Friday, April 29, 2005

"One count of committing indecent acts ... will be dismissed."

Silly! She was photographed in her military uniform admiring the private parts of naked male prisones. I don't know how one can say this is not indecent. Maybe the U.S. military has a different concept of decency, as the Pentagon and the White House have their own concept of torture.

Let's hope that Army judge Col. James Pohl has a better understanding of decency than the lawyers on both sides.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The new Iraqi government:

1. Prime minister: Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Shi`i Arab

2. Deputy prime minister: Rowsch Shaways, Kurd

3. Deputy prime minister: Ahmed Chalabi, Shi`i Arab

4. Deputy prime minister posts: unfilled.

5. Deputy prime minister posts: unfilled.


1. Interior minister: Bayan (Baqir) Jabr

2. Construction and housing minister: Jassim Ja`far

3. Finance minister: Ali Allawi

4. Education minister: Abdul Falah Hassan

5. Higher education minister: Sami al-Mudhaffar (the best choice ever)

6. Health minister: Abdul Mottalib Ali

7. Agriculture minister: Ali al-Bahadli (excellent choice)

8. Justice minister: Abdul Hussein Shandal

9. Minister of transport: Salam al-Maliki

10. Migration and displacement minister: Suhaila Jaafar (female)

11. Minister of state for national security: Abdul Karim al-Inizy

12. Minister of state for civil society: Ala` Kadhim (not related to me)

13. Minister of state for archaeology: Hashim al-Hashimi

14. Minister of state for National Assembly affairs: Safa' al-Safi


1. Foreign minister: Hoshyar Zebari

2. Planning and development cooperation minister: Barham Salih

3. Communications minister: Jwan Maasoum (female)

4. Labor and social affairs minister: Idris Hadi

5. Water resources minister: Abdul Latif Rashid

6. Municipalities and public works minister: Nasreen Berwari (female)

7. Environmental minister, Narmin Othman (female)

Sunni Arabs

1. Trade minister: Abdul Bassit Mawloud

3. Culture minister: Nouri Farhan al-Rawi

4. Minister of state for women affairs: Azhar al-Sheikhli (female)

5. Minister of state for provinces affairs: Saad al-Hardan


1. Science and technology minister: Bassima Boutros (female)


1. Youth and sports minister: Talib Aziz Zayni

Acting Ministers:

1. Acting defense minister: Ibrahim al-Jaafari (will go to a Sunni)

2. Acting electricity minister: Rowsch Shaways (will go to a Shi`i)

3. Acting oil minister: Ahmed Chalabi (will go to a Shi`i)

4. Acting human rights minister: Narmin Othman (was a Kurd)

5. Acting industry and minerals minister: Muslih al-Jubburi (will go to a Sunni)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

It seems that the new government will see light very soon.

It will be the largest in Iraqi history, because they had to create too many ministries to accommodate Iraq's 290 factions -- and to hell with the election results. If you have a gun and the will to use it, you are a minister.

They even had three deputies for the prime minister. All of this for a government that is supposed to last for 5 months.

First Afghan (female) governor, first Afghan (female) hairdresser, first Afghan (female) taxi driver, first Iraqi (female) cheeseburger maker...

And the list of Guinness [Afghanistan and Iraq] Records continues!

"US investigators have found that American troops who shot dead an Italian agent at a Baghdad checkpoint on March 4 committed no wrongdoing and will not be disciplined, an Army official said.
Italy disagrees."

"In his final word, the CIA's top weapons inspector in Iraq said Monday that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction has 'gone as far as feasible' and has found nothing."

What a shocking surprise!

Also, the report said that "it was 'unlikely' that Saddam Hussein's forces moved weapons to Syria, though he expressed concern about nuclear-related equipment that was apparently removed after American-led forces invaded Iraq."

The straightforward version of the last part of the above quote is that the Bush Administration is to blame for not securing these dangerous materials, and that might have caused them to fall in the wrong hands.

Here is another one of my favorite Arabic proverbs for you: As Mr Bush "wanted to beautify the bride's eyes, he made her blind."

Author of the report, Charles Duelfer, the head of the former Iraq Survey Group, "said, Mr. Hussein's large corps of scientists and engineers provided much of the critical information that led to the conclusion that Iraq posed little or no threat of using weapons of mass destruction against its own people, its neighbors or American forces."

Now it is time to have a report on bringing "democracy" to Iraq.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

"Worried about a political deadlock in Iraq and a spike in mayhem from an emboldened insurgency, the Bush administration has pressed Iraqi leaders in recent days to end their stalemate over forming a new government, with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney personally exhorting top Kurdish and Shiite politicians to come together."

Now I can sleep better, knowing that this couple is on the case.

Four 'Mujahidin' were killed and another was wounded while they were planting a bomb to kill as many innocent Iraqis as possible.

As the Arabs say: "the one who cooks poison must taste it."

Comment From John C.

"Abbas, it's all over but the fighting. No "government" that could possibly emerge at this late stage would have any chance of establishing national unity through peaceful means. The war has clearly entered the next, entirely predictable, phase:

I don't know for a fact that the insurgency is being directed by "former regime elements," but assuming that it is, it has progressed exactly according to the way they would have planned it. Even the supposedly successful election has ended up playing into the insurgents' hands, by demonstrating the lies and hypocrisy behind all the talk about "democracy," and the inability of the Shiite leadership to exercise effective political power.

As I see it, the only two possible endgames are the Vietnam scenario, in which an indigenous force backed by a foreign power is able to gain the upper hand through a combination of guerilla tactics and conventional warfare, or the Afghanistan/Somalia scenario, in which the country descends into a long period of chaos and feudalism. The U.S. would obviously prefer the latter to the former, although some in Washington still seem to think the "Salvador option" is a third possibility. I don't think they can pull that off in Iraq."

Sa`di al-Hilli, one of the Iraqi singers who spoke to all generations, died.

I met him for the last time in Amman (Jordan) in 1998. He was tired and sad. We spoke for a few minutes, remembering the old days when he used to come in 1980s to record his songs in Kufa, for the 'company' of Hakim al-Salami, a good friend of mine.

"The legal advice of the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, during the run-up to war in Iraq came under fresh scrutiny last night as it was claimed that he had listed six reasons why Britain could be in breach of international law.

These arguments were reported to be contained in a 13-page document dated 7 March 2003 which has never been made public. It was seen by only a relative handful of people at the highest levels of government - including Britain's military top brass, who found it unsatisfactory.

Lord Goldsmith's balanced reasoning was said to have dismayed Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, then chief of the defence staff. With British forces poised to attack Iraq, Sir Michael (now Lord) Boyce demanded an unequivocal answer on whether they could be accused of war crimes.

Within a few days he had it, in the form of a nine-paragraph, 337-word statement. Shorn of all caveats, it said Britain was entitled to go to war on the basis of past UN resolutions, some dating back to before the 1990-91 Gulf War, more than 12 years before."

"After nearly three months of negotiations, Iraq's major Shiite bloc has decided to form a Cabinet without members of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's Iraqi List party, lawmakers said Sunday."

Well, it makes no sense to have Allawi in the government anyway. After all, his administration has been the most corrupt Iraq could ever have (after Saddam of course). If anything is to be done to him and his Ba`thist friends, it would be taking them to court immediately. I don't believe anyone of them will survive a fair trial.

"Bush to bash Saudis over [lack of freedom and democracy.]"

Or that is how the headline should be in this particular case.

Comment from Susan:

I think you have a point about Talabani not agreeing to be president in a country where the death penalty is accepted, if he is against it.

But I'm with Shirin: I respect him a whole lot more for taking a stand against this barbaric and useless practice. I think people like Saddam should be imprisoned the rest of their lives, and forced to watch videos from the people they have hurt. In his case, I would agree to limited physical punishment also.

Following your line of argument, then no one opposed to slavery should have agreed to be president of the USA when slavery existed! And there is no way forward short of violence!"

Well, Susan. Slavery is a different evil. One could be president and don't have to own slaves and work through political (or military) means to change the law, as Lincoln did. Death penalty is something the president has to be an active player, by signing on the go-ahead order.
As to our disagreement on the whole issue of the penalty, I respect the opinion of those who want to do away with it. I just have no problem with executing someone like Saddam. This is a disagreement that can coexist with good friendship among us.

A follow-up comment from Shirin:

"Hi Abbas,

You wrote: 'I believe, Shirin, that Jalal Talabani should either resign or uphold the law of the country. If he is so turned off by the death penalty, he should not seek to be the president of a country that has this kind of punishment which also requires his signature as a part of the procedure.'

You have a very good point, of course. He went all out to get that job, and took it, I believe, knowing full well that the death penalty was going to be an issue at some point. Didn't I point out in my earlier comment that he is well known as an opportunist par excellence? (Not that this sets him apart in any way from the rest of the Iraqi and international hyenas who have been gathering for the past two years to try grab what they can from the body of the felled prey.) So, while I see some honour in his refusal to go back on his commitment to end the death penalty, a single gesture does not transform a person of no honour into an honourable one."

I certainly like people who honor their word and signature, especially when doing so is almost like political suicide. But still believe that he should have gone the right way about it: not seeking the job. Abbas

A Comment from Shirin:
"To put in my two-Fils worth (or I guess by now with inflation it is about 100,000 dinars worth), my opinion of Jalal Talibani has always been only slightly higher than my opinion of Mas`oud Barzani, who is to Mulla Mustafa as Muqtada is to Mohammad Sadeq. Jalal is without doubt a corrupt despot, and an opportunist, and whereas Mas`oud is completely unprincipled, Jalal is perhaps partially principled. However, his stand on the death penalty issue has elevated him considerably in my view. It is less the fact that I am opposed to the death penalty under any and all circumstances than the fact that - if he is to be believed - Mam Jalal placed his name on a pledge to end the death penalty worldwide, and is now insisting upon honouring that pledge in the face of enormous pressure."

I believe, Shirin, that Jalal Talabani should either resign or uphold the law of the country. If he is so turned off by the death penalty, he should not seek to be the president of a country that has this kind of punishment which also requires his signature as a part of the procedure. Abbas

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Ja`fari is left in the cold. He may be forced to resign if a government is not formed. Democracy, Iraqi style (minority rule, that is).

Meanwhile, the Wahhabi "Mujahidun" continue to please their god by killing more Shi`a during the Friday prayer.

In Najaf, the governor warned that the Shi`a may begin to retaliate if the killing continues. His warning was mainly aimed at the so-called Association of Muslim Scholars (Arabic text), which is in fact an organization very friendly to the terrrorists, especially the Wahhabi members of the organization.

And in Washington, "Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, faulted by some for leadership failures in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, has been cleared by the Army of all allegations of wrongdoing and will not be punished, officials said."

I personally think that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez is fully responsible for what happened on his watch. The difference between real generals and incompetent ones is that real generals know what goes on in the field. That is not to mention his authorization of troture (after playing with the terminology of course) like allowing dogs in prison cells.

In Kut, "Corpses keep coming from Iraq's river of death." Still, many people think that it is fabricated or "exaggerated."

Monday, April 18, 2005

"We have to show our opposition to Islam and we have to, at times, run the risk of having unflattering labels placed on us because there are some things for which we should display no tolerance," said Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

The writer of the article says that she "warned against the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Denmark and the world...[although] she did not specifically refer to fundamentalism."

Indeed, all of her remarks the article directly quotes do not support the conclusion that she was talking about fundamentalism. She is talking about Islam in general.

Who wants to be in Denmark anyway? While in Saudi Arabia, I once worked for an immigration group from Denmark as a volunteer interpreter (English/Arabic). Between these guys and their queen, I now am happy that I did not apply for a Visa to Denmark. Of course, I was always happy to be in the U.S., which I chose over several other countries.

You see, here in the U.S. if you don't like the President, wait for four years (or 8 in bad scenarios). But over there you are stuck with the ugly-looking queen and even when here time naturally expires, you will end up with a brat she raised.

Of course, due to my bad luck, I came during the days of Bush One, whom I did not like, and ended up with the brat he raised. But this only happened twice in more than 200 years of U.S. history. I can live with that.

"The Shiite Muslim bloc leading the new Iraqi government will demand the removal of all top officials left over from the era of former leader Saddam Hussein, a top official said, part of a purge that the United States fears could oust thousands of the most capable Iraqis from military and intelligence forces that it has spent more than $5 billion rebuilding."

If they are criminals, it does not matter how much money was spent to train them. They should have checked their background before their hiring. The cycle of violence must be broken at some locus, and it seems very reasonable to start with criminals in sensitive positions in the government. That's what all democratic governments are expected to do, so why not Iraq?

The Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who had been widely expected to resign and form a new government to strengthen his struggling conservative coalition, confounded the rumours and speculation circulating in Italy all day yesterday to remain in his job last night....
His conservative coalition government has been on the brink of collapse since Friday when the Union of Christian Democrats withdrew its support after disastrous results in regional elections earlier this month in which the centre-left opposition won around 54% of the vote. With 13 out of 20 regional governments up for grabs, Mr Berlusconi's coalition held just two."

"Iraq's new president has said he would refuse to sign Saddam Hussein's death warrant if the ex-dictator is convicted of war crimes."

Death penalty is awful and it is not something to cheer, but for someone like Saddam, I might even watch it.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Wahhabism began to unmask in Iraq. A group of terrorists destroyed the grave-site of the son of Imam Musa al-Kadhim in Abu Saida, a little town in Diyala province.

Grave destruction is a Wahhabi practice since the beginning of the evil alliance between Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of this terrorist cult, and the family of S`oud (the Saudis). They destroyed all the graves in Arabia and wherever they reached with their terror. Indeed, they even wanted once to destroy the grave-site of the Prophet himself. And their plunder and destruction of Karbala is well documented, even by their own historians.

This is not the first time since the invasion of 2003 a grave-site was destroyed. There was no such practice before the Wahhabis came with their terrorism and money to Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Shi`a and the true Iraqi Sunnis held a joint demonstration in the close-by town of Khan Bani Sa`d to protest the ignorant sectarian practices of the Wahhabis and the terrorists.

As all of this is happening on the watch of Iyad Allawi, he still had the audacity to ask for the Ministry of Defense or Interior as a condition for participating in the government. I'd say: don't give him anything. Rewarding incompetence and corruption is the last thing Iraq needs.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

"Iraqi security forces surrounded a central Iraqi village Sunday after Sunni militants took as many as 100 Shiite Muslims hostage and threatened to kill the captives if other Shiites did not leave town. The explosive sectarian standoff played out, as 17 people — including an American soldier — were killed in insurgent attacks elsewhere in Iraq."

While this is not the general attitude of Iraqi Sunnis, there are certain elements in the Iraqi Sunni community that espouses this kind of ignorant behavior. Similar activities are reported in small towns like Latifiyya and Yousufiyya, where the Shi'a are under constant provocations and many murders took place. If left unchecked, this stuff could get out of hand.

Let's hope that the new government does not listen to Rumsfeld and do the right thing, which is going after the terrorists whoever they might be and no matter what positions they hold.

Meanwhile, it seems that the town in question, al-Mada'in, is surrounded by Iraqi forces who are trying to end the captivity of the hostages, according to al-Rafidayn newspaper (Arabic).

"The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" (Thanks Christiane)

Friday, April 15, 2005

"U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Thursday the United States and Britain bore part of the blame in the Iraq oil-for-food debacle by allowing unsupervised oil exports that Saddam Hussein exploited.

Annan, addressing a seminar on the United Nations and the media, said most of the money Saddam earned was by oil sold to Jordan and Turkey outside of the $67 billion U.N. program.

Only countries like the United States and Britain had interdiction forces that could have stopped it. But he said they 'decided to close their eyes to Turkey and Jordan because they are allies.'"

Thanks to my readers who are sending comments (please see your comments at the end of the relevant posting). And many thanks to the readers who e-mailed expressing support, understanding and/or objections to my decision to turn off the comment section.

Let's see if you like the new system. You will lose the chance for instant debate, but will win the chance to think it over and provide a better response.

I continue to despise Ahmed Chalabi. But I think that this interview with him is a must read.

"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in a sharp intervention in Iraqi government-building, urged the country's new Shiite and Kurdish leaders Tuesday against carrying out a broad purge of the security forces."

This is not only a "sharp intervention." It is a clear attempt to set up the new government to failure. There is no way in the world that Iraq will be secure while Saddam's criminals are in the security forces. They have worked with their terrorist friends to facilitate the death of countless Iraqis and, Iraqis even say that those Ba`athists are to blame for the loss of many American lives.

I can't understand why Secretary Rumsfeld defends these criminals and insists on their retention in the Iraqi forces. How can one reconcile the rejection of any pardon for those who killed Americans, while at the same time rejecting the dismissal of those who reportedly helped the killers of American soldiers?

Needless to say that Rumsfeld's crude statement was met with anger by the Iraqis who are the primary victims of these criminals. This anger was manifest clearly in the media.

The visit of Rumsfeld and his statements about what the new government can or cannot do is a clear reminder of who is really in charge in Iraq.

Comment, from Susan - USA:
"It is surely a clear indication that Rumsfeld and the Bush administration plan on continuing to run things over there. Amazing that he said it in public, on TV, instead of behind doors, no?

I can understand why Rumsfeld wants the criminals to stay... they are the partners of the Bush administration, and the means to control Iraq. Much like [the] death squads in Honduras[, allegedly organized by Negroponte]. And today in America, we have a prosecution of the US soldiers who killed and tortured Iraqis, and no punishment for those who ordered them to do so. Which reconciles perfectly with the rejection of a pardon for those who killed Americans, but not for those in power who helped them do the killing, or planned it.
One thing you must understand is that these people (Bush regime), like Saddam's group, don't give a damn who dies or suffers."

Comment, from Paulo:


"You wrote:

'The visit of Rumsfeld and his statements about what the new government can or cannot do is a clear reminder of who is really in charge in Iraq.'

I've seen much talk on recent newsarticles about the US rebuilding this, promising to rebuild that, calling European Union to increase efforts on rebuilding Iraq, etc. Wasn't rebuilding supposed to be part of the attribution of the Iraqi Government that is being formed? Do you have a clear idea about what's going on this issue?

No Paulo. All I know is that there is no credible reconstruction effort going on in Iraq. This can be clearly proven by the very low level of spending on reconstruction, which is a good indicator.
On my trip back from Washington, I was by chance sitting next to a gentleman who ran a company that has contracts in Iraq. He was complaining that there is a lot of fraud going on and that there are efforts to re-direct the contracts to the big corporations, with the help of some US members of Congress. Also, he said that it is crazy that these companies do not have to hire Iraqis to do the work. They bring people from other countries and pay them a lot of money, which would do a lot if it goes to Iraqis, who are unemployed and suffering. He said that he was very happy with the Iraqis his company hired.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

I have a painful decision to make. I will have to turn off the Comment section. I really wanted it to function as a good forum for the readers to engage one another in a respectful and intelligent way. Most of you did exactly that. But there has been a lot of traffic that could only be described as being disgraceful -- name calling, insults, and sheer hatred.

So I have done some thinking about how not to punish those readers who agreed or disagreed with me, but played by the rules. The result was that I will move them from the comment section to the main page.

Those who like to contribute, no matter on which side of the issues they are, can contribute up to 500 words (or a little more) by e-mail. I will post them to the main page with the proper attribution. I will only edit for length and/or language.

This will give the debate a new format. It will not be single-line immediate exchange, but a thoughtful and articulate (longish) discourse. Here are the advantages:

1. It will get rid those who cannot live in a clean environment. No one will ever be called names.

2. It will free a lot of my time, to do better posting on the main page instead of going through blood-boiling hateful comments. Currently I spend twice the time on monitoring the comments, and I don't even read all of them.

3. The quality of the site will be much better and much more informative.

4. Those who have ideas on how to make it better, please HELP!

Monday, April 11, 2005

I have a few deadlines to meet. Will check in, maybe, from the Comment section.

"A recent report from the Pew Research Center, "Trends 2005," is painful to read. The report says that 45 percent of Americans believe little or nothing in their daily newspapers, up from 16 percent two decades ago."

Actually, the problem is not in the 45%, who believe little of nothing. Rather, it is in the 55% who believe some or everything in their daily newspapers.

Take for example the reporting about Iraq. I am told by some of my journalist friends that much of the reporting is done from hotel rooms. Journalists rarely, or never, go to the streets.

A few days ago, I made a differentiation between the insurgency and terrorism in Iraq. Again, I do not support either. I think the Sistani way is the appropriate way.

My point was concerning the way to deal with these two problems. There is one way to deal with terrorism and terrorists (like al-Qa`ida and the fanatics and Ba`athist). It is to go after them and spare no effort to hunt them down, one by one. Others, like those who engage in combat, require another way of treatment. In action, a soldier does what he has to do to combat such people. But if there is a way the state can adopt to end their insurgency and have them lay down their arms, it is the best way to go, to save lives that would be lost if the conflict is not solved.

Unlike terrorists, one can negotiate with insurgents and solve the conflict with them. There is a whole field of studies that deals with this problem. Indeed, I studied at UC Davis with one of the most prominent theorists of managing such conflicts. History is full of examples of successful (as well as failing) processes of conflict management involving violent insurgency.

Here is what the new Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, said about this issue:

"There are two kinds of killing: In battle or in action, this could be covered by the amnesty. Those who are involved in killing innocent people, detonation of car bombs, killing people in mosques and in churches, these would not be covered by the amnesty."

"It is essential that we separate those who came from outside the country, like all those organizations affiliated with al Qaeda, from Iraqis...We must seek to win over the Iraqis to the democratic process going on in the country and fight the [foreign] criminal gangs," He said.

The outgoing prime minister, Iyad Allawi, proposed such an offer when he first took office, but the deal did not go through because it was changed to include only those who engaged in combat against Iraqi forces. But since Iraqi forces are rarely acting alone, it would be impossible to tell who was, or was not, fighting against other soldiers.

Of course, Jalal Talabani would never support either kind of killing, nor he should. But in the face of what Iraq is going through, this is the only way out of the quagmire -- and it is not even guaranteed to work, but it is better than forcing an alliance between the insurgents and the terrorists when you lump them together.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

To those who might be worried about the political future of Ahmed Chalabi, the news is finally out. He is going to be a deputy prime minister for security affairs.

If there is one thing I agree with Chalabi on, it's got to be his anti-Ba`athist attitude. My slogan is always the following: Keep Abu Sh'hab away from money and place him anywhere you wish.

Jalal Talibani begins his presidency with a pardon offer for the Iraqis who "were deceived," but he said that foreign terrorists and their imorted terrorism is going to be met with total firmness. (Arabic link) He said this is an attempt to "give them a chance" to join the new Iraq.

In the midst of the desecration of the good name of al-Sadr family by the followers of the young Moqtada al-Sadr, one must be mindful that this is just a temporary episode before the name of al-Sadr is restored to its natural glory.

Upon us is the 25-year anniversary of the martyrdom of the Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr, who was executed by the criminal regime of Saddam Hussein, together with his sister, Bint al-Huda al-Sadr, a unique intellectual in her own right.

Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr was one of a kind in his intellectual capabilities as a jurist, a theologian, an economist and a philosopher. I cannot give him his due in these lines, but I will only try to introduce him to my readers.

His most important contributions were in the fields of Islamic economics and the principles of jurisprudence (usoul al-Fiqh). His 1961 book, Iqtisaduna (Our Economics) is considered by scholars of Islamic studies as the first work to articulate a comprehensive theory of Islamic economics. Every major scholar in the field has benefited from his original work. This book of 680 pages (in the Arabic original) consists of three parts. In the first part, al-Sadr provides a critique of Marxism and its economic theory, followed by a second part on Capitalism. Unlike many other economists, al-Sadr conducts his work without claiming a monopoly over the economic wisdom. He provides a brilliant comparative study without any reservations to acknowledge what makes sense in other theories. He finally, introduces in the larger part of the work the theoretical and practical (judicial) elements of an Islamic economics, which is built on three interconnected major principles:
1. Dual ownership (private and public).
2. Economic freedom within flexible parameters.
3. Social justice.
These principles, he argues, are not set by the laws only; rather, they are shaped by a collaboration of state laws and voluntary spiritual behavior on the part of the individual.
The book has been translated (not well, unfortunately) into English.

His other original contribution was, as I mentioned, the book on the principles of jurisprudence (Durous fi `Ilm al-Usoul). This work which replaced generations of out-dated texts for students in the Shi`i seminary (Hawza). Usoul has been, for generations, the nightmare of students of Islamic sciences. I remember reading the old textbook, Kifayat al-Usoul, and ending up forgetting every page after I begin the next page. Then I decided to read a more recent work, so I picked Ayatollah Khomeini's Tahdheeb al-Usoul. He lost me after two paragraphs.

Then I read al-Sadr's book and as if I finally found something in a language I know (the others were also in Arabic). So what was the problem and what did he do about it?

The problem, as he says in the introduction, is two-fold. First, these books were not written originally as textbooks for students. They were "books written by accomplished scholars for an audience consisting of accomplished scholars." The second problem was that these works were written in different eras and, therefore, they represent different times and thus fail to account for the development of the science of Usoul.

Al-Sadr's contribution was meant to tackle both problems. To solve the second problem, he substituted many "textbooks" with one textbook that is up-to-date and completely modern in its language and terminology. As for the first problem, he adopted a fantastic method: he wrote the same book three times. The first volume was meant to be an introductory for the beginner or the "curious reader" who wants to read Usoul al-Fiqh in the bus. The second is essentially the same book, but deeper in discussion and more comprehensive in its examples and arguments. Finally, the third part is the same book written with the same complex level of the previous works by other scholars. By the time the student gets to this part, he is already familiar with all of the essential elementary components for each section.

To be continued at a later time...

"Shooting threatens Mideast cease-fire:
Israeli troops kill three Palestinian teenagers at Rafah camp."

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Allawi and his corrupt Ba`athist bloc will not be part of the new cabinet.

This is good news. They don't belong there anyway.

Their behavior has been ridiculous, for a bloc that came up distant third with only 14% of the seats. First, they insisted on having the Prime Minister position, or no deal. Then they wanted to eliminate the influence of clerics on the government. This would mean getting the clerics who ran and won seats in the election, including the leading figures on the UIA, that won more than 50% of the seats. Finally, they insisted to control the security dossier in Iraq. Great! So that they keep their Ba`athist friends and Saddam's executioners in control of the lives of Iraqis.

I'd say, send them to a small corner in the Assembly as an insignificant opposition. Maybe they will realize that bullying is not a way to conduct business in minority politics. They had their ten months of fame, and what have they done? Nothing! Their corruption is thought to be similar to that of Saddam's regime, and their human rights record is not much different.

"Tens of thousands of Iraqis marked the second anniversary of the fall of Saddam Hussein on Saturday by marching here in the capital to demand the withdrawal of American forces."

Motivations and the identity of the organizers aside, this peaceful way of displaying sentiments is 1000 times more civil and more effective than the brutal acts of violence committed in the name of Islam or in the name of patriotism.

Friday, April 08, 2005

I don't know if this has been noticed by others, but it seems curious that the inauguration of the Iraqi president was dated on April 7th. To many this sounds un-important. But Iraqis certainly know that April 7th was the anniversary of the Ba`ath Party, which was lavishly celebrated in Iraq during the past regime.

It was also two days short of April 9th, the day of the official collapse of the regime, which was chosen by the Governing Council as Iraq's National Day. Many Iraqis and Arabs objected to the choice saying that it was the first time any people choose the occupation of their country as a national day. To avoid criticism, they seem to have avoided holding it on April 9th.

I believe that the April 7th is not a co-incidence, which shows that a lot of symbolism is still at the center of the process. While they are at it, I hope that they will stick to the game of symbolism and hold the first day of Saddam's trial on April 28, as a birthday present for him.

Iraq has a new government now (almost). The selection of Jalal Talibani as the first president is a welcome cultural change. Although majority of Iraqis were never against a Kurd in the position of the President, it is important to have this backed by action. I believe that the vast majority of Iraqis, from all walks of life, will work with Talibani.

Make no mistake about it, the man is no democrat. But there is a hope that the set-up of the government will change this a little through power-sharing and collective decision making. He will not, in almost all cases, make an individual decision that is final. He has to convince his two deputies to consent with him.

Al-Ja`fari is now the Prime Minister and he will soon present to the Assembly a cabinet. Most likely, it is not going to resemble the spirit of the results from the January 30 elections. But it is the last trial to pass the problems of the under-representation of certain parts of Iraq -- due to lack of security, boycott, and technicalities.

This government is burdened with many problems, including the influence of the foreign entities whether they are part of the countries that have forces in Iraq or countries in the region that have influence through their allies in the government.

But the most critical tests are connected to what Iraqis expect from their new government. Issues such as security in the streets, services, reconstruction, employment, restoration of justice, and accountability of the officials would be the deciding factors of whether the new government will succeed or go in the same path of its predecessors.

Reservations aside, I think that the new government deserves a chance to prove itself. But it will have a very short time before Iraqis have their final judgment at the end of this year when the new elections take place.

The Talibani-Ja`fari-Hassani team will have to do many things at once and in a very short time. They have to arrange for all the items I listed above, as well as the writing of the permanent constitution and negotiate the status of foreign troops. They also have to complete the negotiations over the issues they had to set aside about all domestic disputes.

Terrorism hits Egypt again. Those terrorists have crossed all the lines of morality in two ways. First, and foremost, because they killed and harmed tourists who came to Egypt as friends who appreciate its culture and people.

But also they hurt a great many Egyptians. Egypt relies a great deal on tourism in its economy. This kind of acts will discourage tourists from coming in large numbers to Egypt and guess who suffers. It is the poor people who sell gifts and souvenirs, hotel and restaurant workers and so on.

This kind of acts will never force the Egyptian government to meet any demands (legitimate or not). It will also give the government a reason to keep in place the unpopular emergency laws, which are hurting the people of Egypt. Sad indeed.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

So that no one puts words in my mouth, here is my position on the U.S. troops in Iraq:

These are soldiers who are doing what their superiors order them. I do not wish any harm for anyone of them. Indeed, I see that getting them out of Iraq is the best way to ensure that they are not harmed. I have friends and former students in the U.S. military and I wish them, and all other U.S. soldiers, complete safety.

I also believe that soldiers who violate the rules of war must be held accountable and receive harsh punishment, because they only bring shame on their nation and transgress against the humanity of others.

But they are in a war. As long as they are in Iraq, they are providing a cause for some Iraqis to shoot at them. Is that justified? I don't think that any killing is justified. THis has been my position all along. However, the killing on both sides may be EXPLAINED by the presence of the U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Let me explain by giving an example:

You see someone jumping from a high place. the person's leg is broken. You say to him "what did you expect? You jumped from a high place and therefore your leg was broken." This does not mean that you are telling him that he deserves to have his leg broken. Indeed, you can tell him "what did you expect...." while you are in complete sympathy with him.

I do not, nor will I ever, call for or condone the killing of Americans. I also do not, nor will I ever call for or condone the killing of Iraqis. But, at the end of the day, what I want does not change anything. The killing is unfortunately going on and all I can do is explain why it is happening and pray that it does not continue.

My solution is simple: Remove the gas away from the fire.

I hope that this clarifies my position.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

One more question remains on my involvement in the uprising of 1991 and my current position:

I participated in the 1991 uprising because I always believed that it was the duty of Iraqis to liberate their country from the dictator -- as it is the duty of all other Arabs who are ruled by dictatorships now. I was, am, and will always be against a foreign power to occupy Iraq. I was against the 2003 invasion of Iraq and still do not see anything that may justify the atrocities and war crimes that took place in the past two years. Nowhere have I said anything contrary to this.

As to what is happening in Iraq, I am also clear. I will always describe as terrorism all the following (no matter who the victim is, Arab, Indian, German, American, French, Italian, or a Turk):

1. Bombing of mosques 2. Killing people on the basis of the last name 3. Rape, random violence and kidnapping 5. Placing bombs in the streets 6. Random mortar attacks 7. Car bombs 8. Assassinations 9. Suicide attacks.

I don't know how to put it in a more transparent language. I am not an anti-American. I am an Iraqi-American. When I criticize U.S. policies, I do so as an American. I do it like a great number of Americans who have different viewpoint from the one held by the administration. I am also a Muslim. According of my interpretation of Islam, it does not permit me to do anything against the society I live in.

"Abbas should the palestinians [sic.] resist Israeli occupation?"

Absolutely. It is their right and duty to defend themselves until the Israeli occupation is over, or a fair agreement is reached between the two sides. However, I do not support or even accept killing Israeli children and women. It is morally wrong, even though Israel kills Palestinian children and women. It also hurts the Palestinian cause.

More importantly, the Palestinian resistance does not blow Palestinian weddings, because they disagree with their religiosity. They do not kill Palestinian police and politicians who are shaking the hands of Israeli officers. That is a huge difference from what the so-called resistance is doing in Iraq.
Moreover, you can tell who the people leading the Palestinian resistance are. But can you tell me who the "heros" of the market and funeral bombings in Iraq are?

"should the Lebanese have resisted Israeli occupation of the south?"

Absolutely. See above.

"Abbas, please answer this, do you consider Hizballah [sic.] a terrorist organziation [sic.]?"

Considering Hizbollah a terrorist organization was a U.S. tactic to apply pressure on it and on Lebanon and Syria. That is why other countries are not calling it a terrorist organization. Even the U.S. has signaled lately that it is willing to deal with Hizbollah. Also, Hizbollah is protected and appreciated by the government of Lebanon and wide segments of the Lebanese people.

Can the so-called resistance bring a million Iraqis in the streets in a peaceful demonstration to support its cause, as Hizbollah did?

Just got back from Washington, D.C. where I gave a couple of presentations. I see that the notes are full of stuff.

I missed you all... There are a few things that require commenting. I will do so tonight, if I keep my brain in one piece.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

"Iraq crisis ends as speaker elected," says the Guardian.

Great! Who would have guessed that the cause of crisis in Iraq for the past two months was not having a Speaker?!

Hajem al-Hassani in a few words:

"Dr. Al-Hassani was born in Kirkuk in 1954 and graduated from Musol University. In 1979 he moved to the U.S. to study international trade at the University of Nebraska and earned a doctorate in industrial organization from the University of Connecticut. He has lectured at a number of American universities, managed an Internet company and worked most recently as head of the American Investment and Trading Company in Los Angeles. He has been a member of the board of a number of NGOs. Dr. Al-Hassani worked in the Iraqi Opposition for a number of years and became a member of the Politburo and then official spokesman of the Iraqi Islamic Party. He was elected to the follow up committee of the London Conference and has served as a Deputy Member of the Iraqi Governing Council and the Deputy Chair of its Finance Committee."

It seems that Musol University will be the official government school. Both the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Assembly attended Musol. Let's hope that they live up to the reputation of the "Boot Camp."

U.S. captain convicted of Iraq killing walks free:

“You commit a serious crime, you are out of the Army. This is not what we do here,” prosecutor Maj. John Rothwell said before sentence was passed. “What kind of institution does the U.S. Army become if assault with the intent to commit voluntary manslaughter is an honorable act?”

"Iraqi lawmakers elected Industry Minister Hajim al-Hassani, a Sunni Arab, as parliament speaker, ending days of deadlock. Former [sic.] nuclear scientist Hussain al-Shahristani, a Shiite, and Kurdish leader Aref Taifour were elected as al-Hassani's deputies."

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Tom asks: "Abbas what does it mean nominally Shi'i."

My guess is as good as yours, Tom!

I like those who go all the way -- Sunni or Shi`i. In this case and similar cases, when the person dies, his relatives cannot go to court and demand to divide his property according to Sunni jurisprudence. His daughters will say, "We are Shi`a." Then they will have all the inheritance.

But the person does not change his/her theological beliefs. For all we know, he is a secular "Sunni" Muslim.

When Sunni jurisprudence becomes inconvenient, financially, why not try Shi`i jurisprudence. Rich people do that in politics, law and even religion.

It is funny that, as I mentioned, Pachachi is running for a Sunni job in the government, but he does not want, when he dies, to be inherited as a Sunni.

Before the invasion, ordinary Iraqis used to joke (not fight) about Sunni-Shi`i differences. One of the jokes I like most is this one:

"One man was known for his extremely strong Sunni beliefs and identity was on his death-bed. He gathered his sons and told them that now, as he was about to die, he wanted to declare his conversion to become a Shi`i. His sons objected strongly and argued a lot with him, trying to talk him out of it, but he insisted. Then one of his sons told him if he can give one good reason for his last-minute decision. The man said, 'So when I die, the Shi`a will decrease, not the Sunnis.'"

This is interesting.

Adnan al-Pachachi announced that he recently converted "nominally" to be a Shi`i in order to protect his daughters' inheritance. The Shi`a allow the daughter(s) to inherit the complete property of the father when he dies leaving no sons, while Sunni jurisprudence forces them to share it with other relatives (See Ali al-Sistani, Minhaj al-Salihin, pp. 318-319.

Many Sunni families are reported to convert to be Shi`a to protect the right of the female to full inheritance.

I don't know how our Sunni brothers will react to having a vice president who is "nominally" Shi`i. Pachachi has announced his candidacy to the job. We know that they objected to a complete Sunni (al-Jarbah) just because he ran on a Shi`i list.

A few people recently began posting very nasty stuff. It does not really bother me, because I can easily erase them and move on. All I have to say is this:

It is not strange that those who support terrorism against Iraqi civilians and call it "resistance", would use dirty language. They are like germs, unable to live in a clean environment.

I will not make this site dirty for the sake of their insignificant existence. As I said earlier, it does not take special courage to post a nasty note here. But it would certainly take a special intellect to make a point.

Officials have announced that Pope John Paul II had died.

The world has lost by his death a very decent man who contributed a great deal to making the world better. He left the world at a time when there is a great need for people like him.

"Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski insisted in an interview with The Chronicle that her name should not be the only one linked to that scandal -- nor the highest. Many people -- from Spc. Charles Graner, a featured player in the notorious Abu Ghraib photos, up to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- hold some degree of responsibility for the events at Abu Ghraib, she said."

Friday, April 01, 2005

"About Baghdad" is one of the best I've seen in its genre. I say this not because Sinan is a good friend of mine, but because he knows the place, knows the people, knows the language and culture (he lived most of his life in Iraq).

He shows both sides of the story and did not go for only one view.

Yet, he admits that he has an agenda in the overall framework. "I left objectivity to FOX and CNN," he told a lady in the audience in Berkeley, who asked him if he tried to be "objective".

For those who see the film, it is important to remember that it was shot very early in the occupation period. It is certain that most of the responses Iraqis gave to Sinan would be completely different now (as he told me recently). July 2003 was before the "liberators" had time to out-perform Saddam in the management of the prisons and the streets. The negativity people expressed in the film was mostly due to the chaos, looting and destruction that followed the invasion.

Sinan is a brilliant Iraqi intellectual. He is also a fine poet and novelist. His latest novel, I`jam, is a breath-taking work, especially for those who knew Iraq and lived in it. For me, it was the most Iraqi literary work I identified with. Maybe because Sinan and I belong to the same generation that went through identical conditions in the university, on the street and in even at home. Even the constant reference to his Christian identity is a strong reminder of the spirit of my friends and classmates, the Iraqi Christians. One of those was my room-mate for two years, Sinhareeb, who used to fast Ramadhan with us. One day the person who did the adhan (call for prayer) was late, so he stood and did the adhan for us. He did it the Shi`i way, so from that time, our Sunni friends began to describe him as a Shi`i-Christian.

Sinan's use of Musol dialect in the dialogues of the novel was among my favorite parts in his work. Many parts are very painful to read, especially for us, Iraqis with strong and vivid memories from the bad old days.

An interview with Mishaan Al-Juburi. I have never seen him with this "moderate" tone!

According to al-Sharq al-Awsat, a UIA official accused al-Juburi of having "connections with the agencies of the past regime." Al-Juburi was quoted as saying that "having connections with Iraqi [intelligence] agencies is more honorable than having connections with Iranian ones."

I don't see any honor in having connections with Iraqi Ba'athist intelligence agencies, no matter how bad it is to be connected with foreign ones. It is sad that the replacement of Saddam and his criminal elements is coming down to this kind of creatures.

About Sistani

Unlike all democracies on earth, the Iraqi parliament decided to have the position of Assembly leader from the minority. That is nice and exquisite.

So, both the Kurds and the Shi`a agreed to let their brothers, the Sunni Arabs (this is how it is presented; not my wording) to choose a person for the job. After holding the process for God knows how long, the Sunni Arabs came up with the worst possible candidate, Mesh`an al-Jubouri.

Al-Jubouri is a staunch defender of the Ba`athists and the criminals from the old regime. The United Iraqi Alliance said that this choice is absurd and it will not pass, no matter what.

The Kurds just issued a communiqué calling him a chauvinist. He managed, by his rhetoric and antagonistic politics to anger both sides. His latest was an article saying that there is no evidence the Shi`a are a majority in Iraq.

On al-Jazeera today, he said that the UIA chose a prime minister without asking the opinions of others and the Kurds chose a president without asking for the opinion of anyone as well. The Sunni Arabs are "entitled" to do the same.

He seems to miss the point here. The UIA won more than 50% of the seats. They have the power to choose. The Kurds also came up with a strong hand.

But the Sunni Arabs have a 5% of the seats (16 out of 275). This does not make them "entitled" to force someone like him on 75% of the Assembly, all of whom think he is bad news.

When they made the gesture to give this job to a Sunni Arab (I applaud them for this) they did not have al-Jubouri in mind.

I'd say they should select Fawwaz al-Jarbah. He is a well-regarded Sunni Arab. He is the head of the largest Iraqi tribe (Shammar), and he can be a good representative for all Iraqis. He is everything al-Jubouri can never be.

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