Agam's Gecko
Thursday, July 01, 2004
An excellent move on Monday, taking not only the terrorists and Ba'athist die-hards by total surprise, but striking the news anchors, expert analysts and valiant field journalists completely off balance. It was a most entertaining day on the Beeb, following the spin, counter-spin, backhanded returns -- better than Wimbledon! But in this case, the "impartial" participants in the game - equivalent to umpire and line-judges - are much more careless at making sloppy calls.

The advance of sovereignty transfer by two days worked on several levels. Whether true or not, it looked like pre-emption by the new Iraqi leaders, taking the initiative. In much the same way that the selection of President and Prime Minister some weeks ago was taken out of the hands of both Bremer and Brahimi by the pro-active Iraqi council. The word was first revealed to the public by the Iraqi Foreign Minister at the NATO meeting in Istanbul, during a press meeting along with Tony Blair. From that point on, the reporter, the expert, and the anchor continually repeated that he had "blurted it out accidentally", taking Blair "completely by surprise" and the British PM was "absolutely dumbfounded", and so on and so forth.

Never mind that we later saw video of the moment Bush was informed that the handover had just taken place, sitting next to Blair at a meeting table, checking his watch for the time, shaking hands with Blair for this milestone. Never mind that the Iraqi minister spoke to the BBC anchor just minutes later, clarifying that he had fully intended to say what he said, and his government had been expecting him to mention it in Istanbul. It may well be that Bush and Blair didn't expect him to steal their thunder as they had a joint conference planned later, possibly to make the announcement. But of course it's better for the Iraqis to be seen as anxious to get on with their work, taking the intiative, and it may well have all been planned to look this way. Nevertheless, the silly BBC anchor continued for some time, in her recaps of headlines, that the announcement had been made "by mistake, a slip of the tongue" and so on.

For weeks and months, it's been "June 30 - the big day", there will be no delay no matter what the terrorists pull off, steadfast adherence to handover on that day. And of course there was plenty of apprehension in Iraq for what the killers might have planned, especially after the big coordinated attacks the week before. So the long suffering people wake up on Monday morning, and it's already happened! There is no more chance for the animals to pull off something big - either to overshadow the event or even postpone it. No chance, it's too late for that now, Zarq baby. Tough beans. The Iraqis have learned a lesson in dealing with trash like him. Take the initiative, and make it "at a time and place of our own choosing".

I did notice one change in BBC's terminology immediately after the transfer of sovereignty. Whereas before, the Zarqawi and Ba'athist killers were called "the resistance", it seems that now they have the right to be referred to as "the opposition". It was interesting to hear John Simpson several times, using both terms in the same breath, almost as a means to get us used to the changeover. Well, it's so typical. Kidnappers who slaughter their hostages like animals are "militants" as far as the Beeb is concerned. You will never hear them referred to as "terrorists" on that network, and that is their policy. Nothing stronger than "militants", and now even more respectable than "resistance", they can be called as "the opposition".

Just now watching the first pictures of Saddam in court. The Beeb has some Arab analyst at the desk, pontificating on the infringement of Saddam's rights because we are unable to hear his words. The Iraqi judge had ordered no microphones, as he apparently has the right to do. The analyst is beside himself with outrage at this travesty of justice. Pathetic. He's almost as funny as the usual Arab language journalist who appears on BBC panel shows, I think his name is Abdul Bari, of the London based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper. After the sovereignty handover pre-emptive strike, he was on for commentary. He was practically shaking, eyes bugging out, castigating everything as stupid and useless and meaningless and the Iraqis will see through this charade, etc. etc. And Agam was laughing, and laughing. Early word is that the judge gave the old dictator a warning to watch his mouth, after Saddam justified his invasion of Kuwait on the basis that the "Kuwaitis were dogs." Now some pics with sound are coming out, so presumably the Arab legal expert will calm down a bit.

Check out the Iraq blogs for some word on the ground. This has been a big week for them.

I thought it quite funny yesterday to see an advertising spot on Indonesian tv praising their upcoming "pesta demokrasi", and sponsored by the European Union. I guess that they don't know the connotation of this phrase, which basically means "democracy party". Party as in celebration. It was the common phrase describing the old, fake elections under Suharto, when there were three political parties permitted to exist, and one political party permitted to win. But all three could have concerts and rallies and parties. When Indonesian people used the phrase "pesta demokrasi" it was with a kind of ironic resignation, knowing that it was certainly a "pesta" but had very little "demokrasi".

And of course, on this Canada Day, congratulations to Canadians for having your own celebration of democracy. I think maybe the Liberals could have stood to get a little stronger punishment than a simple knockdown to minority status, but the people have spoken. Perhaps the last minute scare tactics by them in the attack ads, actually worked on a lot of undecideds. Well, maybe now they have the incentive to expose the rest of the ADSCAM affair once and for all. I'll have to check the Canadian sites tonight to get the post game analysis. I was up early on Tuesday here to get the live results soon after the Atlantic zone polls closed.

And today, July 1 is also the traditional day for Hong Kong democrats to make their feelings known to the ruling clique in Beijing. Last year they had about half a million filling the streets, and apparently today it was somewhat less. But still as good or better than organisers were hoping for, and enough to make Beijing very unhappy. Salute to the democratic activists in Hong Kong!

Newfoundland writer Damian Penny had some thoughts on the phenomenon of some supposed intellectuals providing excuses, if not outright praise, for some pretty backward and barbaric practices - things that one would normally think these same people would be opposed to. Maybe it's as simple as the old chestnut, "My enemy's enemy must be my friend." So if one believes "Western" civilisation to be one's (or humanity's) enemy, then the "anti-West" - whatever that is - is the truly noble struggle. Where once it might have been support for the so-called "anti-imperialist" struggle of communism-based "liberation" movements (and I cannot claim innocence here either), it seems that the Islamic theo-fascism of today can reap a similar strain of "cultural understanding" from many quarters.

In fact this phenomenon can be a unifying factor, witness the union of the British Socialist Workers' Party with the Muslim Brotherhood to form something called Respect - a vehicle to contest the Euro elections. Now as far as I know, true Muslims do not get along well with the fundamental tenets of communism, but "my enemy's enemy etc..." Glad to see that Saddam butt-kisser ("we stand with you Mr. President") George Galloway and his Respect Coalition did very miserably in the Euro vote.

Well, back to general intellectual contradictory silliness. Our Newfoundland blogger Damian writes:
I thought the most ludicrous post-9/11 example was the feminist who said we were no better than the Taliban because our women wear bikinis instead of burkhas. Or maybe it was the NaziMidiots who excused Saddam Hussein's mass graves because, "in accordance with the tenets of the Islamic faith," the bodies of his enemies had to be buried quickly.
(I suspect that "NaziMidiots" is Damian's own conflation of the "IndyMedia" folks. And no, I wasn't angry with Gecko for posting Jeff's poem about their Easy-Bake Oven-ness, heh)

He then provides this curious example of the feminist icon Germaine Greer, she whom older readers will remember as perhaps the one woman who single-handedly kick-started the "feminist revolution", apparently now proposing not only a re-embrace of communism, but that being "female eunuchs" isn't perhaps so bad after all:
Germaine Greer this week went on BBC television and appealed for help.

"It's about time, I reckon, we resuscitated the Communist Party."
No one on the panel with her blinked at this evil idea -- although whether because they agreed with it or thought Greer was crazy and best ignored, I can't tell.

I'd understand if some thought the latter. On the same show, Greer, famed for leading the feminist revolution with her The Female Eunuch, offered a nutty excuse for Saudi Arabia's ban on women driving cars.

"I get a bit worried about certain heavily veiled ladies driving because they have no peripheral vision at all," she said. "You can understand why in some countries they are not allowed to drive." [Damian's emphasis added]
I swear, I am not making any of this up.

I have linked to articles by Muslim author Amir Taheri before, on issues from the compatibility of Islam with democracy to the origins of the Muslim woman's headscarf. Mr. Taheri has recently been touring Iraq, and he has written about his experiences.
"Iraq has always had everything that is needed to build a successful economy," says Heydar al-Ayyari, an Iraqi politician. "We have water and fertile land. We have oil and a hardworking people. What we lacked was freedom. Now that we have freedom we can surge ahead."

Nor should one believe the claims of self-styled experts that the Iraqis are not ready for freedom. During the past 10 months elections have been held in 37 municipalities. In each case victory went to the moderate, liberal and secular candidates. The former Ba'athists, appearing under fresh labels, failed to win a single seat. Hardline Islamist groups collected 1% to 3% of the vote.
Thanks for the tip to Kate McMillan. From the big sky prairie of southern Saskatchewan, Kate addresses herself to Canada's media, including and especially the the ones that the taxpayers are paying for. Testify, Kate!
I want to hear from you. You covered every anti-war demonstration. You quoted every naysaying Canadian politician. You gave a closeup to every half-wit Hollywood actor who could move their lips. You covered UN deliberations. You've dissected every hoped for disaster, from the "massive humanitarian disaster" to the "quagmire" of the stretched supply lines, to the "failure" to catch Saddam, to the "uprising of the Arab street", to the "Vietnam" of El Sadr's militia, dancing to the rhythm of every RPG to be tossed into the Green Zone. You even reported on the ones that "caused no casualties". So, it's not like you didn't have the time and space.

Are you intentionally trying to mislead and misinform the Canadian public by reporting out a tiny window facing in a single direction?
Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Another Tour of Duty... This story by Stephen Vincent in Reason Magazine is a perfect fit with this post.
I realize no single account will sway someone as to whether the Iraq war was justified. Indeed, for many opponents of the war, the demise of Saddam Hussein and America's flawed attempts to establish democracy in that country are beside the point. But I wonder how they can assume that their suppositions are correct until they do what I did -- go to Iraq and discover for themselves what the Iraqi people think and feel about Saddam and the U.S.
This is not a one-sided account by some "neo-con", but an honest account of someone who had doubts about the whole issue, and determined to find out first hand. He spent about a month and a half there in September and October of last year.

In the same vein as the previous post, over at Iraq the Model, Omar posted this short story from a Marine in Iraq. The brothers at ITM often get emails from service people. I will assume that they've learned not to waste their time sending such things to traditional media outlets, knowing as they must by now that it would go straight into the trash bin.
Here's a story from David Zadel, a marine in Iraq:

I feel compelled to write of an experience that occurred a month ago. We had recently driven an insurgent force out of a small town north of Fallujah. The insurgent force left without fighting and the town was largely abandoned.
We had expended much effort clearing the town of the weapons and ammunition that the insurgent force had left behind. People in time occupied the town again and we were determined to provide security for those returning.

My platoon and I were on a security patrol in the countryside on the outskirts of the town when one of our vehicles became stuck on a narrow road bordered by a canal. It was in danger of rolling into the water. We had to stop our vehicles which can be very dangerous.

A family that lived nearby came out of their house and began to move toward our patrol. They were smiling and waving. There were children playing everywhere. The women prepared food and the eldest males met with us.
Our vehicle was badly stuck and we needed chains to remove it. At this point, the surrounding families joined us and showed us tremendous hospitality. This is remarkable because often times, local terrorists will sometimes intimidate those who help us or show us kindness.

Without prompting the men brought out shovels and began to dig out the wheels of our vehicle that were stuck. With much effort, working together, we succeeded in removing our vehicle from danger.
It then struck me. In the middle of the Al Anbar province, where so many Marines and Iraqis were dying together in such senseless violence, this one tribe reached out to us. During all that was transpiring around us, the maelstrom of violence in Fallujah, the negative reporting from self-righteous media, and mistrust that arises from unfamiliar cultures, there was this tribe that we shared smiles with and feelings of goodwill.

With a tremendous language barrier they acted without prompting, bribery and without fear of reprisals from terrorists. I believe what I witnessed was humanity in it's truest form. Through their actions alone they seemed to say "we know you are trying. You have shed blood for us and we thank you." When I return to America, I will tell all American civilians that ask: Iraqis are people of honor, compassion and strong family bonds. There is nowhere I would rather be than here.

A Marine

*David Zadel is a Lieutenant in the 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division in Iraq.
Thank you Omar, Mohammed and Ali - for providing one other small window..... using Kate's analogy .... which is facing out in a different direction. I suppose that's one positive result of having such pathetic "big medias" in our developed countries. If they hadn't been so frustratingly hopeless, we wouldn't have been forced to look elsewhere, and I may never have found the inspiring gems like your site, and the other Iraqi bloggers.

I would say it every day if I could: if you read any news about world events on any given day, then give equal time to these guys at the scene - or any of the others like Hammorabi, Messopotamian, Zeyad, AYS or Kurdo. Omar has made his translations of feedback to the Arabic language BBC website's "talkback forum" into a regular feature. Very, very enlightening.

Man, this phenomenon of campus radicalism hitching its wagon to the Palestinian intifada, is just creepy. I'd heard about some incidents at various universities, but I had no idea it was getting this extreme. I see pictures of the current "peace" movement, with hateful anti-Jewish placards and racist slogans, guys with heads wrapped in black cloths like Hamas warriors, and so on. But Berkeley? The home of the Free Speech Movement?

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