Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Green Zone Mosque (I link, you decide):

"Before the war, Rashid was the assistant to the mosque's pro-Hussein imam, his main task singing the five-times-per-day call to prayer. After the war, the chief imam fled, and the Americans promoted Rashid to the No. 1 spot. Rashid speaks near-fluent English, which he says he learned by watching videos of his three favorite movies, "Gone With the Wind," "Love Story" and "The Bodyguard." "I love what's her name -- Whitney Houston? She is so beautiful, so pure. She is like (the Virgin) Mary, very clean." (thanks Shahin)

Friday, July 30, 2004

"Kerry Favors Bin Laden Trial in U.S.," according to the Associated Press.

"I want him tried for murder in New York City, and in Virginia and in Pennsylvania," he said.

As John Wayne said in one of his films: "Before you try'em, you must catch'em."

But instead of catching the guy who really attacked America and really wants to hurt Americans and is a real threat to America and Americans, our "brilliant" government spared 140,000 soldiers and $200 billion from this urgent task and sent them to another war on a rationale that would not pass the the grandmother test.

Now, please tell me why would "the false patriots" call for taking my citizenship away for saying this!

"Two recent opinion polls held in several major Arab countries proved that the main reason for rising anti-Americanism was opposition to its foreign policy, particularly towards Palestine and Iraq, and not its values or civilisation as repeatedly claimed by US President George W Bush.

"...the overall approval ratings of the US ranged between an unprecedented low of two per cent in Egypt and a high of 20 per cent in Lebanon. Those holding a favourable view of the US in Saudi Arabia were four per cent, 11 per cent in Morocco, 14 per cent in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and 15 per cent in Jordan...When asked in the Maryland/Zogby poll: 'Would you say that your attitudes towards the United States are based more on American values or on American policy in the Middle East,' 86 per cent in Saudi Arabia, 80 per cent in Lebanon, 79 per cent in Morocco, 76 per cent in Jordan and 75 per cent in the UAE blamed American policy. However, Zogby noted that the rising opposition to the US foreign policy has clearly influenced attitudes towards American values and products in places like Saudi Arabia and Lebanon."

Of course it did. When American values are violated by every single policy, many people will begin questioning them. When values are reduced to lip service not supported by action, they become meaningless, as far as those at the receiving end are concerned. But don't worry, there is always Fouad Ajami, and his ilk, who will tell us that Arabs hate the West no matter what policies are adopted.

"The Pope will call on leaders of the Roman Catholic church today to attack feminist ideologies which assert that men and women "are fundamentally the same."

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Tom Daschle complained in his speech during the Democratic Convention that the U.S. Tax payers are supporting gas prices at a 5 cents a gallon in Iraq while paying $2 here. He also said that American taxes are building schools in Iraq while our schools urgently need money.

He is half right. Gas prices are very high and schools are in deep trouble. But he should know, as the Senate minority leader, that tax payers money never left the banks of New York. It is Iraqi oil money that is being wasted left and right over there, just like Saddam used to do.

Death and destruction continues in Iraq.

"More than 100 people were killed in Iraq in a wave of attacks yesterday."

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Iraq's so-called elections for the National Assembly may be delayed. Surprise..Surprise!!! Ghazi al-Yawar says it is a good decision. Surprise..Surprise!!!

"No appointment is sacred for us," Iraqi President, Ghazi al-Yawar said.

That's what I thought all along.

MPs in call to put Britain in dock over Iraq
(Thanks, Merry)

"FORTY MPs have called on UN chief Kofi Annan to haul Britain through the International Court of Justice over the Iraq war."

Then What?

Monday, July 26, 2004

There you have it: a new Iraq that does not threaten its neighbors

"We can send the death to Tehran's streets, like they do to us. But we can't do it if we are a democracy. But if my people say do it now, I will do it," said the new so-called Iraqi Defense Minister.

But, before he can make such Saddam-like speech, doesn't he need first to have an army? And who are "his people" who want to have death in Tehran's streets?
Also, doesn't he need to actually leave the Green Zone and walk in the streets of Baghdad to actually talk to "his people"? This ex-Ba'athist is still speaking in the same thuggish way Saddam spoke, but he is only a little mouse, compared with his Ba'athist criminal mentor, who had the power to back his words.

The last thing Iraq needs at this point is to pick a fight with Iran, once again, to do the dirty work of others. The eight-year war between Iraq and Iran was the beginning of all troubles for the two countries. Iraqis who lived through these dark days, as I did, would never give such a mandate to this puppet to put them through another war. Iraqis are also too decent to ask him or any other thug to conduct terrorist acts in their name, in any street, which is what he says he is ready for.

Speeches to the Democratic National Convention on Monday Night

I don't have time to comment on them. You guys can judge for yourselves.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

"A lawyer for the family of a journalist who died in custody in Tehran threatened international legal action yesterday after an Iranian court failed to identify the killer. 'I will pursue this case until my last breath,' said Shirin Ebadi, a human rights lawyer and Nobel peace prize winner.
Muhammad Reza Ahmadi, an intelligence ministry official, was cleared of the murder of the Canadian-Iranian photographer Zahra Kazemi in a verdict " announced on Saturday."

While I do believe that the Islamic Revolution in Iran was a welcome event that ended one of the most rotten regimes in the Middle East. I do have many criticisms of the government that came into being after the Revolution.

In the case of Ms. Kazemi, I have two problems with the whole affair: 1) it seems that the Iranian government have failed to achieve justice. The woman died as a result of torture in prison. If the state is not for this kind of behavior, then it must punish the criminal(s). 2) how many Iranians have been killed by the same crooks in similar situations without trials being held? Does the victim have to carry a Western passport to be in the news? Iran has a great potential to achieve a very decent, home grown, political system. But to succeed, there must be a relentless war against corruption and pettiness at all levels.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Jeff, a new guest, posed a few questions for me. I normally do not entertain this kind of inquisition, but I will make an exception for him -- to be a kind host. Here are the answers to the questions (consider it an interview):

Q. Were you for or against the US-led invasion of Iraq in Spring 2003?

A. I was against it.

Q. If against the invasion, would you have supported the continued sanctions regime and no-fly/no-drive zones?

A. I was against that too. Sanctions never work, they only help dictators (Spain, Cuba,...). Much less in Iraq, which was surrounded by countries that found a great opportunity to sell their products to a captive market.

Q. - Would [you] have been for the invasion if it had been explicity and fully authorized by the UN Security Council?

A. No. I would not have supported the destruction of Iraq under any circumstances.

Q. - Do you think Israel has a right to exist?

A. Israel exists, no matter what my opinion is. Therefore, I restrict my opinions to criticizing its disregard to the international law and the principles of human decency. I do this with everyone behaving as such, not just Israel.

Q. If so, do you support a 2-state solution for Palestine and Israel? If so, what would be fair (i.e. 1967 Green Line borders with split Jerusalem, etc?)

A. I would leave this to the Palestinians. They are not orphans to have me or you decide for them, don't you think?

Q. Do you think the USA should be a strong advocate for democracy and human rights in the Middle East?

A. Everyone should help and advocate for democracy and human rights. The best course for the U.S. to achieve that is to stop interfering in the political process in the Middle East. Given its long-standing Middle-East policy, the U.S. is incapable of providing help. Let's not forget also that the credibility of the U.S. in the Middle East is approaching below zero now. Furthermore, democracy cannot be dropped with bombs from 30,000 feet above sea-level.

Q. If you believe that the USA should advocate this, how should it approach this?

A. See the answer to your previous question.

Q. Are there any countries you think the USA should invade right now?

A. This is a strange question. So I am going to provide a similar answer. It all depends on the rationale. If it has to do with countries that dislike the U.S., then the U.S. would have to invade all countries, except for Israel, UK, Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau and maybe a couple of countries more. If it has to do with human rights violations, then we have a longer list, maybe. If it has to do with WMD's, then Pakistan, India, China, Russia, UK, France and Israel. Some are known to have them and, as to others, according to many experts, they have stockpiles of WMD's and they can use them "within 45 minutes." If it is a matter of securing a decisive victory to lift up the President's approval ratings for the elections, then a weak and very small country must be the target. I am thinking maybe Palau, if President Bush is aware of its existence.

Of course, on principle, I don't believe that the U.S. should invade anyone.

Q. Are you a strict pacifist then?

A. As a Muslim, I do believe in the Qur'anic restriction of fighting. Verse 2:190 says, "Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight aganst you, but begin not hostilities. Allah does not love aggressors." The fight, according to the Qur'an, must be conducted according to the commands of Allah (or what you call "ethics"), it is not to be for egoistic reasons or for the spoils of war, or merely to kill. It is also strictly for self defense, not as an aggression.

Q. Do you think a military retaliation to a direct military attack is ethical? (i.e. Was it morally proper for the USA to retailiate against the Japanese government for its attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii?")

A. See answer to your previous question.

Q. Do you think it is every (sic.) correct to use military force for humanitarian grounds or to stop a genocide in progress?

A. Yes, if this is the main reason and not a byproduct or a back-up justification in case your main reason turns to be baseless. Also, you must make absolutely sure that you do not stop humanitarian abuse by others and start your own abuse in its place.

Q. Do you think it would ever be proper to attack a country, regime, or organization who was amassing stockpiles of WMD in order to prevent their usage?

A. To prevent their use, or is it to maintain your ability to blackmail them? And how exactly are you sure that you know they have them or, if they do, they are going to use them. Have we learned anything from the invasion of Iraq? Before that misguided invasion many people seemed to be certain that Iraq had stockpiles and it was about to use them, right?

The crisis of Iraqi artists:

"Of all the troubles we've been through, this period has been the hardest...In our own country, we now feel like strangers."

"Bush took the Stupidest Man of the Year Award for the second time in the history of the two-year-old awards won the Stupidity Award for Reckless Endangerment of the Planet...[But he] didn't take the category alone, however, and tied with British Prime Minister Tony Blair."

"What was interesting about that is that the decision was made overwhelmingly by Americans who voted," said Albert Nerenberg, of the Main Organization Revealing Obvious Numbskulls which runs the awards."

"Iraq and the conservative right in the United States figured heavily in the awards, which declared Fox's The O'Reilly Factor the Stupidest TV Show and gave Fox News the nod for Media Outlet Which Has Made the Greatest Contribution to Furthering Ignorance Worldwide.

Also, Stupidest Woman of the Year was U.S. soldier Pte. Lynndie England, who became notorious after pictures were published of her allegedly abusing Arab prisoners in a Baghdad military prison. She is facing charges."

If you thought that American voters are given a lousy choice between Bush and Kerry, meet the two possible choices for Afghanistan. What are the polls saying over there, Roya?

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Fuzzy math in Iraq

"Almost all of the money spent by the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq until late June, came from Iraqi sources, mainly oil revenues. This revelation helps explain one puzzle: the sluggish pace of reconstruction, which has yet to restore many essential services to prewar levels.
But it creates another puzzle: given that the authority was spending Iraq's money, why wasn't it more careful in its accounting?"

My Article in Al-Ahram Weekly. (The title is not mine. It seems that they did not like the one I suggested, so they came up with this thing).

Here is an excerpt:

"The US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 created a power vacuum which forced many Iraqis to turn to the only legitimate institution left: Islam. Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the highest Shia theological authority in Iraq, is now in a position to change the culture of political acquiescence that lasted for eight decades, which often resulted in dire consequences for his constituents..."

"The decision to divest from Israel was passed by a resounding majority of 431 to 62."

"Finally, one of the Christian denominations in the United States has acted in a principled and courageous way. Will this "most censorious decision ever embraced by any Christian denomination in the United States against Israel" just taken by the American Presbyterian Church now open the door for others to follow? Not likely in view of the severe constraints and fears most of the Christian churches have grown used to",  Said Middle East Realities. (Thanks, Merry)

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

"The result was 150 to 6 with 10 abstentions on the resolution aimed at dismantling the barrier, which has drawn international ire for cutting into West Bank land Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.  Voting "no" were the United States, Israel and Australia and the Pacific island states of Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.  All 25 European Union countries voted in support of the Palestinian-drafted measure after its Arab sponsors accepted a series of EU modifications over days of intense negotiations."

The supporters of Israel will, of course, say that this resolution is politically motivated and anti-Semitic.  Here is why:

1. It does not recognize Israel's right to build walls in other people's land.
2. It failed to have the support of Micronesia and Palau and the 10 other spineless that dared not reveal where they stood.

I am glad that Mr. Angelo de la Cruz is free.  President Arroyo made a painful decision and took a high risk.  She finally got it right.  Sticking to one's guns in a mission that was wrong from the beginning is not right whan the life of a human being is the price.

Of course, the kidnappers did not release him because they are "decent" people.  By their action, all causes aside, they established their indecent nature.  They just want to further their standing in any possible showdown in the future.  

The main point is that the guy is alive and his kids and wife are happy.

I am told that the proceedings of the discussion at the Commonwealth Club on Iraq will be broadcasted on KQED and the Commonwealth Club's national radio network of over 225 stations at 8 p.m. on July 30th.  If you still listen to the radio, you might find some of what was said very interesting.  Again, my co-panelists were:

ANDREW S. ROSS, Executive Foreign-National Editor, San Francisco Chronicle.
STEVEN J. BAKER, President, Monterey Institute of International Studies.
GLORIA DUFFY, President & CEO, The Commonwealth Club; Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense; Moderator.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Paul Bremer spent "more than $6bn of Iraqi funds in the last two months" of his job in Iraq. FOR WHAT?

"Officials from Congress's financial watchdog, the general accounting office, have pointed out meanwhile that while the CPA was keen to appropriate Iraqi oil revenues, it was much more reluctant to spend bilateral US aid funds. Nearly all of the $20bn in the DFI was spent or allocated by June 28 - but only 2% of the $18.4bn promised by the US for reconstruction was actually spent. According to White House figures, for example, and despite all the rhetoric about building a new Iraq, not a cent of America's own money had been spent on construction, healthcare, sanitation and water projects as of last month."

Sunday, July 18, 2004

"The rebels attack because the marines are there. The marines are there because the rebels attack. In an extraordinary dispatch, foreign correspondent of the year James Meek describes life in a Catch-22 world where a human life is valued at $500, the mercury rarely falls below 40 and the daily carnage goes largely unreported."

"Amnesty excludes killers of Americans: Negroponte [said]."

A couple of quick points:
1) does he mean that it is OK to give amnesty to killers of Iraqis? Perosnally, I believe that no killers should be granted amnesty, without regard to the nationality of the victim or the killer.

2) why is Negroponte the one who makes the first announcement about the scope of the Amnesty? Shouldn't he defer to the people who issued the amnesty to elaborate? Mr. Negroponte seems to act like Bremer in speaking on behalf of Iraq. If Allawi is not a puppet (only a hypothetical), he should send him a message saying that he acts as an ambassador, not an admnistrator of Iraq.

"Allawi is expected to announce soon the amnesty for insurgents. He has said this will not include murderers and kidnappers." That is of course does not refer to foreign contractors who might commit such acts. These guys are not subject to prosecution or in need for amnesty, the revelations of torture notwithstanding. But wait! Allawi's own body guards are foreign contractors themselves.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

"Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings...Iraq's Interior Minister, Falah al-Naqib, is said to have looked on and congratulated him when the job was done. Mr al-Naqib's office has issued a verbal denial...One of the witnesses claimed that before killing the prisoners Dr Allawi had told those around him that he wanted to send a clear message to the police on how to deal with insurgents."
"A former CIA officer, Vincent Cannisatraro, recently told The New Yorker: 'If you're asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London, the answer is yes, he does. He was a paid Mukhabarat [intelligence] agent for the Iraqis, and he was involved in dirty stuff.'"
There you have it: a new Iraq, a new Ba'ath, and a new wave of arbitrary killing for Iraqis.

"The Philippines worked Friday to meet the demands of kidnappers holding a Philippine truck driver, withdrawing 11 more troops from Iraq."
According to the report, the numbers of "multinational" forces, as we speak, are:
United States (138,000); Britain (8,530); Albania (70) ; Australia (850);  Azerbaijan (150); Bulgaria (455); Czech Rep. (92); Denmark (510);
Dominican Rep. (300); El Salvador (360); Estonia (55); Georgia (150); Hungary (300); Italy (2,700); Japan (1,000); Kazakhstan (25); Latvia (120); Lithuania (105); Macedonia (28); Moldova (25); Mongolia (180);
Netherlands (1,263); New Zealand (60); Nicaragua (115); Norway (150); Poland (2,400); Portugal (120); Romania (730); Singapore (200); Slovakia (105); South Korea (675); Thailand (460); Tonga (44);  Ukraine (1,700).

If you are riding next to an evangelical in a bus, here is what he/she might be reading:
"Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and a yawning chasm opened in the earth, stretching far and wide enough to swallow all of them. They tumbled in, howling and screeching, but their wailing was soon quashed and all was silent when the earth closed itself again...The riders not thrown,...leaped from their horses and tried to control them with the reins, but even as they struggled, their own flesh dissolved, their eyes melted and their tongues disintegrated. . . . Seconds later the same plague afflicted the horses, their flesh and eyes and tongues melting away, leaving grotesque skeletons standing, before they, too, rattled to the pavement."
Don't get me wrong.  I still believe that Christianity is a religion of peace, even though some Christians are not peace-loving as Jesus would want them to be.

Friday, July 16, 2004

It seems that American and British passports are not helpful for Israeli spies anymore.  They had to steal identities below everyone's radar.
But wait! According to a lawyer of one agent, "they were nothing more than decent, hard-working Israelis with squeaky clean records."
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark said:
"The New Zealand Government views the act carried out by the Israeli intelligence agents as not only utterly unacceptable but also a breach of New Zealand sovereignty and international law."
While she is right, it is sad that she only paid attention when her country's laws were broken.  Israel has been operating outside the law since day-one of its creation.

"I'm not trying to, you know, drop a little hint here. I'm just saying ... each day that comes along, new incidents that occurred in the past" are revealed and will need to be investigated, Warner said.Despite a number of hearings and media revelations in the months since the abuse scandal broke, questions linger about the extent of wrongdoing at U.S. military prisons, how it happened and who should be held accountable.Before the Senate goes into recess next week, Warner wants Bremer to testify at a public hearing.   I am going to e-mail him asking that he poses some questions to Bremer about the unaccounted for billions of Iraqi money, which re is responsible for.  There were more than one method by which he scr**ed the Iraqis. 

Last night's event at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco went very well.  The debate was excellent and the audience was first-rate.  Many of them told me afterward that they were very disappointed to learn that Iraq was bombed to the ground and about 14000 Iraqi civilians were killed and the only "progress" that was cited was the fixing of the sewage system in Iraq.  I had to correct their information: indeed, it was fixed in one city of Iraq, as the official claimed.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

There is a great virtue in the phrase, "I Don't Know."

"[Gov. Jeb] Bush took [a] question from 18-year-old Luana Marques, who asked, 'What are the angles on a three-four-five triangle?' The numbers refer to the proportions of the sides of such triangles.
Bush, hemming a bit, answered '125, 90, and whatever remains on 180.'
Bush and Marques both gave wrong answers. The correct answer was 90 degrees, 53.1 degrees and 36.9 degrees."

The student took the question from "Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which Bush has championed." Don't you think that these guys have to hold themselves to the same standards they ask other people to meet, or at least admit that they want their constituents to be better than those who govern them?

I might be asking too much because, in my academic experience, this is the way it often works. My advisor favors that graduate students know five languages, but he knows ten. So he is not asking others to do more than he has acomplished (I am not being a sycophant here, because he does not know about this site).

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

No loyalty among thives.

Sabah Nouri Ibrahim, a close associate of Chalabi, was convicted and sentenced to four and half years in jail for (what else) the "disappearance" of 36 billion Iraqi Dinars ($24,000,000 at the exchange rate during the time of the theft), when he was hand-picked by Chalabi and Bremer to serve as the chief of staff for the Iraqi Minister of Finance. (Arabic text), and here is an English report.

Ibrahim also ordered the arrest of 9 female employees in January accusing them of the theft and keeping them for up to 40 days in jail without a lawyer (the new and polished Iraq). He is also facing other charges of bribery and theft.

Some of you objected to my description of these politicians as thieves, charlatans and swindlers, who were brought to Iraq by the caring and loving Wolfowitz and Bremer and with the blessing of Bush, of course.

Other thives are immune for now, but cases a ready against them, should they think about flying solo.

A little over a month before the elections, warlords control 5 Afghan cities, including major cities like Hirat and Mazar-i Sharif.

If you are reading this, Roya, can you confirm. How does it look from where you stand?

If you know a brother, a nephew, a boot-shiner of anyone in the government of Allawi, or even someone who has a similar relation to the big names of the 1970's Ba'athis criminals, please tell them to look up their names on the list of the new Iraqi ambassadors to the capitals of the world. (Arabic text)

1. Faris al-Yawar (don't confuse him with Ghazi al-Yawar; he just happened to be his brother)
2. Ali Allawi (don't confuse him with Ayad Allawi; he just happened to be his cousin)
3. Baha' Shibib (don't confuse him with the thug, Talib Shibib, he just happened to be his brother)
4. Samir al-Sumayda'i (it is OK to confuse him with Bremer's boot-shiner; he is the same guy)

others might not be very familiar to you, but their names reveal some sad history and bring Iraqis many bad memories.

>"Anti-semitic attack hoax hits raw nerve

The story horrified a country already sensitive to the charge of growing anti-semitism.
A young mother with a baby daughter described how she had been robbed and physically and verbally assaulted while on a Paris suburban train.
As fellow passengers looked on passively, a gang of six supposedly chopped off her hair, slashed open her clothes with knives, knocked her child out of its pram, and shouted anti-semitic abuse, she alleged.
Coming 24 hours after Jacques Chirac launched a national campaign against the spread of anti-semitism, the president broke off his weekend to condemn the attack as "odious". The prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, called on France's citizens to be 'courageous' in the face of such 'intolerable' violence.
The woman's tale was headline news across Europe, but by yesterday it had taken a remarkable twist.
It became clear that not only was the attack not anti-semitic in any traditional sense (the victim was not a Jew) but also it was not an attack at all. The young woman confessed to having made it all up, authorities said.
Conscious of the case's extreme sensitivity, police had previously mobilised every resource to hunt for the attackers - but with no success. A thorough study of CCTV footage at the stations where they allegedly got on and got off found no trace of the six north African [i.e. Arab] teenagers."

The Europeans should read this Divine advice in the Qur'an: "O Believers! If an untrustworthy person come to you with news, verify it before you ignorantly hurt some people and regret it afterward" (Q., 49:6). It is very important to combat all forms of racism, but more important is making sure not to act like angry fools. If anything, this story and many similar ones would hurt the good cause of fighting racism.

"The U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (remember Bremer?) had controlled oil revenues from the end of the war until June 28. A report by accountancy firm KPMG has criticized the way the money was managed, saying there was potential for fraud and error.

Junichiro Koizumi, the Japanese prime minister, narrowly escaped a complete defeat in the elections. However, he was humiliated and weakened by the big losses suffered by his party. The war on Iraq was cited as a major contributor for the voters' disappointment in their, once, very popular PM.

Monday, July 12, 2004

The White House is investigating how it would postpone this year's election in the event of a terrorist attack, according to reports.

Mr. Bush would prefer a 2007 alternative date, while Mr. Cheney insists on 2008. Why change the system? Just skip one presidential elections and all will be back to normal. The article has an interesting twist to the situation: Democrats are against even thinking about the delay while the Republicans seem to be for it? Anyone knows why?

Let's pray that terrorists will not succeed in doing anything bad, and hope that our guys are good enough to thwart any plans before they take place this time, not just worry about how to delay the elections.


"Invading Iraq made America safer, President Bush said Monday, defending his war decision in the face of a Senate report debunking White House justifications for attacking Saddam Hussein's government."

"Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we were right to go into Iraq," the President said.

"The Philippines has announced it will withdraw its troops from Iraq as soon as possible to save a Filipino hostage threatened with death by militants."

I do not believe that this is the real reason. As we know, it is a long established tradition that states do not give in to terrorist demands. Ms. Arroyo is not different than other politicians. She is just using this line to justify her withdrawal from an enterprise that is not as good as it seemed a year ago. She will jump ship and look less bad in one stroke. Also, her friends in the White House will understand (will they?) her situation and let her quit.

It is sad that the fate of so many good people gets decided by terrorists on the one side and callous politicians on the other.

I will be part of a panel at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco this Thursday. The debate will be about Iraq, of course. If you are around and have $20 to spare, stop by at 6:00 p.m. I am told that other panelists are:

ABRAHAM SOFAER, Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution.
ANDREW S. ROSS, Executive Foreign-National Editor, San Francisco Chronicle.
STEVEN J. BAKER, President, Monterey Institute of International Studies.
DR. GLORIA DUFFY, President & CEO, The Commonwealth Club; Former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense; Moderator.

For reservations call 415/597-6705 or register online at:

Shirin, please check your e-mail before you reserve.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

"Iraq is made up of two nationalities, Kurds and Arabs," Massoud Barzani said in an interview Thursday.

You are wrong, Massoud. First, because Iraq is made up of one nationality, the Iraqis (at least until the crowd of Allawi came). The Iraqi Kurds are an Iraqi ethnicity.

Second, there are many other ethnicities in Iraq, not just the Arabs and the Kurds. No wonder that the Turkman of Kerkuk are very nervous when they are told about Massoud's dereams to rule their city. As far as he is concerned, they do not seem to exist. You see what I am thinking about here? It seems like the Zionist line about Palestine (a land without people).

Saturday, July 10, 2004

"U.S. military prosecutors have lodged new sex charges against a female soldier photographed holding an Iraqi prisoner on a leash in an abuse scandal that rattled the U.S. war effort in Iraq, officials say.
The new charges against Private Lynndie England, who faces a host of charges for allegedly abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, were unrelated to mistreatment of Iraqis, the officials said.
A statement issued on Friday in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, said she was charged late on Thursday with violating a rule that prohibits creation and possession of sexually explicit photographs and with four counts of indecent acts.
England had been due to face a military court in Fort Bragg on Monday, but her lawyers requested a delay, a military spokesman said.
England became pregnant in Iraq and media reports have said the father is one of her superiors, Specialist Charles Graner, who also has been charged in the abuse scandal.
Monday's hearing is the first stage of legal proceedings, known as an Article 32 investigation, to decide whether England should face trial.
The original charges state that she conspired to mistreat Iraqi prisoners, assaulted prisoners on at least three occasions, committed acts prejudicial to good order and committed an indecent act.
England, a member of the 372nd Military Police Company, was charged along with six other U.S. military police reservists with abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. One soldier has been sentenced to a year in prison after admitting abuse charges.
Lawyers for some of the accused MPs have said intelligence officers ordered the soldiers to 'soften up' prisoners for questioning. The Pentagon has denied accusations it sanctioned rough treatment to make people talk," according to a report by Reuters.

Friday, July 09, 2004

The International Court of Justice at The Hague gave Israel another opportunity to show that it is not concerned about the world and the U.S. another problem to convince the world that it is an honest friend of both sides in the conflict.

"Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breaches of international law; it is under an obligation to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the occupied Palestinian territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated... [It] has involved the confiscation and destruction of Palestinian land and resources, the disruption of the lives of thousands of protected civilians and the de facto annexation of large areas of territory" the court ruled.

Out of the 15 judges, only the American judge voted against the ruling.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Is Junichiro Koizumi, the Japanese prime minister, going to be the next victim of the war on Iraq?

Justin McCurry thinks it is almost certain. "Opinion polls published in this week's newspapers put support for the Koizumi cabinet at between 24 and 35 percent, the lowest levels since he became prime minister in April 2001. If the worst-case scenario is realised, by this time next week, the Lionheart of Japanese politics could be out of a job.

He was confident enough...to send Japanese troops to Iraq in the face of widespread opposition. His plans to incorporate them into a multinational force being put together by the Americans has fuelled suspicions that he is more interested in demonstrating his loyalty to Washington than in listening to voters at home."

Mr. Muhammad al-Baradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy
Agency, visited Israel pretending that he is even-handed when it comes to being tough on all nuclear suspects. The Israelis proved to him without any doubt that Israel has no nuclear weapons at all in the Tel Aviv Airport. Indeed, they gave him full access and told him that he can inspect the whole place anytime he wants.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

The Iraqi Minister of Human Rights told France Press that his government arrested a man with an Israeli passport and residence papers in France, Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy. Does anyone have a "clue" what the man's profession is and what he was doing in Iraq? (Arabic text)

"The Roman Catholic archdiocese of Oregon has become the first in the US to file for bankruptcy protection," but not because it spent too much on doing God's work. It is filing for bankruptcy because some of those who are in charge have filed for moral bankruptcy for decades and still were allowed to stay in their positions.

SO far, 4, 392 priests are held responsible for 10,600 incidents of sexual abuse. The Church has paid $572 million to settle claims.

Shame on them for violating the spirit of one of God's finest messages to humanity. Christianity and its followers deserve much better than these crooks.

The government of Iyad Allawi announced that it is imposing emergency law in Iraq.

I am not going to jump ahead and condemn this act. I believe that there is a reason for being tough for a while in order to stop the bleeding of innocent Iraqis. What is happening is worse than catastrophic.

However, I am afraid that the government will seize this opportunity to destroy the legitimate opposition in the name of security. Allawi could not have a better opportunity to do this job and clear the way for his future. Also, given the tradition of Iraqi emergency laws, the culture of oppression will take over. Let's remember that many of those who serve the new regime were in the ranks of the old guard. They might view this law as "do what you please just like the old days."

Here is what they would have to do immediately, since things got messy already:

1. Get all the weapons back from those who have no business carrying a weapon. All of these weapons belong to the state anyway, since no one was allowed to have anything but kitchen knives before April 9, 2003. Anyone who fails to surrender his weapon after a given time for collection would face a trial with serious consequences.

2. Get all non-Iraqis to leave Iraq within a week or show up to establish a legitimate reason for their being in Iraq.

3. Strong scrutiny on visas and entry of foreigners to Iraq. No tourist visas for six months.

4. Make sure to end the emergency law in a very short time, although the government wants and loves to have it for ever. And while it is in place, apply it only to places where trouble exists with preventive measures in areas with better security.

Some of these measures might be very hard, especially the weapons issue, which may lead to a showdown with many groups. But there cannot be any security with a puppet government and a population that possess not only machine guns and pistols, but also RPG's, hand-granades, mortars, and short range misiles.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Here is the realization of the goals behind the deconstruction of the security institutions in Iraq. What can constitute a better justification for the current de facto occupation than the begging of Iraqis themselves for the presence of foreign forces?

"Le Premier ministre irakien Iyad Allaoui a appelé lundi la Syrie et l'Iran à soutenir la présence de la Force multinationale (FMN) en Irak, au lendemain de l'appel commun syro-iranien au départ rapide des forces étrangères occupant le pays. 'Je pense que les frères présidents en Syrie et en Iran doivent réviser (leur position) dans l'intérêt de l'Irak. Au contraire, ils doivent soutenir la présence des forces multinationales', a déclaré M. Allaoui à la télévision satellitaire Al-Arabiya, basée à Dubai."

"Le départ en ce moment de ces forces multinationales pourrait signifier une catastrophe pour l'Irak...Leur départ alors que l'Irak n'a pas reconstitué les bases de ses forces armées et de sécurité constituera un grand danger."

Il, aussi bien, constituera un grand danger pour M. Allaoui, sans aucun doute!

"Mainz. Nach Recherchen des ARD Politikmagazins REPORT MAINZ verdichten sich die Hinweise, dass US-Soldaten in irakischen Gefängnissen sogar Kinder und Jugendliche misshandelt haben. Zwei Zeugen beschreiben in REPORT MAINZ unabhängig voneinander die unmenschliche Behandlung gefangener Minderjähriger im Skandalgefängnis Abu Ghreib.

Samuel Provance, ein Unteroffizier des US-Militärgeheimdienstes, der in Abu Ghreib stationiert war, berichtet in einem Exklusivinterview mit REPORT MAINZ, US-Verhörspezialisten hätten ein Mädchen in ihrer Zelle bedrängt. Militärpolizei sei erst eingeschritten, als die 15 bis 16 Jährige zum Teil entkleidet war." (Danke, Thorsten)

Jack Chang of the Contra Costa Times is the only newspaper reporter I grant a phone interview -- after some past disappointments with other reporters. He does not twist the words or, worse, make up a whole statement and attribute it to the interviewee. Here is his latest article on Iraq with a couple of quotes from your humble friend.

For those of you who hate to create accounts, here is part of the article:

At the end of a dramatic week in their native country's history, three East Bay Iraqi-Americans said they were trying to be optimistic about the future of their homeland although the bloody events of the past 15 months have rarely rewarded optimism.

Iraqi-American Abbas Kadhim of Albany said the new U.S.-appointed Iraqi government "deserves a chance" and "can gain legitimacy by how it acts" even though it was not chosen by the Iraqi people.

Talking through the subject, however, Kadhim turned more skeptical.

"As an Iraqi, I would love to be optimistic, but how I see things on the ground, I don't see any good outcome," said the 38-year-old UC Berkeley graduate student who fled Iraq in the mid-1990s. "The prime minister is no better than Saddam. They started their careers together."
Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi is a former Baath Party official closely linked to the CIA.
"This government came into being without the legitimacy of elections or any of the democratic processes they talk about. If they blow it and act like puppets, they will not have any legitimacy."

Pleasanton resident Hikmat Fikrat, who is a Kurd, said he is waiting to see whether the interim government will allow Kurds of northern Iraq to form a "federated state" that will enjoy some autonomy from Baghdad.

Pleasanton resident Emanuel Ashoo, 73, had the highest hopes for the new government.
"It's a step in the right direction," he said. "The Iraqis sooner or later will have their own leaders. Now, it is limited."

Ashoo and Kadhim strongly opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq while Fikrat supported it.

"Nobody likes to see foreign troops on their land, and the U.S. troops have become a big cause of the violence," Kadhim said.

Two of the Iraqi-Americans interviewed [Fikrat and Kadhim] said they were glad to see ousted dictator Saddam Hussein put on trial though Kadhim held a dim view of the court's ability to hold a fair, professional trial.

If you have not done it by now, you should visit the website for the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. Among other things, there is a biography of Mr. Negroponte (one more reason to dislike Yale).

There is also a link to "Hi Magazine". I am not kidding. Why would a U.S. embassy make a link to the worst piece of trash there is? Here is the book recommendation by Hi Magazine to the Arab reader:

NIGHTTIME IS MY TIME, by Mary Higgins Clark
ANGELS & DEMONS, by Dan Brown
THE SOUTH BEACH DIET, by Arthur Agatston
TRUMP: How to Get Rich, by Donald J. Trump

There is also an article about the Cowboy as a poet.

The conventional wisdom in the Middle East is that a U.S. embassy is dangerous for the national interests of the hosting country. In Iraq's case, I think that the presence of a U.S. embassy is dangerous for the taste of Iraqis. It is clear that, by posting a link, the Embassy endorses the contents of this trashy magazine.

Did one woman's obsession take America to war?

A profile of another so-called "Middle East expert":

"She is a conspiracy theorist whose political conceits have consistently been proved wrong. So why were Bush and his aides so keen to swallow Laurie Mylroie's theories on Saddam and terrorism? By Peter Bergen."

"A Christian charity has accused the coalition authority in Iraq of failing to account for up to US$20 billion of oil revenues which should have been spent on relief and reconstruction projects.
At the same time, Liberal Democrat politicians in the UK are demanding an investigation into the way the US-led administration in Baghdad has handled Iraq's oil revenues. The coalition is obliged to pay all oil revenues into the Development Fund for Iraq, but according to Liberal Democrat figures, the fund could be short by as much as US$3.7 billion.
Christian Aid, in a report yesterday, claims that the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority, which hands over power to an interim administration in Iraq this week, is in flagrant breach of the UN security council resolution which gave it control of the country's oil revenues.
Resolution 1483, passed in May of last year, stated that the money should be spent in the interests of the Iraqi people and independently audited, but an auditor was appointed only in April.
The charity quoted an anonymous UN diplomat as saying: "We only have the total amounts and movements in and out of the development fund. We have absolutely no knowledge of what purposes they are for and if these are consistent with the security council resolution."
Read more.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Army Stage-Managed Fall of Hussein Statue:

"As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel — not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images — who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.
After the colonel — who was not named in the report — selected the statue as a "target of opportunity," the psychological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, according to an account by a unit member.
But Marines had draped an American flag over the statue's face.
'God bless them, but we were thinking … that this was just bad news,' the member of the psychological unit said. 'We didn't want to look like an occupation force, and some of the Iraqis were saying, 'No, we want an Iraqi flag!'
Someone produced an Iraqi flag, and a sergeant in the psychological operations unit quickly replaced the American flag.
Ultimately, a Marine recovery vehicle toppled the statue with a chain, but the effort appeared to be Iraqi-inspired because the psychological team had managed to pack the vehicle with cheering Iraqi children."

OK. At this point, you are supposed to say, "Wow... I am shocked."

Of course, that is not to say that Iraqis would not want the statue down. It was the vice of impatience on the part of the occupiers that spoiled the way history will remember them. But who cares about history anyway? We all will be dead by then, as G.W. Bush told Bob Woodward.

The Bush administration has been speaking about progress in Iraq everyday, including the reporting of progress in the fixing of the Iraqi infrastructure that was left for the looting and burning and would not have been in need to fix anyway.

But this is not the question. The real point is the possibility of such reported progress being real in light of the fact that only 2% of the reconstruction fund has been spent.

"The checks total $366 million of the amount spent through June 22, according to a report the White House budget office released Friday." The reconstruction money is $18.4 billion. That leaves over $18 billion untouched.

If that is not enough, "Patrick Clawson, a former World Bank official and now deputy director of the bipartisan Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the slow spending rate was not surprising. Besides ungainly federal spending procedures, the sluggishness was typical for undeveloped countries that have limited abilities to absorb cash."

So it is the fault of Iraq that 92% of the money never found its way where it was supposed to go -- to make progress. For those who don't know him, Mr. Clawson has been the volunteer defender of Mr. Bush on al-Jazeera for the past three years or so. It is interesting that a "bipartisan Washington Institute" could not find a less partisan person to direct its work.

Part of the White House refutation of the figures has to do with claiming that there is other spending on contracts, but the money will not go out "until substantial work has been done." Which brings me to my initial point: How can $366 can make any progress, much less real progress, in a country that suffered as much as Iraq did during the war and its aftermath?

The Arab expression says, "If someone claims to have an intellect, tell him an absurd story; if he believes you, you will know that his claim is false."

Friday, July 02, 2004

Here are my impressions about the theater of the absurd that was wrongfully dignified as a court appearance for Saddam.

First, I must say that Saddam deserves no sympathy from anyone.

However, the choices to deal with him are two: give him a real trial or kill him right away and save money and time, like he used to do to others. The way this is going so far is that they will discredit the law by calling this farce a trial.

In other words, we will witness a mix of the two suggestions I gave above. I agree with Nejmidean's comment. The judge was intimidated by Saddam and came across as a little kid receiving a lecture from a master.

You may say many things about Saddam, but he is not an easy man to debate. The court and its procedure had many holes one can drive a truck through each of them. Thanks to the judge's panic, Saddam was given a chance to steer the show to his advantage. If this is going to be the way the trial will proceed, it would be very hard to convict the guy on the basis of the law. As I said, in such case it would be better to execute him now and avoid cheapening the concept of a trial.

Saddam needs an eloquent and experienced judge, not some lad like the one we saw.

Here is part of the exchange between Saddam and the poor kid the appointed to confront him.

I must say that it looks much worse in the original (Arabic), which makes me suggest a competent interpreter as well. The guy they hired did a very clumsy job.

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