Friday, May 07, 2004


"Democracy does not mean that governments have to ask the people their opinions on complicated issues and then carry them out. It is essentially a form of society within which the conception of new ideas, their diffusion in view of their acceptance by the majority, the fight for leadership, is open to everybody."

Emery Reves

Senate Hearings, Friday 7 May 2004 

When we see Rumsfeld being questioned -and I think his set piece "apology" quite effective despite the media view that he did not answer questions very effectively - we feel that a democracy is operating and this gives us, in western democracies, some confidence. We can only hope that people in the Middle East are able to see the hoops of fire through which Bush and Rumsfeld are having to jump in the name of democracy.


Hands up - who hasn't read the Peter Galbraith article yet ?


How to get out of Iraq Peter Galbraith New York Review of Books  

Peter W. Galbraith

* served as the first US Ambassador to Croatia and with the United Nations in East Timor

* staff member Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1980s, uncovered & documented Iraq's "Anfal" campaign against Kurds

* senior diplomatic fellow: Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

e.g. Bush's focus on Iraq leaves us vulnerable Baltimore Sun > Erik Floden > September 17, 2003

* partner in a firm specializing in international law and negotiation.


Must read for anyone puzzling over Iraq Crisis.

The answer is here.

But there are questions:

(1) Why weren't measures put into place before the invasion to prevent senior Ba'ath officials scooting to Syria and Jordan ?

(2) After 12 months why still no mechanism in place to try worst offenders ?

Galbraith's answer seems to be

(1) Loose confederation with U.S. bases in Iraqi Kurdistan - since Kurds are happy to have U.S. bases.

(2) If so, then Baghdad would be the ideal place for the U.N. to police, rather than the prospect of a Cyprus or Beirut style green-line division.

(3) How a central government could operate within confederation is an open question.
Thursday, May 06, 2004

Well, perhaps just a few more words... 


finishes off the trail of the the fakes pictures posted on AlBasrah last week.

NB AlBasrah has removed the second set of 9.

Interesting to note that this business was on the Web not the media. None of the porn photographs found their way into papers or on TV.

Its a sort of ecological pressure. If no one had made an effort to find out what these pictures were, they would have stayed up longer. The principle is there: though the Web is a free-for-all, its participants must actively engage - and do - in order to push the process of creating believable content.
Much more messy than conventional media, but one where everyone can join in.


Abu Graib II 

According to the Washington Post:

Lynndie England, 21, as the soldier appearing in a picture holding a leash tied to the neck of a man on the floor. England, a member of the 372nd, has also been identified in published reports as one of the soldiers in the earlier set of pictures that were made public, which her relatives also confirmed yesterday. England has been reassigned to Fort Bragg, N.C., her family said. Attempts to reach her were unsuccessful. The military has not charged her in the case.

England's friends and relatives said the photographs must have been staged. "It just makes me laugh, because that's not Lynn," said Destiny Goin, 21, a friend. "She wouldn't pull a dog by its neck, let alone drag a human across a floor."

England worked as a clerk in the unit, processing prisoners before they were put in cells, taking their names, fingerprinting them and giving them identification numbers, her family said. Other soldiers would ask her to pose for photographs, said her father, Kenneth England. "That's how it happened," he said.

Soon after CBS aired its photographs, Terrie England said she received a call from her daughter.

" 'Mom,' she told me, 'I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,' " Terrie England said.

Dear Lynndie,

There are some things you have to refuse to do. The Freedom that your President talks about so often, also means the freedom to choose. It does not mean freedom to do what you like, when you like. It is not absolute freedom.

Being in "the wrong place at the wrong time" is something we have all experienced, but it can never be an excuse for acting wrongly. You joined the Army and were trained as a clerk. So you should have said, "Sorry, sergeant, I'm a clerk, could you get someone else to pose for your photographs?" You could then have walked away. Are you going to tell us you couldn't walk away?

You didn't even know whether your victims were innocent or guilty. What you suffer from is lack of empathy. You were unable to - or had been trained to make yourself incapable of - putting yourself in those guys shoes.

You will have plenty of time - the rest of your life - to think about the famous maxim: "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely" knowing that you have been put in a position of power over another human being and utterly failed to do "the right thing".



On the other hand.... 

Daily Telegraph, May 7, 2004, indicates this admonitory letter would be more appropriately directed at recently retired Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski. Would Lynndie grasp the concept of absolute freedom?
Maybe she will have time to to recognise the moral tale of the Abu Graib abuses as she grows up and learns more about life and the world.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

REPOST from Monday, November 17, 2003  

I looked far and wide this morning for something substantial about Iraq, but there was nothing. Then I came at last to Fayrouz.

I can't find anything more to say about the current barbarities. Its in one's mind the whole time but there is just nothing more to say, except to remember Lt. Caley returned to his jeweller's shop after 2 years in prison...

All I can do is to put Fayrouz's quote together with mine. This is what I remember and Farouz tells me in his quote from a book he has read of what was actually happening a few miles away from me as I lay back under the bedclothes for a little while longer, my parents fast asleep downstairs, blissfully unaware that their life had suddenly changed: their short, happy, idyll in Iraq soon over...

14 July 1958

Picture, if you can, a small, freckle faced, innocent nine year old boy, - whose greatest crime to that date had been minor pyromania with boxes of matches - sleeping peacefully through a warm Iraqi summer night nearly fifty years ago, on a metal- framed bed, under a white sheet, on the flat roof of a Californian- style house in the eastern suburbs of Baghdad, suddenly woken at dawn to distance sounds.

See him pushing away the sheet, get out of bed, lean on the parapet, look toward the sounds, seeing the gathering light at the skyline and wonder for a moment what he was hearing. Then, quite quickly - despite his young age and lack of knowledge of the world - no t.v., videos, just the occasional cowboy film at the cinema - he realises, though never having heard such sounds before in real life, that these sounds were of guns. Real guns.

This small English boy is aurally witnessing the beginnings of a new era in Iraq which will lead, that day - though he could not possibly imagine such horror despite being viscerally aware of some sort of threat or danger - to the murder of the young King, Faisal II, and many of his immediate family, and the dragging through the streets of the body of Nuri es Said, the Prime Minister, the rumours say.

Then, later in the morning, his father returning home, to fill in the details of what was going on: the company mini-bus had reach a point, as it went through the centre of Baghdad, when it didn't look safe and the decision had been made to turn back.

Imagine, in the succeeding weeks, a strict day and night curfew, with soldiers patrolling the streets and, eventually, a drive to Baghdad Airport and a flight out of the country which he and his parents had so loved to live in; back to a dismal, cold, rainy Heathrow in the days when departure lounge was a few low rise white painted buildings.

Five short, magical years in the life of a very young child, that would mark him for life, ending because of mere sounds; sounds that he would never hear again; sounds of violence and fear and hope.


That roof and those sounds, which seemed at the time to be privy to me, are a talisman of my time in Iraq. The date is, of course something I learnt of later; but which I will never forget. I only have to think 14 July 1958 to bring all the memories back. And do you remember most and best from where you were happiest? I certainly am not able to recall as much from the years that followed at boarding school, where I spent eight years.


Friday, April 30, 2004

From "Mayada, The Daughter Of Iraq."

"The family (Mayada's family) was in Europe when they heard that General Abdul Karim Qasim, an army officer, had ordered a number of soldiers to surround the royal palace. Over loudspeakers, they ordered the family to step outside. It was only 7:45 in the morning, but soon afterward, the kitchen door at the back of the palace opened and the royals began to spill out. The officers shouted for the family to step toward the little garden at the side of the palace and stand next to huge mulberry tree. The royal family lined up, along with the servants. The very young king, confused, kept saluting the officers.

A captain by the name of Al-Obousi shot at the king, splitting his skull open. Everyone else then opened fire. After the massacre, the bodies of the family were dragged to a van, and a crowd began to loot the palace.

As the van passed through the palace gate, a man at the gate jumped into the van and stabbed all the dead bodies. The van was then stopped by a military jeep, whose soldiers took the bodies of the young king and the regent. Crowds had begun to gather, and to pacify the angry mob, the driver threw them the body of Faisal's regent, which was promptly stripped naked, dragged across Baghdad and hung from one of the balconies at the Al-Karhk Hotel. The crowd then cut off the hands, arms, feet, legs and genitals, ripped off his mouth, then dragged what remained of the body to the Ministry of Defense and hung it there. A young man from the crowd then took a dagger and ripped open his belly and several men in the crowd draped the regent's intestines around their necks, like necklaces, and danced in the streets. Finally, someone took the regent's body, splashed it with gasoline and set it on fire. The remains were thrown to in the river."
Tuesday, May 04, 2004


Selim Al Zebag

Baghdad 1956-7

18 years old, I suppose. And me, 7 or 8. He collects me at our house at about 5.30pm. We walk down the road to catch a red British-made bus. We might pick it up at Tariq Ibin Ziyad Street, or at Amman Ibim Yasir Square. We live in the south quadrant defined by Abdul Hamid Al Katib Street and Tariq Ibin Ziyad Street.

The journey would only take 15 minutes: through Sadoun district, along Nidal Street, past the building where my parents ran "Conoisseur" - a Hi-Fi and record shop - past the Armenian Church immediately afterwards to the right hidden behind trees, it's top poking out; or maybe we would go straight up Sadoun Street to the roundabout at the Jumhuriya Bridge. Either way, we will jump off there to cross to Raschid Street.

The cinema was about a quarter of a mile up Rashid Street on the right, down a blind alley. Jailhouse Rock was showing. There would have been was an air of excitement as we milled around outside, the young Baghdadi men and boys in crisp shirts or jackets and ties, smarmed down hair shiny with sweet smelling pomade.

After the film, coming out into the dazzling light of late afternoon, we would have been hoping for cool but be disappointed: it was high summer. Honey soaked puff pastries at a little cafe at the side of the Bridge, near the river. I remember getting very thirsty, being bought an ice-cold Coco-Cola, no doubt.

A quick bus ride, passing the Alwiyah Club, back home to the "Mushtamal": through a large, dusty, wooden door in a ten foot high mud-brick wall and into our secret garden, full of date and orange trees and one, tall, white mulberry tree. I would have stayed out late into the evening, Mum and Dad sitting outside talking quietly, sipping Iraqi or Indian beer, or a Gin and Tonic, surrounded by a large, loud, out of tune choir of frogs, nonchalently standing around on the large marble patio like cinema goers in a foyer. We two boys dunked our heads in the gurling fountain to keep cool and practice holding our breath. Then, perhaps running around the grape trellis arranged in the shape of a cross, ducking down behind the low privet-like hedges that ran either side of the trellis paths, acting out the action of the film till bed time.


Abu Graib torture photographs 

There has been little Net discussion of the "second set" in AlBasrah, which came from CtDSaddam. has the most detailed analysis. My conclusion (blue beret and spotted scarf - Serbian paramilitary) was that they might have a Yugoslavian connection.

My interest has been not so much authenticity but whether the dubious ones would spread into the papers and TV alongside the believed to be genuine ones. As far as the British media are concerned, only Channel 4 TV used the Bordeaux "placard" in it's original form alongside the Abu Graib torture set. Ryano's adapation of Boudreaux was the first I came across. When I saw the real Boudreaux on Channel 4, I was disgusted, and made it my business to try to source it. So I came to AlBasrah. It would be interesting to find out about CTDsaddam. As I have indicated, the only clue is the French Yahoo email adress. I wrote a test email but not unexpectedly didn't get a reply.

Overall, the papers and TV have not trawled the Web for pictures, or, if they have, they have been sensible enough to reject the ones they consider fakes. And no one - thankfully - has made the mistake of putting out the whole of the AlBasrah set.

5 May 2004

The Sunday Times (2 May, 2004) published the Boudreaux photo with the wording:

Lcpl. Boudreaux killed my Dad then he knocked up my sister!

The article it says:

"Military officials are investigating a U.S.marine reservist photographed with two smiling Iraqi boys holding a sign that says he killed their father and made their sister pregnant. Lance Corporal Ted Boudreaux, a reservist with the Headquarters and Service Company, 3rd. Battalion, 23rd. Marines, served in Kut, south of Baghdad between May and September last year. He claims the photograph has been doctored."

If he didn't write that, what did he write ? Or did his mates fix him up?

The handwriting on this photograph is different from that in the spoof site.
Monday, May 03, 2004

A short propoganda trail 

Genuine torture JPEGs plus another set of dubious provenance

The set of dubious provenace

Comité de Défonce de Saddam Hussein En Tunisie

The source of the set of dubious provenance

email address of cdtsaddam =
memories of a childhood in Iraq in the 1950s * thoughts on events in the Middle East

Location: United Kingdom

expatriot in Middle East as child, retired teacher.

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