Thursday, July 30, 2009

Iraqi police kill 11 MEK

It appears Maliki is doing Khamenei's bidding.

'The Iraqi government said Wednesday it plans to close a camp that is home to more than 3,000 members of an Iranian opposition group, a day after launching a violent assault on the camp that was criticized by Washington and praised by Tehran.

Since members of the group, known as the Mujahedin e-Khalq, or the MEK, have enjoyed U.S. military protection since 2004, the raid could indicate an Iraqi desire to improve ties with Iran as the U.S. withdraws its forces.'

Meanwhile, bombs also killed 11 Iraqis.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Retarded State of the Middle East

'Why is the Arab world – let us speak with terrible sharpness – so backward? Why so many dictators, so few human rights, so much state security and torture, so terrible a literacy rate?

Why does this wretched place, so rich in oil, have to produce, even in the age of the computer, a population so poorly educated, so undernourished, so corrupt? Yes, I know the history of Western colonialism, the dark conspiracies of the West, the Arab argument that you cannot upset the sheikhs and the kings and the autocrats, the imams and the emirs when the "enemy is at the gates". There is some truth to that. But not enough truth.

Once more the United Nations Development Programme has popped up with yet one more, its fifth, report that catalogues – via Arab analysts and academics, mark you – the retarded state of much of the Middle East. It talks of "the fragility of the region's political, social, economic and environmental structures... its vulnerability to outside intervention". But does this account for desertification, for illiteracy – especially among women – and the Arab state which, as the report admits, is often turned "into a threat to human security, instead of its chief support"?

As Arab journalist Rami Khouri stated bleakly last week: "How we tackle the underlying causes of our mediocrity and bring about real change anchored in solid citizenship, productive economies and stable statehood, remains the riddle that has defied three generations of Arabs." Real GDP per capita in the region – one of the statistics which truly shocked Khouri – grew by only 6.4 per cent between 1980 and 2004. That's just 0.5 per cent annually, a rate which 198 of 217 countries analysed by the CIA World Factbook bettered in 2008. Yet the Arab population – which stood at 150 million in 1980 – will reach 400 million in 2015.

I notice much of this myself. When I first came to the Middle East in 1976, it was crowded enough. Cairo's steaming, fetid streets were already jam-packed, night and day, with up to a million homeless living in the great Ottoman cemeteries. Arab homes are spotlessly clean but their streets are often repulsive, dirt and ordure spilling on to the pavements. Even in beautiful Lebanon, where a kind of democracy does exist and whose people are among the most educated and cultured in the Middle East, you find a similar phenomenon. In the rough hill villages of the south, the same cleanliness exists in every home. But why are the streets and the hills so dirty?

I suspect that a real problem exists in the mind of Arabs; they do not feel that they own their countries. Constantly coaxed into effusions of enthusiasm for Arab or national "unity", I think they do not feel that sense of belonging which Westerners feel. Unable, for the most part, to elect real representatives – even in Lebanon, outside the tribal or sectarian context – they feel "ruled over". The street, the country as a physical entity, belongs to someone else. And of course, the moment a movement comes along and – even worse – becomes popular, emergency laws are introduced to make these movements illegal or "terrorist". Thus it is always someone else's responsibility to look after the gardens and the hills and the streets.

And those who work within the state system – who work directly for the state and its corrupt autarchies – also feel that their existence depends on the same corruption upon which the state itself thrives. The people become part of the corruption. I shall always remember an Arab landlord, many years ago, bemoaning an anti-corruption drive by his government. "In the old days, I paid bribes and we got the phone mended and the water pipes mended and the electricity restored," he complained. "But what can I do now, Mr, Robert? I can't bribe anyone – so nothing gets done!" '

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Crackdown on Shia in Egypt

How naive of the US government to trust the Saudi royal jarab to deliver justice.

'Early last week, Amnesty International released a report highlighting the misuse of the “counter-terrorism” pretext by the Saudi Arabian government. The novel justification was used to perpetrate, according to Amnesty, human rights violations of “shocking” levels in what was an “already dire human rights situation”. Among the many cases cited in the report as evidence, mention is made of Hani al-Sayegh; a Saudi-Shi’a citizen who along with eight others, has been detained for close to 13 years “without trial”. The nine detainees, who have become widely known in the Eastern Province as Al-Mansiyoon (the Forgotten Ones), were detained in connection with the Khobar Towers bombings in 1996.

Interestingly, investigative journalist Gareth Porter retraced the details before and after the bombing in a recent five-part series of articles in which he points out:

“The Saudi regime steered the FBI investigation toward Iran and its Saudi Shi’a allies with the apparent intention of keeping U.S. officials away from a trail of evidence that would have led to Osama bin Laden and a complex set of ties between the regime and the Saudi terrorist organizer.” – (Inter Press Service, ‘Al Qaeda Excluded from the Suspects List’, 22 June 2009)

Today, the grim realities that have historically faced the Shi’a community in the Saudi Kingdom have little changed. In the predominantly Shi’a Eastern Province, reports of arbitrary detentions (including of juveniles) and cases of sectarian harassment are regular occurrences. Mai Yamani, a Saudi national and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center, notes that the “[s]uppression of the Shi’a is … a part of the Kingdom’s strategy to counter Iran”.

This posture is by no means unique to the Saudi Kingdom; indeed the same story is repeated in Bahrain, Kuwait and increasingly over recent years, in Egypt. In early 2006, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak declared: “Shi’as are mostly always loyal to Iran and not [to] the countries in which they live”. Not surprisingly thus, Egyptian media outlets upped the sectarian-ante following Hizbullah’s altercation with Mubarak during the Gaza war, which was shortly followed by the uncovering of a “Hizbullah-cell” in Egypt.

Since then, the Egyptian press has gone into a whirlwind of frenzy, labelling Shi’as and also – it must be strongly underlined – members of the popular Sunni socio-political movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, as “traitors”, “agents of Iran”, and an “inseparable part of the ‘Evil Crescent”. The give-away exposes, unmistakably, the underlying rationale for Egypt’s sectarian agenda. With the pattern of (deceptive) use of the sectarian card to silence critics of Mubarak’s regime firmly taking shape, the US administration – in requital – has pulled their man closer.

Media outlets are just beginning to reveal the extent of the wide-scale crackdown on the country’s Shi’a population following the high-profile arrest of leading Shi’a cleric Hassan Shehata at the beginning of this month. The director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), Hossam Bahgat, warned that the hostile treatment of Shi’as by the Egyptian security apparatus – motivated by the climate of “political tension between Cairo and Tehran” – could return to “explode in the face of the Egyptian regime”.

On the back of the most recent (reported) raid in which 13 citizens were detained on charges of spreading Shi’ism, the aggregating numbers of those targeted by Egypt’s sectarian-crackdown are truly shocking; for a country in which Shi’as supposedly account for only one-percent (1%) of the overall Muslim population (90%), early reports suggest in excess of 300 detentions in mere weeks.'

--Ali Jawad

Monday, July 27, 2009

US AID siphoned to insurgents

No surprise here...

'The top U.S. aid agency has suspended a $644 million Iraq jobs program after two outside reviews raised concerns about misspending, including an inspector general's audit that found evidence of phantom jobs and money siphoned to insurgents.

The Community Stabilization Program, launched in 2006, was designed to tamp down the insurgency by paying Iraqis cash to do public works projects such as trash removal and ditch digging. International Relief and Development (IRD), a Virginia-based non-profit corporation, ran the program, one of many it manages for the U.S. government.

It is rare for the U.S. Agency for International Development to suspend an ongoing aid program, particularly involving one of its major contractors. More than 80% of IRD's $500 million annual budget comes from USAID, company tax filings show.

The stabilization program "is generally thought of as one of the most effective counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq," Deputy Secretary of State Jacob Lew told USA TODAY.

In a little-noticed March 2008 audit, however, USAID's inspector general reported evidence that the program was being defrauded through overbilling and payments to ghost Iraqi employees.'

US soldiers killed innocent Iraqis

No surprise here either...

'Soldiers from an Army unit that had 10 infantrymen accused of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter after returning to civilian life described a breakdown in discipline during their Iraq deployment in which troops murdered civilians, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Some Fort Carson, Colo.-based soldiers have had trouble adjusting to life back in the United States, saying they refused to seek help, or were belittled or punished for seeking help. Others say they were ignored by their commanders, or coped through drug and alcohol abuse before they allegedly committed crimes, The Gazette of Colorado Springs said.

The Gazette based its report on months of interviews with soldiers and their families, medical and military records, court documents and photographs.

Several soldiers said unit discipline deteriorated while in Iraq.

"Toward the end, we were so mad and tired and frustrated," said Daniel Freeman. "You came too close, we lit you up. You didn't stop, we ran your car over with the Bradley," an armored fighting vehicle.

With each roadside bombing, soldiers would fire in all directions "and just light the whole area up," said Anthony Marquez, a friend of Freeman in the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. "If anyone was around, that was their fault. We smoked 'em."

Taxi drivers got shot for no reason, and others were dropped off bridges after interrogations, said Marcus Mifflin, who was eventually discharged with post traumatic stress syndrome.'

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Helping innocent victims

'Marwa had suffered terribly during the U.S.-led invasion. When she was 9, during an air raid, a bomb had ripped through her home. Her right thumb was shredded. Her nose was blown off. Worse than anything, her mother died.

Strangers, their politics and warfare, had taken almost everything from her. But it was also strangers, working for two aid groups, who had found an American hospital willing to help at no cost and a doctor who would make every effort to restore her pretty looks. UCLA was the hospital. Dr. Tim Miller, chief of plastic surgery, the doctor. Over the course of several difficult operations -- through a season of hardship that began with her fearful arrival in America, all alone because her father had to stay home and care for her siblings -- Dr. Miller did what he could. It wasn't perfect, and nothing could be done for her thumb, but he built her a nose.

And then, just when she seemed settled, everything would change again. Like several-score other Iraqi children who have been injured during the war, Marwa was allowed to come to this country only on a temporary visa. It didn't make much sense, didn't matter that her Iraqi neighborhood dripped in chaos, rules were rules, she had to go home.

I feared the worst. I knew Miller had vowed to have her return so he could finish the job, but I worried her family would become refugees in their own country, as so many have, and that nobody would be able to find her again. I worried she'd get caught in the web of destruction. That she'd be killed.

Then, this May, a call came from UCLA. "It's about Marwa," said the voice on the other end.

I held my breath.

"She's coming back! Coming back, for some finishing touches on her nose."

It turns out that over the last year, UCLA and the nonprofits -- the Palestine Children's Relief Fund and the Campaign for Innocent Victims of Conflict -- had worked diligently behind the scenes to have Marwa return. They had found her father, readied a new visa, bought plane tickets and arranged all the details.

Dr. Miller was a prime mover. He felt he understood her, having seen war's madness as a medic in the jungles of South Vietnam. Marwa had never left his thoughts. "She's just so delightful, such a complex and wonderful child," he said recently, a nod to a stubborn streak that, at times on that first visit, had veered into petulance but also to her easy charm and playful manner.

Miller said he'd met few people as resilient. "I've spent many a night wondering and worrying about her. I'd watch the news and see some of the terrible things happening there and think, 'Where is she . . . is Marwa OK?' "

Certainly, she had returned home looking better. She was no longer mercilessly taunted. Her prospects would be better as she approached marriage age.

Now 15, Marwa speaks of her nose calmly. "It good," she says, one of her stock English phrases. But sadly, tellingly, as if there is now nothing that can faze her, she discusses the hardship faced daily in Iraq with the same steely calm.

Shortly after returning home, Marwa and her family -- her father, his new bride, her three siblings -- were forced by threats of violence to move to another neighborhood, about 40 minutes from Baghdad. When they left, she says, the home was firebombed. Now they live in a one-bedroom home with a roof that has partly caved in.

Her father has had trouble finding work. Her 16-year-old brother puts in long hours at a car repair shop. He makes about $5 a day, she says, money that's key to feeding her family.

She's an observer. A mimic. Wise beyond her years. Sharp. When Marwa went home, there were hopes she would take advantage of these talents by returning to school. She dreamed of becoming an architect. But because of the tumult, she says, she has been unable to return to school. It's been four years since she was regularly in a classroom.

So it is that she has spent most days cooped up at home. It's too dangerous to go outside much. She cares for her siblings, helps make the food, cleans. Over and over, she reads letters given by her L.A. caretakers when she left here. When her tears dry, she watches Turkish soap operas and Jackie Chan movies, sometimes straining to hear them above the crackle of gunfire coming from her neighborhood.

At least the movies have helped with one thing: "English coming good," she told me the other day, her deep, dark eyes gleaming as we ate French toast at Mimi's Cafe near Griffith Park. She had gone there with Theresa Moussa, a UCLA Medical Center liaison who became a mother figure during her first trip. "Understand more," Marwa said of herself, haltingly, in English. "Speak more? Oh my God, very, very hard."

When I asked how much she'd missed this country -- a place she once feared, blaming American bombs for her disfigurement and her mother's death -- she let Theresa translate.

"The whole time I wanted to return, even if it was just for a little while," she said. "I just wanted to feel this place again."

How time changes things. She is taller, her face fuller, her shoulders growing strong. She has the same lightheartedness and little of the petulance. But underneath it all, there remains a deep wariness.

"Now I am back, I am happy," she said, through Theresa. "I don't want to think of leaving again, this hurts too much. . . . The future? Who knows the future?" '

Friday, July 24, 2009

Iranian VP fired

after he suggested Iranians are friends of the Israeli people! So the Islamic Revolution prohibits Iranians from being friends with ordinary Israelis.

Ali Khāmene’i is a schmuck, and so is his ugly puppet Ahmedinejad.

"Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed his most senior vice-president, it has been reported.

The decision, the state news agency Irna said, came after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered Mr Ahmadinejad to do so.

First Vice-President Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie had angered hardliners last year by saying Iranians and Israelis were friends."

What happened to Arab brilliance?

What happened to the Islamic scholars who sought scientific progress and social justice? What happened to Arab culture and learning? Has progress been strangled by tyranny? Why the disparaging view of Arabs in the West?

‘The names al-Khwarizmi, Avicenna, al-Idrisi, and Averroes - giants of Arab learning and dominant figures in medieval Europe for centuries - today invoke little if any response from the educated lay reader. Most are forgotten, little more than distant memories from a bygone era. Yet these were just a few of the players in an extraordinary Arab scientific and philosophical tradition that lies hidden under centuries of Western ignorance and outright anti-Muslim prejudice. A recent public opinion survey fount that a majority of Americans see “little” or “nothing” to admire in Islam or the Muslim world. But turn back the pages of time and it is impossible to envision Western civilization without the fruits of Arab science: al-Khwarizmi’s art of algebra, the comprehensive medical teachings and philosophy of Avicenna, the lasting geography and cartography of al-Idrisi, or the rigorous rationalism of Averroes.

Even more important than any individual work was the Arabs’ overall contribution that lies at the very heart of the contemporary West - the realization that science can grant man power over nature.

The power of Arab learning, championed by Adelard of Bath, refashioned Europe’s intellectual landscape. Its reach extended into the sixteenth century and beyond, shaping the groundbreaking work of Copernicus and Galileo. This brought Christian Europe face-to-face with the fact that the sun - not the earthly home of God’s creature, man - stood at the center of the universe. Averroes, the philosopher-judge from Muslim Spain, explained classical philosophy to the West and first introduced it to rationalist thought. Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine remained a standard European text into the 1600s. Arab books on optics, chemistry, and geography were equally long-lived.

The West’s willful forgetting of the Arab legacy began centuries ago, as anti-Muslim propaganda crafted in the shadow of the Crusades began to obscure any recognition of Arab culture’s profound role in the development of modern science. This message comprised four central themes, a number of which still resonate today: Islam distorts the word of God; it is spread solely by violence; it perverts human sexuality, either by encouraging the practice of polygamy, as in the famed harems of the sultans, or through repressive or excessively prudish attitudes; and its prophet, Muhammad, was a charlatan, a tool of the Devil, or even the Antichrist.

The thireenth-century philosopher Roger Bacon, one of the earliest Western proponents of the scientific method, praised the Muslims for their intellectual innovations, a subject he knew well: “Philosophy is drawn from the Muslims.” Yet the same Roger Bacon was just as enthusiastic in denouncing aspects of Muslim life of which he had no real knowledge or experience: The Arabs, he asserted confidently, “are absorbed in sensual pleasures because of their polygamy.” Soon such fanciful notions completely displaced all others in the popular imagination.’

--Form the Prologue to The House of Wisdom, by Jonathan Lyons

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Mr. Maliki goes to Washington

Maliki and the Iraqi government need the help of the US, but in Iraq Maliki must assert Iraq's sovereignty and pretend that the Iraqi government are defeating their enemies on their own, without US support.

"As Maliki's power grew, his relationship with the United States became increasingly contradictory. Just as his rise was enabled by U.S. support, his government's dependence on U.S. help -- particularly in the security field -- continues to this day. The Iraqi Army, for instance, still depends on U.S. air support, communications, procurement, and logistics in order to function. But Maliki has never really acknowledged this fact. Instead, he has become more nationalistic and anti-American in his public rhetoric. Although it seemed paradoxical to many observers at the time, during the negotiations surrounding the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Maliki was aggressive in asserting Iraq's sovereign rights. He forced the Bush administration to accept an unconditional timeline for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2011 and stated his willingness to accept immediate withdrawal if the United States did not accede to his terms. Since the signing of the agreement, Maliki has touted it as a heroically won expulsion of foreign forces from Iraqi soil. His nationalist stance continues today, as shown by the ostentatious celebrations he organized for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraqi cities on June 30.

Up to a point, the United States has welcomed Maliki's tough stance. One of the main reasons insurgents and violent actors are no longer able to find support among the Iraqi population is that most Iraqis think that the state has returned for good. Maintaining the public image of a strengthening, self-sufficient Iraqi government is thus a security priority for the United States and will be essential for the planned withdrawal of troops over the coming years. Most U.S. policymakers also accept Iraqi political realities, particularly as Iraq heads into January 2010's parliamentary elections, which will be critical for the long-term political future of Iraq. Indeed, the idea that the United States could invade an Arab country, topple its government, and establish a new one that would earn democratic legitimacy and be an ally of the United States was always unlikely given regional political dynamics and Iraq's history, which require some degree of distance from Washington.

Still, behind closed doors, many Iraqi leaders, including the prime minister's advisors, express their desire for a close long-term relationship with the United States. They think Iraq will need U.S. military support well beyond 2011 (requiring a negotiation of a new agreement superseding the SOFA) and would like the very favorable terms on which Uncle Sam provides this support to continue. Moreover, every Iraqi who comes through Washington these days, or who catches the ear of an American in Baghdad, stresses the importance of implementing the strategic framework agreement (SFA), a document committing the United States to support Iraq in economic, diplomatic, cultural, and even security fields. Maliki himself on his current trip to Washington will co-chair, along with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a meeting of the higher coordinating committee for SFA implementation."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Iraq is 6th in Failed States Index

2009 Failed States Index: The top five countries are in Africa. Iraq is 6th and Afghanistan is 7th. Both Iraq and Afghanistan scored a 10 in "External Intervention".

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

As the "resistance" continues...

"Children, shoppers and men looking for a day's work were among the dead in attacks in Baghdad, Ramadi and Baqouba, cities that saw some of the most intense fighting of Iraq's long war but have since experienced sharp drops in violence.

...Tuesday's violence began just after 5 a.m., when two bombs exploded a few seconds apart near a group of day laborers in the Shiite district of Sadr City in northeast Baghdad, which was often targeted at the height of sectarian bloodletting between Sunnis and Shiites in 2006 and 2007.

Police said one bomb was hidden in a food stall and the other was concealed in a trash pile, and that four people died and 31 were injured.

Ahmed Ali was working in a nearby bakery when the explosions occurred.

"After a few seconds, dust and smoke reached the bakery. We stayed inside because we feared other explosions might occur," Ali said. "After about five minutes, we went out to see what happened. We saw the bodies covered with blood and some food containers and construction tools scattered here and there."

At around 11:30 a.m., a roadside bomb exploded near a market in Sadr City, killing four people and wounding at least 21, police and hospital officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The dead included a baby girl and a 10-year-old girl.

In the Dora district of south Baghdad, two people died and six were wounded when a car bomb exploded near a wholesale produce market. And in Ramadi, 70 miles (115 kilometers) west of Baghdad, a suicide car bomber targeted a restaurant and killed a doctor and injured 19 other people, including several children, said police Maj. Gen. Tareq Youssef.

Ramadi is the capital of Anbar province, a former Sunni insurgent stronghold. Police in the province on Tuesday declared a two-day ban on the use of vehicles and motorcycles as they searched for suspects in a recent spate of bombings in Ramadi and nearby Fallujah.

Also, a woman and her child were killed by a bomb hidden in trash in Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, said police Col. Ghalib al-Kharki.

At around 7:45 p.m., bombs killed five civilians and wounded 29 in an open-air market in Husseiniya, just northeast of Baghdad, police and medical officials said. Two bombs were hidden in trash about 50 meters apart and exploded within a few seconds of each other."

Monday, July 20, 2009

Saddam on the Moon

On the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing, I would like to mark the occasion by remembering all the Arabs who saw Saddam's face on the moon after he was hung for crimes against humanity.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Saddam killed 300,000 Iraqis in 1991

'On March 2, in Basra's Sa'ad Square, an Iraqi tank driver turned his turret toward a two-story portrait of Saddam Hussein and fired. The shell ignited a rebellion that spread from Basra up the Euphrates and Tigris river valleys, reaching the southern outskirts of Baghdad.

In Nasiriyah, crowds literally tore Ba'ath Party officials apart. Government offices, Ba'ath Party headquarters, and military installations were looted and burned. The intensity of Shiite feelings was encapsulated for me in an incident that I witnessed a few weeks later.

I was in a refugee camp on the Iraq-Kuwait border when a U.S. Army medic in a Humvee drove into the camp. Four children, he said, had been collecting tomatoes on the Iraqi side of the border when they stepped on unexploded American ordnance. It had detonated. Was there a doctor, he asked. I rounded up the only available medical person, a Kuwaiti medical student, and drove him into Iraq. Three of the children had been moved to an American field hospital. The medic pointed a pin light in a twelve-year-old boy's eyes. There was no response.

As I watched, the boy's mother came up the road, unaware that anything had happened. Then she saw her dead son, his knees torn open. Asshe ripped at her hair and clothes, the first words from her lips were "Saddam did this."

About ten days after the uprising began, Saddam consolidated his position sufficiently to move some Republican Guards south. Unlike the conscript army, the Republican Guards were mostly Sunni Arabs and their officers included many from Saddam's own Tikriti clan. The Republican Guards were the regime's last line of defense and Saddam had deliberately kept them out of battle in Kuwait. They were intact and not demoralized by military defeat.

In mid-March, American troops still occupied southern Iraq, holding positions not far from the cities and towns along the Euphrates Valley. The Iraqi advance on the rebellious Shiites arguably violated the cease-fire terms ending the Gulf War dictated by the U.S. theater commander General Norman Schwarzkopf, which Iraq had accepted on March 3. American troops in Iraq could have stopped the Republican Guards and saved tens of thousands of lives. But they had strict orders not to intervene.

Saddam's retribution was swift and terrible. Republican Guard tanks blasted apart ancient city centers. Shiite shrines became battlegrounds and then slaughterhouses as rebels, clerics, and unlucky civilians were massacred. The Republican Guard attached nooses to the gun barrels of their tanks, hanging Shiite men -- several at a time -- by elevating the gun. As all this took place, American soldiers looked on, many seething with anger because they were not allowed to stop the killings. Patrick Lowe was one of the soldiers who witnessed the atrocities. Years later, he heard me on the radio and sent me an e-mail describing what he had seen:

I was a recon scout with the 1st Armored Division. I was responsible for graves registration and EPW's [enemy prisoners of war] for the Squadron. After the ground war I was assigned to an area on the Baghdad to Basrah Highway, about 3 miles outside of Basrah. I watched as Iraq helicopter gun ships flew into the city and gunned down everything in their way. I watched as troops were sent in and I can tell you, first hand, what was going on in Basrah.

I was the one that had to process the civilian refugees that fled the town. They pleaded with me to do something, anything to stop this wholesale mass murder. I heard stories of women and children being burned alive, in their homes. Women being raped to death, men being chopped up alive. Civilians being used for target practice, mass hangings. I can hear their screams and wailing to this day on bad nights. I remember one day in particular. I had been pleading for almost 3 days with my chain of command to let me do something about what was going on. The Squadron Commander flew up to my position, and we had a face to face. He ordered me to do nothing without express orders. In 12 years of service that is the closest that I ever came to disobeying a serious direct order. I even went to the point of sending a patrol out to get closer to the killing fields to see if the Iraq soldiers would shoot at them so that I had a reason to engage and protect those innocent civilians. They did not engage and so we continued to sit and watch. I have never been more ashamed of our country's actions as I was at that point.

To this day, the time I spent on the Baghdad to Basrah highways haunts me. I should have not just sat there and watched. I should have fought for them. I should have done something, anything to stop the blood bath. We are sworn to protect and yet we sat, I sat and watched hundreds of thousands die in the most horrible ways possible.

Between March and September 1991, the Iraqi Army and security services killed as many as 300,000 Shiites. One mass grave near the city of Hillah is said to hold 30,000 bodies alone.

While George H. W. Bush's call for the uprising may well have been a careless ad lib, this is not how Iraq's Shiites saw it. They believe Bush encouraged the uprising and intentionally allowed Saddam to crush it because Bush wanted Shiites to be killed.

The Kurdish uprising began in a similar manner to the Shiite uprising, but ended very differently. On March 6, 1991, a mob attacked the Ba'ath Party headquarters in Rania, a town at the edge of the mountains in Eastern Kurdistan. By March 14, rebels controlled most of Kurdistan, and on March 21 the Kurds took over Kirkuk, the place some call Kurdistan's Jerusalem.

Like the Shiites in the south, the Kurds vented their fury against the regime. When the rebels took over the General Security Directorate headquarters in Suleimania, they caught the security agents about to execute the remaining prisoners. Instead, the security men were shot. An elderly woman threw herself on one of the corpses, biting and kicking it. As the crowd tried to pull her off, she explained, "He killed three of my sons. Don't I have the right to do this to him?" '

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

July 14, 1958

My mother believes the time of King Faisal was the best time for Iraq. It's interesting that the monarchy in Jordan has survived all these decades of political upheaval in the mid east. And what happened to the union between Egypt, Syria, and Iraq? What happened to Arab nationalism?

1958: Coup in Iraq sparks jitters in Middle East

'A group of Iraqi army officers have staged a coup in Iraq and overthrown the monarchy.

Baghdad Radio announced the Army has liberated the Iraqi people from domination by a corrupt group put in power by "imperialism".

From now on Iraq would be a republic that would "maintain ties with other Arab countries". It said some 12,000 Iraqi troops based in neighbouring Jordan have been ordered to return.

Major-General Abdul Karim el Qasim is Iraq's new prime minister, defence minister and commander-in-chief.

Baghdad Radio also announced that Crown Prince Abdul Illah and Nuri es Said, prime minister of the Iraq-Jordan Federation, had been assassinated.

King Faisal reported killed

It said the body of the Crown Prince, the powerful uncle of 23-year-old King Faisal, was hanging outside the Defence Ministry for all to see.

Reports from the US Embassy in Baghdad say the British Embassy has been ransacked and set on fire. The ambassador, Sir Michael Wright, and his wife were held at the embassy until late this afternoon when they were released. They are now in a Baghdad hotel.

Unconfirmed reports suggest King Faisal himself has also been killed.

His cousin, King Hussein of Jordan, has declared himself head of the Arab Federation - the five-month alliance between Iraq and Jordan - in the "absence" of King Faisal.

In a broadcast to his subjects, King Hussein condemned the coup as the work of outsiders.

While Iraqis are celebrating on the streets of Baghdad, the news is a cause for concern for western powers worried about their oil interests and instability in the region.

Mixed reaction in Arab world

The insurrection was probably inspired by a similar uprising staged in Egypt by Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser six years ago. In February this year he formed a political union between Egypt and Syria known as the United Arab Republic (UAR).

Radio stations in the UAR are naturally delighted by news of the Iraq coup.

But leaders of Jordan and Lebanon fear it might inspire Arab nationalist rebellions in their own states and have appealed to Britain and the United States to send troops to their countries.

The US President Dwight D Eisenhower is said to be "extremely disturbed" by the Iraqi revolt and has called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council.

Officials in Washington fear the Iraqi coup will mean the end of the Baghdad Pact whose members include Turkey, Persia and Pakistan. It was intended to stem the influence of the Soviet Union in the region.

There are fears the Iraq coup will have a domino effect and that the pro-Western oil regimes of Kuwait, Bahrain and the Trucial States may fall to Arab nationalists.'

US shared intelligence with Saddam even after Halabja

'As they rallied support for their respective wars, both President George H.W. Bush and his son President George W. Bush emphasized that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who had “gassed his own people.” At the time Saddam was doing the gassing, the Reagan Administration adopted the same indifferent posture toward Iraq’s use of these weapons on the Kurdish civilians as it had adopted toward the gassing of Iranian soldiers. Although the poison gas attacks on Kurdish villages begain in March 1987 - and were presumably known at least to U.S. intelligence agencies - neither U.S. officials nor anyone else in the international community said a word publicly.

On the morning of March 16, 1988, Iraqi warplanes flew over the small city of Halabja, on a plain east of the strategically important Darbandikan Dam in Eastern Kurdistan. The day before, Iranian Pasdaran (Revolutionary Guards) and Kurdish peshmerga had captured the city, but both forces withdrew, possibly suspecting an Iraqi attack. Three years later, I was in Halabja and the survivors told me what happened next. There followed a smell that resembled burned almonds. Leaves turned brown, and people dropped dead. The corpses turned black. I was shown the basement of a house - still shut up for fear of the lingering effects of the poison - where fort-eight men, women, and children had taken shelter and died. The floor was littered with rotting clothes. At the graveyard, a man stuck his hand in a pile of dirt and pulled out two skulls. They were small, the skulls of children.

More than five thousand people died in the Halabja gassing. The Iranians saw a potential propaganda coup. They brought Iranian and Western journalists into the dead city. On a doorstep, a man wearing baggy Kurdish trousers and turban lay dead with the corpse of a swaddled baby in his arms. The photo of that scene was transmitted around the world.

World opinion reacted to Halabja with horror. In the U.S. Congress, Senator George Mitchell, a Maine Democrat, introduced a non-binding sense-of-the-Senate resolution denouncing Iraq for the attacks. Reagan’s tilt toward Iraq was running into trouble just when it seemed Iran might win the war. Although survivors described planes with Iraqi markings, the Reagan Administration suggested that both Iran and Iraq were responsible. It was an illogical lie - why would Iran attack its own allies - but one that successfully obscured the issue with the American media and foreign policy cognoscenti.

Over the next few months, the fortunes of the war shifted sharply in Iraq’s favor. Iraq retook the Faw Peninsula on April 17, 1988, in a thirty-five-hour amphibious operation that made extensive use of nerve gas. Video shot afterward showed the corpses of Iranian soldiers surrounded by syringes as they tried to inject themselves with atropine in a fruitless effort to administer an antidote. By the summer of 1988, the Iraqi Army had recaptured almost all the territory that Iran had taken since 1982. For six years, Iran had continued the war because Khomeini wanted Saddam Hussein’s head. At last, Khomeini recognized that this was not to be. Iran accepted U.N. Security Council Resolution 598, which called for a cessation of hostilities and a return to the status quo ante. It was, said Khomeini, like drinking poison.

It was an apt metaphor. Poison gas was decisive to Saddam’s survival, and the American help with targeting was invaluable. While I have found no evidence that the Reagan Administration provided Iraq with battlefield intelligence related to the Halabja attack, this cannot be ruled out. Even after Halabja, the Reagan Administration continued to provide intelligence that Iraq used to target its chemical weapons more accurately.

Iran’s propaganda coup at Halabja backfired. The images shown on Iranian television were terrifying, and recruitment into the armed forces dropped precipitously. With massive international debts, Iraq was in no position to resist international pressure to stop using chemical weapons. By falsely suggesting that Iran was also responsible for the atrocity, the Reagan Administration helped make sure there was no such pressure.

On August 20, 1988, an armistice went into effect between the two countries.'

--Peter W. Galbraith, The End of Iraq

Monday, July 13, 2009

Reagan overlooked genocide in Iraq

'In 1981, the Reagan Administration continued its predecessor's hands-off approach to the war. But after Iran turned the military tide in 1982, the Administration became concerned about the consequences of an Iranian victory. It also saw an opportunity to move Iraq from its alliance with the Soviet Union into a closer relationship with the United States, a relationship that the more optimistic Administration strategists thought might actually replace the lost alliance with the Shah as a means for protecting American interests in the northern Persian Gulf.

Just as Iraq started using poison gas, the Reagan Administration began in earnest its courtship of Saddam Hussein. In staffing his administration, Ronald Reagan had passed over Donald Rumsfeld, President Gerald Ford's chief of staff and defense secretary. In 1983, as something of a consolation prize, Reagan asked Rumsfeld to be his special emissary to Saddam Hussein with the goal of reestablishing diplomatic relations, which Iraq had severed in 1967 in retaliation for U.S. support for Israel in the Arab-Israeli Six Day War. Years later, as he pushed the United States to war in 2002, Rumsfeld claimed that he had protested Iraq's use of chemical weapons, but he did not raise the matter in his two meetings with Saddam Hussein. Meeting with Saddam in December 1983, Rumsfeld discussed America and Iraq's common antipathy for Iran and Syria, U.S. efforts to stop arms going to Iran, and U.S. financing for an oil pipeline from Iraq to the Jordanian port of Aqaba. Even though the second meeting, in March 1984, took place after the State Department publicly expressed concern about Iraq's use of chemical weapons, Rumsfeld was silent on the matter with the dictator. He did tell Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz that the international community took a dim view of Iraq's use of chemical weapons, but by raising the matter with Aziz and not Saddam, Rumsfeld clearly signaled that Iraq's use of chemical weapons was a secondary issue for the Reagan Administration.

In March 1984, the U.N. secretary-general submitted an experts' report to the Security Council on Iraq's use of chemical weapons. The Dutch and British representatives to the U.N. circulated a resolution condemning the use of chemical weapons (without specifically blaming Iraq) but the United States took no significant actions to support its allies. The State Department did meet with Nizar Hamdoon, Iraq's ambassador to the United States, to discuss how the Security Council might handle the issue in a way that would cause the fewest objections in Baghdad. The Iraqis did not want the Security Council to adopt a resolution on the matter (which could have been legally consequential) and asked instead for U.S. support in limiting any Security Council action to a statement by the council's president. The Reagan Administration obliged and the Iraqis got the outcome they desired. At the U.N. Human Rights Commission, the Reagan Administration went a step further and actively opposed a resolution condemning Iraq's use of chemical weapons.

In 1982, Ronald Reagan removed Iraq from the State Department's list of countries supporting terrorism, although there had been no significant change in Iraq's support for radical Palestinian groups that were the principal terrorist concern at the time. The Administration began providing guarantees from the government-controlled Commodity Credit Corporation for Iraqi purchases of U.S. agricultural products in 1983 and extended Export-Import Bank credits to Iraq in 1984. While these credits were intended to finance the purchases of U.S. agricultural and manufactured goods, they aided Iraq's war effort by freeing up other funds that could be used for military purposes. By 1988, U.S. subsidies to Iraq approached $1 billion a year.

In 1983, the Reagan Administration ordered the CIA to share battlefield intelligence with Iraq. Liaison officers provided Iraq with the locations of Iranian units, which enabled Iraq to anticipate and prepare for Iranian attacks. Assisted by American intelligence, Iraq was able to target Iranian troop concentrations with chemical weapons. The Administration certainly knew how its intelligence was being used. Thus, while the State Department publicly criticized Iraq for the use of chemical weapons, the Reagan Administration was working secretly to make them more effective.*

Ronald Reagan had good reasons not to want to see Iraq lose the Iran-Iraq War. If Iran prevailed, it would install in power like-minded Iraqi Shiites -- men such as Bakr al Hakim -- who would give Iran de facto control over the vast oil resources of both countries. Reagan's strategists feared that Iran would emerge as the preeminent power in the Persian Gulf, and be in a position to spread its revolutionary Islamic message to the Gulf's Shiite crescent, which includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia's oil-rich Eastern Province, and Kuwait.

However, Reagan's courtship of Saddam was not just about blocking an Iranian victory in the war. The president and his team saw in Saddam Hussein a potential partner in the Middle East, both politically and economically. By seeing in Saddam what he wanted to see, Reagan overlooked, and then became an apologist for, gross human rights violations, the use of poison gas, and, ultimately, genocide.'

--Peter W. Galbraith, The End of Iraq

Federal deficit hits $1 Trillion

Wow. Everybody saw this coming, but it's still shocking. I remember as a college student learning the national debt was $3 trillion, and in the mid 1990s federal deficits were being eliminated. In 1999 the US government announced a plan to reduce the national debt to $1.2 trillion by 2009. The national debt today is $11.5 trillion.

Budget deficit tops $1 trillion for first time

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nine months into the fiscal year, the federal deficit has topped $1 trillion for the first time.

The imbalance is intensifying fears about higher interest rates and inflation, and already pressuring the value of the dollar. There's also concern about trying to reverse the deficit — by reducing government spending or raising taxes — in the midst of a harsh recession.

The Treasury Department said Monday that the deficit in June totaled $94.3 billion, pushing the total since the budget year started in October to nearly $1.1 trillion.

The deficit has been propelled by the huge sum the government has spent to combat the recession and financial crisis, combined with a sharp decline in tax revenues. Paying for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also is a major factor.'


No more pre-48 Arabic names on Israeli road signs

To assert the Jewishness of Jerusalem, the Israeli government has decided to replace "Al Quds" (the Arabic name for Jerusalem: القدس) with a transliteration of "Yerushalaim" in Arabic on their road signs. English names such as Nazereth will also be replaced with transliterations of the Hebrew name. I heard this on BBC World Service today. Needless to say, I haven't seen coverage of this in the US media.

The Arab resistance will surely be pissed about this, and will probably bomb an Iraqi market to protest.

Row over 'standard' Hebrew signs

'Israeli transport chiefs have unveiled a plan to replace traditional Arabic and English place names on road signs, keeping only their Hebrew versions.

It means biblical locations such as Nazareth and Caesarea will come to be identified as Natsrat and Kesriya.

The Transport Ministry planners said a lack of uniform spelling on road signs caused confusion for drivers.

Israeli Arabs said it is an attempt to erase the Arabic language and heritage which predates the modern Israel.

"[Transport Minister Yisrael] Katz is mistaken if he thinks that changing a few words can erase the existence of the Arab people," said Arab MP Ahmed Tibi.

Currently most Israeli road signs are written in Hebrew, Arabic and English, using the traditional names in each language.

Jerusalem is identified as "Yerushalaim" in Hebrew, "Jerusalem" in English, and "al-Quds" in Arabic (along with "Yerushalaim" written in Arabic script).

Under the new policy the Holy City will only be identified as Yerushalaim in all three languages.

Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, which still has a sizeable community of Arabs who trace their ancestry to pre-1948 Palestine, will in future be written as Hebraised Yafo.'

Iraq beats Palestine 4-0 in Baghdad

Soccer will help Iraq heal itself.
'In the capital, Shaab stadium was filled to capacity with 45,000 fans who were allowed free entry. Some supporters sat on the edge of the field, and police were barely able to contain the crowds that poured into the stadium.

Fans waved Iraqi and Palestinian flags and chanted "Glory to Baghdad", "The Shiites and the Sunnis are brothers" and "Our hearts are with Gaza."

Balloons and white doves were released before the start of the match.

Hawar Mulah Mohammed scored the first goal in the 27th minute, while Karar Jassim and Alaa Abdul-Zahraa consolidated the lead. Emad Mohammed scored the fourth goal with a penalty kick.

"I insisted on coming here despite my disability and the heat," said Karim Ahmed, who came to the stadium from Baghdad's Sadr City district in a wheelchair four hours before the start of the match. "All the fans are eager to see the national team in Baghdad. It is a clear sign that Iraqis are not deterred by terrorist attacks."

Najih Hamoud, a senior Iraqi soccer federation official, said the match showed that Baghdad is safe.

"We hope that this match will make the FIFA officials think of lifting the ban on holding matches in Baghdad," he said.

Although violence is sharply down, insurgents still carry out attacks regularly. Four people died in bombings of churches in the capital on Sunday.'

The Resistance is Retarded

It seems all the resistance can do in Iraq is bomb markets, mosques, churches, police stations, and on occasion they manage to attack US soldiers, who want to help stabilize the country. What kind of resistance bombs markets, places of worship, and soldiers who want to help renovate schools and medical centers?

"Seven American soldiers and a linguist traveling with them were wounded in a bomb blast as they walked out of a meeting with local government officials in northern Iraq, a United States military spokesman said Monday.

...The soldiers had traveled to the town, in generally peaceful Salahuddin Province, to discuss possible United States military participation in several projects, including renovating schools and medical centers, said Lt. Sean P. Riordan, a military spokesman in Baghdad. They were transported to a nearby base for treatment, but the extent of their injuries was not immediately known."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Baghdad Churches Bombed

Extremists resume their attacks on Iraqi Christians.
Sixteen people are also wounded as worshipers leave evening Mass at one Baghdad church. Christians fear renewed persecution just days after U.S. forces withdrew from Iraqi cities.
By Liz Sly 
1:04 PM PDT, July 12, 2009
Reporting from Baghdad -- Bombs exploded outside five churches around Baghdad on Sunday evening, killing four people and sowing fears among the country's dwindling Christian minority that they may be subject to a fresh round of persecution now that U.S. forces have withdrawn from Iraq's cities.

The four deaths occurred when a car bomb detonated outside the Virgin Mary Church in the east Baghdad neighborhood of Ghadeer as worshipers were leaving evening Mass. Sixteen people were wounded.


Is Maliki abusing his powers?

"Maliki’s ascent has become a familiar narrative in Iraq. In 2006, a reputation for weakness helped secure him the post. Opponents deemed him malleable. Since then, he has concentrated power in the hands of what critics call “the impenetrable circle’’ and taken command of military units that delivered him and his Dawa party what they had lacked since 2003: men with guns.

But the narrative still tells only part of the story of how complicated Iraq is these days. Everyone seems to be looking for an angle, in pursuit of the coalition they think can triumph in the January elections. Everyone has a grievance, no less pronounced.

Maliki’s Shi’ite rivals - followers of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq - have fought for primacy in the southern province of Qadisiyah. Another group, known as Sahwa or Awakening, filled by former Sunni fighters and long backed by the US military, is hopelessly divided. Maliki has cracked down on some of its leaders, especially in Baghdad.

An Iraqi official said Maliki had ordered the arrests of at least six of the party’s candidates a week before the January elections. The official said he was stopped only after General Ray Odierno, the commander of US forces in Iraq, personally intervened."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Iraq beats Palestine 3-0

Iraqi soccer team wins 1st home game in 7 years


IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — Iraq played its first home soccer game since 2002, defeating Palestine 3-0 in a match that was as much about the nation's struggle for stability as it was about sports.

A sellout crowd of about 25,000 attended the exhibition game at Fransou Hariri Stadium, many waving Iraq and Palestine flags and chanting "Iraq, Iraq."

Some fans sat on the roofs of nearby buildings to catch a glimpse of the game in the capital of a Kurd-ruled region that was safer than many other parts of the country.

Palestine planned to fly to Baghdad for a second game Monday despite a deadly wave of bombings in the capital Thursday.


Saddam Built 81 Palaces

while ordinary Iraqis starved and were imprisoned in their own country.

"These extraordinary images—published here for the first time—show the imperial palaces of Saddam Hussein converted into temporary housing for the U.S military. Vast, self-indulgent halls of columned marble and extravagant chandeliers, surrounded by pools, walls, moats, and, beyond that, empty desert, suddenly look more like college dormitories.

...I had heard plenty about Saddam's palaces. They were the focus of the International Atomic Energy Association's tedious investigations in the years preceding the invasion, and the news was always full of delegations being turned away from this or that palace. Why were we so keen to get inside Saddam's palaces? Because he built so many—81 in total. Surely, we thought, he must be hiding something in those palace complexes. Surely he must be building subterranean particle accelerators. And, in the end, our curiosity got the better of us.

In fact, Saddam was building palaces in every city as an expression of his authority. Palace architecture in Iraq served as a constant reminder of Saddam's immanence. A palace in your city simply fed the sense that Saddam was not just nearby—he was everywhere. Saddam was omnipresent.

...Marble that was used in the palace (such as in the great spacious bathrooms) was imported from Italy, in spite of the trade embargo. And the plaster cast frescoes in the ceilings were imported from Morocco."

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Is "clear and hold" enough?

"As the United States entered the fourth year of occupying Iraq, it had 130,000 troops battling a Sunni Arab insurgency. Based in a community that is no more than 20 percent of Iraq's population, the Sunni Arab insurgents cannot prevail militarily. But they cannot be readily be defeated either. The U.S. can clear insurgents out of Sunni cities, but it has insufficient forces to hold the territory. Pushed out of one area, the insurgents move to another and return when the Americans move on."
--Peter W. Galbraith, The End of Iraq

But how can security forces protect Iraqi citizens from suicide bombers?

“We need more security forces to protect us,” a shopkeeper who would identify himself only as Ali said in the aftermath of an attack in the Sadr City section of Baghdad.

The persistent violence in Mosul and Nineveh underscores the broader turmoil afflicting Iraq. But it also reflects the region’s unique mixture of insurgency and ethnic tensions between Kurds and Arabs, as well as a proliferation of criminal gangs, that makes the north the most dangerous part of the country.

That was supposed to change last spring, when 4,000 American troops joined more than 25,000 Iraqi security personnel to clean out Mosul’s neighborhoods one by one. Just as significantly, a Sunni Arab political bloc won in January’s provincial elections, giving the Arab citizens of the north proportional representation for the first time and, it was hoped, defusing antigovernment sentiment and support for insurgents. It has not turned out that way.’

Israelis get 4 times as much water as Palestinians

Guess where the water comes from. I thought the inequities were bad in Gaza when Israeli settlers were there, but it seems the injustice continues in the West Bank. How sad.

The brave Arab resistance will do something about this. They are right around the corner, our brave resistance that fights for justice and self-destermination!

"The West Bank is home to an important regional water source.

According to a World Bank report published this year, Israel keeps 80% of water it drills from the mountain aquifer for Israeli citizens.

Palestinians get the leftovers. It is not enough."

Iraqi democracy comes with huge costs

It's not a perfect democracy and it must do much more to create a truly egalitarian society, but today's Iraq is more of a democracy than it was before 2003. The cost of democracy to Iraq has been huge, in terms of dollars and lives, and Iraq's Shi3a and Kurds continue to pay a heavy price for their freedom, even after US troops have withdrawn from Iraq's cities. Iraqi Sunni Arabs who fight the terrorists have also been attacked and murdered, many times with their wives and kids.

"In 2003, the United States ousted the last, and most brutal, of Iraq's Sunni Arab dictators. It smashed Iraq's army and then legally dissolved the Iraqi military, security services, and Ba'ath Party. The army and secret police were the institutions that had enabled Iraq's Sunni Arab minority to rule for eighty years. With these repressive institutions gone, Iraq's Shiite majority took power through democratic elections in 2005 and asserted sectarian control over key institutions, including police. In the constitutional negotiations in August 2005, the Kurds consolidated the independence they always wanted. The Sunni Arabs resented bitterly their loss of historic hegemony and violently resisted a Shiite-dominated new order. Civil war was always a possible, if not likely, outcome. The only remarkable thing is that it caught the Bush Administration by surprise."
--Peter W. Galbraith, The End of Iraq

Monday, July 06, 2009

Surge shoulda happened in 2003

It is said that hindsight is 20/20, and although I appreciate Mr. Powell's acknowledgement of the mistakes made in Iraq, it still hurts to think that the deaths of many Iraqis could have been prevented. Imagine what the outcome of invasion would have been if the US had sent as many troops as were sent in 1991.

Powell says Iraq surge should have come earlier

WASHINGTON (AP) — Colin Powell says the U.S. took too long to strengthen its forces in Iraq after Baghdad fell early in the war.

Powell, the nation's top military officer under President George H.W. Bush and secretary of state for President George W. Bush, said the decision to use a lighter force to defeat the Iraqi army was correct. But he said in a television interview broadcast Sunday that the younger Bush's administration should have realized the initial success in 2003 was only the start of a longer fight.

"Unfortunately, the war wasn't over" after Baghdad fell and Saddam Hussein was ousted, Powell said. "The war was just beginning. And then it took us, in my judgment, too long to recognize that we needed to put more force in.

"I think we would have been in a much different place if we had surged in the fall of 2003, rather than many years later," he said on "State of the Union," on CNN.


Sunday, July 05, 2009

Saudi Shia Stand Up

Somehow I missed this article published in March: "Saudi Arabia’s Shia Stand Up"

"On February 24, violent confrontations between Shia pilgrims and the Saudi religious police and security forces occurred at the entrance to the Prophet Mohamed's Mosque in Medina. The timing and location of the clashes may have serious repercussions for domestic security, if not for the regime itself.

Some 2,000 Shia pilgrims gathered near the mosque that houses the Prophet's tomb for the commemoration of Mohamed's death, an act of worship that the ruling Saudi Wahhabi sect considers heretical and idolatrous. Thus, the Mutawa'ah, the religious police of the Committee for the Preservation of Virtue and the Prohibition of Vice, armed with sticks and backed by police firing into the air, tried to disperse the pilgrims. The pilgrims resisted. Three pilgrims died and hundreds were injured in the ensuing stampede. A large number of pilgrims remain in detention, among them 15 teenage boys.

Soon after, representatives of Saudi Arabia's Shia community sought a meeting with King Abdullah in an effort to free the detainees. Dialogue seemed like a promising strategy: just ten days earlier, Abdullah had announced a promising reform agenda for the country. But the King refused to meet the Shia delegation.

...So far, King Abdullah has shown no sign of opting for a policy of inclusion - not even a token gesture, such as a Shia minister. Moreover, Abdullah is unable even to stop Wahhabi satellite TV stations from denouncing the Shia "heretics," or the hundreds of Wahhabi Web sites that call for the outright elimination of the Shia."

Read the entire article. It's a good one. Thanks Ustath As3ad for posting.