Monday, October 31, 2005


A report published in the New York Times is the incentive for this post. I read, last week, an Arabic version of it. It is about the lethal enemy which the marines face in Ramady city, about 100 Km west to Baghdad. A translated quotation says:
"In Ramady, the Sunni militants are fighting their fiercest war against the American soldiers. These militants launch their attacks from distances which are not so far from the positions controlled by the marines, and move back without serious causalities. Everyday, the American soldiers fight to hold on their positions, in a war against an enemy which seems to be existing everywhere, but not obvious most of the time."

For the people in the northwest parts of Iraq, Ramady part of it, in their everyday channel of communication, it is very normal to use guns between even the members of one family. There is lot of stories well known by the Iraqis about people of that side of the country. One story which I can recall is a quarrel over crossing a small bridge of one truck way. Two trucks met on the opposite sides of the bridge; each driver insisted that he is the first to go over the bridge. The quarrel evolved into a big fight; more relatives involved. Guns were used and the fight ended with a dead person & three injured. Keep in mind that the whole individuals are kinsmen. I tried to choose a believable story, since there are much sillier ones. For example someone tries to split a bomb with a cousin by cutting it into two pieces, using a hammer & a chisel; the result is clear after the bomb detonation. They quarreled over the bomb which they were intending to use it in catching fish. Even when Saddam was in power people of the western sides of Iraq were a pain in the neck for Saddam. It was well known their continuous raids on the government & military warehouses.

Another story of 85 years old is about what happened between Sheikh Dharee, head of Zo'baa tribe, and Colonel Girard A. Liegeman (not sure of the spelling), a British officer. It was the early days of the British occupation of Iraq. The British were trying to set order & laying the foundations for a new state called Iraq. Sheik Dharee had a very good relation with Colonel Liegeman. The colonel made use of him to guard the main desert road along Euphrates, leading to Syria. The sheik was benefiting from that task by illegally taxing people who travel on that way. As the new state institutions started to function, Colonel Liegeman told Sheik Dharee to stop guarding & taxing, since the new government was to take the role. Sheik Dharee raged against the decision which led to a serious conflict between the two men ended by the killing of Colonel Liegeman on 14 August 1920. The later Iraqi generations, I'm one of them, have read about Sheik Dharee as a patriot.

Bedouinism & tribalism, till nowadays, have great role in the Iraqi society. A pioneer in the modern Iraqi sociology, Dr. Ali Wardi (1913-96), said answering his critics "
I'm not criticizing or condemning the bedouin & tribal way of life. All what I'm saying is that bedouin way of life is suitable for desert not for urban or rural communities." His assertion is to examine the distorted way of life the Iraqi society follows.

Anyhow, taming a bedouin community seems not to be easy. Saddam tried to calm down the people in western sides of Iraq by money & recruiting them in his secret services. Such policy made people of these parts of country abandon schools, with very low level of learning, to join Saddam's institutions which present to them money & authority. Nevertheless, they continued to represent real annoyance to Saddam till his last days in power.

Now, how the Americans are going to deal with this matter; I have no answer.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Two days with the same date

The date is 15th October; a three years time is between the two days. The first was in 2002; the second is this year.
On 15th October 2002, there was a faked referendum on Saddam's presidency. At that time, one could hear so many stories about how the government would treat people who wouldn't go to the polling places.

I decided, three years ago, to boycott the referendum. As day was moving toward sunset time, my nervousness increased. I kept on thinking about the kinds of problems would be caused to me & my family by the baathists on boycotting. I recall that I felt uneasy and, frankly speaking, terrified. I was sure, and the whole Iraqis, that the result to be announced was 100%. So, boycotting wouldn't make difference but harming oneself. As we were approaching the referendum deadline, I asked my brother to go to the polling place & vote for the family.

My brother was received by the senior Baathist in our district, who led him to receive the ballots. They gave him the ballots of the whole family; instructed & watched him closely to be sure that he chose (YES). The most important thing for me and the whole Iraqis was to put a sign against their names in the voting lists, to avoid the baathists harassment. Within two hours the result was announced by Saddam's deputy, Izat Al-Do'ri, which was 100% YES to Saddam.

This year, on the same date, a significant public change can be noticed in the political awareness. Two major events took place this year; first the election on 30th January; second the referendum on 15th October; expecting another on 15th December. No one fears the government or thinks about being harassed by officials. But fear comes from the side which claims it represents the Iraqi patriotism (I mean the baathists & the insurgents). For me, looking back at three years ago, my way of thinking, considering and judging public matters has changed amazingly.

I believe that the Iraqis should show gratitude to the coalition, especially the US & GB, for helping them to start a brand new way of political life. Still, lot of work is needed to establish rigid foundation for the new Iraq. Iraqi self protection institutions are very important to secure what achieved till now, and to develop it toward a brighter peaceful future.

In the short term, Iraqi economical sector must be activated to fight unemployment which causes depression, providing a huge pool to recruit insurgents & terrorist. What I'm saying is well known, but the question is what holds up starting the reconstruction process. Secretary Condoleezza Rice said something like that in her
Opening Remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
"To execute our strategy we will restructure a portion of the U.S. mission in Iraq. Learning from successful precedents used in Afghanistan, we will deploy Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in key parts of the country. These will be civil-military teams, working in concert with each of the major subordinate commands, training police, setting up courts, and helping local governments with essential services like sewage treatment or irrigation. The first of these new PRTs will take the field next month."

Let's hope what she said Will be carried out seriously.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The New Constitution

The Iraqi people is about to witness a historic day. It is the referendum on the proposed constitution on Saturday 15 October. I'll try to make a general review of some articles of the constitution, introducing my perspective about some of them. I'm not versed in jurisprudence, so I'm referring to the TEXT OF THE DRAFT IRAQI CONSTITUTION (Translated from the Arabic by The Associated Press).

Article (2-1a) states:
"Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation:
(a) No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam."

What bothers is the possibility of using Islamic rules by the clerics to tyrannize the society, repressing the spirit of modernization & creativeness.

Article (9-1a) states:
"(a) The Iraqi armed forces and security apparatuses consist of the components of the Iraqi people, keeping in consideration their balance and representation without discrimination or exclusion. They fall under the command of the civil authority, defend Iraq, don't act as a tool of oppression of the Iraqi people, don't intervene in political affairs and they play no role in the rotation of power."

It is strange wording to say "… consist of the components of the Iraqi people, keeping in consideration their balance and representation…" which, as I believe, contains some kind of sectarianism & what if the people of a certain component have no interest in joining the armed forces. How could the balance be achieved?

Another article seems to be a sectarian one & redundant (Article 10), since there is another one (Article 41) guarantees religious rights. But it is clear that there are persecution complexes dominating the minds of the persons who wrote the draft.

"Article (10): The holy shrines and religious sites in Iraq are religious and cultural entities. The state is committed to maintain and protect their sanctity and ensure the exercising of (religious) rites freely in them."

"Article (41): 1st - The followers of every religion and sect are free in:
(a) the practice of their religious rites, including the (Shiite) Husseiniya Rites.
(b) the administration of religious endowments and their affairs and their religious institutions, and this will be organized by law.
2nd - The state guarantees freedom of worship and the protection of its places."

The persecution complexes appear plainly in the second part of article (41-1a) by adding (…including the (Shiite) Husseiniya Rites.). The second part is needless, since it is said in the first part (the practice of their religious rites…). It just adds a trace of sectarianism to the constitution.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights does appear in the constitution with slight differences. For example article (18) of the Universal Declaration which states:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

Has been contracted to:

Article (40): Every individual has freedom of thought and conscience.

Where the word (religion) is deleted, since the matter of changing religion in Islam is a red line which may cause death to any muslim who converts from Islam. Though the main rules of Islam insist that (Compulsion on people to follow certain religion is totally forbidden), but it seems to be perceived in many perverted ways.

As for women, the main achievements are:
1. A baby born for an Iraqi woman & non Iraqi man has the right to take the nationality of its mother (Iraqi). It caused lot of objections which emerge from a tribal-bedouin legacy. Article (18-1) states:
"An Iraqi is anyone who has been born to an Iraqi father or an Iraqi mother."

2. An assertion is made in article (20) that women have the right to be candidates to any public position. The article states:
"Citizens, male and female, have the right to participate in public matters and enjoy political rights, including the right to vote and run as candidates."

I think this confirmation helps to avoid cases like the one happened in Iran last presidential election when a woman tried to be one of the nominees. Her request was refused since the Iranian constitution does not state that women are allowed to run for presidency.

3. The best is what stated in article (47-4):
"A proportion of no less than 25 percent of the seats in the Council of Representatives is specified for the participation of women."

It keeps an influential participation for women in the council. The question is whether this quota will cause incompetent female-members to take the place of more efficient male-members or not.

Another issue was handled inadequately. It is an article which stated:
"All individuals have the right to enjoy the rights stated in international human rights agreements and treaties endorsed by Iraq that don't run contrary to the principles and rules of this constitution."

It had the serial number (44). Secularist members of the committee of the draft debated that the international treaties have the upper hand over the national laws. This means that lot of contradictions will appear and to be settled in favor of the international ones. It caused the Islamic members to say that they'll stand against putting into practice any international treaty which opposes Islamic rules. As a result the article was deleted and the Iraqi people lost a broader space of liberty.

As I'm writing this post the Iraqi political parties, participants in the political process, have reached a compromise to comply with the Sunnis demands to review the constitution within four months after the elections of 15 December 2005.

Most of the Iraqis know very little about the details of the new constitution. So, they are going to vote according to what the clerics & the tribes' leaders would say.

For me, I'll say (YES) for the constitution since it represents a milestone in the long journey to achieve better life to the coming Iraqi generations.

God bless Iraq.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Consistency & Integrity

I believe that the US influence has predominated over Iraq since 1963. The most important thing for the US administrations was to maintain their interests, regardless the way it was achieved. The period (1963-1990) witnessed a firm alliance between those administrations & the baathists. The baathists were useful during the cold war to fight communism & later Islamism. It seems that invading Kuwait in 1990 caused that alliance to end. It took 13 years time to get rid of the previous allies.

Anyhow, the US & the British administrations are changing their beliefs. Mr. Blair, the British PM, introduced a new perspective, about one year ago,
by saying:
"In the politics -- when I was first a member of Parliament and making my way up the greasy pole and all the rest of it, there was a view in foreign policy that you dealt with countries on the basis of whatever attitude they had towards you, but really whatever they did within their own countries, that was up to them, and didn't really make a difference to your long-term relationship."

"I think what we are learning today is that there is not stability of any true, long-term kind without democratic rights for free people to decide their government."

For that:
"We actually had to go there and say, no, we must replace that with a democratic form of government -- because, in the end, if we replace it simply with another dictator, then we'll get the same instability back.That's why in Iraq we decided when Saddam was removed, we didn't want another hard man coming in, another dictator."

Making such decision means to work your way through the whole process, not quitting it before finishing the mission. Mr. Blair is a man of vision when he says:
"The pace of change can either overwhelm us, or make our lives better and our country stronger.What we can’t do is pretend it is not happening."
"The character of this changing world is indifferent to tradition.Unforgiving of frailty.No respecter of past reputations.It has no custom and practice.It is replete with opportunities, but they only go to those swift to adapt, slow to complain, open, willing and able to change."

The majority of people in the Mideast are not willing to change. It is the legacy of centuries of darkness. A perverted perception of religion, dominated by tribal traditions, controls the mind hindering creativity. To join the moving forward world, one should not pretend that change is not taking place. Here, in this region, we are not ready, till now, to seize the opportunity, to be swift to adapt, to stop complain (as I'm doing now), to be open, willing & able to change. We are overwhelmed by the pace of the changing world.
Again, he proves that he is an inelligent man by differentiating between Muslims & terrorists:
"These terrorists do not, never have and never will represent the decent, humane and principled faith of Islam."
And by stating a fact:
"Muslims, like all of us, abhor terrorism. Like all of us, are its victims.It is, as ever, only fringe fanatics we face."

I think there are mutual interests between Iraqis & the coalition nations. One of these is to prepare a killing zone for the global terrorists here in Iraq which causes innocents to die. In return, the coalition nations must sustain backing the Iraqi people in their struggle to build stable democracy. So, calling for withdrawal means to let the Iraqis down and:
"… the way to stop the innocent dying is not to retreat,to withdraw, to hand these people over to the mercy of religious fanatics or relics of Saddam, but to stand up for their right to decide their Government in the same democratic way the British people do."

Another outstanding figure with a marvelous diagnosis is Secretary Condoleezza Rice on her
speech at Princeton University. She says:
"… that the root cause of September 11th was the violent expression of a global extremist ideology, an ideology rooted in the oppression and despair of the modern Middle East, then we must speak to remove the source of this terror by transforming that troubled region."
She agrees with what Mr. Blair said a year ago in the following words:
"For 60 years, we often thought that we could achieve stability without liberty in the Middle East. And ultimately, we got neither. Now, we must recognize, as we do in every other region of the world, that liberty and democracy are the only guarantees of true stability and lasting security."

Mideast regimes have tried to establish and maintain an idea which says 'Liberty & democracy means that extremists will rule'. It is the idea used by the Saudis to persuade the west that they are the best choice to rule Arabia. Ms Rice refutes this idea:
"There are those who worry that greater freedom of choice in the Middle East will only liberate and empower extremism. In fact, the opposite is true: A political culture of transparency and openness is not one in which extremist beliefs can ultimately thrive."

To impose democratic principles may need military backing:
"In a world where evil is still very real, democratic principles must be backed with power in all its forms: political, and economic,and cultural, and moral, and yes, sometimes, military. Any champion of democracy who promotes principle without power can make no real difference in the lives of oppressed people."
The world, especially the Arabs, showed indifference to the sufferings of the Iraqi people for many years. Only the US finally stepped forward to end it:
"The United States and a large coalition of nations finally removed Saddam Hussein. By any moral standards, the liberation of the Iraqi people was long overdue."

Letting the Iraqis down now means to hand Iraq over to the terrorists. Eventually, these terrorists should be faced by the free world. So, withdrawal from Iraq means:
"We will embolden every enemy of liberty and democracy across the Middle East. We will destroy any chance that the people of this region have of building a future of hope and opportunity. And we will make America more vulnerable. If we abandon future generations in the Middle East to despair and terror, we also condemn future generations in the United States to insecurity and fear."