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Nov 21st, 2008

‘George Bush Square?’ (MSNBC, Nov. 21, 2008) — More than 10,000 Iraqis took to the streets and protested the agreement that would keep U.S. troops in Iraq. They protested by burning an effigy of President George W. Bush. Rachel Maddow has the latest from NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. (09:12)

Video: A protester uses his shoe to strike an effigy of President Bush, as thousands of followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr converge on Firdous Square in central Baghdad, Iraq, for a protest against a proposed U.S.-Iraqi security pact, on Friday, Nov. 21, 2008. (Photo credit: Karim Kadim / AP)

Thousands of Iraqis Protest U.S. Security Pact

Sermon by al-Sadr brands America ‘the enemy of Islam’

Image: Shiite demonstrators in Baghdad
Thousands of demonstrators march during a rally at Firdous Square in Baghdad, Friday, Nov. 21, 2008. Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who called America “an enemy of Islam,” marched against a pact letting U.S. forces stay in Iraq until 2011 and toppled an effigy of President George W. Bush where U.S. troops once tore down a statue of Saddam Hussein. (Photo credit: Ali al-Saadi / AFP — Getty Images)

Nov. 21, 2008

BAGHDAD — Followers of a Shiite cleric on Friday stomped on and burned an effigy of President George Bush in the same central Baghdad square where Iraqis beat a toppled statue of Saddam Hussein with their sandals five years earlier. Chanting and waving flags, thousands of Muqtada al-Sadr’s followers filled Firdous Square to protest a proposed U.S.-Iraqi security pact that would allow American troops to stay for three more years.

The Bush effigy was placed on the same pedestal where U.S. Marines toppled the ousted dictator’s statue in one of the iconic images of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. After a mass prayer, demonstrators pelted the effigy with plastic water bottles and sandals. One man hit it in the face with his sandal. The effigy fell head first into the crowd and protesters jumped on it before setting it ablaze.

Khalid Mohammed / AP
Khalid Mohammed / AP

Before it fell, the effigy held a sign that said: “The security agreement … shame and humiliation.”

Iraq’s parliament is expected to vote next week on the plan to keep U.S. forces in Iraq for another three years. But the noisy opposition by the Sadrists indicates that even if it is approved, the deal could remain divisive in a country struggling for reconciliation. Opponents view the security deal as a surrender to U.S. interests despite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, saying the pact would eventually lead to full sovereignty.

‘Enemy of Islam’

Al-Sadr, who is believed to be in Iran, was not at the protest, though he wrote a sermon read by his representative, Sheik Abdul Hadi al-Mohammadawi, calling the U.S. “the enemy of Islam.”

“The government must know that it is the people who help it in the good and the bad times. If it throws the occupier out all the Iraqi people will stand by it,” the sermon read, using common rhetoric for the United States. Al-Sadr reiterated in the sermon that his followers in both the armed and the peaceful factions of his movement will continue to work for the removal of U.S. forces.

Image: Shiite demonstrators in Baghdad
Thousands of Iraqi Shiite protesters rally against the U.S.-Iraqi security pact near Firdous Square, Baghdad, on Friday, Nov. 21, 2008. (Photo credit: Ali Al-saadi / AFP — Getty Images)

Security was tight for the demonstration, with the area closed to traffic and heavily guarded by Iraqi soldiers in Humvees. Army snipers took positions on top of buildings overlooking the square. The Sadrists also provided their own security, searching worshippers as they approached the square.

The protesters included two Sunni clerics. Many arrived at the square on foot or by bus and carried prayer rugs, pieces of cardboard or newspapers for the mass prayer. They waved Iraqi flags and green Shiite banners, chanting, “No, no to the American agreement!” and, “No, no to the agreement of humiliation!” …


Statement on the Iraq War


Al Qaeda Message Fails the Test

The purpose of Al Qaeda’s latest video message is to get Muslims to hate Barack Obama. It didn’t work.

By Ahmed Benchemsi
Newsweek (Web Exclusive)
Nov. 20, 2008

The video message from Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in which he called Barack Obama a “house Negro,” demonstrates, if anything, that the terrorists are always damn good in PR. You feel disgusted? Horrified? That’s exactly their aim.

In this regard, Zawahiri’s diabolical comparison of Obama and Malcolm X (“an honorable American who converted to Islam,” as Zawahiri put it) is an even bolder move: not only do they insult the American president-elect, but they rub it into one of America’s deepest wounds — the racial divisions and the profound antagonisms generated by Malcolm X’s radical claims. In terms of “hatred arts,” this is just brilliant.

Those who are shocked by Zawahiri’s words have merely to remember: spreading hate is the terrorists’ job. Hating you is not enough; they also need you to hate them, so the struggle goes on unchallenged. Al Qaeda and all its followers badly need to perpetuate Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” paradigm. The West and Islam are deadly enemies, in the radicals’ view. The more irreconcilable the former, the happier the latter.

In this regard, the agenda of Bush and the neocons was a true blessing for the terrorists. Consider this: after 9/11 and the U.S. strike on Afghanistan, Al Qaeda was badly hit and its leaders were piteously hiding in caves. Later, by attacking Iraq for no valid reason — which caused, as a direct or indirect consequence, hundreds of thousands of deaths among innocent civilians — Bush’s administration provided Al Qaeda leaders with a new rationale. They reinvigorated, prospered and recruited hundreds, if not thousands, of brand-new followers, infused with a strong willingness for jihad.

“War on terror”? If they could, they would just keep it on forever.

Al Qaeda’s true problem with Obama has indeed nothing to do with the color of his skin. By proposing to meet Iran’s Ahmadinejad without preconditions instead of just bombing him out, the American president-elect thinks outside of the confrontation box. The radicals just hate that. And above all, they hate the idea of the United States resuming the chase of Al Qaeda operatives in the mountains of the Pakistan-Afghanistan borders. He’s coming to them; how could they not react fiercely?

There is something else, which I witness everyday in the streets of Casablanca, where I live: Muslims tend to claim Obama as their own — because he’s black, because he comes from an oppressed minority, because his middle name is Hussein. I presume this holds true for all the nonradical Muslims (the vast majority of them) throughout the world. Not that they think Obama is a Muslim himself — he made clear that he was not. Yet he could have been. His father was.

Anyway, this man looks like a “brother” to many Muslims, which is indeed a good thing for the prospect of global peace. Not surprisingly, Zawahiri’s video message targeted this specific point: “Obama is not a Muslim, he’s a renegade who abandoned his ancestor’s religion to embrace the ‘crusaders faith’ and the ‘Zionists’ ideology,'” Zawahiri suggests. The genuine message being: please don’t like him! Well, too bad for them: we do.

We will like him more, of course, if he keeps his promise of backing out of Iraq within 16 months and putting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track. Meanwhile, let’s all of us, Muslims and Westerners, take advantage of the honeymoon period. And let’s enjoy the terrorists’ embarrassment: it’s a rare occasion.

Benchemsi is editor and publisher of the Moroccan newsweekly magazines TelQuel and Nichane.


Personality Profile of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri


Security Developments in Iraq

Following are security developments in Iraq on Nov. 19 and Nov. 20, 2008, as reported by Reuters.

BAGHDAD – Two roadside bombs exploded in quick succession, wounding five people in central Baghdad’s Karrada district, police said.

BAGHDAD – The Iraqi army killed 3 suspected militants and detained 23 others in different parts of Iraq during the past 24 hours, the defense ministry said in a statement.

MOSUL – A roadside bomb wounded one Iraqi soldier in western Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL – A suicide car bomber hit an Iraqi army patrol, wounding two soldiers in eastern Mosul, police said.

MOSUL – The Iraqi army arrested 92 wanted people during a raid and search operation in towns and villages near the city of Mosul, the defense ministry said in a statement.

MOSUL – The bodies of five people, including two women, were found bearing gunshot wounds on the outskirts of the city of Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD – A bomb attached to a car belonging to presidential guards wounded three of the guards in central Baghdad’s Karrada district, police said.

SHWAN – Police found the body of a woman with gunshot wounds in the town of Shwan, near Kirkuk, 155 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

DOUR – Six militants were killed and three villagers wounded on Wednesday during clashes between a local U.S.-backed neighborhood patrol and militants in a village near the town of Dour, 95 miles north of Baghdad, police said.

KUT – Gunmen stormed a house and killed five members of the same family, including two children, on Wednesday near the city of Kut, 95 miles southeast of Baghdad, police said.


U.S. Military Says It Can Meet Obama Demands

Adm. Mike Mullen is planning ways to get troops from Iraq into Afghanistan

Nov. 18, 2008

WASHINGTON — The top U.S. military officer said Tuesday the Pentagon is developing plans to get troops quickly out of Iraq and into Afghanistan to battle a more confident and successful Taliban.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the AP in an interview that the military has already identified and practiced traveling out of Iraq along exit routes through Turkey and Jordan to determine “what the challenges might be.” The governments in those two countries, he said, have supported that effort.

While he was careful to note that he is still following the orders of President Bush, Mullen said he was clearly aware of President-elect Barack Obama’s battle plan to withdraw from Iraq in 16 months.

“I’ve been listening to the campaign, and I understand,” Mullen said. “And he has certainly reinforced that since the election, so from a planning standpoint we are looking at that as well.”

He said he is working to get as many troops into Afghanistan as quickly as possible and noted he’s not surprised that Taliban leaders said this week that they would not entertain settlement talks with the Afghan government as long as foreign forces remained in the country.

“It’s my belief that you negotiate from a position of strength and right now the Taliban is doing pretty well,” said Mullen. “I think that’s important as we discuss how we negotiate, and with whom we negotiate, that we do so from a position of strength.”

2 Responses to “Iraqis Burn Bush in Effigy”
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