Friday, February 27, 2009

How Saddam Came to Power and Stayed in Power

The Pyramid of Skulls: How Saddam Hussein Came to Power

(February 20, 2003) When Genghis Khan's grandson, Hualagu Khan captured Baghdad in 1258, he used fear to strengthen his rule over Iraq by killing every poet, scholar, military, civic and religious leader in the city. Hualagu piled their heads into a pyramid of skulls, topped by the head of their former ruler, the last Abassid Caliph. And some seven centuries later, Saddam Hussein did much the same thing when he took over in Iraq. In his very first week in power he arrested, tortured and executed 450 of the most prominent Iraqis, those whom he feared might someday challenge his rule. Saddam called these crimes, in his own words, a means to "cleanse the nation" of factionalism.

...One Iraqi diplomat among hundreds who had served Saddam faithfully for many years learned that he was next on the list for elimination upon his return to Iraq. He decided not to return home, and applied for asylum in England. During an interview with BBC in November 1998, the former diplomat summarized Saddam's rise to power in one short sentence. "Saddam is a dictator who is ready to sacrifice his country, just so long as he can remain on his throne in Baghdad."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama's First Speech to Congress

President Obama's speech tonight was the best speech by an American President I can remember. It reminded me of the historic speeches by great former Presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt. Obama's agenda is ambitious, but it is the kind of confidence and leadership America needs right now.

Obama stated that he will "end" the Iraq war responsibly, and today his aides said that Obama is favoring a withdrawal by August, 2010, which is three months longer than the 16 month time line he promised during his election campaign. Liberals like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow were surprised to hear Obama's national security advisers say that a residual force of 30,000 to 50,000 troops may remain in Iraq after August, 2010, and Maddow said this is starting to look more like Bush's withdrawal plan than Obama's original withdrawal plan. The announcement of the planned residual force in Iraq did not surprise me, and nor did Maddow's reaction to it. I wonder if Maddow knows that tens of thousands of US troops have been stationed in Germany since World War II.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Beheading Wives: NOT an Islamic Practice

I like Bill Maher. I think he's very funny and I agree with many of his views. In his first episode of the season, however, he said two things in his monologue that are not quite true. In praising President Obama, Maher claimed that Obama "closed Guantanamo" and "ordered the planning of our withdrawing from Iraq" without elaborating. The President has not closed Gitmo and will begin withdrawing troops from Iraq only because violence in Iraq is a fraction of what it was a year ago, thankfully, and we want to see violence and crime in Iraq disappear completely so that ALL US troops can be withdrawn.

Then Maher spoke with Ron Paul, who believes that America's war on drugs must end, but he also believes that American government should not be allowed to bail out any company, and that the Federal Reserve is the real cause of the economic crisis. I don't want to see bank executives who receive bailout money buy themselves $50 million private jets after they receive government stimulus funds, but I don't want to see Bank of America go belly up either. Maher did hit the nail on its head with his jokes about Dick Fuld and Bernard Madoff.

One of Maher's guests was Brigitte Gabriel, who was invited to speak about the Pakistani American man, Muzzammil Hassan, who recently beheaded his wife in Buffalo. Maher wanted to point out the irony of a man who starts "Bridges TV" to reach out to non-Muslim Americans and show how moderate Muslims are and then ends up beheading his wife, so he invited Gabriel, the author of "They Must Be Stopped". I had never heard of Gabriel before seeing her on Bill Maher tonight, and I was expecting her to explain that beheading one's wife is not a popular Islamic practice and that honor killing (if this was in fact an "honor" killing) has more to do with culture than religion. I was expecting her to warn about the dangers of Wahhabism and the Saudi Wahhabi influence in Pakistan. Instead she said that "this is strictly an Islamic practice". An Islamic practice?? Is this what Muslims do in her native Lebanon? Maher had to point out to her that American men have also killed their wives, and that OJ Simpson nearly beheaded his ex wife with a big knife. Maher asked her what she thinks of Obama's interview with Al Arabiya. She said she believes that Obama should not have "kind of apologized to the Arab world for America's ills in the last 30 years." Maher had to point out that President Obama did not apologize, and that in his inaugural speech he said that America should not apologize for our way of life. I was embarrassed by Gabriel's remarks, and overall I think his first episode of the season was more depressing than funny. I think Bill Maher could do better.

P.S.: Somebody should tell Brigitte that "exemplatory" is not a word.

Time to lift Parliamentary immunity from prosecution

Iraqi Parliamentarians should not have been given immunity from prosecution.

Sunni lawmaker linked to 2007 parliament bombing, Iraq officials say

Hard-liner Mohammed Dayni remains free due to his immunity as a parliamentarian, officials say. Two of his bodyguards reportedly detail activities he masterminded, including burying victims alive.

By Tina Susman
February 23, 2009

Reporting from Baghdad -- Iraqi security forces Sunday identified a Sunni Arab lawmaker as a suspect in the bombing of the Shiite-dominated parliament in 2007 and a slew of other crimes, including burying victims alive and robbing gold stores.

The April 2007 blast, which killed a fellow parliament member, came at the height of Iraq's sectarian bloodshed and coincided with the start of the major U.S.-Iraqi security push that included the deployment of 30,000 additional American forces to Iraq. Violence is a fraction of what it was then, but parliament remains bitterly split along sectarian and ethnic lines. The latest announcement, coming on the heels of a victory in provincial elections by Shiite Muslims loyal to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, was likely to aggravate those divisions.

At a news conference, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta Mussawi said hard-line Sunni parliamentarian Mohammed Dayni, who remains free because of immunity enjoyed by parliament members, had been named by two bodyguards as being involved in criminal activity. Security forces cannot arrest Dayni unless a court grants their request to lift his immunity.


"Human Rights" Groups Shocked

President Obama, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has for now denied terror suspects the right to trial. Human Rights groups are shocked. Angry Arabs are naturally angry.

Iraqis are not as outraged. Iraq Pundit writes in "Pity the Poor Murderer":

Look, I agree Gitmo should be closed. But I could not be more sick and tired of this argument that these guys are turned into killers as a result of their incarcertation. So very many men of my family and friends of my family and even a few women were imprisoned by the Baathists in Iraq. Okay, I have never been to Gitmo, but I will take a wild guess and say that the conditions in Iraq's prisons were at least as bad as Gitmo's and most likely dramatically worse. (According to a recent Pentagon report prepared at the request of the Obama White House, Gitmo satisfies Geneva Convention standards.) My relatives who were jailed did not shoot anyone. They were arrested for thinking the wrong thing by Baathist standards. I can't say this clearly enough: None of them turned into a murderer upon release from prison after years--in at least one case, more than a decade.

Needless to say, I agree with Iraq Pundit. Human Rights groups did not raise the same fuss about the rights of Iraqi civilians before 2003.

In other news that relates to human rights, Abu Ghraib has been reopened. Our Arab "brothers" do not seem happy about this bit of news either. The BBC article that Ustath As3ad linked to states that Abu Ghraib "became notorious for detainee abuse by US forces in 2004." I guess the BBC is just being honest, since Abu Ghraib did not gain notoriety for abuse of Iraqi innocents prior to 2003. Thus far I have read only one article that mentions torture and murder at Abu Ghraib before 2003: "Under Saddam Hussein, tens of thousands of Iraqis were thrown behind bars here. There were horrific stories of torture, abuse, execution without trial."

Amnesty International was one of the few human rights groups that published extensively on crimes by Saddam's regime, but the media and our Arab "brothers" never paid attention, never seemed as shocked as they are by the "abuse" at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo by Americans. The pre-2003 lack of attention will no doubt be blamed on Ronald Reagan, naturally.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Suicide Bombers and Funerals

What is it with suicide bombers and funerals? Bombing markets, restaurants, universities, bus stations, bakeries, is sick and these horrific crimes have happened in Iraq countless times. But bombing a funeral is especially twisted because the funeral attendees are already in mourning, and murdering them turns an already sad occasion into an even sadder occasion. Entire families gather at weddings and funerals, and one can only imagine how many of the victims are related to each other.

Thanks David All for posting the link to this article.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Peace Signs

A peace sign: Iraq's Sunnis joining Shiite pilgrims

After three years of violence, pilgrims return to Karbala's shrine.

By Jane Arraf | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
from the February 17, 2009 edition

BAGHDAD - Sheikh Mohammad al-Ethawi, resplendent in his gold-trimmed robe and white headdress, hands out oranges to Shiite pilgrims walking by a striped tent on the main route to the holy city of Karbala.

Sheikh Ethawi is Sunni. The Doura highway, where more than a million pilgrims – largely Shiite – are walking for the first time in three years, passes through what had been one of Baghdad's most violent neighborhoods. Their numbers and Ethawi's presence are a sign of the easing of sectarian tensions that almost ripped this country apart.


"I say thanks to Bush because he ousted Saddam"

This does not surprise me, but it might make some people very angry.

IRAQ: For one pilgrim, a prayer for Bush

'More than 60 pilgrims died in attacks that began last Thursday and ended Monday, when at least eight were killed in two separate bombings on buses bringing pilgrims back to Baghdad from Karbala. But the threats aren't enough to deter people like Abu Zahra, a former soldier in the Iraqi army during the regime of Saddam Hussein. Abu Zahra told his story while resting his feet outside a shrine in Baghdad's Kadhimiya neighborhood.

For 28 years he served under Hussein, who prohibited outpourings of Shiite devotion. Abu Zahra says he was shot twice during his years of service, in his legs and in his back, most recently during the U.S. invasion of March 2003. "I say thanks to Bush because he ousted Saddam. I pray for him because he freed me," said Abu Zahra, a construction worker. He was missing several days' work to make this pilgrimage, but he didn't mind. He did the same thing last year and the same thing the year before, and he plans to do it again next year. "I'm making up for my past," he said.'

Asbestos Not Banned in Iraq

The Mesothelioma Cancer Center is trying to create awareness amongst the Iraqi people and American veterans about the dangers of asbestos exposure in Iraq. Asbestos currently still is not banned in Iraq, and a bomb or even a partial demolition of a house can send the toxic asbestos fibers airbourn. Currently more American veterans die from asbestos exposure each year than die in Iraq! I have added Mesothelioma to my list of Sites to Ponder in the sidebar.

"Documents from 2003, which is the latest year such figures are available, show asbestos imports to Iraq amounted to $194,000 (U.S. dollars). To make matters worse, there are no known regulations concerning health and safety for those working in Iraq that are processing and handling asbestos.

The entire Middle East has been steadily increasing their incoming asbestos supply, except for Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which are the only two countries that have placed bans on asbestos. To demonstrate the amount of consumption that is taking place, Iran alone has been reported to order 30,000 tons of asbestos each year.

The War in Iraq has created a multitude of concerns for Iraqi citizens as well as U.S. troops, and asbestos exposure should not be left to the wayside. When asbestos-containing buildings are damaged or disturbed by various munitions, it is highly likely that the asbestos construction materials are also damaged. This presents a hazard for all soldiers in the area. Even soldiers that are stationed nearby can be affected by asbestos because the fierce winds in Iraq can carry dessert sands and asbestos dust for miles.

Exposure to asbestos is known to cause a wide variety of terminal diseases-- including asbestosis, lung cancer, and malignant mesothelioma. Exposure also exponentially increases the risks of gastrointestinal, colorectal, throat, kidney, esophageal, and gallbladder cancer.

For a complete list of mesothelioma doctors, mesothelioma treatments, charts and diagrams about how to spot asbestos in the home, and what to do if you have received a mesothelioma prognosis—please visit the Mesothelioma Cancer Center." --The Mesothelioma Cancer Center

Iraqi Women's Minister Resigns in Protest

Iraqi Women's Minister Resigns, Draws Support

by Corey Flintoff

February 17, 2009 · Women in Iraq's parliament have rallied behind the country's minister for women's affairs, who resigned earlier this week saying she was frustrated by a lack of support from the government.

The resignation highlights the plight of many Iraqi women, especially widows created by the country's decades of war.

Nawal al-Samarraie had served as Iraq's minister for women's affairs for less than six months when she created a stir by turning in her resignation. She complained she had never received support from the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and that her budget for projects had been slashed from about $7,500 a month to around $1,500.

"I think it is wrong to stay as a minister without doing anything for my people, especially in this time and in this situation of Iraqi women — we have an army of widows, violated women, detainees, illiteracy and unemployment — many, many problems. I had to resign," she said.

In Iraq, Widowhood Often Means Poverty

Iraqi women's advocates have coined the phrase "an army of widows" to refer to the women who lost their breadwinners in the conflicts reaching back to the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Samarraie says there are more than 3 million such women, most of them with children, who have no social safety net.

Samarraie, a 47-year-old gynecologist and member of parliament, says that part of the problem is that Iraq is a patriarchal society, where women are considered adjuncts of their husbands or fathers. And part of it, she says, is political expediency.

"I think they neglect it because they consider that women's issues [are] secondary," she says, "compared with what's going on in the street — violence and unemployed men."

Traditionally, widows in Iraqi society moved back in with their extended families, but many families already have too many mouths to feed, leaving widows and their children homeless.

An Iraqi widow can claim a small government pension, ranging from about $50 to $75 a month, which many Iraqis say is not enough for a family to subsist.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Abraham Lincoln

Some people might argue that Abraham Lincoln led America to a civil war that resulted in the deaths of more than a half million Americans. Others might argue that Lincoln prevented the break up of the Union. Perhaps Lincoln is remembered most for his Emancipation Proclamation, which ended slavery in America. Today is Lincoln's 200th birthday, and President Obama marked the occasion by saying "I feel a special gratitude to this singular figure who in so many ways made my own story possible — and in so many ways made America's story possible."

"Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves" - Abraham Lincoln, 1859

Thanks for that quote, K.

I'm a Liberal

Today a self-proclaimed "left-wing" Lebanese Australian claimed that I am right wing. I am not right wing. I'm quite liberal, actually. I'm pro choice, secular, on occasion I drink beer and wine, I've inhaled, and I've voted for the Democratic candidate in every US Presidential election since I started voting. In college I was Vice President of the Arab Students Club, and I pretty much single handedly brought Paul Findley to speak at our campus. We also brought Jack Shaheen to speak on campus. I debated the pro-Israel students a few times. I don't know how many hundreds of hours I spent on the Yahoo message boards telling people about the history of Israeli terrorism and how the Palestinians have been screwed.

To call me "right wing" is ridiculous. I'm a liberal who loathes terrorism. I'm a liberal who was born in Iraq and hates Saddamists and the sectarian Wahhabi cultists who've caused so much death and destruction in Iraq. There are many of us.

I'm a liberal who sympathizes with Israeli victims of terrorism, and maybe this sympathy has been enhanced by the incredible terrorism in Iraq in the last five years. Maybe I became less "pro-Palestinian" after I saw so many Palestinians on the blogosphere supporting Saddam, and after I learned about the Gazans who supported Zarqawi. I'm sure in both cases it was a minority of Palestinians. I still support Palestine's right to a contiguous independent state. I still believe that Palestinians who were expelled from their homes must be compensated and given the choice to return to their homes. I'm still a liberal.

I'm a liberal who is angered by the Jordanian judicial system, which gives light sentences to men who commit honor killings.

I'm a liberal who was horrified by 9/11 and is embarrassed by Arabs who believe it was an "inside job".

I believe strongly that girls and women should not be forced to wear hijab. I voted for Obama. I support gay rights and gay people's right to marriage. I believe all nations must work together to combat global warming, and I think America should take the lead.

I'm not right wing. I'm not left wing either. I'm a liberal.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Saudi gang rape victim sentenced to 100 lashes

More bizarre stupidity from the land run by Wahhabi jarab, our "moderate" ally in the mid east. Thanks Molly for posting this:

Saudi judge sentences pregnant gang-rape victim to 100 lashes for committing adultery

Last updated at 11:01 AM on 11th February 2009

A Saudi judge has ordered a woman should be jailed for a year and receive 100 lashes after she was gang-raped, it was claimed last night.

The 23-year-old woman, who became pregnant after her ordeal, was reportedly assaulted after accepting a lift from a man.

He took her to a house to the east of the city of Jeddah where she was attacked by him and four of his friends throughout the night.

She later discovered she was pregnant and made a desperate attempt to get an abortion at the King Fahd Hospital for Armed Forces.

According to the Saudi Gazette, she eventually 'confessed' to having 'forced intercourse' with her attackers and was brought before a judge at the District Court in Jeddah.

He ruled she had committed adultery - despite not even being married - and handed down a year's prison sentence, which she will serve in a prison just outside the city.

She is still pregnant and will be flogged once she has had the child.

The Saudi Arabian legal system practices a strict form of medieval law. Women have very few rights and are not even allowed to drive.

They are also banned from going out in public in the company of men other than male relatives.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Secularist Wins Kérbéla

A secularist former Baathist wins in Kérbéla, a bastion of Shiism. Only in democratic Iraq. This proves two things: 1) A secular candidate can win in a religious Iraqi city. 2) Not all Baathists committed crimes during Saddam's regime. It reminds me of my post about Germany after WWII, in which mayors who had not committed crimes under the Nazi regime kept their jobs after the war. Thanks Molly for the link.

On a side note, in case you haven't noticed, I like spelling the names of Iraqi cities the way they sound, and I find the letter e-acute (é) to be useful for this purpose. I just learned from that Wiki page how to type the é using my keyboard, so from now on I will spell it Néjéf and Kérbéla, because I would like my American friends to stop saying "Najoff" and "Kar bolla".

A Secularist Finds Sway in a Hub of Shiite Islam

Published: February 8, 2009

KARBALA, Iraq — On battered blast walls and rusted telephone poles, the election posters that line the rubble-strewn road from Baghdad to Karbala show the familiar faces of the would-be leaders of Iraq.

Already withered and peeling, the posters are the physical traces of the Jan. 31 elections, where national leaders, including Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, backed local candidates in an effort to solidify their power bases.

Yousef Majid al-Habboubi was not among those favored with an endorsement.

Yet Mr. Habboubi, a former Baath Party member who has largely been out of politics since the American invasion in 2003, managed to defeat soundly not only candidates from the religious parties that controlled Karbala Province, but also Mr. Maliki’s preferred candidates, gaining nearly twice as many votes as his two closest competitors.

In one respect, Mr. Habboubi’s victory is a reflection of how dominant an issue reconstruction and the restoration of basic government services have become.

Karbala is dominated by religious Shiites and is home to some of their holiest shrines. Yet the votes here seemed driven more by a desire for pragmatism than piety, going to Mr. Habboubi, a secularist with government experience, over the religious parties that have held sway here since the American invasion.

Even more noteworthy here in Shiite country, which greatly suffered under Saddam Hussein’s Baathist rule, was the willingness to turn to a man with a Baathist past. Despite that, voters interviewed said Mr. Habboubi was an overwhelmingly better candidate because of his experience as a deputy governor and his recent activities in local government.

Born in Najaf, Mr. Habboubi worked in the 1970s at a firehouse in Karbala, and even as he ascended the Baathist ranks he maintained a reputation as a populist.

“He sold his own car to help restore Ahmed bin Hashim shrine,” recalled Mohammad Abdul Hassan, 35, a firefighter in Karbala.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Hakim No Longer "Supreme"

In the recent provincial elections, Iraqis have set a good example for their neighbors. Iraqi voters have reduced Hakim's Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq to a 10 percent party (thanks Bruno the Brazilian for that link) south of Baghdad. Sadrists did not do well either, and they are appealing the election results. Maliki's Da3wa and secular parties came out victorious. Perhaps ISCI and Sadrists did not do well because Iraqis have rejected the notion that Islamic clerics can decide what Iraqi women are allowed to wear, or whether Iraqi women should be allowed to hold professional jobs.

This post should not be perceived as an endorsement of Da3wa, but it appears that Iraqis for the most part have rejected a Khomeini style of government, which I believe is a good thing. I am happy that secular candidates have emerged stronger. I am happy that Iraqis have not rewarded sectarian and extremist politicians. Democracy really is a wonderful thing.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Targeting Shia in Pakistan

Pakistini Shia have endured attacks by Takfiri for decades. Is this America's fault? Does posting stuff like this make me sectarian? Thanks Molly for the link.

Imambargah blast kills 32 in DG Khan

MULTAN/LAHORE: Up to 32 people were killed when a suspected suicide bombing ripped through a crowd of Shia worshippers outside a DG Khan mosque on Thursday.

Police said the blast targeted dozens of people converging on the Al Hussainia Mosque after dark, shortly before a religious gathering.

Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, police were swift to blame sectarian extremists following a wave of violence in the country.

“Ninety-nine percent it looks like a suicide attack,” Shaukat Javed, the inspector general of Punjab Police, told AFP. “The explosion occurred just 50 feet short of the mosque. It is a terrorist attack aimed at Shias to create unrest,” he added. “It seems like a suicide blast,” Javed told a TV channel. “If something is planted or hurled, it leaves a crater. There is no crater at the site of the incident.”


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Number of "excess deaths" questioned

The author of the Lancet study, which estimated that up to 1 million "excess deaths" have been caused by the war in Iraq, has refused to disclose the details of his work. No matter what the true number is, far too many innocent Iraqis have been killed since 2003. Thanks CH for the link.

And thanks Molly for this: Iraqi death researcher censured

Nondisclosure Cited in Iraq Casualties Study

Controversial Survey Author Rebuked for Failing to Disclose Details of His Work

Feb. 4, 2009

In a highly unusual rebuke, the American Association for Public Opinion Research today said the author of a widely debated survey on "excess deaths" in Iraq had violated its code of professional ethics by refusing to disclose details of his work. The author's institution later disclosed to ABC News that it, too, is investigating the study.

AAPOR, in a statement, said that in an eight-month investigation, Gilbert Burnham, a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, "repeatedly refused to make public essential facts about his research on civilian deaths in Iraq."

Hours later, the school itself disclosed its own investigation of the Iraq casualties report "to determine if any violation of the school's rules or guidelines for the conduct of research occurred." It said the review "is nearing completion."


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Recruiter of Female Suicide Bombers Arrested

Al Qaeda's last hope in Iraq is behind bars. Thanks Maury for posting the Yahoo story.

Woman accused of recruiting female suicide bombers held in Iraq

U.S. and Iraqi forces also detained more than 100 people who were considered a threat to the recent peaceful provincial elections.

By Tina Susman
February 4, 2009

Reporting from Baghdad -- In the 72 hours before last week's provincial elections, U.S. and Iraqi forces targeted more than 100 people considered threats to peaceful balloting in the capital, the top American military commander in Baghdad said Tuesday.

Iraqi officials also announced Tuesday the arrest of a woman they said was responsible for recruiting dozens of female suicide bombers. At a news conference, Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, an Iraqi military spokesman, showed a video of the woman, identified as Sameera Ahmed Jassim, in which she described recruitment methods.

There was no way to independently verify the video's authenticity, but the use of female suicide bombers has soared in the last year. More than 30 women blew themselves up last year, compared with eight in 2007, according to U.S. military figures. U.S. and Iraqi officials say Sunni Arab insurgents have run short of male recruits and turned to women for the missions.

Suspected suicide bombers were among those rounded up in the sweep conducted in the 72 hours leading up to Saturday's elections, said Army Maj. Gen. Jeffery Hammond, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad and the surrounding region.