Agam's Gecko
Friday, April 30, 2004
Writing at Iraq the Model, Mohammed expresses less than full confidence in the prospective UN involvement in the upcoming sovereignty handover process:
It's just my opinion and I could be wrong and hope that the people in charge know exactly, as they showed before, what they are doing and I hope they want to give the UN some role and not a real role in shaping the future of Iraq, because seriously, I doubt if the UN officials ever care about what Iraq really needs.

It's my right and my duty as an Iraqi citizen and a human being to speak out and say that what Iraq needs is a firm alliance with the USA and the rest of the coalition, because these are the governments that have real interest in establishing a true democracy in Iraq and these are the people that I trust most. As for the UN, it can play a role in organizing humanitarian aids and can also play a minor role in the political future of Iraq.
The UN Oil-for-Food corruption scandal hasn't yet fully broken in the western mass media, though it was revealed months ago by the newly freed Iraqi print media and exposed more widely by some of the Iraqi bloggers. Those Iraqi citizens who aspire to a modern, secular and democratic society (which I still believe is the vast majority of them), exemplified by the three brothers who write ITM, will certainly have more trust in those who are putting so much on the line to help them achieve that. It should be no surprise that they will feel less trusting toward those states, organisations and individuals who did everything possible to prolong the long nightmare of Saddam's "Regime of Fear", not to mention those who profitted handsomely from it.

The worldwide corruption scandal is being followed closely by what has been termed a "clearingblog" for all UNSCAM related matters. This site's author has also taken the step of entering the full list of the 270 kick-back recipients (first revealed in January by the new Iraqi daily newspaper al Mada) into an MS Excel file available for download. Names, organisations, country of origin, the number of million barrels each received to help with Saddam's "Oil-for-Palaces-and-Patronage" program. No wonder many Iraqis don't trust the UN these days.

The current interim Iraqi Governing Council has launched its own inquiry into UNSCAM, and the Russians finally dropped their opposition to an UN probe, which is now empowered by Security Council resolution. Why were the Russians averse to opening up this can of worms? Their man at the UN said Russia didn't want "to look backwards into the history, and to stir up the old issue of the humanitarian program which is closed." But according to one investigator:
Senior UN, French and Russian officials were alleged to have connived at the scandal, said Claude Hankes-Drielsma, who is leading the Iraqi Governing Council inquiry into the affair...

"The very fact that Saddam Hussein, the UN and certain members of the Security Council could conceal such a scam from the world should send shivers down every spine in this room today."
Certain members of the Security Council . . . wait, let me guess... could it be ones who made the fattest profits, like the Russians and the French? What about China, which provided technology, training and experts for Saddam's military systems (and as they had done for the Taliban until Sept. 11)? It's no surprise for me, to find there are Iraqis who have a long list of entities they would tend to trust less than those who helped put an end to all that hypocritical bloodsucking. While the cries in the streets were "No Blood for Oil", the UN was paying itself $ 1.1 billion to administer Oil for Food, funds skimmed from inflated oil vouchers flowed out in all directions, Saddam could buy all the external political support he needed (from selected countries), and keep up his lavish spending on palaces to boot. There had actually been plenty of money to buy food and medicine, but it was all being taken by those who didn't need it. The earlier street rallying cry had been "Sanctions are killing babies", but it now seems apparent that in fact no, they didn't -- the biggest corruption scandal in UN history was killing babies.

Ba'asyir's Supporters Riot in Jakarta
Followers of the so-called "Emir" (spiritual leader) of Jema'ah Islamiyah, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir had pledged to protect and defend him upon his release this morning from Salemba Prison in Jakarta. Police investigators yesterday revealed their plans to re-arrest him on terrorism charges, spurring supporters from his pesantren, the Ngruki Islamic boarding school in Central Java, to flock to the capital on buses last night. I heard one of Ba'asyir's legal defence team last night on a panel show, appealing to the police to be gentle with the mob - who have been out in force every time the old cleric has appeared for court hearings or interogations following the Bali bombing of 2002. Ba'asyir teaches children that "America and Jews" are the enemies of mankind, strive together to destroy Islam, and of course that all his legal problems are due to "American and Jew" interference in Indonesia. This is the milieu that the Bali bombers grew up in, and I'm quite sure that they had received his blessing before carrying out that horrible slaughter in Kuta Legian (and several of the conspirators had testified as much).

So everyone was expecting trouble this morning, and they certainly got it. The lawyer on tv last night didn't get his wish though - the police were not gentle, but then it's hard to be so when fanatics are throwing chunks of road and molotov cocktails at you. They had gathered outside Salemba Prison well before dawn, and battled with riot police for hours before being dispersed sufficiently to enable an armoured personel carrier containing the cleric to exit the prison grounds and deliver him to National Police Headquarters. But I must say that the Indonesian police force is much more professional in their approach to situations like this, than they were only a few short years ago when they were all to quick to draw their guns and start shooting. It didn't look from what I saw this morning that even rubber bullets were used, but mainly water cannons, tear gas and well-padded riot police with truncheons. Quite a few of the supporters were stitched up in hospital, but they would do well to remember the heroes of Trisakti University and the others of the student-led democracy movement who were gunned down just six years ago in their struggle to establish a democratic Indonesia. These supporters of violent jihad toward their goal of a theocratic fascist state, are now benefitting from the struggle and sacrifice made by those who believed deeply in Indonesia as a modern, humanistic, secular, tolerant and democratic country.

The mob dispersed this morning after their hero was successfully moved, but there are some rumours today that they intend to regroup this afternoon following Friday prayers. Friday's mid-day prayer time in the mosques has been the traditional occasion for rabble rousing speeches, and consolidating larger numbers for some "after prayer" activities. So the day is not over yet.

UPDATE: A mob from Ba'asyir's Ngruki school have attacked the Regional Police headquarters in Surakarta (Solo) this afternoon. It sounds like the "leaders" got worried when things started to get out of hand - it wouldn't be in their interest to let them burn down the station - so they ordered a march to another nearby pesantren. Representatives from several of the hardline Muslim organisations (Mujahedin Council, Islamic Defenders Front and the like) reported to the National Human Rights Commission today, to lay complaints against police brutality this morning. I heard one spokesman reading a statement about the "anarchistic actions of the police". Well I saw the video this afternoon, a chronology that began at 4am, and it looked like the security forces were treating them with the utmost respect and almost deference. This went on until about 5:30, militants screaming their heads off at police, police trying to negotiate using terms of respect. The video showed the moment the violence started, when the mob started throwing rocks totally unprovoked. All this after having prayers in the street. These guys behave like they can't even control themselves, go absolutely wild, initiate the violence (the students of 1998 never acted like that), and then call the police anarchists? Most Indonesians are actually afraid of these kind of people, which is I think a big part of the reason that I often see ordinary people acting overly deferential when they come into contact with one of these fundamentalist types - again it's the "Wahabi look", a certain kind of wrapped turban, usually the long thin goatee (a'la Pak Ba'asyir), and long Arab-style robes. They just dress the part and expect people to treat them like holy men. The maddening thing is, it works.

Here is a nice set of pics from CTV news, following Dalai Lama as he crossed Canada during the last 2 weeks. It's nice to see that he was welcomed by the Mohawk elders as well. The Musqueam people also generously held a welcoming ceremony to their lands, at First Nations House of Learning at UBC on Sunday Apr. 18 - the morning of his first activities after arrival in Vancouver. From the program provided by UBC:
"We welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his teachings of peace, compassion and understanding. The generosity of spirit embodied in these teachings resonates with the traditional ways of the Musqueam.

"Out of respect for the Dalai Lama, his ancestors and the ancient teachings he carries, the Musqueam people extend their welcome, and share ceremonial ways so that His Holiness' stay within Musqueam territory is safe and his work can move forward in a good way."
The Kalachakra Initiation for World Peace continues his work in Toronto until May 5.

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