Wednesday, January 28, 2004

It transmits on 107,7 FM in Baghdad, which really is at the end of the frequency range of most radios, some don’t even go that far. The station-breaks on it have people sounding like the Simpsons saying things like “I haven’t had so much fun since Afghanistan” – this is such bad taste, it’s hilarious. The DJ’s call each other Sergeant So-and-so, which freaks you out the first time you hear it, I thought I was listening to something I wasn’t supposed to.
But to give the people there credit, the music is much better than the seriously annoying pop stuff on SAWA. SAWA Iraq is different than SAWA in the rest of the arab world, yes we are special. In case you are wondering SAWA is the new American propaganda tool instead of [Voice of America]. They lured our young with music and then they started messing with their brains using Sawa. It is very pop-y la-di-da-life-is-ok type of station, the messages must be subliminal or something [note to self:start recording the broadcasts and then listen to them backwards, specially that britney/madonna thing because they play it so often]. I think it will spawn a TV station as well, there are already people with SAWA TV tags running around.

I have been tuning to AFN IRAQ much more often than the radio we Iraqis are supposed to be listening to. They played Rage Against the Machine’s testify:
Im empty please fill me
Mister anchor assure me
That Baghdad is burning
Your voice it is so soothing
That cunning mantra of killing
I need you my witness
To dress this up so bloodless
To numb me and purge me now
Of thoughts of blaming you
It is a bit scary to have a military radio that plays this song here in baghdad

Anyway, it is very interesting radio. It is so very American it gets disorienting. And the little public announcement things in between songs are almost Monty Python-esque if they weren’t meant to be dead serious. Example:
[Sound of vehicle, a humvee I guess, in the background]
Female voice: I am really tired I haven’t slept well last night. Ooh look…can you hold on to my [some weapon or other] while I take a picture of this.
[Sound of snoring]
Female voice: Is sergeant (so-and-so) still sleeping? He had a tough night.

Darth Vader voice: Being on military convoy is a serious situation, always wear your seat belts, maintain speed and distance. And always stay alert.
There are little Arabic lessons thrown in here and there to “learn the local language and be part of the world around you”. Today’s words were Hello, Good morning and Good bye. I would have thought that after a year here we would have moved to a bit more complex vocabulary.

And there are also reminders to military personnel to keep the classified information they have to themselves since “We *are* in a war here.” Sweet sounding DJ Courtney made sure we remember to remember by playing Nickelback’s “this is how you remind me”.

Now if there only was a way to convince them to stop playing all that Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC and play us some B.R.M.C. and Rapture.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Start your week with THE WACKY IRAQI. well it is the middle of the week for us here, it doesn't make a difference for him he is still wacky.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Long post alert, you will not be quizzed on it and there are no prizes for reading the whole thing. I just had to get all this off my chest

Salam Pax: The Clandestine Diary of an Ordinary Iraqi

Don’t you just hate that title? To start with I would never use a word like clandestine, and what is wrong with [Salam Pax: The Baghdad Blog]? It gets worse, the German title is [Let’s Get Bombed; greetings from Baghdad]. We did have a talk about these things but being the novice I am and sitting so far away from where all that was happening left me with a title like [Let’s get bombed], dear oh dear.

So why does this come up? It is because Ihath found the latest costumer review on the Amazon site not fair [thanks Ihath, Raed showed me the email you wrote him. The Gibran quote really got to him]. What the reader/reviewer doesn’t like is the Ordinary Iraqi bit, he pins all the usual little flags people have always pinned on the little Salam Pax voodoo doll they have: “Salam Pax is not an ordinary Iraqi by any stretch of the imagination. He's gay, irreligious, western educated, and has spent half his life outside Iraq. This is an ordinary citizen of Iraq? I don’t think so.”

Since I don’t really have much to say today other than the weather is really horrible, we will have one of those flashback episodes TV shows always have when they run out of ideas.

Yes, let’s go back to the days when the blog really was, ahem, clandestine. Let’s dig deep into the archives and pull out part of a post dated 29th, October, 2002:
One more correction, neither I nor Raed are "regular joes". Actually most regular joes would look at us suspiciously. I have spent half of my life out of this country and had to be taught how to re-grow my roots by someone who isn't even Iraqi by nationality, he just loves the place (thank you Raed). We both have a distrust towards religion and have read the "Tao Te Ching" with more interest than the Quran. And we both have mouths which have gotten us into trouble. The regular joe would be more inclined to beat the shit out of us infidels, oh did I mention that I am a pervert as well?? The way I look at men makes them feel uncomfortable.
Just to prove that I have never said that I am your regular Joe.

The other little bit I would like to grab out of the archives is dated 21,December, 2002. It is from a longer letter written to Raed:
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 in Amman 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.
The whole [where are you standing] question did bother me a lot, hence the “shame on me”. Lately I have decided that there is no shame in this.
I’ve am reading Hanif Kuraeishi’s [The Black Album], there is a paragraph which rang all the bells
These days everyone was insisting on their identity, coming out as a man, woman, gay, black, Jew – brandishing whichever features they could claim, as if without a tag they wouldn’t be human. Shahid, too, wanted to belong to his people.
And Salam wanted that as well. When you get pushed into a corner because of a name and a place of birth you try to make the best out of the corner you have been pushed into. And believe me being pushed into the corner labeled [young male of Middle Eastern / Muslim origin] hasn’t been much fun lately. But since it is all you have you dig deeper into it and hold on to it. The current western world view has antagonized a huge number of people, the West wasn’t that interested in dialogue. We were simply labeled as Muslim terrorist.
One of the more amusing results of this has been my friend’s G arrest by American soldiers while he was on a job for an American Newspaper. He was given the head-sack and an angry soldier shouted at him “it was you [your type] who attacked the world trade center”. Now this is funny because G. is so pro-American it gets to me sometimes, he is Christian (but he hates it when you tell him that because he really is “agnostic”), so why did the soldier accuse him of attacking the World Trade Center? Because he had a Muslim looking beard and looked “of mid-eastern origin”.

That’s beside the point, what I want to say is that we seem to have lost the middle ground. When I met Ted Koppel the first time he said that he needed a cultural interpreter. And this is exactly what this blog and the rest of the blogs in the Iraqi Blogosphere, in all its variety, has been providing. The things the reviewer saw as negatives, “irreligious, western educated, and has spent half his life outside Iraq”, are really the basis for the common things between us. You and me, we have this dialogue because of them. In a world growing apart by the day it is absolutely wonderful to find that everybody can go on about the food they like on an Iraqi blog [check out the comments] and for a moment forget all the politics. This reminds us that we *do* have things in common and not everybody is out to cut the others throat.
I do not feel ashamed of standing in the middle anymore; actually I am proud of it. The Iraqi Bloggers show that we *can* talk. You think some of us are too ungrateful and critical? Habibi at least we are talking about it, you really have not met the people who are really truly unhappy with the whole situation here.

BUT… we are still playing the [dominant/subordinate culture] game. We write in English to communicate with you, we try to establish links and reference points very much relevant to you.
The respect I have for Persian Bloggers is immense; they were able to create a dialogue among themselves which they sometimes share with the rest of the world.
One of the aims of the whole war in Iraq thing was to create “a model democratic state in the area”, I tell you it will not be Iraq because it will only be skin deep, look towards Iran for a democracy that might not be exactly what the USA wants it to be but there will be a deeper understanding of it among the people.

OK, this post is way too long, would someone please wrap my hands in duct tape and burn the keyboard.

Just in case you are interested it took me the exact length of CD1 of the Deep Dish/Toronto mix to write this blog. They are Persian by the way; I told you they had potential.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Tell you a little secret: A lot of issues can be solved using the following ingredients:
- Chocolates (something nice, like a packet of maltesers)
- A little Poem (stolen from someone who can use words much better than you)
- Copy of Newsweek (latest issue)

well the last item is optional. Yes he is OK, and will go to Amman for a week with his brother he changed his mind, he will stay for another week before going.

Friday, January 23, 2004

So do I at least be the first on-blog break up?
No. it is not funny.

I stood at your door for an hour, I knew you were inside, but you wouldn't open.
do we have t do this in public? answer my emails at least.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

It was a special day.

Here I am, drinking vodka alone at 3 in the morning, in the house of my family. One year ago I was staying in Amman, waiting for my visa to go to Saudi Arabia to marry my first love and ex-fiancé, I was finishing my studies for Masters Degree, and I was working as an architect in a small engineering office.

I will not exaggerate and pretend this is my first jump between my parallel universes, because I had previous heroic hyper jumps in the past.

But this year witnessed two jumps.
Jump raed jump jump jump

The first was on the 19th of Feb. of last year, when I decided to leave my work, my house, and to leave heba and come to Iraq.
She didn’t answer my calls, so I pushed the disappear button.
This is when everyone starts to wonder “where is raed”

I came to Baghdad, I was completely destroyed, without energy, sleeping all the day and night waiting for war to happen, to conceder it the as the “reason” for my miserable life. The war started and explosions helped me forget the rest of my feelings towards heba.

War stopped, and statues were pulled in a dramatic way.

My national feelings pushed me to start something that can make the world see how bad this war was, so I started working on a massive scale survey on war casualties, for months, going on trips to the nine cites of the south weekly, and establishing a huge network of volunteers, monitor them, designing the survey forms and administrating the data input procedure.

More than 4000 injured, more than 2000 killed, just from civilians, all with full documentation and details about the time and place of incidents, and their addresses. My American partner was supposed to publish the results, but she didn’t.

After we finished the survey, I started establishing another network of volunteers .. Emaar .. in the nine cities of the south and Baghdad. 100 volunteers were the result of one month selection period that I met around 1500 persons in, around 30 of the 100 were girls, working all together in teams to identify small problems in the neighborhoods and implementing micro projects depending on the local people’s contribution, to give them more trust in themselves and to market the political idea of giving Iraqis the chance to rebuild their countries by themselves.

Meanwhile I had a romantic story that was getting more serious day by day, and making me a worse person day by day too.

After the UN explosion, fund raising started being impossible, and our only funding agency stopped to fund us for political reasons.

My private life was falling apart in parallel to Emaar, slowly and painfully.

Even working with salam, for the BBC, and writing stuff on this blog wasn’t making me comfortable. For many reasons.

Today was a special day
I stood in front of everyone in the NGOs meeting, and told them “I’m sorry to announce the death of Emaar in 9 of the 10 governorates that we used to work in” We still have work in the marshes of Nasrya.
I’m tired, and I cant knock more doors
The team of Nasrya are arranging themselves without needing me for support.
Good for them

Emotional wise.
I erased her phone number from my phonebook, preventing other stupid attempts of going back.
Because she cannot say good morning. I want her to say good morning when we wake up.
But she can’t.

I’ll stop blogging here. Without swimming in the mud of details: you are not the best partner in the world, and I’m not the best blogger too.

I emailed the Jordanian University to tell them I’m not going to resume my masters degree studies. Its way too complicated for me now. I’ll take my diploma certificate and stop.

And I emailed a friend in London telling her about my great achievements of today.

I burned out myself. Wzzzzssssss……

Today was a special day, but this Russian vodka made it better.

Jump jump jump

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Iraqia (the Iraqi Media Network TV) made a very strange decision tonight; it is right now showing the full state of the union speech. And they are going to have a panel discussion about it later on as well.

Does this make us the 51st state? Does it? Eh? Does it, does it?
Do we at least get effort marks for that?

Dear editors at Iraqia, the state of the union speech is a news ITEM, an important one for the future of Iraq but still an ITEM. Give us the highlights, I don’t need to watch the whole thing, unless we *are* the 51st state. Are we? Eh? Are we, are we?

There was one moment in the speech that made me smile; I was too busy eating my chicken kebabs to pay attention to the whole thing. But at the point where Mr. Pachechi stood up I could only think that I really wish you [the GC] more luck than Karazai.
Saddam's two older daughter are looking for a country other than Jordan to host them. link to article in al-sabah, Arabic.
The article says that Jordan informed the two women that if they wanted to stay in the country they will have to respect the host country and not to get involved in politics. Oh shock horror! what politics, why can't they just keep their mouths shut and stay out of it. If they were planning to play hero they should have stayed with daddy. Their mother and younger sister Halla are in Syria and placed under house arrest of sorts apparently, Raghad and Rana don't want to go there. I bet the shopping experience in Damascus isn't as exciting as in Amman, with so much money in your bank accounts you would want to go somewhere to spend it, right?
My suggestion, go to Beirut shut up your mouths by stuffing them with drugs, ditch your phony Hijabs and become club-sluts at the BO-18 (scroll down for the pix).

On a related theme here is nice article about clubbing in beirut [For 15 years, Lebanon endured a brutal civil war. Now it's just learning how to party], I raelly can't wait for another 15 years, they should put this as a priority on the Iraqi reconstruction fund issues: Clubbing in Baghdad
Raed is out having lunch with someone form the other gender. I bet he doesn't know that The female of the species is more deadly than the male, his fault. My horoscope in al-sabah said that I should get someone to alphabetize my music CDs with.
The last three days I got stuck on Muse's [Apocalypse Please]
And it's time we saw a miracle
Come on it's time for something biblical
To pull us through
And pull us through

This is the end
Of the world
Yes I am bored, maybe I should alphabetize my CDs alone.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Where Is Raed and Baghdad Burning are Bloggie nominees. Best middle east or african Blog category.
Unfortunatly I will not be able to witness the glamour of Bloggie Awards Ceremony if I win, ahhh, to walk on that red carpet and to give my thank you speech.
You can still vote.
More on the Family Law issue.
The following link might be of interest to those of you who can read arabic. Az-Zamman has an article by Suhad Al-Khafaji who writes about the Family Law issued in 1959.
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Although Al-Khafaji is critical of the 1959 Family Law she also states the good reasons why we need to improve on that law and replace it with something that is even worse.
It is really worth taking a look at if you can read arabic, I do apologize to non-arabic readers, the article is quite long and tricky to translate.

UPDATE: Riverbend has posted about the issue at 5:48 in the morning! talk about issues not letting you get the sleep you need. My favorite bit from her post is the way she describes the GC
Seeing some of the GC members give press conferences these days, reminds me of the time I went to watch my cousin's daughter 'graduate' from kindergarten. They had about 20 kids up on this little stage with their teacher, Miss Basma, standing benevolently in their midst. As long as she was on the stage, they all stood correctly; simultaneously reciting a poem they had learned just for the occasion. The moment Miss Basma stepped down, there was a stampede- 20 students rushed for the only microphone on the stage all at once, grappling to see who could reach it first and drown out the other voices with their own.

Now we face a similar situation. Miss Basma- er, I mean Bremer- has been off the stage (in Washington and New York) and there has been a rush to grab the metaphorical microphone. For example, while the decision on family law seems almost definite, Talabani adamantly denies it… other members only reluctantly discuss it.
Yep, you just don't piss Riverbend off because she'll rip you apart.
and she found, have a look there is an english site.
And the Iraqi dinar is still being smuggled out of the country. Is it the smell of the fresh notes?
Today the Iraqia channel showed an egyptian caught smuggling 5 million Iraqi dinars and half a kilo of hash to Kuwait. Actually my first reaction was "Half a kilo? where can I get that?" but let's leave this out of the blog.
On a much grander scale Mr. Badran, our minister for interior affairs is now in the middle of trying to explain what 20 billion dinars are doing on a plain going to Beirut. Let us just hope that the Governing Council didn't suddenly get the Dinar Fever and wanted to get a piece of the pie for itself as well.

FunFact: what do 20 billion Iraqi Dinars weigh? One and a half tons. (according to Az-Zamman)

The Iraqi charge d'affairs in Beirut is trying very hard to make sure the Lebanese do not "politicize" the issue, the Lenbanese governmnet is worried that the money is to fund certain groups in Lebanon. My worry is that it was going to fund leisure trips for GC members, they are used to it, after getting all that money from the US and UK just to sit in an office having to work for your money must seem like a drag
Four Iraqi policemen were killed in the latest attack. This brings the number of Iraqi policemen killed since April to 600 (the link is to an arabic article in Az-zamman, from AFP).
One of those 600 lives around the corner from my parents house. He was threatened several times and a bomb was placed near his house once, which was luckily dismanteld before it could do any harm. He was shot six days ago while on duty.
These days one of the requierments to join the Iraqi Police is balls of steel.
I was in Karadat-Mariyam 4 hours after the explosion. Obviously couldn't get very near to where the actual explosion happened and to tell you the truth I didn't really want to.
An old man sitting in front of his shop told me, in a very matter-of-fact way that whoever did this could never be Muslim, Christian or Jewish "I doubt that he is even human". I think that sums up the general feeling about the attack.
Earlier today we had the fright of our lives trying to call my uncle's to find out whether Zainab went to work or not. She works in there and has told me on several occasions how worried the Iraqis who work in the "green zone" are about their lining up there daily, waiting to be searched to get to their workplaces. They joked about attacks.
What really got my goat was the taxi driver who was getting me back home, after all the images we saw on TV (the Iraqi Media Network for once did a very good job covering the attack) and the Press (this picture hurts, a mother looking for her daughter after the explosion, Farah Nosh for NY Times), after all that the idiot tells me "oh yes, it was the Americans shooting left and right killing all those people". Now why would anyone say something as stupid as that? He didn't like what I said in response to that statement, and I decided that I don't want him to know where I live. You never know these days. I walked home.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Actually, the explosion in front of the Presidential palace two days ago happened in the 13th anniversary of the 1991 war, the war that destroyed everything, but left the rest of Iraq and his neighbors to be milked slowly.

There was a boring 80s American movie about rodeo and bulls on mbc/channel 2 (my favorite movie channel). That clown who saves the hero every time reminded me of the UN in Iraq, every time Americans either need someone to justify some plan they attend to do, or someone to hand over a catastrophe they cannot handle, everyone will see the clown rushing to offer his services.

Today’s demonstrations in Baghdad were a bit huge, and people were shouting “Yes for elections, Yes for democracy”, “No for those who came from outside to rule us”

When the situation was building up slowly in the south, no one even noticed them. All the focus was on some attacks happening in the middle region of Iraq.

Me: Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the most irresponsible of them all?
Me: I mean .. why didn’t anyone notice what was happening in the south?
Myself: Because of the extremely pragmatic method of solving problems, the no-vision-plan is based on solving the everyday troubles and forgetting anything else happening without noise.

Me: Will the Americans give Shiaa their democratic elections in the south?
Myself: NO.

Me: What do u expect to happen now?
Myself, bush and bremer: WE DO NOT KNOW

Welcome back to Iraq, Mr. cloUN.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

did u see the explosion of the day
god damn it!!

Today, the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq reached to 500.
But no one even mentioned that, it was the “Bremer Dinar” scandals day
The Iraqi Dinar lost 50% of its value over a night (from 950 – 1400), after discovering that our CG is selling Billions of Dinars to the world under the brand new operation called “screw up your self, your neighbors, and your national currency”.

I would like to take this chance to thank our great GC for their great policies in giving more trust in the Iraqi Dinar and the Iraqi economy.

Salam will tell you more about the Dinar thing..

Topic of the day, [It’s-my-right-to-cover-my-head] demonstrations

Secular Muslim is my favorite way in describing me. When me and myself sit to discuss the issues of religion and culture, we never fight.
Islam is that huge heritage of architecture – my grandfather’s court yard house, music – um kalthum and fayrooz, food – doolma and yabsah, colors – green palm trees and brown bricks, language – my love letters and quraan, poems – Sayyab and motanabbi, books Jaaberi and kanafani, smell and taste– bakhoor and hareesa, chai – abo el heel and noomi al basra, quraan – mosques and harmony, and .. me :”)
Maybe that’s why we can’t drop that heritage or hand it over easily to other people with long beards just because they are religious and me and my self are anti-religious. I mean,, where is the point? I don’t believe in the Islamic religion, but I am a part of the Islamic culture and society. My ex-girlfriend told me once “rayyyd .. you try to treat me in a modern way, but from deep inside I can feel the Islamic system in you”
I’m sure Kilroy will feel happy to call her as a witness in his trial.
But anyway ... the point that I am a secular person, I belong to the big seculars family, and all this crap about religions doesn’t move a hair on my body (it’s an Arabic expression).
But unexpectedly, the thing that made most of the hair on my head stand .. like some one being shocked by the so-called electricity, was when I heard the news about France and Belgium taking these ultra-stupid-shallow-decisions of veil / hijab !!! what the hell!!
I mean .. I find myself forced to criticize my secular tribe!! What the hell are you doing there??? This is not supposed to be OUR part of the game
I lived in Saudi Arabia for four years, in a small city in the south called Abha. And there .. the medieval-stupid-shallow-corrupted-government used to send religious men called “mtawwe” to insure all women will cover their bodies and look like black tents, I remember my mother – the sophisticated feminist engineer – putting that black thing on her, covering her head and face, to the point that no one can tell in which direction was she standing, these are the people whom WE (me and my secular cousins) must teach how to live and understand life

Did french people decide to hate freedom after McDonald’s changed the name of French fries to freedom fries?
Is it envy then? Haa?

I mean .. how the *falafel* did you decided to go and run after women to take off the stupid piece of cloth on their heads!! Where is the point??
Isn’t a punk allowed to come to school with his/her red head? Isn’t a Goth allowed to come with his black eyes? I mean!! Why do you start another fake battle between cultures out of nothing??
Doesn’t the UN crap speak about freedom of beliefs?? Isn’t that what WE are trying to convince the rest of the world of?
Don’t words like discrimination pull any triggers here? Ding ding?

Shame on you ..

Saturday, January 17, 2004

It is saturday and you might have some time to spend reading blogs?

Why not go check out Faiza's latest post she turns all maternal and wise on us:
Today I want to explore a new topic for discussion. As a result of many questions I got by email and in order to alleviate the boredom that I feel and to alleviate the general feeling of depression in Iraq, I decided to talk about something personal, about our daily life.

Or you can read what Riverbend thinks of the desicion No. 137 concerning family law in Iraq:
During the sanctions and all the instability, we used to hear fantastic stories about certain Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar, to name a few. We heard about their luxurious lifestyles- the high monthly wages, the elegant cars, sprawling homes and malls… and while I always wanted to visit, I never once remember yearning to live there or even feeling envy. When I analyzed my feelings, it always led back to the fact that I cherished the rights I had as an Iraqi Muslim woman. During the hard times, it was always a comfort that I could drive, learn, work for equal pay, dress the way I wanted and practice Islam according to my values and beliefs, without worrying whether I was too devout or not devout enough.

Healing Iraq also blogs about the same issue:
I'm so happy about this, now I can marry and divorce in any way I like. Yay! I'm at the moment gathering family members to go to the local cleric so I can divorce my fourth wife which I don't really like anymore, and get myself an 11 year-old virgin. All the other small details will be settled within the family and with the blessings of the Sayid.

and if you are just too sick of politics coming from this strange place called airak, may I suggest some fine, utterly surreal humor served by one of the people I stalk secretly:The Ugly Fat Kid ?
Late Thursday the governor of the Iraqi National Bank went on Iraqi TV to announce that the National Bank will be buying the dollar for 1350 dinars (250 dinars more than the market price) in an attempt to level the dinar and slow down its rise. All exchange shops adjusted their prices accordingly and on friday the exchange rate was between 1350 and 1380.
A reader sent me an email telling me that I shouldn't be too glad about a strong dinar since this has a negative effect on exports. The thing is that we are at the moment at a point where we import much more than we export and this trend should increase once the reconstruction phase starts and the monies from the donor conference in madrid are released. The only thing we export is Oil and, I am guessing here, that market has its own rules it won't be affected by the changes we are going thru now.
What is important is that the poeple feel that is worth something and believe me for somone who gets his paycheck in dinar this is improvement. What we need now is for the dinar to stay put at a price and stop moving, and I guess this is what the governer intended to do with his announcement on thursday. Today is the first working after the announcement and we'll see how the market reacts to his Bank's dollar price.

Did you see me on Nightline? a handsome devil, eh?
It seems the haircut Raed got did more than just clear the mess on his head, it also cleared the mess *in* his head and he was able to write an almost coherent blog. So in celebration of this glorious event today's pictures will have Raed's haircut as a theme.

It doesn't have a sign and the old man inside couldn't cut in a straight line if his life depended on it and he will mess up the goatee for sure, but raed still wouldn't go to any other.

The guy is ancient he still doesn't believe in normal tape recorders or color TVs.

and has the scariest looking chair I have seen.

but I go thru all this for two very good reasons, first Raed gets to look as bald as I am

and second the lunch Faiza promised to pay for if I get Raed to cut his hair. a huge meal of fried chicken at al-Sa'a in Mansour.This used to cost $10 but with the new exchange rate it is $15.
When was the last time you read Faiza's blog by the way?

now we have to start working on Raed's table manners i guess.
And this is what Raed is talking about in the previous post: [Sistani upholds election demand] from [Iraq Today]:
"Sistani wants the transitional assembly to be directly elected, and is not backing down from his stance. If he does not back the U.S. roadmap, many of Iraq's majority Shi'ites may well refuse to accept the process."

Friday, January 16, 2004

Bremer is at washington discussing the authorities hand over to Iraqis.


… And the winner is:


Yes = hmmm.. you baathist pro saddamist bastard .. arrest him
No = OK! Here we have another evidence how much the Iraqi people want us to stay

I remember the days before the war when people from the national-but-corrupted-and-arrogant-government were using the same smart propaganda to justify their loyalty to saddam, “a civil war will start, no one can control this country, even if he isn’t the best person in the world at least he is keeping the situation stable”
The same excuse was given today, by Iraqis demonstrating at Basra.
Americans were supposed to hand over [some] authorities for Iraqis next June, and discussions were about how and where and other details, this was announced after months of playing the [try & screw-up] game. The political hand-over was supposed to happen in the middle of this year, but the thing/government was not going to be elected, it was supposed to be [s-elected], preparing for the general elections in two years.

I have no doubts that Americans want to stay as long as they can in the current status, and I don’t have any doubts “they” will try to use any excuse that can be found.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis demonstrated at Basra - the new shiaa capital – today. But why?
It was because of the new speech/fatwa of Ayat-Allah Sistani about the form of the next government..
Sistani is one from the key personalities in the “new” Iraq, (in fact he’s one of the few leaders that used to live in Iraq before the war), he really controls millions of shiaa in the south and they really believe in him. Americans treat him as a local god, giving him enormous self confidence and image.
Sistani refuses to accept the “elected government” phase,, he wants to jump to the “general elections” stage without the intermediate one.
Why? Because he doesn’t feel safe! Because he believes Americans are giving him what he wants.
Sistani doesn’t feel very safe having an ethnic-mixture-[american-free] government for the next two years, (not very safe to go through all the discussions and crap of convincing dozens of representatives of different ethnic and religious groups that may domain the political scene in the time that he can control everything by himself and have more respectful position during the presence of Americans or after the general elections will take place).

But why would a person like him give Americans a fashionable excuse for staying for another two years?
Because they built up the scene this way, give him over-doze attention and care, and thretin to go and leave him over a night, he will start begging for them to stay and this is the way Americans want to draw the right image for their existence in Iraq.

People are repeating the same “we don’t want a civil war” advertisement to justify the Sistani new position.
But why?
-Does a person like him have an M.O.U with the Americans? I don’t think so, it’s more sophisticated than that.
-Are Americans happy because of his position? YES, at least till now.
-Are Americans considering this as a favor? NO, I doubt it. They don’t have favors and permanent friends, they have permanent interests :”)
-Do Americans realize they are playing with fire or not? I don’t think they do
-When is the time Sistani gets impatient? Soon .. when he believes the VIP tale

Joke of the day – extremely related to the VIP story
There is this Iraqi guy that went to a coffee shop and found it full, so he decided to come up with a smart idea to find an empty chair. He stood in front of every one and yelled “they are distributing free gasoline outside”! so everyone rushed outside, and he found a place and sat down. Five minutes later .. he thinks “maybe its true” and hurries out running after them.

From an American-practical point of view, Iraq is not ready neither technically nor politically to start a general election battle, we are talking about a country that could not re-build the services billing system until now.

Fun fact: Iraqis didn’t pay a Dinar for (the so-called) electricity, water, telecommunication stuff and other public services for the last 10 months .. not because Americans are trying to build a new communist era, its because of the lack of capabilities of issuing bills!!

I mean .. we are speaking about basics here .. stupid small problems like traffic jams seem to be huge enough to be considered as a challenge for the GC, so what do u expect to get when issues like general elections are discussed?
Otherwise.. and from a political position, let’s suppose this technical problem isn’t that big, americans will not give the chance for the situation to go outside control and repeat the Algerian catastrophe, when the so-called [democratic general elections] will end up creating a new religious monster that might not be western-friendly.
The same way that I was sure americans will not give saddam hussein a free passion_inflaming_channel by starting a public trial show, I can say I’m positive Americans will not give Iraq neither as a shiaa present to Iran or a sunni present to Saudi Arabia, general elections cannot even be discussed before Iraqis finish their cultural and political lessons. Teach them the neo-Islamic theory: Secular Islam(?).
Would it end up causing a mess?
Would the impact cause extremely right winged groups?
Would these “outsiders” putting more and more pressure to change the socio-cultural-religious common beliefs be accepted?

Ok .. I’m trying to be pragmatic and rational without forgetting the national context and sense, I can understand that when Americans come to occupy a country, they will rebuild it in their way, so issues like privatization, capitalism, federalism, open market policy, open telecommunication system come in one package that I don’t see a point even in discussing their presence or not, it’s stupid to feel surprised every time a topic of these pops-up, but its not stupid at all to discuss the methods and ways of reaching to those main goals, sometimes methodologies are more harmful than the goals themselves.

Confusion is the keyword here..

I know the American army is not leaving Iraq in years, and I know American decision makers will not leave in decades, I mean .. just let them announce that!
Do u know that the American embassy in Baghdad will have more than 3000 “diplomats” working?? They ARE the next government .. no doubt ..
Just announce it for god’s sake.. announce that and let’s play a clean game.
Why must we go through all of this Iraq-tearing-up-process? Federalism, Shiaa, Sunnis, Turkmen, Kurds, Assyrians, blab la blaa, picking a weak dependant governing council, with no roots, and threatening to leave after a year .. of course they’ll start whining and begging for the devil to stay.

Why didn’t anyone ask us whether we wanted the war or not? Whether we felt comfortable with the GC or not? Why no one asks if the game of jumping from a plan to another with no vision is amusing or not?
But everyone comes now and ask .. do u want “them” to leave or stay?

There is an Arabic proverb saying: “one hundred wise men are not enough to find the stone that the freak threw in the well”

You threw the stone .. you find it.

More on the Family Laws issue.
Al-Sabah has today on its front page a statement by Jalal Talabani, Kurdish Governing Council member, saying that Decision No. 173 by the Iraqi Governing Council cannot be passed because illegitimate. Yesterday Al-Sabah said that the decision was signed by all IGC members except one. Could be Talabni who has not signed the decision while the women on the IGC thought it was OK?

Inside, in its legal section, Judge Zakia Ismaeel Haqi has a column titled [Remarks on GC’s decision No. 137], here are the highlights of what she has written, it is a bit long if you are not interested in reading all of this go down to the bold bit:
There is no doubt that the Islamic Sharia was and still is one of the main sources of law in Iraq……………..the patience of the Iraqi family was rewarded with the announcement of the Personal Affairs Law number 159 in 1959 and its 12 amendments. This law took a lot from Sharia laws and the fiqh of various Islamic factions, for example the husband was not able anymore to divorce his wife by simply announcing the divorce to her three times [that’s a bit complicated to explain, the wife in sharia is considered divorced if her husband tells her “you are divorced” three times] causing the family to collapse.


The Iraqi family and specially the Iraqi woman was hoping that our brothers in the Governing Council, many of them who have struggled for 3 decades against the fallen regime, we hoped that they understand our need for more amendments to the above mentioned law and the deletion of some of the hurtful amendments added by the previous regime. We needed corrections to that law which will ensure more protection to the family but we were shocked by the announcement of decision no. 137 in what was an almost unanimous vote with only one voice opposing it.
A decision like that affects the Iraqi family profoundly and will have dangerous consequences I will not be able to list of them here in detail but maybe the main effect it will have is the following: this decision will abolish the current Personal Affairs Law [family law] which is followed by Muslim or non Muslim families, Social Protection Law, Minors Protection Law, Inheritance Law and all amendments to the 1959 law concerning non Muslim citizens Christians, Jews and Mandeans. Now that this law has been abolished who protects the rights of non Muslims?

I have a lot of respect to my brothers in the IGC specially some of them are colleagues in studying the law and I have joined others of them in the revolution of the Kurdish people in 1974. I am very disappointed that many of them have put their signature down on a decision which has not been properly legally formulated and has too many linguistic mistakes and I wonder how such a draft could pass thru the legal committee in the GC.
[she counts a couple of the more important legal and linguistic flaws]


Finally I am very saddened to see the fate of the Iraqi family and specifically the Iraqi woman amidst this storm. Some do not allow her to leave the house, others do not allow her to travel without a chaperone and another crushes her humanity by beating her thinking that he is practicing his lawful right according to the sharia. The Iraqi family refuses to go back to the dark ages and the 4th Hijra century now that we are in the 15th Hijra century. The Iraqi woman needs your understanding and support so that she can explore her full potential in causing positive changes in the economical, social and political structure in her country. And I hope you will not forget that women today are 65% of the Iraqi population.
I am fully convinced that a decision like this does not represent the Iraqi public opinion and our people look forward for more participation of women in the society.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

You would have thought a news item like this would get a bit more attention since one of the protesters was one of our newly appointed ministers:
Iraqi women protest proposed changes to family laws
Azzaman has it on the top right side of the front page, Asharq Al-Awsar on the top left.
About 100 Iraqi women led by a minister protested in central Baghdad against a Governing Council proposal to scrap the secular family affairs code and place it under Muslim religious jurisdiction.

"I am outraged how the decision was taken," public works minister Nesrine al-Barwari told AFP.
So first they slip in the bit about turning Iraq into a federal state without asking the Iraqis and now this. Me thinks the GC is taking on more than what it is supposed to do.

In Azzama Dr. Azhar Abdul-Karim, a constitutional law expert says that she thinks it is very unusual that the family law, as it is, gets abolished in the current situation since it is partly based on Sharia law anyway and abolishing this law without the presence of a an elected government will only create more Chaos. Here is the article from Azzaman in Arabic, the thing they had in the paper is a bit more than just a translation of the AFP which they have put on the web.
Look what we have in our sky, what do you call it? Balloon .. airship .. blimp ..
It was flying over Abo-Ghraib the other day,

Abo-Ghraib is the small district to the west of Baghdad, where the main prison is located.
I’m sure its full of bad-anti-freedom people

Baghdad is going through a critical economical transmission period,,
today is the last day of the three-month-changing-period of the old Iraqi Dinar, and dealing with old notes (the one with saddam’s smile) is not legal anymore.

(I will tell you the story of Newsweek later.. that’s another fairy-tale)
The good news: The value of the Iraqi Dinar increased more than 40%. And its getting better..
The funny-side-effect of the operation is not missing the smile of uncle saddam, it’s the unexpected inflation!!
The usual exchange rate of the Iraqi Dinar used to be around 2000 for one us dollar, today it is 1200. But at the same time this 40% rising in the value of the Iraqi Dinar was not accompanied with any change in the prices of food, transportation and other basic supplies and products.

The small problem of price increases is that no one used to keep or use Iraqi money in a practical way, people kept their money in US dollars, so from this point of view everything is 40% more expensive than before!!

Q: I used to pay 1000 Iraqi Dinar for the taxi driver and it used to equal 50 cents
Today I paid 1250 Iraqi Dinar for the same trip, how much is that in dollars?
A: one dollar
Conclusion: its time to use your car..

Q: I invite Salam on lunch and dinner everyday, and I pay, everyday, every time. Mmm .. ok .. I used to pay 10,000 Iraqi Dinar which used to equal five dollars, how much is that in dollars now?
A: Don’t invite him anymore.

For the first time since 1991 shops are refusing to deal with US dollars! Everyone is proud of our national currency now

Yeah .. I mean .. whatever was this price rising problem, its temporal and small, the economical conditions reminds me of the days before the embargo, in the late eighties when the Iraqi Dinar used to have his credibility, power and enormous potentialities.

Ok .. going back to that Newsweek thing, no one can really describe the difference between the Arabic edition and the English one, but let me try..
Difference 1:
They have a strange version of Arabic language there.
Difference 2:
I feel it’s more an educational curriculum than anything else, trying to teach us some interesting politically correct facts about life.
Difference 3:
There is even a different version of images; the Arabic ones are less artistic and more educational, expressing certain ideas.

I think Faiza – mamma mia – can describe more what I’m trying to say.. you can read what’s she writing on A Family In Baghdad.

Has anybody been following what is happening to the Iraqi dinar the last couple of weeks?

It seems someone stuck the dinar on a Helium filled balloon and let it loose, the dinar keeps getting stronger and stronger; the foreign exchange market in Harthiya is in total shock. If things keep going the way they are the dinar will be worth twice as much as it was a month ago.
At new year’s the exchange rate was around 1750 dinars for a dollar, today it is 1150 for a dollar. No other subject is being discussed at the barber’s (yes Raed and I finally got a haircut). Last night during the late night news it said the dollar was selling for 1300, and today at 1150, tsk tsk tsk. The rise and rise of the Iraqi dinar. [Insert phallic or silly Viagra joke here].

Government employees being paid in dinar feel now that their money is worth much more. My Barber while snip-snapping at the little hair I have on my head; decided to stop the grumblers in his shop by announcing that there is nothing better than having a strong currency you are proud of “by Allah all those Iraqis working abroad should come back, now that working so hard abroad doesn’t pay off as much as it used to let them come work here in their country”….yep, I have a wise barber.

One thing is still bothering most people, traders who have imported their merchandise a month ago feel they have been given the [Khazooq*] and are refusing to re-price their goods according to the new price of the dinar, and more and more people ask to be paid in Iraqi dinar, more trust in the local currency. Very well done Iraqi National Bank.

The strange side effects this has had is the smuggling of huge amounts of Iraqi currency and heavier trading with the new dinar in the Arab world. Al-Sabah reported of two Kuwaitis trying to leave Iraq with a couple of hundred million new Iraqi dinars. Asharq Al-Awsat [the link is to the international edition, not the baghdad edition] published a picture of a car loaded with another couple of hundred million being taken out by a Pakistani. The Egyptian currency market has problems because of the volume of trade in the new Iraqi dinar.
Demand for the dinar has been boosted by a surge in currency smuggling which has seen hundreds of millions of dinars taken to Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt and the other Arab states, traders said.
"There is strong demand from neighbouring countries. They think the dinar is undervalued compared to the dollar and they expect the dinar to rise in the medium and long term," said Mohammad Hassan al-Jashmae, who runs a currency exchange firm.
my grandmother would have one thing to say; “wallah ishna u shufna” – by Allah we lived to see that happen.

*That's a pole stuck up the bum.
I have proof that there are people in Illinois, USA have a great sense of humor. I got the following email from Mr. M G, Subject: America
Dear Mr. Pax
The United States of America needs your assistance in restoring democracy here.


Turnout in primary elections is traditionally low, about 15%. Since Bush is unopposed, turnout in the Republican primary will be very low, possibly less than 0.1%

Lifelong Republicans such as myself are ashamed to participate in the Democratic primary because we are partly responsible for the current mess.

[here it comes]
You can help by offering yourself as a write-in candidate for the Republican Party nomination for President of the United States. It is very possible that your admirers in Illinois outnumber Bush voters in the primary. It would be a beautiful embarrassment to Mr. Bush for him to lose an unopposed election. This could add to the psychological momentum needed to defeat him in the general election on 2 November.

So please consider promoting your candidacy in your blog. Duty calls you.
Dear Sir
I would have loved to be a write-in candidate at your president's elections, but as you know we here in Iraq are getting closer and closer to having to vote for our own president and I really must concentrate on *my own campaign* here.
and remember, vote Pax for Prez.

As seen on the streets of Baghdad, start queuing up for those $60 per month jobs.
The picture I mentioned in the blog below.....readers have sent me links to it. Go take a look, it is the third picture down. I still think it smells fishy.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

After quite a long time without the picture of Saddam in newspapers he is back in all of them.
The number of newspapers is increasing day after day, when I went to buy newspapers a couple of days ago (most of the papers are weeklies or come out twice a week, cost concerns) I found two new ones. A paper called al-qasim al mushtarak (the common ground) and a cultural weekly called al-Adeeb (the literary). Almost all the papers, the ones which are purely local, have Saddam either on the cover or have supplements about Saddam. What triggered this Saddam coverage was the announcement that Saddam is to be considered POW.
Al-Itijah al-khar has this strange picture of saddam being tied down by an American soldier, and splashes on its front “Picture proves with pictures what we have said earlier: Saddam was drugged when arrested”, the picture is so obviously doctored I have no idea why someone like Mr. Mishaan al-Juburi puts something like that on the front of his paper. The paper says that the picture was leaked by the US government and this is a violation of the international laws and conventions concerning POWs. The paper says the its “source” says that because Saddam has been so reluctant to say anything in the US investigations the US investigators have been using “very modern and rare equipment which make him compliant to the demands of the investigators only during the hours he is being cross examined” – [oh dear, we are getting in twilight zone here] – and the paper says that Saddam did not want any visits by his daughters or wife because he feared that the US might put them in custody as well. [as if they have not been seen in Amman in shopping malls escorted by bodyguards and loaded with shopping bags]

On the same issue have you read this post on Juan Cole's blog:
The experts in international law quoted in most news sources on Saturday said that it would be illegal now for the US to simply turn Saddam over to the Iraqi Interim Governing Council!

The IGC is alarmed at this turn of events.
aren't we all.

The helicopter was so low it made the car rumble.
The number of people who have changed their names from Saddam to other names have reached 820. Almost daily you see in the official Iraqi newspaper announcements of people changing their names.
The city of Karbala is facing a real problem with the Iranian tourist, all land owners are kicking out their tenants in favor of Iranians renting rooms for much more than a doctor, pharmacist or a barber could pay. The governorate (maybe in the future, the independent state of Karbala) is trying to enforce a rule to stop those landlords form evicting trades.
More and more off-license shops are closing down. In the Ameriyah district where you used to find 7 shops in [Amal Shaabi] and [Munathama] streets now there are non. One shop has been attacked twice and the most recent attack was two weeks ago. A friend of ours who had a shop there has written in big letters on the shop “will never open again” just so that his shop doesn’t get RPG-ed *again*

Monday, January 12, 2004

Tried to get a better internet connection than the one I have, went to DijlaNet. Up six floors on foot only to be told that I have to pay a $2000 setup fee and $400 a month for a 46k/46k connection. right.
I think the dial up thing I have now is just super fine, don't you think so?
The only good thing about getting up that high is having a chance to get a picture of the baghdad skyline from Mansour. Yes I know the picture quality is bad, will start using a better camera.
click small to see big

That monster of a mosque on the right is the unfinished Rahman mosque, one of two gigantic mosques saddam intended to build, I kind of think it will stay in this state for quite a long time because it will need huge amounts of money to finish it. I would have had other ideas about that piece of land in that area, but let's not discuss that since it is a mosque now. it looks like a gigantic space ship. The needle like thing in the middle is the "saddam" tower beside the Mamoun telephone exchange, now a wreck. The dome on the left is the Salam Presidential Palace, also a wreck.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

I fought with her again, let’s hope I did leave too much mess and destruction to go back again this time..
pmpm ..
Our problems re-identify the meaning of deja vu

Jumping from one city to another, and from one country to another is not solving my problems anymore.

Word of the day: Privatizing
I remember myself giving a boring lecture about the socio-cultural changes in post-war Iraq, and since I’m such a bossy_ ego_ centric_ freak it didn’t bother me much to see most of the poor sleepy Italian kids moaning and begging for a break.
That was a couple of months ago. Or was it in October?
“I believe war had two main goals” Raed_in_Action “Destroying the political regime, and changing the economical system” go go go “Crushing the political structure is done, and changing the economical one is still in process” everybody say woooow
Everybody knew how stupid was the idea of inviting me to Italy, they sent me back to Baghdad on the next plain.

The first step in changing the socialist economical system was bombing some of the [public/governmental]-sector companies, and leaving the rest to be looted and burned in the weeks after. The second step of privatizing is happing at the time, started some weeks ago
but who can tell what’s happening?
No one.
Small companies and parts of the public sector are being sold, some governmental companies belonging to the ministry of industry, some furnaces, some warehouses and stores and some other small places that you can read advertisements about in our new daily newspapers.
but what else is being sold?
No one can tell.

Don’t I sound like a member of the conspiracy-theory-club?
I mean .. If you don’t give a heck about private and public crap, I’m sure many people here will care; Iraqis lived their life depending on the governmental sector, maybe they didn’t feel that .. mmm .. yet..

QUIZ OF THE DAY? (With multiple choice facilities)
How much money did an Iraqi spend to get each of the following:
1) (Free?) medical treatment, hospitals and pharmacies and drugs..
2) (Free?) food rations, food food food and food
3) (Free?) education, schools, universities including post-graduate studies..
4) (Free?) electricity, water, petrol, gasoline, loly-pops..

(A) nothing
(B) nothing
(C) nothing
(D) all mentioned above

Wow .. public sector rocks

ANOTHER QUIZ IN THE SAME DAY (its more a fun fact than a quiz, don’t panic)
How much money do Americanos spend every week when they change the security color code from yellow to orange?

(!) one BILLION USD / week

I don’t want to know how much they’ll spend on pink
Feel good .. real good

I met Jo yesterday, she was extremely hyper active and happy!
Unlike me
She was surrounded by a bunch of clowns whom were extremely happy too.
The strange thing that these clowns where real! I mean .. real real clowns as seen on TV, they are coming to Baghdad under the name “Circus to Iraq”. I think Iraqi children will freak out when they meet a clown with green nose and big red mouth.

How does it feel like when you know, admit and be happy of being a clown?
It seems I’ll have many questions to ask in the next press conference of the GC**.
(mmm .. am I “inflaming passions” against anyone?)
(If yes .. just put me in prison and let another Americana soldier kick me on sensitive places, or let Kilroy tell me more about life)
(bad taste as usual..)

** mmm .. to de-code numbers of the CG picture.. plz go there
(not recommended)

Thursday, January 08, 2004

You should all go read Zeyad's latest post NOW!
Go, what are you waiting for.
sometime between christmas and new year's I went for a walk in karrada and played a game with a tiny digital camera; a picture every 20 steps. some turned out bad and some ok.
click on small to see big.

sat-dishes in Karrada, you can get them in any color you want, bright fiery orange (as in my blogs) seems to be a hit. You have to assemble the thing yourself, manual not included

tiny plasic christmas trees

and a christmas market

Mr. Shoe Shine

not very exciting hotdogs

the attack of persian plastics
The Hearts and Minds article by Hassan Fattah, link provided by Gila, thanks a million.
if that link didn't work try this
Now go read that it is the best thing you can do in the next 15 minutes.

He also has a blog. He is in Jerusalem now.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Back in Baghdad. The boredom of the 12 hour drive from Amman to Baghdad was alleviated by a black BMW which kept following us for almost 40 minutes. Raed and I were on the verge of freaking but kept trying to act as if it wasn’t as nasty as it looked. Getting picked as a target for a carjacking from all the masses of cars going thru the Iraqi-Jordanian border should make you feel special I guess. It is like getting a winning lottery card from Hell.
Anyway; between driving as fast as we can away from our probable carjacker and trying to keep clear of all the military convoys we arrived safely in Baghdad.
My brother and cousin decided to take me out for dinner but since they were worried about going to a restaurant in Arasat (where Nabil’s was bombed) we went to a newly opened place in Mansur. If you are in Baghdad it is worth checking out, it is called al-Samad and really is nice. We sat there for 10 minutes when we heard shooting outside, very close, followed by a police car which stopped to close to the restaurant and a lot of people running in all directions. It was time to ask if we could have our meals to go.

The day we left to Amman was pretty strange; raed said that it felt like one of these special effects in movies when the actors are running just ahead of a huge explosion. He was supposed to pick me up at eight; he was at the other end of Baghdad. While he was driving thru Karrada a bomb explodes in front of the Rahibat Hospital and he gets stuck there for an hour. As we are driving out of my neighborhood we see an Iraqi car run over by and American humvee, the 4 humvee-convoy has blocked the road and the owner of the car stands beside his wrecked car and has his hands on top of his head. Not exactly a great start for a trip. The 30th of December didn’t look good and I wasn’t sure I really wanted to hang around for the 31st. As we were driving out of Baghdad there was another halted convoy, a military car lay on the road flipped on its back, soldiers stood around pointing their guns at passing cars. Do you see what raed was talking about, we just kept going faster.

Tomorrow the sixth is [the day of the army] a national holiday celebrating the formation of the Iraqi Army, funnily enough this holiday was abolished just a couple of months ago at the first press conference the Iraqi Governing Council gave.
But just as so many things that were done in haste and in the non-existence of a Plan they have brought it back. The ministry of defense was closed down, and everybody thrown out only to be brought back a couple of months later when they [ie CPA] realized that this wasn’t exactly a very clever move. The Mukhabarat was quickly put apart as one of worst instruments the Saddam regime had, and rightly so, only to be put back together first secretly and now not so secretly. The one thing I am still waiting to come back after being thrown out is the “road map” for and Iraqi constitution, but it seems that is ignored.

There is a great article in this month’s Prospect by Hassan Fattah [editor of Iraq Today]. It is called Hearts and Minds and in it he gives a ten point “bluffer’s guide for the reconstruction of the reconstruction of Iraq”. Absolutely brilliant. You should buy, steal or borrow a copy today.

Have you been noticing all the talk about Iraq as a federal country lately? Something made me itch every time I heard and Iraqi or CPA official talk about it, first I couldn’t figure out was bothering me, but during the long long drive to Amman I was finally able to put my finger on it. No one asked us what we thought of the idea.
I remember almost a month ago when Zibari (our minister for foreign affairs) talked about federalism and I thought “that’s nice we are starting the discussion finally”. I was wrong it was not a discussion; it was a done and made deal. It got so silly that Kurds and Arabs are having real trouble about the issue, the Kirkuk incident was . I can’t remember anyone asking me what I thought about the whole issue, neither was it put to debate openly. Someone high and mighty suddenly decided that is what’s good for you, and we are going thru the process of trying to fit into that prêt-a-porter federalism. “The Officials” are not discussing whether that system is good for us or not they are way beyond that point, they are discussing into how many pieces Iraq is going to be cut up. Along “ethnic” lines or by governorates.
Have I mentioned already that we were not asked?
Our new temporary head of state, Mr. Pachachi, promises the Kurds that they will get what they want. Which means that they will cut up Iraq into three parts and making sure that instead making sure we all here live together peacefully our ethnic and religious differences get even more accentuated. Yes I know identity is important but you see my father is Sunni, my mother Shia and our neighbors for years Kurds. There are no lines and none should exist, the situation in Kirkuk does create lines and make people choose sides. Although I find the idea of an independent state of Baghdad or Samaweh or Basra a bit funny; it is all one Iraq for me, but I think if we were force fed this federalism without being asked I hope they won’t go for a federal state consisting of Kurdistan in the north, Sunni-stan in the middle and Shia-stan in the south.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Hope you all had a great new year with as few bangs as possible, as you all know ours was quite loud. I am not in Baghdad again, and my mom tells me that new year's eve was like war because of all the explosions.


announcement number two: concerning Faiza's blogs, would you guys please give me a break. she writes too much and too fast and I am supposed to translate all, she has 4 untranslated blogs and she called me today saying there are 8 more waiting to be posted and translated. please have mercy. and some patience