Tough rhetoric from Gen Kimmitt, although Fox seems to have not quite understood the grades of general
A top U.S. general in Iraq vowed on Wednesday to "destroy" a Shiite militia led by wanted radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr that has launched a wave of attacks against coalition forces in southern cities.A Brigadier General is a one-star general, an entry-level general. One of the few things I remember from a short stint in the Army two decades ago (boot camp and my emotions didn't mix) was the mnemonic Be My Little Girl-two stars is Major, three stars is Lieutenant and four stars is an unmodified General. Thus, you can't really call a one-star "a top general."
"We will attack to destroy the al-Mahdi Army," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt (search) told reporters. "Those attacks will be deliberate, precise and they will be successful."
Nit-pick aside, it's time to take on al-Sadr's and his backers. He's a pretender to the throne of Shiite leadership. Sistani and al-Sadr's dad were two rival Shiite leaders; Saddam's folks killed off Papa al-Sadr a few years ago and the younger al-Sadr is trying to assume his mantle. He has a following, but not nearly the following of Sistani.
If we can learn a lesson from Somalia, it is to tackle a threat head-on. The general feeling among many people was that the Somali warlords were more like well-armed gangs and treated them like the Crips and the Bloods with a few extra AK-47s. When attacks weren't vigerously countered by US troops, the followers of General Aidid became more violent and ran the US out of the country. The result is a fractured country that is run by a hodgepodge of warlords.
This is the first time that I know of that we've seen organized armed mobs in this stint. While the terror attacks are designed to make the status-quo look bad, this is a direct aim at a power grab. While some will point out the carnage that the US went through in a failed attempt to get Aidid, that kind of a move may be exactly what is needed. If al-Sadr is left unchallenged other than the occasional scuffle with his gangs, we're heading towards a Somali or Afghan-style warlordcracy once the US steps aside.
Had the US gritted its teeth and nabbed Aidid a decade ago, Somalia would be a more stable place. We can't afford to let Iraq go that direction, for it would be a breeding ground for jihadis. Yes, it will get nasty, but if al-Sadr and his fans are stopped, it will send a message that the new Iraqi government will be a broad-based, democratic one and not some sort of coalition of warlords.
[Update 9:25AM-This WaPo piece points out why we need to squash this in the bud; Sistani folks are drifting over to the al-Sadr camp, as are Sunnis, making al-Sadr the focus of anti-American sentiment.]