During a press conference in which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice mocked Iraq Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr for issuing threats from Iran (unlike Rice’s bosses, who bravely issue threats from the trenches of Washington, DC), Secretary Rice and Ambassador Crocker were asked about distinctions between a militia like the Badr Organization, the militia wing of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), and Sadr’s Mahdi Army. Here’s what was said:
QUESTION: What is the distinction that all of you make between groups like the Badr Organization, which his for all intents a militia and in the past has been involved in events here that have been troublesome, even in 2005, 2006, not at the same level as the Jaish al-Mahdi, but clearly involved? So what’s the distinction you make between the Badr Organization? Why are they now different to the Jaish al-Mahdi?
AMBASSADOR CROCKER: The Badr organization made the choice a while back that they were going to step away from a militia identity and move into politics. That’s why it’s the Badr Organization. It used to be the Badr Brigades. They have opted to be, again, part of mainstream politics here. That’s the choice that’s now in front of the Sadr movement.
QUESTION: When would you say that they really changed to that? Because in 2005, there was the Jadriya bunker incident which was clearly linked to the –
SECRETARY RICE: We’re three years past that. And –
QUESTION: So when was the transition? In 2007, there was a case of a member of the Badr Organization threatening Hussein Kamal when he was here –
SECRETARY RICE: Look, I don’t think you can say that there won ‘t be an individual here or there who may break this — that decision to move in that direction. But Badr as an organization has decided to be an organization, not to be a militia.
Okay, glad we got that cleared up. The Badr are no longer considered a “militia” because they have decided to redefine themselves as “not a militia,” and the U.S. is apparently satisfied with this. Now, if only Muqtada al-Sadr would cease his opposition to the U.S. occupation of Iraq and get on board with the U.S.’s plans to use his country as a base from which to project power throughout the Middle East, he would be amazed at how fast the U.S. would be willing to redefine his militia in a similar fashion.
The truth is that, despite this transparent attempt to redefine these militias in a way that reflects “progress” in Iraq, they remain militias. Badr and Da’wa militiamen have been incorporated into the “Iraqi army” in Baghdad and southern Iraq, just as units of the Kurdish peshmerga have been incorporated into the “Iraqi army” in Kurdistan, but despite the new uniforms, these fighters remain loyal to, and continue to commit violence on behalf of, the political factions with which they originated. This is what is known as “success” in Surgeland.
LEILA FADEL: The fact that the Maliki government is saying, “We’re gonna disarm militias,” I mean, that’s a very empty thing to say because the Supreme Council has a militia which now is pretty much the national police.
The Kurdish parties have a militia, the Peshmerga. The head of the KDP, the Kurdish Democratic Party I think it stands for– has a personal militia that was deployed when Turkey bombed the mountains of Kurdistan because of what they consider a terrorist organization, the PKK. A personal militia that has no–
BILL MOYERS: So every political faction has a militia.
LEILA FADEL: Has a militia.
BILL MOYERS: Like the Democrats have a militia here. The Republicans would have a militia here.
LEILA FADEL: That’s right.
BILL MOYERS: The Secret Service would have a militia so when Maliki says he’s gonna disband the militia, who’s he talking to?
LEILA FADEL: Right, exactly. And that’s what the Sadrists are saying. The Sadrists are saying, “Okay, fine, you’re gonna disband our militia. What about the other militias? What about the illegal–” I mean, they often tell me that they are being detained illegally, that there are extra- judicial killings of their people. Now, the Mahdi Army is not an innocent group. They are–
BILL MOYERS: –anybody innocent?
LEILA FADEL: No. Nobody’s innocent.