Holy City of Najaf
One reason for the war in Iraq (one that I found plausible enough to remain agnostic about the whole thing) was the argument that we needed to get out of Saudi Arabia, which is the traditional guardian of the two holiest sites in Islam. Osama bin Laden specifically invoked the "crusader infidels occupying the holy land argument" a couple of times in explaining why he organized al Queada and attacked the U.S. in the first place.
And, since much of the reason we had so many troops in Saudi-land was the aggression of Iraq in 1990-1, the war served two important real politik purposes: we gained a strategic foothold for troop bases that were NOT in Saudi Arabia, and we ended the largest demonstrated strategic threat to stability by destroying Saddam's large and powerful army.
Suppose for a moment that argument convinced you (it is a decent argument, not a slam dunk, but not obviously absurd). THEN WHAT THE HELL ARE WE DOING NOW?
UPDATE: al-Sadr wounded?
The Shia were supposed to be the ones who would welcome us into Iraq with open arms, because they had been brutally oppressed by Saddam. (They had been brutally betrayed by the U.S. after the Gulf War, though, so it was always a little hard to believe that). But, okay, they gave us some trouble.
One possibility is that there are so many "holy cities of Islam" that you can't swing a cat without defiling a holy site, and to some extent that's true. Furthermore, one could argue that "holy sites of Islam" spring up like mushrooms, for strategic reasons (Jerusalem became a lot more holy to Islam after the Jews took it).
But...c'mon. That's quibbling. The big plan for us to pacify southern Iraq is now this:
- OCCUPY AND DEFILE THE WORLD'S LARGEST GRAVEYARD
- SURROUND AND THREATEN TO DESTROY THE GOLDEN-DOMED SHRINE OF ALI, WHOSE MARTYRDOM FOUNDED THE SHIA SECT IN THE FIRST PLACE
- BLOW THE HELL OUT OF NAJAF, TO SUCH AN EXTENT THAT Sayyid Ali Husayni Sistani, THE MOST IMPORTANT COUNTERBALANCE TO PSYCHO NUTJOB Moqtada Sadr, HAS TO FLEE THE COUNTRY FOR FEAR OF BEING HIT BY AMERICAN SHELLS.
And this is supposed to make happy the Islamic "extremists" who were angry we were occupying holy sites?
The problem the administration has is that they have now resoundingly contradicted by their own actions every rationale for the war that they gave in their own words. Today and tomorrow, if this battle continues, the blood of more than 1,000 more martyrs (in Shia eyes) will stain the very sands that soaked up the blood of Ali. If you are a terrorist recruiter, you just can't write a better script than that.