Saturday, January 31, 2009

Mission Accomplished

Today was another defining moment for the people of Iraq. Last night, I spoke with several of my friends who live in the country and I was nearly moved to tears as they talked about getting ready to vote. I think it is safe to say that Iraq is ready to be the beacon of hope for freedom and democracy in the Middle East.

Those who wanted Iraq to fail have only failed themselves. Al-Qaeda's roots have been smashed thanks to the courage of the Iraqi people, the Lions of the Iraqi Army, and of course the Surge Strategy implemented by a true American hero, General David Petraeus. As for Saddam and the Baathists, they are nothing but a closed chapter in a dark history.

Iraqi heroes patrol the Tigris River

Usually, when I think about the people who looked down on Iraqis, I think of terrorist scumbags who suicide bombed mosques or Militiamen who trained in the art of torture from a compound outside of Tehran. But we cannot forget people like Harry Reid and the other democrats...I don't want to dwell too much on that. Our country is focused on another crisis, and the last thing we need is more division, but I will stand by this statement: Harry Reid should have stepped down a long time ago after his reprehensible statements.

I am very proud of my president, Barack Obama, for commending the Iraqi people and praising the success of today's elections, which passed free of violence and proved to the world that Iraq, its people, and its freedom are truly a force to be reckoned with. I must say that I am even prouder of the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Kamal Al-Maliki, who has strong that he is a strong and gracious leader.

The Iraqi people have stood up for their security

But I am most proud of my former president, George W. Bush. I suppose if I ran into him tomorrow, this is what I would say to him:

Mr. President, now that you have stepped aside and are enjoying a calm, quiet life in the Dallas suburbs, remember that you are a real hero. You stood by Iraq's side in its time of outsmarted those who wanted Iraq to fail, from the congressmen who verbally ravaged you day in and day out to the terrorists who arose from the sands of North Africa and Saudi Arabia to inflict terror and fear on the Iraqi people.

The democrats won the election. They got the White House and they consolidated their power in Congress. For now, they have even won the trust of the American people. But each morning, when you and your wife get ready to have coffee, just think of the millions of Iraqi families who are going to live in peace, and the future generations who are going to lead Iraq and the Middle East to greatness. The Democrats never got their new direction. You looked them in the eye and exposed them for the frauds they were when they threatened to cut funding or tie in a "troop withdrawal" to one of their so-called "blank checks" they were handing you.

History will judge you very differently, sir. You will be remembered with heroes of the Middle East like T.E. Lawrence and Benazir Bhutto, except your accomplishments are even greater.

Hhhhh...maybe I need to do some work with it, lol. But that is pretty much what I would say if I met the former president. Anyway, even as the Bush hatred remains solid in this country, there are plenty of images that will show just the opposite.

A bustling Baghdad comes to mind. As George and Laura go about their golden years, I hope that they will find the time to visit it. I've heard reassurances from some of my Iraqi friends that they will be warmly welcomed one day, and I trust this will be true.

Bush did a great thing for Iraq, for the world, and for humanity. It disgusts me when I hear about Republicans who urged the president to give up during the bloodshed that peaked in 2006-07, when Iran, Syria, Al-Qaeda, and the Baathists were hard at work trying to destroy the country. While they all had different goals, the above mentioned thugs seemed to agree that a democratic Iraq was a threat to their despotic way of life.

Another question comes to Iraq even still a "war"? Obviously, the Iraqi people will always be at war with so-called Islamists who wish to destroy their way of life, but perhaps the media can look at stories coming out of Iraq as something other than "war news".

The struggle is far from over...Iraq is going to serve as a role model for the Middle East, and we will have to wait and see what happens. Iraq's future is just beginning.

A new bastion for anti-semitism

South America has seen Nazi-like regimes come in place before, and it looks like Hugo Chavez's recent diplomatic moves against Israel are stirring the flames of anti-semitism.

Synagogue attacked in Venezuela

An armed gang has ransacked a Jewish synagogue in the Venezuelan capital Caracas after occupying the building for several hours.

About 15 unidentified men broke into the building before daubing graffiti on the walls and desecrating scriptures.

They also called for Jewish people to be expelled from the country.

Jewish leaders say tensions have risen since Venezuela broke diplomatic relations with Israel this month over its recent military offensive in Gaza.

Elias Farache, president of Venezuela's Jewish Association, said the gang had tied and gagged security guards before destroying offices and the place where holy books were kept.

Anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli slogans were painted on the walls.

"Never in the history of Venezuela's Jewish community have we been the target of such an aggression," said Mr Farache.

"The climate is very tense. We feel threatened, intimidated, attacked."

'Moral force'

Venezuela and Israel have had strained relations for some time, and Caracas has been fiercely critical of Israel's military operations in Gaza, which started in late December.

The Venezuelan ambassador and his staff were ordered to leave the country on 6 January, and President Hugo Chavez has urged Israelis to stand up against their government.

Israel responded by ordering Venezuelan diplomats to leave, declaring them "persona non grata in Israel" earlier this week.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Good economic news!

I know, I have never been too much into posting or reporting on the economy, its never been my strength...but I really would like people to read this story because it is important. There is plenty of good news out there.

I really wish that more news like this would be reported. I have always believed that half of the fear people are feeling over the economic crisis is media-driven.

Amazon profits from festive sales

Profit at online retailer Amazon rose 9% in the final three months of last year, as the company enjoyed a robust holiday shopping season.

It said net profit totalled $225m in the fourth quarter, up from $207m a year ago.

Unlike many retailers, Amazon has not yet been hit hard by the cutback in spending by many consumers.

Amazon said it would continue to offer low prices and free shipping deals to lure budget-conscious shoppers.

Revenue increased 18% to $6.7bn, beating analysts estimates and Amazon it expected sales to rise in the first three months of 2009.

It looks like they took a lot of market share and made substantial gains," said Jeffrey Lindsay of Sanford C Bernstein.

"The good thing is that Amazon hasn't had to discount to the extent that people feared to achieve this."

Chief executive Jeff Bezos said Kindle, the electronic-reading device it introduced in 2007 to encourage book, magazine and newspaper downloads, had boosted sales.

Once a bookseller, Amazon now sells products in more than three dozen categories ranging from hairdryers to jewellery.

In the UK, it launched a music download site last year.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Welcome to the job, Mr. President

Now don't forget your most important responsibilities.

President Obama has an obligation to keep up the effort in Afghanistan and make sure the gains we have tried so hard for in Iraq do not crumble. If only our President could hear from one of Iraq's potential leaders. He would learn some things he probably isn't hearing much about from his democratic colleagues in Congress.

A few months back I had the honor of interviewing Hayder Al-Khoei, also known as Eye Raki on his blog. Hayder opened up about his recent trip to Iraq, and revealed the progress that is being made. I originally published this story in a local newspaper.

UK College Student Travels to Iraq, reveals the progress being made

Published December 3rd, 2008

Hayder Al-Khoei is an Iraqi-born college student living in London, England, and studying political science. Recently, he interviewed with the Experience about his recent trip to the Middle East, where he spent several weeks in Iraq. Traveling between Baghdad and southern Iraq on his own, he was able to get a good picture of the progress achieved by the Iraqi Army and the newfound sense of security among Iraqis—as well as lingering concerns the country is feeling about the future.

Hayder is the 21-year old son of Sayyid Abdul Majid Al-Khoei, an influential Shiite cleric who was assassinated in Najaf in 2003 while trying to serve the will of his people. When he was very young, Hayder left his homeland of Iraq with his family after the 1991 Uprising, and he has spent most of his life living in the UK. He hopes to return to the Middle East permanently in the future, after finishing post-graduate studies in London. I was fortunate enough to learn about his most recent trip to Iraq, where he traveled to Baghdad after a two weeks stay in Iran. His trip later concluded in Amman, Jordan.

"The relaxed atmosphere I saw was very different" he said. "I was in Iraq earlier this year too, but this time I could tell a lot had changed. In many parts of Baghdad, people stay out late at night to drink tea and smoke nergila. That doesn't sound so strange to the average American, but in Iraq, when you can see families out at night enjoying themselves it says a lot about the current security situation".

The biggest differences Hayder noticed were the little things, such as taking a taxi from Baghdad International Airport to the Shiite holy city of Najaf at night, something that was considered dangerous as little as six months ago. Lack of electricity and militiamen roaming the streets could make a deadly combination. But this time, the taxi driver said the 3 hour trip down south would be no problem.
But still, not everything is perfect. Hayder noted that Iraq's electricity production levels still present a huge difficulty, and will need a lot of work to truly meet the needs of the Iraqi people. "Electricity is still a big problem. Having no electricity is not only an unbearable inconvenience in the heat but it means roads can be extremely dangerous to travel through at night," he said.

Iraq's future also faces a growing threat from the Sahwa—Arabic for "Awakening". They are Sunni tribal councils that have been critical in routing Al-Qaeda from Anbar province and other areas of the country. Some fear the Maliki government could try to disarm the Sahwa, reigniting sectarian tensions that extremists tried so hard to set off. Hayder believes that the Sahwa's threats of rebellion should be taken seriously. If the government fails to integrate most of its 100,000 strong militia into the Iraqi Security Forces, it could jeopardize the many security gains Iraq has achieved. Recently, Maliki's government agreed to take the reins from the US military and pay the Sunni Arab tribesman themselves.

At the same time, great progress has been achieved. The government of Nouri Al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister, attained a defining moment this year when the Iraqi Army faced off with the Jaish Al-Mahdi, or 'JAM', the militia loyal to Muqtada Al-Sadr that fought two uprisings since 2004 and has been a thorn in the side of coalition forces who have been trying to stabilize the region. Despite an image portrayed by the many critics of the war and the media of incompetence on the part of the Iraqi Army, the facts on the ground appear to tell a different story. Maliki's actions helped to shed his title of a "sectarian" leader. Maliki is a Shiite, and he had often been accused of coddling the Shia militias who maintained control of entire swathes of Baghdad. After multiple crackdowns against Al-Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups in the north, the Iraqi government finally brought the fight to the Shia extremists, many of whom are suspected of mass kidnappings, executions and brutal torture methods involving drills and other weapons.

"The Sadrists were begging for the cease-fire," said Hayder, who spent most of his four week Iraq visit in the southern part of the country. "They really didn't have a choice. They could either continue the fighting and be humiliated by the Iraqi Army, or beg for a cease-fire in order to save face. For a few years, JAM could play ball with the Iraqi Army, but after the three separate successful crackdowns by the Iraqi Army, JAM were reduced to nothing, and were eventually disbanded by al-Sadr, who retained only a few 'special groups' to tackle the coalition forces in Iraq"
According to Hayder's account, Iraqi police commandos maintain a strong presence in the southern Iraqi cities, including Kufa, scene of some fierce fighting earlier this year when JAM and the Iraqi Army faced off. In the end, the once-feared cleric who led two uprisings against US forces may not be the fiery strongman he has always been seen as.

When it comes to the question of the source of Iraq's violence, Hayder does not point to the fact that Iraq is being run by a Shia government—a majority that was once repressed by a favored Sunni majority—for the reason behind the continuing attacks against Iraqis. While the attacks have abated to levels once though improbable, they still persist in some parts of the country, most notably the city of Mosul and the central Diyala Province. American intelligence reports indicate that suicide bombers make their way in from the Gulf States such as Saudi Arabia and unleash their destruction via Syria. Iran has long been accused of funneling arms to support Shiite militias in the south.

"For some of the neighboring countries this isn't about a Shia-led, or a Shia- Kurdish government, there is much more at stake" he said. "The word democracy sends a shiver down the spines of the leaders of those countries. If there was real democracy…many would not be in power today."

Hayder offered his thoughts on the controversial security pact, known as the SOFA, being negotiated between Iraq and the United States. The pact's continuing difficulties have led to speculation that Iraq's newfound ties with Iran could be having a hand in the country's calls for US troops to leave in the coming months. This has become a favorite talking point of the Bush Administration's critics. While he does not rule anything out, Hayder's view on what's happening is that Iraq is trying to assert itself as a sovereign, independent nation. "It's sort of a catch 22 for the Americans because they worked so hard to bring the Iraqi Army up to a good standard...and now, because of all the time, money and effort the US spent on training the Iraqi army, the Iraqi government can tell the US 'thanks but no thanks'. So then really, this is Iraq standing on its own two feet and asserting itself," he stated in his analysis.
The way Hayder sees it; the realities on the ground that suggest a dramatic turn of events in Iraq cannot truly be successful if the success is not recognized.

"There are a lot of people in the US, especially the Democrats, who downplay any success in Iraq simply because they are at odds with the Bush administration, they want to portray Iraq as a failure because they see Bush as a failure" said Hayder, who believes that there should be no correlation between politics and doing what is morally right by helping the Iraqi people. "You can hate Bush if you want, but just admit that what he did in Iraq turned out for the better. Better for Iraq, better for America and better for the world"

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Imagine this...

Every time I hear Robert Mugabe, the sociopathic, megalomaniac dictator ruling Zimbabwe, referred to as a "Revolutionary", I feel a sickness in my stomach, the same sickness I feel when I see someone wearing a Che Guivera t-shirt. I would like to obtain one of these bills from the link below to use as physical proof of the destruction that Robert has brought to the people of his country.

Zimbabwe is on the brink of if a brutal dictatorship and Cholera outbreak aren't enough, daily life in the country has reached the point where it requires a bill of this size just to buy basic necessities like bread.

From BBC:

Zimbabwe is introducing a Z$100 trillion note, currently worth about US$30 (£20), state media reports.

Other notes in trillion-dollar denominations of 10, 20 and 50 are also being released to help Zimbabweans cope with hyperinflation.

However, the dollarisation of the economy means that few products are available in the local currency.

On Thursday, the opposition leader said he was still committed to power-sharing intended to rescue the failing economy.

Since September, when the deal was signed, talks have stalled over who should control key ministries.

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he was due to hold talks with President Robert Mugabe "within this coming week" to try to resolve the political crisis.

He described Mr Mugabe as "part of the problem but also part of the solution".

The latest annual figure for inflation, estimated in July last year, was 231m% - the world's highest.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Not exactly in the mood for "change"

It looks as if Barack Obama will need to come to terms with the fact that the Khomeinists in Tehran may not be as willing to chat it up with him as he has thought. In these photos, hardline supporters of Khamenei and Hamas burn Obama's photo and drive a car over it, just as they have done with Bush these last 8 years.

But here is where it gets interesting, and this shows how divided Iran really is. Instead of putting his trust in Khamenei, he should reach out to Iranians like these brave citizens:

The Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip has sparked a predictable wave of protest throughout the Muslim world. (Somebody please call us the day a similar protest is held against al Qaeda's mass murder of Muslims in Iraq or Pakistan.) But theirs aren't the only voices making themselves heard on the subject of Gaza... Iranian student group is pointing the finger at its own government. "Those who have armed and encouraged groups like Hamas . . . have innocent blood on their hands," read a communiqué published December 30 in an Iranian newspaper and translated by the invaluable Middle East Media Research Institute. "Israel's current crimes in Gaza are strongly to be condemned -- but it is equally [important] to condemn the terror organizations that use kindergartens and hospitals as a shield against [Israeli] attacks."

The Iranian government shut down the newspaper that published these remarks the next day. We can only hope for the safety of the authors. They have shown a great deal more clarity, and courage, than the protestors on the other side.

The bulk of this very insightful article can be read here, in the Wall Street Journal.

A lot more going on than one might think, isn't there?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Conscious ignorance

Many despotic and theocratic regimes in the Middle East will deflect attention away from the brutal treatment of their people by blaming all the problems on Israel. All the while, the crimes of the anti-Israel crowd, including Hamas and the other thuggish rulers, remain ignored.

Have a look at this horrific video, taken back in 2007 shortly after Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip in a bloody coup. Watch, and you will see Palestinians singing a song at a wedding ceremony. Moments later, armed Hamas policemen storm in, guns blazing, on the backs of pickup trucks. Gunfire goes of, innocent people are savagely beaten, and the ceremony is broken apart as police vehicles drive over tables and chairs.

Where were the angry protests taking place across the world for this? Obviously, there are none. Anyone who thinks that these people--Hamas--actually care about the welfare of Palestinians, are blissfully ignorant. If the Gaza offensive is stopped, and everything goes back to status quo, is this brutal treatment of innocent people to be excepted? Are lost Palestinian lives only a tragedy if they are killed by an Israeli bomb as opposed to a gang of bearded lunatics wielding guns and screaming "Allah Akbar" as they attack the people they want to "liberate"?

Another stunning example:

Yemen is a country filled with weapons...more guns than people in fact. It ranks as one of the poorest nations in the world, and its people are struggling for food. The government is largely corrupt, and the threat of extremism is never far. Have a look at this laughable accusation by the Yemeni authorities. This is just plain ignorance...Al-Qaeda inspired Salafists are targeting innocent Muslims in mosques, police patrols, schools, and even foreign embassies, and the blame immediately shifts to the Jews. Unless the people of Yemen (and many, many other countries) except that their so-called "Arab brothers" are responsible for many of the problems they face, the country is going to continue meandering down a path of poverty, violence, and starvation.

SANAA (AFP) — A Yemeni court began on Saturday the trial of three Islamists accused of establishing contact with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and offering to collaborate with the Jewish state.

The three men are accused of operating under the name of Yemen's barely-known Organisation of Islamic Jihad and spreading false news of attacks on government buildings, embassies and foreign interests in Yemen between May and September 2008.

The prosecution charged the main defendant, Bassam al-Haidari, 26, of writing directly to the prime minister of Israel by email, offering to work for the Jewish state.

"We are the Organisation of Islamic Jihad and you are Jews, but you are honest, and we are ready to do anything," Haidari said in the email sent to Olmert, the prosecution charged.

The list of charges say that Olmert responded to Haidari, also known as Abu al-Ghaith, welcoming his offer to collaborate.

"We are ready to support you to become an obstacle in the Middle East. We will support you as an agent," Olmert was quoted as writing back.

The group, which includes Imad al-Rimi, 23, and Ali al-Mahfal, 24, has also claimed in Internet messages signed by Abu al-Gaith that it prepared 16 car bombs to attack governmental buildings and embassies, according to the charges.

The three defendants denied all the charges and demanded a lawyer. The court agreed to their demand and adjourned the hearing to January 17.

Yemeni authorities rounded up six suspects in Sanaa shortly after a September 17 attack on the US embassy that killed 18 people.

The interior ministry said at the time that the arrested group included Abu al-Ghaith al-Yamani, who was the signatory of an Islamic Jihad claim of responsibility for the attack on the US mission.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh later that an Islamist "terrorist cell" with links to Israeli intelligence had been dismantled.

Hmmm...I think that President Saleh should be more concerned about his neighbor to the north, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where a deranged and incorrect interpretation of Islam is exported through fiery, angry clerics eager to march off young Arab men and women to their deaths as "martyrs".

I want to make perfectly clear that I am posting this story because of my concern for the Arab people, not to be pro-Israel. Anyone who reads my work knows I am a strong supporter of both Arabs and Israel, and that terror groups like Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Hamas are the bane of my existence. The Arab people are never going to be able to unify if such blatant hatred continues to run through even the highest of government officials and others who would otherwise be respected.

Turkish Hypocrisy:

One final point I feel compelled to make is the hypocrisy of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyib Erdogan. He has been a fierce critic of Israel's operation in Gaza, even though his own country is engaged in a war for its security. Last year, Turkey felt the need to send soldiers across the border into Iraq to protect its citizens from a Kurdish separatist group known as the PKK, which desires an ethnic homeland for Kurds in Turkey and elsewhere. Exactly, how is this different from Israel's decision to move against Hamas?

Basically, Erdogan wants to believe that Turkey can do whatever it wants to protect its citizens, even if it means destabilizing a peaceful region like Iraqi Kurdistan. The Turks will point to bombings and other terror attacks by the PKK in order to justify the operation...its almost a mirror image of Israel's operation in Gaza. However, when Turkish tanks rolled over the border into Iraq I don't recall any masked protesters in San Francisco waving PKK flags and calling for Turkey to be "radiated", as some haters have gone so far to say about Israel.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Stuck on stupid

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, invited Iraq's Prime Minister into his bubble of ignorance today, holding a strongly-worded meeting on the Security Pact known as SOFA and warning Maliki about what he sees as the "treacherous" United States. Khamenei made his usual statements about the US being responsible for everything that is happening in Iraq, and blaming the continuation of violence on US troops that are still operating inside of the country.

Meanwhile, as Khamenei blasted the US, a suicide bomber attacked Iranian pilgrims who had gathered near a shrine in Baghdad, killing dozens of them. The idiot bomber no doubt harbored the same anti-Shia/Persian sentiment expressed by those who have kidnapped and killed Iranian police and bombed military buses INSIDE of Iran's borders. It was the "treacherous" US who joined side by side with Iraq's exiled Shia community (also with Iran's blessing) to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Let's not forget that it was also the "treacherous" US that routed the Taliban, Iran's other nemesis, from Afghanistan...the same Taliban that kidnapped 9 Iranian diplomats back in the 90's, crammed them into a box, and executed them in a hail of gunfire. Things were certainly going great for Iran before the "treacherous" US barged into the region, weren't they?

Iranians inspect the damage after Sunni insurgents, likely based in Pakistan, bombed a bus transporting a Revolutionary Guard Unit.

I'd like to note that I believe the anti-Shiite sentiment that is taking place around the world today is akin to a new form of anti-Semitism. I've heard Baathist sympathizers, right-wing conservatives, and the the so-called "antiwar" movment all express the same anger towards Iran, as well as Iraq's majority Shiite population that played a critical role in overthrowing Saddam Hussein and now maintains a majority in the democratically-elected government. The Shiite Islamic Republic has no doubt been a destabilizing force in Iraq and elsewhere these last few years, but if Khamenei had a brain, he would realize that his country and the United States share many common interests and working together to accomplish them might not be such a bad idea.

What's happening in the Middle East right now is mind boggling, so much so that its difficult for a single mind to try and make sense of it all. Its sort of like trying to figure out how the Universe came to be and what lies beyond it...its enough to drive someone mad.

As if the above story isn't enough, have a look at this post from my good friend Iraqi Mojo about the situation in Gaza and the hypocrisy among the "resistance".