Jewish World Review April 8, 2004 / 17 Nissan, 5764

Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly
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Our message to terrorists: There will be no Mogadishu moment in Iraq | Journalists are using the words "Iraq" and "quagmire" or "Iraq" and "Vietnam" in the same sentence again. Some weak-kneed lawmakers are calling for more troops. Other, weaker-kneed lawmakers like Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) are calling for a pullout. This could mean victory is nigh.

As I write this column on Tuesday, April 6, it is clear that the coup attempted by the Muqtada al Sadr is fizzling out, though it is unclear how long the mop up operation will take, or what will happen to al Sadr.

And as I write, Operation Vigilant Resolve, to capture or kill the Iraqis in Fallujah who murdered and mutilated four U.S. defense contractors last week is under way. It is unclear at this moment how long this will take, or how many casualties the Marines will suffer in the process. But the end result is not in doubt.

Last week was the bloodiest week in Iraq since last November. This week could turn out to be bloodier still. And there will be other bloody weeks before the Coalition Provisional Authority hands over sovereignty to the Iraqi Governing Council June 30.

But rarer even than good sense from journalists are battles without bloodshed. And the battles we are winning this week make ultimate victory the more likely.

The most important development is the failure of Muqtada al Sadr's attempt to create an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq. This has lanced a boil that was steadily growing. Al Sadr hoped that many Shi'ia would join his "Mahdi Army" militia in the coup attempt. But they have not, and order is being restored in the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City (named after Muqtada al Sadr's grandfather) and the four other cities where Sadr's militia launched attacks.

It is unclear why al Sadr launched his coup attempt at this time. Perhaps he'd received word of the warrant an Iraqi judge had issued to arrest him for ordering the murder last year of a moderate Shi'ia cleric, Abd al Majid al Khoei. Perhaps he thought the Marine operation in Fallujah would divert so many resources and so much attention that the coup attempt would have a better chance to succeed. Perhaps he feared that time was running out, that the moderates among the Shi'ia were strengthening, as recent municipal elections suggest.

Whatever. The important thing is that the coup attempt failed. Order has been restored in Sadr City, in Basra, in Nasiriya, in Kut.

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Al Sadr is still dangerous. He reportedly is hiding out in the holy city of Najaf, to which hundreds of thousands of Shi'ia will be making a pilgrimage in a few days. He can still make big trouble. But he is dangerous in the way a wounded bear is dangerous. The emphasis is on "wounded." The failed coup attempt makes him weaker, more marginalized.

"Far from rebelling, the majority of Shi'ia are breathing sighs of relief," Michael Rubin wrote in National Review Online. An academic who speaks Arabic and Farsi, Rubin was a political officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority.

"In Baghdad and Basra, Muqtada's vigilantes beat and harass women. Doctors, lawyers, tribal leaders and shopkeepers repeatedly ask visiting Americans why the Coalition has failed to rein in Muqtada al Sadr," Rubin said.

Now it is. The decision to confront al Sadr — which al Sadr made for the Coalition — will lead to a short term spike in violence, but to long term improvement, Rubin predicts.

The same is true of the Marines in Operation Vigilant Resolve. They will take casualties flushing out the hard core Baathists and al Qaeda types in Fallujah, and Iraqi civilians will be killed in the crossfire. But those whom the Marines kill or capture will never again threaten the peace in Iraq, and the example the Marines will make of them will encourage moderates and discourage insurgents throughout the country.

By standing firm without using excessive force, our Marines and soldiers, and our Italian, Spanish, Ecuadorian and Ukrainian allies are demonstrating to friend and foe alike that the terrorists will not have their Mogadishu moment in Iraq. Too bad our journalists do not have the courage our soldiers do.

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JWR contributor Jack Kelly, a former Marine and Green Beret, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2003, Jack Kelly