Sunday, February 29, 2004

Was there a gay marriage in Madinah? "The suspects deny they were attending a gay marriage, which is prohibited in the Kingdom, saying they took part in a ceremony to mark the wedding of a Chadian friend.
But investigators say that invitations to the ceremony indicated it was a gay function and point to the suspicious behavior of guests, who fled the venue at the sight of the police cars, some leaving their vehicles behind", reports this news website. Now, it is beyond me the reason these people had to pick -- out of the entire planet -- the Wahhabi territory to have a gay marriage event.

Russia detained two athletes from Qatar, in retaliation against Qatar's arrest of two Russian agents who were accused of a connection with the assassination of the former president of Chechnia, which took place in the capital of Qatar (al-Dawha). The two athletes where on their way to Serbia to participate in a wrestling competetion, according to al-Hayat.

Please take a look at the following answers, given by the widow of the Shah of Iran in a recent interview (Thanks Roya):

"I assume you took money with you when you fled from Iran.

Yes, and I took some jewels. Thank God, because I sold them, and it helped me live. Americans say that money doesn't bring happiness. But it helps you to live with misery in comfort.

Did you get a large advance for your book?

No! They gave me $200,000, and it was $150,000 after taxes. I keep a picture of the check because it is the first money I ever earned."

Isn't she admitting that she did not earn that money and jewels, which helped her live well for the past 25 years?

Congratulations to my friend Juan Cole. He was selected for the third time to be the author of the "Quote of the Month" on Campus Watch.

The Price of occupying Iraq.
p.s. Don't forget to watch the Oscars tonight!

"A Muslim activist sued the Pope, a top cardinal and other church officials, claiming their comments about the superiority of Christianity violated the Italian constitution. In a civil suit filed in Aquila, central Italy, activist Adel Smith said he was seeking a court condemnation of the comments." Mr. Smith is the president of the Muslim Union of Italy. He says "that, over the years, Pope John Paul II and other church officials had violated the Italian constitution, which proclaims that all religions are equal under the law."

Jean-Bertrand Aristide should be tried for allowing the situation to escalate to the point it did. These dictators should be held responsible for their carelessness about their people. It is an insult to human decency that they are allowed to take a plane, in the last minute, and leave, while the entire country is being burnt and looted. He should have agreed to a peaceful transfer of power within reasonable time and under international guarantees instead of packing and leaving just like that. What happened after his departure is a direct result of his last decision, which was focused on his selfish ends and without any regard to his country and his people.

The New York Times says that the "Palestinians have never had a mainstream leader committed to nonviolent tactics, despite their official acceptance of Israel's right to exist."

This is, of course, in contrast with the too-gentle-to be-true Israeli leaders such as DAVID BEN-GURION, GOLDA MEIR, MENACHEM BEGIN, YITZHAK SHAMIR, BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, and the most main-stream of all, ARIEL SHARON.

The article also made sure to utilize the wisdom of Martin Kramer, describing him as "an expert on Islam and Arab politics." For those who do not know Kramer, he is an expert in destorting the facts about Islam and Arab politics.

"Seyhmus never understood me the first time I said anything, so through repetition I distilled each thought to an essence he got, most of the time. Once when I inquired about the time of my flight the following Sunday, he made a quick call on his mobile phone and announced, 'Okay, I done. I cancel your billet.' It cost me $60 to get my seat back."
With these words, this reporter described his interpreter. And you still wonder why the Western Media are so off the mark when they cover the rest of the world!

Saturday, February 28, 2004

To know why the promises are not honored on time, you have to look far, far, far away from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the U.S., for example, "the Defense Department's internal struggle delayed spending $18.6 billion appropriated by Congress for Iraqi infrastructure", reports Robert Novak in the Chicago Suntimes.

L'Irak demande aux donateurs d'honorer leurs promesses. "Certainly!", they replied, soon after we honor our promises to Afghanistan.

The CPA web-site quoted Secretary Powell as saying that "Iraq under Saddam was more dangerous than Afghanistan under the Taliban." The English site does not have this item. Also, it is noteworthy that the English site seems to be very different, and more respectful to the intelligence, than its more condescending Arabic counterpart.
On the Arabic site, for example, you see a link that reads "What Is Democracy?", which is not on the English site. This clearly implies that those Arabs who cannot read English, are in a serious need for an education in democracy, among other things of course.

Friday, February 27, 2004

This article is an eye-opener (for those whose eyes are still "wide-shut"). Here is a preview:

"The Sunni minority, particularly the Ba'aths, have a large head start in education, capital and economic expertise. The Shiites, although far from homogeneous, represent a long-oppressed majority of 60-70%, with every reason to exploit their numerical power. Liberation has already unleashed powerful fundamentalist movements which, needless to say, are intensely anti-secular and anti-western. Iraq's 20% Kurdish minority in the north, mistrustful of Arab rule, creates another source of profound instability. Finally, Iraq's oil could prove a curse, leading to massive corruption and a destructive battle between groups to capture the nation's oil wealth."

Those who are afraid of a Shiíte takeover if Iraq holds elections should take a clue from yesterday's proceedings of the so-called "Governing Counsil". "[E]eight of the 13 Shia members of the governing council walked out in protest after a majority voted to cancel Resolution 137, passed in December, which proposed replacing civil family law with sharia, or Islamic religious law", according to the Guardian.
This tells us that there are 5 defectors on such a cardinal issue for the Shiítes. If this Counsil is representative, as it is often described, there should be no fear for democracy in Iraq or a ny apprehension that there would be a Shiíte takeover.

"Richard Perle, the hawkish Pentagon adviser who was one of the most fervent advocates for the invasion of Iraq, has resigned, it emerged yesterday", according to the Guardian. The reason for his resignation is very curious. He is quoted as saying that "he had decided to leave the board so that his views would not be attributed to George Bush or the defence (sic.) secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, in an election year."
What does this tell us? Well... for starters, he seems to know that his views are not in agreement with the general mindset of the majority of American voters. It is also a hint for the President to stay away from his ilk of hard-liners and look "nice" during the next few monts (a very Machiavellian way of handling business). The only problem is that Mr. Bush is running out of "soft-liners" to accompany him in the pre-election era. By going, like a blindfolded fool, along with the agenda of the hard-liners in the Pentagon and the charlatans in the Iraqi opposition, taking the nation in a questionable war, the president has alienated almost all of his reasonable freinds. I am pressed to quote Machiavelli's statement that "a prince who is not prudent himself cannot be well-advised."

After posting the last item, I noticed that my good friend, Professor Juan Cole had posted a comment on the same topic that included the Blix story. He, however, provides an English report (as opposed to my French link). The article in Le Monde, by the way does mention that Blix was speaking to the Guardian, but I did not go there.

"In an exclusive interview, Mr Blix said he expected to be bugged by the Iraqis, but to be spied upon by the US was a different matter. He described such behaviour as 'disgusting', adding: 'It feels like an intrusion into your integrity in a situation when you are actually on the same side.'"

Sorry, Has! But for our friends in Washington, "Love may be love, but business is business." And let me tell you, Hans, what is even more "disgusting": it is your tone of speaking about the Iraqis as some sort of trash, while comparing them with the U.S.; you should be speaking about the Saddam regime and the Bush administration -- not the Iraqis and the U.S. -- because neither regime was fairly elected by the majority of its people. When they spied on you (if this realy was the case), then they certainly were not representing the ethics of either nation.

Hans Blix is slower than the rest of the world again. Now, he began suspecting (or announcing his thoughts) that the U.S. was spying on his office and home in New York prior to the war on Iraq.
According to Le Monde, he said: "'C'est comme une intrusion dans votre intégrité alors qu'en fait vous êtes dans le même camp', a déclaré l'ancien inspecteur qui était interrogé par le Guardian à son domicile de Stockholm. 'Si vous aviez à parler d'un sujet sensible, vous deviez aller au restaurant ou dehors dans la rue', a dit M. Blix." The question is, of course, why did he wait until now to say something?

Le Monde, of course, could not miss such a story. In fact, it made it very personal. Please consider the title: "Près de 11 000 enfants victimes de prêtres pédophiles aux Etats-Unis depuis 1950."

Thursday, February 26, 2004

This is really sad. Christianity, which is a religion full of goodness and compassion, is given a bad name by this "epidemic of child sexual abuse." Those who are in charge should do whatever it takes to put an end to this shame. Religion is meant to uplift the spirit of humanity, not to torment the weak and the vulnerable. The latter task is ably done by politics.

Ayatullah Sistani eased up a little. He now is willing to give the U.S. and the U.N. a chance to prepare for elections by the end of 2004. The good news is that he is making his intention clear: ""he wanted the date of an election -- the end of 2004 -- enshrined in a U.N. Security Council resolution. He also insisted that an interim government must have sharply curtailed powers and focus its task on preparing for that election."
The bad news is that a group of charlatans and cheats will be in charge for long enough to finish what Saddam started. I still have faith in Sistani, but I also know that he is competing with an international circle of swindlers. We shall see.

"La France demande le départ d'Aristide", but the U.S. will certainly say: "Jamais!" Don't you love this?

The U.S. must stop trying to have "a face-lift in the Arab world but should pursue a new foreign policy on the Middle East ... Otherwise Al-Hurra will fail as did the American-inspired Hi magazine", says Satie Noureddin. Any listeners?

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

As if it is not enough that they have been stealing the land, the culture, and the dreams of Palestinians; the Israeli Army is turning into a band of bank-robers. "'It's like the mafia, it's like a kind of mafia war,' Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia told Channel 10 television news."
To be sure, the U.S. was concerned:
"The United States said Wednesday that Israel's seizure of some NIS 37 million in cash in Palestinian banks could destabilize the Palestinian banking system, and reiterated its call for Israel to coordinate such moves with the sector's Palestinian authorities." What does this mean, by the way? That they jointly rob the banks?!

"U.S.: Israel's human rights record 'poor' in W. Bank, Gaza", says Haaretz. But wait! Here is how:
"Israel's overall human rights record in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2003 'remained poor and worsened in the treatment of foreign human rights activists,' according to a U.S. State Department report released Wednesday."
The report found that "Israeli security forces killed at least 573 Palestinians and one foreign national and injured 2,992 Palestinians and others during the year, including bystanders". This was said to be due to the use of "excessive force."

Many of the men who are, according to Bush, going to make the world safer for Afghani and Iraqi women did not do so even for the women in their own Army units, reports the New York Times. It reported that "dozens of servicewomen in the Persian Gulf area and elsewhere saying they were sexually assaulted or raped by fellow troops."
"There have been 112 reports of sexual misconduct over roughly the past 18 months in the Central Command area of operations, which includes Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, military officials said on Wednesday."
These 112 are distributed unequally among the branches of the Armed forces:
"The Army has reported 86 incidents, the Navy 12, the Air Force 8 and the Marine Corps 6."
Remember that for every reported incident, many others go unreported (for obvious reasons). The Army seems to be the most hostile to women, statistically speaking. Women who want to run a lower risk should join the Marine Corps. As to local women, where U.S. has troops: Stay home !!!!!

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

"We're still trying to figure out the motivation of those we're fighting," says this U.S. officer in Iraq. For those who lost track of time, the U.S. has been in Iraq for 11 months now. It seems that by the year 2020, the rationale of "those who are fighting will be figured out" and a plan to address it will be in place soon thereafter. (Thanks Roya)

«La justification de la guerre -- l'existence d'armes de destruction massive -- était sans fondement», said Mr. H. Blix. Thanks Mr. Blix! I am glad you said this clearly, but it would realy have been nice if you stated this a year ago.

Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" is making many people mad. "Given the Crucifixion story, Mr. Gibson did not need to change the ending", says this wise reviewer. Actually, those who are mad about the film, should be mad at the "story" as well. It's about time that they search for an alternative account of what happened to Jesus. We Muslims have been saying for over 1400 years that the Jews did not kill Jesus. It is funny (actually sad) that some people would rather suffer defamation than say the Qur'an got it right.

Will Paris be a Wahhabi territory? Why not? It certainly witnessed many incidents of "beheading" in the past !
"A ce jour, 32 mosquées ou salles de prières se trouvent sous le contrôle d'islamistes radicaux, dont la grande majorité sont des salafistes." Read the rest in Le Monde.

Aside from the absurd assertion that "the Middle East leader who arguably grants his own Arab citizens the greatest democratic rights is . . . Ariel Sharon", this columnist is right on the mark. If we see more of this courage in the U.S. media for a year, our taxes will not be wasted on supporting Israeli atrocities.
"Anyone who goes to Gaza or the West Bank sees the humiliations that spawn bombings and a vicious cycle of violence", he rightly observes. This is what decent people have been saying all along -- the palestinians are not blowing themselves up for the sake of the "Virgins of Paradise", which means at best trading "sex now" for "sex after the end ot the world".

"There's something just plain wrong when the average CEO makes 500 times the salary of the average worker", says this columnist. He is right!

Monday, February 23, 2004

This University of Birmingham lecturer and "molecular biologist announced that he was quitting his lab for a new career as a plumber."

In his 2000 campaign, Mr. Bush coined the words "fuzzy math" as a political expression. Well, here is how he has put the concept into action:
"Two years ago, the administration forecast that there would be 3.4 million more jobs in 2003 than there were in 2000. And it predicted a budget deficit for fiscal 2004 of $14 billion. The economy ended up losing 1.7 million jobs over that period, and the budget deficit for this year is on course to be $521 billion."

Sunday, February 22, 2004

On Saturday Feb. 21 and at 9:00 p.m. the AP paid someone overtime to undertake the task of telling the world that Spot, Bush's dog, was "put to sleep".
We also learn from the story that "White House spokesman Allen Abney" was the one who made the announcement (our taxes at work!) Mr. Abney did not mention how many people in Iraq and Afghanistan (if any) were put to sleep, grace à M. Bush!
To be fair to the AP, I must say that I heard the news first on CNN on Saturday morning as I was leaving my North Virginia hotel room. I also must mention that there is a big photo of the "late" Spot, near a nice swimming pool, on the web-page of the White House. There are also slides of "him" (I guess) from cradle to grave.
p.s. those who want to console the Bush family or want to donate a puppy, please write your notes to: Mr. and Mrs. Bush, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500. You can also expect to see news about a bank account for a fund to establish a "Spot Presidential Library" hosted by the University of Texas -- the birthplace of the late spot.

Do not miss this Op-Ed by NOAM CHOMSKY.
"Palestinians in the seam between the wall and the Green Line will be permitted to apply for the right to live in their own homes; Israelis automatically have the right to use these lands."

This is awkward; I mean realy awkward:
"Iraq's interim leaders said Sunday that they could not negotiate a formal agreement with the American military on maintaining troops in Iraq, and that the task must await the next sovereign Iraqi government."
What kind of a "sovereign" government will it be, with over 150,000 foreign troops on its land without any permission from -- literally -- anybody? Are these people fooling us or themselves?

L'attentat de Jérusalem conforte Israël sur le mur de sécurité.
While this Le Monde headline is ironic, it is also quite true. Le Monde goes on to say:
"Le gouvernement israélien espère que le sanglant attentat suicide dimanche 22 février au matin à Jérusalem va renforcer ses arguments sécuritaires en faveur de la ligne de séparation, examiné à partir de lundi devant la Cour internationale de Justice et critiqué par l'opinion publique mondiale."
Does Le Monde hint to a possibility that "le governement israélien" may have looked the other way while this "attentat suicide" was about to happen?
Je ne sais pas! Qu'en pensez-vous?!!!

To all Muslims in the world: Happy New Year!

I was watching an interview with Chalabi on al-'Aalem, the Iranian satellite TV. I was shocked to see how much he changed his tone. Now, he says that elections are the only way to ensure democracy in Iraq and there should not be any other method to follow. Is he trying to show loyalty to Sistani, before the other thug, Iyad Allawi, do so? Remember that Chalabi has no hopes in the U.S. to help him out now and he realizes that the only way to get ahead is to be more election-friendly than Sistani himself. I also loved his criticism of "financial corruption".

I got this e-mail from the National Guard, offering to help me. I will not decide until I see how the Bush situation with the guard ends up (didn't they ban SPAM recently?):

"Whether your objective is paying for college or grad school, or simply to make a difference in the world, YOU CAN make it happen in the Army National Guard. Guard members train part-time, but their commitment is a full-time one, because they are ready to respond should our nation or their community need them. In exchange for their service, they earn:

Good pay for part-time work that matters
Money for school through the Montgomery GI Bill and Guard Tuition Assistance
Free academic testing (SAT, ACT, CLEP, GRE, GMAT and more)
Free space-available air travel
Discount shopping privileges at military commissaries and exchanges
State-specific benefits that can provide as much as 100% college tuition
Added up, serving in the Guard can mean as much as $30,000 to help pay for your education. There are other benefits, too-- like self-discipline, lasting friendships and leadership skills-- that can change your outlook on life and give you the confidence to pursue any goal you might have.

To learn more about the Guard and how being on our team can help you create your future, visit http://www.1-800-GO-GUARD.com. Best wishes for success with your plans for the future.



From the same "silly" constitution:

"Article 23. A candidate for the Transitional National Assembly must meet the following conditions:
1. Be not less than thirty years of age.
2. Not belong to the dissolved Ba‘th Party or be affiliated with the agencies of repression or have contributed to the oppression of citizens.
3. Not have illegitimately been enriched at the expense of the people and public funds.
4. Not have been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude and be known for good conduct.
5. Have a degree."

Notice that he does not have to be an "Iraqi". Is this an oversight? I don't think so!

Also, this must exclude Chalabi, who cannot pass # 3 and 4. (he passes 5 with flying colors however.)
Allawi is another disqualified thug (having been a leading Ba'athist.)

This is translation of the so-called "Interim Iraqi Constitution. It is best used for toilet paper. I must note the good effort of the translator and the validity of his notes -- although he was nice to the authors of the document.
Notice that under this constitution, "The central authority shall continue in Baghdad, exercising the following competencies:
3. Declaring war and concluding peace."

On whom are they going to declare war? And with which forces?

The author of this article is smart, but has no prudence. The conclusion she should come up with is that the atrocities of Israel, which are committed in the name of the Jews, are bringing back anti-Semitism in its harshest forms. Honestly, Sharon and Israel are not worth risking another wave of anti-Semitism.

The people have spoken. "Alors que les résultats des législatives ne sont pas officiellement connus et que le participation a été très faible, 28 % à Téhéran et ses environs, les conservateurs seraient les vainqueurs d'un scrutin gagné d'avance. Les réformateurs ont largement perdu toute marge de manoeuvre au parlement et le risque de nouvelles crispations entre un parlement aux mains des conservateurs et un gouvernement réformateur proche du président Khatami n'est pas à écarter."

Jim Hoagland calls on the U.S. officials to "respect the Iraqi Council." But Why?
He says, "The Bush administration ... Iraqis 10 months ago. But it still does not trust them -- not even the 25 Iraqis chosen to help manage their country's transition to freedom. They have been rewarded for their cooperation with disdain and denigration from Washington." I am sorry, Mr. Hoagland, but puppets are to be manipulated, not respected.

From Wednesday's CS Monitor, Richard Perle on criticism of Ahmad Chalabi, a leader of the Iraqi National Congress:

"His detractors, by and large ... are the people who know him least, and his defenders are the people who know him best.... The CIA has been engaged in a character assassination of Ahmad Chalabi for years now, and it is a disgrace." (Thanks Roya).
OK, it normally takes a "Perle" to apreciate a thief (Chalabi was sentenced to 22 years prison-term in Jordan for -- well -- applying his MIT math skills at the Betra bank..

"The president can't skirt the issues by hiding behind Laura's skirts forever", says MAUREEN DOWD.

Well... I am back from Washington, D.C. and the site is back to life. People used to talk about airline food after a trip. It is not the case anymore. My flights served no food whatsoever. Also, my travel agent spent hours to get me a flight from and back to Oakland (instead of San Francisco). On the way back, I missed the flight to Oakland and guess where I was sent! You are right (SFO)...

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

This letter to the editor of the NYTimes is worth reading. GEORGE McGOVERN (remember him from 1972 presidential race?) responds to the empty-headed Thomas Friedman by saying:
"Replacing Saddam Hussein with Ahmad Chalabi would be comparable to replacing Jack the Ripper with Al Capone. Such a development is not worth risking the death of one additional American. Thousands of young Americans bled and died in Vietnam to keep a series of political frauds in power in Saigon. Let's not go down that road again, claiming all the while, "We will not run." How about a compromise? Let's walk out of Iraq."

I have an Egyptian proverb for both McGovern and Friedman: "Entering the bathroom is not like exiting from it!" Especially when Bush is the one who does the planning!

This New York Times article is amazing. First, it has all the people in the photos misidentified. Then it talks about Iraqis in grossly mistaken terms. They speak about Iraqis as Shi'ite, Sunnis, and Kurds (as if the Kurds are monkey-worshippers). The Kurds are mostly Sunni Muslims -- with a portion of the Kurdish population being Shi'ites. The article, however presents some interesting insight on the election debate.

Richard Cohen has a good article in the Washington Post. The problem with Bush is not in the performance, he says; it is in the thought. He finished the article this way: "It is a massive reversal of fact, hot turned into cold, tall into short. Bush's inability or refusal to come to grips with the new facts is not the product of a poor performance or an errant tongue, but of a troubling insistence that his beliefs cannot be wrong. That -- nuance be damned -- makes him look like a dope." Need I say anything?!

My article on the Kurds of Iraq was picked by the website of Kurdmedia. It was originally published by Bitterlemons-international.org.

Don't miss the next issue of Foreign Affairs. Mr. David Makovsky from -- where else -- the Washington Institute, says that "the good news...is that a fair, workable fence is already being built by Israel's Ministry of Defense." This "fair" fence, he says, is the one thing that would make sense and bring about peace and prosperity to all involved.
What was going on in the minds of Germans when they destroyed that monument of peace, which they had in Berlin?!!

Monday, February 16, 2004

Once again, some Arabs and Muslims in America are on the worng side in the presidential elections. As theNew York Times puts it: they "are adding their names to the ranks of Pioneers and Rangers, the elite Bush supporters." Take Mr. "Tim Attallah, a Dearborn lawyer and a first-generation Palestinian-American" as an example. Mr. Attallah said he was having a hard time reconciling his personal beliefs with some of the Bush administration's policies", but he donated $2000 to Mr. Bush, nevertheless! What does this mean?!

One more proof of the Washington ignorance. The new Satellite TV "Al Hurra's debut passed without notice in some quarters: most Egyptians cannot afford a satellite dish. In others, it was given a sceptical glance." It is like those who call for Internet access for people who have no phone lines. "On Sunday, the daily newspaper Al Ahram mentioned its arrival in a few, short paragraphs. "Empty Al Hurra channel ... Handmaiden won't clean the muddy face."
At least Mr. "Norman Pattiz, a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the government agency which oversees Voice of America and now Al Hurra," is aware of the limitations. "We're not expecting to change people's minds about anything," he said.
The station is reported to have "ran an exclusive interview with President Bush over two days." Don't they get it? People over there are allergic to interviews with presidents. What a waste of resources!
There is a way to win the hearts and minds of the Arabs and save money at the same time: cut the military aid to Israel.

This article is quite awkward. It is about the Occupation Man, Paul Bremer, and his vow to block any attempt to make Islam the main source for laws in Iraq. Well, this can be argued one way or another. But in the middle of the article, you read about an attack on a car in my Birth place, Babylon, where "Americans from a Baptist religious group" were the target. "The Rev. John Kelley, 48, of Rhode Island, was killed and three Baptist ministers -- from Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York -- were wounded." Wait, it gets more interesting: "The spokesman, Roland Vukic, said Kelley and about 10 other pastors from the New England area left Feb. 6 to help start a church in Baghdad." Now go back to the title of the article and connect the dots. How do you think the perception will be in Iraq, when these two stories are put together?
Now, this reminds me of Saddam, who built the fanciest mosques for a starving population. With all due respect to the Baptists, let's re-start the hospitals and schools in Iraq, where Iraqi Muslim and Christian children can study and be healthy, before we "start" a Baptist church in a country, where there are virtually no Baptists. Or will there be?!!!!

My good friends Juan Cole and As'ad AbuKhalil, now known as The Angry Arab posted an interesting account by a Sunni Iraqi who visited Grand Ayatullah Sistani and wrote his impressions about the visit and the Ayatullah. As Juan noted, this is important because of historical reasons. But also, there are a few points I would like to emphasize here. The writer generally praises Sistani and gives a positive picture of him. Yet, he could not resist hinting at Sistani's "heavy accent" in Arabic. It is about time people realize that the man knows about classical Arabic and its hermeneutics more than 90% of native speakers of Arabic. I wish that Arabs have his accent and know their language as he does (I say this as a college teacher of Arabic and a native of Najaf who know how this school [the Hawza] teaches its students). For proof, one can look at any of his books, like Fara'id al-Usoul, for example. It is also sad that he had to remind his visitors that he is an Arab, despite his Iranian "papers". Remember that he is a direct descendant of the Prophet, upon him be peace, through Fatima and Ali. The other point, is a problem I have with the Grand Ayatullah, regarding his treatment of the media. In the testimony of the visitor, Sistani refutes the claims that he ever said he would accept a UN verdict if it decided that elections are not feasible. There is a systematic problem here. If Ayatullah Sistani makes one appearance before the press every week or so, no one would dare to lie on his authority. Now, I admire his resistance to the camera, but this is, as the fuqaha' (jurists) would put it: a necessity (dharourah). His admirable effort so far can only be fruitful when he decides to speak for himself, and yes, we love the flavor of his accent.

Some nuclear proliferators are more equal than others. Here you have it: "despite past sales of nuclear-related technology", and after "reports from Washington this weekend quoting U.S. officials saying China has been -- and may still be -- cooperating with Pakistan on nuclear technology and missile development", Mr. John R. Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, gives the Chinese the benefit of the doubt. You know why? Well...they have nuclear weapons and a veto power in the UNSC. I guess we are "safer" now that Saddam's weapons turned out to be non-existent.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

The "ration-cards" work very well for Iraqi elections and it is cheap: $600 to organize an election. It certainly beats the $billions to finance the occupation. The trick, however, in such elections is that it will not bring Chalabi to power.
"U.S. and British officials say the ration-card system works strikingly well in [the Chebayish and Fuhud] province, Iraq's fourth largest." See the article in the Post.

Elections in Afghanistan may be put off, said the New York Times quoting Administration officials, who want to protect "democracy" from the danger of free and fair elections. The funny thing is that the U.S. is announcing this and not the puppet government of Karzai, who "is said to be determined to hold at least the presidential election on time, in part because he expects to win." according to the paper. Why is that? Because he did not register more than 8% of eligible voters in the country -- basically, his family and those who used to eat in his restaurant. All are reported to be inclined to favor his presidency. The U.N. says that he needs to register at least 70% of eligible voters in order to have "real" elections. "Realy? That much? Where am I going to get 70% who are willing to vote for me?!!!" He replied!

Saturday, February 14, 2004

In the previous posting, I quoted Louis de Bernières as saying, "I fear that in Iraq they will simply vote to abolish democracy and create an Islamic state."

Please contemplate a little here. I always thought, as many did, that when people vote democracy gets established -- not abolished.

So this is why the Bush administration is working so hard to prevent the elections in Iraq: in order to protect democracy from the danger of free and fair elections. Go figure!

Here are some pearls of wisdom from Louis de Bernières on the Arabs and "their religion":

"Arabs have no natural tradition of democracy, and their religion gives them an ultra-conservative, patriarchal, authoritarian and absolutist cast of mind. I fear that in Iraq they will simply vote to abolish democracy and create an Islamic state, in which case deposing Saddam Hussein would have been fairly pointless."

Or, consider these "brilliant" remarks by Duncan Fallowell

"Militant Islam is the totalitarianism of the 21st century. It has shut down the life of the mind in its own countries and is seeking to do the same to ours. Unless we are prepared to succumb to a new Dark Age, the west has no alternative but to confront militant Islam in its various secular and religious forms." How can this answer a question about whether or not he was for the war against Saddam's regime?

And while you are at it, please read the "brilliant" analysis of John Keegan, who is basically for all wars. Here is how he assesses the situation:

"In general I am pessimistic about the future of the historic Muslim lands - Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and Algeria (though not Morocco or Egypt) - for reasons which have to do with the late medieval decision in Islam to renounce the pursuit of progress. I except Egypt because of its persisting tradition of non-Islamic nationalism and Morocco because of the strength of its monarchical institutions.
In general, I believe that the use of force, by states and armies that embody civilised values, can achieve good."

I love it when these morons speak about civilization, as if the Muslim world is barbaric. Please read my remarks below about how civilized Daniel Pipes is, to see what I mean !!

The Guardian's article where these trashy remarks were made, is a very interesting article. I recommend it.

Here is how Le Monde described the released papers. Why can't the Wash. Post and NY Times do the same?

"D'après les premiers éléments consultés dans ces dossiers, aucun développement majeur n'est à attendre. Les archives couvrent une période de cinq ans, entre le moment où George Bush s'engage au Texas dans la Garde nationale en 1968 avec l'objectif de devenir aviateur, et son retour anticipé à la vie civile, le 1er octobre 1973, huit mois avant la fin théorique de son service, afin de suivre les cours à la Harvard Business School. A l'époque, George Bush père était élu au Congrès, et la Garde nationale était alors considérée comme un refuge pour les jeunes gens des classes dirigeantes désireux d'échapper à une possible mobilisation au Vietnam."

Friday, February 13, 2004

Mr. Bush just released some other pages of his medical record, says the New York Times. His press secretary said, "Our understanding is that this is the entire file." The released papers, said the NTY, consist of "Hundreds of pages of documents -- many of them duplicates."
It seems that Mr. Bush had learned a great deal from Saddam Hussein on how to stonewall.
The "records showed that Bush, a pilot, was suspended from flying status beginning Aug. 1, 1972, because of his failure to have an annual medical examination. His last flight exam was on May 15, 1971." The big question is whether Mr. Bush flew that jet on May 1, 2003 while still suspended from flying !!!

Watching the two Kurdish satellite channels makes me wonder if Kurdish leaders appreciate the possibilities and the limitations of the situation in Iraq. Now, it goes without saying that the Kurds have suffered so much for so long and they have every right to be bitter. But their bitterness must be softened by their own interests, if not for any other reason. The debate on federalism and their version of it is clearly a sorry way to plan for the future. It gets really ugly when the city of Kirkuk is mentioned. This is a city where no consensus can be reached in ease and in a short time. Oil, ethinic tension, and politics all play vital roles in shaping the debate. The message coming from the two Kurdish TV stations, which are crude propaganda machines speaking on behalf of Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani, is that Kurds must come back to Kirkuk and Arabs (they call them Arab settlers) should be kicked out. "Just like the Germans who settled in France left the country after the defeat of Germany," said one Kurdish commentator, "these people should go back to where they came from."
First, this analogy fails to capture the simple fact that the Arabs in Kirkuk are Iraqis who relocated within Iraq, unlike the Germans who moved to France. Second, some of these people were born in Kirkuk and lived their entire entire life in the city, that they do not know any other place. They moved, or where forced to move to Kirkuk by the past regime and established their lives in the city for decades. It is not practical to ethnically cleanse the city in order to establish the argument that Kirkuk is part of Kurdistan. In a recent article , I wrote that it is vital for the Kurdish leaders to know what they can achieve and go about achieving it to best serve the interests of their people who have suffered a lot. I did not mean to chase the Arabs out of Kirkuk.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Daniel Pipes, best known for his effort to create the infamous web-site, "Campus Watch", was in Berkeley Yesterday. He spoke before an audience that gave him some mixed reaction. As usual, those who opposed his argument were kicked out of the room. The Daily Californian quoted him as saying, "I supported war against Iraq as any civilized person must."
Now let me see... How can any civilized person support a war that destroyed the "Cradle of Civilization" (what Iraq is called), burnt its libraries, caused the loss of 10,000 artifacts - some of them are over 5000 years old? That is, of course, without mentioning the more than 530 Americans who died and over 3000 injured (no one even bothers to count the Iraqi dead and injured)!
How can any civilized person support such madness, especially in light of what we now know about the silliness of the rationale behind the war?

Ayatullah Sistani is now in a position to change the culture in Najaf that lasted for over eight decades. Quietism, which was the product of the era that followed World War I, has caused the Shi’a over eighty years of agony. Sistani seems to show more prudence than those who preceded him in the highest position at the Shi’ite institution of learning in Najaf (al-Hawzah al-‘Ilmiyyah). If he does not stand up for the rights of the Shi’ite majority in Iraq, we will see a replay of the catastrophe of the 1920’s. It was a dispute over the Iraqi constitution, which ended in a stalemate. The puppet government – handpicked by the British – insisting on their own version and the Shi’ite ‘Ulemaa (religious scholars) issuing edicts to their followers to boycott the elections and refuse to take any position in the new government.
The outcome of the stand-off proved that those ‘Ulemaa were too naïve to win such a battle. Simply put, they failed to appreciate the hardships of the new political environment in which they operated. Their assumption was that by issuing the edicts they would deprive the electoral process of its legitimacy when the majority boycott the elections. Instead, the outcome was a product that left the Shi’a with no share in power and, eventually, in wealth – a situation that remained until the collapse of the Saddam regime in 2003. Moreover, the leading ‘Ulemaa were Iranian nationals who ascended to the leadership in Najaf depending on their credentials as learned scholars. The government of Abdul-Muhsin al-Sa‘dun took advantage of this legal excuse and deported them to Iran.
The deported ‘Ulemaa were initially received as heros in Iran. But a few days later, they discovered the ugly reality. Iran was nothing like Iraq for them. It was impossible for them to establish themselves in the Iranian milieu and gain a status comparable to the one they had in Iraq. The “relatively” young members of the group began arranging for going back to Iraq. After the initial rejection of al-Sa‘dun to readmit them in Iraq, they approached King Faisal I, who was more sympathetic. They were finally back in Najaf after agreeing to issue new edicts canceling their first opinions and agreeing to sign an agreement with the government stipulating that they would never interfere in Iraqi politics. This was the beginning of the end for any Shi’ite aspirations. Since then, the school of Najaf became similar the the Church in the time of Machiavelli. It was too weak to unify the Shi’a, but too strong to let someone else unify them.
Ayatullah Sistani is presented now with the golden opportunity to undo eighty years of tragedy. If he misses the right path, no one knows when the next opportunity – if ever – will present itself.

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