After the 5,000 to 7,000 man protest in Najaf where Sadr’s remaining zealots protested against the U.S. led Coalition, Gen. Petraeus reminded Iraqis how they gained the freedom to protest.
“Those who take to the streets to protest … should recall that were it not for the actions of coalition forces in 2003 (and to be sure actions by Iraqis and coalition forces since then) they also would not have been able to celebrate the recent religious holidays as they did in such massive numbers.”
The protests Monday in Najaf, the holiest city in Shia Islam, were primarily followers of cleric Muqtada Sadr, who claims one of the largest militias in Iraq and believed to be behind much of the sectarian violence in Baghdad and elsewhere.
Petraeus wrote in his April 9 message that it was particularly important to him that the people of Najaf remember that it was the 101st Airborne Division that he commanded in 2003 that liberated Najaf and nearby Kufa in 2003, battling Saddam’s forces.
“Our soldiers sacrificed greatly to give the Najafis and millions of other Iraqis the freedoms, however imperfect they may be, they enjoy today,” Petraeus wrote.
Petraeus has not been reluctant to highlight the mistakes and failures of the U.S. occupation.
“The past four years have been … disappointing, frustrating and increasingly dangerous in many parts of Iraq for those who have been involved in helping to build a new state in this ancient land,” he wrote. “I would add however that the coalition has, at the least, consistently sought to learn from its mistakes.”
Petraeus called on all Iraqis to “reject violence and the foreigners who fuel it with their money, arms, ammunition and misguided young men.”
“This is a time for Iraqis to demonstrate to the world their innate goodness, their desire to respect those of other sects and ethnic groups, and their wish to stitch back the fabric of Iraqi society,” Petraeus wrote. “Only in this way can the dreams of those who live in a country so rich in blessings and promise be fully realized.” (UPI)
It does a man good to remember how things have worked in the past, so as not to attempt the impossible in pursuit of the ineffable.