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News, 17-24/9/03 (3) IRAQI CIVIL SOCIETY * The homecoming * The Return of an Expatriate * Iraqi Turkoman Front elects new leader * Iraq: will the Mandeans survive post-war Iraq? * 70th Assyrian Convention Addresses the Iraqi-Assyrian Question JUAN COLE'S CORNER * Juan Cole ‹ Informed Comment RIVER'S CORNER * Baghdad Burning IRAQI CIVIL SOCIETY http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/story.jsp?story=444363 * THE HOMECOMING The Independent, 18th September [.....] The IPO was set up to convince the world that the Iraqi people wanted and needed Saddam's regime to be overthrown, even if that meant an invasion, and for democracy to be established. They wanted to persuade people that the anti-war movement did not speak for the Iraqis or Kurdish people. After all, their Iraqi relatives were praying for the invasion to happen. Opinion polls conducted in Iraq since the war - by reputable polling agencies that have predicted election results across the world - have vindicated this view, showing that a large majority of Iraqis wanted the invasion. And there was therefore reason to hope that this visit to Iraq would be a happy one. None the less, I have spent the summer fearing for Sama, Yasser and Abtehale. Partly I was anxious for their physical safety: they were very close to the UN headquarters on the day the building was blown up, for example. But mostly I worried about their emotional health. All three had spent their lives pining for home. What if home disappointed them? What if the Iraqi people saw them as strangers? What if Iraqis did not want to hear them evangelise for democracy? [.....] 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. Despite his vigorous support for the war, Yasser has no doubt that the occupying coalition made one massive error when they took charge. "They didn't round up all the former members of Saddam's security services, and we're paying the price now," he explains. "My aunt lives in a slum in north-west Baghdad, and on 9 April [the day Saddam's statue was toppled] everyone in the security services disappeared. They all ran away because they knew they would be killed by Iraqis or captured by the Americans. But after two months, they began to trickle back. The man who lives opposite my aunt was part of Saddam's secret police, and he's reappeared and he's just carrying on as if nothing happened. He terrifies everyone just by walking up the street. "You have to understand, people were conditioned to be fearful all the time. So even now it takes a huge amount of courage to report that there's a former member of the Mukhabarat [Saddam's secret police] living on your street, but even if you do report it, he just gets questioned and then the Americans let him go. So people ask, 'Why should I put my life at risk of a revenge attack to report somebody if then nothing will happen?' But it's these Saddam loyalists, I'm certain, who are leading the attacks [against coalition forces and Iraq's civilian infrastructure]. If they had rounded them up at the start, things would not be so bad now. The only people who can recognise these Bakti and hunt them down now are the Iraqi people themselves." They even fear that Baathists are again voicing their allegiances publicly. "When we first arrived," Sama says, "nobody would admit to being part of Saddam's machine. But by the time we left, we had people admitting blatantly that they had been with Saddam, even people saying they had been in his elite forces." They met some students who were the children of thugs who had been high up in Saddam's regime, and "they were going around one of the Baghdad universities writing things on the walls, like 'Long live Saddam Hussein, may he return'. Now, only a tiny number support this kind of thing [less than 5 per cent of Iraqis, according to all available opinion polls], but it is absolutely terrifying everyone." There have been moments of great joy this summer, too. "When it was confirmed that Saddam's sons were dead, Baghdad was like a big party," Sama says. "So many people were firing into the sky [a traditional Arab form of celebration] that it looked like a firework display." Yasser adds: "My aunt's husband was killed by Saddam. That morning, she was sitting on her own, very quietly, and she just said to me, 'Now that bastard knows how we felt,' and she cried." One day was almost as great: 17 July, the anniversary of the founding of the Baath Party. "A rumour went all over that Saddam had been caught," Abtehale says. "It was incredible: Baghdad came to standstill. There were parties, celebrations everywhere. It was funny, really: a rumour would start that he had been captured in one area, so everyone jumped into their cars and drove there. That's what we did. But when we got there, they said, no, it's the next area along, so we drove there. And they said, no, it's in east Baghdad - so we all drove there. And so it went on. But when we found out that it wasn't true, it was terrible." There has been a boom industry in Iraq of videos showing real footage of Saddam's crimes. They include horrifying scenes of his acts of torture. "People watch it compulsively because they feel they need to know what happened," Sama told me. "Here in Britain, people know more about what happened during the Saddam years than Iraqis do, because they had no way of finding out the truth." Yasser says quietly: "The day after the liberation, my aunt put out a black banner [an Arab mourning ritual] with the names of all her relatives who had been murdered by the regime on it. And she looked down her street, and there were black banners on almost every house. On some houses it looks like a long shopping list. She said to her neighbour, 'You too?' Under Saddam it was a crime to mourn people killed by the regime - it made you seem suspicious too. Everyone was suffering terribly, but they were suffering alone. They just didn't know that everyone else was hating it too." Even now, people are only just coming to terms with the massive crimes thathave been committed against them. Sama talked to a group at a university about her family's experiences. Afterwards, a girl approached her and whispered: "You were deported? I have never told anyone this before, but my uncle was deported too." Sama explained that more than two million people had been deported by the Baathists, and there was no shame in it. The girl had had no idea. [.....] NO URL * THE RETURN OF AN EXPATRIATE by Ammar Alshahbander in Baghdad Iraqnet, 19th September After a near lifetime of anticipation, I found myself last winter driving into the Iraqi heartland to fulfil a long-coveted dream: a return to my birthplace, Baghdad. The journey felt like sleepwalking. Images swirled through my head with the speed of light: dark images of torture, fear, war, and devastation intermingled with hopeful images of newly-liberated and celebrating Iraqi men and women. I drove into a surreal Baghdad in the first chaotic days of liberation. The streets vibrated with spontaneous demonstrations. People chanted "Death to Saddam" as crowds hailed coalition troops as heroes. Widows and orphans, who were barred from publicly mourning during Saddam's regime, were in the streets wailing for loved ones killed as long as 20 years ago. In a misplaced sense of freedom, people drove like mad men, breaking every traffic law, and hundreds of people gleefully looted. On the surface, it was as I had imagined. But over the several months I spent in Baghdad, I slowly came to realise that at a deeper level, it was an Iraq I never knew and could not have imagined. After many years of campaigning for the cause of Iraqi freedom, I thought I knew Iraqi society, as did many of my compatriots in exile. We had constructed a picture of a society simply divided into two generations. We envisioned an older, reactionary generation, fully indoctrinated in the ideology of the Ba'ath and pathologically antidemocratic. They would resist the values of liberty and equality. We also thought there would be a smart, energetic younger generation, full of visions of a better, more productive future. The reality was far more complex and will be far more difficult to transform. Few of us in the diaspora realised a deep, slow moving process had altered Iraq to its core. We had not seen that the Ba'ath regime had worked for more than three decades to destroy the traditional structures, values and customs of Iraqi society. We found in summer 2003 that all the crucial elements of Iraqi society had been organised to service and maintain the position of those in power. The fall of the regime did little to extricate them from their privileged positions. The Ba'ath party used a four-prong approach to alter the institutions of the country to serve their needs. They first created a pool of loyal human resources. This was accomplished via an artificial urbanisation process in which young, poor and uneducated young men, mainly from the villages of western Iraq, were recruited to work in key governmental sectors, especially in the army and security apparatus. This process concentrated state power in the hands of a malleable minority grateful for its new status and eager to maintain its privileges at any cost. Secondly, the Iraqi economy was brought under regime control through the systemic destruction of the traditional business community. Large successful businesses were nationalised. After this was accomplished, mid-level businessmen were often falsely accused of crimes and their businesses then confiscated. All these now state- owned assets were then privatised and sold at knockdown prices to Saddam Hussein's family members and staunch loyalists. The end result was a monopolised, state-protected economy entirely controlled by supporters of the regime. The third prong sought to control access to education via a series of procedures. First, high school students whose parents were considered "friends of the leader", "heroes of the Mother of all Battles" or members of privileged military branches, such as the Special Republican Guards, were allowed up to 20 per cent extra marks on their exams. The admittance level of prestigious colleges, such as medical schools, were then set above 100 per cent, limiting enrolment to regime supporters. In addition, admittance to certain colleges, such as the College of Political Sciences or Teacher Education, was limited to full members of the Ba'ath party. Finally, elite educational institutions, such as Saddam University, were open only for the members of the regime and their families. The forth and the last prong was the brutal persecution and collective punishment of all possible opponents. Members of "suspect" groups, such as the Kurds or Shia, were systematically and forcibly removed from government jobs and replaced with party loyalists, usually Sunni Arabs. In addition, many rights and privileges such as pension payments, ration cards and even the right to own property, were suspended for organisations under suspicion. The result, after 30 years, is a class-based society deeply fragmented along regional, ethnic and sectarian lines. The privileged few are well educated, have substantial financial assets and well-paid public and private jobs. The deprived and long-persecuted majority is poorly education with little more than the will to survive. Many of my fellow exiles and I returned hoping to help build a new Iraq. But we realise today that we are up against an entrenched elite largely untouched by the war. Saddam's regime may be gone along with the most brutal enforces for his rule - the military and security services - but his loyalists largely remain in the most powerful and privileged positions in society. Now, as I leave Iraq to return home to London, images of destruction and injustice jam my mind once again. And I wonder, when - and how - Iraq will be liberated. A London-based sociologist, Ammar Alshahbander, was born in Iraq and lived in exile for nearly thirty years. He has been working in Baghdad with the Iraq Foundation since the end of the war, and is due to return to London in October * IRAQI TURKOMAN FRONT ELECTS NEW LEADER RFE/RL IRAQ REPORT Vol. 6, No. 39, 21 September 2003 The Iraqi Turkoman Front has reportedly elected a new leader following a three-day convention in the northern Iraqi town of Kirkuk, Turkishdailynews.com reported on 17 September. Faruk Abdullah Abd al-Rahman will now lead the group. He told the online news organization that his group, which serves as an umbrella organization for Turkoman groups in Iraq, would set its policies independent of Ankara's interventions. He added that the Turkoman groups are now in the process of unification, but did not elaborate. Abd al-Rahman called on Turkey to send troops to Iraq under a UN mandate, saying, "Turkey should not be seen here as cooperating with the occupying force...Iraqi people need help and Turkey, a Muslim country with cultural ties to Iraq, should help them. In addition, a Turkish deployment, even in Sunni Arab regions, might be useful to [better defend] Turkomans' rights." (Kathleen Ridolfo) http://www.worldevangelical.org/persec_iraq_24jul03.html * IRAQ: WILL THE MANDEANS SURVIVE POST-WAR IRAQ? by Elizabeth Kendal worldevangelical.org., 24th July Mandaeans are a small pre-Christian sect that honours John the Baptist. They are believed to have originated in Jordan, but persecution in the first century forced them to emigrate east. There are an estimated 100,000 Mandaeans worldwide, mainly in Iraq and Iran. The Mandaeans have survived 1400 years of Islamic persecution, which includes many massacres of Mandaeans throughout the centuries. In 1870 an entire Mandaean community was massacred at Shushtar, north of Ahwaz in southwestern Iran, close to the southern Iraqi border. Other forms of persecution include harassment and abuse, often accompanied with violence, in the streets and at the daily public Mandaean baptisms. Mandaean couples are often forced to divorce so that Muslim marriages can be imposed upon them, thus ensuring the Mandaeans lose their Mandaean identity. In Islamic communities, Mandaeans are regarded as infidels (kaffir) and unclean (najes), hence they can have great difficulty obtaining employment and education. Islamic persecution has led many Mandaeans to emigrate. Others flee as asylum seekers, many of whom struggle against misinformation and propaganda for the right to be granted refugee status. As Islamic fervor has risen, persecution has increased. A report by the Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA) notes, "While the secular regime of Saddam Hussein had, to some extent, kept Islamic extremism in check, in the period leading up to the outbreak of war the Iraqi regime had sought to appeal to Muslim feeling against the 'infidels' (kaffir). Accordingly, television received in Ahwaz, Iran (both Iraqi and Iranian TV), had been constantly pouring out venomous hatred of the 'infidels', and Muslim feeling has become inflamed." The Sabian Mandaean Association of Australia (SMAA), based in Sydney (home to some 2,000 Mandaeans) reports that more than 80 Mandaeans have been murdered in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad. In the days immediately following the fall of Baghdad, Islamists murdered some 30 Mandaeans in Baghdad alone. In the days after the fall of Baghdad, one Mandaean was attacked in his home and seriously wounded. A Mandaean doctor operated on him, without anaesthetic. The doctor was killed the next day. Muslims have also raped at least 20 Mandaean women and young girls since the "end of the war", although this figure is likely to be much, much higher as most rape cases go unreported due to fear, shame and humiliation. As committed pacifists, the Mandaeans are extremely vulnerable as they are not only despised, but they are unarmed and defenceless. The threat of sexual assault is particularly serious, as Islamic judges in Iran have set the precedent that the rape of a Mandaean woman can be regarded as an act of "purification", and as such, violators receive impunity. In Iran this defence has been used to acquit men of rapes on Mandaean girls as young as 8 years old. Some 30 Mandaeans have been murdered in Basra in recent months. The remaining Mandaeans are fleeing and the SMAA has lost all contact with them. Allegedly, coalition forces are advising the Mandaeans to flee, as they cannot offer them protection. There is concern that Mandaeans may also have been murdered in the north, in Iraqi Kurdistan. Dr. Edward Crangle is the Post-Graduate Research Co-coordinator in the Department of Studies in Religion with the University of Sydney. In a letter dated 21 April 2003, he wrote, "Since the demise of the recent Iraqi regime, many Sabian Mandaeans have been murdered by various extremist Muslim groups and tribes, including the extremely fundamentalist religious Sunni and Sheaat groups and parties such as Al-Wahabin, Al-Daawa Al-Islamiah and Ikhwan Al-Moslemin." GENOCIDAL INTENTIONS? Above and beyond the human rights violations and threat to life, the Mandaean community actually fears that some Iraqi Islamists have genocidal intentions and would be willing to effect a 'Final Solution'. According to mail received by SMAA from Iraq, amongst the abuse being meted out to Mandaeans are phrases such as, "You are kaffirs (infidels)! We will treat you like the Jews! Get out of Iraq! This is an Islamic country! This is a clean country!" Very recently, the President of the SMAA was able to speak by phone to a Mandaean clergyman in Baghdad who said that Mandaeans are living in a state of terror. He said they fear that one night the Muslims will just kill all of them. He also said that many Iraqis who formerly supported the Hussein regime are now supporting the Islamists in their campaign against invaders and infidels. Mandaeans in Ahwaz (in Iran) have reported to the SMAA that they also are receiving news of murders of Mandaeans in Iraq. The Mandaean Archbishop in Australia visited Iran from 5 March to 10 May. He testifies that the situation for Mandaeans in Iran has also deteriorated considerably since the fall of Baghdad, and there is much fear. (In Iran, Mandaeans are an illegal sect without religious or legal recognition.) One Mandaean in Ahwaz reports that he was traveling in a taxi with Muslims who were unaware that he was Mandaean. One of the Muslim men remarked that he was hopeful the time would soon come when the Muslims would be given permission to attack the areas where the infidels live. HOUSE AND CHURCH CONFISCATIONS There are reports that many Mandaeans are sharing accommodation and living together out of fear for their lives. However, as soon as their homes are unoccupied, Muslims acquire them. One Mandaean woman lost her home to a Shi'a cleric this way. One family was forced out of their home by Islamists who then immediately fixed green flags to the roof and converted the home into a headquarters for their movement. One Mandaean who corresponds with the SMAA through a brother in Australia reports that Muslims are threatening to take over the Mandaean's mandi (church) and convert it into a mosque. This builds on another precedent established in Iran where, in 1989, the Mandaean mandi in Awhaz was confiscated and converted into headquarters for the Islamic Religious Police. IN FEAR OF SHARIA The Mandaeans, like the Christians, are also living in fear of an Islamic state under Sharia law. The new 25-member Iraqi Governing Council is made up of thirteen Shi'a Arabs, five Sunni Arabs, five Sunni Kurds, one Assyrian Christian Arab and one Turkman. The Shia group includes the secretary-general of the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood, a Shi'a cleric named Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, who is the brother of the leader of Iranian-backed Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Ayatollah Mohammad Baqr al-Hakim. (The Ayatollah returned from exile in Iran in May and set up the SCIRI headquarters in Al Najaf.) Also in the Shi'a group are two representatives from the Iraqi Hezbollah and two from the Islamist al-Da'awa Party. Stratfor Intelligence (http://www.stratfor.com) confirms that in all, seven members are staunch Islamists. U.S. President G.W. Bush said on 24 April, that he was determined to see an "Islamic democracy" built in Iraq. However, as Stratfor Intelligence notes, "The problem is that neither the United States nor the Iraqi people have a model of Islamic democracy to emulate." Also: "The Iraqi Governing Council is bound to face a crisis of legitimacy, since it is a U.S. appointed, not elected, body." (Stratfor, Global Intelligence Report, 16 July 2003). SCIRI, the best organised Shi'a political party in Iraq, initially rejected the Iraqi Governing Council because it is U.S.-appointed, not elected. However, the U.S. desire to have SCIRI represented on the council gave SCIRI leverage such that it was able to effect changes to the Iraq Governing Council membership in the last moments before it was unveiled, in exchange for SCIRI participation. For further information on this issue see: "Iraq's New Governing Council: A Profile" (the first half of this article is an analysis, the second half is a profile of each member) http://www.theestimate.com/public/071103.html Mandaeans, along with other religious minorities in Iraq are at great risk at this time of instability and lawlessness, and the future is not looking much brighter. http://aina.org/releases/2003/convention6753.htm * 70TH ASSYRIAN CONVENTION ADDRESSES THE IRAQI-ASSYRIAN QUESTION Posted, 18th September The seventieth annual convention of the Assyrian American National Federation (AANF) was held in Chicago from August 28-September 1. In addition to the extensive cultural, arts, and social events, the AANF again hosted several political and historical panel discussions of interest to Assyrians (also known as Chaldeans and Syriacs) attending the convention from North America, Canada, Europe, Australia and the Middle East. The panel discussion entitled Focus on Iraq on August 30 featured an impressive array of speakers including Mr. Firas Jatou of the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), Dr. Ronald Michael of the Assyrian American League (AAL), Fr. Ken Joseph an Assyrian activist now based in Iraq, Mr. Willy Fautre from Human Rights Without Frontiers, and Professor Walid Phares of Florida Atlantic University. The panel was moderated by chicago-based attorney Genevieve Daniels of the Assyrian Academic Society. The panel discussion centered on the future political aims of Assyrians in Iraq. Mr. Firas Jatou of AINA presented http://www.aina.org/presentation/ an historical analysis of the demographic concentrations of Assyrians in the northern Iraqi provinces. Drawing on maps of Assyrian villages and historical sites from the 1960's, Mr. Jatou demonstrated that the greatest concentration of Assyrian villages remained relatively intact around the province of Mosul (ancient Nineveh) and Dohuk (Noohadra) despite centuries of persecution and upheaval. Mr. Jatou also showed that, despite the destruction of nearly 200 villages by the Iraqi government and Kurds from the 1960's till today, Assyrian villages remain prominent in Nineveh and Dohuk. Dr. Ronald Michael of the AAL outlined the past year's lobbying efforts in Washington and plotted a course for future activities. Rev. Ken Joseph, having just flown in from Baghdad to participate in the panel discussion, described the difficulties in the daily life of Assyrians as well as the political challenges in Iraq. Rev. Joseph implored Assyrians in the Diaspora to remain committed to the Assyrians of Iraq by visiting and assisting. Rev. Joseph predicted that without an Assyrian autonomous area, the threat of Islamic pressures would drive Assyrians out of Iraq. Mr. Willy Fautre presented the most detailed proposal for autonomous regions within an integrated Iraq based in part on a Belgian model that respected ethnic and linguistic minorities' rights. In Mr. Fautre's model, two overlapping forms of federalism are envisioned. First, the nation would have separate administrative "regions" each with its own parliament -- a form of territorial federalism. Each community e.g. Assyrians, Turkman, Arabs, and Kurds would also have their own parliament representing their communities throughout the country -- a form of community federalism. The community parliament would have full autonomy in schools, culture, agriculture, energy, religion, protection of monuments etc. The unity of the federal government would be guaranteed by a bicameral system with a House of Representatives elected directly by the people and a Senate appointed by the various communities. For legislation affecting linguistic, cultural, or religious rights, both houses of parliament would have to pass the bill. In addition, though, in the community-based Senate, a super-majority (e.g. 2/3) vote would be needed in addition to a simple majority of every represented community. In such a way, each community would enjoy virtual veto power in matters of language, culture, and religion. Prof. Walid Phares of the World Lebanese Cultural Union (WLCU), began his presentation by asking why he as a Lebanese Maronite ought to be speaking on the political future of Assyrians in Iraq. "Simply," he answered, "because we are one people. We believe we are the Western Assyrians and you are the Eastern Assyrians." Mr. Phares added his historical perspective on federalism noting that during the Lebanese conflict the Syriac Maronites proposed a similar federalism as a solution to the Lebanese conflict, but the proposal was rejected and never implemented. Mr. Phares noted that after September 11 and the subsequent War on Terror, world opinion had shifted and that now was the time to press for federalism entailing an Assyrian province in Iraq. Mr. Phares added that Assyrian rights were in essence the test case for ethnic minority rights for all religious and ethnic minorities throughout the region including the Assyrian communities in Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iran as well as other religio-ethnic Christian communities in Egypt and Sudan. Mr. Phares advocated developing a regional strategy to "connect the dots" of the various till now disparate efforts especially between the Syriac Maronites and Assyrians. The proposal for an Assyrian self administered zone established in the environs of Mosul, extending to Dohuk in the north and Fesh Khabur to the northwest has gained increasing appeal among Assyrian activists, intellectuals, and political leaders. The current political challenges facing Assyrians in the newly developing Iraq include rising Islamic pressure, gross under representation of Assyrians, and a sometimes callous misrepresentation of Assyrians simply as a Christian minority without reference to the Assyrian political, cultural, and nationalist platform. As Mr. Jatou reflected, the increasing Islamic fervor as well as other challenges in Iraq necessitate the establishment of an administrative area for Assyrians and Yezidis, who are, along with the Mandeans of southern Iraq, the indigenous non Muslims of Iraq. Such an area would serve as a sanctuary to preserve and protect Assyrian language, culture, religion, and geography-- in short, ensure Assyrian survival. Reflecting on the tone and direction of the AANF convention panel discussions, one observer approvingly noted a heavy emphasis on the current challenges of Assyrians in Iraq and the Middle East. "Seventy years ago," he stated "the AANF was founded by Assyrian Americans specifically in response to the massacre of Assyrians in Simele, northern Iraq by the newly formed Iraqi Army. The massacre of thousands of Assyrian women, children, and elderly was the first military campaign of the newly formed Iraqi State. Seventy years later our people are once again at the threshold of a newly emerging Iraqi nation. We need to make sure we Assyrians in the Diaspora along with all of our organizations remain focused and once again continue the commitment and guardianship over our people in Iraq." JUAN COLE'S CORNER http://www.juancole.com/ * JUAN COLE ‹ INFORMED COMMENT Wednesday, September 24, 2003 [.....] ‹ INC Moves to Take over Iraqi Finances, Economic Policy More on the ambitious "shock treatment" of the Iraqi economy announced Monday. Apparently Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress pushed for the plan on the Iraq side, even as proponents of the Washington Consensus did so on the American. The INC managed to get Kamil Mubdir al-Kaylani appointed a Minister of Finance and Banking. A Sunni Arab born in Baghdad in 1959, he headed a contracting firm in the capital and holds a degree in economics. An informed reader wrote me that she was told that "Kaylani was brought in as minister specifically with the plan to announce this [economic liberalization plan]. He was the Iraqi National Congress's nominee as minister." The sentiment among some high Coalition officials is that the plan is "ridiculous" insofar as it lacks any restrictions on the export of profits abroad. Kaylani is also said to have fired several very able persons in the Finance Department. Ominously, INC chairman and temporary president of the Interim Governing Council, Ahmad Chalabi, gave an interview Tuesday with Agence France Presse in which he said that the United States civil administration of Iraq must share more power with the IGC, especially "the ministry of finance" and the area of security. (Chalabi is wanted in Jordan for embezzling millions from a bank, and was also dropped by the CIA and the State Department for not being able to account for half of the millions they gave him to oppose Saddam. What Iraq really needs is to have Chalabi in control of the country's finances!) posted by Juan Cole at 8:20 AM [.....] ‹ 6,000 US Troops have come home Sick or Wounded Although the number of troops wounded in action in Iraq is still a little less than 1200, several thousand more have fallen physically or mentally ill in Iraq and the military has been forced to bring them home. The total may run to 6,000. http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_1024.shtml ‹ Ambassador Wilson interview by Josh Marshall, part 2 Talkingpointsmemo has posted the second part of a long interview with Joe Wilson, the last US ambassador to Iraq, who investigated and disproved the fraudulent claims that Iraq had tried to purchase Niger uranium, but who was ignored by the Bush administration. He also goes into the allegation made by the Bush white house that his wife works for the CIA, as leaked to journalist Robert Novak. As he points out, if the allegation were true, this leak would constitute a serious breach of national security and would merit condign punishment under a 1982 law. Someone high in the Bush administration was attempting to punish Wilson for speaking out on Iraq, and was willing to stoop so low as to put Wilson's wife in danger. (One side effect of this kind of tactic may well be to damage our nation's security, since anyone who thought he or she might end up speaking out politically might avoid giving valuable information to the CIA or other national security agencies for fear of being 'outed' later on). The interview is a must-read. http://talkingpointsmemo.com/ Tuesday, September 23, 2003 [.....] ‹ Israeli Investment in Iraq Prohibited Planning Minister Mahdi al-Hafez told journalists at the annual IMF/World Bank meetings in Dubai that Israel would not be allowed to take advantage of the "liberalization" of the Iraqi economy, since Iraq had not recognized it and had no plans to. (-AFP) posted by Juan Cole at 8:05 AM [.....] Monday, September 22, 2003 [.....] ‹ Rebuilding In Iraqi South Impeded by Lack of Cooperation A US military spokesman complained that rebuilding in the Shiite South of Iraq was hampered by a lack of cooperation from the local populace, according to al-Sharq al Awasat. The US also complained about attacks on Coalition troops in the South, though few of these have caused deaths or injuries in that area of the country. The main complaint was that the US army engineers could hardly get the country back on its feet in the face of very extensive car-jackings, killing, looting, and stripping of wires to resell for their mineral value. There is also very substantial smuggling of petroleum products out of the country. The spokesman seemed to say that part of the problem was the inability of the US to seal the Iraqi borders. Since we are often told that things are "quiet" in the South, this briefing is a good reality check. If quiet means few successful attacks on US troops, then fine. But this description of the situation makes it sound like the Wild West out there in the Iraqi south. [.....] ‹ US Opens Iraq's Economy, but to What? The US occupying forces blatantly contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention on Monday, announcing that they were opening the Iraqi economy to foreign investment and setting low trade tariffs. The economy has been plagued by massive unemployment (estimated by many observers at 60%) since the fall of the Baath regime, which had channeled oil money to employees through state industries and patronage. US civil administrator Paul Bremer, a fanatical devotee of the "Washington Consensus" on the absolute benefits of "free trade," has managed to get the Interim Governing Council to sign off on a wideranging set of new economic regulations. The new rules allow foreign corporations potentially to dominate important sectors of the economy. Especially worrisome is foreign ownership of banks and deregulation of currency transfers, since it was the proliferation of such approaches in the 1990s that led to the 1997 meltdown in East and Southeast Asia. (Malaysia spared itself by clamping on currency controls, in defiance of the Washington Consensus, and it was spared the worst of the burst bubble that plagued Thailand and South Korea). The new law allows foreign corporations to buy 100% of Iraqi firms, which is highly unusual in that part of the world. There is no provision for the state to license this activity or to screen the investors, according to the NYT. Worse, any profits can be immediately repatriated abroad, in full. So Iraq becomes an ideal place to launder money; this is the way to fight a war on terror? Don't these people remember the Savings and Loan Scandal of the Reagan Administration, which cost us all billions? Wait, maybe the same people designed these regulations. Note that the level of import tariffs, 5%, is exactly the level imposed by Great Britain on the Ottoman Empire in the Treaty of 1838 and on a defeated Egypt at the Treaty of London in 1840. On the other hand, attempts at privatization in Egypt and Turkey have often been plagued by difficulties and the process has gone very slowly. This is because bloated state industries are not very attractive investments for the private sector. In Iraq, there is the added problem that you can't drive your car in much of Baghdad and Basra without risking it being stolen from you at gunpoint. Not a lot of investors will rush to put money into a country with that profile. So far the US has virtually ignored the crime wave afflicting the ordinary Iraqis, apart from trying to train and stand up some Iraqi police, who from all accounts aren't getting the job done. It will have to actually bring security to the country if it wants foreign firms to invest there. I received the following note from an informed reader, concerning these "reforms:" 'I met with a high ranking military lawyer who had reviewed drafts of new proposed laws concerning economic issues in Iraq, such as foreign investment. He stated that the laws had been drafted in Washington, DC, and that the attitude in DC and in the Republican Palace is that the IGC's opinion on their content would not be decisive . It is also worth remembering that in July the US Government awarded a contract to Bearing Point (KPMG consultants) to redesign the framework for Iraqi economic regulation, including the drafting of tax laws. Hardly a democratic and inclusive approach. The legal power of the Occupying Power to introduce such changes in economic arrangements is doubtful. The IGC has no formal legal power at all, as it is officially a creation of the Occupying Powers and can do no more than "recommend" arrangements to be ratified by Bremer. Hence, the IGC does not have the legal authority to introduce widespread changes in economic arrangements in Iraq.' Sunday, September 21, 2003 [.....] ‹ Three Way Summit in Berlin Ends "in disaster" France's Jacques Chirac refused to compromise on two key issues at the Berlin summit between Britain, Germany and France. The meeting was a "public relations disaster," according to Wolfgang Proissl, the foreign editor of the Financial Times Deutschland, reported the BBC. French President Jacques Chirac said, "There's no point me saying our differences are slight. France believes there should be a change in direction. The United Nations must play a much more significant role." He was also quoted by the BBC as saying, "France is of the view that there must now be a change of course, with a transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi authorities ... as soon as possible, that is to say, in a matter of months. On the basic issues I don't think our views differ, but on the modalites and the timetable we're not yet in full agreement..." So the sticking points are more United Nations input into Iraq reconstruction, and more Iraqi sovereignty sooner rather than later. The US resolution will now have to be debated at the Security Council without the advantage of having essentially been approved by the 3 Western European powers beforehand. I think the French are right in their two main stances. The US lacks legitimacy in Iraq, and order will only be restored when legitimacy is established. The UN can help mightily with that. Likewise, early elections can be and should be held. It is easy. You just slightly amend the 1925 Constitution. See http://www.geocities.com/dagtho/iraqiconst19250321.html Take out any authoritarian language about monarchy, replace remaining references to the king with "Prime Minister" or "Parliament" and make a few other minor adjustments, require that all further changes need a 2/3s majority of both houses of parliament, and have the Interim Governing Council approve the changes. Announce that the first parliamentary elections will be held under this constitution, but a new one will be drafted after an elected government is in place. Use the electoral rules of the last elections in the 1950s if they are broad enough. Do a quick ad hoc voter registration in local neighborhoods using drivers licenses and identity cards. Use the 1997 census results to establish proportional representation for the various provinces. And, voila--we could have elections before the end of the year fairly easily. In the 1925 Constitution the Upper House of Parliament is appointed by the king and has 20 members. Instead, it should be elected and have 19 members, one from each province. The Kurds and Sunni Arabs will be slightly over-represented this way. The lower house of parliament will look like this: 15% of the seats will go to Kurds, fairly evenly split between Talabani and Barzani's parties. They are already on the IGC, so this is not a change. Another 15% or so of seats will go to Sunni Arabs. A lot of these may be angry nationalists and Baath sympathizers and Islamists. But they are only 15%, so they cannot obstruct anything by themselves in a parliamentary situation. 60% of seats will go to the Shiites. 75% of Basra delegates will be secularists. Most delegates from al-Hilla and Amara will be tribal. Sistani and al-Hakim's people will win Najaf. East Baghdad will return radical Muqtada al-Sadr supporters, and they will have about 10% of the seats. Again, they can't do much if this is the case. Even if they allied with the Sunnis, they could not obstruct a 2/3s majority. The US is being far too cautious about holding elections, because of the bad experience in Bosnia. Iraq is not Bosnia. Here, the problem is the illegitimacy of what is seen as a neo colonial government. US fears that radicals could come to power are overblown given Iraq's ethnic diversity. The only reason not to forge ahead is that US companies may not get as many contracts this way. Who cares? [.....] RIVER'S CORNER http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/ * BAGHDAD BURNING Wednesday, September 24, 2003 ‹ For Sale: Iraq For Sale: A fertile, wealthy country with a population of around 25 millionŠ plus around 150,000 foreign troops, and a handful of puppets. Conditions of sale: should be either an American or British corporation (forget it if you're French)Š preferably affiliated with Halliburton. Please contact one of the members of the Governing Council in Baghdad, Iraq for more information. To hear of the first of the economic reforms announced by Kamil Al-Gaylani, the new Iraqi Finance Minister, you'd think Iraq was a Utopia and the economy was perfect only lacking inŠ foreign investment. As the BBC so wonderfully summarized it: the sale of all state industries except for oil and other natural resources. Basically, that means the privatization of water, electricity, communications, transportation, healthŠ The BBC calls it a 'surprise'Š why were we not surprised? After all, the Puppets have been bought- why not buy the stage too? Iraq is being sold- piece by piece. People are outraged. The companies are going to start buying chunks of Iraq. Or, rather, they're going to start buying the chunks the Governing Council and CPA don't reward to the 'Supporters of Freedom'. The irony of the situation is that the oil industry, the one industry that is NOT going to be sold out, is actually being run by foreigners anyway. The whole neighborhood knows about S. who lives exactly two streets away. He's what is called a 'merchant' or 'tajir'. He likes to call himself a 'businessman'. For the last six years, S. has worked with the Ministry of Oil, importing spare parts for oil tankers under the surveillance and guidelines of the "Food for Oil Program". In early March, all contracts were put 'on hold' in expectation of the war. Thousands of contracts with international companies were either cancelled or postponed. S. was in a frenzy: he had a shipment of engines coming in from a certain country and they were 'waiting on the border'. Everywhere he went, he chain-smoked one cigarette after another and talked of 'letters of credit', 'comm. numbers', and nasty truck drivers who were getting impatient. After the war, the CPA decided that certain contracts would be approved. The contracts that had priority over the rest were the contracts that were going to get the oil pumping again. S. was lucky- his engines were going to find their way throughŠ hopefully. Unfortunately, every time he tried to get the go-ahead to bring in the engines, he was sent from person to person until he found himself, and his engines, tangled up in a bureaucratic mess in-between the CPA, the Ministry of Oil and the UNOPS. By the time things were somewhat sorted out, and he was communicating directly with the Ministry of Oil, he was given a 'tip'. He was told that he shouldn't bother doing anything if he wasn't known to KBR. If KBR didn't approve of him, or recommend him, he needn't bother with anything. For a week, the whole neighborhood was discussing the KBR. Who were they? What did they do? We all had our own speculationsŠ E. said it was probably some sort of committee like the CPA, but in charge of the contracts or reconstruction of the oil infrastructure. I expected it was probably another company- but where was it from? Was it Russian? Was it French? It didn't matter so long as it wasn't Halliburton or Bechtel. It was a fresh new name or, at least, a fresh new set of initials. Well, it was 'fresh' for a whole half-hour until curiosity got the better of me and I looked it up on the internet. KBR stands for Kellogg, Brown and Root, a subsidiary ofŠ guess who?!... Halliburton. They handle 'construction and engineering services for the energy community', amongst other things. Apparently, KBR is famous for more than just its reconstruction efforts. In 1997, KBR was sued $6 million dollars for overcharging the American army on sheets of plywood! You can read something about the whole sordid affair here. They are currently located in the 'Conference Palace'. The Conference Palace is a series of large conference rooms, located in front of the Rashid Hotel and was reserved in the past for major international conferences. It is now the headquarters of KBR, or so they say. So foreign companies can't completely own the oil industry, but they can run itŠ just like they'll never own Iraq, but they can run the Governing Council. Someone sent me an email a couple of weeks back praising Halliburton and Bechtel to the skies. The argument was that we should consider ourselves 'lucky' to have such prestigious corporations running the oil industry and heading the reconstruction efforts because a. they are efficient, and b. they employ the 'locals'. Ok. Fine. I'll pretend I never read that article that said it would take at least two years to get the electricity back to pre-war levels. I'll pretend that it hasn't been 5 months since the 'end of the war' and the very efficient companies are terrified of beginning work because the security situation is so messed up. As for employing the localsŠ things are becoming a little bit clearer. Major reconstruction contracts are being given to the huge companies, like Bechtel and Halliburton, for millions of dollars. These companies, in turn, employ the Iraqis in the following way: they first ask for bids on specific projects. The Iraqi company with the lowest bid is selected to do the work. The Iraqi company gets EXACTLY what it bid from the huge conglomerate, which is usually only a fraction of the original contract price. Hence, projects that should cost $1,000,000 end up costing $50,000,000. Now, call me naďve, or daft, or whatever you want, but wouldn't it be a. more economical and b. more profitable to the Iraqis to hand the work over directly to experienced Iraqi companies? Why not work directly with one of the 87 companies and factories that once worked under the 'Iraqi Military Council' and made everything from missiles to electrical components? Why not work directly with one of the 158 factories and companies under the former Ministry of Industry and Minerals that produced everything from candy to steel girders? Why not work with the bridge, housing and building companies under the Ministry of Housing that have been heading the reconstruction efforts ever since 1991? Some of the best engineers, scientists, architects and technicians are currently out of work because their companies have nothing to do and there are no funds to keep them functioning. The employees get together a couple of days a week and spend several hours brooding over 'istikans' of lukewarm tea and 'finjans' of Turkish coffee. Instead of spending the endless billions on multinational companies, why not spend only millions on importing spare parts and renovating factories and plants? My father has a friend with a wife and 3 children who is currently working for an Italian internet company. He communicates online with his 'boss' who sits thousands of kilometers away, in Rome, safe and sure that there are people who need to feed their families doing the work in Baghdad. This friend, and a crew of male techies, work 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. They travel all over Baghdad, setting up networks. They travel in a beat-up SUV armed with cables, wires, pliers, network cards, installation CDs, and a Klashnikov forŠ you knowŠ technical emergencies. Each of the 20 guys who work with this company get $100/month. A hundred dollars for 260 hours a month comes toŠ $0.38/hour. My 16-year-old babysitter used to get more. The Italian company, like many other foreign companies, seems to think that $100 is appropriate for the present situation. One wonders the price of the original contract the Italian company gotŠ how many countless millions are being spent so 20 guys can make $100/month to set up networks? John Snow, US Treasury Secretary, claimed that the reforms were the "proposals, ideas, and concepts of the Governing Council" with no pressure from the American administration. If that's true, then Bush can pull out the troops any time he wants because he'll be leaving behind a Governing Council that is obviously more solicitous of Halliburton and Co. than he and Cheney can ever hope to beŠ - posted by river @ 3:41 AM Sunday, September 21, 2003 ‹ Akila... There was an attempt yesterday on Akila Al-Hashimi's life. We heard about yesterday morning and have been listening for news ever since. She lives in Jihad Quarter and was leaving for work yesterday when two pick-up trucks with armed men cut off her car and opened fire on her and her 'bodyguards'- her brothers. Neighbors heard the commotion, armed themselves and went out to see what it was. The neighbors and the gang began shooting at eachother. Akila was taken to Al-Yarmuk hospital where her stomach was operated upon and then shipped off in an American army ambulance to no one knows where, but people say it was probably the hospital they have set up in Baghdad Airport. They say she was wounded in the foot, the shoulder and the stomach- her condition is critical, but stable. It's depressing because she was actually one of the decent members on the council. She was living in Iraq and worked extensively in foreign affairs in the past. It's also depressing because of what it signifies- that no female is safe, no matter how high up she is... Everyone has their own conjectures on who it could have been. Ahmad Al-Chalabi, of course, right off, before they even started investigations said, "It was Saddam and his loyalists!"- he's beginning to sound like a broken record... but no one listens to him anyway. The FBI in Iraq who examined the site said they had no idea yet who it could be. Why would it be Ba'athists if Akila herself was once a Ba'athist and handled relations with international organizations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before the occupation? Choosing her was one of the smartest thing the CPA did since they got here. It was through her contacts and extensive knowledge of current Iraqi foreign affairs that Al-Chalabi and Al-Pachichi were received at the UN as 'representatives' of the Iraqi people. She was recently chosen as one of three from the Governing Council, along with Al-Pachichi, to work as a sort of political buffer between the Governing Council and the new cabinet of ministers. But there has been bitterness towards her by some of the more extreme members of the Governing Council- not only is she female, wears no hijab and was the first actual 'foreign representative' of the new government, but she was also a prominent part of the former government. The technique used sounds like the same used with those school principals who were killed and the same used with that brilliant female electrician who was assassinated... I wonder if Akila got a 'warning letter'. She should have had better protection. If they are not going to protect one of only 3 female members of the Governing Council, then who are they going to protect? Who is deemed worthy of protection? Yeah, Baghdad is real safe when armed men can ride around in SUVs and pick-ups throwing grenades and opening fire on the Governing Council, of all people. I really hope they find whoever did this, and I hope the punishment is severe. - posted by river @ 2:07 PM Friday, September 19, 2003 ‹ Terrorists... The weather has 'broken' these last few days. It's still intolerably hot, but there's a wind. It's a heavy, dusty wind more reminiscent of a gust from a blow-dryer than an actual breeze. But it is none-the-less a wind, and we are properly grateful. The electrical situation is bizarre. For every 6 hours of electricity, three hours of darkness. I wish they would give us electricity all night and cut it off during the day. During the day it's hotter, but at least you can keep busy with something like housework or a book. At night the darkness brings along all the fears, the doubts andŠ the mosquitoes. All the sounds are amplified. It's strange how when you can see, you can't hear so many thingsŠ or maybe you just stop listening. Everyone is worried about raids lately. We hear about them from friends and relatives, we watch them on tv, outraged, and try to guess where the next set of raids are going to occur. Anything can happen. Some raids are no more than seemingly standard weapons checks. Three or four troops knock on the door and march in. One of them keeps an eye of the 'family' while the rest take a look around the house. They check bedrooms, kitchens, bathrooms and gardens. They look under beds, behind curtains, inside closets and cupboards. All you have to do is stifle your feelings of humiliation, anger and resentment at having foreign troops from an occupying army search your home. Some raids are, quite simply, raids. The door is broken down in the middle of the night, troops swarm in by the dozens. Families are marched outside, hands behind their backs and bags upon their heads. Fathers and sons are pushed down on to the ground, a booted foot on their head or back. Other raids go horribly wrong. We constantly hear about families who are raided in the small hours of the morning. The father, or son, picks up a weapon- thinking they are being attacked by looters- and all hell breaks loose. Family members are shot, others are detained and often women and children are left behind wailing. I first witnessed a raid back in May. The heat was just starting to become unbearable and we were spending the whole night without electricity. I remember lying in my bed, falling in and out of a light sleep. We still weren't sleeping on the roof because the whole night you could hear gunshots and machinegun fire not very far away- the looters still hadn't organized themselves into gangs and mafias. At around 3 am, I distinctly heard the sound of helicopters hovering not far above the area. I ran out of the room and into the kitchen and found E. pressing his face to the kitchen window, trying to get a glimpse of the black sky. "What's going on?!" I asked, running to stand next to him. "I don't knowŠ a raid? But it's not an ordinary raidŠ there are helicopters and cars, I thinkŠ" I stopped focusing on the helicopters long enough to listen to the cars. No, not cars- big, heavy vehicles that made a humming, whining sound. E. and I looked at one another, speechless- tanks?! E. turned on his heel and ran upstairs, taking the steps two at a time. I followed him clumsily, feeling for the banister all the way up, my mind a jumble of thoughts and conjectures. Out on the roof, the sky was black streaked with light. Helicopters were hovering above, circling the area. E. was leaning over the railing, trying to see into the street below. I approached tentatively and he turned back to me, "It's a raidŠ on Abu A.'s house!" He pointed three houses down the road. Abu A. was an old, respected army general who had retired in the mid '80s. He lived a quiet life in his two-storey house on our street. All I knew about him was that he had four kids- two daughters and two sons. The daughters were both married. One of them was living in London with her husband and the other one was somewhere in Baghdad. The one in Baghdad had a 3-year-old son we'll call L. I know this because, without fail, ever since L. was six months old, Abu A. would proudly parade him up and down our street in a blue and white striped stroller. It was a scene I came to expect every Friday evening: the tall, worn, old man pushing the small blue stroller holding the round, pink, drooling L. I had never talked to Abu A. until last year. I was watering the little patch of grass in front of the wall around our garden and trying not to stare at the tall old man walking alongside the tottering toddler. Everything my mother had taught me about how impolite it was to ogle people ran around in my brain. I turned my back to the twosome as they came down the street and casually drowned the flowers growing on the edge of the plot of grass. Suddenly, a voice asked, "Can we wash ourselves?" I turned around, stupefied. Abu A. and L. stood there, smeared with enough chocolate to qualify for a detergent commercial. I handed over the hose, almost drenching them in the process, and watched as the old man washed L.'s sticky, little fingers and wiped clean the pursed lips while saying, "His mother can't see him like this!" And after handing back the hose, they were off on their way, once againŠ I watched them go down the remainder of the street to Abu A.'s home- stopping every few steps so L. could look down at some insect that had caught his attention. That was last yearŠ or maybe 9 months agoŠ or maybe a 100 years ago. Tonight, the armored cars were pulling up to Abu A.'s house, the helicopters were circling above, and the whole area was suddenly a mess of noise and lights. E. and I went back downstairs. My mother stood anxiously by the open kitchen door, looking out at my father who was standing at the gate. E. and I ran outside to join him and watch the scene unfolding only 3 houses away. There was shouting and screaming- the deep, angry tones of the troops mixed with the shriller voices of the family and neighbors- the whole symphony boding of calamity and fear. "What are they doing? Who are they taking?!" I asked no one in particular, gripping the warm, iron gate and searching the street for some clue. The area was awash with the glaring white of headlights and spotlights and dozens of troops stood in front of the house, weapons pointed- tense and ready. It wasn't long before they started coming out: first it was his son, the 20-year-old translation student. His hands were behind his back and he was gripped by two troops, one on either side. His head kept twisting back anxiously as they marched him out of the house, barefoot. Next, Umm A., Abu A.'s wife, was brought out, sobbing, begging them not to hurt anyone, pleading for an answerŠ I couldn't hear what she was saying, but I saw her looking left and right in confusion and I said the words instead of her, "What's going on? Why are they doing this?! Who are they here for?" Abu A. was out next. He stood tall and erect, looking around him in anger. His voice resonated in the street, above all the other sounds. He was barking out questions- demanding answers from the troops, and the bystanders. His oldest son A. followed behind with some more escorts. The last family member out of the house was Reem, A.'s wife of only 4 months. She was being led firmly out into the street by two troops, one gripping each thin arm. I'll never forget that scene. She stood, 22 years old, shivering in the warm, black night. The sleeveless nightgown that hung just below her knees exposed trembling limbs- you got the sense that the troops were holding her by the arms because if they let go for just a moment, she would fall senseless to the ground. I couldn't see her face because her head was bent and her hair fell down around it. It was the first time I had seen her hairŠ under normal circumstances, she wore a hijab. That moment I wanted to cryŠ to screamŠ to throw something at the chaos down the street. I could feel Reem's humiliation as she stood there, head hanging with shame- exposed to the world, in the middle of the night. One of the neighbors, closer to the scene, moved forward timidly and tried to communicate with one of the soldiers. The soldier immediately pointed his gun at the man and yelled at him to keep back. The man held up an 'abaya', a black cloak-like garment some females choose to wear, and pointed at the shivering girl. The soldier nodded curtly and told him to, "Move back!". "Please," came the tentative reply, "Cover herŠ" He gently put the abaya on the ground and went back to stand at his gate. The soldier looking unsure, walked over, picked it up and awkwardly put it on the girl's shoulders. I gripped at the gate as my knees weakened, cryingŠ trying to make sense of the mess. I could see many of the neighbors, standing around, looking on in dismay. Abu A.'s neighbor, Abu Ali, was trying to communicate with one of the troops. He was waving his arm at Umm A. and Reem, and pointing to his own house, obviously trying to allow them to take the women inside his home. The troop waved over another soldier who, apparently, was a translator. During raids, a translator hovers in the background inconspicuously- they don't bring him forward right away to communicate with terrified people because they are hoping someone will accidentally say something vital, in Arabic, thinking the troops won't understand, like, "Honey, did you bury the nuclear bomb in the garden like I told you?!" Finally, Umm A. and Reem were allowed inside of Abu Ali's house, escorted by troops. Reem walked automatically, as if dazed, while Umm A. was hectic. She stood her ground, begging to know what was going to happenŠ wondering where they were taking her husband and boysŠ Abu Ali urged her inside. The house was ransackedŠ searched thoroughly for no one knows what- vases were broken, tables overturned, clothes emptied from closetsŠ By 6 am the last cars had pulled out. The area was once more calm and quiet. I didn't sleep that night, that day or the night after. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw Abu A. and his grandson L. and ReemŠ I saw Umm A., crying with terror, begging for an explanation. Abu A. hasn't come back yet. The Red Cross facilitates communication between him and his familyŠ L. no longer walks down our street on Fridays, covered in chocolate, and I'm wondering how old he will be before he ever sees his grandfather againŠ _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk