After communism and capitalism, there is asterism.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Repugnant Black Water

So says Imad Khadduri.

This post marks the beginning of, hopefully, more frequent and shorter posts around specific subjects that affect Iraqi bloggers. My choice of topic today is the banning of the private security firm Blackwater for killing at least eight Iraqi civilians while driving American diplomats through the streets of Baghdad.

Free Iraq provides a the essential background information to the whole debate on private security firms in Iraq. Imad publishes a translation of an eyewitness account, the law that gave such security firms, basically, a license to kill, links to current articles and his previous posts on the behaviour of private security companies. And his opinion on Blackwater? "war profiteering criminals" he says.

Baghdad Treasure was less diplomatic with his choice of words, "You can’t imagine how happy I am to read the mercenary murderers of Blackwater USA are going to be kicked out of the country" He writes. And he speaks from firsthand experience:
Watching Blackwater’s mercenary actions in Iraq, I grew not only angry but disgusted with their actions that never respect any human being they come across. When they race in the streets of Baghdad, they behave like beasts even in the calmest areas, terrifying people with their SUVs and machine guns and firing without restraint at anyone
Baghdad Treasure sees companies like Blackwater as part of the problem facing American troops in Iraq because,
Some people there link these criminals to the US army and to the US itself. That’s how sentiments against American troops themselves increased. Of course, I differentiate who’s who, but there are uneducated people who think that these mercenaries are basically the same as any soldier or marine who “came to kill, take oil, and then leave.”

Raed sees signs that the US State Department is trying to find ways to keep Blackwater in Iraq despite clear orders from the Iraqi government to leave. He calls for people to write emails to the the Department of State and to Blackwater's media relations. He writes:
Mercenaries who go around killing civilians without any accountability are being paid with billions of U.S. tax-payer dollars. It is time to get all private contractors out of Iraq, but let's start by bringing Blackwater first.

Zappy reminds us of Blackwater's mission statement which is, I quote:
To support national and international security policies that protect those who are defenseless and provide a free voice for all with a dedication to providing ethical, efficient, and effective turnkey solutions that positively impact the lives of those still caught in desperate times.
He recalls a story of a drunken Blackwater guy who shot an Iraqi security guard for no apparent reason and was only sent back to America without any punishment. He concludes:
Blackwater has done more damage in Iraq than Al Qaeda would ever dream of an American company would do.

Good Job Blackwater! Continue your Vision ... your doin' a hell'ava Job!

From my reading of the news there seems little to explain why the Iraqi government acted only now and so decisively, which is a stark contrast to their usual silence on such matters. I have reported too many times in the past stories from bloggers who have lost or nearly lost relatives to similar incidents involving American soldiers.

As this video from Alive in Baghdad shows, public anger in parts of Baghdad over killings of civilians by American troops have boiled over into large demonstrations without a peep of protest from the Iraqi government.

A possible explanation comes from Al-Ghad which reports:
The deal between the Bush-linked “Hunt Oil Company” and the Kurdish Regional Government has uncovered a major crisis between the Maliki Government and the US, according to well-informed sources. ...

It ... means that the US has decided to by-pass the Iraqi Central Government, ignoring the constitution and even encroaching on disputed major oilfields outside the Kurdish Region. Because of this, the Iraqi Government finds itself forced to take symbolic and unusual measures to express its anger. This seems already reflected in its vocal reaction to the Blackwater massacre in Baghdad, in contrast to the usual official silence with regards the daily attacks and bombing of civilian targets.

Like Greenspan says, maybe, at the end, it is all about oil.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Landing at the Iraqi Blogodrome

With a major report to congress by America's top general in Iraq and the British withdrawal from Basra, politics is my main course for today. But there much more - and if you read to the end - I present Aboosi the Iraqi Human Beatbox.

Marshmallow26 makes her design for an Iraqi flag. She explains her design:
I've seen so many designs of the Iraqi flag and they all impressed me and inspired me to create another one...

Iraq Kiss Flag by Marshmallow26

Frankly, the flag Idea represents a nation in a simple but strong way simultaneously.
So here is my new design for the Iraqi flag...I LOVE IRAQ
So this essence of her Iraq - Oil, Love and some pretty trees in between. I love the design :)

Wishing you Ramadhan Karem

Sunshine gives the essential guide to Ramadhan. She says:
To all of my friends and readers, specially the Muslims, blessed Ramadan (Ramadan Karim), may all of your dreams come true.

And for my Iraqi friends and readers, may this Ramadan be peaceful, and we'll all live a peaceful life, without killing, explosions, and shootings...
In Ramadan god answer the prayers , let's all pray for a new shining and peaceful day for Iraq, may the terrorists vanish and we have a developed country, I am writing this post feeling positive and full of hope..

If you read no other blog posts this week read these

Riverbend graces the blogodrome with one of her ever so rare posts. Although rare, you still realise why she is one of the great Iraqi bloggers. Her moving depiction of her experience as an Iraqi who decides to become a refugee is something that not only other Iraqis can relate to but also anyone around the world. Here is an extract...
It was a tearful farewell as we left the house. One of my other aunts and an uncle came to say goodbye the morning of the trip. It was a solemn morning and I’d been preparing myself for the last two days not to cry. You won’t cry, I kept saying, because you’re coming back. You won’t cry because it’s just a little trip like the ones you used to take to Mosul or Basrah before the war. In spite of my assurances to myself of a safe and happy return, I spent several hours before leaving with a huge lump lodged firmly in my throat. My eyes burned and my nose ran in spite of me. I told myself it was an allergy.

Iraqi Mojo was, however, not so impressed...
I started thinking about our own escape from Iraq in 1982 ... I am an Iraqi American who escaped Saddam's horrors in 1982... We didn't have the luxury of taking whatever we wanted with us (one suitcase for 4 kids), and we couldn't tell the world about it - our parents didn't tell us kids we were leaving the country until the day we left, because they didn't want anybody to know - they were afraid the Baathists in our neighborhood (one particular family, really) might suspect...

I'm sorry that Riverbend and her family have to leave Iraq, but they are very very lucky compared to most Iraqis.

How I really wish I could summarise Sunshine's posts in a few sentences, but, it is simply impossible. You must find a quiet moment, open up your browser and read it in full. it ranges from friends to parties to the murder of innocents. She concludes:
I pray for my family's safety and all the innocents and people I love, hoping one day god will answer my prayer..
The situation in REALLY bad, everyday a mine, car bomb, or shooting awake me. I want to start my day with something nice, like the peg top's sound not a horrifying sound, not a loud explosions and shrapnels' sound falling on my house, I want to wake up and stay few minutes in my bed stretching and yawing not running and hitting the furniture ! (that's a dream I am not sure if it'll come true soon, sometimes I feel it is like Lucifer's dream to enter the paradise :D)

The Week in Politics

Electricity cables by Last of Iraqis

Electricity: Last of Iraqis takes the Iraqi Minister of Electricity to task on his recent statements. The minister said that the ministry needs about $50 Billion to fix the electricity supply and 36-48 months to finish the work. He also said that the national grid is producing 5000 megawatts while it should produce 9000 megawatts. Last of Iraqis responds:
I don't know much about electricity... but I think what the national grid is producing is more than half of what it should produce , that means the electricity should be available at least for 8 or 10 hours! ... then I would like to ask him why the electricity didn't came to my block for 5 days now? 5 days without electricity and he is saying that it produces more than half of what should it produce . Well , I know the answer , because they are not being fair in giving the electricity.for example ; the neighboring block has electricity almost all day long... wherever there is a house for someone in the government the electricity never outages in his neighborhood....

another thing about the time to finish the power plants , he said it takes 36-48 months , we have heard this thing before , we heard that the electricity will be excellent by the year 2007 , that's what they said in 2003. If it takes so much time how did Saddam finish the rebuilding of the power plants in less than a year ? was he a wizard or something? it was in a worst condition after the gulf war , it was totally destroyed .it's true that it wasn't very good right after the war , but the outages were much less than was according to a schedule.and before the beginning of the war we used to have electricity at least 20 hours a day, that's the ultimate dream now.

General Betray-us: Oops let my bias show. I mean General Petraeus of course. Several bloggers had something to say about his report on progress in Iraq. Even before Petraeus reported to congress Neurotic Iraqi Wife had something to say about it:
that much awaited report from Crocker and Petraues means nothing. A big fat nothing. Im not holding my breath and I dont think any wise person should. The real stories are here, here with the Iraqis. I dont need a top notch General to lie to me anymore. I dont need to read a report that is so full of spin and prepared by arrogant people to contradict everything I know. Everything I need I hear from the real people who live not in the GZ but out there, out there in the red zone. No I dont need a report that is prepared by people who wear armoured vests and carry guns and have about 30 security guards watching their every step. Nope, I dont need that, because I have the simple Iraqis who risk their lives on a daily basis just by coming to work.
Iraqi Pundit cheers Petraeus' report and jeers at the media. He writes:
t's been apparent for some time that Petraeus has achieved enough success in Iraq to blunt attempts by the Democratic leadership and its fans at the NYT to force an early troop withdrawal.
But, 24 Steps to Liberty is not so convinced:
For months now we’ve been hearing about the “success” and “stability” some parts of central Iraq are enjoying due to the “successful” surge that Bush tasked earlier this year... Although any human being with the smallest working brain would know that this is not true...

“We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq,” Michael E. O’Hanlon and Kenneth M. Pollack said.... They went to Iraq and spent eight days only, shuttled in armored vehicles when they weren’t flying in black hocks. Eight days… and did they meet Iraqis? NO...

"Last week we strolled down its streets without body armor,” they said about Ramadi. But did they tell us that it was ONE street only? No. they said “streets.” Did they tell us that this street was blocked four years ago and no car is allowed to move on it? Did they tell us that the street only leads to the US troops barracks, which means average Iraqis don’t use it anymore?...

I don’t get it. How can the Americans be so foolish? Why don’t they ask questions? Why don’t they check the information that is being fed to them? ...

If it is such a success in Anbar, where are the construction projects? Why don’t we see one factory back to working there?... And why we don’t see one single street being cleaned up of the rubble of four years of destruction? And why do we still see cement barriers and barbed wires everywhere?
Last of Iraqis looked at the statistics in Petraeus' report. he was surprised to say the least:
am I living in Iraq or what? I'm not saying that the graphs and statistics are fake, but they are inaccurate
And he takes each statistic apart:
first of all in this time of the year most Iraqis leave Iraq for a vacation... Iraq is almost empty at this time of the year , so there are fewer numbers to die... [also] twice the number of the dead are missing civilians and this is something every Iraqi knows...

Now let's see about the explosions , attacks and sectarian violence how could they count that? every day I hear explosions but they don't mention it , then sure they wouldn't count it , just like today , there were two loud explosions which I heard but no one said anything about it!

How could they count the attacks ? no one can do that ? and the sectarian violence is something that can't be counted no matter what the effort is , for example as the case of my family when they were threatened by Al-Qaeda first and then by Al-Mahdi Army , my father didn't go to police because they are corrupted , and they might be in the Mahdy-Army so he will jeopardise our lives if he did that.What my father did is what all the Iraqis do , this is the smartest thing to do , even in my case that I talked in my earliest post "I shouldn't be alive" I didn't report it , ... what I want to say is that sectarian violence can't be measured and even if I believed that the explosions and car bombs are less than before as the report said , I wouldn't believe that sectarian violence decreased no matter what graphs they show me , I live in Baghdad and I know it , it's the same if not getting higher.

But he adds, " the withdrawal of the US troops specially in this time is not a good idea , that's what I think."

British leave Basra: Fayrouz wonders about the British withdrawal from Basra. She writes:
My first reaction was: there were British troops in Basra?

What's the point of having the troops in Basra when they watch the militias fighting each others for turf without stopping the madness. They also watched the Iranians replace the Iraqi face of Basra with an Iranian one. From what I can tell, the British troops were having a picnic in Basra. The Medal of Shame goes to you all. ...

I say to the British troops, "Leave and don't let the door hit you." Most of my Basrawi AND American friends share my opinion.

As for Basrawis, they'll survive the next round of violence like they've done for the last 27 years. For them, it's another day in hell.

Baghdad Connect says all they want in one line:
Brown: British forces withdrawal was pre-planned and not an act of Defe(c)at(e)

And Finally:

Marshmallow26 has found the Iraqi equivalent of the human beatbox.

For me this is a very small part of the true wealth of the Iraqi people. Even with the deepest poverty, and worst of violence, iraq can still produce gems like this.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Landing at the Iraqi Blogodrome

It has been a while since I last wrote my roundup but today I will only write about three blogs. There is so much to report and, yet, at the same time I feel there is so little. You hear a lot about Iraq in the news, about military surges and oil laws, benchmarks and statistics, political disagreements and security. There is a whole maze of paths and blind alleys that one can travel down considering the situation in Iraq. But all this boils down to one thing and that is the everyday life and hopes of the people living in Iraq.

Maybe none better can explain what I mean than a post in Inside Iraq. Sahar quotes the story of a cousin returning home in Baghdad one day:
"We turned the corner and all of a sudden all hell broke loose. We were a target! WHY?? What is happening?? We ducked as far as we could, but the fire wouldn't stop! Who was shooing at us??

"A thin scream! Oh my God!


"She went limp in my arms! I started screaming and screaming. My husband tried to move and was shot too. Twice. But he didn't pass out.

"I opened the door. Cradling Tara in my arms and shouting for Dima to stick by me, I crawled out of the car, and continued to crawl the few meters to the gate of the nearest house. Too terrified to raise my voice, I banged and banged with all my strength – and miraculously – the door opened.

"Arms came to my assistance, we were half dragged into the house...

"A few minutes passed.

"Miraculously, I saw my husband's twisted face peep through the half open gate at ground level! They ran to him and pulled him in. We found that he was shot in the shoulder and in the arm. He was loosing blood fast.

"I tried to stop the bleeding but wasn't skilled enough to do it. I was losing them – they were dying in front of my eyes!

"Suddenly the door was kicked in. American troops poured into the house ... Looking at us – at the blood – at my broken family..

"They said they were sorry. They had set up an ambush for somebody and we had walked into it. "They thought he had taken refuge in this house, and followed him in.

"They said they were sorry, again and again...

"My daughter lost two fingers. My husband has a punctured lung and a steel sliver embedded in his arm, still to be seen to.
Sahar finishes, with more than a hint of irony,on the major news of the day:

Parliament resumes its sessions tomorrow to discuss important things like Oil Law, maybe, or new ministers.

Security in Baghdad is better.

Much better.

Normal life among the car bombs

AftermathSunshine photographs the aftermath of the carbomb near her house.
Sunshine describes the routine when a car bomb is discovered in her neighbourhood:
dad come running and saying "OPEN ALL THE WINDOWS AND DOORS THERE IS A CAR BOMB IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD NEAR THE HOUSE" I was shocked and didn't think about anything I opened my room's windows and called our neighbor S to tell them about the car, so that they open the windows and doors and hide in a safe place , their dad replied

- hello?

- hello uncle , if you don't mind , please, if it is ok

(then I thought what am I saying?!!) There is a car in our neighborhood and will explode in a sec, thought I would tell you to ..

- he interrupted me saying , oh yea I knew about that, thanks , and stay safe..

I went downstairs with my family members and we stayed in a safe room, I forgot all the prayers, I was trying to remember simple says in Quran but I forgot every word, and started to think about 100 things in the same time, I felt scared from the stressed situation, there were policemen in our neighborhood and in front of our house, suddenly I started to laugh, I said " people change their clothes and wait for guests, or relatives, but I am waiting for the car to explode" ...

After an hour of waiting, and I think it was the longest hour in my life, we heard VERY HEAVY shooting, dad and grandpa asked us to go to the corridor and wait, after 30 minutes I felt tired, I took of my shoes, and kept walking in the corridor, I was standing near the stairs and the kitchen's door, BOOOOOOOOOOOOM the ground started to shake under our feet and the other door of the kitchen was opened from the bluster with so much dust, Mariam was screaming , and mama was saying " it is over now, it is over now" I said "thank god"
Now is the shocking fact that car bombs still target residential areas or that people already have developed routines to cope with them?

A fishing trip among the bombs and bullets

Fishing in the Tigris
Fishing in the Tigris by Sunshine
A few days later Sunshine and family decide to go on a fishing trip. Sunshine's mother, mama, describes the event:
I took my kids to a picnic ,to a casino [resort] near the Tigris river with some relatives, Sunshine enjoyed fishing there ,my other two kids ,Miriam and yoyo, had fun too swimming and playing, although we heard many many explosions but the kids did not care, I supposed to have fun there, the weather was great, the company was nice , the view of the river was so much relieving , my kids happiness was the most important thing to me, but suddenly I burst into tears ....Then as I was close to one of the trees I heard a far away shooting and few moments latter the tree wicker near my head was smashed by an aimless bullet…the fear I felt was beyond discretion…

Sunshine took all the explosions in her stride. She writes:
we heard sooooooo many explosions but we were in a safe place, we were able to see the smoke in the other side, one of the explosions was near my house, grandma was alone, but she is ok, now we don't care about the material thing, the money come and go, but the soul doesn't.
but after hearing her mother's story she later adds:
I had a great time fishing, & thought everyone was happy, I didn't know that my mom burst in tears nor about the bullet that hit the tree few centimeters away from my mom, she hide that and didn't mention it. When she told me my heart began to beat fast and I felt horrible, and started to think what if my mom was a little bit to the right or to the left, I wouldn't forgive myself because I wanted to go fishing and they agreed because they wanted me to be happy.

Sunshine recounts some of the tragedies that happened in her neighbourhood and admits her fears:
I do feel scared, from everything, even if I try to hide it, but there's a horrifying feeling inside me. Everyday I hear a shocking news, my neighborhood is more dangerous than before, about 4 car bombs were found this week, beside the so many mines. Every street leads to my house is closed, no one can enter/leave my neighborhood, we are stuck!!!! How will I be able to go to school? Hospital? We can't even go to the other side from the neighborhood.

These are just stories from two families that were written in the last couple of weeks. How many times have such stories been repeated for the millions of Iraqis over the last four years.

It seems to me no amount of congressional benchmarks or American military surges will bring normal life back to ordinary Iraqis. It may succeed in temporarily propping up an increasingly unpopular government. But, after one year, two years, then what?