In the Guardian on Saturday Ghaith Abdul-Ahad reported from the Sunni held areas of Baghdad. Even for those of us with memories of the wild hysteria of early seventies in Northern Ireland, this is of a different order. In areas like Baghdad it seems, the Americans are no longer the enemy. The Shia militia, wound up in their turn by the brutal actions of ‘Al Queda’ death squads, are a constant threat. He also maps the brutality/banality of the war time economics of defending your patch.
Like every man of fighting age, Rami was required to take part in his local vigilante group, guarding the neighbourhood at night or conducting raids or mortar attacks on neighbouring Shia areas. But he paid $30 a week to a local commander and was exempted.
According to Rami and other commanders, funding for the insurgents comes from three sources. Each family in the street pays a levy, around $8, to the local group. “And when they go through lots of ammunition because of clashes,” Rami said, “they pay an extra $5.” Then there are donations from rich Sunni businessmen, financiers and wealthier insurgent groups. A third source of funding was “ghaniama”, loot which is rapidly becoming the main fuel of the sectarian war
“Every time they arrest a Shia, we take their car, we sell it and use the money to fund the fighters, and jihad,” said Abu Aisha. The mosque sheik or the local commander collects the money and it is distributed among the fighters; some get fixed salaries, others are paid by “operations”, and the money left is used for ammunition.
“It has become a business, they give you money to kill Shia, we take their houses and sell their cars,” said Rami. “The Shia are doing the same.
“Last week on the main highway in our area, they killed a Shia army officer. He had a brand new Toyota sedan. The idiots burned the car. I offered them $40,000 for it, they said no. Imagine how many jihads they could have done with 40k.”
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty