"On the day you kill me
You'll find travel tickets in my pocket,
Travel tickets to peace,
To the fields and the rain,
To people's conscience.
Don't waste the tickets."
Samih al-Qasim, Victims of a Map, Saqi Books.
June 27, 2007
It is just sixteen months since an Iraqi friend said of the demolition of
the golden-domed Al Askari Shrine in Samarra: "We can cry no more. There are
no tears left." The Shrine was the resting place of the tenth and eleventh
Imams, Ali al-Hadi and his son Hasan al-Askari. The twelfth Imam Muhammed
al-Mahdi, is believed by Shias to have been born in Samarra and will return
to save the world. A saviour was never more needed. The Shrine was destroyed
after the US troops took control of the city.
Samarra, which, in the ninth century, was the Abbasid capital, was not alone
a place of pilgrimage for the Shrine, but a legend in Arab history, revered
for the artistic, literary and scientific splendours it brought the world,
at the dawn of a millennium. Now, the slender, superb, hundred foot high
minarets, which flanked the Shrine in their rich, gold and turquoise beauty
have also been demolished. Like so much else in Mesopotamia's wealth of
haunting historical wonders, which have survived invasions from time
immemorial, they have been consigned to dust under the watch of Uncle Sam's
From the country's founding to Saddam Hussein, with the exception of the
Mongol destruction (1258 and 1401 A.D.) every ruler or regime, whatever its
political hue, has strived not only to preserve the past, but also to leave
something more superb than the previous one, for future generations to
inherit and to gaze in awe, as believed incumbent by the Caliphs. It has
taken America and Britain to destroy or defile the irreplaceable, even that
in honour of the Gods themselves: mosques, churches, temples, shrines,
monasteries, convents and even the resting places of the dead. A unique,
Nearby the Shrine is the Malwiya (the spiral minaret) of the remains of the
Great Mosque, built in A.D. 852 (although the Malwiya may have predated it)
from bricks and clay, naturally golden from the glistening earth from which
they came, the Mosque with its ten metre high walls, nearly three metres
thick and supported by forty-four towers. US soldiers made a snipers' den at
the top of the Malwiya, which resulted in it being seriously damaged.
Sinners, the spiritual and those simply in wonder, have been tiptoeing in
awe up the narrow, circular walkway of this gift to succeeding generations,
for more than a thousand years - now, its mysticism too, is corrupted.
The destruction of the minarets, however, seems to bear an uncanny
resemblance to events of that of the Shrine on 22nd February last year. The
building had been sealed off and US and Iraqi troops were there from dawn.
Residents assumed that dignitaries were to visit. Then the explosions felled
the great gold topped Mosque, visible, glinting in golden splendour, under
the sun, to travellers throughout history from thirty kilometres away, who,
one might speculate, had whispered as they pointed, in reverance, as the
drivers always did with me: "Samarra ..."
Reports and rumours differ regarding last week's desecration, but one fact
seems consistent. The area around the Mosque had been sealed to cars and
pedestrians since February 2006. It was guarded day and night, the four
entrances also sealed and snipers were placed on rooftops around the site.
Samarra itself has restricted entrance, with US soldiers and security
personnel trained by them checking those going in or out. Yet somehow,
sufficient explosive to destroy the two minarets entered the city - and
those who did it spirited themselves into a sealed area and a sealed Mosque
compound. That Interior Ministry forces had, it seems, taken over security
for the Shrine in April, a Ministry spectacularly failing a reputation for
shining integrity, is surely just another coincidence.
Further, AMSI noted on 13th June, the day of the attack: "It is also worthy
to mention that the explosion last year had happened after a severe
political crisis between blocs involved in the political process (under) the
occupation. After the elections ... the establishment of the government was
delayed at that time. This is quite similar to the political crisis faced by
the government and parliament these days."
Donald Rumsfeld is quoted as saying that "creative chaos" was a valid
strategy in Iraq. Stirring dissent, "divide and rule" has been an invaders'
tactic since time immemorial - and none better at it than the US - and their
British allies, from Belfast to Basra, where British operatives in Arab
dress were caught with a car full of explosives (and a police station
demolished by the British army to free them and no questions asked ever
Coincidentally, the army ID tags of two of the three kidnapped US soldiers,
Spc. Alex R.Jiminez and Pvt. Byron Fouty, were allegedly found in a house
near Samarra, four days before the minarets destruction. If this is true, it
is not beyond belief that some US element or their militia might have
thought to wreak revenge by furthering an inflammatory situation, setting
more Iraqis against each other.
Last year a savvy Baghdadi friend said of Samarra's tragedy: "The Americans
keep us in a constant state of chaos, they call it 'positive instability'.
Within twenty four hours of the second attack on Samarra's Shrine, thirteen
Sunni mosques had been attacked from northern Mosul to southern Basra.
The cynic might speculate that the attacks (and they are ongoing) seemed
co-ordinated in their instancy and thoroughness. Where were Britain's
representatives of the "finest army in the world", as nine mosques, under
their watch, in Basra and Basra Province, were fired or demolished? Between
all the "surges", "crackdowns", "offences", "sweeps", "pacifications", rings
of steel, raids, roundups, door smashing, trashing and stealing, there are
still enough explosives and expertise to demolish the sanctities of the
sacred? Sanctities for beliefs which had been revered and respected by all
creeds, many with roots from the time of Mohammed and Christ. The start of
destruction followed immediately, the invading US/UK crusaders' tanks. (And
lest we forget, again a reminder that the British troops entered Basra with
tanks and vehicles flying the St George flag: the crusaders' flag and Bush,
of course declared his illegal Iraq onslaught a "crusade" - twice.) There is
also the matter of the bombing over the border in Iran: "This bomb had a
British accent", said a government spokesman. Who knows, but few would go in
to shock if it proved correct.
In a seamless, almost instantaneous performance of singing from the same
hymn sheet, Lt. General Martin Dempsey said the Samarra attack was: "clearly
a signature attack of Al Qaeda" (where do they find these ludicrous
expressions? It was Colin Powell and Dick Cheney who have signed bombs that
fell on Iraq, not a trait attributed to Al Qaeda.) Major General Benjamin
Moxon, repeated the statement almost word for word, as did US "Ambassador"
Ryan Crocker, and General David Petreous. Never mind there had been no
forensic - or any other kind of - investigation.
King Abdullah of Jordan called Samarra: "A heinous crime which offended all
Muslims". Iraq's religious leaders were united in scepticism: Shaykh Al
Khalisi told Shi'ia followers that the act was "a plan by the occupation to
stir up sectarian strife". Saleh al-Haidiri, Head of the Shi'ite Endownment
in Iraq said it was: "A criminal act (aimed) at creating sectarian strife."
Sheikh Jawad al-Khaliss commented: "This is part of a vicious scheme to drag
Iraqi people into sectarian strife", with the Association of Muslim scholars
also blaming the occupation forces and their loyalists. Muqtada al Sadr,
whose running between hare and hounds has become somewhat dizzying,
nevertheless blamed the: "... cursed American, Israeli scenario that aims to
spread turmoil (and) hatred ..." More than 3,000 Sadr loyalists staged a
protest in Najaf, chanting, "No, no to America!", "No, no to Israel!" and
"No, no to sedition!" reported the Jordan Times.
Already the unrest has had spokespeople in Washington consolidating their
desire for staying in Iraq, like South Korea, for perhaps, fifty years. The
reasoning: because those backward Iraqis are not trained and organised to
run their country yet. In 1989 (the last year before the embargo) the year's
UN Report called the country near first world, with explemporary medical,
education, clean water and infrastructure.
Iraqis are well able to run their country but oil must pay America and
Britain for this disasterous invasion, so any excuse or black operation
goes, it is possible to surmise.
It would be naive not also at least to speculate that much of the strife,
destruction, torment within Iraq, came from the top in the Pentagon and
State Department, a point proved by the latest revelations regarding Abu
Ghraib. With call for Bush's impeachment and for Blair's trial at the
International Criminal Court, at the Hague mounting, along with their
appointed apparatchiks (they have lost the right to be called
Administrations) there must be many hoping that the genocide committed with
them at the helm, might have a Judge who will respond to the thoughts of
Professor Gary Leupp, writing in Counterpunch:
"And when they are finally on trial for their crimes, and plead insanity, we
should take our cue from the Texas courts and say, 'That's no excuse.'"
Oh yes, and the US forces newest assault on people living in their own land
is: "Operation Arrowhead Ripper".
Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist and activist who has visited the Arab and
Muslim world on numerous occasions. She has written and broadcast on Iraq,
her coverage of which was nominated for several awards. She was also senior
researcher for John Pilger's award-winning documentary "Paying the Price:
Killing the Children of Iraq".
and author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of "Baghdad" in the "Great Cities"
series, for World Almanac Books (2006.)
Please also see:
Baquba: ' A kill sack'.
Samarra dam in danger
Information Clearing House