Hooman's Scribbles

Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Momentary shock of my day

When I started this weblog, I spread the word among my friends obviously. After I put up my site meter, one of my funs was to figure out who had visited my site from the name of servers or gateways where the traffic was routed from and recorded in my meter account. I remember one time I detected that a friend of mine had just visited my site from the name of his university's server --it carried the university's name. I immediately emailed him asking, "How was your walk around my neighborhood?"
"You bas$#@%, how did you know?", he answered.
"The big brother is watching you.", I wrote back.

Those days are gone. My traffic has risen up and there is no way to keep that habit up now. Plus, I, like a child, am tired of my old toy and looking for new toys, e.g. polls ;)

However, I started using it again during the past 2 days when my traffic has risen even higher for some reason (I dont know if that sustains). Today I was looking at the traffic behavior. Interestingly enough the bulk of my hourly traffic matches the active hourse on the west coast. Thats not the point yet. While browsing the time breakdown of visits to the site, one server/gateways name caught my name. Nervously, I clicked on it. I almost came out in a cold sweat by what I saw for a few seconds. Click here to catch on for yourself. I had seen that one before, but this was really ... wow.

"Who is the big brother watching now?" I thought to myself. It took me a few minutes really to come up with the fact that if any agency wanted to have an eye on me, they wouldn't work off the servers that give their game away. Later a friend reminded me that this department is just a governmental organization with hundreds of employees, not all of them are really the Secretary of State.

Anyway, that was the creepy moment of my day when the prospect of being barred from travels to the States for life came to my mind.

On a totally unrelated matter, can I ask those of you who know me directly to check on me if you notice I am not updating my weblog for a while? That is a joke BTW. Or is it? ;)

Tuesday, April 29, 2003
What W. Bush and I have in common

There are two things in common between Mr. B and me. One is our admire toward the former Iraqi information minister, dubbed as "comical Ali", even though his name is not Ali. If you want to know why this man deserved our deepest esteem, please read 'Mother of all liars' to have more insight.

US President George W Bush has admitted that he enjoyed the Iraqi official's briefings so much that he used to interrupt some of his meetings just to watch him. "He's my man, he was great," he told NBC television in a recent interview. "Somebody accused us of hiring him and putting him there. He was a classic."
Although it is unorthodox for a US president to call an enemy's associate "my man", I tend to not only understand it fully, but also agree with him on this one. In the mean time, have you heard he lives in his aunt's place in Baghdad now and is trying to arrange for his surrender to the American forces, while the Americans have refused to capture him? My comment: 'cause they love him. If you keep missing the point here, you gotta read my post on him.

On a different note, despite being the regime's mouthpiece, he is not considered to have been one of Saddam Hussein's closest allies. A Shia Muslim, he was an outsider in the Sunni-dominated government that was in power since 1968. source BBC

Oh, BTW, in case you're wondering what the second thing linking the president of the United States and me is, thats our command of the English language that in both cases leaves to be desired ;)

Documenting another theory for another war

After Documenting a war theory and by the popular demand, I decided to raise another theory on another war ;) There are two differences here though. A) I dont have anything in this theory except for typing a few keys in the Internet; B) This war hasnt happened yet.

Note: I think, even more complicated than everything else in life, a war is multi-layered and we cannot possibly associate a single reason to it. But raising different theories for different layers helps to shed lights on what I, as an average Hooman, don't normally see.

The theory starts with me exercising my couch potato activity --or inactivity, the other day by laying down on the couch and scanning TV channels from 2 upward and then after hitting a snowy screen rolling back down. I forgot to mention that apart from typing a few keys, I played this role as well in formation of this theory ;) I came across a political discussion on a Canadian channel whose topic intrigued me. So I stopped to watch it for a while. But then the host went "Thanks for watching this show. We are out of time and hope to see you again next week ...". "D'oh", I thought to myself.

Then I stopped being couch potato and started the activity of surfing the Internet, another innovative idea for staying away from realities. And here is what I found:

Israel is stepping in the lucrative oil business. One of the first things they have in mind is the re-opening of a pipeline from Mousel, the friendly country of Iraq, to the port of Haifa. The pipeline used to provide Haifa with oil until 1948 before it was closed to Haifa after the creation of Israel. There have been several attempts since to restart the flow to Haifa. A participant in one such attempt during the mid-1980s was a Donald Rumsfeld guy, an advisor to US President Reagan. Donald Rumsfeld, eh? That name rings a bell. I must have heard this name somewhere.
Anyway the attempts to re-open the pipeline failed for obvious reasons: Arabs opposition.

Now an assessment of the condition of this old pipeline is ordered by Israel's Infrastructures Minister Joseph Paritzky. There is a country blocking this move though.

To get the whole picture, you have to answer my no-brainer riddle. Do you know what third country this pipeline runs through?

Right answer: airys
The answer is written reversed. Now to read the complete article I found, click here.

Monday, April 28, 2003
Requisites of democracy

I prefer to bring Marks eloquent way of describing it that he once used in an email for me.

All successful democracies require three essentials:
1) A large and literate middle class, combined with an economy capable of supporting that middle class.
2) A tradition of conflict institutionalization.
3) An entrepeneurial spirit which sustains both the political and economic environmnet with continual innovation.

Although Europeans started to work their way out toward democracy before their colonies in the New World, these requistes were at hand for the United States of America in 1776 to make it the oldest major democracy in the world. Note there is no single way to achieve these three, as the way England took was different than that of France or the US.

How longer will these three be at hand in the Middles Eastern countries, you think? Knowing there is no single solution for democracy, how are those countries supposed to achieve these three?

Relevant reading: Roots of dictatorship

Sunday, April 27, 2003
Roots of dictatorship

Imagine you live in a country with a diverse economy. Imagine you keep 70% of your income in your pocket and end up paying 30% to the government as tax. Your government hinges on you and your fellow countrymen and women to stay afloat then. Despite this dependency, there is a chance, sometimes good chance, that the government completely forgets this and behaves snobbishly toward you.

Now imagine you live in a country with an economy living off .. lets say the oil. And that is the job of the government to sell it and distribute the profit among its subjects .. oops, I mean its population. So the 70% you keep in your pocket is from the guys in the top. It is obvious that an oil-rich government with a nature as such is not so keen then to collect the 30% tax from you. Reclaiming the money thats already given out? It wont be so shocking then to learn the tax laws are not really enforced. Therefore you will end up keeping more than 70% of your income under your pillow. And thats how a tax-evading nation is born.

Anyway, the point that I am starting to miss to drive home is:
Once a government, whom you feed, occasionally pushes you around, what do you expect to see from a government who feeds you? Lack of a vibrant economy and leaving the very few sources of revenue in the hands of government definitely creates unpleasant results.

The interesting part is that given this circumstance and when the sources of revenue run low, governments start to make compromises and consequently tendencies toward democracy will grow, and this works the other way around too.
Does it explain why some oil producing countries move toward democracy when the oil prices are low and move the opposite direction when their pockets are full of the green back note, i.e. US $?

Saturday, April 26, 2003
Documenting a war theory

I realized today that I hadn't documented a theory I've had all along during the past two three months even though I talked about it a lot with my friends and co-workers. I even remotely referred to it in one of my posts:

France and Germany simply see their control over European Union's future slipping away. Not only that, more of their control will be left in US hands after Iraqi oil fields are exploited by pro-American consortia. They were not thinking about civilian lives --based on which these governments build their case against the war, when they were busy equipping a warring Saddam with Iran with state of the art weapons. To some Iraqis, these two countries are just standing in the way of Iraq's freedom only to keep their own stature in Europe and the world.

Beyond the rhetoric and ideologies, driving the public opinion and justifying sending of the boys to frontlines, on some levels, there are always more hidden pieces to every war puzzle. A just war for demolishing slavery could be seen as a battle between the labor-hungry industries in the northern states of the US, during the Civil War, and the agriculture-oriented economy in the south. This cliché example applies to all other wars as well. So what about the war we recently witnessed?

Here is what I missed to point out:
The fact is that the US does not need Iraqi oil per se. Look at the United States oil import market. The US dependency on the Persian Gulf's oil is minimal as opposed to the Western Europe's or China's. But if something, in the form of financial benefit, comes out of the Iraqi oil for the US, that's even better for the war planners.

So Europe and China have dependency on it, eh? (Read the previous sentence devilishly like Mr. Burns does) I mean if someone controls the tap of the region's oil, the same someone can practically give Europe, China, or any other potential challenge to the someone, a hard time when necessary. When not necessary, the same someone can enjoy watching Europeans and Chinese on their petroleum leash. Excellent. (Read it devilishly like Mr. Burns does)

If I was the author of The Project for a New American Century, I would take this into account too. I wouldn't publish it though only to avoid diplomatic rows. However, once the United States squared off with Iraq, it was just a matter of time before Europeans caught up on what was going to happen to them. Or they had already realized it.
That's probably how the first startegic confrontation between the Unites States of America and the divided states of Europe occurred in the 21st century. The battlefield: Iraq. The result: we wouldn't have possibly imagined a scenario where US wouldn't be a winner, would we?

Let me know if you think I just stated a far-fetched theory, the obvious, or something in between of the two.

Friday, April 25, 2003
Toronto and SARS

If you live in a third world country, the international organizations look to you as a bunch of corrupt clubs dominated by rich countries. If you live in a democratic country, the same organizations look to you as corrupt clubs dominated by undemocratic countries.

I felt a little bit the same way (which way? I don't know) when I heard that WHO had issued a travel advisory to Toronto. I mean, give me a break. WHO authorities didn't even visit the city, they didn't talk to any Canadian government officials to have an impression of what goes on the ground . There are 257 suspected cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome out of 4-5 million people, depending on where you refer to as Greater Toronto Area. That is why the city's SARS doctors argue WHO's decision is politically motivated.

Toronto is a clean and neat city by any standard. "It is sanitized in comparison to New York where homeless urinate on salad bars". (quote from Daily Show with Jon Stewart). And above all there are signs that the disease is well contained in the city and the suspected cases are decreasing.

You are more likely to be trapped in a fire at a mall in the city, that actually happened last night in Toronto, than contracting the disease. You are more likely to die by accidently strangling yourself in bed while you're asleep than dying from SARS. So you are fine unless you are above 80 or less than 2 years and have a habit of licking doorknobs at the hospitals.

What you should be concerned about when you plan a trip to Toronto is the look you would get from your friends and strangers allike when you break the news of your upcoming travel. Things would get much worse after your travel. Yes people would run away from you and you'd be asked by your relatives not to visit them. That is my version of travel advisory to Toronto.

There is something wrong with Toronto though. It seems due to the city cost cuts, the mayor of the bestest city of Canada, who happens to be an embarrassment to the city by the way, has long let go of his speech writers. Here are some of his quotes when asked by CNN about WHO's travel advisory:

"They don't know what they're talking about. I don't know who this group is, I never heard of them before. I'd never seen them before."

"Who did they talk to? They've never even been to Toronto. They're located somewhere in ... [pause] ...Geneva,"

"They haven't talked to us. They read the papers, and sometimes the papers exaggerate and that's what's happened right here."

"I invite them, I want them to come to Toronto this weekend. I want them to see what we've been doing, like the CDC were here. . .[reading his notes] ...that's the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta"

I am happy he is retiring very soon. Anyway, if you want to make sure that I haven't made those up and know more about the SARS issue in Toronto, check this out.

On a different note, when I saw the news on the new flu that has jumped from birds to humans and has made 80 people sick, and one dead, in Holland, I said to myself, "That's it. I am out of here. I have to find another planet to move to".

Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Re: Double standards

Prequisite reading: Double standards

Dave writes me about my comments on the Shi'ites:
"What ya gonna do? Reminds me of the Philipinos last weekend nailing themselves to wooden crosses on Good Friday."

That gave me some food for thought today. Actually what the Shi'ites did in Iraq the other day - scaring themselves, is officially banned in Iran, and guess who banned it? Ayatollah Khomeini.
I also thought about Tamilian devotees who pierce their bodies with arrows and hooks in Kaadavi festival, like these pictures (could be disturbing).
Bottom line: I think Dave is right. Social engineering and bans have proved ineffectual and doomed. No matter how hard you enforce a ban, you can't possibly do it more efficiently than Saddam. And as soon as people find a tiny little opening to express themselves, everything is back to square one. D'oh, I think it was the 1000th time that I reached this conclusion in my life:) So let them cut their heads or chop their bodies.

Dave also continues :"I'm not surprised at the hoots against the US. I hope one prediction doesn't come true. I hope that Iraq doesn't turn into such a fragmented society that what they do to each other becomes worse than what Saddam did to them before."

" ... that's what I have had a fear of all along too.", I write, "When you change a system by force that is already in balance, even though in balance by Saddam, you cannot be sure of the results."
Yeah, then people could choke on the fresh air of the freedom, I thought. I guess I have already used this sentence in a sarcastic context. But this last one wasn't so.

What I like about North America

I have been asked several times what I like about North America the most. Here is my answer:

1- lack of history: This is where eyebrows are usually raised, then, I continue. Short history of Canada has left its crack along the French and English line. A little longer American history has left its scars after a Civil War along the South and North line and don't forget the failed attempts to address African American's issues. By doing a little bit math, you can see how much scars and animosity could be left after 5000 years of history in a region named the Middle East.
Eyebrows are dropped here after my explanation.

Why would we need history when all it brings is just arrogance, in its best-case scenario, and frustration, animosity, and divisions, in its worst case one?

2- social class is less meaningful in North America than probably anywhere else in the world. In the course of time (read history again), people develop a mental prejudice system to look down on one another based on wealth, family, city/village of birth, education, profession, and so on.
In Canada at least, scarcity of labor force has given laborers and farmers negotiating power and made them socially more equal to employers than their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic where scarcity of employers has done the opposite. In the States the reasons might be different, but the result is the same as in Canada.

3- a combination of the above-mentioned point and abundance of land has made North Americans tolerant. The latter has prevented the creation of highly concentrated communities where people get easily stressed out. You tolerate thy neighbor more when he or she does not live in your face.

Finally I like Canada becasue the way its short history is laid out, the way the French and English had to face each other as a reality and in doing so they learned there are other cultures in the world too. Then they had to co-exsit with the natives and learned how to share land. Later they encountered other cultures whereby they put together the pluses of other cultures into a collective picture richer than each constituent culture individually.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
Double standards

If you have been following my weblog during the war, you must have realized where I am coming from - I was critical of US government's approach regarding Iraq. Having said that I am not for double standards at all.

If I was an Iraqi Shi'ite, I would probably have mixed feelings toward US invasion of Iraq. I would be happy, on one hand, to see Saddam go and to be free to chop my body as part of a once forbidden and emotional ritual - I am exaggerating on the chopping part, but they practically cut their scalpes. On the other hand, though, I would probably be skeptical at US motives.
However, I would not definitely bash US on my very first occasion of expressing my freedom brought about by the US. When I read their anti-American slogans, I just wonder if that is an in-your-face instance of double standard, or I just don't understand them at all.

Speaking of double standards, it has turned out that Israel has a bigger arsenal of weapons of mass destruction than anyone else would have guessed. The most amazing thing about this news is that it comes from MS NBC according to CommonDreams.org.

Do you want more cases of double standards? Get this. Nature has its own double standards too. We are supposed to have 10-15 cm of snow tonight. No, this is not an entry left out to be posted since the winter. I have written this post today, yes April 22. This is out of norm, even in Canada. Well, why would the weather be single standard when the whole world has gone double standard?
You know what? This may not count as a double standard.

Iran, an unassuming place for webloggers

It has been almost a year since a friend of mine who lives in Iran suggested me to start a weblog.
"Weblog? What the hell is weblog?" was my response.
"You don't know what weblog is? You work in high-tech industry, and live in the world's leader in Internet", he said.
I was taken aback then because of my lack of knowledge on weblog. Later on I put the same question to our company's network administrator who happens to be an intelligent friend of mine.
"Nope, I have never heard of it." was the answer again.

Of course down the road I realized what a weblog was and just in case you haven't noticed yet, I have one of my own too ;)

During my catching on weblogging, I learned that this method of expressing opinion is a big thing in Iran, at least among the young people. Even though my impression is still that Spanish, Italian, and French languages are amongst the top blogging languages, other than English of course, Iranians writing in either Persian or English are catching up to this trend very fast. Why? you might ask.

Here are my 2-cents: lack of freedom of speech and crackdowns on free press in the country has turned weblogging into a window to express opinions or sometimes vent out some steam - perhaps not A window, but the window for the young.

But the crackdowns, too, has recently widened their focus in the form of the arrest of a young weblogger and journalist, Sina Motallebi.

His arrest will not change anything, but more and more people will adopt unreal names for their weblogs instead of honestly leaving their full name. This arrest could jack up the number of Iranian weblogs as well.

Monday, April 21, 2003
Steps taken forward, sleepwalking back again

The arrest of a young Iranian journalist and webloger in Iran made me ponder over the long and painful path of democracy in that country today. You would think the story of democracy is something quite new there, wouldn’t you? And you would think that Iranians made their first revolution in 1979, wouldn’t you? False and false.

The first Iranian revolution, in recent history, happened in 1907, the Constitutional Revolution whereby the king of the time was forced to agree to the creation of an elected parliament. The resulting constitution, modeled on the Belgian charter, established a parliament to rule Iran with the king as figurehead. Hence the royal power limited and a parliamentary system established. Because of fearing of a strong Iranian government, Britain and Russian agreed in 1907 to divide Iran into spheres in which each would exercise exclusive influence. Russia encouraged the exiled king to dissolve the parliament. In 1908 the shah attempted a coup against the elected government, bombing the parliament with the help of the Russian troops. After a year of fighting, the constitutionalists prevailed and deposed the king, who fled to Russia.

However, the continuous influence of Russia and Britain paralyzed the administrative system of the country and eventually in 1925 a British-backed coup brought an end to that chapter of the Iranian history.

Almost 25 years later a not so impressed United States by a democratic and progressive government in Iran planned another coup and ended another chapter of the Iranian history.

Every time there has been a coup through which a new suppressive government has come to power, the continuity of generations’ experience on democracy has consequently ceased, and the people had to start their movement from scratch after a while; they've been down this road so many times, taking steps forward but sleepwalking back again.

Now, you, tell me how am I supposed to believe that big powers could bring about democracy in there?

Sunday, April 20, 2003
Meet my new friends

When I started this weblog, all I had in mind was this. I never had the idea of finding some friends on the Internet or finding a hobby of reading other people's weblogs. Well, I found some good friends and now I am addicted to reading their blogs too. Check the left hand side of my weblog to meet some of my new friends who all write everything but scribbles -- Non-scribbles.

There has been only few of my friends off the virtual world who read or follow my weblog and only fewer who take the extra step to promote it. Apart from those exceptions and unlike the majority of my friends and close people, these people were kind enough to create a link to my weblog from theirs and passed the word on my weblog.

Thursday, April 17, 2003
Choking on the sweet air of the "freedom"

When I was up to organize my Less Scribbles, after a friend's suggestion, I realized how non-politicized I was back when I started writing weblog as opposed to nowadays. So were many of my friends then. The war changed what was on our minds ... for a while. There is a difference between them and me at the moment though. After Iraqis were happily "liberated", they are switching back full force to Hockey playoffs or are preparing for baseball season. But I am still stuck in the war-torn region of the Middle East, mentally of course. I am still stuck in hows and whys.

All of a sudden all mainstream news sources pulled Iraq off their headlines too. Nobody talks no more about how Iraqis' future looks grim more than ever. The cradle of civilization has become an embarrassment for civilization. Looting is commonplace. There are suggestions that some of the looters had been organized outside Iraq. Self-proclaimed rulers keep emerging in Iraq.

On a different note, now that the economy is down and just in case of loosing my job, I might apply for some of the high ranking posts in Iraq too. At least I'd be more eligible and qualified than most of the other applicants to run for those posts even though I am not Iraqi ;) Or I could start identifying archaeological pieces and sites of Iran and Syria now and when the right time comes up, I ...oops I am giving my plans away by writing my thoughts here. I am kidding :)

Anyway back to where I was before my occupational ambitions, it seems that the "liberated" people are choking on the sweet air of "freedom" after being used to breathing the stench of a brutal dictatorship. There are arguments that US could have foreseen this and could have prevented it, and Amnesty International has charged US-led forces with being more concerned about Iraqi oil wells than the Iraqi people. However, the tired-of-war public opinion is turning away from Iraqis' plight while keeping in mind the unforgettable images of the fall of Saddam's statue. Right before the next war, these pictures will be revisited in our minds without a second thought on the chokes suffered after the war. That is how we will end up endorsing the next war.

No more wars any time soon

If you have followed my weblog, you know that I believed all along that there would be no other wars after Iraq, at least any time soon. I brought a range of reasons too. However, this new reason is different by nature.
It sounds like stating the obvious now after US officials announced there are no war plans on Syria or Iran. But that does not play down the importance of this news.

Remember it was only two weeks ago when everybody was under the impression that US forces were in a big trouble in Iraq, and there was no easy way out, Remember?

All of a sudden US troops bypassed the Republican Guards, defending the Iraqi capital in the way of Americans. We thought they left the Republican Guards behind. I wondered what happened to this military unit. There was no reports of mass surrenders. There was no reports of Iraqis' slaughter by American forces either. Presumably the Iraqi elite force, well dug in in the way to Baghdad, had countless tanks, and armoured vehicles. Nonetheless what we saw on TV was a couple of burned tanks along the roads.

Well, the mystery of what happened to the Iraqi Republican Guards defending Baghdad appears to have been solved if a report in Le Monde is to be believed, according to Aljazeera. The Qatar-based news agency claims that Maher Sufyan, Commander of the Republican Guard reached an agreement with American forces in which he ordered his forces to "lay down their arms and go home" in exchange for his transfer via an American Apache helicopter to an undisclosed safe haven.
Maher Sufyan is not included on the infamous "deck of cards" created by US defense officials to highlight the most wanted individuals from the Saddam Hussein government.

While we were surprised to see such a turnaround and I for one argued how smart the US military strategy was, it seems things are not exactly the same we see them. Did the Pentagon officials fluke the deal in the last minute, and would the war have fought differently otherwise?

I think military officials in Washington know how they pulled this off. They may smile proudly in public, but perhaps they secretly admit amongst each other how close this one was. So, again I think, they'll take a little bit of time to be better prepared before the next war.

This will not stop them from taking the most out of it politically though.

Relevant reading: What's not next - revisited

Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Deep down conservative

Deep down there is some layer of our psyche that refuses being wishy-washy. It makes us opt for strong, but wrong decisions instead of the ones that are weak, but right when we feel uncertain. Try to apply this rule, if you will, in other aspects of your life. You wife, most likely, prefers you to act more decisively when things are not assured, even though your actions' consequences are not so assured either. You like strong bosses to lead you through hard times. And finally you prefer strong politicians when the future does not look so promising. And that's how you tend to vote for conservatives.

It is purely a natural tendency. Don't forget uncertainty could be sold to you too. Things could be pictured "uncertain" before your eyes. Well, welcome to the world of politics. That is a different story all together though.

In Sideshow Bob Roberts episode of The simpsons, after a long series of events Sideshow Bob gets elected as the Republican mayor of Springfield. Later on it is revealed he has rigged the votes to win the office. This is what the animated mayor with the voice of Kelsey Grammer in his court hearing as a defense after admitting his vote-rigging:
"Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king. That's why I did this: to protect you from yourselves."

My goddamn right

As someone who occasionally writes, I understand that nothing compares to the warming feeling of an occasional pat on the shoulder by a reader in the electronic form, aka email. Even deep down a critical email conveys some one's care for what you have written.

As some one who again occasionally writes, one thing that has become part of my ethics, if you can call it that way, is answering my readers' emails on the first convenient occasion.

As a reader, I occasionally give my feedback to columns in Canada's national papers. There is no exception that I can think of that I haven't got any response back. Given the presumption that columnists on the national level should be very busy, they do actually a great job replying my emails. I wouldn't be surprised if they put finishing touches on their piece of writing in the car at carwash or at the red light, at least I know a few of them do. Even after my stupidest comments, I have always received a thank-you email along answers to my comments.

So now as a reader I hold it as my goddamn right to be sent an email, at least acknowledging reading my email.

Now get this, as a reader of some weblog articles I have this habit of sending nice words from time to time to writers whose notes strike a cord with me only to deliver the same warm feeling that I would like to receive. I am reconsidering that habit though. Guess what? Over 90% of the time there is no answer back. Hey, if I care about your journals and take time to drop a line or two, I think, it is also my goddamn right to receive an email acknowledging my two-line email being read.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Mother of all liars

Well he is not exactly a mother, so you can call him 'the father of all liars' or perhaps 'the father of all comedians'. They called him "Optimistic minister" and "Comical Ali", rhyming with "Chemical Ali", another Iraqi official. But his name is not Ali, rather Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, the Iraqi information minister. No word can describe this individual.

You don't need Saturday Night Live or any other comedy programs to fiddle with his words in order to make something funny out of those. He was a super-comedian by himself. We all know this dude from his hysterical comments to journalists. Those comments simply would blow our minds, remember?

He was such a character that inspired a "coalition effort of bloodthirsty hawks and ineffectual doves united in admiration" for him. This resulted in an amateur website called WeLoveTheIraqiInformationMinister.com that has attracted many visitors these days. They have collected his dynamite quotes along a few more hilarious things surrounding this great comedian of our time.

It seemed very smart of Saddam to appoint such a character as his spokesperson to keep the spirit level high during the down times, eh? I for one miss the loss of such a great entertainer.
Here is a sample of his stand-up acts:

"There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!"

"Our initial assessment is that they will all die"

"They're coming to surrender or be burned in their tanks."

"No I am not scared, and neither should you be!"

"I can say, and I am responsible for what I am saying, that they have started to commit suicide under the walls of Baghdad. We will encourage them to commit more suicides quickly."

"We have destroyed 2 tanks, fighter planes, 2 helicopters and their shovels - We have driven them back."

"Lying is forbidden in Iraq. President Saddam Hussein will tolerate nothing but truthfulness as he is a man of great honor and integrity. Everyone is encouraged to speak freely of the truths evidenced in their eyes and hearts."

"I speak better English than this villain Bush" My comment: There is an element of truth in this one at least ;)

"These cowards have no morals. They have no shame about lying"

"they are nowhere near the airport ..they are lost in the desert...they can not read a compass...they are retarded."

"These images are not the suburbs of Baghdad. From what I glimpsed, these gardens with rows of palm trees on the side, which you saw in the images, are located in the south of Abu Ghreib, where we have surrounded the Americans and British."

"NO", snapped Mr al-Sahaf, "We have retaken the airport. There are NO Americans there. I will take you there and show you. IN ONE HOUR!"

"Yes, the american troops have advanced further. This will only make it easier for us to defeat them"

"What they say about a breakthrough [in Najaf] is completely an illusion. They are sending their warplanes to fly very low in order to have vibrations on these sacred places . . . they are trying to crack the buildings by flying low over them."

"When we were making the law, when we were writing the literature and the mathematics the grandfathers of Blair and little Bush were scratching around in caves"

About Bush and Rumsfeld: "Those only deserve to be hit with shoes." My comment: It seems hitting something or someone with shoe, as we've seen instances of hitting a statue with the same object, is a grave punishment in Iraq.

"Whenever we attack, they retreat. When we pound them with missiles and heavy artillery, they retreat even deeper. But when we stopped pounding, they pushed to the airport for propaganda purposes.''

Monday, April 14, 2003
Quebec: A brilliant lesson for the rest of the world

Tonight is a night-to-remember for Quebec. A federalist party beats the separatist government of Parti Québécois after being in power for nine years. That is depite the fact that the Parti Qébécois had pulled sovereignty off its election campaign to attract more voters. It is safe to say that people in Quebec are sick and tired of hearing about this issue, at least for now. However, it is not safe to say it is dead altogether.

It is human nature to have an urge for something that we are challenged for. Sovereignty tends to go up once a non-sovereigntist government is in power and the other way around. You can call it pendulum effect. The pendulum has swung gradually to other way in Quebec. Will it stay that way? Of course not. Every nation has an embedded pendulum on every social aspect. Nevertheless the lesson Quebec and Canada, in general, can teach the rest of the world is based on how the pendulum?s swings can be kept within a relatively tolerable range. Well, Quebec has had its moments too, nerve-racking moments so to speak; moments like when the whole country?s pulse stopped beating before a narrow margin of voters in Quebec saved the united Canada in the sovereignty referendum of 1995.

Only an admirable level of tolerance along delicate diplomacy could tackle this issue after years of indelicate diplomacy that had stirred separatism.

Many people argue that this tolerance and delicate diplomacy had their own toll too. The price has been the alienation of other Anglo parts of the country. However, you could be rest assured the same tolerance and delicate diplomacy will stop this issue?s respective pendulum from swinging to out-of-range.

This is an exquisite lesson that a young country can teach every old country. Vivre le Canada

What's not next - revisited

The US government has started to pick a bone with Syria of all places. Will it go to war with that country? Having still an Old World Order mentality, I believe US will not start a new war with Syria for the same reasons I mentioned in What's not next? about Iran. However, there are some modifications that I would like to do to that post as well. US administration does not care if its relation with many countries around the world has gone sour, and it will not act to patch up the existing differences.

Having said that, while we are in the neighbourhood, let's drop in your country kind of intimidation is always there to get countries like Syria and Iran in line. This political leverage can be taken the most of now that the war with Iraq has ended, and the reality of US presence next door has set in more than before. Syria and Iran, in particular, play important roles in supporting Palestinian and Lebanese movements against Israel, and discipling those countries could leave Palestinians no option but accpeting almost every future peace deals.
Moreover, a constant reminder of ?evil-doers? and what USA could receive from them if the right guys are not in the Oval office can come handy in the upcoming election. A threat a day keeps the democrats away, Republicans might think.
Relevant reading: Settlements

Sunday, April 13, 2003

As you know, the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has hinted that he is ready to take steps "that are painful for every Jew and for [him] personally". And that would be the removal of some Jewish settlements. He didn't give more explanation on details. It is necessary to add that settlements are illegal under the international law.

Meanwhile Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian minister, has branded Sharon's remarks as "public relations tactics". He added that Sharon spoke vaguely in English while ordering to intensify settlement activities in Hebrew.

This map of the settlements in the West Bank may shed some light on the amount of land that is controlled by Palestinians!!! Yet Israeli government insists this is not an occupied territory. Even with Israeli's pullout of all the other zones, the main settlements plus their interconnecting highways, although making up a tiny percentage of the territory, form a mesh of no-go zones for Palestinians whereby makes the creation of a viable Palestinian state impossible. The settlements' role in the Middle East conflict is highly played down in the media in North America, and no such map is displayed of course. However, there are ironically some people even in Israel who think this issue has deprived their country from a cohesive and meaningful peace or even look at it as an unfair act.

The intriguing part is that the US not only did not play the role of a "liberator" for the Palestinians in this area, but also turned the other way while the West Bank was systematically under construction for new settlements.

So far there has been some Middle Eastern states backing the Palestinians' cause and facilitating some bargaining leverages for them, ranging from popular uprising to suicide bombing. Now with those states' ends or their being forced to be silent at sight, it is plausible that the Palestinians' bargaining power will be effectively compromised more than ever.
P.S. Scroll down this link and take a look at the map. It is more down to the point.

Thursday, April 10, 2003
Cautiously happy

These two words express my feelings on Saddam's removal. After all, because of my backgournd, I have my own reasons to be happy as well. One more tyrant down. You must be very cynic not to be touched by Iraqis' cheers when the guy's statue was brought down. That's despite the fact that there were very few people shown on TV expressing their joy for a city of 5 million people!

I don't know about right and wrong as I have mentioned it in my previous posts too; however, what limits my happiness is the fact that a military invasion ended a brutal regime. And this much I know. This sentence is as cold as its words. I also know that benefits of violence are short term, whereas terrors of violence are long term. If you know any instance indicating otherwise, please let me know. I will get my facts straight then. Wait a second, if you got excited about this challenge and are up to send an email mentioning Germany's instance, please read this post first. I hope there are other instances, or if there isn't any, Iraq will be the first one. Then it would really have great impacts on the region.

On a second thought, though, how on earth are you going to prove your instance is better off now? How am I supposed to porve otherwise. Ironically, in life, good and bad are always tied together, and we could keep looking at the different halves of the glass. But whatever, please go ahead and send your case in mind.

On a different note Robert Fisk in his today's article in Independent writes "The great Lebanese poet Kalil Gibran once wrote that he pitied the nation that welcomed its tyrants with trumpetings and dismissed them with hootings of derision. And the people of Baghdad performed this same deadly ritual yesterday, forgetting that they - or their parents - had behaved in identical fashion when the Arab Socialist Baath Party destroyed the previous dictatorship of Iraq's generals and princes."

P.S. I really don't know why I have brought Robert Fisk's quote. I think that sort of spoke to me.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Looking back at other "liberations"

Let's move away from the Middle East, a region with its PR nightmare, for a while to the warm coasts of the Carribean.
1991: Jean-Bertrand Aristide, elected president of Haiti, is ousted in a coup led by Brigadier-General Raoul Cedras in 1991. UN imposes sanctions after the Haitian military regime rejected an accord easing Aristide's return.

1994: Haitian military regime gives up power in the face of an imminent US invasion; US forces land in Haiti peacefully to oversee a transition to civilian government; Aristide returns.

2003: This email correspondence is intercepted between a curious dude, named Hooman who lives in Canada, and his friend who has a close insight into Haiti's affairs:
- "How is Haiti doing after the US attack? Are people better off now after I don't know how many years?"
- "Way worse, no comparison. ", his friend writes back.
"The only difference is that there is no press coverage now, and US had what they wanted i.e.
1) let the world have a perception that the bad guys are out and US installed democracy.
2) a piece of land inside Haiti to jail boat people who were caught heading towards Florida coasts
3) military base inside Haiti to spy on Cuba or other nearby countries
4) a piece of land to dump US toxic material in exchange of money."
His friend continues:
"Prior to 1994, there were about 4 murders a week. At that time Haiti was making news headline every day. After US invasion to clean things up - up to this day, the number of every day political and ordinary people murders is outrageous (cannot count). The only difference is no one hears about it. The perception is that US did a good job. In fact Haiti situation in all accounts is worse than that it has ever been. And, there is little hope to see better days."

Relevant readings: 'No peace', 'Has war helped?', and 'A sick day thought'.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003
Were war protesters wrong?

Unlike many war protesters, humane side of the war has never been no. 1 reason of my objection to it. Human casualties have been only one of the tons of reasons that I have to be against this war.

If you have read my 'Not ready yet', you know that I mentioned some Russian military analysts suggested Americans have only two options: starve the Iraqi city residents to surrender or destroy the cities. I also mentioned we had to wait and see what Americans would come up with. And they came up with something. Actually it was the Brits who came up with that something first.

Based on their experience in NI where they captured many cities, they did not siege Basra whereby civilian lives would be put in misery, nor did they carpet bomb the city. They simply camped outside Basra, consolidated their positions, attacked targeted locations inside the city, and they tried to befriend with locals. The last one was crucial in their fight in Basra. They collected information through locals and in the course of time they won the locals' trust as well and minimized resistance. Very smart I must say.
Americans seem to adopt the same strategy in Baghdad too. It is likely that Baghdad will fall in the same fashion. In that situation, US/UK military plan would be proven to be one of the smartest plans ever. Well, a smart military plan to win the war, not to win the sporadic battles that are going to continue for a while, and finally not to win the peace.

Now the question is: were war protesters wrong --if they had human casualties their first concern?
I would say, NO. The prospect of a strong movement against the war, made the Pentagon officials to adopt a "clean war" strategy. Without their protests, the war would have turned uglier. Remember there are always other alternative strategies, e.g. starving the population or carpet bombing the cities. With their relentless opposition to any war, we might see someday smarter bombs along smarter decisions make future regime-changes to be as easy as pants-change ;) So keep up the good work, war protester.

Good times, eh?

them: You used to change your writings' topic and style "faster than a frog on hot asphalt" according to the review on your weblog. What happened? You are stuck with war on Iraq, or abstract political issues surrounding mostly the war. Why don't you write about the things that tick the country [we live].
me: You mean like SARS?
them: OK, something the ticks the city or your community.
me: I woke up this past Saturday to see 20 cm accumulation of the white shit. I'd normally call it snow, but not on 5th of April.
them: All right, all right. Write something about your personal life then.
me: I got sick ten days ago and I am still fighting with it.
them, murmured something and then walked away.

Sunday, April 06, 2003
Painkiller versus remedy: the difference between some Iranians and me

Iran is depicted as an emerging democracy, especially by European countries. How much does it live up to reality? Quite frankly I don't know. However, I am pretty sure of one thing: Iranians have started to look under their hood. They are looking for an answer to why their democracy project cannot fly. In doing so, they leave no single stone unturned. Those touched stones are mostly from religion and culture of the country. Yes, they have started quietly questioning almost everything. I quite understand this experience, as I was there too. I used to critique even the culture of the society's smallest unit, family, let alone bigger issues. Make no mistake here. Nothing has changed in my mind regarding it. However, I have started to see a bigger picture now, a bigger picture full of parallels and similarities between that country's situation and the west's. This bigger picture started to mentally drift me away from some of my fellow countrymen. In the course of time, I learned that the west had had an experience of every single critique I deemed hampering Iran's walk on democratic path. I repeat every single of them, except one that I will elaborate shortly. Now I see the west has come out of the trenches that Iran is just in.

This vision started to give me assurance that there was nothing out of ordinary with religion or culture per se. Note I said out of ordinary, not wrong. The only thing that seems to be off is the timing --It is 21st century after all. I was also re-assured that Iran was on the right track. Right, but long and bumpy track. I say right in a sense that this road is already taken and proved -I don't believe there is anything wrong or right.

On the other hand, I think people on the ground lack this assurance to begin with. It is a human nature to think that your positive cultural aspects are unique in the world, and in the mean time it is also a human nature to think that your negative cultural aspects are also unique in the world if you don't have any reference to compare to. And that leads us to the exception I promised to explain and that is also a challenge that Iran is facing whereas the west didn't have to deal with. When the French and English were struggling for their democracy, there were no other nation doing significantly better than them whom the French or English could look up to. Moreover, nobody messed with them by plotting a coup or dropping bombs and changing their fate. Hence they had no option but to remain content with what they had and improved their political system in the course of time. Whereas in Iran's case, people receive information from the more successful countries through movies, books, visitors, technological products, satellite, and the Internet. No wonder some Iranians cannot wait to see all those glamour in their hands rightaway and prefer the fastest way of being intervened by those countries to achieve what others achieved by themselves in a long span of time. All in all, I see this last part creating another problem: cynicism.

This reflects in the prospect of the war too. I don't see two wrongs make it right and I don't see waging an unpopular war to bring about anything but more misery in the long run. Some of my fellow countrymen, on the other hand, see it as an opportunity to give their democracy another push. This is despite the fact that many believe the war could potentially stall the reform process altogether in the country. This is despite the fact that history of the region implies that today's dictators are the product of yesterday's wars and interventions.

Got confused by what I have said so far? Here is the difference between some Iranians back in Iran and me in a nutshell: Those Iranians are in pain, and communications have made their pain seem more painful by depicting people in the west partying. What they prefer is the painkiller even though the painkiller has side effects and their pain will recur more powerfully sooner than they expect it. What I prefer, though, is full remedy even though it means a longer painful process.

Have I been far away from pain and consequently don't understand their misery any more? Or am I looking outside the box? Or am I frozen in time in an optimistic sort of way? We'll never know.

Nazi Germany, Ba'ath Iraq

OK. I am finally sick and tired of making arguments against the analogy of Germany and Iraq. There are people who compare these two situations, as you know, and based on an example, draw a conclusion on the action to be made -better say justify an already made action. So to save time and energy, I decided to dedicate a post on this subject and refer people to it. Here are my reasons that this analogy is not a valid one:

- Germany had been a democratic country before Adolf Hitler. He scrapped democracy once he came to power, the same system that brought him to power.
Hence I think that the notion of Americans teaching Germans to be democratic is less than accurate.

- Germany enjoyed the highest living standard in the whole world -or at least one of the highest. Germany had the most powerful army in the whole world -Only German navy was believed to be less mighty than its British counterpart. And Germany was at the forefront of technological and scientific achievements.
Yet it took the Germans many decades of relentless and admirable hard work to get to the point where they are still short of their stature in 50 years ago. BTW, How long will it take for the Iraqis to get to the same level of living standard when Saddam came to power which was not so impressive after all?

Now compare Germany's situation with a third world country from a region where there has been no consistent model of democracy - all democratic elements in the region were suppressed by regimes who happen to be allies of the US, Britain, or France for a good number of years. Compare that with a country where oil should be sold to buy everything else, a country where US and Britain had their boots on its throat. They had their troops at its door and their planes flying over the Iraqi territory round the clock. And that was the way for almost a decade. Would it have posed a threat to the world with the same grandeur of Nazi Germany's?

Although I strongly think comparisons and analogies are inherently misleading, I reckon Saddam could be better compared with Stalin if you still insist on making comparisons. Both, while sporting a big mustache, treated their civilians the same. Stalin, too, offered his soldiers two options: being killed by either Germans bullets or Communists' bullets if they deserted. Stalin, too, killed many of his own people for not staying and fighting back the Germans. Having said it all, Stalin was an ally of the coalition side back then ... as was Saddam during the '80s.

Saturday, April 05, 2003
Frozen in time

There is always something uncomforting in the mind of the first generation immigrants to a country. Detached from the old country and yet not connected to the host country, they all live on isolated islands. Even their fellow countrymen and women, also immigrated to the same community, cannot fully save them from isolation. That is simply because an islander cannot save another islander from loneliness, otherwise he would have done something about it for himself in the first place.

However, something that helps these islanders, from the same origin, to fall apart more is the time, the time they end up being stuck in. And that is the time they left their home country. They change in all aspects of life but something they maintain is their mindset regarding their old home. All immigrants are frozen in that time so to speak. It seems all hopes and angers they had about the old country remain intact. As atmosphere changes in a country, cheers and jeers change too. And these cheers and jeers are brought to host countries as a baggage. Some manage to put the baggage aside, but only till they run into a fellow countryman and then they realize their baggage is not the same.

This behavior takes a more radical face when it comes to some dissidents from the less fortunate countries living in exile. There is a good chance that their countries were besieged by frustration and even infightings when these folks chose the easy way out, or sometimes the only way out. There is also a good chance that back then removing their governments by force or even violence was the fad of the time, the most practical political solution of the time.
What they missed, though, was the mental evolution of the people on the ground. What they missed was how their fellow countrymen and women coped with their daily lives and managed to stay afloat. What they missed was how the people on the ground learned there are other colors than black and white. In the course of time a gap is developed between these political refugees and their people back home. Hence there are no surprises to see some of these dissidents show less tolerance when it comes to their troubled land as opposed to their people. One of the most cliché examples is the Tamil Tigers. While people in Sri Lanka learned how to reconcile with one another, the Tigers have been raising funds abroad for their radical tactics and they continued to do it on a large scale until fairly recently.

Sounds they're marginalized, eh? While I can think of many exiled political groups, in the West, claiming to represent their people back in the Middle East; however, I wonder how many of them are truly the voice of their people in the region for the same reasons I mentioned above. I wonder how many of them who regularly appear on talk shows in the West truly have the same vision as their people.

Friday, April 04, 2003
No peace

It has been quite a while that I want to take down my 2-cents on post-war Iraq. Something that kept holding me back was the fact I am not an Iraqi pundit. As a matter of fact I am no pundit at anything. But today I came across an interesting viewpoint that struck a cord with me. Haifa Zangana, an Iraqi novelist living in London, tells BBC News Online that the West does not understand Iraqis. These are the highlights of her interview that I like:
"Baghdad is a melting pot. A third of the capital's population are Kurds, the rest represent every single religious sect and national group that is in Iraq."

"Saddam Hussein is now irrelevant in this huge catastrophe. He will be out of power and anyway his regime was on the verge of collapse before the war.", she also continues "The resistance we are seeing will continue after Saddam Hussein is gone, to try to get rid of the occupation forces, the sanctions, and to ruin the long-term plans the Americans have for Iraq. Anyone can pick up the history books and see the parallel. During the British occupation, Iraqis gave the occupiers no peace whatsoever, and the British were the first to use poison gas against the Iraqis. I'm afraid the Americans are going to get the same thing."

Something that this lady does not pay attention to, though, is that the media will stop talking about Iraq and possible Iraqis' resistance once Saddam is out of the picture. We will all keep hearing from shiny happy Iraqis instead.
Relevent reading: Has war helped?

Wednesday, April 02, 2003
Has war helped?

Bosnia and Kosovo are still in shambles. Afghanistan? A senior Taleban military commander has suggested that the Taleban hopes to regain power in Afghanistan, with popular support, and the US military is still pounding the extremists. We just don't hear about them. Perhaps journalists are busy "embedding" with the US conformist factory, aka US military.

Eastern skepticism, western optimism

"... they've become cynics- as cynical a people as I have known in the decade I've spent writing about south Asia and the Middle East. " Christopher de Bellaigue writes about Iranians in his 'Happy new year from Tehran' in Guardian. He is not alone in describing Iranians in such a way though. Some even go further than that and brand the people of the whole region as conspiracy-minded. However, things are not always as simple as describing people as what they seem to be.

Let's try to see things from a Middle Easterner's perspective. Would you be still trustful if your country's history for the past 100 years was a commonplace of bitter twists and your trust was betrayed by almost anyone? I doubt it. A good number of superficially nationalist governments in the Middle East, once stimulating nations, have turned out to be puppet regimes installed by CIA or British Intelligence Service. The funny part is that these secret services have kept opening their books after a certain time and admitting the installment of those governments. Therefore it would be rather natural , for people subject to those manipulations, to start seeing events through conspiracy glasses after a while. Ironically in certain cases, the secret services removed democratic or progressive governments only to put up suppressive regimes.

He further goes on to conclude his article on the particular case of the war in Iraq with this: "If these Iranians don't appreciate the importance of ideology to the US administration, it may be because their own was betrayed."

The fact is things are not simply a matter of betrayal per se. The American public could have been betrayed equally; however, the question of betrayal is often raised once you have failed and you look for root causes of your failure. You don't look under your hood as long as your engine runs well, so you won't most likely know if you are betrayed once you have succeeded. That's perhaps why fewer Americans share Michael Moore’s views than Middle Easterners.

Having said it all, here is now a different question. Given the constant skepticism at the political issues in the region, how democracy is going to prevail in the Middle East or Iran? After all, no government can claim being democratic or legitimate if people's trust is taken away. If the population of a country goes doubtful, they will start voting by their feet and staying away from the polling booths. That could partially explain the dilemma of a struggling democracy in a country like Iran. After all democracy hinges on people’s trust to some extent. And that's perhaps why USA, despite Michael Moore's comments on the Oscars night, is considered democratic: People trust their government no matter how "fictional" their elections are to the skeptical Mr. Moore.

Bottom line: Lack of democracy creates cynicism, and cynicism hampers the growth of democracy. On the other hand, democracy creates optimism, and optimism fosters democracy. Sounds like catch 22, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 01, 2003
According to plan

Pentagon officials publicly insist that their campaign against the Iraqi regime goes according to plan. However, they fail to mention it goes according to plan B which is getting prepared for more casualties.