Sunday, December 21, 2003

Merry Christmas from the Arab Street!

"After waiting for a handshake for over an hour, the visitor
decided all Earthlings are very rude and departed"

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Iraqi health ministry ordered to stop counting civilian deaths!

Don't count 'em, just bury 'em!My God, this story is totally infuriating! Not only has the Iraqi health ministry been told to stop counting civilian deaths during the war, it has been given a general order to "move far away from this subject"!

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) — Iraq's Health Ministry has ordered a halt to a count of civilians killed during the war and told its statistics department not to release figures compiled so far, the official who oversaw the count told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The order was relayed by the ministry's director of planning, Dr. Nazar Shabandar, but the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which oversees the ministry, also wanted the counting to stop, said Dr. Nagham Mohsen, the head of the ministry's statistics department.

"We have stopped the collection of this information because our minister didn't agree with it," she said, adding: "The CPA doesn't want this to be done."

A spokesman for the CPA had no immediate response.

The U.S. and British militaries don't count civilian casualties from their wars, saying only that they try to minimize civilian deaths.

A major investigation of Iraq's wartime civilian casualties was compiled by The Associated Press, which documented the deaths of 3,240 civilians between March 20 and April 20. That investigation, conducted in May and June, surveyed about half of Iraq's hospitals, and reported that the real number of civilian deaths was sure to be much higher.

The Health Ministry's count, based on records of all hospitals, promised to be more complete.

Saddam Hussein's regime fell April 9, and President Bush declared major combat operations over on May 1.

The ministry began its survey at the end of July, when shaky nationwide communication links began to improve. It sent letters to all hospitals and clinics in Iraq, asking them to send back details of civilians killed or wounded in the war.

Many hospitals responded with statistics, Mohsen said, but last month Shabinder summoned her and told her that the minister, Dr. Khodeir Abbas, wanted the count halted. He also told her not to release the partial information she had already collected, she said.

"He told me, `You should move far away from this subject,'" Mohsen said. "I don't know why."

Shabandar's office said he was attending a conference in Egypt and wouldn't return for two weeks. Abbas' secretary said he, too, was out of the country and would return in late December.

The coalition spokesman said officials who direct the Health Ministry weren't immediately available for comment.

Mohsen insisted that despite communications that remain poor and incomplete record-keeping by some hospitals, the statistics she received indicated that a significant count could have been completed.

"I could do it if the CPA and our minister agree that I can," she said in an interview in English.

Under Saddam's government, the ministry counted 1,196 civilian deaths during the war, but was forced to stop as U.S. and British forces overran southern Iraqi cities. Over the summer, the ministry compiled more figures that had been sent in previously, reaching a total of 1,764.

But officials said those numbers account for only a small number of the hospitals in Iraq, and none provided statistics through the end of the war.

The number of U.S. soldiers killed in the war is well documented. The Pentagon says 115 American military personnel were killed in combat from the start of the war to May 1, when President Bush declared major combat over, and 195 since.

Iraq kept meticulous records of its soldiers killed in action but never released them publicly. Military doctors have said the Iraqi military kept "perfect" records, but burned them as the war wound down.

Venik from added this commentary:

COMMENTARY: Creation of the "war crimes tribunal" in Iraq by the occupation administration and its puppet Iraqi "government" is aimed at legitimizing the change of government in Iraq. The secondary purpose of the "tribunal" is to distract attention of the Iraqis and the international community from the deteriorating situation in Iraq under the US-British occupation and to divert attention from mounting civilian casualties in Iraq.

The US occupation administration has been pressuring Iraq to cease counting civilian casualties for several months now and, it seems, Paul Bremer finally got his way. Once the Iraqi Health ministry stops counting civilian casualties in the country, there will be no other official record of civilians killed by the occupation forces, leaving the US military free to continue unchecked extermination of Iraqi civilians.

Current estimates by media and humanitarian organizations in Iraq show between 10,000 and 15,000 killed Iraqi civilians. Casualties among the Iraqi military are estimated at around 1,200. The approximate ratio of 1:10 of military casualties to civilian deaths closely resemble casualties during the 1999 Operation "Allied Force" against Yugoslavia that claimed about 300 Yugoslav military casualties and ten times as many civilian deaths as the result of NATO bombing.

While in Iraq we at least have some picture of civilian casualties, the situation in Afghanistan is entirely unclear. We known that for the past few days the US Air Force has been busy killing children in Afghanistan, but beyond such episodic reports we known almost nothing about the plight of Afghani civilians caused by this latest US military action.


While we are on the subject of things that infuriate me, The Americans have started doing something that only Israel has dared to do in recent times -- they've started wrapping entire Iraqi towns in razor wire and concrete. Such tactics, which are ostensibly used in the interests of "security", but nevertheless stink to high heaven of Nazi-style ghetto oppression, are bound only to generate more hatred for the already despised occupation forces. Honestly, I wonder, are the Americans DENSE?? Do they actually want even more of their troops being exterminated on the streets by vengeful rebels?

RPG-ready!Meanwhile, the imperial forces have fielded the new Stryker armored vehicles (if half an inch of metal can be called armor). It seems that the American military has decided that its soldiers are so invincible, they don't even need armored protection. So they fielded the Stryker division, equipped with vehicles that have lots of computers inside, but virtually no armor, and here's the clincher; no heavy weapons! Stay tuned for the inevitable reports of American troops being incinerated inside Strykers. I'm willing to bet that every RPG operator in Iraq is just itching to be the first to light up one of those tin-cans...

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Salam finds Raed

Salam Pax's page formally carried the title "Where is Raed", Raed being a friend of Salam's who was difficult to find. Well, he's been found, and he's still got his password to the blog, and frankly he's a lot more interesting than Salam..

Bad language on the Arab Street..

Whether writing on little blogs like this one, or participating in online or live discussions, It can be very difficult for Arabs and westerners to find common ground, even though in their hearts they might actually share the same opinions. I've found that this is due to slight differences in language used by both sides to describe concepts, which leads to one or the other becoming infuriated at the other's unfortunate turn of phrase. The use of inflammatory language might be intentional but also completely unintentional.

Perhaps this is due to one or both parties being victims of media propagandists, who as any student of journalism should know, have got the art of manipulating language down to a tee.

Here is an article by Ramzy Baroud which describes how terrible brutality can be washed down through the media by using certain terms and turns of phrase which actually conceal the reality of what happened.

But I am not writing about the ever-present propaganda in all mass-media, I am talking about how people who otherwise would agree about everything find themselves at supposedly opposite ends of an ideological spectrum. It all comes down to points of view and the willingness to appreciate the other person's perceptions.

A common reason I fall into arguments with westerners is Iraq. Westerners often appear to have an over-simplified view of what is going on, and an unfortunate tendency to assume cultural superiority to Arabs. They commonly react with anger and hostility when their worldview is challenged, resorting to baseless accusations to condemn the offender. This can make dialog with them nearly impossible. And I have found that the more honest I am in my opinions, the more hostile the reaction. To an extent this is understandable and can be rationalised.

Take for example my comments on resistance attacks in Iraq. I view the shooting down of American helicopters to be absolutely legitimate acts of resistance against foreign occupation. Although I don't rejoice in death, I believe that the more Americans killed and wounded in Iraq, the more likely that the American public resolve will be eroded and the US military forced to withdraw. So when a helicopter is shot down in Iraq and Americans die, my reaction is to applaud the success of the Iraqi resistance. While most readers would consider this completely logical, Americans find it hard to stomach and react with anger.

Anger is a strange emotion that causes people to say ridiculous things, abandon logical thought, and generally make asses of themselves. I've obviously never voiced support for Saddam Hussein, yet I've encountered Americans who accuse me of wishing for his return to Iraq. The situation in Iraq is obviously infinitely more complex than simply being for or against Saddam, and this opinion poll conducted in Iraq by Oxford University's department of sociology demonstrates this clearly. As anyone can see, resisting the American occupation has no connection to support for Saddam.

I've only scratched the surface here, but there are millions of issues such as this where Arabs find themselves accused of the most ridiculous things because they said something that doesn't agree with the western palate.

Needless to say, this psychology works both ways. I wonder sometimes if Americans have the merest conception of how hateful and despised their commonly-used media buzzwords and phrases are in Arab countries, words such as "collateral damage", "gunmen", "detainees", "daisy cutter", "islamists", and oh, lest I forget, "winning hearts and minds". So we Arabs often find ourselves provoked by some poisonous media report, and in our anger can end up saying things that come off as extremist and overtly hostile to the western reader. And so we have ourselves a vicious circle where people who probably want the same things end up hating each other because they weren't capable of thinking what made the other guy say what he did.

I hope I've not been too incomprehensible...