Saturday, September 23, 2006

44 Killed in Baghdad Bombings

Composite two panel graphic showing bombing scene and wounded child
The left panel in the graphic above shows the scene of the today's bombing in Sadr city. Most people in Sadr city are poor. Most cook using parafin (kerosene) stoves. If you have ever seen the queues for parafin in Sadr city you know that they consist almost entirely of women and children. Women and children were the targets for this bombing. Tallying the various reports I get a total of 35 confirmed killed and 38 confirmed seriously wounded in this attack.

The child in the second panel is eight year old Abbas Abid, he was wounded by a mortar attack on the apartment block in which he lives this morning.

Also in Baghdad a second bombing this time a motorbike bombing took place targetting a restauruant. That attack killed at least nine and injured eight others three of whom are not expected to survive.

A group of eight people were shot as they put up posters near the Othman mosque in Neayriya. The mosque was later shelled with mortars.


Another Reason To Like Penguins

Because one of them has saved me the trouble of saying this:

"Israel currently uses more water per household than ten households in the surrounding countries use. They are the Americans of the Middle East, gluttons who are addicted to an unsustainable lifestyle that can be maintained only via theft and force of arms. If the U.S. went into Iraq for the oil (even just to keep said oil off the market to insure higher prices for U.S. oil companies), it is clear that Israel went into Lebanon for more reasons than just a couple of captured Israeli soldiers (soldiers captured, I might add, in the midst of constant Israeli incursions into Lebanon that had resulted in the deaths of multiple Lebanese citizens guilty of nothing except being in the wrong place at the wrong time -- over a dozen Israeli violations of Lebanese territory had been protested to the United Nations over the six months prior to the capture of the Israeli soldiers). The fact that they failed to attain the Litani River, their clear and obvious goal (in order to divert its waters to Israel) must rankle them greatly, but they're stealing whatever water they can from places they did attain"

… …

In the end, they are bad neighbors, and for the most part bad people. I'm sorry, but if you are selfish, small-minded, oblivious, and willfully ignorant of the world outside your own immediate surroundings, you are a bad person, period -- no matter how often you go to church or how kind you are to children in your own neighborhood."

-- Badtux the Opinionated Penguin


Friday, September 22, 2006

A Christian's Memorys of Ramadan

This year Ramadan starts on September 24th. Some people think of it as being similar to Lent. Not so! It's a time of joy and celebration for Muslims. Except for Saudi Arabia I've never once heard a Muslim ever say or behave as though it were an onerous and reluctantly undertaken duty. Whereas I - like any Catholic child I suppose, thought that Lent was a pain and coudn't wait for it to be over. Lent in Lebanon was terrible all those sweets I couldn't eat, and all those pesky Muslim friends who (very nicely but very firmly) helped me keep my lenten vow. I especially didn't like it that the old gentleman who stood outside the school selling sweets used to wave me away whenever I approached. I was the only Christian in that school so playbreaks during lent really taught me the meaning of the word "temptation."

There's a huge range of dishes that are traditionally eaten during Ramadan. Sweets traditionally eaten during RamadanThe photograph to the left shows some sweets. My childhood memorys of Ramadan are very happy ones. Children before the age of puberty are of course exempt from fasting. And in any case as a foreigner, and a Christian, living in Lebanon I was even more exempt. But it was considered polite not to stuff your face in public during the fast. In the evening I got lots of chances to eat my self silly and did. I don't think there was ever a Ramadan evening that we ate at home. We lived in a mostly Muslim area, we were the only Christians in two blocks. All our neighbours used to invite us to come and share their evening meal with us after the first year they worked out a rota of who would invite us on which evening so that nobody felt left out. The Lebanese are very hospitable anyway but we were made to feel even more welcome than usual. For me the main meal would usually end with me being brought from one house to another so that I could sample the various desserts. I quickly learnt that it was a good idea to fast a bit during the day anyway or else my stomach would run out of space long before I'd had a chance to try everything.

The procedings usually ended with either dad or the one of the men of the family we'd being eating with having to carry to me home. Often it was a question of me waking up at home the next morning and ..... "Oh,I must have gone to sleep." Very luxurious :-)

"Ramadan Chicken"

Here's a main meal that "maman" used to cook for Dad and myself often at Ramadan. It will serve four adults.

The Ingredients

  • 12 chicken thighs
  • 2 lemons,
  • 4 table spoons of dark brown sugar
  • 4 table spoons white vinegar - Note to readers in the UK "white vinegar" does NOT mean that disgusting malt vinegar stuff. Save that for stripping paint.
  • 4 table spoons of water
  • 500 grams grammes of dried figs (that is a little more than a 8 0unces)
  • A little salt.
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • A little oil. I like to use grapeseed oil. "Maman" regards grapeseed oil as an abomination and uses Lebanese olive oil.

The Recipe

  1. Soak the figs overnight so that they become plump.
  2. Discard the soaking water pat the figs dry.
  3. Brush the chicken thighs with the oil.
  4. Heat an oven to 200° centigrade (400° Fahrenheit)
  5. Put the chicken thighs into a medium size roasting dish and put them in the oven to start them cooking.
  6. Take a small mixing bowl.
  7. Cut one of the lemons in half and squeeze it completely dry into the bowl.
  8. Add the sugar vinegar and water and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  9. Slice the other lemon very very thinly.
  10. After 15 minutes take the chicken out of the oven and put the thighs on a plate.
  11. Put the figs and the sliced lemom into the roasting dish and mix them up. Then pat them down so that they cover the base of the dish evenly.
  12. Put the thighs on top.
  13. Pour the lemon/vinegar/sugar mix over the chicken thighs and figs.
  14. Sprinkle the dried parsley over the thighs.
  15. Put the roasting dish back into the oven.
  16. Baste frequently
  17. Turn the dish around after 25 minutes.
  18. After about 40 minutes check the dish - if the figs are starting to go brown turn them over.
  19. The dish is usually ready after 50 minutes but that depends on your particular oven.
  20. When the thighs are cooked remove them and the figs from the dish using a slotted spoon and put them onto a warmed plate.
  21. Skim the fat from juices in the roasting dish and pour it over the the thighs.
  22. Serve with the chopped parsley sprinkled over it.

Rice cooked however you like it is a good accompanyment to this. How I like it is with cold rice that has raisins and almond flakes added and that is how I am going to serve it to Mrs. Dubhaltach and our guests tomorrow evening. I've also had chicken cooked this way with dried apricots which are sometimes easier to get than dried figs depending on where you live.

I won't be online on Sunday so I will take this chance to say "Ramadan Kareem" to all our Muslim readers.


Thursday, September 21, 2006


Medic checking man's burnt hand the man was injured in a car bombing in Huriyah BaghdadTwo civilians were killed and 11 wounded this morning in a car bomb attack in Hurriyah northern Baghdad. AP are reporting that the target was an electricity office. I doubt this, there's a fairly large market in Hurriyah beside where the bombing took place I think that was the more likely target.

I'm sometimes asked why I chose to be a felix. My reply is that anyone who lived as a child in Lebanon and had Lebanese friends saw at first hand how being injured in a bombing could cause you pain and grief for the rest of your life. Bombs don't just inflict blast and shrapnel wounds upon their victims. If you're unlucky enough to be close to the blast they also burn you. In the photogaph to the left a medic is checking the hand of a man unfortunate enough to have been in precisely this situation in the Hurriyah bombing today.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Stop Killing Journalists

Stop killing journalists


Parental Discipline

I see Juan Cole has mentioned this AP article - go read the whole thing first:

Young children fight U.S. troops in Iraq


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Shiite militias are encouraging children - some as young as 6 or 7 - to hurl stones and gasoline bombs at U.S. convoys, hoping to lure American troops into ambushes or provoke them into shooting back, U.S. soldiers say.

Gangs of up to 100 children assemble in Sadr City, stronghold of radical anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia, and in nearby neighborhoods, U.S. officers said in interviews this week.

Full text of AP article on Yahoo News. Full text of AP article on Seattle PI Intelligencer.

Here's what Juan has to say about the story:

"Speaking of the Mahdi Army militia, AP says that it is now using children against US troops in Sadr City."

I'd love to know what the hell AP thought they were doing circulating this piece of codswallop and I'm astonished that Juan gives it face value. The kindest explanation is that it was written by a reporter who has spent very little time in Iraq and who has never been to al-Thawra before. There's nothing even remotely new about Iraqi kids throwing stones - sometimes quite large stones - at American occupying troops. Talk to anybody who has been part of the occupying forces in any large Iraqi town let alone somewhere the size of Sadr city and they'll tell you that Iraqi kids throw stones at them. Every trip I've taken to Iraq since the Americans invaded I've seen kids, sometimes very young kids, throwing stones at Americans. What the hell do you expect? Treating people who have already suffered apallingly as a result of how your country has behaved as inferior beings is not going to make them like you. I don't doubt for a moment that older boys and adults are encouraging the kids in Sadr city to stone the American troops. Americans are hated in Iraq and are going to continue to hated for a very long time. As to this:

"Other Iraqi adults have been more helpful. After several rocks were thrown at passing U.S. vehicles in Shaab, soldiers followed one child home. When soldiers told his mother what had happened, she slapped her son across the face in front of them."

Excuse me a moment I need to roll around on the floor for a few minutes … … … bwaaaahahahahahaha … … … phew I needed that. Antonio old chum you're an eedjit. I couldn't resist sending the complete text of your article to every single Iraqi I know this morning with that paragraph bolded and increased in size:

like this

Their unanimous reaction was the same as mine. She slapped his face for being thick witted enough to get caught not for chucking stones at your troops. Three of them reminded me of what I said back in March when discussing al-Amarah:

"Actually the stone throwing mob consisted almost entirely of children. Did I mention that Al Amarah's kind of an old-fashioned place and that adults there have kind of old-fashioned ideas about parental discipline?

Al Amarah's kind of an old-fashioned place, adults there have kind of old-fashioned ideas about parental discipline - you can take it that those children's parents were considerably less than disapproving of their children being part of that stone throwing mob.

"Al Amarah, on the river Tigris, south of Baghdad, has been the scene of trouble before, with both local rioting and insurgent attacks.

The fact is that from the shortly after the British arrived to "take control of Al Amarah there's been repeated rioting, shooting at troops, attempts to bomb British convoys, and attacks on their compound at Camp Abu Naji* outside the town. The invaders aren't popular, invaders rarely are. "


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Diwaniya Peace Agreement

منع المظاهر المسلحة ومحاسبة مثيري الفتنة - التيار الصدري يوافق علي خطة المالكي لاستعادة أمن الديوانية
الديوانية ــ الزمان
وافق التيار الصدري الذي يترأسه مقتدي الصدر علي مبادرة رئيس الوزراء العراقي نوري المالكي لانهاء العنف في الديوانية، فيما وقع ممثلون عن القوي والاحزاب في المدينة علي خطة انهاء العنف التي اقترحتها لجنة شكلها المالكي لوضع حد نهائي للأوضاع المتدهورة في المدينة. وتقضي الخطة بمنع المظاهر المسلحة في المدينة ومحاسبة المقصرين الذين أثاروا الفتنة.
واكدت انه لا توجد خطوط حمراء للاجهزة الامنية وبامكانها اعتقال المشتبهين في المدينة وعدم استقدام اي جهة سياسية او دينية الا عن طريق الدولة واجهزتها ووقف الهجمات علي القوات الامريكية في الاحياء السكنية وعدم قصف مواقعها لعدم اعطائها المبرر لاجتياح المدينة كما نصت الخطة علي ايقاف الاغتيالات.
وكان قد عقد في الديوانية التي شهدت اعمال عنف واشتباكات بين جيش المهدي وقوات مشتركة عراقية امريكية اجتماع أمني ضم مستشاري رئيس الوزراء لشؤون العشائر وعشائر المحافظة وممثلين عن الاحزاب للتوصل الي حل للازمة الامنية في المدينة. من جانبه طالب الشيخ عبد الرزاق النداوي مدير مكتب الصدر في الديوانية بتعويض المتضررين جراء الاشتباكات ونقل القاعدة العسكرية التابعة للقوات المتعددة الجنسية الي خارج الديوانية، ووقف مداهمة اعضاء التيار الصدري في المدن.
وكانت قوات امريكية داهمت في النهضة الواقعة شمال شرق الديوانية واجرت عمليات تفتيش كما استمرت هذه القوات في تسير دوريات في شوارع المدينة خاصة منطقتي العروبة والجزائر. وكانت عشائر الديوانية استنجدت بالحكومة العراقية لتخليص المدينة من سيطرة المليشيات واتهمتها في رسالة الي رئيس الوزراء بالقيام باعمال القتل والاختطاف والسرقة. وسبق لوزير الدفاع العراقي عبد القادر جاسم ان اعلن ان ثلاثة عشر من جنود الجيش العراقي الجديد قتلوا علي ايدي المليشيات بعد اسرهم اثر نفاذ ذخائرهم خلال معارك جرت قبل اسبوعين. واتفقت عشائر الديوانية علي رفض استخدام العنف واعتماد مشروع المصالحة وايقاف عمليات التهجير القسري التي شهدتها خلال الاشهر الستة الماضية واضطرت فيها عشرات الآلاف من السكان لمغادرة المحافظة الي اماكن اخري في العراق.

Azzaman International Newspaper - Issue 2505 - Date 19/9/2006

جريدة »الزمان« الدولية - العدد 2505 - التاريخ 19/8/2006

Main Points:

  • No further armed demonstrations in the town.
  • No "red lines" for the security services - who are to be permitted to arrest suspects.
  • Only the state organs may conduct arrests.
  • Attacks against American forces in residential neighborhoods and shelling their positions to cease.


Committees of Public Safety

Back on July 25th in "It's Election Season In America" I made a passing reference to Al-Hakim's proposals to set up neighbourhood watch committees:

  • Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, had urged the creation of "people's committees." - If you think this sounds suspiciously like "Committee of Public Safety" you'd be right.

SCIRI have been quietly pushing this ever since. Today's London Times has a report on their progress to date.

Shia community watchdogs 'will spy for death squads'
From Hassan Jarah in Najaf and Ned Parker in Baghdad

A POWERFUL Iraqi Shia political party has set up neighbourhood watch groups, which Sunni politicians fear will feed intelligence to death squads.

The "popular committees" have been established in Najaf by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) without the Government's permission. It has ignored the commitment of Nouri al-Maliki, the Prime Minister, to dismantle the country's militias, which have infiltrated security forces and helped to push Iraq to the brink of civil war.

The Sciri has its own 15,000-man militia, the Badr Corps, which Sunnis blame, along with the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, for much of Iraq's sectarian violence. Sunnis are threatening to form their own citizen groups. "Sciri's proposal aims to bring new militias into communities. This is unacceptable," said the MP Ayad al- Samarrai, who belongs to Iraq's largest Sunni political group, the Islamic Party.


In the Shia holy city of Najaf, the council has not waited for the Government's reply. The party has already sent the committees out on to the streets.

Committee members told The Times that more than 150 people had enlisted. They said that the groups were divided into 10-man squads, including a cell leader. Members receive a $50 (£26) monthly salary and the squad leader receives $100. The groups hold weekly meetings with the Badr Corps and relay intelligence about suspicious visitors to neighbourhoods, they said.

The committees started work 20 days ago for the Muslim holiday, Isra and Miraj, which commemorates the Muslim prophet Mohammed's ascension to heaven.

The Sciri is apparently using the committees to make inroads into the territory of its Shia political rival, Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Madhi Army has thousands of recruits. It has established a popular committee in the al-Sadr stronghold of Kufa, which neighbours Najaf.

Falah Abdul Majid Qassim, a Sciri committee member in Kufa, said: "Our tasks will be to observe the performance of the police and the security services and also to provide basic services for locals."

Some Najaf and Kufar residents are worried that the new watchdog groups will only make their lives more dangerous.

Hider Mohammed Jasim, a 30-year-old labourer, said: "It may have its positive impact but its negative ones will be much bigger. It might help in securing some areas but if the situation remained unstable then we will have dangerous clashes between these different groups like these public committees and Mahdi Army. "

Link to article. (Emphasis mine - mfi)

Where these committees are operating is important. The three holy cities of Karbala, Najaf, and Kufa are in close proximity to one another, it's impossible to overstate their significance to the Shia - a quick reminder.

  • Karbala is dedicated to Ḥusayn ibn 'Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (Imam Husayn).
  • Najaf is dedicated to Alī ibn Abī Tālib (Imam Ali) and is the centre of Shia political power in Iraq.
  • Kufa was founded by Sa'ad ibn Abi Waqqas (one of the companions of the prophet) and was Imam Ali's capital. Imam Ali was murdered there by Kharajites while he was performing morning prayers in the mosque.

Of the three Kufa is the poorest and Muqdata al-Sadr who often preaches there has a considerable presence in the town. It's been the scene of several bombing attacks. The attack on Iranian Pilgrims on July 6th, and the attack on labourers gathering to seek jobs on July 18th were the two most serious and (as with the attacks on Sadr city,) both attacks were aimed at undermining Al-Sadr's movement.

There's an intense struggle going on between al-Hakim who is backed by the "old guard" establishment and the American occupiers and al-Sadr. Al-Sadr's movement speaks to, and for, the poor and disenfranchised Shia who believe that only the Sadrists have an agenda to alleviate their economic and social plight. That's why Falah Abdul Majid Qassim made that point about providing basic services for the locals in Kufa. Al-Hakim has fairly solid support in both Najaf and Karbala. Both of those cities are very prosperous largely because so many pilgrims go there. His support in Kufa is lot shakier, he's taking a leaf out of al-Sadr's book and creating a movement that supplies "cradle to grave" services. What the Times is reporting is the opening move in that strategy.


Monday, September 18, 2006

What We Did There Was Crazy And Monstrous

Deadly harvest: The Lebanese fields sown with cluster bombs
Lebanese villagers must risk death in fields 'flooded' with more than a million Israeli cluster bombs - or leave crops to rot
By Patrick Cockburn in Nabatiyeh
Published: 18 September 2006

UK Independent Front Page Sept 18 2006The war in Lebanon has not ended. Every day, some of the million bomblets which were fired by Israeli artillery during the last three days of the conflict kill four people in southern Lebanon and wound many more.

The casualty figures will rise sharply in the next month as villagers begin the harvest, picking olives from trees whose leaves and branches hide bombs that explode at the smallest movement. Lebanon's farmers are caught in a deadly dilemma: to risk the harvest, or to leave the produce on which they depend to rot in the fields.


Some Israeli officers are protesting at the use of cluster bombs, each containing 644 small but lethal bomblets, against civilian targets in Lebanon. A commander in the MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) unit told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the army had fired 1,800 cluster rockets, spraying 1.2 million bomblets over houses and fields. "In Lebanon, we covered entire villages with cluster bombs," he said. "What we did there was crazy and monstrous." What makes the cluster bombs so dangerous is that 30 per cent of the bomblets do not detonate on impact. They can lie for years - often difficult to see because of their small size, on roofs, in gardens, in trees, beside roads or in rubbish - waiting to explode when disturbed.


"For us, the war is still going on, though there was a cease-fire on 14 August," said Dr Hassan Wazni, the director of the hospital. "If the cluster bombs had all exploded at the time they landed, it would not be so bad, but they are still killing and maiming people."

The bomblets may be small, but they explode with devastating force. On the morning of the ceasefire, Hadi Hatab, an 11-year old boy, was brought dying to the hospital. "He must have been holding the bomb close to him," Dr Wazni said. "It took off his hands and legs and the lower part of his body."


Israeli bombs and shells have turned about a third of the houses in Yohmor into concrete sandwiches, one floor falling on top of another under the impact of explosions. Some families camp in the ruins. Villagers said that they were most worried by the cluster bombs still infesting their gardens, roofs and fruit trees. In the village street, were the white vehicles of the Manchester-based Mines Advisory Group (MAG), whose teams are trying to clear the bomblets.

It is not an easy job. Whenever members of one of the MAG teams finds and removes a bomblet, they put a stick, painted red on top and then yellow, in the ground. There are so many of these sticks that it looks as if some sinister plant had taken root and is flourishing in the village.


Frederic Gras, a de-mining expert formerly in the French navy, who is leading the MAG teams in Yohmor, says: "In the area north of the Litani river, you have three or four people being killed every day by cluster bombs. The Israeli army knows that 30 per cent of them do not explode at the time they are fired so they become anti-personnel mines."

Why did the Israeli army do it? The number of cluster bombs fired must have been greater than 1.2 million because, in addition to those fired in rockets, many more were fired in 155mm artillery shells. One Israeli gunner said he had been told to "flood" the area at which they were firing but was given no specific targets. M. Gras, who personally defuses 160 to 180 bomblets a day, says this is the first time he seen cluster bombs used against heavily populated villages.

An editorial in Haaretz said that the mass use of this weapon by the Israeli Defence Forces was a desperate last-minute attempt to stop Hizbollah's rocket fire into northern Israel. Whatever the reason for the bombardment, the villagers in south Lebanon will suffer death and injury from cluster bombs as they pick their olives and oranges for years to come.


It's Time To Outlaw These Ruthless Killers

Thomas Nash: It's time to outlaw these ruthless killers
Published: 18 September 2006

I was in Lebanon in July 2005 on a trip to document the residual problem from cluster bombs used in 1978 and 1982. Unexploded cluster munitions were still claiming lives more than two decades after that conflict. I recently returned from another trip to Lebanon where I saw that a whole new wave of devastation from cluster bombs is beginning.

The use of cluster munitions in Lebanon was an outrage. It was known before they were used that they would kill and injure civilians in populated areas because of their inaccurate dispersal pattern. It was known that cluster munitions would leave hundreds of their submunitions unexploded to terrorise civilians returning to rebuild their lives.

With a ceasefire in sight, Israel launched millions of cluster bomblets throughout towns and villages in the last 72 hours of the war. The mounting toll of civilian deaths and injuries and the deadly unexploded ordnance contamination that will blight Lebanon for years to come were all predictable, foreseeable and preventable.

Most of the submunitions used in Lebanon look like torch batteries with ribbons and others look like tennis balls. They are a deadly attraction for children who make up about 30 per cent of the casualties.


This year, even before the tragedies in Lebanon, Belgium banned the weapon and Norway declared a moratorium on its use. Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland are all calling for an international instrument, such as a convention on cluster munitions. Other user states, such as the UK, refuse even to discuss cluster munitions in international forums.


The massacre at My Lai spurred the public conscience to put an end not only to the Vietnam War, but also to the use of napalm, the incendiary weapon. The toll from landmines in Cambodia, Angola and Afghanistan prompted some countries to embark on a new process that banned landmines.

The civilian toll from cluster munitions in Lebanon may turn out to be a similar turning point.

Thomas Nash is the co-ordinator at Cluster Munition Coalition,


Dancing For Joy

residents react with joy at the scene of a car bombingThe captions supplied with these two photographs are very revealing:

  1. An Iraqi boy reacts in front of a burning vehicle, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday Sept. 18, 2006. A roadside bomb targeting a convoy of foreign private security guards, exploded late Sunday, damaging one of their vehicles and injuring two occupants, police said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)
  2. Iraqis dance in front a burnt vehicle, in Baghdad, Iraq, Monday Sept. 18, 2006. A roadside bomb targeting a convoy of foreign private security guards, exploded late on Sunday evening damaging one of their vehicles and injuring two occupants, police said. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Yes it's ugly. Don't even think of criticising them. Their home has been brutalised for years, their families starved, their loved ones slaughtered, they've been treated with brutality and contempt by America and her allies all their lives. Did you expect them to love you? It will be generations before the evil unleashed by decades of Western racist corrupt thieving brutality dies down - and that's an optimistic estimate.

Me? My attitude to mercenaries is well known. There's no difference between a mercenary and a mafia hitman. I shed no tears when a mercenary meets their fate.


Update: Doing a bit of reading around it appears that the attack on the mercenary convoy was in Ad-Dora as I keep on pointing out that's the same Ad-Dora that's been "pacified" repeatedly and is under "special protection." -mfi

Helping Fill In The Gaps

Via a comment of his on Juan Cole's place I've just discovered Badger's new blog "Missing Links" which Badger describes as; "News items from the Arabic-language press to help fill in the gaps."

I'm impressed. The articles he's selected are well worth reading both in their own right and as indicators of what's drawing attention in the Arabic language media - and his analysis is well argued. In short "Missing Links" is a resource for people who want to be able to make up their minds on the basis of information. Here's what he's posted thus far:

Head on over and start reading.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Diwaniya Update

On Thursday I wrote about the situation in Diwaniya ( See: "If fighting erupts again, and this is very likely, we will have a very bad situation" ) according to this report from Al-Sabah Al-Jadeed the situation there at present is as follows:

  • The city is under a renewed curfew since yesterday.
  • American and Iraqi forces have blocked access to the city.
  • American and Iraqi forces are now engaged in house to house searches. Apparently concentrating upon the districts of Askri, Jumhori, and Nahdha.

According to the paper several people have been arrested during the operation, several "personal weapons" have been confiscated, and the searchers are being backed up tanks and armoured cars on the streets and both helicopters and warplanes flying at low altitude over the city.

Other News:

According to Aswat al Iraq there has been a bomb attack on one Grand Ayatollah Sistani's representatives in Basrah according to the report Ali Abdul Hakim's* convoy was targeted by a bombing - there are no reports of any casualties.


Notes: * The name given in this AP report is Ali al-Safi

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Ties to GOP Trumped Know-How Among Staff Sent to Rebuild Iraq
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 17, 2006; A01

Adapted from "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, copyright Knopf 2006

After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans -- restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.


Many of those chosen by O'Beirne's office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting.

The decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest is now regarded by many people involved in the 3 1/2 -year effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush administration's gravest errors. Many of those selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation, which sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people, according to many people who participated in the reconstruction effort.


"We didn't tap -- and it should have started from the White House on down -- just didn't tap the right people to do this job," said Frederick Smith, who served as the deputy director of the CPA's Washington office. "It was a tough, tough job. Instead we got people who went out there because of their political leanings."


But many CPA staff members were more interested in other things: in instituting a flat tax, in selling off government assets, in ending food rations and otherwise fashioning a new nation that looked a lot like the United States. Many of them spent their days cloistered in the Green Zone, a walled-off enclave in central Baghdad with towering palms, posh villas, well-stocked bars and resort-size swimming pools.


To recruit the people he wanted, O'Beirne sought résumés from the offices of Republican congressmen, conservative think tanks and GOP activists. He discarded applications from those his staff deemed ideologically suspect, even if the applicants possessed Arabic language skills or postwar rebuilding experience.

Smith said O'Beirne once pointed to a young man's résumé and pronounced him "an ideal candidate." His chief qualification was that he had worked for the Republican Party in Florida during the presidential election recount in 2000.


As more and more of O'Beirne's hires arrived in the Green Zone, the CPA's headquarters in Hussein's marble-walled former Republican Palace felt like a campaign war room. Bumper stickers and mouse pads praising President Bush were standard desk decorations. In addition to military uniforms and "Operation Iraqi Freedom" garb, "Bush-Cheney 2004" T-shirts were among the most common pieces of clothing.

"I'm not here for the Iraqis," one staffer noted to a reporter over lunch. "I'm here for George Bush."


When Tabatabai was asked what would have happened if Hallen hadn't been assigned to reopen the exchange, he smiled. "We would have opened months earlier. He had grand ideas, but those ideas did not materialize," Tabatabai said of Hallen. "Those CPA people reminded me of Lawrence of Arabia."

'Loyalist' Replaces Public Health Expert

The hiring of Bremer's most senior advisers was settled upon at the highest levels of the White House and the Pentagon. Some, like Foley, were personally recruited by Bush. Others got their jobs because an influential Republican made a call on behalf of a friend or trusted colleague.

That's what happened with James K. Haveman Jr., who was selected to oversee the rehabilitation of Iraq's health care system.

Haveman, a 60-year-old social worker, was largely unknown among international health experts, but he had connections. He had been the community health director for the former Republican governor of Michigan, John Engler, who recommended him to Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense.


Haveman replaced Frederick M. Burkle Jr., a physician with a master's degree in public health and postgraduate degrees from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and the University of California at Berkeley. Burkle taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where he specialized in disaster-response issues, and he was a deputy assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, which sent him to Baghdad immediately after the war.


Haveman arrived in Iraq with his own priorities. He liked to talk about the number of hospitals that had reopened since the war and the pay raises that had been given to doctors instead of the still-decrepit conditions inside the hospitals or the fact that many physicians were leaving for safer, better paying jobs outside Iraq. He approached problems the way a health care administrator in America would: He focused on preventive measures to reduce the need for hospital treatment.

He urged the Health Ministry to mount an anti-smoking campaign, and he assigned an American from the CPA team -- who turned out to be a closet smoker himself -- to lead the public education effort. Several members of Haveman's staff noted wryly that Iraqis faced far greater dangers in their daily lives than tobacco. The CPA's limited resources, they argued, would be better used raising awareness about how to prevent childhood diarrhea and other fatal maladies.

Haveman didn't like the idea that medical care in Iraq was free. He figured Iraqis should pay a small fee every time they saw a doctor. He also decided to allocate almost all of the Health Ministry's $793 million share of U.S. reconstruction funds to renovating maternity hospitals and building new community medical clinics. His intention, he said, was "to shift the mind-set of the Iraqis that you don't get health care unless you go to a hospital."

But his decision meant there were no reconstruction funds set aside to rehabilitate the emergency rooms and operating theaters at Iraqi hospitals, even though injuries from insurgent attacks were the country's single largest public health challenge.

Haveman also wanted to apply American medicine to other parts of the Health Ministry. Instead of trying to restructure the dysfunctional state-owned firm that imported and distributed drugs and medical supplies to hospitals, he decided to try to sell it to a private company.


The group was led by Theodore Briski, a balding, middle-aged pharmacist who held the rank of lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy. Haveman's order, as Briski remembered it, was: "Build us a formulary in two weeks and then go home." By his second day in Iraq, Briski came to three conclusions. First, the existing formulary "really wasn't that bad." Second, his mission was really about "redesigning the entire Iraqi pharmaceutical procurement and delivery system, and that was a complete change of scope -- on a grand scale." Third, Haveman and his advisers "really didn't know what they were doing."


When Haveman left Iraq, Baghdad's hospitals were as decrepit as the day the Americans arrived. At Yarmouk Hospital, the city's largest, rooms lacked the most basic equipment to monitor a patient's blood pressure and heart rate, operating theaters were without modern surgical tools and sterile implements, and the pharmacy's shelves were bare.

In May 2003, a team of law enforcement experts from the Justice Department concluded that more than 6,600 foreign advisers were needed to help rehabilitate Iraq's police forces.

The White House dispatched just one: Bernie Kerik.

Bernard Kerik had more star power than Bremer and everyone else in the CPA combined. Soldiers stopped him in the halls of the Republican Palace to ask for his autograph or, if they had a camera, a picture. Reporters were more interested in interviewing him than they were the viceroy.


"I'm here to bring more media attention to the good work on police because the situation is probably not as bad as people think it is," Kerik replied.

As they entered the Interior Ministry office in the palace, Gifford offered to brief Kerik. "It was during that period I realized he wasn't with me," Gifford recalled. "He didn't listen to anything. He hadn't read anything except his e-mails. I don't think he read a single one of our proposals."


When it came to his own safety, Kerik took no chances. He hired a team of South African bodyguards, and he packed a 9mm handgun under his safari vest.


All emphases added by me. Read the whole pathetic disgusting saga here. The book comes out on Tuesday Imperial Life in the Emerald City - details from


The Loose Cannon in the Middle East - Immanuel Wallerstein

"The Loose Cannon in the Middle East"

Commentary No. 193, Sept. 15, 2006

Everyone's attention is in the wrong place. Most analysts, journalists, and political leaders worry about some government doing something truly destabilizing in the Middle East that will launch widespread regional havoc. The standard culprits - differing according to one's political persuasions - are Iraq, Iran, Israel, and the United States. But in fact, for different reasons, none of these countries is likely, now or in the near future, to provoke a scenario that could lead to generalized warfare. Iraq is too engrossed in its civil war and in its attempts to end the U.S. presence to be able to start anything serious. Iran has a quite stable regime and is only trying to make sure that the United States cannot clip its wings. Israel is huffing and puffing about Iran but, after the Lebanon fiasco, is in no position to start anything serious. And the U.S. government is licking its Middle East wounds and seeking primarily to minimize the damage it has already caused to its own interests.

The loose cannon in the Middle East is Pakistan. Reflect on its history. There was a highly secular, highly "modern" political movement in British India, which sought, successfully, to have a largely Muslim zone carved out from British India and be recognized as an independent state. Immediately after the independence of India and Pakistan in 1948, they went to war, killed each other in large numbers, and engaged in a massive population exchange. Ever since there has been continuing tension between the two states, especially since they in effect partitioned the large border area of Kashmir, without either side recognizing the legitimacy of the partition.

In the more than half century since then, several important changes have taken place. Pakistan, which was a geographical monstrosity, itself broke in two. Its geographically separated eastern half becoming the independent state of Bangladesh (with the encouragement of India). India and Pakistan engaged in more wars, which basically changed nothing. (And China and India also had a border war.) During the Cold War, India became a leader of the non-aligned movement, entertaining rather friendly relations with the Soviet Union. As a result, two countries were particularly unhappy with India's foreign policy: the United States and China. Hence, both pursued close relations with Pakistan.

Neither India nor Pakistan signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (the only other non-signatory being Israel). They both developed nuclear weapons. India has had a turbulent and complicated internal political history since 1948. But fundamentally it has remained politically stable, despite its seeming potential for disintegration. For one thing, India has survived multiple changes of government without any sign that the army would step in. The story in Pakistan is quite different. It has had multiple changes in regime, and the army has been responsible for a large number of them. The present regime came into existence as the result of a military coup.

Religion has played a different role in the two countries. In India, Hindu fundamentalism has been very strong and prone to violence, but ultimately it has expressed itself via a political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has largely played by parliamentary rules, in and out of power. And there remains in India a very large Muslim population, one whose votes matter. In Pakistan, Islamic fundamentalists have pursued multiple paths at once. They have created parties to be sure, which have been in and out of power. But they have also created guerilla movements, which (at least initially) were largely active in Kashmir. Even more to the point, they have infiltrated the once purely secular armed forces, and especially its intelligence operations. And they have established de facto autonomous regimes in the so-called Northwest frontier.

Pakistani governments have had to struggle to keep their heads above water. They have been trying to satisfy two different clienteles at the same time: the "modernizing" (that is, Westernizing) strata (professionals, businessmen, academics) on the one hand: and the much more "popular" Islamist groups. This has not been an easy political ball to juggle. One of their key techniques has been to develop an ambiguous but close relationship with the United States, trying to get as much U.S. financial and politico-military support as they could while giving the least possible in return.

One of Osama bin Laden's chief objectives has been to knock the props from under this game of ambiguity. He hoped, with the 9/11 attack, to get the United States to put pressure on Pakistan to be a much more fully-committed ally. And to some extent Osama bin Laden achieved this (due to the crass lack of geopolitical sophistication in the Bush regime). This brought about a clear reaction in Pakistan. The army's attempt to bring "order" to the northwest provinces (and thereby capture Osama bin Laden) has failed and the army has now had to draw back. Meanwhile India has been successful in getting the United States to legitimate their further nuclear development, and the United States refused to do the same for Pakistan, lest it upset the applecart in the improved U.S.-India relationship. So Pakistan has turned to its other old ally, China, to fill in the gap.

Still, President Musharref of Pakistan looks increasingly like a political failure. His army has furtively renewed its support for the Taliban in Afghanistan (of whom Pakistan had been the principal sponsor in the 1990s), and the United States is getting increasingly irritated. If Musharref totters, Pakistan could well next have a truly Islamist regime quite hostile to the United States - this time in a militarily powerful country with nuclear weapons, and one in which Osama bin Laden resides with impunity.

Then what?

by Immanuel Wallerstein

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These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]