Saturday, September 20, 2003

Those who lived under tyranny, know it for what it is. Vaclav Havel, Arpad Goncz and Lech Walesa write a devastating call to action to free Cuba in the Washington Post.

It cannot be claimed that the U.S. embargo on Cuba has brought about the results desired. Neither can this be said of the European policy, which has been considerably more forthcoming toward the Cuban regime. It is time to put aside transatlantic disputes about the embargo on Cuba and to concentrate on direct support for Cuban dissidents, prisoners of conscience and their families. Europe ought to make it unambiguously clear that Castro is a dictator, and that for democratic countries a dictatorship cannot become a partner until it begins a process of political liberalization.
Israel, land of happiness according to the latest poll.

Poll causes stir by finding Israelis are happy
83 per cent of adults satisfied with their lives
Attitude seems to be 'We are in this together': Expert

One ex-inspector states there were no WMDs in Iraq, one says there were.

Most intersting:

"I want to be plain about this," Butler's voice heightened. "The overthrow of Sadaam Hussein was justified whether or not there was reluctance to authorize it. ... No one could say it is wrong to overthrow a homicidal maniac. The Security Council sat on its hands for 10 years."

As for not finding these weapons allegedly in Iraq, Butler said he is sure Saddam had them. He said Saddam was addicted to the deadly weapons, and whether they are still in Iraq but hidden, moved or destroyed, they did exist.

"Don't believe those who say they aren't there just because we haven't found them. Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction," Butler told the crowd. "Iraq certainly did have weapons of mass destruction. Trust me. I held some in my own hands."

Friday, September 19, 2003

Salam Pax was interviewed by Fresh Air yesterday.
Well worth a listen.
When the refugees return. For some reason you do not hear much on refugees returnign to Iraq unless you actively look for it.

This is an interesting story that appeared in the Independent. It does not paint everything rosy but you begin to understand that Iraqis are going through a massive change and this is little understood. Everyone is trying to make a story out of them without letting them tell their story.

Here are a few quotes:

The most biting disappointment facing the IPO members, however, has been the fact that when Saddam's vast prisons were opened, none of the hundreds of thousands of missing people emerged alive. Abtehale's grandmother suffered a second stroke when it became obvious to her a week after the liberation that her missing son, husband and nephew were not going to appear, traumatised but alive. Yasser's mother still refers to her missing brother and sister as "imprisoned". He says: "I try to tell her that there are no more prisons to be opened up, that they're gone and she has to grieve. But she can't bear to hear it."

Tens of thousands of Iraqis are making a weekly pilgrimage to Kadhimiya, where a human rights centre has been set up to log on computer the names of all the hundreds of thousands of people executed by the regime. They have six million files to work through, seized when the regime fell. They have processed two hundred thousand so far. Abtehale went there searching for her grandfather and uncle. So far, they seem to have vanished without record into Saddam's vast torture machine.


There is a terrible fear among many Iraqis that they will not be able to match the Kurds' achievement if they are abandoned by the Americans once again. "The memories of 1991 are so vivid," says Sama. "People still fear that somehow the Americans will abandon us and Saddam will claw his way back from the grave. They say, `It happened in 1991, it could happen again.' That's one crucial reason why people are reluctant to cooperate with the coalition." She adds: "I find it absolutely incredible that the anti-war people are now calling for the coalition to leave straight away. Nobody in Iraq wants that. The opinion polls show it's just 13 per cent. Don't they care about the Iraqi people and what they want at all? This isn't a game. This isn't about poking a stick at George Bush. This is our lives."

As for those who blame every problem in Iraq on the legacy of sanctions, Sama has little time for them. "Iraqis aren't stupid," she says. "They know that Northern Iraq was under sanctions, too, and none of the terrible things that happened under Saddam, like dying babies, went on there. Most people call them `Saddam's sanctions'. The real issue was Saddam's tyranny, and the way he used sanctions like he used everything else to strengthen his rule."

and most interesting:

Yasser adds: "There's something I'd like to say to your readers. People who really care about Iraqis should join us in fighting for democracy in Iraq and for the debts accumulated by Saddam to be cancelled. Join Jubilee Iraq [a group campaigning against Saddam's debt, contactable at www.jubileeiraq.org]. Argue for the Governing Council to be strengthened. Support us. Don't spend your time hoping that Iraq fails just so you feel better about opposing the war."

Well worth a read. I quoted what I liked but there is a complete story if you read it all.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Al-Jazeera has an interview with Muhammed Sa'id Al-Sahaf, Iraqi Information. He is well remembered as Baghdad Bob. He was the guy who kept on claiming victory to reporters durign the war.

This is what peole have been saying that he confirmed:

Question 5: How did Iraq deal with members of the UN Security Council?

Al-Sahaf: We would contact any country which becomes a temporary member of the Council. We would send them delegations and materials to make our positions clear to them. More and continuous contacts were carried out with the three permanent members of the Council, France, Russia, and China. They were also given preference in oil contracts and trade to keep them as close as possible to the Iraqi side.

He goes on to comment on WMD, saying what many peacenicks forgot to say, that there were weapons there:

Question 10: Were there any weapons of mass destruction (the US-UK official allegation and justification of the war)?

Al-Sahaf: There were no weapons of mass destruction. All the biological, chemical, nuclear, and missile programs, that we had, were destroyed during the 1991 Gulf War. The UN inspectors documented that destruction in detail to the extent of accounting even for the janitors who worked in the facilities of these programs.

Iraq has admitted they had these programs going. Many try to argue that these programs never existed. I think they still had a slimmed down version of these programs, but that is another story. The point here is that Iraq had these programs going.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

An interesting speech by a judge who initially opposed the war but changed his mind after going to Iraq.

One opinion of one person, but he does have interesting insights.

here is a bit:

What changed my mind?

When we left mid June, 57 mass graves had been found, one with the bodies
of 1200 children. There have been credible reports of murder, brutality
and torture of hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iraqi citizens. There is
poverty on a monumental scale and fear on a larger one. That fear is
still palpable.

I have seen the machines and places of torture. I will tell you one story
told to me by the Chief of Pediatrics at the Medical College in Basra. It
was one of the most shocking to me, but I heard worse. One of Saddam's
security agents was sent to question a Shiite in his home. The
interrogation took place in the living room in the presence of the man's
wife, who held their three month old child. A question was asked and the
thug did not like the answer; he asked it again, same answer. He grabbed
the baby from its mother and plucked its eye out. And then repeated his
question. Worse things happened with the knowledge, indeed with the
participation, of Saddam, his family and the Baathist regime.

Thousands suffered while we were messing about with France and Russia and
Germany and the UN. Every one of them knew what was going on there, but
France and the UN were making millions administering the food for oil
program. We cannot, I know, remake the world, nor do I believe we should.
We cannot stamp out evil, I know. But this time we were morally right
and our economic and strategic interests were involved. I submit that just
because we can't do everything doesn't mean that we should do nothing.

We must have the moral courage to see this through, to do whatever it
takes to secure responsible government for the Iraqi people. Having
decided to topple Saddam, we cannot abandon those who trust us. I fear we
will quit as the horrors of war come into our living rooms. Look at the
stories you are getting from the media today. The steady drip, drip, drip
of bad news may destroy our will to fulfill the obligations we have assumed.
listen to and read is highly selective. Good news doesn't sell. 90% of the
damage you see on tv was caused by Iraqis, not by US. All the damage you
see to schools, hospitals, power generation facilities, refineries,
pipelines and water supplies, as well as shops, museums, and semi-public
buildings (like hotels) was caused either by the Iraqi army in its death
throes or Iraqi civilians looting and rioting.

He goes out of his way in his complete speech to say he was there a limited amount of time and was limited in what he actually saw, but he does want to communicate what he did see.
Well the WMD debate continues. Revisionist forces are at work, probably for both sides. One thing that used to not be debatable is whether Iraq had a nuclear weapons program. For some reason this is once again debatable. Somehow, the UN actually told the truth about this.

Most telling part of this Reuters story:

Asked if he believed the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) assertion it had successfully dismantled Iraq's ambitious atomic weapons program in the seven years after detecting it in 1991, Balasem said: "I think this is true."

Balasem said Iraqi nuclear scientists now intended to use their knowledge and skill solely for peaceful purposes.

"The plan of the new ministry is to use all the activities for the peaceful use, and just to leave all of this previous program behind," he said, referring to Saddam's nuclear weapons program. "They want to use all the facilities for rebuilding Iraq, for the reconstruction..."

Well maybe the title of the story truly says it all:

Scientist Says Iraq Never Revived Nuke Program

Monday, September 15, 2003

Most people would deny there is an upside to killing Arafat. Lets skip that; lets say there is a downside.
Although this did not make a lot of noise, the first poll was taken in Iraq. The results are surprising and will likely be contested by people who cannot contradict them with facts. Polls should be taken lightly, but nevertheless be considered. They are a factor. You can tilt polls, but you can only tilt them so far. I am waiting for someone on the left to perform their own poll, it would be interesting to not only compare, but to see if there are any similarities.

Here are the mayor findings of the poll:

Iraqis are optimistic. Seven out of 10 say they expect their country and their personal lives will be better five years from now. On both fronts, 32 percent say things will become much better.

The toughest part of reconstructing their nation, Iraqis say by 3 to 1, will be politics, not economics. They are nervous about democracy. Asked which is closer to their own view--"Democracy can work well in Iraq," or "Democracy is a Western way of doing things"--five out of 10 said democracy is Western and won't work in Iraq. One in 10 wasn't sure. And four out of 10 said democracy can work in Iraq. There were interesting divergences. Sunnis were negative on democracy by more than 2 to 1; but, critically, the majority Shiites were as likely to say democracy would work for Iraqis as not. People age 18-29 are much more rosy about democracy than other Iraqis, and women are significantly more positive than men.

Asked to name one country they would most like Iraq to model its new government on from five possibilities--neighboring, Baathist Syria; neighbor and Islamic monarchy Saudi Arabia; neighbor and Islamist republic Iran; Arab lodestar Egypt; or the U.S.--the most popular model by far was the U.S. The U.S. was preferred as a model by 37 percent of Iraqis selecting from those five--more than Syria, Iran and Egypt put together. Saudi Arabia was in second place at 28 percent. Again, there were important demographic splits. Younger adults are especially favorable toward the U.S., and Shiites are more admiring than Sunnis. Interestingly, Iraqi Shiites, coreligionists with Iranians, do not admire Iran's Islamist government; the U.S. is six times as popular with them as a model for governance.

Our interviewers inquired whether Iraq should have an Islamic government, or instead let all people practice their own religion. Only 33 percent want an Islamic government; a solid 60 percent say no. A vital detail: Shiites (whom Western reporters frequently portray as self-flagellating maniacs) are least receptive to the idea of an Islamic government, saying no by 66 percent to 27 percent. It is only among the minority Sunnis that there is interest in a religious state, and they are split evenly on the question.

Perhaps the strongest indication that an Islamic government won't be part of Iraq's future: The nation is thoroughly secularized. We asked how often our respondents had attended the Friday prayer over the previous month. Fully 43 percent said "never." It's time to scratch "Khomeini II" from the list of morbid fears.

You can also cross out "Osama II": 57 percent of Iraqis with an opinion have an unfavorable view of Osama bin Laden, with 41 percent of those saying it is a very unfavorable view. (Women are especially down on him.) Except in the Sunni triangle (where the limited support that exists for bin Laden is heavily concentrated), negative views of the al Qaeda supremo are actually quite lopsided in all parts of the country. And those opinions were collected before Iraqi police announced it was al Qaeda members who killed worshipers with a truck bomb in Najaf.

And you can write off the possibility of a Baath revival. We asked "Should Baath Party leaders who committed crimes in the past be punished, or should past actions be put behind us?" A thoroughly unforgiving Iraqi public stated by 74 percent to 18 percent that Saddam's henchmen should be punished.

Exploring love, love for the UN, who loves them and why, or more accurate, who does not.
Here is a slice:

The truth is that many Iraqis distrust or even detest the U.N. And for good reason.

It's not so much that they associate the U.N. with sanctions or weapons inspections. They associate it with incompetence, corruption and overfriendliness to dictators - most importantly, Saddam Hussein himself.

They haven't forgotten that Kofi Annan returned from Baghdad in 1998 declaring that Saddam was a man he could work with.

That even now Annan cavils about the "legitimacy" of the Iraqi Governing Council when he and his organization had no problem with Saddam's legitimacy, or that of any of the other despotic Arab regimes, furthers the perception that the U.N.'s advocacy of democracy in Iraq is a lie.

You can forgive Iraqis for being irritated with the U.N. when they heard that in the months after the war the U.N. withheld supplies already paid for by the oil-for-food program (a byword for mismanagement, graft and hypocrisy) until the coalition made such face-saving gestures as giving the U.N. envoy to Iraq a non-voting seat on the Governing Council.

And you can understand why the sight of all those shiny, underused U.N.-owned SUVs parked in the sun outside the Canal Hotel, or the expensively remodeled air-conditioned headquarters itself, inspired not love and gratitude, but resentment.

Many Iraqi politicians, especially secular moderates, are also disturbed by the way the U.N. is so strangely keen to let Iraq's neighbors help reshape the country.

Ghassan Salameh, the assistant to the late Sergio de Mello, told a Paris Arabic newspaper that "The U.N. does not agree with the coalition..that the countries neighboring Iraq should not be involved...Their interest is legitimate."

Of course, the very fact that Salameh, a former government official in Lebanon, was appointed to such a senior position set off alarm bells among Iraqi pols: The Iraqis know perfectly well that Lebanon is controlled by Syria and that Salameh may be discreetly working for Damascus.

Moreover, the presence of an Arab politician in such a key U.N. position reminds Iraqi Kurds, Turkmen and Assyrian Christians that the U.N. sees Iraq as an Arab country, not a multi-ethnic one.

And you can be sure that the Iraqi Kurds certainly haven't forgotten that Kofi Annan and his staff never raised a peep about the genocidal Anfal campaign in 1988, or its most famous atrocity at Halabja.

The U.N. is particularly - and rightly - despised by the Kurds.

Half of the money allocated to Iraqi Kurdistan under the so-called oil-for-food program never reached its beneficiaries, because the U.N. went along with Baghdad's efforts to divert or delay those funds.

Notoriously, the largely Kurdish city of Suleimaniya never received the hospital that was supposed to be built with oil-for-food funds, while the U.N. allowed oil-for-food cash to go to such pressing humanitarian projects as Uday Hussein's Olympic Committee. (Some of the funds could even have gone to the torturers who disciplined unsuccessful athletes.)

The U.N. also went along with Saddam's demands that Americans, Britons and eventually Scandinavians be excluded from the oil-for-food program.

Instead, it was staffed by Arabs from countries like Tunisia and Egypt - who turned out to be useful recruits for Saddam's security services.

Worse still, the U.N. quietly went along with Baghdad's racist demand that no Kurds be employed in the administration of the program. Even now, Kofi Annan and his staffers are oblivious to massive displacement of the Kurds (and Turkmen and Assyrian Christians) by Saddam's Arabization campaign, but have complained about a few incidents in Kirkuk from which Kurds have expelled Arab settlers from previously Kurdish homes.

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