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[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #144 - 2 msgs

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Today's Topics:

   1. The latest from Riverbend (Hassan)
   2. Iraqi Documents on Israel Surface on a Cultural Hunt (John Churchilly)


Message: 1
Date: Thu, 16 Sep 2004 10:13:27 -0700 (PDT)
From: Hassan <>
Subject: The latest from Riverbend
To: CASI analysis <>,
  iac-discussion <>

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11...

August was a hellish month. The heat was incredible.
No one remembers Baghdad ever being quite this hot- I
think we broke a new record somewhere in mid-August.

The last few days, Baghdad has been echoing with
explosions. We woke up to several loud blasts a few
days ago. The sound has become all too common. It=92s
like the heat, the flies, the carcasses of buildings,
the broken streets and the haphazard walls coming up
out of nowhere all over the city=85 it has become a part
of life. We were sleeping on the roof around three
days ago, but I had stumbled back indoors at around 5
am when the electricity returned and was asleep under
the cool air of an air-conditioner when the first
explosions rang out.

I tried futilely to cling to the last fragments of a
fading dream and go back to sleep when several more
explosions followed. Upon getting downstairs, I found
E. flipping through the news channels, trying to find
out what was going on. =93They aren=92t nearly fast
enough,=94 he shook his head with disgust. =93We=92re not
going to know what=92s happening until noon.=94

But the news began coming in much sooner. There were
clashes between armed Iraqis and the Americans on
Haifa Street- a burned out hummer, some celebrating
crowds, missiles from helicopters, a journalist dead,
dozens of Iraqis wounded, and several others dead. The
road leading to the airport has seen some action these
last few days- more attacks on troops and also some
attacks on Iraqi guard. The people in the areas
surrounding the airport claim that no one got any
sleep the whole night.

The areas outside of Baghdad aren=92t much better off.
The south is still seeing clashes between the Sadir
militia and troops. Areas to the north of Baghdad are
being bombed and attacked daily. Ramadi was very
recently under attack and they say that they aren=92t
allowing the wounded out of the city. Tel Affar in the
north of the country is under siege and Falloojeh is
still being bombed.

Everyone is simply tired in Baghdad. We=92ve become one
of those places you read about in the news and shake
your head thinking, =93What=92s this world coming to?=94
Kidnappings. Bombings. Armed militias. Extremists.
Drugs. Gangs. Robberies. You name it, and we can
probably tell you several interesting stories.

So how did I spend my 9/11? I watched Michael Moore=92s
movie, Fahrenheit 9/11 (
I=92ve had bootleg CD version since early August. (Grave
apologies to Michael Moore- but there=92s no other way
we can see it here=85) The copy has been sitting in a
drawer with a bunch of other CDs. One of my cousins
brought it over one day and said that while it was
brilliant, it was also quite depressing and
distressing all at once. I had been avoiding it
because, quite frankly, I cannot stand to see Bush for
five minutes straight- I wasn=92t sure how I=92d cope with
almost two hours.

Three days ago, I took it out while the house was
relatively quiet- no cousins, no cousins=92 children,
parents busy watching something or another, and E.
asleep in front of the air conditioner for the next
three hours.

The CD was surprisingly clear. I had expected some
fuzziness and bad sound quality- it was fine. Someone
had made the copy inside a movie theater. I could tell
because in the background, there was a ringing mobile
phone a couple of times and some annoying person in
the front kept getting up to adjust his seat.

I was caught up in the film from the first moment,
until the very last. There were moments, while
watching, when I could barely breathe. I wasn=92t
surprised with anything- there was nothing that
shocked me- all of the stuff about the Bush family and
their Saudi friends was old news. It was the other
stuff that had an impact- seeing the reactions of
Americans to the war, seeing the troops in Iraq being
interviewed, seeing that American mother before and
after she lost her son in Iraq.

Ah, that mother. How she made me angry in the
beginning. I couldn=92t stand to see her on screen-
convincing the world that joining the army was the
ideal thing to do- perfectly happy that her daughter
and son were =91serving=92 America- nay, serving, in fact,
the world by joining up. I hated her even more as they
showed the Iraqi victims- the burning buildings, the
explosions, the corpses- the dead and the dying. I
wanted to hate her throughout the whole film because
she embodied the arrogance and ignorance of the people
who supported the war.

I can=92t explain the feelings I had towards her. I
pitied her because, apparently, she knew very little
about what she was sending her kids into. I was angry
with her because she really didn=92t want to know what
she was sending her children to do. In the end, all of
those feelings crumbled away as she read the last
letter from her deceased son. I began feeling a
sympathy I really didn=92t want to feel, and as she was
walking in the streets of Washington, looking at the
protestors and crying, it struck me that the Americans
around her would never understand her anguish. The
irony of the situation is that the one place in the
world she would ever find empathy was Iraq. We
understand. We know what it=92s like to lose family and
friends to war- to know that their final moments
weren=92t peaceful ones=85 that they probably died thirsty
and in pain=85 that they weren=92t surrounded by loved
ones while taking their final breath.

When she asked why her son had been taken and that he
had been a good person=85 why did this have to happen to
him? I kept wondering if she ever gave a second
thought to the Iraqi victims and whether it ever
occurred to her that Iraqi parents perhaps have the
same thoughts as the try to dig their children out
from under the rubble of fallen homes in Falloojeh, or
as they attempt to stop the blood flowing out of a
gaping hole in the chest of a child in Karbala.

The flashes of the bombing of Iraq and the victims
were more painful than I thought they would be. We
lived through it, but seeing it on a screen is still a
torment. I thought that this last year and a half had
somehow made me a little bit tougher when it came to
seeing Iraq being torn apart by bombs and watching
foreign troops destroy the country- but the wound is
still as raw as ever. Watching those scenes was like
poking at a gash with sharp stick- it hurt.

All in all, the film was=85 what is the right word for
it? Great? Amazing? Fantastic? No. It made me furious,
it made me sad and I cried more than I=92d like to
admit=85 but it was brilliant. The words he used to
narrate were simple and to the point. I wish everyone
could see the film. I know I'll be getting dozens of
emails from enraged Americans telling me that
so-and-so statement was exaggerated, etc. But it
really doesn't matter to me. What matters is the
underlying message of the film- things aren't better
for Americans now than they were in 2001, and they
certainly aren't better for Iraqis.

Three years ago, Iraq wasn't a threat to America.
Today it is. Since March 2003, over 1000 Americans
have died inside of Iraq... and the number is rising.
In twenty years time, upon looking back, how do
Americans think Iraqis are going to remember this

I constantly wonder, three years after 9/11, do
Americans feel safer? When it first happened, there
was a sort of collective shock in Iraq. In 2002, there
was a sort of pity and understanding- we=92ve been
through the same. Americans could hardly believe what
had happened, but the American government brings this
sort of grief upon nations annually=85 suddenly the war
wasn=92t thousands of kilometers away, it was home.

How do we feel about it this year? A little bit tired.

We have 9/11=92s on a monthly basis. Each and every
Iraqi person who dies with a bullet, a missile, a
grenade, under torture, accidentally- they all have
families and friends and people who care. The number
of Iraqis dead since March 2003 is by now at least
eight times the number of people who died in the World
Trade Center. They had their last words, and their
last thoughts as their worlds came down around them,
too. I=92ve attended more wakes and funerals this last
year, than I=92ve attended my whole life. The process of
mourning and the hollow words of comfort have become
much too familiar and automatic.

September 11=85 he sat there, reading the paper. As he
reached out for the cup in front of him for a sip of
tea, he could vaguely hear the sound of an airplane
overhead. It was a bright, fresh day and there was
much he had to do=85 but the world suddenly went black-
a colossal explosion and then crushed bones under the
weight of concrete and iron=85 screams rose up around
him=85 men, women and children=85 shards of glass sought
out tender, unprotected skin =85 he thought of his
family and tried to rise, but something inside of him
was broken=85 there was a rising heat and the pungent
smell of burning flesh mingled sickeningly with the
smoke and the dust=85 and suddenly it was blackness.

9/11/01? New York? World Trade Center?


9/11/04. Falloojeh. An Iraqi home.

- posted by river @ 2:49 PM

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Message: 2
Date: Wed, 8 Sep 2004 16:39:44 -0700 (PDT)
From: John Churchilly <>
Subject: Iraqi Documents on Israel Surface on a Cultural Hunt

Daily Star (Beirut) - Saturday 4th September 2004

Israel tallies up compensation claims by Iraq's Jews
By Michael R. Fischbach*

On May 6, 2003, the same day that Paul Bremer replaced
Jay Garner as head of the US Office for Reconstruction
and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) in Iraq, 16
American soldiers from the US Army's Mobile
Exploration Team Alpha, along with personnel from ORHA
and the Iraqi National Congress (INC), descended into
the flooded basement of the bombed-out Iraqi
Department of General Intelligence in Baghdad.
Although the army team's job was to search for Iraqi
weapons of mass destruction, that day they were
seeking something quite different.

A former Iraqi intelligence official had tipped off
the INC a few days earlier that an ancient copy of the
Jewish Talmud lay deep within the General Intelligence
headquarters. The INC then told the Americans, who
decided that finding such a valuable cultural relic
merited the diversion of the army search team from its
normal task. Although the troops did not uncover the
Talmud, they did discover something else: thousands of
manuscripts, documents and books, some of them
hundreds of years old, dealing with Iraq's ancient and
once thriving Jewish community, which is now virtually
extinct. What the troops had found were the archives
of the General Intelligence's Israel-Palestine and
Jewish Sections.

It appears that many of the manuscripts, Torah scrolls
and books were confiscated from synagogues and
libraries after the mass exodus of the Iraqi Jewish
community in 1950-51. Most went to Israel. With the
permission of the interim Iraqi Culture Ministry, the
Coalition Provisional Authority had the water-damaged
documents shipped to Texas, whereupon they were freeze
dried and sent to the US National Archives and Records
Administration in Washington for restoration and
preservation. Archives officials are presently seeking
between $1.5 million to $3 million in donations to
further the restoration work. The final disposition of
the documents remains an open question.

The Americans also discovered documents in the General
Intelligence headquarters basement relating to Jewish
property in and around Baghdad, property that had been
sequestered by the Iraqi government beginning in 1951,
during the mass emigration. The Israeli government has
long campaigned to have the value of Jewish property
abandoned in the Arab world deducted from any
compensation the Israelis may one day pay to
Palestinian refugees for the property they abandoned
in Israel in 1948. Indeed, Israeli Diaspora Affairs
Minister Natan Sharansky asked the Americans in 2003
to look for anything relating to Iraq's Jewish
community after conquering the country.

After the property records were discovered in Baghdad,
the State Department in late May 2004 passed along to
Sharansky 800 black-and-white photocopies of the
Arabic-language documents. After translation, they
will be turned over to the Israeli Justice Ministry,
whose director-general, Aharon Abramovitz, co-chairs
the Israeli government's Compensation Committee for
Jews Who Left Arab States. The Justice Ministry
maintains an archive of 12,000 files dealing with
property claims of Jewish immigrants from Arab
countries and Iran. The unit responsible for this
archive was first established in 1969, disbanded in
the early 1990s, and recently revived.

The Israeli government has not been alone in
discussing compensation for Jewish property taken over
in Iraq. This was just the latest example of the
interest in such property that arose in 2003, soon
after Iraq's defeat. Iraqi Jewish exiles in the US
began discussing lawsuits. Groups like the World
Jewish Congress raised the issue with the US Congress
and the British Parliament. Another organization,
Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, issued a lengthy
report entitled "Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries:
The Case for Rights and Redress" in June 2003.

The publicity and lobbying worked: The US House of
Representatives held hearings on Jewish emigrants from
the Arab world in June 2003, and later passed a
resolution of support for these emigrants in October.
In March 2004, both the House and the Senate adopted a
joint resolution calling on the US government to raise
the issue whenever it brings up the Palestinian
refugee question in diplomatic discussions.

Beyond talk, there even has been one specific success
in the campaign to compensate former Iraqi Jews. In
April 2004, French insurance giant AXA agreed to pay
$130,000 to three Israelis who had bought policies
decades ago when they were living in Iraq, and added
that four others were eligible for payment. AXA's
interest in this issue actually predates the invasion
of Iraq. The firm agreed in late 2002 to look into old
insurance policies taken out by Jews in the Arab
world, and in October 2003 the Israeli Justice
Ministry published in the Israeli press information
from its files regarding approximately 200 cases of
Iraqi Jewish insurance policies that were never paid

Nor has all the talk of Jewish property compensation
been restricted to Israel and Western countries.
Discussion of Jews and property has also surfaced
within Iraq itself. In late December 2003, a source
within the Iraqi Governing Council told the Jerusalem
Post that the council was considering restitution of
Jewish property seized as of 1951. Rumors of "foreign
Jews," presumably former Iraqi citizens, seeking to
buy land in Iraq, were rife. The exiled Iraqi Shiite
cleric Ayatollah Qazim al-Husayni al-Hairi issued a
fatwa from Qom, Iran, as a result. The decree
sanctions death for any Jew seeking to buy land in

Jewish property claims have also emerged elsewhere in
the Arab world. Perhaps as part of Libya's attempts to
emerge from its pariah status, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi,
the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, stated in
March 2004 that the Libyan government would pay
compensation for property seized from Jewish emigrants
after 1948.

Turning over captured documents on Jewish property was
not the first example of American sympathy with
Israeli and Jewish interests in Iraq. In July 2003,
the Jewish Agency, in coordination with the Israeli
prime minister's office and other international Jewish
organizations, was allowed to fly six, mainly elderly
Jews from Baghdad to Israel. Despite their attempts to
stop the illegal export of objects stolen from Iraqi
museums, the Americans one month later handed over to
Israeli authorities in Jordan the helmet of an Israeli
aviator shot down over Iraq in June 1967 that they had
taken from a Baghdad military museum. This past March,
Secretary of State Colin Powell assured a delegation
from the World Jewish Congress that he would work for
restoring citizenship to Iraqi Jewish emigrants who
were denationalized, as well as for property

Such attention on compensation could also heighten
global attention on compensation and-or restitution of
the property abandoned by Palestinian refugees in 1948
and later confiscated by Israel. So, too, might
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's decision earlier
this year that Israel would compensate any Jewish
settlers evacuated from settlements in the West Bank
and Gaza. Where might this money come from? Sharon's
disengagement plan calls for an international body to
take possession of the buildings left behind in
evacuated Jewish settlements, and determine their
value for potential compensation payments to Israel.

Whether all this attention on Jewish and Palestinian
property abandoned under duress long ago will lead to
concrete action, however, remains to be seen.
*Michael R. Fischbach is a professor of history at
Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, and a consultant
on refugee property issues. His book, "Records of
Dispossession: Palestinian Refugee Property and the
Arab-Israeli Conflict," will soon be reprinted in the
Middle East by the American University of Cairo Press.
He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR
New York Times - 7th May 2003

Iraqi Documents on Israel Surface on a Cultural Hunt

BAGHDAD, Iraq - What began today as a hunt for an
ancient Jewish text at secret police headquarters here
wound up unearthing a trove of Iraqi intelligence
documents and maps relating to Israel as well as
offers of sales of uranium and other nuclear material
to Iraq.

In one huge room in the flooded basement of the
building, American soldiers from MET Alpha, the
"mobile exploitation team" that has been
searching for nuclear, biological and chemical weapons
in Iraq for the past three months, found maps
featuring terrorist strikes against Israel dating to
1991. Another map of Israel highlighted what the
Iraqis thought were the locations at which their Scud
missiles had struck in the Persian Gulf war of 1991.
The strikes were designated by yellow-and-red paper
flowers placed atop the pinpointed Israeli

Team members floated out of the room a perfect mock-up
of the Knesset,the Israeli Parliament, as well as
mock-ups of downtown Jerusalem and official Israeli
buildings in very fine detail. They also collected a
satellite picture of Dimona, Israel's nuclear complex,
and a female mannequin dressed in an Israeli Air Force
uniform, standing in front of
a list of Israeli officers' ranks and insignia.

Of even greater interest to MET Alpha was a "top
secret" intelligence memo found in a room on another
floor. Written in Arabic and dated May
20, 2001, the memo from the Iraqi intelligence station
chief in an African country described an offer by a
"holy warrior" to sell uranium
and other nuclear material. The bid was rejected, the
memo states, because of the United Nations "sanctions
situation." But the station chief wrote that the
source was eager to provide similar help at a more
convenient time.

The discoveries, which American military officers
called significant but which did not by themselves
offer documentary evidence of direct Iraqi
links to terror attacks on Israel, were the
serendipitous byproduct of one of the strangest
missions ever conducted by MET Alpha.

The search began this morning when 16 soldiers from
MET Alpha teamed up with members of the Iraqi National
Congress, a leading opposition group
headed by Ahmad Chalabi, to search for what an
intelligence source had described as one of the most
ancient copies of the Talmud in existence,
dating from the seventh century. The Talmud is a book
of oral law, with rabbinical commentaries and

A former senior official of the Mukhabarat, Saddam
Hussein's secret police, had told the opposition group
a few days earlier that he had hidden the ancient
Jewish book in the basement of his headquarters. The
building had been badly damaged by coalition bombing,
said the man, who
is now working for the Iraqi National Congress, but he
was still willing to take a group there to recover it.
MET Alpha hesitated. Its mission was hunting for proof
of unconventional weapons in Iraq, not saving
cultural and religious treasures. But Col. Richard R.
McPhee, its commander, decided that the historic
Talmud was too valuable to leave behind.

Early this morning, a seven-vehicle convoy pulled out
of the Iraqi Hunting Club, a former Baathist retreat
that is now the headquarters for the Iraqi National
Congress. Accompanied by members of the Office of
Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, MET
Alpha's chaplain, who has a strong interest in
religious texts, and a reporter, the group
arrived at Mukhabarat headquarters only to find the
section of the building in which the precious document
was said to be stored under four feet of murky, fetid
water. Dead animals floated on the surface. The
stairwell down to the muck was littered with shards of
glass, pieces of
smashed walls and other bombing debris.

Temporarily daunted by the overpowering stench, MET
Alpha's leader,Chief Warrant Officer Richard L.
Gonzales, and two other MET Alpha soldiers eventually
collected themselves and plunged into the mire in
search of the holy text as the team chaplain shook his
head in disbelief.

What they found instead of the precious book was what
the former Iraqi intelligence official said was the
operations center of the Mukhabarat's
Israel-Palestine department. Two Iraqi National
Congress members joined the soldiers in the water as
they inched their way by flashlight through
the 50-foot hallway to the rooms where they happened
upon the intelligence documents.

Slogging down the dank hallway, the soldiers reached a
room where they found hundreds of books floating in
the foul water. There they rescued three bundles of
older Jewish books, including a Babylonian Talmud from
Vilna, accounting books of the Jewish community of
Baghdad between 1949 and 1953 and dozens of more
modern scholarly books mostly in Arabic and
Hebrew - "Generals of Israel," by Moshe Ben-Shaul;
David Ben-Gurion's "Memoirs"; and "Semites and
Anti-Semites," by the Princeton scholar
Bernard Lewis.

But no seventh-century Talmud.

In the end, MET Alpha collected and turned over one
large truckload of intelligence documents to the
Defense Intelligence Agency for analysis. As for the
missing Talmud, Mr. Gonzales said his team believed
that it might still be at the bottom of the
Mukhabarat's flooded basement. That view was
reinforced by the recovery of a wooden box with Hebrew
writing,which the former Iraqi intelligence officer
said might have contained
the priceless artifact.

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