Remove All Doubt
Tuesday, December 7
These guys are picking it up pretty quick
On the heels of all the attention get-out-the-vote drives have been getting with respect to the 2004 campaign, the Washington Post has a riveting front page article on Shiite voter mobilization in advance of the January elections. As I was reading it, I was naturally trying place the clergy-led campaign into the "for us" or "against us" categories. But then I got the wild notion that that the answer is "neither" and they're in it for themselves:

For some Shiites, the elections will rectify perceived mistakes made at the country's founding. In 1920, the Shiite clergy led a revolt against the British occupation that followed World War I. Once it was put down, the clergy kept up their opposition, rejecting participation by Shiites in elections that followed and discouraging a Shiite role in the government and its institutions, which soon became dominated by Sunnis, particularly the urban elite that was fostered by Iraq's imperial rulers for centuries.

This time, many of the mainstream Shiite clergy are voicing a hostile message toward the Sunni-led insurgency. The calls have sharpened amid mounting bloodshed that, last week, targeted a Shiite community center in Baghdad.

"They are not serving the interests of the people and the interests of the country," Haideri said in his sermon. He went on to call the insurgents terrorists and sarcastically referred to them as "brother mujaheddin," a sacred term for Islamic fighters. At that, the worshipers broke into a chant, under the shadow of minarets topped with green domes. "God is greatest!" they shouted three times. "Victory to Islam! Death to Saddam!"

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