Tuesday, August 31, 2004
The Najaf Riddle
Watching the reaction of both Arab and American media towards the developments in Najaf was so amusing. Both of them were far away from the truth yet the reason for their untruthful reporting different.
The Arab media treated Ayatollahâ€™s Sistani shift arrival in Najaf as a victory for the â€œpoor oppressed Shiasâ€? who were fighting the â€œbarbaric American armyâ€? and her â€œIraqi traitorsâ€?. Media commentators wrote how Sistani was so angry at what the US was doing to the holy place and he was forced to intervene, despite his illness, to stop the bloodshed. I am not sure whether such foolish comments were a results of the punditsâ€™ lack of awareness of the true intentions of Sistani or just a way to add an anti-America twist to everything that happens in Iraq.
The American media reaction was so funny. Editorials by â€œUS analysistâ€? proved the naÃ¯vetÃ© and ignorance of US media towards the Shia religion and its mechanism. A word of advice: never read an article on the Middle East written by someone who has â€œJohnsonâ€? as a surname! (Thomas L. Friedman is an exception). The media in the US treated Sistaniâ€™s return and his success in kicking the Mahdi gang outside the shrine as a sign of failure for the â€œUS-backedâ€? interium government who had to wait for a religious guy to solve their problems. Such assessments lack the understanding of the crucial importance of religious figures in the Arab world and how these guys do yield considerable influence here.
Now, whatâ€™s up with this Najaf riddle? Who won in the end? To know the answer we have to look at the Najaf war as it was. Two battles were being waged in Najaf: one between Allawi and Sadr but more importantly it was a battle for the leadership of the Shia community, namely between Sadr and Sistani.
Last April, Sadr ignited his first uprising. His gang stormed the holy shrine in Najaf and literally occupied it. They controlled the keys and the treasures. When the fighting intensified, Sistani ordered all armed groups to leave Najaf including American forces. Sadr didnâ€™t comply, his occupation of the shrine continued, and US forces had to withdraw outside Najaf to fulfill their part of the shaky truce. Poor Sistani, he lost all control over the shrine and that didnâ€™t feel good. What would the pope feel if a wayward monk occupied the Vatican and its treasures?!
Today Sistani sleeps with the keys under his pillows! How did the keys jump from Sadrâ€™s pocket to Sistaniâ€™s bed? Did Sistani form a militia? Sistani stayed for over 3 months with no keys, how did the old man manage to return them back? The answer is simple: he used AC-130 aircrafts.
When the latest fighting started, Sistani and all the other 4 senior clerics (the highest cardinals) left Najaf. Sistani went to the UK (ummm, isnâ€™t this country in the coalition?!!) for treatment. He stayed there long enough until AC-130 aircrafts, 20-something years old American marines from Idaho and Florida, and Iraqi forces did the dirty work for him. When the mahdi gang softened up and Iraqi forces were literally outside the shrine, Sistani made his speed light trip to show Sadr who the big guy is.
Sadrâ€™s fate was in the hands of the old man once again. Muqdy ended his occupation of the shrine and handed the keys as soon as possible lest Sistani has heart problems again (which translates to another showdown with AC-130s!)
Thursday, August 26, 2004
We Got Gold!!!!!!!!!!!
Egyptian wrestler Karam Gaber won a gold medal today. It is Egypt’s FIRST gold medal since the 1936 Berlin Olympics!!!!!!!!!!! The last medal Egypt got was a silver medal won by judo player Rashwan in 1984!! I was hearing the radio when I heard the news. They cut the broadcast and announced Gaber’s win. Now Egypt has 4 medals, 1 gold and 3 bronze in boxing.
Gaber is now an instant millionaire. Businessmen pledged that they would donate hefty sums of money to any Olympian who returns with a medal.
Saturday, August 21, 2004
I Dropped It, He Didn’t Yet!
The Bush campaign aired an ad where it mentioned that 2 free nations, Afghanistan and Iraq, are now competing in the Olympics. I personally liked the ad. It was emotional and true. Afghanistan is on its way to have unprecedented elections this coming October despite all the problems there. Iraq is walking slowly towards a better future despite all the fog we see everyday. Fifty years from today, Bush’s name will still be in those two countries’ history books as the US president who changed their future.
However, the Bush campaign got a very nasty response from a number of Iraq’s rising football team members. One player said that Bush had no right to use Iraq to advertise himself. Another asked how Bush will meet his god after the crimes he had committed in Iraq. The team’s coach said that there is no freedom in Iraq because there is still fighting around the stadium!
I can’t believe how naive the Bush team can get. I don’t blame them because it seems that they haven’t read my posts. I mentioned before that I had to drop the wish that Iraq might become an Arab country with less unjustified hatred towards the US government and army. My only wish now is for Iraq to become the first relatively decent Arab country in the region.
I was shocked on April 9, 2003. My shock didn’t come from the fallen Saddam statue or the fast march towards Baghdad as much as from how Iraqis received American troops. Those who tell you that Iraqis did not welcome US troops on April 9 were definitely on crack cocaine that day. I remember telling my dad “look, Iraqis with weapons are walking among US troops.” At work, my colleagues started talking about how Iraqis were known for their betrayals and how Shias are not real Muslims. My housekeeper told me angrily that she saw an old Iraqi woman gently patting the chest of a US soldier.
In the midst of my excitement at the victorious reception, an alert calling itself “The Israel/Shia Syndrome” started flashing all over my mind. My biggest fear was that the US would catch the syndrome that Israel caught back in the early eighties when it invaded Lebanon to prevent Palestinian militants from hitting the northern Israeli towns. Yasser Arafat and his PLO guerilla were occupying south Lebanon and using it as a base to attack north Israel. The Christian and Shia citizens in this area were suffering so much from the Palestinian occupation and they both welcomed Israeli troops as they chased Palestinian militants out of their towns.
Alarmed from such a reception, Syria allowed Iranian agents to infiltrate Lebanon and recruit radical Shia Lebanese clerics who worked on turning the Shia population against Israel. Israel on its part did absolutely nothing to secure and protect this new found “Shia friendship” (ummm, do Kurds in Iraq ring a bell??!!!) and focused solely on its Christian allies. Fighting with PLO militants resulted in civilian casualties among Shias. Numerous roadblocks and harsh security checkpoints were constructed by the Israeli army in the south. The Shias started to think that they have substituted the Palestinian occupation with an Israeli one. Eventually, Shias turned against Israel and joined the “jihad” until this very day.
Nevertheless, the situation of the US in Iraq is less dangerous than Israel’s in Lebanon. In Iraq, there is an awesome political process that the majority of Iraqis are willing to participate in. Iraq’s senior clerics are against fighting US forces and a good majority of Iraqis think that such a thing is bad for Iraq’s future. The US and the rest of the coalition do have great lovers in Iraq and the vast majority is not hostile as Muqtada Sadr or the Saddamist/Islamist cocktail in the Sunni triangle are. By citing Israel’s case in Lebanon, I am just lamenting the loss of the US’ honeymoon with Iraqis that blossomed on April 9, 2003.
So what went wrong? Why did this Iraqi player who used to pee on himself when he heard the name Uday Saddam utter such callous words against President Bush? The answer lies in the following reasons:
Widen the Gap: Just as Syria was alarmed at how the Shias of Lebanon received the invading Israeli troops, the Saddamists, Islamists, Iran, and Al Jazeera felt the same. As a matter of fact, the entire Arab population was in a state of shock and every roadside bomb that ripped an American soldier apart was greeted as an indication that the Iraqi people are finally “resisting US occupation”. Since all the attacks on US troops were monopolized by Sunni Saddamists and Islamists, Shias were regarded as “traitors” and as people who wanted to use the Americans to rule all Iraq. Today, Muqtada Sadr is our new found hero.
Ever since US troops entered Baghdad, the great dividers worked frantically to create then widen the gap between the Iraqi people and US forces. They blew up everything from electricity power stations to the Red Cross just to show that the US brought more trouble and misery. The Saddamists/Islamists also did something that I consider very smart and cunning. They squashed themselves among peaceful demonstrators and then shot a bullet or two at the humvee ahead. Any poor American soldier had to react nervously and respond by shooting back. Civilians were killed, hearts and minds were lost, the gap widened, and Al Jazeera made sure that it widened even further.
Green Zone Red Zone: Due to the attacks on US forces, the army had to disengage itself from the local population and hide behind roadblocks that stiffened traffic in Baghdad. Instead of going around Baghdad and building more infrastructures, US forces were busy fighting insurgents. I have always said that it is impossible to build and fight at the same time. The poor American soldier didn’t have time to show his goodwill to the Iraqi approaching him because he didn’t know whether this man will hand him a flower or blow up in his face. I know there are good emotional stories and picture out there but these were not enough.
Upon his first visit to Baghdad, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman commented on how the US lead coalition was bunkered within the so-called Green Zone in central Baghdad while the rest of Iraq was called the Red Zone where the bad guys were, or to be more precise, where the bad guys wanted to spoil the party for the good guys. He mentioned how this differentiation of zones was so dangerous to winning the hearts and minds of Iraqis. Saddamists, Islamists, Iran, and Al Jazeera managed to even add colors to the gap.
US Avoidable Mistakes: I am sure we all know a number of those avoidable yet deadly mistakes, from disbanding the entire Iraqi army to allowing a poisonous useless one year old occupation. I could write an entire article on such mistakes but I believe it is over now. Allawi is already starting from scratch.
Now, am I prophesying doom and gloom? No. I believe that America will win indirectly. It will win when this Iraqi government paves the way for elections and when Iraq evolves into a decent country. I am not talking about a Denmark or even an India, but just a decent country. As a result, Bush should follow my steps and drop the quest for cultivating “hearts”. His might come true in the coming years when Baghdad becomes another Dubai but not these days. If Bush is so insistent on picking up some hearts, he should really look at north Iraq. Well, that’s for another post. Stay tuned.
I’m Not Going!
OK, the recount is over. I am still not going. I am quite satisfied with the results and how the election went. The results are as follows:
Don’t Go: 34 votes
Go: 23 votes.
Viewer turnout at the opening day was very limited. Movie experts said that Egyptians do not care about such American domestic stuff and they’d rather focus on their own problems. They also said that Egyptian movie goers want to see a movie by Sylvester Stallone or Julia Roberts, very few Egyptians actually know who Michael Moore is.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
I got several comments telling me that some of those who wanted me to see Michael Moore’s movie on a pirated CD were not against me seeing the movie at the theater. They just didn’t want any extra money to go into Moore’s belly. Due to the pirated CD / wait for DVD issue, I have decided to open the poll again. However, please bear in mind the following:
I will NOT download a pirated copy and I won’t go around Cairo hunting for a CD. I also won’t accept any CDs or internet links. I don’t think MM deserves the hassle. This vote is about going or not going to the movie theater.
The movie is in the theater nearby, I am torn between seeing it or not. If the majority said “Don’t Go”, then I would probably not see Fahrenheit 911 at all and I will still be a happy man.
PLEASE, just type “Go” or “Don’t Go” in the comments column or in an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org Please DO NOT add any extra comments. This will make the count much easier.
Please, DO NOT double vote.
Please, do not comment on a vote of another person. Just type your vote.
I am REALLY enjoying my little democracy!!!
Poll Closes: Friday, August 20 @ 7 PM EST.
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
I Won’t Go!
The poll was very closely divided. I won’t go to see Michael Moore’s movie because of a single vote! Finally I know what I am going to do. The results were as follows:
Total votes = 53
“Don’t Go” votes = 27
“Go” votes = 26
All those who told me to see it on a pirated CD or DVD went to the Don’t Go column. My internet connection is very slow and so I won’t be able to download a pirated copy. Besides, I don’t know anyone who has a CD and I’m not willing to search hard for it. As I’ve said, the movie is in the theater nearby and I just wanted a quick way to decide whether to go or not.
“Bagaha” is an Arabic word that has more than one meaning. Among its several meanings, this word is used to describe someone who hates another person yet complains when this person does something that might hurt his interest. For example, you might hate your neighbour very much but you start complaining when he leaves the neighbourhood because this neighbour brings some sort of business to you. You start to act as a hypocrite and say how this neighbour is so “special to you” even though you were just cussing him 2 days ago. We call that “bagaha” and that you are a “begeh” who is engaging in “bagaha”.
I haven’t seen any “bagaha” more than this
N.B The Michael Moron poll is still open. I’ll announce the results tomorrow.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
To Go or Not To Go!
Michael Moore’s propaganda movie will be shown in Cairo. I am really torn between whether I should or should not go to see the French favorite documentary.
I don’t want to go because:
- I am alergic to good-for-nothing objectivity killing propaganda stuff. I don’t buy cheap Egyptian scandal tabloids, why would I spend 12 pounds on an American version?
- I personally don’t want to contribute to Michael Moore’s international revenues. I’d rather flush the 12 pounds down the drain.
I want to go because:
- I want to see how shallow/biased/stupid/etc Michael Moore is and fill my blog with my feedback. Simply I’m curious about what people were talking about.
I really don’t know what to do, so I will let you decide! If you were in my shoes, what would you do? I am asking everyone reading this post to cast his/her vote by posting in the comments section or sending me an email at email@example.com Just say Go or Don’t Go. I’ll count every vote and accordingly will decide whether to go or not.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Al Jazerah Gone Crazy!!
Al Jazerah is now focusing all its energy and resources on fighting the Iraqi government. I have never seen the mouth of horror channel with such hatred and anger towards an Arab government. I totally admit that before closing its office in Baghdad, Al Jazerah’s rhetoric against the Iraqi government was a little bit less sensational. Now it is all out war against Iyad Allawi. It is rather quite funny to notice such a dramatic shift after getting its butt kicked.
Now, what should the reaction be? 2 phone calls: one by Allawi and the other by Colin Powell. Both men should ring the emir of Qatar up. Allawi should cut all diplomatic and economic relations with Qatar. Powell should call the fat emir and simply tell him “hey chubby dude, we’re moving the base away from your fat a**.”
Qatar loves to have it both ways. It has excellent relations with Washington and economic dealings with Israel, yet it also finances a channel that messes with all Arab countries except Qatar. The story of the emir’s bloodless 1995 coup against his father and his evacuation of an entire tribe that supported his father never appears on the mouth of horror.
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
URGENT URGENT URGENT
Please take a few seconds and cast your votes for Iranian-American Reza Torkzadeh to enable him to speak at the Republican National Convention in New York. Reza is one of the 10 finalist in the MTV essay contest.
It is CRUCIAL that Reza stands behind the podium in the RNC. With all the news about Iran these days, Reza MUST have a chance to express the struggles of Iranian youth in Iran. If chosen, Reza’s speech will be translated to persian (and other Iranian languages) and broadcasted right into Iran.
The other 9 finalists are wonderful, but because of all the things that are going on in Iraq and Iran, it is VERY IMPORTANT for this young activist to shine at the RNC.
Please go and cast your vote and send the MTV link to as many people as you can. It is SO IMPORTANT that you all participate in getting the message of the Iranian youth to the entire world. This might be the first step towards FREEDOM IN IRAN.
Below is the email I got from the Iranian activists:
Our own brilliant Reza Torkzadeh (whom is one of our BEST and most dedicated young activist), has become a finalist in the MTV essay contest which offers him the opportunity to speak at the Republican National Convention (about Iran) IF he gets enough votes. The below links are the sites where you can vote; though the top link (the MTV link) is apparently the more important one. PLEASE send this out to everyone you know…we’ve got to send our boy to the Convention come hell or highwater. THIS is another chance for us all to show our solidarity. http://www.mtv.com/chooseorlose/rnc_contest/
Personal Bio Born in 1979 in Tehran, Iran, Reza and his family had to flee the country amidst the Iranian Revolution to save their lives. While leaving the country, one of his uncles was executed by the governing regime because of his political beliefs and aspirations. For FREE IRAN and Regime Change Please Vote NOW For Reza To Win The Contest