Saturday, March 29, 2008

Operation Fix Muqty II

UPDATE 2! The categories I've assigned to bloggers don't really mean anything anymore. With the presumption that Maliki and Ja'ish Al-Mahdi are going to make nice afterall, bloggers in the NPOV and "It's About Time" categories now say "it was just a political fight among militias" or "the whole thing pisses me off". But wait! This just in at The Long War Journal:
Maliki: "Security operations in Basra will continue"
"One day after Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army, called for his fighters to abandon combat, the fighting in Basrah has come to a near-halt and the Iraqi security forces are patrolling the streets. While Sadr spokesman said the Iraqi government agreed to Sadr's terms for the ceasefire, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has said the security forces will continue operations in Basrah in the south. Meanwhile, the Mahdi Army took heavy casualties in Basrah, Nasiriyah, Babil, and Baghdad over the weekend, despite Sadr's call for the end of fighting."
I'll note with satisfaction that this was an outcome I suggested in the comments of this post.

UPDATES! (Too many to mention)
As with the first Operation Fix Muqty round-up, I'm attempting to group Iraqi bloggers by their "take" on the GoI's battle with JAM. An important backdrop is PM Maliki saying that the Mahdi Army is worse than AQ, and Ayatollah Maliki issuing a fatwa against the PM.

Zappy posts on his hometown. Basra.
Iraqi Mojo While Mojo cannot be described as neutral himself on Sadr, just before the widespread fighting broke out in Basra, he posted on the WSJ overview of Sadr's "rise and fall" in political influence.
Baghdad Observer I guess it's not easy for reporters in a war zone. Leila is also covering the uncivil wranglings a the parliament.
Eye Raki Reposting it because its good.
Layla Anwar I'm putting Layla here for her post fisking Sadr's interview with Al-Jazeerah (see Raed Jarrar's reference to it below). It's clear that she does not bear any more love for Sadr than she bears for, say, me. But she does not endorse the Iraqi government either. So her limited subject matter and mutual hatred of the parties involved (to my great surprise) have enabled her to produce a really interesting, informative post that is neutral from the perspective of the issue at hand (although not neutral toward Sadr). I fully expect that her next post will put her in the same category with Hammorabi, but I don't want to decisively prejudge it.

It's about time
Behind the Bloodshed in Basra
I would have put ITM the NPOV were it not for a paragraph in Mohammed's latest article
Talisman Gate thrashes at the media trying (as he sees it) to paint Opertation Fix Muqty as a disaster. He also answers those who say he doesn't know what he's talking about:
“Nibras, get off your high horse, who says that you know any better?”I don’t, but I happen to be very knowledgeable about the Sadrist movement, having started to study it in 1999, and I can tell you that media accounts of its current strength are hugely exaggerated. Maliki knows this too and that’s why he’s chosen this battle to fight since it is one that he can win. The Mahdi Army in Basra is only an army in the sense that ‘soldiers’ and ‘cappos’ are rankings in the Cosa Nostra.
He posts again declaring that the NYT doesn't know what their talking about and that he sees a hopeful trend in the operation.
Finally, he thrashes the reporting of the NYT & AP (James Glanz especially) as he did in the post I linked to in Fix Muqty I. He depicts their coverage as always ignorant and either merely anti-American at best and pro-Sadr at worst.
But then Glanz casually drops a cultural aside that is painfully ignorant of Iraq; he devotes half a paragraph to marvel at the fact that one Iraqi politician he’s familiar with drinks Johnny Walker Red Label...Marveling that an Iraqi male is a bit of a boozer is like discovering that rednecks go gaga over NASCAR. Iraqis are the Irish, or the Russians, of the Middle East; they’re the stereotypical alcoholics of the region. Alcohol consumption is not a vice imported by Westernized Iraqi politicians returning from exile. Only a novice would make such a silly and mistaken cultural observation.
On the other hand, he recommends this NYT article by Sabrina Tavernise and Solomon Moore as exemplary of the best coverage.
NIW continues here daily coverage:
Fireworks in the Green Zone
Whooooooooooosh Boooooooooom
Has some ironic fun
Today she posts on the "Truce":
Wow, I have never seen such happy faces since the Iraqi team won the Asia cup back in July...There is a lot of misconception that Sadr offered this truce because he was being hammered. UNTRUE. This is just a ploy. A card he is playing so everyone can say “Aaaaaah what a hero, he really does care”. What utter bullshit. This guy does not have an inkling of a grain of care in his system. He doesn’t give a damn shit about the Iraqi people. Not a single government person nor any leader care about the Iraqis. “SAYDER” wants everyone to see him as a hero. As a compassionate leader. That is the real reason behind his so called truce....Others share my opinion, that this hasn’t achieved anything but havoc and that Maliki turned out to be a great wuss. Again nothing new.

Anti-Federalists vs Federalists
Continuing to strike out reclusive positions on the conflict, Raed Jarrar is refining his take on the Mahdi Army crackdown: Sadr and JAM are anti-federalists, anti foreign intervention, and (get this!) anti-sectarian politics. Raed claims this is the position Sadr is taking on Al-Jazeera. Assuming Raed's interpretation of Sadr's interview is accurate, I can't claim to know enough about the intricacies of Iraqi coalition politics to say with certainty who Sadr is trying to appeal to; but I would guess 1) he's trolling for allies among Sunni Arabs, or 2) realizes the extent to which he has lost political influence due to his name becoming the brand for Shi'a extremist sectarianism, or 3) both (see the link to Iraqi Mojo above). In an impressive moment of magnificent delusion, Raed seems to be claiming that this fight was started because of a quote he gave to PBS. He has a chuckle over the Iraqi government supposedly extending the ceasefire (although it appears to me that that extended deadline was for people who had heavy and intermediate weapons that they had procured to sell to militias). It hardly matters if, as Raed reports, no one is turning any weapons in (I doubt they really thought they would).

This whole thing just pisses me off
MHZ doesn't like it that the Mahdi were given any sort of period to lay down their arms, the government is weak, Al-Qaeda is laying low, and dammit things were just quieting down in Baghdad!
Shaggy's posts are entitled Diarrhea, I Can Smell Poo, and A Painfully Boring Curfew:
This curfew thing is killing me. I'm so bleeding bored. It's as though I'm dragging a heavy black cloud around the house. I still don't have much of an appetite because of the fit of diarrhea I had a couple days ago. Last night, I realised that the diarrhea was caused by eating too many of the berries my mum picked from the garden. Those berries are great laxatives.

Territorial fight among Shi'a gangs
reviews the feud between Hakim and Sadr and why there is so much increasingly diverging opinion among Iraqis. In his comments Neurotic Iraqi Wife (NIW) said:
KK, I was watching the news, and yes you r right. On one channel, sharqiya, they showed footage of Iraqi army giving their weapons to mahdi offices. Then on Iraqiya they say mahdi militia giving up their weapons to the army. I sat there confused like hell!!!As I said in my own post, I dont know why the hell people are pissed off this is happening??? This should have happened a long time ago. Now I dunno what to believe when they talk abt casualties, are they really innocent Iraqis or are they muqtada thugs???
Abbas also sees similarities between current events and the US/UK's support of the Shah in 1953. I think Abbas is beginning to sound like Hammorabi.
Last-of-the-Iraqis Dr. Mohammed continues to update this post each day. Scroll down to see the latest day.

More News on Operation Fix Muqty

ThreatsWatch: DailyBriefings: March 31, 2007
Washington Post Shiite Cleric Sadr Offers Conditions for Cease-Fire
U.S., British Widen Role in Iraqi Government's Offensive in Basra
The Long War Journal Sadr orders followers to end fighting
In Pictures: Iranian munitions seized in Iraq
Mahdi Army taking significant casualties in Baghdad, South
Agencie France Presse (via Pat Dollard) Al Sadr’s Fighters Completely Disappear
NPR Rebel Cleric Urges Followers to Drop Arms
NYT In This Shiite Battle, a Marked Shift From the Past
Shiite Militias Cling to Swaths of Basra and Stage Raids
Michael Yon interviewed by Glenn Reynolds:
The Shia down there will tell you this is not about, this doesn’t have anything to do with religion whatsoever. It’s all about power, its all about money, it’s all about influence...These are serious setbacks with the Shia militias, but its not the end of the world, its not civil war thats for sure. That ended last year. The civil war ended, especially, when we started beating down al-Qaeda.

While this has nothing to do with Muqty and only cursorily to do with Iraq, here is some Monday Morning TV for those who missed Captain Kangaroo:
Puppet Show from Hamas TV: Child Stabs President Bush to Death and Turns the White House into a Mosque

Small Wars Journal: The Basra Gambit
Leila Fadel: There is no doubt now who pulls Sadr's strings
"The backdrop to Sadr's dramatic statement was a secret trip Friday by Iraqi lawmakers to Qom, Iran's holy city and headquarters for the Iranian clergy who run the country. There the Iraqi lawmakers held talks with Brig. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Qods (Jerusalem) brigades of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and signed an agreement with Sadr, which formed the basis of his statement Sunday, members of parliament said."
IBD: Winning The Iran-In-Iraq War

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Anthony Cordesman: "Warning: This could lead to dancing"

Iraqi Government Benchmark XXXIII:
"Reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq and eliminating militia control of local security."
(h/t RhusLancia)

Look I don't know how this current operation will end, but I do know that if you want to get from "Iraqracy" to democracy then JAM (as it is currently constructed) can't go along for the trip. They'll always be wanting to take side trips to Irancracy and Hezbollahland. The Iraqi government cleaning house against JAM is a good thing, Anthony. Learn to enjoy it.

I further recommend Mohammed Fadhil's article "Behind the Bloodshed in Basra". He makes essentially the same points as Cordesman, so why don't I come away feeling like rubbing out Sadr's thugs is a disaster for Iraq?

The Value of Cordesman's Analysis

What annoys me about Anthony Cordesman's analysis, "Current Iraq fighting not good guys vs bad"? I've heard it before. When the US President and Congress decided to depose Saddam, the foot-draggers said, "But there are a lot of other despots in the Middle East that we aren't deposing!" So what? Give us time. What despot can we unify to bring down if we can 't unify about Saddam?

Then, when it was clear early last fall that the Bush/Petraeus Surge had worked against AQ in Iraq and brought the insurgents in from the cold, the foot-draggers said, "Yeah, but the Shi'a militias are overrunning Baghdad and Southern Iraq. The sectarian government will never do anything about those! There is no national army! It's just a collection of militias!" Well, we'll see about that, but how can Sunni-Shi'a sectarianism end when Al-Qaeda is actively seeking to drive them apart with random murder and bombs against mosques and worshippers?

BUT, suppose the national army DOES try to scrape away the bottom of the barrel of the Shi'a theofascist militias? Oh, no! In walks Anthony Cordesman...."Don't start thinking this is a good thing. That would be a mistake. This is just one gang, "The government", knocking out a rival, "the theocratic, Iran-backed, Ja'ish Al-Mahdi". That sounds like good news to me. Do you know what the Crips and Bloods say about cops? "They're just the biggest gang in town". It's an appealing argument if it is one you want to hear, but its also true that I'd rather have cops than gangs. Cordesman is making the "Crypts argument" in Iraq.

The value of Cordesman's analysis is solely that it allows Frank James, and Fred Kaplan, and Andrew Sullivan to shake their hands and squeal "Eek! It's too complex! It's too complex! We're in the middle of a complex situation! Let's move all the troops to Kuwait and see if things get simplier in Iraq!"

10 Steps to Disaster

Let's map Cordesman's argument:

1) He says its an oversimplification to call Sadr's vicious hand-to-mouth criminals cum gangland kings "bad guys" and to call the forces of the freely elected government of Iraq "the legitimate side". They're the freely elected government...that's the definition of "legitimate side".

2) He graciously admits that "many elements" of the Ja'sh Al-Madhi are behind "sectarian cleansing", that Sadr's movement "in general" is hostile to the US (e.g. conducting attacks on US personnel), and "is seeking to enhance Muqtada al-Sadr's political power" (why that almost sounds like legitimate politics if only it didn't include graft, intimidation, and murder), that "the extreme rogue elements" in the movement have continued mayhem during Sadr's declared ceasefire. The kicker is this: "some [extreme rogue elements] have ties to Iran". So only ROGUE elements have ties to Iran? Where is the Madhi Army's fearless leader, Muqtada Al-Sadr, right now? Isn't he presumed to be in Iran?

3) He says "No one should romanticize the Sadr movement, understate the risks it presents, or ignore the actions of the extreme elements of the JAM." This is supposed to get us all nodding with him in agreement when he kicks in his next point (see 4).

4) "But no one should romanticize Maliki, Al Dawa, or the Hakim faction/ISCI. The current fighting is as much a power struggle for control of the south, and the Shi'ite parts of Baghdad and the rest of the country, as an effort to establish central government authority and legitimate rule."
Oh really?? Even if every thing Cordesman is about assert is true, would that make a success by forces of the freely elected government to crack down on the JAM's criminal, foreign insurgent rackets in Basra and beyond, LESS of a positive strike for central government authority and legitimate rule in Iraq??

Would leaving southern Iraq to JAM be that positive strike? Cordesman doesn't say. He's only interested in warning people not to get "too happy" about a self-evidently positive action. Too much happiness is morally corrupting. It could lead to dancing.

5) Next Cordeman argues that the central government's southern Shi'a leadership could not retain their seats in an open election. He casually glosses over the question of whether Sadr's people could be any more successful in an election without intimidation and cheating. But who cares? If JAM is involved, there will be intimidation and cheating. Of that, there is no doubt.

He asserts that JAM has "a broad base of support in Baghdad". The same was true for Lucky Luciano in New York circa 1932. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be glad to see him suffer or that it is an "oversimplification" to portray his story as "bad guy" Luciano and "good guy" US prosecutors.

6) This paragraph is a gem:

"One of the key uncertainties that emerged during visits to the south was over how elections would shape up when there were no real political parties operating with local leaders, and in a framework of past national elections that only allowed Iraqis to vote for entire lists (most with many totally unfamiliar names) for the main parties and that made no allowance for the direct election of members of the COR that represented a given area or district. Optimists hope for a populist upswell; realists foresee an uncertain mess. "

A "mess" in what way? What horrible things will happen IF the current system that everyone agrees is bad (oops! It it alright to frame this as "good-bad"?) becomes irrelevant in the upcoming elections?

7) Next Cordesman implies that whoever wins in Basra, the government or JAM, Iran will take control. Essentially, he is pandering to the lowest rung of Sunni conspiracy mongering.

8) After all this, you will be surprised to learn that CORDESMAN THINKS THE IRAQI GOVERNMENT IS DOING THE RIGHT THING in busting the Madhi Army in Basra:

This does not mean that the central government should not reassert control of Basra. It is not peaceful, it is a significant prize as a port and the key to Iraq's oil exports, and gang rule is no substitute for legitimate government.

But wait a minute, I sense some happiness out there. Cordesman to the rescue:

But it is far from clear that what is happening is now directed at serving the nation's interest versus that of ISCI and Al Dawa in the power struggle to come. It is equally far from clear that the transfer of security responsibility to Iraqi forces in the south is not being used by Maliki, Al Dawa, and ISCI to cement control over the Shi'ite regions at Sadr's expense and at the expense of any potential local political leaders and movements.

Well, maybe this might be an issue in the future, but Sadr's movement has not exactly been open-minded about other "potential political leaders and movements". What possible logic is there in lumping these two together as co-victims of ISCI oppression?? But Cordesman doesn't want to waste any time denouncing Maliki for blocking legitimate political organization even before that organizing has had a chance to begin!

9) Now watch Cordesman conspiratorially connect the dots:

Certainly, the fact that these efforts come after ISCI's removal of its objections to the Provincial Powers Act may not be entirely coincidental.

...OR these efforts MIGHT just as well as have come because JAM's strangle-hold on in Shi'a communities would make a joke (or travesty) of the Provincial Powers Act.

10) Finally, Cordesman asks himself and answers, "Is the end result going to be good or bad? It is very difficult to tell." Actually it seems to be very easy to tell, since Cordesman follows this up with series of doomful scenarios. Then he ends his analysis with a sneer:

It seems far more likely that even the best case outcome is going be one that favors Iraqracy over democracy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Operation "Fix Muqty"

At last, we are witnessing the most serious attempt to break the back of the Mahdi Army (JAM) since August 2004 when Sistani pulled their fat out of the fire and Jeffrey shut down this blog in protest.

Talisman Gate is forwarding a report that Muqty has "cried uncle".

Just The Facts Roundup
Eye Raki has returned to blogging to report on the State of the Fight in places outside of Baghdad and Basra: in Najaf and Kut. If you're looking for a standard in Neutral Point of View, this is it.

Framing the Conflict

So far, I've identified 4 separate takes on the decision by the Iraqi government to finally bust the JAM gangs. I'll update this round-up as the bloggers post on it.

It's About Time
This seems like the most obvious position of any secular-minded Iraqi blogger. The hyper-religious, Hezbollah-backing, Shi'a Hammorabi would disagree with it, of that I have no doubt. But, I'm surprised at the bloggers who have managed to spin very this hopeful sign as something bad...including bloggers who have long presented Sadr and JAM as exemplary of all that's gone wrong in Iraq over the last five years. This advocates of this position are:
IraqTheModel: Mohammed posts at PajamasMedia:
If Sadr is to be cut down to size before the provincial election law can be passed, presumably his rivals would be able to compete in a relatively more civil way.
NIW: In my opinion, I am extremely glad this is happening. As in, this cleansing process. This should have happened way back in 2003. But its never too late. About time Maliki took the step. Seriously, although I dislike the guy, but this takes balls to do. And apparently he finally is proving to have some.
UPDATE! New post from NIW
I dunno, I have been here almost three years, but, this feels very different. And I hate to say it out loud but I have a very very bad feeling this time around. I dunno what it is, but its nagging the hell outta me...Im extremely surprised though that my Iraqi coworkers have actually been coming to work in the past few days, with all the chaos outside....Every single one of them is saying that this should have happened long time ago. A few also mentioned the fact that they distrust Maliki and his government and this gutsy move is definitely a ploy. I dunno, Im not in the Baghdad streets, so I cant really tell whats going on. Hell I don’t even think the Baghdadi’s themselves know whats going on here. But again, I will re-iterate the fact that Hakeem, Muti, Qaeda and all the other so called militia’s should fight it out, and I pray to god they all get burnt down and sent to hell!!!
Talisman Gate: Here’s a prediction: the Iraqi Army’s military operation in Basra will be a spectacular win against disorder and Iranian influence.

Actually, I remember assuring 24StepsToLiberty that this would happen shortly after the Al-Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency had been beaten. Now it's happening and...well, he's not in this category, is he?

Sadr: Iraq's Gandhi
This is the singular position of Raed Jarrar. He has been heralding Sadr's "civil disobedience" campaign. If you don't follow Raed Jarrar (and why should you?) he has had a surprisingly soft spot for Iran since he started blogging. He has never suggested that the Iraqi government is a stalking horse for "the turbans" in Iran as Riverbend and Zeyad and 24StepsToLiberty have. He has declared Iran to be the best chance for democracy in the Middle East (yes, he has). Basically, he's the Palestinian Juan Cole, consistently ignoring that Sadr is a sold-out agent of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG). Besides that, Raed is supports JAM the way Rush Limbaugh supports Sen. Hillary Clinton. He's for anyone whose interests lead to more chaos.

This proves the surge has failed
Naturally, this totally nonsequitor position was spearheaded by 24Steps to Liberty. His post does point out something quite relevant that Raed left out when he was trumpeting how everyone in Baghdad was staying home out of solidarity to JAM:

Sadr announced “civil” disobedience in Baghdad and Basra today. In Baghdad, Mehdi army members controlled the streets in western Baghdad and blocked the roads, they threatened to arrest anyone goes to school, work or the market. They paralyzed the western side of Baghdad today.

It Doesn't Matter
This is similar to the "Surge Has Failed" position, except that it is a little more intelligent. Both positions are founded on the theorem "It it happened in Iraq, then it is bad news". But rather than make an illogical leap, it settles for unarguable cynicism. It declares that the battle to crush JAM is just a Badr Brigade-Sadrist fight, a war between two scorpions, and that whoever wins Iraqis will lose. Who ought to win instead? That is a naive question. This position is best summed up by the default title of Abbas's last post: Iraq Is F**ked Up. Zeyad goes a little farther, implying that it is Maliki and not Sadr who is the real agent of Iran and the Sadrites are...well, he doesn't get into that. would be a strange agent of Iran that demonizes Iranian influence to justify an attack on JAM, but go ahead and hammer that peg until it fits securely in the hole, Zeyad.

Last Of the Iraqis gives a very good blow-by-blow of the harrowing events in Baghdad. He doesn't really give a POV, but he paints this as a conflict between the Badr Brigade and JAM rather than between the Iraqi government and army and JAM. So I'm lumping him in with Abbas and Zeyad because I don't want to force him to share a room with 24StepsToLiberty.

Hammorabi has finally come out on the "It Doesn't Matter" side in a post with the typically dispassionate title "Iraq is burning under the America-British occupation!":
"This war for the last few days is in fact between warlords from different factions including the puppets of America and the puppets of Iran. Therefore it is a war between Iran and America. The losers are always the ordinary Iraqi people who have nothing to do with it but the warlords are forcing them into it as usual in any civil war."
I'm actually really suprised by this. I expected him to come out firmly backing the Madhi Army. But note the difference in his perception of the alliances in this fight from Zeyad's.

BlogIraqi announced that this is The Right Thing Done for the Wrong Reason. Rather than give Maliki an ounce of credit for doing what BI has been denouncing him for not doing, he has chosen to engage in some conspiracy wrangling: This is Hakim's war to split up Iraq and give himself control of the Souther Federation. If you can tick off the various Cheney-Halliburton Rube Goldberg schemes, then you'll have no problem understanding this one. It seems that BlogIraqi has been eading Anthony Cordesman whose analysis I will fisk later.

Background Perspective

Here are so tidbits mentioned in the comments at Cartharsis that are probably useful to know when following this new stage in Iraq's progress:

Abbas Hawazin said...
Sistani has no clout over the Sadrists, who often mock him as the "Sleeping Hawza". the rivalry between the Sadr and Sistani is long and deep.

Mayssam said...
You do remember that Sunni forces hailed Muqtada Al-Sadr as a national hero and true patriot for a very long time. I still remember how enthousiastic were my Sunni friends about him , they wouldn't let me say a word of criticism . Once Salah Almutlak [former Baathist Sunni Arab and leader of theAl-Hiwar Front list] said that "Al-Sadr is a true Iraqi and a true Arab hero, the others are Persians" .

Other News On Operation "Fix Mutqy"

Threats Watch: Iran, Not al-Sadr, Leading Shi'a Attacks In Iraq (h/t Mudville Gazette)
The Long War Journal: Iraqi security forces battle the Mahdi Army
BBC: Fresh clashes grip southern Iraq
US supports operation with air strikes
NPR: Clashes with Militants Test Iraqi Security Forces
Baghdad Neighborhood Reverts to Militant Stance

NYT James (Quagmire!) Glanz: Iraqi Crackdown on Shiite Forces Sets Off Fighting
Heavy Fighting in Iraq Continues Amid Crackdown
Iraqi Army’s Assault on Militias in Basra Stalls
Talisman Gate's Nibras aims for knees re: the NYT's and AP's reporting on the fight:
The NYTimes and the Associated Press (God their work stinks!) will report the Basra story in whatever biased manner that they see fit irrespective of fact. We’re dealing with neurotic journalists—“I’m unloved and **insert self-esteem issue here**, and it’s all Bush’s fault”—who are shamelessly promoting their narrow political agendas and who’re just winging the reporting by relying on unreliable sources. They’ll get away with it because the newsrooms they answer to are also populated with more of the same neuroses; they will never admit that their hasty forecasts about Iraq were wrong.

LT Nixon: Each day LT Nixon presents The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on news from Iraq. The Basra operation news usually ends up in the Bad to Ugly column

Monday, March 24, 2008

Layla Anwar, on the Iraqi casualties in Iraq

Saddam geholfen Irak überleben. Irak ist nichts ohne Saddam!

A little while ago, Layla Anwar found her hatred too much to contain on just two blogs (1, 2) so she started a new one (3).

In the comments to the post announcing it (
Yet another Blog), I had an interesting exchange with her regarding how she felt about the number of Iraqi civilian casualties. She disabled commenting shortly after (thanks, bRABIDie ) and I thought this was lost to history, having forgotten to properly screen-cap it for posterity. However, she recently re-enabled comments and the thread is back for all to see.

Here is the relevant exchange:

(we pick up right after I ask her if she admires Che Guevara for being violent)

(* I was in the Marine Corps Reserves in the '90s, never went to Iraq.)

you think I've taken her out of context or something, no I haven't, but go look for yourself while you can.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Iraq Operation Five Year Roundup


Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (originally the blogger, "G") is producing a series of video articles for the Guardian, "Baghdad: City of Walls" (h/t Abbas who refers to Ghaith as "formerly pro-war" -- is this true? I haven't read anything by him saying he regrets the war.)

Here's a link to all his recent articles (h/t to BlogIraqi who took the opportunity to moronically suggest that Saddam's mass graves were actually victims of Shi'a militias. He is such an asswipe.)

UPDATE! Neurotic Iraqi Wife: Five years ago she was anti-Saddam and anti-war. What can I say but quote Orwell on pacifism in the face of evil in WWII: "Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other." I agree with one thing although I think she meant it differently: " Saddam was evil, But I never imagined that there were people as evil as he was. "
Caesar of Pentra: Cheney's in town. But Caesar doesn't know and he doesn't care. He's just trying to get home.
Last of the Iraqis: Talks about his family's emotions when Saddam was deposed by the Americans. This post should have been entitled "Stockholm Syndrome".
UPDATE! Dr. Mohammed has responsed to this in the comments.
UPDATE! New post with photographs on the celebrations of the Prophet's birthday Adhamiya and the demonstrations (the following day) for the five-year anniversay:
" we reached closer to them I noticed that a large gathering of people were carrying the Pictures of Saddam and they were dancing on old patriotic songs and they were shouting the old traditional line "we sacrifice our souls and blood for you Saddam" and later they shouted "Long live Satar Abu-Risha"!!!…there were so many people and they continued like that for about an hour, I don't know why they are shouting in his name? He hadn't done anything good especially to Adhamiya? Anyway my personal view to this is something good because it's a sign of democracy and freedom…if they like him let them sing and shout for him as long as they are not harming anyone…anyone can like anyone he wants…that's democracy as I think."
Iraqi Mojo: He doesn't miss Saddam, he wasn't sorry when they pulled down his statue or when they pulled him from his spidey-hole. "Saddam is gone forever, and today Iraqis have other problems to contend with. The Iraqi government must work harder now to reconcile with the Sunni Arabs, so that peace will at long last come to Iraq."
IraqPundit: Talks about opinion polls regarding how Iraqis think about their lives right now UPDATE! Michael Totten posts on them too.
UPDATE! New IraqPundit post: Five Years On: Who's Learned What?
Shaggy: Things are getting better....and he hasn't even finished his whiskey.
Gilgamesh (Into The Sun): Wants to know what is being done with Iraq's oil revenue.
Raed Jarrar: The first post from Raed in years worth referring anyone to. It's Raed Classic. Not the new bogus, pompous Raed we've had since he first began trying to "pass" to gain entry into the US. Maybe he's drinking again.
Treasure of Baghdad: Typical BT. One day the Iraqis came home and discovered that while they were out the Americans came over and messed everything up.
UPDATE! BlogIraq: First part is just like Treasure of Baghdad. His five conclusions at then end of the post, however, make a whole lot of sense. Point 5 puts beautifully something I've been saying for five years to people who claim the foreign invasion was as bad or worse than Saddam's rule: "5. Tyrannies do not always end. Occupations do."
UPDATE! Marshmallow26: Descriptions of key dates relating to the Iraqi liberation.
UPDATE! Layla Anwar: Iraq with Saddam, good. Iraq without Saddam, bad.
UPDATE! Salam Adil: Round-up of blog posts and articles on the five-year anniversary to assert the same thing as Layla Anwar.
Zappy: poetry
Saminkie: Salvador Dali diagnosed with a personality disorder (nothing about the five year war but it's great to see an Iraqi blogger post on something "normal").
Chickita: Declares the end of her blogging. We'll see if it sticks.

UPDATE! Reuters' photographic retrospective on the last five years in Iraq asks their politically liberal pro-Iraq war contributors "Why Did We Get It Wrong?" As typical, only Christopher Hitchens gets close to the truth of it.
UPDATE! Noreen Malone posts on Iraqi Bloggers' posting about the fifth anniversary. She doesn't credit this post as one of her sources, but she talks about Blackfive as well so I think it is.

NPR reports on Iraq:
Gen. Petraeus Defines Victory in Iraq
Mosul and the Fight for Iraq ("al-Qaeda cannot win in Iraq without Baghdad but it cannot survive without Mosul")
U.S. Bridging Gaps Between Baghdad, Provinces
U.S. Pres. Candidates to Mark Iraq War Anniversary
Gen. Petraeus Addresses his 'Legacy'
U.S. Forces Seek to Cement Gains in Iraq

Interview with Charles Sennott, "Embedded in the Surge"

Interview with Aram Roston about his book on Chalabi 'The Man Who Pushed America to War'
Even though Roston paints everything ....and I mean everything...with a black brush, this is a pretty good interview. Roston doesn't make up anything and I feel like (by reading between the lines) I learned something about Chalabi that I didn't know: Chalabi was cut off from CIA support in the 1990s because he presumed that they were giving him all that money to *actually* attempt to overthrow Saddam rather than just scare the hell out of Europe and the Gulf states. So the CIA started paying Allawi instead.

NYT Baghdad Bureau correspondents remenisce about Iraq five years on:
Dexter Filkins
Marc Santora
Max Becherer
Stephen Farrell
Sabrina Tavernise
Tim McLaughlin (it was HIS flag draped over the face of Saddam's statue)
James Glainz
John F. Burns
James Hill
Ashley Gilbertson
Robert Worth
Michael Kamber

Ian Fisher

Also, some man-on-the-street Q&As.

Washington Post: National Guard Officer, Paul Rieckhoff , discusses coming home from Iraq in 2004 and discovering Janet Jackson's exposed breast was the biggest news.
Blackfive: How Shall It End? UPDATE! and 5 years on, Iraq as an ally?
PajamasMedia: In Focus: Iraq, Five Years Later

MSNBC's World Blog
Jim Maceda (very interesting)
Petra Cahill

Kat of The Middle Ground posts at Argghhh!:
Iraq Economy: Light At the End of the Tunnel Part I
Part II
Part III

Marie Cocco (RealClear Politics)
Paul McLeary (On The Ground: the Grunts and the Press)
Pat Dollard: We Made Mistakes In Iraq, But War Was Just?

Bush Says Iraq War Was Worth It

How do I see it? It had to be done so why wring your hands that it went worse than every one planned (except for the money spent, it went a whole lot better than the critics predicted). Afghanistan would have been the Vietnam-style defeat that the anti-war leafleteers predicted and hoped for if we had stacked all our chips on that number. Yeah, Iraqis turned out not to be as secular or forward-thinking as everyone (including the Iraqi ruling class) believed them to be. Well, that only shows how bad off the rest of the M.E. is and how badly a turn-around was required. Saddam didn't have working WMD stockpiles? Well, now we know that, and we know he never will. It's taken longer and cost more than we thought? Money well spent...9-11 showed how expensive were the stew-post from which Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Muqtada Al-Sadr thickened into heroes in the M.E. 4000 US lives and 150,000 Iraqis? That can't be waved away, but it must be put against the lives that would have been lost without hope if Saddam & Sons were left to rule Iraq for the next 40 years or so. So those numbers have to be admitted head on with the knowledge that they include many Iraqis and Americans whom humanity owes an unredeemable debt and many Iraqis that humanity is better off without (including Saddam & Sons).


from RhusLancia:

It's three A.M. March 19th, 2003 and the kids are safely asleep. But there's a phone in RhusLancia's house and it's ringing.

RhusLancia: hello?

Voice: Yo, R. L.! It's Dubya!

RhusLancia: why are you calling me, Mr. President?

Voice: Listen! I gots all the troops on the border, ready to go. I need your advice, you see. It's all up to you. You say, we do. Just give us the word and we'll go get that sumbitch. Well, whadaya...

munch munch munch

Voice: Hey, what's that noise?

RhusLancia: I'm chewing my arm off so I don't have to answer your question!!


Reason #632 for why I'm not into politics is that I could not make a decision like that.

As for today, I like how Jules Crittenden put it:
Things rarely happen as expected. Once you start, you have to finish. You don't get to be the same again. There is nothing much good about any of it, but winning is better than losing. And there is no such thing as a safe place to which you can withdraw.
For us and the Iraqis, I hope this thing's wrapped up soon, and successfully!


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Why Didn't Saddam Hussein Admit That He Worked for the CIA?

By now everyone has a very good idea how quickly conspiracy theories are created, disseminated, and embraced by many in the Middle East. Among the Iraqi bloggers, Iraq Pundit has been the most tireless in debunking the myriad myths that have been passed around in the region. A year ago, he wrote about a Arabic-language book called Saddam Was Not Executed by Anis Al-Daghidi. "[Al-Daghidi] argues that not only was Saddam not executed; he was never even captured," writes Iraq Pundit. "Indeed, Saddam is alive and well in a safe place, and so are his sons Uday and Qusay. Maybe you think you saw documentary footage of the sons' corpses, but that, claims journalist Al-Daghidi, was just easy American fakery." One would think that Waleed Rabiaa, whom I have written about before ("Whatever Happened to Waleed Rabia"), would not be as vulnerable to conspiracy theories as Al-Daghidi, but you would be wrong.

Waleed Rabiaa, many of you will recall, was one of the young Iraqis featured in the Bridges to Baghdad series, I and II. In Bridges to Baghdad I, filmed before the outbreak of war, Iraqi and American high-school-age students talked to each other over a video satellite feed, a kind of video conference about their lives in the two countries. Included in the program were video profiles of each of the participants. Waleed, the lanky rocker, was an immensely appealing figure, with his laugh and slangy English. Later, Waleed admitted that, during the taping of Bridges to Baghdad I, Houda Saleh Amash, from the 55-most-wanted deck of cards, was sitting next to him and listening to every word coming out of his mouth -- telling the truth was not an option. In Bridges to Baghdad II, filmed in Baghdad shortly after April 9, 2003, Waleed performed on top of a building in Baghdad with Acrassicauda ("Black Scorpion"), a heavy metal band of which he was the lead singer. In one of their songs, Waleed screamed into the microphone, "FUCK SADDAM!!!"

In this photograph, Waleed Rabiaa is sitting in the center of the first row along with the other Bridges to Baghdad Iraqis.

After Saddam's ouster, Waleed began working with Majid Jarrar on Al-Muajaha ("The Witness"), an online news outlet funded by Chicago-based IndyMedia. Within the first couple months, the reporters for Al-Muajaha started to receive death-threats, and many of them decided to leave the country. Waleed, like Majid Jarrar, ended up in Canada via Jordon, arriving on the west coast of Canada near Vancouver in October, 2004. He's been in school there ever since (as far as I know), and last summer, on July 25, 2007, he gave an interview to Fernwood Community Association, a local radio station, about his experiences in Iraq (scroll down and click on the mp3 link, if you're interested in listening to the entire interview). Here Waleed talks about Saddam Hussein's relationship with the United States:
For me, everything Saddam did in Iraq was completely serving the American plan, and preparation to this war, to this invasion, to what's happening at the moment.
Asked by the interviewer how Saddam, if he represented America's presence in Iraq, got "cut out of the deal," Waleed explains:
The more I read, the more I talk about it and think about it, it doesn't make any sense to me. There is a very big missing piece. What I know is, the guy was fully supported by the CIA. The coup in 1963 was funded by the CIA. Those people were trained in Egypt. ... Actually George Bush Senior was head of the CIA during that time. So they came to Iraq and the US kept helping him. ... George H.W. Bush, the senior one, a day before Saddam invaded Kuwait ... signed a directive of issuing $350 million dollars of agricultural materials in credits, only to Saddam Hussein, knowing that he is going to use it as chemical and biogogical weapons because that was the advice that Saddam was given during the Iran-Iraq war to use against the Iranians because they were more effective and cheaper to use.
One aspect of the trial baffled Waleed. Why didn't Saddam tell the world that he was working for the CIA?
If this was Saddam that was executed and that was on trial, why did he not talk about the US involvement in all those times, when he was actually leading the country? Why none of that came out?
"Any ray of hope?" the interviewer asks Waleed.
The only hope that I could see, which is actually impossible, the Americans to completely withdraw from Iraq and after two months that -- and this is a word I'm responsible for -- two months after that a mass revolution is going to take place in Iraq, the government's going to be massacred -- the Iraqi government -- and people will actually state a government that is for the people, from the people, for the people. Only in this case in this case, Iraq might -- might -- go back to its feet.
Waleed goes on to say that the West itself needs a revolution. I don't agree with him, of course, but I would nonetheless like to sit down over a tea, coffee, or beer and talk. Even with his odd ideas, he'd probably be an engaging interlocutor. But, like others before him, Waleed Rabiaa sees more death as the only way forward. If you listen to the entire interview, you will find that he represents many troubled, confused Iraqis who are unable to view their recent history with objectivity. Conspiracy theories -- like the one where Saddam Hussein is a CIA agent -- are the balm they apply to their wounds.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kagan versus Rosen on the 'Surge'

On March 11, 2008, the Online Newshour with Jim Lehrer hosted a debate between Fred Kagan and Nir Rosen on the effectiveness of the 'Surge' in Iraq. You can read the transcript here or watch the ~14 min video here.

Go rea
d or watch it, but here are a few selections:

Fred ("Hooray for the 'Surge'") Kagan:

JIM LEHRER: And now, two very different views of the surge. They come from two frequent visitors to Iraq. Both are experts who have written extensively about the situation on the ground there.

Nir Rosen is a fellow at the New York University Center on Law and Security. Frederick Kagan is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a former professor at West Point.

Mr. Kagan, to you first. You agree with the president that the surge has been successful, correct?

FREDERICK KAGAN, American Enterprise Institute: Absolutely.

JIM LEHRER: And why do you say that?

FREDERICK KAGAN: Well, the main purpose of the surge was to get the sectarian violence in and around Baghdad under control so that it would be possible for the Iraqis to start making political progress.

You have to remember that, when the surge went in, the purpose actually was just to get Baghdad under control. It was initially called the Baghdad security plan.

A variety of developments, including the turning of the Sunni Arabs against al-Qaida and the insurgency, have allowed us to be playing for much more than that. And so we've actually managed to stabilize a large swath of central Iraq.

And there has also been remarkable political progress. There's been progress on almost every one of the major pieces of benchmark legislation.

And so -- and the Iraqis are -- there's a new fluidity. When you look at the Iraqi political dynamic in Baghdad now, at the senior levels and throughout, there's a new fluidity in the equation, which comes from the fact that the Iraqis certainly feel that violence has dropped to levels where what they are starting to care about is less security and more moving forward with their country.

Nir ("Poo poo on the 'Surge'") Rosen:

JIM LEHRER: Mr. Rosen, do you see the same -- do you look at the scene and see the same thing, less violence, more political possibilities on the Iraqi side?

NIR ROSEN, Fellow, New York University Center on Law and Security: No, I think it's absolutely a failure, the surge. I think that less violence is actually a sign of the failure of the surge.

The violence during a civil war was very logical. It was an attempt to remove Sunnis from Shia areas and Shia from Sunnis areas, and it's been incredibly successful. There are virtually no mixed areas left in Iraq.

You have what Americans call gated communities, effectively a Somalia-alike situation, where you have different neighborhoods surrounded by walls, controlled by a militia or a warlord. And they're sectarianally pure, all Shia, all Sunni. There's no reconciliation between the two communities.

You have, fortunately for the Americans, the Mahdi army decided to impose what they call the freeze, so Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader, could sort of clean his house, get rid of some of the bad elements there, and prepare for the next round.

Likewise, the Sunni resistance realized it had lost the civil war. Sunnis were basically expelled from Baghdad. They had lost their resistance to the occupation.

And beginning in 2006, you saw them being much more introspective in Damascus, in Jordan, and in Iraq, thinking, "How do we proceed? Our main enemy is what we call the Iranians." When they say Iranians, they mean basically all the Shias.

Nir Rosen can say the "Resistance" lost all he wants. I think that's great. But, "less violence is actually a sign of the failure of the surge."?!?! Rosen seems to want the violence to explode again almost as badly as some of our self-identifying "antiwar" propagandists from the comments sections of the Iraqi blogs do (especially the ones who come from, oh, I don't know- Italy and South Africa, for example...)

ADDENDUM (from Jeffrey Schuster): When Nir Rosen's Rolling Stone article appeared and I reviewed it here at IBC (Nir Rosen's Fistful of Dollars), I decided to verify my analysis by asking Michael Totten, a writer who had just returned from Iraq himself. On his comments page, I asked him:
Have you read Nir Rosen's Rolling Stone piece, “The Myth of the Surge”? The profiles of Osama, the Awakening leader, and Capt. Arkan, from the Iraqi National Police, are quite good. But I think it's a flawed article. Why? The frame used is too inflammatory and the commentary is too intrusive and at times borders on slander. In the third sentence of the opening paragraph, he writes:

This is what “victory” looks like in an up-scale neighborhood of Iraq: Lakes of mud and sewage fill the streets.

I wonder how his editors allowed him to use sneer quotes so early into the article. Why tip your hand so soon?

Elsewhere, he steps back from watching a few Iraqis being arrested and says:

Raids by U.S. forces have become part of a daily routine in Iraq, a systematic form of violence imposed on an entire nation. A foreign military occupation is, by its very nature, a terrifying and brutal thing, and even the most innocuous American patrols inevitably involve terrorizing innocent Iraqi civilians.

Has that been your experience reporting from Iraq? Would you say that as you accompanied American soldiers that they were “terrorizing innocent Iraqi civilians”? It might be Nir is correct on this. I'd like to hear your opinion.
Michael replied:
Jeffrey: Would you say that as
you accompanied American soldiers that they were “terrorizing innocent
Iraqi civilians”?

I wrote:
Okay, thanks for answering. Here's another question. You have to work with editors all the time, right? I argue in my review that his article would have been much more persuasive if his editors had asked him to add more balance and reduce the pontificating, letting the readers themselves decide what to conclude. From reading the Iraqi bloggers, I know that, while Baghdad is still a dangerous place to be, Dora is just one neighborhood among many others, where Iraqis go shopping every day and one doesn't feel as if one is walking through Nir's “post-apocolyptic” moral/physical landscape.

So how do you think his editors handled him? Did they do a good job? A good job for his kind of reporting? I understand that a slice of the audience at the Rolling Stone is already predisposed to the chaos/surge-is-failure angle. I imagine for them, then, Nir's third sentence with its sneer-quoted “victory” is very persuasive. It confirms the views they already have. But, I guess, I expect more from journalists. What do you think?
Michael responded:
Jeffrey: So how do you think his editors handled him? Did they do a good job?


A good job for his kind of reporting?


I expect more from journalists.

Why? This is typical.

What do you think?

Some editors I've worked with force me be to balanced. They tend to be editors who don't share my views. Editors who do share my views don't push me as hard to be balanced. This is probably universal.

If I were Rosen's editor, his piece might have been good. It certainly would have been better than it is.
We went on to discuss which writers we thought had done a good job covering Iraq. In my opinion, for the Newshour Online, Nir Rosen is playing a Crossfire-like role, a foil to Kagan. He's invited to play the guy who says that the surge isn't working because ... violence has decreased. Huh? What could be better than that? The strange aspect to his role, however, is that it's just possible that Nir Rosen really believes what he's writing. His ideological bias deforms much of his writing, marring a lot of the competent on-the-ground interviews he conducts. As I wrote over on Totten's comments page, it would be better for Rosen if he were honest about his ideological position from the beginning, thus making it easier for us to interpret his reporting.


Monday, March 10, 2008

Iraqi-Translator: Brand new blogger

Updated 3/11
Last month I listed 8 blogs that I had never read but desperately wanted to. Well, now that list is down to 7 because an Iraqi translator working with the US military has opened a new blog with the lengthy title "Iraqi Translator's Life in Iraq and his Experiance with U.S. Army and Iraqi People".

I must confess, I feel giddy with anticipation. Iraqi Translator is still developing his skills in writing in English. But the concepts for his posts are well-developed. So take a hike over to his site, get an eye-full, and offer your encouragement to an Iraqi who is putting it on the line for his country.

I added another blog to the sidebar: Iraqi For John McCain (h/t Average American). Fayrouz has already thrown in with Obama. Perhaps an Iraqi for Hillary will be next!

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Chikitita's Return

UPDATED: Saturday, March 8, 2008

Along with Shaggy, Chikitita (first words, first walk, Iraq) belongs to a loose group of personal-diary bloggers. Others in this group are Caesar, Najma, Sunshine, Marshmallow 26, and Sandybelle. While they may occasionally discuss the politics of the day, the primary concern of their entries is usually to record the life around them, whether that's within their families, among their friends, or in the neighborhood or community. Although Chikitita's blogging dropped off when she moved out of Iraq for her career, her older entries are as engaging as Shaggy's and contain a wealth of information about everyday life in Iraq. In "Swanky Cars ... What for????" (March 22, 2006), for example, from her first month of blogging, she compares the different modes of transportation used in Baghdad. After discussing taxicabs, she takes a look at buses:
I like minibus drivers, they're the most skillful drivers, they know all shortcuts, some of which might be just right at your doorstep, particularly, when you're too tired to walk.

I was once trying to convince a friend of mine to use the public transports, which are much cheaper, and easier than cabs. She said, "Excuse me! you want me to sit next to riff-raffs!" Riff-raffs! I'm afraid I happened to be one of those RIFF-RAFFS! To tell you the truth, I'm proud of them, and more proud of my being one of them. Only in buses, you could see the true smiling face of Iraq, where an old man gives a speech about how the pre-Baath education system used to be, and sadly how it played out over the next generations, and how early teachers of Iraq made even walls talk, and the bad example the new teachers have become for children, who treat kids according to their religious backgrounds. Only in buses, you could hear the complaints of a widow, whose husband left her five boys with no income, and was trying to get some pension, which the government is too proud to give. Only in buses, you could see people collecting money for someone who just hopped in to beg people to save an injured child who's in hospital, they all agreed that whether the man was bluffing or not, one should help.
Riff-raffs!!!! SURE!!!
Chikitita's blog is filled with her shrewd, discerning views on life in Iraq. But, at the same time, she often blends the personal with her assessments of life around her. In "Weaker Sex....Hmmm...No We're Not" (August 13, 2006), Chikitita begins her blog entry with her morning routine and its "Groundhog Day" character:
So reluctant to wake up when the alarm clock went off, “five more minutes,” I’d say to myself. Then the five becomes ten and maybe 15. Once mum, who happened to share my new room, the living room, where we have both sought asylum since early summer, starts cursing the loud beeping, “Good Lord, WILL YOU PLEASE SHUT THIS THING UP!” she’d say pleading, I’d reply - getting out of bed on the wrong side, but managing to be as rude as I could be - “D’oh! That’s what it is made for. You don’t expect it to serenade me!” Only then I’d be kind enough to have mercy on my mum, who usually heaves a sigh of relief, when the torment is over, i.e. when I decide to wake up for the most horrible fact that I have to travel to work.

There is nothing unusual about all this. It has become my daily routine for three months now. Traveling to my workplace has also become so monotonous that I almost feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Waving to all the approaching minibuses, if I’m lucky I’d take the first bus that says yes to my usual question “garage?” [i.e. the bus station], for which deep, deep, deep down I am practically bowing and praying “Please God let it be the one!” lest I’d be late for work. I was lucky that day, the first minibus stopped. Now that is unusual. Not the fact that it happened to be heading to my destination, rather it was the driver, it was a woman. I was baffled whether to hop in or wait for another one. But she did stop, which means it is her job. I knew she noticed the way I kept staring at her. It was so rude, but I just could not help it. I was like, “Oh sorry, is this a kindergarten bus or what!” Yet it wasn’t. She is the first minibus woman driver I have ever laid my eyes on.
Interested? Read the rest, as they say. After being away from Iraq for a few months, Chikitita has now returned. For how long? I'm not sure. It just so happened that her return coincided with Ahmadinejad's visit to Baghdad. Chikitita posted her first blog entry back in Baghdad about trying to get home from the airport:
The unknown driver did his utmost to drive the two nameless guys and myself to our destinations. He drove on wrong sides, used his connections to I.S.F. men, bowed and scraped for the ones he didn’t know just to let us pass. He was so immersed in finding the easiest shortcuts through bumpy dirt roads that ruined his car but still he found the time to curse Ahmedinejad.

After almost two hours of torment, I made it home in one piece, safe but not mentally sound.

But it was worth it :)

April 22, 2006, I Hate School. Chikitita reads the newspaper to a guard at work.

May 7, 2006, At Last. Chikitita goes shopping with the girls at Kadhamiya Market.

June 7, 2006, Super Crazy. What's the relationship between the Evil Eye and briefcases?

August 28, 2006, Online Show-offs. Chikitita discusses speaking and writing in English and Arabic (Baghdadi Arabic, Iraqi Arabic, and Standard Arabic).

September 27, 2006, Free in Baghdad. Chikitita recounts the tragic story of what happened to her friend S and her husband after they were picked up by Madhi militiamen.

October 13, 2006, The Tomorrow Man. Chikitita explores the deep vein of procrastination that runs through Iraqi men. In the comments section Abbas/Kid finds himself in a Russ Meyer film.

October 30, 2006, Be The Neighbor. Chikitita tells the story of how one Sunni man stood up for his Shiite neighbors and made a difference.

November 6, 2006, When Victims Rejoice. Chikitita writes about what it was like to grow up in Saddam's Iraq, where at home she witnessed her parents' "controlled revulsion" toward the dictator, but at school this same person was revered. She also saw hypocrisy in her father's use of the Quran to justify the abuse of his wife.

November 19, 2006, Ever Wondered Why? A family friend views Chikitita as the ultimate in bad luck.

January 19, 2007, These Walls of Mine. Chikitita remembers her undergraduate days at University of Mustansiriya in Baghdad.

February 10, 2007, Demonized. Chikitita talks honestly about the prejudices that she inherited from her upbringing, especially her prejudices against people from Thawra, Sadr City. "I might preach tolerance and equality," she concludes, "but with the whiff of a real life test I'm ready to throw in the towel." Like Shaggy, Chikitita's candor is one of the reasons why she is one of the better writers in the Iraqi blogosphere. In the comments section, Jhondie, an American soldier, talks with Chikitita.

February 13, 2007, 'His-dog.' A funny sitcom plot in which Chikitita tries to convince Stepdad to kick a stray dog out of the house, but the mutt responds with a litter, transforming Chez Chikitita into a maternity ward. Then the mutt hits the road again.

March 2, 2007, Don't Touch That! Which banned book under Saddam Hussein was alleged to be his "Bible" -- or should I say his "Koran"?

April 8, 2007, Come Down Here. Chikitita describes her room with a duct-taped view.

May 28, 2007, No More Curses. Chikitita avails herself of nature's own air conditioner.

June 19, 2007, Life After Curfew. On errands around the city, Chikitita notices that a few smiles have started to return to Baghdadi faces.


UPDATE: Still in Baghdad, Chikitita hangs out with Miraj (Baghdad Chronicles): "Baghdad ---- First Sleepover."

Iraq Pundit, in "The Missteps of Academics," wonders how in the world Juan Cole could liken Muqtada Al-Sadr to the Madhi, the so-called 12th Imam.

Abbas, one of the more loquacious Sunni Iraqis in the blogosphere, writes about his Shia friends: "A Tribute To My Shia Friends.

In her latest blog entry, "In the coffee shop," Hala describes an encounter with a woman who wishes Saddam Hussein, her Arab champion, were still strutting around Iraq. As self-reflective as ever, Hala examines a subject with no easy answers.


Monday, March 03, 2008

An Olive Branch

Things have gotten pretty heated over @ Zeyad's (Healing Iraq) comments section (1, 2) and elsewhere centered around some blog Mukhabarat who've apparently figured out some personal information about Iraqi Mojo and have progressed from there into, ehm, "further operations against him". This has inspired CMAR II to post about it here and here, and has developed into many exchanges throughout the comments sections of various blogs. Alright, the exchanges are mostly at Zeyad's, but the Mukhabarat have been making the rounds.

Now, with the possible rare exception of Truth-About-Iraqis2, who may or may not have developed a conscience before deleting his blog and shooting himself, few people's opinions of themselves or political persuasions have ever been affected by blogs and blog commenting. That I know of.

Nevertheless, I wonder if this has gone on long enough? Perhaps it is time to offer an olive branch? Can't we just go back to polite ridicule, focused spamming, clever flaming, and an occasional sincere debate?

So. Here you go. I think we all can agree that the picture below is one of the greatest Iraqis ever.

Samir, the Iraqi American who was with the American Army when they captured Saddam in the rat's hole, and Saddam Hussein. (Hat tip: Iraqi Expat)

Please join me in a toast to one of the greatest Iraqis ever!

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