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Cry Me A Riverbend II

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Irony upon Irony

In the Comments, Dilnareen posted following stunning question regarding Raed:
Is raed a palestinian who lived in Iraq and is now living in Jordan or an Iraqi living in Jordan. Cos it keeps switching from one to the other, if it was the first then his comments would all make sense now. All non-iraqi arabs lived very well in Iraq under Saddam.
Mainly cos a lot of egyptians and palestinains were given iraqi homes and jobs. Jordanian/Palestinian university students were given around $100 monthly allowances (at a time when a lecturer at the same university would get about $3)
At some point even egyptian farmers were given furnished apartments, when many educated iraqis had to live in some pretty dodgy housing.

After the fall of baghdad most of them were kicked out of their homes and businessed with links to Iraq had all the funding stopped. So theyhave a lot to hate the new government for.
Thats why I was asking where Raed was actually from. Cos it fits well with that stereotype.

I was blown away by this revelation. I had not heard any mention of this aspect anywhere else. I responded:
You're telling me that it wasn't just the French and U.N. who were skimming the Oil For Food program but carpetbagging arabs as well? Not just Arab leaders who were taking bribes but ordinary Arabs that Saddam imported to buttress his support locally??

That is incredible!! Talk about irony!! No wonder the "Arab Street" never gave a rat's patootie about the suffering of Iraqis under Saddam. Qaddaffy is right: "Arab Nationalism is Dead."

So Dilareen elaborated:
I know seems pretty far-fetched doesnt it. And to think it is just the tip of the iceberg.
No news articles to confirm it im afraid but baghdad university had alot of non-iraqis in it and they were definately getting their little 'scholarships'. my driving instrcutor once told me she sent both her children there ebcause they were taken care off over there and jordan was too expensive (this was3 yrs ago btw). Actually any 90s baghdad university grads want to confirm that report?

The thing is with Saddam there was no logic watsoever to anyhting he did when i went back in the 90s there was talk about how he wanted to donate money to poor families in the states, u know like iraq was so well off that we were giving money to a country that was 'worst off'.. by the way put in mind the context that in Iraq the version of the 91' gulf war was that iraq won the war, so you know in his mind he was 'helping' the poor. I wish there was an archive of all the newspapers and media of iraq during his rule, you will find a different version of history. The ultimate orwellian experience.

Here are the links i came across regarding other arabs living in Iraq, the ones that gave most results were palestinains and egyptians. Though i am sure there were many more arab nationalities in iraq
Well here are the links:

Here states that 80-90,000 palestinains living in Iraq:
Twice Displaced: Palestinians in Iraq" : Personal Stories

while Al-Jizz's version of the story states they were around 70,000:
Palestinians persecuted in postwar Iraq

here is one regaring egyptians in iraq from a newspaper called the seattle post-intellegencer (never heard of it so not sure how reliable it is) regarding refugees coming from Iraq at the beggining of the war. It states that there was around 120,000 Egyptians in Iraq:
Preparing for many refugees in the coming days

These links do suggest that foreign Arabs had a very cushy existance in Iraq under Saddam. For example, from the Al-Jazeerah link:
"For 30 years, we had to rent this house to Palestinians for 1,500 dinars ($1) a year. When the war came, we finally had a chance to get it back," said Abir Jassam, 70, who returned to his home in June. "But we felt sorry for them, and we gave them two months to leave," he added.

And this quote sounds so much like Riverbend's sacking at her software job:
"We lived with our neighbours for years; we went to each other's parties; we took each other to the hospital. But after Saddam left, they told us there was no place for us in Iraq any more," said Feduah Abdel Ghani, 34, whose family moved into a tent last month after being forced from their home of 14 years. "I thought they liked me. It is a big shock."

It seems to me that the Jarrars have said that they came to Iraq in 1991. Also, their family is HALF Palestinian. Which makes this passage from Al-Jazeerah so intriguing:
Even those born in Iraq or married an Iraqi cannot become Iraqi citizens or hold passports.

Is the Jarrar's exile to Jordan entirely of their own choosing? Have they been facing a turning of the tables in Iraq since Sugar Daddy Saddam left? Is this the root of the Jarrar resentment?

Are there any [other?] Iraqis, current or former residents of Iraq, or other near-at-hand witnesses who can illuminate the extent of the benefits foreign Arabs received under Saddam? Is this part of the reason non-Iraqi Arab's were not that bothered about the suffering of Iraqis under Saddam? Any Jarrar-watchers with steel-trap memories who can shed some light on this?

Monday, June 28, 2004

Raed Screed

From Jordan, Raed writes:
in a great, huge festival...
the handover of the authorities took place in a small shelter in one of the basements of the green zone.
bremer, the new ugly Iraqi "president", the cia agent "P.M.", another couple of losers were standing in a small circle at the sunrise, clapping their hands and trying to smile

some hours later, bremer ran away in a black military plane

god, dont you call this a historical carnival?
in arabic we say, "sharro el balyyati ma yodhek", the worst catastrophes make you laugh

Yes, this would be funny...considering the fact that Raed's whole family has run away to Amman. But upon the realization that had Bremer stayed, Raed would then be touting this as further proof that the handover was a sham...it is clear that even in Raed's own mind (if there is a soul in there somewhere) this is the rankest propaganda and there is little confusion regarding for whom Raed is working: for The Return and its Zarqawi allies who are blowing up cars on busy streets, beheading innocents for the crime of being less protected than military bases, terrifying Iraqis, delaying Iraq's march toward prosperity.

Run away, little Raed, run away.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Elections in November? Not just in America...

Prime Minister Allawi is calling for elections as early as November.


Raed put out a remarkably coherent post today. Same old thing, but you can imagine him saying it in a calm, sober voice.

Raed is unimpressed by the approaching hand-over of political sovereignty. Like Osama bin Laden's opinion of infidels on Saudi Arabian soil, Raed says Iraq will not be liberated until every member of the multinational force leaves:
Doesn’t it need a bit more to announce our liberation? The handover of the small-boring-administrative-responsibilities to some selected groups of Iraq employees (guards, policemen, ministers, president) is not going to change anything on the ground for Iraqis. The real authorities and decision makers aren’t going to leave the fence of the green zone.

He complains about the multinational force not living in tents:
The handover of the authorities is a small pathetic play that shouldn’t distract us from the real thing happening on the ground. When the neo-cons attacked Iraq last year they introduced themselves as liberators, and that’s why most of the Iraqis and some of the American people believed them, and believed in them, but now comes the time that both of us, Iraqis and Americans, should work hard to give Iraq its freedom back, to stop building permanent military bases in Iraq, and to change this colonial strategy in keeping Iraq under the American political and economical control.

He calls the multinational force's bases "a cancer in the body of the new Iraq".

But then Raed doesn't believe there is a new Iraq. He's already establishing a case for attacks on the new Iraq government to be really attacks on Americans:
I have a clear position towards the thing happening at the end of this month. As a secular person with national beliefs, I don’t see the bush administration step at the end of this month anything more than a political trick that will add more confusion to the world about the reality of what is happening in Iraq, it will start a new chapter of what will appear as an Iraqi-Iraqi conflicts and clashes, which is in real an Iraqi American one, but with Americans hiding behind Iraqis.

And Iraqis working for a new, free, and prosperous Iraq being killed by THE RETURN and Islamist terrorists. Don't forget that, Raed.
Raed is surely in the minority, I suspect, in not looking forward to the trial of Saddam:
This will come along with other distracting moves like starting the Iraqi Hollywood: The Saddam Trial.

Whatever, even though Kerry has vowed to carry on the Bush plan for Iraq, Raed will only grant us his precious optimism regarding Iraq if Bush is not re-elected. Then it will be okay for Iraq to succeed. But not otherwise:
Both of us, the Iraqi and the American people, need another administration with different ideologies to start rebuilding the Iraq-American (and maybe the Arab-American) destroyed relations.

Hmmm....I hope my posts on Raed's craziness are not causing him to stop drinking before writing. This "sober Raed", this "same only more boring Raed" is a little disappointing. Raed would have every right to be exasperated at me for saying so, but...drink up, Raed!

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Iraq Roundup

Hot Links


Considering Khalid's note that his parents have always been major political leftists, it is interesting to note Daniel Pipes' entry on the emerging merging of the political left and radical Islamists.

Getting Back to the Iraqi Bloggers who are nominally the subject of this blog:

The most interesting recent blog entry at the moment is by Khalid. He takes on Iraqi Bloggers Central.

This entry is full of good stuff. He provides some (alledged) family history. He says his parents were leftists and involved in leftist causes. He denies the Jarrars were ever Baathists or Baathist supporters:
Sympathizing with the Baath? haha, hahahaha, people who know us were always worried that we will all be killed one day cause we criticize Baathist in front of strangers

Still, it is difficult to rectify Khalid's claimed open defiance of the government by his family
their relative affluence, freedom of travel, and government contracts under Saddam (according to their blogs). Especially considering what G in Bagdhad said about life under Saddam:
I wasn't tortured by the mukhabarat, nor did any of my family vanish, but the culture of fear was ubiquitous. I was afraid even of dreaming of a revolution; the secret police in my own brain started the torture before the real one began.

Why did the Jarrars lead such a charmed existence? I don't know enough to say that what Khalid says is not true. But there's more to this story. Care to elaborate, Khalid?

The same post is added to the Family In Baghdad blog with the warning:
You mess with her, you mess with me.

Whatever. From what I have seen so far, Faiza can handle herself just fine.

Actually this entry is pretty interesting and has lots of substance. Wow! Imagine. He even puts us onto an UPFRONT Baathist blog.

In Faiza's most recent entry, she offers (uniquely) genuine sorrow for those executed by Zarqawi: no qualifications...no tie-ins that this is really Bush's fault. She lays the blame soley with the perpetrators. She speaks of these terrorists as the enemy of her country. Amen, Faiza. Raed and Riverbend, pay attention.

Unfortunately, she doesn't maintain that stance. I'm not talking about her complaints about getting around town in traffic because of the Coalition convoys. I'm mean, it wouldn't be Faiza if she didn't complain. Anyway, this complaint is almost American in nature. Americans are extraordinary whiners. We complain about the traffic when a new highway is going up, we complain about having to wait 30 seconds for a page to download on a dial-up connection to the Internet...we have almost nothing to whine about but we still do. So when Faiza complains about having to clear the road for a miliary convoy, I can understand perfectly. True, it would be a perfect terrorist ploy to have a car slow down the convoy and take pot shots at them with RPGs and automatic rifles...I know that. But it inconvenienced Faiza and it's very American for her to complain about it.

Nor am I not talking about her repeating a rumor about a man who was minding his own business in his car and the Coaltion shot him dead and then went on without looking back. No, I don't believe it, either. After all, if they shot him, they would want to know who he was working for, right? They would want to know his name, right? Well, unless you believe the soldiers shot him for fun. Sorry, I'm not buying that either. Someone should collect all these anti-Coalition urban legends in a book.

Nope. I'm talking about where she declares her sympathy with the insurgents. The insurgents who are making the soldiers have to be so careful, so suspicious, so much more difficult to live with. The ones blowing up cars in the streets. The ones blowing up power plants. The ones who are shielding Zarqawi. The ones who are kidnapping people building up the Iraqi infrastructure:
And these are the reason we sympathize with the Iraqi resistance that fire R.B.J. missiles in front of our eyes, on an American convoy, then the Iraqi would withdraw, and disappear, while the people smile…
The foolish, aggressive conducts of the occupation soldiers alone escalates the violence against them…and this is a normal reaction… so, no one should blame…

Faiza, do you really think there is a hair's-breadth of distance between Zarqawi and the supposed "Iraqi resistance". You don't think the Iraqi resistance knows where exactly in Fallujeh he is holed up? You strike me as a "woman of the world". I simply do not believe you are that naive.

[Edited to add] If I were to take seriously what you say here, Faiza, I would relinquish all pity for non-combatant Iraqis injured during shoot-outs between the Coalition and the insurgents. You suggest there are no non-combatants. There may be a degree of truth to this in Falujeh. If only there were a way to distinguish between bystanders like Faiza and truely innocent bystanders. Note, Faiza, that if you had slowed that convoy, and insurgents had fired a RPG at them, you would have smiled and driven away. So would the troops in the convoy have been imprudent to shoot you first and ask questions later??

Stay out of the way, Khalid. You might get hurt. This is between your mother and me.

She says that the new Iraqi Government is nothing but "puppets" of the Coalition. How does she know they're puppets? BECAUSE THEY DON'T HATE THE COALITION. Perhaps the truth is that Riverbend is a puppet of THE RETURN.

She says her friends are leaving Iraq in advance of the handover. I'm presuming these are more of her Baathist friends who did so well under Saddam. Good-bye. Good Luck. Good Riddance.

Raed says he feels "ashamed and disgusted" by the recent beheadings. Why should Raed feel ashamed? According to him, the Coalition is to blame. That's right!!
...the American policy makers decided to create a small monster called bin ladin to open another front against the former USSR, just like how the Israeli policy makers created, or at least facilitated, the creation of Hamas in the 80s to add another crack in the body of the PLO.

Actually Raed, bin Laden was an anti-american nut-case during the war against the Soviet Union. I once saw an interview with a documentary film-maker working in Afghanistan during that time. He said he passed Osama's tent but was warned by his Afghani fighter/guide to stay away from there because "that guy is crazy" and his group would kill any American they met. Osama was a small part of the Mujahadeen forces at that time -- by no means "America's Man". Note how Raed has worked things around so that the Moslem fighters against foreign occupation by the Soviet Union are now monsters created by the United States. Raed's hate for America seems to have a lot in common with Osama's: if the U.S. did it, it must be a bad thing.

Crazier still, Raed says that HAMAS was created by the Israelis!!! This is positively funny because it echos the Saudi government claim that Al-Qaida is a Zionist plot. HA HA HA!

But then Raed gives the supposed strategy credit:
It is smart though, I don’t blame the American decision makers, and maybe I’ll adopt the same strategies if I was in their place. (thank god I’m not)

(You can say that again, Raed. No, I'll say it. Thank god you're not) But then he suggests that the administrations who were supposed to come up with this plan would not have done what Bush has done. He doesn't say what they would have done instead. Raed goes on...
I didn’t see that attacking clerics like As Sadr would be the right answer, because he is strong enough to fight back, and he will become a national hero, and that happened. As Sadr is a national hero who is planning to join the next elections, after defeating the American army (he didn’t surrender, he is still having his army, right?)

Nope. The Iraqi government and the Coalition say that Al Sadr has to give up his militia. He said he would, he has not. That's why his militia is being systematically separated from the world of the living. Interesting that Raed has declared Al Sadr undefeatable just as his movement (read something scatological here) is on the verge of collapse. Look for Raed to declare Zarqawi to be undefeatable any day now.

It took him a while (just as it did with Riverbend), but Raed has finally figured out a way to see the new Iraqi government as a bad thing. I always believed in you, Raed.
What are we gaining?
We, Americans and Arabs, what did we gain after all of those years of the war on terror?

Americans have only really been at war for TWO AND A HALF years, Raed.
What did we, Iraqis, gain after months of occupation and destruction?
A silly selected government? With a CIA agent as our PM and a Sheikh of a tribe as our president? Our fat Sheikh speaks English in his conferences… What a great president…

Which is sooooo worse than the government Raed used to have. Sheesh! Raed, if you don't like the new heads of your goverment, 1) go home, 2) register to vote, and 3) try to vote them out!! What an onerous responisibility democracy is.

Raed and the Irani
These two are currently in a quandry about what to post until they can figure out how the U.S. is to blame for Iran seeking to become a nuclear power and for Al-Qaida's war in Saudi Arabia (and whether they should be glad about it or not).

Majid's latest consists of his anxiety due to his upcoming emmigration to Jordan (he's gone now, I understand). This entry is for Jarrar-watchers only...not much interest for Iraq-watchers.

Zarqawi's insurgents (who are working in accordance with the brave nationally proud Iraqi resistance ~ thank you Faiza) kill over 100 Iraqis in an attempt to disrupt Iraq before the hand over of national sovereignty:
But the worst bloodshed came in Mosul, the country's northern metropolis often touted as a success story in restoring order in Iraq, where four car bombs killed 62 people, including a U.S. soldier, and wounded more than 220, according to the U.S. military.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The Temperature at Which Flatulence Burns

Christopher Hitchen's disects Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9-11. Moore always puts out junk. Real film documentarians must have been chewing the carpet to see his last piece of cheap transparent scrawl win an Oscar (I had nothing to do with it, Anonymous. I swear). The thing about his review is that many of his complaints about Moore sound like my complaints about Riverbend and the Jarrars. Here are some choice excerpts:
To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of "dissenting" bravery.

In late 2002, almost a year after the al-Qaida assault on American society, I had an onstage debate with Michael Moore at the Telluride Film Festival. In the course of this exchange, he stated his view that Osama Bin Laden should be considered innocent until proven guilty. This was, he said, the American way. The intervention in Afghanistan, he maintained, had been at least to that extent unjustified. Something—I cannot guess what, since we knew as much then as we do now—has since apparently persuaded Moore that Osama Bin Laden is as guilty as hell. Indeed, Osama is suddenly so guilty and so all-powerful that any other discussion of any other topic is a dangerous "distraction" from the fight against him. I believe that I understand the convenience of this late conversion.
Either we sent too many troops, or were wrong to send any at all—the latter was Moore's view as late as 2002—or we sent too few. If we were going to make sure no Taliban or al-Qaida forces survived or escaped, we would have had to be more ruthless than I suspect that Mr. Moore is really recommending. And these are simply observations on what is "in" the film.

If we turn to the facts that are deliberately left out, we discover that there is an emerging Afghan army, that the country is now a joint NATO responsibility and thus under the protection of the broadest military alliance in history, that it has a new constitution and is preparing against hellish odds to hold a general election, and that at least a million and a half of its former refugees have opted to return. I don't think a pipeline is being constructed yet, not that Afghanistan couldn't do with a pipeline. But a highway from Kabul to Kandahar—an insurance against warlordism and a condition of nation-building—is nearing completion with infinite labor and risk. We also discover that the parties of the Afghan secular left—like the parties of the Iraqi secular left—are strongly in favor of the regime change. But this is not the sort of irony in which Moore chooses to deal.
A film that bases itself on a big lie and a big misrepresentation can only sustain itself by a dizzying succession of smaller falsehoods, beefed up by wilder and (if possible) yet more-contradictory claims.
In fact, I don't think Al Jazeera would, on a bad day, have transmitted anything so utterly propagandistic.
I never quite know whether Moore is as ignorant as he looks, or even if that would be humanly possible.
Thus, in spite of the film's loaded bias against the work of the mind, you can grasp even while watching it that Michael Moore has just said, in so many words, the one thing that no reflective or informed person can possibly believe: that Saddam Hussein was no problem. No problem at all.
The same "let's have it both ways" opportunism infects his treatment of another very serious subject, namely domestic counterterrorist policy.
Moore is having it three ways and asserting everything and nothing. Again—simply not serious.
...his real pitch is not to any audience member with a serious interest in foreign policy. It is to the provincial isolationist.
Yet Moore is a silly and shady man who does not recognize courage of any sort even when he sees it because he cannot summon it in himself. To him, easy applause, in front of credulous audiences, is everything.
Moore has announced that he won't even appear on TV shows where he might face hostile questioning. I notice from the New York Times of June 20 that he has pompously established a rapid response team, and a fact-checking staff, and some tough lawyers, to bulwark himself against attack. He'll sue, Moore says, if anyone insults him or his pet.
However, I think we can agree that the film is so flat-out phony that "fact-checking" is beside the point. And as for the scary lawyers—get a life, or maybe see me in court. But I offer this, to Moore and to his rapid response rabble. Any time, Michael my boy. Let's redo Telluride. Any show. Any place. Any platform. Let's see what you're made of.
By all means go and see this terrible film, and take your friends, and if the fools in the audience strike up one cry, in favor of surrender or defeat, feel free to join in the conversation.
I know, thanks, before you tell me, that a documentary must have a "POV" or point of view and that it must also impose a narrative line. But if you leave out absolutely everything that might give your "narrative" a problem and throw in any old rubbish that might support it, and you don't even care that one bit of that rubbish flatly contradicts the next bit, and you give no chance to those who might differ, then you have betrayed your craft.
By the same token, if I write an article and I quote somebody and for space reasons put in an ellipsis like this (…), I swear on my children that I am not leaving out anything that, if quoted in full, would alter the original meaning or its significance. Those who violate this pact with readers or viewers are to be despised. [CMAR II Note: Are you reading this Mykie??]
At no point does Michael Moore make the smallest effort to be objective. At no moment does he pass up the chance of a cheap sneer or a jeer. He pitilessly focuses his camera, for minutes after he should have turned it off, on a distraught and bereaved mother whose grief we have already shared. (But then, this is the guy who thought it so clever and amusing to catch Charlton Heston, in Bowling for Columbine, at the onset of his senile dementia.) Such courage.
If Moore had studied a bit more, or at all, he could have read Orwell really saying, and in his own voice, the following:

The majority of pacifists either belong to obscure religious sects or are simply humanitarians who object to taking life and prefer not to follow their thoughts beyond that point. But there is a minority of intellectual pacifists, whose real though unacknowledged motive appears to be hatred of western democracy and admiration for totalitarianism. Pacifist propaganda usually boils down to saying that one side is as bad as the other, but if one looks closely at the writing of the younger intellectual pacifists, one finds that they do not by any means express impartial disapproval but are directed almost entirely against Britain and the United States...

And that's just from Orwell's Notes on Nationalism in May 1945. A short word of advice: In general, it's highly unwise to quote Orwell if you are already way out of your depth on the question of moral equivalence. It's also incautious to remind people of Orwell if you are engaged in a sophomoric celluloid rewriting of recent history.

If Michael Moore had had his way, Slobodan Milosevic would still be the big man in a starved and tyrannical Serbia. Bosnia and Kosovo would have been cleansed and annexed. If Michael Moore had been listened to, Afghanistan would still be under Taliban rule, and Kuwait would have remained part of Iraq. And Iraq itself would still be the personal property of a psychopathic crime family, bargaining covertly with the slave state of North Korea for WMD. You might hope that a retrospective awareness of this kind would induce a little modesty. To the contrary, it is employed to pump air into one of the great sagging blimps of our sorry, mediocre, celeb-rotten culture.

CMAR II says "check it out".

Political Cartoonist Fuller thinking along the same lines, as this author.

Remember "Roger and Me"? Michael Moore's first phonymentary? That movie supposedly details Moore's attempt to get an interview with the CEO of GM. Well guess what? I young film student has been trying to get an interview with the gravity-challenged Moore! And Moore has been ducking him for years: Check it out.

Another review of Moore by Buzzmachine.
Here are some excerpts:
The real problem with the film, the really offensive thing about it, is that in Fahrenheit 9/11, we -- Americans from the President on down -- are portrayed at the bad guys.
When he exploits and lingers on the tears of a mother who lost her soldier-son in Iraq, and she wails, "Why did yo have to take him?" Moore does not cut to images of the murderers/terrorists (pardon me, "insurgents") in Iraq or killed him -- or even to God; he cuts to George Bush. When the soldier's father says the young man died and "for what?", Moore doesn't show liberated Iraqis to reply, he cuts instead to an image of Halliburton.
We know that Moore opposed even the war in Afghanistan but here he doesn't say that. Here he says we didn't bring enough force to Afghanistan and thereby gave bin Laden "a two-month headstart."
It is not creditworthy only to attack and call that discussion and democracy; to insult our intelligence with half, quarter, and untruths; to stifle debate with polemic rather than provoke debate with facts; to mock the people he exploits on film; to gloss over his own outrageous opinions for the sake of convenience; to turn his guns on his own people, letting those who attacked us off as free as birds. No, this is no more good democracy than it is good filmmaking.
The commercials for the film are still saying it's not rated. It has been rated R because of the copious gore and the appeal of that rating lost, even with Mario Cuomo arguing the case. So the commercial isn't quite, well, telling the truth.

CMAR II says, check it out.

Andrea of Minnesotoa puts us onto some more sites that reveal the glorious, corpulent con-job that is Michael Moore:

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Whisper Shouts

This last week in the Comments section, Whisper vented his spleen and tore us all a new one.
I've seen the wreckage of what Saddam did over here from a lot closer viewpoint than I'd've liked to have. I think we were right to remove that S.O.B. -- but I am disturbed by the fact that we may have gone to war on false pretenses. No-- we haven't found much in the way of WMD's here yet. Saddam was a distant danger, but not a clear and immediate threat to us. And no, I still don't see any evidence that Saddam was in league with Al-Qaeda.

I am also very disturbed by a lot of the actions our civilian leadership has taken in the process of 'winning the peace'. We're getting ready to lynch 6 MP's for the Abu Ghraib incidents-- they are guilty, but what they're guilty of is following unlawful orders and committing war crimes... the climate that brought that down starts at the top, but it looks like our leadership won't let the investigation track all that down.

In the greater scheme of the Army-- we're still talking a few bad apples in the *uniformed* part of the bunch... but I fear more and more that there's civilian leaders near the top who would direct this stuff without a moment's hesitation if they thought they could get away with it.

I read an article on the subject of torture recently-- I wish I could give you the link I accessed it from, but if you don't have a military ID, you can't get to it the way I did. It's from the Washington Post or the New York Times (not sure which), and it brought up a point that changed my mind on one of the issues.

The basic points of the article were that if you excuse tactics that seem like torture and declare them as legitimate in some cases, that they will wind up bleeding over into other cases and situations that they weren't intended for; and, that the real danger in opening the door isn't the excesses of the 'bad apples'-- it's that good, honest, patriotic citizens may feel it's their duty (whether they're disturbed by it or not) to use every (declared to be) 'legitimate' method at their disposal to get answers from the enemy to help do their job.

We may already be seeing exactly that in the case of some of the Abu Ghraib 'torturers'.

We're also seeing reports on briefings given to the President and the Secretary of Defense that claim that the President can set aside all treaties and conventions governing the prohibition of torture and the treatment of prisoners captured in war zones, and cannot be charged for it-- in fact, claiming that he can do that as a legitimate act as Commander-in-Chief.

Last I checked, that's precisely the defense we denied to the German and Japanese leaders in the War Crimes Trials in 1945. It's also the utterly failed defense that Milosevic is trying over his War Crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

I am very disturbed, because America is supposed to be a nation of Laws, and the President is supposed to enforce the law, NOT set himself above it. Also, the Nuremberg trials proved that the defense of "I was following the orders of my superior officers" is not a valid defense. We're supposed to not obey unlawful orders, not claim that we're not guilty on the grounds of following orders.

Also, I'm gonna add one more thing:
I believe in trying to help the Iraqis achieve a peaceful, secure, stable, democratic government for themselves. I don't think we're going about it the best way. I don't think the soldiers out here are getting the best support we could be getting. The stories you've heard about us being short on body armor, adequate armored vehicles, etc? They're true. Oh, and Shinseki's estimate of how many troops we'd need to establish security was correct-- Wolfowitz was WRONG-- and we're still about 50k troops short of what we needed to do the job right.

I'm a little sick of reading Chickenhawks saying 'We must support our troops' and then failing to adequately support us. I'm also a lot sick of all the talk about how 'We must stay the course, we must pay the price for this war' etc, etc, from people back home who AREN'T paying any kind of price for this.

It's the Iraqis (depending on whose figures you believe, somewhere between a few thousand and over ten thousand killed here since the war started) and the Coalition Soldiers (about 850 U.S. Troops, close to 100 more Soldiers from other Coalition nations-- killed over here) who are paying the price in blood-- not you.

I've nearly been killed myself about half a dozen times (close calls with indirect fire and roadside bombs mostly) since I've been here. Several of my friends have been wounded.

'Scuse me for going off on the board at large, but I'm a little sick of some of the more die-hard words I'm reading coming from civilians who aren't in the service-- you're not the ones being shot at. (Yes, these are my opinions and do not reflect those of the Department of Defense, the Army, etc) (They do, however, represent the thoughts of more than a few of my friends as well as myself here in the warzone).

No. The quote was, "We're acting in accordance with the law" or something like that. When we've also got memos floating around that claim it's legal for the President to turn over every treaty and convention we've ever signed under his powers as "Commander-in-Chief" (not so sure they'd hold up in a court of law, but...) 'Scuse me if that doesn't give me a lot of confidence.

Oh, the point, if I wasn't clear enough? Is that I'm beginning to see enough evidence to believe that the chain of events and responsibilities, and the setting of the climate that led to torture in Abu Ghraib, started in the Defense Department, and may have indirectly descended from decisions that the President was aware of.

CYA is standard in Washington, and as usual, troops get screwed for it.

Also, the first part of the Oath of Enlistment for anyone in the Armed Forces is: "I (name) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

'Support and Defend the Constitution' comes first, BEFORE obeying the orders of the President and the officers appointed over me. It's the basic defense within the UCMJ for NOT obeying unlawful orders. I'm concerned that unlawful orders have been given, and some troops (the Abu Ghraib 7) followed them.

Hard Harry,
Are you or have you ever been in the military? Are you ready to come enlist, pick up a rifle, and fight the enemies of our country? If the answers to these questions is "No", given your strong pro-war claims and statements on how necessary all this is--

Then you *ARE* a Chickenhawk. And a soft one at that-- because all of these hard words you type here, are just words, from a man who has not got the courage and conviction to pick up a weapon and fight the enemy himself, even though he sees it as 'absolutely necessary'. If you are or have been in the military, then you are not a Chickenhawk, and you're right-- my words on that subject don't apply to you.

As far as supporting the troops goes,
If you're telling us that we've got to be out here laying our lives on the line... and your support boils down to yellow ribbons and 'gee, maybe we could pay a little more in taxes' without actually doing something about it-- it really doesn't mean much out here in the war zone. Those of you who are in favor of the war and claim to support the troops-- are you getting off your rears and making yourselves heard? Telling your congressman to vote to get us the equipment and support we need? Then it means something.

The anti-war crowd's claim of support for the troops doesn't mean much either, unless they're acting on their convictions and telling the government they should bring us home. Just sitting back and saying, "oh we shouldn't be over there, oh well" doesn't mean much out here in the warzone.

In general, if someone tells me this is a struggle to the death, we've got to fight-- it's life or death for our country and our people, we must go to war--

But he or she refuses to join up and go fight him-or-her-self, I call that cowardice, and a lack of willingness to stand up for what that person has just claimed is the right thing to do. And I don't respect it. If you want to talk S*** about my attitude on this-- Look where you're at, sitting at home in nice comfort, and then check where I am-- I *AM* fighting for my country... Why aren't you here with us, if you believe in it?

I have to give the anti-war folks this-- at least *THEIR* moral beliefs are consistent with their actions.

Then in response to some comments, Whisper elaborates:
Hard Harry,
The answer to your question, about the definition of 'Chickenhawk'-- depends on how strongly you're advocating war, and on what terms-- and on what your personal background is. "Chickenhawk" as accurately applied, belongs (for instance) to all those folk who dodged the draft or rode out one deferment or another to avoid military service during the Vietnam era, but are now 'wrapping themselves in the flag' and being so patriotic and gung-ho about sending OTHER people to fight this war (when they have never, and never would, go to fight themselves). Examples: Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Stephen Cambone... some would say the President, since serving in the National Guard was a guaranteed way of staying out of Vietnam.

If you're too old to come and fight in this war, that probably means you weren't too old to fight in Vietnam. So where were you during that war? The answer to that question will determine whether the Chickenhawk label fits you or not.

I damn well *WILL* criticize a lot of our pro-war people, and feel that I am entirely justified in doing so, because there's too damn many people sitting back there in the States who essentially are pro-war ONLY so long as they're not the ones who have to go fight (check the reactions to people evening mentioning the possibility of a draft-- some of the loudest whiners are the same ones who advocate sending the 'volunteers' anywhere and everywhere into harm's way at the drop of a hat). And, Hard Harry, as for your stfu comment, and telling me I *don't* have any special privilege to criticize?

Duh. I'm an American-- it's not a special privilege, it's me exercising freedom of speech.

I don't need other justification that that, but I'll remind you of some obvious reasons anyway: I'm a combat veteran, Harry. You're NOT. I'm one of the ones who's come close to getting killed out here. You're still living in safety back in the States... and if this war is vital to the nation's defense, then you better be grateful there's Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines out here to defend the nation.

Not even ONE of the prominent neo-cons has ever served in combat-- they can spout the words about how we need this war, but if you were relying on them to defend the nation, this war would already be over-- we'd have LOST.

The pen, and the internet typing, only stand as 'mightier than the sword' in the long run *IF* there are swordsmen willing to protect the writers. Without us, you civilians go the way of every conquered and defeated nation that failed to defend itself-- and the victors will write the history books. "Whiny ass"? No. Liberal? Maybe.

I hate to apply labels 'cause I *don't* vote party lines, I vote on the actual individuals running (based on A) are they promising to work in government the way I'd like them to? and B) do I believe them when they make those promises?

Naw-- I'm just the guy out here in desert sands with a U.S. Flag patch under my war-service patch on my right shoulder, a U.S. Army tag on my chest under my paratrooper's wings, wearing flak vest and a kevlar helmet, holding a loaded rifle and hoping we're going to accomplish something worthwhile out here.

It is a standing policy of this blog to take seriously and with respect the opinions of anyone dodging drive-bys and car bombs for the sake of the author. Keep that in mind when you read my response.

1) As for going to Iraq "under false pretenses."
The Administration gave many reasons for going to Iraq, not one or two. Some...perhaps most...found a couple of the arguments more compelling than others. My reasons for believing we should enforce regime change in Iraq may not have been that of the majority, I don't know. But one argument that the Bush Administration never made was that Saddam was an immediate threat to the US. They said he was a serious and growing threat. See my entry Lets Start With The Basics for why I don't consider the WMD issue to be at all pertinent. I also recommend my response to Tom for why I think the anti-war crowd are primarily made up of phonies. In addition, the fact is that if we did not go in there last year, "Saddam Insane" would still be in power in Iraq AND very shortly (maybe by this time already) there would be no "no fly zones" or sanctions. The sanctions themselves were a source of Arab contempt toward the West and toward the US as its defacto leader. Any argument that for any reason implies we should not have done what we did in Iraq last Spring must deal with the issue that if the argument is to be credited, then Saddam Hussein and his sons ought to be the rulers of Iraq now and for the imaginable future.

2) Regarding Abu Ghraib
I can appreciate you being sympathetic with the situation of the common soldier, but I'd say your (not quite) defense of them that they are about to be "lynched" is over the top. Perhaps you have sources I don't and you just didn't or couldn't share them. I'll proceed as if all the cards are on the table and we're both getting our information from the news. One of these MPs is a civilian prison guard here state-side, and has been accused of being a sadist at his normal job, that he went to Iraq with the gleeful intention of killing "sand niggers". You're probably right that the prosecution needs to go further up, but I'm not very inclined to the argument that these are good soldiers pressed into criminal behavior as you imply.

Secondly, so far I think the process of prosecuting soldiers for misdeeds in Iraq has proceeded far too gingerly. Consider the soldiers who were recently given reprimands for throwing Iraqis in the river during which one of them drowned.

Personally, I have seen no evidence that the Justice Department memo you referred to was the source of the offenses in Abu Ghraib. I seriously doubt it was handed to the interrogation contractors as a “bible” for dealing with POWs. On the other hand, while I'm not a lawyer, I don't find most the arguments behind the memo to be compelling. Buuuut, the most important upshot I got from the memo is that anything a prisoner (or a hostile U.N. agency) may say makes him uncomfortable doesn’t necessarily constitute torture. This is not an indefensible position. Most Americans that I talk to say the “pyramid of butt-cracks” was bad-acting on our soldiers’ part, but not torture. But most importantly I don't see how the aimless cruelty depicted in the "abuse photos" coming out of Abu Ghraib have anything to do with a high level policy for controlling prison populations or extracting information which was surely the context behind the so-called “torture memo”. I just don't see it. Many do. I don't. Maybe you think the US justice department was advocating casual rape in Iraqi prisons...or murder. I don't. Nor do I see how anyone could extrapolate that. As I said, the famous "abuse pictures" seem to represent aimless sadism, and I don't think that was the point of the memo either.

The reason these allegations seem to hit home is that the Bush Administration is not dealing with international terrorism as a criminal justice matter. They are dealing with it as though it were a war: a war where the battlefields are as heated and as dangerous in airport terminals as they are in Afghanistan or Bagdhad. There’s a sense that this administration is playing serious hardball…and that sense has the unfortunate attribute of being 100% true. If in your mind someone who is plotting to put explosives on a city street in Bagdhad is a horrendous criminal, then the Bush Admin’s attitude and strategy about intercepting them looks like Det. Andy Sipowicz on cocaine. But if you see that same person as the modern equivalent of an enemy bomber pilot then the Bush Administration looks little different from a fighter pilot who lethally shoots at planes for flying in the opposing squadrons with no consideration as to how the crew might have found themselves on those planes. Any discussion about the treatment of prisoners at Gitmo and terrorists arrested in the US and, yes, the prisoners at Abu Ghraib, must reasonably take into account the horrific nature of the enemy with whom we are forced to grapple: an enemy that wants to see civil war in Iraq, that wants to see Riverbend without electricity or clean water; that sees planting bombs on crowded streets as a legitimate war aim in itself.

Nevertheless, in dealing with this enemy, US citizens have a right to expect soldiers to behave professionally; not like the biggest baddest gang around. It seems to me that that is where things went wrong. Is Rumsfield responsible? Ashcroft? Cheney? Bush? I don’t know. We shall see. I don’t want to see anyone who is truly guilty to get away with murder or rape. But I DO NOT want to see the leadership of this country smeared just because some people in opposing parties want to have them be responsible. There’s a war on, everyone. Put away your toys.

3) Soldier Support (body armor, etc.)
For the last 14 years, since the Soviet Union vanished in a vapor, we’ve seen a steady dismantling of our military to take advantage of the “peace dividend”. Now we find we need a “war footing” military and we don’t have it. Both Bush administrations share the blame for the situation in which Whisper finds himself now ~ the Clinton Administration by sheer number of years must take more blame. But so does everyone (Congressman and citizen) who voted in those 12 years with the belief that the world would get less dangerous without the enemy we’d faced for the previous 50 years. I don’t know what to say about that, Whisper. Sorry doesn’t cut it, but that’s about all anyone can offer. They’re supposed to be cranking out body armor and sufficiently armored Humvees as fast as they can put them together. The problem is that when you need a military, you need them. And if you haven’t been planning to put them in harms way for the previous decade, it doesn’t make you need them any less.

4) Did We Send Enough Troops?
Wolfowitz’ critics have an advantage that Wolfowitz will never have: We will never know how things might have gone wrong if we had sent half a million troops to Iraq to police it in everyway, or if we had cracked down on jubilant looters in the initial days after the liberation. Perhaps today we might be calling Iraq “a failure” due to the “heavy-handed theories of the neo-cons”. Now the Administration is going to try more troops, maybe that will help things now, but there’s no guarantee that it would have helped things before. Unfortunately the Senate didn’t confirm omniscient gods to the Defense department. But there aren’t any among their critics either. We went to Iraq, because we had to. I’m convinced of that. I think you are dead wrong when you imply otherwise. We would have been better placed to do it in 1991, but the American people were not willing to bear it back then. And no one then would have comprehended the deadly danger of failing to stabilize Iraq. Life ain’t fair. Sense ain’t common. Human foresight is a contradiction in terms (like “important art”).

5) Regarding “Chickenhawks”
Whisper, considering your current situation, you have earned the right to have whatever revulsion you wish to indulge at those enjoying the improving economy back home. Incidentally, I was too young to serve in Vietnam, but I did recently attempt to enlist with the National Guard and they said I was too old. I’m currently looking into getting a truckers license so I can support the war as a contractor (Riverbend would call that a “mercenary”). In a volunteer army in which we are getting the maximum number of troops that congress has budgeted, I don’t think the “chickenhawk” label has much relevance. I can certainly understand you having a different perspective on this, but that’s what I think. I’m against the draft because I don’t wish to see soldiers who enlisted with pride forced to serve beside criminals and dim-wits who couldn’t get into college or with people who would rather be writing anti-war poems. Are homosexuals permitted to be in favor of this war even though they can’t serve? Are the physically handicapped permitted? Since we’ve had two terms of a President that avoided the Vietnam draft and VP who pretended to sign up for divinity school to get out of it, I’m surprised that serving in the National Guard is now equated with running off to Canada. I suppose it is so now because the candidate of the opposing party served (never mind that he counted dubious wounds to get himself stateside after serving - four months).

Vietnam was simply a different war. There WAS a draft then. There is NOT one now. Back then, we did not act like we thought a democracy was possible in Vietnam. Now, an independent democracy is what we clearly intend to install in Iraq by early next year. The Johnson administration was only interested in not losing that war. The Nixon administration was easing our way out of the war. I think someone could be forgiven for not being crazy about putting his body on the line for that war. The current Administration IS vigorously fighting this war. Whatever their failings, they do actually seem to intend to win. I think we can and we must.

Here a very pertinent Hitchens article on the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Catching Up

Raed Sticks His Head In
In the commments section of Raed Finally Cracks Up, Raed posted in the Comments section:
nice discussion

thanx bruno...
and also the piff piff spifff

i like your analysis

Self-Addressing the Comments
Having been gone for a week I'll attempt to take up comments directed at me and subjects into which I wish I'd been around to interject:

Tammy asks
How come you haven't for awhile?

I was busy waiting for my mama underneath the D.H. Holmes clock.

Bruno says:
CMAR2 -- You said : "Every nation of any age (even South Africa) is guilty of some wrong or ommission in its past. That doesn't make any particular subsequent action wrong or cynical."

Alright, your point is valid ... although disputable. Let us agree on it for now, however.

So ...looking at recent US actions against Iraq since 9/11, seeings as everything is going to be dated from there in future ... how have it acted in a manner consistent with a power interested in spreading democracy and freedom? Fact is, it has not. The endless series of measures aimed at controlling Iraq by proxy (amiable dictators, caucuses, councils) are not consistent with this message. Nor was the cancellation of municipal elections. Nor was the flight from Sistani's call for UN supervised national elections.

What prompted this sudden interest in Iraq? Well, you must have heard of PNAC, the neocon stink tank that, amongst other things, advocated the virtual elimination of Iraq, Iran and N Korea, as well as a host of other things that have come to pass. This was when they were not in power. Now that they are in the driving seat, it is odd to see how much Bush's actions conform to their sick agenda. It is essentially a blueprint, that, if fully implemented, puts the US in the position of world ruler.

And, given the US's disregard for the rights of peoples outside its own borders *recently *, I must say that that prospect is not one that is to be relished.

Since you were not here, you probably are not aware that the Clinton Administration (who are not accused of being neo-cons) with it's own party's backing (including that of its current presidential nominee) managed to have Congress pass a resolution making regime change in Iraq official US foreign policy. You also may not be aware that throughout the Clinton Administration, its pundit supporters faulted the Bush 41 Administration for "not finishing the job" in Iraq. This has nothing particularly to do with neo-cons. This is simply the American position on Iraq. It is Al Gore and the rest of the Clintonians who have gone soft on Iraq since Dubya acted on their words. It is the so-called peace advocates who suddenly regained their voice when the Democrats exited the Whitehouse.

Anonymous asks
The big question here is why does CMRII try to make it sound like Riverbend encourages the "insurgents"? I don't see where she ever did. There are people in Iraq who are willing to forge the future through violence and war, but how CMRII figures Riverbend is one of them is a mystery.

It is confusing, I admit, since Riverbend likes to play both sides of the street. She complains about the lack of security and simultaneously complains about the Coalition oppressing the people when it tries to take out the bad guys (who are being shielded by those same oppressed people). She also counts killed insurgents with killed innocent bystanders and presumes ALL bystanders killed in firefights are killed by the murderous Coalition. She complains that oil, electricity, and water are scarce while ignoring that it is the insurgents who are primarily responsible for making it so.

So I can see that you are having trouble putting a finger on Riverbend's allegiances. I don't have that problem. I'm convinced her allegiance is to none other than the ousted Baathists. As to when she has spoken of support for the insurgents, I'll pick a recent one. On May 1st of this year she compared Muqty's militia to the Kurdish and Shi'a uprisings against Saddam. Now this is confusing because Muqty is an Islamist and Riverbend supposedly hates the Islamists. Still, from my perspective, this clearest show of support she has offered for anyone except for the pre-liberation regime. So I've decided to go with that.

Witchy innuends:
CMAR II, it's been asked elsewhere and I think deserves attention here:
Why IS it you chose the FEMALE Iraqi blogger to go after in specific? Not that you don't also criticize the males, but you seem positively possessed where the woman is concerned.
I just think its curious.
And telling

Whisper is correct. I didn't really name this blog. I just picked up the banner. Still, if it seems that Riverbend is my favorite Baathist Blogger, it is because she's by far a more convincing writer than the Jarrars (not that each Jarrar doesn't have compelling attributes of his/her own).

Friday, June 18, 2004

I'm baaaAAaaaak!

Just to let those know who have asked:

I was abducted into the Witness Protection program last Friday. I've only just now escaped to civilization. Nice to see the conversation progressed so well without me. Give me a bit of time to review the news and then I'll start providing updates again (although it seems from the lively discussion that I'm a bit superfluous).

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Insurgents (that poor local uprising that has won Riverbend's heart) have disabled a power plant capable of providing 20% of Iraq's electricity. Looks like Riverbend will be sleeping on the roof for a while now (the self-centered and incompetent Coalition had back up to 40% capacity by Tuesday):

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Raed Finally Cracks Up

Thanks to Hard Harry for notifying me that Raed's last little finger-hold on the cliffs of Mt. Sanity has finally given way. We knew it had to happen eventually. Some said it happened long ago. I'm talking about his latest post.

I'm hesitant to go into this because I know Jeffery is already feverishly working on his analysis of this cry for help. Also, the post is so loopy that it doesn't provide me much opportunity for summing it up with my own perspective. Usually, I like to talk about what a post made me think about rather than just fisk the post itself. But my primary reaction to Raed's latests is "Whaaaa...??" It completely speaks for itself: Raed is a totally nuts.

But I can't help it. This is the moment this blog has been waiting for:
In another world
I wish that saddam wasn’t so arrogant and stupid
In another world
I wish he didn’t attack Iran and Kuwait
In another world
I wish he didn’t give the bush administration excuses to come and occupy Iraq
And in another world
I wish that the Iraqi army could defend our country and stop the American unjustified attack.
But what can I say, we are all living in THIS world.
Saddam was our national leader,
And yeah, I know I know…
he was a dictator,
he was stupid and self-destructive
but he was our national leader, that I didn’t enjoy any external forces to come and change
So Raed says Saddam was "stupid and self-destructive". He had a nasty habit of invading Iraq's neighbors (the cute lil' greedy, power-mad monster that he was). He was a dictator. But he was MY greedy, power-mad monster dictator. Why can't you just leave him alone. (boo-hoo!)

Exactly what would Saddam have had to do for Raed to think "external forces" were justified in removing him?
I used to be an anti-Saddam during the time of the national Iraqi government, and I am still having huge critiques on how was he ruling the country,,,
But he was a national leader, and more a phenomena than a person.
A phenomenon that Iraq must go through to reach to a better future.
I used to have faith in the Iraqi government, and used to conceder it as a base that can be enhanced in the next decades, maybe giving us one of the first national democratic governments in the Arab world.

Here Raed flatly denies my recent posit that he was a Saddam-supporter before the liberation. BUUUUUUUUT....then he qualifies that denial. He actually claims to have believed that Saddam was a route to "one of the first national democratic governments in the Arab world". So which is it? Having a little more experience with democracies than Raed, I can assure him that the most dependable route to a democracy is not an Orwellian terror regime. I can only explain this craziness if he thought Uday and Qusay were closet democrats just waiting for the old man to kick off to install a constitutional government....anyone else buying that?

More than that, Raed used to believe the Iraqi government could deliver an Iraqi democracy....when Saddam was running it. Eight months from Iraq's first election, Raed has lost all hope in democracy for Iraq.

But just when you thought Raed had reached the rock bottom the sea of Inasnum Profundus, Raed manages to fall into a chasm:
I still have this faith in the Iranian government, that has better potentialities of having internal revolutions and evolution, a government that can produce a real national democracy on the long run.

Yes, you read that right. The newly created Iraqi government will not provide a the democracy Raed hopes for...that will most likely come from the mullahs in Tehran. You just can't win Raed's trust unless you're an oppressive dictatorship on the verge of an international outrage. The Iranian government has its own ideas about liberal democracy, Raed.
From my point of view, as a secular Muslim, I am fighting against fundamentalists and right-winged clerics, BUT I will defend them in the time they are attacked by extruders.

Who does this noble "secular muslim" intend to defend the Iranian mullahs from? Who are the extruders? The oppressed Kurds in Iran? No. Saddam? I don't think so...after all, Saddam was Raed's "national ruler". Then who will our secular muslim defend the mullahs against? Why, infidels of course!
Very paradoxical and controversial, right? :*)

Yes. (Don't make any sudden moves)
ok, just try to follow me

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.
Bush said that he must change saddam, and he doesn’t have anything to do with against the Iraqi people.
Some believed him, and I didn’t.
Bush said that Iraq has WMD, I didn’t see that as a crime because the administration of bush has these weapons too, the Israeli regime has these weapons too, so why be eclectic and ask Iraq alone to be WMD-free?

Ah! A question! CMAR II frantically waves his hand in the air. When he's not called on he blurts out, "Because Iraq was unique in all the world in that it was forbidden to have such weapons as part of the cease-fire of the war that drove it out of Kuwait! Saddam was only too happy to agree to such stipulations because the US forces had the Republican Guard surrounded in southern Iraq and was basically parked outside the gates of Basra! You must have learned all this in your history lessons at school in Iraq..." Raed continues as though he didn't hear anything.
But whatever…
I didn’t even believe that Iraq really had WMD, some people believed bush though.
Next, the war started, destroyed everything related to the government, and everything related to the public sector.
I saw that as a systematic way of changing the economical regime, others thought it was a small mistake.
Next, bush said that they are coming as liberators.
Next, bush said that they are an occupation force!
Next, he put some moppets and told us those are our brand new government…
Next, he left everything burning,
And now, he is happy that the Iraqi people are getting their freedom!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That the Iraq people are getting rid of the “OCCUPATION”

Waitaminute, I'm lost already. At first I thought Raed was leading us on a path where things got progressively worse and then the Iraqis end up in chains. But Raed has ended this story with the Iraqis getting freedom and getting rid of the "occupation". What gives? Also...everything is burning after a new government is installed? I knew this would happen...I'm hopelessly lost. And I think Raed ditched me.
When I speak about bush, I mean all the narrow-minded racist neo-cons supporting him too.
I just want to give the right discretion of what happened…
Iraqis need decades to have their freedom now, their social, economical, political and military freedom.
I see that the only reason for this war was destroying Iraq as an anti-globalization country, and as an anti-Israel government.

Okay. Now I'm feeling an urge to belittle Raed. I'm going to take a deep breath and try to restrain myself.

Iraq is an anti-globalization country?? How so? And exactly how does Raed define "freedom"?. I get a real sense that Raed has been reading some kind of political philosophy in which normal everyday words like freedom, globalization, what-have-you, all have different, even opposite meanings from the expected ones. He definitely needs to define his terms on his next post.
I see that the destruction bush made to Iraq is incomparable to any destruction Iraq witnessed since centuries.
I see that Iraq is destroyed demographically and socially, and it is going to its way to more destruction.
But I see that the bush administration, won this war, like any other empires did since the dawn of history, and I see that it is MY responsibility to liberate and reconstruct my country…

Well, you had better hurry Raed, or else the Coalition and the American taxpayers will have it reconstructed before you get back. It will be liberated too (by everyday usage, that is...you may mean something different from freedom of speech, religion, thought, etc.)
I am not asking for much, right?
Just want to call things by their real name
Just want to make it clear, that no one gave me my freedom

Well, Raed, if you were pretty much free during Saddam's reign...and your sense of optimism about it suggests things weren't too bad for you then...I suppose you and Saddam have this in common: The Coalition didn't free you. Good for you.
And that I must understand that we, Iraqis, were defeated by the roman empire of our time, and we won’t expect or beg for help from this evil occupying administration.
1516? UN? What the hell…My Palestinian grandfather used to memorize a bunch of numbers too.

How about if "the roman empire of our time" just gives the help anyway.
American people and Iraqi people can work together to fix the disasters their governments did,
We can work together, after the neo-cons are kicked out of office.
We can work together after understanding and admitting that what happened was a catastrophe,
and after understanding that if we didn’t fix this together, our next generations won’t live in peace and will NEVER work together.

Hold on a minute, Raed...um...wha...but...ARE YOU ASKING FOR HELP FROM THE UNITED STATES???!!!

As I said I have nothing to offer here. This what he said...it appears to be a hopeless case...I wish I could think of something pithy to say about this.

Justify My Love IV: More conversation with THESPIFF

Once again, I find THESPIFF's comments are profound enough that the comments section is an inappropriate place to respond. He says:
First of all, I'd like to clarify my Fox News remark, because it was a bit ambiguous. What I meant to say was that you complain about Riverbend in the same way that "whiny liberals" complain about Fox news.
Now then, I guess I will concede some of my language. Maybe "attack" is too harsh a word for what you're doing to Riverbend, and maybe "slander" is an inappropriate label as well.

There are more things that I'd say you aren't doing. You are not refuting any of her statements or claims, simply nitpicking at the minor details. Nor are you presenting a unique perspective as an alternative to Riverbend's account of life in Iraq. And you definitely aren't citing any sort of real evidence in opposition to Riverbend's stories. What you most definitely ARE doing is belittling Riverbend's writings. You do this because you think she is a liar. You could attempt to prove your point by refuting her claims with evidence and logic. Instead, you target her character, and through marring it you unfairly mar her opinions. Anybody who's read "The Stranger" by Camus probably knows exactly what I'm talking about.

You throw around theories based on vague notions gathered from over-analysis and reinforce them with your personal political beliefs. You've done a disservice to yourself here, as well as to anyone who reads your post and believes that you have thoroughly discredited Riverbend's blog.

P.S.: It's Spiff, not "Spliff".

Just checked...I did spell your name right, so you weren't talking about me. Good. :)

I suppose at times my tone toward Riverbend's writings could be called "belittling"; same for Faiza and the Jarrar bros. My tone does not stem from a belief that they are liars. I do think they have a negative bias (there's the Fox News angle for you). I think that bias comes from the fact that things were not too bad for them (relatively) under Saddam. In addition, Jeffery has speculated that there may be something to the fact that the Jarrars are half-Palestinian, and Saddam became a big booster of the West Bank cause since his invasion of Kuwait. Who knows.

I don't claim that what Riverbend or the Jarrars say is a lie, however. Check out the letter to Faiza from an American woman. Nothing there is strictly a lie either. But the picture it intentionally paints of America is not the truth either. Now you could say to me essentially what conservatives say to liberals when those liberals complain about the bias on Fox News or talk radio:
"For the last 40 years you've had ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, NPR, CNN, CBC, BBC, and ITV. So what of it if the coverage on Fox slants a little to the conservative side?"

By the same token, you could say:
"You have the Kurdish blogs, Healing Iraq, Iraq the Model and an untold number of blogs who hale the liberation as good thing over all. Why can't you just let Riverbend and the Jarrars speak without comment?"

In answer, I'll leave aside the fact that ABC, NBC, etc, etc are singing the same song Riverbend is for the most part. I'll leave aside my opinion about the reason the Europeans and the vast majority of anti-war Americans have continuously prophesied the failure of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. My answer is that I believe there is a war going on. That it is a war with civilization and freedom on one side, and on the other side cynical power machines and monstrous pseudo-religious luddites who make any tenth century potentate, Western or Middle Eastern, look positively urbane and progressive in comparison. I know our military can handle the RPGs and car bombs of the enemy, and I believe the people of the Middle East as a whole desire something besides repression and eternal war, but this is not primarily a war of guns and bullets. It is a war of Wills. My concern is that the West will decide (as apparently have most of the European populace - although not their governments) that it is too much trouble to make the the Middle East free...that, heck, they probably prefer to have dictators...they can't handle freedom...not like we can.

You are right. I do intend to undermine (to the extent that I can) the force of Riverbend's testimony. I do this because I believe it paints a false picture. I believe it arises from the fact that Riverbend was doing okay during Saddam's reign; a premise which I consider to be entirely irrelevant. I've come to this belief by reading her blogs, and only later discovered that others did as well. I believe that to the extent that her testimony expresses opinions held by other Iraqis (and I'm certain that a good 25% do), they are opinions that we must struggle to change as part of the overall war effort, not embrace. And this is true not just in Iraq, but also in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Turkey and Paskistan and Iran.

I'm sure Tokyo Rose knew more about the suffering of the Japanese during World War II, than any American serviceman. But does that mean we should have taken her words to heart? Or is the Japan of today a worthy answer to her broadcasts?

I think Riverbend is wrong, not a liar. Saddam was no buttress against the Islamo-facists (it is clear to me that that is her justification for preferring Saddam to liberation). In an effort to stay in power, he was courting the Islamists. The Christians in Iraq, seeing the writing on the wall, were in the process of emmigrating already.

Monday, June 07, 2004

UPDATE: Justify My Love III

In the Comments of my last entry, THESPIFF, asks me the age-old question "What's it all about?":

I find all of this intriguing and most of it seems to stand up to reason. I've been reading Riverbend for months myself, and I think it's very obvious that she has spent a great deal of time in both Arab and American cultures.

But I can't avoid asking what the hell your stance on this is? Firstly, what are you accusing Riverbend of? Do you think she is lying to us or simply misleading us? Your comments on her nationality seem to imply that she's an American impersonating an Iraqi living in Baghdad. Is this your belief?

You later call her a possible Baathist sympathizer or even a member of a powerful Baathist family. Are we dealing with an American Baathist masquerading as an afflicted citizen of Baghdad? To what end?

I'm sorry CMAR II, but I fail to see any sort of point here. You apparently disagree with her personal, subjective depictions of Iraqi life post-war. You substantiate this by citing other subjective depictions. You attack her for trying to remain anonymous on the internet. You attack her for her probable American upbringing. You attack her for complaining about foreign tanks in her streets, lack of electricity, and lack of jobs. (These last three are unarguably very real problems in Iraq right now.)

Perhaps most absurdly of all, you attack her for complaining about her day-to-day activites in her personal online weblog, which by definition can be understood as merely an online journal written for an audience.

I see no valid purpose for you to be doing all of this. It looks to me like a lot of pointless slander directed at somebody you don't have stomach for. Does it annoy the hell out of you when people whine endlessly about Fox News' bias? Why do you pull the same routine on an anonymous personal website?

I don't understand why this is so difficult to grasp for some people. I think I've made my stance on all of this pretty clear. I've dealt with most of this over and over. It seems to me that the most likely explanation is that some people aren't reading my blogs...instead they are reading about my blogs from some untrustworthy source.

I don't attack her for trying to remain anonymous on the internet. What do I care? She may have good reasons for it, and she doesn't need any reasons at all. (Nor do I attack her for not having Comments.) Why is it acceptible for bloggers to comment on articles from the Washington Times but not the blogger Riverbend? My point is that if she says everything was wonderful for her before the invasion and afterwards everything went to scuzz, well, I'd say her family involvement in the regime is pertinent to that perspective. Afterall, the new Iraq probably is not going too well for Saddam either (not that I'm saying RB or her parents are war criminals). Thus, it is by no means hypocritical for me to remain anonymous (I say it once again).

I don't attack her for her probable American upbringing. That she was raised in America is merely a piece of the puzzle. Some people have speculated that she is not Iraqi. I disagree. I think she is Iraqi, and her parents worked in the US until her early teens. For them to return to Iraq in the early 90s from the US is a significant signal that her parents were here in an official capacity (not just ordinary Iraqi emmigrants). This is anonymous but significant data. If I had her actual name, I would never publish it. I assert that she is an "afficted Iraqi", more precisely, an afflicted "member of a powerful Baathist family."

Do I attack her for complaining about foreign tanks in her streets, lack of electricity, and lack of jobs? No. But it's not the whole story. Her descriptions of these stories reflect more the viewpoint of Zeyad's uncle(a former general under Saddam) rather than Zeyad (of the Healing Iraq blog). There was a lack of electricity in Iraq before the war. Before the war there was a deteriorating economy rather than an improving one. Her situation is much less secure, much less comfortable now than during the Saddam regime. Perhaps its even less free in some ways. Is that the case of all Iraqis? Isn't the reason for her negative perspective pertinent? Should my sympathies lie with families members of the former Saddam terror machine, or with Iraqis that don't have to fear having their hands cut-off for almost no reason at all?

I don't slander her, because I don't tell any deliberate lies about her. I only provide perspective on her comments. My analysis of her background comes from information she has chosen to provide, and I think it is important context when reading her blog. "Attack" is too strong a word in my opinion but I do take her on for her consistent negative perspective on the Coalition's intentions and accomplishments in Iraq. I don't think her complaining is in her country's best interest, and I certainly don't think it is in her best interest. Her desires for her country and the Coalition's seems to be quite similar (unless she has an unstated desire to take part in a regime to again repress her countrymen -- which I don't detect).

But even for you this site has a point. She has no Comments. I have them here. Leave a message: "Riverbend, I find your blog inspiring and it gives me hope for the future of Iraq" or something like that.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Who Is Riverbend?

Riverbend's description of the ways Iraqis are working around the current difficulties in her neighborhood and country (intermittent electricity) is worth the read to say the least. She had to clean the roof with a relative(?) so the family could sleep on it during the night.

Despite her new sleeping arrangements, our girl may be turning toward optimism despite her better judgement. Her preview of her review of the new government is that it is "interesting". That's ringing endorsement coming from her. She said she would soon put out more on it. She hasn't gotten to it yet for which I can hardly blame her. However, I really wish she had posted a follow-up entry since I could talk more about this. (That's right. Riverbend must sleep on the roof and it's my problem. I'm just like that.)

This combination post/cesura does give me a chance to talk about Riverbend in general. which is fortuitous, I guess. Who is Riverbend? Others have speculated so I will too. It makes sense I suppose, since this blog is indirectly named after her.

Okay. Back to Riverbend. What do we know about her? In her first post she told us:
I'm female, Iraqi and 24.
Early on she gave an explanation of herself and ever since I read it, I've believed her family was well placed in the Saddam regime. Which explains why as early as Aug. 26th, 2003 she spoke openly of nostalgia for Saddam:
Maybe come April 9, 2004, Bremer and the Governing Council can join Bush in the White House to celebrate the fall of Baghdad... because we certainly won't be celebrating it here.
Who is "we" and where is "here"? This is what Riverbend wrote:
A lot of you have been asking about my background and the reason why my English is good. I am Iraqi- born in Iraq to Iraqi parents, but was raised abroad for several years as a child. I came back in my early teens and continued studying in English in Baghdad.
"Early teens" means she returned to Iraq early in the 90s. But before we go any further I need to deal with what has caused the most speculation about her: her English. It's not just good. It's flawless. I'm pretty good at "literary voices" and can usually detect an accent in writing, but she has none (from this American's point of view). She says she was raised "abroad" and she's "bilingual" which suggests she speaks her native tongue and English. So "abroad" is not France or Russia. It's somewhere where the native language is English: Britain, Australia, South Africa, Canada, America, the Carribeans (Am I leaving anything out?). But once again, she has no "accent" in her writing...no non-American idioms or words. For "abroad", I'd say we're looking at America or Canada.

Most Canadians live within 150 miles of the US border. But I think the claim that she's "bilingual" almost dispenses with the possibility that she was raised and educated there. I "was raised" across the lake from Canada. I have several close Canadian friends, and, personally, I've never met a Canadian (teen-aged and up) (even those in Western Canada) who would admit to not being able to speak French (even though, excepting French Canadians, most seem to speak it only marginally better than most anglo-Texans speak Spanish.)

Besides, there's no "Canada" in her posts. She bears no self-conscious pose of superiority over American culture in which Canadians stew. Her tone when referencing aspects of the American movies and government is like an American's. She lacks the subtle quaint false presumptions most Canadians have about Americans from experiencing the US almost entirely from US television yet (because of proximity) believing they know it. There is no self-perceived distance from America. She usually reads like an American exiled to Iraq. She explains her knowledge of American culture in that Iraqis closely follow American culture, but this doesn't answer it for me. Put her posts side-by-side with the Jarrar boys and with The Iraq the Model brothers (whose English is also very good), and I think any American ought to see the difference.

So, I'm convinced that "abroad" means she lived in America. Her parents left Iraq with a little lateefa (I've been learning Arabic with Faiza), but returned home with an American teenager. I suspect she has continued to correspond with American friends over the years which explains why when she (for example) makes a reference to George Bush being selected by the Supreme Court it has the ring of a young American Democrat rather than a boiler-plate slur she picked up from a liberal website.

Okay. So in her early teens....her family returned to Iraq. Return to Iraq? In the early 90s? When would that have been prudent or necessary. The Saddam regime was a paranoid, orwellian government. During the sanctions, it was very hard on average Iraqis. America is full of Iraqi ex-patriots, but none that were looking to return until after the Ba'athists fell, and even now they're waiting for the security to improve. Why would her family have chosen to return to Iraq. The only plausible excuse that I have been able to come up with was if they worked at the Iraqi Embassy in the United States. It was closed during Gulf War I. A few diplomats continued to work out of the building after it was taken over by the Algerians, but I doubt whole families would have remained, at least not for long. This has been my opinion since I first read her old posts, and I've only had this suspicion confirmed for me in her subsequent posts -- nothing has made me seriously question it. (Perhaps I've overlooked something...let me know)

For an example, this understanding places in a new light for me her story about losing her job with the sofware company (state owned it seems) after the fall of Saddam. She describes a society under Saddam (which I fully credit) in which women participate freely in the workforce as professionals. I'll also note that reportedly under Saddam, Iraqi ethnic Christians (Ouch! Niki cracks a stick over my back for that one) had unparalleled freedom in Iraq compared with other Middle East countries. Which is to say, they were not singled out for persecution any more than other ordinary Iraqis. Tariq Aziz was the only Christian in the Saddam inner circle, but Christian representation in the Saddam government was probably unparralled in the Middle East). Riverbend is paid as much as her male coworkers. She interacts with them normally.

Then the invasion came and suddenly everything changed. About three months after the start of the war, she returned to her office. Her description of the transfer of power at the company convinces me it was state-owned. The old director died during the second week of the war (coincidence? suicide? causualty? murder? She doesn't say) and now a lot of new people along with the old are arguing over who will take over. The place is in disorder...there are few women there but there are women.

The first person she meets is a male coworker. He says:
he wasn’t coming back after today. Things had changed. I should go home and stay safe. He was quitting- going to find work abroad.
Next the two of them meet a department head (one they had worked with before):
We paused on the second floor and stopped to talk to one of the former department directors. I asked him when they thought things would be functioning, he wouldn’t look at me. His eyes stayed glued to A.’s face as he told him that females weren’t welcome right now- especially females who ‘couldn’t be protected’. He finally turned to me and told me, in so many words, to go home because ‘they’ refused to be responsible for what might happen to me. Ok. Fine. Your loss. I turned my back, walked down the stairs and went to find E. and my cousin. Suddenly, the faces didn’t look strange- they were the same faces of before, mostly, but there was a hostility I couldn’t believe.
As I first read this, I found it confusing. People with whom she had worked at ease suddenly found her presence unacceptable because she's a woman. There are other women there, but she is sent home because she's a woman. People don't turn on a dime like that. They don't. And no amount of arguments will convince me they do. Her male co-worker says he isn't coming back either...he's looking for work out of the country. Why was the situation there so uncomfortable that he was leaving immediately as well? (CMAR II quietly drums his fingers on his desk for effect)

Something is being left out here. I fully believe that that Islamic conservatives moving into the company probably looked forward to straightening out all this "unlawful" female involvement in the workforce. But I don't believe a department head would feel it necessary to look a lowly female programmer in the eye (as was apparently typical before the invasion) if he didn't want to. If there was hostility in the heart of her coworkers three months after the war, it was there before the war. It just wasn't in their faces. And what about the new environment was forcing the male programmer out as fast as Riverbend? But what if the department head and Riverbend's other coworkers felt they had to treat her with prudent respect because of her family connections? And what if those very connections are part of the reason for the hostility from her coworkers...and the hostility toward her male coworker as well? In her most recent post, Riverbend says that people in Iraq get government jobs based on who they know:
Some of the ministers are from inside of the country (not exiles) and the rest are from abroad and affiliated with different political parties. This will, naturally, determine the types of employees in the various ministries. You can't get a job these days without the proper 'tazkiyeh' or words of approval from somebody who knows somebody who knows someone who knows someone else who has a friend who has a relative who... well, you get the picture.
Is that really very different from the way it worked before? Is that how people got jobs at her company? Last August was she was in the uncomfortable position of her sponsors being the losers? When the department head says "expecially women who 'couldn’t be protected’" were unwelcome, there are more ways than physically that a woman can be protected or lose her protection.

Throughout her posts, but especially in the early ones, Riverbend identifies the fall of Saddam with the rise of Sharia oppression. She draws a picture of Iraqi life before and after Saddam as one of secular freedom and theocratic totalitarianism. She expressed repression from Imam-led militias well before we heard about it in the news. This is so like Raed's recent posts that I posit that many backers and participants of the Saddam regime justified its crueties and corruption in that it was "better than Iran" or Saudi Arabia or any other Islamic country you can name. This point is not without merit. But just as I said in my last Raed post, Saddam was increasingly becoming less even of a secular alternative to the Islamic regimes. The answer is not for her to hope for (or even expect) the new Iraq to fail. I'm not superstitious but saying things too loudly and often have a way of helping them come to pass. The Ba'athists are not coming back (if Iraq is anything but cursed), and the Coalition vison is the only one that will see her once again be able to safely go out wearing blue jeans after 4pm again.

Reader BK has some further speculation about Riverbend including her name...

Your speculations on the I.D. of Riverbend is very good. Like many others, I have guessed she was party affilliated. And I've asked her about the American idioms (no reply--no surprise). The timeline you lay out seems to fit the story as I know it. I also think her neighborhood is very near the bend in Euphrates River (hence Riverbend) which is very near the government offices. The structures and surrounding area are under repair so the electricty would come and go often. The university of which she frequently speaks is also not far nor is the cafe at which she meets her freinds. She's an uptown girl from across the river where many government workers lived. I could be wrong. Riv writes beautifully.

From the Comments at Healing Iraq as part of a discussion about the January 2005 elections in Iraq, a poster named Insider From Baghdad writes:

Riverbend is the eldest daughter of a Saddam-appointed ambassador, and a high ranking Ba'athist, to a western country during the eighties.

Raed Jarrar is the eldest son of a Palestinian refugee who was driven out of the Gulf after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and granted asylum in Iraq by Saddam's regime.

Both persons do not count in this historic day and will instead make it to the dustbin of history.

Then he writes:

I am a Sunni from the Zayuna district in Baghdad, originally from Mosul, and I personally know both the people I have mentioned.

I have sent an email to Zeyad asking him to confirm that this poster was at least writing from Baghdad. No word at this time. If I hear from him I will update this post. Of course, I can't vouch for the source, but it sure sounds like confirmation of what I have said here and what others have deduced about the Jarrars.


See this post for more information on special privileges granted to Palestinian immigrants during Saddam's reign. This could help explain why freedom under "occupation" today seems so much worse to the Jarrars than life under Saddam.