Sunday, April 13

A couple of notes from last week that I neglected to mention are both discussed in this here article

....concerning the Archbishop of San Antonio, who ordered a priest to put that US flag back up where he says it belongs:

Archbishop Patrick Flores issued his order after receiving inquiries about what some Our Lady of Grace congregants say the Rev. John Mannion's latest display of anti-United States sentiment. Church members say that Mannion often criticized America during sermons and kept the flag at half-staff. Last week, he simply removed it from the church in La Coste, 20 miles southwest of San Antonio. ''I have advised Father Mannion that the American flag must be restored at full height to its usual place of honor immediately,'' Flores said Thursday.

...and the Archbishop of Portland, Oregon, who fired his Justice and Peace director:

Earlier this week, the Portland, Ore., archdiocese fired its 12-year peace and justice director after repeatedly warning the man to curtail his anti-war activism. An archdiocese spokesman said Frank Fromherz was laid off because of budget cuts. But Fromherz, 49, said archdiocese officials told him he was fired because he violated his role as an ''agent'' for the archbishop and his views. Fromherz had clashed with Archbishop John G. Vlazny over the war. For example, Fromherz sent an e-mail to hundreds of Catholics and others that encouraged anti-war protests and called on ''the international criminal court to indict and prosecute our own President (Bush) as a war criminal.''

So..bring it all together for us...the Pope opposed to the war, the church employees speaking against the war in..er...vivid terms, the bishops telling them to stop, the military personnel listening to the Passion in Baghdad, being told to liken themselves to the suffering Christ, and the Iraqi Christians, glad that God has answered their prayers for an end to the bombing...(blogged below)

Too much for me, especially this late.

Discuss amongst yourselves.




Keep reading Back to Iraq.

I’m standing about 50 km from Tikrit and nervous enough to feel like I’ve just swallowed molten lead. The road is as straight as an sniper shot. Behind me, about 10 km, stands the last PUK checkpoint after Kirkuk. The land is flat, and perhaps it’s my imagination, but it appears stunted and less fertile than the hills and mountains to the north east. There is a light wind that smells faintly of burning oil. Every now and then a car passes our small encampment on the side of the road and its passengers peer at us intently. The ones coming from the direction of Tikrit don’t smile. Before us lies the stronghold of Saddam Hussein, and I have to make a decision to press on or not.

Two articles on Palm Sunday with Iraqi Christians:

From the AP in Baghdad:

Beneath the stained-glass windows at Our Lady of Deliverance, a church of Iraq's tiny Christian minority, parishioners collected their Palm Sunday olive branches, representing the palm fronds that welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem. Their welcome for the U.S. Marines in east Baghdad is less than a hosanna, however. "We're happy the Americans have ended the regime," said Msgr. Raphael Qutiimi, the pastor. "But that's not enough. They need to quickly return security and stability and peace. If they don't act, the looting will continue."

....in the peaceful courtyard of Our Lady of Deliverance, an elegant 72-year-old woman, a former secretary for international companies, also uttered a harsh word, when asked what she thought of the quieting war.

"Massacre," she muttered in English. Asked again, she repeated, "Massacre!"

She referred to the uncounted Iraqi civilian deaths at U.S.-British hands. "We have no idea," she said of the conflict's ultimate meaning for Iraq. "We'll have to wait and judge later, and maybe we'll thank God for it."

...and in Kirkuk

Christians at the cathedral in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk said on Sunday their prayers for peace had been answered, but what comes after the fall of Saddam Hussein is what worries them now.At the first mass for Iraq's Chaldean Catholic minority since government forces collapsed on Thursday and U.S. troops moved in, Bishop Andraus Sanna said in a sermon delivered in Arabic that his flock had much to be grateful for.But having enjoyed relative religious freedom under Saddam and his Baath party, Christians feel they have something to lose now he has been ousted from power and U.S. forces promise democracy in a largely Muslim country.


Palm Sunday at the Baghdad airport

On Palm Sunday in Baghdad, U.S. soldiers on bent knee paused in silence during a field mass for a reading of the Passion. "Jesus gave a loud cry, and breathed his last," read Lt. Mike Heninger, Catholic priest for the 1st Brigade of the 3rd Army Division. In the service, Heninger directed the troops to find strength in Lent's lesson of self-sacrifice. "Jesus went forward knowing full well what was expected of him," Heninger said. "How have we been dealing with hardship in this time of Lent in the desert?" The mass was held in a dark, dust filled building with broken windows - a former Iraqi catering facility at Saddam International Airport,. Impromptu pews were made by pulling dusty seats together and covering them with green Iraqi Airways blankets. The altar was a serving cart, covered in another green blanket. "I think the appropriate colors are white, but we don't have white sheets," said 3rd ID Chaplain Lt. Col. Roger Heath.

Heninger also gathered long leaves from nearby palm trees to hand out to the congregation of troops. The tone of the service was quiet and serious. Keeping a commitment to serve "isn't always easy," Heninger said. "It was challenging there in the garden, when Christ said, 'Father, if this cup is to be passed to me, let it be passed.'" Heninger said. "We find ourselves in these times of hardships, perhaps during this operation, when we wish the cup would be passed, that we would not have to drink from this cup of sacrifice. But it is in these times where we need to walk in the footsteps of Christ."



Former Sandinista "cultural ambassador" protests war and US imperialism while...

his son serves in the US Army Over There

The story of the old revolutionary and his soldier son is the talk of the town in Managua, where the Mejía Godoy family is a beloved cultural treasure. Though Camilo has not openly disavowed his father nor his beliefs, the circumstances that led him to the Persian Gulf hold powerful symbolic meaning for a country still deeply divided by the lingering effects of a violent civil war, U.S. intervention and the ensuing wave of exiles.

"A lot of people [from Nicaragua] are caught in this same paradox," says Greg Landau, a San Francisco-based producer and guitarist, who toured extensively in the 1980s with Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy, the young soldier's uncle. "In many families, people are caught on opposite sides of the political fence."


Background on the situation in Najaf

and, from Al-Jazeera,

a report that the siege on al-Sistani's home, blogged below, has ended

Armed men are reported to have lifted a siege of the home of Shia spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in the early hours of Monday hours before the expiry of a 48-hour deadline they had imposed for the cleric to to leave the country.The circumstances of the withdrawal of members of a group calling itself the Jimaat-E-Sadr-Thani are still unclear but if confirmed they will come as a relief to the residents of the central Iraqi city of Najaf who have seen their 'liberated' city torn apart by inter-Shia strife.


Shi'ite clerics move to assume authority in Baghdad

I'm in charge, only for the sake of God," said Sayyid Sadeq Aalaq, 60, the leader of the small, modest Imam Ali Mosque, the first to be built in the neighborhood. But he added, "I don't covet power or authority."

Claiming control over six of the neighborhood's 79 districts, he seemed to have both, and he worked with an enthusiasm that belied his age. Since Hussein's fall, he has used the mosque's loudspeaker -- powered by a generator during Baghdad's lingering blackout -- to broadcast an edict by Sistani forbidding looting. He has organized meetings with former police officers and is eager for them to return to their jobs. He has also started forming popular committees that would oversee the return of electricity, water distribution and food handouts, once the task of the Baath Party that crumbled hours before U.S. troops captured the city.

On his own initiative, Aalaq organized a meeting Saturday for leaders of the neighborhood's mosques. Among their priorities is to ease tensions between Sunnis and Shiites that erupted Friday at Abrar Mosque -- a rare Sunni place of worship in the neighborhood. In the dispute, a gun battle broke out that lasted four hours, until dawn. Although no one was killed, it was a sobering reminder of underlying tensions.

In days regulated by the call to prayer, Aalaq said, he is driven every two hours by a neighbor in a battered 1980 Toyota to inspect checkpoints in his territory. This morning, he went to bakeries, insisting they make bread available to residents. "I had to order them," he said, leaning on a cane and draped in a gray cape with gold trim. "I had to be forceful. They said, 'Okay, we'll bake.' "

In Aalaq's remarks are signs of what will be required for credibility in postwar Iraq -- a record of resistance to the Hussein government and independence from the Americans. He said his authority was derived, in part, from his family's suffering. Seven of his relatives were executed in 1982 for membership in the Dawa Party, an outlawed Shiite group that, for a time, waged a bloody struggle against the government. He never saw their bodies. Over a three-month period, his family was simply handed their death certificates by the neighborhood Baath Party official, the names Kadhim, Hussein, Salam, Adnan, Hassan, Hayat and Mohammed scrawled across the top.

His son, Mortadha, fled the neighborhood after the riots in 1999, and was smuggled into Lebanon for about $250."Everybody likes me. They follow my orders," Aalaq said. "They know we are good people, and they know we have suffered."

With far less bitterness, he carries the same reticence in dealing with U.S. forces, refusing to meet any as long as they stay in Iraq.

"The Americans asked to talk to me, but I refused," Aalaq said, sitting in an office at the mosque. Overhead was a portrait of Ali, the prophet Muhammad's son-in-law whom Shiites believe was his rightful heir. "If I met with them, my popularity would collapse."

It's a fascinating, lengthy look at a very complex situation.

Some good news:

Baghdad residents band to protect Jewish community center and synagogue

In the Batauin district near the Saddun commercial artery, the entrance of a large synagogue is blocked by an immense iron portal.The way onto the street is obstructed by trees and chairs. A self-defence militia formed on Saturday to fight back against bandits."We are defending the synagogue like all houses on the street and we will not let anyone touch it," said Edward Benham, a 19-year-old computer science student.The young Christian said that Jews normally came each Saturday but because of the lingering security problem, no one came last Saturday.

Here's an article about the history of the Jewish community in Baghdad, now 38 strong.



The Information Minister's son is

a doctor in Dublin

(Ireland, not Ohio)

But the son of Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the notorious Iraqi Information Minister whose bizarre rantings earned him the nickname Comical Ali, enjoys an altogether more low-key position - as a doctor in a Dublin hospital. Osama al-Sahaf practises in the city's Beaumount Hospital and has predictably been dubbed Surgical Ali.



What they found in Uday's house

...including printouts of emails addressed to udaysaddamhussein@yahoo.com....how covert of him. How weird if US intelligence didn't ever notice...

Josh Marshall comments

Mosul:

Fearful of marauding gangs of looters, thieves and arsonists, Arab residents in Iraq's third-largest city formed armed militias on Sunday in a desperate attempt to protect their homes, shops and families.

Religious leaders in Mosul acknowledged the need for the neighborhood militias given the wholesale breakdown of law and order in the city, but the clerics also appealed to residents to put down their weapons in favor of unarmed patrols and roadblocks.

"These people setting up their own private militias and checkpoints are childish and stupid," said Sheikh Badr Al-Hilali, director of Mosul's mosques and religious sites. "Most of them don't even know how to use a gun. They are performing a stage-play that's a mockery of law and order. The allies have to stop this."

But the allies here - a couple of hundred Green Berets and Marines - are overwhelmed and overmatched. Mosul is a fractious, ethnically divided city of some 2 million people, including large numbers of hard-core Ba'ath Party members and Saddam Hussein loyalists who are angry over the fall of their regime.

"We need thousands of soldiers to properly police this city," said a Kurdish political leader who is working with the U.S. contingent.

U.S. soldiers have had to shift into a policing role in Mosul, which has been wracked by three days of horrific Kurdish-Arab violence. An estimated 70 people have been killed with countless numbers injured.

The city certainly remained edgy, tense and dangerous over the weekend. Two Army soldiers on a patrol late Saturday night were wounded by an unseen sniper, and they were quickly evacuated by helicopter out of the city for medical treatment.

Convoys of Green Berets, Marines and members of a new, U.S.-supervised squad of Free Iraqi Fighters made several swings through the city Sunday, large American flags flying high behind their Humvees. Children waved and shouted hello, although most of the men in the Arab neighborhoods looked on warily and unsmiling.


Even though Sunday is a regular workday here, only bakeries and tea shops were open. Men with Kalashnikov assault rifles stood on many rooftops in the downtown areas, presumably protecting their shops below.

Nearly all municipal services - water, power, police, sanitation - have broken down since the Iraqi Army meekly surrendered Thursday night. A frenzy of looting quickly followed as bank vaults were emptied of their cash, government offices were trashed and torched, and luxury hotels were ransacked.

By Sunday, however, the full extent of the looting was becoming more clear and more painful.

The prestigious University of Mosul was wrecked to within an inch of its academic life. The Medical College was robbed of microscopes, medicines and precious lab equipment. The public library lost its oldest volumes and the archives lost countless historical documents. Hospitals were ripped apart, ambulances hijacked and drug cabinets carried off whole.

Harold Bloom to donate personal library and archives to a Catholic college

arold Bloom has always railed against what he calls "the school of resentment," Marxist, feminist, Afrocentric and deconstructionist scholars who, he says, deny the aesthetic and spiritual values inherent in great literature. So when it came time for Mr. Bloom, 72, to choose a place to donate his immense personal library and his archives, he bypassed several larger prominent universities that in his opinion house those very practitioners of resentment in favor of a small, relatively unknown Catholic college in Colchester, Vt.

"Dear child," Mr. Bloom said in a telephone interview, using the appellation he applies to friend, stranger, male and female, alike, "with rare exceptions the universities and colleges in the English-speaking world that have sustained some sense of literature as a matter of powerful cognition and extraordinary aesthetic beauty tend to be the Roman Catholic institutions."



Some Shi'ite stories:

Vengeful chaos threatens Shi'ite's new freedom

A decent overview of Shi'ites in Iraq and their rivalries

Another one on the same topic

Claims that leading Shi'ite cleric has been told to leave Najaf

Armed men have surrounded the house of a top Shi'ite Muslim cleric in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, ordering him to leave the country within 48 hours, aides to the cleric told Reuters on Sunday.Shi'ite sources said U.S. troops stationed on the outskirts of Najaf had moved into the city to restore order amid a struggle between rival Shi'ite groups for control of the historical heart of their religious community.

"Armed thugs and hooligans have had the house of (Grand) Ayatollah (Ali) Sistani under siege since yesterday. They have told him to either leave Iraq in 48 hours or they would attack," Kuwait-based Ayatollah Abulqasim Dibaji told Reuters.

Dibaji said the house was surrounded by members of Jimaat-e-Sadr-Thani, a shadowy group led by Moqtada Sadr, the ambitious 22-year-old son of a late spiritual leader in Iraq."Moqtada wants to take total control of the holy sites in Iraq," Dibaji said.



Thanks for the thoughtful discussion on the looting of antiquities below. I hadn't been online since yesterday afternoon, and when I saw 22 comments attached to that post, I thought, "oh no..." but my fears were unfounded. A thoughtful discussion, to which I will only add...

there is no such thing as a cookie cutter "citizen of Baghdad." Looting hospitals and museums is not characteristic behavior for the citizenry, I would imagine. A city of 5 million can hold a lot of sociopaths and criminals.

But I still remain convinced that more should have been done to anticipate this. And - if we can spare Marines to guard the Oil Ministry, we can spare them to guard hospitals, as well.

I have no doubt that in the next week, barring some disaster on another front, aid will begin pouring into Baghdad and calm will be restored, at least in regard to the looting. The whole issue of the replacement of civil authority is going to remain an interesting one, though, what with the ties that pre-war law enforcement has to the Baath party, inter-religious strife, ethnic strife in the North, as well as the tension between the Iraqi insistence that since the Coalition brought this destruction and opened the way for this situation, it has a responsibility to see it through and fix it, and their negative feelings about an American presence, especially a ruling one..

They're trying to restore order in Baghdad..

Hundreds of Iraqi police and other civil servants responded to U.S. calls broadcast by radio to meet in Baghdad on Sunday as part of efforts to resume order and key services to the capital.But scores of residents protested in central Baghdad, angry that power and water supplies were still disrupted. Some accused U.S. forces of being concerned only about oil rather than getting the country back on its feet.


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