Baghdad Burning

... I'll meet you 'round the bend my friend, where hearts can heal and souls can mend...

Friday, December 26, 2003
Christmas in Baghdad...
Explosions and bombing almost all day yesterday and deep into the night. At some points it gets hard to tell who is bombing who? Resistance or Americans? Tanks or mortars? Cluster bombs or IEDs? Nothing on the news… to see the reports on CNN, Abu Dhabi, and Al-Arabia you'd think there was nothing going on in Baghdad beyond the usual thumps and thuds. Yesterday was *very* unusual. Embassies, mines, residential areas and the Green Zone… and the sirens. I hate the sirens. I can stand the explosions, the rattling windows, the slamming doors, the planes, the helicopters… but I feel like my heart is wailing when I hear the sirens.

The explosions haven't really put anyone in a very festive spirit. The highlight of the last few days, for me, was when we went to our Christian friends' home to keep them company on Christmas Eve. We live in a neighborhood with a number of Christian families and, under normal circumstances, the area would be quite festive this time of year- little plastic Santas on green lawns, an occasional plastic wreath on a door and some colored, blinking lights on trees.

Our particular friends (Abu Josef's family) specialized in the lights. Every year, a week before Christmas, they would not only decorate their own plastic tree (evergreens are hard to come by in Iraq), but they would decorate 4 different olive trees in the little garden in front of their home with long strings of red lights. Passing by their house, the scene of the green olive trees with branches tangled in little red lights always brought a smile… you couldn't help but feel the 'Christmas spirit'- Christians and Muslims alike.

This year the trees weren't decorated because, as their father put it, "We don't want to attract too much attention… and it wouldn't be right with the electricity shortage." The tree inside of their house *was* decorated, however, and it was almost sagging with ornaments. The traditional tree ornaments were hanging, but the side of the tree was covered with not-so-traditional Pokemon toys. Their 8-year-old is an avid collector of those little Pokemon finger puppets and the bottom section of the tree was drooping with the weight of the little plastic figures which took Iraq by storm a couple of years ago.

Kids in Iraq also believe in Santa Claus, but people here call him 'Baba Noel' which means, "Father Noel". I asked the children what he looked like and they generally agreed that he was fat, cheerful, decked in red and had white hair. (Their impertinent 11-year-old explains that he's fat because of the dates, cheerful because of the alcohol and wears red because he's a communist!) He doesn't drop into Iraqi homes through the chimney, though, because very few Iraqi homes actually have chimneys. He also doesn't drop in unexpectedly in the middle of the night because that's just rude. He acts as more of an inspiration to parents when they are out buying Christmas gifts for the kids; a holiday muse, if you will. The reindeer are a foreign concept here.

The annual ritual around Christmas for many Christians in Baghdad used to be generally hanging out with family and friends on Christmas Eve, exchanging gifts and food (always food- if you're Iraqi, it's going to be food) and receiving guests and well-wishers. At 12 am, many would attend a Christmas service at their local church and light candles to greet the Christmas spirit. Christmas day would be like our first day of Eid- eating and drinking, receiving family, friends and neighbors and preparing for the inevitable Christmas party in the evening at either a friend's house or in one of the various recreational clubs in Baghdad. The most famous for their Christmas parties were the Hindiya club and the Armenian club.

This year, the Christmas service was early and many people didn't go because they either didn't have gasoline, or just didn't feel safe driving around Baghdad in the evening. Many of them also couldn't join their families because of the security situation. Abu Josef's family have aunts and uncles in a little village north of Mosul. Every year, the extended relatives come down and stay in their house for a week to celebrate Christmas and New Year. This year they've decided to stay in their village because it just isn't safe to leave their home and head for Baghdad.

At one point during the evening, the house was dark and there was no electricity. We sat, gathered around on the ground, eating date-balls and watching Abu Josef's dog chew on the lowest branch of the tree. The living room was lit by the warm light radiating from the kerosene heater and a few Christmas candles set on the coffee table. Abu Josef's phone suddenly rang shrilly and Abu Josef ran to pick it up. It was his brother in Toronto and it was the perfect Christmas gift because it was the first time Abu Josef got an overseas call since the war- we were all amazed. An Iraqi phone conversation goes like this these days:

III= Iraqi Inside Iraq
IOI= Iraqi Outside Iraq

Ring, ring
III: Alloo?
III: ALLOOOO? MINNOOO? (Hello? Who is it?)
IOI: ABU (fill in the blank)??! Shlonkum? (How are you?)
III: Aaaagh! Is it really you?!
(Chorus of family in the background, "Who is it?! Who is it?!")
IOI: How are… (the voice cracks here with emotion) you?
III: We're… (the line crackles) …and is doing well.
IOI: I CAN'T HEAR YOU! Doing well? Thank God…
III: Alloo? Alloo…? (speaker turns to speak to someone in the background, "Sshhh… I can't hear anything!" The family go silent and hold their breaths. )
III: Alloo? Alloo?!
IOI: Alloo? Yes, yes, your voice is back- are you ok?
III: Fine, fine.
IOI: Is my mother ok? My brothers and sisters?
III: All fine… we're fine, thank God.
IOI: Thank God (the voice cracks again)
III: How are you? (a vague echo with 'you…you… you…')
IOI: We're fine but terribly worried about all of YOU…
III: Don't worry- we're doing alright… no electricity or fuel, but we'll be alright…
IOI: (crackling line… fading voices) … tried and tried to call but… (more crackling line) … and we heard horrible…. (static)
III: Alloo? Alloooooooo? Are you there? (silence on the other end)
Alloo? If you can hear me, I can't hear you… (the hovering relatives all hold their breath)
III: … I still can't hear you… if you can hear me just know that we're fine. We're ok. We're alive and wondering about your health. Don't worry… yallah, ma'a al salama… don't worry. Alloo... Alloo...?

And everyone exhales feeling a bit more relieved and a little bit empty as the phone is returned to the cradle and the momentous event passes.

Although it's late- Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Best Asian Blog...
Check out Flying Chair for nominations on the best Asian blogs. I've been a little obsessed with blogs from Pakistan and Iran, personally. I love comparing the similarities and differences in our cultures. Baghdad Burning is nominated for the Best Iraqi Blog on this page. Vote for your favorite.

Filling the Water Tank...
We filled the water tank today. Most Iraqi homes have a water tank or 'tanki' on top of the roof. The water pressure was usually high enough to send the 'municipal water' to the tank on the roof, and then the water goes from there to either the 'gizer' or water heater (another tank heated by electricity, kerosene or coals) or directly to the cold water faucet. Because the water pressure is low these days in our area, the water barely makes it to a couple of faucets on the ground floor.

I realized the water tank was empty at around 10 am when I turned on the faucet in the kitchen and, instead of the sound of gushing, flowing water, the faucet sort of wheezed, spluttered and whined. The faucet and I groaned simultaneously. I called out E's name and he stumbled downstairs in two sweaters, pajama bottoms and mismatched socks (it's just so *cold* lately).

"E., the water is GONE! Not a single drop in any of the faucets… we have to fill up the tank." E. groaned and beat his head gently against the staircase railing, mumbling something under his breath. I didn't blame him. Filling up the water tank is no fun. It involves at least 3 people, several buckets, a lot of sloshing around in the water and mud and some interesting slips and spills.

E., of course, always gets roof duty. That means he gets to stand on the roof, next to the water tank, receive the pails of water, and dump them into the tank. I get hose duty, which has me standing outside IN THE COLD, filling up pails of cold, cold water from the garden hose while shifting from one foot to the other and trying to keep my thoughts away from the kerosene heater inside of the house. There should also be at least two people (we'll call them the couriers) to run the buckets from me, wielding the hose, to E. who empties them and sends them back down. This process is repeated around 12 to 15 times, or until either E., the couriers or I have dropped from sheer exhaustion.

The hard part about doing this during the winter is the fact that everyone involved is bound to get wet and cold, but it is necessary to do this chore because otherwise, it may take days and days for the tank to fill up. We have an electric water pump but there isn't enough electricity to run it long enough to fill the tank.

I took the final bucket upstairs to the roof myself because our courier (a twelve-year-old three houses away) claimed he had a soccer game to attend to. As I neared the water tank, I saw E. leaning against it conversing with a pigeon that seemed oblivious to his presence. We have seemingly millions of pigeons in Baghdad and some people are obsessed with them- E. is not one of those people… I thought he had finally lost it. "What are you talking about?!" I asked, awed.

"I was envying its wings…" he murmured, staring out into the distance.
"Ah… you'd like to fly away…" I nodded sagely.
"No… I just think it's fantastic he doesn't have to wait in line 8 hours for gas to get from one place to the next…"

Monday, December 22, 2003
Questions and Fears...
Baghdad has been a very tense place these last few days. Yesterday alone we heard around 8 explosions though none of the news channels seem to be covering them. There have also been several demonstrations- some anti-Saddam and some pro-Saddam and several anti-America. The most prominent anti-America demonstrations took place in A'adhamiya and Amiriya, two residential areas in Baghdad.

One demonstration in A'adhamiya included people from all over the city. The demonstrators were demanding the release of hundreds of people who have been detained over the last few weeks (there are thousands of detained Iraqis, overall). Most people imagine detained Iraqis as being bearded, angry men in their 30s or 40s shouting anti-imperialist slogans and whipping their heads about in a livid frenzy. They do not see the women- school teachers, professors and housewives- being herded off to the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. They don't see the kids- some no more than 13 or 14 years old- who are packed away with bags over their heads, hands secured behind their backs. They don't see the anxious mothers and children, weeping with fear and consternation, begging in a language foreign to the soldiers to know where their loved ones are being taken.

The Amiriya demonstrations were pro-Saddam demonstrations led by a boys' high school in the area. Jo Wilding in Baghdad describes the demonstrations in an internet article, and she has another article on some of the detentions:

December 18th- Arresting Children
December 13th- Prisoners

Gasoline is a big problem. A friend of ours quit her job a couple of days ago because her husband can't afford to wait in long lines for 4 or 5 hours to fill up their battered Volvo so that he can drive her across Baghdad every morning to the clinic she works in. Everyone has been buying black-market gasoline of late, but we've been getting leaflets and warnings threatening 7 – 10 years of prison if we buy or sell black-market gasoline. Black-market gas simply means a surly, dirty guy surrounded with yellowish plastic containers selling gas for over 30 times its original price. He, inevitably, has a cigarette dangling out of the side of his mouth and a furtive, hurried look about him.

We've been using candles most of the time instead of kerosene lamps because the kerosene man hasn't been coming around these last few days and we need the kerosene for the heaters. The kids really hate the candles. The other day, the electricity suddenly flashed on at 8 pm after a 6-hour blackout. We were exalted. Everyone jumped for the television at once and a chorus of voices called out, "News! The movie! A song! Cartoons!" After flipping the channels, we settled for a movie.

We sat watching until one of the scenes faded into a darkened room. The camera focused on the couple sitting at a round table, gazing into each others eyes and smiling fondly across two elegant candles. It was a cozy, romantic candle-light dinner. I think the whole family was lost in the scene when suddenly, my cousin's youngest daughter spoke up, impatiently, "They have no electricity! They're using the candles…"

It took me about 15 minutes to try to explain to her that they had electricity but actually *chose* to sit in the dark because it was more 'romantic'. The difficulty of explaining romance to a 7-year-old is nothing compared to the difficulty of explaining the 'romance' of a darkened room and candles- especially if the 7-year-old has associated candles to explosions and blackouts her whole life.

These last few days have been truly frightening. The air in Baghdad feels charged in a way that scares me. Everyone can feel the tension and it has been a strain on the nerves. It's not so much what's been going on in the streets- riots, shootings, bombings and raids- but it's the possibility of what may lie ahead. We've been keeping the kids home from school, and my cousin's wife learned that many parents were doing the same- especially the parents who need to drive their kids to school.

We've been avoiding discussing the possibilities of this last week's developments… the rioting and violence. We don't often talk about the possibility of civil war because conferring about it somehow makes it more of a reality. When we do talk about it, it's usually done in hushed tones with an overhanging air of consternation. Is it possible? Will it happen?

Sunnis and Shi'a have always lived in harmony in Iraq and we still do, so far. I'm from a family that is about half Shi'a and half Sunni. We have never had problems as the majority of civilized people don't discriminate between the two. The thing that seems to be triggering a lot of antagonism on all sides is the counterinsurgency militia being cultivated by the CPA and GC which will include Chalabi's thugs, SCIRI extremists and some Kurdish Bayshmarga.

The popular and incorrect belief seems to be that if you are a Kurd or Shi'a, this step is a positive one. Actually, the majority of moderate Kurds and Shi'a are just as exasperated as Sunnis about this new group of soldiers/spies that is going to be let loose on the population. It's just going to mean more hostility and suspicion in all directions, and if the new Iraqi force intends to be as indiscriminate with the detentions and raids as the troops, there's going to be a lot of bloodshed too.

I once said that I hoped, and believed, Iraqis were above the horrors of civil war and the slaughter of innocents, and I'm clinging to that belief with the sheer strength of desperation these days. I remember hearing the stories about Lebanon from people who were actually living there during the fighting and a constant question arose when they talked about the grief and horrors- what led up to it? What were the signs? How did it happen? And most importantly… did anyone see it coming?

Tuesday, December 16, 2003
The Latest...
The electricity only returned a couple of hours ago. We've been without electricity for almost 72 hours- other areas have it worse. Today we heard the electricity won't be back to pre-war levels until the middle of next year.

We heard about Saddam's capture the day before yesterday, around noon. There was no electricity, so we couldn't watch tv. The first sign we got that something abnormal was occurring was the sound of a Klashnikov in the distance. I remembering pausing in my negotiations with E. over who should fill the kerosene heaters and listening hard to the sounds of shooting. I grabbed the battery-powered radio and started searching the stations, skipping from one to the other. I finally located a station that was broadcasting in Arabic and heard that Saddam may have been caught.

We thought nothing of it at first… another false alarm. It happened on an almost weekly basis. When the sounds of shooting became more frequent, curiosity got the better of E. and he ran to our neighbor's house where they had a small generator running. Fifteen minutes later, he came back breathless with the words, "They've caught Saddam…" Everyone was shocked. We all clamored for the radio once again and tried to find out what was happening. The questions were endless- who? What? When? How?

It was only later in the evening that we saw the pictures on tv and saw the press-conference, etc. By then, Baghdad was a mess of bullets, and men waving flags. Our area and other areas were somewhat quiet, but central Baghdad was a storm of gunfire. The communist party were scary- it's like they knew beforehand. Immediately, their red flags and banners were up in the air and they were marching up and down the streets and around Firdaws Square. My cousin was caught in the middle of a traffic jam and he says the scenes were frightening.

The bullets are supposed to be an expression of joy… and they probably are- in a desert, far from buildings, streets crawling with vulnerable people and cars. In Baghdad, they mean chaos. People were literally ducking and running, trying to get out of the rain of firepower because what goes up must, eventually, come down.

Yesterday was almost as messy. Most parents kept their kids home. There have been pro-America demonstrations in some areas, and anti-America demonstrations in other areas. At around 6 pm yesterday evening, the chaos began in Amriyah, a residential area in Baghdad. The streets were suddenly filled with anti-American demonstrators, some holding up pictures of Saddam. It lasted until around 11 pm and then the tanks pulled up and things settled down somewhat. Similar occurrences in A'adhamiya in Baghdad, and one or two other areas.

Today there were pro-America demonstrations in Baghdad organized by SCIRI and there were anti-America demonstrations in Tikrit, Falloojeh, Samirreh (where 11 Iraqis were killed- CPA claim they were 'insurgents'), Baghdad, Imsayab and the biggest one was in Mosul. Thousands of students from the University of Mosul took to the streets with an anti-occupation demonstration and some of the residents joined them… the university president had to shut down the university- it was huge. I was surprised the CNN wasn't covering it. The troops broke it up by firing above the crowd and bringing in the helicopters. The demonstration in Samirreh had a similar ending, except the firing was *in* the crowd and several people were wounded severely.

The question that everyone seems to be asking is the effect it will have on the resistance/insurgence/attacks. Most people seem to think that Saddam's capture isn't going to have a big effect. Saddam's role was over since April, many of the guerilla groups and resistance parties haven't been fighting to bring him back to power and I think very few people actually feared that.

Political analysts and professors in Iraq think that Saddam's capture is going to unite resistance efforts, as one of them put it, "People are now free to fight for their country's sovereignty and not Saddam."

The rumors have been endless ever since yesterday- and they all seem to be filtering in from Tikrit. Some of the rumors include people claiming that Saddam was actually caught a week ago, but the whole thing was kept quiet. Another rumor is that some sort of nerve gas was used in a limited sort of way on the area he was hiding in. Another rumor goes on about how he was 'drugged'- something was added to his food… Others say he's being interrogated in Qatar… and on and on.

The GC seem equally confused with the commotion. Talabani claims it was a combined effort between the Bayshmarga (the Kurdish militia) and the troops, Chalabi, on the other hand, insisted the whole thing was completely an American effort. It's hard to tell who has the story right and who's getting it wrong…

People have differing opinions on where he should be tried and by whom- in Iraq or an international court? Others are wondering about the legitimacy of a court under occupation. The one thing everyone seems to agree upon is that it should be an open court and *everything* should be discussed. The question is, will the US allow that? Won't it bring forward certain political dealings with America in the '80s? Only time will tell…

Things are very frightening these days in Baghdad. Going from one area to another is like going from one city to another- the feelings and emotions vary so drastically it feels like only a matter of time before we may see clashes...

Friday, December 12, 2003
We heard the latest statement from Washington about Germany, France, Russia and Canada not being allowed to have anything to do with the reconstruction. Iraq no longer feels like a country- it feels like war spoils: the winning team gets the pickings. So how is the world supposed to be involved in the reconstruction of Iraq when they are being deliberately excluded?

It's a decision like this one that brings to light the complete uselessness of the Governing Council. Why is Washington calling the shots on the reconstruction issues? This means that even after a military occupation, we'll be under an economic occupation for years to come. Why aren't any of the new ministers or GC members saying anything about this? Somehow, I have a feeling that if they have anything to say, it'll be in accordance with this latest decision.

There was a demonstration in Baghdad yesterday of about 4,000 people. The parties who are a part of the GC took part in an 'anti-terror' protest. The roads were closed for security reasons and helicopters were hovering over head. There were a couple of women's groups… I recognized some women from Al-Da'awa Al-Islamiya- Al-Jaffari's party. The Iraqi communist party and SCIRI were also involved. The irony is seeing SCIRI members hold up the "NO TERROR" banners (they could start by not terrorizing the Al-Iraqiya station because the anchorwomen don't wear hijabs…).

There were other demonstrations in some provinces, and they've all been lobbed together with the one in Baghdad. The truth is that some of them were actually anti-occupation demonstrations, like the one in Khaldiya. There were large crowds demonstrating in Khaldiya, demanding the release of boys and men who have been detained for over 3 months in American prison camps.

Today (well, technically, yesterday) there was another large demonstration in Baghdad which was a peaceful anti-occupation demonstration. The demonstrators were mainly university students and teachers who were opposing the raids occurring in some colleges and universities. They were demanding the release of three women who were detained when the Technology University in Baghdad was raided. Their spokesperson, a professor, I think, said that this was going to be the first demonstration in a long series of anti-occupation activism being organized by teachers and students.

There were some loud explosions a while ago... I just read it might have been inside of the 'Green Zone'.

Kerosene and Gasoline...
The electricity has been terrible lately- it comes in fits and starts. The moment it goes off, we start running around the house unplugging things and flicking off the power switches- you don’t want anything to be turned on when the power comes back either too high or too low. That's why I've been blogging less often. Every time there's electricity, we remember a long list of things that can only be done in an electrical world… like vacuum. Some say it's not only Baghdad- the north also seem to be having continuous electricity problems.

The most popular guy in the neighborhood these days Abu Hassen. He lives on our street and he's going to purchase one of those large generators that will, supposedly, provide electricity to around 20 houses. The problem is that it can't accommodate any more than 20 houses (probably fewer) and anyone who wants to has to 'sign up' for the electricity. When E. went to get us registered for a few amperes, Abu Hassen told him that he already had 30 families who wanted to sign on but he would put us on a waiting list (!).

Since the generators are expensive, Abu Hassen has been hesitant to buy one. E. says he has a nephew who works at one of the electric power stations in Baghdad who convinced him it would be a *great* investment because the power situation promises to be very erratic for a while yet.

The big problem now is that gasoline is hard to come by. This is a very frustrating issue for Iraqis. Gasoline was like water here. In fact, bottled water used to be far more expensive than gasoline and admittedly still is. The lines at the gas stations are long and tedious. E. and my cousin sometimes go to fill up the car and disappear for hours at a time. The gasoline is necessary for running the generators and now they're going to start rationing it. This will mean that within days, the price of gas is going to go up because people will start selling black market gasoline.

Kerosene is also hard to come by these days. Every time the kerosene man comes banging down our street, representatives from each household instantly run outside and stand impatiently at their gates, some greeting him with an energetic "Hello, habibi!" We need the kerosene for the 'sopas' or the kerosene heaters, and the kerosene lamps. The weather is nice during the day, but it gets somewhat chilly during the evening. We light the kerosene heaters in the rooms and watch them carefully so that they don't start giving out poisonous fumes from burning kerosene. There have been entire families that died in their sleep from CO poisoning from kerosene heaters.

The nicest thing about the heaters is the fact that there's always a kettle of water on top of them. This accomplishes two things it once: it keeps the air in the room from getting very dry, and it provides a ready kettle of hot water for the tea ritual during the evening. The sopa is also fantastic for heating bread. At night, when there is no hope of electricity, we sit around on the rug, a little distance away from the sopa, and drink sweet tea, with warm bread and some famous Iraqi salted white cheese, while listening to the radio or just talking about family matters, or political matters.

The sun sets quite early these days and, if there's no electricity, it gets a little bit depressing. E. and I often go out to the roof to enjoy the last few minutes of sun every evening. Sometimes, the electricity will return at night and the lights will flicker on suddenly, leaving us too dazzled for the first few moments to do anything but sit there, allowing our eyes to adjust to the abrupt change.

Saturday, December 06, 2003
Latest Developments...
Rain! It has been raining… I love the rain. I think most Iraqis love the rain because it is a relative rarity in our dry part of the world. We have only a couple of rainy months during the year and they're not that rainy… more like drizzly.

The air smells like rain. It's the most wonderful smell- wet dust. It's not the first time this year, but it's been somewhat continuous. Everyone has been praying for lightning because Iraqis love 'chimeh' or truffles. Those are those little potato-like veggies that grow like underground mushrooms and taste like wet socks. It is believed that the more lightning during the rainy season, the better/larger/tastier the truffles later on… don't ask me why.

The topic of the moment is currently Samarra… or 'Samir-reh' as we pronounce it. People are really confused about the whole thing. The US military are saying that 54 Iraqis are dead, with several wounded- almost all of them 'insurgents', but the Iraqi police claim there are only 8 dead- two of them an elderly Iranian couple who had come on a pilgrimage to a religious site in Samirreh. There were only 8 corpses found after the battle and the police say that not a single one of the corpses was in fida'ieen clothes. So where did the other bodies go? Iraqi forces don't have them and American forces don't have them- as far as anyone knows… did they just disappear?

People from the area claim that the American troops had losses too. Most people believe that the big number of dead was thrown out in order to legitimatize the 'collateral damage', i.e. the civilians, like the Iranian tourists and the dozens who were injured and had nothing to do with it. If 54 are dead, then the extra 8 innocents who died won't really matter when one looks at the 'bigger picture'.

One thing everyone agrees on- there are dozens of wounded. The scenes in the hospital were terrible- so many injured, including some children. The troops are saying that the whole thing occurred outside of the city, but shelled houses, shattered glass and 'collateral damage' all contradict that. Other reports confirm that a mosque, a hospital, and houses all came under heavy fire.

The other topic we've been discussing is the CPA's decision to start a militia, to fight the resistance against troops, composed of various militias belonging to the political parties involved with the GC people. Read more about it on Juan Cole.

We're all worried about that. It basically means that Badir's Brigade (belonging to the SCIRI) and the Bayshmarga (with Talbani), amongst others, are going to be made legitimate. They are going to be given uniforms and weapons and allowed to basically do what they've been doing these last few months- terrorize the citizens- but with a CPA stamp of approval, this time around.

Muqtada Al-Sadr in the south is making some not-so-covert threats about how other militias might be tempted to join the resistance if they aren't given power, or at least some semblance of it.

This latest militia thing is a definite change from last month when these same militias were being ordered to disarm. My cousin is a wise man. The moment he heard the decision to disarm Badir's Brigade and the Bayshmarga a few weeks ago, he snorted with laughter and shook his head at my naïve, "FINALLY!"

"They'll take away their toys for about a week," he said, shaking his head, "and then put them in some fancy suits, with a badge on their arm, a monthly wage and bigger guns." Apparently, if you can't beat 'em, pretend you approve of what they're doing (and that you *really* can control them…no, *really*).

Salam Pax is blogging once more! He's blogging in orange because Raed, his co-blogger, blogs in white. For those who don't know him (is there anyone who doesn't?!) Salam is the Baghdad Blogger and he was blogging way before the war and he encouraged me, and others, to start a blog- he is daily reading.

Both Salam and Juan Cole mention the fact that the US rejected an Iraqi plan to hold a census by the summer (in order to allow voting) and that the Governing Council were supposedly shocked. I imagine they may have known, but, as we say in Iraqi Arabic "ghelisow" or they turned a blind eye to the whole issue because someone like Chalabi, or even Talbani, is very aware of the minimal support he would get from voters. Who needs a risky vote when you can be appointed?!

Completely Unrelated...
Is Something Burning has been updated.

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