Saddam Shall Rise Again
Shovel, meet bottom. In trouble? Keeping digging. The Telegraph tells the story of fantasy triumphing over reality.
"Sporting an olive green Ba'ath Party uniform and a bushy moustache, the newsreader barks his bulletins between blasts of patriotic Saddam-era martial music. With his gleeful boasts about Iraqi insurgent strikes on US troops, his demeanour is reminiscent of "Comical Ali", the former information minister who famously boasted of victory as American tanks rolled into Baghdad.
For coalition commanders in Iraq, however, the most sinister aspect of his broadcasts is not the bile directed at them but the equally venomous ticker-tape that runs at the bottom of the screen. "Chase the Shias from neighbourhood to neighbourhood," it urges. "Eat them for lunch before they eat you for dinner. Defend your houses by killing them."
So goes another broadcast on Al Zahraa, a satellite television channel catering to what is arguably one of the most unfashionable minorities in programming history – Iraq's Sunni Muslim community."
The Sunni insurgents going to take Iraq back, don't you know? Here's how Michael Ware saw things in 2004 in an interview with PBS. They were on a roll. Or maybe they were getting rolled. Subtle difference there.
[For Abu Musab] al- Zarqawi and his immediate organization, [and] more broadly [for] Al Qaeda, they are the main beneficiaries of this war. The very thing George Bush says he came here to prevent, he is actually fostering and giving life to. ... I have been to Al Qaeda camps, Al Qaeda communities; I've seen them training. I am now in possession of their training video ... foot soldiers going through obstacle courses, men in masks learning how to search houses, fire missiles, handle weapons, bombs, assassinations, drive-by shootings. We're now seeing that happening here in Iraq. That is only happening as a result of the U.S. invasion and ongoing prison [problems]. This is going to be the great legacy of the war in Iraq. ...
.. The secularists, the nationalists, the Baathists went into that strategic alliance with their eyes wide open. ... I've been a keen student of these tensions, and we saw them really playing out in Fallujah, during what could be described as the glory days of Fallujah, when the insurgents held that city and could unequivocally call it their own. It's where Americans not only dared not tread, but could not tread. ...
I remember, for example, a very senior Baathist commander. He comes from one of the main strains of the Baathist insurgency ... He and some of his organization had a meeting with some very senior members of Zarqawi's organization, principally foreigners but also Iraqis. ... I had another contact with a Baathist commander, mid-ranking, who ... was drifting closer and closer towards the Zarqawi organization's sphere of operation. Essentially he was being recruited, and he and I spent a lot of time going through the processes that he was being taken through. Anyway, it got to a point where he was getting very serious about this recruitment, and then I went away. And when I came back 10 days later, I caught up with him and said, "So how is that going?" And he in essence said to me, ... "It's as though they are from another planet." Then he said to me: "I realized midway through all of this that there [are] only two ways to leave their organization: You either die in battle or you die at their hands." So he extricated himself and his entire organization from that.
"It's as though they are from another planet." And they've got a one way ticket off earth. "You either die in battle or you die at their hands." Sounds like a plan to me. And given that Al Zahraa has its own a satellite TV station, there's a distinct possibility that the regional civil war between Sunni and Shi'a that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned against (see previous Belmont Club post) is already under way.
In an interview by email with The Sunday Telegraph, an Al Zahraa spokesman revealed what officials in Washington and London have long feared, but still prefer not to acknowledge – that Sunnis and Shias are now at war. "Let's not tell lies any more, let's tell the truth of what is inside our hearts," said Basim al Jibouri, who claims to be in hiding in Jordan. "The Shias deserve death, all of them. They deserve it because they mutilate the name of Islam and are working for Iran, the first enemy of Iraq. But they will do this over our dead bodies."
Dead bodies. Always the dead bodies.
Somewhere in Western Iraq, under a ceiling of bright stars, the cold air shut out at last by a closed window, a man tunes into Al Zahraa TV. The words are Arabic, but the ties that bind the listener and the broadcaster are familiar to anyone who has lain awake, dreaming and hoping. But mostly hoping.
Pilot of the airwaves
Here is my request
You don't have to play it
But I hope you'll do your best
I've been listening to your show
On the radio
And you seem like a friend to me