Monday, May 31, 2004

"Can You Really Swear at Bush?"

What happens these days when Iraqi colleagues sit down together for lunch in a cafeteria? Ali over at Iraq the Model offers us one particular lunch-table exchange for our education in matters Iraqi.

On the walls of the cafeteria hang photos of Sistani, Mohammed Bakir Al-Hakeem, the elder (and killed by Saddam) Sadr, and the young “firebrand” Muqtada al-Sadr. At one point Ali turns to one of his colleagues and complains to him about the photo of Muqtada al-Sadr staring down at him. Ali asks:

-Now how am I supposed to have my dinner with this person pointing at me!? Do you really think this is a picture that should be put in a cafeteria??

My friend smiled and said,

-Shh, lower your voice! I’m your friend but if some of his followers heard you say that, I really fear for your safety. I told you that they have instructions to kill anyone who talks badly of Sadr.

- I won’t lower my voice. All my life I had to lower my voice whenever I wanted to speak about Saddam. I couldn’t have the joy of at least tearing one of his pictures because of the chaos that followed the liberation. I want to tear this one.

- No, please don’t. This is for your own sake.

- I promise you I won’t touch his fathers face or the old Iraqi flag, although I don’t like it. Besides I have the freedom to say my opinion in anyone.

-Yes, but what about your friends, the Americans, do they allow anyone to curse bush? Didn’t they hit Al-Rasheed hotel because of the picture of Bush the father was painted on the floor of the entrance? Another friend interfered.

-Are you serious!? And for your information many Americans hate Bush, and the Americans -even if they don’t like it- don’t prevent anyone from saying his opinion, and I want to scream in contempt and rejection for any tyrant and this fool is a tyrant project.

-Can you really swear at Bush? I don’t think so. My Shea’at friend said.

-Ok, just to show you that I fear no one and that we are free: S**T ON BUSH, S**T ON SADDAM AND S**T ON YOUR MUQTADA AL-SADR. I screamed as loud as I could.

Meanwhile, Zeyad, our man in Basrah, wrestles with humidity, corruption, bandits, marsh-thieves, talk of democracy and federalism, and once again humidity. Zeyad opens his high dew-point blog casually.

Nothing much has been going on in Basrah, except of course steam
emanating from the ground (I swear) and humidity that is bringing every unfortunate asthmatic in the province to our hospital. There is a shortage of nebulizers though, and physicians have to decide which patients are in most need for them, this of course tends to make other patients a bit aggressive.

UPDATE: Khalid Jarrar also blogged on Sunday, and dares to cross a blogosphere red line by urging his readers to visit Shako-Mako Iraqi News and read a funny piece about his own brother Raed Jarrar titled Twilight Zone: Judge and Executioner.

did you hear about the trial that Raed made for Bush and Kermitt? Go to Jeff's blog and read it, its hilarious.
oh oh wait, should I mention Jeff? Isn't that like a red line or something? That I shouldn't advertise to him? :)
well..I like him anyway...We used to talk a lot a year ago maybe, then we stopped, don't know why:)
he seem to have a lot of time these days, I mean...Making a blog to talk about another blog? Come on! Who reads our blogs at the first place anyway?! :)

I emailed Khalid and told him that I do NOT have extra time and that I should be certified insane for taking on the task of executive editor for a journal of such high caliber as Shako-Mako Iraqi News. Ah, struggle as I may, the smell of newsprint has pulled me in again.

Another Jeffrey Holmes Mystery: The Strange Case of Asmar Ahmad

One day about two weeks ago, as Watson and I were doing research for one of our recent joint assignments from Scotland Yard and the CIA, we came across a message on an Iraqi Bloggers comments page from a person requesting that we visit his weblog. He said it was a personal weblog written in French by an Iraqi gentleman. My curiosity was piqued by the unusual prospect of being able to read about the experiences of an Iraqi written in the language of Stendhal and Baudelaire. Watson read the url to me as I typed and up popped a blog by the name of Brulure de Bagdad. As Watson struggled with the French – sorry to report that he had trouble with his A levels, poor lad -- I glanced over the text and realized immediately that it was, in fact, a translation of that doleful dame of Baghdad – yes, Riverbend.

Watson and I proceeded to compare the two weblogs and my hunch was confirmed. I went back and posted a general “charlatan warning” on the original comments page where I had first espied the deceitful invitation.

Then, a few days later, as I was scrolling down the comments pages at Iraq the Model, I came across this:

I am so sad , i don't have any visitors
I am a good photgrapher that take photos in Baghdad
Please link to me ...and tell ppl to visit me ...It makes me cry ...
faiza | Email | Homepage | 05.20.04 - 10:39 am | #

Of course, for those of us familiar with Madame Faiza Jarrar’s style and manner of presenting herself, this could only be but a simple fabrication. Then, to my surprise, during our inspection of the message, I clicked on the email slot and Watson and I were presented with . . .! I heard Watson guffaw over my shoulder. It was indeed a moment of levity between the two of us, staring at this childish attempt at deceit. Since I was also busy at that time matching 3rd-level fingerprint profiles in the lab, I allowed Watson to warn the frequent guests at Iraq the Model. Watson wrote:

Imposter Alert!!!

I am so sad , i don't have any visitors
I am a good photgrapher that take photos in Baghdad
Please link to me ...and tell ppl to visit me ...It makes me cry ...
faiza | Email | Homepage | 05.20.04 - 10:39 am | #

This is a guy named Ahmad who a few days ago began impersonating Riverbend by putting up a blog that he said was his own but was just her blog translated into French! Anyone who reads French could tell at first glance. I called him on it and he ran away.

Now he's trying to channel Faiza. Don't be fooled, people. It's just Ahmad.

Hey Ahmad, still taking your meds?
Watson -- New York | Email | Homepage | 05.20.04 - 11:24 am | #

Please disregard any of Watson’s boorish asides. I have been trying for years to inject any degree of felicity into his prose style and general attitude toward others. Alas.

Let me continue. A few minutes later, Watson received a reply on the comments page:

"Imposter Alert!!!"

Good catch, Watson. I suspected it wasn't Faiza. It didn't sound like her, but I didn't have the technical skills to prove it.
ken | Email | Homepage | 05.20.04 - 11:49 am | #

Watson, whose head was now fairly swimming in Ken's praise of our discovery, quickly typed his response:


Thanks. A few days ago, when Ahmad announced that he had started an Iraqi blog in French, I was actually excited, thinking that it would provide an interesting contrast to the English-language Bloggers. But when I clicked on his link, I got smacked in the face with Riverbend's Extended Misery in French. Wow! Anyway, I posted the Fake Warning immediately.

And then today, here he comes again. Actually it's kind of funny. I wish he would show his real face. In fact, I would prefer that he start a blog if he is in fact an Iraqi. That would be fine. Must be a Frenchman, though, right?
Watson -- New York | Email | Homepage | 05.20.04 - 12:01 pm | #

I am ashamed to admit that I secretly had a good laugh behind Watson’s back when he then received this message from a certain Michael in the United States:

Must be a Frenchman, though, right?

Hmm, I don't know, Watson. Frenchmen have a reputation for speaking French. The faux Riverbend is just raw output of a machine translation system. I especially liked "casier Ladin d'Ossama" (casier... bin.. get it?)
Michael, US | Email | Homepage | 05.20.04 - 12:31 pm | #

Watson, somewhat chastened now, replied:

Michael US,

Yeah, you're probably right. I only read a few lines before I realized it was a translation of Riverbend. I did notice in my scan of the blog a few places where the English word had been retained.
Watson -- New York | Email | Homepage | 05.20.04 - 12:41 pm |

As it turns out, this tale is still current. The Mysterious Asmar Ahmad continues to work his way into the Iraqosphere. Just yesterday Watson and I exchanged a smile when we came across this on Faiza Jarrar’s blog.

Sunday, May30 ,2004
Dear Faiza

But "asmar ahmad" is passing off your pictures of your children, even,
as his own! That's terrible. Talk about parasitical!

Kind regards

please send him comments...
telling him he is a theif..

Yes, dear Faiza, Mr. Asmar Ahmad appears to be a very prolific and fortunately for us a very simple “theif.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a true story. You can check the posts. They are all legitimate. The author of this piece, however, requested that his role in the events that are here narrated be bifurcated and then assigned to two separate individuals to avoid shame among his colleagues. We objected at first but his request prevailed in the end. Blogger no longer supports Brulure de Bagdad.
Baghdad Pictures is now attributed to Faiza. The mystery continues. Can anyone help?

ANOTHER JEFFREY HOLMES UPDATE: Watson burst into my study this morning while I was reading a passage from Tacitus. He could barely contain himself as he handed me a printout from the latest blog of Madame Jarrar. The "theif" Asmar, it appears, has announced himself to Faiza Jarrar. On today's blog Faiza posts this most peculiar email she received from Mr. Ahmad.

I am the one that you called Theif !
ok let me tell you what this "Theif" did !
I think you should aplogize me and even thank me !

I didn't steal your photos in my name ! I just collected the nice photos ! in your Own name !
and also I e-mail to all of the newspapers and blogs . and made them to see this nice photos ! I tried to change world's think about iraq , and made them to see them !

the thing that you never did it ! I earned 3000 visitor ! and asked many places to see it !

I designed a nice template and a nice appearance for the blog !

well now please tell me ! Am I a thief ?
If you want , I can delete the blog ! but you will loose a lot of ppl that see the photos !
I earned a lot of visitors for your photos !

waiting for your answer

Curiouser and curiouser, as one of my old friends used to say.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Zing! Zing! Zing! Award Goes to Mister Ghost

Mister Ghost last night was given the coveted Zing!-Zing!-Zing! Award by the editorial board of Shako-Mako Iraqi News.

For his contributions to devilish wit and deadly accuracy with the rapier, Mister Ghost will receive a weekend prison visit with Martha Stewart and a garage-full of yellowing copies of Martha Stewart Living.

Mister Ghost's keen eye led us to the now-obvious connection between Raed Jarrar and Hunter S. Thompson. Mister Ghost wrote on our Comments Pages:

~ I'm praying for a George Bush re-election, because Raed, the Hunter S. Thompson of Iraqi Bloggers (I hope future historians give me credit for
being the first one to make this this analogy) will have a magnificient and glorious breakdown.
All captured in his blog for us mere mortals to imbibe.

Kris from Seattle was one of the first to recognize Mister Ghost's deft rapier-work.

>Raed, the Hunter S. Thompson of Iraqi Bloggers (I hope future historians give me credit for
being the first one to make this this analogy)

HAHAHA ROFL Mister Ghost, you certainly get credit from me. Spot on.

CMAR II quickly showed his appreciation:

Raed, the Hunter S. Thompson of Iraqi Bloggers

LOL Reading this I immediately thought of the book "Fear and Loathing in America". Thompson's compiled letters. At one point, someone from Rolling Stone sends a nice professional letter asking Thompson to send the receipts for his already filed expenses. Thompson's reply is a scrawl:

By gads, I think this fits!

UPDATE: Kris from Seattle has located another point of convergence between Raed Jarrar and Hunter S. Thompson in the Good Doctor's Magnus Opiate. Kris writes on the Comments Pages:

From now on when Raed is talking about having just one more vodka-tequila highball, I'll be thinking of the first line from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas... We were about 20 miles outside Barstow when the drugs began to take effect. And then the story gets told. Or in Raed's case, then the blog entry is posted.

Salam Pax and the Parental-Unit

This blog comes from Salam Pax's archives and offers us a glimpse of the contentious dialogues that are possible among Iraqis of different generations. Let's dig right in:

:: Saturday, February 08, 2003 ::

8th February 1963
president Abdul-Kareem Qasim is ousted in a coup led by the Arab Socialist Resurrection Party (the first Ba'athist "revolution", later to be called the "fair maiden" of all revolutions), Abdul-Salam Arif becomes president and kicks out the Ba'athists 10 months after they have put him in the president's seat. Saddam is among the group who attacked adul-karim's car in al-rasheed street.

17th July 1968
the second Ba'athist led coup, Arif is ousted, General Ahmad Hassan Al-bakir becomes president, Saddam Hussein is vice president. 16th July 1979
Al-Bakir "resigns", Saddam Hussein becomes president of the Republic of Iraq.

We get a public holiday to contemplate how could there have ever been people who were fooled by Ba'athist ideology.
One Arab nation with an eternal message.
Unity (wahda)
Freedom (huria)
Socialism (ishtirakia)

Sometimes when talking to someone who was there during all this, the generation which had a chance to go out in the streets and affect change, it just slips out:

- Salam Pax: "you were tricked and used, you realize this."

- Parental-Unit: "yes, now what? do you want an official apology?"

- Salam Pax: "no just wanted to make sure you acknowledge it"

only my commie uncle starts shouting abuse at me :-)

Here's Zeyad from Healing Iraq, in conflict with his uncle:

The next day ... a long convoy of American vehicles stormed through our street. I stood in front of the house watching, M1 Bradleys, Humvees, Abrams tanks, APC's. I was impressed. Most of the Americans were so so young. They waved at us, and I waved back. Everyone in the street looked happy.

After they left, I was surprised to find my uncle standing at the door, his face violet red with rage, he was plucking his hair from his head and shouting, I didn't at first realize what he was saying, his mouth was frothy and he was shaking his fists at me, he was so ashamed and enraged about the fact that I was waving to the 'invading' Americans. ... I haven't talked to him to this day, although he lives next door.

We don't hear much about these conflicts, but they too are part of Iraq's ongoing story.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Revenge of the Secular Muslims!

A touch of that Old-Time Secularism has suddenly appeared in the writing of Raed Jarrar. I had never heard Raed speak openly before about his secularism until yesterday. And then not once but twice did he reveal this scarlet letter to the unsuspecting reader. At Raed in the Middle, Raed recalls:

I was telling a French friend yesterday how miserable I feel, as a secular Muslim, when I see the current Iraqi political status. I find myself marginised, as a leftist, by both the American administration and by the main stream of local right winged mood.

Bush is helping extremist fundamentalists hijack the flag of Islam from people like me and niki.

As a secular Muslim? Marginalized? As a leftist? People like me and Niki?! Where did all of this come from? Is he trying to impress his "lady"? A Rebel with a Cause? Me and Niki against Big Brother?! Me and Niki against the World?! Me and Niki against the Capulets?!

Well, let's take a stroll over to Raed's new project called Raed and the Irani, a partnered blog with an Iranian woman named Niki -- and yet another blog without comments pages and Raed at the helm. Raed first discusses Sistani's position in Iraq. Raed writes:

Sistani is a social and spiritual leader, that used to live in Iraq even in the time of the Iraqi government and Saddam, and he didn’t have any kind of influence or political ideas.

When the bush administration occupied the country, I think some of their consultants advised them to be more “culturally sensitive” and they decided to start sucking up for Sistani, the thing that bumped him like a balloon.

I don’t believe, at all, that Sistani have a real influence or power on the ground, and I prefer, as a secular Muslim, not to give him more weight.

Over at Raed and the Irani, Raed slouches behind sunglasses, reveling in his Outsider status. People, the signs must have been there all along, yet we failed to accept or admit what was right in front of our eyes. Raed, our passionate, cynical, and sarcastic young man has become a . . . BEATNIK!

UPDATE: Yesterday I sent an email to Faiza Jarrar in which I told her that she and her husband had raised three interesting sons. You can tell Azzam thinks of his family first and Faiza has labored for years to bring her sons up the right way. I also told her that although I may be critical of her views, I hope the best for Iraq and all Iraqis. This morning I got an email from her. Faiza replied:

well thank you Jeffrey..
I hope you are doing good for Iraqis..
and be a friend for them..
you know, we don`t need more enemies
just kidding
hope you good work
and thank you for the nice feelings about our family
take care

Thanks, Faiza. We all hope that your family's and your country's future is bright and prosperous.

The meeting of family and politics is strange. This summer my parents will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary. They raised eight children, always sacrificing themselves for us. As life-long Democrats, their sympathies lie with any Democratic candidate. My Mom is conflicted about what to do on November 4, while my father -- for odd personal reasons -- cannot stand George Bush. We agree to disagree and learn to tread carefully during our political debates.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Niki, Raed Jarrar's "friend," stopped by the Comments Pages and dispelled the rumor that she was Ferdowsi.

CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT: This blog is in search of a new name. We have decided to be a blog for discussing any Iraqi-related matter and ALL the Iraqi Bloggers. So we need a name. Post your name-ideas on the Comments Pages please. Many posters have already started. Spiderhole Gazette? Iraqi Tablog News? Wacky Iraqi Tobacky Lacky?? (Scott?) ... Bring both your intelligence and wit -- no matter for what reason these qualities are considered immeasurable -- to this endeavor. We'll run it through the holiday weekend and perhaps by Monday night we'll have a winner.

Connie suggests Iraqi-palooza.
Scott writes:

I'll keep working on it, Jeffrey. Now, I am liking Iraqi bloggermania or Iraqi bloggerfest or The Iraqi bloggerdome.... or something kinda pro-wrestling-like.... Something that'll make people wanna show up wearing lycra tights.....

Lycra tights? Jeffrey, don't go there.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Over at Raed and the Irani, the Letter N tackles the "secular Muslim" issue:

your comments here and in your main blog about being a secular muslim (something i remember you explicitly labeled yourself even when you were blogging with Salam Pax), has really thrown people off.

Check out her thoughts over there. Then come on back and discuss, if you are so inclined.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Optimists vs. Pessimists?

"You like THOSE Iraqi Bloggers because they say EXACTLY what you want to hear."

THOSE Iraqi Bloggers could be Riverbend and Faiza and Raed or THOSE Iraqi bloggers could be the ITM brothers, Zeyad, Alaa, Sam, Firas, and AYS.

This statement cuts both ways, both against those who opposed the war and against those who supported Bush's decision to go to war.

How much validity does this claim have?

The last few days, as I was sitting at the keyboard, my mind kept returning to one of Roger Simon's blogs from about a month ago. For me, that particular blog really summarized a lot of feelings and thoughts about all the contrasting reactions that had flared up around me in response to the Iraq War. So I dove back into his archives and located the entry that I had been thinking about. Here it is. Read it and tell me what you think.

Saturday, April 10, 2004
Riding the Whirlwind

Reading the blogs out of Iraq these days is like reading the memoirs of agony from inside the Gulag or similar cauldrons of history. After a litany of pain, Zeyad barely stops himself from giving up:

It is the most foolish and selfish thing to say "pull the troops out", or "replace them with the UN or NATO". Someone has to see us through this mess to the end. Only a deluded utopian (or an idiot peace activist) would believe that Iraqis would all cosily sit down and settle down their endless disputes without AK-47's, RPG's, or mortars in the event of coalition troops abandoning Iraq. Please please don't get me wrong, I am not in the least saying that I enjoy being occupied by a foreign force, I am not a dreamer who believes that the USA is here for altruistic reasons, I am not saying that I am happy with what my bleeding country is going through, believe me when I say it tears my heart every day to witness all the bloodshed, it pains me immensely to see that we have no leaders whomsoever with the interest and well-being of Iraq as their primary goal, it kills me to see how blind and ignorant we have all become. Iraqis are dying inside every day, and we are committing suicide over and over and over. Some people call me a traitor or a collaborator for all the above and for speaking the truth as opposed to rhetorical, fiery speeches which have been our downfall.

It seems scarcely worth trying to convince him that some Americans at least... and some segments of our government... are motivated by altruism, partly anyway. What is good for us is good for him and for his people--I really believe that. His bleak mood... the almost "bring it on" feeling about civil war... is so palpable I doubt he could hear my tiny voice of optimism. And I can't say I blame him.

But Omar over on Iraq the Model is singing a slightly different tune:

The strike -that the terrorists called for- didn't take place the way they desired; I wandered a lot in Baghdad today and I can assume that more than 50% of the shopkeepers refused to submit to the thugs' threats but in A'adhamiya, the situation is different, almost all the shops are closed today as there were intense clashes between the fedayeen and the coalition troops, heavy gunfire and explosions were heard in the morning.

The traffic activity in Baghdad is normal and the whole city is quiet except A'adhamiya, even that Ali and I today met a journalist and a photographer from the (USA today). We spent more than 3 hours together during which we had a lot of conversation; we had lunch in a restaurant in Karrada and they made an interview with us about the Iraqi blogs. Later we all went to an internet cafe' to show them more details about our blog work.

Of course, I want to believe Omar, but to believe either is to engage in The Politics of the Last Five Minutes, something I have mocked. But what I have noticed reflected in America and in Iraq (all over the world actually) is at this time of crisis what divides us is more personality than ideology. In an odd way, whether you are optimistic or pessimistic about the future, whether you believe the course of history can be changed through concerted human action, is more apposite than whether you are a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, socialist or capitalist and on and on. That may be the greatest reason why so many traditional alliances have shattered recently.

I have always been an optimist and I try to remain one, even at the blackest moments. Pessimism has almost always seemed to me a self-fulfilling prophecy. But then I have never had anything remotely similar to the situation in the Middle East to deal with. Now, for the first time in my life I am wondering if that too may come to pass, that I will have to confront this all more personally.

Well, what do you think? Are you an optimist or a pessimist?

Part of the mission of this blog will be to listen to the other Iraqi Bloggers. Like many of you out there, listening to views that conflict with my own is not easy, but perhaps we might learn something by setting our certainties aside for a day or two. What do you think?

UPDATE: On today's Comments Pages, Leap_frog re-tells a very good anecdote from Confucius:

Confucius met a man on the road, travelling from his home town to move to a new town. He asked Confucius, "How do you find the people there?". Confucius asked him, 'How do you find the people where you came from?". The man replied, "They are all no good, lie, cheat, steal and are lazy". Confucius replied, "Then I think you will find that the people in the new towm are much the same".

A little later another man travelling in the same direction as the first man for the same reasons stoped Confucius and asked the same question, again Confucius asked him how he found the people to be where he came from. He replied, "They are great, hard working, honest, loving people. Confucius answered, I think you will find them to be the same".

Thanks, Leap_frog.

ANOTHER UPDATE: As everyone can see, I've changed the range of this blog. Starting today, anything about Iraq and ALL the Iraqi Bloggers will be open for debate. Come one, come all. Let's see what we can learn BETWEEN THE RIVERS. Later, I'll make a formal announcement.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: I need help, people. All afternoon I was fiddling with the template to change the colors on this blog. I should swallow about half a bottle of Advil (Riverbend's Choice!!) right now. Anyway, I haven't had time to follow any of the news coming out of Iraq. So then, on the Comments Page Foydor brings up Raed's latest post. Shoot! I run over there and -- oh heck -- it looks like typical Raed. I need someone's help to make sense of this:

So yeah
Finally, we have a president and a prime minister
So “they” selected our president and prime minister in a small meeting,
But they couldn’t even announce the place of their meeting!!!
What a great strong authority!
Hiding in a dark smelly shelter someplace in the “green zone”, and announcing fake governments…

Can someone fill me in on today's events and let me know if Raed's interpretation is reasonable?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

War and Its Discontents

We now have access to several first-hand accounts of Operation Iraqi Freedom as witnessed by Iraqi civilians, some of them in diary form and others written later. Salam Pax's blog, of course, is the most well-known, but other accounts have surfaced. Zeyad of Healing Iraq, for example, has written about his keen anticipation of the advancing troops and how he almost got into a fight with one of his uncles because he had waved to the Americans as they rolled into Baghdad. Recounting those days in a October 18, 2003, blog entitled "A little something about the war," Zeyad wrote:

Our area was one of three areas in Baghdad that witnessed the bloodiest resistance against American forces. My uncle was so proud of that fact. But there were still no Americans to be seen, only a couple of helicopters. The next day however, a long convoy of American vehicles stormed through our street. I stood in front of the house watching, M1 Bradleys, Humvees, Abrams tanks, APC's. I was impressed. Most of the Americans were so so young. They waved at us, and I waved back. Everyone in the street looked happy.

After they left, I was surprised to find my uncle standing at the door, his face violet red with rage, he was plucking his hair from his head and shouting, I didn't at first realize what he was saying, his mouth was frothy and he was shaking his fists at me, he was so ashamed and enraged about the fact that I was waving to the 'invading' Americans. I thought he was having a fit or something, because he looked like someone losing it. 'Wait and see tommorrow when they will come into our houses and rape our women! You wouldn't wave then, would you', 'How could you dare to wave to zionist imperialists in front of my house?!', something like that. We almost got into a fight, but people seperated us. I felt so humiliated for being shouted at in front of everyone from our neighbourhood. I haven't talked to him to this day, although he lives next door.

Gaith "G" Ahad, friend of Salam Pax and Raed Jarrar, recently wrote a piece called "We wanted this war so desperately" for the Guardian. Gaith begins:

Lying in bed, I was planning my suicide. I had only one dream in my life - to travel, to walk, to see different people and different cultures - and nothing seemed more impossible than this dream in the Iraq of our beloved leader, Saddam Hussein. I was the world's most underpaid architect, doing ugly work for ugly people who had money to build ugly houses. Dodging military service for almost six years meant that I had no documents in a country where you had to submit five different types of papers to get yourself a food ration. Apart from walking the old streets of Baghdad, getting drunk with my friend and reading, there was no way to free myself. I was trapped in this small room with no exit, not even a light at the end of the tunnel.

And Faiza has now included part of her war diary, indexed on the Family in Baghdad sidebar. As frequent readers of Faiza's blog might expect, she complains quite a bit about headaches and stomachaches and through much of the war is taking sleeping pills. However, in Faiza's defense, there WAS a war in progress. Let's take a look at a few entries.

Friday, March 28, 2003
Continuous close shooting didn’t stop in the morning, I was frightened. Didn’t understand what was happening…
The anti aircrafts guns were targeting something…
And suddenly something happened and it was a mess! People running in the streets and shouting! What’s happening??
“They shot down a small American plane”
Raed and Azzam went out to check what happened, and came back with a small part of the destroyed monitoring plane!
We kept it as a souvenir.

Would someone please remind me to ask Raed where he's keeping this war trophy?

Sunday, March 30, 2003
At around midnight I hear the siren and start feeling nervous. I hide myself in the bed and everyone laughs and makes jokes on me… I just hate to hear the sound of air fighters, but Azzam keep on teasing me, “ here they came hide hide” he says and laughs.

Well, it looks official. The Jarrar sons get their wicked humor from Azzam. This is really funny and strange. While Coalition jets rumble above Baghdad, Azzam is joking around with his wife, "Here they come! Hide! Hide!"

Monday, March 31, 2003
Our door bell was unexpectedly ringing!
A Red Crescent car parking outside our door, and a group of young men and women came out of the car.
I remembered them when they entered our guest room.
They came before the war asking for some water purification units for hospitals, and they took some catalogues and price lists at that time…
Now they came to buy some units.
We had some filtration units in our house, under the stairs.
We wrote the contract between us and them, and drank some coffee.
An Italian NGO was with them, Un Ponte Per, as a funding agency for the project.
We discussed the currant events, and criticized Bush and his administration.
I don’t think he cares for our critic.
We are going through this Hell alone.

One thing you have to admire about the Jarrars is that even in the middle of a war they have the presence of mind to sign contracts and make a profit. This is not a family to discount. They will prosper in Iraq whether democracy prevails or whether Uday and Qusay rise from their graves to take back Dear Old Dad's Country.

Friday, April 02, 2004
AsSahhaf holds a press conference everyday…
I believe he is either a liar, or a moron.
News say they are going to enter Baghdad in 48 hours.
Everyone is on the edge; nervous and anxious. We feel the zero hour is very near.
Some people say we shouldn’t be afraid, Saddam is going to let Baghdad be their graveyard.
How??? I wonder all the time…
We don’t even have a single air fighter flying in the sky… the army is without any air cover…

As it turned out, Al-Sahaf (Baghdad Bob) was both a liar and a moron. It's hard to believe that on April 2 there were Iraqis still buying that "Baghdad the American Graveyard" line.


In Iraq there were those like "G" whose life had been twisted by Saddam Hussein's tyranny and who "wanted this war so desperately," a war to remove Saddam's regime -- including people like Hussein Shahristani, tortured and imprisoned for ten years before escaping. Others did not want the war to happen. But perhaps the majority were simply conflicted by the events, just wanting to live through whatever happened. Today a more complex picture of Iraqis' responses to those days has started to emerge.

UPDATE: STOP THE PRESSES!!! A glimmer of sunshine somehow managed to break out on Faiza's blog today. Faiza writes:

and somebody asked me about the new Iraqi leaders..
we all think ,in this time , the leader is coming due to an American specifications...
when the leader is coming due to Iraqi specifications..
we can say : we are free, and our country is free..
it`s a matter of time...
I think everything is going to be we wish.
but with time....
yes, it`s just a matter of time !!!

Let me repeat for the incredulous:

I think everything is going to be we wish.
but with time....
yes, it`s just a matter of time !!!

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Iraqi Bloggers' Archives are filled with interesting points that need to be revisited now and then. Reading through Zeyad's blog I came across this passage about Riverbend from October 29, 2003:

And while we are discussing Riverbend I wish that readers wouldn't email me any insulting and inappropriate remarks about her. I won't reply to any of these. I don't want to blindly defend her since I'm sure she wouldn't do the same. Her writing had a huge influence on me. I emailed her before I started this blog commending her effort and asking for her advice and she ignored me. Someone recently forwarded me an email from her in which she expresses her doubts about my Iraqi identity. I was sad to hear it but fine with me.

Nevertheless she has her viewpoint and it shouldn't be disregarded just because it doesn't conform yours. Her anti-american or anti-war tone doesn't make it less important. She is the only Iraqi woman writing a weblog at the moment.

STILL ANOTHER UPDATE: Khalid sends us a bulletin today from the frontlines of exam week in Iraq. Khalid writes:

I had the thermodynamics test today, and I did well too, thank God.
I remember that I have seen a picture for Santa standing on a hill looking at a big city, where all the houses have chimneys, and the comment under the picture was : why me?
I feel the same way every when I take an exam:)
imagine how nice life can be without exams? ;)

I'm still chuckling over that "why me?"

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Twilight Zone: Judge and Executioner

cue: Twilight Zone theme

Rod Serling's voice:

Imagine a large courtroom in a little town in a forgotten, windswept landscape. Late-afternoon sunshine falls through the large windows and dust covers the rows of chairs.

The room is empty save for the judge -- the young man of our story -- an impressionable young man for whom life has been a series of humiliations and defeats. The black robe that he wears is too large and on his face beads of sweat have started to run down his forehead.

In a moment the door to the courtroom will open and the people whom our young man has hated all his life will proceed inside one by one. These people do not know what lies beyond the door. They are about to enter the feverish mind of our protagonist, Raed Jarrar, and they will step, like you tonight, into the Twilight Zone.

cue: Twilight Zone theme


George Bush enters the courtroom and stands in front of the judge.

JUDGE RAED: (mumbling) just tell me ..., just tell me, ... just tell me (gasping now, sweating), how can YOU ... BUSH ... just tell me ... and the rest of your FREAKS ... JUST TELL ME! (pounding the desk with a fist) ... in the axis of LIARS!! LIARS! LIARS! LIARS! (whimpering) be more PATHETIC ... JUST TELL ME! ... JUST TELL ME! (slamming fist on desk, whimpering) Please please please ... for god’s sake ... I mean ... (suddenly angry again) just TELL ME! TELL ME! TELL ME or I WILL KILL YOU I WILL KILL YOU BUSH I WILL KILL YOU BUSH (sniffling, nose running) YOU! YOU! YOU! JUST TELL ME! ...... I ... SENTENCE ...YOU ... TO ...DEATH! ... EXECUTIONER, TAKE HIM AWAY!!!

The executioner pulls George Bush out of the room and a man that only has the name Kimmitt enters.

JUDGE RAED: (laughing to himself, mumbling) ... he he ... moron frog ... ladies and gentlemen ... moron frog ... he he ... monument ... yeah ... evil ... statue ... (suddenly stops mumbling and looks directly at Kimmitt) MORON FROG!!! You entered history as a piece of shit! You will go out as a piece of shit! You a monument?!! A piece of shit monument! I despise YOU and your FREEDOM ... freedom for YOU, but what about ME? ... I sit here sweating and stinking every night in my bed and what freedom do I have, huh? WHAT FREEDOM? (long pause) .............. I will crush you like a bug ... your life is OVER ... it's all over, Kimmitt ... I'm looking at you and you're DEAD already ... you're already DEAD ... male/female ... bad/good ... evil/nice ... Kimmit, who cares? ... it means NOTHING to you now ... I will watch the blood pour from your neck, habeeebi, ... your life is over ... why? ... because of me, habeeebi, because of ME.

The executioner enters the courtroom again and drags Kimmitt away. The young man's face is covered in sweat. He leans forward and slams his head against the top of the desk. Once. Twice. Three times. Blood shows on his forehead.


Okay, I wrote this last night after I got home from work. I checked out Raed's latest blog, sat and the keyboard, my fingers moved, and this is what came out. Hm. A little strange, I thought. Kind of spooky. I went to bed, woke up this morning, re-read it, and decided to let is stand as my response to Raed's blog.

UPDATE: In deference to Ferdowsi and anishinaboy, I include here a summary of Read's comments on his last blog:

Bush is a MORON.
Chalabi is a MORON.
Jordanians are STUPID.
Kimmitt is a MORON FROG.

Let us now retire to the Comments Pages and debate these claims made by Raed.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Khalid Jarrar, like his brother Majid, is in the middle of exams. Let's wish him and his brother good luck on their tests. Cramming and all-nighters push our resources to the limit. Khalid signs off:

ok, I think I am going to start studying my next exam, wish me luck, and pray for me.
take care of yourselves all of ya!


While Raed and Riverbend gripe about Bush, why don't you read this profile of Hussein Shahristani, a scientist who had been imprisoned by Saddam for ten years, and someone who may be called upon to lead Iraqis until the elections in January. Shahristani on torture:

"At first you think that you can stand it," recalls Shahristani, who weighed about 130 pounds at the time. "But then you start losing your ability to hold yourself up. The pain in your shoulders is unbelievable." Like countless other torture victims in Iraq, Shahristani was then subjected to low-current electric shocks to his genitals. The pain, he says, proved secondary to what he felt in his arms.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Mr. Peabody's Improbable History / Salam Pax, Raed Jarrar, and Gaith "G" Ahad

Peabody's Improbable History was an American cartoon series that first aired in 1959 (Jay Ward production) about a talking-dog historian/time-traveler named Mr. Peabody and his pet boy, Sherman. Using Mr. Peabody's Wayback Machine, they would travel back in time to make sure that the future turned out the way it was supposed to, very similar to those time-travel Star Trek episodes from the same era.

MR. PEABODY: Sherman, set the Wayback Machine for March 9, 2003.

SHERMAN: Where are we going, Mr. Peabody?

MR. PEABODY: To a city along the Tigris River -- Baghdad, Iraq.

SHERMAN: Baghdad?! What for, Mr. Peabody?!

MR. PEABODY: We need to meet three young Iraqi men who would later turn out to lead their country in the most unpredictable ways possible. Sherman, before we depart on our journey, I thought you would like to look at the diary of one of the young men we will be meeting shortly after our time-travel. The young man's name is Salam Pax.

SHERMAN: (eyes goggling) You mean THAT Salam Pax?!! The Salam Pax that 31 years later would . . .

MR. PEABODY: Precisely.

SHERMAN: Holy cow, Mr. Peabody!

MR. PEABODY: Yes, but we're running out of time, Sherman. Here, read this passage from Mr. Pax's journal.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

A BBC reporter walking thru the Mutanabi Friday book market (again) ends his report
with: “It looks like Iraqis are putting on an air of normality”

Look, what are you supposed to do then? Run around in the streets wailing? War is at the door eeeeeeeeeeeee! Besides, this “normality” doesn’t go very deep. Almost everything is more expensive than it was a couple of months ago, people are digging wells in their gardens, on the radio yesterday after playing a million songs from the time of the war with Iran (these are like cartoon theme songs for people my age, we know them all by heart) they read out instructions on how to make a trench and prepare for war, that is after president saddam advised Iraqis to make these trenches in their gardens.

But in order not to disappoint the BBC; me, Raed and G. put on our “normal” faces and went to buy CDs from Arassat Street in a demonstration of normality. After going first into Sandra’s fruit juice shop and getting what people from foreign would probably call a poor imitation of a banana and apple smoothie, we spent half an hour contemplating the CD racks at music shop. Raed being the master of talk-and-slurp-at-the-same-time technique was trying to steal away my “normality” by reminding me that I will be wasting my 10,000 Dinars because there will be no electricity for the CD player. I explained to him that I am planning on operating a pirate radio station and need to stock on music for the masses I plan to entertain, said in a matter of fact voice and Raed didn’t even blink which made Mr. music_shop_owner look at us very suspiciously at this point so we moved to the next rack. But since I buy the stuff that would otherwise sit and collect dust he didn’t say much and was very happy to take away 12,500 Dinars. I bought five instead of the planned 4 CDs, many thanks to Malaysian bootleggers for providing us with cheap CDs. The deftones, black rebel motorcycle club, erykah badu and the new amr diab (here for audio clips if you are interested) have joined the Pax Radio CD racks.

After Sherman finished reading, he and Mr. Peabody climbed into the Wayback Machine and were transported back to March 9, 2003, just a few weeks before events happened that would change forever the course of Iraqi history and the lives of those three young men.

UPDATE: Faiza posts a letter from an old friend named Zeldean who lives in the United States. Zeldean writes:

Summer is here and it is very hot already. And humid. But everything
growing is lush and green and blooming. I am getting ready for an annual
ALL GIRL trip. There are six of us who have been friends since we were11
years old. (Thats 47 years of being friends!)Two of us since we were
four!!! We have spent one week together since we all got married, so we
would never loose track of each other. We see eachother more often,
however, since we all have roots here. 3 of us still live in Shreveport,
one in Mississippi, one in Kansas and one in South Louisiana. This year we
will go to west Texas. We enjoy this time so much. We get to act like kids
again. We laugh alot and watch sweet, romantic movies that our husbands
would NEVER watch! We shop and sometimes eat out and sometimes cook in. We
are renting a cottage on a lake. Its a good time to relax and talk and
drink lots of coffee!
Just wanted to say Hello again! Hope you are well. Write when you have time.

And here is Faiza's response:

I have got this email from a good friend..
she is happy..
she reminds me of our old happy days, with sisters or friends..
laughing and chatting about different things..
now, it`s summer hot days, with bad electricity...
day and night....
friends and sisters are seperated, every one has his own pain
and sadness..
tanks and helecopters moving all the time..
day and night...
bad news from Najef and Kerbala...
what is coming with tomorrow??
our tomorrow is full of fear and worry...

The contrast between the two old friends could not be more extreme. Zeldean happy, looking forward to hanging out with old frieds, and Faiza seeing disaster all around her. I hope that Faiza will have happier days soon. As an American, I am basically optimistic. And I recall when living in other countries people asking me why Americans were so cheerful all the time -- and in some countries being cheerful all the time is NOT a good character trait. So, when I compare these two letters I have to wonder. Many posters have said that what troubles them the most is the emphasis on the negative coming from Faiza and Riverbend. Some have suggested that they might be suffering from a kind of trauma after the war. I don't know. My hope is that one day Zeldean can fly to Baghdad and visit her old friend Faiza and cheer her up. Then Faiza could post a photo of Zeldean and her standing together and smiling. Now that's a photo I would love to see.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Majid Jarrar emails me and tells me our email interview will have to wait until after the end of his finals exams on June 16. At that time we'll do an interview and I'll post it here. Majid writes:

hey :-)
well, i'd like to answer you for those questions...
but i'm rather busy now .. my finals are getting closer....
is it okay for you if i postponed answering them.... at least until i finish my exams on june 16?
i know u'll say yes, thank you :-)
take care.

Let's all wish Majid good luck on his exams! The Jarrar household must be like Grand Central station these days.


Jason Steenwyk shows us how Media-Sausage is made. Folks, it ain't pretty.

From the archives, Riverbend offers us a very up-to-date analysis of sheikhs and tribes in Iraq. Hat tip: ken

Monday, May 24, 2004

Americans Are Blind

Faiza today urges all Americans to open their eyes and accept the fact that we have caused great harm to Iraqis.

there is an old say..
they don`t belive you, cause they don`t WANT to see
and they don`t WANT to hear...
so, how could they believe??
they are such cheating themselves..
someday may be...they have to stop and open their eyes..
and will see and hear every thing..
may be...

To support her argument, she then offers a letter from a reader that includes a story about Marine Staff Sergeant Jimmy Massey. Here are the opening two grafs of the article:

The Marine's tale: 'We killed 30 civilians in six weeks. I felt we were
committing genocide'

By Natasha Saulnier

23May 2004 "The Independent" --- During 12 years in the US Marines,
including three years putting new recruits through boot camp, Staff Sergeant
Jimmy Massey hardly questioned his role. But what he saw in Iraq changed

"In a month and a half my platoon and I killed more than 30 civilians," Mr
Massey said. He saw bodies being desecrated and robbed, and wounded
civilians being dumped by the roadside without medical treatment. After he
told his commanding officer that he felt "we were committing genocide", he
was called a "wimp".

Is this just one man's personal experience or is it commonplace all over Iraq? I don't know. You people out there will have to help me with this one. Many of you have more knowledge in this area than I do. Let's hear what you have to say. Right now Faiza believes American soldiers routinely cross the line of combat rules and that the American public refuses to admit these facts. Is she right? Or is she just being inflammatory? Think about it.

Click on Faiza on the sidebar, read the article, and tell me what you think.

UPDATE: Majid Jarrar stopped by the Comments Pages last night to say hello. We might disagree now and then, but he's smart and has some of his brother's verve, which I do indeed enjoy. Anyway, he thinks that the optimistic Iraqi Bloggers -- you know who they are, right? -- are in the minority and the majority of Iraqis are pessimistic and negative just like OUR FIVE PADDLERS. Majid writes:

And if anyone feels the need to talk about something, go and enjoy the please of writing in Iraqi blogs WITH comment section :*)
P.s: you can always wish that the fuckers you like are the majority of Iraq.
But you know what; the JARRARs are the majority... SAD BUT TRUE

C'mon folks. You gotta like them.


Andrew Cockburn gives us the skinny on Chalabi. (Hat tip: Um Ayad)

Last night on the Comments Pages Ed from Dallas showed an unhealthy interest in photographs of Gaddafi's ALL-FEMALE HAREM HOTTIES BODYGUARDS. Cub reporter CMAR II followed the trail and came up with a bunch of great snaps. "Yowsa!" exclaims my cub comrade. "They all look like the backup singers in the 'Simply Irresistible' music video. President Bush has got to do this country a favor and invite Momar up to Crawford for a summit!"

HOUSEKEEPING MATTERS: For any questions about service, I would like you to direct your comments to my executive secretary Bruno -- oh, sorry, post-op, isn't s/he? -- I mean, Brunhilda. She will be available 24/7-365 for any problems that might arise.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Faiza Would More Likely Vote for Bush than Kerry

Faiza hates Bush but Bush is more religious and, to be sure, more conservative than Kerry. Oddly, then, if one set aside the Iraq War, Faiza would more readily vote for Bush than for John Kerry. If she were an American, Faiza would be side-by-side with her friend Cindy castigating those "liberal friends" who believe in same-sex union. You can see that Faiza is a little conflicted about all of this. I would be too.

All of this became clear to me today when I read the letter from Cindy that she put up on her blog. Faiza does not comment on the contents of the letter. She just says that she considers this woman a friend. Cindy's letter gets to the heart of an American debate between those who see same-sex union as an expansion of legal rights accorded to others and those who see this same union as an abomination and a sign that the very tissue of our society is about to come apart through moral decay.

One oddity in Cindy's letter, as suggested above, is the fact that the people -- the liberals -- who hate Bush are also the same people who see same-sex union as an expansion of rights. Cindy writes:

Here is what I think is strange. The opinions of my
liberal friends are: "Homosexuality is okay. Same sex
marriage is good. Stop telling me about right and
wrong. George W. Bush is evil. He is religious, he's
so stupid. Good Iraqi citizens want us to leave Iraq.
We should leave right now and let the UN handle Iraq!"
And the conservative American's opinion is the
opposite on all of these issues.

This puts Faiza into a difficult situation. She hates Bush but Bush represents more of her values than John Kerry does. To be honest, I am not sure if Faiza has actually seen her predicament yet. I don't know to what extent she is aware of this conundrum. If she were an American, she would most certainly vote for Bush. As an Iraqi, it gets more complicated. The guy whose morals you believe in is being characterized by Al-Jazeera as the leader of the "infidel occupiers."

Interesting, no?

On Thursday, May 20, Faiza herself offered her view on same-sex union. Faiza wrote:

Most of the news on the internet was talking about how Boston allowed same sex marriages, even though most states don't allow it. Who is imposing their tastes on people over there?

Who wants to disturb people's minds so that they no longer know right from wrong?

Who wants to ruin the reputation of Western societies and its principles?

I remembered an article I wrote before some months, I said that there is media that ruins the picture of the West, and distances ourselves from them.

Isn't this the same press that ruins the reputation of Arabs and makes them enemies?

For whose interests do they work?

And where are they taking us?

Surely it takes us towards hatred and distance. It poisons minds, and brainwashes beautiful truths, and replaces them with ugly truths.

Is it the same that promotes unnatural relationships, corruption and same sex marriages?

The channels here are filled with their pictures, and they are celebrating, and kissing like husbands and wives. The pictures embarrases, disgusts and pains conservative families, who change the channel, or turn off the television in anger.

What do adults say to their small children?

These are the relationships of a developed society? Or the relationships of a society that is destroyed, and slipping away?

The war on Iraq divides the street between those who support, and those who are against. And the media wanders about in some distant place, as if it is trying to annoy and degrade humans.

How many homosexuals are there in society?

And why the outcry over their rights and freedoms?

It's only lies to keep people busy from mistakes & disasters that deserve attention, and require solutions. The media is the source of daily poison, broadcasting day and night. They are the ones who picture events as they like. And try to convince people of these ideas.

Thank God we don't live there. The disaster of war and the harshness of life here is easier than living in a society facing this kind of corruption and destruction. My friend from Boston says that she is sad and feels ashamed, because the name of her city is being ruined with these disgusting actions. I remembered that she told me once before that people there on Sundays go to Church, and the roads are closed because of traffic. Most people go to Church, which means that most of them have religion.
God created us from one soul, and He knows everything, all the truth. We are not different, even if religions are different. The prophets are brothers, God is one, and the teachings are one. The agreement over general principles creates the spirit of togetherness, of community. God is with community. But those who want to destroy the spirit of community, and corrupt society - they are the ones who broadcast these unnatural acts and make them attractive for people, to destroy the power of community.

Faiza accuses the media of spreading these harmful ideas that will in the end "destroy the power of community." I have no answers here. It is indeed a serious topic for debate in the United States.

UPDATE: Faiza today added another blog. She discusses a variety of topics and then finishes with this passage:

The communist system lasted for 70 years, it was full of lies, injustice and fact disfiguring…People in Russia have come back to live freely.
And for Iraqis, Saddam regime lasted for 35 years, and finally fell down, forever…
Now we have opened our eyes once again but unfortunately the" Big brother" has come to control our minds and our life…
We are sure that "he" will go away and fall down, sooner or later...
Then we'll smile…
And the God will smile in His highness…
God said in surat fatir "Have they not traveled in the land, and seen what was the end of those before them -though they were superior to them in power? Allah is not such that anything in the heavens or in the earth escapes Him. Verily, he is all-knowing, all-own-impotent."

Faiza and I agree on more than we disagree here. First, I agree with Faiza that communism, at least in its Soviet incarnation, could easily be characterized as "full of lies, injustice and fact disfiguring." She then juxtaposes seventy years of Communist misrule with Saddam's thirty five years. I again agree with the comparison. For those of you who have questioned Faiza about her views on Saddam, this surely seems to suggest that she was against his regime. Tyrants, however, do not "fall down." They have to be PUT down with a boot on the throat. That's messy. That's just reality.

The reference to "Big Brother" is, I imagine, to the Coalition forces in general and the American troops in particular. Well, I have to disagree on this point. I think "J. Orwell" would have been more interested in the recent surge in Al-Jazeera's popularity.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

June 30 Sighted on Horizon

Have the winds changed direction in Baghdad?

Faiza today posted one of the most direct blogs she has ever written.

Good morning...
today , I put pictures on the link, it`s about our encient history ruins ...
well, about my last blog, or the coming one...
I`m talking about our life this days..I`m telling the truth..
I`m not anti- American person..
I do like and respect Americans..
but I`m talking against the bad leaders and bad planning..

This is the first time, I believe, that we have heard this kind of language from Faiza. June 30 seems to be sinking in over at the Jarrar household. Bad leaders and bad planning? Well, those are indeed matters of debate. But life is full of surprises. As a teacher, I can tell you that the first time you teach a new lesson plan, mistakes are always made. You take it home, try to correct the problem areas, and then try it out again. Mistakes are part of life. This is true, to my mind, for all areas of endeavor. You just can't predict all the problems. Mistakes have been made in Iraq, but it is my belief that we have been doing a good job. All the progress in Iraq has been underreported and the mistakes have been isolated and highlighted. Why? News reporting is biased -- in its very heart -- toward the dramatic and sensational. Very few people heard about Chief Wiggles' charity work in Iraq, yet everyone has heard of Ms. England.

yes, I love Iraq, and Iraqis...and we all want peace , and want the real chance to rebuild our country, with our hands...
is that bad??
why some of Americans are angry??
what is the wrong??
do you think you are better than Iraqis??
we want to have our chance in life like others...

Faiza and her sons are part of Iraq's future. They will have their prosperity if and only if they are able to establish a representative, democratic government. This is, to be sure, a turning point for all Iraqis. The ITM brothers and the other great Iraqi Bloggers have already seen the possibilities for success in front of them. The Jarrars and River have always focused on the negative and they have had an easy target -- the US. In about a month that won't be possible any more. Today's blog by Faiza is the first time I've seen her look toward a future of rebuilding and hope. "We want to have our chance in life like others," she writes. This is an important first step for Faiza. Ancient history is interesting, but her children will have a chance at prosperity in the future, not the past.


The one person who seems to bring OUR FIVE PADDLERS together is Mr. Chalabi. Riverbend today writes a rather upbeat blog. Why upbeat? She enjoys sticking pins in her favorite puppet:

He sat, looking smug and supercilious, in a grayish suit with a tie that could only be described as "burnt sienna". During the duration of the interview, a silly little smile played on his thin lips and his eyes flashed with a combination of indignation and impatience at the questions.

I always enjoy a good Chalabi interview. His answers to questions are always so completely antagonistic to Iraqi public opinion that the whole thing makes a delightful show- rather like a vicious Chihuahua in the midst of a dozen bulldogs. There were several amusing moments during the interview. He kept waving around his arms and made numerous flourishing movements with his hands to emphasize some key points. A few interesting things I noted about the interview: he was suddenly using the word 'occupation'. During past interviews, he would never use the word 'occupation'. He used to insist on calling the invading army et al. 'coalition' and the whole fiasco was persistently labeled a 'liberation' by him and his cronies.

All right then. It's nice to see Riverbend cheerful this fine Saturday morning.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Khalid today shows us an email from an American in which Pepsi and Coke are indentified as weapons of Imperialist America to manipulate yet another foreign people. Kind of like Homer Simpson and donuts.

On a more serious note, according to Majid writing over at Al-Muajaha, after the second episode of "Bridges to Baghdad" was shown on TV, two members of the Al-Muajaha staff were threatened by what appear to be former Saddam loyalists. I'm not sure, but one of both of the threatened people have had to leave the country for the time being. Let's not forget that Saddamites are still on the prowl and June 30 will be like a dagger in their heart.

ONE MORE UPDATE: It would be a sad day if Raed were deprived of voicing his opinion on current events. Slowly, and with enormous growing pains, I have come to enjoy the madcap meditations, if you will, of the Iraqi Dadaist, Raed. The English language in his hands results in a messy canvas, but there is no doubting his strong ideas. There is the question, however, of the unique and colorful terminology he employs. Let's take a look at today's expressionist rendering of straight news:

did anyone miss what the chocho head of the day do?
gaddafi went to the silly stupid arab summit with a new airplane,
his new airplane had a big new name too :*)
The United States of Africa

so, he just went to Tunisia for half an hour, made his point, and went back to Libya

why dont they commit the first presidents group suicide?
i beg

Eyes scanning the opening line, our pensive, critical reader is confronted with "chocho head." The internal editor immediately shouts, "Stop! Chocho head?" The definition is pending. Keep going. We concur with Raed in his characterization of the Arab League's convocation as a "silly stupid arab summit." Raed is not shy about offering his personal recommendation to the assembled heads of state. "Why dont they commit the first presidents group suicide?" Raed asks. "Pleassssssseeeeeeeeeee. I beg." We like Raed and don't even mind if he admires the latest expressionist motion picture by Michael Mooooooooooooooooore.

CODA: Well, the whole gang has been mentioned today: Faiza, Raed, Khalid, Majid, and Riverbend. I have new respect for Faiza. Keeping track of a whole family and a neighbor is exhausting. Hats off to Faiza! Time for a beer.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Unpacking the Baggage

Faiza writes:

as I was passing by the presidential sites of Saddam which are now taken-over by the US troops, I remember-our prophet's saying :" never dwell in bad people's houses lest you should get the same end as theirs ""
this is a sign of our mighty God that those who have invaded Iraq will , sooner or later, face the same end of Saddam…
Believing that every tyrant has an end….

This passage offers to the critical reader two immediate issues. The first is the conflation of terms that ought to refer to distinct items. Aristotle, as he looked around at the variety of political systems in use around him, classified all systems as falling into four basic groups. Of those four, tyrannies and democracies were seen correctly as distinct systems. Since the month of July, 1979, when Saddam Hussein wrested control of Iraq -- Jimmy Carter was then in the second year of his one term! -- and set himself up as a tyrant who lives in "presidential palaces," the United States has had a genuine presidential election every four years and a number of presidents have been voted in and out. To suggest that George Bush is a tyrant is foolish. You may disagree with him or hate his policies or despise him as a person, but he is still simply an elected president. In November Americans will vote. If they approve, he stays in office. If they disapprove, he steps down and lets another person lead.

The second point of concern is the invocation of God's wrath to bring retribution. "This is a sign of our mighty God," she writes, "that those who have invaded Iraq will face, sooner or later, the same end as Saddam." This is wishful thinking, hoping one's "mighty God" will set everything right again and it also reveals a basic misunderstanding of how democracies work. Saddam (Brave Saladin!) hid in the backseat of a taxi on April 9, 2003, and peeked above the doorframe now and then as he was driven out of town to make sure no one recognized him. Saddam (Brave Warrior!)was pulled from his spiderhole a few months later, in his hand a pistol that this Arab Warrior never discharged. Not even one bullet. Saddam was lucky. Mussolini was not. Despots get pulled from spiderholes or hung from streetlamps. Calling upon the wrath of one's personal god will not suffice in a democracy. You actually have to go down and vote for the candidate of your choice! Any president who has been elected in a healthy democracy will never reach "the same end as Saddam." Sorry, but I just can't see Jimmy Carter riding out of town in a dusty taxi and then getting pulled out of spiderhole, can you?

How long? 41 Days!

Faiza is the Jarrar mother who apparently suffers from the same class of headaches as Riverbend. Recently a man named Ahmad tried to float a new blog written in French about himself in Iraq. He called it Brulure de Bagdad. I checked it out and immediately recognized it as a translation of Riverbend's blog. As poster Michael US pointed out, Brulure de Bagdad appears to be have been created with a commercial English-French text translator. Yesterday this same Ahmad tried to impersonate Faiza. Anyway, this Ahmad must have been sorely taxed with making sure all the numerous expressions of despair were accurate. By the way, Vladimir Nabokov wrote an excellent novel called Despair.

Faiza, like all of us, has good days and bad days. I really liked her blog about learning English with an American instructor. She had a good day. But most days her blogs catalogue the different shades of her pessimism. Today she writes:

These are one-week events and it's a sample of our life since occupation, destruction, murders, explosions, and things like that .Nobody cares about our feelings and our humanity.
We say: "the student has gone , the master has come"
We mean by the student Saddam, while US is the master..
And it's much crueler…
Although Bush pretended to show pity of Iraqis in his media..
It's a tragedy, not a comedy in which the people are killed and the country is being destroyed.
Who is going to stop it, putting an end to such misery??

How long? 41 Days, Faiza. I hope for a prosperous and democratic Iraq for all the Iraqis I have befriended over the last six months. Today the ITM brothers talked about their optimism. Let us all hope that the ITM brothers represent the majority and not the Jarrars.

UPDATE: According to pharmacy-industry trade journals, Advil and Tylenol are now engaged in a bidding war. Both of these industry giants are seeking Faiza and Riverbend to be spokespeople for their products now available in Iraq. Chalabi giving you a headache? Take two Advil, says Faiza Jarrar, and you'll wake up in the morning refreshed!

ANOTHER UPDATE: My first customer was none other than Raed Jarrar Himself! There is something seriously wrong with Raed, but to be honest I kind of like it. We half-like each other. That's the best we can do, but that's enough. Thanks Raed for giving Jarrars up a River your blessing.

BTW, I hope Niki wasn't secretly in the employ of your arch-villain Chalabi! Raed, you could be "in the middle" of a Hollywood thriller and not even know it.

Long Live the Spirit of CMAR!!!

The Jarrar household and Riverbend refuse to enable comments pages on their weblogs. Without comments pages, they are able to throw out any crackpot theories and febrile observations they want without having anyone challenge them. While it lasted, Cry Me a Riverbend had been the only place where one could go to actually discuss and debate what had been written by the Jarrars and Riverbend.

A new visitor to the Iraqi Bloggers will notice immediately that most of them have comments sections. Here's a list:

Iraq the Model (Omar, Mohammed, and Ali)
Healing Iraq (Zeyad)
Mesopotamian (Alaa)
Iraq at a Glance (Ays)
Hammorabi (Sam)
Road of a Nation (Sarmad)
Iraq & Iraqis (Firas)

These bloggers believe in the importance of debate. They themselves often engage in the discussions on their own comments pages.

The Jarrar family (Faiza, Raed, Khalid, and Majid) and Riverbend, however, do not have comments pages. On more than one occasion, I have urged Raed, in private email correspondence, to enable his comments pages, but he has consistently refused. Khalid enabled his comments pages for a few weeks but grew soon uncomfortable with people talking back at him. To be fair to Khalid, he was the only one of the "Jarrar up a River" bunch to have the least bit of courage to allow public discussion of ideas on his weblog.

Well, the forces of darkness have threatened the life of the man behind Cry Me a Riverbend and he was forced to shut it down. Cry Me a Riverbend existed only because the Jarrars and Riverbend wouldn't allow debate on their weblogs. The day they enable their comments pages is the day that "Jarrars up a River" terminates.

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