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The full picture?

Posted by Mary Madigan

In October 2002, CNN’s news chief Eason Jordan told Franklin Foer of The New Republic that his network gave “a full picture” of Saddam’s regime.” He challenged Foer to find instances of CNN neglecting stories about Saddam’s horrors.

In April 2003, Jordan admitted in a New York Times op-ed that CNN had learned some “awful things” about the Saddam’s regime that they were afraid to print for fear of losing access to live camera feeds.

Jordan, who downplayed the crimes of Saddam’s regime, is now speculating, without any proof, in a very public forum, that members of the American military targeted and murdered a dozen journalists.

According to Rony Abovitz

During one of the discussions about the number of journalists killed in the Iraq War, Eason Jordan asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times, which seemed to win favor in parts of the audience (the anti-US crowd) and cause great strain on others.

Due to the nature of the forum, I was able to directly challenge Eason, asking if he had any objective and clear evidence to backup these claims, because if what he said was true, it would make Abu Ghraib look like a walk in the park. David Gergen was also clearly disturbed and shocked by the allegation that the U.S. would target journalists, foreign or U.S. He had always seen the U.S. military as the providers of safety and rescue for all reporters.

Eason seemed to backpedal quickly, but his initial statements were backed by other members of the audience (one in particular who represented a worldwide journalist group). The ensuing debate was (for lack of better words) a real “sh–storm”. What intensified the problem was the fact that the session was a public forum being taped on camera, in front of an international crowd.

Hugh Hewitt has more..

While Jordan’s statement may not cause as much damage as Noam Chomsky’s statement that the U.S. intended to ‘casually starve’ a million Afghans to death in a “silent genocide”, it seems to come from the same impulse. Downplaying the crimes of dictators while exaggerating, or making up ‘facts’ about crimes committed by the United States is passive aggressive form of attack that some seem to find habit-forming.

UPDATE: According to Instapundit, foreign journalists aren’t corroborating Jordan.

Of course, the Guardian has a history of repeating what Jordan says, verbatim, but they’ll believe anything.

As to the question of why established professionals like Eason feel that they have to make stuff up, commenter ZF says:

The common thread, it seems to me, is that these are all 60′s liberal white males having some sort of mid-life crisis which has impelled them to invent a grandiose, exaggerated and heroic version of their past. Maybe we should look at this as a male version of cosmetic surgery?

Sounds about right..

Reclaiming the Word ‘Martyr’

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Salim Yacoubi bent over to kiss the purple ink stain on his twin brother’s right index finger, gone cold with death.

“You can see the finger with which he voted,” Shukur Jasim, a friend of the dead man, said as he cast a tearful gaze on the body, sprawled across a washer’s concrete slab. “He’s a martyr now.”

[...]

“It’s not the man who exploded himself who’s a martyr,” Mr. Jasim said as the body washer wiped away dried blood. “He wasn’t a true Muslim. This is the martyr. What religion asks people to blow themselves up? It’s not written in the Koran.”

Mr. Aziz, the neighbor, nodded.

“This is the courage of Iraqis,” he said of Mr. Yacoubi’s decision to vote, “and we will change the face of history. This is our message to the countries of the world, especially those that are still under a dictatorship and want to walk the same road as the Iraqis.”

[...]

In the dusty lot outside the washing rooms, another family strapped a coffin holding the body of a policeman, Adil al-Nassar, onto the roof of a blue minivan. He had just been cleaned. Now it was time to take him to the golden-domed Shrine of Ali for his final blessings. He was not the first policeman to be brought here.

Officer Nassar, 40, died after tackling a man who had leapt into a line of women waiting to vote at Osama bin Zaid Primary School, said Kadhum al-Hashim, the officer’s father-in-law.

“There were many people, and Adil was just guiding the voters into the school when the terrorist jumped into the line of women,” Mr. Hashim said. Several others died in the explosion, he added.

The victim’s brother, Muhammad al-Nassar, wiped away tears with a white scarf.

Adil al-Nassar had joined the new police force just a year ago, his brother said. He had a family to feed: a wife and three children, the eldest an 8-year-old son.

“He’s a martyr now,” Mr. Nassar said. “He saved many lives for the greater good.”

(By Edward Wong, New York Times)

Fun With Polls

Posted by Michael J. Totten

You’re going to war. Who do you want next to you in the trench?
George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair, and Christopher Hitchens
John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Dennis Kucinich, Jacques Chirac, and Maureen Dowd

Free polls from Pollhost.com

It ought to go without saying that this poll is as unscientific as creationism, astrology, and Miss Cleo all roled into one.

Still Celebrating

by Jeremy Brown

Yes, I know; it’s been a couple of days since the Iraqi election. It’s time for people like me to tone down our unseemly enthusiasm and give the slouching, frowning pessimists, cynics, and tut-tutters their chance to sit up tall, straighten their lapels and give us their side of the story. Actually, they’ve been pretty much doing that all along, haven’t they? Then I guess you won’t mind that I’m still celebrating. Just one more post before I wipe this naive smile off my face and reacquaint myself with ‘reality.’

I’ve been reading blogs across the political spectrum and I would like to share some of my findings with you.

My thesis is this: separating things into Left and Right tells you less than dividing them between ‘them what gets it’ and ‘them what don’t.’

What Don’t:

I won’t dwell on these, frankly, but here’s a taste. Take my word that there are plenty on the ostensible Right who feel this way too (hat tip: Todd Pearson)

Eric Alterman: “I don’t have a lot to say about the Iraqi elections . . .”

Tom Tomorrow: “I don’t have a lot to say about the elections right now . . .”

What Do:

Don’t let them tell you you’re a fascist for wanting to celebrate Iraqi liberation or that you’re a Stalinist because you have hope for a better world and will not tolerate tyranny from either the Left or the Right:

People who live in countries where liberal democracy is far too easily taken for granted – and even, appallingly, sneered at by the converging elitists of the right and the pseudo-left, who imagine that they could do much better if only the masses would turn to them – are in no position to carp at the courage and determination of those who voted in Iraq on Sunday, a day that will be right up there in the history of political progress with Christmas Day 1989, when Romanians risked their lives to get rid of their own Stalinist dictatorship. It’s one more nail in the coffin of dictatorship, and, for the deranged apologists of fascism and terrorism, who have read too little Marx and not understood even what they have read, one more kick up the backside (where their brains appear to be located). (-SIAW)

And post this on your site, courtesy of a Lefty black cat from Australia:

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And let’s start saving the word “progressive” for those who are truly interested in the progress of democratic freedom in the world:

Today the bigots lost. The bigots that say that “Arabs don’t want to vote” or “Islam cant support Democracy” are now scratching their heads like the bigots did when they confronted in the 1940′s with the reality of “lowly black men” flying P-51′s with great proficiency. 10 years after Tuskeegee, those same black men wanted not only to vote but that their sons and daughters should go to school on an equal basis with the sons and daughters of white men. 40 years later in the same week that Iraqis became citizens overcoming 5,000 years of oppression, a black mans daughter became Secretary of State in the most powerful country the world has ever seen (Varifrank)

And then there’s this from Zeyad:

Hold your head up high, Remember that you are Iraqi.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled depressive resignation (or perhaps, when the voice of defeatism tries to reclaim our fealty, we’ll give it the old purple finger).

Tied to one thought

by Mary Madigan

One of Friends of Democracy’s Questions for Our Readers asked:

Do you think the American people have a good understanding of what is happening in Iraq?

I don’t think Americans understand what is happening in Iraq now because we don’t understand what life was like in Iraq under Saddam’s regime.

We don’t understand what it’s like to live in a state where neighbors and co-workers will inform on you for cash, where the threat that your leadership could inflict another genocidal attack like Halabja is always present. We don’t understand how the combination of state control and constant fear can deaden the lives of millions. We also don’t understand what happens when that regime ends.

Mohammed of Iraq the Model expressed it this way:

2003; the year of freedom.

Before you I was mute, and here goes my tongue praying for the best,

Before you I was hand-cuffed, and here are my hands free to write,

Before you my mind was tied to one thought and here I find wide horizons and greater thoughts,

Before you I was isolated, and here I join the wide universe.

I will never forget you; you broke the chains for my people, and rid us from the big jail.

“A mind tied to one thought”; most Americans don’t know what that’s like, nor do most understand the source of what we vaguely call ‘oppression.’

As David Brooks said, Saddam’s Baath Party slogan was “Unity, Freedom, Socialism.” Saddam was, first and foremost, a party man. His regime was part of a larger ideology that still thrives.

Immigrants to America who have lived under similar regimes, like Ceausescu’s Romania, Soviet Russia or China understand. Many are willing to talk about lives lived in fear, but not everyone is willing to listen.

At Kesher Talk, Judith Weiss describes the reaction when these immigrants tried to speak their minds on Inauguration day.

At least half of those who called on the “Republican line” [for C-SPAN's Congressional Inaugural Luncheon & Presidential Review of Honor Guard] are immigrants, from Eastern Europe, Cuba, the Middle East. They are all fervent Bush supporters and understand and approve of his foreign policy ideals.

One person who called in on the “Democrat line” believed that these immigrants should have “stayed in their own countries and demonstrated and marched for their civil rights there, like we did here, instead of coming here and criticizing.”

Judith points out that “Of course many immigrants did exactly that and ended up tortured or imprisoned without trial, or had to flee for their lives.”

People around the world suffer from a less obvious form of oppression. Activists will blame this suffering on ‘poverty’ or, of course, capitalism, but from Zimbabwe to Libya, it’s clear that even the worst corporate villains can’t impoverish and oppress a population with the efficiency of a socialist-inspired regime.

In photographs, Michael Totten shows us a Libya where 99% of the people on the street are men, where even the mountains are plastered with state propaganda, where history is being erased and portraits of the great leader are everywhere. Despite Ghaddafi’s apparent flakiness, his regime is very efficient.

Oppressive regimes are responsible for most of the starvation in the third world. According to Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, “Africa could grow food for the world if its people were politically free to do so.” Tyrants are responsible for the twin scourges of poverty and starvation.

Although they claim to be anti-poverty and anti-oppression most Left-leaning activists don’t seem to be able to handle the truth – or they actively suppress it. Amir Taheri describes this incident at a peace rally:

We managed to reach some of the stars of the show, including Reverend Jesse Jackson, the self-styled champion of American civil rights. One of our group, Salima Kazim, an Iraqi grandmother, managed to attract the reverend’s attention and told him how Saddam Hussein had murdered her three sons because they had been dissidents in the Baath Party; and how one of her grandsons had died in the war Saddam had launched against Kuwait in 1990.

“Could I have the microphone for one minute to tell the people about my life?” 78-year-old Salima demanded.

The reverend was not pleased.

“Today is not about Saddam Hussein,” he snapped. “Today is about Bush and Blair and the massacre they plan in Iraq.” Salima had to beat a retreat, with all of us following, as the reverend’s gorillas closed in to protect his holiness.

We next spotted former film star Glenda Jackson, apparently manning a stand where “antiwar” characters could sign up to become “human shields” to protect Saddam’s military installations against American air attacks.

“These people are mad,” said Awad Nasser, one of Iraq’s most famous modernist poets. “They are actually signing up to sacrifice their lives to protect a tyrant’s death machine.”

Others, like anti-war Democrat Ramsey “Free Slobodan Milosevic!!” Clark devote their lives to the defense of oppression.

Yesterday, Iraqis finally got their chance to have the microphone. We saw them weeping with joy at the ballot box, we saw them defy terror for their chance to be heard. Critics complain about Bush and the neo-con conspiracy, but they can’t deny the power of those images. They can’t deny the power that the once-mute feel when they’re finally allowed to speak.

Friends of Democracy Iraqi Election Broadcast

by Jeremy Brown

Are you watching? It’s on CSPAN. You can watch it online via this page (if you missed the live broadcast you can watch the archived stream here).

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The first panel, pictured below, listens to phone calls from Omar and Mohammed of Iraq the Model. Body-language quiz: can you spot the pessimist who, by all appearances, doesn’t appreciate the brothers’ enthusiasm? Cigars will be awarded for correct answers:

panel2.jpg

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Questions for Readers

by Michael J. Totten

I have a cantankerous Wild West of a comments section. And that’s great. Today I’m going to put it to productive use for a change. Actually, I’m going to channel it somewhere else.

As most of you already know, Friends of Democracy and Spirit of America are filming a live Iraqi election coverage TV show on C-SPAN Sunday from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm Eastern Standard Time. (That’s 11:00 to 1:00 for you late-sleeping laggards on the West Coast.)

This will not be the C-SPAN you know and love (or loathe). It’s going to be pretty slick compared to that channel’s usual fare. It’s being professionally produced and shot in the National Geographic studio, which I can tell you is a very cool place. I spent most of Saturday there getting ready for this thing. Here’s a photo our tech guy Donovan took with his digital Nikon:

studio3.jpg

Part of what we want to do is solicit feedback from readers of the site. I am going to sift through that feedback and read some of it (live and on camera) to our guests and panelists. We have a pretty good lineup. It includes: Christopher Hitchens, author and journalist; Ahman Al Rikaby, former Director of Radio Free Iraq and current Director of Iraq’s Radio Dijla; Entifadh Qanbar, Special Envoy from the Iraqi National Alliance; Ghassan Atiyyah, Director of the Iraq Foundation for Development and Democracy; Hassan Mneimneh, Director of the Iraq Memory Foundation; and Jim Hake, Founder and CEO of Spirit of America.

If you have your own questions, please ask them and we’ll see if we can incorporate them into our programming. If you prefer to answer some of our questions instead, here is the place to start:

1. Was the Iraqi election successful?

2. Who are the terrorists and insurgents? What do you think they hope to accomplish through violence?

3. Do you think the American people have a good understanding of what is happening in Iraq? If yes, why? If not, why not?

4. People in America see that there is a great deal of violence in Iraq. Is there hope?

These aren’t essay questions, and you don’t have to answer all of them. A few sentences would be fine, although longer responses also are welcome. If you do ask or answer a question, be sure to tune in live on C-SPAN from 2:00 to 4:00 pm Eastern Standard Time and see if we use your material.

To make it easier for us on the show, please don’t respond in my comments section. Respond in the comments on the Friends of Democracy site instead. Here is the link to the post where the questions are asked. That’s where we need your comments. Not here. You can argue amongst yourselves all you want (as usual) here, but please don’t do it over there.

If you have a blog and you feel like throwing some of your reader feedback our way, please link to that post. Send your vast hordes. Give ‘em the chance to have a little C-SPAN fame of their own.

Thanks so much in advance.

Iraqi Exiles at the Polls

by Jeremy Brown

There was an article in today’s New York Times that gives a vivid picture of the intensity of emotion among so many of the Iraqi exiles who have been voting in this Iraqi election. It has been heartening to see that the American mainstream press, it so far appears, is going to be covering this election:

SOUTHGATE, Mich., Jan. 28 – Ali Mohammed, who spent eight years in the Abu Ghraib prison in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, called the owner of the grocery store where he is a stock clerk before sunup on Friday to say he was putting on his best suit, the charcoal pinstripe he usually saves for weddings.

Glowing like proud papas, Mr. Mohammed and his supervisor, Hussain al-Jebori, cast the first ballots of their lives and lingered at the polling place here for three hours, clapping for friends and strangers and searching for familiar names, including a former cellmate, on the daunting list of 7,700 Iraqi legislative candidates. Mr. Mohammed, 39, said he decided on Friday to start a family, “because now my children’s future is secure.”

[...]

“I wanted to keep the paper in my hand for long time,” Mr. Jebori said. “First thing I imagined how much the paper cost us as a country and a people. It cost us a million people’s deaths. Now we get the victory, just now when we elect our representatives. I want to touch the victory. I didn’t want to leave it.”

My only quibble with this and a great many of the articles on this election is the use of the term “expatriates” both in the headline and, once, in the article. Though the term in its generic sense — it refers to any person who has left his or her homeland whether willingly or not — may be technically accurate, it is too evocative of Bohemian enclaves of artists and writers in search of inspiration. There is a point beyond which I think you have to use the word ‘exile.’ Thus, those German Jews with numbers on their arms that I saw as a child in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, were exiles. The millions of people from all over the world who have emigrated to the United States because they are afforded the freedom to live where they please, are expatriates.

“They decided to vote even if they die,” Diaa al-Tamimi, 35, said of his relatives remaining in Iraq. “There’s danger. But if not to vote, they’re going to die anyway. Election, that’s the best weapon for us. Terrorists, they use car bombs. We use the election.”

[...]

“It’s not safe, but they will do it,” Mr. Aljayashi said. “We spent our life as a number on paper. Now we count as a people, a citizenship. This is worth a lot. This is worth even dying for.”

[...]

No lapel stickers declared, “I voted today.” But voters displayed ink-stained fingers as a sign of progress.

“I’m very happy to show everybody my finger now,” Mr. Jeburi, the grocery owner, said. “I wish it could stay there for years and years.”

These people have been a living embodiment of the bitter reality of exile. Let’s save the word ‘expatriate’ for a time when Iraqis, as we are seeing the start of now, have the freedom to choose.

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Mehsin al-Busaid, in tears, voting Friday in Southgate, Mich., in the election for 275 members of the new Iraqi national assembly. Mr. Busaid’s son was killed in the 1990-1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein. (photo by J. D. Pooley for The New York Times)

Who do they think they are?

by Mary Madigan

The trial of Mohammed Bouyeri, the alleged murderer of Theo Van Gogh, began yesterday. According to MSNBC:

  • A note impaled in van Gogh’s chest threatened prominent politicians and vowed Islamic holy war, or jihad, against nonbelievers.

    A bystander who witnessed the crime yelled at van Gogh’s killer “You can’t do that!” to which the suspect replied: “Oh, yes I can. … Now you know what’s coming for you.”

  • Bouyeri’s lawyer, Peter Plasman, said his client “wants to take responsibility for his actions” but gave no further explanation. He said Bouyeri agrees with the interpretation of Dutch Finance Minister Gerrit Zalm that van Gogh’s killing was a declaration of war.

According to the Globe and Mail, prosecuters said that Bouyeri dreamed of replacing the Dutch government with an Islamic theocracy. He wanted to be held accountable for his actions, and sees them as part of a religious war.

The Dutch media believe that Bouyeri attended the El Tawheed mosque, an institution that shared Bouyeri’s views. It is considered to be the epicenter of extremism in Amsterdam.

This mosque was previously associated with a Saudi-based charity, Al Haramain. Recently, the mosque has been criticized for selling books espousing extremist views, including female circumcision and the punishment of homosexuals by throwing them off tall buildings.

According to the IHT, “several legislators have called for the mosque to be shut down, but under the Dutch constitution it is difficult to do.”

According to the German publication, Der Spiegel, the killer’s actual target was Dutch legislator Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali immigrant. She and other legislators were so unable to ensure their security against extremist death threats, they had to leave the Netherlands to hide in the United States.

In short, a Western nation couldn’t defend its own legislators against an occupying paramilitary group.

Fortunately, Hirsi Ali has returned. According to Spiegel’s report:

Hirsi Ali made championing the cause of Muslim women her career and eventually got elected to parliament. When the ambassador of Saudi Arabia called for her to be removed from office because of her polemics against Islam she just scored even more points with Dutch voters. In a survey of the most-popular Dutch people in 2003, she landed in second place.

The Saudi ambassador felt he had the right to call for an elected legislator to be removed from office. Who does he think he is?

Hirsi Ali’s homeland of Somalia understands something about Saudi influence. Somali journalist Bashir Goth wrote about the influence of Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi Islam in Somalia:

“Nowadays, it is sad to see… that the ideal harmony between Islam and Somali culture is swept aside by a new brand of Islam that is being pushed down the throat of our people – Wahhabism. Anywhere one looks, one finds that alien, perverted version of Islam that depends on punctilious manners more than it depends on deep-rooted faith. A strange uniformity… has crept into the social manners of our people. The unique fashion and identity of our people has changed forever. We have become a people without fashion, without culture, and without identity…

“It is a pity… to see that, at a time when Saudi Arabia, the home of Wahhabism, is reassessing the damage that Wahhabism and extremism had done to their country’s name and to the reputation of Islam all over the world… that Wahhabism has to find a save-haven in our country.”

… “These people love to live in the dark. They thrive on the silence of the unwilling intellectuals and the gullibility of the ignorant majority. They hide under the cloak of religion and scare people with their indiscriminate use of terms such as blasphemous, infidels, apostates, sacrilegious, atheists, westernized minds and many others. They use the available democratic atmosphere to herd us towards the abyss.

They use the available democratic atmosphere, as they do in the Netherlands, in Beslan and in the Sudan

One result of the Wahhabi influence on the Somailis from the BBC:

Militias from the Islamic courts set up in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, are destroying a colonial Italian cemetery.

They are digging up the graves and dumping human remains near the airport.

The BBC’s Mohammed Olad Hassan says he was horrified to see a large number of abandoned human skulls. Young boys were playing with one as a toy.

According to Sufi scholar Stephen Schwartz, grave desecration is a Wahhabi tradition:

Saudi agents uprooted graveyards in Kosovo even before the war began there in the late 1990s, and Wahhabi missionaries have sought to demolish Sufi tombs in Kurdistan. Late in 2002, the Saudi government tore down the historic Ottoman fortress of Ajyad in Mecca, causing outrage in many Muslim countries.

Jill at Legacy Matters said that the horrific grave desecration in Somalia was “beyond the Pale”:

Deep in all of us is a revulsion at certain behavior – torture, beheadings and the physical abuse of the weak and powerless, for example. Whether it’s in our DNA or our souls, revulsion, I believe, makes us more human. By turning away with a feeling of violent disgust at certain acts, we shun the perpetrators. They are not recognizably part of anything with which we can identify. They are beyond the pale, outside the bounds of acceptable and civilized behavior.

In most cultures, beheading, amputation as punishment, spreading genocidal hatred and desecrating graveyards are beyond the pale.

In Saudi Arabia these activities are an established part of their culture and their laws. World leaders know about this, but they don’t turn away from them in disgust. Instead, they encourage these Wahhabis to join our society.

Wahhabi ‘charities’ still contribute heavily to American Universities, mosques, pacifist groups and Muslim special interest groups.

So, who do these Wahhabis think they are? Apparently they think they have the right to influence and attempt to overthrow established governments around the world. And the world is not doing enough to prove them wrong.

Going to D.C.

I’m flying out to Washington D.C. for the Spirit of America / Friends of Democracy post-election event on Sunday. It will be broadcast live on C-SPAN. More details to follow after I land, get settled into the hotel, and figure out exactly what’s going on. In the meantime, enjoy the guest-blogging by Mary and Jeremy.

Friends of Democracy on C-SPAN

Friends of Democracy will broadcast a live post-election event from 2:00 to 4:00 pm Eastern Standard Time this Sunday on C-SPAN. We’re holding the event in Washington DC’s National Geographic studio, so hopefully the production values will be a little higher than that of C-SPAN’s usual fare.

Jim Hake, founder and CEO of Spirit of America, describes our event this way.

This unique conference from Washington DC will provide a consolidated picture of Iraq’s elections featuring prominent Iraqis, selected guests (Cliff May from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Christopher Hitchens), live call ins from the Friends of Democracy correspondents and bloggers, photos, video and stories.

If you don’t get C-SPAN where you live, you can catch us on our live Web cast.

Thanks, Jim, for bringing me on board this great project. Thanks, also, for flying me out to Washington so I can be a part of it all.

My New Gig — Iraqi Election Coverage

By Michael J. Totten

Jim Hake from Spirit of America brought me on to edit the Friends of Democracy site during the week before and the week after the January 30 election in Iraq.

We have more than a dozen local Iraqi correspondents, at least one in each province, filing daily reports. These reports include news, interviews, quotes, photos, whatever they can get in a day. They aren’t professional journalists. They are more or less ordinary Iraqis. Some of them you already know — Omar and Mohammed from Iraq the Model, for example. Others you don’t know because they don’t speak or write in English. Their reports are translated from Arabic before they are uploaded to the reports site.

My job isn’t to edit the reports, exactly (they are published raw here), but to run a blog on the main site which summarizes, excerpts, and links to the reports from the field. I’m also going to be excerpting and linking to essays and posts in the Iraqi blogosphere and – on occasion – stories in the mainstream and Middle Eastern media. The idea is to let Iraqis themselves tell their own story of their own first free election. What I do on the site has nothing to do with me. You won’t find me bloviating there as I do here. I am invisible. My name isn’t even on it.

The site is called Friends of Democracy: Ground level election news from the people of Iraq. To the best of my knowledge there is nothing else like it anywhere out there, at least not in English. (We also have a site in Arabic here.)

If you have the time, the inclination, and your own blog, please give us a link. This isn’t about me or my ego. This is for, about, and mostly by the Iraqi people themselves.

I feel honored that Jim asked me to do this. I’ve supported Spirit of America from the beginning, donated a bit of my money, and raised thousands of dollars from readers of this site just like you. Please, give us your support one more time. This time it’s free. All we need now is a link and some readers. Thanks kindly in advance.

The Unwinnable War

by Jeremy Brown

With that immensely important election coming this Sunday in Iraq, the optimist in me is feeling a strong urge to look back toward the frankly startling success of the recent election in Afghanistan.

I’m not pretending that Afghanistan’s problems are all fixed now, nor am I expecting Iraq’s election day to be anywhere near that peaceful (though genuine peace has not been on the table in Iraq for decades and won’t ever be, unless of course the country starts down the road to democratization this Sunday).

There’s at least one way, however, in which the war in Afghanistan tells us something that very much applies to Iraq. Let me bring you back a few years to a time when a great many people — many of them very reasonable and reasonably intelligent (I was very briefly one of them way back then) — predicted that a war in Afghanistan, whether justified or not, would result in a quagmire that would rival Viet Nam or, more to the point, Russia’s Afghan war. Remember that? Here, by way of random example, is the Christian Science Monitor in October 2001:

“Afghanistan is a quagmire that is easy to enter and very hard to leave,” says Irina Zvegelskaya, an Islamic expert and vice president of the independent Center for Strategic and Political Studies in Moscow. “If the US commits itself to changing things there, or propping up a particular government, it will be the beginning of a long, painful and very costly story – just like it was for us.”

[...]

Russian experts say that if the US is determined to engineer change in Afghanistan, it should make sure the United Nations is involved, and not commit American troops. “If the US acts unilaterally, it will look like a war on Islam, and all Afghans will unite behind the Taliban…

And that was just the well reasoned pessimism. Various fish in assorted barrels predicted far worse. Noam Chomsky, for example, would have had us believe that the U.S. was self evidently on the verge of a “silent genocide” that was going to kill several million afghan civilians.

As awful as any war inherently is, why didn’t the Afghan war of 2001 go the route of Russia’s atrocious war in that country?

I think the answer is clear: all those warnings about the impossibility of successfully invading and conquering Afghanistan presupposed an invading army attempting to defeat the will of the entire Afghan people. But the U.S. goal of toppling the Taliban regime, it should be perfectly obvious, was entirely in concert with the will of the majority of Afghans.

An important question to ask about the war in Iraq, then, is: which side, if any, is struggling to achieve an end that reflects the will of the majority of Iraqi people. Anyone who denies, however much many Iraqis may dislike being occupied by Coalition troops, that the majority of people in Iraq want democratization to succeed and the ‘insurgency’ to fail, is just not paying attention.

So it’s important to remember, in the face of the brutal bombings and kidnappings that will probably continue for some time, that the Coalition troops not only represent the superior military power in this war but more importantly, because they are advancing the interests of the Iraqi people, they are on the winning side. You are probably aware that 80 percent of the Iraqi people are planning to vote. Which side of that equation would you rather be on?

The Baathist and Islamist ‘insurgents’ know what hurts Iraqis and how, if it can be done, to spark a civil war. But the inescapable fact is that, because they are fighting against the majority of the Iraqi populace, they are struggling hopelessly on the losing side of this war.

Once Iraqis have had this first taste of their democratic future, it will be damned difficult for anyone to steal it back from them.

Though the struggle to stop the killing will continue, in other words, the ‘insurgency’ is screwed.

I can think of no better rallying cry for this Iraqi election than Zarqawi’s own words as reported just two days ago:

”We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology,” the speaker said in an audiotape posted Sunday on an Islamic Web site. ”Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it.”

Let me repeat that last line for emphasis:

“Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it.” That’s an offer the Iraqi people cannot afford to pass up.

New Blogging Gig

I have a new full-time blogging gig for the next two weeks, and I won’t have a whole lot of time to blog on this site. So I have a couple of guest-bloggers who are going to help me out: Jeremy Brown and Mary Madigan. I will probably post here, too, but not as often as I usually do.

Since there will be three of us here, or at least two and a half (the half would be me), there will be more fresh content here than usual, not less. So don’t go anywhere.

I’ll provide more info and links about what I’m doing and where I’m going once the project gets off the ground. In the meantime, stay tuned. And welcome Mary and Jeremy.

Stay Tuned

Very suddenly I went from not having enough work on my plate to having a lot of it. Such is the life of a freelance writer. Feast, then famine, then feast. Now is a time of feasting.

It’s late Monday night and I’m going to bed. Don’t go away. Your regularly scheduled opinionated blather will recommence shortly.

In the meantime, argue amongst yourselves in the comments about love, death, war, life, god, the universe, and everything. And be nice! Don’t make me come in there with the battle axe.

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