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Old 06-07-2004, 05:48 AM   #1 (permalink)
The Real Iraq

what the liberal media doesnt want you to know about the real iraq.



The Iraq we don't hear about Obsessed by bombs and bullets, the West ignores a political renaissance, says Amir Taheri, newly returned from Iraq
In London the other day the Iraqi national football team met a team made up of MPs, mostly opponents of the war, for a friendly match. The Iraqis won 15-0.

Six months ago the team did not even exist. But in August, after defeating several opponents, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, the men will stand to attention as Iraq’s new flag is raised at the Olympic games in Athens.

Iraq today is no bed of roses, I know. I have just come back from a tour of the country. But I don’t recognise the place I have just visited as the war zone depicted by the Arab and western media.

It is true that Saddamite leftovers and their allies have stolen enough money and arms to continue their campaign of terror and disruption for some time yet. But they have no popular following and have failed to develop a coherent national strategy. The Iraqi civil defence corps has gone on the offensive, hunting down terrorists, often with some success. At the same time attacks on the Iraqi police force have dropped 50% in the past month.

There is also good news on the economic front. In the last quarter the dinar, Iraq’s currency, has increased by almost 15% against the dollar and the two most traded local currencies, the Kuwaiti dinar and the Iranian rial.

Thanks to rising oil prices, Iraq is earning a record £41m to £44m a day. This has led to greater economic activity, including private reconstruction schemes. That money goes into a fund controlled by the United Nations but Iraqi leaders want control transferred to the new interim government, when sovereignty is transferred at the end of this month.

Despite the continuing terrorist violence Iraq has attracted more than 7m foreign visitors, mostly Shi’ites making the pilgrimage to Najaf and Karbala where (despite sporadic fighting) a building boom is under way. This year Iraq has had a bumper harvest with record crops, notably in wheat. It could become agriculturally self-sufficient for the first time in 30 years.

“Iraq has always had everything that is needed to build a successful economy,” says Heydar al-Ayyari, an Iraqi politician. “We have water and fertile land. We have oil and a hardworking people. What we lacked was freedom. Now that we have freedom we can surge ahead.”

Nor should one believe the claims of self-styled experts that the Iraqis are not ready for freedom. During the past 10 months elections have been held in 37 municipalities. In each case victory went to the moderate, liberal and secular candidates. The former Ba’athists, appearing under fresh labels, failed to win a single seat. Hardline Islamist groups collected 1% to 3% of the vote.

Iraq is like a jostling school of democracy with people coming together in clubs, associations, non-governmental organisations, tribal councils, professional guilds and trade unions to talk about the future now that Saddam Hussein’s one-party state has disintegrated.

On my visit to southern Iraq I attended many meetings in mosques, shops in the souks and abandoned office buildings. Everywhere Iraqis were busy using their newly won freedom of expression to discuss their political future.

Yet this is the one area in which the coalition has done little. Despite the fact that President George W Bush has promised to help Iraq to become a model of constitutional government for the Muslim world, there has been no effort to provide training and logistical support for the 30 or so parties that will contest the election in January.

Pro-democracy voices dominate the new privately owned Iraqi press which, with more than 200 dailies, weeklies and periodicals, represents a breath of fresh air in the state-controlled Arab media.

Preparations for self-rule have been under way for months. All but four of the 26 government departments set up after liberation are now under exclusive Iraqi control. The provisional government headed by Iyad Allawi, the prime minister, has been sworn in ahead of the formal transfer of power at the end of the month.

Iraq’s diverse political groups have manifested a rare degree of maturity by agreeing a draft constitution aimed at establishing a parliamentary government. The final text will be finessed by a directly elected constituent assembly and put to a referendum next year.

“This is a radical change from a culture in which power was grabbed by driving a tank to the radio station and announcing a coup d’état,” says Salih Muhsin, an Iraqi scholar.

Over the past year Iraq has absorbed nearly 1m refugees, returning home often after decades of exile in Turkey and Iran. Some 400 of the 5,000 villages razed by Saddam as part of his ethnic cleansing have been rebuilt. Life is returning to the Ahwar region in the south of the country where Saddam dislodged tens of thousands of people and caused one of the biggest ecological disasters of the past century by draining the marshes.

“We are coming out of the cold,” says al-Ayyari. “The world should help us put our house in order.” But this is precisely what many in the West, and the Arab world, won’t do.

Having opposed the toppling of Saddam, they do not wish to see Iraq build a better future. Arab despots and their satellite television channels fear a democratic Iraq that could give oppressed people of the region dangerous ideas. The anti-American coalition in the West shudders at the thought that someone like Bush might put Iraq on the path of democratisation.

The Arab fear of democracy and the western disease of anti-Americanism mean that media coverage of Iraq is often focused on bad news. The day after the war began we were told that the port of Umm Qasr was to become “the Arab Stalingrad” because a few gunmen fired shots in the air in front of a CNN camera. When this did not materialise the headline news the following week was that the Saddamites were massing at Nasiriya where they would defeat the Americans in the desert.

It is impossible to listen to the Today programme on Radio 4 without hearing parallels drawn with Vietnam or other Stalingrads. Take the coverage of Falluja where Arab nationalism was supposed to be reborn in a sea of American blood. Today Falluja is calm, with the Iraqi civil defence corps in control.

As Falluja, Baquba and Tikrit, Saddam’s home town, calmed down, opponents of liberation found a fresh tune: this time it was a song about a national anti-American insurrection led by Moqtada al-Sadr, the maverick mullah.

But that did not, nor is it likely to, happen. Anyone with any knowledge of the Shi’ite community in Iraq would know that al-Sadr has almost no popular support.

Even Ayatollah Kazem Ha’eri-Yazdi, al-Sadr’s spiritual mentor, has come out against the latter’s forlorn bid for power. Ayatollah Sadreddin Qapanchi made a similar point in a sermon in Najaf: “The people of Iraq are ready to exercise the right of self-determination,” he said.

“All they ask is a chance to choose their government. Iraq shouldn’t be thrown to those who seek power through violence.”

Can Iraq become a democracy? “There is no need to ask the question,” says Hoshyar Zebari, who has retained his post as foreign minister. “Iraq today has no choice but to become a democracy. Our people know that without democracy there will be no Iraq.”

He is right. Even if a fresh despot fancied turning Iraq back into a dictatorship it would prove a nigh impossible task. The edifice of despotism built over almost half a century has been reduced to debris. Saddam is in prison, awaiting trial for crimes against humanity. His ruling party has evaporated and his military and police machine has been shattered.

The Soviet-style economic system, controlled by a corrupt elite, is being rapidly replaced by one based on enterprise and the market.

The new government — which includes five women — appears to be a broad-based coalition representing Iraq’s ethnic, religious and political diversity. The president is Sheikh Ghazi al-Yawer, a Sunni, the deputy president is Ibrahim Jaafari, a Shi’ite, and the second deputy is Rowsch Shways, a Kurd. But it will need strong support in military, political and economic terms for some time, as the increased violence that marred last week’s ceremony demonstrates.

Allawi said he expected Iraq to continue its close “partnership” with the US and European states after the handover of partial powers. He said “friendly” countries would continue “defending Iraq until it could defend itself”.

Key to the success of the provisional government is the perception that it holds real power.

It is imperative that it controls Iraq’s armed services and police and has a real say in how the coalition uses its forces in Iraq. The government must also control Iraq’s oil income and have a say in how the American aid package is spent.

For a country emerging from half a century of dictatorship and three wars in one generation, things in Iraq are better than anyone might have expected. Even a moderate success here could transform the whole of the Middle East.

Iraq is not about to disintegrate. Nor is it on the verge of civil war. Nor is it about to repeat Iran’s mistake by establishing a repressive theocracy. Despite becoming the focus of anti-American energies in the past year, its people still hold the West in high regard. Iraq has difficult months ahead, nobody would dispute that. But it has a chance to create a new society. Its well-wishers should keep the faith and prove the doomsters wrong.
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Old 06-07-2004, 06:07 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Gotta love conservative propaganda.
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Old 06-07-2004, 07:53 AM   #3 (permalink)
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bigoldalphamale, as I don't see a reference, I'm thinking this is your personal statement. I respect it and appreciate your first-hand account.

I'm prompted to inquire about the source of the statement (yours?) and something about your tour of the country.

I normally don't inquire about personal info - so don't give away anything you don't feel comfortable with. It's just that an off-handed remark such as appears in the previous post strikes me as particularly problematic given the fact that you are giving us the best possible information we could receive - personal experience.

Thanks. If my assumptions are correct from a reading of your post, your reports are highly valued here.
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Old 06-07-2004, 09:09 AM   #4 (permalink)
'The Iraq we don't hear about'
<Not Plugging Site: Jane's affiliated> | June 06, 2004 | Amir Taheri

Sorry to have forgotten to credit the source, i am at work and most posts have to be quick cut and paste operations. In anycase, it is a personal account from a writer/frequent contributor in one of the Jane's affiliated sites.
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Old 06-07-2004, 09:11 AM   #5 (permalink)
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create evolution
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Old 06-07-2004, 10:01 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I'm suspicious of any point of view that claims to be "The Real" anything. It's always valuable to see alternative perspectives, but every point of view has an agenda, every "truth" is subjective, and there are more than two sides to every story. The events of, say, Abu Ghraib, don't negate the positive changes that are happening in other areas of Iraq; the positive changes shouldn't overshadow the abuses and fuck-ups that are occurring. It's a complex picture and I appreciate seeing another side of it, but I think I'll continue to take everything I read or see with a few grains of salt.
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Old 06-07-2004, 10:32 AM   #7 (permalink)
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This Amir Taheri?
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Old 06-07-2004, 10:43 AM   #8 (permalink)
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As you say:

As Falluja, Baquba and Tikrit, Saddam’s home town, calmed down, opponents of liberation found a fresh tune: this time it was a song about a national anti-American insurrection led by Moqtada al-Sadr, the maverick mullah.

But that did not, nor is it likely to, happen. Anyone with any knowledge of the Shi’ite community in Iraq would know that al-Sadr has almost no popular support.
But somehow, that just didn't sound right. I knew I had heard something about this a few weeks back:


According to Dulame, director of the independent Iraq Center for Research and Strategic Studies, prisoner abuse and other coalition missteps now are fueling a dangerous blend of Islamism and tribalism. For example, while American officials insist that only fringe elements support the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a majority of Iraqis crossed ethnic and sectarian lines to name him the second most-respected man in Iraq, according to the coalition-funded poll.
So which way is it? Did the world-wide journalistic community get together and decide to play the war and occupation as a failure, and forget to send us an invitation? I somehow doubt that. The media might be focusing on the bad news, but at least they aren't peddling White House spin.

It's rather odd to say that al-Sadr had no popular support when his men were being slaughtered wholesale by the Americans. They stood up and fought fair and square, but they were soundly beated on a daily basis. I doubt that al-Sadr ever commanded more than 1000 gunmen, and yet they held on for weeks, even as their efforts were clearly futile. They were brave but foolish. Now, they seem to have wised up, and realized that a military uprising is futile while American forces are in the country. They were beaten not by lack of popular support, or by the power of our ideas, but by our bullets and resolve.

I'd like to take up a second and last point.

Can Iraq become a democracy? “There is no need to ask the question,” says Hoshyar Zebari, who has retained his post as foreign minister. “Iraq today has no choice but to become a democracy. Our people know that without democracy there will be no Iraq.”

He is right. Even if a fresh despot fancied turning Iraq back into a dictatorship it would prove a nigh impossible task. The edifice of despotism built over almost half a century has been reduced to debris. Saddam is in prison, awaiting trial for crimes against humanity.
History is filled with examples of free and prosperous societies being overthrown by despots, demagogues, and other unsavory characters. For that matter, Iraq's history is a good example. Iraq was a prosperous and forward thinking Middle Eastern state when Saddam seized power. It's rather naive to pretend that it can't happen again.

Realistically, what will happen when we withdraw? Isn't it plausible that a Shiite uprising, lead by a Sadr-like character could succeed? Surely it would have popular support from Shiites who don't want to share governance with the Sunni and Kurdish minorities. What if we aren't there to stop it? This isn't negative thinking; it's realitic thinking. We can't afford to pretend that because we're America and because we support freedom we're immune to failure.
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Old 06-07-2004, 12:00 PM   #9 (permalink)
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You tend to render your position tenuous(my new favorite word) when you introduce it with the phrase "what the liberal media doesn't want you to know".
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Old 06-07-2004, 02:06 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The liberal media doesn't want us to know that life is getting better for the Iraqis? Why not? They love a "feel-good" story.

Where was the damn liberal media when Clinton was in office? Oh yeah, camped out on Ken Starr's stoop, waiting for the next headline. Ridiculous. Somewhere in the argument about the liberal media, 8 years of Clinton bashing gets lost.
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iraq, real

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