Tuesday, January 14, 2003

This is a long post, maybe too long, a couple of questions flicked the [verbose-mode] switch. Sorry.

Flash back from an earlier life:
I am just moving in with new flat-mates, I am living with non-Arabs for the first time. We look at other suspiciously whenever any of us is eating. He looks bemused seeing me add salt to my yoghurt while I think how odd, sweet yoghurt? When he saw me eating cheese with honey-melon, he thought that was funny: "melon with cured ham is good, but cheese?" [ewww, ham and melon]. Raisins when found in food would be put aside on the edge of the plate, while my favorite rice recipe is with lots of raisins and almonds. Later culinary middle ground would be found in an Israeli falafel place, they really made the best falafel and would put the strangest sauces I have seen put in a falafel sandwich. It is there where I met the only Iraqi Jewish person I know, he used to work there and overheard me and a couple of Iraqi friends discuss the merits of eggplant salad with falafel. He spoke good Arabic and in Iraqi dialect after that we would get super huge sandwiches whenever he was working. But that is beside the point.
Fast forward to this life:
Former flat-mates have a son and they are emailing me the strangest questions.

Do you think there will be a war, what do people think?
That is a tough one, I can't tell you whether there will be war or not. I look around me and see two governments gearing themselves up for it. Someone wise once said "don't look at what a politician's lips are saying, look at what his hands are doing". What it looks like is War. Slow deliberate moves on both sides. One side is entrenching, in what seems to be constant denial of what has happened 10 years before and very probable defeat, the other side, well, we are hearing the words massive, huge and for the first time since [enter your chosen historical war landmark here] too many times. And what do people think? We need change desperately. The few attempts and people who would have had a chance to do something about the way the government is have been ruthlessly eliminated since the late seventies, by the late eighties Iraq was Saddam-land no real challenger was anywhere in site. After the Gulf War there were a couple of uprisings here and there, none were organized properly. All were quickly and brutally wiped out, not only the people involved but all their families. Change is not going to come from inside, unless the government somehow implodes, for example, saddam's death creating a rush and fight amongst possible successors to take his place and giving other parties/people space to act. I am not holding my breath.

What will happen after the war?
That depends really on what the American government and its allies want to do. I hope we don't fall into chaos. I hope Iraq doesn't split. I don't know. I am still trying to figure out what will happen during a war, because what will happen afterwards looks a bit bleak. Somehow the things that can go horribly wrong are so much clearer than the good things.

What alternatives are there to saddam?
That ties in with the question above. If there was an alternative, a clear credible alternative, everyone would have felt more optimistic and maybe even more cooperative with all the efforts the world is going thru to "disarm and neutralize". It has been mentioned a lot in the western press that Iraq used to have one of the most educated, secular and moderate populations in the Arab world, it still is. Hold that thought. Now look at the so called "Opposition Groups" abroad: nationalistic Kurdish parties, Islamists in all possible colors, and most distressingly the Iraqi National [American puppet] Congress*. These are the alternatives being pushed by the American/British governments as possible successors to the Ba'athist regime. There are other small groups but since they don't serve the future interests of certain governments they don't get a lot of mention. Take the Iraqi Communist Workers Party for example, OK so the name is a problem I can't hear communist or socialist for sometime but they have a spokeswoman who blows me away every time I hear her talk, Nadia abdul Majeed is whose badge I would be wearing if we were having elections, but has anyone heard of her? No. Are we going to? I don't really think so. First they have to do something about the name and second they don't say the right things when they talk about the US, this is important for any party wanting to be on the scene if an American led "invasion" does happen. We had a long discussion about this a couple of days ago, there are no true "alternatives" it is a void.
Let's put it this way; it's the hungry-but-not-knowing-what-you-want-to-eat feeling. Everything either looks bland, boring or moldy.
So what happens is your babysitter [US government] just force feeds you that nasty looking stew [INC].
*why is the INC and Ahmad Chalabi distressing?
well, how about this:

"He's a criminal banker," says Akins, the former ambassador to Saudi Arabia. "He's a swindler. He's interested in getting money, and I suspect it's all gone into his bank accounts and those of his friends."
and this:
Almost no one, not even the INC itself, thinks that Chalabi has any cachet inside Iraq.
or maybe this:
The INC and its backers make no bones about the fact that the American forces gathering to attack Iraq will be liberating Iraq's oil. Unable to restrain himself, Chalabi blurted to The Washington Post that the INC intends to reward its American friends. "American companies will have a big shot at Iraqi oil," he proclaimed.
why does he think that the INC already has right to distibute bounty?
and finally:
Do these strategic realities, and the wide ridicule of Chalabi among Middle East experts, matter? "I don't think their point of view is relevant to the debate any longer," says Danielle Pletka, vice president of the American Enterprise Institute. "Sor-ry!" Thanks to the "entire vast army [of neoconservatives]" who've successfully won over Bush and Cheney, she observes, the INC has something that the other groups lack: the support of the president of the United States.
sorry, but I personally loath the man and his party.

In case of a war, can't you leave the country before it happens?
I could. The question is do I want to? No I don't, this is probably a turning point in the history of this country, I want to be here, I want to be part of it if I can. At this point in my life I care too much about my family and friends to jump ship and go watch it on CNN.

If not will you stay in Baghdad or can you go somewhere else?
We, the extended family all 30 of us have decided to stay in Baghdad. I am sure that the moment things get too hot the government will issue a curfew and people will not be allowed to travel between governorates, at least they will not be allowed to come in or go out of Baghdad.
During the Gulf War the family was separated, all left Baghdad into other cities or rural areas. Keeping in touch was a major problem. And later on when some people thought they could start their own revolution things started getting nasty. This time all would rather stay in their homes, at least to make sure the looting that happened the last time won't happen this time.

there is more but I think this is enough for now.