Thursday, November 29, 2007

Maliki Loves "Family Guy"

Some Iraqi bloggers have argued that Saddam's Iraq and post-Saddam Iraq are exactly the same. Although this is, in my view, a minority position, we should nonetheless search for any instances that would prove this idea wrong. M.H.Z. is an Iraqi blogger (and currently living in Iraq) and is upset with the lack of political progress in Iraq. Using his very good English skills and a fine sense of sarcasm, he recently imagined some of PM Maliki's daily activities ("Seriously, let’s give them a chance and be in their shoes for a week"). Questioned by RhusLancia on the comments page about how he had gained such intimate access to the prime minister, H.M.Z. said that he "threw a small mic through the front window."
I’m the prime minister of Iraq; I have the highest power on the army and the government, but, what the hell is going on? What should I do next? What do you think Mr. President?

- Let me go to Syria and have a little chat with the president over there dear P.M
- Alright then, I’ll be waiting for you so please hurry up.
- Try to think of something while I’m away will ya?
- I will, while watching family guy.
- Oh, would you please record this week’s episode for me so I won’t miss it?
- Never mind, I downloaded all the seasons on eMule, I don’t like watching them on TV, coz sometimes I don’t get some jokes and I have to rewind.
- Even better, see you next week.
- Alright, have a nice trip.
M.H.Z. goes on to present us with exchanges between Maliki and a party head, a general, and then back to the president. They are brilliant and funny as hell.

So has anything changed in Iraq? At the end of this blog entry, written from inside Iraq and very critical of the current administration, M.H.Z. adds:
Best Regards.

Mohammed H. Zaid Al-Saedi
Would Mohammed Al-Saedi, our M.H.Z., have been able to write a blog entry similar to this one, lampooning Saddam Hussein and his top ministers, and then sign with his real name before April 9, 2003?

Democracies are healthy when true freedom of speech allows its citizens to make fun of their elected leaders. M.H.Z.'s blog entry, therefore, gives me hope.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Iraq Punditry at Its Best

Over the last month or so no one in the Iraqi blogosphere has been penning entries with the same frequency and acuity as Iraq Pundit. One of his strengths as a commentator and analyst is his ability to read between the lines of the articles being produced daily by the mainstream press.

In “The Opinion Writers’ Show,” for example, he critiques articles written by Anne Applebaum, David Ignatius, and Tom Friedman. In an op-ed article, Ignatius had used, as Iraq Pundit notes, an anonymous Syrian to bolster his argument that the lull in violence in Iraq was similar to a “draw play” in American football. The Americans would soon discover, Ignatius analogized, that they had been suckered into attacking the quarterback as he flings the football to a waiting halfback with a phalanx of linemen waiting to usher him downfield. Suckered, in short, by the reduction in violence. This anonymous Syrian, Ignatius’s “friend,” agrees with this scenario. Iraq Pundit responds:
I should believe this nebulous Syrian dude? The Sunnis and the Shiites who, according to the MSM hate each other, will unite at last to gang up on the U.S. that Syria hates? Could this be just another of the countless conspiracy theories floating around the Middle East?

Certainly we can all agree with the columnists when they say the Iraqi politicians must get their acts together. But that's all. Because these columnists should stick with the subjects they know.

To me, this is just another reminder that the columnists know very little about Iraq. And the good news out of Iraq is worrisome to them because they have been betting that Iraq is a failure. Even NYT's Tom Friedman admits: "I don’t know. My Iraq crystal ball stopped working a long time ago." No kidding.
In “The Torn Ultimatum,” Iraq Pundit opens his entry:
As Baghdad moves slowly towards normality, Iraqis carefully breathe a sigh of relief. The positive developments have pretty much become undeniable, but civilians are still cautious. And what do the media do?

The journalists are torn. They scramble to change their story from "everything sucks" to "okay, so it's better, but not that much better."
From there he analyzes an article by Thomas Ricks, whose Fiasco will most likely soon be gracing remaindered books tables around the country, in dusty stacks next to the academic treatises from early 1989 discussing the next hundred years of Soviet rule. “Look, nobody's saying Iraq's in fine shape now,” Iraq Pundit concludes. “We all know it will take a long time for it to be even near normal. We're just welcome the positive signs. May I ask, why does the thought of an improving Iraq offend the media so much?”

Along with the other Iraqi bloggers, Iraq Pundit also helps us interpret events from an Iraqi perspective. In “Uncommonly Good,” he writes:
Visitors to the Iraq story often make me laugh. Journalists bring their own interpretations to the story before they observe anything. When Iraqis tell them something, they ignore us. The outsiders then zero in on something and proudly call it a unique observation.

A good example of this is the story of the Bab al Sheik neighbourhood in Baghdad. The reporter acts as though some secret has been uncovered: "Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and Christians live together here with unusual ease."

Any Iraqi describing Baghdad would have said so and added that the spirit of the area is not rare: "It has been battered by bombings around its edges, but the war has been kept from its heart, largely because of its ancient, shared past, bound by trust and generations of intermarriage."

That's the Baghdad we know. We grew up in mixed neighbourhoods, went to mixed schools, and we socialized with our fellow Baghdadis with ease. Good Iraqis are not rare.
In “The War You Have, NYT, Not the War You Want,” Iraq Pundit looks at two articles on the decline in violence in Iraq, one from the New York Times and the other from the Los Angeles Times. From the LA Times article, he quotes: "Without actually saying so, the Bush administration is now trying to move the goal posts, yet again, by arguing that stopping the violence in and of itself constitutes success.” And Iraq Pundit responds:
Don't tell anybody, but Iraqis like me do indeed think that "stopping the violence in and of itself constitutes success." Not total success; we'd certainly like to see political progress as well, and as soon as possible. But protecting and saving innocent Iraqi lives means something, no?
Finally, we would be remiss if didn’t mention Iraq Pundit’s wit. Most of his blog entries show his deft touch. “At the risk of scaring some people," Iraq Pundit smirks as he opens "Afraid of a Slowly Improving Iraq," "the British Observer newspaper reports that students are returning to class in Baghdad."

I urge anyone interested in Iraq and the Iraqi blogosphere to make Iraq Pundit a regular source for new information and a fresh perspective.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Layla Anwar Answers the Eternal Question

"Es ist Zeit für Reich!"
"Wir müssen die Shia ausrotten!"

Updated 11/28/2007

Ever since Truth About Iraqis developed a conscience and shot himself, Iraqi blogger Layla Anwar has been the undisputed champion of the cheerleaders for the Patriotic National Unity Non-Sectarian Mostly Sunni Resistance (PNUNSMSR). Her posts lamenting the passing of her Dearest Leader and assaulting any and all who dare to support her country's liberation and progress set the standard for vitriolic propaganda that few could ever aspire to. On the other hand, her naked aggression is sometimes useful in understanding some of the motivations behind the complexities of Iraq's waning insurgency.

Take, for example, the common debate about the scope and scale of the Insurgency's targeting in Iraq. We can typically agree that the Iraqi Insurgency's goal is to eject the American-led forces from the country, topple the Shia-led elected government, and establish or re-establish themselves as the rulers of Iraq. However, different opinions about the insurgency's tactics abound. I have noticed vigorous reluctance to attribute any of the violence against Iraqis to the PNUNSMSR. Although many innocent Iraqis were being killed daily, it has been fairly common of people who support the "Resistance" to deny that they contribute significantly to attacks against civilians.

Luckily, Layla Anwar's recent post, "Rock It", sheds some light on a basic principle of the PNUNSMSR's tactics as I understand them.

Consider the following passages:
Iraqis are a lousy bunch to spend an evening with. Not because of our common problems. No, this has nothing to do with it. But because most Iraqis and in particular the shias are a bunch of lying m*therf*ck*rs...two faced sons of b*tch*s.

Most of them are sectarian whores who pretend otherwise. It’s called Taqiyah in their jargon i.e the "art of dissimulation."

I am well placed to know. They have exterminated all Sunnis, in the name of their sect, their backward, sh*tty beliefs and in the name of your democracy - so I avoid them and you like the plague...

You both contaminate with your filth. And am a purist, not wanting to be contaminated and I intend to remain that way.
OK, here she simply establishes her sectarianism and superiority complex. Next, she talks about the PNUNSMSR and their aims:
There are no closed chapters in Iraq, as long as it occupied by American and sectarian Shia filth...

We will keep on rockin’ you, you m*th*rf*ck*rs. You and your collaborators.

You don’t believe me ?

Just by coincidence, the 1920 Revolutionary Brigade from the Iraqi Resistance, has started its operation “Rock HARD.” (article here)

And by God we will rock you and your collaborators very hard. Very hard indeed.

Oh yeah, the house will be rockin'...Rockin'so hard. And we shan’t be doing any knockin’ either...

In the meantime, keep at it you American criminals and you sectarian Shia rapists and pedophiles – Your days are counted.

So start the countdown now...You shall be rocked and knocked for sure.
There you have it. To Layla Anwar, the PNUNSMSR can legitimately target all MNF as well as "collaborators". Since she views all Shia as collaborators (and worse), all Shia may be targeted. Ta da!

Finally, she leaves a comment that expresses the "party line" about the targeting of innocents:
- Last and but not least, the Resistance in all of its reports has condemned the attacks on innocent Iraqi civilians whatever their sects. I am yet to see ONE condemnation by secular shias or by shia parties on the ethnic cleansing of sunnis.
So you see? The "Resistance" condemns attacks on innocent civilians. But as Layla makes clear, to be "Shia" means one cannot be "innocent".


Update 11/28/2007
In response to Layla's "yet to see ONE condemnation" comment above, USA Today has this today (h/t Bruno):
"Iraq's top Shiite cleric renewed his call for an end to sectarian violence in the country and for Sunni and Shiite Muslims to unite, according to a Sunni cleric who met him Tuesday in this holy city south of Baghdad. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's plea for peace and unity came as a group of Sunni and Shiite clerics met in Najaf in the latest attempt by clerics from both sects to stem the violence."
Close enough, Layla?





Tuesday, November 20, 2007

History of a New Word in English: Weblog

New words (neologisms) in English are either coined by using elements already in the language or borrowed by taking words or ideas from outside the language.

The word weblog was coined by using two familiar words in English. The word web comes from the Old English word webb, “woven fabric.” This word is related to the Old English word wefan, “weave,” which would later be used in the compound cobweb, formed from the clipped word for “spider” -- atorcoppe -- plus webb. The word log, meaning “written record,” derives from the Ancient Greek word logos, “word, speech, or reason.”

There are five major processes used to create new words in English:
1. compounding -- using two elements to create a new word: book + store > bookstore

2. derivation -- using derivational affixes to form new words: teach + er > teacher

3. conversion / zero derivation -- change from one part of speech to another: book n. > book v., e.g., I booked my flight yesterday.

4. clipping / shortening -- removing parts from the beginning or end of the word: condominium > condo

5. blending -- deleting letters from either one or both of the bases: breakfast + lunch > brunch
Now let’s take a look at how these processes were used to create weblog and the many related terms that followed:

world wide web > web -- clipping / shortening

web + log > weblog -- compounding / blending
The term weblog was coined by Jorn Barger in 1997 to describe his daily “logging the web” on his website, where he provided links and brief comments on what he was reading and “logging.” It probably should not be surprising that Barger was an amateur enthusiast of James Joyce, a writer whose later work was marked by wordplay bordering on nonsense.
weblog > blog -- clipping / shortening
In 1999 Peter Merholz broke the word weblog into two words and used that phrase to head his links to other blogs: we blog. The clipped form, blog, was taken up by others to designate online diaries.
Once the word blog became accepted for online diaries, English speakers used the usual, at-hand linguistic processes to stake out new semantic territories.
blog (noun) > blog (verb) -- conversion / zero derivation

blog > blogger, blogging, bloggable -- derivation

blog + sphere > blogosphere -- compounding, with either native or neoclassical elements

military + blogger > milblogger -- blending
Compounding is the most productive process for making neologisms in English. Here are just a few new words created by using either web or blog:
webcast
website
websearch

blogged-out
blogworthy
art blogger
cat blogger
blogcritic
photoblog
And here are a few fanciful, possible neologisms that I have created using either web or blog:
lunablogger -- one who blogs from or about the moon
hyperblogger -- a dominant, hegemonic blogger
web-weary -- characterized by lassitude from excessive web-searching
multiblogger -- a blogger who maintains more than one blog
urblogger -- the first or original blogger for a sub-genre of blogs;
e.g., Salam Pax was the urblogger of the Iraqi blogosphere.
protoblogger -- also possibly used to denote the first or original blogger
omniblogger -- someone who blogs day and night on all topics
simulbloggers -- bloggers who blog about a topic or event at the same time
Can you guess what these coinages might mean?
webaholic
webnik
antiblogger
fauxblogger
pseudoblogger
blogomatic
retroblogger
neoblogger
kleptoblogger
kryptoblogger
analog blogger
country blogger
dude blogger
webfix
webetronic
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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Treasure of Baghdad: Deny, Deny, Deny!

One cannot help but laugh at Treasure of Baghdad's latest blog entry -- "What's the Difference?" -- where he argues that today's Iraq is the same as Saddam's tyranny. One needs to note that Treasure of Baghdad wrote that entry from Philadelphia, where he is currently attending graduate school. Think about that for a minute. He is sitting and typing his denials of any difference between pre- and post-Saddam Iraq from an apartment in Philadelphia, a situation that would only have been possible before Operation Iraqi Freedom if he had risked his life trying to escape from Saddam's national prison. If that doesn't elicit a derisive chuckle from you, nothing will.

As evidence that nothing has changed in Iraq, Treasure of Baghdad remarks that the universities, which were once run by Saddam's Baath party enforcers and from whose clutches he had to flee on more than one occasion, are now similarly run by the Mahdi militia, citing a single Newsweek article as his source. Do the Mahdi militia force students in all of Iraq's universities to celebrate Shiite festivals, as BT writes? I have serious doubts about that. Anyway, as usual with BT, he fails to acknowldedge the millions of Kurds and Shia Arabs whose lives have hope now that Saddam's regime has been toppled. While BT is quick to accuse other Iraqis of being "sectarian," it seems that, for him, the only Iraqis of real importance are the Sunna he knows.

Like Zeyad and Omar (24 Steps) (both of whom are also currently studying in the United States), Treasure of Baghdad is unable to accept that Iraq has become much safer over the last few months. None of them have commented positively on the Anbar Awakening. Why? In a previous blog entry, I myself wondered why this should be. Part of the answer must lie in the fact that these three Iraqis have invested so much of themselves in the master-narrative of Iraq Chaos-Bush's fault, that they cannot even begin to admit that Petraeus's surge strategy along with the Anbar Awakening and its ripple effects through the rest of the country have made a huge difference in the lives of Iraqis today.

BT's only response so far has been to argue that the decline in violence is only because Shia and Sunni Iraqis now live separately from each other and thus they no longer feel the need to kill each other. This is a very cynical, not to say slanderous, view of the typical behavior of Iraqis, I might add. I thought that BT used to argue that Iraqis never knew the words "Shia" and "Sunni" before the fall of Saddam? I have learned over the last four years to watch out for the wild twisting of emotion and reason is BT's thinking. One day Iraqis are all "brothers" who don't know what sectarianism is and the next day they are so impassioned to kill one another that they must erect fences around their neighborhoods to keep their hands from committing murder. In BT's muddled, conflicted mind, both are equally true, depending upon the time of day, his mood, or the news article he has just read.

And yet I'm sure that in Baghdad there is some grain of truth to the claim that the separation of Sunni and Shia inside Baghdad itself has contributed to the reduction of violence there. But the decline in violence is not just inside Baghdad but across the country and the separation of Shia and Sunna into different neighborhoods in Baghdad is surely just one of a handful of factors. BT discounts the other reasons because they might suggest that Americans and Iraqis are working TOGETHER to help build a safer country. Why are these three amigos so opposed to Iraqis and Americans working together? Hadn't both BT and Omar (24 Steps) worked together with Americans at the Washington Post? Do they only believe in working with Americans who hate Bush? If they oppose Americans and Iraqis working together, then what in God's name are they doing studying at our universities? How long can Zeyad and 24 Steps and Treasure of Baghdad continue to deny the obvious?

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UPDATE: Victor Davis Hanson echoes some of the same observations that we at Iraqi Bloggers Central have made over the last month or so about how subdued the MSM has become now that the violence in Iraq has started to decline and the hope for security there is seen as possible.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Happy Birthday, Marines

2007 Marine Corps Birthday Ball Message



Bonus: Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon

Labels: ,


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sign of Hope

You won't find this photograph on the front page of the New York Times or the Washington Post, even though Michael Yon, the photographer and blogger who snapped this in Baghdad, is offering it free of charge to any news agency to use:

Thanks_and_Praise-vers2.jpg


About this photograph, Michael Yon writes:
A Muslim man had invited the American soldiers from “Chosen” Company 2-12 Infantry to the church, where I videotaped as Muslims and Christians worked and rejoiced at the reopening of St John’s, an occasion all viewed as a sign of hope.

The Iraqis asked me to convey a message of thanks to the American people. ” Thank you, thank you,” the people were saying. One man said, “Thank you for peace.” Another man, a Muslim, said “All the people, all the people in Iraq, Muslim and Christian, is brother.” The men and women were holding bells, and for the first time in memory freedom rang over the ravaged land between two rivers.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Un-Grim Non-Milestone

UPDATED.

News organizations have to fill a lot of space and time and one of the easiest articles or pieces for them to produce is to have someone look at a couple websites that collect data and then write up a summary. When the number of fatalities in Iraq began to increase this year, news organizations like the Washington Post started to reserve every first of the month for a tally of the dead.

WaPo, May 1, 2007: "April Toll Is Highest Of '07 for U.S. Troops"

WaPo today, November 1, 2007. No mention of the dramatically low figures for both U.S. and Iraqi fatalities during the month of October. Instead, the Iraq-related headlines are about Rumsfeld's memos and State Dept. embassy assignments.

As many of you have recognized, the MSM uses a playbook in which a dramatic increase in Iraqi and US deaths is "newsworthy" but a dramatic decrease is not.

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The most intriguing response to the pacification of Anbar and the sharp decrease in both Iraqi and US deaths has been that of the Iraqi blogosphere. Zeyad, BT, and Omar (24 Steps), for example, have gone more or less silent. It almost seems like they identified so much with their country in the midst of the death and carnage wrought by the insurgents and foreign jihadis that they find it very difficult to acknowledge that their country may now be changing for the better. One would think these declining figures would be good news to them, right? Listen, I understand if they're a bit wary of these numbers. To be sure, while AQI has been beaten badly in Iraq, the fringes of Muqtada's Madhi militia could still create a lot of death, as they did back in 2004. But I think several of the Iraqi bloggers in the States don't want to talk about the improvements in Iraq primarily because others may then accuse them of being America's "puppets" or part of a "Bushco psy-ops" operation. It would take real courage for them to acknowledge the facts on the ground.

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I'm searching around for any news organizations that have written about the October statistics for Iraq. So far I've found:

Washington Post: nothing
UPDATE (November 2, 2007): Although we had to wait a day for the WaPo article, it turned out to be a reasonable interpretation of the numbers and gathered a balanced collection of responses. It was, however, according to another blogger, pushed back to around page 14 in the paper edition. November 2, 2007: "In Iraq, a Lull or Hopeful Trend?"
New York Times: nothing
UPDATE (November 6, 2007): I had underestimated the cunning of the NYTimes. They were silent on November 1 simply because they were waiting for a few more US military deaths in order to announce their latest GRIM MILESTONE:

2007 Deadliest Year for U.S. Troops in Iraq.

This allowed Damien Cave to push the decline in military deaths for October down a few paragraphs:

The deaths come only a few days after the military announced a steep drop in the rate of American deaths this year. In October, 38 American service members died in Iraq, the third lowest monthly tally since 2003, according to Iraq Casualty Count, a web site that tracks military deaths. November’s total, if the current pace continues, would be higher but still far below the war’s average of 69 American military deaths per month.

Despite the decline, American commanders acknowledged that 2007 will be far deadlier than the second worst year, 2004, when 849 Americans died, many of them in major battles for control of insurgent strongholds like Falluja.


History shows that 1944-5 were also the deadliest years of WWII, but don't expect a reporter like Damien Cave to use historical context when a chance to use American deaths to attack the Bush administration is at hand.

I'm now noticing that all the other MSM websites that were silent on November 1 are now following the NYTimes grim milestone.
Boston Globe: nothing

CNN: nothing

ABC News: nothing

CBS News: nothing

MSNBC: nothing

Reuters: Iraq civilian, U.S. military tolls at new low in Oct

Los Angeles Times: "Iraqi civilian deaths plunge"

BBC: "Deaths in Iraq 'continue to fall'"

If anyone finds any other articles, link them on the comments page. Thanks.

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Here are the statistics for US fatalities and wounded over the last seven months (icasualites.org):

117 -- 651 (April)
131 -- 655 (May)
108 -- 749 (June)
87 -- 614 (July)
88 -- 563 (August
69 -- 358 (September)
41 -- 47 (October)

And here are the Iraqi Civilian/Police/Military fatalities for the last nine months:

3,014 (Feb.)
2,977 (March)
1,821 (April)
1,980 (May)
1,345 (June)
1,690 (July)
1,674 (August)
848 (September)
676 (October)

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