Except for those of us who would have normally been reading the local papers, most of America and the world would have never been aware of the death of Lance Corporal Alexander Arrendondo this past Tuesday in Najaf. His passing only became world news when his father's deep grief was expressed in a desperate act of self-immolation, an agonising, fiery cry for a son lost.
I cannot imagine the intensity of the pain that engulfed Carlos Arrendondo when he heard the news of his son's death, but as a nurse who has worked with some burn patients and who has worked with rehabilitating patients, I have an idea of the physical ordeal he faces to recover from his injuries.
Lance Corporal Alexander Arrendondo, a 20-year-old Marine, who according to his mother, had "known at 16 he wanted to be a Marine,"died on Tuesday as the New York Times' headline declared that "Overwhelming Militiamen, Troops Push Closer to Shrine" and the corresponding article stated that, "Inside the Old City, Mr. Sadr's loyalists appeared to be on the verge of collapse as American forces overwhelmed the poorly armed rebels with tanks, attack helicopters and AC-130 gunships. Many members of his militia have fled Najaf since early Sunday, when American forces began intensifying their assault, residents said.
By Friday, our troops were told to stand down as Ayatollah Sistani came back from a three week trip to England to broker a deal for Moktada al-Sadr and his militia. Sistani's trip was reportedly taken for health reasons. Coincidentally as he departed Sadr's insurgency began. Now his return marked the end of this current crisis.
Sadr and his militia have been allowed to leave the city with their arms and to fight another day. The New York Times' article of August 28, 2004 reported that the "Mahdi Army fighters did not surrender themselves, neither did they give up their guns. Instead, they took the assault rifles and rocket launchers with which they had commandeered the shrine and loaded them onto donkey carts, covering them with blankets, grain sacks and television sets, and sending them away. Hours later, Mahdi fighters, some still dressed in their signature black uniforms, could be seen stashing rocket launchers in crates and pushing them into roadside shops."
The Times' article also reports that "American commanders said they were under orders to arrest no one, least of all the Mahdi insurgents." The military had only begun it's action after the attacks were approved by Dr. Ayad Allawi, the interim prime minister of the American-backed Iraqi government.
So who is really commanding our troops? Is our military now on loan to Iraq's government ? Who can explain why they fought so hard, only to watch their enemy flaunt a victory and walk away in their very presence?
Today, on this 28th of August, Ayatollah Sistani, by brokering this crisis, not only has enhanced his position of leadership but has damaged the Iraqi government's standing as he has clearly demonstrated that they are powerless to effect any real governance. The Ayatollah has shown that the legitimacy of the Iraqi government is solely dependent on the ability of the American military to exert force.
Today, Sadr has kept his promise to fight on as battle again breaks out in Sadr City, in Baghdad with the arms they carried out of Najaf.
Today the family of Lance Corporal Alexander Arrendondo is grieving.
Today, in light of all the events that have now transpired in Najaf, all Americans should be wondering what exactly it was that Lance Corporal Alexander Arrendondo died for.