What Pat Said

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Justin has dropped me a friendly line to call me “dishonest” for suggesting that Pat approved the bombing of Najaf. Here is the transcript in question (emphasis added):

Pat Buchanan, is the assault on Najaf, including the bombing of al-Sadr’s residence, as we see it here, a good call or a bad call?

MR. BUCHANAN: It is a necessary call, John. Allawi tried to bring al-Sadr into the process by offering virtual amnesty to him. We have left them alone. They continue to do battle. What you’ve got now is a strategic sanctuary in Fallujah and one in Najaf. And Allawi’s made this tough call, and the Americans agree with it. They’re going to take the risks attendant to it and go in and finish this guy off. I think, militarily and strategically, it is a tremendously risky decision. I think it’s a necessary decision and the right decision.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.

MS. CLIFT: I think it’s a huge mistake. I think this is the equivalent of Vatican City. You may win the battle, but you lose the war for generations. And Allawi talks tough. He’s taken it this far. It’s not at all clear that he’s going to take it to the temple. And Allawi and the U.S. forces are inseparable. He is seen as our puppet. He is our puppet.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who called this shot?

MS. CLIFT: Who calls the shots?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Who called this shot? You think the Americans did?

MS. CLIFT: I think the Americans are behind this. I don’t think Allawi would do anything without American consultation and consent. And so if that temple is damaged in any way, tanks roll across that cemetery, it’s the U.S. that’s going to take the heat for it for a long time to come.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you notice that the Ayatollah Ali Sistani left Iraq on Friday?

MR. BLANKLEY: Heart condition.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, heart condition. He went to London.

MR. BLANKLEY: Good place to go.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So he’s out of town both for the lightning visit of Allawi into Najaf, his personal visit, and secondly, for all of this. Now, does that fit into your analysis?

MR. BLANKLEY: It’s an amazing coincidence, of course.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it’s a coincidence? You think that he doesn’t want to be there because he does not want to stop this, or he doesn’t want to be there because he doesn’t want anyone to ask him questions
about it?

MR. BLANKLEY: I don’t know. But obviously one could suspect that he wanted to be out of country when this was going on. He made statements that while saying we have to be careful about the sacred sites, he didn’t tell them to stop doing it. I think that was sort of like at least a yellow if not a green light to go ahead, and as Pat says, necessarily get this job done here; not only here, but also in Fallujah against the Sunni uprising. If they don’t put down those two sites of rebellion, then this whole process can’t go on towards a peaceful Iraq. And the sooner they get it done, the better.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think this is a bad time, that this could lead to immense unintended consequences, because the closer they get to the mosque and the destruction of the mosque, it’s already inflaming so many cities throughout Iraq. Is this a wise move?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, we’re going to be able to determine if it’s a wise move by the outcome. Alas, that’s the only way we’re going to know. But let me just tell you, there’s one thing going on here that is not being mentioned. Iran is very heavily involved in all of this aspect of the Shiite uprising. And it’s one of the reasons why Sistani hasn’t said anything, because he is opposed to Muqtada al-Sadr, and he is opposed to his forces.

So you have, in a sense, a division within the Shiite community. And the Shiite community that is represented by Sadr is the Shiite community that is being fed out of Iran. And that is one of the reasons why both the United States and Allawi are working to get this guy out and over with.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say about the division within the government of Allawi, namely Jafari taking the position that this is a bad idea? And he’s one of the two vice presidents.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, there’s bound to be differences. You have a whole range of interests in that government, including different sects within the Sunni religion and the Shiites. But the key thing is — and that’s one of the reasons why the United States insisted that Allawi end up as the prime minister –

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The bloodshed this week has been enormous.

MR. BUCHANAN: There’s tremendous risks attendant. Eleanor’s right. There’s no doubt about it. It’s a great risk. This could explode. You could lose the Shi’as. But Tony is right in this sense. If you do not eliminate these two sanctuaries, Fallujah and Najaf, you are going to lose the war. That is what they’re playing with right now, and they’ve rolled the dice. And, no, we don’t know how it’s going to come out.

MS. CLIFT: But it’s going to lose the war for the hearts and the minds, and we are going to create so much anti-American sentiment –

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think –

MR. BLANKLEY: The Arab street –

MS. CLIFT: Excuse me. Excuse me. The original sin was shutting down that fellow’s newspaper. He was a relatively marginal cleric. The Shiites would have taken care of him himself. We have gone in there and
emboldened him and made him a much larger figure with –

MR. BLANKLEY: Look, I agree with you regarding closing it down. That was foolish. But we hear every month or two for years the Arab street is about to explode if we don’t do X, Y and Z. Sometimes it explodes.
Usually it doesn’t. And I think this is sort of a crying wolf too often. I think it’s a chance worth taking.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, when –

MS. CLIFT: We’re talking about Arab mosques.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: When the newspaper was shut down, that caused the biggest demonstration and the closest thing to an uprising that Iraq has seen. That happened about, what, eight or 10 months ago.

4:19 pm on August 23, 2004
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