alSadr no religious wacko

Religion and male bonding are components of Islamic terrorism, but J. Anderson Thompson Jr. [September 30 cover story] inappropriately simplifies the answer to "Why They Kill."

Cleric Moqtada alSadr, featured prominently on your cover, is not merely a zealot. He is also a nationalist, defending his country from foreign plunderers. Here's a bit of recent history that didn't hit the front page:

When CPA chief Paul Bremer took over postwar Iraq's reigns, he shredded Iraq's constitution and enacted a set of unprecedented interim privatization laws, effectively selling off Iraq's state industry (everything from public transportation to soap factories) at yard sale prices– what The Economist called "the wish list of foreign investors." Al Sadr denounced it as "an unjust, terrorist document."

Example: Order 39 allowed foreign companies to own 100 percent of Iraqi assets other than oil and gas. Investors could take 100 percent of the profits they made in Iraq out of the country; they would not be required to reinvest, and they would not be taxed. All that remained of Saddam Hussein's economic policies was a law restricting trade unions and collective bargaining.

When hundreds of thousands of workers were fired from the newly privatized factories, al Sadr's Mahdi Army was not filled with "holy warriors," but the newly unemployed.

Harper's journalist Naomi Klein writes from first-hand experience: "That's who al Sadr's foot soldiers are: the young men who have been shut out of the neocons' grand plans for Iraq, who see no possibilities for work, and whose neighborhoods have seen none of the promised reconstruction. If the reconstruction had provided jobs, security, and services to Iraqis, al Sadr would have been deprived of both his mission and many of his newfound followers."

Klein spoke to a state employee: "I asked Mahmud what would happen if the plant was sold despite the workers' objections. 'There are two choices,' he said, looking me in the eye and smiling kindly. 'Either we will set the factory on fire and let the flames devour it to the ground, or we will blow ourselves up inside of it. But it will not be privatized.'" Does that sound like religious fundamentalism to you?

Note who the primary targets are for kidnappings and beheadings. The foreign contractors who stole the livelihoods of everyday Iraqis.

The final twist: The Geneva convention prohibits post-war occupiers from selling state assets themselves, but it doesn't say anything about the governments they appoint. Thus, the abrupt transfer of power in June to US-approved puppets (like Allawi) and the rush to January elections-­ now clouded by the recent revelation of a CIA plot to rig the election.

Is it any wonder, in light of this and our own glowing example of sunshine-state democracy, why al Sadr is reluctant to lay down his weapons and join the political process? Would you?

Brian Wimer