In Baghdad there's talk of the latest "Operation Lightning". It hasn't yet been implemented in our area but we've been hearing about it. So far all we've seen are a few additional checkpoints and a disappearing mobile network. Baghdad is actually split into two large regions- Karkh (west Baghdad) and Rasafa (east Baghdad) with the Tigris River separating them. Karkh, according to this plan, is going to be split into 15 smaller areas or sub-districts and Rasafa into 7 sub-districts. There are also going to be 675 checkpoints and all of the entrances to Baghdad are going to be guarded.
We are a little puzzled why Karkh should be split into 15 sub-districts and Rasafa only seven. Karkh is actually smaller in area than Rasafa and less populated. On the other hand, Karkh contains the Green Zone- so that could be a reason. People are also anxious about the 675 check points. It's difficult enough right now getting around Baghdad, more check points are going to make things trickier. The plan includes 40,000 Iraqi security forces and that is making people a little bit uneasy. Iraqi National Guard are not pleasant or upstanding citizens- to have thousands of them scattered about Baghdad stopping cars and possibly harassing civilians is worrying. We're also very worried about the possibility of raids on homes.
Someone (thank you N.C.) emailed me Thomas L. Friedman's article in the New York Times 10 days ago about Quran desecration titled "Outrage and Silence"
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In the article he talks about how people in the Muslim world went out and demonstrated against Quran desecration but are silent about the deaths of hundreds of Iraqis in the last few weeks due to bombings and suicide attacks.
In one paragraph he says,
"Yet these mass murders - this desecration and dismemberment of real Muslims by other Muslims - have not prompted a single protest march anywhere in the Muslim world. And I have not read of a single fatwa issued by any Muslim cleric outside Iraq condemning these indiscriminate mass murders of Iraqi Shiites and Kurds by these jihadist suicide bombers, many of whom, according to a Washington Post report, are coming from Saudi Arabia."
First of all- it's not only Kurds or Shia who are dying due to car bombs. When a car detonates in the middle of a soug or near a mosque, it does not seek out only Shia or Kurdish people amongst the multitude. Bombs do not discriminate between the young and the old, male and female or ethnicities and religious sects- no matter what your government tells you about how smart they are. Furthermore, they are going off everywhere- not just in Shia or Kurdish provinces. They seem to be everywhere lately.
One thing I found particularly amusing about the article- and outrageous all at once-was in the following paragraph:
"Religiously, if you want to know how the Sunni Arab world views a Shiite's being elected leader of Iraq, for the first time ever, think about how whites in Alabama would have felt about a black governor's being installed there in 1920. Some Sunnis do not think Shiites are authentic Muslims, and they are indifferent to their brutalization."
Now, it is always amusing to see a Jewish American journalist speak in the name of Sunni Arabs. When Sunni Arabs, at this point, hesitate to speak in a representative way about other Sunni Arabs, it is nice to know Thomas L. Friedman feels he can sum up the feelings of the "Sunni Arab world" in so many words. His arrogance is exceptional.
It is outrageous because for many people, this isn't about Sunnis and Shia or Arabs and Kurds. It's about an occupation and about people feeling that they do not have real representation. We have a government that needs to hide behind kilometers of barbed wire and meters and meters of concrete- and it's not because they are Shia or Kurdish or Sunni Arab- it's because they blatantly supported, and continue to support, an occupation that has led to death and chaos.
The paragraph is contemptible because the idea of a "Shia leader" is not an utterly foreign one to Iraqis or other Arabs, no matter how novel Friedman tries to make it seem. How dare he compare it to having a black governor in Alabama in the 1920s? In 1958, after the July 14 Revolution which ended the Iraqi monarchy, the head of the Iraqi Sovereignty Council (which was equivalent to the position of president) was Mohammed Najib Al-Rubayi- a Shia from Kut. From 1958 - 1963, Abdul Karim Qassim, a Shia also from Kut in the south, was the Prime Minister of Iraq (i.e. the same position Jaffari is filling now). After Abdul Karim Qassim, in 1963, came yet another Shia by the namministerji Talib as prime minster. Even during the last regime, there were two Shia prime ministers filling the position for several years- Sadoun Humadi and Mohammed Al-Zubaidi.
In other words, Sunni Arabs are not horrified at having a Shia leader (though we are very worried about the current Puppets' pro-Iran tendencies). Friedman seems to conveniently forget that while the New Iraq's president was a polygamous Arab Sunni- Ghazi Al-Yawir- the attacks were just as violent. Were it simply a matter of Sunnis vs. Shia or Arabs vs. Kurds, then Sunni Arabs would have turned out in droves to elect "Al Baqara al dhahika" ("the cow that laughs" or La Vache Qui Rit- it's an Iraqi joke) as Al-Yawir is known amongst Iraqis.
"Some Sunnis do not think Shiites are authentic Muslims, and they are indifferent to their brutalization."
...Is just stupid. Friedman is referring to Sunni extremists without actually saying that. But he doesn't add that some Shia extremists also feel the same way about Sunnis. I'm sure in the "Christian World" there are certain Catholics who feel that way about Protestants, etc. Iraqis have intermarried and mixed as Sunnis and Shia for centuries. Many of the larger Iraqi tribes are a complex and intricate weave of Sunnis and Shia. We don't sit around pointing fingers at each other and trying to prove who is a Muslim and who isn't and who deserves compassion and who deserves brutalization.
"If the Arab world, its media and its spiritual leaders, came out and forcefully and repeatedly condemned those who mount these suicide attacks, and if credible Sunnis are given their fair share in the Iraqi government, I am certain a lot of this suicide bombing would stop"
The Arab world's spiritual and media leaders have their hands tied right now. Friedman better hope Islamic spiritual leaders don't get involved in this mess because the first thing they'd have to do is remind the Islamic world that according to the Quran, the Islamic world may not be under the guardianship or command of non-Muslims- and that wouldn't reflect nicely on an American occupation of Iraq.
Friedman wonders why thousands upon thousands protested against the desecration of the Quran and why they do not demonstrate against terrorism in Iraq. The civilian bombings in Iraq are being done by certain extremists, fanatics or militias. What happened in Guantanamo with the Quran and what happens in places like Abu Ghraib is being done systematically by an army- an army that is fighting a war- a war being funded by the American people. That is what makes it outrageous to the Muslim world.
In other words, what happens in Iraq is terrorism, while what happens to Iraqis and Afghanis and people of other nationalities under American or British custody is simply "counter-insurgency" and "policy". It makes me naseous to think of how outraged the whole world was when those American POW were shown on Iraqi television at the beginning of the war- clean, safe and respectfully spoken to. Even we were upset with the incident and wondered why they had to be paraded in front of the world like that. We actually had the decency to feel sorry for them.
Friedman focuses on the Sunni Arab world in his article but he fails to mention that the biggest demonstrations were not in the Arab world- they happened in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan. He also fails to mention that in Iraq, the largest demonstration against the desecration of the Quran was actually organized, and attended by, Shia.
Luckily for Iraqis, and in spite of Thomas Friedman, the majority of Sunnis and Shia just want to live in peace as Muslims- not as Sunnis and Shia.