The National Theater may have opened its doors again in Iraq but that not is terribly important next to the fact that much of the country is still without electricity. Coverage of the war in Iraq here has focused almost obsessively on the surge and its success. No one writing in English today understands Iraqi politics better than Patrick Cockburn, the author of The Occupation and Muqtada al-Sadr and the Battle for the Future of Iraq. And he says that the situation is a little better than it was a few years ago but that almost anything is better than mass slaughter. What the United States has never accepted and has been slow to learn is that the occupation has been unpopular since the invasion of 2003. In Baghdad last weekend, tens of thousands of protesters marched through the streets to oppose a renewal of the Status of Forces Agreement, which would extend the US presence in Iraq for three more years until the end of 2012. For members of parliament the stakes are high. Provincial and national elections will be held next year and the US presence is highly unpopular in most of the country, excluding perhaps the Kurdish north. The demonstration also clearly shows that Al-Sadr remains an enormously powerful figure in Iraq capable of mobilizing thousands of Iraqi people in opposition to the US occupation. A statement from Sadr read at the rally called on parliament to vote down the pact: “I reject and condemn the continuation of the presence of the occupation force, and its bases on our beloved land,” the letter said. Sadr called the pact “shameful for Iraq.”Cockburn discusses the recent protests in Baghdad, the rise of al-Sadr, and why Americans are still misreading Iraq.
Laura Flanders talks to creative thinkers and change-makers from the worlds of politics, arts and the new economy. The smartest conversations, with the smartest thinkers and doers of our time, distributed in multiple formats on a variety of platforms. Keep abreast of fresh content by following GRITtv, the site Flanders founded, on Twitter @GRITtv.