Sunday, October 30, 2005


America - Behind the Curtain

Libby and American Political Justice

Like many other people, I was closely following the ‘Plamegate’ affair in America: the investigation, the indictment, the spinning, the speculation… and the anticipation.

It is only natural. Libby and the likes of him have devastated my already ruined country. Anything that exposes these people for what they are must bring some gratification.


I keep thinking back to other cover-ups and other indictments… and I find something common to most of them: they were not initiated by the great harm some of those villains did to innocent people around the world or even to Americans or to America. Those scandals blew up because those people attacked Establishments of the American System.

This may sound unfair, but please bear with me.

Nixon was brought down for doing something immoral and illegal against the Democratic Party. That was what started it and brought all those ugly worms out of the can. Yes, there was an avalanche of events and a lot of soul-searching in America. But what started it were not the crimes against humanity committed, but using the ‘government’ to spy on the other party. The original injured party that sparked the investigation was the Democratic Party.

This is so similar to the Plame affair. The fuss and the investigation and the indictment were originally about exposing a CIA operative. The CIA was the injured party.

The slow, but reliable judicial system in America will no doubt grind its way through the maze of secrecy, lies and deceit. Other nasty worms will probably come out… but we all should remember that what started it all was not the act of murdering innocent people… but the act of exposing one CIA operative.

I cannot help thinking that justice was done only because there were powerful bodies, inside America who wanted that justice to be done… and fought for it.

In millions of other case, no one defended the injured party… whether they were foreign nationals, Americans… or even America itself.

The fact remains that the act of ‘exposing’ Plame was performed to harm her husband who exposed one of the lies used to justify a war to the American people – a war in which people (many thousands of American and Iraqi people) were, and are still being killed and injured. But that is only a secondary issue, and may have to wait.

Plame is being avenged. So, who will defend all those suffering innocent people? And who will avenge all those dead people, Iraqi and American? This can only be done by the American people, not by the American political justice system. But why isn’t this happening now? Is America evil? Are Americans so insensitive? The answer is: no!

It has to do with a curtain that surrounds America.

Behind the Image Curtain

For decades, people were so fond of Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” description of the Soviet Union and its allies. There was a great deal of truth in that description. In the Soviet Union, as in all totalitarian systems, iron curtains were possible. When that Union collapsed, the curtain was hurriedly demolished.

In America, and in other democracies, iron curtains are not possible. Because of the vision and decency of those who originally designed the political system in America (perhaps even because of the nature of America itself) darkness and iron curtains are simply not possible. They are incompatible with the very concept of the system.

However, in America there is another curtain that is more difficult to demolish… because it is not ‘solid’.

Imagine a huge room full of light and noise, called the United States of America.
People in that room are free to come and go as they please. They are free to talk, to listen, to say yes or no. But they are not totally free to know.

The room is surrounded by huge, white velvet curtains. On those curtains are projected images of what goes on in America and in the rest of the world; a lively, noisy, entertaining world of images.

There are numerous screens projecting on those curtains. The numerous larger ones are all owned by only a few big corporations, and consequently follow the bidding of a handful of individuals. These screens project images of the real world and of reality that does not always reflect that reality truthfully. The images pass through a number of selective filters.

There are many other, smaller screens, but few people bother to watch them. They strain the eye, are usually full of unpleasant images and are generally thought to be less reliable.

There also numerous holes in those curtains. Anybody in America is absolutely free to have a peek at the real world through those holes. But not more than 10% of adult Americans actually do: scholars, academics, the inquisitive and the discontented. Some of those choose to or are paid to retain the filters they are accustomed to when having a look. For the bulk of the population, those holes are not even visible from the living room couch.

People are also free to come and go across those curtains. Few people bother. Some of those who do, take little projections of the screens they are used to with them.

Those who venture out without their little screens or filters and have a good look at the real world, come back in disgust and start yelling like madmen… but no one listens to madmen in that bustling room. They, as well as the people on the other side of that image curtain… remain unheard.

I sometimes find myself looking at some of the misery caused by American policies in the world and wondering: are Americans so evil to be so insensitive to the harm their country has done and is doing to innocent people? The answer is a definite no!

They simply cannot see the real world from behind that image curtain.

Modern day politicians in America have naturally taken to that wonderful system. Politics in America has now become mostly not about substance and view… but about ‘image’. This is probably why actors have been doing so well in politics.

The internet, an American invention, is bringing some change. It has introduced a few more holes in that curtain. But we have a long way to go. Most are still too small for people sitting on those couches. We will have to wait for those velvet curtains to have enough holes in them, to become more like lace curtains… for the other side to be seen from the couch.

It is only then that America and the rest of the world will live in the same world… hopefully in peace.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Iran and Iraq: War and Politics

[I have posted some background material to the subject in my other blog “A Glimpse of Iraq. An extended version of both essays combined can be found here]

Some Background

When Iraq was ‘liberated’ from the Ottomans by the British during WWI and became a ‘free country’… and Iran was also a ‘free country’ under considerable influence from Britain, there were numerous outstanding issues of conflict regarding their common borders. There was also the problem of Arabistan (Ahvaz or Ahwaz) - the region in Persia next to Iraq occupied by Arabs who saw themselves as part of Iraq to the extent that the notorious Shaikh Khaszal of Mohammra (Khoramshahar) was one of the major contenders to the Iraqi throne. That region was on the other shore of the oil-rich Gulf.

Those border issues, particularly at Shat al Arab, the combined flow of Iraq’s two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, later became a major ‘official’ excuse of the Iran-Iraq war that started in 1980 and lasted for 8 years.

Most people still find Saddam’s attack on Iran almost immediately after Khoeini’s Islamic revolution rather perplexing. Many Iraqis find good explanation in conspiracy theories. The vast majority of people I know in Iraq firmly believe that Saddam was doing America’s bidding. However, I believe that there were some tangible ‘incentives’ for him to jump into that unfortunate venture.

Saddam had made a number of territorial concessions to the Shah of Iran in 1975 to encourage the Shah to stop his support for the Kurdish insurgency. There was much resentment, even within his party. Someone close to him wrote a book later in exile about that time and he stated that he cried when he knew of the details of Saddam’s deal with the Shah. When the Khomeini revolution came, Iran was in chaos and in turmoil. The clergy purged many of the senior officers and pilots. The mostly inexperienced ‘Islamic Revolutionary guards’ were incompetently running the war machine. Iran was rather weak. Saddam probably saw an opportunity in attacking her. I can find a number of ‘advantages’ from his point of view for that adventure. America of course encouraged him. It is now open knowledge that the late King Hussein of Jordan played a significant role as a go-between.

There is a great deal of mistrust towards Iran in the Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia. Most of these rich countries overtly or covertly assisted Iraq during the last war with Iran (1980 – 1988), most evidently Kuwait. In addition to what is seen as Iranian imperial aspirations in the region, there is no doubt that the sizeable Shiite communities in the oil-rich eastern bank of the Gulf were, and still are, on most of those people’s minds. Militant Islamist Shiism that is inspired by Iran was not welcome.
The recent harsh words coming from the Saudi Foreign Minister regarding American policies empowering Iran in Iraq are a case in point. In September he said:
“We fought a war together to keep Iran out of Iraq after Iraq was driven out of Kuwait. Now we are handing the whole country over to Iran without reason.”

The Iraqi Minister of Interior reacted harshly:
"This Iraq is the cradle of civilization that taught humanity reading and writing, and some Bedouin riding a camel wants to teach us. This talk is totally rejected"

Iran and Post-invasion Iraq

During the lead up to the invasion of Iraq, the present administration of President George W. Bush made no secret of the fact that their next station was Iran, one of the components of the ‘Axis of Evil’.

Iran’s response to the American invasion of Iraq has been a two-component policy: political and military.

The Military component is quite understandable and straightforward:

The general assumption was, and still is, that the USA would turn to face Iran as soon as things were settled in Iraq. Pro-administration war hawks were jubilant at the beginning of the invasion (before discovering that they were in a quagmire or being aware of the nature of that quagmire!) that Iran’s regime’s days were numbered. In Iranian eyes, this threat is still quite real.

The main obstacle preventing that threat from materializing is America’s entanglement in Iraq. It only makes sense for the Iranians to help bog down the Americans in the Iraqi quagmire. I am certain that Iranian policy-makers believe that they are doing it in self-defense. They are probably correct!

Iran had been actively doing that through supplying several factions of the insurgency. Secretary Rumsfeld recently announced something about Iranian explosives being used against the American army, explosives that the insurgents didn’t have before. This claim has been echoed by the British in Basra.

The other activity was more vicious. There are numerous pieces of evidence (including CIA reports) to suggest that Iran has its own violent covert operations in Iraq. Some reports suggested the presence of 17 separate covert combat units operating in Iraq. The idea seems to be to produce maximum chaos and instability in Iraq, making the American occupation as difficult as possible. Some of the senseless acts of violence as well as some acts of violence of sectarian nature have been attributed to Iran.

The political approach had the aim of gaining as much influence as possible on the political arena in Iraq.

They had considerable influence on several of the ‘Shiite’ forces opposing Saddam’s regime. They had supported them considerably during their struggle against that regime. There were two major such parties: The Da’wa party and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

The Da’wa party (currently represented by Prime Minister Ja’afari) was friendly but not totally ‘owned’. The reason is that the movement was born inside Iraq and fought its battles on the inside most of the time. Its members were severely punished for that and paid a hefty price for it, including the death penalty to their founder and philosopher… another Sadr, usually known as the ‘First’ Sadr (to distinguish him from his cousin, Moqtada’s father) The attack started during the Iraq-Iran war and was rather vicious and persistent.

SCIRI, on the other hand, was born and nurtured in Iran, again mainly during that war. A militia, now known as the “Badr Brigade’ was wholly constructed in Iran, mainly from Iraqi defectors or PoW’s during that war. It was totally financed by the Iranian regime. Some of its elements actually took part in battles against the Iraqi army during that war; something that would have been unthinkable to many of the Da’wa people.

That distinction is most important. It explains a lot of the differences between the positions of the two parties after the invasion of Iraq.

After the invasion, both parties accepted the political game as defined by the American administration and played it with zeal and enthusiasm. But to the surprise of many Iraqis, there was a great deal of difference between the attitudes (and methods) of the two parties. Da’wa turned out to be the more ‘political and philosophical’ of the two! Much of their agenda were ‘Iraqi’ in essence and spirit. SCIRI was something else.

During the elections, both parties entered into a coalition and joined the same slate (under the tacit blessing of Sistani). After those elections, the Da’wa was given the ineffective post of Prime Minister (because he had little control over his ministers!) and SCIRI took the Ministry of Interior, primarily in charge of the police. Now, Badr people have taken almost complete control of the police force.

In the simplest possible terms, I cannot understand the following: Iran is a declared enemy of America. America invades Iraq. America consistently strengthens the hand of pro-Iranian political parties and their influence on the future shape of Iraq!

The latest source of amusement is that both the US administration and the regime in Iran are enthusiastic supporters of the new draft constitution.

There are too many murmurs coming from the Iraqi politicians taking part in the political process that Iran has too much influence on Iraqi politics… to ignore!

An Illustration!

Perhaps no single issue illustrates the extent of the (suspected) Iranian machinations in Iraq at present more than the plight of retired Iraqi army officers and fighter pilots.

Over the past two years, some unknown force literally went on a killing and an assassination spree that included former senior army officers and, almost inexplicably, former fighter pilots who took part in the Iraq-Iran war. Some of those people were old and retired.

Their plight was discussed in the National Assembly: A lady member of the National Assembly once raised the plight of those people during a parliamentary session last August and said that, up that moment, more than 30 of those people had been killed and asked for an investigation. Another member coldly replied that it was ‘dangerous’ for the lady to address such issues and make those insinuations! Nothing was done.

Then they took their case to the President: In mid-October, those unfortunate people, about 1000 retired army officers, went to see their president. They complained that they were being targeted and killed systematically, particularly the pilots who took part in the Iraq Iran war.

The President invited those unfortunate people to go to Iraqi Kurdistan and live in Arbil or Suleimaniya where they would be safer!!!

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