Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"According to a United Nations report, Afghan living standards are the sixth worst in the world, ahead of only five basket cases in sub-Saharan Africa. Almost every statistic is bad. Average life expectancy is 44.5 years compared with 60.8 in neighboring Pakistan and 70.1 in Iran. Gross domestic product per capita is $190 compared with $408 in Pakistan and $1,652 in Iran. Infant mortality is also higher than the toll in any of Afghanistan's neighbors, and the literacy rate is only 28.7 percent. One in four Afghans is unemployed. Corruption is rife. Discredited warlords remain in control of vast regions. The government's writ runs very thin outside of the capital, and a low-level insurgency grinds on. Perhaps most serious of all for Afghanistan's long-term prospects, the country is now the world's largest producer of opium."

For more on Afghanistan, you may visit Roya's site, which is the best blog devoted to inform us about the latest in her country.

"In forming their new government, the Iraqis have shown that the spirit of compromise has survived more than three decades of dictatorship," President Bush said on Tuesday.

What compromise, may I ask? More than two months after the elections and they have not selected a speaker for the Assembly yet. Of course, none of the hand-picked Iraqis, who had lunch with the President would tell him that "he had no clothes on."

The President, however, was quoted as making this brilliant prediction: "We expect a new government will be chosen soon and that the assembly will vote to confirm it."

Life's no picnic in Basra

"A story in the Times last week gives a different picture. The reporter, Catherine Philp, described how a group of picnicking students had been attacked by members of an Islamic militia. Two of them were killed and others beaten with sticks and rifles butts.

According to Ms Philp, the town of Basra is today controlled by fanatical religious militias which disapprove of things like picnics."

Monday, March 28, 2005

I hate to disappoint you, AGAIN, but it seems that Iraq will not have a government by the beginning of April. Indeed, it would be a lucky month if they have the speaker of the Assembly elected (read: appointed).

No one wants the job, but no one wants to give it to someone else.

Those terrorist acts do help the government, sometimes!

"Iraq's interior minister warned citizens Monday not to hold protests, saying the gatherings were an invitation for a large-scale terrorist attack. His comments came a day after government bodyguards opened fire on a group of employees demanding higher wages, killing one person."

If you see corruption, brutality or anything outrageous, just look the other way. Peaceful protests are not a good idea in the new democratic Iraqi, because the streets are not safe for democracy.

So what do they do? Write a letter? There is no mail service in Iraq. I think that the government is very thankful that someone else is doing the job for them and killing protesters. The old and crude dictatorial ways of controlling the streets are out of fashion now. Outsourcing oppression and privatizing brutality is the way to go!!!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

As promised, I will explore some points about the Khawarij, one of the major theological sects. My goal is, as usual, to start with some very light points and go deeper with the questions. Maybe follow it up by another posting.


When Imam `Ali became caliph in 35/656, he had to face several challengers. The first were two of the prominent companions of the Prophet, Talha and al-Zubayr, who were joined by one of the wives of the Prophet, `Aishah. They met in 36/656 in a battle called "Harb al-Jamal" (The Battle of the Camel), named after the camel on which `Aishah was riding (no outlandish comments please).

`Ali won a decisive victory in the battle. Al-Zubayr left the battle before it started, but was assassinated by a fellow named Ibn Jarmouz. Talha was killed in the battle and `Aishah was sent to Medina with dignity, as a wife of the Prophet.

The next challenge was coming from the governor of Syria (al-Sham), Mu`awiya. He was appointed during the time of the second Caliph, `Omar b. al-Khattab, and was retained by the third Caliph, `Uthman b. `Affan. Mu`awiya abused his position over the years and created a semi-independent territory with true loyalty to him.

When `Ali was elected Caliph, Mu`awiya did not show loyalty to him. Instead, he made that on the condition that `Ali delivers the killers of the previous Caliph, `Uthman. Imam `Ali said that this is not for Mu`awiya to ask because this is the right of the new Caliph to enforce the laws and decide on punishments.

When things got to a gridlock, the two parties fought each other and when `Ali's forces were about to achieve a conclusive victory, the advisor of Mu`awiya, `Amr b. al-`Aas, came up with a trick to halt the fight. He asked his soldiers to raise the Qur'an on their lances and call for an arbitration between Imam `Ali and Mu`awiya. Against the advice of Imam `Ali, his soldiers dropped their weapons and a decision was made to hold an arbitration.

When the arbitration ended up in a fiasco -- too long a story to narrate here -- a group of `Ali's followers asked him to admit that he committed blasphemy. They said that they will remain with him but he must repent first. As Imam `Ali refused, they deserted his army. Imam `Ali said he would not go after them unless they harmed others. Soon thereafter, they appointed one of them a Caliph and began their own quest to control certain areas. After killing many people, Imam `Ali met them in a battle named after the location where it took place, al-Nahrawan. He won, again, another decisive victory and they disappeared as a political or a military power. However, a few of the survivors began to re-group. One of them assassinated Imam `Ali in 40/661.

This group of militants was called the Khawarij (Also: Kharijites). The meaning is the Seceders, from the verb "kharaja" which means to exit, to secede, or to raise arms against the state.

They did become a nightmare later for the Umayyad dynasty, that followed Imam `Ali, but they lost at the end.


The Khawarij believe that the ruler over the Muslims do not have to be from the tribe of Quraysh (the tribe of the Prophet). One of their sub-sects (the Najdat) believe that it is not necessary to appoint a ruler. They considered Imam `Ali blasphemous because he allowed arbitration by men. Allah, they said, is the only arbiter. They also considered the previous Caliph, `Uthman, blasphemous in the last six years of his life.

However, their strongest sub-sect was the Azariqah. They also considered Imam `Ali blasphemous. They also considered those who did not fight on their side blasphemous as well, even if they agreed with them theologically. They allowed the killing of the children and women of their enemies (other Muslims). They said that the children of their enemies will be in hellfire with their parents. They did consider the grave sinner to be blasphemous.

In general, they were very strict in their religion (read: extremists). Yet, they were very fast to call others blasphemous and shed their blood.

For more readings, see:
Erling Petersen, Ali and Mu`awiya in Early Arabic tradition, Odense Univ. Press, Denmark (1974).
Wilferd Madelung, The Succession of Muhammed, Cambridge Univ. Press (1997).
Hugh Kennedy, The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates, Longman, New York (1986).
Al-Shahrastani, Kitab Al-Milal wa al-Nihal, Beirut (1992).
Abbas Mahmud al-Aqqad, `Abqariyyat al-Imam `Ali, Beirut, 1998.

"Newly released government documents say the abuse of prisoners in Iraq by U.S. forces was more widespread than previously reported.
An officer found that detainees 'were being systematically and intentionally mistreated' at a holding facility near Mosul in December 2003. The 311th Military Intelligence Battalion of the Army's 101st Airborne Division ran the lockup..."

"There is evidence that suggests the 311th MI personnel and/or translators engaged in physical torture of the detainees," according to a memo from the investigator.

Meanwhile, "U.S. Army commanders have decided not to prosecute any of 17 American soldiers implicated in three incidents involving the deaths of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, according to a new accounting released by the army. In each case, the commanders chose to disregard recommendations by army investigators who had proposed that the soldiers be charged with crimes that included murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide, the army accounting showed. Only two of the 17 soldiers were disciplined at all in connection with the three deaths, receiving a letter of reprimand and a discharge from the army, respectively..."

So much for the two lame lines:

"It is not policy," and "These are a few bad apples."

Friday, March 25, 2005

I hate to disappoint you, but it seems that Iraq will not have a government until April 1st, with the help of a miracle, maybe.

A British journalist captured it well when he said about the TAL: "No one got what he wanted, but everyone got a veto."

L'euro s'impose peu à peu comme une alternative au dollar.

M. Bush, c'est grave!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

"The truth is that the quality of American reporting in relation to Iraq has not improved in any way since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Three examples relating to the elections in Iraq should serve as an illustration of this point.

The first relates to...."

I just got the word that a University of California (Berkeley) committee has given my article, Official US Reaction Compounds the Rage, the award for best article published in popular press.

The Los Angeles Times asked me to write the article in response to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. It was published on May 9, 2004.

I am honored and humbled.

* The first to cite the article was John Brown, of Georgetown University, who chose the expression "HE SLAPPED ME AND CRIED" as the one of three quotations of the day (May 7-9, 2004).

** The article is not free from LA Times web-site. I linked to an alternative site.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Even Thomas Freidman does not believe that "it is not policy."

"President Bush just appointed Karen Hughes, his former media adviser, to head up yet another U.S. campaign to improve America's image in the Arab world. I have a suggestion: Just find out who were the cabinet, C.I.A. and military officers on whose watch these 26 homicides occurred and fire them. That will do more to improve America's image in the Arab-Muslim world than any ad campaign, which will be useless if this sort of prisoner abuse is shrugged off. Republicans in Congress went into overdrive to protect the sanctity of Terri Schiavo's life. But they were mute when it came to the sanctity of life for prisoners in our custody. Such hypocrisy is not going to win any P.R. battles."

"You have to stop and think about this: We killed 26 of our prisoners of war. In 18 cases, people have been recommended for prosecution or action by their supervising agencies, and eight other cases are still under investigation. That is simply appalling. Only one of the deaths occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq..."

Friedman refutes the "line" that it was about a few bad apples in a night shift in Abu Ghraib. It was all over, he argues.

A couple of e-mails were asking me to talk about the "Iraqi resistance."

I don't know what to say, because I don't know who the people involved in the resistance are. To draw something from the Iraqi history: in the 1920 Revolution, which is considered by all Iraqis as a great chapter in Iraq's history, the leaders of the resistance against the British were well-known. They were people like, Muhammed Sa`id al-Habboubi, Muhsin Abu Tibikh, Ja`far Abu al-Timman, Muhammed al-Sadr, Ali al-Bazirgan, and the list goes on.

Every one of these men was a paragon of patriotism and good ethics. It was easy to make one's mind about the resistance then, knowing the people involved. Also, it was easy to admire their action. They fought with honor and they did not act like thugs and thieves.

Now look at today's resistance.

Not even one respectable Iraqi man or woman is known as a leader in the "Iraqi resistance." It is impossible to make one's mind about nameless and faceless ghosts.

What can one say on the basis of their actions? Not much. It is a mixed bag. The killing of children in schools (as it happened today) is not something to be proud of. The kidnapping and killing of innocent civilians, murdering of people on the highways to and from Baghdad, and the attacks on Iraqis from all walks of life is not a resistance. It is terrorism. The same must be said about the attacks on Iraqi resources and infrastructure.

The respectable Iraqis who are openly speaking against the Occupation already declared that they have nothing to do with all of the activities I described.

The only exceptions are:

Moqtada al-Sadr, who openly fought against the Occupation. But his followers now are acting like Taliban, intimidating Iraqis and taking matters in their own ignorant hands and minds. I am yet to see one follower of Moqtada al-Sadr whose head is worth the rag he uses for a turban. Their shameful behavior in Basra recently is a great evidence on what kind of rotten monsters they can be if they have their way in Iraq.

The other group of people who speak against the Occupation and are in touch (unofficially) with some fighters -- like mediating hostage releases and so on -- is the Council of Muslim Scholars. This group is controlled by Wahhabi fanatics, like Muthanna Harith al-Dhari who earned his doctorate from Saudi and taught in Qatar (the biggest two Wahhabi strongholds). They are neither for violence, nor against it. You can interpret some of the fatwas they issue to mean a certain message, but once you have your coffee, the interpretation can change.

This is why Iraqis are feeling awful. While they can't stand the life under occupation, they are equally unhappy with both alternatives: the terrorists or the corrupt government.

If you know the names of respectable Iraqis in the resistance, who take not part in the horrific acts I just described, please let me know.

"Once-Beautiful Baghdad Becomes Eyesore"

"After the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, the city of 5 million became one large military barricade: Humvees and tanks roaming the streets, helicopters rattling above, checkpoints and soldiers everywhere."

"Any soldier of Task Force Baghdad would concede the point that concrete blocks, blast walls and barbed wire are ugly security tools that detract from the beauty of any city...However ... (they) have been important tools in providing secure environments." said Army Lt. Col. Cliff Kent.

* the Kadhim interviewed in the article is not my relative.

It seems that we will soon see a government in Iraq. A leader in the United Iraqi Alliance, Akram al-Hakim (different from Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and Ammar al-Hakim and the other al-Hakims all of whom were born to be leaders), said that an agreement will be signed with the Kurds within two days.

It seems that the ministries of Finance and Interior will be assigned to the UIA and the Kurds will have the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while the Ministry of Defense will go to someone from another list. Ghazi al-Yawar, the current president, will most likely make history to be the first president of a legislature who was put in the position after collecting 2 percent of the votes. The Ministry of Oil is still in dispute. (Arabic text)

Meanwhile, Az-Zaman newspaper reported that Ibrahim al-Ja`fari said that he does not prefer the transfer of security decision making to the Iraqis soon.

This is very awkward, coming from the candidate of the UIA which made security its main campaign slogan. According to the paper, al-Ja`fari said this after meeting with a delegation from the U.S. Congress, and ahead of a Congressional vote to authorize $82 billion for military purposes. Makes sense, these guys will not authorize the money unless al-Ja`fari says we need you until the year 2550. It seems that al-Ja`far will have a rotten beginning as a prime minister.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I disagree with the Communists on almost everything. But This interview with Hamid Majid Moussa, the head of the Iraqi Communist Party, makes an interesting reading for some guests.

The Iraqi Communist party has given Iraq one of its best poets, Mudhaffar al-Nawwab, as well as many other intellectuals, whose works are admired by all Iraqis.

I must also say that an Iraqi Communist was my intellectual mentor when I was in high school. But, sensing my interest in Shi`i theology, he worked with me without trying to "convert" me to Communism. Indeed, he put me in touch with several Najaf theologians.

In my opinion, Communists are like the Mu`tazila; both can be a great asset for any nation as long as they have little or no political power.

By the way: in the American appointed government of Mr. Allawi, the minister of culture is a Communist.

"President Viktor Yushchenko has signed the order to withdraw Ukraine's troops from Iraq, cementing a pledge by the new leadership to bring back its 1,650-strong force, the head of the country's security council said Tuesday.
The end date for the pullout will be 'fixed after consultations with the other coalition members,' and the entire Ukrainian contingent is likely to leave Iraq in November or December, Petro Poroshenko said.

Earlier this month Yushchenko and top defense officials ordered Ukraine's soldiers to leave by year's end, and the pullout began last week. The ex-Soviet republic provided the sixth-largest contingent in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.

Eighteen Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in Iraq and more than two dozen have been wounded, fueling public dismay about the unpopular deployment."

The Islamic Council of Jurisprudence in Cairo considered the Friday prayer led by Professor Amina Wadud an innovation. (Arabic text)

Their problems are:

1. rows containing women and men are not allowed in prayer.
2. if a woman stands in front of a man in the prayer, the man's prayer is void.
3. Friday prayer is mandatory for men only, while women are allowed, and religiously rewarded for attending.
4. they said that men who performed the prayer should do a Dhuhr prayer again -- qadha'a. (I wrote this in my Friday posting, see below).

Now, let me respond to a couple of comments and e-mail questions that came to me from Friday:

1. The speech (khutbah) in the prayer is part of the prayer. It substitutes for two prostrations. Therefore, everything observed in a regular prayer must be observed in the speech. This is the Shi'i opinion and I know of no difference in other schools.

2. Someone said that preventing women from leading the prayer is meant to prevent them from having any authority over men. This is an opinion of someone who knows nothing about Islam. Leading the prayer involves no role of authority whatsoever. That is why you see dictators praying behind scared-to-death clergy in many Muslim countries. Again, even in places of democracy and freedom, there is no authority involved in leading the prayer.
Indeed, Islam allows the women positions of real authority. They can be a judge, a member of parliament or a minister. Progressive Ayatollahs, like Fadhlullah said that Islam does not prevent a woman from any role of authority. I happen to be in full agreement with this opinion.

3. The rule in Islam is to go with the consensus, if you don't believe that it is wrong. The consensus is that a Friday prayer led by a man is correct (all Muslims agree on this, including Professor Wadud). Since there is no consensus on the other opinion, the correct practice is to go with the first. This is part of the ABC of Islamic jurisprudence.

"Given the level of the insurgency today, two years later, clearly if we had been able to get the 4th Infantry Division in from the north, in through Turkey, more of the Iraqi, Saddam Hussein, Baathist regime would have been captured or killed...The insurgency today would be less." Secretary Rumsfeld told Fox News on Sunday.

I was watching the interview. Too bad for Mr. Rumsfeld, many people have longer memory than he hopes. His comments on the chaos in Iraq immediately after the invasion was completely different. He considered it a normal situation for a country turning from dictatorship to "democracy".

Needless to say, the he did not "have to" go to war before clearing the way for the troops. It was not like Iraq was doing anything new that justified the rushing into the illegal invasion.

Also, the "insurgencey" is high because of the criminality of the occupation at check points, in Abu Ghraib, in the brutally attacked cities, and because of the unaccountable people (Iraqis and Americans) who ran Iraq since the fall of Saddam, who are no different than the old regime in corruption.

Furthermore, the "insurgencey" did not begin until several months later. He had more than the needed time to get any number of troops to Iraq. The "more of the Iraqi, Saddam Hussein, Baathist regime" (whatever that means) was always there for the capture. Many of them traveled out of Iraq in nice cars without being bothered by the Americans at the borders. The occupation made it clear that they were interested in 55 people whose pictures were distributed widely.

If they are sincere in capturing any "more of the Iraqi, Saddam Hussein, Baathist regime" (whatever that means) they need more than going to any ministry office in the Green Zone.

Monday, March 21, 2005

"Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, quoted by a top Shia politician, said the slowness of Shias and Kurds in completing talks to form a government over one-and-a-half months after their triumphs in the vote was affecting Iraqis’ lives."

It's about time they act. The people I talk to in Iraq think that Iraqis are about to explode.


I am back!!! I was attending a conference at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Then, I continued my way south to Los Angeles (about one and a half hour driving) to visit some friends.

Now, I am afraid I have to go through the comments to see if some of the usual suspects took the opportunity and posted some nasty stuff. This is the part which I hate about coming home.

By all means, I missed being here. Thanks to those who kept the home warm and alive while I am away.

Friday, March 18, 2005

While Africa battles to keep the wolf from the door, Europe’s leaders are lining up to keep Wolfowitz from the World Bank.

Why not? The World Bank is, after all, an organization founded to blackmail poor countries. It also funded dictators who stole millions to secure a good retirement after a possible coup.

"'It's a world record. The withdrawal of an announced withdrawal in half a day,' said Francesco Rutelli, leader of the opposition, centre-left Daisy party. Mr Berlusconi told a television chat show earlier this week that he wanted to begin reducing Italy's 3,000-strong contingent in September, but he later said he had never set a fixed date for any pullout."

Professor Amina Wadud is going to lead a Friday prayer today.

In response to those who e-mailed, asking me about my take, here it is:

Women, like men, have many roles in Islam. Leading a prayer for a congregation that includes men is not one of the roles of women. A woman can lead a prayer for a congregation of women, of course.

And to show that this is not an anti-women rule, I must mention that according to many Islamic jurists, certain men can be disqualified from leading a prayer on the basis of their lack of piety, lack of accurate Arabic, or other conditions for being a good imam. Also, when there is one person who is more qualified than the proposed imam, it is the lattar's obligation to let him lead the prayer.

The actual problem in this is not about the value of the woman. It is just that in the prayer, Dr. Wadud will perform certain physical acts that are not lawful -- Islamically speaking -- with a man's nose ten inches behind her (with all due respect to her humanity). This is the same rationale to have women pray in the last rows.

From what I know in Islamic Jurisprudence, the men in the congregation will have to do the Dhuhr prayer after they are done making their political statement.

Muslim women can be -- and should be -- empowered in hundreds of other ways. Once we achieve those, then we can re-examine this particular question. Prayer is not performed to "make history" and attract media attention or even to be "the first" in something. It is a practice in humility before God and a fulfillment of a duty.

Having said that, one can disagree with the organizers on the basis of jurisprudence, but this should not be a cause for anything beyond that. People's right to worship as they like, when they like and where they like should be their own business. The Qur'an says, "No soul will bear the burden of another."

For more information on this event, or to fill the form to get admitted to the prayer (a novel concept in and of itself, but I guess it is done for security purposes) here is the web-site of the organizer.

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte left Iraq on Thursday after a nearly nine-month stint to return to the United States as President Bush's nominee for the new post of national intelligence director."

He was a terrible choice for the post in Iraq. Of course, that is not to say that his likely replacement, Zalmay Khalilzad, is any better.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy St Patrick's Day

My article on the current Kurdish crisis in Iraq was translated into Turkish and published in Zaman. (thanks Hasan!)

The [United Iraqi A]lliance that won 140 seats -- just over half of the 275-member National Assembly -- and the Kurdish coalition that came second with 75 seats are deadlocked in negotiations over a government that have dragged on for weeks."

So they met today with no idea about what to do. They did not even elect a speaker, because this position is part of the package that is supposed to be agreed on.

This is unlike any other democratic, or autocratic, government. It is a scandal.

Putting the best face on this charade, President Bush, whose men and women forced the TAL upon their puppets at gunpoint, called today's joke a "hopeful moment". But Iraqis who are involved in the process called the black-mail negotiations "arguments of the deaf".

Iraqis are promised a government within two weeks, or when roosters lay eggs, whichever comes later.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

"The Multinational forces in Iraq are moving fast to a mono-national force. Two of the largest contingents in the US-led coalition in Iraq, the Netherlands and Ukraine, are in the process of pulling their forces out."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, one of [President] Bush's most vocal supporters, said he was in talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair about a total exit strategy from Iraq, adding people in both countries wanted their troops to return home." Italy will go home in September.

Of course, these decisions are based on the encouraging data about the Iraqi forces who are ready to go:

"The Pentagon had told Congress on Monday that there are 142,472 trained and equipped Iraqi security forces."

But the data I keep getting from very reliable sources in Iraq that, for example, the poor members of the Najaf police are finishing their eighth month without pay. Some well-connected people are asking them to pay $300 each to get their checks issued. They already gave $200 each to get the job, and now they are stuck (please do not measure the money I mentioned by U.S. standards. This is a lot of money in Iraq).

The deputy of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani welcomed the request to grant the Grand Ayatollah the Iraqi citizenship. In the protocols of this kind of business, this is a gesture in lieu of an application.

If Iraq were to aknowledge one man in the world with this prize, this man must be Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Monday, March 14, 2005

If they do this to American money, imagine what they did to the unguarded Iraqi resources.

"Excess billing for postwar fuel imports to Iraq by the Halliburton Company totaled more than $108 million, according to a report by Pentagon auditors that was completed last fall but has never been officially released to the public or to Congress."

In one case, according to the report, the company claimed that it had paid more than $27 million to transport liquefied petroleum gas it had purchased in Kuwait for just $82,000

From the same article:

"The facts show that KBR delivered fuel crucial to the Iraqi people when failure was not an option, ... We will continue to work with the Army to prove, once and for all, that KBR delivered these vital services for the Iraqi people at a fair and reasonable cost given the circumstances." said Wendy Hall, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, in an e-mail to the NY Times.

Failure might have been not an option, but it has surely been the only result. Iraqis stand for more than 24 hours in line to fill their car tanks.

I read a lot about the concept of taqiyya, often by people who read it through google. I will make it the topic of a future theological posting. Here is a preview for now:

You read it first here.

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is a confirmation of the right to practice taqiyya:

"No person...shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself..."

The only difference is that taqiyya is a religious practice, where an innocent person is allowed to avoid persecution, the 5th. Amendment helps the innocent and sometimes the guilty.

When one is guilty and is trying to conceal his guilt, in Islam, he is not said to be using taqiyya, he is considered a debauchee.

Here is a paragraph from an article I once wrote:

Al-Mufid, the prominent 5th/11th century Shi'i scholar, defines the practice of taqiyya as “...concealing the belief, not sharing [it] with the opponents and avoiding disputation with them when it leads to any harm whether temporal or religious.” Then he restricts the making of taqiyya obligatory to situations when the ensuing harm is known with certainty, or with strong conjecture. Otherwise, the practice of taqiyya is not obligatory, according to al-Mufid. He then cites the conduct of the Imams, who ordered their followers to practice the taqiyya when the harm was eminent and encouraged them, at other times, when they saw it was safe to reveal their true belief and engage in discussions.

The cities of Basra, Imara and Nasiriyya began a process of forming a federal entity like the one in the north, according to Al-Hayat Newspaper. A council of 25 people was elected. The next step is to submit a petition to the new assembly and, once approved (it certainly will), the issue will be offered to the population in these cities to ratify it. The new entity will contain all the oil of southern Iraq.

These cities were grossly neglected by the Ba'ath regime. I remember being in Basra for a while. I never had a good cup of tea, because of the bad water. It was criminal what the city had to go through, while its oil revenue was going to build cities loyal to the regime, not to mention the theft and palaces. It is most likely that the new entity will demand a share from the oil revenue and it will achieve very high prosperity.

This will most likely lead to the formation of another entity in the center (Najaf, Karbala, Babylon, Diwaniyya, and Samawa). These cities will depend on the visits of the Shia to the Shrines and also on the agriculture. It has the best lands in Iraq. The best kind rice in the world (`Anbar) is grown in Diwaniyya, while Karbala and Hilla have a very decent agricultural activity. The land there is also irrigated easily and water will be very available (if Iraq gets its original share of water from Turkey. Saddam asked them to hold some water to help him dry the marshes).

So far, there seems to be a lack of interest to form such entity in the Anbar, Salahuddin and Musol. With the exception of Musol, which is very prosperous city, the other two cities have no resources (well, there are some minerals). It is most likely that commerce will be the most popular vocation in the area. They already had a monopoly over this during the past decades.

Unlike the Kurds, other parts are not trying to create the conditions for separation. This is true, at least for now and if nothing dramatic occurs.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

OK, time for Muslim Theology 200A:

Klaus asks an excellent question (here we certainly need citations):

why is it deemed so important whether the Qu'ran was created, eternal or whatever as long as everybody agrees in that it is the word of God? I can't see the relevance of this question for a Muslim's daily life."

Let me answer the easier part of the question: relevance to Muslim daily life.

None whatsoever!

This, however, does not make it un-important theologically speaking; hence, the excellence of your question. Please refer to the previous posting for some background:

We have to think of the Mu`tazili "pillars of belief" as being five connected elements in a whole system. To believe that the Qur'an is eternal (not created in time) makes the arguement hard to sustain in light of the Mu`tazili concept of Unity of God. Here is how it works:

If the Qur'an was not created in time, it must be eternal, just like God himself. This necessarily means either (1) there was some thing with God in His eternality but not God (dualism); or (2) the Qur`an is God Himself. Both 1 & 2 are against the belief of the Mu`tazila in Unity of God.

One of the most important Mu`tazili theologians, Qadhi Abd al-Jabbar (d. 415/1024-5) devoted the entire seventh volume in his giant work (al-Mughni fi Abwab al-Tawheed wa al-`Adl) to the issue of the creation of the Qur'an (Khalq al-Qur'an). There he says (p. 129 ; my translation):

"Also, there is no disagreement among [Muslims] that anything other than God must have been created (muhdath). This refutes any argument leading to [the belief that] it was eternal (qadeem)...
As to those who said that [the Qur'an] is God: we already presented attributes [for the Qur'an], which are not proper for God, the Exalted; and the Eternal, Glory be His, has exclusive attributes that are not possessed by the Qur'an. This must refute their argument.
As to those who said, '[the Qur'an] is part of God': we already showed their error, when we proved that our saying 'Allah' does not signify Him and the speech together..."

For sources in German or French, Klaus, please see:
Ignác Goldziher, Muhammedanische Studien
There is also his book, Le dogme et la loi de l'islam : histoire du développement dogmatique et juridique de la religion musulmane (French translation). See also, T. Noldeke, Geschichte des Qurans. Also, Gardet and Anawati, Introduction à la théologie musulmane. Finally, Wilferd Madelung, Religious schools and sects in medieval Islam, has some excellent articles -- at least one of them, I recall, is on the question of the creation of the Qur'an.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

In response to popular demand: More Theology

The Mu`tazila and their Five Pillars of Belief

The Mu`tazila are often referred to as the rational thinkers of Islamic theology. There are many accounts of how the name came to them. The most famous one is that the founder of the sect, Wasil b. `Ataa, was a student of the prominent scholar, al-Hasan al-Basri (d. 110/728). One day, the story has it, he asked al-Basri about the status of the grave sinner. Al-Basri said that he is a believer (another sect, the Khawarij, say he is unbeliever). Wasil b. `Ataa said that he should not be a believer or unbeliever, but in between belief and unbelief (manzila bayna manzilatayn). The second day, Wasil took another corner in the Basra mosque and began teaching his own theology. Al-Basri was quoted as saying, "I`tazalana Wasil" (Wasil has secluded himself from us). He and his group were called "Mu`tazila," deriving the word from the verb al-Basri used.

The First pillar of belief that separated them from other Muslims, then, was the one concerning the status of the sinner. Their pillars are as follows:

1. The Unity of God (Tawheed): All the Mu`tazila believe that God is one in eternality, in lordship and in essence. This means that there was no beginning for His existence (pre-eternality) and there will be no end for His existence, and He is out of the frame of time and space. Also, He is one in lordship, in a sense that there is no god other than Him. He is also one in essence, means that He is not made of parts and He does not have attributes outside His essence.

2. Justice of God (`Adl): They believe that God is the absolute Just. According to most of the Mu`tazila, God does not do anything that is unjust and that it is obligatory on Him to facilitate anything that make it possible for people to obey Him, including the sending of messengers and books. He does not ask of people more than what He enabled them to do. He also does not punish people for anything they have not done, and that He does not create the acts of people; rather, they create their own acts.

3. The intermediate status of the sinner (al-manzila bayna al-manzilatayn): It has already been discussed. According to the Mu`tazila, the sinner is not a believer and he is not unbeliever, but he has an intermediate status between the two.

4. The certainty of Fulfillment of God's Promise and Threat (al-Wa`d wa al-Wa`eed): The Mu`tazila believe that God must fulfill His promise as well as His threat. In other words, any sinner, if he does not repent, God will torment him in hellfire. Also, the doers of good will deserve the paradise. The corollary of this is that God does not accept any appeal from the Prophets or others on behalf of the grave sinners (unlike what other Muslims believe). They claim that if God does not fulfill either His threat or promise, this means that He becomes a liar and, since lying is a bad deed, God does not do it.

5. Ordering good and forbidding bad deeds/behavior (al-Amr bil-Ma`rouf wa al-Nahy `an al-Munkar): According to the Mu`tazila, this is an obligatory duty (wajib) on every Muslim at all times and without exceptions.

Other doctrines:
The Mu`tazila also believe that the Qur`an was created in time. They believe that God cannot be seen by people in this world or in the hereafter. Many of them hold Imam Ali as superior to his contemporaries, after the Prophet, but they accept the imamate (rule) of the inferior (imamat al-mafdhoul). On rational thinking, the Mu`tazila believe that reason is sufficient by itself to arrive at all the rules that come through revelation.

On Jurisprudence (fiqh), the Mu`tazila are Sunnis. A Mu`tazili may adhere to any of the four schools of fiqh.

There are other nuances. For those and deeper issues, the Comment section is sine qua non.

One of my readers addressed me by saying: "..do you see your sectarian outlook? "sunni demands"?? Really? Your too kind to us. Thank you."

Please don't talk to me about being "kind" and tolerant.

The same people I am asking that they are given their fair rights came to my hometown with tanks they wrote on them "There will be no Shi`a after today." They killed people inside the shrine of Imam Ali and sprayed with bullets the names of the 12 Imams on the walls.

I did not invent the Shi`i - Sunni dichotomy and I don't like it. Sectarian oppression is, unfortunately, a Sunni practice in Iraq. This is a fact, because the Shi`a did not hold political power in the last 1350 years and, thus, never practiced sectarian oppression against their Sunni counterparts.

Now that they have power, I would be the first to devote my work against them if they even think of being unfair to the Sunnis. Two wrongs don't make right. I am already on record on national and international media speaking against the attack of Fallouja, in defense of the innocent citizens that were held in the crossfire.

In their only five years of political rule in Iraq's history, the Shi`a gave Iraq, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, the undisputed paragon of justice.

It was intolerant Sunnis (not all Sunnis) who gave Iraq `Ubaydullah b. Ziyad, al-Hajjaj, al-Saffah (the blood spiller in Arabic), al-Mutawakkil -- fast forward to save time -- Abd al-Salam `Arif, Saddam Hussein and his family, not to mention the Ottoman governors.

Although they are posted on the right-hand side of this page, I am posting my rules for using the comment section as a reminder. The level of the language is getting way below my standards and I am tired of erasing comments. Thanks to those who resisted the temptation to sink to their opponents' level. I know it is hard and admire you for it. So here are my rules of engagement:

Please note that I do not have time to read all comments. I also do not necessarily agree with their content. They represent the opinions of their writers.

Please refrain from using any language that insults others and/or calls for anything beyond the realm of civility and proper criticism. Any comments that degrade others will be deleted if I come across them and think a comment is inappropriate. Examples of objectionable language are (among others): foul language; calling people cowards, idiots, and so on.

This site does not support any group in or outside the U.S.; it is a forum for free and intelligent debate. Although I did not set the limit of how many words one can fit in a posting, I like it this way. A comment is meant to be brief and to the point.

"President Bush will nominate one of his closest longtime advisers to a key State Department post in an effort to help repair the United States' image abroad, especially in the Arab world."

Karen Hughes will be undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. "She has little experience in foreign affairs but enjoys the confidence of the president and is close to the new secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice," which is much more important for the job.

Shouldn't the shareholders of this company (U.S. Governemnt) object to hiring less qualified people because they are friends of someone in management?

"The temporary road checkpoint where American troops mistakenly killed an Italian intelligence agent last week was set up to provide extra security for U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, a U.S. Embassy official said Thursday."

According to Al-Rafidayn newspaper (Arabic text), the family of the Jordanian terrorist who drove a car full of explosives in the city of Hilla (Babylon) received congratulations from their neighbors in the city of al-Selt. They refused to make a funeral for him, because they say he is a martyr.

He caused the death of 300 innocent Iraqi civilians. A graduate of the Jordanian University of Mu'tah (law school) in 1995, he was born in 1973. The Jordanian government has no comment on this celebration of terrorism.

I recently ended a posting with the following note:

"From my visits to Jordan (staying there more than a month at a time) I noticed that Jordan has many Wahhabis, second only to Saudi Wahhabis in nastiness. And, yes, Fallouja and Ramadi are closer to Jordan than to Syria."

Will we see any pressure on Jordan to secure its border with Iraq and stop destabilizing the country (the King of Jordan and people in his government made many statements feeding the hatred against the Shi`a of Iraq).

Friday, March 11, 2005

My new article on the Kurdish crisis in Iraq.

Iraqi politicians who are in the process of framing the future of their country find it convenient to stick their heads in the sand whenever the Kurdish crisis comes up. It is about time the truth is spelled out: the Kurds are not interested in being part of Iraq. Every move they have made so far is geared towards independence. Between now and a bold declaration of the state of Kurdistan there is precious time to create facts on the ground maximising the chances for a viable state. The crown jewel of this endeavour will be the annexation of Kirkuk. Failure to deal with this murky situation from the outset will surely be to the detriment of a unified Iraq. .......

"Brig Gen Karpinski said US commanders were reluctant to release detainees, an attitude she called 'releasophobia'.

In her interview, she said Maj Gen Walter Wodjakowski, then the second most senior army general in Iraq, told her in the summer of 2003 not to release more prisoners, even if they were innocent.

'I don't care if we're holding 15,000 innocent civilians,' she said Maj Gen Wodjakowski told her. 'We're winning the war.'"

If this major general did say this, he should be punished twice: once for ordering war crime and another for the lie about winning the war. It is this kind of criminal thinking that caused the loss of wars throughout history. Targeting innocent civilians may help a general win a battle, but he can never tame a population. All colonizers of past learned this fact, too late.

Meanwhile, US Navy inspector general Vice Admiral Albert Church just finalized an internal Pentagon report concluding that no one at the top had caused the abuse, they just made "some errors that contributed to the scandal."

Full "internal" investigations are as good as no investigations.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

At least 17 people were killed and 25 wounded when a terrorist blew himself at a funeral gathering in Mosul, according to medical sources.

Police chief, Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Obaiss, "was gunned down in Baghdad Thursday in an ambush that also killed two of his companions, as a wave of violence swept through Iraq one week before the newly-elected parliament [might meet] to choose a new government."

And it seems that the blast near the Agriculture Ministry and al-Sadeer Hotel left 30 American contractors wounded, in addition to the Iraqis whose number was not of interest for the Chicago Tribune, from which the article is taken.

"Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Wednesday repeated his strong demand that the United States more fully explain the shooting death of an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq."

I think that Silvio Berlusconi is being too pushy here. It took 3,300 years to discover that Tutankhamun was not murdered, and the mystery surrounding his death is yet to be solved.

Just wait, Silvio, and a partial result will be declassified along with partial results from all other investigations by the year 5305 A.D.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

"On Tuesday, Hezbollah showed its clout by sponsoring one of the biggest demonstrations of recent Lebanese history, bringing hundreds of thousands of largely Shiite supporters into central Beirut to support the party's alliance with Syria and, by extension, the presence in Lebanon of 14,000 Syrian troops."

As a result, the U.S. is shifting its policy towards Hezbollah in a move that "was described by American, European and United Nations officials as a reluctant recognition that Hezbollah...is an enormous political force in Lebanon that could block Western efforts to get Syria to withdraw its troops."

So here is where we stand now:

1. The head count is clearly against the "banana revolution" of Jumblatt and his new friends in the opposition.
2. Hezbollah is recognized as THE key player in Lebanon. We may see al-Manar again very soon in the U.S.
3. The pro-Syrian prime minister, Omar Karami, was selected to replace himself.
4. Syria got more popular recognition than in its dreams, given its conduct in Lebanon.
5. The U.S. scored more negative points than it had before the Lebanese crisis.

Does this sound like a strong foreign policy?

"'The main players are making Hezbollah a lower priority,' said a diplomat who is closely tracking the negotiations. 'There is a realization by France and the United States that if you tackle Hezbollah now, you array the Shiites against you. With elections coming in Lebanon, you don't want the entire Shiite community against you.'"

Actually, you don't want them against you at any time, if you want to do business in Lebanon.

So you think "our" prime minister is a war criminal, right Ken? How about yours?

"I am angry with Ken [Livingstone] and with the British left generally. Please allow me to explain why," writes Daphna Baram

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

"People of Arab descent living in the United States tend to be better educated and wealthier than other Americans, the Census Bureau says.
There are about 1.2 million U.S. residents whose ancestry is solely or partly Arab, less than a half-percent of all Americans. The details in Tuesday's report covered the 850,000 people who identified themselves in the 2000 census as having only Arab ancestries.
Arabs are nearly twice as likely as the typical U.S. resident to possess a college degree -- 41 percent to 24 percent. Better education typically translates into higher income, and that was highlighted in the report: The median income for an Arab family was $52,300, about $2,300 more than the median income for all U.S. families."

buried in the end of the article is the following:

"Yet U.S. Arabs also had a higher poverty rate (16.7 percent) than the nation (12.4 percent). Samhan said that's probably a reflection of a lack of wealth possessed by refugees who have resettled in the United States since 1990 from countries like Iraq."

This is true. Refugees mostly have the education but lack the wealth. My case is an example. I came to this country with a lot of education, but only $20 in my pocket. The airlines lost my one bag that had my clothes only. The Stock Market did not attract me at the time, so I decided to "eat" my entire wealth in one day and, shortly thereafter, accept a job paying $7 per hour.

I Must thank the International Rescue Committee (IRC) that sponsored me. IRC provided me with two months of rent (I shared an apartment in Downtown San Francisco with three well-educated Iraqi refugees). IRC also gave me a $40 check per week, for six weeks. I was deemed self-sufficient after receiving my first pay-check. I have been a tax-payer ever since.

13 years later, I accumulated yet more education, but no wealth.

Who benefits from the deteriorating security in Iraq?

One country comes to mind is Jordan. According to Az-Zaman newspaper (Arabic text), 50,000 Iraqi families just moved to Jordan, fleeing the lack of security. They are joining a very large crowd of Iraqis living there. How is this good for Jordan?

Well... Think about it. According to Jordanian bankers, these 50,000 families alone brought about $2000,000,000 to Jordan, the best economic help Jordan got since the 1991 Gulf War when rich Palestinians came from Kuwait and settled in Jordan.

Don't forget the top figures in the regime and their families (including but not limited to Saddam's own daughters), who took their billions of dollars to Jordanian banks. I think Israel got a bad deal from the Bush administration, compared with the Hashimite paper-Kingdom of Jordan.

One note: From my visits to Jordan (staying there more than a month at a time) I noticed that Jordan has many Wahhabis, second only to Saudi Wahhabis in nastiness. And, yes, Fallouja and Ramadi are closer to Jordan than to Syria.

Huge Pro-Syrian Protest Fills Square and Streets in Beirut, reports the New York Times.

The proponents of the demonstration call it "a million man march," and some say it was made of 1.6 million people. It is very hard to measure the number and, given the place of the march, it is less than a million for sure.

But given the article's statement that "the biggest demonstration yet of anti-Syrian anger, [had] more than 70,000 Lebanese," it is clearly an important situation to consider. That is why Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hizbollah, who addressed the crowd -- very eloquently I must say -- was very challenging when he said: "Aren't these Lebanese too?"

Syria has certainly abused the Ta'if agreement. There is no question about it. But there are several important points worthy of mentioning here:

1. Syria was invited by the Maronites (Christian Lebanese) in the beginning of the Civil War.
2. Syrian presence in Lebanon was legalized by the Ta'if agreement. This has been one of the biggest criticisms against Ta'if by the opponents of Syria, since 1989.
3. The presence of Syria is certainly the only cause for Lebanese unity in the face of the strong calls for dividing the country.
4. The U.S. was perfectly OK with the Syrian presence in Lebanon when Syria was fighting on the U.S. side, against Iraq, in the 1991 Gulf War.
5. Some of the people who lead the charge against Syria now, like Jumblatt, were receiving Syrian and Soviet arms and money for long enough to make them sound silly making such rhetoric now.
6. This is not a Christian-Muslim conflict, unlike what some people thought, including some of my readers here. Each side has Lebanese people from all walks of life.

I am not a fan of the Syrian dictatorship, far from it; but I certainly don't wish for the wonderful people of Syria a ruthless occupation like the one Iraq is having now. Syria should leave Lebanon now, while the vast majority of the Lebanese people is on its side. Unlike the 1970's, those who are pro-Syria now have the ability to defend themselves.

Those who are playing with fire now don't realize that one likely result from a new civil war is the trashing of the charade they call the National Pact as well as the French Constitution (which is like the Iraqi TAL, written under very similar circumstances). It will be very hard even to people like President Bush to oppose conducting a new census in Lebanon (they are still using the 1936 census).

Now if a new census is conducted, the Shi'a will show a clear majority in the population, giving them a similar political share as Iraqi Shi`a will have (the U.S. will be thanked for this un-intended consequence, I am sure). There will be no reason to justify the gross bias in jobs and political positions (including the presidency) in favor of the Maronites. After all, it has been so because the numbers in the 1936 census showed they were the majority in a four-way race (Maronite, Sunnis, Shi`a and Durzis) -- there are other minorities too small to make a difference.

** Some might ask why the Shi`a are majority now. It is simple: the average Christian family has two to four children, while the Shi`i family has 7 to 12 kids. Over 70 years, this changes the demographics when you start with groups almost equal in numbers. That's why the Israelis are nervous now, despite the large difference between the Jewish and Arab populations.

Monday, March 07, 2005

I did sign the petition to award Ali Al-Sistani the Nobel Prize for Peace for 2005.

I believe that awarding the prize to him will inspire many Muslims to see what he advocates. As the petition states, "Al-Sistani has helped Iraqi society to avoid civil and multiethnic violent conflicts that terrorists intended to draw, and by this he has promoted peace and respect to human brotherhood in Iraq, the region, and all over the world."

Sunday, March 06, 2005

To all of the ladies in the world: Happy International Women's Day!

You make the world meaningful.

Some of you e-mailed me asking to arbitrate between two opinions about Iraq before and after the Occupation. Here is my take:

Freedom of expression: 180 degrees improvement. Iraqis used to have their tongues cut off if they dared criticize the regime. Now you can use any language you like. Papers invaded the streets from all directions, funded by all kinds of money -- party papers, occupation papers, independent papers, Communist papers, Islamist papers, etc.
Iraq used to have a requirement that every paper has an Arabic language monitor (I served in such position for some time in a local literary paper in Najaf, called al-'Adl) to make sure that no mistakes are made. Now, many national papers publish with a fourth-grade level of Arabic. Again, no one cares what is being published. Time will, hopefully, sort this one out and it will be for the better.

Personal safety: When I lived in Iraq (1960's, 1970's and 1980's), Iraqi streets used to be among the best in the world. You could walk any time in the 24 hours and never think that someone will rob you. Men, women and children alike used to walk in the streets without fear. The sanctions changed the situation in a negative way in the 1990's and up to 2003, but Iraq still remained a very safe country (the same safety standard in advanced countries). Exceptions to that is the behavior of Saddam's son (`Uday) and his trouble making. But in a country of 20 millions, the chances of meeting him in the street is like being hit by a comet. There were also problems with economic reasons behind them -- due to the sanctions -- and some incidental highway theft. Not enough to justify calling Iraq unsafe.
After 2003, Iraq has become a living hell for all Iraqis. One needs to kiss his kids good-bye every time he leaves home, even for buying some bread. No place in Iraq is safe. It is true that some places have more problems than others, but the recent attacks in Hilla proved that it is fake safety that can be shattered any time.

Government oppression: It is not necessary at all to talk about the brutality of Saddam's regime, because (1) it is well-known; and (2) you will not do the topic any justice no matter what you say.
But under the occupation, things are not any better. Saddam's prisons were run in a more repugnant way and even after this was brought to light, the practice continued under the new government, according to the U.S. State Department's reporting (don't be fooled by the statement that the government "generally" respected human rights; you either respect them or you don't). Indeed, there is no respect to human life, dignity, or any rights in Iraq before or after the invasion.
Corruption is going on in a larger scale now (because there is more money coming in). Bribery is rampant, nepotism and favortitism are more than obvious even for the blind, and one can smell the stink from continent away even if he/she has flu.

Services: Not much better than before. The claim that there are no good services because of the terrorists is a lame claim, because they use their incompetence to ensure safety to explain their failure to provide services. Both security and services are the responsibility of the same people in charge.

Living standards: It is much better for those who have government jobs or work in any place related to the occupation, but don't forget the risk of being targeted by the terrorists and anti-government/anti-occupations forces. For others it is a disaster. If you don't have any income or a job, all you have is the food ration - what about clothing, heating, transportation, school expenses for kids.....? The government has not done anything for this kind of citizens.

Ba'athists: They used to own the country with their ironed olive-color uniforms, during the bad old days. Nowadays, they are everywhere in the country with their ironed suites, turbans or sinister masks. The head of the government was a high ranking Ba'thist, Saddam; and now the head of the government is a Ba'athist, Allawy. Ba'athists who are supposed to face trials for their past crimes are everywhere in the government.

The economy: Iraq was bankrupt under Saddam. Now, with much of the debt is waved and Iraqi oil being exported at good rates (despite the occasional interruption due to terrorist acts), things must be much better. But no one knows where the money goes. Most Iraqis, as I mentioned, are not better off as far as their finances and the services are almost non-existent. Hundreds of millions of dollars go to Beirut and other places for cash transactions without paper trail, not to mention the $billions that went missing from the Bremer days. In the old days, this used to call it embezzlement or stealing; but now it is called "poor management of funds" or "sloppy accounting."

Religious freedom: One used to be arrested and executed later by the regime and/or the Ba'athists when participating in religious rituals. Now there are no arrests, it is instant execution in many places in the country.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani asked the United Iraqi Alliance "to unite and to form the new government as soon as possible and not to delay this issue any longer, and that the interests of Iraq and Iraqis should be their first priority."

There you have it!!

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Those who think the shooting at the car that carried the Italian journalist was an assassination should think again. An assassin would not shoot and kill the wrong person, and take the wounded "mark" to the hospital. It just does not add up.

It is most likely that the soldiers did this in "better safe than sorry" fashion. They shoot and kill Iraqis all the time, since no one can punish them as they invoke the line: "they did not stop and we feared it was a car bomb."

If true what Mr. Scolari said, that they were shot at 700 meters away from the airport, then it must be about a few soldiers playing with fire. If you are a soldier stationed 700 meters away from the airport (for those who don't know the area) you should know that a car bomb cannot reach you -- too many check points to pass. A driver on a suicide mission would attack the first check point, unless he wants to out-perform Chuck Norris!!

Indeed, if a car bomb gets as close as 700 meters from the Baghdad airport, some two-star general should be fired. It is harder than getting a car bomb into the Green Zone.

There seems to be another story coming out, about the shooting at the Italian journalist. According to one person who was in the car:

"The journalist's partner, Pierre Scolari, who traveled to Baghdad to escort her back to Italy, says both U.S. and Italian forces were aware that she had been released from captivity and that her car would be passing through checkpoints.

Mr. Scolari said they were 700 meters from the airport and had already passed some U.S.-manned checkpoints.

U.S. forces said they tried to warn the driver to stop, and opened fire when it failed to do so. They said they had not been alerted to its passage."

According to the AP:

"From the hospital, Giuliana Sgrena told Rai News 24 by telephone that 'we thought the danger was over after my rescue.'

'And instead, suddenly there was this shooting. We were hit by a spray of fire,' she told the television network. 'I was talking to Nicola ... when he leaned over me, probably to defend me, and then he slumped over. That was a truly terrible thing.'"

Iraqis are not surprised, according to Reuters:
"There is no safety on the roads. Everyone should expect anything to happen on these roads. Foreigners, Iraqis we are all exposed to the same risks," said Jawdat Abd al-Kadhum, who "lost a leg to an American bullet fired from a convoy traveling ahead of him."

Friday, March 04, 2005

More war crimes covered up.

"Amrit Singh, a staff lawyer at the A.C.L.U., said that military investigators appeared to rush to end the investigation without bringing any charges. Ms. Singh said that the files showed that there was little doubt that the prisoner was abused and investigators seemed to identify the person who was responsible, yet the case was dropped."

Who would think, after all, that the ACLU would request the charade called "investigation."

But in fairness to the charade-masters, President Bush just promised the Italian prime minister a full investigation of the killing of an Italian agent and wounding everyone else in the car carrying the freed journalist.

The honest answer would be: We thought they were Iraqis.

'Anti-Islamist' Crusader Plants New Seeds, by Jim Lobe:

Daniel Pipes is now after "legal activities". Decent people try to change the laws if they disagree with them. But for the extremists, it is perfectly OK to go after law abiding citizens, those who think that pork is not good for you.

I personally don't care what the soldiers eat, and I am not aware of any nation-wide campaign to prevent families from sending pork to the soldiers in Iraq, justifying the creation of an "institute" supported by U.S. Senators and right-wing hot-shots (if you have a web-site for such campaign please tell us about it). But this shows the pettiness of these extremists who justify the harassment of law abiding citizens on the basis of their views on eating pork (is Pipes also for harassing Jews who oppose eating pork?)

Thanks to these fanatics, I am coining a new concept: "The Pork War between Islam and the West."

It has been more than a month since Iraq had an election. Yet, the illegitimate government is still in power.

I mentioned in one of my articles, and here, that the supporters of symbolism had a good day on Janyary 30, 2005; but the supporters of substance are still waiting for theirs. What is happening is a de facto suspension of the results of the elections.

There is nothing in the Transitional Administration Law mandating that the Assembly cannot meet before agreeing in dark rooms on a Presidency Council and a cabinet. It is absurd to keep an illegitimate assembly operational -- making laws against the will of the people -- while the members of the elected assembly are sitting outside.

The media deals with U.S. deaths in Iraq as a statistical game. When the number reaches a point suitable for a headline, they all seem to jump on it. Until then, it is mentioned in passing.

As to the number of Iraqi deaths, it is not "sexy" enough to make the headlines, in the opinion of these editors-in-chief. The generals realized this a long time ago and did not bother to count Iraqis the kill, cause to be killed, or fail to prevent their killing.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone exposes Israeli policies and calls Ariel Sharon "a war criminal who should be in prison, not in office."

"To avoid manufactured misunderstandings, the policies of Israeli governments are not analogous to Nazism. They do not aim at the systematic extermination of the Palestinian people, in the way Nazism sought the annihilation of the Jews.

Israel's expansion has included ethnic cleansing. Palestinians who had lived in that land for centuries were driven out by systematic violence and terror aimed at ethnically cleansing what became a large part of the Israeli state. The methods of groups like the Irgun and the Stern gang were the same as those of the Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic: to drive out people by terror.

Today the Israeli government continues seizures of Palestinian land for settlements, military incursions into surrounding countries and denial of the right of Palestinians expelled by terror to return. Ariel Sharon, Israel's prime minister, is a war criminal who should be in prison, not in office. Israel's own Kahan commission found that Sharon shared responsibility for the Sabra and Shatila massacres.

Sharon continues to organise terror. More than three times as many Palestinians as Israelis have been killed in the present conflict. There are more than 7,000 Palestinians in Israel's jails.

To obscure these truths, those around Israel's present government have resorted to demonisation. Initial targets were Palestinians, and have now become Muslims. Take the Middle East Media Research Institute, run by a former colonel in Israeli military intelligence, which poses as a source of objective information but in reality selectively translates material from Arabic and presents Muslims and Arabs in the worst possible light.

Today the Israeli government is helping to promote a wholly distorted picture of racism and religious discrimination in Europe, implying that the most serious upsurge of hatred and discrimination is against Jews.

All racist and anti-semitic attacks must be stamped out. However, the reality is that the great bulk of racist attacks in Europe today are on black people, Asians and Muslims - and they are the primary targets of the extreme right. For 20 years Israeli governments have attempted to portray anyone who forcefully criticises the policies of Israel as anti-semitic. The truth is the opposite: the same universal human values that recognise the Holocaust as the greatest racist crime of the 20th century require condemnation of the policies of successive Israeli governments - not on the absurd grounds that they are Nazi or equivalent to the Holocaust, but because ethnic cleansing, discrimination and terror are immoral."

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Even the Republicans are unhappy with the tactics of the administration to keep pouring money into this optional war in Iraq. They are questioning the reasons for the Administration's request of $81.9 billion on top of the already gigantic defense spending. Of course the reason is simple: the Administration cannot pass the original number of dollars in the original budget, because it is too outrageous, so they announce half of it in the budget (which is already too much) and they come back and ask for the other half using the charade called "supplemental funding."

Now, when the Republicans - I am talking about people like Trent Lott -- against it, it must be more than just bad.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Juan Cole has a very interesting posting on Lebanon. You might want to check it out.

It seems that the death penalty is applied in a reverse way in Iraq.

"A judge and a lawyer with the special tribunal that will try Saddam Hussein and former members of his government were shot and killed Tuesday by gunmen outside their home...Iraqi officials said."

On the drama of Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, "a senior Iraqi official said a half brother of Saddam Hussein who was arrested recently had been captured by Iraqi and allied forces, not by Syria, as Iraqi officials had said over the weekend."

"Hosni Mubarak! Free Ayman Nour! (Abbas, could you put in a word for him in your next al-Ahram piece?)" asked one of my readers.

I write for Al-Ahram on issues related to Iraq. Since I am not a staff writer (I don't work for Al-Ahram), I don't have the luxury to write about Egypt. Also, I do not pretend to be in a position to step on the toes of more qualified people and write about the subject (just like I said about Lebanon in my post below).

Contrary to what the question above is trying to imply, Al-Ahram did publish articles, like this one, about Ayman Nour. I don't know if I can add anything. My take is the following:

He must be either released immediately, if he is innocent, or sent to a fair and speedy trial if he did break the law.

Also, please refer to this interview in Al-Ahram with the party's Secretary-General, Mona Makram Ebeid.

"The State Department on Monday detailed an array of human rights abuses last year by the Iraqi government, including torture, rape and illegal detentions by police officers and functionaries of the interim administration that took power in June.

A senior State Department official said the criticism of Iraq was in keeping with the administration's approach. 'What it shows is that we don't look the other way,' the official said. 'There are countries we support and that are friends, and when they have practices that don't meet international standards, we don't hesitate to call a spade a spade.'

Not every spade is called a spade, however:

"The report did not address incidents in Iraq in which Americans were involved, like the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, which came to light in 2004."

For those who like to read, here is the part on Iraq.

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