Friday, May 26, 2006

Our Man "G" Back in Baghdad

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, whom many of you remember from 2003 as the Iraqi blogger "G," has returned to Iraq and has a new article called Inside Iraq's hidden war in which he depicts the events on the ground today in Baghdad. Here he talks about a Sunni insurgent named Adel who has turned from targeting Coalition forces to Shia Iraqis.
For months Adel fought the Americans almost every day, firing RPGs and laying IEDs (improvised explosive devices). His friends mocked his enthusiasm and his talk about the need to defend his country and started calling him "The Patriot".

But it has been a few months since he has taken part in any attacks against the hated occupiers. Adel The Patriot has a new mission. He commands a Sunni vigilante group, a dozen or so men armed with Kalashnikovs and a heavy calibre machine gun, attempting, they say, to defend their area against raids and "arrests" made by Shia interior ministry commandos.

It was early afternoon when we met and he had just woken up. He doesn't get much sleep these days. At midnight, just as the streets fall silent, Shia death squads roam the streets looking for prey. Adel and his group sit outside and wait. Most of the streets in Yarmouk are barricaded by bits of metal, palm tree trunks, boxes, bricks and cinder blocks. Streets are cut off to make a maze that only local people know how to negotiate.
*

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Blue Man Two

Mr Ghost and Hammorabi
Regarding Mister Ghost's melancholy post about the current state of despair of some Iraqi bloggers, I commented:

It has been difficult for me to watch Hammorabi go through the five stages of grief over the dream of a democratic and liberal Iraq...or, heck, any democratic, liberal nation in the M.E.:
Denial -- "No to rejectionism!"
Anger -- Posts about the bombings of mosques
Bargaining -- "the US should leave"
Depression -- what he's posted most recently
Acceptance -- ??

For some, like Fayrouz, acceptance means "a free, democratic Iraq is not possible". For Omar & and Mohammed, and for Ali, acceptance seems to mean "It's going to take a lot longer and even then it won't live up to our dream" (imagine an abolitionist's reaction in 1789 to the US constitution).

It bears repeating (as I do over and over) that the Iraqi Kurds have already been through this sort of disillisionment. Under the No-Fly-Zone, with Saddam robbing them of Oil-For-Food supplies and medicine, COMPLETELY cut off from Iraq's power grid, they fought a seven-year civil war: Kurd-on-Kurd. They had Islamic Kurds, Marxist Kurds, and democratic Kurds in a mortal struggle for the future. Here is something Kurdo said about the January 2005 elections:

Dream On If You Think Elections Will Turn Iraq Into Heaven:

This coming election will not, under any circumstances :
1. Will not Make Iraq any safer.
2. Will not stop terrorist attacks on US soldiers and innocent civilians.
3. Will not provide security, oil, and electricity to normal ordinary
people.
4. Will not stop terrorists sabotaging the pipelines.
[...]
Elections are not some magic-sticks that could touch Iraq and make it as safe as heaven. I remember in 1992 before the Kurdistani general elections, we had this view of Kurdistan after the elections. A free, organised, democratic, western style country.

There was even [a] TV series called "After the Parliament". In these TV programmes, they used to show Kurdistan as a (arms-free), democratic, prosperous country. In the shows, a few people were saying "When is this going to happen"? The answer and the end of the show was "Dwaii Parlaman" "After electing the Parliament".

But, after the elections, Kurdistan turned into hell. A bloody civil war that continued for about 7 years devastated the country. So anyone thinking that this Iraqi election is going to make things anything better, should stop thinking about that now.

Democracies (rule-by-the-people) have always been debilitated by the requirement that the "people" who are ruling are almost entirely ordinary, venal human beings rather than George Washingtons. Okay. Now we have a significant chunk of a government sworn in. We don't have the most important posts (heads of the police & army), but perhaps something will happen there with everything else off the table.

This is going to be a long, hard, gorey slog that neither Americans nor Iraqis can afford to lose, which is why I have no patience for malingerers -- especially in America, but Iraqis too (and I'm not referring to Fayrouz or Hammorabi).



Well, I have more bad news from Kurdo. While Kurdistan is freer, safer, and more prosperous than the rest of Iraq, it is still struggling toward liberty and modernity.

Although the average Iraqi Kurd is far more secular in lifestyle than the average Iraqi Arab, the Kurds who ARE Islamofascist far out-strip their Arab counter-parts in extremism. This continues to be a tension in northeast Iraq.

Also, the leaders in Kurdistan reportedly rule the region in private fiefdoms -- a region divided as well between the two major political parties and Marxist (PKK) and Islamic wildcards -- seriously restricting open dissent against them as, once again, Kurdo reported here and here and also in a post (that he seems to have deleted) that describes being bullied and quite directly threatened by the body-guard of an important Kurdish politician.

In short, this is going to be a hard struggle for Iraq long after the US severely backs-off on its direct support, and hardest for Iraqis whose bar for success is America or even Baghdad under Saddam when its wealth and stability was exacted by oppressing all other Iraqis. Yet, if Iraq is to succeed it will require Iraqis with just those unreasonable expectations...but having set aside the unreasonable optimism that will probably defeat them.

Iraq's problems are not just internal (which are intractable enough): They are regional ones that arise from Arab Nationalism, Socialism, Tribalism, Islamic fundamentalism...most of which arose from even deeper roots of post-Ottoman/post-colonialism); problems that the New Iraq was/is hoped to ameliorate as well -- or even solve.

This is going to be so hard. Much harder than I believed in 2003. It was a difficulty that was beyond the grasp of those who opposed the Iraq liberation at the time as well (whatever they say). Even the original Baghdad Blogger thought that modern liberal government would be an easy sell in Iraq as he said gloomily last January:

One of the things you used to hear a lot during the build-up to the war was that there is a strong secular, educated base of Iraqis which will be the foundation for the reconstruction effort and the political process. I believed that as well, more than believed, I thought I knew this to be a fact.

But the problems of Iraq won't be grappled only in the Middle East. It is a fight that will be fought also in Europe and in US mosques and Muslim organizations and in elections against head-in-the-sand Luddites worldwide.

If we had known how hard it would be, would we have slogged into it in 2003?
I doubt it.
George Bush 41 and Bill Clinton had only the vaguest idea of what it would be like, I believe, and yet they still demurred to put their own credibility on the line by directly removing Saddam.

Would it still have been necessary that we did it?
Absolutely.

We were lucky in our ignorance.

Go, Iraqis, go!


Blue Now, Hope For Later, Or Better Understanding The Iraqis


Blue Now, Hope For Later - Oil on Board By MG


We are, we are,
We are but your children,
Finding our way around indecision,
We are, we are
We are ever helpless,
Take us forever,
A whisper to a scream.

Birds Fly (A Whisper To A Scream) - Icicle Works



Shhhhhhh.
Hello Everyone,
I am back.
Hope you all are well.

Do Iraqis ever want to scream, they must, they must, because I know I do at times.

Never have I suffered as much anguish and pain, as in recent days. Some days I don't eat, I've lost weight, the pain and hurt filling my mind, remorseless at times. I know my feet are developing calluses from pacing around the house. Soon I will be able to firewalk through gasoline.

Insight.

A few weeks ago I was burning brush in the backyard, a raging fire going, smoke galore, when the wind changed and I was engulfed in an acrid haze, a big dose of smoke sucked in to my lungs, which had me reeling away for a clear spot and fresh air.

It was at that instant I was given insight in to what someone trapped in a fire might feel.

And now with the big and little hurts coalescing inside me, I have a greater sense of empathy
for the Iraqi people and what they are going through.

True, there are no bombs exploding in my neighborhood, electricity is constant, and I don't have to worry about being kidnapped, if they do, they're not going to receive much of a ransom, but hurt and pain and a sense of forlorness and doubt are universal conditions, shared by all in times of sadness.

In those respects, I think I am turning in to an Iraqi.

Like our friend Sam of Hammorabi.

Once he welcomed the U.S. as saviours, now he is strongly asking that they leave. You can tell from his writings, that he is in a lot of pain. Sam was one of the biggest victims under the Saddam regime, as he lost fifteeen or so members of his family to Saddam's cruelties. A heavy price for any person to bear. We hope he can find peace.

And our frends Omar and Mohammed. More than a hint of sadness and resignation in their latest posts. I wonder what keeps them in Iraq? Is it loyalty, family ties, hope, perseverance, or courage?

Whatever the case, the two of them have put up the good fight and if it is time for them to leave,
they can walk away proudly.

And their brother Ali? Has he already left the country? We wish Ali good tidings and future hope wherever he may be.

And Sunshine and Momma, there in Mosul, we hope for the best for Sunshine's future, and that Momma has her operation.

And the rest of the Iraqi bloggers in Iraq, who are doing thier best to survive, and the Iraqi expatriates like our friend Fay, worrying on the outside, seeking every glimmer of good news in
Iraq, trying to keep the candles lit against the darkness.

We say to Fay, light more candles and chase the darkness away.

To all the Iraqi Bloggers, we send along our good wishes for a brighter future.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Iraqi Bloggers Central Two-Year Anniversary!

On May 21, 2004, I posted my first blog entries for this blog. Since then, all of you and I have been through many good times and hard times. I would like to thank everyone who has come to Iraqi Bloggers Central to participate in our ongoing debates about Iraq through our eyes and through the eyes of the Iraqi bloggers, whose courage and intelligence were the aspects that first attracted me to the Iraqi blogosphere, in particular the brothers at Iraq the Model.

On May 21, 2004, I wrote these four blog entries:

Long Live the Spirit of CMAR!!!

How long? 41 Days!

Unpacking the Baggage

June 30 Sighted on Horizon

*

As I write this today, Iraq finally has a sovereign government. But the polarization between the Sunnis and the Shia has yet to be completely defused. Does a unified Iraq have a future? I don't know. But I do know that the future of Iraq is now in the hands of Iraqis themselves. Wretchard over at Belmont Club writes:
The actual role of the United States in resolving these security issues will be great. But as a matter of principle, the troubles are now an internal matter of a sovereign Iraqi government; and whether or not the problems are successfully resolved is ultimately a challenge that Iraqis will have to meet. They may fail or succeed, but it will increasingly no longer be America's responsibility. Some will argue that it must needs remain America's responsibility, because the US toppled Saddam. Yet at some point in the process, if the words "Iraqi Government" or "sovereignty" are not to remain wholly fictive, the circumstance of US responsibility must diminish and those of the Iraqis increase. Legally at least, that time has come. At some imperceptible point on a ridge a watershed is reached; and water begins to flow another way.
*

Thanks again to all of you from around the world who come to Iraqi Bloggers Central daily to see what CMAR II, Mister Ghost, Diane, and myself have to say.

*

In the Boston Review, Nir Rosen has published a long article on the resistance in Iraq called On the Ground in Iraq: The roots of sectarian violence. While the opening is inflammatory and uncorroborated, the rest of the article provides a very detailed look at the history of the resistance and the reasons for the current murderous animosity between the Sunnis and the Shia. I saw Mr. Rosen on C-Span last night and, while he was pessimistic about the future of Iraq, he appeared to me to be a reliable commentator.

*

Friday, May 19, 2006

Blogger Cage Matches


First match tonight is between two knock-out Persian brain-kittens:

Sheema Kalbasi

vs

Niki Akhavan Jarrar!

How will it end wrestling fans??

For our next fight, we have CMAR II vs Truth About Iraqis at the comments section of Baghdad Treasure's blog.

Fighting TAI is kind of tricky. At 270 lbs, he far outweighs the slight CMAR II, but remember a good 40 lbs of that is back hair.

Be sure to watch for when Baghdad Treasure jumps into the ring to sucker CMARII with a folding chair.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Nazanin is sentenced to death.

Remember Nazanin, who was sentenced to death for defending herself from rape?

The bastards will likely kill her.
Why would they do otherwise? Killing, violating, spreading fear and oppressing in any ways is a specialty in the islamofascist hell.

Iran to hang teenage girl attacked by rapists.
Hat tip LGF The Wonder of Shari'a

Last January, as many others, Ali Sina from Faithfreedom was quite concerned for Nazanin.

Iran : A 17 year old girl is sentenced to death by hanging.
Faithfreedom
2006/01/08


Bless your soul Nazanin and your loved ones.



The animals will pay for that. It is a matter of time.

Vacation In Iraq

From this article by Alicia Colon.

Where would you rather vacation? Iraq or New Orleans the summer before Hurricane Katrina. Statistically, your life would be twice as much at risk riding the St. Charles Steet trolley last June than walking down a street in downtown Baghdad.

According to Rep. Steve King of Iowa, the following are the FBI statistics for violent deaths per 100,000 people in various countries and U.S. cities from 2004-2005:

Columbia ----------------------- 61.7
New Orleans (before Katrina) -- 53.1
South Africa -------------------- 49.6
Washington, DC ---------------- 45.9
Baltimore ---------------------- 37.7
Atlanta ------------------------- 34.9
Jamiaca ------------------------ 32.4
Venezuela ---------------------- 31.6
Iraq --------------------------- 25.71

Taking these numbers as given, one can still argue that Iraq is not New Orleans or South Africa or that socialist paradise Venezuela. In most of these locales (Columbia is a bit different) violent death tends to occur among criminals and over personal disputes of family members. In Iraq, the deaths are frequently targeted at people trying to improve their lives, or believing the wrong thing about the Imams, or for being born to the wrong ethnic group, or coming from another country, or for working for the government or a newspaper. In short, Iraq is a war-zone and these other places are not.

But that cuts both ways. Iraq is a war-zone. It has nit-minded crocodiles...athiests in religious clothing...crossing the border for no purpose but to explode themselves among strangers. And like many Muslim-majority countries today, it has adherants to a mutant concept of Islam (both Sunni and Shi'a, from Basrah to Mosul) who see it as God's directive to kill anyone --especially women or anyone perceived as vulnerable-- who doesn't worship and live exactly as the mutant adherants want.

Yet despite all that the violent death-to-population ratio in Iraq is significantly less (at least within whatever are the confines of these statistics) than a city --Washington, DC-- to which American parents happily send away their children in large school groups.

It's not my intention to poo-poo the reported horrific murders and crimes we read about from Iraqi bloggers in the sidebar to the right. My point is about statistics. And about the news people choose to focus on. When you read about horrible murders happening in Iraq, it is important to also remember that Iraq's economy is currently growing at over 16% annually. That's down from 30% in 2004. There is no way that can happen without the lives of a lot of people getting a heck of a lot better. In fact, a lot of the suffering in Iraq, such as the limited electricity, is largely caused by the booming economy.

If I were made editor of a national newspaper, I could fill an entire edition every day with stories of terrible murders and fatal negligence that occur in America. I could fill a big fat suppliment with stories of scandals and malfeasance by people in power. Actually, a newspaper like that would look a lot like the news I get now. Every story would be accurate, but such a newspaper would provide a distorted understanding of life in the U.S.

Also, perfectly accurate stories of the deaths of pro-Iraqi forces in absence of stories about the missions they are performing is also a distortion. The statistical violent death-rate on the beaches of Normandy during D-Day was appalling. However, the statistical death-rate at the time was hardly the relevant headline.

Nuff said.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Two Iraqi Views on Why There Is Sectarianism In Iraq Today

Baghdad Treasure says that sectarianism was imported into Iraq by "the occupiers" (comment 5/15/06 10:49am):

When Saddam’s party came to power, it oppressed Shiites and Kurds a lot starting from arresting and killing anyone of a political interest other than the Baath. Kurds also suffered a lot as their areas were arabized by Saddam and his regime, their sons were killed in fierce battles. In 1991, Shiites and kurds revolted against Saddam but the uprising succeeded in one part only. It was only the Kurds who succeeded in liberating their areas from Saddam’s regime as their uprising was supported by US helicopters while the Shiites were left alone fighting Saddam’s forces at the time and eventually failed.

When the occupiers came, they brought the exiles-some came on US tanks-and overcame the country. The first thing the occupiers did is that they formed the Governing Council on sectarian basis.
[...]
After that, elections took place also on sectarian basis. Shiites and Kurds won. There is no problem about that at all. But the problem is when the Shiites political parties that were in exiles came to power, they used their power in taking revenge from Iraqis in general. The Shiite militia, Badr, are part of the interior ministry. Most of the members of this militia were sons of exiled and executed people under Saddam. They think only of taking revenge. So they kill Sunnis and say they did not.

On the other hand, most insurgents entered Iraq before the war, specifically when the US started threatening Saddam in January 2003. After the invasion, the borders were left loose, intentionally by the occupiers. I say intentionally because they protected the areas and buildings they want only. The majority of these insurgents are Sunnis and extreme Wahabis and Salafis that came from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt and Kuwait. They believe that the Shiites are “infidels” and that anyone works for the government or the occupation is an “infidel”. They started killing Shiite people and forcing them to leave their homes and works in the Sunni areas where they get support from.

At the end, it was mostly the fault of the US forces. They brought the criminal exiles and paved the way to the foreign terrorists to enter Iraq turn it into chaos.


Ali at "Free Iraqi" says that sectarian resentment was always present roiling under the surface of Iraq:

Another thing is that sectarian tension has always been there under the ashes in Iraq. Saddam's policy of not allowing anyone to even talk about it or admit its existence made it only stronger and now as the oppressive power is removed you can see it clearer and stronger than ever. I read both Sunni and She'at papers and what I read is horrifying. Most of those papers don't even care to hide that hatred and scorn they have towards the other and they go with their insults and hatred back to the 7th century.

Also this:

When I served in the military I made friends with a devoted She'at Captain, well not made friends but actually I was paying him so that I spent most of the 3 months I had to serve in my home. This guy was very proud of his job and accomplishments. He often talked about his heroic actions against the "saboteurs". Who were those saboteurs? No, not just the Badr Brigade which was active after 1991 but mostly anyone who stood against Saddam during the uprising and that meant the vast majority of the She'at. Yet this Captain always refer to the She'at Imams and quote them during our conversations saying this Imam "Peace be upon him" or that Imam "God bless his secret" which I'm sorry I don't know what it means!I asked this guy once about how he, a devoted She'at see the bombing of holy shrines in Najaf and Karbala back then during the uprising. He didn't answer the question and kept blaming the saboteurs and Iranians. There were no Americans at that time or he would have blamed them.
[...]
No, we were ALL part of the tragedy and those massacres and we all have to own that to finally come clean and start fresh. Only the Kurds seem to have the right to claim that they always stood against Saddam, which is true but then again their motives were not patriotic at all and certainly not humane. They were ethnic.

BTW, if memory serves me right, Ali was born Sunni and converted to Shi'a when he married.



My conclusion

My oft-stated opinion is it is an Iraqi myth that there was, generally, so much love among Iraqis for other sects until Saddam's vile regime fell. Concomitantly, I consider it further to be a myth that sectarian hatred was imported either by the American "occupiers", by al-Qaeda, or by Iran. Granted al-Qaeda, Syria's Ba'athist government, the people of Saudi Arabia, the West Bank, Jordan, and Egypt, and certainly the government of Iran too have all nurtured and funded sectarian violence. It is true that they have exported murderers. But, I assert, all they've done is cast tares into a rich compost of sectarian distrust and resentment -- a heap that Saddam deliberately piled in order to keep the Iraqis in line. Finally, I assert that Saddam's compost heap eventually would have caught-up, if not with Saddam himself then at least with Iraq, and that what is happening in Iraq today is a mere taste of what would have happened (*cough* Afghanistan) if the U.S. had not stepped in.



-


Friday, May 12, 2006

Al-Qaeda's Next Plan For Iraq

This is sort of related to yesterday's post regarding Salam Pax's report on Shi'a oppression in Al-Ameryiah of Baghdad. Mikal is reporting that when the pro-Iraqi forces found tape of Zarqo the Psycho bumbling with his weapon, they also found a letter by a senior Al-Qaeda operative on their plans for Baghdad.

Essentially, the plan comes down to this: Wherever in Baghdad Sunni Arabs are the majority, drive out the Shi'a Arabs.

Until now, the Iraqi Arabs have proven way too easy for the nihilists --the Takfirs and Saddam's Orphans-- to manipulate. Two years ago they declared a plan to start a civil war. Today, they to some extent have it. Now they plan to ethnic cleanse Shi'a. Will Sunni Baghdadis let it happen? They just might.

Too bad for them. When those neighborhood's contain nothing but compliant Sunni Arabs, there will be little impetus against the government turning the screws on those neighborhoods.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Salam Pax Posting Again & the Ameryiah district.

For anyone who hasn't noticed, Salam Pax is posting again. Salam is an excellent just-the-facts-ma'am witness to the goings on in Baghdad and the government. If you haven't done so before, while you're there, check out his overview of the oil production in Iraq last February.

Yet, Salam's post on the 8th is a little confusing to me.

The District of Ameryiah (west of Baghdad) has entered some sort of parallel universe. It has been living this one for a while but from what I had heard yesterday it has officially left the galaxy we know and entered a galaxy ruled by an alien race called Sunni Fundamentalists .

There have been killings of barbers who shave beards for a while there. Shops were bombed because they sell un-Islamic clothing and Shia shop owners slaughtered on the streets.The latest news coming from this far and distant galaxy is that a school deep in that dark and cold world have told Shia kids not to come to school anymore. The purity of Sunni land shouldn’t be tainted by those dirty Shia coming to their schools.

Parents who got the not-so-subtle hint and decided to move out of the district were also in the same not so subtle way informed that they were not allowed actually take anything with them. No trucks with a load that looked like a house move was allowed to get out of the district and the drivers were killed. The houses of those dirty Shia were legitimate loot for the Sunni Jihadists who are working hard to insure the purity of the district.

What is confusing to me is this west Baghdad Ameryiah suburb. I confess, I'm not familiar with it although he is not the only one to reference it. I am familiar with the west Baghdad district of Adhamiya (or alternately Adhamiyah, Aadhamiyah, or Aadhamiya). For the last two years, this district has had a longer name when mentioned on CNN or the New York Times. They always called it "Adhamiya, an insurgent stronghold". Does anyone know for certain if Ameryiah and Adhamiya are or are not the same?

If they are the same then Salam offers yet another window into that messed up district as Zeyad has reported on here here here and here, and Iraq The Model on the 9th and in April. BaghdadTreasure here.

UPDATE

Thank you to Fayrouz for clarifying for me that Ameryiah and Adhamiya are two separate districts. Salam Pax clarified matters even more with a Google kmz file whose contents I've posted below. Salam Pax says:

Al-Ameryiah is not al-Adhamyiah (A’zamiya or whatever the english spelling is) and Google earth has all the markings wrong.

The placemarks [in the following graphic] show you al-Ameryiah. West of Baghdad on the road to Falluja and very close to the airport. Part of the problem is that many of the people living in that district have close relations to people further west (Falluja/AbuGharib/even Ramadi). Adhamyiah/A’zamyiah is a much older district and has a long history. It is very symbolic of the way we used to see Baghdad. Adhhamyia (Sunni) is linked to Kazimya (very Shia) with a bridge and people have lived beside each other for generations and generations. Do you remember the bridge that collapsed last year and killed thousands? That’s the one lining the two districts and in a rare return to form the Sunnis of Adhamyia were more helpful than the authorities at the time.

And incidently what is marked by Google Earth as Adhamyiah is actually Sadr City and what is marked as Kazimyiah is so far out of Baghdad proper it is probably Abu Ghraib. Hope this clears things, if not then confuse even further
:-)

Thanks again, guys!

-


Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Steven Vincent Foundation.

In the past few months since the brutal murder of her husband in Iraq, Lisa Ramaci has been managing the beautiful Steven Vincent Foundation.
It's noble purposes honour in meaningful terms, Steven, her life companion. Many have read entirely The Red Zone. It is soulfully written, it is done with simplicity along with a keen sense of observation. It goes "au coeur des choses", right at the heart of things. Vincent was a dynamic, generous and honest communicator. The Red Zone is now a precious reference for students in journalism and for the rest of us who beneficiate from their journeys.

The Steven Vincent Foundation has two objectives.
It provides help to their families of journalists, photographers, stringers and translators who lost their lives for doing their work.
It also supports Muslim women confronting oppression on Islamic ground.

These two causes are dear to most bloggers.

Here is an important interview with Lisa conducted by antimedia, Media Lies.

The price of war

War exacts an awful cost from many people. Not least among those costs is the loss of personalities, of names, of lives that had meaning and purpose and significance. Often those names, those people, melt away in the awful toll that turns individual losses into ever-growing statistics that dull our senses and harden us to the persons behind those statistics.

Rarely do those losses rise to our consciousness and cause us to reflect on the terrible price that war exacts from us all. In Iraq, many journalists have been killed. One American journalist was murdered in cold blood. He didn't work for a major news agency. He wasn't a famous journalist or a household name. He paid his way in to Iraq and lived on the stories he wrote. He was brutally murdered for writing the truth.

His name was Steven Vincent, and he was a writer extraordinaire. His words brought to life the dusty recesses of a world so foreign that few of us could imagine it. Yet, through Steven we could live vicariously, sensing the danger, wondering what was around the next corner, worrying about the troubling signs Steven gave us that all was not right in southern Iraq.

Recently I interviewed Lisa Ramaci, Steven's widow, to find out how the Steven Vincent Foundation was progressing. Lisa started the foundation to honor Steven's memory, to provide aid and comfort to families of slain journalists and others who lost their lives because they tried to bring us the news and to assist women standing up for their rights while living in countries where shariah law makes them second class citizens.

These are my questions and Lisa's answers... Read the rest.

Excepts:

[...What do you think Steven would say to you on the day of the official launch of the Foundation?

I WOULD HOPE THAT HE WOULD SAY "GOOD JOB", THAT HE WAS PROUD OF ME AND PROUD TO HAVE A FOUNDATION NAMED AFTER HIM THAT WILL HELP BOTH THE FAMILIES OF MURDERED JOURNALISTS/PHOTOGRAPHERS/STRINGERS/TRANSLATORS, AS WELL AS MUSLIM WOMEN TRYING TO MAKE A BETTER LIFE FOR WOMEN IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD...]

[... One of the purposes of the Foundation is to support women who are in jeopardy either because they reported events that put them in jeopardy or they attempted to help other women in trouble. Were you and Steven involved or interested in similar issues before he left for Iraq?

TRUTHFULLY? NOT REALLY. WE WERE SO USED TO THE FACT THAT WOMEN IN THE WEST HAVE, FOR THE MOST PART, FULL EQUALITY WITH MEN, AND HAD NO CONCEPTION WHATSOEVER OF THE REALITIES OF DAILY LIFE FOR WOMEN IN THE MIDDLE EAST. SUCH THINGS AS SHARI'A, TRIBAL LAW, "HONOR" KILLINGS - I USE THAT TERM EXTREMELY SARCASTICALLY - WERE ALIEN AND UNBELIEVABLE CONCEPTS TO US. IT WAS NOT UNTIL WE STARTED TRAVELING IN MUSLIM COUNTRIES, BEGINNING WITH A TRIP TO IRAN IN 2000, THAT WE BEGAN TO SEE THE BARBAROUS WAY THE "RELIGION OF PEACE AND TOLERANCE" TREATS ITS WOMEN. THEN, WHEN STEVEN SPENT MONTHS IN IRAQ AND GOT TO SEE FIRSTHAND THE DAILY REPRESSION AND MISERIES THEY HAD TO ENDURE, IT TURNED HIM INTO A STAUNCH FEMINIST, AS HE RECOUNTED IN "IN THE RED ZONE"...]

[... Steven's prose was so vivid that, reading his articles, you felt as though you were there with him. He obviously cared about the place and the people that kept drawing him back to the danger he finally succumbed to. If Steven could tell the American people one thing about Iraq, what do you think he would say?

I THINK HE WOULD ASK THE AMERICAN PEOPLE NOT TO GIVE UP ON IRAQ. BIRTH IS ALWAYS A PAINFUL AND BLOODY PROCESS, BE IT A CHILD OR A DEMOCRACY, BUT HOPEFULLY WHAT IS BORN WILL TURN OUT TO BE A VALUABLE AND WORTHWHILE ADDITION TO THE WORLD FAMILY.

I CANNOT PRETEND TO UNDERSTAND STEVEN'S FATAL FASCINATION WITH THE PLACE THAT KILLED HIM, BUT MUST HONOR HIS FEELINGS. SO I WILL CONTINUE TO HOLD FAITH THAT SOMEDAY, SOMEHOW, IRAQ WILL MAKE IT THROUGH ITS CURRENT GROWING PAINS AND BECOME A FUNCTIONING, MATURE, RESPONSIBLE, ADULT COUNTRY...]


[...JUST BEFORE I CLOSE, I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE AN APPEAL TO YOUR READERS. IF ANYONE, AFTER HAVING READ WHAT I HAVE WRITTEN, WOULD LIKE TO DONATE TO THE FOUNDATION, I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT LITERALLY 100% OF YOUR MONIES WILL BE SENT TO A FAMILY WHOSE LIVES HAVE BEEN SHATTERED BY MINDLESS VIOLENCE, OR TO A WOMAN FIGHTING AGAINST THE BRUTALITIES OF SHARIA. EVERY DONOR WILL RECEIVE A RECEIPT, AND ANY DONATION, REGARDLESS OF THE AMOUNT, WILL BE GRATEFULLY RECEIVED. CHECKS CAN BE MADE OUT TO "THE STEVEN VINCENT FOUNDATION" AND SENT TO:

THE STEVEN VINCENT FOUNDATION
534 EAST 11TH STREET SUITE 17-18
NEW YORK, NY 10009

OR DONATIONS CAN BE MADE VIA PAYPAL (WWW.PAYPAL.COM) TO THE EMAIL ADDRESS STEVENVINCENTFOUNDATION@YAHOO.COM .

THANK YOU, PAUL, AND THANKS TO ALL OF YOU PATIENT ENOUGH TO PLOW THROUGH THIS LENGTHY POST. I APPRECIATE YOUR GIVING ME THE CHANCE TO TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT STEVEN, AND THE WORK I AM TRYING TO DO TO HONOR HIM. GOD BLESS - .]

Steven Vincent's blog was named In the Red Zone. His book, In The Red Zone, is for sale at his publisher's website.

Our thanks to antimedia at Media Lies on Thursday April 27, 2006 at 11:48pm


To read as well: The Steven Vincent Foundation by Robert J. Avrech at April 30, 2006 at Seraphic Secret.

Last week was a difficult time for Lisa Ramaci.
It was a year ago, on April 24, that Lisa last hugged her husband Steven Vincent goodbye and watched as he went off to seek truth in Iraq. There, this good and talented man was kidnapped with his translator, Nour Weidi. Steven was horribly tortured for over five long hours and finally murdered in cold blood. Nour, a lively and poetic young woman, survived--but just barely. Steven's book, In the Red Zone, is the best summation of post-war Iraq I have yet to read.
Lisa and I speak to one another by e-mail. I have told her of my grief for Ariel and she has told me about Steven. We have prayed alone and together for those we have lost...

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Slugfest: Hitchens V Cole

On June 12th, 2006, the NYT effectively declared Hitchens to be the winner of this slugfest by by sheer object factuality. I posted on it here.


Where have I been? After spending the last nine months in a professional exile from my family, we were recently gloriously reunited. So all my extra time has been consigned to them or stamping out fires at my new position. However, poking my head out of my foxhole, I thought I would distribute a map for the latest trials of that wacky Dr. Jually Cole:

1. Christopher Hitchens quotes a listserv in which our good Dr. Ferret-face argues that jihadi President Ahmadinejad didn't really mean it when he said he intended to "wipe Israel off the map". Hitchens argues from authority (Nazila Fathi of the New York Times Tehran bureau) that the meaning of the speech was exactly what everyone but Cole understood it to be. He further argues from context that Iran's President-Saint was explicitly referencing "Mr. Death to Israel" Imam Khomeini. He asserts, in effect, that Cole is a fraud who is either lying about the self-evident meaning of Ahmedinejad's speech or who wouldn't know Farsi from a sack of elbows:

"One might have thought that, if the map-wiping charge were to have been inaccurate or unfair, Ahmadinejad would have denied it. But he presumably knew what he had said and had meant to say. In any case, he has an apologist to do what he does not choose to do for himself. But this apologist, who affects such expertise in Persian, cannot decipher the plain meaning of a celebrated statement and is, furthermore, in need of a remedial course in English."

2. In an uncharacteristically long and (even for Cole) wildly thrashing post, Mr. Wiskers made a lame attempt at defending his own tortured exegesis of Ahmedinejad's speech, accused Hitchens of hacking the listserv to which Cole posted his stupidity, and implied that Hitchens was drunk when he wrote the article. Michael Young (Lebanese journalist and opinion editor of the Daily Star), described it thus:

a savage screed all his own, accusing Hitchens' of having a drinking problem, attacking the Right, the Bush administration, unspecified "US corporations", and much more with no connection to Hitchens' article.

Okay. This is getting good.

3. Andrew Sullivan steps in to superfluously point out that he was with Hitchens when he posted the article, and he was not drunk. He also analyzes Cole's so-called translation of Ahmedinejad's speech and agrees with Hitch that Cole couldn't find his butt with both hands if you gave him a map and a flashlight. Okay, Sullivan didn't actually say that, but it comes to the same thing.

From Sullivan's "Email of the Day":

It's alleged that Hitchens has a drinking problem. If so, perhaps you'd be kind enough to pass on specifics regarding his daily intake, so I can emulate...I have nothing but admiration for someone who can knock out a weekly Slate column, an erudite review for the Atlantic each month, a longer, bimonthly piece for Vanity Fair and a book a year...[as] a journalist...I'm obviously not drinking the right stuff.

4. Cole then responds that okay, maybe Hitchens isn't a drunk; he's just an "assinine thief" for daring to post the nonsense Cole asserted as a self-described expert within the privacy of his clique of tyranny-defenders rather than restricting himself to the nonsense Cole asserts as a self-described expert for public consumption.

Looks to me like Hitchens is not Cole's worst hacker problem.
Iowahawk has posted the "first draft" of Cole's response to Hitchens's lashing.

"I believe Hitchens has also somehow hacked into my private Kroger Fresh Values card. I recently received an e-coupon notification from Kroger that I would receive a free bottle of Pepsi® product on my next purchase, and that this included my choice of Pepsi®, Diet Pepsi®, Sierra Mist®, Mountain Dew® or Mountain Dew Code Red™. Imagine the Orwellian chill I experienced when the checkout woman informed me that my e-coupon “has already been redeemed.” Where is your shame, Hitchins? Where is my Pepsi®?"

5. Then, in an interview with Hugh Hewitt, Hitchens called Cole "10th rate...a sordid apologist for Islamist terrorism, and for Islamist terrorist regimes", "a complete dim bulb", "the embodiment of the mediocre", "writes as if he's drunk, because [he has] to", "[knowing] no history".

6. Today, Cole takes it all back and says Hitchens is a drunk and quotes fellow tyrant-apologist Helena Cobban to prove it. Hmm. Okay. So what is Cole's drug-of-choice before he translates Farsi? I presume Cole's latest is not meant to retract the summation that Hitchens is an assinine thief.

Winds of Change posted a comment from an Iranian reiterating that Cole has his mortar board up his academic gown (h/t Grim's Hall):

"I am Iranian, and I can tell you Cole is wrong...The intent [of Ahmedinejad's statement] is to make Israel cease to exist. The word map is not literarly in there, but “wiped of the map” is a less exagerated translation that Professors Cole's translation is underreporting...[As for] the context: Here Cole is not a little of the mark, he is insane and ignorant.

Read it all.



As long as Cole and Cobban are engaged in unsubstantiated, irrelevant, ad hominem attacks, I want to remind everyone again that I was the first to assert a strong conviction that Cole is an agent in the pay of Iran's theocratic animal-farm regime. He's Iran's George Galloway. When it finally comes out in the papers, you read it here first.

I further propose that Tehran, with the things heating up for them in Europe, has recently begun an effort to expunge or explain away the year of "destroy all Jews" declarations (to say nothing of the last 30 years). For example, last week a Revolutionary Guards general stated that if the U.S. messed with Iran, "the first place we target will be Israel". Now this week, the government says that was "his personal view and has no validity as far as the Iranian military officials are concerned". Cole has received his orders.

I'm not the only one who finds something askance in Cole's recent acrobatics in defense of Iran's tyranny. Leftist and Cole fan, Jeff Weintraub sees it too. Calling Cole's response "hysterical", he says:

"Cole's recent apologetics for the actions and statements of the Iranian regime have become increasingly strained, misleading, irresponsible, and difficult to take seriously. I am afraid that Hitchens's criticisms of Cole in this piece are entirely deserved. And that's not all. What Cole has been saying about the Iranian nuclear program can most charitably be described as disingenuous. (E.g., "The IAEA found no smoking gun."--which denies a claim no one has made, and which Cole is smart enough to realize is entirely irrelevant to the real issues.) Perhaps Cole's concern about a possible US attack on Iran--which could, indeed, lead to disastrous consequences--is pushing him over the edge, but that's no excuse. He should get a grip on himself--and on reality."

Regarding Cole's clothes-rending over having his "private" discourse made public, Weintraub says:

Whatever the details here, this particular objection was a bit disingenuous on Cole's part, since he has expressed essentially the same views publicly in his blog and elsewhere. This is a red herring.

UPDATE 5/8/06
Someone asked Weintraub to back up this allegation and he did here. He goes on to state regarding Cole's hyper-literal and distorting exegesis of Ahmedinejad's speech:

[When Cole says] "His statements were morally outrageous and historically ignorant, but he did not actually call for mass murder (Ariel Sharon made the "occupation regime" in Gaza "vanish" last summer) or for the expulsion of the Israeli Jews to Europe."

I can't resist the passing comment that Cole keeps repeating that Gaza analogy, but it's pretty weak. I'm sure he knows perfectly well that ending the "occupation regime" in Gaza and ending the "occupation regime" in Israel (i.e.,ending Israel) are entirely different things.



Meanwhile, back to the shameless buffoonery Cole's writes for public consumption.

Today, IraqPundit continues to vivisect Cole's Rube Goldberg analysis and, coincidentally, he did the same for Cobban only a couple weeks ago.



UPDATE 5/5/06
Cole has posted a correspondence between himself and Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate.com. Intriguingly, Cole doesn't post his initial email to Weisberg. Based on Weisberg's response, it must have been quite ripe for parody.

Anyhow, in their exchange, Cole asserts that Hitchens and Slate violated the law in posting an excerpt from the Gulf2000 list since it "has a requirement that no material appearing there be forwarded off the list". He says he only says this out of concern for Slate's reputation and has no immediate intention of pursuing litigation.

This is so patently silly, it out-strips even Raed's threat to sue the contributors of IBC for calling him a Ba'athist.

A) Hitchens is not (apparently) a member of the Gulf2000 list. So he didn't violate any rules there.

B) The no-forwarding rule granted Cole no illusion of privacy since list members, including Cole himself, regularly violated the rule: here, here, here, here, here, here,

and here (translation: "Someone is spreading my email to Gulf2000 project mailing list about my project to get Iranian-born Israelis blogging about their daily lives, as if it's been a secret email and I'd be embarrassed by it being publicized" (h/t Exit Zero, Rubin, and antimedia)

Finally, Cole's assertion that publishing even truly private correspondence is considered unacceptable in journalism suggests that the mad doctor has not read a newspaper or book in the last 200 years. To converse with someone with the understanding that the conversation is personal and private and then publish that correspondence is definitely not nice, although honorably done in certain situations.
But, of course, that is not an issue for Hitchens or Slate. And, anyway, it is evidently not an issue for the Gulf2000 circle-jerk.


Looking Back and Looking Forward in Iraq

Reason online magazine has collected together essays by Michael Young, Leon Hadar, and Tom G. Palmer on Iraq's recent past and Iraq today:

Three Views on Iraq, Three Years Later.

Tom G. Palmer, the libertarian of the group, writes:
5. It is hard for people in liberal democracies to understand the mentality of most Iraqis. Iraqis live in a society that was long dominated by lies and propaganda. Rather than the clash of views in a free press, they are accustomed to relying on rumors. With the advent of a free press, that has changed somewhat, and people are less likely to believe everything they hear, but rational discourse is still in limited supply. Many Iraqis are convinced that foreign forces are there to steal their oil (which the world is “stealing” at more than $60 a barrel), that the country is wealthy and only requires a good leader to share that wealth (a refrain I heard from many and which I took great pains to explain was a deadly error; Iraq is not a rich society but a desperately poor one), and so on. Moreover, conspiracy theories are the most common form of political understanding. (That is a problem throughout the Middle East, but it is especially pronounced in Iraq.)

The neoconservative assumption that the default condition when you eliminate a dictatorship is liberal democracy has been shown to be false. It is not the default position of mankind but a rare achievement, one that is often won only at a high price.

Adopting the habit of listening to others, of testing claims against evidence, of comparing different sources of news and information, and the other elements of the Enlightenment mentality is proving very difficult. It is not impossible, but it is harder than many expected.
As I read this, I kept thinking of Baghdad Treasure.

Heh heh.

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Anthony Shadid reports from Dubai.

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Check out this article on Task Force 145 and their operations in Iraq.

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