When I saw that the movement led by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr was the big winner in Iraq’s recent elections, my heart kind of sank. I don’t really care one way or the other about him, but I thought of all the American troops who fought and saw comrades die trying to corral him back in the spring of 2004, and I wondered what they thought.
So I asked around. Here are the responses I got from veterans and some others:
- Bill Edmonds, Army Special Forces: “It's like all of the pain and loss were for nothing. Very similar to how I felt when Daesh retook Mosul. But in the case of Daesh, Iraq didn't have a choice. Sadr, however, killed Americans; his rise is a betrayal.”
- Brian Berrey, a retired Navy SEAL: “Way too complex and in-depth for any American to grasp unless they were there and remember the kidnappings, bombings/counter bombings, and operated outside the wire (i.e. not FOBits) or lived in the red zone.”
- Another security contractor: “The Sunnis aren’t going to like it.”
- Retired Army Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba: “This was inevitable.”
- Babak Rahimi, director of the Program for the Study of Religion and Third World Studies, University of California-San Diego: “I'm not surprised at all. He has been working for this victory since 2007. He finally did it. But more important are his new ties to Iran and his diplomatic clout in the region.”
- Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni: “An answer to Iran's prayers.”
- Retired Army Gen. Sean MacFarland, after stating that Sadr may not prevail in post-election bargaining: “Who would support Sadr from outside Iraq given his hostility toward both Iran and the West? The only two candidates are Russia and China. Neither would be good. So, I'm keeping my fingers crossed."