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 prĂȘt-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.