Empty Days

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Bush, the hydra, and Powell

I've been saying Bush is not the ruler of his kingdom - there is a hydra with many heads behind him that actually controls the whole thing. While I really don't know enough to substantiate this hunch, here is an article that does it for me:
Powell felt Cheney and his allies -- his chief aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz and undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith and what Powell called Feith's "Gestapo" office -- had established what amounted to a separate government. The vice president, for his part, believed Powell was mainly concerned with his own popularity and told friends at a private dinner he hosted a year ago to celebrate the outcome of the war that Powell was a problem and "always had major reservations about what we were trying to do."
It's from Woodward's new tell-it-all book - apparently we only ever learn about internal dealings of a gov from that sort of books.

The whole article is properly fascinating in that gossipy kind of way.

And come to think of it: wouldn't it be great to have Colin Powell for US president? He's got soul, he's got brains, he's served in the forces, and he's got experience with being an underdog minority since he's black. He'd make a good wise king, Solomon-like - except that he's got none of those moneyed elites to stand by him and back him up. Instead USA have a moron for a Commander in Chief - bet they're happy he's white.

Friday, April 16, 2004

US mil wants its own tv in Iraq

Yeah, and they think that will compete with Al-Jazeera. Already after the invasion, when the US took over Iraq state tv and started to broadcast their very own vision of things, it didn't really stand up to those proliferating satellite dishes broadcasting native Arab networks. What do you expect - it's not like the military is such a great show, especially an occupying military.

And what about Al-Hurray! (actually, it's Al-Hurra) - arabic US satellite tv beaming from West Virginia or something like that? Gov sponsored-funded, claiming to be "balanced and independent". I don't hear it swaying minds very much out there.

But anyway. Let the americans find out for themselves that things require more than just equipment and good intentions. In US they had Air America trying to stand up to the right-wing talk-radio - and going off the air in a flash. It wasn't such a bad idea - the problem is that it never had a real market nor a real message to hook up to. Same prospect for all these naive US Marine efforts at imposing their ideas on a population that finds them less than credible and probably pretty ridiculous in their lack of clues.

If the Marines can get these moribund stations back on the air, the coverage area would include Fallujah and Ramadi. The VHF/ UHF stations are owned as cooperatives by TV-competent Iraqis already vetted by the Army. Some broadcast Al-Jazeera for lack of other content. In return for the upgrades, the Iraqi operators would be asked two things: Criticism is fine, but don't run anti-coalition propaganda; and let the Marines buy air time to broadcast public-service announcements, such as the reopening of schools or clinics--or indeed, pending military operations.

Here's the message - we bomb you but we love you, you terrorists, you.
Right :-0

[ Retraction: I am told Air America is doing good and expanding, despite some financial disputes - wrong example then. And good luck to the Marines after all - maybe they'll score a big hit with their local tv, showing Sesame Street in arabic or something :) ]

Missing limbs is a piece of cake

Yet another example of propaganda served as a "human cost" war story - how about those GIs who are not dead yet pretty much maimed for life?

But of course they're very cheerful and dont mind at all. Oh boy. Some don't, some do. How about profiling both? Not that you can expect that to ever happen in US media (plain suffering is too defeatist, you see).

[ Retraction: just saw some report on ABCnews about vet amputees - not fun being maimed. Sure puts things into perspective. ]

Trivial pursuits. Here is a really good idea:
LONDON (Reuters) - A cyclist who slashed almost 2,000 tyres after a driver drenched him when driving through a puddle has been jailed for 16 months.

Ashley Carpenter, 37, used a sharpened screwdriver to puncture the tyres of 548 parked cars, lorries and vans over a 10-day period in revenge for the "inconsiderate manner" of motorists.
I know it's really hard to do with a knife these days, what with the metal-hardened tyres and all. And I still need to punish that idiot who punctured my bike's tyres last summer - don't imagine it'd be unfair and unchristian, hein?

Iraq - good news

While the situation on the ground remains unclear and chaotic, in the stratosphere of high-power politics things have been moving in the right direction. Rumsfield has been humbled into admitting original mistake and shutting his big stupid mouth - while his arrogance was publicly exposed, and now the UN envoy in Iraq, Brahimi, has proposed a new plan for transitional government, which includes dissolving the current Governing Counsel - something people were clamoring for a long time now. As soon as Rumsfield's influenced was thwarted by real events, look what happened:
In addition, Ms. Rice's chief deputy for Iraq, Robert Blackwill, has been working side by side with Mr. Brahimi in Iraq to come up with the plan proposed on Wednesday, several officials noted. The surge of violence in Iraq in recent weeks effectively forced President Bush's hand, administration officials said. They acknowledge that any new plan had to be proposed by the United Nations and bear no obvious stamp of American influence.

American, European and United Nations diplomats all said that the Brahimi plan would probably give the United Nations a major role, and perhaps the leading role, in superintending the process of building democracy in Iraq.

"What he has come up with is an idea that he thinks will work," Ms. Rice said, referring to Mr. Brahimi. "In May he will have an actual proposal, but we have no objections thus far to what he has proposed."
And Colin Powell welcomes it with these words (notice how the vocabulary is different from Rumsfield's ugly rhetoric):
Mr. Powell told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that Mr. Brahimi's proposal "reflects some very, very good thinking" and "a great deal of wisdom and experience" on his part, though he noted that the United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, now needed to give his blessing.
But it won't be easy because the Rumsfield-Cheney-Wolfowitz gang is still up there while humbled and defeated by events. Still they will fight to the last to keep their own men in Baghdad. Here is how:
On Thursday night, Mr. Annan met in New York with Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, to discuss Mr. Brahimi's proposal. Mr. Blair said he welcomed Mr. Brahimi's efforts "to find the right political way forward" in Iraq.

Administration officials, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issues, said they were concerned that at least some members of the current Iraqi Governing Council would try to block Mr. Brahimi's proposal or jockey to make themselves a part of it.

"There are clearly some politics in Iraq, and the governing council is part of that politics," said an administration official. "It isn't a matter of us telling Brahimi what to do. It's a matter of what he thinks is right and of his being aware of what we think will be effective."

The 25-member Iraqi Governing Council was the product of efforts led by L. Paul Bremer III, the American occupation administrator, when he first arrived in Baghdad at the close of what President Bush called major combat. At the time, American officials praised it as representative of Iraqi aspirations and perhaps even the most representative government in the Arab world. Since then, however, the council has lost much credibility in Iraqi society, American officials say.

In recent weeks, however, there were signs that American officials remained wedded to keeping the council, in an expanded version. Mr. Powell said only two weeks ago that an expanded version of the council was the most likely alternative.

Some American officials say that they expect Ahmad Chalabi, an exile favored by the Pentagon, could be marginalized as a result of the new plan. Aides to Mr. Brahimi make no secret of the envoy's disdain for Mr. Chalabi. Mr. Rumsfeld is described by knowledgeable diplomats as still favoring a major role for Mr. Chalabi in Iraq.

Mr. Rumsfeld said that since the Brahimi plan was deemed "a reasonable one" by State Department and White House officials, "the odds favor a model something like what Mr. Brahimi announced."

Mr. Brahimi, a veteran of peacekeeping operations, most recently was in charge of putting together a government in Afghanistan, for which he won widespread praise. The Afghan model of convening a council of notables from around the country to approve a new constitution is similar to the one he has proposed for Iraq. Administration officials cautioned that there was some hard work to do to make sure that Iraq's various factions could coalesce around Mr. Brahimi's proposal, though they acknowledge that the chances of their doing so were better than they would be for anything put forward by an American envoy.

United States armed forces have tried to counter attacks by Shiites and Sunnis and create a stable environment in which the political process could be installed. Meanwhile, military commanders have complained that a lack of progress on the political front has hampered their own efforts to stabilize Iraq. [NYT]
Most excellent news. Most most excellent - down with Rumsfield and his cronies. Long live "wisdom and experience". More diplomacy, less stupidity. May this trend continue and gain strength.

While many are disparaging Negroponte for being vile and cruel, it remains to be seen whether that is a viable criticism. So far it seems that his replacing Bremer means better coordination for a UN diplomatic front. We'll see. It has been said the Negroponte was Powell's man in Baghdad. If that's true, Iraq is on the right course.


In Fallujah, US mil has finally found some representatives from the city to negotiate with. Nevertheless a 900-kg bomb was dropped on a house inside town - that's a pretty big bomb if you ask me. It's unclear whether the civil authorities in the city are in any way able to rein in the militants who go on fighting despite whatever negotiations.


Meantime Sadr in Najaf is claiming that negotiations have failed. Combat between Marines and militia in Kufa (which is on the outskirts of Najaf). And an Iranian delegation in the city openly denies meeting with the cleric to save appearances - while it is hard to imagine what else they went there for in the first place.

While the Iranians were ostensibly invited by the UK, it is clear that the US were not terribly opposed to the idea - and in fact CPA officials have participated in some of these Iranian negotiations.


Summary so far: the political ball is once again in the Coaltion's yard - clear and loud change of course. Militant uprising is rapidly losing support and is dying down. If no gross mistakes are committed from now on by US military, things will calm down soon enough.

Canadian Syrian-born hostage freed. So are the three czech guys. Not the end of all kidnappings though and many scarmoushes around the country continue.


And is this new or have I missed something: in his news-conference the other day Bush actually talked of occupation in reference to US presence in Iraq. I don't think I've heard that before from WH tops.

In search of fallen heroes

Pretty damn powerful Frontline feature (originally broadcast in fall 2002) on The Man Who Knew - or John O'Neil, the maverick FBI guy who single-handedly tried to unravel the mounting Al-Qaeda menace but was constantly prevented by various bureaucracies and grey cronies who didn't like his cocky style.

It's a powerful documentary in a Tom Clancy kind of way - there are bad guys and underhanded enemies (within the FBI and other gov branches), and there is this single bright guy wrestling with powerful beaurocratic foes because he's alone to have a clue and they're blind. And in the end he dies in the plot he was about to unravel (WTC).

I am sure there is more to this story than this gloriously one-sided portrayal (all "enemies" obviously refused to be interviewed for the program) but the story itself is masterfully told and is a win-win scenario - since what we have here is the case of a martyrized prophetic truth-seeker and David-against-Goliath kind of thing.

Unfortunately I can't watch the complete 90-min version online (which includes additional interviews) because I am on dialup and video just doesn't stream so good on it. But in any case it's not so much the informational aspect of it that matters but powerful story-telling. Frontline really made a case here - and it's merciless towards FBI and its anti-intelligent police culture.

Far more so than a 9/11 commission could ever afford to be.

Btw, there are interviews with Richard Clarke who is made to appear as an early high-level supporter of O'Neil - but powerless against FBI bureaucracy. It remains unclear however what his role really was in all of this.


The next Frontline feature, called Son of Al-Qaeda, will deal with the no-less dramatic case of a Canadian-Pakistani family who were all Al-Qaeda people and tried to raise their oldest son to be a suicide-bomber. However the young man rebelled against this whole ideology and became a CIA-informant instead.

This is a recent story that was broadcast on Canadian tv not long ago. The ongoing paradox is that the father of that family was recently killed on the Taliban side near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border and another 16-year old son has been wounded in the spine in the same battle and has just arrived back in Canada in a very televised way - paralized and in a wheel chair.

Now a lot of people in Canada want this family deported - because the women in the family still support Al-Qaeda views and were glad to see WTC explode. Nevertheless the eldest son, who is now the head of the family, is in stark opposition to these view and says that if he can't change his mother's and sister's opinions it doesn't really matter - it's just opinions.

Imagine what it must be like in UK right now - where Arab community is just huge and many are Islamic radicals :-0

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Very nice sunny skies outside. Unfortunately I really don't feel it applies to me. Bad mental state. Nightmares. Delusions. It'd be nice to imagine that one day I could get out of this mental hole and find a new way - but it's just not going to happen. Something inside me makes it impossible. It's been that way too long to ignore that it's there. Plain and simple.


What doesn't destroy you makes you stronger. By which it is meant that destruction entails physical death. Unfortunately there are things that destroy you without killing. I've been destroyed a few times over and every time it took away something of that inner strength one needs to keep getting up and go on fighting. At this stage I don't see what it is I need to fight for. My own life is so irrelevant I have to wonder why I can't just put an end to this nonsense. It's weakness and cowardice, I suppose. Reluctance to make a bold move and stop fretting.

Paradoxically it does take some serious strength or some mighty anger to end one's days. What with the survival instinct and fear and emptiness.

I totally understand that quite a few people in various places around the world are willing to meet a bullet in a gun battle or blow themselves up or jump under a tank. It makes perfect sense. I don't understand all-around pacifists who claim one should never take up arms or die. On the countrary - it's very good to die for a cause, especially when the alternative is life without meaning. At the same time I don't understand people who cheer for wars from afar. It's as pathetic as sports fans bitching or boasting about their fave players - doesn't make their own lives any more meaningful to sit there and watch.


One casuality of accumulating destructions has been my policy towards making friends. It is a perfectly untenable business if your own life is in constant decline. Reaching out or feeding off people just doesn't change that in any way - contrary to popular belief or what not.

First I had to let go of real-life relationships, then it turned out that setting-up internet contacts should also be abandonned. It's only a temporary delusion to imagine that you can get away with virtual communication when communication in real life has nothing to hang on to.

So basically I found myself ditching e-mail, newsgroups and online chat stuff. Blogging is the next intermediary step in this progressive abandonment of human ties - no need to tie your laces when you know the knot won't hold :)


Well, basically that's the picture. Maybe not final, but pretty much exhaustive.

A lot of members of my extended family are currently dying of cancer abroad - it's old age as much as cancer. And what I know for sure is that it doesn't matter, since I will never have a chance to regain a sense of family belonging in this lifetime of mine.

And so on. Off to watch tv.

Crappy day, crappy news

One thing that is clear is that once the visible flashes of violent unrest are extinguished in Iraq, it will once again effectively disappear from public view - and once again everything that will keep boiling under the surface will be hidden and we will only see the results when such explosions occur again.

Meanwhile groundless, wishful propaganda will once again replace reality on our tv screens and news-anchors will sometimes anounce minor victories, and forget to mention a thousand small defeats.

It is being said that Bush has no brains and a big soul, while Clinton had brains and no moral compass. Wouldn't it be great to have somebody with both - at the helm of the most active super-power on earth? I know - it won't happen. The days of FDR and suchlike are long gone. America will settle for a Nixon every time. Just like they settled for a pig like Sharon instead of Rabin in Israel. Why? I don't know why.

Democracy as demagoguery and all that. The moron squad.

They're worried that Hamas will sweep the stakes if there are free elections in Palestine now. Heh. You really have to wonder why that would be. And why US got Bush for a president after all. For one thing, it is just as easy to sway votes with cash as with guns - yeah, either mortal fear or mortal stupidity.

Good luck in the next new world.

Iraq as War on Terror

I tried to keep this picture out of my mind for a few days, but finally went back - I will post it here. It's from the post-9/11 Afghanistan war. But it's no different than what is happening in some parts of Iraq right now.

This whole messianic War on Terror may be easily justified by an unending rhetoric in various newsrooms and flashbacks to bodies falling from burning WTC towers. But the price is not just lives of brave soldiers or angry rebels with K-47 guns. It's also this.

Damn easy to justify wars. Not so easy to fight them. Even harder to make people accept that it's for their own good when you go on killing them, by accident/by necessity, because there are some "bad guys" swarming in their midst.

Are you policing that country or are you waging war on it? Policing does not involve bombing neighbourhoods. That's not called security. Time to come clear about this.

I am not sure I am gonna keep this picture up for long in here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004


Just heard the news on PBS - one of the four Italian hostages executed by kidnappers.

What are the chances for T.Hamill now? and those many others: the three japanese, the canadian whom arab news continue to describe as an Israeli agent, and all others?

The fact is - you can't just go after those guys. You don't even know where they are holed up. The heart of the country looks like a huge collection of wildly unpredictable mouse-traps right now.


View from Baghdad has surreal pictures and surreal stories of a city on the brink of lawlessness. Excerpt:
At about 8am on a very smoggy Baghdad morning, I happened to be up on my balcony and caught the first impact of a 2 mortar (or rocket, not sure) attack. [see picture1]
Then, as I was writing the first sentence above, a sharp, loud crack which I have come to recognize as something small and close. This scene was outside my window in the Karada intersection. [see picture2]
But half an hour later, Baghdadis behaved as if it never happened. [see picture3]
And all this is nothing but a distant echo of ongoing battles elsewhere.


Was reading some on-the-ground reporting by French journalists - from a week old. They've been interviewing some of the locals who were present when the four contractors were ambushed in Fallujah. A witness said that two of the men in one of the cars survived the impact of RPG and tried to get out of the car, but the crowd pushed them back inside despite their pleading, poured gasoline over their car and they were burned alive.

The rest is history.


I am not reacting to Iraq stuff in this blog at the moment to save my mind, but still detailed and fairly balanced info is to be found at The Agonist (there is a bunch of people taking turns to keep up with things) and also check out Kevin Drum if only for the sake of such a post as this.

And it's official - they're shelling Najaf (probably via Arab tv, because that's also what Russian media are reporting). Al-Sadr announced on Lebanese tv that he is ready to die - he clearly meant it, judging from the fear in his eyes and the sweat he had to brush off his brow. And Fallujah has become a myth and a symbol of resistance, already. And american contractors, those mercenaries, are not counted among official US mil dead - and yet their casualities have been higher. And there is too much else we simply don't know. Let the wheel of fortune roll then.

Bush on tv

I actually got into watching Bush's news conference tonight. I don't watch such stuff very often. And for me it was perhaps the first time that I took a close look at this president.

Well, it was kinda embarrassing. The man is there, answering questions, and it's obviously very difficult for him because, well, he has a hard time remembering what was in the question :-0

I mean he's only comfortable when he gets to launch into his usual rhetoric (over-rehearsed at this stage) about how he wants to liberate the whole world and provide "security for american freedom of the world", which I believe is an exact quote.

He obviously has a hard time handling details. For a long time I thought it was something his ill-wishers invented about him, but after seeing Bush in action I can't help but acknowledge that, damn, they're right - the guy will buy into any shit you sell him if it's in really simple language and one phrase at a time. It's just not enough to be well-meaning.

I have no idea what to say about Kerry - I haven't seen more than 3 seconds of him in various newscasts here and there. But it wouldn't suprise me if he's as much of a dummy in his own way.

I don't know why this big powerful country gets itself into electing such... well, unimpressive officials. I mean - Dick Cheney is the actual president as far as I can see, because at least he's a real politician with unmistakable brains (even if he's evil, but that's just my opinion).

I think there is too much of a cult of the presidency in USA. If they were a bit less hyped about it, they'd see more clearly who they're putting in charge.

However it's really strange that such very not-bright people are getting to the top in America. It's a huge country - it's impossible there'd be no better choices. There was an interview on "NOW" (PBS) where a wisened guy explained that there is too much rule of big money in the political process at this point. And maybe that explains why an unimpressive but very rich guy like Kerry (who, apparently, is actually richer than Bush himself) gets ahead almost by default, and also why Bush-junior, a son of a rich Bush clan, got ahead in the republican party. If it's not enough of an explanation, I just don't know what is then.

Tony Blair in UK, for all his war-like ideas, looks positively refreshing by comparison.


Alternative view, from somebody who's seen a lot more of Bush than I did:

In the Q&A, Bush was much more expansive, articulate, and comfortable than he's often been in the past.


Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Fuck it twice over

You call it fate when 95% of your lifetime turns out to be a certain way and not another. You look back and you say - I made mistakes, I reacted badly, I took a wrong turn every time. And then you look at why it happened and you have no answer other than this is how it was. If you make mistakes knowingly, forseeing the future and over-ruling everything in the past that lead to that action - then you can feel responsible. I am not sure to what degree you can be responsible for what you are at any given time. I don't remember being in any way "responsible" for having youthful hopes - I mean, it was stupid and it felt good, and I was not responsible for being the way I was then. And later on I was not responsible for getting disgusted with myself and the rest of the world - I wish I could have had a more constructive reaction but for some as-yet unexplained reason that's the kind of reaction I had and acted accordingly. And so on.

There is more to individuality than just rational or moral ideas. Gut reaction and nature are the two things that determine life. And various circumstances - those and not others. And in the end it doesn't really matter if I blame myself for being the way I am or some circumstances for being what they are.

The fact is, I've fallen out of communities, trust, hope and beliefs so many times at various stages that it just ads up to one very distinct policy - it's an automatism of my nature that it should happen that way and not another. I mean: there was a vast variety of circumstances every time and, nonwithstanding this variety, it always worked out the same way. And that way is who I am - simple enough, no? It determines me beyond my own understanding. So fucking be it.

I have developped a major problem early on - I don't let myself be manipulated into accepting things. This is just not good for surviving in a human world. Those who can get along do so because they accept and go along with things, a great number of things that come pretty much in a package, as part of communal beliefs - and you just go with that flow and grow stronger off it. Instead of which I kept falling off and out of the communal nest like some fucked-up early-goer ugly-duckling.

It makes me laugh to write this - it's hilarious, really.

The downside, and the fateful factor, of it is that I never developped the kind of natural balls that make you go against the flow and not sink despite all odds. You can't just invent this sort of push - you either have or you don't. Or maybe there are harsh circumstances that make you grow into that groove, but I didn't come across those and that too is part of the story.

So basically I've been biting the dust in a big way in the past few years, and to that I can add a good number of preceding years where I was nearly biting-the-dust but still hoped it wouldn't last forever. Now I am realizing that indeed, some things may very well extend into infinity - and it's pretty much only a question of how much of this I can take yet without an urgent call to arms of massive self-destruction.

For one thing, I know I'll never go on drugs. I don't need that - I can very well look at all of this directly and bear the brunt and not hide from the misery. I am already on drugs, figuratively speaking - I am lending my mind to a host of things that don't matter to me for a minute and I only do that because there is nowhere else to go and nothing better to do. You can't very well turn away from the world - because, hey, there is nowhere to turn.


There was some documentary on tv about some fuck on the death-row (I just love those jail tales - I relate so much it's almost insane). The description he gave was just perfect and it really tells you about the immense extent of human patience to survive in misery. He said: a death-row cell is about as big as a bathroom in a middle-class american home. Well, imagine how you would feel if you had to spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, 10 years in a row - in you *bathroom*.

Right. Get it? How would you feel? And basically it absolutely doesn't matter how you would feel - the fact is, that's how it is and you just stay in there like a fish in a can.

To this I might add that the first casuality of depravation of freedom - either in jail or in your own fucked-up mind - is time. You lose any sense of time. A year is equivalent to a day and at the same time every day feels like eternity and yet a year goes by almost in a shot. This is how you manage to survive on a dime for years and years. Complete loss of control and perspective.


I was going to say some more but I am off watching tv.

In the dregs ::

Fuck. I am sick of worrying about Iraq. What can I do anyway? It's like worrying about Columbia shuttle about to explode - so it fucking did explode and none of those guys at the NASA control center could do a fucking thing about it.


One thing is noticeable - when a country is ruled by media who are content to churn out massive blind propaganda, it doesn't mean that everybody is so readily taken in by it. But not at all. What it means however is that voices of reason are not allowed to be heard - even on the everyday, one-to-one level. Those who go about being happily brainwashed will not listen to their buddies who've got a mind of their own - they don't need to, they're "on top of things", they're the ones who are granted free-reign and fake authority by the big media which *fabricates* atrificial consensus and *denies* debate. That's the phenomenon of propaganda - that it makes it effectively *illegal* to have your own mind. Propaganda outlaws dissent.

America is an ugly place right now. I am happy I don't live there. Let's watch it explode and go to pieces. Sorry for all those guys on the inside who know, see it coming, and can't do a thing about it.


When my stupid father made the greatest mistake of his idiotic life by deciding he'd have a rosy bubble-gum future across the ocean and moved our stupid family in here, he had a choice between going to the States or to Canada. At least there is the consolation that we didn't go down south. Stupid moron. But anyway - for me it's been fate, and like the world-events show, a lot of stupidity from certain people actually means fate for millions of those who can't do a thing about that stupidity.



Fuck Iraq. And fuck Amerika. And fuck this world - I don't know what I am doing in here and I am not grateful for being alive. It's an accident. Luckily nothing is eternal in this world and it will pass. Some consolation.


Some everyday distractions: my fridge is not working, leaking some poisonous gas, and I am engaged in a fight with the moronic Philippino janitor to have it replaced. I am enough of a racist to know what racist means - I despise that guy and his dumbass ilk, quite frankly. At the same time I don't really care whether I get a fridge or not - bought a sac of potatoes and it's cold enough outside to even have cream for the coffee. So I am just fine. I guess I'll be fasting past Lent-time as far as meat products go. "What a wonderful feeling" - when nothing really matters after all.


You know there is this "uplifting" line: it's a big diverse world out there, just get interested in it. Heh. Thank you very much. It's so full of shit I'd rather not catalogue all the shitty diversity. The reason I can't be bothered to get interested in it is precisely because I have a pretty good idea myself of just how diverse it is. It's a fucking mess - and I won't mess with it for the life of me.


All my hopefulness goes down the drain at some point. I am not sure what it would take to restore faith in humanity. My own for example. I go into very humanitarian moods sometimes, and I snap out of those moods just as easily. So let us not be under any illusion here - when we wish global good we actually harbor very unseemly little wishes at the very same time and pretty much in the same breath. All this blathering over Iraq has this smell of bullshit spread all over it. Oh, we're so sorry for those well-meaning troops out there, or those pitiful civilians with their little kids. Like hell we are. Nobodies is sorry for anything. Playing the hotshot politico game "with feeling", that's all.

I don't like that humanitarian shit and that militaristic shit and yet it's all somehow playing itself out in my brain. But in truth, why would I care? And in fact - I do not, even when I say I do and sound convincing even to myself. It's that broken fridge again - I don't really care whether it works or not. Though I am supposed to.


I've been reading some stuff by Dostoevsky and not what you think - his long-forgotten series of articles about why he hates Jews, it's called Status in Statu (state within a state). Back in his own time he was a big journalist, more so even than a fiction writer. He ruled minds with his op-eds. And some Jewish folks, liberal-minded etc, would write to him and ask: why the fuck do you hate us all en mass? we're not all the same! And of course Dostoevsky had no idea he was a Jew-hater. He responded with that series of articles where he says: "but I don't hate all Jews, you're mistaken" - and then he'd go on a diatrib about how Jews deserve to be hated and that even their whiny questions as to "why you hate us" are a proof of that. And so on and so forth. And Dostoevsky was a brilliant powerful writer - so everything he says comes out as violently and directly as only great writers are able to do. And his hate comes out in such high color it's almost unimaginable.

And yet Dostoevsky was genuinely convinced he was objective and not an anti-semite in any way.

That's called cognitive dissonance: it's when people have no idea what they are.


Am I an anti-semite? Am I a racist? Am I simply perhaps an entranched people-hater happy to take it out on pretty much anyone who happens to cross me in some insignificant personal way? I think I am all of that put together - and I am not making an ideology out of this. I don't need to rationalize my blind anger when I get angry - all I really want is just smack somebody on the head. And that usually turns out to be a representative of some "group" or "community". Sometimes I virulently hate Canadians, Americans, Pakistani, Vietnamese, Quebequers, Russians, Indians, Negroes, French, Indonesians, Chinese, Romanians, Germans and I am only naming a few of those I happened to hate briefly in my insignificant years on this earth. And I even belong to some of those goddam communities - I just hate groups and tight-knit cliques, that's the bottom-line.

My only consolation (heh, there is always that) is that I realize to what extent all of this is nothing but a reflection of my relationship to the world at large, with it being a diverse mess and me having to fight against it all the time. I snap in and I snap out. Just get out of my sight so I don't have to despise you.


All this hate and anger are inverted - it's self-hate. And the logic of survival dictates that you can't direct all of it against yourself all the time, you need to push it out on others. That's where morality ends and real-time survival begins. I can't blame Dostoevsky for being an all-around hater, and I can't blame him for being a great-writer who had to churn it out just as is. I despise him for being a blind asshole though. No respect here for his talented paranoia.

Basically I have zero respect for authority - intellectual or other. People are a mess. There are a few wisemen from time to time but mostly they don't talk much and are not bent on ruling minds. Lack of wordly ambition. They're damn hard to find, basically - and I am not looking. The visible loud world is a mess. Maybe I am even fabulating about those wisemen because I can't recall seeing any in too long a while. Must be something from those childhood fairy-tales posing as reality.


It was a nice rant - and that's all it is, a rant. It's designed to bring to the surface what's hiding from light. It's a neat exercise. Good guys are bad guys, and bad guys are good guys - depending where the chips fall, that's all there is to it, assholes, I mean friends.

And what's next on tv, I wonder?

Smash 'em, Lt.Smash ::

While the Brits are preaching restraint to their US allies, the war-bloggers at home are thirsting for a big massive strike on all those goddam terrorists who are disrupting american nirvana in Iraq. Finally a much-wished-for rallying cry is heard and they are flocking en mass: IRAQ - WHAT TO DO: DROP THE HAMMER NOW. I am sure we're about to hear the same rhetoric on FOXchannel - after a few days of "shameful and misguided" self-doubt :-0

It doesn't look like this simplistic mentality can be changed by any reasoned arguments. Let's hope this mood stays at home, where it belongs - in absentia of any grasp of the actual situation on the ground. (Short version of the hammer-article: Al-Sadr, Baathists, Iranians - they're all in mesh.)

It is an amazingly misinformed piece of writing - passing itself off as "having it from the highest sources". Not a rarity in US press. The fact that Al-Sistani, who is en route to become a household name to american tv-watchers, is actually an Iranian is not mentioned. Only Al-Sadr has any dealings with Iranians. What's more, Al-Sadr has been in mesh with the Sunni baathist thugs from even before the US invasion - the whole thing is highly coordinated, so all you gotta do is wipe it out with a small nuke. Here's how:
Moqtada Sadr's organization must be destroyed. Sadr must be captured or killed. If he hides in a mosque, go in after him. We're not impressing our enemies with our restraint - they play the religion card as the ace that never fails.

And the parallel operations in the Sunni Triangle must be pursued to the complete subjugation of Fallujah and the defeat of any terrorist who raises a gun.

Our president must make no mistake: Any "settlement," any halt short of the annihilation of the killers who want to destroy the future of Iraq, will be read throughout that troubled country and the greater Islamic world as a resounding victory for the terrorists. They'll be viewed as having defeated the U.S. military, stopping it in its tracks.

Reality is immaterial. In the Middle East, perception trumps facts. Only uncompromising strength impresses our enemies. The president can't afford to listen to the counsels of caution.
Simple? A piece of cake. And who cares what comes after - like keeping 500,000 troops on the ground or whatever. After all it's not even about Iraq - it's about how we must impress "the greater Islamic world". That's who we're at war with, and let's make it as clear as possible.

"Reality is immaterial" in some parts of the Western world as well, it would seem.


"The president can't afford to listen to the counsels of caution" - like this one, for instance:
In early June 1920, Gertrude Bell, the extraordinary woman who helped run Iraq for Britain, wrote a letter to her father on some "violent agitation" against British rule: "[The extremists] have adopted a line difficult in itself to combat, the union of the Shi'ah and Sunni, the unity of Islam. And they are running it for all it's worth ... There's a lot of semi-religious semi-political preaching ... and the underlying thought is out with the infidel. My belief is that the weightier people are against it?I know some of them are bitterly disgusted?but it's very difficult to stand out against the Islamic cry and the longer it goes on the more difficult it gets."

In fact, the "agitation" quickly turned into a mass (mostly Shia) revolt. British forces were able to crush it over three long months, but only after killing almost 10,000 Iraqis, suffering about 500 deaths themselves and spending the then exorbitant sum of 50 million pounds. After the 1920 revolt, the British fundamentally reoriented their strategy in Iraq. They abandoned plans for ambitious nation-building and instead sought a way to transfer power quickly to trustworthy elites.
It's a tired scenario of any occupation. There is a rich history to look at here - Americans are most definitely not the first ones to take a go at it. And the Arab world has not changed "for the better" since those not-so-distant times - it is more violent and more defiant than ever. Crushing Iraq for another short-lived show of force simply won't do.

Btw, notice the proportion: 500 Brits to 10,000 Iraqis over 3 months. Sounds familiar?


And just for good measure, some musings by a pro-american Iraqi in Baghdad:
In Najaf and Kufa, Iraqi police and ICDC have returned to the streets following an agreement with Al-Mahdi army after a whole week's absence. There is talk of negotiations between the Hawza and Muqtada Al-Sadr, with Mohammed Ridha Al-Sistani (the Grand Ayatollah's eldest son) and a son of Ayatollah Mohammed Ishaq Al-Fayadh together with other representatives of Shi'ite clerics as intermediaries. A spokesman for the delegation said that they would later name a renowned Iraqi figure (from outside the GC) to act as an intermediary between them and the CPA. He also announced that an important statement is to be issued tomorrow by Sistani on behalf of the Hawza alilmiyyah that would be to the effect of a warning to coalition forces if they ever tried to attack Najaf or arrest Al-Sadr. This in response to Gen. Sanchez' remarks that Al-Sadr would be arrested or killed and that American troops are moving to Najaf. If that is true, it would mean a full scale Jihad against Americans by Shia followers of Sistani in the event of any movement against Sadr. A telling sign that Sistani and his colleagues are losing patience.
Talk about situation on the ground...

Monday, April 12, 2004

Denying Fallujah

A pretty balanced digest with many links from the Christian Science Monitor as to how it all started and what went wrong (learning lessons, correcting mistakes? anyone?): Did the US miscalculate in Iraq?


Meantime there is ongoing bickering as to how many civilians died in Fallujah:
FALLUJAH, Iraq -- A hospital official in Fallujah claims many of the 600 victims who've died in the weeklong U.S. Marine crackdown in Fallujah were women, children and the elderly. But Marine Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne said an investigation of the dead will likely discover "95 percent of those were military age males."

"Marines are trained to be precise in their firepower," Byrne said. The hospital director said more than 600 bodies have come into four clinics and the Fallujah General Hospital. He said the actual number of dead may be much larger. The official says "an unknown number of dead" have been buried at people's homes without being taken to hospitals. Byrne credits the hundreds of deaths to Marines being "very good at what they do." Bodies are being buried at two soccer fields in the city west of Baghdad. A volunteer at one field -- renamed "Graveyard of the Martyrs" -- said at least 300 people are buried there. Wooden planks with names on them serve as headstones for row after row of freshly dug graves at the field. An Associated Press reporter who visited one of the graveyards says some makeshift headstones bear names of women and others noted as being children. U.S. Marines have been trading fire with rebels in the city for the past week. A tentative cease-fire is in place.
This percentage-throwing is reminiscent of how many pro-war folks in the USA continue to claim that "80% of Iraqis are supportive of the US presence in Iraq". I just don't know where all these statistics come from except from the minds of those who wish to believe it to be that way. The US military pronouncements on the number of dead is especially strange in view of the fact that they make a point of *not* counting Iraqi casualities - and then they go ahead and adamantly dismiss those who are actually trying to do just that, count :-0

Forgive me, but something is amiss with this logic. And the British field-commanders who question the US mil attitude towards Iraqis sound all the more credible for this strange logic on the US side. Then there is this: do we know how many refugees this Fallujah situation has produced? Nothing is being said about that. So far I've found these few sentences in a "slanted" article in The Washington Post (gee, I wish we had "credible" sources even so much as mentioning any of this):
Baghdad residents continue to answer the call from mosque loudspeakers for blood, medicine and food for Fallujah, and both Shiites and Sunnis are taking in tens of thousands of refugees. The latest unconfirmed death count from the city tops 600.
I mean - would it be too "defeatist" to even look at the whole of the situation instead of endlessly profiling the valiant efforts of the US Marine Corps? At the same time, I've read somewhere that insurgent snipers taking position on rooftops in residential neighbourhoods likely contributed to ensuing "collateral damage" - and that too should be taken into account when figuring out why the death-toll went as high as it is claimed.

But dismissing the whole thing out of hand, and without any sort of proof, is not the right attitude. Yeah, it serves you well to exhume Saddam's mass-graves - maybe you should also exhume the graves you've caused - and get off your high white horse before it gets too dirty to look at.

The ordeal of a well-meaning Iraqi

[Update. To shed some light on all of the above, here is a particularly galling story of an ordinary Iraqi who's been doing his outmost to help US. This is reported by the man's american employer, whose own convictions are being shaken by the current situation in Iraq. I arranged the whole stream of events by dates in real time.]

Report from a Republican US worker in Baghdad:

Wednesday-Thursday, April 7/8, 2004
I Reluctantly Join the Ranks of the Pessimists

The last email I received last night was one of my staff telling me he could no longer work for an American organization (see below). The first phone call I received this morning was my good friend, Munqith Daghir, the top Iraqi pollster, telling me he has to cancel a meeting because of the security situation. He said that 25 of his relatives were killed in Fallujah overnight when a helicopter bombed their house.

I'm very afraid that the flood of images of Coalition killing Iraqis and the perceived neglect of Iraq's reconstruction, is going to combine to create a fundamental shift in public opinion, and convert the average Iraqi into an extremist - either political or religious.

Here is the email:

When I came first to your ... & talked to you, I liked your ideas about Democracy ... especially when you tell me about how the new Iraq will be ... & there is no place for Dectatorism again ... & you are working hard & risking by your life to make changes.
But after the News today ... I saw your Democracy ... does Democracy means killing more than 100 citizens & injured over 200 just in Falluja? & more in Baghdad , Ramadi? does the democracy means strafing a Mosque with a 227 Kg bomb (as Kemet said)??? Did you heard that 5 civilians bleed till death in Ramadi coz US soldiers prevent them from going to Hospitals? all of this is just a brief from the whole news within these three days!
can you tell me the difference between your soldiers & Al-Qaida? both killing civilians ... both are terrorists!
SO ... I can't work with your organization anymore ... coz I don't like such democracy ... & I can't work with those killing my people!

It isn't important that you can easily rebut these arguments. They key point is that this is the reaction that is being generated... and nobody is effectively rebutting them in the bigger picture.

This is disheartening.

Thursday, April 8, 2004
More Bad News

This just in via email from my good friend and colleague Dr. Munqith, who I have mentioned a couple of times previously.

On Thursday night at 2 am. 5 thief's break my house while we were sleeping.They had machine guns and threatened me and my family.They put cliffs on our hands and took all my money ,my wife and daughter jewelry,and the value things in the house.They stay for more than one and half our talking with me to get more and threaten that they will kill my family or harm my daughter.At last I convinced them that this all what I have,then they went out..My family now shocked and I am trying to make it easy for them,but you can imagine my condition now ...

I spoke to him during the day on Thursday, as we were supposed to meet, but he wanted to postpone the meeting after finding out 25 members of his family had been killed in Fallujah.

We have a bunch of Iraqi security, so I asked a couple of them to go to his office to help him if they can.

Friday, April 9, 2004
More Bad News from Dr. Munqith

This in an email this morning to a group of his friends and colleagues:

Sorry for keep providing more bad news,but I want to keep you in touch with whats going on these days through my experience and how that may effect public opinion in Iraq.
Yesterday and while my family were taking their lunch in the house kitchen,an American Tank attacked my house and all our street houses.The kitchen Glasses smashed and more than 6 bullets entered to the Kitchen.By God wish no one injured,but you can imagine the fear of my family.One of our neighbor wounded.This Tank attacked by unknown people about one kilometer far from my house,and then it started firing from it's heavy machine gun on all houses in the street.Then the press came and made many interview es with the neighbor residence.
I believe that there are many mistakes and wrong decisions made by the military forces and should be corrected if USA really want to succeed in it's project in Iraq.
After what happened to my family in the last tow days I really start thinking about leaving Iraq.I know that this will be very hard to me,but I also know that I have responsibility toward my family safety and I should hold it correctly.


Surreal? Exactly.

I think this is pretty representative of what's going on in Iraq right now and you can make your own conclusions. All this has happened to one men out of God knows how many in similar circumstances - in a very short period of time. Lawlessness and brute force from every direction. And US military doesn't look like the savior it wants people to think it is, but not at all.

The ratio of casualities for the past week in Iraq is 1 american to 10 Iraqis (as been mentioned today on Jim Lehrer's NewsHour on PBS) - out of those 10 at least 4 are civilians. If not more.


Update. Theologicus at Daily Kos has assembled a file with independant information concerning what has occured in Fallujah. Some information is from openly anti-US pro-insurgency sources, but you can make your own sorting out [for example, there is much emphasis on Fallujah ambulances being fired at - yet there have been reports of ambulances discovered to transport loads of guns, which is not an unheard-of tactic either] . In any case one thing is clear: we're not getting a very reliable picture from major media, and US mil brushing the whole thing off is not credible at this point.

Judge for yourself.


Update II. From Zeyad's Healing Iraq blog:

The body count in Fallujah till now is 518 Iraqis dead (160 of them women, and about 50 children) and 1250 badly injured. Doctors from Fallujah mentioned that a large number of the dead women and children were shot in the head and that they were saving the extracted bullets to prove that they were being targetted by Marines snipers in the city.

All set for a formal investigation by CPA authorities to prove the US mil wrong?

Iraq More Damaging to Bush Future Than 9/11 Memo
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The deteriorating situation in Iraq poses much more of a threat for President Bush's re-election hopes than the tempest caused by release of an August 2001 briefing paper on the al Qaeda threat, political consultants and analysts said on Monday.
Oh really? We definitely needed a comittee of experts to determine that. And it's "breaking news" too :-0

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Brits speak out what everybody knew already

Now that things are falling apart, the Brits who btw are the principal partner in the Coalition and have been rather successful in managing their part of the country (Basra and marsh-lands), are finally making themselves heard. Too bad it took such a bad situation to make them speak their mind. Here is a very overt article from The Telegraph, and it makes a crucial point so I'll carry it in full:
US tactics condemned by British officers
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
(Filed: 11/04/2004)

Senior British commanders have condemned American military tactics in Iraq as heavy-handed and disproportionate.

One senior Army officer told The Telegraph that America's aggressive methods were causing friction among allied commanders and that there was a growing sense of "unease and frustration" among the British high command.

The officer, who agreed to the interview on the condition of anonymity, said that part of the problem was that American troops viewed Iraqis as untermenschen - the Nazi expression for "sub-humans".

Speaking from his base in southern Iraq, the officer said: "My view and the view of the British chain of command is that the Americans' use of violence is not proportionate and is over-responsive to the threat they are facing. They don't see the Iraqi people the way we see them. They view them as untermenschen. They are not concerned about the Iraqi loss of life in the way the British are. Their attitude towards the Iraqis is tragic, it's awful.

"The US troops view things in very simplistic terms. It seems hard for them to reconcile subtleties between who supports what and who doesn't in Iraq. It's easier for their soldiers to group all Iraqis as the bad guys. As far as they are concerned Iraq is bandit country and everybody is out to kill them."

The phrase untermenschen - literally "under-people" - was brought to prominence by Adolf Hitler in his book Mein Kampf, published in 1925. He used the term to describe those he regarded as racially inferior: Jews, Slaves and gipsies.

Although no formal complaints have as yet been made to their American counterparts, the officer said the British Government was aware of its commanders' "concerns and fears".

The officer explained that, under British military rules of war, British troops would never be given clearance to carry out attacks similar to those being conducted by the US military, in which helicopter gunships have been used to fire on targets in urban areas.

British rules of engagement only allow troops to open fire when attacked, using the minimum force necessary and only at identified targets.

The American approach was markedly different: "When US troops are attacked with mortars in Baghdad, they use mortar-locating radar to find the firing point and then attack the general area with artillery, even though the area they are attacking may be in the middle of a densely populated residential area.

"They may well kill the terrorists in the barrage but they will also kill and maim innocent civilians. That has been their response on a number of occasions. It is trite, but American troops do shoot first and ask questions later. They are very concerned about taking casualties and have even trained their guns on British troops, which has led to some confrontations between soldiers.

"The British response in Iraq has been much softer. During and after the war the British set about trying to win the confidence of the local population. There have been problems, it hasn't been easy but on the whole it was succeeding."

The officer believed that America had now lost the military initiative in Iraq, and it could only be regained with carefully planned, precision attacks against the "terrorists".

"The US will have to abandon the sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut approach - it has failed," he said. "They need to stop viewing every Iraqi, every Arab as the enemy and attempt to win the hearts and minds of the people.

"Our objective is to create a stable, democratic and safe Iraq. That's achievable but not in the short term. It is going to take up to 10 years."
Striking, hein? Right. But the US military never learn [I mean, they had 10 years of Vietnam to learn a hard lesson - and?], so this commentary will not change anything in the immediate future. [Interesting spin on outspokenness of Brit field commanders by Juan Cole]

Meanwhile people are looking to understand what caused the situation to deteriorate so bad over a year of CPA control. As you might notice all this revision-of-errors is being done by the press. Let's hope it trickles into the minds of those who actually run all things Iraq:

Series of U.S. Fumbles Blamed for Turmoil in Postwar Iraq

The array of challenges the United States now faces in Iraq seems to have emerged almost overnight but is actually the accumulation of mistakes, miscalculations and missed opportunities since Saddam Hussein's government collapsed a year ago, say U.S. officials and Iraq experts, including some who worked with the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. [full article]

I am not sure this gives a very accurate idea of things but at least it's a start.

[ Here is another appeal to learn-from-errors, a very good one: Our Last Real Chance
The way forward: The administration has to admit its mistakes and try to repair the damage. Here's how ]


The Agonist is poviding diverse and sometimes exclusive info on Iraq without running to wild conclusions - as opposed to Juan Cole, at least at the moment. Juan is pushing the line that this is a general national uprising - if this were true, I suspect we would have seen a spreading of the violence to much of the country by now, instead of concentration in certain specific areas as it has developped so far.

What is also interesting, and this is perhaps an uneducated musing of mine, is that the insurgents we see in the photos and videos (especially of the hostage-related demands) all have their faces masked by the "arab-freedom scarf" (I can't remember the right name for it at the moment) - I interpret this as their being afraid of the Coalition Authority eventually putting them down and hunting all the suspects one by one. It is a sign of isolated radicalism, not national uprising.

In the first few days of the violence, a fighter in Fallujah speaking to a western journalist, defiantly unwrapped his face to the camera - and that certainly meant he was hopeful that the entire country would rise behind his movement. A week later everyone is hiding their faces - that hope has not materialized.

The American truck-driver who was kidnapped from a supply-convoy the other day was show on Australian TV sitting in a car surrounded by hooded men - the journalists hurried to ask for his name and what has happened: just before the car drove off he said - "Hamil" (his name) and then blurted out "Hamas" (the captors) - it sounded like the same word and it was a good opportunity to name the group. Perhaps this guy is not such an expert on different fighting groups in Iraq but he probably can distinguish between militant islamists and tribal insurgents by now.

Or what about this quote from NYT (via Collounsbury):
Kidnappers seized the three Japanese citizens on Thursday and threatened to kill them on Sunday if Japan did not withdraw its forces from Iraq. Al Jazeera said the Japanese would be released in response to a call from the Muslim Clerics Association.

In Kuwait, an associate of Iraq's leading Shiite leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, denounced the kidnapping of the Japanese, Reuters reported. The associate, Ayatollah Muhammad Bakr al-Mohri, also denounced what he called the chaos in Iraq caused by the followers of Mr. Sadr. His remarks, from Friday Prayers, were carried in Kuwait's newspapers on Saturday. "We condemn the acts of sabotage, chaos and takeover of public property by a group that unfortunately is part of one of Iraq's biggest and best-known families," he said.
Translation: we are ashamed of you guys. Implication - no national uprising will follow a bunch of raving bandits.


Meanwhile Al-Jazeera is stepping up its own propaganda of the same all-Iraqi resistence. Howerever it overstates itself:
The images [Al-Jazeera from Fallujah] prove too much for Ahmad [an insurgent en route to Fallujah]; he drops his face into his hands and breaks down. As he walks away, I call an Aljazeera cameraman in Falluja to check on his safety.

Falluja's hospitals are overflowing with dead and wounded. My colleague's voice is panic-stricken as he describes the scene, echoing the pictures that have shocked Ahmad.

"There are images we can?t show because it?s just too gruesome. I have never seen anything like this before," he says.
Sorry to point this out but Al-Jazeera is definitely not afraid of gruesome images - it specializes in gore. The more shocking the better (I guess when it's not massive/shocking enough then you just say you can't show the real gore - cheap trick). Their claims of F-16 dropping cluster-bombs are still unconfirmed by any other media though there is no doubt that a lot of people were killed in the assaults on Fallujah:
"I can say more than 600 have been killed, but the number may not be totally correct as many families have already buried their dead in their gardens", Dr Rafa Hayad al-Issawi, the director of Falluja's hospital, told Aljazeera.
Add that to those buried at the local football field as reported after the first exodus of civilians on Friday and it looks like a bad picture, jets or no jets.


To profile a little better the chaos of multi-factional insurgency currently developping in Iraq, I'd like to cite one of the scores of articles from journalists who have been temporarily taken hostage and the released. That's very telling of the whole mayhem (via The View from Baghdad):
Toronto, Globe and Mail.
Thursday, April 8, 2004 - Page A14
I was hauled out of the vehicle by a black-clad young man carrying an AK-47. "We are journalists, journalists," I repeated clearly in Arabic. He slapped me as he shrieked orders at the dozens of others surrounding us on the road.

Two gangs tried to separate us, but Steve forced his way over to me and grabbed my arm. I was thrown into a taxi and Steve pushed himself in, too, and was head-butted by the man in black who screamed that we were intelligence agents. Because they were Muslims and I was a woman, I would not be killed, he said. But Steve was going to die.

We drove at high speed through village streets -- no police, no marines, just swarms of men with AK-47s and RPGs. The car came to a screeching halt in front of some homes.

Dozens of men quickly jumped out of other vehicles and surrounded us. As we insisted that we were journalists, a tall man with greying hair, a kaffiyeh and a long tunic punched me twice in the face.

Suddenly a black sedan screeched to a halt and another young man holding a walkie- talkie jumped out of the car. He saw Steve's press badge and yelled at the others to free us. "What are you doing?" he said frantically. "They're press." We had our reprieve.

"We are the mujahedeen," the young man said after we were transferred to his custody. "Don't worry, we won't hurt you."

We were dropped off again, at the home of the village leader, the mukhtar, and led to a guest room where a 60-year-old mujahedeen leader entered in a flurry, followed by armed flunkies. We had an interview sitting on the floor of that room: an American, a Briton and an Iraqi resistance leader.

"I need for you to tell the news," began the man, who called himself Abu Mujahed, in halting English. "I need to know why the American army is killing the people of Iraq." Then he answered his own question: "The petrol."

"I ask Bush or Blair: Why do you need to kill people for the petrol? Today, Americans killed three children, ages 5, 3, and 4. Why? Americans are all around Fallujah now. Democracy is [about] killing the people? This is the lie of America. The American people -- no problem. The American army -- problem."

He apologized for our previous treatment and told us that the first people who stopped us were criminals, not real mujahedeen.

The interview was punctuated by loud explosions outside, and Abu Mujahed said he had already been launching rocket attacks against the Americans that day. As he stood up to go, he said: "I am now [going to fire] maybe 10 rockets."

After he left, the mukhtar's family took care of our needs. Lunch and tea were served and our belongings arrived. But night was falling, and the mukhtar's family refused to let us return to Baghdad alone, insisting we be led by another car.

"God willing, you will leave here happy," the mukhtar said. "We will make sure you get to Baghdad safely. It's too dangerous to go alone."
Pretty riveting, I thought. And a hell of a chaos too. [And here is another on the ground adventure by Brits ].


As it is I just don't know what to make of Iraq right now. It's a very bad situation but I don't see it spreading to the whole of Iraq yet. The south (Basra etc) is quiet. Clerics are not calling for general mayhem. I hope US will negotiate its way out of Fallujah siege (they can't take it as yet without inflicting enormous destruction). Agonist reports that there are no more troops to send to Iraq without a general draft (I was sorta wondering about that). Some members of IGC are secretely negotiating with Iran (?). While we are concentrating on military events, the balance of power in Iraq is perhaps slowly tipping from CPA towards an underhand control by the local religious leaders.

Personally I was hoping that all this unrest would finally make the US admin, inside and outside Iraq, revise its policies towards a real cooperation with Iraqis. A much-needed kick in the ass that would finally make things turn in the right direction. I am not seeing this happening so far.


Update. For an alternative view check out Healing Iraq blogger - Baghdad seems in chaos and there is totally surreal stuff re rumors that are currently circulating there. A sense of palpable lawlessness and GIs are once again in a state of "hostile territory" which means they shoot at everything that doesn't look american.

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