Bloggers on the Mahdi army in Amara.

Bloggers on the Mahdi army in Amara.

Bloggers on the Mahdi army in Amara.

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
Oct. 20 2006 4:43 PM

Disappointment in Amara

Bloggers are depressed and angry at the Mahdi army's seizure of power in Amara, Iraq. They're also less than thrilled about the president's plans for outer space and think textbooks might not be the best way to stop bullets.

Disappointment in Amara: Hundreds of Mahdi army militiamen have clashed with Iraqi police and military and a rival Shiite faction in the southeastern city of Amara today, creating a climate of chaos and disorder unseen since British troops withdrew from that area in August. This dire turn of events comes at a moment when Muqtada al-Sadr, the nominal head of the Mahdi Army, had been enjoying warmer relations with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

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At history and politics blog the Fourth Rail, U.S. Army veteran Bill Roggio argues that Sadr's twin roles of politician and strongman have gone on long enough: "Sadr apologists have repeatedly claimed that elements of his Mahdi Army have begun to operate outside of his control, however Sadr has done nothing to rein in these 'rogue elements,' except making vague statements about halting the sectarian violence. He has not identified these out of control militias, closed offices or denounced them specifically. Sadr is playing a double game of maintaining his militia against the law while pretending to be a responsible member of government."

Righty Confederate Yankee doesn't advise a massive confrontation with these supposed rump elements of the Mahdi army: "Logistically, it isn't possible for just 800 unsupported militia fighters to establish and maintain the 'total control' (as the media so breathlessly puts it) of a city as large as Amarah, which has an estimated population of 340,000 spread across the geographical boundaries formed by the fork of three rivers."

Liberal Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly's the Political Animal wonders about a future Iraq where even a lead anti-American cleric is devoured by his minions: "Sadr may be playing a double game, encouraging attacks privately while denouncing them publicly, but it's more likely that he's genuinely lost control of at least parts of his militia. ... When militia leaders dismiss even Moktada al-Sadr as too moderate and timid, where does that leave us?"

Given that this "takeover" comes just months after British troops left Amara, conservative Michael Rubin at the National Review's the Corner concludes: "This, more than anything, suggests that any type of withdrawal prior to the eradication of the militias will do Iraqis and US security far more harm than good.  Creating vacuums is never a good idea, however it is packaged."

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Read more about chaos in Amara.

Battlestar America:  President Bush has signed a National Space Policy that pre-empts any possible future arms-control treaty with other countries and that stipulates that nothing shall stand in the way of U.S. interests in outer space. Is this a throat-clearing for SDI redux? Some bloggers think so.

"TIE and X-Wing fighters won't be duking it out in Earth orbit anytime soon," writes Brian at techie blog FutureWire, "but the policy speaks to the importance of space and very real concerns about space warfare. … China recently aimed a ground-based laser at a US satellite... an act that could have destroyed the satellite given a powerful enough laser. As such devices become increasingly powerful, and potentially fall into the hands of rogue states like North Korea or terrorist groups, the need to protect our space-based infrastructure will quickly move from the theoretical to the critical."

Mike at the lefty Blog for Arizona is against any weapons deployment above the troposphere: "One obvious reason not to place weapons in space is that despite any temporary strategic advantage we might gain, proliferation and an arms race are inevitable, if not necessarily immediate. … Europe and Japan may be the only other powers currently capable of deploying equivalent space weapons systems, but our alliances with them will not deter them from competing with us in space; their long-term strategic security will demand it."

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Jeffrey at Arms Control Wonk doesn't exactly forecast a sublunar apocalypse because "a treaty won't prohibit some magnificently dumb ideas nearly as well as do the laws of physics currently. No matter how much the space yahoos spend, orbiting death rays are more a waste of money, than a threat to peace. But what irritates me about the policy is the shallow understanding of 'freedom of action' expressed in the document, and the consequent revulsion to using diplomatic and other forms of US power to ensure our access to outer space."

Read more about the National Space Policy rejiggering.

Armor Pearson Publishing: Bill Crozier is a Union City, Okla., Republican candidate for superintendent of education. He's got a nifty little idea of how to reduce gun-induced killings in American high schools—textbooks as shields. (Watch a video of Crozier's AK-47 taking on calculus.)

A Pittsburgh blogger at the Burgh Blog just goes with it for a bit: "Ok. This could only work if the kids were superhuman, because how the hell do you know where the shooter is going to shoot you? You put the book to cover your head and he'll shoot you in the chest. … Do you really think a school gunman is going to walk into a classroom, see a bunch of kids hiding behind textbooks, turn to his partner and go, 'Dude, let's get out of here. They have ALGEBRA books!' "

Size matters in choosing one's literary armor, at least according to "Mr. Person" at bookish Text Savvy: "[Y]ou folks out there who are foolishly searching for quality in your textbooks should know that those flimsy, 96-page Singapore Math textbooks ain't gonna do squat. Better to go with the 700-page, 18-pound collections of pictures, games, and hands-on activities that are 'Amurcan' textbooks."

Read  more about Crozier's bullet-deflection plan.