Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Atheist and the Dentist

I've come across two new Iraqi bloggers, both of them articulate and challenging voices added to the Iraqi blogosphere.

In Iraqi Atheist's first post he announced something that is anathema to those who wish to see the destruction of Iraq as a way of landing a blow against the United States. "Good heavens," he wrote on February 18, 2007. "The last three or four days were probably the calmest in Baghdad ever since the war. I say calmest because I honestly don't remember the last day it felt this safe. Even bullets are not being fired into the air, people respect the iraqi army and government. Is that even possible?"

I urge the IBC regulars to go back and read through Iraqi Atheist's posts for the last two months. You won't be disappointed. He's a very engaging writer and thinker.

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I would like to caution right up front that all of you "raving anti-dentites" out there (SeinLanguage, of course) need to keep your prejudices in check when reading the new commentary coming from Mohammed of Last of Iraqis, Zeyad's brother-in-law, another blogging Iraqi dentist. Like Iraqi Atheist, he is a fine writer and excellent analyst of Iraqi matters. For example, in this post he discusses why full civil war hasn't broken out in Iraq.
There are two main factors that restrain the sectarian war in Iraq and prevent it from spreading out extremely in spite of the efforts of many parties to burn the country in that war.Although there are conflicts between the two sects but in my opinion if what happened in Iraq was in any other country with such a great number of sects as Iraq,the conditions would be much worse,So why it is restrained?there are two main reasons
the Social factor and The Geographical factor.
Read the rest and join in the discussions on the comments pages.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

RhusLancia: Five Month-iversary!

Updated 6/3/07

I
had been riding my three-year old on my lap for a time. We had gone wandering a bit, and then had settled into doing slow laps on an ad-hoc track I had strung together in the vicinity of our vehicles. The track generally circled the perimeter of the open area where my five year old son and his four year old friend were riding.

My family has been going to the desert pretty often lately, and it's been fantastic transitioning my son from outrigger-style training wheels to full two-wheeled independence, despite a corresponding increase in crashes. No serious injuries yet, but there's plenty of time for that.

Still, I was fully geared up, and my bike, which is the same make & model used by Ricky Carmichael last year, wanted to stretch its legs a bit. Me too. I pulled in after quite a long ride with my son and dropped him off. He se
ttled into getting some water & playing with the other young 'uns there. My wife was talking to her friend, and all the others were out riding or otherwise engaged. "I'm going to do a few laps at speed, by myself, OK?" And off I went...

The track was simple, really. It was just a collection of about half a dozen familiar, well-worn turns that had formed berms or ruts, with three or four flat sweeping turns that connected them. The dirt w
here we were riding was hard-packed with a gravelly covering. When it's dry, it's very slippery to ride on. When it's wet, and it doesn't matter how wet, it's as tacky as a fully prepped motocross track, and a good one at that. This day it was dry.

However, I was having no trouble finding traction. There was a bonus in that I could inventory my kids and the others riding as I clicked off laps. So the effect was that I would blast out of a left-hand turn, glance left to get a fix on the others, slam into another left-hand turn and determine how hard I could go down the next straight, the fastest one on the track, based on their locations. Usually I could go as fast as possible, but if a kid was nearby I'd go slower and give them a wide berth. The next turn was a righty with a high berm that I jumped into. The trick here was to lean the bike over in the air so that the compression of the landing would press the bike into the berm, and then to hammer it coming out. Next, there was a series of S-turns that featured deep ruts with an impressive arc and lean angle.

The whole track was flowing together in a way that would make even Csikszentmihalyi smile.

It was mid-morning, and our Baghdad-esque temperatures hadn't set in yet, but it wasn't exactly cool, either.
After several laps I started to feel it and began to think about coming in for some water.

Just then, two riders who had been watching pulled onto the track. I was riding very well, so I asked myself the obvious question: "can I take them?"

I sized them up. Usually you can tell how serious someone is (and by extension, how fast they are) by their gear, the bike they're on and its c
ondition, and a quick glance at their riding style. For example, beginners usually sit too much, too far back, and they drop their elbows to their sides.

The first rider was on an older bike that had black plastic and cut fenders. He was wearing full riding gear, sans jersey or shirt of any kind. He was either unaware of the cheese-grating effect of creosote bushes on exposed flesh, or didn't care. But in the whole, he looked like a Metal Mulisha guy. In other words, a freestyler or freestyle lookalike/wannabe. I predicted no trouble pulling him. The other guy looked more serious. His bike was fairily new, in good condition, he had numbers on it (suggesting but not guaranteeing that he races), and he was in full gear (including a jersey). So I stayed on the track long enough to determine that I was faster than the first guy easily. And while the second guy did better, I steadily pulled away from him too. The track was mine.

That was Wednesday, May 16th, where, on the other si
de of the world, Iraq was commemorating its first Mass Graves Day. I was aware of this contrast even then- I was having a great time with friends and family, while Iraqis were commemorating their grim past while at the same time dealing with their grim present.

I'm now five months on from joining Iraqi Bloggers Central as a contributor, and Jeffrey thought it'd be a good idea to post some thoughts about the experience as part of the three-year anniversary for IBC. Here goes...

1) so many blogs, so little time! There are so many interesting Iraqi blogs out there these days it's impossible to keep up with them. A single trip down just the active bloggers on IBC's blogroll is guaranteed to occupy your attention and keep you fully away from what you're supposed to be doing. The best one can hope for is to find some whose style, experiences, or viewpoint captures you & get to know them.

2) I have a few favorites. I like the Iraqi bloggers who present a somewhat balanced view. This is no easy task given how polarizing the war has become, but there a few who stand out in that regard. For me, 24 Steps to Liberty and Treasure of Baghdad are two I rarely miss. I like their writing style, and I think I've learned a great deal from those two friends. 24's wit really comes through on his posts, and Treasure of Baghdad's passion & emotions make for a roller coaster ride through posts. Iraqi Mojo is another great blog to read, and you'll also see him in many comments discussions as "Iraqi American". Iraqi Konfused Kid is possibly the funniest & one of the most incisive Iraqi bloggers there is. I see now he's evoking South Park, too. Sweeeet. Sometimes it's nice to go to either end of the perspective spectrum. Riverbend never fa
ils to eloquently express how much better things were in Saddam's day, and the brothers at Iraq the Model reliably give optimistic insights into Iraqi events. If you want to read the king of the Armchair Insurgents, though, Truth About Iraqis is your man. Not to leave Zeyad out of course. His comment section, in particular, consistently produces some of the longest comment threads ever.

3) Commenting is _____. Well, I don't know. There's no doubt that if you want to dicuss something, learn more about something, express support or condolences to the Iraqi bloggers, ask questions of them about life or experiences, the comment sections are the way to go. They are also the place to go to face off against die-hard adherents to this or that position, sling verbal poo at each other, or get off on wild tangents that have nothing to do with Iraq, or much to do with anything in particular. Over @ Zeyad's, a few commentors have spread a discussion about The Pope/Catholicism/The Maronite Church over dozens and dozens of comments and several blog posts. I used to think I knew who started it & why, as well as what it was about. Not anymore. On the other hand, it's really bizarre to be able to talk to "the other side", whether they are just slightly so or rigid propagandists, cheerleaders, & apologists for the enemies of the US and a free Iraq.

4) Fanatics are fun. Some of the most ardent opponents of the US & Iraqi gov't come across as pretty intelligent & well read. They have just thrown their lots in against the US and anything it does. It's quite interesting to engage them and see where they are coming from & why. Did you know that the origin of everything bad in the universe was not the election of George W. Bush in 2000? No, that merely continued everything bad. But the origin was US involvement in the 1953 overthrow of Mohandes Mosadegh, the democratically elected leader of Iran. It's true, ask them. But the most fun fanatics are the ones who hold whatever "anti-establishment" view they read about on their support network on the web without any supplementary background on the subject, willingness to learn about it, or room in their perception for facts, proof, or logic.

One recent example was bushbashr45221 who stated at one point (about Saddam): "Well, he did kil some ppl, and I can't justify that, but he was mostly a good man especially compared to the crooks he was fighting." The whole thread was like that. So much so that the lefties were trying to settle him down since he was embarrassing them, or wondering if he was a "false flag" commentor planted to make them look ridiculous. I believe he was a twelve year old rebelling against republican parents or something. He certainly wrote like it.


5) Rosy-Fingered Dawns. Iraq is a tough, complicated situation with so many diverse layers &
players in the situation. Plus, the news reports coming out of Iraq are, by nearly anyone's measure, untrustworthy, misleading, incomplete, and so on. Keeping up with developments is very difficult, and so is discussing events. So, in order to accurately express my views across a long history of commenting while respecting the needed nuance or complexity, I've come up with a few specific ways I phrase certin things. For example:
  • "Le Resistance" - this was how I used to refer to the insurgency in Iraq. It's a play on the French Resistance of WWII since US opponents like to evoke them in playing up noble and patriotic motives for their heroes. I largely reject those motives and used the term always in italics to convey contempt.
  • "Insurgents and their terrorist allies of convenience" - another term for the insurgency. I have been sceptical that there really is much of a separation between those fighting just us (and the Iraqi gov't) and those who target Iraqi civilians en masse. Certainly the latter believe themselves to be the former, so why should we split hairs?
  • "The Muqawama" - yet another term for the insurgency. This one adopts the phrase used by one of our most familiar anti-US propagandists (you know who you are), and uses it usually in the same sentence as a description of another mass-murder of Iraqi civilians. The intent, as usual, is to not ascribe traits of nobility to the insurgents in Iraq.
  • "Insurgents/Terrorists" - my latest term to describe them. This one is just shorthand for the fact that I don't let the "Islamic State of Iraq" off the hook because they just killed a few Americans when the "Islamic State or Iraq" also just blew up yet another marketplace. Potato/potatoe, tomato/tomatoe.
  • "People who don't give a rat's *ss about Iraqis" - this could be anyone, but I've used it most to describe the attitude the Dems have towards Iraqi civilians. Just try to find some concern for the fate of Iraqi civilians in anything the Dems say about Iraq, or any plan they've put forth. Help me out with this; I can't find anything. Many of the so-called antiwar people likewise have little to say about the fate of Iraqi civilians. There is a somewhat common delusion they hold that things will magically get better if/when we leave, but when it comes down to it I don't think they really belive that. They just don't care.
6) I'm not a writer. That should be obvious. But I'm most surprised with how much more difficult it is to write somewhat original things instead of to respond to someone else's writing. Oh sure, I can think about roughly half a dozen topics per day that may make a good post, especially as I read the day's blog posts and news events. But, getting the time and Muse to write one out is a skill I'm very much behind the curve on.

7) Those wocky Iraqis (added 6/3/07). Iraqis, at least the ones who blog, seem pretty cool to me- even (many of) the ones I disagree with on the issues. I really appreciate the opportunity to get to know them and their culture, and to try to understand how they feel about what's going on in their country. Some of them have zinged me pretty good, or otherwise smacked me down along the way. Here's a few I have from memory (links'll come later if I can find 'em):
  • 24 Steps & "Le Resistance": I think 24 Steps to Liberty and I share a certain contempt for the "resistance" in Iraq. Still, I had been mocking them with my "Le Resistance" Rosy Fingered Dawn in his comments when he came on and reprimanded me for talking about the murderers of his people in that way. I respected his wishes, but the irony is "other commentators" post glowing praise for the people killing his people en masse week after week, with nary a complaint from him. I've seen the same phenomenon elsewhere. Still trying to figure it out.
  • 24 Steps & the Adhamiya Wall: 24 Steps to Liberty had a post about the Adhamiya wall not too long ago. This was on the front side of the outrage the wall was to produce. I commented a bit glibly that maybe it would work and they could have a wall dissassembling party a'la the Berlin Wall when they were no longer needed. He was not amused, and said so. My comment is first, his irritated reply is at 8:53 AM.
  • Treasure of Baghdad & US Arming of Saddam in the 80s: I was having the oft-repeated discussion about how the US "armed Saddam" in the 80s. Of course, we gave him some arms, but hardly a drop in the arms bucket compared to the USSR, China, & France. BT came on and gave the Iraqi viewpoint: they were in a war, of course people armed them. Duh. I think this is the best zinger against me ever. I'll try to find the link.
  • Zeyad & my support for the Mehdi Army: this was just yesterday, and actually served to remind me I meant to write this section. The comments section to his post about the Iraqi Army fighting alongside the "Mehdi" army was as long and varied as usual. I posted a link to Jane Arraf's article about the Amiriya fighting as a contrast. He made a rare appearance in the comment section to rebuke me for supporting the Mehdi Army. Errr, no- that's not what I was doing... (my comment here; his reply here; my rebuttal)

OK. I'll go ahead and wrap this up with a handy guide to Iraq's ethnic and sectarian breakdown. Sometimes I like to think this is what Bremmer explained to SCIRI in order to get them to support democracy, and also why the minority is so committed to overwhelming violence to get their way (which worked quite well in the past). The Kurds, of course, are the exception. Maybe they just see their 1.5 M&M share and realize having the US as an ally isn't so bad after all?












Update 6/3/07:

From the comments, Mohammed ( from Last of Iraqis) pointed out the the Sunnis should have four M&Ms. That's pretty much true, and reflects a little-known fact that the Kurdish ethnic group is also majority Sunni. When you add them together, the Sunna are 32% - 37% according to the CIA factbook on Iraq. Not that that is the last word on the issue, but it's probably accurate enough to cite. So, here's an alternate version of the graphic.



Monday, May 21, 2007

Iraqi Bloggers Central: Three-Year Anniversary!

Along with everyone else here, I had followed the leadup to the war in Iraq and then the invasion that began in March, 2003. Over the summer and into the fall of that year, I began to read, on a daily basis, the writing of a small group of bloggers from Iraq, the first two being architecture students, Salam Pax and Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. By May of 2004, when I began blogging here, there were about fifteen Iraqi bloggers.

As it turned out, those who were in favor of the removal of Saddam enabled comments pages while the Jarrars (Faiza, Raed, Khalid, and Majid) and Riverbend did not. One enterprising blogger decided to start a blog where people could meet to discuss the blog entries written by the Quintet. He called his blog “Cry Me a River,” a risible dig at Riverbend’s constant whining.

For many of us it was a great place to respond to the Quintet. But it would not last. Later, when “Cry Me a River” was halted due to a series of threatening e-mails, I decided to launch a blog that would have the same function as the original blog. Almost at the same time as I started this blog, our own CMAR II started his blog, “Cry me a River II.”

The original name for this blog was “Jarrars up a River,” chosen as a play on words and the image of the Jarrar family and Riverbend herself stuck in a canoe without a paddle. A few days later, after a discussion with other commenters, I changed it to “Shako Mako News.” “Shako Mako,” I had learned, was a non-Arabic expression meaning something like “what’s up,” a phrase going back, I believe, to the Babylonians (I have now been informed by a Exile-Iraqi that it is indeed non-Arabic, but of unknown origins).

And then a month or so later, while being interviewed by journalist Marjorie Wylie, who had called me from California for a piece she was writing on bloggers in Iraq, I changed the title for the last time. Over the phone, remarking on the heated and detailed exchanges she had found on our comments page, she quipped, “It’s like Iraqi bloggers central there.” As soon as I heard her say those three words, I knew instantly what the true (and final) name of this blog would be. It was perfect: Iraqi Bloggers Central.

My stated goal at the beginning of this blog was to somehow get the two groups of Iraqi bloggers to talk to each other. I thought their dialogues with each other would be the best way for outsiders like myself to learn about the range of issues that concerned Iraqis and the spectrum of opinions and views that they held. This turned out to be much more difficult than I understood then, but for reasons that I do now, in fact, understand.

From the beginning, I tried to post on all the Iraqi bloggers, especially those whose views differed from my own. “My goal is reasonable discussion, not generating a flame-war,” I wrote to a commenter on that first day. “Humor will be accorded a place among the possible views on the matters at hand.” Sometimes the discussions pushed the boundaries of what is reasonable. And, as the rollercoaster ride at times hurtled quickly down, humor was often hard to either maintain or justify. Iraq has offered us all us moments of joy and days of deep tragedy.

Although I am a full-time teacher with a fast-paced life like everyone else, I nonetheless promised myself to blog every day, which I would do for a long time, even though I was often typing when I should have been sleeping. Just a week into my career as a blogger, I wrote on the comments page to Asher Abrams, a fellow blogger: “Man, I'm dead on my feet here. It's been a long week and each night before falling into bed I've had to put together the next day's blog. But I can't tell you how much I've learned. I have new respect for all bloggers.”

That respect is still there for all of you -- from Iraq, America, and so many other countries -- who either blog about Iraq or follow and engage others on the comments pages. Sometimes the exchanges are heated and acrimonious with flames licking around the edges, and other times the debates are very constructive with everyone contributing to the discussions. But the passion, above all, is clear to all who visit these blogs and comments pages.

After three years of blogging, I’m still often dead on my feet at the end of the day as I type. But, just as true, I’m also still learning something new almost every day -- and not just about Iraq or all the ways in which people debate each other, but about myself. Some of what I learned about myself is laudable, some of it not. Those lessons have to learned just like the others.

But the most surprising and wonderful aspect of the Iraqi blogosphere is to hear voices that one would never have heard in the past (or would hear today if Saddam Hussein had remained in power). For me, I’ll always remember Omar’s second entry on that first day of blogging at Iraq the Model:
You can not imagine how happy I was when I created this blog and published my first article, after years of being imprisoned inside the walls that Saddam's regime built around Iraq.

I am really grateful to my friends A.Y.S and Zeyad who gave me all help and support to start.

Thank you very much.
It was a voice calling to me from across the world.

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Besides my group of co-bloggers (CMAR II, Mister Ghost, Diane, and RhusLancia), I would like to thank all of the fantastic regular commenters who have been part of the IBC community over the last three years. One could not even count all the engaging, funny, and intelligent conversations we've had since May 21, 2004. Thanks to all of you:

Louise, Kat in Missouri, Lisa in New York, Dilnareen, Fayrouz, Alan, leap_frog, Bridget, Elie, Muhannad in Oregon, Michael Cosyns, Sam (our dear Sandmonkey), Kender, Tater, Kris from Seattle, Um Ayad, Craig, Scott from Oregon, BK, Connie, Christina from Montana, Max Lane, Andrea in Minnesota, Paul Edwards, Brian H, Whisper, Madtom, Ladybird, Dave, Rubin, Lynnette in Minnesota, Iraqi Mojo, and Exile-Iraqi.

I know I've missed some names. If so, just let me know and I'll add your name. The encouragement and your contributions to our multi-sided debates have made Iraqi Bloggers Central possible.

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Some tasty treats:

Make that "One Thousand and TWO Nights" -- "Today even myths are multinational," quipped the snake.

Mr. Peabody's Improbable History: Salam Pax, Raed Jarrar, and Ghaith "G." Ahad.
SHERMAN: Where are we going, Mr. Peabody?

MR. PEABODY: To a city along the Tigris River -- Baghdad, Iraq.
Raed Jarrar: Americans are Responsible for Beheadings -- Raed: Did anyone ever heard about beheading before the occupation of Iraq? Before the silly right-wing war of terror?

Speak, Wise Sandmonkey! Sam (Sandmonkey):
Which makes me wonder: which part of "Israel should be wiped out" did you not get exactly? That wasn't clear enough for you? Dude, it was said in a conference called "A world without Zionism". Ehh...Hello.....anybody home?

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Basra Writ Large?

Although currently based in Lebanon, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (our man G.) has made a trip down to Basra to report on what's happening on the ground in Iraq's second-largest city. According to Ghaith, there are four separate groups jockeying for power in Basra: 1) the Madhi militia, about half of which are loyal to Muqtada Al-Sadr, 2) the Fadhila militia, who are opposed to Iranian influence in Basra, 3) the Badr Brigade, the armed militia of SCIRI, which had been exiled in Iran for the twenty years before Saddam's fall, and 4) around twenty or so different tribes, each one vying for a piece of the pie. These groups, and not the Iraqi police or Iraqi Army or even the British army, are the real players in Basra:
The people who really control Basra are men such as Sayed Youssif. He is a mid-level militia commander, but his name and that of his militia - God's Revenge - strikes fear anywhere in Basra.

Beginning with a small group of gunmen occupying a small public building, the former religious student built up a reputation as a fearless thug, killing former Ba'athists, alcohol sellers and eventually freelancing as a hitman for anyone willing to pay the price.
Four years ago I might have been surprised by this complex picture of Basra, but I have now come to see, with the help of lots of background reading and many exchanges with Iraqi bloggers and commenters, that exactly this type of shifting power struggles between disparate groups is actually the norm for much of Iraqi history.

Saddam Hussein, just the latest in a fairly long list, was one of the more ruthless bastards given birth to by an Iraqi woman. He grew to be a man who knew instinctively the cut-throat style required to control this fractious population. And he killed hundreds of thousands to keep everyone in check and to ensure that the fear he engendered spread not only throughout the length and breadth of the land between the two rivers but into the very nightmares of Iraqis as they slept.

While I still have hope that something like a representative type of government can be created in Iraq, it will, when the dust settles, be a system that will have to conform to the dynamics of the current power struggles that have been going on in Iraq for at least the last several thousand years.

Meanwhile, in an e-mail to Instapundit from Anbar province, Michael Yon writes:
Today, went on a patrol with Iraqis and a couple of Marines and we talked with Iraqi villagers for a couple of hours. I got to talk with a man who was about 81. His hearing was not good, so I had to sit close. He said he worked for the British RAF here in about 1945-46. I asked him if the British treated him well and he said they treated him very well. Said he made the equivalent of about 25 cents per day but that was good money back then. There is, in fact, a British-Polish-Indian-Aussie-Kiwi cemetery nearby. (I visited and photographed many of the headstones some days ago.)

All the villagers we got to talk with were very friendly. Kids wanted their photos taken, that sort of thing. They were not asking for candy and that was nice. There was a train track nearby (looked to be in very good condition), and a locomotive turned over on its side, derailed. I asked a man what happened, and he said that about four years ago, during the war, an "Ali Baba" (thief) tried to steal the train but ran head-on into another train! He said the police caught the Ali Baba and he has no idea what happened after that.

Marines are getting along well with the locals. They wave a lot, and stop to talk. If the rest of Iraq looked like this, we could all come home!
Michael Yon is a fine reporter and has been all over Iraq, so I'm going to have to trust him on this. Still, as you can see, one's perspective on Iraq ultimately depends on exactly where and at what time that you happen to be standing somewhere. It could also change in an instant.

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I've just come across an Iraqi blogger -- new for me, at least, because I see that she's been blogging since last year -- named Chikitita. In this blog entry, she remembers back to April 9, 2003:
Not too long ago, I was barraged with questions of how it felt to witness the fourth invasion anniversary. I usually greet dates to be marked and fanfare studded anniversaries with indifference - it is the event that counts not when it occurred. I kept racking my brain and fumbling for answers until it dawned on me that on April 9, 2003, I did not know it was April 9. I had no calendar at the time. Besides, I was more drawn into buying the reports of former Minister of Culture and Media than the BBC, Radio Monte Carlo or Radio Sawa’s, which means I did not believe Iraq was officially occupied until I saw US Marines walking past my house to corroborate what I had heard through the grapevine. More importantly, all my life I have been bracing myself to the prophecies that all Iraqis would eventually die of cancer, depression, rage, smart and stupid bombs, torture chambers, fear, helplessness, depleted uranium, poverty, anemia, wailing sirens, to name but a few and Saddam would be the last to leave this world. I have always had this mental picture of a pile of dust and rubble with him on top, inspired by the eternal words that were ascribed to his Excellency “I won’t step down until I reduce Iraq to a pile of dust.”
She writes very well and is another fine Iraqi voice writing in English in the Iraqi blogosphere.
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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I Pledge Allegiance to ...

Iraqis today, when looking for security, will often turn to those groups with which they identify and to whom they align themselves, whether that is their religious sect or their clan and tribal affiliations. Shaqawa has been one of the few Iraqi bloggers, believe it or not, who talks directly about this issue.
Sectarianism is natural and makes sense. Being for your family and your community is the way things work everywhere in the world. When you are facing a huge threat (mass murderers in the case of Iraq) then you are of course going to protect yourself, your family, your community. I think only in Iraq it is automatically a bad word because people hate to see the Shi’a having power after the Shi’ite majority was oppressed for so long. Still, I think that sectarianism, if it means that you support your group against all others, and support your group in a way to harm others, then it is a crime and such people should be shown as criminals and condemned. It is a fine line, isn’t it? Never black and white and never good and bad!
Shaqawa argues that it is natural for people to turn to one's family and community in times of trouble, which is clear enough. But it is another thing, he says, when one uses violence against those people in your neighborhood or area who may belong to another sect or clan or tribe. Iraqis are killing Iraqis, it appears, for reasons that are both ancient and completely contemporary.

Over the last four years I've learned a lot about Iraq and Iraqis. What stands out the most for me is how alien the societal composition of Iraq is in comparison to American culture. Iraq is a tribal culture. From the family, the circle of identity widens to the clan, and from the clan to one's tribe. To understand Iraqi society, one needs to acknowledge the degree of power wielded by the sheikhs, the leaders of the tribes. Eli Lake, on a recent video call from Baghdad for Blogginheads TV, offers a fairly complete view of how sheikhs and their tribes function in Iraq.

America, in contrast, is a self-selected country of immigrants from all over the world where one rubs shoulders daily with people of different national origins. For us, the idea of a sheikh is an empty category. There is no one in the United States who even remotely functions as a sheikh does in Iraqi society. While both Zeyad and Riverbend (see links at bottom) have written in the past about the tribal nature of Iraqi society, I am waiting for other Iraqi bloggers to tackle this subject. Are tribal power relations as strong in Baghdad as outside Baghdad? With the rise in sectarianism, what has happened to those tribes whose members are both Shia and Sunni? Can any Iraqi bloggers answer these and similar questions?

And, finally, here's the million-dollar question. Can a tribal culture become democratic? Is it at all possible that an Iraqi would vote for someone from a different sect if he believed that he or she were the candidate with better ideas? Would an Iraqi ever vote against the wishes of his or her sheikh? Or is Iraqi society best run under another "strongman"? Is another dictator in Iraq inevitable given that intertribal conflicts, more often than not, produce the survival of the most lethal bastard?

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Zeyad Kasim, "Iraq's Tribal Society: a state within a state"; my blog entry "Tribe or Party?" has links to Zeyad's four-part series.

Riverbend, "Sheikhs and Tribes."

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MOST AWKWARD AND FARCICAL TWO-STEP AWARD goes to Sunni cleric Harith Al-Dari.
Al-Dhari confirms with TIME the ongoing divorce of the al-Qa'ida project in Iraq from other armed Sunni resistance movements, and the increasing withdrawal of end tacit support by other Sunni groups for the al-Qa'ida organization in Iraq.

While the Association of Muslim Scholars may have given “tacit backing” to the al-Qa'ida-linked organizations in Iraq, because of its enmity to the US occupation and the new Iraqi government, al-Dhari says that his views about al-Qa'ida have changed, TIME writes.
Ongoing divorce? Huh, jeez, TAI told us that there was absolutely NO CONNECTION between the "brave resistance" and the foreign jihadis?!

Hey, we were never married but now are definitely divorced.

Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

ARAB PARALLEL UNIVERSE once again in FULL EFFECT.

By the way, "tacit support" is one of the more laughable evasions of truth I've read in a while. That piece of cloth may cover one's genitals -- if you're a gnat.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

How Would You Like Your 'Wall Resolution' Served?

Photo by Ali Yussef/AFP
It seems like most of the Iraqi blogoshere is abuzz with news of the Great Wall of Adhamiya. Haven't heard of it? Where have you been? Well, this isn't a roundup, so you can go here to get up to speed on it. Or here, just from IraqSlogger. OK, here are a few links from Riverbend, Konfused Kid, Zeyad @ Healing Iraq, Iraq the Model, and 24 Steps to Liberty.

In comments on the latter, I opened up the discussion with this:
24, I read that ISF and MNF who arrived on scene at yesterday's massive resistance/terrorist bombings were pelted with rocks and insults. Maybe the MNF & gov't see this as a way to prevent some kinds of violence at least for a time, because the perception is that they have to do more to stop the bombings?

You know, you can tear the wall down in a little while when it's no longer needed. Makes for a great party.
I jumped to the conclusion that the wall was part of the Baghdad Security Plan and was being erected to limit movement of death squads into Adhamiya or insurgent/terrorist suicide bombers out of it, in order to reduce sectarian violence and save Iraqi lives. Silly me. It turns out that the wall is being described as another nail in Iraq's sectarian coffin, part of an evil US/Maliki plan to segregate & starve Sunnis, compared to the Warsaw ghetto and even Nazi concentration camps, and so on.

24 Steps took offense at my optimism, and smacked me down for I think the third time that I can remember:
RhusLancia,
“the MNF & gov’t see this as a way to prevent some kinds of violence at least for a time.”

How exactly? By provoking more Iraqis against them and each other? By telling people “fuck you. We don’t care what you think. We are going to isolate Shiites from Sunnis?” or by telling the mixed families that they have to do the same inside their houses, build walls to separate the Sunni mother from the Shiite father?

Why don’t they take it the easier way? Just show me what you will do with the insurgents you will capture? You have thousands of them. Execute only 100. That is legal according to the Iraqi constitution.

Also, RhusLancia if you don’t think this is a serious matter, don’t comment please because all you did with your first comment is to infuriate me more and insult my people.

“You know, you can tear the wall down in a little while when it’s no longer needed. Makes for a great party.” That is just very irresponsible to say. If you live in a stable country and have a stable life, don’t make fun of others’ miseries.
I apologized to him and made my case as the comments progressed, and he made his. No hard(er) feelings, I hope.

But that's not really what I wanted to talk about. I was just checking out Truth About Iraqis to see how bad "bad" is, where I learned the Iraqi Parliament had voted against the wall.

This was very interesting, so I started looking around to see what kind of details I could find. How many voted for/against? What did it say? Was it 'binding' or 'non-binding'? Etc. The Iraqis don't have C-Span (as far as I know), nor do they have a good gov't site for finding legislative information (their official website is pretty sparse).

However, I did find information on this vote. The funny thing is, I found key details of the vote
reported several different ways.

So, how do you want your 'Wall Resolution' served:

Fried: this is an AP version of the story, and the one that Truth About Iraqis posted in it's entirety. Relevent excerpt:
A stormy session in an Iraqi parliament culminated in an overwhelming vote against security walls going up around Baghdad.
Scrambled: the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) had this to say:
Out of a total of 138 MPs, the 88 present voted unanimously against the construction of such walls and demanded the removal of the temporary walls placed around Adhamiya District that had cause much uproar.
Poached: the AP offers another story, and this one has by far the most detail. Their results:
The resolution, voted on by a show of hands, passed 138-to-88 in the 275- member house. The president and his two deputies must unanimously approve the legislation for it to become law, or else it will be sent back to the house for re-examination.
So there it is. The parliament had an overwhelming vote where the 88 out of 138 parliamentarians present unanimously passed the measure, in a 138-to-88 show of hands.

I can understand how hard it is to get accurate details when the Resistance has a successful operation against the Crusaders by blowing up a market place and mass murdering Iraqi civilians, but shouldn't it be easier to find out about legislation that could have such a profound impact on the situation there?


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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Iraqis outside both the Red and Green Zones

For those of you who have already read my earlier entry on Nir Rosen ("The Education of Nir Rosen"), you know that he is an Israeli-American Jew who is both an atheist and a "hardcore leftist," according to David Adesnik, his old school friend and current blogger over at Oxblog. This same American Jew atheistic leftist who, during his time while in Iraq, learned to dissemble enough to be allowed to sit next to devout Muslims as they prayed in mosques and to hang around and befriend a veritable who's-who list of high-ranking members of the so-called resistance in Iraq, mostly Sunni Baathists from Anbar.

The contacts that he had made during his time in Iraq have allowed him now to continue reporting from outside Iraq. Today, in a lengthy NYT Magazine article called "The Flight from Iraq," Nir Rosen reports on the outflow of Iraqis into the surrounding countries of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. As those of us who have followed the Iraqi bloggers know, people from all walks of life have left Iraq. Rosen points out that many of them have come from the professional classes who have been caught between Al Qaeda, the Anbar Baathists, and the Shia-dominated militia.

For the Shia who are exiting Iraq, these three countries do not offer the same prospect. "Of the main destination countries," Rosen writes, "Syria is the friendliest for Shiites. Egypt may be ill disposed toward Shiites, but Jordan is downright hostile."

Some of the most interesting interviews that Rosen conducted occurred in Jordan. In Amman, Rosen talked to a young Iraqi named Sattem:
He called the initial Sunni boycott of Iraqi politics “a big mistake” that opened the door to Shiite domination. “Now it’s too late,” he said. “People here, and in Amman, feel like they lost.” In Sattam’s view, the only way to protect Sunnis was a Sunni state that would include Anbar Province, Mosul and Tikrit. But radicals like Al Qaeda were now in control of Anbar Province, and the resistance was finding it hard to resist Al Qaeda. “Al Qaeda kills Sunnis the most, and you don’t know what they want,” he said. His priority was to deal with Al Qaeda in the Anbar first, then reconcile with the Shiites and then work to end the occupation.
Rosen also interviewed several ex-military officers in Jordan with alleged connections to the Iraqi resistance, one of them being Gen. Raed al-Hamdani, a former commander in the Republican Guard.
General Hamdani had fought in six conflicts and been severely wounded in 1991. “The hardest loss was this last one,” he said. “We were given the responsibility to defend our country. We lost the war, and we lost our country.”
The Anbar Baathists began rearming themselves almost immediately after the fall of Saddam to fight the Coaltion forces for two reasons: 1) they were unwilling to accept defeat, and 2) they could not accept a democratic Iraq in which the Shia would be given such a large voice when for decades the Sunni had dominated them.

As Rosen's interviewees admit, it was a mistake for the Sunni to boycott the elections and thus cede political power to the Shia. But what is not mentioned by them, and this lacuna is most telling in my view, is the far more destructive decision that they had made after the fall of Baghdad. The Anbar Baathists not only didn't vote but they were the ones who provided logistical support to the Al Qaeda terrorist jihadis, the very group that is now killing more Sunnis in Anbar than have died at the hands of Shia militia groups.

The Anbar Baathists had originally allowed the Al Qaeda foreign fighters into Iraq to help them with their insurgency operations against both the Iraqi government and the Coalition forces (and we at IBC have been writing about this for three years now). But, over time, they began to realize that the jihadists preferred killing Iraqi citizens to American soldiers and that they really didn't care all that much if they were Shia or Sunni. In fact, one of their stated goals was to kill people on both sides to foment a civil war and thus reduce all of Iraq to a heap of ashes. If one knows how to read between the lines and fill in the obvious lacunae in Rosen's interviews, one can hear a tacit recognition of this blunder that may yet grant the Al Qaeda jihadis their wish of sweeping all of Iraq into the dustbin of history.

Sometimes what people don't say is more important than what they do.

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If anyone is interested in Nir Rosen's entry into a career as a freelance journalist, I recommend checking out the links provided in "The Education of Nir Rosen," which offers links to his earliest articles written from Israel and Yugoslavia.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

We are on the Same Side

Last week, over on the comments pages at 24 Steps to Liberty, Omar (24), CMAR II, RhusLancia, John Seal, Bruno, K, Kryptonite, Annie and I, among others, were having an animated debate about Iraq and Omar's comparison of New Orleans to Baghdad. At one point, Omar charged me with being a racist and hating Arabs. While critical of the roots of Islamofascism in the Middle East and other areas where this ideology has taken hold, I do not ascribe to any essentialist beliefs about what it means to be an "Arab" or a member of any other group. In one exchange I wrote:
24,

Take a deep breath.

Listen to me.

This morning, on my way to Dunkin' Donuts for a coffee, I passed a Muslim woman pushing a stroller. She was covered from head to foot in a her religiously-sanctioned covering. I could only see her eyes. I may find it a little peculiar (due to the culture I grew up in) but in no way do I hate her. She lives here in Astoria just like the rest of us. We care about our families and their future. Do I think she is a terrorist? Of course not.

After I got my coffee, I stopped at the local corner grocery for a gallon of milk, where I chatted with the young Yemeni guys who run the store. Most of the guys who work there are cousins and one or two are from the same village back in Yemen. They're very cool, wearing baggy jeans and black heavy-metal T-shirts. Do I think that they're terrorists? Of course not.

Tonight and tomorrow morning I will teach students from around the world, two of them being Hamid from Yemen and Hassan from Morocco. Do I think that they're terrorists? Of course not. Both of them are very interesting fellows.

One of my favorite colleagues at work is Joseph from Syria and in the office next to me is Fasil from Ethiopia. Do I think that they're terrorists? Of course not.

Let me repeat. I do not believe in any reductive essentialism when it comes to idea of race and ethnicity. Except for very minor genetic suspectibilites (like sickle cell anemia) and minor surface differences, our genetic heritage is more or less the same. Our cultures, however, do socialize us differently and that is where we find conflicts.

So there is nothing in nature that makes people suicide-bombers. Islamofascism, however, is a virulent ideology that can find recruits in a minority of either Islmaic Arabs (there are also numerous non-Islamic Arabs, even atheists like Zeyad) or Muslims from around the world.

In the struggle against Islamofascism, WE ARE ON THE SAME SIDE.

Islamofascism has killed thousands of American civilians and thousands of Iraqi civilians.
Omar responded:
Yet, I don’t see you jeffrey asking Asians to be grateful that “Americans” are treating them well. You still believe that only Arabs and Muslims should feel this way, because 19 of those who call themselves Muslims killed a number of Americans.

I told you, there is no debate here. You are twisting facts and issues under discussion. I don’t care if you were racist or not, that’s something you have to live and deal with. What I object is your tendency of treating people of different backgrounds in different, based-on-race and color way.

I am just proud that in my country, Iraq, we, the average Iraqis, never thought of ourselves as Arabs, Kurds, Turkumens, Assyrians or any other ethnicities until your government in 2003 came and “taught” us how to break or government and parliament into ethnic shares.
To which I replied:
24,

You wrote:

What I object is your tendency of treating people of different backgrounds in different, based-on-race and color way.

What? Have you read my comments?

I wrote:

Let me repeat. I do not believe in any reductive essentialism when it comes to idea of race and ethnicity. Except for very minor genetic suspectibilites (like sickle cell anemia) and minor surface differences, our genetic heritage is more or less the same. Our cultures, however, do socialize us differently and that is where we find conflicts.

I also wrote:

In my immediate family are people from Europe, Africa, and Asia. We have grandchildren (my nieces and nephews) whose parents come from all three continents. I have a deep love for all of them. I will NEVER accept someone like you to tell me how I feel about them or the societies into which they were born. NEVER.

If you saw the group photograph for my parents' fiftieth anniversary, you would remark that it looked like a snapshot of diplomats and their families from the United Nations.

Just because we may disagree on interpretations of events on the ground in Iraq, you may not then call me a racist when it is obvious from everything I have written that I am not. Again, name-calling and unfounded allegations are a very cheap rhetorical ploy to silence one's debate partner.
One of the values of the Iraqi blogosphere is that on those blogs that maintain comments pages these types of necessary debates are ongoing and continue to be just as lively as one would want.

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While I have indeed been involved daily in the Iraqi blogosphere over the last three years, I have also participated from time to time in discussions in both the German blogosphere (mostly in English but sometimes in German) and the Anglophone blogosphere for expats living in China. I've never done this before, but I thought it might be interesting for you to read a few of my comments from today in other blogospheres.

The first is on Andrew Hammel's weblog from Dusseldorf. Click German Joys on the mainpage of his website and check the comments page for the blog entry called "Laqueuer: Europe's Doomed. Moravcsik: Fiddlesticks!"

The second is on Matt Schiavenza's blog, a California native now living in Kunming, China.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dueling Appeals

Have you heard about the "Appeal for Redress"? It is an online petition for active duty, reserve, and guard personnel to voice their opposition of the War in Iraq to their congressmen. It is a legal and constitutional way for military members to have their voices heard. It is also a very powerful story- currently serving military personel speaking out against the war? Very compelling. Understandably, the Appeal has garnered attention from nationwide media, like this from the Washington Post. The Appeal has also been the subject of many a blog post (good example here) about whether or not it's "Astroturfing", i.e. fake grassroots support.

Did you know that there is also an "Appeal for Courage"? This one was created shortly after the "Appeal for Redress". As you might imagine, it directly counters the other and calls for completing the mission in Iraq.

Both online petitions feature counters for the number of signatures gathered. "Appeal for Courage" also has some nice demographic graphs, too, including a monthly comparison of deaths in Vietnam compared to Iraq.

Anyway, as of 5/10/2007, here's how they are doing:

Appeal for Redress: 1,930 signatures

Appeal for Courage: 2,889 signatures


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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Life and Death in the Red Zone

Over the weekend PBS aired a half-hour segment of its show NOW hosted by Maria Hinojosa about Steven Vincent, his wife, Lisa Ramaci, and Steven's translator and guide in Iraq, Nour Al Khal.

Called "Casualties of War," the program recounts Steven Vincent's decision after 9/11 to begin reporting first-hand in Iraq and his subsequent lengthy visits and in-depth reporting accomplished with Nour's help. In 2005, when Steven decided to return to Iraq for a third time, Lisa Ramaci questioned her husband about whether it was necessary, and safe, to return for more reporting. He partly persuaded Lisa by the fact that he was returning to Basra in the south, which was not dangerous then.

As it turned out, Steven and Nour discovered that within the police force in Basra there were "death cars," manned by Shia radicals under the influence of Moqtada Al-Sadr, that were moving around the city and imposing their own brand of control on the populace of Basra. Two days before his murder, Steven had written a piece for the NYTimes ("Switched Off in Basra," July 31, 2005) exposing these independent operators who used official police vehicles and wore police uniforms. It was a group of men in one of these "death cars," in fact, that kidnapped Steven and Nour one afternoon in Basra.

"Casualties of War," besides telling us about the Steven's reporting in Iraq, provides us with Maria Hinojosa's one-on-one interviews with Nour Al Khal and Lisa Ramaci. You will be impressed by the courage and resilience of both Nour Al Khal and Lisa Ramaci.

The good news is that it now looks like Nour Al Khal will receive a visa to travel to the US.

Right now PBS is only offering the audio version of the program (but certainly worth listening to). Let's hope that later they also offer the complete video segment.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Criminal Hatwear

Adnan al-Dulaimi, member of parliament and head of the Tawafuq Front, at the Iraqi Parliament in September 2006.

Adnan al-Dulaimi, member of parliament and head of the Tawafuq Front, at the Iraqi Parliament in September 2006.
Photo by Ali Abbas/AFP.

Let's start with a bit of wicked humor from a new Iraqi blogger, Shaqawa. Most of you are probably familiar with the gaunt visage of Adnan Al-Dulaimi, Sunni MP and Tawafuq leader (hat-tip to Iraqi Mojo, from whose blog I clipped the photo). I was reading a post of Shaqawa's from a few days ago when I nearly fell of my chair laughing at this zinger:
Over the last week, more reports have been coming from Baghdad stating that parliamentary immunity for Tawafuq MP Adnan al-Dulaimi may be lifted so he can be prosecuted for a number of crimes. No surprise that this son of a bitch is suspected of crimes far beyond his most visible criminal act of wearing a stupid hat.

Sorry people. My eyes still have a few tears from laughing so hard.


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Listen, all of you know Iraqi Konfused Kid, right? Then you knew this was coming. Today the Kid saunters into the ring between the Pro-Withrawal and Anti-Withdrawal camps. Here's his list of those belonging to the Pro-Withdrawal side:

Pro-Withdrawal are people who are either:
1. Baathists remembering the good old days,
2. al-Qaeda lusting for a new state,
3. Common Arab and Iraqi people who simply follow Islamic Rule of Thumb regarding the matter: America Bad, America Go Away
4. sectarain Sunnis who hate to see Shia in power and consider them worse than Jews,
5. Sectarain Shiite who wants to have it all
6. or hopeless pessimists who see no use in them staying and just wanting them to leave and get the civil war out in the open, their theory is as this:
Konfused Kid also takes a snarky shot at the Jarrars. Oh boy, that's going to set off some tremors in the the head office of the Jarrar Transnational Corporate Empire.

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Ghaith Abdul-Ahad was a blogger before he became a very fine professional journalist. Many of us remember his blog, G. in Baghdad, which we followed in the summer of 2003. In this blog entry from June 25, 2003, Ghaith discusses the conflict between rhetoric and reality in Iraq:
One two one two….. test test… one two, test
Perfect my rhetoric channel is working very well
Here in Iraq every citizen was provided -since the early days of the regime- with a whole set of lies that gradually became the foundation on which you would build your perceptions of the world outside.
Consequently you end up with two channels, a “channel reality” that is off the air most of the times and “channel rhetoric” a mixture of self-denial, conspiracy theory [apologia] and propaganda.
Of course we shouldn’t blame Saddam and his lies based tyrannical regime only, this phenomenon has its roots deep in our cultural/religious history.
...

I think one of the main issues we have to face, is how to stop using the rhetoric channel, how could we stop this cog mire of stupid conspiracy theories going on and on and on how to liberate our selves from the secret police mechanisms nesting in our brains, this liberation will not be achieved by American tanks, nor by a self-denial flagellation process

Let me tell u this incident that happened 2 weeks ago
It was me, X, Y, and Laurent (a French friend), we were discussing the Americans, Iraq, and the current situation, every one was shouting, waving his hands jumping over the table. After almost 1 hour I went to the kitchen and Laurent to toilet, X and Y have the following conversation:

X: how did the things go in ur neighborhood during the war?
Y: well it was very calm, thanks god those stupid fedayeen didn’t resist, other whys who would know what could have happened
X: alhamdullilah, good for you, and especially now the situation is getting better
Y: yes yes we managed to get rid of that asshole
Bla bla bla (while a couple of minutes ago both of them were vehemently arguing against the war)

When the discussion sessions would end and everyone would go back to [channel reality] and speak about the day-to-day concerns I think this the place were the Americans could make a big difference

The Iraqis are so fed up with wars, suffering, party propaganda, regulations and obnoxious people telling you what to do and where to go. I wouldn’t be very far from the truth if I say that the foremost concern now for the Iraqis is the economical situation/security/services.

Its not that we r desperately waiting to indulge our selves in the global world of Starbucks and MacDonald’s-which I think we are-but for most of the people they just want to live properly without fear, hunger, or secret police
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Weekend Reading


"This Meditation Pyramid is designed to increase the benefits of meditation. Tests have shown that people enter the Alpha State of Consciousness faster and easier when in, or under, a pyramid."

Iraqi Foreign Minister writes in the Washington Post: "Don't Abandon Us"

"Iraqis are standing up every day, and we persevere because there is no other option. We will not surrender our country to terrorists. They have failed to cripple the elected government, and they have failed to intimidate us into submission. Iraqis reject their vision of a future whose hallmarks are bloodshed and hatred.

"Those calling for withdrawal may think it is the least painful option, but its benefits would be short-lived. The fate of the region and the world is linked with ours. Leaving a broken Iraq in the Middle East would offer international terrorism a haven and ensure a legacy of chaos for future generations.

Furthermore, the sacrifices of all the young men and women who stood up here would have been in vain."

Caesar of Pentra debates free love with Kitten:

You know why I like to try the pre-marital sex?First of all, I don't have a girl friend. Secondly, I'm 23 years old virgin. I can't marry a girl before at least 6 or 5 years from now (2 years to finish my studies and 3 or 4 years of work to establish a comfortable level of living). That if I was so lucky to accomplish all that in this period. I don't come from a wealthy family or drive my own car. I don't wanna be just like others who entertain thierselves by paying for sex.

Monte Morin at Stars & Stripes considers the enduring myth of the Juba Sniper and speculates on its origins. One theory is that the US soldiers invented him:

Skeptics held that Juba was not one, or even several snipers. Instead, he was the product of hype and fear on the part of U.S. soldiers, as well as enemy propagandists who hope to sap the troops’ morale.

“Juba the Sniper? He’s a product of the U.S. military,” said Capt. Brendan Hobbs, 31, of Tampa, Fla., commander of Company C, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment. “We’ve built up this myth ourselves.”

Max Boot at The Weekly Standard examines General Petreaus's strategy in Anbar...suggesting the purpose of the walls in Adhamiya:

Until recently Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, was the most dangerous city in Iraq if not the world. It was run by al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), which had declared it the capital of its Islamic State of Iraq. The Iraqi police presence was limited to one police station, which the police were afraid to leave. Soldiers and Marines engaged in heavy combat every day, losing hundreds of men since 2003, simply to avoid having insurgents overrun the government center and close down Route Michigan, the main street.

That began to change last year when the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division expanded the U.S. troop presence on the west side of town, losing almost 90 soldiers in the process. The 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division, which took over the city earlier this year, expanded the offensive toward the al Qaeda strongholds on the west side of town. From mid-February to the end of March, some 2,000 soldiers and Marines, along with their Iraqi allies, fought to gain control of the city. The principal operations were codenamed Murfreesboro (February 10-March 10), Okinawa March 9-20), and Call to Freedom (March 17-30). Collectively, they deserve to take their place in the annals of this long war alongside such notable clashes as the taking of Tal Afar in 2005, the two battles of Falluja in 2004, and the thunder runs through Baghdad in 2003.

Each of the Ramadi offensives began with troops staging raids into the targeted area to eliminate "high value individuals"--local al Qaeda leaders. Then the troops would place three-foot-high concrete blocks known as Jersey barriers around the targeted neighborhood to prevent insurgents from "squirting out." This would be followed by a clearing operation, with U.S. and Iraqi troops advancing from multiple directions to root out the enemy. Combat was intense. Insurgents fought back with everything from homemade bombs to AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades, and heavy machine guns. Ten American soldiers were killed and another 40 wounded.

I will probably come back to this article later in a round up of bloggers writing about the Adhamiya walls.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

From the Comments


I've been poking around in the comment sections of Iraqi blogs and I thought I would post them here.
By the way, I'm looking for the comment that "with the death of Al-Masri, Al-Qaeda in Iraq has selected a new leader: Harry Reid." Some help?
At HealingIraq, Azad comments on Riverbend's departure for the Summer Lands (h/t RhusLancia):
Riverbend leaving Iraq = De-Ba'athification
That's pretty dang funny.

I know this isn't going last, but BaghdadTreasure left a comment at Iraqi Mojo that was mostly rational:
Everyone is to blame in this madness. No one is excluded. Even the words we write are responsible for everything that is happening there.

It's a struggle for power. First, the US came for many purposes, the Baathists were gone but made sure to destroy the country out of revenge, the Shiites came back from exile and vowed to get revenge and kill Sunnis considering them Baathists and al-Qaeda supported by neighboring countries seized the opportunity to send the the terrorists to our land to get rid of them. Only innocent people are in the middle of this struggle for power.

So everyone is to blame.
Treasure of Baghdad
Pretty good for BT. I hope his knew med schedule works out, but then a lot of people say that about Jeffrey. ;-)

BT's comment does leave one thing out, or at the very least, seriously soft-pedals it: The "original sin" of Iraq's trouble, the choice of so many of Iraq's Sunni Arabs to abstain from the new Iraq for 2 full years. All the other disasters led directly or indirectly from that:
And BT is right that the US came to Iraq for many reasons; although I refuse to delude myself that he truly understands what those reasons were. And he is wrong that those reasons were a contributing factor to Iraq's troubles today. Primarily, the US's reasons were self-preservation. After 9-11, the US was like a man who suddenly realizes that his debts are (and have been for a while) far beyond his capacity to pay them. So what does he do?
  1. He starts budgeting (the US tightened security within its borders and abroad).

  2. He dispenses with every luxury (the US invades Afghanistan)

  3. He pays down any debt starting with the low hanging fruit....

    That was what Saddam was: A liability the US could no longer afford after 12 years.
Saddam wasn't the worst tyrant in that region where our foreign policy had been broken for 20 years. He wasn't the fanciest harbor for terrorists. But if we couldn't settle with Saddam, there was no way we could justify settling with anyone else (Libya was the obvious next choice and Qadaffy knew it).

So the US came to liberate Iraq for it's own good, not primarily the good of Iraqis. So, I've never expected or even wanted thanks from any Iraqis. Still, a thriving liberal democracy *is* in the interests of every Iraqi except Al-Sadr. So we're partners. Neither of us can afford to drop his end.

And if anyone asks why the US does not then liberate Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, and Syria, I say it is because doing so is not in the interests of the US at this time....but, personally, I'm game if you are!

The greatest lost opportunity about Iraq's failure to thrive, from America's point of view and perhaps for Iraq as well, is that we were unable to finish the job in Syria and Iran. Any other regrets? Yeah. Lots. But what of it? If you have to go to Hell, there's no point bawling about it.
"CMAR II, you idiot. How can you say we "had to go"? Don't you know Saddam had no WMDs that he could give to terrorists use in America?"
Yeah, I know that. But we didn't know that then, did we? And never would know as long as Saddam and his good-time-boys were running things. Now we DO know he didn't, and that he never will. That's called "paying down those debts." Let's see...which credit card is next on the list?

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