Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Of Old

My posts became monotonous recently. So, I’ll try to write about something else though it is not far from Iraq. I chose some old pictures showing different places in Iraq about 100 years ago. An Iraqi author, or an English one (I don’t recall), once wrote that the British soldiers were shocked by the appearance of Baghdad when they entered to it in 1917. They had heard a lot about Baghdad the scene of Arabian Nights. On entering Baghdad they discovered that it was a small town which was closer to a village than to a city.
The following one shows a place which is nowadays downtown. It is some kind of quay or a wharf. In Iraqi such a place is called (Sheri’aa). It shows means of transport used in rivers at that time. One of these (appears in the center) was the (Kelek or Chelech) which is made of sheep or cow inflated skins tied together tightly to form a float. Keleks were used to transport agricultural products from places north to Baghdad since the Tigris direction of flow is toward south. The skins, to be sold later in Baghdad, form the float and, for example, a cargo of watermelon is put on the float. Not much effort is needed to row since the stream would push it to Baghdad. Needless to say on reaching Baghdad the Kelek was to be dismantled and the skins are to be sold, and one could return back home on foot.

The picture shows another means of transport. It is the (Quffa) or, as it sounds in the Iraqi dialect, (Guffa). It is clearer in the following picture:

Guffa is made of stem of rice plant. After harvest these stems are interwoven to form the shape of Guffa and then to be coated with tar. The picture title is (Home of some wealthy Jewish citizen). It is amazing to learn that more than one third of Baghdad citizens, in 1908, were Jews (Hanna Batato, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1978). It shows that the Iraqi society was much more tolerant than nowadays.
Another means of transport is some kind of boat called (Mash’hoof). The following picture shows the Mash’hoof:

Mash’hoof is used, till nowadays, in the marshes or (Al’Ahwaar) in the southern parts of Iraq. Al’Ahwaar were so many in Iraq, starting from the southern outskirts of Baghdad heading toward Basra. Marshes began to disappear as a result of building more dams on Tigris & Euphrates in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. The outskirts of Baghdad looked like this:

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Confusion Leads to Suspicion (III)

Suspicion reached hearts & minds of the US people as an ABC poll, released on March 6, says. About Iraq, the poll shows that “…eight in 10 Americans see civil war as likely and a record 65 percent say the administration lacks a clear plan to resolve the conflict;” I find the record, of those who say the administration lacks a clear plan to resolve the conflict, astonishing. It means that something is going wrong. On reading ‘National Strategy For Victory in Iraq’ issued by the National Security Council in Nov. 2005, one can find in part I (Strategic Overview/ THE STRATEGY OF OUR ENEMIES -P.7) a section titled (Enemy Lines of Action). The section states:
“The enemy seeks to …
• Weaken the Coalition’s resolve, and our resolve at home, through barbaric mass-casualty attacks, public slaughter of Iraqi civilians and hostages, infliction of casualties on Coalition forces, and use of the media to spread propaganda and intimidate adversaries.
• Destroy confidence in the Iraqi government by sabotaging key essential service (oil and electricity) nodes and by derailing the political process.
• Damage trust in Iraqi Security Forces through propaganda, infiltration, and barbaric attacks on the weak and the innocent.
• Sabotage Iraqi unity through propaganda against the Shi’a majority punctuated with attacks intended to spark sectarian conflict and civil war.
• Establish safe havens to plan attacks and conduct intimidation campaigns.
• Expand the fight to neighboring states and beyond.”

The strategy shows that every thing was taken into consideration. Still, things need more efforts. I believe that improving the sector of economy in Iraq is a vital factor in dragging young men away from being recruited, because of privation, by the terrorists.

Improving the way of handling the reconstruction in Iraq by re-evaluation through reports, like the one released by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, and listening to American field commanders & their Iraqi colleagues is very important. Jonathan Finer
said in the Washington Post:
“Iraqis routinely describe the lack of basic services such as clean water and a steady supply of electricity as perhaps the biggest problem facing the war-ravaged country, ranking it alongside insecurity and persistent insurgent violence.”

Mr. Bowen says that while steady progress had been made, the "reconstruction gap" presents a "significant and growing threat" to American efforts to rebuild Iraq. Bowen's office ascribes ‘the gap’ to cases involving US citizens and allegations of “bribery, fraud, and kickbacks”. The report said investigators had gathered "an enormous amount of evidence" but contained no details on any possible indictments. Another news says that the Justice Department was looking at possible indictments linked to Iraqi reconstruction. Such news about bureaucracy are not perceivable for the poor unemployed homeless Iraqis who have been under oppression and war environment for decades, and are targeted daily by lunatic suicide bombers.

President Bush
said on March 13,:
“Americans were inspired by the images of Iraqis bringing elderly relatives to the polls, holding up purple ink-stained fingers, dancing in the streets and celebrating their freedom. By their courage, the Iraqi people have spoken and made their intentions clear: they want to live in democracy -- and they are determined to shape their own destiny.”

That’s OK Sir, but hard work is needed to achieve something tangible. The other day, a colleague made a comparison between the era of Gen. Kassim (1958-63) and nowadays. After three years of ruling Iraq as a prime minister, Kassim made a tremendous change in the life of every Iraqi.
Prime minister of Iraq, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Jafari,
“The other major challenge my government will face is reviving Iraq's economy. Iraq has been drowned by decades of Baathist socialist policies that have made millions reliant on government handouts.”
Another OK, come on do something. Iraqis just hear words; the only real deeds are their daily killings for a reason or another by a bunch of brutal criminals. Still, they believe in a better future. Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defense, phrased it accurately:
“What we need to understand is that the vast majority of the Iraqi people want the coalition to succeed. They want better futures for themselves and their families. They do not want the extremists to win. And they are risking their lives every day to secure their country.”
Mr. Bush said:
“We saw the restraint of the Iraqi people in the face of massive provocation. Most Iraqis did not turn to violence, and many chose to show their solidarity…”
, but for how long one can guarantee this solidarity. An alternative for sects, tribes, religious leaders, sheiks…, which is effective state institutions, should be developed. On the absence of an influential government people would be coerced to resort to their sects, tribes and so on, asking for safety.
I believe in what Mr. Bush once said:
“…I believe that freedom is universal. I believe that deep in everybody's soul is the desire to be free. That's what I believe.”
And what Mr. Jafari said:
“The road ahead will be tough, but the Iraqi people have demonstrated their bravery, determination and resolve. The world should not falter at such a crucial stage in history.”

To attain these goals means is needed, and Iraqis need to be taught more about modern state, justice, and liberty. It is what I referred to in many previous posts as (EDUCATIONAL REHABILITATION).
Frankly speaking, I have learned in the past three years to trust some politicians. I never believed a word of what Saddam had said when he was in power, and likewise the Arab leaders. But when I hear Mr. Bush speeches, I feel relieved. Each time he assures me, as an Iraqi, that he is a persistent leader as in these words:
“I make this promise to Debbie, and all the families of the fallen heroes: We will not let your loved ones dying be in vain. We will finish what we started in Iraq. We will complete the mission. We will leave behind a democracy that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. And a free Iraq, in the heart of the Middle East, will make the American people more secure for generations to come.”

Friday, March 17, 2006


I feel too lazy. Unbelievable pain in my arm and shoulder kept me for the past days away from using the PC (as I wrote in the comment section of my last post). Moreover, the kind of events sequenced recently in Iraq, makes one feel unsettled & restless. The ghoul of a sectarian war is loitering about. One can hear different points of view and feel unseen hand spreading rumors.

My mind is filled with jumbled thoughts. I could not concentrate on one idea to write a new post. Imagine your self trying to cope with awkward circumstances. First is your everyday needs, each of them is a story. There is energy shortage (electricity, cooking gas, gasoline), and the shortage may include the grocery since there are continual cases of curfew which mean no vegetables or fruits; it means a dramatic price jumps.

Second, you can not stop worrying about every member of the family when he/she leaves home. Have they come across a car bomb or a suicidal lunatic? Are the kids safe at school? Is there any assassin touring the district to kill somebody? What about ordinary criminals who might steal any thing or kidnap anybody?

To leave home means to suspect every thing. Any car could be a bomb; any person with strange features could be a suicidal bomber; any heap of trash could hide a bomb; any queue or crowd could be attacked. You have to mind your language and don’t express yourself openly. You have to be aware of pickpockets, avoid any police, army, MNF patrol and VIP motorcades which could be lethal without forewarning.

In addition, a stream of news about acquaintances being killed, injured and detained keeps on coming daily. All the above put lot of stress on one’s mind. And what ever mental mechanism you develop to protect your sanity, sometimes you feel things go beyond expectations. I feel that I need any kind of recreation, but I do not know what kind and how.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Confusion Leads to Suspicion (II)

It is important not to let down people who believe in the US as the defender of liberty and human rights. For this, new methods should be developed to communicate with the hearts of Muslims rather than their minds. Considering matters logically by people, in our part of the world, needs more time and hard work on education. So it is heart to be addressed not mind (take the shrine in Samara as an example).
One of these methods is to show progress on ground to the Iraqis. Some people mock the reconstruction process in Iraq by saying ‘Three years have passed under the administration of the super power No.1 in the world but nothing moving forward. God forbid, what would happen if it was some other less developed country?’ US is the economic leader, but look at the Iraqi situation. One may understand the time needed for transition from totalitarian state to something else; let’s hope it will be a democratic one. Though, it is not clear what prevents efforts from reconstructing certain sectors in Iraq.
I believe energy sector is the most vital one to motivate other fields. Setting aside electric power, oil production and export has gone down below that before 2003. Reconstructing oil fields and export facilities reduces the burden on the US budget. One of the richest fields in Iraq is near Basra. The production and exporting facilities are well protected. Still, after three years no progress in the level of production has been made. Someone might say ‘It is the Iraqi government to make the decision’. But one should be realistic; the Americans dominate the whole matters in Iraq, which is good to form equilibrium between different parties.
The disturbing news come from reports like this one. I do not have much knowledge about economy, but numbers like the following are so much for Iraq to make difference on ground:
"The Coalition Provisional Authority, which existed from shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein in April 2003 until June 2004, was allocated more than $38 billion in U.S. and Iraqi funds. It spent $19.7 billion of U.N.-administered Iraqi oil money."

Comparing these numbers to that of Iran budget of 2004, which was less than $20 billion, it presumes that a small difference in reconstruction sector should be noticeable. Iran’s area and population is about triple that of Iraq (I’m not sure whether such comparison suitable or not).
report by Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq reconstruction says:
"Much of the discrepancy stems from higher-than-expected costs to provide security for projects. The audit said roughly 16 percent to 22 percent of each project's budget went toward security…"

OK, let’s go higher, to 40 or 50 percent of each project’s budget to be allocated to security. Still, the remaining fund represents a number which can achieve wonderful things on ground for the given period of time.
The mission in Iraq is at a crossroads, either to quit it and accept the whole consequences or to go on. Outcome of the first choice is clear for the US people and nothing can be added. President Bush made it
"In my State of the Union, I said, we've got to reject isolationism. Isolationism is the tendency for a nation to withdraw and not feel an obligation to be involved in the world. And we cannot defend ourselves if we're isolationist."

Quitting the mission means failure. And failure is not an option as the National Strategy For Victory In Iraq, released by the National Security Council in November 2005, says:

"Failure is Not an Option:
• Iraq would become a safe haven from which terrorists could plan attacks against America, American interests abroad, and our allies.
• Middle East reformers would never again fully trust American assurances of support for democracy and human rights in the region – a historic opportunity lost.
• The resultant tribal and sectarian chaos would have major consequences for American security and interests in the region."


"If we retreat from Iraq, the terrorists will pursue us and our allies, expanding the fight to the rest of the region and to our own shores."
I believe that the second choice, not quitting, is the right one to make. At least, to respect and honor those who gave their lives for the sake of better future. It needs sacrifices of different kinds, and to minimize these sacrifices speeding up reconstruction is vital. Work & good per capita income yield stability; it needs more money to invest in reconstructing Iraq. Some people might say ‘Enough, no more US money to be spent in Iraq’, and they are absolutely right. Still, it means to keep bleeding of souls and money for a longer time than that of speeding up the process.
To be continued…