Monday, August 31, 2009

The American Health Care System

I've been on vacation and haven't had time to blog, but before I forget, and while it is topical, I want to write a post about my family's experiences with the American health care system.

I'll begin with my mother's experiences. When we first moved to Colorado in 1975, my parents were impressed with American hospitals - they are far superior to anything in the Middle East. Our health insurance was paid for by the Iraqi government, since my dad was on a government-sponsored scholarship. Our family was cared for by the excellent doctors at Lutheran Medical Center in Wheat Ridge, where my mother was warned early on that her diet would result in adult onset (Type II) diabetes. Her doctor referred her to a staff dietitian, who put her on a diet that saved her from diabetes. She is still grateful to that doctor at Lutheran.

In 1980 we returned to Iraq, where health care is a joke. In 1982 we fled the tyranny of Saddam's regime and returned to Colorado. This time we were not insured and my parents were jobless. Unfortunately my mother was not in good health. She had been suffering from dysfunctional uterine bleeding. She visited Denver General Hospital, but was refused treatment because she was not insured. As her condition worsened and the bleeding became more severe, my father's friend, a doctor in Texas, offered to perform a hysterectomy without charge. We moved to Texas, the hysterectomy was performed, and my mother became healthy again. We were very lucky to have such a friend. We moved back to Colorado in 1984, when my father found a job and again we had health insurance.

During her last years living in Colorado in the late 1990s, my mother often felt she had no energy and she had difficulty swallowing food. By that time we were covered by Kaiser Permanente. She visited her doctor, who examined her mouth and throat and concluded nothing was wrong with her. In 2000 she moved to the UK and joined my father, who began working in London the previous year. By this time her condition worsened to the point where dark spots began appearing inside her mouth, and swallowing food became nearly impossible. Within days of moving to London she visited an NHS GP (General Practitioner), who immediately referred her to St. Mary's Hospital. It took weeks, but the doctors at St. Mary's were determined to diagnose the cause of my mother's illness, and they also used her case to teach medical students - St. Mary's is also a teaching hospital. After several blood tests, St. Mary's doctors determined that my mother was suffering from a severe deficiency of vitamin B12. They immediately placed her on a regiment of two B12 injections per week. After the second injection, the dark spots in her mouth disappeared. She began feeling energy she hadn't felt in years. She was so happy she felt compelled to visit St. Mary's Hospital to thank the doctors for their hard work and determination. She told them what they had done was magic. They told her that she had been B12-deficient for years. She continues to receive an injection of B12 every three months, and she says she loves the NHS. She still lambastes Kaiser Colorado for failing to diagnose her B12 deficiency.

It sucks to be unemployed and diabetic in Los Angeles

Second, I'll summarize my brother's experiences with Kaiser and the American "health care" system. My brother was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 11. During his first years of diabetes my brother was cared for at the Barbara Davis Diabetes Center, which provides excellent (and free) care for diabetic children. At age 14 my brother was covered by my mother's health insurance through Kaiser Permanente. Unlike my sister, who also has Type 1 diabetes and controls her blood sugar quite well, my little brother is not very good at controlling his blood sugar. His blood sugar often rises to 200 and higher, which may lead to a variety of diseases. Before his Kaiser coverage expired at the age of 21, I suggested that my brother go to Kaiser and ask for an insulin pump, which responds directly to his blood sugar, making it much easier for him to regulate his blood sugar. My brother was seen by a Vietnamese American doctor named Dr. Pham at Kaiser in Long Beach, CA, in 1999. For some reason I cannot forget his name and his appearance - I noticed his shoes were quite old and worn out. I wondered if he could not afford some nicer newer shoes, and thought maybe he was not well paid. Dr. Pham told us that my brother was not eligible for an insulin pump, because basically he wasn't near death yet. His condition has to be really bad - kidney failure or blindness - in order for Kaiser to pay for an insulin pump. I was surprised to hear this from a doctor at an American hospital. After that meeting my brother and I nicknamed him "Dr. Scam" but we knew that he was just doing his job as a cost-saving employee of Kaiser Permanente and not a real doctor.

After getting married, my brother found a job in the real estate business in 2002. Even with his job's health care plan, he had to pay around $400 per month out of pocket to cover himself and his wife and daughter, and that did not include dental coverage. In 2007 my brother became unemployed. He goes through a bottle of NPH and a bottle of regular insulin every month. Each costs $40 at Rite Aid. I have paid for many bottles of insulin since he became unemployed. One month last year he ran out of insulin, had no cash, and was unable to reach me, as I was traveling for work. He walked into Silverlake Medical Center (a private hospital in LA) and told the receptionist and nurse he was unemployed, diabetic, and was completely out of insulin. They asked him if he has health insurance. He said no. They said sorry. The next day I had to scold him for waiting until he was out of insulin before telling me. He said he was too embarrassed to tell me.

MRI is too expensive for a profitable "health care" provider

The last case I'll write about here is an example of the worst of America's health care system. In 1995 a good friend of ours named Sa3ad, an educated (PhD) Iraqi American, one of the kindest people I've met, married a beautiful woman in Iraq and brought her to Colorado. She resembled Uma Thurman. About a year after their marriage, she began experiencing severe migraines. She visited her doctor (I believe they were covered by Kaiser, but I'm not certain), who prescribed some kind of pain killer. The migraines continued, and after a few weeks she returned to the hospital, where she was told that her migraines were a result of psychiatric problems! A few weeks after that, Sa3ad noticed she was slurring her speech and immediately took her to the doctor, who finally ordered an MRI and discovered two large tumors in her brain. Surgery was performed, and a large portion of her brain was removed. I was amazed to see her walking and talking normally a few weeks after surgery. The tumors, however, had spread to other parts of her brain. More surgery was performed, but it was too late. Sa3ad's wife died.

After Kaiser California denied my brother an insulin pump in Long Beach, I realized that there is a conflict of interest in what Kaiser does. Companies should not be allowed to provide health insurance and "health care" at the same time. It's in the financial interest of an insurance company to minimize its expenses, and evidently Kaiser is more an insurance company than a health care provider.

The American health care system is wonderful for the rich, but for the middle class it is in general mediocre, for those insured by Kaiser and other for-profit companies it is risky, and for the poor it does not exist.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Iraq is least peaceful country in 2009

The Global Peace Index has ranked Iraq as the least peaceful country in 2009. This is not surprising, as Iraq has been plagued by violence and inept government for decades.

I was surprised by Israel's ranking, which is near the bottom between Sudan and Somalia. I was also surprised to see Qatar tied with Germany at 16th. This despite the fact that Qatar hosts the United States Central Command (CENTCOM). How did the Qataris achieve such peace, despite the US military presence?

New Zealand is ranked first in peace. New Zealand also happens to be the biggest pot smoking nation in the world - I overheard this from a tour guide in Amsterdam. Just a coincidence?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Shiite Govt in Baghdad "gone too far"

"Sunni Arabs are a minority in Iraq, but for many years they enjoyed a privileged status. This was especially so during the cruel and paranoid rule of Saddam Hussein, who reserved an outsize share of lucrative government jobs, powerful army commands and professional positions for Sunni kinsmen. The Shiite majority, along with the Kurdish minority, were subjected to relentless deprivation and violent, systematic terror.

The Shiite-dominated governments that have followed since the 2003 American invasion have been determined to redress that imbalance. They have gone too far — marginalizing and discriminating against the Sunnis. And in the early years, Washington did almost nothing to restrain them. The civil war that nearly tore Iraq apart in 2006 and 2007 has receded, but the resentments have not.

In recent weeks, Sunni extremists have begun a new campaign of bloody attacks on Shiite mosques and civilians, looking to reignite sectarian warfare as American forces ratchet back their combat role. To their credit, Sunni political leaders have condemned these attacks, and Shiites have, thus far, refused to be provoked. But the unresolved tension between the two groups is a problem that Washington cannot ignore."

Saddam's Terror in Kurdistan

The below video is for Haider Hamza, who as a 19 year old apparently believed (at 3 min) that Saddam did not gas the Kurds.

Fencing off democracy

Do humans get any more retarded than the Saudis?

"Another Saudi concern has to do with the having a democratic country on its eastern border. The Saudi government, anchored in a combination of theocracy and autocracy, is concerned that the Iraqi democratic virus might infect Saudi political culture. To isolate itself from Iraq, Saudi Arabia has signed a $1 billion contract with the European defense company EADS, for the construction of a 900-kilometer [562-mile] fence."

Too bad the fence won't keep the suicide bombers (and recruiters and funders) inside KSA and out of Iraq!

Thanks gilgamesh for the link.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Baghdad Paper

'Not all the consequences of Islam's great expansive push were as grand, perhaps, as the confluence of some of the world's great intellectual traditions, but they proved at least as vital. One such was the acquisition of the wondrous Chinese technology of paper, an enormous aid to the intellectual enterprise just beginning to take shape at the Abbasid court. Arab tradition tells us that a prisoner of war from the battle of Talas, where in 751 Muslim forces decisively defeated those of the Tang dynasty for control of Turkic western China, brought the art of papermaking to the Central Asian city of Samarkand. The Chinese prisoner taught his captors how to produce paper from linen and hemp. The story itself is most likely apocryphal, but its general account of the flow of paper technology from China and Central Asia to the Arabs still rings true.

The result was a relatively inexpensive, resilient, and convenient medium for recording information of all kinds - from tax rolls to love poems, from philosophical tracts to star tables. Samarkand soon became the leading Muslim center of papermaking. The art also flourished in Syria, Yemen, North Africa, and the Spanish city of Jåtiva, which specialized in the production of heavy, glazed sheets. The first mention of a paper factory in Baghdad dates to 795, and the Abbasid capital later boasted a fine stationers' bazaar, the Suq al-Warraqin, featuring hundreds of stalls with high-quality wares. In fact, Baghdad paper was highly prized around the region, and some Byzantine Greek sources even refer to paper as bagdatixon, directly associating the product with the city on the Tigris.

Christian Europe, meanwhile, relied on the painstaking task of reproducing its books and maps on animal skins that had been stretched, scraped clean, and then dried. The resulting parchment was unwieldy, difficult to work with and store, and expensive to make. Paper was none of these, and its ready availability and ease of use and transport accelerated the production and spread of manuscripts throughout the Abbasid Empire and beyond. This in turn allowed the rapid and efficient interchange of ideas and knowledge, prompting demand for further scholarly works, research, and writings. Papermaking also fostered a profound culture of the book among the Arabs. Knowledge and scholarship had always been prized by Muslim society. Now, book bazaars and specialty shops became a regular feature of urban life. Book production, bookbinding, and transcription services all flourished alongside writing, research, and translation. The work of individual calligraphers was prized by discerning buyers, while many of the best copyists also served as editors or authors in their own right. Books were costly to produce, and rare editions were coveted by both intellectuals and the rich and powerful. Price gouging and forgery were not unknown hazards for the unwary, while authors at times found themselves at the mercy of scribes holding out for more money before handing over their completed manuscripts.

Patronage among the elite for authors and their books soon led to the creation of great libraries, some of which were open to the public and featured reading rooms and copying materials. In Damascus, the Umayyads had created the first Arab library, collecting Greek and Christian works on alchemy, medicine, and other sciences. The Fatimid sultans of Egypt were also great collectors of books and patrons of affiliated academies to propagate their Shi’ite beliefs. By the late tenth century, the second Fatimid ruler, al-Aziz, maintained forty rooms filled with books, with the so-called ancient sciences represented in eighteen thousand volumes. When Baghdad’s al Mustansariya madrassa*, or Islamic school, was founded in 1234, its initial endowment was said to have included eighty thousand books donated from the personal library of the caliph. Even private collections were vast, often numbering in the tens of thousands of volumes. These were commonly left as charitable bequests on the death of the owner to mosques, shrines, or schools, where they could be properly looked after and made available to scholarly readers.’

--Jonathan Lyons, The House of Wisdom

*The word “madrassa” (pronounced médrésé) means “school” in modern Arabic.

Now contrast Baghdad in 800 with Baghdad in the year 2006.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Baseball in Baghdad

I saw this a few weeks ago, and just a few minutes ago I saw this. That's very cool of Rachel Maddow and all the Americans who helped make this happen.

PS: She said it looks like a Kansas City Royals jersey. I think it looks more like an LA Dodgers jersey! I think the Oakland A's jersey would have looked good, with the green, especially if they insist on keeping the Iraqi flag on the jersey.

Iraq’s Shiites Show Restraint After Attacks

I'm glad the author mentioned that the Iraqi Shia showed similar restraint in 2005 (AQ and other Sunni extremists actually began their attacks in 2004). You will not see this kind of coverage on Al Jazeera or Angry Arab, of course. I wonder if I am viewed as "sectarian" in the eyes of Arabs because I'm posting this article.

'Shiite clerics and politicians have been successfully urging their followers not to retaliate against a fierce campaign of sectarian bombings, in which Shiites have accounted for most of the 566 Iraqis killed since American troops pulled out of Iraq’s cities on June 30.

“Let them kill us,” said Sheik Khudair al-Allawi, the imam of a mosque bombed recently. “It’s a waste of their time. The sectarian card is an old card and no one is going to play it anymore. We know what they want, and we’ll just be patient. But they will all go to hell.”

The patience of the Shiites today is in extraordinary contrast to Iraq’s recent past. With a demographic majority of 60 percent and control of the government, power is theirs for the first time in a thousand years. Going back to sectarian war is, as both Sunni extremists and Shiite victims know, the one way they could lose all that, especially if they were to drag their Sunni Arab neighbors into a messy regional conflict.

It is a far cry from 2006, when a bomb set off at the sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra killed no one, but ignited a fury at the sacrilege that set off two years of sectarian warfare.
This year the equally important shrine of Kadhimiya in Baghdad, the tomb of two revered Shiite imams, was attacked by suicide bombers twice, in January and April. More than a hundred people were killed, but there was no retaliation.

Bombing Shiite mosques has become so common that Sunni extremists have been forced to look elsewhere to provoke outrage — much as they did in 2005, when Shiites similarly showed patience when attacked. They have attacked groups of Shiite refugees waiting for food rations, children gathering for handouts of candy, lines of unemployed men hoping for a day’s work, school buses, religious pilgrimages, weddings, marketplaces and hospitals in Shiite areas and even the funerals of their victims from the day before.

Iraq’s Shiites, counseled by their political and religious leaders and habituated to suffering by centuries as the region’s underclass, have refused to rise to the bait — for now. Instead, they have made a virtue of forbearance and have convinced their followers that they win by not responding with violence. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki has brought once violent Shiite militiamen into the fold, while the Shiites’ spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has forbidden any sort of violent reprisals.'

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Original Islamic Revolution

'ABU JAFAR AL-MANSUR was taking no chances with his new imperial capital, for this was to be a city like no other. The second Abbasid caliph of the Muslims turned for guidance to his trusted royal astrologers, the former Zoroastrian Nawbakht and Mashallah, a Jew turned Muslim from Basra and now ``the leading person for the science of judgments of the stars.'' The pair consulted the heavens and declared that July 30, 762, would certainly be the most auspicious day for work to begin. Still, al-Mansur hesitated. He ordered his architects to mark the layout of the walls of his proposed city – a perfect circle, in keeping with the geometric teachings of the caliph's beloved Euclid – on the ground, first in ashes and then again with cotton seeds soaked in naphtha. This was set ablaze to create a fiery outline of the so-called Round City, the geometric center of al-Mansur's future metropolis.

At last, the caliph was satisfied. ``By God! . . . I shall live in it my entire life, and it shall become the home of my descendants; and without a doubt, it will become the most prosperous city in the world,'' declared al-Mansur, Arabic for ``the victor- ious.'' Abbasid coins and other official usage celebrated al-Mansur's capital as the Madinat al-Salam, or ``the city of peace,'' but among the people it always retained the name of the old Persian settlement that had been on the same spot—Baghdad.

Twelve years before work began on the capital, al-Mansur's brother Saffah completed the overthrow of the Umayyad dynasty, which had risen to power in the Muslim world three decades after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632. In the revolutionary retribution that followed, Saffah - "shedder of blood" - sent his forces under the Abbasid's distinctive black banners to hunt down the remaining members of the House of the Umayyads. The only significant figure to escape alive was Prince Abd al-Rahman, who fled to North Africa before going on to establish the future Western Caliphate in southern Spain. But the victory of the rebels, who found it politically expedient to assert their direct lineage to the Prophet through his paternal uncle Abbas, was less a blood feud between an aging dynasty and an ambitious pretender than it was a wholesale cultural revolution throughout the Islamic lands.

Well before the Abbasid victory in 750, the armies of Islam had successfully retraced the path of Alexander the Great, one thousand years earlier, pushing across the Oxus River into Afghanistan and reaching India and western China. The conquest of Persia, to the east of the Umayyad capital, was complete by 651, and soon Muslim power was extending westward as well, through North Africa and into Spain. As a result of this rapid territorial expansion, Muslim Arabs no longer enjoyed a majority in the empire under their control. Now they had to contend with a daunting patchwork of ethnic and religious communities: large urban populations of Persians, both recent Muslim converts and traditional Zaroastrians; Aramaic speakers, Christians and Jews alike; Arab Christians of various stripes, including many "dualist" sects that had broken with Eastern Orthodox Byzantium; and other groups.

Many of the empire's newest Muslims, especially those in the traditionally Persian lands, were openly skeptical of the Umayyad claims of political and religious legitimacy. The early Umayyad caliphs were descended from members of teh Prophet Muhammad's inner circle but were not his blood relatives, something that did not always sit well with the Persian converts and other newcomers of the faith. They responded enthusiastically to rebel propaganda that asserted direct family links between the Abbasids and the Prophet and demanded "an acceptable ruler" from the family of Muhammad. With the final collapse of the old order at the hands of the Abbasids, the way was open to a range of newcomers - notably Persians, but also Sabeans, Jews, and many others - to assume an increasingly influential role in the intellectual and political affairs of the empire.

Territory seized from the Byzantines create an inviting haven for Syiran Jacobites, Nestorians, and other Christians, who in the seventh and eighth centuries began to flee Constantinople's enforced religious orthodoxy and increasing animosity toward ancient learning. Christian scholars were suddenly free to explore and develop classical teachings under the protection of the Muslims, who traditionally imposed a poll tax on those "People of the Book" - generally Jews and Christians but also Zoroastrians - who chose not to convert to Islam but otherwise left them alone. Important intellectual centers thrived across the region, from Edessa to the Iranian city of Jundishapur, from Harran, in present-day Turkey, to the Central Asian oasis town of Marv, offering Abbasids a formidable body of indigenous linguistic skills, scientific talent, and cultural knowledge.

Muslim conquest and empire building also restored ancient ties among historic centers of civilization across a huge landmass. This created an invaluable melting pot for intellectual traditions that had been forcibly kept apart for centuries by political divisions: Hellenistic learning that evolved in Greece and, later, Alexandria, on the one hand, and Sumerian, Persian, and Indian wisdom on the other. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, the star-worshipping Sabaeans, and assorted other pagans were all able to exchange ideas and teachings. Under Abd al-Rahman, the surviving Umayyad prince, and his successors, this same intellectual tradition put down deep roots in Muslim Spain. There, its guardians would one day hand over priceless gifts to the army of Latin scholars who, fired by the example of Adelard of Bath, set off on their own hunt of the studia Araburm.'

--Jonathan Lyons, The House of Wisdom

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Islamic Revolution in the Middle East

The BBC World Service has concluded a three part documentary titled Iran and the West: From Khomeini to Ahmedinejad. It is a very informative documentary. Part 3 reveals that Iran under Khatami and the US worked together to set up a new government in Afghanistan in late 2001. After this cooperation, George Bush labeled Iran as part of the "Axis of Evil" in January, 2002, which damaged relations between the two countries. In 2003 Khatami again offered to cooperate with America, this time with Iraq and Hizballah. But Bush's conservative administration did not want to do business openly with the Islamic Republic, whose conception was marked by the Iranian students' taking hostage of 53 Americans for more than a year.

It has been more than 30 years since Iranians voted to become an Islamic Republic. Khomeini and his crew of Islamic scholars reversed the Shah's westernization of Iran and ended 2,500 of monarchy in Iran. Clerics in Qum began imposing their version of the hijab on all Iranian women, including in Tehran, where women had enjoyed many years of secular law. Many gay Iranians have been sentenced to death and hung in public. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have fled Iran over the three decades.

One would think the Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia and other religious Gulf countries would embrace the new Islamic Republic. But the opposite happened, and a war between Saddam's Iraq and Khomeini's Iran would be funded by the oil-rich Sunni Arab Gulf states and would result in the deaths of a million people. The influence of Islam, however, would spread beyond Iran, and the relationship of each Arab country with the US would take a different and unique direction.

The governments of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia would cozy up to the US government and pay for American protection from Iran, and later from Saddam, and then from Iran again. Sunni Arab rulers have feared Iran's Islamic Revolution and have purchased billions of dollars in US weapons to defend themselves and have portrayed the Shia as infidels.

Despite their human rights record, the relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the US government has been relatively stable since the end of the oil embargo in 1974, and the two governments worked together to fund and adequately weaponize the mujahideen in Afghanistan in order to expel the Soviet invaders. The Saudis also funded the building of hundreds of Wahhabi mosques and madrasas in Afghanistan and Pakistan throughout the 80s and 90s.

In 1992, angered by the presence of infidel American soldiers in the birthplace of Islam, bin Ladin moved to Sudan and from there he began planning attacks on American soldiers. Al Qaeda was born.

'On December 29, 1992, al-Qaeda's first terrorist attack took place as two bombs were detonated in Aden, Yemen. The first target was the Movenpick Hotel and the second was the parking lot of the Goldmohur Hotel.

The bombings were an attempt to eliminate American soldiers on their way to Somalia to take part in the international famine relief effort, Operation Restore Hope. Internally, al-Qaeda considered the bombing a victory that frightened the Americans away, but in the United States the attack was barely noticed.

No Americans were killed because the soldiers were staying in a different hotel altogether, and they went on to Somalia as scheduled. However little noticed, the attack was pivotal as it was the beginning of al-Qaeda's change in direction, from fighting armies to killing civilians.[88] Two people were killed in the bombing, an Australian tourist and a Yemeni hotel worker. Seven others, mostly Yemenis, were severely injured.'

In March, 2001, in the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan, the Taliban blew up 1,700-year-old sandstone statues of Buddha, believing them to encourage idol worship, which is forbidden by Islam. On September 11, 2001, Al Qaeda hijacked United Airlines and American Airlines planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing almost 3,000 people. 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi.

Islamic rule in the Arabian peninsula had been the norm for centuries: “The kingdom [of Saudi Arabia] is an authoritarian monarchy in which all political power is held by the royal family and in which the Koran and the Sunna (rules derived from the deeds and sayings of the prophet Mohammed) serve as the country's constitution. All Saudis are required by law to be Muslims, and the government prohibits the public practice of any religions other than Islam. Women, like this one at a trade fair in Riyadh, are forbidden from driving, receive half the inheritance awarded to their brothers, and find their testimony equal to half that of a man's in sharia courts.”

But the wave of modernization throughout the world and the liberalization that swept the Americas and Europe in the 50s and 60s also reached North Africa, the Levant, Baghdad, and Tehran. Few women in Cairo wore hijab in the 60s. The photo below shows how Iraqi women dressed in the late 60s.

The result of the last war between the Arab states and Israel in 1973 compelled many Arabs to turn to Islam. In Iran the belief that Islamic rule would end poverty and outside influence was very popular. A reversal of the trend towards secularization in the Middle East began. Khomeini’s revolution was the catalyst in a reaction that could not be easily reversed. It is as if the Sunni Arabs were competing with Iran in becoming more Islamic. Cairo and Tehran are very different from each other, but both capital cities have become more conservative.

By 2000, most women in Cairo wore some sort of hijab, and Muslim societies, especially in the Middle East, became more conservative, often striving to be fundamentalist. The entrenching of Islam in Iraq was inevitable, given the circumstances during the war with Iran, and then especially during sanctions, when even educated Iraqis struggled to survive. The US meant to punish Saddam, but indirectly punished the Iraqi people instead. The ostensible alliance between the US and KSA and the Gulf states, however, would continue.

Two years ago, at the height of the sectarian violence in Iraq that Saudis participated in, the US offered to sell Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states $20 billion in weapons. With typical ineptitude that made Dubya infamous, "the administration did not seek specific assurances from Saudi Arabia that it would be more supportive of the U.S. effort in Iraq, the officials said.

According to the officials, the plan to bolster the military might of Gulf countries is part of a U.S. strategy to contain the growing power of Iran and to demonstrate that, no matter what happens in Iraq, Washington remains committed to its longtime Arab allies in the region."

And so the irony and hypocrisy continue.

Today the Islamic revolution in the Middle East is in disarray. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, those who sought to impose their version of Islam have been responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Muslims. Al Qaeda has nothing to offer Iraqis except death and threats of death.

After the fall of Saddam's secular regime, Jaish al Mahdi and the Iranian-influenced Badr seemed only to be competing with Al Qaeda in terms of imposing their respective views of Islam on the Iraqi people, often attacking Iraqi women for not wearing hijab. The more moderate Da3wa party have gained power through democratic elections in Baghdad, but have been unable to pull Iraq from the grips of poverty, war, and sectarianism. The new Iraqi security forces have relied heavily on American military support for their survival. Corruption and murder have plagued Maliki's government.

It seems that nothing good has come out of the Islamic Revolution.

After the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmedinijad, many Iranians protested, and the legitimacy of the Iranian regime appears to be in jeopardy. Iranians shouted "Allah Akbar" every night for weeks after the election, reminding all that God is above Khameini and Ahmedinejad. Shouting "Allah Akbar" also reminds us that Iranians are still pious Muslims. Leaders like Mossavi and Khatami may not be as liberal as westerners would like them to be, but they are more moderate and sensible than Khameini. The Iranian people will continue their protests, and hopefully the Iranian people will soon get the democracy and justice they deserve. Maybe then there will be reconciliation between Iran and the US, which may lead to a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Insha Allah.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

US wants out of Iraq

I remember all the Arabs who screamed about a permanent US presence in Iraq, and demanded resistance. They never screamed as loudly about American bases in Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman. No bombings of markets in Doha, home of the base from which the US launched two wars against Iraq.

'With the level of violence having been tamped down to a degree manageable by Iraqi forces, and with Iraq's sectarian and ethnic political divisions having become an apparently intractable feature of post-Saddam political life that no amount of U.S. cajoling appears likely to resolve, this may be as good as it gets in Iraq. And if so, why should American soldiers hang around until 2011 in a war costing America in the region of $12 billion a month, and whose U.S. casualty count is nearing 4,500 dead and 30,000 wounded?

That question isn't being asked only by liberal anti-war opinion-makers. It has also been raised by a growing number of senior officials in Washington and U.S. commanders in Iraq. An internal memo drafted by Col. Timothy Reese, an adviser to the Iraqi senior military command, and leaked to the New York Times last month, doesn't mince words. He writes that it is time "for the U.S. to declare victory and bring our combat forces home."

The gist of the colonel's argument is that there is nothing significant that a continued U.S. military presence can do to improve either the delivery of "essential services" to Iraqis, or the ability and inclination of Maliki's sloppy and quarrelsome Shi'ite-dominated government to reconcile with the Sunnis and Kurds.

In fact, there are a growing number of warning signs that the Iraqi government is no longer under the sway of their American forces that brought it into being. Reese notes a "sudden coolness" being displayed by Iraqi commanders towards their American counterparts after June 30, the date on which the Status of Forces Agreement concluded between Baghdad and Washington last December required that U.S. combat forces withdraw from Iraq's towns and cities. Following that date, suspects detained by U.S. soldiers were freed by Iraqis. And the Iraqi government openly disdained the recent offer by Vice-President Joe Biden, during a visit to Baghdad, to help mediate in its conflicts with Kurds and Sunnis. Top military adviser Reese likened the relationship between Iraqi and U.S. soldiers to "a father teaching his kid to ride a bike without training wheels, " explaining: "Our hand on the back of the (Iraqis') seat is holding them back and causing resentment. We need to let go before we both tumble to the ground." '

Thanks Maury for posting the link to this article.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Targeting Shiites

I have noticed the media pointing out that the recent bombings in Iraq have targeted Shiites. I remember Rachel Maddow emphasizing on her show a few weeks ago that Shiite mosques were being attacked in Iraq.

The western media understands the realities of the conflict in Iraq and is not afraid to frame the conflict in sectarian terms, which many Arabs try their hardest to avoid.

Iraq attacks kill at least 52
A huge bomb near a mosque on the outskirts of the northern Iraq city of Mosul kills 39, mostly Shiite Turkmens.

By Liz Sly and Saif Hameed
August 8, 2009

Reporting from Baghdad -- A series of attacks largely targeting Shiite Muslims killed at least 52 people Friday, most of them in a powerful car bombing at a mosque on the northern edge of the volatile city of Mosul.

Authorities said most of the 39 fatalities at the mosque were Shiite Turkmens, a minority group that has frequently been targeted by the Sunni Arab militant group Al Qaeda in Iraq to inflame sectarian and ethnic tensions.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder

'A former Blackwater employee and an ex-U.S. Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life." '

Thanks Molly.