09 January 2008

Hajj Wraps Up Successfully for Iraqis

The Hajj

Despite the fact that I am a devout agnostic, I find it good news that the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, was completed without incident for the Iraqis. 2008 has brought some bad news from the conflict in Iraq such as the recent assassination of the Adhamiya Awakening leader, COL Samarri, and the 11 killed at a celebration for Iraqi Army day. So it was heartening to see that this religious pilgrimage went off without a hitch. From a joint embassy/MNF-I statement:

The United States Embassy and Multi-National Force-Iraq congratulate the Iraqi people and the Government of Iraq on the safe completion of this year’s Hajj pilgrimage. More than 30,000 Iraqis traveled to and from Saudi Arabia and the holy sites without a single security incident noted...The successful Hajj marks yet another successful milestone for the Government of Iraq and the citizens it serves. In the New Year, we look forward to building on the progress we have made together in 2007.

I understand the cynic in you can ask why this is such a big f'in deal? Well, religious events in Iraq have traditionally resulted in a catalyst for violence for one reason or another. The Birth of the 12th Imam pilgrimage in Karbala in August 2007 was marked by Shiite militants firing on Iraqi Security Forces and civilians leaving dozens killed, which later resulted in the Sadr ceasefire. In 2005, a pilgrimage in Baghdad turned into a panic due to fear of a suicide bombing, and as a result nearly 1000 people were trampled or crushed to death. These events caused tragic loss of life and undermined the confidence in the Iraqi Security Forces to protect the population (us coalition types try to stay behind the curtain during religious festivities for cultural sensitivity reasons). So kudos to the Iraqi forces for being able to pull this off in a safe and timely manner. Now hopefully the Iraqi parliament will get back in session and get some stuff passed, so that coalition forces can start downsizing. After all, I'm not real ecstatic about Sen. McCain's 100-year plan.