After communism and capitalism, there is asterism.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Landing at the Iraqi Blogodrome

And again for you reading and commenting pleasure, my weekly column from Global Voices Online on what the Iraqi bloggers are saying:

This week bloggers in Iraq are saying the same thing in different ways - the security situation is becoming unbearable. Also, in my bag today, a winning blogger gets another award; Chikitita negotiates Iraqi bureaucracy - Lara Croft-style; Meemo has a party; Caeser has a chance meeting with a girl with Down's Syndrome and there are plenty of pontificating pundits.

First I am saddened again to send condolences to fellow blogger Al-Baghdadi for the loss of his elder brother in tragic circumstances. The loss is worse as last June his youngest brother was murdered by kidnappers. He wrote to Fayrouz about what happened:
"I really regret and sorry to tell with all the pain in the world squeezing my heart, that I had lost my older brother S., age 52, a week ago in Baghdad... He was kidnapped from outside his house..A day after they contacted the family asking for a ransom, we tried our utmost to collect and pay whatever they may ask. But we failed. Three days later his body was found at the Baghdad morgue, savagely tortured and killed in a way out of any humanity..
Read more »

Monday, March 27, 2006

War by other means

Today in Iraq there were so many different killings the Google News had a hard time separating them. Was it the 30 that turned up beheaded north of Baghdad, the 30 blown up at a US/Iraqi Army base, the 12 handcuffed and blindfolded bodies found near Baghdad that registered the strongest reactions from politicians? No it was the 18 militia men killed by American soldiers at a mosque in the Ur district of Baghdad.

Lets go to Healing Iraq for a closest thing we have to an eyewitness description:
"American forces clashed with Mahdi army militiamen at the Ur district (Hayy Ur), west of Sadr city in Baghdad. It seems an American force attempted to raid a husseiniya in the area and was resisted by militiamen inside. Between 18 and 21 militiamen have been killed, and the Al-Mustafa Husseiniya was reported to be badly damaged in the ensuing firefight. I was on the phone with a colleague who lived there and he described it as a battlefield. Apache helicopters and jet fighters are still circling the area. Al-Iraqiya TV just aired some images from the husseiniya. 17 'guards' were killed. One of the corpses carried a Da'wa party (Iraq organisation) ID, and another carried an ID issued by the Islamic Conference of Iraqi Tribes."

Of course there are widely varying reports - see Iraq the Model and Hammorabi - but what's all the fuss about?

America and Iran are about to have landmark negotiations on the future of Iraq and each side is playing for the upper hand. Politically, the US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad made a big fuss about reeling in the militias but singled out Sadr's Mehdi Army as the main problem and accused them of being Iranian-backed. So no surprise that the following day America decided to show its ability to strike at will against the militias by attacking Sadr's people in their mosque. Clearly America is trying to drive wedge between the Shia parties and militias before talking to Iran.

But the plan seems to have gone all pear-shaped. The whole of the Shia parties (mostly likely with an Iranian nod) got together and roundly condemned America for the attack and supported Sadr. Given that Sadr also has the general respect of the Sunni insurgency, America's tactics seem to be ending up with uniting the Iraqis and driving a wedge against themselves instead.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Untying Knots... Tony Blair's mind. I really don't understand why Tony Blair bothers to try to come up with political theories to explain why Britain supported the catastrophic invasion and occupation of Iraq. I mean if he had said "we went into Iraq because Britain is strong and Iraq is weak and we thought it would have been a walkover", it would have been perfectly adequate. And then we can move on to the debate about what to do for the future.

But, no, Tony Blair has this persecution syndrome and feels he has to justify everything he does as morally right. OK, I try to only look forward but you have forced me into it Tony. I will have to give your speech the Asterism treatment.

Apparently it is all now tied to the fight against global terrorism:
"The struggle against terrorism in Madrid or London or Paris is the same as the struggle against the terrorist acts of Hezbollah in Lebanon or the PIJ in Palestine or rejectionist groups in Iraq."

Skipping the obvious - that Iraq has created the kind of terror training camp that Bin-Laden could not even dream of - lets see how he suggests to fight it?
"This [global] terrorism will not be defeated until its ideas... are confronted, head-on, in their essence, at their core. ... I mean telling them their attitude to America is absurd; their concept of governance pre-feudal; their positions on women and other faiths, reactionary and regressive"
So the enemy of the world is Terrorism and the theory of the world's terrorists is radical Islam. Defeat this ideology and suddenly we will live in a peaceful world. All very nice but how exactly are you confronting these ideas? In Afghanistan you back a regime that will behead anyone who converts to Christianity and in Iraq you rely on parties whose militias are forcing an extreme interpretation of Islam on the whole of the people, and are carrying out a sectarian war. In other words, with just the same pre-feudal reactionaries.

Then he gets all historical..
"This is not the place to digress into a history of what subsequently happened. But by the early 20th century, after renaissance, reformation and enlightenment had swept over the Western world, the Muslim and Arab world was uncertain, insecure and on the defensive."
Oh dear Tony. You are confusing technological advancement with cultural enlightenment. Unfortunately this cultural enlightenment did not stop Western countries developing fascism, carrying out its own ethnic cleansing and fighting itself in two world wars that made the worst excesses of the ancient world look positively moderate. After the occupation of the Ottoman empire the Muslim and Arab world was subject to the occupation and interference of the Western empires. And any attempt by the Arabs to create centers of enlightenment have been effectively crushed by international interference. Given a chance, Lebanon of the 70's or Iraq after '58 would have created exactly the kind of liberal societies he is missing.

He goes on..
"The extremism may have started through religious doctrine and thought. But soon, in offshoots of the Muslim brotherhood, supported by Wahabi extremists and taught in some of the Madrassas of the Middle East and Asia, an ideology was born and exported around the world."
Actually Britain and the US had a lot to do with helping this extremism spread. Up until Gulf War I the Wahabis were considered the West's best friends. They were used to destabilize the Soviet Union and to keep the Shia in check after the Iranian revolution. America trained and armed them to bring down the Soviet Army in Afghanistan.The Wahabis were generally given freedom to travel and operate wherever they liked. After Gulf War I the West turned on the Wahabis, they had served their purpose and now America wanted Arabia for itself. And suddenly Tony is all surprised that they are causing trouble in Britain and America. Well, Im sorry if I don't have much sympathy, but this international terrorism is your baby. You helped them, you allowed them to grow and spread in your own societies. Don't come running to Arabs and moderate muslims to solve a problem you created.

Blair goes on to define the supporters of Islamic extremism:
"Why do foreign terrorists from Al Qaida and its associates go across the border to kill and maim? Why does Syria not take stronger action to prevent them? Why does Iran meddle so furiously in the stability of Iraq? ... True the conventional view is that, for example, Iran is hostile to Al Qaida and therefore would never support its activities. But as we know from our own history of conflict, under the pressure of battle, alliances shift and change. Fundamentally, for this ideology, we are the enemy."

My, god, does this man ever stop? Now Iran meddles in Iraq to support Al Qaida. Here is a piece of prize bullshit worthy of the Saddam-Harbours-Al-Qaida scam. He happily forgets that many of the Al-Qaida bombers are streaming in at least as many numbers over the Jordanian and Saudi borders; that Al Qaida in Iraq are getting rather handsome funding from rich Gulf and Saudi nationals; that Iran has their own agents in direct control of the Iraqi government and don't need to create any problems; and that Iran is happily negotiating with America about the future of Iraq.

If anyone is a candidate for the Fletcher Memorial Home - he is one.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Landing at the Iraqi Blogodrome

And again for your reading and commenting pleasure is my Global Voices column on the Iraqi blogs...

This week is a week of rememberance. It is the third anniversary of the start of the Iraq war and the Iraq bloggers are commenting on the hopes at the start and their feelings for the future. It is also the 18th anniversary of the Halabja massacre. And the burning by Halabjans of the monument raised mixed comments from bloggers. Also several bloggers take on the issue of American violence. Last week I wrote about insomnia, this week I have laziness and the confused kid gets back to being confused.

If you read nothing else this week, read this:

24 Steps to Liberty watches the inaugural session of the new Iraqi Parliament and gives a vivid and personal account of the proceedings. He describes the event in a way that television never can:
"Jafari, the current PM, and Mulla Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic revolution in Iraq ... were whispering to each other each time Pachachi said a sentence including “far from ethnic and religious divisions,” they didn’t like what he was saying. I could sense it from several feet distance."

The last straw for 24 Steps came when a member objected to giving the oath on the grounds that two words had changed:
"I didn’t know if I should cry, smile, laugh, or spit on my country’s lawmakers... I was thinking 'come on men. It’s only the first session. We are not asking for much. Just say that you are the new parliament. Is that too hard for you to agree on? Well, f**k you and f**k me if I believe there will be a ‘national unity government’ if you don’t even agree that you exist.' "

Its been three years since the beginning of the war.

Among bloggers, optimism is hard to come by. But what there is, can be summed up in Iraq the Model. Mohammed starts unsure saying that "until this moment we have different feelings and opinions about where this operation brought us and where its ... going to lead us." He remembers the days just after the regime was toppled. How Iraqis were angry and hit out at symbols of the old regime. The fears of America:
"all that Iraqis knew about America was that it's ... the imposer of the sanctions and above all, the America that let us down in 1991...

There was a wide gap between the two but we had no choice but to work together, because in a moment Iraqis didn't choose, America and a group of Iraqi ex-pat leaders were suddenly replacing a regime that controlled everything for too long.
Iraqis were confused and vulnerable.."

But was it the right decision to remove Saddam? Mohammed says 'yes' because "life stopped and time stopped when Saddam ruled Iraq." and "we have hope and I see this hope even in the words of those that are cynical about the outcome of the political process". He ends defiantly: "And yes…Iraq will be the model."

Riverbend sees things differently:
"It has been three years since the beginning of the war that marked the end of Iraq’s independence. Three years of occupation and bloodshed.

She fears the present:
"The real fear is the mentality of so many people lately- the rift that seems to have worked it’s way through the very heart of the country, dividing people. It’s disheartening to talk to acquaintances- sophisticated, civilized people- and hear how Sunnis are like this, and Shia are like that… To watch people pick up their things to move to 'Sunni neighborhoods' or 'Shia neighborhoods' ."

And she remembers how sectarianism was treated before. As a child she was asked by a friend if she was a Smurf or a Snork as a code for 'Sunni' or 'Shia' and being told by her mother "we’re Muslims- there’s no difference."

In a similar vein Hala_s notes that Iraq had been ripped off by the Coalition Provisional Authority, is being torn apart by all its neighbours, and Iraqis are too busy surviving to do anything about it. She wonders if it is too late to stop Iraq sinking.

Treasure of Baghdad gives his personal recollection of how his family lived through the war and recalls how over three years his happiness of being liberated has turned to disappointment: "I thought this war was the last as we were told and promised. I did not expect it would be the... beginning of horror, fear, civil war, destruction, and death."

The Woman I Was relates a long list of kidnappings, murder, assassinations, violence, and war. She says
"all these happened in the second week of March while the Americans were preparing them selves to celebrate the third anniversary of the "new Iraq"..The week was a typical week .. The ordinary week called “bloody” and the extraordinary one called “bloodiest”. Blood became the character of the Iraqis life and day.."
She also talks about the absurdities of the new Iraq. Well worth reading!

Attawie talks about freedom: "in the new Iraq, the free Iraq, ... we are free to say publicly what we want to say. Oh, and this freedom gives the right to other free citizens to disagree with me. Therefore, they are free to attack me, bomb my car and even kill me. I believe the chaos results from an overdose of freedom."

The last word goes to Hassan:
"Not more than an hour before, I got a call from a BBC reporter, asking for my opinion about the last three years, considering that the anniversary of the beginning of the war is this weekend. I really was surprised, because I have never thought of it. I never thought of remembering the day the war started. And I won't."

There was another anniversary this week. The 18th Anniversary of the Halabja massacre. This anniversary ended in violence when people from Halabja attacked and burned down the monument to their dead. Bloggers had varied reactions.

Some are saddened: The Exiled Shalash laments "Haven't we suffered enough? Haven't enough of us died? When will this stop? When will we have time to mourn our dead and write eulogies for our dead and erect monument in honor of our dead? WHEN? WHEN?" and Fayrouz does not understand why "I'm not surprised the Kurds aren't satisfied with their government... But, I'm surprised that people would destroy this monument because of their anger at the government. I'm not sure what message they're trying to send."

An Iraqi Tear points to a unifying aspect: "Iraqis, before the anger of Halabja, used to think that the Kurds are living in another world; a world of prosperity and safe.. Now they are discovering that they are on the same boat; fighting for their rights no matter if they are Arabs, Kurds or Turkmens!."

Iraqi Tear and Asterism (that's me) also talk of the hypocracy around the memorial. Iraqi Tear reminds us that "In July 1989, April Glaspie, the American ambassador then in Iraq, and Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi foreign minister then too, gave a joint press conference in Baghdad... Glaspie red a document.. finding that the chemical weapon (gas) used against Halabja was not only Iraqi." and Asterism remembers that the Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani was in alliance with Saddam at the time of the gas attack.

In other worlds

Several bloggers posted graphic pictures and comment on the bombing of a family home by America near Balad where 11 people, mostly children. I will not link here to the posts because the pictures are so disturbing. While many commentors on these blogs point out that worse is being done by Iraqis on each other I personally wonder if it is because Iraqis expect higher standards from the American army.

And Finally:

Shaggy is having a seriously lazy week and gives us a lesson in applied procrastination. On Saturday he puts off studying for college, and wonders about lunch. Later he picks up his book but falls asleep on page 36. By Monday he is complaining that he has reverted to being a slob. "Today's my day to drive, I really ought to go out for a drive after lunch. Wow, within a matter of minutes I've decided to push back my studies. Where's my lunch." Then he goes on to forget to call his friend or fill the car up with petrol. Tuesday was "Another Sloppy Day". Then by Wednesday he is excited to go to college. He even brushes his teeth.

I think we have all had a week like that.

And Konfused Kid is in desperate need of counseling. So who does he turn to for help? The blogoshere of course. We are warned: "this post is personal and could be admittedly boring, as I will treat you as my psychiatrist. You have been warned like hell so don't flame in the comments". And he pours his soul out about love and relationships in a 3000-word post. Someone please read it and sort the Konfused Kid out so he can get back to posting what we love to read.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Lets hear it for bloggers

I think my Global Voices column has started something here...

Linda Heard writing in Arab News is confused:
Iraq’s former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi says his country is in the midst of a civil war...

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani says there is no risk of an imminent civil war...

Britain’s Defense Secretary John Reid believes that most of Iraq is under control...

An Iraqi diplomat... told me, “Iraq is in a terrible mess. It’s too dangerous even to walk in the street.” ...Some 18 months ago, he told me that Iraqis would never fight each other but now he believes his country is, indeed, on the brink of civil war...

How can we know who’s telling the truth when almost all of the above have a vested interest in the way things in Iraq are going? Whom should we believe?

In such troubled times who does she turn to? Fox News? CNN? Maybe the BBC? No.
Let’s take a look at what the Iraqi bloggers are saying. Perhaps ordinary people can make better sense of what’s really taking place on the ground.

Too right! Now you know - if you want to what is going on, ask a blogger.

Thank you Mr. Prime Minister

The Iraqi Prime Minster, Ibrahim Al Jaafari, offers readers of the Washington Post a rare insight into the workings of his mind. If I were being cynical I would say he must have given up persuading the Iraqi parliament to select him as Prime Minister for the next government and appealed over their heads, directly to the people. The American people that is. As usual with such things what is not said is as significant as what is.

He starts as a simple man:
"To this end I am humbled and honored to be chosen by my coalition to lead Iraq's first democratically elected full-term government.

My government's first challenge will be to stifle the terrorism... "

Whoa.. wait a minute there; after three months of bitter negotiations, and burning your bridges with the Kurds, and every other party not in the UIA, claiming you are the government is a little premature. Unless you are counting on the fact that you have the biggest militia, then you can assume what you like.

He then drones on for a while..
"Since I took office.. [blah blah]. I refused to marginalize the Sunni Arabs.. [drone].

Sidelining Moqtada al-Sadr's group .. was a mistake.. [zzz]"

Until we get to this little gem..
Unfortunately, we have suffered setbacks during the past year. The most troubling was the discovery of prisoner torture in an Interior Ministry jail in November. As soon as I learned of these despicable acts I formed an investigative committee made up solely of Sunni leaders, and I await its findings.

And what is he going to do when they report? Slap the Interior minister meaningfully on the wrist maybe? As anybody who knows British politics will tell you, the best way to bury an issue is to form a committee to investigate. This is not an issues of minor corruption but a bloody scandal for a government that is claiming itself to be a liberal democracy.

And finally on to economics:
The other major challenge my government will face is reviving Iraq's economy. Iraq has been drowned by decades of Baathist socialist policies that have made millions reliant on government handouts. We must encourage entrepreneurship and enterprise, while establishing adequate safety nets for the less privileged.

And here we have the crux of the problem, other than Reagan-style privatization he offers no economic program to revive Iraq. Privatization for an advanced economy like the US, UK and Japan can arguably be a good thing. But, as the past three years has shown in Iraq, a broken country in desperate need of basic reconstruction, 'entrepreneurship' and 'enterprise' are just synonyms for daylight robbery.

Iraq needs to utilize all its skills and natural wealth into rebuilding the basic infrastructure to maintain a modern economy. Any profit from privatization, at this stage, will simply be pulled out of the country to be invested where it makes more money. And if the economic policy fails in Iraq, it will slip back into the cycle of dictatorship and war.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Burning Hypocracy

I for one will speak up for the people of Halabja. It is their city it is their trajedy let them define their own way to remember it. The people of Halabja are not helpless victims to be exploited. They are living, breathing and thinking people. I wonder if they were consulted about how to remember their dead. A lot has been done and said about the massacre at Halabja, yet nothing was done for the survivors themselves. This was not a monument to the victims of the massacres but a monument to the hypocrites who are using these tragedies to further their own greedy and corrupt aims. If the people had felt this monument was theirs they would just occupied it not burnt it down.

And talking of hypocrites - what was the reaction of the American government at the time of the massacre? Did Powell apologise to the Kurds for America's support of Saddam during the 80's when he opened the monument? And how about Talabani? I wonder if he forgot what he was doing at the time of the massacre. Well let me remind him what I heard. Talabani was in alliance with Saddam and his militia were preventing people escaping from the town just before the chemical attack.

Could the reason that Saddam is not being tried for Halabja be because too many uncomfortable truths will come out?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Swarm what swarm??

Isn't it funny how a bee likes honey,
Buzz, buzz, buzz, I wonder why she does?

I was interviewed today on BBC World Service news to talk about my opinion that the media is totally disconnected with what is happening on the ground in Iraq. They were leading on the huge American air offensive north of Samarra dubbed Operation Swarmer. So I was asked if any bloggers had anything to say about the offensive and what what was going on. So I looked and said - "sorry nothing."

My initial feeling was, "what's up guys, you let me down in front of the BBC!" Thinking about it again, the bloggers were proving my point. Swarmer was a complete non-event as far as Iraqis were concerned. It did not even register a blip on the bloggers' radar. The fact that the BBC chose to lead on this story shows even more how out of touch the media are.

Operation Swarmer is no more than a sideshow put on for a story-hungry media to lap up. The timing speaks volumes - 3rd anniversary of the war and nothing to show. On the Iraqi scene it is completely irrelevant. It changes nothing. The government is still actively failing, US diplomacy is actively failing and the US military presence is fast becoming more pointless. The obvious fact is that after three years occupation, all the US military is able to do is to fly around Iraq and blow up a few sand dunes. Not much results for an occupation that is costing American taxpayers a billion dollars a week.

Landing at the Iraqi Blogodrome

A little later than my usual Thursday spot but here is my latest, weekly Global Voices Online post on Iraq blogs...

Today's report is dedicated to the women of Iraq. Women have suffered greatly in the new Iraq and on top of everything have to cope with the prejudice of some western journalists too. Again a mixed selection of blogs but you must read to the end for more cute animals!

First, my heartfelt condolences go to our blogging family that lost an uncle to the violence in Iraq. They relate in their own blogs how they came to terms with the tragedy.

Mama of the Emotions blog describes her feelings:
I can't bear more anxiety, fear, and sadness. Counting our losses every day. Yesterday we lost our dear family senior; he is my father's uncle. He was shot to death by the American soldiers in his parent's in-law neighborhood ...

I couldn't sleep last night, neither my parent's, my husband nor my father in law. I wonder if the soldier who shot him and left him in his car ,asked himself about that old man , did he wondered if he was alive or died immediately?.. Did he sleep as a lamb?! Probably he forgot all about it, and had nice dreams….….The soldiers left him dead in his car after they shot him BY MISTAKE

And she wants answers: "We need help to stop the violence, and the disrespect of the humanity. I am giving some of the details about my relative's accident to seek for help, and investigation." because "Such accidents... had been repeated to [such] a large extent that turned the appreciation of the Iraqis toward the American liberation from Saddams' regime to hate or violence or at least suspicious about the intentions of the American. I doubt, there is any Iraqi still trust the Americans ... , even the most peaceful optimistic.."

Truth teller reminds us that what happened to his uncle nearly happened to him. And he related the stories of others who died in a similar way. He writes that at the postmortem: "the American officer there told him 'we are sorry.' It is as simple as this, they are sorry and every thing is settled, no problems, as far as the victim is an Iraqi."

Rose Baghdad speaks for all her family when she writes: " Sorry will not be enough. I have nothing to say... I'm so angry now and in need for an explination."

Sunshine posts more information on her weblog with details of the ongoing investigation.

Lets here it for Women:

A great big congratulations goes to Iraq's own Riverbend for winning the Bloggie for the best Middle Eastern weblog!

Truth About Iraqis and Fayrouz bite back at a book by Washington Post reporter Jackie Spinner who among other things said that Iraqis consider a woman who looks into a man's eyes to be a whore. Fayrouz writes: "I lived in Iraq the first 28 years of my life. Never during these years I heard someone telling me NOT to look directly into a man's eyes." Truth About Iraqis is equally outraged:
Iraqi women are mothers who have sacrificed their sons to endless wars. They are sisters who have seen their brothers killed. They are daughters who missed their fathers buried by years of war, oppression and occupation.

But they are also students, teachers, scientists, politicians, artists, dancers, singers, novelists, athletes, philosophers, doctors, nurses, soldiers and a valuable fabric of Iraqi society. ... And ... they are also winning bloggers.

Take that, Jackie.

Sooni posts "my brother was in a press conference held by the Organization of Woman Freedom in Iraq where they showed some drawings condemning the terrorism and the woman abuse in jail in the name of the law and I thought you would like to see some of those pictures. The drawings were made by the prisoners themselves inside the women prison in Iraq." Visit his blog to see the pictures.

And Hala s speaks up for women:
Does it really require men to pull Iraq out of this mess? Whatever they said so far is gibberish; all they wrote was only waffle. Look how stubborn and single-minded they have been. Is it that hard to compromise? Is it that complicated to reach an understanding? Their false pride and greed for power weighs more than the Iraqi blood on the scale. ...

It is time for Iraqi men politicians to retire and have a long rest. I am all for women.

Can't agree more!

Sleepless in Baghdad:

Insomnia has been gripping two bloggers. Attawi has been been spending her nights awake thinking about her application for a masters degree, and muses about sleeplessness: "Sleepless nights are the best for writing poems. I sometime neglect the thoughts and try to sleep and say tomorrow I'll write them down. Tomorrow comes and I have no idea about what I wanted to write." And Shaggy is staying up waiting for the power to go off: "And the power should go out just about now... uhh any second now... Still not gone. It's 4 AM." Worse, he has an exam in 5 hours time...

What is happening to Iraqi Education:

HNK's, Sunshine's and Aunt Najma's School is hit by a mortar (yes, all three blogger go to the same school!). Sunshine puts a brave face on it: "I don't like to exaggerate and don't admire those who wrote about what happened to my school with faking facts!!! , but I assure you that everything is ok now , no big losses at all , except some broken windows."

Morbid Smile is posting her diaries from January and gives a shocking fact: "Education is about to vanish!!!... Thousands of students apply for the higher studies every year, but only few students can be accepted. The reason behind this is the lack of supervising staff.. Many university professors were either killed or they fled the country after the war for the sake of their own security." and out of these students: "only five... would be accepted to study for their Master or Doctoral degrees! Only five among over 200 students!! The reason, again, is the lack of professors".

Faiza gets a letter asking for outside help for the cultural institutions in Iraq. Because there is no restoration of anything except a Childrens Centre. Why? "the minister of culture now is a policeman not from the culture carriers . most of the cultures establishments general directors ar not specialised in any culture fields."

Free Iraqi reports that sectarian violence is even entering into children's games: "Both sides are definitely responsible for feeding hatred and distrust to their kids. The only difference is that Shiite now control most of the media.. Sunnis certainly did a similarly bad job when Saddam was in power but it shouldn't be pay back time or else we'll never make it to a real democracy."

The week in Politics:

Hammorabi is incensed at the political situation. He makes several posts on the same theme. "The weak and hypocritical politicians .. are not less than warlords or gang leaders seeking power even if it is on the mass skulls of the people.", terrorists are harassing the Shia population to provoke a civil war and "The situation is very dangerous especially with the biased interference of Zalmi Khalel Zada the US ambassador towards those who support the terrorism." Iraq Rising, in response, suggests to Hammorabi two 'simple' steps to resolve the crisis: "1- find someone other than Mr. Jafari... 2- That the ministries of interior and defence be run by individuals who have no connection with militia groups."

Iraq the Model continues its reports on the minutae of the political wheelings and dealings this week. But he has little hope for elected politicians to get anywhere because "most of them are not qualified to handle the responsibilities they're entitled to". Although he blames the Iraqi people more for voting for them. Iraqi Pundit comments on a story about the improving state of the Shia in the Gulf. Which he takes with bittersweet emotions as an Iraqi because of the foreign Jihadis fomenting sectarian strife in his country. While Asterism oddly agrees with George Bush. Salam says that the refusal of the American government to allow Dubai to control its ports is proof that the US never intended Iraq to be a partner in the region.

Raed has been busy traveling from Iraq to America to South Africa and back. He helped with the reconstruction of Iraq and now helps with the reconstruction of New Orleans. It seems he is applying his theory of "reconstructing both the built environment and the civil society" wherever he goes.

My honarary Iraqi for this week (and I know he will be horrified to hear this) is David T of Harry's Place. He copies from a report on an important issue. The intolerance of the religious parties and militias to Gays and anyone else who partakes in alleged 'immoral behaviour'. "In particular, the Badr Corps, which is the armed wing of SCIRI, has instituted a witch-hunt including violent beatings, kidnappings and assassinations... Males who are unmarried by the age of 30 or 35 are placed under surveillance on suspicion of being gay, as are effeminate men. They will be investigated and warned to get married." While much has been made of the violence in the streets of Iraq. Little is being said of the changes that affect people even in the privacy of their own homes.

And finally:

Cat blogging has reached its highest point. After being reported on NPR, Baghdad Girl's cat blog has been voted the 'The Best Blog in the World' by the Committee to Protect Bloggers.
"All blogs, deep within, are trying to become Bagdad Girl. You will know paradise has arrived when all blogs have become Bagdad Girl."

Quite. And Baghdad Girl has inspired one young Iraqi to start a similar blog: "My name is Ayman Murrani I'm 15 Years old ... i live with my family i love dogs alot .. i have 3 dogs and 2 cats ...". Ayman's blog is called Safe Iraq and it is filled with ... cute puppies! And judging from the pictures - Raghda's kitty's have something to be worried about.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

His Master's Voice

Image by Salam Adil

A Free Iraqi makes an interesting point:
someone very stupid (or very smart?) seem to have advised Ja'fari that it's a good plan to visit Turkey these days, and then not inform the Kurds and take along with him some Turkmen figures who have no real official position in the government. That was enough for the Kurds to practically change sides and stand with the Sunni bloc and Allawi to demand that the UIA replace his nominee for the prime minister position.

And this brought to me the question - why would Jaafari be so stupid? Both the Shia and Kurds have something to gain from their own sectarian partnership. Each get a state, each get a rather fat share of the Iraqi oil and, with Kurdish support, the constitutional process would be a walkover. So why jeopardize all that for nothing? Then the FT came up with the answer..
Two illegal Iranian Kurdish parties are launching satellite television stations - joining the five Kurdish-language channels already beamed into Iran - and stepping up their long-running conflict with the government in Tehran. ... There has been unrest recently in Kurdish areas, the mainly Arab south-west and among Baluchis in Iran's far east - sparking fears among politicians in Tehran that the US may see ethnic conflict as an opportunity to bring about political change in Iran.
So, Iran is worried that a Kurdish state will undermine its national unity and has sent its Iraqi ambassador, Jaafari, to Turkey to make sure that never happens. And Jaafari is ready to stab himself in the back to do Iran's bidding. It is times like these when you value a good poodle.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

"Sorry" is not enough...

Emotions blog posts the sad details of an uncle that was senselessly shot while waiting in his car:
I can't bear more anxiety, fear, and sadness. Counting our losses every day. Yesterday we lost our dear family senior; he is my father's uncle. He was shot to death by the American soldiers in his parent's in-law neighborhood. He is 78 years old. ... I wonder if the soldier who shot him and left him in his car ,asked himself about that old man , did he wondered if he was alive or died immediately?.. Did he sleep as a lamb?! Probably he forgot all about it, and had nice dreams.... The soldiers left him dead in his car after they shot him BY MISTAKE , then Iraqi policemen found him , used his cell phone to call one of the his family members.

Afterwards the American Soldiers did admit their mistake. Maybe they will even formally apologize and pay compensation but is that enough? From several accounts I have heard or read this is very commonplace. Yet there is no investigation, no soldiers are disciplined and nor will any be. This is critical not just for a matter of simple humanity nor a matter that Iraqi lives should treated with equal importance. It is not even a only an issue of international law and the obligations of an army of occupation.

These are all very important issues, however, the one thing that should keep Americans awake at night is the simple fact that the occupation is going to end and, one day, the very same soldiers will be prowling the streets of America. And you better hope to hell the soldiers who randomly shoot Iraqis without care or humanity today do not harbor racial grudges against Blacks, Catholics, Italians, Jews or any other American minority. Let me just remind Americans of Timothy McVeigh who saw the horrors of the Gulf War I as a front-line soldier. After he blew up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma he did not even care about the innocent deaths who were not his target. McVeigh called the casualties in the bombing "collateral damage" and compared the bombing to actions he had taken during the Gulf War.

America may happy thinking it is taking the war to the terrorists. But one day the terrorists are coming home and they will not be the few foreigners that you are all so worked up about now.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Racism, plane and simple

In the twilight of his career I am, oddly, finding more to agree with President Bush. Especially with what he said on the Dubai Ports World takeover of P&O that would give them control of some major American ports:
'Here we are trying to put a coalition of the willing together to protect America, to win the war on terror, and I would ask the critics and the people who are skeptical, "What kind of signal does it send to our friends in the Arab world, people who are joining us in the war on terror, people who want to fight off the terrorists, to say it's OK for one company from one country to be able to have this management contract but not you?" '

Quite. The issue was never about security. America trusts the safety of its warships in the Arabian Gulf to the very same company and lets the UAE purchase the most sensitive military hardware. The issue is about racism, plane and simple. Some rabid Senators cannot abide the notion that an Arab company can dare own the port of New York. And the Democrat party true to its typical spineless form will jump onto any bandwagon to put Bush down because they are too scared to put together a credible alternative plan for Iraq.

This message is intended for Arabs, Americans and neo-conservatives who still harbor the fantasy that the American government was ever intending to convert Iraq into a shining democracy that would be its best friend in the region. You have your answer now. Even if the Iraqi people had lined the street with flowers before the American tanks, and agreed to the free-trade playground that the neo-cons dreamt up, they would have still been treated like the dirt you would wipe off your shoes. At least now, after three years of war and killing there is some form of grudging respect. And for Iraqis who really need to be clients of a bigger power, then they should look to China for fairer treatment.

America is a no longer the superpower it was. It has reached its military limit in Iraq. It should now concentrate on its true strength, which is its economy. If America lets racism and militarism guide its future then that will be its end. The rest of the world will pass it by and America will go down the way the Soviet Union did.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Landing at the Iraqi Blogodrome

My new post for Global Voices Online is up. And here for your reading and commenting pleasure is the post in full...

These days in Iraq, death is never far away. In this weeks posts several bloggers deal with the different aspects of death. The death of someone close, death of a stranger, the direct threat of death, the danger of dying in random violence and the fearlessness of risking your life to save another. And finally the complete avoidance of the subject by blogging about something completely different.

I must first welcome a new blogger. Nadia, who had been active in the comments section of several blogs has secretly started her own. Her interests include Scuba Diving, Travel and Yoga and she blogs about politics. She is Talking About Iraq.

How do you cope with the sudden death of someone close because of the violence that is gripping Iraq? I guess one way is to blog about it. Sunshine's close friend, R, lost her father, cousin and uncle in the space of four days. Sunshine was the brave one among her classmates and went to console R:
"But when she said "what I will do with those high marks, my dad is gone , I wish I got low marks & return him back instead….. I pray to god to protect your dad & mom", at that time I couldn't control my tears at all , it is hard to do that when you see someone you love is really hurt because of losing someone close …..
That made me think to improve my relationship with my dad , as you know we have bad relationship ,at that night I kissed him ,gave him a hug & wished him a good night, for the first time since a long time , I think he wondered why ???!!!!"

What do you do when gunmen kill three people in your neighborhood and put a note on the body of one threatening to kill 20 more? This was the dilema facing Caeser of Pentra. He writes, "For God’s sake, we’ve been terrified for the sight of any new unfamiliar fishy vehicle…. Today’s noon, we were standing infront of a centre for young men ... chatting about yesterday’s catastrophes when a white Daweoo ... marched slowly across us then the car’s window went down slowly too...". Read his blog to find out what happened.

How do you try to understand life when battles in Baghdad come too close to home to feel secure? Mohammed turns to his father for an explanation. And his father does not disappoint. He explains: "we are a state still run by sentiments rather than reason which means it's a brittle state and any sentimental overreaction can turn the tide it in either direction. ... we do not possess the institutions that can abolish the effects of severe sentimental reactions.?" He goes on to say "And this stability is not going to happen soon…Why do you always want things to be the way you like them? Failure exists just like success does." In one conversation it all falls into place.

In Iraq the horrific becomes the ordinary. Shaggy blogs about a fairly ordinary visit to Baghdad Medical Centre. He mentions in passing:
"As we were driving out of the car park, Od pointed out an Iraqi Police Technical (a pick up truck with a machine gun on the back) carrying a dead bloated body blindfolded with a head cloth and hands tied behind his back. Od pointed out that the man had been tortured and thrown in the water (Od's been studying his forensics)."

The situation also brings the best out in people. Caeser risks his life moving a burning neighbor's car away from the house. Because, in his words, "I prefer to die and people helping others better than living this shitty life." And bravery has its rewards: "it was impressing moment when that man thanked us (me and ma brother and of course that extinguisher guy). I think I will never forget that."

But the situation also brings depression. HNK writes a sad poem:
"Twinkle Twinkle my darkness life
Let me see the headlines
I am hurting because I am blind

I can swear that this war changes my life 80 -degree. I am 16 years old. I should live the happiest part of my life; I must be a crazy girl doing foolish and stupid things while I am not. I am talking like some one in 35. I feel I am nothing, I do nothing in my life and I going to do nothing."

International Women's Day:

Faiza of A Family in Baghdad is in America with a delegation of Iraqi women participating in activities for Women's Day with the Global Exchange organization. She is shocked at how police treated the demonstrators: "yesterday we were in NewYork city in the rally moving from UN building towards American mission office when the police stopped us, and arrested Medea Binjamin and Cindy Shehan and other mothers.. we were surprised, we have been told this is the land of freedom and democracy, what is going on here?"

Baghdad Dweller tells us that the Iraqi women rights organization reported on Womens Day that not less than 2000 Iraqi women kidnapped and sold inside Iraq and abroad in the three years of occupation.

Morbid Smile advises all Women to Be a Queen for the day. She quotes Oprah Winfrey because Oprah is "Chicken Soup for The Woman's Soul."

In other Worlds:

Mama felt like stopping blogging but was encouraged by several supporting letters. She writes an emotional post about the Samarra crisis. From the bombing of the Shrine: "I am describing it's dearness to make you imagine how devil is the faction that dared to blew it" to the violent reaction: "those MURDERERS did not come after midnight or came swiftly , they came in the midday ,and stayed ... for hours and burned every mosque more than once ,... and No police or national guards stopped them "

24 Steps to Liberty teaches us a new Iraqi saying: "Teeti Teeti, Mithil Ma Rihti Jeeti!" It means 'after all, nothing has changed'. And he is writing about how Iraqi politicians are no closer to forming a government now than three years ago. This is a theme taken up in other blogs. Iraq the Model says the UIA is "Selling the Same Bird Twice" and cheating other politicians about their true intentions. Hammorabi feels the political situation has become unbearable and calls Iraqi democracy a farce. Both Asterism and A Free Iraqi give detailed analysis of the current political situation. They both agree that the current politicians in power are the enemies of democracy but suggest different solutions. Free Iraqi wants the Americans to give a full commitment and work with Iraqis to achieve a stable democracy while Salam Adil says Iraqis must define their own unity independently.

Does anyone think the Iraqi politicians are doing a good job? Well IraqPundit does. He says: "For the first time in a very long time, Iraq's leadership might change through negotiation, rather than at gunpoint."

Emily Messner of the Washington Post's The Debate Blog is my honorary Iraqi for the day. She reviewed the Iraqi blogger for her own blog and realized the US and Iraq is not that different:
"It seems that in both countries, politicians would rather play a lucrative winner-take-all game, risking everything, than be assured of losing out on just some of their priorities. There is, however, a dramatic difference in degree: in the United States, the game is played with big bucks and ethical chicanery; in Iraq, the game is played with mortar fire, kidnappings and assassinations, with the only sure outcome being trauma for those caught in the middle."

And the Oscar goes to...

RIverbend has been watching too much television and is suffering from Oscar mania. She has made up her own Oscars - or as she calls them 'Sayids' for the best actors in Iraqi politics. Read her blog to see the nominations. No word, however, on who the winner is - maybe we are all the losers?

And Finally...

Fayrouz posts predictions for Iraq after 2055. Fortunately for us Truth About Iraqis translates his favourite ones:
In the year 2055, Japan celebrates the largest purchase of computers from Iraq after three months of heated debate in the Iraqi Parliament.

In the year 2057, Iraq threatens to deport Canadians studying in Iraqi universities because of one of them - a PhD candidate - plagiarized a thesis written by an Iraq Bachelors student.

In the year 2064, the terrorist known as Abu Musab Zarqawi is arrested at the age of 98 and admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Iran has its "Bring 'em on" moment

In response to the United States hauling Tehran before the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program. Javad Vaeidi, Iran's chief IAEA delegate said:
"The United States has the power to cause harm and pain. But the United States is also susceptible to harm and pain. So if that is the path that the U.S. wishes to choose, let the ball roll."
I have to say that "let the ball roll" does not have the same macho ring as "bring 'em on" but I am sure it sounds pretty tough in Farsi. What Iran is really telling America is that it is more than able to match any economic or military challenge that America has to throw its way.

This macho statement has elicited the typical macho response from the US. But before the US goes all Gung-Ho it should take a moment to remember what the Chinese Major General Zhu Chenghu said in July 2005:
"if the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons," and that "we [...] will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xi'an. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds ... of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese."
He was referring to Taiwan but this is really another way of saying that China is not scared to use its nuclear weapons to protect its strategic interests.

Given that China and Iran have recently signed a huge long-term strategic gas and oil deal the US should pause to wonder if Iran is now one of China's strategic interests.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Depleted Uranium Coming Home

The people of Europe may have more in common with the Iraqis than they would wish. A recent report by scientists Dr. Chris Busby and Saoirse Morgan for Green Audit showed strong evidence that fine 'aerosol' particles of the radio active uranium used in depleted uranium weapons in the Iraq war may have travelled as far as Britain and could well have polluted countries closer to Iraq in greater quantities. The report uses data collected by the British Government on radio active particles in the air and released to Dr. Busby under Freedom of Information laws in Britain. The results are truly shocking:

The above diagram shows measured uranium in air at two week intervals from 1998 near the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Aldermaston at four offsite and four onsite positions (R001H to R009H). As you can see during Gulf War 2 there was a 4-fold increase in air-borne uranium. The amounts may seem to be relatively small but according to the report:
"in the six weeks of elevated uranium each person would have inhaled about 23 million particles. These particles would have rapidly transferred through the lungs and into the lymphatic system where they would have access to all tissues... This focusing of the radiation on the DNA may be the cause of many anomalous mutagenic effects which show themselves in cell cultures (e.g. Miller et al 2002, 2004) in laboratory animals (e.g. Paquet 2005, IRSN 2005) and in the many reports of ill health associated with exposure to uranium."
Most publicized research about depleted uranium studied the immediate aftermath of a weapon strike. The general held belief is that an area of only tens of meters around the perimeter of the target is affected by the radioactive metal. This may be true for larger and heavier particles but little study has been done on much smaller aerosol particles that can be dispersed in the wind. The health risk of these smaller particles is also significantly higher as they are much more easily inhaled and absorbed into the body. To quote the study:
Uranium is a powerful genotoxic stressor. Although the air concentrations are small in mass terms, the evidence suggests that the excession in the UK represents evidence of dispersion of a new type of uranium, the ceramic sub micron oxide particle. It seems likely that air concentrations in European countries closer to Iraq would have been exposed to higher levels than those found at near Aldermaston. In view of the many reports of heritable genetic effects in areas where uranium has been used and these particles generated, and in the illnesses reported in Gulf veterans, time series analysis of infant mortality and congenital malformation rates in European databases assuming exposures to the foetus or the pre conception parents in mid March 2003 might be worth carrying out.
This is where bloggers can make a real difference. There has been a pitiful lack of reporting of this study in the media so little other research has been made public or linked to this report. Yet, if proven, this is as big an international issue as Chernobyl. Worse, as the use of depleted uranium is deliberate and its use is avoidable. This is also not just an issue for Europe, but for Iran, Turkey, Russia and any other country within 3000 miles of war zone. Bloggers have a worldwide network that can used to run an international campaign. I want to ask all other bloggers who feel strongly about this issue to:
  • publicise this report on their own blogs and pass it on to others.
  • campaign for statistics about background radiation and related health issues to be studied in their countries.
  • translate the report and raise the issue in your own local media.
If you do something please also keep in touch with me by emails - or through the comments section of my blog so we can keep everyone intouch with this campaign and maybe just maybe we can do something to change the world for the better.

Hat tip: Baghdad Dweller

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Are they really all going?

From the Telegraph:
All British soldiers to be out of Iraq in 12 months
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 05/03/2006)

All British and United States troops serving in Iraq will be withdrawn within a year in an effort to bring peace and stability to the country.

The news came as defence chiefs admitted privately that the British troop commitment in Afghanistan may last for up to 10 years.

The planned pull-out from Iraq follows the acceptance by London and Washington that the presence of the coalition, mainly composed of British and US troops, is now seen as the main obstacle to peace.

According to a senior defence source directly involved in planning the withdrawal, Britain is the driving force behind the scheme. The early spring of next year has been identified as the optimum time for the start of the complex and dangerous operation.

The source explained that troop numbers were expected to decrease slightly over the next 12 months but that the bulk of British and American forces, who make up 138,000 of the coalition's 153,000 troops, would be withdrawn simultaneously.
I said this before and no one cared to believe me. Aw and I will not have the time to throw flowers at their feet.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Samarra crisis: Tying the strings

Reading Iraqi blogs lately has made me realise that I am as well, if not better informed about what is happening in Iraq than any overpaid newspaper commentator. So in the spirit of blogging I think I have even more right to publish my own poorly researched highly subjective articles.

Let me start with two obvious points as described excellently by Mohammed in Iraq The Model. The Sunni fundamentalist Wahabis were behind the bombing of the Samarra mosque. Probably people from Saudi Arabia as this bombing also coincided with an attempted bombing of the largest refinery in Saudi Arabia.

The second obvious point is that the violence following the bombing was well-planned and organised. People did not spontaneously decide to put on black clothes and go occupy the nearest mosque.

If you are worried about who actually carried out the bombing you are asking the wrong question. Any number of groups in Iraq have the means and the ability to bomb the shrine. the real question is how did they get away with it so easily. If you have read the reports, you will know that setting up the explosives would have involved a lot of heavy drilling and about 12 hours hard work. The big scandal is that there was no proper security around the shrine and the perpetrators knew it.

Security is in the hands of the Iraqi police and internal defense forces and these are in the hands of the Shia militias. This bombing could not have happened without their knowledge. So the next question this raises is why would the Shia militias be so happy to allow one of their shrines to be destroyed like that. The answer to this can be seen in the political process.

Things had not been going to well for the political Shia. They made a lot of gains in the past year and stood to lose everything. They had control of the interior ministry a working majority in the interim government and the lions share of the vote in the election. But the negotiations after the election were going pear-shaped. They did not have enough votes or supporters to get the two-thirds majority needed to form a government. The Kurds, encouraged by the Americans were digging in their heels to prevent the Shia getting control of the key defense and interior ministries and the Americans were enticing smaller parties in the UIA to switch sides. This would have made the UIA an actual minority in the parliament and allowed Iyad Allawi to be shoe-horned into the role of Prime Minister. Something extreme needed to be done to break this downward cycle and the Shia parties are nowhere near ready to burn bridges with America.

Given this situation a civil war would have been a big advantage. It cements the UIA back together again as the smaller Shia parties would not be able to survive (literally) without the protection of the big Shia militias. It also gives the big Shia parties the justification to override the stalled constitutional process and go ahead with the formation of a break-away Shia state in the south that they had always been planning. I am also sure that they expected American politicians fearing upcoming elections would be scared to hell of the violence and would make any number of concessions to the Shia.

However, I do no think the civil war plan played out the way the Shia militias expected. In one word Sadr happened. Instead of falling into line with SCIRI and Badr, Sadr jumped into an alliance with the Sunnis. If the Shia militias had continued their civil war plan they would have to face splitting the Shia movement down the middle with Sadr's supporters allied with the Sunnis against them. WIth the positive reaction of the Iraqi people to this unlikely alliance, victory would not have seemed so certain. So after staring into the abyss the Shia politicians and their counterparts in the militias would have been forced to break off the civil war and go down the political route again.

Hence Jaafari's little trip to Turkey that incensed the Kurds so much. I would not be surprised if he went there to agree on what happens to the Kurds if the Shia form their own state.

So what now? It is clear now that the Americans are no longer the main problem for the Iraqi people. They have come out of all this as impotent and irrelevant. The only thing the American army was able to do during this civil crisis was disappear in their bases and hope no one knocked on the gates. If America is not willing to contribute another 100,000+ soldiers to Iraq they might as well not bother.

Now the main enemy for the Iraq people and the main danger for the region is the current government. It creates the situation for civil war because of the deadlock inherently written into its constitution. Parties in the government are forced into increasingly violent actions to break any deadlocks.

It is also encourages civil war because it encourages the parties to form breakaway sectarian states with their own access to oil wealth. Unfortunately the leaders of the parties are to greedy and stupid to realise that such a move will inflame the sectarian divisions across Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf and spark an international war over the oil-producing regions.

The best solution is to drop the whole constitutional process. Iraqis must form a national unity committee and start from an entirely Iraq perspective. This is in the interests of the Kurds who will be fed to the turkish dogs otherwise and for the Sunnis who are left sitting in the desert. and the Shia because it will prevent a war that can kill millions.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Iraq: The Acknowledgment of Defeat

From Candide's Notebooks/February 27, 2006:
Exactly 38 years ago this week, Walter Cronkite, reacting to the 1968 Tet Offensive, told his CBS Report audience that the Vietnam War was no longer winnable. It was a seminal moment in the war. Lyndon Johnson knew it. If he’d lost Cronkite, he’d lost the American public—and the war, for good. On February 24, William Buckley Jr., an early advocate of war on Iraq , pulled a Cronkite in his column. Not only does Buckley no longer believe that the war in Iraq can be won. He goes further than Cronkite did in 1968 and calls for “the acknowledgement of defeat” as the best way to “submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.” In other words, to cut and run for the sake of national security. Buckley’s piece won’t have the same effect on the American public, nor the credibility, as Cronkite’s moment following Tet. But the effect on the conservative movement, and the Bush administration, could be considerable. The end result is the same: The war, already lost in Iraq , is now lost at home. Here is Buckley’s column, along with the complete text of Walter Cronkite’s famous “report” to the American public:

William Buckley Jr: "It Didn't Work" [National Review]
Walter Cronkite: "We're Mired in Stalemate..." [CBS]

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Landing at the Iraqi Blogodrome

Global Voices Online - The world is talking. Are you listening?

Following for your reading pleasure is my weekly Global Voices column...

Given the recent events in Iraq, it may come as some surprise to find the variety of subjects in Iraqi blogs this week. Read on for a selection.

First let me welcome a new blogger to the scene. Hala s. who used to guest blog at Asterism is now Madly in love with Iraq:
I thought to myself why am I going to this place? I feel so down and this meeting will only agitate and distress me more. I am not mentally prepared for it today. A diversity of Iraqis put together, almost always we end up agreeing to disagree, if we are lucky, or a fight erupts causing embarrassment to the host.

Compelling stuff.

Word from the Street:

While the media may be full of stories speculating on the likelyhood of ongoing civil war the Iraqi bloggers are generally reporting that things are returning back to normal. However this is not the general definition of 'normal' that I would use...

"with the exception of the local mosque being fired upon, and a corpse found at dawn three streets down, things have been relatively quiet."
says Riverbend.

Iraq the Model describes the organised way in which the demonstrations were started:
the protests were not spontaneous like clerics want us to think; in fact the only spontaneous protest was the one in Samarra itself!
I live here and I've seen the whole thing. The demonstrations in Baghdad began after the fatwa and I saw how shop keepers unwillingly closed their shops when the men in black with their arms and loudspeakers ordered them to do so "in the name of the Hawza" and I saw the sad look on the faces of people abandoning their only source of income for a time that could go indefinitely.

Konfused Kid gets an call in the middle of the night:
It was Habeeb, a neighbor friend.

'Hey kiddo'

'Hey Habeeb, something happened?'

'Naw, just bored, standing outside here with my Noss Akhmaas [AK-47], wondered if you could come and join us?'

I never fired anything in my life, nor do I intend to

'I've got nothing but my dick in my, I gotta read, ward off the bogeymen for me'

'Thought so'

'Can't believe u carrying it, shoot a bullet for me'

'Shut the f**k up'

He also gives a day by day breakdown of how the crisis developed in his area of Baghdad. Definately worth reading!

Zeyad refused to go to work today (Wednesday). He met friends and neighbours and exchanged stories. He saw some soldiers pass by:
Three Iraqi army armoured vehicles and a pickup truck flying a ragged Iraqi flag were slowly patrolling the main street, followed by a huddled trail of civilian vehicles. Storeowners and pedestrians briefly paused with whatever they were doing and gazed warily at the soldiers aboard. I stood at the door for a moment, peering into their eyes, trying to determine whether I would trust those young men with my family and neighbours' lives. Some looked edgy and alert, and some of them appeared to be simply bored. One dark, skinny soldier returned my inquisitive look with a wan smile on his face. His AK-47 was pointing in my direction.

Fayrouz posts some emails from her friend, Queen Amidala in Basra:
They [militia men dressed in black] now control the streets at night like the real military. At night, they wear all black and cover their faces with some kind of a black mask like the one in the photographs.

Also, there's no fuel in the city. We can't buy it from the fuel stations for a while now. We always buy it from people on the streets for higher prices -- black market. But, they are no where to be found for the last three days.

Add to that there isn't electricity 24/7. And now we can't let the generators work like before because of the fuel shortage. So we are back to the dark ages, only this time it's much more worse.

Shaggy is enjoying himself:
I really love day time curfews. It makes the whole city feel like an oversized park. The weather these past few days has been gorgeous too. I wish I had repaired my bike. It really sucks that I'm somewhat stuck at home.

Several bloggers picked up this image originally posted by Zeyad. The best caption goes to Akba of Iraq Rising:


Speculation on the crisis:

Iraq The Model is clear who was behind the mosque bombing in Samarra:
It's not a secret who was behind the attack on the shrine and I am sure that who did it were the Salafi/Wahabis whether Iraqi or foreigners and with external support from parties planning to disrupt the political process in Iraq.

Read on to find out why.

Hammorabi is blaming everyone:
The responsibility for what is going on now is not only on Al-Qaeda and its supporters among some of the political parties but all the other parties bear responsibility because of their failure to form the government. The recent unprecedented and biased statements of the US ambassador in Baghdad (Z. K. Zada) were of great push for the terrorists to commit their acts. These statements were condemned by many Iraqi writers and Intelligent as they are based on a sectarian attitude. We feel that ZKZ is a better Ambassador in Kabul. Iraq needs a healer not a high commissioner.

Free Iraqi wonders why every one blames the Sunnis:
Since the end of the war every atrocity committed in Iraq was attributed to the Sunnis, not just the Ba'athists or radical Sunnis but all Sunnis. The poor She'at and Kurds have been suffering for hundreds of years while the Sunnis were all privileged and living in a paradise called Iraq

And points out that the Shia have skeletons in their closets too:
When I served in the military I made friends with a devoted She'at Captain... This guy was very proud of his job and accomplishments. He often talked about his heroic actions against the "saboteurs". Who were those saboteurs? ... anyone who stood against Saddam during the uprising and that meant the vast majority of the She'at. Yet this Captain always refer to the She'at Imams and quote them during our conversations...

That guy was no exception for the denial most Iraqis lived in at Saddam's days and we had many officers like him in our camp... This is part of the reason, as I think, why most Iraqis especially She'at do not want Saddam's trial to take its natural long course. They don't want to remember their submission and even collaboration with the tyrant

Asterism (thats me) suggests:
The Iraqi people must take their destiny in their hands... If they do not they can only expect more Samarras and more bloodshed everytime events do not go to the liking of one gang or another.

Further we must define our own unity and national government and not leave it to other countries that only have their own selfish interests at heart. At the root of this conflict is the meddling of foreign interests in Iraq's affairs.

In other words:

Baghdad Treasure tells of the dangers of working as a reporter:
As a reporter, I’ve been at risk in Baghdad and other provinces several times. Working for an Iraqi media means something but working for US media means something else! As an Iraqi reporter working with a US media, I am considered a “spy”, “collaborator” or sometimes an “infidel” in the eyes of the insurgents who said have the “right” to kill me as I broke the rule of “true Islam” and become a “spy to the infidels”, which is nonsense. ...
Since I started working, I have been so cautious in telling people where I work. No one in my neighborhood knows what I do. If so, I would be finished in a minute as I live in a very dangerous neighborhood ... I have to say that I am being cautious, but the question is: is this enough?!

He also remembers the murdered Iraqi journalist Atwar Bahjat who died in Samarra last week.
I don’t know how to explain her death in the middle of this chaos the country is going through since the latest bombing. I cannot even find a way to express my grief. Tears have almost dried. I feel I am using blood instead of ink. What kind of cruelty is this to kill an innocent journalist who sacrificed her life just to tell the truth. She was there to tell the world that what happened was a crime and what is coming is worse as if she expected her death.

and reminds us of the kidnapped Journalist Jill Carroll:
Jill’s deadline is tomorrow. It aches me and makes me feel so terrible. She was my comfort along with J. I don’t know whether she’ll be released or not. I am afraid of one thing. I am afraid that her captors will kill her like what happened to Margaret Hasan during the Falluja battle. Oh Jill!! I am sorry to all what is happening to you. I wish I could do something to help you.

Aunt Najma gets her exam results: "The first three papers brought me the worst news. I got 76 in Biology, 89 in French and 93 in Arabic, so you see I was crushed in the beginning" and those were the bad grades(!) "the only 100 in English for the whole class. I got 100 in Mathematics too, 98 in Physics, 95 in Chemistry and religion." And why is she blogging so infrequently? "mom doesn't want me to spend much time on the net and I feel guilty if I update frequently too. I don't want to be doing well blogging and badly studying." Someone tell Najma's Mom to give her a break - she got 100 in English and Maths!

Nibras Kazimi reports on the 'Baghdad Sniper':
A leading terrorist ‘warrior’ who have been lionized by the jihadist propaganda machine over the last two years was himself killed by a sniper shot recently... It is interesting to see that the jihadists decided to announce his death rather than keeping the myth going.

And Finally:

Niqash Press Blogs recommends "the Iraq section of the Global Voices Online project provides a great overview of what Iraqi bloggers are saying about the current situation". But I guess you already knew that :)

AnaRki13 tells us a shocking secret ... "There is no crime in Iraq." to explain:
"I mean, yeah sure there is, but not in the same sense as Chechnya, or Bogotá, Colombia, or Beirut (Circa 1980ish...)"

He then goes on to give "Staying Alive in post-war Iraq FOR DUMMIES" instructions - in two versions. For Iraqis:
1. NEVER EVER go out when IT’S DARK; preferably lock yourself in after 6 p.m.

2. NEVER EVER stop to give help of ANYKIND to ANYONE you do not know, and even then, be careful.

3. ALWAYS give American Hummers the right of way, unless you want to be rammed or turn to Swiss-cheese. Even if your wife is giving birth in the back. ESPECIALLY that! ...

And for non-Iraqis:

1. AVOID coming to Iraq in the first place. If not possible, then:

2. NEVER trust Iraqis, we are a scheming, profiteering, xenophobic lot, and we’d love nothing more than to gain a few hundred thousand dollars from an “Ajnabi” (Foreigner). Even the people who work with you in the GZ, they are vetted and scanned sure sure, but who knows what lurks in the hearts of men?
*the shadow knows…. cough cough*


I don't know bout hit-prices, but regarding kidnappings, it’s an established norm nowadays that the opening price is about 20’000 USD, everything is negotiable from there, it can run as low as 2000-3000 USD if you’re lucky!

As a finale he criticises oatmeal: "What is the point of Oatmeal anyway?
No Color, No Taste. No Smell; Just Texture."

Meemo, Baghdad's only Bohemian Beatnik Blogger takes a time out from his usual stream of thoughts to interview .... himself in the style of a teenage pop magazine. Here are some selected Q&A:

Name: Meemo Abbas, Show Time, Psycho.
Birthplace: Baghdad-Great Iraq.
Tattoos: none, but will have soon.
Candy: Kit Kat.
Body Part on opposite sex: eyes, hair, smile and the shoes,
Is it part of the body, LOL.
Pepsi or Coke: Pepsi
McDonalds or Burger King: McDonalds, but I prefer Al-Sa3a
Strawberry or Watermelon: Watermelon.
Rap or Punk: Hard Rock & Heavy Metal.
Bedtime: Don't have one, I sleep whenever I want.
Best physical feature: my nose, it’s amazing, it's kinda big so you can talk with it sometimes if you want.
Do you Drink: What?? Say it again I can't hear ya, call me again later cause I can't hear ya now ;).
First Thought Waking Up: I'm still alive.
How do you want to Die: Forget to breathe.

Saddam and Bush's Moral Equivalence

From Stirling Newberry at BOPnews:
When presented with proof that Saddam ordered a show trial of 148 people - including children - who were alledged to be involved with an assassination attempt, he said he was head of state, and had the power to refer them to a court, and that the court had the right to convict them under the law, and sentence them. When given proof that their land was razed, he said that the decree was legally passed for "national security reasons", and that compensation was paid. When given a list of the people trucked to a desert prison, he stated that they had been legally sentenced for their involvement.

While the court against Saddam is trying to hit home that 10 of the people sentenced to death were under the age of 18 - one as young as 11 - the moral force of this is almost nothing. The United States ships people to be tortured. The United States detains people without legal evidence, without a means to prove innocence, and without access to trial. The United States executes jeuveniles and mentally incompetent individuals.
Sometimes it takes an American to tell Iraqis the blindingly obvious. America has no moral authority to judge Saddam. It is not that Saddam is not a criminal - the point is that he must be judged by an Iraqi controlled court according to Iraqi moral standards and not American ones. And before you show moral outrage at Iraqi state crimes take a look at your own countries first.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Newswire: Iraq upset China 2-1 in Asian Cup qualifier

A little news every Iraqi can celebrate!

Iraq goalscorer Hawar Mohammed celebrates bagging the winner against China

AL AIN, UAE: Mahdi Kareem and Hawar Mohamed scored in either half as Iraq pulled off a stunning 2-1 win over China in a Group E match of the AFC Asian Cup 2007 qualifying round on Wednesday here.

The win at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium helped Iraq avenge their 3-0 ouster in the quarterfinals from the 2004 edition of the AFC Asian Cup by eventual finalists China.

Mahdi Kareem bulged the net on 16 minutes to give Iraq the lead but Akram Salman’s men couldn’t impose themselves on their rivals. The first half was equally poised and Zhu Guanghu’s team poured forward for the equaliser but failed to find it before the break.

A defensive lapse in the 54th minute saw Munich 1860 midfielder Shao Jiayi’s cross being miscleared and the ball trickling to Tao Wei who made no mistake from near the penalty spot.

However, Hawar Mohamed re-established Iraq’s lead with a fierce left-footed freekick in the 67th minute which brushed the underside of the bar and rushed in past Chinese goalkeeper Li Lei Lei.

From then on, Iraq defended well to walk away with three points.