Got Your Score Card?

"In any case, it appears that the fighting had little to do with either the Sunni-led insurgency or the sectarian bloodletting between Shiites and Sunnis in the Baghdad area. More likely, the battle stemmed from rivalries within the Shiite community, which have led to armed clashes in the past in major southern cities.

Those internal tensions may increase if the Iraqi government bows to U.S. pressure and cracks down on Shiite militias."  Reid


3492175886 I guess I am just small minded but I don’t find the "Ashoura" action in Kerbala to be inspiring.  These are mainline Shia mourning the death of  Hussein.  Seems like there might be some other way to mourn, but, it IS their business.

The armed force of "heretical" Shia (mostly) who intended to interrupt the ceremonial in the Shia holy cities were "outside" the consensus of the majority of Shia.

"You can’t tell the players without a score card.."  Old saw, right?  It surely applied to this situation.  "Jund as-Sama’?"  New to me and I know of a lot of these little (or large) "millenarian" Muslim groups.  That’s what Juan Cole calls them.  That description works for me.  If you go over to my other blog, "The Athenaeum" you will find an article that I recently wrote about varieties of Islamic belief and practice.

In that article you will find my view regarding the particular features of Islamic religion which make it a religion very prone to splitting into smaller and smaller consensus driven factions.

Now, I know that Judaism and Christianity (particularly Protestant Christianity) are also susceptible to such division.  Nevertheless, my subject here is the easy "slide" into endless division in Islam which results in the creation of active and sometimes dangerous groups such as this one.

It was interesting yesterday to watch some of the pseudo-sophisticates "reading" the news on TV try to cope with the idea of Shia on Shia violence in the context of Ashoura:

– They have been "programmed" by now into reflexive statements that Islam is a "pacifist" religion.  This does not fit that paradigm.  Therefore, stupefaction results until a talking head intervenes.

– Typically, these people are not equipped to deal with idea systems that have a great deal of power, so instinct drives them to attribute motivation for such behavior to some other, secular, or economically determined cause.

Sad.  They should go back to reporting the weather or sports.


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37 Responses to Got Your Score Card?

  1. Chris Marlowe says:

    I just wish Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson would lead a bunch of their followers to fight it out in Iraq and bring the message of Jesus Christ to the Iraqis.
    Large volunteer units from Texas and Florida should be especially encouraged.
    That way, we would just have a bunch of stupid people in the US, instead of a bunch of stupid crazy people.
    Just as an aside, there was a peasant rebellion in China in the mid-19th century led by Hong Xiuquan, who claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ. This rebellion left 20M dead. It was called the Taiping Tianguo (Heavenly Kingdom) rebellion. Just shows that Christians can have their crazy mahdis too; it is not something limited to Shi’ite Islam.
    Here is an interesting analysis of Bush’s three-front blunder:

  2. jerome says:

    The following link has an interesting take on the Najaf fighting of a few days ago.
    I’ve followed Juan Cole with interest for a few years, but have had no clear idea of his limitations. The link describes some.

  3. johnf says:

    This is the most likely of the of the explanations I’ve read over the last few days. In war fuck ups often are followed by wipe outs and then cover ups.
    There’s something about Najaf and funerals and death. There was that extraordinary fight between the Mahdis and the Americans 3 years ago with the huge cemetary there being filled with fighting soldiers while pious pilgrims were still burying their dead and getting blown up for their piety.
    Whiffs of the New Model Army.

  4. Chris Marlowe says:

    This article says that the recent Najaf fighting was between an Arab Iraqi Shi’ite group, which wanted to fight against growing Iranian influence in the Shi’ite holy cities in Iraq, led by al-Sistani, who is himself an Iranian.
    And the Americans intervened on the side of the Iraqi government, which is closely allied with the Iranian government. This is the Iraqi government we’re going to rely on if The Great Decider decides to attack Iran.
    I’m really glad we have a coherent policy in the ME.

  5. Duncan Kinder says:

    – They have been “programmed” by now into reflexive statements that Islam is a “pacifist” religion. This does not fit that paradigm. Therefore, stupefaction results until a talking head intervenes.
    If any religion were a “pacifist religion, it would be Buddhism.
    And several years ago, a Japanese Buddhist sect set off a poison gas attack in a subway. I also am told they were actively trying to obtain loose Russian nukes.
    So this shouldn’t be much of a problem considering that there a billion odd Muslims, which would have to include a few nutcases amongst them.

  6. johnf says:

    Juan Cole doesn’t buy the story of innocent tribesmen off to bury their dead:

  7. Got A Watch says:

    There are so many differing “explanations” of what went on at the orchards outside Najaf that the truth may never be known. See various conflicting accounts:
    “US ‘victory’ against cult leader was ‘massacre'”
    Some odd aspects there.
    Various other media outlets are reporting some part version of the above or one of Juan Cole’s speculative accounts.
    The only conclusion I can draw is that the Shiite Iraqi Army (Badr Brigade?) forces are not very competent, many reports speak of how they were surrounded and almost overrun by the “cultists” before frantic calls to Americans brought in support. This does not exactly bode well for any future operatins in Iraq where Americans want to fight “side by side” with Iraqis. More like the Iraqis will hold back and let Americans do the hard fighting and the dying while the Iraqis move in afterwards to complete the ethnic cleansing and finish the looting.
    I also find it disturbing that the “Iraqi Government” (US Forces?) have sealed the area of the battle and won’t allow any surviviors or witnesses to give their account. If they are trying to stop the rumor mill they have clearly failed. If they are seeking to conceal the nature of what happened, then I guess it makes sense.
    GWB only validates his total idiocy with his comments, not that anyone was in doubt before this.

  8. VietnamVet says:

    Americans are a strange band of public educated semi-secular Christians fed “Feel Good” propaganda from corporate media who desperately try to ignore our own bloody history and 25% of the population that are god fearing nut case true believers. We are so far into denial we elected one of them twice to be President of the United States; a President who against all good advice is intent on escalating his Holy War. A war that won’t end until the USA withdraws.

  9. Mike G says:

    “We elected one of them twice to be President of the United States…..” (Vietnam Vet re Americans).
    Erm actually, Americans only once elected Mr Bush President. He was awarded the Presidency in 2000 in spite of the fact that someone else who got a lot more votes than he, namely Al Gore, should have been elected.

  10. Chris Marlowe says:

    Chalmers Johnson has written an excellent piece about how Americans are forced now to choose between empire vs. democracy. He is the author of “The Blowback Trilogy”, whose final volume will come out soon.
    All thinking people should read this article:

  11. Freeman says:

    If all else fails, let’s declare Iraq a Protectorate of Turkey and have that country look after its brother muslims, as in the olden days. Then we can gracefully retire.

  12. Chris Marlowe says:

    Huffington Post has secured via The Washington Note Zbigniew Brzezinski’s view of the Iraq war as a calamity on an unprecedented scale for the US and the world. He will be testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Feb. 1.
    Here is the link:

  13. BadTux says:

    An interesting comment from the “Healing Iraq” web site:
    Hint for the U.S.: There are no “bad guys” and “good guys” in Iraq. Everyone has dirty hands. It makes no sense for you, nor is it going to improve anything in Iraq, to side with one bad guy against another, just because you’re so confused that you can’t differentiate between friend and foe. Just please remember that. The trick is to reach a settlement where all the “bad guys” are satisified and agree to behave as “good guys” again. Otherwise, just forget about it.
    Of course, as far as Dear Leader and His 27%er supporters are concerned, it’s easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. The good guys are the ones wearing the white hats, and the bad guys are the ones wearing the black hats. And if Iraqis don’t wear hats, why, we just need to ramp up the haberdashery industry and provide them some!
    (As an aside, this wrecks havoc with our Afghan strategy, since the Taliban wear white turbans and our drug lord / Northern Alliance thug allies wear black turbans… oh my aching head!).
    It must be nice to be simple minded like that and not have to, like, think. Kinda like being a pet poodle or something. But we elected this one to the Presidency. Twice. Sigh.

  14. MarcLord says:

    “Protectorate of Turkey.” Best suggestion I’ve heard yet. It’s wonderful, really. There are plenty of Iraqis who would invade the Kurds for Turkey. It would provide jobs, and external/internal enemies to demonize for a long time to come. Everybody would be happy.
    Then maybe we could send Borat in on a camel doing “Lawrence of Arabia,” and he could write “The Seven Pillars of Ignorance.”

  15. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Turkey is still pursuing her We-are-Europeans fantasy.
    I do not think they will be too keen on being sucked back into what they perceive (rightly or wrongly) to be a swamp.

  16. zenpundit says:

    Colonel Lang,
    Aren’t these ” millenarian” ( I assume Cole means “Mahdist”) splinter groups are particularly prone to takfiri bloodletting and even wholesale rewriting of Muslim law ? ( the leader is ” the Mahdi” after all and can do what he pleases).

  17. KH says:

    Typically, these people are not equipped to deal with idea systems that have a great deal of power …
    The idea being that they themselves believe little? In a way, yes, but recent troubles are attributable to ideas, some of them held with passionate intensity. It may be that they’re unequipped to deal with other powerful idea systems, or accept that they themselves see the world from within a parochial conceptual scheme, which may have enough power, e.g., to recommend war. Something like what Sir John Harrington said about treason applies to ideas generally: once they’re widely held, they cease to be seen as ideas, & are treated as transparent perception of reality. The other guy’s got odd ideas, but you & I see things sub species aeternitatis.

  18. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I leave it to the Muslims to answer that. Have you read my Islam article? pl PL

  19. W. Patrick Lang says:

    I was talking about the News people. The neocons believe in things, egregious things. pl

  20. Got A Watch says:

    “Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic” – this is mandatory reading for all concerned citizens of the globe.
    I came across this article yesterday, and agree with Chris Marlowe entirely.
    This excerpt by Chalmers Johnson (author of “Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire”) from his coming book is a stark statement of the increasingly bad choices facing America in the near future. GWB and the neo-cons have in fact given a tutorial on how to ruin a once great nation.
    Required reading for all concerned global citizens:
    “Nemesis is at America’s Door”
    Col., it is worthy of its own post and discussion, this will be one of the most important books published this year IMHO. Not that most MSM will acknowledge this.

  21. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I do not think that each and every splinter group is going to call others un-believers – Babais, Bahais, Druze, Yazidis, Ahmadhis, and others have not been so – they split and largely just wish to be left alone.
    The groups that you are perhaps alluding too are Muslim formations that are in opposition to the political and social dispensations prevalent in their polities.
    An interpretation of the Quran requires a (Muslim) believer to either fight against un-belief or emigrate (in case he cannot – in his judgment – fight). I think this is the reason for the attraction of calling others un-believers for these opposition groups.
    As far as I know, excepting anti-religious radicals, no serious Muslim thinker has advocated wholesale re-writing of the Islamic Law.
    The closest thing to what you are referring to was a Fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini in which he stated that the well-being and expediency of the Islamic Government takes precedence over adherence to Islamic Law precepts (a practical application of which has been the creation of the Expediency Council in the Islamic Republic of Iran which mediates & adjudicates between the Council of the Guardians and the Majlis.)

  22. Fred says:

    ” the “Soldiers of Heaven” may have had ties to Saddam Hussein loyalists” I remember that numerous members of the infamous ‘deck of cards’ are still free. And I was thinking that the decider would blame this on the Iranians. Seems like no-one really knows what is going on in Iraq.

  23. Will says:

    i recall reading somewhere that the Shiites that subscribe to the Jurisprudence of the Guardians (Khomeini) school do not practice bloody Sharia. That would include Lebanese Hezbollah followers of Syed Hasan Nasrallah.
    But those that follow Iraki Ayatollah Sistani or Lebanese Cleric Fadallah do practice bloody Ashura.
    By bloody, I mean self flagellation until blood comes out.
    I took a Buddhism course in college, made a B. You can imagine what the Professor was like. Had a stream running through the middle of his house. There’s all kinds of Buddhism, Fundamentlist, that interpert the books literally. Great Veh

  24. Will says:

    darn hit the post button by mistake
    then there’s great vehicle buddhism, believeing in more that the literal text, in saints, quasi angels- say like Tibetan Buddhism.
    Then there was the Japaneese Pure Land. All one had to say Namu Amida Butsu three times and Amida Butsu would save you period. This is because the Bodistava had a vow not to enter Paradise until he had saved all sentient beings that had called on his name. We know he entered Paradise so of course we know he can fullfill his vow. Salvation is a done deal.
    The prof said the Pure Land sect was one of the strands in the bundle that formed the psyche of Japanese expansion and Imperialism.
    Go figure. I always thought Buddhiism was a quieting of the mind and realization that desire brought sorrow and the realization of duality.

  25. Chris Marlowe says:

    Dick Cheney should put on his Darth Vader costume and go to Tehran with his two assistants, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and try to convince the Iranians that he is the twelfth imam.
    That stands a better chance of success than our current Iraq/Iran policy, according to the NIE estimate which came out today.

  26. Chris Marlowe says:

    It’s not as bad as it looks; it’s far worse…
    Check out this article:

  27. FB says:

    Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (link in Chris Marlowe’s last post above) contains a superb analysis of the US-Iraq-Iran situation, as well as a clear, practical solution for resolving it. He shows in stark terms the slippery slope down which the US is likely to slide into a war with Iran (and the Muslim world). It is well worth reading.

  28. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The Saddamists/Baathis have been so secular in the past that the connection seemd implausible to me. pl

  29. Chris Marlowe says:

    The Chinese head of the bureau of religious affairs has accused Bush of “unilateralism” and adopting an “anti-Islamic tone” in the war on terrorism.
    It is very unusual for any Chinese official to make a personal attack on the sitting US president. As a matter of fact, I’ve never heard it before.
    Any criticism of the US always means that the Chinese leadership is very displeased with some aspect of US foreign policy. My guess is that there are several factors: 1)US criticism of China over the anti-satellite weapons test and 2) positioning China against any possible US attack on Iran, and warning the US that Chinese support should not be taken for granted and 3) subtly warning the US that China is needed in the talks with North Korea starting next week.
    It used to be that the US could criticize China over human rights. After Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, that doesn’t fly anymore.

  30. Freeman says:

    MarcLord & Babak:
    Thank you. Great replies!
    Best Regards,

  31. KH says:

    I was talking about the News people. The neocons believe in things, egregious things.
    Sorry, I meant to suggest, counterintuitively, that journalists have ideas, or prejudices. Empty-headed, yes, but they don’t respond to stimuli randomly, & the non-randomness reflects an inchoate worldview.

  32. Mo says:

    Will, just to clarfy, if you are reffering to the Lebanese cleric Fadllallah I think you are refering to, he is a man I have met many times (and a man anyone can approach) and he is actually, in political metaphor, left of Hizbollah in his religious beliefs.

  33. Will says:

    with regards to Fadallah, Cole reported that Sistani conferred w/ him in Beirut on his way to surgery in London and he is on the Sistani school of governance. This would be opposed to the Khomeini school of the jurisprudence of the guardians.
    the point i was addressing the Khomeini had issued a Fatwa against bloody Ashura. According to that Hezbollah in Lebanon would not be bloody Ashura, whereas Amal would be bloody. Sadr in Iraq would be bloody, but the Iraki Khomeinists would not be.
    Contrary to what many NeoKons believe the Iranians have many “advanced beliefs.” There is even a state owned condom factory. They are no Whabaists that do no let women drive or go to school. We may have the wrong cultural allies.

  34. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There is not much of a difference between the Islamic Government according to Ayatollah Sistani and according to Ayatollah Khomeini since both of them adamantly insist on the centrality of Islam and conformity thereto of the principles of such a government.
    Their differences are one of degrees and not, in my opinion, substantive.
    On social mores and so on Mr Sistani has been quite rigid; visit his Web site and read on what he says about the game of chess.

  35. Mo says:

    Will, I see your point. However, like Babak says the difference in the 2 schools is not sufficient to make adherents of either not consult especially given that a. Fadlallah is probably one of the most if not the most respected Shia clerics in the Arab world and that b. Although Lebanese, he was born and grew up in Najaf.
    Furthermore, he is still considered by many Shia within and without Hizbollah, to be their spiritual leader. He is the only Shia man in Lebanon who could countermand, critisise or berate Nasrallah with any authority.
    Fadlallah is what you would call an incredibly free thinker for a Muslim world so wrapped up in its self. For example, you mention Womens rights; In Lebanon he set up a Womens Institute and is often invited to speak at Womens Rights conferences in Lebanon. Even more radically, when asked about the legality of making dispariging comments or writings about God or the prophet, he replied:
    “In Islam, there are neither restrictions nor sanctifications for the concept of discussion; everything is debatable even the topics that are concerned with the existence of God and the personality of the prophet. ”
    “The basis of dialogue” he says “is allowing all the freedom of thought and the couertesy of speech”
    Sorry to ramble, but I do like the man mainly because of what you call “advanced beliefs” which is actually to say, I beleive he takes Islam for what it is, a free thinking, freedom promoting religion and not a clutch of outdated medievil customs and beliefs that the Wahabis follow.

  36. Mo says:

    p.s. Forgot to add that the fact that the CIA tried to have him killed also makes him all the more likeable!

  37. Will says:

    There is a very real difference between a goverment based on Khomeinis’ jurisprudence of the guardians or the Sistani-Fadallah alternative.
    The first is direct rule by Ayatollahs, the second is indirect rule or mere guidance by clerics.
    In Iraq, the head of the puppet goverment is Nur al-Mailiki, as long as he has the confidence of the Parliamentarians and American proconsul. In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmed Nezadi is really little more that the glorified Mayor of Teheran. The power resides in the Expediency Council and beyond that in the Ayatollah Khamanei.

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