Sunday, May 30, 2004
Pictures, pictures, pictures.
Yesterday I was doing a night shift at the hospital. After the night tour I went to the residents’ dining hall to have dinner. Many of my colleagues were there already. As I sat down, my eyes fell on an ugly seen. There was a picture just in front of me showing young Sadr, his father and the old Iraqi flag in the background. It has been very common since the end of the war to see pictures of She’at clerics everywhere. These are mainly of the late Sadr, Sistani and the late Mohammed Bakir Al-Hakeem and the youngest most famous idiot in the world, Muqtada Al-Sadr.|
Lately the pictures of the fool have been disappearing and getting less and less visible everyday. Our hospital has few supporters of Sadr but these are -as expected- aggressive and fanatics, so no one dared to remove their pictures. My friends were discussing who would be the president in the transitional government and most of them agreed that Al-Pachachi was the best man for the job. The guy sitting next to me was a She’at who hates all clerics except Sadr! He thought that he was the least hypocrite of all. This guy however was funny and not a fanatic. I looked at him and said,
-Now how am I supposed to have my dinner with this person pointing at me!? Do you really think this is a picture that should be put in a cafeteria??
My friend smiled and said,
-Shh, lower your voice! I’m your friend but if some of his followers heard you say that, I really fear for your safety. I told you that they have instructions to kill anyone who talks badly of Sadr.
- I won’t lower my voice. All my life I had to lower my voice whenever I wanted to speak about Saddam. I couldn’t have the joy of at least tearing one of his pictures because of the chaos that followed the liberation. I want to tear this one.
- No, please don’t. This is for your own sake.
- I promise you I won’t touch his fathers face or the old Iraqi flag, although I don’t like it. Besides I have the freedom to say my opinion in anyone.
-Yes, but what about your friends, the Americans, do they allow anyone to curse bush? Didn’t they hit Al-Rasheed hotel because of the picture of Bush the father was painted on the floor of the entrance? Another friend interfered.
-Are you serious!? And for your information many Americans hate Bush, and the Americans -even if they don’t like it- don’t prevent anyone from saying his opinion, and I want to scream in contempt and rejection for any tyrant and this fool is a tyrant project.
-Can you really swear at Bush? I don’t think so. My Shea’at friend said.
-Ok, just to show you that I fear no one and that we are free: S**T ON BUSH, S**T ON SADDAM AND S**T ON YOUR MUQTADA AL-SADR. I screamed as loud as I could.
Some of my friends laughed and others looked around to see if there was anyone of Sadr supporters there. They couldn’t believe what they heard.
My friend said,
-Ok, you say it’s freedom. Give us the freedom to post the pictures of the people we like, and so that you know, I only want it to stay here because they posted those pictures of Sistani and Al-Hakeem.
-Why don’t you like Sistani? I think he’s doing the right thing by staying calm.
-Yes, the right thing for himself.
-Himself and us. Do you really want to fight the Americans!?
-Are you kidding?? You know as I know as all these hypocrites, that no senior cleric will announce Jihad. I personally want to finish my study and offer my kids a good living, travel around the world and enjoy my life. I just support Muqtada because he showed the senior clerics as the hypocrites they are talking about “red lines” and such lies. Red lines my **s.
I laughed and agreed, and then I asked him,
-Will you accept it if I put the pictures of the people I like?
-Ok, I want to post a picture of GWB, Adnan Al-Pachachi, and Colin Powel.
-I’ll tear the picture of Bush if you put it but I promise you I won’t touch those of Powel or Al-Pachachi.
-Why is that? Where’s the freedom here!?
-I’m sorry but I hate GWB. I like Pachachi and Powel though.
I smiled and said,
-Why do you like Powel?
-He is an honest man and I respect him a lot for fighting his way to where he is now without any help, and for his help to us, especially in cutting the debts down.
-That wasn’t exactly him, but he had an effort in that. So can I put his picture next to Sadr, although I think it’s an insult to the great man.
-No put it next to that one. My friend pointed towards a picture of Abdul Aziz Al-Hakeem the head of the SCIRI.
-Why is that?
-Because he promised the Iranians that he would pay all the money we owe to Iran when he was the president of the GC.
Then my friend came with this idea of adding Saddam’s picture and writing a small line under each one, and here is how he thought it should be:
The man who drowned Iraq in debts.
The man who wants to save Iraq from drowning.
The man who also wants to save...Iran.
A brave Iraqi soldier.
I received this mail from one of the readers including a mail from an American soldier posted in his home page sent to his father. He has a story about an Iraqi soldier that I think needed to be read. Here is part of the mail:|
I could tell you stories of individual heroics of Iraqi soldiers. One specific example is of an Iraqi SgtMaj who came into our lines during the first days of fighting in Falluja. He made his way through the mujahadeen and risked being killed by us to tell us that he was concerned about the ICDC (Iraqi Civil Defense Corps) armory in town. He knew it was only a matter of time until the muj went for the armory to take the weapons.
Honestly, I would have thought that they had already done it as the police stations and every other good piece of ground seemed to be occupied by the muj by that time. In short, he wanted to let us know that he was going back into the town to get the weapons. The Marines asked him if he wanted us to help. No. He only wanted us to take the weapons from him when he came back through. This guy took a couple young Iraqi soldiers with a truck and drove back through our lines into the hornets nest of Falluja. He went to the armory, emptied the weapons and ammo stored there and brought it back out through the fighting to us. We expected him to want to stay with us or to move on to Baghdad or some other safe area. He refused and stated that he was going back into the city as that was where his duty was.
We had a group that showed up shortly thereafter. You have probably heard about them as they came out of Baghdad and on the way were ambushed a couple of times. By the time they made it here only 200 of 700 were in their ranks. I know that the public story is that they folded after a couple of days of fighting and disintegrated. They actually made it through three days of fighting. Not just taking a few rounds, they held through accurate machine gun fire, mortars and multiple assaults. They also moved forward and occupied positions on the Marines' flanks. After three days, we pulled them out. The Marines will tell you that they did a hell of a job.”
Bravery has a face in every culture, in every land.
(The soldier/author Major David G. Bellon, USMC)
Friday, May 28, 2004
e-mails of the day.
We recieve so many wonderful mails every day from good people everywhere in the world (and some hateful too). Some of these really touches me and I find myself wanting to share them with you. Also I know there are many Iraqis read this site and these are the ones I really want them to read those mails. The following two mails are from soldiers' families. You may disagree with some of what they have to say, but I believe these people have the right, more than anyone else, to say what they want and how they feel. They are the people who are risking and giving the most.|
Here are the mails:
I recently found your incredible website. I'm an American citizen with too much invested in the outcome of this war. At least, I truly felt that way nearly 20 minutes ago.
Every night, I rush to the television to watch the Iraq War on the nightly news. And for that half hour, I sob or stare in disbelief. The love of my life is to leave me soon, as he's been mobilized to Iraq. With every news broadcast, I would cringe and think of only the worst - for me.
How truly selfish I am! After reading your website, I feel like I can send him off with a smile; always knowing that he's doing right - right for a country and a people who desperately need him more than I. And with so many positive Iraqis (that I never knew existed before now), I can have faith that, should he ever be in need, the genuine people of Iraq will provide.
Also, I recently studied Islam in a college course. I could not understand how such a strong, and peaceful religion had been so misconstrued by its followers. My intolerance was growing; how would I soon differ from them? Now, I can say that I understand how a selected few, and bad media coverage can misguide even the peaceful. Everyone who has contributed to your website should be credited with saving MY misguided soul.
Thank you, once again. Your site will continue to provide reality when we need it most.
I stumbled upon your web page today while trying to find some "good news" on Iraq. I was sure there must be some somewhere. My son, John, is a Sargent with the 3rd ID, he works in a tank. He "invaded" Iraq from Kuwait last year and entered Baghdad through Baghdad International Airport. He was there for 8 months. During that time he called and wrote home often about what wonderful people Iraqis were. He said as they passed throuh southern Iraq, his heart bled becuse he had never known such poverity exisisted before. It made him and his friends more determined to "get the right thing done." When they entered Baghdad and "took" one of the southern palaces, he was filled with anger and hate for Saddam. How could he let his people's children live in mire, hungry and without a future while he lived sitting on a gold toilet? I heard much of this from him. When he came home, he spoke fondly of the Iraqi friends he had made and the children he had come to know and played games with. He said he wanted to bring them all home with him, and was sad he could not.
Now he will be returning to Iraq sometime later this year. He feels that the politicians here in the US have let the Iraqi people down. He is worried that his old friends will now hate him. He is confused and doesn't know what he can do to help. I am worried that all he will find when he gets there is hatered and distrust. He wanted so much to help make this world be a better place for humanity. He is feeling that he and his army buddies are failures in that task. The prison scandal is very heavy on his heart and he is very angry that an American soldier could possibly do thata to another person.
I am sending him your web site and printed out some of your postings for him to share with his friends. I am in hopes this will give him renewed determination to be true to the hope for freedom in your country.
Freedom isn't easy. Freedom is hard and must be worked all the time. We have been working at it for 200 years and we still do not have it right yet. There are still those in this country who are not given the freedoms we are trying to help Iraq achieve. But if everyone keeps working at it and refuses to give up, it can be done.
Thursday, May 27, 2004
Knowing the enemy.
“Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”|
Many people accepted these words following 9/11. America, and the west in general, were shocked by those terrorist attacks motivated by utter hatred for civilization and humanity. I was one of those who agreed with this new concept and I don’t recall many objections to that phrase at those times, even from the Arab and Muslim governments.
As time passed, many people-including some Americans- seemed to have forgot all about those horrible attacks and started to view that concept as somewhat extreme and over reacting.
I still believe in the truth that lie in that phrase and the reason for this is that I have lived under Saddam. Thus I think I’m more aware of the nature of the enemy as a result of dealing with him day after day for all my life. We were either with Saddam or against him and there was no place in between, simply because the nature of that regime forced us to be either with or against. There was no place for negotiation or dialogue and the proofs for that are millions of dead, more than a million missing, more than 5 million refuge and hundreds of thousands of handicapped and the highest incidence rate of mental and psychological illnesses. Many of those were not against Saddam; they were just not with him.
The American administration comprehended the magnitude and the nature of the threat. This is nothing like the cold war because the enemy then was different. There was an ideology that disagreed with the west and claim to have noble goals and the communist project stimulate you to think deeply. Communism found itself forced to communicate with the opponent and even cooperate with him in trying to solve many problems in the world that didn’t serve the interests of either part.
When that enemy recognized that his ideology was on its way to be defeated, he surrendered with honor that makes you really respect him when you put in mind the massive military and political power he had. He gave up all his dreams and didn’t use violence because he didn’t want to destroy himself and the others.
At those times there were parts of the world that refuse to ally, at least not strongly, to either one of the superpowers. Some countries had the luxury of staying rather away from that conflict, and they had the option of approaching either side according to where their interests lied without risking a lot.
The policy of managing the crises was somewhat appropriate for those times and was not what can be considered as a bad policy. It was accompanied by many mistakes but it managed to protect the world from much worse expected disasters.
It seems that many people are still thinking in the same manner that was predominant at the cold war times. The majority of Americans and Iraqis grasp the nature of the threat as a result of their direct contact with the enemy and that needs to be shown to the others.
The new enemy differs from all the previous ones in that he doesn’t have or even claim to have any constructive ideology. He doesn’t bring us anything other than the seeds of death and destruction “either you surrender to me or I kill you”. As for an alternative ideology, it doesn’t exist. Moreover the willingness to initiate a dialogue was never expressed or shown to be a possibility.
This enemy don’t want to indulge himself in a productive talk, he never show himself in public except when he’s loaded with explosives and stern desire to kill as many people as possible regardless of their religion, ethnicity and nationality. His main goal is of course destruction of the western civilization, but he wouldn’t care if it involved taking the lives of even “Muslim brothers” during the course, as it's shown in Iraq. He says it frankly, “you’re either with me or against me” it was his choice in the first place not ours. Those who don’t believe in this will pay dearly, not at the hands of the Americans, for sure but at the hands of the terrorists whom they’re appeasing.
There’s no place in between in this war and that’s because of the nature of the enemy. That’s why I was never intimidated by the American administration’s speech. I see it as the closest thing to reality and I greatly commend the wisdom and courage of the other coalition countries that decide to join the US by benefiting from the experience of the others.
I think that the majority agrees that the international organizations that were founded after WW2 have proved to be too weak than to be trusted in leading humanity to make the right decisions. This is so obvious from their confusion during crises that only lead to further disturbance and add to the obstacles that face the countries that have the will and the means to solve those crises. The whole world should acknowledge the necessity of reviewing the performance of such organizations.
Now to the most important point: Is their any retreat in front of the enemy? Is there any regret and tendency to go back to managing crises instead of solving them? Is there really a will to go back and depend on stale organization like the UN to handle such a crucial issue as the future of Iraq?
I don’t know what exactly is on the mind of the American administration and what exactly their intentions are, but I know that it’s absolutely wrong in this stage and with the existing threats to go back to the old policy, and I know that the coalition has the capabilities and the strength to defeat the enemy.
This war demands great determination, patience and faith on the parts of the governments and the people. For me, an Iraqi citizen, the American administration has never failed me, not yet. I hope that they keep the course, otherwise the loss will be that of the whole humanity and I doubt if it can ever be overcome.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
I don't like to repeat myself, but I wanted to share with you some of the opinions of Iraqis about their daily lives that I read on the bbc. arabic.com There were more than many comments and about 70% of them were positive. Here are some examples:|
What happens these days in Iraq is a natural process as a result from the transfer from dictatorship to democracy.
I'm an Iraqi citizen and I want to thank president GWB from all my heart for the great service he's done to the Iraqi people by freeing us from one of the worst tyrants in history. This liberation didn't suit the enemies of humanity and freedom, thus we see them committing terrorist acts claiming to resist occupation by killing their own people, but that will not affect the Iraqis lust for freedom. Thanks again GWB.
I won't forget the day when I saw one of Saddam's tanks crushing the heads of 40 She'at Iraqis who were among others arrested for no obvious reason in 1991. Their hands were tied and put on the street for the tank to pass over their heads. The words" No She'at after today" where written on that tank.
I was one of those people. My hands were tied to the back and a grenade was put between them and the safety pin removed. It was positioned in a way that it should explode if I was to make any move, and I was left a lone in a deserted area that was at least 5 Km. from any life. If it wasn't for the kindness of one of the soldiers who came back and rescued me, I would've certainly died soon.
We lived our worst years under Saddam regime, a regime that many Arabs still believe in!We don't know why don't they leave us in peace, especially the Arab media that turns liberation into occupation and criminals into resistant. We, Iraqis, know the truth very well. The situation is much better now for the vast majority of Iraqis. Most of the people are government employees who used to get paid 4 or 6 thousand Iraqi dinars. Now the lowest salary is 100 thousand Iraqi Dinar. We feel free and we don't fear prisons and torture. The Arab media, as expected, made a huge fuss about the prisoners abuse in Abu-Gharib. Shame on them. Where were they when Saddam put explosives around a bunch of young men and blasted their bodies and they all saw that on TV? Where were they?
I had to leave Iraq because I didn't want to be one of Saddam's slaves. After so many years, I'm back to my country and I saw that people are not as nervous as they used to be. I saw hope in their eyes despite the security problems. All I have to say to our Arab brothers is,"We are practicing democracy. You keep enjoying dictatorship"
I'm from an area not so far from Shat Al-Arab, still at Saddam's time we never had clean water supply. Now the situation is better and the British are very gentle and kind. I no longer fear for my life or my family's. The only problems we have are the thieves and some shortage in power supply.
The daily life in Basra is not that different from other parts of Iraq; It's very hot, the water and power supply are not Continueous, still I prefer to live a year in these conditions than one hour like those we lived under Saddam.
Abbas Mahir Tahir-Basra.
Monday, May 24, 2004
There’s been more reaction than needed in my opinion in response to the Chalabi case even before the accusations of conspiring with the Iranians. Honestly I didn’t understand why the world was and still so much interested in this case.|
The way I see it is that Chalabi is just a man who had some chance to play a role in the future of Iraq and blew it away. There are too many allegations on either part of what caused this change in the nature of relation between Chalabi and the CPA. Some people say it's just an American conspiracy to polish Chalabi's face and show him as a real patriot, since a 'real patriot' must show at least some anti-American attitude especially in this critical period that demands full cooperation between Iraqis and Americans!
Others say that Chalabi has actually changed his attitude from being very pro-American into showing more and more disapproval of the USA's policy in Iraq to gain some sympathy from the She'at prior to the handover of sovereignty and the elections that will follow. Anyway this is just insignificant to go on with, as far as I see it, and I’ll try to focus on one issue, that is what does it mean to be pro-American, and I will not talk about my personal feelings here.
Mr. Chalabi has seriously diminished if not ended his political career by opposing the US in public and using a threatening and defying tone when speaking about the American strategy in Iraq. I don’t know who fooled this man and told him that by doing so, he would get more support from Iraqis since-in their minds- Iraqis hate Americans.
The only real support that this man has (or better say had) was the result his pro-American stance. People who believed that the interests of Iraq lied in parallel with those of the US in addition to some opportunistic who want to be in the circle of power supported Chalabi because they thought he was USA's man in Iraq. I personally didn’t like the man, but the fact that I believe my country’s interests lie in strong and long alliance with the USA made me accept him, especially if I had to choose between him and a cleric or an Arab nationalist.
By showing hostility to the US, Chalabi lost most of his supporters and gained almost none in return, as anti-American Iraqis are either Arab nationalists or Islamists in general or fools who believe whatever the media has to say, and since the media showed the man as a thief and a traitor, there’s a very little chance that those people would believe otherwise.
Some would say that Chalabi had a role to do, did that and now the Americans are getting rid of him since he’s not useful anymore. These are the people who used to say that the US had put Saddam in power and supported his regime in the past. What I want to say here is that no one can put anyone to power this simple. Saddam and the Ba'athists made their way to power through a long way that was paved with terror, torture and the blood of millions of Iraqis.
It’s the choice of any man to serve a foreign power to get more power inside his country which makes him disposable when he has nothing to offer, or to serve his country by forming an alliance with a super power- as no small nation can survive and make real progress independently- thus gaining the trust of the people and he, himself becomes a part of the strong relations that would connect his country to that super power.
Should we blame the USA for supporting people like the Shah of Iran and then leaving him to face his destiny alone? Not at all. If I was one of the people in charge of my country’s policy and a foreigner came to me in difficult situations offering help and asking for support in return, I think I would accept that if it served my country, and if that man lost his power or changed to become a danger to my country, should I continue to support him? Or do I have to feel shame from fighting a man I have shacked hands with in the past in order to serve my country. Should the allies apologize for supporting Stalin in WW2 for example?! I guess that in few years from now regimes like Ghadafi's will collapse and this will most likely happen through the help of the USA and the UK in particular, and I can see the major media showing the picture of Tony Blair shaking hands with Ghadafi saying, “you supported this dictator. Why remove him now!?"
There are 2 types of pro-Americans in Iraq, those who support America’s efforts in Iraq and believe in a long term strong and good relations with the USA and those who support America because they want a piece of the cake, and in my opinion America is free and expected to help and get help from both, only she can stop dealing with the latter or even get rid of them if they started to be more harmful than beneficial. On the other hand, America cannot, and will not, ignore the men and women who really represent their people and believe in a strategic friendship between Iraq and America. There are many Iraqi politicians who fall in this category and we are certainly not in desperate need for Chalabi’s services.
Chalabi was not really pro-American because he was not pro-Iraqi in the first place. He was just pro-Chalabi. Of course we knew that from the beginning but as the man showed his will to support democracy in the face of ex-Ba'athists and religious fanatics, there was nor reasonable cause to refuse dealing with him. Now that it seems he had changed his course, there's no reason we should support him anymore.
Being pro-American means for *me* being pro-freedom, anti-terrorists, pro-democracy and above all pro-Iraqi.
Sunday, May 23, 2004
I want to inform our dear readers that now they can access our site via:|
In addition to the old one:
Thanks so much to Mr. Jeff Reed who did this rsegisteration on his own to help us in promoting our site.
Saturday, May 22, 2004
I really laughed at a scene that was not supposed to be funny at all. I was watching the news and they showed a report about a huge demonstration organized in Lebanon by Hizbullah. The estimates said that there were about 500 thousands of She’at Muslim protesting against the “violations” of the American army in the holy cities of Najaf and Kerballa.|
Hassan Nasr-Allah was making a speech in the traditional screaming manner of most of the Muslim clerics. He was threatening America not to "cross the lines”. He was promising “help to the oppressed Iraqis”.
That scene took me for a while away from the reality where I stand. It took me a moment to ‘glance’ back to where I am, to Iraq. Despite some alleged "Fatwas" and few speeches about “red lines”, most of the political AND religious leaders were calling for withdrawal of *all* armed forces and militias from the holy cities. No one called for jihad, and no one blamed the Americans, except for Sadr followers. There were almost no anti-American demonstrations regarding this issue, at least not any significant ones.
If one is to believe the media and the Arab leaders and Muslim clerics, the only conclusions that can be drawn from such a situation, is that there are no Iraqis in Iraq. The only Iraqis who seem to exist and “care about the Iraqi people” live outside Iraq! I can name in this respect, in addition to the above; the western media, the French, German and Russian governments and the “pacifists”. Otherwise why aren’t the Iraqis going out to the streets in hundreds of thousands to protest against their "oppressors"!?
I guess there are only few answers to this question. It’s either that the majority of Iraqis don’t feel there’s such huge violation that needs to be protested against, or that they are more interested in their daily lives; their jobs and the future of their children than whining about buildings that as holy as they are to them, can not match their care about their jobs and children’s future.
This may give the impression that Iraqis are apathetic to what’s happening in their country, which could be true for some of them as a result of decades of oppression and hopelessness, but when one remembers that Iraqis did demonstrate a lot in the last year, such presumptions indeed seems to fit only a minority.
The only difference here is that most of the demonstrations the Iraqis made were not demanding ending the occupations. They were about improving life conditions and security; in other words things that really matter to them. Still there were political demonstrations, but the largest of these were, one demanding immediate elections and one condemning terrorism!!
There still one possibility that might explain why the rest of the world “care” more about Iraqis than the Iraqis themselves. It’s that we are all traitors who accepted to deal, and sometimes cooperate fully with the occupiers. This was what I heard from most Arabs describing the IP, the new Iraqi army, the GC, the ministers and most of the government employees. It seems that we have a new breed of traitors multiplying in Iraq and these seem to have forgot according to the rest of the world that they are Iraqis (Hey, I don’t belong into this category. I’m a CIA agent, please remember that!). Iraqis indeed need lessons from Hassan Nasr Allah and Al-Jazeerah of how to be…Iraqis. I'm not claiming that most Iraqis love America, although a good percentage certainly do. I'm only suggesting that more Iraqis are becoming day by day, at least, less anti-American and more realistic.
We all know that the goal of the American army in this operation is to arrest Sadr and there’s no need or cause to harm the holy shrines and I’m sure that the highly trained soldiers and bright leaders in the US army will manage to do that with the minimal damage if ever.
Some people might fear the undesirable reactions of the She’at Muslims outside Iraq in response to any attempt to arrest Sadr at this period. Let me say that there are no easy options here, but if we believe in that theme and surrender to our fears, we’ll be falling to the same trap that many European governments fell in. we’ll be appeasing the extremists instead of facing them. Besides what could Hizbullah or the Iranian clerics do?! Send more fighters?? They are already doing this and they need no excuse for that!
The only way we can stop that is by continuing the building of democracy in Iraq. Once those outsiders lose any sympathy inside Iraq, and once the neighboring countries feel that it’s impossible to stop the process, they’ll give up and try to find other alternatives that might help them keep their decayed regimes alive, at least for few more years. It’s not that easy, but it’s that simple. This is a battle of wills above all.
Yesterday I was watching Al-Hurrah TV. They were showing a report about the Iraqi students who were selected in the “Full Bright Program” to finish their higher studies in the USA. This was supposed to be a student exchange program to help Iraqis and Americans get to know each other in a better way and understand each other more, but due to the security problems in Iraq, there were no American students to replace the Iraqi ones.Those students were chosen after competing in 2 seperate exams and those who achieved an average over 85% were selected.|
Some of these Iraqi students met with the secretary of state, Mr. Colin Powel and the Iraqi ambassador in the US (Rand Raheem). Al-Hurrah reporter interviewed some of those students (males and females). One of them said, “I knew that America is the most developed and civilized country in the world but when I reached here, I found that life here is far beyond my imaginations. The people are very civilized, smart and yet very polite,simple and warm.”
Another, female student wearing Hijab, said that she was impressed with the life style in the US and that among the things that caught her attention the most, was the way that the officials deal with the people “Simple and transparent” as she put it, then added “That’s, in my opinion, the reason why America is the greatest nation. Now I realize why Arab countries are so far behind.”
I really wish there could be more of those programs and hope that there could be a chance for some American students to come to Iraq too, although I’m aware of the dangers right now. Such programs can open many eyes and help remove so much misunderstanding and distrust that is created by ignorance about the others and facilitated by the pictures that the media convey. I’m sure those Iraqi students, when they come back, will affect at least the way their families and close friends view the American people, and officials as well.
Friday, May 21, 2004
I'm all ears.
It’s easy for anyone to hate, criticize and complain of the bad situations but it’s difficult to love and work to overcome the hardships. I’ve been accused many times of being over optimistic and unrealistic while my country is passing through a critical period and the future of the region and the world is going to be affected by the result of this war. |
I know this well and I feel it everyday when I deal with people; I’m in the middle of this and I can see the dangers and the coming difficulties, but is this my duty?!
The point here is that I’m trying to work hard to overcome the difficulties. I’m not going to blame others all the time or put the responsibilities for what happens on others as this will not push the progress forwards, instead, I’m trying to look through the smoke of the battle to see tomorrow’s Iraq.
When an old regime is dying, it will do anything, not to come back but to hinder the birth of the new being and the old regime’s battle is going to be costly and cruel but it’s certainly a defeat and I see this everyday, when someone thinks that terror is proving itself as a power and strikes violently I see that it’s moving backwards despite the loss we endure.
The process of change is moving onwards and it’s going to leave behind lots of minds and powers that failed to catch up with it.
The difficulty of the situation lies in the complexity of anti-change alliances.
Yes, it’s always easy to look for the bad events and show them to the public like most media sources do but this is not my duty and this is not what I believe in.
I find those who try to spread the bad impression unable to do anything but to hate and their main objective is to spread hatred to the public opinion to make it an international policy that will lead us only to doom. They don’t offer alternatives neither they ask you to think deeper to find a solution for the problems you have. They just want you to hate and hate and to stop your brains from reasoning things out.
This reminds me of a friend of mine who’s house was the target for a grenade attack a few days ago (we thank God, no one was hurt) just because he works to build this country with the coalition. He said “Ok, I’m ready to leave this job, but those who attacked my house, what are they going to offer as an alternative? They just want to see everyone paralyzed with fear and hate”.
Love, is another subject, it demands that you think a lot, fight against what you are told about "the others" and to give a lot for others. Building love takes more time and keeping the faith in it requires patience and sacrifices and a vision that exceeds the limits of today or tomorrow and this is what the losers can’t afford, that’s why they chose the easier road of hollow criticism that lacks the spirit and creativity and this would be obvious if you looked closer at the nature of the efforts that counter act the changing process, they provide no alternatives at all or sometimes, with great foolishness, try to compare the current situation with the previous one or to go back to it saying that things were better then.
Some say that the US must withdraw from Iraq right now for the best of Iraqis; I say, Ok, the US withdrew from Somalia long time ago and what was the result? What’s Somalia like now?
Humanity, in it’s nature has an inclination to move forwards and those people are acting against this nature and once again I tell you that their job is very easy and it won’t need much to be done while my job is a hard one that needs a lot but I’m not giving it up.
A prosperous and democratic Iraq will be a reality; it’s just a matter of time. Everyone should believe in this, more than this, we should start to feel it from this moment and the obstacles we’re facing right now will be a history that we would only discuss in the future to get some lessons from.
Finally, I have a question to the anti-change and to our friends in the biased media wherever they might be; if all your stories were true and if we were wrong about everything we did, what suggestions would you offer to make things better? what are your plans?
What?! What did you say? I'm listening.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
:: It's become a habit for me to carry me digital camera wherever I go, so today I've got some photos for you from my rides in Baghdad's streets. I've passed through some , fancy neighborhoods like Karrada, Zayoona and through old, simple ones. However, the common factor among these streets are the scenes of new buildings; some are still under construction while many others have been finished and this includes even the people's houses. You can't walk in any street now without seeing piles of bricks or small hills of building sand or gypsum.|
It's also interesting to know that the prices of construction materials have considerably increased since the liberation; for example, the price of 4,000 bricks (the default load of a 6-wheel truck which are usually hired to carry bricks) was about 60,000 ID in 2002, compared with about 100,000 ID in May 2003, now, the same number of bricks cost about 400,000 ID. The same thing applies to cement as the price of one ton has increased from 50,000 ID in 2002, to about 200,000 ID in 2004. This is mainly a result of the increased demand of the Iraqi market for these materials and this includes both, private business and the governmental plans for the general reconstruction of the state foundations and it's surprising that despite these high figures, people are still building. In the suburbs, the demand has also relatively increased as people attempt to replace mud huts with real houses (last winter, we used to have causalities in the suburb where I work every time it rained as some of those huts tend to collapse because of the high moisture) so I hope we won't see such sad incidents next winter but I still wish they would keep building their traditional marsh reeds huts which are constructed exclusively from reeds without any other material. I had the chance to get into one of these some time ago when one of the local Sheikhs invited the medical staff in the suburb to have dinner.
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
It's about time.
Few days ago, I was riding a cap from work to my home. The driver as expected tried to start a chat. I was too tired and not in the mood to join him. There was a traffic jam that obviously annoyed him and the weather was hot as expected in a May noon. He said, "Baghdad has become impossible" this has become a usual phrase to start a conversation. It’s the synonym for the British “looks like a nice weather today”. I was becoming sick of complaints that usually start with this phrase. I said to myself, "Oh my god not another American hater" I didn’t want to reply but I thought it might help to pass time so I answered, “When was Baghdad ‘possible’?” the driver replied, “yes, life was always hard but these days they’ve become intolerable”|
-Because of the Americans, you mean?
-No, of course not. Because of the difficulties in work.
-What do you mean? I know that you now charge double or triple the fees while cars and spare parts are cheaper now than ever.
-Yes, but the hours we can work in have decreased considerably because of the bad security conditions.
-What bad security conditions!? You are still afraid that someone might rob your car and get away with it in such a traffic jam??
-Of course not, but I can’t work for a late hour.
-I understand your fears but I always have known this place to be busy until midnight.
-That’s true but not in my neighborhood, so I have to go back much earlier than that
-Where do you live?
-In Sadr city.
-Oh I see, but what do you think the cause of this insecurity?
-Is that a question?? They are those thugs and thieves.
-Who are those?!
-I agree, but I don’t understand your people there. Why do they support them!?
-Do you really believe that?? I swear to God they are no more than a couple of thousands terrorizing millions and hiding behind slogans like jihad and resistance. The whole city has got sick and tired of their doings. We just want to work, feed our children and take a break. We are tired of all this bullshit. They can’t deceive us anymore.
This idiot is taking advantage of his father’s name and we know the people who are gathering around him. Most of them are gangsters and ex-convicts with some foolish teenagers. They are anything but Muslims. Every now and then one of these cowards come hiding his face and fire against the American troops and when the Americans respond innocents get hurt.
I was encouraged by his attitude and asked:
-Why don’t you try to do something about it?
-Who says we aren’t? I’m one of the people who reported some members of the Mahdi army to the IP and now they are in prison.
-Really!? God bless you. That was brave of you. These people really belong there.
-Sure they do! Did this idiot forget who killed his father!? And who took his revenge? Could he have ever raised his voice if it wasn’t for the same people whom he’s fighting now? Well let the Iranians help him now! Believe me brother when I say that the majority of Sadr city people are grateful for the Americans. We didn’t fire a bullet at them when they entered our city. We gave them the reception of liberators and they are. Why would we fight them now!?
From my experience, I kind of believed him. I worked as a resident doctor in one of the major hospitals in Sadr city for about 6 months at Saddam’s times, and I can say that there were many lost youths there who didn’t know what to do with their lives out of poverty and oppression, and some of them ended being part of the criminal world. Yet along with this dark picture, there were always good and simple people who worked and toiled day and night for a decent life and these were the majority among those I met. Most of those were old men and women.
I witnessed one of those days a scene that I will never forget. A middle aged man was selling Pepsi on the sidewalk near the hospital where I worked, as many people there selling cigarettes and different stuff taking benefit of the high activity and traffic near the hospital and since obviously they couldn’t afford to buy or rent a store. Suddenly there was a big clamor and people were shouting, collecting all what they can and running away. It appeared that there was a patrol of city hall inspectors to watch for any violation. Everyone was gone with his or her goods except this guy who was selling Pepsi. His goods were too heavy to carry and he stood there with desperation and bewilderment on his face. The police reached to his place and the officer looked at him sternly as he said “don’t you know it’s prohibited to use the sidewalk to sell anything?” the guy was totally helpless. His face turned pale and it was as if he was going to be executed. He pleaded to the officer and said, “May god bless you Sir. I had to borrow money to buy these, and I have a family to feed. This is my first day in this job and I haven’t paid what I owe people yet. Please spare me this time so that I can pay the people their money back and I promise I’ll never do it again” he was literally crying and chocking with tears as he managed to say these words. The officer showed no sign that he even cared to hear and ordered his men to smash all the bottles. The poor guy sat there crying as he watched what seemed to be his last hope in an honest life going down the drain. He couldn’t take it anymore and shouted at them “HOW AM I GOING TO FEED MY KIDS?? Do you want me to become a thief!?” the officer looked at him shocked and said “how dare you?? One more word and you’ll never see the light again, you dog” I don’t know what happened to that man, but I would be surprised if he didn’t become a criminal.
After the war, most of the people of Sadr city were so happy; they got rid of their oppressor, they enjoyed freedom of speech and performing their religious ceremonies. Most important is that the raise in the average income opened the door for the private businesses, including the small ones, to prosper. Young men can make a good living by several means without resorting to violence or breaking the law. Things were going just fine and improving when young Sadr started his revolt. Sadr city became insecure again and businesses were damaged seriously as a result. In the early days of that revolt, people sympathized with that idiot because they loved his father, but as his followers’ behavior became intolerable and as the lives of people and their jobs were jeopardized, they lost all sympathy with him and all they want now is peace so that they can go back to their works again.
That taxi driver was not the only one from Sadr city with such opinion. Most of the people I’ve met lately expressed the same view. The only people, who don’t want Muqtada to be arrested, are the senior She’at clerics including Sistani. This may look strange when put in context with the relation they have with Iran’s puppet. He always harassed them and tried to take the lead in the streets. He even tried to force Sistani to leave Iraq. Yet, they don’t want him to be arrested. They wouldn’t care much if he was killed, in fact some of them are fighting him already (Thulfiqar organization, another name to Badr legion) but arresting him would be a serious blow to them.
Those clerics do not sympathies with Sadr out of religious sentiments. They know very well that he’s not a pious guy and they often hate each other as they compete to gain the trust and lead of the common people. This meant huge money in the past and now it means money and power as some of them have entered politics now. Why would they care so much then?
I think the answer lies in one fact. There’s an unwritten law in most of the countries with considerable She’at presence that has always considered the clerics to be immune to the law. This doesn’t apply to all clerics, but only the very senior ones. With time, this law has expanded to protect most popular clerics. Now, Muqtada is certainly not a senior cleric, but his family name and the sacrifices they gave, gave him some holy shape in the eyes of some of the She’at. If this guy was arrested, this law would not be literally broken, but the event will have the same effect. Meaning every cleric will know that he is not above the law. This will be an innovation that will shake all clerics with political ambitions. Hence all this crap about "red lines" winch is no more than a big lie that should fool no one. People will certainly be saddened and some would be outraged if the holy shrines were affected, but their care about their lives and jobs certainly is more. Most She'at Iraqis are sentimental when it comes to religion, but not to that degree. The operation should go on with great care however, and will put all those hypocrites in their right places. No more adventures and no more Mahdi armies. This revolt can actually act as an immunization against more serious ones in the future that is if it was dealt with in the proper way. The patience of the coalition has paid its fruits and Muqtada should be *arrested* but certainly not killed and now, in my opinion, is the right time.
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
:: I received this e-mail from an American soldier yesterday. After getting his approval, I decided to publish it because I wanted you to share his great words with me. I can't express how I felt when I first read the message but all I can say about it is that I felt grateful beyond words, it gave me hope, courage and more confidence in that we're on the right path.|
First of all I want to congradulate you on your web site, Its always good to hear good things coming from Iraq.
I am an American Soldier, I will be going to Iraq in the next few months, so you can understand why the current situation there is a concern of mine.
I am not Happy to leave my wife and 5 year old son for a year, but I'm hopeful in helping the Iraqi people stabalize the security situation so you guys can get on with daily life and a future full of prosperity.
I believe in our mission to restore Iraq, so much, that I am willing to give my life towards its accomplishment,( OF COURSE MY WIFE IN NEVER HAPPY TO HEAR ME SAY THAT).
I want to appoligize for the actions of a few of us in the prison system, I am ashamed because of it, but they dont represent the majority of us, they didnt display the values we live by
Defense of the opressed
I do recieve e-mails from fellow soldiers in Mosul, they tell me About the good things that are being acomplished, but they also tell me about the mistrust from local residents, why is that?
I know that generally Westerners are viewed with suspiscion and not trusted in the Arab world, Politics aside, I want you to know that WE ( the soldiers ) have good intentions, we want to help people progress towards freedom and prosperity, we dont want to stay there as occupiers, we all have families and lives we want to come back to, is there any advice you can give me? I know that many mis-understandings come from our lack of knowledge about Arab customs and courtesies, we do get classes from CA (civil affairs) teams all the time, but I would rather get advice from someone who knows, we DO really mean well.
If there is any advice you can give me, I would really appreciate it.
An American Soldier"
So tell me again. This guy is an occupier and wants to kill our children, rape our women..oil..blah blah blah.
Monday, May 17, 2004
The Khalifa and JFK.
What happened this morning was not a surprise. We (Iraqis and coalition) learned from our experiences in the past months that the road towards a free, prosperous and stable Iraq, in which the sovereignty hand-over in June 30 is the key step, will not be an easy one to go through.|
I’ve searched the media today, looking for details, analyses and reactions about this crime and again, they didn’t miss the chance to blame America for the deteriorated security situation, stressing that the CPA’s grave mistake was sending Saddam’s army and security systems’ personnel home. Here, we find a great deal of contradiction, because the same experts who appear on the media criticizing the US for that decision, accuse the same security and intelligence personnel of committing today’s and other terrorist attacks in Iraq. I can’t imagine how those people could expect the criminals to protect the law.
I’ve been listening to some perspectives about this incident and in many instances, I found these perspectives echoic of the terrorists' words, especially when someone says “see, the GC and the Iraqis cannot even protect their highest officials. How can we expect them to be able to protect the lives of ordinary Iraqis and manage the affairs of a whole country next July?”
This is a direct call for delaying the political process in this country. And who’s interested in doing so?!
I guess this has become obvious for us a long time ago.
We have a critical security situation, that’s right and we need to deal with the defects quickly. But no matter what precautions we take, we cannot be a 100% sure that we can protect every single person, including our leaders and the higher officials who make favorite targets for the terrorists but we still can make their attempts go in vain by making our leadership *replaceable*. This idea may seem odd or even a little bit cruel but I can give some further explanations; the terrorists think in the same way their dictator-masters do. They believe that every nation has “and should have” one strong man to lead her and if it happened one day that the nation “lost” this strong man (the Khalifa, in OBL's followers' minds), she will certainly be doomed. The main point that they fail to capture, is that this idea applies only to totalitarian regimes and does not apply to democracies. This doesn't mean, at all, that we don't respect our leaders or that we do not appreciate their services. We can take a good example from the history of the USA; when president JFK was assassinated (America was one of the two super powers in the world at that time), the Americans were deeply saddened by the loss of such a great leader but they did not stop at that point. They moved on and kept their determination to overcome the loss and that’s why America became the only super power in the world in less than 30 years from that tragic incident. That's why we'll keep moving forwards because we're building a model for democracy here, we've sacrificed a lot in the last decades and we're ready to give more if needed but we're not giving up.
Are we sad? Yes of course, but we’re absolutely not discouraged because we know our enemies and we know their ways and we decided to go in this battle to the end. They think they can force us to give up but they’re totally mistaken. I’ve tasted freedom, my friends and I’d rather die fighting to preserve my freedom before I find myself trapped in another nightmare of blood and oppression.
:: I think you should go and check this out if you're interested in the Iraqi WMD's issue.
Saturday, May 15, 2004
Not in my city.
My last trip to Samawa was short but full of events. It’s not easy for someone who used to live in Baghdad to accommodate to life in a village far away in the south. Baghdad is the most civilized place in Iraq and there’s no way one can compare it with the rest of the governorates not to mention the ignored villages in the south.|
I set off with a number of passengers heading for Samwa. The road was quiet despite the troubles in Kerbala and Najaf, which are both on the road. We had to use the old road as the new one (the high way) is closed because of the current fights in those two cities.
My arrival day was the day when a rally of support and gratitude to the coalition passed the streets of Samawa. The scene was very delightful for me, I, who believe in the necessity of establishing a strategic partnership with the free world represented by the coalition, because this the only way for Iraq to rise again, prosper and join the modern, free world. Such partnership, the way I see it, is vital for the free world in its war with terrorism, the corner stone of which is to establish peace and stability in the ME. Yes, we should put our hands in each other’s because we have a common destiny. It was a very encouraging thing to see that the simple people there understood the case and this is probably the first time where people go out to the streets to thank and support our allies in the coalition, but strangely it came from ordinary, simple people not from those who claim to be civilized intellectuals.
On the road to the residents’ house we passed near the coalition base in Samawa; the striking and ugly feature of this base, like any other one is, the concrete wall that surrounds it. These walls initiate a sensation of fear in the hearts and a feeling that there’s a huge block between the people and the coalition. I understand the security necessity of these walls but they still form an unpleasant sight for everyone, except this particular one. The coalition forces here invited all the kids-and their parents-in the neighborhood for a special festival, the kids were given paints and brushes and a definite area of the wall was assigned for each kid to paint on whatever he likes and to sign his painting with his/her name. I leave it for you to imagine how this hateful wall looked like after this festival. It became a fascinating huge painting that gives a feeling of brotherhood and friendship. These paintings eliminated all the psychological walls between the folks and the coalition here.
At the end of the festival, gifts were given to each kid; toys, clothes, candies…
You can’t imagine how happy the kids were when they stood proudly pointing at their paintings; flowers, birds, hands shaking and the flags of Iraq and the coalition countries, and then pointing to their names; Zahra, Mohammed, Sajjad, Fatima… together with phrases like; yes for peace, Saddam has fallen and many others. No one can watch this without having tears filling his eyes and I feel sorry that I couldn’t take pictures for this carnival, as I wasn’t there when it happened, but the people there told me the whole story.
I reached my destination, which is a small town about 35 km away from the center of the governorate. It’s a very simple town that suffered from Saddam’s neglect like many other southern cities but what pleases me in every trip is the appearance of a new foundation in the town. Last time I was surprised to see a new water treatment plant (or the so called RO in the south) near the river distributing clean water for the whole town for free, with four brand-new automobile tanks to deliver water to the remote villages twice a day. Everyone is grateful there as our major health problems are caused by polluted water. Now, this new processing plant will help rid the city of many health problems.
In my very last trip, the special new thing was a campaign to renew the doctors’ residency that we-12 doctors-live in and a decent temporary place is provided for us until the old miserable residency is fully rehabilitated.
The other new foundation that is being constructed now is an Internet Center. Who would dream to see Internet service available in a southern village? This is more than a dream coming true, it makes me feel proud and it makes people believe more and more that the change is in their interest.
I always talk to the people there and the accelerated rate their consciousness and understanding are growing at, often surprises me. In one of the meetings I asked them about their opinion about the government and the president they would like to have in the future, here, a man said “ I’d prefer a Christian president” as a matter of fact I was shocked as I wasn’t expecting to hear such a perspective in an almost exclusively Shei’at village. Here the others agreed and clarified their friends point “we mean that we don’t want an Islamic or Shei’at government” “see, the SCIRI party established a library and a school to give religion classes that no one attends despite it cost the party thousands of dollars and occupied one of the towns’ buildings. Take a look at the water treatment plant that the coalition established, people gather around it every morning”. “We want those who know what we need, not those who tell us to do what they want” another man added”.
I totally agreed with their perspective because at the end, the one who provides more services for the people is the one who wins their trust.
The saddest incident for the citizens during my last visit was the death of a coalition soldier from Netherlands in a grenade attack. The small town was shocked and I could hear everyone say, “who did this crime is a stranger and he’s not of us for sure”.
Many of the town’s known figures, officials and tribal leaders headed to the coalition base to declare their support to the coalition and to condemn the crime, one of those men said-with apparent affection-during the funeral ceremonies “our loss is big and we feel ashamed; you’re our guests but we couldn’t protect your men’s live; we’re terribly sorry”.
The pictures I see are so many and they bring hope, I remember the last day I spent there before I returned to Baghdad, and I was watching Al-Samawa local TV (now they have their own local station) and it was broadcasting one of the sessions of the district’s council when a woman stood up wearing the traditional costume and behind her was a group of women, she started to yell in the face of the chairman of the council saying “Listen to me! You can’t ignore our voice anymore. These women elected me and put their trust in me and I demand authorities like those of men. My voice will not stay low from now on and I have to give those who elected me what they need”. I don’t think you can realize the meaning of this picture. It simply means that we have moved tens of years forward in a matter of months and we have broken the chains of a long dark past. The cry of this woman was enough to awaken me to the great progress that happened.
I know that the story is long and you probably feel bored but I feel committed to uncover these pictures and the last one was on our way back to Baghdad where we were delayed for a few hours after the coalition forces blocked the road, we didn’t know why but one of the passengers started to complain saying “those Americans always put obstacles in our way and make our lives difficult” the driver couldn’t hold himself from answering this comment in a sharp tone as he said “NO, it’s not the Americans. It’s because of those bastards who plant bombs on the roads. You must thank the Americans for delaying you for a couple of hours to save your live”.
The point behind all these pictures and stories I mentioned is that the people started to speak out and express their feelings and here we’re in great need for support from the free world to back the progress. Moving back is absolutely unacceptable; we’ve put our feet on the right way and we need help from the others. Never let the bad pictures lay their heavy shadow on the good, bright ones. The negative media want our eyes to pause on the bad events to win time in this worldwide battle and to make us forget the good pictures that encourage us to keep the momentum. This includes most of the major western media.
They are ‘unconsciously’ supporting the terrorists and the totalitarian regimes in the region to stop this great progress. The media have managed to create some distrust and hate between some Iraqis and some of the coalition and the west in general. Well, not in my city, it seems to be immune to their poison.
The road is long and hard but together, we can do it.
Friday, May 14, 2004
:: The first week of this month brought good news to the Iraqi retired governmental employees. They started to receive salaries instead of the emergency payments they used to get during the last 12 months.|
Each one of them used to receive 80 $ every three months (compared with an average of 20 $ on Saddam's days) but now they're getting paid about 200 $ every three months. And this is just the beginning, as the minister of oil stated. He promised that there will be more financial assignments for the retired's salaries in the next few months as a result of the increase in both, the oil export rates and the oil prices in the market.
:: I found this article about the IP and the ICDC in my inbox. It's a heartlifting and positive one about the Iraqi forces being more accepted and welcomed by Iraqis. But I still don't think that the last line shows accurately the reason why security improved in Fallujah.|
Thanks to Steve for the link.
:: I guess that you’ve heard in the news that the Iraqi Olympic football team has successfully passed the qualifiers for Athens (the last time they did was in 1988 I guess). Although this was three days ago and despite all the current conflicts and unfavorable conditions we have, it’s still the reason behind the broad smiles on the faces of Iraqis in the streets.|
I was in Basra when our Olympic team won the match against the Saudi team 3-1 and I had no idea about the way Baghdadis celebrated this victory until I returned back yesterday. Only then, I knew that the celebrations were no less than those we saw when Saddam was captured; people went down to the streets in many neighborhoods singing, dancing and shooting in the air (I don’t like this last one but it’s better than shooting each other and it helps to deplete the stockpiled ammunition ). I’m not a sports expert but I believe that what our athletes did was close to a miracle; they had to win with a good result (1-0 was not enough) and at the same time they had to wait for a draw in the Kuwait- Oman match. In addition, the last time Iraq won a match against Saudi Arabia was in 1988 and since then the Saudi team became a difficult barrier to pass. More than this, all home matches for the Iraqi team were held outside Iraq because of the security situation. I remember similar occasions-most of them with easier groups and moderate required results-in the past and those always led to a failure but this time we saw great determination and hard work from our team to win and to prove their skills. Why is this? And why do Iraqi athletes score better than before despite the low budgets, short training course and all the technical problems they have to overcome and psychological pressures they’re subjected to?
I have one reasonable cause in my mind; Udday is gone and the athletes now are training, playing and scoring to satisfy their fans, bring joy to the hearts of their countrymen and to become famous, successful and rich not to avoid Udday's inhumane punishment nor to please the tyrant’s bloody son who used to hijack their rare victories which were considered to be “the results of his wise leadership of the sport movement in the great Iraq”.
When Iraqis were celebrating, they forgot everything about "occupation", "resistance", "unemployment" and politics in general.
They just wanted to see something that makes them regain confidence in themselves and in their country and I could feel them say "YES, WE DID IT IN FOOTBALL AND WE CAN DO IT IN OTHER FIELDS".
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Ibrahim and the dark future.
Last Friday my oldest uncle, along with his 16-year-old son, visited us, as he used to do this once every month. My uncle is a high school manager and a history teacher at the same time in the same school. I saw that he was wearing a nice suit that I had not seen him wearing before. I said "Nice suit uncle. Is it new?" He said "Yes, I bought it about a month ago". "It must be expensive" I asked and he replied, "Yes it is, but your uncle now can afford it".|
Some of the readers may remember me saying something about my uncle. Before the war he was in the same job and he was paid about 15 thousands Iraqi Dinars that was equal to about 7 US$ a month. His wife, who is also a teacher, was paid a little less than that. He has 5 children; one in primary school three in high school and a girl in college. Of course that salary couldn’t help him support his family, yet he didn’t quit it. He always hoped that things would change for the better. In order to meet life's requirements and offer his kids a proper education, he had to work after school. He worked in every kind of business; a taxi driver, a grocer and opened a small shop for a while, but things didn’t go quite well.
He had to sell his car first, then his ‘extra’ refrigerator, then the only refrigerator, then the TV and then and then…. The last time we visited him, I had to hold my tears when I entered his house. There was virtually no furniture there, no chairs, no TV no tables, as they had sold them all, but what shocked me more is that there were no inside doors. He had to sell those too. I mean his house was literally bare. His kids were ashamed of showing because they had nothing proper to wear. It was amazing how he kept honest and didn’t accept bribery from his rich students’ families.
Back to where I started, I asked my uncle: "How much do they pay you now? I’ve heard you got a raise" He answered "Yes I did, I get paid 550 thousands Dinars now" (that’s about 400$ a month). "And what about aunt?" I asked, meaning his wife "She gets 450 thousands, as she has less years of service". I said "Good for you! What does it look like now, your life?" He said, "Uncle, (the word serves both sides) it’s unbelievable. I’ve refurnished my house fully and I’m looking for a car, but I’m not in a hurry as I can’t drive now and I want it for Ibrahim (his son) as soon as he can get a driving license". His sons and daughters were always very polite and never asked for anything, they were very understanding of their father’s financial difficulties (the right word here should be EXTREME poverty) they were smart and well educated and never asked for anything their father couldn’t afford.
I said "You must’ve saved quite a good sum of money by now" He answered "Not that much, I’m trying to give my sons all that they were deprived of for all those years. Still they don’t ask much and I still end up every month with extra money even though I don’t touch my wife’s salary". I must say here that life in Iraq is very cheap compared to most of the world, but that has become a common knowledge I suppose.
My young cousin is a religious Sunni who goes to the mosque and listens to the cleric there every Friday and believes whatever he says, as he’s still young. My uncle always teased his son about this but never prohibited him from doing that. We were talking about different stuff; the kids’ needs, clerics, Americans and the increase in the average income of most Iraqis. My uncle has a somewhat unusual sense of humor that doesn't fit quite well in his somewhat religious family. He winked at me and turned to his son and asked him "What do you think of the Americans?" His son answered, "They are occupiers". "So you think we should fight them?" his father asked. Ibrahim said "No, but I don’t like them". My uncle said, pretending to change the subject "Do you like your new computer that no one shares with you?" "Yes of course dad". "Ok, are you satisfied with the satellite dish receiver we have or do you need a better one?" "This one is fine but I heard there’s a better one that gets more channels" "ok I’ll get you that next week". Then he said, "Is there anything else you’d like to have son?" "No dad I have all that I need". "Ok but how about a car?" Ibrahim was astounded and said "Really? a..a CAR.. for me!?". "Of course for you! I’m too old to drive now and my eyes are not that well and you are the older son. So whom else would it be for!?" "Oh, dad that will be great! When will that happen?" "Just finish your exams and you’ll have it". "I will dad". "Are you happy now son?" "Yes dad, sure I am!" "Then why do you hate the Americans you son of a b***h!? I couldn’t get you a bicycle a year ago, I could hardly feed you and your brothers and sisters. You didn’t know what an apple or a banana tasted like, I couldn’t buy you a damned Pepsi bottle except in occasions, and now you can have all that you wish, and a car of your own! Who do you think made that possible!?" My cousin’s face turned red and didn’t answer as we laughed and I said "What do you think Ibrahim?" He said, "Well it’s true but it’s our money. They are not giving us a charity" and I said "Of course it’s our money, so let’s forget the Billions of dollars they are giving to rebuild Iraq and the efforts they are making to cut down our debts and lets talk about our money. Why didn’t your father, I, my brothers and all the Iraqis have anything worth mentioning before the Americans came?" He said, "Because Saddam used it to buy weapons and build palaces". "There you have it Ibrahim, but Americans are not touching our money. Can you tell me who’s better; the ‘occupiers’ who are helping us or the ‘patriot’ who did all that you know to us?" He said in a faint voice "They are better than Saddam but still they are not Muslims". "So do you want them to be Muslims?" "I wish they were." "Will you fight them to that?" he said, "No, of course not. I don’t like fighting." We didn’t want to pressure and embarrass him further and didn’t go further, as he’s still young but he’s smart and good-natured and will get it soon.
But this is not what I’m talking about today. I’m talking about a strange phenomenon that is related to this conversation I shared with you; it’s the Iraqi Dinar.
Before the war, the Iraqi Dinar was a pathetic piece of paper that could be easily counterfeited , and during Saddam’s times its exchange value dropped from 1 Dinar for 3.33 US$ before the Iraq-Iran war to about 2000 Iraqi Dinar for each single US$ at 2003 with variable changes in between. We never trusted that Dinar, and the tiniest political change or even rumor, used to cause a huge swing in the exchange price of the Iraqi Dinar that sometimes reached 20% of its value in a single day up or down. On one occasion it dropped from 3000 Dinar for each US$ to about 600 Dinar for each US$ in few weeks and then back into 2000 after 2 months, and part of that was sometimes planned. Saddam’s regime used to sell dollars at half the market price, for about one week or so, in small amounts and spread rumors that the sanctions were going to be lifted as part of a secret agreement, and when the price goes below even that of the bank, as many people change their dollars into dinars in the hope that it will rise more, the Mukhabarat, through their men in the market, would buy back more than what the banks had sold, striking two birds in one stone; giving Iraqis a false hope to keep them busy and stimulate the greed of rapid fortune that occurs at such circumstances, and getting extra profit to keep his regime alive (this was not just a guess, I knew this from many Mukhabarat’s men with big mouths). The results were as expected disastrous; few people get rich and thousands get bankrupt, which led in many times to furious disputes between people about unsettled businesses or debts in Iraqi Dinars that mounted to murder in some cases. Those were the peaceful and stable times.
Let’s take a look at the chaos we are living now. Iraq is certainly not what one can call a stable country compared to the rest of the world but is it really as messy and desperate as the media want us to believe?
There are violent attacks that happen on a daily basis and most of the major media are trying to show that these will last forever and that there are street fights going all over Iraq, there’s the Sadr revolt and the unstable so-called Sunni triangle that the media shows as a place that refuses American presence totally, there was the alleged unity between Sunni and She'at against Americans that never happened and there is the somewhat mysterious political future that most of the world try to show as a dark one, and finally the polls that show that most Iraqis want Americans out and added to that the Abu Gharib scandal which seems to be the only violation to human rights on this planet!! I’m not going to argue any of these because each one approaches these in a subjective way and it’s hard to remain objective while discussing them. I’m going to agree with this dark picture and will not, for this time, show my opinion on them. Instead I’m going to focus on this one tiny detail that do not fit in this picture; that is the Iraqi economy.
I think that most people agree that the exchange price of a country’s currency is one of the indicators of the state of that country’s economy and one that when combined with the average income would help in giving a prediction of the future of this economy and the political future of that country as well, as economy and politics are so connected to each other. Now the Iraqi Dinar was never trusted before the war, and my family was one of the hundreds of thousands of families that changed all the Iraqi currency they had into US Dollars just before the war which caused the exchange price for the Iraqi Dinar against the US Dollar and other foreign currencies to drop uncontrollably from 2000 for each dollar to about 4000 in a period of a month that proceeded the war. After the war the Iraqi Dinar returned to the previous figure and with the introduction of the new Iraqi Dinar, the exchange price improved to around 1500 by the beginning of 2004 with few wobbles during the early period. Since January 2004 and till now and despite all the given factors of instability, the exchange price remained almost constant with a marginal variation from 1430 to 1460 and never dropped below 1400 nor did it ever rise above 1500!! What should that tell us?
Is it possible that Iraqis are that dumb enough to believe in their currency and that their economy is stable and rising!? Are they really stupid enough to buy all this crap about a prosperous Iraq in the future? Or are there solid economic changes that make it so hard to shake despite all the efforts the friends and brothers of the Iraqi people are putting? Don’t they ever think of revolting against the Americans? Note that I’m talking about the majority here.
Back to the average income issue. Some readers may remember that I said my salary was about 17 US$ before the war. Shortly after the war it was raised to 120 US$. Three months after that, they made it 150 US$. Two months later it became 200$(although the truth should be said that they promised that it was going to be 250$) and when I went with one of my colloquies (who gets an exact payment) to receive his salary this month (I still haven’t been paid for 6 months due to some bureaucratic problems that have just been solved), the accountant said to my friend "congratulations! You are getting a new raise starting from the next month and your salary will be around 300 US$!"
Now I know this is still a very low figure compared to what doctors get in other countries, but look at the pace of the raises; 120, 150, 200, 300 all in one year! I mean it’s spooky. What will it be the next year, 500$? And what about 3 or 4 years from now? A thousand or can I dare say a few thousand dollars? Will we get more than what the Syrian, Egyptian Iranian and even Saudi doctors!? What a disaster will it be to the mullahs of Iran, Bashar Al-Assad and the king of Saudi Arabia?
Some people, including some Iraqis, are fooled by the media as they tells them that the prices are higher than before. This is not true, as the prices of ALL the imported goods have lowered especially with only 5% import tax and with no Uday or Qusay to take their share of the merchants’ profits. The only prices that have risen are those the of the local goods and the wages of laborers and services provided by private businesses, but that was only by 2 to 3 folds increase at maximum compared to the unbelievably high rise in the income of the government employees who represent most of the working Iraqis which should explain the former fact as a healthy sign of economical growth, not the opposite.
Others are fooled by what the media keeps screaming about the unemployment. And this is the most stupid lie I’ve ever heard to which I have only one question: Who are those unemployed people?? I dare anyone to answer this!
Everyone who knows enough about Iraq should know that millions of Iraqis were employed by the government, but most of them had second jobs (I used to run a small shop with my brothers beside my job as a doctor, and of course I gave it up soon after the war) except for those who took illegal advantages from their original jobs. The rest were involved in private businesses that paid more but were very risky with all the shakes in economy and all the restrictions from the old regime. After the war some of those who were employed by the government were expelled, but most of them are back now. For God’s sake even most of the Ba’athists and the security agents are back to their jobs now! The only people who are out of job now are Saddam’s special security agents and higher ranked Ba’athists who sucked the Iraqi people’s blood for decades. May I ask how many are those, and should we really sympathieze with them this much? Besides, most of them made fortunes and fled out of the country or are using it to start their own businesses and no one is preventing them from doin that. But wait a minute! Maybe they are talking about the hundreds of thousands of soldiers in the old army who were paid no more than 10 thousand Iraqi Dinars (5 US$)! Now that is something really bad, to deprive a soldier of a job that paid him 5 $ and cost him 10 times that in transport and bribing the officers besides his DIGNITY!
The bottom line, and to talk more seriously, is that the picture the media are giving us about Iraq is almost convincing, even to me, if it wasn’t for this insignificant detail, and something must be done to make it right before most Iraqis start to realize that! But to be fair our Arab and Muslim brothers, supported by the legitimate Arab leaders and cheered by most of the major media are aware of that, and of the dangers of the vicious cycle of (prosperity-stability-more prosperity-more stability) that the Americans and the Iraqi traitors (like myself) are trying to establish. They (our brothers) are doing all that they can; bombing oil pipelines and ports, beheading foreigners in the name of Iraqis and Allah, attacking electricity stations, creating chaos that allows thieves to loot everything they can, yet it’s still not working!! The Iraqi Dinar stands stable despite the fact that some Arab governments formally warned their citizens from dealing with it, the oil production is increasing, the markets are full of goods, most Iraqis are busy working, studying selling and buying and the average income is rising!
Please, all those who care about the poor Iraqis and want to save them from the brutality of the American invaders and who want to prevent the Americans from stealing our fortune; meaning Bin laden, Zagrawi and their followers, Arab and Muslim tyrants, our good friend monsieur Dominique de Villepin, all the pacifists of the world, the major media, and in short, all those who hate America and obviously love Iraq: Get your s**t together and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT or else one or two years from now Iraq will be…a prosperous country, and then we will never forgive you for letting us down when we needed you!
Besides, how would you face us if my cousin got a car and had an accident?!
Monday, May 10, 2004
Old soldier in a new army.
A relative of mine was forced as the millions of Iraqis to serve in Saddam’s army. He was poor and peaceful and couldn’t stand the humiliation and the torture that service meant. He lived in Baghdad and served in Basrah. He was paid about 10 thousand Iraqi Dinars a month, which equaled about 5 US $ at that time, while the ride from his place to his unit cost about 2 or 3 thousand Dinars. Above all he had to bribe the sergeants and the officers only to avoid the hell they could make his life there, as they could’ve made it a lot worse. Others more fortunate paid money to the officer in charge to stay at home and the officer would arrange it to look like they are serving. This may amount to 250-300 thousand Iraqi Dinars a month, and it was a very common practice at that time. And as tens of thousands of Iraqis, he decided to run away. He remained a fugitive for years, hiding from the eyes of the military police. He couldn’t see his family more than 2 or 3 times in the year. We helped him find a job and a place to hide where they couldn’t find him.|
Few days ago I was visiting his family to pay our respect in the 1st annual anniversary of his father’s death.
When I saw my relative, and despite the nature of the occasion, I felt happy. Here’s a free man. I smiled as I said, “you must be very happy to be free again, and not fear the MP”. He said, "you can’t imagine! It’s like being born again. I’ve never felt so free before”. “But what are you doing for a living now? I hope you’ve found a job”. I asked. He smiled as he said, "I volunteered in the new army". “Really! I thought you’d never wear a uniform after that terrible experience” he replied "Oh no, this is entirely different". I said, “ I'm sure it is, but who convinced you to do so!? And when did that happen?” "A friend of mine who volunteered before I did told me some nice stuff that encouraged me to do the same, so I volunteered about a couple of months ago". He replied. “So tell me about it, are you happy with this job?” I asked. "You can’t imagine! It’s nothing that we’ve learned or knew about the military life". He answered. “I expected it to be so, but can you tell me about it” I asked and I didn’t have to ask anymore, as my relative started talking excitedly without a stop. He said:
The most important thing is that this army has no retards or illiterate in it like the old one. Now education is an essential requirement when applying to serve in the new army and anyone who hasn’t finished high school at least has no place there. In fact most of the volunteers are college and technical institutes graduates.
Everything is new, no more worn out dirty uniforms that only God knows how many people used before you, and they never minded about the size. This time they took our sizes and handed each one of us a new elegant uniform that’s worthy of an officer! It was a common scene, you know, that soldiers wander near their halls in their underwear after training hours. Some of them did that because they didn’t have much to wear when they wash their uniforms, but the majority did it out of custom. Now this is unacceptable, and everyone received a nice comfortable suit to wear after the training hours.
One of the officers said to us “you know what? One of the reasons you lose your wars is the boots you were wearing” He then handed each one of us a pair of those brand new boots that we could only dream of buying them in the old times, and said “Put these on and you’ll feel like you can fly” and it did feel almost like that!
I knew exactly what my relative meant, as I had to wear those boots at Sadam’s times when they forced us to do a month of military training during our summer vacation in college, and they warned us that anyone who refused to do so would be expelled from his college. Wearing those inflexible rigid boots in that heat was more like a torture. They were my worst memory of that camp and caused me multiple painful sores that needed weeks to heal.
My relative’s face was glowing as he continued, "you can’t imagine how much valued we are and how much our religion and traditions are respected. When we pass by a mosque, the officer in charge shouts “no talk” until we pass the mosque by a considerable distance, and when one of the officers enters our hall, if he sees that one of us is praying he remains silent and order us to keep quite until our comrade finishes his prayer.
For the first time in my life, I feel I’m somebody. I’m not a trash as Saddam and his gang tried to make me believe” as he finished his last words his voice went faint as if he was chocking. I felt his pain and tried to change the course of our talk, “how much do you get paid” I asked, “Oh, pretty much, more than enough, thank God” “and what about your meals” I added and he said with a smile, “Oh you won’t believe it. Everything that we couldn’t get in our own homes before and that we only saw when the officers in the old army made a feast to honor a guest! I mean we have everything; meat is essential in every meal, vegetables, fruits apples and bananas. It’s still unbelievable to many of us!” he went on,
“One of the most important things that the Americans concentrate on in our training is physical fitness. A month ago I could hardly jog for one kilometer before falling to the ground exhausted and out of breath, and now I can run 4-5 kilometers without being exhausted.”
A frown crossed his face as he said “ I remember when they used to train us at the most hot hours of the day for hours without allowing us to rest for a while under a shade or drink any water, and when we get almost killed by thirst, we would be forced to drink from the dirty contaminated ditch water. Now we don’t even drink tap water! Each one of us gets more than enough an amount of that healthy bottled water everyday”
To some people this may mean little if anything, but my relative looked at it as something huge, and indeed, before the war, drinking bottled water was really a luxury that a very small percentage of Iraqis could afford. In my house we used to boil the tap water and cool it before drinking it, because we knew it was not safe and we couldn’t afford buying bottled water everyday.
“I feel I’m somebody now. I’m respected and get all what most people get. Do you believe that they threw one of the Iraqi officers out of the army because he used us to do him personal services, like carrying his bags, and when we complained about his behavior, they told him “ Do you see any of us, American officers use our soldiers? You can go home. You still have the mentality of the old regime and you can’t fit in this new army!” imagine that! They listen to our complains, we the soldiers, and bring us justice even if it involved the higher ranked officers. This had never happened in the old army.”
“But what about the dangers you are going to face when you graduate? You’ll face it everyday, and you’ll probably have to fight Iraqis. Have you thought about that? And how do you feel about it!?” I felt some regret as I asked this question, but it was too important to ignore. My relative said, “Of course I thought about it!” He sighed as he continued, “Dangers were there since I was born; wars, MP chasing me for years, chaos…etc. These will not stop me from going on with my life, and I have a feeling that those thugs are the same people who oppressed me along with all the poor Iraqi soldiers. No, I’m not afraid of them and I’ll do my job. At least this time I know I’m doing the right thing and that my services will be appreciated” I looked at him admiringly as I said, “They are appreciated already! Congratulations, brother, for the new job and for being the free and new man you are”
When I left, I felt real hope in the new Iraqi army. Despite its terrible performance till now, one cannot be pessimistic after hearing the way this army is being formed and the way the soldiers look at it. I’m sure it’ll take time, but I’m also sure that we’ll definitely have an exceptionally efficient, small army with great morals and respect for the law and the institution they represent. An army that can preserve peace and order, and protect the constitution once the Iraqi people agree on one.
Saturday, May 08, 2004
Abu Gharib, other parts of the picture.
Yesterday a friend of mine, who’s also a doctor, visited us. After chatting about old memories, I asked him about his opinions on the current situations in Iraq. I’ve always known this friend to be apathetic when it comes to politics, even if it means what’s happening in Iraq. It was obvious that he hadn’t change and didn’t show any interest in going deep into this conversation. However when I asked him about his opinion on GWB response to the prisoners’ abuse issue, I was surprised to see him show anger and disgust as he said:|
- This whole thing makes me sick.
- Why is that?! I asked.
- These thugs are treated much better than what they really deserve!
- What are you saying!? You can’t possibly think that this didn’t happen! And they’re still human beings, and there could be some innocents among them.
- Of course it happened, and I’m not talking about all the prisoners nor do I support these actions, and there could be some innocents among them, but I doubt it.
- Then why do you say such a thing?
- Because these events have taken more attention than they should.
- I agree but there should be an investigation on this. There are other pictures that were shown lately, and there are talks about others that will be shown in the near future.
- Yes, but what happened cannot represent more than 1% of the truth.
- Oh I really hope there would be no more than that.
- No, that’s not what I meant. What I’m saying is that these events are the exception and not the rule.
- How do you know that!? I must say I agree with your presumption, but I don’t have a proof, and I never thought you’d be interested in such issue!
- I was there for a whole month!
- In Abu-Gharib!? What were you doing there!?
- It was part of my training! Did you forget that!? I know you skipped that at Saddam’s time, but how could you forget that?
- Yes, but I thought that with the American troops there, the system must have been changed.
-No it’s still the same. We still have to do a month there.
-So tell me what did you see there? How’s the situation of the prisoners? Did you see any abuse? Do they get proper medical care? (I was excited to see someone who was actually there, and he was a friend!)
- Hey, slow down! I’ll tell you what I know. First of all, the prisoners are divided into two groups; the ordinary criminals and the political ones. I used to visit the ordinary criminals during every shift, and after that, the guards would bring anyone who has a complaint to me at the prison’s hospital.
- What about the 'political' ones?
- I’m not allowed to go to their camps, but when one of them feels ill, the guards bring him to me.
- Are the guards all Americans?
- No, the American soldiers with the IP watch over and take care of the ordinary criminals, but no one except the Americans is allowed to get near the political ones
- How are the medical supplies in the prison?
- Not very great, but certainly better from what it was on Saddam’s times. However my work is mainly at night, but in the morning the supplies are usually better.
- How many doctors, beside you, were there?
- There was an American doctor, who’s always their (His name is Eric, a very nice guy, he and I became friends very fast), and other Iraqi doctors with whom I shared the work, and in the morning, there are always some Iraqi senior doctors; surgeons, physicians…etc.
-Why do you say they are very well treated?
- They are fed much better than they get at their homes. I mean they eat the same stuff we eat, and it’s pretty good; eggs, cheese, milk and tea, meat, bread and vegetables, everything! And that happened every day, and a good quality too.
-Are they allowed to smoke? (I asked this because at Saddam’s times, it was a crime to smoke in prison and anyone caught while doing this would be punished severely).
- Yes, but they are given only two cigarettes every day.
- What else? How often are they allowed to take a bath? (This may sound strange to some people, but my friend understood my question. We knew from those who spent sometime in Saddam’s prisons, and survived, that they were allowed to take a shower only once every 2-3 weeks.)
- Anytime they want! There are bathrooms next to each hall.
- Is it the same with the 'political' prisoners?
- I never went there, but I suppose it’s the same because they were always clean when they came to the hospital, and their clothes were always clean too.
-How often do they shave? (I remember a friend who spent 45 days in prison at Saddam’s times had told me that the guards would inspect their beards every day to see if they were shaved properly, and those who were not, would be punished according to the guards’ mood. He also told me that they were of course not allowed to have any shaving razors or machines and would face an even worse punishment in case they found some of these on one of the prisoners. So basically all the prisoners had to smuggle razors, which cost a lot, shave in secrecy and then get rid of the razor immediately! That friend wasn’t even a political prisoner; he was arrested for having a satellite receiver dish in his house!)
- I’m not sure, from what I saw, it seemed that there was a barber visiting them frequently, because they had different hair cuts, some of them shaved their beards others kept them or left what was on their chins only. I mean it seemed that they had the haircut they desired!
-Yes but what about the way they are treated? And how did you find American soldiers in general?
- I’ll tell you about that; first let me tell you that I was surprised with their politeness. Whenever they come to the hospital, they would take of their helmets and show great respect and they either call me Sir or doctor. As for the way they treat the prisoners, they never handcuff anyone of those, political or else, when they bring them for examination and treatment unless I ask them to do so if I know that a particular prisoner is aggressive, and I never saw them beat a prisoner and rarely did one of them use an offensive language with a prisoner.
One of those times, a member of the American MP brought one of the prisoners, who was complaining from a headache, but when I tried to take history from him he said to me “doctor, I had a problem with my partner (he was a homosexual) I’m not Ok and I need a morphine or at least a valium injection” when I told him I can’t do that, he was outraged, swore at me and at the Americans and threatened me. I told the soldier about that, and he said “Ok Sir, just please translate to him what I’m going to say”. I agreed and he said to him “I want you to apologize to the doctor and I want your word as a man that you’ll behave and will never say such things again” and the convict told him he has his word!!
Another incidence I remember was when one of the soldiers brought a young prisoner to the hospital. The boy needed admission but the soldier said he’s not comfortable with leaving the young boy (he was about 18) with those old criminals and wanted to keep him in the isolation room to protect him. I told him that this is not allowed according to the Red Cross regulations. He turned around and saw the paramedics’ room and asked me if he can keep him there, and I told him I couldn’t. The soldier turned to a locked door and asked me about it. I said to him “It’s an extra ward that is almost deserted but I don’t have the keys, as the director of the hospital keeps them with him”. The soldier grew restless, and then he brought some tools, broke that door, fixed it, put a new lock, put the boy inside and then locked the door and gave me the key!
- Did you witness any aggressiveness from American soldiers?
- Only once. There was a guy who is a troublemaker. He was abnormally aggressive and hated Americans so much. One of those days the soldiers were delivering lunch and he took the soup pot that was still hot and threw it at one of the guards. The guard avoided it and the other guards caught the convict and one of them used an irritant spray that causes sever itching, and then they brought the prisoner to me to treat him.
- So you think that these events are isolated?
-As far as I know and from what I’ve seen, I’m sure that they are isolated.
-But couldn’t it be true that there were abusive actions at those times that the prisoners were afraid to tell you about?
-Are you serious!? These criminals, and I mean both types tell me all about there 'adventures and bravery'. Some of them told me how they killed an American soldier or burned a humvee, and in their circumstances this equals a confession! Do you think they would’ve been abused and remained silent and not tell me at least!? No, I don’t think any of this happened during the time I was there. It seemed that this happened to a very small group of whom I met no one during that month.
- Can you tell me anything about those 'political' prisoners? Are they Islamists, Ba’athists or what?
- Islamists?? I don't care what they call themselves, but they are thugs, they swear all the time, and most of them are addicts or homosexuals or both. Still very few of them looked educated.
- Ah, that makes them close to Ba’athists. Do you think there are innocents among them?
- There could be. Some of them say they are and others boast in front of me, as I said, telling the crimes they committed in details. Of course I’m not naive enough to blindly believe either.
- Are they allowed to get outside, and how often? Do they have fans or air coolers inside their halls?
- Of course they are! Even you still compare this to what it used to be at Saddam’s times and there’s absolutely no comparison. They play volleyball or basketball everyday, and they have fans in their halls.
- Do they have sport suits?
- No, it’s much better than Saddam’s days but it’s still a prison and not the Sheraton. They use the same clothes but I’ve seen them wearing train shoes when they play.
-Are they allowed to read?
- Yes, I’ve seen the ordinary criminals read, and I believe the political are allowed too, because I remember one of them asking me to tell one of the American soldiers that he wanted his book that one of the soldiers had borrowed from him.
- So, you believe there’s a lot of clamor here?
-As you said these things are unaccepted but I’m sure that they are isolated and they are just very few exceptions that need to be dealt with, but definitely not the rule. The rule is kindness, care and respect that most of these thugs don’t deserve, and that I have seen by my own eyes. However I still don't understand why did this happen.
-I agree with you, only it’s not about the criminals, it’s about the few innocents who could suffer without any guilt and it’s about us; those who try to build a new Iraq. We can’t allow ourselves to be like them and we can’t go back to those dark times.
As for "why"; I must say that these few exceptions happen everywhere, only in good society they can be exposed and dealt with fast, while in corrupted regimes, it may take decades for such atrocities to be exposed which encourage the evil people to go on, and exceptions become the rule.
What happened in Abu-Gharib should be a lesson for us, Iraqis, above all. It showed how justice functions in a democratic society. We should study this lesson carefully, since sooner or later we'll be left alone and it will be our responsibility to deal with such atrocities, as these will never cease to happen.
Thursday, May 06, 2004
:: Some of the readers asked about my opinion about the interviews that GWB gave to Al-Hurra and Al-Arabeya TV channels and since I'm a CIA agent (I'm thinking of leaving them to work for the Mossad. I've heard they pay better), I guess my opinion would be biased, so I decided to offer you some of the responses I saw on the BBC Arabic which offers a comment section for Arab readers to post their opinions about the hot topics. There were about 30 comments today, since it's still fresh on the site. As usual, the comments from Iraqis-in general-contradicted those from other Arab countries, especially Palestine, Syria and Saudi Arabia. I also found that many of the commentators considered President Bush's speech an apology despite the fact that he didn't frankly apologize.|
I've selected some of the comments for translation and it's worth mentioning that about 40% of the total number of comments was positive (sorry, I mean they were supportive of the CIA propaganda).
Here are the translated comments:
-"Thank you Sir for apologizing on the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison. Here you opened an important file; I think that those criminals who were responsible for the mass graves in my country (who are now in your jails' cells) should apologize for their massacres against the Iraqi people".
Imad Al-Sa'ad - Netherlands.
-"Who reads the reactions of Iraqis will see how surprised they're by the way the Americans can prove that years of Saddam's rule and of his anti-American propaganda can be washed out by time; here we have the president of the greatest nation on earth apologizes for what a small group of pervert soldiers did. And here, the American press proves that it's free to show the truth. We lived with similar pictures for years until they became the basics of every prison's daily life and we never heard an Arabic paper point them out. These are lessons from the western culture entering the hearts of Arabs, whether the Arab leaders liked or not".
Sa'eed - Diwaniyah/Iraq.
-"I think that President Bush should talk to us to fill the gap between us and I wish I could see the Arab leaders talk to us like GWB did"
Jihad Abu Shabab - Germany.
-"I'm very happy to see Iraqis condemning the abuse and defending the rights of the prisoners and this is the first time they do something like this, which was impossible for them to do under the dictator's regime. I think that our Arab brothers should mind their own business and take a look at their own prisons".
N - Jordan.
-"I think that president Bush was honest in what he said. Those abuses do not represent the American people. As a matter of fact, we can find cruel men with no morals in any country; that's why we should not judge a whole nation for the violations of a small group of people and I'm sure that these will get the punishment they deserve. Here I'd like to direct my question to the Arabic media "where were you when Saddam mass-executed my people and used all kinds of torture against us?".
Reemon A'adel Sami -Iraq
-"I think that President Bush's statement will find acceptance from some of the Arabs, while the majority will not be satisfied with his words whatever apologies they included just because he is BUSH and he is AMERICAN. I'm sure that the American officials are more upset by the event than the Iraqis themselves because this doesn't belong to their culture or their ethics as a civilized nation.
I think that the event took more space than it actually deserves and the media are creating a mountain from a grain. It's enough for us to remember Saddam's doings to comment on what recently happened".
And here's one comment from the other side (not a CIA agent).
-"No speeches and no apologies can correct what happened. I can’t describe how I felt when I saw the pictures on the Washington Post; is that why they came from far away? Killed thousands and destroyed a whole country claiming that they came to spread democracy and freedom.
Their media campaign will not make us forget what happened. Shame on their foreheads to the end of time".
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
:: Last Monday, the graduation festival of the 5th grade students of the college of dentistry/Baghdad University was held. |
I missed the opportunity to attend this celebration-that usually attracts huge audience from other colleges-but I couldn’t let myself miss watching the fantastic decorations and paintings that every group of students makes. So I went to the college this morning with two of my friends and started to take photos for these paintings which usually contain mocking portraits and funny notes about each member in the group. The students usually spend months and a lot of money to prepare for the celebration; the preparations usually include the (group tent) which is placed in a corner in the college yard and the students gather in this tent (after taking the graduation photo that all the students appear in) with their families and their friends to sing, dance and take more and more photos. And this is an old tradition in my college and many other colleges in Baghdad.
I think I told you in a previous post that there’s an internet café now in my college but I want to add that this café was installed in the hall that used to be the office of the NUIS (national union of Iraqi students) in Saddam’s days. This union was the spying eye of the Baáth party in every college or high school as the union members were strictly, opportunistic Baáthists trying to get higher ranks by writing reports about the ‘suspicious’ students or even professors.
The college cafeteria is one of my favorite places because I can always see activity, normal and somewhat cheerful life there regardless of how bad the situation might sometimes be just outside the walls of this place as if it has magical immunity to politics or security problems. That's why I never miss the chance to visit my college when I'm in Baghdad and especially when I feel down.
Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Old friends, and a conversation to share.
I was surprised when I saw that the reaction of Iraqis to the subject of prisoners abuse by some American soldiers was not huge as we all expected to see, even it was milder than the one in other Arab countries and especially than that in the Arab media.|
I mean about a month ago, we had considerable reactions and somewhat large demonstrations in response to the killing of Hamas leader, and in the mid of maniac reactions from Arab media and people, the absence of large demonstrations and outrage on the streets of Iraq becomes really strange and give rise to questions. Why the Iraqi people are not really upset with this issue?
Is it because of the firm and rapid response from the American officials to these terrible actions?
Or is it because the Iraqi people lack compassion with the majority of these prisoners?
Could it be that the Iraqi people and as a result of decades of torture, humiliation and executions, took these crimes less seriously than the rest of the world?
Or have the majority of Iraqis finally developed some trust in the coalition authorities and in the American army, to sense that these actions must be isolated and will be punished?
I can’t say I have the full answer but I guess it’s a combination of a little bit of all the above.
I can say that at least some Iraqis seemed to have understood the situation and were satisfied with the reaction of the American officials and their promises that the offenders will be punished. While a wide segment of Iraqis seemed indifferent with the issue and only showed their disapproval when they are asked about it, but rarely with what one can call an angry tone, and I’m talking about my personal experience here, as I tried to ask the largest number of people about their feelings before I write about it.
Here I would like to provide a conversation I had with some friends whom I haven’t seen for a long time and met just yesterday. After a few words of greetings that friends usually exchange after not seeing each other for a long time, the conversation turned towards the current situation in Iraq, and as the prisoners abuse issue is the hottest topic nowadays, I started my attempts to discover their points of view about it. They were all upset but they showed satisfaction with the fast and firm reaction of the coalition higher officials and were also impressed by the honesty of the American soldier who reported the abuse and uncovered tha awful behavior of those criminals but at the same time they said that they’re looking forward to “see the offenders get some real punishment, not just directing few harsh words. A sentence for 3 or 4 years in prison will be convenient”. Others showed more understanding to the American law system.
I also noticed that the abuse pictures brought a flashback from the days of Saddam and the way Iraqi prisoners were treated in; a tone of fear was in the voice of my friend “this could happen to me or anyone else. If someone gets randomly arrested (for being near the site of some clashes or violent demonstrations in the wrong time), he might be tortured or humiliated by the prison guards before they recognize that he’s got nothing to do with the insurgency or the terrorists" That I must say will have a very bad effect on encouraging Iraqis to participate in the political process in Iraq.
Later on, we jumped to another topic, which is the GC and the awaited authority hand-over. Two of my friends condemned the reaction of Jalal Talbani to the prisoners issue when he relatively ignored the questions about it and considered the matter to be “secondary”. One of them added “how comes that the highest ranking officers in the coalition, Tony Blair and GWB gave much attention to this matter and severely condemned the abusive behavior of those soldiers in their latest speeches while Mr. Talbani thinks it’s not worth talking about!?
I asked my friend “when did he say that?” and he replied “yesterday. Didn’t you see that? It was shown on Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabyea” I told him that I don’t watch these two channels and that he shouldn’t do that too. “But where can I get the news then?” my friend asked. “I personally watch the less evil, BBC and sometimes the new and moderate, Al-Hurra” I answered, and my friend said “ but Al-Hurra doesn’t follow the news as fast as Al-Jazeera does, and their performance in general is still below what’s needed, and I can’t follow the reporters on the BBC, especially when they put a Scottish or an Irish guy to tell the news” I agreed with him that it’s difficult sometime and that we need more options.
Another one started cursing the head of the SCIRI because he promised Iran-in a previous occasion-that Iraq would be responsible for compensating Iran for the damages of the Iraqi-Iran war in the 1980's.
Then came the big question “who do you think is going to lead Iraq in the transitional phase? And will that leader be one of the current members of the GC”? This question was directed to me. I said that I don’t think that the future president will be chosen from inside the GC and I asked my friends back "if you were to choose your president from the GC, whom would you elect”? They all agreed that Adnan Pachachi would be the best available choice in such circumstances. As a matter of fact, I share the same opinion because this man is acceptable to many Iraqis due to his moderate attitudes and clean background and he has no militia or the kind of followers that can abuse their man's power to harm others, break the law or have illegal advantages.
When I said goodbye to my friends I sensed some optimism inside me when I realized they are paying more attention to the future and were not fooled by the Arab media to act only in response to emotions.
Sunday, May 02, 2004
:: I know that the new flag will probably be changed in the future but I decided to put it on the side bar because it's now considered to be the symbol of my country. I've always wanted to show my country's flag on my page but I refused to to use the old one as it always reminded me of Saddam and the Arab nationalists' ideology.|
So, this may be temporary but at least, for the time being, it fits the page design better than the one Ali had suggested. It's not a big deal but rather a way to express my willingness to make and accept changes and to move forwards.
Saturday, May 01, 2004
About Abu Gharib.
Every time I see these pictures that show some American soldiers and officers abusing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners I feel very upset and disgusted. Many of you wanted to know how we feel about those crimes and the people responsible for them and my opinion is simply this: those soldiers must be brought to justice and punished.|
There are tens of thousands of coalition soldiers in Iraq, and of course not all of them are pure angels; they’re tough warriors among whom we can find the good and the evil, and the evil are always less but unfortunately, they draw more attention just like a small black point on a white paper and this applies to any group of human beings anywhere on this planet. That’s why we should not generalize this to the whole coalition soldiers. I’m not trying to defend the coalition here; I just want to show my point of view in an objective way.
The way the Arabic media handled this incident reminds me of the way they handled the barbaric crime in Fallujah a month ago, they tried to show that all the people in Fallujah supported that crime which they called “resistance” and now they’re trying to make Iraqis believe that all the soldiers of the “occupation forces” are involved in this atrocity and that every single soldier in the coalition can’t wait to seize the chance to humiliate Iraqis.
The media seems to be always trying to exaggerate things and to describe any violent action from Iraqis (or Arabs) as “resistance” and any violent action from the coalition as “crimes of the occupiers” to make a good story that sells or that serves their masters' objectives. Anyway, this is not the subject I want to talk about today.
I want to tell you that I felt great relief when I saw and heard the highest-ranking officials in the coalition apologize to the Iraqi people for what a small group of their soldiers did and assuring us that there will be serious investigations to expose those who committed the atrocities and to punish them the way they deserve.
What happened was awful, that’s true but I feel comfortable with the good intentions of the coalition leaders and people who rejected the crimes against the detainees.
Let me tell you this, under the past regime Iraqis were the victims of worse atrocities (by the hands of Iraqis) everyday but no one could say a word about that, now, nothing can be hidden from the people and no one can get away with his crimes. For the first time, law is starting to govern our country and this will force anyone to think twice before he plans to harm someone or break the law in any way.
The crime was a step backwards but the way it’s being dealt with is-in my opinion-a step forwards on the way to strengthen the trust between the coalition and the Iraqis because this will help putting an end to many of the conspiracy theories that many Iraqis still belive in and this will tell Iraqis that the Americans are not hiding facts about their soldiers behavior here and once they feel that something wrong is happening they will move to correct it.
I FOUND IT!
I didn’t want to comment on the issue of the new Iraqi flag because I thought it wasn’t really something worth the debate when we face other much more serious challenges and problems. However, the big clamor that this insignificant issue created, and the fact that many readers asked me about my opinion, convinced me to change my mind.|
Seriously, I think this should’ve been done a long time ago, when things were more quite to avoid any undesirable side effects. The old flag was not an Iraqi flag. It was the flag of the Arab nationalist and didn’t represent the various components of the complex Iraqi society, and after Saddam had put the holy words on it, it became Saddam’s flag. That fool was obsessed with making his name an immortal one. He did everything he could, spent billions of dollars on his statues, palaces and elsewhere to force people to remember him wherever they turn their heads. He didn’t think that the anger of the Iraqi people would topple all his statues and burn all his pictures in such a short time. Still his flag is there reminding us of him and all his atrocities, therefore it had to go. This is, of course, mainly a psychological issue to declare formally the end of an era with all that represented it.
Most Iraqis had hated that flag a long time ago. The Kurd refused to use it, and many Iraqis were bold enough to take away the holy words from the old flag, but that couldn’t have been generalized and adapted by the authorities, since it would’ve caused unnecessary clashes with the religious groups.
Now to talk more seriously, I would like to discuss the design of the new flag, try to see why it did upset some Iraqis and Arabs, and also I would like to offer my suggestion to solve this critical problem, as I have something I think may help us here.
Yesterday I was discussing with some of my friends the reaction that some 'smart' people signaled among common Iraqi saying that the new flag looked like the Israeli flag and that it was meant to be so! Now honestly I don’t understand those Israeli guys; they give the Gaza strip and the west bank back to the Palestinians, and then they come to buy lands in Iraq (from Al-Jazeera)! And now they are trying to take over our flag, the symbol of our sovereignty!? Hmm..I don’t get it but there should be some huge conspiracy here! I mean come on; we have all the elements of conspiracy here; America and changing an Arab country flag and using blue color!!
One of my friends said that our people care about formalities a lot and that no matter what we think we should put that in consideration. I agreed with him, and as a good and loyal citizen, I tried to work hard on this imagining what flag would represent the Iraqi people and not offend any party.
At first, I thought of the date palm, but this might upset the Kurds, since they don't have it in Kurdistan. Then I thought of one of the symbols of the ancient civilizations in Iraq like the "winged bull", but this will be hard for the children to draw. Then there is the issue of colors; I mean we hated black, red and we were not allowed to use blue!
Enough to say that it was an extremely difficult challenge, and I had to come up with a design that not only should be acceptable to all Iraqis, but should also help in solving our problems and ensure our peace and prosperity, I mean that’s what a real flag should serve.
I spent long hours searching and thinking, facing dead ends all the time, but you know me, I’m resourceful! And all of a sudden came this design that I recall seeing it in a cartoon when I was a kid, and it looked just perfect. It has all what is needed; it’s easy to draw, it’s peaceful, it has no religious or ethnic symbol and it has no blue color on it! Is it just luck or is it creativity!? I don’t know but here it is for you to judge.
p.s. in case this flag was not accepted by my fellow citizens, then it remains at the reach of any poor and oppressed nation who suffer from civil war, famine or SARS to use it to solve all its problems, and I will be honored to serve humanity anywhere.