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August 26, 2006

A New, Blacker Darkness

The story of a 50-year old, burka-clad grandmother who organized the murder of 16 people made my hair stand on end.  Wabila Felehi Hussein, took bloody justice into her own hands after one of her sons was killed by neighbors.   Paul McGeough of the Sydney Morning Herald has the story of this amazing woman who has been pushed about as far as any human being could be.  Her story tells us a lot about the real state of the people of Iraq:

Until now, all the blood-letting has been laid at the door of organised insurgency cells, religious militias, death squads that operate within the national security forces and tribal gangs. But this woman is being hailed by thousands as the Shiite mother who spectacularly - and brutally - avenged her son's death.

US officials tick the boxes as they try to build a civil society - they have written a constitution, there have been elections, and new police and military services are in training. But it all collapses in a meaningless heap at the feet of Wabila Felehi Hussein. Iraq's democracy dream is being strangled at birth. Wabila Felehi's home town, Hoorijab, is near the gateway towns to an insurgency stronghold to the south-west of the capital that has been dubbed the Triangle of Death.

Up until just recently, the mixed Shiite and Sunni town of Hoorijab was withstanding the sectarian tear in the fabric of Iraqi society pretty well.  Shiite and Sunni neighbors shared tea and meals.  Then, the family says, the word "alasa" - traitors - began to be thrown around as Shiites accused former Sunni friends of fingering them to the insurgents.  On July 31st, Wabila's 4th son,  Huthanna, was abducted from the shop he ran.  The next day the family was shot at.  They fled with just the clothes they were wearing.   

Wabila tells the story from there:

We searched for 10 days before someone told us that Muthanna's body had been dumped in the river at Arabjabour [which is inside the Triangle of Death]. I asked the police to get him back. They said it was too dangerous. The Iraqi Army and the Mahdi Army [a Shiite militia] refused to recover him, so I had to do it myself.

Her adult sons feared for their lives so she organized 16 other men and got the cars and the guns.  Riding in the first of five cars, Wabila talked her way through the last checkpoint before the river.  They found Muthanna's body, along with five others, floating face down and identified him by two tattoos.  "His hands were tied behind his back, there were two bullet wounds to the back of his head and he had been beaten." 

Suddenly, as the evening light faded, they were under attack.   They loaded his body into a pick-up as they began firing mortars back, and escaped back to Hoorijab.  Wabila got her sons to call around to find out who had given Muthanna's name to the insurgents. 

A neighbor takes the story from there:

They got the name of the son of a local tribal sheik who lived near their house, he says. When she sent the boys, she insisted he must be brought back to Sadr City alive, because no one was to be killed unless they had proof of their involvement in Muthanna's death.

He was interrogated and gave up nine more names. Eight of them were abducted and brought back for interrogation … and then they killed them with guns, knives and by bashing some of them. Adel killed six; Saad killed three.

The remains of the family, 16 in all, are camping out in one room in a friend's house in the Shiite slums of Sadr City.  Wabila's take on it:

This is not democracy … we have no stability, no future. It would be better if we all were dead … get me out of Iraq.  Tears streaming down her face, she hit bottom. We were happy when the Americans came. They lifted the Saddam darkness, but now they have led us into a new, blacker darkness.

Hat Tip to CoolAqua.

Posted by Lynn Allen on August 26, 2006 at 09:21 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink


I gather that the "progressive" position on the war in Iraq is that American troops should be withdrawn as soon as possible. How does that help this woman and others like her?

Posted by: Allen McPheeters | Aug 26, 2006 10:48:35 PM

I gather that the "republican" position on the war in Iraq is that American troops should stay the course. How does that help this woman and others like her?

Posted by: uptown | Aug 27, 2006 12:41:17 PM

As a progressive, I think George W. Bush should be brought to trial before the Hague Tribunal for War Crimes. He should be found guilty, and hanged. . .which frankly is too good for him. However, we all bear the guilt for what has transpired in Iraq. International Law places the responsibility to maintain law and good order in a defeated country under occupation on the occupying power. It is the fecklesslessness, incompetence and criminality of our current administration that has created and maintains this chaos.
We must change our administration, however we can. Having done that,we owe a debt to the guiltless in Iraq. . .we would probably have to institute a draft to create the man power, probably on par with Viet Nam era numbers, 500,000 or more, to properly occupy, hold, and pacifiy, as well as rebuild Iraq.
Unfortunately, I see zero chance of all of this coming to pass. However, this would be the legal and moral response to the situation we are in.

Posted by: Tree Frog Farmer | Aug 27, 2006 4:35:12 PM

Well, uptown, yes, the Republican position is to stay the course, making adjustments as necessary.

Actually, I agree with Tree Frog Farmer, in this limited sense -- additional troops would be helpful. Consider this news clip from ABC News:

OK, now I've answered the question: US troop presence reduces violence in Iraq. Now you answer mine: how does the withdrawal of US forces help that woman?

Posted by: Allen McPheeters | Aug 27, 2006 10:06:21 PM

Somewhere recently someone used the analogy of trying to put an egg back together once it's been broken. Might be best to acknowledge that we broke it. Then we might be able to begin to figure out what to do with the broken egg so it doesn't contaminate the nearby ones, to mix my metaphors a bit.

Posted by: Lynn | Aug 27, 2006 10:57:37 PM

Thanks for the hat tip. I though this was an interesting story because it illustrates that US troops are in no position to stop chaos like this. I see your commenter Allen thinks our troops should stay, but doesn't explain how they would be able to help in cases like this. I think people like Allen need to start thinking about how much of their granchildrens legacy they want to spend in the sands of IRAQ. Its easy for Allen to say "Stay the Course", but somebody has to pay the cost, and the bill is huge. As far as I can tell, we have already spent nearly $400 billion, and have another $1.3 Trillion in costs that we just haven't received the bill for yet. There's no question that at some point, the Pentagon will ask for money for a new army, as the one in IRAQ is "broken", but noone will admit it yet. Apparently Allen doesn't read the news if she thinks US presence in IRAQ decreases the violence.

CoolAqua (Pete McGowan)

Posted by: CoolAqua | Aug 28, 2006 11:22:39 PM


I've always liked your work and wondered who you were. Glad at least to have a name.

There's an entire other story here about why this story hasn't been shared in the American press. It's amazing that you found it at all and clearly no one else has picked it up - I mean no one with a serious readership. That we have the international reach through journalists and television and don't use it to educate ourselves is criminal in itself.

This is an incredible and incredibly disturbing story. Thanks for finding and posting it.

Posted by: Lynn | Aug 29, 2006 6:31:32 AM

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