Free Iraqi

I was not living before the 9th of April and now I am, so let me speak!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Sadr's peace.

Sadr's peace.

Iraqi politicians and religious leaders have been busy conducting talks to try to contain the crisis by calling for speeding up the formation of the government and reassuring public that their leaders are united. (Just a side note: Al-Iraqiya TV was hailing Sadr and calling him "His eminence Saiyd Muqtad Al-Sadr God bless him" (Imagine my joy!) and praising his efforts to unite Sunnis and She'at in his tour in the southern governorates. In his speech in Basra, he asked Sunnis and She'at to go on unified demonstrations against sectarian violence, but 1st against "occupation"! So Sunnis and She'at kill each other and then they make out by condemning America!)

This is something I always found very insulting and maddening. People here do not react that much on their own and it always takes their leaders to push and push in certain direction for them to finally move. Now the feelings of distrust and bitterness have been there all the time among different Iraqi sects and were more visible after the oppressive power was removed, but no one was going to act upon it, not in a place where almost everyone look for their leaders to show them the 'truth' and the way with very few exceptions when public rage can go on its own beyond the control of any leadership like what happened in the 1991 uprising.

What I find most insulting in this attitude from religious and political leaders is that after provoking violence and increasing fear and distrust among their own communities towards the others, they suddenly, and when it's in their interest, start to ask people to calm down! But the people were calm in the 1st place until they told them to rise to defend the sect. Moreover when the people rose they didn't carry RPGs and machineguns and started shooting at each other. It was the militias and gangs on both sides that did that while the people merely went in angry demonstrations upon calls from their leaderships.

Yesterday two districts in Baghdad were subject to random mortar attacks, one mostly Sunni (Al Doura) and one mostly She'at (Sadr city). I'm not aware of any Iraqi outside those gangs and militias who keep mortars in their homes. This happened while clowns from both the Sadr trend and the Association of Sunni Scholars were signing an honor agreement that prohibits Iraqis from fighting each other. But why am I surprised! They are actually prohibiting Iraqis, average people, from killing each other but they are not prohibiting their own militias from killing Iraqis!

Why are they faking this and what do they want from it? I'm not sure, but one thought is that this behavior is typical of all ME dictators. They start the killing and the chaos and then they blame it on the people. They show themselves in public as the peacemakers and then continue to pursue their crimes in the dark. These are not ideological fighters. They're opportunists and hypocrites who seek the help of criminals and thugs and still present themselves as religious and patriotic people, mimicking dictators to a great extent. Religious fanatics are no better than them but at least they are honest about who they are and they remain most of the time faithful to their sick beliefs. This is not a theory or a guess, as I know many Sadirists and many Sunnis who sympathize with the Sunni Scholars, and Sadirists are mostly thugs and looters while Sunni 'fanatics' are just ex-Ba'athists and mercenaries.

So I don't expect peace to take place anytime soon and I still think it's even better this way, as I would never want the peace of the Sadirists and their like just like I never wanted the peace of Saddam. We wanted the war at Saddam's times knowing fully what it means because it was the only way, and I want war now.

Wide scale civil war is still unlikely but the wider and more destructive the sectarian violence becomes the faster, as I think, Iraq will find her way. Those militias are now stronger than ever. They're seen as protectors of the sect. if you're a Sunni in a mixed area, who would you support, She'at militia that want to kill you or terrorists and ex-Ba'thists who want to kill those militias? Same thing apply for the She'at even if they dislike the Sadirists and the Badr Brigade. It's no longer about what's wrong or right. It's about trying to stay alive.

So civil war would certainly strengthen those militias, but all civil wars sooner or later come to end, and it's usually when the majority of people decide they can't take the violence anymore and when they can't see victory as possible. Then militias would lose their strength, as why would a Sunni need the terrorists and why would a She'at need the Sadirists! Any force willing and capable of disarming those militias will not find any opposition among the majority of people and its effort may very well be welcomed. Militias can survive only if they find an enemy and when a civil war ends they have to find an enemy outside the borders. The only possible enemy then would be the US but the difference is that they will have to fight it alone without any significant support from the population which was the case when Sadr revolted the 1st time but sadly the Americans didn't see that or were convinced by the formal She'at leadership that Sadr had a huge support which wasn't true at all.

But can the US just stay detached and watch what's happening? It doesn't sound like this is possible or accepted by most parties involved. Maybe the US can reduce its military interference to minimum while maintaining its political efforts to solve the crisis in public. I know all this sounds crazy but unusual situations sometimes require unusual solutions.

Trying to keep things calm and pretend that things are not that bad and then expect such crazy and malicious groups to agree on what's good for Iraq is not realistic and not right. To expect Sadr and his thugs to suddenly, or gradually, become not just human beings but capable leaders is very unrealistic. The same applies of course to the Sunni Scholars.

Other alternatives (For America) include the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq and even then I think Iraq would find its way but it would take much longer time and more importantly is much less possible with the interference from Iran and other neighboring countries. Can the Americans stop the political process and assume full control again to deal with all those criminals and start building everything again in a way that allow more sane voices more room than fanatic ones? Almost impossible but to be honest that's what many Iraqis think is the best solution. I've heard it from many people saying, "This was all a mistake. We're not ready yet. We don't know what democracy is and the Americans should rule for 10 or 20 more years before they allow Iraqis to take control" I don't agree with this totally but I always thought that things in Iraq were moving faster than they should.

The militias have to go, one way or another, as we can never have a democracy or peace with their presence. I believe it can only happen through a civil war but I still hope I'm wrong and that there's a cheaper price for freedom.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Let's blame it on the Sunnis.
Since the end of the war every atrocity committed in Iraq was attributed to the Sunnis, not just the Ba'athists or radical Sunnis but all Sunnis. The poor She'at and Kurds have been suffering for hundreds of years while the Sunnis were all privileged and living in a paradise called Iraq, which is not the same Iraq She'at and Kurds were living in as in that Iraq goods were cheap, salaries hit the skies and we had TV shows where comedians make fun of Saddam. No one had to serve in the military and we were free to travel anywhere we wanted. In those times only She'at and Kurds were forced to serve in the army while Sunnis only worked as managers and ministers. Those poor She'at soldiers and officers were forced to kill their own people in the south and bomb their most holy shrine in Krabala in the 1991 uprising...When I served in the military I made friends with a devoted She'at Captain, well not made friends but actually I was paying him so that I spent most of the 3 months I had to serve in my home. This guy was very proud of his job and accomplishments. He often talked about his heroic actions against the "saboteurs". Who were those saboteurs? No, not just the Badr Brigade which was active after 1991 but mostly anyone who stood against Saddam during the uprising and that meant the vast majority of the She'at. Yet this Captain always refer to the She'at Imams and quote them during our conversations saying this Imam "Peace be upon him" or that Imam "God bless his secret" which I'm sorry I don't know what it means!I asked this guy once about how he, a devoted She'at see the bombing of holy shrines in Najaf and Karbala back then during the uprising. He didn't answer the question and kept blaming the saboteurs and Iranians. There were no Americans at that time or he would have blamed them.That guy was no exception for the denial most Iraqis lived in at Saddam's days and we had many officers like him in our camp. The commander himself, a General was a She'at. This is part of the reason, as I think, why most Iraqis especially She'at do not want Saddam's trial to take its natural long course. They don't want to remember their submission and even collaboration with the tyrant, as it's very humiliating to them. Most of you have seen the tape from Dujail. Who were those hundreds of people racing each other, stumbling to the ground to cheer the great leader? The "Victims" themselves. Yes they had too, but honestly I think they didn't have to take it that far, but it's that paralyzing fear that makes most people not only submit to evil but volunteer most of the time, reporting their own flesh and blood at times to prove their innocence. Do I blame them for that? Not really, as I felt that fear too and it wasn't easy to cope with at all. But I blame them now when they try to show themselves as the innocent victims and blame everything on Saddam and the Sunnis.No, we were ALL part of the tragedy and those massacres and we all have to own that to finally come clean and start fresh. Only the Kurds seem to have the right to claim that they always stood against Saddam, which is true but then again their motives were not patriotic at all and certainly not humane. They were ethnic.Saddam's regime was not a sectarian one. It was a dictatorship that relied on family and tribal relations and on petty servants who sold their souls to him for money and some illusionary power from within each community. He oppressed Kurds because they were his slaves and on top of that he disliked them more because they were not Arabs. He oppressed She'at because they were his slaves and then he also disliked their sect. He oppressed Sunnis because they too were his slaves and other than that he didn't dislike them for any religious or ethnic reason, so how fortunate Sunnis were!The She'at attitude these days makes me compare it to that of the African Americans in general. Yes they were enslaved and severely oppressed for hundreds of years and they're still subjected to some degree of discrimination in some areas by some, but is their reaction to all this healthy, or even helpful to them? And haven't they really gained equality in a way that at least enables them to lead a successful dignified life? I'm certainly not an expert in that and don't want to go deep into something I'm not that informed about but from what I read and heard it seems that some of them are still trapped in that victim's skin and blame all their misfortune on the others.I think it's human nature that makes us feel comfortable in rushing to give our problems a specific name and that name should not be "us". It's a relief to some people, especially those whom their liberty and independence were taken away from them for a long time, to blame it on the others.So, Sunnis are not the pure evil and She'at are not that innocent and that was the case since Saddam's days. Yes, Sunnis were more accepting of Saddam's regime in general and were more opposing to the change, but the thing is that they "were" and now things have changed a lot.She'at control the government totally, except in Kurdistan and have been monopolizing power since shortly after the war. Sunnis opposed the political process in the start and some of them supported the terrorists and the Ba'athists, out of fear, sympathy or hatred towards the She'at, but that changed now and they have accepted democracy and voted in large numbers despite the threats. You hear of She'at killed by Sunnis but do you hear of Sunnis killed by She'at? Not so often but the truth is that it happens on a daily basis that even the Americans and the British are aware of it now. Every now and then we hear about dozens of bodies found handcuffed and blindfolded with a shot in the head. Nobody claimed responsibility for those crimes which is strange given that the terrorists almost always announce their crimes and don't have a problem saying that they targeted She'at since they "collaborate with the occupiers" not to mention that they're "apostates".What's also strange is that most of those bodies were always found just to the south of Baghdad, in Hilla or Kut. Sunni clerics have been claiming that those are Sunni youth abducted by the police that's under the control of the SCIRI or She'at militias. No one believed them and I myself never believed them because they lack credibility and because they supported the terrorist and we all knew their agenda. Sunnis had had no other representatives other than those Mullahs who collaborated with the terrorists and some ex-Ba'thists because anyone who even try to be involved in politics in Sunni areas get tortured and beheaded by the terrorists or the Ba'athists whom the Americans couldn't drive out of those areas for good.You know what we fear mostly here in Baghdad? It's not speaking against Saddam or the Ba'ath or the terrorists, not anymore except in places like Azamiya, it's speaking against Sadr and to a lesser extent against the SCIRI.She'at are no better than Sunnis and the Sadirists and the SCIRI are worse than Saddam. You spoke against Saddam and you're a traitor. You speak against Sadr and you're an infidel AND a traitor. It's only the American presence that's making them tone down their oppression and commit their crimes in the dark. The Sunnis have lost their power and even accepted that and they're now just a minority that needs to be protected not fought. She'at on the other hand have gained their natural right as a majority and they have most of the control but unfortunately those of them in control are abusing the power they gained, just like Saddam.The main problem is us, Iraqis whether we're She'at, Sunni or Kurds. And the problem is also the American administration's ignorance on many of the facts on the ground with the exception of the American embassy and namely Khalil Zada who I think is doing a great job, but unfortunately it seems like most of the influence is still in the hands of the military and some people in the white house who seem to still think that Sunnis are the enemy.But I don't want Iraqis and Americans to blame each other, as that's not productive at all. Americans have been doing us a HUGE favor and we need each other and we need to trust each other and part of our cooperation is to tell each other when we're wrong, and I believe some Americans are not seeing what's happening in Iraq very clearly and many decisions were made based on this blurred vision.I think we should all look at ourselves first and for me I think the major problem is that Saddam's mentality is still running this country through people like Sadr, Al-Hakeem, Adnan Al-Dulaimi and Barzani. It's those people who keep inflaming those already existing divisions for their own benifit, as they represnt nothing but ethnic and sectarian hatred and they feed this fear and hatred among their people so that they vote for them. We Iraqis need to see that and then Americans need to see that too. The solution is certainly not even visible now but I think it helps a lot to identify the problem first.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Civil war, is it close, and is it really a disaster?

Today's attack on the holy shrine of two She'at Imams in Samarra has created so far a huge wave of protest and anger accompanied with sporadic reprisals here and there by zealous She'at led and urged mainly by the Sadirists and the SCIRI while Sistani is calling for peaceful protests and is forbidding any revenge against Sunnis and their warship places.
I tend to see this as not as bad as it looks. The attack is definitely a terrorist act aims to inflaming sectarian divisions and creating a civil war, the She'at are over reacting and some of them are pointing the accusation directly or indirectly towards all Sunnis. This is all bad, but the good thing is the different reaction among She'at religious authorities, the 'formal' one represented by Sistani and the more radical represented by the Sadirists and the SCIRI. There's no question that most She'at follow Sistani and that's why those two strong radical organizations still need his blessings and support. Sistani being a religious man who believes in the She'at dogma sees that he needs the help of those two even if he disagrees with them and fear them to some extent in order to strengthen the role of She'at in Iraq and glorify what he stands for. Both parties put with so much from each other to achieve their own agenda, but recently the split started to widen not only between the formal and more radical side but also between the two radical ones. Power hunger has always served to blind people at one point or another and the struggle among the allies can be more bitter and worse than that between them and their common enemy.
If the radical She'at listen to Sistani and calm things down then we have no reason to worry that much about a civil war (Although we will have to worry about a dominant united religious front which I think can be worse), while if they don't then they may take Iraq into a civil war which is not that unlikely now to happen given the strong Iranian interference and support for those radical components among She'at. But is that really that disastrous? Maybe, but I tend to think it won't be for many reasons. 1st such civil war will never be a full scale one with the American troops still in Iraq, so all that can happen is merely increasing the assassinations carried out by both radical Sunnis and She'at towards each other which may serve to expose those parties further more to everyone. 2nd if the Sadirists and the SCIRI go against Sistani's will they will risk losing his support. Average She'at will gain nothing from such limited civil war and while now they're carried out by their emotional reaction, when they see that revenge will only bring more death to others but also to them, after a while short or long they will stop and listen to the voice of reason and that will deprive the radicals from most of their power. Another thing is that sectarian tension has always been there under the ashes in Iraq. Saddam's policy of not allowing anyone to even talk about it or admit its existence made it only stronger and now as the oppressive power is removed you can see it clearer and stronger than ever. I read both Sunni and She'at papers and what I read is horrifying. Most of those papers don't even care to hide that hatred and scorn they have towards the other and they go with their insults and hatred back to the 7th century. Also, Sistanis constant attempts to calm the She'at and ask them to be the forgiving ones actually made She'at just more resentful towards Sunnis. One might say that Sistani is trying to protect Sunnis or his country as a whole but that's not true as I see it. By asking She'at to be forgiving and tolerant he's actually blaming the Sunnis, as if he thought the criminals in any terrorist attack were just a bunch of terrorists who do not represent Sunnis then why would She'at need to be tolerant or forgiving! You don't tolerate or forgive terrorists but you only do so when you think a whole community is responsible, and that's what Sistani thinks.
One has to admit that terrorists are mostly Sunnis, Arabs but also backed up by some radical Iraqi Sunnis and ex-Ba'thists, but to generalize it to include all Sunnis is a grave mistake that many make including Americans. On the other hand the She'at militias have been committing probably worse crimes towards Sunnis in an almost indiscriminative manner using the cover of the police or the army and using fighting terrorism as a justification to settle old accounts or even to inflame the situation more to serve their Iranian masters and also to provoke more reaction so that they can have a better case when they talk about forming an independent She'at state in the south and the center (Which the SCIRI is now advertising for strongly through its TV and Radio stations after today's attack and present it as the only solution).So this mounting rage and distrust among both Sunnis and She'at may not be resolved by Sistanis misplaced calls for tolerance or the Sunni scholars faked offers for peace and it may be needed that things are taken to the extreme to show Sunnis that they're not the strongest anymore and to show She'at that being a majority does not mean you can whip out 5 or 6 million Sunnis from Iraq. Both parties would most likely learn after that to live in real tolerance and acceptance of their differences.
I'm not being pessimistic here nor have I gave up, on the contrary I'm still optimistic and I don't see a limited civil war as that bad, as what would it mean? Destruction and killing on the identity? Sorry to say that that's already happening but none of the real killers is showing his face. So let them do it and say it frankly and that, I believe, will relieve a lot of the tension. I always thought that a civil war was needed to clear this tension and I had this thought more than 15 years ago when I stopped being a Sunni and that gave me access to what both sides really think of each other and it was scary...
I still don't believe that Iraqis will fight each other but it would be more radical Sunnis and She'at fighting each other and of course killing many innocents from both sides during the process, but again that's already happening but without Sunnis being aware that any of those who claim to represent them being part of it or many She'at believing that the SCIRI or the Sadirists are part of it either (Or maybe just not wanting to admit it which should also change if any of those parties made a declaration of war).
So nothing would actually change on the ground if any side declares civil war. They are not likely to be able to take it to an open war and we would just have faces replacing masks and citizens on both sides realizing that they're not the only victims and that what they thought would be a victory for them would only mean naming things by their names without achieving anything but continuous death and destruction.
I think all this could have been avoided if it was not for the interference of Sunni Arabs and Iran. Now things seem to be too tense to resolve on their own. There's still a remote chance of resolving this without even needing to declare a civil war (Although I still think a clear stand from the radicals on both sides would lead to a better outcome) and it lies in the secular She'at and Sunnis, the Kurds if they decide to play a more positive role and also the way the Americans will react to what may happen.

Sorry I haven't posted in such a long time. I keep saying this will change and that I will post more frequently but things have been going against my will. I was busy with work which also made me less focused on what's happening in Iraq and I didn't have any solid thought I thought was worth sharing, but I will try my best to post as much as I can.I intend to post something soon but for now I wanted to share this cartoon I found on an Iraqi newspaper that I think is interesting. It's mainly about the bad effect of religion or more religious parties on the general situation in Iraq. It was published in Al-Muatamar newspaper which is the official paper of the INC (Chalabi's party) that's a liberal secular party that still have a majority of She'at. The three nails driven into the sign have the words; Occupation, Corruption and Terrorism. On the back the nail has no word attached to it but the bead is an obvious hint at religion. I believe the use of "Occupation" was just to show that the artist is a nationalist and it's a usual thing to do when you approach any political or religious taboos but everyone familiar with the paper knows it's pro-liberation and they even stated that clearly many times.
What I found interesting about this cartoon is not just that it's the 1st time someone criticizes the role of religion openly even if in an indirect way, but also that the artist used the word "Terrorism" and therefore his use of the bead was meant to refer to not Sunni fanatics, because he already covered that with "Terrorism" but to the She'at religious parties that dominate the government and maybe even the "Marjiya"I was happy to see this and it made me feel some hope after the terrible results of the elections. If we look at those results and compare them with the ones of the 1st elections we'll see that the She'at religious parties maintained their lead or even gained more votes numerically. So the number of She'at who did not vote for the Coalition List has not increased as we hoped but on the other hand the degree of opposition among secular She'at to the She'at religious authorities has grown considerably. She'at whether religious or secular have always had tremendous respect for their clerics and Imams and I've talked to many She'at who consider themselves liberals and who push for a secular state but when you go anywhere close to Sistani or their Imams they stop you, gently but firmly. So that's why I see it as a very hopeful sign that a paper dominated by She'at, even if secular and one that's distributed nationally has gone that far in defying religious She'at parties and one would just need to think of the reaction to the Danish cartoons to see how words or art can be very scary to those fanatics (although I don't see a very valid cause for those cartoons but I still resent the reaction much more than the act). They fear words more than bombs because while they can confront violence with similar or more extreme violence they lack the means to confront words or art, as it takes creativity and openness among other things which they lack or have lost when they closed their boxes on themselves. Words may not be enough but I believe they represent a very good start.