Saturday, January 31, 2004

Another Eid, another fear, and another hope.

:: Today is the Eid of Adha eve.(also called the BIG EID in Iraq as it lasts for 4 days, while the Eid of Fetr lasts for 3). I went for a drive with Zeyad this afternoon and the streets were incredibly crowded, everyone is out for shopping; clothes, gifts, food and greeting cards are all selling very well these days, as families prepare to welcome their guests who visit them to exchange greetings on the days of the Eid:(Kol a'am wintobkheer), this is the most familiar greeting and it means:(may you be alright and safe every year) and for some families prepare to welcome their relatives who return from Saudi Arabia after they finish the Haj ceremonies in Mekka(44,000 iraqis went for Haj this year, and this number is the greatest that ever did). The hyper activity in Baghdad tells that people want to go on with their lives and celebrate their Eid with no fear of what terrorists might plan to do, as Iraqis suffered form terrorists' attacks on the Eid of Fetr, Christmas, and New year.
Iraqis know that their joy and their feeling of peace is the favorite target of criminals who want to show their hatred to peace and freedom and their anger with what Iraqis are achieving everyday, and they sent their message of hate this morning by their bloody attacks both on civilians and coalition forces.
When Iraqis keep living their lives the way they want, they're not ignoring the dangers or trying to forget the sad events that happened today or anywhere in the last months, NO, they're fighting to survive and struggling to secure their right to live in peace and freedom. Some of them are fighting with guns, others are fighting with a stronger weapon; LOVE OF LIFE.
I hope that the coming days will be peaceful and that my people will enjoy their Eid without troubles, and…HAPPY EID TO EVERYONE.

Friday, January 30, 2004

:: Dr. Rajaa Khuza’e (female member of the GC) met Mr. Bill Gates (the head manager of Microsoft) and discussed with him the possibility of Microsoft’s contribution in the process of reconstruction and also the possibility of making benefit of the software that the Microsoft produces to improve the countryside areas in Iraq. Mr. Gates assured Dr. Rajaa that his institution is ready to give all types of support to the Iraqi people, and they agreed to include some Iraqi countryside areas in the institution’s programs. The names of these areas will be announced soon.

:: After 10 days in Basra, I came back to Baghdad, and I noticed a great progress in the project of repairing the high voltage towers lines. Now we can see only small gaps in the line, almost all towers are repaired or replaced and most of the cables are aligned and fixed to the towers. In my estimation, it won’t take more than a month or two to finish the work on this line.

:: A considerable raise has been added to the salaries of all officials, the new ranking system required a delay in paying the salaries till after the coming (EID of ADHA or HAJ), however some ministries have already paid salaries to their employees.
My uncle, who works in the ministry of electricity, received his new salary according to the new ranking system and he got about a 40% raise (from 240,000 to about 350,000 ID) which equals now about 250 $ instead of 150 $ last month (taking also in consideration the recent increase in ID exchange value). My uncle's happiness was obvious, as now he can afford to live in a relatively higher standard of living, so I asked him about what he feels now about the regime change, he said" if I happen to meet Mr. Bremer, I'll give him a hug and kiss him",(don't get him wrong!, a kiss is a traditional greeting between men in Iraq just like other oriental nations).

:: The Iraqi women national team for basketball reached the Asian championship finals. It’s interesting to know that the team did not win the preliminaries; instead, two teams from the same group (Jordan and Lebanon) quit the qualifiers for some reason!!.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Ambition that blinds.

"You can say that it's great that Saddam is gone and I'm sure that a lot of Iraqis feel it is great that Saddam is gone. But a lot of them gave their lives. And their living standard is a whole lot worse now than it was before."

What did Mr. Dean meant by this statement? I didn’t want to write about it from the beginning despite what I felt and the questions asked by some of the readers. I said, “this is an American affair and I might offend some of my American friends through expressing my opinion”. But the statement was too irritating and insulting and as I said before there’s no such thing as an internal affair anywhere in the world, not to mention the USA, the country in which the tiniest change in policy might well have a great impact elsewhere in the world. Anything that happens in America concerns everyone on this planet, and moreover as an Iraqi who his whole country’s future relies considerably on how the things go on in America I have additional reasons to care about such things.

To summarize my response I was not surprised, but it added to my confusion about the justification of the position of some Americans regarding this issue.
To have such approach from some Arabs and Muslims, it’s more than expected, still nauseating though. To have such an approach from some European countries is also (natural). But to come from Americans? Well, this is just more than I can understand.
I’d like to (debate with) Mr. Dean and his supporters on few points.

I’m not going to comment about the rightness of the statement with more than saying that only a (blind) man would believe it and only a man blinded by his ambitions would dare to say it, but when you say such words, don’t you mean in other words that the sacrifices made by the American soldiers are all in vain? And that these soldiers are not doing a service to the world, nor to Iraqis and not to America. In fact you are saying that since they didn’t do the world, America or us a favour then they’re only doing a favour to GWB and his administration.

Don’t you agree that by saying those words you accuse the American soldiers of one of two charges each of which is worse than the other;
You are saying that, either they are stupid enough to sacrifice their lives for the sake of GWB political future, or they are evil people who love fighting and killing and they are doing this only for money, in other words they’re no more than mercenaries. Saying that you only disagree with the way this issue is handled will also not change the fact that you are only harming your men and women on the battlefield.

By statements like these you deny any honourable motives for the great job your people are doing here. How in your opinion will this affect the morale of your soldiers? Feeling that their people back at home don’t support them and that they’re abandoned to fight alone in the battlefield.

And all of this for what? For staying in the white house for 4 or 8 years? Is it worth it?
And this is not directed only to Mr. Dean, it’s for all the Americans who support such allegations without being aware of their consequences. What’s it that you fight so hard for, showing your soldiers as s occupiers and murderers, the soldiers who I had the honour of meeting many, and when talking to some of them, I didn’t see anything other than gentleness, honesty and good will and faith in what they’re doing.

Your words and those of others were insults to the Americans, Iraqis and moreover to yourself, and I’m certain you don’t represent the number of Americans you fanaticise about. I’m sorry for being so rude, but I really tried hard to restrain myself from being more direct, and thus nearly as rude as you were. If I wanted to respond just as an Iraqi who is so offended by your words, my feelings wouldn’t have been expressed without using a language nastier than what I’ve committed myself to on writing on this blog.

Please consider this for a moment, does winning the elections and getting rid of GWB and the republicans worth the damage you’re inflicting on your men and women’s morale?

My heart goes with those brave people and the widows, orphans and mothers of the American soldiers who died while doing this great service for their country, ours and humanity.
I can’t imagine what their response would be to such thoughtless words motivated with nothing more than selfish ambitions.

-By Ali.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Elections hysteria

Today I’m going to talk again about the elections and the demands of the political powers that try to lead to the country and grasp all the authorities in their hands, and the call of others for early elections and all the hysteria about independence and the necessity of handing the authority into the hands of Iraqis as soon as possible.
This time I’m going to state my personal opinion that I think many Iraqis don’t share with me.
I’ve never seen a hilarious and appalling scene such as the one I’m witnessing these days and again I thank God that it was the others who liberated us.
I can’t understand why people never learn from the lessons of the past. Why do they have to commit the same mistake and face the same consequences to find out that they were wrong? And what independence and what sovereignty and such loose terms they’re cheering for? What are their ambitious programs for the future of Iraq? What resources they’ll count on to achieve their plans and what is the international society they want to join? Do they really comprehend the extent of the challenges they are going to face? And are they capable, once they get their independence and sovereignty, of dealing with those challenges?

Really, this scene reminds me of the same demand Iraqis called for following the (liberation?!) of Iraq from the Ottoman Empire at the hands of the British. At that time a naive group called themselves ‘patriots’ started to yell for similar demands and made a huge fuss about it, and when they got what they wanted and in the 1st meeting for the elected Iraqi ministers’ council, they found that the questions and challenges they were facing were much more than what they could handle with their modest abilities, so they hurried again to the British asking for their support and the British ambassador, with the members of the political council of the delegation, asked for a financial support for Iraq, which ensued in hard arguments among the members of the British parliament to approve at the end, at granting financial support to the new Iraqi government to help it perform its duties.

Here I remember the speech made by the late Jawaharlal Nehru at the 1954 (I'm not sure about the date) Bandong conference, when he was shocked with the naivety of the representatives of the (independent) Asian and African countries and how they underestimated the difficulties they were going to face, that’s if they were aware of such difficulties.

Of course here the situation is different, some will say (the na├»ves of these days), “We are an oil producing country!! We will be able to rebuild our country and accomplish all the missions by ourselves” and I ask; will the 12 billion, the 20 billion or even the 30 billion$ a year really suffice to rebuild Iraq? The only thing that I’m sure about is that it will be enough to fill the wallets of those (patriots) and their attendants.

I’m an Iraqi who lived his whole live in Iraq and I know very well those who claim to be the patriots looking for Iraq independence, they will besiege us in a corner once again, they’re asking for handing the security dossier to Iraqis and I know what that means, which you don’t understand clearly. We have more than 100 thousands IP members equipped with the very good arms, cars and technology and get paid more than any other government officer (and they deserve it), we have courts, judges and in the way of building a new law system. So what is left of their dossier to handle? I’ll tell you what:
Their major complain is that the civil administration don’t allow them to control this system and don’t allow them to use extreme force when investigating or interrogating suspects. They want this unconditioned authority and they want it so bad, only to make a firm grip over power. They claim that criminals will not confess unless power is used! They want to torture people. And suppose the terrorists deserve this, who will decide in the future which one is a terrorist and which is just a suspect. These people, although suffered a lot from tyranny and despite that many of them lived in democratic environments for a long time, still behave as if they didn’t learn anything from the lessons of the past, they still look at the government as a way of control and not of serving their people, they will need more time or most probably we need other parties and fresh minds and institutes instead of individuals. This will take time and we simply can't afford rushing things against nature.

Since 1958 and till now every (national hero) comes, claim to be a patriot and promise us peace and prosperity, but the plain reality is that since that time everything started to fall apart, we didn’t add anything significant compared to what was done at the times of (occupation). Take a look with me, before those national governments that came after 1958 we were exporting wheat and rice and now we import them, we had 30 million cattle heads and now only 3 millions, 90% of the railways were built before 1958, 90% of bridges, 90% of oil refineries and pipelines and even the main military bases for Iraqi army were all built at the times of the (occupation), even the largest football stadium in Iraq was built by Kolbenkian (Mr. 5%) as a gift to the Iraqi people. Every comparison made between the (British occupation) and the national governments that followed favors the (occupiers). Let’s imagine for a second what would Iraq have looked like if the British hadn’t left us to the national governments….?? Any idea? Hong Kong for example?
I know, the question will be” so what? Do you want us to stay and run your country for you for ever?”
Certainly this is not what I meant, I was only trying to state why some people are rushing things and my fears if they get what they want. And I’m absolutely sure that the day that we will lead our country for a better future by ourselves is very near, but certainly not within the next few days or months.

-By Mohammed.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Born on the 9th of April.

What have we learnt from our bitter experience?
I think many of us have learnt so much that makes me some times say to my friends that what we’ve been through was somehow a blessing. If it hadn’t happen, I doubt that we would scratch our heads trying to explore beyond what we were told. This tragedy provoked us to do so, trying to find logical reasons that explain it, after we lost faith in the creditability of what we were told in the schools, mosques and Arab media. We started to look back in history and think about what was happening in different part of the world searching for a clue, a case that resemble ours and most important we dared to look inside our minds hoping and thinking that we might find the real reasons.
Here I recall one of the Jewish friends of this blog telling me that the Jewish people learnt important lessons from the Holocaust and asking me if we have done the same. My hope, and my belief, is that we did. The lesson was hard and cruel, but maybe it will benefit us or at least the new generations in a way that compensate the very high price paid for it.

What did the others learn is something that I have the right only to assume, but I can speak about what I did learn.

I think I’ve learned many things, few mounted to the degree of becoming principles and others still under investigation with some favoring for the new ones over the inherited and I think that is the most important thing that I learned; to question everything and not allowing myself to stop when confronted with (natural or holy facts). I came to the believe that it’s every man’s right to ask, search for answers and dare to make his own conclusion, refuting his fathers’ beliefs and that the lucky man is the one who can find the path to the truth and not the absolute truth as this, in my opinion, is impossible, that is if such a thing as absolute truth ever existed (not in our life at least). To some of western people, this was the way their family raised them or what the school taught. Here it means like being in a war with everyone including yourself.
I also learned to care about the others a little more and about me and my people, a little less. Some may find that hard to believe, but maybe you have noticed that, and blamed me, to be the Iraqi who talks less about his major concern, Iraq. Yes, everything I say has something to do with Iraq, but that’s only because Iraq seems to be the major concern of the world these days and because I see that the Iraqi people are in real need for help and I happen to be an Iraqi living in Iraq. I’m going to talk about my life now, as I thought that this would be a beneficial illustration to what shall follow.

I was born an Arab Sunni Muslim Iraqi. This is what my ID says and what people surrounding me since birth have been telling me about myself, and I was proud about that and I though it couldn’t have been better, I was one of the luckiest people on earth.

The 1st thing that collapsed inside me was my belief in (Arab nationalism) and it wasn’t very easy, but it wasn’t very difficult either. This absolutely doesn’t mean that I hate being Arab or that I don’t like Arab. It’s about the idea (Arab nationalism) and I like Arab just as I like any other people. It’s just that being an Arab doesn’t mean anything that matters to me, it’s just a coincidence that doesn’t make me better than the others nor does it make me less than them.

Followed that, the loss of my Sunni belief, and that wasn’t easy at all. The religious feelings in the ME are very strong and complex even among different Islamic Mathahib, it has something to do with belonging to a certain group of people more than being a belief and this belonging is even stronger than the one to Islam. You could find people who are not religious at all, yet have a very strong belonging to their Mathahb.
Being an Arab is something that I couldn’t change (if it was needed to), it’s neither a privilege nor a handicap, but being a Sunni -even if it was inherited- is something I can change, and that’s what I did. This doesn’t mean that I turned to become a She’at, a Wahabi or any other Mathahb follower. I (simply) made a step forward from being a Sunni Muslim into just a Muslim.

The way those two stale beliefs fall inside me made me dare to investigate what’s much harder and more dangerous, being an Iraqi and a Muslim.

Changing and denying these two (if it needed to be changed) is much harder and more questionable effort than the former two. It’s because (Arab nationalism) was relatively a new concept and it didn’t take much effort to find out that it was a fanatic one. Besides there were millions of Arabs who refused to believe in it before I was even born and a similar thing applies to being a Sunni, as even among Sunni and She’at, you can find many people who say that they are just Muslims, although it meant in the minds of the vast majority of those that they believed that a Sunni Muslim is the only (real Muslim) and others are not so he can call himself a Muslim still not getting out of his Mathahb. The same applies to the other Mathahib. These people are more hypocrites and fanatical than those who simply say “I’m a Sunni” or “I’m a She’at”. They only agree publicly that fanaticism is an ugly thing while they represent its (purist) forms. As for me and many of my friends, it was completely different. We rejected both, ours and their and all other Mathahib and we spent a long time and effort searching for the real Islam. I'm sure I'm not Sunni anymore.

As I said, rejecting the above was something one can do with clear conscience, but going further carries greater risks. If we suppose that a man reaches, by conviction, a state where he rejects his religion and his nationality -without adapting others- as a way of defining himself, what would he have left to belong to?

No, I’m not one of (Colin Wilson’s non-belonging) and I will not go deeper in the details of investigating my belonging to my country and religion and I will not give a final judgment here, nor do I think I can do for the moment. It’s enough now to say that I’ve done/ still doing my search and I’ve reached a primitive belief that I’ll probably talk about in the future.
Many will say “what is your identity then? What have you left for yourself to believe
Without getting into details again, I’ll simply answer “I’m who I am, just a man who cares for all human and looks at them only through according to what their minds and hearts tell him” of course I have some distinguishing specificities due to my environment and my individual mood and way of thinking, but I never allow them to ammount to the degree that makes me judge people according to things I already rejected and it never separates me from the others and from considering Christian, Jew, American, African…etc a friend and a brother/sister with nothing making me favor the Arab, Iraqi or Muslim over him/her and if there was a need to favor someone, the scale would be-as I said- real feelings and convictions and not what his ID says.

There seems to be a great contradiction here. I’ve just stated that one of the important things I’ve learnt is to be less selfish, and here I’m talking only about myself! Excuse me, but it‘s not me who’s in question here. All I said was a long and boring, yet important introduction to show that minimizing our differences, breaking the boxes we live in (I picked the term from a fabulous speech made by Bill Clinton in London) is such an important issue that requires the greater possible attention on part of all of us, if we wanted to avoid learning only through disasters.

I’m aware that I’m not the 1st one to say this and I’m sure that there are great organizations and political parties in the west that believe and work through similar path, and it is from the teachings of those and the great minds and souls in history that I took the inspiration and the courage to go through the unknown. But I still have to disagree with most of those on how to put our feelings and belief in humanity into action and I'll talk about it in another post.

I broke the walls of my box years ago only to find myself in big jail. Large as this jail was its walls were crushing me along with all the Iraqis and made it even harder for me to go further with my freedom of mind and joining my brothers and sisters. After the 9th of April the walls of this sadistic jail collapsed and a new man was born together with so many Iraqis who are already –and despite the enormous difficulties-prepared to say their word and share the sufferings of others.

By Ali.

Friday, January 23, 2004

The filled half of the glass.

When we looked at the rallies that took place last week supporting immediate and direct elections, we felt annoyed and depressed and some of us even got panicked, fearing that in the future, Iraq will be a theocracy, and I was not an exception, although I saw it was less dangerous than the majority thought it was.
After (meditating) through this- which was caused by a remark from one of the readers, comparing those rallies with the one that went on the 10th of Dec. favoring the latter (and he is absolutely right)- I felt that we may have overlooked the great progress that affected the minds and feelings of Iraqis.

If we go back in time to the days before the anti-terror rally, we will remember that we were all thrilled with that event and we couldn’t believe before that time that such great number of Iraqi people will have the courage to demonstrate against terrorism and in such an organized fashion. I still remember, and it wasn’t long ago, how I was trying to explain to some of the readers why the Ba’athists and terrorists still control the streets in large areas in the middle of Iraq and many sectors in Baghdad and why it was hard for many people, who knew about those, to report them to the coalition or the IP. That demo. Simple as it was, in the eyes of many who didn’t even care to mention it, was the beginning of the end of fear that controlled the minds of Iraqis from Saddam’s loyalists and Ba’athists.

The last rally, and despite all the criticism, fears and worries was GREAT! Yes it was a very unpleasant scene for many people (me included); a rally that was formed of almost only She’at men, supporting a cleric, declaring their loyalty to him before loyalty to Iraq (an Iranian cleric) and supporting a totally silly and wrong suggestion? So many bad points, how can it be considered a progress?

This demo. Was the 1st time tens of thousands of Iraqis went down into the streets, not demanding jobs, not condemning (occupation) and not asking revenge from the Baathists, but solely showing their demands regarding the nature of the political system in Iraq. The point is –and some took it for granted- that Iraqis no longer fear or even think of Ba’athists, terrorists or dictatorship, it has obviously become out of the question now. Abig step was made although unbalanced, but isn't that the case with every 1st try to act and think independently.

I’m aware that there are many objections to such optimism (and valid ones), as the terrorists have and will continue their horrible attacks on both Iraqis and the coalition, but this fact no longer paralyzes the minds of Iraqis and prevent them from looking forward and expressing their visions for the future.

This wasn’t a vision shared by the vast majority of Iraqis, but this only makes it better, and it was a wrong idea made with shortsighted reflex towards the opinion of a cleric rather than a clear, mature political vision for Iraqi future, but hey! We are talking about people whom their opinion was arrested for 5 decades with all their disasters and horror and they have been free for only 9 months.

The other fact is that this demo. Large as it was and despite the poor organizing was totally peaceful. Some people may say that it looked scary, and I agree, but that’s just what it is, it looks scary, but it's not. Believe me when I say that I live among these people and confront them daily with my opinions, and although some of them think I’m an infidel and despite their strong religious feelings, they are far from being violent or dangerous.

We have made huge steps since the liberation, that took us from the state of despair to, hope that was mixed with fear then to the state of challenge to those who want us to remain slaves for their terrorism, from the bloody struggle against Baathists to the peaceful political struggle with religious powers who control the hearts of a relatively large proportion of Iraqis.

Yes, they are retarded and fascists, but till now they haven’t shown any significant use of violence or even threatened to use it. There were some sporadic cases that were soon stopped by the coalition and the IP, and to be honest, there was not any strong evidence of these cases having any link to the (legitimate) religious representatives of She’at Iraqis. There was never a call for violence made by those clerics, and I’m not defending them, as there is nothing I could like less than having a theocracy in Iraq, but these are the facts.

As long as these powers use peaceful means in showing their political demands and as long they are not calling frankly for a theocracy, then we will confront them with peaceful political efforts, calling for freedom, democracy and showing the terrible consequences of categorizing people according to their religions or ethnicity. Some people think that this is not happening, but just for an example, 4 days ago 6 small democratic parties united to form a single party called the 'coalition of Iraqi democrats' and announced that they were ready to merge with other democratic and liberal powers as long as they believe in democracy as the only option for Iraq. I took a close look at those parties and, of course they were not what I had in mind, but I consider it a promising start.

We should be grateful for the people who marched in that rally as they announced the end of fear, showed the power of people(people who are mislead, but still powerful and good enough to prevent any comeback of dictatorship even in the abscence of help from outside) and signaled the beginning of a peaceful and fruitful political struggle. And we, the people who believe in democracy and secularism should unite our efforts to enter this battle with a power that at least makes a sort of a balance that ensures Iraq a steady progress towards a better future.

By Ali.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Elections, illusions and reality.

There is an increasing interest and arguments among Iraqis about the future elections that it has become the major issue in almost every discussion among Iraqis.
I’ve listened to the different opinions representing various sectors with different points of views, but I still see that this decisive issue could go on without making a split in the Iraqi community, as it seems that everyone agrees that in the end it’ll be the votes of Iraqis that will put an end to this peaceful political struggle and that the era of tyranny and the 100% results had gone forever.
Everyone is now sure that he will be free to vote, but the disagreement is about the timing, and in my opinion raising this subject in the mean time is like trying to achieve the falsehood by saying a word of truth, and the subject isn’t void of foreign interferance working hard to lead the experience in Iraq to failure.
No one dares to say that he’s against elections, as his words will be cut and manipulated by the media and will be displayed in parts, like “I’m against elections”, while the 2nd. Part “in the mean time” may be omitted. And that’s what those in the opposite camp (who are against the change in Iraq) want to show, “See, this is America, and those are who got involved with her. They don’t want to see a democratic Iraq, they who claim that they’re a democratic nation, but it’s just another imperial occupation”.
But there’s still an insisting question: those who demand immediate elections were they elected in the first place? Let’s take a look on the Iraqi parties; some of their (elected leaders) have been chairmen for more than a decade. Name one elected personality form those who demand elections.
Why everyone is talking as if he were representing the whole Iraqi people?
Frankly speaking, some of those are acting as representatives for certain neighboring countries who have political interest in delaying democracy in Iraq, and those are backed by the illusions of crowds that went down the streets to support them. But let everyone know (and I’m sure of that) that the result of elections –if performed- will be a shock for them. I still stress that the majority of the Iraqi people are the independent and their only problem is their low voice and their need for a tribune to speak from, however their voice will be the loudest in the voting boxes. And I’m sure if elections were performed in the way I expect the results will drive the misled to question the credibility of the elections, and their shock will lead to tragic outcomes if they tried to evade or disapprove the results of the elections.
And let’s also try to learn something from history, when was there a democracy in Iraq and when that ended? Well, there was democracy (although some consider that it was in the least significant form) when the British were in Iraq –everyone agrees with that- and that democracy was over when the British forces left Iraq and since then Iraq suffered from five decades of dictatorship and military coups.
Everyone knows that maintaining the health of democracy in a positive form requires the existence of the coalition forces, and I think that the poll that the 1st. independent Iraqi institute has performed (which Omar mentioned yesterday) adds to my opinion.
I do not question the good intentions and the visions of the Iraqi parties, and I’m sure that most of them understand this and have already started to coalesce with other groups as they figured out that they (alone) cannot get the required majority they need to get to the chair. What we’re hearing now about alliances among parties calls for a (calm down, the coming state will be neither Islamic nor ethnic), and that’s what’s going to happen, and I’m not pessimistic about the elections results, on the contrary, if the Iraqi people is going to get more time, it will certainly be capable of choosing the best.
-By Mohammed.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

::The Spanish agency for international cooperation started a project to establish a huge field for rice production in Najaf and Kerbala, over an area of more than 90,000,000 sq meters.
This huge project will get benefit from all the updated technologies of agriculture. After agriculture in Iraq has been ignored for years. Also the project will provide jobs for about 300 agricultural engineers.
The whole project is a gift from the Spanish government.

::500 extra mega watts will be added to the capacity of (Al-msayab) power station, which is one of the major sources of electricity for Baghdad.

::The BBC have signed a contract to establish 3 transmission stations for TV and radio in Basra, Nassiriya, and Amara in the south of Iraq. These stations will provide service for about 4 million citizens, and will cover some areas that were never covered by the former or present Iraqi broadcasting.
The contract involved building studios, transmission facilities and training qualified staff.

::The (independent institute for civil community studies) performed a poll about the situation of security in the country, and the results indicated that 75% of Iraqis would feel unsafe if the coalition forces decided to leave Iraq immediately.
News from Al-Sabaah journal.

::A few days ago, I was watching Al-Iraqia TV channel (with some friends), and in the news, they mentioned something about a (suicidal bomb attack in Israel by a Palestinian young man). None of my friends noticed the change in attitude of the Iraqi media that I noticed. This is the first time that an Iraqi TV uses the term (suicidal) instead of the common (FEDAYEE) used by Arab media and the former Iraqi TV media to describe those attacks.

Abu Haider!...Abu Jassim!

-Yesterday, I was having a conversation with one of my friends about the situation in Iraq and the elections idea, and after he gave his opinion about the subject, he added” I’m sure that ABU HAYDER” will find a solution for the problem.
I asked” and who’s that Abu Haider”?
He said” do you really don’t know him”?
“It’s the new name for Paul Bremer”.
I was surprised and asked,” where did you hear that”?
He said” I don’t really know, someone started it for sure, then it spread out”
(Haider is one of the favorite names for Iraqis, is it’s a name they use to call the historical Islamic leader Ali Bin Abi-Talib).
I reviewed the history of Iraqis in giving names to certain people or employees, and remembered that Iraqis used to call the British with the name (ABU NAJI) and that name was common after the British came to Iraq after WW1. Also Iraqis have special names for people who have certain jobs, for example, any soldier is called (ABU KHALEEL) and any policeman is called (ABU ISMA’EEL).
It seems that my people are fond of the word (ABU=father of..)!. Every man is named after the name of his older son or daughter (ABU something) or if he doesn’t have children yet, they call him after a famous historical personality having the same first name, so any Mohammed can be called (Abu Qassim or Abu Jassim) after our prophit Mohammed who had a son called (Qassim), and every Ali is called (Abu Hussain) after Ali Bin Abi-Talib(the prophit’s cousin).
Anyway, this sort of nicknames is usually used among friends or relatives (informal), and when a stranger uses this form it indicates that he wants to start a friendly conversation.
This (system) can be used also for calling someone names, by using the word ABU and the suffix will be a dirty word!!
By the way, Iraqis have a freaking huge list of dirty words, and these are continuously modified and updated!!
For me, you can call me (Abu Khattab), as some friends do, after Omar Bin Al-Khattab the historical Islamic leader.
When a man is married and he’s become old and still has no children, he will also be subjected to this rule, and his friends call may him (Abu Ghayeb)=father of the absent.
no one seems to be far from the reach of the Iraqis' tongues. don't you think so?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The holy, the bad and the crazy.

A lot of arguments were made about Al-Sistani’s last statement regarding the agreement between the CPA and the GC regarding the handing of authority into the hands of a temporary government.
I’ll attempt to clear things if possible, but let me say what I think, and you may like it or not.
:: First of all, THAT STATEMENT WAS NOT A FATWA. It was an answer for a question asked by an American journalist. If this issue is so important(from the religious point of view) and needed a fatwa, then why wait till it was raised by a journalist?
Sistani, obviously not wanting to respond with a fatwa, made a brief statement as just (an Iraqi citizen) although (he’s in fact an Iranian).
There was absolutely no orders or commands in his statement, he made a few suggestions, but the emotional crowds, led by some fanatics took this statement and showed it as a fatwa, led also by political ambitions and fear from a new government that will not represent the Sheia as they want.
Many elements contributed to such manipulation of the words made by Sistani, one of these is the fear that inhabited the minds of most Sheia from a central government that will not represent them and will therefore oppress them, just like all the former Iraqi governments had done, it’s a psychological response that is not totally unjustified.
::The second point is that strong Sheia local leaders see in the current situation a golden opportunity for elections, which would lead (in their opinion) to their success.
Another point is the influence of neighboring countries (namely Iran) and Arab media and some western media also who love to see a large division among Iraqis and between Iraqis and Americans showing these simple words as an objection and defiance of the majority of Iraqis to the GC and the CPA.
To be fair, Sistani has always tried his best to stay away from politics before and after the war even after many persistent questions from all parts trying to get some words from his mouth to dress them in a holy figure and present them to the Iraqi people as a fatwa that should be followed.
::Let me say a few words about Sistani:
My opinion was and still that most of the clerics are hypocrites and corrupted, but as every rule has its exceptions, there are very few clerics and Mullahs who are simply, good people with convictions that we don’t share (this is my current opinion, but future events may prove I was wrong).
One of the rare statements he made was to the Washington post through his secretary and in that, he urged the clerics to stay away from politics and dedicate their lives to study their religion and that politics and economy have their own men who know better than the clerics about these matters!
Isn’t that a call for a secular pattern of political regime?
And there’s another point about Al-Sistani. It’s that he never talks in public (in person) as he uses different deputies to receive questions or to announce his statements to the people, and those deputies often add their touch to his statements according to the way each one of those understands the statement and of course according to their personal interests.
However, the reactions to the last statement was unpleasant and was not realistic at all. Real elections are almost impossible to carry out in the current circumstances and even if it was done it will be unfair and will lead to a very unfavorable outcome.
Besides, the temporary government was never and cannot be a legitimate representative of Iraqis and that was the case in all revolutions or radical changes affecting countries whether from in or outside.
Al-Sistani stated that if the UN investigations proved that the circumstances in Iraq now do not allow the elections to be done, then he’ll give up the call for elections. This seems to me an attempt to extricate himself from the unpleasant position in which his supporters had put him! Yes, it's one of the strange things about the Sheia leaders is that they are led by their supporters rather than lead them (strange in the world of religious fanaticism and when compared to other Muslim clerics).
A temporary government is just a temporary authority needed to run things and coordinate of different sectors of public facilities and ministries, but its main job would be preparing for a constitutional conference that would be responsible for writing down a constitution that will be put into a plebiscite for the Iraqis who will have the final word.
And after that, and according to the future constitution, general and fair elections can be made easily as the temporary government cooperates with the coalition to eliminate the Ba’athists and the fascists (which is happening, although not as fast As we wish) providing a safe and healthy environment for all Iraqis who should by this period re-organize themselves and focus more on their carriers and their vision for the future.
This fact will definitely lower the chances of the radical groups in gaining the desired majority, and it will also lower the GC chances, all in the favor of other small moderate liberal and democratic parties, which already have began to unite their efforts against the strong religious and ethnic groups.
The last fact was what made the GC parties push for a close dead line to form a temporary government while their stocks are still high, and it made other radical and religious groups demand the same with only the exception that they want it to be done through general elections, not forgetting the pressure the American administration is subjected to from in and outside the US, as well as in Iraq.
What I desire, what we should do, and what will probably result needs at least another post.

By Ali.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Breaking news!.

Right now, there is a large rally passing through the streets of baghdad, I'm watching the demonstartors from inside a shop of a friend of mine, fortunately I was carrying my camera, so I took some photos .here and .here.
:: No political slogans were carried, however there are many religious ones. I knew from some passers-by that the demonstrators were instructed not to carry political slogans.
:: The rallies were organized by the (HAWZA), so the vast majority of the demonstratos are the followers of Al-Sistani, Muqtada Al-Sadr, and the SCIRI, and the rallies are supporting the Sistani's (FATWA) about the necessity for elections before the formation of a soverign temporary government next June.
:: I estimate that the number of demonstrators is around 10,000 or maybe more, as the rallies are still moving.
:: I'm against that idea, but our struggle for freedom has taught me to respect the others' right to voice their opinion as long as they do it peacefully and without offending or harming others.
:: As you can see, i've set up a button to accept donations that will help me maintain and improve my blog-work. Thanks to Mr. Tom Villars for his help.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

As long as it takes.

Once again, the soldiers of darkness try to spread their theory, the theory of horror, among our people to in desperate desire to stop the wheel of life.
I mentioned in a previous post that they’re targeting life in its; opportunities, childhood and hard work. And I mentioned that we –as Iraqis- have decided to go through this war as we believe in our just and legal cause. And I hope that no one will be misled to think that the target here is the Iraqi model alone.
No, they’re targeting freedom as a principle of life.
Yes, I say it once again; we’re fighting in a (war on behalf). And when we ask for the free world’s help, it’s because we feel that it’s a war of all the free and it's just another step in a long hard, yet unavoidable struggle.
We’re not doing a favor for the others, and no one is doing us a favor; the concerns are common, and the war is everyone’s responsibility.
Our failure is your failure too, and also our success is yours too.

And away from emotions, vulgar as this may seem, I think it's true: People who think that the USA will simply pull out of Iraq because of these attacks prove that they are less realistic than they think they are. The failure in Iraq will simply doom any future step to fight terrorism to failure. And even if the majority in America is against staying in Iraq for another year or two, one should not over estimate the power of American public opinion. This is certainly not Vietnam or Somalia and whether we (Iraqis as well as Americans) like it or not, America will stay in Iraq "As long as it takes" There is no safe retreat here, and if you don't believe me wait and time will prove which one of us was optimistic, realistic and right. If I was wrong and America does pull soon out of Iraq, what do you think will happen? I'm afraid that we will both be unsafe, but for different reasons. Iraq will be unsafe because of the risks of theocracy and civil war (2 possible events if it wasn't for the presence of the overwhelming American power). Yet Iraq will get rid of one threat; the terrorist Mujahideen! Yes these will simply follow your soldiers wherever you go, just as they followed you from Afghanistan to Iraq (they're still functioning there, but their focus now is Iraq). Some will say: do our soldiers have to go anywhere? The answer is simply: yes. You tried to stay away from (the old world's troubles) many times, and what was the result? I'll leave the answer to you.

Everyone should understand this point, and we should repeat it whenever we got the chance, so that the one who sits watching his TV, giving excuses or analyses without feeling bitter about what’s happening to my people or his country men who volunteered to fight in this war and question the need for this war will understand and feel the depth of the conflict.
Our brothers and your sons are bleeding for our sake, for your sake and for the sake of the whole free world.
I wish you can come and see Baghdad’s streets after today’s crime. No one ran away to his home, life didn’t stop, students didn’t quit their exams, banks and shops are still open and police patrols still moving in the streets.
The streets were crowded, and people were shouting loudly this time “LET THE MUJAHIDEEN GO TO HELL”.
Terrorists say “we want death more than you want life” I say “we want life more than death, because it’s God’s gift, and we appreciate his gift”.
We will not give our lives up, the doctor will stay in his hospital, the policeman will keep doing his duty and the soldiers –from all over the world- who chose to fight will stay in their positions.
You must remember this well; no one is safe from the threats of the terrorists or their violence, but we’re determined to keep up the work.
I’m not trying to look like a saint, yes, we have our fear and anxiety but we dream and work, and your soldiers and our policemen and soldiers sacrifice their lives in the hope of achieving peace and freedom not only in Iraq, but also(in the near future as I believe) in the whole region. For as long as there are still dictatorships and totalitarian regimes in neighboring countries, Iraq, America and the whole world will never be safe.
I’m looking forward for the future, and I’m sure about victory in this war, and we must never lose our belief in the coming victory.
We will not let the pessimistic and those who try to let us down have their bad effect on our determination.
We will all pass this period, and then we shall celebrate the rebuilding of Iraq, and then cowards will have no place among us.

::By Mohammed and Ali.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Sharia, dreams, and nightmares.

When I first heard about the announcement 137, I felt extremely upset and worried.
My upset was further increased when I followed some of the reactions by western media and reading some comments on posts on various blogs including Iraqis such as “get the troops out of Iraq now”, “if the sheia want theocracy let them go to Iran”, “that’s why we opposed the war” or “we should’ve left SH there, it seems that those people can only be governed by dictators” and so on.
Honestly, I was furious when I started writing this post, I wanted to curse everyone; the GC, Islamic parties, religions, Iran, Iraqi bloggers …etc.
But that only lasted for a moment; this is not how I truly feel, and it is not the time to be angry as emotional judgments often miss the point.
I gathered my shattered thoughts together and tried to examine this as calm as I can and found that through all this mess there are some facts that can be concluded before reacting to this, who was behind it? Who objected? And to what degree extreme reactions were true and justified?
So here we come to some facts:
1-The announcement comes from an unauthorized council, and therefore Iraqi courts and Iraqi people are not committed to follow it.
2-according to Jalal Talbani; the announcement didn’t get the necessary majority (2/3 of the votes) therefore it’s illegal.
3-we don’t have a constitutional council yet, thus it’s out of question to put such issues into discussion.
4-the announcement is not signed by the CPA head, who has the veto, so it’s still just a proposition.
5-the public coverage was so scarce which gives rise to suspicions, was it made to please the Mullahs and gain their support, by trying to pass this agreement without public announcements fearing objections?
6-sharia is a relative term, which one the proposition was referring to: Sunni, Sheia, Wahabi? With their sub-divisions? Islamic Sharia in Iraq refers to classical Sunni and Sheia sharia, and not to the more radical Wahabi (Taliban or Saudi Arabia) nor Islamic brotherhood version (Hamas or Jihad).
7-the Sharia law has been practiced in Iraq for centuries (even when secular governments were in charge, as it didn’t interfere with politics), so this would better described as preservation of an already existing system rather than creation of a new one.
8-there was strong opposition against the proposition inside the GC and on the streets, and that was obvious as Iraqi women (not fearing the fanatics) held demonstrations against the proposition.
9-the people who agreed on this proposition said that it’s not supposed to replace the secular family law, and that it’s just an optional one for committed Muslims, while other Iraqis who do not want to submit to this one will still have the secular one.

Using these facts in an attempt to answer the above questions, one can come with some simple conclusions:
1-this is the wrong decision, made by the wrong people at the wrong time, resulting in wrong reactions.
2-this is either a real demand by the Islamic parties, or just a political bluff.
a-If it’s a real demand, then it’s either:
- Signaled by fear on the part of Islamic parties and groups that a secular government (which seems to be inevitable and almost everyone agrees with as it’s supported by the USA) would restrain the religious activities and their effect on the community, such as what happened in Turkey.
-Or it was made to get more political ground, taking advantage of what seems to be the support of the majority of Iraqis turning this advantage into solid achievements on the ground.
b-could it be a bluff? It seems that it makes sense, when one puts in mind that the USA would never allow a theocracy in Iraq, then such suggestion made by Islamic groups (probably supported by some neighboring countries, to damage the relation between Iraqis and Americans) would really embarrass the American administration, and the immediate response to the American veto will be “ see, didn’t we tell you that the Americans are here to fight Islam?”

Giving the facts and assumptions, how should we react to this?
-If it’s a real demand, then just forget it, because even if the CPA didn’t use the veto, I’m sure that the majority of Iraqis will not approve of it. And when elections will be held, and a constitution is written (if it holds to that time), this particular point will not achieve the desired majority. And I know what I’m talking about.
They look stronger and out numbering only on the streets and only in this unstable period, where emotions play a considerable role in men’s decisions. But if a free plebiscite made in stable conditions, it will be much different.
-If it’s a trap? Ok, let’s play it their way.
“Give us the type of Sharia you want, and we will give you our immediate approval. Write your Sharia down, and we will accept it”
These people; committed Sunni and Sheia, hate each other more than you imagine, they can only unite for a few weeks against what they consider a common enemy.
Let’s step aside and deprive them of this (common enemy) and you will see that their old quarrels will float to the surface, and they will never reach a consensus even after a hundred years, and each side will hurry back to the CPA to get support.

Such trivial events (yes, trivial, because, as dangerous as they seem to you, they’re not more than futile attempts, by a bunch of idiots trying to reverse history and combat the natural course of events) will not alter the eventual outcome of this struggle.
All is needed (which seems the CPA is doing) is to reassure average people about their religious freedom, provide them good jobs that keep them busy and education that open their eyes.
Our battle is not with them; it’s with those who act behind the curtains, using sensitive issues such as religious beliefs and traditions. The worse thing that we can do today is over reacting in our opposition and using offensive tone. The right tactic, in my opinion, lies in firm determined refusal conveyed through calm diplomatic maneuvering.

I was saddened by some Americans’ and westerners’ reaction to this silly event, I received some e-mails urging me to leave Iraq, and offering me help to find a new life and career in the US or Europe. I heard about similar invitations to other Iraqi bloggers.
Grateful as I am to these generous gestures, I cannot but wonder, whether you were supporting Iraqi freedom or Iraqi bloggers. If you feel the whole thing was a mistake, and Iraqis didn’t/don’t deserve all the trouble and the sacrifices made, then I don’t blame you. That’s certainly how it looks on TV, newspapers and most web sites.

We (Iraqi bloggers) are just phenomena that will soon fade away.
Iraqi freedom is a noble task that will benefit not only the 25 million Iraqis, but also the whole world. And no one said it was going to be easy.
I will not migrate to your heaven and leave people, who desperately need help, to the flames.
I will stay here with all those who believe in this just cause, and fight until the dream come true.
Then and only then, I will come to visit your land, as a friend, grateful for the support you’ve given so far, and will invite you (10 or 20 years from now) to come and see what you’ve bravely and generously participated in creating (a free prosperous and democratic Iraq). Silly as it may seem, I still believe in this dream.

By Ali.
While I was wandering around the hospital where I work at, I saw some construction- finishing being done (on a holiday) near the hospital gate that is protected by the FPS, so I decided to take photos for the workers here, and here. A young kid caught my attention, as he was spending his time not by playing with marbles, fire works or soccer as other kids in his age usually do.
When I asked him about what he was doing, he was shy to answer, but after I insisted a little, he replied hesitantly "I'm building". Despite the dangers on his health that playing with mud may bring, I found it heart lifting, and it gave me hope.
By Ali.

Friday, January 16, 2004

A step on the road.

Yesterday, the Iraqis turned another page from the black pages of the past.
A page that the tyrant wrote with his own hand, and added his ugly portrait to it.
Yesterday, all the Iraqis made up their mind to get rid of Saddam’s currency and Saddam’s face forever. Some might say that this operation wasn’t the decision of the Iraqi people, and that it was forced by foreigners. So here I’m going to point to what happened in the last few months, from which you can see that there was a strong will and determination from the Iraqi people to change the currency.
The tyrant was obsessed with his own figure to the extent that he decided to force all Iraqis to look attentively at his picture every day and in all their deals, and when he stuck his portrait on the money, he forced us to carry his face with us every where and to look at it every time we needed to buy or sell anything. What kind of psychological problems our jailor had?!
The currency overlap operation shows clearly the Iraqis’ ability to change, and their great will to cooperate in everything that serves the country in this new age.
The mission was accomplished with minimal hardships, and with smoothness that makes it an example for the others.
The mercenary of the darkness tried to entangle the operation from the beginning through sending threats to the banks and those who deal with the new currency, and that urged the coalition forces and the IP to provide sufficient protection for the banks, and those threats couldn’t prohibit the Iraqis from queuing to replace the old currency. It was a magnificent scene for order and challenge, yes, we want the change and we will work hard for it.
The overlap had it’s positive influence on the economy, and brought back the people’s trust in the Iraqi dinar.
We have recovered something that we lost a long time ago. Yes we support every action serves our country and improves the life conditions of our people.
Yes, we may make wrong decisions sometimes and right decisions in other times, that’s the case with every new beginning, and it’s normal to find some confusion. Actually the overlap was a good indicator to a better future and we hope that the coming steps of the reconstruction process will witness the same good order and performance and carry the same challenge spirit.

Snap shots from the overlap process:
:: the banks kept working yesterday until 9 pm exceeding the official work hours to guarantee that those who have been late will have the opportunity to replace the old money.
:: we could see almost every day a person walking in the street getting out some small notes of the old money that he has forgotten in his pocket and then he starts to tear these notes as if this action was agreed upon by everyone.
:: there’s still a problem with the small notes, as small amounts of these were printed, however, some shop keepers found a way to overcome this problem by giving a piece of candy instead of the change.
And I saw a grocer once who found a problem with finding the 100 ID note to give the change to the customer after she gave him a 250 ID, so he returned the 250 ID back to her saying” doesn’t matter, as long as we got rid of the tyrant’s ugly face”.
:: there was obvious eagerness from the neighboring countries to buy the new Iraqi currency especially from Kuwait, Jordan, and Egypt aiming to get a fast benefit, because everybody believes that the exchange price for the new currency will improve in the coming weeks.
:: the old currency disappeared about a week ago, but yesterday was the day of the end and forever.
:: the overlap process deprived the terrorists from the having the opportunity to fund their operations, as the agents of the past regime were keeping billions of ID’s and those found great difficulty to replace the money, as this action would certainly uncover their identities and the uncover the huge sums the possessed and they would never take the risk to appear in public to declare that they have all that money and they can’t trust anyone to do the job for them.
:: the overlap process reinforced the unity of Iraqis, after they were dealing with two different versions (the so called SWISS in the north, that was printed in the 80’s and the so called PRINTING in the rest of Iraq, that was printed after 1991), now they’re using the same currency.
By: Mohammed.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

AYS and I returned back to Baghdad yesterday (for a vacation) after we finished our assignment procedures, I’m gonna have to stay in the village for about 3 weeks /month, while AYS will have to stay for 2 weeks only (don’t ask me why!).
Life there is very peaceful, quiet, simple and boring. The Iraqi TV transmission does not cover the region, no newspapers available, and the phone lines are still down.
We spent about a week there with almost nothing to do except the 4 hour daily job in the health centers, so our main problem was how to spend the rest of the day.
Our main amusement was to prepare a cup of tea and sit on the back fence of the house, watch the view, smoke cigarettes and talk about preparing drinks for the night.
By the way, our cab broke on the way between Amara and Al-Kut, and I took this photo for the driver and some passengers trying to fix the problem.

::The exchange price for the ID against the US dollar has increased considerably in the last few days; from 1620 ID for 1 $ to about 1000 ID for 1 $ then declined again to settle at about 1400 ID for 1 $ this morning.
People are in a state of confusion for this wide range of price variation, and no one could determine what the actual reason is.

::Some suggest that this situation is caused by, reaching the end of the time limit for dealing with the old currency. And as the new one is well protected from faking and still available in fewer amounts than the old one (there were huge sums of faked money in Iraq and these are out of exchange now), then it’s natural to have its exchange value increased.

::Others suggest that there have been huge (money smuggling operations) across the borders, by merchants from the neighboring countries who desire to make benefit from illegal money transfer, ie. Withdrawing the money from the Iraqi market to increase the price of the ID and later pump the money back to Iraq to get the price difference.
I see(from my experience) that the 1st. theory is more acceptable, and if that was true and the price remained around 1400 then this means that salaries will be more capable of satisfying the needs of people.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

A few great men.

A couple of days ago, I received an e-mail that made me feel ashamed of myself. It was from an American soldier serving in Iraq and besides doing his job, and risking his life daily to protect his country and the freedom of the Iraqis, he posts some articles in the Internet trying to build a bridge of trust and faith between his people and the Iraqis. Obviously this was not enough for him. He sent me an e-mail with a copy of an article he wrote in which he addresses the Iraqi people urging them to unite and have a more active role in building their country and establishing democracy. He told me that he was on the opinion of publishing it in Arabic in one of the Iraqi newspapers and was asking for my advice and help. It was a beautiful article that comes straight from the heart.

I couldn’t help wondering what was the power that pushes this man to endure such an effort and give so generously, not only for his country but also for other people. And I started asking myself, what can I do more?

As some of you may know I’m a doctor and I try to do my professional duties as best as I can and study to make a progress in my career, and in my spare time, I help my brothers on this blog. All this seems fine. But compared to what this man is doing it’s nothing. Besides all what I do has selfish motives. I work to earn my living and study to improve my financial and social status, and when I write here, I actually enjoy it a lot; I enjoy my freedom to express my thoughts and feelings and I enjoy meeting wonderful people, I make new friends and learn from the readers much more than I give them. I’m not trying to be modest here. I have my ethical motives but they are not the only, and maybe not the major, ones.

That’s why I find myself always asking what can I do more? And I often find myself helpless when people ask me how can they help? And what is there to be done? They offer their help so generously and I simply can’t translate it into actions.

It’s been a long time since I started thinking what could be the solutions to Iraq’s major problems, even before the law of liberating Iraq was approved by the American congress. I kept asking myself, then what? What after Saddam will be toppled? As this was an easy and definite conclusion to me. For despite how Saddam looked to Iraqis, he was extremely weak compared to an American army and this was not just because of the huge difference on the scale of military power and technology. He derived his strength from our fear of him and his brutal regime, a fear that paralyzed our minds, a fear that the Americans were free of. I n addition to that, and more important is that he was completely isolated from his people who stood watching him being defeated without moving a finger.

But then what? What after freedom? How is this terribly poor nation with all the prevalent ignorance, diseases and complete isolation from the rest of the world for decades, will become a free prosperous and democratic nation? How long will that take? And what should be done in order to achieve this drastic change?

In my opinion such sudden change is unfortunately impossible. This will take long years at least. But if this is the case then at least we should make sure that we lay our feet on the right path and start walking cautiously and (slowly if it has to be so), but with trust and strong determination until we reach the point were our peoples minds and souls become free from the chains of a long history of oppression and false beliefs. Then, I believe that the wheels will start to run almost automatically and in a growing pace just like a snowball. It needs to be pushed first, and nature will do the rest.

We are not Germany or Japan, and as I refused to demand miracles from America, I find it unfair to demand from the Iraqis to be like Japan or Germany. These nations were, when they started rebuilding, already ahead of us in a considerable distance in culture and resources. I use the word ‘rebuilding’ here but I didn’t use it when talking about Iraq, and this is on purpose. The word ‘rebuilding’ makes one think that there was something that worth mentioning, and that it was destroyed during the war and therefore it needs rebuilding. This maybe suitable in case of Japan and Germany, while in Iraq it’s completely different. There was nothing worth mentioning that has been destroyed and need to be rebuilt unless you call some buildings with their furniture as a valuable infrastructure. The main problem was that there was nothing important being built under Saddam’s rule and the already existing infra structures were terribly neglected, hence the more appropriate word should be ‘building’ Iraq and not ‘rebuilding’. And again the starting point should be building trust and hope in the future inside Iraqis’ minds.

The way I see it, is that the Americans are doing their best and most of the Iraqis are doing so too. Do not get fooled by the scenes presented by the media and do not miss- interpret the Iraqis whining as that they are spending their time sleeping in their beds and waiting for you to do their job. Although I don’t deny that there are such people, but they are by no means represent the majority.

Iraqis whine mainly because they are free to do so for the 1st time in their life, and my friend who was (whining) in the last post, in fact works with your soldiers risking his life every day too. Or how do you think things would have been if Iraqis refused to cooperate with the coalition? Do you think that your soldiers (as good as they are) could sniff the criminals and terrorists and pull them out of millions if there wasn’t such cooperation. Even the Ba’athists have become convinced of this fact and began turning their weapons in Mousul, for example, to the US army, as it became clear to them that they cannot fight both the American army and their own people.

It’s been months since most of Iraqis are back to there jobs and I don’t exaggerate when I say that most of them are doing that with a devotion that I’ve never seen at Saddam’s times. Iraqi police are doing a remarkable job in arresting the criminals which lowered the crimes rate considerably in the last few months, and they are therefore subjected to almost daily terrorist attacks in which many of them lost there lives while doing their job.

Still the picture is not what we all desired, and that what make some people on both sides complain and blame the other side, but that’s the nature of things. Building a strong, free and democratic country starting from nearly zero requires a hard, long and persistent effort. I may not live to see my dream come true, but at least I can have the honor of assisting in setting a corner stone for such a bright future, so that my kids or grandchildren can enjoy it.

What is needed today is continuous and coordinated effort on the part of all those whom their interests lie in achieving this great job which will serve not only Iraq and America, but the whole region and therefore the whole world. This demands that the Iraqis should continue to believe in the American’s good will, and that the American and the coalition continue to believe that the Iraqis deserve this future and can do their part of the job, which is of course the major one. And who knows, maybe what I consider to be a remote and impossible goal, in the near future, will turn to be not that far.

I’ve heard some painful words lately that made me somewhat depressed and less hopeful, but then I got that e-mail and I also remembered that American soldier who came once to this blog. He had been serving in Iraq when he was attacked and broke all four limbs, and then he was transferred back into the USA to get more medical help. After speaking shortly on the course of his service in Iraq, he apologized to me and to the Iraqi people for not doing this job in 1991! I told him that there was absolutely no need on his part to apologize and that he had done much more than enough, and I was never more true and honest than when I said that. How can I not be so?? Do you know what was his reply? His words-and I’ll never forget them- were” I’m honored to serve you and your people”! Can you possibly imagine the effect those words had on me? I tried to answer him, my hands reached for the keyboard, but my fingers froze over the letters which suddenly turned into strange figures that were unable to translate my feelings into words that makes sense. I didn’t reply to him. I couldn’t.
I told this to all my friends, and now whenever I meet someone who doubts the American soldiers honesty and motives, I throw those words (the soldier’s) into his face saying, “This is how an American soldier, who broke his four limbs in Iraq, looks at you and me and his job in Iraq”, And as expected his response would be a silent embarrassment.

All that I hope is that we could rise as near as possible to those 2 great men. They were Americans, yes, and thank God for that, and just for the record one of them is Muslim. I’m sure that there are many Americans and Iraqis who are doing there best with such a great love and devotion to the others. As I know that there are at least hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who lost their lives while they were trying to do what the coalition forces led by the USA did.

From now on, call me a whiner or call me a CIA agent, I don’t care. I’ll continue to do what I do and I’ll try to do more; asking questions, searching for solutions inspired through this long and hard journey by the few great men that I’ve met and so many others whom I haven’t had the honor of meeting, but I know that they believe in me, just as I believe in them.

-By Ali.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

After a short and risky journey through religion, we’ll go back to our major concern; the situation in Iraq. This time I’ll step aside and let a friend of mine, who have posted before in our blog, express his view points about the current developments in Iraq. I must stress again that his post doesn’t necessarily matches the way my brothers or I see the situation in Iraq. The idea is to provide the readers with opinions of other Iraqi people whether we agree or disagree with them. I’ve posted my friend e-mail so that you can contact him if you have some comments about his post.

Before it's too late.

By: I. Adnan


Its been 9 months since the liberation of Iraq, its not too long but its not too short either and there is no chance denying what Coalition Forces accomplished on security level by eliminating the remnants of the (Ba’ath) party, on top of it Saddams capture which all Iraqis and maybe the whole world doubted that he’ll never be captured and will disappear forever just like Usama Bin Ladin but his capture proved to everyone that the hand of justice is still strong enough chasing the wanted ones and gave us a hope in capturing Bin Ladin for the souls of thousands of his innocent victims to rest in peace.
What’s now… everybody wonder and everyone in Iraq is waiting. Waiting for things to get better and for life to be easier and happier as it’s been so long since they lived a happy day. But how common people see things and how they look at life and through what kind of perspective? If you start asking anyone in Baghdad how is your life? He’ll start complaining about the general utilities (electricity, fuel…etc) and you know what? They have the right to complain since the situation of general utilities is miserable and started having bad effect on the simple people life who hope to live a happy life after the tyrant and his regime are gone.
If the situation in Iraq continues to be like what it is now it will lead us to (lack of trust) situation in which can evolve to candid opposition to the American existence in Iraq which is very essential to Iraq stability and we all know that there are many powers and trends seeking for this (lack of trust) situation and will try their best to increase it and the fact is that they don’t need to do much efforts since problems already exist and they only need to promote them to the people in a wicked way.
What do we want…? To hurry up and start right away to win the trust of people through taking care of their needs and this also will help the literate people who are doing their best to explain to the average Iraqi people the benefits and importance of the American existence in Iraq to ensure its safety and stability.
We all know that the United States and her allies have allocated too much money for Iraq reconstruction and they are spending this money right now but the problem is that there is nothing significant on the ground! And for a simple man who thinks of today and don’t know much about tomorrow its useless to speak to him about the bright future of Iraq cause he’s already doubting it.
So for everyone who want to see the stability in Iraq again I say take care of the simple people needs cause they are the majority of the Iraqi people and they are the nucleus of stability in it. So please hurry up before it’s too late.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Religion, sex and the Middle East

When I first heard about the idea of prohibiting (al-hijab) in public French school, I thought that I should write about it as I felt there was something wrong and strange about it. After a while I deferred the idea and said to myself that it is an internal French affair that concerns only the French people and I didn’t want to get in the middle of an intricate and sensitive matter such as religion. Still I couldn’t keep myself from wondering what is the motive of the French government and what effect such decision may have outside the French border and mainly in the Islamic world, will it affect the struggle against terrorism and religious fanaticism and if so, in what way, for how long and to what extent?
Then I received some e-mails asking for my opinion on this matter and encouraging me to write about it. One of those was sent by an American Muslim soldier (and a blogger) serving in Iraq .He was telling me how upset he was with the new proposed French law and explaining by the way how –being a Muslim- he was not only accepted by his fellow soldiers, but he was also respected a great deal. I started to look for the reaction of Iraqis and the echo of this proposed law in Arabic and Muslim media, and I found what convinced me to write about it.

I know that this will certainly give me a headache, the least to say. Some people will say that this has absolutely nothing to do with Iraq, which seems so obvious, but I’m still on the opinion that any change in the policy-whether internal or international- of a strong country such as France, and especially when it comes to sensitive issues such as religion, will definitely sooner or later have a strong effect every where in the world. And even if it is not, then I’m still concerned about it as a human being, and I think we all should be, without interfering in other countries internal affairs (if there is such a thing in today’s world) but at least we can learn a lesson through questioning it, seeking the motives and predicting the consequences and wait and see how correct our judgment was.

Although it’s not important, but I like to tell you that I’ve always stood against the Hijab and I find it a completely strange phenomena inserted into Islamic culture when Muslims came into contact with other civilizations, so it’s a tradition and not a religious duty and often a harmful one and unfair to women restricting their freedom and making them look inferior to men, and I will always stand against it unless the woman who wears it do so on her own will, then it would be unfair on my side to force her not to do so. This is not only my opinion; hundreds of Muslim writers and thinkers long ago stated this fact, and many of them even relied on the Qura’an and Muslim history itself to prove that this was a tradition that was given the power of a wholly order to maintain the domination of men over women in a strictly fatherly society

Before going further, I would like to state that I’m speaking here not as a Muslim, but as a man who cares about the future (OUR future) which seems to be-in this critical period-depending on the way the west, and its allies everywhere, will deal with the obvious and growing threat of the evil combination of dictatorship (with the probability of them processing WMDs) and extremist Muslims. The fact that most of the threats and instability in the word comes from Islamic groups (a by-product of dictatorship in the Muslim world) supported most of the time by Arab governments and their media, is a certain one and should be dealt with seriously, firmly yet in a rational manner, making sure that war on radical Islamists is not misinterpreted as war on Islam on the part of common Muslims.

In my opinion, the Islamists in question represent far less than 1% of Muslims, but they are using every possible mean to attract the largest possible number of the frustrated and perplexed average Muslims -who are generally very emotional when it comes to their religious beliefs- to their death net, never missing a single insignificant slip on the part of the western governments to make a fuss about it and start again telling their boring (yet very effective) myth about the historical Zionist-imperialist conspiracy against Islam starting from the crusades!! And in the presence of terrible dictatorships that drive the average Muslims to the edge of despair, trying to find a reasonable explanation to their misery, the paranoid delusion grows stronger day by day, with the Arab media and the local mullahs making sure this frustration and rage aims to the (right direction) that’s to say as far as possible away from their masters.
It’s an inclusive and undeclared agreement between totalitarian regimes and its (on- loose byproduct; the extremism). When these two are joined in one land they end in a bloody war, but when acting on different scenes they become strong allies without even sharing a common goal, each doing his part of a silent deal that gives each one of them what he wants from the other without getting closer than necessary. This may explain to some people how the coalition didn’t lie when they said that Saddam was supporting terrorism.
This threat calls on the part of the good and enlightened Muslims and the western governments and societies to be very careful when dealing with the manifestations related to Islam, addressing most of the time the hearts of the average Muslims more than their minds as (man) will never change his mind unless his emotions change first (It’s not me who said this it’s Dostoevsky).

It’s strange to see that the most affected countries by terrorism such as Israel and the USA have never restrained the religious activities of their Muslim citizens.
Again I must stress that I’m not defending the Hijab, but I’m criticizing the way of the French and German governments in trying to minimize the religious discrimination and sensitivity among their citizens; a very noble task if that what was meant by it, but in the wrong way and at the wrong time as I see it. You may think that I’m exaggerating here, but if you’ve heard and seen what I’ve head and seen you might agree with me.
A friend and a fine reader once commented on this blog that I should keep away from religion, sex and the Middle East. A very good and sincere advice. Unfortunately, I can't stick to this rule as live in a Muslim community in the Middle East, so I can write about various subjects but I can’t stay always from such prickly roads. I’ll be waiting for your opinions whether to go on with such subjects or just shut up, and I think I’ll shut up, at least for now.


Thursday, January 08, 2004

:: the Iraqi orchestra held a concert on the honor of donor countries and institutions, and showed up in a new elegant look.
There were two female musicians in the orchestra, and concert was attended by one of the GC members, the secretary of culture, American officers and other personalities from other countries.
The Iraqi orchestra suffered from severe neglect in the past years; I remember a friend of mine who was fond of classical music used to go to these concerts on Saddam’s times and he was saddened by the miserable conditions those musicians were living. I remember him telling me that the audience usually didn’t exceed 10, some of the members left their job because of the low income and lack of support and encouragement, despite that, the rest of members kept performing their concerts for such a small audience and in such terrible conditions all those years because of their love to music.

:: in an interview with the Iraqi oil minister on the Iraqi TV, he stated that the main reason for the fuel crisis in the past weeks was smuggling and black market deals, and that immediately after applying strict monitoring on the fuel tankers from the refineries to the fuel stations, the crisis almost resolved.
He said that this method was applied only for gasoline and soon other oil products will be included until the production rate exceeds the needs of the country and the smuggling gangs busted. He added that in the past week (only in Baghdad), 28 smuggled fuel tanks were discovered and the dealers were arrested.

:: the current exchange rate for the Iraqi Dinar is about : 1620 ID for each US Dollar.
Few months after the war, the exchange price for the Iraqi Dinar improved from about 2000 ID for each $(the same price before the war) to 1600 about 3 weeks ago, and kept ranging between 1600 – 1700 since then.

:: a new doctor who was assigned lately to work in our hospital told me this story about the (brutality of the invaders):
“About one month after the war was over there was a period of chaos and increased crime levels, during this period I was working in a hospital in Al-Sadr city. An American unit was assigned to protect our hospital, and as they were happy to see someone who could speak English and help them communicate with the locals, and we were glad to get protection, soon we became friends.
One night, I was the doctor on call in the emergency unit, two old ladies came to the hospital one of them was suffering from an attack of renal colic, and after receiving treatment the two women tried to hire a cab to get home, but no one accepted to give them a lift as it was late at night and every one was in a hurry to go home and avoid the dangers of driving at night.
One of the soldiers stepped to the road and asked to accompany him, he waved for a car to stop and asked to tell the driver that he would give him 10,000 ID if he could drive the ladies home(about 10 times the usual cost), but the driver refused and the scene repeated with other 3 cars, then the soldier told me to raise the number to 20,000 ID, but again no response, at last a taxi came carrying a patient with his relatives, and when I told him about the offer of the soldier, he looked astonished and after a moment replied : I’ll do it for free. And he did.”

-By Ali.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Rebuilding or repainting?

Every body is showing his desire to see Iraq being rebuilt, and this is a justified ambition for my countrymen, as our country suffered from destruction for decades. But what’s happening now? And what has been accomplished till now? And more important; how is this going to be done in the coming years?
As for me, I know that we’re passing through a transitional period, some may not understand the necessity for that, but it’s the corner stone to start the rebuilding process.
This period makes the view unclear for many of Iraqis, and this is justified for my generation who wish to see the process finished in a short time, because, those people lost the most beautiful years of their lives in the multiple wars and crisis caused by the past regime. And there’s not much left of their lifetime to enjoy the benefits of the changes.
Unfortunately, this is not going to be done in a short time, and Iraqis have to realize that.
When it comes to this issue, Iraqis have different perspectives; the 1st. one doubts the credibility of the new government and the rest of the world will to rebuild Iraq.
This group was the one that made benefit of the presence of Saddam’s regime to reach their goals, and when the regime was gone their advantages were gone too.
Those people will not spare an effort to show their pessimisms, and voice their fear that they expect the worse to be coming in the future, and those are the most prominent picture shown on the Arabic media, which never wasted the chance to make interviews with them and show them as the representatives of the Iraqi people, and they relatively succeeded in show disfigured pictures and facts about the truly happening.
One should not forget that Iraqis daily are facing an enormous momentum of biased media.
The 2nd. Group that represents the majority feels that the future is better and hopes to see that on the ground in the next several years, but this feeling of hope is mixed with fear that something might happen and interrupt the ambitious plan or force some countries to abandon their promises.
This may be due to the long and brutal reign of dictators, so the Iraqis learnt not to trust governments’ or officials’ declarations as all they have heard before was a series of lies.
However, what makes me feel optimistic; is that this group didn’t lose hope yet.
The 3rd. group of Iraqis sees clearly that there’s a bright future for Iraq and that Iraq will become one of the best nations in the ME. This comes not only from the desire and efforts of Iraqis, but also because they realize that the interests of Iraq meet with those of the powers that worked to liberate the country. This project is a necessity for the coming political and economical changes in the world and the ME in particular. These changes gained their obligation from the need to face the challenges that erupted in the last few years.
The last group believes that the project will take a long time and great efforts, and requires Iraqis to be united and to get over the selfish interests (tribal, religious or ethnic).
This group is trying hard to make this clear to the rest of Iraqis, but it lacks the capabilities and qualifications of strong media. That’s why it’s hard for this group to reach the minds of the others and exhibit their point of view. Any way, it’s fighting hard to do the job.

I see that it’s necessary for the rebuilding process to coincide with rebuilding of the political, social and economical thinking of the Iraqi people.
Without this, we will not be able to overcome the bad aspects of the past and the influence of the totalitarian theories, which dominated for decades.
We should concentrate on rehabilitating the constitutional institutes, to make these able to define civil duties and rights.
Without that, we won’t be able to build a modern, civilized Iraq.
Corruption, ethnic and religious preferences will create hard obstacles for the rebuilding process, but there’s still a significant point that many may miss, which is the citizen’s feeling about public interests.
It’s not easy to convince an Iraqi that the state possessions belong to him as well.
And the proof is what happened after the regime has fallen, which was not surprising to us.
The lootings that happened to the governmental buildings prove the feeling of the Iraqi that these did not belong to him, but rather to Saddam and his family.
And we noticed that as those buildings or properties had closer relations to Saddam, like military or security headquarters, as the looting and destruction were more intense, to the extent that some of those had even their bricks stolen.
The new administration should bring back the citizen’s trust that these foundations and properties are built to serve him and they belong to him just like every other citizen.
I stress once again, if the reconstruction is not accompanied by rebuilding of beliefs and thoughts, then the whole process will be just repainting, and not rebuilding.

by Mohammed.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Just a concerned man...part 4.(God and USA)

I’m not going to let this go. I’ll continue to talk about it. People say it’s done, why argue about it? Or why killing yourself trying to convince people who obviously had set up their mind on this issue and refuse to reason about it? Such questions are usually asked by good and caring people.
Others, less gentle and concerned, may say; do you think the sunrise and sets upon Iraq only? Or more vulgar and arrogant comments and questions that I don’t feel like answering right now.
For the good people: as I had said before; this is far from being over and even if it is, we are going to face it again somewhere else, not necessarily through war, so we have to be as sure and determined about it as possible. And if 1 or even 10 posts may only make one person on the other side reconsider his attitude, then it’s worth it.
Answering the 3d question: this is not about Iraq only, in fact Iraqi issue occupies a very minor space in this series, as we are free now with many strong nations supporting us, so we really not that desperate for your help and the worst scenario will not bring back dictatorship. We may suffer a lot, civil war may break (although a very remote possibility as I see it) but eventually we will definitely reach the point where we can depend on ourselves in maintaining a free, democratic and prosperous country and we will be able (and willing) to help other nations.
This is more about all the people suffering from tyranny and its un-detached consequences including poverty, ignorance and paranoid feelings that is the 1st precursor to terrorism.
All these sufferings and horrible outcomes are the result of the greedy, mad and brutal leaders of ‘poor’ nations and the careless attitude of many governments and people of the free world towards these dictators not to mention supporting them.

Here comes the main point in this post; something I’ve always avoided going into fearing to hurt the feelings of my readers as well as many good Americans who support us and because I thought that this is not the time to bring back sensitive topics that may cause a damage (no matter how negligible) to the good relation between us and our friends, but as this topic keeps coming everyday without an answer on our side, and this may give some people wrong impressions.

Many anti-Americans (and many Americans as well) blame us, and call us naive or slaves that are only good at a** kissing, and I still remember a very strange and saddening comment that goes something like ”those westernized Iraqis and their sickening (we love you)!!” well, if speaking English and believing in freedom and democracy makes us westernized then it’s ok with me. As for (sickening love): now that was the 1st time I know that loving people of other nationality and religions beside yours is sickening.
Anyway I’m not going to be emotional here and will not answer them in a similar manner. In contrast I’d like to look at their objections in a rational manner if I could only maintain it.
The most common objection, these days, against supporting the USA is that she had (installed) Saddam, supported him and supplied him with destructive and chemical weapons that he used against the Iranians and his own people, and that just when he became not useful to them they decided to get rid of him.

In the beginning I’d like to put the people of the USA and any other nation out of this subject as I believe that people are generally good everywhere and should not be blamed for their governments’ mistakes and I see no reason to hate the people of the USA, on the contrary I have every reason to love them together with all the good people on earth, and if you think that they should take some of the blame, then I should remind you that by doing so you also give me, and others, the right to blame ALL the people of Russia, china, France and Germany(as well as Arab and Muslim people) for their governments’ support to Saddam and their attitude towards the war; something I never did and will never do. If you don’t agree with that then I should advice you not to waste your time on reading the rest of this post.

However, I find myself compelled to agree that some of these assumptions (about previous American administrations) are true to some degree.

Yet, if we track back Saddam’s life, his connection to previous American administrations or to the CIA we will find that these are not strongly proved or documented and at least much less than people like Michele Aflak, Sa’adon Hummadi, Tariq Aziz or Al-Bakir had. These facts were made clearer lately by confessions from senior bath members who left the party in the early 80s(check Salah Omar al Ali interviews and Hassan Alawi books for example). Saddam had made his way to power mainly by eliminating his enemies, the support he got from some of the names mentioned above and surely by support of many powerful nations and their intelligence as they saw that he was the most one qualified to win that bloody war among the Ba’athists and other parties for the power in Iraq at those times. And they wanted to make sure they have good connections with the next leader of Iraq.
Here there is no evidence whatever that the American administration or the CIA had helped Saddam more than Russia with her KGB, France, china, England and many other Arab nations.
As for Saddam’s weapons it’s well known that his weapons were mainly made in Russia and France and that France provided the nuclear reactor with the help of many Arab countries (in financing) and German and Italian private firms. While I’m sure that most of you know that there is no such thing as (technology for producing chemical weapons) as these are very easy to manufacture and do not require western or eastern help.

As for the present American administration and particularly GWB I don’t see reasonable cause to blame them for the mistakes of the previous administrations, especially when I see that the present government had declared more than once that their policy towards international affairs (mainly the ME and Iraq) has changed, and I can see these statements put into actions in Iraq as well as regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which America probably for the 1st time is taking a more neutral stand; supporting the peace process, the moderate powers on each side and opposing extremists on both sides as it’s obvious from her attitude to (the wall) for instance.

People who blame the USA for every evil event in the world rely on the fact that she is the strongest nation on earth and thus they belief that she is the only power capable of doing that, so if something evil happens it’s either the doing of the USA or it happened because the USA didn’t want to prevent it.
Yet, I don’t see many people point out good things as caused by the USA, or her refrain from preventing it!
These people overestimate the power of the USA and seem to confuse it with God’s power, as it appears well when it comes to Iraq (saying for example that the USA went to war without plans for the post war period, or that she is not doing enough to help bringing peace and order to Iraq). Here I’d like to remind them with some facts:
-God is almighty; USA is not.
-God (knows) the future; USA does not.
-God cares for all human beings and creatures; American administration has to care fore its people first.
-God is most merciful; American administration cannot be so.
-When it comes to the ME, God is very popular; USA is very unpopular.
-As a summary God is perfect, American administration is not.

Maybe those people should try-just for a change- to compare the American administration with other human powers such as the governments of France, china, Russia and others, especially when they were dominating the world. I’d be happy to receive any comparison.

To be continued….

-By Ali.