Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Now is the time to panic. Electricity shortages in Baghdad mean that beer is not reaching the market.

Beer has many fine qualities but, to the great disappointment of the brewers of Baghdad, it cannot bottle itself. So the men over at the Shahrazad Brewery here have been standing guard over 30 metal cylinders holding 4,500 liters of beer, minus that which they have consumed themselves since the start of the war.

"We are proud of our beer," said Yousif Gadin, a 25-year employee of the brewery, who backed up his claim by taking a morning slug from a small plastic pitcher and smiling a foam mustache. "We would like for people to be able to drink it again."

Heh. I like this explanation offered by an electrician at the brewery to explain the seeming inconsistency in the Sharia proscription on alcohol with the consumption by Muslims in Iraq.

"We pray, we drink."

< email | 5/03/2003 07:31:00 PM | link

Friday, May 02, 2003

Poor Baghdad Bob. Forced to stand in front of the press all those days and tell the most outrageous lies imaginable and now the US thinks he is too insignificant to bother arresting.

However, the colorful ex-Iraqi spokesman apparently is wanted by someone: He has a job offer to appear on television. The BBC, ABC and NBC's "Today" show have said in recent days that Sahaf hasn't drawn the interest of U.S. forces because he isn't on their deck of cards of 55 wanted officials.

The BBC reported on April 30 that a London-based Arabic newspaper said the Americans have refused to arrest Sahaf even though they have him under surveillance.

An Iraqi Kurdish official told the newspaper that Sahaf was staying at his aunt's house in Baghdad, and he was still trying to negotiate his arrest.

< email | 5/02/2003 03:40:00 PM | link

Shia leaders in Najaf are rejecting Iranian influence.

"Our relations with Iran will be like with any neighboring country," said Sheik Adel Najm al-Saedi, Manwan's husband. "Of course the special bond of Shiites will connect us. But that is all."

"Times have changed," said 35-year-old Jalil Jawad Fatlawi, preaching at Sheik al-Ansari Mosque. "There's too much politics here. A lot of parties have come here from the outside, including Iran and the West.

< email | 5/02/2003 02:46:00 PM | link

The Franco/German (And let's not forget. For those who mocked the US alliance as being made up of insignificant countries. This little Summit included the Belgians and Luxembourgians) aspirations for an independent military force to 'counter-balance' American military might takes its first major blow.

Germany's public finance watchdog believes the planned Airbus A400M European military transport plane is too costly and Berlin should cut further its already reduced order for 60 units, Die Welt newspaper said on Friday.

The newspaper also said the Federal Court of Auditors believed Germany should postpone an order for Eurofighter aircraft and ground its current fleet of ageing military Transall transporters in order to save money to pay for the Airbus order.

< email | 5/02/2003 02:38:00 PM | link

Such a nuanced grand diplomat.

When leaders from Germany, France, Belgium, and Luxembourg met on Tuesday for a mini-summit in Brussels on joint EU defence, one centrally placed source (who spoke on condition of anonymity) said the topic of Fogh's documentary debacle came up during lunch.

According to the source, French President Jacques Chirac called the Danish Prime Minister a "crétin"—an idiot.

< email | 5/02/2003 01:59:00 PM | link

Wait just a minute there.

Per Stig Møller [FM of Denmark] said that the the Palestinians' appointment of Abbas as government leader, and the sharp tempering of Yasser Arafat's powers, represented a key concession to the Israelis.

‘The Palestinians have delivered the goods. Now we'll have to see if Sharon can show some results,’ said Møller.

The Foreign Minister explained that there were rich possibilities for Israel to show its will for peace. The country could halt settlements in the occupied areas, and open its borders to give Palestinians better opportunities for work. Israel could also approve more money for support to the Palestinian treasury.

The approval and appointment prove nothing. He calls for concrete concessions from Israel while we still only have words and promises from the Palestinians. That is not the way this is to work. Abu Mazen must prove he is more than a title and that his cabinet is loyal to him and not to Arafat. On paper Arafat's power has been diminished but I will believe it when we see evidence of it. When terrorists are arrested and tried and truly jailed, when terrorist groups are disarmed, the PA Charter amended and the language in the media in schools begins to change we will know that the Palestinians have chosen the path of peace. Just making some gestures in an unelected Parliament mean very little at this point.

Al Aqsa and Hamas claimed responsibility for the recent attacks. Let's see Abu Mazen act and we will know that reform is possible. To call for Israel to start making concrete concessions before that is very premature.

< email | 5/02/2003 11:43:00 AM | link

Sounds like some attempted misdirection to me.

A senior Iranian cleric on Friday denounced as 'false' US claims that it respected human rights in Iraq and sought to establish democracy in that country as he called on Iraqis to determine their fate by following clerics and maintaining their unity.

"America is making fun of all such issues as democracy and human rights," Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati told thousands of worshipers to the
chants of 'Death to America' at weekly Friday prayers here.

"America is committed to none of UN resolutions nor democracy,"
the cleric said and denounced Washington for acting as if it were the
'custodian' of the Iraqi people.

He called Iraq and Palestine as 'the most important issues of the
Islamic world' and reminded Islamic states of the founder of the
Islamic Revolution late Imam Khomeini's warning that they 'resist
America and Israel'.

"Forget about the oppession we visit on you every day" he shouted. "Think instead of the poor Iraqis. Voting on people who will lead them. Leaders who will not be under the lash of an unelected theocractic few. And who will have a free press. And the freedom to move about in their daily lives and associate with whom they please. Forget that you will be beaten and jailed for even thinking of having those things in Iran. Death to America and Israel."

The ruling ayatollahs are getting worried that the people of Iran might be getting some naughty ideas while looking at the cheering masses of Iraqis and the meetings to discuss a new and better future.

< email | 5/02/2003 10:59:00 AM | link

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Another $200,000,000 in cash found in Baghdad yesterday.

< email | 5/01/2003 11:38:00 AM | link

It is to laugh.

Eager to help rebuild Iraq, France has sent a diplomat to Baghdad despite U.S. resistance to a prominent French role, the foreign minister said Wednesday.

"France wants to be present at the side of the Iraqi people," Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said.

He added that Paris wanted to take the initiative under the supervision of the United Nations but was moving ahead to lay the groundwork.

"In this spirit, a French diplomat has been in Baghdad since Monday to evaluate the means of resuming our activities and restarting our cooperation," de Villepin said. He did not identify the diplomat.

Read: We realize that all our tittering at the UN has done absolutely nothing and while we obfuscate events continue to move. Well, this won't stand, we want our money...I mean we want to 'help' the Iraqis. Just like we helped Saddam...Did I say that part out loud?

I hope said diplomat has a hard-ass. I have a feeling he will be kept waiting a long time while the new leaders of Iraq meet with those who have offered help without the whole supporting Saddam on the side deal.

< email | 5/01/2003 11:27:00 AM | link

Another country offers to help with post-war Iraq, no mention of UN involvement.

Georgia will send its police units to Baghdad to help establish law and order there. The statement to this effect was made on Thursday by Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States to Georgia Richard Miles. Apart from that, the ambassador pointed out that Washington would make it possible for Georgian engineers to take part in Iraq's post-war reconstruction.

It will be recalled that Georgia fully supported the US' military action against Iraq. The American ambassador's recommendations will therefore most likely be met.

But, I thought Iraq cannot be rebuilt without the UN. Yet while at the UN we've had nothing but bickering, talk and intransigence from France and Russia and others dozens of nations have offered help straight to Iraq or through the US, Britain or Australia. Every day the UN huffs and puffs about how indispensible it is we get evidence that this may not be the case.

< email | 5/01/2003 11:24:00 AM | link

Muhammad al-Duri, the former Iraqi Ambassador to the UN, lands a new job.

Iraq's former ambassador to the United Nations, Muhammad Al-Duri has become the anchor of a political programme on the Al-Arabiya television channel. As the statement of the channel's management says, Muhammad Al-Duri's programe will be called "The Political and Legislative Prospects for Iraq's Future." Al-Duri is a Doctor of Political Science, the former Dean at the Law School of Baghdad University. He used to occupy senior foreign political positions.

This is the same station trying to find Sahhaf to offer him a job.

< email | 5/01/2003 11:19:00 AM | link

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Nice story about the Marines and an Elementary school.

A surprise today at Dadeville Elementary School came in the form of an American flag. Not just any old flag, but one from the front lines in Iraq, one graced with the signatures of a 20 year old Marine and his fellow comrades.

"It's says to all the kids at Dadeville Elementary, thank you for thinking of us," says Linda Hardin as she read a brief note from her marine son. Hardin drove nearly 5 hours from her home in Panama City Beach, Florida, to make this special delivery for her son, which also included a personal message.

"I hope you'll be proud of this flag as were all proud of your letters," says Hardin.

His name is George Toomer. Lance Corporal Toomer isn't much of a writer, according to his mom, but he wanted to something for the children. After all, more than 800 wrote letters to the Marines back in March, offering their support and prayers.

"You're so proud. I would've never thought my son would do something like this," Hardin says.

"It was really cool," says Kaylie Coenen.

The 11-year old 5th grader couldn't be more pleased. She wrote a letter and a Marine from New Jersey wrote back. Kaylie read part of it to us and it said, "I'm writing on the behalf of the Marines to thank you for your support," says Coenen.

Coenen plans to put her letter in a frame in her room at home.

"It's important to me because this is my first letter from a marine," she says.

How unlike the elementary school story out of Maine a few months ago where teachers were belittling childen of parents who were in the military.

< email | 4/30/2003 09:25:00 PM | link

Heh. A local family took it upon themselves to protect the Japanese (who supported the war) Embassy from looters.

"We did it because we thought looters would target the building if they realized it was the Japanese Embassy," Monasal said. "A national flag is the most precious symbol for a people. I thought everybody would feel terrible if it were burned or stolen," he said as he carefully unfurled the flag, which was covered with dust and soot.

Looters apparently came by the embassy on many occasions. When they did, Monasal and his 22-year-old son would grab their Kalashnikov rifles and rush upstairs to the second floor of their home to fight off the intruders.

"There were times when the looters returned fire, but we desperately tried to protect the embassy," Monasal said.

Although looters eventually made off with four personal computers and an air conditioner, "the fact that only a few items were lost during such turbulent times is due to the efforts of Monasal and his family," an Iraqi Embassy official said.

"I've lived here for 15 years, and the embassy is an esteemed neighbor," said Monasal. "It's the duty of each Iraqi to protect neighbors. My family is very fond of Japanese people because they are so friendly."

I didn't notice any Iraqi tears shed over the looting and gutting of the French and German embassies.

< email | 4/30/2003 02:46:00 PM | link

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

So after reading Kristof's column today I couldn't help but think of the Simpsons when Homer and Bart become Grifters. In the final scene in the court where Willy has the gun and everything is going to h3ll Bart keeps telling Homer to just come out and say the truth but Homer keeps saying Just wait, I want to see how this is going to play out. In his column Kristof admits that 'negotiations' (i.e. buying off N Korea) is an utter failure but rather than take the path unknown he would rather hide under the table and keep waiting and watching while N Korea builds nukes and as once they feel fully nuclear capable and start moving units across the DMZ Kristoff would still be waiting to see how it was going to 'play out'.

It seems he can only see two paths. Appeasement or War. Maybe the N Koreans can't be pressured into real changes but we don't know that because nobody has ever tried. We've never gotten Russia and China on board with a real effort to put pressure on Kim so how can Kristof know that at the end of that path lay only war? It may but, appeasement cannot go on forever either. Or maybe Kristof just assumes that the nuclear weapons that we will just pretend are not there are just going to be used as paper-weights and that none of their research and capabilities will not be auctioned off to groups that will use them to harm us, so it won't turn out bad if we just play along with Kim.

< email | 4/29/2003 01:26:00 PM | link

That will make a strong statement. Powell will be going to Jerusalem and Ramallah as part of his upcoming trip to the Middle East. He will be meeting with Abu Mazen but not, apparently, Arafat. This would be a tremendous slap to Arafat and a big endorsement for Mazen.

< email | 4/29/2003 12:45:00 PM | link

Give it up for the State of Hawaii.

-- All of the former prisoners of war from the latest conflict with Iraq are being invited to Hawaii.

Gov. Linda Lingle said that the offer to Pfc Jessica Lynch, who was freed in a dramatic rescue, is now being extended to seven other former POWs.

Lynch was badly wounded in a firefight with Iraqi forces and is still in an Army hospital. Lingle said her state is a great place to rejuvenate and heal.

The POWs and their immediate families will be hosted to an all-expenses-paid visit to Maui. Officials are still working out the details.

< email | 4/29/2003 12:36:00 PM | link

It seems to me Kofi is playing a dangerous game of Chicken with Bush over Iraq. He is refusing to send any UN officials to the meeting on the formation of a new government. He claims that since the UN doesn't know its role in post-war Iraq yet he cannot send somebody. He also thinks that sending someone it would lend 'legitimacy' to the Coalition's overthrow of Saddam.

Annan is placing al his eggs in the Security Council (read France and Russia) basket.

"The Security Council is discussing the U.N. role in Iraq," he said. "I'll be meeting with them this week, and I hope we will be able to make progress in the not-too-distant future."

This is dangerous because if France and Russia prove to be as vindictive and obstructive (is that a word?) as they have up until now George Bush will take the ball away from them and get on to the task of making Iraq a better place without them. They have already proven themselves losers in the Council and Annan is placing all his bets on them and not hedging by meeting the US even part of the way on this. If he (and the French and Russians) truly wants all or nothing, he will get nothing, I am willing to bet.

< email | 4/29/2003 12:34:00 PM | link

Al Qaeda and blood diamonds. Why am I not surprised to see Jesse Jackson's good frind CharlesTaylor implicated?

After the 1998 bombing of the US embassies in those countries, Global Witness said, three other al-Qaeda operatives gained access to the illicit diamond trade in Sierra Leone, then controlled by the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front in that country.

"The report shows how the corrupt regime of President Charles Taylor of Liberia facilitated access for al-Qaeda operatives into Sierra Leone and Liberia in exchange for diamonds and weapons," Global Witness said.

"It also presents evidence to show how al-Qaeda took advantage of the same illicit diamond trading structures being utilised by Lebanese terror group Hezbullah."

< email | 4/29/2003 12:15:00 PM | link

Abbas may yet prove to be the right man. I have my doubts but even Sharon has indicated that he thinks Abbas is a man that Israel can work with. He was very unafraid todday.

We denounce terrorism by any party and in all its forms... because we are convinced that such methods do not lend support to a just cause like ours, but rather destroy it."

Hamas has already rejected the call for turning in illlegal arms. I hope he has some very reliable security people.

< email | 4/29/2003 12:11:00 PM | link

You don't say? "Russia and France to Collaborate More Closely in Area of Defense" If there is one thing the French are great at, apparently, it is collaboration.

< email | 4/29/2003 11:18:00 AM | link

It's nice that the firefighters in Glasgow want to help out poorer countries like Cuba but, wouldn't it be better to convince el Jefe to give up some of his personal billions for the needy Havana fire-department?

< email | 4/29/2003 11:11:00 AM | link

2012 Summer Olympics in Havana. Hey, if it was up to the UN Human Right Comission the Summer Olympics would be in Havana and the Winter Olympics would be in Pyongyang.

< email | 4/29/2003 11:09:00 AM | link

How single minded are the Chinese authorities when it comes to Taiwan?

The Chinese Government is worried that Papua New Guinea has given a form of recognition to Taiwan.

The Chinese Embassy in Port Moresby has expressed its grave concern.

It has strong objections to the issue of three consular corps number plates for the Taiwan Trade Mission's vehicles.

Embassy officials say Taiwan is not eligible for consular corps vehicle plates.

It says the move violates the 'One China' policy pursued by the PNG Government,

The embassy says the Taiwan Trade Mission in Port Moresby is an unofficial organisation.

< email | 4/29/2003 11:01:00 AM | link

Ariana is getting itself back together.

Ariana is slowly rebuilding, but it will be a long haul, not just to rebuild the fleet but to counter perceptions about an airline dubbed "Scariana" by detractors and aficionados alike and not famous for its timekeeping.

Speaking at his office in Kabul's bomb and bullet-scarred Ministry of Transportation, airline President Khalil Ahmad Najmyar says question marks about safety were unwarranted.

He points out that Ariana has not suffered an accident since he returned last year from 23 years exile in the United States to take control of an airline with just one remaining plane.

The fleet has now been built up to seven -- three Airbus 300 B4s, three Boeing 727s and a single Soviet-built Antonov-24 turboprop.

The aircraft may be aging -- the newest are the Airbuses, donated by India and built 21 years ago, while the others are of 1977 vintage.

But Najmyar says they are thoroughly maintained through contracts signed with industry-standard international firms.

He dismissed questions about safety, pointing to Ariana's successful service to Haj pilgrims late last year.

"It's not fair and the reason it's not fair is that we transported 26,000 hajji (pilgrims) from Kabul and other Afghan cities to Jeddah and brought them back and we had no problem."

Ariana now flies to six countries -- Iran, Pakistan, India, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Germany -- and has signed pacts to expand its service to China and Azerbaijan. It plans routes to Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

< email | 4/29/2003 10:50:00 AM | link

In the 'how great is our military' category.

US soldiers at the Bulgarian air base Sarafovo donated foods and learning matters worth USD 2,000 to children from a nearby orphanage. After the end of the Iraq war, the US forces based in Bulgaria continue to pull out of the country. On Wednesday, the next group of US combaters will be moved from Sarafovo to the Rammstein base in Germany.

< email | 4/29/2003 10:39:00 AM | link

They're getting the Whiskey and the Sexy, now they've got t get to work on the Democrcay.

When the Atlas Cinema last showed "Blue Chill," people screamed: "Yes! Yes!" every time the actors began kissing, only to see the scratched reel jump to the next scene. Yesterday, they sat in awed silence as naked couples writhed on screen.

"The movie is much more beautiful now because there's sex," said a beaming Mohammed Taher, 18. Since Saturday, when the theater reopened with a freshly uncensored version of the low-budget flick, he has seen "Blue Chill" three times.

Baghdad has gone through a revolution in the past three weeks, casting off decades of censorship and state control. Banned books, satellite dishes and video CDs are now sold on the street - as are alcohol and women.

"Before, everything was forbidden except the air," said retiree Mohammed Jabbar. "Now, we don't have electricity, we don't have water, but we are free."

< email | 4/29/2003 10:35:00 AM | link

Russia still thinks they should get repaid for all the money Saddam owed them.

Iraq's debts to Russia should be respected and recognized, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told journalists on Tuesday.

"Iraq was a UN member. This country was recognized by the international community. We did not extend loans to any amorphous regime," Kasyanov said.

"Another issue is that this regime lost its relevancy at a certain period of time," the prime minister said.

He underscored the need to wait until a new government is formed in Iraq and until the international community gives consideration to the country's problems. "We will try to protect our interests," Kasyanov said.

The prime minister believes that the Paris Club of creditor nations should be authorized to restructure Iraq's debts.

He believes that some countries may agree to a partial write-off, while some others may write off Iraqi debts altogether.

< email | 4/29/2003 10:21:00 AM | link

Monday, April 28, 2003

Here is something to chew on. I just found it so haven't had a chance to read it all yet. But it is an article by Khaled Abou el Fadl, who may be one of the greatest Islamic Law scholars in the world. Mostly because he is a true moderate hwo must defend his position against all comers. Anyway it is titled Islam and the Challenge of Democracy. Read and discuss.

< email | 4/28/2003 08:51:00 PM | link

The Special Forces stories are starting to be told.

U.S. Special Forces soldiers worked secretly with Iraqis in a Baghdad suburb for months before the war began, military officials disclosed on Monday.

Soldiers from the 5th Special Forces Group entered Abu Ghurayb, on the western outskirts of the Iraqi capital, and developed a rapport with the town's elders before the war, U.S. Central Command said.

Abu Ghurayb is just north of the airport once called Saddam International, the first objective in the Baghdad area seized by U.S. troops April 4. From there Army forces drove into the heart of Baghdad on April 6, marking the beginning of the end of Saddam Hussein's rule.

In a news release from Baghdad, Central Command officials described the role of the 5th Special Forces Group in helping the people of Abu Ghurayb elect a city council last week, which Central Command said was the first free election in recent Iraqi history.

"Soldiers from the 5th Special Forces Group who have been working with the townspeople for over eight months helped them with the elections," the statement said without elaborating on the timeline.

"It helped considerably that Special Forces soldiers had been in the area before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom," the statement said, quoting the Special Forces team leader, identified only as Capt. Mike. Operation Iraqi Freedom is the Pentagon's name for the Iraq war.

The statement said the Special Forces soldiers "developed a rapport with the townspeople before being accepted by the town's elders. As the relationship between the Iraqis and the Americans developed, the Special Forces team helped them set up an election without American influence."

"We were sent here to help win the hearts and minds of the people," Capt. Mike was quoted as saying. "We were sincere, and they responded to us. As time passed, they realized we were here to help."

< email | 4/28/2003 04:14:00 PM | link


The Monde, a satirical take-off on the daily Le Monde and a French-basher's fantasy come true, hit newsstands around France over the weekend with wacky tales of chaos amid a fictitious invasion that echoes the real war just waged in Iraq.

"American, British and Monaco forces land in France," the front-page headline screams. "Chirac calls for resistance and disappears ... Pro-American uprising on Left Bank in Paris."

Among the 16 pages of reports are some on American troops seizing the Louvre museum, mistaking it for the nearby City Hall, while Kurds proclaim an autonomous state in eastern Paris.

According to The Monde, President George W. Bush dubbed the operation "Big Spanking", much to the delight of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but Secretary of State Colin Powell blocked its use out of concern for world reaction.

< email | 4/28/2003 03:26:00 PM | link

There's a good joke here. I just can't think of it.

The French defence minister Michèle Alliot-Marie stated last Friday (25 April), in Moscow, that Russia should be involved in European defence plans.

The French Minister spoke about a new military co-operation to be built up between Russia and France in the aftermath of the Iraq war.

And where are the wails about this?

He also said they discussed Russian proposals for a European-wide anti-missile defence system. Russia came up with the proposals after the United States, in 2002, announced that it was formally withdrawing from the 1972 Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty.

< email | 4/28/2003 03:23:00 PM | link

The Marines have been defeated by Iraqis....in soccer.

< email | 4/28/2003 03:18:00 PM | link

Nifty. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International has a round-up of unmanned vehicles used in the Iraq war.

< email | 4/28/2003 02:05:00 PM | link

More on what life was like under Saddam.

In 1974, Oshana, then a wiry 20-year-old kid preparing to go to law school, was accused of passing military secrets to the Kurds. He said he was innocent and believes he was arrested for being a minority -- one of about a half-million Christians in Iraq.

His story, he said, is indicative of an inhumane regime gripped with paranoia.

In prison, Oshana met a lawyer who was arrested because a Kurd parked 200 yards from his house. Another prisoner was a studio photographer locked away for allowing a Kurd to sit for a portrait.

To extract guilty pleas, Baath party officers pulled off prisoners' fingernails with pliers, spun them around on ceiling fans, burned their bodies with cigarettes and hot irons and smashed their feet on a feared torture tool called the Falaka.

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch estimate that Saddam's regime killed hundreds of thousands of political prisoners, if not millions. Oshana said the interrogators killed prisoners every day at the Mosul prison, where he was tortured for almost a month. Some were fed to Odai Hussein's prized lions, others were dropped in pools of acid. One of Oshana's prison friends -- a 22-year-old sugar factory worker -- had his testicles smashed against a broken beer bottle. That man died 11 days later.

Prior to Saddam's hasty retreat from office, Oshana did not talk about these experiences outside of his small circle of friends. He had escaped his execution, then a life sentence in prison, and finally Iraq. And he would not sacrifice any of that for a chance to speak.

"I don't fear the regime now," he said.

What does Oshana think of America?

There are no plans to return to Iraq, where three of his 11 siblings still live.

"The way I was tortured, the way I was treated, I don't ever want to visit. (The United States) is my country," he said. "This is the country who made me somebody."

< email | 4/28/2003 02:01:00 PM | link

Interesting. Apparently a number of Iraqis didn't know about the gassing of Halabja.

Nafeh Mohammed Saleh, 42, and his brother Adel, 40, were soldiers in the Iraqi army during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Adel was serving in Panjwin, in northern Iraq, close to Halabja.

"We heard there had been a chemical attack, but we didn't know where - in the north or the south or the central sector," Adel said.

Nafeh said he had seen a video of the dead that his Kurdish friends had shown him, with children and women lying dead in the streets.

"But I don't know if it was a genuine film," Nafeh said, fingering his worry beads. "People talked, but we didn't hear it from anyone who had seen it himself. We still have our doubts."

He added: "I heard they bombed Halabja because they wanted to get the Iranians out. I heard they had bombed them with crushed stones - not chemicals."

< email | 4/28/2003 12:39:00 PM | link

News agencies in totalitarian states are funny. IRNA, Iran's news agency, is reporting that 40 Hollywood celebrities have been 'blacklisted'. Their source? Celiberal. Obviously the people who made the site have absolutey no direct power to deny work to those 40 celebrities but to news-people in a place where having a personal website gets you thrown in jail, I guess it must seem very serious indeed for a website (which obviously must be government approved or would they not be in jail already?) to print such a list. And they say Americans don't understand the rest of the world and can't see nuance?

< email | 4/28/2003 12:34:00 PM | link

When our own entertainers and writters decide to open their minds they can find out about supressing speech from these folks.

More than 50 celebrated writers and thinkers came together to elect a committee to make contact with others across Iraq.

They gathered at a small building that used to house the official writers' union and has now been renamed the Union of Free Writers and Thinkers.

"We are here to revive the writing and the poetry that was banned by the regime," said playwright Aziz Abdul Sahib.

He said writers who praised Saddam were treated well but the Baath party was "always watching" those who did not.

"There were always security members at my plays and sometimes [the plays] were not allowed," said Sahib.

Poet Imad Kadhum spoke of going underground and relying on his wife to support them for seven years after running away from compulsory military service.

"All the writers here refused Saddam Hussein and many were in trouble if we did not praise Saddam in our poetry or stories," he said.

"We never accepted that we were criminals. If our work was disliked by Saddam or [eldest son] Uday, then we would be placed in jail."

Kadhum added: "A lot of [writers] may have been killed, and to this day we don't know what has happened to them."

< email | 4/28/2003 12:02:00 PM | link

I like this quote from the Dutch Prime Minister in response to the French/German/Belgian/Luxembourgian meeting to discuss a Eu military 'counter-weight' to America.

"Belgium and France will not guarantee our security," Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said recently. "Germany will not guarantee the security of the Netherlands. I cannot imagine a world order built against the United States."

I'll even give them some free advice.

The half-day meeting is expected to focus on plans to better coordinate defense spending, acquisition of high-tech equipment sorely lacking in European armies and modernization of forces to give Europe a sharper military edge.

It can all be accomplished by military spending. And if you try to tax the rest of Europe to do it they may not much like it if you plan on making it into your private Club of Four army where Eastern Europe knows when to be silent (i.e. when receiveing orders from Chirac). And Chris Patten's wishful thinking, that the US is going to pay for this force, that you will use to 'counter-balance' (taking the place of the Soviet Union) American military power, is not going to happen.

< email | 4/28/2003 11:27:00 AM | link

A Major from the 489th Civil Affairs Batallion that spent 9 months in Afghanistan, helping to rebuild, give some thoughts on what needs done in Iraq.

"We were a part of what was known as the Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force," he said. "We did everything from keeping civilians away from the battle to setting up refugee camps to providing aid and reconstruction after the conflict to assessing local areas and infrastructure and giving advice to the battlefield commanders."

Williams' experience in Afghanistan gives him insight on what must be done to rebuild Iraq after 23 years under the iron fist of Saddam Hussein. He predicts Civil Affairs forces will have an easier time than he did in Afghanistan.

"Iraq has much stronger infrastructure than Afghanistan, between the Soviet invasion and their own civil war after that and the Taliban taking over, the devastation was (bad)," he said. "Konduz was a good-size city - it would be kind of like what Gadsden is to Alabama - but the road getting to it was so bad that it was considered so remote.

"There was no electricity, no running water, it was like living in the Old West. We had as many camels and horses and mules and everything else running up and down the street as we did automobiles.

"But in Iraq, from all appearances, they have a much stronger infrastructure, and the bombing, of course has been pinpoint, so we have really minimized the collateral damage.

"I think we're going to see the biggest task in Iraq is reinstituting a government."

"I favor exactly the plan President Bush has proposed," Williams said. "I believe there is a significant role for the U.N. to play, because they can help to gather some of the international aid, but in terms of establishing the plans and putting the plans into effect and monitoring the plans, I think the coalition that went in and did the dirty work now should be allowed the opportunity to bring smiles where there haven't been smiles.

"If we're going to be the ones to wipe off the dirt, we need to be the ones to see the shine underneath, and not give it to someone else. I doubt seriously this will be another Bosnia," Williams said in reference to the protracted, expensive rebuilding effort after the Bosnian civil war.

"I think that, long term, the international community will likely take over, and I think that's good."

Williams and his battalion served as a liaison between the United States and the new Afghan government after U.S. forces ousted the ruling Taliban. They often met with local warlord, Gen. Muhammad Daoud, and civilian governor Aamer Latif.

"I was the U.S. military link to their government, and then my team was also in charge of developing what we called high-impact projects, things that have an immediate impact on the civilian populace," he said. "Using U.S. dollars, we contracted local labor to build, I think while I was there, eight schools, we dug 14 wells, we built two women's centers and we also started a number of other building projects that weren't schools.

"The best part about using the local labor was we not only built the projects, but we were able to employ hundreds of local artisans who didn't have work prior to that. And we also assisted Special Forces in looking for al-Qaida and the Taliban, although I've got to say that was not our first priority."

The soldiers also worked on winning the hearts of the people of Konduz. They saw the liberation of women and children, who had been second-class citizens under the Taliban.

"We made it a point, the first three projects that were done in our area were two girls' schools, because the girls and boys don't go to school together there, and a women's center. At that point, we hung the moon."

< email | 4/28/2003 10:57:00 AM | link

Isn't Mugabe swell?

The Zimbabwean government has refused burial for a Zimbabwean soldier shot dead while fighting with the British army in Iraq.

Christopher Muzvuru, 21, served as a private in the Irish Guards, after joining the British army in 2001. He died this month in combat in Basra.

He was vilified and branded"a mercenary", "a buffalo soldier" and "a sellout" by President Robert Mugabe's regime, while the Daily Mirror said he should be buried in Britain, "the country he chose to die for".

< email | 4/28/2003 10:41:00 AM | link

<< Designed by Ryon

Western Civilization and Democracy Net Ring

The Western Civilization and Democracy Net Ring celebrates Western civilization and its universal values of individual freedom, political democracy and equal rights for all. All sites promoting human rights and democracy are welcome.

[Prev Site] [Stats] [Random] [Next 5 Sites] [List Sites] [Next Site]