Saturday, July 24, 2004

Compulsory jihad 

How low can you go? Very low, apparently:

"It is one of the most frightening forms of violence in Iraq today — dozens of human bombers willing to die for their cause. But Brig. Gen. John Custer, the director of intelligence for Central Command, told ABC News he believes many of the bombers are forced to carry out the attacks.

"Custer said there was evidence some bombers were physically chained inside the vehicles used in the attacks.

" 'What we've found in a number of places are hands chained to a steering wheel,' he said. 'Up in Irbil, we found a foot roped into the car, unable to escape. Their children were kidnapped and held — they were forced. We've seen faces blown off and been able to identify the perpetrator'."
I recall vaguely in the aftermath of S11 some voices in the commentariat saying that the terrorist attacks were horrible, but (there is always "but") one had to in a sense admire the courage of the hijackers who were so committed to their cause that they so willingly sacrificed their lives to further it*. Aside of the big "so what?" (there are always enough people willing to lay down their - and other people's - lives for a cause, however crazy or wicked. It says very little of the nature of the cause or the essential character of the perpetrator), then surfaced evidence that some of the September 11 Nineteen might not have been aware they were in for a suicide mission. And now this milestone in the terrorist struggle: forcibly sacrificing somebody else's life for your cause.

It's tragic, but it also indicates that the jihadis might be finding it harder and harder to find willing recruits to blow themselves up and take some infidels with them. And in contrast with the sense of pride and joy that seems to pervade many Palestinian families after the martyrdom of one of their own, you can imagine the feelings of these Iraqi families towards the terrorists, after daddy or brother is handcuffed to the steering wheel and sent off to die. What a perfect way to lose those proverbial hearts and minds of the locals. 

* For example this famous quote from
Susan Sontag (of course): "And if the word 'cowardly' is to be used [to describe the attack or the hijackers], it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday's slaughter, they were not cowards."


Keeping you abreast of the issues 

Preempting another one of those grass-roots thank-you initiatives for our troops ("Jugs for G.I.s"?), the American government is already doing its bit:

"The New Yorker magazine reports in its July 26th edition that members of all four branches of the U.S. military can get face-lifts, breast enlargements, liposuction and nose jobs for free -- something the military says helps surgeons practice their skills.

" 'Anyone wearing a uniform is eligible,' Dr. Bob Lyons, chief of plastic surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio told the magazine, which said soldiers needed the approval of their commanding officers to get the time off.

"Between 2000 and 2003, military doctors performed 496 breast enlargements and 1,361 liposuction surgeries on soldiers and their dependents, the magazine said."
I'm sure this will cheer up all of you single conservative hawks out there on the lookout for the ladies of your dreams: face-lifted, slimmed-down ex-servicewomen with big breasts.


Friday, July 23, 2004

Less is Moore 

Andrew Bolt went to see "Fahrenheit 9/11". And he's not happy:

"[W]hat shocked me even more than Moore's hymn of hatred of America and its president was the reaction to it of the small audience at the preview I saw at the Crown multiplex.

"Many there clapped when the dis-credits finally rolled. True, this wasn't the bellowing, stamping, weeping ovation that a poisonously anti-American crowd at the Cannes Film Festival gave Moore before a jury of Leftists and nihilists handed him the Palme d'Or.

"Still, it was enough to worry anyone who prizes truth and civilisation, and I looked at the people around me, and wondered: are they so cretinous or so easily misled that they do not know that Moore lies? Or are they, like many of the Left, so immoral or frivolous as to not care that he lies, as long as his lies are sweet?"
There's plenty more, so check out the whole piece.


The other case for war 

Whenever media trumpets the supposed knocking down of yet another one of the "pillars" of George W Bush's case for going to war (be it the existence of the Weapons of Mass Destruction, ties with terrorists, and so on), I recline in my chair and think back, as I sometimes do, to the time of the Cold War. On this occasion I imagine the struggle between the Free World and communism through the prism of our recent controversies. Was the fact that the Soviets were in possession of a vast arsenal of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons a reason enough to fight them? Yes, to some extent, but also no, because their very possession of these WMD made the prospect of any direct clash suicidal for humanity. Also no, to the extent that the WMDs in the hands of a totalitarian superpower were just one of very many unpleasant aspects of the situation.

What about the Soviet connection with international terrorism? There is no doubt that the Soviet Union and their satellites and proxies maintained varied degrees of contact and cooperation with terrorist groups ranging from the Red Brigades to the PLO. But Kremlin was never the heart nor the brain of anti-Western terrorism, merely an occasional opportunistic participant.

What then of the Soviets and their uneasy relationship with the international law and the United Nations? Communists were quite notorious for breaking treaties they found inconvenient and ignoring the world community where it didn't suit them. But in many ways these were just technicalities, bad in themselves, that's true, but worse for being symptoms of what the communism stood for and how it operated.

In the end, to the extent that war and morality sit uncomfortably with each other, the most important case for facing up to the international communism was a moral one: they were the "evil empire", however Manichean and simplistic that might sound, and we, while not perfect, were better. Thus ultimately the case against totalitarian regimes comes down to a rather simple observation that the world is a better and safer place without them. Yes, the costs always have to be taken into consideration, but no one today argues that fighting Nazis wasn't worth it, and no one should argue likewise in regards to communists. In both cases, the alternatives were far worse and in the end far costlier.

Saddam might or might not have had a WMD arsenal or intentions of acquiring one; he might or might not have had ties with al Qaeda or other terrorist groups; he was clearly in breach of many UN resolutions - of that there was no doubt; the only discussion revolved around the consequences of that fact. But either way, he had to go because of what he has done in the past to his own people and to his own neighbors, and of the possibility of what he might still do in the future.

The Middle East without Hussein - the world without Hussein - are better places; for the Iraqis, for the Kuwaities and Iranians, for us in the West. Everything else (no more WMD programmes, no more contacts with terrorists, no more giving the finger to the international community) is merely a bonus. The media, with their limited attention span, for better or for worse (usually the latter) focuses on the micro; politicians occasionally reach the macro level; only statesmen consistently see the big picture. Thank God for the statesmen.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

You've got the right to remain silent 

When preciousness is in the air, things often happen in twos. And so, only a few days apart, we are privileged to witness courageous defences of freedom of speech by an aging British pop star, and a prematurely aging American comedian, the latter in support of a definitely aged songstress has-been.

First off,
Elton John comes out (no pun intended) swinging against the oppressive political climate that is chilling artistic expression in the United States:

"Sir Elton John has hit out at the 'bullying tactics' used by the US government to stop artistic dissent. The multi-millionaire singer said entertainers who criticised the Bush administration or its policy on the Iraq war risked damage to their careers. 'There's an atmosphere of fear in America right now that is deadly,' he said.

" 'Everyone is too career-conscious. They're all too scared... Things have changed. I don't know if there's been a time when the fear factor played such an important role in America since McCarthyism in the 1950s, as it does now'."
Then Michael Moore comes out in support of Linda Ronstadt after her premature exit from a Las Vegas stage:

"What country do you live in? Last time I checked, Las Vegas is still in the United States. And in the United States, we have something called "The First Amendment." This constitutional right gives everyone here the right to say whatever they want to say. All Americans hold this right as sacred. Many of our young people put on a uniform and risk their lives to defend it. My film is all about asking the questions that should have been asked before those brave soldiers were sent into harms way."
That is, after all, why we pay our entertainers for - their valuable political commentary and insightful constitutional law opinions. As everyone has by now noted, contrary to Messrs John and Moore, the First Amendment guarantees freedom of expression free from government interference, not the audience preferences. And contrary to Mr (Sir) Elton, the US government hasn't been doing anything to stop artistic dissent, unless John thinks that Fred from Louisville, Kentucky, who's called his local radio station to ask that Dixie Chicks be pulled from the playing list was really George W talking in a really really low voice from a public phone next to the White House.

It's of course preposterous to say that artistic dissent is being crushed in the United States at the same time as "Fahrenheit 9/11" is breaking box office records and the Hollywood's A-list roll out red carpet for John Kerry. Yes, there are many people in America who hate Moore, the Chicks, and Whoopi Goldberg, who aren't buying their products and are trying to persuade others to do likewise. This isn't censorship; it's free market.

But that's not good enough for John and Moore - in the world of our artistic betters, there are the few enlightened ones (the artists) and there are the masses (us); John and Moore and Co have the freedom to speak, we have the obligation to listen. This is the MTV Constitutional Theory 101.

In the real world, however, there are no prematurely ended careers so far, no blacklists, no gulags for the Billboard dissidents. There's only criticism, but the people who so often dish it out to others don't feel like taking it themselves. For our enlightened stars freedom is a one way street.

But of course it ain't work like that. Art is art and politics is politics. Politicians who take certain positions face the judgment of the electorate; journalists and commentators are also accountable to their audiences. Both groups know they have the freedom to say whatever they want; both groups also (largely) understand that they have to take the consequences. Why the hell shouldn't entertainers when they stray into the world of politics? Call it democracy, call it liberty, call it free market, but unless you want to clearly demonstrate your stupidity and pretentiousness, don't call it stifling dissent and wrecking the Constitution.

The artists are of course so happy to defend freedom of speech because they are so reluctant to defend anything else. It's self-serving (imagine if our soldiers chose only to defend the right to bear arms), it's deceptive (you can think yourself a hero because you're taking on the mighty oppressive government, whereas in reality you're only taking on some poor schmucks from Iowa), it's easy (because you can pretend that freedom of speech floats somewhere in aether, unanchored in time and space, instead of being a product of institutions and processes that you otherwise despise), it's also convenient (while blame poor record sales on yourself making shit music when you can blame "political backlash" instead?). Last but not least, it's also cathartic; success brings money, money brings guilt, so to reassure themselves that it's not all about just the simple materialistic pursuit, a few well chosen political crusades will turn every drug-taking, alcoholic, obscenely extravagant bore into a prophet, a martyr and a poet - it will demonstrate to the wide world that they are, after all, better than crude businessmen, better than the rest of us. Which means we can expect a lot more Sir Eltons and Michael Moores jumping on their high horses in the future.


The weaker sex 

So much for the gentle sex:

"While African women in Darfur were being raped by the Janjaweed militiamen, Arab women stood nearby and sang for joy, according to an Amnesty International report published yesterday. The songs of the Hakama, or the 'Janjaweed women' as the refugees call them, encouraged the atrocities committed by the militiamen.

"The women singers stirred up racial hatred against black civilians during attacks on villages in Darfur and celebrated the humiliation of their enemies, the human rights group said."
Women might be as a general rule more peace-loving, caring and nurturing then men, but obviously not always. Women are also supposed to feel more empathy for their fellow women - for example not encourage their men to rape other women - again, obviously not always. Sadly, nothing illustrates the nature of the conflict in Darfur and the demons unleashed there than this story.


The WASP America: now only WAS 

The United States passes an interesting cultural milestone sometime this year:

"The United States will lose its historic status as a majority-Protestant nation as early as this year, according to a national survey released yesterday.

"Between 1993 and 2002, the proportion of Americans who said they were Protestants fell from 63 percent to 52 percent after decades of stability, according to the study released by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago."
This is not to say that America is necessarily becoming less religious overall; while the study in question has found that "the number of Americans who said they had no religion rose from 9 percent in 1993 to 14 percent in 2002," another study, by Gallup, had found this number steady at 9%.

It's up to you my dear readers, particularly the American ones, to tell me what the implications will be. Less support for the right? Less interventionist foreign policy? Or, if the Protestantism is only bleeding from the established, liberal denominations, will there really be any noticeable change at all?

(By the way, contrary to the title of this post, I am aware that the US is, or is to become over the next few decades, neither majority W nor AS, which leaves WASP dwindling into nothing.)


Hard as jellyfish 

From the medical file:

"A rare type of irukandji jellyfish could be a natural aphrodisiac for men. Researchers have found that aside from the dangerous and unpleasant effects of a sting, an elusive species of the jellyfish can cause a prolonged erection."
I'm sure everyone can see the irony of something so squishy, flaccid and... well, jelly-like, being used to treat erectile dysfunction.

Queensland's very own James Cook University PhD student Lisa-ann Gershwin told the media that "men who had been stung had experienced prolonged erections, of how long she was unsure, as a symptom of irukandji syndrome." Or at least that was the excuse ("Honey, I wasn't looking at that blond in a string bikini; I got stung by a jellyfish"). And
Sandy Berger must be glad that he only stuffed classified documents, and not an irukandji jellyfish, down his pants.


The wall, again 

From the "Daily Telegraph":

"Lethal fatuity characterises the United Nations' treatment of Sudan and Israel. To what its own officials have termed the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world, in the Sudanese western region of Darfur, the UN Commission on Human Rights responded in April by passing a weakly worded decision calling for the ceasefire to be respected and access granted to humanitarian organisations.

"Even now, when the onset of the rainy season threatens the refugees with famine, the Security Council has still to vote on an American draft resolution. That would impose sanctions only on the leaders of the Janjaweed militias terrorising the Darfuris, not on the Islamist government in Khartoum which has recruited, armed and provided operational support to those militias.

"While fiddling as people die in Sudan, the world body has overwhelmingly condemned Israel for taking a step which has drastically cut the number of deaths from Palestinian suicide bombings. On Tuesday, by 150 votes to six, with 10 abstentions, the General Assembly approved a resolution ordering the Israeli government to dismantle the barrier on the West Bank.

"Following the assassinations of Sheikh Ahmed Hassin, the leader of Hamas, and Abd al-Aziz Rantisi, his successor, the Palestinians threatened 'rivers of blood'. In fact, terrorist attacks inside Israel proper dropped by more than 80 per cent in the first six months of 2004, compared with the same period last year. The barrier is undoubtedly proving effective in protecting the population, the prime duty of any government."
Australia, of course, is now one of the international "pariahs" who voted against this UN resolution.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Tony Blair puppet, dressed as a hooker, is picked up on the Sunset Boulevard by a driver representing George Bush. Bush roughly drags Blair into the car and into a motel (signing himself, predictably, as Mr Smith), and in the motel room proceeds to unzip himself in front of Blair, who then engages in oral sex with the President. The clip, reaching its climax, so to speak, has Bush "ejaculating" all over Blair's face with crude oil from a gas pump nozzle.


A little milestone 

Or rather a quarter of a milestone. Just noticed that today the blog has passed the 250,000 visits mark since I started on 31 March this year. A quarter of a million sounds much better though. As always, big thanks to all those who came by (and keep coming back) and who support and publicise "Chrenkoff." Without you, the extended, international Chrenk family, none of this would be possible. 


Big Latham is watching you 

A disappointing day for Australian reality TV:

"Opposition Leader Mark Latham yesterday revealed he had knocked back the chance to star in the reality television show Big Brother as an intruder."
The report, however, notes the irony:

"[Latham]who a fortnight ago had pleaded for the media to respect his privacy, relished the chance to do some snooping during the hour he spent touring the compound at Dreamworld on the Gold Coast.

"At one stage, Mr Latham stood enthralled for minutes on the outside of the one-way mirrors that ring the house, staring at the housemates having lunch – his nose pressed to the glass just centimetres from former Sydney Swans footballer Ryan and the last remaining female in the house, Bree.

"The self-confessed reality television junkie, who sets aside one hour each week in his busy schedule to watch such shows, also showed a particular interest in learning more about the in-house habits of his favourite housemate Miriam, a Mexican pre-operative transvestite who spent four days there last month as an intruder."
Ironically, Miriam, the Latino trannie, obviously had more balls than Latham.


The man behind the blog 

For those of you who like to find out the story behind a name you see a lot in the cyberspace, a nice profile of James Taranto, the man behind the Wall Street Journal's "Opinion Journal" and the daily "Best of the Web" column - who also happens to be one of the early supporters of this blog.


Pantsgate strikes Washington 

OK, all the respectable and respected bloggers have by now managed to almost blog to death the whole Sandy Berger security-documents-down-my-pants scandal. If you want to read some serious commentary on the issues involved,  go to Instapundit and just keep scrolling.

I only have those simple thoughts
1) The Democrats' tendency to use pants scandals to distract the public from other, more substantive controversies surrounding the President is now for the first time benefiting a Republican incumbent. It must also be quite refreshing for the Clinton era operatives to be finally caught with their pants up as far as terrorism is concerned - albeit the results are just the same.

2) How many opportunities to take out Osama bin Laden during the 1990s were lost because some Clinton national security officials continue to this day to walk around unawares with the relevant intelligence information still stuffed somewhere down their pants?

3) Is Berger's current behaviour symptomatic of how the Clinton White House was run? One can almost imagine this conversation taking place sometime in the late 1990s:

The intern: Mr President, what are you doing with your pants?

POTUS: Hi there Monica! Would you like me to show you some secret intelligence reports?

The intern: Oh Mr President, what about your wife?

POTUS: I'm afraid she doesn't have high enough security clearance for that.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The iron resolve of the Iron Mark 

A somewhat misleading opening paragraph:

"A Labor government would not change its policy on troops in Iraq even if Australians were under threat from terrorists, Opposition Leader Mark Latham said."
Seeing that Labor is still committed to withdrawing troops from Iraq by Christmas, "Iron Mark" Latham must be saying that not even terrorist threats will break his determination to surrender.

No, that can't be right. And Australians already are under threat from terrorists anyway.

What Latham, and the journo, actually mean is only apparent further down the piece: "Mr Latham said a Labor government would not have taken the same approach as the Philippines."

That's probably right; the government of Philippines supported the war in Iraq and only withdrew their troops when threatened by terrorists. Latham, by contrast opposed the war but will make the troops stay. Kind of.

It's of course possible, but somewhat unlikely, that terrorists would want to kidnap Australians to blackmail the government ,if Latham ever becomes Australia's Prime Minister. That would be kind of pointless if he's withdrawing troops anyway. Thank God no one will kidnap Australian and demand that the Aussie troops stay in Iraq. That would surely confuse the hell out of the steadfast Latham.


The Great Decade Debate 

A few days ago I wrote that the 1990s were the decade of nothing.
Dean Esmay violently disagrees:

"The '90s sucked? What are you guys smoking? I can't think of a decade that was more fun and interesting than the 1990s in America!"
That might have been the case, which is why it didn't last too long - fun times, after all, tend not to - but it were the foundations of the 1980s, which allowed the following decade to be so "fun" and so "interesting." As a child - and defender - of the '80s in this debate, I can only quote Ronald Reagan (from memory), who once reminisced about his meetings with members of new generation who were generally quite proud of their technological savvy and dismissive of the backward and unfashionable "oldies". To which Ronnie had this to say: My generation invented computers.

While you're at it, also check out the contributions by Sgt Sryker to the Great Decade Debate.


Heads I win, tails you lose 

Two interesting links for today. Mahmood of Mahmood's Den has a long post on the current condition of the Arab world:

"We have been conditioned over the centuries to worship not Allah in all his magnificence and glory, but those sorry excuse for humanity who's claims to fame are a strong arm and the readiness with which they ladle cruelty to their people."
(via Iraq the Model)

And Powerline Blog dissects some of the contradictions at the heart of "Imperial Hubris" by Anonymous, the intelligence insider critical of the conduct of the war on terror:

"We're losing the war on terrorism because our militaristic response enables bin Laden to rally followers against us and causes Europeans to back away. We're losing the war on terrorism because we have 'lived up to our reputation of being unwilling to be a ruthless military power'."
Heads I win, tails you lose - hasn't that been the approach by many in the media to the Bush presidency, the war on terror and war in Iraq all along?


Iraq-Vietnam-Bosnia: the readers have their say 

I've been reading comments from the readers of the "Good news from Iraq" article in the "Opinion Journal" (I know, I know, it's a bit sad, but in the blogging game most of the time a kind word is the only reward we get), and I thought I would share with you two interesting comments. The first one from Joseph Revell of Pensacola, Florida:

"If we had had a few factual-news disseminators like Arthur Chrenkoff during the Vietnam War years, real news sources to counter the drumbeat of distortion and despair from the triad of establishment press, the leftist politicians, and the irrational leftist antiwar protesters, we would have had an entirely different outcome in Southeast Asia.

"For those of us fighting that war (I was a Marine Corps infantry officer with two tours there), knowing that we were winning in the boots-on-the-ground realm, to watch and hear the likes of Walter Cronkite and John Kerry tearing down our blood-bought victories was an experience that still brings a disbelieving, sour memory of betrayal. After the 1968 North Vietnamese Tet Offensive, a smashing defeat of the NVA and Viet Cong, 'the most trusted voice in America' Mr. Cronkite, took it upon himself to declare the exact opposite outcome. And his fellow-travelers in the media and America-haters throughout our land were quick to pile on."
And the other one from Joy Loth of Houston, Texas:

"I watched the House Arms Services Committee this morning questioning generals and foreign ambassadors about Bosnia where it was remarked that Kosovo is still a dangerous area which needs constant attention. I wondered why our forces being there still after eight years is never mentioned by the media while we are led to believe that Iraq is a hopeless venture, one where bloodshed receives daily negative coverage. Is it more important for Bosnian's to experience freedom than Iraqis? Why are President Bush and members of his administration considered traitors when the promise of Iraq's future seems more hopeful than that of the former Iron Curtain countries?"
To both perspectives - indeed.


Monday, July 19, 2004

Plugging myself 

Who can resist a small plug for oneself? While below you'll find in full the latest, sixth, installment in the "Good news from Iraq" series, it's now also available from the Wall Street Journal's "Opinion Journal." As always, thanks to everyone for your visits, links, support and publicity for the good news.


Good news from Iraq, Part 6 

By the way: As you might be aware, this article also appears in Wall Street Journal's "Opinion Journal". A big thanks to James Taranto for support.
Another fortnight in Iraq, another fortnight's worth of news about terrorism, hostages, military and civilian casualties, faulty intelligence in the run-up to war, and the problems of reconstruction, as our mainstream media continues to focus overwhelmingly on bad news from the Mesopotamian quagmire. And yet, some still think that the latest coverage is actually too positive - as in this Reuters story: "Some U.S. news outlets are treating the 'transfer of power' to Iraqis as a new beginning for the country, even though the situation on the ground seems little altered, experts said." I guess some "experts" will remain "little altered" regardless of the actual situation on the ground.

And yet, there is good news coming out of Iraq, as this compilation of all the positive developments that you might have otherwise missed clearly demonstrates. I started looking out for good news from Iraq over two months ago, having gotten fed up with the unrelenting barrage of negative news coverage, which focused almost exclusively on violence, failure and dashed hopes. The good news is much underreported and not always easy to find, but clearly it's out there, and taken together with the usual Iraq coverage, it paints a much more balanced and, dare I say it, nuanced picture of a country, which is still waking up from a three decades' long nightmare and trying against many odds to become normal.

In many ways, it now falls to the political blogs to do the work one would expect from the mainstream media - to provide a fair and balanced picture of situation in Iraq. It's the blogs that dig up the information, disseminate it, and bring to everyone's attention the more outrageous examples of media bias or carelessness with facts. As
John Leo wrote recently, "[w]hat's new about the press is that so many people who follow it with a critical eye now have an outlet to howl about inaccuracy and partisanship. The big media used to be able to shrug off critics like this. Now they can't." Amen. 

For the previous parts of "Good news from Iraq" see the top of the side-bar, but here's the latest good news:

IRAQI SOCIETY: A mixed, but generally encouraging picture emerges out of the
latest poll of Iraqis conducted the Iraqi Center for Strategic Research and Studies in seven major cities following the transfer of sovereignty:

"Iraqi public has little faith in the new interim government of Ayad Allawi, with only 27 percent approving the formation of his cabinet. However, more than two thirds (81 percent) said they would like Allawi's government to disarm local militias or bring them under its control... [M]ore than half believed that the forthcoming general elections would be 'just and fair' while only 18 percent said they would be 'unfair'...

"66 percent of Iraqis objected to the presence of foreign troops while only 29 percent said their presence was necessary. An even lesser number - 41 percent - said they would feel safe if the troops left...

"Regarding electricity, 64 percent agreed to a question that power supplies were worse than under the ousted leader Saddam Hussein. But 58 percent said the overall economic situation was better than before...

"The poll... reinforces results from earlier surveys that Iraqis dislike any system of government that is based on religious, sectarian or ethnic grounds."

Which is surely encouraging for the future. Not to mention rather under-reported.

After the transfer of sovereignty, Iraq re-enters the world stage: "Iraq is preparing to name ambassadors to 43 countries around the world, including neighbors, like Iran and Syria, and Far Eastern and European states." This, according to Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari will be a "major step towards the rehabilitation of Iraq's foreign policy." The new government hopes to eventually surpass the total of 77 embassies maintained under Saddam.

On the domestic scene, federalism - arguably the only political system that will make sense in Iraq - is winning converts, and not just in the Kurdish north. The
four southern provinces, which produce much of Iraq's oil export income and electricity for domestic consumption, are considering their options in a struggle for better representation: "Why is federalism a dirty word?", asks Mansour al-Tamimi, a member of Basra's governorate council and newspaper editor. "The most successful countries in the world are federal."

In a related development, Iraq's interim President Ghazi al-Yawer has announced plans for
a new national high court to adjudicate disputes between the central government and local governments of autonomous regions, mainly in the Kurdish north. The proposed Federal Supreme Court will "control the relationship between the central government and the governments of the regions of Iraq, as related to taxes, administration, resources" and other related issues.

Meanwhile, in the run-up to the next year's poll, the Chief Electoral Officer and seven Commissioners of Iraq's
Independent Electoral Commission have finished a two-week study course in Mexico, where international experts and election officials tutored the Iraqi team on topics such as "the standards and principles of credible elections, approaches for dispute resolution..., voter registration..., the registration of political parties, voter education campaigns, and procedures for polling, counting and tabulating results."

Read also this profile of a Kurdish official
Bakhtiyar Amin: "Iraq's new human rights minister may be the most potent symbol of post-war Iraq: a member of a long-oppressed minority who has a unique opportunity to prove that Iraqis can put aside ethnic and religious rivalries to come together as a nation."

Speaking of elections, one of the contenders in January's presidential poll thinks Iraqis should look to some
unusual role models. Saad Janabi, vice-president of one of Iraq's premier conglomerates, the Janabi Group, has this to say: "We need a business person in politics to rebuild Iraq like the Italian and Lebanese premiers. Stability and security are linked to the economy. We need to have business people in politics." His own personal inspiration: the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and the architect of Lebanon's post civil-war rebirth, Rafiq Hariri.

Before democracy, however, liberty.
Freedom of speech revives in Iraq, not always in the tidiest of forms:

"On the brick wall of the parking lot adjacent to one of the largest mosques in the city, several anonymous observers of modern-day Iraq have spray-painted their commentary in black and red. 'Where is the mustache of Saddam?' asked one writer, who was insulting the deposed leader by using an Iraqi expression for challenging one's manhood. Another states that, 'the killing of Americans is halal,' or acceptable under Islamic law. And a third writer scrawled in English that the 'USA Rocks!'

"Under the former regime, tagging a wall with a controversial political message was punishable by a long jail sentence and, sometimes, execution. The walls of post-Saddam Hussein Baghdad, however, have become a canvas for political dialogue and colorful self-expression."
In related media news, according to a latest opinion poll, "[m]ore than half of people with access to satellite television in Iraq now watch al-Sharqiya, a new Arabic channel which specializes in Iraqi affairs... 58 percent of viewers in Iraq trust what the new channel broadcasts regarding the situation in the country... More people said they like the programs of al-Sharqiya more than those of any of the major Arab satellite television channels, including al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya. Al-Sharqiya was officially launched a few months ago and has attracted a large following in the country due to its concentration on domestic affairs. It is the first satellite channel with a purely local character. It reminds the Iraqis of their good old days and relays a message of tolerance and coexistence as it strives to depict most aspects of the country's diverse society." That's pre-Saddam "good old days."

In the world of education, academic cooperation is growing, both with the Western and
neighboring countries. Read also this uplifting story about valuable assistance from the US:

"Biology professor Safaa Al-Hamdani wasn't expecting an avalanche of books when he asked colleagues at Jacksonville State University to help his alma mater in Baghdad restock its libraries. But donations have been pouring in from around the country. 'I never thought it would get this big,' Al-Hamdani said Friday.

"It all began when JSU professors Bill Hug, Kelly Gregg and others joined the effort, collecting spare books off professors' shelves to ship to Baghdad University, which has been drained by decades of brutal dictatorship, war, and international sanctions.

"A story about the book drive last month in The Anniston Star was picked up by other media outlets, and books started arriving from universities all over the country."
While we support and cheer on Iraqi academics, let us also remember the risks that those brave Iraqis who want to rebuild their country face every day: a new study has found that around 250 university professors have been killed since April 2003.

Meanwhile, and despite of this, the Ministry of Culture takes on the Herculean task of
rebuilding the country's cultural base after decades of dictatorial ravage: "Iraq's Minister of Culture says rebuilding the country's cultural life will be a decades-long process because of the damage done by the Saddam Hussein regime. According to Minister Mufid al-Jazeeri, Saddam Hussein feared intellectuals and people with opinions. It was that fear, according to the minister, that caused the former Iraqi dictator to 'crush Iraq's culture'."

It's not just the majority Arabs who can now breathe easier without Saddam - many previously persecuted ethnic and religious minorities are finding life better in new Iraq. The
Kurds, for example, are staging a cultural and linguistic revival:

"Under the Baath Party, the former rulers of Iraq, only Arabic could be used as the language of instruction in Kirkuk, home to a large number of Kurds and Turkmons, as well as Arabs.

"There are now 123 primary schools teaching the Kurdish alphabet, along with 13 primary schools and 13 high schools where all lessons are taught in Kurdish. The number of primary and secondary teaching only in Kurdish will increase to 300 next year, according to Yousif Saeed Ahmed, 61, the head of Kirkuk's Kurdish Study Department."
The ancient Sabaean-Mandean community of some 75,000 believers, which has suffered under the Hussein regime now has a chance for more peaceful life. The Armenian community in Iraq is in a similar position.

On the
city streets, more evidence of the returning normalcy: "Inspector Adnan Kadhum of the Baghdad traffic police says he noticed the change about 10 days ago: The city's notoriously unruly drivers suddenly started obeying his commands. They stopped when he signaled for them to stop; they went when he signaled for them to go. 'Before, you found hardly anyone listening to you,' the 27-year police force veteran says. Kadhum, 48, spent his days flailing around in 105-degree heat, sometimes waving his pistol in a futile attempt to make motorists follow his commands. 'Now, by barely moving my hand, I get respect'."

Even more importantly, this
vote of confidence in the future: "Instability in Baghdad has spurred many people to put plans on hold, abandoning half-built houses and dropping out of college. But despite the unrest - or perhaps partly because of it - the number of marriages has nearly doubled since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003. 'The people I see are not affected by insecurity - I've had a 75-percent increase,' says Muhammad Jawad Talikh, a marriage judge in the neighborhood of Kerrada for the past 32 years. 'Young people are wishing for a better life, so they come to me and get married'."

And in sports news, the
Iraqi national soccer team surges ahead, despite meagre resources, and precarious security situation, which has forced its German couch to quit and made other teams refuse to play matches in Baghdad. Nevertheless, the Iraqi team has just managed to secure one of Asia's three qualifying spots for the Olympic Games. It's not just soccer players though who see a better future:

"Iraqi athletes competing in next month's Olympics feel like winners already, Iraq's Olympic chief said on Thursday.

" 'Holding Iraq's flag at this important international event is an achievement we are very proud of, all Iraqis are proud of it,' Ahmed al-Samarrai said. Iraq is sending a team of 17 athletes to Athens, many on a special invitation from sports federations and the Games' organisers. The country, widely ostracised in the sporting world after its invasion of Kuwait in 1990, was officially suspended from the Olympic movement... Winning medals is hardly the top priority, it's mostly about pride. 'The athletes are always hopeful, but what matters to us is that Iraq is going to participate in the Olympics,' the 63-year-old told Reuters in an interview."
ECONOMY: When you are reading these words, Iraq's first bond market has just opened with an auction of around 150 billion dinars (just over $100 million) worth of government debt bought out by Iraqi banks. As the report notes, "Iraqi authorities for the first time are letting free market forces set interest rates in Iraq. The yield at the auction will set an unprecedented benchmark in Iraq, allowing commercial lenders to price loans more rationally." A group of eleven Iraqi bankers, meanwhile, has acquired some important expertise in areas such as "checking and shipping documents, uniform rules for collections, uniform customs and practices for documentary credits, bank-to-bank reimbursements" during a two-week course held by the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance.

In the oil sector news, the Iraqi authorities are expecting by the end of August to award the first three post-war
oil contracts (see also here). Export-wise, expansion into some new markets: "Taiwan's state-run Chinese Petroleum Corporation (CPC) has reached agreement with Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) to import 1.8 million barrels of oil from Iraq... During the rule of Saddam Hussein, CPC tried to import Iraqi oil but all efforts failed, possibly due to lack of diplomatic ties between Taipei and Baghdad." And an Indonesian firm PT Pertamina is planning exploration activities on Iraq's block 3 in the Western Desert, some 100 miles south of Baghdad, which holds about three million barrels of oil (more here).

The efforts to create a
modern oil industry continue: "The Oil Ministry has put the finishing touches on a draft law that will revive the Iraqi National Oil Company which the ousted regime of Saddam Hussein had abolished." The Ministry also plans to boost exports to about 3 million barrels a day by 2005, in part by drilling 2,000 new wells and constructing a 3,000 kilometer-long domestic gas pipeline.

The industrial production is reviving too. The interim authorities are reluctant to tackle privatisation on a largely scale, preferring instead to wait for the democratically elected government to make such important decisions. In the meantime, however, the government is looking to
lease some of its state-owned enterprises in hope of finding a much needed foreign capital.

Even in an uncertain climate there is progress nevertheless. The Ministry of Industry-owned General Southern Fertilizers Company has just entered into a contract with a Japanese company Mitso for construction of
a new ammonia factory to provide fertilizers for Iraqi farmers and for export. And several construction companies have been recently put back into operation to cope with the boom in building industry.

Infrastructure-wise, 5 small dams are being built in Al-Sulaymaniyah governorate, and the work continues on digging 157 wells in Arbeel, Kirkuk, Al-Sulaymaniyah and Dhouk governorates. Elsewhere, more work on the Horan dam, 18 kilometers northeast of Al-Rutba, and number of dams in Western Desert and west of Najaf City, both for drinking and agricultural purposes.

Iraqi railways are introducing a new computerized satellite-based system for the management and control of train traffic. Such systems are standard in North America, but the Iraqi innovation will be a first for the Middle East.

The economic renewal is not all centrally-driven; the
regions are trying to attract investment, too:

"Kurdish officials running the regional government in Sulaimaniya say they want to turn their city into a commercial hub in the Middle East. Early this year the government in Sulaimaniya issued an ambitious investment law under which foreign investors are exempt from taxes for five years. Other incentives include the right to transfer profits outside the region and allocation of property without charges."
While the authorities make every effort to create a good economic climate, on the micro level it's the average Iraqis who are reaping the benefits of growth. People like Zaqaria al-Kaizi, a 54-year-old employee of Baghdad's water department, who has this to say: "Life is definitely better now than what it was in the Saddam era... Today, I can think of buying a cellular phone as my income has increased from around 20,000 dinars (14 dollars) a month to nearly 50,000 dinars (35 dollars). For many a mobile phone was a dream in Iraq until a few months back." There are many others: "Supermarket owner Ghassan Akram says his profits have doubled since the fall of the regime, thanks largely to abolition of the Office of Economic Security, which prevented the import of certain goods." (read the whole story for profiles of many average Iraqis for whom the liberation has opened doors to unexpected opportunities.)

One also shouldn't forget the role of
Iraqi expatriates in rebuilding their country:

"Physician Jamal Fadul fled Baghdad, Iraq, after participating in the unsuccessful 1991 uprising against Saddam Hussein. Now that the Iraqi government is privatizing industries once controlled by Saddam, Fadul has gathered $100,000 of his and his brother's savings, along with millions raised from fellow Iraqi Americans, to try to buy three factories and a farm.

"Fadul, 47, talks emotionally about the twin opportunities in Iraq: to make money and to rebuild his homeland. 'We believe that there is a good opportunity there to build up a democratic nation, a wealthy country,' said Fadul, of suburban College Park, Maryland. 'That was where we were born, so we would love to see the place that we suffered in grow nice.'

"Iraqis living outside of Iraq are pouring $5 million a day into private enterprises in the country, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. Some have launched small efforts: Yasir Shallal, a mechanical engineer in suburban McLean, Virginia, has spent $50,000 to form a company that is trying to sell air conditioning units and construction materials in Iraq. Others, like Boston architect Hisham Ashkouri, are attempting major development projects. Ashkouri is trying to raise $115 million, and has sunk $450,000 of his own money into a hotel and theater complex he wants to build in Baghdad."
And to help the Iraqis make the best of the new business opportunities, an explosion in demand for English language teaching:

"When Saryas Jamal, 34, began working in the accounting department of Asia Cell, the major mobile phone company in northern Iraq, he found that he had to deal daily with managers who do not speak Kurdish, the only language he speaks. All business was conducted in English, so Jamal quickly realised that he had to learn the language in order to communicate with his bosses and be a useful employee. He now spends several hours a day trying to get to grips with it.

"Like Jamal, other Iraqi Kurds are flocking to English classes, either out of necessity or personal choice. English-language classes are a booming business in Sulaimaniyah, where private language centres and all-English schools are popping up all over the place. The English language department at the University of Sulaimaniyah has had to expand its programme to accommodate 100 new students. Bookstores have a hard time keeping English instruction books in stock."
RECONSTRUCTION: Much has been written about the reconstruction effort, most of it focusing on underperformance and underdelivery of promised service and infrastructure. To improve the situation, a change in strategy:

"David Nash is in a quandary. He has an $18.4 billion US grant to help rebuild Iraq. But an unhappy public could mean two years before the impact of those huge US-funded reconstruction projects kick in.

"The solution of the retired US Navy admiral, in charge of one of the largest rebuilding projects in history, is for his Iraq Project and Contracting Office to launch hundreds of smaller projects that will have a quick impact on public expectations.

"They will range from renovating a playground in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit to repairing pipes in Sadr city, where Imams keep reminding worshippers that the 'Americans have done nothing for you'.

"Nash said such projects, which Iraqis pick, will involve more Iraqis in rebuilding and dispel impressions that their country, which has the world's second-largest oil reserves, is being milked by large US companies that were awarded billions of dollars of contracts, such as Halliburton Co."
Any given day, between 30,000 and 60,000 Iraqis are working on the 1,200 reconstruction projects currently underway. As part of the reconstruction effort, Iraq's first modern landfill is being developed in south-west Baghdad. "The site will have the capacity to handle 2230 cubic meters of waste per day and will serve the needs of two million of Baghdad's residents. The $22 million project which currently employs over 2100 Iraqis from the Al Rashid and Al Doura districts of Baghdad will meet international standards for waste management, a first in Iraq. The site will include built-in leachate collection systems, drainage, gas and surface water controls to protect both the groundwater and environment around the site." A second landfill is currently being developed by USAID, north of Baghdad. As one report observes:

"It's not every day that a group of poor, uneducated Iraqis breaks into cheers for a high-ranking American official. That's what happened Tuesday when the U.S. reconstruction chief strode up to hundreds of workers who'd been hired to help dig Iraq's first environmentally sound landfill, in southwest Baghdad."
COALITION TROOPS: Lee Raynor, managing editor of the Free Press, publishes these words from her son who is serving in Iraq. They seem to reflect a very common sentiment:

"You know we've had bombings, kidnappings and killings. The trouble is that nobody seems to remember that's what happens when you fight the enemy. It looks like the insurgents aren't the only ones we're fighting here, though. Now we have to fight a negative press too.

"You aren't reading about the positive things we see every day. They aren't telling you about the Iraqis who talk to us and tell us how much better their country is now that Saddam is gone. Or how they bring us little treats and try to get us to eat their food."
You can also read about the 13th Corps Support Command's efforts on the ground: "With lightning speed, the convoy of armored Humvees and Bradley fighting vehicles descended on this tiny hamlet in the volatile Sunni triangle, guns poised and soldiers pumped. But instead of attacking insurgents or seizing weapons, these U.S. troops rapidly installed an impromptu medical clinic and started taking temperatures and checking pulses." Or about Sgt. Abubakar Senge, a civil affairs soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve, as he "walks through the secondary school with his rifle slung across his chest, his helmet hanging off his arm and a notebook in his hand, inspecting the work he hired an Iraqi builder to perform... Senge is responsible for rehabilitating 60 long-neglected and looted schools in a west Baghdad neighborhood."

Or about
Capt. Alex Fyfe, a civil affairs officer with the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery, who having noticed "children playing soccer on dirt fields with bare feet and improvised balls" around Mosul, contacted his high school soccer coaches and friends in Rocky Point, New York, and organized a successful collection of sports equipment for Iraqi children. And here's more sports equipment for Mosul - in the words of Congressman James Sensenbrenner:

"It gives me great pleasure to note that thanks to the kindness of the people of Wisconsin, Concordia ultimately collected 275 soccer balls, 600 uniforms, 200 pairs of soccer shoes and various other items. Furthermore, through a letter from the Commander of the 139th MPAD at Camp Freedom in Mosul, Iraq, I learned that this equipment was distributed to the Mosul Soccer League on June 11, when the league held its grand opening celebration at Mosul Stadium. The impact of this donation is best summarized in the words of an Iraqi coach who said to the Commander, 'During these difficult times, soccer is providing a respite for young and old alike. People can put aside their differences and simply enjoy sport'."
There are also the British soldiers doing their share of good work in the south of Iraq:

"When the soldiers of 1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery's E Battery were deployed to Basra in March this year after months of intensive training, they felt they were prepared for everything.

"They weren't. It was clear this was going to be no ordinary day at the office. In front of Battery Sergeant Major Kenny McMillan, shimmering in the dry blistering heat of the Iraqi sun, were three derelict buildings, a wheelbarrow and a spade. Behind him was his boss.

" 'So, five classrooms, offices, an accommodation block, a kitchen, rest areas and a mosque please. Oh and ... we need them in four weeks. OK?' "
It's not just the Coalition soldiers who aiding the reconstruction; much of the humanitarian effort comes from a grass-roots determination back home to make a difference. A little Iraqi girl is being treated by American plastic surgeons: "Jafar is grateful to Americans, God, doctors, nurses and all the people she and Sara have met, from the Lebanese interpreter who accompanies them everywhere, to those who have made arrangements for a stay in Galveston that could last up to six months. She is also forever indebted to Samaritan Purse, the nonprofit, nondenominational Christian organization contacted by the now dissolved Coalition Provisional Authority." There are many others.

And lastly, this story of an
unexpected transmutation:

"When Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq, a pair of monuments stood as symbols of his iron-fisted domination: towering bronze statues depicting a heroic Saddam as the mighty conqueror, on horseback, sword aloft. But U.S. troops blew the statues off their pedestals after the invasion of Iraq, giving the soldiers who pulled Saddam out of his hiding hole a keepsake to bring home.

"The 50-foot-tall statues were melted down and recast by a skilled Iraqi artist who turned them into a new memorial that depicts a GI mourning his fallen comrades while a young girl tries to console him. The new statue, mounted on a black granite base, is the centerpiece of an Iraq war memorial being built outside the 4th Infantry Division's museum at Fort Hood in central Texas."
SECURITY SITUATION: In many old flash-points, the mission accomplished for the US troops. Read this story of how the soldiers from the 37th Armored Regiment's 1st Battalion took on Muqtada al Sadr's Shia militiamen in Karbala and won:

"During three weeks in May, the 600-soldier battalion destroyed al-Sadr's forces in some of the most intense combat since the fall of Baghdad. The Bandits, as they are known, killed as many as 400 militiamen, disbursed the rest and switched gears to restore the collapsed local security forces with a multimillion-dollar training and rebuilding program.

"And they did it without damaging the two holy Shiite shrines, where al-Sadr's men sometimes set up firing positions. Today, buildings within 200 yards of the ornate, gold-domed structures are pockmarked with bullet holes. Not the shrines."
Al Sadr himself seems to have caught the democratic bug: "Since the guns fell silent in June, the group led by Muqtada al-Sadr has sought to distance itself from violence and rebuild ties with top clerics. And it is considering throwing its weight behind candidates in elections scheduled for January. 'We are undergoing a transitional phase,' said Abbas al-Robai, a close al-Sadr aide. 'We are taking a very close look at ourselves and our work'."

Calm returns to many parts of Iraq that haven't been so quiet lately. This, in Baghdad's notorious
Sadr City: "After 10 weeks of fierce combat, an odd sense of normality has returned to this capital's most embattled neighborhood. The break in running clashes between U.S. troops and Shiite Muslim militiamen loyal to outspoken cleric Muqtada Sadr has brought a tenuous peace to the sprawling district known as Sadr City. By most accounts, Sadr's declaration of truce two weeks ago was a collateral benefit of Iraq's return to a semblance of self-rule." In other sectors of the capital

"there are signs, subtle and tentative, that Baghdad residents are cautiously emerging to reclaim normal lives. A new playground has been attracting children and their parents. A new auto-racing club has been holding weekly drag races. Bingo games have returned to the exclusive Alwiyah Club near Fardos Square, where Saddam Hussein's statue fell 15 months ago."
And a "Christian Science Monitor" reporter "sees brisk watermelon sales, and other signs of normalcy on a hot July night" in Baghdad: "Adnan, whose English is rough but effective, said he wanted me to witness the greater degree of optimism on the Iraqi streets since the US handover of power to an interim Iraqi government. Though there have been many attacks since June 28, the overall level of violence in and around Baghdad seems much lower. I've heard precious little gunfire or mortars launched in the evenings during the past week. The silence is so rare in Baghdad that it feels strange."

Iraqi press also reports improvements in security situation across the country:

"Local correspondents for Azzaman, the country's most influential newspaper, have been filing reports recently on how law and order is slowing returning to various parts of the country.

"The newspaper's correspondent in Basra says shops remain open in the city until mid-night amid conspicuous presence of police and security forces. 'Life and security are returning to Basra,' Azzaman reported, saying that the city had seen no major act of sabotage and terror since the handover of sovereignty.

"A measure of success is the latest imposition of customs rules on Basra’s ports and the closure of several illegal export and import outlets. The authorities report that customs officials have collected more than 5 billion dinars in tariffs on goods entering the country in Basra in the past two weeks. The city streets are flooded with cars, nonetheless, Azzaman says, traffic police have managed to restore some order and traffic lights are working again.

"In the northern city of Mosul, the security forces seem to be almost in full control following devastating car bomb attacks last month. The city is divided into security zones and latest sweeps have resulted in the seizure of scores of foreign fighters and huge amounts of weapons. Night life is returning to the banks of the Tigris River in the city and residents have started frequenting summer cafes and restaurants."
All this, as the activities of "insurgents" become increasingly unpopular among the Iraqi people: still more tapes of masked men with guns and rocket propelled grenades go air on Arabic TV, but this time the script is different. One, from a group calling itself "Salvation Movement", has this to say to the al Qaeda terror master in Iraq: "The apostate, criminal Zarqawi and his henchmen must leave Iraq immediately." The second group, "Seif Allah" (the Double-Edged Sword of God), also threatens to kill Zarqawi, accusing him of "treachery and allegiance to the (deposed) regime of Saddam Hussein" and vowing to "pursue Zarqawi and his supporters everywhere they go".

not just ordinary Iraqis who are sick and tired of being blown-up by jihadis:

"Tension appears to be rising between the homegrown Iraqi resistance and the foreign Islamist fighters who have entered the country to destroy the American military here.

"Evidence has emerged in sniping between groups on Arabic television and Web sites, and in interviews with Iraqi and American officials, as well as from members of the resistance and people with close ties to it. All speak of rising friction between nationalistic fighters and foreign-led Islamists over goals and tactics, with some Iraqi insurgents indicating a revulsion over the car bombs and suicide attacks in cities that have caused hundreds of civilian deaths."
More on that here. Fallujah, too, provides the evidence of a shift in public sentiment:

"In April, with anger swelling at the US occupation and a Marine-led assault on the Sunni city of Fallujah, thousands of Shiites provided assistance to their Iraqi brothers in the city. But the city west of Baghdad is no longer a sympathetic rallying place for a unified Iraqi resistance. It is now seen as run by intolerant and exclusivist Sunni imams who are seeking to turn it into a haven for Al Qaeda ideologues... Many Shiites... have stopped supporting it."
Despite fears about civil liberties (itself a great sign of how much the things have changed in Iraq since last year), the new security measures introduced by authorities are meeting with general approval from the public. "We agree with any kind of procedures they take for the sake of security. We agree because Iraqis want only security - nothing more," says Walid Hassen, an engineer from Baghdad.

The change in public attitude is in large part due to the presence and actions of the new Iraqi security forces. Large numbers of Iraqis continue to volunteer to join, despite the obvious risks involved. Read their stories
here. Women are also volunteer in increasing numbers. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has announced that families of security personnel killed in action will receive a lifetime wage on top of a one-off compensation payment currently in place.

There are some internal security successes already: In
Baghdad, "Iraq's minister of the interior Falah al-Naqib announced that the Iraqi police detained 527 suspected persons in a vast mopping up operation by the security forces in Bab al-Sheikh, one of the Iraqi capital suburbs." the operation was largely targeted against kidnappers. Says Colonel Adnan Abdul Rhaman, the interior ministry's chief spokesman: "This is the largest operation for the interior ministry since the fall of Saddam Hussein." As the article notes, "[c]rime soared during the US-led occupation as convicts, released by former president Saddam Hussein, roamed free and a violent insurgency sprung up." As an Iraqi blogger notes, there is actually a connection between these two factors.

And in
Kirkuk, the Kurds have captured 15 foreign militants, including a man believed to be Hemen Banishiri, the second-in-command of the al Qaeda affiliate, Ansar al-Islam. Overall, according to the Iraqi minister of human rights Bakhtyar Amin, the number of Arab and other foreign fighters currently detained in Iraq has reached 99: "26 Syrians, 14 Saudis, 14 Iranians, 12 Egyptians and 9 Sudanese... [as well as] persons of Jordanian, Yemeni, Tunisian, Moroccan, Lebanese and Turkish nationality."

not just about fighting the terrorists, though: "Security officials in Iraq say a sting operation has recovered hundreds of stolen artifacts destined for overseas black markets. The artifacts were illegally dug up from archeological sites around the ancient city of Babylon, about 90 kilometers south of Baghdad. A senior official in Iraq's interior ministry, General Muhssin Ali, says Iraqi police recently received a tip from an informant about a gang, which had been digging up Babylonian artifacts and trying to sell them to smugglers."

There are also
external security successes: "Iraq's nascent border police have apprehended more than 60,000 foreigners in the past seven months. The foreigners, most of them Iranians, were trying to enter Iraq illegally, according to major-general Nadhim al-Haj, commander of Iraqi border guards." There's also movement on the Western border, as Syria and Iraq agree to work together to strengthen border security and prevent infiltration of jihadis into Iraq. How sincere Syria is, is open to question, but it's a good sign that Assad feels that at least he has to try.

Some old symbols also get a
make-over: "The new Iraqi administration is trying to remake the image of Abu Ghraib prison, the notorious jail on Baghdad's western outskirts where a worldwide scandal began." The prison is now under Iraqi authority.

Last, but not least, the new Iraq
renounces any nuclear ambitions of its predecessor. In the words of the Prime Minister Allawi, "Iraq has no intention and no will to resume these (nuclear) programmes in the future. These materials, which are potential weapons of mass murder, are not welcome in our country and their production is unacceptable." Meanwhile, Iraqi weapons scientists are being offered jobs by the American government to keep them out of mischief of using their expertise for WMD proliferation.

And so, Iraq, July 2004: numerous challenges, but also determination to forge ahead; continuing danger and violence, but also increasing prospects for peace. And among the sea of negativity on our TV screens and pages of our newspapers, more and more glimmers of good news to strengthen our hope for a better future for the long-suffering people of Iraq.


Just like Philippines, only crunchy 

An interesting perspective:

"Now that the formal U.S. occupation of Iraq has passed into military history, some military historians are likening it to an obscure campaign that flared and then faded more than a century ago.

" 'Iraq has many more similarities with the Philippine Insurrection than with any other American experience," says Jerry Morelock, editor and senior historian of Armchair General magazine.

"A professor emeritus of military history at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, Jerry Cooper, agrees. 'The Philippine Insurrection is as good as history gets in teaching about dealing with an opponent who has a different culture, a different language and a different physical setting - and who deeply resents your presence,' Cooper said.

"Historian Brian M. Linn of Texas A&M University has carved an academic niche out of that long-ago campaign, with two books to his credit. He says that the lessons of the Philippines have been largely ignored. 'With the exception of the Marines," he said, "nobody studies these little wars'."
Morelock, Cooper and Linn aren't the first ones to draw these parallels, of course. In November 2003, Thomas Donnelly and Vance Serchuk of the American Enterprise Institute released a National Security Outlook paper titled "U.S. Counterinsurgency in Iraq: Lessons from the Philippine War." It makes for an interesting reading to compare and contrast Donnelly and Serchuk's advice with how the things have turned out in Iraq over the following months. In turn, Max Boot drew on lessons of Philippines and other small wars from US history in July last year. I hope that when in due time Max updates his 2002 classic "The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power" there might be a room there for another chapter on Afghanistan and Iraq.


Around the world in 18 blogs 

Monday, and time again to check what some friends of Chrenk have been up to recently.

In Australia,
Tim Blair has more on the alleged Iyad Allawi shooting spree.

Gnu Hunter continues to monitor jihad in Australia (as well as monitor those who are supposed to monitor it).

In the US,
Powerline comments on the "New York Times"'s and "Washington Post"'s love of unnamed sources.

Dean Esmay, Michael Moore and Israel, another longest hatred.

No Left Turns' Robert Alt posts tons of photos of Army medics in Iraq - the unsung heroes.

For something non-Iraq and non-Presidential elections related, but nevertheless thought-provoking,
Clayton Cramer tries to establish whether rape is a crime of sex or violence?

Southern Conservative asks in the aftermath of the FMA fiasco: "How about an amendment to ban distractions?"

Damian Penny writes on multiculturalism in Canada.

David Adesnik at
Oxblog writes about Egypt and democracy.

Somewhere in the cyberspace between New Zealand and the US,
Silent Running monitors the Israel-New Zealand relations in the wake of the Mossad agents scandal. There's even a new flag for NZ.

From South Korea,
John Kennett reports that "The Blue House (Korea's White House) is in trouble today after it posted parody pictures showing the leader of the Opposition, Park Guen-hye partially nude, with bed with a man." Now, why can't the White House be more fun like that? The nude pics of the John-John Democrat team would be a lot more believable, considering their blossoming love affair.

Elsewhere in Asia,
Fried Man comments on North Korea's official forays into cyberspace.

Israellycool, the "world exclusive" - Yasser Arafat's letter of reply to his resigning Prime Minister (or at least, what it might have been).

Omar at
Iraq the Model has some thoughts about the Butler Report: "You cannot tell a man that saving him and his family from torture, humiliation and death was a mistake and it should've not been done because it's illegal."

Please also welcome three new blogs:
Ethiopundit - "an eclectic Ethiopian's Commentary and News"; Pacetown, "All a part of life's rich pageant"; and Idioticrave, "Like Mussolini From The Balcony."

And don't forget to have a look at
Homespun Bloggers, the voice of not-too-much-for profit blogging.


From the southern end of the Coalition 

The Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer has a nice piece in last Friday's "Opinion Journal": "Never Give In: Caving in to terrorists' demands only emboldens them.":

"While we appreciate the terrible dilemma confronting the Philippine government, we hope they will show courage in the face of the kidnapping of one of their citizens and reconsider their decision to withdraw the Philippine humanitarian mission from Iraq ahead of its scheduled departure date.

"A decision to stand firm would have the full support of the international community. Showing such resolve is not always an easy choice, but it is the right choice. When any government does otherwise, it can mean that many others will pay a heavy price. For this reason, I welcome the resolve of South Korea's President Roh Moo Hyun and Bulgaria's President Georgi Parvanov in their brave stand against the terrorists-cum-kidnappers in Iraq. Their actions have sent a clear message to the terrorists that the international community cannot be intimidated. All nations with citizens in Iraq are grateful for their courage."


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