Monday, December 30, 2002

image by James Hill for The New York Times

from this article in the NY Times
If this wasn't so sad it would be beautiful, the electricity went out at the Christmas week concert performed by the Iraqi National Symphony Orchestra. The last time I went was when they were still playing once a month at the Rasheed Theater, now they play at the Ribat Hall, everybody was sad when they were moved out of the Rasheed the Ribat is just an abandoned ruin with bad accoustics. They sounded depressing then and I stopped going. The Rasheed Theater, after the French Cultural Center stopped using it for perfomances of french artists and movies, is rented now for a "commercial" theater group prefering silly slapstick comedies.
salam .. how can i control the ****** font size? tell me some html ""secrits"" (plz) damn it ...

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Santa claus!!

The Iraqi trade minister Mouhamad Mahdi Saleh announced yedterday that Iraq has signed contracts with french Peugeot and german Volkswagen to buy 10,000 cars for distribution amongst the Iraqi population
my suggestion is that we add 2500 Russian Lada cars. 500,000 Chinese kids watches. 2500 Ssangyung cars [salam: Korean??]. 10 tons of spices from India and 10 from who else needs a christmas present??? and 10 tons of coffee from Brazil, we don't want to repeat the fiasco with cars.

[salam]: Non-Iraqi readers will not get the Brazilian car reference. In the early eigties the Iraqi State Company for cars imported thousands and thousands of a VW Passat made in Brazil (rumor was that this was part of a clause in an arms deal or something, who knows?). this car was very cheap, it was everybody's second or third car in the house. your bratty kid wants a car? buy him a Brazili (which means brazilian). the problem was it was the worst car you can imagine. not suited for the heat of Iraqi summer it broke down spectacularly, the next batch was a bit better but still rubbish. until this day it is the most common and affordable car in iraq. It is so part of Iraqiness in the eighties there are songs about it. but it is still rubbish. Here is a picture of it and here is someone who thinks its so cool he devoted a page to his pix with it.

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[salam] la2 I tell you what, you write whatever you want in arabic, I will append a translation. ahaln ahlan, made my day.

well .. i would like to announce .. with pleasure ya3ni .. the launch of our arabic ""beta version"" release thank u ladies and gentelman and salams ~

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Readying itself for full-scale war, the Iraqi trade minister, Mohammed Mehdi Saleh, said yesterday that everyone in Iraq should have a stockpile of food to last three months.
Panic attack? Well not really. We have been stockpiling long before the trade minister advised us to do so. Prices of everything storable or used for storage have gone up because of that. Powdered milk doubled, bottled water practically disappeared and the price of a 40 liter plastic barrel has gone up from 5,000 ID to 12,000 ID (that I regret not buying a month ago). It is the fact that he said it which is scary; they are not that frank usually.
A convoy of anti-war activists, likely to include dozens of British volunteers, will leave London next month to act as human shields protecting strategic sites in Iraq.
Oh please not again.
"These people will be distributed to vital and strategic installations in all Iraqi regions." said Saad Qasim Hammoudi, an official of the ruling Ba'ath party.
you’re just playing into their hands. I would have understood if they were getting humanitarian aid ready. Medicine, food transportable medical care units, anything but being human shields.
"Nobody is naive enough to believe that a superpower like the US is not going to bomb Iraq because there are peace people there," said Mary Trotochaud
so why are they coming, getting yourself killed won’t help anyone. If you want to help, be there at the border where a big number of refugees is expected, they will be scared, maybe injured and in need of help. Sitting in a power station hoping that it won’t get bombed is silly; we don’t have enough power now. I don’t care if an already defunct power plant gets bombed. Wait at the border with a small power generator and water treatment equipment. that is real help. Their hearts are in the right place and their support is much appreciated, but their efforts should not be abused. We do need you ALIVE.

A week ago Jonathan [The Head Heeb] posted a comment on my letter to raed (somewhere down there) specifically about me saying that I feel like I have betrayed my culture. I didn’t want to write a response at the time because I didn’t want to start another who/where/what thing going on. Been there, done that (hi Al *wink*, hope you are having great holidays). Hoping that everybody is too busy getting themselves into gear for New Year parties I thought I could sneak in a response and hope no one notices until it’s too late.
You say : “It's easier to talk to people who share one's background and assumptions, but it's more rewarding to understand the rest of the world and to be understood in turn.”
Believe me I know this, I have been rewarded immensely. My life was not only enriched by all that I have been exposed to, but very much transformed. In the comments you wrote “I want to know about the Egyptian soap operas too. It's selfish of me, but I want to be a guest at the party” I don’t think that’s selfish, this is also the reason I read weblogs, even the ones which are very personal. It’s a glimpse into a world which I might have not seen before and usually is, as you said, very rewarding. The feeling of betrayal comes from somewhere else. There was a time when I thought that one of the best things that have happened to me is that I have not been “rooted” anywhere. I felt that I will manage to feel at home wherever I go. Culture, as in my cultural heritage, was not something I could betray because it was not part of how I saw myself.
But this has changed, in this day I am forced to identify myself with something I don’t fully believe in. They see a name, a passport and I am lumped with people and things I don’t think I belong with. Actually when I think about it things haven’t just changed over night, I was probably fooling my self or was a good chameleon. So instead of arguing with whoever I decided to stop fighting it. It is who I am after all, well sort of. The problem was that I found out my brain needed some serious re-wiring; I have major blank gaps and disagree with so much. Which leaves me in limbo. This is where the feeling of betrayal comes from. I can’t fully connect as much as I try. So if I do understand the lyrics Um Kalthum sings (I see you have used the Egyptian pronunciation ‘Kolsoum’) I can’t quote the classical poets whose poems she sings like my cousins do.

One more thing: thank you Ikram for your kind words and understanding. To use an Americanism: you just, like, totally get it. Thanks.
The bit about farsi-blogs is spot on.

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Word of the day:

as seen on page 34 in the "Guiding Principles for U.S. Post-Conflict Policy in Iraq" report published by the Council on Foreign Relations [CFR]
if you don't feel like reading the whole report just take a look at the last 3 pages, "the three phased approach" the paper suggests is outlined in a chart.
there is another interesting article on that site:
Reconstruction: A Checklist for Would-be Nation-builders in Baghdad After the Fall of Saddam
It is the gist of that 35 pages paper. Some of it sounds like the list my mother would have given my baby-sitter.
Go slow, but steady, on democracy.
Strengthen Ties that Bind.
Mind the neighbors.

Friday, December 27, 2002

no no no wallahi I'm not ignoring you. aslan bil3akis. I called you on thursday around 11:30am, three times. I kept ringing but you didn't pick up. I know you know it's a call from baghdad so why didn't you pick up? I had nothing to do and thought we might chat a bit. I called your brother and talked with him instead.
wish you were here, no actually I wish I were in amman with you this week
mmm,, is he ignoring me?

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Chena tova you hot pink minx.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

The good news first. We are going to celebrate New Year's at my parents place, they are throwing a party and since the house will be a mess anyway I am occupying the upper floor for my partying purposes. Everyone is invited bring a friend, a bottle of whatever you drink and a candle. Make that lots of candles. The electricity situation is getting out of hand.
The last couple of days you were lucky if you live in an area where the blackout is for 5 hours a day only. We have been de-electrified for 7 hours today; the day is not over yet. Some areas in Baghdad have had 10 hours of darkness. And it is not improving. Other governorates are getting half an hour of electricity if at all.
There is an official explanation. They say maintenance. I say Bull. They are probably packing those generators away.
You learn to deal with the scheduled blackouts, you know when they are and for how many hours. But the last couple of days have been really bad. Very erratic, they turn it on and off whenever they like. We just freeze and thaw then freeze again. It has been very cold for the season and it is expected to get colder. The prices of kerosene heaters have gone thru the roof. There is a local factory, state owned, which manufactures these heaters, 130,000 Iraqi Dinars a pop. But buying one requires approval from the general manager. Don't ask. I can't figure why. It wouldn't be called bureaucracy otherwise.
Now take your newly acquired heater and stand in front of the company's building, someone will offer you 200,000 Iraqi Dinars for it within a minute. Look for it in the shops you will find it for 260,000 ID. That's free market economy isn't it? I decided it was cheaper to bring down an extra blanket.


Because of these sudden electricity blackouts, this is the third time I write this post. I keep forgetting the save button. Not anymore, autosave came to the rescue, every 5 minutes.
A couple of days ago the NY Times published another article by John F. Burns. Does anyone know if there is a photo of him somewhere, because if I see him on the street I really want to tell him how off the mark he can get when he gets carried away. More on that later.

The Iraqi currency, the dinar, had gone into free fall, losing 25 percent of its value against the dollar.
It has been very weird with the dinar the last couple of weeks, it is floating between 2200 and 2300. yesterday at night when I went to exchange my hard earned dinars to $$ it was 2285, and the dealer expected it to go up a bit. Many of the wholesale shops at alshorja and kifah streets stop buying and selling the moment the dinar starts going crazy, which happens often enough. I went to buy a new monitor for my computer (my old one blew a fuse when the electricity came back with a surge, it made a zzzzttt-ppfffttt sound and died) and the dealer had to check for the price of the dollar before selling me the equivalent of $140, it is getting to be that silly.
Burns does suggest a reason:
somebody high in the government had dumped dinars on the market to buy tens of millions of dollars in a few hours.
very probable. But there is another reason; no one wants to hold on to eventually worthless Iraqi dinars. Prices of real estate and cars have gone up very quickly, almost doubling in very short periods, specially unbuilt land within Baghdad city limits. Investment loans with lower than low interest rates are being ignored. No one wants to have money floating around. And get all your gold out of the safe deposits as well. Some of you know the meaning of Farhud in Arabic. If a bomb will hit a bank it will be ‘farhud’ed. I am straying away from the subject. The point is not only high government officials buying dollars like crazy off the market, everybody else is also doing it.
Talking of money, there is a very pressing question. What are we going to do with all the notes; they all have saddam’s face on them. From the worthless 25 ID bill to the newly issued 10,000 ID note?
More from he srticle:
Last month, Uday's wings were clipped when the government suspended his newspaper after it published articles that seemed intended to expose incompetence and corruption in the government.
It is back in print, two days ago I walked into the office and found it on my desk, still being printed with the same smudgy cheap ink. You would think saddam’s son would use good materials.
If anybody but Saddam Hussein himself seems like the perfect totem for all that is past, it is Uday. Yet his posture now is to present himself as the one Iraqis can turn to, should they want a more modern man to lead them out of the dead end his father has led them to.
sorry what posture? Everyone except his closest “friends” know that he is a sick monster. He has already driven himself into a dead end before his father did. Families walk out quietly when he enters a restaurant, he is known to send one of his boys to bring him the women sitting at the closest tables to “join” him. People hate him, as much as they fear his father. So no one is looking for him to lead them anywhere. What a pointless thing to write.

Anyway since it is the season to be merry, here is a funny little story about him: In the early eighties the Iraqi Hunting Club had a new indoor swimming pool built. Quite big and state of the art. They decided to have some sort of a party to announce it’s opening. A nice classy affair. at around eleven Uday comes in with his entourage wearing a white tuxedo and top hat, there is still a photo of him in that tux being printed on calendars but without the top hat, has a couple of drinks, decides that the party is boring and to liven things up a bit commands everyone to jump into the swimming pool, and unleashes his dogs = bodyguards to push people into the pool. Has a good laugh and leaves, A fun guy eh?

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

can i kick u out of here salam?
OooOOoooOomAa sAaaLL !!!! one .. two .. three one .. two one .. here comes THE Raed :*)

Sunday, December 22, 2002

The Iraqi "Opposition Groups" have met and made plans for a post-Saddam Iraq.
I feel so much more relaxed now. My future is in good hands. Excuse me while I jump around and celebrate this.

.....According to **opposition members**, Washington wants the opposition to enhance its credibility without growing too independent, so that the United States controls Iraq's political future yet has a legitimizing Iraqi partner ready in the wings in case one is needed after any invasion.
man this is way too funny, the way everyone is so blatant about it. at least try to be a bit discreet. No need for that eh?, just a bunch of stupid arabs there, they won't notice the threads moving these puppets.
There were American officials on hand to monitor the conference, cajoling its leaders in private to meet the goals set by Washington while ensuring that they did not overstep the American-drawn boundaries
how does anyone expect that this is meeting is of any meaning or importance. the whole affair was a mess. the speeches made were embarrassing and the fighting over each party's position in this meeting was even more so (just in case anyone starts having "hey this dude is no way in baghdad, how can he watch and hear this" thoughts. I am risking a hefty $350 fine and possible prison for having . very early on a kurdistani sunni group threatened to withdraw from the meeting if sunni Kurds were not represented in this meeting, but nobody cared because the american organizers of this meeting (headed by Zalmay Khalilzad) had no intrest in that bunch of fools.
The result of the four days was a 25 recomendations document full of hot air dictated by the US (link to document in arabic, could not find a translation of the whole declaration in english). It does say in paragraph two that the groups appreciate, or welcome (depends how you want to translate it) the help of the international community for supporting the iraqi people in helping them end the dictatorial regime and their help in rebuilding Iraq, BUT refuse any political intervention in future iraqi affairs. I say bullshit. Let's assume they are independent enough to make their own decisions, how do they expect that anyone would give them a free lunch?
-Here, let us send you huge military backing, risk the lives of our people, spend huge amounts of money just because we like you.
If you're going to ask for favors, you'll have to give something in return. and that's a mighty big favor you're asking. But since we know they are not really that independent, and everything said in that declaration would have to be approved by the American minders first. that paragraph means nothing just like the rest of the meeting, speeches and final recomendations.
.....several senior members of some of the largest groups said privately that such statements were largely political posturing because none of the opposition groups wants to be seen as an American patsy.
poor deluded fools. seen as patsy? you ARE a patsy.

The only good thing I heard during the 4 day charade was this:

After pressure from the Constitutional Monarchy Movement (CMM), the plans envisage a referendum on whether the country should remain a republic, or restore the monarchy which was overthrown in 1958.
It is not that I particularly like the Constitutional Monarchy Movement (Raed: do me a favor check the link and tell me if there is anything worth reading, my access to it is blocked). The CMM and INC (Iraqi National Congress headed by Ahmad Chalabi) are the main puppets in the american game. see this nice photo of both of them with Under Secretary of State Thomas R. Pickering in 1999 (chalabi in the middle and king wannabe Ali bin Sharif Al Hussein on the right). here is another mugshot of Ali bin Sharif Al Hussein.
In fact Al Sharif Ali's speech in meeting was one of most embarrassing. he is the best example why I say the Iraqi Opposition groups outside Iraq are so out of it. This person who wants to be the head figure of my country can't even speak my language. he stammered and stuttered, pronounced the words as he has never seen arabic before. I was wondering whether he was reading an english transcribtion of the arabic words because they sound so wrong. He has never set foot in Iraq. Was suddenly interested in the future of this country in 1993, no one heard of him or cared about him before that. Anyway, I had a point, this is not it.
I have decided if that Referendum ever happens I will vote for a constitutional monarchy. Beside having acquired a lifetime allergy of the word President. I think a Monarch who doesn't have much say will do less harm than a president who has to fight for his position every couple of years and once there wouldn't want to leave. This might be wrong but somehow I think if we did actually reach a point where we have a multi-party system it will be better to have to deal ministers and opposition groups than a single egomaniac. oh I don't know.. I just don't want to have to say the word President for a while so give us that wimp from the CMM, better still give us Prince Ra'ad bin Zaid bin Al Sharif Al Hussein. That would be good, at least he IS Iraqi and, been living in Jordan not like that Ali, spending his time in decadant western cities and speaks Arabic.

Saturday, December 21, 2002

Dear Raed…
I never answered that angry e-mail you sent when I told you I am deleting the site (which was very unsuccessful, blogspot does not erase the archives). You said I was a coward and never finish what I start. You know me too well.
Yes I was scared. I thought that the Reuters and Yahoo France articles were enough to create too much attention. I deleted everything too fast to be able to tell whether that was true or not. But that was not the only reason. I was a bit unhappy about how things were going on the weblog.
Just after deleting the weblog I told Diane that I wish there was another Iraqi blogger. I have done a sort of a mental exercise on how that weblog would be:
To start with it would be in a Arabic, and discuss as little politics as possible, if cornered would be very pro-Palestinian pro-Saddam. Just to stay on the safe side. It would also be filled with quotation from the Quran and Hadith, or maybe Um-Kalthum songs. What I am trying to say is that most “western” readers wouldn’t get it because it would be so out of their cultural sphere.
This mess I’m in really bothers me; with all my talk of anti-Americanism (is that a word?) I still reference their culture, their music, and their movies. I got whacked for saying “fuck you”. I should have said “inachat khawatkum” no one would have understood. Just as most Iraqis don’t understand most of what is being said by Americans. We would have smiled politely at each other and moved on.
I feel like the embodiment of cultural betrayal. The total sell-out, and this is making me contradict myself all the time.
You remember the evening we spent at the Books@cafe when you laughed at me when I told you that I believe I am the product of a Muslim/Arabic culture. You reminded me that just two moments ago I was telling you how happy I was watching MTV Germany and shopping for English books at the Virgin Megastore in Beirut.
I am all the arguments we used to have about us being attachments to western culture rolled into one. This is not the dialogue of equals we used to talk about, I keep referencing their everything because I am so swallowed up by it. Look I have been sending you e-mails in English for the whole of last year, how sad is that.
Shame on me.
You used to anchor me down. All the magazines we used to read: Arabic horizons, Aqlam and the rest. Now I just browse thru them. I am back to Q, The Face and Wired: western trash. And don’t ask when was the last time I read a book in Arabic, I would be too ashamed to answer. Moreover I was getting all those scary questions from the people who read the blog. What do I think about the Kurdish situation? Open letters from Diane, which I was really at loss how to answer.
OK that’s enough. This is as confessional as it gets. Stopping the blog was not about just being scared, I had lost my bearings a bit and needed to re-orient. Don’t get mad at me, the things I said in that e-mail are not as mean as they sound. I least I got you to start blogging here, Maybe a certain blogger will believe that I am not a creation of your wild imagination.

And in answer to Eve Tushnet’s email to me

“…… and to ask whether you would prefer that people here not link to you, or whether you don't care”.
I do care about who links to me. I am very honored by their interest in my weblog and I am very grateful for all the emails I got asking if everything was OK. So as I always answer that question: “link me up baby…I am a total linkwhore”


some more stuff for Raed:
Remember Zaid? The one who emailed us a huge photo of his graduation. He wears traditional Arabic dress now (Dishdasha, does not touch his ankles because he turned wahabi or something). He doesn’t look the female students he tutors in the face and, get this, wears eye-liner. Black kuhla. Apparently the prophet used to do that. He now has bat-shit for brains, officially. I also saw Fatin the other day, she was so pregnant I didn’t recognize her. Sweet as ever. G. was a fool for letting her slip out of his life like he did. My Mom says hi and asks when is she going to meet Hiba? I ask when are you finally moving to the KSA so that I can go to Amman and date that bald shorty who works at the Books@Cafe without you mocking my lusting after him.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

while we are all wondering about what Bush is to say about the Iraqi weapons document. Uday is preparing to have another big party celebrating his escape from the failed assassination attempt in 1996.
This year the party at the Furusia Club will feature Nawal El Zoughbi

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

by allah it works! i can write in arabic. I don't know what you see but I an sure if you have an arabis enabled OS you'll see beautiful arabic letters. RAED come on get on with it. we'll do an arabic blog. and we will even start our own arabic blogs competition, I will win of course. mmmm blogger i love you.


I am really jealous.
The First Persian Top Weblogs Competition
this blog won the second prize for blog design it has a a picture of an oriental tea glass. istikan chai dear?
when are we arabs going to have something like that? and why have persians taken to blogging so easily than arabs? why isn't there a single arabic weblog? why?why?why?
Raed dear you should start one today, i promise i will always raed it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

pearls of wisdom from my cousin:

there are three things you can do whenever you like in Iraq:
- get seriously ill
- get arrested
- get exicuted

it sounds better in arabic because it rhymes: tamra9* tatwa8af tin3idim. Cheers
the dollar is going crazy. $1=2280 and a very informed opinion (my favourite liquor store owner Mr. Satan) says that it will probably end at 2300 dinars for a dollar tonight. way too much. it is freezing cold, well 5C. and we are back to 2 hours of black out every 12 hours. and the office turns into a cool box the moment the electricity goes.