Thursday, November 25, 2004

Al- Janabi Redux

The Associated Press presents a radically different picture of Abdullah al-Janabi, the Fallujah chieftain described in a previous post. In the AP's version of events, Fallujah was a sleepy little town until it was transformed into a Frankenstein place by heavy-handed American intervention and Al-Janabi a man of peace driven to the brink by events.  According to the Associated Press account:

Religious fervor and hatred of Americans brought Omar Hadid and Abdullah al-Janabi together in a partnership that played a major role in transforming Fallujah from a sleepy Euphrates River backwater into a potent symbol of Arab nationalism. Their rise to prominence provides insight into contemporary Iraq, where the U.S. presence sparked a religious backlash that gave radical Muslim leaders major roles in filling the void created by the ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime and its replacement by a weak U.S.-backed government.

Hadid is described as ordinary tradesman and al-Janabi a dreamy Sufi mystic. "Fallujah residents and Iraqis with close family ties to the city said al-Janabi was more a spiritual leader -- deeply respected ... ", though it does allow that he sullied his hands on occasion. "al-Janabi, in his 50s, headed the Mujahedeen Shura Council, which set up Islamic courts that meted out Islamic punishments, executed suspected spies and enforced a strict Islamic lifestyle." But he was a good guy gone bad.

Al-Janabi, on the other hand, is a Sufi, a mystical version of the faith that seeks closeness to God through the cleansing of one's soul. Sufis abhor violence, but al-Janabi found in Hadid a like-minded partner as Salafis and Wahhabis began to prevail over Sufis in Fallujah. ... In 1998, al-Janabi, married with five children, was suspended by Saddam's government from delivering Friday sermons because of his public criticism of government policies. ... Residents said al-Janabi never carried a weapon in public, but was frequently seen during the April fighting talking to front-line mujahedeen, exhorting them to fight on and telling them that those who died fighting Islam's enemies would be rewarded with eternity in paradise.

The contents of al-Janabi's home were extensively described by Robert Worth of the New York Times, which paints a contrasting picture.

On a table were stacks of documents, including passports (the only country he had traveled to recently was Syria, a translator who read the document said) and other identification papers for Mr. Janabi and members of his family. There were letters, including one dated Oct. 20 from the clerical council of Baghdad asking him to negotiate the surrender of Falluja. In a box, there was a Bronze Star, an American military decoration awarded for valor - in all likelihood, the general said, stolen from a convoy. There was also Mr. Janabi's personal name stamp, used for letters, and a white hat signifying that he had made the pilgrimage to Mecca that is expected of devout Muslims at least once in a lifetime, if they can afford it.

Also found in the house were files showing the names of people who had been tortured and executed for cooperating with the Americans and their allies, military officials said. There were also more than 500 letters from the families of insurgents who had been killed or wounded, asking for compensation from Mr. Janabi, said a military translator on the scene. They included the families of fighters from Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Syria, Algeria, and about 100 native Fallujans.

When Fallujah was captured, the Marines found 60 mosques and 3 hospitals converted into fighting positions, 203 weapons caches and at least 3 hostage slaughterhouses and torture chambers.  A slideshow detailing these facilities can be found at this link. (Hat tip: Reader Tritons's Polar Tiger) How these hundreds of tons of munitions found their way into this "sleepy Euphrates River backwater" is intriguing.  The Chicago Tribune describes some of the other things that mysteriously materialized in the previously pacific locality of mystical Al-Janabi. (via Powerline)

As the Marine officers visited the two houses Sunday, accompanied by a few reporters, they carried maps, documents and photographs that itemized materials found in earlier inspections. While intermittent gunfire rattled nearby and the occasional thunder of arms caches being destroyed by American forces could be heard, the group viewed the homes in jaw-clenched silence.

The reporters walked through rooms littered with the paraphernalia of torture and the werewithal to capture it on video. At the last stage they saw this:

In a yawning black doorway off one of the clay-walled rooms was another chilling find: a dungeon-like room, pitch-black except for the flashlights of the Marines as they focused on a bloody fingerprint and cryptic etchings. Scratched into the clay were words:

"Put . . . "
"Kept . . . "
"Plan . . . "
" . . . to pass on."

All were written in both English and Arabic. Beside those words was one more, written only in giant Arabic loops:


Hope that the Associated Press gets it.