Saturday, November 13, 2004

The wrong way to fight terror 

Comes the reaction:
"There have been more than 20 incidents of fires or vandalism at Muslim buildings - and a handful of retaliatory attacks on Christian churches - since the Nov. 2 killing of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a suspected Muslim radical."
This is not on. Burning mosques has to be condemned as strongly as murder or other acts of terror. It's wrong, it's vigilantism, it's not how we do business.

As I wrote a few days ago, I'm glad that Holland has finally woken up from its post-modern Eutopian stupor to the dangers of Islamofascism in its midst, although it's tragic that it has taken a murder of an artists to do so. But after this spate of vandalism and vigilantism, the tolerant and sensitive Europe has very little moral high ground to lecture the United States about the response to terrorism and maintaining multicultural harmony in an uncertain world.

Dear Dutchmen, like the United States did after September 11 - go after the terrorists. If the mosques, schools and community organizations are inciting, financing or organizing violence - shut them down. Fight them with the rule of law, not Molotov cocktails.


Iraq's Tet 

It's Ramadan, instead of a lunar New Year festival, but the guerrillas seem to coming out for an all-out offensive.

As the Coalition forces are now in control of some four fifths of Fallujah, battling against an undetermined, but now believed to be a small number of suicidal stay-behinds (a senior defense official: "We figured that a bunch of them sneaked out with the civilian population and left some stupid ones behind to get killed."), the insurgents go on offensive in Mosul, Hawija and Tal Afar and elsewhere throughout the Sunni Triangle.

Whenever they come out in the open to fight they get smacked down. The latest Triangle-wide offensive is likely to end in disaster for the anti-Coalition forces, with manpower degraded and sanctuaries denied. But just like the Tet offensive in 1968, the media will probably portray it as an American defeat and an insurgent victory, mistaking the process for the outcome.

Meanwhile, al Zarqawi continues to delude himself and his followers in a just released audio tape:
"[A]l-Zarqawi urged insurgents in Falluja to resist U.S.-led attacks on the rebel city, saying victory was certain. 'We have no doubt that the signs of God's victory will appear on the horizon'."
Maybe he means the mainstream media.


"A revolutionary's send-off" 

A futility of one life encapsulated in one sentence:
"At the end, they came in their tens of thousands to give Yasser Arafat the burial he surely wanted; a revolutionary's send-off to a chorus of gunfire, bloodcurdling chants and the wailing of ambulance sirens."
It might have been a statesman's send-off instead; the burial of a head of state and not an amorphous "Authority", with his people's democratically-elected representatives paying their last respects, and a twenty-one gun salute by the smartly-dressed national army. That after forty years of fighting for Palestinian statehood Arafat has been put to ground to the sound of indiscriminate gunfire, bloorcurdling chants and ambulance sirens says more about his failure as a leader than a hundred learned obituaries.


Around the world in 58 blogs - definitely the biggest trip yet 

Before I get going with blogs -

OK, I'm cheating, since it's not a post but an article, but Daveed Gartenstein-Ross has an interesting look at the rise of anti-Western jihadi rap music - not gangsta, but a mudja rap? Number one with a bullet, as they say.

OK, I'm cheating, Part II - videoblogging from Vik Rubenfeld - "I am a liberal" - one of the most offensive (to liberals) and funniest pieces I've seen.

In Australia, Tim Blair on other Americans who say sorry.

Boils My Blood asks whether post-US and Australia elections there is any hope for the left.

The fourth mate of mine so far has decided to start blogging (although two seem to have run out of steam by now) - please welcome Jellis.

The House of Wheels photoblogs from a successful Protest Warrior counter-rally in Sydney.

Chris Berg appeals to the Americans - don't kill the filibuster.

Yobbo looks at the polling and wonders whether the Bush supporters might really be an unreality-based community.

In the United States, Powerline fisks Larry O'Donnell.

Dean Esmay
writes about a dirty little secret: most Arab leaders viewed Arafat with contempt.

Blackfive blogs about Fallujah (with links to his subsequent thoughts).

Polipundit gives you some numbers on redness.

Armed Liberal at Winds of Change argues with a libertarian about honoring the veterans.

Booker Rising, blog for black moderates and conservatives is celebrating six months in the 'sphere. Check them out.

IowaHawk: "Blue State Blues as Coastal Parents Battle Invasion of Dollywood Values" - as always, hilarious.

Captain's Quarters warns Bush not to listen to Brent Scowcroft.

Roger Simon
writes about three parts of California.

The Belgravia Dispatch
is blogging about the von Gogh murder.

Belmont Club sees the battle of Fallujah as part of the "river war" (and part two here).

INDC Journal points to a hilariously misspelled Kerry campaign button (in Hebrew).

Michelle Malkin
on the embarrassment that is Barbara Steisand.

Joe Gandelman
writes why the media's not buying the "stolen election" spin.

Solomonia notes a Freudian slip at the "New York Times."

Beautiful Atrocities has an exquisite profile of Suha Arafat.

Mark A Kilmer argues with Adrianna Huffington about who lost Kerry the election.

Weekend Pundit says the left is unminding itself.

I Love Jet Noise performs an autopsy on the Democrat campaign.

Geo-Political Review silences the alarm bells of the Arctic Global Warming Report.

Dan Wismar blogs on the "Arafat and AIDS" meme.

Catholics in the Public Square argues that the Democrats don't need to tell us more about the values.

Tom Heard breaks his promise not to gloat.

Considerettes watches the world eulogise Yasser Arafat and imagines if Osama was mourned like that.

On the Veterans Day, Eric Cowperthwaite has some thoughts for the latest soldier in his family.

Reasonable Force wonders if evangelical Christians should expect a payback from the second Bush Administration.

The View From MY Right defends a little gerrymandering.

Three Sheets to the Wind wonders what the hell is happening in Norway (in case you're missing my "All in the same EU-Boat" round-ups).

In the Bullpen wonders on the future of al Qaeda.

Brain Shavings writes about not crossing the Dutch.

Fausta at the Bad Hair Blog writes about Gov McGreevey's sorry legacy.

Fringe blogs about the influence of blogs (of course).

The Paragraph Farmer writes about Michael Moore's 17 reasons.

In Canada, Sobering Thoughts looks at Arafat's obituaries.

Canadian Comment opines that Madonna is retarded.

In Europe, Barcepundit writes that anti-Americanism is a game both sides of politics can play in Spain.

Tangled Web warns the US in Iraq: Don't repeat the lessons of Northern Ireland.

Tomas Kohl was so enthralled by the US election he almost forgot to vote in his.

In Asia, Simon World rounds up this week's links that matter.

A Guy in Pajamas celebrates Japan the ally.

Cranial Cavity writes about the spiraling cost of appeasement for the Philippines.

In the Middle East, Iraq the Model re-publishes an open letter from Iraqi people to President Bush.

In Iraq, Greyhawk writes: "Blessed are the Peace Makers. Not the peace lovers, we all love peace. The peace makers. The difference? One group makes history while the other makes noise."

Israellycool puts out the special Yasser Arafat death edition.

Zeyad at Healing Iraq is blogging about Iraq's civil war.

Please welcome this week's new kid on the blog, Spinbadz Own ("Public confessions and observations on sex, politics, any danged thang").

And as always - check out Homespun Bloggers - and if you're a blogger yourself - why not sign up?


From the annals of hard-hitting journalism 

A question from the joint George Bush-Tony Blair press conference, directed to the President:
"The prime minister is sometimes, perhaps unfairly, characterized in Britain as your poodle. I was wondering if that's the way you may see your relationship? And perhaps, more seriously, do you feel for the..."
I'm not sure what amuses me more:

1) the qualifier "perhaps unfairly" - or perhaps not?

2) that no one actually expects the President will say, "You know what, Phil? I think that's a pretty good description. Tony's been very faithful and obliging and keeps me good company. His hair's not all curly like a normal poodle, though..."

3) that the media would only ask George Bush that question. I'm yet to see a press conference enlivened by this question: "Mr Chirac, your are sometimes, perhaps unfairly, described as duplicitous weasel and your people as cheese-eating surrender monkeys. I was wondering if that's the way you see yourself?" Or "Mr Secretary-General, the United Nations under your leadership has sometimes, perhaps unfairly, been seen as doing a much better job at covering the Oil for Food fraud than stopping genocide in Darfur. I was wondering if that's the way you too see your priorities?" Here's hoping.


Friday, November 12, 2004

Federalism, if you can stomach it 

All the talk of secession is vaguely amusing rubbish, of course, but Nick Schulz writes about another idea whose time has come - at least for the liberals:

"In a democracy, where 50 percent plus 1 takes home all the political marbles, there are bound to be people who strongly dislike political outcomes. In a nation as large as the United States, that means millions and millions of people won't like the outcome.

"There is a way around the disunity problem and it's a solution the nation's Founders devised. It's called federalism - devolving political decision-making as close to voters as possible, to the states and local municipalities. It's an old idea, but one that might be rejuvenated in the wake of this election...

"During the 20th century, political liberals have generally opposed federalism and devolution, preferring Washington and the federal judiciary to impose liberal policies on the entire country, from abortion rights to environmental policy to gun control laws. That's fine for them when liberals are in power. But what about when conservatives become firmly entrenched?"
Indeed, but federalism provides only a partial consolation for the liberals - after all, some of today's most hotly contested areas of politics (foreign policy, defence, homeland security) would still remain the exclusive domain of the two GOP-controlled branches of the government. Affecting some social policy outcomes at the local level is the best that the liberals can hope to achieve under the federalist paradigm, whether it's the question of stem cell research (successful in California) or same-sex marriage (unsuccessful anywhere else). While seeing half of your agenda (if you're lucky) implemented is better than none, ask yourself how many liberals you know will really be happy that they have more weddings to attend and paraplegics can walk again, while our country continues to bomb people of color overseas, and anatgonise the French and that nice Kofi fellow.

Also, I'm not sure how happy the liberals would be with federalism as a kind of uncertain ceasefire across the battle-scarred no-man's land. Many among the conservatives, particularly the religious conservatives, strike me as having developed a siege mentality over the last few decades, feeling themselves to have been under unrelenting assault from the powerful liberal-secular establishment. As such, while ideally they would like the whole of the United States to be remade in their image, they are quite happy just to be left alone and hold on to what they can wherever they can. The right has largely given up on trying to change New York or California and is quite happy just to see their own backyards - be they in Georgia or Texas or elsewhere - stay as they are. Their's is a defensive creed - but the liberal is still a crusading and missionary one.

I don't think the liberals are quite ready yet to live and let live. I don't think they have quite given up yet on the idea of bearing an enlightened multicultural man's - and woman's - burden to civilise the savages in the south and the mid-west. Deep down, the liberals don't want the divorce; they still want the custody. So while we might see an increase in the number of liberal converts to federalism, I doubt whether that conversion will really be sincere.


Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Chairman and the Bard 

I don't know if Chairman Arafat is a fan of the Bard, but the current goings-on around his death - or coma - bed, certainly have a ring of a Shakespearean tragedy - no, make that farce.

While Yasser Arafat enjoys the last of Jacques Chirac's hospital-ity, various factions circle around his body. We have the "we came to bury Caesar, and praise him" faction composed of the next-in-lines of Palestinian politics; we have the "we came to praise Caesar, not to bury him (at least not until all the financial matters are settled) faction composed of Arafat's wise Suha and curiously her seemingly pro-Israel Lebanese Maronite Christian advisor
Pierre Rizk; we have the "we came to bury Caesar, but not praise him (Allah curse his corrupt soul)" faction of hardline Islamists, whose assessment of Arafat's character as well as the preference for his ultimate resting place puts them in company of the "we came to bury Caesar, but not praise him (the vile terrorist scum)" faction composed of the current Israeli government (which, however, doesn't have much else in common with Hamas and Islamic Jihad).

George W Bush says, don't praise, bury, and quickly move on to bigger and better things.

Update: The curse of Chrenkoff strikes - I write about the guy and about an hounr later he dies.

Australiann Prime Minister
John Howard has already earlier today delivered a verdict, with which I'm sure many will agree:

"I think history will judge him very harshly for not having seized the opportunity in the year 2000 to embrace the offer that was very courageously made by the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, which involved the Israelis agreeing to about 90 per cent of what the Palestinians had wanted... I think if Arafat had grabbed hold of that opportunity in the dying days of the Clinton administration then the path of things in the Middle East may have been smoother."
Two weeks ago I wrote:

"[W]ith Arafat finally gone after towering over the Palestinian cause for four decades, the Palestinians will have two simple choices: radicalisation or normalisation. Should they choose the former, the extremists will assume complete control over the Palestinian destiny launching their people onto the armageddon path of a one-state solution - Arab Palestine from Jordan to the sea. Should the Palestinians choose the latter, it will be their best opportunity to resolve the Middle Eastern crisis and finally move towards normalcy. The final settlement might look similar to Ehud Barak's proposal in 2000; a Palestinian state taking virtually most if not all of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, coexisting peacefully with Israel wound back to its pre-1967 borders. Sovereignty and peace might finally give the Palestinian people a chance to resurrect themselves, and being among the best educated and the most hardworking people of the Middle East, a chance to channel their energies, creativity and passion into making up for the decades of lost time and finally building a normal, decent future for their next generations."
Let us all pray they will make the right choice.


Holland's S11 

It seems that Holland is finally waking up:

"Even the most liberal society is illiberal when it is a question of survival. The Dutch see those who dream of Europe under a revived caliphate as a threat to their way of life. The prospect of Islamist imams imposing sharia law on Dutch cities amounts, they feel, to a new Nazi occupation."
(Hat tip: Tim Blair) Sadly, every country needs to experience their own S11 to truly comprehend the danger. For the United States it was two airliners smashing into two skyscrapers; but it doesn't have to be as spectacular and as bloody. For the Dutch it was an artist who was dragged off his bicycle, had his throat slashed and an Islamofascist manifesto pinned to his body with two knives.

Sure, the wake-up call doesn't always work. Spain had its Madrid tragedy, but it was so easy to talk yourself out of it; after all, that's what happens when you keep bad company and do silly things like invading Middle Eastern countries. Since both the Spanish left and the Spanish-based jihadis share the common view of the Iraqi war as illegitimate and unnecessary, Madrid could be interpreted as a graphic reminder of a need to change an unpopular policy rather than a declaration of war.

The difference in Holland was that Theo van Gogh was murdered not because of what Holland does (participation in the war on terror, involvement in Iraq) but because of what Holland is - a liberal Western democracy that is incompatible with demands of theocracy. Van Gogh, who through his work campaigned against mistreatment of women by Islamic fundamentalists, was in that respect the very embodiment of the liberal, tolerant, secular spirit of post-Enlightenment Europe, of which, in turn, Holland was a famous exemplar.

And so, it seems, the good people of Holland are now getting the message: the United States, Iraq or Israel are merely convenient symbols. What it comes down to is who you are - and that, in the end, is non-negotiable.

Make sure to check the Dutch-American blog
Peaktalk, which maintains a very good coverage of the van Gogh murder and its aftermath.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

No-show in Fallujah? 

So many questions, so few answers - I guess all will be revealed soon. Fox reports:
"American forces battled south through Fallujah's narrow lanes and alleys Wednesday to take control of 70 percent of the insurgent stronghold, and rebel fighters were bottled up in a strip of land flanking the main east-west highway that splits the city, the military said.

"Major Francis Piccoli, of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (search), characterized fighting overnight as 'light to moderate' and said U.S. casualties were 'extremely light'...

"The military said at least 71 militants had been killed as of the beginning of the third day of the intense urban combat. The number was expected to rise sharply once U.S. forces account for insurgents killed in airstrikes."
Seeing that the pre-battle estimates put the number of insurgents inside Fallujah somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000, hell of a lot of them have to be either buried in the rubble of "bottled up" against the highway. If you combine relatively low insurgent casualties with "light to moderate" fighting so far, you have to ask yourself, just exactly how many insurgents were there inside Fallujah to start with?

It might indeed transpire that airstrikes were exceptionally successful, or that there is going to be a bloodbath as insurgents make their last stand with their backs to the main road. Or it might transpire that insurgents have chosen not to battle the American and the Iraqi forces in a setting that (for all the talk about the perils of urban warfare) clearly advantages the attackers. Large scale urban guerrilla conflict is a losing proposition for the anti-American forces - the defence of Najaf showed just what an unwise waste of manpower it is. Terrorism, on the other hand is not. In Fallujah, or Samarra, or indeed Najaf, ten, twenty, maybe thirty insurgents will have died for every American soldier killed. In a suicide bombing attack, on the other hand, one insurgent will likely take with him anywhere from a few to a few score Americans and/or Iraqis. Now, if you were Al Zarqawi - or indeed a neo-Baathist commander with half a brain - why would you choose to waste your troops in a cauldron like Fallujah?

I do hope that I will be proven wrong on this one - I hope that what the Coalition troops are facing in Fallujah is not plenty of booby-traps and a few stay-behinds to tie down the attackers, while the bulk of Iraqi and foreign insurgents have slipped out of the town over the last few weeks to fight somewhere else and die more productively.

Update: Some interesting insight from Abu Khalid, a Saddamite army officer and now mid-level insurgent commander:
"[Khalid] confirmed the fears of US military chiefs by saying the insurgent leaders had already left the city to avoid capture. Khalid claimed they decided two days before the offensive to flee, leaving only half of their men behind to fight.

" 'From a military point of view, if a city is surrounded and bombarded the result of the battle is pre-ordained,' he said.

Khalid said insurgent leaders had debated how many men to leave in the city. 'They discussed percentages like 20 per cent inside the city and 80 per cent outside - to save as many fighters as possible for future operations,' he said. 'In the end they settled on a 50-50 split. We told the fighters that those who want to stay alive and fight should leave, and those who want to become martyrs in this battle should stay'."
Having said all that, my readers - as always - make some good points in the comments section: mainly, that for terrorists, being forced to flee from their base of operations constitutes a defeat, too, regardless of actual casualties. Fallujah could be for Iraq what Afghanistan was for al Qaeda. In Afghanistan, we succeeded in denying the terrorists their main base of operations, which means that while there is still sporadic violence throughout the country, none of it gets exported overseas. The key to Fallujah and other Sunni hot spots will be the follow-up; once secured, they will have to be kept secured to permanently deny the terrorists and insurgents a hospitable environment for their operations.


Wanted: Sydneysiders who like to rumble 

A public service announcement from Leigh of The House of Wheels:

"The STOP THE WAR COALITION are having a fit over the US’s efforts killing terrorists in Fallujah, and have organised a last-minute rally starting at 5pm tomorrow (Thursday, 11 November) at Town Hall, and marching to the US Consulate in Martin Place at 6pm. What can you do? You can join Protest Warrior in numbers.

As your temporary leader, we need:

1. Cameras – these are, behind police, our best defence from left-wing violence. If you have a digital camera or a video camera, can you please bring it?

2. Signs – good ideas for signs can be found at the Protest Warrior website – draw them onto large-sized cardboard with Artline pens/textas. If you can’t bring a sign, a flag or a camera would more than suffice.

3. People – if you have a blog, please reprint this message on your blog. E-mail it to people you know who would be interested in joining us. Put it in the comments section of right-wing blogs.

We’ve done this once before with good success, as can be seen here, so it’d be good to do it again.

We will be meeting at: STARBUCKS, George Street, near the Greater Union cinemas, just south of Town Hall, at 5pm on Thursday the 11th. From there, we will get to the US Consulate before the lefties, at around 5:50/5:55pm. If you cannot make it until then, meet us at the US Consulate (Martin Place) at 5:50pm. The address is MLC Centre, Level 59, 19-29 Martin Place, Sydney."


Kosovo - the other "quagmire" 

Last night, when reading the latest copy of a Polish magazine "Przekroj" (31 October 2004), which my grandmother dutifully mails me every week, a chanced upon an article by Jakub Mielnik titled "Democracy and Prostitution" about the situation in Kosovo. Mielnik, who recently angered the authorities over his unflattering portrayal of the Polish army contingent in Iraq, will not make the internationalist left happy either with his conclusion: "After five years of the UN rule, Kosovo today is a European center of sex and narcotics trafficking and a potential flashpoint of another Balkan conflict."

The article is not available online, and it's not available in English, so I thought it useful to translate some key paragraphs:

"In the five years following the air campaign which ended the persecution of Kosovo's Albanians, only one thing has changed in the province: now, it's the Albanians who persecute the Serbs. Serbian schools and hospitals are frequent targets of attacks. In five years, and under the watchful eye of international peacekeeping forces, over 120 Orthodox places of worship and monasteries were burned down...

"Torn from under the Serbian rule, Kosovo is now formally administered by a several thousand-strong contingent of United Nations officials and 20 thousand soldiers of the international peacekeeping force. To cater to their needs, in the capital Pristina, over 200 brothels have sprung up right under the noses of international police and UN administrators. Women from all over the Balkans, as well as Romania, Ukraine, and Moldavia are marshaled into the brothels.

"Non-Government Organisations are accusing soldiers from France, United Kingdom, the United States, Russia and Pakistan of powering the illegal sex trade and even profiting from it. So far, not one person has been charged over the whole enterprise, as peacekeeping forces remain outside the jurisdiction of Kosovar courts.

"And as if that wasn't enough, Kosovo has now become a prime exporter in the flesh trade. Britain's Scotland Yard estimates that Albanian organised crime controls some 75 per cent of brothels in the United Kingdom.

"Kosovar economy is booming, but only in its illegal sphere... The whole business is in the hands of anti-Serbian guerrillas of the Kosovo Liberation Army, who have formed one of the biggest crime syndicates in Europe. Thanks to contacts with Afghan mudjahedin who in the 1990s were financing the war with Serbia, the Albanians have now monopolised the smuggling of Afghan heroin into Europe.

"Unemployment in Kosovo hovers around 60 percent. Gangs of young idle Albanians often start anti-Serb riots. With increasing frequency they also attack multinational forces, accusing them of dragging feet over the transfer of power to province's residents. The UN is still promoting the concept of Kosovo as a multi-ethnic state, a solution that neither the Serbs nor the Albanians want."
Nothing that Mielnik writes is new or necessarily unknown in the West, although Kosovo has been off the media radar for the past four years and finding out what's going on in that forgotten corner the Balkans nowadays is not easy. Maybe if it wasn't Clinton but a Republican warmonger who stepped in to stop the ethnic cleansing, and maybe if Kosovo today was a United States and not a United Nations protectorate we would be hearing more from the mainstream media about this Balkan "quagmire" with its hopeless domestic situation and no "exit strategy" for the "occupying powers."

Still, the stories of
reverse ethnic cleansing by Kosovar Albanians, the growing criminal reach of the Kosovo Liberation Army, the complicity of international peacekeepers in sex trade and the chaotic political situation within the enclave do surface in the media from time to time, even if they only capture the attention of Balkan aficionados.

I'm not bringing up the sorry state of affairs in Kosovo just for the sake of political titillation. I don't celebrate bad news because it makes a political point to my liking. Far too many of our self-proclaimed moral and intellectual betters do so in the context of Iraq. They are ready, willing and able to fight the nefarious American involvement to the last Iraqi, and as they gloat over every single setback to stabilisation and reconstruction they seem to forget that for every pinch that the United States gets, ten Iraqis suffer a broken leg and a concussion. Or as
Michael Young recently wrote in Beirut's "Daily Star":

"[F]or many people, especially in the Middle East, the war in Iraq is not about Iraqis or democracy at all; it's about watching America stumble... There is no withdrawal option in Iraq today that would truly benefit the Iraqis... [S]ome might want to consider that applauding American setbacks is tantamount to wishing Iraq the very worst."
No, just like Iraqis - and indeed everyone else around the world - Kosovars deserve a chance to live in peace and make the most of their lives. The point I make is directed at those who hope against hope that a "multilateral solution" is a magic wand, which when pointed at Mesopotamia while reciting the UN Convention on Human Rights as a good luck spell will erase the American mistakes and solve all the problems.

In reality, the record of the "international community" and the United Nations at "making things better" in trouble spots around the world ranges from average to dismal. If Rwanda is dismal, then Kosovo, at best, is average, and the UN average in Kosovo after five years is on no account better than the American attempt to remake Iraq so far.

The UN choice for Iraq is Kosovo at best and Rwanda at worst. Iraq deserves better than that. And Kosovo deserves better than Kosovo, too.


George W Bush: the smiling face of crusading secularism 

My God, Chris Hitchens is in a fighting mood today against the intellectoid claims that all those who supported the President are bigoted God-botherers. I take my hat off to my favorite Atheist for Bush:
"Only one faction in American politics has found itself able to make excuses for the kind of religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now. And that faction, I am sorry and furious to say, is the left. From the first day of the immolation of the World Trade Center, right down to the present moment, a gallery of pseudointellectuals has been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed. How can these people bear to reread their own propaganda? Suicide murderers in Palestine—disowned and denounced by the new leader of the PLO—described as the victims of 'despair.' The forces of al-Qaida and the Taliban represented as misguided spokespeople for antiglobalization. The blood-maddened thugs in Iraq, who would rather bring down the roof on a suffering people than allow them to vote, pictured prettily as 'insurgents' or even, by Michael Moore, as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers. If this is liberal secularism, I'll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn't want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do)...

"George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he—and the U.S. armed forces—have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled. The demolition of the Taliban, the huge damage inflicted on the al-Qaida network, and the confrontation with theocratic saboteurs in Iraq represent huge advances for the non-fundamentalist forces in many countries. The 'antiwar' faction even recognizes this achievement, if only indirectly, by complaining about the way in which it has infuriated the Islamic religious extremists around the world. But does it accept the apparent corollary—that we should have been pursuing a policy to which the fanatics had no objection?"
Coincidentally, two interesting points regarding Hitch's secularist sermon:

John Hood in "Reason":
"Interestingly, while Bush slightly improved his standing among frequent churchgoers, by about a point in 2004, his support grew by 3 to 4 points among those attending seldom or never. Yep, it was the atheist vote that really put Bush over the top in 2004."
And from the "Harvard University Gazette":
"A John F. Kennedy School of Government researcher has cast doubt on the widely held belief that terrorism stems from poverty, finding instead that terrorist violence is related to a nation's level of political freedom.

"Associate Professor of Public Policy Alberto Abadie examined data on terrorism and variables such as wealth, political freedom, geography, and ethnic fractionalization for nations that have been targets of terrorist attacks...

"Before analyzing the data, Abadie believed it was a reasonable assumption that terrorism has its roots in poverty, especially since studies have linked civil war to economic factors. However, once the data was corrected for the influence of other factors studied, Abadie said he found no significant relationship between a nation's wealth and the level of terrorism it experiences...

"Instead, Abadie detected a peculiar relationship between the levels of political freedom a nation affords and the severity of terrorism. Though terrorism declined among nations with high levels of political freedom, it was the intermediate nations that seemed most vulnerable.

"Like those with much political freedom, nations at the other extreme - with tightly controlled autocratic governments - also experienced low levels of terrorism."
More freedom, I say (hat tip: Instapundit).


Tuesday, November 09, 2004

That secession talk 

One of Instapundit readers emails Glenn: "You have not commented on the secession meme that is all over the place this week... its all over the internet(s) and you should comment on it." Glenn replies: "It seems too obviously idiotic to merit comment."

Well, nothing's too obviously idiotic for this blog to comment upon.

Isn't it ironic that a hundred and forty four years later the Dems are still talking about secession? Except that now it's red and blue instead of blue and grey, and it's the (now) Democratic north which wants to call it quits - and presumably
join Canada.

Powerline reports on the crazy Lawrence O'Donnell advocating the secession over the next twenty years "because the red states are welfare recipients without supporting the federal government." I'm glad to know that Lawrence is so concerned about the unsustainable costs of the welfare state, but I have a feeling that his separatist urges have more to do with the gun-totting, Bible-thumping, sophistication-eschewing Southern culture, or at least the Northern caricature thereof.

There's more secession talk
here and there and everywhere (some of it serious, some not), and as Dean Esmay notes, the silliness is not restricted to the Dems. Dean points to Mike Thompson's piece in the "Human Events Online" advocating for a change "expulsion" of blue states from the union.

Some people really take politics too seriously. Not to mention their totally myopic perspective. They lose two elections in a row and suddenly they are ready to say goodbye to this whole pesky democratic thing, pack up their toys and walk away. Wasn't it only the last decade (the last millennium might sound too cruel) that a very popular and charismatic Democrat triumphed twice at the polls? And what about the Democrat stranglehold on politics in the 1960s? Not to mention the twenty year Roosevelt/Truman reign. Get the picture? Politics is cyclical - once your side is up, then it's down, and then it's up again. Throwing a tantrum if the things don't go your way for a while is a sure sign of immaturity - ironic, since it comes from our moral and intellectual betters in liberal America.

There are, of course, other reasons why it's not 1860 again (what is it about liberals and the '60s?):

1) the North and the South are considerably more evenly matched than originally. In 1860, the Union had quite
overwhelming superiority over the Confederacy, both in terms of manpower and industrial output. This isn't so anymore, despite whinging from the "Boston Herald"'s Brett Arends that "[o]f the Dow's 30 members, 23 are from blue states" and that "[p]er person, blue America outproduces red America by 21 percent. That's $6,700 per person per year" and that (repeating Lawrence O'Donnell's charge) "the [welfare] transfers [between red and blue states] amounted to $136 billion [in 2002]." As Arends admits, however, in 2001 the blue states produced $5.4 trillion in goods and services, which is only $700 billion more than the red states. Doesn't sound like much of a difference.

2) As
Blackfive notes, "I have to mention that the military supports the President. And most military bases are in Red states." Red states have real soldiers, blue states have actors who play soldiers and intellectuals who spit at soldiers.

3) Secession would be the ultimate cop-out for the liberals, and very much against their character, as
Andy Nowicki notes:
"Seceding, after all, means departing from the people you don't like and promising to leave them alone so long as you are left alone. And liberals don't want to leave their enemies alone; instead, as their track record shows, they want to take over the government in order to force their enemies to endure perpetual sensitivity training for being such racist, sexist, homophobic, 'closed-minded' boors, i.e., for disagreeing with them."
Can you really see a crusading liberal ever really giving up on his/her civilising mission to bring light to us primitives? Neh, neither can I. I think the house divided against itself is quite safe for the time being.

Update: Powerline blogs about the secession meme - do yourself a favour and read the whole thing; it's just bursting with insight, as a Powerline post usually does:
"[The three alternatives considered by the Democrats - secession, disenfranchisement of the unenlightened and assassination of the president] suggest that the Democrats are thinking their way back to their roots as the party of John Calhoun and the Confederacy, if not of the Klu Klux Klan and John Wilkes Booth."


Guest blogger: Building Iraqi democracy - from the ground up 

Note: for the latest "Good news from Iraq" segment and my thoughts on the youth vote, keep scrolling - it's not that far - or click here and here respectively).

To continue with the Iraq theme, today's guest blogger is Geoffrey Gold. Geoffrey works in institutional and investment decentralisation and promotion programs in South East Asia and maintains keen interest in related developments in Iraq.

Building Iraqi democracy - from the ground up

You probably have already seen the new "Iraq: Can Local Governance Save Central Government" report from the International Crisis Group.

In my view its conclusions are reasonable: "Amid spiralling violence, perhaps the only way to hold Iraq together now is to concentrate on local governance. The occupation should have focused on establishing effective, representative local institutions quickly, but it did not, having had no plan and altering strategy in response to political concerns. These mistakes have been compounded by the Iraqi authorities' distrust of decentralisation. Much territory is beyond the Interim Government's control, and national elections are likely to be postponed or held in parts of the country only. If national elections in January are not realistic, elections to provincial councils should be organised first, wherever possible and on a rolling basis so laggard governorates can vote when ready. Elected local governments must also have real powers and funding to be credible."

However, it pretty much ignores the excellent work undertaken to date in most of Iraq (which you've covered much of in your reports).

For instance, just prior to the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi interim government in June this year, the Coalition Provisional Authority reported that all provincial governments and 90 percent of Iraq's municipalities already had "sovereign operating councils" which were addressing the civic interests and needs of Iraqis at the provincial and municipal levels. "Even before full transfer of sovereignty on June 30th, local officials are providing goods and services for local citizens and are helping Iraqis learn about democracy at a local level," the CPA said.

This directly follows from USAID’s strategy of helping to establish stable local governments in post-conflict Iraq as outlined by Ross Wherry, Senior Reconstruction Advisor and leader of USAID’s Washington-based Iraq Management Team in November 2003. At that time Wherry emphasized the importance of the local government structure to regain a semblance of order.

With the aid of representatives from various NGOs and U.S.-based companies, Iraqi citizens have chosen 88 neighborhood advisory councils and elected nine district councils. Iraq's government structure, Wherry said, is beginning to resemble New York City's in organization. Local groups have "sufficient inherent legitimacy" that they can represent people in their area well, said Wherry. It is local governments, he said, that can most quickly address the disruptions of civil order which face Iraq today. Local officials best serve citizens' interests because "they can't get away from them," Wherry said.

In addition, minorities have a greater chance of finding a voice within local government than they do on a national scale, Wherry said. In the last three weeks, 67 Kurdish women's groups in northern Iraq have worked together to establish clinics for women. As of now, USAID estimates that 15 million Iraqis — one-half of the country's population - are involved in at least one aspect of the political process.

While Wherry spoke in positive terms of Iraq's political progress, he warned that the formation of a stable political system is not yet inevitable. "Local government is necessary, but not sufficient," he said. The next important step is building a receptive and accountable national government upon the foundation of the local government, he added.

USAID reported in June this year that its key accomplishments to enhance local government administrations and interim representative bodies; promoting community development in cooperation with the NGO community in Iraq included:

· Local governance teams working in all 18 governorates as part of CPA Governance Teams.

· Facilitating an interim structure of government, the Governorate Council, to represent the population of 18 governorates, including Baghdad.

· Establishing 16 governorate councils, 78 district councils, 192 city or sub-district councils, and 392 neighborhood councils, allowing more than 19 million people to engage in local policy discourse.

· Committing $2.4 million for the implementation of the CPA's nationwide Civic Education Program to introduce Iraqis to democratic principles and ideas in preparation for the upcoming transition to sovereignty.

· Awarding rapid-response grants worth $13.4 million to allow local governments to deliver essential services.

· Rehabilitating nine key central government ministries, Baghdad mayoral buildings, headquarters of nine Baghdad municipalities, and urban water and electric authorities, while providing 40 directorates and agencies with enough furniture, equipment, and basic office supplies to enable them to return to service.

· Assisting local governments in budget formulation.

USAID-funded local government programs include RTI training of more than 9,000 municipal council members to foster accountability through the development of financial methods, including operating and capital budgets; training on tendering and bidding processes; and documentation of financial transactions. Council members are also learning how to hold public hearings and open meetings, and how to provide information about government activities to the media. In addition, RTI has spearheaded efforts to help Iraqi citizens develop neighborhood councils that perform watchdog roles. In Al Basrah, for instance, RTI's Local Governance Team introduced the concept of advocacy and helped new councils learn to monitor the use of funds and develop relations with provincial and city governments. In this way, informed citizens are helping ensure accountability in their local governments.

Britain has committed 50 million pounds ($90 million) to specific bilateral aid projects including local government: "Some £20.5m [$37 million] will be spent on capacity building for local government in southern Iraq, where some 8,000 British troops are deployed, and 16.5m [$30 million] on job creation and restoring essential services. Three million pounds [$5.4 million] will go on supporting central government efforts on economic reform particularly with respect to debt relief... Ten million pounds [$18 million] will be split between a civil society project and another on engage citizens in the political process." This new commitments takes to £380 million, or $680 million, the total amount earmarked by Great Britain for specific projects in the liberated Iraq.

The success of the local government initiative in Iraq relies on the service of specialist civilians. They are real heroes in my view. Even though they are mostly working in the "safe" areas such as the Kurdish north and Shiite south, they are constantly in danger.

Take for instance Wallace Rogers, previously a county administrator in Wisconsin, USA. He is currently working in Tikrit and Erbil, in the Kurdistan zone managing project teams that organize Iraqi city councils, municipal budgets and public works programs. He works closely with local and provincial authorities, usually on public works and planning projects. His tasks include organizing city and provincial councils to work on issues like constituent relations and developing good working relationships between mayors and governors, councils and legislatures.

"Although I didn't, and don't, support the politics that's involved us in Iraq, once here, we have to try to get this right," he said. "I believe democracy and democratic tendencies grow from the ground up. It won't work in Iraq, or anywhere else, unless and until ordinary people have confidence in the institution of local government and feel they can access its decision-making and policy-making processes".

"The security situation overlays everything we do," he said. "Working in a war zone severely limits what you can do. But the U.S. government and international non-governmental organizations have poured billions of dollars in resources into the country to help finance and promote the efforts of people like me who are working here."


Closet Republicans 

Roger Simon has an interesting post on Bush not being down and out in Beverly Hills:
"As most have heard, the current estimates of Jewish support for Bush in the election were 25%, up from 19% in 2000. This may be a serious underestimate. The following is only preliminary (more stats are being broken down) but it comes from ... of all places... BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - perhaps the most Jewish incorporated city in the state and also the home of many of Hollywood's supposedly left/liberal personalities (as well as numerous Iranian Jews who would tilt to Bush). Bush's support in Beverly Hills was up 22 percentage points (more than double) from 2000. Caveat: these stats are still unofficial but they are obviously very significant."
The unofficial figures that Roger quotes put Bush at over 42% of the vote in the Hills.

This is an interesting problem for pollsters and political junkies: opinion polls - both the pre-election one, as well as the exit ones - tend to underestimate the right-wing vote. Quite simply, there are closet Republicans (and in Australia, closet Liberals) who tell the pollsters one thing and then in the privacy of the polling booth do another. We're not talking about large numbers here - 1, maybe 2 per cent of the population - but considering how close many of the elections can be (I'm talking more about individual districts or states, rather than whole nations), such willful misinformation by those polled can make the numbers seriously out of whack.

Why do we have closet Republicans? The climate of opinion generated by large sections of the mainstream media, the kommentariat, the academic world, and the entertainment industry quite simply makes some people reluctant to admit they vote Republican. While in some places such admission can damage your reputation and career (Hollywood, universities), many others from less exalted walks of life nevertheless also feel uncomfortable telling the pollster that, yes, I am voting for the party of jingoistic, bigoted, homophobic morons.

I think this phenomenon tends to be even more pronounced among some minority groups in which the common wisdom sees voting for anyone else but the Democrats as tantamount to treason. Imagine being an African-American voting for Bush - you're an Uncle Tom selling your soul to racist good ol' boys. Or a homosexual - how can you support all those Bible-thumping bigots and homophobes? Or indeed a Jew - which, circularly brings me to the point made by Roger Simon. Of course many African-Americans, Jews and gays and lesbians do vote Republican - and many among them couldn't care less what others think of their choice. But I can imagine that the peer pressure would be too much to bear for many others who therefore choose to keep their voting to themselves - it is a secret ballot after all, isn't it?

Well, just a thought to keep in mind when you're reading the polls in the future.


Monday, November 08, 2004

Good news from Iraq, Part 14 

Note: Also available at the "Opinion Journal" and "Winds of Change." As always, many thanks to James Taranto and Joe Katzman for the strong support for this project - and thanks to all the readers and fellow bloggers who encouraged and promoted the series.

Bruce Chapman, of the Discovery Institute, recounted on these pages not long ago how "[b]asking in the sun by the Al Hamra Hotel swimming pool, a Spanish journalist complained to me that 'all my editors want is blood, blood, blood. No context. No politics'."

There certainly has been enough carnage in Iraq to satisfy even the most bloodthirsty editor. Albeit not as bloody as, say, the Darfur region in Sudan, which probably doesn't have hotels with swimming pools, Iraq keeps providing plenty of beheadings, suicide bombings, ambushes and firefights to color red the newspaper pages and nightly news bulletins.

If your regular reading and viewing habits have fulfilled your fortnightly quota of "blood, blood, blood", read the stories below for some "context" and "politics". Yes, there is more to Iraq than just the gore.

SOCIETY: The Iraqi Interim Government is now

Powerline blog, via one of its readers, brings to our attention the results of an
opinion poll, which is not getting any publicity outside Iraq. "[The] poll taken in Baghdad, Mosul and Dehok and published in Iraq on October 25. The poll probably over-sampled Sunnis, which makes its results even more striking:

"63% of Iraqis say that the withdrawal of American and allied forces will not be in the best interest of Iraq, it will undermine the work towards security and control of the country. 27% say that it would be in the best interest of Iraq. 9% had no opinion.

"58% say that terrorists do the kidnappings and assassination of police and soldiers. 9% say that patriots fighting for Iraq carry them out. 32% say ignorant Iraqis who have been brain washed & misled carry them out.

"89% said that the terrorism, kidnapping, beheadings and assassination of police and security forces do not help the freeing of Iraq and the building of a stable country. 6% said that it would help free Iraq and build stability. 4% had no opinion."
It seems that insurgents are failing not only to win popular support but also to slow down the march towards democracy. Iraq's Shia religious establishment have now thrown their weight and moral authority behind the election:

"Ahmed Al Safi, a senior aide of Ayatollah Sistani announced... that 'Those who don't participate in the elections will end up in hell' and he added in his speech 'We must bear the responsibility and we must all participate in the elections because it's a patriotic duty and not doing so is like treason.' He also denied the news that spread about Sistani preparing or supporting a particular list of candidates."
Iraqi blogger Zeyad has more. Buoyed by religious imprimatur, the country's Shia majority is increasingly looking forward to exercising their democratic rights:

"Ayatollah Sistani has... asked his representatives to form committees - comprising members of all faiths - to provide information and guidance to Iraqis in the run-up to the 2005 elections, which he regards as vitally important to the future of Iraq.

"Sheik Adel al-Ramahi, Sistani's representative in east Baghdad and a committee supervisor, has called for the last day of January - voting day - to be declared a public holiday to reduce the chances of people abstaining for work reasons."
Kurdish blogger Kurdo, meanwhile, posts on how the political parties in his part of Iraq are preparing for the elections.

Iraq's free press has certainly been making it difficult for everyone to overlook the coming of democracy:

"Newspapers in Iraq have been offering up a barrage of daily reports and opinion pieces over the past month on a variety of election-related subjects. Politicians and religious leaders 'in the know' have commented on election developments, as the official Electoral Commission has detailed information on the mechanisms established to become a candidate and on voting. Articles have appeared on voter-education seminars that are being offered by political parties and organizations; the likelihood of whether or not expatriates will be allowed to vote from abroad, whether Sunnis will participate in the elections, as well as the political maneuverings as the parties work to forge alliances and place their candidates on election lists that will meet the stringent requirements established by the commission.

"But perhaps the most salient barometer of the 'mood' in Iraq can be found on the editorial pages of Iraq's dailies. Commentaries overwhelmingly support the elections and offer intelligent and well-constructed viewpoints on a variety of election-related topics. Writers regularly demand that the Electoral Commission provide more information on the election process, and call on the Iraqi people to cast their ballots on election day.

"Writers publishing in a variety of newspapers supporting divergent political positions appear to agree on one fact: elections should not be derailed by terrorism and instability. Most contributors have stressed the necessity of holding nationwide polling. But some writers support the idea that partial elections in stable areas would be better than no elections. 'Attaining half or three-quarters of legitimacy, so to speak, is better than no legitimacy at all in order to respond to the doubters and silence the loud voices that keep accusing the government of treason and illegitimacy. They act as if the whole Arab world enjoys legitimacy and as if Iraq is the only exception in the region that has no legitimacy in the middle of [an] ocean of Arab legitimacy,' Latif al-Subayhawi wrote in the 18 October edition of 'Al-Dustur'."
The report notes that "[n]ews of Iraq's upcoming January elections has dominated the pages of Iraq's major dailies in recent weeks, to some extent crowding out the more detailed coverage of the growing insurgency, the presence of multinational forces, and even the workings of the interim administration." Which arguably demonstrates that the Iraqis are fully aware of how crucial the elections are to the future of their country.

The newspapers might be doing their best, but clearly there is no such thing as too much civic education in a country that had suffered under a brutal dictatorship for some three decades. The "Wall Street Journal"'s very own Daniel Henniger reports on the latest cooperative initiative between the Spirit of America and enthusiastic Iraqis. The project is called the
Friends of Democracy and aims "to educate the Iraqi people about the meaning and purpose of democracy before that January election date." Among the specific initiatives:

"- Documentaries. A new Iraqi NGO called Civic Pillar is acquiring, through friends in Holland, documentaries showing (with subtitles in Arabic) other nations' experience with new democracies. For example, 'Milosevic: Bringing Down a Dictator' (made here in 2002 by Steve York with PBS station WETA).

"- Public service announcements. They are soliciting Iraqi celebrities (athletes, artists, authors, actors, poets) to do TV spots explaining what democracy means to them, or urging people to think beyond tribe or sect to the future of a new Iraq. A prime mover here is the new government's Minister of Women's Affairs, Narmin Othman. Though her annual budget is very small, she has contacts in the broadcasting community and wants SoA's help to create spots encouraging women to participate in the elections.

"Relatedly a new initiative called the Iraqi Women's Educational Institute has begun the Women's Leadership Program, which will train 150 Iraqi women around the country in democracy-building skills. Spirit of America hopes to give each woman $1,000 to kick-start their projects at home.

"Via the Internet, the bloggers want to hook up 50 to 100 pro-democracy student groups around the country. Do such groups really exist? The bloggers insist they do. (And who knew before Tiananmen Square or Romania's Timisoara?) They also want to create a central Web site to share documents. Once identified, Spirit of America would like to acquire copiers and paper for all of them.

"Other projects include citizen roundtables and town-hall meetings, which will be taped and distributed to broadcast outlets around the country. They hope to get Iraqis used to the until-now alien idea of free speech and open debate. There are even plans for an Iraqi Federalist Papers. The idea here is to ask a group of Iraqi intellectuals to write on constitutionalism and the rule of law. They would publish a booklet, solicit responses, hold point-counterpoint debates and tape them for broadcast."
Read the whole story and see if you can assist this very valuable project.

With the democratic steamroller gaining speed, even
the United Nations officials are increasingly optimistic:

"Preparations for the crucial January election are 'on track' and the absence of international observers due to the country's tenuous security should not detract from the vote's credibility, the top U.N. electoral expert here said...

" 'International observation is important only in that it's symbolic,' Carlos Valenzuela told The Associated Press... 'I don't think that the process will be less credible without observers, absolutely not. They are not the essence. They are not essential. They are not important. If they can come, fine, of course'."
According to Venezuela the preparations on the local level are progressing according to plan: "Already... about 15 U.N. electoral officers were based in Amman, in neighboring Jordan, and that four experts from the International Foundation for Election Systems, a Washington-based organization, were working in Baghdad. Valenzuela said the electoral commission already has hired 400 electoral officers, of whom more than 300 were stationed outside Baghdad. Close to 6,000 Iraqis were undergoing training to be clerks at 548 voter registration centers across Iraq."

According to UK's Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, the following
timetable is in place in the run up to the election: "[R]egistration will begin [in November] for voters, parties and candidates... Iraqis will be informed of their status on the electoral rolls when they receive their food ration coupons beginning next week... [V]oters will have until December 15th to straighten out any irregularities... [D]uring the same time period, parties and candidates will register for the election." According to Iraqi Electoral Commission, while no exact date has been set yet, the election is scheduled to take place in the last week of January.

process is already underway: "Adverts splashed across the front or back page of many Iraqi newspapers called on 'political entities - parties, groups or individuals - who want to enter the upcoming elections to contact us and obtain the necessary documents to validate their candidacy'... Some 550 registration centers will be set up throughout the country in the same location or near where Iraqis are accustomed to receiving their food rations - a leftover from a United Nations oil-for-food program."

The voter registration
did commence, as planned, on Monday, November 1. "Today voter registration is starting all over the country... It is going well up until now," said Farid Ayar, the spokesman for Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission. The goal is to achieve the registration level of some 12 million voters - "As many as 120,000 Iraqis are needed to run 30,000 polling stations in January..." You can see the registration information posters here.

While the Iraqi authorities, with assistance from the United Nations and the
European Union, are preparing the logistics side of the elections, the United States is committed to providing additional security for the foreign election workers. Australia will be training and equipping the contingent of 155 Fijian troops, which will provide security for the UN election officials. The Royal Australian Air Force will be flying the Fijian troops to Iraq.

And while the January election will, of course, be the main event, we should not forget that democracy has been making progress on grass-roots level in Iraq for quite some time now. For the latest example, see this story about
city council elections in the town of Sagaron, in the Dibis District.

While violence continues to dominate the reporting from Iraq, here is
a reminder of how much more there is to Iraq than just the trouble spots in the center of the country: "[T]ake another look, this time outside Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle. There is a view of Iraq here that you will rarely see on television or read about in the newspapers. It is the relatively secure and peaceful region of northern Iraq, in Kurdistan." The report continues:

"A number of Kurds spoke to CBN News about their thoughts on the war and America's part in it. One man said, 'We thank George Bush and the Americans for freeing us and freeing Iraq. We ask them to please, help us rebuild our country.' Another reflected, 'To me, the Americans are the friends of the Kurds and friends of the oppressed all over the world.'

"A third said, 'It's not just my life that is much better now, it's the lives of all Iraqis. The Kurdish government is a much better government without Saddam, and it is a good example for other Arab countries to follow.' Still another added, 'The insurgents are scared of the Americans. It will be much better for everyone if the troops stay. If the U.S. forces withdraw from Iraq, the situation will get much worse, and there will be more bloodshed'."
Another recent report from the Kurdish north of the country notes:

"Truck drivers here say they are not worried about ambushes; shopkeepers report that security is not an issue; and local residents shrug off questions about violence and kidnappings. 'We have not closed our shutters at night in seven years,' Abdul Wahid Hassan said inside his shop filled with brand-new refrigerators, televisions and air conditioners.

"While cities like Baghdad and Falluja are riven by insurgency, this dusty, sprawling city is part of the other Iraq, a region that stays out of headlines and where life resembles something closer to normalcy... One northern governor talks about promoting tourism, a seemingly outlandish idea in a country gripped by violence but a measure of the security that Kurds feel they have achieved.

" 'People find it very difficult to believe that there is a safe area in Iraq,' said Barzan Dezayee, the minister of municipalities in the regional Kurdish government, who is leading a campaign to raise funds for water and sewage projects. 'We need to convince people that not all of Iraq is Falluja, that Kurdistan is safe,' Dezayee said...

"Today [Kurdistan] provides a glimmer of hope for the rest of Iraq: parents and their children linger at restaurants and shops long after darkness sets in, foreign aid workers walk unarmed through the streets, and the police and most soldiers wear soft hats."
The report rather disingenuous notes that "[w]hile it might be tempting for President George W. Bush to cite Iraqi Kurdistan as an example of what has gone right in Iraq, the relative peace here is not a result of the U.S.-led invasion," forgetting that it is a result of the first President Bush's victory in the Gulf War of 1990/91, maintained for a decade by the US-enforced no-fly zones, and solidified by the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Pamela Riley, director of School Partners, an educational program under the umbrella of
Spirit of America, has been intimately involved in efforts to revive Iraq's education system. As she writes, "[i]n December 2003 I became U.S. advisor to Iraq's Ministry of Education. Strapped into a parachute seat, I was flown into Baghdad in a C130 military transport plane, with stomach-turning air maneuvers to avoid mortar and rocket attacks. I immediately began 14-hour work days, seven days a week, in one of the most remarkable missions the U.S. has undertaken since reconstruction of post-World War II Europe." Riley now reports on the progress that has been achieved in the education sector:

"Teacher salaries were raised from $5 a month to a starting salary of $60 and an average of $300 a month.

"A new Minister of Education was appointed who quickly assembled a new senior staff. Some 12,000 teachers and administrators who had been members of the now-banned Ba'ath Party were fired.

"USAID has rehabilitated more than 2,500 schools and trained 33,000 high school teachers in effective and modern classroom management.

"UNICEF and USAID distributed school supplies to more than 5 million students and reprinted textbooks, after removing much of the propaganda from the previous regime.

"The U.S. Congress has allocated $70 million to rehabilitate 1,000 additional schools, and the World Bank has allocated another $60 million. These funds set the stage for school reconstruction for the next three years.

"The U.S. and other donor nations have pledged an additional $150 million for textbook revision, teacher training, and other non-construction projects. Teachers, for example, need to be trained in a variety of teaching strategies to ensure all students learn.

"The Ministry of Education has revised curriculum in the areas of civic education, history, and religion and has appointed a new national curriculum commission to revise curriculum in all subject areas."
As Riley notes, many problems remain: "The most serious obstacle to education reform in Iraq is an overly bureaucratic system and a workforce that has been isolated for 30 years." But the groundwork has been already laid, and with the democratically elected government taking charge in January, Riley hopes a new sense of ownership and accountability will spur further much needed reforms.

Iraq's higher education institutions will, meanwhile, benefit from a
better connection with the outside world:

"Qtel has announced that it will shortly provide internet services to universities and educational institutions in Iraq using the VSAT technology.

"VSAT, which stands for Very Small Aperture Terminal relies on advanced digital satellite telecommunications equipment for data, voice, and video applications. It is one of the most effective technologies used today to meet a diverse set of communications needs providing quickly deployable remote area connectivity.

" 'The International Fund for Higher Education in Iraq' Committee had recently signed a contract with Qtel through Qatar Foundation for providing remote connectivity to 37 locations in Iraq. Qtel's VSAT network will connect universities and other educational institutions within Iraq and be hubbed through the VSAT HUB in Doha, Qatar."
Similarly, LG has won a contract as part of South Korea's reconstruction package, to provide telecom network linking Iraq's 19 universities. And speaking of foreign connections, "Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research (Dr. Taher Al-Baka'a) announced that Iraq agreed with UNESCO for implementing 4 projects in the scope of higher education... [T]hese projects will be financed by Qatar Institution of Education, Science and Society Development."

On a smaller scale, an American history professor has started a valuable initiative called
"Books to Baghdad", designed to provide Iraqi university libraries with some new reading and teaching materials: "[Jonathan Roth] said that one of his best friends went to Iraq and learned about university libraries not having recent publications... Roth said he intends the books for the faculty members, who will in turn share the contents with their students. 'I've collected 40 boxes of books so far,' Roth said. Of the boxes, 20 are full of medical textbooks donated by a textbook company. The rest are new or lightly used textbooks or scholarly works." At Jacksonville State University in Alabama, Safaa Al-Hamdani, a professor of biology, has began a program by the same name.

health system also continues to receive help from overseas:

"When he left Iraq in 1980, Hamid A. Al-Mondhiry vowed he would not go back while 'Saddam and his thugs' were in power. Twenty-four years later, he returned to help his colleagues rebuild the Iraqi medical system.

"A specialist in hematology and internal medicine with Penn State College of Medicine, Al-Mondhiry began working with the Iraqi medical community six months before the war started, at the request of the U.S. Department of State. When Iraqi physicians arranged a medical conference, in collaboration with American military physicians, Al-Mondhiry was 'happy and eager to go.'

"With the sounds of gunfire and bombs exploding nearby, Al-Mondhiry and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center colleague C. James Holliman presented papers at the Iraqi Medical Specialty Forum, held in Baghdad. Al-Mondhiry discussed blood diseases and internal medicine topics at the forum, while Holliman, a specialist in emergency medicine, lectured on chest trauma, international emergency medicine and the future of emergency medical services. Gunfights near the conference site and terrorist threats failed to deter 30 invited American physicians and more than 300 Iraqi physicians from participating in the conference."
Much is being done to rebuild the health infrastructure: "Ministry of Health announced allocating 85 billion Iraqi dinars [nearly $60 million] to rebuild and supply hospitals in Baghdad and governorates. The spokesman of Ministry of Health assured that the Ministry allocated 67 billion Iraqi dinars [$46 million] to rebuild and supply number of hospitals in middle and southern Iraq, in addition to number of other projects funded by Japanese government through the participation of Minister of Health (Dr. Ala'a Al-Deen Al-Alwan) in Donors Conference in Tokyo." Elsewhere, 38 electricity generators will be installed in Basra hospitals thanks to a 2.1 million pound [$3.8 million] donation from the Multinational Forces. Mosul University will see the construction of the first bone marrow transplant center in Iraq, thanks to a 1 billion Iraqi dinars [$0.68 million] gift from the Italian government. In Baghdad, twenty four medical centres have acquired new dentist equipment. In Doohuk in the north of Iraq, a 17 billion Iraqi dinars [$11.6 million] program is being implemented "presenting health services to citizens, building new sections in hospitals, building major drugstore, rebuilding Zhako Hospital, rebuilding the Rehabilitation Center of Disabled Children, rebuilding and expanding Nakra Hospital, building number of health centers in Feeshkhaboor and Ma'abad Lalesh, and constructing doctors house in Duhook."

From a human to an animal focus, American veterinarian scientists are discussing the provision of training as well as advice and expertise to
rebuild the vet science in Iraq. Says Keith W. Prasse, dean of the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine: "In Iraq the faculty are 25 years out of date because Saddam cut them off from the rest of the scientific world when he came to power in 1979. They're dealing with destruction and inadequate energy supplies, and obviously security is a problem, but their infrastructure and supplies are in reasonably good shape. What's missing there mainly is planning to reestablish services."

Read also this interesting story from the frontline struggle to rebuild
Iraqi civil society: "Sobhi Mashhadani, the general secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), who opposed the war but now backs the occupation, presents a troubling dilemma for the British left." It's a fascinating glimpse of challenges facing Iraq and their repercussions in the political world of the West. Speaking of the industrial relations, you can also read (and even watch) the story of a 62-year-old grandmother, retired Florida Department of Labor worker, Duane Underwood, who for seven months had been helping to rebuild Iraq's Department of Labor.

Humor - a quality frowned upon in totalitarian societies - is making a welcome comeback in Iraq:

"Many Iraqis readily admit that humor is not considered an Iraqi characteristic. Egyptians have a reputation as the jokesters of the Arab world. Iraq is better known as a nation of avid readers. But the unbridled freedoms that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein and the misery of a constant cycle of bombings, kidnappings and murders have kindled a national sense of humor.

"Much of it is satirical and can be seen in street graffiti that makes fun of everyone, starting with the 140,000 American soldiers in Iraq. Other targets include insurgents, common criminals and political parties. 'The black humor you see on television is the only way for us to vent frustration,' said Qasim al-Sabti, one of Iraq's leading painters. 'We cry one minute and laugh the next when we watch [the latest TV hit] "Alley of the Junkies,"' he said...

"[W]hat Iraqis see in 'Alley of the Junkies' is a far cry from anything seen or watched during Saddam's reign of terror, when Iraqis could end up in jail - or worse - for indiscreet jokes about the president and his family. Now, Iraqis post images on Web sites ridiculing Saddam. One shows him bearded and squatting on the ground, singing about how unfair life can be. Another one shows him lying on his back in a hole - he was captured in December in an underground hole near his hometown of Tikrit - with rats and trash around him. 'You are the only loyal Baathists left for me,' he tells the rodents."
A useful initiative to preserve and make accessible to the world some of Iraq's rich cultural and historical heritage is about to get underway:

"The Field Museum is embarking on a two-year project that could help bridge cultural and scientific barriers exacerbated by the Iraq war. With the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the museum recently began to study, catalog and reconcile the scattered but priceless collections of materials from the famous 5,000-year-old archaeological site of Kish, 50 miles south of Baghdad. Kish is one of the world's oldest cities and site of the earliest evidence of wheeled transport.

"The museum plans to create a digital catalog of the more than 100,000 Kish artifacts held in Chicago, London and Baghdad. The catalog will be made available in English and Arabic on the Internet and in print. Also, a more complete database of all the objects will be created and made available on the Internet. 'This project will make possible, for the first time, a true reckoning of the site's historical and archaeological significance,' said William Pestle, Field Museum Collection Manager and one of the principal investigators on this project. 'It will also serve as a model for intellectual repatriation of exported archaeological collections'."
Iraqis, meanwhile, are increasingly taking to a new sport - baseball:

"Yasser Abdel Hussein tugs his cap and unwinds with the smooth sidearm delivery that's made him the ace of the pitching staff. He looks like a prospect. At home plate, however, Mohammed Khaled seems like he's still on chilly terms with his bat as he crouches, resplendent in a red (yes, red) New York Yankees hat, FUBU muscle shirt and tight bicycle shorts.

" 'It's a game of speed and concentration,' Khaled says after widely missing most of Abdel Hussein's pitches. He connected just twice, and then only by abandoning all technique and swinging one-handed. The 20 young men gathered on a patchy grass field behind Baghdad University's College of Sports Education may not look like much now. But organizers of Iraq's fledgling national baseball team have high hopes."
And they need a lot of help - here's a great opportunity for the baseball-mad Americans to lend a helping (and glowed) hand and thus spread more goodwill in Iraq.

ECONOMY: Iraq is celebrating the first anniversary of the introduction of the
new dinar. John B. Taylor, Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, says:

"One year later, a new currency is circulating throughout Iraq and the Iraqi currency exchange is hailed as a success. The exchange rate is steady, price stability has been restored, and economic growth this year is 50 percent, one of the highest rates in the world. The new Iraqi dinar is a sturdy and secure currency, imprinted with traditional Iraqi symbols -- altogether a great improvement over the flimsy bills with Saddam's face.

"Demand for the new currency has been so strong that the Iraqi government has earned an amazing $5 billion in seignorage [the capital gain generated by the creation of reserve money] during the past year just supplying it... And Iraqis are using the newly-minted dinars to purchase goods -- fresh bananas from the Americas, chickens from around the world, new and used cars -- at stable competitive prices in markets in Basra, Baghdad, Irbil and Mosul."
Meanwhile, the neighborly help for the Iraqi banking system continues:

"The Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF) is to offer more training programmes for Iraqi bankers... Three groups of Iraqi bankers have already completed three programmes at the institute, in Juffair, according to BIBF acting director Hussain Ismail. The BIBF is now expanding its training role beyond the region, he told the GDN.

"Among the groups from Iraq who completed BIBF training were 21 senior bankers from the Central Bank of Iraq. They attended a two-week programme on banking supervision at the BIBF, which was run in co-operation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Federal Reserve System. The workshop was conducted by experts from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and the IMF."
The Iraqi Central Bank will allow another five Middle Eastern banks to operate in Iraq, making the total of eight foreign banks licensed so far. In other news, "[t]he senior central bank official said the government would issue more Treasury bills to the secondary market to help create viable domestic capital markets and begin the process of trimming massive prewar debt. The central bank auctioned Treasury bills from the beginning of July for the first time in years, so far selling 900 billion Iraqi dinars ($628 million) worth of three-month bills with coupons ranging between 2.5 percent and 6.8 percent to local banks."

Iraqi government is planning to
put its budget in order, after decades of socialist malpractices have succeeded in distorting both the government spending and the economic life of the country:

"The Iraqi government plans to phase out slowly subsidies on basic products, such as oil and electricity, which comprise 50 per cent of public spending, equal to $15 billion, the planning minister said yesterday. Unveiling a three-year economic plan, compiled by in co-operation with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Madhi Al Hafez pledged 'a progressive programme to suppress subsidies...(which) constitute a significant burden on public finances'."
In the past, subsidies were used both as part of Saddam's welfare patronage system, and as a necessary income supplement for Iraqis laboring under the UN sanctions regime. Now, with changed political and economic realities, the government believes it's time for a gradual phase-out:

"Direct and indirect oil subsidies cost Iraq $8bn - $2.4bn of which are spent on imports to satisfy the local market, according to ministry figures. The price of a barrel of oil sold to local refineries is 300 dinars ($0.2) and some 550,000 barrels are sent to the refineries daily to satisfy domestic need. At petrol stations, fuel is sold at between 0.01 and $0.025-per-litre - underscoring the huge expense shouldered by the government.

"Oil in the financial year 2005 is expected to comprise 93pc of the country's revenue, at some $18.1bn. Iraq itself is predicted to generate revenues of $19.4bn which, coupled with external aid, will bring total revenues to $23.7bn... The 2005 budget is based on a price of oil of $26-per-barrel - a hugely conservative estimate, considering the price of oil, which ended the week at a record $55.50 a barrel."
Growth and opportunities are springing up in northern Iraq:

"Instead of waiting for security to improve in blood-stained Baghdad, leading contractor Kais al-Khalidi headed north to Iraq's Kurdish region to invest. The results, the Iraqi engineer says, have surpassed expectations.

"Andraust, an American group in which Khalidi is a shareholder, has agreed with Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani to invest $350 million in villas and resorts and a Nestle dairy products factory. 'We expect construction to start by the end of the year and see the first villas rented out in 18 months. Andraust is both contractor and investor,' Khalidi, whose interests range from oil to medical equipment, told Reuters...

" 'The north could be a model for Iraq. Its success in attracting business will put pressure on the rest of the country to improve security and encourage investment,' he said, adding that a tire factory was also under discussion. Bureaucracy in the north, stable since last year's Iraq war, is less than in Baghdad."
Baghdad, meanwhile, is witnessing a property boom: "Trade in property has surged particularly this year when the interim authorities lifted the restrictions Saddam Hussein had placed on the movement of people and sale of houses in the country. Estate agents say the return of expatriates has also fueled the boom in property market. Despite daily attacks and explosions it is now hard to find office space for rent in the capital's main thoroughfares."

To support the construction boom, and at the same time reduce the price of cement, Iraqi authorities will be importing electricity from Turkey to enable
cement factories to operate 24 hours a day at three shift, thus significantly increasing the current output.

In oil news, here's one assessments of the
short to medium term prospects of Iraqi oil industry:

"Iraq's oil production is expected to reach 3.5-4m bpd (million barrels per day) by 2009-10. Sources from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) told Times Business that oil production has already recovered to its pre-war level in 2004 and is expected to reach 3.5mbpd by 2009. With adequate investment and the use of modern technologies, crude oil production could reach over 5mbpd in the long run.

"Iraq has three large refineries - Baiji (constructed in 1982), Basra (constructed in 1972, and doubled in capacity in 1979), and Daura (constructed in 1955) - and several small refineries.

"All refineries suffered severe damage during the Gulf War of 1991, and all are very inefficient. Substantial investment will be required to upgrade existing refineries and expand total capacity before Iraq can meet again the domestic demand for oil refined products.

"In the next few years, Iraq is expected to have to continue to import oil-refined products worth over $2 billion annually.

"Iraq has one of the largest estimated petroleum reserves in the world. Based on old geological surveys, reserves are estimated at some 100-130 billion barrels (about 11 per cent of the world total), second only to Saudi Arabia.

"However, there is widespread belief in the industry that reserves could be even higher. Iraq's oil is good quality and relatively inexpensive to produce; many fields are large, onshore, and have fairly simple geological structures, IMF said."
Iraq's Oil Minister has indicated that two upstream contracts to develop the Khormala Dome in northern Iraq near Kirkuk and Hemrin near Baghdad will be shortly completed after the negotiations in Jordan. "Meanwhile, a third upstream contract for Subba and Luhais fields in southern Iraq has been delayed as the technical and economic aspects of the deals aren't yet ready. Last year, the official noted that the ministry would start development of the fields this year. Production from all the fields would reach 300,000-350,000 barrels per day within two years from the start of development." More foreign assistance to develop the oil sector continues to come in: "ChevronTexaco Corp. signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Iraq's Oil Ministry to provide free technical assistance to upgrade the country's exploration and production industry."

In trade news, increased
regional cooperation is on the cards: "Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi arrived in Jordan on Monday for talks on closer economic and political cooperation between the Mideast neighbors. Allawi, on his third trip to Jordan since taking office in June, will co-chair with his Jordanian counterpart Faisal al-Fayez meetings of a joint committee that sets out cooperation in various areas. Government spokeswoman Asma Khader said the committee will discuss Jordan's contribution to postwar reconstruction in Iraq, the possibility of building a 750-kilometer (470-mile) pipeline carrying Iraqi oil to Jordan and providing security to Jordanian drivers who have been targeted by Iraqi insurgents." In fact, ten such joint committees will be formed to "cover military affairs, security, trade, transportation, oil, energy, finance, communications, education, health and technology. The two sides agreed to join hands in securing financing for urgent infrastructure projects in Iraq in addition to rehabilitating border checkpoints and centers, building a highway between the Jordanian port of Aqaba and the Iraqi border, setting up a free trade zone on the frontier and building a Jordanian pipeline to pump Iraqi crude."

In Baghdad, meanwhile, preparations are underway for a
major trade and reconstruction event: "The Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry started preparations to hold Destination Baghdad Exposition DBX in Baghdad International Airport for the period (15-18) December 2004. The Chamber's executive manager (Mr. Omar Ra'ad) said that ten international and Arabic Companies will participate in fields of technology, cars industrialization, communications, oil industry and other industries."

The authorities have further allocated 1.5 billion Iraqi dinars [$1 million] for the construction of permanent exhibition facilities and organisation of
trade fairs and exhibitions to promote commerce. The Baghdad Chamber of Commerce is also lobbying for the creation of a duty free zone in Basra. And at the borders, [t]he Iraqi Customs Service (ICS) is moving forward with customs reform with support from USAID’s Iraq Economic Governance II (IEG II) project. As key IEG II technical staffs continue to arrive in Iraq, they are working with the ICS to lay the groundwork for comprehensive reform to streamline customs administration."

To further the efforts to rebuild what before the first Gulf War was a significant regional airline, Iraqi authorities are bids by America's Boeing or Europe's Airbus to participate in the expansion of the
Iraqi Airways fleet. In other transport news, the work is nearing a half-way mark on the 150 billion Iraqi dinar [$102 million], 510-km long railway link between Baghdad and Mosul. Meanwhile, down south, "[t]he United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is constructing 72 kilometers of new track and facilities between the Port of Umm Qasr and Shuaiba Junction, located west of Basrah. The construction is approximately 70 percent complete, and is on schedule for completion by the end of November."

RECONSTRUCTION: This BBC report profiles several
unsung reconstruction success stories in Iraq:

"An off-the-shelf power station has arrived in Baghdad, its massive components on flat-bed trucks which drove slowly along the desert highway from Jordan... The new plant will augment, and perhaps completely replace, a battered old Baghdad power station which hardly ever runs at more than 40% capacity... And most Baghdadis will be very happy about it. In time for the high demand next summer for electricity to power ceiling fans and air-conditioners, this plant should be generating constant power 24 hours a day - for a quarter of a million homes...

"In the Baghdad suburb of Zafaraniya, engineers with the US First Cavalry division have managed and financed a fundamental project. A network of new sewage pipes is nearly complete - mains drainage for the first time for around twenty thousand people who previously had only septic tanks. Many can't afford to have the septic tanks emptied regularly, so they fill and overflow into the street. This project is very popular, and it provides jobs for dozens of young men who were previously unemployed. Local people told me that support for the Moqtada Sadr militia dropped off when these jobs became available...

"In Jumhuriya, a very poor district of the southern city Basra, there are pools of sewage lying in the street around the stalls of the main local market. The flies are so bad it's hard to open your mouth to speak. But there's hope here too. The G5 military/civil liaison section of the British army has selected contractors to install pumps to take the foul water away. G5 have also provided new enclosures for market stalls away from the filthy street, and they're helping build a new covered fish market. And in Basra - unlike Baghdad - the military do announce their successes, the army publishes a free weekly newspaper called 'The Minaret', which details progress with projects like the sewage clearance in Jumhuriya. The paper also explains why it all takes so long - and they believe this helps defuse the impatient anger that fuels some of the resistance to the occupation."
Meanwhile, the latest official report concludes that the pace of reconstruction if finally picking up, although problems remain: "Of the $24.1 billion that Congress has allocated for Iraq's reconstruction over the past two years, $13.4 billion has now been obligated to rebuilding contracts, the report said. Three months ago, 30.6 percent of the reconstruction funds had been earmarked for specific projects. Now, that has risen to 40.7 percent, the report said. But only about $5.2 billion has been spent. In the quarterly report released three months ago, about $3 billion had been spent."

This is how the Iraqi authorities have apportioned
$360 million provided by the International Monetary Fund:

"These projects are included in 3 domains, first stage of building abilities program costing $3.6million, projects of supplying school books costing $40 million in addition to 7 projects costing $317 million represented by project of developing structures of rural areas and $20 million to rehabilitate schools buildings.

"The second stage of building abilities program, $7 million to rehabilitate sewerage and water nets in Baghdad city, $60 million for a project of sewerage nets in Al-Sader city, a project of developing sewerage and waters nets in governorates costing $90 million and another project includes rehabilitation of medical sector with $25 million and 5 projects for developing private sector costing $55 million."
And among the constant reminders of the slow pace, fraud and embezzlement, it is nice to once in a while read a story like this:

"[T]he Marines opened [the meeting] with a 'Thank You' to the local contractor who recently saved the U.S. close to $10,000. This amount sounds like pennies when put next to the billions allocated to the rebuilding effort of Iraq, but during a time of strife in many parts of the country, this small gesture is a significant step forward for both Iraqis and Americans.

"The contractor saved the U.S. money by redesigning a water pump system that will bring clean water to an Iraqi village near Camp Taqaddum, a Marine base close to Fallujah and Ramadi. The new system will operate from a cheaper generator of lesser power output than what the contractor initially determined, said Maj. Luke W. Kratky, the information officer for 3/24.

"The initial cost of the project was $39,000, however, refinements saved money that can now be used for other projects, explained Kratky, a Bridgeton, Mo native. The contractor could have pocketed the money and never mentioned it, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dwight Torres, information officer for 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, who headed the meeting. It shows that he is willing to help, and that the Marines can trust him to do good things while they are here, said the 35-year-old Santa Isabel, Puerto Rico, native."
October has been a good month for electricity production in Iraq: two new generators outside Baghdad have added another 192 megawatts to the national grid, eight new mobile power stations at Bayji were turned over to the authorities, and an upgrade of conductors on a 41 kilometer transmission line between the Dibis and Old Kirkuk substations has again connected the Kurdish region and the rest of Iraq. The report concludes: "October's production in the country has regularly exceeded 5,000 megawatts, compared to the pre-war level of 4,400. Since arriving last year, the Corps has strung 8,600 kilometers of transmission line, built over 1,200 towers and added over 1,800 megawatts to the grid."

As a result of such efforts there will be a
more reliable electricity supply in Al Sulaymaniyah region:

"[I]t is a region set apart from the rest of Iraq, even the electricity grid is separate. The region is dependent on hydroelectric power, which means when the rivers start to run lower electricity production is reduced.

"Because critical services like the hospital and the water treatment plants require constant electricity, it is the individual homes that are hurt the worse by the shortages.

"A solution proposed by the engineers was the installation of 15 generators capable of supplementing the current power sources. The public works team then was then able to facilitate the 1st Infantry Division funding for the purchase of the generators."
And a new project in At' Tamim Governorate is nearing completion: the new power station will add 325 megawatts to Iraq's national grid by the end of March 2005. It has so far generated 1,200 new jobs. "The first of two combustion gas turbines has already arrived on site and its installation is about 87 percent complete... By the end of 2005, USAID expects to add more than 1700 MW to the grid overall."

To further supplement Iraq's growing electricity needs, Iraqi and Iranian power grids will soon become
connected through West Azerbaijan Power Distribution Company, which already exports electricity to Turkey.

The Ministry of Electricity has recently allocated 100 million dinars [nearly $70,000] for rebuilding
two training centres for its personnel, at Baghdad and Nineveh. "[T]he Ministry plans to train and prepare staffs of engineering, technical, management, languages, science, and computers... [T]he Ministry, through the General Inspector Bureau, will [also] train some financial, legal, and supervision staffs to modern techniques in Egypt."

The Ministry of Municipality and General Works, meanwhile, is implementing
"For Cleaner and Shinier Iraq" program, committing 178.5 billion Iraqi dinars [$122 million] to utilise more than 40 thousand unemployed men around Iraq in various reconstruction and beautification projects. In a similar, but local initiative,

"[t]he 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division has worked with the residents of Baqubah to develop an Adopt-A-Highway program to take back the streets.

"Each day, more than 100 workers take to the streets as part of the program. This program has greatly reduced the trash and debris in the streets. Not only are these workers cleaning up the streets, but also they are making the streets safer for coalition forces and innocent Iraqis.

"Since the program started, Adopt-A-Highway workers have identified and reported a total of 47 improvised explosive devices to the Iraqi police. These workers are identifying potential roadside bombs and taking them off the street, preventing the needless loss of lives of innocent Iraqis.

"This program has provides local Iraqis with a source of employment and has instilled the pride of a clean and safe Baqubah."
Not just in Baqubah, the reconstruction work continues elsewhere throughout the country: cleaning irrigation channels in Al Anbar governorate; working to improve water quality in Thi-Qar governorate; digging up 51 new wells in Kirkuk; the implementation of 14 new reconstruction projects in Karbala; constructing new water installations around Babylon; building new water quality testing facilitiesin Basra; implementing $25 millions' worth of new projects in Samarra; restoration of marshes in Thi-Qar governorate; and the reconstruction of a major water treatment plant in At' Tamim Governorate.

Not just the infrastructure, but also the country's
agriculture is in dire need of rebuilding:

"A major Date Rejuvenation Project, supported by the U.S. government, is currently underway across the country and the PCO says it is 'proud to be a small part of this very important agricultural renaissance'...

"Iraq was previously famous for its date palms and dates counted amongst the country's major exported products. Under Saddam Hussein's regime the number of date palms decreased from 14 to 4 million."
Most recently, the PCO "supplied one ton of palm dates to the municipality of Al-Tashree. This municipality is responsible for the local administration of the Iraqi nationals that live in the International Zone in Baghdad. The dates, harvested from the grounds surrounding one of Saddam Hussein's Baghdad palaces, will be distributed amongst the poor of the International Zone."

Non-Government Organisations and charities continue to provide much needed assistance for the people of Iraq. This is a typical case: "On October 24, 2004, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) office in Turkey delivered eight tons of essential medicines to the Western Ninewa Province of Iraq. The medicines will assist three major public hospitals and 37 primary health clinics serving approximately 770,000 people in the cities of Telafer, Sinjar, Al-Ba'aj, and surrounding areas."

Then there is this useful initiative from
Switzerland's Agency for Development and Cooperation:

"The Swiss development agency is pressing ahead with a rehabilitation centre for the disabled in Fallujah, despite ongoing violence in the Iraqi city. Some 4,000 people in the area are thought to have disabilities as a result of the wars in Iraq.

"The centre will be part of a network of rehabilitation centres, which the Iraqi Handicapped Society - a local non-governmental organisation - plans to set up around country in the next few years... [T]he long-term goal is to set up a rehabilitation centre for the disabled in each of the country's 18 governorates. Building work is due to start soon and will be carried out by local contractors."
Individuals and small groups back home also continue to bring much needed assistance - and cheer:

" 'I don't know where we're going to put all these,' Pam Mack said today. 'We have a thousand Beanies.' Mack is part of a trio of Ironwood women trying to scare up Beanie Babies to send to Iraq for distribution to Iraqi children by members of the U.S. military... Friends Tricia Doan and Lynda Van Rossum round out the Beanie brigade. They are not only collecting the dolls, but raising money to ship them to Iraq (at a cost of about 60 cents each)."
People of Alabama, meanwhile, continue to help by collecting school supplies as part of Operation Iraq Children. Check both stories to see if you can assist.

THE COALITION TROOPS: The Coalition forces continue to assist with reconstruction. In

"Citizens of Bayji made great strides in becoming a more self-sufficient city with the official opening of four different projects between Sept. 21 and 25. The projects included the Al Bayji Bridge, Municipal Housing Asphalt Plant, Joint Coordination Center and Hijaj Medical Clinic.

" 'These projects have helped establish an unstoppable momentum for the city of Bayji,' said Lt. Col. Kyle McClelland, Task Force 1-7 Commander. The Al Bayji Bridge and MHAP, which were both opened on Sept. 21, cost a combined $500,000 to construct and are expected to bring great benefits to the citizens of Bayji."
Elsewhere, "[e]ighty-nine projects worth more than $3.2 million are currently underway or have been completed in Al Qadisiyah province since August. In an effort to stimulate the local economy, which directly benefits Diwaniyah families, the majority of projects are contracted to local businessmen and local laborers in order to develop and keep the wealth in the area. Funding for all projects comes from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Commander's Emergency Response Program." In Samarra, meanwhile, Task Force 1-26 Infantry was continuing their work on renovating the local soccer stadium.

It's not just rebuilding the physical infrastructure, but also sharing expertise, like these troops training
Iraqi firefighters:

"A siren pierces the early evening night calling attention to the bright yellow firetruck speeding toward a pillar of smoke in the distance. People here are accustomed to the sounds and sights of the emergency response crews as they hurry to save lives and property, but this crew is different.

"Instead of U.S. servicemembers deployed to Iraq driving the 10-ton firetruck to its destination, the men behind the wheel have a far more compelling interest in their destination, because they are Iraqi guards.

"As part of a program to help rebuild Iraq, the 506th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron's fire department graduated 19 Iraqi students here Oct. 13 after completing a three-day first responder, first aid and firefighting course. In all, more than 284 people have received this training which began in February."
There is also training for law enforcement agencies. Sgt. Jon H. Fouts, an artilleryman from the New Hampshire Army National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 197th Field Artillery Regiment is also a Military Policemen, who in civilian life is a Captain in the New Hampshire Department of Corrections. "Fouts brought with him a wealth of knowledge from his civilian occupation and put it to use [in Dyiala] as the primary instructor for the [Transitional Integration Program] academy, a department within the police academy designed to retrain Iraqis who had already worked as police officers under the Baath regime. The focus of the TIP academy is the de-Baathification of the officers as well as the teaching of Democracy, human rights, policing and investigative techniques."

The troops also continue to provide humanitarian assistance throughout regional Iraq. This is a typical
example: "Medics from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division (L) participated in Medical Assistance Visits Oct. 10-12. These visits enabled many Iraqi citizens to have access to quality health care. The team, comprised of members of Task Force 2-11 and the 225th Forward Support Battalion, accompanied Iraqi physicians from the Dibis Clinic to the remote villages of Gazwachan, Gaisuma and Kaaf. During the visits 627 Iraqi men, women and children were afforded the opportunity to see a physician and discuss their health and other concerns. The visits were coordinated through the Ministry of Health for the Region of Dibis. Medical supplies were supplied by the ministry or donated by non-governmental agencies and the U.S. Army." In Samarra, American specialists are providing advice to local doctors on how to best meet the medical needs of the locals. And in Balad, "[s]oldiers from B Company, Task Force 1-77 'Steel Tigers', conducted a grand opening ceremony for the recently completed Al Zahara Health Clinic."

Then there is plenty of assistance for
Iraqi schools: "More than 700 backpacks filled with school supplies brought smiles to the faces of students at the Al Zubaida primary school for girls Oct. 19. Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division's Apache Troop, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment of the 5th Brigade Combat Team made the delivery to children in the southern Baghdad Al Rashid District." More backpacks were handed out by Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division and Iraqi National Guard soldiers in Al Wynot. In a similar action, "[t]he 426th Soldiers delivered office supplies and sports equipment worth $8,100 to Azmir Primary School, Perzin Primary School, Perzin Secondary School and Diarbakir Primary School. The supplies included computers, printers, furniture and soccer balls. With a grant from the United States Agency for International Development, the 426th also renovated the Irbil Youth Union, which serves about 150 to 200 teenagers each day." There was even more backpacks here: "Members of the 13th Corps Support Command staff, Special Troops Battalion, Corps Distribution Command, 84th Engineer Battalion and 81st Brigade Combat Team distributed nearly 1,000 loaded backpacks to schoolchildren in Bakr Village, Iraq." Operation Crayon continued at Halima Al-Sadeea Elementary School in Kirkuk. And the soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division's 121st Signal Battalion have recently built an auditorium for an all-girl primary school in Al Dawr, also distributing school supplies, toys and clothes.

This Marine, meanwhile, is helping to bring some
cheer to Iraqi orphans:

"The children who wandered the streets and slept in the orphanages in Diwanijah, Iraq, had been stripped of everything: their homes, their parents, their belongings and their toys. The least that Lt. Christopher Smith could do, he thought, was find them some toys.

"Smith, a Cerritos resident and Marine infantry platoon commander, has committed himself to bringing smiles to the faces of the children in Diwanijah, a central Iraqi city south of Baghdad , which he is responsible for patrolling.

"During a routine patrol, he came upon run-down day-care centers and impoverished children, some homeless, some living in orphanages. Struck by the living conditions, he spearheaded 'Operation Orphan' last month to bring simple toys and games to children in Iraq."
With the help of his City Manager back home, Smith's action quickly gathered numerous contributions: "21 boxes of deflated sports balls, jacks, jump-ropes, markers and other toys and games were packed up and ready for delivery... The project has since grown to a nationwide campaign. As much as $12,000 worth of toys are streaming in from all over California, as well as Texas, New Jersey, Washington, and Florida." See the story for details, if you would like to help. Ryan Schorer, an Army Reservist from Florida, is similarly organising family, friends and volunteers from his area to send backpacks and supplies to children in Iraq. "When he left Iraq, more than 1,000 book bags had been collected and shipped and were ready to be delivered to elementary students."

The troops are also engaging in
good will gestures such as this: "The mayor of Balad Ruz, Mohammed Maroof Hussein, and representatives from the Multinational Forces from eastern Diyala province, gave out 1000 prayer rugs to 21 Imams from mosques around the Balad Ruz district... The gift of the rugs came on the second year the mayor and multinational forces wanted to help the local people of Balad Ruz celebrate the holy month of Ramadan." Since last March, the Multinational Forces have spent nearly $300,000 to repair and build new mosques for both the Shia and Sunni communities in towns of Balad Ruz and Qazania, in addition to over $800,000 spent on other civil projects throughout the district.

And there are plenty of
consequences of fighting to deal with: "On Oct. 25, Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit distributed more than $570,000 in condolence and collateral damage repair payments to demonstrate goodwill to Iraqis caught in the crossfire during fighting in Najaf August 2003. Payments began on Sept. 30 and have resulted in a total of $1.9 million paid to more than 2,660 Najafis since then. Payments will continue as long as needed to meet each valid case. Condolence payments, known as solatia, are being paid to express sympathy to those injured or who lost a family member during the fighting. Collateral damage repair payments are intended for Iraqis who experienced damage to their home, business or other property."

Lastly, you can also read about how the
Dutch troops do it in Samawa:

"In a neighborhood without lights, its pockmarked dirt streets and open sewers faintly visible under the full moon, the Dutch soldiers began a foot patrol on a recent evening. After getting out of their soft-top vehicles, the soldiers entered a street, wearing no helmets and pointing their guns down, chatting with Iraqis clustered in front of their homes.

" 'Hello, Mister!' some boys cried out, and they followed the soldiers to the bend in the road. Driving through the town later, the Dutch called out 'salaam aleikum' to pedestrians. Many Iraqis, adults and children, waved at them.

"Part neighborhood police officers, part social workers, the soldiers managed to practice in Iraq what the Netherlands has come to call the Dutch approach to patrolling. Scarred by national shame over the Dutch peacekeepers who proved powerless to stop Bosnian Serbs from rolling into the UN enclave of Srebrenica in 1995 and killing thousands of Muslims, the Dutch have nonetheless managed to keep a soft touch, honed in Afghanistan and now on display in this small town on the Euphrates."
DIPLOMACY AND SECURITY: There are growing indications that the Coalition and the Iraqi forces are winning the psychological war against the insurgents. This, in turn, translates into victories on the ground, as this story about Fallujah and the rest of the Sunni Triangle indicates:

"US forces said the arrested Zarqawi aide was a 'relatively minor member' of the network who 'had moved up to take a critical position as a Zarqawi senior leader' because of the attrition of other militants in the airstrikes.

" 'This is the first time there is evidence that intelligence gathering [in Fallujah] is really improving,' says Mustafa Alani, a security and terrorism expert at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. 'The reason is that human intelligence is much improved. There is some cooperation, so Iraqis are now part of the process'...

" 'The major difference is [insurgents] are not enjoying the same support and sympathy as in April,' says Mr. Alani. 'There is a major shift in people's perception after they see Samarra stable. People are sick and tired [of fighting]'."
There seems to be a general softening of attitudes across the Middle East - sort of: "The US remains the principal 'bad guy,' but the realities of an ugly war are leading to a more ambivalent attitudes towards the insurgency.

"Even Lebanon's Hizbullah, a Shiite Islamist group that Washington says is a terrorist organization, has criticized the extremists. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah's secretary-general, said recently: 'Indiscriminate and arbitrary acts are not resistance. The true resistance should protect its people and not kill them.'

" 'In general the Arab people are with the Iraqi resistance,' says Ahmed Sheikh, editor in chief of Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite channel that has often been criticized by US officials. 'But the feedback we get is that people are very opposed to attacks like the killings of the 49 Iraqis. People know they're trying to feed their families and say it's haram [forbidden]. Attacks on US forces, though, are seen differently'."
Yes, there is still a long way to go. But maybe this has something to do with the changing attitudes:

"According to Quds, Al-Arabiya, Middle East Broadcasting Company, Lebanese Broadcasting Company and Al-Iraqiyah television were forced from Fallujah by [the insurgents] because they were accused of providing biased coverage to Coalition forces by refusing to air insurgent stock footage of alleged civilian casualties. In discussions with Coalition officials, reporters from both Al Arabiya and MBC acknowledged threats to correspondents and indicated that some correspondents had withdrawn from Fallujah for their own safety and were reporting via phone from outside the city."
In Najaf, too, the atmosphere seems to be improving:

"More than a month after a U.S.-led offensive against the militia of Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the historic core of this holy city remains a sealed-off zone of devastation and rubble. Yet many residents accept the damage as the price of restoring stability. 'We all live with hardships, but the people of Najaf are pleased with the tranquility and stability they are enjoying now,' said Sayed Baqir Qubbanchi, a high-ranking cleric here. 'This is much better than the time of war'...

"Despite misgivings about the devastation, there is much relief in this war-weary town that the young men in black with Kalashnikovs and grenade launchers appear to be gone - at least for now. The Shiite guerrillas were unpopular with large segments of Najaf's generally conservative, business-oriented populace, which relies on a religious tourist trade that evaporated with the fighting.

"Large-scale U.S. reconstruction projects were launched immediately after combat ended in the city of 500,000 about 100 miles south of Baghdad. Throughout Najaf, schools, clinics and other facilities are being refurbished as part of the U.S.-funded rehabilitation plan, which includes extensive repairs to roads, sewers and water infrastructure."
The Coalition forces are capitalising on the more favorable strategic environment, often experimenting with tactics, like this unorthodox military commander does:

"[Col. Dana J.H.] Pittard, commander of an American infantry brigade in the once insurgency-rife province of Diyala, is outspoken and his tactics don't always follow the textbook. But he believes they have produced a 'recipe for success' at Baghdad's vital northern gateway. It includes everything from driving wedges between rebel factions to forbidding his troops to be rude to Arabs.

"A Harvard-educated military aide to former President Clinton, the colonel from El Paso, Texas, also believes that contrary to what some military analysts think, a conventional U.S. Army unit with the right training, tactics and mind-set can defeat the rebellion.

"While Pittard and others acknowledge the insurgency remains active and could again worsen, he points to evidence of a sharp decrease in attacks in the largely agricultural region of some 1.7 million people.

"Roadside and car bombings, while still a serious threat to his 6,000 soldiers, fell 60 percent from their June peak while direct attacks plummeted by 85 percent, according to the military. As mortar and rocket strikes on Camp Warhorse, headquarters of Pittard's 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, have subsided, body armor no longer has to be worn at all times and outdoor volleyball and basketball courts have come into use."
The change in tactics also translates into changes to training of the Iraqi security forces:

"The Pentagon is making a key change in its approach to providing trainers for the fledgling Iraqi army in hopes of getting Iraqis to take control of their nation's security sooner. For the first time since the U.S. military began training Iraqi security forces more than a year ago, the Pentagon is giving a lead role to an Army Reserve unit that specializes in soldier schooling, but has never performed that mission abroad.

"Up to now, the Iraqi army has been trained by a hodgepodge of U.S. infantry and other units. The Army says the decision to send the 98th Division - one of seven units in the Army Reserve that specialize in training other soldiers - will stabilize the effort. The 98th will have a 12-month tour. The division is sending about 700 of its 3,600 part-time soldiers to provide a mixture of training, including basic combat skills and the development of a noncommissioned officer corps, its commander, Maj. Gen. Bruce Robinson, said."
The Iraqi National Guard continues to be armed and equipped by the American troops: "Multi-National Forces donated about $500,000 worth of equipment to Iraqi National Guard soldiers... Soldiers from the 104th, 105th and 108 ING Battalions received 2,100 body armor vests with plates." Overall, the October assistance included "more than 12,000 AK-47s, nearly 12,000 sets of body armor, 265 vehicles including heavy trucks, 41,000 pairs of desert boots, more than 4 million 9mm pistol rounds, 25 Walther 9mm pistols, approximately 4,500 various-make 9mm pistols, 60 PKM machine guns, 5,248 grenades - including 4,000 smoke grenades, 110 aircrew life vests, 22,637 9mm Glock pistols, 594 RPK machineguns, almost 3,000 handheld radios, more than 6,350 Kevlar helmets, 2001 Berretta 9mm pistols, 18 ambulances, 21,000 sets of desert uniforms, 17,000 pairs of running shoes, 460 sleeping bags, four pallets of medical equipment, 322,000 shotgun shells, and roughly 12 million AK-47 rounds."

The Iraqi National Guard
medics are also receiving training from their American counterparts. Medical training for high-casualty emergencies is also being provided: "The training consisted of Soldiers' reaction to an improvised explosive device on a military convoy, evacuating casualties, medical evaluation and treatment, and air medical evacuation procedures. The medical teams were combined between the ING medics and the Multi-National Forces-Iraq medics to simulate how a real emergency might take place in a joint operation."

And the US Army is also training
female Iraqi National Guards: "Soldiers from New York National Guard's Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry Regiment have already trained five females who have taken the initiative to join the ranks of Iraqi National Guard soldiers. 'It's important for me to do this because it is the first time for freedom for the women in Iraq,' said Intisar Abbod, a 24-year-old female ING soldier. 'So I can feel that'."

Training and other assistance is being provided not just by the American forces. "
Ukraine has agreed to train members of the country's new army and repair and modernize its weapons... Ukraine has 1,500 army personnel in Iraq as part of the US-led multinational forces. Under the deal, Ukraine will provide military training for Iraqi troops and overhaul the country's heavy weaponry." Similarly, Poland has signed a military cooperation agreement with Iraq, under which Poland will train Iraqi army and supply equipment. And the first batch of twenty Iraqi security personnel started to receive training at the Joint Warfare Center of NATO in Stavanger, Norway: "The eight-day course, which is the first training conducted outside of Iraq, has been tailored to meet the needs of mid- to high-ranking Iraqi security personnel... The course focuses on the function of an operational-level headquarters and includes instruction on crisis management, command and control of forces, the operational planning process, and integration of all aspects of civil-military cooperation, including liaison with the UN and other international organizations."

Iraqi police force, too, continues to be on the receiving end of foreign assistance. In
Samarra, for example, "[p]olice here are much safer now, following the construction of six new fortified police stations. Engineers assigned and attached to the 1st Infantry Division built one station a day for six days beginning Oct. 11, and spread them evenly throughout the city. The stations cost about $100,000 apiece, according to Sgt. 1st Class Armondo Cadena, a combat engineer and platoon sergeant with C Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. Much of that money went to ensuring security. 'They will withstand rocket-propelled grenades, car bombs, and mortars,' Cadena said." In other assistance, Multi-National Forces recently installed 17 mobile vehicle radios in Iraqi Police Service vehicles in the northern city of Bayji.

There's also practical training: soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division, with assistance of US Civilian Vanguard International Police Advisors, are training Iraqi National Police on
Basic Rifle Marksmanship (BRM) skills in Tikrit.

The increased presence and professionalism of the Iraqi security forces are bringing results on the battlefield with insurgents. Around
160 Arab fighters have recently appeared in Iraqi courts on terrorist charges. The Egyptian, Iranian, Jordanian, Lebanese, Syrian, Yemenite and Moroccan nationals face death penalty if convicted under the Iraqi law. "The Arabs have been referred to Iraqi courts and the verdicts against these foreigners are due to be pronounced soon for acts of terror they carried out in Iraq," said Iraqi Justice Minister Malik Dohan al-Hassan said. The 160 are a part of a larger group of some 3,000 suspected insurgents arrested in recent security operations across Iraq, according to the Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Among those arrested are said to be one of Izzat al-Duri's deputy and his assistant (al-Duri, a former vice-president, is the suspected leader of Baathist insurgents).

Some of the other recent security successes include: the arrest by Iraqi security forces of a suspected
al Qaeda operative in Najaf; the killing in a Fallujah air strike an aide to Abu Mussab Al Zarqawi; foiling by the Saudi authorities on an infiltration of Iraq by four Saudi nationals; the arrest by the Syrian authorities of several Kuwaitis planning to enter Iraq in order to join the insurgency; capture by the Iraqi SWAT team and US Marines of 18 insurgents in the town of Haswah; foiling of a car bomb attack in Mosul due to a tip from the community; the arrest of 94 suspects trying to illegally infiltrate from Iran; and the recent capture of another two Al Zarqawi operatives.

James S Robbins writes about the dearth of good story reporting from Iraq:

"You can glean scores of interesting stories from the web if you search enough, from service-member blogs, public-affairs websites, and some local papers, especially in military towns. Most of the reporting comes from the units in the field, the people close to the scene who live it daily and know the facts. Nevertheless, it seems as though you cannot give away a good news story about our military in Iraq. The mainstream press is not interested. However, I am betting that most Americans are."
Judging by the response to this now almost regular column, they certainly are. I would venture a guess that part of the explanation why the American involvement in Iraq continues to enjoy a majority popular support is that a significant number of people throughout the country have stopped relying on the mainstream media for all the news from Iraq. To paraphrase the Spanish journalist, people are no longer satisfied just with "blood, blood, blood" from their newspapers and TV channels. Increasingly, they are looking for "context" and "politics" too, and finding them elsewhere.


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