Saturday, August 07, 2004

Rocking in Najaf 

The next installment of "Good news from Iraq" is some nine days away, but I can't help myself in the meantime - this is surely a huge victory for both the Coalition army and the Iraqi security forces:

"More than 1200 militiamen loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr surrendered today following fierce clashes with US and Iraqi forces in Najaf, the police general directorate said.

" 'Over 1200 criminals have surrendered to Iraqi forces,' it said, adding that the holy city of Najaf had been 'secured'. It said most of the captured militiamen were criminals who were released from Iraqi prisons by ousted president Saddam Hussein before last year's US-led invasion.

The statement accused Sadr's Mehdi Army of wanting to 'destabilize the country', and vowed that 'this operation will continue until this illegal and cruel violence has been quelled."
The Mehdi Army was always estimated at only several thousand fighters, and has been much degraded over the months of fighting. If true, taking out 1,500 guerrillas out of action in a space of only few days is a considerable victory for Iraq's internal stability. Personally I loved the next paragraph in the story:

"No-one in Sadr's Najaf office was immediately available for comment on the statement."
As it should be.

As Mohammed wrote at
Iraq the Model two says ago, "These militant groups have betrayed Iraq by their collaboration with other countries to destabilize the situation in Iraq while the true sons of Iraq are working to build their country. We need discipline and order now more than ever and I believe that who commits a simple traffic violation on purpose is really harming Iraq at this stage, let alone those who carry arms to fight us. Those should not be left free to do more damage." It looks like al Sadr is finally getting some parking tickets.


IT advice, please 

I need some advice from any IT literate readers out there.

About two days (strangely, it almost seems to have coincided with us switching to cable internet), our home computer has somehow acquired a rather annoying agent - whenever I access my Hotmail account and my wife her Yahoo account, after we successfully log-in, and click to access our inboxes, we are automatically diverted to some anonymous search engine page. It doesn't even display its address, only "about:blank". The same search engine page also constantly reasserts itself as our default start page whenever we access internet.

Will any up to date anti-virus software get rid off it? Or is there anything else we can do, or anywhere else we can look into?

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Update: Thanks to everyone who commented or emailed advice - I'm slowly solving the problems.


Friday, August 06, 2004

Secret diplomacy of John F Kerry 

It's so secret that no one knows what it actually involves, and Kerry is not letting anyone in on the secret.

This is simply mind-boggling, but the headline says it all:
"Kerry touts convention showing, hints at Iraq plan":
"Asked about Bush's Iraq policy during an economic event here [in Iowa], Kerry bristled slightly in recalling news accounts that suggested he 'hasn't spelled out' his vision for rebuilding Iraq and bringing home US troops.

" 'I have spelled it out, and let me make it very clear, ladies and gentleman, very clear,' Kerry told about 350 voters and business leaders gathered here. 'Statesmanship means something. Leadership in building alliances means something'."
We know that statesmanship means something and that leadership in building alliances means something also, but we still don't know what exactly these things mean in the Kerry-world. It's well beyond pathetic that after two years of crisis and controversy over Iraq, one of the main critics of Bush's policies (and at the same time their occasional Congressional supporter) can only be described as "hinting" at having his own alternative plan, which at this stage anyway seems to come down to "Foreigners hate Bush, they love me, please elect me so they will be nice again and we'll all live happily ever after." That's not a foreign policy; it's a domestic political opportunism masquerading as foreign policy.

The wit and wisdom of John F Kerry continues:
"The truth is, it is not just the United States of America that has an interest in not having a failed Iraq, in not having a base of terror now, in not having an instability in the Middle East. The world has a stake in that outcome, and the Arab countries above all have a stake in not having a civil war right in their neighborhood. The Europeans have a stake in not having a complete breakdown, and greater anger in the Muslim world, because they have Muslim populations. And yet none of them are at the table. Nothing could underscore more the failure of diplomacy of this administration."
Kerry is right; just about everyone in the world has a stake in a peaceful Iraq and a peaceful Middle East. So if all the others have an interest in seeing such outcome, and yet they do nothing to make it happen, it's certainly not "the failure of diplomacy of this administration"; it's a testament to political cynicism of the countries involved. For goodness' sake, it's not the job of American diplomacy to make sure that other countries act in their own interest; they're not children, they know that veggies are good for them and should eat them. And if they persists with their "cut off my nose to spite my face" tantrums, they will one day reap what they have sown. That will be a failure and a tragedy, but it won't be one of American diplomacy.

And lastly, this from the Democratic nominee, in lieu of details of his Iraq plan:
"I will do the diplomacy necessary, and I have heavy cards to play -- I'm not going to lay 'em all out on the table, no future president, no president should negotiate this in public. But let me tell you, I've got big cards to play to bring people to understand the stakes here."
Which roughly translates to "I'm not going to tell you what I'm going to do, and how I'm going to do it, but vote for anyway, suckers." In the world of "big cards" it's called a bluff.

Secret diplomacy has had its day, mostly before World War One, but at least its practitioners had the liberty of not being encumbered by democracy. Matternich never had to tell the plebs what their betters were up to, but neither did he ever want - and indeed never was - elected to anything. With any luck Kerry won't be either.


Nigerian sect news 

In the land of internet scams, some sects make love:

"Several people have been killed after Nigerian police raided the headquarters of an Islamic sect, whose members exchanged their wives... The sect, which is reported to have thousands of followers, had incensed other local Muslim groups by calling their base the Kabah - after Islam's holiest site in the Saudi Arabian town of Mecca... Their motto is: 'Love your neighbour as yourself, share your wives with your neighbour'."
While other sects make war:

"Police in eastern Nigeria discovered body parts, skulls and more than 50 corpses, some partly mummified, in shrines where a secretive cult was believed to have carried out ritual killings, officers said Thursday. Some victims may have died after swallowing poison to prove their innocence."
Weird, but better than slamming airplanes into skyscrapers.


The sound of crushing dissent 

My friends at Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are under fire again, 32 years after President Nixon declared the end of major combat operations in Vietnam.

This is
the ad that got them into trouble. This is the letter from Kerry's lawyers.

God, I love legal drafting! The ability to intimidate the non-legal folk with big words and bold assertions, even if your case doesn't have the legs to stand on. Brings back some fond memories of the law school.

Let us look briefly at what the letter says the ad said, and what the ad actually said:
"The advertisement contains statements by men who purported to have served on Senator Kerry's SWIFT boat in Vietnam..."
No, it doesn't. The ad is clear that the men served with Senator Kerry, which has a quite broad meaning.

"Further, the 'doctor' who appears in the ad, Louis Letson, was not a crewmate of Senator Kerry's and was not the doctor who actually signed Senator Kerry's sick call sheet. In fact another physician actually signed Senator Kerry's sick call sheet. Letson is not listed on any document as having treated Senator Kerry after December 2, 1968 firefight."
I wonder if the quotation marks around the word doctor imply that Letson is merely pretending to be one? Gosh, that would be defamatory, wouldn't it? But I'm more fascinated by the legalise hair-splitting. Louis Letson never claims that he was Kerry's crewmate. Notice also that the letter doesn't actually say that Letson in fact did not treat Kerry - only he hasn't signed the official document and is not listed on any document, which proves... just what exactly? That he hasn't signed the official document and is not listed on any document. Can anyone repeat after me, "Depends on what the definition of 'is' is"?
"Moreover, according to news accounts, Letson did not record his 'memories' of that incident until after Senator Kerry became a candidate for President in 2003."
And? Why would he have? Kerry's military record in Vietnam did not become an issue until after Kerry became a candidate for President in 2003. Alas, poor Letson, not only is he a "doctor" but he also has "memories." "He" probably only "served" in "Vietnam" and "attended" to other "soldiers."

And in the end we have the usual vast right-wing conspiracy charge thrown in for a good measure:

"The group [Swift Boat Veterans for Truth] is a sham organisation spearheaded by a Texas corporate media consultant. It has been financed largely with funds from a Houston homebuilder."
Which has no bearing on whether the people appearing in the ad are telling the truth. Secondly, the Democrats can of course speak from the position of moral superiority, because the ads that attack President Bush miraculously finance themselves from a pot of gold found at the end of the rainbow.

Glenn Reynolds says: "Well, if Bush had threatened legal action to block Michael Moore's film from showing, I know what people would say." But not the ones in the media.


Waving the maple leaf 

A warm (literally) Australian welcome to all the Canadian visitors, and many thanks to Charles Adler from CJOB in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for the opportunity to appear on his program "Adler On Line," the best show between Vancouver and Nova Scotia.


Thursday, August 05, 2004

Channeling JFK 

I opened the print edition of "The Australian" this morning, and turned to the opinion page to find Robert Dallek's piece "What JFK can learn from JFK." The blurb, unfortunately only available in print, stated that "To beat George W Bush, John F Kerry should recall how John F Kennedy won his presidential election in 1960."

My God, I thought, Dallek is advising Kerry to get the Chicago Mob to steal the Illinois vote for him.

I shouldn't have feared, however. Dallek, JFK's most recent biographer, is merely advising John F Kerry on the matters of image and campaign performance. Some of it is pretty obvious ("The principal task of every presidential nominee running against an incumbent is to demonstrate that he is presidential timber."), some of it rather tenuous ("A unilateralism that has alienated countries and peoples across the world has not given Bush the kind of sure-handed hold on voters a president needs in a re-election campaign." The foreigners after all don't vote, and the American voters generally don't vote based on how the foreigners want them to), some of it merely partisan wishful thinking:

"Bush seems more the offspring of the 1964 Barry Goldwater than of his father, George H.W. Bush. Like Goldwater, who frightened voters by joking about lobbing one into the men's room of the Kremlin, Bush is perceived by many voters as untrustworthy if not reckless. By contrast with his father, whose quick victory in Kuwait and refusal to march on Baghdad is seen as a model of wise action, George W. has been thrown on the defensive about the war."
I also recall Ronald Reagan joking about bombing Russia, and Bush Sr's "model of wise action" left us in a position of having to repeat the whole exercise in much more difficult conditions twelve years later, but never mind. Some of Dallek's commentary, finally, mixes all sorts of political lessons:

"John F. Kerry will want to remember John F. Kennedy's successful presidential bid in 1960. Like Gore, Nixon was a well-established national figure as Dwight Eisenhower's vice-president. Like Kennedy, who carried potential negatives into the campaign -- his youth and inexperience, his religion, his undistinguished congressional record and unenviable caution in response to McCarthyism -- Kerry has to overcome questions about his capacity to speak to Americans in understandable ways and his alleged inconsistency as a senator or politician who speaks out of both sides of his mouth."
When all is said and done, the problem is that the JFK 2004 simply ain't the JFK 1960, however much he tries. The same initials, the association with Massachusetts, and the patrician lifestyle are no substitutes for substance. The "lessons" of 1960 (positivity, vision, communication) are not some magic potions that one can add to any candidate, stir, and come up with a winning formula. Character, personality and style do matter, and they can't be as easily spun as a single ten second grab on the nightly news.

Kennedy won in 1960 (and even them, only just) because he was a young, charismatic candidate running against a dull and shifty opponent. In that respect, Kerry is more similar to Nixon, another unexciting career politician who left the military service as a Lieutenant. But to compare Kerry to Nixon might be somewhat unfair to Nixon, who after all despite all his faults had a clearer vision of the America he wanted than does the Senator from Massachusetts (or maybe I'm wrong; maybe Kerry does have a clear vision, it's just that he's having problems communicating it to voters. Or maybe he thinks that the voters hate the incumbent so much that they don't care about any other vision except for a Bush-free White House).

In the end, the only JFK lesson that could well become relevant to Kerry is, the man from Texas might be your undoing.


From the campaign trail 

Dexterity and cannibalism during the presidential campaign:

"John Kerry waved to crowds with one ear in each hand. Not to be outdone by his Democratic rival, President Bush ate one raw."
They're talking about corn, by the way, and the state is Iowa, the number one producer of corn in the United States. Iowa also happens to be one of those battleground states where the candidates have to do stupid things on camera to win over the several thousands swinging voters who'll decide the outcome. God knows what Bush and Kerry will do to the cattle when they campaign in Texas.

Still in Iowa, Davenport to be exact,
three local banks were robbed while thousands of local supporters attended rallies for the two candidates and local police was helping to manage traffic and security.


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

"I am for Islam. But I am against an Islamic state" 

Encouraging words from the Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at an international gathering of religious scholars organised by the World Council of Churches in Kuala Lumpur:

"If we fail to [resist the extremists], we risk having our religion hijacked by those who promote hatred and violence. We risk ceding ground to those who do not see the need to live in peace with other religions... We cannot allow our religions to be torn apart by extremist impulses. We must be committed in promoting the values of peace, tolerance and plurality."
On the minus side: "Abdullah said that in the eyes of many Muslims, events in the last three years seem to lent credence to the view that the Christian West was again at war with the Muslim world." This despite of the fact that the current governments of both Afghanistan and Iraq are very much Islamic (though, fortunately not Islamist), and after the respective elections will hopefully resemble Malaysia's own government much more than their own predecessors. On the plus side: the conference included a delegate from Israel and an Israeli flag was included with others on the ceiling of the conference hall.

While we're on the topic of encouraging words, some two weeks ago an Israeli paper "Haaretz" ran an interview with
Abdurrahman Wahid, the former President of Indonesia and still an influential figure in what is the world's largest Muslim country (as well as a working democracy). Parts of the interview bear quoting at length:

Haaretz: You are known in Israel as a friend. This is quite unusual for an Islamic leader.

Wahid: I think there is a wrong perception that Islam is in disagreement with Israel. This is caused by Arab propaganda. We have to distinguish between Arabs and Islam. Some people in Indonesia claimed that I was a stooge for the West, but the fact that I am gaining in popularity all the time dispels this idea, and shows that this is the view of only a small minority of the elite. I always say that China and the Soviet Union have or had atheism as part of their constitution, but we have long-term relationships with both these countries. So then Israel has a reputation as a nation with a high regard for God and religion - there is then no reason we have to be against Israel.

Haaretz: What about the Koran's statements against the Jews?

Wahid: The Koran is an historical document. When Benazir Bhutto was president of Pakistan, a high-ranking Islamic clergyman from Pakistan came to visit me at the offices of the Nahdlatul Ulama, and asked me to issue a fatwa against Bhutto. But why? I asked him. 'Because the Koran says that it is a calamity for a woman to be a leader,' he answered. 'Yes,' I said. 'At the time when the Koran was written, leaders had to lead their men in battle, had to ride at the head of commercial caravans heading through the desert, and so on. That is why they were all males. Leadership was personalized. Now it is institutional. Bhutto can't make a decision without her cabinet, the cabinet must bend to the legislature, and the legislature to the Supreme Court - who are all male.' 'Yes, yes,' he said. 'I see your point.' But he still wanted the fatwa. It is hard sometimes to break with the past, but we can't avoid it. We must continuously reinterpret the Koran...

Haaretz: Is Islamic fundamentalism spreading in Indonesia?

Wahid: No. The bombings and terrorist activity were because of our weak governments that didn't want to take action. Now that the U.S. and Australia have become so angry about terrorism, action is being taken.

Haaretz: Why was the Indonesian government reluctant to take action before?

Wahid: Because Megawati was afraid, though as FDR said, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Haaretz: Is Islamic fundamentalism spreading among the poor? Are TV stations such as Al Arabia and Al Jazeera, which are centered in the Middle East but have a global reach, helping Middle Eastern Islamic ideas to penetrate into Indonesia?

Wahid: No. Indonesian Muslims respond to moderation, not fundamentalism. And even the majority of the Arabs are against what is being broadcast or printed in the news. When you think that the Palestinians are ruled by the so-called suicidal bombers, you are wrong. The problem is how to cope with the militant minority. What is needed is moral courage, which Yasser Arafat has not shown. The current prime minister, [Ahmed] Qureia, is more moderate, and the fact that he was selected shows that the fundamentalists are having a hard time convincing people. What is needed now is an act of dismantling, piece by piece. I hope Qureia will last long enough...

Haaretz: What is your understanding about what is going on in Iraq right now?

Wahid: The Iraqi people have shown their disregard for Saddam Hussein. They have said that dictatorship must end, and human rights violations must be punished. But they have not developed the attitude of accepting western superiority in politics and civilization. That is important. I also think George W. Bush is bogged down in trying to create a civil society there because he miscalculated. He didn't realize the differences between Kurd, Sunni and Shi'ite. It's not that he was wrong. He just didn't consider those things...

Haaretz: What can Israel and the Jews do to create peace between Islam and Judaism?

Wahid: All sides have to do justice. Sometimes the Arabic governments act without justice, and sometimes the Israeli government acts unjustly. You have to examine yourself, and so do the Arabs, to see where you are wrong. What is more important is that you need leaders that trust the other side. With your leader against Arafat and Arafat against Israel, there is no hope. Negotiations can be held only by people that trust each other.

Haaretz: Does the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East pose a problem for Islam?

Wahid: Only if you think Islam dictates that we have an Islamic state. All the states that claim to be Islamic are in trouble. Muslims everywhere, if they could vote, would reject an Islamic state. Not because they are against Islam. I am for Islam. But I am against an Islamic state.

Haaretz: Can the moderate form of Islam found in Indonesia influence other Islamic countries?

Wahid: We have so many terrorists and Islamic militants because there is no leadership in the Islamic world. One of the objectives of my party is to make Indonesia the leader of the Islamic world, and thus prevent people like Osama bin Laden from emerging. He is heard only because there is no other voice. The voice of the Islamic kings and rulers are not heard because they are all despots.

Haaretz: Would you like a final word to say to Israel?

Wahid: Keep up your work, and be true to yourself. That is enough.
All I can say: less Osamas, more Wahids.


Band of estranged brothers 

The vets aren't happy. This from a new site, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth:

"Senator John Kerry has made his 4-month combat tour in Vietnam the centerpiece of his bid for the Presidency. His campaign jets a handful of veterans around the country, and trots them out at public appearances to sing his praises. John Kerry wants us to believe that these men represent all those he calls his 'band of brothers.'

"But most combat veterans who served with John Kerry in Vietnam see him in a very different light.

"Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has been formed to counter the false "war crimes" charges John Kerry repeatedly made against Vietnam veterans who served in our units and elsewhere, and to accurately portray Kerry's brief tour in Vietnam as a junior grade Lieutenant. We speak from personal experience -- our group includes men who served beside Kerry in combat as well as his commanders. Though we come from different backgrounds and hold varying political opinions, we agree on one thing: John Kerry misrepresented his record and ours in Vietnam and therefore exhibits serious flaws in character and lacks the potential to lead." Not a very happy "band of brothers."
Then there is the Winter Soldier, dedicated to John Kerry's tour of duty and the subsequent anti-war tour of malice.

Personally, I'm still trying to come to grips with the phenomenon of a modern-day Democrat presidential candidate who promotes his service in Vietnam as virtually his only qualification to lead the country in the highest office.



Winds of Change blog is celebrating 2 million visits since its founding as a single person blog by Joe Katzman back in April 2002. It now includes several regular co-bloggers in addition in Joe, plus many contributors (myself included). Congratulations to Joe and Winds of Change on this great milestone.

Meanwhile, Chrenkoff is just about to hit 300,000 visits mark since its start at the end of March this year. Thank you to all of you who made it happen, including people who somehow made it here through Google or Yahoo while searching for the most bizarre stuff. I'm not sure how that happened but I hope you enjoyed it, too.

Lastly, more apologies for the diminished quantity of post (I'll leave the quality assessment to you); the preparation of the three now regular features (Good news from Iraq, Good news from Afghanistan, and the crazy Euro-news round-up, which by the way is coming up on Monday) are taking a lot of time as you can imagine, but I promise to keep "chrenkin' off" (more) on other topics as well.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A little bit more freedom 

While the world attention remains focused on the war on terror (at least one would hope so), two significant victories for free trade and open markets.

As part of the Doha round of negotiations, 147 members of the World Trade Organisation have struck an interim agreement that will cut billions of dollars of market-distorting
agricultural subsidies - primary offenders being, of course, the European Union and the United States.

And in Australia, after months of prevarication the Labor opposition finally decided to support the
Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement, which means that it is now certain to pass through the Australian Senate.


Bouncing all over the place 

Bouncing in some, but not in others post-convention polls.

In a
Washington Post/ABC News Poll, Kerry leads on 50% among registered voters, with Bush on 44%. Among likely voters, however, Kerry leads by only 2%.

In a
USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll, Kerry and Bush are stuck at 47% among registered voters and Bush leads Kerry among likely voters by 50% to 46%.

What does it all mean? As
Kerry himself says: "Polls are not what's important. What's important is what we're going to do for America." But not if you can't actually win the election.


Monday, August 02, 2004

Good news from Iraq, part 7 

Note: This round-up, the seventh in the series, is also published by the Wall Street Journal's "Opinion Journal." Many thanks to James Taranto for continuing to publicise the good news in the mainstream media. Also, thanks to Jeff Jacoby at the "Boston Globe" for publicising the previous installment. And as always, very warm thank you to all the readers who send in links to good news stories, fellow bloggers who publcise the news, and all the visitors who come by and encourage others to do so.

Over a month into sovereignty and Iraq still continues to generate a flood of bad news stories, at least as far as the mainstream media are concerned. Foreign workers keep getting kidnapped and occasionally executed; terrorist bombs continue to explode throughout Baghdad and other cities, although the victims are now overwhelmingly Iraqi civilians. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, learned commissions deliver their reports, providing the media with fresh opportunities to talk about intelligence failures and strategic blunders.

And yet, for every foreigner taken hostage there are stories of hundreds of Iraqis who can now enjoy in many different ways their regained liberty. For every terrorist attack with all its terror and bloodshed there are countless stories of courage, determination, and resourcefulness on the part of the Iraqi people. And for every intelligence failure by the government agencies then, there is an intelligence failure by the media now. Which is why you are likely to have recently missed some of the stories below.

SOCIETY: Despite the best (or rather the worst) efforts of al Qaeda affiliated jihadis and Baath Party nostalgics, Iraq is steadily moving in the direction of representative democracy. The
national convention is yet another step towards the next year's elections:

"Skulking in the dirty corridor of a courthouse, Shaka Khudaya waits to hear if he will be one of 1,000 Iraqis chosen to take part in an unprecedented trial of democracy later this month. Small selection teams across Iraq's 18 provinces are pouring over piles of hand-written applications and nominations from people wanting to participate in a national conference that will pick a sort of interim Iraqi parliament...

"[T]he conference in Baghdad will bring together 1,000 semi-elected people from Iraq's rich ethnic and religious mix to pick a 100-member interim national council that will serve until January elections. The new body will have the power to approve Iraq's 2005 budget, veto legislation with a two-thirds majority and question ministers over policy.

" 'This is just a step towards democracy because it is not based on direct elections but it is a step in the right direction,' said Fuad Maassum, the head of a preparatory committee that is organising the conference."
There are problems and delays to be sure, but the people's conference certainly has got a momentum on its side (the delay is at least partly due to the United Nation's request). Yet, while we celebrate Iraq's slow journey towards democracy, we should always remember the courage of ordinary people who are making the ultimate sacrifice in order to help rebuild their country: in just the two weeks after the transition of sovereignty, six members of Baghdad city council have been assassinated by the enemies of freedom and democracy. It's a testament to the determination and commitment of Iraqi community leaders that they are not giving in and giving up despite the very real and immediate risks.

Some areas of Iraq, like the
Kurdistan, are much further advanced along the road to normalcy, as one of the best correspondents out of Iraq, Nicholas Rothwell of "The Australian" writes: "The construction of an open, democratic, Western-oriented society may be an elusive dream in the rest of Iraq, but it is a solid reality here. The Kurds even control their own territory with their Peshmerga militia, separate from the Iraqi armed forces." Speaking of Kurdistan, the Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has recently received a much needed political boost when the leaders of the two main Kurdish political parties have publicly put their support behind him: "The Kurds, whose areas enjoy relative peace, see it in their interests to provide the interim government the support it needs to succeed in its battle against insurgents and terrorists. Allawi has openly supported Kurdish autonomy in the country and recognized their current semi-independent status."

Other minorities, too, continue to breathe easier. 180,000
Assyrian Christians, for example, celebrate their holiday in peace and joy:

"The Sunday morning attacks in a Baghdad neighborhood weren't the kind that people might expect in this violence-plagued nation. Armed with buckets of water balloons, grinning children hurled them for hours at each other, unwary pedestrians and passing cars... Sunday was an Assyrian Christian festival commemorating mass baptisms by Jesus and the apostles."
Iraqis are also now free to remember their past. The recent discovery of the remains of former president Abd al-Kareem Qassem, murdered during a Baath Party coup in 1963, is bringing unexpected joy to many: "For many Iraqis - especially the poor - Qassem's short-lived regime was a golden age, the first time they had a president who cared about them. They see his rule as a time free of the neglect that preceded it as well as the wars and repression that came after."

Not content just with their own democratic process, Iraqis are becoming increasingly split on
the US presidential poll: " 'The Democratic party is just a party of slogans: they only call for freedom,' says Muath Karra, an eyeglass salesman. 'But George W. Bush, he is brave, and he is a man of action. I hope he wins this election, because he is a genius - and brave'. Muhammed Shammari, a taxi driver, is a Kerry man. 'We want John Kerry to win, because George W. Bush brought harm to America and all the world under the pretext of launching the war on terror,' he says. 'And generally, the Democratic Party is better than Republicans'...

"Two months ago, independent Iraqi pollster Sadoun Dulame asked 3,075 Iraqis from all over the country which US candidate they preferred. Most Iraqis scorned the question, but about 15 percent responded passionately - almost all Bush backers.

" 'When we asked this 15 percent why they cared, they said, 'Because the American election will affect conditions in Iraq,' ' says Mr. Dulame, director of the Iraqi Center for Research and Strategic Studies. 'They prefer that Bush stay. Because if Bush leaves, maybe the Democrats will adopt a new policy, and not pay so much attention to Iraq.'

"In a perfect reversal of US demographics, the Bush lovers tended to be more educated and clustered in cosmopolitan areas. Call them Red Iraqis. 'Most of them were intellectuals,' says Dulame. 'US intellectuals, maybe most of them adopt Democratic values. But in Iraq, that's the reality'."
The early modern Westerners might have had the right idea that on the other side of the world things tend to be upside-down.

To get the numbers right in the new Iraq, the government is spending between $60 and $100 million and employing 150,000 teachers to conduct the
new census in a single day. The data from the Saddam era is too outdated and too biased to provide an accurate picture of today's Iraq: "The 1997 census did not count the three Kurdish provinces then separated by the no-fly zone, nor an estimated 4 million Iraqi refugees. This also was the height of the 'Arabization' program, in which Kurds, Turkmen and other minorities were forced to list their ethnicity as 'Arab' or risk losing their homes, jobs or lives." As Nuha Yousif, census manager in Iraq's Ministry of Planning says: "In the old days, the census was conducted for the interests of the government... People will want to participate in the census because they know that this time it is information to build the new Iraq." In many ways we in the West, too, look at Iraq through the prism of Saddam's census figures; now finally we might all acquire a different, better view of the country.

As Iraq reenters the world stage, its citizens are once again
free to travel overseas:

"Under Saddam Hussein's 24-year regime and in the war's aftermath, [overseas] ventures were difficult and expensive, if not impossible. So since the interim Iraqi government began issuing new passports this month, countless Iraqis have lined up to get one.

"The new passports look like the old ones, complete with green covers bearing the national emblem. The difference is that Saddam tightly controlled who received a passport and where people could travel, if they could travel at all. So far, Iraq's new government has imposed few restrictions. It already has lifted a ban, based on Islamic law and imposed by Saddam, on women traveling alone.

" 'During the old regime, there were very strict conditions,' said police Maj. Khamis Ibrahim, the deputy manager of one of Baghdad's five passport offices. 'But these days, there are no such restrictions'."
It's the seemingly little things, which we in the West take for granted that make so much difference to those newly liberated.

In the media sector, a recent survey by Oxford Research International shows that 61% of Iraqis had watched the new
TV channel Alhurra in the previous week. Alhurra, Arabic for "The Free One", is a US-funded Arabic-language broadcaster; "[s]ince it launched on February 14, 2004, Alhurra has quickly established itself as an important resource for Iraqis to get their news - 19 percent of those surveyed cited Alhurra as one of their top three sources of information. Of those people who watch Alhurra, 64 percent found the news to be 'very' or 'somewhat' reliable." By extension, this is not meant to be but undoubtedly is, a good news story:

"Aljazeera has expressed outrage after the Iraqi foreign minister attacked its coverage of events in Iraq and said he was considering closing down the channel's Baghdad bureau."
In other entertainment news, Iraqis are captivated by a new music hit, "Bortuqala" (Orange), with its racy (for Iraq) video. "This song is not only a rare Iraqi hit on the Arab music charts, but also the most erotic thing that many here can remember appearing on their TV screens, bringing delight and scandal to a country that is starved of frivolity and fun."

cultural heritage news, "Global Heritage Fund (GHF) and the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities signed a multi-year partnership to jointly develop master conservation plans and training to help conserve Iraq's most endangered and important archaeological and world heritage sites. 'This is a major step toward bringing world-class conservation to Iraq and preventing further loss and destruction,' says Jeff Morgan, executive director of Global Heritage Fund."

In sports news, the Iraqi
soccer comeback continues, after a 3-2 victory over Turkmenistan in the Asian Cup. "Now we are building the new team, the Olympic team," says the new national couch Adnan Hamad. "Hamad's boys no longer answer to Uday Hussein, the psychotic son of the toppled ruler, known to beat the soles of their feet or lock them up for days over slip-ups on the pitch." Which must make it so much easier to enjoy sport. Here's more on the Iraq's phoenix-like soccer team.

Iraqi sport generally is recovering, according to this profile piece in "Time" magazine:

"Last fall, in southern Iraq, a Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) official approached Maurice (Termite) Watkins, 47, at breakfast. Watkins, a professional boxer turned pest-control contractor, had spent the previous six months killing scorpions and camelback spiders around U.S. military bases and reconstruction sites in Iraq. The official, regional coordinator Mike Gfoeller, had heard that Watkins could fight more than mosquitoes. 'What are the odds of you getting an Iraqi boxer qualified for the Olympics?' Gfoeller asked. Termite spoke from the heart. 'About one in a million.'

"Those chances seemed good enough for Gfoeller. Iraq had a new boxing coach, and six months later the country had its Athens-bound fighter - Najah Ali, 24, a flyweight with a computer-science degree from Alrafdean University in Baghdad. Freed from the torturous reign of Iraq's former Olympic CEO, Uday Hussein, and spurred by a trickle of private investment in sports, several other Iraqis will join Ali as unlikely Olympians this summer. For the first time since 1988, Iraq's soccer team has qualified for the Olympics."
And this clincher: "Iraqi women's sports - destroyed under Uday's rule because athletes feared he would rape them - are recovering."

You can also read this story of
Iraqi boxer Najah Ali, who has been training with the US team in Colorado. And just to remind the world of the good old days, the Iraqi Olympic committee has decided to put on display the torture equipment used by Uday on some of their less fortunate predecessors.

Although this should not qualify as a sport, the Baghdadis warm up to the craze of
drag racing by the Tigris river.

Finally, in
animal news, "[t]he last and perhaps the most pampered prisoners of Saddam Hussein's Iraq groggily tasted freedom of sorts yesterday, swapping a gilded-cage existence in one of the former dictator's palaces for Baghdad zoo. Nine lions, the centrepiece of a bizarre menagerie of exotic animals kept by Saddam's son Uday, were tranquillised and moved from the heavily-fortified Green Zone, centre of coalition operations, to a purpose-built enclosure." The enclosure has been funded by the First Cavalry Division.

ECONOMY: As planned, Iraq has opened its
bond market, with the issue of the first post-war debt. 150 billion dinars ($104 million) were raised in three-month treasury bills at 5.5% interest rate. "Demand was healthy," according to the central bank's Chief Economist Mudher Kasim. As another report explains, "Iraq's three-week-old government is selling debt to help pay local banks $3 billion of debt that dates from Saddam's rule and to reduce its reliance on international loans and revenue from oil. The government plans to hold twice-monthly auctions to raise as much as $1.2 billion by year-end. 'It shows the sophistication of the Iraqi banking system,' said Richard Segal, research director at Exotix, a London brokerage for emerging market securities, including Iraqi debt."

Meanwhile, the Iraqi
stock market continues to expand: "The miniature Liberty Bell clanged. Elbows flew. Sweat poured down foreheads. Sales tickets were passed and, with a flick of the wrist, 10,000 shares of the Middle East Bank had more than doubled in value. The frantic pace Sunday of those first 10 minutes of trading typified the enthusiasm behind the Iraq Stock Exchange - a new institution seen as a critical step in building a new Iraqi economy." That's after an already impressive start, when more than 500 million shares were traded on the first day - "more than the Baghdad Stock Exchange ever achieved." At the end of the second session, 560 million shares changed hands and the aggregate share price of companies being traded rose to $2.66m, up from $2.21m at the start - a healthy 20% increase. In fact the Iraqi stock market is proving a success for all involved:
"Emad Shaker Abdul Al-Jabar, 41, had a good day after the cop-cum-broker made three time's his monthly salary by selling off shares bought just one week ago on the revamped Iraq Stock Exchange.

" 'It's simply fantastic. I sold shares worth five million dinars (3,500 dollars) and made a profit of more than two million dinars (1,600 dollars) in just one session. What a great day,' exclaimed Abdul Al-Jabar.

"The bourse, which opened on June 24, enjoyed record trading volumes on its sixth session to date, with more than two billion shares swapping hands. 'The volumes seen Sunday are simply historic,' Taha Ahmed Abdulsalam, chief executive of the exchange, told AFP. 'This is despite the primitive system we have. Imagine what it would be once the electronic trading terminals come,' he said referring to a plan to shift from the old-fashioned paper system to a fully automated trading floor.

"Iraq's stock exchange is a product of more than a year's work by 12 brokerage firms and banks that jointly own it. It has 27 listed companies, with about 100 more due to go public in the next six weeks."
Not surprisingly, Talib Al Tabatabie, chairman of the stock exchange, is optimistic about his country's future: "Iraq is a very rich country potentially... It needs only efforts to redevelop it again and you will have one of the richest countries in the Middle East... Iraq is by all means a futuristic country. ... I have a strong faith that the economy of Iraq will be one of the healthiest, strongest economies in the Middle East and that of course will be reflected in the stock exchange... If I am to be permitted to dream... Iraq will develop into the Japan of (the Middle East), and it wouldn't take a long time." As the Middle Eastern saying goes, from your mouth to God's ears.

As reported earlier, the Iraqi authorities are planning to
lease its state-owned factories for the time being, before the first democratically-elected government tackles privatisation early next year: "Eight factories will be up for bid by next week, said [Industry Minister Hajim] al-Hassani, who spent the last 25 years in the United States, where he earned a doctorate in agriculture and research economics from the University of Connecticut. He later ran an investment management firm in Los Angeles." Some of the factories up for lease include the Al-Zawra'a complex of electronics, electrical and mechanical plants.

To facilitate foreign investment,
Private Sector Development Department was created within the Ministry of Commerce. Also, the newly formed Iraqi Business Council, based in Abu Dhabi, in United Arab Emirates, is working with the Iraqi government to provide advice, information and support for investors who want to assist in reconstruction. The Iraqi Business Council is planning to organize a conference in Baghdad in January next year to showcase to international investors economic opportunities in Iraq. Meanwhile, the first British-Iraqi chamber of commerce has been formed during a procurement conference in Amman, Jordan. The Iraqi-American businesspeople are also contributing to the revival of economic life in their homeland.

To facilitate
trade between Jordan and Iraq, the Jordanian government has considerably eased travel restriction placed on the fleet of 5,000 trucks, which before the war carried much of the trade between the two countries. The restrictions have been put in place in the aftermath of Saddam's toppling.

In the oil sector news, Iraq is planning to extend a
pipeline through Jordan, as part of the effort to increase the oil exports to 5.3 million barrels per day by the end of the year. The Jordanian route will complement Iraq's two main existing pipelines: to Turkey and through Basra to the Persian Gulf. A similar plan for a Jordanian pipeline has been floated during Saddam's reign, but no progress was made then. Now, with increasing economic and political cooperation between Iraq and Jordan, it's no longer a pipe dream, so to speak. Iraq and Syria have also signed an agreement whereby "Syria is to supply kerosene, benzine and liquefied gas in exchange for Iraqi crude." Iraq has also raised the possibility of resuming oil exports via Syria to Lebanon, through a pipeline disused since 1980, when Syria and Iraq broke off their relations over Damascus' support of Iran. Along the other border, officials from Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil ministries will form a committee to discuss oil operations and cooperation between the two countries. And Russia is providing training to Iraqi oil specialists to assist in reviving the country's oil industry.

This, by the way, is the story of
how it all happened for the Iraqi oil industry, against many odds:
"In recent months, Iraq's oil production has grown to more than two million barrels per day. At this rate, current oil output and oil exports now exceed post-invasion predictions. Experts had argued that funding shortages, lack of security, the problems of stabilizing a legitimate government, and technology shortfalls would severely limit Iraq's output. Despite the odds, Iraq's daily output reached a post-invasion record of 2.5 million barrels in March.

"A number of factors enabled Iraq to increase its output. Most significantly, Washington gave Iraq US$2.3 billion (S$3.9 billion) to restore its oil production. After the invasion, no one expected Iraq to get loans, let alone outright grants. Instead, US$2.3 billion was invested directly into its oil sector. To protect the oil fields and other facilities, the Americans dedicated a massive, overwhelming force of soldiers and private contractors. The level of protection was unprecedented even compared to Saddam Hussein's regime.

"On the technical side, the Bush administration hired the world's best oil service companies to revamp Iraq's technologically challenged oil fields. They still have a long way to go, but significant improvements are already evident. Moreover, the war didn't change the quality of Iraqi fields, which are still among the richest in the world and can produce oil with relatively little effort and investment."
In telecommunication news, the 45,000 cell telephone subscribers in southern Iraq will soon be able to talk to other parts of the country, as Atheer Tel, a joint venture between a private Iraqi company and Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co, which provides a cell phone network to 13 cities in southern Iraq, will link up their network with Orascom Telecom Holding of Egypt, which operates in central Iraq, and Asia Cell, which works in northern Iraq.

Iraqi post is also improving, after a U.S. postal team spent six months in the country to help revamp the country's postal system: "Domestic mail that once took weeks to reach its destination is getting there in days, and the time for international deliveries is going from months to weeks."

RECONSTRUCTION: As this "New York Times" story notes, the reconstruction of Iraq is progressing
"one well after another":
"Across the hardscrabble Iraqi countryside, dozens of modest construction initiatives, many so tiny and inexpensive that they could be called microprojects, are generating at least a taste of the good will that Congress envisioned when it approved billions of dollars for grandiose rebuilding plans that have mostly been delayed.

"Typical of the little projects is a hole in the ground that was being dug last week by an ungainly contraption, chugging along with big, spinning wheels and an enormous weight that smacked the muddy earth again and again outside the isolated village of Khazna, south of Mosul."
Sometimes it's low-tech, sometimes it's high tech. The Italian government has announced recently that it will provide Iraq with an Intranet system to link all the government departments. "Iraq was devastated by the former regime... That is why today's agreement on information technology is of vital importance for us to create an infrastructure in the first stage of reconstruction," said Rashad Omar, minister of Science and Technology in the new Iraqi government.

The Iraqi government has earmarked $1 billion in its 2005 budget to help
modernize crumbling Baghdadi utilities. The problems are, of course, older than the Coalition invasion: "Modernization of Baghdad grounded to a halt in 1980 when the country's former dictator Saddam Hussein launched a ruinous war with Iran that continued for 8 years. The city's basic services are in shambles and streets in several low-income quarters are inundated with heavy water." The Coalition and Iraqis aren't just repairing the damage of the last twelve months but of the last 24 years.

Meanwhile, a positive development for the
Kurdish north: "Keidel & Co., an international systems and management advisory practice, and Schottenstein Zox & Dunn (SZD), a Columbus, Ohio-based law firm, have developed the Kirkuk Foundation in order to help create long-term peace and stability in Kirkuk, potentially Iraq's most volatile province. The Kirkuk Foundation is a $100 million nonprofit entity created to identify and build socioeconomic reform."

Egyptian-Iraqi joint stock company has been recently formed with a capital of $10 million to undertake reconstruction operations in the areas of infrastructure, irrigation and electricity.

While foreign countries and businesses provide the capital and expertise, the Iraqi private sector aims to contribute indispensable local knowledge. One such business is
Hire Iraqis, a bilingual job site devoted to linking Iraqi job seekers with companies engaged in the reconstruction of Iraq. Its founder, a 25 year-old Iraqi-American Ahmed Almanaseer tells me that "[t]o date we have registered 500 job seekers and 40 companies, since our website went live in June. What makes HireIraqis.com unique is that we focus exclusively on the Iraqi job market. We have also started an aggressive advertising campaign aimed at registering quality job seekers, and are quickly becoming widely known in Iraq. We presently have an office in Baghdad and have hired 3 Iraqi employees. We plan to expand to Iraq's other major cities soon." The invisible hand moves once again around Iraq to generate beneficial outcomes for everyone involved.

In the reconstructing Iraq,
more opportunities for women, too. Says Rep. Jennifer Dunn, co-chair of the Congressional Iraqi Women's Caucus:
"One particular incident that is still fresh in my mind took place during a visit by a group of remarkable women who are leaders from Iraq. One of the leaders in the group pulled me aside to discuss the need for professional training opportunities for women. At the end of our conversation, desperate to secure U.S. support for Iraqi women, she gave me her wedding ring as a reminder of how important this funding was for the women of her country. I promised to return her ring when the grant to establish a women's center in Mosul was awarded.

"I recently learned that several U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) grants have enabled a new Center for Iraqi Women to open its doors in Mosul. It is now offering counseling on women's health issues, business advice, employment and political training, and social and family services.

"Now that the women's center has become a reality, I am happily returning the wedding ring to this remarkable woman who is ready to stand up to the challenges to make her nation a better place."
Good news for retired government employees too, who recently received rises in their pensions of between 10 and 90%.

HUMANITARIAN EFFORT: Sometimes it's on a grand scale. You might remember the reports in
previous installments of "Good news" about the efforts to restore the marshlands in southern Iraq, which Saddam had drained as punishment for Marsh Arabs' support of the failed uprising in 1991. Now, the United Nations has announced a $11 million project to further progress the restoration of these largest wetlands in the Middle East (according to some, the site of the Garden of Eden) and to provide fresh drinking water for their inhabitants. "Satellite images released by the United Nations in 2001 showed that 90 percent of the original wetlands had been lost and experts feared the entire wetlands could disappear by 2008." Not anymore. You can read all about the restoration of marshlands at Eden Again, and here's more about the quickening pace of restoration.

It's not just the marshlands, as Iraq will follow the American practices in managing Mississippi river to
better take care of its own Tigris. As the Iraqi water resources minister Abdel Latif Rashid said after his recent trip trip to the United States and Europe:
"We have visited the Mississippi in Louisiana to see certain projects along the river, which is the largest in the United States... and has a flow 40 times that of the Tigris, even in the summer... Several of these projects could be useful for us, especially in the area of flood prevention, water transportation, dams and the deterioration of riverbanks."
Individuals and communities in the West continue with their grass-roots efforts to help people of Iraq. There is the wheelchair-bound Victor Renard Powell who has teamed up with Jackson, Mississipi-based National Guard soldiers stationed in Iraq and their families to distribute 8,000 backpacks to Iraqi school children as part of the Open Hearts Mission (more here). There is also this story of a 12-year old Mousa Mousawy, and his surgery at the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian, which will give Mousa a chance to walk again. " 'I would just like to walk around without somebody holding my hands,' Mousa said shortly before going into surgery. Doctors performed a five-hour operation on the boy, cutting tension on his spinal cord that, in recent weeks, had left Mousa unable to walk. 'If we waited another month,' said Dr. Saadi Ghatan, the neurosurgeon who led the operation, 'he would be wheelchair-bound permanently'."

On a far larger scale, the Bahrain office of the US firm Dyncorp has supplied $6 million worth of
medical equipment to Iraq, after being approached by US Army Lieutenant Colonel John Hustleby of the Humanitarian Operations Centre in Kuwait. And Church World Service, a cooperative ministry of 36 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican denominations, is continuing its "All Our Children" campaign to provide vital aid to Iraq's most vulnerable children (you can find out more about the program here).

COALITION FORCES: Sometimes in the war against local terror,
cash is the best weapon. "I have met two guys now who say, 'I don't love you and I don't hate you. But somebody's offered me $200 to set up a mortar or a (roadside bomb), and there's a bonus if we kill you,' " says Lt. Col. Randall Potterf, the civil-affairs officer for the Army's 1st Infantry Division. The American money is now neutralizing some of those opportunistic causal terrorists. But the funds are also going to many other purposes:
"Lt. Col. Jeffrey Sinclair, commander of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment in Tikrit, said he had paid $500 so a driver could get his car repaired, paid 'benevolent' money to the family of a victim of violence, paid people to clean streets, bought soccer uniforms for a team and repaired a swimming pool, among other expenditures. Other officers have given money to ice-cream vendors, chicken farmers and hardware suppliers to get their businesses going."
Sadly, for the Iraq's poorest, the American presence, even without cash hand-outs, is proving to be an unexpected boon: "The Americans have the best garbage. We're very happy with it," says Fadhel Khalaf, as he and other slum dwellers scour for "food, boots, tarps, construction supplies, wooden pallets, jerry cans and other items that military personnel discard in the mistaken impression that they are no longer useful." Let us hope that the new Iraq will generate better opportunities for its most disadvantaged citizens than Saddam's ever did.

Sometimes, the Coalition troops find themselves faced with unusual tasks that require a lot more than precise delivery of fire-power. Take for instance
North Carolina National Guard's 30th Heavy Separate Brigade, stationed in north central Iraq, which has to moderate and adjudicate the land disputes between the Kurds and the Arabs who had previously displaced them.

Other Coalition troops continue with equally
important tasks: "During eleven months of their work in Iraq, the Slovak military engineer unit has manually cleared of land mines area of 73,000 square meters and almost 51,000 square meters using the mine clearing vehicle Bozena. With a special mine-clearing tank T-55C over 225,000 square meters were cleared." Slovakia has about 100 military engineers currently in Iraq. The Japanese contingent similarly has done a lot of good work, supplying 11,400 tons of water, repairing 20 kilometers of roads, providing medical advice at four local hospitals, and repairing eight local school. There are 550 Japanese troops stationed around the city of Samawah since January this year. Their work is certainly appreciated by the local Iraqi religious leaders.

In addition to their security work and official reconstruction assistance to Iraqi people, Coalition troops continue with their private humanitarian efforts. These are people like
Sgt. Gabe Medina, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who heads Operation Pencil Box near Tikrit, distributing school supplies to Iraqi children. More about the troops and their work to help ordinary Iraqis on the website of Spirit of America, and here you can find a profile of Jim Hake Jr., technology and media industry businessman who founded this great charity, which is helping American soldiers to make a difference in Iraqi lives.

And lastly, this unlikely
celebrity good news story:
"Denzel Washington has launched a one-man campaign to celebrate American troops returning home from the conflict in Iraq. The movie star fears not enough is being done to welcome soldiers - who have risked their lives - back home, and insists Americans should show young men and women how proud they are of them."
SECURITY SITUATION: Still dangerous, but improving. Freedom and democracy unfortunately have many enemies, and the new Iraqi authorities don't mince their words, either; as Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari commented recently, "I think what is happening regarding Iraq's relations with its neighbours has other dimensions as some these countries may want to fight America in our country, but we end up paying the price." In an ideal world, Iraq could expect better from its neighbors; to paraphrase the first rule of medicine, at least do no harm.

Security is increasingly
in the hands of the Iraqis: "The legions of American soldiers who not so long ago erected checkpoints and roared across the capital, guns pointed out of their Humvees, have diminished. In their place, Iraqi officers are manning checkpoints and swooping down on suspected criminal gangs. Led by their American counterparts, Iraqi soldiers are combing through palm groves in search of weapons caches. One vanguard unit of the new Iraqi Army, known as the Iraqi Intervention Force, is allowed to patrol the streets without Americans."

Speaking of the Iraqi Intervention Force, you can read more about them
in this profile. The Force is expected to eventually number 6,500 troops ready to suppress insurgency in urban areas:
"Certainly, this looks more like a real Iraqi army than three previous efforts by the U.S.-led coalition that I visited over the past year. The officers have decades of experience in the old Iraqi army; many of them seem to be good leaders who try to inspire their men, rather than browbeat them. And it helps, too, that since June 28, the army has been part of a sovereign Iraqi government. The Iraqi officers can now describe [Lt. Gen. David] Petraeus and the other Americans as advisers, rather than occupiers.

"Lt. Col. Ali Malekey has just arrived at the Intervention Force's training camp at Taji, just north of Baghdad. He's an enthusiastic soldier who rattles off U.S.-style statistics on his battalion's readiness: ambush preparation, 60 percent ready; convoy protection, 70 percent ready.

"Malekey's most encouraging news is that many of his ex-officer friends are now asking how they can get into the new army."
Read also the story of Iraqi Second Battalion, which patrols Doura, one of Baghdad's rougher neighborhoods: "In the past people on the streets did not greet us. Now we get a good reaction. They welcome us. Maybe they are proud of us," says Maj. Mehdi Aziz. More here about the US Army efforts to build the new Iraqi army from scratch.

It's also the American civilians who are providing security training to new Iraqi authorities; there are now several hundred American policemen sharing their expertise with their Iraqi counterparts; men like
Chris Hurley of Shawnee, Oklahoma, a tribal police officer and a reserve sheriff's deputy who will teach Iraqi cops more about investigating crime. The Iraqi policemen, meanwhile, continue with their jobs despite all the dangers.

As always, you can read more about Iraqi security operations at the excellent
Iraq the Model blog.

The new Iraqi authorities are now also able to freely buy equipment for their armed forces, as both the US and the European Union
lift their long-standing arms embargo against Iraq. And the new Iraqi air force is expected to take delivery of its first two aircraft, Seabird Seeker made by a joint Jordanian-Australian venture, which will start surveillance over Iraq's oil fields.

Last, but
not least, "Iraq has asked the UN nuclear watchdog agency to send inspectors to conduct an inventory of the country's nuclear material, and the agency's head says UN arms experts should also return to finish their job."

Finish the job - this indeed seems to be the key phrase. Iraq, which a few decades ago had so much promise for a decent future, stagnated under Saddam. All the unfulfilled hopes of Iraqi people hibernated under the Baath Party rule; now with the tyrant removed it's time to finish the job. The Coalition forces and friendly governments are still there to help, but with sovereignty now transferred, the work of building a normal country belongs increasingly to the Iraqi people.


60 years ago today 

An anniversary close to my heart:

"In a gesture of humility, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder bowed on the steps of a memorial to the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi occupation and expressed shame Sunday for the 'immeasurable suffering' inflicted by Germans when they crushed the revolt 60 years ago."
The Warsaw Uprising certainly puts any current military adventures and misadventures in perspective: in two months of bitter fighting some 15,000 Polish underground soldiers were killed, as were 200-250,000 civilians (a total close to the number of Americans killed in action during the whole of the Second World War). Somewhere between 80 and 90% of buildings on Warsaw's west bank were destroyed either during fighting or afterwards as a result of Hitler's deliberate policy to wipe Warsaw off the map. 700,000 inhabitants still left alive after the uprising were expelled from the city by the Germans.

German Army suffered 16,000 dead. Not just the Wehrmacht and SS but also units composed of Red Army anti-Soviet POWs and German criminals were used to put down the uprising. The Germans were so taken back by the ferocity of resistance and the courage of Polish underground troops that they awarded all the captured fighters the status of Prisoners of War (in contrast to the usual practice of killing partisans on sight).

It was the largest and bloodiest underground action against the Nazi occupiers anywhere in Europe during the war. It was made longer and bloodier by the inaction of the Soviet troops, which stopped on the left bank of Vistula River and waited for the Germans to do the dirty work of crushing the independence-minded Polish underground.

You can find out more about the Warsaw Uprising
here and lot more here.

Lest we forget.


Sunday, August 01, 2004


Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit is celebrating his best month of blogging so far, having attracted 4,300,000 page views over July. Roger Simon, who managed over 550,000 in the same period, remembers what his grandmother told him: "Don't compare yourself to the other kids." Meanwhile, yours truly scored almost 100,000. Definitely a case for not comparing myself to the other kids.

While you're here you might want to check out the reorganised blogroll. I've added some new blogs too, but there will be a lot more coming over the next few days, including hopefully most of the fellow bloggers who have supported me in the recent past and aren't up there already.


The Democrats' "make love, not jobs" problem 

I generally don't mind when the less fortunate among us complain about the inequities and inequalities of the world - I can understand how some people feel that life is unfair because they have so little while others (the few) have so much - even if this sentiment is illogical and unproductive (it's always better to try to lift oneself up rather than complain, even if unfortunately this isn't the most common response to misfortune; as Bono of U2 has once explained the difference between an American and an Irishman: the American walks by a mansion on the hill and thinks "One day I'm gonna be like him"; the Irishman walks by a mansion on the hill and thinks "One day I'm gonna get that bastard"). Personally, maybe because I grew up under communism (or maybe despite of that, seeing how much effort the Reds have put into creating the classless yet envious homo sovieticus) I don't begrudge people wealth, even if they don't know how to spend it - in the end it all trickles down; even a million dollar diamond ring means a lot of jobs and disposable income for people down the line.

I'm more confounded when it's the rich who complain about the inequalities of society. Take the
"Two Americas" talk by John Edwards, the multi-millionaire trial lawyer. We know which of the two Americas he belongs to together with his running mate, who of his own and through marriage, is one of the richest people in American politics today.

I don't know whether Edwards and Kerry and many others like them are genuinely compassionate people with well developed social conscience, or whether they are just opportunistic populists - the Wall Street talking like the Main Street to win the votes of the Struggle Street. All I know is that instead of redistributing their own considerable fortunes among the poor, John-Johns of this world are more keen to get the government to redistribute everyone else's wealth. I don't deny the logic of this approach: after all, give away your wealth and all your local hobos will be able to buy themselves a hamburger and a coffee, but give away everyone's wealth too and you just might be able to affect a systemic change in income distribution. At least that's the theory.

So it might be logical, but it doesn't make it any less short-sighted. This has been the left's problem all along: the focus on redistribution rather than production of wealth. Both Kerry and Edwards, in addition to being professional politicians, are also lawyers. These are the two main professions which not only themselves don't produce, but at best merely redistribute, and at worst actually subtract from the nation's net wealth (with a caveat that politicians, generally those on the right, can and often do work towards liberalisation and deregulation, which in turn allows citizens to produce more wealth).

Some time ago I had
this to say on the issue:

"Tired of all that 'chicken-hawk' thing? You know how it goes - George W Bush spent his time in National Guard playing cards with his mates, while John Kerry bled in Vietnam, ergo Bush doesn't have any credibility on defense issues, and only Kerry's got the moral right to send our boys and girls in uniform to risk their lives overseas. Repeat the exercise inserting the names of your other favourite bellicose right-wingers who have never heard a shot fired in anger. Then repeat some more.

Makes for nice politicking, but shouldn't the left at least try to be consistent? How about this radical idea: only people who have contributed to economy in productive ways (creating jobs, growing businesses, making inventions, etc.) have the right to credibly speak up on economic matters. As for the others, people who 'made love, not jobs' - let's call them (to borrow from the stock-market jargon) the 'bear-bulls'."
I wasn't serious then - merely making a point about the quality of logic used by the left - in real life, of course, one doesn't need to have been a business leader before entering politics in order to be able to cut taxes while in the Senate or the House of Reps. In fact, many on the right have the pro-growth instincts without having necessarily had much pro-growth experience in "real life."

Not so on the left, alas. And now it's official: the 2004 Democratic presidential ticket is composed of two arch bear-bulls. Yes, John Kerry did serve in Vietnam, as he never tires to telling us, but has he served in America? I'm tired of
"I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty" - how about: I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for a job? Stop saluting and punch a card instead.


Around the world in 20 blogs 

From the Great Southern Land, but currently still drinking somewhere in the US of A, Tim Blair on John Kerry's post-convention mini-bounce: "if John Kerry is the guy America turns to for 'help', what are America's problems? Can't tie a reef knot? Bicycle keeps falling over? Wife nuts?" Powerline has more on the mini-bounce and some thoughts on the upcoming Republican convention.

Azazel at
Boils My Blood has ideas on how to fix Australian intelligence failures.

Toni Colette: "I think I'll slit my wrists if [Prime Minister] Howard gets in again."
Slatts: "Razor's in the mail, honey."

Only the humanities departments indoctrinate uni students? Wrong. Check out the leftie encroachment at the University of Queensland physics department, via

And the new Australian blogger,
The Currency Lad is watching the Democratic convention from the safety of his armchair on the other side of the world: "Mary Joe Kopechne would not have feared another four years - during any Administration."

In America,
Dean Esmay writes on "The Price Of Calling The President A Rogue And A Liar In Wartime."

Instapundit has a say on dumb anti-sex toy laws. But Clayton Cramer adds, dumb doesn't mean unconstitutional.

David Adesnik at
OxBlog asks - and answers - whether bloggers made a difference at the Democratic convention.

IowaHawk: "A marathon negotiation session between Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards and Illinois US Senate candidate Barack Obama has ironed out their heated public disagreement on the exact number of Americas. 'It turns out we were both wrong,' said a beaming Obama, who had as recently as Tuesday claimed that there was one America. 'It turns out there are seven Americas -- rich America, poor America, united-with-one-voice America, Air America, South America, Mall of America, and Six Flags Over America'."

It had to happen:
Marty Dee on why the Iraqi chicken crossed the road.

From Canada,
Damian Penny writes on the clash of egos: Moore vs O'Reilly. During the said clash, Moore asked O'Reilly: "So you would sacrifice your child to secure Fallujah?" A Small Victory has got the answer that O'Reilly should have given.

Your one and only source of news and views from the West Indies,
Carib Pundit is moving to a new location.

In the occupied Europe,
Barcepundit says that Spain's appeasement has many consequences, including diplomatic ones.

In the Middle East,
Israellycool samples "the drink jihadists choose" - Mecca Cola.

Iraq the Model writes on suicide bombings in Iraq and the reactions around the Arab world.

And Zayed at
Healing Iraq is alive and well and back at his keyboard with a list of suggested new Iraqi blog reading.

As always, don't forget the
Homespun Bloggers, the alliance of the non-professionals, for non-professionals, striving to bring you the best of their non-professional views and insights - for free.


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