just how intensely politics trumps policy (and human lives) for this unhinged administration.
Emboldened, Hagee returned to San Antonio fretting that “most Americans are simply not aware that the battle for Western Civilization is engaged” and “don’t want to believe that Iran would use nuclear weapons against mighty America. They will!”
As the bloody fighting between Israel and Hezbollah raged last August, Hagee organized a grassroots lobbying campaign to blitz the White House switchboard with callers opposed to a cease-fire. Members were urged to call the White House to “congratulate” Bush on using the term “Islamofascists” and on his “moral clarity.”
Armed with blood-red rhetoric and the hubris of the politically connected, Hagee filled his 5,000-seat church for a weekend-long event culminating in his Night to Honor Israel in October. To an eager audience preparing for the end times, analogies to Hitler and denouncement of “appeasement” were flying. Anti-Muslim rhetoric was at a fevered pitch. All of it was dressed up as love and benevolence for God’s chosen people.
But what masqueraded as Biblically mandated generosity toward the Jews was nothing more than a political rally for a war not just against Iran, but against Islam, and for the dominance of Christianity (Hagee’s brand, of course).
By the end of the year, Hagee was warning his followers that Iran was “reloading for the next war,” claiming that he had “reason to believe that Iran will face a military preemptive strike from Israel to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons,” and denouncing the Iraq Study Group as “anti-Israel.”
Although he had spent nearly a year claiming that Iran intended to destroy Israel, Hagee, in rejecting the ISG’s recommendation to diplomatically engage Iran, fumed, “America’s problems with Iran have nothing to do with Israel. Iran’s president has said he intends to use nuclear weapons against the United States of America. My father’s generation would have considered this statement a declaration of war and bombed Iran by this time.”
Bush knows Hagee’s minions are locked and loaded for a war to end not only all wars, but the world. He might have already signed a secret executive order authorizing military action against Iran.
But last week, Bush nonetheless lamely tried to bring the rest of the country on board with his tried (but by no means true) device of uttering the words “Iran,” “nuclear weapons” and “9/11” in the same breath.
His saber rattling won’t work for the majority of Americans outraged by his conduct of the Iraq war and opposed to its escalation. But for his listeners gearing up for the end times — a segment of American evangelicals increasingly united around this issue — Bush fired up the grandiose rhetoric of a final showdown: “The challenge playing out across the broader Middle East is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of our time.”
Sarah Posner has covered the religious right for the American Prospect, the Gadflyer, and AlterNet. She is at work on a book about televangelists in politics.
© 2007 Independent Media Institute
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