It's a horror that vicious killers would attack worshipping Shiite Muslims in two Iraqi cities during their most revered holy festival, and it is disturbing and worrisome for democratic ambitions that Iraqis would throw stones at U.S. troops trying to help the injured and that some Iraqis would blame the United States for what happened.
In fact, the U.S. and its coalition partners had hoped to thwart such attacks even as they made it possible for the Shiites to celebrate the holiday — Ashoura — publicly. For 30 years, Saddam Hussein had carefully managed Ashoura to guard against the possibility it might mushroom into mutiny. His regime was in the hands of Sunni Muslims who sought to repress the Shiites, who are 60 percent of the population.
The attackers want to keep the Shiites from having the share of political power that is rightly theirs and, for that matter, to prevent any form of government that does not put their own leaders in dictatorial control. In February, U.S. officials publicized a letter in which a Jordanian terrorist leader wrote that murderous mayhem was a means of stopping the June 30 transfer of governmental authority to Iraqis.
When the transfer is complete, and especially after elections are finally conducted, the game is tougher for the radical Islamic enemy, who cannot then make it seem that their violence comes from or is aimed at the U.S. Before then, the anti-democracy forces will try to edge the United States ever closer to tucking tail and running. They will vent their hate. They will sow their chaos. The biggest setback for U.S. purposes would be if too many Shiites found fault in the wrong places and failed to see what awaits them if they do not stick with democratizing processes.
In the wake of the attacks, it is important for the United States to do all it can to hunt down the guilty, to broadcast the truth, to work with and help the Shiites and to make it clear that there will be no retreat from the objectives the coalition has set forth. The anti-American reaction of some Shiites to the attacks should motivate U.S. officials to redouble efforts to bring stability, peace and decency to Iraq.