It was a Happy New Year in Iraq for the Shiite majority that suffered so long under such a horrific dictator.
In fact, it would seem that it was such a joyous occasion that guards decided they could not contain their excitement and started chanting.
Were they chanting "Freedom!" like William Wallace? "Vive Iraq?" "Justice?".
Nope, they chanted "Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada!" and "Straight to hell,"
It would seem that even those entrusted with what should have been the most solemn duty performed by the nascent Iraqi government so far, could not help but taint the event with their jubilent support for a new strong man.
I would really like to agree with Joe Lieberman that additional troops could stabilize the country, but events like this make me doubt the likelihood that more infantry can make a difference. I think we have lost the hearts and minds of the Iraqis to Sadr and his ilk.
Dean Barnett seems to agree that this event was a stain on the effort in Iraq. He observes
"Perhaps a more pressing concern today is whether in fact Iraq is different. Things like the Saddam execution suggest the answer to the latter question is no. There is a deep undercurrent of savagery in the Iraqi culture that will not just inhibit the growth of a peaceful democracy there, but probably prohibit it."
Mr. Barnett's solution is to stamp out those who perpetuate the chaos:
The only answer, as it always has been, is to stamp out that savagery ferociously and totally. At the end of this war, Iraq must necessarily be composed of people who always wanted to live in peace and the one-time enemies of peace who have come to realize they have no other choice but to live in peace. How much killing will this take? That will depend on how many enemies of peace there are and how determined they are to live in a state of war. One thing's for certain - the more resolute we are, the less killing there will be.I have three fears however:
1)No matter "how resolute we are," we can never deter the savage elements of Iraqi society from killing. These are not Soviet politicians who fear losing their jobs or even their lives. These viscious terrorists thrive on the conflict, not the vicotry, and welcome martyrdom.
2)The American people will never sign up to the mass killings of both Shia and Sunnis that it would take to truly stamp out the sectarian violence. Consider the purges that Saddam himself carried out, and he never truly eliminated his Shiite opponents. He only sent them into hiding. Even if we could create that kind of stalemate, we can never sustain the ferocity and terror necessary to maintain it.
3)The more aggressive we get in battling groups like the Mahdi Army, the more powerful they will become. The violence that we would need to unleash may just turn more of the population against us and into the arms of strongmen like Sadr and their neighbors like Iran and Syria.
I hope and pray that I'm wrong, but it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when events like Saddam's execution which should be positive developments turn so sour.