observations and analysis on everything under the Iraqi sun, by Ayad Rahim (ayadrahim@hotmail.com), 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

Saturday, July 24, 2004


I think this is it.

Live from Baghdad is not in Baghdad, and, I think, it has served its purpose. So, I bid you farewell -- till somewhere else, some other time. It's been nice -- very nice -- really, a great ride. Thanks for being there with me -- I couldn't have done it without you -- without you -- somebody, imagining somebody, a particular person -- on the other end. It's quite a motivator, knowing that there's somebody at the other end, expecting a product -- every day. Thanks. Thanks, too, for exhausting me. I know you didn't mean to, but.... Ha! Ha! Well, I'll tell you, it's pretty addictive, so, it's quite likely, I'll need some outlet for my daily...oozings, and gushings.

I could go on with the blog, telling you about my upcoming trips to Washington and Boston, visiting my sister and cousin and having fun with their little ones. Then there's my postponed trip to London, and plays and people I see there. I could also tell you about the articles I write, the book(s) I hope to produce, from the material I've gathered, talks or media appearances, but, then, it would be more like Live from Ayad than Live from Baghdad -- unless somebody out there is interested in that.

About a book, one friend just wrote:
Date: 7/21/2004 5:28:31 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Rita

Welcome back to Civilization!

With regards to the blog -- have you ever thought of putting it into a book? Perhaps a history book which could lend itself to teaching Iraqis and the world about the difficulties presenting themselves today and the recent past.

You have so much in print it seems like a little organization and some effort in addition to stories you still have to tell would make an interesting read.

What do you think?


* * *

Date: 7/23/2004 12:01:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Hi, Rita,

That's interesting -- your idea. Hmmmm! Sounds like there's a lot there, to your idea, and I'd like to hear more.

I am planning to do a book or two, out of the material I've got -- written and unwritten. Your idea, though, is new to me. I keep reading your sentence, trying to take it in, figure it out. I think I'm just gonna have to save it, and keep it in my records, to think about some more. It's not clear to me, but I'm sure I can get there, on my own, or with your help. Sounds very intriguing, though -- like a good idea.

All right -- thanks for the welcome back. I'm getting readjusted here. I've got a long way to go.

All the best, and, again, thanks for the idea.

* * *

I could also continue the blog, be a clipping service, reading from the Iraqi press -- on-line -- and pass on the news -- with my commentary -- spin -- of course. My mother says she reads for four, five hours every day, from 40-50 web-sites. She's told me about the three missles just found in a tunnel near Tikrit -- missles capped with nuclear warheads. The tunnel was fortified by six meters of concrete, to evade detection of radioactive material. Plus, the man who led Iraqi authorities to the tunnel, Khidhir al-Douri, who was a top-ranking Ba'thi, had a forged death certificate made for himself after the fall of Saddam, but was...uncovered, along with his son, when they tried, by e-mail, to make arrangements for a rendezvous. She also told me about the 150 missiles just found buried near the Saudi-Iraqi border -- missiles topped with chemical warheads. The ground on top was covered with salt, to absorb the chemicals, I believe, and evade detection. That border area is going to be very fertile ground. It's all desert, but beneath the ground, there are bodies and bombs galore.

Then there are these items my mother told me, about Saddam's daughter Raghad -- her being sited in the mall I went to, in Amman; her reporting that she was attacked in the street and, thus, demanding more security; her wanting to sue for the money her father had with him when he was captured; and her desire to run for president of Iraq. She's quite a bold one, huh? Well, I guess she's following in the footsteps of some other fine daughters -- Benazir Bhutto, Aung San Suu Kyi, Indira Gandhi, I think. There are others, I know, but I can't remember them, right now.

That's not me, though -- it's not what I want to do -- maybe I should propose it to Mom -- she's certainly got all the "news." As for me, though, translating the news would lack freshness -- some people-...personal connection, liveliness. Plus, you could...get this from one of the fine services that are out there (IWPR, MEMRI), or directly from the sources, themselves, like my mother does. In English, there are the excellent warehouse Iraq.net, and one of the 30-plus Iraqi blogs listed there, such as Healing Iraq and Iraq the Model.

I do have more stories from Iraq, though -- but, for those,...you'll have to wait for the movie. So, until next time, it's "so long, and thanks for all the fish."

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Terra firma

At long last, I'm home.

It took a while, but I made it -- thanks to planes, buses and taxis.

I left Baghdad, Monday afternoon, via an airplane. I'd been advised to take a plane, instead of a taxi, the way I came into the country, because there was less of a chance of getting kidnapped in the air than there was, on the ground. It turned out, the plane was not without risk. Before taking off, the co-pilot/navigator told us -- the 16-seat two-propellor plane was almost full -- that we'd be making a spiral into the sky. He added, that this was, unfortunately, for our protection and not for our pleasure. So, after the plane took off, it made a tight turn to the left as it ascended, the seats vibrating, for part of the circle. The plane kept on turning to the left, the circle getting wider and wider, the higher we got. In all, the plane made some six turns, directly above the airport.

I saw, below, near the airport, two extensive artificial lakes, with several palaces, in and around each. I just learned, from my mother, that a friend from Cleveland, an Iraqi American woman, is working with, presumably, the American army, in one of those palaces. Back in the air, as we began to head west, the earth was verdant. Up ahead, though, immediately on the other side of a winding river, presumably, the Euphrates, the ground turned suddenly tan, and it continued that way, I think, till we crossed the border -- yet another demonstration of Jordan's advancement on Iraq.

I'm wondering, whether to share all the ins and outs of the rest of my journey -- trying to get a seat on a plane from Amman, the last-minute switch at the airport to a plane for New York, instead of Detroit, then my attempts to catch a plane from New York, eventually landing on a Greyhound bus. Well, I've pretty much done it, without all the details. It was funny, though -- I started, in Amman, about to upgrade my economy-class ticket to a business-class seat, of which there was an availability. That would've been nice, to conclude my trip, in comfort. The cost of the upgrade, though, turned out to be $1100, instead of $420, as I was originally told. Instead, I ended up on an overnight bus from Manhattan to Cleveland. C'est la vie.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Turning the tide, standing firm

In their joint article in today's Washington Post, U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman and Jon Kyl begin:
The successful handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people last month offers fresh hope for stability and democracy in their country, but it could also mark a turning of the tide in the world war against terrorism. While the deposed tyrant and terrorist Saddam Hussein stands trial, the people of the great Muslim country he suppressed for so long are now standing proud and free, and taking control of their own destiny. And they are showing strong support for their new leadership and new optimism about their democratic future. According to a BBC/Oxford Research International poll released this month, 55 percent of Iraqis believe their lives today are quite good or very good, 56 percent believe their lives will get better in the next year, and 70 percent believe Iraq needs democracy.

These survey results are significant because they show we are making real progress in the war of values and ideas in Iraq, ideas that are at the heart of the larger war on terrorism. Iraq has become a proving ground for the freedom and security we are fighting for, and a tough test of our resolve in this fight. The terrorists in Iraq and beyond will never beat us militarily. But they can defeat us politically if they succeed in their strategy to terrorize, demoralize and divide America and its allies.

The liberation of Iraq has important implications for the region and for the broader war on terrorism. The leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties have so far stood firm in their commitment to finish the job in Iraq and to fight to victory the war on terrorism. But that bipartisan consensus is coming under growing public pressure and could fray in the months ahead. Although the tide is turning in the war on terrorism, a political undertow in this country could wash out our recent gains. We must not let this happen.
Iraq's newest presidential aspirant

Meet Sa'ad al-Janabi, who's modeling himself after Silvio Berlusconi and Rafeeq Hariri. Janabi says, "We need a business person in politics to rebuild Iraq like the Italian and Lebanese premiers. Stability and security are linked to the economy." For his presidential bid, he's started the Iraqi Republican Party and the Rashid television station.
He amassed his own wealth in the 1990s under his patron, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamil, from whom he acquired a near monopoly on cigarette distribution under United Nations sanctions. Mr Janabi earned the sobriquet of Iraq's "cigarette king". But when Qusay Hussein sought a share of the profits, he fled along with Mr Kamil to Jordan in 1995.
For the rest of the July 14 Financial Times article.

What a difference...a day makes

Iraq is a sad place, a veritable tragedy. Live from Baghdad is on location. Yesterday, I flew from Baghdad to Amman, and, oh, boy -- hard to describe the differences. Hard to even call them differences -- it's just a different world -- different planets -- can't even compare. In rereading this, I think I should amend this. Kurdistan, which I haven't been to, since 1992, is supposed to be miles ahead of Iraqi Arabistan -- so, there is hope, yet.

Descending on Amman, I saw patches of green below, and some organization to the homes and urban layout. At the airport -- a little airport in the city -- later called a military airport by the two men at hotel reception -- there were two aviation academies and one for aeronautics. The heat was very tolerable, and it seems there's always a breeze here -- and not just any old breeze, but a cool breeze, at that. In Baghdad, sometimes, as in a couple of days ago, the air -- wind, that is -- is hot, and heavy -- and I'm talking about at night -- driving in the car -- late at night, too. Last evening, the weather was beautiful, and today, it's just perfect -- lovely temperature, a bit of a breeze.

On leaving the airport, there were lines up and down the streets, with people driving between them, using turn signals to cross them. Traffic lights worked, and people obeyed them. It was especially nice -- most noticeable, I guess -- on left-hand turns -- everybody waiting their turn, in one or two turning lanes. The taxi driver yesterday said part of the penalty for driving the wrong-way on a one-way street was seven days in jail. I said that was severe. He replied, But you have to have order. There's attractive fencing and plants, some flowering, in the median strips.

Men walked around in business suits, comfortably. Women wore bright colors, fashionable clothes -- seemingly, very relaxed. Women -- alone -- sat in proper bus shelters, in close proximity to men, and crossed the roads at ease. Quite a few wore sleeveless shirts, with no apparent concern. An officemate in Baghdad told me in amazement a couple of days ago, about seeing a woman in Mansour wearing tight jeans that would need a "vacuum to suck them off." My eyes got locked on a woman there, way back, wearing a tight-fitting blouse or pants. Here, such sights seem to be part of the scenery. People seem concerned about their health and appearance, too -- they look fresher, more in shape. I've seen quite a few women, wearing running shoes, their bodies looking as if they might've just done some exercise.

In Baghdad airport, I met a passenger on the plane who paid twice for the same ticket and wanted to sort the situation out, so we drove around a lot, looking for the airline's offices, as well as a hotel to stay in. We hit about three hotels -- none had what we needed -- one night for him; two, for me. A receptionist at one hotel said he called seven others for us, to no avail. Then, he found something. Taxi drivers have told me that it's tourist season, and that a lot of exiles are here, for visits. On that first ride, from the airport, I saw banners for at least five "exhibitions" -- trade shows and festivals, for the famous annual music festival at the Roman ruins in Jerash, books, jewelry, traditional folkwares, or such.

As we drove through Amman's residential/business districts -- the city airport is near the heart of the city -- we passed a vegetable garden -- what seemed to be a plot of land for community use. I've seen others, since. I saw boxes attached to homes' outside walls, for newspapers. We passed a fenced-in neighborhood block that was devoted to a bird sanctuary -- right in the middle of the city. So many buildings were new and clean -- so unlike Baghdad. One building was the headquarters for the Ministry of Political Development and Parliamentary Affairs. One building had scrawled on it, in large Arabic letters, "I love you," so-and-so. The name was new to me, but it seemed to be a man's name. Wow! People here have been smiling back at me -- in the airport, at hotels, shops, offices. Many laugh with ease. In Tony Horwitz's 1992 book, Baghdad Without a Map, a diplomat's wife related how Baghdad might've been the only place where you couldn't "koochi-koochi-koo" with another's baby in the street. When I smiled or waved at children in Baghdad, they reacted with confusion, maybe fear, as if I'd wielded a strange, maybe dangerous, weapon. Well, I guess it is a new weapon.

Right after finding a hotel and putting my things down, I headed to the offices of Royal Jordanian Airlines. I have a ticket back to Detroit, but no seats are available for a couple of weeks. I managed to squeeze into the office, even though they'd just closed. The place was clean, well-lit and air-conditioned. They even use a system of numbered slips of paper, with numbers ticking off, on screens, to serve customers. Women behind the counters were spirited, as they've been elsewhere in my 24-plus hours in the city.

There are ATM machines around. Businesses take credit cards. Next to my hotel is a flower shop, and the place and flowers were attractive -- flowers, fresh and varied. I'd heard about a flower shop in Baghdad, but I didn't get to see it. I can only imagine, the sad flowers and weak variety. There are supermarkets. Mom -- there's a Maitland-Smith store.

I've been taking taxis back and forth, without a second thought -- not even a first. For my time in Baghdad, I'd been warned, starting with my father, before I left America, not to take a taxi off the street, and I didn't. Here, I walk around, ask for a place, make requests at stores and food shops, without any concern for using the wrong word or a different dialect -- foreigners are welcome here. I removed the last vestiges of my Baghdad disguise, this morning -- no need for this mustache anymore.

Speaking of which, I saw a tour bus yesterday with Hebrew printed on the back. I know there've been Israeli tourists here. I wondered if any Israelis have moved to Jordan, taken up residence here, set up shop, and if so, how they've managed. At the Royal Jordanian office, I saw in their timetables book that they have nine flights a week between Amman and Tel Aviv. I don't suppose any has been struck, or targeted -- planes, passengers or offices. Maybe that's going too far -- well, I don't remember hearing of any. In a related vein, last night, I caught the tail end of a Syrian television station's Hebrew news broadcast.

Even the beggars look classier here. A man in a wheelchair was sitting under the shade of a tree hanging over the wall in an up-scale neighborhood. I assumed he was a beggar, although he didn't do anything -- wasn't extending his hand, asking for anything. A man in front of C-Town, a large supermarket, sat out of the way, at the edge of the parking lot, with a tray of gum and sweets. There isn't the obtrusiveness of beggars in Baghdad, hanging all over the sidewalk, looking so pathetic, tugging at you with their children, or reading the Qur'an out loud.

As I walked around yesterday evening -- getting some food, trying to find an internet cafe -- I walked around leisurely, looked at signs on buildings, gazed up, at the sky, at upper floors, turned around, did a "360," to see all around me -- all, completely relaxed. That's civilization. Not a thought about having my throat slit, being noticed as a foreigner, to be targeted for kidnapping.

This afternoon, I went with my cousin and her five kids to the mall. Amazing! They've got a Benetton, a Tommy Hilfiger, a food court, a game room, a playground for little kids, bowling lanes and movie theaters. She said they go to this mall, called Mecca Mall, every day. There's another large, modern mall, and a few smaller, less attractive ones. My cousin's here, for a couple of months, since the end of the school year. She said, in Baghdad, they hadn't seen the outside of the house, for six months -- other than to and from school, no doubt. Now, they come to the mall, hang out for a few hours, play video games, have something to eat, maybe see a movie -- they show Egyptian and American movies. I wondered, though, if there was too much stimulation for them, just as I thought there might be for me, if I went to London, and walked around and caught a few plays -- all, after Baghdad. The children are having a great time, they said -- seeing how the rest of the world lives. My cousin also said she sees her father here more than she sees him in Baghdad.

In the mall, women in sleeveless shirts, bare shoulders, cleavages, men in traditional robes, women in all types of veils -- fashionable, conservative, the all-black cloaks, with just slits for the eyes and the toes and hands showing -- all seem to co-exist, without tension. In the hotel lobby this morning, there were four of the all-black women -- they looked like they were black figures, floating across the floor. I tried to think, what they looked like. All I could think of, was Yoda, from Star Wars. Two of them had eyeglasses sticking out of the only slits in the cloaks. In the mall, one of the women's clothing stores we went into, called Stradivarius, had a salesperson wearing a T-shirt that said, in English, "My boyfriend is out of the city this weekend." She and the manager wouldn't let me take a picture. Compared to Baghdad, Amman is like a fleshpot. It reminded me of a summer visit to New York City a few years ago, and the difference from Cleveland. Beyond the flesh, though, Amman is like Switzerland, compared to Baghdad. This, while Iraqis look down on Jordan. What's Jordan, they say -- no culture, no history, Amman didn't even exist, 50 years ago? While Iraq,.... Moreover, Jordan subsisted on Iraqi oil, for dozens of years. Then, after 1991, Iraqis became beggars in Jordan, Iraqi women became prostitutes, and artists and other professionals went door to door, plowing their trades and wares.

As for me, tonight, I'll go to a nice restaurant called Romero's, have some pasta and a bowl or two of their great chocolate mousse. Live from Baghdad will continue to be on location, for the foreseeable future, and, tomorrow, I might be off the air -- if I'm in the air. If I can get a bird to pick me up, I'll fly across a lake, a pond and a continent or two. After that, I'll have to think, what to do with this blog. I've got a lot more stories, about Iraq -- lots more to share. If anybody out there, has some ideas, let me know. Oops -- how do you find me? Hmmm. I guess I'll have to think about that, too.

Till next time -- asta la vista, baby!

Sunday, July 18, 2004

More power to him

So far, I've gotten two positive reactions and one leery one, to news of Allawi allegedly shooting six prisoners last month. My uncle brought in four newspapers this morning. I asked him if he'd heard the news about Allawi. He asked me what he'd said. I told him about the report that he'd shot six prisoners last month in the Aamiriyya central prison. My uncle asked me who they were. I said "terrorists." He answered, "He did good." Later, he said, "He did very good, very good."

None of the four newspapers my uncle brought -- Allawi's Baghdad, Pachachi's Al-Nahdhah, the private Al-Mada and Allawi's arch-rival, Ahmad Chalabi's Al-Mu'tamar -- mentioned the news item -- at least not on its front or back pages.

When I got to work, I shared the news with two co-workers. One of them, a fan of Allawi, said, "He did very good!" The other, pushed for a comment, said, "If it's true, then we've replaced one Saddam with another. If it's not true, then it's more of journalists trying to make Iraqis look bad, no matter what we do. What's the difference -- dictatorship, or democracy? I'm sick and tired of Iraqis getting their character assassinated."

One day before I'm to depart Iraq, my mom makes here debut on my blog:
Subj: from your mom
Date: 7/15/2004 3:52:46 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "bushra"
To: "Ayad Rahim"

Dear dodo
I want to give you some advice about your trip back.
My advice to you: come direct to the states and then with the voucher and couple of hundred bucks, you can fly to London.
you know if you travel from any where between middle east and europe you can take only 20 kilo but if you come to the states you can take 2 pieces of bags 70 pounds each and check it to cleveland with what you have to pay all that it will be too much for you believe me I traveled a lot and this would be a very tough trip. I read the web today and get the 28th of july reservation would be good and after rest you can go to London.
[Your uncle] is coming back to Amman on the 28th of july and also I do not trust the Jordanian reservation they are bad bad bad
love your MAMA

* * *

Date: 7/17/2004 3:07:19 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Thanks for the advice. I've been thinking about heading back, straight to America -- as I'm already tired -- I don't know. What's your experience with Jordanian travel agencies? This one's seemed good. That's important, though, about the 20 kilos. That's the limit from here to Amman, too, but they may be able to make an exception -- I hope so.

The other thing I need is a plane from Detroit to Cleveland -- or Akron, via Air Tran -- they're very cheap. Maybe I should start looking for a ticket, now.

Thanks for thinking about me, my return.

Hey -- you're calling me the same thing I called ZooZoo -- DooDoo.
[my first nephew/her first grandson]

All right -- bye.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

More on Allawi, his instincts and his past

An Eli Lake piece in The New Republic about Ayad Allawi (on-line version requires subscription to New Republic). A key paragraph:
Kenneth Katzman, an analyst at the Congressional Research Service (CRS) who has followed the Iraqi opposition since the end of the first Gulf War, sees many parallels between Allawi's security-first policies and that of a young Saddam Hussein. "Allawi was a Baathist, and his vision for Iraq almost seems like Saddam-light or neo-Saddam in the sense that he believes in a strong central government and a large army which would also perform internal security duties," said Katzman, who also was an Iraq analyst for the CIA before he joined the CRS. "He believes in strong domestic spying agencies. His whole outlook seems very similar to Saddam in his early career."
Then, the rest of the story:
Wrong Man
by Eli J. Lake
Only at TNR Online
Post date: 07.14.04

In some ways President Bush could not have asked for a better man than Iyad Allawi to lead Iraq. The former Baath party operative is a secular Shia who is trusted by Iraq's minority Sunni population. He has secured, for now, a slim majority of support from his countrymen--the latest International Republican Institute poll shows he has an approval rating of just over 51 percent. At the same time Allawi appears willing to take harsh steps to crush the insurgency that is based in Sunni-dominated parts of the country. He also enjoys well-established ties to Iraq's Arab neighbors Saudi Arabia and Jordan, likely to be a factor in getting those countries to forgive the debt of the ex-tyrant. King Abdullah practically nominated him for Prime Minister in May and has recently suggested he would send troops to Iraq if Allawi requested them.

All of this would appear to bode well for both Iraq and America. Since June 1, Iraq has seen an average of one car bombing per day, according to a recent Council on Foreign Relations fact sheet. Horrific images of kidnapped Americans, Koreans, and Turks pleading for their lives in homemade videos have become all too common. If the insurgency continues at this level, even the best-intentioned democrats could not possibly hope to meet the January 2005 deadline for national elections.

The problem is that many of Allawi's strengths could end up hindering President Bush's broader vision of democracy for Iraq, a country he has called free since Saddam's demise. To start, the perception that Allawi is favored by foreign leaders could backfire as his political opponents gin up a campaign to paint him as a stooge of other countries and the CIA. Allawi's efforts to include more former Baathists in the security services could alienate powerful Shia and Kurdish leaders whose participation in his government is already reluctant.

And Allawi himself could come to be seen as a pawn of the Americans. He has signed a letter inviting American soldiers to stay in Iraq through the election of a permanent government at the end of 2005; according to Iraq's new ambassador in Washington, Rend Rahim Francke, the letter, combined with the U.N. resolution recognizing the sovereignty of the new Iraqi government, renders moot the need for a status of forces agreement between Baghdad and Washington. Amy Hawthorne, who analyzes the prospects for Arab democracy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace put it this way: "As the situation unfolds and he faces more challenges, his past affiliations with the CIA may come to be more damaging in terms of his profile in Iraq. If he can't perform in his job, then those kinds of legitimacy questions will become more prominent down the road. People could really question, who is this guy?"

But what should trouble the White House most about the new Iraqi Prime Minister is that some of the people who know him best and have watched him most closely over the years say that he does not really believe Iraq can be the democracy President Bush has promised will be model for the Arab world. Tahsin Ma'alleh, a founder of Allawi's organization in exile known as the Iraqi National Accord, or the Wifaq, could not have been blunter in an interview last month when he said, "Allawi wants to control Iraq. He could be a new Saddam because he does not understand democracy." Like Allawi, Ma'alleh was a member of the Baath party until the late 1970s, but joined the opposition to Saddam on the grounds that the leader had abandoned the ideals of the party. Ma'alleh taught Allawi medicine in Baghdad, where he says the new prime minister was a poor student who cheated on his exams. The two later started working together against the regime after Baathist agents nearly hacked Allawi to death in an axe attack in 1978. To hear Ma'alleh talk about the evolution of the Baath party, you would think the ideology developed by the Syrian Christian Michel Aflaq was little more than exuberant anti-colonialism. In his home in Surrey, England, Ma'alleh spoke in wistful tones about the "Baath party's inherent democracy," and its final fall from grace in 1979 when Saddam killed many of the party's most loyal members. Ma'alleh didn't acknowledge the uglier sides of Baathism, such as its view that the Arab race is superior to all others and how, even in its early phases, the organization saw no place for opposition political parties. The problem, he said, was Saddam Hussein.

Another close associate of Allawi in exile, Dhirgham Kadhim, was very careful to distinguish the operational side of the party in the early 1960s, to which Saddam belonged, from the political wing of college students organizing in universities and neighborhoods. "There were really two Baath parties," he said. Indeed, the Wifaq, which comprised almost exclusively former party men, called its first CIA-supported radio station in 1992 "Radio Freedom." The name suggests that Allawi believed the ideological element of Baathism to be quite compatible with the west's rhetorical goal of a democratic Iraq.

Allawi has also asserted since the fall of Saddam Hussein that it is possible to be both democratic and Baathist. He will even be inviting current Baath party members to a meeting to plan an interim national assembly of some 1,000 notables scheduled for later this month. When his longtime rival, Ahmad Chalabi, was loudly barring former regime officials from the occupation government, Allawi's son-in-law, Nouri Badran--then the Minister of the Interior--was selecting some officials who had been purged for posts in the new military.

Allawi's vision of Baathism without Saddam is evident in the manner in which he tried to change the Iraqi regime when he was in exile. "We think that any uprising should have as its very center the armed forces," he told The Washington Post on June 23, 1996. "We don't preach civil war. On the contrary, we preach controlled, coordinated military uprising supported by the people that would not allow itself to go into acts of revenge or chaos." A commitment to public order is commendable, particularly considering the looting that ensued after the fall of Baghdad. But a military coup also would have had the distinct feature of keeping the violent pillars of the state intact but under new management.

Now Allawi has finally gotten his regime change and may have also gotten his coup. According to Paul Wolfowitz's testimony last month to the Senate Armed Services Committee, the new Prime Minister plans to not only reconstitute the military Paul Bremer dissolved last May, but will likely bring back the army's old command structure. He is also busy at work creating an all-Iraqi strike force capable of hunting insurgent leaders and terrorists. And he has hinted that he may impose martial law on sections of the country that oppose the authority of the new government.

Kenneth Katzman, an analyst at the Congressional Research Service (CRS) who has followed the Iraqi opposition since the end of the first Gulf War, sees many parallels between Allawi's security-first policies and that of a young Saddam Hussein. "Allawi was a Baathist, and his vision for Iraq almost seems like Saddam-light or neo-Saddam in the sense that he believes in a strong central government and a large army which would also perform internal security duties," said Katzman, who also was an Iraq analyst for the CIA before he joined the CRS. "He believes in strong domestic spying agencies. His whole outlook seems very similar to Saddam in his early career."

Even Frank Anderson, the Near East Division chief for the CIA's Clandestine Service in the early 1990s, when Allawi was referred to America from the British intelligence service, concedes, "Allawi does not have democratic instincts." But he adds that "it's clear to everybody that not just the United States, but the international community, will not accept the emergence of a tyranny in Iraq." Perhaps Anderson is correct that Allawi, even if he wanted, could not bring Iraq back to tyranny. But as recent history in the Middle East suggests, emergency laws are far easier to impose than to revoke. Under America's road map for Iraq, the country is supposed to have elections for a national assembly by January 2005. If Allawi pursues security and security alone, Iraq may be safe enough for elections it will never hold.

Eli J. Lake is the national security reporter for The New York Sun.
Stop the presses! PM Allawi accused of executing six prisoners, last month

A world exclusive:
Allawi shot inmates in cold blood, say witnesses
By Paul McGeough
Sidney Morning Herald

July 17, 2004

Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.

They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.

They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they "deserved worse than death".

The Prime Minister's office has denied the entirety of the witness accounts in a written statement to the Herald, saying Dr Allawi had never visited the centre and he did not carry a gun.

But the informants told the Herald that Dr Allawi shot each young man in the head as about a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from the Prime Minister's personal security team watched in stunned silence.

Iraq's Interior Minister, Falah al-Naqib, is said to have looked on and congratulated him when the job was done. Mr al-Naqib's office has issued a verbal denial.

The names of three of the alleged victims have been obtained by the Herald.

One of the witnesses claimed that before killing the prisoners Dr Allawi had told those around him that he wanted to send a clear message to the police on how to deal with insurgents.

"The prisoners were against the wall and we were standing in the courtyard when the Interior Minister said that he would like to kill them all on the spot. Allawi said that they deserved worse than death - but then he pulled the pistol from his belt and started shooting them."

Re-enacting the killings, one witness stood three to four metres in front of a wall and swung his outstretched arm in an even arc, left to right, jerking his wrist to mimic the recoil as each bullet was fired. Then he raised a hand to his brow, saying: "He was very close. Each was shot in the head."

The witnesses said seven prisoners had been brought out to the courtyard, but the last man in the line was only wounded - in the neck, said one witness; in the chest, said the other.

Given Dr Allawi's role as the leader of the US experiment in planting a model democracy in the Middle East, allegations of a return to the cold-blooded tactics of his predecessor are likely to stir a simmering debate on how well Washington knows its man in Baghdad, and precisely what he envisages for the new Iraq.

There is much debate and rumour in Baghdad about the Prime Minister's capacity for brutality, but this is the first time eyewitness accounts have been obtained.

A former CIA officer, Vincent Cannisatraro, recently told The New Yorker: "If you're asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London, the answer is yes, he does. He was a paid Mukhabarat [intelligence] agent for the Iraqis, and he was involved in dirty stuff."

In Baghdad, varying accounts of the shootings are interpreted by observers as useful to a little-known politician who, after 33 years in exile, needs to prove his leadership credentials as a "strongman" in a war-ravaged country that has no experience of democracy.

Dr Allawi's statement dismissed the allegations as rumours instigated by enemies of his interim government.

But in a sharp reminder of the Iraqi hunger for security above all else, the witnesses did not perceive themselves as whistle-blowers. In interviews with the Herald they were enthusiastic about such killings, with one of them arguing: "These criminals were terrorists. They are the ones who plant the bombs."

Before the shootings, the 58-year-old Prime Minister is said to have told the policemen they must have courage in their work and that he would shield them from any repercussions if they killed insurgents in the course of their duty.

The witnesses said the Iraqi police observers were "shocked and surprised". But asked what message they might take from such an act, one said: "Any terrorists in Iraq should have the same destiny. This is the new Iraq.

"Allawi wanted to send a message to his policemen and soldiers not to be scared if they kill anyone - especially, they are not to worry about tribal revenge. He said there would be an order from him and the Interior Ministry that all would be fully protected.

"He told them: 'We must destroy anyone who wants to destroy Iraq and kill our people.'

"At first they were surprised. I was scared - but now the police seem to be very happy about this. There was no anger at all, because so many policemen have been killed by these criminals."

Dr Allawi had made a surprise visit to the complex, they said.

Neither witness could give a specific date for the killings. But their accounts narrowed the time frame to on or around the third weekend in June - about a week before the rushed handover of power in Iraq and more than three weeks after Dr Allawi was named as the interim Prime Minister.

They said that as many as five of the dead prisoners were Iraqis, two of whom came from Samarra, a volatile town to the north of the capital, where an attack by insurgents on the home of Mr Al-Naqib killed four of the Interior Minister's bodyguards on June 19.

The Herald has established the names of three of the prisoners alleged to have been killed. Two names connote ties to Syrian-based Arab tribes, suggesting they were foreign fighters: Ahmed Abdulah Ahsamey and Amer Lutfi Mohammed Ahmed al-Kutsia.

The third was Walid Mehdi Ahmed al-Samarrai. The last word of his name indicates that he was one of the two said to come from Samarra, which is in the Sunni Triangle.

The three names were provided to the Interior Ministry, where senior adviser Sabah Khadum undertook to provide a status report on each. He was asked if they were prisoners, were they alive or had they died in custody.

But the next day he cut short an interview by hanging up the phone, saying only: "I have no information - I don't want to comment on that specific matter."

All seven were described as young men. One of the witnesses spoke of the distinctive appearance of four as "Wahabbi", the colloquial Iraqi term for the foreign fundamentalist insurgency fighters and their Iraqi followers.

He said: "The Wahabbis had long beards, very short hair and they were wearing dishdashas [the caftan-like garment worn by Iraqi men]."

Raising the hem of his own dishdasha to reveal the cotton pantaloons usually worn beneath, he said: "The other three were just wearing these - they looked normal."

One witness justified the shootings as an unintended act of mercy: "They were happy to die because they had already been beaten by the police for two to eight hours a day to make them talk."

After the removal of the bodies, the officer in charge of the complex, General Raad Abdullah, is said to have called a meeting of the policemen and told them not to talk outside the station about what had happened. "He said it was a security issue," a witness said.

One of the Al-Amariyah witnesses said he watched as Iraqis among the Prime Minister's bodyguards piled the prisoners' bodies into the back of a Nissan utility and drove off. He did not know what became of them. But the other witness said the bodies were buried west of Baghdad, in open desert country near Abu Ghraib.

That would place their burial near the notorious prison, which was used by Saddam Hussein's security forces to torture and kill thousands of Iraqis. Subsequently it was revealed as the setting for the still-unfolding prisoner abuse scandal involving US troops in the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad.

The Herald has established that as many as 30 people, including the victims, may have been in the courtyard. One of the witnesses said there were five or six civilian-clad American security men in a convoy of five or six late model four-wheel-drive vehicles that was shepherding Dr Allawi's entourage on the day. The US military and Dr Allawi's office refused to respond to questions about the composition of his security team. It is understood that the core of his protection unit is drawn from the US Special Forces units.

The security establishment where the killings are said to have happened is on open ground on the border of the Al-Amariyah and Al-Kudra neighbourhoods in Baghdad.

About 90 policemen are stationed at the complex, which processes insurgents and more hardened offenders among those captured in the struggle against a wave of murder, robbery and kidnapping in post-invasion Iraq.

The Interior Ministry denied permission for the Herald to enter the heavily fortified police complex.

The two witnesses were independently and separately found by the Herald. Neither approached the newspaper. They were interviewed on different days in a private home in Baghdad, without being told the other had spoken. A condition of the co-operation of each man was that no personal information would be published.

Both interviews lasted more than 90 minutes and were conducted through an interpreter, with another journalist present for one of the meetings. The witnesses were not paid for the interviews.

Dr Allawi's office has dismissed the allegations as rumours instigated by enemies of his interim government.

A statement in the name of spokesman Taha Hussein read: "We face these sorts of allegations on a regular basis. Numerous groups are attempting to hinder what the interim Iraqi government is on the verge of achieving, and occasionally they spread outrageous accusations hoping they will be believed and thus harm the honourable reputation of those who sacrifice so much to protect this glorious country and its now free and respectable people.

"Dr Allawi is turning this country into a free and democratic nation run by the rule of law; so if your sources are as credible as they say they are, then they are more than welcome to file a complaint in a court of law against the Prime Minister."

In response to a question asking if Dr Allawi carried a gun, the statement said: "[He] does not carry a pistol. He is the Prime Minister of Iraq, not a combatant in need of any weaponry."

Sabah Khadum, a senior adviser to Interior Minister Mr Naqib, whose portfolio covers police matters, also dismissed the accounts. Rejecting them as "ludicrous", Mr Khadum said of Dr Allawi: "He is a doctor and I know him. He was my neighbour in London. He just doesn't have it in him. Baghdad is a city of rumours. This is not worth discussing."

Mr Khadum added: "Do you think a man who is Prime Minister is going to disqualify himself for life like this? This is not a government of gangsters."

Asked if Dr Allawi had visited the Al-Amariyah complex - one of the most important counter-insurgency centres in Baghdad - Mr Khadum said he could not reveal the Prime Minister's movements. But he added: "Dr Allawi has made many visits to police stations ... he is heading the offensive."

US officials in Iraq have not made an outright denial of the allegations. An emailed response to questions from the Herald to the US ambassador, John Negroponte, said: "If we attempted to refute each [rumour], we would have no time for other business. As far as this embassy's press office is concerned, this case is closed."
The article is accompanied by an Allawi timeline. Two months ago, when Allawi was chosen prime minister, I wrote about my experience with him, five years ago.

Most Iraqis aren't bothered by this allegation. In fact, most feel that an example, with public executions, should be made of the terrorists -- that that is the only language Iraqis, not to mention the foreign terrorists, understand. Indeed, this could bolster Allawi's reputation of being a "tough guy." Thursday, Allawi, standing alongside Interior Minister Falah Naqeeb and Defense Minister Hazim Sha'lan, announced at a press conference the creation of a national safety directorate, and vowed to wipe out armed elements from the country.

The justification given by Iraqis for their view, is that "we're not ready for such niceties as democracy and human rights, that, first, we've got to wipe out the terrorists, and that requires tough action -- a firm hand" -- that to save millions, you have to kill a few. It'll be very interesting to see what Iraqis, and, in particular, the Iraqi press, including papers belonging to opponents of Allawi, do with this -- the first scandal involving allegations of human rights violations in post-Saddam Iraq, and pointing directly at the top political figure in the country. I'm just imagining the next cabinet meeting, and how the other government ministers will react to Allawi. Many are the stories, of Saddam executing people, in the middle of cabinet meetings, and the rest, falling into place.

Another factor in all of this, is the ongoing American bureaucratic feud between the State Department and the CIA on one hand, and the Defense Department on the other. Allawi is seen as State-CIA's man, and the Arabists who dominate there. They have not been traditionally enthusiastic for shaking things up in the region, let alone disrupting the status quo, prefering, instead, an old-line Arab nationalist such as Allawi, who was backed by Syria for many years.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, Ba'thists are making inroads into government, including the national assembly being organized for the end of the month. Government officials have offered a few olive branches to former Ba'thists over the past couple of weeks. Many see this as a necessary pragmatic step, to split the "resistance"/insurgency/terrorists/opposition. Saddam backers have taken over Falluja, on and off, over the past couple of months, and recently, members of Saddam's Republican Guard, in uniform, claimed they controlled Samarra for 12 days. Today, on the 36th anniversary of the Ba'ath coming to power, the last time, they flexed their muscles, setting off as many as seven bombs, including a suicide car-bomb targeting the justice minister. He survived, uninjured. Here's hoping, it's their last big sendoff.

Stay tuned. This is only the beginning.
I'm back -- but not for long

I was invited to lunch yesterday -- had a nice time, good company. Then, after getting dropped off at home, I was about to head off to the internet café, when I decided I could use a rest. I woke up, four hours later, it was almost nine, and I was feeling none too energetic. I ate a bunch of figs -- the little green ones are especially sweet -- and went back to sleep -- or, at least, tried to. My stomach was upset, too -- still is -- must've been something I ate. It made me wonder, what would Miss Manners say about informing a dinner host if one gets sick from the food. Well, I think cultural considerations play a big part in it. I don't think it would be received well in Arab circles.

I've got less than 48 hours left in Iraq. My plane out of Baghdad departs at 1:30, Monday afternoon. I'm waiting to hear back from the travel agency in Amman I've been dealing with (by e-mail) -- whether there's a flight to London later in the day. The agent told me about a flight that leaves Amman at noon. For the trip to Baghdad airport, where there's a Burger King, anyone can drive me to the first U.S. checkpoint -- I don't know how far it is -- my impression, about half way there. I get out at the checkpoint, and wait for a bus to take me the rest of the way. The other option is for someone with a Department of Defense badge -- a subcontractor -- who can drive me all the way to the airport. I know one such person who's in town, the woman who took me to Saddam's Republican Palace. I've got to call her, and see if she's available. She's very busy, though, so that's unlikely. And that's about it -- for now. Back to the show.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The price of freedom

Jeff Jacoby's July 4 Boston Globe column, on the words of John Adams, where America was, 16 months after declaring its independence, and Iraq.

In Adams's letter to his wife, Abigail, he wrote:
You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet through all the gloom I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph in that day's transaction.
Jacoby concludes, with excerpts from "Iraq the Model," Baghdadi dentist Mohammed's blog, the day Iraq got its sovereignty:
It's a great day for all freedom lovers. No doubt is left now that we're winning, while the forces of darkness and evil are losing a key round in this war....

I can see only one bright road. I believe that going to the end is worth the sacrifices.... Today we were freed forever from the fear that a man and his family might once again control Iraq....

A big salute to the courageous and noble man, Mr. Bremer, who we said good bye to this morning.... He struggled together with his Iraqi brothers to overcome the hardships in a critical era for this country and the whole world. I'm going to miss his presence and so will many Iraqis, because we feel that [the man] who left today is one of Iraq's sons....

It's hard to [fully] appreciate the efforts of all those who helped us to get our freedom and rebuild our country. We will never forget them. We will keep them in our hearts.

God bless Iraq and her people. God bless America and her people. God bless the coalition forces who supported Operation Iraqi Freedom.

And may God bless the souls of all those who sacrificed their lives to free Iraq.
At the dentist's and on the streets

I went to the dentist's, this afternoon. He had a waiting room, right when you enter his third-floor office. There was one woman sitting there, reading a magazine. On the corner table, there were a couple of copies of the popular Sayyidati (My Lady), and one called Al-Rajul (The Man), with a picture on the cover of a man wearing the traditional Arab robes -- I didn't know the magazine and didn't recognize the man on the cover. The door to the right was open, and I peaked my head in -- there was a desk there. I thought there might be a secretary. No secretary/receptionist -- just the dentist, leaning over the patient in the chair. My uncle, who'd made the appintment for me yesterday -- appointments, apparently, are not typical -- said this guy went to school in Minnesota. Iraqi professionals -- doctors, engineers, architects, dentists and maybe even lawyers -- are very capable, talented and well-educated. After a few minutes, the doctor asked me in. When I entered, he was sitting behind the desk, smoking -- that's pretty typical. He's about 60, almost bald, bespectacled. He asked me to take a seat. There were dozens of little vials on the side counter, and the array of instruments. I first asked him how much a cleaning was, because I only had 20,000 dinars and a $100 bill. He said he needed to have a look first. He said my teeth were "practically clean." I said I needed a cleaning every couple of months, anyway. He said it would be 20,000. That's about $14, with the average monthly wage, about 300,000 dinars ($200). He did a pretty thorough job, using his finger to spread the polish, after he'd finished the scraping. No conversation during the operation, but afterwards, he said my teeth were good, that I took pretty good care of them. I said, "sort of" and thanked him. This, for a person who never flosses. Well, I guess it's all relative, standards vary. When my cousin dropped me off at the dentist's, he asked me what was wrong. I don't think people go to the dentist's, if there isn't an emergency, and it's certainly not because of cost. Taking care of yourself hasn't been a priority here, for who-knows-how-long -- and it shows.

Afterwards, I went to buy a phone card, changed the $100 bill and got my eyeglasses tightened. On the way, I saw a cart on the sidewalk with leblebi (chick-pea soup) and baagilla (boiled fava beans), two favorite street foods. I had a bowl of the leblebi, then another. It's more of a winter food, but, still, it was good to have it -- first time I've seen it, this trip. I added a little vinegar the first time, more, the second. When I got to the internet café, where I'd left my bag, immediately after I'd finished with the dentist, I was invited to have some sweets the guys had brought in for one of the workers' birthday. I had a couple of little pieces of baqlawa.

Yesterday morning, through my downtown jaunt, I had a couple of purposes -- to look for some books and make an inquiry for a stamp-collector friend. Before we got to the bookstore street, I asked a couple of the antiques dealers on River Street about the stamp item. They directed me to Soog Herej and al-Maydan. Most of the antiques places were displaying their Abdul-Kareem Qasim and monarchy wares, especially Kings Faisal II and Ghazi -- plates, tea pots, stamps, photographs. Remember, yesterday was July 14. I took pictures of a shop window, with my friend Alaaddin al-Dhahir in mind. Alaaddin, a mathematics professor, wrote a book on Qasim, although it perished in a fire at his university in Holland. On our way to the bookstore street, Shari' al-Mutannabi, we passed the stationers, who had posters of Qasim, along with those of Ali and the top clerics. I took another picture.

There's more to this story, but the hour is late, and my tank is running low. To be continued. There's the juice bar Haj i-Zibala, the Um Kalthoom Café, the barbers' market and Bab il-Shorja.

All right -- adios.
Jim Hoagland, on the significance of Iraq

Jim Hoagland, one of the best American commentators on foreign affairs, in his June 24 Washington Post column, "The Toll of 'No More Iraqs,'" writes about the importance of victory in Iraq and the widespread loss of perspective. Key excerpts:
The souring of America on intervention abroad has major strategic implications for the United States and for the world.

The threshold for preventive war, for example, will be raised significantly for the immediate future. Intelligence on weapons of mass destruction and the intentions of dictators or terrorist gangs that seem to possess them are unlikely to be sufficiently clear to meet the standards for action demanded by the post-facto doubts and recriminations on Iraq. Intelligence analysis will become even more cautious and ambiguously stated to policymakers. Vulnerability to surprise attack could grow again.

Widespread disillusionment will also seriously undercut idealistic rationales for deploying U.S. forces overseas.
Hoagland concludes:
Americans have lost sight of the mass graves of Iraqi Shiites, the genocide campaigns against the Kurds and the war crimes committed by the criminal Baathist regime that was overthrown a year ago. The benefits of fighting terrorist networks in the Middle East and thereby galvanizing the Saudi, Moroccan and other Arab regimes to take forceful action against their extremists are not described or seen clearly enough to counterbalance the abuses of Abu Ghraib or the problems of Fallujah.

Instead, Washington is in the grips of an overlapping series of blame games geared toward influencing the November elections, ruining the reputations of rivals, and obtaining or protecting jobs for the professionally ambitious and the ambitiously professional. Perspective on the future of America's role in Iraq, the Middle East and the world is quickly jettisoned in this psychological sourness. So are the once bright hopes of humanitarian intervention.
That giant dripping sound

"Bit by bit," more and more details on the U.N.'s oil-for-food program are leaking out, thanks, in great part, to The Wall Street Journal’s Claudia Rosett, who has been piecing together “the biggest jigsaw puzzle of graft, fraud and theft in the history of humanitarian relief.” In her latest exposé, she writes, among other things, of how the "U.N. to this day has refused to release any more detail to the public, first citing the need to protect the privacy of Saddam and his business partners."

"But bit by bit, the picture comes into sharper focus," and Rosett discovers, and reveals for us, the contracts, the companies and the dollars involved in the "U.N.-condoned influence peddling, the billions in graft and smuggling, that became the hallmarks of Oil for Food,...overpricing being a route for Saddam's regime to collect kickbacks from U.N.-approved suppliers."

Her continuing lament is, what if the “U.N. [had] chosen to run this program not as a private consulting arrangement with Saddam,” in which the U.N. "Secretariat...collected a $1.4 billion commission on Saddam's oil sales to run this program."
Petition to Iraqi government from Amara

A letter from Muhammad Hadi il-Laami, an engineer, on behalf of "the committees for construction and democracy in Maysan Province" (in Arabic). In the appeal, addressed to "the prime minister," Laami asks for greater resources to be spent in the southeastern province, whose residents have suffered tremendous neglect and destruction at the hands of the past regime, "despite the presence there of one-third of the oil possessed by Iraq." The writer also asks for a greater role at all levels of government, and speaks of the continuing hopes and continuing dreams of the people of Maysan.
Lining up my ducks for the ride across the pond

For the past few days, I've been making arrangements for my return trip to America. First step, of course, is to get out of Iraq. I came in, overland, in a private SUV taxi, from Amman. That cost $150. This time, I've been warned against taking the overland route, for fear of kidnappers. The highway from Baghdad to Amman passes very close to Falluja and Ramadi, two hotbeds of terrorist activity, including a lot of kidnappings. I'd like to say goodbye to Falluja, but...maybe not worth the risk. Plus, I really don't know anybody in Falluja. I know some people who hail from Falluja, but that's not good enough. I came into Iraq, four months and eleven days ago. I don't know if kidnappers were a lot less frequent then, but they certainly feel a lot more real, and personal, now. The kidnappers have made the circle of targets a lot closer to me, that's for sure. For the purpose of making my overland return, as well as making travel around the country safer, I've been trying to get an Iraqi ID. I've met some stumbling blocks, there, and have given up the effort. Lately, I've asked about getting a counterfeit ID. One of the guards here, who'd offered to help me, is now saying that's more difficult. Indeed, in a Tuesday newspaper account of the police raid in the KifaH part of Baghdad, in which 527 suspects were arrested on Monday, one of the illegal activities mentioned was counterfeiting documents, something, police say, they're trying to clamp down on.

Well, an alternative to going overland, is to fly -- if you can't make up the yardage on the ground, air it out -- Woody Hayes wouldn't like that. Royal Jordanian is the only commercial airline flying out of Baghdad, and their one-way ticket to Amman is around $600. I can get the money, but I'd rather not spend that much. Another option is AirServe, the $165-plane-ride for employees of non-governmental organizations working in Iraq. I asked about that, and I've done enough work for the Iraq Foundation to qualify. A director here put in a request for a seat. I'm supposed to get an answer today. The friend who put in the request for me, said that seats shouldn't be a problem, these days -- that those who wanted to get out, already have.

Meanwhile, I want to stop in London for a week. London's like a second home to me, and I have many friends, and much history, there, and always enjoy walking around and seeing plays. My return flight to America, though, is from Amman to Detroit, and it turns into a pumpkin on the second of August, the fourteenth anniversary of Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. Travel agencies here can't do much, in the way of international flights, so I've had to look for Jordanian travel agencies, on-line, for the London flight. Once I get to Amman, I'll go straight to the Royal Jordanian ticket counter, and see what I can do about all my flights -- see if I can fly to America from London, see if I can extend my four-month ticket -- a good friend in England gets back in the country, the first of August. Oh -- in addition, because I was bumped off my original flight from Detroit to Amman, March 31, I got a $400 voucher from Royal Jordanian Airlines, which I'm trying to use for the London flight. So, here's the upshot: I'm trying to find a round-trip flight from Amman to London, and hoping to time it so that I can go straight from my Baghdad-Amman flight to an Amman-London flight, and then, when I return to Amman, make it to a flight to Detroit -- all, without having to stay overnight in Amman, which would mean having to make the long trip from the airport into the city, and the extra expense that all entails. Writing about it, now, it looks like that'll be impossible, not to mention, pretty hectic -- although, I think it'd be worth it -- not having another stop -- layover -- in another city -- and to make it straight home.

One final detail: the flights from Amman to Detroit are all booked up for the next couple of weeks. I've been "waitlisted" for July 28, which just gives me seven days in London. Otherwise, I have to go to the airport and "stand by." Well, with the flight connections I'll have to make -- I know the flight to London departs at noon -- it looks like I'll have to spend a night, or two, in Amman. An uncle who left Baghdad for Amman three weeks ago, stays in an apartment there, but he and his wife went to Paris a few days ago, to visit her sister. A cousin, the one I was expecting to stay with in Baghdad, who was a top engineer in the nuclear commission and who revived a mini-baseball league in Baghdad, is due into Amman any day now, on his way back from America -- he'll be staying with in-laws in Amman. Meanwhile, I'm also trying to find a place to stay in London. One of my best friends sold his house, and has moved into a small apartment above the salon his wife runs in the city. Their daughter, home from college, sleeps on the floor of the salon, before it opens. They've offered me the same -- I want to be able to lounge.

I know -- I'm trying to do too much. That's nothing new. Still, things are falling into place. I got one of my suitcases fixed -- the zipper wasn't working. At the Cleveland airport, the woman at the ticket counter and I taped the bag closed. Downtown yesterday, I bought maps of Baghdad and Iraq and a couple of books and a journal for a cousin in America who's working on a project on the latest Arab thought on democracy. On our way back, my uncle and I stopped at a particular sweets shop my mother told me about, and bought some manna (from heaven) -- it's made here. I'm going to the dentist today, for a much-postponed cleaning. For the rest of my trip, I'm getting $500 from my cousin's husband, who runs a money-change shop. I'll transfer the money to his brother in Canada, once I'm back in Cleveland. I'm taking a lot of pictures, of so many things I want to record, such as the scores of gaudy houses that have sprung up in Baghdad over the past dozen years -- they deserve a coffee-table book treatment. I'm copying pictures onto CDs for the guards and juice-bar workers. About all that's left is getting my eyeglasses tightened and picking up some medicine my parents delivered to a cousin in London, who's due to arrive here today. Finally, I've started announcing my imminent departure and begun saying my goodbyes.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

More benefits
Subj: letter from Ray Reynolds, a medic in the Iowa Army National Guard, serving in Iraq
Date: 7/13/2004 8:05:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Melissa Aleshaiker

My dear friends,

There are much more benefits.

Returning of water to Al-Ahwar
[the Mesopotamian marshes]

Building new houses

Returning the houses to the real owners

Having many newspapers

New free passports

Saddam is in the cage

I think we shall write a list of 100 good things that Bush gave Iraq and publish it.

Breaking News


Planned to Tell President on Birthday, Tenet Reveals

Outgoing CIA Director George Tenet told a Senate panel today that the spy agency knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the war but did not inform President Bush because “we wanted it to be a surprise.”

Mr. Tenet said that there was disagreement within the agency over whether to tell the president there were no WMD right away or “to save it for his birthday,” but that ultimately the decision to make it “a neat surprise” won out.

He vigorously defended the decision, calling the good news about WMD “the ultimate birthday present” for a president who was “extremely hard to shop for.”

“George W. Bush is fabulous wealthy, plus he’s President of the United States,” Mr. Tenet said. “It’s almost impossible to find something to give him for his birthday, short of putting out a CIA hit on Michael Moore.”

Given the mounting costs of the war in Iraq, however, Mr. Tenet said he now has second thoughts about withholding the WMD information from Mr. Bush: “Maybe we just should’ve gotten him something from The Sharper Image.”

In related news, President Bush said today that the 9/11 commission’s finding that there were no ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda is “conclusive proof” that there were ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

“In the section of the report where they say there is no link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, Iraq and al-Qaeda appear in the same sentence over and over again,” Mr. Bush said. “Hello! How much more proof do you need?”
That's Andy Borowitz, from Monday, July 12.
Kurdish forces capture militants in Iraq

Kurdish security forces have captured 15 militants in northern Iraq, including one man believed to be a senior leader of a local al-Qaida-linked group, an official in a pro-American Kurdish party said Tuesday.

Among those arrested late Monday evening was a man identified as Hemen Banishiri, reportedly the second-in-command for the radical Kurdish group, Ansar al-Islam, said Saadi Ahmed, a senior member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's political wing.

The arrests took place in the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk and several other towns, Ahmed said.

Although Ahmed said U.S. forces participated in the arrests, confirmation from the American military was not immediately available....

Earlier this month, Kurdish authorities arrested six men believed linked to the group as suspected of carrying out a number attacks and assassination attempts on senior police officials and political leaders.
From yesterday's Associated Press news report.
Israeli on Arabiyya

It was funny watching Al-Arabiyya television last night. They were discussing the latest maneuverings in the Israeli government, and one of the two commentators was an Israeli. Actually, both were Israeli. One was a Palestinian Israeli, from Nazareth -- a member of the Labor Party and a former member of the Knesset. His name was SaliH Tareef. The other person was a Jewish Israeli, I'm pretty sure, but he spoke in Arabic. His name was Elie Neesan. He spoke Arabic with a bit of an accent, but he was very good. His Arabic was better than mine, but that's not saying much. He was "a political analyst," in Jerusalem. I'm sure Arabiyya and Jazeera have had on Israelis before, and I may have seen one before, myself, but it was still interesting to watch -- an Israeli, speaking Arabic, reporting and commenting on the Israeli political scene, to an Arabic television channel. He was fair, and gave some inside perspectives on the dealings and considerations of various parties and politicians.
March tomorrow, marking the past

A group associated with Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress issued the following press release:
In remembrance of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dead and missing, victims of Saddam and his regime's many wars, genocide, torture and consistent human rights abuses, the Iraqi people will march on Thursday 15th July 2004. The march will start at 10 am local from Sahat al-Tahrir in Baghdad. The aim of the march is:
To commemorate lost victims with an annual memorial day, to demand rights and compensation for living victims.
To establish a national centre to archive, preserve and study the abuses of the Baath.
To integrate the legacy of the Baathists brutal regime in the educational curriculum.
To reaffirm decisions of the former Governing Council in preventing complicit and guilty Baathists from public service and political influence.
The group is called the Committee for Defending Victims of the Baath.

* * *

An article by Talar Nadir, editor of the women's newspaper Rewan, explores the issue of Kurdish women still missing from the 1988 Anfal campaign, many of whom were "given away as trophies by the Baath regime." The article, for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, includes a Saddam-era document which reads, in part:
"According to your orders, we have sent a number of these women to night-clubs in the Egyptian Arab Republic."
* * *

Another IWPR article gets reactions from Dujail residents to the trial of Saddam. The town was wiped out by Saddam, after an assassination attempt against him on the nearby highway in 1982.

Still another IWPR article speaks to survivors of the first chemical bombings -- of Sheikh Weesan and Balisan, in April 1987. Excerpts:
Aziz Ali, 53, lost the sight in both his eyes 17 years ago when Saddam Hussein's planes dropped poison gas on his village.

He seldom leaves the shade of his mud brick house - but now he wants to go to Baghdad.

"I want to stand against Saddam and tell him 'you are guilty'," said Ali, who is determined to attend the former president's trial in the capital....

Of their 2,000 Kurdish inhabitants, 400 were killed while dozens more suffered severe damage to their skin, nerves and eyes.

The July 1 appearance of Saddam Hussein in an Iraqi court reminded people in Sheikh Wasanan of a day of horror and death which still seems like only yesterday....

"We would like Saddam to be placed at our disposal and tried in our village," says Khajij Mustafa, 42, who lost four brothers, both parents and twelve of her nieces and nephews.
The IWPR articles are available in Kurdish, Arabic and English.

* * *

The residents of the more famous chemical-bombing target, Halabcha, want to host the trial of Ali Hasan al-Majeed, the man who ordered the poisoning of the town's 50,000+ residents. In this article, survivors vividly recall those three days in March 1988, and look forward to retribution. The beginning of the Knight Ridder article by Mark McDonald:
HALABJA, Iraq - Nobody’s sure what kind of nerve gas was in that first bomb, the one that flattened the House of Charity mosque. It collapsed the dome and toppled the minaret, and within minutes hundreds of people were twitching and blistering to death in the dust of Mokhtar Street.

About 5,000 people - more than half of them children - died in Halabja on that warm morning in the late winter of 1988. On that day, Saddam Hussein’s air force was nothing if not thorough.

The terrible clouds of cyanide, mustard gas and sarin caught up with 15,000 other Halabjans, unwiring their nervous systems or forever clouding their minds. Even today, this little Kurdish hill town is full of the slow, the blind, the lame, and the halt.

The chemical attack on Halabja, which stands as one of the great horrors in modern warfare, was one piece of evidence the U.S. administration cited for going to war in Iraq....

There is also widespread sentiment for sleepy little Halabja, a farming town in northeastern Iraq, to be host to the war-crimes trial of Ali Hassan al-Majid. The former general, a cousin of Hussein’s, is known to have ordered the attack on Halabja, earning himself the nickname "Chemical Ali."

Majid helped orchestrate the campaign of terror that killed an estimated 132,000 people in northern Iraq in 1988, almost all of them Kurds and Turkmen. Captured last August, Majid was the "king of spades" in the coalition’s deck of most-wanted cards.

Halabja, with a population of 53,000, is too small and remote to handle a full-scale trial for Hussein. But local officials think that with some preparations, it could hold the Majid trial. They have petitioned the Iraqi government to be the venue.
* * *

Some related items, from the local press:

Iraqis are adding to the list of accusations against former President Saddam Hussei. Some accused Saddam of losing 252 millions years, a figure that results from multiplying the total number of Iraqi people by the years Saddam ruled Iraq. Other Iraqis observed that the list of accusations against Saddam did not include the displacement of the Faili Kurds in 1980 by throwing them behind the borders after confiscating their properties, their sons and their lives. The Turkmen are astonished that the list does not include Saddam's crimes against them merely because of their national identity and their religious affiliation. Saddam executed more than 500 Turkmen during 1980-1991, and he destroyed their cities and villages. He should be convicted for fleeing from the battlefield as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
(July 5, Al-Sabah, an independent daily)

* * *


The team searching for Kuwaiti prisoners of war in Iraq said corpses of 11 Kuwaitis and one Saudi, who were captured during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, have been found in a mass grave. The Kuwaiti search team has been looking for more than 600 Kuwaiti POWs the mass graves since the fall of the regime last year. Spokesman of the POWs in Iraq Faiz al-Anzi said a DNA test confirmed the identities of the corpses found in the mass graves.
(July 6, Al-Ittihad, organ of Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan)

* * *


Director General of the Saddam trial Salim al-Chalabi said he interrogated the intelligence officer in charge of al-Radwaniya prison who told him that Saddam gave him an order to execute 3,000 persons detained there. Chalabi said the trial will investigate the ethnic cleansing in Kirkuk planned by the old regime's laws, adding that he will visit Iran within the coming ten days to review the accusations against Saddam for having war crimes during the Iraq-Iran war.
(July 12, Al-Mu'tamar, organ of the Iraqi National Congress)
Local press translations are from IWPR.
Large explosion in Green Zone

An car-bomb exploded just outside the Convention Center this morning, killing at least 10 people, including three Iraqi civil defense forces, and injuring 22 other people.
Speaking of the environment minister
Date: 7/13/2004 1:42:17 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Dear Ayad:

I hope I find you in good health.

Let me first begin by congratulating you on your very fine blog. I really admire your efforts and as an Iraqi I completely agree with everything you're doing. You have my complete support.

I'm employed by the U.S. EPA as the Iraq Program Manager. EPA and the State Dept have been working relentlessly for the past year to secure funds to implement capacity building at the newly created Min of Environment and to kick-start environmental work in Iraq.

EPA will shortly send a congratulatory letter to the new appointed minister, Mishkat El-Moumin, and extend an invitation to come to the US. I have the following email address, which I hope you can confirm:

Any chance you can ask the minister to send me her bio?....

Please continue doing the fine work and God bless you.

Mazin Enwiya
Iraq Program Manager
Iraq's first modern landfill

Yesterday morning, our old friend Dr. Mishkat el-Moumin, the environment minister, visited the country's first modern landfill, in southwest Baghdad. According to the government press release, the site is being developed by an Iraqi-owned construction firm, and will have the capacity to handle 2230 cubic meters of waste per day and serve the needs of two million Baghdadis. The $22 million project will meet international standards for waste management, a first in Iraq, and will include built-in leachate collection systems, drainage, gas and surface water controls to protect both the groundwater and environment around the site.

FluorAMEC, LLC, the design/build contractor will provide on-site training for landfill operators; institute a landfill and operation maintenance program; and develop a landfill closure plan. A second landfill facility north of Baghdad is being developed by USAID.

In the press release announcing the visit of Moumin and U.S. spending director Admiral (ret.) David Nash to the site, Moumin is not quoted.
To protect and to serve

In addition to the 700+ people reportedly picked up in the downtown neighborhood Bettaween over the past week, the security forces yesterday detained 527 people in the KifaH part of Baghdad and adjacent areas, in what they reported was their largest operation to date. Deputy interior minister General Hsayn Ali Kamal said 400 members of his ministry's forces took part in the raids, and detained members of kidnapping gangs, as well as murderers, thieves, smugglers and drug-dealers. A kidnapping ring in the Shu'la area was broken up, Kamal reported, releasing one hostage in the process.

The police operations undertaken since sovereignty was transfered to Iraqis, many people feel could not be undertaken by foreign forces, but only by Iraqis, who know the streets and neighborhoods, and could get cooperation from locals and neighbors. Today's Al-Mada quoted an area merchant who was happy with the police raids, and complained about the damage done to the area by criminals.

Two related reports from the local press:

Joint meetings between the ministries of health and interior are still underway to find the best solutions to stop the kidnapping of physicians. Some 1,150 physicians have left Iraq to live abroad after the kidnapping of 250 physicians. It has been recommended to have security procedures to protect public and private medical centres in Baghdad and other provinces by chasing the kidnappers. Widely spread checkpoints might participate in putting an end to this phenomena.
(July 7, Al-Adala, organ of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq)

* * *


Minister of Human Rights Baktiyar Ameen said there are 99 Arab and foreign detainees in Iraq, 77 of them in Um Qasr jail and the rest in Abu Ghraib prison. The minister revealed the names of the terrorists to give the public an idea about the identities of the outlaws, criminals, killers and terrorists who penetrated Iraq to destroy the country's infrastructure, security and stability. They aimed to disable the democratic process, he added. They are 26 Syrians, 12 Egyptians, 14 Iranians, 4 Palestinians, 14 Saudis, 9 Sudanese, 8 Jordanians, 5 Tunisians and 1 from Lebanon, Afghanistan, Morocco and west bank, he said.
(July 13, Al-Sabah, an independent paper)
Translations are from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, in Baghdad, whose members produced an article yesterday about Muqtada a-Sadir's militia members now working closely with police in Baghdad's Sadir City and the southern city Kut.
I was wrong about the king

The boy king was not mauled in the streets on July 14, 1958, as I wrote yesterday. He was not handled in the traditional Iraqi manner of killing the fallen ruler -- dragging him through the streets, as people did last year with the head of that big statue of Saddam that was brought down on April 9th. Young Faisal II was killed, with some mercy, but was not dragged through the streets. His regent, Abdul-Ilah, did get the customary treatment, and today, I went to the spot where his naked corpse was hung, 46 years ago today. I went into town with my uncle, for what's likely to be the last time. I went to Mutannabi Street, which is packed with bookstores, and also looked in the antiques market for an item a stamp collector friend requested. On the drive back, my uncle pointed out the building from which Abdul-Ilah was hung. It's on the street that was called Abdul-Ilah Street, on the Karkh side of the old bridge, the oldest steel bridge in Baghdad, built in 1936. In recent times, it's been called Jisr il-Shuhadaa' (Martyrs' Bridge).

Across the building from which Abdul-Ilah was hung is a building that was owned by my grandfather. My uncle, my dad and two of their brothers went down to their father's buiding, to watch the crowds. The body of Abdul-Ilah was brought to the street that bears his name. The mob first tried to hang his body from the building directly across from my grandfather's, which was owned by the grandfather of our old friend Dr. Mishkat el-Moumin, now the environment minister. Moumin refused. Next door was a building belonging to the Shawi family. I don't know if anybody there acceded, but the body was hung from their building, and people came by and beat the body with sticks, I expect, like a piñata, with the crowd whooping it up. My uncle said he was aghast at the inhumanity of people, and later, while walking on the other side of the river, feared he might be suspected of being a monarchist, because he wasn't hooting and hollering.

The street that was called Abdul-Ilah was renamed Shari' il-NaSir (Victory Street).

The frequent prime minister during the monarchy, Noori il-Sa'id, was hunted for three days, and when he was found, in the downtown Bettaween neighborhood, he shot himself.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Standing up for a good man
Melvyn Bragg: Stop kicking a good Prime Minister
It is curious how difficult we find it to take good news in this country.
Perhaps we can't believe our luck

It has been open season on Tony Blair for more than a year, but he has never been in worse trouble than now. He has been reviled, sneered at, patronised, accused of having "blood on his hands" and spoken and written of in lynching terms. His wife, an independent career woman who combines this with bringing up a family and taking an effective part in many charities, has been, and continues to be in certain tabloids, the perpetual target for idle and abusive torment. The effect of this on their immediate family has been ignored. We are, in part, a kicking culture in Portugal and in print.

We have heard rumours of Tony Blair's resignation, gloating warnings about further illness. We hear of his being overthrown, and there appear to be cults which mushroom in soggy wine bars competing to see who can vilify him most blackly. Most people handing out this venom could not take it for two minutes and yet there is in our culture the curious belief that a political leader has, by that definition, lost all humanity.

It's to Blair's credit, I think, that he has not lost his. It is an indication of his resilience and strength that he is still in the ring in which I hope he will stay to win another election, which I think he will....

But Iraq? Yes. We'll get to Iraq....

For this he gets a hammering much darker than the usual bruising which follows bad local election results. It has to be Iraq. Iraq is the subject which unifies the hangers and floggers of the Prime Minister. It is also a subject on which people of great integrity and decency feel that they have been mortally betrayed by someone they trusted and this cannot be sidestepped.

I was in favour of the invasion of Iraq as were the majority of the British at the time. There was legitimate authority at the United Nations to invade and Blair's attempt to secure extra authority was technically unnecessary, morally worth it and doomed by the realpolitik of Chirac, whom I find hard to respect.

So the coalition went in looking for WMD and found none. I was convinced they were there, not least because I understood that the West had sold them to the Iraqis some years before. I did not need them to be there to consider Saddam worth removing but they were made so much of that their non-appearance was a blow to many of those who went along with the coalition.

I presume that Blair is, correctly, waiting until Lord Butler makes his report before addressing the electorate on this.

I do not think he lied. It very much looks as if he was fed inaccurate information. It looks as if that information was worked in a way to whip up the public. In the preparation for war, the exaggeration of the enemy threat may be reprehensible but it seems sadly par for the course and, though never excusable, thought necessary to help steal resolve for an act which embarks on a dehumanising course.

But, like most Iraqis, I'm glad Saddam has gone. The real trouble in Iraq over the past few months has come from Iraqis and their terrorist allies and most of it has been directed against Iraqis who are trying to set up a democracy. The fundamentalist "weapon" has been the suicide attack which, more than anything else, destroys all before it.

And of course the coalition has done harm in Iraq. The proof of torture - though, dare one say it, nowhere near the scale of Saddam's torturers - is a terrible indictment and cannot be erased.

But the fact that Tony Blair will not turn his back on the decision which has now moved Iraq into a new situation could be compared to his decision to stand by the peace process in Northern Ireland.

If, as is not beyond possibility, Iraq does manage to succeed through elections, if it does defeat its internal terrorists, there could come a time when the toppling of Saddam might be seen as an important stage in the slow stabilisation of the Middle East. Time can turn the meaning of contemporary events inside out.

I think that Tony Blair is right not to run away from Iraq just as he was right to go in.

Another way of looking at this is that it is not cowardly of him to stand, almost alone it seems, and take the heavy flak over Iraq. In this way he shields the rest of his Government and lets them get on with the task of making the UK a better place to live in. This I believe was the chief reason that this tough complicated Christian man came into politics.

The author is a writer, broadcaster and Labour peer
From the June 21 issue of The Independent. Thanks to Abdulkhaliq Hussein, for bringing this opinion piece to my attention.
July 14

Tomorrow's a holiday here, to mark the 1958 revolution/coup against the British-backed monarchy. It will be especially marked by Communist Party members, who had a large say in the post-monarchy government, other leftover leftists, and backers of Abdul-Kareem Qasim, the first leader of the republic. He was overthrown in February 1963 by a Ba'thist-nationalist coup, and the next nine months witnessed a bloodbath of tens of thousands of communists by Saddam and his Ba'thi peers.

Many also see July 14, 1958, as the beginning of a cycle of political violence in Iraq, a cycle that may still not have ended, but the culmination of which was the bloody 35-year reign of the Ba'ath. Those who subscribe to this view, supporters of the monarchy or sympathizers with the boy king, who was mauled by mobs in the streets, will mark tomorrow with solemnity. [I was wrong about the king being dragged through the streets. My correction is posted on July 14.]

Tomorrow is also the first of the July anniversaries. July is a month of revolutions and coups in Iraq. On July 17, 1968, the Ba'ath Party came back to power, in a near bloodless coup, but the next two weeks saw a purge -- meaning, killings -- of the upper party echelons of almost all potential competitors, including those abroad. Saddam was instrumental in those purges, and was rewarded for his efforts with the vice presidency and the number two post in the party, quickly becoming the man controlling the levers of power inside the country.
Crackdown continues

The police crackdown is apparently ongoing, and in particular, in downtown Baghdad's Bettaween neighborhood. Word has it that upwards of 700 people have been picked up there -- all in the last week. Many have been subsequently released. Some also say that Jaysh il-Mehdi, Muqtada a-Sadir's militia, has been assisting police in tracking down criminals and suspects in their searches.

Police checkpoints were very numerous in Mansour yesterday afternoon.

A few press items on the topic.

If we submit to the theory of sociologists that "man's nature is the result of his environment", you can imagine the nature of the Iraqi personality, which has experienced wars, embargo, and crises. But none of this made the Iraqi personality deviate from its heritage and characteristics, apart from a few exceptions which exist in every community. However, we have never heard of the phenomena of kidnapping, drugs, or cutting off heads. According to Islamic teachings, to slaughter a bird you must use a sharp knife to prevent it suffering pain. So, we can imagine how man should be treated. The germs of these new phenomena came from outside Iraq. He, who thinks keeping borders uncontrolled is unintentional, is mistaken. Iraqis are the only victims of this. Foreigners will leave but these diseases do not easily heal. Sovereignty will be restored, but who will bring us back a safe, healthy society?
(From a June 24 editorial in Al-Mashriq, a private daily)
Then, three items from July 8's papers:

A poll made by the market researches and consumer safety centre of University of Baghdad revealed that 89% of Iraqis are willing to cooperate with the new government to rebuild Iraq. 84% said sovereignty could be achieved through an elected government. 54% agreed on imposing martial law and curfew to control security and stability, while 29% showed their conservatism about the law. The results of the poll, despite the opinion diversity, showed that 88% were with the government, and they would aid the law once it was in Iraqi hands.

* * *


Disagreements that postponed the declaration of the National Security Law are not between cabinet and presidency, nor between security and human rights apparatuses. They are between democracy and security and they evolved after the former regime's collapse and the lack of a post-war plan prepared by the occupiers. Security became more important than democracy and its contradiction because it is associated with chaos. Although I am convinced the state must have control to stop insecurity, martial law in the Arab and Islamic world lasts too long. In Iraq, many articles of the National Security Law were implemented, as in the Fallujah siege. But making the state of emergency into a law is another thing. The current chaos made people support the strengthening of the authorities. In the end, we need more work to balance security and democracy.
(Editorial by Zuhair al-Jazairi, Al-Mada, a private daily)

* * *


Most Iraqis were reluctant regarding issuance of the National Security Law because the state of emergency will inevitably be negative to a part of their freedom. Besides, we do not wish that such obligatory procedures be used in the new Iraq. However, Iraqis should not be liable to death while terrorists practice sabotage. As this is the case, the government has no choice but the emergency state. We have just one way leading to freedom and stability. If we do not walk it, there will be nothing but murder and ruin.
(Al-Adala editorial, organ of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq)
Then, yesterday:

Sources close to a member of the dissolved Governing Council said many Shia organisations have been formed to confront the terrorist groups of Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, and Saddam supporters who have returned to work under different names. The sources said the Shia organisations will practice killing and kidnapping the Arab lawyers who plan to defend Saddam. The Shia groups also will punish all those who target the police and Iraqi establishments. These organisations will be the alternate force of Iyad Allawi in this critical phase. Many Turkmen, Sunni and Faili Kurds forces have joined these organisations.
(Al-Bayyna, a weekly issued by the Hezbollah movement in Iraq)
Translations are from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting.

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