observations and analysis on everything under the Iraqi sun, by Ayad Rahim (firstname.lastname@example.org), host of The Ayad Rahim Show, a program about the war we're in, exploring the Arab world, Islam, terrorism and Iraq, with insiders who are honest about their world and outsiders with special insight: http://wjcu.org/media
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
I'm sure you've heard the news -- Saddam was received by Iraqis -- and hospitably, at that. He was told by the lead prosecutor of the special tribunal set up to try Saddam and his henchmen, "You are no longer a prisoner of war -- you are now a defendant," based on the Iraqi criminal code. Tomorrow, he and the 11 top lieutenants legally handed over to Iraqi custody today, will be read the charges against them. Earlier today, lead prosecutor Salem Chalabi said, he met with Saddam, "to explain his rights and what will happen."
The other 11 defendants were informed individually of their rights, too, said an international official. An Iraqi judge witnessed the proceedings.
According to the Associated Press report:
Saddam, who appeared to have lost weight in confinement, said "Good morning" as he entered the room, according to Chalabi. After being informed that he was being placed under Iraqi jurisdiction, Saddam...was ordered "to leave the room," Chalabi added.Many Iraqis hoped to see the procession of the prisoners as they were turned over to Iraqi custody. Many also wanted the Iraqi policemen to each take a whack at each defendant, as they passed by. Today's proceedings may yet be shown. Tomorrow's will probably be shown, later.
The other defendants also were brought into the room individually to hear that they would appear in court Thursday, Chalabi said.
"Some of them looked very worried," Chalabi added.
Saddam will remain in a U.S.-controlled jail guarded by Americans until the Iraqis are ready to take physical custody of him.
Saddam has another legal problem. He many not have his choice of lawyers. According to Iraqi court rules, only Iraqi lawyers or those registered with the Iraqi attorneys union, may represent a client in an Iraqi court. Saddam has dozens of volunteers and highly paid counselors, none of them, I don't believe, a member of the Iraqi union. In the same AP article, I read there is an exemption in this policy for Syrian and Palestinian attorneys.
In other news, the justice minister officially lifted the occupation-mandated ban on the death penalty.
Forgive my low productivity of late, but my energy's really gotten sapped by that fever, which is looking like it might have been a bout of sunstroke. I saw a doctor this morning, got some medicines, and am going to get my blood et al tested for a few things. My mother worries about typhoid fever, which is common hereabouts. After my two-day fever, I had several sleepless nights, with the space between my temples feeling like the inside of a toaster and sizzling -- I wanted to poke holes into my forehead. It's practically driven me crazy, not to mention, into the ground. I'm keeping pretty serene, all the same. It's 8:30, Wednesday night, and I just slept a few hours, my first, after 29 sleepless ones.
Well -- that's the latest health news. Now, back to the good stuff.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
At the swearing-in ceremony for the new Iraqi cabinet yesterday afternoon, there were 18 Iraqi flags at the back of the stage, for the number of provinces in the country. It was the old flag, which was adopted in 1963 from that of the union of Egypt and Syria, with the words "Allahu Akbar" that Saddam added to it during the Kuwait war. Now, though, the script was not in Saddam's hand, but in a geometric artistic style. The people had made their desire felt, rejecting the flag designed in late April.
President Ghazi il-Yawer spoke first: "Before us is a challenge and a burden and we ask God almighty to give us the patience and guide us to take this country whose people deserves all goodness.... May God protect Iraq and its citizens." He smiled frequently and laughed gently a couple of times. He has a warm, light-hearted way about him.
Prime Minister Ayad Allawi described the terrorists as "enemies of Islam, enemies of the people of Iraq — those who align themselves with infidels."
"Infidels shouldn't frighten us," he said, adding that the Iraqi people need to stand up to the terrorists. "God is with us.... I warn the forces of terror once again...we will not forget who stood with us and against us in this crisis."
Allawi gave a nod to Grand Ayatollah Ali il-Sistani, acknowledging the influential role he plays in people's lives. However, said political scholar Hasan Alewi on Al-Hurra television last night, it was also a gentle hands-off signal -- that "you have your place (in people's private lives), while we politicians have ours (in the public realm)" -- an indication of a tilt toward secularism, which is Allawi's bent.
Here's how President Bush got word of completion of the handover. At the meeting of NATO leaders in Istanbul yesterday, he was passed a note from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice: "Mr. President, Iraq is sovereign." Bush wrote, "Let freedom reign!" on the note and passed it back.
John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and now the top American representative in the country, arrived in Baghdad yesterday afternoon.
Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, coalition military spokesman, said, "The political arm of our operation here has gone out of business. Certainly the military operation has not gone out of business."
In another transfer, Saddam will reportedly be turned over to the Iraqi government and indicted this week. Saddam is to appear before an Iraqi judge and handed a formal indictment, a top Iraqi official said. A military spokesman said he will remain in a U.S.-run jail, because the Iraqi government lacks a suitable prison.
Maybe Iraqi security forces didn't capture Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, as they announced yesterday. After the announcement of his capture, in Hilla, coalition military spokesman, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt denied the news report. Later in the day, the Iraqi security sources in Hilla reaffirmed the news.
Monday, June 28, 2004
L. Paul Bremer, the ruler of Iraq for the last 13 months, has left the country. Nobody knows where he is. There was a report that he would take over at the Court of St. James, the American equivalent of being knighted.
Bremer left Iraq a few hours after the handover. His last moments in Iraq were spent in a meeting with Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top American commander in the country. An aide to Bremer, also speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to say precisely where Bremer was headed, saying only that "he was going home."That must sound very sweet to the terribly fatigued diplomat.
Before parting Iraq, Bremer said that Iraqi Prime Minsiter Ayad Allawi made the request for the transfer of sovereignty to be advanced. Allawi is said to want to take immediate steps to crush terrorism and attempts at sedition in the country. Last Thursday, the remaining 11 ministries (out of 26) were transfered to full Iraqi control.
It is expected that Allawi will inject massive numbers of police and national guard forces onto the streets throughout the country. As for coalition forces, now called the multi-national force, they will be posted in military bases outside the cities and cease patrols in the cities. The Iraqi and coalition sides have been negotiating the terms of further coalition operations -- with or without Iraqi approval, Iraqi oversight, Iraqi request. I do not know what they have decided, and maybe they will decide, on a trial basis. One important defense function is protecting the borders, for which Iraqi forces are not yet adequate enough or trained enough to handle.
There are rumors that Wednesday's national holiday will be called off, but doesn't seem likely. Instead, it now seeem that the next three days will be declared days of celebration, with Friday making four consecutive days without government employees having to report to work. With people stayihng at home, that will reduce traffic tremendously.
Top U.S. military spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt just denied that top terrorist Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi was captured. Maybe they want to see him to believe it. He was reportedly captured in Hilla, which means must've been by Iraqi forces. I've heard from the father of the girl there who needs a bone-marrow transplant, that the city has been without foreign forces, the past couple of months. I haven't heard the original source of the capture story. One co-worker was in a bank, and he heard shouts from upstairs. He thought maybe the managers were playing hanky-panky. The news came down, from the coalition-funded Iraqiyya television station, that Zarqawi was captured. Here, in the office, co-workers were having lunch, when the news was announced. The door to the kitchen was closed, and I didn't hear their screams. When the guy got back from the bank, he blared the news to me. I went over to the kitchen, but no details -- yet.
In a surprise move, L. Paul Bremer III, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority that's ruled Iraq for the past 13 months, along with Iraqi President Ghazi il-Yawer and Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, advanced the handover of sovereignty by two days. The transfer of power was to take place on Wednesday, June 30. It is said Bremer will leave Iraq today. He made the announcement in a small private ceremony in the Green Zone at 10:26 this morning. The event was broadcast live on television. Bremer signed the legal papers in the presence of Allawi, and presented them to the chief justice of Iraq, Midhat al-Mahmoud. About a half dozen Iraqi and coalition officials were also in attendance, inlcuding Barham Salih, deputy prime minister for national security affairs.
A main reason for the change could be to preempt the terrorists, who have begun to unload a flurry of explosions and attacks that would go on for the next few days, in an effort to undermine the incoming government. Now, the main terrorist leading operations in Iraq, Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, is in custody.
Another reason for the early handover is that Iraqis are eager to get their hands around the security situation, themselves. Yesterday, in addition to police fighting off and arresting three attackers on a police station in Baghdad, an unusual occurrence, police intercepted a car and a truck loaded with bombs and weapons. In the southeastern city Kut, a truck driven by a Jordanian and a Palestinian was stopped and discovered to contain 800 rocket launchers, and in the Jihad area of Baghdad, the police stopped a 1981 blue Corona loaded with 250 kilograms of high-intensity explosives with four mortar rounds inside. The car was headed for a police center, and units disabled the bombs. Police were also able to diffuse 10 improvised explosive devices planted in two heavily congested areas of the Hindiyya district, near Kerbela.
People are celebrating -- privately -- all congratulating each other.
"This is a historical day," said Allawi. "We feel we are capable of controlling the security situation."
Bremer responded, "You have said, and we agreed, that you are ready for sovereignty. I will leave Iraq confident in its future."
President Bush has reportedly sent a letter to Allawi formally requesting diplomatic relations with the government of Iraq — signalling that the United States recognizes Iraq as sovereign. America's ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, is already in the country. The new Iraqi ministers are to be sworn in today.
Finally, in what is said to be a compromise solution, NATO members, meeting in Istanbul today, agreed to train Iraqi forces. Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zeybari, said the training must be done in Iraq.
Local television just announced the capture of the top terrorist operating in Iraq, Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. He was caught in Hilla, a city near ancient Babylon. What he was doing in Hilla, God knows?
Zarqawi has been responsible for dozens of beheadings, car bombings and other attacks in Iraq for the past year. He was reportedly sent by Usama bin Laden to Iraq in the 1990s to train in the production and use of chemical weapons and germs. He was also convicted in absentia, and sentenced to death, for the murder in Jordan in 2002 of U.S. AID worker Laurence Foley.
Stay tuned. This is already a great day -- and it's just beginning. Can we stop the clock, now?
Sunday, June 27, 2004
This Travel Warning provides updated information on the dangerous security situation in Iraq and informs Americans that the period surrounding the transfer of authority from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the Government of Iraq poses an increased risk of attacks on civilians, including American citizens. International organizations have reduced their staffing in Iraq as a result of attacks, bombings, and a threat to civil aviation. The security threat to all American citizens in Iraq remains extremely high....On a bulletin board in our office's front room is a notice that between June 28 and July 5, "the airport highway is very dangerous (out of control) NO GO AREA."
The Department of State continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Iraq. Remnants of the former Baath regime, transnational terrorists, and criminal elements remain active. There may be a period of increased danger leading up to and following the transfer of authority on June 30.... Attacks against civilian targets throughout Iraq continue at a high rate, including at hotels, police stations, checkpoints entering Coalition Provisional Authority areas, foreign diplomatic missions, and against international organizations and personnel. These attacks have resulted in deaths and injuries of American citizens, including those doing humanitarian work. There is credible information that terrorists have targeted civil aviation in Iraq. In addition, there have been planned and random killings, as well as extortions and kidnappings. Coalition-led military operations continue, and there are daily attacks against Coalition forces throughout the country. Attacks against coalition forces as well as civilian targets occur throughout the day, but travel at night is exceptionally dangerous. Hotels, restaurants and locations with expatriate staff continue to be attacked. The security environment in all of Iraq is dangerous, volatile and unpredictable....
All vehicular travel in Iraq is extremely dangerous, and there have been numerous attacks on civilian vehicles, as well as military convoys. Travel in or through Ramadi and Fallujah, travel between al-Hillah and Baghdad, and travel between the Green Zone and Baghdad International Airport is particularly dangerous. There has been an increase in the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and/or mines on roads, particularly in plastic bags, soda cans, and dead animals. Grenades and explosives have been thrown into vehicles from overpasses, particularly in crowded areas. Travel should be continuously reviewed for necessity and adequate security and only undertaken when absolutely necessary and with the appropriate security resources.
....American citizens who choose to visit or remain in Iraq despite this Warning are urged to pay close attention to their personal security, should avoid crowded areas, rallies and demonstrations, and should inform the U.S. consular office of their presence in Iraq.
The two car-bombs in Hilla, near ancient Babylon, last night, apparently targeted a market, near the Saddam Mosque. My uncle said that Baghdad's protected, so they're turning to Hilla and other areas that have been quiet, where people had let their guard down.
The kidnapping coincides with President Bush's visit to Turkey, and the opening, tomorrow, of a NATO summit, where an appeal will be made for assistnace in Iraq. The terrorists threatened to slaughter the three Turks within 72 hours. On Jazeera television, last night, a video issued by the kidnappers showed the three men, holding Turkish passports, kneeling on the ground in front of two black-clothed gunmen.
In a written statement, the group demanded Turkish companies stop doing business with American forces in Iraq and called for "large demonstrations" in Turkey against the visit of "Bush the criminal."In Baghdad yesterday, gunmen attacked a police station in the New Baghdad area, but officers fought back in a rare show of force. The attackers fled, and police arrested three Iraqis, an Interior Ministry official said.
Yesterday, there was a car bomb in Arbil (Hawler in Kurdish), killing one person and wounding 18, inlcuding Mas'oud Barazani's culture minister.
In other news, a senior U.S. military commander said the U.S. recently issued about 55,000 armored flak jackets to Iraqi forces.
Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi warned that if security does not improve, national elections set for no later than January, might have to be delayed. He said his team was doing its best to meet the January target.
I know you probably already know that, but, seriously, I really am sick. I'm better than I was two days ago, when I had a sizzling fever, a headache, a tender or swollen neck, and a stomachache. The fever's pretty much gone, as is the headache, although there are still some pangs. The tender swelling in the neck has diminished, and my stomach's...getting there. I'm still dragging, though -- when I get sick, I walk around like an 80-year-old hunchback.
It started Friday morning. I got up at seven, ready to go. I had a glass of apple drink, which my aunt keeps in the freezer. It had chuncks of ice in it. When my uncle and I arrived at the office, they didn't have electricity, and it was too early on a Friday, the sabbath, for anybody else to be there, so the generator could be activated -- I'm a guest in the office. So my uncle and I headed to the cybercafé that's open about 18-20 hours a day. It wasn't open this early. I wasn't that well rested, anyway -- have woken up before dawn almost every day -- so we went back home, and I slept for another three hours. Back to the office -- still no electricity, and no office-workers. The internet shop was open, and I worked, on and off, for the next three hours. I felt tired, my throat was scratchy, which I attributed to the smoke in the cybercafé. I went to the juice bar, and had a cantelope juice, which sometimes has lots of ice blended into it -- I'll have to ask 'em to lighten up on the ice. The doctor I talked to later, my dad's cousin, asked if I'd had cold drinks. Finally, I stood in the sun for about three-quarters of an hour, talking on the phone with Layla -- first prolonged conversation in more than a month -- I've felt she turned cold on me, and have been wanting to know where things stand. It wasn't a pleasant conversation. I got a flurry of insults. Meanwhile, I must've gotten a flurry of rays, too. When the sun is blistering hot, like it's been the past few days, it sometimes feels like it's sitting right on top of your head. That might've been the source of the headache, and who-knows-what-else.
After my dispiriting conversation, I went back to the juice bar, had a glass of fresh orange juice, for my throat, and sat down with the bartenders. Maybe I let my guard down, too much -- told them I write, that I'm from America and "shed some tears into my drink," over Layla. One of the workers asked me about applying to the Fullbright program -- I gave him the State Department's web-address. I later brought them my business card, so we could exchange e-mails -- I'd promised to get them copies of the pictures I took there.
I couldn't work anymore -- I was spent. I called my uncle. I had an appointment to meet someone at six, near the internet café, and hoped to rest a bit, and come back. That would've meant my uncle going back and forth a total of four times. Sometimes his son or son-in-law do the duties. Well, I got home, went to bed, and couldn't get up. A cousin and our recent visitor from America came over, put some cold compresses on me and held my hand. The compresses smelled like rose water. The Iraqi-American said maybe it was her perfume. I'm such a baby when I'm sick. I kept drinking water, and sweating and babbling, all along. I called to cancel my six o'clock appointment. This is with one of the eligible bachelorettes, the son of my dad's cousin-doctor -- she'd asked me to check her computer -- lives with her folks -- can't be otherwise. Some of the relos pressed me to have a doctor come over. I begged off -- "it's just a fever." I spoke with my dad's cousin, the doctor, who recommended an antihistamine, rest and liquids. That night, I had some cantelope, which was very sweet.
Yesterday, I had a mini pear, more cantelope, dates, yogurt, a little bit of noodle soup, and Seven-Up, to go along with all the water. Last night, I talked with my mother, in Cleveland. She had a flu -- not terribly unusual for her -- said I contracted the illness from her, and that she got it from my dad. I really wanted to go over to my cousin's house across the front yard, and post a notice here. He has a computer, and uses the local dial-up service. I resisted and resisted, and just as I was able to overcome the resistance, turn around and put my feet on the floor, the electricity went off -- the clock "tolls" ten. Today, I had more cantelope, watermelon, dates, yogurt, plum juice and salad. My aunt has been saying I got sick because I'm not eating. "not eating," means, not eating at home. If you don't eat at home, you haven't eaten, and I've long since given up arguing with her. Maybe it's my body fighting me, trying to slow me down. Hang on, body -- just three more weeks. Of course, here, the countdown is three days.
I'm not gonna push myself, now -- well, not much. I'll check e-mail, save some articles for later, and see how long I can last.
Friday, June 25, 2004
Last night, I showed my uncle what I wrote yesterday about people "battening down the hatches," in preparation for June 30. He said that what I wrote is going to demoralize people, that, instead, it's a happy occasion, the June 30 transfer of sovereignty -- that it's a moment of pride for Iraqis.
The new government did declare June 30 a national public holiday, yesterday. Many people are expecting the next day to be declared a public holiday, too, and for a couple of more days of curfew, as well. July 2 is a Friday, a normal day off. In Mosul, where four car-bombs attacked police centers and a hospital yesterday morning, the governor last night declared an overnight curfew. While on the subject of curfews, many people have complained that a curfew should have been imposed by the American army a year ago, as soon as Saddam was ousted -- that that is the only way to impose order, and prevent crime, looting, destruction and insecurity.
A cousin's husband, who runs an expanding money-change shop on a main street of Mansour, said last night that many people were transferring money to Syria, where people are headed, to spend the next few days. Syria permits Iraqis into the country, more readily than does Jordan. I asked if he was going to open over the next few days. He said he'd be watching the situation -- "hour by hour."
People are saying that Prime Minister Ayad Allawi will ask the people of Falluja to evacuate the city, in particular, families. After that, people say he will "burn" Falluja -- that those remaining "will be responsible" for what happens to them. The uncle I visited yesterday, a medical doctor who's to leave to Jordan tomorrow, said you have to hang a few people, and leave their bodies on display, for all to see, to show that you mean business -- that that is the only language Iraqis understand. He is not alone. People say you have to show some strength -- put some fear into people. That, they say, is the only way to deal with these terrorists -- and Iraqis, in general. This uncle also said that Israelis are carrying out these terrorist operations in Iraq. I didn't follow up.
There was word in the news, although some dismissed it as rumors, that the Baghdad-Amman highway was closed near Falluja and Ramadi yesterday, as American forces were striking at Abu Mus'ab a-Zarqawi locations in the area. My uncle's wife was concerned about that, and said she wouldn't travel if it meant danger and the potential of being turned back. There are flights, but they cost almost $700. Later, I called about my cousin's daughter who left for Amman yesterday morning, with her family and in-laws. As of midnight, there was no news. Her sister was in tears. This morning, there was a report that an SUV -- the favorite mode of travel for private travel in and out of the country -- had been struck in Traybeel, the Iraqi border point with Jordan, killing a family of five.
A force of approximately 2000 members of the Iraqi army was reportedly sent to Falluja, yesterday.
Mr. President, Prime Minister, Governor, distinguished guests,American Amabassador L. Paul Bremer III, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, on Tuesday, June 22, 2004.
I have been in Iraq for a little more than a year and to Kirkuk many times and when people tell me they want to learn of Iraq, I tell them to come to Kirkuk. As you said, Kirkuk is Iraq in miniature. All of Iraq, all its peoples are here—Kurds and Arabs, Turkmen and Christians and all the others who make up Iraq’s rich human tapestry.
And if all of Iraq comes together in Kirkuk, so does much of the world. For centuries now, people passing in either direction from the Caspian and Black Seas, the steppes of Central Asia, the Gulf and the Mediterranean found their roads converging on this City of the Citadel. As President Ghazi said, Kirkuk has a special place in the hearts of all Iraqis.
In the months ahead, you in Kirkuk will continue to work hard to strengthen local government, to rebuild infrastructure and to develop the economy. Importantly, you will also need to heal the scars of the past, so that all groups can advance together to a prosperous future. You will have to address some difficult issues. The restitution of property, the return of people to their lands, and the reintegration of people into their communities will be great challenges for you.
It is vital that these processes be conducted according to the law and under recognized judicial procedures.
Kirkuk, as much as any place in Iraq, has vast potential. Kirkuk will succeed. You, the people of Kirkuk, are the province’s greatest asset. You, the people, are the true eternal flame that lights this city, this province. You are talented, educated and cultured, you speak one another’s languages, you appreciate one another’s traditions without abandoning your own.
You understand that you all need each other. You understand that you all need Kirkuk and that Kirkuk needs you all.
You have the talent and you have the will to surmount the problems that have been imposed upon you. However, some problems are not solved by talent and will alone. They require money. And now money will be available.
The American people are giving more money to Iraq than they have every given to any country in history. Many of the reconstruction programs financed with those funds will directly benefit Kirkuk.
In addition, today, I am happy to announce the establishment of the Kirkuk Foundation. The foundation has an initial endowment of $100 million from the Iraqi budget. And the foundation will help set the conditions for long-term peace and stability in the province. The foundation will bring community and political leaders together to develop a common vision for the province of Kirkuk. And that is a vision in which all people have equal rights and equal opportunities, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or gender; and to ensure the environment to enable such a vision to such to fruition.
President Ghazi, thank you for your support of this important new initiative. Thank you also for your hospitality to CPA. My colleagues and I personally wish each of you, all of Kirkuk and all Iraqis a future of hope, a future of freedom, peace and prosperity.
Mabruk al-Iraq al-Jadeed. [Congratulations, the new Iraq]
Aash al-Iraq! [Long live Iraq]
Yesterday, President Ghazi il-Yawer and Ayatollah Ali il-Sistani made very strong statements denouncing the terrorist attacks. Yawer called on Iraqis to assist security forces in pointing out destructive or suspicious activities, while Sistani called on the people to be "as one hand" in putting down the criminals and destroyers.
Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said:
This is an opportunity for me to ask the Iraqi people to close ranks and inform on these criminals. We are going to defeat them and we are going to crush them.In addition, the BBC reported:
Late on Thursday, the Shia militia loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr declared a unilateral truce in the Sadr City slum quarter of Baghdad - the final area where it was still opposing US-led coalition forces.
"For the sake of the public interest and considering the sensitive situation the oppressed Iraqi people are under, the Central Mehdi Army Command announces a halt to military operations within Sadr City," the militia said in a statement.
Thursday, June 24, 2004
An Iraqi woman was walking around in Baghdad when she stumbled upon an old empty bottle.
She picked it up and rubbed it, and, lo and behold, a genie appeared. She talked with him for a while, then the genie told her he would grant her one wish. She said she heard from a cousin that she would get three wishes if she ever found a genie.
The genie said, "Nope, sorry -- three-wish genies are a story-tale myth. I'm a one-wish genie. So,...what'll it be?" The woman didn't hesitate. She said, "I want peace in Iraq. See this map, I want these countries to stop fighting with each other and I want all the Arabs to love Jews and Americans and vice-versa. It will bring about world peace and harmony."
The genie looked at the map and exclaimed, "Damn Lady, what's wrong with you? PLEASE BE REASONABLE! These countries have been at war for thousands of years. I'm out of shape after being in a bottle for five hundred years. I'm good, but NOT THAT GOOD!!! I don't think it can be done. PLEASE make another wish, and, please, I beg you.... Be reasonable."
The woman thought for a minute and said, "Well, I've never been able to find the right Iraqi man.... You know, one that is considerate and fun, likes to dance and helps with the cooking, house-cleaning, and is FAITHFUL. That's what I wish for...a good Iraqi man." The Genie let out a long sigh, shook his head and said, "Let me see that friggin' map again."
My movements are being restricted even further, and I won't be alone. For the past couple of weeks, I've been staying at an internet café till at least eleven o'clock. Last night, after my uncle and his wife picked me up, they said I should start heading back earlier, as June 30 approaches. That's the day, of course, that the coalition hands Iraqis the keys to the office, and, as we've seen today, there are going to be a lot of attacks, in an effort to disrupt that transfer and undermine, and possibly sink, the next government.
People are expecting the interim Iraqi government that takes over, Wednesday, to impose a curfew. That, of course, would reduce the number of cars in the street, and exposing the potential car bombers and other terrorists more. They could, certainly, wait till the curfew is lifted. However, the government could use the hours of curfew to hunt down terrorists and wanted criminals. This is nothing new for Iraqis. During every revolution or coup, the incoming regime, they say, has imposed some type of curfew -- for days, if not weeks. I'd like to look into that -- the history of curfews, here and elsewhere. I'll save that, for another time.
As for me, I've been told not to stay out beyond eight o'clock. That's gonna limit my ability to post things. My cousin next door has a call-up internet connection, and maybe I can buy a calling card, too, to do the same -- but that connection is very slow, and will likely be even slower, as more people stay at home, congesting the system even more, as happened during the April work stoppages. I just might have to write from home at night, and post what I write the next day, which I don't like. Or, I could try to stretch my "curfew" hours, argue for more time -- we'll see. One of the internet cafés I've used has offered me a wireless connection from home. That requires buying some antenna equipment to install on the house (for a couple of hundred dollars), and then a $50 monthly charge. They're offering the service to about 40 people -- I'm one of the select few.
As we countdown to June 30, many people who can afford to leave the country, are, to ride out the storm -- a couple of weeks at the least, more like a month or two. A cousin's daughter and her family and in-laws, just drove to Jordan this morning. When I heard news of this morning's attacks, I wondered about them. The road to Amman passes by Falluja and Ramadi, two of the cities struck this morning. I called her siblings, to see if they'd heard anything from her -- they hadn't -- too early, they said. Well, if they made it, without delay, they should be in Amman, by now. In a couple of hours, I'm to visit an uncle, who's about to go to Jordan with his wife.
Those staying here, will curtail their activities -- that is, public outings. My uncle has said he won't go to his downtown office for a while, and will limit his movements to the neighborhood, just for basic needs. There shouldn't be much hoarding of food and supplies, as most small shops, bakeries and fruit-and-vegetable places will probably stay open -- they aren't expected to be targeted. As for others, many will not go to work, in particular, goverenment employees. Quite likely, jewelry stores will be closed, fearing theives and looting, in case police disappear and the situation turns anarchic. Likewise, electronics stores, car dealers, and other vendors of valuable items. Banks await orders from the government. Many people will take out their money and valuables, fearing looting of banks similar to what happened after Saddam was toppled. Most small shops and restaurants probably will stay open, but close earlier, as foot and street traffic lessen. I'm sure they'll be able to judge the situation well. It's basically a lock-down period -- stay low, retrench and ride out the storm. That leaves the main targets of all of this, the police and defense forces that defend the state and maintain order. Everything depends on them. If they're attacked, depleted or disabled, that opens the space for looters and saboteurs to raid the banks and stores, which would be left unprotected. No amount of private protection a vendor hires, would be enough to ward off a gang of attackers. No doubt, many of the police and army officers will be afraid, and feel pressure not to report to work. However, if they don't, they'll probably lose their jobs. They're at the spearhead of the fight. This is where the mettle of the nation is going to be tested. This could be -- these next couple of weeks, in the face of an intensive terrorist onslaught -- the make-or-break period for the nascent Iraqi state, testing the proposition that Iraqis will stand up and fight for their freedom.
My interviewers at Channel 8 in Cleveland a few minutes ago passed on that the number of dead from this morning's attacks is up to 69, including three American soldiers. In Mosul, the latest Fox/AP report says,
seven car bombs rocked the Iraqi Police Academy, a police station and a hospital simultaneously. A fourth attack on another police station occurred about an hour later.This looks like the opening blow in what will likely be a concerted effort by the opposition, if it can be called that -- the opposition to America and to democracy in Iraq -- to create instability and undermine the next Iraqi government. They'll strike big targets if they can -- government ministers, police, army, government buildings, symbolic sites -- "smaller" targets, meaning private citizens and public places, if not -- but they'll strike often, and attempt to inflict as much damage and pain as possible.
Forty people are reported killed in Mosul, with another 170 people injured.
In a wave of attacks today in four predominantly Sunni cities, at least 23 Iraqis and three American soldiers have been killed. Terrorists targeted police and government buildings in Mosul, Ba'gooba, Ramadi and Fallooja. The attacks included car bombs on the police academy and a hospital in Mosul. A hospital official reported at least 50 died from the bombings. This will likely be the beginning of a set of coordinated attacks by terrorists, in the leadup to Wednesday's scheduled transfer of sovereignty, in an effort to undermine the incoming government, and possibly torpedo the handover.
Wednesday, June 23, 2004
Abu Ghraib, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq's prospects, and his views
Asked if Americans' treatment of Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib qualified as torture:
I will say that whatever you call it, it was absolutely reprehensible. It was inconsistent with their code as soldiers, it was inconsistent with anything they should have learned in their community about how to treat fellow human beings, and it was deplorable. And it is being investigated.On his input and access to President Bush, vis à vis Iraq policy, the work involved in preparing the U.S. embassy in Iraq, and the outlook for Iraq:
It has caused me a great deal of difficulty, as you might appreciate, in my diplomatic work. What I have said to the Arab leaders I have dealt with, or other leaders in other parts of the world who are just as disturbed by this, is that we are sorry for this, we apologize for it. And now you will see how a democratic nation such as ours deals with something like this. We're the most powerful nation on earth, and you will see that we will not sweep this under the rug, we will not pretend it didn't happen. We acknowledge it did happen. Congressional committees are looking into it. The free press is looking into it. This should happen in a democracy.
It was the free press that gave it such visibility with the 60 Minutes show. The military will examine it carefully and where accountability lies, then responsibility lies and action will be taken....
I just left him -- if I can be considered an advisor. And I had Ambassador Frank Ricciardone with me. He's our Ambassador to the Philippines who I brought back here for the last five months now, I guess, to work on Iraq transition. Ambassador Ricciardone and I spent from 3:30 to ten after four with the President talking about our transition planning, talking about the standup of our embassy.Differences with others in the administration:
I discussed with him the construction of the new embassy. I discussed with him how many of my ambassadors -- his ambassadors I have pulled out of embassies around the world to work on Iraq we ve got five ambassadors that are no longer where they were; they're all working on Iraq in one way or the other -- and how many people have volunteered for the positions in Iraq, how many people would stay on after the 1st of July, where the embassy was going to be located, how long it would take to build the final chancery from the temporary one....
I'm still of the view, I'm confident of the view that if we get an interim government in place by the 1st of July and we get these reconstruction dollars flowing and Iraqis start taking over responsibility for their own future again, we can turn this around....
And let me just speculate for a moment that we are completely successful: we have the elections, everything goes well, the transitional government is in place, the constitution is written. And then people can look and see whether this is a better country than the country that was (inaudible) by Saddam Hussein who put hundreds of thousands of people in their graves. I don't think they approved of that either. We didn't approve of it and we did something about it. We have been at it for a year, and there are some difficult days ahead.
But we're still convinced we did the right thing. Those hundreds of thousands of graves will not be replicated any time in the future, and people have been slow to give us credit for making sure that that doesn't happen again. But I think in due course, they will....
With respect to Iraq, I felt just as strongly as my colleagues that this was a dangerous regime that was a threat and that had steadily violated UN resolutions for a period of 12 years. I had no love for this regime; I know this regime well. I fought it once before, as you recall. Therefore, there was no lack of understanding on my part what a miserable, dictatorial, horrible, tyrannical regime this was and the danger it presented to itself and to the region, perhaps ultimately to the world, if there was a nexus with terrorism....From a roundtable with print journalists in Washington, May 26, 2004 -- go ahead, shoot me -- I've said it before, it takes me a while to catch up on the news. As my friend Dhia Kashi once said, I might not find out about Saddam's ouster till a year or two after it happened.
I've been characterized as a reluctant warrior, the general that doesn't want to go to war. Well, you're right. Say it again. Please, write it down, a reluctant general. I don't want to know any generals who ain't reluctant. I don't want to have anything to do with them. War is a very serious matter. We send young men and women to battle, to perhaps give up their lives in the service of their nation, and so we should always see it as a last resort.
Date: 6/23/2004 6:04:28 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"
Yes I meant Fatima.
You know something, I also feel (and felt when I was in Iraq) that the people were exaggerating their concern but I really cannot tell from here [Holland] how it is. Two or three friends who usually reside in the west who were recently are now in Iraq said it was dangerous. For the past few months, I wake up and the first thing I say "Allah yustur" ["God protect," God forbid]. I truly go through the roof whenever one of these bombs explodes and hurts people.
* * *
Date: 6/23/2004 7:43:21 AM Eastern Daylight Time
I was thinking -- if it's a matter of seeing your relatives, and delivering the equipment, why don't you drive to Kurdistan, and just stay there -- meet people there, etc.? I know it's not as good, but....
Yesterday, Labor Minister Layla Abdul-LaTeef and Health Minister Dr. Ala'adin Alwan survived assassination attempts in separate attacks.
Last week, after I went to the Green Zone and Republican Palace, my friend who escorted me into those exclusive areas, went to visit a friend and compadre, who's married to a government minister. My friend had called ahead, but once we were inside the complex of ministers' homes, it seemed that the Iraqi guards inside the steel gate knew my friend. The complex, built by Saddam, had some two dozen or so houses, with the river at the back end, and a high wall of concrete panels on the street side. Inside the complex, I saw at least one American soldier on foot patrol, an American tank parked in the middle, an American military tent, and individual private guards at the houses. This is another such complex for government ministers.
As I was looking on-line for news about an attack today in Baghdad's Palestine Street, I found an item reporting that Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi has threatened to kill Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. We are, no doubt, going to be seeing a lot of these attacks -- a flurry of attempts on the lives of government officials and contractors and aid workers and you-name-it. This poor Korean man, I just learned, was a translator.
I've been trying to reach old friend Dr. Mishkat el-Moumin, the new environment minister, and urge her to sell her car, which is still being used, and to move out of her home and into one of the official residences for ministers, but...I couldn't reach her, plus, she doesn't seem to pay any mind. I'll write her an e-mail, but, again,....
As for today's bombing on Palestine Street, the TV scrawl said that three people were killed, which is what the newswire has -- if it is the same attack -- the three are a policeman, a woman and her child. A guard here said a friend of his who was there, just told him that 15 American soldiers were killed in the attack using four bombs on the wide street, burning two of the convoy of American vehicles. The attackers then took the bodies of the Americans out of the vehicles, the friend said, and dragged them through the street and spat on them. The guard said the Americans always lowball the numbers killed.
On a happier note, after completing the one issue of National Review I have, I brought it into the office, for our cook's daughter to see. It has a picture of George W. Bush, head bowed in prayer, and Lana loves President Bush. I showed it to her; she kissed the picture and pulled it to her chest. I promised I'd tell him she loved him, when I see him.
Subj: two things
Date: 6/21/2004 5:16:41 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"
I just took a look at your blog and have this to say:
1. Although I don't have statistics, McGill has a high number of Jewish faculty members. It has a reputation in Canada of at least being under Jewish influence. Our people may exaggerate such influence but there is no need to engage yourself in such fruitless if not dangerous discussions just because of certain sentiments.
2. The warnings to your movement in Baghdad must be taken seriously. Your relatives may be exaggerating the situation (this is how I feel when I talk to family and friends back home) but the security situation is bad and so far the enemy seems to be invisible. Be careful.
* * *
Date: 6/21/2004 2:03:48 PM Eastern Daylight Time
Thanks, Alaa -- I know -- about both points -- not engaging in fruitless discussions, and I haven't -- I've held my tongue -- pretty well -- kept my mouth shut, completely. As my father told me, before I left, ishtiri wa-lat-bee' ["buy, and don't sell" = listen, and keep your mouth shut]....
Also, about listening to relatives. I get irritated, about all the prohibitions, like the latest -- not being able to walk to my cousin's, three minutes walk from the office -- all, residential side streets -- but I sigh, and acquiesce. What can I do?
Okay -- see you.
* * *
Date: 6/23/2004 3:37:53 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"
I again ask you not to take any unnecessary risks by going to Hilla. Take all the precautions and ask people. If Mughiar (with Zainab) can make it to Baghdad, it will be better from a security point of view. Who would kidnap a sick child?....
* * *
Date: 6/23/2004 5:39:44 AM Eastern Daylight Time
Thanks, Alaa, for the continuing shows of concern. I, of course, don't want to take any chances -- although, I wonder, how seriously I am taking it -- about all of that. Some people say it's okay, to travel outside the city; others, of course,.... We'll see. You meant, Fatima, didn't you -- the little girl?....
Okay, Habibi -- take care.
Disgusting to see the Korean man slaughtered. What can one say about this barbarity -- it looks like this has become a trend, a favorite mode of murder for these.... I don't know what it means, other than killing someone in a most visibly barbaric and gruesome way, to dissuade people from coming here. I haven't seen any of the pictures or television coverage. I was told by an officemate, a couple of days ago, that I'd be crying on TV, too, just like the Korean man did, when I get kidnapped. Then, a day or two ago, I opened an e-mail containing a picture of Paul Johnson, with his severed head placed on his torso. The host of the Arab nationalist list demanded an apology from the sender, for that display of vulgarity -- didn't get it, and suspended his subscription.
It is good to see the South Korean government up its military contribution, the Polish government extend its, and, more than that, the Australian people -- the majority of poll respondents -- supporting the deployment of its troops in Iraq till the mission is done.
Alert members of the Nachal Hareidi unit, comprised of hareidi soldiers, prevented a suicide bomber from killing Israelis on Saturday afternoon.From the May 23, 2004, issue of the Arutz Sheva News Service. Thank you, Harold.
An IDF sentry at the Beka'ot checkpoint, north of the community of Hamra in the Jordan Valley, spotted an Arab dressed in unseasonable winter clothes approaching his position. The sentry radioed to the soldiers manning the checkpoint, who ordered the suspect, in Hebrew and in Arabic, to halt. When he didn't, the checkpoint commander discharged his weapon in the air, as per protocol. At that moment, the 19-year-old Arab man detonated the explosives he wore or carried, killing himself and injuring the commander, as well as three Arab civilians in proximity.
The lightly injured soldier was transported to HaEmek Hospital in Afula. A moderately injured Palestinian Authority resident was transported by helicopter to the trauma unit of Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. The others injured, all lightly, were transported to a PA hospital by Red Crescent ambulances.
The IDF Jordan Valley Commander, Col. Ronni Belkin, said that the checkpoint commander prevented a serious attack. "In my estimation," Col. Belkin said, "the terrorist's intention was to make it to the soldiers at the checkpoint and blow up amongst them. The alertness and readiness of the IDF soldiers prevented an attack with very painful consequences."
The Ali Mustafa Brigade of the PFLP terrorist organization claimed responsibility for the attack.
Actually, I recently read a quote, about the fine line between the two, and knowing that they're two of a kind.
Well, next week, one week from today, the Coalition Provisional Authority, headed by L. Paul Bremer III, is to hand over the governance of Iraq to Iraqis, in the form of an interim government. There is word that the government will declare that day and the next, the first full day of Iraqi self-rule, national holidays -- maybe not an annual celebration -- to be marked by public inactivity -- no work, no business. Of course, the next day, Friday, is already a holiday. Some say the government will declare five days of curfew, as they transfer Saddam to Iraqi hands, to prepare him for his trial. He could be joined by nine of his top lieutenants, including his two captured half-brothers, WaTban and Barazan, and cousin Ali Hasan al-Majid ("Chemical Ali," "Anfal Ali" and "Butcher Ali"). It's expected that Saddam will be target number one for kidnapping -- by his supporters and/or enemies of America/Iraqi freedom.
A passenger asked his taxi driver in Baghdad how much he makes in the course of a day's work. The cabbie told him, 10-15 thousand dinars (1450 dinars to the dollar). The rider asked him if he would drive him around the city all day for 25,000 dinars. "Yeah, why not," replied the driver. Next day, the driver picked up the passenger, as agreed, and drove him around and around, directed by his passenger to make turns, this way and that. At the end of the day, the fare said he hadn't found anything that day, and lifted his shirt to show the cabbie his belt of bombs. What he hadn't found that day was a convoy of American military vehicles. The driver went home, depressed and afraid, and stayed in bed for the next two days.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
With the failure of Operation Leisure and Pleasure in Lebanon a couple of weeks ago, Operation Entertain Ayad in Baghdad had to be launched. The day I was supposed to go overland to Lebanon, my uncle took me out to dinner, at the Hunt Club. We sat in the downtown bar -- all men, a lot of smoke, a TV, hanging from the corner. The main hall....
Listen, I'm going to interrupt this story, to bring you the punch line -- I can't be burying the lede.
A few days ago, I played a Nat "King" Cole CD on my computer for a relative. At first aghast at the sight of playing music on a computer, he then, on taking in the music, said that it would go nicely with a candlelight dinner and a beautiful woman. Yeah, wouldn't that be nice, I replied, with a sigh. Next time I saw him, he said, "You know, you don't have to marry every girl you meet; you could go out to dinner, have a good time."
"That would be nice," I replied, "but that's impossible here."
"We'll see," he said.
I thought what you're thinking.
Do you wanna have fun...fun...fun?Indeed, the next time I saw him, he said that he could find me a woman to take out to dinner, and then, she and I could go to his friend's house. The friend's divorced, and has offered me use of an empty room there. Then, I could give her something -- say, $50. "Thanks."
How's about a few laughs...laughs...laughs?
I can show you a......good time.
Now, before I came here, one of the topics I wanted to look into was Iraqi prostitution/prostitutes. They're the subject of lore -- in poetry and by leftist writers of the '50s and '60s. Now, I'm not a prostitution kind-of-guy, but do I do this for research purposes? Do I, just as I did in my "dating game," affect by observing TOO much?
There's more to say, about all of this, but I'm about to be picked up, to go to the Hunt Club, for one of their bingo nights. We may also make it to the movie, tomorrow morning, an outing that was vetoed by relatives, after the announcement of the new government. I haven't had time, now, to provide you with all the links to past postings on the subjects I've mentioned here. If you come back in 24 hours, they should be here for you.
Six days ago, I wrote about my uncle's murder by his nephew. It reminded me of an article I'd read not too long before by David Brooks about the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the two students who killed their classmates at Columbine High School, in Colorado. Brooks interviewed Klebold's parents and tried to address the extent of their responsibility, if any, for what their son did. Brooks's New York Times column, "Columbine: Parents of a killer," appeared in the May 15 issue of the paper. In searching for Brooks's column, I came across an MSNBC report on the column, and reactions of victims' parents to it, and blogger Will Wilkinson's thoughts on free will, individual responsibility, Nietzsche and assigning guilt. It was from Wilkinson's post, that I got Brooks's column.
The latest Andy Borowitz piece. The first half is about Bill Clinton's new book, then comes the Iraq-connection.
CLINTON BOOK FALLS OFF SHELF, SLAYS THREE
Memoir Faces Safety Recall in Seven States
“My Life,” the new memoir by former President Bill Clinton, fell off a bookstore shelf in Portland, Oregon today, killing three people and seriously wounding five others.
Hours after the fatal accident, believed to be the first of its kind in the history of presidential memoirs, Portland police were still attempting to piece together what turned Mr. Clinton’s 957-page book into an instrument of death and destruction.
“From what we can tell, it just kind of tipped off a high shelf,” said police detective Mark Drayton. “How on earth anyone ever got it up there is still a mystery to me.”
While friends of the book’s victims held a prayer vigil outside the Stop, Book and Listen bookstore near the University of Oregon, seven western states ordered an “emergency safety recall” of all copies of the lengthy memoir.
“This book is more than just deadly boring – it is deadly,” said Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski.
In yet another freak accident, President George W. Bush shot himself in the foot today while showing off a pistol that once belonged to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Bush, who keeps the souvenir of the Iraqi strongman in the Oval Office to show to visiting dignitaries, accidentally fired the gun while twirling it on his index finger like an “Old West” six-shooter.
The president’s foot was immediately treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and was said to be resting comfortably.
Speaking to reporters after the foot-shooting incident, Mr. Bush said, “This should leave little doubt in anyone’s mind that Saddam Hussein possessed very dangerous weapons.”
I have Alexander Sternberg, from Germany, to thank for this bounty. Isn't the internet wonderful?
First up, "Kurdish official's killing intensifies population's fears; Many in northern Iraq feel abandoned, slighted over interim government," by Mark Matthews, The Baltimore Sun, June 17. Some excerpts:
Kurds claim that they have been denied their rightful share of political power in the interim Iraqi government scheduled to run the country after June 30, and that the measure of protection they won in an interim constitution was undercut by a resolution unanimously adopted last week by the United Nations Security Council.[Galbraith] said, find themselves "squeezed out of a significant role in Baghdad."
These developments have revived a historic feeling of abandonment and have "greatly encouraged the Kurdish view that they should go their separate way and continue with their own de facto government," said Peter W. Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia who has closely followed the Kurdish issue since the 1980s....
But Kurds and their supporters claim that in America's effort to ensure a smooth transition to an interim Iraqi government, Kurdish interests were submerged by the need to secure cooperation from Iraq's majority Shiites and, in particular, their influential religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani....
Despite the wish of a majority of Kurds for independence, Galbraith said, they would only unleash the Peshmerga to achieve it if a future central government in Baghdad used its army to try to crush Kurdish autonomy.
But Kani Xulam, a U.S.-based activist who directs the Kurdish Information Network, said, "Kurds would be foolish not to make sure that they cultivate their strength and prepare for a showdown."
"The world is a lonely place for Kurds," Xulam said.Yes, Peter Galbraith is related to John Kenneth -- that's his son.
* * *
Next, about the appearance of anti-Americanism in -- say it ain't so -- Iraqi Kurdistan -- an article by Aamer Madhani, for the June 15 issue of The Chicago Tribune. The article is no longer available for free, on-line. To pay for it, click here. In the meantime, a good chunk of it:
In the days since the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution governing the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty that has no overt mention of Kurdish concerns, something has been brewing in the streets here that was unheard of just a few weeks ago: Anti-American sentiment.This article reminded me of what Jalal Talabani, head of the second main Kurdish party, said to Paul Bremer, and the coalition's deference to Ayatollah Sistani -- that they were listening more to a non-Iraqi, who wasn't elected to represent his people.
While the Kurds note that they are forever indebted to the U.S. for establishing a no-fly zone in 1991, they also say that the Americans have neglected them.
"We have been betrayed by the Americans," said San Karim Mohammed, 32, a law student. "If America doesn't solve these problems now, I don't know how we are going to make any progress in the future. The Shiite are going to turn Iraq into an Islamist state like Iran."
Iraqi Kurds proudly point out that their army, the peshmerga, fought with the Americans and helped establish a northern front when coalition forces invaded Iraq last year....
The growing tension between Kurdish and Shiite leaders was further exacerbated when a letter to President Bush from Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was leaked to the media before the Security Council vote. In the letter, the two leaders threatened that the Kurds would quit the Iraqi government if Kurdish concerns were not addressed in the resolution.
"This was something that was meant to be a private correspondence between the three parties," said Barzani in an interview Monday at the KDP headquarters, nestled in the mountains outside Irbil....
Some Kurds say that since the resolution they have grown pessimistic that their position in society will revert to pre-1991, when the U.S. established a no-fly zone that essentially gave the Kurds their own nation.
"The Arabs would not even allow the Kurdish concerns to be mentioned in the United Nations resolution," said Payman Akram, 20, a Kurd. "How can we expect they will treat us equally?"
Karash Naqsh Bandy, a member of the Kurdistan Parliament and chairman of the Kurdistan Lawyers Syndicate, said it seems to many Kurds that Arab Iraqis are not yet ready for democracy.
At a recent meeting with coalition officials, Bandy recalled a British commander encouraging Kurdish leaders to take trips to Shiite centers such as Karbala and Najaf to teach their fellow Iraqis about the principles of democracy. Bandy said the suggestions seemed preposterous to the members of Parliament who see the Shiites as mindless followers of their religious leaders.
"One of us said to the commander, 'When Ali al-Sistani coughs, all of Najaf coughs,'" Bandy said. "How do you teach these people democracy? The mentality of the Arab and the Kurd is still very far apart, and that is essentially the problem we face as we move forward."
...."For us having an ayatollah or cleric, whether he be Sunni or Shiite, calling the shots is unacceptable," Barzani said.
Barzani also kept up the tough rhetoric he used in the Bush letter about quitting the government if necessary. He said that he would not hesitate to withdraw from the Iraqi state if the Shiite majority tries to limit Kurdish self-rule in northern Iraq....
* * *
Then, an argument for a Kurdish state within Iraq, by former State Department policy-planner Henri J. Barkey, now chairman of the international relations department at Lehigh University -- in June 20's Los Angeles Times. The essentials:
[A] strong federal Kurdish state in northern Iraq could be a significant plus for U.S. -- and Turkish -- interests, especially if it developed in an environment of improving U.S.-Turkey relations....* * *
Conspiracy theories abound. One has it that thousands of Israelis are buying up chunks of northern Iraq to establish a self-ruling Kurdish entity or just to control the area's oil resources....
That forces the U.S. to choose between not riling Turkish sensitivities and its moral commitment to the Kurds. Turks also complain that the U.S. administrators of Iraq have ignored the Turkmens, a Turkish-speaking minority that, along with the Kurds, claims the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.
Turkey's sudden affection for Turkmens has raised suspicions in Washington and Iraq....
U.S. failure in Iraq would be disastrous for Turkey, which would directly experience the aftershocks of any radical regime in Iraq. If the U.S. is to rely on Turkey to bolster its Iraq policy, it has to address the question of the Kurds.
Turkey has to be helped out of its Kurdish neuralgia. A Kurdish federal entity on its borders would be unlikely to lead to further violence inside Turkey. Most Iraqi Kurds understand that Turkey is their best potential ally and thus would welcome their Turkish brethren's renouncement of secessionist goals. Turkey's new reform-oriented government understands that improving conditions for its Kurdish minority would facilitate its entry into the European Union. A Turkish appeals court recently released four Kurdish members of parliament convicted 10 years ago of belonging to an outlawed separatist party. Last week, Turkey's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, received the four in his office, a sign that the government was willing to consider alternative policies vis-a-vis the Kurdish minority. For Iraqi Kurds who are Western-oriented, Ankara, because it wants to be a part of Europe, is their best conduit to the West. They have already gone out of their way to invite Turkish business groups to invest in their region, hoping that economic ties will lead to stronger political bonds down the line.
A robust, autonomous Kurdish entity in northern Iraq is in Ankara's interests for two simple reasons. As counterintuitive as it may seem to the Turkish establishment, a strong friendship with such a federal state would go a long way toward diffusing Turkish Kurds' anger at Ankara. Turkish Kurds care a great deal about their brethren across the border and would not do anything to endanger a state that would serve as a buffer against Hussein-like regimes in Baghdad. Ironically, the late Turkish President Turgut Ozal had figured this out and was maneuvering to help support Iraqi Kurds when he died in office in 1993.
Moreover, the Kurds are unlike the Sunni and Shiite Arabs in Iraq. They are much more secular and, after 12 years of quasi-independence under U.S. protection, they have made tremendous progress toward democracy and responsible self-government.
Then a lengthy piece by The New York Times' Dexter Filkins, from Makhmur, Iraqi Kurdistan, on Kurds pushing themselves into homes, lands and towns they'd been expelled from in the Arabization campaign, and the human and political consequences thereof. I have more, but I haven't read them, edited them, so I'll send this batch, but, fear not, the forecast is for more rain and flooding.
I just left the discussion over lunch at the office. The main topic of conversation was the six Iraqis who were killed, and their bodies, mutilated, in Falluja, a week to two weeks ago. The six men were driving freight trucks carrying supplies from Baghdad to an American military base west of Falluja, two weeks ago. They were stopped on the highway, close to Falluja, apparently by a gang of bandits, who, to my surprise, I'm told usually don't kill their prey. The six drivers either managed to escape or were let go, and made it to a police station in Falluja. The police there, who many people say are part of the ultra-tribal regimen that governs the area, said they couldn't protect the men from "the resistance," and turned them over to the imam of the nearest mosque, whose family name is Jinabi. The families of the six men from Baghdad began looking for their kin. One of the six is from the Karrada part of Baghdad, of the vast Rebee'a tribe; the other five, from Sadir City, including the son of a shaykh of the MegaaSees tribe, who I'm told by an officemate from his area probably has about 1000 followers. About a week ago, the bodies of the six turned up outside Falluja, which touches the edge of Baghdad's suburbs. The families' inquiries to the police resulted in the conclusion that the imam in Falluja handed the six men to Syrians operating in the city, who then killed the men and mutilated their bodies. Now, there are calls for retribution. It's become a tribal matter, and the aggrieved tribes are demanding their thaar ("revenge"). After the bodies were found, a demonstration was held by people from Sadir City, as they marched out of the area, to get coverage for their calls for vengeance. The Sadir City resident here, a member of the marshes scientific team, says word is, some people there went to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Iran-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which has a wide following in the area -- Hakim was a member of the just-dissolved Governing Council -- and that Hakim calmed the situation. The aggrieved tribe from Karrada have called for a demonstration, too, but they -- according to an officemate who lives in the area and whose mother is a member of the same Rebee'a tribe -- will likely head straight to Falluja. They're asking for the Syrians who killed their son to be turned over to them or the imam who handed the men over to the Syrians. Otherwise, they say they will kill 10 for every one of theirs killed.
Word so far is, nine are dead and fifteen are wounded, mostly civilians. It appears the American army was headed to Sadir City, from Ur City (Baghdad), and were struck with RPG and/or mortar-fire on the way, in Kubr il-Ghizlaan, a part of Baghdad's Sha'ab district that Saddam distributed plots of land from, to military officers. People in the office heard the blast, which they say took place at 10:30, 11 o'clock. I was in bed. I heard the afteraffects, as there was an intensification of helicopters flights.
My uncle's employee, who lives in Sadir City (previously known as a-Thawra/Saddam City), told me a couple of days ago that things are "good and not good" there. Conditions are usually fine, he said, but when American forces come into the area, to arrest somebody, they are met with armed resistance, and the fighting starts. I asked if the Iraqi police could arrest people; he said they're not able to. A person in the office who lives there, just told me that the people the Americans come to arrest are wanted for attacking Americans, and that the Iraqi police does not have a beef with them. He said that as long as the American army's not in the city (Sadir City), things are fine. When the army comes in, and settles next to a police station, the Iraqi police withdraw from the scene, as they don't want to be caught in the middle. Otherwise, he said, police are operating in al-Thawra.
Monday, June 21, 2004
Why did the Iraqi chicken cross the road?From a cousin, who got it from who-knows-where.
Coalition Provisional Authority:
The fact that the Iraqi chicken crossed the road affirmatively demonstrates that decision-making authority has been transferred to the chicken well in advance of the scheduled June 30th transition of power. From now on the chicken is responsible for its own decisions.
We were asked to help the chicken cross the road. Given the inherent risk of road-crossing and the rarity of chickens, this operation will only cost the US government $326,004.
The chicken was a tool of the evil Coalition and will be killed.
US Army Military Police:
We were directed to prepare the chicken to cross the road. As part of these preparations, individual soldiers ran over the chicken repeatedly and then plucked the chicken. We deeply regret the occurrence of any chicken-rights violations.
The chicken crossed the road, and will continue to cross the road, to show its independence and to transport the weapons it needs to defend itself. However, in future, to avoid problems, the chicken will be called a duck, and will wear a plastic bill.
The chicken was not authorized to cross the road without displaying two forms of picture identification. Thus, the chicken was appropriately detained and searched in accordance with current SOP's. We apologize for any embarrassment to the chicken. As a result of this unfortunate incident, the command has instituted a gender-sensitivity training program and all future chicken searches will be conducted by female soldiers.
The chicken was forced to cross the road multiple times at gunpoint by a large group of occupation soldiers, according to eye-witnesses. The chicken was then fired upon intentionally, in yet another example of the abuse of innocent Iraqi chickens.
We cannot confirm any involvement in the chicken-road-crossing incident.
Chicken he cross street because bad she tangle regulation. Future chicken table against my request.
U.S. Marine Corps:
The chicken is dead
An officemate asked me today if I knew that the new fad on Wall Street is to wear army boots with the business suits, à la Paul Bremer, the governor of Iraq. I didn't know. Then, in a pool report of today's meeting of a five-member Congressional delegation (all Republicans) with Bremer, Iraqi President Ghazi il-Yawer and Health Minister Dr. Ala'adin Alwan, the writer, Betsy Pisik, of The Washington Times, lent a name to Bremer's mode of dress.
As for the meeting, there was an exchange of gratitude:
Rep. [Peter] Hoekstra (Mich.) presented Mr. Yawer with a letter from Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and asked that it be read into the Iraqi government's official records. The letter congratulates "the heroes of the Iraqi liberation" and pays tribute to the Iraqis and Americans and others who lost their lives.Yawer then faced the press:
Mr. Yawer accepted, thanking the congressmen "on behalf of the Iraqi nation."
"I would like to express my gratitude to the United States, to the Coalition and to the brave sons and daughters who helped to liberate Iraq," he said.
"We appreciate very much their visit and also we appricate all the assistnace we are getting from the coalition. We will continue our progress towards a democratic Iraq."Yawer was then asked about what he expected to happen on June 30, how Iraqis' lives would change, and the likelihood of martial law being imposed.
"We are determined to go ahead with our plans, reinstate government institutions and enhance our security along with multinational forces which are invited to help us secure security in iraq. Probably there will be some turbulence. We are expecting the forces of the darkeness, as we call them, will try to deter our movment...[inaudible] Martial law, you said? It was a hypothetical question asked to a member of the government. It's our right, but not necessarily we will implement that. But it's an option that we are not rulling out. If we need to do so in order to preserve our security we will do so in a way that will not pose problems to the Iraqi public."
WHAT'S GOING RIGHT IN IRAQYou might not know it from much of the press coverage, but not all Iraqis hate their American "occupiers." Many of them appreciate the sacrifices US troops are making to secure Iraqi freedom. Some appreciate it so much, in fact, that they are willing to put their lives on the line when an American soldier is in danger.Jacoby has been a steadfast fan of freedom -- hooray for good people -- for good friends of freedom!
by Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe, Sunday, June 20, 2004
To hear the media tell it, virtually nothing in Iraq is going right. Suicide terrorism, Abu Ghraib, sabotaged pipelines, swelling anti-American sentiment -- the coverage has been focused on almost all bad news, almost all the time.
Which hardly comes as a surprise. As an old journalistic rule of thumb puts it, "If it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead." In most newsrooms, good news is usually no news. But don't be fooled. There are plenty of good-news stories in Iraq, too. Here are half a dozen.
* * *
Moqtada al-Sadr's uprising is kaput. The firebrand cleric issued a statement on Wednesday directing his gunmen to stop fighting and go home. If they comply, the bloody rebellion he launched in April will have ended in failure.
Sadr never managed to win mass support among Iraq's Shiites; indeed he was taken to the woodshed by the country's senior Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Now Sadr says he supports the interim Iraqi government headed by Iyad Allawi, and will set up a political party of his own, presumably to take part in next January's elections. It wasn't long ago that Sadr was denouncing Iraqi politicians for cooperating with the United States. Now he is poised to become one of them.
* * *
For the first time, an Iraqi soccer team has qualified for the Olympics. The team clinched its Olympic slot with a 3-1 victory over Saudi Arabia on May 12. All told, some 30 Iraqi athletes will be traveling to the games in Athens this summer. Win or lose, they will be able to compete without fear, knowing that even if they fail to bring home a medal, there will be no punishment at the hands of Uday Saddam Hussein. It was the practice of the dictator's late son to torture Iraqi athletes who were not successful in international competitions. Thanks to the US Army, Uday and his sadism no longer exist.
* * *
In the first quarter of 2004, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports, fewer than 93,000 people sought political asylum in the developed nations -- 16 percent below the previous quarter and a drop of more than 25 percent from the first quarter of 2003.
Why the decline? Because Afghans and Iraqis, who used to make up the largest groups of asylum-seekers, are now far less likely to flee their homelands. From Jan. 1 to March 31 of this year, only 2,143 Iraqis requested asylum in another country -- 81 percent less than in the same quarter last year. As one commentator has noted, that's what can happen when UNHCR's 'partners' include the US Marines.
* * *
With the help of a retired US naval officer, scouting is being revived in Iraq. Chip Beck, a former Boy Scout himself, is recruiting 80 young Iraqis for leadership training by the Arab Scout Association in Cairo. Volunteer scouting in Iraq dates back to 1921, but the movement was severely crippled during Saddam's reign. Now, along with Texas businessman (and former Eagle Scout) Mike Bradle, Beck hopes to raise $4 million to establish a scouting camp for boys and girls in a former secret police compound on the Tigris River near Baghdad.
"If the world is looking to combat violence and extremism," Beck says, "the Scout method of teaching universal values -- honor, integrity, and morality -- is proven."
* * *
According to veteran Middle East journalist Amir Taheri, there is good news on the economic front as well. The value of the Iraqi dinar has grown by almost 15 percent in the last three months against the US dollar. It has similarly gained on the Kuwaiti dinar and the Iranian rial, the two most-traded local currencies. Despite the recent violence, millions of Shiite pilgrims are visiting (and spending money in) Najaf and Karbala, where a building boom is underway. Meanwhile, Iraqi farmers have harvested a record wheat crop, raising hopes that the country might once again become, as it was before Saddam, agriculturally self-sufficient.
* * *
On June 11, US military commanders bestowed awards for valor on five Iraqis -- soldiers in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps -- for saving the life of a US Marine during an ambush in Al Karmah. When the Marine was shot by insurgents, the Iraqi riflemen with whom he and other members of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines were patrolling with didn't hesitate. The citation presented to Imad Abid Zeid Jassim tells the story:"Under a hail of enemy fire that was accurately targeted on the wounded Marine, and without regard for his own safety, Private Imad Jassim moved forward.... He dragged the wounded Marine out of the line of fire to a covered and concealed position...reengaged the enemy...aggressively pushed forward...dislodged the enemy fighters.... His efforts clearly saved the life of the Marine."
My friend Alaaddin, in Holland, has been agonizing for months over whether to make the trip here -- by car, no less.
Date: 6/18/2004 3:39:32 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"
It is not my unwillingness to take the risk but my family's. I also have this moral problem: Why should I put them at risk. At any rate, the 4 eldest met on Wedensday, discussed the matter and took a vote: 4-0 against the trip. I had offered to go to the North and meet them there (and consider travelling with them to Baghdad) but the routes to the north were also unsafe (Ba'aquba-Kirkuk or Balad-Samarra-Tikrit-Mosul). I am deeply disappointed but this is the reality of the situation. A friend in Norway who also planned to travel with me thought it was better not to go now. What is for me logistically a problem is this: I can't ask for a special leave (I had one last year and this year) and this means I need to wait for the next summer (and believe me this is terribly frustrating that I got a special leave and could not use it).
* * *
Date: 6/19/2004 11:51:48 AM Eastern Daylight Time
I'm sorry, too, but you obviously can't put your family at risk -- and they have to stay on, leaving them at risk, after you leave.
Well -- sometime, somewhere.
I'll tell Zaid Mugheer, and hope to be able to make it, myself, to Hilla.
I took some pictures in the street yesterday -- and I'm still here. The proof of that pudding, though,...will take some time to taste. I've wondered, since before I left America, about the ramifications of taking pictures in public here. I asked about it, before coming here, and was warned against focusing on unpleasant or controversial things, such as children beating even younger children, something I'm prone to confront -- that they might then come and attack me. After I arrived here, I asked some more -- I don't think I was discouraged -- but I should ask, again. I had the experience, soon after arriving, two months ago, of civilian-clad police in the bank district following me, after I took a picture in their area. They asked if I was an expatriate -- they're there to protect the banks against terrorist attacks. Otherwise, I've only taken pictures in confined quarters -- inside homes, offices, a deaf-mute school, kids playing soccer in the yard; from the car -- on the road from Amman to Baghdad, and a few billboards in Baghdad; and a couple of non-threatening scenes -- my uncle and his accountant eating ice cream, a pair of little boys walking together, and a store that bears my name.
Well, I recently got a replacement camera for the one I lost a month ago, and I needed to get some pictures for a scheduled interview on Fox's Channel 8, in Cleveland, this morning. The appearance was cancelled, and we're now scheduled for Thursday morning and next Wednesday. I wanted to get some street scenes, in particular, some lighters I'd seen with Saddam's picture on them, and a sidewalk book-vendor who has The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, among a couple of other anti-Semitic books. Before heading to that area, I asked my uncle if we could drive by the banners for the anniversary of my aunt's death, so I could photograph one of them -- one was down; another, we couldn't find. Then, we drove by a mural of Saddam, in front of the old central Mukhabarat building -- his face has been painted over. I took a couple of pictures as we drove by -- came out dark. Then, once we arrived at the Ruwad area of Mansour, with my uncle nearby, I got permission from the sidewalk vendor with the lighters -- I didn't think that would be a problem. The problem might come from onlookers, who might determine I'm a foreigner, and then follow me -- track my movements. My uncle, by the way, objected to my photographing the lighters, because they showed Saddam, without editorial comment -- wearing traditional Arab headscarf and in a suit, inspecting a sword; he said I should take a stance. He also wanted me to photograph beautiful women -- I hadn't thought about that. I took a couple of more pictures of the spread of vendors with their wares on the sidewalk. Then I switched over to my bar -- juice bar, that is. They were very happy, and decided to pose for me, too, beside their dozen blenders. Across the street, on the corner, there's a fabric store. I like the colors of the rolls of fabric, stacked tightly together -- thought that would be an unusual sight, for Americans; I took a picture of that. A pre-teen, standing in front, asked me what the picture was for. I told him I liked the colors. He smiled. A younger boy, passing by, asked me to take a picture of him. I said, "Later." Then, inside the internet café where I work, I asked the guys behind the desk if I could take a picture. They love me -- well, who knows -- at least, they're very nice to me -- they were very accepting. I turned to the big room with all the computers and put my camera up. The man closest to me shielded his face with his hand. I thought I'd ask his permission, but...too late, and it looked like he'd "shown me his hand."
Then, this evening, I took some more pictures on the same sidewalk, including that book vendor. This time, I went solo. I also found some interesting juxtapositions -- a hot-dog/hamburger cart near an old-fashioned hot-tea stand, with shoe-polishing boxes/seats in front of them. A couple of the sidewalk merchants asked me why I took the pictures, if they were for "outside." I said I could send them, by e-mail. I strictly avoided identifying myself with "the outside," but I think that's a vain effort. There was also a spread of baseball caps and a couple of music-taping stores, with posters of Western and Arab stars plastered on their front windows -- among "the Westerns" were Jennifer Lopez, Justin, Enrique, Ricki Martin. A woman covered all in black, including gloves, passed by. I dratted myself for having missed that opportunity. Later, I also thought of getting some "beautiful" women, too -- dressed modern, that is -- uncovered. I don't know if that would be possible -- they're pretty protected, if not by men, then by their mothers. A few minutes before, on the main street, I passed the scene of an accident or something -- there was a woman in the street and a couple of police SUVs. As I walked on, two young men in front of a store, watching the scene, gasped. I asked what'd happened. They said something about taking down a number. I couldn't hear, exactly, what they'd said. I asked if she'd hit the police car. They said, she almost hit them. I still didn't get what'd happened, and walked on. Then one of them said to me, "The ladies -- they're brave."
At the end of my trek, I, again, bumped into my old friend at the juice bar -- the workers at the bar, of course, want copies of the picture I took of them yesterday. I offered to put the pictures on a CD; they invited me for a get-together -- I thought they meant late at night, after they closed, at eleven; they said, mid-afternoon, when they're not so busy. I told my friend about having just taken some pictures. He said I should be careful, and warned me, again, about bringing notice to myself. The most dangerous thing, he said, was my presence at the offices of the Iraq Foundation. We compared notes. I asked him about wearing his shirt hanging out over his pants, but it looks like that's not so uncommon. He said he violated every rule he'd set for himself, his first day here -- not speaking English, only going from house to house, and not going out at night. I said that was impossible. I told him about drinking with my back to something solid, looking around, and touching my neck. He laughed -- "Yeah, I know."
COURT MARTIAL PRE-TRIAL HEARINGS
Statement by COL Jill Morgenthaler, MNF-I Public Affairs Officer
BAGHDAD, Iraq - First, the defense made motions for new Article 32 hearings. These motions were denied by the military judge who found that the investigations conducted substantially complied with the Rules for Courts Martial. Second, the defense requested that an investigator be assigned to each defense team. The government counsel agreed to their request. Third, the defense raised several discovery issues. Many of these issues were resolved by the government agreeing to the requests. Each defense team will be provided access to the relevant detainees’ files. Witness statements from the Taguba Report will be declassified, if possible.
The defense teams will be provided access to Gen. Abizaid. Lt. Gen. Sanchez, Lt. Gen. Metz, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast as well as other in the Coalition Joint Task Force 7 chain of command. In addition, the government agreed to defense requests for the employment files of certain civilian contractors and adverse administrative actions against the chain of command.
Fourth, the defense requested change of venue based on their beliefs that civilian witnesses would refuse to travel to Iraq. These motions were denied by the military judge at this time. Fifth, the military judge, at the request of the defense teams, ordered the U.S. government to preserve the detention facility at Abu Ghraib as a crime scene. Sixth, the government requested a court order to all potential panel members to avoid any media coverage on these cases. The judge agreed to sign the orders. Finally, the military judge set a deadline for additional motions to be filed by 31 July 2004.
In the U.S. vs. Frederick, the civilian defense attorney requested to appear via telephone on June 13. The military judge denied this request on June 14. Today, in court, the civilian defense counsel did not appear. Staff Sgt. Frederick did not waive his right to appearance of civilian defense counsel. To ensure Staff Sgt. Frederick’s right to a counsel of his choice, the military judge recessed court until July 23 in order for the civilian defense counsel to appear in Iraq.