Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The Baath regime’s efforts to co-opt Shiite religious symbolism is both fascinating and sinister. As you might have read in the previous posting, an Iraqi spokesman claimed an Apache helicopter was downed near Kerbala because the pilot was packing whiskey. Kerbala is a holy Shiite site, and is the place where Hussein, the son of Imam Ali, was killed by a superior Sunni Ummayad force in 680.

The martyrdom of Hussein is a defining moment in Shiism, and is often associated with heroism (amid the certainty of death) against greater odds.

If this effort by the regime to claim Hussein as its own was not enough, yesterday, the London-based Al-Hayat wrote: "Analysts [believe it possible] that the Iraqi regime intends to turn Kerbala into the major area of confrontation [against U.S. forces], since it captures the spirit of the Iraqi regime, which aspires to inject [both] Islamic and Arab meaning and resonance into its war against the U.S."

If the paper is correct, then what we have is a secular Sunni-led regime filching Shiite religious symbolism--surely one of the more bizarre features of this war.

Think of that when you read the later posting above.

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