Monday, May 30, 2005

Anti-Corruption Committee issued arrest warrants for seven ministers from the Allawi government The Ministers of Labor, Environment, Transportation, Housing, Interior, Health, and electricity.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

My article on the Shi`a of Iraq (Arabic text)

OK, we must admit now that Zarqawi is more skillful than any movie character we've seen. With a "Shrapnel [that] went in between the right shoulder and his chest, ripped it open and is still stuck there," he elected not to go to Syria, which is a few miles away from where he was allegedly hit, but insisted on going to Iran, according to this article. This way he crossed Iraq from west to east (about 350 miles) passing through American and Iraqi forces in 4 cities, including Baghdad, without being detected.

Some Gold Star mothers are more equal than others.

Friday, May 27, 2005

"Iraq announced on Thursday it will deploy 40,000 police and soldiers in the capital, ringing it with hundreds of checkpoints 'like a bracelet' in the largest show of Iraqi force since the fall of Saddam Hussein."

It is absolutely necessary to make the entire security operation purely Iraqi. Given wide authority, Iraqi forces can do the job much better than the foreign forces.

Also, in recend weeks, the government announced the capture of the criminals andf terrorists who are involved in specific acts, unlike the Allawi government, which operated in a Saddam-like fashion. I was very impressed by the tone of the Minister of Defense (Sunni) and the Minister of Interior (shi`i) in their joint conference. This is the best evidence that the sectarian identity of the person in charge cannot stand in the way of serving his country, so long as there are institutional and public checks. If these two succeed (it seems that they will), then sectarian quota will lose its importance and Iraqis will gradually find out the virtue of citizenship as a test for public service.

It seems that Crown Prince Abdullah bin `Abd al-`Aziz is on his way to being the official king of Saudi Arabia. He has been the de facto king for the past 10 years.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Among other things,
this article (Arabic text) reports the first death penalty sentence against three convicted terrorists. The sentence is to be administered within 10 days.

Also, the U.S. is planning to keep 4 bases in Iraq (cost = $82 billion) instead of 14. They currently have 106 bases according to the article. I personally think that there should not be even one long term base. Otherwise, the experience with the British base on Habbaniyya (until 1958) will likely be repeated.

A Comment from John C.


I am sad to see you write things like this: 'By the way, this is the one prisoner I don't care what is done to him or how. The worse it gets for him the better it is for everyone else.' Can't you see that this is the trap door through which civilization has repeatedly fallen? This is the logic of Guantanamo.
You can do better."

The people in Guantanamo are suspects. Some of them were released, which is an admission that at least there is no evidence against them. If evidence is presented against anyone in Guantanamo that he was engaged in terrorism, then I will have no problem how they are going to be punished. Once a person engages in acts of terror against innocent people, he gives up any right to respect or good treatment. But until they are tried and convicted in a court of law, they should receive humane treatment (this is also the declared position of the U.S. government).

None of the people in Guantanamo, to my knowledge, has publicly done what Saddam did in the last 35 years. If there is such a person, then the U.S. government is not doing its duty by not trying him and giving him the punishment he deserves.

Talking about rights for someone like Saddam or Bin Laden in the name of civilization is a slap in the face to civilization itself. The only right they have is the right to an immediate punishment. It is not part of civilization, as I understand it, to give similar rights to a suspect and to a murderous tyrant or a confessing terrorist who is proud of himself. The suspect is given rights because he might turn out to be innocent. This is not the case for Saddam or Bin Laden. They broke the contract with the rest of humanity.

But we might agree on this: those who are guarding his jail and used their position to take the pictures and -- probably -- sold them to The Sun proved that they have no better morality than his. But when I see a race to the bottom, I don't support either side, certainly not Saddam.

Another Comment from Tom:

" 'By the way, this is the one prisoner I don't care what is done to him or
how. The worse it gets for him the better it is for everyone else.'

You of all people should not be condoning war crimes.
You could lose any hope of your nomination to higher office, if ever
nominated to one, of getting confirmed.

Just writing to say hi, you know so I don't lose the habit.
Why are your comment pages still closed?
I mean with the resent announcement that they are reducing the summer
language programs, you should have all the time.."

Hi Tom,
I am not and I will never want to hold any office. So this is not going to be an issue.
Concerning the comment section, it became a forum for hateful people to engage in loathsome discourse. I am looking for a way to replace it with something more effective.
As to teaching Arabic, I am not doing this at the present time. I am engaged in full time research and writing. So time is still in short supply for me.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Saddam underwear photo angers US:

But he has always been in U.S. custody. This means that it must be an American who took the photos and gave them to papers. Why is the U.S. mad at those who published them. It seems to be a case of misplaced anger.

By the way, this is the one prisoner I don't care what is done to him or how. The worse it gets for him the better it is for everyone else.

"The head of Iraq's largest Christian community has denounced American evangelical missionaries in his country for what he said were attempts to convert poor Muslims by flashing money and smart cars."

I normally don't link to al-Jazeera. But this story is talked about all over Iraq. Al-Jazeera is as good a source as anything else.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

From My new article:

The Iraqi government must demonstrate a clean break with the past and begin an era in which the rule of law can prevail. Reporting astronomical numbers of arrests will neither charm the people nor deter criminals. This can only be achieved by trying those arrested in a court of law and punishing the convicts proportionately. The Iraqi judiciary must be activated immediately and it should get full support from the government and enjoy equal status to other government branches. It must also be completely independent and free from politics and corruption.

The current situation of Iraqi prisons is very disturbing. In many cases, people are arrested for various reasons and then arbitrarily released. An individual or a group of detainees may be released through bribery, connections or a bargain with his tribe or party. This frivolous manner of handling legitimate jail sentences should not occur in any instance. The lengthy detention system also deprives innocent people of their liberty for no legitimate reasons...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Report: Muslim World Largely Anti-American.

That's odd! The U.S. government just hired a whole bunch of people, including one Egyptian lady, to achieve higher approval ratings in the Muslim World. Maybe there is another way to do that and the government is not willing to explore what that way might be?!

The article has many disturbing news, including that a terrorist and a thug like Bin Laden is admired by certain Muslims. I bet it is not out of love for him. Rather, it is a result of the resentment to U.S. policies. If these policies remain in place, Bin Laden and his ilk will have the best time they can ever wish for.

The so-called Muslim Scholars Association called on the ministers of defense and interior to resign. I think that the so-called Muslim Scholars Association should resign. They are nothing but a front for the Wahhabi cult that infiltrated Iraq with money and terrorism.

Harith al-Dhari and his son, Muthanna, have brought shame on the good name of Shaykh Dhari, one of the heroes of the 1920 Revolution.

"Despite a growing demand for Arabic translators in the United States, UC Berkeley officials said budget problems will force the university to cut introductory Arabic enrollment and turn away scores of students who want to learn the language in the fall."

I taught in the Arabic program every semester from Summer 2001 to Summer 2004. It is one of the best, and most demanding, programs in the U.S. It is a shame that students are being turned away now because of budget consuderations.

Monday, May 16, 2005

"A military jury convicted a soldier Monday on all but one of the seven charges she faced for her role in the abuse of inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

A panel of four Army officers and four senior enlisted soldiers convicted the soldier, Specialist Sabrina Harman, on one count of conspiracy to maltreat detainees, four counts of maltreating detainees and one count of dereliction of duty.

The defendant...was acquitted on one maltreatment count. Her sentencing hearing was scheduled to begin Tuesday. She faces a maximum of five and a half years in a military prison."

From an interview late April, but was published today:

U.S.-funded broadcast networks, particularly Radio Sawa and Alhurra satellite television network, which target the Iraqi audience, have gotten mixed reviews from critics, but experts say it's the message, not the messenger, that's important. Those messages are contained in U.S. policies that have driven a wedge between Arab and American relations.

"A lot of this is symbolism; it's putting a face-lift on things. It doesn't work anymore to try and fool people and cover up policies," said Abbas Kadhim, an Islamic scholar with the University of California-Berkeley Graduate Theological Union. "You can hire anyone to tell the Arabs and Muslims what you want to tell them."

"I demand several things, including punishing Saddam and calling on the Iraqi government, religious movements and political factions to work hard to kick out the occupier...I want the immediate withdrawal of the occupation forces," said Moqtada al-Sadr, in his first press conference since last summer.

As much as I dislike him, I must say that he's got a good point. The trial and punishment of Saddam is two years over-due. This war-criminal is receiving protection even innocent Iraqis don't enjoy. This is a shame and a scandal.

Also, it is overdue that a date is set for the foreign forces to leave. When this happens, people in charge will have to be creative in finding ways to make it work. Now, they are not under any pressure to do anything meaningful to make leaving Iraq a possibility. Indeed, all indicators show the opposite -- the plan is to hang around.

Continued presence of the U.S. and Britain in Iraq for an indefinite period is not good for Iraq and it is surely not good for the U.S.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

My good friend Omayma Abdel-Latif "looks into a long-troubled relationship [between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian government, which is] on the brink of a major confrontation over reform":

"There are growing fears, however, that the first victims of the escalation will be none other than the nascent reform movement itself. In fact, some interpret the Brotherhood's moves as an attempt to hijack the newly founded reform movement, and claim the street for itself. Wahid Abdel- Meguid of Al-Ahram's Centre for Strategic Studies said the group's actions were a reflection of what he described as 'a sense of exaggerated power' that drives the aloof manner in which the Brotherhood deals with other political forces."

Liminal asks:

"Dear Abbas,

I was wondering why you've become accepting of Chalabi. Maybe you can clarify for me your opinion of him. Because I don't really understand. Please tell me a couple of things. 1) What has Chalabi done that is good... 2) Why does he deserve to lead Iraq..."

Actually I have not changed at all about Chalabi. I still think that he is bad news. His partnership with the United Iraqi Alliance does not mean that he has become a good guy. It is a smart move on his part to ride the correct wave to power, and it worked fabulously well for him.

My comment on Saturday was made in an objective way. He was convicted of taking the money and fleeing Jordan. If this is true, why should he accept a pardon and give the $millions back? The conviction did not hurt him and the pardon would not make his life any better -- at least not better enough to sacrifice millions of dollars. You might say, "He should do it because this is the right thing to do." But is he into this kind of stuff?

If the accusations are false, he also should not accept a pardon, because by accepting a pardon he would admit guilt. He has maintained all along that he is innocent.

As to Jordan, this pardon business is a way to get some cash. They have sold everything they have, or don't have, for cash. So why shouldn't they sell pardons.

Finally, there is one thing I am in agreement with Chalabi about: Iraq should make every Ba`athist pay for every moment of suffering they caused for the millions of Iraqis. No Ba`athist and no Saddam official should exist within 1 mile from any government building. Two exception I would make, however: courts and prisons.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Chalabi would not accept pardon from Jordan.

Why should he? To be able to travel to Jordan?!

"OUSTED dictator Saddam Hussein has decided to write his memoirs from the Iraqi jail where he is awaiting trial for more than 20 years of abuses.
Saddam had decided in recent weeks to start writing about his childhood in Iraq, his early exile to Egypt and his military adventures in Iran and Kuwait, Giovanni di Stefano, a member of his legal team, told the Financial Times.
He would try to embarrass the great powers that once saw him as a useful buffer against the expansionist ambitions of Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution, Mr di Stefano was quoted as saying."

Well, interested historians might suggest that his trial is delayed until he finishes his memoirs. This reminds me of a line from a film by comedian Adil Imam wherein he is asked about his last wish before execution. He replied: "I want to learn German."

But who knows! Maybe this will give incentive to Rumsfeld et al. to speed up his trial before he gets to the part where they come in.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Mental torture is not a joke. Indeed, my 18 months in a Saudi Arabia detention camp (they called it refugee camp) taught me that mental torture is worse than physical torture. I was subjected to both while a "guest" in the wonderful Kingdom of Khadim al-Haramayn.

Notice that the article says he "was allegedly forced to stand on a box with wires in his hands and told..."

It almost want to say that probably he was willingly participating in the torture game. Way to minimize the guilt, if any is ever felt.

"Defence attorney Frank Spinner told the jury of four army officers and four senior enlisted soldiers he would present evidence that 'it was a joking type of thing, and that Gilligan was in on the joke and that this was simply a matter of sleep deprivation'".

I would love to see this lawyer argue a case of pain and suffering for someone whose neighbor worked on his lawn at 6:59 a.m.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

It has been a few weeks since I published anything. Here is my new article in the Arab Reform Bulletin, a Carnegie Endowment publication.

"Decades of oppression on the basis of an ascriptive identity have served to blur the line between the religious and the profane. The realm of secular Shi`i identity is shrinking continuously, while the realm of political religiosity is expanding. If secularism is unable to sustain itself, then it must give way to a form of politics more closely informed by religion. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as learned Shi`i religiosity continues to prevail over ignorant fanaticism...."

Also reprinted in The Daily Star and Kurdish Media.

p.s. The article includes the terms "Shiite" and "Shiites" which were chosen by the publisher over my correct terms "Shi`i" and "Shi`a".

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The mandatory carpool plan in Tikrit does not sem to work:

"In the deadliest attack, a suicide car bomber blew up his vehicle in Tikrit among a crowd of mainly Shi'ite migrant workers from southern Iraq who had gathered to try to find work on construction sites. Police said at least 27 people were killed and more than 60 wounded in the blast."

Jordan is confiscating books left and right. In this insignificant country, you have all the freedom of speech to praise the paper king. But they will cut your tongue if you criticize his British accent when he speaks 'Arabic'.

I remember a conversation with a major publisher in Amman. He told me about some unbelievable stories from his dealing with the office of censorship. "They never hire educated people in that office, because educated people appreciate courageous thought. That is why they hire semi-illiterate people who fish for a list of words to flag them and ban the book if such words are found," he told me.

Jordan will not be criticized for this by Washington, and will still receive the usual tons oof money every year.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

"Insurgents have kidnapped the top official in Iraq's rebellious Anbar province as US forces continued an offensive launched three days ago against rebels in an unspecified area of the province.

Raja Nawaf, who only became governor of Anbar a few days ago, was abducted with four bodyguards on the road from the town of Qaim, near the Syrian border, to the rebel stronghold of Ramadi, his brother, Hamed Nawaf, told Reuters."

Monday, May 09, 2005

Guardians Council says abortion of children in limited cases is against Islamic law.

President Bush would probably love to have these guys occupy seats in U.S. House and Senate.

The U.S. military's Jerry Springer Show.

One difference: you don't hear from the victims.

You cannot drive a car by yourself! This is what the people of Tikrit are told these days. It is a measure to reduce the possibility of having car bombs driven into crowded places.

I am still having hard time imagining anyone telling a man in Tikrit what not to do. Their cars used to be exempt from stopping at checkpoints.

The Islamic Party in Iraq does have a sense of humor. They boycotted the elections and now they want al-Ja`fari to "remove the unfair distribution of government positions."

I have a better idea for them. There is an election in December. They should prepare from now and ask their constituents to participate and they should run for office. This is how the distribution of government posts should be made.

Six ministries, one vice president, one deputy prime minister and the speaker of the Assembly is not bad after having 6% of the vote. They must be happy that Iraq is not a true democracy yet.

There is a world's difference between the disposed of minister of interior, Falah al-Naqib, and the new minister, Bayan Jabr. That is why the terrorists and their supporters did not want him in this position. They even said he was an Iranian, like Saddam used to call all the people of the South.

Everyone is trying to get the advantage of Iraqis, but the Australians have been the most immoral, until now. After sending Iraq contaminated meat a year ago, as reported in the media, now they have sold several cargoes of...wheat contaminated with iron ore," according to Iraqi officials.

Even when such contaminated food gets detected, the damage is already done, because it takes time to replace it, leaving Iraqis with severe shortage, as it is already happening in Karbala.

I'd say, send it back and cancel all the contracts. Iraq needs to go back to the old strict rules on imported goods and to hell with Bremer's "free trade" policies. It is already reported that more than 5000 kinds of imported goods came to Iraq with serious defects, many of these where food-related. We'll see what the anti-corruption commission will say after reviewing all the criminal behavior of Allawi and his cronies.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

"Wagdan was 6 that hot day on April 3, 2003, when she was caught in crossfire between Iraqi insurgents and U.S. military. She was on her way to the outdoor toilets near her home in Samawah City, Iraq, about four hours south of Baghdad." (thanks Susan)

The Ja`fari government issued an order preventing Allawi ministers from travel. (Arabic text)

Let's hope that some theives get their punishment.

It seems that Saadoun al-Dulaimi is going to be the defense minister. Oil will go to Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum.

"Fernando Botero, Latin America's best-known living artist, shocked the art world last year when he broke sharply from his usual depictions of small town life to reveal new works that depicted Colombia's war in horrific detail.

Now, Mr. Botero, 73, who lives in Paris and New York, has taken on an even more explosive topic: the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Forty-eight paintings and sketches - of naked prisoners attacked by dogs, dangling from ropes, beaten by guards, in a mangled heap of bodies - will be exhibited in Rome at the Palazzo Venezia museum on June 16."

Friday, May 06, 2005

British voters decided to stay with the devil the know, so-to-speak.

Despite winning a historic third term, Blair's party took a big hit in the number of seats compared with the last elections, according to initial results.

The funny thing is that Radio talking heads were spinning all day long, saying that voters did not mind Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq.

False! The voters did not vote Blair out because his Conservative opponents are more sanguine in their support for the war than Blair could ever be, and the party that is against the war was promising to tax voters to the bone if they were elected.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

While Iraqis are starving and lacking medicine and other necessities of decent living, here is how Iraqi $billions are being stolen in broad daylight.

Terrorism continues in Iraq.

It seems that all parties involved (Iraqis and foreign) have surrendered to this situation considering it the normal state of affairs. What a shame!

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

"Pentagon Analyst Accused of Disclosing Secrets...to two employees of a pro-Israel lobbying group."

"It is a simple equation - no information equals no money."

But when it comes to Homeland Security, it should not be reduced to this level of simplicity. No information should equal hearings and people being held accountable. That is what Congressional oversight means.

"A military judge Wednesday threw out Pfc. Lynndie England's guilty plea to abusing Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, saying he was not convinced the Army reservist who appeared in some of the most notorious photos in the scandal knew her actions were wrong at the time."

OK, so I was naive when I hoped a couple of days ago that this judge would have a better sense of what decency is, than the lawyers. It seems that he does not have any sense at all, because any first grade child should know that what this female soldier did was wrong.

A tragic terrorist act hit the beautiful city of Arbil (Hawlear in Kurdish), in the North.

"At least 50 people have been killed and up to 150 wounded in a suicide bombing at a police recruitment centre."

I hope that this tragedy sends a wake-up call to the two Kurdish parties to remind them that they are in the same boat as the rest of Iraq. Most of their arrogant actions in the past month have been inspired by the relative security they enjoy in comparison to other parts of the country. They forget that the plague of terrorism does not spare anyone, and the best way to combat it is to have a stable and really sovereign government as soon as possible. Like all Iraqis, they cannot afford slow motion, even if it means long term gains for their nationalist agenda.

My heart goes to the people of Arbil, which is a fabulous city. I will always remember the numerous weekends I spent there during my five years in Musol.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

U.S. military report: Wars straining U.S. power

That's what wars do; they strain any power, not just the U.S.

"Iraq swore in its new government on Tuesday, but five ministries and two deputy prime minister posts were left unfilled, highlighting the severe difficulties faced in forming a united leadership."

Part of the problem is that the Shi`a can't agree on a candidate for the Ministry of Oil, leaving Chalabi in charge for the time being!

On the other side, the Sunnis insist on presenting the most rotten Ba`athists and former Saddam officials to be ministers, most of whom are likely to face trials soon. They leave out many honorable Sunnis who deserve the jobs. I am sure that they will finally give up and withdraw these names as they did with Mesh`an al-Jubouri's candidacy in the National Assembly.

Neither the Kurds nor the Shi`a will trust a Ba`athist in the Ministry of Defense, for example, nor should they. They already tried a Shi`i Ba`athist in the job (al-Sha`lan) and the result was catastrophic. So, it is not a Shi`i - Sunni thing; rather, it is about getting the Ba`athists out of power until the dust clears, at least.

Monday, May 02, 2005

"A US military inquiry has admitted flaws in the way American troops man checkpoints in Baghdad and recommended a 'comprehensive overview' of procedures."

"Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini said Italy would hand down its own version of events today. 'I believe that in homage to the memory of Nicola Calipari, but also for the indispensable national dignity, the Italian Government cannot be asked to sign off on a reconstruction of the events that does not correspond to what happened that night,' he said."

As usual, the truth may lie between the two versions.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

From The Grand Irish, Mark:

"Hi Abbas I hope you're well. I'm working my little whatever comes to mind :-) on a set of articles about Islamic activists in which I point out that saying 'political' is definitely not the same as 'fundamentalist' or 'jihadist'.

I came across something truly shocking in this story about a 'whistleblower' re: Custer Battles the mercenaries, oops sorry the 'contractors' currently being investigated for overcharging in Iraq. Here's the quote:

'He had come to Iraq to help rebuild the devastated country, accompanied by his 14-year-old son, Bobby.'

Ummm the USA does still have child protection laws doesn't it? A former cop and FBI agent brings a 14 year old child into a battle zone? How come he and his employers both aren't being done for reckless endangerment of a minor?"

I don't know, Mark, but Iraq is not a place for a 14-year-old to go for the ride. The man maybe a single parent who had no place to leave his son. I don't know if U.S. laws apply to Americans in Iraq. We know that Paul Bremer (remember him?) made sure that Iraq has as 'many'laws as Mars does, as far as non-Iraqis are concerned.

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