Cell Phones, Web Spread Rumors of Civil War in Iraq

Writing in today’s Post, Sudarsan Raghavan and Nancy Trejos describe how cell phone messages and websites are wratcheting up the level of tension among civilians in Iraq. Besides distributing tips for neighborhood defense (note: put snipers on the roof, and if you have anti-tank missiles, hide in trenches and hit the first and last vehicles of an attacking convoy to pin it in place), they’re also spreading messages like this one posted on a site for Iraqi Sunnis:

“The curfew will not affect the sectarian killing militias. The Americans will not rush to help you…The entire world around you is not concerned about what happens to you. The evil people want to pluck you off one by one. So rush to your weapons and defend yourselves and use this page to inform us of what’s going on in your areas and launch rescue calls.”

Or this chilling text message that also went out to Sunnis:

“Very big armed groups are being formed in Sadr City, backed up by the Interior Ministry, to kill great numbers of the citizens of Baghdad once the curfew is lifted. Spread the word among our people.”

Call it the dark side of electronic politics — in Clausewitzian terms, the extension of online politics with an admixture of other means. On a more hopeful note, the article describes ways in which Sunni and Shia neighbors are protecting each other from militia raids and assassins — moments of human decency outlined against a stark backdrop of horrific acts.


Written by
Colin Delany
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