Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Power Struggle Behind the Scenes

Even though Minister Abulhassan came through on the side of reason today, I'm still worried by some rumors that the previous Minister of Information (MOI) is none too pleased about relinquishing that base of power even though he's now Minister of Energy.

Apparently, being in charge of our oil industry - Kuwait's main source of revenue - isn't good enough for him. During his tenure as MOI, he hired untold numbers of unqualified cronies. He now seeks to run the MOI by remote control, and pre-empt the current minister. Case in point: Abulhassan has invited the press corps to a Ramadan dinner next week. Minister of Energy has pre-empted that dinner and invited the press corps this week. Why he wants to invite them at all is anyone's guess... but it's just petty and unbefitting for a minister to act this way.

And it gets worse.. a whispering campaign aimed at discrediting Abulhassan has already begun. And rumors are swirling around town that pen-for-hire columnist Fouad Al-Hashem, from Al-Watan, has received payment in exchange for attacking Abulhassan in his daily column.

Al-Hashem is banking on Kuwaiti readers' short memories, for while he is now lamenting the golden age of the MOI when our so called emissaries represented Kuwait in the best light... I distinctly recall him trashing them as incompetent fools a few years ago. Back then, the minister was someone else who maybe wasn't as "generous" as Sheikh Ahmad.

The Show Will Go On

Three cheers to Minister of Information, Mohamed Abulhassan, for not bowing to unwarranted pressure from Kuwait's Islamist lunatics. The Pascal Mashalani concert will go ahead on schedule. What I liked about his statement was the tough language. He not only declared that the concert would go ahead, but also warned them against wasting his and their time in future with similar complaints.

Now if someone can get us some decent musical acts...

Monday, November 03, 2003

And now it's Pascal

And they're at it again.. Kuwait's "Social Reform" Society is protesting a planned concert during Eid featuring Lebanese singer Pascal Mashalani. They're pulling the same tired excuses (traditions, POWs, etc.) to call for it's cancellation.

I have my own reasons for cancelling the concert, namely because Pascal SUCKS, but I can't accept the fundamental Islamists chokehold on our lives. The matter has been raised to the Minister of Disinformation, so lets see if he has a spine and if he has the guts to to tell them to mind their own damn business!!

Ramadan Mubarak

Just passed the first week of Ramadan (quickly, I might add) and so far it's been a flurry of social obligations plus a weekend away for Umra. My digestive system gets destroyed during Ramadan, so my next few posts will be quite ill-tempered and cranky.

You have been warned..

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Mob Scene at Nino

A naive attempt to have lunch at Nino today. The parking lot was overflowing with cars all the way to the Gulf Road; it was so bad the police had to come and maintain order. Inside, the restaurant was packed with a loud young crowd enjoying their "Last Lunch" before Ramadan. Getting a table was out of the question, so we went down the road to Le Notre which was just as crowded.

The balcony at Le Notre at this time of year, is one of the most pleasant places to spend a lazy afternoon in Kuwait.... With just one little ingredient missing ;-)

Monday, October 20, 2003

Digital Camera

I guess this blog will start to get boring if I don't put any pictures on it. I will just nick them from various websites, but a blog about Kuwait won't be complete without some real digital photography of scenes in and around the country. So, I'm succumbing to the digital bug and I plan to buy a digital camera before the weekend. I've been meaning to do it for ages, but was just too lazy. My friends who know me are still surprised that I haven't bought one yet, being the tech-geek that I am :-P

The last straw - and incentive - was seeing a picture of Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad, the Prime Minister in today's papers wielding a digital camera and pointing it at the press corps photographers. How cool was that?! If he's got a digital camera then I want one too. NOW!

I'm still not sure what make I should get: Sony, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, HP.. Please suggest something in the comments box below.

E-Government my @#$!!!

I stopped paying attention to the annual E-Government conferences since I had the rotten experience of attending the first one in 2001. I mean, who are we kidding here? To put it simply, all the good intentions in the world won't make e-government a reality in Kuwait as long as we have thousands of government slackers - sorry, I mean employees - sitting around wasting everyone's time and getting paid for it. The system is rotten to the core and no amount of technology spending will get rid of that.

Think about it.. streamlining procedures and processes will result in more efficiency. People will not have to endure the routine humiliations of government bureaucrats, and can get things done on their PCs at their own time. The result? No use for the thousands of voting government workers, and more importantly, no one to bribe! I imagine the MPs will fight tooth and nail against this initiative to protect their constituents and their own wallets.

Still, I guess we have to appreciate progress wherever it is achieved. Today's news announcing the issuing of online building permits from the municipality is encouraging.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Emergency Music Review

This isn't a Kuwaiti music review, but since I did hear this awful song on Kuwait's SuperStation I feel compelled to comment... I had the misfortune of hearing a new duet featuring Britney Spears and Madonna... Yes, folks it's every bit as terrible as you can imagine. How could it possibly work? Teaming up Spears - a no-talent bimbo and international laughingstock whose career is almost on the skids - with Madonna on a song so wretched it can cause ears to bleed.

Oh how the mighty have fallen! I don't care what happens to Britney Spears, but I have to squirm when I see Madonna (full disclosure: I love Madonna!) reduced to duets with singers half her age in a desperate bid to remain in the spotlight. Mrs. Ritchie has hitched her wagon onto the wrong kid, as if that lip-lock at the MTV Awards wasn't enough. Her last album was boring beyond belief, compounded by a poor choice of singles and some ill-advised videos, and if this lame attempt at relevance is the best she can muster... then we should be afraid. Very afraid! It's like watching a good friend slide into drug addiction or hang out with a bad crowd.

And what of the song itself? A noisy, tuneless mess called "Me Against the Music", and I'm sorry to report everybody lost that battle!

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

NBK's Musical Chairs

Did anyone read the list of NBK's Watani Gifts winners in today's papers? Is it me or is it the same people and their relatives every time? They just seem to shuffle them around whenever there's a prize draw.

I smell a conspiracy!!

Kuwaiti Christians Under Attack!!

Huh?! That was my reaction too when I read this story in today's Washington Post. A Kuwaiti native called Johny Fares, a resident of a Maryland suburb, had his house vandalised by redneck thugs who scrawled "Bin Laden Lives Here" on a trailer parked in front of his house. While the story isn't all that strange especially after September 11, here's the real kicker:

"As a Roman Catholic, Fares said, he suffered discrimination in his homeland, where crosses were burned in front of his family's house. "One of the main reasons we came to the U.S. was for equal rights and freedom of religion and speech," said Fares, a state auto safety inspector."

What the fuck?! I've lived here all my life and I've never heard of anything like this happening here! There are several Kuwaiti Christian families, though last I checked "Fares" wasn't one of them. And churches of several denominations have functioned with no incident for decades. Can anyone corroborate his statement?

Needless to say, I fired off an angry email to the Washington Post accusing them of sloppy reporting. You can do the same by sending an email to Letters@washpost.com

Monday, October 13, 2003

More Shopping!

Yet another shopping centre has opened in Kuwait; this time in lovely, picturesque Sharq. On first glance of its exterior, the new Al-Rayah (or Arraya) Complex could be in downtown Houston. It's large and overbearing like most Texans. The question is do we need more shopping centres in Kuwait? And if so, why isn't Kuwait itself being marketed as the best shopping destination in the region? Answers on a postcard (kidding!) or click on the Comments below to add your 2 fils worth.

Among the designer shops set to open there is Burberry and I sincerely hope this will be a decent shop like the ones in London and New York that carry all the cool stuff, and not another copy of the pathetic store in Salmiya which resembles a duty free stand in some Southeast Asian airport.

The complex will be attached to the new Marriott Courtyard Hotel (groan!). Wow! More hotel rooms for non-existent tourists, and the chosen few who are "granted" entry visas by divine intervention. They claim to have the largest ballroom/convention center in Kuwait which I suppose is great news for conference organizers and wedding planners. And tons of parking space for a change..

Of course we'll all go check it out and satisfy our curiosity. Then promptly forget it ever existed, just like Al-Muhallab...

Security concerns

Well it seems that the play "An Evening with Gary Lineker" was cancelled for security reasons after the suicide bomb attacks in Baghdad yesterday. Nobody has come out and stated as much yet, but I'd like to think that was the reason. The Hilton resort, where the play was scheduled, is packed with Americans... so maybe they got a bit jittery.

Oh well....

Sunday, October 12, 2003

An Evening with Gary Lineker..... or so we thought!!

There we were all excited about going to see a real British comedy on stage.. in Kuwait!! "An Evening with Gary Lineker", a comedy about "sex and football" was scheduled for a 2-night run at the Hilton ballroom (dinner theatre is so provincial, but why quibble?) on 14-15 October. Suddenly without any warning, the play got cancelled. Why? Because the organizers failed to get the necessary "approvals" from the Ministry of Dis-Information, heretofore known as the Ministry of Doom & Gloom, or the Ministry of Making Life Miserable!!

I knew it was too good to be true. But then stranger things have happened here.. Sometime in the early 90's, none other than Dame Edna Everage gave a performance right here in Kuwait. I went to see the show and it was the funniest thing I had ever seen. Totally raunchy and completely ruthless.. I remember wondering how on earth the show got past the "censors", but then the material must have gone right over their heads. Certainly, the Kuwaiti "embassy groupies*" - you know who you are! - missed half the jokes; they were just happy to be seen there.

*Embassy Groupies: The same crowd of Kuwaitis you see at every boring embassy function, who are really only there for the free booze. Note how they only go to the European events :-P

Monday, September 22, 2003

The SuperStar Fiasco

I couldn't let this one pass without comment... I came back from my holidays last week to find Kuwait's Islamist nutjobs up in arms over a stupid concert featuring the 12 finalists from the the "SuperStar" talent contest, who were touring the region to capitalize on their popularity.

My first reaction: WHY THE FUCK DID I COME BACK TO THIS NONSENSE ?! I was so happy to be away from this sort of thing; holidays abroad are not just a break from work, you know. They're a chance to escape from life's annoying people and things - most notably the backward thinking that has gripped our country - and go see how the civilized world is living, but I digress... I love how these fundamentalist fools get worked up over the most trivial of things, and then when a serious national issue is up for debate or requires their input, they just twiddle their thumbs - and God knows what else!

But anyway, they were summarily ignored by everyone and the show went on for 2 nights. The government - in a break from tradition! - also chose to ignore them. Sheikh Sabah and the Minister of Information are in New York now, where I'm sure they don't want to be bothered with this crap. And it worked! Now they're falling over themselves trying to backtrack and appear moderate... Too little, too late!

Sunday, September 21, 2003


Welcome to Kuwait Rewind...

This is a brand new blog dedicated to... anything and everything to do with Kuwait! It's called "Rewind" because it will basically rehash some events that may be a few days old, but as seen through my twisted lens.

If you don't come from or live in Kuwait, this site may not be of any interest to you. If, on the other hand, you want to get a completely biased and merciless take on local current events... you've come to the right place. It will be random and ruthless take-no-prisoners forum to discuss local politics, business, arts, society... you name it!

For a taste of things to come, read my test post below about the pathetic state of Kuwaiti theatre.

No one will escape my wrath!!!

Friday, May 23, 2003

TEST: The sad decline of Kuwaiti theatre

Last week I had the misfortune of attending "Qannas Khaitan", a so-called satirical play which got rave reviews from almost everyone who went to see it. Maybe it's just me but I found myself fighting the urge to scream at the actors to just SHUT THE FUCK UP! It was so beyond awful, and such a collosal letdown. It wouldn't have been so bad if I had gone with low expectations, but as everybody kept saying it was a return to the glory days of Kuwaiti theatre in the 70s, I went expecting a solid piece with an actual narrative. Instead, the once mighty Hussein Abdul-Reda and Hayat Al-Fahad were reduced to crass, vulgar jokes that were slapped onto the script for no apparent reason. It was just gratuitous vulgarity that added nothing to the story... well, what little story there was in the first place.

I squirmed in my seat during the first act, but still kept my hopes up for a better second act. Alas, it was even worse. I sat there, paralyzed, staring at the stage and unable to get up and leave, in total shock at the level to which two of Kuwait's leading actors had sunk. Most people seemed to like the tough "jokes" criticizing one current political scenario after the other, but they were done in such a crude and primitive way, where the actors would just lecture about the issues. How pathetic that the so-called playwright couldn't even create any scenes to embody and address any particular issue.

Is it just me? Are my standards too high? Am I being a snob? I don't think so... one viewing of any of the great plays of the 70s and 80s will confirm my opinions. Of course, I went as a guest of a friend who was kind enough to invite me. Had I known ahead of time that the play had been written and produced by the God-awful Fajer Al-Sa3eed I would have declined the invitation and stayed home. That woman has produced some of the worst trash to make its way onto Kuwait's TV and stage.

The Al-Watan columnist Fouad Al-Hashem was also in attendance that night, and I had hoped that someone like him with a sharp eye for satire and quality arts would rip the play to shreds in his column. Boy was I was wrong!! The man raved about it - I was tempted to send him a letter asking him if we were indeed at the same play or if he was on some controlled substance (and where I could get some!). This just confirms the long standing rumours that Al-Watan's editorial staff are under strict instructions not to write anything negative about Ms. Al-Saeed, no matter how blatantly awful her output..... Kind of like Rolling Stone magazine's relationship with Yoko Ono :-P

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

And so it begins...... the war that was ostensibly fought to make the world a safer place has, instead, aggravated the already deranged lunatics of Al-Qaeda.

A Saudi dissident, exiled in the UK, says that even US troop withdrawal from Saudi Arabia is too little too late, and will not save the Saudi regime.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

I see Salam Pax is back on the air, or on the "blogsphere" as it were... Glad to see he is safe!
This is hysterical. On David Letterman's nightly Top Ten List, here are the Top Ten President Bush Excuses For Not Finding Weapons of Mass Destruction

10. "We've only looked through 99% of the country"

9. "We spent entire budget making those playing cards"

8. "Containers are labeled in some crazy language"

7. "They must have been stolen by some of them evil X-Men mutants"

6. "Did I say Iraq has weapons of mass destruction? I meant they have goats"

5. "How are we supposed to find weapons of mass destruction when we can't even find Cheney?"

4. "Still screwed up because of Daylight Savings Time"

3. "When you're trying to find something, it's always in the last place you look, am I right, people?"

2. "Let's face it -- I ain't exactly a genius"

1. "Geraldo took them"

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

I can't decide if I should smile at this story or roll my eyes at the thought of a French pastry chef being flown from Kuwait to Baghdad to prepare meals for 350 Iraqi and American delegates convening in Baghdad to map out Iraq's future. I'm not familiar with the Crowne Plaza hotel's cuisine, save for the excellent sushi, so I can't really comment much.

As for "suffering through fine dinners with nothing more than bootleg homemade wine"... Zut alors! Il faut aller a l'ambassade Francaise, ou il y a plein de bon vin!!

Monday, May 05, 2003

It's been a while, but I had to comment on the mass graves found outside Najaf and near Babylon with scores of human remains - all victims of Saddam's regime.

I saw the most gruesome images on TV last night, worse than these pictures. I had to flip the channel when a young woman whose brother was killed by Saddam's thugs began wailing out of control. It was too painful to watch.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I wasn't aware that Saddam's minister of information Mohamed Saeed Al-Sahaf was not on the deck of cards of 55 most wanted. You may recall that after running through the entire list my eyes glazed over and I couldn't tell one from the other, so I must have missed that. Anyway, it seems that he's been trying to surrender to US forces in Baghdad, but since he's not on the most wanted list.. they refused to arrest him.

It's funny and sad at the same time. While we all enjoyed his ridiculous statements during the war, don't believe for one minute that he actually meant everything he said. You could tell from his eyes that he knew he wasn't making any sense, and that he was speaking with a gun pointed at his head from behind the scenes.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Who needs Las Vegas when we have our own Sin City to our north? I don't know where this reporter got his information from, but Baghdad was never a "conservative" city and all kinds of vice flourished regularly under Saddam's watch.

In any case, it makes for entertaining reading and you can't help but smile at Baghdad residents' new found freedom; freedom to be as bad or as good as they want!
Sometimes I wonder how come if Osama Bin Laden was so hell-bent on getting the US out of Arab soil, he would pull off the one event guaranteed to step up US presence in the region? Why would he do something akin to an invitation?

Think about the US reaction to 9/11: First bomb Afghanistan where Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda is hiding, then wage war on Saddam who is supposedly connected to Al-Qaeda. Then after taking over Iraq, pull out the troops quietly from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, thus getting out of Bin Laden's hair yet maintaining presence in the Gulf ...... cigars for everyone!!

Now if that wasn't a whopping conspiracy theory, I don't know what is!
The "First Strike Era" is now upon us, according to Donald Rumsfeld - he of the "YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!" approach to international relations, to quote Jon Stewart. This means that the US "has entered a new era in which it must pre-emptively seek out and prevent attacks by terrorists and terrorist states".

Of course, this may have the reverse effect of pissing off even more countries and driving more people crazy enough to contemplate more terrorist attacks against the US. But why quibble?
This is bad.... seriously bad. It's everyone's worst nightmare come to life. I don't even want to think about the repercussions, nor can I bear to hear some Pentagon flack dismiss its importance, as will surely happen.
It seems my friends at QHATE have called it a day.... Blogging is time consuming and exhausting. I feel their pain. We all started in the frenzy of the days leading up to and then during the war and we were energized by the tumultuous events. There was so much going on and so much to talk about. But not being professional writers who do this for a living, we were bound to get tired sooner or later. I'm surprised I lasted this long, and that I ever had it in me to start a blog in the first place!

I'm not going to stop it yet, but I will be slowing down.. and I might start a new random, general interest blog where I can talk about anything, not just politics, and at my own pace.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Hmm... Christopher Hitchens says Ahmad Chalabi isn't as bad as he's made out to be. He may have a point. Iraq could do a lot worse. And it has!
Today is Saddam's birthday. He would be 66 if he was alive. I want to see how the residents of Baghdad commemorate this day. Reports say that many Iraqis, cowed by fear and still not used to the freedom suddenly thrust upon them, are convinced he's planning one last birthday surprise before he goes down in flames.

In the past, his birthday was a week-long celebration of his "great achievements" with parades, poems and more portraits and statues erected for the occasion all around Iraq. Bureaucrats were forced to celebrate with cakes and balloons. Schools had the week off. Iraqi TV had round the clock coverage of the celebrations.... I remember a few months before the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, a friend of mine was enthralled by the whole spectacle and would force us to sit through the ceremonies. I used to yell at him to turn it off and that this lunatic had killed and tortured thousands of Iraqis and that we were probably next!

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Couldn't access Blogger Pro all day today for some reason.... Anyway, NY Times arts critic Frank Rich has a sobering article about the loss of Iraqi heritage in the looting that followed the fall of Baghdad. Many have downplayed the importance of this tragedy and tried to pass the blame to wherever it might stick, but lost amidst all the finger-pointing is the fact that many of Bush's religious buddies will have lots to cry over. "Most of the early chapters of Genesis are believed to have been set in what only recently has been known as Iraq".

That'll go down well at the next White House Bible study...

Saturday, April 26, 2003

I'm repeating this entry from Joe Conason, in full:
"In the continuing absence of Saddam Hussein and his sons, Tariq Aziz is an important symbol of the defeated regime and a potential scapegoat for its worst crimes (despite his low rank in the army's card deck). It is also conceivable, if unlikely, that he knows where his old boss might be hiding -- although Saddam didn't survive this long by ignoring the problem of a squealer being captured.

But the evil dictator may not be the only figure worried by what the suddenly retired foreign minister could blab. If his memory is as good as his English, the cigar-chomping Aziz will recall events and personalities from the regime's long courtship with the West. For example, he may remember the day in March 1984 when Donald Rumsfeld dropped by as an envoy from the Reagan administration. At the time, Rummy's stated agenda was the Iran-Iraq war (in which our government armed and encouraged both sides), as well as "bilateral relations and the Middle East situation," according to the Associated Press. But researchers at the Institute for Policy Studies have uncovered a cache of documents that suggest his real aim was to convince Saddam to approve a new oil pipeline -- to be constructed by Bechtel! -- between Iraq and Jordan.

Once Aziz gets started about the good old days, he may also remember the time when an associate of Henry Kissinger visited with Saddam himself -- as part of a corporate delegation sponsored by the U.S.-Iraq Business Forum -- to figure out ways to reschedule the regime's debt and arrange more imports. The forum was actually a thinly veiled lobbying outfit, sponsored and operated by the Iraqi foreign ministry through its embassy in Washington.

No doubt Aziz knows about matters embarrassing to the French, Germans, Russian and British, too. There will probably be no reporter embedded deeply enough to speak with him for a long while."

This like something out of a bad movie... next thing you know, he'll die in an "accident".
I always thought the "pack of cards" approach to capturing Saddam and his cronies was a bit silly, but it seems to be working. Now when they're done, they should start with this new pack. And it looks like like the search for lost treasures can start everywhere but in Iraq!
By the way, for those of you visiting from overseas, our weekends in Kuwait are on Thursday and Friday, with Friday being our "Sabbath". That's why you'll notice a slowdown in my blogging and it will just get "worse" as summer creeps in and I spend my weekends outdoors... Which brings me to the question of how long I should continue with this blog.. As you may recall, I started it on the eve of the war and there was so much going on that I wanted to write about. Otherwise, I never thought I had it in me to write everyday - a mixture of apathy and a fairly normal life, certainly not worth writing about.

There are still many Iraq-related issues to discuss, but I feel that we've now entered the "cerebral" phase, i.e. "thinking" about Iraq's present and future which - frankly - I'm not equipped to do! So expect this blog to continue until I run out of steam ;-)

Friday, April 25, 2003

So I took a day off yesterday... it was too nice and I had a party at home. When word came in that Tareq Aziz had given himself up, a buzz went through the crowd and it was even more reason to party and have fun. We'll wait to see how his story unfolds. It's interesting that he surrendered instead of getting caught, and I bet he'll have valuable information on Saddam's whereabouts... then again, maybe not

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Here's an article that is causing a great amount of hair pulling and vein popping among America's more extreme right wing media figures (Savage, O'Reilly..etc.). It calls on all those who opposed the war to lay down their misgivings and celebrate the freedom of an oppressed nation, finally rid of a great evil. Yet the writer also confesses to feelings of guilt over wishing things would go wrong just to vindicate his pessimism. It's a very well-written article that presents a compelling argument, even if I don't fully agree with it.

Please take the time to read it carefully and S-L-O-W-L-Y. If you find yourself scratching your head, go back and read it again. Oh, and please spare me the commentary if you have no interest in reading it.
And speaking of short attention spans, here's a valuable history lesson for the Bush "history is for sissies" administration. It should explain to them why Iraqis aren't all that pleased to have US forces around for too long.
Alright so where the $@#% are they?! You know damn well who/what I'm talking about... Saddam, his sons, the WMDs, our POWs, the chemical weapons, the "smoking gun", oh and lets throw in Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar into the mix while we're at it.

It's just a matter of time before the Bush administration gets bored with the search and starts to downplay the importance of crossing out each item on the "shopping list" I just made. This morning, driving into work, I heard the ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte, say that UN weapons inspectors "won't be needed"!!

Now correct me if I'm wrong - and I'm sure you will - but if I was trying to convice the world that there were WMDs and chemical weapons all over Iraq, wouldn't I make sure the the UN inspectors are given unfettered access to find them? The Bush administration spent months accusing Saddam of not cooperating with the inspectors, which I'm sure he wasn't. Now that he's gone (or is he?) why not let the inspectors back in?

This man says that Iraq destroyed all its weapons before the war started and that some were smuggled into Syria during the 1990's. But are we supposed to just take his word? Let the UN inspectors back in to confirm it!!

PS: If you're going to start attacking the UN in your comments, please don't. That would be too predictable.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Hey... here's Madonna singing in front of the Kuwaiti flag!! I suppose this is from the reworked video of "American Life"...

I can't be bothered to get rid of that banner across her face...
Here's a searing indictment of the Arab media's performance during the war. It duped the masses into thinking the coalition was hell-bent on destroying Iraq, conveniently forgetting Saddam's contributions to the destruction of a once great country. I particularly like this quote in response to a question asking whether the Arab media outlets can ever be objective:

"In my view, it is not possible because the Arab media is controlled by the prevailing general atmosphere and by people who have been fed on the slogans of incitement and inflammatory propaganda for more than half a century. They are captives of those who fed them and brought them up, those who controlled their mentality in which long-standing imaginary ideas, fables and superstitions were planted."
A friend of mine visiting from Amman tells me how Jordanians are in despair over the loss of a great leader. Saddam, that is. It's strange that they should still think that way with the large number of Iraqis living in Jordan, who escaped Saddam's wrath. Any one of them must surely have a horror story to tell.

Every time my friend argued with them that Saddam's departure was the best thing to happen to Iraq, they accused him of being "pro-Kuwaiti"!!
Crappy weather. Sandstorm last night + thunderstorm now = Mud everywhere! April is the most unstable month of the year in Kuwait. But on a brighter note, the waterways are officially open for fishing boats and divers to resume activity after being suspended during the war. Last Friday was one of those gorgeous, blindingly sunny days with a sea as flat as glass, but nobody was allowed to venture out. I looked out at the sea, enjoying the serenity, but my view was obstructed in the horizon by a hulking battleship. Not a pretty sight, and I'm glad they'll be retreating to deeper waters soon. And at least our long summer isn't shot to hell!

Monday, April 21, 2003

Very tired today... no mood for blogging. I'll catch up with you all tomorrow.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Here's a creepy look at an Iraqi primary school's Civics curriculum during Saddam's reign of terror. Far from learning such banal things as how government works or what the constitution means (did they ever have one?), this lovely course indoctrinates young tykes in the finer intricacies of the security apparatus and the magnificent achievements of their glorious leader, among other things.

It is this extreme damage to the minds of future Iraqi generations that will be hardest to fix. Even a little injured girl who was brought to Kuwait for treatment, found herself inadvertently expressing her love for Saddam while she was at the hospital. Her father just shook his head in embarrassment, and asked not to hold it against her... Not that anyone with half a brain ever would; she was just a little girl and that's all she learned at school.
This just in from a friend of mine who has a poster of "Mingash" above her desk at work. It seems their no-nonsense chairman paid a surprise visit to the office.... and he was not amused ;-P

I'm a huge fan of The Daily Show and a bigger fan of Jon Stewart before he joined the show. It's a shame we don't get Comedy Central here in Kuwait to catch his funny take on the war in Iraq, so I'll have to settle for the Sunday night "international" edition on CNN even though it's on very late and I always forget to tape it (not tonight though! ) For those of you unfamiliar with the show's charms, many articles have been written in praise of its unique war coverage but this one is the best.

By the way, for American visitors, the CNN we get here (CNN International) bears no resemblance to the one you get in the US. It's far from perfect but actually easier to watch and is less prone to hysterics. Also, it has more sober anchors who seem to know what they're talking about, and whose professionalism in comparison with their US edition counterparts becomes more obvious when it converges with the American broadcast. Never was that more squirm-inducing than when I watched Paula Zahn dutifully taking notes during one of Rumsfeld's many press conferences like a schoolgirl and then reciting them back to Wolf Blitzer in Kuwait to see if she "got it right".... on the air!! Blitzer was visibly mortified!

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Is this the ugliest bedroom you've ever seen, or what? A lot has been written about Uday Hussein's decadent lifestyle - a lethal mix of guns, drugs and porn. And while it may not differ from your average gangster's life, it takes on a whole new level of obscenity when it's how the son of a head of state chooses to live.

So while the Iraqis starved under the sanctions, Uday and his pals lived it up by screwing and snorting everything in sight, and paying for their exploits with oil money.
Here's more on Bechtel which, by the way, is something of a household name here in Kuwait. I don't know where or when it started or how widespread, but I've often heard people joke about calling in Bechtel to build their house or fix their roof...
This is getting to be a real embarrassment, but I'm sure the White House will find some way to spin it to its favor. "The head of a U.S. presidential panel on cultural property has resigned in protest at the failure of U.S. forces to prevent the wholesale looting of priceless treasures from Baghdad's antiquities museum". I'm glad someone had the guts to do that since the rest of the administration just can't be bothered.

I remember very clearly in the days just before the war started, I heard some archaeolgists talking on VOA about how they had received assurances from the Pentagon that Iraq's cultural heritage would be protected. No bombs fell on any sites, which is great, but surely a few guards could've been spared to protect the museums from looting and destruction.

I can understand looting, since the thieves obviously hope to make a killing selling the artifacts on some black market, but I still cannot fathom the destruction and burning.
A weird kind of depression is sweeping across the Arab world in the aftermath of the war, as everyone tries to figure out what the future holds and wondering if it could possibly get worse. Feelings of anxiety are no doubt stoked by a daily diet of inflammatory media broadcasts. But all is not lost, says this great editorial in Arab News . The writer sees the an opportunity to learn from this war and a chance for Arabs to "face up to the challenges confronting them and to focus their attention on the development of human resources, science and technology and build their economies in a free, just and peaceful environment"

Friday, April 18, 2003

Speaking of raw deals... I heard through the grapevine that all the Kuwaitis, who assisted the US military with translation duties for weeks leading up to and during the war, got sent home with a nice pat on the back and thanked for "volunteering". I'm not sure how much they were supposed to be paid per day, but it was supposed to be a well-paid assignment. I even considered joining myself, but I had just started a new job and wasn't about to disappear indefinitely.... Of course, they all took weeks of unpaid leave to help the US troops, under the assumption that they would be paid, so now their Kuwaiti employers may or may not make it up for them.
Hooray for Bechtel... and Halliburton too while we're at it! The two companies are the lucky beneficiaries of huge contracts worth billions for reconstruction and oil field repair in postwar Iraq. Isn't this sort of thing supposed to go through a bidding process?

Meanwhile, British companies are understandably upset at getting the middle finger from the Bush administration, and getting cutting off from the most lucrative reconstruction deals.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

I feel like such an idiot for losing my temper earlier at that editor of Al-Arabi. It turns out I jumped to a fast conclusion and that the angry man I saw on TV is editor of a small Egyptian magazine with the same name. The Al-Arabi that I referred to is headed by a Kuwaiti...... who's a friend of my father's!!!!!!!
The forever-cranky Donald Rumsfeld actually has a few hidden talents. Behind that crusty demeanor and short fuse, the withering looks and sharp putdowns, he's really a gentle old man who just wants us all to be happy ;-)
And this just in from the Weekly World News, whose top notch investigative journalists have unearthed this little gem about Saddam's colourful life before taking power. It seems Ronald Reagan was not the first president to boast an acting career before entering politics. Reagan, however, had nothing to be ashamed of (aside from Bedtime for Bonzo) and at least became president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Which is more than I can say for Saddam!!!

Disclaimer: For those of you unfamiliar with WWN, it's a crazy tabloid that makes things up.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Upon arriving in Kuwait, some idiot reporter asked the uncle of Ali (the orphaned child victim of the bombings): "how is his family?", to which the uncle replied: "they're dead". Then another idiot reporter asked the uncle: "and how are his brothers and siters?", the uncle replied: "they're dead too, they're all dead". I wish people would do their homework/research before asking questions like that. We've seen and heard for the last few days that his entire family was killed. Weren't those reporters watching?
I was just watching a rerun of a programme that aired last night on Abu Dhabi TV. The discussion centered on Kuwait's supposedly new-found status as outcast and pariah among Arab nations, for allegedly backing the invading colonialist powers and reveling in the subjugation and humiliation of the Iraqi people. The Egyptian guest speaker, who I'd never seen before, railed against Kuwait for taking such a "shameful" stand and for gambling away its own future by backing the US who has occupied half of our territory, and for participating in the slaughter of the Iraqi people and on and on and on......

Then the little identifying band appears under his angry face, and it turns out he's the editor-in-chief of Al-Arabi, one of the Arab world's best and longest running monthly magazines. It's a general interest magazine with top-quality writing on arts, politics, culture, health, economics and anything of importance to all Arabs. I put it on a par with magazines like Harper's. What this angry man failed to acknowledge - besides the crimes of Saddam against Kuwait and his own people - was that his employer is actually the Kuwaiti Government!!

Ladies and gentlemen... Al-Arabi was started in Kuwait and continues to be funded by Kuwait, and still enjoys a wide circulation across the Arab world and operates as a pan-Arab publication, with hardly anything identifying it as Kuwaiti, except for the masthead. The editor is entitled to his opinion and should be able to express it freely no matter how wrong he might be. But if he is so disgusted with Kuwait and all that we stand for...... then he should fucking resign!!
Did I say office? No, I'm not blogging from work!!
Sandstorms are back after a few weeks absence - in which they were NOT missed. Visibility is very bad, and I can barely see the building across the street from my office!! There goes the weekend :"-(
Sorry I'm late with Kanaan Makiya's latest dispatch - they're so damn irregular! He posted this entry 2 days ago as he entered Iraq for the first time in 30 years. He also ends with something I've suspected all along: That the museums were most likely looted by Saddam's loyalists!
Another optimistic editorial, this time in the NY Times, details the intellectual life and civil society that flourished in Iraq before the Baathist thugs took control. The author, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University, addresses the general skepticism towards Iraq's ability to build a democratic society. "Such arguments, then and now, ignore the traditions of civil society and cultural pluralism that existed before the Baath Party took power in 1968 and then remained dormant during 35 years of repression. Those traditions can be revived to help Iraq thrive and make a transition to democracy. Because the Baath Party's chauvinistic pan-Arabism and totalitarianism has for decades defined Iraq's image to the world, many foreigners assume that a Western-style civil society never existed there. From the modern state's founding in 1921, when Britain imposed the Hashemite monarchy, Iraq (despite the absence of democracy) built a rich and varied society of ethnic inclusiveness, artistic freedom and civic involvement."

The article's only fault is the ommission of Abdul-Karim Kassem's claims and threats against Kuwait in the early 60's. Otherwise, it's a great read.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

And continuing our tradition of proper neighborly conduct, Iraqi teenager Ali Ismail Abbas, who lost both his arms and his entire family in the strikes on Baghdad, has been airlifted by the US military to Kuwait for treatment. His heartbreaking story has touched millions around the world, and we hope he will be well taken care of here.
How many hoaxes can we expect to reveal in the coming weeks? The British soldier who was "miraculously" saved by his Kevlar helmet, turned out to be nowhere near said helmet at the time of shooting. Of course, seeing as it was The Sun that carried the original story, we shouldn't be surprised..
Conspiracy Theorists of the World, Unite!! Was a secret deal, brokered by Saudi Arabia, the reason Baghdad fell so easily? Arab media are speculating that such a deal was arranged between the Baath Party and the US to hand over Baghdad, thus avoiding the expected bloodbath, dramatically shortening the war and, consequently, sparing the region from a protracted conflict and further instability. This article contains many "clues"... all of which I will reproduce for you right here:

1. None of the seven rescued POWs was hurt. On the contrary, all seven were found in good condition. All were found dressed in pajamas rather than the standard uniforms for prisoners of war, indicating that they were being treated as guests rather than as POWs. Usually, Arabs give pajamas to guests who sleep over in their houses.

2. Arab reports point out that POW Jessica Lynch was similarly treated; she was kept in the cleanest room in an Iraqi hospital until she was rescued on April 2.

3. In both cases, American forces were tipped off about the location of the POWs by unknown Iraqi citizens. Kuwaiti prisoners, by contrast, who were captured during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait more than 12 years ago, are only now being discovered.

4. To date, none of the seven war prisoners has spoken directly to American TV reporters, unlike American soldiers injured in the fighting, who became instant media sources. We are told the seven POWs were taken to Kuwait for medical treatment and intelligence debriefing.

5. American tanks rolled into Baghdad with very little resistance while Basra, nowhere near as heavily fortified as Baghdad, sustained almost three weeks of fierce resistance.

6. The fall of Baghdad was so sudden that it left many of the Arab and Muslim volunteers who went to Iraq to fight the coalition forces in total disarray. Initially given weapons and uniforms, thousands of these volunteers -- who came from Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere -- wound up having no one to tell them what to do. Al Jazeerah reports that some are now still fighting U.S. forces while others are actually attacking Iraqi civilians.

7. Baath forces refrained from destroying a single bridge in Baghdad, which could have blocked U.S. tanks access to the city, at least temporarily. Moreover, only a handful of Iraq's oil fields were set on fire, leaving the vast majority intact almost in accordance with Bush's demands.

8. None of the senior Baath officials has surrendered to date, with the exception of two high-level scientists. Instead, tens of thousands of Baath operatives managed to disappear without a sign of internal divisions. This strongly suggests that the departure of the Baath regime was ordered from the most senior levels and was highly organized. It also explains why most of the Iraqi forces, including the Republican Guards, were nowhere to be found when U.S. forces entered Baghdad.

9. Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Al-Douri, a high level Baath functionary, was quoted in both American and Arabic media as saying, "The game is over" and that he had not been in contact with Saddam Husssein for weeks. When asked why he used the word "game," the Ambassador replied, "the war is over." Meanwhile, Al-Jazeerah reported that he has been allowed to travel to Syria and that he may be asked to represent the new Iraqi government at the United Nations.

Hmmm...... veerry suspicioussssss.....
Has life returned to normal in Kuwait? You bet it has! Disruption, fear and trauma were the order of the day for the first two weeks, but by the third week everything was back to normal... Checkpoints reduced, social activity back in full swing, the radio is back to playing music instead of the round-the-clock news and poorly written patriotic songs....Except for the swarms of reporters still roaming the country in search of the elusive scoop, I'd say 'yeah' it's normal, alright.
Can I predict them or what? The "55 Most Wanted" cards have turned up on eBay, going for hundreds of dollars. The sellers claim that they are originals "hot off the Pentagon presses". Here's a complete rundown of the playing cards. Warning: After continuous scrolling, the names and faces will all start to look the same.
I've always admired Robert Fisk and even shook his hand once, but I avoided reading his dispatches from Baghdad throughout the war because they were a bit too hysterical for my taste. His tone reminded me of Maude Flanders on the Simpsons, exclaiming "...but what about the children?!"

Now that he's calmed down a bit, he's back to making sense. He argues that there is no way Syria would provide a safe haven for Saddam because it would be like inviting a cruise missile into President Assad's palace. He also wonders why the nuclear warheads in Israel's Negev desert don't fall under WMD classification. Hmmm...
And further to my post yesterday about looting, here's an optimistic article claiming that Iraq's plundered museums may have a better future than one would think. I'm personally hoping Baghdad gets a brand spanking new museum designed by Iraq's very own Zaha Hadid, the world's greatest female architect.
The Spoils of War: This article takes an amusing look at some of the not so obvious winners in the war on Iraq. Among the winners: Anti-war badge manufacturers, mobile phone operators, Jessica Lynch and some British combatants, most notably Colonel Chris Vernon - who has women in Kuwait swooning - and of course... Bloggers!!

What the article missed is the 2 mobile operators in Kuwait who must have raked in the cash with the unprecedented number of text messages flying around since the war started. I should've bought shares... sigh!
Further to my post yesterday about the 18 Kuwaiti POWs reportedly found in Baghdad - still unconfirmed - a group of Kuwaiti volunteers has gone into Iraq on a 2-week mission to try trace the missing. And today's Al-Rai Al-Aam says that a photo of one Kuwaiti prisoner was found amid the rubble of a security building in Amara and was properly identified by his family. He, and the others, could very well be alive.
On the other hand, both this article in the New York Times and this one in Salon take a closer look at the sanitization of TV coverage of the war, most notably for US audiences who, presumably, can't stomach the awful images that are part of the ugly reality of modern warfare. Is violence OK in movies but not OK on the news?

As a homework assignment for American guests on this blog, I'd like you to please read both stories and then tell me how you rate both network and cable news coverage of the war. Do you have access to channels from outside the US and if so, how do you compare them? Did you prefer print media, and by natural extension, their websites? For non-American vistors, you all get CNN I'm sure, so how does your own local coverage differ?

Please keep politics and every channel's perceived (and sometimes obvious) agendas out of the discussion. I'm only interested in the imagery of war shown on your news channels.

Monday, April 14, 2003

How tough is it to be a war correspondent, and what motivates them? I'm no journalist, so I don't think I'll ever have it in me to risk death for a good story. I like a bit of subversion, but even this blog is hardly that. This article written by the Times war correspondent gives a first-hand account of what made him head to Iraq.... and what drove him back to the U.K. before the fighting stopped.
Here's a very interesting take on the out-of-control looting all over Iraq, in every major city. It argues that there is nothing inherently wrong with looting and that the damage that is perceived to be inflicted on Iraq will be minimal...

It must have been written before the looting of the museums.
I thought this cartoon was kind of funny, and guaranteed to offend someone out there... just please don't take it out on me!

Kuwait's been buzzing all afternoon at the news that 18 of our POWs, held in Iraq since 1991, have been found alive in an underground shelter in Baghdad. We're all praying and waiting for confirmation, and waiting for news on the remaining POWs.... Stay tuned for news.
Is the impatience with the lawlessness in Iraq a result of 24 hour TV coverage? We have been watching the conditions deteriorate everyday on TV (remember the impatience after week 1 when the war seemed to have stalled). What if those scenes were not seen? When was law and order restored in other countries after the end of a war? The US administration is saying that this is normal behaviour. Why is it normal behaviour? And when (and where) was there a similar situation? They said that they expect the Iraqi people to greet them with flowers after the end of the Saddam regime, and this happened. But they didn't say beforehand that they expect widespread looting and lawlessness for x amount of days.
There can't be a comparison in this part of the world because this is the first despot to be removed by force, creating an instant power vacuum. Perhaps the looting that happened in Kuwait after the liberation in 1991 isn't the same, and it wasn't newsworthy at the time. Perhaps because the country is small compared to Iraq. Also, the looters were of a different composition (locals + expats + soldiers from liberating armies). And also, because there wasn't 24 hour TV coverage. Just wondering.
Arab Embassies, as shown on alJazeera TV, did not escape the wave of looting. The Jordanian Embassy was attacked, as were others. Most of the senior Arab diplomats left Iraq earlier in the crisis (some before). However, they all kept their doors open throughout, maintaining low levels of staff.
Strange to see that embassies of countries whose people were against the US, against the War, supportive of Iraqis, and in some cases supportive of Saddam, to see them under attack. The looters showed them no mercy.
The conspiracy theories will never stop. The US is accused (by the Arab street, though perhaps not all the streets), of being the main instigators of the looters. They successfully secured the oil fields and oil ministry, but failed to secure anything else.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Many thanks to the gang at QHATE for pointing out the English version of an incredible editorial I read today in Al-Nahar, one of Lebanon's leading newspapers. After reading all the gloom and doom scenarios as imagined by the shell-shocked Arab press, this was kind of uplifting.
I've been following with interest the accusations hurled at CNN after it was revealed that it kept the lid on Saddam's atrocities and threats to its own Baghdad team since they opened their office there in 1991, for fear of endangering their staff. CNN has been accused of unethical behavior, since it's been claiming througout the last decade that it operates freely without Iraqi intervention. Those of us who know that regime firsthand always knew it was a load of B.S.

There have been so many arguments against and in defense of CNN, so I've decided to give you a sampling right here.
Meanwhile... I just discovered that I could've had this entire Blog in Arabic. My Arabic typing skills aren't very good so it may have taken longer to post stuff. And just think... if it was in Arabic I wouldn't have met all of you.... aaawwww!!
While I sort of understood the rage that droves scores of Iraqis to loot and destroy the remnants of Saddam's administration, I am shocked beyond words at the destruction of the National Museum of Antiquities which contains artifacts over 5,000 years old from the Mesopotamian era; Sumerian clay pots, Assyrian marble carvings and a whole lot priceless treasures. The archeological sites in Mosul have also been smashed to bits....I don't understand this at all. What hell must they have lived through to lash out so violently? These historic treasures belong to the Iraqi nation, and should've been a source of national pride.

Well... there goes the much anticipated tourist trade. How sad. I wonder if Saddam's remaining goons have anything to do with this. Anything is possible. Why wasn't there any security at the doors?
"That was Peter Sharpe in Sulaimaniya, one of the 'talented' reporters from our sister network Sky News". Fox News Anchor.
Now American news people are also using that word to describe their British counterparts.
Funny but true... I know most of you are too lazy to click the link so I've republished it here from Slate.

"Thursday morning, President Bush greeted the people of Iraq on their TV screens. "You are a good and gifted people," he told them as Arabic script appeared below his face. I don't know Arabic, but I'm sure the translation didn't convey what Bush means by "gifted." He doesn't mean exceptional. He means ethnic.

If you're black, Hispanic, or a member of some other group often stereotyped as incompetent, you may be familiar with this kind of condescension. It's the way polite white people express their surprise that you aren't stupid. They marvel at how "bright" and "articulate" you are. Instead of treating you the way they'd treat an equally competent white person—say, by ignoring you—they fuss over your every accomplishment. When James Baker and Brent Scowcroft do their jobs, it's a non-story. When Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice do the same jobs, it's a newsmagazine cover.

This is the seventh time Bush has used the word "gifted" during his presidency. Once he was reading from a script at an arts award ceremony. Two other times, he was referring to black people: Bill Cosby and Martin Luther King Sr. On the other four occasions, he was talking about Iraqis or Palestinians. All Iraqis and Palestinians. What, in Bush's eyes, makes Iraqis and Palestinians so gifted? The fact that they can run functioning societies.

Of course, if you're gifted, you're probably talented as well. In Bush's view, Iraqis are talented. So are Hispanics. Chinese are "talented, brilliant, and energetic." Russians have "entrepreneurial talent." Irish-Americans have "industry and talent." Cubans have "determination and talent." According to Vice President Dick Cheney, South Koreans are "a peaceful and talented people." Bush thinks there's "plenty of talent amongst the Palestinians"—so much, in fact, that "if we develop the institutions necessary for the development of a state, that talent will emerge." Maybe then they'll be able to read Bush's road map.

No wonder Bush gave the Iraqis a pep talk. They're underprivileged, at-risk, and challenged. They lack self-esteem. They need to be told that they're capable, despite what others may say. Even Tony Blair is patting them on the back. "You are an inventive, creative people," he told them in a televised message accompanying Bush's remarks. I wonder what the Arabic phrase is for 'hand me the remote.' "
As if we don't have enough trouble with our own fundamentalists, now we have to worry about an onslaught of Bible-thumping evangelicals into Iraq. I know I've posted my concerns about this before but the subject keeps coming up and won't go away! Here's a very strong argument supporting my fears, which also asks the question: "We can obliterate another nation's army in a few weeks, but when it comes to reining in a disruptive charity.... our hands our tied?"
Quotes from the streets (various countries, various satellite channels):

"The looting is an American conspiracy to allow US to have complete control of Iraq because Iraqis will beg the Americans to sort out law and order" (Lebanese caller).
"All Arab leaders must remove the statues before the Americans come and remove them". (not meant to be complementary to Americans, nor to Arab leaders).
"The Kuwaitis embedded with the US troops and press are encouraging the looters" (Iraqi citizen in Baghdad).
"Saddam the Arab hero will return and sort out the Americans, and restore order to Iraq" (no, this wasn't from Mo Sahaf).
"The US had no right to do go to war. It gave a sovereign leader 48 hours to get out of the country, and then bombed its population when he didn't" (US anti war protester).
"The Kings, Emirs and Sheikhs of the tiny Gulf states have sown the seeds of their own destruction by siding with the American invaders" (angry Palestinian woman).
"The looters can't be locals. Iraqis can never destroy their country. Those looters and anarchists were brought by the coalition to enable them to control the country" (same)
"Who is Ahmed Chalabi? Please make us (asking Al-Jazeera) a documentary about him, because we don't know him" (Jordanian caller).
"Ahmed Chalabi is responsible for looting a couple of banks in Lebanon and Jordan" (Lebanese caller).
"The Iraqis will wake up one day to find that Saddam's hell is a lot better than America's heaven" (Palestinian refugee).
"Arabs should realise that the only way to get rid of their dictatorial leaders is with the help of the Americans" (email from Algerian to Al-Jazeera).
"By fighting this war, we can prevent another 11 September" (US soldier on VOA)
"This war will create 100 bin Ladens, and there will be many 11 Septembers" (several Arab & European academics + an ex-CIA agent)
"We are afraid that we might be next" (Pakistani student, meaning to be attacked by USA)
"Syria could be next" ( anxious Indian student)
"Syria could be next" (excited Arab-American student)
"Iran could be next" (Arab late night TV caller)
"Saudi Arabia could be next" (ditto)
"Long live the Arab system" (no idea what he was talking about)
"This war means the end of the Arab system"
"I want to thank Kuwait and Saudi Arabia for helping the US to get rid of this criminal Saddam" (Iraqi woman in Michigan).
"God will never forgive the Kuwaitis nor the Saudis for what they have done to the Iraqi people" (another Iraqi woman in Michigan).

I guess people believe whatever they want to believe.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

I see General Amer Al-Saadi - one of Saddam's senior advisers - has surrendered. "Before the war, General al-Saadi was Saddam Hussein's chief scientific adviser in charge of liaising with UN arms inspectors searching for suspected weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He decided to turn himself in after seeing on the BBC that he was being sought.
Frequent visitor to the blog, Nicolas Bray alerted me to the playing cards being distributed to US forces to help ferret out Saddam's loyalists, wanted for war crimes. I had heard about these cards on the radio, but I wasn't paying much attention. Ever heard of news overload? I miss the days when the highlights of my TV viewing were reruns of Seinfeld.

Anyway, here is an explanation of how these cards are supposed to work. Look for them to pop up on eBay in no time.

I know I'm late with this, and shame on you for not telling me, but lets all welcome, Saddam's minister of information Mohamed Saeed Al-Sahaf to Blog-world.
For those of you wondering where on earth Saddam can be.. you would be well advised to stay away from your local "shawarma" stand, whether on London's Edgware Road or Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue or anywhere in Deerborne, Michigan... ;-)

And on the subject of topics I that I haven't mentioned - yet; I've been deliberately avoiding the subject of our 605 POWs and MIAs, gone since the Saddam's occupation in 1990-91. This is a very sensitive and emotionally charged subject for all of us here in Kuwait. 605 may seem like an insignificant number to most people, but in a country as small as Kuwait it has an undeniable effect on our national consciousness. Almost all Kuwaitis know someone who is missing, or at the very least recognize a name or a face among the missing. I, personally, have a missing relative abducted a few blocks from his house for carrying "illegal" pamphlets. I also have a few friends with missing brothers and/or fathers, who have been living with the unspeakable pain of not knowing whether their loved ones are dead or alive.

The reason I've stayed silent on this subject is that I honestly don't know where to start. Iraq has descended into total chaos, and the status of our POWs just got lost in the noise. To complicate matters further, Saddam's loyalist thugs are probably the only ones who know where they are or if they're even still alive. We might have to wait till things calm down in Iraq to find out.

If they are alive - and I pray that they are - I can't even imagine how horrifying their conditions must have been for the last 12 years. Aside from the physical abuse, I worry that may have been mentally abused or brainwashed into thinking they were deserted by Kuwait and left to rot. After their release, they will need years of therapy and rehabilitation to become fully functional human beings. If they are dead, it will give some sad closure to their families who will be allowed to properly mourn for them.
Seeing as I only entered the wacky world of Blog-dom when the war started, I still consider myself a blogging neophyte and as such I'm unaware of any "rules" that may exist to govern the "Blogosphere" (who comes up with these words anyway?). I always envisioned blogging to be a forum for free expression, where I can choose to comment on something or choose not to, whenever the hell I feel like it. Is it written somewhere in the Ten Commandments of Blogging that "Thou shalt keep up with the news minute by minute"?

Suzee (that's Suzy with 2 E's) seems to think so... I woke up this morning to find this rather irate email in my Inbox: "I have to say...you are pathetic...how in the world did you ever become this stupid? Get your head out of your other end and turn on a television set or the radio and get in touch with the real world. Reading your hahaha blog----good God man you are three days behind the rest of the world".

The Death of Baathism - in Iraq anyway. Here's Kanaan Makiya's latest entry in which he says "Baathism died in Iraq yesterday. The sight of the oversized bronze head of Saddam rolling in the dust and being beaten with shoes by exuberant Iraqis is perhaps the most important image of Iraqi politics of the last 50 years. It was the end of the republic of fear. Two Iraqis with whom I was camping out in Washington, D.C., woke me up at 5 a.m. yesterday so we could watch the images of a free Iraq. Tears rolled down our cheeks uncontrollably."

Well that pretty much describes how I felt watching those images. I just pray that the joyous momentum can be maintained.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Courtesy of The Onion.
The war has, of course, had severe effects on the world's markets. On Wall Street, many investors had hoped that the war would give the stock market a boost. But since the war started, it's been nothing but turbulence as investors try to make sense of each day's developments.
What did I tell you last week? NBC is going ahead with plans to make a TV movie based on the dramatic rescue of Jessica Lynch. "Like the rest of America, we shared in the collective thrill of witnessing the heroic and dramatic rescue of Private First Class Jessica Lynch. Her inspiring story is one that provides a message of hope despite great odds,” the network said in a statement.

Let's start casting it here on my Blog. Who do you think should play the main characters, Jessica Lynch and the brave Iraqi lawyer who saved her?
We're all pretty familiar with Saddam Hussein's background by now - as fed to us by a variety of sources. But here's an eye-opening summary of his "colorful" life that many of you may not be familiar with.
Our armchair war correspondent in London has 10 more wartime mysteries on which to ponder. Some of you may have the answers.

Mystery 1: What is there about the Kurdish part of Turkey that makes the Turks so mad keen to hang on to it? Would they not do better to allow a sovereign Kurdish state to be created and to do a deal over the export of its oil? Being land locked, the new state would have to get into bed with someone.

Mystery 2: Since the traditional and probably only way to deal with looters is to shoot them on sight (they are easily spotted as they carry away mattresses and refrigerators) and, since you cannot expect this of an army of liberation, why didn't the coalition foresee the problem and bring in a uniformed police force formed from civilian police services drawn from every coalition country? One looter, shot in the legs, will encourage a thousand others to stay at home. The first action of the Interim Authority would be to take charge of this temporary police service.

Mystery 3: Why didn't the coalition task specific units with going into Iraq government buildings in which computers and documents providing evidence of the brutality of the regime could be expected to be found? The worst aspect of looting is the needless theft or destruction of items that might provide closure for relatives of missing persons and the location of weapons of mass destruction.

Mystery 4: Why do we not see specially programmed public address systems and pre-printed notices in Arabic, car and people control barriers to deal with the checkpoint problem? Why have we not seen any explosive sniffing dogs? It is not as if suicide bombers are a new phenomenon in the Middle East (Hey! That's not fair!! Ed.)

Mystery 5: Are the "women in black" - by which I mean women wearing traditional Moslem dress particularly in evidence in Basra and other Shiite areas - as contented with their lot as would appear from the television footage? With a majority of women in the United States on tranquilisers and/or visiting head shrinks and/or fighting old age with cosmetic surgery I would think that they would be well advised to avoid westernisation. .

Mystery 6: If Saddam never thought for a moment that he would lose the war, just why are so many of the palaces unfurnished?

Mystery 7: What plans do the Coalition have for a new currency? They must surely have loads of it pre-printed and ready to be issued? Likewise new postage stamps? There is good money waiting to be made in first day covers. Does anyone realise this?

Mystery 8: The word "rape" has not been mentioned once on television. One of the greatest benefits from embedding correspondents has been to prevent the unfounded accusations of rape and other atrocities by soldiers that have been thrown around in past campaigns. With the breakdown in Law and Order and Saddam's emptying of the prisons one would have least expected to hear of Iraqi-on-Iraqi rape. Is this happening? Or is rape foreign to the local culture? (No it's not, say Uday's many rape victims!! Ed.)

Mystery 9: Where are the looters driving around in their cars getting their petrol from? Why is it that bully-boy looters are not seizing cars from other looters? Is the breakdown in Iraqi society confined to looting?

Mystery 10: What sort of society exists in Syria? Is suppression of freedom of speech, means of communication (mobile telephones, Internet, satellite TV), imprisonment, murder and torture of dissidents as rife as it was in Iraq? Will there be an internally generated regime change when the Syrians see what is happening in Iraq? (See this, Ed.)
If Saddam, his sons and his inner circle are still alive, I hope they have access to TV images of jubilant Iraqis celebrating the end of their reign. I wonder how it must feel to be so hated and reviled, and on such a grand scale. Even currency notes with Saddam's picture on them are being torn up. This no simple loss of a popularity contest; it's pure hatred of a man who has made their lives a living hell.
Who is Ahmad Chalabi, the man itching to be the next president of Iraq? I read a glowing profile, or so it seemed, in Vanity Fair a few months ago. I'd never heard of the man before, so I reserved any judgment. However it's recently come to light that he's a convicted felon, accussed of bank fraud and embezzlement of US$ 70 million from Jordan's Petra Bank. Well, why not? It seems the Bush administration has a soft spot for crooks. North, Abrams, Lay, Poindexter... and now Chalabi.

Obviously the situation isn't as cut-and-dry as that, I'm sure there are other factors to be considered. Time will tell..
Casualties of War: The Baseball Hall of Fame has cancelled the celebration of the 15th anniversary of the movie Bull Durham, one of the best sports movies ever.

Why? Because two of its stars, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon dared to speak out against the war. In the story, you'll note that the hall's president used to be a flack for Reagan and Bush.
Arab "volunteers", misled by their own governments' propaganda and infammatory broadcasts on various news channels, are turning around and going home in dismay. "We volunteered to defend Baghdad," said Firas Ali Abdullah, who returned to Syria with seven other Syrians and Lebanese on Wednesday. "Instead of giving us weapons to fight, they used us as human shields."

They were stupid enough to answer a call to arms by Saddam Hussein and a few clerics on his payroll. Did they once stop to ask whether the Iraqi people needed their help? And if that help was indeed needed, shouldn't they be helped in getting rid of Saddam?
If you've been watching the celebrations and wondering why there were shoes flying from all directions at statues or images of Saddam, it's because "Using your shoe to whack someone - or their graven image, is tantamount to stepping on them"... Other forms of celebration spotted in the coverage include palm fronds, and little clay discs. Each of them is rife with symbolism.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

As expected, Turkey is getting a bit nervous. Let's hope it doesn't make a difficult situation even worse. The Kurds could get into trouble with them.
Tim Sebastian on BBC World is now grilling a Kurdish leader, Siamand Banna of the Kurdish Regional Government.
And now a suicide attack on US Marines. Four marines were seriously injured... the bloodbath has begun. Yesterday's celebrations were definitely premature, as nobody bothered to ask where the hell the republican guard has disappeared to. Well, now we know. And I'm afraid we'll be seeing a lot more of this in the days to come.

I'm sure Arab news channels will now change their sullen mood into one of cheer!
Word has it that Najaf has descended into total chaos... and uncorfirmed reports say some sort of massacre has taken place. It all started inside the Imam Ali mosque, with the assassination of a leading Shiite cleric. Stay tuned...
More celebrations in Kirkuk - much to the chagrin of Turkey - and the looting goes on. People are attacking all symbols of Saddam's regime, they're venting and letting out 35 years worth of repression. I don't think any of us can begin to comprehend their feelings.

Kuwait continues its role as good neighbor by airlifting several badly injured Iraqi children to be treated here in our hospitals. I saw one of them leaving a local hospital this morning - I was there to visit a friend - and his limbs were destroyed. It was heartbreaking.
I don't see why everyone is shocked at the chaos and looting in Baghdad... even relatively wealthy Kuwait saw its fair share of chaos in the days immediately after liberation. Things will calm down soon enough. I'm just worried about the guns on the loose, and that asssination of an Ayatollah in Najaf isn't a good sign.
The first piece of correspondence from our webpal (internet penpal... new word? or used before?), armchair correspondent Anthony Samuelson, mentioned the 'military experts' all over the Western media. Well you haven't seen the ones appearing on the Arab media.
Example: When the airport was taken, one of them said that neither Iraq nor the US can use the airport. The next day, a US C-130 landed.
Yesterday they were discussing why the Iraqi army was defeated. Blaming it on the tactics, the decision making and other unlikely explanations. They did not mention the Iraqi army's equipment, the training of the soldiers, and their morale. Nor the fact that they were fighting the Superpower.
I remember at the end of the last (2nd) Gulf War, some US soldiers had scribbled graffiti on an Iraqi tank: SOVIET JUNK.
Who knew Rush Limbaugh had a sense of humor? Some of his listerners apparently didn't... Earlier this week, Limbaugh gave a tongue-in-cheek report saying that the fact-challenged Iraqi Minister of Information was bragging that Saddam Hussein’s forces had invaded New York’s Shea Stadium and was moving on to Broadway so they could get tickets to all the hot shows. Some in his audience took him seriously.

One called a New York television station and began berating the network for not reporting this information, and another contacted Limbaugh and blasted him for divulging info that might help terrorist sleeper cells in the U.S. "Folks, my father always warned me to be careful, because people believe everything I say on the radio,” Limbaugh says on his Web site. “He was right.”
Our armchair correspondent in London has a few unanswered questions. Quite a few of them as you can see below.
When the entrails of this third Gulf war (compliments to Tareq) come to picked over by historians they will be confronted with a number of mysteries. Here are some of them, in random order of impenetrability:

Why did Saddam Hussein, when he was given a forty-eight hour ultimatum to either comply with the United Nations disarmament resolution or get out, not do one of two things. He could have put his hand up and said: "OK, I am sorry that I mislead you and here are my weapons of mass destruction." Or, if he genuinely believed that he did not have any, say: "I have put all the scientists on your list on today's Air Iraq flight to Cyprus along with their families and you can ask them whatever you like." Either of these responses would have left Saddam and his sons with all the trappings of power and a very comfortable life style in perpetuity.

Here in North London I only had to go out of my front door (which faces West) to hear President Bush in Washington's heart thumping as he held his breath.

My guess (and it is only a guess) is that Saddam allowed himself to be persuaded by the peaceniks that the United States would never dare to go against the United Nations. For certain there was no one in the Iraqi government who would have risked his life to warn his President of a possible disastrous outcome if the confrontation continued. Saddam only had to say: "Do I have to put up with this man's drivel?" (where have I heard that before?) for him to become, as American's say, toast. It may even be, and this would explain a lot, that he was under the delusion that everyone left in Iraq actually liked him.

The second mystery is how is it that Tariq Aziz, who looks so like a cuddly grandfather from Central Casting, comes to be a part of the Ba'athist gang? He first showed up on the radar during the run-up to Desert Storm as the Iraqi interviewee of choice for such distinguished current affairs shows as CNN's Larry King Live and the BBC's Newsnight. It came as a surprise but no surprise to learn that he is a Christian and not a member of the Saddam tribal clan. There were many who were sufficiently taken in to accept his assurance that Iraq's invasion of Kuwait was an act of self-defence. It is to be hoped that, like Herman Goering, Aziz is carrying around an analy retained cyanide capsule because hanging him may go down badly with the American Christian Right. In his recent well publicised visit to the Pope did the Holy Father, do you suppose, administer to him the last rights? ("See you soon.")

Yet another mystery is how the many thousands of military pundits embedded (to use Dick Cheney's phrase) in the television studios have missed the simple fact that Takrit is being saved up for America's 4th Infantry Division. The American military is one big family and it is inconceivable that one of its most illustrious and best equipped outfits should be humiliated by being made to return to the United States unblooded. It was not the fault of the "Iron Horse" (as the 4th Infantry is known) that its equipment was locked in a Mediterranean stand-off while the French and the US battled for the hearts and minds of the Turks. The French, threatening to veto Turkey's admission to EEC membership, won. The 4th Infantry has now flown in to Kuwait whence its equipment has been shipped via the Suez Canal.

In its current location one of the 4th Infantry's armoured squadrons has had to endure a Busby Barclay style interview by the disgraced FoxNews correspondent Geraldo Rivera. In typical Geraldo fashion the other ranks were arranged in an arc to provide a patriotic backdrop for the great television personality. Their commanding officer then came into shot stage left and in a well rehearsed piece of business delivered his lines with the authority of a modern General Custer. It is very possible that it was not drawing a map in the sand that got Geraldo declared persona non grata to the 101st Airborne in Iraq but an earlier and similar piece of cringe making burlesque comedy that stuck in a one star craw, Having suffered so much, the 4th Infantry deserve a crack at the real enemy.
Item found on gossip site Popbitch: The breakout star of Gulf War II is obviously Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf, Iraq's Information Minister. His ability to lie so blatantly on behalf of his evil boss makes him perfectly suited for a career in celebrity PR.

Posh Spice may soon have a vacancy for him, if rumours surrounding her current publicist's huge unpopularity with the tabloids are true. Mohammed would be perfect - he could tell even the most ludicrous baby-kidnap story without batting an eyelid.
It was kind of funny seeing Iraq's ambassador to the UN, Mohamed Al-Douri being hounded by CNN at his residence doorstep in New York. He said "the game is over" and that he had no contact with Saddam and has no idea where he is. I wonder what it must be like for his army of diplomats around the world. They are now in a state of limbo, not knowing what to do next and who they're reporting to.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Dubai TV stated that the destruction of Saddam's statue (Live on TV) is "an American stage show witnessed by a limited number of Iraqis".
Who is the producer of that programme, and which planet did he come from? They should at least show some signs of joy for the Iraqis. It can be argued that the future of the Iraqi people is a mystery, but at least it is a future without Saddam. And now they have a group of 'military experts' discussing the Iraqi military, and why it failed. ISN'T IT OBVIOUS?
Has anyone noticed that no Arab leader has come out and said anything yet?? I know they're not accustomed to daily or weekly press conferences, but this is no ordinary day.
Do you think they'll be sending their henchmen to remove their own statues, posters and monuments in the middle of the night?
I wonder....
Take a quick review of Arab reactions to the fall of Baghdad. It kills me that they can't see beyond their misgivings, some of which are legitimate, to just be happy for the Iraqis, finally freed from 35 years of evil brutality.

Note how Syrian TV didn't show any footage of statues being toppled. For those of you unfamiliar with life in Syria, statues of Hafez Al-Assad and now his son are everywhere. They don't want to give the Syrian populace any ideas... ;-)

Rumsfeld just made TWO (count 'em) jokes, during ONE press conference.
I see my brother Tareq has finally made it onto the Blog... Please join me in welcoming him.
Re my previous note, one of the Kuwaiti papers has called this war The Last Gulf War. Let's hope so.
This is Tareq, Ziad's brother. It seems that the war is nearly over. Just a correction for the benefit of some Western media organisations: this is not the 2nd Gulf War, but it is the 3rd one. Here's a brief chronology:

1st Gulf War (aka Iran-Iraq War), 1980 - 1988
2nd Gulf War (aka Desert Storm), Jan/Feb 1991
3rd Gulf War, this one (aka Operation Iraqi Freedom) March/April 2003

Just because the West wasn't involved in the first one doesn't mean it didn't happen. But wait, Iran - contra, CIA info to Iraq, weapons from France, Germany, UK, USA, Soviet Union to both sides. Hmmm.... I guess they were involved after all ;-)
OK... now that the bombing of Baghdad has come to an end, the question on everyone's mind must surely be... WHERE IS RAED? And is Salam Pax OK?
My sister Samia just sent me a text message from in front of the Iraqi Embassy in London. It's a total mob scene, as exiled Iraqis are singing and dancing in celebration!!
AT LAST!!! My interview in the Daily Telegraph has finally made it online!.

Yep... that's me.....This picture is better than the one they used in the print edition... which isn't saying much.
I was overcome with emotion - and glued to the TV - watching jubilant Iraqis knock down a huge statue of Saddam in a large square in central Baghdad. This moment will surely be remembered on a par with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the lynching of Mussolini.

Of course, the snide tone on Al-Jazeera and the other channels was unmistakable. No matter how hard the crowd cheered they could not see beyond their anti-American hatred and allow themselves to feel happy for them, if only for a few minutes. They make me sick!
Overheard on the drive home, on the Armed Forces Network Radio: A live broadcast of the Tom Joyner Morning Show. A female caller is complaining that her man is with the armed forces in Kuwait and she's strapped for cash. The show's resident agony aunt Miz Dupree, shoots back: "Girl... if yo' babydaddy's in Kuwait, then you 'Ku wait' till he gets home!!"
How awful it must be for the recently freed residents of Baghdad to tour the building where Saddam's secret police tortured and maimed many of their friends and family for years. Not one family in Iraq has escaped this evil regime; every household has at least one member either jailed, tortured, missing or killed.
I've been reading a lot about the foreign press corps based in Kuwait (the Westerners anyway)... and while I understand their frustration over not being in the middle of the "action", it seems that they're passing away their idle time filing bitchy dispatches about bureaucracy in Kuwait, the weather, and the lack of booze and/or sex - although many Kuwaitis would beg to differ with that last one... The only excitement they've had so far were the sirens - that's when they're not "enjoying themselves" in their hotel rooms watching Fashion TV. Many of them are holed up in the Hilton resort, 25 minutes outside the city. It's a nice enough place, but bland in a way I haven't yet determined. And being outside the city means they're a bit cut off.

I've deliberately avoided all contact with the foreign press simply because very few of them seem like people I'd want to hang out with. I get the impression that most of them are condescending, ill-tempered, impatient and completely uninterested in anything that doesn't qualify as a "story". I'm sure they're not all that bad; some could be very nice people. It's just that I feel it's not worth going out of my way to be nice and hospitable to them only to be snubbed later. They're not worth that risk. I realize this now even after I just posted an open invitation to Christopher Hitchens, surely the crankiest of all journalists.

Granted they're here to do a job without much time for pleasantries, and I don't think of myself as particularly newsworthy - Daily Telegraph interview notwithstanding - but it wouldn't kill them to use their spare time more productively and go out and about and talk to the locals, get a sense of what life has been like living under the constant threat of the tyrant next door for 12 years, learn about our lives, hopes and dreams. Even enjoy our hospitality....

Having said all that, if any "nice" press people in Kuwait happen to read this, and would like to get a local "non-official" perspective on things.. then I'm your man!
From our armchair correspondent in London, his thoughts on the future of Iraq as a tourist magnet.
There is something that is worrying me most every time I see battle footage from the centre of Baghdad. This is that sooner or later a gung-ho tank gunner will take it into his head to demolish the Saddam's Hands of Victory monument (the one with two crossed swords) that forms a triumphal arch over the Parade Ground. I am equally concerned that the exigencies of war will lead to damage beyond repair to the bunkers and tunnels beneath the Presidential Palaces.

The reason why I care so much is that, along with the palaces themselves, these unique features have the makings of an irresistible tourist attraction. In the longer term tourism will be more important to the Iraqi economy than oil - oil being at best a finite resource and one that will suffer a catastrophic loss in value if ever a viable fuel cell is developed. As a tourist attraction Iraq's status as the Cradle of Civilisation gives it a head start. The Daily Telegraph has a picture of thirty members of the US 82nd Airborne Division clambering over the Temple at Ur. They are the advance guard of millions of moneyed holiday makers and wives of conference delegates on day trip outings.

In Britain we have turned many of our Stately Homes into tourist attractions and, in some cases, hotels. The fact that they were mostly built on the proceeds of the slave trade has not worked to their disadvantage. The Venetians, probably the most pragmatic race in the world, did not pull down the bridge that connects their city to the mainland just because it had been constructed by the hated Austrian invaders. Nor did they replace the railway station on the Venice side just because its futurist architecture is a constant reminder of fascism.

The monstrous excesses on view in California's Hearst Castle, home of the ruthless newspaper proprietor William Randolph Hearst, have made it so powerful a tourist magnet that it is necessary to book a visit months in advance. You may well ask, as you did in your posting of a few days ago, where has all the garish furniture that used to be in the palaces gone? Finding this furniture has to be a Coalition priority second only to searching out the weapons of mass destruction. It must be in store somewhere and needs to be protected from vandalism and theft. Put back into the palaces, and with the necessary repairs to the fabric, Iraq will be endowed with a score or more of Hearst castles. It also has railways and canals and a geographic location that positions it on a potential tourist axis extending from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.

Any palaces to spare can be used for exhibition venues. In Harrogate (a Regency spa town in Yorkshire, England) trade shows are spread between the old Pump Room, the former Turkish Baths, the Promenade Rooms and a few hotels. This works, even though the various locations lack the advantage of being connected to each other by tunnels. Nor is Harrogate blessed with any feature that provides so potent a photo op as the Hands of Victory. They must surely be up with the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids and the Magic Castle in Disney Land.

I once read about a top company executive who is a keen supporter of Sunderland football club and travels the world on business. He has made it his life time's work to be photographed against every tourist landmark wearing his Sunderland strip. His team (three own goals in a single game and a relegation certainty) is having not much better luck than Saddam Hussein at the moment. But I bet you he will be there.