Saddamist and Sunni rejectionists also benefit from murder and chaos. We know from documents captured in February 2004 that al-Qaida saw a Sunni-Shia war as its only path to victory in Iraq. Saddam's supporters gambled that they could murder their way back into power by killing Iraqis and inciting ethnic as well as religious conflict. Saddam's holdouts have been trying to stage an "Iraqi Tet" since 2004, achieving a media-driven psychological victory that will force the United States to abandon Iraqi democrats.
Do these disparate, philosophically antithetical rejectionist groups cooperate? Coalition intelligence analysts suspect they do -- at least at the wink-and-nod level. Iraqi democrats and clerics like Sistani are their common enemy -- a modernity and moderation that seeds their defeat. Shia clerics in Najaf told The New York Times that at least one Soldier of Heaven Shiite leader allied himself with Saddam Hussein in 1993. That's one open-source indication of cross-fertilization.
So last weekend the Soldiers of Heaven -- allegedly a Shia faction, but certainly a rejectionist organization -- gathered at least 600 fighters (and possibly more) outside of Najaf on a farm owned by a supporter of Saddam's regime.
But the Iraqi government struck first.
Press reports have emphasized the Iraqi government's and Iraqi Army's inadequacies. An Iraqi Army battalion dispatched to the Soldiers of Heaven camp encountered fierce resistance. It pulled back and requested air strikes and U.S. military support. The firefight raged for 24 hours. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense reported 263 militants killed and over 300 captured.
Striking first indicates improved intelligence. Iraqi forces striking first demonstrates improved Iraqi military capabilities. U.S. and coalition air and ground "back up" is an operational version of "strategic overwatch," which was the goal coalition forces set for themselves in 2004.
Mass murder in Najaf was thwarted. The rejectionist forces were destroyed. American defeatists and Middle Eastern fascists should take note.
In a column dated Nov. 28, "Iraq's War of Perception: 'Who Is Jamil Hussein?'", I wrote that I doubted an Associated Press source for a story originating in Baghdad existed. The AP answered the questions raised on the two Websites my column quoted. I congratulate the AP's Baghdad bureau for standing by its sources and am delighted to issue a correction.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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