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Thursday, September 15, 2005
Yesterday was a dreadful day in Iraq. The Scotsman reports that "more than 160 people were killed and hundreds wounded in the country's bloodiest day since the United States-led invasion in March 2003." No pretence is made any more that the bombs are targeted at men under arms:
In the worst attack yesterday, at least 114 civilians were killed and 160 injured by a suicide car bomber in a Shia district at 6:30am. Many of the dead were labourers who had gathered to find work.
Apart from those whose husband, father or son did not come home yesterday, the world receives these accounts with a kind of numbness. Iraq fatigue. And in terms of news values, in terms of what will be mentioned in the history books, the Scotsman is correct not to lead with the numbers of the dead but with this statement:
AL-QAEDA'S leader in Iraq declared all-out war on Shiite MuslimsThat's all Shiite Muslims everywhere, not just Iraq; the Scotsman's headline is belied by the text of the story.
Although for a long time Zarqawi's actions had suggested that his motive is to promote religious war between Sunni and Shia I had not heard that he had said so explicitly before. In the past I have sometimes thought of him as being like Charles Manson in more than sadism. (Manson sought by the murders of Sharon Tate and others to start a race war in America. His cult "family" were instructed to leave false clues suggesting that Black Panthers were the murderers. Manson belived that he and his group would emerge to rule over the ruins.) If these reports of an open declaration of war on the Shia are true then the parallel is not as close as I thought.
Is it definitely true? This account from the BBC is hesitant:
In a statement on a website, the group al-Qaeda in Iraq said it acted after US and Iraqi forces attacked insurgents in the northern town of Talafar.I think that when it describes the statement by Zarqawi as a "separate development" it means that the first statement, the one linking attacks by Al Qaeda in Iraq to Talafar, was made on a different website to the one that released the audio. There seems to be room for doubt that the audio was really Zarqawi.
I hope that it is true. If it is, I share a hope with Zarqawi: may his words be heard worldwide. I hope thus because I hope for his defeat. He has made his defeat more likely. Each time the message is repeated a few more Sunni in Iraq and the wider Arab world will recoil. Perhaps even a few more of our western supporters of the "resistance" will recoil.
Much of my parallel with Charles Manson still stands. Zarqawi doesn't wish to make war on the Shiites to benefit the Sunni. He didn't make all those women widows and take fathers from all those children yesterday so that other husbands and fathers should live. He wants his group to rule over the ruins.