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

Friday, April 22, 2005

Iraqi Law Students Compete in International Moot Court Competition

Test their forensic skills against top students from 88 countries

By Phillip Kurata
Washington File Staff Writer
March 31, 2005

Washington -- Law students from Iraq have matched forensic wits against law students from 87 other countries in Iraq's first participation in an international competition for budding lawyers.

Lajan M. Amin, Paiwast A. Marouf, Erian J. Hamid and Rebaz K. Muhammad from the law school of Sulaymaniya University are representing Iraq in the 46th annual Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition taking place in Washington March 27 through April 2.

Working in teams of two, the law students presented their arguments before a mock tribunal of three justices pretending to be the International Court of Justice. The Iraqis spoke in Arabic, the judges in English, and their exchanges were interpreted simultaneously.

The competition was structured in a way that pitted one team of student lawyers representing the fictitious Republic of Appollonia against another team representing the fictitious Kingdom of Raglan, an archipelago lying about 700 kilometers off the Appollonian coast.

The dispute, which Appollonia and Raglan have taken to the International Court of Justice for settlement, arises from a hypothetical incident involving the Appollonian-flagged cargo ship, the Mairi Maru. The Mairi Maru, carrying a cargo of toxic nuclear waste, was seized by pirates as it was passing through the Raglan archipelago.

The pirates stole the ship's navigation and communication equipment and its safe, disabled its steering system and abandoned it to a storm. The storm drove the disabled ship onto uninhabited sandbars, unclaimed by any nation, southeast of the Raglan archipelago, where the ship began to leak toxic waste. The sandbars, famous for sport fishing, generated significant tourist income for the Raglans. To limit environmental damage, the Raglan navy towed the Mairi Maru and its toxic cargo into blue water and sank it at a depth of 9000 meters.

The hypothetical case "involves issues of responsibility for piracy, nuclear transport, and whether consent is required for a ship to enter another country's territorial waters with a potentially hazardous nuclear cargo," said Haider Ala Hamoudi, a coach of the Iraqi team.

During a preliminary round March 29, Lajan M. Amin and Paiwast A. Marouf presented oral arguments on behalf of Raglan. The two Iraqi women invoked the U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea, international conventions related to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and a number of legal precedents to press Raglan's claims for compensation for the release of nuclear waste following the piracy.

In presenting their arguments, the two Iraqi law students faced a withering barrage of questions from the three judges.

"If Raglan is not party to the IAEA, then how can you use the IAEA as a basis for law? Does the IAEA specifically establish rights for third states? What is the binding nature of IAEA law?" the presiding magistrate asked.

A judge asked Marouf about Raglan's right to sink the Mairu Maru because it posed an environmental threat.

"Raglan is entitled to take any action necessary to protect its environment," responded Marouf.

The magistrate pointed to the three women arguing the case of Appollonia. "If it is determined that these three women pose a threat to the environment, can I take them out and shoot them?" the magistrate asked.

The question provoked a momentary silence from the Raglan counsel while a chuckle rippled through the spectators in the room, but the serious intent of the question was unmistakable.

It highlighted the degree of legal sophistication required to operate in the international legal environment.

After the moot court was adjourned, Amin commented, "This was a wonderful experience for us because it was the first time for us to practice at this level and it was a great opportunity to learn a great deal."

Marouf said, "It was a great experience for us. It was the first experience for Iraq to participate in international competition. I hope that in future years not only our university but also universities from other cities will be able to participate."

Rebaz K. Muhammad, a Sulaymaniya University law student, who sat in the audience at this session, said participation in the competition allowed the students to gain a great deal of experience in presenting oral arguments in an international legal setting.

"We learned a great deal about public international law as well as maritime law, an issue which is not covered very deeply in the Iraqi educational system. We learned a great deal from the other teams as well in the process of arguing with them," he added.

The Iraqis' participation in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition was arranged by the International Human Rights Law Institute, located at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois. With funding provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the institute is operating a legal education reform project at three law schools in Iraq: Baghdad, Basra and Sulaymaniya.

David Guinn, the executive director of the institute, said the program involves four main components: 1) library reconstruction, information technology and infrastructure development; 2) curriculum reform; 3) clinical education; and 4) a national effort involving law professors concerning legal reform.

The students' participation in the Jessup competition was part of the clinical education component.

Two Sulaymaniya University law professors, Omer R. Saman and Muhammad Hanoon Jafar, accompanied the students to Washington.

Saman said the Iraqi team held training sessions with Italian and American teams before the competition began. He said the training sessions helped the Iraqis spot weaknesses and improve their performance.

"Hopefully, in the future, we will be able to improve our preparations and send a better performing team," Saman said.

Jafar said after returning to Iraq, he is going to organize a similar moot court competition to demonstrate oral arguments presentation to the entire law school student body.

"The notion of practice-based education has generated a lot of interest in Iraqi law schools. Holding this court would hopefully raise student interest in practice-based education," he said.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
Soldier from Oregon, 46, dies in Kuwait
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 20, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Maj. Steven W. Thornton, 46, of Eugene, Ore., died April 18 in Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, when he collapsed during physical training. Thornton was assigned to the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, Fort Monmouth, N.J.
Saddam's men strike back in purge that left river of blood

From James Hider in Baghdad
The Times (London)
April 22, 2005

ABU QADDUM lays out the pictures of mutilated bodies dredged from the Tigris River like a player dealing cards.

Some had their hands cut off, others are headless or burnt. Another was strangled, with his tongue lolling out. He thinks one bloated, slime-covered corpse might be his younger brother.

The shocking images come from Iraq's new killing fields - the small town of Madain just 20 miles from Baghdad.

In other times the massacre might have prompted calls for international intervention. But there are already 150,000 US and British troops in Iraq and this was done under their noses. Abu Qaddum's pictures are a terrifying testament to the chaos of Iraq.

Madain has had no police force since a mob of criminals and insurgents burnt down the police station last year. The police fled.

Sunni guerrillas quickly took over, running the town as their own criminal fiefdom and randomly killing Shia residents, whom they considered infidels and US sympathisers. Then they launched an all-out attempt to purge the town of its Shias.

News of this "ethnic cleansing" leaked out in confusing rumours.

Shia officials spoke last weekend of a massive hostage-taking. But when Iraqi Interior Ministry commandos stormed the town they found car bombs, weapons and a training camp - but no kidnappers and no hostages. The whole story was dismissed as scaremongering.

Then the photographs of the bodies emerged and with them the tale of Abu Qaddum - a resident who survived the massacre and this week alerted President Talabani. "I think there may be 300 bodies in the Tigris," he told The Times yesterday.

He recounted how, for the past year, Sunni insurgents have built bases in abandoned farmhouses in the lush river plains south of Baghdad.

First the gangs attacked Madain's police station. An armed mob set fire to the building and the police cars. Emboldened by the lack of a response from the US-led occupation, the guerrillas then started using a former Republican Guard base as a training camp.

More guerrillas dribbled in, many affiliated to the extremist group Ansa al-Sunna and led by a Syrian called Annas Abu Ayman.

They installed a reign of terror, kidnapping government employees and members of Shia political parties. Sometimes the bodies surfaced in the palm groves, more often people just vanished.

When US forces stormed the guerrilla stronghold of Fallujah in November, more fighters arrived in Madain, on the eastern fringes of a lawless area known as the Triangle of Death. During Ramadan last autumn, throngs of Sunni guerrillas mustered around a mosque, denouncing Shias as traitors and spies, lambasting them for not joining the resistance.

Abu Qaddum said that the Shias did not respond until the guerrillas assassinated their leader, Sheikh Mahmoud al-Madaini, as he headed to prayers. His car was intercepted by a convoy of 15 vehicles packed with gunmen, who riddled it with bullets. The sheikh, his son and three others were killed.

The Shias went to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, their spiritual leader in the holy city of Najaf. Abu Qaddum said that the septuagenarian cleric, who is an avowed moderate, told them that their relatives were martyrs but that they should stay their hand: the terrorists wanted the Shias to attack to spark a civil war - which would be worse.

On February 10 a convoy of police finally arrived in Madain. At first the officers found the place calm. But news of their arrival had been leaked - even Abu Qaddum knew that they were coming - and the guerrillas sprang a well-planned ambush. Many officers died and the wounded who were captured were doused in petrol and burnt to death.

After that, the kidnapping and killing accelerated. "They were taking two or three people a day, killing people in the street, going into people's houses to drag them out," Abu Qaddum said.

The guerillas also set up checkpoints on the road to Baghdad, executing government officials when they could find them, and looting and burning lorries.

People were too scared to go to market for fear of being seized. At night families stood guard in two-hour shifts. Six weeks ago Abu Qaddum's brother went to find a doctor for his sick wife and was never seen again.

The guerrillas blew up a mosque and posted notices saying that Shias should leave town or die. The Shia political parties started a press campaign - but it was dismissed by the Interior Ministry, whose officials said that the whole affair was a tribal feud.

When Iraqi troops finally moved in they found no sign of the horror. They asked through loudspeakers for witnesses to show them where the terrorists and their hostages were. The Shias were too terrified to come forward, knowing that the troops could be gone in a week.

The story was dismissed as exaggeration. Then the first bodies were found. Some had broken free of concrete slabs to which they had been tied before they were thrown in the river.

A distraught father looking for his son heard about this and hired a Baghdad diver to investigate. The diver emerged, filled with horror, saying that the riverbed was thick with bodies. So far 57 have been found but Abu Qaddum - now a refugee living in another city under an assumed name - says that local police are too afraid to retrieve any more. Locals want American troops to secure the area and send divers down for the rest. US embassy and Iraqi government spokesmen told The Times that they were investigating the affair.
Roadside bomb in western Iraq kills Flagstaff and New York marines
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 21, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two Marines who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. Kelly M. Cannan, 21, of Lowville, N.Y.

Lance Cpl. Marty G. Mortenson, 22, of Flagstaff, Ariz.

Both Marines were killed April 20 as the result of the detonation of an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. They were assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. As part of Operation Iraqi Freedom their unit was attached to a 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).
Buffalo and Oregon soldiers are killed in Baghdad by car bomb
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 21, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died April 19 in Baghdad, Iraq, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near their dismounted patrol. Both Soldiers were assigned 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, and Fort Stewart, Ga.

The soldiers are:

Spc. Jacob M. Pfister, 27, of Buffalo, N.Y.

Pfc. Kevin S. K. Wessel, 20, of Newport, Ore.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Soldiers from Brooklyn, Virginia and Michigan are killed in western Iraq
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 19, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died April 16 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, while conducting combat operations. The soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, Camp Hovey, Korea.

Killed were:

Sgt. Angelo L. Lozada Jr., 36, of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Sgt. Tromaine K. Toy Sr., 24, of Eastville, Va.

Spc. Randy L. Stevens, 21, of Swartz Creek, Mich.
Soldier from California, 19, dies from non-combat injuries sustained, south of Baghdad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 13, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pfc. Casey M. LaWare, 19, of Redding, Calif., died April 9 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, from non-combat related injuries sustained April 6 in Al Mahmudiyah, Iraq. LaWare was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Irwin, Calif.

The incident is under investigation.
Soldier from Cape Coral, 20, is killed in Baghdad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 14, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Manuel Lopez III, 20, of Cape Coral, Fla., died April 12 in Baghdad, Iraq, when his HMMWV was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade. Lopez was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Marine corporal from Michigan, 27, dies from mortar fire in western Iraq
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 15, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. Michael B. Lindemuth, 27, of Petoskey, Mich., died April 13 as a result of wounds received from enemy mortar fire at Camp Hit, Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to Inspector/Instructor Staff, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Akron, Ohio. During Operation Iraq Freedom, Lindemuth was attached to Regimental Combat Team 2, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).
Marine from Virginia Beach, 31, is killed in western Iraq
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 18, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Capt. James C. Edge, 31, of Virginia Beach, Va, was killed April 14 by enemy small-arms fire while conducting combat operations in Ramadi, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. During Operation Iraq Freedom, Edge was attached to 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward).
20-year-old soldier injured, south of Baghdad, dies in San Antonio
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 19, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. Tyler J. Dickens, 20, of Columbus, Ga., died April 12 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, of injuries sustained April 6 in Al Mahmudiyah, Iraq, when his guard tower caught fire. Dickens was assigned to the Army's 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Fort Irwin, Calif.
Soldier from Puerto Rico, 33, is killed in Tikrit
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 18, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Aleina Ramirezgonzalez, 33, of Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, died April 15 in Tikrit, Iraq, when a mortar struck her forward operating base. Ramirezgonzalez was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Troop Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Soldier from Indiana, 20, dies, northeast of Baghdad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 18, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pfc. Steven F. Sirko, 20, of Portage, Ind., died April 17 in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, of non-combat related injuries. Sirko was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.
Anybody out there? Some departing notes

I’m here. Actually, I’m here. That is, I’m in London. I made it out of Baghdad,…"in the dark of night.” Actually, it was in the light of day – last Thursday morning. It was, though, by ground, when I…wasn’t supposed to do that – not at all. I’ll tell you – the fear is sooo…what-shall-we-call-it?…"exceptional.” The relos said, there was no way I could go overland – that is, by taxi. One cousin asked me, “What – do you wanna kill yourself?” and gave me a parting, “I’ll see you on television,” as she laughed. The main fear, is robbers and kidnappers, along the highway. Lately, though, the news had been good, and there were reports, of extra travelers and truck-traffic. There was one report, though -- you can call it a story, a rumor, whatever -- that "the mujahideen" had killed 30 of the highway robbers/kidnappers near Falluja, and captured 30 more and returned them to their relatives -- all, because the brigands were giving "the mujahideen" a bad reputation. Well, I wasn’t going to fly, blind. I called the taxi service that my mother’s brothers use, and the driver said the roads were good. My cousin's husband cautioned me not to tell anybody – that is, the servants and the grandkids – that I was going overland. “Tell them, you’re going by plane,” he advised, and…sneak out, at dawn, when the taxis depart. I told him I’d already told one or two of the grandkids I was leaving the next day, although I hadn’t told them I was going by car. Then I called my mother's sister, before visiting her, that last night, and she said she, too, had heard the roads were safe, and gave me the name of a taxi company, nearby. I stopped there, before visiting her, and they said the roads had been fine. Their price: $70 -- plus another 10, to take me to the airport, in Amman. My flight from Amman, was to depart, at two a.m. Before making a reservation with them, though, I stopped by an Iraqi Airways office, in the Chadirchi Building, in Mansour, but the man behind the desk said they were booked, till Tuesday. Along the way, I had a couple of glasses of fresh banana-apple-strawberry juice, as well as a falafil sandwich, at the shop I patronized, all last summer. The man behind the counter asked me if I was Kurdish. I said, no, and thanked him. He said I looked Kurdish, or from Kut. I asked him what the connection was, between Kurdish and Kut. He responded, the Fayli Kurds, in Kut, referring to Shi’a Kurds. I didn’t realize they were concentrated in Kut – I thought they were concentrated, farther north, in Diyaaleh province. Whatever.

After visiting my aunt, and as the sun was setting – and I’d been driving, solo, for the second day in a row – bully for me! – I went looking for a dentist, to give me a cleaning – around five dollars, rather than the 60-70 I have to pay, at home. I found one named Hashimi -- same last name, as the one I saw, last summer. The man who came out of the dentist's office – I assumed he was her husband – said she was on her last patient, but agreed they'd stay open for me. I asked him for the other Hashimi. He said there were quite a few, including Dr. Waleed, in the market's next arcade. The second floor of the next arcade was dark, so I returned to the first Hashimi, but they were closing down -- too late. Sixty, 70 bucks, it is.

I could go on to tell you about the ride to Amman, which was interesting, with a father-and-son who “loved Saddam to death” -- he was "the only honorable one." I could also tell you about my run-in with the Jordanian men behind the counters at Amman airport, and finally succumbing to their 12 dinars-per-extra-kilo charge – adding up to 160-something dollars – could’ve been a lot worse – which I paid, just in the nick of time, to get on the plane. Then, I got stuck in Amsterdam airport, all day, Friday – because I fell asleep and didn’t go down a flight of steps, to their floor of some 10 Gate 6s – A through H, I think it was – although, that did give me a chance to see the airport’s mini-Rijksmuseum, but couldn't find one of those delicious Dutch egg-salad sandwiches. I could tell you about the lovely wet greenery of London, the politeness, the efficiency, friendliness, people waiting patiently in line, my trip to the West Country, and seeing all the newly born lambs, on the rich-green hillsides, the friends I’ve been seeing and exchanging notes with, attending “Henry IV – Part I,” tonight, at the National Theatre, and the samosa, and chips, the Cadburys, the buses and the Underground. I’m not going to, though – you’ll just have to wait for the movie.

I wrote the following, late Wednesday, after midnight
I'm about five hours away from leaving Baghdad. It doesn't look like the trials of Saddam and his gang are going to take place, anytime soon, so…I'm off. I've got a plane ticket from Amman to London, late tonight, and…I'm ready to go. I started to feel the coming letdown – a couple of days ago. It's fun being here, in the middle of the action – and, of course, an audience, to follow…me, my writing, what I've got to say. Hey – it's the truth.

Anyhow, I finished my "visits." Yesterday – that is, Tuesday, I went to see the cousin in town. Actually, there's another, and I should've called her, but…shoot me. I took the car, and drove on my own – for the first time. He lives, just around the corner, behind the Iraq Foundation's office, where I worked, last spring and summer. My uncle told me that it's been shut down – that is, the local office. I'll have to find out about that. The drive was fine. The field in front of the office, has been developed further, with a basketball court, and some kind of stage, at one end of the court, to go along with the soccer field that they did up, last year. I woke my cousin up – he said he'd dozed off on the couch, watching a movie, and had broken his glasses, in the process. I said, great – then we can go out, and I can photograph that restaurant called "Tea Time," for a friend – really, my sister's friend -- doing an art project by that name. "But we don't have a car," he said – his son had gone out, to buy some gel, the maid said. "I have one," I replied. I'd already photographed the restaurant once, but at night, and my friend was going to stamp 4:00 pm, on all the pictures, from around the world. My cousin brought out his set of little screwdrivers, and persisted, in trying to fix his glasses, himself. He said the screw was too small, and it kept falling, and we kept having to search for it, on the floor, under the couch, on the coffee table. Eventually, he gave up. We drove – I drove, thank you – to Haarthiyyeh, pulled off to the side of the road, and clicked a couple of shots. They all came out dark, though, for some reason. We moved on – there were two pairs of lit eyeglasses – one red, one green -- above the sidewalk across the street. We took the first – good choice. They had three stained-glass pieces over the front door
There, I stopped, and wound down – sort of expired – the wind-me-up doll…had reached its end.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

A Power Vacuum in Iraq?
How rules designed to prevent domination hobble the creation of a new government

Tuesday, Mar. 29, 2005

More than two months have passed since 8 million Iraqis braved death to go to the polls, but still they have no new government. The new National Assembly met for a second time on Tuesday, with agreement on the makeup of a new executive branch as elusive as ever. So deep was the discord, in fact, that the Assembly failed even to choose a Speaker. Instead of showing signs of progress to an increasingly impatient electorate, the session portrayed the new legislature as a hung parliament.

As tempers flared among legislators, TV coverage was cut off in order to stop the broadcast of an embarrassing spectacle. But the reason for the deadlock is not simply a failure of Iraq's elected leaders to achieve consensus. The rules of Iraqi democracy, as bequeathed by outgoing U.S. administrator J. Paul Bremer, require the support of a two-thirds majority in the Assembly for the creation of a new government, a standard that the U.S. political system might struggle to meet.

The rules have forced the United Iraqi Alliance, the coalition led by Shiite religious parties that won a narrow majority of Assembly seats in the election, to cut a deal with the Kurdish list that claimed 27 percent of the seats. The Kurds see their once-off kingmaker role as their best opportunity to press for maximum autonomy and oil-revenue share for their independence-minded people.

As their price for endorsing a Shiite-led government, they're demanding not only an extension of their de facto autonomy in their three northern provinces — including the right to retain their own armed forces and prohibit the national army from entering their domain — but also control of the divided oil-rich city of Kirkuk and of Iraq's oil ministry. That's a prohibitive price for the Arab majority, both Shiite and Sunni.

The Kurds, however, mindful that their 27 percent of the Assembly counts for far more in this one moment when a two-thirds majority is required than it will ever count for again, are digging in their heels. And so, the deadlock persists, and threatens to create a long-term power vacuum.

A Weak Government

If Bremer's Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) looks likely to create a relatively weak central government in Baghdad, that was its intent — restraining any one ethnic or religious group from dominating others on the basis of a simple majority.

But the price of that restraint has been to give the Kurdish minority the means to blackmail the majority, which in turn sets the scene for an acrimonious aftermath. The Kurds want to resolve such contentious issues as Kirkuk while their power is at its peak; the Shiites insist it should be done on the basis of a consensus achieved in the new Assembly. And the electorate that put the Shiites in power — and their mentor, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani — are unlikely to accept the legitimacy of any such far-reaching agreements achieved on this basis.

Sistani himself never accepted the TAL, and urged that it be changed by an elected Iraqi body, not simply because its authors had been a U.S. occupation authority but because he rejected the de facto veto it gave to the Kurds. Sistani has begun sending increasingly urgent exhortations to the Assembly to get on with forming a government.

Tuesday's failed assembly session highlighted the fact that the Kurdish-Shiite negotiations are not the only sticking point. There had been broad agreement that the post of Assembly Speaker would go to a Sunni Arab as part of an effort to draw that community into the new polity, but when acting President Ghazi al-Yawer declined the post, legislators could not agree on an alternative.

The mortar shells exploding outside the chamber may have served as a reminder that none of the Sunni elements in the Assembly right now can be deemed representative of a community that mostly stayed away from the polls, and Iraqi politicians appear to have recognized that ending the insurgency requires reaching agreements with more hard-line but influential groupings such as the Association of Muslim Scholars.

That goal may be growing more elusive, as some recent meetings of clerics and tribal chieftains in Baghdad have expressed support for the insurgents and called for violent “retaliation” against Kurds and Shiites.

Who's in Charge?

Even as the politicians haggle over control of ministries and key posts in the new government, the seat of real power in Baghdad becomes increasingly difficult to identify. Right now, executive authority remains in the hands of the lame-duck government of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, the U.S. appointee who garnered only 14 percent of the vote in the election and who has turned down offers of a cabinet post in order to claim the role of opposition leader.

Control of the security forces, meanwhile, remains effectively in the hands of the U.S. military, despite being formally answerable to the interim government. Washington retains no formal or open political role in Iraq, and the U.S. embassy there routinely insists, when asked by journalists, that it has no hand in the political process. That remains a wise posture, given the implacable hostility of both the Shiite and Sunni leadership to American tutelage. But given the depth of U.S. investment in lives and treasure in Iraq, it is widely assumed among Iraqis that the U.S. will seek to ensure the most favorable outcome by using its role as the guarantor of security, and the major underwriter of reconstruction, as leverage.

The U.S. priority may be to ensure that the ministries concerned with security remain in friendly hands. But the Shiite list — whose leaders have kept the U.S. at arm's length — wants the security ministries for itself, and plans to resume a vigorous program of “de-Baathification,” purging the security forces of many of the elements of the former regime that had been quietly reinstated by Allawi. They also envisage a far greater role for forces such as the Iran-trained Badr Brigade, the armed wing of the Shiite list's leading party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, in a revamped security arrangement.

Still, the post-election scenario leaves Washington with no formal levers to influence Iraqi politics. As long as it remained the formal occupying power, it held the ring for the competition between rival Iraqi factions. Now, nobody really holds the ring, and the contest to shape post-Saddam Iraq is more wide-open than ever. The election has not resolved the basic political conflicts among Iraqis, but it has turned the current U.S.-appointed government into a lame duck and has diminished U.S. influence over the next one.

Popular Frustration

The political gridlock has deepened the frustration of ordinary Iraqis. Their first experience of democracy may be acquiring a bitter aftertaste, having braved death to go out and vote for lists of candidates who were kept almost entirely anonymous due to security concerns, only to see a familiar cast of characters haggling behind closed doors to divide the spoils of power. They don't know who is really in charge, and they don't see anything being done to improve their lives. But the danger is far greater than a disappointing experience of democracy, or what now seems to be an inevitable delay in the timetable for the drafting of a new constitution.

The relentless bloodletting of the insurgency continues, and most of its victims are Shiites and Kurds. Pressure for reprisals is growing despite the insistence by the Shiite and Kurdish leadership that their people resist the provocation intended by sectarian killing — after all, Sunnis already imagine themselves marginalized by the transition in Iraq, and any sectarian reprisals will only deepen Sunni support for the insurgency.

A majority of Iraqis voted for the promise of change, choosing an alliance that promised peace, security, jobs, reconstruction and a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. So far, they're not seeing much progress on any of those fronts. Now the chemistry of post-Saddam Iraq may be growing even more volatile than it was before the vote.
Saddam to be tried by jury of his peers – fellow Ba'this

I may not have written this, the other day, but the legal adviser to Abdil-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the top Shi'a party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, told me and my uncle, last Friday, that 40 percent of the staff of the special tribunal to try Saddam and his top lieutenants were Ba'this. A young Ba'thi jurist, Taalib a-Zubaydi, had latched onto the court, when it was established, in late 2003-early 2004. Since Saalim Chalabi, who ran the tribunal, was charged with complicity in a murder, he's stayed away from the country; Zubaydi stepped in, to take his place. Chalabi denies the charges, saying they're politically motivated. The judge who issued the arrest warrant of Chalabi, as well as his uncle Ahmad, Zuhayr il-Maliki, has since been relieved of his duties. Maliki is accused of being a novice, who used to translate for Saddam, and continued those duties for Paul Bremer, free-Iraq's first governor, who placed Maliki at the head of Iraq's Central Criminal Court. Maliki had called on Saalim Chalabi to return to Iraq, to face questioning. Chalabi refused, fearing he'd be placed in a prison cell with Ba'this or other criminals who might kill him. In the meantime, before and after Chalabi's absence, many Ba'this were hired for posts, up and down the rungs of the tribunal staff, from guards to administrators, investigators and jurists. Opponents have appealed to reverse the process, but it looks like it will take some time.
Subject: At long last Iraq joins Kurdistan
On March 23, my friend Alaaddin al-Dhahir, in Holland, sent an e-mail with the above title that I posted, two days later. Soon after, he sent me a corrected version. Here it is:
23 March 2005

Just the other day I was accidentally watching al-Arabiya program "min al-Iraq." Ahmad Chalabi partially listed the Kurdish demands to join the new cabinet. Below are what I remember he said:

1. The Kurds should have 25% of oil revenues. This demand is based on their score in the election results.
2. The Kurdish regional government should have the right to give concessions/contracts to international companies/governments on natural resources (oil etc) without having to go back to the central government. This implicitly means the Kurds will pocket the income from these agreements.
3. The Iraqi army will not be allowed to enter "Kurdistan" without the permission of the Kurdish parliament.
4. The Iraqi government must pay all the expenses for the Peshmerga.
5. The Kurds must have the presidency, deputy prime-minister, at least 2 important ministries in addition to an appropriate number of cabinet posts.
6. If the Kurdish ministers resign, then the entire cabinet must resign.
7. Prime-ministerial decisions should be made only with the agreement of the Kurdish deputy-prime minister.
8. And of course, the federal scheme.

Chalabi did not list the rest of the Kurdish demands for lack of time and because he considered them less controversial. I presume one of these demands is the annexation of Kirkuk, parts of Mosul and Diyala provinces.

When I heard these "demands" I could not help but exclaim: At long last Iraq joins Kurdistan. But before I comment on these demands I want to make two-points. The first is about the Kurdish intransigence. In any negotiation one starts with a negotiating position but must be willing to concede on some points to get an agreement. However, all the "Kurdish demands" listed above are impossible. Under any negotiation, they will be termed "non-starters." The second is about some Iraqi Arabs who formed committees to support the Kurdish right to self-determination. Indeed they go on Sat TV's and websites to make this point. One of those Piled High and Deep (Ph.D.) even said that borders "are not sacred, just a line on a map." Try to apply this to the world and see what will happen!! The most important fact missing in such proposal is this: Iraq will disappear if the Kurds secede. Not only the region will be mired in endless wars to divide natural resources, water, arid land and borders but Iran will grab the south, Syria and Jordan will grab the west and the "most-beloved" Kurdistan will be part of Turkey. To those "altruistic" guys I say this: you are not idealists, YOU ARE IDIOTS. Furthermore, you are free to do what you like with what you had inherited from your parents (maal al-Khallifook) but not with Iraq. This wonderful country is a trust we pass from one generation to another.

Now back to the Kurdish demands.

Would the percentages of the election results be the same if the other 8 million Iraqis had voted in the elections? Will the Kurds accept 11% share of oil revenues if in the next election the Kurdish parties score this percentage? Is this how financial resources are divided in the US (among Democratic and Republican voters), UK, Germany and France? Will the Kurds spend part of the 25% on Kurds living in Baghdad, Hilla, Kut, Nasiriya and Basrah? Will they reduce my tax burden (as well as that of many Europeans) by paying the expenses for the 200,000 Kurdish welfare beneficiaries who voted for them in Europe?

I have a better but no-less ridiculous system of distributing the oil wealth. Let us divide it equally and give a share to each Iraqi, e.g. $1000 dollar per head. A family of five will receive for instance $5000. We will then ask Iraqis to find ways to finance: the defense of the country (hire mercenaries), police, the education system, the health system, judicial system, civil status offices, property registration office (Tappu), passport office, citizenship office (necessary to get $1000 per Iraqi) and the office which will take care of such oil-money distribution. So you get my point!!

The 2nd Kurdish demand will not only make the central government a scare-crow (khirraa3at Kuhdhra) but will make the economic disparities between Iraqi regions even greater. I.e having a Bangladesh next to a Dubai.

As for the 3rd demand, I have this cynical comment: It must be amended to give the right to one Kurdish leader to invite the Iraqi army to support him against another Kurdish rival while giving the latter the right to invite the Iranian army to his support (remember 1996 and before).

I have no problem with the 4th demand provided that: a) the Peshmerga becomes part of the Iraqi army, b) sever all party ties and loyalties to the Kurdish parties/leaderships, c) protect Iraqi borders instead of being smugglers and looters (7aamiha 7aaramiha) as they are now. But I doubt that this is what the Kurdish leaders have in mind!

As a matter of principle, I am opposed to posts being distributed along ethnic or denominational lines. But if the Kurds will feel part of Iraq by having these posts, give them all the posts they want. However, their candidate for the presidency not only propagates an ideology that calls for secession from Iraq but he threatens with secession every time he gets what he wants.

Most curiously is their demand of 2 important ministries while claiming 25% of all "central" things. I know of no more than 5 important ministries: foreign, defense, interior, exterior and finance. How does this rhyme with 24.5% of the election results? This is no way of building a new Iraq. This is a new way to fracture Iraq even more.

The 6th and 7th Kurdish demands make the cabinet and prime minister a hostage to Kurdish blackmail.

I dealt with the federacy issue in a long article (most of you received) last year and there is no need to repeat my views here.

Did you notice lately the Kurdish regional cabinet made Nawrooz holiday 8 days long and hence prolong the anxiety of Iraqis about the formation of a new cabinet? This is the Kurdish way of getting their demands and I have one advice: Reject their demands outright and call their bluff for what it is: a bluff. If they decide to secede they will face the music: Turkish, Iranian, Arab, Muslim and even American (The US cannot afford to have a 2nd Israel in the region). The only ally they will have is Ariel Sharon and with a friend like him who needs enemies!! But even if the Kurdish leaders succeed in having a Kurdish state, it will be land-locked, its borders and air space will be closed. The water supplies will be cut off. They will have no access to export oil, not even a pack of cigarettes. As Henry Kissinger would have told them: "It is the geography, stupid."

Alaaddin al-Dhahir
Alaa is a mathematics professor at Utwente University, and a historian, specializing in the Iraqi republic's first leader, Abdul-Kareem Qasim.

There were maneuvers, whose goal was clear – to distance me from this post. The Sunni brothers were going to elect me to this post…. I will not accept a ministerial post, but we will not boycott" [the political process].

-- Dr. Adnan il-Pachachi,
April 6, 2005,
following Ghazi il-Yawer's election as one of the country's two vice presidents

Rumsfeld Presses Iraqi Interim Leaders

April 12, 2005
By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, on another quick visit to Iraq, pressed the country's new leaders Tuesday to avoid delays in developing a constitutional government and defeating the insurgency.

"Anything that would delay that or disrupt that as a result of turbulence or incompetence or corruption in government would be unfortunate," Rumsfeld said before he began a round of talks with Iraqi leaders.

The newly designated prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, told reporters after meeting Rumsfeld at his official residence that he realized the risk of setbacks in the political process.

"I don't deny there are challenges, but I am sure we are going to form very good ministries," he said in English. He predicted that the government bureaucracy would be staffed by "good technocrats" from a variety of backgrounds.

Rumsfeld met separately with Interim President Jalal Talabani, the Kurdish former rebel leader.

In a joint appearance before reporters after their meeting, Rumsfeld and Talabani struggled to make themselves understood to a mixed Iraqi-American press corps. At one point Talabani translated for Rumsfeld as the defense secretary fielded a question from an Iraqi speaking in Arabic. After hearing Talabani's version of the question, Rumsfeld accused the reporter of phrasing it inaccurately, and the garbled exchange ended abruptly as another Iraqi posed another question.

Speaking in English, Talabani said he had assured Rumsfeld that Iraq's interim leaders will work together.

"We are planning to have the (permanent) government as soon as possible, but you know this is the beginning of democratization in Iraq," Talabani said, adding that he expects the government to complete its selection of cabinet ministers before the end of this week. The next major goal is to have a new constitution written by August and ratified by a national vote in October.

Rumsfeld also held a closed meeting with Gen. George Casey and Lt. Gen. John Vines, the top two American commanders in Iraq. In a brief interview with reporters later, Casey said he was encouraged that the long and difficult process of training and equipping Iraqi security forces was gaining ground.

"We're getting better and more efficient at it," he said.

The Iraqis, in turn, have gained a new measure of confidence since the Jan. 30 elections.

"Iraqi security forces are operating more aggressively" against the insurgents, Casey said.

Rumsfeld also gave a pep talk to a few hundred soldiers at Camp Liberty, headquarters of the 3rd Infantry Division. He also pinned Bronze Star medals and Purple Heart awards on several soldiers and participated in a mass re-enlistment ceremony for about 100 soldiers gathered in a mess hall.

"The role you're playing is a critically important role in the global war on terrorism" he told them.

Rumsfeld arrived in the Iraqi capital before sunrise aboard an Air Force C-17 cargo plane for his second visit in three months. It was his ninth visit since the war began in March 2003.

The frequency of his visits in recent months reflected a desire to push the political and military momentum that Rumsfeld believes has been growing since the Jan. 30 elections for a national assembly.

En route from Washington, Rumsfeld told reporters he would press the new Iraqi leadership to avoid delays on either the political or security front at a time when U.S. troops are still being killed or wounded and billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are being invested in rebuilding the country.

"It's important that the new government be attentive to the competence of the people in the ministries and that they avoid unnecessary turbulence," Rumsfeld said.

Some in the Bush administration are concerned that factional maneuvering during the formation of the transitional government could undermine the counterinsurgency effort that is a key to eventually pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.
On the home front

We've had several slow news days – which, in addition to being good news, is just as well, since I've been carrying out my "visits," before I leave the country, which should be this Thursday. I owed two uncles, an aunt and a cousin, each, a visit. Two down – two more to go. I spent the night, Friday, with the uncle in A'dhamiyyeh. His wife, I should've added, is…my mother.
"Who is she?"

"She's my sister." Slap

"Who is she?"

"She's my daughter." Slap.

"My sister." Slap.

"My daughter." Slap.

"She's my sister
and my daughter."
Funny thing – right after I jotted those "lines," Friday night, I was flipping through the TV channels, and, there, was Faye Dunaway, responding to Jack Nicholson, and his slaps, on the Saudi 24-hour movie channel MBC 2, and within a minute, she uttered those lines, allowing me to transcribe them, exactly. Well, soon after I was born, I was rejecting my mother's milk, so my mother handed me off, to her sister-in-law, whose milk was…deee-licious, making her…"ommi bir-ridhaa'ah" (my mother in suckling). I went on, to enjoy my mother's milk, too – for almost a year. Sunday, I had lunch with my mother's other brother – commonly known as my uncle. He lives in Hayy i-Jaami'ah. This afternoon, I was going to head over to their sister's, in Haarthiyyeh, but she's drying some greens for my mom, her sister, for the Iranian dish sebzee, and we agreed to give them another day to dry. Instead, I'll see a cousin, tonight, who lives nearby, in Mansour. If I make them both, that would finish…my debt. There's also a friend I should spend some time with – Layth, whose e-mails have appeared here, on occasion, and who brought for me, from Amman, the disks to restart my computer, sent there from Cleveland. I haven't reached him, yet.

In the meantime, I relaunched, at the last minute, my pursuit of an Iraqi identity card, on which I spent a considerable amount of time, last year, so, next time I'm here, I can travel around, at ease, especially outside Baghdad. To expedite the process and grease the wheels, a few days ago, I called an aide to a top government official who's related to my mother. I also asked him about the trials of Saddam, so I can decide whether to stay on, or leave, this Thursday -- he said he'd check. This afternoon, after three, four days, he said he still had no new news. Well, while I spoke with him, several days ago, he called an official he worked with, at the finance ministry. We went there, yesterday afternoon. They're housed in the old oil ministry. We first went to the new oil ministry, thinking "finance" was using space there. Traffic was terrible. There was supposed to be a national assembly session, yesterday – for the first time, I didn't follow it – and many roads and bridges across the Tigris are closed or tightly controlled, for the affairs. People have complained about the traffic congestion, when the assembly meets, and also about the searches they're subjected to. Yesterday, the head of the assembly, Dr. Haachim al-Hasani, along with other members, asked the government to ease up on the searches and traffic tightening, to minimize impositions on the public. On Hurra television's Thursday night discussion program "Burj Babil" (The Tower of Babel), political analyst Saalim al-Utaybi said that traffic congestion was leading people to become terrorists. Well, I wouldn't go that far, but it ain't fun. The uncle I had lunch with, Sunday, said that in going to work that day – or it might have been, in returning home – traffic on the A'dhamiyyeh bridge was at a standstill, and the six lanes had been turned into 12.

In our case, we made the mistake of going, first, to the new oil ministry building, which turned out not to house the finance ministry. I especially felt sorry for the driver, who couldn't open his window or turn on some air, neither of which worked, in my uncle's car. After we arrived at the old oil ministry building, and asked for our contact, people along the way were describing him as the head of the "large crimes unit," which, my companion told me, includes terrorism, theft, kidnapping and assault. I tried to pin down, where the cut-off was, between "high crimes" and "low crimes" – didn't get far. I asked, "So, if I steal an apple, is that a high crime?" No answer. Smart aleck! We had to wait – first, in the ground-floor lobby, then, in the hallway to his fourth-floor office – because the head of "large crimes" was interrogating a man who'd just driven a pick-up truck to the building at a high-speed, causing the ministry's guards to shoot at the truck. There was some buzz about the incident, around the upstairs kitchenette, made up of a portable stove-top with a pot of tea. I was starving and thirsty – hadn't passed anything past my mouth, except toothpaste, since I got up, around nine – it was now, after two, and we'd been driving in the heat, for more than two hours. My companion said I couldn't have an istikaan of tea – an istikaan is the little pear-shaped glass cup that tea is served in. I asked him if I'd get to see the people being investigated, after they were let out, and if they'd be handcuffed. He answered, I could, and they wouldn't be. We were beckoned, not having seen anybody escorted back.

In the boss's office, the name plate said, "director of the facilities protection service." The man's family name was Saameraa'i, which meant he hailed from the predominantly Sunni city Saameraa', north of Baghdad. He was very kind, and open. He said that the driver he'd interrogated was submitting payroll forms – or some-such thing -- from another ministry. Moreover, the driver's face was wrapped in cloth. This didn't make any sense. I kept asking what would make somebody who didn't have a malicious intent, do that – drive up, fast, to a government ministry building. "What could make a person do that?" I kept asking. "What -- is he crazy?"

As to my application for an identity card, Dr. Saameraa'i said I'd need more than the Iraqi passport and census booklet (from 1967) I'd brought – he photocopied both, and kept the latter. He asked me to bring back my father's citizenship certificate, his "citizenship," which turned out to be his civil-affairs card, for which I was now applying, two pictures smaller than the ones I brought, my uncle's food-ration coupon (which I forgot to bring), my uncle's residency card, his "citizenship" and anything else I could bring, including for my cousin. Last night, I had more pictures taken. This morning, the driver took my father's citizenship certificate, which I had in the file I brought with me, from my last application go-around, my uncle's civil-affairs card, the pictures and the food-ration coupon, although the driver said the 2003 food-ration coupon would not do. On the driver's return, he said he was told it would take a week to 10 days. Since then, my uncle found his "residency card," which we'll take, tomorrow morning, when I'll also retrieve my passport, so I can get out of here, the next day. I called Dr. Saameraa'i, a couple of hours ago, to get the number off my passport, so I can give it to the airlines. So, it goes.

Monday, April 11, 2005

"What's it all about -- Alfie?"

Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2005 4:02:04 AM Eastern Standard Time

hey I was just thinking about you and wondering what you are doing -

what are you doing with your days nowadays?

Do you feel like they will ever get a proper government formed?

I am working on my final papers and midterms for the semester - working seems endless. One of my papers is a policy-analysis paper and i'm looking at how the Bush strategy on Iraq was formed. I'm still not sure who was the main voice behind it (not the decision to do it - that was Bush - I mean the person who most pushed him to do it). Im thinking Cheney or Wolfowitz... Got any thoughts?

I will have a show at Arabica in University Circle mid April - just me for a 2 hour gig. So I'm practicing alot - was taking a creative break, but that put an end to it fast - had to get my chops back. I'm going to be running an open mike at Borders once a month - it'll be great - my own musical turf where others can come to play as well. It doesnt start till the end of May (I have too much going on in the end of april, so i pushed it off till may). I have written new songs (2 more done, working on another 2). This is a big deal to me.


- write and let me know -
what are you doing nowadays,
your thoughts on the govt formation in iraq,
your thoughts on the iraq policy formation.

* * *

Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2005 17:31:58 -0500

Hi, Miriam,

That's great -- on all fronts -- the gig in April, which you told me about, before -- the open mike at Borders -- I'm sure, the Severance one -- why, you're part of the family, right? -- the new songs, your chops, and the topic.

Wolfowitz has been wanting to get rid of Saddam -- has seen what a menace, how evil he was -- since as far back as 78. Cheney has been public about making the mistake of letting him survive in 91. There are others, though -- Perle, Kerrey -- that's the good Kerrey, from Nebraska -- of course, Chalabi, Kristol, Woolsey, Kagan, and so many others -- in and out of government -- plus media people -- that a center of gravity -- or, I should say, a critical mass was reached, that there was no way of getting around it -- this was the sine qua non -- this guy had to go, for any forward progress in the Middle East, and against the terrorism. That's my brief summary. There are others, who are more intuned, than I am. If you want, I'd recommend getting in touch with Dr. Laurie Mylroie, at xyz@abc.com. She's a friend, and she's in Washington, and swims in those circles. Also, maybe my cousin can help, too. She's in Washington, she was Iraq's ambassador in Washington, and has been active there, since 91. Her name is Rend Rahim-Francke, and her e-mail address is -- or should be -- xyz@iraqfoundation.org.

Tell me how it goes. I'd love to see, the end-product. Good luck.

As for me, I just write. I watch news, talk with the relos here, go out shopping, hang out, and write some more. That's pretty much it. Nothing much, in the way of...outside fun. It's all family, and all politics -- all the time.

The government, here -- yeah, they're really dawdling. I don't have much faith in this guy Ja'fari. I was rooting for Chalabi, and, who knows, he might get the call, in the end. They've gotta do it, soon -- it's getting ridiculous. Who knows!? What do you think? I'm no expert, on this stuff.

See ya.

* * *

Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 10:45:56 AM Eastern Standard Time

I guess what I'm suspecting is that someone specific tipped the balance after 9/11 and was the main impetus for the Iraq policy - your thoughts?

What do you think was the actual main reason for going after him?

* * *

Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2005 21:28:35 -0500

Hi, Miriam,

I don't think any one person tipped it -- other than Saddam. He's been there, all along, and, with 9/11, he couldn't be there, anymore -- he was more of a danger...well, his danger was realized, felt...more apparent, closer-to-home, than ever before. Joe Lieberman called him the most dangerous terrorist in the world. Bin Ladin bought three countries for a couple hundred mil. That's chump change, compared with what Saddam was playing with. Oh, long topic -- so much more. But if you're looking for a "person," who tipped it, don't trouble yourself -- not there.

And the actual main reason -- pretty well stated -- out in the open: he's the biggest danger in the world, that part of the world -- the Arab Mashriq -- from Egypt, eastward -- has to change -- it's the source of the terrorism we face -- it's gotta change, and Iraq was the worst of the bunch. I don't think it's much more, much less.

See ya. Gotta go.

* * *

Sent: Thu, 31 Mar 2005 11:13:45 PM Eastern Standard Time

What do you mean by "its the source of the terrorism we face"? Saddam as a supporter of terrorists or as a terrorist in his own right? (obviously both are true, but which was your main meaning?)

* * *

Date: Fri, 08 Apr 2005 21:20:37 -0400


I was trying to remember what I wrote. Oh, wait a minute -- it's in your e-mail -- my e-mail is.

Hold on a second.

Whoops -- no it isn't.

Well, what I think I was referring to, is the seven countries in the Arab Mashriq -- the part of the Arab world that starts in Egypt, and heads east from there -- in this case, includes Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The worst of them, Iraq, has been taken out of the equation. These countries, are the bastion, the base, the source, of the notion that the Arab world deserves to be atop the world, and its failure -- the Arab world's failure -- is blamed on others, and, hence, the others, who intentionally keep the Arabs down, must be destroyed. So, it's material support for the terrorism, which starts, with the idea -- the emotional root of it. Makes sense?

See ya.

Car bomb kills 42-year-old soldier from Carlsbad, in Baghdad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 08, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Glenn J. Watkins, 42, of Carlsbad, Calif., died April 5 in Baghdad, Iraq, when a vehicle-born improvised explosive device detonated near his military vehicle. Watkins was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry, Kent, Wash.
Two soldiers, a New Yorker and a Tennessean, are killed, northeast of Baghdad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 09, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the death of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died April 4, 2005, in Balad Ruz, Iraq, when their patrol was attacked by enemy forces using small arms fire.

Killed were:

Sgt. 1st Class Stephen C. Kennedy, 35, of Oak Ridge, Tenn. Kennedy was assigned to the Army National Guard's 1st Squadron, 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Lenoir City, Tenn.

Staff Sgt. Christopher W. Dill, 32, of Tonawanda, N.Y. Dill was assigned to the Army Reserve's 2nd Battalion, 390th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 98th Division, Buffalo, N.Y.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

The Turks are coming

I found a Turkish-language Iraqi TV station. It's called CANLI TV, and it looks like it's based in Kerkook. I asked a Turkish-speaker, today – an uncle's wife -- what that meant. She said it depends on how the word is pronounced – that it could be "soul," or "blood" -- the latter, of course, doesn't make sense. She added, it could also be an acronym. Well, I was flipping through the channels in my room's non-satellite TV, Monday night, and came across this local station. I parked there, for a while, and…lo and behold…sure enough, it was, indeed, Turkish – I recognized the language from the singing. When I got stuck there, a traditional music troupe was playing, with the caption "BiR SOZDEN BiR SAZDAN" at the base of the screen. The station is directed, mainly, towards Iraqis, and appears to based in Iraq -- I saw a couple of commercials – one for a furniture store, another for a travel agent, in Kerkook and/or in Baghdad. There was also some targeting to Turks to visit Iraq. In particular, during the few minutes I watched, a shrine for Imam Sultan Izbek (I believe, in Kerkook) was featured prominently. When I mentioned that part, to my uncle's wife, she asked if it was for the Prophet Daniel, whom she said is buried there, near her great-grandfather. I didn't remember Sultan Izbek, and I didn't get around to looking it up for her -- I'll try to call her, and tell her.
Kirkuk: Between Kurdish Separatism and Iraqi Federalism

By Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli*
Middle East Media Research Institute
Inquiry & Analysis - Iraq, No. 215
March 31, 2005


The City of Kirkuk with its Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen population of 700,000 will serve as a critical test of the ability of the emerging democratic government in Iraq to fashion workable compromises among diverse populations and conflicting demands while preserving the country's national integrity.

The Kurds maintain that the city is the heart of Kurdistan and should be integrated into the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which currently comprises the three governorates of Dahouk, Irbil and Sulaymaniya. The two minorities in the city, the Arabs and the Turkmen, wish to keep Kirkuk as part of the Governorate of Ta'mim, which is not part of Iraqi Kurdistan. Some key Iraqi political forces, as well as three neighboring countries with Kurdish minorities - mainly Turkey but also, to a lesser extent, Iran and Syria - favor the exclusion of Kirkuk from Kurdish control. The controversy surrounding Kirkuk is well summarized in a statement by the London daily Al-Hayat: "Kirkuk is the jewel in the Kurdish throne and a powder keg with respect to the unity of Iraq."(1)

Recent History of Iraqi Kurdistan

The two principal Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan under Jalal Talabani and the Kurdistan Democratic Party under Mas'oud Barzani ran a joint list of candidates in the recent Iraqi elections, held on January 30, 2005. The joint list received a little over 25 percent of the votes, which translated into 75 seats in the 275 seat National Assembly. The Kurdish group emerged as the second largest in the new National Assembly, second only to the Shi'ite United Iraqi Alliance, which gained 140 seats.

The two Kurdish parties have not always been on good terms. In fact, in 1994 the two camps battled one another for control of the Kurdish region. In August 1996, Barzani sought the help of Saddam Hussein, who readily sent an army of 30,000 in support of Barzani's camp. Then, under pressure from the United States, which had been providing air cover under the no-fly zone policy in northern Iraq since the defeat of the Saddam military in Kuwait in 1991, the two Kurdish parties signed an agreement in Washington in 1998 to end the civil war. Under the agreement Kurdistan was divided into two zones: a western zone, with its capital at Irbil, came under the control of Barzani, and an eastern zone, with its capital at Sulaymania, came under the control of Talabani. Each zone had its own government, prime minister and democratically elected parliament. Eventually a joint parliament emerged whose members were also democratically elected. By all accounts, the two Kurdish zones have prospered economically under democratically elected governments. Kurdistan also remains the sole area in Iraq that has been able to shield itself, almost completely, against acts of terrorism. Kurdistan remains a popular vacation spot for many Baghdadis seeking to escape the debilitating heat of the summer months in their city.

The Arabization of Kirkuk

Traditionally Kurdish, the city of Kirkuk began to undergo a process of Arabization in the mid-1930s when the discovery of oil in the city generated a flow of Arabs and Turkmen into the burgeoning oil industry. The process of Arabization, namely the settling of Iraqi Arabs in the city to change its demographic structure, continued throughout the reign of the Hashemite monarchy, but was greatly accelerated under the Ba'thist regime of Saddam Hussein with the introduction of new and extreme measures to destroy Kurdish villages and to force deportation of their people to other parts of Iraq under the "Anfal" operation in the 1990s.(2)

At the height of the Anfal operation, Saddam expelled as many as 150,000 (some say 250,000) Kurds and Turkmen to the southern regions of Iraq and replaced them with Iraqi Arabs. Those who resisted the relocation were dealt with harshly, as evidenced by the mass graves discovered following the collapse of the regime.

As a result of the Arabization policy, hundred of thousands of Kurds and Turkomen have been forced to live in tents for several years and many of them, to this day, living in poor conditions waiting to be restored to their old homes. For the Kurds, this is human rights issue.

The Kurds insist that the consequences of Arabization must be reversed by resettling the Arabs in their provinces of origin, primarily in southern Iraq; this would restore to the Kurds their historical demographic weight. In the words of Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of the former Iraqi Governing Council, the annexation of Kirkuk into a Kurdish region is not meant to "Kurdicize" the city but to remove the relics of its Arabization. According to Othman, the 1959 census had shown a majority of Kurds in Kirkuk and that majority should be the sole criterion in determining its future.(3) By contrast, the Turkmen, working closely with the Arabs, argue that Kirkuk is a predominantly Turkmen city and should remain part of a unified Iraq. Turkey supports their claims and has threatened to use force to frustrate Kurdish claims to Kirkuk.

Kirkuk's Symbolic Importance

In a statement carried by the Iraqi weekly Al-Shahid Al-Mustaqill ("The Independent Witness") Talabani argued that Kirkuk had "a symbolic importance" because of the ethnic cleansing policies practiced by the previous regime. "Our struggle for Kirkuk," he asserted, "is a struggle for destiny" to restore all the liberated Kurdish areas, including Kirkuk and its surroundings, "to the bosom of Kurdistan." Emphasizing the newly acquired political weight of the Kurds, bolstered in part by their alliance with the United States, Talabani said "the time of betraying the Kurds has gone forever."(4) A photograph of Talabani displaying to Iraq's Governing Council an early twentieth century-map showing Kirkuk as part of Kurdistan adorns many walls and public buildings in Kurdistan.(5)

Mas'oud Barzani, the other Kurdish leader, has gone even further. In a meeting with members of his party, Barzani has said Kirkuk is "the heart of Kurdistan" and expressed the willingness of the Kurds to go to war "for the sake of protecting this identity and [retaining] the benefits the Kurds have gained since the end of the [2003] war."(6)

In an interview with the London daily Al-Hayat, Barzani stated: "My father sacrificed himself and his revolution in 1974 for the sake of Kirkuk. If we should be forced to fight and lose everything we have accomplished we [still] would not bargain over Kirkuk's identity - the heart of Kurdistan."(7)

The Legal Foundation for Kurdish Demands

Apart from their historical claims for Kirkuk, the Kurds invoke Article 58 of the "Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period," also known as the State Administrative Law, of March 8, 2004 which is considered the interim constitution of Iraq, approved by the now-dissolved Iraqi Governing Council.

Article 58 states in part: "The Iraqi Transitional Government...shall act expeditiously to take measures to remedy the injustice caused by the previous regime's practices in altering the demographic character of certain regions, including Kirkuk, by deporting and expelling individuals from their places of residence, forcing migration in and out of the region, settling individuals alien to the region, depriving the inhabitants of work, and changing nationality."

The article recommends four specific measures:

* Restore the original residents to their homes and property

* Compensate those who were introduced to specific regions [e.g., Arabs in Kurdistan] and resettle them in or near the district from which they came

* Provide compensation for those who lost their jobs by being forced to emigrate

* Allow individuals to determine their own national identity and ethnic affiliation free from coercion and duress [again, this applies primarily to Kurds who were forced to declare themselves as Arabs for the purpose of population census](8)

The Economic Dimension

There are also practical reasons underlying the Kurdish position with regard to Kirkuk. The city and its surroundings sit on approximately 15-20 percent of Iraq's vast oil reserves estimated at a minimum of 112 billion barrels of oil. The area could produce as much as 800,000 barrels of oil a day and thus generate a significant stream of income for the Kurdish population in northern Iraq. Should the Kurds secede from Iraq they would need the oil revenues to protect and sustain their independence. Without oil revenues of their own (as opposed to oil revenues earmarked for them by the central government) the Kurds' room for maneuver would diminish appreciably. Kurdistan's neighbors - Turkey, Iran and Syria - concerned about the effects of an independent Kurdistan would have on their own Kurdish populations, oppose the Iraqi Kurds having control of these oil revenues. In the eyes of an Iraqi daily, the controversy over Kirkuk has to do with its oil: "Oil alone is the reason for the Kurdish insistence, Arab refusal, Turkmen protests and the regional austerity. If Kirkuk were not an oil city we would not have heard all the historical and geographical arguments from all sides."(9)

While the Kurds could negotiate with the central government an agreement that would guarantee them a reasonable percentage of oil revenues earned by Iraq as a whole and consistent with their size in the population, such an agreement would make them dependent on political forces that could turn against them as the Kurds have often experienced during their affiliation with Iraq.

Appointment of an Independent Committee

The Shi'ite and Kurdish factions in the Iraqi National Assembly have been negotiating a coalition agreement that would establish the form and modalities of the new government and the distribution of its portfolios. Meanwhile, the outgoing government of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has appointed an independent committee to resolve the issues surrounding the future of Kirkuk. The committee is chaired by the Secretary of the Iraqi Communist Party Hamid Majid Mousa. Mousa recently told the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that his committee had been established "to assure the political forces in Kurdistan that the central Iraqi government is serious and committed to the normalization of the situation in the Kirkuk area in accordance with article 58 of the State Administrative Law." He indicated that the committee will seek to resolve the problems in four steps: eliminating the consequences of Saddam's dictatorship; mending the (results of) ethnic cleansing, drawing the boundaries of the area, and carrying out a population census, "followed by a referendum of the local population" to gauge their political preferences.(10)

Other Kurdish Demands

The issue of Kirkuk should be considered within the context of other Kurdish demands. Central to these demands is the creation of a federal system of government for the Kurdish region within some structure that would essentially guarantee the Kurds sovereignty in everything but name, and would leave them the option of gaining full independence in the future. The Kurds are asking for guarantees that that federalism will be anchored in the new constitution that has yet to be drafted and should not be arbitrarily changed or abrogated.

Regional Federalism vs. Provincial Federalism

While there is a consensus among most Iraqi political groups about the establishment of a federal form of government to be anchored in the new constitution, there is disagreement as to the exact nature of this federal arrangement. Without exception, the non-Kurdish Iraqi majority favors a federalism based on provinces. Iraq is divided into 18 provinces and, according to this view, each province should have some degree of autonomy within a federal framework that leaves much of the power at the center in Baghdad. Since most provinces, especially those in the north, have a mixture of ethnic groups including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, and Christians, this scheme would somewhat limit Kurdish control over three provinces - Sulaymaniya, Irbil, and Dahouk - that have enjoyed political autonomy since 1991.(11)

By contrast, the Kurds have insisted on regional or ethnic federalism that would bring into one region, and one political framework, all the provinces with substantial Kurdish populations, including the oil-producing city of Kirkuk. The idea of the federation of provinces is rejected, according to Jalal Talabani because "throughout their history, the Kurdish people have struggled to prevent the separation of the Kurdish provinces from each other and to protect the integrity of the historical Kurdish borders..."(12)

The Integration of the Peshmerga into the Iraqi Army

The Kurds demand the integration of 100,000 Peshmerga (Kurdish militia forces) into the Iraqi army, meaning that their salaries should be paid by the Iraqi treasury while at the same time restricting the entry of the regular Iraqi army into Kurdistan without the regional parliament's prior approval. In the words of the Kurdish leader Barzani, "the Peshmerga is a tree that has borne fruit by the blood and tears of a people. It was not established by the order of a state, a political party or an individual. Without it, the Kurds would have had no existence."(13)

Secular Legislation

The Kurds are also persistent in their demand for a secular rather than an Islamist state. They demand that Islam become one source of legislation but not the only one. Ideally, they would like the separation of state and religion.(14)

The Return of Kurds to Their Cities and Villages

While the discussion about the future of Kirkuk is still ongoing the Kurds have been trying to create a new reality on the ground. By September 2004, 80,000 Iraqi Kurds had returned from Iran and another 30,000 had returned from Turkey.(15) It may be assumed that many more have since relocated in the Kurdish region, and Kirkuk in particular, from others parts of Iraq and from across the border. The Kurdish leaders have continually sought a legal process for the return of the Internally Displaced Peoples - IDPs - for without a legal process some of these peoples may take it upon themselves to restore their lost property with extra-legal measures.

Relations Between the Iraqi Kurds and Neighboring Countries

The Kurds understand the potential danger to themselves that would result from military action undertaken separately or jointly by Turkey, Iran, and Syria. Turkey has repeatedly announced that it is committed to the protection of the large Turkmen minority in Kirkuk and has threatened to intervene militarily if Kirkuk should be annexed to Kurdistan or if Kurdistan should declare independence. Turkish concerns about an independent Kurdistan have been echoed by Iran and Syria. All three countries have Kurdish minorities with varying degrees of separatist aspirations.(16) Recently, however, Turkey has shown a new flexibility in dealing with the Kirkuk issue.

A delegation representing both the Turkish foreign ministry and the military high command and headed by Ambassador Othman Kurtuk visited Sulaymaniya in northern Iraq for talks with Jalal Talabani, who was seen at the time as the emerging consensus candidate for the post of president of Iraq. Talabani urged Turkey to refrain from turning its concern about the future of Kirkuk into threats to intervene in Iraq and reminded the Turkish delegation that the Turkmen are Iraqi, not Turkish citizens. On its part, the Turkish delegation agreed with its Kurdish interlocutors about the need to establish a secular regime in Iraq supported by the Kurds and by other important politicians such as Ayad Allawi and the Sunni political leader Adnan al-Pachachi. The two parties have also agreed to try to smooth over their differences.(17)

There are at least three reasons for Turkey to behave with restraint with regard to Iraqi Kurdistan. First, Turkey will have to weigh the consequences of any military action in northern Iraq against the damage this would do to its hopes of obtaining membership in the European Union. Second, at a time of severe pressure on oil supply, oil from Kirkuk could provide Turkey with a reliable source of supply. Third, the Kurds with their well-armed and battle-hardened Peshmerga could provide problems even for the large Turkish military. In the words of the 19th century German General Helmut von Moltke: "It is impossible to triumph over the Kurds when they are united."(18)

As for Syria, it is in no position, at least for now, to undertake any adventure outside its borders. Iran for its part will probably choose to influence the policies of a Shi'ite government in Iraq through subversion and other non-military means. In short, the threats of foreign military action against an independent Kurdistan in the end may prove to be hollow.

*Dr. Nimrod Raphaeli is Senior Analyst of MEMRI's Middle East Economic Studies Program.

(1) Al-Hayat (London), February 4, 2004.
(2) Nouri Talabani, "The Arabization of Kirkuk," Uppsala (Sweden), 2001, pp.20-38.
(3) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), January 12, 2004.
(4) Al-Shahid Al-Mustaqill (Baghdad), October 30, 2004.
(5) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), February 23, 2005.
(6) Al-Hayat (London), September 9, 2004.
(7) Al-Hayat (London), October 20, 2004.
(8) Saddam Hussein’s government issued an order on September 6, 2001 allowing the change of nationality from non-Arab to Arab in an effort to change the demographic structure of Kirkuk. Al-Zaman (Baghdad), October 24, 2004.
(9) Al-Shiraa (Baghdad). January 10, 2004.
(10) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 14, 2005.
(11) Al-Zaman (Baghdad), January 9, 2004.
(12) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), December 21, 2003.
(13) Al-Hayat (London), March 16, 2005.
(14) Al-Zaman (Baghdad), February 16, 2005.
(15) Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), September 21, 2004
(16) Al-Furat (Baghdad), November 30, 2004.
(17) Al-Hayat (London), February 25, 2005.
(18) Al-Hayat (London), October 14, 2002.
President Mam Jalal

Baghdad, April 7 -- Hooray for…Hollywood! They're celebrating in Kurdistan – and in most of Iraqi Arabistan, too – and Iraq-land beyond. Assembly speaker Hachim al-Hasani, after the vote count was completed, Wednesday morning, said, "This is the new Iraq. Where a Kurdish citizen is becoming president. Where one of the vice presidents, was the president. What else does the world want?"

Watching TV along with me, was Saddam Husayn, as well as 11 of his top aides. We weren't watching together, but we were all, watching -- he better have been watching. This, according to the minister of human rights, Bakhtiyar Ameen, better known as Mr. Saffiyeh Suhayl, who said that the leaders of the past regime would be watching the proceedings of the fourth assembly session on television, from their prison cells. We didn't see pictures, on our TV screens, of Saddam watching the national assembly, on his TV. I imagined him, sneering at the spectacle, or trying to muffle his ears.

The vote for the members of the presidential troika was very pro forma. The members didn't have much choice. One from column A,…or nothing. There was one list nominated – Talabani for president and Ghazi il-Yawer and Adil abdil-Mehdi, for the two vice presidencies. Yawer, a Sunni Arab, is the current president of the republic. Mehdi, the current finance minister, is a top aide to Abdil-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Shi'a party Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. I've heard two sets of figures for the final tally – 227 votes for, and three abstentions; and 228 votes for, with four abstentions. Quite a few assembly members were missing, again, foremost among them, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who must be in Jordan, still.

Mam Jalal, as he's commonly known – "Uncle," in Kurdish -- was greeted, after the vote, by members of the assembly -- getting kissed by the men, or shaking hands, close-up, while women shook his hand, at arms' length. Hurra TV's studio host, Mhammad Ali il-Haydari, reflected that despite the greater powers of the national assembly, President Talabani, because of his personality and history, could surpass the head of the assembly on the political and world stages. Talabani will apparently have the budget to do so. According to a few commentators, the presidential council's budget is as much as 100 times that of the national assembly's leadership.

Hasani announced that Talabani's oath of office would be "celebrated tomorrow. All the members of the national assembly are invited, and will be informed of the location." I guess we can't crash that party. (Assembly deputy president Hsayn Shahristani had said, at a pre-session press conference, that the oath of office would take place, Thursday, after 3 in the afternoon.) Hasani then said, "We'll permit members of the presidential council to speak to the Iraqi people. So, please, Mr. President."

Talabani headed to the lectern, to the right of the head table. The lectern was on the floor, while the table was on a low ad-hoc stage. Talabani thanked God, and then the members of the assembly, for "granting me your trust." He heaped praise on the people of "our dear Iraq," for their courage, resolve and steadfastness, which he said was embodied by the assembly members. Big applause.

The Iraqi republic's seventh president vowed to the public that "we will work seriously towards the withdrawal of foreign forces as early as possible," thanking the forces for freeing Iraq from "the worst regime in the history of the land," a regime, he said, that emerged from "the fascist vision" of Michel Aflaq. Talabani passed through a laundry list of economic goals and public services. He also made assurances to the region that Iraq would maintain "its Islamic identity," stay in solidarity with the Arab and Islamic countries, and strive to help the Palestinian people achieve their rights. He also said Iraq aspired to be "an example of democracy for the East."

During his 15-minute speech, Talabani dwelt on the issue of "black terrorism," which, "using the pretense of resistance," was carrying out "a genocidal war against our people," a term he repeated. He called on the countries surrounding Iraq to stop assisting the terrorists, "through the media, by moral support, by arms or financially." He asked, instead, for "kind dealings" with Iraqis. "We'll befriend whoever befriends us, and we'll be hostile to whoever is hostile to us." [Actually, he used the active verb form of "enemy."] Applause. He warned the neighboring countries, "to stop interfering in our affairs," or else, "the wheels will turn." A round of applause.

In Talabani's home region, people took to the streets, to celebrate the first Kurdish king – you know what I mean. In Slaymanee, Iraqi Kurdistan's largest city, and the capital of Talabani country, people on foot and from their cars, waved pictures of their leader, the Kurdish flag and the green banner of Mam Jalal's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. There was music and dancing, while schools and offices shut down for the day. A young female poet said, "My happiness has no limits." My uncle, watching with me, gushed to the celebrants, "I congratulate you. I congratulate you." An older man in traditional Kurdish dress said, "It's a great joy. Everybody's content. We got rid of the Saddam dictatorship." Another man said, "I'm proud of this day." Hurra reported that celebrations also took place in Kerkook and Baghdad, the country's biggest Kurdish city.

In Baghdad, Arabs interviewed on the street were pleased, too. One man described it as "the epitome of true democracy – a Kurd being elected president. There's no comparison to it in the world." A bespectacled senior viewed the choice as "reinforcing national unity." A young vendor dissented, "They don't represent me, they don't represent the citizenry. We didn't vote for them. Those guys picked them."

* * *
Addendum, April 10 – I thought that Saddam was not able to turn his TV off. According to news reports, he was – but didn’t. Reports also say that he watch, with anger, turning his bent-down head, alternately, towards the television and his guard.

The banner headline across Thursday's Mu'tamar reads, "Talabani, from the rule of execution, to the rule of Iraq." Sounds better in Arabic – "min hukm il-'idaam ilaa hukm il-Iraq." He was not alone, though. His vice president, Adil Abdil-Mehdi, was also sentenced to death, as were all members of the Da'wa Party, which prime minister-designate Ibrahim a-Ja'fari heads.

Iraqis continued celebrating Mam Jalal's election, for days. Brightly colored streamers decorated areas outside several Baghdad offices of Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, while people carried posters of the new president and danced, using small Kurdistan flags as handkerchiefs. In the Alton Kopri area, Kurds from nearby Kerkook, as well as from Howlayr (Erbil) and Slaymanee, and joined by Arabs, Assyrians, Turkoman and others, all wearing colorful, traditional outfits, picnicked, danced and sang.

Turkoman politicians welcomed Talabani's election, one saying that it "broke a psychological barrier for minorities." Another said, "Tomorrow, it could be a Turkomani." It was also noted that Kurds' celebrations in Kerkook, which claimed Talabani as its own, didn't have the flavor of being at the expense of Turkomans, as had previous celebrations.

Adnan a-Dulaymi, of the Sunni Islamic Waqf, said the fact that Talabani was president "represented the mosaic of Iraqi society." Naseer al-Ani, of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, said, "It doesn't matter what the president is, as long as he's true."

Professor of political thought Sa'ad al-Hadithi, in Hurra television's discussion program "Hadeeth a-Nahrayn" (The Talk of the Two Rivers), Friday night, described the assembly as having "appointed" Talabani. Host Saalim Mashkoor interrupted, "appointed or elected?" Hadithi deflected the question, saying the members of the assembly were elected.

From abroad, leaders sent messages of congratulations and good wishes to Talabani. Among them, Iranian President Muhammad Khatami, Saudia's King Fahad, Syria's President Bashar al-Asad, Qatar's ruler, Australia's foreign minister, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and the European Commission's external relations head.

In his first official act, Talabani delivered an inaugural address, Thursday afternoon, after he and his two vice presidents read their oaths of office, before the national assembly. The speech was much along the same lines as his acceptance speech, after he was elected, the day before. Later in the day, Talabani held a joint-press conference with Dr. Ibrahim a-Ja'fari, delivering a memo from the presidential council, designating Ja'fari with the duty of forming a government. Talabani said he hoped that would be done, within a week. Ja'fari said he expected it to be done, within two weeks. By law, the prime minister-designate has one month.

The sizable absence of members at Wednesday's assembly session reminded me of what baseball great Yogi Berra said: "That restaurant's so busy, nobody goes there anymore." The next day, for the swearing-in ceremony, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi was back, sitting in the front row. I was told, yesterday, that Al-RaaSid reported that Allawi had secreted away, to the United Arab Emirates.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


Long live Falluja. Falluja, a thorn in the eye of the resentful.

-- graffito sighted on wall in Baghdad’s A’dhamiyyeh district,
April 8, 2005

Bad news and good news

Subject: FROM SANDY W. such terrible news
Sent: Mon, 28 Feb 2005 15:13:34 -0500

The news of today's suicide bombing is all over the media and on Internet in full color. What a horrible tragedy.

How can such insanity be stopped? Such acts do not carry any real message; they bring no solutions. Only escalating fear and anger - and of course boiling hot emotions will not work to bring stability in Iraq.

I hope you are safe and sound. Please reply or post to your blog soon so that we can be assured of that, okay?


* * *

Sent: Sunday, March 27, 2005 7:57 PM
Subject: Re: FROM SANDY W. such terrible news

Hi, Sandy,

Thanks for writing. I just saw your e-mail, from four weeks ago, after that massacre in Hilla. I'm sorry -- I've had computer troubles, and have not always been on top of e-mail.

Thanks for writing, and for your concern. It's destruction, for destruction's sake -- an attempt to instigate a civil war and to create as much mayhem as they can, so the former rulers have a chance to come back.

All the best,

* * *

Sent: Tue, 29 Mar 2005 05:06:12 -0500
Subject: RE: FROM SANDY W. such terrible news

Good to hear from you.
I saw a clip on t.v. about the art school for girls. Their work was very good. Sorry, I don't remember which network aired it.

* * *

Sent: Wednesday, March 30, 2005 10:06 PM
Subject: Re: FROM SANDY W. such terrible news

Hi, Sandy,

Do you mean, a school in Iraq? That's great, that a TV station in America, did that.

Thanks for telling me.

See ya.

* * *

Subject: refreshing to see good news
Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2005 05:40:19 -0500

Yes. Showed the paintings (beautiful!) and interviewed the teacher and the young artists. Sorry, don't know the t.v. channel, but it was one of the major broadcast networks (not CNN). I do not watch t.v. hardly at all (no time) so I don't know how many positive messages are being aired. It was refreshing to see good news!

Picnic Is No Party In the New Basra
Uproar Over Armed Attack on Student Event Redraws Debate on Islam's Role and Reach

By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 29, 2005; Page A09

BASRA, Iraq, March 28 -- Celia Garabet thought students were roughhousing. Sinan Saeed was sure a fight had erupted. Within a few minutes, on a sunny day at a riverside park, they realized something different was afoot. A group of Shiite Muslim militiamen with rifles, pistols, thick wire cables and sticks had charged into crowds of hundreds at a college picnic. They fired shots, beat students and hauled some of them away in pickup trucks. The transgressions: men dancing and singing, music playing and couples mixing.

That melee on March 15 and its fallout have redrawn the debate that has shadowed Iraq's second-largest city since the U.S. invasion in 2003: What is the role of Islam in daily life? In once-libertine Basra, a battered port in southern Iraq near the Persian Gulf, the question dominates everything these days, from the political parties in power to the style of dress in the streets.

In the days that followed the melee, hundreds of students, angry about the injuries and arrests, marched on the school administration building and then the governor's office, demanding an apology and, more important, the dissolution of the dreaded campus morality police. The militiamen who attacked the picnickers at first boasted of stamping out debauchery, even distributing videos of the event. But, gauging the popular revulsion, they later admitted to what they termed mistakes. The governor, himself an Islamic activist, urged dialogue to calm a roiled city and deemed the case closed, even as students insisted they remained unsatisfied.

To many in Basra the students managed what no local party or politician had yet done: They interrupted, if briefly, a tide of religious conservatism that has shuttered liquor stores in a city that once had dozens, meted out arbitrary justice and encouraged women to wear a veil and dress in a way considered modest.

"The students broke through the barriers of fear," said Ali Abbas Khafif, a 55-year-old writer and union organizer jailed for 23 years under former president Saddam Hussein. "This was the first mass response to religious power."

The victory may be fleeting in a city where Islamic activism and guns often go hand in hand. Even in their moment of triumph, many secular students acknowledge they are fighting a losing battle; some suggest it is already lost.

"We have felt both our weakness and our strength," said Saif Emad, 24.

The day began with eight yellow school buses lined up by 10 a.m. at one of the two campuses of Basra University, a sprawling expanse where pink bougainvillea interrupts a dreary landscape. Hundreds of students from the university's engineering college piled into the buses. They were joined at Andalus Park by hundreds more on foot and in their own cars. By 10:30 a.m., there were from 500 to 750 students and guests at a picnic the university had approved.

Young men started playing soccer. Others went to buy ice cream. The more boisterous began dancing to a song, "He Went to Basra and Forgot Me," by Ali Hatem, an Iraqi singer. A few grew exuberant, thrusting tape players along with red-and-white scarves into the air. Most of the women were veiled, although a handful, including some Christians, went bareheaded.

"All of a sudden, students started running," recalled Garabet, 21, a civil engineering student.

At that moment, from 20 to 40 militiamen loyal to the militant young Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and his Mahdi Army charged into the two-acre park of overgrown grass, concrete picnic tables and paths of colored tiles. Some of them wore checkered headscarves over their faces, others black balaclavas. They carried sticks, cable, pistols and rifles, a few with a weapon in each hand. They were accompanied by two clerics in robes and turbans: Abdullah Menshadawi and Abdullah Zaydi.

Garabet, an unveiled woman from an Armenian Christian family, never saw her assailant. He struck her twice in the back of the head with his fist. "I was afraid to turn around," she said.

She stumbled, then headed with others toward the black steel gate. Militiamen were shouting "Infidels!"

"It was chaos," she said. "Everyone was yelling."

As she walked out the gate, a second blow to the back of her head almost knocked her unconscious. Two weeks later, she is still wearing a neck brace, and her vision is blurred. She has numbness in one hand and suffers severe headaches.

At about that time, students said, a militiamen struck an unveiled 21-year-old, Zeinab Faruq, with a stick. Another accosted a couple, they recalled. The militiaman fired two shots at the legs of 22-year-old Muhsin Walid; another shot grazed Walid's hand.

Sinan Saeed, 24, a husky mechanical engineering student, described seeing one girl run toward the exit, then seeing a man stumble over her. Both were beaten with sticks and cables as they lay on the ground. Some surged through the gate; others tried to clamber over the chain-link fence, Saeed said. At the exit, militiamen slapped students with one hand, gripping their pistols in the other.

Students accused the men of stealing cell phones, cameras, gold jewelry and tape players as the students left.

"They focused on the women," said Saeed's friend, Osama Adnan. "They were beating them viciously."

"Without any discrimination," Saeed added.

Within half an hour, the fracas had ended. University officials said 15 students were seriously injured. The militiamen detained about 10 students, who were taken to the local office of the Sadr movement before being released that evening. By all accounts, police were present in force but did not intervene. The students insist that the police were cowed by Menshadawi, one of the two clerics.

One student, who spoke on condition of anonymity, recalled Menshadawi shouting, "There is no secular government! There is only the government of the Mahdi Army!" as he stood on some park steps brandishing a stick and a pistol.

In the Sadr movement's office, Heidar Jabari acknowledged excesses but defended the action. "There was a mistake in our execution, but we had the right to intervene," he said.

Tall, with a friendly demeanor, Jabari said he had warned students two days before the incident that the picnic was inappropriate. Shiites were still observing the sacred month of Muharram, he said, and a suicide bomb had recently killed 125 people in the southern city of Hilla. "The blood from there was still fresh," he said. "No one listened to us."

Jabari conceded that students were hurt and the beatings "went beyond what was legitimate." But, he added, "They say freedom means they can do what they want. This is not freedom. Freedom does not mean you can transgress traditions." He spoke calmly but with clerical sternness. "There are traditions and rules in an Eastern society that are different from a Western society. Every Iraqi has a right to act against these transgressions."

To bolster their case, the movement, one of Basra's most powerful, released a video of footage it had gathered of the picnic. It distributed it to local stores, which in turn sold it for about $1.

The images were relatively tame, even by Basra's conservative standards. Men are shown dancing. In the most exuberant moment, one dancer ties a scarf around his waist and swivels his hips. A man pushes a woman on a swing.

"At a wedding party, they do a lot more than that," said Saleh Najim, the dean of the engineering college.

The night of the confrontation, word of a protest went out, and the following morning about 150 students gathered at the engineering college, itself divided between secular and religious students. Their numbers swelling as they went, they made their way to the president's office and issued their demands: no work for the Islamic groups on campus, an official apology, punishment of the militiamen, return of stolen property, disbandment of the much-feared security committees that act as morality police in each university department and their replacement with Iraqi army troops.

Students vowed to remain on strike until the demands were met. Classes were canceled.

The next day, the students convened again. This time, they said, they planned to head to the governor's office. Police tried to block their path, firing shots into the air at the gate, but they managed to leave through another exit in 15 school buses. Once at the governor's office, they found hundreds of students from smaller colleges and a few high schools already gathered. Inside, the governor met with members of the city council and the Sadr movement, student representatives and school officials.

Two hours later, students recalled, Mohammed Abadi, the president of the city council, emerged. The students' demands would be met, he declared. He read a text from a microphone mounted on a police car outside the office, going over each demand.

"We will compensate what was lost," students recalled Abadi saying.

"What was stolen!" someone shouted from the crowd, correcting Abadi.

Following Abadi's statement, city officials and Sadr's movement treated the matter as closed.

"The issue is settled," said Mohammed Musabah, who took over as governor of Basra the day of the melee. He acknowledged that police had not arrested anyone, as students had demanded. But, he said in an interview, "We spoke with them in a stern tone. Both sides wanted to resolve it by way of dialogue."

Few students this week said they were thinking about dialogue. Nor did they seem to believe their demands had been met.

Saeed said that as he passed out leaflets during the protests, a student sympathetic to Moqtada Sadr tapped his shoulder. "Be careful," he said he was told menacingly. On the wall at the campus gate, scrawled in black, graffiti reads, "Basra remains Moqtada's Basra."

"For a moment, we felt the strength of our voices," Saeed said. "We were making up our own minds."

But, he added, "You can see on campus that students are still scared to speak."
You like me -- you really like me

Anybody else out there? or do I only play in Peoria?

Subject: Take a break:-)
Date: Tue, 5 Apr 2005 4:41:01 PM Eastern Daylight Time
"I've been neglecting…you, my dear reader, and my duty to you, but…I needed a break?"

I think you've done amazingly well. To write half of what you've written, I would need 30 hour days, and no sleep:-)
Don't know for sure how you feel about it, but the time should be coming for the trials to begin. Can you get a press pass, or will you be stuck getting reports from somewhere else, should the trials start before your scheduled departure?
Keep safe, and keep up the good work.


* * *

Date: Fri, 08 Apr 2005 20:34:06 -0400

Hi, Doug -- that was nice of you.

The trials aren't happening soon. I've been asking around, and there's a lot of work to be done, to clean up the special tribunal, from the Ba'thi operation, it has become. Almost half of the employees -- 80 out of 200 -- are Ba'this, as was the man who replaced Saalim Chalabi, in organizing the court. He's since been replaced, but the cleanup operation, is yet to start, beyond that.

All right, bud -- see you.

Oh -- as far as my getting a press pass, I've gotta start lobbying for that. Even if (not), I still wanna be here -- for..."people reaction."

All right, bud.

* * *

Date: Fri, 8 Apr 2005 8:44:27 PM Eastern Daylight Time

I haven't been sure about your connectedness, but it has to have been a great experience. As I hope you know; I'm very impressed with every thing you've conveyed. (You can always get the "people reaction" over the phone:-)
Great job, and have a safe trip home.


* * *

Date: Fri, 08 Apr 2005 20:56:02 -0400

Thanks, Doug,

Oh -- it's not the same (by phone) -- nothing like being here. I mean, sure, if you're writing one article, or a couple, whatever, you can get a few quotes, answers, reactions, by phone, but, for the long term, and even the short term,.... You know, you're with people, surrounded by them -- you're living it.

All right -- see ya.

Army sergeant from Idaho, 24, dies in Baghdad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 06, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Kelly S. Morris, 24, of Boise, Idaho, died March 30, in Baghdad, Iraq, from injuries sustained from enemy small arms fire. Morris was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 3d Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Ga.
Lance corporal from Alaska, 22, is killed in western Iraq
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 06, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Jeremiah C. Kinchen, 22, of Salcha, Alaska, died April 4 from an explosion that occurred during combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, San Antonio, Texas. During Operation Iraq Freedom, Kinchen was attached to 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force.
Army corporal from California, 23, dies in Baghdad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 06, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. William D. Richardson, 23, of Moreno Valley, Calif., died April 3, in Baghdad, Iraq, when he came under enemy fire and fell into a canal. Richardson was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Fort Riley, Kansas.
Ft. Stewart soldier, 25, is killed by roadside bombs in Baghdad
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 07, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Javier J. Garcia, 25, died April 5 in Baghdad, Iraq, when improvised explosive devices detonated near his patrol. Garcia was assigned to the Army's 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 3d Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.
Soldier from Montana, 42, dies, west of Kerkook
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 05, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. 1st Class Robbie D. McNary, 42, of Lewistown, Mont., died March 31, in Hawijah, Iraq, from injuries sustained while performing combat operations. McNary was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 163rd Mechanized Infantry Regiment, Missoula, Mont.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Ayad, reporting in


I’m in A’dhamiyyeh, visiting my uncle, and his wife. They live on the river – very nice house. You can read a bit about it, from when I spent a few days with them, last summer – although, even then, I had computer trouble – couldn’t access the internet -- and didn’t write as much about my stay here, as I would’ve like to. This afternoon, while sitting here, typing, I heard some boys screaming outside. I went to the back room, and saw what looked like a large tire in the river, with boys hanging all over it, splashing away. I ran back and got my camera, but by the time I got to the back garden, above the river, they were far away. We’ll see how the pictures turn out.

I’m writing you, now, because I’m…frustrated, with my computer…antics. After the election, two days ago, of Jalal Talabani to be president of Iraq, I wrote a nice piece about it, and tried to post it – but I couldn’t connect to the internet – I tried, all night – till about seven, eight in the morning, but…no dice. Late yesterday afternoon, my cousin told me that the main internet service provider in Iraq – well, I think it’s the main one in the country – it could be the main one in Iraqi Arabistan – it’s certainly the main one in Baghdad – called Uruk – was down. He said, maybe, it would be back up, Saturday. I was…p***ed. Plus, before then, after I got up, Thursday, I couldn’t find what I’d written about Mam Jalal – that’s “uncle,” in Kurdish. Then, in early afternoon,… -- boy, this must be very interesting, to all of you – in early afternoon, I had to go out, for a couple of errands – take my suitcase to get its zipper fixed, get a haircut (for this visit), and buy some perfume for my uncle’s handyman, Ahmed, as he’s getting married, next Thursday – and be back in time for the swearing-in ceremony, at three o’clock. After the ceremony – swearing in the president and two vice-presidents – which was followed by an inaugural address from the president, I started a new write-up, but...was dragging, frustrated and upset that I’d lost what I’d written, which included a lot more than the piece on President Mam Jalal. So, I gave up, and finished Geraldine Brooks’s Year of Wonders -- what an amazing story – a great piece of work – way to go, Geraldine! I had an outside chance of doing a new write-up on the Talabani presidency, and making it to an internet café to send it, before it’s too late – that is, too late, as far as my uncle and his “family” are concerned, which means about eight o’clock. Very “outside” chance, though – because I needed a little nap, after which, there’s “my daily program” -- I’m a prisoner of my daily program – write all night, sleep all day, then watch the evening news and discussion programs, in between and after which, I write – all night, sleep all-day, etc. So, forget it.

The suitcase, by the way, I need to get fixed, because it looks like I’m going to leave here, this Thursday. I have a plane ticket from Amman to London, after midnight, Thursday. I’d stay on, in Baghdad, if the trials of Saddam, et al, would take place, in the next several weeks – or month or two. It certainly doesn’t look like it, and, in asking around, it looks less and less likely. End of summer, at the earliest; much more likely, after the public ratification of the constitution, which would happen, mid-October, at the latest.

As for my posts, to you – last night, I found what I’d written, after the election of Mam Jalal -- I’d saved it, somehow, as the file I call “outside stuff,” and in the process, lost a lot of the new stuff I had there – external writings, web-sites and the like. I can retrieve those – I believe – at least, most of those. I tell you – isn’t this exciting? Then, this morning, before I left the house – to visit Abdil-Aziz al-Hakim’s top legal adviser, and then, to my uncle’s, across town -- my cousin said that the internet connection was back, and faster than before. So, I was going to post what I’d written about Mam Jalal, from my uncle’s house – other uncle – the one I’m visiting, across town. I’ve got a little…whatcha-ma-call-it, that saves stuff from the computer, into a thing that fits in the palm of the hand, same size as that little machine gun I took with me to the anti-Jordan demonstration, a couple of weeks ago, and surrendered to the police commandoes, there. Now, at my uncle’s, I see that I don’t have what I wrote about Mam Jalal’s election as president – neither what I’d written right after, nor what I started writing, the next day. Arrrrghhh! I just remembered, that I wasn’t able to overwrite that file – “Ayad originals” – on the thinga-ma-bob. So…I give up – I’m just going to write this, and maybe a couple of other little things, and, then, keep you waiting, for my masterpiece on Mam Jalal, for when I get back to my uncle’s house, tomorrow – the piece should, be there, on the desktop’s hard-drive. Oh, boy, more fun and games – isn’t this a blast?

Before arriving at my uncle’s house, we drove through my dad’s old neighborhood, called a-Shouyookh. It’s his really old neighborhood, from the time he was a few months old, in 1933, till…I-don’t-know-when – I suppose, till he was in his mid-teens or so – I’ll have to ask. It’s just inwards in A’dhamiyyh, from Jami’ abu-Haneefeh, the mosque/shrine of the great theologian of the eighth and ninth centuries, Abu-Haneefeh a-Nu’man, the founder of one the four main schools of Sunni thought. Abu-Haneefeh might have a first name – or might not – it might be Jalal or Jamal. Across the river, on the Karkh side, is the mosque/shrine of Musa ibin Ja’far, nicknamed al-Kadhum – hence the name of the Kadhumiyyeh part of Baghdad, from which the Chalabis hail. Musa al-Kadhum was abu-Haneefeh’s professor, and both were killed by the Caliph of the time, Haroon a-Rasheed. The leader of the Baghdad-based Abbasid empire is said to have poisoned Musa al-Kadhum, and imprisoned and tortured Abu-Haneefeh to death.

Actually, a step back – make it two steps back. On the way from the lawyer’s home, in Aamireyyeh, to A’dhamiyyeh, we passed a heavy concentration of cars, stuck in two of the lanes of traffic. It was for a gas station. I was surprised at the long line – I thought the gas situation had gotten solved. I also wondered why they didn’t go to Mansour, where the gas situation has been very good. All right – back to my first step back. As we drove into A’dhamiyyeh, I looked up – I’d been in the depth of conversation with my uncle – lot of stuff. To the left, was the famous tower of the Abu-Haneefeh mosque. I said, “I’ve gotta take a picture of that, before I leave.” I asked my uncle if we could stop, so I can get out and take a picture. It was almost one o’clock, and people were arriving, for Friday prayers – the change of time, makes prayer-time, after one, rather than after noon. Actually, scratch the “people” – it was just men. In fact, barely a woman out, if any – I don’t remember seeing any, on the road – out, in the world. My uncle said it would be dangerous – “you don’t know, if a shot comes at you – saying, who’s that – looks like an American -- taking a picture.” As we drove on, through the winding alley containing the little butcheries, bakers, fish-mezgoofer and fruit-and-vegetable shops, he continued, “they used to all be against Saddam; now they’re against the current situation.” After a couple of turns, we reached my father’s old house – the uncle I was with, was born there, two years after the family built the house. I asked if I could take a picture. Here, my uncle said, there wouldn’t be any shooting – all houses – plus, the houses are an attraction, and, no doubt, a point of pride to the neighborhood.

My uncle had told me a story from family lore, a few weeks ago, that had to do with the front steps of their house, here. Gypsies, as they did, seasonly, were passing through A’dhamiyyeh, heading north. When gypsies traveled through an area, people went out, to gawk at the funny-looking people, with their colorful clothes and long hair. When they passed by the Rahims’ house, that day, they saw my little father, who was two, and one of his brothers, four, sitting on the front stoop, by themselves, and so, finding a couple of promising recruits, picked the two boys up and put them in the rocksack hanging on the donkey, maybe one boy on each side, and went on. Down the road a bit, my father’s uncle saw my father’s brother, peaking his head out of the sack, and smacked the leader of the gypsies, atop the donkey, and rescued my father and his brother – and me and my siblings, too. Who knows – might’ve been fun. Join the circus!

The street is lined with old houses – many with the classic-Iraqi overhanging latticed boxed-windows, called shenasheel -- they’re to protect the household’s womenfolk, from being seen by men – and, I suppose, to permit the women, to look out. My father’s house, has the date it was built, 1933, engraved above the front door, along with the word “Allah” and another religious phrase, all of which surprised my uncle. I took a lot of pictures, up and down the street. I asked a few people – a woman on each of two balconies, and a man under a colorful skullcap, as he was boarding a bicycle – for their permission. All consented, amicably, although one of the women, left the balcony. The man, in front of a house with painted window-frames, said that all the houses on the street were “heritage,” and that a lot of people – Americans and Iraqis – take pictures. My uncle took a picture of me, sitting on the house’s steps. My uncle said he remembered the steps being much higher. I did, too, from his telling of the tale, of the gypsies and my father. In a couple of minutes, I was surrounded by half a dozen little boys, in the side-alley of my father’s front door. Two of them had paper kites, with blue plastic bags, for tails. They joined, in the photo session, and kept pleading for more pictures, even as we pulled away. I gave in – actually, I didn’t – my uncle did. I told the boys, that my father lived in this house, and that gypsies – called kow’liyyeh in Iraq – took him away. Some of the neighborhood women heard me, I think. They looked on, smiling, from the porches, balconies and front doors. Then, the house’s door opened, and I told the little girl and woman who appeared, that my grandfather built this house, seventy years ago.

Well – that’s the story – almost. On the way to my uncle’s house, we passed the man in the skullcap, on his bike. I waved at him. He didn’t respond. When we arrived at my uncle’s house, as I rang the doorbells and pounded on the metal front gate, we heard an extended round of fire. My uncle said they were on the other side of the river. When my uncle opened the front gate – after we called, from the cell phone – he said the shooting was from kids in A’dhamiyyeh, towards the other side of the river. I found this amusing – that there’d be shooting, from people coming out of the Abu-Haneefeh mosque, towards the Kadhum mosque – long-distance target-practice. Over lunch, he said the shooting was targeting the military base, across the river, that a group of the kids – very young – had been captured recently, that most of the shooting took place at night, when it’s harder to find the shooters, and that the shooting could also be practice shooting, in the base.

All right – that’s my story, from the last couple of days -- how was that, out of nothing? Ta ta.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Latest casualties in Iraq: Ethnic jokes

Wed Mar 23, 4:12 PM ET
By Hannah Allam, Knight Ridder Newspapers

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Nazar Joudi misses the days when laughter echoed through the musty alleyway where he and his friends - cobblers, goldsmiths and tailors - told vivid jokes to escape the war.

Their tales of dimwitted Shiite Muslims, unlucky Kurds and hapless Sunni Muslim tribesmen enlivened a dark corner of a Baghdad marketplace and nurtured an oral tradition found throughout the Arab world. Puffing cheap cigarettes and slurping tiny cups of tea, the men would laugh until tears streamed down their haggard faces.

But after Iraq's Jan. 30 parliamentary elections, Joudi noticed that divisions were emerging among his old friends. Shiites sided with Shiites, Kurdish barbs took on a sharper edge and everything offended the Sunnis. Ethnic and religious jokes lost their humor, Joudi said with sadness, so the men stopped coming and the ritual died.

"Now if you tell a joke about a Sunni or a Kurd, you wonder whether you're hurting their feelings," said Joudi, 42, who's a Shiite. "People are just not relaxed about that stuff anymore."

With ethnic and sectarian tensions coursing through Iraqi politics and seeping into the streets, poking fun at another Iraqi's ethnicity or beliefs is increasingly taboo. One-liners that once were traded in public and broadcast on the radio now are whispered only among close friends or, safer still, text-messaged from cell phone to cell phone. Few Iraqis are willing to risk starting a fight over a joke, and in a place where just about everyone is armed, offending the wrong person could be fatal.

"I don't want them to misunderstand me, thinking I'm a racist or something," said Ali Razak, 25, a Shiite college student who gave up ethnic jokes after bumping heads with classmates.

Under Saddam Hussein's regime, jokes about the Sunni dictator or his tribe were forbidden, but everyone else was fair game. Cracking on Kurds became a national pastime. Shiites, particularly those who come from southeastern cities, were derided as "shiroogi" - a word that means "eastern" but is used pejoratively as uneducated or backward. Sunni jokes are almost always told through one prominent tribe, the Dulaimis of Ramadi, who're stereotyped as bumbling and provincial.

Each group had its own customs and suspicions of outsiders, but they all lived under a dictatorship, and there was nothing to do but laugh at one sect's claims of superiority, said Abdul Amir al Qassab, 60, a Sunni travel agent in Baghdad.

Then Saddam's ouster created a power vacuum: The Shiite majority wanted representation, Kurds demanded equal rights and Sunnis feared revenge from both groups. The January elections deepened the divide, forcing an uneasy strain among communities that had intermarried and lived as neighbors for centuries.

"All our old jokes were about the Kurds, and they were just as bad about the Arabs, but it was always OK," al Qassab said. "But now who dares to tell a joke about the Kurds? There are sensitivities now, and even when we don't talk about it, we can feel it."

Those who still tell ethnic or sectarian jokes have tailored them to the new circumstances. The new Shiite stereotype is an Iran-loving, doctrinaire believer who wants to outlaw anything that's fun. Kurds are portrayed as demanding, wily strangers who don't really want to be part of Iraq.

And with Sunnis the backbone of the insurgency, the proverbial Dulaimi tribesman is blamed for all of Iraq's ills. One joke tells of a Dulaimi blowing himself up in an empty field because he'd heard that the grass was imported from America.

Another popular joke concerns two Dulaimi friends who visit a Shiite mosque and hear worshipers crying for men named Hussein and Ali. The two Sunnis don't know that the mourning is for the two most important Shiite saints, who died centuries ago. One Dulaimi turns to the other and says, "Hey, they're looking for the people who killed these Hussein and Ali guys. Let's get out of here before they blame us!"

"In the old days, there were mutual jokes between Kurds and Dulaimis," said Mahdi al Dulaimi, a 27-year-old college student and a member of the lampooned tribe. "Now we Dulaimis are the stars."

The change is palpable to Omar Mohammed, a portly, proud Kurd who endured 25 years of Kurdish jokes from Arab customers who bought olives and feta cheese from his deli in Baghdad. While some of the cracks were lighthearted, Mohammed said, others left him feeling humiliated and unable to respond.

"I would just talk to the man politely to make him feel ashamed of himself. Or I'd just ignore him," he said. "They looked at us and laughed and pretended it was in a good way, but in their hearts they didn't mean it."

The jokes have stopped now, he said, though the occasional customer still makes fun of his Kurdish-accented Arabic. When he was asked what he'd do if an Arab shopper cracked an ethnic joke in front of him these days, Mohammed made sure the deli was empty and shut the door. He looked both ways, then lowered his voice.

"One day, two Dulaimis left Ramadi for Baghdad ...," he began, his eyes sparkling with mischief.

Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondents Shatha al Awsy and a reporter who isn't named for security reasons contributed to this report.

We have been assured, that in the next Iraqi national assembly meeting, in five and a half hours, the assembly will elect a president for the republic and two vice presidents. Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zaybari has been promising that the selection of president and vice presidents will not be delayed like the selection of assembly leaders was. The identity of the president has been known, since soon after the elections. That's Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Talabani would become the first Kurdish president in Iraq's 85-year history. There have been some objections, from Arabs, who protest that Iraq is Arab, and cannot but have an Arab president, or any leader, for that matter.

One of the vice presidents has been assumed to be Adil abdil-Mehdi, the finance minister in Ayad Allawi's cabinet and top deputy to Abdil-Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of the Shi'a party the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

The question has been, who will be the other vice president, a position set aside for a Sunni Arab. The leading contender is Ghazi il-Yawer, the current president of the republic. Saturday, pre-Ba'ath foreign minister Dr. Adnan al-Pachachi threw his hat into the ring, setting up a rematch from last June's bitter contest for the presidency. Pachachi has been joined, over the past couple of days, by Sherif Ali ibn-el-Husayn, the heir to the throne, and Adnan a-Janabi, a minister of state from Allawi's list -- although both of them, are very long-shots. Sunni Arab parties and dignitaries have been holding meetings over the past several days, to decide on one candidate, but probably more importantly, other collective demands, strategies and positions for the process ahead.

The election of the members of the presidential troika, needs to be approved by two-thirds of the assembly members. In addition, there is a good chance that the presidential troika will carry out its first mandated duty, choosing a prime minister, which it must do by unanimous vote of the three. That has been assumed to be, Ibrahim a-Ja'fari, a medical doctor and leader of the Da'wa Party, the second party in the winning United Iraqi Alliance.

Monday night, a new dispute was reported – this one, between the two main Kurdish parties. It was said that the dispute goes back to the choice of Talabani for president. Abdallah al-Fayli (I believe that was his first name), of the rival Kurdish Democratic Party, which is headed by Mas'ood Barazani, said that there were no major differences, as the KDP would be leading the Kurdish Regional Government. There was talk, a couple of weeks ago, of adding a third deputy prime-ministership, for a Kurd. What remained to be determined, though, was to define the new position's powers and, no doubt, its budget. It appears certain that one of the deputy prime-ministers will be Dr. Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress. Dr. Barham Salih, who is the one deputy prime minister in the current government and Talabani's second, may not retain his post, and could move to the ministry of planning and cooperative development. Salih's post could be filled by Rozh Noori Shawees, who is currently one of the country's two vice presidents, the leader of the Kurdish parliament and, most importantly, a top aide to the KDP's Barazani. So, we've got some juggling going on, between the Kurdish parties.

In addition, the Kurdish coalition is reportedly seeking a second top ministerial post, in addition to foreign minister, which Hoshyar Zaybari, Barazani's second, is expected to retain. The main ministers are: premier, defense, interior, foreign, finance and possibly, also, oil and justice. It is very possible, that two of those will go to Sunni Arabs, which would leave two or three, for Shi'i Arabs, from the winning list. At least one of the Sunni Arabs, could be from the winning Alliance list, itself, quite possibly Dr. Mudhar Showket, from Chalabi's INC, as interior minister.
Iraqi Librarian's Heroic Tale Inspires Two Children's Books

Alia Muhammad Baker saved 30,000 books from destruction

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer [from web-site of U.S. embassy, Jordan]

Washington – The courage and commitment of a single librarian who managed to save most of a priceless book collection from destruction in the chaotic days following the invasion of Iraq have inspired two new children’s books about heroism.

As British forces entered the southern Iraqi city of Basra on April 6, 2003, the city’s chief librarian, Alia Muhammad Baker, marshaled a small neighborhood brigade to carry 30,000 books from the unprotected central library to safekeeping in a nearby restaurant.

Were it not for Baker’s actions, the irreplaceable collection, including old hand-illustrated manuscripts and a 14th century biography of the Prophet Mohammad, could have been looted and burned as were books at Baghdad’s National Library and elsewhere in Iraq.

Indeed, little more than a week after Baker and her helpers removed 70 percent of the books from the Basra Library, the library building and the remaining volumes were destroyed in a mysterious fire.

Baker’s story was first reported in July 2003 by
New York Times correspondent Shaila Dewan. “This story stood out because it was really a true story of heroism,” Dewan said in a radio interview in February 2005. “She was very worried that the library where she worked was going to get bombed, and desperate to save the books, some of which were irreplaceable.”

Dewan’s article caught the eye of two children’s book authors who saw in it a story of courage and heroism. “I was immediately moved by the sense of optimism in the story,” author Jeanette Winter said in the interview with Dewan. “This was something that was really positive, an example of the optimism of the human spirit in inhuman conditions.”

Author Mark Alan Stamaty, who participated in the same interview, said, “It was a very moving story of somebody standing up for something they love and something that was benefiting many people, and it happened to be books, which is something I love.”

After reading the article, both Stamaty and Winter went to work creating illustrated books to tell Baker’s story. Stamaty’s book,
Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq, was published in December 2004, and Winter’s book, The Librarian of Basra, came out in January.

An Egyptian publishing company has bought the rights to
Alia’s Mission and plans to publish an Arabic version this spring.

Baker had served as chief librarian at Basra’s central library for 14 years when the threat of war began to loom in early 2003. Fearing that the library’s collection might be in danger if hostilities broke out, she asked the local governor for permission to remove the books, but he refused her request without giving an explanation.

Despite this refusal, Baker began slipping books out of the building every night as she left work. When the war broke out, government offices were moved into the library, in what Baker said was an effort to protect officials behind a cultural and civilian shield.

But when British forces entered the city, the government officials fled, and Baker shifted her salvage efforts into high gear. She enlisted Anis Muhammad, owner of the adjacent Hamdan Restaurant, and several other neighborhood merchants and residents to help her transport the books over the wall to Muhammad’s restaurant. The ad hoc crew worked all night and well into the next day.

Many of the people who participated in the operation were not even literate, according to a neighborhood merchant who took part in the effort.

"The people who carried the books, not all of them were educated," Hussein Muhammad al-Salem al-Zambqa told
New York Times reporter Dewan. "Some of them could not write or could not read, but they knew they were precious books."

Baker never questioned the importance of her mission. "In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was ‘Read,'" she told Dewan. Baker said she only regrets that she was not able to save all of the books. "It was like a battle when the books got burned," she said. "I imagined that those books, those history and culture and philosophy books, were crying, ‘Why, why, why?'"

Winter said that by saving the books, Baker knew that “she would be saving the past, present and future of her country.”

Winter said that the lesson of Baker’s story “is how one person can make a difference…. She was surrounded by destruction, no help from either side, and she defied her surroundings and was very heroic.”

“I think we need heroes,” Winter said. “I think children need heroes. Children feel powerless a lot, just like we all do. And so I would hope that they could remember the bravery of this woman in the most dangerous of circumstances, how she really triumphed.”

Winter said that she received an e-mail from Baker shortly after her book was published in which the librarian told her, “I loved the library, and we lost many books, but one shouldn’t surrender. This is my message.”

Dewan said the coalition forces have rebuilt the library and that Baker has been reinstalled as head librarian. In addition, Winter’s publisher is donating a portion of the proceeds from her book’s sales to a fund administered by the American Library Association to help rebuild the Basra Library’s collection.

25 Mar 2005
The weather
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather,
No matter the weather,
Whether we like it or not.
Sometime after Sunday's national assembly met, we had a sandstorm. April, my uncle said, is the month for sandstorms. I'm sure most people remember how the world turned orange, when American forces were advancing to Baghdad, two years ago, and, as a result, got delayed for a couple of days. I'd gone to sleep after the assembly sesson, and when I stepped out the front door, in the evening, it was pretty hazy, past the front gate, about 25 yards away; up above, there was an orange glow in the sky. When I walked out, I was a bit disoriented, and didn't know what it was. I started heading to the front gate, to get a closer look at the fog or whatever it was. I headed back to my room, to the side, and later, it got to me. It got in my eyes, my throat, my hair, and felt like it was embedded in every pore of my face, in every crevice of my body. Monday, I found a thin layer of dust on everything in my room – on the computer screen, the desktops and all the pictures I have spread around my room, of my sister's and cousin's little ones. The cars in the driveway were covered with a coat, too. It was also cooler, Monday – my aunt said, that happens, after a sandstorm. It's been cool, ever since. Of course, "cool," here, is in the sixties, dropping into the fifties, after dusk.
Soldier from Illinois, 30, is killed in Mosul
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 04, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Kenneth L. Ridgley, 30, of Olney, Ill., died March 30 in Mosul, Iraq, of injuries sustained when enemy forces using small arms fire attacked his unit. Ridgley was assigned to the Army’s 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), Fort Lewis, Wash.
Marine from California, 30, is killed in western Iraq
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 05, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. Garrywesley T. Rimes, 30, of Santa Maria, Calif., died April 1 as a result of hostile action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Rimes was attached to 2nd Marine Division.
Roadside bomb kills 27-year-old Kentucky soldier, north of Tikrit
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 04, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. James A. Sherrill, 27, of Ekron, Ky., died April 3, in Bayji, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his military vehicle. Sherrill was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 2113th Transportation Company, Paducah, Ky.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

19-year-old soldier from Falls Church is killed in western Iraq
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 04, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Tenzin Dengkhim, 19, of Falls Church, Va., died April 2 as a result of hostile action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
Soldier from Samoa is killed in Mosul
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 04, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Ioasa F. Tavae, Jr., 29, of Pago Pago, American Samoa, died April 2, in Mosul, Iraq, when his unit was attacked by enemy forces using small arms fire. Tavae was assigned to the Army’s 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.
From the seat of my pants

Pardon my absence. I've been lazy, the past couple of days – sleeping extra, watching TV, writing this report on the third national assembly meeting, a little bit at a time, and luxuriating in Geraldine Brooks's glorious novel Year of Wonders. Thus, I've been neglecting…you, my dear reader, and my duty to you, but…I needed a break? I hope you've stuck around – and will, stay around, for the rest of the ride. Now, if I could only get my computer fixed, I could…really write – without…one hand tied behind my back. Excuses, excuses.

So, now, back to our story – well, my part of this story, which doesn't have much, left in it. I'm due to leave here, in nine days, if I don't hear word that the trials of Saddam and his henchmen are going to take place, anytime soon.

Well, early Sunday afternoon, in its third session, the elected Iraqi national assembly selected a leader for itself, and two deputies to the leader. Dr. Haachim al-Hasani, current minister of industry and minerals, was elected leader of the assembly, while Dr. Hsayn Shahristani and Aarif Tayfoor were elected first and second deputies, respectively. Hasani is a Sunni – part Arab, part Kurdish, part Turkoman. The lab results aren't back, as to how many quarters, or eighths, to each part – and which part's, which. His being "a Sunni Arab," fulfills that requirement for the post of assembly speaker. The winners are trying to spread the wealth, and this is the first step, in that process. Mish'an a-Juburi was said to have withdrawn his candidacy, a short while before the assembly session. Juburi's withdrawal was said to be on the condition that the United Iraqi Alliance did not nominate one of its members for the top post. Fawwaz Jarba's name was not offered. So, it was left to Hasani, to fill the "Sunni Arab" spot.

Shahristani, a nuclear chemist who was imprisoned for 10 years for refusing to help Saddam build a nuclear bomb, is a Shi'i and top confidante to Ayatollah Ali i-Sistani. Tayfoor is from the Kurdish Democratic Party headed by Mas'ood Barazani, and was a comrade of Barazani's father, Mulla Mustafa Barazani, the founder of the modern Kurdish national movement. Two other members of the assembly were also candidates for the leadership posts – both women – Dr. Intisaar Yunis al-Umari and Nidhal Jrayw. The final vote was: Hasani, 215; Shahristani, 157; Tayfoor, 96; Umari, 11; Jrayw, 5.

Jwaad il-Maliki, presumptive prime minister Ibrahim a-Ja'fari's second, noted early on the "unfortunate" absence from the session of 43 assembly members. The number ended up being, 34. Foremost among the missing was interim prime minister Ayad Allawi. His government's foreign minister, Hoshyar Zaybari, said that Allawi was out of the country, for personal reasons, but that communication with him was constant. Allawi list member Hsayn i-Sha'lan told interviewers his list hadn't come to an agreement with the other lists on the formation of the government, and that matters might be left to the national assembly. He also hinted that there might be splits, within lists. Asked if it was now certain that Allawi was out of the government, Sha'lan said the negotiations were ongoing, and that "nothing was over."

Writer and political analyst Dr. Kadhum el-Muqdadi speculated, on Hurra TV's nightly discussion program "Bil-Iraqi" (In Iraqi), that night, that the large number of absentees may have been "a boycott," in response to the last session, which he called "the Tuesday market session," and the subsequent displeasure of "the street," with the bystanders possibly expecting another failure. He added, "Maybe they couldn't get through the checkpoints."

I was watching the U.S. government's al-Hurra television. The quasi-governmental Iraqiyyeh television was late on the scene – they always seem to be late. Later, when Hurra switched to the press conference in Damascus on the arrival there of the U.N.'s representative on Lebanon, I watched on the Sumeriyyeh satellite channel.

The session was opened, a few minutes after eleven. with "a moment of silence," for the passing of Pope John Paul II. Then the floor was opened to nominations for the posts of assembly leader and two deputies. Maliki, sitting at the head table, next to speaker pro tem Dhaair il-Fayyadh, was fielding the names of candidates. In addition to the names receiving votes, Fa'izeh Babakhan was also nominated, but withdrew her name from the list of candidates. I also heard the name Fa'izeh Jabbar, although this could be the one in the same person.

Commentators wondered, in discussions during and after the session, why a woman wasn't chosen for one of the leadership posts, when 30 percent of the 275 members of the assembly were women. Hurra's Iraq affairs editor, Ali abdil-Ameer, said that "the path of harmony neglected this matter." Muqdadi's answer: "We say women are half of society, but in our minds, we see them as five percent of society." Only with the evolution of civil society in Iraq, he thought, would women take their place. Dr. Jalal Maashteh had earlier proclaimed that there was "no civil society in Iraq," only "private society – tribal" – the country "having revolved around one person for 35 years."

Women's groups set out their demands yesterday, at the top of which, said deputy minister of culture Maysoon Damaluji, was a number of ministerial posts equal to women's representation in the national assembly – "that is, 10 ministers." Amaal Kashif al-Ghitaa, an assemblywoman from the United Iraqi Alliance, said "there will certainly be women ministers, but which ones – they haven't been decided." Hayder Abadi, an assemblyman from the Da'wa Party, said the number of women ministers would be between five and seven.

As to the women who were nominated for the assembly's leadership posts, there is, in my earlier list of women parliamentarians, an IntiSaar Yusif, from Allawi's list. There is also, from Allawi's list, Nidhal Hsayn. As for the "Fa'izeh" who withdrew her name, there is a Fa'izeh Hsayn from the Kurdish list. In the assembly, a majority of the women were covered.

The names of the five candidates were written across the top of a dry erase board. Once the list of candidates was finalized, a man from the head table, probably Fayyadh, raised the possibility of each candidate, or someone on their behalf, saying a word about his or her political life and program. The matter was put to a show of hands. I saw, on the left side of the auditorium apparent on the TV screen, one hand, up, in the front row, so the matter was dispensed with -- "the members want to make use of time," said Fayyadh. Each member had the right to vote for one, two or three candidates – or none. Three of the same clear, plastic ballot boxes used on election day were brought to the front, while paper ballots were dispersed to the assembly members, to write in their choices. Assembly members were asked to volunteer, to oversee the counting of the vote. Three did, on behalf of different parties. One of them was Anwar Ahmed el-Yawer, who must be the interim president's younger brother. He wore a black shirt, open to mid-chest. He represented President Yawer's Iraqis list. Allawi's list did not offer a volunteer.

The representatives in attendance wore various outfits. Among the many traditional Kurdish costumes, there was one man in a cobalt blue outfit. One or two men wore the traditional garb of a Sunni cleric – cream-colored cloak and white turban wrapped around what must be a red fez. People began filing to the front, to deposit their ballots in one of the boxes. Ahmad Chalabi, wearing a dark brown suit over a yellow shirt, knelt down on one knee in the middle aisle, and spoke to an assemblywoman, who was veiled. As they spoke, he wrote, then got up and submitted his vote. There was a distinctive-looking man in a silver suit and a long white mane and elaborate fu-manchu moustache and beard. He looked a bit like Falak a-Deen el-Kaka'i, the Kurdish poet and politician I met at the Salahuddine conference in 1992. As we sat on a couch in the small lobby of the Khadhra Hotel, moved by the kaleidoscopic procession and greetings among new arrivals who hadn't set foot in Iraq for 20, 30 years, Kaka'i turned to me and said, in Arabic, "Thus Spake Zarathustra."

While the vote counters were stacking the paper ballots, Maliki recalled that Basra assemblyman Shaykh Mansoor a-Timimi had recounted, in Tuesday's session, the raid on his home by British troops, in which 11 of his family members were detained. Maliki then read a press release from the multi-national forces apologizing for the operation, which, the release said, was based on faulty information. Those detained, the release said, were released. Fayyadh then noted that there was a request to discuss a topic, but said, "we can't do anything until we select leaders." There was talk that the assembly would meet for a second session, in the evening.

By this time, the three vote-counters had tallied 241 ballots. One of the three would hand each ballot to the next man, who read the names aloud from the ballot, as two men made the a scratch mark under the respective name(s). The ballot was handed to the third assemblyman, whom I guessed was Anwar Yawer, who dropped it in a ballot box. Almost all of the ballots had two names. When the final vote count was read out, Fayyadh asked if there were any objections. There were none. Fayyadh then suggested a brief adjournment. Ma'soon leaned over, and suggested that the new assembly speaker do the honors.

Hasani walked up to the stage, greeted along the way by other members, shaking his hand and kissing him. With his two deputies flanking him on the head table, Hasani read a speech, getting applause for one line -- that members should be devoted to Iraq rather than to sect or nationality. In listing the priorities facing the country and assembly, he noted, first, the writing of the constitution. He also placed combating bureaucratic corruption before fighting terrorism. His speech was unusually direct and down-to-earth, devoid of the usual empty sloganeering of Arab politics promising victory, freedom, revolution and independence. The bearded Hasani said that assembly members could not carry out their duties if they did not feel the pain of the poor, of those suffering without electricity, of those in Sadir City who were recently flooded over. Hasani praised the Iraqi people, "who showed they are a vibrant people possessing awareness," and who "confronted the efforts of those who tried to divide it." He also noted "the absence of an important segment of our people," and stressed solidarity and cooperation. Hasani also thanked Juburi for taking a patriotic stand and withdrawing, noting that Juburi had nominated him for vice president.

My uncle remarked that there was "wisdom" to be had from the Juburi affair – that it exposed him, and his likes, for who they were. He also wished that Saddam could be watching the proceedings, and remembered what elder Sunni politician Naseer Chadirchi had said – that Saddam should be locked away, for 10 years, and then driven around the country, in a pope-mobile-type vehicle, to see how the country has developed.

During the break, I flipped channels. Quite a few of the channels interviewed Hasani, including Iran's al-Aalem, whose host seemed a bit out of touch with Iraqi politics. Hurra, Iraqiyyeh and several other stations had switched to the press conference in Damascus with the Syrian foreign minister and the U.N. representative on the issue of Lebanon. Sumeriyyeh, though, was on the national assembly, which had resumed its activities. They were forming committees. I joined in, when they were getting volunteers for the committee to choose a location for the national assembly. That one included Ahmad Chalabi, Adil abdil-Mehdi, Barham Salih, Muwaffaq a-Ruba'i, Sattar-something and Shatha al-Musawi, a woman. The members' affairs committee also had a woman, Hanan al-Fatlawi. The first committee formed, Sunday, would deal with the assembly's internal organization. Members volunteered to serve on each committee, with a limit of five or six, for each one.

Someone from the head table said that on Wednesday there would be a training workshop on members' security. Abdil-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the winning United Iraqi Alliance, asked for the meeting to be continued, as there was much to do and "the street" demanded it. Hasani, seeing no objections, declared the assembly would be in session, until the formation of the government. An assembly member responded that roads and bridges were being closed during sessions, leaving citizens in limbo. Hasani asked the current government to look into that and take the proper measures.

Hasani said that the internal organization of the assembly would be discussed, Wednesday. There was also mention of the external relations committee, but I didn't catch what was said. Assembly members began speaking up, and they were asked to introduce themselves. A man asked for all women detained by "the occupation forces" to be released. He also noted that a lot of members lived outside Baghdad, and that their transportation and housing needs had to be met. Another man complained that Hasani, in his remarks, didn't mention other religions and nationalities, such as Yezidis and Sabean-Mandeans. Hasani apologized. Hasani was taking down the names of people who wanted to speak.

A woman asked, "Why postpone the presidential council vote until Wednesday – why not tomorrow?" Hasani responded that "we should take a breath," and by taking a bit of time, "we can come to a better result. Let's be patient." She asked for the session and discussions to be continued. A man said that "compensation for the members must be based on the law." Another assemblyman noted that there were 400,000 Shebek, and that they ought to be mentioned. An assemblyman said something about "the prisons of the occupier." Another man noted the coming of April 9 and the anniversaries of the killing of Muhammad Baqir a-Sadir and the toppling of the statue. He also called to members' attention that children were being held in Abu Ghraib, something he and Muqtada a-Sadir saw as very wrong. Another man called for "all detainees to be released" and for "the return of prisons to the Iraqi authorities." He also noted that "Seyyid Muqtada, in his Friday sermon, called for a peaceful demonstration," to ask for the foreign forces to leave.

Hasani responded, "In regard to the prisons, that's an executive issue." As an assemblyman began speaking, the picture of the session went away for a few seconds, as it had, earlier, when Sumeriyyeh switched to the Damascus press conference. Hurra, among others, was still in Damascus. When Sumeriyyeh rejoined the assembly, a man said, "The people are interested in the government being formed. What are we waiting for – el-Mehdi, el-Khidhir, el-Seyyid Eeseh?" -- the Shi'a messiah, St. George, and Jesus Christ. He added that some assembly members were being held up by security measures – "the work of the national assembly must be respected by police and the army – that we can't be made late." Another man, responding to others' request that detainees be released, said "the national assembly can't interfere with somebody convicted by a judge." Hasani said that was the last speaker, and that the national assembly was the highest authority in the land. He said that the human rights committee was to meet at 10 am, the next day, on the tenth floor, and that with respect to prisoners, the security committee would monitor security affairs. "We defend the rights of every Iraqi, but won't interfere with judicial proceedings – we can't do anything." For the next full assembly session, he said, "the agenda items were: 1) the presidential council, 2) the internal structure, and other things we mentioned." The session adjourned, at 2:40.

In Hurra television's nightly discussion program "Bil-Iraqi" (In Iraqi), that evening, Ali Faysal al-Lami noted that almost all the assembly members' ballots had two names, when they could have voted for three candidates. Lami, the general coordinator of the Shi'i Political House, said this, and the number of votes garnered by each of three parliament leaders, showed that there was a prior agreement that everyone would vote for Hasani, while members of the Alliance and the Kurdish coalition were free to vote for their member's candidacy, thus a correspondence between the number of votes for Shahristani and Tayfoor with the number of assembly members from the lists they represent -- respectively, the United Iraqi Alliance and the Unified Kurdish Coalition. Writer and political analyst Kadhum el-Muqdadi said the day's more orderly session "restored blood to the soul of Iraqis." Lami, responding to a question about the lack of outside interference in the politics of the country, observed that "we're in a state of changing roles," with many of the same politicians switching posts, something, he said, that "doesn't need interference." He later said that this would also mean the continuation of government corruption.

As to why Yawer declined the post of assembly speaker, Dr. Sa'ad al-Hadithi, a writer and "independent analyst," said that the post, "the most important in democratic systems," required a leader with a large-enough political base, which Yawer lacked, with five assembly members from his list. Lami, noting the same was true of Hasani, said the real reason was exposed in the secret session, Tuesday -- that the budget for the presidential council, 107 billion dinars, was 100 times more than for the national assembly leadership. The host, Saalim il-Ubaydi, asked what that was, in dollars.

Meanwhile, the day Hasani was elected speaker of parliament, it was reported that one of his party comrades, Amjad Rasheed, an official in the Iraqi Islamic Party in Falluja, was arrested by American forces. The item at the base of the television screen said that the Falluja mayor's office had been attacked, implying a connection.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

National assembly – take three

Today's a big day. In the national assembly's third meeting, its members are expected to make some tangible progress -- first, by selecting a speaker for the assembly and two deputies. Presumptive prime minister Ibrahim a-Ja'fari practically promised, Saturday, that the assembly would also select the members of the presidential troika – that is, a president for the republic and two vice presidents. I think, right now, people, grown impatient from the lack of any tangible result, would be very happy, if at least one person is appointed something, in this meeting. Anyone for dog-catcher?

For assembly speaker, it appears to be down to Mish'an a-Juburi and Dr. Haachim al-Hasani. Juburi was nominated, Friday, in a meeting of 30 Sunni Arab politicians. However, several politicians have greeted Juburi's nomination with derision. Fellow Sunni Arab Naseer a-Chadirchi, who was a member of the dissolved Iraqi Governing Council, said it's "an insult" to Iraqis and the national assembly to have as the head of the elected body someone whose hands were drenched in the blood of Iraqis. Chadirchi's is a voice of authority. His father, Kaamil, founded the Democratic Patriotic Party around 1940, and was a stalwart of liberal democracy for decades. His brother, Rif'at, has, for 50 years, been one of the top two Iraqi architects, and has been teaching philosophy at Harvard University for the past 20 years. Juburi has denied such charges, saying he was never a member of the Ba'ath Party and that members of his tribe tried to topple Saddam. At the 1992 anti-Saddam conference in Salahuddine, Iraq, Juburi sat in on meetings of the liberal democratic bloc and shared with us, that members of his tribe, as leaders of the Republican Guard, suppressed the March 1991 uprisings and were "up to their knees in blood." He went on, "I would be the first, in doing the same thing, if Hakim's people" wanted to bring their "sectarian" vision to Iraq. Saturday's Mu'tamar, the organ of Dr. Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, cites Juburi telling al-Hurra television, Friday, that his nomination for assembly speaker was agreed upon by "all" the political and religious forces representing Sunni Arabs, and that the Ba'ath Party was one of the most important of those forces. In Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, thousands rallied in support of Juburi, Saturday, and Juburi threatened to withdraw from the political process, if he isn't elected assembly speaker. Juburi's list earned at least one seat in the assembly. Judging from the name, I think Juburi's list was #311, the Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc, which finished twelfth, nationally, with 30,796 votes, and fourth in Salahuddine province, whose capital is Tikrit

Asked about the choice of Juburi, elder statesman Dr. Adnan al-Pachachi, who was present at the gathering that nominated Juburi, said there wasn't anybody else. That reminds me of Dwight Eisenhower's reply, at a 1960 press conference, when asked for three positive attributes – it might've been "contributions" -- from his vice president, Richard Nixon, that year's nominee for the presidency: "Come back next week," he said, "and I'll tell you." Or words, to that effect.

Hasani, a Kurd from Kerkook who earned a doctorate in Connecticut in industrial organization, is the current minister of industry and minerals and leader of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party. The assembly leader spot has been touted as a post for a Sunni Arab. Ja'fari's second, Jwaad al-Maliki, was one of several Shi'a politicians who declared their opposition to Juburi, and Maliki said that the United Iraqi Alliance would support Hasani. Saturday's Mu'tamar predicts Shaykh Fawwaz Jarba to win the post.

After the posts of assembly leaders are settled, the assembly moves on to choose the leadership for the country. The presidency is supposed to be a lock, for Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani. He is to have two vice presidents, one of whom is expected to be Adil Abdil-Mehdi, the current finance minister and deputy to Abdil-Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

For the other vice presidential post, it also looks like we've got a rematch, from last summer's contest for the presidency. Interim president Ghazi il-Yawer, whose rejection of the assembly speaker post may have caused the latest delay in naming the leadership, had already made it known that he preferred to be one of the country's two vice presidents. Yesterday, Pachachi tossed his hat into the ring. Last June, Yawer upset Pachachi for the presidency of the republic, and the then-81-year-old Pachachi, who was favored by the State Department, did not take the defeat kindly. I don't know why he's doing this. I said, soon after the elections, that the vice-presidency, would be beneath him. Who knew?!

Pop quiz

If four bridges close when the national assembly meets for two hours, how many bridges would be closed when the national assembly meets for four hours?

-- question reportedly circulating on mobile phones and the internet

Roadside bomb kills 21-year-old soldier from Kentucky in Iraq
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 01, 2005

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Spc. Eric L. Toth, 21, of Edmonton, Ky., died March 30 on a supply route when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV. Toth was assigned to the Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 623rd Field Artillery Regiment, Tompkinsville, Ky.
32-year-old marine from Montgomery is killed in western Iraq
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Apr 01, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Warrant Officer Charles G. Wells Jr., 32, of Montgomery, Ala., died March 30 as a result of hostile action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 6th Motor Transport Battalion, 4th Force Service Support Group, Orlando, Fla.
The pope's death, from Iraq

On Iraqi television tonight, there was scant attention paid to the death of Pope John Paul II. The sole exception was al-Hurra, the U.S.-government channel based in Washington, which broadcasts locally and via satellite across the Arab world. Hurra no doubt cut into programming and maintained wall-to-wall coverage for at least several hours, with a live feed from St. Peter's Square and interviews. The top Arab satellite channels Jazeera and Arabiyyeh did the same, as did almost all the Lebanese stations, several of the Egyptian, both Moroccan channels our satellite picks up, two of the Iranian channels and two of the three Indian-subcontinent channels we get. Almost all, noted his opposition to "the war against Iraq." Hurra's Jordan correspondent interviewed Prince Hasan, who's been active, through his Arab Thought Forum, in inter-religious dialogue. He was asked about the pope's overtures to Jews. Hasan cited the commonality of the Abrahamic faiths.

Al-Iraqiyyeh, the quasi-governmental broadcaster, appeared to have arrived late on the scene. At the end of its midnight-hour programming, for about five minutes, it showed pictures from the pope's life, people praying, lighting candles and holding his photograph -- before his death -- and contemporary scenes from St. Peter's Square, without commentary or sound. The silent treatment, was reminiscent of the fare for the death of an Arab head of state. Meanwhile, almost one and a half hours after the announcement of his death, the scrawl at the bottom of the screen said that tens of thousands were praying for the pope at St. Peter's and that the Vatican said his health was very bad. The other five or six Iraqi channels barely made note of the passing, with some, still not up to date, in their scrawls. Late-breaking news, has not yet made it, to Iraqi media.

Among the foreign-language channels, BBCWorld and the French TV5 had wall-to-wall coverage of the story, while DW-TV (Deutsche-Welle) had an extended report of Pope John Paul II's life, including protests against him in Europe and America. Al-Meghribiyyeh, an Arabic-language Moroccan channel, highlighted the pope's 1985 visit to Morocco, "the first by a pope to a Muslim country, a country representing co-existence and tolerance." Orbit (about which, I know nothing) plugged, live, into MSNBC's coverage. The Palestine Satellite Channel arrived late to the story, too, its screen covered with a picture of the pope's lit corner-room, without commentary. Hizbullah's al-Manar had a picture of St. Peter's Square, on the right side of its screen; I did not linger, there, long, but I don't think the topic was, the pope. On Iran's Arabic-language channel, al-Alam (pronounced el-Aalem, the World), the female host, wearing a magenta outfit, asked Dr. George Irani, by phone from Canada, why the announcement of the pope's death was made one day after his passing. Irani replied that, as with the death of Yasir Arafat, preparations had to be made by the authorities, in advance of such an announcement. As I was flipping the channels, Iran's multi-language channel, Sahar, had the host interviewing a man from France – he had a Middle Eastern name – I thought he might be, from North Africa. She greeted him, "Bon Soir." He responded, "As-salaamu-alaykum." She answered, in a softer, French-accented tone, "Salamu-alaykum a vous." The topic was not the pope's death, but Shi'a-related.

In the two a.m. hour, Hurra showed a Frontline documentary of Karol Wojtyla's life that aired on PBS in 1999. That documentary, with Arabic subtitles, ended at three o'clock, and another Frontline documentary about the pope started up – I didn't think it was the same one. The second one, in its first few minutes, focused on this pope's strong opposition to female ordination and birth control, at a time, the narrator said, when the greatest problem before the Third World was overpopulation. For a few minutes soon after, the documentary interviewed Jews who've dealt with this pope. I may have been wrong about the documentaries. The credits to the second one, note that it was broadcast in 1999, too. Its title was: "John Paul II: The Millennial Pope." Another documentary about Wojtyla's life immediately followed – this one, I don't think, from Frontline. Hold the presses: this could be the third showing, of the same documentary. It's not the Frontline-man's voice, though – sounds more like, Hedrick Smith. Now, that third documentary's just concluded, and an orchestra is performing on-stage a piece called "Human Dignity: A Symphonic Tribute to John Paul II." A few photographs from his youth were shown, too.

Earlier in the evening, local television news reported on Easter celebrations by Iraqis.

Friday, April 01, 2005


Every time Fawwaz Jarba is brought up, somebody says, he's from the Alliance. What – are the Shi'a, Jews?

Ali i-Dabbagh,
spokesman of the United Iraqi Alliance,
about his Shi'a-led list's candidate for assembly speaker,
on the Hurra program "Saa'ah Hurra" (Free Hour),
March 30, 2005


IPO's Iraq News Analysis

By Ali Latif & Ali Razzaq
March 29, 2005

Negotiations for new Iraqi government delayed by divisions within the Kurdish list

Following the success of the first democratic elections in Iraq for over 50 years, a government is yet to be formed as the winning United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) continues negotiations with the Kurdish list. For six weeks following the election results the Kurdish list has used the issues of Kirkuk, right of return for refugees and the Peshmerga militia as a smoke-screen to cover-up a power struggle that has emerged between Barazani and Talabani. These issues have already been addressed in detail in the Transitional Administrative Law, and therefore these 10-month-old issues have been raised again as delay tactics to buy the two Kurdish parties time to settle their differences. With Talabani set to take the presidency, Barazani has been left feeling sidelined. In an attempt to resolve the power struggle amongst them, the Kurdish list is now demanding a share in government that is much greater than their proportion of votes in the January elections – to appease Barazani’s KDP with several important positions in government. In addition to the presidency, the Kurdish list is now demanding: 1) the Deputy Prime Minister post, 2) for the Deputy Prime Minister to have equal powers as the Prime Minister, 3) two out of the five major ministries (Interior, Foreign, Oil, Defence and Finance) – which would mean that one ministry would go to a Sunni leaving the UIA, which attained more than twice the votes of the Kurdish list, with two major ministries as well.

A non-democratic presence in an elected assembly

A point of concern regarding the inaugural meeting of the national assembly was the presence of political figures who failed to get elected in the recent elections. The presence of individuals such as Adnan Pachachi, Naseer Chaderchi and Ali ibn Al-Hussain sends a non-democratic signal to the 8.5 million who risked their lives to vote, somewhat undermining the legitimacy of the elections and undoubtedly fuelling conspiracy theories. Whilst it is unclear as to why they were allowed to attend the meeting, this should certainly not become a permanent feature and someone’s presence in either the parliament or cabinet should be solely based on having been elected – expecting anything less would undermine the very principles of democracy.

Drafting the constitution

The delay in the political process is eating away into the already tight constitutional drafting timetable and a rushed drafting process, for a document of such significance, is clearly of no benefit to anyone. An equally important aspect of the constitutional-drafting process is its transparency and ability to take popular opinion into account. With a public referendum deciding the constitution's ultimate fate, a mechanism for public consultation needs to be formally agreed upon without delay. Rather than a draft being produced behind closed doors and modelled on the TAL, the elected assembly owes it to the Iraqi people to produce a constitution that is best able to safeguard the country's democratic future.

News Analysis brought to you by the Iraqi Prospect Organisation - http://www.iprospect.org.uk
The Iraqi Prospect Organisation is a network of young Iraqi men and women promoting democratic values in Iraq.
Follow-ups and fillings

The songs sung by Kurds during No'rooz – or, possibly, among the songs sung – are patriotic songs for Kurdistan. No'rooz, the Kurdish/Persian new year's festival that starts on the first day of spring, lasts for a week to 10 days. In my uncle's family, they remove the carpets, on March 21st, although this year, only the carpet in the kitchen has been lifted, so far.

The phrase sung by Abdil-Aziz al-Hakim, and repeated by members of the national assembly, at its first session – "aali-Muhammad" – is a shortened version of "ahli-bayti-Muhammad," the people of the house of Muhammad – his family and descendents.

Najaf, in addition to being the burial place of Ali, prophet Muhammad's son-in-law and successor, is believed to be the burial place of the prophets Noah, of the Ark, and Adam, the first human. So, it was likely a pilgrimage site for centuries and millennia before the advent of Islam.

The qraayeh my aunt had, a couple of weeks ago, and the one my uncle was going to have, this Thursday, but cancelled, are single-sex affairs, with a woman, a mullaayeh, reading for the women, and a man, a qaari', reading for the men.

Citizenship to Iraq may not be gained through birth here, as I wrote, a week ago. It's possible that the only was to become a citizen, is by being born to an Iraqi father. I was put to mind of this, Friday night, as the topic on Hurra's program "Jedel Hurr" (Free Debate) was the right of a woman to pass on her citizenship to her children. I didn't watch, past the introductions of guests.

Al-Sakhir, a satire web-site I posted a dozen days ago, turns out to contain the televised confessions of captured terrorists in Iraq. This, according to my mother, who clicked on the site, after I posted it, and told me that through its…portal (?) – section on irhab (terrorism), one can see all the televised confessions that have become daily viewing in Iraq. She thanked me for posting it. In America, she's complained, they can't see any of the Iraqi satellite television stations. They can, in Europe – via the satellites Arabsat, Nilesat and Hotbird – Hotbird 4, I think it is.

The bomb that went off, Saturday, down the road from my uncles' hospital, in A'dhamiyyeh, did not injure anybody. One uncle told me that people had notified the authorities about it, and it had been defused – that's what I understood. His brother, said it went off.

Last Friday afternoon, when we had family pictures taken, I was wrong about all the women, going uncovered. One of my cousins, remained covered. The other four women were nicely coiffed, and all the women were made up and looked beautiful. Number 21 in my uncle's brood, his four-month-old granddaughter, had on a shiny, new white dress with a lavender sash around her tummy, a pink flower at one shoulder, a wee white bonnet with little pink flowers, and, of course, footies.

Earlier, the large mezgoofed fish was served outside, the centerpiece of the table. The temperature must have been at least 60-65 degrees. I wore a short-sleeved polo shirt; the others had on sweaters and jackets. "It's freezing cold," somebody said.

Between lunch and the photo session, I went to the barber's, to turn my messy beard into a trim goatee. Min'im, who was former president Abdil-Rahman Aarif's barber, and his assistant were having lunch. So I went across the street, to buy some nuts. Two or three doors down from the roaster's, there was a lot of broken glass piled on the sidewalk. I asked the roaster, while he weighed and bagged shelled peanuts and roasted chick peas for me, what had happened. He said a person had walked into the store's glass window, by accident, badly tearing his head and leg. I told him the same thing happened to my father, 30+ years ago – although he, only suffered a cut finger. I stopped myself from saying that it was before we left Iraq.

While I was getting my beard trimmed, my cousin stood by the door of the barber's, while his four-year-old son was standing inside their parked car, his head out the sunroof, yelling at passing cars and/or passersby. After we finished at the barber's, as we were heading home, the boy saw Teletubbies dolls in a street stall, and demanded the red one. We stopped, parked the car. The "parker," who helps you in and out of the ad-hoc parking spots, pocketing 250 dinars for the service, didn't want us to "parallel park," which would eliminate a spot. My cousin wanted to have the car, parked in the shade. We eventually acceded. On the way to the stall, we passed a pedestal, in front of the department store Suhaam el-Ubaydi. The pedestal, my cousin told me, was purchased by the store owner, for a Saddam mural, to get the municipality to keep the stalls away. When the regime fell, the owner tore the mural down.

In addition to Jemeeleh, the other commercial districts of Baghdad that have emptied this week, for Husayn's Arba'een, are Kifaah, Shorja, and Shari' Ghazi. These markets will probably be light, until Sunday. Many of the Shi'a merchants and workers headed to Kerbela, Thursday was an official holiday, for the Arba'een, Friday and Saturday are the new weekend.

The pizza parlor that boomed with the arrival of American soldiers, is called al-Vordaan, not al-Fordaan, as I was told. It is named after the northeastern French town where nearly a million people died in the bloodiest battle of the Great War. Proper Arabic does not have a letter "v." The restaurant, which was opened not long before the fall of the regime, closed, after American soldiers stopped patronizing the place. It wasn't because of the quality of the food.

The three straight days of rain, three weeks ago, in addition to canceling my cousin's mezgoof-fish dinner, postponed several soccer matches in the Iraq-wide club tournament.
23-year-old West Virginia Marine is killed in Anbar
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense

Mar 28, 2005

DoD Identifies Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. Bryan J. Richardson, 23, of Summersville, W.Va., died March 25 as a result of hostile action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to Marine Forces Reserve’s 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Moundsville, W.Va.
Did the United States go into Iraq to spread freedom in the terrorist world?

Sunday, March 20, 2005 6:20 PM

Opponents of the war in Iraq said before during and after the war, that the war was about oil, that it would spread terror and that it had nothing to do with American security. They were wrong. The result of the war is a democracy movement spreading across the Arab Middle East, which is the heartland of the terrorist threat. Some opponents of the war in Iraq have begun to have second thoughts. But not the left. Ever the anti-American ideologue, Juan Cole has written a typical column for the Alternet site called "The Democracy Lie," in which he claims "the Bush Administration did not invade Iraq to spread democracy."

Well of course it did. The goals of the Bush Administration were 1) To enforce international law in the form of UN Resoluton 1441. Thus to end the cat and mouse game with Saddam over observance of the arms control agreements he had signed to end the Gulf War, thus to end the threat of Saddam's weapons programs and support for terrorist movements. And 2) to liberate the Iraqis from the tyrannical rule of Saddam and to establish the first of what it hoped would be many democracies in the Middle East.

How do we know this? Because the Administration laid down its national security strategy in this document in October 2002 roughly five months before the war with Iraq began. Anybody (like Cole) who writes about the intentions of the Bush Administration or of the United States in the war with Iraq who doesn't refer to or reflect the conclusions of this document which is the official national security strategy of the United States is talking through his hat. The entire left is guilty of this: first making up what US intentions were, and then shooting down its straw man inventions. Here is what the National Security Strategy of the United States White Paper says about supporting democracy in the Muslim world:

"As we defend the peace, we will also take advantage of an historic opportunity to preserve the peace. Today, the international community has the best chance since the rise of the nation-state in the seventeenth century to build a world where great powers compete in peace instead of continually prepare for war. Today, the world's great powers find ourselves on the same side, united by common dangers of terrorist violence and chaos. The United States will build on these common interests to promote global security. We are also increasingly united by common values. Russia is in the midst of a hopeful transition, reaching for its democratic future and a partner in the war on terror. Chinese leaders are discovering that economic freedom is the only source of national wealth. In time, they will find that social and political freedom is the only source of national greatness. America will encourage the advancement of democracy and economic openness in both nations, because these are the best foundations for domestic stability and international order. We will strongly resist aggression from other great powers, even as we welcome their peaceful pursuit of prosperity, trade, and cultural advancement.

Finally, the United States will use this moment of opportunity to extend the benefits of freedom across the globe. We will actively work to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world. The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders.

The United States will stand beside any nation determined to build a better future by seeking the rewards of liberty for its people. Free trade and free markets have proven their ability to lift whole societies out of poverty; so the United States will work with individual nations, entire regions, and the entire global trading community to build a world that trades in freedom and therefore grows in prosperity. The United States will deliver greater development assistance through the New Millennium Challenge Account to nations that govern justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom.

If the national assembly doesn't reach a solution [Sunday], the assembly should be dissolved, and new elections held.

Ahmed el-Barrak,
member of the dissolved Iraqi Governing Council,
on the Hurra program "Saa'a Hurra" (Free Hour),
March 30, 2005

The Democracy Lie

By Juan Cole, TomPaine.com
Posted on March 19, 2005, Printed on March 21, 2005

(published in Salon.com on March 16 as "Democracy -- by George? President Bush and his supporters are taking credit for spreading freedom across the Middle East. Here's why they're wrong.")

Is George W. Bush right to argue that his war to overthrow Saddam Hussein is democratizing the Middle East? In the wake of the Iraq vote, anti-Syrian demonstrations in Lebanon, the Egyptian president's gestures toward open elections and other recent developments, a chorus of conservative pundits has declared that Bush's policy has been vindicated. Max Boot wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "Well, who's the simpleton now? Those who dreamed of spreading democracy to the Arabs or those who denied that it could ever happen?" In a column subtitled "One Man, One Gloat," Mark Steyn wrote, "I got a lot of things wrong these last three years, but looking at events in the Middle East this last week ... I got the big stuff right." Even some of the president's detractors and those opposed to the war have issued mea culpas. Richard Gwyn of the Toronto Star, a Bush critic, wrote, "It is time to set down in type the most difficult sentence in the English language. That sentence is short and simple. It is this: Bush was right."

Before examining whether there is any value to these claims, it must be pointed out that the Bush administration did not invade Iraq to spread democracy. The justification for the war was that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and links to al Qaeda—both of which claims have proved to be false. And even if one accepts the argument that the war resulted, intentionally or not, in the spread of democracy, serious ethical questions would remain about whether it was justified. For the purposes of this argument, however, let's leave that issue aside. It's true that neoconservative strategists in the Bush administration argued after 9/11 that authoritarian governments in the region were producing terrorism and that only democratization could hope to reduce it. Although they didn't justify invading Iraq on those grounds, they held that removing Saddam and holding elections would make Iraq a shining beacon that would provoke a transformation of the region as other countries emulated it.

Practically speaking, there are only two plausible explanations for Bush's alleged influence: direct intervention or pressure, and the supposed inspiration flowing from the Iraq demonstration project. Has either actually been effective?

First, it must be said that Washington's Iraq policy, contrary to its defenders' arguments, is not innovative. In fact, regime change in the Middle East has often come about through foreign invasion. Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser intervened militarily to help revolutionaries overthrow the Shiite imam of Yemen in the 1960s. The Israelis expelled the PLO from Lebanon and tried to establish a pro-Israeli government in Beirut in 1982. Saddam Hussein briefly ejected the Kuwaiti monarchy in 1990. The U.S. military's invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein were therefore nothing new in Middle Eastern history. A peaceful evolution toward democracy would have been an innovation.

Has Bush's direct pressure produced results, outside Iraq—where it has produced something close to a failed state? His partisans point to the Libyan renunciation of its nuclear weapons program and of terrorism. Yet Libya, hurt by economic sanctions, had been pursuing a rapprochement for years. Nor has Gadhafi moved Libya toward democracy.

Washington has put enormous pressure on Iran and Syria since the fall of Saddam, with little obvious effect. Since the United States invaded Iraq, the Iranian regime has actually become less open, clamping down on a dispirited reform movement and excluding thousands of candidates from running in parliamentary elections. The Baath in Syria shows no sign of ceasing to operate as a one-party regime. When pressured, it has offered up slightly more cooperation in capturing Iraqi Baathists. Its partial withdrawal from Lebanon came about because of local and international pressures, including that of France and the Arab League, and is hardly a unilateral Bush administration triumph.

What of the argument of inspiration? The modern history of the Middle East does not suggest that politics travels very much from one country to another. The region is a hodgepodge of absolute monarchies, constitutional monarchies and republics, characterized by varying degrees of authoritarianism. Few regimes have had an effect on neighbors by setting an example. Ataturk's adoption of a militant secularism in Turkey from the 1920s had no resonance in the Arab world. The Lebanese confessional political system, which attempted to balance the country's many religious communities after independence in 1943, remains unique. Khomeini's 1979 Islamic Revolution did not inspire a string of clerically ruled regimes.

Is Iraq even really much of a model? The Bush administration strove to avoid having one-person, one-vote elections in Iraq, which were finally forced on Washington by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Despite the U.S. backing for secularists, the winners of the election were the fundamentalist Shiite Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Nor were the elections themselves all that exemplary. The country is in flames, racked by a guerrilla war, a continual crime wave and a foreign military occupation. The security situation was so bad that the candidates running for office could not reveal their identities until the day before the election, and the entire country was put under a sort of curfew for three days, with all vehicular traffic forbidden.

The argument for change through inspiration has little evidence to underpin it. The changes in the region cited as dividends of the Bush Iraq policy are either chimeras or unconnected to Iraq. And the Bush administration has shown no signs that it will push for democracy in countries where freedom of choice would lead to outcomes unfavorable to U.S. interests.

Saudi Arabia held municipal elections in February. Voters were permitted to choose only half the members of the city councils, however, and the fundamentalists did well. The other half are appointed by the monarchy, as are the mayors. The Gulf absolute monarchies remain absolute monarchies. Authoritarian states such as that in Ben Ali's Tunisia show no evidence of changing, and a Bush administration worried about al Qaeda has authorized further crackdowns on radical Muslim groups.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak recently announced that he would allow other candidates to run against him in the next presidential election. Yet only candidates from officially recognized parties will be allowed. Parties are recognized by Parliament, which is dominated by Mubarak's National Democratic Party. This change moves Egypt closer to the system of presidential elections used in Iran, where only candidates vetted by the government can run. The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest and most important opposition party, is excluded from fielding candidates under its own name. Egypt is less open today than it was in the 1980s, with far more political offices appointed by the president, and with far fewer opposition members in Parliament, than was the case two decades ago. As with the so-called municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, the change in presidential elections is little more than window-dressing. It was provoked not by developments in Iraq but rather by protests by Egyptian oppositionists who resented Mubarak's jailing of a political rival in January.

The dramatic developments in Lebanon since mid-February were set off by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The Lebanese political opposition blamed Syria for the bombing, though all the evidence is not in. Protests by Maronite Christians, Druze and a section of Sunni Muslims (Hariri was a Sunni) briefly brought down the government of the pro-Syrian premier, Omar Karami. The protesters demanded a withdrawal from the country of Syrian troops, which had been there since 1976 in an attempt to calm the country's civil war. Bush also wants Syria out of Lebanon, in part because such a move would strengthen the hand of his ally, Israel. Pro-Bush commentators dubbed the Beirut movement the "Cedar Revolution," but Lebanon remains a far more divided society and its politics far more ambiguous than was the case in the post-Soviet Czech Republic and Ukraine.

On March 9, the Shiite Hezbollah Party held massive pro-Syrian demonstrations in Beirut that dwarfed the earlier opposition rallies. A majority of Parliament members wanted to bring back Karami. Both the Hezbollah street demonstrations and the elected Parliament's internal consensus produced a pro-Syrian outcome obnoxious to the Bush administration. Since then the opposition has staged its own massive demonstrations, rivaling Hezbollah's.

So far, these demonstrations and counterdemonstrations have been remarkable in their peacefulness and in the frankness of their political aims. But rather than reference Washington, they point to the weakness and ineptness of the young Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who made the error of tinkering with the Lebanese constitution to extend the term of the pro-Syrian president, Gen. Emile Lahoud. Although some manipulative (and traditionally anti-American) opposition figures attempted to invoke Iraq to justify their movement, in hopes of attracting U.S. support, it is hard to see what these events in Lebanon could possibly have to do with Baghdad. Lebanese have been holding lively parliamentary campaigns for decades, and the flawed, anonymous Jan. 30 elections in Iraq would have provoked more pity than admiration in urbane, sophisticated Beirutis.

Ironically, most democratization in the region has been pursued without reference to the United States. Some Middle Eastern regimes began experimenting with parliamentary elections years ago. For example, Jordan began holding elections in 1989, and Yemen held its third round of such elections in 2003. Morocco and Bahrain had elections in 2002. All of those elections were more transparent than, and superior as democratic processes to, the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq. They all had flaws, of course. The monarch or ruler typically places restraints on popular sovereignty. The prime minister is not elected by Parliament, but rather appointed by the ruler. Some of these parliaments may evolve in a more democratic direction over time, but if they do it will be for local reasons, not because of anything that has happened in Baghdad.

The Bush administration could genuinely push for the peaceful democratization of the region by simply showing some gumption and stepping in to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. There are, undeniably, large numbers of middle- and working-class people in the Middle East who seek more popular participation in government. Arab intellectuals are, however, often coded as mere American and Israeli puppets when they dare speak against authoritarian practices.

As it is, the Bush administration is widely seen in the region as hypocritical, backing Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and of the Golan Heights (the latter belonging to Syria) while pressuring Syria about its troops in Lebanon, into which Kissinger had invited Damascus years ago. Bush would be on stronger ground as a champion of liberty if he helped liberate the Palestinians from military occupation and creeping Israeli colonization, and if he brokered the return of the Golan Heights and Shebaa Farms to Damascus in return for peace between Syria and Israel. The end of Israeli occupation of the territory of neighbors would deprive the radical Shiite party in Lebanon, Hezbollah, of its ability to mobilize Lebanese youth against this injustice. Without decisive action on the Arab-Israeli front, Bush risks having his democratization rhetoric viewed as a mere stalking horse for neoimperial domination.

Bush's invasion of Iraq has left the center and north of the country in a state of long-term guerrilla war. It has also opened Iraq to a form of parliamentary politics dominated by Muslim fundamentalists. This combination has little appeal elsewhere in the region. The Middle East may open up politically, and no doubt Bush will try to claim credit for any steps in that direction. But in Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon and elsewhere, such steps much predated Bush, and these publics will be struggling for their rights long after he is out of office. They may well see his major legacy not as democratization but as studied inattention to military occupation in Palestine and the Golan, and the retrenchment in civil liberties authorized to the Yemeni, Tunisian and other governments in the name of fighting terrorism.
Brief items

I made a couple of mistakes, in my account of Tuesday's session of the national assembly. The assemblywoman spoke first, calling on politicians "to clarify the reasons for the delay in forming the government." She was followed by the Basra assemblyman, who recounted the raid on his home by British troops. Then it was a man – possibly, Hsayn i-Sadir -- who said, "We can't do anything in the absence of a selection of the national assembly president and his two deputies. What do we tell the street, who've been waiting for us to produce something?"

Word is, after Ayad Allawi walked out of the closed portion of Tuesday's assembly session, he made a b-line for Amman. Some speculate that he's gone for good, to escape the next Iraqi government's criminal prosecutions of corruption in his government and Ba'thi infiltrations of security services and government agencies. Other scuttlebutt has it that he's gone to consult with King Abdallah II and Saddam's daughter Raghad, to plot a coup.

Fawwaz a-Jarba, who stands a good chance of becoming the first head of the elected national assembly, is 49 years old. Haachim il-Hasani, another finalist for the post, is from Kerkook, and he ran a business in Los Angeles. Mish'aan i-Juburi appears to be the candidate of Sunni Arab parties for the post. Jwaad il-Maliki, deputy to presumptive prime minister Ibrahim al-Ja'fari, said the United Iraqi Alliance, the majority bloc in the assembly, rejects the choice of Juburi, as inappropriate, and will vote, instead, for one of the Arab Sunni members from its bloc. Maliki said, "We'll open the door to all nominations." Some interpret the choice of Juburi as a surrender by the Sunni Arab parties.

Thaa'ir il-Fayli, of the Kurdish Fayli Union, said on the Hurra program "Bil-Iraqi" (In Iraqi), Tuesday night, that for two months, some of the government ministers have been away, and not returned. Entifadh Qanbar al-Taa'i, spokesman for Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress, said on Fayhaa's program "Freedom Satellite," Wednesday evening, that "16 or 17 ministers were living in Amman, have been in hotels there, for three-four months. We can call this a government in exile."

Jordan's charge d'affaires in Iraq announced, Tuesday, that his country will apologize to the Iraqi people and pay compensation to the families of the victims of the Hilla massacre.

Iraq's justice minister, Maalik Dohan al-Hasen, announced, Wednesday, that the trial of Saddam would begin after the government is formed.

Thursday was a national holiday in Iraq, marking 40 days since the date Husayn, the grandson of Islam's prophet, Muhammad, was slain in 680. Hundreds of thousands gathered in Kerbela, Thursday, having walked there from throughout the country. The assembled chanted "No, no to terrorism" and "Yes, yes to unity." An older man said, "All the Arabs are against us, and our government is selling our blood short." Television showed a group of Christians hailing Husayn as a symbol of humanism and justice. People also marked the February 1977 uprising, which took place on the 20th of the Muslim month Safar, on "the 40th" of Husayn. The 1977 demonstration was led by Mhammad Baqir il-Hakim, who was killed in an August 2003 car bombing in Najaf. The demonstration's main chant was "Saddam, sheel eedek, Sha'b i-Najaf may-reedek" (Saddam, lift your hands; the people of Najaf don't want you). Ten thousand people were detained in 1977, 10 people were sentenced to death, and 16, to life, including Hakim, who was released in an amnesty before Saddam took over the presidency, in 1979, and fled to Iran.

Monday and Tuesday, for the first time in my life – except, possibly, when I was a child -- I drove in Iraq. I also worked in internet cafes, those days, as well as on Thursday, for the first time since last summer. On two of the occasions, I was unchaperoned. I managed the driving, fine, although a driver from a side street cut me off – grrrr! Before asking my uncle for the chance to drive, I didn't think I'd dare to drive here. It was a little scary, trying to merge into the fast-moving traffic on 14 Ramadhan Street. Otherwise,...not too bad. Monday afternoon, I saw a few people making their way to Kerbela, for Husayn's Arba'eeniyyeh (40th). One man was walking alone on embassy row, carrying a white flag and a knapsack-on-a-stick. Two or three men were walking together on Damascus Street, in the Mansour district, wearing black, which, some say, means they belong to Muqtada Sadir's Jaysh il-Mehdi. Tuesday afternoon, on my drive down 14 Ramadhan Street, I saw a pick-up truck full of celebrants/mourners, chanting, with two green flags and one black – or vice versa – atop the cab of the truck. Adding in the "mourners," above, just now, reminded me that my cousin's husband, who's religious, was questioned by a co-worker, earlier today, about eating seeds or nuts. In the Muslim months of MuHarram and Safar, Shi'as are supposed to grieve and refrain from celebrating and pleasure. To what extent, I don't know.

Among Wednesday's televised confessions of captured terrorists in Iraq, I was told, two Sudanese men and an Egyptian said that national guardsmen were brought to the Ur Hotel at midnight, that they slaughtered them, in a common room, and that the slaughtered men were picked up at dawn by a truck. The confessors said they knew the men were national-guardsmen, by their uniforms. One of the confessors named three women he raped, but couldn't name the men he killed. The Ur Hotel may be in Baghdad's downtown Bettaween district. In all, six Arab men and two Iraqis were shown, Wednesday; one of the Iraqis filmed the slaughters in Mosul.

Sharif Ali ibn-el-Husayn, heir to the throne in Iraq, was reported to have been in touch with representatives of militant groups, who told him they were willing to lay down their arms.

In security news, Wednesday, Iraqi forces announced the capture of 276 militants and 1,804 pieces of weapons. Security forces also announced they found a weapons cache on the Kerbela-Najaf road that included 57 rockets with a four-kilometer range. Near Balad, north of Baghdad, a large storehouse of weapons was reportedly found that included 41 rockets and 80 shells. Six bombs were reportedly disabled in the Hameedi area, on the Meshroo' (Project)-Kerbela road. Border guards announced they'd closed a main crossing point with Iran. Jaysh Ansaar el-Sunna declared they'd killed three Iraqis working as drivers for a Jordanian company.

It was reported, Monday, that the national guard captured 84 terrorists, of various nationalities, in the Medaa'in, WaHdah and Salman Pak areas of southeastern Baghdad province. Two terrorists were killed in the raids, as were two Iraqi officers; one officer was injured. Authorities said they seized large weapons caches, in the raids.

A survey conducted jointly by the ministries of planning and labor showed an unemployment rate of 28 percent among Iraqis at least 15 years of age. The rate was 30 percent among males, 16 percent among females, 30 percent in the cities, 25 percent in the countryside, and a high of 46 percent in the southeastern city Nasiriyyeh.

I get to watch the Cleveland Cavaliers play basketball. Their game against the Chicago Bulls is being televised on Hurra television, Friday night. I also just watched an episode of "Seinfeld" (on the Saudi channel MBC 4), although it wasn't a very good one. It had Jerry chasing Newman, back and forth, in the hallways of their apartment building, a la Scooby-Doo and other cartoons. Also, because a woman who works in a bookstore, as well as Elaine, prefer not to have children, Jerry, Kramer, Newman and Elaine's boyfriend go to the doctor for a vasectomy.

The Hilla Basketball Club defeated a Yemeni club in the West Asia rounds held in Jordan, Wednesday. Supporters of the Iraqi team in attendance called the Hilla team "fareeq abul-shuhedaa" (the martyrs' team), referring to the Hilla massacre. The Hilla team won, 86-62, in Amman's Prince Hamza Arena. I didn't get the name of the Yemeni club, which was down by 27 at halftime. Hilla was to play a Lebanese team, later that day, with advancing teams going on to the Philippines, for the Asia championship.

At midnight here, the clock was moved forward one hour, beginning summer time in Iraq.
Coalition Forces Holding Zarqawi Aide

By JOHN J. LUMPKIN, Associated Press Writer
2 hours ago

WASHINGTON - U.S. forces in Iraq are holding a senior operative of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who holds joint American-Jordanian citizenship, defense officials said Thursday.

The man was captured in a raid by U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq late in 2004, said Matthew Waxman, the Pentagon's deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs.

"Weapons and bomb-making materials were in his residence at the time he was captured," Waxman said.

Waxman described the man as a personal associate of Zarqawi and an emissary to insurgent groups in several cities in Iraq. Zarqawi, who has declared his allegiance to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, is the most-wanted man in Iraq and is blamed for numerous bombings since the U.S.-led invasion removed Saddam Hussein from power two years ago.

Defense officials also believe the captured American helped coordinate the movement of insurgents and money into Iraq, Waxman said.

The officials said the man holds joint U.S.-Jordanian citizenship but declined to provide his hometown or otherwise identify him.

After his capture, a panel of three U.S. officers determined he was an enemy combatant and not entitled to prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Convention, Waxman said. He is still being held as a security threat but has been visited by representatives of the International Committee on the Red Cross.

He is the first American known to be captured fighting for the insurgency in Iraq, Waxman said, and officials are considering options how to proceed with his case.

His capture represents a thorny legal issue for the military. It is uncertain whether he will be turned over to the Justice Department for investigation, or to Iraq's new legal system, which has handled the prosecution of other foreign fighters who came to Iraq to fight the U.S.-led occupation and new Iraqi government.

Details on the man's American citizenship were sketchy, but Waxman said he believed the man was born overseas but moved to the United States later. It was unclear when he left.

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