Saturday, November 18, 2006

Badger's Sunday Magazine

Extremists loyal to the US-sponsored regime in Baghdad took control of a major American newspaper yesterday, and sources pointed to an article by Edward Wong as a bare-knuckle warning of what is to come.

This no-nonsense piece said a Sheikh dressed up in flowing white robes swept into the Mansour Hotel in Baghdad yesterday, where Wong and a colleague were sitting. The man in white was surrounded by three gunmen, and a number of other Sheikhs. According to Wong's lede, the man in white proceeded to denounce the head of the Muslim Scholars Association as a "thug", apparently because of something he said, but we never actually find out what he said.

The head of the Muslim Scholars Association, Harith al-Dhari, is an opponent of the US-sponsored regime in Baghdad. The man in white is a supporter of the US-sponsored regime.

Eventually, by the fifth graph, we get the man in white's name. He is Sheikh Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, described as leader of the Rishawi tribe of al-Anbar province. He was accompanied by colleagues from Anbar, and also three Sheikhs from the south, Shiites, "in a show of sectarian unity". Sectarian unity is big right now, but since none of these other individuals were named, the depth of the cross-cultural warmth at this event wasn't entirely clear.

"The Sheikhs", Wong tells us, are the "founders of a group called the Anbar Salvation Council", formed in September to combat the proponents of the Iraqi Islamic Emirate in al-Anbar province. Actually there was some disagreement among the founders of this group on the question of the relationship to the Iraqi government and the US occupation, and al-Rishawi heads the pro-US wing. It may be the main wing, it may not. It was not necessary to go into this.

Dhari is called a thug in the lede to this story, and the Times says this reflects Dhari's "support for Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia," something that is not supported anywhere in the story. "The sheikhs", Wong writes, "were reacting to statements that the cleric, Harith al-Dhari, had made in interviews last week in which he criticized Sunni tribal leaders who had recently decided to take a stand against Al Qaeda". Wong doesn't tell us what interviews, or what he actually said. And there is a good reason for that. A reader given any facts at all would immediately realize that the issue between Dhari and the Sheikh isn't support or non-support for AlQaeda. It is support or non-support for the US-sponsored government in Baghdad.

Here's what I wrote last month about the formation of the Anbar Salvation Council and Abu Risha (or Rishawi), summarizing an Al-Hayat piece dated October 21.
On the one hand, the person described as the leader [of the Salvation Council], one Abu Risha, says the tribal people, former army officers, and others, are all available, and in fact already control the outskirts of Ramadi, but they are waiting for the necessary material and armaments support from the Iraqi government. But others say Abu Risha isn't the man to organize the tribes because too many of the urban leaders object to him. Moreover, some oppose the idea of accepting any support from either the Iraqi government or the US. Finally, relations with the existing armed resistance groups, including Islamic Army of Iraq and others, is completely unclear.

According to remarks to Al-Hayat published in the Saturday October 21 edition, the leader of the Salvation Council, or perhaps better described as the would-be leader, Abdul Satar Abu Risha, said all of the tribes and former army officers and current government police and army personnel are standing by waiting to hear from the office of Prime Minister Maliki the government's final answer to their request for assistance in the form of vehicles and arms. Abu Risha says the group as it now stands lacks the "material military capability" to sustain a military operation on the scale that taking back Ramadi would require. The group controls the area surrounding Ramada and all access points, he said, but lacks the wherewithal to go into the city proper.

But Abu Risha's viewpoint isn't the only one. This Al-Hayat piece also cites remarks by Khalif Alyan, a leader in the Iraqi Accord Front, which is the biggest of the Sunni coalitions in parliament. Alyan's remarks are particularly interesting as an expression of the new Sunni rejection of the Maliki government [this was just after the disputed vote in parliament on the federalism-procedures law]. Alyan said the followers of his group would object to joining in the Anbar Salvation Council if any of the tribes were to accept Iraqi government support or US support. And he said he was skeptical of the ability to Abu Risha to actually bring the tribes together in the way that he claims to be able to do. Alyan added that the clan leaders in Ramadi and other cities in Anbar that he has spoken to object to the idea of any group "based on Abu Risha". And to drive the point home, he said if the Salvation Council ends up accepting Iraqi government or US government support, the result will be fitna or all-out civil war in Anbar.
This morning (Sunday November 19), Al-Hayat again mentions Rishawi, describing him not as one of "the founders of a group called the Anbar Salvation Council", but merely as a prominent person in the Anbar tribal grouping, who has filed a complaint against al-Dhari for calling his group "a gang of thieves and highway robbers." Nothing about a dramatic performance at the Hotel Mansour. Nothing about calling al-Dhari a supporter of AlQaeda. That's all New York Times exclusive.

There you have it. Fitna or all-out civil war, not just in Al-Anbar, but everywhere. And the Times is there, should you need to smear an opponent in the international press and pour additional oil on the fire.

But the journalistic excitement! The ballroom of the Mansour Hotel in Baghdad; the silent observer Wong, his sidekick Khalid al-Ansari, the white-robed al-Rishawi, the sinister thug al-Dhari!

And how are things going in al-Anbar? Well, let's see. About a week ago, US forces appear to have massacred over 30 civilians in al-Ramadi during the night from Monday to Tuesday of this week. No Times reporting there.

And the military activities of Al-Rishawi's group? Another good question.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

J. Cole this morning ‘reports’: “Al-Hayat says that the ARRESST (emp+) warrant issued for Sunni cleric Harith al-Dhari, now in Amman, continued to stir controversy... Abdul Sattar Abu Rishah, a prominent member of the Tribal Grouping of al-Anbar, said he was SUEING (emp+) al-Dhari for calling his organization "a pack of thieves and highway robbers."

Increasingly, reading Cole, especially when juxtaposed to “missing links”, I feel like the boy in the “Emperor’s New Clothes” parable. Given that Cole is a major opinion affecter (TV appearances,, etc), his inconsistencies and “lies” of omission are not to be taken lightly.

Interestingly, of the very many links Cole provides in his blog to others, I can’t find a link to “missing links.”

4:27 AM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

Maybe if more people brought it up on his blog and got it through he would start realizing that his bias isn't unnoticed and that its hurting his credibility ?
I've tried to post some comments that point out his biased assertions, but to no avail, maybe if more people try it he will give in?

5:41 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I have found Cole to be responsive to email questions in the past. It often takes some time to get a comment approved but I think it's safe to assume he's a rather busy individual.
At any rate, I'm curious as to what biases he is being accused of? I recall that he had a more centrist position a year or two ago but I'm glad to see he came around to a position that acknowledges that "Coalition" forces are the main source of violence in the country.
To me he seems to be very intelligent and well informed as well as capable of forming new opinions based on new information and developments on the ground. This is preferable to a dogmatic, blinders-on, stay the course mentality.
I certainly don't agree with his every opinion but I do have great respect for him and value the information that he does provide.
This is my first visit to Missing Links and I'll be sure to bookmark it for future reading. I'm just a bit mystified by the combative attitude toward Cole.
While we're talking about links, may I recommend ?
Also, I've noticed that Blogger seems to drop comments that take a long time to type up even though it keeps the login...hence my recent comment on Informed Comment that begins with an apology in case I submitted the comment twice. At any rate, you may have more success contacting him by email instead of posting a comment. Can't say for sure but perhaps it's worth a try. Maybe I should have taken my own advice in that regard intead of clogging up your comments section, eh?

5:47 PM  
Blogger badger said...

Chris, Thanks for the comment. Hopefully as time goes by you'll see the importance of carefully and accurately identifying the specific groups and issues involved, so you'll see how unproductive that whole nightly-news vocabulary of "more centrist", "combative" "bias" is.

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