Friday, January 31, 2003

i knew it. they did something to the firewall.
blogger is accessable but I get an access denied message for all blogspot sites.

time to take a break and maybe look for a new blog home. diane will know if I'll post again somewhere else.
thank you ladies and gentlemen, you have been a wonderful audience, good night.
a car ride to al-mansour to get sandwiches, late at night.
10 new sandbag protected trenches seen on the way. appetite totally ruined by thoughts of who will use them and what will happen along these roads.
maybe exploration journey tomorrow to see what else is being done to baghdad.
I am either angry or scared i can't make up my mind.

Thursday, January 30, 2003

Everybody got an email from the Iraqi ISP saying that email and internet services will be irregular and maybe cut off for long periods in the next 48 hours. "Maintenance and improvement of the service", may be that should be translated to "screwing the firewall bolts a bit tighter" or maybe they are just dealing with that weird SQL-Slammer-virus-thingy, Uday's news paper wrote about it today on the last page. Either way it makes posting a test of patience.

I don't watch enough TV, just so that no one tells me I have been hurting the Iraqi average TV time I spent a lot of the last two days watching Iraqi channels. Great entertainment. You see Saddam, in order to prove that he is A-OK, is almost daily on TV. He gets a number of officers and asks them questions which he answers himself. He actually said that the west probably thinks that he can't sleep at night these days and has to take sleeping pills; well you are wrong he sleeps every night very well, because he knows his people "are pleased and happy". Well that explains the feeling I have. So, no sleeping pills for saddam, maybe he can give me his. And to prove how relaxed he is he serves the officers tea, coffee and sweets and drinks it with them *gasp*. Of course the coffee sits waiting until he says something like "well, drink your coffee men no one likes cold coffee" and as if pre-rehearsed they all lift the small cups and take a sip in one single synchronized move, it looked hilarious. There is also a program called “guardians of the nation – humat al watan” which used to be only once a week now it’s every day around 7:30. It is the official ministry of defense program and between announcements to draft reservists or such we get little sketches about evil evil western governments. [They are not shown on the Iraq Satellite Channel so you can’t see them. But you can watch the daily saddam hour]. Latest reservist news? Well, if you were born between 1958 and 1951 you are officially off the hook, no more military service for you boys, and the guys who drew the short straw are 1971 and 1966, you are up next. Probably the worst time to do your reservist training. The possibility of paying your way out of the two months is canceled out because Qusay himself is overseeing the training of the reserves.

in the mean time: Me and the girl from Gotham, we be playin’ Blogger Ping-Pong
She has got some You ain’t got none
Jack the newest member in the [shut up and say thank you] club had this to say in the comments to the post below:
“Think about it, where are bomb shelters, duh, in government or large buildings with a GPS coordinate on someone's list. I can't believe after reading some of the articles you posted that you don't think your government wouldn't mind using you as a shield. Just stay in your home, you will be much safer. When someone knocks on your door and says "U.S. Army/Marines", then you can come out. Believe me, your welfare are at the top of our thoughts. Our goal is to help everyone be as free as us. It may sound corny but it is true. We have always come as liberators. Thousands of young Americans have died over the last 226+ years to help others be free. With all you have to offer, you guys should be as prosperous and peaceful as anywhere else. Who knows. Supposedly the beginnings of man were there. Maybe we'll have a new beginning there to show the rest of the world how it should be.”
dear jack
Duh yourself ! since you obviously have not been to Baghdad you are not an authority on where the bomb shelters are. These shelters, I think around 30 of them, were built during the Iraq-Iran war. Yes some of them were part of military complexes but many were built in civilian neighborhoods, they were built during a time when the government would give huge loans to people building shelters in their own backyards and bomb shelters became part of the building code for any public building. Jack that statement is simply not correct.
Has anyone been able to prove that on the night that shelter has been used as a C&C center, that there was anyone of importance beside the obligatory Party members? Bad intelligence? Shit happens? Well you pooped on me buddy, don’t expect me to be all ah-great-america-we-love-you, and your government will be pooping on me some more, now how does that make me feel?
I am not taking any of that “the great liberators – help others to be free” talk because I do not believe there is such a thing in politics called altruism, there are no free lunches and no one does *anything* without some personal motives. So if your government is going to go to war it is not because they are “helping others to be free” it’s because a hundred other reasons and this one just happens to be a nice one to throw to the public. And no, I will not say it’s the oil, because it is not only oil, although it is a nice little extra thrown in.
I think may be you should read this article [Perils of Victory] (link indirectly via eve tushnet, she linked to [looking on the bright side] which had a link to perils of victory), it starts with a quote from Graham Greene’s “The Quite American”:
“He was incapable of imagining pain or danger to himself as he was incapable of conceiving the pain he might cause others” ……. “The consequences will not be immediate” predicts an Arab ambassador at the UN “you might see GIs distributing chocolates in the streets of Baghdad and being embraced – for three months. And then the opposition to the new colonial power will emerge, and to any other clients being imposed as Iraqi leaders”.*
You just make it sound so easy, you know it’s not. But what the hell, after watching the victorious American army march thru the streets of Baghdad you’ll just turn CNN off and look for another show.
Jack, I hope you understand my view, we simply don’t trust the motives of your government. And if that government is going to war with Iraq we are not na├»ve to think that they are doing it because they want to spread love and freedom. I am not even sure peace and freedom are going to be among the side effects of that war.
*Diane: remember when I wrote to you about that Sophia Loren movie with that scene? Look, Mr. Arab ambassador has seen that film too, this amongst all things is an image which irrationally annoys me, you told me I was not making sense (I wasn’t) but it still bugs me. Is there a way to at least tell them not to distribute Hershey bars or anything with marshmallow filling?
was looking thru the comments, Russil I am quoting you here [from the comments]: "But Americans shouldn't say that they're going to war for humanitarian reasons. As you can see, it just pisses people off." thank you. I have always been told to get to the point and not go around in circles. that was my point

Monday, January 27, 2003

well, someone has another raeson to get to baghdad:
"Onto Baghdad!
I want 1,000 tiles, half the blue with the pretty medallion in the middle and half with the little hand.
Onto Baghdad!"

teehee, you are most welcome! you would make the poor guys' day asking for a 1000 tiles.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Those foreigners are all over the place, I think I know what it should be called: War Tourism. betcha they will be out of here faster than you can say ‘Iraqi-peace-team’ when things get a bit too hot.
It must have been a slow day for news people because the Mutanabi Street was full of them, or Iraqis selling second hand books have become important news items. At least three news teams were filming in that crowded street with their Iraqi minders shooing people away from the cameras. Later on I walked thru Al-Rasheed and Al-Sadoon and they were all over. Not news teams this time but the War Tourists, some of them even carrying backpacks which have [Iraq peace team] written on them in gold marker. And I guess we will be getting more tourists soon. Come on, have a couple of days on us. They will be accommodating you in Al-Rasheed Hotel for free and you get the official sight seeing tour, a couple of lunches with people you can tell your kids you met, when they are shown on CNN and you get to be on TV singing “give peace a chance” in front of the UN building in Abu Nawas (don’t miss the excellent grilled fish - masgoof - while you are there, the restaurants have a good view of one of the oldest presidential palaces).
I know they all mean well, but I really don’t think coming here and getting photographed with Iraqi officials is helping their “cause”. Do thy really want to stand up and risk their lives for this regime. If you are so in love with the situation here, be my guest let’s trade places because if it is a “cause” for you, for me it’s my life and the way I have to go thru it.

Al-Muhajaba’s blog brought to my attention an article written by an American-Iraqi jurist, Sarmid Al-Sarraf. Her site isn't loading today for somereason, i would have linked to the post( Here it is, it works now). The article is on a site I can’t access (my new hobby is collecting pages I get access denied messages from) so she kindly emailed it to me:
It is Immoral to Oppose War in Iraq and Not Simultaneously Address Saddam's Crimes Against Humanity
If you ask me I think War is going to happen and the various NGOs are not going to change this. I am not counting on them to stop the bombs falling on my house. So if they are going on marches would they at least check themselves for what they are asking for? I give you another Iraqi, this time a former member of the Iraqi Communist Party now in the UK:
Dozens of nations have chemical and biological weapons. None has deployed them, except Saddam's regime, first against the Iranian forces, later against Iraqi civilians. Governments should be held responsible for such crimes. Ironically, the United States let Saddam get away with no punishment for the actual deployment of chemical and biological weapons back in 1988, but it is now adamant about confronting him for a possible deployment of such weapons in the future. This is the logic of preemption. Yet there is no law, domestic or international, that permits a prosecutor to go after an ex-convict for a future, would-be offense. There is every law to bring a culprit to trial for actually breaching human norms in the first place.
or as Al-Sarraf puts in at the end of the article:
but I can see why a lot of these people won’t go for that. Shout this a couple of times and I am sure your organization won’t get travel permits to Iraq. Of course both Al-Sarraf and Jabar suggest solutions which are not as attractive as they think they are, Jabar says:
Here's what I think ought to happen. One, threaten Saddam with indictment. Two, give him an alternative for safe passage at the same time; this may create a crack in the ruling class-clan. Three, send a list of thirty or so of his aides who are persona non grata and demand that they leave the country with him. This ought to convince the rest of the class-clan members that they are not threatened en masse -- only those who were most responsible for the offenses of the regime. Four, encourage this class-clan to oust Saddam into exile and sweeten the deal by offering a mini-Marshall plan. This mini-Marshall plan would be made available provided power was transferred to a civilian, interim government.
And what? leave us with the rest of the “class-clan” to slug it out between them? While the north of Iraq becomes the Free Republic of Kurdistan and the south eaten up by Iran? –before you ask, yes I do have a problem with Kurdish independence. This is Iraq, it lies between the Zagros mountains in the north and the Gulf in the south. We have lived together in the past and we will in the future, just because we have a loony government now doesn’t mean my Kurdish neighbors hate me. If there is one ba’ath party slogan I am prepared to keep shouting after all this is over it is [Kurd wa Arab Mutahideen] Kurds and Arabs United, but I digress. There is of course one argument which would shut me up for 5 seconds. Some of these organizations are doing as much as they can to help, and they would not be able to do it if they weren’t on good terms with the government. Then again I don’t really believe that the result justifies the means, but sometimes compromises have to be made. And maybe I should just shut up and say thank you…but I won’t. I mean thank you for all that has been done but at the moment and in the current situation try reconsidering the human-shields idea.

Eh, whatever. It is too depressing anyway. Let me give you something fun to read:
U.S. Weighs Tactical Nuclear Strike on Iraq
Yes Stefan, I know you told me already. I just didn’t believe it.and thanks for the funny subject line; [time to say goodbye]. I think I will be watching The Day After again, to check for hints on how to survive.

and another inetersting article from the Christian Science Monitor:
As of the specter of civilian casualties, Private Gritz, like many soldiers have no clear answer. “………The Iraqis strap kids to tanks. What can you do?”
Oh god I think Iraqis are a bunch of barbaric animal people, which makes it OK to kill them, because they don’t have feelings anyway. The article is really good; you can feel the reporter running with the soldiers
”Eeeee!” Female clerks held hostage in the post office shrieks US troops storm in.
dear oh dear. This is almost like playing C&C Renegade. I wonder if they will be waiting for the “mission accomplished” line flashing in the sky.

And another read (you can tell I don’t have much work to do besides preparing for Operation Office Evac):
Apparatus of Lies
Saddam’s Disinformation and Propaganda 1990-2003
Say what you want, but every government has its propaganda machine. And if the US propaganda was not so effective certain polls wouldn’t turn out such weird results[I lost the link and can't find it]. But what I find especially tasteless is the use of the Amiryah Bunker as a “case study”. That was a civilian bomb shelter; don’t tell me about the 10 army officers sitting in a room there.
………selected civilians had been admitted to the top floor at night, while the Iraqi military continued to use the lower level as a command and control center
what a load of bull. “selected”? whole blocks of houses in amiriyah were empty after their residents died in the shelter. People would come at night because Baghdad was bombed mostly during the night. Drag your mattress and spend the night there, it had emergency power generators and hot water. Let me tell you something really nasty, when the bombs hit the water tanks in the lower floor burst. You got grilled and smoked upstairs, boiled downstairs. That would put you off bomb shelters for the rest of your life. Nukes or no nukes.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

as bad as it gets

kefak 7ub, hope you're feeling better. and how is that final coming along. the phone got cut off the other day just when I was going to ask you about that. you know I'm a cheap fuck you get one call every two weeks. unless you start paying my phone bills that's all you're going to get.
The latest addition to sites I can't access are all the livejournal sites. I hope they don't get on to blogspot. although if they got livejournal blogger can't be that far away. cross your fingers.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Bad bad weather, cloudy skies and having to turn the lights on the moment you wake up because the sun just forgot to rise or something. I am grumpy, having only Travis to listen to at the office is not helping my mood either. How these guys manages to make everything sound so depressing is amazing.
A quick run thru how things are in Baghdad the last couple of days.

- Electricity: two hours off every four hours, my cousin is calling this psychological training for harder times. He spends his two hours in total sensory deprivation, as in no radio, no light no, TV. Only candles and the sound of the rain. While I use my nifty “converter” which basically is a car battery I recharge every time we have electricity, good for light and a small TV (for half an hour, otherwise I drain the battery too fast) and I am re-reading [The ticket that exploded] for the third time.

- Internet: For some reason the ISP does not have uninterrupted power supply for the servers or something because they also go down with the blackouts. I don’t know, but something happens which knocks people off the server in certain areas at a time and does not allow them to log back on until after two hours, which is the scheduled time for a power cut these days. And three more governorates are going to get internet this week, Tamim, Anbar and Salah al-Deen. Happy porn surfing to all.

- The Dinar: It is still above the 2100 per US dollar, last night it was 2275 Iraqi Dinar. And demand is increasing because of the people who are going on Haj. The Iraqi National Bank did respond to the fall of the dinar in a wacky way, they started selling a limited amount of dollars per day per Rafidain Bank branch for 2000 ID. Every morning you would see lines of black-market dollar dealers line up to get the $1500 they are allowed to exchange per person and then go sell it for the inflated price on the market. Made the fat-cat-dollar-dealers richer and did not solve the problem.

- The Rations: the way the ministry of trade has been heaping rations on people is seriously hurting the price of the goods included in the rations. Many families depend on selling part of the rations to support their income. Wheat is dirt cheap now. You used to be able to exchange 1 kilo of wheat for 7 pieces of bread, but since wheat is so cheap now bakers give you only 3 breads. This also goes for the powdered milk. And we have been getting really nasty Egyptian soap. I am sure they wouldn’t wash their tiled floors with it for fear of corrosion, but I guess it is good enough for Iraqis. Another bad deal made in the name of food for oil, and another well connected trader bought an apartment in London.

- The Jordanian Border: there is now a special area in the Jordanian part of the border-point where they keep “unwanted Iraqis” until they find a ride back into the country.
Best way to go to Jordan from Iraq (if you are an Iraqi, that is):
Take a plane; don’t use the much more affordable bus. You have a better chance of getting thru the border if they think you have money.
Book a return ticket even if you plan on staying, see above.
If you plan on coming back use the bus on the trip back and cash in your return ticket.
Either have a visa to another country or give a believable reason that you can’t stay for longer than 10 days, a signed paper from your workplace stating that this is a business trip for so-and-so days is good.
Be prepared to wait for a couple of hours in a room with ten other people until the officer is ready to see you.
Good luck.
Alternatively, go to Syria. They still have their borders open to Iraqis, maybe not for long.

- The Inspections: nobody was paying much attention until they decided to go into those houses in al-Ghazalia district. That got people talking. Documents or no documents the whole thing is frowned upon. If they do this a couple more times the disapproval will not only be from “official sources”. And there also has been talk about the interviews abroad, the idea of taking your family with you if interviewed abroad does not work, define family for me please. Parents? Siblings? Wife and kids? Aunts, uncles? What? And the Iraqi government knows this, pressure can be applied always.

- The Weather: wet and cold, it has been raining a lot and we even had hail. Absolutely no sun.

-Raed [he is not in Baghdad but in case you were wondering why he isn’t posting in Arabic]: After being the only one who didn’t lose it during his aunt’s funeral, which true to our grief loving ways was 3 days for men and 7 for women, has come down with a bad flu and has a project final coming up soon too. But at least he started responding to my emails.

- Mememe: *sigh* whoever invented the term “between partners” is a desperate optimist. I might as well try here:
Obedient slave seeks Master, whip and users’ manual come attached. May need some assembly. If interested email addy above. I can cook and will wash the dishes too if “commanded” to do so.
Oh….and I have changed Beers, I now drink Sanabul instead of Farida. It is quite unsettling to find a cockroach floating in a bottle of beer you were just about to guzzle Down. This is as exciting as my life gets these days.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

.........and in the poetry ring, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome DIANE.
she's back, well, I think she is. you would have expected a fanfare or something. but no, just that scary little poem.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Take that you Bush-y emails

I am so excited about what I heard on the radio this morning I can't stop smiling. For the first time the Iraqi government acknowledges the fact the population is not a herd of blind sheep.
In a not so direct response to the e-mail "attack" last Friday night and the anti-government radio broadcasts in the south. [BTW the mail-server was brought back online last night, we all got a 200kb text document about new logins and stuff] the government is airing a public announcement of sorts.
I almost choked on my tea when I heard it during breakfast.
It is set as a dialogue between two men speaking in Baghdadi dialect. The first asks the other if he has been hearing the news and if he knows "Shaku? Maku? [what's happening? What's not happening?]. In a Q&A format the other one starts "explaining" the nature of hostile and unfriendly media reporting, how we should not listen to these things because all they want to do is get to you and undermine your confidence, that all we hear is part of a psychological war. "But what they don’t know" the wise-one says "is that we are of strong character and these things don't fool us". It is quite long I will have to listen to it again to remember all that was said.
The emails, broadcasts and leaflets are not mentioned explicitly but this clearly is a response to them. what is very remarkable is that it never, not once, mentions saddam. They use "nahnu", us the people, "al-wattan" the nation and only once right at the end the wise-one uses "leadership". Very clever. It is propaganda but it doesn't overload you with the typical saddam-ese. It really is the best piece of propaganda I have seen them do.
At one point "the doubter" asks "the wise one" about war, the answer is evasive. He says it doesn't matter whether matters "get hotter or cool down" we should not listen to hostile reporting and believe it. Well, I guess this means I am removing the NY Times from my bookmarks then. I am a good citizen you know.
You can't believe how excited I am about these five or six minutes. They have acknowledged a crisis situation, they have never done that before. And it is not done with speeches directed to politicians abroad but to the people, in a simple story-like way. It's a first. I am celebrating this by not clicking any of my news links and watching Iraqi TV only.
Well….for the next 5 hours at least.

linky stuff:
I have been getting quite a bit of linky-lovin' from something called [Sensible Erection]. I get an Access Denied screen when I try to open the page, I can only hope the site has chosen me the sexiest Bear in the middle east [link shamelessly stolen from Blee Bloo Blar].
talking of sites I can't access:
milk and cookies, nice name naughty content?
H.E.Y.Y.O.U.I.K.N.O.W.W.H.E.R.E.Y.O.U.L.I.V.E, Mr. site-zapper has you in his sight. Access Denied.
Since my cover blown by Unqualified Offerings, I might as well just give up and tell you what my true mission is, I am here to brain-wash you and get you to join the Party.
I am sure you are wondering what [Baath] means and whether it involves communal ablution ceremonies. The party's name in Arabic is Hizb al-Baa[here you make a sound as if you were choking]th al-Arabi, which means the Arabic Resurrection Party, as in the resurrection of one united arab nation bla bla bla. Nice innit?
So what are you waiting for, I said JOIN!
Don't come looking for me when your enrollment papers come and you get shipped to Damascus not Baghdad. You should have checked whether this is the Iraqi or Syrian Ba'ath before you've signed these papers.

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.

Sunday, January 12, 2003


Poll Results

frankie still says war
but you said....
first week of february..haj or no haj, it's going down
second half of february. it's warmer.
It's not happening till march/april
nah....not until next autumn, it's closer to the elections that way
what? are you blood thirsty? there will be no war.

well february it is then. I wish you could have made up your mind which part of february, hiding under the bed for a whole month without anything happening is not going to be fun.
I still think they will wait until after Haj and Eid, the last plane full of white clad piligrims leaves Mekkah will be followed by the first plane dropping leaflets saying "go for cover, Boom!".

All hell broke loose at the Iraqi ISP. The mail server has been disconnected for three days now. I had no idea what is happening I don't use that email account. I heard a rumor but I have little trust in the service provider, the server always breaks down. But I got confirmation from someone who actually saw that email.
Three days ago an email was sent to all users I have not seen it, but the friend who did receive it says that it was urging Iraqis to give information about weapons stored in their homes, and not to show any resistance in the event of an attack, not to support the Iraqi government. It was written in Arabic and had an address to send information to. The mail was sent at 00:00 and 15 minutes later the mail server was shut down, and is till now.
I guess all mailboxes are being deleted now. But what are they going to do about the people who did download their mail?
I’m trying to find someone who has the email but isn’t afraid to admit that he still has not deleted it.


well the washington post knows :[US Government Starts E-Mail Campaign to Key Iraqis]
so does ABC Online : [US sends Iraqis anti-Saddam emails]
The title of the Washington Post article is not exactly correct, my friend is not a "key iraqi" ,whatever that means. Anyone who downloaded their mail around 12 got that message.

Iraqis began to receive the e-mails last week, visitors there said. The state-controlled e-mail service is available only to a small number of Iraqis, mainly government officials, senior public servants, academics and scientists.
that is also not quite correct. All you need is an ID a phone line and cash. It's the cash that gets in the way of people getting the e-mail service. and the fact that Iraq is not a very computer literate land. Importing computers is banned by the sanctions commitee, we get smuggled equipment thus expensive. the people mentioned in the article get their service for free, that is what should have been said. while they get it for free we pay an arm and a leg.
Iraqi authorities have blocked the e-mail service access in an apparent attempt to stop the messages from spreading inside the country, visitors said.
too late for that, the whisper is a buzz already, people are talking. everyone wants to see what was that email like.

Me thinks the internet service will be axed soon. we'll see. I wonder if the next step in this geeky game is to hack a couple of official Iraqi sites, future war or what?
If you call the state company responsible for the ISP now they will tell you server is down for maintanance. I really feel sorry for the network administrators, they are probably having their fried balls for lunch now. What could they have done?
The Internet is available in Iraq but many sites are off limits and all foreign e-mail servers are blocked.
we'll have to talk about that. reuters people don't know shit about internet in iraq

or maybe we have just been spammed by a bored spammer.
Adnan[] thinks we have been spammed too.
Maybe, one day we might even measure global tensions by the amount of politically motivated junk mail circulating around.
political spamming, someone should think of a name for that.
Sorrow is never singular. It always comes in multiples
Raed’s aunt has passed away yesterday. She had to undergo two heart operations in 4 days, and has been in intensive care since the beginning of this year. Raed used to joke about the fact that the only person in his family still interested in political action in Jordan is her, the one with the frail heart. I remember her talking of demonstrations and protests during the events in Palestine last January while the Jordanian government was threatening to use force if the protesters got near the American or Israeli embassies. Everyone in the family would jokingly tell her that if an officer so much as breathed on her she would come back home with multiple injuries.
Raed, I can’t reach you. Your cell phone has been turned off for days and you don’t answer emails. I wish I could be there with you.
Today a colleague at the office came to our house to tell us his son has died of brain hemorrhage this morning. He is one of the senior engineers; his son is two years younger than me. Because he is not Iraqi, the paper work involved in getting him out of the country is surreal. How to explain this to a mourning parent is impossible. I stayed with him the early couple of hours. While others were trying to figure out how to get the family to Jordan as fast as possible, the mother understandably doesn’t want to stay in Iraq.
There is no appropriate response when someone tells you about the death of a loved one or a family member, I stutter and stumble thru formal responses which mean nothing really.
My heart and thoughts are with you Read and your grandmother, who is the strongest amongst you, if she has held it together through all what the family has been through before so will you.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

I was looking around for a free online poll thingy to ask the following question: how soon do you think IT is going to happen. a couple of people have been sending me emails saying I should be careful, any day now. and I also agreed with the idea that the proverbial shit will hit the proverbial fan around 3 - 4 february, but I have a new theory. I only missed it because the house of Pax is so religiously not "with it".
It is Haj season soon. Unless the US government wants a couple million pilgrims in the KSA when it starts military action, nothing will happen until after Eid al Adha which should be around the 12th of february. Besides we have al-ash hur al-hurum now (muslim readers help me out here) these are three months in which fighting is Haram.
But if Bush were Dr. Evil he would go and start a war during Haj, provoke Muslims around the Globe into doing something outragous, Gets out his weapons of mass distruction directs them at Mekkah and:
Wham Bam, Bye Bye Islam
starting World War Three. But Bush isn't Dr. Evil and I am a fruitcake with pictures of giant lemons on his weblog.

don't you just love google. here is the poll. get those mouse buttons clicking.
frankie says war. so......what do you say?
first week of february..haj or no haj, it's going down
second half of february. it's warmer.
It's not happening till march/april
nah....not until next autumn, it's closer to the elections that way
what? are you blood thirsty? there will be no war.

Click here to view results

No this isn't a mutant radioactive lemon in my hand, although it could be, it is almost as big as my head. It is a citrus fruit we call Kappat (don't ask I think it's Farsi) fresh from my mother's garden. and no, it doesn't have great lemonade potential because it is practically all peel and kind of dry inside. But the peel can be used to make great marmalade.

Monday, January 06, 2003

Today wasn't only a holiday (the 82nd anniversary of the Iraqi Armed Forces) but the sunniest day we had for a while. And what do I spend it doing? Ordering and arranging the "emergency supplies" in the storeroom upstairs. Now that the Iraqi trade minister has advised us to stock up no one is afraid of being accused of being screwy and paranoid. After spending a couple hours organizing the mess I think we have too much sugar and too little detergents. Back to the store. Boy is that shopkeeper making a fortune from the orders he is getting. I wonder if the Trade minister only gave that warning to empty their full storehouses, because if the war doesn't happen I am dumping all the stuff I bought in front of his house and demand he buys the lot. Pronto.
And in another unprecedented display of care towards the population the government started digging water wells in various residential areas in case of water shortages. In schools, near Party quarters and other controllable places. I am pushing for our own well at the house of Pax, but my father thinks I've gone mad. It's not expensive and they only drill a hole the size of a CD, 30 meters deep and disco! You've got water. Not for drinking of course, but still it's water. I mean it's my back they'll break dragging water back from the nearest well. (Actually I see his point this is paranoid and crazy, forget the well).
They have also called on the Ration Distribution centers to come and collect the rations for May which means we're getting three months' rations in February. Now I am sure they just want to empty the storehouses.

At around 11am I took a break to watch the speech. The first broadcast is always at eleven and they repeat it every couple of hours afterwards. If you are really interested in the content go read it here. It's the usual saddam-ese.
If anyone attempts to intimidate you, the people of Iraq, repel him and tell him that he is a small midget while we belong to a nation of glorious Faith, a great nation and an ancient people who have, through their civilization, taught the human race as a whole what man was yet to know.
The president was never a great orator, if you're looking for great then you have to listen to Mubarak, but this time saddam didn't even shout at us the scary bits. Just the "Da da da" school of oration. No fire. It makes you wonder. How come we didn't get a dictator who just burns you with the heat of his words? At least make me believe in what you say for the 20 minutes you're on TV. Not even that *sigh*
And boy was it heavily edited. Not bad camera transition stuff, but the "wait let's do that again" variety. Mid-sentence cuts. It probably doesn't mean anything but it is distracting.
There was one single inspired moment near the end of the speech. He looks straight at the camera (the rest of the speech he is looking up and down from paper to camera) and says:
The enemy ought to remember the terrible end of all empires that committed aggression against our people and nation in the past.
with long pauses between words, pure drama. Loved it. "al maseer.... al mashu'um..... li kul.... al imbiratoriat...... alti aatadat ala umatina"
OK so it doesn't make sense and I have no idea what he is talking about. What terrible end? All "aggressors" have come and gone with plenty of bounty, from Hulagu Khan to the British. But he scared the shit out of me.

Saturday, January 04, 2003

I alway wondered what those leaflets the americans are dropping in the south of Iraq looked like, a friend of mine told me that the one he saw looked in color and size like a $100 bill (I did read somewhere that they dropped leafletrs "printed in green") pretty neat, I can imagine people runing around snatching them from the sky. Pennies from heaven. I wish I knew someone who lives there well enough to ask him to bring me one.
The latest, umm, droppings (sorry that was cheap) were not that good apparently. has one on its site. here, take a look. I demand better graphic design. this looks like an ad for kids radio. I would love if they would have The Designers Republic as graphic consultants, that would make these leaflets true collector items. Come on, are you starting an Axis of Bad Taste now ?.

Friday, January 03, 2003


Dear Raed
I know you probably won't be able to read this today, I hope by the time you will your aunt will be out of the icu and in good health. don't fall apart. your mom told me you had a fight with H earlier. don't do that over the phone. I am sure she loves you and whatever you or she said was because you both are under so much stress considering the circumstances.
I also want to thank you for being so unpredictable and showing up in baghdad on the 31st, who knows, this might be the last time we see each other for a while. I am very happy you came. you know, checking around I found out that quite a number of our friends and relatives are having guests from abroad spending their christmas week off here in baghdad. ziad is specially happy with his friend's visit (you know the one he keeps telling us is his only real friend ever, I guess we were chopped liver). what? is everybody saying goodbye? It feels like being on the titanic and knowing what will happen to it, so everybody just stop hugging and kissing, I won't die dammit.