Sunday, August 31, 2003

Today we shall have a world premier. An Iraqi blog-fight. Roll up your sleeves Riverbend, let’s talk about al-Hakim’s death.

Two posts [Chaos] and [Position Open]
Look regardless of what he stood for and the fact he and his party are very good buddies with Iran, the significance and the gravity of what happened is not to be overlooked. I agree with you, if SCIRI had its way we would end up as an Iran clone. But he is a religious leader, he is a “Marji’i” and at least for the moment they are playing by the rules. They are adopting a more lenient line, they talk about a constitution and they have Adil abdul-Mahdi who is a very clever man, the people who are behind the curtains are always more interesting than the actual puppets. And if we had abdul-Mahdis in all the religious parties believe we would not have had so much to fear, these are people who know how to walk the narrow path.
With the assassination of Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim the SCIRI leadership has been put in a very difficult position, they have to bring their militia into the play now. Their followers demand it and this is something abdul-Mahdi was visibly agonized about during today’s press conference. We all realize that if Badr Brigade got on the streets of Najaf the other factions will see no reason to send their militias down as well and this is never good, they will start fighting for turf and places like Najaf and Karbala should not become fighting grounds. I hope the Shia in Iraq, their leaderships, are wise enough to realize these holy cities should stay a symbol of their unity, their united struggle.
Most dangerously it will give, the assassination already has given as excuse to the more dangerous Muqtada al-Sadr to get his own militia together, he has been assembling one for quite a while now [Imam Mahdi’s Army] and these are the people we should all worry about, he is pissed off because he has been booted out of the Governing Council and since he is not a Hawza religious scholar he has no power without having his own bunch of thugs. The statements which were spread around today are using the death of Hakim to put more blame on the Americans. Although we know very well that Muqtada al-sadr would not mind getting al-Hakim out of the game. The demonstrators were asking for the security issue to be handed over to Iraqis believe me we do not want to be guarded by sadr’s thugs, their Friday Imams belive that women should not even go to shops and their [groups of virtuous] have been behind the bombing of shops selling alcohol and behind the threats to cinema owners.

Beside the significance of assassinating an Ayatollah these fuckers did it in front of an entrance to Imam Ali’s shrine. What idiot would do that? It is the same question everyone was asking about the bombing of the UN building, what sort of person would do this sort of thing? There is nothing sacred anymore. And right after a Friday prayer. There is just so much to this. Hundreds of people beside the Ayatollah, it is totally devastating.
Yes I know they would want to have an Islamic state here but they are much mellower than the Sadr and his “militant Hawza”, the importance of SCIRI is to counter balance. They have agreed to play the political game and abdul-Aziz al-Hakim (the Ayatollah’s brother) is on the Governing Council, isn’t he? They are working with the Americans.

Whoever did this is pure evil. The UN, an assassination in front of Imam Ali’s shrine. You wonder what will come next. If you ask me I think it will be media. Al-Jazeera I getting threatened quite often, and if you are moving with journalists the scariest thing that could happen is if people think you are from Jazeera. Al-Arabiya reporters were attacked in Najaf today and a couple of Reuter’s guys who the crowd thought were from Jazeera almost got in serious trouble. I got called an American intelligence agent and a collaborator with the Zionist agents, which kind of freaked me out. [here are pictures from the demo pic1 pic2]

you ask
Where is this guy living? Is he even in the same time zone??? I’m incredulous… maybe he's from some alternate universe where shooting, looting, tanks, rape, abductions, and assassinations aren’t considered chaos, but it’s chaos in *my* world.
I have an answer for you.
L. Paul Bremer III, the chief American administrator, was on vacation. Nobody seemed to know when exactly he would return
He is on a beach somewhere in the states; I swear I am not joking. When they called him 3 hours after the incident he had no idea what they were talking about.
And there is another article in the Times worth reading, G was with Neil in Najaf and he is the Shia expert, they love him down there, they think he is a Shia muslim from Iran, if they only knew the truth. Anyway take a look at the article [Car Bomb in Iraq Kills 95 at Shiite Mosque] the death toll is now 113.

more interesting links on Shia Pundit's Blog [Live like Ali - die like Husain].

just saw this from AP
Two Iraqis and two Saudis grabbed shortly after the Friday attack gave information leading to the arrest of the others, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. They include two Kuwaitis and six Palestinians with Jordanian passports with the remainder Iraqis and Saudis, the official said, without giving a breakdown.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Our house was searched by the Americans. That happened almost ten days ago. I wasn’t home, but my mother called the next day a bit freaked out.
They came at around 12 midnight they were apparently supposed to do a silent entrance and surprise the criminal Ba’athi cell that was in my parents house, unfortunately for them our front gate does a fair amount of rattling so my brother heard that and opened the door and saw a couple of soldiers climbing on our high black front gate. When the silent entrance tactic failed they resorted to shouty entrance mode. So they shouted at him telling him that he should get down on his knees, which he did. He actually was trying to help them open the door, but whatever. Seconds later around 25 soldiers are in the house my brother, father and mother are outside sitting on the ground and in their asshole-ish ways refused to answer any questions about what was happening. My father was asking them what they were looking so that he can help but as usual since you are an Iraqi addressing an American is no use since he doesn’t even acknowledge you as a human being standing in front of him. They (the Americans) have a medic with them and he seems to be the only sane person amongst them, my brother tells me they were kids all of them. Anyway so my brother and father start talking to the medic and he tells them what this is about. They have been “informed” that there are daily meetings the last five days, Sudanese people come into our house at 9am and stay till 3pm, we are a probable Ansar cell. My father is totally baffled, my brother gets it. These are not Sudanese men they are from Basra the “informer” is stupid enough to forget that there is a sizeable population in Basra who are of African origin. And it is not meetings these 2 (yes only two) guys have here, they are carpenters and they were repairing my mom’s kitchen. Way. To. Go. You have great informers.
While my family is waiting outside something strange happens, one of the soldiers comes out, empties his flask in the garden and start telling the medic to give him his, the medic shoos him away. They all think that the soldier is filling his flask with cold water from the cooler. Later it turns out that he emptied my father’s bottle of Johnny Walker’s into his flask and was probably trying to convince the medic to give him his to empty another bottle. Weird shit.
Aaaaanyway, they are looking thru my father’s papers by now and their genius translator comes to the commander of operation [Pax House Bust] and tells him he has found “suspicious documents”. They are passes to various conferences he has attended and bank cards for old closed accounts he used to have and most alarmingly for the person in charge was an invitation my father received a couple of days earlier to a meeting with General Abi Zaid to which he and others were flown to the Bakr Air Base north of Baghdad. Now the guy who was in charge starts trying to cover his ass and asks a lot of pointless questions, one of the more surreal ones was “so if one of your sons is writing for a foreign newspaper why are you still here?”. After this goes on for a while he gets the family out of the house again, closes the door and stays in there for 15 minutes. Comes out with the 20 galactic troopers and tells my father that he should inside check everything “I don’t want any complains filed later on”, my father just opens the front gate and tells him that if he wants to file a complaint he will thank you and bye-bye.

They came, freaked out my mother, pissed off my father, found nothing and left.
After refusing to get one my father finally conceded to get one of those cards that basically say you are a “collaborator”, and my mother will be spending a couple of weeks at her sister’s in Amman

Thursday, August 21, 2003

The best Iraqi newspaper in english, I actually wish they would have an Arabic edition. Tell you a secret, the NY Times office here makes suer they have a copy of that paper in the office all the time they scooped them a couple of times.
IRAQ TODAY : The Independent Voice of Iraq
I wish they would ask me to work for them, I am planning to go and beg.

they have a great sense of humour as well go read [Now do you get it?]
They don't update the site as often as one would wish and there was an excellent article explaining the Hawza and its structure wich is not online.
[This is an answer of sorts to an email I got from Rachel, thanks R.]

This has actually been giving me sleepless nights; people interpret everything I say in a thousand different ways. And the problem is that I am not exactly very clear about how I feel about the war and occupation to myself, how am I to explain this to all the people who read this and the article in the Guardian.
G's incident has created a bit of a problem and the stone throwers on both sides have their stash ready to start throwing the moment it goes on the web.
I am not a spokesman for anyone. That is mainly why I don't answer media requests. The guardian said I can write what I want and it won't be them will be asking me about my opinion on this and that. I just had the good fortune to know decent English and know enough about western culture to be able to connect with the mostly western readers.

After the last article I wrote in the Guardian I was wondering whether I should stop whining. the problem is that people want to read that things are getting better and we are happy, but things are getting better in such a slow pace that it is almost imperceptible, and with the one step we move forward on one front we move back 3 steps on other fronts. People need to know that their kids and loved ones are here for a good reason and this is what they want to hear. Otherwise they send me emails saying that I am being part of the problem. They send me emails telling me that I should help the Americans capture the terrorists and Baathists, as if they walk around in the streets wearing signs. Maybe we Iraqis did expect too much from the American invasion, we did hope there is going to be an easy way. Get rid of Saddam and have the Americans help us rebuild. I don't think like that anymore. I am starting to believe that the chaos we will go thru the next 5 or 10 years is part of the price we will *have* to pay to have our freedom. This Beirut-ification is the way to learn how we should live as a free country and respect each other; it is just too painful to admit. It is too painful to have to admit that the [burn it down to build it up] process is what we will have to go thru. There is an Arabic poet who wrote a line which my friend Raed had burned into my memory:
This nation needs to learn lessons in destruction.
Don’t get this wrong, he meant iconoclasm, destroying what has been set in stone to rebuild new rules. When talking to Ghaith about what happened to him he said that he doesn’t want this to sound that he is against their presence here.
But I used to feel safe when around them, if it looked like trouble go stand by the Americans but now I don’t feel this safe anymore. I hated myself for having the same feelings and fear when I was being detained by the Americans as when I was being detained by the Iraqis. I was worried about the space they would put me in and was hoping someone I know would come by so that I don’t just disappear.
someone somewhere wrote that if it were the old regime he and his family and friends would have to worry about their safety. I do need to say that the people who are arrested by the Americans on check points disappear just as they used to do before; this was one of Ghaith’s fears. The Red Cross has access but it is slow. And it takes the Americans ages to “process” you. I am not whining these are facts. Check the Human Rights Watch reports. And Ghaith’s issue should be seen as a broader issue, journalism and this war. This is not the first time a journalist has been harassed by the military. A British friend and an Iraqi who were out reporting got detained for five hours for filming a tank, the film confiscated and of course the Iraqi reporter gets the rougher treatment, the british has the passport to protect her.
And NO it was not a super secret facility.
Yes I know, before you say it this is what I am saying, you don’t have to believe it if you don’t want to. I am a crybaby and a whiner as some like to describe me. Whatever. And I am keeping my anonymity because I want to, most of you do that as well. Sometimes what I have written and still writing puts me in awkward situations with people I must talk to now and then, and I don’t feel very safe about voicing my opinions about certain parties and groups. We still don’t have a First Amendment.

Ghaith keeps insisting that what has happened to him is a small price to pay to get rid of saddam, but you see this is a bright young man talking. And he knows the difference between general policies and the individual reaction of a soldier who feels all Iraqis around him are out to get them. I am slowly reconciling myself to the idea that the Coalition forces will pull out in a year’s time (around election time I would say) and we will be left here to learn a lesson in rebuilding. I hope the UN will still be around.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

RIVERBEND has started a weblog
Baghdad Burning

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

bad scene, very bad scene.
U.N. Says at Least 10 People Are Killed in Blast

was there about an hour after it happened. really bad. very quick response from the American military, the helicopters with red crosses on them were going back and forth and there wer always three waiting to get the poeple to hospitals. ambulances going back and forth. the whole area cordoned off. the worst was having to talk to people who have relative and family in there. it is a car bombed there is no question about it.
you realize this is the second car bomb, the jordanian embassy.
there is a friggin' Iraqi idiot now on Jazeera saying that the security responsibility should be given over to the Iraqi Governing Council. Fuck off, this is not about American presence in Iraq. these attacks have nothing to do with the so called resistance. These are fucking idiots who destroying all the efforts to help this country get back on it's feet. the fucking Governing Council could not control this mess the moment the Coalition Forces move out we are plunged in chaos. We have entered a dark dark tunnel and we have no idea what will happen now.

Ok this is what we know. a truck (some say a cement mixer) was driving by the UN building (Canal Hotel) then swerved past the median stopped in the outside parking lot. and exploded. the west side of the building was destroyed, they were in the middle of a scheduled press conference about land mines in Iraq. the street was chaos people were rushing out of the windows and doors. injured people were all over. the american ,ilitary was there pretty fast and started evacuating the injured. they brought in rescue teams to pull out people from under the building. the place of the blast was a huge crater and was too close to the wall. the word is still out on the issue whether it was a suicide attack or not, the driver could have just parcked the car and left. when we got there there were lots of poeple trying to find out what happened to their families. people crying, shouting. the thing is there is a a hospital right next to the UN building, the cieling there caved in because of the explosion. many injured but no one killed.
this is what I know and what I saw.

I am plunging into a fucking depression, do we have a future? is this country going to be hijacked by shit extremists who want to prove a point?

UPDATE: Sergio de Millo has died during the attack, a couple of minutes ago it was reported that his secretary was taken out of the rubble seriously injured now we have heard word that he has died.
and I think the Americans are finding more evidence that this was a suicide attack.
we have plunged into darkness.

Monday, August 18, 2003

New Photos by G. (pre beating) and I have now the whole incident on tape, he talked and talked and talked. I can be ruthless sometimes. will be on his and this blog in the next couple of days.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

OK it had to happen and there is no point in denying it. The next chapter in [I sold my soul to the Devil] story.


There is a little something being prepared. They tell me he is providing the audio. You can imagine my reaction to that bit of news.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

I am sorry I have been lazy.
here is the thingy I wrote for the Guardian. there is a mistake in the 4th paragraph, it is not the CPA which has a rotating chairman it is the Iraqi Interim Governing Council, sorry about that.

G. my friend got beaten up by US Army last night, he was handcuffed and had a bag put on his head. he was kicked several times and was made to lie on his face for a while. All he wanted to do was to take pictures and report on an attack, he works for the New York Times as a translator and fixer. He got more kicks for speaking english.
his sin: he looks Iraqi and has a beard.
story will be told, I need to get him drunk enough to get the whole thing out of him he doesn't want to talk.

I recommend very much reading Thomas Friedman's latest column Power and Peril. quite good. I met him when he was in baghdad for a couple of days, he is thinner than that picture they have on the site and he is very nice. Everybody was going to roll out the red carpet and stuff but he was very down to earth. and he got that moustache thing going on.........blends right in, you could mistake him for an Iraqi.

oh, and Shadid strikes again:
In Basra, Worst May Be Ahead

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Sanchez the genius has it finally figured out: Their message, he said, has been that "when you take a father in front of his family and put a bag over his head and put him on the ground, you have had a significant adverse effect on his dignity and respect in the eyes of his family."

General Sanchez said the message from the Iraqis was that in doing this, you create more enemies than you capture.
Well, DUH dude. Would you like it if I try that on your family and see how you would feel about it?
I have totally forgotten how wonderful it is to have a dinner which lasts forever with friends. You have to rush home at around 8:30pm otherwise you will never find a taxi to take you home. But Raed arranged for a taxi to come and pick us up, we had a wonderful dinner and ignored the mess. His new friend S. was with him and she is the funniest girl with an Italian accent I have met. I was having such a great time I almost forgot that I loaded [turningtables] on my computer before leaving the office. I am very grateful to the person who sent me an email introducing me to turningtables.

I have spent the rest of the night reading the posts. He found Raed.
inside the barracks...on the walls there are hand prints...and names written in bad english...tell salam i found raed...he wrote his name with his finger next to a really bad self portrait...
moja please stay safe.
For all I know he could be the same soldier I have met a couple of days ago at the entrance of the governing council, listen to this:
……then all of this will have served a glorious purpose that no one can argue with...and we were over here doing the right thing...i need to feel that...i need to know that i helped unplug a dangerous beast before it striked...i need to know that for all those that have died their deaths were not in vain...i need to know that we have prevented horrendous events from transpiring...and i want all of this to go down in history as 'the right thing to do'...but for that to take place there are still a lot of things that need to happen...
moja, thank you. The doubt you express here just makes so more human than the stupid_lame_ass magazine called “THE LIBERATOR” the CPA has out there showing how thankful we should be. And I am sorry you have it so hard here, the post about the young army kids at he pool was sad really. They just don’t belong here. Please stay safe, and maybe re-think your decision about not showing us the “special” fotos you made just for your girlfriend. Show us those big sexy biceps.

oh and I think we should be sending him [get well soon] cards.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

“I know what we have done is right and we had to do it but there must have been a better way to do it.”

When a soldier starts his conversation like this you can’t help but really really like him. He was standing in the heat, yesterday it was about 52C, guarding the entrance to building where our “governing council” meets. And he was on a roll, the next victims of his attack were the members of the governing council themselves.
“these guys, they work only four days and take the rest of the week off, they should be working 16 hour days to get their constitution going”. Give the man a cigar.
“they have huge lunches, throw tons of food out and they drive stolen cars”, by now we were laughing so loud in the car people were looking at us like we were crazy. He said that if his name is ever mentioned he will be in trouble and mentioned something about an “article 15”. We had 20 minutes with him while we were being OK-ed for meeting a Council member, he was so cool I wish the Americans didn’t freak out every time an Iraqi walks towards them I wanted to shake his hands and say thank you. He made sure I got my pieces of paper back and let us in. But he left us with one more pearl of wisdom:

“They tell you it’s the Oil but I know it is not the Oil, I just can’t figure out what the hell it is we are here for.”

He should be on TV.
The following conversation I was told about by G., but he is so lazy I will tell you about it myself. Inside the Convention Center (or as sometimes called The Iraq Forum), G was at the cafeteria waiting to buy a bottle of water when a man came and asked for a sandwich.
- is it Iraqi meat?
- yes sir it is
- are you sure it is Iraqi?
- Yes it was bought here
- No no, was the lamb slaughtered here in Iraq? Are you sure it didn’t come from Saudi?
- Sir, it is Iraqi. But even if it came from Saudi, the meat is also Halal there.
- No you don’t get it. They are not Shia muslims.
Usually it wouldn’t matter; everyone has his small little weird demands. But the problem was that the guy who doesn’t like Saudi meat because it is not slaughtered by Shia muslims is the head of an Iraqi human rights committee. Yeah, all humans are equal but some are more equal than other, aren’t they?

another little story, Raed’s mother is Shia muslim and they used to live in Saudi (which is Sunni central). One day she was asked by someone who got the courage to come up to her, they asked whether it was true that Shia muslims have little tails and they are allowed to marry their sisters.

Would anyone please remind why we need religions?

Sunday, August 03, 2003

People, I have the most amazing surprise for you, well for those who have been reading the blog before the war. do you remember [Riverbend]? she's in Mosul now she is OK but she had to quit her job because some shia fundi took over wher she used to work and made life miserable. and she sent me something to put on the blog.
and she is *NOT* my female alter ego as some poeple have suggested, actually there were stranger suggestions that [salam pax] is actually [riverbend] but she decided to diguise her self as a man. whatever.
take it away Riverbend:
Sorrrrrrrrrrry Salam it took so long to answer but I had various reasons- won't happen again.

I guess you've been hearing news about Mosul? Well it's worse. The security situation isn't too bad (they don't rely on Americans in these parts- if they did it wouldn't be any better than Baghdad). Electricity is more or less sorted out (although we do have problems)- and no, it wasn't the Amreeeekan who got things running, thank you very much.

Things are really bad for females everywhere. Here it's somewhat safer, but not too much. People are boiling over because of the whole Uday/Qusai saga... I mean give me a break- something like 400 troops for 4 guys??? You'd think they'd want them alive with numbers like that! People are infuriated because of the whole commotion- planes flying, Apaches hovering and freaked-out troops shooting right and left (yes, they shot civilians). Then, on top of all that crap, they decide to show the pictures on tv to 'prove to the Iraqi people' the deaths of Uday and Qusai... Pleeeeease... those pictures were obviously Bush's war trophy. And could they have come at a more convenient time for the nitwit??? I think not...

So, things are tense here. They have been since the end of the war. Someone has told troops posted in Mosul that everyone is the enemy- even little kids- so watch out! And they have been doing just that.

I'm so angry and frustrated Salam as everyone seems to be. We've got thousands of angry, ignorant American troops running around with tanks and guns pointed at everyone. What the hell happened? And since you're working with the press, what's up with not giving the number of American casualties?! It's funny how on Al-Jazeera the give the numbers in the following way: 'two wounded and two dead'... half an hour later it's: 'three wounded and one dead'- 'lo and behold! They are being resurrected!!!

Well, I'm telling you now- there have been plenty of casualties in Mosul during the 'gunfight' and after (in one of the wooded areas), but you'll be hearing about those in the following form: Troops Die in Car Accident in North of Iraq as Car Swerves to Avoid Crossing Sheep!

I was at the Hussein sons burial yesterday, will be blogged. check out Tyler Hicks's photo. he is hardcore i tell you.
go check G.'s new post in the mean time. you want fresh and witty go to G.

Friday, August 01, 2003

I just want to make sure everyone read THIS article in the Washington Post, it freaked me out this morning.
Two hours before the dawn call to prayer, in a village still shrouded in silence, Sabah Kerbul's executioners arrived. His father carried an AK-47 assault rifle, as did his brother. And with barely a word spoken, they led the man accused by the village of working as an informer for the Americans behind a house girded with fig trees, vineyards and orange groves.
shitshitshit. and then you go talk to the US Army guys and they tell you they are fully "plugged in"and know exactly what is going on, Habibi people who keep you "informed" are being executed by their families. what surreal movie this country has become.
I am just a bit freaked out because the people I work with are making me spend the night over in Tikrit, I only hope no one sees me coming into town with the infidel americans again.
you know something has gone really wrong in your country when ou start having discussions with friends on what is the event that will make you decide to leave.

and Anthony Shadid kicks ass