Monday, January 31, 2005

For those who took interest in the characterization of Wahhabis. Don't go to dictionaries or soldiers who spent a few weeks in a city they don't even speak its language. Also don't rely on pseudo-experts.
I was going to write about the topic, but remembered that the best on it has already been written. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, here is a passage from, Wahhabism: A Critical Essay, by Prof. Hamid Algar (my dissertation advisor). He does not read my blog, so there is no hidden agenda!

"...Wahhabism is an entirely specific phenomenon, calling for recognition as a separate school of thought or even a sect of its own. Sometimes the Wahhabis are characterized, particularly by non-Muslim observers searching for a brief description, as "extreme" or as "conservative" Sunnis, with adjectives such as "stern" or "austere" added for good measure. It has, however, been observed by knowledgeable Sunnis since the earliest times that the Wahhabis do not count as part of the Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a, for almost all the practices, traditions and beliefs denounced by Muhammed b. `Abd al-Wahhab have been historically integral to Sunni Islam., enshrined in a vast body of literature and accepted by the great majority of Muslims. Precisely for that reason, many of the `ulema contemporary with the first emergence of Wahhabism denounced its followers as standing outside the pale of Ahl al-Sunna wa al-Jama`a... Our characterization of Wahhabis as non-Sunni is therefore above all a historical clarification; it has in itself no polemical purpose, if only because for the present writer Sunnism is but one representation and interpretation of Islam." pp. 2-3.

Here is what Iraqis expect the new government to find out:

"The U.S. occupation authority in Iraq was unable to keep track of nearly $9 billion it transferred to government ministries, which lacked financial controls, security, communications and adequate staff, an inspector general has found."

Yesterday, I saw a documentary about poverty in southern Iraq that cuts to the bone.

"CPA staff learned that 8,206 guards were on the payroll at one ministry, but only 602 could be accounted for, the report said. At another ministry, U.S. officials found 1,417 guards on the payroll but could only confirm 642."

"The official who led the CPA, L. Paul Bremer III, submitted a blistering, written reply to the findings, saying the report had 'many misconceptions and inaccuracies,' and lacked professional judgment."

Actually, it would be nice if he issued a report saying where this mone went.

"The inspector general's report rejected Bremer's criticism. It concluded that despite the war, 'We believe the CPA management of Iraq's national budget process and oversight of Iraqi funds was burdened by severe inefficiencies and poor management,'" for which Mr. Bremer received the that medal of "freedom" from Mr. Bush.

This word "freedom" starts to stink more every time the President uses it.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The best thing that came out of the Iraqi elections so far, was the fact that we did not see a lot of blood. I think less than 20 innocent Iraqis lost their lives. Too many, but thank God, it was not many more! I was watching all night hoping that the terrorists don't succeed in turning their threats into reality. My whole family and many friends were at voting centers, but I also was praying for all other Iraqis.

The turn-out was very good whether 72% or 60%. Iraqis once again show that death is not what can scare them.

From the comments many readers posted over the night, it seems that those who consider the elections as an end in and of themselves, already began dancing. This is not strange: they spent 2 years gasping for anything that seems to work. Remember, there are 10 days before the results are announced (why wait 10 days? Counting will be completed by the end of tomorrow).

Also, the test of the elections does not involve getting people to vote. It is really about what these elections are going to produce. The success can be declared when:

1. a decent government is formed, ending the current corruption.
2. security is established.
3. services are provided.
4. a date is set for the withdrawal of the occupation.
5. a constitution is ratified.

That is what Iraqis were saying when asked yesterday what they expect from the new government. The supporters of symbolism had their wonderful day yesterday. Now it is the turn of the supporters of substance to wait for theirs.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Some answers to john's questions:

What happens to the Presidential Council after they have picked the PM? Do they then have any executive power or do they just stay in the clouds? They apparently have the power to dismiss the PM.

The TAL gives a vague role for the Presidency Council: "to represent the sovereignty of Iraq and oversee the higher affairs of the country."

Presidency Council is also given a veto, like the one in the U.S.: They "may veto any legislation passed by the National Assembly, on condition that this be done within fifteen days after the Presidency Council is notified by the president of the National Assembly of the passage of such legislation. In the event of a veto, the legislation shall be returned to the National Assembly, which has the right to pass the legislation again by a two-thirds majority not subject to veto within a period not to exceed thirty days." ( the U.S. president has 10 days. The Presidency Council does not have the protection against the adjournment set up, for those who know the U.S. system.)

The Presidency Council has some oversight concerning the negotiation of treaties, and recommending their ratification by the Assembly, but the actual negotiation is done at the Cabinet level.

The Presidency Council also has the ceremonial title of the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraq armed forces. But the operational tasks reside with the Cabinet and the Military Commanders.

The Presidential Council also appoints the Presiding Judge and members of the Federal Supreme Court.

To my knowledge, only the National Assembly can dismiss the prime minister.

How's the PM meant to govern, is it on the Westminister model where he picks his Cabinet and he and they must maintain a majority in the House? Won't this mean a coalition government from the start? My question is does the Presidency have any executive role after the Government is formed, eg does it have any veto power over legislation or Cabinet decisions? In other word, who is going to be more important, President or PM?

Upon nomination, he shall seek a vote of confidence from the Assembly. With the fragmentation of Iraqi political groups right now, the Council of Ministers must get the approval of the majority of political groups. This means that he has to include ministers from different groups (It is set to be very close to the Israeli system, like many things in Iraq these days, starting with the election law).

What you will have in Iraq is called "proportional representation", or a PR system. Depending on the level of civility, you can have a harmony or a group of people who sit on the Council of Ministers, not talking to one another.

I believe different countries have different models. According to some reports many Iraqis believe they are voting for a President, US style.

They are wrong. Their vote for a president, or a Prime minister, is indirect. Although this is true in the U.S., with the Electoral College, U.S. voters de facto vote directly for the president and vice president. There is no way to tell who will be the president, vice presidents or prime minister after the announcement of the results in the Iraqi elections. You have to wait for the debates -- and deals -- in the Assembly.

Someone asked, "Who will write the Constitution of Iraq?" The TAL says,

"The National Assembly shall write a draft of the permanent constitution of Iraq. This Assembly shall carry out this responsibility in part by encouraging debate on the constitution through regular general public meetings in all parts of Iraq and through the media, and receiving proposals from the citizens of Iraq as it writes the constitution."

Most likely, a group of legal experts will propose a draft and the Assembly will work on it until a final version is arrived at. The TAL does not limit who can contribute to the process, so long as the final approval is given by the Assembly.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Many readers asked me to explain what this Iraqi election is all about. Here is a quick answer:

Iraqis, including those in the Diaspora, will vote in the election of the National Assembly. This is a 275 seat parliament representing the entire country. It is a one-district election with voters from all parts of Iraq get to choose one list per voter -- there are more than 100 lists. Each list has any number of candidates from 12 to 275.

At the end of the process, the total number of Iraqi votes will be divided by 275 to determine how many votes each seat is worthy of. Then each list will be allocated a number of seats on the basis of votes it received.

Another election, Iraqis, inside Iraq only, will participate in, is the local (governorate level) elections, to choose local officials and elected offices.

There is a third election for those Iraqis in the province of Kurdistan. In addition to the two elections above, they will also choose their own officials for the government of Kurdistan, as an autonomous province.

The new Assembly will select a president and two vice presidents. These three officials will, unanimously, nominate a prime minister and ask the assembly for a vote of confidence. If he has it, the prime minister will form a cabinet and seek a vote of confidence from the assembly.

This is a one-year government that is supposed to have two major tasks: 1) handle the day-to-day business of the Iraqi governmental affairs and 2) most importantly, choose the people who will write the constitution, by a deadline no later than September 2005 and present it to the Iraqi people for ratification.

If a constitution is adopted, then a new "constitutional" elections will be held by the end of 2005. If no constitution is ratified, for any reason -- there are many -- then this government will expire at the end of 2005 and a new government, like this one is elected again for the same purposes.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

My new article on the Iraqi voter registration the Diaspora:

Democracy ought to be a transparent process. But Iraq is turning gradually to the politics of secrecy and the economics of cash transactions. The new Iraq is a state of veiled police, veiled politicians and veiled citizens. The only visible faces are those of terrorists and the faces of con artists in and out of the ranks of government. more...

The invasion of Iraq was a crime of gigantic proportions, for which politicians, the media and the public share responsibility," writes Scott Ritter.

"The White House's acknowledgement last month that the United States has formally ended its search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq brought to a close the most calamitous international deception of modern times."

More repugnant than the 'crime' is the fact that the perpetrators got away with it.

OK, the Iraqi elections are four days away. My phone did not stop ringing yesterday and today. I only agreed to give one interview for Saturday. Here are the most important reasons things did not work out:

1. Many Radio and TV stations wanted taped interviews. Because of some bitter experiences in the past, I never do taped interviews. They speak with you for an hour on camera and finally choose one sentence (normally the one you don't remember that you ever said it).

2. A radio producer told me he had an "optimist" and he is looking for a "pessimist". I said I am not a pessimist; but if he can go with a "realist", I may be able to help. He did not call again. Maybe he found a pessimist.

3. A call from Fox news. I said that I don't like the limousine company they use. Also, their interviewers only allow you to speak when they agree with what you say. Otherwise, they just let the other guy/girl "elaborate".

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

"Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous. Any man who founds his state on mercenaries can never be safe or secure, because they are disunited, ambitious, undisciplined and untrustworthy -- bold fellows among their friends, but cowardly in the face of the enemy; they have no fear of God, nor loyalty to men... in peace you are at their mercy, and in war at the mercy of your enemies. The reason is that they have no other passions or incentives to hold the field, except their desire for a bit of money, and that is not enough to make them die for you... if they are [skilled soldiers], they cannot be trusted, because they will always be trying to increase their own authority, either by attacking you, their employer, or by oppressing people with whom you have no quarrel."
Machiavelli, The Prince.

Iraqi opposition groups have collected the signatures of one million Iraqis opposed to the elections scheduled for January 30, announced Abd al-Amir al-Rikabi, secretary general of the preparatory committee of the Independent Iraqi National Constituent Assembly.

"The one million signatures covered Iraqis of all walks of life and of all sects and communities from north to south Iraq," he said in a press conference in the Lebanese capital Beirut. The campaign to collect the signatures began on November 13, 2004.
(Thanks, Shirin)

This is meaningless, in my opinion. Because, according to the voting registration, there are 14 million Iraqis who are for the election. The opponents of the election are 1 to 14, or 7% (even if all of the the 1 million are valid signatures -- while all of the 14 millions are, by definition, valid signatures).

While it is unfortunate that the elections were poorly designed and will probably change nothing on the ground (occupation, violence, lack of services, etc.), they must be done, because that is what the majority of Iraqis want. Those who wanted to delay the date, I always argued, have the weaker position in the debate.

“I don’t like impugning anyone’s integrity, but I really don’t like being lied to... Repeatedly, flagrantly, intentionally,” Dayton said.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The Policemen of Najaf threatened to take control of voting centers if the government fails to solve their crisis.

They have been working without pay since August of last year (that is six months for many of them). I wrote about this problem a while back and received many e-mails from people who could not believe it. Well, everything in Iraq is unbelievable these days.

The chief of police in Najaf was quoted as saying, "this is the wrong thing to do. They have to remain in order."

That is nice. But it would be even nicer if the government does the right thing and pays these people. It is only $150 a month and they have families to feed, don't they?

I wonder if the tens of thousands of mercenaries, each one is making up to $1000 a day, have their salaries held up for six months as well.

Members of Congress speculate about Iraq. There you have it, from your elected officials on both sides:

"We just can't get any of this done fast enough so that the Iraqis are fighting for their own government. The best chance of success is when the Iraqis see the government as their own." — Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev.

"Soon, we will move to an Iraqi government. Then, the question for America is one: how do we define success in Iraq; and two: whether we learn from our miscalculations in Iraq and whether that will affect our future nation-building efforts." — Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

"Because we moved so quickly into Baghdad, we didn't anticipate some of the problems we're seeing now. There probably should have been a little more thought about what the insurgents would do to try to impede our efforts," — Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.

"The expectation was that this would not be that difficult. It's been pretty clear that our assumptions didn't materialize. The combat mission worked. But since then, nothing's worked." — Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb

"There's a general level of apprehension and concern (among the public). It's not a concern that we're going to lose this thing. It's a concern that we're having casualties on a regular basis." — Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich.

"It was my hope that there was a post-invasion strategy in place, and maybe there was one. In defense of Secretary (Donald H.) Rumsfeld, we're dealing with evil fanatics. Maybe there's a good reason why a postinvasion strategy appears to be flawed." — Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C.

"We are, I think, going in the right direction. But we do have to address the issue of sustaining the National Guard, sustaining the Reserve." — Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

"It's hard to see a way out of this thing. This is the most frustrated I've ever been." — Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa.

"We can't cut and run but on the other side. We can't linger. To call postwar Iraq a strategy is a reach. There have been continual mistakes that have undermined our credibility. The goal here shouldn't be to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people." — Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass.

"We're getting a little weary." — Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y.

Until recently, it was erroneously thought that allowing Iraqi exiles to vote will help Allawi and his party.

The number of Iraqis in Iran, who registered their names to vote, are more than those in the U.S. and Britain combined. Guess where these votes will go.

In the US, just 16,794 of an estimated 234,000 Iraqi expatriates have registered - about 7% of the total in the country.

In comparison, in Iran 41,088 Iraqi expatriates have registered - an estimated 51% of the 81,000 in the country.

The voting operation in Iran has also come under criticism: one of Iraq main Shiite parties, the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq, has complained of a lack of polling stations set up by the IOM.

SCIRI has complained that at least 40,000 Iraqis will have no access to the vote given the absence of polling centres in the cities of Isfahan, Shiraz, Yazd and the western province of Ilam.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

My esteemed reader, Noah, asked me the following:

In a recent interview with Charle Rose, Ritchard Perl said that the rise of Shia classic Najaf school in Iraq would be a threat to the Iranian Shia religious regime on the long run.. He added that it was a mistake that was committed by former adminstrations for not realizing this.

Do you agree on this?
Can you please post this issue with some details?"

Dear Noah,

I do not know when Mr. Perl said this (it depends on the word "recent").

But Mr. Perl is not inventing anything here. I said this on may 8, 2003 -- only a month after the invasion.

Here is a paragraph:

"With the fall of Saddam, there's going to be a revival of the Hawza in Najaf, and the balance of power will shift back there over the next few years ... The rivalry between Najaf and Iran will resume, and it's going to make the Iranian hard-liners very nervous," said Abbas Kadhim, a Najaf native who fled the city after a failed Shia uprising in 1991. He now teaches Islamic studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

Actually, I was teaching Arabic at UCB at that time, which is part of the Islamic Stidies and Arabic Literature programs.

"Of course, we think about leaving Iraq. There is no point in staying there," Said one official in the British Foreign Office.

Well, there has never been a point in being there in the first place. But, at least some people started seeing the light. It's better late than never.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Eid Mubarak !!!

Baseless accusation of the month:

"...and forcing poor students to read it."

qareeb wa ba'eed,

Where did you get this idea from? When did I ever force anyone to read my site?
The only students I know who are asked to read my site are taking an honors course in a University I never visited, and they are asked by a professor I never met. As a teacher, I only require students to attend my class, which they choose to enroll in and pay for.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

There is one important component in every war plan. It is called, an "exit strategy".

It is evident now that the plan for the invasion of Iraq was missing this component. After approximately two years of this "catastrophic success", a viable exit strategy has not been developed by the Administration. Indeed, it is getting so frustrating to everyone that now we have think-tanks volunteer half-cooked exit strategies.

Here is one. If you have one, please use the Comment section to share it with them.

"You all don't do anything except parrot, 'We've trained 120,000 forces,'" Mr. Biden said [to Ms. Rice]. "So I go home and people ask me, 'Why are we still there?'"

For those asking me to vote, I recommend this article.

"The identities of many of the candidates haven't been publicly disclosed and are likely to remain secret until after election day, an illustration of the difficulty in mounting an election amid war...Party platforms also seem to be kept secret...A recent survey indicates that most Iraqi voters are unaware of the party lists' political platforms."

This reminds me of a story from Harry S. Truman's biography (I am quoting from memory here).

When he ran for the Legislature, he gave a one-sentence speech at a campaign rally: "I hope you will vote for me."
A woman from the audience replied: "For what?"

Farid Ayar, a member of Iraq's Independent Election Commission, says he's urging Iraq's political parties to disclose all of their candidates' names. "We ask the parties continuously to do this because most voters want to know who the candidates are. But it's not something that's required."

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Whenever the Bush administration is pressed to show "progress", they brag about the training of Iraqi forces. But whenever they are asked to set a date for withdrawal, they cite the sorry state of the Iraqi forces.

The Iraqi security forces Ms. Rice is talking about were just demonstrating two days ago, threatening to turn against the government because many of them did not get their pay (a lousy $150/month) since August of last year.

Here is part of the hearing.

When you elect a government, you own its madness.

For those who think that the difference between Iraq and Iran is the last letter in their respective names, think again.

After reading the first article, it might be interesting to know that, according to Az-Zaman newspaper, scores of Iraqi lawyers held a meeting this week to ask the Iraqi government and the Occupation to grant a permanent resident status to Mujahedin-e-Khalq and ignore the U.S. Department of State's classification of this organization as a terrorist group.

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

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Algeria announced that100,000 of its citizens lost their lives in the civil war after the 1991 elections, which was cancelled because the Islamic Front won.

Egypt's legislature will debate next week a bill requiring that the head of Al-Azhar is elected.

Al-Azhar was established in 971 A.D. by the Fatimids as a seminary teaching Isma'ili version of Shi'ism. It was named after the daughter of the Prophet, Fatima al-Zahra'a, peace be upon them(azhar is the masculine form of zahra'a). With time, it became one of the highest Sunni centers of religious learning. But, unlike the Shi'i centers today (the Hawzas), which are politically independent, Al-Azhar has been controlled by the Egyptian government which appoints its leaders and meddles in its affairs.

If passed, the new leader of Al-Azhar will be elected by his peers and he will serve for life. He will have similar protection to that enjoyed by the members of the legislature and no political institution will have the power to question or dismiss him.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Barbarism in the name of democracy.

"This is tantamount to establishing a military camp around the Great Pyramid in Egypt or around Stonehenge in Britain," says the report, which has been seen by the Guardian.

"... a 2,600-year-old brick pavement crushed by military vehicles, archaeological fragments scattered across the site, and trenches driven into ancient deposits."

And consider this article:

"To paraphrase Lord Byron's lament about the Parthenon: Quod non fecerunt Baathi, hoc fecerunt Americani Polonique (what the Ba'athists did not [destroy], the Americans and Poles did)." (Thanks, Professor R.)

Dr. Muhammed Tantawi, the highest authority in al-Azhar was quoted as saying that what is happening in Iraq -- killing, destruction and bombing -- has nothing to do with Jihad.

Now that we cleared the position of the highest Muslim clergy (Shi'a and Sunnis), we need a fatwa from the U.S. that what the occupation is doing -- killing, destruction and bombing -- has nothing to do with democracy.

A U.S. military judge convicted an Army sergeant of murder Friday for the alleged mercy-killing of a severely injured Iraqi teenager, and sentenced him to a year's imprisonment.

Friday, January 14, 2005

The director of the elections commission in Musol disappeared after spending 252 million Iraqi Dinars ($160,000) on fake expenses. Mosul is Iraq's third largest city and it is one of the cities calling to delay the elections.

US Army Specialist Charles Graner was convicted.

Meanwhile, U.S. and Sudan share the first prize of top human rights violators in 2004.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said in its annual report of human rights developments in 60 countries:

"When most governments breach international human rights and humanitarian law, they commit a violation...When a government as dominant and influential as the United States openly defies that law and seeks to justify its defiance, it also undermines the law itself and invites others to do the same."

"By ignoring human rights standards in its reaction to September 11, the Bush administration has made it easier for governments around the world to cite the U.S. example as an excuse to ignore human rights. Egypt has defended a decision to renew its problematic “emergency law” by referring to U.S. anti-terror legislation. The Malaysian government justifies detention without trial by invoking Guantلnamo. Russia cites Abu Ghraib to blame abuses in Chechnya solely on low-level soldiers. Cuba now claims the Bush administration had “no moral authority to accuse” it of human rights violations."

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Thanks, Tom. It's all fixed now. The whole exchange is off the page. Let's see if this will make things better.

My article in today's issue of Al-Ahram Weekly:

Beside the diehard ideology of the former Baathists in the government, re-Baathification is driven by the need to appease some regional players. Jordan was forcibly weaned off the benefits it used to enjoy courtesy of its alliance with the Baath regime and at the expense of the Iraqi people. A neo-Baathist regime could reinstate the good old days when oil used to flow free of charge or else for the cost of transportation. Others, including Saudi Arabia, are nervous about the idea of an Iraq that grants rights to its Shia population...

The last song of Colin Powell:

"US troops will begin leaving Iraq this year as the Iraqi army, national guard and police force take on a larger security role."

"But I cannot give you a timeline when they will all be home," he said during what could be the last statement in his miserable political career.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Different reactions to the news that the U. S. "has stopped searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, according to Intelligence officials."

What is yours?

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

"Prime Minister Ayad Allawi said Tuesday that some areas of Iraq will probably be too unsafe to take part in the Jan. 30 elections, his first public acknowledgment that the government would not be able to exert control in key areas controlled by insurgents."

That is why P.M. Iyad Allawi was making walking tours in all other areas that are not to be called "probably too unsafe". Indeed, he often walks there late at night with his driver and one bodyguard, talking to people and solving their "occasional and simple" problems. They, in turn, often thank him for making their lives so delightful and prosperous. (The 1001 Nights, VII, p. 127)

More material for those who want to study the occupation of Iraq.

Monday, January 10, 2005

David Brooks is a neo-conservative columnist who was so much in support of the war, he almost wanted to enlist in the military. Then he remembered that people could die in a war. So , like almost all the war-lovers in the Bush Administration, he decided to "support the troops" from a safe place.

He has been up and down in spirit depending on the way the war goes. Normally he has one definitive opinion at every given time, but he is split here into three minds.

The first phase is about the current situation. It doesn't look good. "Nearly everybody agrees that the momentum is with the insurgents these days. Chaos is spreading," he writes.

The second phase is about a dream he had in the afternoon. There is one correct statement though: "One of the ideas we have got to purge from our heads is the notion that this is a conflict between secular modernizers (the good guys) and medieval religious zealots. In Iraq, the most effective advocates for democracy are precisely the traditional [Shi'i] Muslim leaders."

The third phase is the works. There, you will find the traditional practice of false optimism and the kicking of nasty cans down the road.

Again, there is one part in this section that captures the attention:

"... And the strange thing is that even with our 150,000-odd troops fighting heroically around the country, the destiny of Iraq is largely out of our hands. The U.S. tried* to hand a new Iraq back to the Iraqis. We failed."

* Although I am not convinced that the Occupation tried, as he claims.

When power lacks ethics and good leadership, all you have is absolute disgrace.

Ted Williams Head
By Jack Cvar

What has happened to my world?
Has everyone lost their mind?
Well, Ted Williams lost his head.
But, the rest of us lost the game.
[I'm not talking baseball].

Ted Williams is Dead.
Then they cut off his head.
They shaved it bald.
Drilled it full of holes,
chilled it completely cold,
solid as a stone.

They dropped that sphere
not once or thrice,
but a cracking ten
just to be even.
Where is Yogi Berra
when you need him?

In the same newspaper
many accounts,
a half dozen articles
all stood out.
From human embrio cells
mixed with rabbit genes,
to miniature repair robots
suturing up synapse seams.

What a menagerie
of possibilities.
Doctor Moreau has nothing on us.
The shape of things to come is:
The dog faced boy.
Human mother gives birth to litter of cats.
A wonderful playground,
with us as toys.
Fantastic Alchemy,
eye of newt,
wing of bat,
a little mandrake root,
throw that in the pot.
Along with Ted's
severed head.
Don't forget,
the baseball cap!


I was about to comment on this article by Seale in more detail, but for now here are a few remarks:

1. He is absolutely right on what is wrong in Iraq.

2. He is wrong in asking to trust the U.N. on up to $50 billion to reconstruct Iraq. I would not trust them with as little as $30. Why not give the money to an elected Iraqi government -- on reimbursement basis? They do the projects, on prior agreements, and the U.S. pays the bill. SO far there is an $18 billion sitting in the bank (well, some of it was wasted already on other things, which are unrelated to reconstruction.)

3. He is dead wrong in calling for "a system in which posts and power in a new Iraq are shared equitably between the communities, on the model of the National Pact which Lebanon adopted in 1943 to satisfy the aspirations of Muslims and Christians."
It was this same system that took Lebanon to the Civil War (1975-1989), and it is still the system to blame for its governmental corruption. Additionally, Iraq is not Lebanon.

4. He is equally dead wrong in saying that "Iraq's neighbors ...could even offer to send peace-keeping troops into Iraq to replace American and British forces." He must have been on a hunting trip when this issue was debated and rejected by all Iraqis.

In other words, Seale provides a good diagnosis and a bad prescription!

My new reader, Poet, seems to be unable to tell the difference between pulling odd words from the Princeton GRE Manual and good writing. Good writing is about making sense, not just using odd words and convoluted phrases.

Writing in circles is the style of those who hope that readers will give them the benefit of the doubt and think they have something to say.

Consider this quote from Poet (this is his entire posting):

"If one would not do a thing for anything other than his own personal benfit [sic]. it befuddles him how someone else could either."

The first part is not a sentence, and the second part is vague and poorly written. The word "befuddles" is planted there to divert the attention from the writer's lack of skill. Here is how a good writer would express the same idea:

"Those who act only out of self-interest become confused upon seeing someone acting to benefit others."

Please use the "Comment" section to show Poet how excellent writers express the same idea.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

I normally don't write when I am boiling with anger. But this time I will make an exception. I have a book review to write, so I need to let some steam off.

I am bothered by some people who write comments and make false accusations about this site. I will use the last example from "boyintheworld" -- great! Now I am reduced to the level of responding to boys!.

Boy claims that I do not denounce those who kill Iraqi civilians. In my articles and on this site, I call such people "terrorists." I don't know how I can denounce them any stronger.

I even wrote against some Shi'i leaders, not to play in anyone's hands, but because I don't have any respect for them. I advocated the Sunni rights, while I possess a very strong Shi'i identity. I denounced Chalabi when he was in bed with the neocons, and when he joined the Sistani list, I wrote about this with great disappointment. I praised Sistani, when he did good things, and displayed my disappointment when he didn't. I criticized Moqtada al-Sadr many times, and when he was not at fault, I pointed that he was right.

You see, I assume an intelligent reader. The vast majority of my readers are extremely intelligent. This site receives tens of thousands of visits from around the world. Among the visitors are professors, jornalists, researchers, professionals, and students (the site is among the required study materials for an honor class, among only three blogs on Iraq). That's why I erase junk and insulting materials, and demand civility in the discourse.

And, by the way, most of my readers do not use the "Comment" space -- I wish they do and thank those who do take the time to comment. But many use the e-mail, while others communicate with me in other ways.

Yet, there are a few whose IQ is lower than their "shoe-size"; and a few others who are blind at heart. To those only I will write the following sentence (everyone else figured it out a long time ago):

I denounce the terrorists.

I praise people like General Eaton, whom I met recently in Washington and we e-mailed one another in the past. He served in Iraq with great honor. I also praise so many soldiers who acted with honor in Iraq, like those who risked their career to expose the "animals farm" behavior. I praise those who lost their life overthrowing Saddam's regime. I even wrote on this site that these people deserve a monument in a main square in Baghdad. But asked that only their families are be invited to the commemoration -- no politicians or Ambassadors.

But, don't expect this site to randomly shower praise on everybody, including those who ran Abu Ghraib and other prisons, those who bombed Iraqi cities, forced Iraqis to jump in the freezing Tigris, raped, murdered, tortured, and unleashed their pathological hatred in Iraq. Those and their commanders, who failed to reign them or facilitated their acts (as high up as you can go) have other web-sites to praise them.

I apologize to my other readers for this out-of-character posting.

Some people would argue that there is nothing in common between the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and the American Occupation of Iraq. Here is one thing in common:

"The [Israeli] army now says that it is investigating the incident and that it regrets any harm to civilians."

"An investigation is underway to determine the facts regarding this incident." The U.S. military said on Saturday it 'deeply regrets the loss of possibly innocent lives."

You see what is in common? They both investigate and they both regret the harm/loss they cause.

Friday, January 07, 2005

I link, and you make up your mind.

The facts that we know:

1. The guys violated curfew.
2. It was January.
3. The Tigris is almost freezing even in the day in January near Samarra. What time is curfew? Night? Early morning? If so, make that worse than freezing!
4. They were forced into the [almost freezing] Tigris River at gunpoint by U.S. soldiers.
5. One Iraqi is dead, immeadiately or soon afterwards.
6. A maximum sentence of six months.

Some of the absurdities in the article:

"Defense attorney Capt. Josh Norris said in closing arguments that the soldiers were trying to find non-lethal ways to deter crime and establish respect in the hostile area."

This guy should be nominated for an Assistant Attorney General. He would make a perfect team with Alberto Gonzales.

"Defense attorneys contend the victim may still be alive, but say if he is dead, it was not at the hands of U.S. soldiers."

Of course! The Tigris should go to jail.

"Soldiers testifying for the prosecution and defense during the four-day trial said they never heard Perkins order the Iraqis into the river and that he stayed in his vehicle that night."

Sure! Iraqis just like to swim in the Tigris at night in January.

The Oakland Tribune has this article about the Iraqi elections in exile. They asked me for a comment. There you have it.

I must say that I never met the other two Iraqi gentlemen, but we have been interviewed separately in several occasions. Here is one with two of us. I also remember that one time there was an interview before the war. I was against the idea, as many of you know.

This is the first interview where we had a unanimous opinion. Who said Iraqis can't agree on anything?!!

From this week's interview:
"A Shiite, a Sunni and a Kurd, all Iraqi expatriates living in the East Bay, say neither they nor anyone they know will make the two trips to Los Angeles required to vote in their native country's elections this month."

"I would love to cast a ballot by mail or something, but taking two trips, it's not on my agenda," said Abbas Kadhim, 39, of Albany. "No candidate can inspire people to do that, with no possibility of hope for an outcome that will change things..."

Thursday, January 06, 2005

In case you have not seen it, here is my new article in Al-Ahram Weekly.

The de jure post-occupation Iraq remains a de facto occupied country. Being appointed by the occupation, Iyad Allawi and his government are by definition an illegitimate political entity. Their only chance to gain some sense of legitimacy was by decent governance: providing security and services. So far, the government of Allawi did nothing more than providing cover for military assaults on various Iraqi cities -- Najaf, Karbala, Samaraa, Falluja and Mosul, to name a few -- while the country is still in chaos and Iraqis lack the basic necessities of living amid reports of projected lack of food in the coming weeks. Financial and administrative corruption remain to be the only things this government is good at.

Zelda "reminds" me that "The civil war ended in 1865. The amendment to abolish slavery was ratified on 12/6 of that same year. I think that may have been a little over 50 years ago."

Dear Zelda,
You picked the wrong guy to correct about American history and politics. I have a high degree on the subject and taught American politics for six years.

Any semi-illiterate can provide the information you provided about the 13th Amendment. It takes much more sophistication to know what I was taking about concerning slavery. The justifications of slavery continued until the 1940's (hence the 50 years I mentioned), Dear Zelda. I kindly advise you to read Stanley Elkins excellent work on the Subject: Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life (1969).

Also, I feel sorry for you. You swallowed the bate of CMARII, who falsely claimed that I suggested the delay of elections. When did I do it?

Indeed, my position is that no one in the world has the legal authority to change the date of the elections, because the TAL can only be changed by the Assembly that will be elected on Jan. 30th., no one else can do any changes to the TAL. I also dismissed the grounds for the call to delay them in my last article. Get your facts straight and do your own homework before you opine, please.

As to the solutions, Let me cite one for you:

I wrote many times against the election law, which is the origin of all these election problems. I advised against it ever since it was an idea in some people's heads and wrote about it later on. They ignored my advice and rejected the district system, which makes more sense. If New Jersey (the size of Fallouja) has 13 districts, why shouldn't Iraq have 18 districts? Read my article to know why I prefer the district system.

Also, you and a few others don't seem to appreciate the virtues of criticism. My criticism is always about identifying the problems. It is essential to have someone do that while those in charge claiming success, albeit the "catastrophic" kind of success. When the problem is identified, solutions are often a matter of will, not intellect, because it can simply involve pursuing the opposite policy to the one that is failing. But when you insist that you are doing the right thing and making a "catastrophic success", then it is all hopeless. That is why Machiavelli once said: "A prince who is not prudent cannot be advised."

One of my readers, Zelda, asked a question which has been asked by many people, who think that all I do in my life is to post a few lines here.

Her question is: "May I inquire as to your solutions would be of the current difficulties in Iraq? ... You are in a unique position to help the U.S. as well as Iraq, yet all you offer is criticism."

Dear Zelda,

I don't know how you became sure that I did not offer any solutions. But it seems that all the supporters of the process in Iraq share one thing with the President: they believe that they know everything. In the last 20 months, I traveled 7 times to Washington to share my expertise with the U.S. government (at their request). Did you know this? It is not my fault that they did the opposite to what I, and many others, have suggested. They too, Dear Zelda, believe that they are right. And when it turns out that they were wrong, they insist that they were right. The best we got from the president is his description of Iraq as a "catastrophic success." You see, Zelda, they can't say a negative word about their performance, unless it is coupled with a positive word, never mind the rules of logic and good speech.

I sincerely hope that you 'liberate' yourself from their dogma before you evaluate the 'liberation' of the Iraqis. It is not what they say that matters, it is what they do. Fifty years ago, slavery was described as an "educational institution" for the "savages", which was meant to bring them to civilization. Many people liked to hear that in order to overcome the nagging of their small minds. 'Liberation' has this kind of effect, Dear Zelda.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

"When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke last spring, officials characterized the abuse as the aberrant acts of a small group of low-ranking reservists, limited to a few weeks in late 2003. But thousands of pages in military reports and documents released under the Freedom of Information Act to the American Civil Liberties Union in the past few months have demonstrated that the abuse involved multiple service branches in Afghanistan, Iraq and Cuba, beginning in 2002 and continuing after Congress and the military had begun investigating Abu Ghraib."

Indeed, this report indicated that: "Sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi prisoners continued at least three months after the Abu Ghraib scandal was revealed, according to accounts by alleged victims published in the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine." If true, that is trhee months after President Bush said "Sorry" to the king of Jordan (instead of saying it to the real victims).

Meanwhile, this Iraqi told a court that "US soldiers forced him and his cousin to jump into the River Tigris and laughed as his relative was swept to his death."

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Jan. 3, Iraqi Defence Minister and former Baathist Hazim al-Sha'lan announced on TV that the elections can be delayed if the Sunni Arabs promise to participate.

Jan. 4, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zibari said in a press conference that the elections will go as scheduled.

Later in the day, President Ghazi al-Yawar told Dubai TV that he asks the UN to use its "prestige" (whatever that means) to delay the elections. He also complained that he and his two vice-presidents have no clue about what is going on because the government of Allawi and the Occupation forces (he said the MNF) don't brief them on anything.

Jan. 5, P.M. Iyad Allawy told a press conference in Baghdad that the elections will go forward.

Falah al-Naqib, Minster of Interior, told reporters in Tunisia that all options are open regarding the date of elections.

Wa'il Abd Al-Latif, minister of provinces, said elections will go forward and those who say otherwise represent themselves only.

Does this sound like a normal government to you?

Sunday, January 02, 2005

I am not an expert on international law. But I think that this is an interesting article to read. As usual, your comments are welcome.

"Britain's Attorney General Lord Goldsmith had initially ruled that a new Security Council resolution that explicitly authorized the invasion of Iraq would be required under international law. When it became clear that there would not be one, Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, the Chief of the British Defense Staff, told the Prime Minister that he could not order his troops into Iraq without a written document stating that this was legal under international law. His forces then waited in limbo on the Iraq-Kuwait border for five full days before he received a single paragraph from Lord Goldsmith giving him the green light, and the rest is history."

Purveyors of hate poisoning Americans' minds against Muslims:

The results of a recent US nationwide poll, conducted by Cornell University, are shocking. Can you believe that in the "land of the free" almost half believe the civil liberties of American-Muslims should be restricted?

Saturday, January 01, 2005

The events of the past week in south east Asia will cause all Christians to doubt their faith, the Archbishop of Canterbury said this weekend.

'The question "How can you believe in a God who permits suffering on this scale?" is therefore very much around at the moment, and it would be surprising if it weren't - indeed it would be wrong if it weren't,' he writes.

Actually, the question should be: "How can't you believe in a God who permits suffering on this scale?", Kadhim would say.

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