Monday, January 30, 2006

Saddam’s Trial

Saddam’s trial is to hold its eighth session on Sunday 29 January. A new chief judge has been appointed after the resignation of the former (Rizgar Mohamed Ameen). Most of the Iraqis considered Mr. Ameen a weak judge through his way in managing the previous sessions.

The majority of Iraqis, including me, have never seen similar trials before. The most famous trial in Iraq is (The Court of People). It is publicly known as (Court of Mahdawee) after the name of Colonel Mahdawee head of the court. This court had been held between the years (1958-63) to try senior officials of the monarchical regime ruled Iraq before 1958. Through what I heard about (Mahdawee Court) and reading 22 volumes telling the events of that court, I can tell that it was some kind of a circus. I think it was a tool to absorb the public anger to protect the accused from being slaughtered by the mob.

To judge any matter one should have sufficient knowledge about it. For that, it is unfair to carp at Mr. Ameen for his conduct in running the courtroom. The man was very calm and understanding in listening to the whole sides. Such way of behavior is unfamiliar to the Iraqi society. One may pick randomly an Iraqi and ask him (What would you have done, if you were the judge to try Saddam?), and the immediate answer would be (I’ll hang him publicly).

I don’t agree with the perspective of executing Saddam. I believe that Saddam should be used as an illustrative example to educate the Iraqi society and Arab world to respect law, to learn lessons about their reality, and the kind of people were leading them & still leading in other Arab countries. The Iraqis have a very volatile memory. Executing Saddam will cause the Iraqis to forget all the atrocities they had witnessed during his era. Many Iraqis had role in those atrocities, as the regime’s tools, by a way or another. Nowadays, the same former regime’s tools are trying to practice the same role under new religious slogans. So, Saddam should be kept as a concrete evidence to show what the Iraqis could do to themselves, if the international community let them alone.

Moreover, executing Saddam may make him a martyr. I’m resuming writing this post while the court is in session. Saddam seems to believe, through his conduct in the court, that he is above law. He is so arrogant
and pompous. Still, he is the same person who can amuse the audience when he was in power.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Novel Horn

Iraqis adore guns. It appears in every field of their legacy, culture, everyday life and so on. Most of the Iraqis use guns to express their joy, grief, anger…etc. Shooting guns in air is a regular daily incident. I can recall long ago, when I was a kid, a funeral procession of a tribe leader (Sheik). Hundreds of men were shooting their guns in air, and I can recollect the fear & horror I felt then.

Saddam era, through several wars, made the relation between Iraqis and arms much closer, and the society have been militarized. On the 8th of August 1988, Iraq-Iran war came to an end. And to celebrate ceasing fire in a war which seemed to be an endless one, the Iraqis kept on firing their guns for three days! It caused death to more than 300 people and injured more than 3000 in Baghdad only. One of my acquaintances lost his pregnant wife at that time. She was killed by a bullet falling back to ground hit her head.

The common way to warn people of a moving car is to honk the horn, and of the emergency vehicles is to use siren. A brand new way of warning people of a coming procession is used nowadays in Iraq, that’s shooting guns in air. So a driver may be totally taken by surprise by an IP or National Guard vehicle shooting in the air to make their way. The American troops use a developed method by shooting directly at cars to draw attention of other drivers.

What makes such conduct dangerous, dealing with a chosen sample, is the repetition of it. As an example, in the past month two of my neighbors witnessed such incident. One of them died and the other barely escaped being killed. I’m speaking about a neighborhood of less than 35 houses and a period of time less than month.

The first was killed by a stray bullet hit him in the neck down to the lungs. He was sitting by the window in a minibus of the kind used in public transportation in Baghdad. No one knew where from the bullet came, but mostly it is of that kind used as horn. The other was driving his car; he was sidetracked by a chat with a friend when two bullets hit the car. The first hit the trunk and the second turned the glass of the rear window into pieces.

To be fair, two weeks ago I saw a Humvee convoy downtown. The nice thing was a head of a young woman in uniform appearing from the roof of the first vehicle. She was blowing a whistle to draw attention to the convoy. It is a civilized way of behavior, but it needs powerful lungs.

Friday, January 06, 2006

ABC News Poll (II)

Back to the poll, another question:

- How effective or ineffective have the reconstruction efforts in the area where you live been since the war of spring 2003?

The rate of those who consider it effective is 36%, while 52% consider it ineffective. The most important matter for Iraqis is electricity. Iraq has been in a continuous case of electricity shortage since decades, and none of the contemporary generations can recall a period of time when electricity was sufficient. During the few months before the invasion, the Iraqis dreamed about how their life would change on the hands of the most developed nation in the world, I mean the US. But till nowadays, as we approach the third anniversary of the invasion, nothing tangible in the reconstruction efforts has taken place. As I’m writing these lines, we have electricity for less than three hours per day here in Baghdad. The irony is that people compare the situation with that of days after 1991 war. At that time, Iraqi specialists managed to restore electricity within three months, though there was a blockade which prevented any maintenance materials, and lot of damage caused to the power stations. Some people consider it a matter of conspiracy to keep Iraq deteriorating.
This question could be related to another in the poll which says:

- Since the war, how do you feel about the way in which the United States and other coalition forces have carried out their responsibilities in Iraq? Have they done a very good job, quite a good job, quite a bad job or a very bad job?

The highest rate (59%) goes for bad way in carrying their responsibilities in Iraq.

Two questions which I recognize as amusing ones are:

- Which national leader in Iraq, if any, do you trust the most?
- And, if any, which one do you not trust at all?

It is astonishing to find that Saddam Hussein has got more trust than that of Ahmed Chalabi or Al-Sistani.

Answers to another question reveal that the Iraqi collective mentality still obsessed by the paternalistic state. A rate of 91% agrees that Iraq needs (A (single) strong Iraqi leader).

A remarkable question (How long do you think U.S. and other coalition forces should remain in Iraq?); its answers show that Iraqis are aware of the challenges they have to face ahead. The highest rate 31% goes for (They should remain until security is restored).

If I had been asked the following question I’d choose the whole bunch of answers:
- In order to avoid trouble, how often if ever have you done any of the following over the past year? Is it very often, quite often, not so often, never?

The (more often) choice rates are as follows (%):

a. Avoiding going out of your home 73
b. Not sending your children to school 55
c. Avoiding passing/driving by police stations and other public buildings 74
d. Avoiding markets and other crowded areas 69
e. Avoiding checkpoints 77
f. Avoiding US and other coalition forces 86
g. Avoiding travel 68
h. Being careful about what you say about yourself to others 74

But the highest rate goes for (f); the US & coalition processions still represent a real nightmare for the Iraqis in the streets. Personally, I turn back 180 degree to avoid any military force.

A promising future could be awaited for women rights. The last question in the poll asks (Do you think that women should…), those who say (YES) are as follows for each item (%):

Be able to stand for public office such as local council…77
Be able to stand for public office such as national assembly…80
Be able to be governor…51
Be able to be president…46
Be able to instruct men in their work…78
Be a medical doctor…99
Drive a car…84


I believe that freedom of speech and human rights are the most important factors in making any society moves forward. A person who has a novel idea won’t be able to declare it. And if he/she does, then he/she must be protected from the social repression. A repression which has no limits in our retrograded societies. Reactionary forces are very effective in Iraq. A wide spectrum of religious doctrines, traditions, accumulated sufferings, fear…etc, represents a useful pool of reactionaries for any opportunist. An opportunist could be an individual, a group of people, a political party, a sect, foreign intelligence, international interests, and the most important opportunist is the Saddamists.