Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The World Turned Upside Down In Iraq

"No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms. The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government"
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334

"The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good"
-- George Washington

"The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed."
-- Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers at 184-188

"Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest."
-- Mahatma Gandhi

I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am not "for" the Mahdi Army of Mr. Al-Sadr in any battles they might have with American troops. My position has been that the American troops and tax dollars should not be there to begin with. We have no business or right to take sides in or referee an Islamic civil war, whether we "win" or "lose" there we have lost strategically. The wasting of our military and our Treasury in some Neo-con delusion of nation-building seriously weakens us in our defense against greater threats. The whole war was and is a gigantic strategic blunder.

Again, I am not arguing that Al-Sadr is "the good guy" here. His militia is largely composed of thugs. So are those of the other guys. There is no significant faction of "good guys" to back.

With all that being said of the particulars, no thoughtful supporter of the right to keep and bear arms can be comfortable with the principles involved in the latest round of fighting in Iraq. Al-Malaki has told the Sadrists "you cannot participate in the political process unless you first give up your weapons".

This ultimatum should be anathema to all patriotic citizens of this country. It has been ingrained in us since childhood that we cannot trust a government that wishes to disarm us, and that all of our other rights depend on our right to keep and bear arms. We believe, for us, that an armed populace is the best defense against tyranny. Do we believe that for others, or only for ourselves?

We find ourselves being drawn into this civil war on the side of those who are telling their political rivals "you cannot participate in the upcoming elections unless you first disarm". How many of us would accept it if President Hillary Clinton laid down an ultimatum to the Republican party that their right to participate in the political process would be revoked until members of the Republican party surrendered their guns? That is a pretty tight (though not perfect by any means) analogy of what is happening in Iraq right now, with most Republicans in America cheering for the side that wants to take away the guns of its political opponents while its own militia keeps theirs.

Many, perhaps most, Iraqi security forces were/are also members of one militia or another. The side that won the first election (which JAM boycotted because it was run under foreign occupation) had its militias put on uniforms. The two biggest militias in Iraq besides the Mahdi Army is the Peshmerga, which is the main Kurdish militia, and the Badr Brigades. The Badr Brigades are the militia of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, the other main Shiite rival to JAM. Those two militias, along with Sunni militias paid for by the United States, now comprise much of the Iraqi Security forces. JAM tried to infiltrate those forces as well, but with less success outside their Basra and Baghdad strongholds.

Those two are groups which favor an Iraq that is divided into autonomous regions, a privatized oil industry, and a continued foreign presence to keep that form of semi-country intact. The minority Sunnis mostly favored a unified Iraq when they thought they could run it, but now that Al-Queda has been crushed, and they got a taste of what it was liked being ruled by irrational religious fanatics, and they discovered that America would include them in the distribution of checks, they are moving toward Al-Malaki's vision. JAM prefers a unified, unoccupied Iraq with a nationalized oil industry. When you slice through the cover of religious and ethnic differences, much of this is about whose friends get the chips.

I am an American, and I am pulling for American forces to, if there must be battle, win every battle. Were I an Iraqi whose party lost the first round of elections, and the guys in the other party insisted I give up all means to resist them before they would let me exercise my right to self determination, I would probably tell them they can have my weapon when they pry it from my cold, dead, fingers.


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