Tuesday, January 31, 2006

What Is Wrong With the Middle East??

Go directly to the comments

In this post I intend to address disagreements about Iraq from 4 secular Iraqis:

Mohammed vs Salam

Mohammed at Iraq The Model has posted an excellent article questioning whether democracy is possible in the Middle East. I've summarized his arguments below:

  1. Today, religious parties are extremely organized and have been for a long time. The secular organizations, even in countries have been oppressed by Arab Nationalist government s for the last 60 years, but those governments could not stop people from gathering and organizing in mosques. [CMAR II annotates: They didn't care to, either. They didn't care what the mullahs said. As long as they didn't preach revolution, as long as they only preached about morality here on Earth and Paradise in the world beyond what did it matter? It's not like the congregations were going to be offered the chance to vote on what the mullah said, right?]
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  2. Many unreligious Iraqis voted for the 555 and 618 lists. [CMAR II annotates: This is undoubtedly true, they did, after all, do the same in the US as well] The issues were "lack of security and the feeling of being targeted [for their religious or ethnic identity].
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  3. Rather than presuming that good government will arise from compromise, the people of the Middle East are hobbled by a confrontational personality...seeking confrontation without any clear aim.

Salam Pax disagrees. This is his explanation for the result of the election:

  1. Non-sectarian minded Iraqis are a minority. Educated and free-thinking Iraqis fled the country under Saddam, and, skeptical of the US/British plans for Iraq, did not return.
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  2. Accepting Mohammed's historical outline of "how we got here", Salam disagrees with his claim of a "confrontational personality trait":

"I think it is a deep-rooted sectarian trait that goes way back. Something we have not dealt with and never really had to confront for a very long time, and now that the lid has been lifted it shows itself in all its ugliness."

Who is right? They both are. Salam is right, I think, about suppressed sectarian feelings among the Iraqis as opposed to Mohammed's proposed "confrontation personality". But if I were to slightly restate Mohammed's proposition, it would be more solid, I think:

In Middle Eastern society over the last 60 years of military dictatorships, compromise was only dangerous and never fruitful, thus there is no experience among the parties in compromise politics. Thus, an outraged confrontation is preferable to a compromised settlement in which a few very important ideals are achieved and other goals are relinquished.

This is not unique to the Middle East however. It is a dysfunctional political inclination that is endemic today even among many political entities in the US, and it arises naturally whenever people have their right of self-determination via the voting box abrogated over an extensive period of time (or believe strongly that they have). If you aren't going to get anything you want anyway whether or not you present your arguments politely and intellectually, then you might as well say it loudly and refuse to give an inch whatever the other side pretends to offer.

And while Salam's proposition about educated and secular Iraqis fleeing Iraq under Saddam is likely true (to stop them, Saddam made attempts at such emigration increasingly difficult and dangerous), it doesn't address the self-evident fact that non-observant Iraqis and Iraqis in Western countries voted for sectarian lists. In other words, Mohammed is saying --and I have been saying it for some time as well -- that Iraqis had other reasons than mere religiosity and identity politics for choosing the sectarian lists. For the last two months, I've been saying to anyone who would listen that Allawi failed and the UIA won for two reasons:

Before I go on, I have one more observation: The attitude of defeatism and paranoia and moral affrontery among many Iraqi bloggers writing in English (most of whom are educated, non-religious, and strongly backed Allawi) reminds me of the feelings among Anybody But Bush Democrats in the 2004 American Presidential election. Both were convinced that they morally, culturally and intellectually superior to those who voted differently. Both were -- as election day approached-- convinced that they were destined to win (or in the case of the Allawi supporters, destined to win a significant minority). Both were dismayed to discover the number of people all over their country that simply did not agree with their choice.

Get over it. The UIA would not have been my choice for my government either. But they aren't evil (except the Sadrists) and they aren't Iranian agents (except for the Sadrists). They were elected by Iraqis who see themselves as every bit as patriotic as you.

Frankly, of all the Iraqi bloggers in English, I think Hammorabi's posts are more likely to be those of the Iraqi Shi'a "common man". All my other favorite Iraqi bloggers are Iraqi "intellectuals" with all the advantages and disadvantages implied by that term.

The discussion about sectarian choices leads me inexorably to a dispute between IraqPundit and Riverbend.



IraqPundit vs Riverbend

IraqPundit took Riverbend to task for a post in which she laments the killing of a Sunni tribal leader and his sons by assassins in Iraqi army uniforms. She said:

I hate suicide bombers. But I completely understand how people get there...Who needs Al-Qaeda to recruit 'terrorists' when you have Da'awa, SCIRI and an American occupation?

Naturally, Riverbend doesn't claim any empathy as to how murder-suicides and simple murders in Shi'a mosques and at police stations in Shi'a neighborhoods (abetted primarily by people in Sunni-dominated regions) might lead to assassinations of Sunni leaders. I mean, empathy only goes so far.

IraqPundit, however, (with more self-controlled than I've ever had) ignores her despicable apology for the anti-Iraq murder gangs, and chastises her for spreading rumors and for stirring "ethnic and religious divisions in the country".

Why point out what sect the victims of killings are? It gives the impression that she is more upset when the dead are Sunnis killed by Shiite thugs. I know that she is a good Iraqi and is equally upset when the victims are Sunnis, Shiites, Christians, Kurds and so on, no matter who the killers are. But why would she fall into that pattern that the Westerners insist upon? I don't understand. Our country is known for its rich mix of peoples who respect each other. Why ignore our traditions now? Riverbend knows that Iraqis consider it impolite to discuss who is Sunni and who is Shiite.

I do agree that some Iraqi exiles who returned in 2003 brought some of these destructive ideas with them. But why adopt their ideas instead of sticking with the Iraqi way of life, which for decades respected all the different ethnic and religious groups? Think about all the times, dear Riverbend, you asked your parents: "Is Ammou whoever Sunni or Shia?" And how many times they answered: "I don't know."

In the comments, Fayrouz of Iraqi In America confirmed IraqPundit's statement.

Okay. I've heard this angle from other Iraqi bloggers: that prior to the overthrow of Saddam, it was unacceptable to distinguish another person's religion. All these sectarian parties are backed by outsiders, immigrants from racist Iran and (less emphasized) Jordan/Syria.

This is so similar to the new myth that the people behind the murder-suicide bombings and car bombings are foreigners: jihadists of al-Qaeda and other groups. Iraqis would never do something like that. Hmm. If you say so.

While I have no doubt that it is true that acknowledging one's religious sect was unacceptable prior to Saddam's deposing, I do doubt that those who say it always understand why that was. For example, I lived for a time in North East Texas where there is a tremendous amount of intermingling between the Baptist and Charismatic Christians. The differences in their theologies would no doubt be as insignificant to most people as the Sunni and Shi'a Muslim sects are to me. But the differences are not insignificant to them. While each considers the other truly "Christian" (in most circumstances anyway), each considers the other profoundly in error. Yet, there is that friendly intermingling: attending church with one another on occasion, going to one another's private schools, intermarrying, etc. But there is no perceived need to pretend their differences don't exist. Why was it like that in Iraq?

This is what I commented to IraqPundit:

Please mind the roof coming down as I defend Riverbend: About the Iraqis not noting Shia-Sunni before Saddam fell, I just don't believe it. It strikes me as a kind of Iraqi P.C....

I propose that it was "rude" in the Old Iraq to ask whether one was Sunni or Shi'ite, not because it didn't matter, but because it did.

To be Shi'ite (I propose) was to be a potential agent of Iran (where it is best not to make much of the fact that one is Sunni).

[Here is where 24 Steps To Liberty gets upset with me for thinking I know more about Iraq than Iraqis.]

I propose it is not only the immigrants to Iraq that are making much of their distinct religions and nationalities...it is the native Iraqis themselves who were taught to by Saddam. Strong religious and ethnic identity in Iraq (I propose) is not something that arose since Saddam fell, it is in fact something Saddam engendered and used to retain power. As George Packer said "Fanaticism is the legacy of Saddam's Arabization policy."

My point was that under Saddam, to make to much of one's non-Sunni, non-Arab identity was to potentially single oneself for Saddam's attention. So Iraqis made a deal not to talk about it. But that didn't mean they didn't feel it and resent the requirement that they keep it "on the down-low". To the contrary. The requirement that Shi'as and Kurds pretend to be no different than Sunni Arabs, led to an ever-increasing, unspoken identification with their heritage.

Well, IraqPundit was not persuaded. However, doesn't Salam Pax's second point sound an awful lot like he's coming around to my point-of-view?

And considering the diversity of opinion among these four intelligent, liberal, secular Arab Iraqis, is there any real disputing Mohammed's claim that secular intellectual Arabs are scattered and disorganized?



What Is Going Wrong With Democracy in the Middle East

This is the comment I posted at Iraq the Model to Mohammed's post:

A lot of pundits in the US right now are saying silly things like "Elections aren't democracy"...well, even if that is true, how do you ever get to democracy without elections?

The Muslim Brotherhood did well in Egypt because the government suppressed all the other secular parties but they couldn't stop people from going to the mosque. The MB did not succeed because of "democracy". Just the opposite.

Hamas succeeded in the West Bank because Fatah and Hamas have been killing and driving out every reasonable voice there for 35 years. It has nothing to do with democracy.Give Iraq time and reasonable parties will emerge.

Time (through the Coalition soldiers being there to prevent a coup) is the most important and expensive thing that the reconstruction moneys are paying for.

And this is what I posted sometime ago at 24 Steps To Liberty:

[What is] the difference between the [Iraqi] Arabs and Kurds:
12 years.

12 years without Saddam. 12 years of Saddam being unable to kill off or drive out every effective leader that came to prominence. A lot of people don't know that the Kurds fought a civil war under the no-fly zone. Saddam totally cut off the electricity in the northern NFZ, so the Kurds had to figure out how to provide it without the Iraqi grid. A dozen years is the difference, and I believe the Iraqi Arabs can do better with their advantages.

But they also have disadvantages. Electricity is a problem, but this time (it is said) it is not because the government is shutting it down or letting the infrastructure deteriorate. It is because the Iraqi economy is growing by 30% annually and because Iraqis have been taught to believe that they have a right to burn as much electricity as they can afford because "Iraq is sitting on a sea of oil" and they have been given virtually free electricity by a series of socialist oligarchies. Also, the Kurds dreamed for 70 years of a nation they could be the owners of. So despite the difficulties, they viewed the northern NFZ as "their own".

But Iraq is not a single people. And in the Arab areas, there is no patriotism...because their government has been their kidnapper and jailer for 50 years and longer [ANNOTATION: and because Arab Nationalism said people weren't supposed to see themselves as Iraqis or Jordanians or Libyans. They were all Arabs after all.]. It is going to take time (and economic reform) for the people to view themselves as the invested owners of the country and care for it with pride... [However] Iraq is in a tough neighborhood, and although the US cannot afford for Iraq to fail, it is going to be hard.

The US military caught Saddam in his spiderhole. But the US military cannot catch the Saddam that is still hiding in the heart of every Iraqi that he brutalized physically and mentally for 30 years. Nor can it merely push over the Middle East that accepted Saddam as a viable leader of regional power.

It is a very hard road, but I believe the Iraqis can overcome. I believe it, in part, because as an American I believe there is little alternative. 9-11 showed that it is no longer possible for the world to be half-slave and half-free. One way has to win. And I'm glad for that, because I believe my side WILL win. I believe the other side will lose: the Assads and Mubaraks and Ahmadinejads and Sauds, as well as the Sadrs, the Zarqawis, the Zawahiris, Mullah Omars, the Hizballas, and the al-Qaedas....they will all lose. They will lose big, they will lose famously, they will lose self-evidently. Because the societies they envision are unworkable and miserable: the World will put them aside like a child putting away clothes that have become too small for him to wear.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The In T View: Baghdad Treasure, Iraqi Journalist And Blogger

Iraqi journalist and blogger Baghdad Treasure answers Mister Ghost's questions thoughtfully and openly, a man willing to speak his mind, regardless of the costs. And is that not what a citizen of the New "Democratic" Iraq should be? Silent no more, proud to let the world know where they stand, without fear or reprisal. A free press in Iraq, a free society, and citizens like Baghdad Treasure unhesitatingly confronting life's issues...



MG: Baghdad Treasure, Welcome to the In T View. Can you tell us about yourself?

Baghdad Treasure: I am an average Iraqi citizen lives in Baghdad and went through hard times of three wars and 12-year sanctions. I am a reporter with one of the most famous and influential newspapers in the world. I chose this job to help my country in revealing the truth and making myself a productive and influential part in the Iraqi society.

MG: How did you become interested in blogging and what was the genesis of your Blog: Baghdad Treasure ?

Baghdad Treasure: The first time I heard of blogging was through an article published in the Washington Post. The article talked about how blogging in Iraq is incredibly increasing after the U.S.-led war in 2003. Among those interviewed was An Average Iraqi who becomes one of my favorite blog friends.

MG: Then, you suddenly stopped blogging. Could you tell us why?

Baghdad Treasure: For a long time, I was really impressed by the way the bloggers tried to make a change in the world. But I discovered that this is not completely true. Maybe 10 percent of the blogs in allover the world can make a difference while the others are trying to do something but in vain. I know mine is included in this 10%. Until now, there are people who want to listen to what they believe and that's it. They don't want to hear opinions of others. If what is written matches their beliefs, they praise the author and if not, they curse him or her and sometimes insult them. That's what happened to me. So, I decided that these people do not deserve the effort I am doing and said it is better to find another way to be helpful. But then I thought of the other readers, whose goal is to get the truth, no matter how bitter it is. And for them, and for the truth to be revealed, I decided to continue.

MG: And now you've resumed blogging, what made you change your mind?

Baghdad Treasure: What changed my mind was what happened to one of my best friends in this world, Jill Carroll. She was my muse. She was the very first person who told me what journalism and being a reporter mean. So, I thought writing about her is my task to make people understand how a great journalist this kidnapped friend is.

MG: Your Friend and colleague American journalist, Jill Carroll, was kidnapped on January 7th in Baghdad. She was abducted within "300 yards of the office" of prominent Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi, mysteriously absent from an appointment that had been set up with Jill. Can you comment on the speculation that al-Dulaimi or someone in his office allegedly set up Ms. Carroll?

Baghdad Treasure: I don't think Dulaimi is involved personally. Also, I don't believe Jill would go to that neighborhood without a pre-set up appointment. That appointment was behind the killing of Allan, the interpreter, and her kidnapping. Whoever kidnapped her might sold her to a gang who sells hostages to Qaeda or someone else.

MG: Why was she kidnapped? There was obviously a message in it and that message was?

Baghdad Treasure: These criminals, mostly foreigners, want to turn Iraq into Afghanistan under Talaban. A colleague of mine always says this is the ? New Talabanization of Iraq?. They want to make all women wear scarves and men grow beards and carry weapons in a country that used to be secular and cosmopolitan. They want to kill the civilization in this ancient country. And I think they are succeeding gradually. That?s why most of the educated people are suffering. They are being killed one after the other. Immigration is increasing because no one is able to stop these criminals. The Iraqi government and its weak security forces cannot protect themselves and the American forces are doing their best to get rid of them but still. These criminals are increasing and becoming stronger day after day. Now, journalists are writing about all the above. The first message any journalist would get from the kidnapping of Jill is "be careful and leave, or you will be next."

MG: Is she like a big sister to you? Can you share a memory of her with us?

Baghdad Treasure: Jill is more than a sister to me. She is a sister, a teacher, a friend, and a muse. I am always inspired by her courage and nobility and love of life. I cannot forget the first day I worked with her when she was working for the Jordan Times in 2003. That day was my birthday, the last day in college, and the day when Uday and Qusay [Saddam?s sons] were killed. It was the very first day I work with a westerner. One of the nice times we spent together was when we had a farewell party to J, my friend and colleague. At dinner, Jill was present and she was sitting next to me. We talked, joked and laughed for a long time. She was speaking Egyptian Arabic as I requested so she could practice her Arabic as much as she can. Whenever I finished my glass of wine, she refilled it over and over. ?Yallah, Yallah. "You are happy? " she said, while we were having a great time along with J and O, my friends.

MG: Is there something you would like to say to her right now?

Baghdad Treasure: I would like to say,"Jill, I miss you and I am praying for you day and night. I'm proud of you and your bravery. I wish I can do something to free you."

MG: Another colleague of yours, Iraqi Journalist Allan Enwiyah, 32 serving as an interpreter for Jill was also abducted with her and found dead, "shot twice in the head..." Can you tell us about Allan? I understand he was a good man?

Baghdad Treasure: Allan was a very good man. The first thing I heard about him was when I was in college before the U.S.-led invasion. He had a very famous CD music store in a high scale neighborhood in Baghdad. I used to hear about him since then. One day, I was surprised when he worked as an interpreter for Jill. So, that's how I met him the first time, through Jill. He was a nice person. He used to joke with Jill accusing her of caring about O and me more than him.

MG: What will you miss most about him?

Baghdad Treasure: I will miss his company in smoking Hookah [Tobacco]!

MG: His sad passing saw his two children left without a father. Is there a support system in Iraqi society that will help his wife look after the children?

Baghdad Treasure: As we say in Iraq, There is the mercy of God and that's it.

MG: Because of what happened to Jill and Alan, do you feel intimidated or scared off investigating a story?

Baghdad Treasure: I don't feel scared at all. If so, I would have not accepted to be interviewed here.

MG: Since reporting in Iraq is one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet, why don't you or other reporters carry a Concealed Weapon?

To read the rest of the In T View, click on the
Taxi below...



Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Pot-Pourri On Iraq

In this post:



Terrific photo essay and excerpt from the upcoming National Geographic article on Iraq.
(hat tip Michael Yon)



UPDATE

__________________

Journalist Jill Carroll's abductors have released a video of her to Al-Jazeerah. They say they will murder her in 72 hours of the US does not release "all Iraqi women prisoners". You see, these criminals are sooo concerned about the welfare of Iraqi women that they are going to prove their devotion by murdering a woman whose most distinguishing trait was her love of the people and country of Iraq. The linked Christian Science Monitor article on this story is an important read.

For Iraqi bloggers' take on this story check out:



Iraq the Model has a facinating report from "a chief [elections] observer responsible for monitoring 16 voting centers":

We had little over 12,000 registered voters in our area or responsibility and after ballots were closed, the 16 observers working in those 16 centers began sending me their reports which included observations of 39 violations of various types. First was the turnout, the overall number of actual voters was 7,472 but later the commissions’ local officials said that 11,489 voters cast their ballots. Then came the unbelievable thing, out of those 11,489 votes, 11,130 went to the UIA!!
[…]
Fraud in its traditional ways wasn’t significant, that’s true but my observers told me that election workers in several centers were putting extra ticks on ballot papers that were to go to parties other than the UIA. This way those papers would be discarded from the count, for example, 47 papers out of 330 that were going to the Iraqi list were discarded because they carried two ticks in two different positions.

In places were turnout was really low, some election workers were filling ballot papers by themselves for the benefit of the UIA and marking absent voters as actual voters, for example there was a center in a remote area in the suburbs with 600 registered voters, only 180 voters showed up but the officially announced turnout was 91%.



Not long ago, I created a post for discussion of the alleged mistakes made by the Bush Administration in Iraq. It yielded some interesting discussion and insight. For more input in that vein, I offer:

1) In his most recent post, Alaa says the following regarding the Administration's "mistakes" in general and the disbanding of the Iraqi army in particular:

None of the measures that were implemented can honestly be considered wrong, including the dissolution of Saddam’s Army and Security Forces (and this is where I profoundly disagree with all the critics of that decision). It is just that the style of doing it and the timing always seemed not quite right.

2) In his interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez, Bremer addresses the following alleged mistakes:

On disbanding the Iraqi Army:

He calls this the "biggest myth" regarding his time in Iraq. "The facts are these: There was not a single Iraqi army unit intact in the country at Liberation. There was no army to “disband.” It had “self-demobilized,” in the Pentagon’s phrase. Hundreds of thousand of Shia draftees, seeing which way the war was going, had simply gone home. They were not going to come back into a hated army. [That was precisely Kat's assessment in the comments of the "Mistakes" post. ]

The army and intelligence services had been vital instruments of Saddam’s brutal regime. He had used the army in a years’ long campaign against the Kurds, killing tens of thousands of them, culminating in the use of chemical weapons against men, women, and children in 1988. The army had brutally suppressed the Shia uprising after the first Gulf war, machine gunning tens of thousands of Shia civilians into mass graves in the south. Together these two groups make up about 80 percent of the population. So recalling the Iraqi army (which would have meant sending American soldiers into Shia homes, farms, and villages and forcing them back into the army under their Sunni officers) would have had dire political consequences. The Kurds told me clearly that they would not have accepted it, and would have seceded from Iraq. Such a move would probably have ended Shia cooperation with the Coalition and perhaps even led to a Shi'a uprising, initially against such an Iraqi army, and eventually against the Coalition. [That argument sounds vaguely familiar to me.]

But we knew we had to find a place in Iraqi society for the former army men. So we welcomed them back into the new army, including officers up to the level of colonel. And we started paying the other officers a monthly stipend, which continued right to the end of the occupation [that is, presumably, until July 2004].

Not sending enough troops:

He believes this was a mistake but he acknowledges that Rumsfeld was relying on the expertise of the Joint Chiefs who thought more troops would make things worse.

On deba'athification:

"We were right to exclude the top Baathist-party officials from government jobs. Saddam modeled the party, openly, on the Nazi party — even having young members report on their parents. Our policy was designed to only the top one percent of the party’s members. And we were right to say that the implementation had to be handled by Iraqis. Only they could make the narrow distinctions about which Iraqis had joined the party because they believed the ideology, and which joined just to get a job or because of threats to family members. My mistake was turning the implementation over to a political body, the Governing Council, where it became embroiled in Iraqi political maneuvering. I should have foreseen this and instead put a judicial body in charge of implementation."

Failure to anticipate the hardened insurgency:

"The insurgency is the fault of the insurgents and the terrorism is the fault of the terrorists. But it is true that I felt we took quite a while to develop intelligence about the insurgency."

Not moving fast enough toward Iraqi self-rule:

"I don’t see how it could have been done any more quickly."

Being too isolated in the Green Zone:

"the Coalition had offices, staffed by Arabic speakers, in all 18 of Iraq’s provincial capitals. These brave men and women regularly moved around their districts and reported to us their impressions, spoke with leading Iraqis, and helped us build a large number of effective local organizations to draw more and more Iraqis into the political and economic life of the country."

Failure to provide an "Iraqi face" to the liberation:

"We tried very hard to get Iraqi leaders to speak out, to their own people, and to the world. Some of them, especially those who had been under Saddam’s regime of terror, had no experience with dealing with the press and were reluctant to do so. Others did speak out, but they tended, quite understandably, to put the emphasis on speaking to the Iraqi people, in Arabic, through the Iraqi press. They were less visible on American TV."

It's a very interesting interview. Check out the whole thing. Incidentally, here is an excerpt from Bremer's new book, My Year in Iraq describing an event, as Bremer saw it, that showed the first signs of Iraqi national pride in their new government.



US Army Sniper Nails Record Shot

From 3/4 of a mile away, he took down an insurgent in Ramadi who had just killed a U.S. soldier whom (he later discovered) was a friend.

Significance: Iraq, and Ramadi in particular, is lighter by one insurgent. Always an improvement.



The Canadian Search blog has a stirring affirmation for the liberation of Iraq from Le Monde of all places from way back in November 2003. Nothing that has occurred or been learned in Iraq since changes the validity of anything said here. D.C. provides a translation. Some of my favorite bits:

I support the war in Iraq because aggressive and expansionist dictatorships as Saddam Hussein’s solve their external conflicts the same way they solve internal conflicts: with violence. Between dictatorships and democracies, no real agreement can ever take place.

and

I support the war in Iraq because it is in every democracy’s vital interest to impose the democratization on the Arab world by force, as the Allies did in Germany and Japan.

Also, here is something I didn't know:

I support the war in Iraq because I was also taught at school that Edouard Daladier on his trip back from Munich, where he had just humiliated France by signing peace which sacrificed [Chekhoslovakia to Germany], when acclaimed by the Parisian crowd, he whispered to the Secretary General of the Quai D’Orsay, “What a bunch of idiots!

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Friday, January 13, 2006

Fight For Your Right To Party

It seems Reuters' has started spinning the elections as not a wholesale route in favor of Iranian Islamists. That's good and so true. It is reporting that no party is likely to win a majority of seats in the December elections. The linked story also reports that it will be very difficult for any two of the three most successful lists to unite against the third and pass constitutional reforms.

Of course this has been obvious for weeks. But now even the MSM is acknowledging that a national unity government will emerge. When that happens, with the Sunni Arabs in full participation, I don't see how any obstinate insurgents can long remain above ground. And it is beginning to look more and more like a democratic government. Does that mean all Iraq's problems will be solved? Hmmm...has democracy solved all the problems in the U.S? But it increasingly looks less likely there will be a civil war, that Zarqawi will take over, that the Ba'athists will stage a come-back, or Iran will take over via a client (I put that last one in sarcastically because I never thought that was remotely possible.)

With this good news in mind, I thought I would detail the elected parties in the new government. The CFR posted a good overview of the major Iraqi lists before the election and I'll include pertinent comments from there as well. With 6 seats (2%) still unallocated, here is the current breakdown:

I've also included a brief explanation of MARAM.

United Iraqi Alliance
Background: The main Shi'a list. Sectarian and Islamic but not necessarily Islamist although some Sadr supporters are included among its ranks.

According to CFR:

This bloc of conservative Islamist parties, the so-called clerics' list...The UIA is led by two parties: the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a cleric-led party with close ties to Iran, and the Dawa Party, an Islamist party led by Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari...On the UIA's platform: strictly enforcing the Iraqi constitution, strengthening Iraq's regional governments, and prosecuting ex-Baathist criminals. However, the coalition, which includes more than sixteen parties, has suffered from political infighting in recent months. Some of its more secular members, including Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi, defected from the coalition this year because of the UIA's increasingly Islamist orientation.

Kurdish Alliance (a.k.a Kurdistan Coalition)
Background: A coalition of the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). They want federalism and abhor Iraq being specially designated as an Arab country. This is due to 50 years of Arab nationalism that oppressed their freedom of identity and language. Kurds tend to be more secular than Arabs generally and tend to prefer a walled separation of mosque and state, making them natural allies with the secular parties. But secular Arabs distrust them as much as the Kurds distrust Arabs, presuming that they would be happy for all Arabs to live under a theocracy as long as they get the right to run their own federal state.

According to CFR:

The KDP, led by Massoud Barzani, commands the 100,000-strong Kurdish militia known as the peshmerga. The PUK, founded in 1975, is a social democratic party that promises to rebuild Kurdistan along "modern and democratic lines." The coalition as a whole has several goals: protecting Kurdistan's semi-autonomous status, maintaining its Kurdish militia, and strengthening its control over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. But Kurdistan's main coalition has come under attack [from the Kurdistan Islamic Union] in recent weeks for its failure to democratize and provide security.

Iraqi Accordance Front (a.k.a Accord Front)
Background: The Islamic-leaning Sunni Arab list (despite their denials); The party favored by rejectionists who nevertheless participated in the January election. It's leadership has at times claim to be able to turn off the insurgent attacks like a faucet. CSM journalist Jill Carroll was abducted (and her Iraqi interpreter Allan Enwiya murdered) while waiting for an interview with it's leader Adnan al-Dulaimi (who claims to have had no interview scheduled with her). He has also been reported to have taken the name of a kidnap victim from a petitioner and had him released.

According to CFR:

The first major alliance established within the Sunni Arab community, the Iraqi Accord Front rejects the U.S. occupation but has participated in the political process in Iraq. The bloc comprises the Iraqi Islamic Party, and the Conference of the People of Iraq. The Iraqi Islamic Party, headed by Tariq al-Hashimi, is loosely associated with the Egypt's fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood and was the sole Sunni group to participate in January's elections. More recently, the party was instrumental in urging Sunnis to vote in the constitutional referendum that passed last October. The National Dialogue Council, a powerful Sunni group led by Khalaf al-Ulayyan, boycotted January's elections but voted NO in the referendum. The Council has been highly critical of the Defense Ministry's policy of demolishing civilian houses suspected of harboring insurgents. The Conference of the People of Iraq, led by Adnan Dulaimi, has strongly criticized anti-Shiite terrorist attacks in Iraq and called for more national reconciliation...The Iraqi Accord Front, which says it is not sectarian-based, has three main goals: expelling U.S. forces from Iraq, ending de-Baathification, and amending the constitution, which the group's spokesperson, Zafir al-Ani, called a "ready-made recipe for civil war," in a recent interview.

Iraqi National List (a.k.a. Iraqi National Accord)
Background: Iyad Allawi's secular party. Allawi is a Shi'a, an ex-Ba'athist, and the PM for the Coalition Provisional Authority. He fled Saddam regime and, reputedly, was the subject of an attempted assassination in London by agents of Saddam. The INA's campaign was based on Secularism and Reconciliation with the ex-Ba'athists (end to deba'athification). His campaign ads frequently pictured him with an unveiled female candidate. Despite his call for an end to deba'athification, many saw him as a "get tough" candidate. His appeal for many Iraqis was handicapped by the rampant fiscal corruption during his tenure heading the CPA.

According to CFR:

This recently created coalition, led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, encompasses a wide political spectrum of seventeen mostly secular Shiite, Sunni Arab, and Kurdish parties. The bloc calls for a united and democratic Iraq that "renounces sectarianism," improved relations with Iraq's Arab neighbors, and a strong national army. Allawi, a Shiite, dismisses accusations that his coalition is anti-Islam or pro-Baathist. "We represent all of Iraq, not just one party," he said in a November 28 interview with al-Arabiya...Yet according to the Christian Science Monitor, Allawi's support among secular and better-educated Iraqis has surged in...weeks [leading up to the December elections]. Some Iraqis say they will support him because of his reputation as a strongman. Others, however, are expected to vote against Allawi for this very same reason. Shiites and Sunnis alike remember the anti-insurgency crackdowns he orchestrated as prime minister in 2004 in Fallujah, Najaf, and Sadr City; during a December 4 visit to a shrine in Najaf, Allawi was attacked by armed Shiite militia members. Ads by rival Shiite parties refer to him as "Saddam without the mustache." His interim government was also widely known for corruption. Further, Allawi is seen by some Iraqis as a lackey of the United States, not to mention a Baathist sympathizer. His new alliance includes a number of ex-Baathists. Allawi himself was a former Baath Party member...Yet he also has reached out to Adnan Pachachi, an octogenarian and popular Sunni leader who led the Iraqi delegation to the United Nations in 2003.

Iraqi Front for National Dialog
Background: Led by Saleh al-Mutlaq, one of the Sunni Arab representatives included in the constitutional drafting process. It is more secular than the Iraqi Accord Front. They are adamantly against federalism and favoring Arab identity for the nation. They opposed ratification of the constitution on those grounds. They also want a clear timetable for the US forces to leave Iraq. They want negociations with terrorists, and they want Iraqis released from US prison that they presume are being held there unfairly. For Iraqis who are secular and believe in a fabled "Resistance" that is truly distinct from the jihadis, this is their party.
Quotes from Mutlaq: here, here, here

According to CFR:

Mutlaq has called the constitution a “minefield” that will “blow up anytime.” The bloc—which comprises several Sunni Arab parties, including the Iraqi National Front and Arab Democratic Front—[was] expected to fare well in insurgent strongholds like Ramadi and Mosul.

Kurdish Islamic Alliance (a.k.a Kurdistan Islamic Union, a.k.a KIU)

The Islamic Kurds are ironically more Islamic than the Islamic Arabs.

According to CFR:

Formerly a member of the Kurdistan Coalition List, the Kurdistan Islamic Union accuses the Coalition of dominating Kurdish politics, failing to reform Kurdistan's economy, root out corruption, and falsely reporting a higher voter turnout among Kurds during the October constitutional referendum. Yet the KIU's Secretary-General Salaheddin Mohammed Bahaeddin told the newspaper Yekgirtu that the PUK and KDP interpret a single list as the unanimity of the parties and campaign for it as such.

Risaliyoon
Background: Muqtada al-Sadr's party. Presumably, this list strengthens the hand of the UIA if they are included in the government. However, they say they will not participate in a government that includes either the Iraqi National Accord (this is a "red-line" issue, they say) or the Iraqi Front for National Dialog (the two largest secular parties). So we shall see.

Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc
Originally, the Iraqi Homeland Party. According to the wikipedia it is "Sunni, liberal, and secularist party... founded...in Jordan in 1995 by exiles from Saddam's regime". Today, it is essentially the party of the populous Juburi tribe. The Juburi claim 10 million members, so clearly its support even from that tribe is not overwhelming.

Patriotic Rafidain Party
Background: A coaltion of the Christian Assyrian Democratic Movement and Chaldean National Council.

Iraqi Turkmen Front
Background: Obviously, the ethnic Turkmen party. They are against federalism and want Iraq to remain a designated Arab country.

Iraqi National Congress
Background: Ahmed Chalabi's secular breakaway party from the UIA

Parliament of Patriotic Forces
Background: The party of CPA Defense Minister Hazim Al-Shaalan whose department has been accused of some of the worst embezzlement of reconstruction funds amounting to billions of dollars.

MARAM
An acronym for "Mu'tamar Rafidhee al-Intikhabat al-Muzawara" meaning "the Rejectionists of Fraudulent Elections Congress." It is a coaltion of over 50 parties that merged in opposition to alleged alleged fraud by the UIA. The parties in MARAM consists of the Iraqi Accordance Front, Iraqi National Accord, Patriotic Rafidain Party, Iraqi Turkmen Front, Iraqi Front for National Dialog, Parliament of Patriotic Forces and some 80 other miniscule parties. Allawi has emerged as their spokesman.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Uday and Tookie, Together Again -- in Hell!

Raed Jarrar was very angry that the Americans toppled Saddam Hussein and he later complained when they so indecorously pulled Saddam out of his spiderhole.

Raed Jarrar cried, "But he was our NATIONAL LEADER!!!"

300,000 Iraqis were killed by Saddam and his henchmen.

No protests from Raed Jarrar. He simply explains: "It was his RIGHT because he was OUR NATIONAL LEADER."

As you all now know, Raed Jarrar married Niki Akhavan and is now living in Santa Cruz, California, as he waits for his Greencard interview with Homeland Security.

So guess what Raed Jarrar does when he learns that a convicted killer named Tookie, who would have been good pals with Uday Hussein, is about to be executed?

Yep. He goes to San Quentin and PROTESTS.

I kid you not.

Saddam orders the cold-blooded torture and murder of 300,000 Iraqis.

Raed Jarrar: "He is OUR NATIONAL LEADER. It's HIS RIGHT to do whatever he wants to do with his subjects."

Uday feeds the chicks he raped into his woodchipper.

No protests from Raed Jarrar. He tells us, "He is OUR NATIONAL LEADER'S son. He can do what he wants."

A convicted murderer is put to death and Raed Jarrar finally PROTESTS.

Raed Jarrar: I know I didn't mention this before, but I actually went to San Quentin prison in the middle of that disappointing night.

Raed Jarrar thinks that both Uday Hussein and Tookie were simply innocent, misunderstood victims of society.

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Oh, by the way, Raed Jarrar has been in the United States for a couple months on his visa and already he's calling Arnold Schwarzenegger "our governor."
Our immigrant governor's speech sounded like a typical third-world speech where the big promises are about building schools and roads, as opposed to the more sophisticated issues one would expect from a Californian governor in the 21 century.

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

Baby Noor As The Story of Iraq

To the Comments

Somehow, the details of this story seem to have gotten by me until today. This story consists of a tangle of elements that include soldiers doing their jobs to root out the chaosmasters, poor Iraqis with worse problems than having their house raided, and the abject evil with which Iraqis must contend in their struggle toward liberty and self-determination.


...Troops from the Georgia National Guard raided a Baghdad home in early December...As the young parents of an infant girl nervously watched the soldiers search their modest home, the baby's unflinching grandmother thrust the little girl at the Americans, showing them the purple pouch protruding from her back.

Little Noor, barely three months old, was born with spina bifida, a birth defect in which the spinal column fails to completely close. Iraqi doctors had told her parents she would live only 45 days. But she was tenaciously clinging to life, and the soldiers in the home -- many of them fathers themselves -- were moved.

Lt. Jeff Morgan: "Well, I saw this child as the firstborn child of the young mother and father and really, all I could think of was my five children back at home and my young daughter, and I knew if I had the opportunity whatsoever to save my daughter's life I would do everything possible...So my heart just kind of went out to this baby and these parents who...were living in poverty and had no means to help their baby."

Sgt. Michael Sonen: "We...collectively decided this is going to be our project. If this is the only contribution we have to defeating the war on terrorism, this is going to be it."

So Noor was sent to Atlanta for surgery with her grandmother. The Iraqi insurgents, however, continue to defy the limits of caricature as B-movie villains:

Lt. Jeff Morgan: "We did a lot of things to protect the identity of these people. We visited them when we could, which was usually in the middle of the night, as covertly as possible, because the insurgents in Iraq like to find people that we're trying to help sometimes and either terrorize them or sometimes worse."

Sgt. Archer Ford: "We are always concerned that talking to anybody longer than a normal conversation will put them in danger".

Imagine the insurgency as a bunch of guys with scars on their faces, a clouded eye, hooks for hands, sitting around a table brainstorming their next "evil plot". You would not be far off the mark.

Oh, come on, CMAR II! The insurgents are bad, but they aren't like that!

Oh no? Here and here (update 1) and here and the last paragraph of this post.



People ask "How could the Shi'a have voted for the UIA and militias in a greater percentage than they did in the last election?" I think perhaps I know how. Remember the story of torture houses where they were using power tools to get answers out of captured insurgents. In the safety of our homes outside of Iraq we thought, "Oh man! These guys are finished now". But the Shi'a in the South and Baghdad...not agnostic or athiest Iraqis, but observant Muslims, who had to dodge bombs when they went to mosque...saw things differently. For them, the torture shacks were the best campaign ad the UIA could have asked for. Those shacks said the government was serious in rooting out and eliminating the terrorists from Iraq.

The fact that we are suprised by this, shows how much we have forgotten about the way we felt that Tuesday on September 11, 2001. Americans, the months afterward, wanted the government to seriously bust some balls to find every single person remotely responsible for those attacks. And we didn't care what china they had to break to do it. When you see the terrorists mindset and tactics in Iraq, are you surprised that the Iraqi Shi'a felt the same? Allawi's big campaign promises were Security and an end to Deba'athification. Well, the torture shacks had shown that the UIA-dominated government was serious about the former and, as for the latter, non-Ba'athist Shia were not at all interested in cutting any slack for those who had served Saddam. Who can blame them?

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bush & Co Has Made Zero Mistakes in the Iraq Intervention

Go directly to the comments

UPDATE 2

A year and a half ago, the Center for American Progress listed 48 mistakes the President had made in the WOT, 23 having to do with Iraq.

A year ago, Noemie Emery took the stance of this post that Dubya has no "mistake" to apologize for and shouldn't.

In April 2004, Bill Kristol & Robert Kagan thrashed Bush for sending in too few troops.

In August 2004, T. Beven trashes the alleged mistake of "rushing into war".

Here's an abandoned blog devoted to the mistakes in Iraq.



The purpose of this post is to discuss the mistakes made by the Bush Administration in the lead up, conduct, and aftermath of the invasion.

The germ of this post is the heated discussion in the comments section of 24 Steps To Liberty's last post (read the whole post...it is excellent!). In the comments, Baghdad Treasure said:

I always respect the American people and the American army. I also respect the American government but at the same time I believe that this government committed many mistakes...

Then Jeffrey claimed that BT's and 24's view of the Bush Administration's conduct of the war in Iraq was unduly influenced by their liberal Democrat American colleagues at their newspaper.

This made me think....what were the mistakes this Administration made in the conduct of the Iraq Liberation? And that is why I have chosen to give this post it's absurd title.

I assert that most of the discussion of "mistakes" in the war, are arguments against the war by other means. This is because it frames any challenge faced in Iraq as misconduct on the Administration's and US military's part (who are the entities working hardest to make Iraq go right), rather than on the terrorists, rejectionists world-wide, and world leaders (who are doing everything in their power to make Iraq go wrong). I also assert that, in any case, open grousing of that sort are counter-productive and pointless.

By the way, I seem to recall an excellent detailed post at In the Middle Ground on this subject, but I can't find it. If someone gives it to me, I'll post it here.

Mistake 1 No WMDs.

Not a mistake. If I have any good reason to believe that a package delivered to my house is a bomb, it is not a mistake to get it out of my house. Even if I discover later that it wasn't a bomb. It was not a mistake. It was the right thing to do.

After 9-11, in Bush's famous "Axis of Evil" speech he said:

We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer.

I explained so eloquently here, Saddam was a growing threat. He wasn't the only one, but when a man is up to his eyeballs in borrowed money, the priority for getting rid of debts is "which one can I get rid of soonest?" That's the position the US found itself after 9-11. We found out that box cutters and a plane ticket could kill 3000 people in a go, shut down a major city, and eliminate 1 million jobs. We found out that a couple envelopes full of anthrax could slow the postal system to a crawl and shut down the Congress. After 12 years of attempting to get his full cooperation with inspections and then 9-11, Saddam wasn't worth screwing with anymore. There may have been hints that he had no WMDs, but there were good reasons to believe and assume he did, and he acted really guilty. There was simply no choice under the circumstances.

As VP Cheney said before the war, "Those who argue that we need more time to confirm that Saddam has WMDs will use the precence of those weapons, when they are confirmed, to argue that we cannot invade for that reason."

Mistake 2 Dissolving the Iraqi military

Not a mistake. If I fire someone for being a bloody-minded bully on the job, and he comes back with a shotgun and shoots up the company, that is not an argument that he shouldn't have been fired. Quite the opposite.

The claim is that the decision to dissolve the Iraq military caused a lot of disgruntled, out-of-work, mid-level officers to sit around with nothing to do but figure out how to get even with the U.S. But what was the U.S. supposed to do? Keep intact the very element Saddam used to terrify Iraqis and give them weapons and training? Should we have kept the secret police intact as well to help with law enforcement?

Mistake 3 Failing to stop the looting

This one is tougher to defend, but I'm quite prepared to do it. Most US soldiers are not trained to be police. Utilizing them that way would be playing with fire. Furthermore, rather than a mistake, this was an issue of priorities. Do soldiers hunt Fedayeen or do they place the entire country under lock down...and waste bullets on revellers?

Mistake 4 Revellers??! You call the looting of the museum treasures mere "revelling"?

Ho hum....Actually Jeffrey took down this museum kerfluffle about a year ago.

The point is that in order to properly secure the country, the US would need to become another Saddam. The advantage Bush's critics have is that they will never see the ways that their own sage advice could go wrong. They can point to the bad things that actually did occur and say "See? I told you you should have done [whatever]!"I had a cousin who would do that. He sat around and as soon as something undesired happened, he had a plan that would have avoided it and led to world peace. It was easy for everyone to see what an annoying jackass he was. I don't know why that fails to be obvious for some of Bush's critics who do the same thing: If the US military had cracked down and the populace turned on the foreign soldiers as enemies, the critics would be talking about the Bush Administrations heavy-handed cultural ignorance. That they had turned a great victory into a bitter defeat.

On the the other hand, the US military could permit a degree of mayhem until the Iraqis themselves demanded the US provide order (which is what they did). Waiting also provided the opportunity for natural Iraqi leaders to rise to the fore and take command. To the extent they did, the results were worrying...the two most prominent Shi'a leaders to rise in the South were al-Sadr and Ayatolla Sistani. But I am actually still impressed with Sistani and there is still plenty of time for al-Sadr to be unmasked as a paid Iranian agent. Anyway, the there were limited options with Saddam's inner circle still on the run.

Mistake 5 Not enough troops sent to Iraq

See Mistake 4. There are downsides to filling Iraq with occupation troops. Once again Bush's opponents do not have to address those downsides. However, those calling for a quick and non-tactical withdrawal of troops from Iraq keep insisting that the US troops are the cause of the insurgency. I realize that those who accuse the Administration of grievous mistakes do not always make that claim, but they don't say anything to argue against this alleged mistake either.

In this case, there are no hard yes or no decisions. Those who make this argument seem to put on a child-like innocence about how complex it is to remake a society and government completely centered around one man. How many troops is too much? How many is not enough? What are your priorities? Do you hunt for the elements of the old regime or immediately mobilize against the neighboring countries that are also necessary to rebuilding the Iraq economy? The Administration claims that they went with the numbers the generals said they needed. Those are the experts. People can claim they generals were pressured to give certain numbers, but they have no evidence on that. Their reasoning is: Some generals say they needed more troops, so the generals actually tasked with making the decision were pressured in that decision. A perfect circle.

Well, enough soldiers to seal the borders would be nice! Seal the borders from what?? How are US Marines supposed to know the difference between someone coming over the border to fight the infidel (like al-Sadr) or to enjoy Iraq's new-found freedom (like al-Sadr)? Iraq was already awash in armaments, so keeping out smuggled weapons would initially have been like damming the rivers to the ocean.

Anyway, the US (like everyone else) expected a hard fight with the committed Iraqi troops and Fedayeen, and then a mopping up exercise. They didn't expect Saddam and his devotees to abandon the army and immediately start an insurgency, which is what they did. Devious move, but a bedeviling move on your adversaries' part does not mean you made a mistake.

Politically, however, the loudest voices of those who argued before the invasion that more troops were needed (but absolutely not all), were against the war in any case. Their argument was a tactical device: They wanted to have the number of troops continually ramped up and up until it was high enough to turn public support adamantly against invasion. Ha! So are you saying that the number of troops initially sent was politically motivated? No, I didn't say that. But, if we assume that the invasion was right and necessary (as I do), I am free to argue (as I believe) that if a demand for more troops would have prevented the invasion from occurring for political reasons, it should have been done with fewer if feasible.

Mistake 6 No plan to win the peace

Don't be absurd. There were many plans. The US government had been working on such contingency plans for 12 years. But Saddam's Orphans are not automatons who are complacent to play their role in our plans. They figure out what our plans are and make brand new plans against them. That is not a "mistake". That's just the way it is.

Mistake 7 The Occupation was a mistake.

This is the argument of invasion-advocate Richard Perle. From very early on (2003?) he said publically that we should have toppled Saddam and left.

I think we made mistakes, and I indicated in my opening remarks that the occupation was a mistake. It's never a good position to be in-- an occupying power. I think we were greeted when Saddam fell, with great respect and affection by Iraqis, but that doesn't last when you're in an occupying position. So we've lost some time.

He has elsewhere argued that we should have moved on and toppled the tyrannies of Iran and Syria, but I don't know if the two are connected. This is another case of different strategies with pluses and minuses. Perle has noted the disadvantages of occupation. He hasn't detailed the disadvantages of removing the leadership and pulling out (heard of Afghanistan?). The list of minuses are so long and so obvious that it probably explains why Perle is the only one saying it.

Nevertheless, occupying and rebuilding Iraq has proven sooo complex, I think his argument has more merit than it is given credit for, even though I don' t agree with it.

*****

Ultimately, I think it doesn't matter if Bush made "mistakes" however one defines the term. We have to win this one. Focusing on "mistakes" rather than strategies for victory is pointless. Let the enemy celebrate over their feckless accomplishments. We don't have to commemorate them.

Finally I assert, that for all the alleged mistakes, the Iraqi Liberation has been been an astounding success so far. Were thousands upon thousands of US servicemen killed in urban warfare on the streets of Baghdad toppling the Saddam regime as many predicted? No. Less than eighteen hundred combat-related fatalities in three years. The 40,000 or so Iraqi civilians, servicemen, and police killed in the process of fighting Saddam's Orphans is appalling. But it is a pittance compared to what was predicted. In 4 years Afghanistan and Iraq have legitimate freely and fully elected representational democracies. Syria is on the ropes. Lebanon is being transformed. Libya is coming in from the cold. Iran's tyranny is in the process of ripping itself to pieces.

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Okay. That's a good start. Please feel free to take on my proposal that the Bush Administration never made any mistakes in the ramp-up, conduct, and aftermath of the Iraq Liberation and rip into it with gusto. I'll update this list with new "Mistakes" as really good ones are posted.

UPDATE

Mistake 8 Deba'athification

This is the process of eliminating Ba'ath Party members from the key government positions...including professorships and such. Commentor Maury said:

[It was a] HUGE error was letting that squat little rat Chalabi have at Sunni society with his "debaathification committee". Over 30,000 teachers lost their jobs. Just about any civil position required Baath Party membership. What that sh**head did would be akin to firing all white (or black) civil servants in the U.S. ...at a time of 60% unemployment.

Well, I don't think deba'athification (DB) --anymore than de-Nazification in 1945-- is akin to firing people based on race. I think it is an importatant process in breaking Iraq from it's past. Like denazification, the process is a formality for most people. Patton was infamous for utilizing Nazis in his areas, and Salam Pax's parents are said to have worked in Saddam's government and now work in the current one. The value of DB is that (ostensibly) it puts the onus on the party member to prove that he wasn't a monster in the old regime. This is better than the other way around. See the comments for more on this alleged mistake.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Saddam, would you like to smoke a last cigarette?

Iraq Pundit offers us a few mordant remarks on a recent article in which Saddam states that, because he is a military man, he would prefer to be killed by firing squad.
The reporter, Paul Martin, quotes the former dictator's lawyers who said that "Saddam maintains that he is still commander in chief of Iraq's armed forces -- and that a firing squad is 'the right way' to execute a military leader."

Iraqis know that for all of his fondness for uniforms and guns, Saddam never served in the military. That's why it's kind of interesting that he wants to die in a way suitable for someone who has actually served his country.
Well, so Saddam prefers a firing squad to hanging?

As Captain Jean-Luc Picard used to say, "Make it so."

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There have been a number of interesting articles and blog entries from the past few days. If you haven't read Michael Totten's latest article, you should.

Lebanon the Model.

And Wretchard over at Belmont Club offers us one of his usual thought-provoking entries.

Kimball and Steyn on the end of the West.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Life under Saddam and Post-Saddam Iraq

Was it better living in Iraq under Saddam or now?

Omar at 24 Steps to Liberty gives us a detailed and honest answer.

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Meanwhile, as Raed Jarrar watches the New Year's fireworks over the bay of San Francisco, he starts to think about his new "project":
I’m planning on starting a new project estimating the compensation that should be paid by the occupation countries to Iraq as a country and to Iraqis as individuals. This project will be based on the legitimate and fair UNCC compensation scale that Iraq followed in the last decade in paying compensation to Kuwait.
Raed Jarrar, the guy who glories in and counts and laughs at the deaths of American soldiers, is sitting in the Bay Area, awaiting his greencard interview after marrying Niki Akhavan, and now he is trying to figure out how much money the US owes the Iraqi people in general and the JARRAR FAMILY in particular.

I have contacted Homeland Security about Raed Jarrar. I urge that you do, too. I know that others have already left a tip at the Homeland Security website, as I have done. Join us. Let your voice be heard.

For three years Raed Jarrar and his family have vilified Americans. And now Raed Jarrar is trying to get a greencard. Doesn't seem right, does it?

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