Mohammed: Terrorism to Lose its Bet

Today's post by Mohammed in Iraq The Model emphasizes several points that freedom activists must keep in mind: that democacy is never perfect; that perception is of great importance; and that by staying the course, we can defeat the enemies of freedom.

Citing what he diplomatically calls the "modest performance" of the GC to date, Mohammed admits to having had some doubts about the urgency of the June 30 transfer of sovereignty. However, he recognizes the need for the new Iraqi government to have credibility in the eyes of the world and the Iraqi citizenry. Most important, Iraqis must feel invested in their own future: this is what he means by the "birth of the new Iraqi citizen who has the faith in the good results in the future and who is free from the paranoia that inhabited the minds of Iraqis and Arabs in general".

This feeling of investment is the key to meaningful citizenship, in the West no less than anyplace else. Individuals who, for whatever reasons, feel they have no stake in the future of their country - the United States for example - will inevitably yield to cynicism. This is the dynamic behind much of the Left's psychology.

Mohammed concludes by noting that "international terrorism that bet a lot on the failure of the project in Iraq will find that it has lost a great deal of its war" when the claim of American "colonialism" in Iraq is shown to be a fraud. This can only happen when full Iraqi sovereignty - warts and all - is restored.

Iraqi Prisoners Abused by Americans

Disturbing photographs show Iraqi POWs were subjected to inhumane conditions in American custody at Abu Ghraib prison, according to news reports. Still worse, an American soldier who complained of the abuse was silenced by superior officers. According to the AP report on Fox News:

Army Reserves Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick wrote that an Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad lacked the humane standards of the Virginia state prison where he worked in civilian life, according to a journal he started after military investigators first questioned him in January.

The Iraqi prisoners were sometimes confined naked for three consecutive days without toilets in damp, unventilated cells with floors 3 feet by 3 feet, Frederick wrote in materials obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.

"When I brought this up with the acting BN (battalion) commander, he stated, 'I don't care if he has to sleep standing up.' That's when he told my company commander that he was the BN commander and for me to do as he says," Frederick wrote.

The writings were supplied by Frederick's uncle, William Lawson, who said Frederick wanted to document what was happening to him. ...

All freedom lovers must join in condemning any such abuse. This goes against everything we stand for. President Bush has wasted no time in giving his reaction:

President Bush has condemned the apparent mistreatment of some Iraqi prisoners, saying, "Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people. That's not the way we do things in America. I didn't like it one bit."

He was asked about photos showing Iraqi prisoners naked except for hoods covering their heads, stacked in a human pyramid, one with a slur written in English on his skin. That and other scenes of humiliation have led to criminal charges against six American soldiers. Arab television stations were leading their newscasts on Friday with the photos.

"I share a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were treated," Bush said. ...

It is essential that we root out not only this anti-human behavior itself, but also address the underlying problems in the military hierarchy that allowed these obscenities to happen. I trust all freedom lovers in America and elsewhere will join in insisting on a full investigation and the strictest justice for those responsible.


The Other Golan: Lots of Concealment, Very Little Cover

That Belmont Club article explains that the enemy in Fallujah is now mainly holed up in a neighborhood called the "Golan": a labyrinth of lightly constructed buildings in which those familiar with the territory can easily hide. The walls and roofs of these buildings can easily be pierced by even a modest-sized weapon, allowing either side to shoot right through buildings. There's good news for our side, though: the task of pinpointing the enemy may be formidable but not insurmountable. "The battle for this urban maze will be largely a battle for line of sight as it probably has been from the beginning", Wretchard explains. Our night-vision capabilities are much better than theirs, and scouts and snipers have been patiently watching the area. Also, captured enemy fighters may provide useful intel.

The flimsy buildings of "Golan" will provide the enemy some protection from observation, but none at all from weapons fire. Once the enemy's position is known, the article concludes, he is finished.

Ledeen on the Wider Conflict

Michael "Faster, Please" Ledeen has a great column in National Review Onliine. He stresses the importance of recognizing that the Iraq conflict is regional, not merely confined to the boundaries of Iraq.

Money quote:
We cannot "solve" Iraq's problems by acting solely within the confines of the nation, because at least three other terror masters of some significance — Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia — are fighting for their survival in Iraq. Against us. Moqtada is an Iranian creature, and Iran has long since created a huge network inside Iraq, ready to respond to orders from Tehran.

BTW, Ledeen cites Belmont Club and the Iraqi blogs. Read the whole thing.

Blogdad for Beginners

In the weeks following the liberation of Iraq, a number of entrprising young Iraqis began setting up weblogs to share their thoughts with the outside world. These blogs, collectively known as “Blogdad” among their fans, provide a tremendously valuable source of information and insights on the current situation in Iraq. For supporters of the freedom movement, they are required reading!

I began following Zeyad’s blog “Healing Iraq” last November, after reading about it in Andrew Sullivan. I quickly became a daily reader and added several others to my reading list. Happily the Iraqi blogs are catching on; not long ago “Iraq the Model” was quoted by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. "Iraq the Model" is the work of three brothers - Omar, Ali, and Mohammed Fadhil.

For those just joining us, I’ll be highlighting some of my favorite entries from the past six months, and commenting on the issues they raise. I’ll also share my thoughts on the bigger questions surrounding the blogs: for example, how do we know they’re for real?

The Comments sections of the Iraqi blogs are very exciting places. Fans of the blogs like to share ideas with other Zeyaddicts, and there’s always plenty of lively debate. There’s a certain amount or petty bickering, too, and the ever-present grumbling of trolls. But it’s a great place to get in on the action, and hook up with other pro-freedom folks.

Authority Figure

Islam taught me not to confuse authoritarianism with authority.
- Irshad Manji

Some of them are harmless. Somewhere early in life, these people internalized an image of themselves as failures; thus, they are only able to see themselves as victims. But victims of whom, or or what? Well, it could only be the big, bad United States Government. And so, since misery loves company, they ennoble themselves by aligning themselves with those others who, in their imagination, are also the “victims” of American oppression.

Those with a more comprehensive worldview have generalized the oppressor/victim paradigm to include everything in the world. For them, “power” is inherently evil and everyone must be either a victim or an oppressor. Lacking any other ethical framework, their whole claim to moral legitimacy stems from their status of being “not-in-power”.

Very often they buy into what Leon Wieseltier memorably called the “romance of dissent”. This is protest for its own sake, opposition for its own sake. It is not directed at achieving any goal other than itself. It is the kid at the back of the classroom throwing spitballs. Whatever the government does, they’re against it – because it’s a good excuse to go out and get attention. And so they block traffic and then complain that their “rights to free speech are being violated”.

What drives these people? A few are honest, seasoned activists who have simply taken a wrong turn (see below), or who were deliberately misled by other, less well-intentioned “progressive” leftists whom they’d come to trust. Others might have had a traumatic experience with a parent or teacher in early childhood, or else were uncommonly spoiled. What they share is a refusal to accept – either for themselves or for others – the moral responsibility that goes with legitimate authority.


Best of Blogdad: Freedom and the Third Element

What role do we play in our own fate? How much power does society have in our lives, and what is our complicity in it?

These are some of the questions Ali addresses in his essay “The Second Element”, dated December 3, 2003. Provoked to reflection by a reader’s remark that “you guys deserved (Saddam Hussein)”, Ali explores the forces that shape individuals and society. The first element is genetics – our natural predisposition. The second element is society itself. Ali observes the role of the media, both in Iraq and in the West, in shaping opinion.

But beyond society – the “second element” of the post’s title – there is

“a 3rd. element that forms and shapes the ultimate course of the life of an individual, and let me call it “the free zone”, a zone of free will that neither the genetics nor the environment and not even God have any influence whatever, and as this zone is free, it is liable for frequent changes throughout its short course on earth.”

Ali makes it clear that the first step in exercising our free will – and sometimes the only step left to us – is to use our capacity for critical thinking. In America we have the choice of what to watch on TV, what books to read, what to view on the internet. In Ba’athist Iraq these choices were nonexistent. But the people did have one choice: whether to take the hateful propaganda of the regime into their own minds, their own lives, and their children’s lives, or to reject it.

This is the choice that all of us – free and not yet free – still have. We can decide who we are, and who we want to be.

Ali said it better than I can. Read the whole post here.

Brahimi and the "Legitimacy" of the UN

An article by Michael Rubin, published in National Review and posted in the Free Iran forum, raises serious doubts about not only the Brahimi plan and the United Nations, but also the role of the State Department in building a democratic Iraq.

Citing America’s betrayal of the Iraqi uprising in 1991 - in which a Kurdish official charges that “you helped Saddam. Why else would you release the Republican Guard prisoners just in time for them to rearm and regroup” – Rubin explains:

And so, from an Iraqi perspective, history repeats itself. Iraqis today say they face another betrayal. While many Americans know U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi only as the facilitator of the Afghanistan Loya Jirga process, Iraqis have greater experience with the former Algerian foreign minister. A staunch Nasserist, they say Brahimi is much more interested in rehabilitating former senior Baathist officers than in promoting democracy. Brahimi has demonstrated disdain not only for Iraq's Kurdish minority, but also for Iraq's Shia majority. As undersecretary of the Arab League between 1984 and 1991, Brahimi stood silent as Saddam massacred more than 100,000 Iraqi Kurds, and then perhaps 400,000 Iraqi Shia. As Iraqis discover and excavate new mass graves every week, there are constant reminders of Brahimi's silence. Visiting Baghdad on U.N. business in 1997, Brahimi added insult to injury, as Iraqi television showed Brahimi embracing Saddam's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, a man whom Iraqis hope to try for crimes against humanity.

A U.N. affiliation may lend Brahimi legitimacy on the streets of Washington and London, but it does not in Basra, Baghdad, or Erbil.

Rubin cites the “legendary” corruption of UN officials in the now-notorious “oil for palaces” program. This is not a small thing. There are also serious problems with Brahimi: for example, his disingenuous claim that professional Iraqis without Ba’ath ties are hard to come by, when he knows full well that there are thousands of educators and medical personnel who refused to collaborate with the regime.

Read the whole article here:

or here:

Iraq’s future is of concern to freedom-loving Iranians, and conversely. As this article appears on the Free Iran board, the passage pointing to then Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell’s complicity in the 1991 massacre is pointedly highlighted.

The White House must not tolerate attempts by New York or Foggy Bottom to undermine Iraqi democracy. As Michael Rubin rightly concludes, we have promised Iraq true freedom, and we must deliver.

The Death Wish - fiction


You live against your will.
--Rabbi Elazar ha-Kappar

The Wish
Every morning, Tarika wished to die; and at night, when the glare of the lamps was darkened, she prayed for death to take her. The endless hours between were a flood of beatings and interrogations; most of her body was scarred from lashings and blistered from burns.
She had long since lost track of the time she had been held captive. The drugs they gave her to loosen her tongue brought her near to madness, yet she never found even that refuge. Nights brought scarce comfort. She had the same dream again and again: a glowing road through the dusky woods, with a light shining at the end. She knew that the light shone from the Garden of Mercy, where one day she would find rest. Always she ran towards the light, but found the way blocked by a dark-cloaked angel who struck at her with a flashing sword. The blade of the sword burned her flesh like the electric prods her captors used during the day. She knew that the figure was the Angel of Night, and that once again her soul was being denied entry into the Garden of Mercy. Always she found herself falling back into the gaping mouth of her prison.
Never was she alone. During the few hours of sleep she was permitted nightly, guards stood by with carbines; by day, her tormentors worked in shifts, trying to confuse her, wear her down, break her. And this she feared most of all: for if she broke, if she told what she knew about Operation Phoenix, then it would all be for nothing.
After seven years of civil war, the ruthless Nationalists were gaining ground, and while the People’s Front fought bravely, the future looked grim. There remained one chance for the People’s Front to turn the tide: a daring raid on the capital city’s nerve center, code named Operation Phoenix. As long as she was being kept here -- wherever she was -- alive and in pain, it meant that the war was still being fought. But if she ever allowed her lips to breathe the secret of Phoenix, it would be over. So she told wild tales, recited folk songs and nonsense verses -- anything to keep her mouth from betraying the secret. And she prayed for death.

The Fruit
There was a tiny slot in the stone wall that passed for a window. There was not much to see through it -- only the bullet-pocked brick wall of another building, and a filthy alley, and a scraggly tree, with one single fruit hanging from it.
As the long days wore into weeks, she began to look on the tree as a friend, and to speak to it. She told it about her feelings, her memories, and her hope that her suffering was not in vain. She spoke to the tree, and, eventually, it began to speak to her. Listen, it said, when this fruit falls at last, you shall have your rest.
And so she watched the fruit. As she watched, day by day, it grew ripe and heavy, but it refused to fall. And every day she faced the pain again, and the fear that her will might weaken. By night she walked, ran, and crawled down that shining road, only to be driven back by the Angel of Night and her merciless sword.
At last, one morning, her waiting was at an end. The fruit no longer hung from the limb of the sickly tree -- but, marvelously, it had fallen and grown up overnight into a beautiful, flowering young tree! Its leaves and branches were so rich, so delicate, that they seemed to possess infinitely fine detail. This was a glorious sign that her longed-for rest was at hand. Giddy with excitement, she faced the day’s torments cheerfully, knowing that her soul was to be liberated from the prison of her body in a few short hours.
The lights finally dimmed and she lay down, bloodied and blistered as always, on the rough wooden plank that served as her bed. She thought how sweet it would be, to enter the Garden of Mercy at last. She closed her eyes, and listened as the old tree spoke to her for the last time.

The Garden of Mercy
The glowing path lay before her, and the forest did not seem so thick this time. Up ahead, the light was as bright as ever, and clearer than before: at its center stood a grove of flowering trees, like the new tree she had seen in her window. By the entrance to the grove, silhouetted in the light, the Angel of Night stood quietly, leaning on her sword like a weary soldier.
Tarika stood for a moment, her dream-eyes drinking in the beauty of the scene. Then the Angel of Night spoke to her softly. “It’s over now,” was all she said. “You may enter the Garden of Mercy.”
Tarika nodded graciously to the angel. Then she turned and walked away from the Garden, back into the mouth of the prison. There was a blinding flash, a sound like thunder, and everything went black.

“She’ll have a fine headache when she comes to,” the medic was saying. “But she’s been through a lot worse, the poor thing.” As her vision cleared, she could see the outline of the medic, and, standing beside him, a sergeant wearing People’s Front insignia.
The sergeant leaned down to look her in the eye. “Sorry about the concussion grenade, ma’am,” he said, “but it sure shook up those Nationalist goons. They were sitting ducks when our team moved in.”
Tarika found herself sobbing. “What happened?” she managed to ask. “Where am I?”
“Where are you?” the sergeant echoed. “Well, that’s a good one. They were keeping you in their most heavily-guarded compound -- the one place they were sure would be safe from us. But they were wrong.”
The sergeant was joined by a young captain, tired but managing a smile. “Let’s give credit where it’s due, sergeant. Without our best agent, here, keeping her wits about her, this mission -- Operation Phoenix -- would have failed.
“Of course,” the captain added, “we got some lucky breaks too. That nice big tree by the window -- it wasn’t on any of our reconnaissance photos, but it sure came in handy for our forward scout when we moved in last night. Without it, I couldn’t swear the operation would have run as smoothly as it did.”
The sound of gunfire died down, and out of the corner of her eye she could see a line of men in Nationalist uniforms marching slowly out of the building with their hands over their heads.
“I think she’s heard enough about tactics for now, sir,” the medic observed. “I believe we can move her now -- I guess she won’t be sorry to see the last of this wretched place.”
“Wait,” Tarika said, “that tree -- I have to tell you what the tree told me last night.”
The sergeant and the medic exchanged glances but said nothing. Tarika began to speak.

What the Tree Said
“Yes, I spoke to the tree from inside my cell; and after a time, the tree began to speak to me. And this is what it told me on the last night:
“ ‘Many’s the year I’ve watched you humans, in good times and bad. But these times are the worst. This civil war of yours -- seven rings I’ve grown since it began. I’ve seen my fellows cut down, burned, or blown apart. I’ve seen their tree-bones turned to clubs for you to beat one another with. War is hard on trees. Yet I was determined to weather, and not to wither, so long as sap still flowed beneath my bark.
“ ‘But blood is poor nourishment for my roots. My endurance was at its end. This year I decided I’d finally seen enough, and I resolved to turn quietly to dead wood.
“ ‘Then I saw you looking at me through your window. Now I had something to live for! I listened eagerly to your tales of life in the world of walking beings. Your suffering saddened me so, but you had no one else to talk to. I could not leave you.
“ ‘I had but one fruit left, not yet ripe. I knew -- in the manner that trees often know these things -- I knew it was decreed that your soul should not be set free until the fruit fell. So I held fast to the fruit with all my might, nurturing it with all my strength, until it grew so ripe that it could stay on the branch no longer.
“ ‘So much life was in that fruit, that when it fell last night, it sprang up right away. Now, though it has fallen, yet it has not fallen, for you see it again even now, in the flowering young tree it has become.’
“Those were the tree’s final words to me. I stayed alive for the tree’s sake, and it stayed alive for mine. And the tree lived to speak its great secret -- that great, blossoming, magical new tree that stands beside it now.
“As long as life is in the seed, the fruit will never fall.”