Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2008-09

Al-Mutanabbi Street, December, 2008.

Year in Review: 2008

From the time of the destruction of the Golden Mosque in February, 2006, to the middle of 2007, when the surge led by General Petraeus began to successfully reduce violence around the country, Iraq's future hung in the balance, on the brink of an all-out sectarian war. In 2008, thanks to the relative calm that had been granted to the Iraqis and the Americans working with them, Iraq began to rebuild. The al-Sarafiyah Bridge, which had been destroyed a year earlier by a suicide car-bomber, reopened on May 27, 2008. On November 11, 2008, the Imams Bridge reopened, where three years earlier hundreds of Shia pilgrims had died. And on December 18, 2008, al-Mutanabbi Street, the ancient booksellers' row where twenty-six people had been killed by a car bomb, was once again open for business.

From 2003 to 2006, each Ramadan had seen an increase in Iraqi fatalities; in 2007, and then again in 2008, Ramadan, while not free from insurgent activity, was calm compared to the previous years. In Baghdad, with the increased security, many shops and restaurants reopened for business, and some of the former nightlife returned to the capital. Also, in 2008, some of the Iraqis who had left the country during 2006 and 2007 were now beginning to return.

In the spring of 2008, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki decided to send the Iraqi military to Basra to rout of the Sadrist factions there. Although the beginning of the operation was inauspicious, the Iraqi military soon brought their training to bear on the Jaish al Mahdi and Muqtada al-Sadr was forced to stand down. Muqtada al-Sadr is currently in Qom, Iran.

On November 16, 2008, a new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) was approved by the Iraq Cabinet and then signed on the following day, allowing the US forces three more years to stay in Iraq. What will happen over the next three years in Iraq, no one knows. Al Qaeda in Iraq is still capable of brutally murdering Iraqi citizens. And the fundamental question of whether the majority of Iraqis will join and support a representative system of government remains open. But, in 2009, like 2005, the people of Iraq will have more chances to vote. In 2009, they will participate in provincial elections in January and then national elections in December.

Year in Review: 2009

On January 7, 2009, an estimated two million Shia pilgrims walked through the Iraqi city of Karbala to celebrate Ashura, which had been forbidden under Saddam Hussein's rule. In contrast to the violence of 2004, this year's celebration was peaceful, with Shiites from around the region coming to Karbala to take part in the most important day of their faith.

On January 31, 2009, Iraqis voted in provincial (or governate) elections. In contrast to the provincial elections in 2005, this time there were no boycotts, another measure of political improvement and engagement in the process of representative governance.


New Iraqi Bloggers in 2008-09:

Baghdadentist -- January, 2008.
Iraqi Translator -- March, 2008.
Sam (Interps Life) -- April, 2008.
Touta -- October, 2008.
Violet -- August, 2008.

Khalid Ibrahim (Iraq Blog Updates) -- April, 2009.

For long-time observers of the Anglophone Iraqi blogosphere, the sharp decline in new bloggers in 2008 prompted much discussion and debate. Why the decline? Was this a temporary or a long-rage trend? Where will the new bloggers come from?

In this tiny 2008 class of new bloggers, Touta stands out as the most engaging, combining the narrow focus of some of the other personal-diary bloggers with occasional commentary on politics and society at large. Sam (Interps Life) and Sami (Iraqi Translator) have described what it's like to work with the Americans as an Iraqi; however, they have not posted recently. Violet is a young woman blogging from Mosul.

This month, Khalid Ibrahim, an Iraqi exile living in Dublin, started a new blog along the lines of Iraq Blog Count and Iraqi Bloggers Central to cover the daily blog entries from around the Iraqi blogosphere.


Summary of the Iraqi Bloggers (2003-2009):

Over the last six years, in the Anglophone Iraqi blogosphere, there have been around one hundred or so Iraqi bloggers. Currently, around forty of them are actively blogging -- have posted an entry in the last three months -- while the other sixty or so have stopped. Of those who have stopped blogging, some kept a blog for only a few months ("G. in Baghdad") while others posted for several years (Riverbend).

Among the Iraqi bloggers, Kurds (Kurdo, Dilnareen, Hiwa) have been represented along with the majority Arab bloggers. Looking at the religious backgrounds of the Arab bloggers, we find Arab Christians (Fayrouz, Marshmallow 26), Sunni Muslims (the Fadhils, Zeyad Kasim), Shia Muslims (Eye Raki, Mojo), and some with mixed backgrounds (Salam Pax, Raed Jarrar). By age, we find a couple middle-aged Iraqis (Alaa, Faisa Jarrar) and quite a few teenagers (Touta, Sunshine). The majority of Iraqi bloggers, however, appear to be in their twenties and thirties.

While the Iraqi bloggers are a tiny subset of the Iraqi population -- 100 out of around 27 million people -- their views are diverse, often in conflict with each other, on any number of issues central to the past, present, and future of Iraq. Some couldn't wait to watch Saddam's ouster, while others -- like Layla Anwar -- lament the day that Saddam Hussein was forced to vacate Baghdad. On this and a wide range of other issues, the Iraqis bloggers surprise by the range of their responses. While living under Saddam Hussein's police-state tyranny, none of these various opinions, of course, would have been voiced without the fear of imprisonment.

By sex, male Iraqi bloggers are over-represented, with around two-thirds of the Iraqi bloggers male and one-third female. But some of the most distinctive Iraqi bloggers, it should be noted, are women. Riverbend, Chikitita, and Touta quickly come to mind. Layla Anwar, of course, is by far the most impassioned and articulate defender of Saddam Hussein and his regime.

By education, the Iraqi bloggers are not representative of Iraqi society as a whole. In Iraq, around 60 percent of all adults (15 and over) are illiterate. The Iraqi bloggers, in contrast, are not only literate in Arabic but also in English. This reflects most likely their family's class background and the fact that most of the Iraqi bloggers are from the larger urban centers, Baghdad and Mosul being the two most common. Many of the Iraqi bloggers either have college degrees or are currently enrolled in a university, either in Iraq or abroad.

Since 2003, many of the Iraqi bloggers have left the country, some due to security concerns and others for better educational opportunities. Most of those that left ended up moving to the United States: Raed Jarrar (through marriage), Seyad Kasim, Ali, Omar, and Mohammed Fadhil, AYS, Omar Fekeiki, M.H.Z., and Bassam Sebti. Alaa moved to Canada, and Abbas Hawazin relocated to Jordan.

With the relative calm since the success of the surge, some of those who left have started to return to Iraq. Salam Pax and Morbid Smile, for example, both completed graduate degrees -- in England and the United States respectively -- and are now back living in Baghdad. Caesar of Pentra left for a short time but is now back in Iraq finishing his college degree. It remains to be seen how many Iraqi bloggers will return to Iraq.

Over the last two years there has been a decline in the number of new Iraqi bloggers. Whether this is a temporary drop or the beginning of a longer trend, nobody knows at present. For the last six years, however, no one can deny the passion and effort shown by the Iraqi bloggers, starting all the way back with Salam Pax blogging from inside Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and the small community who followed the Iraqi bloggers and joined the thousands of debates, all of us part of a rich discussion that is still going on today.


Complete Series:

Part One. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2003.
Part Two. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2004.
Part Three. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2005.
Part Four. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2006.
Part Five. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2007.
Part Six. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2008-09.


Selected Entries from IBC:

CP = Check out comments page for that entry.


January 10, 2008. Decline and Fall of the Iraqi Blogosphere? Jeffrey. CP
January 14, 2008. Self-Criticism or Self-Hatred? Jeffrey.
January 20, 2008. Snow Day in Baghdad?! Jeffrey. CP
January 22, 2008. The Lancet Study Farce and Iraq The Model. CMAR II. CP
February 8, 2008. A Couple Questions for Senator Obama. RhusLancia.
February 17, 2008. Let's Look at the Numbers, Okay? Jeffrey.
February 24, 2008. "Wait, that is an American flag." Jeffrey.
February 25, 2008. Nir Rosen's "Fistful of Dollars" Jeffrey. CP
February 27, 2008. This Post Has No Title. CMAR II.
February 29, 2008. Shaggy Daze. Jeffrey.
March 5, 2008. Chikitita's Return. Jeffrey.
March 13, 2008. Kagan versus Rosen on the 'Surge' RhusLancia. CP
March 16, 2008. Why Didn't Saddam Admit That He Worked for the CIA? Jeffrey.
March 18, 2008. Iraq Operation Five Year Roundup. CMAR II. CP
March 26, 2008. Operation Fix Muqty. CMAR II. CP
March 29, 2008. Operation Fix Muqty II. CMAR II.
April 5, 2008. Why Is the Power in Iraq so shoddy after 5 years and 3 1/2 Billion American Dollars. CMAR II.
April 7, 2008. The Fools! They think they can winning! CMAR II.
May 5, 2008. The In T View: Hayder Al-Khoei: I Believe Muqtada al-Sadr Ordered My Father's Murder. Mister Ghost.
May 30, 2008. Racism is in the Eye of the Beholder. RhusLancia.
June 3, 2008. A Silence That Speaks Volumes. Jeffrey.
August 5, 2008. Life Goes On in Iraq. Jeffrey.
August 6, 2008. Re-examining the Victory In Iraq. CMAR II.
December 23, 2008. Merry Christmas, Layla Anwar! Jeffrey.


January 9, 2009. Reading Resolution 1859. Jeffrey.
January 31, 2009. Democracy in the Heart of the Middle East. Jeffrey.
February 8, 2009. Can You Use Your American Express Card in Falluja? Jeffrey.
March 2, 2009. The Bloggers and the Speech. CMAR II.
March 5, 2009. IraqPundit on the Juan Cole and the Kurds. CMAR II.
March 31, 2009. The Personal and the Political. Jeffrey.
April 7, 2009. Greetings from New York City. Jeffrey.
April 10, 2009. Greetings from Iowa! Jeffrey. CP
April 3, 2009. Other Blogospheres, Other Worlds. Jeffrey. CP
April 13, 2009. Greetings from Phoenix, Arizona, USA! RhusLancia.
April 19, 2009. The Defenestration of Comrade Nir Rosen. Jeffrey. CP
April 20, 2009. Greetings from Austin, TX. CMAR II.
April 23, 2009. Get Yer IBC Swag!! RhusLancia.
April 24, 2009. Top 10 Best Iraqi Bloggers of All Time. CMAR II.


Selected Articles, Blog Entries, and Documents from 2008-09:


Abbas Hawazin, "Travesty of Human Thinking," Catharsis (website), January 26, 2008.

Al-Rasheed, "The New Iraqi Flag," Great Baghdad (website), January 29, 2008. CP

Nibras Kazimi, "'In Aid of Our Brothers in Gaza,'" Talisman Gate (website), February 18, 2008.

Abbas Hawazin, "The Myth of Sunni-Shia Unity," Catharsis (website), February 23, 2008.

Nir Rosen, "The Myth of the Surge," Rolling Stone (March, 2008).

Jeffrey Schuster, "Nir Rosen's 'Fistful of Dollars,'" Iraqi Bloggers Central (website), February 25, 2008. CP

Michael J. Totten, "Hope for Iraq’s Meanest City," City Journal, Spring 2008, vol. 18, no. 2.

Michael Yon, "As Iraqis stop living in fear, end of Iraq war is at hand," New York Daily News, July 20, 2008.

Iraq Coalition Casualty Count (website), "Hostile/Non-Hostile Deaths: 2003-09." [chart]

Musings on Iraq (website), "How Many Have Died In Iraq And By What Means?," May 1, 2009.

Michael J. Totten, "Iraq at the End of the Surge," Commentary, December 8, 2008.


Omar Fadhil, "New Iraq Emerges from Tyranny and War," Iraq the Model, January 9, 2009.

Sam, "The Story Of Interpreter Shitty Life...," Interpreters Life (website), March 1, 2009.


Iraq Bibliography:

Ajami, Fouad. The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq (2006).

Anderson, John Lee. The Fall of Baghdad (2004).

Atkinson, Rick. In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat (2004).

Bellavia, David. House to House: An Epic Memoir of War (2007).

Bogdanos, Matthew. Thieves of Baghdad (2005).

Buzzell, Colby. My War: Killing Time in Iraq (2005).

Campbell, Donovan. Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood (2009).

Cerf, Christopher and Micah L. Sifray. The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (2003).

Chandresekaran, Rajiv. Imperial Life in the Emerald City (2006).

Conroy, Capt. Jason and Ron Martz. Heavy Metal: A Tank Company's Battle to Baghdad (2005).

Coopman, John. McCoy's Marines: Darkside to Baghdad (2005).

Fick, Nathaniel. One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine (2005).

Garrels, Anne. Naked in Baghdad: The Iraq War as Seen by NPR's Correspondent (2003).

Gilbertson, Ashley. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer's Chronicle of the Iraq War (2007).

Gordon, Michael and Bernard E. Trainor. Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (2006).

Hoyt, Mike and John Palattello (eds.). Reporting Iraq: An Oral History of the War by the Journalists Who Covered It (2007).

Jamail, Dahr. Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (2007).

Kartorsky, Bill and Timothy Carlson. Embedded: The Media at War (2003).

Keegan, John. The Iraq War (2004).

Kraus, Ian. Elvis is Titanic: Classroom Tales from the Other Iraq (2007).

LeMoine, Ray, Jeff Newmann, and Donovan Webster. Babylon by Bus (2006).

McGeough, Paul. In Baghdad: A Reporter's War (2003).

Murray, Williamson and Robert Scales, The Iraq War: A Military History (2003).

O'Donnell, Patrick. We Were One (2006).

Packer, George. Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq (2005).

Pax, Salam. Salam Pax: The Clandestine Diary of an Ordinary Iraqi (2003).

Ricks, Thomas E. Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (2006).

Ricks, Thomas E. The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 (2009).

Riverbend, Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq (2005).

Riverbend, Baghdad Burning II: More Girl Blog from Iraq (2006).

Rosen, Nir. In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq (2006).

Shadid, Anthony. Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War (2005).

Smith, Ray L. and Bing West. The March Up: Taking Baghdad with the First Marine Division (2003).

Spinner, Jackie and Jenny Spinner. Tell Them I Didn't Cry (2006).

Trofimov, Yaroslav. Faith at War: A Journey to the Frontlines of Islam, from Baghdad to Timbuktu (2005).

Vincent, Steven. In the Red Zone: A Journey into the Soul of Iraq (2004).

West, Bing. No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle of Fallujah (2005).

West, Bing. The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq (2008).

Wilding, Jo. Don't Shoot the Clowns: Taking a Circus to the Real Iraq (2006)

Wright, Evan. Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America and the New Face of American War (2004).

Yon, Michael. Moment of Truth in Iraq: How a New 'Greatest Generation' of American Soldiers is Turning Defeat and Disaster into Victory and Hope (2008).

Zinsmeister, Karl. Boots on the Ground: A Month with the 82nd Airborne in the Battle for Iraq (2003).

Zinsmeister, Karl. Dawn Over Baghdad: How the U.S. Military is Using Bullets and Ballots to Remake Iraq (2004).

Zucchino, David. Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad (2004).


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2007

Gen. David H. Petraeus and Abdul Sattar Abu Risha -- Ramadi, March 17, 2007.

Year in Review: 2007

On January 10, 2007, President George Bush gave a televised speech to the American people in which he admitted that his administration's previous plan in Iraq had not been succeeding. He then announced the implementation of a new plan, one that had been worked out during the second half of the previous year. It required sending more than 20,000 extra troops to Iraq, most of them to secure Baghdad. Also, instead of stationing them to the large American bases outside of the Iraqi cities, these troops would be sent directly into city neighborhoods to help stabilize the country, block by block, starting from Baghdad.

General David H. Petraeus, who had been central to the design of the new counterinsurgency strategy, was selected by President Bush to be the new commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and was confirmed by Congress on January 26, 2007. Eight months later, on September 11 and 12, 2007, General David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker returned to Washington, D.C., and testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the progress in Iraq, detailing the drop in violence due to the "surge" of troops, changed tactics, and the turning of the Anbar Sunnis against Al Qaeda in Iraq, with the help of local sheikhs like Abdul Sattar Abu Risha.

Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the day before hearing the testimony by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, already dismissed the results. "I really respect him, but I think he's dead flat wrong," Biden said about General Petraeus on September 9, 2007. After two days of testimony, Senator Biden was still not persuaded that the new strategy was working. In an interview a few days after the hearing, Senator Biden said, "I give the strategy no chance of succeeding. Zero."

But the surge did succeed, and the decrease in violence that General Petraeus had shown and explained to the Senate Committee has continued, in fact, to this day, almost two years later.


New Iraqi Bloggers in 2007:

Zappy -- January, 2007.
BlogIraq -- February, 2007
Sheko Meko -- March, 2007.
Shaqawa -- April, 2007.
Great Baghdad -- April, 2007.
Kassakhoon -- April, 2007.
Mohammed (Last of Iraqis) -- May, 2007.
Sandybelle -- May, 2007.
Bookish (Mosul) -- June, 2007.
Gilgamesh X -- September, 2007.

In 2007 the new crop of Iraqi bloggers was thinner than in previous years. Zappy blogged from the United Kingdom, but posted his last entry on July 6, 2008. Sadly, BlogIraq was killed in Baghdad on April 11, 2008. Perhaps the most prolific and engaging of this class of Iraq bloggers has been Mohammed (Last of Iraqis). Mohammed, we should note, recently became a proud father. Bookish is currently engaged to be married to Najma, a member of the extended family of bloggers from Mosul. Gilgamesh X, an Iraqi exile living in Germany, had been a long-time commenter in the Iraqi blogosphere before starting his blog. Although he hasn't posted very much as of late, his entries and comments are always welcomed in the Iraqi blogosphere.


Complete Series:

Part One. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2003.
Part Two. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2004.
Part Three. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2005.
Part Four. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2006.
Part Five. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2007.
Part Six. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2008-09.

Selected Entries from IBC:

CP = Check out comments page for that entry.

January 7, 2007. Iraq's Civilian War. RhusLancia.
January 15, 2007. Where Did Saddam Get His Chemical Weapons? RhusLancia.
January 24, 2007. Resolution Unbound. CMAR II.
March 16, 2007. Democrats: No Surrender! RhusLancia.
March 20, 2007. VP Taha Yassin Ramadan Hanged. CMAR II. CP
March 22, 2007. Finger-Pointing Over at Treasure of Baghdad. CMAR II.
April 19, 2007. How Iraqi Are You? Jeffrey.
April 24, 2007. Whatever Happened to Waleed Rabia? Jeffrey.
April 26, 2007. Comments on the US Congress's Surrender Legislation. CMAR II. CP
April 30, 2007. Riverbend vs Jarrar (How Iraqi Are You II). CMAR II.
May 2, 2007. From the Comments. CMAR II. CP
May 4, 2007. Criminal Hatwear. Jeffrey.
May 11, 2007. We Are on the Same Side. Jeffrey.
May 13, 2007. Iraqis Outside Both the Red and Green Zones. Jeffrey.
May 14, 2007. How Would You Like Your 'Wall Resolution' Served?. RhusLancia.
May 16, 2007. I Pledge Allegiance to .... Jeffrey. CP
May 20, 2007. Basra Writ Large? Jeffrey.
May 21, 2007. Iraqi Bloggers Central: Three-Year Anniversary! Jeffrey. CP
May 27, 2007. RhusLancia: Five Month-iversary! RhusLancia. CP (Mohammed from "Last of Iraqis" visits IBC for the first time.)
June 2, 2007. Fatal Glass of Beer. Jeffrey.
June 10, 2007. Let's Catch a Wave. Jeffrey. CP (Jeffrey vs. Bruno)
June 23, 2007. Valentines for Saddam. Jeffrey. CP
July 9, 2007. Operation Arrowhead Ripper: Two Points of View. CMAR II. CP
July 24, 2007. Close Encounters. RhusLanica.
July 29, 2007. Congratuations Iraq. CMAR II.
August 7, 2007. How About a Strongman? RhusLancia.
August 21, 2007. TIA ... MIA?. RhusLancia. CP
September 14, 2007. Sunni Mourners: Al Qaeda is the Enemy of Allah. Jeffrey.
September 24, 2007. The Sons Of Blackwater. CMAR II. CP
October 10, 2007. Just Your Typical Rank Hypocrisy. Jeffrey. CP
November 15, 2007. Treasure of Baghdad: Deny, Deny, Deny! Jeffrey.
November 21, 2007. Layla Anwar Answers the Eternal Question. RhusLancia.
November 27, 2007. Iraq Punditry at Its Best. Jeffrey.
November 29, 2007. Maliki Loves "Family Guy" Jeffrey.
December 5, 2007. Baghdad: City of Neighborhoods. Jeffrey.
December 9, 2007. A Blog Entry in which I Agree with Adnan al-Dulaimi. Jeffrey.
December 18, 2007. The Al Askari Cascade
(or "the Persistence of Pessimism")
December 23, 2007. Madtom vs CMAR II. CMAR II. CP
December 27, 2007. I'm done commenting at 24StepsToLiberty. CMAR II. CP
December 31, 2007. Happy New Year from IBC! Jeffrey.


Selected Articles, Blog Entries, and Documents from 2007:

January 10, 2007. Text of President Bush's Speech on January 10, 2007.

Iraqi Mojo, "Sectarianism," Iraqi Mojo (website), April 30, 2007.

Mohammed, "The Complete Story Of Muqtada and Al-Mahdi Army," Last of Iraqis (website), June 20, 2007.

Hayder al-Khoei, "The Untold Story," Eye Raki (website), July 4, 2007.

Small Wars Journal (online), "General David Petraeus / Ambassador Ryan Crocker Testimony," September 11-12, 2007.

Mohammed, "Awakening," Last of Iraqis, November 16, 2007.

Iraq Pundit, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," IraqPundit: Observations of an Iraqi Exile, December 4, 2007.

Abbas Hawazin, "Konfused Kid Abandons Heavy Metal," Catharsis (website), December 31, 2007.


Books Covering 2007:

Michael Yon, Moment of Truth in Iraq: How a New 'Greatest Generation' of American Soldiers is Turning Defeat and Disaster into Victory and Hope (2008).

Bing West, The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics, and the Endgame in Iraq (2008).

Thomas E. Ricks, The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006-2008 (2009).


Books Published in 2007:

Ian Kraus, Elvis is Titanic: Classroom Tales from the Other Iraq.
David Bellavia, House to House: An Epic Memoir of War.
Dahr Jamail, Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq.
Mike Hoyt and John Palattello (eds.), Reporting Iraq: An Oral History of the War by the Journalists Who Covered It.
Ashley Gilbertson, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer's Chronicle of the Iraq War.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2006

Golden Mosque, Samarra, February 22, 2006

Year in Review: 2006

In 2006, three events easily stand out above all the others. In February, the Golden Mosque in Samarra was bombed; in June, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed by US forces; and in December, Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death and then was hung in Baghdad. The destruction of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra had by far the most far-reaching consequences. Because of that event, no Iraqi would ever want to live through a year like 2006 again. And yet, the bombing was in reality the culmination of tension between Sunnis and Shiites that had been building ever since the fall of Baghdad. For Sunni and Shiite Iraqis, the years after the fall of Baghdad had been uneasy and tentative. Shiites began to assert power, while Sunnis tried to hold on to power.

In a representative democracy with elections, the Shiites, clearly a majority within Iraq, figured they simply had to wait for the elections to take place to make gains, which in fact happened in January and December of 2005. The Sunni insurgents from Anbar responded by attacking anyone working for the current government. They also continued to help Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the foreign jihadists, also of the Sunni sect, as they brought terror to the country with a widespread campaign of suicide-bombing in a variety of forms, from a vest filled with explosives to a car-bomb driven by an neighboring Arab with the zeal of the religious fanatic.

All of this had been going on for the last few years when, on February 22, 2006, the Golden Mosque was destroyed. By all accounts, the reaction of the Shiites to this atrocity was instantaneous and brutal. In the next few days over a thousand Sunni Iraqis would be killed, setting off of the bloodiest spring and summer that Baghdad had ever seen. Zarqawi's hope of creating a civil war was at hand. Revenge killings, reprisals, and counter-attacks between sects sharply increased over the new few months. According to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count website, which had begun keeping statistics on Iraqi deaths that January, August and September were the bloodiest months; for the month of September they counted 3,539 Iraqi fatalities. Because of these attacks, many of those Iraqis who could afford to flee the country did so. Those who couldn't afford to leave often relocated to other parts of Iraq. Baghdad in particular went through a period where previously mixed neighborhoods became either Sunni or Shia strongholds.

While both Iraqis and Americans were happy to learn of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, everyone was uncertain what his demise meant in the larger picture. Similarly, probably a majority of Iraqis and certainly the majority of Americans were pleased to see Saddam Hussein sentenced and hung at the end of the year. But, as with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death, no one knew if it would really make any difference. Iraqis had other problems to think about; they were faced with the real possibility of a civil war.

By the end of the the bloody year of 2006, two different groups had been greatly affected by the carnage and chaos over the summer and were ready to make fundamental changes. First, in Washington, D.C., President George Bush had begun to prepare a speech to be given in January of 2007 that would no doubt surprise many people. Instead of drawing down troops, he would announce that he was ordering an increase in troops in Iraq, a "surge" of forces along with a concomitant change in tactics that would be overseen by General David H. Petraeus.

The other surprise of 2007 would come from the unlikeliest of places, Anbar province, where earlier in 2006 one local sheikh -- Abdul Sattar Abu Risha -- had seen too many family members killed by the foreign jihadists among them. In the fall of 2006, he decided to create what he called the "Anbar Salvation Council." Working with this group of local sheikhs, he would encourage Sunnis to join the Iraqi police and military. He also approached the US military to form an alliance with the Americans with one goal in mind: the total defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq.


New Iraqi Bloggers in 2006:

Eye Raki -- February, 2006.
Hala -- February, 2006.
Chikitita -- March, 2006.
Saminkie (Colors of Mind / Skies) -- April, 2006
Gilgamesh (Into the Sun) -- June, 2006.
Layla Anwar -- July, 2006,
Marshmallow 26 -- August, 2006.
Mix Max -- September, 2006.
Iraqi Mojo -- October, 2006.
A & E Iraqi -- November, 2006.
Iraqi Atheist -- December, 2006.
M.H.Z. -- December, 2006.

In February, 2006, a new blogger showed up in the Iraqi blogosphere under the name "Eye Raki." Before too long, everyone realized that "Eye Raki" was, in fact, Hayder al-Khoei, grandson of Ayatollah Abu al-Qasim al-Khoei, the cleric who had been murdered just after the fall of Baghdad in 2003. Hayder spends time both in England and Iraq and continues to blog, offering followers of the Iraqi blogosphere inside looks at the local Iraqi political maneuvers.

Chikitita, like several other Iraqi bloggers, stayed away from politics and wrote something closer to a personal diary, focusing on daily events and the people around her. Like so many of the Iraqi bloggers, she writes beautiful English and has a unique sense of humor. Sami (Skies) is an Iraqi psychologist who blogs about what interests him, whether an issue related to psychology, an old book, or something he heard or saw during the day. Like Chikitita, Sami rarely talks about political issues.

Layla Anwar, who began blogging in July, is an unapologetic supporter of Saddam Hussein. More than most bloggers, Layla is able to channel deep pools of emotion, allowing her to write a seemingly endless succession of short paragraphs that produce in the reader a kind of hypnosis. Her hatreds are the secret fuel of her strophic keyboarding.

Marshmallow 26, an Iraqi Christian, began blogging the next month, in August. Like Chikitita, she blogs mostly about family life but occasionally discusses politics. She is now married and is now -- early May, 2009 -- holding a passport with a visa stamp for the United States, where she will soon be living with her husband and thus starting a new chapter in her life.

In October, Iraqi Mojo, who had been a long-time commenter in the Iraqi blogosphere, began blogging himself. Iraqi Mojo was born in Iraq but arrived in the United States with his family as a boy. As an Iraqi-American, one of his major assets as a commentator has been his knowledge and understanding of both Iraqi and American cultures. He continues to blog today and his comments page, over the last several years, has been a forum for much intense debate on all types of issues. M.H.Z., an intelligent young man with a keen sense of humor, began blogging at the end of the year, first in Baghdad, then Arbil, and finally in the state of Texas, USA.


Complete Series:

Part One. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2003.
Part Two. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2004.
Part Three. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2005.
Part Four. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2006.
Part Five. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2007.
Part Six. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2008-09.


Selected Blog Entries from IBC:

CP = Check out comments page for that entry.

January 4, 2006. Bush & Co Has Made Zero Mistakes in the Iraq Intervention. CMAR II. CP
January 13, 2006. Fight for Your Right to Party. CMAR II.
January 25, 2006. The In T View: Baghdad Treasure, Iraqi Journalist And Blogger. Mister Ghost / Bassam Sebti.
January 31, 2006. What Is Wrong With the Middle East?? CMAR II.
February 16, 2006. Victory at Tal Afar. CMAR II. CP (TAI, CMAR II, Jeffrey, madtom, and Rubin)
February 23, 2006. Hey, Iraqi Sunnis, it's called BLOWBACK!!!. Jeffrey. CP.
February 25, 2006. Who Did It? CMAR II.
February 27, 2006. The Samarra Shrine and Shia Mischief. Mister Ghost.
February 28. 2006. TV Party Tonight!. Jeffrey.
March 2, 2006. Archival Nugget: Zeyad on the Capture of Saddam Hussein. Jeffrey.
March 7, 2006. Waitihg Game. Jeffrey
March 9, 2006. Anarki-13 and His Droogs. Jeffrey.
March 14, 2006. Muqtada Al-Sadr and Unrequited Love. (Includes Photos of Sam Sandmonkey) Jeffrey.
March 17, 2006. Morbid Smile on NPR. Jeffrey.
March 22, 2006. 3 Feet High and Rising? Jeffrey.
March 30, 2006. The Fundamental Question. Jeffrey. CP
April 4, 2006. Islamic Imperial Hubris? Jeffrey.
April 18, 2006. A Day in the Life. Jeffrey. CP
April 26, 2006. Wonderful Sunshine. Mister Ghost / Sunshine (Mosul)
May 4, 2006. Slugfest: Hitchens V Cole. CMAR II.
May 15, 2006. Two Iraqi Views on Why There Is Sectarianism In Iraq Today. CMAR II.
May 21, 2006. Iraqi Bloggers Central Two-Year Anniversary! Jeffrey.
July 10, 2006. The In T View: The Readers Of Iraq The Model Sound Off: Soldier's Dad. Mister Ghost / Soldier's Dad
July 10, 2006. The In T View: The Readers Of Iraq The Model Sound Off: Scott From Oregon. Mister Ghost / Scott from Oregon
July 11, 2006. The In T View: The Readers Of Iraq The Model Sound Off: Lydia. Mister Ghost / Lydia
July 15, 2006. The In T View: The Readers Of Iraq The Model Sound Off: Indigo Red. Mister Ghost / Indigo Red
July 28, 2006. The In T View: The Readers Of Iraq The Model Sound Off: Outlaw Mike. Mister Ghost / Outlaw Mike
August 1, 2006. The In T View: The Readers Of Iraq The Model Sound Off: Peter From Australia. Mister Ghost / Peter
August 7, 2006. The In T View: The Readers Of Iraq The Model Sound Off: Don Cox. Mister Ghost / Don Cox
August 16, 2006. Jill Carroll Kidnapping Investigation Yields New Information on Other Abductions. CMAR II.
September 11, 2006. The Price of Freedom. D.C.
September 12, 2006. An Arab Speaks Out. D.C.
September 14, 2006. Bleakness Among the Blogosphere: The Iraqi Bloggers Sound Off. Mister Ghost. CP
October 5, 2006. Looking For Good News From The Iraqi Bloggers. Mister Ghost.
October 19, 2006. The In T View: Bill Putnam, Combat Photographer On Iraq, War, Photography, And Blogging. Mister Ghost / Bill Putnam.
October 31, 2006. Stop the Presses! Jeffrey.
November 17, 2006. Iraqi MOJO!! Yeah, Baby! Jeffrey. CP
November 21, 2006. The Education of Nir Rosen. Jeffrey. CP
December 29, 2006. From Palace to Spiderhole to Hangman's Noose. Jeffrey.
December 31, 2006. Iraqi Bloggers on Saddam's Execution. RhusLancia.


Selected Articles, Blog Entries, and Documents from 2006:

Omar Fekeiki, "Oh Boy, This Will Be Controversial," 24 Steps to Liberty (website), January 2, 2006. (Pre- and Post-Saddam Iraq Explained) CP

Iraq Pundit, "Deluded Dictator. IraqPundit: Observations of an Iraqi Exile (website), January 3, 2006.

Sam Sandmonkey, "On Heroes and Hypocrites," Rantings of a Sandmonkey, February 13, 2006.

Ali Fadhil, "Civil war, is it close, and is it really a disaster?" Free Iraqi (website), February 22, 2006.

Zeyad Kasim, "Samarra Attack, the Last Straw?" Healing Iraq, February 22, 2006. CP

Zeyad Kasim, "Baghdad Returns to 'Normal', Night Skirmishes Continue," Healing Iraq, February 28, 2006. CP

Akba, "A Year of Blunders," Iraq Rising (website), March 1, 2006. CP

Abbas Hawazin, "Battle of Adhamiya, Live as LIVE Can Be," Catharsis, April 19, 2006.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, "Inside Iraq's Hidden War," Guardian, May 20, 2006.

Iraq Pundit, "A Liberal-Islamist Axis? IraqPundit: Observations of an Iraqi Exile, June 1, 2006.

Steven Pressfield, Tribalism is the Real Enemy in Iraq," Seattle PI, June 18, 2006.

AYS, "The Power of Force," Iraq at a Glance (website), October 8, 2006.

Sooni, "Few Things about the Situation in Iraq," Sooni: Expressing Myself (website), October 27, 2006.


Books Published in 2006:

Jackie Spinner and Jenny Spinner, Tell Them I Didn't Cry.
Michael Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq.
Nir Rosen, In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq.
Fouad Ajami, The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq.
Thomas Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq.
Ray LeMoine, Jeff Newmann, and Donovan Webster, Babylon by Bus.
Jo Wilding, Don't Shoot the Clowns: Taking a Circus to the Real Iraq.
Riverbend, Baghdad Burning II: More Girl Blog from Iraq.
Rajiv Chandresekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City.
Patrick O'Donnell, We Were One.


Monday, April 27, 2009

A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2005

Year in Review: 2005

For Iraqis, 2005 was a year in which they participated in two elections and a referendum. They voted on January 30, October 15, and December 15. The first vote, on January 30, was held despite the explicit warnings from Al Qaeda in Iraq not to attempt this step toward democracy. Looking back at the reports being filed in the weeks leading up to the election, one notes that no one was optimistic about the outcome, often with good reason. According to Dexter Filkins of the New York Times, he and his colleagues had started an office pool to see who could predict the percentage of Iraqis who would vote; the precentages being considered were between fifteen and twenty-four percent. By the end of the day, however, all observers were impressed by the courage of the Iraqi citizens and the long lines of Iraqis who walked to the polling stations to vote. Estimates of the actual turnout vary between fifty and sixty percent. The photos of Iraqis with purple fingers, inked at the voting centers to show that they had voted, were spread around the world.

At the end of the day, Lieutenant Colonel Scott Stanger, one of the Americans who had helped provide security, wrote:
Even though today was a great day for Iraq, the Iraqis took their lumps. There were 6 car bombs in Iraq today, 2 of them in Baghdad. One I believe did more for Iraqi moral than any other event I that I have ever witnessed here. A suicide car bomber drove up to a polling site, which was not to far from us, and blew up. The bomb did not kill anybody but the bomber himself. After the bomb went off the Iraqi voters calmly walked out of the polling site and spit on the remains of the suicide bomber.
On October 15, Iraqis went to the polls to vote on a referendum for the new Constitution; it was ratified by a wide margin. And then, on December 15, there was a general election to seat the new 275-member Parliament. The United Iraqi Alliance ticket won 128 seats, the largest share of any of the parties, followed by the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan with 53, Iraqi Accord Front with 44, and the Iraqi National List with 25.

By voting three times in the course of the year, the Iraqi people had landed three body blows to Al Qaeda in Iraq, but battlegrounds are kinetic, as they say, and the response would soon come. Already back in 2003, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had begun targeting Shiite Iraqis, for sectarian reasons and in the hope of fomenting a civil war between Sunnis and Shia that would bring the entire country down. In February, 2006, with the bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, Zarqawi's dream had its best chance of becoming reality.


New Iraqi Bloggers in 2005:

Dr. Truth Teller -- January, 2005.
Hassan (Average Iraqi) -- February, 2005.
Ahmad (Iraqi Expat) -- March, 2005.
Morbid Smile -- April, 2005.
Sunshine -- April, 2005.
Sooni -- April, 2005.
Akba -- April, 2005.
Salam Adil (Asterism) -- May, 2005.
Mama (Sunshine's mother) -- July, 2005.
Iraqi Roulette -- July, 2005.
Konfused Kid -- July, 2005.
Omar (24) -- August, 2005.
Treasure of Baghdad -- August, 2005.
Caesar of Pentra -- September, 2005.
Attawie -- September, 2005.
Michomeme -- September, 2005.
Still Alive (My Letters to America) -- September, 2005.
Iraqi Lord -- November, 2005.

In 2005 a new crop of Iraqi bloggers appeared. Instead of the architects and dentists of the first wave, the second wave was a mixed group of college students or recent graduates.

Morbid Smile, a student of English literature in Baghdad, started blogging in April. She also started a photoblog that she kept from October, 2005, to June, 2006. On September 2, 2006, she arrived in the United States with a Fulbright scholarship. For the next two years, she studied for and then completed her Master's Degree, writing a thesis on Jane Austen. She returned to Iraq in September of 2008, but has not yet returned to blogging.

Konfused Kid, a fan of heavy-metal at the time, began blogging in July. During the breakdown in security in Baghdad, Konfused Kid decided to move to Jordan. Later, while in Amman, he began to reassess his musical tastes and began to reject heavy-metal, turning more toward tradtional Iraqi music. In February, 2008, he announced that he was no longer "Konfused Kid." His new name was "Abbas Hawazin." He also changed the name of his blog to "Catharsis." Still in Jordan today, Konfused Kid/Abbas Hawazin continues to blog on a fairly regular basis.

Omar Fekeiki (24 Steps to Liberty) and Bassam Sebti (Treasure of Baghdad) were both working for The Washington Post when they began blogging in August. Omar Fekeiki received a visa from the US to attend the graduate school in journalism at Berkeley. While in college, Omar blogged frequently and his comments pages were a forum for many discussions. He stopped blogging, however, on April 15, 2008. That May, at his graduation ceremony, Omar gave a commencement speech and then looked into the audience for Ban Hameed, a woman he had met eight years earlier in Baghdad.
Fekeiki told the audience he had one more thing to say, and then told her that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. They embraced, she sobbed and he gave her a ring. Although this came as a surprise to her, he had been reasonably sure she'd say yes. "I'm a good reporter," he said Monday. "I did research before I did it."
Since then, IBC has not heard anything about Omar Fekeiki. Bassam Sebti (Treasure of Baghdad) also came to the United States on a student visa, attending St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, where he completed a Master's in Writing. Today he is living and working in Washington, D.C., where he is the Arabic Editor for the International Journalists' Network; he blogs occasionally and has a Twitter account.

Like Fayrouz, Ahmad (Iraqi Expat) was an Iraqi living abroad (London) when he began blogging, offering his comments on events happening back in Iraq; he stopped blogging on August 22, 2005. Salam Adil, another exile, started a blog that focused on summarizing the differing views of the Iraqi bloggers and keeping the editorial commentary to a minimum. Never a prolific blogger, his blog posts these days are even more infrequent than usual. While many Iraqi bloggers were focused on political issues, Caesar of Pentra, like Shaggy, wrote about his daily life and his own concerns. He relocated to Jordan for a while but then returned to Baghdad. He is currently trying to finish his undergraduate degree and doesn't update his blog very often.


Also in 2005 there were three American bloggers that we blogrolled and to whom we began to link. Michael Yon, an ex-Special Forces soldier, and Michael J. Totten, holding an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, began blogging about and eventually reporting from Iraq and the Middle East. The third, Steven Vincent, was an arts journalist living in New York City on September 11, 2001. What happened that day would end up completely changing the focus of his writing. After two trips to Iraq, one in the fall of 2003 and the other in the spring of 2004, Vincent returned to New York City and published "In the Red Zone," part memoir and part analysis of Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Through his publisher, Spence, Vincent began a blog also called "In the Red Zone," writing his first entry on December 2, 2004.

Although he worked as a professional journalist, Vincent immediately recognized the significance and potential of bloggers. Looking back at the results of the vote on January 30, 2005, Vincent wrote:
I can't imagine how the liberation of Iraq would have progressed without the hundreds, the thousands, of blogs that cut through the anti-war bias of the MSM. By giving a voice to people and viewpoints which otherwise would have gone silent, bloggers helped articulate the cause of democracy and civil rights that lies at the base of this conflict.
Early on Vincent blogrolled Iraqi Bloggers Central and began linking to our entries, just as we did at IBC. Steven and I regularly met each other on his comments pages and compared notes. I had been following all of his blog entries written on his second trip to Iraq when I read one morning that he had been killed in Basra. It was a shock from which I have not yet really recovered.

It is difficult to choose a single blog entry from Steven Vincent to give you an idea of his spirit and compassion, but I think this one gets very close:

January 29, 2005. "Prayers for Iraq." Steven Vincent, written on the eve of the Iraqi elections on January 30, 2005.


Complete Series:

Part One. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2003.
Part Two. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2004.
Part Three. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2005.
Part Four. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2006.
Part Five. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2007.
Part Six. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2008-09.


Selected Blog Entries from IBC:

CP = Check out comments page for that entry.

January 2, 2005. Emigre to Iraqis: Stop the Vote! Jeffrey. CP
January 5, 2005. Husayn to Zarqawi: Die You Dirty Dog. Jeffrey.
January 22, 2005. If Sarah Boxer Were a Blogger.... Jeffrey.
January 30, 2005. Iraqis' Historic Vote! Jeffrey. CP
February 4, 2005. Khalid Adjusts Tin-Foil Hat for Better Reception. Jeffrey. CP
February 17, 2005. Ripped Blue Jeans and Tennies. Jeffrey.
February 21, 2005. We Are Iraq The Model Nation. Mister Ghost / Omar Fadhil.
February 24, 2005. The In T View: Fayrouz Hancock. Mister Ghost / Fayrouz Hancock.
March 12, 2005. The In T View: Kurdo Unbound! Mister Ghost / Kurdo.
March 16, 2005. The In T View: Neurotic Iraqi Wife ~ Not So Neurotic After All. Mister Ghost / NIW.
April 25, 2005. The In T View: Ferid The Great, Iraqi Renaissance Man. Mister Ghost / Ferid.
May 3, 2005. The In T View: Iraq The Model's Omar - Blogging's Modest Superstar. Mister Ghost / Omar Fadhil.
May 5, 2005. Steven Vincent Reports from Umm Qasr. Jeffrey.
May 5, 2005. The In T View: Sandmonkey - No Monkeying Around For This Rising Star Of The Blogosphere. Mister Ghost / Sam Sandmonkey.
May 10, 2005. Steven Vincent Reports from Umm Qasr. Jeffrey.
May 12, 2005. The In T View: Sam From Hammorabi. Mister Ghost / Hammorabi Sam.
May 24, 2005. Iraqis Examine Saddam's Undies. Jeffrey.
May 28, 2005. Hope in the Middle East? Jeffrey. CP
May 30, 2005. The In T View: Kat Proudly From The Midwest. Mister Ghost / Kat.
June 16, 2005. Are Iraqis Crocodiles? Jeffrey. CP
June 18, 2005. Faiza in America. Jeffrey. CP
June 30, 2005. The In T View: Akbar From Iraq Rising And So Is He. Mister Ghost / Akbar.
July 5, 2005. The In T View: Ahmad From Iraqi Expat. Mister Ghost / Ahmad.
July 14, 2005. What Faiza Learned from Her Summer Vacation to America. Jeffrey.
July 26, 2005. Snooping through the Archives. Jeffrey.
July 27, 2005. In Basra, Steven Vincent Hears an Echo from Graham Greene. Jeffrey.
August 3, 2005. Steven Vincent Killed in Iraq. Jeffrey. CP
August 4, 2005. Raed Jarrar and Ayman Al-Zawahri Together Again! Jeffrey.
August 12, 2005. Jeffrey Tries to Join Snarkaholics Anonymous. Jeffrey.
August 26, 2005. The Cruelty of Mercy: The Trouble With the Sunni Arabs & The Potential For Ethnic Cleansing in Iraq. CMAR II.
August 31, 2005. The In T View: Ali Fadhil - Cast Off From Blogging Heaven, He Found His Truth Elsewhere. Mister Ghost / Ali Fadhil
September 27, 2005. Ba'athist by the Bay. Jeffrey. CP
September 29, 2005. Who is Niki Akhavan? Jeffrey.
October 12, 2005. Zawahiri Letter Translated...the Jihadi PR Machine. CMAR II.
October 13, 2005. New Mongrel on the Block. Jeffrey.
October 20, 2005. Throwing Down the Gauntlet with Khalid Jarrar. CMAR II. CP
October 23, 2005. The Truth about Iraq and the Iraqis? Jeffrey.
October 28, 2005. Speak, Wise Sandmonkey! Jeffrey.
November 1, 2005. Ghaith's Return to Iraq. Jeffrey. CP
November 13, 2005. Allbritton Beaten Up by "Peace Activists"! Jeffrey.
November 17, 2005. White Heat. CMAR II. CP
November 21, 2005. The Blood Just Won't Come Off Sites' Hands. Jeffrey. CP
November 28, 2005. Saddam's Torturer: Working In Iraq Interior Ministry. CMAR II.
December 5, 2005. The Saddam Trial II. CMAR II. CP
December 7, 2005. Saddam III. CMAR II. CP
December 9, 2005. Kudzu in the Lead Graph. Jeffrey. CP
December 22, 2005. The In T View: 24 Steps To Liberty, Iraqi Journalist. Mister Ghost / Omar Fekeiki.
December 23, 2005. Crunching the Numbers. Jeffrey. CP
December 24, 2005. Iraq by Numbers. Jeffrey.


Selected Articles, Blog Entries, and Documents from 2005:

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, "Bleeding the Weak," Guardian, January 3, 2005.

Nasser Flayih Hasan, "How the Left Betrayed My Country - Iraq," FrontPage Magazine (online), January 3, 2005.

Sam Sandmonkey, "The 7 Rules of the A.P.U.," Rantings of a Sandmonkey (website), January 6, 2005.

Wendell Steavenson, "Election Day in Najaf," Slate, January 30, 2005.

Youssef M. Ibrahim, "New Kind of Awe in the Mideast," USA Today, January 31, 2005.

Neil Prakash, "SPC ROBY: 1, IED: 1," Armor Geddon (website), January 31, 2005.

Cecile Landman, "Baghdad Blogger Salam Pax Talks to Streamtime," Streamtime (website), February 10, 2005. (Interview with Salam Pax -- text/audio)

Omar Fadhil, "The Magic of Pajamas," Iraq the Model, February 16, 2005.

Akba, "The Day I Met Papa Saddam," Iraq Rising, April 29, 2005.

Mark Memmott, 'Milbloggers' are typing their place in history," USA Today, May 11, 2005.

Akba, "A Nut-House Called Iraq," Iraq Rising (website), June 13, 2005.

Steven Vincent, "The Stringer," National Review Online, June 14, 2005.

Fayrouz Hancock, "Stop Whining and Start Rebuilding," Fayrouz in Dallas (website), June 20, 2005.

Steven Vincent, "Fallen Virtue," In the Red Zone (website), June 24, 2005.

Ahmad, "State of Rage," Iraqi Expat (website), July 7, 2005. (Response to Terrorism in London)

Sooni, "Voting Photos from Baghdad," Sooni: Expressing Myself, October 15, 2005.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, "'We don't need al-Qaida'," Guardian, October 27, 2005.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, The New Sunni Jihad: 'A Time for Politics', Washington Post, October 27, 2005.

Bassam Sebti, "Enemies!! Treasure of Baghdad's Diary," Treasure of Baghdad, November 8, 2005. CP (Bassam Sebti and Omar Fekeiki excerpt from e-mails sent to Riverbend)

Frontline (PBS), "Interview: Ghaith Abdul-Ahad," Fall, 2005.

Salam Pax, "Iraq Restaurant Bomb Kills Dozens," Shut Up You Fat Whiner, November 11, 2005.


Books Published in 2005:

Capt. Jason Conroy and Ron Martz, Heavy Metal: A Tank Company's Battle to Baghdad.
John Coopman, McCoy's Marines: Darkside to Baghdad.
Yaroslav Trofimov, Faith at War: A Journey to the Frontlines of Islam, from Baghdad to Timbuktu.
Riverbend, Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq.
Anthony Shadid, Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War.
George Packer, Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq.
Bing West, No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle of Fallujah.
Colby Buzzel, My War: Killing Time in Iraq.
Nathanial Fick, One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine.
Matthew Bogdanos, Thieves of Baghdad.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2004

Year in Review: 2004

In 2004, many of the major players for the future of Iraq -- the Sunni insurgents, the foreign jihadists led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and Muqtada al-Sadr and his Madhi militia -- began to assert themselves, testing the extent of their power in post-Saddam Iraq. During the first half of 2004, due to the weak Iraq Governing Council and the imminent dissolution of the Coalition Provisional Authority, those who wanted to take advantage of this transitional situation did so -- in March from Muqtada al-Sadr, and in April by the insurgents and the foreign fighters in Fallujah. Then, on June 23, 2004, governmental power was formally transferred to the Iraqi Interim Government, with Iyad Allawi as prime minister. The second half of the year saw further challenges, in August from Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf and in November from the foreign jihadists in Fallujah. 2004 also saw an increase in the anger, disbelief, and bitterness from both the Iraqis and Americans as they responded, in turn, to the photos of abused Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib and to the murder of the Americans whose bodies had been mutiliated and hung from a bridge outside Fallujah. Neither event shows the representative behavior of Iraqis or Americans, but those images nonetheless tapped into deep-seated fears for both sides.

The insurgents, mostly Sunni Ba'athists, continued to work with Al Qaeda in Iraq in an attempt to bring down whatever kind of government that the Coalition forces were trying to stand up. They offered logistical support to the jihadists in return for the lethality that the foreign fighters could bring against the government and Coalition forces. It was a relationship of shared goals -- at least it seemed so to the Sunni insurgents at the beginning -- and mutual support.

At the same time, the Shiites following Muqtada Al-Sadr, many of them having joined his Madhi militias, were attempting to push the Coalition forces out of Iraq and to assert their power over the Sunnis, now that Saddam Hussein had been removed from power. Muqtada Al-Sadr was also trying to secure a position of leadership over all Shiite Iraqis. His first move had come immediately after the fall of Baghdad when his followers murdered Abdul Majid al-Khoei, his rival, outside the Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf. In the spring and summer of 2004, Muqtada Al-Sadr's militias seized several towns in an uprising against the weak Iraqi government. The US and Iraqi militaries fought back, forcing Muqtada and the Madhi militiamen to retreat to the mosque in Najaf. After long negotiations between Allawi, Sistani, and Muqtada Al-Sadr, a deal was reached that allowed the members of the Madhi militiamen to lay down their weapons and walk out of the shrine to fight another day. Both times that the Madhi militia had engaged the US forces they were crushed. In 2004 Muqtada al-Sadr learned the limits of his so-called Mahdi Army. He would never again challenge the US militarily head-to-head and, from then on, he sought different ways of increasing his power in the new Iraq.

Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had taken over Fallujah and were using the city in Anbar as a command center for their country-wide operations. It is also where they built IED factories, torture chambers, and where they filmed the beheading of the American Nicholas Berg. In April, responding to the murder and mutilation of four American contractors in Fallujah, the US forces surrounded and began an assault on the city, but by the end of the month a ceasefire was in place and the city of Fallujah was allowed to devolve back into a haven for both Iraqi insurgents and Al-Qaeda in Iraq. On November 7, 2004, three days after President George Bush was elected to a second term, the go-ahead was given for Operation Phantom Fury, Fallujah II. By the end of the operation, there was no question who had won the second engagement. Those foreign fighters who weren't killed fled to other parts of Iraq, many of them, over the next few years, eventually being killed by either Coalition forces or by members of the Awakening movement, former Sunni insurgents who realized that Al-Qaeda in Iraqi was killing far more of their people than Americans.

Like Muqtada al-Sadr and the Madhi militia, the foreign jihadists led by Zarqawi would never again attempt to engage the US military in set battles. They too had learned the limits of their fighting capacity. With that lesson learned, Zarqawi re-focused his tactics, increasing the suicide-bombings in the hope of fomenting a civil war between the Sunnis and Shia as the best way forward.

Although there had been much violence and bloodshed over the year, in December there was one hopeful outcome. After months of negotiations, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who had exhibited the extent of his power over Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf in August, was able to secure three dates for voting in the following year, 2005: legislative elections on January 30, a constitutional referendum on October 15, and finally a parliamentary election on December 15.


New Iraqi Bloggers for 2004:

Liminal -- January, 2004.
Majid Jarrar -- February, 2004.
Raed Jarrar -- March, 2004.
Ibn Alrafidain -- June, 2004.
Najma -- June, 2004.
Sara -- June, 2004.
Hiwa -- June, 2004.
Iraq Pundit -- July, 2004.
Kurdistan Bloggers Union (Dilnareen et al.) -- July, 2004.
HNK -- July, 2004.
Raghda -- July, 2004.
Salam Pax (Fat Whiner) -- August, 2004.
Rose -- August, 2004.
Anarki-13 -- August, 2004.
Nancy (Beth Nahrain) -- August, 2004.
Neurotic Iraqi Wife -- August, 2004.
Shaggy -- September, 2004
Ali Fadhil (Free Iraqi) -- December, 2004.

Of the three original friends -- Salam Pax, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, and Raed Jarrar -- Raed Jarrar had by far the worst English-language writing skills. His entries were often difficult to understand. Was he simply having trouble writing English? Was he drinking while blogging? Or was he just naturally nuts? "While Salam Pax has always been an ironist and Ghaith the most passionate critic of the Saddam regime," I wrote in an entry for Iraqi Bloggers Central, "Raed has been the most unpredictable and unstable, sometimes writing like an inebriated Italian futurist while at other times like a slightly medicated and thoroughly paranoid Hunter S. Thompson."

A few months later, Iraq Pundit, a blogger who could not be more different from Raed Jarrar, started blogging. Today he is still pumping out some of the best analysis of media coverage on Iraq. Up in Mosul, a teenager named Najma (A Star in Mosul) was the first of an entire family of bloggers to start writing. Today she is in college and has recently gotten engaged to -- believe it or not -- Bookish, another blogger.

Shaggy, the loner and absolute crazy diamond of the Iraqi blogosphere, had written one blog entry in May, took a four-month break, but then returned to blogging that September. Today Shaggy has become a farmer who spends time down on the farm in Shamiya and then back in Baghdad with his buddies. In July, Dilnareen and a few other bloggers started Kurdistan Bloggers Union. Salam Pax started a new blog in August, naming it, with his distinctive, self-deprecating humor, "Shut Up You Fat Fat Whiner." Ali Fadhil started his own blog called "Free Iraqi" at the end of the year.

In 2004 Iraqi Bloggers Central also began following the American milbloggers, five in particular: Jason (Iraq Now), Kevin (Boots on the Ground), Jeremy Botter (Letters from Iraq), Neil Prakash (Armor Geddon), and CBFTW (My War: Fear and Loathing in Iraq). Jason had been stationed in Ramadi; since his return to the US he has continued blogging at "Countercolumn." Neil Prakash, whose call sign was Red Six, later offered the "Armor Geddon" readers his account of a tanker's experiences in Fallujah II. The blogger we knew as CBFTW turned out to be Colby Buzzell, who would later leave the military and use his blog as the basis for his memoir called "My War."


Complete Series:

Part One. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2003.
Part Two. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2004.
Part Three. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2005.
Part Four. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2006.
Part Five. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2007.
Part Six. A Look Back at Iraq and the Iraqi Blogosphere: 2008-09.


Selected Blog Entries from IBC (Jeffrey):

CP = Check out comments page for that entry.

May 23, 2004. Faiza Would More Likely Vote for Bush than Kerry. CP
May 25, 2004. Mr. Peabody's Improbable History / Salam Pax, Raed Jarrar, and Gaith "G" Ahad. CP
May 26, 2004. Twilight Zone: Judge and Executioner. CP
May 27, 2004. War and Its Discontents.
May 28, 2004. Optimists versus Pessimists? CP
May 29, 2004. Revenge of the Secular Muslims. CP
May 31, 2004. Another Jeffrey Holmes Mystery: The Strange Case of Asmar Ahmad
June 1, 2004. Primary Sources: The War Diary of Faiza Jarrar.
June 9, 2004. Lisa from New York's Letter to Faiza.
June 10, 2004. Raed Jarrar: Saddam, Mein Fuehrer!
June 27, 2004. The Story of Three Iraqi Friends.
June 30, 2004. Fuzzy and Dangerous Logic.
July 10, 2004. A Vote for Al-Kerry is a Vote for Al-Qaeda. CP
July 15, 2004. An Iraqi Reviews Fahrenheit 9/11.
July 20, 2004. One Happy Iraqi: Hearts and Minds and ???? Support Operation Iraqi Boner. CP
August 3, 2004. Iraqis Respond to Attack on Christian Churches.
August 5, 2004. CBFTW Reports from Inside a Kill Zone.
August 6, 2004. AYS Addresses the Fat Stupid Man.
August 8, 2004. Three Cheers for Samir!
August 12, 2004. Muqtada Al-Sadr: "Time out! Time out!"
August 13, 2004. Our Man "G" in the Belly of Najaf.
August 15, 2004. Muqtada Al-Sadr's Infantile Dysfunction.
August 16, 2004. Sheriff Lee C. Talks Straight.
August 26, 2004. The Arab Parallel Universe Triumphs Again! CP
August 27, 2004. End of the Road. CP
December 17, 2004. Make That "One Thousand and TWO nights."
December 18, 2004. Who Are the Insurgents in Iraq?
December 29, 2004. Khalid Jarrar to Iraqis: Don't Vote!
December 31, 2004. Speak, Wise Sandmonkey!


Selected Articles, Blog Entries, and Documents from 2004:

Zeyad Kasim, "An Iraqi Family's Tragedy," Healing Iraq, January 8, 2004. CP

Steven Vincent, "Bloody Ashura: An American at a deadly bombing in Iraq," National Review Online, March 5, 2004.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, "'This is the only fun the kids get - shooting at the US sitting ducks'," The Guardian, June 25, 2004.

Salam Pax, "Starting a petition to have Sadir in the next swim suit issue of [Nude & Hard]," Shut Up You Fat Whiner (website), August 12, 2004. (Salam Pax's response to Riverbend)

Zeyad Kasim, "Conspiracy Theories and the Ummah," Healing Iraq, September 16, 2004.

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, "In Hideout, Foreign Arabs Share Vision of 'Martyrdom'," Washington Post, November 9, 2004.

Steven Vincent, "The Power of Shame," National Review Online, December 13, 2004.


Selected Photographs and Videos:

PHOTOGRAPH: Muqtada al-Sadr.
VIDEO: Fallujah: Tankers Dream. Soldier-produced video from Operation Phantom Fury, Fallujah II.


Books Covering 2004:

Bing West, No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle of Fallujah (2005).

David Bellavia, House to House: An Epic Memoir of War (2007).

Patrick Cockburn, Muqtada: Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq (2008).

Donovan Campbell, Joker One: A Marine Platoon's Story of Courage, Leadership, and Brotherhood (2009).


Books Published in 2004:

Rick Atkinson, In the Company of Soldiers: A Chronicle of Combat.
David Zucchino, Thunder Run: The Armored Strike to Capture Baghdad.
John Keegan, The Iraq War.
Evan Wright, Generation Kill: Devil Dogs, Iceman, Captain America and the New Face of American War.
Karl Zinsmeister, Dawn Over Baghdad: How the U.S. Military is Using Bullets and Ballots to Remake Iraq.
Jon Lee Anderson, The Fall of Baghdad.
Steven Vincent, In the Red Zone: A Journey into the Soul of Iraq.


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