If you want an illustration of the old adage that “good news is no news,” simply try to find stories about the pilgrimage by tens of thousands of Shiites to the Kadhimiya shrine in northwest Baghdad on Thursday. There were a few accounts—see, for instance, this New York Times article and this from the Los Angeles Times—but they were buried deep inside the newspapers.
What happened on Thursday was pretty remarkable: nothing. At least nothing terribly violent. Last year at least twenty pilgrims were killed by sniper and mortar attacks. In 2005, 1,000 pilgrims died on a bridge after rumors of a suicide bomber caused mass hysteria. This year, the death toll was two—and they died not as a result of an insurgent attack, but in a crush to get onto a train. A sniper did open fire at the procession from a Sunni neighborhood, but he was gunned down by Iraqi security forces without any of the pilgrims being killed.
The success of the march cannot be ascribed entirely to American and Iraqi security forces lining the parade route. Moqtada al-Sadr’s Jaish al-Mahdi militia also played a role in protecting the Shiite pilgrims. And it didn’t hurt that Sunnis effectively have been pushed out (or cleansed) from Kadhimiya, thereby creating a more secure environment for the Shiites. Nevertheless, the peaceful pilgrimage was a heartening sign of how, at long last, a modicum of security is coming to Baghdad.