Many Iraqis, even one of Abu Risha's distant cousins, think differently.
"Sattar was a common thief, and we all knew him to be chief of a highway robbers gang," Salim Abu Risha told IPS in Baghdad. "He and his gang brought shame to our tribe and the whole province, but the Americans tried to make a hero of him."
It is no secret in Anbar province that Abu Risha's activities were not legal either before or after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. When the U.S. government began to support the 'Awakening of Anbar' led by Sattar Abu Risha, which operated under the flag of fighting al-Qaeda, some people did begin to think differently.
"Americans always choose the worst of their collaborators to be leaders of their campaigns," Sheikh Ahmed Ali of the Muslim Scholars Association told IPS in Baghdad. "Look at the governments and councils they chose to lead Iraq. This Sattar Abu Risha only provoked a division among the people of Anbar, and that was exactly what the Americans wanted."
But many saw in Abu Risha an answer to their endless suffering. "We know what Sattar was, but what could we do but support him," Ali Farhan, who worked as a captain in Abu Risha's U.S.-backed militia told IPS.
"Those sectarian officials in Baghdad have destroyed our cities and deprived us of life for over four years, and someone had to do something about it," said Farhan, who operated in an Iraqi police uniform added. "It is only cooperation with Americans that could solve the problem."
Other Iraqis say the U.S. strategy of arming and backing certain Sunni militias has been a huge mistake.
"Americans applied a strategy that has affected some weak brains and hearts," former Iraqi Army colonel Jabbar Saed from Falluja told IPS. "They starved people, arrested those who opposed their occupation, killed a million Iraqis, supported sectarian militias and death squads, destroyed infrastructure to increase the rate of unemployment, and divided Iraqis into sects and now into tribes, just to make us feel that life would not be possible unless we work for them."
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Albion Monitor October
18, 2007 (http://www.albionmonitor.com)
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