*Two US soldiers died in Iraq on Wednesday and nine were wounded. US Central Command said that “One soldier was killed and three injured in an explosive device attack in Fallujah.” Another was killed in Baghdad when guerrillas attacked a military convoy; two of his colleagues were wounded. Guerrillas also attacked a convoy near Baqubah, wounding two US soldiers and an Iraqi worker, and killing another Iraqi. Guerrillas in Ramadi wounded two US soldiers. In Baghdad, two Iraqi policemen died in a running gun battle with car thieves that left a looter and a moneychanger dead, as well.
*The Shiite Da`wa Party in Iraq has strongly condemned the guerrilla attacks and sabotage that have plagued the post-Saddam era. In an interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat, the party spokesman, Abdul Karim al-`Anzi said that these acts damaged Iraq and were being committed by left-over Baathists. He wanted to know where these guerrillas were when Saddam was killing Iraqis all those years. He said that his party, like all Iraqis, rejected Occupation, and implied that he wanted a hand-off to an elected Iraqi government as soon as possible. He said that his party is cooperating with the “good believers” of the Interim Governing Council, even though it had severe reservations about that body being appointed rather than elected in some fashion by the Iraqi people, and about the American veto over its decisions. He also severely criticized the IGC for concerning itself with bureaucratic minutiae that are meaningless to most Iraqis, while doing nothing about the lack of water, electricity, gasoline and security. Although the August president of the IGC, Ibrahim Jaafari, is a leader of the London branch of al-Da`wa, al-`Anzi seems to deny that Jaafari is in any way representing the party. Asked about the differing responses to the Occupation of the southern Shiites and the guerrillas of the Sunni Arab triangle, al-`Anzi insisted that all the major Shiite clergy had rejected the Occupation.
Al-`Anzi was not terribly clear as to why, if the Occupation is rejected, it is so terrible to fight it. He seems to imply that violence against the US at this juncture will harm Iraqis, and that political groups must work with the IGC to get a transition to a new Iraqi government on a short timetable. (The IGC is saying that they will appoint a government within two weeks and have a new constitution ready within a year).
The tone this major party leader takes should give no comfort to the US administration. al-Da`wa has some grass roots in Iraq. And, it is clear that they are holding their nose about the Occupation only because they hope it will be brief. The US shouldn’t dawdle about handing civil administration over to an Iraq government as soon as elections can be held.
And that’s another thing. Mr. Bremer seems to think you can’t have elections until you have a constitution. But that’s not how it happened in Afghanistan. Surely you could pass a basic Organic Law governing national governing offices and elections, and then work out the details of the Constitution after the elections? In some sense, isn’t that what happened in the US, which already had a government under the Articles of Confederation before the Constitution was drafted in 1789? French Foreign Minister Villepin’s suggestion that elections be scheduled for later this year sounds good to me.
*Richard Perle, powerful member of the Defense Advisory Board that counsels the Pentagon, has “admitted” that the US “made a mistake” in not working more closely with the “Iraqi opposition.” The press even seems to be buying this load of horse manure and reporting it with a straight face. All Perle is doing is criticizing the State Department and the CIA for refusing to work with the corrupt expatriate financier Ahmad Chalabi, who seems to have struck some sort of shady deal with the Defense Department that if they would only put him in power, he’ll give them everything they want (including Iraqi recognition of and provision of oil to Israel). Actually, refusing to preside over the coronation of Chalabi, who has no support whatsoever inside Iraq, was among the few things the US got right. The CIA and State called this one.
*Incidentally, the Defense Department neocons seem to have floated a trial balloon about an Iraqi oil pipeline to Israel, which the State Department promptly shot down.
State says no such project can be discussed for two years, after which it will be up to the Iraqi people to decide, though it seemed to petroleum experts unlikely that a) the northern Kirkuk fields, which are declining, could support another pipeline in addition to the existing one to Turkey or b) that it would make economic sense to try to have a pipeline from the new southern fields all the way up to Israel. And, by the way, if the pipeline to Turkey is vulnerable to terrorism (it was hit again Weds.), imagine what would happen to an Iraqi pipeline to Israel. Finally, even if this idea were practicable, it wouldn’t be helpful to US policy goals in the Middle East to talk it up right now. The thing I mind most about the neocons aside from their rigid ideology is there complete lack of tact.
*The US has caught a handful of Saudis who slipped across the border to attack US forces. But apparently there are more fighters from other countries, such as Yemen and Syria. The Saudis say they have no information on the matter and that policing the Iraq-Saudi border (over 400 miles long) is a US responsibility now. Earlier press reports talked of some 3,000 Saudi youth gone missing and suspected of having gone off to Iraq to fight a jihad. Some of the foreigners may also have come for the looting. See
-Number of 27 major Iraqi cities where water is dirtier and less often available now than under Saddam: 12
(includes Baghdad, Najaf & Tikrit)
-Cost of providing clean, reliable water to Iraqis: $16 billion.
-Percent by which Saddam’s regime outproduced the current American administration in electricity: 28
-Cost of modernizing the electricity grid: $2 billion
-Amount of money Bremer administration in Iraq has left: $10 million
-Percentage of the former 3 mn. barrels of oil per day that is now being pumped by the US in Iraq: 55
-Number of times the oil pipeline to Turkey has been set ablaze: 2 (the second time was 27 August).
-Number of 240 Iraqi hospitals that have reopened: 240
-Percentage of women who are too afraid of being kidnapped to leave their homes to go to a hospital: 100
-Percentage of Iraqis unemployed: 60
-Percentage of Americans who were unemployed in the Great Depression of the 1930s: 25
-Number of troops in the Iraqi army in March, 2003: 400,000
-Number of troops in the Iraqi army now: 12,000
*President Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates (a small Gulf federation) said Wednesday that his government had closed down the office of an Arab League Center that had been accused of promoting religious bigotry, especially anti-semitism. It had received government money and was called the Shaykh Zayid Centre for Coordination and Follow-Up. Shaikh Zayed’s statement said that the Center “had engaged in a discourse that starkly contradicted the principles of interfaith tolerance, directives were issued for the immediate closure of the centre.” It added that Shaikh Zayed “has always been a strong advocate of interfaith tolerance and harmony among religions, as constantly reflected in his words and actions. This respect for all faiths is a basic principle of Islam.”
The closure appears to come in large part because of a student campaign waged at Harvard University that argued that Shaikh Zayed’s gift of $2.5 million should be returned to him, given the activities of this center. The campaign, headed by Rachel Fish, was called MoralityNotMoney and its statement said that “The Centre published a book claiming that the American government masterminded the September 11 attacks, hosted notorious Holocaust deniers, and featured a lecture by a Saudi professor who claimed that Jews use gentile blood for holiday pastries. The Los Angeles Times quoted the Centre’s director as saying the “Jews are the enemies of all nations.” “
Congratulations to Ms. Fish and the other Harvard students for forcing this change, which seems to me quite a significant victory against bigotry in the Middle East.
On the other hand, Ms. Fish now works for the David Project, the Web site of which doesn’t appear to be as upset about anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab sentiments. I guess at 50 I should just give up looking for fair-minded heros and be satisfied with the few flawed ones we have. Maybe if some Palestinian analogues to Ms. Fish can accomplish something with regard to the racism directed against them in the US, it will all even out. But it would be nobler if people also cared about bigotry not directed at their own ethnicity.
*My remarks about the unwisdom of putting Bulgarians in charge of Karbala yesterday elicited the following response:
Dear Professor Cole:
I read your weblog regularly and always with pleasure. I found your comments suggesting that Bulgaria was an inappropriate ally for the “Coalition of the Willing” to be off base, however.
You are certainly correct, that Bulgaria under Communism (and before) engaged in occasional forced Bulgarization programs and that the most recent, in the late 80’s, culminating in 1989, was the cause of mass emigration to Turkey. It should be noted that the assimilation program was framed in ethnic rather than religious terms (not all Muslims were targeted, only ethnic Turks). More importantly, the policy was soundly rejected by the post-Communist regime. Since then, most (though of course not all) of the erstwhile muhacir from this period have returned to Bulgaria (in particular because of Bulgaria’s greater success in its application to EU membership). Ties between Turkey and Bulgaria have been generally warm and anti-Muslim intolerance, while still evident, has largely been pushed to the fringes of political discourse.
None of this, of course, makes the case for a slip-shod “Coalition of the Willing” rather than the legitimacy a UN coalition force would bring. I share your dim view of the Bush administration’s policy on that count. But I see nothing in Bulgaria’s post-communist past that should prevent it from taking a role in the occupation.
Department of History
Loyola Marymount University
One LMU Drive, Suite 3500
Los Angeles, CA 90045-2659
I’m glad to be corrected about current government attitudes to Muslims. But I remain skeptical of putting the Bulgarians in charge of Karbala.
The US State Department Human Rights report for Bulgaria is at:
It isn’t as awful as I feared, but there are significant problems. 17 major properties belonging to Muslims have still not been returned to them. As for “ethnic” versus “religious” persecution, I don’t think a clear distinction can be made in the Balkans. Muslim converts intermarried with immigrant Ottomans of various ethnicities. Anyway, Saddam also sent “Persian” Iraqis out of the country, but everyone knew it was also a way of hitting the Shiites. Religious and ethnic hatreds are usually intertwined, and a clear distinction between Slav and “Turkish” Muslims could never be maintained. The Serbian extremists viewed all Bosnian Muslims as alien Turks, after all.