USC Students for Justice in Palestine

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Asia Times: The nightmare Bush dreads most

Posted by uscsjp on April 18, 2007

By Dilip Hiro

Public opinion polls are valuable chips to play for those engaged in a debate of national or international consequence. In the end, however, they are abstract numbers. It is popular demonstrations which give them substance, color, and – above all – wide media exposure, and make them truly meaningful. This is particularly true when such marches are peaceful and disciplined in a war-ravaged country like Iraq.

This indeed was the case with the demonstration on April 9 in

Najaf. Over a million Iraqis, holding aloft thousands of national flags, marched, chanting, “Yes, yes, Iraq/No, no, America” and “No, no, American/Leave, leave occupier.”

The demonstrators arrived from all over the country in response to a call by Muqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shi’ite cleric, to demand an end to foreign occupation on the fourth anniversary of the end of Ba’athist rule in Baghdad.

Both the size of the demonstration and its composition were unprecedented. “There are people here from all different parties and sects,” Hadhim al-Araji, Muqtada’s representative in Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district, told reporters. “We are all carrying the national flag, a symbol of unity. And we are all united in calling for the withdrawal of the Americans.”

The presence of many senior Sunni clerics at the head of the march, which started from Muqtada’s mosque in Kufa, a nearby town, and the absence of any sectarian flags or images in the parade, underlined the ecumenical nature of the protest.

Crucially, the mammoth demonstration reflected the view prevalent among Iraqi lawmakers. Last autumn, 170 of them in a 275-member Parliament, signed a motion demanding to know the date of an American withdrawal. The discomfited government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki played a procedural trick by referring the subject to a parliamentary committee, thereby buying time.

Opinion polls conducted since then show three-quarters of Iraqi respondents demanding the withdrawal of the Anglo-American troops within six to 12 months. (continued)

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