Monday, July 31, 2006

Al-Hakim supports decentralization

"Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq . . . called on Iraqis to take on greater responsibility for securing the country, to set up neighborhood defense committees, and to establish greater autonomy in a region of nine provinces in southern and central Iraq, a predominantly Shiite area. Hakim said that the 'experience of Kurdistan' -- a largely autonomous region in northern Iraq -- 'is a pioneering experience' and that 'a serious movement should be made in that direction. ' " [1]

"On Friday (July 28), one of the country’s top Shiite leaders, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, called for Iraqis to wrest control of security from the hands of the Americans. Mr. Hakim presides over the main Shiite political bloc and oversees the Badr Organizaton, an Iranian-trained militia. He has been pushing to carve the country into three large autonomous regions.
Ripples of violence could be felt across Iraq on Saturday. The coach of the national soccer team resigned on Friday because of threats, sports officials said. The coach, Akram Ahmed Salman, turned in his resignation in Erbil, the Kurdish city where the team is training, said Abdul Khalak Massoud, the financial secretary of the Iraqi Football Federation.
Mr. Massoud said Mr. Salman had received two phone calls within two days warning him that his family would be killed unless he quit. “It’s so weird,” Mr. Massoud said.
Violence against athletes and sports directors has been on the rise in recent weeks. Earlier this month, gunmen abducted the chairman of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee and at least 30 other officials and bodyguards in a brazen daylight raid. Before that, Iraq’s national wrestling coach and several top tennis players were killed in separate attacks." [2]

"Political commentators seem to have mixed feelings about al-Hakim and occasionally treat him with unjustified harshness. In its editorial (January 12, 2006), the New York Times called him a political incendiary and a threat to Iraq. Whether or not this accurately characterizes al-Hakim’s true nature is an open question. His defenders view him as a shrewd politician who advocates their cause tirelessly. His adversaries regard him as a divisive wheeler and dealer who, more often than not, creates rather than solves problems.
Those who are intimately familiar with Iraqi politics and history argue that al-Hakim is a political actor shaped by events beyond his control. These events have catapulted him onto the center of the political stage. The traumatic years of 1958-1963, the rise and tragic death of his older brothers, and his troubled exile in Iran have all had an impact on al-Hakim‘s personality.
. . . In recent months, al-Hakim more than ever has strengthened his relationships with the representatives of the occupation powers. Furthermore, he visited Irabil in Northern Iraq and promised Kurdish separatists to transfer Iraq into semi-independent three regions. This has angered the majority of Iraqis who regards the proposed division as a threat to the democratic order and peace and security in Iraq. Since then, al-Hakim has faced mounting pressures, to espouse patriotic agenda, from two credible rivals: Al-Dawa Party and Sadrist movement.
In fact, al-Hakim's efforts since the assassination of his brother in 2003 have primarily aimed at creating an environment conducive to positioning himself politically. He understands that he has neither the clear vision nor the capability of his late brother to lead Iraq. This may explain his inclination to stress a sectarian message and his insistence on a form of a weak central government and a form of federalism along the sectarian and ethnic lines." [3] *

Al-Hakim "voiced strong support for the prime minister's program to bring Iraq's various factions together to reconcile their differences through dialogue and said it was the first of the four steps essential to restoring security. Iraqis, Hakim said, 'have to understand each other. 'Second, he said, was to 'strengthen the government and its agenda for fighting terrorism.' Hakim said the third key was to the rebuild the shrine in the northern city of Samarra, which was destroyed Feb. 22 by a bombing that the government has since blamed on the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. Almost immediately after the attack, much of Iraq was engulfed in sectarian violence . . . Hakim's contention that neighborhoods should form their own defense committees -- his fourth step -- is shared by many Iraqis who feel they cannot rely on their country's security forces or foreign troops to protect them. Others, however, have expressed fears that the people's committees would amount to nothing more than de facto militias in a country where militia attacks have caused much of the bloodshed. Militias associated with Shiite parties -- including the armed wing of Hakim's Supreme Council, known as the Badr Organization -- have been widely accused of mass killings and kidnappings of Sunni Arabs." [4]

"Abdul Aziz al-Hakim is . . . the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a large, influential, and moderate Iraqi Shiite political organization formerly based in Iran. Having long opposed Saddam and operated clandestinely against his regime, SCIRI did not interfere with the U.S.-led invasion, and it has since formed a tactical alliance with the Coalition Provisional Authority. Al-Hakim is also believed to be the commander of SCIRI's militia group, the Badr Brigade." [5]

* This February 23, 2006 Al Jazeera article appeared one day after the bombing of the Shiite's al-Askari shrine in Samarra. [6]

[1] The Washington Post. Iraqi Official Warns Against Coup Attempt. July 29, 2006.
[2] The New York Times. Pentagon Extends Tour for 4,000 Troops, Increasing Number in Iraq. July 30, 2006.
[3] Al Jazeerah. The Making of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. February 23, 2006
[4] The Washington Post. Shiite Party Leader Outlines 4 Steps for Iraq to Curb Violence. July 25, 2006.
[5] Frontline. Beyond Baghdad. Interviews. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. February 12, 2004.
[6] BBC News. Iraqi blast damages Shia shrine. February 22, 2006.

posted: july 31, 2006, 10:01 AM ET
update: august 2, 2006, 5:25 AM ET

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Warriors Anonymous (cartoon)

Text: Warriors Anonymous. My name is America and I believe that war is the answer to many of our problems. Hi, America. Shiites. Sunnis. Israel. Of course, everyone has the right to defend themselves. And others.

posted: july 29, 2006, 11:55 AM ET
update: july 29, 2006, 11:56 AM ET

Friday, July 28, 2006

I'm being excluded from Blogger's Blog Search and Technorati

My July 26 Crack Iraq (If it works for the Kurds . . .) posting and July 25 Erick's Blog cartoon: Coincidence or conspiracy? posting are not in the Blogger Blog Search or Technorati search engines. They are in Google, however.

My July 25 Iraq - Who loves ya, baby? (cartoon) posting (posted about 12 hours before my Erick's Blog cartoon posting) and at least some previous postings appear to still be in Blogger Blog Search and Technorati.

I've checked some other Blogger blogs' postings from July 25 - 27. Blog Search doesn't seem to be working very well, but Technorati seems to have most posts.

This current posting is not on Blog Search, Technorati or Google.

posted: july 28, 2006, 8:53 AM ET
update: july 28, 2006, 4:15 PM ET

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Crack Iraq (If it works for the Kurds . . .)

If, as Peter Galbraith says, the Kurds already have a "de facto separation" in northern Iraq that "Arab Iraqis have largely accepted." And if the Shiites are largely in the south and the Sunnis are largely in the center of the country, [1] then why not keep going in this direction and split the battling Shiites and Sunnis into their own regions as well?

In Foreign Affairs, Leslie Gelb shows how this decentralization might work. In the same article, Stephen Biddle says that decentralization has been suggested in the past, but that the various parties have not been able to agree to the necessary compromises. [2]

But it seems like such a natural idea and the war has been going on for so long. And since it's already been successful for the Kurds who are "secure . . . increasingly prosperous" and don't have "significant coalition forces," [1] it seems like an idea worth pursuing some more, especially if prime minister Maliki's reconciliation plan doesn't work out. *

* Senator Joseph Biden, "the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee," also supports decentralization [3].

[1] The New York Times. Our Corner of Iraq. July 25, 2006.
[2] Foreign Affairs. What to Do in Iraq: A Roundtable. July/August 2006.
[3] The Washington Post. Iraqi Leader to Visit Bush; Talks to Focus on Violence. July 23, 2006.

posted: july 26, 2006, 1:38 AM ET
update: july 26, 2006, 4:44 PM ET

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Erick's Blog cartoon: Coincidence or conspiracy?

I looked in Technorati around 11 am this morning, July 25, to see where my Israel-Lebanon cartoon was listed. It was on the first page (keyword: israel cartoon). Three links above was another link called "Editorial Cartoon: Palestine, Israel and Babies" from Erick's Blog. Since this person's blog had the same first name as me (except I'm Eric, not Erick), I went to see what was there.

The Erick's Blog link had a July 25 cartoon which seemed stylistically similar to my July 21 Israel cartoon. Both used symmetry, black felt tip pen lines, and some spaces were colored in black. The cartoon on Erick's Blog took the Israel perspective as opposed to my cartoon which criticized Israel (though I feel my cartoon had some balance). Erick's posting title ("Editorial Cartoon: Palestine, Israel and Babies") also seemed similar to my original posting title ["Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah (cartoon)]. *

When I looked at Erick's Blog's front page, the July 25 posting above Erick's cartoon posting had a title with a similar three-word list, "The Future: Capital, Cash and Gold." The July 25 posting below Erick's cartoon posting was called "Apply Directly to the Forehead." It linked to a article about a new headache remedy called HeadOn.

But could the sentence "Apply directly to the forehead" also be a reference to a gun or a bullet to someone's forehead? Erick's Forehead posting came directly beneath the cartoon posting that had two people pointing guns at each other and, from which Erick apparently got the cartoon, had a handgun as part of its logo. **

Could this also be a death message for me? The cartoon is similar to my Israel cartoon, the Future posting above mentioned Japan (I am of Japanese descent. Many of Erick's previous postings mentioned Japan also), and the blog's name, Erick's Blog, is similar to my first name. Also, could I be the headache that's being referenced from Erick's Forehead link? The picture in the article also looks like the young woman is taking a large bullet between the eyes.

So is Erick's cartoon a commentary on my cartoon or is it just a coincidence? If it is a commentary, I've only had six visitors to my blog (so far) since I posted the Israel cartoon, so it would seem strange for someone with my first name to be one of those six people. ***

Erick, in a reply to my email, said that it was coincidence. ****

* I changed my title around 2:30 am, july 25, to "Israel - Lebanon - Eat shrapnel, Hezbollah! (cartoon)." That's also why our links are so close in the Technorati list even though my original posting was on July 21.

** Erick's cartoon posting provides a link to the cartoon on One of the comments on Samizdata said that they had seen that cartoon before, so maybe the Samizdata cartoon pre-dated mine. Samizdata put the Israel-Palestine cartoon in the context of Israel, Lebanon and Hezbollah in its commentary.

*** Erick's Blog has postings going back to January 2004 in its archives.

**** "Erick" had left 2 comments to this posting (see comments). There were links on his comments to Erick's profile on Blogger with links to Erick's Blog and to Erick's email. I emailed Erick and asked if it was a coincidence or conspiracy. He emailed back and said it was a coincidence and that he thought that my cartoon and the cartoon that he had linked to were dissimilar, that their positions on Israel were different.

posted: july 25, 2006, 1:51 PM ET
update: august 26, 2006, 10:56 AM ET

Iraq - Who loves ya, baby? (cartoon)

(I thought of this several weeks ago, so it may be a little dated.)

posted: july 25, 2006, 2:12 AM ET
update: july 25, 2006, 2:23 AM ET

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Democracy and Lebanon

"With the Iraq war, the United States introduced to the Middle East a bold new policy of democratization by destabilization. That policy encouraged elections in Lebanon and Palestine, opening the door to entities like Hezbollah and Hamas that are now experimenting with a potent cocktail of electoral politics, radical Islamist ideology and violence . . . For its part, Israel is gambling that the right strategy is to make the people who elected Hamas and a government that includes Hezbollah reckon the costs of their representatives' recklessness. That is why Israel has targeted not only Hezbollah leaders and strongholds but has also bombed infrastructure that sustains daily life for everybody in Lebanon . . . Letting relations between Israel and its neighbors develop on their own, without our stage management, would suggest that the Bush administration is taking seriously its own argument that democratization is a messy, long-term business that must run its course, unimpeded. According to this claim, the regional destabilization that followed the Iraq invasion is just the cost of democracy." [1]

"For 15 years, we were trampled under the weight of Syrian oppression, via an occupation that had been approved by Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, in exchange for Damascus' cooperation in the 1991 war in Iraq. We were emboldened by the younger Bush's decision to terminate America's policy of sanctioning Syrian hegemony over Lebanon. We took to the streets, demanding Syria's withdrawal and the return of democracy to our country. From that point forward, we became a focal point in Bush's democracy scorecard, as he proudly boasted that his policies had helped achieve democratic advancements around the region . . . But now, our fledgling independence is under fire. Only a little over a year since we started making our own decisions and trying to forge a sense of national unity, we have been hit with a crisis of unexpected proportions . . . Yet even now, as Israel is laying waste to our country with guns and missiles paid for with US tax dollars, and as American-made bombs are raining down on our cities, we are still clinging to the same values and ideals that the Bush administration has promoted: we want life, liberty and happiness; we want democracy, sovereignty, freedom and independence." [2]

[1] The New York Times. Ballots and bullets. July 21, 2006.
[2] The Daily Star. Time for America to put its diplomatic muscle where its mouth is. July 15, 2006.

posted: july 23, 2006, 7:52 AM ET
update: july 23, 2006, 7:58 AM ET

Friday, July 21, 2006

Why democratizing Iraq could be a bad idea

"Rapid democratization . . . could be positively harmful in Iraq . . . In a communal civil war . . . rapid democratization can further polarize already antagonistic sectarian groups. In an immature polity with little history of compromise, demonizing traditional enemies is an easy -- and dangerous -- way to mobilize support from frightened voters . . . (E)merging democracies are unusually bellicose. Political reform is critical to resolving communal wars, but only if it comes at the right time, after some sort of stable communal compromise has begun to take root." [1]

"What makes Iraq different and a particularly difficult case is that for the first time the United States has tried to put a society back together without securing the cooperation, however grudging, of the principal neighbors of the state in question . . . The United States . . . invade(d) Iraq with the intention of making that state a (democratization) model for the Middle East, promising that success in Iraq would be followed by efforts to transform the political systems of Iraq's neighbors. This was not a vision any of those regimes was likely to embrace. Nor have they . . . Unless Washington can craft a vision of Iraq and of its neighborhood that all the governments of the region can buy into, it will have no chance of securing those governments' help in holding that country together." [2]

[1] Foreign Affairs. Seeing Baghdad, thinking Saigon. March/April 2006.
[2] Foreign Affairs. What to do in Iraq: A roundtable. July/August 2006.

posted: july 21, 2006, 6:52 PM ET
update: july 21, 2006, 7:37 PM ET

Israel - Lebanon - Eat shrapnel, Hezbollah! (cartoon)

posted: july 21, 2006, 5:14 AM ET
update: july 25, 2006, 2:25 AM ET

Monday, July 17, 2006

"War on terror" conspiracy theory

On September 10, 2001, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld threatened to cut America's defense budget by transforming the Pentagon bureaucracy. [1] Is there any connection between this event and:

a) 9/11
b) The war in Afghanistan
c) The war in Iraq

On September 11, 2001, the 9/11 attacks occurred and as a consequence, America's war on terror began and its defense budget increased dramatically. [1]

[1] The New York Times. Pentagon struggles with cost overruns and delays. July 11, 2006.

posted: july 17, 2006, 1:25 PM ET
update: july 17, 2006, 7:34 PM ET

Technorati blurbs

Why do some blurbs on Technorati's search lists only get their link blurbed while most blurbs get surrounding text from their posts blurbed also?

I had linked to a Washington Post story in my July 17, 2006 posting, "Is Iraq a Moral Issue?." But when I checked the Post article later (it took at least 3 1/2 hours for my posting to be listed in Technorati and the Post), my posting's blurb only had my link (a measly "[1]"). A couple of other people's posting blurbs only had their links blurbed, but most of the posting blurbs contained surrounding text. I thought maybe it might be because my link came between sentences, but a number of the other posting blurbs contained multiple sentences, so that lessens that possibility.

Also, my sole visitor (so far) referred from the Post article exited my blog from the June 18, 2006 "Death Messages" posting. So was this another death message, too? (My hit counter records a visitor's entry and exit pages.)

posted: july 17, 2006, 12:33 PM ET
update: july 19, 2006, 6:41 AM ET

Is Iraq a moral issue?

While the debate over Iraq seems to be focusing on questions of national security and the cost of the war to America, isn't there also a moral dimension? [1] This dimension would be, of course, the suffering of the Iraqi people. America's invasion destroyed their country's government and has not been able to replace it with a workable alternative. This has resulted in perhaps even greater suffering than the people of Iraq had experienced under Saddam Hussein. If America exits before Iraq can stabilize, it appears that this suffering will continue, if not increase. Why is this not part of the debate as well? *

* If America stays, this does not mean it has to follow the same (so far, unsuccessful) course.

[1] The Washington Post. How Common Ground of 9/11 Gave Way to Partisan Split. July 16, 2006.

posted: july 17, 2006, 3:20 AM ET
update: july 17, 2006, 3:32 AM ET

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Africa and Iraq postscript (alternative solutions to the war in Iraq included)

In July, the Democratic Republic of the Congo holds its first election since 1965. But "with the country's vast distances, poor communications and largely illiterate population, most people have only the vaguest idea what the election will mean for them." [1]

A Washington Post - ABC News poll asked: "How confident are you that Iraq will have a stable, democratic government a year from now?" The response was: Very confident (3%). Somewhat confident (36%). Not too confident (30%). Not confident at all (29%). [2]

"In Iraq, (the Bush Administration) has acted to shut down dozens of projects designed to nurture the seedlings of democracy: civil society, political parties, women's and human rights organizations, and the like." [3]

"By largely going it alone in Iraq, we rapidly transformed ourselves from liberator to occupying power . . . Neither world public opinion nor American political dynamics will allow us to stay there long enough to stabilize Iraqi society, even if we could . . . We need direct and long-term engagement by other major countries, including a credible multilateral military force, and we need it fast." [4]

"What will bring stability and peace to Iraq? . . . Today you hear from soldiers and civilians alike that only the Iraqi political process can create peace, by generating a settlement that strikes a balance among the interests of Iraq's various groups." [5]

"A number of American officials and experts, weary from the bloodletting, are giving renewed attention to proposals to let the regions of Iraq break into their own parts. In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, Leslie Gelb . . . argues for a variation of sectarian division . . . (But) it has one big problem: Especially in Iraq's urban areas, it could be a bloody affair." [6, 7]

"A great many of the failures in Afghanistan and Iraq arise from a single problem: the American-led coalitions’ lack of trust in local politicians. Repeatedly the Western powers, irritated by a lack of progress, have overruled local leaders, rejected compromises and tried to force through their own strategies. But the Westerners’ capacity is limited: they have little understanding of Afghan or Iraqi politics and rely too heavily on troops and money to solve what are fundamentally political and religious problems." [8]

[1] The New York Times. Congo nears historic election, praying for peace. July 1, 2006.
[2] The Washington Post. Nation is divided on drawdown of troops. (Poll data link). June 27, 2006.
[3] The Washington Post. A democracy policy in ashes. June 27, 2006.
[4] The Washington Post. Help wanted in Iraq. June 27, 2006.
[5] The New York Times. The only exit strategy left. June 25, 2006.
[6] The New York Times. Solution: Break up Iraq; Reality: It's not so easy. June 25, 2006.
[7] Foreign Affairs. What to do in Iraq: A roundtable. July/August 2006.
[8] The New York Times. Even in Iraq, All Politics Is Local. July 13, 2006.

related postings
[1] Life and death in Africa and Iraq. June 23, 2006.
[2] Stay America, but don't turn Iraq into a target. June 20, 2006.

posted: july 8, 2006, 6:24 PM ET
update: september 4, 2006, 7:09 PM ET

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