Ali Khan – The Golan and Quneitra

 Israeli sources and the U.S. Committee for Refugees reported that the local population fled, whereas the Syrian government indicated that a large proportion of it was expelled.

Israeli sources and the U.S. Committee for Refugees reported that the local population fled during the 1967 War, whereas the Syrian government indicated that a large proportion of it was expelled.

Dispatch from Damascus Special Edition 3-The Golan and Quneitra
Ali Khan, (07/12/2008)

 

 

Ever since I had met the UN peacekeepers at the Indian Embassy, I wanted to go and visit their base and the Golan Heights. The officers at the Embassy were very helpful in getting me the required permissions. Luckily, I managed to get a ride on a diplomatic car, which inevitably makes things a bit easier. My co-passenger was Astad Deboo, one of the most famous and accomplished performers of Indian modern dance. He was in Syria for a concert as part of the various cultural programs that have been so popular and have pushed Damascus onto the international stage as the cultural capital of the Arab World 2008. There have been music concerts, theatre, exhibitions with pieces loaned from the V&A in London and many other events. I hope that this momentum will last and carry forward into the forthcoming years. There are many Iraqi artists in Damascus who have fled the war and have carved out a niche for themselves but their voices and work needs to get international exposure and this can only be done if all the energy put into making this year Damascus’ year, is channeled into future events.

Other Syrian artisans seem to have also benefited and while watching the BBC this morning I was relieved to see a story on the thriving art scene in Damascus: an important and refreshing change from the usual political stories that are so widespread in the West. I have read stories on the Internet about how some people find Syria a stifling and restrictive as far as artistic expression is concerned. While I agree that there is always a lot of scope for changes and reform, particularly about freedom of expression, these can only be brought about gradually and systematically and will inevitably take time. In a country like India, which is often referred to as the biggest democracy in the world, we have systems of bureaucracy and governance that are at worst retrogressive and at best archaic but even there the change cannot happen overnight and might even take a few generations to take place. India, like Syria, is still recovering from the effects of brutal colonisation. One of the main methods used by colonial regimes to facilitate their rule, was to break and fragment societies so that a minority could rule a large group of people. Individuals and social or religious groups that can be played off against each other do not present a danger to the colonial governments. This inevitably leads to a fractured society in which the goal of the individual becomes survival. To a large extent, I feel that colonized countries often find it hard to develop as quickly as they are expected to because people are reduced to day-to-day survival. If society was to be viewed as a tapestry, then one could say that the intermeshing threads which bind together to create the whole are torn apart by colonialism. In order to weave this tapestry again, society needs to be re-created with new institutions, new ideas and new people. In India, we are stuck with old systems, old and often foreign ideas and people whose worldview is shaped by the occurrences of fifty years ago. Therefore, inevitably the change that we want and need, will take time and it will be a slow process, possibly even taking a few generations to finish. I do not want to seem to be defending current actions and policies but I do feel that the reforms we desire in India will only come about when new generations and new institutions replace older ideas. Change cannot happen overnight.

It is strange how one meets people in the most unpredictable places. I could not have imagined sharing a car with Mr. Deboo of all people while going to Quneitra. However, I could not have asked for better company. All the more so because we started talking in Urdu so that our conversation and observations would remain private. Our driver was a smartly dressed man who gave me the same talk that I have received from so many people, particularly those affiliated with the establishment, whom I had met in Damascus. He told me how he thought that Western people had no culture, except one of violence and war, and that they promoted sectarianism while there are no such communal problems in Syria. He was happy that Syria was ‘hosting’ the 2 million odd Iraqi refugees. When I asked if the prices of food and accommodation had increased as a result, he fell silent. I did not want to be antagonistic but a lot of Syrians I had talked to, particularly those from Damascus proper were shockingly negative about the refugees and I just wanted him to know that people like me who visit Damascus are not unaware of some of the realities. Apart from his party line comments, he was a gentle and warm man.

We left Damascus late in the morning and headed south. Mr Deboo and I talked at length about the recent carnage in Bombay and since he has lived in the city for so long, his loss was all the more personal and painful. Despite the sad conversation, it was a pleasant change to hear the jolly, slightly anglicised Parsi English accent. In between our conversations I would ask our driver about the villages we were passing through. The landscape was gradually becoming greener and more fertile. We reached new Quneitra after an hours drive and the new town was not much different from the other villages we had passed on the way. There was a main street lined with shops. The town was less dusty than Dumaiyyara, which I had visited a couple weeks earlier. Children had just finished school and little boys in their blue uniforms skipped down the street while the girls, in light pink hijabs, huddled together and giggling listening to music on someone’s mobile. Bored looking farmers sat on overturned crates surrounded by vegetables in Styrofoam boxes. Once in a while they would look around, shout something unintelligible and then relapse into their sphinx like states. I think there must be a common language for all the vegetable vendors in the world, particularly the ones that walk around selling fresh vegetables from door to door. The deep guttural proclamations coupled with the crescendo of their voices seem to me to be the same from Lucknow to Damascus.

After a short while we reached a UN check post that was manned by a single UN Peacekeeper in the distinctive blue beret. He was wearing dark glasses and as we drove by, he raised his eyebrows, nearly imperceptibly, in acknowledgment of my wave. We drove for about 2 kilometers more and then were stopped at another checkpoint. This time the post was manned by about 6 Syrians who wearing black leather jackets and looked like they hadn’t slept for a week. A portly man came up to the car and asked for the passes. The pass was a small piece of paper and he scrutinized it from various angles and read it so carefully that it almost seemed like he was reading a papal bull. I had read it earlier and all that it said was that “Approaching military zones is strictly prohibited” and of course it had our names and nationality. There was a small footnote at the end asking us to return the pass without making any copies of it. Predictably, he pretended to have found some small hitch and after a short exchange with the driver, he eventually waved us through. As we were pulling out of the check post another leather-clad man with a rather prominent belly got into the car and then turned around and said hello to us. Our driver told us that this was our ‘guide’ and that we should ask him any questions we had.

We drove in to the village and the first thing I saw was a roundabout with rubble lying around on all sides. Initially it was strange to be driving on such well-maintained roads while everything around us was reduced to rubble. Until 1967 the whole area was undisputedly Syrian and after the 6-day war Israel captured the area and defended it in the Yom Kippur war in 1973. In 1981 it unilaterally annexed the entire area, about 450 square miles, in a move that was condemned internationally and was declared illegal by different UN resolutions, not that those are taken very seriously by anyone. The area is mentioned in the infamous UN resolution 242 listing all occupied territories. Conflict is not new to the area. Around 800 BC, after the end of the United Monarchy the area was actually fought over by two Jewish kingdoms and King Ahab of Israel defeated Ben-Hadad I. According to Jewish scripture the area is part of the Canaan. It was also fought over by the Aramean kings of Damascus, Alexander the Great, the Romans and then in the 16th century it was controlled by the Ottomans, who retained power over it until WWI.

Quneitra

Quneitra

Now, Quneitra is a ghost town. Apparently, when the residents of Quneitra were evacuated, Israel made sure Israeli builders to whom the contracts had been given removed anything that could be taken apart or unscrewed. All that remains is concrete and rusted steel girders. We drove straight to the border outpost where Syrian control finishes and UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) patrolled land begins. The force was established in 1974 and they try to maintain the delicate peace that exists now. There has been no military confrontation for the past thirty years. At the border there were two trailers and a concrete building. “We will win this fight as our cause is just” was stenciled onto the wall and the quote was attributed to President Bashar al-Assad. A lone boyish looking soldier in an oversized uniform paced up and down next to the barrier as a UN Toyota Land cruiser crossed into the Syrian side. The UN officers stopped and Syrian soldiers searched the car. One of the UN peacekeepers at the Diwali party had told me that he had once gotten a lecture from a Syrian soldier because he absent-mindedly still had a crisp packet that be had bought in Israel. The foil had Hebrew letters on it and anything with even the slightest hint of being Israeli was strictly prohibited. The officers got out of the car and they turned out to be Indians. One was a Sikh with a UN blue turban and the other wore just a blue beret. They were on their way to Bosra and wanted to know the way. We said hello but only got a curt reply with a slight nod of the head in return. They were certainly not as warm as the sergeants and privates I had met in the Diwali party.

Our ‘guide’ led us towards the gate. There is a small covered platform on the side with a good view of the UN base, as well as the Israeli communications towers on the hill opposite. The Israeli base, though far away, looked imposing and at first glance one could see how technologically superior they were. Our guide told us that starting from 10 meters in front of us, the entire area was mined. The whole area is so green and fertile.  I thought to myself that it was because of the abundant water and good soil that Israel refused to let the region go. The argument that it was part of Biblical Israel, Bashan, just seemed like a ruse. I think that about a third of Israel’s fresh water also comes from the Sea of Galilee which is in the region. The guide went onto tell us about how the Israelis had built a nightclub cum casino near the border and that it was really used by them to fornicate and meet ‘bitches.’ He said this in such a serious and sure manner that I had to try very hard to suppress my laughter. The way he pronounced ‘beetches’ was particularly amusing. I turned around to look at Jabal Sheikh, named so because a patch of snow that is permanently on the peak of the mountain gives it the look of an old man wearing a keffiyeh,  so that they did not see my face. We were then ushered into the Lieutenant Colonel’s office and were offered a cup of Arabic coffee followed by extra sweet tea. The Lieutenant Colonel was a bald, chubby man with rosy cheeks and no mandatory moustache. He didn’t speak much and as he sat behind his desk, which had piles of papers, his oversized military cap, a well-thumbed copy of Oxford English Dictionary and mementoes left by various UNDOF countries. I imagined he looked like a Russian officer sitting in some obscure border in Kamchatka after the October revolution without any idea of what was happening outside office! He was very polite and showed a spark of life when Mr. Deboo was introduced to him and he was told that the latter was a dancer from India. When I was introduced his eyes reverted back to their distant and disinterested gaze. Perhaps he had already met Indians studying Arabic at Damascus University! After exchanging the usual pleasantries we downed our cups of tea and went out.

The guide then took us to an olive plantation. Representatives of various countries of the world have planted the trees as a gesture of peace and a symbol of hope. We were shown Cuba’s tree and of course the Indian one. In the distance on top of the mountain, the Israeli base loomed threateningly and Mr. Deboo and I joked that they were probably looking at clear pictures of our faces as we walked around and maybe the bees buzzing around us around were actually little robots! From there we drove to the Mosque and I asked if I could take pictures. The guide nodded vigorously and said that I should show people at home what the ‘Israelis had done.’ The mosque was a shell. The roof had caved in. We walked in and in the main prayer niche I saw graffiti. Someone had written ‘Viva Turkmen’ in big letters. On the other walls there was graffiti in some sort of Slavic language. Inside someone had written ‘Chechen Republic’ in big red letters. Next to it ‘Khalid’ had sprayed a proclamation of his love for Aman. I am sure Aman was a girl but just maybe he meant peace! I didn’t know what to think of it. On the one hand it violated the sanctity and holiness of the mosque. On the other hand the mosque was no longer used and since it was ruined by war, a sign of love, no matter how superficial seemed strangely appropriate. We got back into the car and drove to the Hospital via the church. The Church is right next to a Syrian guard post and so I had to be careful taken pictures. The interiors were covered in graffiti and all the doors and windows had been removed. The floor was covered in rubble and the shaft of lights coming in through the round windows spot lit little patches of concrete. The hospital is used as one of the most vivid reminders of how the village suffered. The whole building is covered in bullet holes and there is a sign above the entrance that read “Destructed by Zionists and changed it to firing target.” I saw a soldier in one of the frameless windows but as soon as our eyes met he ducked out of view. Next to the hospital are two UN bases. I was initially planning to meet my peacekeeper friends there but the ‘guide’ and the colonel had insisted that this was not possible and it was strictly forbidden for anyone to interact with the UNDOF personnel. Apparently there are still 5 families that live in the destroyed village. I asked our driver why they continued to live here when they could move to new Quneitra. He didn’t have an answer and the ‘guide’s’ answer that they wanted to live on their land did not really make sense.

The whole area is eerily peaceful with moss, conifers and wild grass growing amidst the rubble. It was hard to imagine people uprooting other people’s lives so entirely and I wanted to believe that the rubble was the result of a natural disaster and not human greed for power. The whole village has been demolished thoroughly and methodically. The twisted girders and contorted steel rods of the houses almost seem to express the pain and anguish of their owners suffering. We drove out of Quneitra and as we were leaving the guide pointed out a restaurant and urged us to eat there. It was lunchtime but neither of us thought it at all appropriate to eat surrounded by such devastating reminders of human suffering. According to him a lot of Syrians come to eat there because it has very good food. I couldn’t see any cars outside. As we drove out of Quneitra, the guide got out at the outpost, shook our hands warmly, apologised for not allowing us to meet the Peacekeepers and then said goodbye. The Land Cruiser hummed as we sped away. There was not much conversation on the way back. I stared out of the window at acres of grape vines and the wise looking Jabal al-Sheikh. It is saddening to see how so many of today’s conflicts are caused by unrelenting avarice, the desire to control natural resources, and a myopic view of history and religion. While the elite fight all over the world to advance their own interests, it is always the poor and the weak that silently bear the burden and often pay for the greed of others with their lives.

How much destruction will it take for people to wake up and realise the irreversible damage we are causing to the world and to each other? My friend told me that approximately 35 million soldiers have died in the wars of the 20th century. I do not even want to try and work out the number civilians killed deliberately or as ‘collateral damage.’ But, the violence is only becoming more and more widespread. The recent tragedy of Bombay, and the aftermath with India and Pakistan becoming more and more bellicose, is yet another reminder of how precarious the survival of our world is!

Ma’as Salaam!

Comments (52)


 

offended said:

Most enjoyable read. Thanks Ali. A very promising talent.

And it comes apt as tomorrow, 15th of Dec, is the anniversary for the israeli annexation of golan.

I particularly liked the part about the bitches, I laughed outloud actually. But let’s come clean, where in the arab world, or the whole world for that matter, do bitches not get fornicated with? : )

December 14th, 2008, 7:12 pm

 

offended said:

Bush dodges a shoe thrown by an Iraqi journalist, as y’all know, throwing shoes in Arabuc culture is a show of affection:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OM3Z_Kskl_U

the journalist shouts: “this is a farewell kiss, dog”

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aCRrAR5He4xY&refer=home

December 14th, 2008, 7:22 pm

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

I can’t believe that guy missed, TWICE!!! what an idiot

December 14th, 2008, 7:45 pm

 
 

AIG said:

Undoubtedly the shoe episde will improve the image of Arabs in the US. Don’t you think so?
When will you ever learn. The guy just helped AIPAC and you are applauding him.

December 14th, 2008, 8:19 pm

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

its ok AIG while the guy with his classless act ruins the image of arabs in the US. Bush ruins the image of americans in the whole world.

December 14th, 2008, 8:23 pm

 

Alex said:

I totally agree with AIG, that was terrible… absolutely terrible.

Of course I also agree with IC … what the Bush administration did the past few years was much worse.

I met an Iraqi immigrant yesterday and the stories he told me about the Iraq he left behind were so sad … and the really sad part is that millions of Iraqis with similar stories … it beats the two shoes today.

December 14th, 2008, 8:38 pm

 

norman said:

It is ashamed that many people in the world are probably cheering for what the journalist tried to do and are disappointed that he missed, That is going to tarnish the US for a long time. The Journey was supposed to show MR Bush the appreciation of the Iraqi people, No luck.It is going to haunt him for the rest of his life.

December 14th, 2008, 8:42 pm

 

norman said:

Syria and th EU,

توقيع اتفاق الشراكة السورية الأوربية بالأحرف الأولى والتوقيع النهائي خلال 6 أشهر الاخبار السياسية

الدردري لـسيريانيوز: سورية لم تدفع أي ثمن سياسي مقابل التوقيع على الاتفاقية

“الشراكة السورية الأوربية زواج دائم وليس علاقة عابرة”

وقعت سورية والاتحاد الأوربي الأحد بالأحرف الأولى على نص معدل من اتفاقية الشراكة بينهما على أن يتم التوقيع النهائي في النصف الأول من العام المقبل.

وقال نائب رئيس مجلس الوزراء للشؤون الاقتصادية عبد الله الدردري إن الجانبين عدلا نص الاتفاقية بما يتفق مع التطورات التي ظهرت منذ التوقيع عليها بالأحرف الأولى أول مرة عام 2004.

وأضاف الدردري في مؤتمر صحفي أن وفد المفوضية الأوربية الزائر لسورية “اطلع على ما توصلت إليه عملية الإصلاح الاقتصادي والإداري وخطط التنمية ومنا اتخذته سورية من خطوات إيجابية تجاوزت ما هو منصوص عليه في اتفاقية الشراكة”.

وأوضح الدردري , جوابا على سؤال لسيريانيوز, أن “التوقيع على الاتفاقية بالأحرف الأولى هو كناية عن أن الجانبين موافقان على نص الاتفاقية الحالي”, مشيرا إلى أن “تنفيذ بنود الاتفاقية سوف يبدأ بعد 60 يوما من تاريخ التوقيع النهائي وهو الجزء المتعلق بمنطقة التجارة الحرة”.

وتنص الاتفاقية على بناء منطقة تجارة حرة بين سورية والاتحاد الأوربي في غضون 12 عاما مقبلة تبدأ عند التوقيع النهائي على الاتفاقية التي تنص أيضا على حوار سياسي وتعاون ثقافي واقتصادي ودعم فني لسورية.

وعن الثمن السياسي الذي دفعته سورية لقاء التوقيع على الاتفاقية الآن, قال الدردري لسيريانيوز إن سورية “لم تدفع أي مقابل, ولم ولن تكون على استعداد للتضحية بأي من مواقفها من أجل أي اتفاقية.

وكان كثير من المسؤولين السوريين قالوا إن تجميد تصديق اتفاق الشراكة أربع سنوات من قبل الاتحاد الأوربي يعود إلى أسباب سياسية.

وحول التحديات التي ستواجهها الصناعة السورية, قال الدردري إن “الاتفاقية تؤدي إلى مخاطر وتفتح في الوقت نفسه بابا للفرص”, مشيرا إلى أن اتفاقية الشراكة “سوف تهدد بعض الصناعات السورية كما ستضعف صناعات أخرى, لكنها سوف تؤدي إلى ظهور صناعات جديدة أيضا”.

وتتضمن اتفاقية الشراكة تفكيك الرسوم الجمركية على البضائع الأوربية الداخلة إلى سورية بشكل تدريجي خلال 12 عاما, الأمر الذي سيشكل منافسة قوية للمنتجات المحلية.

وقال الدردري “نحن نثق بأن الصناعة السورية سوف تكون قادرة على المنافسة, وسوف تشكل الاتفاقية فرصة للصناعة السورية وسوقا جديدا لمنتجاتها وسوف نحسن استخدام هذه الفرصة”.

وفي هذا السياق, قال عضو مجلس إدارة غرفة صناعة دمشق وريفها محمد الشاعر لـسيريانيوز إن الغرفة شاركت في المفاوضات التي جرت بين سورية والمفوضية الأوربية وتم الأخذ بجميع الملاحظات التي أبدتها.

من ناحية ثانية, قال الدردري إن “العالم مقبل على ركود اقتصادي يستمر عامين, وسورية تتخذ مجموعة من الإجراءات لمواجهة هذه الأزمة من ناحية وتحويلها إلى فرصة لسورية من ناحية ثانية”.

وأضاف الدردري ,جوابا على سؤال, أن اتفاقية الشراكة بين سورية والاتحاد الأوربي هي “علاقة زواج دائم وليس علاقة عابرة تستمر أشهرا فقط, وبالتالي فإن هذه العلاقة تتجاوز حالة الركود الاقتصادي التي يشهدها الاتحاد الأوربي حاليا”.

وتابع “نحن نتحدث عن شراكة في العلم والتكنولوجيا والبيئة والتجارة الحرة والسياسة الاقتصادية, والركود الاقتصادي في الاتحاد الأوربي لا يعني أنه ليس أحد أكبر أسواق العالم وسيبقى سوقا مهما للمنتجات السورية رغم الركود”.

وكان مسؤولون في المفوضية الأوربية وعدة دول أوربية منضوية تحت لوائه أعلنوا دخول هذه المنطقة في ركود اقتصادي متأثرة بالأزمة المالية العالمية التي تعصف بأسواق المال وانتقلت إلى مختلف القطاعات الاقتصادية.

واعتبر الدردري أن أهم ما في اتفاقية الشراكة السورية الأوربية هو أنها “تضع عملية الإصلاح الاقتصادي في سورية على سكة واضحة”.

وسورية هي الدولة الوحيدة من دول إعلان برشلونة العشر التي لم توقع على اتفاق الشراكة حتى الآن.

ويأتي تحريك ملف الشراكة بعد انفتاح أوربي شهدته سورية في الأشهر الأخيرة, وخاصة بعد مساهمتها في توصل اللبنانيين إلى حل لأزمتهم السياسية, وانطلاق مفاوضات سلام غير مباشرة مع إسرائيل في أيار الماضي.

وسيتم في الأشهر المقبلة تصديق الاتفاق في برلمانات الدول الـ27 الأعضاء في الاتحاد الأوربي قبل أن يصبح جاهزا للتوقيع النهائي.

يعقوب قدوري – سيريانيوز

2008-12-14 19:49:19

December 14th, 2008, 9:05 pm

 

offended said:

of course the act of the journalist was horrible… what was he thinking? what did he want to achieve? make a statement?

he could have made a verbal statement at least, this is no way to conduct a civilized dialouge, even with a controversial leader like Bush.

December 14th, 2008, 9:06 pm

 

offended said:

btw AIG, don’t you think the secret service was awfully slow?

December 14th, 2008, 9:36 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Well as the Finnish TV reporter just said on a relative conservative channel that most of Iraqis would have seen with pleasure the shoe to hit, so badly Bush has failed in Iraq. In the report was no sympathy towards Bush and more “understanding” for the Iraqi reporter’s act. I suppose that the image defeat AIG hopes for “Arabs” will be in minimal outside USA. Better that “they” throw shoes than grenades. As in the staged Saddam statue mocking spectacle the western public was taught that throwing a shoe against a leader is sing of ultimate contempt in that culture.

I suppose in the last press conferences Bush holds the reporters have to come there without shoes or even naked so that they do not have anything to throw at the admired and popular president. So badly also the US media is hit by this financial turmoil that in USA are numerous people who have a reason to throw shoes.

December 14th, 2008, 10:12 pm

 

AIG said:

Right offended, they should have suspected that an Iraqi jouranlist would throw shoes at the President. They don’t understand Arabs well enough. I agree with you, from now on, every Arab journalist will have to interview American officials only when the journalist is in his underwear. Hopefully, he will not throw those at the American official. I guess it is a risk the Americans will have to take.

Too late by the way for any image saving. You will see this journalist become a hero in the Arab world. You are your own worst enemy.

December 14th, 2008, 10:20 pm

 

Alex said:

True, Offended… extremely slow to react. The first shoe surprise I can understand, but within a fraction of a second there should have been a wall of guards in front of the President.

This reminded me of the day President Sadat was assassinated … I was watching live and I heard the shooting … 11 people were killed and 38 wounded (only one assassin was shot)

Satad’s personal security team were being trained int eh United States and everyone knew that they were supposedly the best of the best.

But .. they were extremely slow on that day.

December 14th, 2008, 10:44 pm

 

Alex said:

And poor Prime minister Al-Maliki … I think he will not be able to appear with many other foreign leaders in future Baghdad press conferences

Remember Ban Ki Moon last year?

December 14th, 2008, 10:51 pm

 

Alex said:

SH

it is symbolic indeed… it was 5 years ago when the US army Psy-ops staged the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein which included lots of shoes (supposedly normal Iraqi civilians) stepping on his fallen face…

December 14th, 2008, 11:11 pm

 

Joe M. said:

The only Sad part is that Bush wasn’t smashed in the face with the shoe. Or, that it was only a shoe, and not something more dangerous.

Why on earth should an Iraqi give a damn about AIPAC or the American public? Why does a murderer like Bush deserve any respect?

I am very glad to see this bastard feel at least some of the consequences for his violence, even if the shoe not a direct hit. At least he got to feel that he is hated. It simply is too bad Bush was not smashed in the face.

December 14th, 2008, 11:43 pm

 

Joe M. said:

[DELETED BY ADMIN]

December 14th, 2008, 11:45 pm

 

norman said:

The Sunday Times of London reports that some families are so poor they have resorted to eating grass.

“We had one meal today – khobbeizeh,” said Abu Amra, 43, showing the leaves of a plant that grows along the streets of Gaza. “Every day, I wake up and start looking for wood and plastic to burn for fuel and I beg. When I find nothing, we eat this grass.”

Abu Amra and her unemployed husband have seven daughters and a son. Their tiny breeze-block house has had no furniture since they burnt the last cupboard for heat.

“I can’t remember seeing a fruit,” said Rabab, 12, who goes with her mother most mornings to scavenge. She is dressed in a tracksuit top and holed jeans, and her feet are bare.

The AP reports that growing numbers of Gazans are so depressed that they have resorted to using painkillers to escape their troubles:

Ruled by Islamic hard-liners from Hamas and locked in by Israel and Egypt, Gazans can’t travel outside the strip, have few places to go for fun and are faced with a failing economy. Thus the boom in the popularity of tramadol, a painkiller known here by a common brand name, Tramal.

Growing numbers of Gazans have begun using the drug over the past year and a half to take the edge off life in the impoverished seaside strip, pharmacists and residents say.

This worries medical personnel, who say the drug can cause dependence. It is a prescription drug in many countries, and the Hamas-run Health Ministry has made efforts to control it, but without much success in a society where medicines available only by prescription elsewhere are often sold over the counter.

Tramadol is especially popular among young men. Some down the pills with coffee or dissolve them in tea. Others pop them freely when hanging out with friends. Grooms have been seen passing them out at weddings.

Story continues below

“You feel calmness through your whole body, absolute quiet,” said one regular user, 27-year-old Bassem, in describing the drug’s effect. He, like others interviewed by The Associated Press for this story, refused to give his last name for fear of being arrested as a drug user.

“Tramadol is an opioid pain killer, related to morphine and heroin, though much milder,” said Marta Weinstock, professor of pharmacology at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. Users who stop after taking it regularly could get flu-like withdrawal symptoms, she said, though other long-term negative effects are rare.

Developed by the German company Grunenthal in the 1970s to treat moderate to severe pain, tramadol is now sold under different brand names around the world, such as Zydol, Topalgic, Nobligon and, in the United States, Ultram.

Most countries do not treat it as a controlled substance, but the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has named it a drug of concern because it may cause dependence. Heavy doses have also been linked to seizures. Other than in Gaza, it does not seem to have wide use as a recreational drug.

Dyaa Saymah, mental health officer with the World Health Organization in Gaza, said the drug’s popularity has been encouraged by its availability, since large quantities have been smuggled through tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border.

“Tramadol has spread widely and very fast because, unfortunately, it is available over the counter in pharmacies, but it’s also available in the streets,” Saymah said. “You can get it easily on the black market”.

The booming black market sales also have sent prices down to as little as NIS 1 (26 U.S. cents) a pill, the cost of two cigarettes.

No statistics exist on how many Gazans take the drug. Mazen el-Sakka of the Drug Abuse Research Center in Gaza estimates that up to 30 percent of men between 14 and 30 take it regularly. Fewer women take it for fear of being seen as promiscuous.

“We’re talking about a huge slice of the population, a big group of the youth and others who are using this drug,” said Health Ministry spokesman Hammam Nasman.

“Tramadol first appeared here about five years ago, marketed as a non-addictive painkiller with few side effects,” said Hani Saker, board member of Gaza’s pharmacists’ association and owner of four Gaza pharmacies.

Some who took it for pain noticed unintended – but appreciated – side effects, such as mild euphoria and delayed ejaculation. The drug also spread because it lacked the social stigma that kept other drugs like hashish confined to the margins of society, Saker said.

The Islamic militant group Hamas’s seizure of Gaza in June 2007 – ousting forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – increased the drug’s popularity, since living conditions plummeted as Israel and the international community isolated Gaza.

Concerned about the drug’s possible ill effects, the Health Ministry banned its sale without a prescription in February. Since then, inspectors have destroyed $250,000 worth of the drug and closed a number of pharmacies for flouting the ban, Nasman said.

But this has made little difference to regular users like Bassem, who learned of tramadol through his job at a government clinic. He first tried it a year and a half ago and now takes a pill or two each evening, he said, adding he had never considered taking any kind of drug before Hamas seized control of Gaza.

“After the coup, I got scared because of what we were going though,” he said. “There’s no hope, so you look for anything to quiet your nerves. I tried it once and it worked, so here I am still taking it.”

He said he buys the pills from a pharmacist friend, paying about NIS 15 ($4) for a sheet of 10. He toyed with a yellow tramadol box as he spoke, adding that he has friends who take four pills a day and suffer withdrawal if they miss doses. But he’s not scared of addiction himself. “I’m in control of it,” he said.

Other users say they’d give tramadol up quickly if they had other ways to distract themselves.

“The main thing it does is keep you from thinking too much,” said Ahmed, 25, who works in broadcasting and takes tramadol a few times a week. “If we could travel and get out, have a place to go and have a good time, we’d never think about taking tramadol.”

December 15th, 2008, 12:02 am

 

adam said:

have a look at this link….

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200812/hariri-assassination

and the comment in the sunday express 14/12/08

December 15th, 2008, 12:57 am

 
 

Enlightened said:

Just some perspective!

I wonder if the journalist would have had the “courage” to do that against any Arab head of state?

December 15th, 2008, 2:25 am

 

Enlightened said:

From Angry Arab:

In Defense of the Shoe:

AlJazeera (Arabic) is reporting that up to a 100 Arab lawyers have volunteered to defend the shoe throwing Iraqi journalist.

When the shoe….
When the Shoe hits your eye
Like a big-a pizza pie
That’s amore
Posted by As’ad at 3:49 PM

Also: Just proves that Arabs are Shoe Throwers not Bomb throwers!

Also:When the Shoe is Mightier than the Pen
And now the serious business. Comrade Sinan sent me this: “did u see the fuckers pull the man by his hair? and the iraqi security telling everyone to turn off cameras? god knows they will torture him. we should start an appeal to demand his safety.” Will those fancy Western journalistic associations now demand that he be released? Will they speak on his own behalf? Or will they now say that shoe throwing is a brand of terrorism and that the man should be shipped to Guantanamo? A source received word from Baghdad that the man has been beaten.

December 15th, 2008, 3:59 am

 

Shai said:

I completely agree with Joe M. Why should the Iraqi journalist give a damn about George W. Bush, who didn’t seem to give a damn about the million Iraqis that have died since his “Victory in Iraq” 5 years ago?

This is one of the biggest failures of the Secret Service, not to have anticipated some sort of attack upon Bush, given his “farewell” visit to Baghdad. I would dare say that George W. Bush is hated around the world today even more than Israel is. He had no place going to visit a nation he ruined with his own hands.

I hope historians will one day view this visit as the utmost “chutzpah” on part of a failed American Emperor, paying a last visit to a place where many more American soldiers will die, before America sends its troops back home. This is not a place for smiling American leaders.

December 15th, 2008, 5:46 am

 

AIG said:

Most of the Iraqi killed in Iraq were killed by their fellow countrymen, not by Americans. The Iraqis are responsible for not getting rid Saddam by themselves thus forcing a US intervention and for killing each other. Blaming the Americans is just another way for Arabs not to take responsibility for anything.

December 15th, 2008, 6:25 am

 

offended said:

Exactly Shai. I thought AIG has some experience so I asked him. Alas, he disappointed hugely by saying: “Right offended, they should have suspected that an Iraqi jouranlist would throw shoes at the President.” Well great, but isn’t this what they’re supposed to do? What they’re paid to do? To predict the unpredictable? And to forge contingencies for all scenarios?

And what about when the shoes started flying over, where were they? It took the first agent at least 4 seconds to show up. Isn’t it the job of one agent to keep an eye on the crowd and for another to be on alert to move swiftly in case something bad (like stampede or a shoe or a suck or a maniac charging through the crowd) happened?

And btw AIG, I am not talking politics here, I am talking technicalities.

December 15th, 2008, 7:22 am

 

why-discuss said:

Did Bush hope he would get roses?
The journalsit said:
This is a farewell kiss, you dog,” he yelled in Arabic. “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”

He is now being tested for drugs and alcohol!!
US media is playing down this humiliating experience. Why not ” Bush gets what he deserved : an old shoe on his face as a farewell kiss from the iraqis”

December 15th, 2008, 10:02 am

 

Torstein said:

This is completely off topic, but does anyone know what the former prison facilities of Mezze are being used for now? It closed in 2000, but is it still used by any of the security branches? And what about Tadmor? I’ve read both that it has been closed and elsewhere that it is still in use. Any info is appreciated (except links to widely available info). Cheers 🙂

December 15th, 2008, 11:13 am

 

Akbar Palace said:

[Bush] ruins the image of americans in the whole world.

I’ve heard this statement for the past 30 years. I suppose it began when the US supported Israel in 1948.

You can replace “Bush” with the name of every president who has served this past half century. It’s the same broken record.

BTW – Did any reporters ever throw shoes at President-for-Life Saddam Hussein?

December 15th, 2008, 11:51 am

 

Nour said:

For all those claiming this will harm the image of Arabs in the US, please, give me a break. The only unfortunate thing about the incident is, as Joe M said, that the shoe didn’t hit Bush directly in the face. Our image is not going to be dependent on this incident, but what this event does is provide a symbolic farewell to Bush from the Iraqi people. It is a true, genuine expression of how the Iraqi people truly feel about Bush, as opposed to the actions and behavior of the puppet government and the house slaves, like Nouri Al-Maliki. Bush is a murderer and a criminal and deserves much more than that. If this world were just he would be tried for war crimes and imprisoned for life. Thank you, Muntazir Al-Zaydi, for representing us and our feelings.

December 15th, 2008, 12:21 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

I’ve heard this statement for the past 30 years. I suppose it began when the US supported Israel in 1948.

Akbar it was Stalin and Soviet Union who supported Israel in 1948. USA and Truman were not so convinced that it was a good “idea”. Especially they did not like those socialist labour camps you called kibbutz. 😀

By the way Akbar Bush said in Iraq: “The Surge was one of the greatest successes in the history of the United States military.” Well after Vietnam and the heroic liberation of Grenada – sure a little better but a great success – hardly. One could say Bush junior was as successful as a military leader as Mussolini was in his attempts to conquer the world in alphabetical order. These kind like guys like Benito and George must take the credit of small “victories”.

December 15th, 2008, 1:10 pm

 

Amr Al-Azm said:

Farewell Iraqi-style: How Iraqis bid vilified leaders goodbye

As I sat there watching with incredulity and a sense of shardenfroider that an Iraqi journalist sent one shoe and then the other hurtling at George Bush’s head, I could only reflect on how the same Iraqis, some five year ago, were directing the very same shoes at the face of another much vilified leader: Saddam Hussein.

In Arab culture, showing the soles of the shoes is a sign of great disrespect; throwing a shoe then becomes a symbol of even greater contempt. Bush’s recent unscheduled visit to Iraq, as part of a supposed victory lap, crowning the achievements of his eight-year presidency, ended in ignominity with a shoe in the face.

Yet it is interesting to note, that despite the catastrophic blunders, the explosion of sectarian violence, and the ceaseless attacks against U.S. troops, President Bush was eventually able to reverse flagging U.S. fortunes and to return some credibility to the U.S. invasion. This was achieved after much procrastination by instigating the now famed “Surge” which was coupled more importantly with a significant U-turn on many key policies in Iraq. However, despite this downward trend in violence and the apparent slow and often hesitant, but steady march by the Iraqi people towards rebuilding their shattered nation, the best gesture by way of gratitude that President Bush could muster on his final visit to Iraq was a pair of shoes flying towards his face.

It is worthwhile noting that recently, President Bush’s closest advisors have embarked on a co-ordinated attempt to defend his record while promoting his greatest accomplishments these past eight years. Those closest to the President say its time to set the “record straight,” namely because such a finale to the eight-year Bush symphony, of which they themselves have been part and parcel of, will reflect positively on them as well.

Sadly though, such efforts will come to naught. History has the unfortunate habit of remembering presidents for events such as the shoe-pelting incident of Sunday morning. Therefore it is likely that Mr. Bush will mostly be remembered for nothing more than as “the President who had a old pair of size-ten shoes thrown at him at a press conference.”

Ultimately, the question remains whether reporters in Afghanistan, the next stop on the President’s tour, will be allowed to attend the prearranged press conference with their shoes on.

December 15th, 2008, 1:19 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

The only unfortunate thing about the incident is, as Joe M said, that the shoe didn’t hit Bush directly in the face.

Nour,

Yes I know. Arab frustration.

When an Arab leader murders Arabs we experience the most unique silence. At most, a low level complaining (thanks to World Wide Web sites like Syria Comment). I wonder why? Who dared to throw a shoe at an Arab murderer? No, these murderers are exulted and praised!

Then when you get a US President who does the unthinkable: oust a murderous Arab tyrant of 30+ years and replace him with democracy, it is only natural some Arabs are mad!

Because the Arabs have failed to create a democracy on their own.

I’d be angry too.

Akbar it was Stalin and Soviet Union who supported Israel in 1948.

Sim –

It took Truman 11 minutes. I don’t think that shows “apprehension”. Please do a little research in addition to posting your opinion. And let’s not forget Iran…

Eleven minutes after the Declaration of Independence was signed, President Truman de facto recognized the State of Israel, followed by Iran (which had voted against the UN partition plan), Guatemala, Iceland, Nicaragua, Romania and Uruguay. The Soviet Union was the first nation to recognize Israel de jure on 17 May 1948, followed by Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Ireland and South Africa.[11] The United States extended official recognition on 31 January 1949.[12]

The declaration was followed by an invasion of the new state by troops from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, starting the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, known in Israel as the War of Independence (Hebrew: מלחמת העצמאות‎, Milhamat HaAtzma’ut). Although a truce began on 11 June, fighting resumed on 8 July and stopped again on 18 July, before restarting in mid-October and finally ending on 24 July 1949 with the signing of the armistice agreement with Syria. By then Israel had retained its independence and increased its land area by almost 50% compared to the partition plan.

One could say Bush junior was as successful as a military leader as Mussolini…

Sim –

I don’t think they will be remembered as military leaders. I think they will be remembered as a democratically elected stalwart for freedom and a self-appointed thug, respectively.

http://www.time.com/time/photoessays/iraqvotes/index.html

December 15th, 2008, 1:51 pm

 

norman said:

Let us change the subject,

Syria, EU initial cooperation agreement

Full signature of cooperation agreement between Syrian and EU is expected during first half of 2009.

DAMASCUS – Syria and the European Union on Sunday initialled a cooperation agreement in Damascus, four years after completion of a deal which EU member states failed to sign for political reasons.

Tayssir Raddaui, head of the Syrian state planning board and Hugo Mingarelli, deputy head of the European Commission for foreign affairs, initialled the document in front of media.

Full signature of the agreement is expected during the first half of 2009, according to a statement.

Syria is one of the last Mediterranean countries not to have signed such an association agreement, which brings financial benefits conditional on certain economic reforms.

Last month the commission promised to offer Syria a new deal “very soon” to reward the country for having established diplomatic relations with Lebanon and starting indirect peace talks with Israel.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU’s external affairs commissioner, said then that her office was finalising changes to the draft agreement with Syria to adapt it to recent developments.

She welcomed “recent positive developments in Syrian regional policy.”

The EU froze relations with Damascus after the assassination in February 2005 of former Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri, an attack widely blamed on Syria though it denies blame. Print Printer Friendly Version
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December 15th, 2008, 1:54 pm

 

nafdik said:

IN PRAISE OF GEORGE BUSH AND THE SHOE

The shoe that nearly smashed his face yesterday, is probably the only compliment he has gotten in the past 2 years.

The shoe, as Mr Bush shrewdly understood, is an indication of the birth of an open society in the Arab world.

In no other capital of the Arab world would a journalist have dared do what our newfound hero has done.

This is a direct result of the American invasion of Iraq.

I am not saying that the invasion was a wise policy for either Iraq, the US, or the ‘region’; but the shoe incident is clearly a positive and welcome development.

Mr Bush should see it, in spite of inescapable ironies (the last kiss for his administration and legacy, the blow-back of Saddam shoe incident, etc), as a minor victory that vindicates his ME doctrine.

Will the shoe mark the beginning of a rain of shoes that express our anger on our leaders, their visitors and their charades, or will it be a small wave in the sea of fearful silence?

December 15th, 2008, 3:23 pm

 

News in Brief: 15 December 2008 « Report on Positivity said:

[…] Ali Khan – The Golan and Quneitra. Ever since I had met the UN peacekeepers at the Indian Embassy, I wanted to go and visit their base and the Golan Heights. The officers at the Embassy were very helpful in getting me the required permissions… (Syria Comment) […]

December 15th, 2008, 3:40 pm

 

SimoHurtta said:

Sim –

I don’t think they will be remembered as military leaders. I think they will be remembered as a democratically elected stalwart for freedom and a self-appointed thug, respectively.

Well Akbar the irony with this “democratically elected stalwart for freedom” turned to elections in Iraq only when the by the stalwart assigned US dictator (proconsul Bremmer, intended to stay in power for at least 5 years ) failed catastrophically and US troops were kicked on the ass in Vietnam style. Then the “stalwart” invented the elections and took out the democracy excuse. So the “democracy” and “surge” were simply attempts to turn the focus of the catastrophically failed military and diplomatic adventure. And “the Mission accomplished” ended now in throwing shoes. A suitable end for a failed mission. One thing is certain Akbar that history will not remember Bush and his henchmen “kindly”. The man who let his family friend bin Laden to escape and the man who ruined besides the country’s international reputation the country’s economy. Quite an achievement from a former convicted drunken driver. Surely the guy will get a considerable chapter in future history books.

By the way Akbar Mussolini came to power in more or less democratic circumstances. Like George also Benito focused in increasing his own power rights and the characteristics of a totalitarian state. Benito was more successful in his attempts as George was. Lucky for Americans.

December 15th, 2008, 4:48 pm

 

Alex said:

From Qunfuz:

http://qunfuz.blogspot.com/2008/12/shoes-and-bullets.html

Shoes and Bullets

George Bush has had shoes thrown at him in Baghdad. As he threw the first, Muntadar az-Zaidi shouted, “This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog.” As he threw the second, he added, “This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq.” It was gratifying to see the Iraqi journalist’s human response to one of the destroyers of his country, even if it was woefully inadequate. In a just world, Bush would be imprisoned for the rest of his life (I oppose capital punishment even in the most deserving of cases).

Meanwhile the empire’s top criminals continue to spout self-justifying vomit. What do you say about a Condoleezza Rice? In an interview with the Wall Street Journal she says her regime removed the Taliban, but doesn’t say that America helped bring the Taliban to power in the first place, nor that the new Taliban is now winning against the occupation and its warlord/ druglord Afghan allies. She doesn’t say that Pakistan’s previously peaceful borderlands are controlled by the Pakistani Taliban, that hundreds of thousands have been displaced from these areas, that there are regular bomb attacks in Pakistan’s major cities, or that Pakistan faces the real possibility of collapse.

She gloats that the Palestinian intifada has been defeated, noting as if it’s a victory “that last year Bethlehem was the site of a huge investment conference, hosted by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad, aided by Israel.” Fayad is an unelected moneyman. The West Bank is governed by collaborators, and split from the flawed but elected and independent government in Gaza. There is no end in sight to the unbearable apartheid reality of the West Bank, and Gaza is, quite literally, starving. This is how the empire likes things.

Most grotesquely, Rice describes ethnically-cleansed, sectarian, splintered, brutalised, cholera-ridden Iraq as “a multiethnic, multiconfessional democracy that isn’t threatening its neighbors.” The woman needs a lot more than shoes in her face.

Multiethnic? On the last day of Eid, Arab and Kurdish leaders were meeting in a Kirkuk restaurant to negotiate the future of the city. A bomb killed 55 of them. Throughout northern Iraq, Kurdish Peshmerga jostle against Turkman and Arab militia. Throughout the country, Gypsy villages have been burned to the ground.

Multiconfessional? All major political forces in Iraq are sectarian. The Arab tribes, and even families, have split into Sunni and Shia components. Walls and barbed wire divide Baghdad neighbourhoods. Sectarian murder is at nothing like the level it reached in the apocalyptic days of 2006 and 2007, but the few families who dare to return to their homes in areas controlled by the other sect are most likely to be murdered. Millions of Iraqis are internal or external refugees. The fires of sectarian hatred, fanned by America’s Arab clients, threaten to burn the entire region. At least half of Iraq’s ancient Christian community is now in Syria.

Democracy? Well, that’s a quarter true, but no thanks to the American occupation. The original US plan was for US-appointed caucuses to elect a government. It was Ayatullah Sistani’s mobilisation of the street that put paid to that idea. There is perhaps greater freedom of expression than there was under Saddam Hussein, and the potential for future democratic developments, but democracy is not much use to people who are scared to cross the nearest bridge, who can’t afford to buy more than bread.

Not threatening its neighbours? Saddam’s worst external crime was his attack on Iran and the bombardment of Iranian cities with poison gas. All through the long Iraq-Iran war, the Ba’athist regime was supported politically, funded and armed by the West. US ambassador April Glaspie gave a green light for Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Today Iraq is in no position to threaten its neighbours by war because Iraq is no longer a coherent power, but Iraq’s terrorists and militias, its sectarianism, the prostitution and drugdealing its impoverished people are forced into, do indeed threaten its neighbours. And the occupying forces use Iraq as a springboard for aggression into neighbouring countries; the American terrorist attack on Syria in October is a case in point.

I wonder what Rice would say to my very good Iraqi friends M and F, who now live in exile. These are the kind of Iraqis the country needs if it is ever to stand on its feet again – highly educated, moral people who firmly opposed Saddam Hussain and what he represented. Both of them lost family members in Saddam’s torture chambers; both believe that ‘liberated’ Iraq is immeasurably worse than the Saddamist police state. M is Sunni; F is Shii. It would be dangerous for him to live in her home area, and dangerous for her to live in his home area. It would be dangerous for him to return to his job as a professor of Arabic. Before they left, academics – Sunni and Shia – were being regularly and professionally assassinated, by sniper bullet through their windscreens and cleanly into the brain.

Many people blame Iran for the assassination campaign. I don’t know, of course, but I find it unlikely that Iran would want to kill pro-Iranian Iraqi academics as well as those who oppose Iran. Some might say that Iran will find it easier to dominate Iraq if Iraq’s educated class has left. Again, I don’t think Iran is so stupid. The clerical regime probably does want a pliable Iraq; I’m sure it doesn’t want a permanent state of explosive chaos on its border. Much more likely is an Israeli-US effort to keep Iraq, and the entire region, in turmoil.

December 15th, 2008, 4:51 pm

 

Nour said:

AP,

I wish people would stop with their nonsensical arguments of “democracy this” and “democracy that”. All countries and nations have gone through their own developments and evolutions until they were able to create systems best suited for their interests. Just because at one point any given nation was not democratic does not give a right to a superpower to go in and obliterate that nation, destroy its infrastructure, and massacre its civilians. I still don’t understand what kind of logic you operate under.

Bush is a criminal, plain and simple. He is a criminal because he destroyed an entire country for no given reason. He killed over a million Iraqis and displaced over 5 million. He also created chaos and insecurity in a country that was previously secure and stable. It is not for him to determine what kind of system Iraq should have, and in any case he certainly didn’t go there to create a democracy. In fact, Iraq is anything but a democracy. It is now a collection of militias and tribal warlords fighting for power. People to this day get dragged into dungeons for daring to oppose the puppet government where they are tortured. As such, Bush is very deserving of what he received in Iraq.

As for Arab leaders having shoes thrown at them, it is irrelevant. But no Arab leader did to his country what Bush did to Iraq, and any comparison is purely idiotic. Saddam was a dictator, yes, due to various social and political circumstances inside Iraq. But Saddam did not massacre millions of Iraqis, did not destroy his own infrastructure, did not displace millions of his people, and did not turn Iraq into a chaotic hell hole where no one is safe, militias roam the streets, and people are afraid to leave their homes. He was a brutal dictator, yes, but that’s really not the business of the US or anyone else outside Iraq. Iraq has a right to go through its own developmental stages as did most western nations, without foreign interference. So please, spare me the “when did people throw shoes at an Arab leader” argument.

December 15th, 2008, 5:30 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

The Finnsh Jihad continues:

… US troops were kicked on the ass in Vietnam style.

Sim –

Your jihad with the US and Israel is well known and tiresome. We withdrew from Vietnam with over 55000 American deaths. American deaths in Iraq were less than one-tenth of that amount. The difference is we replaced the Iraqi fascist government with a democracy.

To compare the two conflicts is no surprise nor is your lack of criticism of the enemies the US were fighting: Pol-Pot and Saddam Hussein. As usual, anti-Zionists and anti-Americans just can’t seem to express their “rage” for the top international murderers out there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pol_Pot

A suitable end for a failed mission.

Failed only in your jihadist-supporting mind Sim. Not so for voting Iraqis where violence has decreased substantially despite the intentions of the insurgency (that you never find fault with).

The man who let his family friend bin Laden to escape and the man who ruined besides the country’s international reputation the country’s economy.

Please back up this ridiculous claim with proof (please use a link that isn’t from an anti-semitic website please).

Quite an achievement from a former convicted drunken driver.

Such high standards for a Finn who can’t bring himself to criticize jihadist murderers (like the Pakistani murderers who just had killing spree last month in Mumbai)!

Surely the guy will get a considerable chapter in future history books.

Probably Iraqi-authored history books as well.

By the way Akbar Mussolini came to power in more or less democratic circumstances. Like George also Benito focused in increasing his own power rights and the characteristics of a totalitarian state. Benito was more successful in his attempts as George was. Lucky for Americans.

How did GWB increase his “own power rights”? Please detail this for the forum. Or will you let this simple exercise remain “unsolved” like most of your claims?

FYI, a “coup d’etat” is not democracy, and being hung upside down from a rope isn’t “sucess”.;)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benito_Mussolini

December 15th, 2008, 5:38 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Nour stated:

All countries and nations have gone through their own developments and evolutions until they were able to create systems best suited for their interests.

Sure. But when they export terrorism and violence, they get more attention.

Just because at one point any given nation was not democratic does not give a right to a superpower to go in and obliterate that nation, destroy its infrastructure, and massacre its civilians. I still don’t understand what kind of logic you operate under.

True. However, if you recall, Saddam at the time was a known problem for the world community. More so than, say, Yemen. After a number of conflicts, the “right” was provided for in UNSC Resolution 1441. BTW – Speak to Dr. Bashar Assad and ask him why he voted FOR it.

Bush is a criminal, plain and simple.

Deja Vu! I keep hearing these words so often! If we could only put this criminal away, the Middle East will be free from assassins and murderers… oy vey…

He is a criminal because he destroyed an entire country for no given reason.

See above. The US is actually building Iraq back with our own depleted budget.

He killed over a million Iraqis and displaced over 5 million.

Please present your findings. My numbers show that Saddam and islamic insurgents have killed FAR more Iraqis than GWB.

He also created chaos and insecurity in a country that was previously secure and stable.

“Secure and stabe” if you weren’t one of the 300,000 Iraqis found in a mass grave, on a sidewalk in Halabja, or dying on a hospital bed in Baghdad.

It is not for him to determine what kind of system Iraq should have, and in any case he certainly didn’t go there to create a democracy.

You’re right. It was for the UNSC.

In fact, Iraq is anything but a democracy. It is now a collection of militias and tribal warlords fighting for power.

Fighting for political power is democracy. As long as no one gets hurt. I trust the Iraqis will be able to protect themselves (not from GWB) as they build up their own defence forces. They’ve come a long way.

People to this day get dragged into dungeons for daring to oppose the puppet government where they are tortured. As such, Bush is very deserving of what he received in Iraq.

How is a “puppet govenment” voted in?

As for Arab leaders having shoes thrown at them, it is irrelevant.

Of course. It always will be.

But no Arab leader did to his country what Bush did to Iraq, and any comparison is purely idiotic.

No, just much worse. But who cares? Right?

Saddam was a dictator, yes, due to various social and political circumstances inside Iraq. But Saddam did not massacre millions of Iraqis, did not destroy his own infrastructure, did not displace millions of his people, and did not turn Iraq into a chaotic hell hole where no one is safe, militias roam the streets, and people are afraid to leave their homes.

Excuses. Quelle surprise! He displaced hundreds of thousands: Kurds and various tribes who didn’t march to his tune.

His mass grave are there for you to investigate.

He was a brutal dictator, yes, but that’s really not the business of the US or anyone else outside Iraq.

It is the business of the UN and the member states who were “affected” by this thug.

Iraq has a right to go through its own developmental stages as did most western nations, without foreign interference. So please, spare me the “when did people throw shoes at an Arab leader” argument.

I’ll say what I want. Thanks. I know freedom of speech is a difficult concept for some…

December 15th, 2008, 6:02 pm

 

qunfuz said:

Ya Amr

I think the recent improvement in Iraq has more to do with internal Iraqi developments than the surge. The Sunnis were (at last) disgusted by al-Qa’ida rule in their areas. The Sunnis saw they were losing the civil war to the Shia and so entered into alliance with the Americans. Many Shia became disgusted by the thuggishness of the undisciplined Jaish al-Mahdi, and turned against them. More of a stalemate than an improvement. Still, it’s better than the apocalypse of a couple of years ago.

By the way, Amr, my wife and I spent a very funny evening (medical anecdotes) at your house ten years ago. If you go to my blog yyou’ll see my real name.

December 15th, 2008, 8:47 pm

 

Nour said:

Akbar Palace said:

“Sure. But when they export terrorism and violence, they get more attention.”

Who was exporting terrorism and violence? Iraq never once harmed a single American or a single American interest around the world? What is your beef with Iraq exactly? The WMD charge was clearly bogus. The fact that it fought Iran in an eight-year war is not something you’re in any position to criticize because it was the US that pushed Saddam into that war. So what is it exactly? What did Iraq do that was so harmful to the US?

“True. However, if you recall, Saddam at the time was a known problem for the world community. More so than, say, Yemen. After a number of conflicts, the “right” was provided for in UNSC Resolution 1441. BTW – Speak to Dr. Bashar Assad and ask him why he voted FOR it.”

First, what was Saddam’s problem for the so-called “world community”? Again, the WMD charge was bogus, and everyone knew it. And the only reason UNSC 1441 was passed was to avoid conflict and attempt to solve the problem diplomatically, because the US was hell-bent on waging war. In any case, I heavily criticized Syria for its vote at the time because I knew that the resolution would eventually be used by the US to attack Iraq. In the end, the US attacked Iraq without any provocation or justification.

“Deja Vu! I keep hearing these words so often! If we could only put this criminal away, the Middle East will be free from assassins and murderers… oy vey…”

I don’t really care if the Middle East has assassins, murderers, dictators, etc. This doesn’t give Bush a right to obliterate a people. Your logic would be equivalent to me justifying an act of mass murder in Compton, CA, because there are many gang bangers and criminals in their neighborhoods. But the simple case is that Iraq, although run by a dictator, was stable and secure before Bush destroyed everything in his path.

“See above. The US is actually building Iraq back with our own depleted budget.”

What a bunch of BS. The US is doing nothing of the sort, and Iraq continues to suffer from a lack of basic services to this day. Iraq in 2003 was better than Iraq today; and that’s pretty hard to do given that Iraq was suffering from 12 years of sanctions at the time. This is the legacy that Bush left behind and this is what you are oh so proud of.

“Please present your findings. My numbers show that Saddam and islamic insurgents have killed FAR more Iraqis than GWB.”

The Lancet and Opinion Research Business both have conducted studies that show that over a million Iraqis have been killed by your favorite president. And the process used to determine the number of deaths in Iraq is the same as that used to determine the number of deaths in Congo and in the former Yugoslavia. Of course, the US has accepted the results of the latter two, but refuses to recognize the validity of the study in Iraq’s case because the US is the one doing the killing this time around. So I would suggest that you review your facts and set the record straight. George W Bush has done exponentially more damage to Iraq than Saddam ever could have.

““Secure and stabe” if you weren’t one of the 300,000 Iraqis found in a mass grave, on a sidewalk in Halabja, or dying on a hospital bed in Baghdad.”

First, the 300,000 figure is entirely exaggerated; it’s not even possible. The US dropped two nuclear bombs on populated cities in Japan which instantaneously killed 175,000 people. But somehow, in a matter of a few days, Saddam killed 300,000 Kurds in Halabja. Total nonsense. Second, Abraham Lincoln killed far more Americans than anyone else could have all because the South dared to secede from the Union. Do you, using your same logic, justify a superpower at the time destroying the US and killing millions of its citizens? If you believe it is justifiable in the case of Iraq then you have to apply the same standard everywhere. Third, a single incident during a time of war does not make a country insecure and unstable. Before the US invaded, Iraq was a safe country. There were no militias roaming the streets, no random acts of kidnapping, no bombings of marketplaces, no assassinations of academics, etc. All these things became prevalent after the invasion and occupation of Iraq by the good old US of A.

“You’re right. It was for the UNSC.”

No it wasn’t. The UNSC has no right to determine the governing system of a given country, nor is that authority found anywhere in the UN charter. The UN’s role is allegedly to maintain peace and security. Well the US invasion achieved exactly the opposite in Iraq.

“Fighting for political power is democracy. As long as no one gets hurt. I trust the Iraqis will be able to protect themselves (not from GWB) as they build up their own defence forces. They’ve come a long way.”

So is taking people to dungeons and drilling holes in their kneecaps and backs part of democracy too? Is this the type of fight for political power you are talking about? Does it include ethnic cleansing of one sect in an area controlled by another sect? Does it include Kurdish Peshmerga thugs forcefully evicting Christian Iraqis from their villages? Does it include separating different sects and “ethnicities” by concrete barriers once ethnic cleansing operations have largely achieved their goals? Does it include kidnappings, bombings, assassinations, etc.? This is the “democracy” that the US has built in Iraq.

“How is a “puppet govenment” voted in?”

There is no real vote in Iraq, first of all. Deals are struck with tribal and sectarian leaders, who then command their followers or tribal members to vote a certain way. It is not a democratic process, it is an expression of blind tribal loyalties. That’s with respect to the parliament. As far as the government is concerned, it is not elected, it is appointed. This appointment is done with the approval of the US occupation forces. When the US was no longer happy with Iyad Allawi, it brought in Jaafari, who was then replaced by Al-Maliki because he was seen by the US as too close to Iran. The Iraqi government is purely a puppet government that has been brought to power by the US occupation.

“No, just much worse. But who cares? Right?”

Again, look at what Bush has done to Iraq. No Arab leader would do that to his people, regardless of how dictatorial he is. Because in the end, the Arab ruler needs to derive some legitimacy from the people. If he is going about destroying the country, he will only be harming his own interests. Bush, on the other hand, does not need to derive any legitimacy from the Iraqi people. He is an occupier and wants to impose his will on Iraq. Therefore, any comparison is misplaced.

“Excuses. Quelle surprise! He displaced hundreds of thousands: Kurds and various tribes who didn’t march to his tune.

His mass grave are there for you to investigate.”

First, no one is taking away from the brutality of Saddam. But the “attrocities” attributed to him are largely exaggerated. Iraq was a fast developing country under his rule. The Kurds actually were given partial autonomy and were allowed to function as they pleased. The problems arose when the US started to push them to rise up against Saddam’s regime and attempt to secede. The mass graves you are talking about are largely the result of the Iraq-Iran war, which was a very destructive, deadly war that the US encouraged Saddam to wage. And in any case, Saddam’s rule was an internal matter, not for the US to change at its own whim.

“It is the business of the UN and the member states who were “affected” by this thug.”

Again, the UN has no mandate to determine the governing systems of individual states. As for member states being affected by this “thug,” who exactly are you referring to? Who was affected by Iraq? Who was realistically threatened by Iraq before the US invasion? Please, you’ve been selling this nonsense for sometime and no one is buying it.

“I’ll say what I want. Thanks. I know freedom of speech is a difficult concept for some…”

Say what you want, but when I say spare me your lectures, I mean I am not going to be buying it. It is a figure of speech commonly used in the English language, but I guess you couldn’t pass up a chance to throw in the terms “freedom of speech” or “democracy,” because obviously only those who support the US and its criminal aggression against other countries are true supporters of democracy and freedom of speech.

December 15th, 2008, 10:16 pm

 

nafdik said:

Nour,

There is something very troubling in your logic:

“But no Arab leader did to his country what Bush did to Iraq, and any comparison is purely idiotic.”

Bush is elected by the American people to his best to advance their interest.

Arab leaders are supposed to protect their countries interest.

There is no moral equivalence in Bush killing 1M Iraqis and Saddam killing 1M Iraqis.

The equivalent case is Bush killing 1M AMERICANS.

Until we understand that we are responsible for ourselves we will keep being trampled by both our leaders, and foreign powers.

We have 2 choices:

A- We can keep apologizing for our incompetent and criminal governments and blaming our problems on others. This will give us a minor Adrenaline rush and pretense of patriotism.

B- Accept the world as it is and take responsibility for OUR actions and OUR governments. We might stand a chance to improve our lot, but we risk facing reality.

December 16th, 2008, 2:18 am

 

Alex said:

Nafdik,

In the case of Saddam who was responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of is people (over a million) because of his foolish Iran war and Kuwait war (gulf war I), you are right … George Bush’s administration is .. less evil.

But I have to totally disagree with you if you want to compare to Mubarak or Bashar. There are hundreds of political prisoners in Egyptian and Syrian jails, but the two leaders did not start unnecessary wars and did not kill millions, hundreds of thousands, tens of thousands, or thousands …

You might be able to compare the Bush administration to the Saudi Royal family … because the Saudis are also responsible to a large extent (along with the Americans and former President Zia of Pakistan) for the huge mistake of creating a 100,000 angry young Muslim fighters to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan at the time… the world is still suffering from that shortsighted project.

And you can compare to the leadership of Sudan … also hundreds of thousands killed there.

And to a much lesser extent, but still savage: Israel (1600 Lebanese killed because they lost two soldiers!)

Notice, I barely care about the nationality of those killed … I don’t understand how one should value a leader’s “goodness” differently if those whose lives were terminated much earlier (thanks to a leader’s decisions and mistakes) were from the leader’s own nationality or another one … you think God cares if you caused the death of one of your own people, or one from across the border who carries a different passport?

Destroying someone’s life is destroying someone’s life … nationality distinctions are only meaningful when you talk about taxes and other day to day issues.

December 16th, 2008, 2:47 am

 

nafdik said:

Thx Alex for the thoughtful response.

As for god I do not have access to his/her/their preferences 😉

I still think there is a huge moral gap between killing those who you have a responsibility to protect and killing others.

This gap I think is instinctively clear to most.

December 16th, 2008, 3:53 am

 

Alex said:

Fine … since we can not have access to God’s preferences, who is responsible for defining what is “a huge moral gap”??

Our moral system comes mostly from religion … Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and many wonderful Asian and ancient religions.

How many of those say that there is “a huge moral gap” between killing someone from your own group (country if you want) or killing someone from another nationality?

To illustrate … let us assume that two Syrian citizens were killed by some anti-Syria Lebanese party … then let us assume that Syria decided to shell Lebanon for a month killing 1600 Lebanese people in the process.

Would that be accepted as being Moral enough? .. since they were Lebanese (not Syrians) and since the Syrian President was acting in defense of his own people?

I think it would have been enough to drop a nuclear bomb on top of the Syrian Presidential Palace.

He who owns the press writes the headlines … with the exception of the most obvious cases of immorality, day to day morality is a conditional measure that gets tuned to the liking of those who own the press.

December 16th, 2008, 5:10 am

 

AIG said:

Alex,
What Bashar and Mubarak did is just as bad as what Saddam did. They denied millions of Syrians and Egyptians any hope of a better life because of their policies. They subjected their countries to poverty and hopelessness (except for a small minority) just so that they can stay in power. You do not have to physically kill a person in order to kill his spirit. And that is what the Arab dictators have done. Millions upon millions of Syrians and Egyptians are living on less than $2 per day because of Asad and Mubarak and their children have no hope of bettering themselves because they are getting an education that is not good enough for the 17th century, let alone the 21st.

Your view of responsibility is very interesting. It was not the responsibility of Hizballah that 1,600 Lebanese died, it was the responsibility of Israel. Why is that? Because you support Hizballah? An act of war is an act of war, and when a country perpetuates an act of war, it is responsible for the consequences of that war. The deaths of the Lebanese are SOLELY the responsibility of Hizballah and Lebanon just as the deaths of Israelis are solely the responsibility of Israel and every death of an Israeli has to be explained by the Israeli government and it is held accountable for wasting Israeli lives or not protecting them enough. Unfortunately, you do not hold Arab regimes accountable for anything, let alone Arab lives. You choose the easy route and blame Israel.

December 16th, 2008, 5:17 am

 

AIG said:

Alex,
Islam clearly states that it is ok to fight wars to conquer countries of infidels. The Old Testament clearly allows the Israelites the right to fight to take over Cannan. The Crusades were sanctioned from WITHIN Christianity. Clearly, religions have allowed fighting OTHERS and killing tons of OTHERS not from within your group. That is why I am an atheist. By the way, morality does not come from religion but developed through evolution, as many recent papers and books show.

December 16th, 2008, 5:22 am

 

nafdik said:

Alex,

Morality has been with humanity much before monotheistic religions. Of course the modern conception of morality has been influenced by religion, science, and other human developments.

Depending on which angle you take there are many ways to find morality including biology, philosophy, game theory and sociology. Pick any one of the above and I would love to deconstruct why Kennedy is more moral than Idi Amin.

Back to your example. Is the shelling of Lebanon and killing 1600 Lebanese moral?

No

Is it morally equivalent to shell a Syrian village by the Syrian government and killing 1600 Syrians. In my opinion no.

How can I say that something is more morally acceptable than another without access to divine thoughts?

Simple heuristic: all those who would do B would also do A, but some who will do A will refrain from doing B for moral reasons.

So at least in common sense terms A is more moral than B.

It does not mean A is moral.

December 16th, 2008, 6:40 am

 

Alex said:

AIG,

I agree that some religions present contradictory positions on the morality of fighting others. But This is man made and it is up to each to to pick the good or bad interpretations

For example, Jesus never said anything to encourage the crusaders to go kill in his name… The crusades were not exactly compatible with “turn the other cheek”

And I will not discuss further your suggestion that HA which killed two Israeli soldiers in South Lebanon are responsible for Israel’s decision to invade Lebanon and spray it with cluster bombs …

Same thing for your equating the poverty in Egypt or Syria with Saadam’s and Bush’s killing of millions through their combined unnecessary wars …

Nafdik,

That’s why I also said:

“Our moral system comes mostly from religion … Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and many wonderful Asian and ancient religions

December 16th, 2008, 7:30 pm

 

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