Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Fundamental Question

A few days ago over at Treasure of Baghdad, I wrote the following comment:
There are many who argue that Arabs, who have relied for centuries on tribal values and have been dominated by authoritarian dictators, cannot participate in democracy because it is simply too foreign to them. What they're saying is that although both the Japanese and the Germans, once given the chance, embraced representative, democratic governance, the Arabs are different. Arabs only listen to their sheikhs and their dictators.

What do you think?

George Bush has said that all people, if given the chance, will embrace representantive democracy. What do you think?

Do you think that Arabs can accept the personal responsibilities that go along with democracy?
There were several responses from the regular commenters to what Original Jeff called the "fundamental question."

Nadia replied:
"George Bush has said that all people, if given the chance, will embrace representantive democracy. What do you think?"

Do fish swim in water? Is there rice in China? Does a cow have four legs?

"Do you think that Arabs can accept the personal responsibilities that go along with democracy?"

Under the same conditions Arabs accept personal responsibilities as any other people on this earth.

In fact such a question is very bizarre it’s either an indication of extreme racist views of Arabs or having lived in extreme isolation from the rest of the world for way to long.
EdoRiver wrote:
I never thought the Iraqi or any people that I know of, don't want representative democracy. So Jeffrey's questions seems wierd. But the question is whether the people who lose the elections will be treated fairly and will they abide by the results. We could guess that Sunni would not win an election for the forseeable future. If I were a Sunni politician, this would be a frustrating time.
EdoRiver points out one of the ultimate tests of a functioning democracy. It's not what the winners do; it's what the losers in the elections decide to do. If they start planning how to win more votes in the next election, then they live in a real democracy. But if they start handing out AK-47s to their "campaign workers," then they do not live in a democracy.

Bruno served up a big, juicy SNARKBURGER:
[Jeffrey] “Do you think that Arabs can accept the personal responsibilities that go along with democracy?”

No, clearly Arabs have ‘democracy repelling’ antibodies that genetically prevent them from accepting the glorious ‘democracy’ you have ‘invented’. But more pressing to my mind is the question of: whether Americans can accept the personal responsibility that goes along with eating a Big Mac?
Baghdad Treasure asserted:
Arabs will never change this attitude [listening only to sheikhs and dictators] and I believe that democracy will never be successful in the ME and the whole Arab world. It has to do with traditions. Arab sheikhs and tribes established the first Arab territories. So it is not easy to change this.
And later Bruno added another comment on the issue:
Firstly, I don’t see what is so utterly glorious about democracy anyway. Everybody makes out that it is the answer to the world’s problems, but in reality mostly the same old people end up ruling anyway. I have seen for myself in my own country how parties elected on a particular stance turn 180 degrees and do the exact opposite, and nothing at all can be done about it by the people who voted for them on that issue. The barriers of entry into a typical democratic system as a viable contender mean that usually the rich are the ones that can campaign with success … and they would be the stakeholders in an alternative system anyway.

Having said all this, I don’t believe that Arabs are incompatible with democratic ideas at all. I mean, if the Lebanese and the Palestinians can grasp the concept then what is so difficult for the rest of the ME? Simply, a lot of these regimes are backed by our favourite rogue superpower, which has an excellent relationship with their dictators, and has no interest in jeopardizing that relationship in favour of the lottery of a democratic government. Only if the dictator is ill disposed to the said rogue superpower, is ‘regime change’ of the utmost importance.

What do YOU think?

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UPDATE: Responding to comments about the latest Arab League summit, Iraq Pundit remarks:
Plenty of Arabs view Iraqis as traitors because we choose democracy over Saddam's thugocracy. And no, none of us is pleased with the current situation in our country. If our Arab neighbours want to inflict their "influence" on us and put us under an Arab nationalist dictator, dream on. We Iraqis have made it clear that we prefer democracy. It may take time, but Iraq will thrive again.
It looks like Iraq Pundit believes that at least some Arabs are capable of living in a democracy.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Wind at Djemila

Over at Ambassador Fayrouz's, I was directed to a blog by an Algerian named Nouri Lumendifi now living in New Haven and while reading through his old blog entries I came across one in which Nouri discussed Albert Camus:
Camus wrote what he knew which was French Algeria, form the eyes of a pied noir. Said faulted Camus for this, as did many of Camus's contemporaries who viewed himas being appologetic or weak on the Algerian question. However, I do not. I find it difficult to criticize a man for writing what he knew; I would not fault an Israeli author for writing through his experience or an Iraqi Sunni for writing what he knew. All of these would reflect some sort of bias, a particular domineering experience that would be entirely different from those who were socially or economically underneath them, be they Palestinians or Shias or Kurds. Each, though, would be totally valid and fine with me if they had literary or philosophical value. I view Albert Camus as an Algerian writer. In fact, I view him as more of an Algerian than Franz Fanon, for his works did no long lasting harm to the Algerian condition, and I would argue actually can help to ameliorate it through allowing the Algerians today see an alternate point of view that would allow them to know that Algeria has had many faces and still does. He viewed himself as a patriot to Algeria and to France, and became confused in the battle between his loyalties and ideals. Camus has worth outside fo the absurd and outside of existentialism. Camus, while certainly no Algerian nationalist, was definitly a man whose works say a lot about Algeria, as well as the rest of humanity. He stands out form other pied noir writers in that he was not hostile to the native population, and there is a great deal of evidence suggesting that he was against the brutality that was carried out in Algeria. So take from him what you will, and appreciate it.
Years ago, as most undergradautes did then, I read Camus's "The Stranger." I then went on to locate and read his other novel and his collections of essays and his diaries. There was one essay, however, "The Wind at Djemila," that really struck me. Here's the opening:
There are places where the mind dies so that a truth which is its very denial may be born. When I went to Djemila, there was wind and sun, but that is another story. What must be said first of all is that a heavy, unbroken silence reigned there— something like a perfectly balanced pair of scales. The cry of birds, the soft sound of a three-hole flute, goats trampling, murmurs from the sky were just so many sounds added to the silence and desolation. Now and then a sharp clap, a piercing cry marked the upward flight of a bird huddled among the rocks. Any trail one followed— the pathways through the ruined houses, along wide, paved roads under shining colonnades, across the vast forum between the triumphal arch and the temple set upon a hill— would end at the ravines that surround Djemila on every side, like a pack of cards opening beneath a limitless sky. And one would stand there, absorbed, confronted with stones and silence, as the day moved on and the mountains grew purple surging upward. But the wind blows across the plateau of Djemila. In the great confusion of wind and sun that mixes light into the ruins, in the silence and solitude of this dead city, something is forged that gives man the measure of his identity.
As Nouri suggests, Camus necessarily wrote from his personal point of view about Algeria. At the same time, Camus, sitting in his personal ring, looked out through the other rings -- family, local, regional, and national -- all the way to the universal. In "The Wind at Djemila" Camus, like the best artists, shows us how the personal and the universal are in fact not that far apart.

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I really like the Site Meter Map of the World showing recent visitors. It's always surprising to see people stopping by from almost every continent. And I'm sitting here at my computer in New York, the sky a piercing blue today above the Manhattan skyline outside my window.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

3 Feet High and Rising?

Iraq Pundit has recently taken a look at two articles on the third anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. He first reviews an article from Al Quds Al Arabi by Abdul Bari Atwan. Atwan claims that before the war Iraq was a paradise but now, with the removal of Saddam, it is hell. "Atwan does acknowledge," Iraq Pundit adds, "that those who had political ambitions to unseat Saddam suffered the consequences, but otherwise Iraq was terrific." Iraq Pundit observes a double beat and then begins the next paragraph: "Iraq was indeed terrific -- if you were Baathist or Palestinian."

Iraq Pundit also examines Fareed Zakaria's even-handed article on the anniversay. "Unlike many critics," he writes, "Zakaria takes Iraqis into consideration when talking about Iraq. And that is exactly why he makes sense."

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Mohammed at Iraq the Model views the current situation in Iraq as difficult and dangerous, but ultimately he sees the future optimistically.
Yes. We are facing enormous and dangerous challenges and this is not unexpected because the old will not easily step down and accept the loss; the old will fight back fiercely and the old here is not only Saddam and the Ba'ath, the old can be found among many of our current leaders and the mentality they carry that belong to the same generation that bred Saddam but I believe they will melt away as well because no one can go against the direction of time and the clock cannot be forced backwards.

The green bud looks weak and is buried in the dirt and surrounded by a tough shell but it will break through this covering, pierce the dirt and stand on its feet to announce a new era.

We will not be defeated and orphans of the dark past will get what they deserve and our sacrifices and the sacrifices of those who stand with us shall not go in vain, our sacrifices will pave an easier road for those want to follow us when they decide it's time for them to change.

And yes…Iraq will be the model.
Meanwhile, reflecting a view held by other Iraqis, Attawie thinks that the security of a totalitarian regime is better than the current freedom and chaos that Iraqis now experience.
A couple of months just before the war we were just fine. Yes, we were worried and scared from the unknown fate ahead. Yes, we all went through the boiling and stirring situation of the then approaching war. At least we knew where our fear was coming from.
...
Whatever, in the new Iraq, the free Iraq, I'm free to say I don't like the new president. I'm free to say it loudly. In such a free country, we are free to say publicly what we want to say. Oh, and this freedom gives the right to other free citizens to disagree with me. Therefore, they are free to attack me, bomb my car and even kill me.

I believe the chaos results from an overdose of freedom.

Freedom lost its meaning.
Both Mohammed and Attawie represent the views of large sections of the Iraqi populace. The future of Iraq hangs in the balance between these two positions.

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Morbid Smile on NPR

Morbid Smile was interviewed yesterday by Neal Conan for NPR's "Talk of the Nation." Click on Listen.

If you want to go directly to the section where Morbid Smile is interviewed, go to the 35:10 mark of the program.

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A snarky cartoon on the cartoon controversy.

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Congratulations to OUR DEAR SANDMONKEY who has just passed the ONE-MILLION-VISITOR mark!!

To celebrate, Sandmonkey has a brand-new PYRAMID SCHEME.

We at Iraqi Bloggers Central are proud to be one of Wise Sandmonkey's first Simian Advocates.

Here is an example of my Simian Advocacy from the early days of Rantings of a Sandmonkey. On December 30, 2004, about a week after Sam started his Chimpian Hegemony, I wrote my first comment:
Sandmonkey,

Man, you’re smoking! Great blog! My head rotated around three times like Linda Blair in Exorcist after reading your last post!

I’ve linked to your blog at Iraqi Bloggers Central. I’m sending over some new readers right now.
Later, Sam and I discussed our ideas about the Arab Parallel Universe and Sam wrote up the now-famous 7 Rules of the APU. I would be the first to obtain a picture of the mysterious Sandmonkey.

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Here are the disturbing images of Sandmonkey's true identity.

WARNING: IMAGES ARE EXTREMELY VIOLENT!!!

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Muqtada Al-Sadr and Unrequited Love

Ali at Free Iraqi examines the latest statements issued by the Shia Chubby Cheeker, Muqtada Al-Sadr.
In an interview on Al Iraqiya with Ambassador Khalil Zada, the host asked the ambassador about Sadr continuous verbal attack and accusations against US policy. He replied "I want to remind Sadr that Saddam killed his father and that the US toppled Saddam. Without the efforts of the US Saddam would have been in power now and most likely would be followed by his sons and grandsons. He owes us his gratitude for what the American people have done and without us I believe his life would have been in danger. This is the message"

Well at least one man can say stuff like this to Sadr which made me feel some relief. It's unbelievable how a scum and an idiot like Sadr can destroy the hopes and dreams not only of Millions of Iraqis but also the whole region, the US and the world in building a peaceful democratic nation in this disturbed region.
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Meanwhile, Caesar of Pentra offers consolation to his brother who had just been shot down by a girl he had fallen in love with at school.
After all, who is she? Angelina Jolie, Christina Aguilera or Paris Hilton? Why he is got to suffer cuz of her? Does he have to try again and cringe himself before her to win her heart? Well, he said that he still love her! Excuse me, bro! But this is not love, it is a mothafucka pain! You don’t have to suffer and care about a person doesn’t give a fuck about you! You mustn’t live with that illusion and punishing yourelf like that!Obsession is defined by one sided love, you should know that!I had passed through all this and my scar is a live evidence for that insanity.

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Attawie talks about sleepless nights.
Sleepless nights are the best for writing poems. I sometime neglect the thoughts and try to sleep and say tomorrow I'll write them down. Tomorrow comes and I have no idea about what I wanted to write. Last month I went to a store to buy a notebook so I would write before I sleep or when I am trying to sleep. And it worked. I wrote many things ever since.

The worst thing during these sleepless nights is when all the brilliant ideas come and once you switch on the light it means staying up more hours. Plus, I hate it when I wake up late next morning.

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The other day on Anarki-13's comments page, when he complained about his poor eyesight, I made a reference to Mr. Magoo. I wondered whether a reference to a cartoon that first aired in the US back in the 1960s was perhaps a stretch. I know these young Iraqi bloggers are hip and savvy, but would they know Mr. Magoo? To my surprise, this young Iraqi born in 1982 knew exactly who Mr. Magoo was! Later, I asked him how that was possible. Today he replied:
Jeffrey: i know EVERYTHING..

actually i'm lucky if i know anything at all! :D

i like Leslie Nielsen Movies, a few years back (before 2000 i guess) i had jaw-bone surgery, i was stiched up and sent home the same day to recuperate, my parents thought a good movie would make me feel better, so they went out and rented the movie "Mr.Magoo" by Nielsen, it had scenes from the cartoon in the beginning, middle and end, i watched it, halfway through i popped a stitch in my mouth and had to be dragged back to get stitched up again, i was laughing with blood coming out of my mouth for about ten minutes! it was a very very silly movie, but i guess i was still under the influence of painkillers.. when i got out i tried to find more bout the blind guy, eventually finding some episodes here and there..
I know I shouldn't laugh about Anarki-13 being carted back into surgery after busting a stitch due to Leslie Nielsen and Mr. Magoo, but I can't help it. Heh heh.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

New Crop of Iraqi Bloggers?

Perhaps like you, I am looking forward to the day when politics and suicide bombers and IEDs do not dominate the Iraqi Blogosphere. Recently I've been following a new group of Iraqi bloggers whose focus on their own lives and the shared experiences of the people they associate with every day anticipate, I believe, more diary-like bloggers for the future of the Iraqi Blogosphere. Check them out:

Konfused Kollege Kid.

Anarki-13.

Attawie.

Caesar of Pentra.

Morbid Smile

Morbid Smile's Photos

As far as I can tell, they are all college students and know one another and several of them are amateur musicians.

Their voices are a great addition to the Iraqi Blogosphere.

(Morbid Smile and Caesar of Pentra have been on the blogroll for months now while the other three are recent additions.)

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Anarki-13 and His Droogs

While we continue to wait for the Iraqi politicians to convene in parliament this weekend, Anarki-13 takes us back to our childhood and shows us how kids in Iraq and kids in your country perhaps enjoy the same simple things in life, one of them being MUD.
I remember one reaaaaaaaaaally "Special" time when they (my mother's parents) had a gardener dig up the garden about a meter deep so that over the next week they'd spray termite-pesticide round the foundations of the house… naturally the sight of trenches and hills of dirt was all too fascinating for a bunch of 6-year olds...

Like moths to fire, we were drawn.

Mud has a hypnotic effect on children. Just like fire. And Captain Majid. (I hate it now, I physically hurt when I see it now. Kinda like the guy in clockwork orange did when he was "programmed")

We started constructing booby-traps, by covering a few holes with plastic bags, then cover it with mud and broken branches and stuff...
Up to this moment everything was fine, then someone got a mind storm of upgrading to tunnel-construction by covering the trenches with anything we can find and then covering that with mud, and we'd scurry down those with torch-lights and pretend we're like those dusty soldiers shown on TV, fighting other dusty soldiers from "a neighboring country"...
The reference to "droogs" in the title comes from A Clockword Orange. Here's Alex introducing himself:
There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening. The Korova milkbar sold milk-plus, milk plus vellocet or synthemesc or drencrom, which is what we were drinking. This would sharpen you up and make you ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence.
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Remember Mohammed Al-Douri, the frog-faced Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations? Remember how he stood at the door of his limo to the airport and declared, "THE GAME IS OVER"? Well, I guess in Al-Douri's mind the game in fact is not over yet. He just popped up over at Al-Jazeera (I'm shocked, shocked!).
Aldouri said the Iraqis were now pinning their hope on "the national resistance, who resist the occupation, who resist the foreign armies".

While he did not condone Iraqi insurgents attacking fellow Iraqis, Aldouri said the attacks against the US-led occupation forces were justified.

"This is legal ... to resist foreigners, the occupation," he said.

With similar reasoning, Aldouri considered Saddam's incarceration and prosecution unjustified.

"It is illegal ... because, you know, he was captured under the occupation ... So [under] international law, he should not [be jailed]."
Once a Saddamite, always a Saddamite.

I suggest we offer Mohammed Al-Douri a JDAM he can't refuse.

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The Iraqi government hung 13 insurgents today. The bell tolls for thee, Saddam.

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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Waiting Game

Just like you, I am waiting to see if the elected leaders of Iraq will finally work together to create a new government. I have no idea what will happen. Over the last three years, I have been impressed with the fact that the Iraqi people braved the terrorists three times to vote and I assumed that, given these acts of courage, their elected representatives would likewise show courage and put the country's future above their own party's desire for power. Right now this assumption rests on shifting sand.

When I read yesterday that the Shiites didn't sign on to Talabani's call to begin the process of forming a parliament, I began to worry that the various Iraqi factions had failed to see what the millions of Iraqis who had gone to the polls had been hoping for: a stable democratic government and the hope for a cessation of terrorist attacks. The newly-won power on the part of the Shiites and the newly-lost power for the Sunnis have distorted the views of the representatives of both parties. We can only hope that they will come to their senses and work toward compromise and form a parliament.

Meanwhile, I scan the Iraqi blogs and try to learn a bit more about their baffling country and people and Muslims in general. As usual, Ali from Free Iraqi helps me out:
Muslims in general don't care that much about human life and they don't value it as westerns do because they never had a life worth that much, and deaths for the most stupid and unfair reasons are very common to them, so why do you want Muslims to care about a few people killed in the US or Europe! There must have been a time during the life of each Muslim when they really cared but I doubt that they even remember that!

It shows faith on the part of westerns that they expect Muslims to revolt against fanatics but they miss that they're judging people who live a very different and much difficult life by the same standards they judge their own society. Muslims will only care about life when they get to have one.

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After writing the above post, I dropped by 24 Steps to Liberty and discovered that he had expressed views on the current situation that are similar to mine:
Three years of waiting for the full-term government and the politicians are still fighting over power and positions. Well, to be more accurate, since 1963 Iraqis are waiting for their politicians to agree and to put what the Iraqis want as their priority. Since then, the Iraqis are waiting for someone to come and ask “how can I serve you?” and stop hearing the common question “how can you benefit me?”

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In an article that supports Ali the Free Iraqi's contention that the fears of a civil war have been exaggerated by the MSM, Ralph Peters reports from Iraq that the Iraqi soldiers did a fine job maintaining order after the attack on the mosque:
Among the many positive stories you aren't being told about Iraq, the media ignored another big one last week: In the wake of the terrorist bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, it was the Iraqi army that kept the peace in the streets.

It's routinely declared a failure by those who yearn for the new Iraq to fail. But an increasingly capable Iraqi military has been developing while reporters (who never really investigated the issue) wrote it off as hopeless.


What actually happened last week, as the prophets of doom in the media prematurely declared civil war?

* The Iraqi army deployed over 100,000 soldiers to maintain public order. U.S. Forces remained available as a backup, but Iraqi soldiers controlled the streets.

* Iraqi forces behaved with discipline and restraint - as the local sectarian outbreaks fizzled, not one civilian had been killed by an Iraqi soldier.

* Time and again, Iraqi military officers were able to defuse potential confrontations and frustrate terrorist hopes of igniting a religious war.

In the recent flare-up, sectarian issues had not been a problem in a single Iraqi unit.

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ANOTHER JARRAR IS IN THE GREAT SATAN.

Faiza Jarrar is now in New York, marching with Cindy Sheehan and CODEPINK.

Why do we let the Jarrars into a country that they hate?

Why?

By the way, Cindy Sheehan and a couple others were arrested when they tried to block the entrance to the United Nations.
Richard Grenell, the spokesman for the U.S. Mission, said in response to Sheehan's arrest: "We invited her in to discuss her concerns with a U.S. Mission employee. She chose not to come in but to lay down in front of the building and block the entrance. It was clearly designed to be a media stunt, not aimed at rational discussion," Grenell said.

Cindy Sheehan engaged in a MEDIA STUNT?! Say it ain't so!

We can only hope that Faiza Jarrar was arrested too and will have any future visa to the US denied because of the arrest.

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Archival Nugget: Zeyad on the Capture of Saddam Hussein

Over the last three years many writers have remarked upon the contradictory feelings in the hearts of Iraqis, many of whom are still trying to pull themselves out of Saddam's vortex and into a belief in a democratic and prosperous future. This morning I was digging through the archives of the Iraqi bloggers for a post of a different nature when I came across this post by Zeyad written just after Saddam Hussein had been pulled from his spiderhole:
I still haven't been able to get rid of this deep sadness that has overcome me the last two days. People have been emailing asking me to explain. I wish I could, but I simply can't.

After going through the comments today I had some more thoughts. If you had lived all your life ruled by a tough dictator elevated to the level of a god and then suddenly without warning watched that dictator displayed to the public on tv as a 'man', you probably would have related with my position.

The images were shocking. I couldn't make myself believe this was the same Saddam that slaughtered hundreds of thousands and plundered my country's wealth for decades. The humiliation I experienced was not out of nationalistic pride or Islamic notions of superiority or anything like that as some readers suggested. It was out of a feeling of impotence and helplessness. This was just one old disturbed man yet the whole country couldn't dispose of him. We needed a superpower from the other side of the ocean to come here and 'get him' for us. I was really confused that day I went out and almost got myself killed by those Fedayeen and angry teenagers in the Adhamiya district.

Rachel and Ali explained the Stockholm Syndrome in the comments section. I haven't heard about it before, but it did help me understand my contradicting feelings. I didn't want to see him humiliated as much as I loathed him. And that is why I was dissapointed with myself. I want to see him sit in an Iraqi court and explain himself to Iraqis. I want to hear him apologize to Iraqis. It won't help the dead, but I want to hear it anyway. He must be handed over to Iraqis. I don't care about legitimacy. He must be tried publicly in an Iraqi civil court by Iraqi judges. The rest of the Arab dictators should see it and learn from it.

And I'm still wondering why? Why did he have to put himself into this? Why did he have to destroy Iraq? What did he gain from all of this?
Today Zeyad seems less interested in the trial of Saddam Hussein, but perhaps only because he hasn't visited ITM yet and read about the recent documentary (and damning) evidence that has recently been presented. There were many Iraqis who simply loathed Saddam Hussein and felt no contradictory feelings as Zeyad did (Alaa the Mesopotamian, for example), but Zeyad's honest post represents, I imagine, many Iraqis' mixed feelings of relief and shame at seeing their dictator drug from his hiding hole.

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Akba of Iraq Rising has returned to blogging and has just posted a long-view analysis of the reasons behind the current situation in Iraq.

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Kurdistan Bloggers Union, a collection of rascally Kurdish voices, has decided to shut down, but you may follow the group's diverse opinions by visiting their individual blogs (a nice list of links to their personal blogs is provided on the last post).

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Vladimir posts about a Turkish chanteuse in Kurdistan (photos included).

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For a view of the events of the last week in Baghdad through the eyes of a twenty-year-old college student, check out "Men in black ... with torn slippers" from the Konfused Kollege Kid.

You may also want to examine the Konfused Kid's reading of the other Iraqi bloggers. "[A]ll I'm saying is stop the doom machine cuz that's NOT really what's going on," writes the Kid. The exchange on the comments page is vigorous and well worth your time.

In that comments string, Soldier's Dad quips, "Zeyad has eaten the fruits of 'NY Times Select', which is similar to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The term the 'Big Apple' comes to mind, as well as the 'Snake.'"

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