Monday, February 28, 2005

A question from my reader, George:
"Abbas [I] was wondering why you haven't posted anything about the situation in Lebanon, just interested in your perspective."

I presented a paper at the International Political Science Association's conference in Quebec (August 2000). The topic was the Civil War (1975-1989) and the reasons al-Ta'if conference succeeded to end the conflict, while all other attempts failed. But this does not make me an authority on Lebanon. The best person to ask is my good friend As`ad AbuKhalil.
Here are my observer's hints on Lebanon, which is inches away from another civil war:

1. The distribution of power is based on an unfair, and out-dated, equation. Despite the modifications of al-Ta'if agreement, the National Pact remains to be a failing document, because it was based on the demographics of the 1930's. Lebanon has not conducted a census since 1936.

2. It is a client-patron system in Lebanon, with a few rich families holding the keys to politics, the economy, the day-to-day business and, of course, war and peace. In order to survive, you need the patronage of a Boss, and you have to take up arms when he tells you to do so.

3. Every Boss has a foreign patron, be it the French, the Americans, the Israelis, the Syrians, the Iranians, the Saudis, and the list goes on. You also need to fight the wars of these guys, if you want the money and/or weapons in good supply.

4. The state is very weak. Not just because of the Syrian influence (the Syrians were originally invited by the same Christians who now call them "Occupation"), but also because loyalty in the army and the security forces are to the bosses and factions before the state. During the Civil War, there were eight powers in Lebanon, each was stronger than the army.

5. Lebanon is a battlefield between Syria and Israel. These developments may have direct impact on this war. It might shift the conflict to a direct clash, or end it.

6. The U.S. role is, as usual, to do a favor for Israel, by removing the Syrians away; but also it is a favor for the French, in hopes that they reciprocate on Iraq, by not blocking some EU initiatives to help in Iraq.

7. France is big mover in the current chaos in Lebanon. Looking at the demonstrations, it was impossible not to notice French flags waved together with the Lebanese flag, not to mention French bold statements and efforts on behalf of their clients and those who formed common cause with them.

"In the deadliest single insurgent attack of the Iraq war, a suicide car bombing killed 125 people Monday in Hilla where police recruits were waiting to get physicals, Iraqi government and health officials said."

Meanwhile, Iraqi politicians are still trying to figure out how to divide the cake, or what the Occupation spares of it.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Al-Mada raises many questions about the place Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan was captured. They alleged days ago that the Syrians were the ones who captured him. In today's article, al-Mada says it had a word from an anonymous source that he was captured in Syria. They have the place of arrest at the border of Lebanon. Al-Mada, however, quoted Syrian authorities as denying that they ever gave refuge to Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, and that he was wanted in Syria for terrorist activites inside Syria in the 1980's.

But according to the New York Times, "Iraqi officials said Sunday that Syria had captured and handed over a half-brother of Saddam Hussein who has been accused of playing a leading role in organizing and financing the insurgency that has tormented Iraq since Mr. Hussein's overthrow nearly two years ago.
Syrian officials in Damascus confirmed the transfer, and said the half-brother, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti, once the widely feared head of Iraq's two most powerful security agencies, was one of a group of officials from the former Iraqi government who were arrested in Syria and delivered into Iraqi custody. An Associated Press report, quoting unidentified Iraqi officials, said there were 30 men in the group." The NY Times report says he has "been captured in the Syrian town of Hasakah, about 40 miles west of the Iraqi border."

"Iraqi security forces captured Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, Saddam Hussein’s half brother and former adviser who was suspected of financing insurgents after US troops ousted the former dictator, the government said today...

On December 28, Qassem Dawoud, Iraq’s national security adviser, claimed that al-Hassan had taken refuge in Syria sometime after the US invasion in 2003, according to remarks published in Kuwait’s Al-Rai Al-Aam daily. From there, he was supporting insurgents in Iraq, Dawoud said."

The failed to capture him for two years, so the easiest excuse was to blame Syria. Now their success in capturing him came with the embarrassment of making false accusations against others to divert attention from their own incompetence.

By all means, this is welcome news. Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan was a monster.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

"With intelligence, sometimes you are talking to people who are perhaps selling you lies," said Collin Powell, in the first interview after he left office as one of the most ineffective secteraries of State in U.S. history. Here is an interesting Telegraph article.

Quote of the year from my reader, h2:

"These days, if you can't or won't build a car bomb, airplane bomb, atomic bomb, or beheading videos, there is no time for you. The meek will inherit s***."

H2 captured both sides of the dialectic of terrorism. Please use the "Comment" section to express your thoughts on this proposal (agree or disagree; that's fine as long as you do it intellectually). One rule will apply: violence can be explained, but never justified!

Friday, February 25, 2005

I will start posting some "notes" on Islamic theology, as much as my time permits. Given the diversity of the readers, I will keep it light. Those who are interested in deeper discussion can use the "Comment" section. Please put in mind that there are minute details (nuances) that are not recorded here, in order to avoid further confusion, especially differences within each school.

Pillars of religion:

1. Unity of God
The main belief in Islam. It means the belief in one God (Allah in Arabic), who is the God of the universe and its Creator.

All of the Muslim theological schools agree on this one. However, they have certain differences in the details. The unity of God includes the debate about the "essence" of God (al-Dhat) and the attributes of God (al-Sifat). The Shi'a (always read: Imami Shi'a) and the Mu'tazila believe that the attributes of God are not separate from his essence. As to the Qur'an, both schools believe that it is the words of Allah and it was created in time.

The Ash'ari school disagrees and believe that there are eternal (not created) divine attributes (knowledge, hearing, seeing, power, etc..) and that he has a face and hands and eyes, but not like anything he created. They also believe that the Qur'an is the eternal (not created) speech (kalam) of Allah.

The belief in God's unity is a condition for being a Muslim.

2. Justice of God:
The Mu'tazila and the Shi'a believe in the absolute justice of God. By that they mean that God only does that which is inherently good. Part of this belief has to do with the belief in the rational good and rational evil -- that reason can independently recognize good and evil acts without regard to the identity of the doer. Act have inherent good or evil nature. God, according to these two schools, does only that which is good.

However, the Mu'tazila believe that God is not capable of doing evil, while the Shi'a say he is capable. Thus, God's justice is a mandatory attribute in Mu'tazili doctrine, while it is voluntary according to the Shi'a.

The Ash'ari school believe in the justice of God, but with a different understanding. For them, God is just means that all He does is just by definition. Therefore, an act becomes just after God does it, but not independent of the identity of the doer. The Ash'ari school generally does not recognize the rational good and evil. For them, placing any restrictions on the scope of what God does or does not is out of question because it means placing limits on His omnipotence.

3. Prophethood:
All Muslims believe that Muhammed, peace be upon him, is the last messenger of Allah. They also believe in all the prophets before him (peace be upon them). Prophets are to be respected equally, according to the Qur'an.

The Shi'a believe in the absolute infallibility (sinlessness) of all prophets. The term "`isma") means that they are sinless before and during the mission. This ultimate position has developed in shi'ism over time; see Abbas Kadhim, The Mysterious Journey of Moses (Q. 18:60-82): Does It Refute or Confirm the Shi'i Doctrine of `ismah, International Journal of Shi'i Studies (Fall 2004).

* I cite my own article because, to my knowledge, it is the only article there is tracing the development of this doctrine in Shi'ism.

The Mu'tazila believe in the infallibility of the Prophets only during the mission and only against major sins. Ultimately, the restriction to major sins only has to do with their definition of minor sins as acts not deserving punishment or blame. So they agree with the Shi'a on the time during the mission and disagree on the time prior to it and on non-deliberate acts (see the above cited article).

The Ash'ari school allows mistakes and forgetfulness and absentmindedness for Prophets during the mission. Before the mission, they generally consider prophets capable of anything (at least theoretically).

4. The imamate (political leadership):
No doctrine caused more bloodshed in the history of Islam than the imamate. Here is the deal:
The Shi'a believe that the imamate is reserved to Ali (the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet) and to his sons Hassan and Hussein, then to the progeny of Hussein (nine of them). The Shi'a believe that the last (12th) imam is alive in occultation. They do not recognize the legitimacy of any other ruler since the death of the Prophet, except for the rule of Ali (5 years before his assassination). They also consider the imams infallible, just like the prophets, because it is mandatory to obey their orders. If it is possible that they make mistakes, this means that God orders people to obey erroneous orders, the Shi'a argue, among other things.

The Mu'tazila believe in the superiority of Ali over all the companions of the Prophet, but they have the doctrine of accepting the "imamate of the inferior", as they term it (imamat al-mafdhoul). Therefore, they recognize the rule of those before Ali, even as they consider them inferior to him. The imams are not infallible in the Mu'tazili belief.

The Ash'ari school believes that any ruler (even an oppressor) must be obeyed in order to avoid tumults (fitnah). It is, according to them, unlawful to revolt against the rulers no matter what they do, so long as they don't publicly profess disbelief (and the Ash'aris are loved by the rulers for this doctrine). Their position is that Ali was inferior to the rulers before him (he ranks fourth in excellence according to them). They only recognize the actual rulers and accept them with their sins and fallibility. If you have a problem with what a ruler does, then pray that Allah makes him a better ruler or replaces him with a better ruler, and basically sit on your hands.

5. The resurrection (ma'aad):
All Muslims believe in the resurrection and the Day of Judgment. For them, it is what gives meaning to the commandments of God. Those who disobey them and get away with it, have that day to stand trial and receive punishment. Also, doers of good will receive their rewards.

**I will address the Mu'tazili set of Pillars at another time.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

"To Tony Blair - and to his special envoy to Iraq, Ann Clwyd, who has a great deal of influence over the Kurdish leaders, we say: honour your promises. In the early part of the last century, British politicians made many promises to the Assyrian people that were never kept. This time we hope it will be different." (thanks, Merry)

Keep dreaming, Odisho! In order to count as an oppressed Christian, you must be oppressed by a government not supported by your fellow Christians. Palestinian Christians learned this long time ago.

British soldiers guilty and more to come:

"Army lawyers are considering charges against 11 more soldiers in addition to the seven members of the Parachute Regiment accused of the fatal beating of an 18-year-old Iraqi at a roadside in May 2003."

Meanwhile, "US army says it is conducting more than 100 criminal investigations into claims of detainee abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

What is the highest number that can be quantified as "few"? I know that in a box of apples it is about 5 to 10.

Az-Zaman newspaper shows that Iraqis are divided over the decision by the government to make Friday and Saturday a weekend holiday.

Many Iraqis, according to the paper, would rather have an elected government make such a move, while others wanted a public debate.

TV stations showed a large demonstration against the decision to make "Saturday" in particular a holiday. "If they must have two days, then it should be Thursday and Friday," said one demonstrator. Iraqis are used to having Saturday as the first day of the week. Thursday is more appropriate addition. When I was in the University in Iraq, we did have Thursday and Friday off. As all know, Saturday is a holiday in Israel. The ministers should have figured this one out. They just keep making laws without thinking. This holiday design will face the same fate of the tasteless flag proposed a while back.

From the Guardian's NewsBlog:

"Abbas Kadhim offers a more balance[d] view. He is glad more voters and would-be voters were not killed by the insurgents than the 30 or more who died, but argues true success has to be measured by more than turnout.
The success can be declared when:

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

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

This article in SF Chronicle has some quotes from an interview I gave them yesterday.

"Son amitié pour un activiste palestinien conduit une Israélienne en prison."

"Britain convicted two soldiers Wednesday for abusing Iraqi detainees, but failed to punish anyone for making prisoners pose for simulated sex pictures similar to those in the U.S. Abu Ghraib scandal."

And speaking of "the U.S. Abu Ghraib scandal," which is a mandatory part of the package of "freedom" and "democracy" promised, by the Bush administration, not just to Iraq, but to the entire Middle East, "US military had closed an investigation into an alleged rape of a female detainee for lack of evidence but was still looking into another alleged rape case, a Pentagon spokesman said."

I rarely link to al-Jazeera web-site (and don't grant them interviews), but this story is so rotten, even al-Jazeera cannot make it look worse than it really is.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

According to several TV news sources, the U.S. Senate delegation to Afghanistan called for having permanent U.S. bases in the country.

Ibrahim al-Ja'fari was picked as the UIA candidate for the prime minister job. If Hillary Clinton is OK with it, then he is one step away from being the first elected Iraqi PM in the post-Saddam era. What this means really depends on what he will accomplish. It ranges from many things to nothing.

He stated that his priorities are security and services (not much was said about the occupation). Is it that he want to secure the job before making any announcements on this front? We shall see.

Here is an article in English.

"Opinion polls indicate Mr Jaafari - a moderate Shia Muslim - is the most trusted politician in the country.
As UIA candidate he also has the backing of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's most influential religious leader."

Monday, February 21, 2005

I almost started to worry about Tunisia. What if, God forbid, something happens to President Bin `Ali?!

He had 5 daughters and no sons. But now, I can sleep well. His wife just gave birth to their first son, Muhammed, may Allah keep him and make him grow up fast. All President Bin `Ali has to do now is to hang around for 18 more years -- that is 3 more presidential terms (he is 69).

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The sad conditions of Samarra. (Arabic text)

Samarra was originally built by al-Mu`tasim, the Abbasid Caliph, to replace Baghdad as a capital. It was originally called "Surra man ra'a", meaning "whoever sees it will be pleased." When it was abandoned, and the capital returned to Baghdad, the name was changed to "Sa'a man ra'a" -- pronounced together as "Samarra" -- meaning "whoever sees it will be hurt." The name seems to fit these days.

The article mentions that occupation soldiers are stationed on the spiral minaret (al-Malwiyyah.) If true, this is another violation of international law. When Mr. Bush promised Iraqis to "respect" their culture, he either was misleading them and the world, or he changed his mind afterwards.

The same goes for the intentional vandalism in Babylon and many other ancient sites in Iraq. I say intentional because when you set a military base on a historic site like Babylon without any reason preventing you from camping two miles away, then it is intentional vandalism of human history and a clear disregard to anything civilized.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Some people misunderstand their right to freedom of speech. So let me try it again.

Freedom of speech gives one, among other things, the right to say what he/she wants in a public place. This site does not fit the definition of public space, in this context, because I own it. I have the right to DEMAND the level of civility as I want.

They can't come to my site and call me names, or use vulgar language, invoking the "right" to free speech. If they want to do this, they can have their own web-sites. What they do is abuse, and this is not covered under the concept of free speech.

* My rules for using the "Comment" section are listed on the right-hand side of this page.

My new article on the results of Iraqi elections:

"The results of Iraqi elections confirmed the expectations of many observers. But they certainly surprised many participants with a reality they refused to accept for a long time: they have no connection with the people they claim to represent. The only group to deserve credit for admitting this fact is the Iraqi Communist Party. In reporting the results, their paper acknowledged that their main constituents voted along sectarian or ethnic lines -- the Kurds voted for the Kurdish list and the Shia for the United Iraqi Alliance." more from the same article...

Thursday, February 17, 2005

"President Bush nominated John D. Negroponte as the first director of national intelligence today."

This is good news, for Iraqis. If A. Gonzales and C. Rice passed the test, he will have no problem with the confirmation process.

"Iraq's two-man prime ministerial race will be decided by secret ballot after top Shi'ite politicians failed to reach a consensus yesterday...The 140 legislators who will represent the alliance in the National Assembly, plus eight allied legislators, will choose the prime minister."

"U.S. intelligence agencies have failed to provide reliable estimates of the size of Iraq's insurgency, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says."

Iraq's intelligence director, who is one of the rehabilitated Saddamists, gave a well-informed number of 200,000.

Secretary Rumsfeld told congress that the U.S. needs to "hang around" until Iraq is able to defend itself. He gave a figure of less than two years.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

"President Bush asked Congress on Monday to provide $81.9 billion more for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other U.S. efforts overseas, shoving the total price tag for the conflicts and anti-terror fight past $300 billion."

They will give your money with a smile, so the Administration will not accuse them of failing to support the troops.

"President Bush asked Congress on Monday to provide $81.9 billion more for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other U.S. efforts overseas, shoving the total price tag for the conflicts and anti-terror fight past $300 billion."

They will give your money with a smile, so the Administration will not accuse them of failing to support the troops.

"President Bush asked Congress on Monday to provide $81.9 billion more for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and for other U.S. efforts overseas, shoving the total price tag for the conflicts and anti-terror fight past $300 billion."

They will give your money with a smile, so the Administration will not accuse them of failing to support the troops.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

OK. Ibrahim al-Ja`fari seems to be the guy for the prime minister's job, unless something funny takes place.

Good Luck, Abu Khalil.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The new Iraqi legislature will have 31 percent Assemblywomen, 6 percent more than the minimum required by the TAL, even though some lists did not live up to their promise.

In a few elections Iraq will probably have the fair 50 percent Assemblywomen.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.

Names of the winners who are going to be members of the Assembly (Arabic text). Every third name is a woman. The lists that won 1 or 2 seats told the ladies to go home. No list has a woman's name in the # 1 or # 2 position.

UIA: 44 women (32% women)

Allawi: 12 women (31% women)

Al-Yawar: 1 woman (20% women)

The Turkomen: 1 woman (33% women)

The Kurds did not follow the rule that "every 3rd name must be a woman". It is hard to discern some names, but I am sure they met the requirement.

Everyone else has 0% women.

Here is something on the chances of each forerunner for the top job in Iraq.

Chalabi was quoted as saying on CNN that he was "chosen" for the job.

It seems that some changes were made on the final distribution of seats. Those who did not have enough votes to gain any seat (it would need 30,750 votes to earn a seat in the Iraqi Assembly) were given a gentleman's F, as we call it in the academic world.

At the end of the day, the 16 remaining seats were worth as low as 12,000 votes each.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

OK, the results are out. Many of you saw it live, I am sure, but here is the final vote count:

Winners (based on 30,750 votes/seat):

The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA): 4,075,295 (132 seats)
The Kurdistan Alliance: 2,175,551 (71 seats)
The Iraqi List (PM Ayad Allawi): 1,168,943 (38 seats)
Iraqis or Iraqiyyoun (President Ghazi al-Yawer): 150,680 (5 seats)
The Turkomen Iraqi Front: 93,480 (3 seats)
National Independent Elites and Cadres Party: 69,938 --Surprise! (2 seats)
The Communist Party: 69,920 -- they expected to win big! (2 seats)
The Islamic Kurdish Society: 60,592 (2 seats)
The Islamic Labor Movement in Iraq (Shi'i): 43,205 (1 seat)
The National Democratic Alliance: 36,795 (1 seat)
National Rafidain List (Assyrian Christians): 36,255 (1 seat)
The Reconciliation and Liberation Entity (Sunni/nationalist): 30,796 (1 seat)

The number is not 275 seats yet. The balance of the seats will be distributed among the parties on the basis of their gains in total votes (whatever that means!)

Losers (no seats):

Iraqi Islamic Party (main Sunni group headed by Mohsen Abdel-Hamid): 21,342 -- they would have done much better had the Sunni Arabs voted in large numbers.
The Monarchy Movement (Jordan's best hope) 13,470
Assembly of Independent Democrats (headed by Sunni elder statesman Adnan Pachachi): 12,728
National Democratic Party (headed by Naseer Kamel al-Chaderchi, Sunni lawyer and member of the former Iraqi Governing Council): 1,603

Total votes: 8,550,571

Invalid votes: 94,305

Election results in Iraq are going to be announced later this morning (U.S. time). The United Iraq Alliance is expected to gain between 51% and 64%. This means that their task to have their way in shaping the government is easier than drinking water. All they need is to have one or two lists on their side (they need a majority of 67% to have the last word on the process).

Meanwhile Iyad Allawi seems to have made a deal with the Kurds to have their support for his candidacy for prime minister. This is not going to mean anything, if the results come out as expected. Allawi is expected to have 13% of the seats and the Kurds up to 25%. They will still need many allies to make a difference. Even if the UIA has as low as 35% of the seats, they will still have a strong veto power on the Allawi alliance. The more parties you need to have on your side the more it seems impossible, because you need to bribe so many people.

The problem with the UIA list is that they have two big babies in control (Al-Hakim and al-Ja'fari). None of them is willing to let the other have the position of prime minister. The result will be a secret vote within the UIA, with three candidates: Adel Abd al-Mahdi (al-Hakim's man), Ibrahim al-Ja'afari and Ahmed Chalabi. So, there is a 33% chance for a Chalabi administration.

Also, in a new development, the seat-holders from al-Sadr movement announced that they will not accept Adel Abd al-Mahdi for Prime minister. Indeed they are said to support Chalabi!!!

If no one wins, Allawi will happily accept the honor. This, of course, would be a slap on the face to Iraqis who said it clearly that they reject Allawi. If they wanted him, they would have given him more than the expected 13% he is about to receive.

I don't know whether the people of Iraq were expecting this stuff when they voted, but I think that the new constitution must give the choice of the Prime minister to voters, not dirty deals.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

These brave officers from Ukraine (a member of the coalition of the willing) went home with $300,000 of Iraqi money. (Arabic text)

If all major contracts went to U.S. companies, the cash is available to all.

The U.S. should invade Venezuela, before Iran or Syria. Here is why:

1. It is very close to the U.S. (a) the threat is eminent (2) it is much cheaper (Rumsfeld will love this. The greatest portion of war cost is transportation of soldiers and equipment.)

2. It has a president who dislikes the U.S. government and is saying it loud and clear.

3. The U.S. already tried a coup and it did not work.

4. Most importantly, it's got a lot of oil.

Ahmed Chalabi is back.

I once said that the events of his up-and-down relations with the U.S. government and the occupation might be the biggest scheme in recent history. Just like he was demonized suddenly, he is now being courted suddenly. We shall see.

If the media is able to turn a myth int a reality by hammering in the same message day and night, then we can be in deep trouble very soon.

Many headlines today are talking about Sectarian massacres in Iraq. I still think that we are not there yet.

This month and the next (special Shi'i months) will be critical, however, for turning this myth into reality. Let's hope for the best. The government has to put a stop for this bloodshed for the benefit of all.

Friday, February 11, 2005

This site has been up for a year, today. Whether you agreed or disagreed with me, I have one thing to say:


Thursday, February 10, 2005

OK, here are the comments on the Saudi dog-catcher elections (thanks John)

"And I just noted, this morning, that the Saudis have had their first municipal elections. It's a small step, but of course it's a step that we would hope at one point would include women. But these are places that are a part of a larger dialogue, now, a larger conversation, about the need for reform, the need of openness politically, and I think you're going to see that that conversation and that dialogue even in the hardest places." From an interview with Secretary Rice.

"I'm sorry that women weren't a part of it [...] On the other hand, I'm glad that Saudi Arabia has made the one step, the milestone actually, to have an election." From .a statement by First Lady, Laura Bush.

On Monday I attended this presentation on the ongoing looting and destruction of Iraqi history and culture. It is devastating. You can view the 58 minutes presentation if you like.

Deals already began to form the Iraqi government. The elections results will be announced some time later. The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) is the one with the least effort to make. All they need is to bring one or two groups to their side. The Kurds are the one's who are the target for alliance seekers. They are in a good position to advance some wild demands. It is most likely to be a UIA/Kurdish alliance that will shape the new government. The future of Allawi and his ilk will depend on the level of involvement by the U.S. Embassy, which is going to be very high and behind closed doors, as always.

Saudi Arabia is having its first elections ever.

Women are not included as candidates or voters. The highest office up for election is not even a mayor's office, but only half of the seats for each city council -- something Saudi princes are not interested in anyway.

Can someone e-mail me a link to President Bush's statement on the Saudi Elections? What did Secretary Rice say about the Saudi Elections? Did V.P. Cheney say anything? If you have links, please e-mail them to me. I will post them here.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

To my Muslim readers: Blessed New Year!

The results of Iraqi elections were supposed to come out tomorrow. The Elections Commission announced a last minute delay. Now they are saying that an announcement will come later this month.

They cited problems with numbers from some 300 boxes. They did not say where in Iraq these boxes are from. By the time the results are announced, the six month-delay many Iraqis asked for would be automatically granted.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

According to a recent BBC report, more than $20 billion (Arabic text) were stolen from Iraq after the invasion. Looting is still going on, according to the report.

Monday, February 07, 2005

My New Article from Thursday.

I did not post it until now, because the editor cut it in half and made changes that I would not accept. At my appeal, the article was published as I originally intended it to be. (thanks Omayma!)

The single letters in the text (four or five of them) are supposed to be quotation marks. I don't know why they came this way! Some of the ideas in the article were expressed here in my postings and will seem familiar to you:

...there is the main political expectation from this government, the writing of a decent constitution. It is probably the hardest task before the coming government, given the injurious political process thus far. The Iraqi permanent constitution must be acceptable to all Iraqis in order to avoid the veto of any minority of three provinces. It also must emerge from the conditions of the Iraqi political, social and historical reality. The Aristotelian method correctly mandates that the writers of a constitution must study the family, the village and the city before writing a constitution. They are certain to fail if they write a constitution and search for a city to impose it on. Iraq is not Belgium, the U.S. or Sweden and Kufa is not Malmo. Therefore, the constitutions of these countries that serve their citizens very well may not necessarily work for Iraqis.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

"Attorneys for Harman argued that charges related to the photographs of hooded detainees should be dismissed, because victims must be aware of abuse in order to be abused."

Who said that "no lawyer will ever go to paradise if there is room for one person in hell."? I think he is right about this kind of lawyers.

Please meet Lt. Gen. James [bin] Mattis.

OK, I was out of town for three days, and see what happened. Some guests started posting all kinds of things. The comment section was turned into a cell in Abu Ghraib.

Now, instead of having some rest from the plane and the long trip, I have to spend the night cleaning the comment section. Thank you guys!!!!

Maybe next time I will have to turn off the comment section when I leave town (like locking the front door when I am not home). I had to ban one guest for violating my rules in a gross way. I also erased all of his comments (I have no time or energy to edit or erase only the bad parts. It is faster to erase the whole thing).

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

More on the Shi`a vs. Sunnis:

Please note that in theological discourse, the word "Sunni" is not helpful at all, because many schools of theology adhere to the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence. Indeed, members of one theological school can adhere to two, three, or all four of the Sunni schools. So let me run this by you again, since some people fail to distinguish between theology and jurisprudence (as ARC did).

This is the religious law. Among other things, it mainly deals with the rituals of worship (prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, Alms, etc...)
It also handles questions about life affairs, such as politics, civil law (marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc...) and transactions (contracts, trade, banking, etc...)

The schools of Jurisprudence are: Sunni (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali) -- named after the founder of each school -- and Ja`fari (the Shi`i branch).

It is more accurate to use Ja`fari instead of Shi`i because some Shi`a, like the Zaydis, adhere to sunni schools of Jurisprudence. If you use Shi`i, those who know understand that you mean Ja`fari (after Ja`far al-Sadiq, the sixth Shi`i imam).

The difference between these five school on any matter does not relate to heresy. Notice that the Sunni schools (there are four of them) differ on thousands of details, but they never call one another "unbeliever" or heretic, if like to use this word. Here is an example of a disagreement:

The Hanafi school does not mandate alms=Islamic tax (zakat) from the money of a minor orphan, while the Shafi`i school mandates it.

As you see, neither opinion constitutes a basis for belief or unbelief. Even within each school, there are differences among scholar, but I will not go into that.

On theology, Muslims are:

1. Shi`a - they are about 72 sub-sects, theologically speaking. The main link for them is their belief that Imam `Ali is the best person after the prophet and that he is the lawful imam after the Prophet. They disagree with one another on hundreds of other issues. My forthcoming translation of the Sects of the Shi`a has it all. My publisher gave my his word that it will be released later this month. It also has my study on this genre.

2. Mu`tazila - they are about 20 sects. They all agree on five pillars: unity of God, His justice, the certainty of fulfillment of His promise and threat, the intermediate position of grave sinners between belief and unbelief, and that encouraging good deeds and prohiniting evil deeds is mandatory on all Muslims.

3. Kawarij - they are about 20 sects. They agree on the belief that the sinner is unbeliever and they believe that the Fourth Caliph, `Othman was unbeliever in the last six years of his life and thus illegitimate ruler. They held the same belief about Imam `Ali after he accepted the arbitration between him and his rival Mu`awiya.

4. The Murji'a - A collection of schools, holding a range of doctrines, not necessarily common among all of them. Among their doctrines: Some of them refrain from making judgment on anyone. They say, "it is up to God to decide on the Day of Judgment who goes where, and it is impossible to tell before that." All of them do not allow any discussion of the events that occurred after the death of the Prophet and the disputes among his companions. They consider all their deeds to be right, even when they fought against one another and caused bloodshed. Many of them consider it unlawful to engage in theological debates (Kalaam = dialectic theology). Ahmed b. Hanbal (founder of the Hanbali school) falls in this group, in his views on theology.

5. The Ash`ari school - named after Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari (d. 324/935). He was one of the Mu`tazila and abandoned their school to articulate his own school. It rests its theology on a literalist interpretation of the text of Qur'an and Hadith.

Example of a theological disagreement has to do with the status of a sinner before repentance:
Shi`a: he is a believer. He deserves reward for his belief and punishment for his sin. God may forgive him or he may also receive intercession from the Prophet or the Imams.
Khawarij: he is unbeliever.
Mu`tazila: he is in between. They call him "fasiq"
Murji'a: leaving his status for God to decide on the Day of Judgment. They hope he may be forgiven.

On these issues, certain books come to mind:
1. Tilman Nagel, History of Islamic Theology (if you wish, you can read its German original: Geschichte der islamischen Theologie)
2. Henri Corbin, Histoire de la philosopie islamique.
3. Al-Ash`ari, Maqalat al-Islamiyyin (Arabic)
4. Al-Shahrastani, al-Milal wa al-Nihal (Arabic)
5. Al-Nawbakhti, Firaq al-Shi`a (Arabic; my English translation is forthcoming).

There was a debate on the Wahhabi posting. Here are some basic clarifications:

A) Wahhabis don't follow the Ash'ari school. He is too "progressive" for their taste. And certainly not all other Sunnis do.

B) Muslims are:

1. Sunnis vs. Shi'a according to their views in jurisprudence. There is no heresy here. It is only a matter of interpreting the law.

2. Ash'ari, Mu'tazili, Khariji, Shi'i, or Murji' -- according to theological doctrine. Heresy here is determined differently by each school.

I will have more to say about this soon, for those who care.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The problem with the discourse in the U.S., on the Iraqi elections, is that people like to have it either the right wing or left wing point of view. This is mainly because so many people here are used to this "either/or" set up. You are either a Republican or a Democrat (if you are not, you are most likely to vote for one of them or do not vote at all).

So the right wing want to see this election as a complete success -- so complete that it proves that President Bush and his neocon friends and supporters were right all along. They even began reviving their talking about "liberating" other countries in the Middle East soon -- something they stopped doing a few months before this Iraqi election.

On the other hand, the left wing wants everyone to argue that nothing is good in the elections and Iraqis are merely a bunch of sheep who were taken out of their homes to vote by manipulation and they do not even know what is going on.

The fact of the matter is that one can believe that this election is very problematic and has too many flaws. But this does not mean that the left wing is correct in their characterization of Iraqis.

The way I see it that these elections were the fruits of the hard work and firm demands of the Iraqi people who thwarted the early imperialist ant-democratic plans (a military ruler for Iraq, as it happened in Japan, or a civil administrator with some Iraqi advisors).

It is true that Iraqis were tested by a brutal dictator followed by a brutal invasion and occupation. But it is not true that Iraqis acted like sheep thoughout their modern history, as their partonizing Western sympatizers claim. This is an insult to those who fought the Ba'ath regime for 35 years. I saw Iraqis in 1991 -- and was one of them. They fought bravely and controlled 14 out of 18 Iraqi provinces, establishing self-government in each one of them. They were not only betrayed by the U.S. that failed to help them, indeed they were prevented from getting any help from elsewhere, just to get some signatures from Saddam.

Iraqis are fully aware of the current crisis and the challenges ahead. They know occupation and they know how to come out of occupation, as their 1920's experience with the British teach us. Iraq was the first country in the region to gain its independence.

There is indeed a positive side to these elections. The reason left-wingers don't want to see this is that they don't want to give President Bush any credit. But they don't get it; the positive side of these elections is "not because of the occupation, but in spite of it," as my friend, Shirin, likes to phrase it.

It is positive that Iraqis had an election, instead of the original plan of long colonization. It is positive that Iraqis said it clear and loud: We want out country back. We don't want the terrorist or the occupation that brought them to Iraq. It is positive that Iraqis did prove to the world that they are brave in the political process as they are brave in fighting, but they'd rather achieve their goals peacefully. It is positive that the Iraqis made it clear that these elections were only a way to take any excuses away from the other side to continue ignoring their will.

If left wingers see this, they would not keep their foolish rhetoric that these elections were a proof that Iraqis swallowed the bait because they have no intellect. And if the right wingers see these points, they would not foolishly claim any victory for this misguided invasion.

Iraqis had no choice when they had military dictators rule over them by murderous means. They also had no choice when they were invaded by the biggest military power. But, just like they did in the 20th century, they will figure a way to extract their destiny from the powerful claws of this occupation and will figure a way -- afterwards -- to clean their country from the puppets of the occupation and the residues of the past regime.

Guest posting (thanks Nadia):

"United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83 percent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong. A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson's policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam." -- Peter Grose, 'U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote,' The New York Times, Sept 4, 1967, page 2.

"By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of the terrorists," President Bush said.

They also have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of President Bush. He initially wanted to appoint a U.S. military ruler with a bunch of handpicked Iraqi advisors. Then his administration wanted to contract with a U.S. law professor to write the Iraqi constitution. Iraqis forced their own democratic ideology by demanding elections.

"U.S. troops in Iraq shot dead four inmates during a prison riot on Monday, the military said..."

From my days in detention, in Saudi Arabia, I remember how these "riots" begin. Bad conditions lead to complains, which are met by an exchange of insults between the guards and the prisoners. Some people start fuming and throwing rocks or tomatoes. The guards, to whom the value of a detainee's life is next to zero, shoot. Normally some guy sitting far way from the trouble gets a bullet. I don't know what happened in this particular incident. As you can see from the article, it is all about what "the military said." Of course, there will be an investigation. You can count on that.

"The [sovereign] Iraqi government and Red Cross would be notified, the military said."

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