observations and analysis on everything under the Iraqi sun, by Ayad Rahim (ayadrahim@hotmail.com), host of program on the war we're in: http://wjcu.org/media

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

This time, we got him!

I'm sure you've heard the news -- Saddam was received by Iraqis -- and hospitably, at that. He was told by the lead prosecutor of the special tribunal set up to try Saddam and his henchmen, "You are no longer a prisoner of war -- you are now a defendant," based on the Iraqi criminal code. Tomorrow, he and the 11 top lieutenants legally handed over to Iraqi custody today, will be read the charges against them. Earlier today, lead prosecutor Salem Chalabi said, he met with Saddam, "to explain his rights and what will happen."

The other 11 defendants were informed individually of their rights, too, said an international official. An Iraqi judge witnessed the proceedings.

According to the Associated Press report:
Saddam, who appeared to have lost weight in confinement, said "Good morning" as he entered the room, according to Chalabi. After being informed that he was being placed under Iraqi jurisdiction, Saddam...was ordered "to leave the room," Chalabi added.

The other defendants also were brought into the room individually to hear that they would appear in court Thursday, Chalabi said.

"Some of them looked very worried," Chalabi added.

Saddam will remain in a U.S.-controlled jail guarded by Americans until the Iraqis are ready to take physical custody of him.
Many Iraqis hoped to see the procession of the prisoners as they were turned over to Iraqi custody. Many also wanted the Iraqi policemen to each take a whack at each defendant, as they passed by. Today's proceedings may yet be shown. Tomorrow's will probably be shown, later.

Saddam has another legal problem. He many not have his choice of lawyers. According to Iraqi court rules, only Iraqi lawyers or those registered with the Iraqi attorneys union, may represent a client in an Iraqi court. Saddam has dozens of volunteers and highly paid counselors, none of them, I don't believe, a member of the Iraqi union. In the same AP article, I read there is an exemption in this policy for Syrian and Palestinian attorneys.

In other news, the justice minister officially lifted the occupation-mandated ban on the death penalty.
I'm under the weather...er, sun

Forgive my low productivity of late, but my energy's really gotten sapped by that fever, which is looking like it might have been a bout of sunstroke. I saw a doctor this morning, got some medicines, and am going to get my blood et al tested for a few things. My mother worries about typhoid fever, which is common hereabouts. After my two-day fever, I had several sleepless nights, with the space between my temples feeling like the inside of a toaster and sizzling -- I wanted to poke holes into my forehead. It's practically driven me crazy, not to mention, into the ground. I'm keeping pretty serene, all the same. It's 8:30, Wednesday night, and I just slept a few hours, my first, after 29 sleepless ones.

Well -- that's the latest health news. Now, back to the good stuff.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The latest, on transfer

At the swearing-in ceremony for the new Iraqi cabinet yesterday afternoon, there were 18 Iraqi flags at the back of the stage, for the number of provinces in the country. It was the old flag, which was adopted in 1963 from that of the union of Egypt and Syria, with the words "Allahu Akbar" that Saddam added to it during the Kuwait war. Now, though, the script was not in Saddam's hand, but in a geometric artistic style. The people had made their desire felt, rejecting the flag designed in late April.

President Ghazi il-Yawer spoke first: "Before us is a challenge and a burden and we ask God almighty to give us the patience and guide us to take this country whose people deserves all goodness.... May God protect Iraq and its citizens." He smiled frequently and laughed gently a couple of times. He has a warm, light-hearted way about him.

Prime Minister Ayad Allawi described the terrorists as "enemies of Islam, enemies of the people of Iraq — those who align themselves with infidels."

"Infidels shouldn't frighten us," he said, adding that the Iraqi people need to stand up to the terrorists. "God is with us.... I warn the forces of terror once again...we will not forget who stood with us and against us in this crisis."

Allawi gave a nod to Grand Ayatollah Ali il-Sistani, acknowledging the influential role he plays in people's lives. However, said political scholar Hasan Alewi on Al-Hurra television last night, it was also a gentle hands-off signal -- that "you have your place (in people's private lives), while we politicians have ours (in the public realm)" -- an indication of a tilt toward secularism, which is Allawi's bent.

Here's how President Bush got word of completion of the handover. At the meeting of NATO leaders in Istanbul yesterday, he was passed a note from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice: "Mr. President, Iraq is sovereign." Bush wrote, "Let freedom reign!" on the note and passed it back.

John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and now the top American representative in the country, arrived in Baghdad yesterday afternoon.

Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, coalition military spokesman, said, "The political arm of our operation here has gone out of business. Certainly the military operation has not gone out of business."

In another transfer, Saddam will reportedly be turned over to the Iraqi government and indicted this week. Saddam is to appear before an Iraqi judge and handed a formal indictment, a top Iraqi official said. A military spokesman said he will remain in a U.S.-run jail, because the Iraqi government lacks a suitable prison.
"Don't say you got it, if you don't got it!"

Maybe Iraqi security forces didn't capture Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, as they announced yesterday. After the announcement of his capture, in Hilla, coalition military spokesman, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt denied the news report. Later in the day, the Iraqi security sources in Hilla reaffirmed the news.

Stay tuned.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Bremer's headed home

L. Paul Bremer, the ruler of Iraq for the last 13 months, has left the country. Nobody knows where he is. There was a report that he would take over at the Court of St. James, the American equivalent of being knighted.
Bremer left Iraq a few hours after the handover. His last moments in Iraq were spent in a meeting with Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top American commander in the country. An aide to Bremer, also speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to say precisely where Bremer was headed, saying only that "he was going home."
That must sound very sweet to the terribly fatigued diplomat.

Before parting Iraq, Bremer said that Iraqi Prime Minsiter Ayad Allawi made the request for the transfer of sovereignty to be advanced. Allawi is said to want to take immediate steps to crush terrorism and attempts at sedition in the country. Last Thursday, the remaining 11 ministries (out of 26) were transfered to full Iraqi control.

It is expected that Allawi will inject massive numbers of police and national guard forces onto the streets throughout the country. As for coalition forces, now called the multi-national force, they will be posted in military bases outside the cities and cease patrols in the cities. The Iraqi and coalition sides have been negotiating the terms of further coalition operations -- with or without Iraqi approval, Iraqi oversight, Iraqi request. I do not know what they have decided, and maybe they will decide, on a trial basis. One important defense function is protecting the borders, for which Iraqi forces are not yet adequate enough or trained enough to handle.

There are rumors that Wednesday's national holiday will be called off, but doesn't seem likely. Instead, it now seeem that the next three days will be declared days of celebration, with Friday making four consecutive days without government employees having to report to work. With people stayihng at home, that will reduce traffic tremendously.
U.S. denies capture of Zarqawi

Top U.S. military spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt just denied that top terrorist Abu-Mus'ab al-Zarqawi was captured. Maybe they want to see him to believe it. He was reportedly captured in Hilla, which means must've been by Iraqi forces. I've heard from the father of the girl there who needs a bone-marrow transplant, that the city has been without foreign forces, the past couple of months. I haven't heard the original source of the capture story. One co-worker was in a bank, and he heard shouts from upstairs. He thought maybe the managers were playing hanky-panky. The news came down, from the coalition-funded Iraqiyya television station, that Zarqawi was captured. Here, in the office, co-workers were having lunch, when the news was announced. The door to the kitchen was closed, and I didn't hear their screams. When the guy got back from the bank, he blared the news to me. I went over to the kitchen, but no details -- yet.

Stay tuned.
It's happened -- Iraq is now a soveriegn, independent state

In a surprise move, L. Paul Bremer III, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority that's ruled Iraq for the past 13 months, along with Iraqi President Ghazi il-Yawer and Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, advanced the handover of sovereignty by two days. The transfer of power was to take place on Wednesday, June 30. It is said Bremer will leave Iraq today. He made the announcement in a small private ceremony in the Green Zone at 10:26 this morning. The event was broadcast live on television. Bremer signed the legal papers in the presence of Allawi, and presented them to the chief justice of Iraq, Midhat al-Mahmoud. About a half dozen Iraqi and coalition officials were also in attendance, inlcuding Barham Salih, deputy prime minister for national security affairs.

A main reason for the change could be to preempt the terrorists, who have begun to unload a flurry of explosions and attacks that would go on for the next few days, in an effort to undermine the incoming government. Now, the main terrorist leading operations in Iraq, Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, is in custody.

Another reason for the early handover is that Iraqis are eager to get their hands around the security situation, themselves. Yesterday, in addition to police fighting off and arresting three attackers on a police station in Baghdad, an unusual occurrence, police intercepted a car and a truck loaded with bombs and weapons. In the southeastern city Kut, a truck driven by a Jordanian and a Palestinian was stopped and discovered to contain 800 rocket launchers, and in the Jihad area of Baghdad, the police stopped a 1981 blue Corona loaded with 250 kilograms of high-intensity explosives with four mortar rounds inside. The car was headed for a police center, and units disabled the bombs. Police were also able to diffuse 10 improvised explosive devices planted in two heavily congested areas of the Hindiyya district, near Kerbela.

People are celebrating -- privately -- all congratulating each other.

"This is a historical day," said Allawi. "We feel we are capable of controlling the security situation."

Bremer responded, "You have said, and we agreed, that you are ready for sovereignty. I will leave Iraq confident in its future."

President Bush has reportedly sent a letter to Allawi formally requesting diplomatic relations with the government of Iraq — signalling that the United States recognizes Iraq as sovereign. America's ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, is already in the country. The new Iraqi ministers are to be sworn in today.

Finally, in what is said to be a compromise solution, NATO members, meeting in Istanbul today, agreed to train Iraqi forces. Iraq's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zeybari, said the training must be done in Iraq.
We've got Zarqawi!

Local television just announced the capture of the top terrorist operating in Iraq, Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. He was caught in Hilla, a city near ancient Babylon. What he was doing in Hilla, God knows?

Zarqawi has been responsible for dozens of beheadings, car bombings and other attacks in Iraq for the past year. He was reportedly sent by Usama bin Laden to Iraq in the 1990s to train in the production and use of chemical weapons and germs. He was also convicted in absentia, and sentenced to death, for the murder in Jordan in 2002 of U.S. AID worker Laurence Foley.

Stay tuned. This is already a great day -- and it's just beginning. Can we stop the clock, now?

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Travel warning, from the U.S. consular office in Baghdad
This Travel Warning provides updated information on the dangerous security situation in Iraq and informs Americans that the period surrounding the transfer of authority from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the Government of Iraq poses an increased risk of attacks on civilians, including American citizens. International organizations have reduced their staffing in Iraq as a result of attacks, bombings, and a threat to civil aviation. The security threat to all American citizens in Iraq remains extremely high....

The Department of State continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Iraq. Remnants of the former Baath regime, transnational terrorists, and criminal elements remain active. There may be a period of increased danger leading up to and following the transfer of authority on June 30.... Attacks against civilian targets throughout Iraq continue at a high rate, including at hotels, police stations, checkpoints entering Coalition Provisional Authority areas, foreign diplomatic missions, and against international organizations and personnel. These attacks have resulted in deaths and injuries of American citizens, including those doing humanitarian work. There is credible information that terrorists have targeted civil aviation in Iraq. In addition, there have been planned and random killings, as well as extortions and kidnappings. Coalition-led military operations continue, and there are daily attacks against Coalition forces throughout the country. Attacks against coalition forces as well as civilian targets occur throughout the day, but travel at night is exceptionally dangerous. Hotels, restaurants and locations with expatriate staff continue to be attacked. The security environment in all of Iraq is dangerous, volatile and unpredictable....

All vehicular travel in Iraq is extremely dangerous, and there have been numerous attacks on civilian vehicles, as well as military convoys. Travel in or through Ramadi and Fallujah, travel between al-Hillah and Baghdad, and travel between the Green Zone and Baghdad International Airport is particularly dangerous. There has been an increase in the use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) and/or mines on roads, particularly in plastic bags, soda cans, and dead animals. Grenades and explosives have been thrown into vehicles from overpasses, particularly in crowded areas. Travel should be continuously reviewed for necessity and adequate security and only undertaken when absolutely necessary and with the appropriate security resources.

....American citizens who choose to visit or remain in Iraq despite this Warning are urged to pay close attention to their personal security, should avoid crowded areas, rallies and demonstrations, and should inform the U.S. consular office of their presence in Iraq.
On a bulletin board in our office's front room is a notice that between June 28 and July 5, "the airport highway is very dangerous (out of control) NO GO AREA."
Latest news: car bomb in Hilla kills at least 23; Zarqawi kidnaps three Turks, threatens to slaughter them

The two car-bombs in Hilla, near ancient Babylon, last night, apparently targeted a market, near the Saddam Mosque. My uncle said that Baghdad's protected, so they're turning to Hilla and other areas that have been quiet, where people had let their guard down.

The kidnapping coincides with President Bush's visit to Turkey, and the opening, tomorrow, of a NATO summit, where an appeal will be made for assistnace in Iraq. The terrorists threatened to slaughter the three Turks within 72 hours. On Jazeera television, last night, a video issued by the kidnappers showed the three men, holding Turkish passports, kneeling on the ground in front of two black-clothed gunmen.
In a written statement, the group demanded Turkish companies stop doing business with American forces in Iraq and called for "large demonstrations" in Turkey against the visit of "Bush the criminal."
In Baghdad yesterday, gunmen attacked a police station in the New Baghdad area, but officers fought back in a rare show of force. The attackers fled, and police arrested three Iraqis, an Interior Ministry official said.

Yesterday, there was a car bomb in Arbil (Hawler in Kurdish), killing one person and wounding 18, inlcuding Mas'oud Barazani's culture minister.

In other news, a senior U.S. military commander said the U.S. recently issued about 55,000 armored flak jackets to Iraqi forces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi warned that if security does not improve, national elections set for no later than January, might have to be delayed. He said his team was doing its best to meet the January target.
I'm sick

I know you probably already know that, but, seriously, I really am sick. I'm better than I was two days ago, when I had a sizzling fever, a headache, a tender or swollen neck, and a stomachache. The fever's pretty much gone, as is the headache, although there are still some pangs. The tender swelling in the neck has diminished, and my stomach's...getting there. I'm still dragging, though -- when I get sick, I walk around like an 80-year-old hunchback.

It started Friday morning. I got up at seven, ready to go. I had a glass of apple drink, which my aunt keeps in the freezer. It had chuncks of ice in it. When my uncle and I arrived at the office, they didn't have electricity, and it was too early on a Friday, the sabbath, for anybody else to be there, so the generator could be activated -- I'm a guest in the office. So my uncle and I headed to the cybercafé that's open about 18-20 hours a day. It wasn't open this early. I wasn't that well rested, anyway -- have woken up before dawn almost every day -- so we went back home, and I slept for another three hours. Back to the office -- still no electricity, and no office-workers. The internet shop was open, and I worked, on and off, for the next three hours. I felt tired, my throat was scratchy, which I attributed to the smoke in the cybercafé. I went to the juice bar, and had a cantelope juice, which sometimes has lots of ice blended into it -- I'll have to ask 'em to lighten up on the ice. The doctor I talked to later, my dad's cousin, asked if I'd had cold drinks. Finally, I stood in the sun for about three-quarters of an hour, talking on the phone with Layla -- first prolonged conversation in more than a month -- I've felt she turned cold on me, and have been wanting to know where things stand. It wasn't a pleasant conversation. I got a flurry of insults. Meanwhile, I must've gotten a flurry of rays, too. When the sun is blistering hot, like it's been the past few days, it sometimes feels like it's sitting right on top of your head. That might've been the source of the headache, and who-knows-what-else.

After my dispiriting conversation, I went back to the juice bar, had a glass of fresh orange juice, for my throat, and sat down with the bartenders. Maybe I let my guard down, too much -- told them I write, that I'm from America and "shed some tears into my drink," over Layla. One of the workers asked me about applying to the Fullbright program -- I gave him the State Department's web-address. I later brought them my business card, so we could exchange e-mails -- I'd promised to get them copies of the pictures I took there.

I couldn't work anymore -- I was spent. I called my uncle. I had an appointment to meet someone at six, near the internet café, and hoped to rest a bit, and come back. That would've meant my uncle going back and forth a total of four times. Sometimes his son or son-in-law do the duties. Well, I got home, went to bed, and couldn't get up. A cousin and our recent visitor from America came over, put some cold compresses on me and held my hand. The compresses smelled like rose water. The Iraqi-American said maybe it was her perfume. I'm such a baby when I'm sick. I kept drinking water, and sweating and babbling, all along. I called to cancel my six o'clock appointment. This is with one of the eligible bachelorettes, the son of my dad's cousin-doctor -- she'd asked me to check her computer -- lives with her folks -- can't be otherwise. Some of the relos pressed me to have a doctor come over. I begged off -- "it's just a fever." I spoke with my dad's cousin, the doctor, who recommended an antihistamine, rest and liquids. That night, I had some cantelope, which was very sweet.

Yesterday, I had a mini pear, more cantelope, dates, yogurt, a little bit of noodle soup, and Seven-Up, to go along with all the water. Last night, I talked with my mother, in Cleveland. She had a flu -- not terribly unusual for her -- said I contracted the illness from her, and that she got it from my dad. I really wanted to go over to my cousin's house across the front yard, and post a notice here. He has a computer, and uses the local dial-up service. I resisted and resisted, and just as I was able to overcome the resistance, turn around and put my feet on the floor, the electricity went off -- the clock "tolls" ten. Today, I had more cantelope, watermelon, dates, yogurt, plum juice and salad. My aunt has been saying I got sick because I'm not eating. "not eating," means, not eating at home. If you don't eat at home, you haven't eaten, and I've long since given up arguing with her. Maybe it's my body fighting me, trying to slow me down. Hang on, body -- just three more weeks. Of course, here, the countdown is three days.

I'm not gonna push myself, now -- well, not much. I'll check e-mail, save some articles for later, and see how long I can last.

Friday, June 25, 2004

More on buildup to June 30

Last night, I showed my uncle what I wrote yesterday about people "battening down the hatches," in preparation for June 30. He said that what I wrote is going to demoralize people, that, instead, it's a happy occasion, the June 30 transfer of sovereignty -- that it's a moment of pride for Iraqis.

The new government did declare June 30 a national public holiday, yesterday. Many people are expecting the next day to be declared a public holiday, too, and for a couple of more days of curfew, as well. July 2 is a Friday, a normal day off. In Mosul, where four car-bombs attacked police centers and a hospital yesterday morning, the governor last night declared an overnight curfew. While on the subject of curfews, many people have complained that a curfew should have been imposed by the American army a year ago, as soon as Saddam was ousted -- that that is the only way to impose order, and prevent crime, looting, destruction and insecurity.

A cousin's husband, who runs an expanding money-change shop on a main street of Mansour, said last night that many people were transferring money to Syria, where people are headed, to spend the next few days. Syria permits Iraqis into the country, more readily than does Jordan. I asked if he was going to open over the next few days. He said he'd be watching the situation -- "hour by hour."

People are saying that Prime Minister Ayad Allawi will ask the people of Falluja to evacuate the city, in particular, families. After that, people say he will "burn" Falluja -- that those remaining "will be responsible" for what happens to them. The uncle I visited yesterday, a medical doctor who's to leave to Jordan tomorrow, said you have to hang a few people, and leave their bodies on display, for all to see, to show that you mean business -- that that is the only language Iraqis understand. He is not alone. People say you have to show some strength -- put some fear into people. That, they say, is the only way to deal with these terrorists -- and Iraqis, in general. This uncle also said that Israelis are carrying out these terrorist operations in Iraq. I didn't follow up.

There was word in the news, although some dismissed it as rumors, that the Baghdad-Amman highway was closed near Falluja and Ramadi yesterday, as American forces were striking at Abu Mus'ab a-Zarqawi locations in the area. My uncle's wife was concerned about that, and said she wouldn't travel if it meant danger and the potential of being turned back. There are flights, but they cost almost $700. Later, I called about my cousin's daughter who left for Amman yesterday morning, with her family and in-laws. As of midnight, there was no news. Her sister was in tears. This morning, there was a report that an SUV -- the favorite mode of travel for private travel in and out of the country -- had been struck in Traybeel, the Iraqi border point with Jordan, killing a family of five.

A force of approximately 2000 members of the Iraqi army was reportedly sent to Falluja, yesterday.
Bremer bids farewell to Kirkuk
Mr. President, Prime Minister, Governor, distinguished guests,

I have been in Iraq for a little more than a year and to Kirkuk many times and when people tell me they want to learn of Iraq, I tell them to come to Kirkuk. As you said, Kirkuk is Iraq in miniature. All of Iraq, all its peoples are here—Kurds and Arabs, Turkmen and Christians and all the others who make up Iraq’s rich human tapestry.

And if all of Iraq comes together in Kirkuk, so does much of the world. For centuries now, people passing in either direction from the Caspian and Black Seas, the steppes of Central Asia, the Gulf and the Mediterranean found their roads converging on this City of the Citadel. As President Ghazi said, Kirkuk has a special place in the hearts of all Iraqis.

In the months ahead, you in Kirkuk will continue to work hard to strengthen local government, to rebuild infrastructure and to develop the economy. Importantly, you will also need to heal the scars of the past, so that all groups can advance together to a prosperous future. You will have to address some difficult issues. The restitution of property, the return of people to their lands, and the reintegration of people into their communities will be great challenges for you.

It is vital that these processes be conducted according to the law and under recognized judicial procedures.

Kirkuk, as much as any place in Iraq, has vast potential. Kirkuk will succeed. You, the people of Kirkuk, are the province’s greatest asset. You, the people, are the true eternal flame that lights this city, this province. You are talented, educated and cultured, you speak one another’s languages, you appreciate one another’s traditions without abandoning your own.

You understand that you all need each other. You understand that you all need Kirkuk and that Kirkuk needs you all.

You have the talent and you have the will to surmount the problems that have been imposed upon you. However, some problems are not solved by talent and will alone. They require money. And now money will be available.

The American people are giving more money to Iraq than they have every given to any country in history. Many of the reconstruction programs financed with those funds will directly benefit Kirkuk.

In addition, today, I am happy to announce the establishment of the Kirkuk Foundation. The foundation has an initial endowment of $100 million from the Iraqi budget. And the foundation will help set the conditions for long-term peace and stability in the province. The foundation will bring community and political leaders together to develop a common vision for the province of Kirkuk. And that is a vision in which all people have equal rights and equal opportunities, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, or gender; and to ensure the environment to enable such a vision to such to fruition.

President Ghazi, thank you for your support of this important new initiative. Thank you also for your hospitality to CPA. My colleagues and I personally wish each of you, all of Kirkuk and all Iraqis a future of hope, a future of freedom, peace and prosperity.

Mabruk al-Iraq al-Jadeed.
[Congratulations, the new Iraq]

Aash al-Iraq!
[Long live Iraq]
American Amabassador L. Paul Bremer III, administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, on Tuesday, June 22, 2004.
100-plus dead and 320 wounded from yesterday's attacks

Yesterday, President Ghazi il-Yawer and Ayatollah Ali il-Sistani made very strong statements denouncing the terrorist attacks. Yawer called on Iraqis to assist security forces in pointing out destructive or suspicious activities, while Sistani called on the people to be "as one hand" in putting down the criminals and destroyers.

Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said:
This is an opportunity for me to ask the Iraqi people to close ranks and inform on these criminals. We are going to defeat them and we are going to crush them.
In addition, the BBC reported:
Late on Thursday, the Shia militia loyal to radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr declared a unilateral truce in the Sadr City slum quarter of Baghdad - the final area where it was still opposing US-led coalition forces.

"For the sake of the public interest and considering the sensitive situation the oppressed Iraqi people are under, the Central Mehdi Army Command announces a halt to military operations within Sadr City," the militia said in a statement.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Not another genie-in-a-bottle joke

An Iraqi woman was walking around in Baghdad when she stumbled upon an old empty bottle.

She picked it up and rubbed it, and, lo and behold, a genie appeared. She talked with him for a while, then the genie told her he would grant her one wish. She said she heard from a cousin that she would get three wishes if she ever found a genie.

The genie said, "Nope, sorry -- three-wish genies are a story-tale myth. I'm a one-wish genie. So,...what'll it be?" The woman didn't hesitate. She said, "I want peace in Iraq. See this map, I want these countries to stop fighting with each other and I want all the Arabs to love Jews and Americans and vice-versa. It will bring about world peace and harmony."

The genie looked at the map and exclaimed, "Damn Lady, what's wrong with you? PLEASE BE REASONABLE! These countries have been at war for thousands of years. I'm out of shape after being in a bottle for five hundred years. I'm good, but NOT THAT GOOD!!! I don't think it can be done. PLEASE make another wish, and, please, I beg you.... Be reasonable."

The woman thought for a minute and said, "Well, I've never been able to find the right Iraqi man.... You know, one that is considerate and fun, likes to dance and helps with the cooking, house-cleaning, and is FAITHFUL. That's what I wish for...a good Iraqi man." The Genie let out a long sigh, shook his head and said, "Let me see that friggin' map again."
Don't stay out late!

My movements are being restricted even further, and I won't be alone. For the past couple of weeks, I've been staying at an internet café till at least eleven o'clock. Last night, after my uncle and his wife picked me up, they said I should start heading back earlier, as June 30 approaches. That's the day, of course, that the coalition hands Iraqis the keys to the office, and, as we've seen today, there are going to be a lot of attacks, in an effort to disrupt that transfer and undermine, and possibly sink, the next government.

People are expecting the interim Iraqi government that takes over, Wednesday, to impose a curfew. That, of course, would reduce the number of cars in the street, and exposing the potential car bombers and other terrorists more. They could, certainly, wait till the curfew is lifted. However, the government could use the hours of curfew to hunt down terrorists and wanted criminals. This is nothing new for Iraqis. During every revolution or coup, the incoming regime, they say, has imposed some type of curfew -- for days, if not weeks. I'd like to look into that -- the history of curfews, here and elsewhere. I'll save that, for another time.

As for me, I've been told not to stay out beyond eight o'clock. That's gonna limit my ability to post things. My cousin next door has a call-up internet connection, and maybe I can buy a calling card, too, to do the same -- but that connection is very slow, and will likely be even slower, as more people stay at home, congesting the system even more, as happened during the April work stoppages. I just might have to write from home at night, and post what I write the next day, which I don't like. Or, I could try to stretch my "curfew" hours, argue for more time -- we'll see. One of the internet cafés I've used has offered me a wireless connection from home. That requires buying some antenna equipment to install on the house (for a couple of hundred dollars), and then a $50 monthly charge. They're offering the service to about 40 people -- I'm one of the select few.

As we countdown to June 30, many people who can afford to leave the country, are, to ride out the storm -- a couple of weeks at the least, more like a month or two. A cousin's daughter and her family and in-laws, just drove to Jordan this morning. When I heard news of this morning's attacks, I wondered about them. The road to Amman passes by Falluja and Ramadi, two of the cities struck this morning. I called her siblings, to see if they'd heard anything from her -- they hadn't -- too early, they said. Well, if they made it, without delay, they should be in Amman, by now. In a couple of hours, I'm to visit an uncle, who's about to go to Jordan with his wife.

Those staying here, will curtail their activities -- that is, public outings. My uncle has said he won't go to his downtown office for a while, and will limit his movements to the neighborhood, just for basic needs. There shouldn't be much hoarding of food and supplies, as most small shops, bakeries and fruit-and-vegetable places will probably stay open -- they aren't expected to be targeted. As for others, many will not go to work, in particular, goverenment employees. Quite likely, jewelry stores will be closed, fearing theives and looting, in case police disappear and the situation turns anarchic. Likewise, electronics stores, car dealers, and other vendors of valuable items. Banks await orders from the government. Many people will take out their money and valuables, fearing looting of banks similar to what happened after Saddam was toppled. Most small shops and restaurants probably will stay open, but close earlier, as foot and street traffic lessen. I'm sure they'll be able to judge the situation well. It's basically a lock-down period -- stay low, retrench and ride out the storm. That leaves the main targets of all of this, the police and defense forces that defend the state and maintain order. Everything depends on them. If they're attacked, depleted or disabled, that opens the space for looters and saboteurs to raid the banks and stores, which would be left unprotected. No amount of private protection a vendor hires, would be enough to ward off a gang of attackers. No doubt, many of the police and army officers will be afraid, and feel pressure not to report to work. However, if they don't, they'll probably lose their jobs. They're at the spearhead of the fight. This is where the mettle of the nation is going to be tested. This could be -- these next couple of weeks, in the face of an intensive terrorist onslaught -- the make-or-break period for the nascent Iraqi state, testing the proposition that Iraqis will stand up and fight for their freedom.
Death toll from morning attacks up to 69

My interviewers at Channel 8 in Cleveland a few minutes ago passed on that the number of dead from this morning's attacks is up to 69, including three American soldiers. In Mosul, the latest Fox/AP report says,
seven car bombs rocked the Iraqi Police Academy, a police station and a hospital simultaneously. A fourth attack on another police station occurred about an hour later.

Forty people are reported killed in Mosul, with another 170 people injured.
This looks like the opening blow in what will likely be a concerted effort by the opposition, if it can be called that -- the opposition to America and to democracy in Iraq -- to create instability and undermine the next Iraqi government. They'll strike big targets if they can -- government ministers, police, army, government buildings, symbolic sites -- "smaller" targets, meaning private citizens and public places, if not -- but they'll strike often, and attempt to inflict as much damage and pain as possible.
Terrorists begin spree of attacks, killing dozens

In a wave of attacks today in four predominantly Sunni cities, at least 23 Iraqis and three American soldiers have been killed. Terrorists targeted police and government buildings in Mosul, Ba'gooba, Ramadi and Fallooja. The attacks included car bombs on the police academy and a hospital in Mosul. A hospital official reported at least 50 died from the bombings. This will likely be the beginning of a set of coordinated attacks by terrorists, in the leadup to Wednesday's scheduled transfer of sovereignty, in an effort to undermine the incoming government, and possibly torpedo the handover.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Secretary of State Powell on:
Abu Ghraib, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq's prospects, and his views

Asked if Americans' treatment of Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib qualified as torture:
I will say that whatever you call it, it was absolutely reprehensible. It was inconsistent with their code as soldiers, it was inconsistent with anything they should have learned in their community about how to treat fellow human beings, and it was deplorable. And it is being investigated.

It has caused me a great deal of difficulty, as you might appreciate, in my diplomatic work. What I have said to the Arab leaders I have dealt with, or other leaders in other parts of the world who are just as disturbed by this, is that we are sorry for this, we apologize for it. And now you will see how a democratic nation such as ours deals with something like this. We're the most powerful nation on earth, and you will see that we will not sweep this under the rug, we will not pretend it didn't happen. We acknowledge it did happen. Congressional committees are looking into it. The free press is looking into it. This should happen in a democracy.

It was the free press that gave it such visibility with the 60 Minutes show. The military will examine it carefully and where accountability lies, then responsibility lies and action will be taken....
On his input and access to President Bush, vis à vis Iraq policy, the work involved in preparing the U.S. embassy in Iraq, and the outlook for Iraq:
I just left him -- if I can be considered an advisor. And I had Ambassador Frank Ricciardone with me. He's our Ambassador to the Philippines who I brought back here for the last five months now, I guess, to work on Iraq transition. Ambassador Ricciardone and I spent from 3:30 to ten after four with the President talking about our transition planning, talking about the standup of our embassy.

I discussed with him the construction of the new embassy. I discussed with him how many of my ambassadors -- his ambassadors I have pulled out of embassies around the world to work on Iraq we ve got five ambassadors that are no longer where they were; they're all working on Iraq in one way or the other -- and how many people have volunteered for the positions in Iraq, how many people would stay on after the 1st of July, where the embassy was going to be located, how long it would take to build the final chancery from the temporary one....

I'm still of the view, I'm confident of the view that if we get an interim government in place by the 1st of July and we get these reconstruction dollars flowing and Iraqis start taking over responsibility for their own future again, we can turn this around....

And let me just speculate for a moment that we are completely successful: we have the elections, everything goes well, the transitional government is in place, the constitution is written. And then people can look and see whether this is a better country than the country that was (inaudible) by Saddam Hussein who put hundreds of thousands of people in their graves. I don't think they approved of that either. We didn't approve of it and we did something about it. We have been at it for a year, and there are some difficult days ahead.

But we're still convinced we did the right thing. Those hundreds of thousands of graves will not be replicated any time in the future, and people have been slow to give us credit for making sure that that doesn't happen again. But I think in due course, they will....
Differences with others in the administration:
With respect to Iraq, I felt just as strongly as my colleagues that this was a dangerous regime that was a threat and that had steadily violated UN resolutions for a period of 12 years. I had no love for this regime; I know this regime well. I fought it once before, as you recall. Therefore, there was no lack of understanding on my part what a miserable, dictatorial, horrible, tyrannical regime this was and the danger it presented to itself and to the region, perhaps ultimately to the world, if there was a nexus with terrorism....

I've been characterized as a reluctant warrior, the general that doesn't want to go to war. Well, you're right. Say it again. Please, write it down, a reluctant general. I don't want to know any generals who ain't reluctant. I don't want to have anything to do with them. War is a very serious matter. We send young men and women to battle, to perhaps give up their lives in the service of their nation, and so we should always see it as a last resort.
From a roundtable with print journalists in Washington, May 26, 2004 -- go ahead, shoot me -- I've said it before, it takes me a while to catch up on the news. As my friend Dhia Kashi once said, I might not find out about Saddam's ouster till a year or two after it happened.
Is this what they call an echo chamber? Just me and Alaa, on keeping safe in Iraq
Date: 6/23/2004 6:04:28 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"

Yes I meant Fatima.

You know something, I also feel (and felt when I was in Iraq) that the people were exaggerating their concern but I really cannot tell from here
[Holland] how it is. Two or three friends who usually reside in the west who were recently are now in Iraq said it was dangerous. For the past few months, I wake up and the first thing I say "Allah yustur" ["God protect," God forbid]. I truly go through the roof whenever one of these bombs explodes and hurts people.


* * *

Date: 6/23/2004 7:43:21 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Thanks, Alaa.

I was thinking -- if it's a matter of seeing your relatives, and delivering the equipment, why don't you drive to Kurdistan, and just stay there -- meet people there, etc.? I know it's not as good, but....
2 government ministers survive attempts on lives; ministers' housing complex; Zarqawi threatens prime minister; bombing in Baghdad; "I love that man"

Yesterday, Labor Minister Layla Abdul-LaTeef and Health Minister Dr. Ala'adin Alwan survived assassination attempts in separate attacks.

Last week, after I went to the Green Zone and Republican Palace, my friend who escorted me into those exclusive areas, went to visit a friend and compadre, who's married to a government minister. My friend had called ahead, but once we were inside the complex of ministers' homes, it seemed that the Iraqi guards inside the steel gate knew my friend. The complex, built by Saddam, had some two dozen or so houses, with the river at the back end, and a high wall of concrete panels on the street side. Inside the complex, I saw at least one American soldier on foot patrol, an American tank parked in the middle, an American military tent, and individual private guards at the houses. This is another such complex for government ministers.

As I was looking on-line for news about an attack today in Baghdad's Palestine Street, I found an item reporting that Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi has threatened to kill Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. We are, no doubt, going to be seeing a lot of these attacks -- a flurry of attempts on the lives of government officials and contractors and aid workers and you-name-it. This poor Korean man, I just learned, was a translator.

I've been trying to reach old friend Dr. Mishkat el-Moumin, the new environment minister, and urge her to sell her car, which is still being used, and to move out of her home and into one of the official residences for ministers, but...I couldn't reach her, plus, she doesn't seem to pay any mind. I'll write her an e-mail, but, again,....

As for today's bombing on Palestine Street, the TV scrawl said that three people were killed, which is what the newswire has -- if it is the same attack -- the three are a policeman, a woman and her child. A guard here said a friend of his who was there, just told him that 15 American soldiers were killed in the attack using four bombs on the wide street, burning two of the convoy of American vehicles. The attackers then took the bodies of the Americans out of the vehicles, the friend said, and dragged them through the street and spat on them. The guard said the Americans always lowball the numbers killed.

On a happier note, after completing the one issue of National Review I have, I brought it into the office, for our cook's daughter to see. It has a picture of George W. Bush, head bowed in prayer, and Lana loves President Bush. I showed it to her; she kissed the picture and pulled it to her chest. I promised I'd tell him she loved him, when I see him.
"Jewish" McGill University and my safety in Iraq -- they're related
Subj: two things
Date: 6/21/2004 5:16:41 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"

Hello Ayad:
I just took a look at your blog and have this to say:

1. Although I don't have statistics, McGill has a high number of Jewish faculty members. It has a reputation in Canada of at least being under Jewish influence. Our people may exaggerate such influence but there is no need to engage yourself in such fruitless if not dangerous discussions just because of certain sentiments.

2. The warnings to your movement in Baghdad must be taken seriously. Your relatives may be exaggerating the situation (this is how I feel when I talk to family and friends back home) but the security situation is bad and so far the enemy seems to be invisible. Be careful.


* * *
Date: 6/21/2004 2:03:48 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Thanks, Alaa -- I know -- about both points -- not engaging in fruitless discussions, and I haven't -- I've held my tongue -- pretty well -- kept my mouth shut, completely. As my father told me, before I left, ishtiri wa-lat-bee'
["buy, and don't sell" = listen, and keep your mouth shut]....

Also, about listening to relatives. I get irritated, about all the prohibitions, like the latest -- not being able to walk to my cousin's, three minutes walk from the office -- all, residential side streets -- but I sigh, and acquiesce. What can I do?

Okay -- see you.

* * *
Date: 6/23/2004 3:37:53 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"


I again ask you not to take any unnecessary risks by going to Hilla. Take all the precautions and ask people. If Mughiar (with Zainab) can make it to Baghdad, it will be better from a security point of view. Who would kidnap a sick child?....


* * *
Date: 6/23/2004 5:39:44 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Thanks, Alaa, for the continuing shows of concern. I, of course, don't want to take any chances -- although, I wonder, how seriously I am taking it -- about all of that. Some people say it's okay, to travel outside the city; others, of course,.... We'll see. You meant, Fatima, didn't you -- the little girl?....

Okay, Habibi -- take care.
Slaughter and solidarity

Disgusting to see the Korean man slaughtered. What can one say about this barbarity -- it looks like this has become a trend, a favorite mode of murder for these.... I don't know what it means, other than killing someone in a most visibly barbaric and gruesome way, to dissuade people from coming here. I haven't seen any of the pictures or television coverage. I was told by an officemate, a couple of days ago, that I'd be crying on TV, too, just like the Korean man did, when I get kidnapped. Then, a day or two ago, I opened an e-mail containing a picture of Paul Johnson, with his severed head placed on his torso. The host of the Arab nationalist list demanded an apology from the sender, for that display of vulgarity -- didn't get it, and suspended his subscription.

It is good to see the South Korean government up its military contribution, the Polish government extend its, and, more than that, the Australian people -- the majority of poll respondents -- supporting the deployment of its troops in Iraq till the mission is done.
Would Iraqis take pointers in combatting terrorism from Israelis?
Alert members of the Nachal Hareidi unit, comprised of hareidi soldiers, prevented a suicide bomber from killing Israelis on Saturday afternoon.

An IDF sentry at the Beka'ot checkpoint, north of the community of Hamra in the Jordan Valley, spotted an Arab dressed in unseasonable winter clothes approaching his position. The sentry radioed to the soldiers manning the checkpoint, who ordered the suspect, in Hebrew and in Arabic, to halt. When he didn't, the checkpoint commander discharged his weapon in the air, as per protocol. At that moment, the 19-year-old Arab man detonated the explosives he wore or carried, killing himself and injuring the commander, as well as three Arab civilians in proximity.

The lightly injured soldier was transported to HaEmek Hospital in Afula. A moderately injured Palestinian Authority resident was transported by helicopter to the trauma unit of Jerusalem's Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital. The others injured, all lightly, were transported to a PA hospital by Red Crescent ambulances.

The IDF Jordan Valley Commander, Col. Ronni Belkin, said that the checkpoint commander prevented a serious attack. "In my estimation," Col. Belkin said, "the terrorist's intention was to make it to the soldiers at the checkpoint and blow up amongst them. The alertness and readiness of the IDF soldiers prevented an attack with very painful consequences."

The Ali Mustafa Brigade of the PFLP terrorist organization claimed responsibility for the attack.
From the May 23, 2004, issue of the Arutz Sheva News Service. Thank you, Harold.
A couple of rumors -- er, news -- I just picked up

Actually, I recently read a quote, about the fine line between the two, and knowing that they're two of a kind.

Well, next week, one week from today, the Coalition Provisional Authority, headed by L. Paul Bremer III, is to hand over the governance of Iraq to Iraqis, in the form of an interim government. There is word that the government will declare that day and the next, the first full day of Iraqi self-rule, national holidays -- maybe not an annual celebration -- to be marked by public inactivity -- no work, no business. Of course, the next day, Friday, is already a holiday. Some say the government will declare five days of curfew, as they transfer Saddam to Iraqi hands, to prepare him for his trial. He could be joined by nine of his top lieutenants, including his two captured half-brothers, WaTban and Barazan, and cousin Ali Hasan al-Majid ("Chemical Ali," "Anfal Ali" and "Butcher Ali"). It's expected that Saddam will be target number one for kidnapping -- by his supporters and/or enemies of America/Iraqi freedom.

A passenger asked his taxi driver in Baghdad how much he makes in the course of a day's work. The cabbie told him, 10-15 thousand dinars (1450 dinars to the dollar). The rider asked him if he would drive him around the city all day for 25,000 dinars. "Yeah, why not," replied the driver. Next day, the driver picked up the passenger, as agreed, and drove him around and around, directed by his passenger to make turns, this way and that. At the end of the day, the fare said he hadn't found anything that day, and lifted his shirt to show the cabbie his belt of bombs. What he hadn't found that day was a convoy of American military vehicles. The driver went home, depressed and afraid, and stayed in bed for the next two days.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

I'm goin' "Bingo" tonight!

With the failure of Operation Leisure and Pleasure in Lebanon a couple of weeks ago, Operation Entertain Ayad in Baghdad had to be launched. The day I was supposed to go overland to Lebanon, my uncle took me out to dinner, at the Hunt Club. We sat in the downtown bar -- all men, a lot of smoke, a TV, hanging from the corner. The main hall....

Listen, I'm going to interrupt this story, to bring you the punch line -- I can't be burying the lede.

A few days ago, I played a Nat "King" Cole CD on my computer for a relative. At first aghast at the sight of playing music on a computer, he then, on taking in the music, said that it would go nicely with a candlelight dinner and a beautiful woman. Yeah, wouldn't that be nice, I replied, with a sigh. Next time I saw him, he said, "You know, you don't have to marry every girl you meet; you could go out to dinner, have a good time."

"That would be nice," I replied, "but that's impossible here."

"We'll see," he said.

I thought what you're thinking.
Do you wanna have fun...fun...fun?
How's about a few laughs...laughs...laughs?
I can show you a......good time.
Indeed, the next time I saw him, he said that he could find me a woman to take out to dinner, and then, she and I could go to his friend's house. The friend's divorced, and has offered me use of an empty room there. Then, I could give her something -- say, $50. "Thanks."

Now, before I came here, one of the topics I wanted to look into was Iraqi prostitution/prostitutes. They're the subject of lore -- in poetry and by leftist writers of the '50s and '60s. Now, I'm not a prostitution kind-of-guy, but do I do this for research purposes? Do I, just as I did in my "dating game," affect by observing TOO much?

There's more to say, about all of this, but I'm about to be picked up, to go to the Hunt Club, for one of their bingo nights. We may also make it to the movie, tomorrow morning, an outing that was vetoed by relatives, after the announcement of the new government. I haven't had time, now, to provide you with all the links to past postings on the subjects I've mentioned here. If you come back in 24 hours, they should be here for you.
Am I my brother's keeper?

Six days ago, I wrote about my uncle's murder by his nephew. It reminded me of an article I'd read not too long before by David Brooks about the parents of Dylan Klebold, one of the two students who killed their classmates at Columbine High School, in Colorado. Brooks interviewed Klebold's parents and tried to address the extent of their responsibility, if any, for what their son did. Brooks's New York Times column, "Columbine: Parents of a killer," appeared in the May 15 issue of the paper. In searching for Brooks's column, I came across an MSNBC report on the column, and reactions of victims' parents to it, and blogger Will Wilkinson's thoughts on free will, individual responsibility, Nietzsche and assigning guilt. It was from Wilkinson's post, that I got Brooks's column.
Weapons of mass destruction

The latest Andy Borowitz piece. The first half is about Bill Clinton's new book, then comes the Iraq-connection.

Memoir Faces Safety Recall in Seven States

“My Life,” the new memoir by former President Bill Clinton, fell off a bookstore shelf in Portland, Oregon today, killing three people and seriously wounding five others.

Hours after the fatal accident, believed to be the first of its kind in the history of presidential memoirs, Portland police were still attempting to piece together what turned Mr. Clinton’s 957-page book into an instrument of death and destruction.

“From what we can tell, it just kind of tipped off a high shelf,” said police detective Mark Drayton. “How on earth anyone ever got it up there is still a mystery to me.”

While friends of the book’s victims held a prayer vigil outside the Stop, Book and Listen bookstore near the University of Oregon, seven western states ordered an “emergency safety recall” of all copies of the lengthy memoir.

“This book is more than just deadly boring – it is deadly,” said Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski.

In yet another freak accident, President George W. Bush shot himself in the foot today while showing off a pistol that once belonged to Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Bush, who keeps the souvenir of the Iraqi strongman in the Oval Office to show to visiting dignitaries, accidentally fired the gun while twirling it on his index finger like an “Old West” six-shooter.

The president’s foot was immediately treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and was said to be resting comfortably.

Speaking to reporters after the foot-shooting incident, Mr. Bush said, “This should leave little doubt in anyone’s mind that Saddam Hussein possessed very dangerous weapons.”
Now, a flood of recent articles about Kurdistan

I have Alexander Sternberg, from Germany, to thank for this bounty. Isn't the internet wonderful?

First up, "Kurdish official's killing intensifies population's fears; Many in northern Iraq feel abandoned, slighted over interim government," by Mark Matthews, The Baltimore Sun, June 17. Some excerpts:
Kurds claim that they have been denied their rightful share of political power in the interim Iraqi government scheduled to run the country after June 30, and that the measure of protection they won in an interim constitution was undercut by a resolution unanimously adopted last week by the United Nations Security Council.

These developments have revived a historic feeling of abandonment and have "greatly encouraged the Kurdish view that they should go their separate way and continue with their own de facto government," said Peter W. Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia who has closely followed the Kurdish issue since the 1980s....

But Kurds and their supporters claim that in America's effort to ensure a smooth transition to an interim Iraqi government, Kurdish interests were submerged by the need to secure cooperation from Iraq's majority Shiites and, in particular, their influential religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani....

[Galbraith] said, find themselves "squeezed out of a significant role in Baghdad."

Despite the wish of a majority of Kurds for independence, Galbraith said, they would only unleash the Peshmerga to achieve it if a future central government in Baghdad used its army to try to crush Kurdish autonomy.

But Kani Xulam, a U.S.-based activist who directs the Kurdish Information Network, said, "Kurds would be foolish not to make sure that they cultivate their strength and prepare for a showdown."

"The world is a lonely place for Kurds," Xulam said.
Yes, Peter Galbraith is related to John Kenneth -- that's his son.

* * *

Next, about the appearance of anti-Americanism in -- say it ain't so -- Iraqi Kurdistan -- an article by Aamer Madhani, for the June 15 issue of The Chicago Tribune. The article is no longer available for free, on-line. To pay for it, click here. In the meantime, a good chunk of it:
In the days since the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution governing the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty that has no overt mention of Kurdish concerns, something has been brewing in the streets here that was unheard of just a few weeks ago: Anti-American sentiment.

While the Kurds note that they are forever indebted to the U.S. for establishing a no-fly zone in 1991, they also say that the Americans have neglected them.

"We have been betrayed by the Americans," said San Karim Mohammed, 32, a law student. "If America doesn't solve these problems now, I don't know how we are going to make any progress in the future. The Shiite are going to turn Iraq into an Islamist state like Iran."

Iraqi Kurds proudly point out that their army, the peshmerga, fought with the Americans and helped establish a northern front when coalition forces invaded Iraq last year....

The growing tension between Kurdish and Shiite leaders was further exacerbated when a letter to President Bush from Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, was leaked to the media before the Security Council vote. In the letter, the two leaders threatened that the Kurds would quit the Iraqi government if Kurdish concerns were not addressed in the resolution.

"This was something that was meant to be a private correspondence between the three parties," said Barzani in an interview Monday at the KDP headquarters, nestled in the mountains outside Irbil....

Some Kurds say that since the resolution they have grown pessimistic that their position in society will revert to pre-1991, when the U.S. established a no-fly zone that essentially gave the Kurds their own nation.

"The Arabs would not even allow the Kurdish concerns to be mentioned in the United Nations resolution," said Payman Akram, 20, a Kurd. "How can we expect they will treat us equally?"

Karash Naqsh Bandy, a member of the Kurdistan Parliament and chairman of the Kurdistan Lawyers Syndicate, said it seems to many Kurds that Arab Iraqis are not yet ready for democracy.

At a recent meeting with coalition officials, Bandy recalled a British commander encouraging Kurdish leaders to take trips to Shiite centers such as Karbala and Najaf to teach their fellow Iraqis about the principles of democracy. Bandy said the suggestions seemed preposterous to the members of Parliament who see the Shiites as mindless followers of their religious leaders.

"One of us said to the commander, 'When Ali al-Sistani coughs, all of Najaf coughs,'" Bandy said. "How do you teach these people democracy? The mentality of the Arab and the Kurd is still very far apart, and that is essentially the problem we face as we move forward."

...."For us having an ayatollah or cleric, whether he be Sunni or Shiite, calling the shots is unacceptable," Barzani said.

Barzani also kept up the tough rhetoric he used in the Bush letter about quitting the government if necessary. He said that he would not hesitate to withdraw from the Iraqi state if the Shiite majority tries to limit Kurdish self-rule in northern Iraq....
This article reminded me of what Jalal Talabani, head of the second main Kurdish party, said to Paul Bremer, and the coalition's deference to Ayatollah Sistani -- that they were listening more to a non-Iraqi, who wasn't elected to represent his people.

* * *

Then, an argument for a Kurdish state within Iraq, by former State Department policy-planner Henri J. Barkey, now chairman of the international relations department at Lehigh University -- in June 20's Los Angeles Times. The essentials:
[A] strong federal Kurdish state in northern Iraq could be a significant plus for U.S. -- and Turkish -- interests, especially if it developed in an environment of improving U.S.-Turkey relations....

Conspiracy theories abound. One has it that thousands of Israelis are buying up chunks of northern Iraq to establish a self-ruling Kurdish entity or just to control the area's oil resources....

That forces the U.S. to choose between not riling Turkish sensitivities and its moral commitment to the Kurds. Turks also complain that the U.S. administrators of Iraq have ignored the Turkmens, a Turkish-speaking minority that, along with the Kurds, claims the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

Turkey's sudden affection for Turkmens has raised suspicions in Washington and Iraq....

U.S. failure in Iraq would be disastrous for Turkey, which would directly experience the aftershocks of any radical regime in Iraq. If the U.S. is to rely on Turkey to bolster its Iraq policy, it has to address the question of the Kurds.

Turkey has to be helped out of its Kurdish neuralgia. A Kurdish federal entity on its borders would be unlikely to lead to further violence inside Turkey. Most Iraqi Kurds understand that Turkey is their best potential ally and thus would welcome their Turkish brethren's renouncement of secessionist goals. Turkey's new reform-oriented government understands that improving conditions for its Kurdish minority would facilitate its entry into the European Union. A Turkish appeals court recently released four Kurdish members of parliament convicted 10 years ago of belonging to an outlawed separatist party. Last week, Turkey's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, received the four in his office, a sign that the government was willing to consider alternative policies vis-a-vis the Kurdish minority. For Iraqi Kurds who are Western-oriented, Ankara, because it wants to be a part of Europe, is their best conduit to the West. They have already gone out of their way to invite Turkish business groups to invest in their region, hoping that economic ties will lead to stronger political bonds down the line.

A robust, autonomous Kurdish entity in northern Iraq is in Ankara's interests for two simple reasons. As counterintuitive as it may seem to the Turkish establishment, a strong friendship with such a federal state would go a long way toward diffusing Turkish Kurds' anger at Ankara. Turkish Kurds care a great deal about their brethren across the border and would not do anything to endanger a state that would serve as a buffer against Hussein-like regimes in Baghdad. Ironically, the late Turkish President Turgut Ozal had figured this out and was maneuvering to help support Iraqi Kurds when he died in office in 1993.

Moreover, the Kurds are unlike the Sunni and Shiite Arabs in Iraq. They are much more secular and, after 12 years of quasi-independence under U.S. protection, they have made tremendous progress toward democracy and responsible self-government.
* * *

Then a lengthy piece by The New York Times' Dexter Filkins, from Makhmur, Iraqi Kurdistan, on Kurds pushing themselves into homes, lands and towns they'd been expelled from in the Arabization campaign, and the human and political consequences thereof. I have more, but I haven't read them, edited them, so I'll send this batch, but, fear not, the forecast is for more rain and flooding.

I just left the discussion over lunch at the office. The main topic of conversation was the six Iraqis who were killed, and their bodies, mutilated, in Falluja, a week to two weeks ago. The six men were driving freight trucks carrying supplies from Baghdad to an American military base west of Falluja, two weeks ago. They were stopped on the highway, close to Falluja, apparently by a gang of bandits, who, to my surprise, I'm told usually don't kill their prey. The six drivers either managed to escape or were let go, and made it to a police station in Falluja. The police there, who many people say are part of the ultra-tribal regimen that governs the area, said they couldn't protect the men from "the resistance," and turned them over to the imam of the nearest mosque, whose family name is Jinabi. The families of the six men from Baghdad began looking for their kin. One of the six is from the Karrada part of Baghdad, of the vast Rebee'a tribe; the other five, from Sadir City, including the son of a shaykh of the MegaaSees tribe, who I'm told by an officemate from his area probably has about 1000 followers. About a week ago, the bodies of the six turned up outside Falluja, which touches the edge of Baghdad's suburbs. The families' inquiries to the police resulted in the conclusion that the imam in Falluja handed the six men to Syrians operating in the city, who then killed the men and mutilated their bodies. Now, there are calls for retribution. It's become a tribal matter, and the aggrieved tribes are demanding their thaar ("revenge"). After the bodies were found, a demonstration was held by people from Sadir City, as they marched out of the area, to get coverage for their calls for vengeance. The Sadir City resident here, a member of the marshes scientific team, says word is, some people there went to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Iran-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which has a wide following in the area -- Hakim was a member of the just-dissolved Governing Council -- and that Hakim calmed the situation. The aggrieved tribe from Karrada have called for a demonstration, too, but they -- according to an officemate who lives in the area and whose mother is a member of the same Rebee'a tribe -- will likely head straight to Falluja. They're asking for the Syrians who killed their son to be turned over to them or the imam who handed the men over to the Syrians. Otherwise, they say they will kill 10 for every one of theirs killed.
Big explosion today

Word so far is, nine are dead and fifteen are wounded, mostly civilians. It appears the American army was headed to Sadir City, from Ur City (Baghdad), and were struck with RPG and/or mortar-fire on the way, in Kubr il-Ghizlaan, a part of Baghdad's Sha'ab district that Saddam distributed plots of land from, to military officers. People in the office heard the blast, which they say took place at 10:30, 11 o'clock. I was in bed. I heard the afteraffects, as there was an intensification of helicopters flights.

My uncle's employee, who lives in Sadir City (previously known as a-Thawra/Saddam City), told me a couple of days ago that things are "good and not good" there. Conditions are usually fine, he said, but when American forces come into the area, to arrest somebody, they are met with armed resistance, and the fighting starts. I asked if the Iraqi police could arrest people; he said they're not able to. A person in the office who lives there, just told me that the people the Americans come to arrest are wanted for attacking Americans, and that the Iraqi police does not have a beef with them. He said that as long as the American army's not in the city (Sadir City), things are fine. When the army comes in, and settles next to a police station, the Iraqi police withdraw from the scene, as they don't want to be caught in the middle. Otherwise, he said, police are operating in al-Thawra.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Not another chicken-crossed-the-road joke
Why did the Iraqi chicken cross the road?

Coalition Provisional Authority:
The fact that the Iraqi chicken crossed the road affirmatively demonstrates that decision-making authority has been transferred to the chicken well in advance of the scheduled June 30th transition of power. From now on the chicken is responsible for its own decisions.

We were asked to help the chicken cross the road. Given the inherent risk of road-crossing and the rarity of chickens, this operation will only cost the US government $326,004.

Muqtada al-Sadr:
The chicken was a tool of the evil Coalition and will be killed.

US Army Military Police:
We were directed to prepare the chicken to cross the road. As part of these preparations, individual soldiers ran over the chicken repeatedly and then plucked the chicken. We deeply regret the occurrence of any chicken-rights violations.

The chicken crossed the road, and will continue to cross the road, to show its independence and to transport the weapons it needs to defend itself. However, in future, to avoid problems, the chicken will be called a duck, and will wear a plastic bill.

1st Cav:
The chicken was not authorized to cross the road without displaying two forms of picture identification. Thus, the chicken was appropriately detained and searched in accordance with current SOP's. We apologize for any embarrassment to the chicken. As a result of this unfortunate incident, the command has instituted a gender-sensitivity training program and all future chicken searches will be conducted by female soldiers.

Al Jazeera:
The chicken was forced to cross the road multiple times at gunpoint by a large group of occupation soldiers, according to eye-witnesses. The chicken was then fired upon intentionally, in yet another example of the abuse of innocent Iraqi chickens.

We cannot confirm any involvement in the chicken-road-crossing incident.

Chicken he cross street because bad she tangle regulation. Future chicken table against my request.

U.S. Marine Corps:
The chicken is dead
From a cousin, who got it from who-knows-where.
Suits 'n' boots

An officemate asked me today if I knew that the new fad on Wall Street is to wear army boots with the business suits, à la Paul Bremer, the governor of Iraq. I didn't know. Then, in a pool report of today's meeting of a five-member Congressional delegation (all Republicans) with Bremer, Iraqi President Ghazi il-Yawer and Health Minister Dr. Ala'adin Alwan, the writer, Betsy Pisik, of The Washington Times, lent a name to Bremer's mode of dress.

As for the meeting, there was an exchange of gratitude:
Rep. [Peter] Hoekstra (Mich.) presented Mr. Yawer with a letter from Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and asked that it be read into the Iraqi government's official records. The letter congratulates "the heroes of the Iraqi liberation" and pays tribute to the Iraqis and Americans and others who lost their lives.

Mr. Yawer accepted, thanking the congressmen "on behalf of the Iraqi nation."

"I would like to express my gratitude to the United States, to the Coalition and to the brave sons and daughters who helped to liberate Iraq," he said.
Yawer then faced the press:
"We appreciate very much their visit and also we appricate all the assistnace we are getting from the coalition. We will continue our progress towards a democratic Iraq."
Yawer was then asked about what he expected to happen on June 30, how Iraqis' lives would change, and the likelihood of martial law being imposed.
"We are determined to go ahead with our plans, reinstate government institutions and enhance our security along with multinational forces which are invited to help us secure security in iraq. Probably there will be some turbulence. We are expecting the forces of the darkeness, as we call them, will try to deter our movment...[inaudible] Martial law, you said? It was a hypothetical question asked to a member of the government. It's our right, but not necessarily we will implement that. But it's an option that we are not rulling out. If we need to do so in order to preserve our security we will do so in a way that will not pose problems to the Iraqi public."
Among the good news: Sadr's collapse, strong economy, boys and girls scouts
by Jeff Jacoby,
The Boston Globe, Sunday, June 20, 2004


To hear the media tell it, virtually nothing in Iraq is going right. Suicide terrorism, Abu Ghraib, sabotaged pipelines, swelling anti-American sentiment -- the coverage has been focused on almost all bad news, almost all the time.

Which hardly comes as a surprise. As an old journalistic rule of thumb puts it, "If it doesn't bleed, it doesn't lead." In most newsrooms, good news is usually no news. But don't be fooled. There are plenty of good-news stories in Iraq, too. Here are half a dozen.

* * *

Moqtada al-Sadr's uprising is kaput. The firebrand cleric issued a statement on Wednesday directing his gunmen to stop fighting and go home. If they comply, the bloody rebellion he launched in April will have ended in failure.

Sadr never managed to win mass support among Iraq's Shiites; indeed he was taken to the woodshed by the country's senior Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Now Sadr says he supports the interim Iraqi government headed by Iyad Allawi, and will set up a political party of his own, presumably to take part in next January's elections. It wasn't long ago that Sadr was denouncing Iraqi politicians for cooperating with the United States. Now he is poised to become one of them.

* * *

For the first time, an Iraqi soccer team has qualified for the Olympics. The team clinched its Olympic slot with a 3-1 victory over Saudi Arabia on May 12. All told, some 30 Iraqi athletes will be traveling to the games in Athens this summer. Win or lose, they will be able to compete without fear, knowing that even if they fail to bring home a medal, there will be no punishment at the hands of Uday Saddam Hussein. It was the practice of the dictator's late son to torture Iraqi athletes who were not successful in international competitions. Thanks to the US Army, Uday and his sadism no longer exist.

* * *

In the first quarter of 2004, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports, fewer than 93,000 people sought political asylum in the developed nations -- 16 percent below the previous quarter and a drop of more than 25 percent from the first quarter of 2003.

Why the decline? Because Afghans and Iraqis, who used to make up the largest groups of asylum-seekers, are now far less likely to flee their homelands. From Jan. 1 to March 31 of this year, only 2,143 Iraqis requested asylum in another country -- 81 percent less than in the same quarter last year. As one commentator has noted, that's what can happen when UNHCR's 'partners' include the US Marines.

* * *

With the help of a retired US naval officer, scouting is being revived in Iraq. Chip Beck, a former Boy Scout himself, is recruiting 80 young Iraqis for leadership training by the Arab Scout Association in Cairo. Volunteer scouting in Iraq dates back to 1921, but the movement was severely crippled during Saddam's reign. Now, along with Texas businessman (and former Eagle Scout) Mike Bradle, Beck hopes to raise $4 million to establish a scouting camp for boys and girls in a former secret police compound on the Tigris River near Baghdad.

"If the world is looking to combat violence and extremism," Beck says, "the Scout method of teaching universal values -- honor, integrity, and morality -- is proven."

* * *

According to veteran Middle East journalist Amir Taheri, there is good news on the economic front as well. The value of the Iraqi dinar has grown by almost 15 percent in the last three months against the US dollar. It has similarly gained on the Kuwaiti dinar and the Iranian rial, the two most-traded local currencies. Despite the recent violence, millions of Shiite pilgrims are visiting (and spending money in) Najaf and Karbala, where a building boom is underway. Meanwhile, Iraqi farmers have harvested a record wheat crop, raising hopes that the country might once again become, as it was before Saddam, agriculturally self-sufficient.

* * *

On June 11, US military commanders bestowed awards for valor on five Iraqis -- soldiers in the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps -- for saving the life of a US Marine during an ambush in Al Karmah. When the Marine was shot by insurgents, the Iraqi riflemen with whom he and other members of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines were patrolling with didn't hesitate. The citation presented to Imad Abid Zeid Jassim tells the story:
"Under a hail of enemy fire that was accurately targeted on the wounded Marine, and without regard for his own safety, Private Imad Jassim moved forward.... He dragged the wounded Marine out of the line of fire to a covered and concealed position...reengaged the enemy...aggressively pushed forward...dislodged the enemy fighters.... His efforts clearly saved the life of the Marine."
You might not know it from much of the press coverage, but not all Iraqis hate their American "occupiers." Many of them appreciate the sacrifices US troops are making to secure Iraqi freedom. Some appreciate it so much, in fact, that they are willing to put their lives on the line when an American soldier is in danger.
Jacoby has been a steadfast fan of freedom -- hooray for good people -- for good friends of freedom!
The tribe has voted: Alaa gets kicked off the island

My friend Alaaddin, in Holland, has been agonizing for months over whether to make the trip here -- by car, no less.
Date: 6/18/2004 3:39:32 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"

Hello Ayad:
It is not my unwillingness to take the risk but my family's. I also have this moral problem: Why should I put them at risk. At any rate, the 4 eldest met on Wedensday, discussed the matter and took a vote: 4-0 against the trip. I had offered to go to the North and meet them there (and consider travelling with them to Baghdad) but the routes to the north were also unsafe (Ba'aquba-Kirkuk or Balad-Samarra-Tikrit-Mosul). I am deeply disappointed but this is the reality of the situation. A friend in Norway who also planned to travel with me thought it was better not to go now. What is for me logistically a problem is this: I can't ask for a special leave (I had one last year and this year) and this means I need to wait for the next summer (and believe me this is terribly frustrating that I got a special leave and could not use it).


* * *

Date: 6/19/2004 11:51:48 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Hi, Alaa,

I'm sorry, too, but you obviously can't put your family at risk -- and they have to stay on, leaving them at risk, after you leave.

Well -- sometime, somewhere.


I'll tell Zaid Mugheer, and hope to be able to make it, myself, to Hilla.

Profile in courage

I took some pictures in the street yesterday -- and I'm still here. The proof of that pudding, though,...will take some time to taste. I've wondered, since before I left America, about the ramifications of taking pictures in public here. I asked about it, before coming here, and was warned against focusing on unpleasant or controversial things, such as children beating even younger children, something I'm prone to confront -- that they might then come and attack me. After I arrived here, I asked some more -- I don't think I was discouraged -- but I should ask, again. I had the experience, soon after arriving, two months ago, of civilian-clad police in the bank district following me, after I took a picture in their area. They asked if I was an expatriate -- they're there to protect the banks against terrorist attacks. Otherwise, I've only taken pictures in confined quarters -- inside homes, offices, a deaf-mute school, kids playing soccer in the yard; from the car -- on the road from Amman to Baghdad, and a few billboards in Baghdad; and a couple of non-threatening scenes -- my uncle and his accountant eating ice cream, a pair of little boys walking together, and a store that bears my name.

Well, I recently got a replacement camera for the one I lost a month ago, and I needed to get some pictures for a scheduled interview on Fox's Channel 8, in Cleveland, this morning. The appearance was cancelled, and we're now scheduled for Thursday morning and next Wednesday. I wanted to get some street scenes, in particular, some lighters I'd seen with Saddam's picture on them, and a sidewalk book-vendor who has The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, among a couple of other anti-Semitic books. Before heading to that area, I asked my uncle if we could drive by the banners for the anniversary of my aunt's death, so I could photograph one of them -- one was down; another, we couldn't find. Then, we drove by a mural of Saddam, in front of the old central Mukhabarat building -- his face has been painted over. I took a couple of pictures as we drove by -- came out dark. Then, once we arrived at the Ruwad area of Mansour, with my uncle nearby, I got permission from the sidewalk vendor with the lighters -- I didn't think that would be a problem. The problem might come from onlookers, who might determine I'm a foreigner, and then follow me -- track my movements. My uncle, by the way, objected to my photographing the lighters, because they showed Saddam, without editorial comment -- wearing traditional Arab headscarf and in a suit, inspecting a sword; he said I should take a stance. He also wanted me to photograph beautiful women -- I hadn't thought about that. I took a couple of more pictures of the spread of vendors with their wares on the sidewalk. Then I switched over to my bar -- juice bar, that is. They were very happy, and decided to pose for me, too, beside their dozen blenders. Across the street, on the corner, there's a fabric store. I like the colors of the rolls of fabric, stacked tightly together -- thought that would be an unusual sight, for Americans; I took a picture of that. A pre-teen, standing in front, asked me what the picture was for. I told him I liked the colors. He smiled. A younger boy, passing by, asked me to take a picture of him. I said, "Later." Then, inside the internet café where I work, I asked the guys behind the desk if I could take a picture. They love me -- well, who knows -- at least, they're very nice to me -- they were very accepting. I turned to the big room with all the computers and put my camera up. The man closest to me shielded his face with his hand. I thought I'd ask his permission, but...too late, and it looked like he'd "shown me his hand."

Then, this evening, I took some more pictures on the same sidewalk, including that book vendor. This time, I went solo. I also found some interesting juxtapositions -- a hot-dog/hamburger cart near an old-fashioned hot-tea stand, with shoe-polishing boxes/seats in front of them. A couple of the sidewalk merchants asked me why I took the pictures, if they were for "outside." I said I could send them, by e-mail. I strictly avoided identifying myself with "the outside," but I think that's a vain effort. There was also a spread of baseball caps and a couple of music-taping stores, with posters of Western and Arab stars plastered on their front windows -- among "the Westerns" were Jennifer Lopez, Justin, Enrique, Ricki Martin. A woman covered all in black, including gloves, passed by. I dratted myself for having missed that opportunity. Later, I also thought of getting some "beautiful" women, too -- dressed modern, that is -- uncovered. I don't know if that would be possible -- they're pretty protected, if not by men, then by their mothers. A few minutes before, on the main street, I passed the scene of an accident or something -- there was a woman in the street and a couple of police SUVs. As I walked on, two young men in front of a store, watching the scene, gasped. I asked what'd happened. They said something about taking down a number. I couldn't hear, exactly, what they'd said. I asked if she'd hit the police car. They said, she almost hit them. I still didn't get what'd happened, and walked on. Then one of them said to me, "The ladies -- they're brave."

At the end of my trek, I, again, bumped into my old friend at the juice bar -- the workers at the bar, of course, want copies of the picture I took of them yesterday. I offered to put the pictures on a CD; they invited me for a get-together -- I thought they meant late at night, after they closed, at eleven; they said, mid-afternoon, when they're not so busy. I told my friend about having just taken some pictures. He said I should be careful, and warned me, again, about bringing notice to myself. The most dangerous thing, he said, was my presence at the offices of the Iraq Foundation. We compared notes. I asked him about wearing his shirt hanging out over his pants, but it looks like that's not so uncommon. He said he violated every rule he'd set for himself, his first day here -- not speaking English, only going from house to house, and not going out at night. I said that was impossible. I told him about drinking with my back to something solid, looking around, and touching my neck. He laughed -- "Yeah, I know."
As I started reading the following, which begins with the motions raised by the defense, in the courts-martial of Americans involved in the abuse of Iraqi detainees, I thought, what are Iraqis gonna understand of defense motions -- they just wanna see the guys hanged -- wanna see blood -- see 'em whipped. Hanging courts, is all they know. Defense -- what defense? The person's guilty, hang 'im. How are they gonna handle Saddam's trial -- if it's a fair one?

Statement by COL Jill Morgenthaler, MNF-I Public Affairs Officer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - First, the defense made motions for new Article 32 hearings. These motions were denied by the military judge who found that the investigations conducted substantially complied with the Rules for Courts Martial. Second, the defense requested that an investigator be assigned to each defense team. The government counsel agreed to their request. Third, the defense raised several discovery issues. Many of these issues were resolved by the government agreeing to the requests. Each defense team will be provided access to the relevant detainees’ files. Witness statements from the Taguba Report will be declassified, if possible.

The defense teams will be provided access to Gen. Abizaid. Lt. Gen. Sanchez, Lt. Gen. Metz, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast as well as other in the Coalition Joint Task Force 7 chain of command. In addition, the government agreed to defense requests for the employment files of certain civilian contractors and adverse administrative actions against the chain of command.

Fourth, the defense requested change of venue based on their beliefs that civilian witnesses would refuse to travel to Iraq. These motions were denied by the military judge at this time. Fifth, the military judge, at the request of the defense teams, ordered the U.S. government to preserve the detention facility at Abu Ghraib as a crime scene. Sixth, the government requested a court order to all potential panel members to avoid any media coverage on these cases. The judge agreed to sign the orders. Finally, the military judge set a deadline for additional motions to be filed by 31 July 2004.

In the U.S. vs. Frederick, the civilian defense attorney requested to appear via telephone on June 13. The military judge denied this request on June 14. Today, in court, the civilian defense counsel did not appear. Staff Sgt. Frederick did not waive his right to appearance of civilian defense counsel. To ensure Staff Sgt. Frederick’s right to a counsel of his choice, the military judge recessed court until July 23 in order for the civilian defense counsel to appear in Iraq.
A winner, and a pair of cellar-dwellers

From Doug, in Peoria -- with a nice article about hometown good-guy Jim Thome -- to Baghdad, to the Cubbies, then back to Iraq:
Subj: A little something to cheer your day:-)
Date: 6/19/2004 6:28:56 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Click here: In low-key way, Thome making case

* * *
Date: 6/20/2004 2:36:23 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Hey -- thanks, Doug, for thinking of me -- I appreciate it. That was nice -- the article, that is.

Well, he deserves to make it
[to the Hall of Fame], just for being a good guy -- one of the best in the game.

Are the Chiefs the minor league team there
[in Peoria]? Still there? -- must be AA.

All right -- see you, bud. Adios.

* * *
Date: 6/21/2004 7:04:14 AM Eastern Daylight Time
In a message dated 6/20/04 1:36:23 PM Central Daylight Time, Ayad writes:

Hey -- thanks, Doug, for thinking of me -- I appreciate it. That was nice -- the article, that is.
Yekum Ayad. Thought you'd enjoy it.
Are the Chiefs the minor league team there? Still there? -- must be AA.
Yep, still here, and they are AA. Haven't been to a game yet this year. You know me. . . . . Not really a fan like you. I'm still pissed over what the stupid Cubs did last year, and I swore off baseball. . . . . . . . . again:-)
All right -- see you, bud. Adios.
OK ayad. Keep safe, and keep writing. Seems like things are actually getting a little better there. I hope all the good guys can pull this thing off. Iraq has everything it needs to be a great nation once again.


* * *
Date: 6/21/2004 8:04:04 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Hey, Doug,

What did the Cubbies do? -- they made it to the playoffs, almost beat the champions, and it looks like they've got a good shot at going even farther, this year. Give 'em a break.

Yeah -- I think they -- now, to the Iraqis, those other luckless losers -- I think they'll make it.

See ya.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Allawi, on fighting terrorism

Full transcript of today's speech by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, at a news conference in Baghdad:
I recently held consultations with the defense and interior ministers and with my private advisor for national security with the participation of other cabinet members. We held important and fruitful consultations this week with the representatives of the coalition countries, headed by US Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and UK Deputy Defense Minister Sir Kevin Tabbit and others from the coalition countries. A spirit of joint cooperation and clarity marked the discussions. I had mentioned this in a letter addressed to the UN Security Council on Resolution 1546. We have developed the strategy of national security, and some amendments were introduced to the structure of the Iraqi security for the purpose of achieving its vital responsibilities. We developed the national security strategy. There is a continued presence of some sabotage elements in Iraq, which include elements of Saddam and his former regime and foreign elements, which oppose the aspirations of the Iraqi people and try to obstruct the holding of national elections and to disrupt Iraq's security and the recovery of its economy and national unity. Many of these elements are financed by foreign parties from outside. Our government is determined to confront these elements. We will improve the security capabilities to provide the necessary security for the Iraqi people. To fulfill our responsibilities regarding security, a ministerial national security committee has been set up. The other government structures have been completed. This committee comprises the defense, interior, foreign, justice, and finance ministers, my private adviser for national security, the director of Iraqi intelligence, and the senior military adviser. In addition to all this, we are now establishing the joint operations command and control center to monitor and control all the activities that are related to the Iraqi national security.

Our strategy is simple. We will use all our forces and resources with high resolve to ensure that that the Iraqi people enjoy security, stability, prosperity, and democracy. The Iraqi security forces, the police forces, and the army units will participate in the battles to confront the enemies of God and the people. The heroic Iraqi police forces will be in the front line in this battle. The special police units have been trained and equipped with all the necessary tools to confront terrorism, control riots and rebellions, and enhance the work of the other police sections and branches. The enemies of Iraq continue with their sabotage and attacks on the oil, power, and water facilities and other basic and necessary services. They continue with their attempts to influence our daily life and our economic development. We will safeguard and protect these basic and necessary national services by continuing to develop and enhance the force that protects the facilities through training and good coordination with the local police and the army. Many threats come from across the borders. This is why the border forces, the customs, and the employees of the immigration department will studiously seek to secure our protracted borders. They will use advanced technology to confront the terrorists, smugglers, illegal immigration, and the ongoing smuggling operations. The Iraqi police forces will swiftly intervene with the help of the expert sons of our armed forces of whom we are proud. A large number of these forces have taken up their positions now and will be called to intervene under the command of the army and with its cooperation.

We gave orders to form new infantry brigades, the National Guard that used to be called Civil Defense Forces, the rapid intervention forces, and the Iraqi Special Forces. In these difficult times, the army would focus on defending the borders and security of the homeland. The reserve forces of the army will also assist in dealing with the domestic threats to our national security. The National Guard would be increased and their training level upgraded. Six new local divisions will be established, as well as 18 Brigades and 50 regiments at least. The Iraqi rapid intervention forces would enable us to defeat the sabotage elements, which oppose democracy and freedom, anywhere in our country, especially those who chose to hide behind innocent Iraqis in our cities and villages. The Iraqi Special Forces, which are highly trained and equipped with advanced tools, will stalk and arrest all the terrorists and those who tamper with the security of our homeland and citizens. The Coast Guard will secure our maritime borders and support the Border Guard in fighting piracy, smuggling, and other illicit activities. The Iraqi Air Force will be an essential element in our armed forces. Our pilots and the members of the Air Force will monitor the oil pipelines, power facilities and will ensure the transportation of the internal security forces and the army.

We must all mobilize our efforts. This is why I have emphasized that the priorities at this time would be to establish an effective Iraqi command and a comprehensive control system that will allow complementarity among all these forces. We consider national security as a high level responsibility. This is why the Iraqi army will submit reports to us through the chief of staff and the defense minister. As for the police forces and the other security forces, they will be accountable to us through the interior minister and the other respected ministers.

Our resources will allow us to undertake all the actions that are necessary to confront the followers of evil. This is why we consolidated the bases for the establishment of the General Directorate for Internal National Security.

Training and outfitting the Special Forces will be one of our priorities to enable them to confront terrorism and rebellion before the terrorists get the chance to harm the defenseless people and their safety.

We are very much grateful to the forces of the friendly countries, which have assisted us in the liberation from the most vicious despots of this century. However, the current conflict is an Iraqi conflict, first and foremost. The international community can contribute in a very important manner by providing us with the necessary sources for training and the necessary equipment for the Iraqi security forces. Until our forces restore their full capability, we will remain in need of the support and backing of the friendly multinational forces and also Arab and Islamic countries. We value the understanding and assistance of the international community and we hope that this additional assistance will be soon based on UN Security Council resolution 1546. Therefore, we will highly appreciate the protection activities by the United Nations.

The enemy we are fighting is very evil, and death, destruction, and the killing of defenseless Iraqis are the only things it knows. The Iraqis have suffered much and for many years under the yoke of the repressive regime. This is why the Iraqi people are determined to build a democratic government that provides freedom and equality in rights for all citizens. We are ready to work and even get martyred for achieving our objectives. I have complete confidence in the Iraqi people, the capability of our forces, and the support of friends in the world. This is why our responsibility as Iraqis is to contribute to the establishment of the security, safety, and stability of this country. May God's peace and blessings be upon you.
Allawi then took questions.
All bluster, no blast?

A couple of people I've told about the 250 car bombs, ready-and-rearing-to-go, have pooh-poohed the notion. They say there's a lot of hype -- hot air -- by the Saddamists, Zarqawi's people, and whoever are working on that end -- all for the purpose of frightening people. Still, the fear is there. My uncle said he's not going to go out much -- not going to go to his downtown office for the next 10 days, couple of weeks -- will keep his travels restricted to the neighborhood -- for basic needs.
Allawi: we're considering martial law

Prime Minister Ayad Allawi announced today a restructuring of the country's security forces, saying all Iraqi resources would be directed toward fighting terrorism.

"We might impose some kind of martial law in some places if necessary in accordance with the law and in respect to the human rights and the international law," Allawi told a press conference. "Many issues are being discussed, and we hope to discuss them this week. We will do our best to strike the anti-Iraq forces."

The Associated Press report went on:
Many of the attacks have targeted police and other security services, who have been slowly taking over security tasks in the weeks before the transfer of sovereignty. One of the most vicious attacks occurred Thursday, when a car bomb exploded outside a military recruitment station, killing 35 and wounding 145.

Most of the victims were poor Iraqis desperate to take dangerous jobs in the Iraqi security forces because of a lack of alternatives in a country with up to 45 percent unemployment. They took their chances at the recruitment center in Baghdad even though a car bombing killed 47 people there in February.

More than 300 people have been killed in attacks on police stations and recruitment centers since September.
It's a jungle out there
A couple of nights out

A couple of nights ago, in between sessions at the internet café, I went to the juice shop, got a sandwich and walked around a bit. A staffer from the café joined me. He studied at Concordia University, in Montreal. When he told me, a couple of weeks ago, that he went to school in Montreal, I asked if it was at McGill. He answered that McGill was a Jewish school. Oh, yeah? Yes, 85 percent of the students were Jewish, and they gave preference to Jews. I found the number, odd. I said I didn't know, and told him I had a cousin who just graduated from McGill's dental school, and that I was advised to go there, myself -- that is was a nice little school. Well, it's Jewish, he said, mildly, without any rancor. I left the subject. He shared that his aunt was in West Virginia, and that her husband was an assistant dean at W.Va. University (did not know of what) -- taught in the economics department, I think it was. A friend of my mother visited Cleveland from West Virginia recently, and teaches sociology, I believe, at the same school -- or was it architecture? I'll have to find out if there's a connection -- there usually is. The internet guy visited his aunt once -- he thought Montreal was "heaven," not even "almost."

At the juice bar, an old friend passed by. He was surprised to see me. After the internet staffer left, my friend told me that I was bold to be out. I said, this is Mansour -- nothing dangerous here. He said I should still be careful, walking around, that, working at the offices of the Iraq Foundation, I could be "stalked" -- someone could notice an American working there, and then start tracking my movements. My uncle said the guards at the neighbor's house already knew I was an American -- long before my conversation last week with soldiers parked in front of our house -- and any guard can be bought -- or, himself, sell information.

After I drank a thrid glass of cantelope juice, the bartender asked me if I "came from outside." Yes. "It shows; you like cantelope." I asked what people from the inside had against cantelope. He didn't say -- he was busy. He was very friendly -- has always been -- they all have -- they know me -- I'm a regular -- always two or three cantelopes -- that is, this month, when it's especially sweet -- "Give me the usual, Hank.... Hit me, again, Mick." I don't know if I'll be able to pursue that line of thinking -- if there is a connection, between liking cantelope and being a foreigner. Most people do have the "coke-tail," though. Maybe I've got refined tastes. By the way, all the bartenders wear orange shirts, as the name of the place, Mishmisha, is a diminutive of apricot (mishmish). I've noticed, by the way, that I've been drinking my juice with my back to the counter, wall, or large glass door. I've also been looking around, to see if anybody's watching me, following me. Finally, I've been touching my neck, thinking about it being slit -- maybe that's the Nicholas Berg-Paul Johnson effect.

Later, I dropped by a Persian-rug store -- I know two of the owner's sons -- one's married to a cousin's daughter; the other, to a friend's sister. The friend who'd just seen me at the juice bar, was there. He upped the ante, and told me I should just work out of the house, from homes, and not go to the foundation's offices, at all -- same thing my uncle had said, a month, two months ago. The last couple of days, my uncle's added another prohibition, knowing that I've walked to a cousin's house around the corner from the office a couple of times. It's about a three-minutes' walk, all through residential side streets, and the only people out, are guarding companies renting the houses -- but...even accompanied by guards, I'll get noticed -- a guard'll "sell his mother.... Don't do it -- just call me."

After I left the rug store, one of the sons ran out after me; he counseled me not to carry my American passport with me -- anywhere, anytime. I had it in my computer bag. Next day, I left it at home.

A couple of days before, this guy had taken a group of us -- his wife, toddler-daughter, wife's siblings, a friend and me -- to dinner, on the occasion of the friend's arrival from America -- she's the woman who took me to the Green Zone and the Republican Palace, the next day. Our host told me that a schoolmate of his was just killed in Falluja, for working with Americans. We tried to figure out if it was the same person I'd been told about, who was threatened for delivering food to American military bases. It doesn't look it. Their rug store, he said, had really slumped since January, because foreigners had been driven away. The previous six months, he said, were their "golden" period, when all manner of foreigners came to the store. Each foreigner would take the store's business cards, and yield 10 more customers -- even with four workers in the little shop, they couldn't keep up. That's all dried up. I later asked him about previous years. Activity was far lighter than during the "golden" period, he said -- the only foreigners were the odd journalist and aid worker. He, himself, used to deliver rugs to the Green Zone, and was warned against doing business with "the Americans." He told his threateners that he was there to process his wife's papers, as she was born in England. Others have had their cars broken into, inside the Green Zone, and personalized threatening letters, left in the cars -- that they were to cease and desist, immediately. One who received such a threat was the son of a Saddam-era interior minister. Our host also told me that it was a mistake for me to go to the restaurant I was taken to, the week before, that it, along with a couple of others, are known to be patronized by Americans, and, thus, could be targeted. Indeed, the only other customers the night we went, were two American men, and each had a machine gun.

We returned home from the restaurant about eleven o'clock. Our host said that was the latest they'd been out, for a long time. In Saddam's time, he said, they used to be able to stay out late, all the time -- during the post-Ramadhan holiday, till four, five in the morning. When I hear complaints about security and electricity, whose main consequence for most people is on air conditioning, which makes eveybody sick, I think, well, maybe you ought to have Saddam -- if those are your priorities. Gas, electricity, medical care, schooling, even food, were subsidized by the regime. People do tend to mention the mass graves, too. Speaking of which, last night at the internet café, one of the groups of four or five guys next to me watching porn, said "mass grave" a couple of times. A couple of nights after the restaurant outing, most of the same group went to the Hunt Club for their weekly outdoor concert, and got back after midnight. My uncle's son was there, too, and his parents said that maybe they shouldn't go anymore, as any large gathering could be targeted.

At the restaurant, among a family next to us was a woman covered from head to toe in black, with only an opening for her eyes. I asked my dinner companions where she might be from. My friend who'd just arrived from America said she's Wahhabi. She added that in Basra, where she'd just been, and grown up, Wahhabis have been paying families $400 a month -- for the past year-plus -- and many Shi'as had "converted," and adopted the Wahhabi lifestyle. Most people's salaries had been two, three dollars a month, when Saddam fell, at which point the field was opened to outsiders and proselytizers of every stripe. The family next to us weren't the only Wahhabi-dressed people in the restaurant.

The restaurant is Kurdish-owned -- opened just a few days before Saddam's fall. It's succeeded, quite well. It's very clean, the service is exceptional, and the food is good. The toddler with us ran free, and the all-Kurdish staff dealt with her very nicely -- they even had booster chairs, which surprised me. Our toddler's wanderings even got us pieces of a birthday cake for a little girl across the room. When the waiters had a chance, they gathered around the television, to watch bits of the European Cup. This is, maybe, the biggest sporting event of the year for Iraqis, with the top level of soccer in the world.

Back to a couple of nights ago. As I walked on the sidewalk, I passed a man with a missing left ear, or, rather, just a little nub left, rolled in on itself. I assumed he was one of those who'd received the punishment imposed in '94 for deserting army service. I assumed, too, he'd had cosmetic surgery, which was illegal under Saddam -- that is, prohibited for the ear-amputees and for the doctors operating on them. Another part of the punishment was a brand on the forehead -- I didn't look for that -- just remembered it, now.

Speaking of the sidewalk, I saw my first copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, at the one book-vendor in the area, whose wares are spread on low tables at the main corner. He's got a couple of other anti-Semitic books, quite a few exposés of Saddam and the recent war, some love and sex guides, and astrology and religious tracts. I'll ask if I can take pictures -- also, from the vendor with the Saddam lighters. Speaking of which, I'd made a mistake, in describing one of those silver lighters -- Saddam's holding up, and inspecting, a long sword and not a rifle, before the reviewing line. I don't expect the vendors will refuse me -- what I'm worried about is onlookers, who might identify me as a foreigner. My uncle once said, that there are some 50,000 people in Mansour, with maybe five or six lunatics, but....
Negroponte: hands full, but hopeful

John Negroponte, who will be the first U.S. ambassador to Iraq since 1990, said in a U.S. television interview Thursday that elections, an army and 18 billion dollars can fix Iraq.
"I think it's a question of pulling these different elements together and moving forward, and I think that can be done."

[D]uring the course of my more than 40 years in the foreign service,...I would suppose that by an order of magnitude this is going to be the most difficult challenge I've ever faced."
Negroponte will head the biggest embassy in the world, with about 1,700 staff, including 1,000 Americans, after the handover of political power by the U.S.-led coalition on June 30.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Martial plan?

Iraq's interim justice and interior ministers said the government is considering imposing "exceptional" laws imposed by Saddam and martial law -- in an effort to stem the terrorist attacks that plague the country. Justice Minister Malik Dohan al-Hasan added that the measures "do not violate the rights of the citizens."
Former allies say Allawi could be a new Saddam
[E]xiles closest to Dr. [Ayad] Allawi in his Wifaq movement, known in the West as the Iraqi National Accord, say he is erratic and prone to hot-tempered outbursts. A founder of the movement, Dr. Tahsin Mu'allah, who also taught Dr. Allawi in medical school in Baghdad, said Dr. Allawi was not a democrat.

"I wish him the best of luck," he said. "But Allawi wants to control Iraq. He could be a new Saddam because he does not understand democracy."
From an article by Eli Lake, of The New York Sun.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the dictatorial aura Allawi put off, at the Iraqi opposition conference in New York City in 1999.
Former Governing Council member wanted for murder

An Iraqi judge has issued a warrant for the arrest of Abdul Karim al-Mohammadawi, a member of the just-dissolved Governing Council who was known as "Prince of the Marshes," for leading resistance to Saddam in Iraq's southern marshlands, even after the ousted dictator drained the wetlands. The Reuters report continues:
The warrant states that Mohammadawi...is wanted in connection with the murder of a police officer in southern Amara province several weeks ago. His two brothers are also wanted in relation to the same case....

Mohammadawi is regarded as an ally of Ahmad Chalabi, a former exile and Iraqi National Congress head whose once close relationship with U.S. officials has cooled....

Zuhair al-Maliki, the judge in charge of Mohammadawi's case, also issued arrest warrants against Chalabi's chief of security and other aides last month for various alleged crimes.

Chalabi's party questioned Maliki's independence and credentials, saying he was a junior lawyer who had worked as a translator for U.S. forces before the U.S.-led administration appointed him as an investigating judge.

"This judge is issuing arrest warrants upon the wishes of non-Iraqi parties," said a letter by the Iraqi National Congress to the justice minister. "He is taking political orders to assassinate the character of national figures who struggled for decades to save this country."
Gentlemen, start your engines!

According to U.S. Army intelligence, as many as 250 cars are rigged with bombs and ready to go, "in an offensive expected to build to a fiery crescendo as the month draws to a close."

The Associated Press report continued:
[Abu Mus'ab] Al-Zarqawi's network, which U.S. and Iraqi officials regularly blame for suicide bombings, may be dropping its preference for complex, cataclysmic bombings in favor of frequent attacks on smaller, softer targets....

"It may be the largest number of vehicle bombings we've ever seen in such a short period of time," said Ben Venzke, a terrorism analyst in Alexandria, Va....

The stepped-up bombings may stem from the fact that huge blasts attributed to al-Zarqawi's network have failed to derail the upcoming handover of sovereignty from the U.S.-led coalition to an Iraqi government.

Smaller bombings are easier to coordinate, allowing terrorists to intensify the campaign of intimidation aimed at Iraqis working with the coalition, the U.S. official said.
Strike on Falluja targeted Qa'ida safe-house

In a strike this morning, the U.S. military says it was targeting members of Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's terrorist gang. Military spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt said, "We have significant evidence that there were members of the Zarqawi network in the house." Kimmitt added that the strike caused secondary blasts as ammunition inside the house exploded.

Reuters reported that furious locals said the dead included women and children, and that three other houses were damaged.

U.S. and Iraqi officials believe Zarqawi is responsible for most of the suicide attacks and sabotage in the country, and that he may be operating from Falluja.
The oil is ours!

On June 8, the day the oil ministry was turned over to Iraqi control, Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban went to the Doora Oil Refinery, in Baghdad.
After meeting and shaking hands with the workers of the Doora refinery, who filed out into the industrial complex in their overalls and multicolored helmets and clapped, the two officials made brief speeches in Arabic to the press.

Ghadbhan: It's a great day to welcome the prime minister and it makes me happy, this is the first visit by his excellency to the most important economic site in our country.

I call this refinery the Baghdadis' refinery because it supplies the Baghdad province with fuel. Our brothers worked day and night to produce the oil during the hard days.

The entire oil ministry salutes you. On behalf of you all, it's my pleasure to salute Mr Prime Minister.

Allawi: In the name of God most merciful, I would like to express my gratitude to you and I'm pleased to announce that full sovereignty and full control on oil industry has been handed over to the oil ministry today and to the new Iraqi government as of today.

The handover of the control of oil industry before June 30th reflects our full confidence in the oil minister. It's evidence that oil ministry has worked perfectly.

In the past, Iraqi oil was used in building palaces, buying weapons to achieve one person's goals. Today the most important natural resource has been returned to Iraqis, to serve all Iraqis.

The new government will have full control of the oil revenues.

Iraq is the second largest country in oil reserves; it has more than 110 billions barrels of crude oil and about 100,000 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.

We have to protect these precious natural resources and we are making steps on this. We've established a force to protect the oil infrastructure, made up of about 14,000 guards.

This will help protect the oil pipelines and eliminate oil smuggling, with the help of coalition forces and Iraqi allies. By this, we shall serve all the Iraqis, instead of a small select group of criminals.

We have ambitious goals for the future, to improve oil production in the future as well as to expand the production of gas. We are working on building and establishing full capabilities for fast repair of the pipelines. At the same time, we are working to increase our exports. On behalf of all Iraqis we ask you (workers) to continue your great efforts to return the oil Iraqi industry to its appropriate place in the world."

Asked what the officials meant when they said the oil industry is now solely under Iraqi control, Ghadbhan said, in English:

"We are totally now in control, there are no more advisers. We are running the show. The oil policies will be implemented 100 percent by Iraqis. This is the way forward."
Katarina Kratovac, of the Associated Press, filed the pool report.
A Senate-cade

U.S. Senators Tom Daschle (D.-S.D.), Joseph Biden (D.-Del.) and Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) flew in for the day. They arrived in Iraq at eight in the morning, met for 30 minutes with interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, in Allawi's private office, held a joint press conference afterwards, and were scheduled to depart at five o'clock. Excerpts from their press conference:
Allawi: I have expressed our gratitude to the government of the United States, both for helping the Iraqis liberate Iraq from the tyranny and for building Iraq toward the path of democracy and for a potential for peace and security in this region. We are indebted really to what the United States has done to Iraq and this is yet another step in cementing the relationship between Iraq and the United States.

Daschle: I have to say I have a new and better appreciation for the progress this government is making and the real potential for success that they may be able to demonstrate as they continue their work. This will be a partnership that will take some time. But I think in the effort that has been made so far, that progress has been remarkable, and I just hope we can continue to build on what has been done so far.

Biden: Mr. prime minister, your reason for optimism. Many of us have been coming to this region for a long time. I must tell you that the candor and the straight-forwardness and the realism that was expressed by the prime minister is very unusual and much appreciated. It’s an incredibly difficult road ahead.... But I think that the security and success of Iraq is still clearly within the grasp of the prime minister, his cabinet and the prospect that is in place with elections are real. So I’m optimistic. I'm also of the view that in every circumstance we have found in the last 15 years around the word, where there has been this kind of position, where there has been a significant overthrow of a tyrant, where there’s been a fundamental change in society, success or failure is dependent as much on the men and women who come forward and lead that country at that moment as any other factor. And I think that having you, Mr. prime minister, I don’t want to endorse you because that could hurt you probably (chuckles all around) but I sincerely mean it when I say based on your explanations with us, at least from my perspective, you have a patently clear grasp of what needs to be done, a realistic assessment of the kind of assistance that is needed, and you are willing to go out and make a case, not just make the case to your people but make the case to NATO why they should get involved, make the case to your Arab neighbors why they have an investment in the security of Iraq and that is a critical, critical piece of this puzzle in my view. You have the credibility. I realize it’s going to take a lot to build it in a nation that has been for over 35 years, where every reasonable, moderate voice in this country has learned to keep their head down or have been run out of the country. We’re asking a lot of the Iraqi people to stand up now. But with your leadership, I there is a prospect of beginning that whole process. Most importantly, I think you have a realistic grasp on what needs to be done and are not doing this through rose-colored glasses. That, to me, gives me reassurance.

Graham: I’m struck by the personal bravery that the prime minister and other people in his position have assumed. I asked him about his family and he sort of went through his family history, and it was very compelling. There’s a debate in his family among his children about what was the right thing to do and what they felt comfortable with and I just want to say that I admire you for taking this risk because so many people benefit from it. I share Sen. Daschle's and Biden's sense of optimism. It won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible to build a democracy. People have to sacrifice and I would call on the international community to do what Sen. Biden said. Help where you can. If you can send troops, send troops. If you can forgive debt, forgive debt. But the Iraqi people have suffered mightily. They need all the help they can get. My country will be there, I know, as long as it takes, Mr. prime minister. I hope the international community will help you.

They took one question.

Q: Did you talk at all with the plan for dealing with Saddam?

Biden: Yes, we did discuss that. We did ask that question and there was a general consensus that this is a matter to be settled by the Iraqi people. Saddam and others should be tried by an Iraqi court, by an Iraqi government in front of the Iraqi people. I was impressed with the prime minister's answer when he said beyond that, he thought it should be a matter of examining how this could have occurred in the first place, the systemic reasons for this occurring. But the bottom line is that I can relay confidence that they are not going to attempt to gain custody and try him before they are fully ready, before they are ready to put on a case, before they are fully prepared to be able to demonstrate to their people that this is a fair trial, and demonstrate to the region and the world. Not only him, but a number of others, major players across the board. But that is a decision for the Iraqi people. I walked out of this meeting convinced this will not be premature; it will be done professionally, a serious case that can stand up in any court in the world, and that to me, I find very, very reassuring.
The pool report was filed by Jackie Spinner, of The Washington Post.
A "heli-cade," and martial law

Pool reporter Thanassis Cambanis, of The Boston Globe, covered a stop today by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban at a desert oil spill in Babil Province caused by pipeline sabotage.
Black oil has oozed into the soil and contaminated a pair of irrigation canals. The site is near the Musayyib power plant, in the vicinity of Karbala.

The 18-inch oil pipeline -- a spoke that supplies the Dora Refinery and the Mussayib Power Plant -- has been broken in five places in sabotage attacks....

The heli-cade (is that a word, like motorcade?) flew over another patch of earth, blackened from spilt oil, before landing at our photo-op spot.

The prime minister, traveling in a three-Blackhawk formation, disembarked on the far side of the canal, crossing it with a carpeted plank brought especially for him by the advance team. The television pool and stills photo shooter were asked not to capture any images of the prime minister with an American military helicopter in view. Ultimately, however, the standup showed a pair of Blackhawks in the background....

[Cambanis] asked what Allawi thought of using martial law or state of emergency measures to prevent violence like the oil infrastructure attacks. With a smile, Allawi ended the press event, which lasted just under 10 minutes: “Thank you, I think we have finished the questions now," he said warmly. "We’ll talk about it later."
Iraqi commissioner on public integrity, appointed

It might sound like an oxymoron, but it's true. U.S. Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which governs Iraq till the end of the month, today announced the appointment of Judge Radi Hamza Al-Radhi as the first commissioner of the recently-established Commission on Public Integrity (CPI). Radhi was nominated for the five-year post by the Iraqi Governing Council, which disbanded on June 1, when the interim government was announced.

He previously served as chief judge of the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, and until recently was one of the six members of the Judicial Review Committee, which vetted the Iraqi judiciary. The committee's work resulted in the removal of over 170 judges for bribery, corruption and former regime ties.

The CPI, an independent part of the Iraqi government, was established by the governing council to investigate allegations of corruption, refer violations to Iraqi criminal courts, propose legislation to strengthen standards of ethical conduct for public officials and employees, and strengthen public demand for open, honest and accountable government.

The statute creating the CPI directs it to establish a written Code of Conduct, which every Iraqi government employee will be required to adhere to as a condition of employment. The CPI will also require members of the Interim Iraqi Government, their deputies, ministers, deputy ministers, governors, judges and even CPI officials to file a statement in which they disclose their sources of income and gifts received, real estate and other assets, business relationships and indebtedness. After the election of a permanent Iraqi government, members of the national legislature and the chief executive will also be subject to the disclosure requirement.

Radhi's successors are to be appointed by the chief executive of Iraq from a list of nominees put forward by the Council of Judges.
Na Hrad -- again

I got it wrong, the Czech phrase that's used to urge the new leader to the palace, as in the posters that appeared 15 years ago, hailing "Havel na Hrad" -- not Na Vrad. According to an on-line dictionary, there is no Czech word "vrad," although "vrah" appears to mean "killing," as in "regicide."

Another correction: The location of the house we, and many of my father's siblings and their families, lived in, in Karradet Maryam, and the hospital down the road, are not in the Green Zone, as I thought. They're very close, but.... My friend, who took me into the Green Zone, went looking for it, a few months ago, with her husband (my cousin) and his mother, who followed us in that house. The house is gone.

Inside the Republican Palace, those six sayings of "the Leader President" were engraved, probably with gold, into white marble, each saying, above one of six tall double-doorways. Each saying occupies a space, about 15 feet high and six feet wide. Three doorways connect to the large square hall that's being used as a cafeteria. On the other side of the 20-foot-wide hallway, three doorways open onto the grand square reception room where Saddam's throne rested, etc.

As for the people I saw standing guard all around, they were probably Nepalese Gurkas, and not Fijians as well -- the Nepalese tend to be smaller. One of them was posted at the computer room, off the main corridor of the palace. I went in there -- while my friend was seeing old acquaintances -- to search the computer for the location of an Ohio friend's son, a soldier in the First Armored Division who's had a desk job in the Green Zone for a few months. I tried communicating with the Nepalese soldier, but failed. I didn't get anywhere, in my search for the soldier, but I did go on to write my first post about the palace -- from the palace -- using one of the four laptops in the room. There were also some magazines and paperbacks -- I suppose, the ones we donate at public libraries. I picked up a Sports Illustrated, from March, and started reading Rick Reilly's column about use of steroids in baseball.

A final note about the palace: it's been said by many, that 75-80 percent of the interpreters, servants, gardeners, et al, who work in the palace and with the Coalition Provisional Authority, which uses the palace as its headquarters, are leftovers from Saddam's regime, including Saddam's personal interpreter, who is reprising his duties, for Paul Bremer. Many blame some of the "mistakes" by the CPA on the presence and influence of these former Ba'this, who intentionally deceive the coalition or direct them as they wish -- not to mention, leak information to "the resistance." So, while there, I wondered who was who, and if I should still watch my tongue, but, it's not a place I'll be revisiting too often.

As I was about to leave the palace the other day, I recognized one of the top CPA media people, from when she worked for the State Department, during the Iraqi orchestra's concert with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center, last December. I told her it was my first time in the palace. She asked me how I liked the place. I said, "I think I could fit in here."
The Saddam-bin Laden connection

An MSNBC report about the political standoff between the Bush administration, some members of the 9/11 commission, and media coverage thereof -- over Saddam's links with al-Qa'ida.
Anyone for a job?
Subj: Iraqi Broadcasting Service
Date: 6/16/2004 8:32:07 PM Eastern Daylight Time
"Yesterday, the Coalition Provisional Authority announced completion of the board of governors of the Iraqi broadcasting service, along with a financial committee. The members of the board are:....................

"An international member is to be named soon."
Hey Ayad, Have you thought of throwing your hat in that ring? (I`m serious.)


* * *
Date: 6/18/2004 2:41:56 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Hey, Doug,

No, I haven't. What are you trying to do to me -- get me killed?

My mom'll love you, Doug -- thanks.
Actually, when I looked at the roster of names on the board of governors, I did think that they needed someone to stand up to Kanan, who I know, from six, seven years working with him, can be a bulldozer. Which, of course, means I'm not the one. I'm sure, though, that they're looking for someone of international repute or a veteran broadcaster or broadcasting administrator/programer -- either as an actual adviser and/or a symbolic presence to promote the system.

As to the other members, some might have noticed that there was a cleric among them, but this guy -- an "Ayad" -- Ayad Jamal al-Deen -- is as secular as they come. He calls for complete separation of mosque and state, believes deeply that that's in the best interests of Islam and all religions, and that Islam needs to go through a reform movement and be more broadly interpreted. He's from an old scholarly family -- of poets, academics as well as religious jurists. In addition, he's been host to Ayatollah Khomeini's grandson, Hosein Khomeini, who's been praising America for "liberating Iraq," also urges separation of mosque and state, and believes Iranians would welcome American troops. Finally, an old friend told me recently that he's involved in setting up a television station with another secular/liberal-inclined cleric from the Sadir family. He's an older relative of firebrand young Muqtada a-Sadir, but is a breed apart.

Doug wrote back:
Date: 6/18/2004 5:58:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Never Mind:-) I didn`t think it out. Tell your mom I`M SORRY:`-(

Watch your back,

* * *
Date: 6/19/2004 4:30:41 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Just kidding, Doug -- about the trying to get me killed.

Don't worry.

Friday, June 18, 2004

What about Saddam?
Elsewhere, the U.S. announced that on June 30 it would still have custody of Saddam Hussein, but it would let Iraq visit him on weekends.
That's Andy Borowitz, from two days ago.
Talk to us!

In a commentary calling on Kurdish leaders to show transparency with their publics, Twana Osman demands:
After a year of tug of war over the Kurdish issue in Iraq, our two ruling party leaders, Jalal Talabani and Mas'ud Barzani, shocked us by sending a whiny letter to President Bush.

The hitherto silent leaders came out of their closets and voiced their concerns - to the American leader, not to us, the people they represent....

Before the leadership tells the world that Kurds should not be treated as second-class citizens in Iraq, they should start treating the Kurdish citizens under their regional governments as first-class citizens by keeping them informed of what is going on in the capital city....

Not only did the letter disappoint us, it left us shocked. Today, we feel like orphans. No one knows what the future holds. The two leaders have left us in the dark.
Osman is editor of Hawlati newspaper in Sulaimaniyah. He wrote "A question of transparency: the people of Kurdistan believe their leaders are repeating the historic
mistakes of Kurdish national movements," for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which has the article in English, Arabic and Kurdish
We're number one -- in dates
The Institute for War and Peace Reporting has an article on the government campaign to restore Iraq's hard-hit date-palm industry to its world leadership position.
Hussein Abbas, who sits on the ministry's programme committee,...underlined the problem, saying that Iraq has just 13 million palm trees today, down from a peak of 33 million in 1958....

During the
[Iran-Iraq war] fighting, [ministry of agriculture engineer Sabri Jabbar] said, one of the world's largest concentrations of palms - southern Iraq's Ras al-Bisha grove of five million trees - was destroyed completely.
I previously linked to a lovely description of date palms, their uses, kinds, tastes, and significance to Iraqis. Before that, I relayed news of Saddam's helicopters being put to use, spraying date palms.
I love a man in a uniform

About new Iraqi President Ghazi il-Yawer, two Baghdad residents told local reporters:
"Choosing al-Yawar was quite clever, because he is a tribesman and can understand the mentality of Iraqi tribal society," said Ragid al-Suhail, 35, an immunologist at Baghdad University. "His ghutra and igal - headdress and headband - are a sign of Iraq's Arabism and his adherence to it."

Eighty-three-year old Khairia Mahmoud said Yawar's dress reminded her of Iraq's former monarchy, whose members wore similar clothes.

"He looks like the Iraqi kings," she said. "I hope Iraq can return to an era of love and prosperity under President al-Yawar."
The article, "Yawar gets mixed reviews," by Omar Anwar and Zaineb Ahmed, appeared in the Institute for War & Peace Reporting's latest Iraqi Crisis Report. There's a Saddam backer in the bunch, too.
Rubaie's in -- and still alive

Mowaffak al-Rubaie is, indeed, in the Iraqi government, and his position is national security adviser. I wonder how he and Barham Saleh are getting along, as the latter is deputy prime minister for national security affairs.

Rubaie was, apparently, the target of the major explosion I felt, the last day of May. A person who was killed in the blast was the sister of former presidents Abdul-Rahman and Abdul-Salam Arif. She was sitting in her front garden. A few days later, I drove by the spot, which is a few hundred yards from an entrance to the Green Zone. The suicide bomber was reportedly questioned repeatedly by an onlooker, and blew himself up prematurely, killing the questioner and the old woman, too.
One million internally displaced persons from Kurdistan

In an article about the difficulties internally displaced persons from the Kirkuk area are having restoring their homes and lands, there is this:
Approximately one million Kurdish, Turkoman and Assyrian residents were forced out of hundreds of villages and towns near the oil fields that run in an arc from Khanaqin through Kirkuk towards Mosul.
This was part of the Arabization campaign pursued by the Ba'ath regime. The article, titled "Kirkuk's displaced still homeless," was by Sirwan Gharib, a reporter with Hawlati newspaper. Done for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), it is available in Arabic, Kurdish and English.
Out with the old, in with the new
At the end of the month, we are not only getting self-rule by Iraqis, but the foreign forces assisting them will change their name. Instead of "coalition forces," they will be called a "multinational force."
Death toll in Samawa, Bremer's farewell tour and Iraqi forces
The Dutch military commander of Muthanna province (one of Iraq's 18, which includes Samawa) told reporters yesterday that there had been very few attacks in the province. Two Iraqis, said Lieutenant Colonel Richard van Harskamp, were slightly injured by a car bomb on May 1, and one Dutch soldier was killed in a grenade attack on May 10 -- the lone Dutch casualty, thus far.

Van Harskamp also met with Paul Bremer, who made dropped in by helicopter yesterday to the military base outside Samawa, in Basra and in Hilla. He met with citizens and local and coalition officials, and expected the stops to be his last in the middle-Euphrates valley. In Hilla, which bestrides the ruins of Babylon, Bremer told Governor Waleed Aumran and provincial council members, "Across the country we now have 36 battalions of ICDC [the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps]. Between 75-80 percent are members of the former army."
I related a story, three days ago, from a woman who went to school with two of Saddam's daughters. I misidentified the younger daughter in the tale as Hala -- it was Rana. The girls were probably seven years old, and the year must've been 1978 or 1979.
Golden age, foreign forces and power
I've been saving the following e-mails, for an opportunity to respond more fully. I haven't had that chance, so I'll post the e-mails, now, and hope to have the time to add to my response, or, better yet, maybe Alaaddin from Holland will pitch in -- about the early Republican period, or other periods, or maybe even Dhiaa in London, through his daughter, Rania -- or Rania, herself, for that matter, or anybody else -- it's a party, come on in. David's e-mail, below, came on the heels of my response to his query, about which period Iraqis consider their "golden age," or ideal state. I wrote, then, that "what you hear about most, is the British-mandate period, before the anti-monarchy coup/revolution, and the Abbassid Dynasty, although that might be more myth than reality."
Date: 6/4/2004 8:33:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "David Levey"

How can you tell the electricity is about to go out?

Your analysis- it that truly reflects the desire of most Iraqis- not just the middle class or intelligencia- suggests that the happiest times for Iraqis is when they were ruled by others. The British created an environment where most people could go about their business, enforce laws that everyone lived by, increased trade and relationships with the outside world. Yet they took away the fundamental right to self-govern and replaced with a veneer of self governance at the highest level. They did not tolerate religious or other fanaticism and they put down pogroms.

What is the reaction of Iraqis to the British, I believe about 10,000 troops in the south? Do they wish them to return? Do they want to take lessons from them and apply them themselves? Is the kind of rule that resulted in this "golden age" something that can only be brought about from outside? It seems that the religious groups have simply taken advantage of a power vacuum- one that existed under Saddam and is exacerbated now. Do you get the impression that Sistani is intolerant of other religions/sects or wants a pluralistic, democratic, open country that is based on Koranic values?

Have you been able to collect any postal history stuff we discussed before you left? Just curious....


* * *
Date: 6/5/2004 10:28:15 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Hey, David,

First of all, I'm sorry about my brief response yesterday. When I'm going through e-mail, I move fast, without stopping to think, ruminate, on the topic, etc. I'm just trying to get through as much e-mail as I can, in the time I have left -- if I've left any time to myself.

There's a lot more to be said about the topic you opened -- the dream state, as far as Iraqis are concerned. I'll try to get back to it, ASAP. I was pretty glib in my response yesterday -- a little simplistic, and a bit rosy. Religious fervor is certainly not a goal, among the overwhelming majority of people -- they don't view it as part of their history. In fact, the terrorism now facing the country, and the suicide bombings, most people think, have nothing to do with Iraqis. It's sort of like how Iraqis see Saddam -- as an alien creature, from Mars or something -- and, certainly, as imposed by a foreign power, in particular, the United States. It is, of course, a way to evade responsiblity.

Gotta go. I'll write more, soon.

Oh -- nothing on the postal-material front.

As far as the electricity, when the national grid goes out, the generator kicks in. When I'm alone in the office, they don't leave the generator on -- just for me. I'm a guest in the office. So, when there's no electricity, I've got a few minutes till the internet connection goes off.

All right -- see you.
A couple of postscripts. The past couple of days, I started reading my friend Joseph Braude's brand-new book The New Iraq: Rebuilding the country for its people, the Middle East, and the world. The first three chapters deal with memory, and the narrative Iraqis have constructed for themselves about their history and country -- and their volk, too. He does this in a succinct, scholarly and flowing way. There is a lot of pride among Iraqis, in being "the cradle of civilization." I saw a banner the other day, part of which said something like, "Iraq, birthplace of religions." Iraqis are fiercely proud of all the empires and discoveries that came about here -- the Sumerians, writing, architecture.... I just went to an article I wrote, a while back, about the rebirth of Iraq, and I'm pasting here, a paragraph on Iraq's legacy -- to human civilization -- and its view of itself.
Iraq is, moreover, a country rich in human and natural resources – water, petroleum, dates and natural beauty – from its mountainous north to the vast marshes in the south (where people lived a watery existence for five thousand years), and the historic Tigris and Euphrates running between them. It’s also a country rich in history – “the cradle of civilization” – the site of the fabled Garden of Eden and arguably the birthplace of writing, literature (including the Epic of Gilgamesh, a precursor to other creation myths and the legend of the Flood), the dictionary, the city, sculpture, monuments, agriculture, irrigation, law, the Code of Hammurabi (“the first lawmaker”), legislatures, bureaucracy, temples, palaces, libraries, trade, credit, contracts, medicine, algebra, geometry, astronomy, the calendar, the week, philosophy, history, art, the potter’s wheel, schools, prayer, metallurgy, weaponry, armies, empire, cemeteries, furniture, music, architecture (including the arch, the dome, the vault, the courtyard, terraced roofs and colored tile), the Tower of Babel, recorded religion and mythology, the zodiac, the afterlife, Abraham (the father of monotheism and its first “prophet”), and the Babylonian Talmud.
So, there's no shortage of history to draw on, as a source for golden-gazing, silver-lining or other hues from the rainbow -- mostly red, though. However, again, there's more myth than reality, in the views of people and the history that's taught and handed down, orally, especially as it comes from a thousand years ago, at the least. Still, Iraqis do view themselves as inheritors of greatness, as rightfully at the head of the class -- and that applies to the sciences and the arts much more than it does to military and imperial power. Oftentimes, though, that translates into a lot of yearning, and high expectations that can never be achieved. Well, again, there's a lot more that can be said about all of this, but....

As for electricity, there's a schedule, wherein each area, I believe, gets so many hours on, then so many hours off. On top of that, people have their own generators, or tap into a neighbor's or a local vendor -- for when the national grid goes down. The number of hours the national grid is on, at a time, depends on how much electricity is being produced nationally and in each region, which, of course, is highly dependent on how much of the system gets destroyed by terrorists/saboteurs.

As for the British, I don't have an answer for you. There is a lot of talk that the British know what they're doing more than the Americans -- that they've got experience, etc. -- but a lot of that talk is also of the "Americans-as-bumpkins" and simpletons variety. Some of that, actually, is not demeaning, viewing Americans as too idealistic and naive, while Iraq needs more ruthlessness, conniving and cunning.

Let me hear from people out there -- about all of this.
Witness to a suicide bomber
Monday's car bombing that killed 13, including five foreign contractors, happened in the very center of Baghdad, one of the busiest parts of the city, and, thus, was witnessed by hundreds, if not thousands, of people. Among them were relatives of one of the guards who works here, at the Iraq Foundation, who, along with another guard, went to the site, a couple of hours after the explosion. Here's what they've passed on to me.

People saw two white SUVs parked by the side of the main street connecting SaaHet il-TaHreer (Liberation Square) and SaaHet al-Teyeraan (Airlines Square). There was only the driver in each car, each wearing a white dishdasha (the long traditional robe worn by men), a long beard and a white cloth wrapped around his forehead -- the typical look of the Wahhabi jihadist. The front windows of each car were open, and people heard and saw each man reading loudly, in the lyrical style, from a Qur'an in his hand. This went on for five to seven minutes. People passing by looked upon the scene with suspicion, but were too afraid to get involved. The rear windows of the cars were tinted.

As the foreign contractors' convoy of three SUVs got off the Republican Bridge, then made its way half way around the large roundabout that is Liberation Square, one of the two parked SUVs pulled out and left the scene. After the convoy exited Liberation Square's roundabout, and continued straight, into the main street connecting the two squares, the remaining SUV cut in, between them -- or smashed into one of the cars -- and blew up.

The guard's relatives who witnessed this, live on a side street, off the eastern side of the main street where the explosion happened. Their area is called Bettaween, which used to be a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. The east side of the main street on that block is occupied mostly by photo studios, the majority of which are owned by Armenians. (The large, old Armenian church is a bit up the road.) The studios and upper-floor apartments were badly damaged; one old building collapsed. Across the street is HadeeQet al-Umma (The Nation's Garden).

* * *

People also say that before the large explosions in early March that killed nearly 200 people in the main shrine mosques of Kerbela and Baghdad's Kadhumiyya, the bombers were heard to be praying aloud, but that they omitted parts of the prayers, so that they could not be identified as not Shi'a. Both mosques are Shi'a, and the occasion was for a Shi'a saint.

One of the Kerbela bombers, I wrote two months ago, didn't make it, and was picked up by Iraqi police. The Yemeni man was disappointed: "I had an appointment, to have lunch with the Messenger" [Islam's prophet, Muhammad].

* * *

The guard whose relatives recounted what happened Monday, was the same one who went to pick up a friend who was injured in yesterday's bombing at the army recruitment center. He also passed on, that at yesterday's bombing, an entire family -- of five or six -- perished in their car.
Missing parts

A friend from Cleveland, who'd organized a party for President Bush, asked me what I missed from America.
Date: 6/13/2004 7:05:02 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Hey, Karen,

.... Sounds like the party was good -- sorry I missed it. I do miss American politics, following all that stuff -- and TV, I guess, too -- but I'm just so busy, working all the time, I'm just so immersed in it, doing nothing but, that I haven't had time to miss anything. But if you ask -- if I think about it -- I miss going to movies, going out to concerts, whatever, just being able to go out, without having to worry, or others having to worry about me. It's not bad, hasn't hindered me that much -- except for not being able to travel around.

What else?

My trip to Lebanon, for a break, was vetoed -- relos afraid I might get kidnapped on the road out of the country. Then, I heard about a movie, every Wednesday morning, but the relos nixxed that, too -- at least for now, until the situation after the naming of the new government, blows over. I'm okay, though -- all things considered.

I plan to stay, for another month, then spend...a week in England, before heading back. So, I should be back, early to mid-August.

And, oh -- I miss baseball. I'm just glad I'll be back in time for the pennant run, and then the playoffs.

All right -- keep enjoying the work -- were there many layoffs? how did that go? and how's your new work different?

All right -- see you, Karen, and stay well.


* * *
Date: 6/16/2004 8:51:10 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Karen

Hello Ayad-

About the job....things are going very well now. We didn't have layoffs - actually we've added people. Now, I have a chance to have a role in something bigger than a small hometown company. I'll travel a little more - not too much, just enough to get away on occasion, and work on projects with other divisions. It will certainly be interesting! I welcome the change.

I was fascinated to read about your trip through the Republican Palace. Have you been able to take pictures of any of your adventures? I remember a while ago, you were encouraged not to do that. Has that changed at all?

I hope the transfer to the Iraqi people goes well this month.... Are your friends and family concerned about increased violence around that time? I pray things will be peaceful for you and your family.

So, another month and you'll head out?....

Talk to you soon,
I replied, in three e-mails:
Date: 6/17/2004 8:07:50 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Hi, Karen,

Glad to hear from you. So, where will you be traveling, for your job?

As to adding people to your company, I heard that the last three months, some 200-300,000 jobs have been added to the economy each month. How much play is that getting in the news? positive? much? And how are people's moods, as a result? Is there more up-beatness, generally speaking?

As for me, I didn't have a camera for a while -- looks like it dropped out of the side pocket of my computer bag, outside somewhere -- or, else, somebody from the office stole it. Well, I just got a replacement, and will start taking pictures again. I just got it, the day before my visit to the Republican Palace, and hadn't set it up yet -- learned how to use it. I hope I make another trip, and get to see Bremer, too -- for pix -- of all. As to taking other pictures, I've wondered. Like the one time, I saw those lighters for sale on the sidewalk, with pictures of Saddam on them -- I don't know how safe it would be, for me to take a picture of them -- out in public, on the street. I'll have to ask -- before I do -- although, there are a lot of people here who have digital cameras. Just the other day, there was a group who took a picture on the sidewalk, so...I don't know, I'll have to ask, including the other digital camers owners....

And, in rereading your e-mail -- shame I didn't take pictures at the palace yesterday. I hope there'll be another chance....

Well -- I guess that's about it. Take care, Karen. Congratulations on your new job, with expanded responsibilities, it sounds like, and enjoy the travel, and work.


* * *
Date: 6/17/2004 8:16:24 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Actually -- you know, I've been wanting to post some follow-up thoughts I had, to your question, in a previous e-mail, about what I missed from America.

After I wrote you -- that I'm just too busy, too immersed in my work, to "miss" -- to have time to miss -- and I probably also mentioned baseball, and maybe being able to go out -- to a movie, to a restaurant, concert, etc. -- and being able to go out without fear, to be able to put my head down -- well, afterwards, I thought of a few other things. The other things I miss are: sexuality -- being able to flirt, openly, and that sex is talked about, in public, on the air -- sexiness; also, being able to talk openly, heart-to-heart, with women, or, for that matter, with most anyone; and I miss hugging.

Those are some of the things missing here -- terribly lacking.

All right -- see you -- thought I'd pass those along, to the person who instigated that topic. Good, for your inquiring mind, Karen. Adios.

* * *
Date: 6/17/2004 8:21:51 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Oh, yeah -- another of your questions -- that I didn't answer.

Yes, people are worried about the June 30 period -- before and after -- that there will be a lot of violence, a lot of attacks, by the terrorists -- in the next couple of weeks, and in the weeks and months after. They're gonna try to really wreck the government, and, in the process, or, rather, by, wrecking the country. A cousin of mine, who was involved in the rebuilding of the electricity network after the Kuwait war, was quoted in the New York Times recently, that if the new government isn't able to deliver electricity, gas and water, it'll fail. So, it looks like the terrorists are thinking the same thing.

Okay -- see you, Karen. Your e-mails always provide a lot of grist for the mill -- thanks.
A little New-Iraq humor
What's the difference between the old president and the new?

WaaHid nafTi, wil-laakh ghazi.

Of course, as all comics know, it's not gonna be the same, if you need to translate it. It's a play on the name of the new president, Ghazi, which in colloquial means gaseous or another adjectival form of gas, such as "runs on gas." NafTi is the adjectival form of nafuT, which means oil or petroleum. Appliances, such as space heaters and stoves, run on one or the other. I told you it was "a little humor," as in for schoolkids.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Zarqawi in the news -- and in Falluja?
Senior U.S. defense officials told Fox News that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is most likely operating from Falluja. The information apparently came from interrogations with Zarqawi associate Umar Baziyani, who was picked up by Iraqi police on June 4.

Baziyani reportedly told interrogators that Zarqawi "has been and is still operating out of Fallujah," and that he plans to ramp up violence and attacks on coalition forces leading up to the June 30 handover of power to Iraqis.

Zarqawi is blamed or has taken credit for many attacks in Iraq, the latest being today's attack on an army recruiting center in Baghdad, killing at least 35 and wounding at least 138 others; a car bomb, Monday, that killed 13 in Baghdad, including three General Electric employees and two other foreign contractors; and attacks last week outside a U.S. military base and an ambush that killed four employees of an American security company. The CIA said it believes that Zarqawi, himself, slaughtered Nicholas Berg for a video camera last month.

In a letter intercepted in January, Zarqawi took credit for 25 attacks in Iraq. Those included the bombings last August of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and a mosque in Najaf, plus an Italian police headquarters in Nasiriyya last November. He was convicted, and sentenced to death, in absentia, for organizing the assassination of U.S. aid worker Laurence Foley in Amman in 2002.

Zarqawi was reportedly sent by bin Laden to Iraq in the mid-nineties to get training in the use and preparation of chemical weapons. He is believed to have operated in Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Pakistan and Kuwait, and plotted attacks against France, Britain, Italy, Germany and Russia, including with chemicals and poisons.

The State Department and counterterrorism agencies are said to be considering raising the reward for information leading to the death or capture of Zarqawi from $10 million to $25 million, matching the figures for Usama bin Laden, Ayman Dhawahiri and Saddam Hussein. Last week, U.S. planes in Iraq dropped leaflets of the reward.

AP relayed two days ago a letter from Zarqawi to bin Laden that appeared on an Islamic web-site, in which he reported that his fighters in Iraq were being squeezed by coalition troops. The statement, titled "The text of al-Zarqawi's message to Usama bin Laden about holy war in Iraq," appeared on web-sites that have recently carried claims of responsibility for attacks in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

"The space of movement is starting to get smaller," it said. "The grip is starting to be tightened on the holy warriors' necks and, with the spread of soldiers and police, the future is becoming frightening." The statement said the militant movement in Iraq is racing against time to form battalions that can take control of the country "four months before the formation of the promised Iraqi government, hoping to spoil their plan." That timeframe apparently refers to the government that would take over after elections scheduled for no later than next January.

Calling Iraqi soldiers and police "the occupier's eye, ear and hand," the statement said: "We are planning on targeting them heavily in the coming stage before they are fully in control." If the militants fail to take over Iraq, "we will have to leave for another land to uphold the [Islamic] banner, or until God chooses us as martyrs."

The nine-page statement also assessed the militants' record in Iraq, claiming 25 homicide operations targeting majority Shiites, American and Iraqi forces, and other coalition troops. "What is coming will be more, God willing."

To bin Laden's al-Qa'ida, the letter said: "We are not competing with you. We just want to be the head of the spear, a bridge by which the [Islamic] community can cross to victory."

The statement put the movement's enemies into four categories: Americans, Kurds, Iraqi police and soldiers, and Shi'as, of whom it says: "If we succeed in dragging them into sectarian war, we could wake up the Sunnis." Last year, U.S. intelligence intercepted a 17-page letter allegedly from Zarqawi to bin Laden in which Zarqawi said the best way to undermine U.S. plans for Iraq was to instigate civil war between Shi'as and Sunnis.

Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi visited the scene of this morning's blast and described it as a "cowardly attack.... We are going to face these escalations," he said. "The Iraqi people are going to prevail and the government of Iraqi is determined to go ahead in confronting the enemies, whether they are here in Iraq or whether they are anywhere else in the world."
The Iraq-Hawken connection
My old friend John Ettorre, who works for my high school, including its alumni magazine, put together a piece about me and my work on Iraq -- as they relate to the school's motto of "fair play." I know -- it's classic nepotism, but, hey,.... He asked me for a picture to go with the article, so I scanned and e-mailed him the portrait I had taken here, in my effort to get an Iraqi ID. The photo wasn't of a high-enough resolution for the magazine, so John said they were going to use a photo from Iraq taken by another Hawken School alumnus. "What are you talking about -- a Hawken grad shooting in Iraq? Who's that? where is he? who's he working with?" My graduating class had 87 students. John's answer:
Date: 6/16/2004 3:26:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "John Ettorre"

It's pretty wild. He's an independent who seems to shoot for everybody
from Reuters to the L.A. Times and everyone in between. You'll find
some answers at his website:


He's pretty fast about responding to emails, so buzz him. You'll also
find some of his work by doing a search on his name at
[I've done the search].

But the Hawken-Iraq connection hardly ends there. The third leg in the
triple crown is an amazing 39-year-old Hawken grad I've also just
written about, L.A.-based Evan Wright, who is with Rolling Stone, and
whose three-part series on his time embedded with the Marine's First
Recon division won a National Magazine Award and has now been turned
into a book which debuts any day now. I've pasted that story below:
Evan Wright '83 First Book Receives Critical Acclaim
Hawken Grad's Haunting Narrative on Iraq War Redefines the

As Rolling Stone magazine's unofficial "ambassador to the underbelly,"
journalist Evan Wright is the spiritual successor to a pair of infamous
writers who earlier served in that role: "gonzo" journalist Hunter S.
Thompson and humorist P.J. O'Rourke.

While his byline may not be quite as instantly recognizable as theirs,
give him time: the 39-year-old Wright has just written his first book,
Generation Kill (G.P. Putnam's Sons), which is winning wide praise for
its skillful use of language in depicting the battle for Iraq. The trio
of his articles that led to the book had also won a coveted National
Magazine Award (just a short notch below the Pulitzer prize on the
journalism Richter scale), beating out formidable entrants from the New
Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly and Time magazine.

Despite the accident of his Rolling Stone lineage, Wright's personal
reference point is neither the hard-drinking, hard-living Thompson nor
the savage-penned Toledo native O'Rourke. "First of all, I don't even
drink," says the Los Angeles-based writer. Instead, his writing hero is
a gentler type--the New Yorker's late stylist and longtime press
critic, A.J. Liebling. "He hung out with boxers and hustlers and
crooked politicians, and (in the resulting articles he wrote about
them) he let them speak in their own voices."

Wright took his time finding his own voice. He says he was a "troubled kid" during grade school and high school, not so much emotionally, but because reading books was all he cared about for many years. Today, he says, "I didn't like deadlines. I felt they were beneath me." In a recent note to one of his Hawken teachers, he said: "You should be proud as you and other teachers really did this rare thing and educated me (as much as I am educable). I'm not sentimental about Hawken the way some alums might be. I disliked a lot of things about it and that time in my life. But even with my critical view of things, you guys did a hell of a job."

In any event, the Vassar graduate had the kind of splendidly scattershot early career that's particularly helpful for a fledgling writer. He spent a year after college teaching English in Japan before moving to Los Angeles. For the next four years he was variously unemployed, working odd jobs and "telemarketing bogus computer supplies." By 1995, though, he had latched on to a unique position: as entertainment editor for Hustler Magazine. During that time, he also began freelancing for a number of publications, including Rolling Stone, which he had joined as a staff member by 2001.

In March 2003, he went to Iraq, where he was embedded with the Marine's First Recon battalion. That meant he wasn't just any reporter traveling with any unit: He was literally on the leading edge of the coalition army invading Iraq. "Everybody was shooting every kind of weapon at us. My Humvee had 23 bullet holes in it, and as one Marine pointed out, 10 were in my door." That vehicle was later destroyed by a rocket-propelled grenade. "I expected to die every day," he says.

Wright's Iraq experience forms the basis of Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America and the New Face of American War. With remarkable skills, Wright is widely being credited with presenting what is perhaps the most realistic, penetrating, and moving portrayal in any medium of the actual experiences of America's soldiers during the battle for Iraq. His work is catching the attention of the book world and HBO, which is now at work on a screenplay based on his Rolling Stone articles that led to the book.

Wright calls his Iraq experience "the ideal assignment." As a student at Hawken, he recalls, "I was really more interested in history than in English." He loved to study ancient battles, whether they were embedded in his history textbook or in the plays of William Shakespeare. "So to be in the lead vehicle of the invasion of Mesopotamia was so historical that I couldn't pass it up, no matter how dangerous. Being in the lead vehicle was kind of the culmination of my education. I knew that if I lived, something socially useful would come out of it."
Then, John told me that Wright has an op-ed piece in today's New York Times, in advance of the release of his book.

As for me and John, you can read a bit about our relationship -- and the Garage Door Baseball League -- in his blog, Working With Words.
Today's blast scene
A guard who arrived at the office a few minutes ago, was at the scene of the big bombing this morning. He'd received a call on behalf of a friend of his who was injured in the blast, which occurred a few minutes before nine o'clock. My friend arrived at the blast site, to see bodies and body parts scattered all over the street. His friend had some shrapnel go through his arm. My friend took him and a friend of his, to the hospital. The men were at the site, at the old Muthanna airport, to apply for work, in particular, for a training program for former engineers in the Iraqi air force, which both were. They were, they said, among 500-600 who arrived to apply for the program, and work. Rather than 35 people killed, the guard's friend said, the figure was, in fact, 150. He was dazed, when my friend arrived, and had been unconscious. My friend saw a taxi driver, head slumped forward, in his Kia van -- he'd been waiting outside the complex for passengers from among the departing applicants. Warning: the rest of the paragraph is grisly. My friend saw someone pull the man's head back -- his throat had been slit by shrapnel.

The applicants for the training and employment, were waiting outside the gates of the airport, when the Nissan pickup truck rammed into the crowd and exploded. According to my friend, the applicants have to wait outside the complex, until their names are called.
Bremer farewell tour
Today is the first day of the last fortnight of Paul Bremer's life in Iraq. In 13 days, the civil administrator is to hand over power to an interim Iraqi government. Yesterday, Bremer bid farewell to workers at the agriculture ministry, telling them it would be his last trip there.
Blast kills 25 soldiers, injures 80
A car bomb exploded outside an army recruiting center this morning, killing at least 25 people and wounding upwards of 80. I was in bed when the explosion happened, the biggest and closest I've heard -- it sounded like it was from next door. I was startled by it, looked at the clock at my bedside -- 8:55. I listened to my aunt's fearful tone outside my room, and waited to hear any news -- then went back to sleep. When I got up, after noon, my uncle said the explosion was near the old Muthanna Airport, near the Bunniyya Mosque, where I attended a wake with him, several weeks ago. Soldiers were collecting their pay, my aunt said, and that 30 were killed and 50, wounded. In the office, I just looked at a map, with a couple of co-workers here, and it looks like no more than two kilometers away, less than a mile and a half -- next to Zawraa' Park. This morning, according to the wire report, the bomb-laden vehicle was an SUV, it was loaded with artillery shells, and the car rammed into the crowd outside the recruiting center. Several months ago, police and army recruiting centers, or places where officers collected their pay, were favorite targets of terrorists.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

One of the great things about being in Saddam's Republican Palace today, was seeing all those American soldiers walking around -- in Saddam's house. He can't be too thrilled about that.
Iraqi police begin training with FBI and DEA
A group of 25 Iraqi police officers began a 10-day course in criminal intelligence training, Sunday, with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The course, at a training facility in the Green Zone, is the first of four, over the next two months. The students are assigned to the intelligence unit of the interior ministry.

According to the Coalition Provisional Authority,
Criminal intelligence training typically consists of instruction in the forms of organized crime, political corruption, terrorism and includes information on file handling, data collection, analysis techniques, intelligence source and data evaluation, and intelligence information sharing. Other areas of instruction normally cover cash scams and money laundering crimes.
Blood is thicker than blood

Yesterday, one of my uncles asked me to write an e-mail to his brother, my father. The message asks my father to send money to help with one of their nephews. This cousin, I don't believe, I've ever met. The important thing about him is that he either gave the order to kill an uncle, supervised the kidnapping, torture and killing of his uncle, or carried it out, himself. The killing happened 26 years ago, in the midst of the anarchy of the Lebanese civil war, and was over family inheritence. The uncle was young -- 36 -- the youngest of his siblings, a lot of fun and the most-loved. Not only did I love him, I love his three children, who were robbed of their father, and I adore his grandchildren, who were robbed of a grandfather. I don't want to be an errand boy in the tribe's blood-money game, nor do I want to be the bearer of such distressing news to my father. My father has often been asked to support the man who killed his brother. Whenever he's called on to do this, he gets irritated and depressed for days. Years ago, when this nephew/cousin sought to emigrate to North America, my father contacted the FBI, and asked them to keep him out of the country. The tribe argues that the cousin is mentally ill.
The essence of evil
I've been rereading the novel Perfume, by Patrick Süskind. I brought it with me for a friend, but I haven't seen him, plus...wanted to read something other than politics. It's an exquisite work, about the heart of darkness, or lack thereof. A must read -- you'll get hooked.
Broadcasting board of governors completed
Yesterday, the Coalition Provisional Authority announced completion of the board of governors of the Iraqi broadcasting service, along with a financial committee. The members of the board are:
Mr. Kan’an Makiya: Architect, academic & writer of international renown, scholar-in-residence at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University. Founder of the Memory Foundation.

Mr. Kamran Karadaghi: Broadcaster & journalist, currently serving out his term as deputy head of Radio Free Iraq.

Ms. Lina Abood Karim: Physician, obstetrician, and teacher. She is a member of the Iraqi Women’s League, and the Al Nahda Association for Women.

Mrs. Jinan Nasret Al Kaysi: Academic, educationalist and human rights activist. Advisor with the Ministry of Education and a specialist teacher for children with learning disability.

Mr. Hadi Aziz Ali: Senior lawyer, former member of the constitutional preparatory committee.

Mr. Walid Khaddouri: Economist, Oil & Gas industry analyst, Editor in Chief of the Middle East Economic Survey, based in Cyprus.

Sayyid Ayad Jamal al-Din: Cleric from Nassiriyah.

Mr. Hiwa Osman: TV Journalist, former BBC Newsnight reporter, trainer and editor with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in Baghdad.

An international member is to be named soon.
The financial committee is comprised of:
Mr. Izzidin Salim Bahrani: Lawyer and head of private audit firm, former deputy governor of the central bank, member of the Iraq supervisory audit board.

Mr. Adel Al Hasson: President of the association of chartered accountants of Iraq, former financial advisor to Iraqi airways.

Mr. Jonathan Thompson (ex-officio): Director of communications and planning, CPA Program Management Office.
Mr. Jalal al Mashta was appointed first director general of the Iraqi Media Network's Public Service Broadcaster. The former editor-in-chief of Al-Nahdhah newspaper, he is a seasoned print, radio & TV journalist & media manager for, among others, the BBC, LBC, Swiss Radio, Al-Hayat, and Abu Dhabi TV. With an MA in journalism and a PhD in political science, he is also a linguist and has translated over 30 titles on literature & philosophy.

More, from the CPA press release:
The aim of the IMN PSB, the country’s central public broadcasting service, is to provide the public, whether within Iraq or its Diaspora community, with diverse and distinct broadcasting services that educate, entertain and inform. The PSB is a fully independent service, free from political or other control, undue influence, interference, or pressure from governmental, political, or other external forces....

[T]he IMN PSB shall be developed as a platform for reflecting and fostering the varied values, cultures and languages of Iraq; it shall further serve as an open forum for promoting freedom of expression, debate, and respect for human and individual rights....

The immediate priority of the Board is to develop, and present for public consultation, a comprehensive charter defining the obligations and aims of the PSB with regard to programming and operations, and expanding on its pledge to the people of Iraq as to what is expected of the PSB in return for public funds to finance its operations; the Board shall also begin urgent consultations to draft a public service broadcasting law for Iraq. The Board shall also develop its statute and internal procedures and make these known to the public.
My friend Alaaddin, who's been hoping to make it here from Holland for the past three months:
Date: 6/15/2004 8:03:22 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"

Dear Ayad:

.... Anyway, I spent this past weekend a great deal of time talking to my family in Iraq and spoke to my eldest brother (in Germany) and the opinion was a firm 'no' to my visit to Iraq. I was pretty disappointed but I asked the 4 eldest relatives in Iraq to sit and examine every (security) aspect and the risks involved for all and take a vote. I should know by tomorrow how the vote went (which I doubt it will be any different from previous reservations). Therefore, I took a tentative decision. I am taking a 2 weeks holiday in France and Switzerland starting July 5. When I get back I will see if the situation has improved and make the trip to Iraq in August. Unfortunately, I will be missing 14 July unofficial celebrations. I still hope to see some elder former politicians & officers. If the situation is still bad, we will take another holiday in northern or eastern Germany. I am quite angry at what is taking place in Iraq. What follows is a message I sent to a number of friends:

I may speak for all of you when I say I have difficulty keeping my temper under control when I see on the news this senseless carnage taking place in Iraq. Regardless of any disagreement I have with those in charge of Iraq right now, I truly do not understand what purpose does it serve to kill fellow Iraqis (policemen or otherwise). Nor do I understand why would anyone go on destroying government or private property. Nor do I understand why would anyone kill those who are trying to restore electric power or establish telecommunication lines. Anyone who does these things wants to have a lawless country with no police to protect people and property, wants people to remain where they are (if not go backward), make no progress and have no respect for human life at all. These bestial creatures want to keep Iraqis living in hell. This is no resistance to occupation but criminal gangs that must be dealt with harshly.

Take care,


* * *
Date: 6/16/2004 1:04:07 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Hi, Alaa,

I understand your situation -- if I haven't already said so, in response to a previous e-mail -- e-mails -- about the neighbors, etc. It sounds like you're being watched -- people know you, etc. That's completely different. If you're here, as I was just talking with somebody, a few minutes ago, you have to keep a very low profile....

Thanks, buddy. It is really disgusting -- of course -- but the killing and destruction is just a continuation of past policies -- nothing's changed -- at least, that hasn't -- their intentions towards the country.

See you.
Slaves and masters
Yesterday, at the interior ministry, I told Captain Khdhayyir that they can keep their slave mentality. It's not only the titles, although that's bad enough. The guards often call me sayyidi, which literally means "my master," although they may be using it as a simple "Mr." They have been in the military, though, and have that military chain of command drilled into them, although the whole society seems to, as witnessed by my dealings at the interior ministry, and my cousin's advice to cowtow to the officers there, to get something done. It isn't only the titles, though. The dealings of superiors and subordinates, parents and children, not only leave a lot to be desired, they're practically servile. The wife and offspring often have to cower and tiptoe before the moods of the husband/father. Employees have to be totally obsequious, and grateful for the slightest gesture. Yelling and abuse is to be expected -- by a wife from a husband, employee from an employer or superior, children from parents. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm sure I'll have more to say, about this.

A step in the right direction came from Iraq's new president. In his talk the other day to 150 people gathered at the Iraqi embassy in Washington, Ghazi il-Yawer said President Bush asked him how he'd like to be called -- "Mr. President?" asked George Bush. Yawer declined, and asked to be called simply as "Shaykh Ghazi," as he's "one of the citizens of the country." Of course, this is also a step back from the deification of leaders that's endemic and historic to the Arab world -- part -- an essence -- of the problem the region faces.
IDs and government dealings
Something that boggles the mind of Iraqis, and I got this, again, yesterday, with my cousin who took me to the interior ministry, is that we don't have to walk around with an ID in America. "Well, what if the police stop you?" "Why should he stop me? Who's he to stop me?" Later, he asked me if I'm treated the same as an American, who's American abben 'ann jid (father and grandfather). I said, yeah -- no difference. Of course, it's a matter of attitude, I added, but for me, no difference. I also told him that we have very few occasions when have to deal with the government. Practically the only time is when we have to pay taxes -- once a year -- or when we get into trouble with the law, as I often do, behind the wheel. That's in contrast to his exasperated explanation to me -- because I'd grown impatient with my efforts to get an Iraqi ID -- that no transaction here is easy.
Back to the palace

Just as we were leaving the Republican Palace this afternoon, so was Paul Bremer, the American ambassador who's governing Iraq till the end of June. My friend pointed out that his translator was leaving the building, in the distance, and a couple of Bremer's convoy of black SUVs were moving. I put on my "WE GOT HIM" baseball cap, which I'd brought down from the car just in case I got a chance to meet him. I've been wanting to meet him, give him a tip of the hat, and get a picture taken with him. Well, it looks like he'd already boarded his car, and as a pair of the black SUVs approached us, I doffed my cap, and pointed at the wording. The windows on the cars were tinted and I couldn't see inside. So, who knows. My friend had earlier met with one of his advisers, his speechwriter, and was invited to lunch at his home, so...I may have missed a couple of chances, but may yet have some chances, still.

The front of the Republican Palace curves outwards to the sides, and is, in length, at least two football fields, if not three. As we walked along, I said, "Poor George," with such a little place. Plus, he's only got one.

The large hall used for a cafeteria has four marble palm trees on each wall, and a very high ceiling. Indians from Kellogg Brown and Root cooked and served the hot food and cut the cake, which was pretty good. I might be heading back, tomorrow.

While in the palace, I asked about three people I know who work there -- one soldier and two Iraqi Americans -- all with the CPA. For the soldier, I was directed to the computer room, where I could sign in, and look up where he's stationed. I couldn't sign, I guess, because I wasn't associated with any contractor. I'll have to try, again. The two Iraqi Americans I know, were both away, I was told.

I wrote down the six sayings of Saddam inscribed in the marble above the doors connecting the hallway to the cafeteria and to Saddam's grand reception room. I'll translate those, and pass them on, as soon as possible. There's one about making your voice heard, even if you're absent from the battlefield or workplace. Another urges not oppressing another. Others advise fair judgment, tying the brain and the conscience to the tongue, not ignoring nor believing all that people say, and siezing the rare opportunity rather than the one offered.

Below one of Saddam's sayings, in the center of the passageway, painted on the wall were the Twin Towers, an eagle with its wings spread out beneath the towers and the stars-and-stripes on its head. Above the towers is a banner reading "Thank God for the Coalition Forces & Freedom Fighters at Home and Abroad." On the four corners of the painting are the seals of the four armed forces services, and to the sides of the towers are the seal of the New York Police Department and red clover-leaf of the Fire Department of New York.

Throughout, Saddam's initials are carved into the walls, under the countless chandeliers, painted on the woodwork of the latticed hanging balconies.

The headline I used in my previous post about the palace, "Na Vrad," is the slogan Czechs have been chanting for centuries, the last time, 15 years ago, hailing Vaclav Havel to head "to the palace." Well, that's the way I remember it. I checked the preposition, and I'm trying to find out the second word -- the name of the medieval palace overlooking the city.
Na Vrad

I'm in Saddam's house -- but don't tell anybody.

I've been here, for a couple of hours -- big difference, from the interior ministry. A friend arrived in town yesterday, who's done a lot of work with the U.S. government -- on education -- and been politically active. She's probably better protection than any Iraqi ID -- she's veiled, carries a U.S. passport, and is tough as nails -- was an organizer in the March 1991 uprisings. She took me to the U.S. consulate, to sign in, something I've wanted to do, since I arrived here. At the Convention Center, where the U.S. consulate is located, there's also a window for Royal Jordanian Airlines, and I have a reservation today, from Amman to Detroit, which I think I'll have to change. The woman behind the window said they couldn't do it there, that I didn't have to do anything, and told me the airline has an office in the Palestine Hotel and gave me their phone numbers. Then, we headed to the Republican Palace. We had to do a lot of walking -- roadblocks are a lot more extensive than they used to be, my friend and companions said, requiring people to park a lot farther away from the buildings. The Convention Center is right across the street from the Rasheed Hotel, which I'd been to, in 1989. I wanted to go in, to see what'd happened to the George H.W. Bush mosaic on the floor as one entered the hotel. Didn't have a chance.

Once at the Republican Palace -- and all of this is in the Green Zone, my first time there -- and, of course, I made use of my American passport for the first time -- got checked a few times, at checkpoints, along the way -- while in the car and on foot. At the entrance to the Palace, CPA headquarters, I was told I needed a badge. So, we -- my friend and I -- my friend has a contractor badge, and can get me a visitor's pass -- we went back to the front gate, where they'd give me a badge. Well, that was a good thing, actually, despite the walk in the heat. Before we'd pulled into the driving lot, we saw a Green Zone Bazaar, a street market, for, I suppose, people who work and/or live there. The Green Zone encompasses a huge part of Baghdad. We -- my family and I -- as well as most of my aunts and uncles -- lived in a house in Karradat Maryam, which is now part of the Green Zone. The house has probably long-since been torn down, but the big blue-green hospital down the road should still be there. The soldiers at the front gate of the palace took my passport, and gave me a badge, and in we went. And there I was, inside Saddam's grounds. Actually, on the drive in, we approached an arch, à la Paris's Arc de Triomphe, atop which was a replica of the Dome of the Rock, from Jerusalem, and I think that's called the Jerusalem Gate. The palace, itself, is huge -- the frontage goes on for at least two football fields, and is curved out to the sides. The four giant busts of Saddam that sat atop the palace are gone, but the building is still there, in all its glory.

We were very thirsty by then, and we'd left my friend's two companions -- her driver and guard -- at the side gate, to go in and have lunch. We joined them. In what must be the central hall, there is now an open cafeteria. Two lines on the left side serve hot food. In the middle is a salad bar, and all of this is for free -- of course, for those working for CPA, I suppose. The majority were Iraqis, which, my companions said, was the reverse of a year ago, when most were American soldiers and foreign contractors. Now, they said, three-quarters were Iraqi. I saw New Zealanders, heard Italian, and passed by the Nepalese and Fijians who stand guard almost everywhere. The hall featured sixteen marble palm trees on the walls. While my friend met with old acquaintances, I toured around a bit, with her guard and driver. We went into Saddam's main reception room, the one with the mural of the Scuds with Allahu Akbar written on them, across the grand hall from a mural of the Dome of the Rock. On the domed ceiling were paintings of horses, ascending into the skies -- they may have even been winged, which would link Saddam with Islam's prophet, who ascended a winged white horse to heaven from the rock in Jerusalem atop which was built the Dome of the Rock. (That rock is, of course, the same one that Abraham was going to slay his son on, as God had commanded; the son is Ishmael (Isma'il) for Moslems; Isaac (IsHaaq), for Jews and Christians.) The master's throne was gone, as were all the sofas and other chairs around the perimeter of the room. The room, in fact, was being divided by wooden partitions, and we didn't linger, although I would've liked to. In fact, its doors used to be open, for all to see. Well, I should amend that -- not all, but those with access to the building, and premises. Of course, in the past -- in Saddam's times -- nobody had access, and those that had come for visits, over the past year, often were terrified of the site, not to mention the main hall and Saddam's throne. In the hallway connecting those two rooms, were 10 or so of Saddam's sayings.

All right -- my friend has returned, so I'll post this, without proofreading it. To be completed, and amended, later. Adios.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


I forgot cherries, among the fruits juice bars here use to make drinks. Because of seasonal scarcity and high prices, their extract, like oranges, are on the more expensive side.
On his return to Iraq from a six-day trip to the United States, President Ghazi il-Yawer spoke to the press today, in English and Arabic. Some excerpts, first, what he said about the Baghdad location being used by the coaltion, which many expect will become the U.S. embassy:
There is no talk of inviting the United States to keep the republican palace as an embassy supplement....We asked that the republican palace be vacated in the fastest opportunity for us to use it as Iraqis, as a republican palace or a museum. Whatever we do with it is a matter for Iraqi sovereignty. It is a symbol of Iraqi sovereignty.
Then, with regard to the handover and trial of Saddam, and Muqtada a-Sadir's integration into the political process:
Even President Bush himself was asking me when are we going to be able to handed over the ex-president Saddam Hussein. The United States is very keen to hand over the ex-president to the Iraqi authorities. We must first make sure that we can maintain protection for his life until he goes to trial. We must make sure that the trial goes as a legal process, he has his own fair chance of defense and the government has its own chance of expressing charges on him. We have an excellent credible judiciary system.
We are different than him. He used to put sentences up front to the people. We don't do that. We are civilized people. This is the new democracy in Iraq. We must make sure that he gets a fair trail.

Concerning the second part of the question about Sayyed Moqtada. I think this is a very smart move of him. I kept on saying consistently that if I were in his shoes I would try to go to the political arena instead of raising arms. He has supporters, he has constituents, he should go through the political process and I commend this smart move on his side.
About Sadir facing legal proceedings:
First of all, in the new Iraq nobody is above the law. However, he is not convicted, his name has been brought as a suspect in a certain incident. So he has to make sure he clears himself. This is step number one. This is for his own sake. Second, it is not true that ex-militia leaders cannot go to a political parties. Most of the new leadership in Iraq were ex-militia leaders but they are disbanding their militias, they are becoming Iraqi leaders and he can do the same. It is never too late for anybody in Iraq. But most important, nobody is above the law, nobody uses violence as means of expressing his views. This is impossible. This is unacceptable.
Finally, with regard to the security situation:
The top priority of the interim government is regaining security in Iraq and rehabilitating Iraqi security institutions. This is our top priority. Without security we cannot accomplish a democratic life, we cannot accomplish elections, we cannot rebuild the country, we cannot do any work considered development. This is very important to us. But things do not happen overnight. Of course, the increase in political assassinations and bombings target the Iraqi people. The victims of this assassinations are all qualified Iraqis, with no political leanings.

The martyr Bassam Kubba, god have mercy on him, worked night and day for a month to get a resolution from the Security Council that would return sovereignty to Iraq. He came back happy with his work and this is what he met. These are enemies of the Iraqi people. They target the Iraqi people....

Those who carry out these actions are the ones that lengthen the stay of the friendly foreign forces because they make us need this.  What is important to us is that Iraqis can send their children to school without fearing that they will not come back to them.  We want Iraqis to live with security, with electricity, with services. They deprive the Iraqi people of this.  We are doing the opposite and god willing the Iraqis will act with one hand to rebuild their country.
Oil minister: $16 billion in revenues this year

According to Iraqi Oil Minister Thamir Ghadhban, despite the acts of sabotage against pipelines and other facilities, revenue from oil this year will exceed $16 billion. The news item appeared in Sunday's Al-Nahdhah, which relayed it from The Financial Times.
I know, I know, yesterday was not the sixth anniversary of the announcement of the capture of Saddam, but, to me, counting the days, each day's a holiday, when Saddam's not in charge. I should've also added, "Mr. Prisoner 00000001," to "Mr. President." Officially, it was the half-anniversary of the announcement.

In today's Al-Mu'tamar, there's a news item that International Red Cross spokesperson Nadia Doumani has asked for Saddam to be released, as he has not been charged with a crime. On the BBC web-site, she's quoted as saying: "If he is not charged, then the law says that at the end of war, of occupation, he should be released." How about being number four on the all-century hit parade -- behind Stalin, Hitler and Mao? And not a happy tune, that, either.

There is a bit of a dispute, about whether the U.S. government/coalition will hand him, and other top-regime figures, over to the new Iraqi government, before June 30, the date on which sovereignty is to be transferred. Prime Minister Ayad Allawi told Al-Jazeera television last night, "The handover will take place within the next two weeks." Pentagon officials say they don't know of any arrangements. The head of the special Iraqi war crimes tribunal, Salem Chalabi, told Agence France Presse that Iraq would "very shortly" have the proper facilities to detain Saddam, that the Iraqi authorities were preparing to issue arrest warrants for the former rulers, and that the coalition would hand the prisoners over, "provided we show arrest warrants based on reasonable grounds." A State Department official said, "If the Iraqis are going to push on it, we are not going to push back."

And yesterday, I saw a news item on the web about Saddam's daughter Raghad wanting to return to Iraq. In an interview with the London-based Saudi magazine Sayyidati, 36-year-old Raghad was asked if she misses Iraq. "Yes, if I have a chance I'll go back faster than you would imagine."

"I'm not afraid of death, but of scandal," she told the magazine from Amman. When asked to elaborate, she said, "To happen like what happened in Abu Ghraib prison." She was referring to the abuse of Iraqi detainees by American soldiers.

Speaking of Saddam's daughters, a woman I met recently went to elementary school with Hala Saddam Hussein [correction: Rana, not Hala]. Saddam's wife was the principal of the school. The girls were eight [correction: might have been seven], and friendly with each other. My friend was holding a cucumber, when Hala [Rana, not Hala] came over. Before she could take ahold of the offered cucumber, older sister Raghdad intervened. She took her sister aside, and told her she could get one later, when they got home. Oh, to be a dictator's daughter. This was in the mid-seventies, when Saddam was vice president. [Correction: this should have been in the 1978-79 school year, just before Saddam grabbed the presidency.]

Finally, speaking of the royal family, recently, the popular Lebanese singer Nawal Zoghby was reportedly more than an hour late for a public concert in Amman. Her security men purportedly told inquirers that she'd been held up, because Saddam's daughters and wife had asked for a private concert. News agencies report that the mother and one of the daughters are in Qatar.
Back to the interior ministry

My cousin, one of a few people who've promised they could help me get an ID, knew somebody in the interior ministry. He called me last night, and said the family friend wanted to see my file, and see what he could do. I didn't want to go through the whole rigmarole, again -- just wanted a straight answer -- can the person do it, or not. I'd given my cousin my file and thought he'd be able to show it to his friend, and get an answer. Anyway, I agreed to go. So, my cousin picked me up this morning, and back we went -- well, back, I went -- it's this cousin's first time with me.

It's funny, when you're joined by somebody, especially a relative, who's offered to help -- they take over your case, make it theirs, push themselves hard, becomes even more invested in it than you are, as if to show how much they're working on your behalf. They speak for you, they run around, from room to room, from officer to officer, making their arguments, exerting themselves, and keeping at it, trying one more thing, one more time, back to that official, one more time, another time around, with the same dead argument. That's the way of the tribe.

Which reminds me:

You know you've been in the Arab world too long, when:

You feel like saying, Enough already, give it a rest! -- to all the pleas to eat more, drink more, have more of this, you didn't try that, you didn't eat anything, are you sure you don't want something to drink, with the accompanying threats to be cross with you if you don't. For chrissake, enough already! I've eaten, and I don't want no more!

* * *

So, at the interior ministry we went to my cousin's acquaintance, who consulted another person, in the very dark ground-floor corridor. I wasn't much involved -- they did all the talking. The two officials kept asking us to wait; I'd hat it with waiting -- I just wanted a straight answer -- yes or no. In the meantime, I went upstairs, to see if the man who'd looked at my case before, who'd said my case only lacked a stamped photo, to complete the deal -- to see if he was there. He would be my backup, or even my front-up. He was in his office. I returned to my cousin. I picked myself up and sat on a counter. My cousin joined me. Finally, his acquaintance asked us to leave my papers with him, and he'd see what he could do. I didn't want to leave my papers, wait more days, and come back, again. I wanted an answer -- now. "Can you do it? I just wanna know, can you do it." He was taken aback -- what affrontery? He was definitely nonplussed. He looked at me, crossed, as if to say, What's wrong with this person? How rude? "Well, can you do it? Just tell me." That was the end of that. Either he walked away, or I picked up and left. Maybe we both did. My cousin indicated that I'd burned that bridge, and he said his friend wanted to photocopy my papers. Oh, boy.

We went upstairs, to my old friend Lieutenant Ahmed. He looked at my file, stamped my picture in the application, and said everything would be okay -- we just needed to go to Lieutenant Ammar, in the Baghdad section on the second floor, for some thing or another -- by now, I'd withdrawn from the discussion and given up concentrating on the details. I'd been to Ammar before, and was pretty sure which one he was. I went into his office, and asked him if he was Ammar. He was. He looked at the file, and said I should see Captain Khdhayyir, next door. I walked into the next office, with about 10 applicants in front of the desk. The man behind the desk looked up at me. Then my cousin whispered something in my ear. I couldn't understand what he said. We stepped out of the office. He told me these people like titles, that I can't just say "Ammar," and I can't be whistling. I laughed. I'd been whistling an Um Kalthoom tune since we arrived in the buiding. Back into Captain Khdhayyir's office. While I waited with the others, a guy next to me turned to me: "MinTiliq," something like unbridled, unreserved, free, open, set loose. So, that's why Captain Khdhayyir looked up at me, and they'd all noticed my whistling. So, I'm supposed to keep my mouth shut. Later, my cousin told his mother, to tears of laughter, that I'd said "hello" when I entered Captain Khdhayyir's office, along with whistling. After the others were done, we stepped up. First, Khdhayyir set me straight.

"What are you doing, coming in here, whistling?"

"What's the matter with it?"

"Don't you have any respect?"

"I was happy, at ease."

"You have to show respect. You don't go into a room with your father, smoking or whistling."

"What, am I supposed to pray to you?"

He looked at my cousin: "What, is he mocking me?"

"No, my master, he isn't," while I said, "Go ahead, keep your slave mentality."

"What are you bringing that in here for? You don't like it here, go back...."

"Are you supposed to serve people, or am I supposed to serve you?"

"It's that way all over the world, whenever you go into an office -- in Japan, in Europe, in America."

"You're wrong, but anyway."

Funnily enough, that bridge didn't get burned. I withdrew, and let my cousin take over -- I don't know what I'm doing, and I'm not gonna work myself up into a lather over this -- my cousin can knock himself out, if he wants. I don't even know what I'm doing here. Captain Khdhayyir sent us to another office, and we went back and forth, between several offices. I went downstairs and had a bottle of Sinalko, an orangy soda, then, back upstairs, sat on a desk in the hallway, and had another bottle, from the cafeteria guy as he passed by with a case of various bottles. Captain Khdhayyir even came to a subordinate's office, to help out. Still, my case was stuck -- same as before.

On the drive back, my cousin said, no transaction is easy in Iraq, everything is complicated.

Monday, June 14, 2004


I can't leave the sixth anniversary of the announcement of the capture of Saddam, unnoticed. Happy anniversary, Mr. President -- and may we have many returns.
A Michael Rubin piece, "Trust the Iraqis: Silent Majority," about American paternalism towards Iraqis, which has turned cheers, to jeers. A few excerpts:
Iraqis, contrary to what many in Washington now believe, were not anti-American from the beginning. Many troops were greeted as liberators. The Boston Globe reported, the day after the fall of Baghdad, that "[j]ubilant Iraqis greeted US troops with cheers, victory signs, and flowers." Many are anti-American today because the United States has refused, in ways big and small, to give them real control over the country. Unless that changes, the June 30 handover will be a fiasco and a farce.

The paternalism began even before the war did. Fearing it could undermine prewar diplomacy, the State Department resisted efforts to create a "Free Iraqi Force" of exiles committed to fighting Saddam Hussein. On the first night of the war, the Free Iraqi Force huddled around radios at the Taszar Air Base in Hungary, 1,600 miles away from the country they were supposed to help liberate. The United States paid a price. Iraqi cheers turned to stunned silence when, on April 9, 2003, Corporal Edward Chin draped an American rather than an Iraqi flag over the face of Saddam's statue in Baghdad. The person climbing the statue should not have been an American carrying an Iraqi flag, but an Iraqi. Unfortunately, the forces most likely to have realized this were left cooling their heels in Central Europe....

Even the symbolism has been paternalistic. Rather than use Governing Council members to deliver weekly radio addresses, Bremer delivered them himself, and the CPA's "Strategic Communication's Office" focused more on outreach to The New York Times than to Iraqis. Many Iraqis are upset that, more than a year after Saddam's overthrow, they still see CPA spokesman Dan Senor and General Mark Kimmitt, rather than an Iraqi, delivering the daily briefing to reporters.

In the U.S. press, the CPA is often portrayed as a force for liberalism, battling Iraqis' instinct for theocracy. But, in truth, liberal Iraqis have been given no more authority than their conservative countrymen. Kanan Makiya, one of Iraq's leading liberal intellectuals, spent the year following Saddam's overthrow developing the Iraq Memory Foundation, a museum that would commemorate the victims of Baathist tyranny and allow Iraqis to reflect on their history. Makiya's team catalogued documents and applied for CPA permits to build a museum accessible to all Iraqis. But, on April 23, 2004, with the stroke of a pen, Bremer undercut Makiya and established his own National Commission for Remembrance....

For the June 30 handover of sovereignty to succeed, the United States must finally get serious about Iraqification....

[T]he United States should abandon most of the four-square-mile Green Zone, which it has, so far, not committed to closing. The bridge and road closures resulting from the U.S. cantonment in Baghdad's center are a constant irritant for Iraqis. Driving from Baghdad's Mansour district to its Karrada district took ten minutes before the toppling of Saddam; now it takes an hour. Once sovereignty is transferred, not a single American should remain inside Saddam's Republican Palace. The U.S.-run Convention Center can suffice.

And Washington must not only give Iraqis power; it must give them the resources to utilize that power, even if it disagrees with some of the choices Baghdad makes.
From Jack Kelly's May 18 column, "Ignoring the truth doesn't make it go away":
Last week, while relaxing by the pool at his hotel in Baghdad, Toby Harnden, Middle East correspondent for the British magazine the Spectator, was "accosted by an American magazine journalist of serious accomplishment and impeccable liberal credentials.

"She had been disturbed by my argument that Iraqis were better off now than they had been under Saddam and I was now going to have to justify my bizarre and dangerous views. I'll spare you most of the details because you know the script — no WMD, no 'imminent threat,' a diversion from the hunt for bin Laden, enraging the Arab world. Etcetera.

"Not only had she 'known' the Iraq war would fail but she considered it essential that it did so because this would ensure that the 'evil' George Bush would no longer be running her country. Her editors back on the East Coast were giggling, she said, over what a disaster Iraq had turned out to be. 'Lots of us talk about how awful it would be if this worked out.'

"Startled by her candor, I asked whether thousands more dead Iraqis would be a good thing. She nodded and mumbled something about Bush needing to go."

It would be unfair to say that the views of this "American magazine journalist of serious accomplishment and impeccable liberal credentials" are typical of correspondents in Iraq, but untrue to say that they are rare.

Consider how much attention has been given to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, and how relatively little to the beheading of Nick Berg. You've seen images of the former literally hundreds of times on television, images of the latter hardly ever.

Covering a war is difficult and dangerous. So many of the correspondents in Baghdad don't bother.

"Iraq is so dangerous now that hardly any television journalists venture out of the al Hamra or the Palestine hotel, where lager and post-barbecue spliffs help relieve the tension of being in a war zone," Harnden wrote.

"The dirty little secret is that the endless 'stand-ups' you see on your screens are based on no reporting at all...

"Into this journalistic vacuum it is all too easy for the prejudices of the press corps — tourists looking through telescopes — to flow more freely than ever and the resulting reports to be distorted and incomplete," Harnden said.
Death toll from blast rises; foreign contractors, targeted

The suicide car blast from this morning has reportedly taken the lives of at least 13 people. An officemate came in an hour ago, and said that 20 were dead. The main targets, apparently, were foreign contractors in a passing convoy, including an American working in the electricity sector. Two Britons, a French national and eight Iraqis also were killed. A fifth foreign worker was killed, but his identity has not been released, until his family is notified.

The attacked convoy of three vehicles was carrying 12 electrical workers and security personnel, who were working on the main power plant on the southern outskirts of Baghdad. Three other non-Iraqi, non-American foreign nationals were injured while four others escaped unhurt, an official said.

Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, speaking at a pool press conference, said, through a translator:
The bomb that took place today targeted civilians who were trying to reconstruct or rehabilitate the electricity. Five of the experts were killed and three were injured, seriously injured. And there have been some casualties also a number of Iraqis, civilians who were passing by in that area. This criminal action, this cowardly action, this vicious crime targeted the heads of the infrastructure of Iraq.

The Iraqi government, whether it is out of the president or out of the ministries or the ministers, they have decided to confront whoever would make any criminal or vicious acts against the Iraqis or the land or the areas or the people of Iraq. And, God may grant, there will be a severe, there will be decisive measures that might be taken place to protect the life of the civilians and on this occasion I would like to transmit or to pass a message to my people in Iraq to be patient and try to challenge those powers who are trying to defeat the Iraqis and defeat the process of moving forward into the democracy and it would be our main task to achieve victory to the Iraqis and this is a fact that will be really obvious to the Iraqis and clearing up in the coming days. I would like to say that the situation will be escalating in these days and we know what are the objectives behind these attacks. I would like to confirm that we will achieve victory and we will protect our people against all these criminal and vicious crimes against the Iraqi people.
Izzet Doori may be surrounded in Mosul

American forces have reportedly surrounded New Mosul this morning, an area of the northern city, possibly with an eye on capturing top Saddam deputy Izzet Ibrahim al-Doori, there. The elusive Doori, if still alive, is said to be one of the leaders of the Saddamist-bin Ladenite insurgency. Many, though, believe Doori could not have survived all this time, with an array of severe illnesses, including kidney and heart ailments.
I just got the word that Ray Charles died. I know, I'm three days late, but.... I love Ray Charles, and I'm so sorry I didn't get to see him perform live. His music will live with me, forever. What does this have to do with Iraq? Nothing, I suspect, but there are a lot of people here who know him and love him, too.
Iraqi president: Iraqis abroad can participate in elections

While in the United States, new Iraqi president Ghazi il-Yawer told a group of 150 Iraqi natives gathered in the Iraqi embassy in Washington that Iraqis living abroad will be able to vote and run for office in future Iraqi elections, "same as their brothers who live inside Iraq." He said of Iraqi exiles, that "their Iraqiness is greater even than the Iraqiness of the current Iraqi government." There are an estimated four to five million Iraqis outside Iraq.

According to a report filed for Akkad Media by Doctor Katreen Mikhail (in Arabic), Yawer spoke about his selection as president, and said, "I want my children to be proud of me, that I'm a president who serves Iraq and the people of Iraq, and not like the past presidents." Yawer reported that after he was selected president, people in the hall began chanting "With our lives, with our blood, we'll redeem you...."
I rejected that, and asked them not to repeat that slogan in the future. All of our redeeming and our blood, should be for Iraq. I've said a sentence before, and I'll say it again, in this Iraqi house: There is no "Superman" in Iraq. We're all patriots in Iraq, and I'm one of the sons of Iraq.
He said there would be no more first and second-class citizens, that all Iraqis are first-class citizens. "You're Iraqis, entering the Iraqi embassy, whose entry was prohibited to you in the past. Most of you, when you wanted to come to the Iraqi embassy, to complete some transaction, you wouldn't sleep the night before, because of fear of injustice and oppression."

Yawer also took issue with some of the Arab satellite channels, for not relaying news impartially. So, "when a bomb goes off in Riyadh, they consider it terrorist, but when a bomb goes off, whose victims are 100 Iraqis and one American soldier, they consider this a big victory and a great affair."

Yawer tried to allay fears about federalism, saying that it doesn't mean separation. He said that whenever the just-dissolved
Governing Council faced a problem, they benefited from the Kurdish members, who've been living their democratic experiment in their areas. And I say to you, go and witness Kurdistan, see how it lives now. Mr. Roz Noori Shawees used to be the one who solved problems inside the Governing Council, because the Kurdish brothers understood democracy and how it should be lived, and because their experience in this area is large.
He told the assembled: "I'm not here to tell you to come back to Iraq -- although we welcome the return of every Iraqi -- but I tell you to employ your funds and invest them in your home."

Yawer also affirmed that it's in the interest of Iraq to be an "ally and friend of America. It's in our interest to have a direct line with America, and that's in America's interest, too."
Iraqis and Lebanese killed near Falluja

I've got some details on the Lebanese man and two Iraqis that I reported yesterday were killed here. According to yesterday's edition of Al-Mu'tamar, the Lebanese man is Hsayn Ali Alyan, from Qalwiyya, southern Lebanon, and the three bodies were left on the road between Falluja and Ramadi, west of Baghdad, three days ago. The three men were colleagues, and their death was reported by the Lebanese foreign ministry. Another Lebanese man, Roget al-Haddad, was released. At least four other Lebanese have been held for some 20 days. No word as to whether the hostages were taken in the same attack, nor, the companies that employed them.
Car bomb kills at least 10 in central Baghdad

A bomb-laden car blew up in the center of Baghdad this morning, killing at least 10 and injuring some 50 others. The suicide car bomber struck at 8:13 in the middle of Sa'doon Street, near the central Tahreer Square. Two four-wheel drive vehicles appear to have been the targets of the attack, said an Iraqi policeman interviewed on television, implying that the vehicles were used by foreigners. A traffic policeman said there were two charred bodies near the blast-site, and their identities had not been determined. The number of dead and injured will likely rise. In the few minutes I watched television, the number of dead was increased from seven to 10, and an Iraqi policeman said there were bodies yet to be uncovered from a felled building. The bombing breaks a lull of nearly two weeks without a large explosion in Baghdad, since the day of the announcement of the new government, 13 days ago.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Iraqi sculptor's take on the Abu Ghraib prisoners

Tahir Whayib, a sculptor participating in an exhibition held in Baghdad to condemn the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, said "I wanted to explain that behind the face of freedom presented by the US we find nothing but agony and fetters". The idea of holding the exhibition was that of Qasim Sabti, Director of Hiwar Gallery. Sabti says, "The Americans behaved disgustingly and unbelievably". Whayib's sculpture looks like the famous Statue of Liberty in America except that its hands and feet are tied, while its head is covered by the famous torch of freedom.
From last Monday's issue of Asharq al-Awsat, a pro-Saudi independent paper, via the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).
Maybe the noose is getting tighter. The...whatever-you-call-'em...have just killed a Lebanese man and two Iraqis. Just heard this over lunch. The only details I've gathered are that their bodies were left along one of the main intercity highways. As Azzam Alwash, the head of the marshes project, keeps saying, "they're going after softer and softer targets."
From "The images we see -- and those we don't," a Jeff Jacoby column. It's from a month ago -- takes me a while to catch up to old e-mail -- and it's about media coverage of the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal.
The death of Nicholas Berg is a horror. It is a bitter reminder of why we are at war -- something that much of America's political and media elite, in their binge of outrage and apology over the Abu Ghraib abuses, have lately seemed all too willing to forget....

As one who believes that this war was necessary above all on moral grounds, I'm sickened by what they did.

But I'm sickened as well by the relish with which this scandal is being exploited by those who think that the defeat of the Bush administration is an end that justifies just about any means. I'm sickened by the recklessness of the media, which relentlessly flogged the graphic images from Abu Ghraib, giving them an in-your-face prominence that couldn't help but exaggerate their impact. And I'm sickened by the thought of how much damage this feeding frenzy may have done to the war effort.

We do remember the war effort, don't we? Surely we haven't forgotten the jetliners smashing into the twin towers and Pentagon, and 3,000 innocents dying in a single morning. Or the monstrous Saddam, who filled mass graves to bursting, invaded two neighboring countries, and avidly sought weapons of mass destruction. Or the reason why 130,000 US soldiers are on the line in Iraq: because establishing a democratic beachhead in the Middle East is critical to cutting off the terrorists' oxygen -- the backing they get from dictatorial regimes.

My sense is that the public
hasn't lost sight of any of this. But for weeks now, a goodly swath of the chattering class has been treating the war as little more than a rhetorical backdrop against which to score political points or increase market share....

Poor Nick Berg. The anybody-but-Bush crowd isn't going to rush to publicize his terrible fate with anything like the zeal it brought to the abused prisoners story. CBS and The New Yorker couldn't resist the temptation to shove the Abu Ghraib photos into the public domain -- and the rest of the media then made sure the world saw them over and over and over. But when it comes to video and stills of Al Qaeda murderers severing Berg's head with a knife and brandishing it in triumph for the camera, the Fourth Estate is suddenly squeamish.

As I write on Wednesday afternoon, the CBS News website continues to offer a complete "photo essay" of naked Iraqi men being humiliated by Americans in a variety of poses. But the video of Berg's beheading, CBS says, "is too gruesome to show." No other network and no newspaper that I have seen shows the gory pictures, either....

Yes, Virginia, there really is a gaping media double standard. News organizations will shield your tender eyes from the sight of a Berg or a Daniel Pearl being decapitated, or of Sept. 11 victims jumping to their deaths, or of the mangled bodies on the USS Cole, or of Fallujans joyfully mutilating the remains of four lynched US civilians. But they will make sure you don't miss the odious behavior of Americans or American allies, no matter how atypical that misbehavior may be or how determined the US military is to uproot and punish it.

We are at war with a vicious enemy, and propaganda in wartime is a weapon whose consequences can be deadly. Nick Berg lost his life because the Abu Ghraib pictures were turned into a worldwide media event. Yes, those who did so were sheltered by the First Amendment. That makes what they did not better but worse.
When I got back home from the internet café last night, the Humvees and American Military Police officers were still there, after more than three hours "providing security for a meeting." I resumed talking with the man from Dalton, Georgia. His name is Eric Morehead. He arrived in March, and wanted to know what Iraqis felt about "us," and about Saddam being gone. I told him everybody's happy that Saddam's gone, but that things were mixed up. People expected things to be made perfect, overnight, and that Iraqis didn't know anything about America -- didn't know that America couldn't wave a magic wand, although they've been taught to believe America controlled everything. He laughed. He told me about an encounter he and his comrades had with Iraqis the previous day, first meeting with some tension, then, after a few minutes, becoming friendly with each other, especially with children. I shared with him what I'd heard, about the initial period of elation and friendliness, and the subsequent rallying of the Saddamists and bin Laden-types, which has caused Iraqis to be fearful of being seen being friendly with Americans. Very nice guy, Eric Morehead. He's an enlistee. I told him to drop by again, and bid him goodnight.
$15 billion in medicine stolen?
The Ministry of Health (MH) has issued an order to arrest a host of employees accused of stealing medicines of chronic diseases valued at $15 billion. General Inspector Adil Muhsin said the MH acted according to the legal right given to it to fight administrative corruption. Minister Ala al-Deen Abdul Sahib al-Alwan emphasised the necessity of having a programme that tackles all the important issues - above all shortages of medicines, administrative corruption, children's deaths, and medical services. The medicine theft was discovered after huge amounts were found on the black market.
From Monday's Al-Sabah, the CPA paper, courtesy of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).
Statement by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi on attacks to Iraq's infrastructure -- released, June 10
With nearly 20 days until Iraq emerges as a free, sovereign state for the first time in more than three decades, terrorists have increasingly targeted our country's infrastructure.

These saboteurs are not freedom fighters, they are terrorists and foreign fighters opposed to our very survival as a free state. Anyone involved in these attacks is nothing more than a traitor to the cause of Iraq's freedom and the freedom of its people.

In the past several months, terrorists have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and lost revenues. Attacks on our electrical infrastructure have caused a nationwide loss of power of more than four hours per day.

There have been more than 130 attacks to Iraq's oil infrastructure in the past seven months. More than $200 million has been stolen out of the pockets of a sovereign Iraqi government through the loss of oil revenues resulting from attacks to pipelines. Environmental damage from these attacks has polluted our waterways and destroyed our farmland. Many times, as was the case with yesterday's attack near Beiji, saboteurs select targets near canals or major waterways that supply our drinking water which has resulted in the pollution of the sources of these supplies, in addition to harming our people and postponing our advancement towards a free life.

There can be no confusion: Iraq's oil revenues are Iraq's to spend. No longer will they be diverted to building palaces or to funding lavish lifestyles of a select few. Every dollar made from the sale of Iraq's oil goes towards rebuilding our country. With the damage these terrorists inflict on our various infrastructures they cause harm on our good people.

I call on all Iraqi patriots to be vigilant. It is our people that are sitting in the dark because of these cowardly and traitorous attacks, not our occupiers. In three weeks we will be a sovereign nation. We owe it to future generations to leave this land better, stronger and more independent than before. By working together to defeat those saboteurs, we can accomplish this goal in a sovereign Iraq.
A pat on the back, from Peoria, Illinois. So, I've got it made:
Subj: Posts from Baghdad
Date: 6/12/2004 10:52:50 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Hey ayad,
I apologize for not replying before now. It's been kinda hectic here....
Re: Your BLOG. Man, you're doing some amazing stuff, and writing some amazing material. I read it almost daily, and my reactions are always the same; Worry, and respect. I've printed out some of it, and shown it to my brother. He can't believe that somebody in the media here isn't picking up on it, and publishing it. He says that's the kind of stuff the American people need to know about. I agree. He also asked me to pass along his compliments. (Done:-)
I've tried not to burden you with irrelevant stuff, but I'm just curious as to how the American troops are behaving themselves with the population? You know how important I think that was, and I hope they're showing proper respect. It will make this a whole lot easier. Abu- Ghraib made me sick. I trust it will be dealt with properly by our legal system, but it probably knocked our credibility down by a few non-recoverable points.
Re: Jim Thome. Yeah, he finked out on you guys, and went to the Phillies. You know I don't follow baseball much, but I think Cleveland made a big mistake by letting him go. I don't know what it will cost them to recover the good will he gave the Indians.......a lot more than they're saving would be my guess.
Are you still doing the Cleveland TV thing each week? Wish I could get it, but no such luck here in Peoria:-(
As always: Keep safe, and keep writing.


* * *
Date: 6/13/2004 7:21:24 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Hey, Doug,

Good to hear from you, buddy, and thanks for the compliments -- yours and your brother's. Yeah, I wish papers would pick up my stuff. The Philly Inquirer picked up one day's -- the day I went up to the roof, to see the effects of the bombing that shook our sliding glass door, but, as far as I know, that's been it....oh, well.

What else?

As for the soldiers, I think they're doing fine. Even the Abu Ghraib thing, was blown way out of proportion -- just a way to beat up America, for America-haters -- really, nothing more, nothing less.

What else?

Jim Thome -- good guy from Peoria. Well, I guess they decided they'd save the money, invest it in youth, for the future. They must have a five-year plan or something. I don't know -- they haven't consulted me, about it.

Cleveland TV's almost once a week. Two weeks ago, they had me on twice, and it's been quiet, since.

All right, bud -- Hi to Patti, and your brother, and maybe you can get Peoria's media interested (in me).

See ya, and take care.
Six months ago, today, "We got him!"

The capture of Saddam was, for Iraqis, "the joy of a lifetime," as many still put it, shaking their heads in amazement. The man who had hung over their heads like a heavy anvil, had controlled and slaughtered them at will, was now captured. As my uncle put it, when I first saw him, two months ago, "Here's the summary, about Saddam. There were 25 million Iraqis in prison, and he was free. Now, there are 25 million Iraqis free, and he's in prison."

When Ambassador L. Paul Bremer announced the news of Saddam's capture, the next day, Iraqi journalists in the press room shouted curses at the image of their tormentor on the screen. Several of the Iraqis in the hall, rather than asking a question of Bremer, saluted "our American brothers," something unheard of, in the Arab world.

The announcement unleashed a spontaneous eruption of joy and relief among Iraqis around the world, the likes of which have not been known in Iraq for at least half a century, maybe not for centuries. When my 67-year-old uncle -- who looks more like 87 -- heard the news, he said he went hysterical, jumping up and down, running from house to house, grabbing everybody in sight and hugging and kissing them. A friend making her way from Basra to Baghdad was called by her sister from Kuwait with the news. She dismissed it as another crank tease. As she progressed on the road, traffic was congested in every city. People were handing out candy, making music, dancing, singing and ululating, throwing money into the air, parading up and down streets, hanging out of cars and tooting the car horns. The wild joy-making continued for three, four days. A traditional way of celebrating good news is slaughtering sheep. An uncle making his way back to Iraq, was handed money by friends and acquaintances in Jordan, to put in their orders. There must have been very few sheep left in Iraq.

At the same time, when the announcement was made, many Iraqis looked on, bewildered, at the image of the mangy-looking prisoner on television and in print and wondered how this decrepit-looking old man, who'd surrendered meekly, could have controlled nearly every facet of their lives for 30 years. The feelings of joy, for many, were mixed with a sense of humiliation and powerlessness.

The monster is now no more -- well, almost no more. Many say he should be eliminated -- the sooner, the better. They say executing him would reduce by half, maybe even wipe out, the terrorism that assaults the country, putting to rest, once and for all, any hope that he will return to power. "We don't need a long trial," they say, "we know what he's done."

Saturday, June 12, 2004

In the Associated Press piece about the killing of Deputy Foreign Minister Bassam Kubba, there's word that Muqtada Sadir, the radical young cleric who has been leading attacks on foreign troops, is ready to bury the hatchet.
In a sermon read to his followers by an aide [on Friday], al-Sadr said he was ready for a dialogue with the new government if it works to end the U.S. military presence.

"I support the new interim government," al-Sadr said. "Starting now, I ask you that we open a new page for Iraq and for peace."

In Baghdad, U.S. officials said they were encouraged by the remarks from al-Sadr but noted he has made contradictory statements on the issue in recent weeks....

In an interview Friday night with Al-Arabiya television, al-Sadr's spokesman, Ahmed al-Shibani, said the cleric was ready for a dialogue with the government "on condition that it works to end the occupation and clearly announces to the Iraqi people and to the world that it rejects the occupation."

"It has to put a timetable for the end of the occupation," al-Shibani said. "This is the main and principled way to recognize this government and cooperate with it."
I'm reading the press release from the Iraqi foreign ministry, about the assassination, this morning, of Deputy Foreign Minister Bassam Salih Kubba. It says he was ambushed "as he drove to the ministry earlier today." If that's true, then some of the top-level ministers are driving, themselves. Kubba is said to have been Iraq's most senior career diplomat, his title was Undersecretary for Multinational Affairs and International Organisations, and he was one of several deputy foreign ministers. Kubba was 60, and held a master's degree in international relations from St. John's University in New York.

I just read the Associated Press report about the killing, and it says that Kubba was riding, not driving, that his car was shot from behind, and again after the assailants passed his car. The driver survived.
We got us a high-value target... -- right...over...there.

I just left a pretty good concentration of American Humvees, plus one tank -- the biggest collection of military hardware I've seen, up close -- and, after a bit of chitchat, they told me they were there "to provide security for a meeting." There was a bespectacled guy from Dalton, Georgia -- close to Chattanooga, he said. There was Mark, from Colorado, and there was a really tall "sergeant." The group included at least one woman -- round, freckle-faced. When a couple of cars wanted to cross the median strip, the tall sergeant and another soldier -- oh, they were all MPs, I think -- sprang into action. They scampered towards the cars, and pointed them back. It was fun to watch the tall guy run -- pickin' 'em up and layin' 'em down -- and fully loaded, at that.

They were very friendly. I asked the Peach-stater about the cars parked outside -- one of them, belonging to my uncle's guests -- and he checked with his superiors/peers, and came back and told me they were all right, no need to move them. They'd been careful, in maneuvering the Humvees into position, even parallel-parking one Humvee between two civilian cars. Standing beside one of the Humvees, I remembered Jim Thome, of the Cleveland Indians -- well, formerly of the Cleveland Indians -- and his yellow Humvee. Jim Thome, where are you now?

I asked about leaving the house, and returning. Mr. Morehead, I think his name was, again, went and came back -- "No problem -- as long as you live here." When I first got out to the front gate, ready to leave the house, I saw a few of the soldiers drinking hot tea, from the little Iraqi glasses -- is'tikaan -- including a couple of the guys driving Humvees. It looks like they got 'em from the neighbor, the Pakistani whom my uncle despises.

All right -- must go. I have a limited amount of time, at this internet cafe, before my cousin comes back to get me.

Oops -- as I was rereading this, my cousin arrived. Well, he pulled up a seat, and he's going to "flip pages," as Iraqis say. Adios.
Most of an article by a journalist-in-training at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), followed by a little something from me:

The post-war economy of the Iraqi capital has picked up and giving hope of widespread prosperity.

by Thair Abd Ali al-Joubor in Baghdad

For people like Alaa Saad, an engineer at the ministry of housing, the Coalition's post-war decision to hike salaries long eroded by sanctions-era inflation has brought a major increase in his standard of living.

Before the war, Saad earned the equivalent of 20 US dollars a month. He says that meant "we lacked the smallest things in our daily lives". Now Saad's salary has risen to around 275 dollars, and he was soon able to replace about half of his furniture....

For ten years, Saad was unable to afford new furniture, while his fellow public servants referred to electrical appliances as "forbidden things" because they were so out of reach.

"I used to have to go shopping [for food] every day, because we could not afford a refrigerator," he recalled. But now, he said, "I see and feel the improvement of my family's living standards. I can live in dignity on my salary."

Teacher Mohammed Ali has also benefited as his salary has climbed to the equivalent 240 dollars a month - a forty-fold increase.

"Now I can meet all the demands of my wife and children," he said. "I can now plan for a future for my family."

Waleed Jabbar, a physician in al-Yarmook hospital, used to receive around 20 dollars a month.

"We heard that physicians' salaries in other countries are very high and they counted among the prominent figures of society," he said bitterly.

After the war his salary increased 17 times to the equivalent of 344 dollars. "My colleagues and I now feel the importance of our role. It's just like we regained our missing rights," he said.

Civil servants' salary hikes have also filtered through to the retail and service economy.

"Demand for buying furniture has changed considerably," said carpenter Ahmed Hatem. Formerly, he said, his clients came only to have their old furniture refurbished, or sometimes even to sell it off.

Now, he says, "The number of clients is increasing and our workshop is flourishing. Young people are getting married [and furnishing their households] as their economic standards improve. Our profit has doubled or tripled."

The lifting of regulations has also improved business.

Supermarket owner Ghassan Akram says his profits have doubled since the fall of the regime, thanks largely to abolition of the Office of Economic Security, which prevented the import of certain goods.

"In the past, we dealt with locally-made and other poor merchandise. We suffered from the Office of Economic Security.... They prevented us from importing Coca Cola under the allegation the company worked against the former regime's interests," he said.

"Now, we are rid of the oppressive rules of the Office, and we are free to import many well-known brands from which the public was formerly deprived."

Cigarette seller Omar Khalil, meanwhile, says that he has profited not only from the increased demand but also from municipal officials giving up efforts to enforce laws preventing him from selling his wares on the pavement.

Before the war, he says, his goods were confiscated once or twice a month.

But now "they allow us to buy and sell on the pavement as long as we don't hinder the flow of passers-by, and we clean up the place afterwards".

A post-war housing boom, fuelled partly by the removal of regulations which prevented many non-Baghdadis from moving into the capital, has also increased the number of jobs for unskilled workers.

"Before the war, I got 3000 dinars (about two dollars) a day which was not enough to cover my family's basic human needs," said day labourer Basher Amer.

"We lived on vegetables because we could not afford meat.... I had no telephone, no car and it was so difficult to buy new thing to the family because of the restricted income.

"Now work is getting better and we get 8,000 Iraqi dinars a day. We feel some improvements on our daily life and we can now replace some of our furniture. The future looks bright."

The war also brought an end to compulsory military service, which often paid too little to meet soldiers' expenses.

Hamid Rasheed, a former soldier in the Iraqi army, says that his roughly three-dollar salary as a soldier was not enough for his own transportation to the camp where he serves.

After the fall of the regime, Rasheed found a new job as a security guard at a mobile phone company, paying the equivalent of 200 dollars per month.

"I managed to rent a house for my family, after having lived in a bed room at my father's house. Now I am happy with my work and salary. I am buying furniture and everything we need."
This reminds me, I woke up the other day, to a man's singing. There has been a small team of men working in front of and behind my bedroom for about a fortnight, on a couple of additions to my uncle's house. As my uncle's daughter's family is about to move in, upstairs, they're adding a stairway from the outside of the house, converting an upstairs room into a kitchen and adding a study, next to my groundfloor bedroom, for my uncle. The man's singing was sort of like the stereotypical chanting of a chain gang. A little boy helping the men, copied the singing. All I could pick up, of the song, was the name of Husayn, the Shi'a martyr/saint.

Another addition is happening next to where I work. The little corner kiosk, called chumber, which sells drinks and snacks, has doubled in size, and is planning to expand more, to add a barbeque. He'll thus officially become a kababchi, and be able to meet the lunchtime crowd from the workers next door, at the headquarters of the local mobile phone company.
One of the guards here was paging through my Herald Tribune the other day, and came across a picture of a car show. He asked me where it was. I looked at the story's byline: Shanghai. "China," I replied. He then muttered, "Khereh b'Saddam." Literally, "shit in Saddam" -- meaning something like, "Damn Saddam." He said whenever he felt down, frustrated by missed opportunities, lost time, limited chances, that's what he said.

Another time, his twin brother, who's also a guard here, wondered about being able to fly, what that would be like, to be able to go places.

Khereh b'Saddam.
Masoud Barazani's response to Ayatollah Sistani:

The people of Iraq need to understand the Kurdish call for getting a constitutional guarantee, and one which is necessary for the Arabs as well. The Kurds' anxiety is due to their bitter experiences ever since the Iraqi state was established. Successive Iraqi governments did not keep their promises to the Kurds, in addition to the explicit call made by Shia religious circles rejecting any guarantee for the Kurds. Former regimes guaranteed nothing but they did not explicitly say so. The Kurds' search for an international guarantee unfortunately results from the lack of a domestic Iraqi guarantee. If there were the least amount of trust and reliability in Iraqi society, the Kurds would not have needed an international guarantee.
The above editorial appeared in the Wednesday, June 9, edition of Al-Taakhi, the daily paper of Masoud Barazani's Kurdish Democratic Party. The translation and summary was provided by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).
Speaking of the interior ministry, last night, after my uncle picked me up at the internet café, he drove me to the house the new interior minister just moved into. It's at the end of the road we live on, just before a main commercial street. My uncle had been there earlier, and said he'd seen some dozen armed men, in beige uniforms. When we drove by, there were five white SUVs parked in a line in front of the house, facing the road, like an offensive line. I noticed a man in a beige shirt sitting in the driver's seat of several of the cars. Across the street were some half-dozen machine-gun wielding men. Actually, my uncle wasn't sure if the interior minister, Falah Hasan al-Naqeeb, or his father, the former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Hasan al-Naqeeb, was living in the house.

This morning, the deputy foreign minister was reportedly killed in A'dhamiyya. That means Bassam Kubba must have been leaving home, to go to work. He was reportedly shot in the torso, most likely, from a passing car, taken to a hospital nearby, where he died. My uncle said he'd seen the deputy health minister, Ammar Azeez a-Saffar, at his home, three weeks ago, and that Saffar walked him to the front gate, without any guards or security around. Saffar told my uncle he was leaving it in God's hands. My uncle did notice a van across the street -- but that was all. So, it looks like the protection that's supposed to be afforded to governement ministers, should be extended to their deputies, as well.

As for my friend, Dr. Mishkat el-Moumin, the new environment minister, I and others have been urging her to be very careful, to avail herself of the protection she's allotted, and to stop driving her own car, unprotected, which she's apparently been doing, after work. She doesn't seem to show much concern.
In writing yesterday about the fundamental differences between the Iraqi interior ministry and the American, I forgot an important function of the interior ministry here. It's a role I've been experiencing, firsthand, for the last three weeks, which is the registration, identification and monitoring of everybody in the country. That makes the interior ministry not only important for ensuring order and tranquility in the country, but also the most feared government ministry -- that is, excluding the security agencies, which, under normal circumstances, would fall within the interior ministry. Saddam's security agencies were done away with, one year ago. They could be reconstituted, in some form of crime-fighting capacity, à la the FBI -- if we're lucky. The interior ministry in Iraq issues citizenships (also called civil affairs IDs), citizenship certificates (which is what I've been trying to get, and my uncle thinks should be abolished), residency cards, passports and possibly other IDs and permits. The ministry also registers and monitors the stays of foreigners and visitors. As part of its security mandate, it issues licenses for weapons, a service I availed myself of, for a relative, who, because he's a top doctor, is a potential kidnapping target, and, thus, requires the accompaniment of armed guards to and from his home.

Friday, June 11, 2004

On the basis of Article 2(1)B of the Law of Administration for the State of Iraq in the Transitional Period, the Governing Council decided in its session of 1/6/2004 to issue this Annex.

Section One: Formation of the Iraqi Interim Government

The Iraqi Interim Government, formed on the basis of wide-scale consultations with all segments of Iraqi society, and consisting of individuals known for their ability and integrity, will assume sovereign authority for governing Iraq no later than 30 June 2004. The Interim Government will administer Iraq’s affairs, in particular by providing for the welfare and security of the Iraqi people, promoting reconstruction and economic development, and preparing for and holding national elections by 31 December 2004, if possible, and, in any case, no later than 31 January 2005. The Government, as an interim government, will refrain from taking any actions affecting Iraq’s destiny beyond the limited interim period. Such actions should be reserved to future governments democratically elected by the Iraqi people. The members of the Interim Government will swear a legal oath in front of the Head of the highest judicial authority in Iraq. The Interim Government will dissolve upon the formation of the Iraqi Transitional Government following national elections.

Section Two: Institutions and Powers of the Iraqi Interim Government

The Interim Government will operate under the Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period. It will consist of the Presidency of the State (comprised of a President and two Deputy Presidents); a Council of Ministers, including a Prime Minister; an Interim National Council and the Judicial Authority. Except for the purposes of Chapter Nine of this Law or as otherwise specified herein, references to the Iraqi Transitional Government and its institutions and officials in this Law will apply to the Interim Government and its institutions and officials. The Interim Government will at all times respect obligations related to the transitional period and the fundamental principles and rights of the Iraqi people as set forth in this Law. The institutions of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the governorates and the municipalities will function in accordance with this Law.

The Council of Ministers with the unanimous approval of the Presidency, may issue orders with the force of law that will remain in effect until rescinded or amended by future Iraqi governments. The Council of Ministers will have the authorities granted to the National Assembly in this Law related to appointments, the use of the Iraqi Armed Forces, and approval of international agreements. The Interim Government will represent Iraq in its external relations, but its powers in concluding international agreements will not extend beyond Iraq’s diplomatic relations, international loans and assistance, and Iraq’s sovereign debt. The appointment of Supreme Court members must be unanimously confirmed by the Presidency Council of the Iraqi Transitional Government within ninety days after its assumption of authority.

Section Three: The Interim National Council

Members of the Interim National Council will be chosen by a National Conference that will meet in Baghdad during the month of July 2004. The Conference will be organized by a High Commission, which will include members of the Governing Council without other governmental positions, representatives from the regions and governorates, and other distinguished Iraqis known for their capability and integrity. The Interim National Council itself will be comprised of 100 members, and will include members of the Governing Council mentioned above.

The Interim National Council will meet periodically to promote constructive dialogue and create national consensus, and to advise the Presidency Council and Council of Ministers. It will have the authority to monitor the implementation of laws, to follow up the work of the executive bodies, to appoint replacements to the Presidency Council in cases of resignation or death, to interpellate the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers, and to veto executive orders by a 2/3 majority vote of its members within 10 days of being informed of such orders which have been approved by the Presidency Council. The Interim National Council will also have the right to approve the 2005 Iraqi national budget proposed by the Council of Ministers, and to set its Internal Regulations.
This was released three days ago by the Coalition Provisional Authority, which is to govern Iraq until June 30.
There's an important difference in one government term between the United States and Iraq, not to mention the rest of the world. In the United States, the federal department (ministry) of the interior deals with public lands such as national parks, historic monuments and landmarks, and Indian reservations. There may be other things it deals with, but that's the extent of my knowledge. In addition to issues of conservation of publicly owned national properties, their waters and animals, the department determines whether these lands should be used for mining, logging, gambling and other commercial uses. In Iraq, and probably most of the rest of the world, it's a different story. Here, the interior ministry deals with crime, law enforcement, internal security -- practically everything to do with law and order. That makes it, one of the top four or five ministries in most governments, just as the attorney general's post is, in America. However, because the system of government in the United States is federal, most law enforcement duties are carried out at the local level. In Iraq, and, I venture to guess, in most of the world, the policing of society is carried out by the central government, for the whole country. Thus, law and order, the safety and security of citizens, which may include securing borders, is vested in the office of the interior ministry, making it one of the most important posts in the country. So, in Iraq, all eyes are on Falah Hasan al-Naqeeb. His father, Hasan al-Naqeeb, was a chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. The sons of Hasan al-Naqeeb, while in exile in Syria, developed a reputation not unlike that of the sons of Saddam -- unruly playboys, wild and thuggish. Some people say, that's what we need for this job, at this time -- someone to crack the whip.
I wrote, two days ago, after my latest visit to the interior ministry, that I hadn't seen any signs of sympathy, support, solidarity with "the Palestinians." I was wrong. While talking with my dinner date, that evening, I remembered seeing graffiti saluting, as a martyr, Abdul-Aziz Rantisi, the head of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, who'd been killed by Israeli forces. My dinner companion said a lot of Iraqis -- extremist Islamists, Shi'a and Sunni -- Sushi -- loved Hamas. On the other end, there are those who despise them -- and not only Hamas, but Palestinians as a whole. One relative lit a victory cigar after Rantisi was killed. A couple of months before, he and his sister-in-law prayed that Rantisi's predecessor, Ahmed Yasin, would be killed, to help "solve this problem." Israel answered their prayers.

Then, yesterday, as I was editing what I wrote about my dinner date, I asked my cousin about all of that. (He'd driven me to the internet café, and came in with me.) He answered, "There used to be more, before," meaning more pro-Palestinian expressions, when Saddam was in power. He continued, "A lot of people say that if it weren't for the Palestinians, all of this wouldn't have happened." What "all of this" means, is probably up for grabs. Does it mean, Saddam's party coming to power, on the heals of the '67 Arab defeat? Does it mean the use of the Palestinian issue, to spur nationalism, militarism and adventurism? Does it mean, war after war? Does it mean, Arab support for Saddam? Does it mean, one particular war or another? Does it refer to Palestinians -- not to mention Jordanians, Yemenis, Sudanese and Iranian Mujahideen al-Khalq -- who were deployed by Saddam to crush the March '91 uprisings? The poor kid -- he's a college undergrad -- I don't think he knows what people mean -- I don't think he's bargaining for one of my interrogations.
From Holland to Baghdad? To be or not to be? the prince of Denmark speaks. I make light -- sorry, Alaa.
Subj: Trip to Iraq
Date: 6/7/2004 4:02:20 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"

I am still not sure of the visit to Iraq. I hope there will be a grace period somewhere before the transition and immediately thereafter. But my family in Iraq is still totally aginst the trip because of their fears of kidnapping/ransom etc..

Alaa and I have been planning to meet in Baghdad, and then to hook up with a family from Hilla, whose fifteen-year-old daughter, Fatima, has had the blood-disorder thalassimia since infancy, and requires a bone-marrow transplant.
Date: 6/9/2004 3:25:53 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"

Hello Ayad:
....Attached is what I got from my brother yesterday. He is making a reference to his neighbor who works at the central bank (i.e. a "collaborator"). An attempt was made on his life last year (he installed security cameras in his house since). This is the 2nd
[attempt on his life]. I will try to talk tonight to my family and see.

If I can't make it now, I may not come until summer 2005 and this is pissing me off a great deal. I have 4 months of no teaching now and I can't concentrate on doing something else other than wanting to be in Iraq....

I have been writing that there are five women ministers in the new Iraqi government. That is wrong -- the number is six -- out of 36 or 37. The total number includes the president, two vice presidents, a prime minister, a deputy prime minister, a possible second deputy prime minister, and the rest of the cabinet of ministers, which includes five ministers of state, one, for women's issues. There is a question whether the total is 36 or 37 because on the web-site of the Coalition Provisional Authority, I've seen Mowaffak al-Ruba'ie listed as a second deputy prime minister; in other places, he is not.

As for the women, they are: Dr. Sawsan Ali Majid al-Sharifi, minister of agriculture; Ms. Pascale Isho Warda, minister of displacement and migration; Dr. Mishkat el-Moumin, minister of environment; Ms. Leyla abdul-Latif, minister of labor and social affairs; Ms. Nasreen Mustapha Berwari, returning as minister of public works and municipalities; and Ms. Narmin Othman, minister of state for women's affairs. In looking back to see what I'd written before, I came across a faux pas -- I guess I let my Freudian slip show. I wrote, in an e-mail to Rania Kashi:
I counted five women, but it's mainly window dressing. The only real ones -- my friendship with the environment minister, notwithstanding (if I'm using that word properly) -- are Barwari and the agriculture minister, who's got a PhD in the field. I don't know if there were others in the field -- other qualified people, maybe overlooked -- and I don't know anything about her, either. But the others, I think, they chose, to put in more women, or to fill the Christian and Turkomen spots. It's the men, that have the real power -- the power positions, and they're the ones divvying out the seats.
I don't think any of the women are not real. I'm pretty sure they're all real -- real women, and really ministers. How powerful they will be, is another matter -- whether they are, indeed, window dressing. Plus -- I'm "shocked!, shocked!," to find politics going on back here.
Speaking of drinks, on the street, in public, and at gatherings in homes, the absence of alcohol is made up for with fruit juices and drinks. There's a juice bar in practically every block, and they blend juices from fresh, canned or dried fruits. You've got mango, peach, plum, kiwi, pear, apricot, orange, grapefruit, strawberry, banana, grape, apple, pineapple, raisin, pomegranate, lemon and fig -- and possibly others. Actually, I'm surprised I haven't seen watermelon and tukkee, or other berries. The fruit is put in a blender, one of a dozen, lined up at the front of the shop. They might add ice, walnuts, coconut, honey or milk, depending on the fruit. Each fruit has its season. This month, cantelopes are very sweet -- I had four glasses the other day, over two visits. Last month, it was carrots. You can mix and match fruits, too. Most people take what's called "coke-tail," which is a mixture of some six, seven fruit juices. The coke-tail waiter -- at the place next door, called MishMisha (a diminutive of apricot), the waiters wear orange shirts -- lines up six or seven glass steins, and drops a dollop of fruit juice from each blender, à la the "mixed" ice cream, then tops it off with a slice of banana and coconut shavings.

The best fruit drink I've had -- and I haven't drank the sherbet, yet -- is an apple sherbet. That's made by peeling a bunch of these little red apples, then cutting them into thin slivers. In a bowl, they get mixed with a quarter- to half-cup of rose water, and a half-cup to whole cup of sugar. You let the mixture sit outside for a couple of hours, so the juices from the apple seep into the rest. Then, add very cold water, to taste. It's the most delicious -- maybe moreso, in summer -- I don't know. Each glass comes with a lot of the apple shavings, which you then eat with a spoon, or with your fingers. It is, obviously, the beginning of the fermentation process. The closest apple I can think of in America, that tastes like this apple, is a Pink Lady.

Thursday, June 10, 2004


The new government is aiming to cancel the National Board of de-Baathification. Sources from the government said Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is continuing a reform programme including a review of hasty decisions made by the Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority such as de-Baathification. The sources emphasised that this programme is part of the national reconciliation project, and that Baathists who committed no crimes may be eligible to resume their posts.
From yesterday's Azzaman, via the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). De-Baathification is Ahmad Chalabi's baby, and, although many people say, let bygones be bygones -- that we might need some Ba'this, to ease the security situation -- I'm sure Chalabi won't let this pass, without raising a stink.

Prime Minister Ayad Allawi yesterday expressed regret that relations with Muqtada al-Sadr have deviated along a route that does not serve the people of Iraq. He also urged Sadr to resort to the language of civilised, rational dialogue. "I wished al-Sadr resorted to democratic methods via political action," added Allawi. "We have always said this is a transitional situation which will be followed by elections through which people can choose their leadership," he concluded.
From yesterday's Asharq al-Awsat, courtesy of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).
A news item about greater security in Kerbela:

Polish military forces have withdrawn from the buildings of the Governor and Police of Karbala after an improvement in the security situation, said Rahman Mshawi, information spokesman of the Karbala Police Directorate. Mshawi said this withdrawal resulted from an agreement between Polish Commander Edward Kroshka and Police Commander Brigadier General Abbas Fadhil al-Hasani. "The stable security situation was the reason behind withdrawal," added Mshawi. (from yesterday's edition of
This item, courtesty of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). My uncle went to Kerbela this morning, so I should be getting more details, soon.
We have the makings of an interesting face-off.

Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani has warned against including any reference to the interim administrative law in the resolution being discussed by the UN Security Council. Sistani's office announced on Monday that any reference to the interim law approved by the Governing Council would be illegal, rejected by the majority of the people of Iraq, and would imply danger. The announcement said the interim law, drafted under occupation by an unelected government and affected directly by the occupation authority, fettered the national assembly which will be elected in 2005 and which will draft a permanent law for Iraq. (from
Al-Qassim Al-Mushtarak)


Head of the Kurdish Democratic Party, Masoud Barzani, said calling off the interim administrative law drafted unanimously by the Iraqi patriotic powers jeopardises the future of Iraq as a unified state. He said the people of Kurdistan are not ready to accept anything but a democratic system in Iraq. This statement came after some Iraqi groups tried to cancel the law approved by the Governing Council in February and exclude it from the new project. (from
What is at stake, is the issue of federalism and the potential power Kurds will wield -- some call it a veto power -- over the rest of the country in such essential matters as the division of oil revenues. The above summaries and translations from the Iraqi press were provided by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).
A fuller profile of Iraq's new president, Ghazi il-Yawer. It was compiled by Iraqi native Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli. It includes this quote from Yawer:
I am Sunni, born in Mosul. My family has maintained excellent relations with the Kurds and, when I was young, my mother would take me to visit the holy [Shi'ite] shrines in Najaf and Karbala, in addition to the Sunni Mosques in Baghdad, and St. Mary's Church.
The profile contains this interesting paragraph:
Perhaps one of the most intriguing revelations in [Yawer's] interview with Al-Mada is the expression of his admiration not for an Arab or Muslim author or philosopher, but for Thomas Paine (1737-1809), the American colonial-era political activist whose writings are said to have served as the basis for the Declaration of Independence. Paine was considered the champion of the rights of the common man. But in his later years, because he was opposed to organized religion, "he was widely regarded as the world's greatest infidel." It is highly unlikely that such a characterization would apply to Al-Yawer, but his stated devotion to democracy and free elections may indicate a secular bent.
Finally, there is this footnote:
An Iraqi academician...in Vienna...who has written extensively...about Iraqi personalities describes Ghazi al-Yawer as follows: "Shy and reserved. Never raises his voice. Good natured and easygoing, but his Bedouin upbringing has imbued him with rare talents. He is like a falcon able to see the details on the ground from great heights… He wants to change Iraq from being [an arena for] games by others into becoming a player itself."
Last entry, updated:

I went out to dinner last night. I've been to dinner at relatives' homes, my uncle took me to the Hunt Club one evening, about which I must write, and we've gotten sandwiches and pizza at night, to take away -- but this, was a first -- to an actual restaurant, for dinner. An old friend got in touch -- he's been in town for a week. Actually, he arrived in Baghdad, after a 19-year absence, three weeks after the fall of Saddam, but he keeps his stays short, so as not to attract attention, in particular, from someone who might keep tracks on him, as a potential target for kidnapping. Well, he invited me to dinner, and, after yesterday's frustrating episode at the interior ministry, I had to get out -- I deserved a break. He suggested an Italian place, which I love. I asked about wine; he said they had some. That would be a first, too. One uncle, a wine connoisseur, had a bottle of white, but it wasn't cold. Twice at his house, I had a can of beer, and he consented to be my bar -- open, 24/7 -- but he left the country, several weeks ago. I also had beer and a Campari at the Hunt Club, and I bought six bottles of MGD (bottled in Turkey) at a liquor store, after one of my visits to the interior ministry -- the interior ministry's turning into my primary outing.

My friend picked me up at the corner internet café. His SUV is bulletproofed, with protective (metal?) boards attached to the inside of the doors. He also keeps his car dirty, so as not to attract attention. We talked about the insane xenophobia that's swept some quarters. He told me about a subcontractor he hired to do work on an apartment. The subcontractor, from Ramadi, asked him, semi-threateningly, if Americans were going to stay in the place. The renters were Japanese, and they sought an allowance from the landlord for Americans to come to the apartment. My friend also told me about a friend who had a lucrative contract delivering food to American military bases. On the way back to Baghdad from a base in northern Iraq, he stopped for a kebab. Somebody at the kebab shop looked at him: "You're working for the Americans, aren't you." The friend figured he must've been followed. Another time, the friend was delivering food to a restaurant in Baghdad. Outside the restaurant, someone said to him, "Aren't you the Kia that works in the American base?" Kia is the make of a common van. He concluded that his license plate must've been recorded, and shared with other informants. My friend's friend quit the job supplying food to the American military.

My friend said the same network of informants that operated under Saddam, must still be active. An uncle had related that Barazan al-Tikriti, Saddam's half-brother and one-time head of intelligence, boasted that the regime had enlisted all taxi drivers, servants, waiters, hotel workers and kiosk vendors. That network, my friend said, was a very efficient system for gathering and sharing information about every nook and cranny of Iraqi life.

On our way to the restaurant, my friend was searching for a sidewalk gas vendor. The regular gas stations, with the exception of early morning, have long lines, that could take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. He was going to get some gas from one of the ubiquitous "bootleggers." He was having a hard time finding one, and said the Americans must be cracking down on them. After we saw a pair of Humvees with a soldier sticking out of each, we turned the corner. On the next street, there were a couple of kids, no more than eight or nine, stuffing their plastic jerry cans behind some garbage. The Humvees had passed, and my friend asked one boy about his gas. It was "clean," he said, and "improved," meaning unleaded. "It's red," he added. "Did you add hydraulic?," meaning transmission fluid, which gives the gas a reddish hue. "No, no." "You swear by Abbas?" "Bil-Abbas!" the boy exclaimed. "You know what Abbas will do to you if you're lying?" "Yeah, he'll strangle me." My friend told the boy he'd try 20 liters (for 5000 dinars), and that if it was good, he'd come back. My friend said that Abbas, Mohammed's grandson, was the one thing Iraqis were most afraid to cross. Soon after we left "the station," my friend heard some knocking from the engine.

The restaurant was lovely. It's called al-Reef, meaning countryside -- a quiet little place -- an old house, converted into a restaurant, the same place a friend had suggested I take Layla to, on a date. It opened in 1995, with a small room of four or five tables. Three, four years ago, they expanded, and, again, last year (I believe). There are now some 20 tables. There's a bit of a colonial feel to it, with plates hanging overhead. There are what look like original paintings on the wall, including a Modigliani, which must mean that they're not original. On the walls and tables, there were red candles, which came in handy, during the momentary switch between the national electricity grid and the restaurant's generator. There were also actual soft tablecloths -- two of them, too, one, with small red-and-white checkers, laid out diagonally over the other, all red. At several points during the evening, as I noticed this thing or that, I expressed amazement, that such a place existed in Baghdad.

When we arrived, the only other people in the restaurant were a couple of middle-aged men, who looked American. That was a first for me, too -- seeing Americans in person, other than soldiers. I assumed they were officers with the Coalition Provisional Authority. My dinner partner said he heard them talking about generators, and, thus, must be contractors. He said they were crazy to be out here, but that they were probably fed up with being locked up in the Green Zone, and wanted to get out. As we were walking around, deciding on a table, I said something about such a nice place being so empty. Our waiter said those who patronized it in years past, were out of the country. My friend said that means they were with the government.

The restaurant had one wine -- in red and white. We got the white, as the weather was hot. It was a Lebanese wine -- I don't remember the name -- and, once it got cold, in the bucket of ice (of which they had very little), it was all right. I ordered a ricotta cheese and tomato salad, and a fettucine with mushroom sauce. I asked if the mushrooms were real, or from a can. The waiter said they were real -- that a factory that processed mushrooms had recently reopened; I didn't understand. Today, I learned that the factory packages fresh mushrooms from its own small field. The mushrooms were plentiful, and fresh. The olive oil was very good, for sopping with bread -- also good, and soft. The salad could've used some basil leaves, which are plentiful, around here. It was topped, instead, with what must've been ground pepper. My companion had asked if the riccota was real, or local. The waiter asked us to try it. My friend had what he called their version of a Caesar's salad, which came in a bowl made of bread. For his entrée, he had a pasta dish "à l'olio," which came loaded with black olives. When people go out to eat, their first point of concern, is whether it's "clean" -- that is, the food is prepared in a sanitary way. I ventured, from my few outings, that it must've been the best restaurant in Iraq. Our tab came to about $50.

I wanted to talk to the Americans, ask 'em where they were from. They got up, before I had a chance. After they walked past, I noticed a machine gun hanging from each one's hand. Wow! My friend said their sitting with their backs to the wall was a tip-off, that they had some security training. My friend said he had a machine gun, too, but kept it in the car.

Across the street was another dimly lit restaurant, called Coral Reef, with ropes and a ship's wheel on the old wooden boards of the place. The little side-street looked like a "cool" spot. I had just had myself a regular night out.
More, about the new government, and people's attitudes towards it. People are very proud, and praying the new government succeeds -- in, first and foremost, alleviating "the security situation," by which most people mean the terrorist attacks and crimes such as kidnapping.

In addition to the high level of education of most of the ministers in the new government, other points of pride are that there are no clerics -- turban-heads -- and that, even though it may not be reflective of the society, none of the five women ministers wears a veil. Speaking of which, I've revised my estimate, of the percentage of women at the interior ministry who are veiled. Rather than three out of four, it's definitely at least nine out of ten. As an example of the high-regard with which the members of the new government are viewed, an old friend of a relative called him the other day. The friend -- a mid-level Ba'thi official, and from Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, to boot -- told my relative, "The awaadim are back." Awaadim can be loosely translated as mensch, and implies educated, cultured well-meaning people from good families.

Now, some hearsay -- second-, third-hand news. A cousin's husband passed on, a few days ago, from an acquaintance who works in the personal office of new Prime Minister Ayad Allawi that Allawi is locked in a tussle with the American authorities over control of the Iraqi civil defense forces (ICDF). The civil defense forces comprise one of five security/defense branches. Allawi wants complete control of the ICDF. These negotiations are tied to the issues of joint Iraqi-American patrols and the number and types of weapons in circulation, which Americans fear could be used against them. There's also talk of teams of highly-trained special forces/commando units about to be deployed in key districts of Baghdad, after June 30, to respond to high-caliber crimes. This source also reported that the salaries of defense and police forces would be tripled, so they would not be subject to bribes and defection. Finally, this cousin's friend related that 40 guards and companions are to be allotted to each minister. An adviser to the new environment minister said that number was, in fact, 22 -- although that might depend on the post in question.

Samir Sumaida'ie, the interior minister of the just-retired government, mounted a last-minute campaign to keep his job. He was much-liked, and viewed as doing a good job -- making progress. He and his supporters appealed by e-mail to friends and allies to lobby the CPA on his behalf. They detailed his accomplishments in the post, and the plans and reorganization he'd begun to implement, argued for more time on the job, especially as he'd expected to have more than six or seven weeks when he took on the post, and charged that the two finalists for the post were friends of Allawi, and not suitable.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

In one office of the interior ministry this morning, there was a calendar on the wall with a Lebanese and an Iraqi flags, a hand extended from each, for a handshake in the middle. At first I thought, hmmm, why a Lebanese flag. Usually, those things have a Palestinian flag, symbols of Palestinian nationalism. Then, I realized that I haven't seen any public display of sympathy/solidarity for Palestinians. Could it be, that they don't care about the Palestinians anymore? -- if they ever really did -- which, of course, they did -- although I think it's been a while, since there was any real commitment, devotion, genuine attachment to "the Palestinian cause." Actually, I'm thinking, I may have seen something (exhibiting sympathy/solidarity with Palestinians), but I can't remember it.
On the drive back from the interior ministry this morning, we passed through an area called Saydiyya, which reminded my uncle of the day the American army, entering Baghdad, was fighting with Saddam's troops. This was three days before the toppling of the statue of Saddam, and his daughter's family were staying at her mother-in-law's, in Saydiyya. Saddam's people, she said, were putting on civilian clothing, especially dishdashas, the traditional men's white robes, and climbing over fences and walls, into people's yards, and firing from there. So, my cousin packed up her family, to head for her father's house, in Mansour. On the way, they got caught in a firefight, with the bullets flying over their heads. She thought they were going to die.

That got us talking about the American entry into Baghdad, and the various entry points into the city. The main one was the northeast suburb of a-Thawra (which Saddam had named after himself), by the First Marine Expeditionary Force. My uncle's employee Ahmed, riding with us, lives there, and he said the Americans passed right down his street. I remembered the radio broadcast, as I was driving through Westlake, with people cheering wildly. Ahmed said people were ululating and passing out flowers. I asked him which kinds of flowers. He said jooree (damask rose) and qurunfull (carnations). The Americans passed out candy to the kids.
I was supposed to be an Iraqi citizen today -- but, noooo! -- I guess they don't want me -- I'm not good enough for them. Well, excuuuse meee!

It's so exhausting, all this to'ing and fro'ing -- back and forth to the ministry -- that was my fifth time, I think -- being shuffled from this lieutenant, to that captain, who, by the way, all wear civvies. They didn't use to, I was told, and people were terrified of them. My uncle's employee Ahmed came into the ministry, to look for me, and, from what he saw, said their treatment of people is a lot better than it used to be. They wouldn't let people into their offices, for one. In one of the seven or eight offices I entered this morning, there were a dozen people, all around the desk, pressing forward, pushing their files at the man behind the desk. They're more polite, too, Ahmed said, although, that's relative. One person signaled me to the office next door, with a flick of his worry beads. My uncle asked Ahmed if they were still from Saddam's towns -- Falluja, Tikrit, Haditha. Ahmed said, no, that they were all from the middle and southern regions [of the country].

As far as my application for a certificate of citizenship, despite getting the last thing I was told I needed -- a stamped photograph stapled onto the residency ticket, this morning -- the affair got stuck on our "frozen" citizenships. They were frozen in 1987, and, on appeal to the president of Iraq by one of my dad's cousins, a longtime friend of Saddam, the "freeze" was lifted, for all the sons and offspring of my grandfather and great-grandfather, who was born in Tabriz, Iran, while his parents were summering there. However, we -- my parents, me and my siblings -- did not take advantage of that "special presidential order," and, thus, our citizenships were still frozen. "But I thought that's what I did, last month, at the census office?" "That's different, because you had a special order, and you didn't make use of it." I was told I'd have to wait till there was a change in the law, about citizenships.

This certificate of citizenship, my uncle has been insisting emphatically, has to be gotten rid of. He says it's the only country in the world that has it -- "none of the Arab countries has it." It's a step beyond a plain-old citizenship, for the purpose of establishing your background, ethnicity, and, thus, he says, creates distinctions between Iraqis, as to where they're originally from -- Kurdish, Ottoman, Turkish, Indian, Iranian, whatever. The aHwaal madaniyya (civil affairs ID) is the citizenship, and Saddam's party created this extra layer of proof-of-citizenship, when they came to power, and made it necessary for all public transactions, such as purchase and sale of property. So, even though my uncle traveled to America in the early '50s, to go to college, without a citizenship, he needed it, after 1968, to carry out the most basic transaction in the public realm. Next, Saddam introduced something called a ra'awiyya, another ID, to establish not only that you were Iraqi, and not descended from non-Arab stock, but that you were brought up in "the genuine Iraqi Arab way," according to the tenets prescribed by the Iraqi branch of the Arab Ba'ath Socialist Party.

Well, I'm just sick and tired of the whole thing -- I give up. I don't know how these people put up with all of the bureaucracy. Then, over lunch, members of the Iraq Foundation's marshes restoration project (Eden Again) were talking about my joining them, next time they go down there, on their next scientific expedition. Of course, every person I tell about the troubles I'm having, getting an ID, promises they can get me one, via somebody they know, in a matter of a day or two, if not 15 minutes.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

All right -- one last article -- by somebody else, then I'll quit my slacking off. Actually, I've gotta catch up on e-mail. It's past seven, and I've got an hour or so left, of computer time. This article, is about life after the Governing Council for Iraqi politicians of the just-retired regime.
I'm not in a writing mood -- cruising the web. I know, I know -- to get in the writing mood, I've gotta write. All right -- all you moms out there. Well, in looking for Musa Keilani's column in the Jordan Times about Arab perceptions of Abu Ghraib, I came across an article about an upcoming eight-day workshop in Petra, Jordan, for 30 leading Iraqi antiquities specialists. According to the organizers, the "mission of the Iraq Heritage Congress is to develop world-class master conservation plans over the coming year for the protection and preservation of priceless historical and cultural sites in Iraq." The congress is funded, in part, by the Global Heritage Fund (GHF) and the World Bank.
Yesterday, I pulled a quote from an article about the apologizing over Abu Ghraib. The quote was from Jordanian columnist Musa Keilani, about Arabs' knowledge of what happened in Abu Ghraib under Saddam. Here's where the writer of the above article, found the quote, a piece about the prevalence of torture in Arab prisons. Then, the original Jordan Times column by Keilani, "Different sets of rules," purportedly about the "paradox to the way the Arab media and commentators reacted to the scenes of Iraqi prisoners being abused and humiliated by American soldiers in Saddam Hussein-era Abu Ghraib prison."
Below, the unified Kurdish response to the new Iraqi government and U.S. policies towards Iraqi Kurdistan, in the form of a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush:
Dear Mr. President:

We are writing this letter to your Excellency to present our views and concerns on the new Iraqi Interim Government, the Kurdish position and the future of the country.

America has no better friend than the people of Iraqi Kurdistan. A year ago, our peshmerga forces fought side by side with the American forces for the liberation of Iraq, taking more casualties than any other US ally. Today, Kurdistan remains the only secure and stable part of Iraq.

We note that, in contrast to the Arab areas of Iraq, no coalition soldier has been killed in the area controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government.

The people of Kurdistan continue to embrace American values, to welcome US troops, and to support your program for the liberation of Iraq. Our Kurdistan Regional Government has given up many of its current freedoms in the interest of helping your administering authorities reach compromises with other Iraqis.

We were therefore bitterly disappointed when your special representative advised us that a Kurd could be neither Prime Minister nor President of Iraq. We were told that these positions must go to a Shiite Arab and Sunni Arab respectively.

Iraq is a country of two main nationalities, Arabs and Kurds. It seems reasonable that the Arabs might get one of the top jobs (of their choice) but then the other should go to a Kurd.

We also believe the decision to use sectarian quotas for the top two jobs directly contradicts the Coalition's repeatedly stated position that democratic Iraq's government should not be based on ethnic or religious criteria, a position the US wrote into the Transitional Administrative Law.

The people of Kurdistan will no longer accept second-class citizenship in Iraq. In Saddam's time and before, Kurds were frequently given the Vice President or deputy positions, which were window dressing without power. We had hoped the new Iraq would be different for the Kurdish people.

Ever since liberation, we have detected a bias against Kurdistan from the American authorities for reasons that we cannot comprehend. At the outset of the occupation, the coalition seized the oil-for-food revenues that had been specifically earmarked for Kurdistan and redistributed them to the rest of Iraq - in spite of the fact that Kurdistan received far less of these revenues per capita than other Iraqis and notwithstanding the fact that our region was the one most destroyed by Saddam Hussein.

CPA actively discouraged the equality of the Kurdish and Arabic languages, and repeatedly tried to "derecognize" the Kurdistan Regional Government (Iraq's only elected government ever) in favour of a system based on Saddam's 18 governorates. US officials have demeaned the peshmerga, calling this disciplined military force that was America's battlefield comrade in arms, "militia."

In official statements, it is rare for the US government or the CPA even to refer to Kurdistan or the Kurdish people.

We will be loyal friends to America even if our support is not always reciprocated. Our fate is too closely linked to your fortunes in Iraq.

If the forces of freedom prevail elsewhere in Iraq, we know that, because of our alliance with the United States, we will be marked for vengeance. We do ask for some specific reassurance for this transitional period so as to enable us to participate more fully in the interim government. Specifically, we ask that:
The Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) be incorporated into the new UN Security Council Resolution or otherwise recognized as law binding on the transitional government, both before and after elections. If the TAL is abrogated, the Kurdistan Regional Government will have no choice but to refrain from participating in the central government and its institutions, not to take part in the national elections, and to bar representatives of the central Government from Kurdistan.

The United States commit to protect the people and government of Kurdistan in the event insurrection and disorder lead to a withdrawal from the rest of Iraq.

The Coalition carry through on commitments to reverse the Arabisation of Kurdish lands and move forward to settle the status of Kirkuk in accordance with the wishes of its people, excluding settlers but including those ethnically cleansed by Saddam Hussein.

The oil-for-food revenues unfairly taken from Kurdistan last year be restored in the entirety, and that Kurdistan receive its per capita share of the $19 billion in reconstruction assistance appropriated by the Congress.

The United States support our plans to own and manage Kurdistan's natural resources, and in particular our efforts to develop new petroleum resources in the Kurdistan Region, where the previous regime sought to block all exploration and development that might benefit the Kurdistan people.

The United States open a consulate in Erbil, and that it encourage other coalition partners to do the same. For the people of Kurdistan, it is vital that we maintain our direct links to the outside world and not solely dependent on a Baghdad where we are not considered fully equal citizens.

The United States and the United Nations state clearly that the use of ethnic and confessional criteria for the selections of the interim government does not set a precedent for a future Iraqi government, and that Kurds are eligible for the posts of Prime Minister and President.

If ethnic criteria are to be used to exclude Kurds from the top two positions in the interim government, we think it fair that Kurdistan be compensated with a disproportionate share of relevant ministries in the interim government.
Mr. President, we know that these are difficult days for all of us who believe the cause of Iraq's freedom was worth fighting for. The Kurdish people continue to admire your confident leadership, your vision of a free Iraq, and your personal courage. We are certain that you will agree that Kurdistan should not be penalized for its friendship and support for the United States.

Sincerely yours,

Masoud Barzani
Kurdistan Democratic Party

Jalal Talabani
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Messrs. Barzani and Talabani are the leaders of the two main Iraqi Kurdish parties. The Institute for War and Peace Reporting released the letter, which it reports was leaked to it by "sources close to the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority" on June 6. IWPR says the letter was verified by Kurdish officials, and was delivered to the White House over the weekend by the Kurdistan Regional Government's representative in the United States, Nijyar Shemdin.
In addition to new Iraqi president Ghazi il-Yawer, Iraqi prime minister Ayad Allawi has been invited to the G-8 summit that's starting today in Sea Island, Georgia. According to an Associated Press new item, "Allawi is the only non Group of Eight head of state that Bush is expected to meet with in a one-on-one session." That's to take place, tomorrow afternoon.
I wrote the following, yesterday evening, but wanted to finish it, before posting it. My "bad." I'll try not to do that, again.

It's been a pretty good week in Lake Wobegon -- should I say it? -- "my hometown." Well, whatever this place is, it's been a very good few days. Ten days ago [Friday, May 28], the interim prime minister was named. The members of the Iraqi Governing Council took everyone by surprise, and made their own choice for prime minister, without deferring to the U.N.'s envoy, who was pretty much handed the task of forming the transitional Iraqi government by the U.S. administration. Then, there was a little bit of a delay over the choice of president, but when that was done, Tuesday afternoon, so was the makeup of the rest of the government, with Iraqis, again, taking the lead. The cabinet of ministers featured a friend, a graduate of the Iraq Foundation, the democracy group whose offices I've been using since I arrived, two months ago. The cabinet included four other women, for a high in the region, 19 doctorate holders (one with two doctorates and the prime minister, with an MD as well), four other physicians, six master's holders, one judge, and all but maybe one of the rest with a college degree. Iraqis are extremely pleased, pointing out with great pride that this government is probably the most educated and highest qualified in the Arab world, and maybe for decades, at that. Possibly all the members of the government speak English, which will facilitate engagement with foreign donors, investors and aid agencies.

Within an hour of the announcement of the new government, the other side responded, with three suicide car bombs, one of them, outside the headquarters of Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. At least 14 people were killed, with at least 54 more injured in the blasts.

Meanwhile, while all of the political maneuverings were happening in Baghdad, Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, was in Najaf. He's been forming a bloc called Bayt il-Shi'i (The Shi'a House), and utilized his "good offices" to settle the crisis in Najaf with Muqtada as-Sadir. It ended with a sit-down two days ago [Sunday] between the young radical and the high pontiff of Shi'ism, Ayatollah Ali il-Sistani.

More to come.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Mort Zuckerman, on Pat Tillman, the former pro-football player, who packed it in, and joined the Army Rangers. Tillman's acts, ideals and sense of duty stand in for the courage and heroism of America's best. The reader might have to navigate to Zuckerman's archives to find the May 4 article.
In "A 'sorry' spectacle," an article about the apologizing over the treatment by American soldiers of detainees in Abu Ghraib prison, there's this quote, from Musa Keilani. The quote originally appeared in the Jordan Times:
We in the Arab world did know what was going on in Abu Ghraib (prison) when Saddam was in power: summary executions, dismemberment and torture of the worst kind we ever heard of in modern times. It is true that few in the Arab world talked about it and scant attention was given to international organizations' criticism of the gross violations of human rights in Iraq while Saddam was in power.
An update on the anniversary of my aunt Salwa's death, and on her son, Sa'ad. My mother's surviving sister, in Baghdad, delivered two loaves of the bread she had made, to my uncle's house. It's called churek. It's not a biscotti-type cookie, as I thought, but is round, about ten inches in diameter, and is made up of three concentric circles. It's soft, and tastes like a cross between challah, potato bread and King's brand Hawaiian bread. The plastic bag it came in, bears a label with almost the same wording as are on the three anniversary banners hanging around the city.

In addition to the churek, my aunt also distributed chicken to the poor, and got a donation for the purpose from her dead sister's daughter, who lives in England.

Finally, yesterday evening, in my pursuit of an Iraqi ID, I was taken by Salwa's grandson to a man, who then took us to an official of their municipality, who gave us a stamped residence form. The first man saw Salwa's son, Sa'ad, 24 years ago, immediately after he heard that he was wanted for questioning. Sa'ad was in a panic. He told his friend that he was driving his car, when he was stopped at gunpoint by a man, who'd shot dead a top Ba'thi apparatchik. The friend drove Sa'ad around to friends' homes, then took him to the home of a boy he was tutoring. There, Sa'ad wrote a letter explaining his situation and innocence. Sa'ad's friend took the letter to our uncle, without identifying himself or saying anything else. My uncle relayed the letter to the head of the Mukhabarat (intelligence services -- in essence, terrorism), Saddam's half-brother Barazan al-Tikriti. My uncle had to describe Sa'ad's friend, who's tall and has green eyes. The friend thought he was done. Over the next four days, he talked with Sa'ad, until just before he fled to Iran. The friend told me that he and Sa'ad were a "company" of five or six close friends, and that he was the only one left in Iraq. Three of his own brothers were executed, for Da'wa Party activities; his three other brothers fled the country. He, himself, was detained a year after Sa'ad's escape, on suspicion of having helped smuggle one of his brothers out of the country, through Kurdistan. He was detained for 30 days, but released, because the evidence against him was not sufficient.

Salwa's grandson, who took me to this man, is the spitting image of his uncle Sa'ad.
An update on Rajaa' and Wafaa', who were shot as they went shopping, Friday afternoon. Our cook and cleaner, Huda, along with her daughters Lana and Lena, who also work here, went to the neurological hospital after work yesterday, to visit Rajaa'; Wafaa' was released, yesterday morning. Rajaa' is to have a CT-scan, or a similar X-ray, to see how close the bullet is to her spinal cord, to determine whether the bullet can be removed. The owner of the factory where the sisters work, returned from Syria, to check on the women. Rajaa' asked if she'd be able to work again. The owner and others reassured her. She said that, just before the machine-gun firing, there was an explosion, maybe from a hand grenade. She saw two girls in their early teens fall dead in front of her. Thirteen people died, she said.
An Iraqi government announcement on armed militias and parties, and on a decree by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) on demilitarizing them. I received the following e-mail from the CPA, which governs Iraq until June 30.
Released at the request of the Office of the Prime Minister of Iraq

June 7, 2004

Remarks by the Prime Minister

Baghdad, Iraq – Prime Minister Ayad Allawi delivered the following remarks Monday morning upon the adjournment of Iraq’s Ministerial Committee for National Security’s weekly meeting. A number of important facts follow the statement.
I am happy to announce today the successful completion of negotiations on the nationwide transition and reintegration of militias and other armed forces previously outside of state control. As a result of this achievement, the vast majority of such forces in Iraq – about 100,000 armed individuals – will enter either civilian life or one of the state security services, such as the Iraqi Armed Forces, the Iraqi Police Service, or the Internal Security Services of the Kurdish Regional Government.

This agreement includes all individuals who have borne arms on behalf of nine major political parties – Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Iraqi Islamic Party, Supreme Counsel of the Islamic Revolution in Iraqi/Badr Organization, Iraqi National Accord (INA), Iraqi National Congress (INC), Iraqi Hezbollah, Iraqi Communist Party, and Da’wa. All of these parties have accepted detailed plans, timetables and terms for the transition and reintegration of the armed groups under their authority, or have already disbanded their militias.

While recent news has associated the word “militia” with the sort of violence orchestrated by Muqtada Al Sadr, in fact most of these groups and individuals were part of the resistance against Saddam Hussein’s regime. To reward former resistance fighters for their service, opportunities have been created for them to join state security services or lay down their arms and enter civilian life. Those who choose to enter official security forces will be able to safeguard their communities and their country, and good use will be made of their skills in building Iraqi security forces and meeting Iraq’s new security challenges. Those who choose to return to civilian life will receive valuable job training and other benefits.

By doing this, we reward their heroism and sacrifices, while making Iraq stronger and eliminating armed forces outside of government control. With these negotiations done, in coordination with the Ministerial Committee for National Security, CPA is releasing Order 91, which activates the Transitional Administrative Law’s ban on militias and other armed forces outside of state authority except as provided by federal law.

This law provides for the orderly, timely, and complete transition and reintegration of the armed groups controlled by the participating parties. According to agreed plans, about 90-percent of the 100,000 individuals affected will have joined state security forces or entered civilian life by the time of Iraq’s first elections, and the remainder will do so within a few months thereafter. The forces of the parties that accept this process will begin transition and reintegration promptly; indeed some have already done so.

Those awaiting transition or reintegration will be registered, monitored, and regulated by the state. A small percentage will be transformed into Private Security Companies, which will be strictly regulated by the Ministry of Interior. As of now, all armed forces outside of state control, as provided by this Order, are illegal. Those that have chosen violence and lawlessness over transition and reintegration will be dealt with harshly.

The completion of these negotiations and the issuance of this Order mark a watershed in establishing the rule of law, placing all armed forces under state control, and strengthening the security of Iraq. The Iraqi Interim Government applauds those parties that have worked so openly and closely to get Iraq to this important point and calls on them to continue this cooperation during implementation. I am pleased that this has been achieved as we accept responsibility for the future of Iraq, thus giving this government and the Iraqi people a clearer path to a secure future.

Key Facts
Most of the armed forces and militias that the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) and CPA Order 91 seek to control were created for good and even honorable reasons – to protect people from the horrors of Saddam’s regime.

Coalition officials have reached agreement with various armed forces and militias and will soon activate the CPA’s Armed Forces and Militia Transition and Reintegration (T&R) policy and explain how it affects Iraq’s militiamen.
Important Facts:
o We are dealing primarily with nine parties that maintain armed forces and/or militias – they are the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Badr Organization, Da’wa, Iraqi Hezbollah, the Iraqi Communist Party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, the Iraqi National Accord, and the Iraqi National Congress.

o The population we are dealing with is approximately 100,000 former resistance fighters.

o Of these, approximately 90,000 (approximately 90 percent) will have gone through the transition and reintegration process by January 2005, when the elections are scheduled, and all will have processed by time the constitution is passed.

o Just under 60-percent will pass into the Iraqi Security Services and the rest will be reintegrated back into civil society.
Saddam’s Army no longer exists, but other grave threats do. The character of, and skills developed by, resistance fighters over the years can now be put to use to make Iraq safer and more prosperous. While we need to transition and reintegrate these armed organizations, we also need to treat these former resistance fighters with the honor due them for their sacrifices in the struggle against Saddam’s tyranny.

The armed forces and militia T&R policy is fair and generous for those willing to work within the political process, but it’s very tough on those who remain outside of the law.

The T&R order essentially does six things:
1. Makes immediately effective the prohibitions on armed forces and militias articulated in the TAL – that armed forces and militias outside of government control are illegal except as provided by law;

2. Recognizes that those who fought against Saddam were, in fact, soldiers of Iraq in the truest sense. They and other veterans of Iraq's bloody past will be helped and treated alike. To do this, it officially designates former resistance fighters as Veterans;

3. Broadly defines the transition and reintegration process;

4. Outlines controls on “Residual Elements” – the technical term the order uses for those groups that are in the process of transition and reintegration while they are awaiting opportunities to start new careers;

5. Defines controls on Residual Elements and penalties for illegal armed forces and militias, and the parties that control them, as well as for those individuals who continue in illegal armed organizations; and

6. Creates an Iraqi inter-ministerial committee to oversee this effort.
Order 91 declares former resistance fighters who are not criminals, terrorists or foreign agents to be Veterans. In doing so, it:
1. Provides those whose time in service meets the requirements for an Army retirement with the same pension they would have received had they served in the Army;

2. Permits time in service to be counted towards retirement should they join a government agency or one of the Iraqi Security Forces (e.g., the Army, police);

3. Makes them eligible for all Veterans benefits, such as preferences in the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs’ (MOLSA) job training and placement programs;

4. Provides widows and orphans of those martyred in the fight against Saddam with the same survivor benefits as deceased Iraqi soldiers; and

5. Provide disability benefits that are identical to those of Iraqi soldiers.
The structure of the Transition and Reintegration process is based on a three-tracked approach:
1. Transition into legally authorized security forces: A substantial number of former resistance fighters will transition into the Iraqi Armed Forces, Iraqi Police Service, Department of Border Enforcement, Facilities Protection Service, and the Kurdish Regional Government’s Internal Security Forces (per TAL Article 54A) as individuals. No armed force or militia has been permitted to transfer units into any branch of the Iraqi Security Forces.

2. Pensions for those who qualify.

3. Job Training and Placement opportunities, primarily through MOLSA’s job training and placement programs, which contain a Veterans’ Preference.
Residual Elements: With the release of this order, all armed forces and militias not under government control are hereby illegal. By designating an Armed Force or Militia whose leadership has agreed to a TR plan a “Residual Element,” these residual elements and their members are granted a legal status while following through with their plan for transition and reintegration.
1. All members of residual elements will be required to register with the Iraqi Veterans Administration, the agency that verifies eligibility for benefits and pensions. Note that this is the same process through which they receive their benefits, so this is a positive process in keeping with the fact that we are recognizing and rewarding those who fought Saddam;

2. All weapons must be properly registered with the Ministry of Interior (MOI) in accordance with Iraqi law; and

3. Transition and Reintegration schedule must be executed as planned, if not modified by the TR Implementation Committee.
Restrictions and Penalties are also articulated in Order 91.
1. While waiting to T&R, Residual Elements will be permitted to perform security functions only with the approval of the MOI and Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I).

2. Because the Residual Elements are in the process of drawing down, they will not be permitted to recruit or add weapons to their inventories.

3. To prevent the perception or occurrence of coercion, Residual Elements may not endorse, finance or campaign for candidates for political office.

4. Members of illegal armed forces or militias will be barred from holding political office for three years after leaving their illegal organization.

5. Residual Elements that violate any of the condition of Order 91 will loose their status as a residual element and be declared an illegal armed force or militia.
Political parties and their leaders that support illegal armed forces or militias shall be subject to penalties as defined in the forthcoming CPA order on electoral law.

The Iraqi Transition and Reintegration Implementation Committee is established by this order. It will report to the Ministerial Committee for National Security, and will consist of representatives of the Ministries of Defense, Interior, Justice, Finance, Labor and Social Affairs, Education, the Iraqi Veterans Agency and other agencies and organizations as needed. It will be responsible for creating policy and overseeing the execution of the TR Process.
The person I met at the internet café last Tuesday came to our office for lunch two days ago. It turns out, he went to school with one of my officemates, and they were best buddies. That's not relevant to the story I wanna tell here. It also turned out that his brother was married to my mother's cousin's daughter. Got that? Well, that's not relevant to the story, either. He returned to Iraq three months ago, after a 15-year absence. He's a consultant engineer, specializing in oil and natural-gas exploration, and has worked across Asia, Africa and Europe. A top priority for him, while he's here, is to find a wife, and while at our office, he enlisted his old college pal for the project. That, too, is not relevant to the topic at hand -- although it might be.

Here, at last, is the topic he told me about. After I met him, he read my blog, and told me he had a story for me, about the difficulties of doing business in Iraq. He's setting up shop here, and is looking to hire a secretary. He put an ad in the newspaper Az-Zamaan, asking for an office manager (female), with a science degree and no experience necessary. He preferred someone with no experience, so she would be open to a range of tasks, rather than narrowly focused, through extensive experience in one field or aspect of business. He got 10 replies by e-mail. None studied science, and all had past work experience, the least of them, six years. Eight of the applicants showed up for interviews (all unveiled), each, accompanied by a man -- brother, husband or father. My friend felt this was a natural result of fears over safety and the lack of trust that’s built up in the society over the decades. He wanted to hear from the applicants, to assess their independence, performance under pressure, assertiveness, creativity and flexibility. However, each male companion walked into his office with the applicant, and my friend felt too embarrassed to ask the man to stay outside. With seven of the applicants, the men spoke half the time. One brother had the courtesy to let the applicant respond, without interruption. His sister was well-spoken, assertive, a painter, was the only applicant who spoke very good English, spoke French, too, and was the only one who didn't ask about pay, which was the first and persistent question of the others. She also didn't want to work in an office with Americans, to protect herself against terrorist attacks -- that shouldn't be a problem, though. The employer has someone else in mind for the job.
It didn't work -- almost, but...not close enough. I completely forgot about getting my picture stapled onto the municipality document, and get that stamped by the man who gave me the document yesterday. Back to the drawing board. Back I go, to the...to "Bob," to get him to put his "Bob Hancock" on my picture, and, then, back to the interior ministry.

At the citizenship building this morning, again, I was shuffled from one officer to another -- to get another signature or notice put on my application. First, I was asked to go from the fifth floor to the fourth, to Lieutenant Ahmed or Lieutenant Shakir, to complete the operation. Their office door was locked -- with an actual padlock. Next door, the guy told me all those from the neighboring office were coming from Diyala province, in one car, so they must be caught in traffic or something. I replied, "Aakh!" The guy behind the desk said, "Don't say Aakh -- pray for them."

I didn't wanna wait, so I asked next door for someone who could do the citizenship. A couple of people told me to go to Captain Khdhayyir, down the end of the hall. I went into one office, asked for Captain Khdhayyir; the guy sitting beside the desk flicked his finger to the left. Next door, I waited, with the rest of the people. When someone is told that their case is missing something, others start pushing their files forward on the desk. I joined them. Captain Khdhayyir asked me if I came from abroad. "Yes." "Where were you?" "Iran." That's supposed to reduce the price of the bribe -- er, tip. He jotted something on my application, and asked me to go next door to get my "father cancelled," whatever that means. Dad, I hope I haven't eliminated you from the registries -- I think they were removing Dad as a dependent -- or, rather, whatever the opposite of that is. I think the woman punched something into the computer. Back to Captain Khdhayyir, who then wanted the original document that "froze" our citizenship. He sent me across the hall. The guy there said it would take a day or two to find the document. "It's in one of those places you'd really like -- real dark, on the top floor." When I was up there, I'd stolen a peak to the side, and saw a room full of steel shelves, each bulging with files. I wondered what would happen if the floor collapsed under the weight of all those files. I imagined a scene out of the movie "Brazil," with all the papers floating and flying everywhere. Then, the workers would have something to do, rearranging all the papers into their files.

I was going to go back to Captain Khdhayyir, to tell him that all I'd needed was a supporting document from the muncipality, so why the need to go back to the old "frozen" document. Then I decided to check to see if my old friend Lieutenant Ahmed had arrived. He had. He looked at my papers: "Where's the picture? I told you -- I wrote it for you -- there's my handwriting [on the outside of the file containing all my papers], 'a stamped picture.'" "You're right -- my fault."

I left the building -- to fight another day. Outside, my uncle was getting his shoes shined. I joined him. My "fingernails have never looked so clean." I didn't wanna walk in my shoes -- looked better than new. I think I'll do that, again.

About all the military ranks of the people working in the interior ministry bureaus, my uncle said they were all police, and "Shi'as were terrified of them. [Prime Minister] Ayad Allawi's changing that -- make them all civilians. They used to all be from Falluja, Ramadi, Haditha, Tikrit -- [from the] Dulaym [tribe]." I said that maybe my saying I was in Iran wouldn't help me. My uncle replied, "Now, we've got people there." I said I think it'll take time, to make such a fundamental shift.

That guy at the interior ministry might still be looking for the "frozen" document from 1987. I should've told him to suspend his search. Oops.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

It looks like I'm back on the ID track. When last we left our on-going saga, I was short a ta'yeed -- some documentary proof -- from a municipality, that I lived somewhere in Iraq. A cousin suggested I rent a place, to get that proof. I've also had a couple of promises of help, to get that proof-of-residency done, or to skip that, and go straight for the aHwaal madaniyya (civil affairs ID card). Well, an hour ago, a cousin's son picked me up (from the nearest of the two internet cafés I patronize), took me to a man's house, who then took us to another house, and..."Bob's your uncle." At the last house, "Bob" went inside his house, came back with a half-slip of paper. We took the paper, went back to Man #1's house, and right there, outside his house, he filled in most of the rest, on top of the car, using my relative's diary book to support the paper. At the top of the paper is a badly photocopied heading in English and Arabic: Advisory Council/Kindi District -- Al-Harthiyya -- Al-Karkh -- Baghdad. At the bottom left of the paper, "Bob" had stamped his round "advisory council" seal and name, and signed across the stamp. Below the heading, there are spaces in English and Arabic for the date and document number. Man #1 filled out today's date and left the other blanks, blank. Then, below the "Basmallah" (the opening Islamic phrase "In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate") at the center of the paper, there's a line I'm to fill out, with the exact name of the office I'm to take this document to -- the office in the interior ministry that issues citizenship certificates. I've got the paperwork in the office, and I need to write in the exact name of the bureau, trying to replicate the blue ball-point ink Man #1 used. Then, it says "We affirm that Mr." and Man #1 wrote "Ayad Nazar Muhammad Jawad al-Rahim" [that's my first name, then my father's first name, then his father's first name, then my father's grandfather's first name, then the family name] "currently resides in the Harthiyya neighborhood Baghdad Kindi district section," after which Man #1 filled in my aunt's address -- section number, street number, house number. I need to call her, and tell her what we've done -- well, ask her permission. It's been done, many times -- she's done it, many times. Then there are spaces for the "food-ration number" and the "residency-card number." Man #1 put a line through those spaces. Before leaving Man #1, I asked him about the bad photocopy. He said they're all bad photocopies.

If I can find rides back and forth, I should be heading back to the interior ministry in the morning. Wish me luck. God -- I hope they don't have any of those "Midnight Express" dungeons underground -- that building looks like it's straight of the movie.
Friday's speech to the nation by Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, translation provided by the Coalition Provisional Authority:
Sons and daughters of Beloved Iraq

Peace Be Upon You

It is indeed a happy occasion for me to talk to you as I put forth the ideas of your government for the tasks that are before it and which we all strive to accomplish, presenting a detailed program which will be guiding the work of our government and which we have been entrusted with at this very critical moment of Iraq’s history.

Dearly beloved and honorable people,

We are at the threshold of regaining sovereignty, and today we face many challenges having to do with the serious and organized way that we have to follow for the transition of authority both politically and legally, and that is on the 30th of June, God willing.

We as Iraqis cannot live under occupation, and while we express our gratefulness to the United States, the United Kingdom and the Coalition Provisional authority, to President Bush, Prime Minister Blair and all the leaders of the Coalition for their contribution in Liberating Iraq, we are ready to end the occupation and receive sovereignty on June 30th.

Our Government has indeed begun to actively participate in the current discussions at the Security Council to pass a new resolution concerning the new decision for the full transition of sovereignty to the interim Government, and the Governing Council has taken important steps before it dissolved itself in that regard.

Our Honorable people of Iraq,

Our Government has pinpointed fundamental ways for a new, safe and free Iraq, where the people practice their rights in voting and electing their leaders by way of elections, and deciding about the Constitution by way of a civilized dialogue, expressing the will of the people. The first of these ways to accomplish that is to define the appropriate and technical mechanisms, making use of the wealth of experience that the United Nations has in preparing and conducting free and fair elections, without fear nor constraint. The Independent Electoral Commission which was recently formed and is being supported by the UN is one of the mechanisms devised for the Electoral Process.

The second important point has to do with the security situation facing the country, the administrative vacuum and the absence of capable establishments that can provide security, stability and safety for citizens. Our government believes that stability, security and protecting citizens' dignity, property and honor are the only means that will enable us to succeed in the political process and achieve the transfer of sovereignty in full. The government will also seek to achieve the constitutional electoral process in Iraq.

The hostile terrorist forces, which seek to inflict evil on our honorable, patient and steadfast people, have indeed expressed their wicked and evil will in an attempt to break the will of this nation. The organized operations that seek to kill innocent Iraqis, target our national police and undermine the infrastructure - including power, oil establishments, etc. - are the evil which these deviant groups are seeking to inflict on our patient people. The cowardly terrorist operations have delayed and will delay progress in public life, harm the national economy and affect the livelihood of the Iraqi people and families. The flow of criminals, such as the so-called
[Jordanian-born Abu-Mus'ab] Al-Zarqawi, through borders to Iraq, who seek to harm us, will, God willing, stop.

Your government will make a decision organizing the entry of foreigners to Iraq in accordance with the legal rules and entry visas. The evil terrorist operations have obstructed foreign and Arab investments, in addition to the investments of the Iraqi private sector and the state. Such investments could have provided decent job opportunities and legal sources of income for hundreds of thousands of citizens so that they can support their families and children. Iraq's dilemma will be followed by a great and giant progress, God willing.

I call upon our people, the people of heroism and great and generous deeds, the people of sacrifice, the people of the 1920 revolution and its proud men in the central Euphrates region, holy Al-Najaf, Al-Amarah, Mosul and Al-Ramadi to rise up to repulse the terrorist aggressors who seek to obstruct life and make us enter into gloomy darkness and continue to shed the blood of the sons of our people and expose our honorable families, may God forbid, to loss and fragmentation. In order to build our new Iraq and preserve our values and religion, let us all be one and let us be inspired by the manly stands of our fathers and grandfathers who had their head held high.

Defeating terrorism and terrorists is the duty of all Iraqis. I call on you to resolutely confront these criminal murderers and to cooperate with the state agencies to destroy these evil forces. Your government, in coordination with the political movements and parties, which fought and confronted Saddam's regime, will work to dissolve the armed aspects and entities and send their personnel to the military and security institutions in Iraq. There will be no role for the armed entities outside the state's frameworks.

Our heroic people: economic reconstruction and facing immediate and important problems will be the third natural point, parallel to the other two points. Perhaps the most imminent and dangerous economic problems are the problems of unemployment, inflation and the weak purchasing power. Therefore, our government will work towards stabilizing the exchange rate of the Iraqi currency, improve the purchasing power, improve the living standards for families, increase oil production and safeguard the dignity of citizens through increasing salaries and distributing them in a way that corresponds with the needs of our people. Our people will keep their heads held high, God willing.

We are negotiating now to amortize Iraq's enormous debts caused by Saddam's reckless policies, money-squandering, theft of Iraq's resources and involvement in useless wars.

We are also negotiating to secure international support and to control the country's natural resources following the transfer of power. Important and friendly countries help us in this endeavour, spearheaded by the United States and Europe, in addition to sisterly Islamic countries. Negotiations have progressed considerably and will be successful, God willing.

Iraq will encounter financial problems, which we will overcome in two or three years, God willing. What would exacerbate these problems, God forbid, is the continuation of attacks on pivotal structures such as attacks on oil installations launched by forces that hold enmity against our people. In coming weeks, a group of concerned ministers will discuss these issues with the related countries and bodies. The president of the Iraqi Republic will attend a meeting with G-8 leaders in the coming few days, God willing. Your government will contribute to defeating economic terrorism that criminals are trying to spread in our beloved Iraq.

Free brothers: We must emphasize national unity, the need to shun indiscriminate revenge, the supremacy of law and differentiating between those who committed crimes against the Iraqi people and those who did not commit crimes. We must also affirm the need to try criminals in courts to be punished for the injustice they committed and to allow the Ba'thists who did not violate the law, to live in dignity and as part of the community and thus contribute to progress and to the process of cultural transfer which we seek. Accordingly, this Iraq would be the best aid and support for its people, brothers and neighbors. It would also join the world community once again and contribute to leading humanity towards a more secure, stable and fair world.

For this purpose, I will meet next week with the special tribunal that the Iraqis will take over when sovereignty is transferred. This tribunal will try those officials of the defunct Saddam regime who committed crimes against Iraqis.

A strong and able Iraq that is based on solid bases of equality, justice and respect for human rights - Iraq that does not launch aggressions against its neighbors or brothers, Iraq of love and construction, is the country that will help stabilize the region and preserve the safety and security of its peoples and that will support development and construction.

O our dignified people: The Security Council is about to adopt a resolution on multinational forces in Iraq under the supervision of the United Nations, of which Iraq was one of its founders. This will be a guarantee for Iraq until full capabilities are available for the internal security forces, the national police and the army to shoulder their national duties in protecting the Iraqi people.

Targeting the US-led multinational forces with the aim of forcing them out of Iraq will cause a large catastrophe to Iraq, God forbid, especially if this takes place before completing the building of the security and military institutions.

I should not forget to mention that the coalition forces have sacrificed the blood of their sons as a result of the terrorist operations, which sought to force them to leave Iraq.

O dear brothers and sisters: This is what I wanted to say to you so that the picture will be clear to you. I am fully confident that the people of Iraq distinguish well between those who want to serve their people and homeland and those who want evil and wrongdoing against them.

The slogan of all of us will be serious work for the building of a democratic, pluralist, federal, and unified Iraq. On this historic occasion, I am pleased to value the role played by the esteemed religious authorities, headed by His Eminence Grand Ayatollah Al-Sayyid Ali Al-Sistani, in supporting the political process.

Long live Iraq, and long live its people - strong, free and dignified. May God give success to Iraq and its people.

Peace and God's blessing be upon you.
Yesterday, the cook in our office, Huda, told me about two women who'd been shot the day before. The women, Rajaa' and Wafaa', work in a factory managed by Huda's husband. The 11 workers at the factory make hamburgers, pita pizzas, steaks, booreg (meat pies, similar to samosas) and all kinds of kubbas (a meatball, stuffed inside a dough usually made of rice or potatoes). They freeze their products and sell them, retail and wholesale. Rajaa' and Wafaa', sisters in their twenties, had just left the factory Friday afternoon, and were going to buy presents for a friend's wedding. They went to New Baghdad, a part of the city just across the bridge from Meshtel, where the factory is located. As they were about to enter a sweets shop, a man from a passing car sprayed lead from his machinegun into the crowded sidewalk. Rajaa' got three bullets -- in her waist, shoulder and back. Wafaa' got six bullets -- in her shoulders and upper body. Wafaa' dragged herself into the shop and called the factory, where the manager, Aamir Goorgees, was just locking up. Just then, another worker from the factory happened on the scene, and discovered his co-workers. Aamir rushed over in a taxi, but the cabbie refused to take the bloodied passengers. So Aamir called an ambulance, and the women were driven to a hospital. The bullet in Rajaa's back is lodged against her spinal cord, and doctors fear she'll be paralyzed or won't be able to walk. Wafaa's condition is much better. Huda will visit them today, and report back to me, tomorrow. Rajaa' and Wafaa' are single and have worked at the factory for 10 years -- they're said to be the spinal cord of the factory. The owner of the plant, Aamir's cousin, told Aamir to provide the sisters with the best treatment possible, in private hospitals. The owner, Khalid Toma, who's had the factory for 15 years, fled Iraq to Syria a month ago, fearing Islamic extremists -- the Tomas and Goorgeeses are Christian; Wafaa' and Rajaa' are Muslim. Huda's been telling me, over the past few weeks, about many families, including three sets of relatives, fleeing to Syria. The Chaldean patriarch (in America) has advised people to leave Iraq, she says. Many are seeking visas to Australia and New Zealand. New Baghdad is a commercial area patronized by Christians, who predominate in the surrounding districts of Meshtel, Camp Sarah, Camp Armen and Ghadeer, but Huda doesn't think the shooting was religiously motivated -- she says it was intended to sow insecurity and fear.
I was sad to hear of the passing of President Reagan -- although it was not a surprise -- people have probably been expecting it, for a long time -- I have. When he was president, I didn't like Ronald Reagan -- I was a Lefty, and saw him as dumb and uninspired. I've since revised my views, and now realize that he stood up to evil, which is always the right thing to do, and he was pretty right on the most basic issues -- of freedom and human rights and responsibilities -- and he was always a ray of hope and sunshine, like him or not. My condolonces to all.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

More this-and-that from Rania Kashi -- about the trans-continental train, Bollywood in the Gulf, an Indian singer, Iraqi and Arab racism, Iraqi women politicians, and me getting a break. By the way, Rania was the one whose letter Tony Blair used at his party conference almost two years ago, and, then, she made a disgrace on television of MP Tony Benn. Way to go, Rania!
Date: 6/3/2004 3:58:39 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: Rania Kashi

Hi Ayad,

I racked my brains trying to remember where I'd heard about the rail link, and i found it - im signed up to iwpr (www.iwpr.net) iraqi press monitor, i don't know if you get it, but i guess you do your own press monitoring, they select some articles from a range of iraqi newspapers, summarise, translate and email them, so that's where i heard about it. i found that particular news piece, from issue no 84, may 26 2004
[Ayad: I couldn't find this report, on IWPR's web-site]:
Trains to be tracked by satellite (Al-Qassim al-Mushtarak) – The Assistant Director General of the Iraqi Railway Stations Company Alaa al-Deen Sadik said the company has decided to use a satellite control system and computers on train movements to make Iraq a rail link between Europe, south-east Asia and the Gulf states. Deen said the project will be completed within 6-9 months after contracts are signed with foreign companies. A delegate from the company has gone to the US for training in the use and installation of satellite units. (Al-Qassim Al-Mushtarak is issued twice a week by Sabhan Mulla Chyad.)
so i guess they're hoping at some point in the future to have the rail links in place to be able to use this new technology?? what is the rail situation in iraq?

shame about your cancelled film trip, i was very happy for you for a little while there, i personally would not be able to cope without my films! well at least people still remember bollywood, there's still hope!! the indian singer's name is lata mangeshkar. when i was in dubai 9 years ago i remember going to the cinema there to watch all the latest hindi films, and these days all the bollywood stars are always popping round to the gulf and having concerts there.

ive always thought that arabs look down on indians, i didn't think there might be a reason behind it, so it's interesting to hear the indian soldier theory, but then i feel they can be quite racist towards black people too, again i don't know why, but from my (limited) experiences with arabs/iraqis ive always seen a racist streak...is that true in the middle-east? i would have thought with africa so close, or even on african land middle-easterners would've adopted a different attitude...?

i see what you mean with the cabinet women, as window dressing. maybe more hope for the elections, or even the national thing they're putting together next month? i was actually really impressed by an ex-gc member, dr Raja Habib al-Khuzaai when she gave a talk at the kufa in london, about how she'd gone about making her mind up about the family rights law that was passed and then revoked again for restricting women's rights, and her opinion on debaathification, and the fact that she had some 8 children, was a doctor as well has holding down her gc job - impressive or what! anyway...

i guess i'm more surprised not that you've held out for so long in iraq itself but rather because i know that you've been doing this every day since you arrived which must be tiring just on its own so i think you deserve a break! i hear it's nice up north!

ok last exam tomorrow so i'd better hit the books again, and then a nice long summer!

will pass on your messages soon, take care!


* * *
Date: 6/5/2004 11:33:55 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Thanks, Rania -- that's super of you -- appreciate it -- much.

Lots of love, and good luck in exams.

Oops -- I just saw there was more to your e-mail, than just the news about the train link.

That's good, about Khuzaai -- glad to hear it. She's the doctor, right? A couple of the others on the Governing Council, I've heard, aren't great -- the Turkish woman, Sangool, and the Islamist choice, to replace Hashimi -- Salama al-Khafaji -- I heard she's a real...I-don't-know-what -- but doesn't have much to offer, politically....

And, oh, yeah -- Arabs are very racist. I saw some of that in Turkey, too, three years ago -- just awful. We've really got it the best, in America, and you're next, in Britain. Canada, too -- well, all the English-speaking lands.

All right -- gotta go. I'm at my break-neck pace, going through e-mail.

See you, and good luck, again.
A couple of postscripts. On Iraqi racism, at least towards Indians, I know a man, in his sixties, maybe over seventy years old, who didn't have a clue that there was an Indian influence on Iraqi society, culture. Sorry, I should've said the man is Iraqi, arrived in America just a few years ago. And when I gave some evidence, some anecdotes, he just refused to believe it. Well, let's not beat around the bush here -- the man's a Sunni Arab. So, there -- that proves that.

On the subject of racism, we mustn't forget, the biggest slave traders were Arabs, as much as they like to preach equality before God, that Islam is the great equalizer. And, still, the biggest slaveholders in the world are Arabs -- and not just in Sudan, either. All up and down the Gulf, and other "more-civilized" countries, slavery, and sex-slaves, too -- especially from the Indian subcontinent.

Dr. Khuzaai is the head of a maternity hospital.

About the potential transcontinental train linking Iraq with southeast Asia and Europe, when I shared this with the relatives gathered at my uncle's house a couple of nights ago, their reaction was, "This [Iraq] could be a paradise." Just wait five or ten years, they said.

I forgot to answer Rania, about the general train situation. I don't know, exactly, but I hear about lines opening up, between Basra, Baghdad and Mosul. The old train station in Baghdad looks nice, and there's talk about connecting up with Damascus, and other Arab cities. Where's that old Haifa line? I'll keep my eye open, though -- ears open, I should say.
Before Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Tuesday address, Iraq's president-designate, Ghazi il-Yawer, delivered the following remarks. Allawi announced in his nationally televised address yesterday that Yawer would join the heads of the Group of Eight nations at their three-day summit that starts Tuesday, June 8, in Sea Island (south of Savannah, Georgia), where he will be welcomed by U.S. President George W. Bush.
Good evening

Would the dear brother Dr Fu'ad Ma'sum, head of the Higher Committee of the National Iraqi Conference, please come forward, please Sir.

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. It is best to begin our speech with a verse from the Holy Koran: "Our Lord! Bestow on us mercy from Thyself and dispose of our affair for us in the right way."

Sir, Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, envoy of the secretary general of the United Nations, honorable audience, ladies and gentlemen: Actually I like to speak impromptu. But, today, it is a written speech, and this is new to us. Please excuse me. [Laughter all round]

Allow me to deviate from the official presidential speech and say: Long live Iraq unified, strong, and lofty with you and your solid national unity and firm resolve, which shall not relent before all the difficulties and challenges, God willing. Long live Iraq with its Arabs, Kurds, nationalities, and fraternized and cohesive components in every corner of our precious homeland.

These are moments to express my thanks and gratitude to you and to all the brothers and colleagues of all trends for this trust, which showed that they are with the one homeland and above all sects and divisions. But, it is also a moment of a pledge and an oath, just as it is a moment of awareness of the honor of assignment.

My pledge and oath to you to be an Iraqi who honestly defends your aspirations for restoring our country's full sovereignty and establishing a democratic, plural, federal, and united system in which all sides enjoy free citizenship in the state of law, institutions, and liberties away from any quotas or fragmentation.

My pledge and oath to you to exert all efforts with my brothers in responsibility to reconstruct Iraq, liquidate the heritage of the dictatorial eras and all forms of discrimination, and achieve national reconciliation through which the homeland will be for all without murderers, criminals, and covetous ones who wish to restore dictatorship under any slogan.

My pledge and oath to you to restore Iraq's civilized face and positive and constructive role on the Arab, regional, and international levels.

My pledge and oath to you that Iraq shall be a support and a friend for its brothers and neighbor. It shall spare itself and its neighbors of any trend that weakens rather than strengthens, and divides rather than unites; a fully recovered Iraq that is democratic for its people; an Iraq that does not have any ambitions or desire to export its experiment or crises.

My pledge and oath to you to be the source and inspiration of political decisions.

My pledge and oath to you to work with all the means in my power to ensure for you the chance to express your direct free will in honest elections and to set up through them a solid foundation for the consecration of democracy in our country.

After this oath, my only wish is for our efforts to be concerted and for our wills to be united so that we can turn this moment into persistent work to overcome our people's tribulation by ridding them of the chaos and lack of security and to take them to shore of safety and stability, God willing.

Finally, and before I end my speech, I would like us to remember our martyrs who fell in defense of freedom and honor, as well as our friends who fell in the battle for the liberation of Iraq.

I would like to draw attention to that there were today spiteful shelling attempts aimed at obstructing the democratic process in Iraq. They will not be able and they are not able, God willing, based on your consolidated efforts. God willing, we will continue on this course. May God preserve Iraq for us and preserve you, loyal and righteous sons for it. Peace be upon you.
As I was walking on busy sidewalk, later that day, I heard piping out from one of the shops the beginning of a radio interview with the new president of Iraq. It felt like a proud moment for the nation.

It's also reported that Yawer played a role in calming the situation in Falluja.
Subj: Saddam's fate/Bazzaz
Date: 5/28/2004 5:58:28 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"

I just took a look at you quoting me on Saddam's fate. I made this suggestion to unmask Saddam's "mousy" character and not make him a martyr by executing him.

I am not sure which economic boom you credited Abd Al-Rahman al-Bazzaz with. He was a prime-minister for 10 months. He was liked by the Soug al-Shorja crowd (al-Shorja bazaar traders) because he made pronouncements about his "guided socialism" which was rightly interpreted to be against the nationalization law of 1964. These statements re-assured the market but had no major effect on the economy. The only boom which benefited the people was between 1958 & 1963. The other boom was after the hike in oil prices in 1973-74 but most people did not profit much from it because of the high inflation that came along with it. Salam,


* * *
Date: 5/28/2004 10:03:40 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Thanks, Alaa -- I'll post this. They did mention the early '60s boom, too. And what I heard, about Bazzaz, was that he was there for two years. Oh, well. I need to check my facts, huh.

See you.

* * *
Date: 6/1/2004 5:17:27 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"

Al-Bazzaz formed 2 cabinets between the end of septemebr 1965 and august 66 when he resigned under pressure from military. He could not have spent much time on the economy considering that in that period two coup attempts were made by Aref Abd al-Rezzaq, President Abd Al-Salam Aref died in a plane crash and he was involved in peace negotiations with the Kurds (as well as with Iran and Saudi Arabia to improve relations). During all of this, restless army officers were vying to replace him. His pronouncements on guided socialism were however warmly received in the bazaar (I guess your relatives were, as many traders, sympathetic to him). I personally liked the man and hoped he could remain PM. But I won't give him credit for things he did not (or was not able to) do. You need facts, ask me!

By the way, what happened to his niece who we accidently met at an Arab pub/restaurant in Cambridge? Were with me?

* * *
Date: 6/3/2004 7:17:08 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Hi, Alaa,

Good to hear from you, again.

I did think of asking you for facts, but...thought it might be too late, before you answered me. I think this had to do with something else. I do thank you, for correcting me.... Well, I guess that's what you're for -- people like you, reading my blog, and correcting me.

Oh -- let me tell you what else I heard, the other day -- about Bazzaz. Yes, my father's side of the family are all merchants -- except my father, and his sister. In fact, their khan
[inn] is near Shari' il-Nahar [River Street], not too far from Bab il-Sharjee [Eastern Gate]. Well, what they were saying, in the course of two evening conversations -- or maybe it was only in the second -- was that he was a very well-educated man, well liked, and that he had these press conferences every Tuesday evening, at six, which were televised.

Could you add more?

I mean, my uncle also said that people were happy with the economy, although, as you say, 10 months is not a lot to be able to do with. Actually, his cousin, at the last gathering, maybe wasn't sure about
inti'aash [prosperity]. I don't know. I wonder if there are any good statistics, ways to measure it.

All right -- gotta go. See you, Alaa -- and thanks so much, for reading me, and caring enough to correct me.


Hey -- what's the latest, on your trip?

* * *
Date: 6/3/2004 8:43:32 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "Al-dhahir, A. (Alaaddin)"

Hello Ayad:
Bazzaz studied law at King's college, London. He ws given an honorary doctorate from Cairo by Abd al-Nasser (mostly for his (pan-Arab) writing against Abd al-Karim Qasim). I find his writings full of rubbish and contradictions (these are my views on all Arab nationalist writings). His writings were centered on explaining Arab nationalism in terms of Islam (these two in fact contradict each other) but he draws time & again on German nationalist thought of 18 & 19 centuries. People thought of him as an intellectual (as I did in my teenage years). At any rate, he was better educated than the average military ruler of Iraq and people held him in high respect for this (i.e measured against whom?). Compare him to Taher Yihya, Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr or Abd al-Salam Aref and he would easily win. Iraqis knew no better. But I can tear his writings apart now!! I have his original German sources! At one time, I truly fell off my chair in laughter while reading one of his contradictions and choked when trying to translate it to Liesbeth.

Another reason for the people's admiration (and mine as well) was his press conferences and his ability to speak English (which was something considering that no Iraqi leader after Qasim spoke it or gave press conferences). No doubt Bazzaz was a better politician and could present himself well. But anyone who worked in the Opposition to Saddam & was under the spotlight (with the possible exception of Intifadh Qanbar) has these skills now.

Bazzaz's pro free-market pronouncements had more to do with psychology than with any real economic policies and due to this there was some improvement or rather movement in the bazzar (of which your relatives still remember as I do). If I am not mistaken, Bazzaz's father was a small trader in the textile (hence the name al-Bazzaz) al-Nahar street and so was Abd al-Salam Aref's father. In short, Bazzaz was better than his compatriots but I doubt if he can compete with the current highly educated and skilled crowd (regardless of our personal (dis)like of them). But people stick to old figures as some in Lebanon or Morrocco might still find Saddam a great leader not a mouse forty years from now.


* * *
Date: 6/5/2004 3:41:47 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Thanks, Alaa -- I can't touch that. I'm glad you're with me, on this ride.

See ya.

So, what's the latest, on your trip?
Here are Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's translated remarks, Tuesday, June 1, introducing the new president and cabinet of ministers of Iraq. This is not the speech he gave yesterday evening.
In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

Our dear people, brother President Shaykh Ghazi al-Yawir, dear brother members of the esteemed Presidential Council, honorable brother Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, representative of the secretary general of the United Nations, Ambassador Paul Bremer, civil administrator of the Coalition Authority in Iraq, honorable members of the Coalition Authority, my colleagues in the esteemed cabinet, honorable guests: May the peace and blessings of God be upon you. It is a pleasure and an honor to meet with you on this historic occasion, in which Iraq witnesses an important event, which is the announcement of the interim government and the assumption of its duties. Thus, we see an embodiment of what Iraqis have aspired and struggle for, which is the establishment of a national government enjoying full sovereignty and proceeding toward building the state of constitution and law, and setting the country on its democratic bases and preparing for elections.

Our government will seriously work to complete the arrangements for the transfer of full sovereignty to Iraq on 30 June. We have asked the brother foreign minister to travel to New York immediately at the head of a delegation to work with the UN Security Council members for the issuance of a resolution that achieve the transfer of full sovereignty to Iraqis.

Dear sisters and brothers: Like all peoples in the world, we Iraqis do not want our country to remain under occupation. We will, of course, strive to deal effectively with the security and terrorist threats alone. But, this seems impossible in the present circumstances. So we will need the participation and support of the multinational forces to defeat the enemies of Iraq, who do not want us to enjoy stability, prosperity, and freedom. God willing, Iraq will be a main partner in this force, which will start its tasks after 30 June. We will enter into negotiations with our allies to arrange security agreements in the interest of Iraq, built on the basis of Iraq's full sovereignty. Once we successfully fulfill this mission, the multinational force will leave Iraq with our most sincere and continuous appreciation.

At the same time, I would like to record our profound gratitude and appreciation to the US-led international coalition, which has made great sacrifices for the liberation of Iraq.

[Allawi in English] I would like to say this in English. I would like to thank the coalition led by the United States for the sacrifices they have provided in the process of the liberation of Iraq.

[Allawi, back in Arabic] Dear sisters and brothers, while we recall the despicable crimes that Saddam and his regime committed against the Iraqi, thereby inflicting the greatest damage to all the components of this dear people, we must look to the future with confidence in order to build a true national unity based on repudiating rancor and feuds and spreading the spirit of tolerance and reconciliation so that we can forge ahead toward building a society ruled by law, covered by justice, and equality, freedom, and respect for human rights and stopping the flow of blood for the sake of building a civilized advanced Iraq to be enjoyed by all Iraqis.

Free sisters and brothers, in addition to the mission of transferring full sovereignty to Iraqis, our government shall strive to make Iraq peaceful and stable, coexisting in a most positive manner with its neighbors. It shall defend the safety and progress of the peoples of the region. Therefore, our government shall pay special and maximum attention to developing its capabilities by building the internal security institutions and the national police to guarantee security and stability.

We must begin by forming a national defense army that refrains from interfering in the domestic affairs and defends the country against any foreign aggression and becomes responsible before the constitution and the legislative and executive authorities in the country. On this basis, we shall try to increase the allowances and improve the salaries and living conditions of these forces, as well as the allowances granted to retired soldiers to ensure respectable life for these brothers. We shall also rehabilitate some of them so that they can rejoin the civil service.

Sisters and brothers, improving the economic conditions, tackling the problems of unemployment and inflation, improving the dinar's exchange rate and purchases, and rehabilitating infrastructural and productive sectors, such as electricity and water and sewage networks, and tackling the problems of housing and so on will also be among the priorities and concerns of our government, God willing.

Guaranteeing incomes that ensure a respectable life for the Iraqi family shall be one of our government's aims in its progress toward justice, equality, and democracy. Strict control, honesty, avoiding the policy of excessive expenditure and waste, and placing all the country's resources for the benefit for our people, shall be basic pillars in the economic process.

Working with the interim institutions to compensate those who have sustained damage and restore justice according legal and legislative rules, preventing encroachment on public funds, and activating the judicial authorities and public courts and guaranteeing their independence are major tasks, which we shall strive to achieve, God willing.

While I pledge to you in my name and on behalf of my fellow ministers to work earnestly, sincerely, and faithfully to achieve what we all aspire for, which is building a democratic, pluralistic, and unified federal Iraq, I appeal at the same time to all our dear people to work for the maintenance of security and the observance of the law and the constitution, and to help the state and institutions perform its work fully.

I also appeal to the Arab and Islamic sister states to stand with us in our tribulation so as to help rebuild Iraq and thwart any danger to it. I also call upon the international community and the friendly states, headed by the United States and the European Union, to contribute toward the protection of Iraq until it is able to stand on its own feet. We shall build with them the bases of friendship and alliance founded on mutual respect and common and balanced interests.

May God grant us success in building Iraq, restoring its sovereignty and honor, and raising the flag of national unity high in the sky of Iraq. Until a bright morrow, God willing, I wish you well. May the peace and blessings of God be upon you.
As I was searching for statistics on dates and palm trees in Iraq, for the previous news item, I came across this lovely description of date palms, their uses, kinds, tastes, and significance to Iraqis.
Saddam's helicopters are being put to good use. In the first flights of Iraqi aircraft in more than a year, an Mi-2 helicopter from Saddam's military was flown by Iraqi ministry of agriculture pilots last week to spray date palms. According to a press release from the Coalition Provisional Authority, which governs Iraq until the end of the month, the aircraft "was completely rebuilt by Iraqi maintenance technicians and flown by Iraqi pilots." Iraqis used to be fiercely proud of their country's date production, a national symbol. Once dominating the world market, Iraq ranked first with 375 kinds of dates and more than 30 million palm trees. The labor-intensive industry now produces about 18% of the world's dates. The Iran-Iraq war, the intentional destruction of palm orchards in the suppression of the 1991 uprisings, and the drying of the southern marshes reduced the population of what used to be the largest area of date palm tree orchards in the world by more than half.
One-third of the newest Iraqi police graduates are women. The Coalition Provisional Authority, which governs Iraq till the end of June, announced that 91 women were among the 272 cadets who graduated, June 3, from the fourth class of the Baghdad Police Academy.
Yesterday evening, our prime minister spoke -- whoops -- did I say that? -- I mean, their prime minister -- or the prime minister, Ayad Allawi. He spoke for a little more than 15 minutes, starting at six o'clock. He read from a written text, sitting at a table, his glasses lowered on his nose. The speech was televised live, on Iraqiyya, the CPA-funded broadcast station. I found out about it about an hour before, from a CPA e-mail, so I wonder how others might have learned about it -- no Friday papers. Only other means -- announcements on radio or TV, or word-of-mouth. As soon as I got to the house, I told my uncle, aunt and cousin-in-law, who was visiting -- that was barely a half-hour before the speech.

I don't have the text of the speech, and I didn't find anything worth taking notes about -- maybe because I'd just got out of bed -- but he focused on "terrorism," that we must be "as one hand," to fight the "evil" that's out to destroy "our beloved country." He used the word "hizim" (firmness), for dealing with crime and disorder. While expressing gratitude to the U.S., Britain, President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, and other members of the coalition, he called for greater Iraqi control over defense forces and the borders of the country. Interestingly, he called Iraq an "umma," a word usually reserved for the "Islamic nation" or the "Arab nation." He touched on the elections, and the independent commission that's to be appointed to supervise them. He also mentioned that he'd soon visit the special court that's to try leaders of the past regime.
A postscript, to the killing of my aunt Salwa. When my mother came to Baghdad, for her sister's wake, Barazan al-Tikriti, Saddam's half-brother and head of Intelligence (in essence, the terrorist branch of the regime), who in all liklihood gave the order to kill my aunt, insisted on "seeing Bushra." He made the call. In Iraqi, they call that, "he kills him, then walks in his procession."

Friday, June 04, 2004

Date: 6/1/2004 9:33:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time
From: "David Levey"

A couple of thoughts on your recent blogging:

Your reference to Watt went over my head the first time… and probably went over the head of most of your readers. Your use of hyperlinks is becoming a bit frustrating… too many, too much “out of the conversation.” It is like you are making a detour to include the hyperlink when it should flow… write like you normally would, then highlight words to “get more information.” Do this sparingly, perhaps once in a short paragraph, twice in a long one. I still don’t know the new title of your blog: short pants? David Letterman’s production company is flying pants, so at least you aren’t the first....

[A] question for you: is there an age or a time or an ideal state of life that the Iraqi people harken back to? In other words, what is the ideal time in Iraq’s history? Is it a time of great religious fervor? Is it when Iraq was a trading and commercial center in the 20’s and 30’s? Is it during a time of Ottoman occupation? What is the ideal state that Iraqis see in their future? Genuinely, does the average Baghdadi see a theocratic state as ideal? How about a strong dictator/leader who doesn’t use terror as wantonly as Saddam? Is that what many Iraqis seek?

One thing I have never been able to understand is how it can be the most horrible, grievous thing for an outsider (ie a Kurd or Kuwaiti or Persian) to kill or terrorize someone, yet it seems perfectly acceptable for an “insider” one of your own- to terrorize or kill… even ten times as much as the outsider, with little condemnation.

* * *
Date: 6/3/2004 12:00:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Hi, David,

I started responding yesterday, then lost the e-mail.

Good to hear from you, as usual, and I appreciate your feedback -- input -- as usual.

I'm glad you told me that the hyperlinks are getting distracting -- I'll watch that -- I have, since I read that, in your e-mail. I don't think I've written, to make a detour for the hyperlinks, but I am working a lot, to find my previous citations of the subject I'm writing about, to create the link, to give people past information on the same subject, to refer to whatever's mentioned in the current post....

Hey, David -- I'm gonna e-mail this to you, even though I haven't finished reading your e-mail. Electricity went out at the office, and the internet connection's about to follow.

All right -- see you tomorrow, probably. Bye.

* * *
Date: 6/4/2004 8:07:40 AM Eastern Daylight Time

That's a good question, David, and although I'm no expert in Iraqi history, what you hear about most, is the British-mandate period, before the anti-monarchy coup/revolution, and the Abbassid Dynasty, although that might be more myth than reality. There is a lot of nostalgia, among Iraqis, and Arabs generally, so you've gotta take the talk of "good old days" with a ton of salt. The '20-'50s were certainly better than now -- politically, economically, maybe socially, too. The momentum, I think, was in a postive direction. Freedoms were far more plentiful than in the 45 years after the monarchy. There was a very active press, functioning political parties, independent unions and judiciary, elections to a parliament, with the occasional coup. There was also great diversity in the population, too, living fairly peacefully together -- with the exception of the 1941 pogroms in Basra and Baghdad of Jews and the 1933 pogrom in Mosul of Christians.

As for religious fervor, that's an attribute that Iraqis are proud to have avoided. So, they don't want a theocratic state -- at least not the overwhelming majority -- let's say 80-90 percent -- I don't know. There have been some polls in the last year, and although I don't have the figures at hand, don't remember them, either, it was a small minority that wanted an Islamist state. That's not to say that there won't be trouble ahead, when openness brings "decadence," too -- in the forms of scantily clad women, advertising, you-name-it. I'm thinking about the parts of Jerusalem dominated by the Haredi.

They do also think that Iraqis need a firm hand, that talk of freedom and democracy needs to be forestalled, till security is established -- that law and order must come first -- and for that, you've got to whip out the belt. Of course, I'm generalizing, but....

All right -- gotta go, David -- trying to stay ahead of the electricity -- like surfing. Good to hear from you, again. Till next time.
I forgot -- about James Watt: in the eighties, when he was interior secretary -- under President Reagan -- he was unveiling the members of a commission or something -- maybe the Bureau of Indian Affairs, or the National Park Service -- I don't know -- and he said, laughingly, we've got everything, a black, a Jew, a woman, a cripple. I think it was the "cripple" that got him in trouble. He survived it, I think -- didn't he?

As for the new name of my blog, it's "Live from Baghdad." Maybe that should be "LIVE...FROM BAGHDAD!"
More political news and commentary.

Ghazi il-Yawer is the sixth president of the republic, which was established in 1958, and he's the first non-military and non-Saddam president. Saddam was not in the military, although he played one on television. Yawer is also the first president to wear traditional Arab robes and headgear, which he may be doing for television. He has a master's degree from Georgetown University, and is a modern, secular person who speaks very good English.

Ghazi il-Yawer is also sprouting new names. At first, I only knew Ghazi il-Yawer. Then, we had Ajeel, and then Mish'al, and now, I'm seeing Ahmed, too. I'm just gonna have to pin the guy down, to get his exact name -- the order of his names -- which one's his father, then his father's father, etc.

Adnan Pachachi, the runner-up in the presidential contest, is not a happy camper -- and he's an old camper, at that -- 81 years old. What's he doing in camp, anyway? Well, in an interview published in Wednesday's (June 2) edition of the private Saudi paper al-Sharq al-Awsat, he said that he was chosen for the post by U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (after the latter had consulted with all segments of Iraqi society), but "discovered that there are sides, although few, not comfortable with my presence in this post, and they put together blocs and alliances for the purpose of removing me from it." Which sides are those?
The powers that are not comfortable with my liberal and democratic proposals, and especially with the nationalism and secularism that I put forth, in terms of national reconciliation and forgetting the past and uniting Iraq and not preventing any Iraqi from participating in the rebuilding of the country, unless he was involved in committing crimes against Iraqis. That's besides the personal issues and spite, jealousy and envy....

What hurt me more was the statement that I was the candidate of the United States.... That's a disgraceful lie and not correct.... Just the opposite, it
[the United States] is the one that nominated Ghazi il-Yawer in the first place.... I don't want the post, and I might be appointed Iraq's ambassador to Washington. The thing that really bothered me was the statement that the coalition backed me because my positions were less patriotic than the positions of the others.... Legally speaking, the governing council doesn't have the right...to appoint the president.... This is the first time in the history of Iraq and the Arab countries that a person offered the presidency of the republic, turns it down. The important thing for me is that I garnered the trust, love and support of the Iraqi people, and that's a source of pride and gratitude for me till the end of my life.

....There's no room for comparison between me and Shaykh Ghazi il-Yawer, who's younger than me -- I consider him like my son. I helped him to be president of the governing council and I also nominated him to be interior minister and also for the position of national security adviser and the postion of Iraq's ambassador in Washington. I always looked after him.... There were segments...who got between us, as if we were in a contest, even though I don't see any competition between me and Yawer.... There's a basic difference in terms of experience and culture and education. The man's educated, but his only experience in the private sector is in commerce. And it's not possible to compare between us, as each person has his own direction in life and experience, but I don't deny that Yawer enjoys very commendable qualities, and is capable of responding to people, is smart and tactful and I pray to God that he's successful in his mission.

My name has been proposed for months...and there was a presumption that there was no objection, and just a few weeks ago, the former British envoy to Iraq visited me and said he presumes that the head of state will go to the Arab Sunnis, and he added that they don't see another person for this post, with respect to name, position, experience and patriotic deeds. But there are people whom it doesn't please that I take this post, so the moves and plots began, with the goal of distancing me from the post, and I saw that it's not in the public interest to take this post because I wanted to be the president of all, and I was honored with the support of all.... Because of the unfair campaign that I was subjected to, that portrayed me as the candidate of the coalition, and that my positions aren't patriotic. It's up to those who projected these charges against me to review their consciences.
It looks like democracy's breaking out.

The word certainly went forth, that Pachachi was America's candidate. Pachachi called for the coalition forces to stay, until security and stability were established, while Yawer became critical of coalition forces, for not establishing order, and was demanding full sovereignty, more than was being offered. Some took those positions as indications of pro-American and anti-American outlooks. However, the interpretations are more a reflection of intra-American political battles over the Arab world, than they are reflections of the two men in question. I won't go on at length about this, but Pachachi is a long-time Arab nationalist, devoted throughout his life to "the Palestinian issue." As an Iraqi diplomat in the '50s and '60s, he repeatedly argued that Kuwait was legitimatley part of Iraq. These views, a product of the urbane educated class that came of age in the Arab world in th first half of the 20th Century, coincided with those of many of the West's diplomats to the Arab world, which also tended to favor the status quo in the Arab world, and, in many cases, still do. Yawer is not of that school of thinking -- or, to be more precise, of that social class. He is also of the next generation, and, though himself urbanized, of the more traditional Arab outlook -- interested more in local affairs, than pan-Arab aspirations.

There's a lot more to say, about the above, and other political developments, but...lunch is served -- today, just me and one of the guards, twin tower Muhammad.
On this, the 24th anniversary of my aunt's death, by poisoning, a few follow-ups.

I just drove by the black banner on "the wailing wall." It reads:
Thukra muroor 24 aamenn 'ala istish'had al-sayyida
Salwa Ra'oof al-Bahrani "Um Sa'ad"
allati ustush'hidett bi-tareekh 4/6/1980
ala yed azlaam al-diktator al-Taaghiyya al-mujrim al-maqboor "al-Fatiha"

On the anniversary of 24 years since the martyrdom of Mrs.
Salwa Ra'oof al-Bahrani "Um Sa'ad"
who was martyred on 4/6/1980
at the hands of the henchmen of the buried criminal tyrant dictator "al-Fatiha"
The "Fatiha" is the opening verse of the Qur'an and the one read at wakes. Most of the writing is in white -- painted, on cloth; the second line, containing her name, and the numbers, are all in yellow.

I also did not state that my two uncles, Salwa's brothers, were afraid to visit her in the first week after her release because they often treated members of the royal family, and, as such, feared for their lives -- guilt by association.

My aunt's condition began deteriorating immediately upon her release from detention, so it was deduced that she drank the poison, in the yogurt drink, in the middle of her five days in detention.

Finally, while she was still alive, some of her hair was smuggled out of the country, sent to my parents, in Cleveland, who sent it to an Amnesty International lab in Philadelphia, which tested it, and determined that it was thallium poisoning, the first such documented case.

The details of Salwa Bahrani's death, and the circumstances surrounding it, I have been discovering, bit by bit -- not only over the past 24 years, but much moreso, in the past four weeks, since I met her grandson Salman for the first time.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Rania, from England:
Subj: cinema!
Date: 6/1/2004 6:46:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time

hi ayad,

wow, finally a movie huh!! ive been dying to ask whether or not you've
heard anything about bollywood films in iraq but i keep thinking, they've
got more important things to think about at the moment, but then your post
rekindled some hope! also your visit to the music recorder shop
reminded me of something my mum once told me, that in her time they would
visit these music recorders and they would get tapes recorded of all the
bollywood songs they wanted, like a compilation, not necessarily the whole
album...so they still exist, that's really interesting. did you spot any
hindi music, is there any interest for that stuff anymore? im guessing
people havent had much access to the new stuff.

still really enjoying your blog, i check it 2, 3 times a day for the latest
developments...shame about the break in lebanon, i am amazed that you've
been able to keep going for so long!

so a new cabinet eh, ive heard that there are 6 women in total which is a
definite improvement, though haven't been able to see a list that includes
all 6 yet. i watched a clip on the bbc of the inauguration and i was
amazed, shocked maybe is more appropriate, that they started off with a
reading from the quran...that disheartened me slightly, surely that's not
how they want to do things?? hmmm...

about iraq, india, working with iraq memory...i discussed the possibility
with kanan briefly a while back, i definitely want to do it, so it's just
down to whether they'll have me, have space for me. as for india before
iraq, iraq before india, its not decided yet, and doesn't have to be,
basically i can split my time however i choose too, but im hoping to spend
around 15 months in total between the two, probably around 9 in iraq and 6
in india. i heard the other day that they were planning on building rail
links between iraq and other parts of asia and the middle east, all the way
to se asia, that would be great, imagine getting on a train in baghdad and
getting off in bombay! wow, ive decided my dream job is to be iraq's
ambassador to india!! haha, ok well back to reality, i've almost finished
my exams, still a couple more days of revision to go through, so i'd better
hit the sack.

ok ayad take care, and speak soon.


(ps i don't know if my dad emailed you, he said he'd tried to call you a
couple of times, once you were out and another he couldn't get through, so
yeah if he still hasn't replied that's why - he's reluctant to email)

* * *
Date: 6/3/2004 11:17:47 AM Eastern Daylight Time

Hi, Rania,

Great to hear from you. Sounds like you're in great spirits.

First of all, I've gotta apologize to your dad -- would you do that for me? I got one message -- that he rung -- and he may have called again -- I don't know. I wanted to write him, but.... No excuse. I'm sorry. I've got to write to him. How is he? Actually, I was a little sad to hear that he's put on a lot of weight -- heard that from Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who I just bumped into, a few days ago. I'm glad that situation with the family -- aunt, neice, whoever -- is sorted out -- or is it? I know that was weighing on your dad a lot.

As for Bollywood -- well, first of all, as you probably know -- you religious devotee of mine -- that my movie outing got nixxed. So, back to the drawing board. I probably won't be able to go next week, either.

After seeing your e-mail -- staring to read it, then stopping -- yesterday, I asked over lunch today, about Hindi films. This guy from Basra said that half the movie theaters in Basra, when there were movie theaters, showed Hindi films. He also talked about video shops in Qatar -- I think it was Qatar -- where he was, for a short visit, from his work in Yemen. He'd seen a play on TV he liked, by Adil Imam, and wanted to buy it, to take back to Yemen with him. When he went into one video shop, it was all Hindi films. The next one, too. He asked about Arab movies, they sent him upstairs, where there were "four." All, for the foreign workers there. I imagine it must be like that, up and down the Gulf.

Oh -- he also talked about a shoe polisher in Basra -- this must be from the '70s, or '60s -- who would study the words of Hindi songs, while polishing shoes, so he could sing along with the movie, and know what it was about.

Of course, I told you about the refugees I met
[in the United States] -- from southern Iraq -- who learned Hindi -- like your mom, I guess -- by watching the movies and reading the subtitles.

Hey -- I didn't know about the transcontinental train -- where'd you hear that? and how long is that gonna take? Sounds great, too, about your goal. I'll talk with my friends in the foreign ministry -- how many Hindi-speaking Iraqis could there be? with English, travel, living experience, and a physicist, to boot.

I didn't check out Hindi, at the music stores, but I'll keep that in mind -- for next time. Good idea, and I've gotta remember the singer you told me about before -- you'll have to give me her name, again -- don't have her songs saved on my home computer.

Oh -- you know about the Indian wave Lebanon's been going through, don't you? I think we've talked about that.

We did get into a little discussion, over lunch, about the source of the racism by Iraqis towards Indians. The Basrawi -- well, there were two at the table, but one of them doesn't like to talk while eating -- I'll have to work on her, but.... Well, so Ali said that it's due to the Indians that fought for the British during World War One, who stayed on, then couldn't communicate in the streets, markets, and thus, the expression, "Qaabil aani Hindi?" (What, am I Indian?) -- that I'm stupid/don't understand. I pressed for innate racism, but Ali wouldn't have it.

Let's see -- what else did you write about?

Oh -- about your being surprised, that I've held out this long? -- have you had other experience, with people getting worn out, after a while here?
[I have been told by other ex-pats, that you do need a break, every little while, to refresh]

I counted five women, but it's mainly window dressing. The only real ones -- my friendship with the environment minister, notwithstanding (if I'm using that word properly) -- are Barwari and the agriculture minister, who's got a PhD in the field. I don't know if there were others in the field -- other qualified people, maybe overlooked -- and I don't know anything about her, either. But the others, I think, they chose, to put in more women, or to fill the Christian and Turkomen spots. It's the men, that have the real power -- the power positions, and they're the ones divvying out the seats.

As for the Qur'an -- better get used to that -- religion is all over. That's one idea I have, for a piece about culture, society -- the omnipresence of god, religion, belief, you-name-it -- it's everywhere -- and it's so oppressive. And, of course, like everything else, it's gotten so much worse, in the last dozen years, decade after decade -- everything's gotten worse. But there's no freedom from religion -- forget about it. Just like there's no freedom from politics here.

Well -- it sounds like you've got your work cut out for you.

Happy sleeping, and happy testing.

Lots of love, and take care. Love to the whole tribe there.

Hey -- what's Hisham up to? All right -- ta. Ta2.
In rereading Rania's e-mail, I remembered -- one of the things people do here, is record one song, over and over again -- that is, they ask the recording place to put the same song on...an infinite loop -- almost infinite loop -- actually, when you play it, in the car, it can be on, for infinite. The most popular are Celine Dion's song from "Titanic," whatever the song is called -- Layla, my dating-game partner, had that one -- and Mariah Carey's song -- let me see what it's called -- I heard it playing over and over again at this internet cafe the other day, and I asked 'em what it was. Hold on, will you? Wait a minute -- I'm looking for the paper. All right -- hold your horses -- I found it. "I Give My Love." Is that right? So, that's a big thing here. I don't know what it means. That they find one beautiful thing -- that rings true to them, that strikes a cord -- and they grasp onto it, for dear life. Who knows?

Oh -- just remembered the "Titanic" song -- "I Will Always Love You." Is that right?
I read this article recently, by Egyptian Dr. Osama al-Ghazali Harb, "The 'Mother of All Farces,'" about the capture of Saddam, and Arabs' reactions to it. It's rare to find an Arab -- that is, a non-Iraqi -- who views such matters in the way Harb does. A few passages:
Yet the farce of Saddam's surrender is nothing compared to the ridiculous interpretations of this event circulating among Arabs and Muslims....

Saddam's arrest - the arrest of any criminal, anywhere - is neither an insult nor a humiliation, but a sign of civility and respect for the law.

What we, as Arabs should truly feel humiliated about are the prevailing political and social conditions in the Arab world - especially in Iraq - which allowed someone such as Saddam Hussein to become vice president - in 1968 - and then, through an unparalleled bloody and conspiratorial path, to assume the presidency - in 1979. We should feel humiliated that Saddam was able to remain in power until 2003 and to single-handedly initiate a number of catastrophic policies that transformed Iraq, relatively rich in natural, human and financial resources, into the poorest, most debt-ridden country in the Arab world, not to mention the hundreds of thousands killed and displaced. We should feel humiliated that some of our intellectuals, supposedly the representatives of our nations' consciences and the defenders of their liberty and dignity, not only dealt with Saddam, but also supported him. Finally, we should feel humiliated that Saddam Hussein's fall from power came about at the hands of the US and Britain, to protect their own interests. The Arabs should have been the ones to bring down Saddam, in defence of their own dignity and their own true interests.

Another widespread interpretation views the entire situation as a grand conspiracy.... Those who espouse this point of view put all the blame on evil, conspiring, external forces, who lure Arab and Islamic leaders and societies into making the wrong choices....

The schemes and conspiracies of the world of politics are not the decisive factor influencing events; they are not even the most important factor. We are not 'doomed' to fall prey to conspiracies.... This, however, demands the existence of competent, democratic societies and legitimate systems of government....

If the fall of Saddam Hussein proves to be a catalyst and inspiration for speeding up democratic reform in the region, it is not helpful to raise the spectre of US intervention. Reform is not a US or British issue, it is first and foremost a domestic concern....

The militant operations that injure and kill foreign troops and many Iraqi citizens impede the process of reconstruction, and have the precise result of lengthening the duration of the US-British occupation in Iraq. The growing gap between domestic Iraqi disapproval of many of these operations - which to date no one has taken responsibility for - and the encouragement afforded them by some Arab forces outside Iraq is not a good sign. It can only sow the seeds of discord between the Iraqis and their Arab brethren, which does not bode well for the future.

In sum, it would indeed be a great, and unfortunate farce, if Arabs and Muslims were to focus on lamentations and the search for conspiracies, and neglect to finally and conclusively acknowledge the consequences of dictatorship, despotism and the absence of liberties and democracy.
What's also surprsing here is the quarterly Harb wrote this for, Al-Siyassa Al-Dawliya (International Politics), which Harb also edits, is published by the Egyptian government. Maybe there is hope.
After writing about my aunt's death, and the anniversary banner placed by her sister in SaaHet il-Huriyya (Freedom Square), I thought about the odd juxtaposition of all these "freedoms" and "deaths," in light of Iraqi lutist NaSeer Shamma's new ode to the Abu Ghraib detainees, "The Freedom of Death," which I mentioned, yesterday. Shamma, by the way, left Iraq in the mid-90s, and may have crossed the regime. So far, that's heresay, so...more to come.
In writing about my aunt's murder, I forgot to say that tomorrow is the 24th anniversary of her death. I asked her sister in Baghdad about last year, and she said the situation wasn't stable enough to mark the anniversary. She is making biscotti-type cookies, wrapping them in bags, and attaching stickers with her late sister's name on them. They're to be distributed to family and at the main Kadhum mosque, after-prayer tomorrow.
Last night, my uncle said he'd just seen an outdoor banner for my aunt, to mark the 24th anniversary of her death. I wanted to see it. We went to the main street of Mansour, at the intersection with Shari' Nadee il-Sayd (Hunt Club Street), and there, among half a dozen black banners on the corner wall, was one for my aunt, Salwa Raouf al-Bahrani, "Um Sa'ad," my mother's older sister. A friend in the office just told me that that intersection is called "the wailing wall" (Haa'iT al-Meb'kaa), although he didn't want me to include that here, because of its association with the "Jewish" wailing wall.

My aunt, a widow, school administrator and mother of two, was detained by the Amn (secret police), who were trying to find her son, Sa'ad. Sa'ad had been sighted riding in a car that picked up a man soon after this man allegedly killed a high-ranking Ba'thi apparatchik. When Sa'ad was told that the authorities were after him, he immediately went into hiding, and, then, fled to Iran. He's been in Iran, since then, enslaved in a destructive cult disguising itself as a group researching medieval Islamic medicine. In Iraq, he took after his late father, one of the most beloved pediatricians in the country, and was Iraq's top-ranking medical student.

In detention, my aunt was treated respectfully, being a lady who'd made the pilgrimage to Mecca. She took the opportunity of her detention to fast, and to break one of the fasts, she was given a yogurt drink. She was released after five days, and quickly began to deteriorate. In the first week, numbness set in, her hair starting falling out, then in clumps, and she couldn't get out of bed. Her brothers, both top doctors, were afraid to visit her. After a visiting nurse concluded that her case was hopeless, the brothers saw their sister and had her hospitalized. Her skin started turning yellow and shedding. Although prohibited, one of the brothers managed a couple of blood transfusions, after-hours. Other doctors reported recoveries with other such cases, including a foreign journalist. Towards the end, 45 days after her release, she couldn't talk, and her body and arms became extremely heavy. For other details, and the story of Sa'ad's son, see my previous posts.

In the course of the regime's reign, expressions of grief for those killed by the regime were forbidden. Oftentimes, if and when the body was returned, in one piece or the parts in a plastic bag, the authorities asked the family for the price of the bullets (including Talqat al-raHma (the mercy bullet)) and/or the casket. Even during the Iran war, there were times, particularly in the half-dozen battles in which tens of thousands died, when the expressions of grief were staggered, so as not to dispirit the public. My aunt's other sister, in Baghdad, just told me that she put up the black banner in Mansour, as well as one in Hayy il-Jami'a (the University district), where a lot of teachers were given plots of land, and a third, in SaaHett al-Huriyya (Freedom Square), a roundabout near the deceased's home and the city's busiest in the evening.
I did it, and without the help of my old officemate Ali. I was being walked home yesterday by our office's twin towers, the bodyguard brothers Ahmed and Muhammad -- born five minutes apart -- when, lo and behold, right there, in front of our eyes, an American Humvee. Yeeaah! For the first time, I get to get up close and personal -- a Mariiiine! Actually, probably First Armored Division, as I know they're pretty much in control of Baghdad -- well, try to be. I hopped to it, picked up my step. Actually, it was one of the brothers that brought them to my attention. He was saying something about Americans, which I took to be one of the many questions they ask me, about life in America, etc, but, when I raised my head, there it was, not 10 feet in front of me. I called out, "Hey, dudes! How you doin'?" I was excited. I've been wanting to meet some soldiers, take pictures with them, see how they're doing, whatever. My old officemate Ali said he talked with the soldiers all the time, that he knew how to pick his spots. A few times, he's come to the office, and, having just seen some, offered to take me to meet them. I was always in the middle of something, or didn't have my camera ready. I've been warned, though, that it could be dangerous, that it's not as easy to talk with soldiers as it used to be, without getting into trouble, from somebody watching for "cooperation/collaboration" with the enemy. My uncle's told me, in the beginning, all the kids would go out, screaming and jumping, to greet the vehicles, "The Americans have come, the Americans have come," and soldiers and civilians would spend hours, chatting, taking pictures, exchanging photos.

I shook hands with the guy standing beside the Humvee. There was another guy on top, and another, in the driver's seat. As I approached them, I pulled out of the side of my computer bag, my "We got him" baseball cap and put it on. They got a kick out of that, read it out loud. I told 'em I was from Cleveland. They said they have one of those, in a Humvee up ahead. I called to the guy sitting atop the Humvee across the street. "You from Cleveland?" The soldiers next to me said, "No -- the one up ahead," pointing down the street. The guys -- my bodyguards -- had a lot of questions for the soldiers: how are they handling the heat? Drink a lot of water, the guy atop the Humvee said -- turns out he's from Portland, Oregon. They said they wished the car had air conditioning. I told 'em about Clevelander Ed Ponce's self-cooling vests. The guy on the ground, who did the rest of the talking, said the military buys from the lowest bidder. Why were they [at this spot]? Orders. Anything going on here? Don't know, we just do what we're told. Are they comfortable here, or would they rather go home? It's a job, they pay us, we report to work every day. How much do they pay you? how is Iraq? beautiful? "byu-ti-full"? Do you wish to stay in Iraq? I'm sure Iraq was more beautiful before all the wars. The guards nodded their heads.

The soldiers asked me my story -- I think. I told 'em my uncle lived a few houses down the road, that I left Baghdad when I was nine, 33 years ago, for Cleveland, and I'm a journalist. They asked who I worked for. I told 'em about the blog, the interviews for a Cleveland TV station, and not having the time to do the articles I should. The guy doing most of the talking said he was originally from Europe. Where? Holland. A van-der-something? Just Bier. Means "beer"? Yup. The guy in the driver's seat said he was from Maryland -- he had a southern accent. I shared with them what I'd been told, about being friendly with soldiers, how it used to be more prevalent. They said it depends. They agreed that there are those who watch out for people being friendly with soldiers. I'd already taken up a lot of their time, and didn't want to distract them, from what they had to do -- although they seemed to be managing okay, and were very friendly. I wished I could talk with them more. Plus, the guards prompted me -- they'd already waited for me in the office, as I contininued working after the electricity went down, until the internet connection died. Twenty, 30 yards ahead, was the Clevelander. Turns out he's from Toledo -- Dave. He had a big ring on his hand -- I thought I might ask him if he's a Blade -- and I forgot the Mudhens. Didn't hang around. My guards were also mindful of my being watched.

Once in the house, my uncle told me about my cousin from Washington, when she was here a year ago. On getting out of a car in front of his house, she was recognized by one of the soldiers parked on the street. He was an Iraqi American, and said he'd seen her in Detroit, speaking for her group's Detroit office to aid Iraqi refugees. He said he'd come with the American army, to free his country. She took down the soldier's name and details. I said I'll ask her about him. I also remembered -- too late -- the son of a woman I've been corresponding with -- he's in the First Armored Division. I promised her I'd try to look him up, if he's still here; last I remember, his stay had been extended through May. My uncle feared I was going to run back out, to ask the soldiers.
Before getting down to business, another item, for my top-ten list.

You know you’ve been in the Arab world too long, when:

You don’t think twice, about seeing kids, from pre-teen, all the way down to infants, up at ten o'clock, eleven o'clock, past midnight, without anyone saying a word.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Here are the bios of the 36 members of the new Iraqi government -- impressive bunch, academically and professionally speaking. From the information below, provided by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, and my knowledge (the bios below don't show Dr. Mishkat el-Moumin's doctorate), I count 19 people with doctorates. For one of the 36 people listed below, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Layla Abdul-Lateef, there is no biographical information -- not from CPA, nor in today's papers. One of the 19 doctorate holders has two PhDs, and one, the prime minister, has an MD as well. Of the 17 non-doctorate holders, two have MDs, six have master's degrees, one is a judge, two have bachelor's degrees, three are said to be engineers and one is said to be an economist. Again, I haven't found information on Ms. Lateef. The minister of state for women, Narmin Othman, is not identified as having a college degree. Twenty four must speak English, having studied or lived in America or Britain. As for the rest, most probably do speak English, as they include five PhDs -- from Germany, France, Czechoslovakia and Baghdad -- one master's from Czechoslovakia, a judge, a bachelor's from France, two engineers, the women's affairs minister, and, again, Layla Abdul-Lateef. The two Czech graduates, the culture and planning ministers, continuing in their positions, I know, to speak English. As I get more information, I'll pass it on. In addition to the 36 people listed below, the CPA web-site identifies Muwaffaq al-Rubaie, a medical doctor, as minister for national security. Rubaie lived and worked in England. That would make a total of 37 people.

President of Iraq
Sheikh Ghazi Ajil Al-Yawar

* Sheikh Ghazi Al-Yawar, 45, a former Iraqi Governing Council member and
president of the group during part of May, is the nephew of the leader
of the Shammar tribe. He is a civil engineer who studied at the
Petroleum and Minerals University in Saudi Arabia and at Georgetown
University in Washington, D.C. Sheikh Ghazi Al-Yawar was recently the
vice president of the Hicap Technology Company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He was born in Mosul.

Deputy President of Iraq
Dr. Ibrahim Jaafari

* Dr. Jaafari was born in Karbala in 1947 and earned his medical degree
from Mosul University. Dr. Jaafari joined the Dawa movement in 1966 and
eventually became its chief spokesman. The group, the oldest Islamist
movement in Iraq, was founded in the late 1950s and is based on the
ideology of reforming Islamic thought and modernizing religious
institutions. The party was banned by Saddam Hussein in 1980, forcing
Dr. Jaafari to move to Iran and then to London in 1989. He is a former
Iraqi Governing Council member.

Deputy President of Iraq
Dr. Rowsch Shaways

* Dr. Shaways is currently president of the Kurdistan National Assembly.
He was Prime Minister of the Arbil-based Kurdistan Regional Government
from 1996-99, and resigned to become President of the Iraqi Kurdistan
National Assembly. Dr. Rowsch’s period in office saw key legislative
changes affording women and children greater human rights than had been
permitted under the old Iraqi penal system. While in Germany as a
student, he was head of the Kurdish Student Union and returned to Iraq
in 1975 to join the Kurdish rebellion. After the withdrawal of Saddam
Hussein’s forces in 1991, he became Deputy Prime Minister in the joint
Kurdistan Regional Government. He was born in 1947, and earned a
doctorate in engineering while studying in Germany.

Prime Minister of Iraq
Dr. Ayad Allawi

* Dr. Ayad Allawi graduated from Baghdad University from the Faculty of
Medicine, and he obtained a master’s of science in medicine from London
University in 1976 and a doctorate in medicine from the same university
in 1979. Dr. Allawi is a neurologist and businessman who began his
opposition to the former regime in 1971 when he moved to Beirut. He left
Beirut in 1972 to begin his studies in the U.K. He has been a consultant
to the United Nations Development Program, the World Health
Organization, and the United Nations Children’s Fund. After surviving
the brutal attack and assassination attempt ordered by Saddam Hussein,
Dr. Allawi continued his efforts against the regime and co-founded the
Iraqi National Accord, which attempted a failed 1996 coup against
Saddam. He was most recently an Iraqi Governing Council member and
chaired its security committee. He was born in 1945 in Baghdad.

Deputy Prime Minister
Dr. Barham Salih

* Dr. Salih, who was most recently the Regional Administrator for
Sulaimaniya, was born in 1960 in Iraqi Kurdistan. He joined the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in 1976 and was arrested twice by the
Iraqi secret police. He left Iraq in 1979, and soon became the PUK’s
spokesman in London. In 1991, having been elected to the PUK leadership,
he departed for Washington, D.C., and served for 10-years as the PUK and
Kurdistan Regional Government representative to the United States. Dr.
Salih earned a bachelor’s degree in civil and structural engineering
from the University of Cardiff and earned a doctoral in statistics and
computer modeling from the University of Liverpool.

Minister of Agriculture
Dr. Sawsan Ali Magid Al-Sharifi

* Dr. Al-Sharifi, the former Deputy Minister of Agriculture, was charged
with programming and planning for reconstruction of the sector, and for
ensuring the continuation of high quality research at the Ministry's
numerous state boards and national production programs. She also has
been the point-of-contact for USAID, CPA and World Bank reconstruction
and development efforts in agriculture. Dr. Al-Sharifi earned her
bachelor’s degree in animal production from Baghdad University and her
master’s and doctoral degrees in animal breeding from Iowa State
University. After returning to Iraq in 1984, Dr. Al-Sharifi held the
position of Scientific Researcher at the prestigious Scientific Research
Council. She is the author of more than 40 scientific research papers
published in Iraqi and international journals, and she continues to
supervise the research efforts of doctorate and master’s degree students
in Iraq. In addition to her main professional responsibilities, Dr.
Al-Sharifi is also the editor of the Iraqi Journal of Agriculture. She
was born in 1956 in Baghdad.

Minister of Communications
Dr. Mohammad Ali Al-Hakim

* Dr. Al-Hakim was most recently the Deputy Secretary General of the
Iraqi Governing Council and Ambassador at the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign
Affairs. He earned his bachelor’s degree in statistics from
Al-Mustansiriyyah University in Baghdad, his master’s degree in computer
science from Birmingham University, U.K., and a doctorate in information
management from the University of Southern California. He was a global
director for Nortel Networks and Cambridge Technology, and also
co-founded a U.S.-based technology company called Infoclarus. Dr.
Al-Hakim has been part of several delegations representing Iraq to the
international and global financial community. He was born in 1952 in Najaf.

Minister of Culture
Mr. Mufeed Mohammed Jawad al-Jaza’iri

* Mr. al-Jaza’iri obtained a master’s degree in journalism in 1966 while
studying in Prague. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Mr. Al-Jaza’iri
worked as a journalist and correspondent for Al-Bilad, Arba’atash
Tammouz and Tareeq ash-Sha’ab and as an editor and broadcaster for the
Arabic section of Czechoslovak Radio. From 1982-1988, he traveled to
Kurdish northern Iraq to join the underground opposition to Saddam
Hussein. He is a member of the Iraqi Democratic Journalists, Writers &
Artists Association. He was born in Al-Madhatiyah in 1939.

Minister of Defense
Mr. Hazem Sha’alan

* Mr. Sha’alan is Sheik of the Ghazal Tribe. He earned his degree in
economics and management from Baghdad University in 1972 and began his
career managing the Kut Dewanyah branches of the Iraqi Real Estate Bank.
He served as Inspector General of the main branch in Baghdad from
1983-1985. He was forced to leave Iraqi in 1985 because of his
opposition to the former regime and managed a successful real estate
firm in the U.K. He has been governor of Diwaniyah since April 2003. He
was born in 1947 in Diwanyah.

Minister of Displacement and Migration
Ms. Pascale Isho Warda

* Ms. Warda is president of the Assyrian Women’s Union in Baghdad. She
co-founded the Iraqi Society for Human Rights and served as the
representative of the Assyrian Democratic Movement Foundation (ADM) in
Paris. This was the highest position of any woman in the ADM, which is
the primary Assyrian political party in Iraq. Additionally, Ms. Warda is
the external affairs manager for the Assyrian Aid Society. She holds a
degree from the Human Rights Institute at the University of Lyon in
France. She was born in Duhok in 1961.

Minister of Education
Professor Sami Al-Mudhaffar

* Professor Al-Mudhaffar is the one of the most senior biochemists in
Iraq and has played an important role in promoting biochemistry and
related subjects such as molecular biotechnology research. He received
his bachelor’s degree in science with honors from Baghdad University in
1960, and then obtained his doctorate from the Virginia Polytechnic
Institute and State University. Professor Al-Mudhaffar began his career
in 1967 with a teaching and research lecturing position at the
University of Basra in the College of Science. He was promoted to
assistant professor in 1971, and in 1979 he was promoted a position as
professor of biochemistry at Baghdad University. From 1968-2000, Dr.
Al-Mudhaffar was a lecturer at the University of Basra and Baghdad
Univeristy in the College of Science. He has published more than 250
scientific papers, and he is a member of the editorial board of the
Iraqi Journal of Chemistry and the Irari National Journal of Chemistry.
He has received numerous fellowships, and is a member of many Iraqi and
international societies and associations. Professor Al-Mudhaffar has
over 33-years of teaching experience in different branches of
biochemistry to undergraduate and postgraduate students. He was born in
1940 in Basra.

Minister of Electricity
Dr. Aiham Al-Sammarae

* Dr. Al-Sammarae earned his undergraduate electrical engineering degree
from Baghdad University and completed his doctoral studies at Chicago
ITT University. He worked for three decades for KCI, an electrical
contractor, and eventually rose to become its executive director. His
experience includes power plant design and power generation. He presided
over the Scientific Conference for Nuclear Energy in the United States
for five years and published more than 30 technical papers. During the
past 12-years, Dr. Al-Samarrae participated in most of the opposition's
national conferences as an executive member of the Iraqi Middle
Democratic Trend.

Minister of Environment
Professor Mishkat Moumin

* Professor Moumin teaches law at Baghdad University and specializes in
human rights courses. She is currently Assistant Director of the Iraq
Foundation and is very active with the Advisory Council on Women’s
Affairs, which is the political branch of the Higher Council on Women.

Minister of Finance
Dr. Adel Abdul Mahdi

* Dr. Mahdi is an economist and member of the Supreme Council for the
Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Born in Baghdad in 1942, he has graduate
degrees in Politics and Economics from French Universities. He worked in
a number of French think tanks, most recently as Head of the French
Institute for Islamic Studies. He has also edited a number of magazines,
in both Arabic and French and is the author of numerous publications. He
was active in political life from an early age, being imprisoned,
tortured and sentenced to death more than once in the 1960s. He was
stripped of his job and passport in 1969 which forced him into exile in
France. He lived in Iran for a time and joined the Supreme Council for
the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, later serving as the official SCIRI
representative in Kurdistan from 1992-1996. He served as the Deputy for
Abdul Aziz al Hakim on the Iraqi Governing Council.

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Hoshyar Mahmood Mohammed Zebari

* Mr. Zebari earned a political science degree in 1976 from Jordan
University in Amman and completed his master’s degree in the sociology
of development in 1979 from Essex University in the United Kingdom. He
became a member of the Central Committee and Political Bureau of the
Kurdistan Democratic Party in 1979, and served as a representative of
the KDP in Europe before managing its International Relations Office
from 1988-2003. Mr. Zebari was elected to the executive council of the
Iraqi National Conference in 1992 and was elected to its Presidential
Council in 1999. He was born in Aqrah in 1953.

Minister of Health
Dr. Ala’adin Alwan

* Dr. Alwan holds a medical degree from the Alexandria Medical College
in Egypt and postgraduate degrees from universities in the United
Kingdom. He served as dean and professor at the Medical College at
al-Mustansiriya University, Baghdad. Dr. Alwan was the World Health
Organization’s representative and head of mission in Jordan and Oman,
and served as head of the department of chronic and non-contagious
diseases at the World Heath Organization’s offices in Geneva. He has
held several positions in the Iraqi Ministry of Health and the Iraqi
Ministry of Higher Education, and although his background is in
medicine, Dr. Alwan also spent a major part of his career in the
academic and teaching profession. He was born in 1949 in Baghdad.

Minister of Higher Education
Dr. Taher Khalaf Jabur Al-Bakaa

* Dr. Al-Bakaa was most recently president of Al Mustansiriya
University, where he has been a professor for more than a decade. Before
rising to its presidency in 2003, Dr. Al-Bakaa’s academic posts at
Al-Mustansiriya include being the chair of the Department of History in
1994, chairman of the Academic Promotion Committee since 1996, and
editor of the college press. He holds memberships in the Federation of
Arab Historians, the Iraqi Historians and Archaeologists Association,
and the Federation of Iraqi Writers and Men of Letters. Dr. Al-Bakaa
earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees in history from
Baghdad University. He has authored books on regional history and has
been published in several journals and magazines. He was born in 1950 in
Dhi Qar.

Minister of Housing and Construction
Dr. Omar Al-Farouq Salim Al-Damluji

* Dr. Al-Damluji earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees
in engineering from Baghdad University, where he eventually became a
civil engineering professor. He also taught at the University of
Technology’s Civil Engineering Department and supervised about 30
graduate and doctorial students studying civil engineering in the
Universities of Baghdad, Technology, Nahrain and Kufa. He also wrote two
books in soil mechanics and was a visiting professor to Hanover
University and City University in London. Since 2000, Dr. Al-Damluji has
served as the head of the Civil Engineering Department at Baghdad
University. He is a registered engineer in the Iraqi Engineers society,
American Engineers society and a member of UNESCO/Iraqi higher Education

Minister for Human Rights
Dr. Bakhtiar Amin

* Dr. Amin earned a master’s degree in international affairs and a
doctorate in political geography from the Sorbonne in Paris. During that
time, he also studied the media in Sweden and eventually returned to
become country’s Councilor in Immigration, Immigrants and Refugees in
the 1980s. He was also Secretary General for the Kurdish Institute in
Paris, councilor to Mrs. Daniel Meteran for the France Organization of
Liberties, Director of the Human Rights Coalition in Washington, D.C.,
and the Executive Director of Coalition for Justice in Paris and
Washington. He has participated in many national and international
conferences, including the Human Rights Conference in Vienna and the
Durban conference in South Africa. He has also organized educational
courses for Iraqi correspondents, lawyers, academicals, political
activists and minority’s rights in Paris, Geneva and London, and he has
given testimony about situations in Iraq to the U.S. Congress, European
Parliament and the Arabic Cooperation Organization. He has also been
published widely on the issue of human rights. He is a native of Kirkuk.

Minister of Industry & Minerals
Dr. Hajem Al-Hassani

* Dr. Al-Hassani was born in Kirkuk in 1954 and graduated from Mosul
University. In 1979 he moved to the U.S. to study international trade at
the University of Nebraska and earned a doctorate in industrial
organization from the University of Connecticut. He has lectured at a
number of American universities, managed an Internet company and worked
most recently as head of the American Investment and Trading Company in
Los Angeles. He has been a member of the board of a number of NGOs. Dr.
Al-Hassani worked in the Iraqi Opposition for a number of years and
became a member of the Politburo and then official spokesman of the
Iraqi Islamic Party. He was elected to the follow up committee of the
London Conference and has served as a Deputy Member of the Iraqi
Governing Council and the Deputy Chair of its Finance Committee.

Minister of Interior
Mr. Falah al-Nakib

* Mr. al-Nakib is a former opposition leader with the Iraqi National
Movement. He is from a prominent military family in Samarra; his father
was a military chief of staff in the 1960s. Mr. al-Nakib. 48, is a
U.S.-trained civil engineer and was most recently the Governor of Salah

Minister of Justice
Dr. Malik Dohan Al-Hassan

* Dr. Al-Hassan is a practicing lawyer and recently appointed Chairman
of the Special Task Force on Compensation for Victims of the Previous
Regime. In 2003, he was elected President of the Iraqi Bar Association.
Dr. Al-Hassan, one of Iraq's foremost authorities on tort law, began his
career as an investigating judge and then served as a law professor at
the University of Baghdad. He was elected twice to the Iraqi Parliament
during the Monarchy and was appointed Minister of Culture and
Information in 1967. Dr. Al-Hassan received his diploma in Public and
Private Law and his doctorate in Law while studying in France. He was
born in Al-Hilla in 1920.

Minister of Labor & Social Affairs
Ms. Leyla Abdul Latif

· Biographical information will be forthcoming.

Minister of Public Works
Ms. Nasreen Mustapha Berwari

* Ms. Berwari graduated in 1991 from Baghdad University with a degree in
architectural engineering and urban planning. She also studied public
policy and management at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of
Government, where she completed her master’s degree in 1999. She also
headed the UN Office in Kurdistan region of Iraq as Head of UN Field
Office for Human Settlement in Dohuk from 1997-1998, and participating
in the reconstruction of 4,000 villages destroyed under Saddam Hussein’s
regime. Ms. Berwari became the Minister of Reconstruction and
Development for the Kurdistan Region in 1999. She was born in 1967 in

Minister of Oil
Mr. Thamir Abbas Ghadban

* Mr. Ghadban has worked for the Iraqi Ministry of Oil since 1973, and
was detained and demoted from his position within the ministry for
supporting democratic reforms. He earned his bachelor’s degree in
geology from University College in London and his master’s degree in
petroleum reservoir engineering from Imperial College at the London
University. During his long career with the oil ministry, Mr. Ghadban
was a reservoir engineer, head of petroleum and reservoir engineering,
director general of studies and planning, a chief geologist, and chief
executive officer. Mr. Ghadban has authored and co-authored more than 50
studies and technical reports dealing with various aspects of Iraqi oil
fields. He was born in 1945 in Babil.

Minister of Planning
Dr. Mehdi Al-Hafidh

* Dr. Al-Hafidh represented Iraq as minister plenipotentiary at the UN
in Geneva from 1978-1980. He later joined the UN system in Trade and
Development where he was Director for Special Industrial Development
from 1983-1996, and then served as regional director for Industrial
Development until 1999. Dr. Al-Hafidh has been a member of the Council
of Trustees & Consultants at the Arab Ideology Institute since 1996, and
was head the Arab Association for Economic Research in Cairo from
1998-2000. He was also a founding member of the Arab Organization for
Human Rights, and worked as vice president of Al-Tasami Afro Asian
Organization since 1980. After completing his undergraduate studies in
chemistry, he earned his doctorate in economic science from the
University of Prague.

Minister of Science & Technology
Dr. Rashad Mandan Omar

* Dr. Omar obtained his doctorate in civil engineering from the
University of London in 1977 and was the Director of the Committee for
Oil Construction at the Ministry of Oil until 1999. Dr. Omar then worked
in Dubai as a construction manager both in the private and state sector
until his appointment as Minister of Science and Technology last September.

Minister of State for Provinces
Judge Wa’il Abdul al-Latif

* Judge al-Latif was born in Basra in 1950, and graduated with a degree
in Law from Baghdad University in 1973 and with a Diploma from the
Judicial Institute in 1982. He served as a Judge in Basra, Samawah and
as Deputy Head of the Appeals Court in Nasseriya before being imprisoned
and prevented from traveling and working under the previous regime.
Judge al-Latif published a number of legal articles, especially on
family law. He was elected by the Basra Provincial Council to be the
Governor of Basra.

Minister of State for Women
Ms. Narmin Othman

* Ms. Othman is the former Minister of Education for Sulaimaniya, former
advisor to the Ministry of Justice, and a former Minister of Social
Affairs in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. She was a member of the
Conference Advisory Steering Committee for the Voice of the Women of
Iraq Conference on July 9, 2003. Prior to joining government service,
she was an educator for eight years and a member of the Peshmerga. Ms.
Othman also became the manager of the Save the Children office in Arbil
and also served as manager of the Youth Activity Center in Sulaimaniya.

Minister of State
Dr. Kasim Daoud

* Dr. Daoud, a native of Nasiriyah, graduated from Baghdad University’s
Faculty of Science with a bachelor’s degree in 1971. He obtained his
master’s of science from Lawdiff in 1978, and a doctorate in
microbiology and environment from the University of Wales in 1982. He
worked as a scientist in the United Arab Emirates for a number of years
and was the General-Secretary for the Iraqi Democratic Movement. Dr.
Daoud was born in Hilla on April 13, 1949. He is married and has two
daughters and one son.

Minister of State
Dr. Mamu Farham Othman

* Dr. Othman holds doctorates in English and German Philosophy. He was
born in 1951. He is a scholar and linguist.

Minister of State
Mr. Adnan al-Janabi

* Mr. al-Janabi is a London-trained economist who heads the
750,000-member Janabi tribe. He earned is bachelor’s degree in economics
with honors from the University of London and his master’s degree in
petroleum technology from Loughborough University in the United Kingdom.
Mr. al-Janabi was head of marketing for the Iraqi oil industry in the
1970s and was responsible for economics and finance at OPEC headquarters
in Vienna for several years. He was head of foreign relations for the
Iraqi Oil Ministry in the early 1980s and was also elected to the
National Assembly in 1996, where he served as vice-chair of its oil

Minister of Trade
Mr. Mohammed Mostafa al-Jibouri

* Mr. al-Jibouri was born in Mosul in 1949 and graduated from Mosul
University in 1974 with a degree in Economics. He received a
post-graduate degree in Economics from Glasgow University in 1983, and
then returned to Iraq to work for the State Oil Marketing Organization
(SOMO). He was elected Director General of SOMO in May 2003.

Minister of Transportation
Mr. Louay Hatem Sultan Al Erris

* Mr. Al Erris was vice chairman of the Baghdad Provincial Council,
Governor-Elect of Baghdad Province, an aircraft engineer for Boeing, and
is now a Director General for Iraqi Airways. He has been a leading
proponent of women’s rights during his service on the local councils,
and is particularly active on the City Council’s Women and Children
Committee. He acted as a spokesperson during the inaugural session of
the City Council. Mr. Al Erris, 52, was elected to the Provincial
Council in January 2004, and was subsequently chosen by his fellow
council members to be vice-chairman.

Minister of Water Resources
Dr. Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid

* Dr. Rashid graduated with a degree in civil engineering from Liverpool
University, U.K., in 1968 and completed his doctorate in engineering at
Manchester University in 1976. He is a member of the Institution of
Civil Engineers and a member of the International Commission for
Irrigation & Drainage. Dr. Rashid has worked in the fields of irrigation
and drainage, water control engineering, and agricultural development
and management. He has provided services and consultancy for projects in
Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Yemen, and Egypt. Dr. Rashid has also been
an official spokesman and representative for the Kurdistan Front Union
in the United Kingdom since 1978. He was born in Sulaimaniya in 1944.

Minister of Youth and Sports
Mr. Ali Fa’iq Al-Ghabban

* Mr. Al-Ghabban was born in Baghdad in 1955. He received his Bachelor
Degree in Agricultural Engineering from the University of Baghdad in
1977. He was an active member in the Supreme Council of the Islamic
Revolution in Iraq and was forced to leave Iraq in 1980. Mr. Al-Ghabban
has participated in several youth and sports activities outside Iraq,
especially in Iran where he worked to help Iraqi refugees. He has served
as a supervisor for many clubs and refugee youth centers.


[Source: CPA, Press Advisory, Baghdad]
The following was part of an e-mail I got, about the makeup of the interim government:
There will also be an Interim National Council to promote constructive
dialogue and create national consensus, to advise the new government,
monitor the implementation of laws and approve the 2005 budget. The
Interim National Council will be chosen by a National Conference, to be
held in July, involving at least a thousand Iraqis from across Iraq. The
Interim National Council will reflect Iraq’s diversity.
Speaking of Abu Ghraib, for those seeking an artistic homage to the detainees, it's here. Iraqi lutist NaSeer Shamma is to perform a concert in Rabat, Morocco, with a new composition called "The Freedom of Death," in which he "condemns the torture and humiliation to which the Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib were subjected at the hands of the American occupation." An item on the back page of Monday's Al-Nahdha (Adnan Pachachi's daily), the concert was to be performed "next Tuesday," although Shamma's web-site doesn't mention the concert. At the concert, Shamma's also to perform a new piece called "The Sons of the Land," about "the youth of Iraq who changed the equation and political reality, and during which he announces the death of the Arab era." Shamma will also perform a concert in June "with six of the biggest Arab composers, led by a top conductor, in which each composer will convey his position on what's happening in Iraq." The concert is to be broadcast live on al-Jazeera.

My secondhand connection with Shamma was a 1990s concert tour organized by a woman I knew in Boston who had to be a Saddam agent and whose mother in Iraq made an offering to Saddam of huge amounts of gold and silver contributed from citizens on behalf of the war effort against Iran, and reportedly did so voluntarily, on television and in a grovelling way. Shamma's cause célèbre, then, was "Iraqi children suffering because of sanctions."
All right -- this is it -- my last batch of Andy Borowitz pieces, from as far back as I'm going now, the week of May 3rd. I found, there, the one about the general assigned to Falluja and his needed makeover.

Saddam Loyalist to Look Less Like Saddam

The U.S. military command in Iraq has ordered former Iraqi Maj. Gen. Jasim Mohammed Saleh to undergo what it called a “Queer Eye” makeover to make the former Saddam Hussein loyalist look less like Saddam Hussein, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed today.

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, General Richard Myers said that the U.S. had been ready to transfer authority over the city of Fallujah to General Saleh “until someone at headquarters pointed out that he looked creepily like Saddam.”

In explaining the Joint Chiefs’ misgivings about General Saleh, General Myers said, “We felt that giving military authority to a gentleman who could basically take Saddam’s date to the prom without her suspecting anything was, under the circumstances, ill advised.”

After an intense round of discussions at the Pentagon, the U.S. decided to order a so-called “Queer Eye” makeover for the former evildoer, dropping style guru Carson Kressley into Fallujah by parachute.

In a conversation with reporters today, Mr. Kressley said he had urged General Saleh to shave his Hussein-like moustache and ditch his Republican Guard uniform in favor of a tailored suit by the German designer Jill Sander.

“I took one look at that Republican Guard uniform, and said, ‘WMD – Wrong Men’s Designer,’” Mr. Kressley quipped.

Mr. Kressley said that although General Saleh was resistant at first to his “Queer Eye” makeover, by the end of the process the fascist and the fashionista had “totally bonded.”

“I have no idea what a Baath Party is, but I like the sound of it,” Mr. Kressley said.
Then, Saddam's take on Abu Ghraib:

‘The Work of Amateurs,’ Madman Says

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein today blasted the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, calling the acts of humiliation “too little, too late.”

Speaking from his prison cell, the former Iraqi strongman said that although he generally applauds the mistreatment of detainees, “From what I’ve seen, what was done at Abu Ghraib appears to be the work of amateurs.”

Saddam added that the fact that the humiliation of prisoners appears to have been isolated and not widespread demonstrates that there was insufficient postwar planning on the part of the U.S. military.

“If they had planned this phase properly, there would have been systematic torture in every prison in Iraq, period,” an outraged Saddam said. “Clearly, when the U.S. invaded Iraq they didn’t give a moment’s thought to a comprehensive postwar torture program.”

Saddam also blasted the soldiers’ use of the Abu Ghraib prison, his favorite venue for torturing prisoners, calling their decision to torture prisoners there “a clear infringement of my trademark.”

Saddam’s French lawyer, Jacques Verges, said that he was seriously considering pursuing a trademark infringement case against the soldiers involved, arguing that “the concept of torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison is unquestionably the intellectual property of Monsieur Saddam Hussein.”

At a press conference in Paris, Mr. Verges told reporters: “These acts of humiliation were not just unforgivable, but unoriginal.”

Rumsfeld 'Delighted' by News

In a nationally televised address, President George W. Bush revealed that the blame for the Iraqi prison abuse scandal would be transferred from the U.S. to the new Iraqi government on June 30.

“Accepting blame for the prison abuse scandal is an important step in Iraq’s evolution towards democracy,” Mr. Bush said, adding that accountability for the scandal must go to the highest levels of Iraq’s yet-to-be-appointed government.

“It is my hope that Iraq’s new leaders will accept full responsibility for these abuses,” Mr. Bush told his television audience. “There’s an old saying: in a democracy, the dinar stops here.”

While diplomatic experts had questioned what exactly the sovereignty handed over to Iraq on June 30 would consist of, the president made it clear that it would consist solely of blame for the prison abuse scandal.

“As of June 30, we fully expect to put an Iraqi face on this fiasco,” Mr. Bush said.

At the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said that he was “delighted” by news of the decision to blame the prison scandal on the new Iraqi government.

“This is a solution that should satisfy even our toughest critics, because now those critics will be transferred to the new Iraqi government,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Prior to the president’s announcement, Mr. Rumsfeld had been bracing himself for the release of the Abu Ghraib Golden Edition DVD, including never-before-seen footage and special tormenters’ narration.

“This DVD is full of extremely radioactive stuff,” Mr. Rumsfeld. “Come June 30, the new government of Iraq will have a lot to answer for.”
I can't stop -- Andy Borowitz, from May 15:

Bush Announces ‘Operation Iraqi Re-freedom’

In his weekly radio address, President George W. Bush announced that if the new Iraqi government asks the United States to leave Iraq on June 30 it will do so, but added that it will return to Iraq on July 1, one day later.

Mr. Bush expressed his hope that the U.S.’s one-day absence from Iraq would stir nostalgia for the coalition troops and cause a public groundswell of support for their re-occupation of the country.

Calling the U.S.’s planned July 1 re-invasion of Iraq “Operation Iraqi Re-freedom,” Mr. Bush said the troops’ return to the Middle Eastern nation would give the Iraqi people a unique chance to “get it right this time.”

“Last time we invaded, we were not greeted with flowers,” Mr. Bush said. “There are operators standing by at 1-800-FLOWERS even as I speak.”

The president also revealed that U.S. forces were currently re-erecting a statue of Saddam Hussein to be re-toppled upon their July 1 return.

In other developments in Iraq, Mr. Bush announced that as a goodwill gesture the U.S. would close Abu Ghraib prison and re-open it as a Wal-Mart.

The president pointed out that the prison was an ideal candidate for such a conversion since it already had the facilities necessary to lock in its employees at night as well as an extensive ladies’ underwear department.

Mr. Bush concluded his radio address by confirming that he had asked Congress for $25 billion for Iraq and a books-on-tape version of the Geneva Conventions.
Another Borowitz piece, from May 22.

Senators Demand Explanation

A series of shocking new photos released today show President George W. Bush wearing a hood while planning the invasion of Iraq in January of 2003.

In the photos, Mr. Bush can be seen wearing a hood while Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar examine a large map of the Middle East.

Experts who have studied the photos believe that wearing such a hood would make it difficult if not impossible for the president to know what was going on around him or even where he was.

In perhaps the most shocking revelation, additional photos indicate that Mr. Bush's wearing of a hood might not have been an isolated incident but may in fact have been standard operating procedure for him beginning shortly after his inauguration in January of 2001 and continuing well into the middle of last week.

In the U.S. Senate, outraged senators demanded a “full explanation” for why the president of the United States was wearing a hood during such crucial meetings and what person or persons were responsible for placing the hood over Mr. Bush’s head.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that a full investigation was underway but that all evidence pointed to Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, whose Baghdad home was ransacked for the ninth time in two days.

In a related story, the White House acknowledged that a video exists of President Bush’s commencement address to Louisiana State University showing “shocking abuse” of the English language.
Then, Borowitz, from last Wednesday:

Offers Free Plastic Surgery to Every Iraqi

After receiving harsh criticism for not offering new initiatives on Iraq, President George W. Bush switched course today, vowing to give Iraq what he called an “extreme makeover.”

Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Bush said his new plan would provide every Iraqi with free plastic surgery to look like the celebrity of his or her choosing.

“We did not invade Iraq to turn Iraqis into Americans,” Mr. Bush said. “Having said that, if some of the Iraqi people would like to look like Britney Spears, this is a unique opportunity for them to do so.”

In explaining his offer, the president said that if the Iraqi people “feel better on the outside,” perhaps they will be less interested in mounting insurgencies against the U.S.

Sources within the White House acknowledged that the enormous popularity of so-called “makeover” shows on television may have inspired the President to offer his unorthodox proposal.

But Mr. Bush went one step further, announcing that after the U.S. demolishes the despised Abu Ghraib prison, it would keep destroying buildings in Iraq until every structure in the country had been razed to rubble.

Mr. Bush then said he would ask Congress for new appropriations to pay for the rebuilding of the demolished buildings, in the amount of one gazillion dollars.

When asked how the United States would find money for such an ambitious reconstruction plan, the president replied, “Tax cuts.”

Elsewhere, The New York Times today retracted much of its coverage of the Iraq war, informing readers that its principal source of information for many of its stories had been Winona Ryder.
Just when you thought it was safe (to be president of Iraq), along comes Ralph Nader, wanting the job, too. Andy Borowitz's subheadline is: "Sunnis, Shiites Denounce ‘Spoiler.’" Ayatollah Sistani's response: “Mr. Nader is not welcome here – and that goes double for Kucinich.”

Oh -- it's too short, and too good.
Breaking News June 1, 2004


Sunnis, Shiites Denounce ‘Spoiler’

Just hours after Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawar was selected as the interim president of Iraq, Ralph Nader announced that he would launch his own bid to become Iraqi president in order to give the people of Iraq “a genuine choice.”

“Over the past few days, I’ve seen various names floated for president of Iraq, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s not a dinar’s worth of difference between them,” Mr. Nader said at his first Baghdad press conference. “As I cross this great land of theirs, I sense that the Iraqi people want Ralph Nader in this race.”

But even as Mr. Nader spoke in glowing terms of his quixotic bid, prominent Sunnis and Shiites excoriated his decision, calling the candidate a “spoiler” and demanding that he quit the race at once.

In an official statement, the Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani said, “Mr. Nader is not welcome here – and that goes double for Kucinich.”

The Ayatollah was referring to Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who earlier this week announced that he, too, would be running for president of Iraq.

Mr. Kucinich, who has been crisscrossing Iraq with two volunteers from Oberlin College, said that he has received “astounding support” from the Iraqi people.

“Everywhere I go, I tell them that if I am elected president of Iraq I will leave their country and never come back,” Mr. Kucinich said. “The response has been incredible.”
I was looking for Borowitz's piece about the former Saddam general who's been dispatched to Falluja, and his "makeover." I also came across a Borowitz headline, that Saddam is demanding a jury of megalomaniacs. Coming up.
I made a mistake yesterday, in identifying the new interior minister, Falah Hasan al-Naqeeb, as a Tikriti. He is not -- his family is from the predominantly Sunni town Samarraa'. The Naqeebs, as well as the other finalist for the interior ministry post, are close to prime minister-designate Ayad Allawi.
I'm supposed to be at the national theater now, watching Kate Winslet, Kevin Spacey and Laura Linney, in some movie -- but, noooo!!! -- mom and my uncle vetoed that. It's a target, too, they say. Wait a week or ten days, till things blow over. Iraqis are spiteful, my uncle says -- they'll wanna dampen people's spirits, rain on their parade. So, no movie this week, and, probably, not next, either -- but maybe the Chalghi, tonight.
Stepping outside this morning, it felt like a new day had dawned. It was, indeed, a historic day, yesterday -- the first time Iraqis, albeit a limited number, have chosen their own leader in at least 35 years. No Saddam Hussein, no Ahmed Hasan al-Bakr, no military rulers, no coups -- just a plain old military invasion, overthrowing a dictatorship. Governing Council member Mahmoud Othman said on television last night, that the means by which the president and other posts of the new government were selected, violated the steps set out in the transitional administrative law the council, itself, drew up -- that there should have been a greater number and wider range of Iraqis drawn into the process.
More politics.

Prior to yesterday's deus ex machina, in which elder statesman Adnan Pachachi pulled out of the race for president of the republic, Pachachi was approached by the U.N. and U.S. envoys, and told he'd been chosen. However, knowing he didn't have the backing of a majority of the Governing Council members, Pachachi withdrew.

One fear about the man who was picked for president, Ghazi Mish'al Ajeel al-Yawer, is that he is the brother-in-law of Saudi heir to the throne, and acting ruler, Prince Abdullah.

As to prime minister-designate Ayad Allawi, another reason people give for liking him for the post, is that he knows the ways of the Ba'ath, in addition to knowing how to talk with them, such that he can anticipate their moves, and act accordingly.
A good analysis by ABC's wise old man, Dave Marash, who looks at the chances of civil war, partition, internal religious and nationalist rebellion, external terrorism and Afghanistan-style feudalism. With a keen sense for Iraqi society, history and politics, he dismisses all but the last, and concludes that "the strategic threats to the state of Iraq are declining." The article was e-mailed to me by Laurie Mylroie's electronic newsletter "Iraq News," which you can get, too, free of charge, by e-mailing her, at sam11@erols.com. Marash's opening paragraph:
Most thinking these days on Iraq is decidedly pessimistic.

Part of that is traditional political/intelligence "worst case analysis." Part of it is a very justifiable fear of the unknown, because the surest thing to be said about Iraq's political future is that it is unknown.
I wrote the following, yesterday afternoon, but, somehow, put it in the blog for the day before.

Today is the first day of the last month of direct U.S. rule of Iraq. At the end of the month, the Coalition Provisional Authority is supposed to go out of business, and American Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III can go home, for a much-needed rest. He's done a thankless job, and done it as well as he could. There have been many complaints, and much criticism -- some of it, probably well earned -- although it is not for lack of effort or bad intentions -- not in the very least. Those complaints and criticisms, go both ways -- of Iraqis about Mr. Bremer, and vice versa. Iraqis, as he's learned, are a tough bunch to deal with, and he's had it, as tough as could be.

I still hope to meet "Jerry" Bremer, and give a tip of my "We got him" baseball cap to him. Those were his most memorable words, and maybe his happiest moment -- when he announced, on December 14, the capture of Saddam Hussein. "Ladies and gentlemen -- We got him!" Indeed, we did. Standing beside him, was Adnan Pachachi, and his words, then, and in the days and weeks that followed, were equal parts celebratory and reassuring. Bremer's other main accomplishment was the passage of a Transitional Administrative Law, as it's called -- the interim constitution -- a high-quality document. Now, the new government, the interim, caretaker government, is responsible for implementing the lofty ideals contained in that document.

That said, Bremer might be headed home, early. The Governing Council he appointed last July, is in the process of disbanding, before the official June 30 transfer of power from the coalition to a sovereign Iraqi government. Twenty of its remaining 22 members (there were originally 25) have voted to dissolve themselves (in a bath of sulfuric acid -- I know, bad choice of words).

This could speed up the process of transferring power, and, if the Iraqis are able to carry out the necessary tasks, to hold elections before the end-of-January goal.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

I took a break -- for a bite. I walked around a bit, looking for a falafil sandwich. I've been working at an internet café, since about two-thirty (four hours ago), after our office's internet link-up went down. I discovered a nice falafil stand, a few days ago -- well, I didn't discover it -- it was pointed out to me by the other internet café I've worked at, which is not too far from here. I didn't go to that falafil stand, but decided to explore, and maybe find another place. I walked through a few arcades, mostly women's clothing -- must keep those, indoors, I guess -- under cover -- to protect the femalefolk. From a sidewalk peddler, who had his wares spread on some tables, under a tent, I asked the price of shorts, and swimming trunks -- 5500 and 5000 dinars, respectively (around three dollars) -- both long; lots of pockets, on the shorts, which I like. I also thought about cutting my hair (there are barbershops everywhere) -- the barber my uncle took me to, didn't cut it very short, and it's starting to get unmanageable, where I almost have to comb it, which I don't want to do. I was a little light in the pocket, too, and I've gotta save what I have, for...you. One sidewalk peddler had silver lighters with pictures of Saddam -- one had the ace of spades from the most-wanted deck on it; another, with "the man" in a white suit hoisting a rifle, before a reviewing line. I wished I had a camera, to photograph them. Most of the street peddlers sold combs and brushes, wallets and phone holsters, and socks and clothes, and children's toys. There were also the ubiquitous carts selling peanuts and sunflower seeds, or potato chips, including, I discovered, chicken-flavored chips. I entered a recording store -- these are places that copy the music you want onto CDs or cassettes. I asked for an old Nabeel Sh'ayl (my favorite Kuwaiti pop singer) and the Wadee' Saafi song my mother recommended. The shopkeeper blew me off, with my requests for oldies. I thought about some Mozart, which is popular here; I've written off the chance of Mahler. The place was plastered with posters of Jennifer Lopez, Brittney Spears and Eminem, among others, as well as the newest Arab pop stars, and they had some paper-size posters, too, for handouts, I supposed.

That reminds me, when I was in the internet café before, the guy next to me was listening, through his headphones, to a familiar pop song. I asked him who it was. He answered -- as if to say, don't you know anything, stupid? -- Brittney Spears, of course! Sorry. Also, at the cybercafé, I was called by Cleveland's Channel 8, for an interview, about the new president, and the bombings today. My mobile-phone connection wasn't very good, so I thought of using the café's phone-calling service. The workers at the café heard me talking with producer Dave Umbriac, and they got a big kick out of me, talking English with an American accent. One guy came back with a big "Okay!" After I did the interview, using my mobile phone, in the lobby, another guy, pleased with me, said, "political analyst." So, it looks like I might have found one friendly place. Actually, at the other internet café, yesterday, after I finished -- and the guys at both cafés have gotten to know me -- said, in English, "You're welcome here, anytime." The café I'm at now, had a couple of veiled women at the front desk, earlier. They also set me up, here, at a laptop desk, so I'll have to bring my portable mouse, next time. So, not too foreign (me) and hostile (them) -- well, let's hope not. And now, as the guy next to me got up, he remarked about the strangeness of my laptop -- it's an Apple. One thing led to another -- his father knows my uncle, he wants to hook up with that uncle's son, he's back in Iraq after 15 years in the United Arab Emirates -- and we exchanged cards and might meet up for the regular Wednesday evening Chalghi il-Baghdadi concerts at the Hunt Club. I told him about the movie I'm planning to go tt, tomorrow morning, at the national theater. It's called "David Gill" (?), and stars Kate Winslet, Kevin Spacey and Laura Linney. I discovered this on the back page of yesterday's Al-Nahdha, which says the national theater has a movie every Wednesday at eleven, with a post-film discussion with critics, writers and directors. So, finally, I did it -- I'm going to the movies -- but do they have popcorn? The potato-chip carts do.

So, back to my earlier trek. I kept walking, and felt an upbeat mood, thinking it might be because of the announcement, four hours before, of the new government -- that maybe there was hope, a feeling of optimism. I also thought of my friend Mishkat el-Moumin, who's just been appointed environment minister. Or, maybe, it was just me, feeling a bit of freedom, with my first solo sojourn -- well, my first extended foray, alone. I'd left my computer in the internet café -- my computer bag, I believe, is the most conspicuously foreign thing about me, from a distance. I'd taken, with me, some paper, pens and my phone. In the first arcade, I jotted down a few notes, about what I wanted to write about, when I returned. I thought, that might raise some suspicions -- to some -- my taking notes. So, something I would do, without hesitation, in America, I stopped doing. I went into a pastry shop, looking for something to eat, and they directed me across the street, to a decent falafil place. Along the way, there was a family getting their picture taken by a street peddler. Well, I don't think I found the good falafil place -- the falafils weren't very good, and they had some very sad-looking tomotoes and cumcumbers, which I didn't include in my sandwich. There were so many alleys, from every street, with each alley, leading to side alleys, and other side-r alleys, all overflowing with shops and outdoor stalls. As I sat in the falafil joint, I thought about my friend Marc, from Cleveland, knowing how he, and others, would like to make it here. Marc speaks some Arabic, and has made it to Syria and Iran, and managed pretty well. I thought, that I suppose it's possible for him, or anybody else, to manage, in this part of town, asking "Wayn ako falafil?" and, if he's asked where he's from, he could say they're Kurdish, or from Turkey. Those answers, though, might get the person recognizing the accent, or saying something back in Kurdish or Turkish. Well, maybe Greece or Italy, would do. Too bad. A reporter from Cleveland's Channel Five, Angie Lau, had said she and her husband would like to make the trip. I think it'll be a year or two, before this country begins to open up -- if that soon.

Now I'm back, and...back to the business of politics.

Well, it's now 8:30 -- it's been almost two hours, since I started this post, so...the rest might have to wait.

"The Governing Council dissolved itself today. It no longer exists." Few could've said it better than Mahmoud Othman, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council that was appointed last July by Jerry Bremer and the coalition running Iraq. Othman, an independent Kurd, went to medical school with my father in the '50s, and has been the in-house critic of the council, calling for its dissolution long ago.

Today, with the breaking of the deadlock over the choice of president, the floodgates were opened, and the rest of the government, including the 26-member cabinet, was named. As we watched the announcement of the names on television, in the kitchen of the Iraq Foundation's offices in Baghdad, we were listening for the name of our former colleague Dr. Mishkat el-Moumin, the Baghdad University law professor who headed the foundation's democracy, women and legal projects. She had been selected as environment minister. When I arrived at the office -- very late -- after noon -- I saw her car, which surprised me. She'd left the foundation a few days ago, to form her own women's group. A few minutes later, over lunch at the kitchen table, one of the heads of the marshes scientific team, Dr. Ali Douabul, asked Moumin how much money the marshes would get. She replied, "Not a fils," the equivalent, even less, than a penny. I wondered what was going on. Ammar Shahbander, head of the foundation's Baghdad office, looked at me, "Don't you know?" I said that Moumin didn't tell me anything.

The call had come to Shahbander, early in the morning, asking for Moumin's phone number. The call came from an aide to Bremer, who has liked, and tried to promote two women, Dr. Moumin and Rend Rahim-Francke (a cousin), head of the Iraq Foundation since its 1991 founding, and now, Iraq's representative in Washington. But why environment? Shahbander said they were looking for women, and the environment post was an easy one, as it didn't exist before, has a lot of international attention and a coterie of highly competent, foreign-trained advisers. Moumin had a "nescafé," and was off and running.

As we watched the announcement on TV, in the kitchen, I counted five women. The other two workers in the kitchen with me heard three. I still haven't seen all the names, but I managed to catch the names of four -- Sawsan al-Sharifi, our Dr. Moumin, Nisreen Barwari (staying on at municipalities and public works), Layla Abdul-Lateef -- and I thought I heard a fifth female name, including a minister for women's affairs. Dr. Moumin came back a few minutes later -- wasn't able to get through, to the convention center/Green Zone, so was headed home, awaiting a call, and meeting with her former female colleagues, as they form their new group.

Two of the top posts went to the names that have been circulating for the past few days -- Adil Abdil-Mehdi, top aide to the head of the Iran-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, got the finance/treasury portfolio, while Thamir Ghadbhan was chosen for oil. Hazim Sha'lan al-Khuzai'i was named defense minister. One surprise is that Samir Sumaida'ie, who's well liked, was replaced at the key interior ministry post, and replaced with Falah Hasan al-Naqeeb, son of former general and long-time Saddam opponent, Hasan al-Naqeeb, from the Tikrit area [correction: from Samarraa', not Tikrit].

I just found a list of the members, on the BBC's web-site, and although they don't have my friend Dr. Moumin on the list, they do have four other women, and possibly a fifth -- if Pascal is a woman. There's a popular singer making the rounds named Pascal. We'll soon find out.
It's official -- the president of Iraq will be Ghazi Mish'al Ajeel al-Yawer. Adnan Pachachi, his competitor for the post, begged off, as he doesn't have the support of a majority of the members of the Iraqi Governing Council. The United States and the United Nations were lobbying for Pachachi, but the coalition-appointed members of the governing council, held their ground, for Yawer. The position will be largely a ceremonial post, and the U.S.-educated Yawer rises to the occasion, by donning the traditional Arab robes. Word on the appointment was out, early this morning, and the only question was, whether the Iraqis would cave in to U.S. and U.N. wishes.

The names of the rest of the cabinet, also began circulating this morning. Among them, is my good friend Dr. Mishkat el-Moumin, who's been appointed minister of the environment. I met Dr. Moumin, a Baghdad University law professor, on my first day of work at the Iraq Foundation, eight weeks ago, and have been honored to know her. She's been a tremendous source of insight for me, and I've quoted her, often, on these pages. The announcement of Dr. Moumin, as well as the other 25 ministers, was made public an hour ago, by newly designated Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, in a ceremony that included the naming of the president and a few words by U.N. envoy Lakhdhar Brahimi, before a large United Nations flag.

The two vice presidents, as expected, are Ibrahim Ja'fari and Rozh Noori Shawa'yees.

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