*My mind and heart are, like those of so many Americans, focused on the Gulf and Iraq tonight. I am thinking about all those brave young men and women in the US and British armed forces whose lives are on the line, and send them my warm support. And I am thinking about all the innocent Iraqis in the line of fire, who fear what awaits them. I remain convinced that, for all the concerns one might have about the aftermath, the removal of Saddam Hussein and the murderous Baath regime from power will be worth the sacrifices that are about to be made on all sides. The rest of us have a responsibility to work to see that the lives lost are redeemed by the building of a genuinely democratic and independent Iraq in the coming years.
*Although Pakistan was on the list provided today by the US State Department of countries supporting the US war on Iraq, Pakistani Prime Minister Zafarallah Khan Jamali said that Pakistan was against the war. The elected parliament wished to discuss the matter, but found the government leaders vague. Apparently the military dictator Pervez Musharraf can tell Colin Powell he supports the war even as the elected PM denies that Pakistan does so. A similar dichotomy is visible in Turkey, where the elected parliament narrowly refused to allow US troops to be stationed on Turkish soil for the invasion of Iraq, but where the Turkish military is eager to cooperate with the US. The Americans are in a difficult position if they represent themselves as trying to spread democracy, but if their methods are repugnant to the few elected governments in the region. Do they have to subvert democracy to save it?
*A house exploded in the Saudi capital of Riyad. Details were scarce but it sounds like a terror cell accidentally blew itself up. Rumors are flying that radical Saudi young men are slipping over the border into Iraq to fight the Americans. This sort of thing happened in the Afghanistan war, when 5000 Pakistanis went to help the Taliban from the tribal areas in the north. Very few appear to have come back alive, having been made short work of by the AC-130s. The phenomenon of such volunteers going off to Iraq to fight the US could be a long-term terrorist problem for the post-Saddam US administration there, though.
*Egyptian human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim has been found innocent by an Egyptian court of the trumped up charges against him. To his credit, George W. Bush had taken up Saad’s case, and the European Union pressured Hosni Mubarak via its loan programs. It is a great day for Egypt, which has taken a small step toward being a more just and open society, one wherein advocating human rights and urging peasants to vote intelligently does not land one in jail! Saad Eddin is a great man and assured of his place in Egyptian history.
*`Abd al-Majid al-Khu’i, head of the Khu’i foundation in London, who is from the most prominent Shiite clerical family of Iraq, has denied that the US has appointed him to administer the Shiites of southern Iraq. (Too bad, in my view, since this would be a smart move.) He said it was a false rumor planted by Iranians to discredit him by associating him with the US. He pointed out in an interview with Asharq al-Awsat that all Iraqi dissident groups have been in contact with Washington about the aftermath of the war, including the pro-Tehran Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, which has attended US-sponsored meetings in D.C.
He expressed concern about the damage to Iraq and to innocent life likely to be inflicted by the looming war, and called for the organization of expatriate committees dedicated to carrying out charitable and relief works to help the innocent victims of the war. He felt this would be a way of contributing to the building of a free and independent Iraq after the regime change. To have such an important Shiite cleric look forward to a free (hurr) Iraq is an encouraging sign, though his insistence on it being independent is probably a complaint about current US plans to administer it directly for a year or two.