Friday, September 02, 2005

 

Iraqi Constitution


The story of the birth of Iraq’s second ‘democratic’ Constitution

The main tasks of the elected National Assembly following the Iraqi elections of January 2005 were to form a new government and then draft a constitution by August 15th to be presented to the Iraqi people through a referendum by October 15th.

The government was formed after about three months of horse-trading and political haggling. It was a bad government by any standard; corruption, incompetence and ineffectiveness to an unprecedented level. It failed miserably… and continues to fail.

The Assembly’s next task was drafting the constitution.

They formed a committee for that purpose. They had every right to form that committee exclusively from elected members of the Assembly. But there was a problem; there were large segments of the Iraqi people not represented in that Assembly.

[Propagandists had always maintained that that Assembly represented the Iraqi people. Those large segments that did not take part in those elections (that I wrote so much about at the time) were totally ignored by pro-administration rosy-picture painters. It is now clear that was a minor concern for domestic US political considerations… or so it was thought! Again and again it was stressed that the administration was brilliantly successful in carrying out elections in Iraq, to their own timetable… regardless of facts on the ground.

It was a major weakness of the ‘design’ of those elections. Yet, those elections were regarded as total success. The administration had delivered!

The simple solution that there should be an elected representative for each of the 275 electoral districts of Iraq (who could join the elected assembly when conditions permitted) was totally ignored in favor of a system that made the whole country a single electoral district. The simpler requirement that elections were postponed to allow volatile regions to take part, were equally ignored.]

Yet people on the ground (including most members of the elected assembly) knew that they could not govern the country or form a government, or write a constitution, without participation of those ‘absent segments’.

So, the Assembly went through a long-drawn process to select people to represent those ‘absent’ segments. The process was blatantly undemocratic, but it was the only available route!

They were first appointed as ‘consulting’ members. They refused. They insisted on full membership of the committee. They were granted that wish. They preferred to call themselves representatives of the ‘absent segment’. But, through the persistence of the media, they became generally know as representatives of the ‘Sunni Arabs’.

The National Assembly then agreed to forge the new constitution through consensus, including consensus among members of the committee entrusted with drafting the constitution.

Then the political dance began.

Hollywood Drama

It was more like a second rate American movie or TV series complete with deadlines that have to be met… and a ticking clock. Seven days to go… 24 hours to go… 2 hours to go!!

When the dials reached zero with the task still unfinished, the rules of the game, as laid out by the sacred TAL, were amended, unanimously. The law was changed to give them 7 more days, and the clock started ticking again. The new deadline was missed; then… the law and the deadlines were all simply and unceremoniously ignored!

Hollywood would have been furious. There was no respect to time limits anymore, no regard for revered traditions!

They broke their own laws!

The process was painful and intricate. There were many compromises. To be fair, the American administration, acting through Ambassador Khalilzad, tried hard to pressure all groups concerned to reach agreement.

But there was ‘nothing doing’ as Americans would say! There were so many ‘red lines’ by various factions. The visions of the very nature of the country different parties had were so diverse. Horse traders cannot build or rebuild nations.

During that process, and 4 days before the deadline, Mr. Abdul Aziz al Hakeem, head of the pro-Iran Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) quite suddenly proposed a (Shiite) autonomous, federal region similar to the Kurdish one to be composed of the central and southern provinces of Iraq. There was uproar from many ‘Shiite’ quarters (including some SCIRI coalition partners). There was much resentment in the so-called ‘Shiite’ street. Mr. Hakeem quietly backed down! That ploy was largely seen as an Iranian bargaining bid for power in Iraq.

Many people were now convinced that the undeclared objective was not a federal country but a loose confederacy as a step towards the disintegration of the country.

When there was deadlock, the Drafting Committee itself was by-passed and compromises were forged by the ‘leaders of the main political blocs’.

The ‘political’ draft was handed to the Drafting Committee. There were objections from members of that committee.

The requirement of ‘consensus’ was ignored. The draft was passed on to the Assembly with written reservations of some of the members.

The draft was then ‘passed’ from the Assembly without putting it to a vote! According to the chairman of the Drafting Committee, the reason was that if the Assembly voted on the draft that would turn it into law!!

‘Representatives’ of the ‘absent’ component of the Iraqi people were furious.

Thus Iraq’s second ‘democratic’ constitution within a hundred years was half-baked. All the seeds of chaos and instability are there! But these are all secondary concerns. The Bush Administration has, yet again, delivered: Iraq now has a draft of a constitution painstakingly drawn by a democratically elected parliament and the Iraqi people will have their say on it in a democratic referendum.


What’s wrong with it?

Well, to be fair, not much in terms of words! It is the fear behind those few offending words that are the focus of bitter differences.

If you read through the document itself, you will find many high ideals and many good concepts. I personally found more than 80% of it quite acceptable, even desirable. Incidentally, those items were not much different from Saddam’s Constitution!

[An English translation of the full text of the document can be found at... ]

My own opinion is that the document (being born out of hurried political bargaining) lacks unity of substance and has some inherent built-in contradictions in addition to quite a few linguistic errors and obvious legal ambiguities. I must add that these are mostly rectifiable. I also have other reservations about the political design of the parliamentary system and its effectiveness in firmly leading the country in the turbulent times ahead. I feel that a strong presidency would be more effective. But these are personal preferences and views.

America was appeased with one major clause denouncing the development of weapons of mass destruction.

The main complaints however are about the design of the political structure of the country! Many people feel that, as written, the concept of federal government would lead to the disintegration of the country.

So, why will it not work?

The answer is simple: all indications are that large segments of the population are dead-set against this document.

This in fact is quite dangerous in principle. This is not some law that needs a simple majority to pass; it is a constitution - a contract between the people of Iraq that defines the shape of the country they, their children and their children’s children will want to live in. Iraq cannot afford much controversy about it. There needs to be some form of general consensus about it. Unfortunately, this is lacking at the moment.

Many groups are going to resist it through the referendum (and outside it).

Will it pass the referendum? Possibly. There are several factors that may influence the outcome in favor of the draft in a manner very similar to what happened during the elections: large (ethnic and sectarians) forces behind it, a super-power of occupation with a political desire to look successful in the eyes of its own people (and the rest of the world), funding and propaganda and the ever-present mysterious element called Sistani. Furthermore, there will be the feeling that if the draft is rejected, the whole game will be back to square one – the Assembly will be dissolved, the elections re-run and the whole ordeal will have to gone through all over again. Many people are simply too tired for all that. It may just go through.

The problem is that many people (and believe me, many people) will feel quite bitter about it; People who will see it as a Constitution that sows the seeds of the ethnic and sectarian divisions being enshrined in a document that was drawn under the auspices and the supervision of a hostile occupation.

So, to my mind, if the referendum comes out in favor of this draft through a 51 or even a 60% vote, that will be a death blow to it… and to future stability. Imagine 40% of the population denying the legitimacy of their own constitution. Many will not concede ‘democratic’ defeat peacefully.

Add to that the significant number of people who will not vote. Now these people are not similar to those people who do not go to the polls in a stable democracy and who do not count. Many of those will not participate through rejection of the legitimacy of the whole process. It is already felt by many that if they cast their choice at the boxes, then that means an implicit endorsement of the process, which would mean that they would have to accept the result. So, many of those people will simply boycott the whole process and keep their belief that the whole thing was illegitimate.

And that is the seed of future turmoil.

Is there a solution?

Of course! Oddly, I believe that the solution is through the very vehicles that produced this gloomy outlook: Democracy and Federalism!

This may sound contradictory… but it isn’t really.

We have had elections but they did not produce a democracy. Consequently, they did not result in security or stability. Elections that yield 275 members who represent 275 districts are not really that difficult to implement, are they?!

If, for example, Fallujah is not ready to conduct elections, then it can do so in its own time, when conditions permit. Its seat in the Assembly will be reserved. If people in Shiite Nassiriyyah down south are presented with a number of candidates who are all Shiites, people will not be asked to vote Shiite! Perhaps they may start considering economic and other political issues to choose between candidates. The same will be true in Kurdish Suleimaniya up north. All candidates will naturally be Kurds. All candidates in Sunni Haditha in the west will be Sunnis. All sects and ethnicities will be represented without making it the only issue of the elections.

The resulting elected assembly will be far from homogeneous… but more representative of the country. Then let that odd, democratic mixture fight it out in parliament with words… and not in our cities with bombs and bullets!

Federalism is possible through more power to the 18 provinces of Iraq – a de-centralized form of government (with the components not likely to cede from the country)… not through a loose Confederacy that many people feel would, in time lead to the breakdown of the country along ethnic and sectarian lines.

It is those people who came to power on those sectarian and ethnic elections who designed this monstrous political system. It is only natural that they would design the future of the country along the same lines.

Democracy was not the problem. It was the electoral system used that was!

Federalism is not the problem. It was the use of the term as a recipe for destroying our country as we know it that was!

There are already some voices, mainly outside the Assembly, calling for the Assembly to be dissolved since, according to TAL, this assembly has failed to deliver the draft of the constitution as requested by that law on the time specified.

Any chance of that happening? Not really. There is little chance at the moment of the electoral system being changed to affect a true representation of the country.

[The assembly is at the moment discussing a draft of a new election law. Grudgingly, they are examining the proposal to make Iraq 18 electoral districts instead of one; a small improvement… but not enough.

Following the discussions in the Assembly, I was shocked to find that the proposals seem to include setting aside some seats for small religious and ethnic minorities! On the face of it, this sounds like a fair proposal. In fact it is a disaster as far as building a modern state is concerned. If one thinks about this proposal carefully, one would find a system breading an ‘improvement’ of its own kind. Are these people evil? No, they are only ‘ordinary’ politicians, horse traders and war lords entrenching and clutching to a system that gives them advantage in the quest for power.]

Another, more realistic alternative, is to give the process more time (and to hell with TAL’s deadlines and time limits) and force the politicians involved to hammer out those differences to reach a better consensus before going to the country with the draft. There is some hope there; a few says ago Ambassador Khalilzad hinted that some changes ‘can’ be made to the draft. That sentiment was echoed by a few members of the Assembly.

Is the American administration beginning to have more respect for popular feedback than the elected neo-Iraqi politicians?


Comments:

At the moment I am using all my spare time to annotate the Arabic text of the document (for the benefit of fellow Iraqis!) I’m not sure whether readers would be interested in those dreary details!

Hoots, I haven’t forgotten my promise. I hope to get round to fulfilling it as soon as I can. It is a constant source of bewilderment for me how the present US administration has repeatedly and consistently strengthened the hand of pro-Iran Islamic factions in Iraq!
 
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abu khaleel,

Your article about the Kurds showed great empathy for them. Your other articles indicate to me that you feel personal ties to the nation of Iraq, the Arab community in Iraq, and the Sunni Arab community in Iraq. (That is not to exclude other ties. I also am not trying to assert anything about the relative strength of those ties.) Such ties make more impressive your willingness to contemplate with acceptance the possibility that Kurdish participation in a future democratic Iraq may be the prelude to eventual Kurdish independence.

The reason for starting with the previous paragraph is that I think it demonstrates that your concern in this current, "Iraqi Constitution" article is not limited to any particular group of Iraqis, but genuinely seeks the well being of all. As with your concerns, so with your specific recommendations.

If one looks at the long-term sweep of US policy with regard to Iraq, there are some parallels to the cross currents in your approach.

Around the world, it is a commonplace among many experts on Iraq and the Middle East that Iraq is an artificial construct of the Allies at the end of the First World War and that it may not be possible to combine Iraq and democracy because democracy tends toward self-determination. I can't readily refute this. For example, the Allies also endorsed a Kurdish nation at one point. I also think that history can create momentum and habits; 85 years of an Iraqi entity should not be ignored.

I think that fear of the fragility of Iraq and unwillingness to contribute to its fragmentation were among the reasons that the elder President Bush refused to try to push on to Baghdad during the Gulf War. Certainly, that is one of the reasons that I thought his decision was wise. (The main reason for preserving Iraq was to encourage a balance of power in the Gulf, specifically to avoid domination of the Gulf by Iran.)

I think that one of the reasons for President Clinton's restraint in dealing with Iraq was to avoid fragmentation of Iraq. Punitive raids, embargoes, getting rid of Saddam were all very well; fragmentation was not.

One reason I opposed the Iraq War was the fragmentation risk. I also forsaw the possibility of conflict between the US goals of maintaining Iraqi territorial integrity and protecting the Kurds. I feared that US forces might find themselves fighting the Kurds to keep them in Iraq. (Of course, events have turned out so that that is unlikely). Even the current President Bush speaks about Iraq, not Kurdistan.

More on this topic another time, I hope.

Michael in Framingham
 
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What you are doing is timely and important. My guess is that there are also not too many people with your skill set.

The US is feeling shock waves from after-effects of the hurricane. The interesting part is that this storm is not a surprise. I have been hearing about the dangers of such a storm to New Orleans as long as I can remember. But like those who insist on living in the shadow of a volcano, the people there embrace some kind of denial.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the Iraqi constitution. Imperfect as it may be, it has to be better than chaos and open fighting. Politics is a nasty business, but the nastiness of politics is better than the nastiness of war.

Take your time. Give it your best.
 
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I am also mystified by the cozy way that Iraq's bigshots have behaved with their Iranian counterparts. I can imagine two possible reasons the administration is not objecting.
1.)With all the saber rattling about a possible US invasion of Iran, no one can accuse the Iraqis of being a puppet regime.
2.)There may be concerns about a shifing of power eastward with an alliance of Tehran with their big neighbors to the North, East and South. I came across an article from Le Monde that talked about such a scenario. If such an alliance is in the making, diplomatic overtures, even the most primitive, might be safer than military threats. Washington may be hedging their bets.
 
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An interesting read. This is the first analysis of this character I have found. I hope things are not as gloomy as you present them.

I was aware of objections, but I also beleived that this "constitution' is an Iraqi work and not a US work. But then politics is politics and the only thing certian is death and taxes.

I think American interest are best seved in this case if Iraqi interesr are best served and I hope this indeed works out.

Jim Jones
 
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Good to see this blog coming back to life, even if slowly.

It seems to me that unified Iraq is over.

The Americans and Israel do not want a strong unified Iraq and the Kurds do not want to be there.

If there had been a 10 trillion dollar nation in 1865 that had a strategic interest in the United States being weakened, the South would have seceeded and there is nothing US nationalists could have done to prevent it.

The mysterious figure of Sistani. There was another time when the name Sistani came up with a similar reference.

Was Sistani well known before the invasion? What information is available about him in Iraq?
 
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Well, congratulations on emerging from your "pit of despair" with a vengeance, Mr Kahleel.
I knew you could do it!
Bit unfortunate that as you are coming out, New Orleans is going in, so to speak.
Couple of questions/comments:
1) Detailed discussion of the Constitution seems to me constructive, but to some extent a display of the "let’s pretend there isn’t an elephant in the living room" syndrome - i.e. ignoring the fact that there’s a jolly good anti-occupation insurgency, and possibly an incipient civil war, going on during the discussion. And the outcome ain’t certain yet - the Bush administration could still implode under its own weight.
Without doing a lot of boring reading, one would imagine that the provisions of most constitutions are much the same - defining democratic institutions, enshrining various fundamentals such as an independent judiciary and civil service, protecting basic human rights as defined by the UN, and so on. But there are presumably problems particular to each country, and the federalism issue seems to now be the biggie for Iraq. (The question of women’s rights under Sharia law seems to me to be just a matter of evolution - looking at old photographs, women in NZ and similar Christian countries were not to be seen in public 100 years ago without full neck-to-toe envelopment in uncomfortable clothing, and silly feathered hats. Bit different now.)
What I haven’t seen anyone say is, why does Kurdish independence, which seems to be increasingly a foregone conclusion, for all sorts of historical, ethnic and linguistic reasons, have to be inextricably linked with Southern independence or separatism? You’re always going on about the commonalties between Sunni and Shia, mixed tribes and regions, cosmopolitan Baghdad, etc. Why can’t there just be an Arab Republic of Iraq, and a Kurdish Associate Republic, or something like that? Wouldn’t that solve a few problems?
Displaying my ignorance again, no doubt.
2) So to display further ignorance, I’m a bit puzzled, or incredulous, over this bridge incident. The reports are that a million pilgrims, or worshipers or whatever, were marching to this shrine. Leaving aside the Kurds, you’ve got about 20 million Iraqis (poor sods) haven’t you? So five percent of the entire population of Iraq were all trying to walk over a bridge in Baghdad on one day? Was this wise? How did they all get there? It’s like 15 million Americans all trying to walk around the Capitol on one day? There’d be chaos, even by US standards?
Just puzzled.
Circular
 
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Hello Abu Khaleel,
Good to have you back..before I post anything appropriate I have to get something off my chest...I am thinking of starting a blog..US Mistakes in New Orleans! or even US Mistakes in the USA! Bush's instinctive incompetence has him sending in gun happy troops before sending in food or even transport for trapped US citizens. Iraqi's have had this regime for 2+ years,so it is probably just karma that Bush has ended up biting America in the ass.
 
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"I’m not sure whether readers would be interested in those dreary details!"

Is this a joke, a trick question? Of course we want to see the "dreary details!".
 
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" one would imagine that the provisions of most constitutions are much the same - defining democratic institutions, enshrining various fundamentals such as an independent judiciary"

Your better read that more carefully.
 
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It is my understanding that Iraq is an "artificially created" nation that was just drawn on a map by the British.

What is the possibility that splitting Iraq into three nations, one for Sunnis, one for Kurds and one for Shias would work better than federalizing and forcing them all to coexist?
 
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Trevor --

Strictly speaking you are correct about the artificial creation of Iraq. On the other hand, Israel is also an artificial creation, and nobody seems to think that destroying it is a good idea, do they?

Alright, a separation of Iraq down sectarian lines is quite difficult.

A Shiite state in the south basically means handing the keys over to Iran. Shiites themselves are divided as to whether this would be a good idea or not.

Creating a “Sunni centre” is also difficult, because Baghdad for example, is a cosmopolitan city. What would one do with the 2 million Sadrist Shias that live in Sadr City? This ignores the fact that there are many Iraqis that, while being Muslim, don’t necessarily want to be governed by either Sunni or Shiite sha’ria.

The Kurds would be the easiest to break off, ethnically speaking.

But this presents other problems. Turkey is dead set against the idea. Other Iraqis dispute the Kurdish claim to Kirkuk. Most observers are not unsympathetic towards the Kurds … but there are certain realities that are unfortunately attached to the creation of an independent Kurdish state. What will America do if Turkish tanks roll across the border? Will it stand back and let the massacres begin, as in the past, or will it intervene and go to war with its most powerful and reliable Middle Eastern ally?

This is a very ugly situation to be in the middle of.
 
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Iraq is on a terrible path. Things seem worse and worse every time I read the papers.

Soon, if something isn't done, their country will be as bad as America.
 
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Off topic again, but the stories from New Orleans are not getting into the puppy dog media. Iraqis know about Bush's disaster expertise--Americans have no idea until its practiced on them.

"Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement".

We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began
firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist. There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost."
 
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Michael in Framingham,

I fully agree with you on the thesis that the disintegration of Iraq does not serve US strategic interests in the long term. As Jim Jones put it above: American interests are best served in this case if Iraqi interests are best served!

I know of only two regional powers that may look favorably at such a break-up of the country: Iran and Israel (oddly, for similar reasons of self-interest). This is why I have come to believe that the neocons, who shaped much of the opening game in this campaign, have agenda that may not be identical to, or even compatible with, US strategic interests.

Regarding your statement about it being “commonplace among many experts on Iraq and the Middle East that Iraq is an artificial construct of the Allies at the end of the First World War…” which I have come across too often…

On this, I beg to differ! I believe that Iraq as a country has been in existence for about 4,400 years. In addition to history, the country has been defined by geography: The two rivers (Mesopotamia?)... clearly define a geographically unified region (surrounded by mountains on the east and desert on the west) in which people have been freely mixing for several thousand years!

I am afraid what these ‘experts’ look at is the country that has been ‘discovered’ by the West at a time when it was occupied by Ottoman Turkey. At that time, and up to the end of WWI, for more than 200 years, it was divided into three separate regions (or what they called the Wilayets of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra) purely for administrative purposes. The division was definitely NOT along ethnic or sectarian lines.


Hoots,

Having been closely examining the draft of the constitution, I find myself being totally opposed to what it stands for in terms of the political system proposed. I find the present “Constitution-less” state preferable to living under a constitution that I now believe will have ugly sectarian and ethnic divisions institutionalized into the fabric of the political process.

Come to think of it, what we really need is a good electoral process that allows fair representation of all. The Constitution can follow in its own time. The mechanisms for the amendment of the document, as proposed, make improvement almost impossible. I hope to write on this in more detail sometime.

Bad news… but there you are!


Mr. Democracy,

Although the “weld” in Iraq has received severe beating, you have to admit that it still holds rather impressively (I don’t for how much longer though!) And the battle is not over yet!

I intend to address the question of Sistani in more detail in a separate post.


Circular,

I don’t think I’m out yet!

Your point about women’s rights is well taken. But you may have noticed that Iraqi women have put up a jolly good fight!

A two-state solution would indeed be one possible solution. However, the Kurdish politicians are well aware that a separate state is not possible at this stage. Their mistake is in trying to do it within Iraq! This would result in a weak confederacy that would quite probably lead to chaotic disintegration. Their two main war lords do not wish to relinquish their, and their respective parties’, power through a solution via individual governorates that can be ultimately used to build a region when conditions permit. I now strongly believe that the present course will damage both components!

My hope that wisdom and reason may have time and a chance to prevail is rapidly dwindling.

I have addressed the Bridge Disaster in a post in the “Glimpse of Iraq”. You’re welcome…

[and, yes, I am probably incurable, “aren’t I”?! But you must concede that my thesis is still holding… so far.]


“Hello” Anon,

People call it “hoba” down here. I have heard it many times over the past week. I don’t know any English word close enough. Probably “justice” is the closest, yet it doesn’t reflect the feel of it. But in any case I find this totally unfair: There can be no justice through the suffering of innocent people… no matter what.


Trevor,

May I invite to spend some time reading my words in this blog and the other. Perhaps I can change your understanding! In any case, Bruno’s practical considerations are most significant and should be kept in mind.
 
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I wrote this just before Abu posted, so it’s now redundant, but I think I’ll post it anyway. Someone may care to comment.

Anonymous above (about New Orleans) it would have helped if you had given a source for that story.

It is in very bad taste to capitalise on misery, but if we are allowed to go off topic, a few observations come to mind.
There have been comments in the news about a "third world" response to Katrina by the USA. That doesn’t seem fair. I do not remember seeing extensive footage about looting, civil disorder, and massive armed response by the authorities in the third world Tsunami disaster. As I recall, even in the rebel areas of Aceh and Sri Lanka, hostilities were temporarily suspended.
This seems more like a "fourth world" situation, a new Orwellian world where the image of civilisation is a gun-toting US policeman or soldier. Baghdad and New Orleans become one city, half dry and half wet.
"If the only tool you know is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail?"
The following is not intended to sound smug or superior, just to suggest that this fourth world doesn’t have to be inevitable. There are other ways to live.
From New Zealand, a "once in a hundred years" disaster:
"The 10-day floods that hit Manawatu in mid February 2004 saw 2,000 people evacuated and another 10,000 without power, water or road access. More than 250,000 people were affected by the flooding event and many will continue to be affected for years to come."
It’s doubtless not a realistic comparison, but to put that in perspective with North America on a population basis, you need to multiply those figures by about 100, i.e. 200,000 evacuated, 1,000,000 without etc, 25,000,000 affected.
There was no panic, looting or civil disorder. The response of the local and national emergency services was straightforward, prompt and effective. The Army were of course involved, but without their guns. You can’t shoot a flood. No foreign aid was expected or requested.
(The heroine was Cow 569. A dairy farmer’s wife was swept away by a flooded river, but survived by clinging to Cow 569, who swam her to safety. Presumably now has the best spot in the milking shed.)
The point is, if these gun-toting cops and soldiers of the New Orleans nightmare can get it so wrong there, just how wrong have they been getting it in Iraq for the past two years?
Circular
 
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Dear Abu Khaleel,

I do hope you'll continue to give us your insights into the situation as far as the Constitution is concerned. Who is going to reject the draft? Is there any chance that national-minded Iraqis will be able to squash the castle of cards on the 15th of October? And then what would happen?
I imagine that, if you manage to dump this unseemly 'Constitution', the lists of candidates for the new Constituent Assembly will be very different, and differently arranged, from those of the elections of past January...

@ Circular/ John:
I didn't post the New Orleans report by the Anonymous, but I managed to find the source. It is:
http://www.emsnetwork.org/artman/publish/article_18337.shtml
Well, here in Europe we are almost incredulous about what happened there... truly Fourth World, on a par with Burundi or such (but if Burundi or any such place had the wealth and the technology the US have at their disposal, I'm sure they wouldn't behave 'Fourth-World-like', differently from the present Administration of the 'greatest nation on earth', LOL!).
 
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Hello Abu Khaleel,
Thank you for your indulgence. I think your 'hoba' expresses the sentiment perfectly. The reason I posted this is because it is an example of how Bush and the media
distort everything and how all information comes out as unintelligable garbage. Nothing rings true. I am fascinated by the fact that people cooperated, tried to adapt, tried to save themselves and that they were labeled criminal mobs,etc. and were targeted by arrogant'security'. I cannot forget that Iraq is under a growing insurgency, that the government there act like clowns with legal papers and the response of 'security' to 'target'. Right now the big news scoop in the USA is that these stupid, foolish people of New Orleans are refusing to evacuate. Why? Because they are terrorists, criminals, dumb animals. In fact no, they are afraid Bush is going to destroy their meager homes, what little they own. THEY DON'T TRUST HIM OR THEIR LOCAL POLITICANS. Many republicans are saying why rebuild at all, just blow it up! The media has ignoring stories like the one I posted, maybe because it suggests that the government cannot be trusted(?).
Hmm...sounds a bit like your "Iraqi constitution" post. Let me suggest that it is a firm truth that any government which cannot be trusted by its people is a total failure and whatever laws it passes are trash and might as well resign on the spot. Trust first, then there can be government. If there was a poll in Iraq today how many Iraqis would say they 'trust' even single word of the government?
 
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I like having you back Abu Khaleel!

You wrote to someone here “Regarding your statement about it being “commonplace among many experts on Iraq and the Middle East that Iraq is an artificial construct of the Allies at the end of the First World War…” which I have come across too often…

On this, I beg to differ! I believe that Iraq as a country has been in existence for about 4,400 years. In addition to history, the country has been defined by geography: The two rivers (Mesopotamia?)... clearly define a geographically unified region (surrounded by mountains on the east and desert on the west) in which people have been freely mixing for several thousand years!

I am afraid what these ‘experts’ look at is the country that has been ‘discovered’ by the West at a time when it was occupied by Ottoman Turkey. At that time, and up to the end of WWI, for more than 200 years, it was divided into three separate regions (or what they called the Wilayets of Mosul, Baghdad and Basra) purely for administrative purposes. The division was definitely NOT along ethnic or sectarian lines.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. I fully agree with you Abu Khaleel!


With regards to the constitution I have a lot of different ideas about it, some articles are good some are not and some are contradicted to each other as you wrote too. However the article 7:2 is what worries me the most and that is were I think we Iraqis will yet again see our human rights put on hold and the government will continue its present use of torture and illegal detentions. A terror state in other words.

/ Nadia

Anonymous thanks for the update of New Orleans.
 
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Well, the regulars here know that I disagree that the US interest is the Iraqi interest long- short- or any-term.

Exhibit A is the sanctions.

I also disagree that there is any substantial US interest in the Middle East independent of the long term defense of Israel for reasons entirely outside of geo-strategic considerations.

I think that if Iraq cannot be led by a Mubarak or King Hussein of Jordan, then the Americans would rather see Iraq dismembered than unified and potentially led by nationalist leaders.

But we can agree to disagree on those it's not a topic to debate every time it comes up.

I'm glad Abu Khaleel is optimistic about Iraq's chances of holding together. If he's optimistic I'm optimistic.

From what I read about Sistani in Wikipedia - it seems as if there were several people of his rank who were killed by Saddam. He avoided being killed by avoiding politics and nearly never leaving his home.

A weird form a natural selection has left the shiites with an undisputed leader, but not one who emerged from a competition as the most courageous or the one who personified any set of ideals best, but who emerged from a competition of who would be the most accomodating to authority. That was good luck for the Americans when they became the authority in Iraq.

But the champion accomodater of the Americans must be President Talabani:

http://edition.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/09/10/iraq.main/

"The U.S. military presence in Iraq will be greatly reduced in two years, with troops based there only to intimidate neighbors, Iraq President Jalal Talabani said Friday during a visit to Washington."

I couldn't believe it when I read it. I wonder what is going to happen to him.
 
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Abu Khaleel:

I think you are correct that the drafts of the document that I have seen contain some serious flaws (e.g., it seems closer to requiring a "confederal" rather than truly "federal" style of governement) and internal contradictions. However, in my view, planting the seeds of a renewed Iraqi tradition of respect for the rule of law is even more important than the words of the constitution (since as I understand it the draft contains a process for amendment).

It is for this reason that the TAL should be followed as closely as possible by the Iraqi government in power (meaning they shouldn't get cute with missing deadline, etc.). Thus, IMHO, it would be unwise to postpone the referendum in hopes a greater political concensus will emerge in Iraq since it is quite possible that continued violence will only deepen existing political and sectarian divisions. It is for these same reasons that the "patriotic" or "nationalist" Iraqi resistance should voice any displeasure it has for the proposed constitution at the ballot box.

Turning to practical considerations, if that "patriotic" faction of the resistance can defeat the current draft, it is my understanding that new elections will be held in accordance with the TAL. In this way, those factions can correct their strategic mistake in largely boycotting the first election.

Of course, the "religious fundementalist" resistance factions would not be expected to participate as they oppose the entire concept of the rule of law. Unless this group can be persuaded to renounce violence, any new secular Iraqi government, no matter what its make up, will be forced to use force to bring them under control. Otherwise, Iraq can look forward to a future of Taliban style governance.

Mark-In-Chi-Town
 
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I am amazed at the ignorance of so many of my fellow countrymen as they express themselves here, showing that they have no idea where community responsibilities lie as opposed to those of the Federal Government. And so many opinions colored by blind hatred!

But the real point I wish to make here is that the US Constitution did not give full rights to all its citizens for more than 100 years. Your Constitution must be a living document with the ability to change with changing times.

I see great hope in what you are doing, not only for your nation, but for ours.
 
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You are in a bumpy time in Iraq in many ways, and as good or as bad as it is, I think the new constitution is one of the hurdles that must be cleared. And, by cleared I mean approved or disapproved. Even if it is approved, I suspect it will be changed and amended over the years. The American Revolution began in 1775, but the country did not get a constitution until 1787. Then that constitution has been amended, 22 times, (I think) and then re-amended. It still works pretty well here, however. So, I think the idea that everyone in your country can vote for it (of course the terrorists will oppose that)is significant.
I like your thoughts and the way you develop your ideas. You are good for Iraq.
 
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Abu Khaleel, Here's to hoping that all is well with you and that your farm is prospering. I'm looking forward to your next post, whenever that may be! ;) Don't make me rush you! :)

Anyway, you might be interested in this:

This is an EXCELLENT article and analysis of the effect of the so-called “El Salvador Option” being implemented by the US on Iraq. It covers the formation of the death squads, as well as disinformation used to redirect interpretation and blame for various mass killings. This is reminiscent of the Phoenix Programme in Vietnam.

Check this out:

http://globalresearch.ca/articles/FUL506A.html
 
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Bruno,

Today is the first day of the 'Constitution curfew'. This has given me a much needed break.

Thank you for the link. In a way, it was heartening to know that there are people who care enough to take the trouble to follow what is happening in Iraq – not that it is going to make a lot of difference in the short term.

I am sorry to disappoint you. My farm is now a deserted piece of land. Lack of irrigation water and electricity was the minor part of the problem. All my share croppers (27 families at one time) have now left… except for one family. Part of my 70 year old date-palm-and-orange orchard has been burned down. One old hand, a man of 70 who was more like a trusted friend really, has been savagely killed by being beaten with rifle butts.

I nowadays go frequently there, but not for agrarian purposes! I apologize for not writing back to you and to the many others who have written to me. I am immersed full time in preventing sectarian strife locally. I have always believed that the best option for me is to operate in an environment where people trust my intentions and listen to my words. And this is what I am doing full time at the moment… and I mean full time! This, I believe is the only available course. If everyone defends his little corner, then and only then there may be some chance of limiting the damage being done to this country by a wide assortment of powerful, resourceful and well funded powers.

What is happening on the ground in Iraq both in the cities and in the countryside is almost unbelievable. If I write about what is actually taking place, even you would start doubting my credibility.


Mark, I no longer consider the “incompetence” theory plausible.
 
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Hello Abu Khaleel,
I am so terribly sorry about your awful situation. I know that your exceptional courage and character will sustain your efforts. Most people don't rise to that level. Iraq needs leaders like you.
"Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the Sons of God."
 
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Abu Khaleel, I am so terribly sorry to hear this news. Somewhere in the back of my mind there was a fantasy of a deserted farm slowly coming back to life through the hard work of the owner. I guess that it was a delusion. I wish you the very best of luck and may your calm and diplomatic tongue never fail you. Keep safe, keep well.
 
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So sad about your farm, but it's great to know you're still around.
Stay safe, Abu, stay safe.
Circular
 
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abu khaleel,

What has happened to your farm and to that poor old man is appalling.

It is all too easy to imagine that similar events are taking place in other parts of Iraq. The Internet has given us outside Iraq another window into Iraq. The Iraqi bloggers may not be rich, but they must be above average in terms of education (those who blog in English), income, and urbanity. When I read of their sufferings and trials, I try to remember that behind them are poorer Iraqis. One of the many things that money can provide is alternatives: if the national electricity is off, run your own generator; if the lines at gas stations are impossible, buy fuel on the black market, for ten times as much. The poorer one is, though, the fewer alternatives are open to one, when something goes wrong.

As part of Iraqi agriculture, you and your farm team fed yourselves and many other Iraqis besides. What will they all do for food? What if this is multiplied on a regional or national scale?

For you, I can think of nothing better than the "Blessed are the Peacemakers" in another comment. (There is no reason that you should be familiar with Christian religious texts. This passage is from the Bible, specifically the Christian part called the New Testament. This quotation is one of a sequence of blessings known as the Beatitudes. It is ascribed to Jesus and represents one of the few sermons in his words.)

Michael in Framingham
 
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Abu Khaleel:

Whenever you get a chance to post or respond to questions I have a background question about Iran/Iraq and Arab/Persian relations

It is difficult for an outsider like myself -- who is unsympathetic to the idea of Israel as a Jewish State and the idea of Israel's dominance of the region -- to understand why Iraq and Iran do not work more closely together.

I hesitate to use these terms and I do not mean to offend, but the narrative of the Iran-Iraq war that I've picked up is that the West determined that both Iran and Iraq were strategic threats to "Western interests" and encouraged Saddam to attack Iran.

In this narrative, Saddam stupidly went along with the West and the West began a campaign of ensuring that both sides were armed enough to keeps the war going but not enough to win decisively. By the end, both countries were devastated and the winner was Israel.

Your opinion on both this narrative and on Iran would be very valuable for me to understand how Arab and Iraqi nationalists view the rise of pro-Iranian political parties and how that fits into the overall picture of the occupation.

I appreciate any insight you give.
 
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I join Circular in his last comment: 'Stay safe, Abu, stay safe.'
But must say also that i'm touched by the 'everyone defends his little corner' description that you Abu, give of your intense battle. And more, i don't think it is the best to not tell the stories, because you would fear for your credibility. We do need to know what happens. If you say that what happens on the ground is nearly unbelievable, i really fear for the worst, but i also know already that the worst is happening. Some stories are being told. More are not. We all know that Iraqis have been one of the most fiercely isolated poplutations in the world for the last half century. To me, but not only, it is important that we have exchange with you Abu, and with the other people who tell the stories, who ask the questions. About small situations. That are so big. My bestst wishes, and some (huge chinese or whatever container-)shiploads of strength to you Abu&Co
 
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Thank you all for you’re your touching sentiments and wishes. I read through your questions and I honestly don’t know where to begin!


Michael in Framingham,

You are so right regarding the plight of poor people. It breaks my heart that there is so much unnecessary suffering and material hardship in a country that should be extremely rich by any standard: oil, water, fertile land, varied climate, industrious population…!

I have actually written before about that poor old man, Abbas Uwayyed, but I didn’t mention him in name. He is the same man, a devout Shiite, who once remarked about it being unlikely for Sunnis to be targeting Shiite holy shrines. I have known that man for more than 25 years and had nothing but love, respect and admiration for him. A quiet man who, I thought, could talk his way out of any situation. He was an honest and a hard-working man. His answer to any hardship was hard work. When that raid came, and all the younger men fled, he stayed put in his home saying that nobody would bother an old man like himself. It was a grave personal loss for me.


Cile,

Thank you for your wishes. I understand your wish to know, but I’m afraid I can’t oblige at the moment. I am keeping a shorthand diary for the future though.


Mr. Democracy,

I appreciate the difficulties you are having on the of Iran-Iraq issue. It is quite a complex muddle of mutual influence, conflict and mistrust.

I guess I cannot avoid addressing that issue much longer. I had already promised Hoots. I will do that as soon as I can when I have the three prerequisites of time, power and a working internet connection.


As to America’s position that you mention, well, even before the days of the internet, the policy was a publicly declared one; it was known as ‘dual containment’. It was openly discussed by a number of policy shapers at the time including Nixon, Kissinger and Brzezinski, for example.

Coming to the present conflict, I knew all along that there was much Iranian interference in Iraqi politics (and violence) since the invasion. Believe it or not, I personally was willing to ‘understand’ some of it. I believed that they were acting in a sort of self defense. The worse the American situation in Iraq was, the safer Iran would be. They had, and still have, every intention of keeping the US bogged down in Iraq. It has largely worked. Any US administration would have to think twice now before attacking Iran. It made sense.

What is amazing in this ‘interference’ is that Iran was operating on two ‘fronts: political and military. On both fronts, they were supporting largely antagonist parties! They have been extremely successful.

But now I believe that they have gone into the offensive. They are thinking in longer term strategy. The sabotage and bombing business they are involved in I believe is going too far. They also seem to be succeeding in shaping the future of Iraq to their liking. It is the more perplexing that the present US administration is acquiescing. Both the US administration and Iran have been ‘enthusiastically’ supportive of the new constitution draft!

However, the US has finally moved politically to try and forge a ‘secular’ unity-of-Iraq movement ;) Follow Allawi’s political maneuvers.
 
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Abu Khaleel and all,

My condolences for your losses, and my admiration and best wishes for your efforts to be a peacemaker.
-=-=
Several weeks ago I was at an Assyrian Church of the East church service, and afterwards was told the following account:
An Assyrian-American had immigrated to the US from Iran (there's a moderate sized Assyrian community in Teheran, a number of ancient communities around Lake Orumiah, and smaller communities scattered throughout Iran). This young man was serving in the US armed forces in Iraq in 2003. His company came into a town, and noted a gorcery store from which a sniper was firing at them. On entering the store, they found a man whose accent the Assyrian identified as Iranian. He greeted the man in Farsi, the greeting being returned in the same language. The man was indeed from Iran, and was discovered to have been shooting at the Americans.

The impression of several of the Assyrians with whom I've conversed (mostly Iranian immigrants) is that Iran or some faction in Iran has determined to destabilize/destroy Iraq.

-=-=
May God protect you in this time of insanity.
Be Well,
Bob Griffin
 
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Bob Griffin,

It's good to see your thoughtful comments again.

I think that Iranian influence and intentions in Iraq is one of the 64-dollar questions there. For years, since conventional operations ended, many American opponents of Iran have cited evidence of extensive Iranian support to, and agents serving with, various Shia factions, such as the Badr Brigade and the Mahdi Army, and recently even the mainly Sunni anti-government insurgents.

If one believes this, then it follows that Iran has always had the power to give the word and plunge Iraq into chaos far worse than anything so far. That has not happened. It seems to me that either Iran has not the power or, more likely, it does not want the situation in Iraq to disintegrate. Perhaps Iran figures that the Sunni Arabs would pick up the pieces. Unfortunately, the Iranians may have the power and the will to adjust a level of disruption to suit themselves. For example, they can make things bad enough to keep the Coalition focused on Iraq. Some commentators believe that Iran has made an adjustment recently in order to divert attention from the issue of Iranian nuclear development.

My conclusion is: ?????????
 
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Bob Griffin,

Ooops. I forgot to end the previous message, 'Michael in Framingham.'
 
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Good Afternoon! I just finished reading your latest posts (yes, all of them.I hope I'm not wasting your time here. I have a few questions I would like to ask an Iraqi and not everyone else who likes to answer for Iraq. This Blog seems so muchless extreme and hate-fueled than the others, so I hope that I can find the answers I seek in good faith, and overall understanding.

Now, I'll tell you a bit about myself first, just so you know where I'm coming from.

I'm a Dual citizen of Canada and the USA. My views are more-or-less independant of any political party or organization, as I really don't have much respect for politicians in this day and age, although things going on in other parts of the world intrest me a lot.

I am a Secular Christian, and I have a "Support our Troops" Bumper sticker. Oh yes, and I fly a both a Candaian and an American Flag infront of my house, and I have a collection of assault rifles (an AK-47, and a couple AR-15s)that I like to practise with at the range.

That's really about the only information that anyone likes to use to judge me by, although as I said, My opinions are my own, and I will fight for others to have their own opinions.

ANYWAYS . . . Getting down to my questions. These may sound a little bit ignorant which I apoligize for in advance, but so far, nobody has given me an answer that has not been countered by at least three others.

First of all, I was wondering if Iraq is really like the Media makes it out to be: a poor struggling country racked by irrecoverable extremist violence, poverty, and hate. I don't really buy that from everyone, but please correct me id that is infact the case. Is life infact very hard there? Are you worse off than before the invasion?

Second, I have been hearing that the Majority of Iraqis actually hate and blame the West (more specifially the USA) for all the issues going on right now. Is that true? And if not, what IS Iraq's opinion of the USA and Canada, and the West in General? What about other countries in the Middle east? What are your thoughts on them? What are your thoughts on President Bush, and other World Leaders, and what they have to say about Iraq?

Being occupied by several foreign powers must rack your mind alot I'm sure. I live virtually in the center of North America, which is the least likely place in my opinion to suffer from an occupation, and therefore consider myself more-or-less sheltered from fear of an invasion.

I Once heard that the Iraqi Government had ordered several ambulances from Canada, but they were several months late, and hadn't showed up at the time of the interview? Do you know anyhting about that, and have they arrived? I feel a bit embaressed that they were so far behind, and hope it has been cleared up.

Did you vote in the election and/or the referendum? Was it hard to do? Please comment on this, if you can.

Well there are a few to start. My regards to you starting a Blog. Blogs have much more meaning when the people wirting them are really in the center of what they're writing about. I hope this doesn't take up too much of your time, as from waht I have read form past comments, you are quite busy.

Take care,

North American
 
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