Month: March 2009

Just War and Jihad

“[The] Western distinction between just and unjust wars linked to specific grounds for war is unknown in Islam. Any war against unbelievers, whatever its immediate ground, is morally justified. Only in this sense can one distinguish just and unjust wars in Islamic tradition. When Muslims wage war for the dissemination of Islam, it is a just war. … When non-Muslims attack Muslims, it is an unjust war. The usual western interpretation of jihad as a ‘just war’ in the Western sense is, therefore, a misreading of this Islamic concept.” – Bassam Tibi, Muslim international relations scholar

An understanding the Islamic doctrines explained in this quote is essential to understanding what is happening right now in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the Muslim world. It is something that I’ve attempted to explain to others several times in the past, though less succinctly.

I very commonly hear Soldiers here and American civilians back home marvel at Iraqis’ lack of gratefulness for the American overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Especially for Soldiers, it’s often difficult to reconcile the destruction of what Iraqis readily admit was a brutal tyranny with the apparent hatred, or at least indifference, expressed by what seems to be a majority of Iraqis in regards to their American (and Coalition Forces) liberators.

For a great many Americans there is also a confusing disconnect between the images which the news media showed them during Coalition Forces’ initial arrival into Iraq and the violent insurgency that started a few months later. How, they wonder, is it possible that the same people who joyously tore down statues of Saddam and greeted Americans with smiles and hugs began only three months later to commit terrorist acts against them? To the Western mind this doesn’t make sense. Are those we saw celebrating the downfall of Saddam the same who are now attacking their liberators? If so, why did they change? If not, where are those revelers now?

For the Islamic mind, though, there is no contradiction here. The people of Iraq hated Saddam Hussein and were genuinely happy to see him fall from power. And they don’t want him back. They are also genuinely opposed to having unbelieving Americans in any position of power over them, including having the status of being their “liberators.”

Mr. Tibi’s statements here explain exactly why Americans have received such a reception. In spite of the fact that he destroyed the ancient way of life of an entire people by draining the marshes of Maysan, in spite of the fact that he used chemical weapons to mass-murder citizens of his own country, in spite of the fact that he used torture and brutality to keep his nation in line for 20 years, in spite of everything evil thing that Saddam Hussein did, he was still a Muslim. Osama bin Laden once famously referred to Saddam Hussein as “a bad Muslim.” The most overlooked but most important feature of his statement is that, although he was a “bad” one, Saddam was still a “Muslim.”

And for a Muslim, any Muslim, to be defeated, or even warred upon, by unbelievers is unacceptable. Historically, separatist movements develop in nearly every area to which Muslims immigrate for a similar reason. According to Islamic doctrine as laid out in the Qur’an, Hadith, and jurisprudence, non-Muslims are supposed to be constantly reminded of their inferiority to Muslims. In the case of non-Muslims who live under Islamic rule (which, according to Islamic eschatology, all eventually will) they are to observe the laws which constitute dhimmi status. These laws include, among much else, paying a special tax, wearing distinctive clothing which is not to exceed Muslim garb in splendor, bowing the head and averting the eyes while speaking to a Muslim, and making way for Muslims as you pass. For non-Muslims living outside of Muslim rule (temporarily) their inferiority involves continual warfare, as it is illegal under Shari’a (Muslim law) for a Muslim nation to draw up a permanent peace treaty or alliance with a non-Muslim nation. Peace is a temporary state in which both sides are granted a respite from the ongoing warfare.

There is nowhere within Shari’a which allows for the possibility of Muslims living permanently and peacefully under non-Muslim rule. A Muslim takeover is always the assumed inevitability, because Muslims are not to be made to feel inferior to non-Muslims.

A thorough understanding of these concepts makes the complex situation in the Middle East today and throughout history much easier to comprehend. I’m not sure what such an understanding lends to developing a solution to the problems, as I’m unsure what the solution is or even if a real, lasting solution is possible. What I do know is that any solution is entirely impossible without complete honesty concerning these important Islamic doctrines, as they have defined the way in which Muslims have interacted with non-Muslims throughout Islamic history and into today.

Almost there

My unit doesn’t have much longer to go until we head home. The real struggle right now is for everybody to keep their head in the game. I think we’re all doing a good job of it (as the below news story shows), but we all need to be reminded sometimes that daydreaming about America isn’t going to get any of us any closer to it.

I’m going home this time with a much more positive outlook as to the future of Iraq than after my last tour. My last tour ended during the middle of the “civil war” between the Sunnis and Shi’as of Iraq. My memories of the last few months in Iraq last time were not record lows of violence and a possible resurgence in tourism. How things have changed in only a couple of years! The progress I’ve seen here has amazed and inspired me.

Americans tend to be pessimistic, cynical people; Soldiers, given what so many of us have been through, seen, and lost, probably tend to be even more so than the average American. But, honestly, I have a lot of hope for this country still. I hope that the people I’ve met here can finally live their lives in peace in their own country. I hope that the friends I’ve lost here haven’t sacrificed in vain. And I hope that someday, no matter how soon or far, I’ll be able to take a vacation to a beautiful, stable, historic, peaceful Iraq.

What we’ve been up to (read the full story here):

In southern Iraq’s Maysan province March 16, Iraqi soldiers — with the
help of the Qalat Salih and Amarah police departments and the Amarah special
weapons and tactics team — recovered a large weapons cache.

The soldiers and police seized 255 grenades, 23 fuses, two cases of AK-47
assault rifle ammunition, a large bag of 12.7 mm ammunition, 12 82 mm mortar
rounds, a mortar sighting device, 1,000 rounds of 14.5 mm armor-piercing
ammunition, three AK-47s and 10 AK-47 magazines on a farm just north of Qalat
Saleh. The troops and law enforcement officers also detained three suspected
criminals during the operation.

The operation involved more than 400 personnel and multiple simultaneous
objectives, officials said, and the joint effort disrupted a major smuggling
effort the army and police were working to defeat.

Good article on what’s going on here

This is an excellent article. It explains very well the problems we are currently facing, citing my province (Maysan) and its capital (Amarah) by name several times. This should give a good picture of what is going on here right now.

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s top security official called Saturday for a shift from major military operations to a “war of intelligence” to track down remaining extremist cells responsible for attacks such as those that killed 60 people in the past week in the Baghdad area.

Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani also warned that his ministry has been forced to put on hold some of its plans to recruit more police due to cuts in the government’s 2009 budget prompted by plummeting oil prices.

Al-Bolani’s call came after suicide bombers struck twice — once last Sunday near the Baghdad police academy and again on Tuesday in an attack targeting Sunni and Shiite sheiks touring an outdoor market after a reconciliation meeting.

A total of about 60 people were killed in the two attacks, which followed weeks of relative calm in the capital.

In an interview with The Associated Press, al-Bolani said it appears that al-Qaida in Iraq is unleashing sleeper cells in a bid to reassert itself after being routed in recent U.S.-Iraqi military operations. He said the key to defeating the insurgents lies in better intelligence, not more wide-scale fighting.

“I do believe that launching major military operations against al-Qaida is no longer needed and that there is a need to activate the intelligence side,” al-Bolani said in an interview at his office in a former Saddam Hussein palace on the edge of Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone.

“There are some al-Qaida sleeper cells who are refreshing their activities to prove that they are still able to conduct attacks,” al-Bolani said. “The only challenges we are facing (from them) are the suicide bombers and car bombs.”

Al-Bolani appealed for more intelligence support from U.S.-led forces, although he noted that “Iraqis have acquired good experience over the past years.”

An al-Qaida front group claimed responsibility for the Sunday attack.

Iraqi forces also have evidence that hard-line Shiite militants are regrouping in Baghdad and some southern provinces like Maysan and Basra, he said.

He was referring to small but well-organized groups that split off from the movement led by Shiite firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. U.S. officials believe those groups are funded and trained by Iran. The Iranians have denied any links to Shiite extremists in Iraq.

The splinter “special groups” continued attacks against U.S.-led forces even after the anti-U.S. cleric declared a unilateral cease-fire in 2007 and then disbanded his Mahdi Army last year.

The two major factions are Asaib Ahl al-Haq, or League of the Righteous, and Kataeb Hezbollah.

“There are limited activities for these groups in Baghdad, Amarah and Basra but they are being monitored by the security forces, which conduct operations against them,” he added without elaborating. Amarah is the provincial capital of Maysan.

The Interior Ministry had planned to attract more police recruits to increase its force of nearly 500,000 with the goal of establishing a police brigade in each province.

But al-Bolani said those plans were on hold and the ministry would focus instead on developing the forces it has and redeploying units to areas with the most need.

“We hope that by the middle of this year oil prices will increase to bring in funds to help us implement these plans,” he said.

Iraq’s parliament passed a $58.6 billion budget earlier this month. The original spending plan of $79 billion had to be reduced as oil prices plunged from a mid-July high of $150 a barrel to about $46.

Al-Bolani, a Shiite, boasted that he has succeeded in changing his ministry’s bad reputation as a sectarian institution that had been infiltrated by Shiite militiamen.

So far, about 62,000 ministry employees have been sacked for reasons ranging from sectarianism and links to militias to human rights violations since he took office in 2006, he said.

“I’m happy to have reached this stage but there are still challenges to overcome to build our security forces — and that needs time and huge resources,” he said.

Maysan province update

Iraqi Soldiers Provide Humanitarian Assistance in Maysan

FORWARD OPERATING BASE GARRYOWEN, Iraq – Iraqi soldiers traveled house to house in a small neighborhood in the Maysan Province, on the southeastern border of Iraq to hand out essential supplies to citizens in need March 9.

The 1st Battalion, 40th Iraqi Army Brigade, assisted by American Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment , 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, provided blankets, canned food and other household necessities during the humanitarian aid drop in Hay Al Hussein, located in the city of Al Amarah.

Along with food and bedding supplies, Iraqi children were also given comic books featuring their hometown heroes, the Iraqi security forces.

“If we can give them even just a blanket, they will be very grateful,” said Lt. Malik Theab, who aided the Iraqis while leading his IA soldiers during the good will operation.

One of the residents that received items from the coalition forces, a mother of three children, explained the mattress and blankets would be a big help because her sons currently sleep on the floor.

This humanitarian mission helped the citizens of Maysan with necessities they can’t afford. It also provided the Iraqi soldiers with experience in planning, coordinating and carrying out civil military operations for future goodwill missions.

Agriculture in Maysan

From the International Herald Tribune. As the entire article is not specifically about Maysan province, but the agriculture issues in Iraq as a whole, I quote here just the section concerning Maysan. To read the entire article, click here.

“Much of the agricultural sector is dysfunctional or outright broken,” said Jon Melhus, an agriculture adviser to the U.S. provincial reconstruction team in southeastern Maysan province.

“The lack of education and essential services, especially electricity, modern irrigation and drainage practices, transportation … greatly limit Iraq’s ability to compete.”

Abdel Hussein al-Saidi, Maysan’s deputy governor, called for greater aid from the central government, echoing the cries of provincial officials in every sector across the country.

“The farm sector is the foundation for developing the entire country. Everything else rests on it,” he said.

Maysan, like other parts of southern Iraq, suffers from severe salinity, which turns vast expanses of land into white powdery salt, supporting only shrubby brush.

It has been a problem for thousands of years, but it is exacerbated by south-flowing irrigation that boosts downstream salt levels and flood irrigation that leaves salt on the soil.

Nassir al-Alami, Maysan’s top farm official, said salinity had reduced productivity in some areas by three-quarters.

Iraq is now aiming to reclaim 6 million acres (2.5 million hectares) of salinated land.

Yet given the lack of resources, hopes of transforming the farm sector quickly into an engine of growth may be in vain.

“The combination of reduced budgets due to the decline in world oil prices, corruption, and bureaucratic inefficiencies poses enormous challenges,” said Dan Foote, who heads U.S. reconstruction efforts in Maysan.

Another Maysan update

Iraqi Army Builds Confidence in Maysan

FORWARD OPERATING BASE GARRY OWEN, Iraq – Coalition forces traveled to a small town in the Maysan province of southern Iraq to deliver food items and household products to approximately 150 families Feb. 20.

The 4th Battalion, 38th Iraqi Army Brigade led the humanitarian mission, along with U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

“Many improvements can be made in this area,” said Maj. Ali, a 38th IA company commander in charge of the mission. “The citizens of Al Maymunah still lack basic necessities, such as clean water and consistent electricity.”

Ali and his unit handed out bulk packages of sugar, flour, beans, soap, toothpaste and feminine hygiene products to the citizens of this impoverished neighborhood.

The delivery was one of the largest in several months, as the Soldiers also distributed blankets, tarps and more than 300 first-aid kits. Children were given hand puppets, teddy bears and comic books featuring Iraqi security forces.

The assistance comes at a time when many of the Al Maymunah citizens are living without shelter and a consistent source of income to buy basic necessities.

“I was happy to receive a tarp to cover the holes on my roof,” said Mustafa Jasim, a vehicle repairman. Others told the Iraqi soldiers they would be able to feed their families for several weeks with the supplies they were given.

Many families said they trusted the Iraqi army to protect, defend and serve their country.