The al-Sadr Demonstration in Najaf Flops [UPDATED]
much ado about nothing
By streiff Posted in Archived — Comments (49) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
Update by Erick: It appears, as more information comes in, that there might have been a larger crowd in Najaf. We're working to put it all together.
Yesterday the followers of Moqtada al-Sadr held a demonstration in Najaf to commemorate the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime and to demand that the US withdraw from Iraq.
Despite the hype in the run up to the event and the breathless accounts provided by various news services, the outcome was underwhelming.
According to the Washington Post:
Draped in Iraqi flags and chanting anti-American slogans, tens of thousands of Iraqis swept into the southern city of Najaf on the call of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to mark the fourth anniversary of the ouster of President Saddam Hussein, calling for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq.
Thousands of Iraqi Shias have converged on the holy city of Najaf in Iraq, to stage a massive anti-US rally on Monday.
Around 3,00,000 Shias have left Sadr City to travel to Najaf for the mass demonstration.
Your guess of what “3,00,000” represents is as good as mine.
Tens of thousands of protesters loyal to the militant Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr took to the streets of the holy city of Najaf on Monday in an extraordinarily disciplined rally to demand an end to the American military presence in Iraq, burning American flags and chanting “Death to America.”
Tens of thousands of protesters draped themselves in Iraqi flags and marched through the streets of two Shi’ite holy cities today to mark the fourth anniversary of Baghdad’s fall, with some demonstrators calling for U.S.-led forces to leave Iraq.
The rally was ordered by radical Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who a day earlier issued a statement ordering his militiamen to redouble their battle to oust U.S. forces and argued that Iraq’s army and police should join him in defeating “your archenemy.”
You will notice the monotonous regularity of the description of the demonstration in these articles and you will notice one other fact: there is one source that isn’t called on for substantive comment. The US military.
Two of the articles, the WaPo and CNN-IBN do not quote the US military at all. The New York Times provides this:
American officials tried to put the best possible light on the event, despite the fiery words.
“We say that we’re here to support democracy,” Colonel Garver said. “We say that free speech and freedom of assembly are part of that. While we don’t necessarily agree with the message, we agree with their right to say it.”
The Free Press offers up this:
Col. Steven Boylan, a U.S. military spokesman and aide to the commander of all U.S. forces in Iraq, praised the peaceful nature of the demonstration, saying Iraqis “could not have done this four years ago.”
“This is the right to assemble, the right to free speech — they didn’t have that under the former regime,” Boylan said. “This is progress, there’s no two ways about it.”
But Colonel Boylan actually had a lot more than that to say about the demonstration.
Citizens of Iraq assembled in Najaf Monday to conduct a demonstration against the U.S. presence in their country.
Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called for the protest on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, when Coalition forces toppled the Saddam Hussein regime.
The number of participants that took part in the event ranged from 5,000 to 7,000, based on aerial photographs, said U.S. Army Col. Steven Boylan, a military spokesman with Multi-National Force-Iraq.
Five to seven thousand. And they provide an aerial photo: