Saturday, August 06, 2005

It's getting HOT in here 

Another worthwhile group you can help to help our troops:
According to many servicemembers stationed overseas, it's a great feeling to receive a care package, and it's especially nice when the package contains items that you personally requested.

In March, Kristen Maddox, a 21-year-old college student from Santa Ana, Calif., launched the nonprofit organization "Helping Our Troops" with that in mind. Her goal is to ship care packages that contain items based solely on troop requests.

"We don't send our favorite items; we send their favorite items," Maddox said.

HOT is made up of a small group of volunteers, mainly Maddox's friends and family, who have doggedly searched for a wide variety of items, including canned sardines, eye goggles and pool cues.

As soon as HOT receives a request from a servicemember, normally via e-mail, the volunteers immediately set out to fill the order, Maddox said. "Once we receive a request, we go shopping. In cases where the items are difficult to find, we continue shopping until we find them," she said.
It's been a labor of love for Maddox:
Maddox's idea took hold when she turned 21 on Jan. 9.

Her parents gave her $250 so she could buy herself a gift, but she set the money aside for her business. She canceled plans to party with girlfriends.

That same day, a high school friend, Lance Cpl. John Richardson, 22, left for Iraq on his third deployment.

"I thought, 'I'm here (in America). I can go out and party and see my friends and family every day, but men and women my age are over there, and what am I doing?'" Maddox said. "It made me realize that I can do more for them, so why not?"...

To get her nonprofit organization off the ground, Maddox dipped into savings for a condo she planned to buy.

So far, she has spent about $5,000 hiring a lawyer to form the nonprofit, starting a Web site and printing 200 "I'm Hot" tank tops and T-shirts for people who donate $25 or more. The $5,000 also has gone toward buying things like beef jerky, anti-fungal foot cream and DVDs.
The photo of Kristen, above, is not gratuitous, but illustrative of this story:
Many troops, when they first hear about her service, think it is a hoax.

They also assume that an older woman is behind the packages. They are surprised, she said, to discover it is someone her age.

Some are smitten.

Lance Cpl. Brandon Grove, a 23-year-old Marine, has struck up a close friendship with Maddox, sending photos and regular e-mails. He sent her a live rose bush. The two plan to meet this summer.
If you want to help: visit www.helpingourtroops.com, or mail a check to Helping Our Troops Inc., P.O. Box 10298, Santa Ana, CA 92711-0298. E-mail: info@helpingourtroops.com.

Update: And here is a list of links to dozens and dozens of other groups and initiatives supporting the troops.


Pre-emptive goodbye 

The news is out on other blogs, so I guess you should probably read it here, too (chuckle).

A few days ago, I accepted a new job. Unfortunately, one of the conditions is that I will not be allowed to blog, or indeed write much on my own. As you can imagine, it has not been an easy decision. Oh, what the hell - it has been a damned difficult one. I have enjoyed blogging immensly, and I have enjoyed meeting all of you - virtually - over that time. I will, of course, write a bit more on this topic in due course, but in advance of that, a big thank you to all my readers and my fellow bloggers who have made the last eighteen months of my life so fantastic and so rewarding.

Don't leave quite just yet - the blogging will continue for another few weeks.


Friday, August 05, 2005

The lessons of Victorian terrorism 

A very interesting opinion piece from "The Times", which draws parallels between the terrorist threat of anarchism in the late 19th century, and the terrorist threat of Islamism today.

Concludes Graham Stewart:
The principal cause [of the decline of the anarchist threat], though, was the realisation that while other socialist movements were making gains, the anarchists, by refusing to engage and cooperate, were not. Potential converts joined the radical causes that were succeeding instead. This is the problem for "all-or-nothing" fundamentalism: it usually ends with nothing.

Terrorists with specific goals and the nous to make tactical compromises can end up in power. But this imperfect world is not good enough for al-Qaeda. And that profound weakness may yet confine it to the same historical irrelevance as the 1890s anarchists.
If this be a parallel, it's not exactly good news. We have to remember that "other socialist movements" which made "gains" while anarchists did not, included not just Western democratic socialists responsible for the triumph of mixed economy and welfarism throughout the twentieth century, but also Bolsheviks, who gave us seven decades of Cold War and 100 million corpses.

It will be a scant consolation if Al Qaeda itself eventually fades away, while the "more successful" radical Muslims have otherwise, through more peaceful methods, succeeded in creating an Islamic superstate of the New Caliphate under one God and one Sharia.


In 100 words or less 

London Mayor Ken Livingstone in July:
That isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted faith, it is just an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder and we know what the objective is. They seek to divide Londoners. They seek to turn Londoners against each other...… Londoners will not be divided by the cowardly attack. They will stand together in solidarity alongside those who have been injured and those who have been bereaved and that is why I'm proud to be the Mayor of that city...

[Migrants] choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves. They flee you because you tell them how they should live. They don't want that and nothing you do, however many of us you kill, will stop that flight to our city where freedom is strong and where people can live in harmony with one another. Whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.
Ken Livingstone in August:
It is four weeks since bombers indiscriminately killed and maimed ordinary Londoners. Protecting London from terrorists requires the best possible policing - which, in turn, needs the greatest possible flow of information from all communities. It also demands that we shrink the pool of the alienated that bombers draw on by treating all communities as equal parts of British society - not only theoretically, but in reality. And it means withdrawing from Iraq.
Alenda Lux had more.

Fortunately, Al Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri has come to the rescue of commentators struggling to find a solution to terrorism. As "Christian Science Monitor" helpfully summarized the case: "Al Qaeda to West: It's about policies."

This comes as an immense relief, because if only we can change our wicked ways, a lamb shall lie down with a lion and we will all live happily ever after. In any case, the ball is in our court to make Al Qaeda happy.

So what does al-Zawahiri want?
The lion of Islam, the mujaheed Sheik Osama bin Laden, may Allah protect him, has offered you a truce, so you will leave the lands of Islam. Did Sheik Osama bin Laden not tell you that you could not dream of security before we live it as a reality in Palestine and before all the infidel armies leave the land of Muhammad? But you have made rivers of blood in our countries, so we blew up volcanoes of rage in your countries. Our message to you is clear and unequivocal: You will not be saved unless you withdraw from our land, stop stealing our oil and our resources, and cease your support of the corrupt (Arab) rulers.
End of Western military presence and political influence in Islamic countries? Check.

Destruction of Israel? Check.

Giving Al Qaeda free hand to overthrow current governments, and abolish any vestiges of democracy, human rights and freedom? Check.

The last point has been elaborated upon by al-Zawahiri last year:
True reform is based on three principles:

The first principle is the rule of Shari'a [Islamic law], because Shari'a, which was given by God, protects the believers' interests, freedom, honor, and pride, and protects what is sacred to them. The Islamic nation will not accept any other law, after it has suffered from the anti-Islamic trends forcefully imposed on it.

The second principle of reform is the freedom of the lands of Islam. No reform is conceivable while our countries are occupied by the Crusader forces, which are spread throughout our countries. No reform is conceivable while the Crusader forces are stationed in our countries [where they] enjoy support, supplies, and storage facilities, and go forth from our countries to attack our brothers and sisters in other Islamic countries. No reform is conceivable while our governments are controlled by the American embassies, which stick their noses into all our affairs.

The third principle of reform is the Muslim nation's freedom to run its own affairs. This [principle of] reform will only be realized in two ways. First, freedom of the independent religious judicial system, the implementation of its rulings, and the guaranteeing of its honor, authority, and strength. Second, the freedom and the right of the Islamic nation to implement the principle of 'promoting virtue and preventing vice.'
Those who argue that it's up to us to stop terrorism, if only we would change our policies, somehow never seem to be particularly concerned about the larger implications of such changes. So here is a simple task:

Explain in 100 words or less, how the Middle East ruled by bin Laden and religious fanatics controlling most of the world's oil reserves is in America's - and the Western world's - interest.

Explain in another 100 words or less, how you are going to ensure this scenario will not become reality after the West "stops the aggression against Muslims".

If you still have more time, explain in - oh, what the hell, take as many words as you like - why bin Laden doesn't really mean it when he says
The first thing that we are calling you [the United States] to is Islam...

The second thing we call you to, is to stop your oppression, lies, immorality and debauchery that has spread among you. We call you to be a people of manners, principles, honour, and purity; to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling's, and trading with interest.
and that once in control of a radical Islamic superstate, he will forget about what he considers to be his religious duty to convert all the unbelievers to his version of Islam.

Happy writing.

More info: Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Anton La Guardia.

I've been criticized by one reader that:
I'm frustrated by your selective interpretation of the opposing position. Yes, there are certainly those who fit into the isolationist/appeasement category you paint above. But the degree to which you focus on them -- in near exclusion of all others -- frustrates me as so far as I can tell, numerically and politically, that category is a minority...

What I'd like to hear more about from you is less how the small minority of stupid people truly are stupid, and more about how the large majority of concerned citizens are legitimately concerned, and what we can do about it.
It's a valid point that we should be discussing the best strategies in our fight against terror (or whatever else you choose to call this struggle) - how successful are we? what do we be doing differently or better? - but I'm far from convinced that isolationism and appeasement are the positions of a small minority. Which is why I keep hammering on these points.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

You just can't make this stuff up 

This is just unbelievable - Great Britain's sole Baath Party member of parliament, George Galloway, on Syrian TV:
Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners - Jerusalem and Baghdad. The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will. The daughters are crying for help, and the Arab world is silent. And some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters. Why? Because they are too weak and too corrupt to do anything about it...

It's not the Muslims who are the terrorists. The biggest terrorists are Bush, and Blair, and Berlusconi, and Aznar, but it is definitely not a clash of civilizations. George Bush doesn't have any civilization, he doesn't represent any civilization. We believe in the Prophets, peace be upon them. He believes in the profits, and how to get a piece of them. That's his god. That's his god. George Bush worships money. That's his god - Mammon.
Somebody should tell Gorgeous George that Karl Marx (curse be upon him) is a prophet that failed, and is not actually recognized as one by the Muslim faithful.


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

From many, one 

American conservatives often bemoan the failings of multiculturalism and many problems associated with the way the United States absorbs and deals with migrants. Not being a resident, I can't comment from personal experience and observation how much there is to the conservative critique (and I use this term broadly, seeing that perhaps the two most prominent recent book-length treatments of the topic come from life-long Democrats, Victor Davis Hanson and Samuel Huntington), but whatever the failings of the American model, it's being increasingly held up as an example of a more successful strategy vis-a-vis minorities than that pursued throughout Europe.

It's not just disenchanted Euro nationalists and nativists who are turning their attention to the American melting pot. The "Guardian: columnist Jonathan Freedland in today's issue also looks longingly across the Atlantic:
America works because it emphasises not only diversity but the ties that bind, too. It encourages a hyphenated identity - think Italian-American - but insists on both sides of the hyphen. In Britain, liberals especially have striven so hard to accept that people are Scottish or Jewish or Asian, they may have forgotten that they are also British. For bothness to work, you have to have both.

In other words, we let the Britishness part of the equation lapse. We were frightened of it, fearing that it reeked of compulsion or white-only exclusivity. But Britishness, like Americanness, need not be like that. It should, by its nature, be open to all. And yet it does entail some common glue: rule of law and tolerance, for a start.
It's sad that it has taken the violent wake-up call of terrorism to force rethink of racial relations, immigration policy, multiculturalism and national identity, but it often taken nothing less than such a shock to the system to wake the sleepwalker. In the end, trying to recreate on a smaller scale the macrocosm of the whole world within the microcosm encompassed by national boundaries is bound to end in tears.

A few years ago, the Australian government ran a campaign celebrating diversity and multiculturalism, whose jingle went "We are one, but we are many." However admirable in its sentiment, I thought its writer has gotten things the wrong way around: instead of telling us that we are one nation but we come from many different countries, the jingle should have underlined the fact that while we come from many different countries, we are one nation - that is, it should have emphasized and turned our attention to the unity rather than the diversity aspect of our national identity.

That's why I think America's motto, E Pluribus Unum, from many one, is exactly on the money rather than the jingle, which translated into Latin would go, E Unum Pluribus (since I don't speak Latin, apologies if I murdered it, but you get the point).

We know well enough that we are all different, and we don't really need to be reminded too much of that fact - what does need constant reminders are the things that unite us as community.


Whence the optimism? 

These numbers are about three and a half months old by now, but they are the most recent in the series - the International Republican institute has been polling Iraqi for over a year now, and the April numbers are quite illuminating.

Is Iraq moving in the right or wrong direction?

67 per cent say right (up from 54 per cent in May/June 2004)
20 per cent say wrong (down from 39 per cent)
12 per cent don'’t know (up from 9 per cent)

How do you think your life will be one year from now?

82 per cent say better (up from 65 per cent)
2 per cent say worse (down from 15 per cent)
2 per cent say the same (down from 12 per cent)

Percentage of the population in the Sunni areas who think Iraq is moving in the right direction:

40 per cent (up from 33 in May/June 2004, and up from 15 per cent in December 2004/Januray 2005)

Welcome to the quagmire. It's not that the Iraqis are not concerned about the violence (they are) or angry about the level of services (they definitely are), yet the optimism about the future seems to be on the way up.

(hat tip: Judith Klinghoffer)


Steve Vincent 

A tragic news - a good friend of this blog, writer and journalist Steven Vincent has been murdered by Iraqi "insurgents" in Basra.

Mr Vincent was abducted with his female Iraqi translator at gun point in a street in central Basra on Tuesday.

Mr Vincent's bullet-riddled body was found on the side of a highway south of the city a few hours later...

"Both were later shot, but Vincent was killed, while the girl [translator] is alive," said Lt Col Karim Al-Zaidi.

Mr Vincent had been shot several times in the head and body, said Mr Zaidi.
Steve had a successful and rewarding career as an art critic in New York. Then came September 11, and his life would never be the same again. "When the Administration launched the Operation Iraqi freedom, I felt strangely excited," he wrote. "I wanted to join the conflict." Too old to enlist (his only military experience, driving a cab in NYC, he says), too freelance to hope to accompany the troops, Steve made the decision to see Iraq away from the frontlines: "I sought to embed myself in the Iraqi society."

The fruit of his two trips, and several months of stay in Iraq was his book "In the Red Zone: A journey into the soul of Iraq" - "some of the best journalism to come out of Iraq since the liberation," I
wrote in my review. It was ‚– is ‚– a wonderful work, not uncritical of both the liberated and the liberators, but nevertheless infused with deep sympathy for the long suffering of the Iraqi people, as well as love of freedom, and hope for a better future.

When I interviewed Steven late last year, I
asked him about his post-"Red Zone" plans - whether he was planning to return to Iraq. He said:
Yes, assuming - insha'allah - the country stabilizes and I can move around with relative freedom. If not, I'll head for Afghanistan - or further east, where oil, Islam and Chinese interests intersect. Wherever I go, however, it will be in the Muslim world. Like the cry of muezzin at sunset, with a crescent moon gleaming over the minarets of a mosque, there's something about dar-al-Islam that captures the imagination, and won't let go.
It didn't let go - a few months later he was back in Basra, a city he fell in love with. He wrote to me that his family didn't want to let go back to Iraq, but he felt he had to. He knew there were risks - he has been threatened before - and initially he was considering doing his research there incommunicado. But in the end he decided not to hide away, and even openly blog while in Iraq on his Red Zone blog. Two months ago, he wrote a guest post for Chrenkoff.

Allah willed that he came back to the land between the rivers that fascinated him and captured his imagination. Some cowardly bastards didn't. I don't know whether the "insurgents" who murdered Steve, knew who they were killing - that wouldn't surprise me - or if they merely kidnapped a random Westerner who was hanging out with an Iraqi woman. Maybe there were just criminals, maybe they were neo-Baathists, or maybe Shia extremists.

I never got a chance to meet Steve in person. We had a standing arrangement to catch up for a beer if I were to make it to New York or he to Australia. I'll have one for you tonight, Steve. Where you're traveling now, you will always be safe. I hope - as I know you did, too - that so will be Iraq, one day.


But in the meantime, I hope they'll get the bastards.

More from
Polipundit, and Michelle Malkin.

Update: And La Shawn Barber, Captain's Quarters, Publius Pundit, Powerline.

It appears that Steve might have fallen foul of Shia hardliners whose violent campaign of revenge against local Sunnis ha has been documenting for some time, including in his last opinion piece for "The New York Times". As he wrote on this blog in June:
Over the last week, for example, gunmen killed up to 100 ex-Baathists (as I've noted elsewhere, to some there is no such thing as an "ex" Baathist.) Ask about the identity of these murderers and people claim they don't know--a denial that's not exactly true: Basra's police chief recently admitted to a U.K. Guardian reporter that he believed that Iraqi cops themselves were complicit the Baathist assassinations.
His investigations brought him death threats, and his in his writings he seems to have signed his own death warrant - something that had played on his mind even before he returned to Iraq. As he wrote to me,
I haven't thought about blogging on my own--now moribund--site yet. Do I want the Basran bad guys to know there's a foreign journalist sending out dispatches critical of Islamic fundamentalism?...

For my own peace of mind, just let me ask you not to mention this on your site. I let slip on Red Zone that I was returning to Iraq, and even with my miniscule readeship, I got more attention than I wanted.
But then he changed his mind; he couldn't resist writing, and - possibly against his better judgment - he started blogging from Basra and writing pieces for the mainstream media. He told me it was OK now to let the world know.

Words probably killed Steve, but let words be also his lasting legacy. As he told another interview:
Words matter. Words convey moral clarity. Without moral clarity, we will not succeed in Iraq. That is why the terms the press uses to cover this conflict are so vital. For example, take the word "“guerillas."” As you noted, mainstream media sources like the New York Times often use the terms "insurgents" or "“guerillas"” to describe the Sunni Triangle gunmen, as if these murderous thugs represented a traditional national liberation movement. But when the Times reports on similar groups of masked reactionary killers operating in Latin American countries, they utilize the phrase "paramilitary death squads."” Same murderers, different designations. Yet of the two, "insurgents" —and especially "“guerillas" —has a claim on our sympathies that "paramilitaries?” lacks. This is not semantics: imagine if the media routinely called the Sunni Triangle gunmen "right wing paramilitary death squads." Not only would the description be more accurate, but it would offer the American public a clear idea of the enemy in Iraq. And that, in turn, would bolster public attitudes toward the war.

Supporters of the conflict in Iraq bear much blame for allowing the terminology - and, by extension, the narrative - —of events to slip from our grasp and into the hands of the anti-war camp. Words and ideas matter. Instead of saying that the Coalition "“invaded" Iraq and "“occupies"” it today, we could more precisely claim that the allies liberated the country and are currently reconstructing it. More than cosmetic changes, these definitions reflect the nobility of our effort in Iraq, and steal rhetorical ammunition from the left.

The most despicable misuse of terminology, however, occurs when Leftists call the Saddamites and foreign jihadists "“the resistance."” What an example of moral inversion! For the fact is, paramilitary death squads are attacking the Iraqi people. And those who oppose the killers--the Iraqi police and National Guardsmen, members of the Allawi government, people like Nour - they are the "“resistance."” They are preventing Islamofascists from seizing Iraq, they are resisting evil men from turning the entire nation into a mass slaughterhouse like we saw in re-liberated Falluja. Anyone who cares about success in our struggle against Islamofascism - —or upholds principles of moral clarity and lucid thought - —should combat such Orwellian distortions of our language.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Guest blogger: Remember what they say 

Today's guest blogger at Chrenkoff is David A. Lange, a international relations adviser in Heidelberg, Germany. I don't necessarily endorse or agree with everything in David's guest post (his arguments certainly apply to some liberals, as opposed to all) but I'm happy to put it up for the sake of discussion.

Bin Laden, the Left, and Jihad

Bin Laden's video monologue that aired shortly before the 2004 U.S. election sounded as though it had been vetted with the Democratic National Committee. Complete with references lifted directly from Fahrenheit 9/11, many on the left waved it as proof that the U.S. intervention in Iraq was the reason for al-Qaida's violence and if John
Kerry became President our differences could be settled peacefully. While the video demonstrated the desperateness of Mr. Laden's situation, the left's wishful thinking demonstrated how high the stakes are for liberals as well. Both are fighting to salvage their world-view. Mr. Laden understands that if the West believes the liberal mantra, it provides him a valuable strategic advantage so he gladly reinforces what liberals want to hear. Meanwhile, liberals and their sycophants in the media seemed determined to ignore all the evidence concerning jihadists' real motives because it threatens their doctrine of rational multicultural relativism. Mr. Laden's pre-election video merged these complimentary agendas.

A U.S. Army battalion commander who spent a year in Baghdad fighting the insurgency while reconstructing one of the city's worst neighborhoods explained to me that the reason Iraqi and foreign insurgents have taken to slaughtering their countrymen and fellow Muslims is because their world-view has been destroyed. Much of what they had been taught about their religion, their leader, the West, and Americans has been stood on its head and they either have to form new opinions or fight to restore old logic. They were taught unbelievers are corrupt and immoral, yet corrupt and immoral armies easily defeated the Islamic armies of the strongest man in the Middle East. They were told Christians are crusaders but witnessed Christian soldiers rebuild their mosques. They were told Americans would slaughter their families but watched as schools and hospitals were constructed. Crusader Americans passed out medicine, soccer balls and English-Arabic Korans. They played with Iraqi children. They brought electricity and running water to neighborhoods where it had never been available. Today Iraqis understand that many of the old-regime's truths are lies and they reject those who would re-impose them. The insurgents, on the other hand, understand that if Iraqis are free to make up their own minds, unencumbered by pseudo-religious doctrine, al-Qaida has lost the battle on its own territory that it hoped to wage in the United States.

Western liberals are facing a similar challenge as Islamic jihad threatens to destroy 1960s Western liberal doctrine. The left refuses to acknowledge why radical Muslims are fighting because jihad's justification is poison to liberal beliefs. Liberals, who pride themselves on understanding complex nuance, refuse to allow any reasons for jihad other than those that serve their political agenda. Liberals must project their motives on to jihadists in order for their actions to make sense according to a western liberal interpretation of the world. This is why Iraq, Israel, and American cultural imperialism are so important for terrorism's liberal apologists. Their core assumption is that those who murder innocent civilians via suicide are rational and they have legitimate grievances for which the West is to blame. A corollary assumption is that if we address those grievances we can reach an understanding. This is the world-view the left is fighting to preserve. The terrorists must be rational because according to the liberal view all cultural values are equal; all religions are equally valid; and everyone reasons in the tradition of Plato. Most important for the liberals, religion is never a reason to do anything other than go to church. Europeans haven't gone to war over religion since 1648 and Americans have never used religion to justify a war.

The irony is that while liberals will use statements made thirty years ago to prove someone is not qualified to hold a position in government, they refuse to read what jihadists themselves write today as their rationale for murdering innocent women and children. There is a near media embargo on statements by radical Muslims that challenge the liberal world-view. The public is left to rely on blogs and other Internet sources where the real root cause of terrorism is exposed in terrorism's own words. Read what the murderer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh told the court was his motivation. Or read what the Madrid train bombers described in their writings as their ultimate goal. While most liberals would agree that the loss of the Caliphate el-Andalusia preceded the invasion of Iraq, for the left only Iraq matters because the left's political agenda is the only important agenda when it comes to rescuing its world-view. Enter Mr. Bin Laden. Like Western liberals, he wants us to believe there is a cause and effect mentality at work in the mind of suicide bombers. This is why he plagiarizes filmmaker Michael Moore but his ideology murders filmmaker Theo van Gogh. If Mr. Laden can deflect our attention from global jihad's true aims, it gives him a valuable strategic advantage. It buys time; creates a sense of false security; forces the enemy to expend resources on a hopeless strategy; and provides concessions.

Western media needs to be honest about what motivates the terrorists. Reporting what they say in their mosques, on their web sites, and in their writings would be a start. And if the left wants to be taken seriously on terrorism, it needs to acknowledge the singular motivation behind al-Qaida and stop sounding like Bin Laden.


Return to Sender 

A ruling party MP who once headed Japan's world trade negotiations hanged himself overnight, prompting speculation he was troubled after switching sides in a high-stakes vote on the post office.

Yoji Nagaoka, 54, a former elite bureaucrat who was in his second term in parliament, committed suicide at his home in Tokyo, a police official said.

Nagaoka was part of a faction of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) opposed to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his plan to break up the post office. But he voted in favour of the reforms when they passed the 480 member lower house by a mere five votes on July 5.

The Mainichi Shimbun newspaper, quoting unnamed people close to Nagaoka, said he had been troubled over what side to take on postal reform.

Koizumi's opponents immediately said the LDP had put too much pressure on MPs over postal reform. Koizumi has threatened a new election if the proposal fails in the upper house which is due to vote by August 13.
Imagine if American politicians were topping themselves over such things; the steps of the Capitol Hill would be slippery with blood and there would hardly be a lamppost within half a mile without a dangling body.

Today's discussion topic: are Japanese politicians taking things too seriously? Or the American politicians not seriously enough?


Not so rag-tag after all 

Yesterday, the lawyer for Osman Hussain, one of the accused London bombers-not-to-be who was arrested in Rome, said on behalf of her client that he was not a terrorist, was not connected to Al Qaeda, and the bomb was not designed to go off - it was merely meant to be a peaceful protest (albeit one that was supposed to "terrorize") against the occupation of Iraq. Expect that line to get milked for what it's worth, since judging by the opinion polls and op-ed pages it will resonate very with the public.

Osman Hussain might or might not be a terrorist, but his brother Remzi, who runs a souvenir shop in Rome, apparently has been under surveillance by the Italian authorities since September 11 for suspected connection with an Al Qaeda finance network:
Last night police said that Remzi Hussain is under arrest for "falsifying documents". It was to his flat in Rome that his brother fled after escaping Britain's biggest manhunt on July 29. When police searched the flat on the Via Aurelia at Tor Pignatarra, a Rome suburb, they found records of air tickets used in "recent times" by Remzi Hussain to Dubai, Geneva, Zurich, Munich and Amsterdam.

In public, senior Italian officials said that Osman Hussain, who is thought to have tried to kill himself and others by blowing up a Tube train at Shepherd's Bush, was part of "a rag tag" group and not linked to a major terror network.

Behind the scenes, however, Italian security forces have stepped up their investigations, fearing that their country may be the next to suffer a terrorist strike.

At the weekend Giuseppe Pisanu, the Interior Minister, said that Hussain, his brothers and friends formed part of a "tightly knit network" that posed a threat to Italy.
Poor Osman might have been radicalized by the Iraq war, but his brother Remzi appears to have bettered him, having been radicalized by the Iraq war pre-emptively, well before September 11 by the looks of it.

As we all know, neo-cons have been plotting to invade Iraq well before September 11 - it looks like jihadis were planning to avenge the invasion well before then, too.


One to watch 

Mark Steyn versus Australia's Media Watch - definitely one to watch.

A few days ago, Mark wrote this piece about multiculturalism for "The Australian".

Media Watch didn't like it - they think that Mark used a bogus story to illustrate his point.

Mark responds - "Incidentally, I was heartened to receive an e-mail from the excitable chaps at ABC's Media Watch in Australia promising to investigate my 'account' on their next show. I hope it will be as good as their recent claim, as part of their bizarre hatchet job on Arthur Chrenkoff, that opinionjournal.com is not part of the official Wall Street Journal website. I was interested to read that if only because every piece I've had published in the print edition of the Journal has subsequently been posted on opinionjournal.com...

"I'm a bit shocked to discover they're apparently stealing my material."

Mark, having been there and done that, I feel your very minor irritation and discomfort.


A Thousand Miles to Baghdad 

Over the past three years, some of the best reporting from Iraq did not appear in one of the big national dailies or newsmagazines, but in a small, Californian, Escondido-based "North County Times". Early in 2003, the newspaper sent over to Kuwait reporter Darrin Mortenson and photographer Hayne Palmour, who became embedded with Lima Company of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. It was a natural choice - the paper covers Camp Pendelton, the home of the I Marine Expeditionary Force.

"We didn't expect Darrin and Hayne to report 'the big picture'," write Terese Hineline, Assistant Managing Editor for News, and Cyndy Sullivan, Photo Editor at "North County Times". "We wanted our guys to tell stories. What did the Marines think? What did they see? What did they do?"

That they did. In the Iraq war reporting, which gave us so much of the bad and the ugly, the efforts of "North County Times" journalists stood out because they never thought it would be somehow unjournalistic to also give us the good, when the good was there to be reported. This never involved flag-waving or triumphalism - just telling it like it was. And so, Mortenson and Palmour first followed the Marines on their 1000-mile journey from the Kuwaiti border to Baghdad, and subsequently reported from the Marine area of operations around Fallujah (you will find many of their reports in some of the older editions of my "Good news from Iraq" series).

And now, comes this handsome coffee table book, which focuses on Lima Company's drive to Baghdad in March and April 2003, full of great photographs by Palmour and commentary from Mortenson. There's no politics or cheerleading, just an intimate look at a group of fighting men doing their best on the other side of the world.
It's beautiful, really, to watch soldiers on a tactical patrol. As the terrain opens up they instinctively spread out, and close in again when it narrows, always following the contours, always sticking close to something that shields them from full view. Hand signals freeze them in their tracks and, without discussion, they melt into the landscape like preying cats and wait silently for another signal before resuming the hunt,
observes Mortenson in one of his more lyrical moments. You won't find stuff like that at "The New York Times".

Here you can see some of the photos taken by Palmour in Iraq, and here you can buy the book from "North County Times".


Monday, August 01, 2005

Question continued 

The question I asked yesterday was largely rhetorical. I'm neither surprised nor confounded by the fact that (for many different reasons) there are no Iraqis among the London terrorists.

This, again, merely underscores the fact that the Iraqi "insurgency" is supported at the moment by about 10 per cent of Iraqi population - or essentially half of Iraq's Sunni population. This is not to say that the Kurds and the Shia don't want the Coalition to leave eventually (as indeed does the Coalition), but they're not blowing themselves up all over Iraq and overseas, knowing full well that the best way to ensure that the United States and its allies leave is to achieve a stable and viable statehood.

Thus, the violent opposition against the "occupation" (and, let's be honest about it, also against the democratically elected Iraqi government and its organs and agencies) seems to be supported by only a fraction of Iraqi population, but by the majority, or at least very large section, of non-Iraqi Muslim population elsewhere throughout the world. That is, the people most radicalized by the "occupation" aren't the ones actually being "occupied".

Ain't that nice?


Don't quote me, I'm a journalist 

Helen Thomas a few days ago: "The day Dick Cheney is going to run for president, I'll kill myself."

Helen Thomas today: "I'll kill the next journalist that quotes me."

Well, not quite:
Thomas said yesterday at the White House that her comments to Eisele [the reporter of the original article] were for his ears only. "I'll never talk to a reporter again!" Thomas was overheard saying.

"We were just talking -- I was ranting -- and he wrote about it. That isn't right. We all say stuff we don't want printed," Thomas said.
Well, Helen, now you know how everyone else's feels.


Peaceful and non-violent bombing in London 

The lawyer representing Hussain Osman, the London bomb suspect, said that he had denied that the failed attacks on July 21 had anything to do with the bombings a fortnight earlier.

Antonietta Sonnessa said last night: "My client says his action was purely demonstrative. In fact, all four attempts did not result in any injury or damage at all. Moreover, he maintains that he was nothing to do with the events of July 7.

"He has justified his actions as a form of protest against the fact that civilians are suffering in wars at the present time. He has taken part in many peace marches and has never had any contact whatsoever with any terrorist organisation," she continued.

"He is not at all a violent person and made sure he would not cause any damage, injuries or deaths. There wasn't a very clearly defined plan, the whole thing was set the day before, in a meeting with this group of friends."
Meanwhile, a Hizb ut-Tahrir conference (just like Al Qaeda, only less crunchy) in London is sending some mixed messages:
The group has condemned the suicide bombings in London and urged Muslims to be "decent citizens" under Islamic law and to co-operate with police investigations.
Muslims were told to reject calls for them to "defeat the extremists" and were told to stand united on the path to establishing a true state of Islam.
It is logical though, since HuT are "extremists", in a sense of wanting to see an Islamic government established in Great Britain (and around the world) - though ostensibly through peaceful means. For Caliphate enthusiasts, HuT, however, are quite keen on the idea of freedom of speech and political participation (but presumably only until the Caliphate is established):
A senior member of the party, Abdul Waheed, told the delegates to speak out against British and American foreign policy. "Foreign policy anger is there. There is an attempt here to silence Muslims," he said.

"Go back to your communities and go to your mosques and ask the leaders do they not think there is going to be more frustration in the Muslim community, young and old alike, if the mosques cannot be used to discuss these issues in a calm and rational way.

"If we are not allowed to discuss the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan . . . I fear the frustration builds up more, not less."
There is, of course, a difference on the one hand between having an opinion, discussing it, engaging in peaceful political action and supporting your candidates at the election, and on the other hand advocating violence. Muslim community has as much right to put their view about Iraq across as, say, the anti-war movement. But no more.

Dr Waheed had also this to say:
"If a non-Muslim, innocent electrician can be killed on a mere hunch . . . what fate awaits Muslims if a man with a beard runs on to a Tube with a rucksack?"
My advice to a man with a beard (whether or Muslim) or otherwise: don't. Unfortunately, one victory that the terrorists have already achieved is to make running late to catch a train too dangerous an idea to contemplate.

Lastly, this:
The party campaigns for a government based on Islamic Sharia across the Muslim world but says that this would not be an oppressive regime such as the Taleban.
Well, firstly, not just across the Muslim world but the world generally, and secondly, thanks, but I'll pass anyway.


Postcard from Iraq 

A postcard from the southern Iraq courtesy of our regular correspondent Haider Ajina's father, who has just returned from his second trip to Nejaf, Karbala and Kufah were he spent a week:
He told me that he has been honored by being appointed as chief consultant and administrator of the provincial reconstruction of Nejaf province. He said he would be starting this position within a week or two. He also said that he would be moving to Nejaf from Baghdad.

I asked him how were things in Nejaf? He said there has been a remarkable change in the southern provinces. In Nejaf, Karbala & Kufah people are walking the streets at night and early morning (since temperatures exceed 125 Fahrenheit during the hot hours of the day). People are picnicking along the river in Kufah in the late afternoon. He has not seen any military patrols in the streets for the week he was there, only police patrol. It seems the military (Iraqi & Coalition forces) have pulled out of the towns. There was no gunfire at night or any other time and very low crime. Power was on, water was on etc, there is a lot of work for every one, no one is complaining about the money they are making. There is open political discussion in the cafes etc…. He says people have a sense of ownership in their cities their livelihood and business is booming because of strong security, strong and fast reconstruction. He said it was better than Baghdad, were because of terrorist attacks power & water gets cut off and reconstruction is not as fast as in the southern provinces.

I wanted to share this personal good news with you, and for you to read a side of what is happening in Iraq that very few hear or read about. This is happening because of our efforts and commitments to Iraq and the Iraqis, our sacrifices, our training of Iraqis and our know how in rebuilding and developing infra structure. The Iraqis themselves have also stepped up to the plate and taken charge of the freedom we presented them, for which they are grateful. Once again to all the men and women who have served and serving in Iraq, to all the families of those who have paid the ultimate price to all those who have suffered during their service in Iraq, my family's and my deepest thanks, gratitude and pride both from the U.S. and Iraq for all the sacrifices, endurance and service for our great country and Iraq and the Iraqis.


Fighting words from a German 

Pretty strong words from Mathias Doepfner, chief executive of German media group Axel Springer, in today's "Australian":
These days, Europe reminds me of an old woman who, with shaking hands, frantically hides her last pieces of jewellery when she notices a robber breaking into a neighbour's house. Appeasement? That is just the start of it. Europe, thy name is Cowardice.
As I've written many times before, at the root this attitude is the belief that Al Qaeda is essentially a reactive force, with no agenda of its own, except to oppose certain Western actions (if, among other things, the existence of the state of Israel can be termed a "Western action") - hence, if only we did, or stopped doing, X or Y, everything would be fine, since "these people" have no quarrel with us per se, just with some of our policies.

But, the problem is, they do have a quarrel (see on that point a revealing post by Neuro Con, who peers inside the mind of one active British holy warrior). This is why concessions will not work - they never do, when you're dealing with a totalitarian mindset. It might be convenient and comforting to think that it's not our fight, or that it will all go away, or that if we stay away from problems, problems will stay away from us. Sadly, it just doesn't work that way, as Doepfner reminds us:
Appeasement cost millions of Jews and non-Jews their lives as allies Britain and France negotiated and hesitated too long before they realised that Adolf Hitler needed to be fought and defeated, because he could not be bound by toothless agreements.

Later, appeasement legitimised and stabilised communism in the Soviet Union, then in East Germany, then throughout the rest of Eastern Europe, where for several decades inhuman, repressive and murderous governments were glorified.

Appeasement similarly crippled Europe when genocide ran rampant in Bosnia and Kosovo. Indeed, even though we had absolute proof of continuing mass murder there, we Europeans debated and debated, and then debated still more. We were still debating when finally the Americans had to come from halfway around the world, into Europe yet again, to do our work for us.
I'll beg to differ with Doepfner on his middle example - in practical terms there was very little that the West could have done to prevent the Soviet domination over the Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the war. Facts on the ground largely dictated the outcome, and therefore I never blamed the Western Allies for not trying to roll back the Red Army - I blamed them for naivete in dealing with the communists. The time to strangle the Soviet communism was when it was in its cradle, in the first three years after the Bolshevik coup, when on occasions it was close to collapse. Again, for a whole range of reasons (including post-World War One exhaustion), very little was done.

But Doepfner's general argument is sound. It is never politically popular - though strategically smart - to deal with a threat when it is still small. But it's difficult to see how making concessions will not make the threat increase, that is how withdrawing Western presence from everywhere in the Middle East and the Muslim world broadly speaking, and giving Al Qaeda a free hand to subvert and overthrow all the current governments, which it considers heretical and treasonous, is going to make us in the West safer. There is indeed, a civil war going on within the Islamic community, and if you think that we don't have any stake in the outcome, just wait until the bad guys win. But by then it will be too late.


Good news from Iraq, part 32 

Note: As always, also available from "The Opinion Journal" and Winds of Change. Thank you all - your support is what's making this project so personally worthwhile.

Monsignor Rabban al Qas, Chaldean bishop of Amadiyah and Arbil, was recently asked by a foreign interviewer whether there is any good news coming out of Iraq: "Twenty-three Iraqis are killed every day in Iraq. Nearly two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, there is no security as yet. Is there still hope in Iraq?" To which Monsignor al Qas replied:
What the media portray is true: explosions, killings, attacks. But if you see how much order, discipline, transport, displacements, and work have improved, there is a change for the better compared to one or two years ago. Now people understand there is a government, the structure of a new state. Thousands and thousands of allied and Iraqi soldiers are present. There is a constitution which is being drawn up, laws are being enacted.

The presence of authority is recognised. This was not the case before. And Al-Qaeda integralists and terrorists coming from abroad seek to penetrate Iraq precisely to destroy the beginnings of this social organization.
A war for the future of Iraq is going on, no doubt about it, but not all of that war is being fought with guns and explosives. Terrorists and insurgents might be killing both soldier and civilians and sabotaging infrastructure, and the Iraqi and the Coalition security forces might in turn be hunting down the enemies of the new Iraq, but every step towards self-government, every new job created, every new school opened are a small victory against those who would want to turn Iraq's clock back three or 1300 years. Below are some of these stories that often get lost in the fog and smoke of war.

SOCIETY: With the constitution drafting process progressing on schedule, the voter registration for the constitutional referendum will start in early August, seeking to enroll those who failed to do so in the run-up to the January election, as well as all those who have turned 18 since then.

Sunni leaders, meanwhile, are calling for their people not to repeat the mistake of boycotting the election:
Some 300 leaders of Iraq's alienated Sunni Arab former elite called Thursday [14 July] for participation in the next elections, due in December, after a boycott of January polls left the community largely unrepresented in parliament.

"I'm calling on my brothers ... to participate in the political process," Adnan al-Dulaimi, spokesman for the General Conference of Sunnis, told participants at a Baghdad meeting.

His comments were echoed by Sheikh Ibrahim al-Nima, a leading Sunni cleric from the main northern city of Mosul.

"We can blame ourselves from staying away at the last elections. It was a big mistake," he said.

"Participating (in the next elections) means we shall exist. If we don't participate there will be no existence for us."

A leader of the hardline Salafist movement, Sheikh Zakaria Mohi Issa al-Timimi, also endorsed taking part.

"We will be very active in our participation in the elections in order to mitigate the damage inflicted on Sunnis today," he said.
There's plenty of foreign support for the constitutional process. Former premier of Ontario, Bob Rae, is one of the Canadians currently in Baghdad under the auspices of the Forum of Federations to share the experience of federalism as Iraqis draft their constitution:
Mr. Rae said that, in this environment of continuous violence, carnage and horror, the determination of the Iraqis to bring democracy to their country is overwhelmingly impressive. "You come away from it all with tremendous admiration for the courage of the people who are sticking at it and moving forward, going forward, and dealing with some very difficult issues.

"They are sophisticated, professional, political people who are picking up the pieces at the end of a dictatorship, and they're doing it in the most difficult of circumstances -- this terrible attack on the civilian population."
The European Union will be channeling 20 million euro ($24 million) through the United Nations in support of the constitutional process. The fund will go to the following areas:
- Provision of European experts to work with the Constitutional Committee of the Iraqi Transitional National Assembly and with other institutions and actors in Iraq

- Media and Public Information

- Civic education and promotion of public debate, and participation in the referendum
USAID is also assisting: "USAID organized trainings for 164 facilitators who will conduct hundreds of Constitutional Dialogue sessions throughout the country in the coming weeks. These facilitators are all members of 150 NGOs participating in USAID’s Constitutional Dialogue Program designed to facilitate constituent involvement in the constitutional process through civic education and public input. Between June 20 and 24, trainings were conducted in Erbil, Dohuk, and Baghdad for facilitators from 75 NGOs based in Babil, Baghdad, Diwaniyah, Dohuk, Hilla, Karbala, Kirkuk, al-Najaf, Ninewa, and al-Wasit." In addition to its work with facilitators, USAID is also carrying out other initiatives to help progress the constitutional process and help improve the work of the National Assembly:
USAID is... helping the Iraqi National Assembly’s (INA’s) Constitutional Committee adopt systems to enable public input on the constitution. In June, a USAID-sponsored Civil Society team and a few Iraqi NGOs participating in the Constitutional Dialogue Program met with the Constitution Committee’s Outreach Unit to design a work plan to receive public input...

USAID provided training to 42 INA members on the legislative drafting process. Training topics included creating and introducing a bill; its reading stages; the supporting role played by the legal staff; the form and content of a law; legislative reviews; the role and use of amendments; and reasons why public input is important to the overall legislative process.

USAID also provided training to 37 INA members on advocacy and lobbying for legislators working in a democratic system.
Iraqis, too, are getting involved. Iraqi civil society groups have commenced "the project of constitutional dialogue" program to raise the awareness of Iraqis of the constitutional process. "The new Iraqi constitution and the anticipated challenges" conference has been held in Najaf. And:
A series of workshops have been held in Iraqi ministries for female employees, aimed at raising awareness of the new constitution, so that they are able to make an informed choice when voting on it in October.

"The workshops aim to help women understand how the drafting of the constitution will take place, explaining the basic fundamental principles: human rights, women's rights, federalism and legislation," director of the ICWRE, Jennan Mubarak, said.

The workshops have been organised by local NGOs, the Iraqi Centre for Women's Rehabilitation and Employment (ICWRE) and the Civil Alliance For Free Elections (CVAFE).
Democracy is also growing from the bottom-up, in some cases also with help from overseas. Another two cities working to formalize the "sister city" arrangement are Florida's Kissimmee and Zafaraniya. There's also cooperation between Utah and Babil:
[Salim Al-Musilmawi, governor of the province of Babil] is part of a five-member Iraqi delegation visiting Utah for five days. Aimed at teaching them how democracy works on the local level, it is the first exchange of Iraqi and U.S. state and municipal officials.

South Jordan Councilwoman Leona Winger and Mayor W. Kent Money showed the Iraqis how public works and safety, planning and zoning and other aspects of local government operate.

Money described touring the South Jordan City Council chambers with the Iraqis. He said they were surprised to learn that the most important people don't sit at the elected officials' table. Instead, the most important people are the citizens who sit in the audience.

"That is a new concept to them," the mayor said.

Money credited Winger with the idea of inviting the Iraqi delegation to visit South Jordan. Winger founded the nonprofit organization, New Hope Humanitarian, this month. Its goal is to establish a long-term relationship with the Iraqi people that will promote democracy, economic development and women's rights, among other things.

Speaking of local government, USAID's Local Governance Program "is working with local government officials and civic institutions to form local government associations (LGA) that will act as lobbying and advocacy organizations that represent the interests of the local government to other government officials and the public."

British Department for International Development is working to assist Iraqi women:
£6.25 million [$11.3 million] Political Participation Fund - Through the PPF, money has been targeted at increasing women's participation in the political process, particularly in the run up to the recent elections. Several women's NGOs have received funds to run workshops, provide training, conduct media campaigns encouraging women to vote, and carry out other work to promote political awareness.

£5 million [$8.7 million] Civil Society Fund - DFID is funding links between international and Iraqi women's organisations to strengthen the ability of local groups' to address the needs of Iraqi women. International NGOs have conducted rights awareness and leadership training, fostered links between women's groups, and organised an international NGO conference on women and foreign exchanges for Iraqi women leaders.
In media news, a new news agency is about to be launched:
With some help from U.S. nonprofits, Iraqi journalists are planning what they say will be their country’s first independent, national news agency.

The English name of the agency will be the National Iraq News Agency, or NINA. To get the agency up and running, the journalists are getting training and financial support from U.S.-based nonprofits funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Nicole Chartrand-Tresch, a technical officer for USAID in Iraq, told IJNet that the goal of the support is to help the agency – which would be a commercial enterprise independent of the government – become self-sufficient.

The America’s Development Foundation (ADF) is overseeing the project as part of its Iraq Civil Society and Media Support Program. The International Research and Exchange Board (IREX) is providing the training and consultation to the journalists. Joachim Raffelberg of IREX is in Baghdad overseeing the media component of the civil society program, Chartrand-Tresch said.

Kadhim Al-Rikabi, the program’s media manager, told the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq Alawsat that the journalists are being trained in preparation for the agency’s launch.
But they will have some competition:
Iraqi journalists are getting a chance to show their résumés around.

The charitable foundation of the Reuters news agency plans to announce this week that it is turning a grass-roots Iraqi news Web site into the country's first independent commercial news service.

The Web site, Aswat al-Iraq, or Voices of Iraq, has relied on 30 freelance workers, help from three independent Iraqi newspapers and feeds from the Reuters Arabic-language service, to publish hundreds of articles a month in Iraq.

Now the site, www.aswataliraq.info, will become a full-fledged news wire, managed and staffed by Iraqi journalists in Baghdad and operated independently of Reuters. It will use $800,000 from the United Nations to create a newsroom and to base reporters in each Iraqi province. When the service goes live in a few months, it will feed breaking news to both Iraqi and foreign news outlets.
USAID's Local Governance Program "assisted the Babil Provincial Council (PC) in brokering a deal to make a location available for the satellite based Al-Iraqia TV to house its regional activities. In return for access, Al-Iraqia TV will merge its operations with Babil TV including hiring its nine staff members. The PC is hoping this agreement will encourage Al-Iraqia TV to cover their local government activities more extensively."

Read also about "Al Mahaba", the recently launched radio station tragetting women.

Baghdad's public libraries are also trying to revive:
Driven away by bombs, dispirited by shelves emptied by looters, visitors to the public library in Baghdad's Khadamiya district are now starting to return.

There's still work to be done. Stolen books and looted furniture must be replaced. But seeing the return of readers is inspiring enough for Alya Abdul Hussein, a librarian here for 20 years.

"This library, like any public facility in Iraq, suffered," Hussein says.

The Khadamiya Library is one of eight public libraries open in Baghdad, down from 19 operating before the start of the war more than two years ago. Fighting, looters and neglect closed most of the others.

Muhammed Qassim, a Ministry of Municipalities and Public Works official, says the government is trying to reopen more libraries with grant money from the United States and other countries.
And in sport, the first post-liberation football champion of Iraq is crowned:
More than 15,000 soccer fans braved the bloody mayhem caused by 10 suicide bombers across Baghdad on Friday to see the air force team al-Quwa Jawiya crowned Iraq's first champions since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Many drove half the length of a nation ravaged by war to reach the capital's Shaab national stadium from Basra, only to see their port authority side Al-Meena lose to two second half goals.

For organisers of a tournament that pitted teams from rebel strongholds like Ramadi and Samarra against powerful clubs from the capital once favoured by Saddam's elite, the fact that it went ahead at all for the first time since the U.S. invasion of 2003 was a triumph.

"A lot of people didn't think we'd be able to stage a championship at all," said Hussein Sayeed, chairman of the Iraqi soccer federation and a former captain of the national team.
ECONOMY: "Iraq's economy on long road to recovery," says this report in Lebanon's "Daily Star":
Recent foreign aid and trade agreements provide hope that Iraq's economy, plagued by years of sanctions and violence, is on the road to recovery. Despite almost daily news of grisly atrocities, there have been a number of encouraging signs recently for Iraq's emerging economy.

GDP growth was estimated at 54 percent in 2004. This year is also expected to be strong, with GDP growth predicted at 34 percent.

Iraq's "New Dinar" currency, introduced in 2003, has been performing strongly, appreciating by about 25 percent against the dollar in the past two years.

As the fledgling government works toward drafting a constitution, a formal request for WTO membership is also pending.
But as the report goes on to say, challenges are many, including high levels of unemployment.

Last year, Ministry of Industry has issued 7661 licenses for new businesses: 2896 in the construction sector, 1520 in food, 200 for textile industries, 667 for plastic and chemical industries, and 1336 in mining and resources. This year, Adel Karim, a deputy minister for industrial development, has announced the government's intention to start the privatization program, with cement, brick and pharmaceutical factories being transferred into the private sector as a first step.

The government is also slashing taxes to boost economic activity:
Iraq has slashed income tax to 15% from 49% and substantially increased the minimum sums individuals can earn net of tax.

The progressive tax system replaces a 1982 law under which individuals had to pay 49% of income beyond certain salary brackets.

The current tax system is progressive. It starts with 3% up to a maximum of 15%...

Parents’ income is only taxable if together they earn more than 4.5 million dinars. Besides, there are allowances of 400,000 dinars annually for each child. Previously, annual incomes beyond 1.6 million dinars were taxed...

Companies have seen their taxes slashed from 35% to 15%.
USAID, meanwhile, is helping Iraq to lay the groundwork for the bid to join the World Trade Organisation: "Thirty board members of Iraqi business associations and thirty mid-level government officials attended a series of workshops in Baghdad to learn about the challenges of World Trade Organization (WTO) membership and its impact on their organizations. The workshops were sponsored by USAID’s Private Sector Development program. Iraq is applying for membership in the WTO, along with Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Iraq’s Inter-ministerial Committee on the WTO is reviewing a document that, if approved, will be submitted to the WTO to begin the accession process."

Iraqi dinar continues to be a success story:
A market-driven monetary policy has reduced the Iraqi dinar's vulnerability to political upheaval and is keeping the exchange rate stable, Central Bank Governor Sinan al-Shabibi said.

A $5 billion build-up of central bank foreign reserves, after its assets were mostly looted following the 2003 invasion, has helped maintain the rate at 1,465-1,475 dinars to the dollar, Shabibi said.

'We are very comfortable with the present exchange rate,' said Shabibi, who was on a visit to Jordan.

'It is a boost to the donors because it introduces predictability, stability and maintains the external purchasing power of the currency,' Shabibi said, referring to billions of dollars of international aid flows for reconstruction.

Despite the postwar violence that has badly delayed economic recovery, the dinar remained stable for more than a year compared with violent fluctuations during Saddam's rule, when it was battered by wars and crushing UN sanctions.
Shabibi also sees the banking sector reviving:
Foreign banks, allowed to enter Iraq in 2003 for the first time in decades, are opting to buy stakes or enter partnerships rather than set up subsidiaries in the present unstable security climate, Shabibi said.

Among the banks with licences are HSBC, Standard Chartered and National Bank of Kuwait...

Regional bankers say Jordan-based Arab Bank and Lebanon's leading Audi Bank are also actively seeking a foothold in Iraqi market...

Joint ventures helped raise the capital base of the country's local banks and bring much needed technology, management upgrades and exposure, he added.

Iraq's 30 private banks, mainly small deposit banks, had to develop their lending if they were to progress, Shabibi said.

'The balance sheets of banks need much development as far as lending but not on the deposit side. They have a lot of liquidity but their problem is their lending policies,' he added.
Also in banking, Adham Kareem, general manager of the Kurdistani Central Bank in Arbil, talks about the growth of the banking sector in Kurdistan.

Kurds are developing stronger economic ties with the home of their large diaspora:
The Kurdistan Development Corporation, a joint investment initiative between the Kurdistan Regional Government and international business people, announced the opening of a branch in Munich, Germany...

[Mr Siggy Martsch, KDC Director for Germany] said: “Serious interest in Kurdistan by German companies is already evident; Siemens are working successfully on the ground and Vossing Engineering have just won a contract to design a sewage system for Erbil city. Our office in Germany will further promote the region and facilitate business for the German companies that are bound to follow.”

Earlier this month KDC facilitated a 2.4 million dollar deal between the Kurdistan Regional Government Ministry for Municipalities and German company Vossing Engineering to design a sewage system.
The second Iraqi-German Economic Conference has also recently taken place in Munich. Also in Kurdistan, one businessmen is investing heavily in local economy: "The Kurdish Autonomous Region is getting a new hotel. The 28-floor luxury hotel, which will be built in the town of Suleymaniya, is part of a 60 million dollar tourism project led by Kurdish businessman Faruq al-Mullah Mustafa. He is also behind the creation of the first Iraqi mobile network, and announced other big investments such as a big cement company, and the first ever cable-car in Iraq, connecting the hotel to a nearby mountain."

Also in Suleymaniya: "The Sulaimaniyah Aadministration of Iraqi Kurdistan has started implementing a residential project called the New City. The project will consist of 358 apartments, along with services and facilities such as parks, sport stadiums, swimming pools, computers and the Internet. Prime Minister Omar Fatah of the Sulaimaniyah administration said that this project will help provide basic service for 358 families who so far don't have housing."

Meanwhile, Egyptian billionaire businessman Najib Sawiros intends to invest up to $2.5 billion in Iraq. Sawiros, among other things, is the owner of Iraqi cell phone company Irakna. There are also Kuwaiti and Lebanese investors coming in to al-Salaha’a Central Shopping Markets.

In oil news, "Iraq is to ask foreign companies to bid for a $1bn new oil refinery project later this month which is 70km north-west of Baghdad, reported Bloomberg. The Al Nahrain or two rivers project is for a 140,000 bpd refinery to process Basra crude."

Iraq and Iran will be also cooperating more closely:
Iran and Iraq are planning to build three pipelines, at Iran's expense, to cover Iraq's urgent need for petroleum and refined oil products, said Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh.

Iraq will export crude oil to Iran, and Iran will transport petroleum and other refined products to Iraq, which is suffering from shortages in its petrochemicals industry, the minister told a press conference, attended by Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, who is visiting Iran.

Zanganeh said the agreement has not yet been signed, but the exchange will begin 10 months after it is signed.

'The plan is for Iran to buy 150,000 barrels per day of light crude from Basrah (in southern Iraq)', he said.

'In return, Iran will supply petroleum, gasoil and kerosene (to Iraq)', he said. 'The gasoil and kerosene will be supplied by the Abadan refinery (in Iran)', the minister added. The petroleum will be imported by Iran on Iraq's behalf.
In communications, Iraq will be auctioning off between two to five mobile phone licences by the end of this year to replace the country's three expiring wireless licences. The new licences are expected to last for 15 years with a possible extension for another five.
A quarter of a century of wars and crushing sanctions have badly damaged Iraq's communications network, and mobile phones were only introduced in the country of about 27 million people after the invasion in2003 .

With only about 3 per cent of the population with a fixed-line phone, the country is increasingly dependent on mobile networks, which have more than two million customers as people struggle to stay in touch and do basic business.
Kurdistan is finally seeing a roll-out of modern infrastructure:
Arbi l- Haydar Al Sheikh, the transportation and telecommunication minister in Iraqi Kurdistan government [said] that his ministry is about to finish the biggest project to secure phone communication among Arbil, Dahuk and Al Selaimania, at a cost of 32 million dollars.

He added that the project includes "building three new, German made, Siemens exchanges, with a capacity of 15 thousand lines for each exchange, which is executed by ITU Company, in addition to the "Access Network" project, at a cost of 13 million dollars, aiming at the information exchange among ministries, institutions and governmental universities.
Kurdistan will also benefit as Kuwaiti group MTC and Iraqi partner Atheer, previously operating in the south of the country, are rolling their cell phone network in the north, in competition to one provider already operating there.

In transport, Iraq and Iran have signed an extensive memorandum of understanding relating to closer transport ties between the two countries. Initiatives foreshadowed under the MoU range from removing visa requirements for commercial drivers, marine training courses, and assistance in airport reconstruction.

Internal flights are resuming:
On any flight on any airline there is a sense of relief when the aircraft completes take-off and levels out at its cruising altitude.

But on Flight IA015 the ping as the "fasten seatbelt" sign switched off brought its own euphoria. The aircraft's departure point was Baghdad and the carrier was Iraqi Airways, which has not been in the air for years.

Iraq's national airline has restarted a regular service to the southern city of Basra, 14 years after its fleet was effectively grounded by the international sanctions that followed the 1991 Gulf war.

The reborn carrier was inaugurated last month, its first trip celebrated with the sacrifice of a goat on the runway. It means that for £42 [$73], the price of a one-way economy class ticket, passengers from the capital can reach the south of the country in 55 minutes.
As one of the passengers, Abdul Azziz al-Rashid, said, "It is very important for Iraqis that we have a working airline... It reminds us that we can be like other countries again."

Meanwhile, the Suleymaniyah airport in the north has been officially opened on 20 July, with the landing of the first plane from Amman, Jordan. Another Kurdish airport is now also open for business:
The first flight of a Kurdish-owned airline landed in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil on Thursday [21 July], linking one of the main cities in the heart of Kurdistan to Dubai.

The sole airplane belonging to the nascent Kurdistan Airlines, a Boeing 737, landed at 10:30 am (0630 GMT) carrying 46 Iraqi and Kurdish businessmen.

The Arbil airport was officially inaugurated on April 15.
And on the international level:
Iraqi Airways plans to lease eight planes shortly to meet growing demand, despite concerns about security at Baghdad airport, Transport Minister Salam al-Malaki said...

The once formidable flag carrier, whose fleet was obliterated by wars and U.N. sanctions, will inaugurate regular flights in the next few days between Baghdad and Dubai and between Amman and Suleimaniya in northern Iraq, Malaki said.

"Iraqi Airways is making a comeback. We have a broad plan to lease cargo and passenger planes," Malaki told Reuters.

"We are also finalising permits and routes to Tehran, Istanbul and Cairo," said Malaki, who was in Jordan to attend an international donor conference for Iraq.

The Iraqi carrier started regular flights to Amman and Damascus earlier this year. Other companies flying to Baghdad include Royal Jordanian, which has two to three round trips a day, and private operators in the Gulf.
Daily flights between Baghdad and Dubai will also start in August. And weekly flights will connect Baghdad and Istanbul.

International carriers also have plans to resume services: "British Airways plans to resume flights from London to Baghdad, and Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic Airways and Northwest Airlines also have expressed interest in operating flights here."

RECONSTRUCTION: James Crum, director of the Project and Contracting Office in Washington, updates on the progress of reconstruction in Iraq:
[Crum] estimated that work is about two-thirds complete on 3,000 projects "the Iraqis identified as being a critical need"...

The PCO's charter is to steward roughly $18.44 billion in funds President Bush approved in 2003 for the Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund. The three-year program is responsible for projects throughout Iraq's 18 provinces in an area covering 166,000 square miles...

Now in its second year, the program is spending about $1 billion every 45 days.

A main goal is to employ as many Iraqis as possible and to hire Iraqi firms for contract work when possible. Crum explained officials hope to build capacity within the Iraqi workers so they can take the projects over in the future. On any given day 40,000 to 45,000 Iraqis are employed on PCO projects throughout Iraq, he said.
Read also this excellent series, which looks at the reconstruction effort so far as well as problems and challenges - here and here.

Foreign funds continue to be made available. "The World Bank agreed... to lend $500m (£285.2m) to Iraq for reconstruction - its first loan to the country since 1973 - as aid donors to the devastated country met in Jordan. The soft loan for infrastructure projects was announced as donors urged Iraq to provide a list of its most urgent rebuilding projects in an attempt to speed reconstruction." More here.

The Islamic Development Bank has also agreed on 18 July to extend a loan of $500 million at the donors meeting in Jordan. The meeting also bore other fruit:
Donor countries have agreed in principle on a new mechanism which gives Iraq the leading role in reconstruction efforts...

The Iraq Reconstruction Forum, dubbed the "IRFO," will be launched in two weeks, said Michael Bell, chairman of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq, a body developed early in 2004 to help donor nations channel resources and coordinate support for reconstruction and development in Iraq.

“What the Iraqi government has proposed was a new donor coordination mechanism to be established and that will deal separately from IRFFI, that will be a mechanism, in which the Iraqi government will take full ownership in the development process in a real and concrete way,” Bell said. “It will be the Iraqis who will chair that body and they will deal with all donors on bilateral and multilateral levels through coordination,” he told a news conference at the end of two days of talks by representatives of 60 countries and international organizations on Iraq's reconstruction. Bell said Iraqi Planning Minister Barham Salih will head IRFO. It was not immediately clear how the emerging body will interact with the existing International Reconstruction Fund.

So far, 19 fund members -- including the United States, Japan and Canada -- have pledged over $1 billion to IRFFI, a statement said. It said more pledges were made Monday, including $5.5 million from Denmark, $20 million from Australia, $2.4 million from Greece, $180.8 million from the European Commission, $12 million from Italy and $20 million from Spain. The contributions are separate from the $32 billion in loans and grants pledged for Iraq's reconstruction at the October 2003 donor conference in Madrid, Spain. Bell said the next meeting will be held in February 2006.
Iran has allocated $1 billion for the reconstruction of Iraq, particularly its energy sector. The Japanese government, meanwhile, continues to fund reconstruction projects in Al-Muthanna province - here's one recent example.

Lot more electricity should soon be flowing through Iraq, thanks to its two neighbors:
Both Turkey and Iran have expressed readiness to supply Iraq with 1800 MW of electricity, the share of Turkey is 1000 MW to supply Nineveh, Dohook and Erbial with electricity. The Engineer Haithem Taha, the advisor at the Electricity Ministry said that the Islamic Republic of Iran had agreed to connect it’s electricity grid with Iraqi National grid over Diyla and Amara outlets to supply Iraq with 800 MW (it is an Iranian superabundant).

It is hopeful to sign special contract in this concern between the two countries over the next two weeks, the contract stipulates that the Iranian side will continue to supply Iraq over this period with electricity link for 18 months from the beginning of signing the contract.
In water news, USAID is working on two major projects in Baghdad:
To ameliorate water shortages in Sadr City, Baghdad, a modern water treatment plant will be constructed to increase the quantity and quality of potable water to the area. Significant progress is being made by the Iraqi subcontractor on the facility’s structural design. Workers have completed dewatering and have begun laying the foundation. The foundation grading, filling, and sub-base compaction for the facility’s recycle pump station, sedimentation area, residual pump station, and intermediate pump are completed. Also the concrete has been poured for the foundations of the operations building and the residual solid pump station...

Work continues on a project to repair the sewage collection system in Kadhamiya, a northern suburb of Baghdad with a population of 1.5 million. The district frequently endures flooding of raw sewage which remains as pools in streets and homes. These overflows occur because of inadequate or blocked sewer lines, and because inoperable pump stations cannot convey sewage from homes and mains to sewage treatment plants. The sewer lines require extensive repair or replacement. Public health risks from water-borne diseases (typhoid and cholera) are increased by pools of exposed raw sewage in neighborhoods.
Also in Sadr City,
Sadr City’s municipal council is constructing 27 water purification plants, the site engineer said.

Sabah al-Batawi said the plants which will rely on wells for water supply are expected to ease pressure on the capital’s water utility which relies on the Tigris River for supplies.

Sadr City, Baghdad’s most impoverished neighborhood, suffers from erratic water and power supplies.

Batawi said the 27 projects built at a cost of $1.8 million are expected “to solve the huge water problem the city has been undergoing recently.”

Work on the plants started four months ago and one of them is already operational, Batawi said.

Underground water is available in huge quantities and easily accessible. But it is rather salty, unfit from both human and agricultural purposes.
Meanwhile, the work at Karbala's water treatment plant is nearing completion: "Contractors are currently installing chlorine piping and ground systems for all five clarifier units. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) anticipates that half the units will be operational and producing drinking water by mid-July. USAID continues to train Iraqis who operate the clarifier units and the low lift station. The project is 78 percent finished and is expected to be complete in September 2005."

Efforts are also underway to rebuild what once was the region's best education system. In higher education, another - the fifth so far - group of 58 academics who lost their jobs for political reasons during Saddam's regime has been returned to work by the Ministry of Higher Education. 1493 academics have been so rehabilitated and reinstated so far.

And a huge victory for Iraqi university students will give graduates more opportunities:
Graduate students from Iraqi universities have finally received permission from the Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) to have work they have completed authenticated by officials.

"Students from now on, will have the right to get their syllabus officially authenticated - this will help in their future outside the country as well as facilitate acceptance in worldwide universities," Salah Aliwi, a senior official in the MoHE, said.

Syllabus authorisation – an official record of subjects studied at higher education level - is seen as key to Iraqi graduates' having study and work options abroad.

During Saddam Hussein's regime no such official certificate was issued to graduates. This policy was designed to keep as many graduates in the country a possible.

"It is the right of any student to have their syllabus recognised," Aliwi explained.

Thousands of Arab students who had attended courses in Iraq during Saddam's regime had problems proving what they had been studying. The news that syllabus authorisation is to be introduced means many may now return to Iraq to avail themselves of the facility.
On the lower level, USAID is working to provide basic amenities to Iraqi schools:
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Basic Education program is rebuilding water and sanitation facilities in 800 schools.

In May, work began on 132 schools, bringing the total number of schools under rehabilitation to 355.

Facilities in 11 Maysan governorate schools have already been completed.

The Basic Education program is also leading efforts to reconstruct 70 schools throughout the country.
USAID is also helping to improve the quality of teaching across the country:
Training recently began for the Master Trainers under the teacher training initiative of the Basic Education program.

Twenty-five Iraqi Master Trainers are currently participating in a five-week training in Amman, Jordan conducted by Hashemite University experts and international/regional consultants.

The training will help the Master Trainers develop teacher training strategies, methodologies and resource materials.

When finished, they will return to Iraq to train a core group of 440 teacher trainers in the 21 Directorates of Education in Iraq. These teacher trainers will then begin the process of training 50,000 teachers for grades one to three.
In health news, "The Health Ministry has decided to use electronic smart cards for patients who are treated in hospitals and other medical centers. The Health Minister said the ministry will use the modern techniques and technology in the health sector to better serve the patients. They started using the smart card initially in Sadr City and the Karkh side of Baghdad as a trial before using it at all health organizations in Iraq. The ministry has allocated 10 billion Iraqi dinars [$6.8 million] to execute this program, which will be applied by the beginning of 2006."

Meanwhile, the United Nations has conducted a massive successful immunization campaign throughout Iraq - with some help from the private sector:
"In recent weeks, the UN worked to vaccinate 4.7 million Iraqi children five years and under ... as part of a series of initiatives aimed at bolstering health among the population," the statement in the Jordanian capital, Amman, said on Sunday [17 July].

In an effort to reach the largest number of people, the UN, with the support of private mobile phone service providers, sent text messages to announce the polio immunisation campaign.

"This support by private companies demonstrated the spirit of corporate civil responsibility emerging in Iraq," the statement said on the eve of a two-day international donors' conference hosted by Jordan.
USAID's Community Action Program is a useful initiative that helps local communities to improve services in their area. Often, it's the health infrastructure that benefits - for example, most recently, "the Community Action Program (CAP) supplied medical equipment and renovated facilities for a Diyala governorate community’s health clinic. The program renovated the center’s bathrooms and laboratory, and supplied equipment such as microscopes, a centrifuge, an oven, auto claves, thermometers and wheelchairs. The clinic serves tens of thousands of people in the area but lacked modern medical equipment and was in a general state of disrepair. Many local residents were compelled to rely on the health center because the next closest facility was too far away."

A new credit initiative will help American businesses help Iraqi agriculture:
The Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) has approved an insurance policy for CoBank, ACB for up to $180 million in Letters of Credit to support U.S. exports to Iraq.

The insurance will be used to support trade financing from CoBank, ACB, a cooperative bank and part of the U.S. Farm Credit System. Under this policy, Ex-Im Bank will support Letters of Credit issued by the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) in favor of U.S. exporters including Telwar International, Inc. of Brentwood, Tennessee to purchase bulk agricultural commodities, including an estimated $27 million a month in rice and wheat shipments.

"This financing will enable U.S. exporters to provide the Iraqi people with large volumes of bulk agricultural commodities and other goods and services on a timely basis," Chairman Philip Merrill said.

"Ex-Im Bank remains fully committed to supporting Iraq's reconstruction and is diligently working to find new and creative financing solutions to meet Iraq's financing needs."
USAID is assisting the development of Iraqi agriculture through various initiatives:

Two irrigation canal cleaning projects are underway in Ninawa’ and Diyala’ governorates to improve farmers’ access to water and increase agricultural production. The projects are funded by USAID’s Agricultural Research and Development for Iraq (ARDI) program...

ARDI, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), is conducting a survey of poultry farms near Baghdad to collect information about the poultry industry, including the economic performance of poultry farms. The results will allow ARDI and the MOA to better understand the poultry industry and the problems poultry farmers face...

USAID and the MOA recently conducted a series of technical demonstrations for tomato farmers in Karbala, Najaf and Basrah governorates. The demonstrations familiarize farmers with new technologies for tomato production in order to boost the yield and quality of tomato crops...

To increase farmer income and reduce public health risks, USAID has recently approved a grant that will fund a training program to improve livestock breeding techniques in Iraqi villages... The program will provide training to 4,800 women in 240 villages to improve breeding techniques and educate the rural population about preventing the spread of diseases from animals...

To help create a local market for beekeeping equipment, the MOA and ARDI will provide training to local carpenters in manufacturing high quality beehives. Thirteen carpenters from Arbil, Dahuk, Sulaymaniyah, Kirkuk and Ninawa will participate in a workshop on manufacturing beehives that meet international standards.
In other similar recent initiatives:
USAID is providing a grant to four Iraqi villages to clean irrigation canals that had not been maintained in three years... The farmers will clean 9,500 meters of canal serving 625 hectares of land and benefiting 150 families living in the four villages.

The results of a USAID-sponsored survey in 14 Iraqi governorates will determine the training needs of pesticide dealers as part of the MOA’s Integrated Pest Management Strategy...

The Kurdistan Agronomist Syndicate (KAS) is renovating its building through a grant from MOA/ARDI. The KAS has a membership of over 2,000 agriculturists and conducts activities promoting agricultural production, including computer courses for agricultural engineers, and supervision for agriculture projects in the private sector...

ARDI is sponsoring a geneticist from the Ministry of Science and Technology to obtain training in genetics relevant to Iraqi agriculture...

Construction began this week for a flower nursery to be managed by a prominent women’s union. This effort will provide business opportunities to women-headed households. Twenty-three women will also receive management training and training on potted plant production...

Twenty-nine water buffalo producers in Baghdad, Al Qadisiyah, Al Muthanna’, and Dhi Qar are participating in a program to improve pregnancy and calving rates using hormonal treatment and improved nutrition...

MOA/ARDI has initiated a program to introduce sorghum as a less expensive feed grain for the poultry industry.
Iraq and Iran will be cooperating to preserve valuable marshland that straddles the two countries:
Minister of Water Resources Abdulatif Rashid is to fly to Iran to see what the two countries can do to revitalize joint marshlands.

The Huwaiza marsh, perhaps the only remaining wetland the former leader Saddam Hussein failed to dry, straddles the borders of the two countries.

The marsh escaped Saddam Hussein’s massive draining campaigns of southern wetlands because it received its water from rivers originating in Iran.

Rashid said he would meet his Iranian counterpart “to discuss water issues particularly the joint Huwaiza marsh.”

The largest portion of the 3,500 sq. km. Huwaiza lies in Iraqi territory with Iran having access only to 1,150 sq. km.

“We are going to review policies on how to preserve the marshes, protect them and revive them particularly the wetlands we share,” Rashid said.
Restoring marshlands is a multi-national effort - you can read about the contribution of Joy Zedler, the Aldo Leopold chair in Restoration Ecology at the University of Wisconsin, and Dr. Rich Beilfuss, a hydrologist with Baraboo's International Crane Foundation, who head the international restoration mission. And learn more about the project here.

Lastly, this story about how some Iraqis are celebrating the reconstruction of their country:
If “beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder” then residents of Karbala apparently feel that some of their most prized creative pieces may be seen in the framed, grouped, and carefully hung photographs of recently completed, community reconstruction projects.

The residents of this city of 200,000 were justifiably pleased by the numerous local building projects they, not long ago, had completed for and by themselves. Accordingly, in a communal show of pride, they closed a local art gallery, took down its paintings, carefully replaced them with sets of pictures of each of the 89 projects they had, with their own hands, constructed, and held a festive open house to share their happiness.
HUMANITARIAN AID: Qatar Red Crescent and Qatar Authority for Charitable Works will jointly establish a unit in Iraq to manufacture artificial limbs to help some of the 85,000 Iraqis who lost limbs over the last few decades of conflicts. USAID is also trying to help the plight of Iraq's disabled:
USAID’s partner implementing the Community Action Program (CAP) in Qadisiyah, Wasit and Maysan Governorates is working with people with disabilities and the institutions that support them. CAP is currently constructing wheelchair access ramps in 37 local institutions in the city of Diwaniyah (Qadisiyah Governorate) and has nearly finished 23 access ramps in Al Amarah (Maysan Governorate).

In cooperation with the persons with disabilities association in Amarah, CAP will also provide 984 wheelchairs to disabled persons in Maysan Governorate. The distribution covers most of the districts in the governorate. Representatives from the disabled person’s community in Amarah are also holding public awareness sessions. They have conducted 17 public lectures and 21 school visits.

The Technical Institute in Diwaniyah organized a ramp design contest among its students to raise awareness for the need for architects to incorporate access ramps into building designs. This project is part of CAP’s commitment to integrate disabled persons into the community through awareness campaigns and other conveniences such as ramps.
LIFE for Relief and Development is working on a range of health projects in Iraq:
LIFE for Relief and Development in cooperation with the International Humanitarian Help Organization of Germany (IHH) will be upgrading LIFE’s healthcare center in Basra.

LIFE established the center in 2001 and since its inception; the clinic has provided services to over 100,000 residents of Al-Hakimiyya and its surrounding areas. Although the upgrade aims to provide better services for all patients, the main focus will be the construction of a maternity and children’s hospital that will serve more than 200,000 people in Al-Hakimiyya, Tuwaisa, Junaina and Al-Andalus.

Currently, the clinic operates three hours a day due to limited resources. However, during these three hours, doctors at the facility see an average of 50 patients per day. At its current state and with the shortage of diagnostic equipment and advanced medical instruments, the clinic was still rated the best in Basra by the local health authority.

Adjacent land to the current building has been purchased and the hospital will be modified and another two-story building will be constructed to add 20 patient rooms, one operating room, one baby delivery room, a dental facility and a eye examination facility among others.

This expansion will ensure 12 beds for a new maternity ward, which will provide 5 incubators. Also, the hospital will implement an immunization system in coordination with UNICEF and the Iraqi Ministry of Health.

The total cost of this project is estimated at $360,000 and will be completed by the year 2007.
As well as some more ad-hoc aid initiatives:
In cooperation with the Ministry of Health, LIFE for Relief and Development successfully distributed six containers of medical supplies that were donated by The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints.

The medical supplies were donated to local hospitals, medical centers and clinics throughout Iraq’s many provinces including Al-Mosul Main Hospital Al-Jumhuri Hospital, Al-Qaim Main Hospital, Samaraa Main Hospital, Diyala Health Center and many others.

LIFE also distributed medical publications to medical colleges and hospitals including Al-Mosul Medical College, Duhouk Medical College, Al-Anbar Medical College, Al-Ramadi Main Hospital and Al-Qaim Main Hospital.

The distributions of twenty containers of medical supplies and books will benefit thousands throughout the country and will ensure a better quality of life for the injured and ill.
A Catholic charity is helping children and mothers:
Caritas-Iraq continues to give highest priority to its infant nutrition program, aimed at malnourished children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

The aid reaches some 20,000 beneficiaries at risk, both Muslim and Christian, in Baghdad, Basra, Nassiriya, Umarah, Dialah and Saladin, according to the Catholic agency.

Caritas' nutrition program, which has been carried out for years in Iraq, benefits children under 8, women in their sixth month of pregnancy and beyond, and nursing mothers with babies under 6 months of age.

In addition to food aid, the beneficiaries are entitled to care in Caritas-Iraq's health centers, as well as free medical treatment.
One NGO is trying to help the most vulnerable children:
War Child is providing a unique approach to promoting livelihoods on the basis of child rights, and is addressing the developmental needs of vulnerable children. This programme has four main components: Livelihoods, NGO capacity building, Psychosocial and Paralegal work. War Child is in the process of registering a new local NGO called “Nida’ il-Tifil” (“Call of the Child”), whom War Child will support in providing skills, training, financial and management assistance... Our assessment team in Iraq has identified 6 villages with whom we will work to achieve these aims through community based organisations. The progarmme invests in local capacity and builds on civil society.

Our other work in Southern Iraq continues: The Drop-in-Centres in Basra and Nasiriyah are progressing and enter the second stage of rehabilitation. Meanwhile training is being provided to local staff in the areas of Child Participatory Research, Child Protection, Counseling Skills etc; and Participatory Action Research with the street children has started in Basra. The centres will provide a safe place for vulnerable street children and help them to gain access to education, skills and better opportunities for their future.

Colorado business is helping Iraqi school children:
EZSchoolSupplies is an online store (EZSchoolSupplies.com) that delivers kits costing an average of $40 to customers' front doors or directly to schools. Founder and President Matthew Curtis, 23, came up with the concept for a college marketing class. The professor gave him a D-minus, but Curtis found investors and launched the pilot for EZSchoolSupplies last year...

The owner of a California winery who had done some missionary work in South Africa found the EZSchoolSupplies Web site in March. He contacted Van Noy and Curtis to see if they could help send supplies for 100 needy children in that country...

A U.S. Army "Battle Boar" battalion stationed in Iraq heard about the South African project and EZSchoolSupplies. It contacted the company in May, asking for help to get 1,000 supply kits to schoolchildren in Iraq.

"The local schools do not have funds to purchase supplies, for they are very impoverished. If your company can donate some supplies to help these kids, our battalion would appreciate your kind gesture," said the May 16 e-mail from SPC Steven Wilkerson, U.S. Army...

EZSchoolSupplies decided it could afford to send 300-500 kits to Iraq, with the help of some business partners and investors -- Golden-based Quasar Group, Evergreen-based Relatrix and Corona, Calif.-based eKnowledge.

Van Noy and Curtis learned some lessons from their South African experience they'll use when packing the Iraqi school kits -- such as crayons don't survive extreme desert heat in the packs. They are opting for colored pencils.

Other modifications have been made as well as both teachers in South Africa and the U.S. Army in Iraq didn't want scissors or similar objects that could be used as weapons.

These projects have inspired Curtis to set up an international outreach program on his Web site, where companies can choose schools or students in need, here and abroad, to sponsor. Companies or individuals can click on the site and send off a school supply kit to needy youngsters in a local Denver classroom or buy some kits in bulk for students in Brazil, Van Noy said.
Iowa parishioners are collecting shoes for Iraqi children:
A small idea turned into a big project for two parishioners at St. Thomas More Catholic Church.

Anne and Caine Thomas wrote an e-mail to their fellow parishioners after their brother-in-law, U.S. Army reservist Capt. Christopher Ortega, suggested they ask people to donate sandals for the shoeless children he saw while on patrol in Tikrit, Iraq.

"We didn't try to turn it into a project, but as soon as people found out, they have been writing checks," Anne Thomas said.

So far, $300 has been donated.

The project, called "Sandals for Iraq," was picked up by St. Thomas More's Catholic Church and subsequently the other three Catholic churches in the Iowa City, including St. Mary's, St. Patrick's and St. Wenceslaus. Donation boxes have been placed at all the churches for sturdy sandals and flip-flops for children aged 4 to 10.
An Indiana couple continues to ship toys and school supplies to Iraq - but they need your help with the costs:
Despite financial troubles, a woman who runs a nonprofit group that ships toys, school supplies, sporting goods, clothing and Beanie Babies to impoverished Iraqi children hopes to keep the gifts flowing to Iraq.

Beanies for Baghdad, which was founded in 2003 by an Army officer who befriended an Iraqi girl, is now run by Donna Ward out of her Evansville home.

On Friday afternoon, several plastic bags of school supplies, Beanies, clothing and stuffed animals lay on her living room floor. Ward and her husband, Gerald, have shipped more than 500 boxes of items for children in Iraq.

They estimate that they have spent more than $2,000 of their own money shipping boxes to Iraq and have spent another $1,500 donated by other sources, including local businesses and other aid organizations.

Donna Ward has collected six large boxes of toys for another mailing. The homemaker estimates it will cost $200 to $250 to send it first class to Iraq.
See if you can help.

Holly Malueg, staff sergeant in the Army Reserve's 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion, and US Bank of Wisconsin Rapid are now involved in Operation Sesame Street collecting toys that members of the Battalion currently stationed in Iraq and Kosovo can give out to children.

And this, from Missouri:
A Missouri community is helping U.S. soldiers bring some joy to thousands of Iraqi children, who find themselves caught in the middle of a military battle.

Dick Merseal lives in Richwoods, Missouri. "I think our town has a big heart, our town is the most giving. Anytime someone has a need or something, this town really kicks in."

Merseal started filling boxes with toys at his Richwoods home. He's got a good reason for helping out. His son is National Guard Captain Kurt Merseal, who is currently serving in Iraq.
Meanwhile, an ex-serviceman is coming back to Iraq to help the street children:
When Army Capt. Jonathan Powers crossed the Iraq border at the end of his 14-month tour last July he happily believed he'd never see the country again.

That was then.

Now Powers is making plans to return to Iraq as a civilian, to help the children he hasn't been able to forget.

Powers, 27, is director of the upstart Orphans and Street Kids Project, whose goal is to coordinate the country's ill-equipped orphanages and offer vocational training for children living on the streets and out of the facilities' reach.
And the efforts of soldiers have saved life of one Iraqi boy:
In the end, a 7-year-old Iraqi boy's long, dark eyelashes may have saved his life.

Kadhem Jawad Kathem is doing well after arriving in Houston last week and undergoing a five-hour operation Tuesday at Texas Children's Hospital to "replumb" his congenitally malformed heart, his surgeon said.

Purple-lipped when he arrived because of his heart's inability to adequately circulate blood through his lungs, Kadhem is showing normal blood-oxygen levels and will likely be well enough to go home in a month.

"I am very grateful to everybody, to the American troops back in Iraq, to all Houstonians and I'm very grateful to the doctors who did the surgery" said the boy's father, Jawad Kathem, a 33-year-old mechanic from southern Iraq. Kathem, who speaks Arabic, spoke to the Associated Press through a translator.

In January, Kadhem met Maj. Brian Stevens, a civil affairs officer serving in Iraq with the Fort Worth-based 56th Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas National Guard. Stevens had arrived in a town in southern Iraq — the exact location is confidential — a month earlier, beginning a yearlong deployment to build schools and hospitals.

Kadhem's mother made a wrenching plea for her son, too weak to attend school or play. She gave Stevens X-rays and medical documents to take to a military doctor at the base.

It was "those eyelashes" that captivated soldiers, said Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada, Texas National Guard spokeswoman. "Obviously, many (Iraqi) children would benefit from surgery. We can't help them all."

The military doctor, a cardiologist, evaluated Kadhem and determined he needed help — quickly. After searching the Internet, the cardiologist found Dr. Charles Fraser Jr., an expert in repairs of severe cardiac malformations at Texas Children's. Moncada said the cardiologist contacted Fraser directly, via e-mail, and asked, "If we can get the kid into the States, will you do the surgery?"
Arizona politician, meanwhile, is helping Iraqi children with facial defects or injuries:
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., underwent his first operation for a cleft palate as age 2 weeks, and since then has had 10 more related operations.

He says he considers himself lucky for the improvements those operations have made.

"It's been painful," Franks, 48, said in an interview. But he said the improvements have meant things as basic as being able to speak more clearly.

Now, the two-term congressman is trying to help Iraqi children who have had the same birth defect, as well as other Iraqi children suffering from facial injuries or abnormalities.

On Thursday, Franks traveled to Amman, Jordan, for the first mission of what is being called the Iraq initiative of "Operation Smile," an organization whose doctors perform operations on children to help correct or minimize their facial defects or injuries.

The mission kicks off what is anticipated to be a five-year effort geared to the children of that country. Until now, the program has not been available to Iraqi children.

In all, as many as 50 Iraqi children were to be brought to Amman this weekend to be treated by a team of volunteer surgeons.
You can check up here on the progress of the mission.

And an unlikely alliance is trying to help an Iraqi boy injured by an American bomb:
Ayad al-Sirowiy came to America last week hoping doctors here could remove the war embedded in his face.

Thirteen years old, small and skinny, Ayad was severely burned and blinded in one eye when a American cluster bomb blew up in his face at the beginning of the Iraq war.

The explosion blasted thousands of fragments into his skin and left even deeper emotional scars. The village boys teased him, calling him "Mr. Gunpowder." Even on sweltering days, Ayad wraps a scarf around his face when he leaves home, and most nights, he sleeps with sunglasses to mask his scars.

But all that may change.

On Friday, Ayad and his father, Ali, walked into a laser surgery clinic in Washington to begin a series of treatments to remove the map of pinpoint scars that cover most of Ayad's face.

Doctors say a full recovery for Ayad may be a long shot, but at the urging of a lawyer who read about his plight and labored for more than a year to bring the boy to America, top dermatologists and cornea surgeons are willing to try.

What finally got Ayad here was an unlikely alliance between the lawyer, Joe Tom Easley, a well-known gay rights activist, and Robert Reilly, a conservative adviser to the U.S. Defense Department reviled in gay circles for an article he once wrote calling homosexuality "morally disordered."
THE COALITION TROOPS: Task Force Baghdad updates on the reconstruction progress:
Since the transfer of sovereignty, a total of 1,451 projects valued at $1.4 billion have been completed. Large-scale capital projects like power plants, water treatment plants and oil infrastructure facilities are being reconstructed and, in some cases, built anew.

Demand for electricity is currently growing faster than it is able to be supplied; however, new power lines of 33 kilovolts have been completed. Generation plants are being built and transmission lines are being constructed to replace a decades-old, neglected electrical power system. A total of more than 2,000 megawatts of power have been added to the grid ( enough to service 5.4 million Iraqi homes ). More than 1,400 electrical towers and 8,600 kilometers of transmission lines have been installed.

Many sewer trunk lines have been cleaned or fixed. Work on the majority of sewer trunk lines continues and progress continues.

Each day, 50 million additional gallons of treated, drinkable water are being pumped to the Baghdad residents. New water wells and treatment facilities are in the progress of being constructed in addition to new delivery pipes being installed.

Solid waste ( trash ) is being removed from the majority of sites in the Baghdad area; with some areas having it removed at least twice a week.

More than 20 healthcare facilities have been renovated, with many others in the process of being renovated.
Reconstruction of Fallujah is also progressing:
The US Army Corps of Engineers, in partnership with the Fallujah City Council and the Fallujah Reconstruction Committee, has made considerable progress in restoring water, sewage and electrical service in the city of Fallujah to levels that existed prior to Operation New Dawn (Al Fajr) in November 2004.

Elevated water storage tanks have been repaired and water is now at pre-November 2004 levels. Projects are underway to increase the capacity of the current system to modern standards. These projects will upgrade the current capacity of fresh water in the city by three million gallons per day.

The Fallujah Electric Department and the USACE have worked together to bring the level of electrical distribution up to approximately 80% of the existing system’s capacity. They plan to bring the system up to 100% of its pre-November 2004 capacity by December 2005. The existing system is also being brought up to current standards. Every home and business in the city is scheduled to have safe and modern electrical connections by next spring.

A modern sewage collection system is under construction, which will replace the septic tanks currently in use. The system is 80% complete, and will remove waste from 3,100 homes. Construction of a sewage treatment facility is scheduled to start in about two months.

Over the next several months, the USACE will finish construction on a health clinic, four schools, and four 250-man police stations. Construction of a 500 man police station will start later this year.
Also in Fallujah, the troops are compensating the locals:
Fallujah residents received approximately $203,000 in property lease payments during the second round of the Property Leasing Program last week. Second Marine Division marines and sailors, along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), executed 139 leases during a two-day period.

The program, which began in June, was created to compensate local residents whose homes were or are currently occupied by coalition forces. Last month, 94 contracts were completed and $76,000 in payments were made in three days.

“The impact is two-fold,” Maj. Tom Nelson, 5th Civil Affairs Group economic development officer, said. “First, and most importantly, the people of Fallujah see us doing the right thing by paying them for the use of their properties. Secondly, we inject much-needed capital directly into the local economy.”
The army engineers will soon be adding a lot of electricity to the Iraqi grid: "A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers repair project at the Qudas electric power generating station 25 kilometers north of Baghdad is 85 per cent complete. Engineers predict the work will be finished within a month. Once operational, Qudas could increase the nation's electric production ten per cent. The plant's output capacity is 492 megawatts."

There is also more drinking water for Sadr City:
The first of 27 new compact water treatment units officially opened in Sadr City July 19.

"The compact water units bring needed water to the residents while the expanded water system for Sadr City continues to develop," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Gary Luck, commander of 3rd Battalion 15th Infantry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, the coalition unit which works with Sadr City.

"I want to thank the coalition forces for helping to bring this project to completion. The people of Sadr City will benefit from having clean water readily available to them," Sheik Jabar Nashour Jasim

Each water unit produces 15,000 liters of clean potable water a day.

"A total of 405,000 liters per day will be produced once all the of units are installed and operational," said Luck, who is from Salina, Kan.

A compact water unit is a small water treatment facility, using well water or city water as a source of supply. The water is fully treated and ready for drinking.
In Baghdad, the troops are supporting the economic empowerment of local women:
One mission that has remained constant for the U.S. soldiers of 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division since arriving in Iraq is helping to rebuild the civilian infrastructure. This is done in many ways, but the intent is to have Iraqis rebuild Iraq.

Although a small project for the Al Rasheed district, the opening of the Jihad Sewing School July 5 was a big step forward in improving the local economy.

“The school is small but they are training about 15 to 20 women and when they finish, they will be able to go directly into the work force and put their skills to use,” said Capt. Christian Neels, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment civil-military operations officer, and native of Muscatine, Iowa.

The school teaches women to use sewing machines to make clothing and a variety of other items. These items can be sold on the local economy or the women can get a job in a local factory.
The enthusiasm and commitment of this Army Reservist have already made huge difference for one medical institution:
Everything was stripped from the rooms of the University of Baghdad's School of Dentistry that Col. Franklin Woo walked through.

Even the college's library of dental textbooks were gone, which still has Woo wondering why the looters took them.

"They had stripped everything out of there down to the copper wiring," Woo said.

The college was one of the buildings that was looted when the American military entered Baghdad in 2003.

Woo, a command dental surgeon for the Army Reserve's 2nd Medical Brigade, decided that restoring the devastated school was a good place to start winning Iraqi hearts and minds.

Woo and the others supplied everything from cotton wool and student furniture to computers and sterilization equipment.

Calls to the University of the Pacific's and the University of San Francisco's schools of dentistry and the San Francisco Dental Society garnered two tons of dental textbooks to replace the lost texts.

In Najaf, the army engineers have their hands full with a number of security and other infrastructure projects:
An Iraqi female police station tops the list of more than a dozen active construction and planned projects by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region South District in Najaf.

The female police facility will be used to train female cadets to properly search other females at the many checkpoints and security stops throughout Iraq. The contract for the facility is expected to be awarded by the middle of July and carries a price tag of about $150,000.

Three other police station projects will be under construction by the middle of July and are in Waf’a and Najaf city. Two are police stations and one will be a headquarters building. The projects carry a price tag of $130,000 for the Waf’a police station, $158,000 for the Najaf EOD station and $26,000 for the Najaf headquarters facility. Planned improvements include new windows, doors and security walls.

Other projects planned in the city include the Al Shorta Substation with a cost of $3.8 million and a water treatment unit at Rmol Al Shebl for $215,000 and the Najaf Teaching Hospital. The hospital is a viable operational outpatient clinic capable of outpatient surgeries and emergency room visits is ready for the next phase of renovation which will include an industrial kitchen, multiple stories and many outlying buildings. The project has a total cost of more than $15 million.
This sort of good-will actions are regular fixture among the troops:
Despite the blistering summertime heat, more than 200 children and community members gathered at the Bayaa Youth Center in the Al Rashid district to participate in a uniform and wheelchair distribution, followed by a soccer game July 13.

“The event was outstanding and turn-out was great,” said Capt. Jeffrey LaPlante, commander of Company B, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

“When we arrived, a group was already practicing hurdles at the track and kids were playing soccer,” said LaPlante, a native of Lakeland, Fla.

The Bayaa Neighborhood Council had been conducting public assistance projects to improve the quality-of-life of residents in their neighborhood during the past two weeks.

In addition to the soccer match that afternoon, a community health screening was conducted where more than 300 people were treated for minor illnesses by Iraqi doctors and given food and other humanitarian aid.

The community program also provided complete soccer uniforms, soccer balls, and a variety of other items for the 240 children involved in the Bayaa Youth Soccer League. There was enough equipment to outfit 15 teams.

Program coordinators distributed wheelchairs to disabled persons in the area.
It's not just the Americans - Australian soldiers will soon be contributing to reconstruction of southern Iraq:
The Australian government will fund community projects in southern Iraq worth A$2 million, including the building of an ambulance station and mobile health clinic.

Defence Minister Robert Hill said the A$2.3 million worth of projects would be coordinated by a working group within the Australian army's Al Muthanna Task Group (AMTG) and would ensure Australia left a lasting legacy in southern Iraq...

The projects include the construction of a veterinary centre in the rural centre of Darraji, a veterinary medical storage facility at As Samawah, renovating the As Samawah grain silo laboratory, providing equipment for Al Muthanna media outlets, constructing an animal waste disposal unit in As Samawah, building an ambulance station at Al Khidr, providing a mobile health clinic for the Al Muthanna province, renovating a community centre at Al Salman, and supplying water testing kits for the Al Muthanna province.
More here.

The Romanians and the Italians are training the Iraqi troops:
At the moment, the Romanian forces, in cooperation with Italian Multinational Specialized Unit (MSU), have finished the first two training courses, based on teaching techniques, procedures and tactics in Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) with a duration of three weeks, completing the last course in the first week of July.

Captain Laurentiu Matei, Chief of the Security Sector Reform project from "Călugăreni" said: "Iraqi soldiers are very interested in what we are teaching them and they were improving from week to week".

Led by Captain Marius Serban, about forty Romanian instructors are currently participating in the training duties of the IA held in White Horse IA base (10 km from Camp Mittica) using their knowledge and skills for the benefit of the IA officers and soldiers.
And this from the Italians: "The Italian government has granted 300,000 dollars to the cultural centre in Nassiriya, the city in the southeastern Dhi Qar province where Italian soldiers, part of the US-led multinational force deployed in the country, are based. The centre, on the ground floor of the province headquarters, will have state of art material and equipment and will include a theater, a library, a cinema, a meeting room and a modern media equipment."

Also: "Italian troops are renovating al-Nasiriya’s General Hospital at a cost of $2 million... The hospital is vital for the nearly one million inhabitants of Dhiqar Province of which Nasiriya is the capital, as it is the only provincial health institution with the ability to carry out major operations. But most of the hospital’s medical equipment is either outdated or idle. Lack of funds and resources prevented its rehabilitation. The work by the Italians is the first attempt to repair the hospital since it was built in the early 1980s. A huge fire last year had damaged several wards in the 10-storey building."

SECURITY: There is no doubt that the highest security priority in Iraq at the moment is to train the sufficient number of soldiers and police, so that Iraqis themselves are able to defend themselves and take on the insurgency and terrorism.

It might be the most dangerous job in Iraq, but there is no end to recruits:
Less than an hour after a suicide bomber detonated an explosives vest outside an army recruiting center here Wednesday, killing at least six people, Iraqi security officials were talking about the next working day.

"We'll be open first thing in the morning," said Sgt. Abbad al-Zarah, a commander with the security platoon in charge of securing the site. "And there'll be recruits."

The morning blast outside the center was the seventh attack there this year, including a suicide bombing 10 days earlier at the same gate that killed 21 would-be recruits, the Interior Ministry said.

But the barrage of lethal attacks has not stopped recruits from returning. Two days after the July 10 attack, where a bomber snuck past guards and detonated a bomb among waiting recruits, a line formed on Damascus Street for applications.

"I had to turn people away," said Ahmed Hatem Muhsin, a guard at the gate. "People in Iraq are strong. Stupid and strong."
Another story here: "Defiantly, they ignore the bombs and queue to join the Iraqi army".

Training course continue to graduate soldiers and junior leaders:
A new crop of Iraqi soldiers and leaders completed their training at Kirkush Military Training Base here on July 13. Basic Combat Training Class 11 held a ceremony to celebrate the completion of the eight-week course on the 13th of July. The Iraqi Training Battalion trained the group of over 990 recruits...

The same day, the base also held a passing out ceremony to celebrate the tandem graduations of the Iraqi Army's Squad Leader and Platoon Sergeant Courses. Soldiers from across Iraq attended the four-week courses run by the Iraqi Training Brigade. The courses are designed to foster leadership in the growing Iraqi noncommissioned officers corps. More than 230 soldiers completed the Squad Leader Course and 42 graduated the Platoon Sergeant Course.
There's also training for female soldiers:
Breathing, squeezing the trigger and keeping the enemy in sight are just a few of the technical shooting techniques taught by 1st. Sgt. Amir Jabar Taleb of the 1st Iraqi Army Brigade, 6th Division, to some of the first female Soldiers inducted into the Iraqi Army.

For the first time in Iraq’s history, Iraqi leadership at an Iraqi base conducted an all-female IA basic training course. Over the past two weeks, 27 female recruits have had intensive training to learn the necessary skills to become a Soldier.

"They learned how to use weapons, map reading and battle tactics to engage the enemy during combat,” said Brig. Gen. Jaleel Khalaf Shawail, commanding general of the 1st Iraqi Army Bde., 6th Div.
More troops and navy personnel have graduated in the south:
The tenth division on the Iraqi army and navy force has organized two separate celebrations for the graduation of two new classes of volunteers in Basra city.

Brigadier general Saad Al Harbia, commander of the second brigade of the tenth division, said, "180 volunteers have finished their major training to join the division forces, after they received various military sciences in theoretical lectures and mobilization exercises, in which officers from the Italian and Romanian forces working within the multinational forces, have participated.
In Om Qasr region, the navy and coastal defense force has conducted the ceremony for the graduation of a new group of volunteers to support these growing forces with new elements that are capable of protecting the national waters and coasts.
US Air Force personnel have done a good work training the new Iraqi air force: "Pope maintainers were chosen based on their skill levels and backgrounds for an elite, six-month mission involving the new Iraqi air force. Later, they learned not only would they be teaching the new Iraqi 23rd Transportation Squadron on how the United States Air Force does business, they were empowered to create the entire training process." It hasn't been a simple task; breaching technical language barrier is never easy. In addition, the Iraqi personnel were used to working on old Soviet equipment. But the mission has been accomplished: "After months of training and bonding the training paid off. The peak of Sergeant McDaniel’s Air Force career was when he flew on an Iraqi Air Force C-130 into a combat zone while being piloted by Iraqi pilots. 'Over and over they said, tell people in the U.S. about us how we appreciate the freedom we have been given and appreciate all the military has done and sacrificed for us,' said Sergeant McDaniel."

Iraqi Navy prepares to take over the security of territorial waters:
Commodore Task-Force (CTF) 58 Royal Australian Navy (RAN) commodore Steve Gilmore said the Iraqi forces are currently part of the task force, which includes US, British and Australian coalition forces charged with protecting and patrolling the Gulf.

He said their mission is to detect, deter and deny terrorists or extremists posing a serious threat to key maritime infrastructures in the region, such as the Iraqi oil terminals.

"As part of our mission, we are also integrating the Iraqi naval force into our task force," he said.

"They are actually replacing coalition units rather than working alongside them."

Cmdr Gilmore, who was speaking on board guided missile cruiser USS Normandy which is anchored at Mina Salman, said they are beginning phase two of the three-phase process of preparing Iraqis to take command control of their waters.

"Over the next 12 months the pieces will be put together after the Iraqi Navy take on new equipment and achieve higher training and expertise," he said.
Iraqi police also continues to be trained: "Almost 200 cadets became full-fledged Iraqi police officers in a graduation ceremony July 23 – the last such class to be trained by Task Force Liberty. The new officers spent over two weeks at the 4th Iraqi Army Training Academy here and learned a variety of things, to include hand-to-hand combat, urban tactics, arrest procedures, search techniques, traffic control points, in addition to rifle and pistol training." Says Cadet Unis Hamid Salman Almujami: "I want security for Iraq, for my family, my children’s family, and even visitors from outside Iraq, because this is a free country... Everyone is welcome here, except for terrorists, because we want to live in peace."

With more and more trained recruits swelling the ranks, Iraqis are assuming greater security role. In the last week, Iraqi and American authorities have formed five joint committees charged with transforming security responsibilities from Multinational forces to Iraqi security troops.

"Army Major General Joseph Taluto, commander of the multi-national division in the north-central part of the country, told reporters in Baghdad July 15 that Iraqi security forces 'are already conducting over half of the operations that we do.' The Iraqis are either integrated into coalition operations or carrying them out with minimal coalition support, Taluto said, and 'that’s a huge accomplishment'." With boots on the ground, Sgt. Robb Kidwill who's teaching Iraqi troops leadership procedures at Forward Operation Base Cobra with the Tennessee Army National Guard's 278th Regimental Combat Team, says: "We have slowly transitioned from a point where we led to a point where we assisted, and now we are in a mentoring role in many ways."

On 12 July, Iraqi army battalion trained by Bulgarian and Polish soldiers has taken over control of an area in southern Baghdad.

In Kirkuk, the American troops are also stepping back:
As the battle against insurgency continues in Iraq, U.S. forces in Kirkuk are taking the backseat and putting Iraqi police (IP) up front and in control.

Soldiers of 3rd platoon, Company B, 2nd Battalion, 116th Brigade Combat Team have been working with the Kirkuk police for almost six months and said they feel confident that it's time for the Iraqis to be seen as in charge.

"The Iraqi police have been running traffic control points (TCP) since May and they have been doing a pretty good job," said Staff Sgt. Brad E. Attebery, a Soldier with the 3rd platoon and native of Weiser, Idaho. "Now we stay out of sight so the town of Kirkuk sees its police out in front doing their job."
Read also this story of a true pioneer, the 34-year old mother of four, Sgt. Bushra Jabar, the first woman in her unit:
As Jabar strides down the street, she draws snickers from women covered from head to toe in abayas (robes and veils).

"For them, it's amazing," Jabar said. "Maybe it's the first time they see a woman with a uniform or with pants."

The young girls she meets are fascinated, asking her questions and posing with her for pictures.
Meanwhile, first all-female police station has been opened in Najaf, to deal with cultural and religious sensibilities that prevent male police officers searching female suspects.

And this is what they are fighting against - a TV program that documents the confessions of Sheik Zana, leader of a Kurdish jihadi cell, who for a decade has been terrorizing the north of the country in cooperation with Islamic terrorist groups. Iraqi viewers have seen taped confessions before, but this case is different. "Sheik Zana's confessions, delivered in Kurdish, stand out because he and his followers had a habit of videotaping not only what appear to be horrific murders and rapes, but also sex among themselves and with the young men whom they were trying to recruit for their cause."

In the stories of security cooperation from ordinary Iraqis:

"An East Baghdad resident alerted Iraqi Soldiers that a terrorist was preparing to fire a rocket at around 8:30 a.m. July 10. Coalition Soldiers responded immediately and cordoned off the suspected site. After searching the area, the Iraqi Soldiers discovered the rocket ready to be fired from an improvised launcher and safely disarmed the rocket launcher and took it back to their base. The terrorists were not seen or captured";

Army Major General Joseph Taluto, commander of Task Force Liberty which is active in cities of Balad, Kirkuk, Tikrit and Samarra, reports a 150 per cent increase in tips from the public about weapons caches and suspicious vehicles and individuals;

On 15 July in Baghdad, "soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, captured three personnel, all positively identified as targets. The 2-156th personnel knocked on doors when the targeted houses turned up empty, and citizens of the neighborhood led soldiers to the suspected terrorists";

"A group of Iraqis stopped a Task Force Baghdad unit patrolling in southeast Baghdad July 15 and told the Soldiers they’d found some weapons. The patrol followed the Iraqis to the site and found two mortar tubes and three base plates, one rocket-propelled grenade launcher, 17 mortar rounds, 39 artillery rounds and 25 boxes of hand grenades";

A cache of mortars was placed on the side of the road for a patrol from 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division to discovered on July 22, in the same spot that locals have previously placed ammunition for collection. Says Maj. Russ Goemaere: "We would prefer civilians not place themselves at risk by handling munitions in this manner. We would prefer they just tell us where to find the munitions so we can remove them safely. We are pleased, however, that the citizens of Iraq are supporting the cause of democracy and helping to protect their community".

In other recent security successes:

On July 10, "during a routine patrol in the Ameriyah District... Iraqi and Coalition Forces noticed a black BMW parked in the driveway of a house that was typically unoccupied. Soldiers searched the house and found a bag of raw C-4 plastic explosives and four other containers believed to be filled with explosives." More weapons and munitions were found inside the house;

The capture of Khamis Farhan Khalaf Abd al Fahdawi, known as Abu Seba, a senior Al Qaeda operative suspected of the murder of the Egyptian diplomat; he was among 30 suspected terrorists arrested in Ramadi on July 10;

Twenty two suspects rounded up during the latest phase of Operation Scimitar around Fallujah in the run up to 11 July;

"Iraqi Security Forces and Task Force Baghdad soldiers wounded and captured a suicide bomber today [July 14] before he could blow himself up near a Coalition checkpoint in central Baghdad";

Thirty nine suspects arrested in joint American and Iraqi operations in Baghdad on July 15;

Seventy seven suspects, including some wanted terrorists, arrested in Fallujah and throughout Diyala province on 16 and 17 July;

On 17 July, soldiers from 2nd Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, fended off two suicide car attacks while on patrol in Rawah, near Syrian border;

"Multi-National Forces from Task Force Freedom and Iraqi Security Forces detained eight suspected terrorists during separate operations in northern Iraq [Mosul and Tal Afar] on July 17";

Three insurgents killed and 29 suspects captured by Iraqi security forces and Task Force Baghdad soldiers in a series of operations in and around Baghdad on July 17;

"Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces from Task Force Freedom seized a large weapons cache, detained eight suspected terrorists, and killed five terrorists during operations in northern Iraq July 17 and 18. Iraqi Police with support of Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment seized a large weapons cache during a raid operation in western Mosul July 18. The cache consisted of over 1,000 mortar rounds, over 25 mortar firing systems, 150 rockets, 450 rocket propelled grenade rounds, 26 RPG launchers, numerous missile firing systems, shape charges, improvised explosive devices, and over 30 assorted rifles";

Twenty suspects detained and an arms cache recovered during operations in Tal Afar, Mosul, and Rawah on July 18;

"Soldiers from the 256th Brigade Combat Team and the 6th Iraqi Army Division are taking part in Operation Warrior’s Rage, a series of 'cordon and search operations and combat patrols,' officials said Monday [19 July]. Some 70 suspected insurgents were snared in what the military called 'targeted raids' seeking specific individuals";

On July 19, a joint American/Iraqi raids in Baghdad's Ameriyah district and Al Dora neighborhood "led to the capture of four suspected terrorists, including an individual believed to be a mid-level terrorist cell leader with ties to Ansar Al Sunna... During operations July 18, the military reported that Iraqi security forces and Task Force Baghdad soldiers detained 17 individuals and uncovered as many as six roadside bombs at various locations... The previous day... in a large military operation in east Baghdad, Iraqi Special Police commandos raided 19 targets and captured 24 more terror suspects";

Fifty suspects captured on the first day of a new security operation by Iraqi troops in Baghdad on July 19;

"Security officials said the Interior Ministry has discovered an insurgent plan led by one of the high-ranking official of the ministry. The plan was to blow up the ministry and the headquarters of the Magaweer forces (commandos), and bomb the al-Shaab stadium with mortars during the final match of the Iraqi League. The plan also was to assassinate some of the Arab and foreign ambassadors of Egypt, Bahrain, Turkey, Iran, and Lebanon to rid Iraq of Arab and foreign diplomats";

"The 1-24 U.S. Infantry Regiment along with the 1st Battalion 3rd Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army Division make two discoveries over the last 72 hours [to 21 July] that gathered enough weapons and explosives to kill thousands of people. U.S. Forces uncovered a hidden cache of weapons in the floor of a chicken coop in Mosul. The weapons and explosives include 26 surface-to-air missiles, 700 mortar rounds, 450 rocket-propelled grenades, and 150 57-mm artillery rockets. Iraqi forces made their discovery about 60 miles south of the Mosul location in the town of Qayyarah, where they confiscated six 1,000 pound bombs in a raid";

"U.S. soldiers captured nine terrorists July 22 after they were seen placing an improvised explosive device... The soldiers saw two vehicles pull to the side of a road north of Forward Operating Base Kalsu. Nine men armed with AK-47 assault rifles got out and began placing an improvised explosive device. The soldiers engaged the men with small arms fire and captured five wounded terrorists. Four others, one of them wounded, fled and were captured by another U.S. patrol";

Iraqi security forces arrested 119 suspects, including three specifically targeted individuals and discovered variety of weapons in security operations in and around Baghdad on July 22 and 23;

Twenty two suspects, including eight Egyptian nationals, arrested after a gunfight when the Iraqi police stormed a building in the Yousefiyah district of Baghdad on July 23;

"A suspected mastermind of last week's devastating attack in Musayyib was captured during a raid by Iraqi forces in which two of his associates were killed, police said Saturday [July 23]... the suspect was captured in a raid in the nearby town of Jarf al-Sakhr";

"Soldiers from the 150th Engineer Battalion, 155th Brigade Combat Team, captured more than 100 suspected terrorists [on July 24] near Owesat. The soldiers also seized and destroyed a cache of weapons that included 186 mortar rounds, three 122 mm artillery rounds, 65 hand grenades, 500 pounds of explosives, rocket-propelled grenades, launchers, small-arms ammunition, and aiming equipment";

A weapons cache discovered and secured by the Ukrainian troops;

The capture by Iraqi commandos of Hamdi Tantawi, an Egyptian associate of Al Qaeda's number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in a raid on a farmhouse near the town of Yusufiya on July 27.

Writes Jennifer O'Doan, now a political science major at Northern State University:
I have been skeptical of the national media coverage of the War on Terrorism since my return home from Iraq. Immediately I noticed that each day the death count of American soldiers was given, yet it was a rare occasion to see coverage on the accomplishments being made over there. I began to feel as though the consensus of the news media was that news from Iraq wasn't news unless it was bad news...

I understand that not all people agree with this war, but the broadcasting world is doing a huge injustice to soldiers by using its weight to levy against an already diminishing support for the war. If we only count the bodies but never mention the accomplishments, we are undermining everything each of our soldiers has done...

The media needs to recognize the accomplishments of our soldiers. Wouldn't all of you like to know what our troops are dying for? In the hearts of those families and friends who have lost soldiers to this war, there is no accomplishment in Iraq worth the life of the ones they love. But for every solider who walked an extra step or lent an extra hand to ensure that his or her mission was completed to make those accomplishments happen, it is worth it. That's why so many give their lives.
It's not just for the sake of our soldiers, but also for the sake of Iraqi people, who are also making the ultimate sacrifice for peace, democracy and normalcy, that we should hear the full story.


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