Monday, August 21, 2006

A Memo & an Article (III)

First of all, there isn't sufficient electricity power in my neighborhood to sit to the PC. For the past days, we have had a complete electricity cutoff, so the reliance is on the neighborhood generator. This means priority is to refrigerators and air-coolers; there is no power for PCs. Under such circumstances a PC is a luxury. I'm trying to maneuver to snatch short times in between to start my PC. Now, back to the post.
Amir Taheri says:

"In 1973, for example, when Saddam Hussein decided to expel all those whose ancestors had not been Ottoman citizens before Iraq’s creation as a state, some 1.2 million Iraqis left their homes in the space of just six weeks… it was a scene regularly repeated under Saddam Hussein."
At that time, many people displacements took place. The implementers of that policy were mainly the baathists, and many of them were greedy for the possessions & properties of certain people. Others used their authority of adding people to the expulsion lists for blackmailing, since every one who had been sent out of Iraq was deprived of citizenship & all his/her properties were confiscated.

Processions of trucks pulling trailers filled with Kurds jamming the streets of Baghdad was a repeated event in the mid of the 1970s. Thousands of Kurds were displaced from their domicile in northern Iraq to the southern parts. On the other hand, Arabs were encouraged to move northward, especially to Kirkuk, granting each Arab settler $30000.

The policy of changing Iraq demography was a permanent feature of the Baath regime. Another example was a decision issued by Saddam in the mid of the 1990s which prevented any person, who had not been registered in Baghdad province in the census of 1957, from possessing a real-estate in Baghdad. The decision was designed to prevent Shiite & Kurd newcomers from owning real-estate in the city. Moreover, campaigns were organized to kick out of Baghdad those who had not owned residential units in the city. Those who were renting houses were included in driving out of Baghdad.

Astonishingly, Mr. Taheri notes:
"Since the toppling of Saddam in 2003, this is one highly damaging image we have not seen… To the contrary, Iraqis, far from fleeing, have been returning home. By the end of 2005, in the most conservative estimate, the number of returnees topped the 1.2-million mark."
The second sign which the writer refers to as a sign of improvement in Iraq is:
"…the flow of religious pilgrims to the Shiite shrines in Karbala and Najaf. Whenever things start to go badly in Iraq, this stream is reduced to a trickle and then it dries up completely… In 2005, the holy sites received an estimated 12 million pilgrims, making them the most visited spots in the entire Muslim world, ahead of both Mecca and Medina."
It is true that visiting the Shiite shrines, during Saddam's era, could stain one's reputation (according to Saddam's criterion) and cause him/her lot of troubles with the government.

Then he speaks about some features of Iraq economy:
"Since liberation, however, Iraq has witnessed a private-sector boom, especially among small and medium-sized businesses."
I go with the above. A merchant who works in toy business whose main stores are located in Shurja (the most important trade center in Baghdad) compares the number of lorries freighting goods to Nasirya (a southern city) before and after the 2003 war. He says that a transportation agency he deals with used to send one lorry every three or four days before the war to Nasirya. After the war, at least three lorries are to be sent daily to that city. It gives an indication of how many times the economic standard improved.

I may add the level of depending on the rations distributed by the United Nations under Oil-for-Food. Till the war, people were so dependent on the ration. Nowadays the number of the dependents declined.

The sophisticated Baath institutions, working nowadays underground, noticed the importance of crippling Iraq economy to undermine the whole new political process. One of their methods in doing so is launching a campaign to assassinate every store owner they can reach. And to double the outcome, they try to target Shiites in neighborhoods of Sunni majority and vice versa. The result is closing businesses and provocation of sectarianism. Still, businesses are flourishing in southern parts of Iraq but not to the level expected, since stability there is fragile.

Mr. Taheri says:
"Finally, one of the surest indices of the health of Iraqi society has always been its readiness to talk to the outside world. Iraqis are a verbalizing people… Today, again by way of dramatic contrast, Iraqis are voluble to a fault. Talk radio, television talk-shows, and Internet blogs are all the rage… To anyone familiar with the state of the media in the Arab world, it is a truism that Iraq today is the place where freedom of expression is most effectively exercised."
I might doubt the last statement in the above since speaking freely nowadays in Iraq might cause one's death. The difference between Saddam's days and nowadays is that repression was practiced by the government, while nowadays it is practiced by the community, especially by clerics and terrorists. It is safe to criticize or use bad language to describe any member of the government, but one should be completely aware that such deed is dangerous to be against clerics, militias, Saddam, and terrorists.

Mr. Taheri argues for fostering the new born democracy in Iraq:
"A related argument used to condemn Iraq’s democratic prospects is that it is an “artificial” country, one that can be held together only by a dictator. But did any nation-state fall from the heavens wholly made? All are to some extent artificial creations, and the U.S. is preeminently so...Two-thirds of the 122 countries regarded as democracies by Freedom House came into being after Iraq’s appearance on the map."
Mr. Taheri makes a significant point by saying:
"But one thing is certain: without the use of force to remove the Baathist regime, the people of Iraq would not have had the opportunity even to contemplate a democratic future."
That's right since Saddam and his regime represented a real obstacle in the way of a normal social development. It is so obvious through observing the new Iraqi generation, especially those who were born after 1970; a generation which has been brought up amidst a series of wars and chaos.

The writer refers to certain principle which is deep rooted in old democracies, considering the Iraqi one likewise:
"…all parties and personalities currently engaged in the democratic process have committed themselves to the principle that power should be sought, won, and lost only through free and fair elections."
A principle which I doubt that it would be sustained in Iraq without keeping close eye on the political elite, and the whole society in general, by some rational power for equilibrium. Once again, I am completely convinced that our society must be educationally rehabilitated. Much work needed to change the collective mentality from admiring coup schemers to freely elected leaders. The majority of 'parties and personalities' are viewing the democratic process as a one-time-use method to seize power. So, one can hear rumors about a coup which is prepared by certain parties in collaboration with the Americans. Mr. Taheri rephrases it:
"Democratic success still requires a great deal of patience, determination, and luck... if the military mission has been so successful, the U.S. still needs to maintain a military presence in Iraq for at least another two years. There are three reasons for this:
The first is to discourage Iraq’s predatory neighbors, notably Iran and Syria.
The second reason is political. The U.S. is acting as an arbiter among Iraq’s various ethnic and religious communities and political factions.
Finally, the U.S. and its allies have a key role to play in training and testing Iraq’s new army and police."

'But will the U.S. stay the course? Many are betting against it.' as Mr. Taheri says. It is believed that the party which rules in Iraq is the one which can maintain the US interests. So, the Iraqi groups work hard to abort each other achievements, just to tell the Americans that the party you are allying with is of no use. These political groups:
"…have now pinned their hopes on creating enough chaos and death to persuade Washington of the futility of its endeavors. In this, they have the tacit support not only of local Arab and Muslim despots rightly fearful of the democratic genie but of all those in the West whose own incessant theme has been the certainty of American failure."
I find the closure paragraph, of Mr. Taheri's article, inspirational and represent a hope for those who are steadfast in their determination to help Iraq to be a beacon of democracy in the Middle East:
"Is Iraq a quagmire, a disaster, a failure? Certainly not; none of the above. Of all the adjectives used by skeptics and critics to describe today’s Iraq, the only one that has a ring of truth is “messy.” Yes, the situation in Iraq today is messy. Births always are. Since when is that a reason to declare a baby unworthy of life?"

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Last week, the Iraqi prime Minister, Nuri al-Mliki, visited London & Washington. He had the chance to address the Congress. The man has been to these cities looking for help to his country. There are some points drew my attention in his tour. First is the focus of Mr. Maliki on showing gratitude to the US people, something which Iraqis reluctantly refer to. Mr. Maliki said, addressing Military Personnel and Families at Fort Belvoir, Virginia:
"I appreciate your colleagues who offered their lives on the land of Iraq, and I tell you that Iraqis will never forget these sacrifices because they have really participated in ridding Iraq of dictatorship… But once again, we give you all the salute -- we salute you and we thank you very much for all that you've offered to Iraq. "
One of my previous posts was about
not being grateful to the Americans.

Second is the fear that the US would abandon the Iraqis. Mr. Maliki said in his speech:
"Let 1991 never be repeated, for history will be most unforgiving,"
Iraqis of different political intentions are preoccupied with this idea. Insurgents are looking enthusiastically to a day on which the US declares her failure. On the other hand the ordinary Iraqi citizen fears to be handled to another dictator.
I posted something contains the
same idea:

"… in the year 1991 operation Desert Storm kicked Saddam out of Kuwait. A popular uprising, against Saddam, spread all over Iraq the very day on which president Bush, the father, declared the end of the military operations. The Iraqi people thought that the Americans would not stop at that point and they should help the uprising of March 1991. Leaving the Iraqis alone to be torn apart by Saddam still resides in their hearts."

Third is the conflict between Israel & Hezbollah. A good deal of pressure was put on Mr. Maliki to denounce Hezbollah. Now, in the midst of peoples of the Middle East and the Islamic world which view the conflict like this:
It is so uneasy for Mr. Maliki to denounce Hezbollah.I picture the matter as asking a man to get on his soapbox praising black people amidst a Ku Klux Klan group. Congressmen who insisted on Mr. Maliki to do so are asking him to fire at his political future.

In a country like Iraq, words like the
following to be said by an Iraqi official are considered an amazing step:

"Who could possibly watch the pictures of innocent civilians being killed, or incidentally innocent civilians killed in Israel too, without wanting this to stop now?"
(Innocent civilians Killed in Israel!!) That's what I might call a real change in the political speech in Iraq; a country which its leaders used to call Israel the (Zionist Régime). Change, sometimes, needs time. An Iraqi politician attended a conference in Israel (I think in 2004) and he was very frank in declaring it. The visit caused him lot of condemnation and he was kicked out of the Iraqi Congress Party of Ahmed Chalabi. Personally, I thought the man had politically finished. The surprise was that Mithal Alusi, the politician speaking about, managed to be a member of the Iraqi Parliament, while Ahmed Chalabi couldn't. It means that 1/275 of the Iraqis do not oppose normal relations with Israel (the Iraqi Parliament consists of 275 members).

White House spokesman Tony Snow made a good point, concerning the speech of Mr. Maliki, by saying:
"Let me try to explain democracy to people on Capitol Hill. It involves such rights as free speech and freedom of opinion."
Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean called Maliki:
"…an "anti-Semite" for failing to denounce Hezbollah for its attacks against Israel."
I do not understand what is meant by 'anti-Semite'. Is it used as a term refers to those who are against Israel? According to my knowledge, Arabs are Semite, so how come a Semite hates his race. I need some explanation in this point.

Howard Kurtz, Washington Post Staff Writer,

"I'm far from thrilled with Nouri al-Maliki's comments, but I think we have to keep two things in mind:
One, the Iraqis picked him as the head of their elected government, and he's not going to agree with the U.S. on everything.
Two, al-Maliki has his own domestic pressures to deal with as he tries to hold that government together, and chastising Israel may be the Baghdad version of playing to the base."
"If al-Maliki suddenly took a pro-Israel stance, wouldn't much of his country view his as an American puppet?"

James Taranto

"Well, what exactly did al-Maliki say? Here are some quotes:
"We call on the world to take quick stands to stop the Israeli aggression."
"[Israel's] excessive use of force is to be condemned."
"What is happening is an operation of mass destruction and mass punishment and an operation using great force that Israel has--and Lebanon does not."
"While Israel has stated its military objective is to hit Hezbollah's infrastructure and physical strength, it has, in the words of the Lebanese prime minister, torn the country to shreds."

In fairness to al-Maliki, we should note that he didn't say all these things. Only the first and third quotes are from him; the second and fourth are from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
We'll agree with Reid, Schumer and Durbin, then, that al-Maliki is as bad as Annan, and we look forward to their condemnation of Annan."

Another thoughtful perspective comes from Marshall Wittmann:

"The Moose harbors no illusions about a dramatic transformation of Muslim attitudes toward the Jewish state. But, it is a dramatic improvement when words cannot kill."