Monday, June 25, 2007

De-Baathification (IV)

As an example of ignorance of the high ranks Baathists, there was a story recited by the Iraqis as a joke. It shows the kind of people was leading the state and their ignorance. Hussein Kamil was Saddam’s cousin & son in law. The man was of elementary school education; Saddam granted him the rank of five stars general and assigned him the minister of defense & the supervisor of military industrialization ministry. On visiting a military research institution he came across a machine which had been facing a problem. He asked the researcher about the problem. The answer was ‘It needs steam. I need lot of steam to make it work, sir’. The researcher with complete unawareness used the English word ‘steam’. Kamil immediately issued an order to collect all the ‘steam’ available in the markets to solve the problem. The attendants were about to burst into laughing, which they couldn’t because it might cause them death.

Speaking of death, let’s take a look at some resolutions issued by the Revolution Command Council (RCC) impose the death penalty. These resolutions had the force of law. By the way, the RCC was consisting of 10-20 members, mainly of the Baath central leadership. It represented the legislative & executive branches in Iraq.

1- The Revolution Command Council Resolution (RCCR) No. 865 dated August 12, 1974 states: Any individual joins the Baath party without revealing his/her ex-relations with any other political parties or maintaining such relations, will be executed.

2- RCCR No. 1244 dated November 20, 1976 states: Any individual quits the Baath party and joins another or champions another party (even after quitting the Baath), will be executed.

3- RCCR No. 1357 dated November 10, 1971 bans any political activity inside the armed forces; amended in 1976 stating that any person who would be politically active inside the armed forces, except for the Baath party, will be executed.

4- RCCR No. 734 on May 30, 1978 imposes death penalty on any Iraqi or foreigner lives in Iraq, if it became obvious that he/she has any kind of relation with non-Iraqi intelligence services (inside or outside Iraq) without the permission of the Iraqi authorities.

5- RCCR No. 784 on June 7, 1978 imposes death penalty on any individual who tries to organize a person, who had relation with the Baath party, to work for another political party or group.

6- RCCR No. 884 on July 3, 1978 states: any individual who was a member of the army or police will be executed if he/she joins or works for a political party or group (except the Baath) after being discharged from the service or retired.

7- RCCR No. 1447 on October 30, 1979 imposes death on any person reverts to Baha’eia (a minority Muslim sect in Iraq).

8- RCCR No. 461 on March 31, 1980 imposes death on any individual joins Al-Da’waa Islamic Party or was a member of it and quit the party before issuing this resolution (retroactive law).

9- RCCR No. 1140 dated August 26, 1981 which imposes death on deserter; amended by RCCR No. 1540 on November 17, 1981 to include deserters of the Public Army (the Baath Party militia) and the Border Guards.

10- RCCR No. 877 on July 7, 1982 imposes death on any absentee soldier from his military unit for more than five days.

11- RCCR No. 1133 on September 2, 1982 imposes death penalty on any individual who commits robbery during war.

12- RCCR No. 1370 in 1983 imposes death on any individual of an age more than 18, who might escape to the enemy’s lines, conspire against the state security, join Al-Da’waa party, or be a deserter.

13- RCCR No. 313 on March 13, 1984 imposes death on any person smuggles currency, gold or uses them to deal with the ‘persian’ enemy.

14- RCCR No. 384 on March 31, 1984 issued the law No. 32/1984 of the penal code in the Public Army (the Baath militia). It stated in some of its articles that persons who show cowardice & defeatism will be executed. The law did not define what is meant by ‘cowardice’ & ‘defeatism’ or which side is to set the standards to be followed of these terms.

15- RCCR No. 458 dated April 21, 1984 imposes death on any person joins a party, group, or association works to change the Baath government by armed force or by collaboration with foreign party.

16- RCCR No. 960 on August 23, 1984 imposes death penalty on any person works for the interests of a foreign country or collaborates with someone who works for the interests of that country.

17- RCCR No. 120 on January 29, 1986 imposes death on any body forges a passport issued from any country, or forges Iraqi documents.

18- RCCR No. 840 on November 4, 1986 imposes life imprisonment and confiscation of movable & immovable properties on any person insults the president, vice president, RCC, the Baath party, the national assembly, or the government. The punishment will be execution if the insult was clear and intends to provoke the public opinion against the authorities.

It seemed that all these resolutions were useless; especially of punishing the deserters. In the 1990s the punishment for a deserter became cutting his ear & branding his forehead with heated metal.

Many other resolutions were issued which I do not recall now, but one of them, in the mid 1990s, issued a law called “Anger Martyr” which gives the right to Saddam to kill any person in case of anger. The deceased might come out that he/she did not deserve death then Saddam compensates his/her family.

The punishment for telling a joke about Saddam or his family was cutting one’s tongue.

Special courts were normal practice by the Baath regime. A special court was to be formed for special incident. The judgment of such court was executing all those on trial. For example, in 1977 a bunch of protesters in Kerbala & Najaf were sentenced to death within four hours session.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

De-Baathification (III)

The secret organization brought forth leaders of weird characteristics. They are rude, ignorant persons. Most of them could barely read & write. Still, some of the early Baathists were educated. They had been charmed by the bright motto of Arab unity, freedom, and socialism. One of those is Dr. Jawad Hashim, who had a PhD from London School of Economic & Political Science in the year 1966. He became the minister of planning several times during the era of President Ahmed Hassan Al-Bakir (1968-1979).

Dr. Hashim wrote a book 'An Iraqi Minister Dairy with Al-Bakir & Saddam'. I’ll quote some extracts from this book here. In the year 1967 Dr. Hashim was the secretary of the Iraqi National Board for Education & Social Development. It was before the Baathists could seize power in 1968. The man was assigned by the then Prime Minister Tahir Yahya to prepare a review of the governmental vacancies and to fill them with unemployed high school graduates of that year. He managed to find vacancies more than the number of the graduates. A call was issued for those who would like to be employed. Now, let's read what he wrote about a visit paid to him at work by Ahmed Hassan Al-Bakir (It’s my translation, not an official one):

“Al-Bakir handed me a bunch of applications. I promised him that they would be employed if they met the required qualifications. Al-Bakir assured me that they meet the conditions, but he had a request that these youths to be employed at petrol stations which are located in Karkh (the western part of Baghdad), especially those near to the presidential palace & other main governmental headquarters.”

The reason for such request was to keep an eye on the officials’ movements & to report them to the Baath leaders. The Baathists were preparing a coup to seize power, which took place on 17th July 1968.
This is one of the Baathists’ features which had been developed, later, over 35 years of ruling Iraq. Very sophisticated secret institutions were nurtured introducing a complicated web which can work underground efficiently. It is quite logical that they are using, nowadays, such way to creep into various governmental administrations. Senior Baathist émigrés intimidate those of less ranks, who still live in Iraq, forcing them to do certain dirty tasks. For example, informing the Baath leadership about any new infrastructure projects. And if one of these lower ranks Baathists refused to cooperate, his family could be targeted. It is a mafia work style.

The main mission to be pursued by the Baathist, in the mean time, is to paralyze life in Iraq. It is carried out expertly by an elite of secret service men who had been trained in different countries during the Baath era. But one can notice that the term ‘Baath’ is not used by any group claiming resistance in Iraq. It seems that the mass killings taking place in Iraq should not be connected to the ‘Baath’, so that the Baath could take the role of the savior of the Iraqi people in case of regaining power.

With a very huge amount of money made out of billions of dollars, it becomes so easy to fund sabotage and killings. Let’s read again in Dr. Hashim’s book about the source of these billions:

“A Portuguese company, Colbankian, owned 5% of the Iraqi oil concession. In the years 1972 & 1973, Iraq nationalized its petroleum industry. Saddam decided to keep this 5% revenue to the Baath party in a special bank account outside Iraq. According to Saddam, this amount of money is to be used to regain power in case of a counter coup took place against the Baath regime or a foreign power invaded Iraq.
I recall a private meeting with Saddam attended by Ameen Abdul Kareem (the then minister of finance), Dr. Fawzee Al-Kaisee (the then governor of the central bank) and me, when Saddam said to us:
‘The Baath party seized power in Iraq to rule for 300 years. To maintain ruling Iraq or regaining power in case of counter coup, a huge source of money should be available abroad. We won’t let same mistakes of the experience of 1963 happen again (referring to the ten bloody months the Baath ruled Iraq) when we fell and faced lot of difficulties in finance. So, think, men of economics, how we can make use of the Colbankian nationalized share for the benefit of the party.’
In deed, the Revolution Command Council issued a resolution allocating 5% of Iraq’s oil revenue to the Baath party and to be deposited in special account outside Iraq controlled by Saddam.
According to my estimation, the accumulated revenue of this percentage by the end of 1989 is about $10 billion. Assuming that this amount had been invested in bank accounts of 8-18% interest, then the accumulated amount would be $30 billion by the end of 1990.”

Friday, April 27, 2007

De-Baathification (II)

To get promoted in the party, one should write as much as possible secret reports. Promotion means that one is evolving into a Baathist. Secret reports were used by plotters to get rid of rivals. It became the suitable mean way for a wife to get rid of a husband & vice versa; to get rid of a competitor in work; to harm an annoying neighbor…etc. Many filthy stories were known to the Iraqis about people who did so, and many others were discovered after the fall of Saddam's regime.

Unforgettable incident was an occasion on which Saddam rewarded a man for killing his son who was a conscientious objector during the Iraqi-Iranian war. Secret cassette recorders were the most deadly weapon in this system. One might find himself accused for saying words while he was drunk. More guilt and pricking of the conscience might be felt on finding oneself a witness in a recorder case, especially when the investigators do not tell the witness about the recorded tape. A famous Iraqi singer, Sabah As'sahil, was executed because of something he said, against Saddam, while he was drunk. His wife was the one who set the trap for him and taped his words.

One category of active writers of secret reports was those who have one of their family or relatives had been executed or fled the country. They did so to protect themselves by showing loyalty. Another was the opportunists who had no morality. In general, one can imagine what kind of organization the Baath party was.

The vast majority of the Baath party members were just like me. They wanted, and still, to live in peace. To avoid this mafia which is called Baath, they join the party and remain in the lowest levels. The Baath hierarchy consists of more than eleven levels. It begins with 'Moayeed' which means 'supporter'. Promotion means less work and more privileges. A privilege is not leading a luxurious life; it could be staying alive.

Depriving the people of their basic rights changes any kind of gesture from the ascending chain of comrades to a privilege. The gesture could be as trivial as several packets of cigarettes.

Hassan Alawee is a journalist, who was of the first generation of Iraqi Baathists (early 1950s), wrote many books about his experience for more than 25 years as a member of the Baath party. By the late 1970s he became Saddam's press secretary. He fled the country after executing his cousin (Saddam's minister of planning) in 1979. One of the books he wrote is 'Iraq the State of the Secret Organization' (1990). Let's quote some extracts from it. These extracts are translated by me, so it is not official one and I hope it conveys the essence of the Arabic text.

"The comrades in charge are usually individuals with no responsibilities (in practical life) assigned to run the party affairs. These comrades are helped by partially devoted members who could be employees, students, military personnel, doctors, workers, farmers…etc. The secret dedication does not let the latter to have sufficient time to develop their skill and be successful in the fields of their specialty. They are not active in their firms. The sluggish & indolent in the society are the ones who are active & influential in the party.

So, the party cadres in charge do not contain a notable sociologist, historian, surgeon…etc. inconsistency between the party cadres and experts or specialists had its profound effect on the governmental administration. One of the secret organization traditions is to treat intellectuals & scientists as inferiors since they can't carry out the party tasks efficiently. On the other hand, indolent people & losers represented the leading cadre of the organization which became later the leading cadre of the nation.

Here is one story 'Professor Khalid Mohammed Sa'eid, a friend of mine, was a university lecturer in brain surgery at the college of medicine. He and I were members of the same party cell. The comrade in charge of our cell was Abdul Kadir Hummadee Al-Anee. The man was a ticket seller at the governmental public transport company. The comrade enjoyed annoying Dr. Sa'eid by ordering him to tour the streets carrying a ladder and a bunch of pieces of cloth, on which the party slogans were written, to post them in public places. If Dr. Sa'eid refused to undertake the assignment, he would be considered a disobedient or undisciplined in the better. Dr. Sa'eid wished that he could be accompanied by his younger brother, who was a loser, to help him with this task!

Suddenly, Dr. Sa'eid disappeared. I think he fled Iraq. Years later, his younger brother, the loser, Salam Mohammed Sa'eid became the minister of health and to be the first Iraqi minister of health with no medicine degree. The party rejects the brain surgeon and prefers his brother, the loser, as a minister of health. This is not a special case or a paradoxical one; it is the essential body in the governmental working rules under the domination of the secret organization.'

From the above, it becomes obvious that the membership of the central leadership of the party is exclusionary. Only those who are unqualified (scientifically & intellectually) & of limited qualifications could promote and join the central leadership. Because of the secretive life & seclusion of the secret organization, it becomes plain that it turns out to be an excellent place for introverts, recluses, and uneducated people. Indolent people, who come from remote secluded villages of deteriorated agricultural and commercial production, will become the best social class to get along with the secret organization.

While normal persons, outside the organization, feel disgust & restlessness for the life of seclusion & conspiracy inside the organization; the party cadres feel great psychological joy in secret work between the walls of their hidey-hole.

A hidey-hole which is engulfed by mystery, fear, and terror from the milieu; a hidey-hole which is filled with aggressive feelings against the state institutions, unexpectedly changes into a state!"

To be continued…

Monday, March 26, 2007

De-Baathification (I)

The US administration and its Iraqi allies seem to have dissimilar approaches to the de-baathification law. The Americans want to go much further than the Iraqis in easing rules barring former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from government service.

I was a member of the Baath party till overthrowing Saddam. My story is similar to those of the vast majority of Iraqis who were members of the party. Bear in mind the difference between two terms, I'm going to use here, 'Baathist' and 'Member of the Baath party'. Rereading a previous post (Rambling Post) could be helpful; from which I'll continue.

The Baath party was exploited by the US during the cold war. The communists became very active in Iraq after the coup of 1958 and they represented a real threat to the west interests in this country. The Baathists managed to seize power on the 8th of February 1963. The general secretary of the Baath party at that time, Ali Salih As'sadee, said literally in a famous statement 'We came to power on an American train', as a figurative reference. They ruled for ten bloody months ended by another coup.

On the 17th of July 1968, they regained power. A new policy started to emerge beginning with a famous declaration made by Saddam in 1970, stating that "Iraqis who are not members of the Baath party are barred from joining the army". This exclusion was expanding year after another. It included the police, security forces, the judiciary, educational system…etc. In general, it was very difficult to get a governmental job without being a member of the Baath party. Iraq was ruled through a very centralized totalitarian regime, so no many jobs were available out of the government grip. Day after another it became a firm rule absorbed by the community which says "To achieve one's goals in life, it is obligatory to join the Baath party".

The Baath party represented a security buffer body through which loyalty of people could be verified. Certain individuals are chosen to certain positions according to rules of validation. For example, allowing a young man to join the Iraqi air force as a fighter pilot requires him to be of Arab ethnicity, Muslim, Sunni, of certain bunch of tribes. Moreover, his relatives and friends must not have anti-Baath ideologies or feelings! All this could be probed through the security buffer body, mentioned above.

Baathists keep on putting pressure on the members of the party, through its hierarchy, to force more Iraqis to join the party. Such conduct on the ground begins with teasing and goes as far as detention, torture, and may be execution for those who insist not to join the party.

On joining the Baath party, one must sign many forms. One of these forms states that you have not been a member of any political party, not a member currently and you won't join a one in the future even if you would manage to quit the Baath. If one breaks any of these 'vows' he/she will be executed (according to the signed form).

Another form states that non of your relatives and friends has any kind of relation with other political or religious parties, and one must report to the comrade in charge of the party cell on noticing a member of the family, relatives, neighbors, friends, colleagues who might have such relation. Information forms are to be filled periodically (every six months or annually) to confirm the previous. One has to declare the position of his/her parents, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, brothers & sisters in law, father & mother in law, friends. Their position means whether any of them had been detained or executed for political reasons, fled the country without informing the authorities, had any non-Baathist political activity, been a deserter…etc.

Depriving the people of their basic rights made many of them ready to stoop to nose out information about their families, relatives, friends, colleagues. The regime encouraged people to do such vile practice by rewarding them. 'Secret report' is a well known term for the Iraqis. 'Break one's neck' a famous reference to the act of writing secret report against somebody.

To be continued…

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Intelligence Estimate

An intelligence estimate issued by the National Intelligence Council says that Iraqi society’s growing polarization, the persistent weakness of the security forces and the state in general, and all sides’ ready recourse to violence are collectively driving an increase in communal and insurgent violence and political extremism.

It is essential to make the Iraqi political leaders convinced that no use of violence. I keep on saying that the Iraqi society needs 'educational rehabilitation'. I wrote many posts about the Bedouin culture which dominates the Iraqi society. The society sharply retrograded during Saddam time toward tribal values. The village mentality ruled Iraq. Such conduct diminished the role of state institutions.

One outcome of village style government was the vanishing of political parties & NGOs in Iraq. For example, the communists once had had a significant 'cultural' influence on the society, but later they had been brutally hunted by the baathists causing them to disappear.

By the year 2003 the Iraqi political arena became a desolate one. Between the years 1979-2003 the Iraqis gradually, and unconsciously, changed there loyalty away from the state institutions. The homeland, the state and the government were integrated into one person; that is Saddam. Tribal traditions have been renewed. It is so weird to be asked by others 'Which tribe are you from?' One's tribe decides his/her social estimation. So someone like Hitler could be considered better than Einstein, if the latter has no tribe to attribute him to.

The roles of the tribe & religious sects are the most influential factors in Iraq because of
"the persistent weakness of the security forces and the state in general"
Acting as a 'politician' means the necessity to have a tribe or a sect to which the politician can resort for protection. Introducing oneself as an 'Iraqi' means that no one will protect you. The structure of modern state has been eroded by Saddam tribal hierarchical system. One of the stark features of the tribal traditions, nowadays, is taking vengeance on Iraqi security men by tribal leaders for doing their job of pursuing criminals & terrorists.

The tribe or sect offers protection by its members who are ready to use guns to kill. These are, in reality, groups of criminals. So we have a circle which begins with unqualified security forces, criminals who might partially protect their people, tribal leaders who offer protection to criminals just for being members of their tribes, and political leaders who feel that their safety can not guaranteed by the state so they should show gratitude to the militants (criminals). Moreover, some Iraqi politicians are mainly criminals, like this one

The majority of nowadays politicians have grown up under dictatorship. They are very narrow minded persons and do have no experience in state affairs. As a result of being ignorant about governance they resort to violence thinking that it is the way to impose their perspectives on opponents. The estimate says:
"The absence of unifying leaders among the Arab Sunni or Shia with the capacity to speak for or exert control over their confessional groups limits prospects for reconciliation."
To some extent this is true. But even those who tried to be unifying leaders were intimidated. An example is Dr. Ahmed Al-Kubaisee who founded The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq. The man started good work, but those who have different goals threatened him and he left Iraq to UAE, and a bunch of former baathists took over the association.

Iraqi leaders are much closer to tribal or religious Sheikh than contemporary politician. Even those who might be considered secular leaders can not do much because they have no tools to achieve something. The tools are law enforcement & security forces not infiltrated by tribal or sectarian values. The estimate says:
"Sectarian divisions erode the dependability of many units, many are hampered by personnel and equipment shortfalls, and a number of Iraqi units have refused to serve outside of the areas where they were recruited."

"…the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)—particularly the Iraqi police—will be hard pressed in the next 12-18 months to execute significantly increased security responsibilities, and particularly to operate independently against Shia militias with success."
Similar pressure should be on Iraqi leaders to make them understand that violence leads to nothing. Ordinary people are fed up with violence and 'politicians' must be driven to the same position.

Once again, the huge baathist intelligence services, acting underground, are working hard to maintain instability. Many former baathists have put on turbans & worn cleric's garments, making use of the power of religion to goad on the mob. It is crucial to sift out pseudo-politicians who infiltrate into the Iraqi political process.

The estimate rightly states:
"The Intelligence Community judges that the term “civil war” does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq"
Ordinary Iraqis have no inner bad feelings toward each other as an outcome of their diversity. A derelict political field made the ignorant 'neo-politicians' resort to sectarian & ethnic matters to put forth as a ground for their movements.

It is true that:
"Coalition capabilities, including force levels, resources, and operations, remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq."

Monday, January 22, 2007

New Strategy

New strategy has been announced by President Bush. Mr. Bush said in his address to the nation:
"The elections of 2005 were a stunning achievement. We thought that these elections would bring the Iraqis together, and that as we trained Iraqi security forces we could accomplish our mission with fewer American troops."
It is not a felicitous opening since Mr. Bush referred to what really happened:
"But in 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq -- particularly in Baghdad -- overwhelmed the political gains the Iraqis had made."
The above invokes a query whether the new strategy will succeed or not since:
"Al Qaeda terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's elections posed for their cause, and they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis."
What makes the President sure that these adversaries won't go any further to harm more innocents using much filthy ways? They have no morality, so nothing would restrain their atrocities.

It seems that the US administration does not comprehend what it means to be a baathist or saddamist. The Baath party, especially the saddamist wing, represents the most suitable way for losers and criminals to seize power. And through more than four decades in power, a very sophisticated system of security and intelligence services was established. Many of theses services' personnel were trained in the former soviet bloc countries, Cuba, and many other eastern & western European countries.

These services, working underground and undercover, are exploiting Al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents to keep Iraq unstable. They are ready to make use of every opportunity to infiltrate their followers into the governmental institutions to undermine the whole political process. Take the national assembly as an example; it has been unable to hold an official session for the last two months since the majority of the representatives are outside Iraq. It is one way to cripple the political process. They are even thought to exploit Al Mahdee army of Muqtada. They are ready to go as far as cooperating with Iran and even the devil to achieve their goals.

President Bush said:
"The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people -- and it is unacceptable to me."
And for the vast majority of the Iraqi people. The Iraqis are the main victims of all what's going on in Iraq.

Asking Iraqis about their opinion about President Bush's new strategy, they shrug saying 'It won't differ from the previous ones', and we will listen to Mr. Bush again saying:
"Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me."
"It is clear that we need to change our strategy in Iraq."
The Iraqis are so fatigued of more than a quarter century of wars and unfulfilled promises. Quite majority of them consider the new strategy an additional promise which will be piled up with previous ones made by the Americans and Saddam before them. Even Mr. Bush himself is not sure of what he is doing:
"…we all agreed that there is no magic formula for success in Iraq."
President Bush discovers after about four years that:
"The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital."
President Bush has committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. These troops will have a well-defined mission:
"…to help Iraqis clear and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of providing the security that Baghdad needs."
The latter sentence of the above is the most difficult matter since Iraqis, as individuals, need a very large amount of 'collective mentality rehabilitation'. They are easy to be seduced into schemes against their own interests and to be intimidated by criminals especially the baathists.

Good news for the saddamists is:
"America's commitment is not open-ended."
Another good one is that the US grip might wane by November. If this grip would become so firm in the coming days, then the saddamists will withdraw and wait till November.
"To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November."
Moreover, the Democrats' opposition sounds promising for the baathists; even if they don't manage to achieve something for the time being, they would wait for the Democrats to regain power two years ahead.

The main commodity for the baathists to market is bloodshed, and Mr. Bush defined it clearly:
"Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering."
Then what? It has been years (since 2003); all what we hear are promises. On ground the situation is deteriorating day after another. The baathists are taking over neighborhoods one by one. People are fed up and not showing much interest in who is ruling. The problem is the baathists, working undercover of Islamists, do hurt the citizens. In my neighborhood the schools have been closed, because of threats, as the recent deteriorating step. Add to it the whole collapse of services and the absence of any power of the Iraqi government. The government is not capable of protecting schools and their staffs. Still, Mr. President says:
"Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities."
Another point of view one could hear says that there is no use of the American project and the Iraqis have to line up with the extremist to start:
"…building a radical Islamic empire, and launching new attacks on the United States at home and abroad."
This point of view calls for new Islamic era which should reign over the world. It is an expected outcome because of frustration people feel here.

President Bush asks an excellent question:
"Will America withdraw and yield the future of that country to the extremists, or will we stand with the Iraqis who have made the choice for freedom?"
Choosing freedom needs back up. The state of law must be enforced, but Mr. Bush introduces a discouraging description:
"The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are without conscience, and they will make the year ahead bloody and violent. Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue -- and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties. The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will."
But lots of people doubt it. The last words of President's address sounds like a hope more than a decisive decision to abolish terror in Iraq.
"We can, and we will, prevail."
Finally, President Bush said in his radio address on January 13:
"To oppose everything while proposing nothing is irresponsible"
It is applicable to this post. I have no idea how to get out of all this mess. And even if I have one, it won't be the ultimate one. The most pleasing thing is no one listens to my prattle.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Iraq Study Group (I)

The Iraq Study Group issued its report. In the opening section of the report titled 'Letter from the Co-Chairs' there is a good paragraph says:
"Because of the role and responsibility of the United States in Iraq, and the commitments our government has made, the United States has special obligations. Our country must address as best it can Iraq’s many problems. The United States has long-term relationships and interests at stake in the Middle East, and needs to stay engaged."
I agree with the above. It is not right to quit unfinished job in Iraq with catastrophic consequences.

Speaking about Iraq's neighbors, it says:
"Yet Iraq’s neighbors are not doing enough to help Iraq achieve stability."
The report refers to Syria & Iran by:
"Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively."
And suggests a way to influence the behavior of both countries by using disincentives and incentives the United States has. It is obvious that using disincentives with both countries means confrontation with the US. Needless to say, Iraq will be the suitable field for such conflict.

It is much better for the US to make Iraq as a political buffer between Iran & Syria at one side and the US at the other. There are important issues in the Middle East represent vital interests for the US. Some of them, especially concerning Iran, could be tackled through the Iraqi ally. It could be a kind of continuous check of the Iraqi government loyalty. Moreover, it would help Iraq in regaining its regional political position.
"The Iraqi government needs to show its own citizens—and the citizens of the United States and other countries—that it deserves continued support."
The report says:
"By the end of 2006, the Multi-National Security Transition Command–Iraq under American leadership is expected to have trained and equipped a target number of approximately 326,000 Iraqi security services."
Still, there is lot of danger that might emerge from the Iraqi security units. The main threat is a military coup. A matter which is most of Iraqis, and Arabs, are obsessed by. Another issue is that they might make use of skill they gain through training to fight the Americans. It is important to emphasize that improving Iraqi collective mentality should be given much attention, so that training and equipments are used in the right way.

The report recounts several challenges confronted by the Iraqi army; units' lack of leadership; lack of equipment; lack of personnel; lack of logistics & support.
A good pool of Iraqi security personnel is available now (326,000), and choosing those who meet certain criteria is possible. So, constructing elite units is preferable.

Speaking about the Iraqi police, the report says:
"It has neither the training nor legal authority to conduct criminal investigations, nor the firepower to take on organized crime, insurgents, or militias."
Such deficiency makes the Iraqis do not resort to the police since there is no use of it. Collecting bodies from the streets is the only thing the policemen are good in. Moreover, Police personnel are:
"…participating in training in order to obtain a weapon, uniform, and ammunition for use in sectarian violence."
There is another force which guards the institutions of different ministries. The Facilities Protection Service (FPS) represents 145,000 uniformed armed Iraqis. The report describes them:
"These units have questionable loyalties and capabilities. In the ministries of Health, Agriculture, and Transportation controlled by Moqtada al-Sadr the Facilities Protection Service is a source of funding and jobs for the Mahdi Army."
The security situation in Baghdad is described:
"Perpetrators of violence leave neighborhoods in advance of security sweeps, only to filter back later."
"U.S. forces can “clear” any neighborhood, but there are neither enough U.S. troops present nor enough support from Iraqi security forces to “hold” neighborhoods so cleared."
A review of "politics" introduced in the report, under the section "Assessment of the Current Situation in Iraq", one can read:
"Yet many of Iraq’s most powerful and well-positioned leaders are not working toward a united Iraq."
That is because:
"Though Prime Minister Maliki has said he will address the problem of militias, he has taken little meaningful action to curb their influence. He owes his office in large part to Sadr and has shown little willingness to take on him or his Mahdi Army."
"Sunni Arabs have not made the strategic decision to abandon violent insurgency in favor of the political process. Sunni politicians within the government have a limited level of support and influence among their own population, and questionable influence over the insurgency."
The following is not fair:
"The government sometimes provides services on a sectarian basis. For example, in one Sunni neighborhood of Shia-governed Baghdad, there is less than two hours of electricity each day and trash piles are waist-high."
Servicemen do not guarantee their safety in many neighborhoods. As an example, garbage men have been brutally shot dead in one neighborhood, though the very same individuals had been serving the neighborhood for more than fifteen years. On the same rhythm, propane gas cylinder and kerosene distributors, postmen, official employees who deliver electricity and water consumption receipts, all of them are targeted by anonymous killers. As a result, no one is ready to collect garbage from such neighborhoods. The report introduces a justification for the lack of electricity in the very following paragraph:
For instance, electricity transmission towers are downed by explosives, and then sniper attacks prevent repairs from being made."

I'll try to continue…

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Quickened Industry

A classified United States government report has concluded that the insurgency in Iraq is now self-sustaining financially. The report, obtained by The New York Times, estimates that groups responsible for many insurgent and terrorist attacks are raising $70 million to $200 million a year from illegal activities. As much as $36 million a year comes from ransoms paid for hundreds of kidnap victims, the report says.

Kidnapping is a flourishing industry nowadays in Iraq. It includes different classes of Iraqis. Head of Iraq's Olympic Committee & other sport officials were kidnapped on 15th July, and till now nothing has leaked about the case. Last May, 15 members of Iraq's taekwondo team were kidnapped between Falluja and Ramadi, west of Baghdad. The kidnappers have demanded $100,000 for their release. The under secretary of health ministry was kidnapped few weeks ago.

As one may notice, it is a good way to make living under the cover of 'resistance' or 'jihad'. All these incidents might be classified as a struggle between an old regime and a new one. Still, there are these kidnaps taking place on backstage. Ordinary citizens are dragged to perturbing circumstances and used as some kind of commodity for gangs of different kinds. One could not be continuously alerted about what he is doing or where he is going.

A college instructor or a school teacher could be targeted for many reasons. A word he/she might say; a low degree to some lazy student; being of a different sect; somebody who wants to replace him/her; not complying with the students' demands; a briefcase in his/her hand…etc.

An example is one of my acquaintances. He is an architect supervising several construction sites in the countryside surrounding Baghdad. The buildings are medical centers. For some problem, nobody aware of, between two militias he has been kidnapped. Resorting to police is completely of no use. So, one has to look for a tribal sheik, a turbaned cleric, or a gangster to be a mediator. The kidnapped has been dealt with as a person of certain sect; a matter which he does not pay much attention to.

Nowadays I hear many bizarre stories about incidents which I had never dreamt of being acquainted with in my life. One of the kidnapped architect's relatives was a high rank officer in the dissolved army. He managed to make some contacts with former colleagues who joined the new Iraqi army. He said that these colleagues had told him so much information about the area where the architect had been kidnapped. They told him which false checkpoint stopped the kidnapped and when. What kind of cars the kidnappers had used and their colors. But he could not understand why the security forces are not ready to make any move.

Baathists are working hard on hampering the immerging crippled democracy. One of their sinister ways is to make sectarian difference contrasts sharply. There are other different parties who find a sectarian conflict is the most suitable bazaar to merchandise their extreme ideologies.

As an observer, I can say that reining in the Shiite militants could be implemented, but the Sunni's is not that easy. It is not because of ordinary people, but leaders adopting a baathi-islamic-tribal perspective won't be able to make benefit out of a democratic system.

The Iraqi society is a tribal oriented one. Tribes are spreading all over Iraq and most of them consist of a mixture of Shiites and Sunnis. Even inside families & among relatives one might find a Sunni and a Shiite. There are no facial features that distinguish one from the other.

Saddam changed the political life in Iraq into desolation. No outstanding political leader or ideology was active inside Iraq before Saddam's downfall. The expected result of getting rid of him was the people resort to tribal & religious institutions. Saddam was aware of it, so he issued an order to the members of his secret agencies, few months before the invasion, to establish their own political & religious parties and to join the other ones. Some secret service men and well known baathists changed to sanctimonious Muslim clerics. These very people are inciting sectarianism. It is important for them and for the neighboring countries that the new Iraqi political process to be eroded by continuous chaos.

The NYT says:
"Mr. Hussein’s erstwhile loyalists, realizing that “it is increasingly obvious that a Baathist regime will not regain power in Iraq,”have turned increasingly to spending the money on their own living expenses. The trail to these assets “has grown cold,” the report adds."
Putting more pressure on Saddam's followers will make them jump off the boat. Most of them are profiteers. By setting an abroad judicial campaign to pursuit them, they would try to keep the money for their own interests and to distance themselves to somewhere away from the Middle East.

The most dangerous funding party is 'sympathetic donors':
"One section of the report is dedicated to the role played by “sympathetic donors,” including Islamic charities and nongovernmental organizations."
There is lot of funding comes from Islamic and Arab world. The main motive for 'sympathetic donors' is fighting the US. It is enough to tell many people that the money he/she donating is going to militants who fight against the US. The US attitude toward the Israeli-Arab conflict (though it is another issue) plays a great role in charging hatred against the US.

The US misapprehension of the real nature of insurgency makes more people change their view of the invulnerable super power. It raises many questions about the real capabilities of the US intelligence service.
"Several security and intelligence consultants said…that the vagueness of the estimates reflected how little American intelligence agencies knew about the opaque and complex world of Iraq’s militant groups."
On ground the tangible result is:
"Several American security consultants, all former members of government intelligence agencies that deal with terrorism, said in interviews that the ineffectiveness of efforts to impede the revenues to the insurgents was reflected in the continuing, if not growing, strength of Iraq’s militants."

Monday, November 13, 2006


President Bush held a press conference on October 25, 2006. I'd like to make comments about some of what he said.

"… They've cleared (American and Iraqi forces)neighborhoods of terrorists and death squads"

I don't go with this since terrorists turned to new tactics. Assassins are touring Baghdad's neighborhoods, kidnapping and killing people blatantly. Cold blood killers are patrolling Baghdad streets in their cars fearing nobody. One could witness and hear many incidents of killing innocent people. More than five killing incidents took place at the same spot (in front of an elementary school) on different days within the past month with the same scenario. A car stops; one or two victims dragged blindfolded & handcuffed out of the car; shot dead at the spot; the car flees the place. Time of execution: 9-11 am!! The killers are anonymous; the victims are anonymous (they are left with no IDs).

Twelve persons were killed within eight hours in a neighborhood of about 300 houses. One was killed in front of a heavy guarded bank. One of another three, who have been killed, ran away from the killers, but they chased him into a grocery filled with customers and shot him dead. Again none of the two sides is known.

The terrorists are training new generation of thugs. Teenagers on motor scooters tour the streets looking for victims. The victim is nominated by elder thugs escorting the teens in two cars (the cars are for watching, protecting and intervening in case of emergency). Another neighborhood witnessed the killing of five victims within one hour. A woman driving her daughter from school was shot dead & the daughter was injured.

A plumber in his store was chatting with two of his friends when a teenager entered asking for a monkey wrench to buy. The plumber answered him 'These are my working tools, but you can buy one from that store' pointing at a nearby one. The killer left the store, but after few meters he turned back, entered the plumber's store again, dragged a gun and shot the man dead. Then he left to a motor scooter which was waiting for him and fled the location.

It is the same policy of Saddam. A stark example was adding his son Qusay to the execution squad which shot Saddam's comrades in 1979. Qusay was around twelve years old. The comrades were sentenced to death by Saddam because they opposed him to be the president. It is training of new killers. Another example was firing five shots of an AK-47 gun weekly in every school during the flag salutation ceremony on Thursdays. One would imagine what kind of psychological effects could appear on a child of six years old.

People are astonished how bunches of thugs could pass through check points without being noticed, especially those who are accompanied by their handcuffed blindfolded victims. Some suggestions say that the police officers or army soldiers do not want to risk their lives by confronting the thugs or being killed by a suicide bomber who might detonate his car at the check point. On the other hand one can come across many police convoys parading in the streets, showing off by shouting at people and shooting their guns in the air to make their way through the busy streets.

Iraq has been invaded by the most advanced nation in the world. Still, the ways used to deal with security problems do not reveal innovation. No advanced technology is used in surveillance, tracing criminal evidence, reconstruction…etc. Dealing with the Americans on the ground made the Iraqis change the way they had perceived them. This goes for the insurgents.

I recall stories of the terrified Iraqi soldiers, members of the republican guards and Saddam's special guards speaking about the impenetrable American troops and armors. They fled the battle field reciting unbelievable stories about the American troops that can not be defied or confronted. These stories go back to the 'shock & awe' time in the early days of Iraq War. Day after day, the Iraqis have changed their perception of the Americans by realizing that they are vulnerable.

President Bush said:
"We learned some key lessons from that early phase in the war. We saw how quickly al Qaeda and other extremist groups would come to Iraq to fight and try to drive us out…As the enemy shifts tactics, we are shifting our tactics, as well."

It is strange to hear such words from the leader of the supreme power. President Bush is drawing a sketch of the way to deal with insurgency based on striking back not taking the lead in action by the MNF.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Call to Bloggers

Amnesty International issued a ‘Call to Bloggers’, asking them to get online and stand up for freedom of expression on the internet. The call comes as the online world prepares to meet at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF, Athens 30/10 – 2/11). Amnesty international is sending a delegation to ensure that human rights are not sidelined and remain at the heart of the forum’s discussions.

Steve Ballinger, part of Amnesty International’s delegation to the IGF, said:
"… some governments have sought to curtail this freedom. People have been locked up just for expressing their views in an email or a website. Sites and blogs have been shut down and firewalls built to prevent access to information."

I had the experience, during Saddam reign, of being blocked out of accessing even email service. A heavy firewall was preventing Iraqi internet users from a wide range of websites. It was like a kind of secret activity to pass information to friends & relatives about newly discovered websites; especially email service. One would change his/her email frequently making it not guaranteed to receive a reply, since one's email could be blocked at any time. Thanks to Arizona State official website which offered me, at that time, an email box for over a year without being discovered by Iraqi watch. So, I can understand the difficulties people are going through to access internet & to pass their words to the world.

Moreover, activists who use the internet to express their thoughts peacefully are being detained in some countries. Chinese journalist Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in prison for "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities." Yahoo! provided information to the government that was used in his prosecution.

"Today, our chance to fight a new hi-tech tyranny" as Kate Allen, UK director of Amnesty International, says in
The Observer:
"The internet is big business, but in the search for profits some companies have encroached on their own principles and those on which the internet was founded: free access to information. The results of searches using China-based search engines run by Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and local firms are censored, limiting the information users can access. Microsoft pulled down the work of one of China's most popular bloggers who had made politically sensitive comments. Yahoo gave information to the authorities that led to people being jailed for sending emails with political content. We do not accept these firms' arguments that it is better to have a censored Google, Yahoo or Microsoft in China than none at all."
Tunisian lawyer and human rights defender Mohammed Abbou is serving a three and a half year prison sentence for publishing articles critical of the Tunisian authorities on the Internet.
Vietnamese political dissident Truong Quoc Huy was first arrested in October 2005 with two other young people after chatting on a democracy and human rights website. On 18 August 2006, he was rearrested in an Internet cafe in Ho Chi Minh City. His whereabouts remain unknown and no charges have been publicized.
Iranian student activist and blogger Kianoosh Sanjari, aged 24, was arrested on 7 October whilst reporting on clashes between security forces and supporters of a Shi'a cleric. Kianoosh Sanjari is being held incommunicado at an unknown location and Amnesty International fears that he may be at risk of torture or ill-treatment.

Steve Ballinger said:
“Freedom of expression online is a right, not a privilege – but it’s a right that needs defending. We’re asking bloggers worldwide to show their solidarity with web users in countries where they can face jail just for criticizing the government."
“The Internet Governance Forum needs to know that the online community is bothered about free expression online and willing to stand up for it.”

If you are concerned about free expression online and willing to stand up for it, try to
sign this pledge on Internet freedom called ( Moreover, try to spread the word to others; put a link to the pledge on your website, if you have one.