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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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