Monday, March 31, 2003

OK.. it seems that Chemical Ali has not been captured yet, but the US Marines are hot on his trail..
UK forces have set up a radio station in Basra, called, funnily enough, Radio Basra. The station is overseen by Lt Colonel Mason, a part-time soldier who is also the deputy chairman of Choice FM in London. He says "The sort of product that we are putting out is reassuring people that we're not going to disappear, and that the Saddam Hussein days are numbered".

I was hoping for someone from a cool alternative station like XFM, but this'll do for now..
I tell you people here just don't seem to care... life on the streets is as busy as ever and the restaurants are all packed. I just got back from a nice sushi dinner with friends. I can't explain it, but it's actually a relief that people are going about their lives as normal and not cowering in fear at home.
Peter Arnett, probably the most annoying news correspondent ever, has been fired from NBC and National Geographic; he was their man in northern Iraq. What was he thinking when he gave that interview? He clearly underestimated the backlash his comments would generate, and who can blame him? The daily papers have been saying the same thing for days!
Reports are in that Ali Hassan Majeed, aka "Chemical Ali" may have been captured. Chemical Ali is, of course, better known as the man who orchestrated the dropping of chemical bombs on the Kurds in 1988. He was also "governor" of Kuwait - the so-called 19th province - during the occupation. He may be Saddam's cousin, but when push comes to shove he's as expendable as any other Iraqi.
I know this was supposed to be a simple journal in which I would just report on daily life in Kuwait during this war, but I'm enjoying the writing so forgive me if I've been "editorializing" a bit much. One of my biggest regrets is not having kept a journal during the Iraqi occupation of 1990-91. Of course, back then I didn't even know how to type and didn't own a PC which was just as well because I could've been arrested by the Iraqis for "Computer Possession"..... I am not joking!
And the hits keep coming: I am being taken to task today by some well-meaning friends in Kuwait for being a little bit critical of the US, as if it were some sort of crime. But to my fellow Kuwaitis, I say this: The US sent its young men and women in 1991 as part of a huge international coalition to fight a war that gave us back our country and, most importantly, our freedom. We owe them them a lot for protecting us since then from Saddam's threats of another invasion. But the freedom they returned to us also includes the freedom to speak one's mind, and if we see the US as a friend - and I mostly do - then as friends we should be able to offer constructive criticism, even if it falls on deaf ears. I do believe in gratitude and we are forever grateful; we must never forget, but I am uncomfortable with the servile, flag-waving kind of gratitude currently on display 12 years later. A slight whiff of criticism, and paranoia strikes deep in these people fearing that the US will suddenly pull out its troops and leave us to the wolves, not realizing how insulting it is to the US itself that it should ever be thought of as that petty (this was before Freedom Fries) and not realizing as well that it's in the US's strategic interests to stay put. The coalition that came to our rescue in 1991 also included many other countries, yet - shamefully - our gratitude is reserved only for the Americans... and oh, right, the Brits.

In my opinion, the best way to show gratitude to the forces of liberation, should've been by making Kuwait a better country - a country they did not fight in vain to save, a country worth fighting for again and again. Look around you, and see what we've "accomplished" in the 12 years since liberation: Fundamentalist lunatics have hijacked our lives, women are denied their political rights, our constitution is under threat, our education system is returning us to the Dark Ages churning out hordes of ignorant underachievers, corruption runs unchecked, and our economy is a mess while neighbors flourish...... In other countries there would be riots in the streets but we just can't be bothered. We had everything going for us after the invasion, a chance to rebuild our country and let it rise like the phoenix from the ashes... but alas, apathy and selfishness preserved the status quo. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Life in Kuwait is very comfortable and pleasant, but maybe it's precisely this high quality of life that most of us - myself included - enjoy as individuals that has made us too lazy and too selfish to make a stand for the greater good of our country.....THAT is how we repay our debt to the Allies.
On the drive home I listened to an interview with some Iraqi-Americans all of whom escaped Saddam's rule and support the war to free their homeland, and I thought to myself "It's all worth it, damn it!". It's up to us to make sure the nightmare scenarios I listed in my previous post don't actually happen. We have to make sure that the new Iraq is a strong country run by its own people and decides its own future.
I've been thinking long and hard about this war and trying to see what future awaits us through the haze of battles and rhetoric. Here in Kuwait, we're in the extra-delicate position of trying to balance our belonging to the Arab World with our own security interests. Agitators of all stripes (Islamist, leftist, etc.) across the Middle East are branding us as traitors, with some even calling for Kuwait to be bombed for acting as the launching ground for the coalition forces "invading" Iraq. No doubt the 15 (and counting) missile attacks we've had to endure have given these fools something to celebrate. Our only consolation is that after this war is won by the coalition and Iraqis are freed from Saddam's evil grip, there will be a huge outbreak of "foot-in-mouth disease" across the Middle East as these same agitators struggle to eat their words and try to make amends to the Iraqi people for protesting against the war that set them free.

However... I have to come clean and admit that if I belonged to another Arab county, say Egypt or Lebanon, my feelings toward this war would very likely be very different. I can't honestly blame Arabs for having their passions inflamed at the thought of war wrought on another Arab country, and by relentless images of death and destruction beamed at them day and night courtesy of Al-Jazeera and other news channels. It is through tough times like these that all rational thought flies out the window. Why, for instance, can't everyone take a step back and examine the root causes of this mess? Why can't anyone acknowledge the hundreds of thousands killed by Saddam's regime? Are they making up for their long silence while he slaughtered his population for three decades by suddenly showing concern for the "Iraqi people"? Where was that concern before?! Or as my cousin Abdul-Latif put it in his column today: "Are the Arabs upset that the coalition is liberating the very people they ignored?" The sad truth is they didn't care before.. but not for the reasons one might expect. You see, most Arab countries are milder versions of Saddam's Iraq. Their citizens are used to this sort of life albeit on a smaller scale, so when anyone gets worked up over Saddam's brutality they simply shrug it off. Only last night on Lebanon's LBC channel, a female Lebanese lawyer called into a chat show and hailed the Iraqi people and their great leader(!!). It's one thing to express support for the Iraqi people - as we all do - but quite another to cheer their leader. How on earth could she hail the people and the leader who's slaughtering them in one breath?! This woman had better hope nobody in Iraq caught her tirade, because after the war they will hunt her down!

Of course - you've read/heard this ad nauseam - the main reason this war is so vehemently opposed in the Arab world is because - you guessed it - it's driven solely by the "evil USA", the "Great Satan", and looking at America's track record in the region would give anyone the "jitters", to say the least. As far as Arabs are concerned, America's refusal to act as an honest broker in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict gives them no reason to trust its intentions in this war. They view the coalition as invading imperialists aiming to occupy an Arab country and suck its resources dry. I reject the "War against Islam" arguement, since anyone with half a brain can see that it can't be a "crusade" when even the Pope objects to it so loudly (unless it's a "Born-Again Christian" crusade, in which case... run for the hills!!). People have selective memories for better or worse; it's human nature. Why can't they acknowledge America's role in rescuing Kosovo's Muslim population from Serbian aggression?Why wasn't that seen as a "crusade"?

And let us not discount George W. Bush's failure to inspire any Arab confidence in his declared intentions. The lack of consistency in his stated objectives - one day it's regime change, the next disarmament - must surely arouse suspicion in even the most pro-American of Arabs. A close look at his advisors also gives Arabs plenty of reasons for alarm and suspicion. From Donald Rumsfeld's ties to Saddam in the 1980's to the group of rabidly pro-Likud neo-consrvative chicken-hawks led by Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith et al. currently driving this war. And before any of you out there scream "ANTI-SEMITISM!!" let me warn you that my several Jewish friends will come kick your ass if you do. These advisors are certainly entitled to their views and they can support anyone from Israel to Greenland for all I care, but it shows a glaring contempt for the Arab world to have them advise on mideast policy and advocate war. Bush's speeches of late have concentrated on the liberation of the Iraqi people, a truly admirable goal which - if meant sincerely and done right - would eventually turn Bush into a hero - at least in Iraq. But then we turn around and see who he's lined up to administer Iraq after the war, whatever that means, and it just makes us pull our hair! How could Bush appoint a man so pro-Israel to this crucial and highly sensitive position? I'm not begrudging Mr. Garner his views - he's free to support whoever he likes - but someone with his outlook is unfit to administer Iraq and could only cause further trouble.

I could go on and on... but I really should get back to work now, so I'll pick up this discussion later.
You can tell I'm going out and about a bit more than I was last week, can't you? ;-)

Sunday, March 30, 2003

HOW PATHETIC!! Can these people's lives be so empty that they're willing to sacrifice everything for a bunch of thugs who would kill them if they so much as looked at them the wrong way? If they really want to fight for a "cause", why the hell can't they join an Iraqi uprising against the dictator? I wish someone would ask them that on live TV.
Have they started yet? I'm talking about terrorist attacks on coalition forces. A pick-up truck just charged into a group of US soldiers at the Udairi camp in northern Kuwait. No word yet on who drove the truck or what nationality he held.

The Wall Street Journal has a terrific article on the Kuwaiti firefighters who put out the first oil fires in souther Iraq last Monday. Unfortunately you have to be a paid subscriber to view it so I'll just quote a few choice excerpts:

"As oil-well fires were raging here last weekend, Brian Krause, president of Boots & Coots International Well Control Inc., was on hand to boast that his team of Texas firefighters would need just a few weeks to douse the blazes. But as the 47-year-old Mr. Krause talked -- decked out in his company's trademark red coveralls -- a team of Kuwaiti firefighters was already moving its equipment into Iraq's second-largest oil field, now under U.S. and British control. Braving minefields and ignoring reports of Iraqi guerrillas in the area, the Kuwaitis snuffed out the first fire on Monday, days before Mr. Krause was ready to roll. "We had all our equipment ready, and Boots & Coots didn't," says Aisa A. Bou Yabes, the chief firefighter for the state-owned Kuwait Oil Co. Mr. Bou Yabes, a 46-year-old with a long, graying beard, nonchalantly mentions that his men cleared away some cluster bombs by themselves."

"Mr. Krause, whose 11-member team hasn't been able to start fighting fires yet in Iraq because it's been waiting for equipment, has been impressed with the Kuwaitis' early efforts. "They said, 'Shoot, we'll go ahead and start working,' " he marvels. The Kuwaitis are good firefighters, he says, but adds: "On real, real, real critical wells, they'll call us in." So far, the Kuwaitis haven't needed much help. With blasts from two water cannons, Mr. Bou Yabes and his 30-member team snuffed their first fire early this week in 15 minutes. The next day, the team capped the gushing oil well. Fierce sandstorms appeared temporarily to have damped three other raging fires in recent days, though the wells still need to be properly extinguished and capped. Meanwhile, American oil-field contractors spent much of the week trying to line up trucks, bulldozers and other heavy equipment, and secure a reliable water supply. Holed up in the Crown Plaza hotel in Kuwait City, they were also waiting for U.S. troops to secure the fields after hearing unconfirmed reports of a firefight between coalition soldiers and Iraqi troops. "I don't see any hostile forces," shrugged Mr. Bou Yabes, speaking from a cellphone a few hundred yards from the reported site of a battle the evening before."

"The Kuwaitis are now coordinating their work under an agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Unlike the Texan contractors, the Kuwaiti company isn't getting paid by the U.S. for its firefighting services. They say their help is a gesture of friendship to the Iraqi people, but Kuwait also wanted to prevent pollution risks and damage to the underground oil reservoirs, which it shares with Iraq. "They just showed up. It was a real surprise to me," says Ray Rodon, the project manager here for a Houston-based unit of Halliburton Co., which has been hired by the U.S. to supervise firefighting efforts"

Mr. Bou Yabes battled fires in Kuwait alongside the founders of Boots & Coots, Asger "Boots" Hansen and Edward "Coots" Matthews, both now retired. In 1991, Mr. Bou Yabes remembers Texans betting that his team couldn't put out one particularly nasty tower of flame and smoke in Kuwait's burning fields. They did. Friday, the Texans plan to begin battling the fires alongside the Kuwaitis. Both sides downplay any rivalry. Still, "there's some of that manliness, like we don't want the other guy to finish before us," Mr. Krause says, referring to Mr. Bou Yabes. "He'd be lying if he didn't tell you that, too"
And here's the Washington Post's David Ignatius confirming our worst fears, and echoing Makiya's depiction of a country ruled by fear and sheer terror.

Ignatius knows of what he speaks. As a former middle east correspondent he has seen his fair share of action in Iraq and Lebanon in the 1980's. I've always wondered why his book The Bank of Fear was never made into a film; it's a great read (I finished it in 2 days!) and has all the makings of a modern spy thriller. Who knows how Hollywood types think anyway?
Here's Kanaan Makiya's latest entry, a truly terrifying description of the notorious and dreaded Fedayeen Saddam. If you're wondering why uprisings haven't yet happened all over Iraq, this entry will explain why. "The Fedayeen training in the infamous camps of Salman Pak.... is characterized by its intensity and its deliberate attempts, through psychological means, to isolate recruits from society at large and transform them into a fiercely disciplined and deliberately cruel force. The training instills in recruits a sense of paranoia, the feeling that the very precariousness of the regime is a personal threat to them. This is a force that sees plots against the regime everywhere, even though the regime is all-powerful over them. This paranoia soon turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, since the people they terrorize would gladly rip them limb from limb if they got half a chance. The Fedayeen, in other words, is a force that knows what fate awaits it after liberation.... unlike the regular army, they will therefore fight to the finish".
Let's talk about Al-Jazeera, shall we? It was created in 1996 in response to the growing demand for hard-hitting news and the growing weariness and distaste for dull government-controlled news. A fair objective, if you ask me. When Kuwait was invaded by Iraq in 1990, Arab government news channels pretended the whole thing didn't happen and avoided the subject for 3 days. Imagine! An Arab country gets invaded and taken over by a neighboring Arab country and it doesn't even make the news!! This would never happen today and I would like to think that Al-Jazeera - or the many stations formed in its wake - would be first on the scene with that particular breaking news item.

Since its first broadcast, Al-Jazeera has drawn fire from many governments in the Arab world, not used to its blunt and frank coverage. For the first time ever, Arab viewers were treated to the breaking news of the day without having to sit through the coma-inducing coverage of their leaders' "guests" or "visiting dignitaries" confirming mutual relationships or other such nonsense. But it is mostly their editorial work and not their news coverage that has drawn the most fire. On programs such as "Opposite Direction" the host relishes in pitting two extreme points of view against each other, where he literally inflames the discussion from the word "go". More often than not, these shows descend into screaming matches - his guests not being used to civil discourse on TV and forgetting that the cameras are rolling. Arab viewers, brought up on rote government spin, were drawn to this curious new phenomenon in much the same way Americans are drawn to Jerry Springer's daily freakshow.

Ever since its foundation from the ruins of the BBC's Arabic News Service, I have passionately defended Al-Jazeera as the bravest news network in the Arab world, and always felt that we need more stations like this and not less. Many Kuwaitis have repeatedly complained that it is too blatantly anti-Kuwaiti and too biased in favor of Iraq. Again, we were not used to being criticized on live TV and I always felt that we were being a bit childish for not having things our way. But one positive side-effect is that it has woken us up from our deep slumber and forced us to fight back and fight hard to present our case to the Arab world, and for that I have to (reluctantly) thank Al-Jazeera. It's ripple effect can be felt across the region as more news outlets are formed to compete with it, and this competition for viewership has meant more news and less fluff - well, almost. An unfortunate side-effect is that, once balanced news channels like Abu Dhabi and the new Al-Arabiya have adopted the no-holds-barred style of Al-Jazeera so that anyone looking for straight news devoid of sensationalism won't find much to choose from.

What upsets me, however, about Al-Jazeera is its claim to be the only truly independent uncensored Arab news channel when it's anything but. I also hate that the Western media seem to buy that line wholesale. If it was truly independent then all Arab countries should be fair game for criticism. Qatar, its host, is off-limits and for some inexplicable reason so is Iraq - a regime that defies belief in its well-documented brutality. For example, way before this war was even planned, its reporters made a habit of making snide remarks, devoid of objectivity about Kuwait, belittling our claims against Iraq and literally scolding us to "get over it!!"... whereas Iraq's responsibility for the mess we're in goes unnoticed. Kuwait is now attacked for being the launching ground of the coalition forces in this current war, an act of treason in the eyes of Al-Jazeera, yet somehow the fact that Qatar is where CENTCOM is based goes without comment. And I've given enough space in this blog to the nauseating Abdel-Bari Atwan... so the less said about him, the better.

Western media and governments always used to criticize Al-Jazeera for its coverage of the Palestinian uprising (Intifada), forgetting that Arabs need a pro-Palestinian news outlet to counter the pro-Israeli western news channels. I won't get into that subject here, but suffice it to say that it has emboldened Al-Jazeera to go against the grain of both western and Arab media. Never has this been more clear than it is now. It is one thing to claim to deliver the news from an "Arab perspective", but it is quite another to defend the Iraqi regime so blatantly and blanket this defense in concern for the Iraqi people. If Al-Jazeera and its many talking heads were truly concerned for innocent Iraqis caught in the horror of battle, they could have used its considerable influence to rally Arab public opinion against Iraq's dictatorship many years ago. Instead, in an irresponsible grab for ratings, it has become the mouthpiece for an evil regime, and practically portrayed Saddam as a hero. I'd love to see how Iraqis, eventually freed from his tyranny, will feel towards Al-Jazeera.

Having let all that off my chest, I would be even more disappointed if Al-Jazeera was shut down by pressure from angry Arab governments. If we truly aspire to a free and democratic Arab world where information flows freely, then we need more channels like Al-Jazeera and not less. In its defense, it has been instrumental in providing information about Osama Bin Laden, and its contacts with Al-Qaeda have actually helped in the war against terrorism. It's also the only news channel to regularly interview Israeli officials, though I'm not sure what good came out of that. Yes, they do need to be more objective and less hostile and they do need to stop defending Saddam so vigorously. I truly hope they will mature into a more balanced news channel. After all, they're only 6 years old - and they're acting their age.
So now Saddam is sending suicide bombers to carry out targetted assassinations. I never thought that was his style, but I suppose desperate measures...etc.

This war is not turning out according to the Pentagon's plans. It seems Rumsfeld, in his usual brusque manner, had put aside concerns by top military brass over the number of ground troops required for this campaign. War is never easy to plan - as well it shouldn't be - but surely Rumsfeld the civilian could've heeded the advice of the seasoned military experts in his team.
I think I'm coming down with early Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. My right forearm muscles are giving me a hard time; I bet it's all this damn blogging! Your tips to combat this condition are most welcome.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Just downloaded Lenny Kravitz's anti-war song "We Want Peace"... The lyrics? Well, Lets just say Bob Dylan doesn't have much to worry about. The press release says it's a collaboration with Iraqi singer Kazem Al-Sahir... but his contribution is only a little break in the middle. As a piece of music it's actually a lot of fun, with great percussion and Kravitz'z trademark rhythm guitar...Can't wait to hear it at parties!
Israel says it is willing to send humanitarian aid to Iraq as part of a broad UN effort. I don't know what the Israelis are thinking, but I sincerely wish that they'd stay out of this.. for obvious reasons!
Iran had its largest anti-war demonstration yesterday, and the Arab masses could do well to learn a few things from the Iranians. While they engaged in the now-tiresome ritual of burning effigies of Bush and Blair, they at least had the decency to burn one of Saddam Hussein as well; Iranians being no fans of his..
What's really going on in Basra? Conflicting reports from the various news channels; is it finally under control or is it not? 2 Saddam statues have been destroyed - a highly symbolic act, more likely to piss off Saddam than news of civilian deaths.
Meanwhile....... back in Afghanistan, there's a lot of unfinished business.
Uh-oh... come on guys! You're almost there, so hang on!
If anyone out there in the Arab world has any doubts about Kuwait's free press, today would be a good day for a run through the papers to see for yourself what we're made of. Up till today, the press had been showing remarkable restraint in responding to the hostile attacks and insults being hurled at us from all over the Arab world. Today, however, the gloves have come off and we're "giving as good as we're getting". I will attempt to summarize a few of today's notable editorials in Al-Qabas - in my humble opinion, Kuwait's best daily newspaper.

Arab visitors, please click here for Al-Qabas's website and go to the "Kuttab" (columnists) section... I was waiting to see what Dr. Ahmad Al-Rubei had to say about how his live interview was cut off the air last Wednesday night. I know the man personally, and trust me, you do NOT want to get on his bad side - he will rip you to shreds but with facts and figures not noise and bluster. Anyway, I see he's taken the high road and chosen not to address the issue. Instead he calls on Kuwaitis not to despair in these difficult times and not to lose faith in our cause in the face of the hostility directed at us. We are on the right side of this issue and the truth will prevail.

My cousin Abdul-Latif Al-Duaij (my favorite columnist) asks if Arab nations opposing this war can see beyond their noses. He says that they have, in effect, raised their voices in support of brutal totalitarians everywhere and confirmed to the world that this the system that they prefer to live under...... The toughest editorial by far today comes from my other cousin Hassan Al-Essa who took the Syrian regime to task and probably said what nobody's had the guts to say to them in a long time. To sum up, he lambasted them for their claims that Iraq's sovereignty was under threat while they have been manipulating Lebanon's sovereignty since the civil war came to an end, not to mention forcing Lebanon to fight a war with Israel by proxy to regain the Golan Heights, and suffering Israeli attacks in return.

This war is just as much a war of words as it is a war of guns and bombs, and no doubt we'll be subjected to many attacks in the days, weeks and months to come. Opinions are so polarized across the Arab world alone that it will take years to heal the rifts wrought by this war.

Here are links to Kuwait's other daily papers: Al-Watan, Al- Rai Al-Aam, Al-Seyassah... and the liberal weekly Al-Talea. And here are links to our two English dailies Kuwait Times, and Arab Times
Strange weather today.. it's sunny but the sky toward the north is an ominous gray. The wind is blowing from the north so it could be smoke from oil fires in southern Iraq.
I'm in Newsweek!!. OK, it's only a Web Exclusive meaning it's only on their website, and not in the print edition but it's cause for excitement, no?

Just as I was getting supremely bored with the Internet and even left my previous job because of said boredom (among other reasons not suitable for discussion here), I discover this whole new world of "Blogging". I have no idea how I caught Newsweek's attention, but this is just proof how pervasive Blogging has become and that word quickly spreads if people like your site (You like me!! You really like me!!).

So... my fellow Kuwaitis, if you're reading this and feel you have something to share with the rest of the world, start your own Blog now!
I woke up this morning to find a few emails and text messages from friends in the US asking about a missile attack on a popular shopping mall. I had no idea about anything because I don't live near that mall and the sirens didn't go off. I heard later it's because the missile flew in too low. Hmm..

The missile struck the popular Souk Sharq mall, which is right on the bay at 1.45 a.m. Fortunately at that hour there weren't too many people there. The shops were, of course, closed and the few people that were there were probably catching a late show at one of the cinemas. 2 people were injured, a Kuwaiti and an Egyptian...Again, I didn't hear anything because I was asleep like a log. I wonder if the missile was intended for the Foreign Ministry which is right next door... or perhaps a symbolic attack on a nation of shoppers? ;-)

Seriously though, this puts into question what exactly is going on in southern Iraq. Why do they still have missile launching capability? And maybe this will finally put some fear into our careless population - myself included - and keep us away from strategically located shopping centers. I heard Souk Sharq was buzzing yesterday afternoon, because the weather was so nice and people were enjoying themselves at the several outdoor cafes. Oh well...

Friday, March 28, 2003

It had to happen... Live from Baghdad, it's Saddam's Cyber Palace, his very own weblog. It's a bit obscene and has something to offend everyone but it's very funny too. I've added it to my permanent links on the sidebar - check out the other links too.
Apologies for the shortage today..... it was too nice outside to spend the day in front of a PC.
This weblog, Altercation is generally anti-war but I like it anyway. A few days ago, commenting on anti-war demonstrations across the Arab world, he took a light-hearted swipe at Kuwait where he says "demonstrations are barred"

Scroll all the way down to View From Kuwait to see my reply. At the time I sent it to him I thought the little demonstration that took place the other day was cancelled. Anyway, I told him that demonstrations are simply not in our national character.... although maybe they should be, and besides, much as we all hate war - if it means getting rid of Saddam's regime then the ends justifies the means.
‘Burdened by the Controversy’, Richard Perle has resigned from his post as Chairman of the Defense Policy Board and not a minute too soon!

I wonder if my rants against him had anything to do with it ;-)
It's a beautiful day today, at last. The dust has disappeared and we have our famous bright blue sky and blinding sunshine.
Here's Kanaan Makiya again. In his diary today he says "Do not believe any commentator who says that a rising surge of "nationalism" is preventing Iraqis from greeting U.S. and British troops in the streets with open arms. What is preventing them from rising up and taking over the streets of their cities is confusion about American intentions and fear of the murderous brown-shirt thugs known as the Fedayeen Saddam, who are leading the small-arms-fire attacks on American and British soldiers."

This man knows what he's talking about and you really must read his diary.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Click here to read about "De-Baathification" a new term coined by leading Iraqi opposition figures in which they imply that Iraq needs to be cleansed of all Baath party influence, which is a monumental task. The article, the latest posting from Kanaan Makiya, also explains the difference between Baathists and Baath Party members.

If anyone can articlulate the long and winding road ahead of Iraq, it's Makiya.
Convoy hijacked in aid 'disaster': The aid trucks that were sent to Iraq yesterday were hijacked by mobs of starving Iraqis, and the whole well-intentioned operation descended into total chaos.

The Kuwaiti Red Crescent hopes the next round of aid will be better organized.
My brother and I were out in the car this around 11 am when we heard the All-Clear siren... which means, you guessed it, we didn't hear the real one!! Apparently there were 3 loud explosions very close to the city (which we also didn't hear in the car!). It turned out that 3 missiles were fired at us from Iraq but landed the other side of the bay.

I'm losing patience!
This weather is demotivating, war or no war... dust everywhere. It snowed in Lebanon, and even Jerusalem looked peaceful for once in the snow.... oh to be skiing in Faraya now.
I asked my brother to get me the book Jarhead, by Anthony Swofford. It's the story of an aimless teenager who joined the marines for kicks only to find himself shipped to the Gulf in 1990-91 to fight in the war to liberate Kuwait. So I now have a nice hard-back version to keep me entertained over the next few weeks, though I doubt it'll actually be "entertaining" in that sense. Harrowing is more likely..
Lebanon's Future TV had a live interview with one of Kuwait's best and most articulate personalities; Ahmad Al-Rubei PhD, who is also member of parliament, a columnist, and a former minister of education as well as professor of political science. Joining him was retired general Saber Sowaidan from the Kuwaiti Army. Anyway, there was Dr. Al-Rubei answering all the tough questions in his inimitable style when suddenly they cut off to the news and never returned. Instead they showed some old documentary that has nothing to do with this war!

I hope I'm wrong but this is very suspicious. Anyway, we'll find out the truth tomorrow, and if there's any foul play he'll surely write a scathing column about the whole affair very soon. Stay tuned...
I'm really worried that the longer this war goes on, the deeper the split and turmoil across the Arab world. If it was really quick and decisive, the masses wouldn't have time to keep regrouping for more protests. And try as we can to get our point across to them, it's falling on deaf ears...

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

The sirens went on earlier.... they were met with total indifference. My brother who arrived today was taken aback by people's carelessness. I said "you ain't seen nothin' yet!"
Caught a bit of President Bush's pep rally for the troops in Florida... He was basically preaching to the choir but did he have to get those fucking rednecks Daryl Worley and Tobey Keith to perform?
Humanitarian Aid trucks from Kuwait are arriving in Safwan, at the border. Total pandemonium as starving Iraqis clamor for whatever they can get their hands on.

The Arabic writing on the box says "From the people of Kuwait to the people of Iraq".... 'nuff said.
A horrifc bomb strike at a crowded market in northern Baghdad.. 15 people killed; the largest civilian death toll in a single strike. My heart sank when I heard.. it was way off-target.

On Sky News, an interview with Sharif Hussein. If Iraq decides on a constitutional monarchy (highly unlikely), he's first in line for the throne.
Better late than never, I suppose, but hats off to our very own Kuwait TV who have wisely decided to publicize Kuwait's humanitarian efforts in support of the beleagured people of Iraq. Both the government and private citizens have donated food and supplies... Not only that, but KTV has its very own Iraqi correspondent up in nothern Iraq and has been a regular forum for Iraqi opposition figures to have their voices heard.

Will this be enough to get the foolish Arab masses off our backs? Highly unlikely, but miracles can happen. Stay tuned...
I never thought I'd read this in The Independent, of all places.... This article tells the story of a young American pastor who was so oppposed to the war that he traveled to Iraq to become a human shield. He returned last week "shocked back into reality" upon learning that Iraqis want this war more than anything else.

My favorite quote from the article: "If you honestly oppose the war and think you can defend your stance to the people suffering under Saddam, dial 00964 and then guess an 11-digit number. Ask the civilians there what they want to happen. Go on. Tell them that you oppose the war, and see what they say".
One of the more poignant text messages making the rounds here yesterday (translated from Arabic): "They burned our oil fields and we put one out for them. They looted our country and we supply them with food and medicine. God bless Kuwait"

Amen to that! And here's proof...
I urge everyone (yes, that includes YOU!) to listen to this heartbreaking interview with 3 Iraqi exiles whose names have been changed for fear of reprisal. Their position on the war is unwavering: Destroy Saddam's regime by any means possible.

It's a tragedy that these articulate voices are not able to express themselves freely even outside Iraq. From the conversation, you can easily tell that these are highly educated people and anyone familiar with the history of Iraq knows that there are many more just like them, driven out of Iraq by the thugs now in power....Iraq had everything going for it: The world's second largest oil reserves, 2 great rivers, agricultural riches, magnificent historical and archeological sites, a well-educated population, an established tradition of art, poetry, music, literature and architecture, beautiful scenery in the north... All this was squandered by Saddam and his goon squad in his reign of terror of the past 30 years.
Iraqi state television has been knocked off the air... and just as I was starting to enjoy the ridiculous songs praising the great leader Saddam. They make for great comedy!
Boycott 102: To confirm my sister's Shout Out below, here's an article dissecting the wisdom of Arabs boycotting American products. At the beginning of the article, I reluctantly felt an admiration for taking the stand. By the time I got to the end, I realized I was wrong..
Lovely weather we're having here... the sandstorm that blew its way through Baghdad yesterday has arrived in Kuwait. Visibility is terrible; my brother's flight from Bahrain is stuck there till the afternoon. I don't recall ever seeing sandstorms in March throughout my entire life... June and July are the usual times; this does not bode well for the summer.
Is Abdel-Bari Atwan for real? Just as I predicted, there he was on Al-Jazeera saying that the sandstorm in Baghdad was God's work because he is on the side of the Iraqi regime. If you missed my open letter to him... click here.
It turned out that demonstration that I thought was a rumor did take place in the afternoon... about 400 people marched in terrible weather to express solidarity with the Iraqi people and to denounce the foolish Arab masses. From what I saw on the news, there weren't many American or British flags. They must have read my instructions from yesterday.... Also, you can tell we're not used to this sort of thing... the banners were hastily scribbled and you could barely read what they said. Kind of endearing, actually...

Another group of people demonstrated outside the Libyan embassy in response to a mob of Libyans storming our embassy in Tripoli, taking down the Kuwaiti flag and raising the Iraqi flag in its place!
When the new wing broke away from the old mansion. An amazing short story by Jonathan Franzen (who wrote The Corrections), about Europe and America.... Pure genius!

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

How in the world could I ever forget the hysterically funny The Onion? In the madness of the past few days, I forgot to see what my favorite source of news has to say about current events. This week sees its special War Edition..... its definitely anti-war but still funny. I wish the demonstrators had this sense of humour...
At last.... the infamous Saddam Rap that's making the rounds here. It's produced by an Iraqi living in the USA. You need Real Player to hear it. You also need to speak both Arabic and English to appreciate it. ENJOY!
I just read this on about Arab Backlash mounting on Kuwait, and it depressed me to no end... my only consolation is that Iraqis will be free soon and they will turn against anyone who objected to their liberation.

The weather could not be worse... first it rained, then a sandstorm kicked into high gear creating, in effect, a mudstorm. Visibility in Iraq is terrible, which leaves operations in suspense for now..

No doubt Saddam (and Al-Jazeera) will hail this as some sign from God.
Thanks to Kathy and Momma Bear for walking me through the images and with adding the Blogroll on the left... it was so easy I felt like an idiot (again!).. I'll be adding pictures retroactively as I go along.
Saddam's vice-president Taha Yaseen was on TV earlier, appealing (i.e. whining) to Arab countries to stop pumping oil to the "aggressors", ban them from using their airspace, shut down their embassies and a host of measures to show solidarity with the beleaguered Iraqi people...

Will he just shut the fuck up?! What's with the newfound concern for his country's citizens? The nerve on these criminals!!
Sirens and rain are not a good mix... and when the hell is Saddam going to stop sending missiles our way? The bastard! That whole innocent act may wash with the masses of Arab demonstrators who are sadly misinformed, but not here where we are victims of his aggression, not to mention millions of Iraqis as well.. This is a violent and aggressive regime and must be destroyed!
It turned out that the car that was suspected to contain explosives last night was a false alarm. It was a rented vehicle belonging to some reporter, who had left his gas mask and some unused bullets. It was reported by an over-excited parking attendant at the nearby J.W. Marriott hotel... although it must be said one can never be too careful these days.
Looks like a thunderstorm is on its way.... if there's anything worse than fighting the desert, it's fighting in the muddy desert!
Boycott 101: The French have their own misguided logic for opposing this war; but surely boycotting French products in response is going too far.... Here's a piece I picked up from The Nation outlining the how ridiculous it is and also points to who you really should be boycotting, if you are so inclined... and most intelligent people are not!
"It's boringly predictable that, after [US] House Republicans renamed French fries and French toast, some over-excited yahoo would set up a website petition to return the Statue of Liberty to the French, and that 2,790 people would sign it, and that the local TV station would profile it in all seriousness. But only Pennsylvania's legendary Republican Senator, Arlen Specter, would allow himself to boldly take a non-position on the idea. Specter observes that Lady Liberty is a great American symbol, and then suggests that we just pretend the French didn't give it to us: "We can bypass the source that it came from France."

Now, the Turks, by declining our military basing rights, may have actually put [US] troops in harm's way. No one complains about the Turks. The Russian government -- busily butchering Chechnya and manufacturing more terrorists -- and the Chinese government -- a Communist dictatorship that not so long ago was holding one of our planes and its crews hostage -- have been just as vocal as the French in blocking UN approval for the war. No one is calling for Freedom salad dressing, Freedom checkers and Freedom take-out... Hmmm"
Will Vodkapundit and other boozers boycott Russian vodka, now that Russia stands accused of selling weapons systems to Saddam? Will Kuwait's legions of fashion victims (you know who you are!) boycott French designers? Will they not spend summers in Cannes or St.Tropez? Does anyone remember how we laughed at people who boycotted Starbucks, but drove American cars?! Come on people.... LIGHTEN UP!!
Just when I begin to have my doubts about this war and its objectives, when I see that's not the walk in the park it was supposed to be, when I read about the nefarious practises by sniveling creeps like Richard Perle (I just can't stand the guy!) who drove the case for war.. I come across impassioned pleas for this war to continue by Kanaan Makiya, one of Iraq's leading and most outspoken opposition figures. I linked to him a few day ago, thinking he had a proper blog but it's actually a sporadic diary on the The New Republic website.

It makes for moving reading, especially as he tries to shed light on the growing chasm in perception of this war inside Iraq and outside. It's not all wine and roses, however, as Makiya worries about plans for democratization. Read it... That's an order!!
Very cloudy today... as if we need further doom and gloom. A fire fighting team from Kuwait has assisted in putting out one of the burning oil wells in southern Iraq. It took them all of 15 minutes to snuff it out.... Good job, guys!
Sports Illustrated, taking a break from its annual Swimsuit Issue, has a story about Saddam's psychotic son Uday Hussein who is also president of Iraq's National Olympic Committee. In a highly disturbing article, you can read about his torture and even murder of athletes who fail to come back from various athletic events bearing medals. It includes this choice quote after yelling that losing at sports embarrasses Iraq: "This is my Iraq. Embarrassing Iraq embarrasses me!!"

Well, that just about explains everything, doesn't it?
UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan warned yesterday of an impending humanitarian crisis in Basra due to the destruction of electric and water facilities. But the US engineers are working non-stop so that both electricity and water are restored very soon, even as early as today according to some reports.

Not to sound too bitter... but when Saddam's goons destroyed all the power plants in Kuwait a week before they were driven out by the Allied forces in 1991, we were stuck for weeks without electricity and not much water since the flow of water depended somewhat on electricity. Of course, being cut off from the world, I have no idea how this was viewed by the UN and the world's media at the time. Was it declared a humanitarian crisis? Does anyone remember? I'd like to hear from you.
HELP!! I still can't upload any images, and this site is starting to look very monotonous! I've followed the instructions as best as I could, but they're written in Geekspeak so I'm sure I missed something. And yes, I am using the paid version which allows for uploading images. I even created a directory for Images under my root directory...

Give me a shout out with some tips or email me.... NOW!!
I've been listening to Bruce Springsteen's The Rising CD all day. Now I know he wrote it to deal with the horrors of Sept. 11 and I also know that he's taken a principled stand against this war, yet some of the songs have a strange resonance in this time of crisis. The ones that resonate the most are the title track "The Rising", My City of Ruins, You're Missing and to some extent Into the Fire. Hopefully, Baghdad will rise once again when the tyrant is driven out.

Did he win any Grammys this year? (Springsteen, not Saddam!) I honestly can't remember. I hate the Grammys, they always go to the wrong people. I remember a long time ago, Little Richard was a presenter at the Grammys and he goes: "And the Grammy goes to..... ME!..... That's right!..... Y'ALL AIN'T NEVER GAVE ME NO GRAMMY!!"
I swear the mixed messages we're getting from the different news channels is enough to drive you crazy... I know I said I'd stop watching the channels I don't like, but I'm inexplicably drawn to them.

There was a report earlier around 9.30 pm Kuwait time, about a car with explosives near the hotel where the FOX team are staying. My take on this is one of two possibilities, and I hope I'm wrong: The same street also has the United Airlines office, so that could've been a target. Or, the FOX team themselves could've been targetted; God knows they've earned the wrath of Islamists everywhere with their vitriolic attacks on Muslims and Arabs after Sept. 11.... and they haven't shut up since either. It's the US version of Al-Jazeera!

Monday, March 24, 2003

My gym is down round the corner from the hotel currently occupied by the entire CNN team. I've already seen Bill Hemmer a few times at the gym, and today I met John Vause... by the way, it took me forever to figure out their full names and find their bios on Sadly, it's an all-male gym otherwise I'm sure I'd meet Becky Anderson (no pic on site?) who seems like a barrel of laughs, or even the so-called "diva" of war correspondents Christiane Amanpour.
Tommy Franks is not the most reassuring man on the planet. Nothing seems to be going according to plan, and the proliferation of news channels covering this war only adds to the confusion.

I'll stick to the BBC and also CNN, who are a bit hyperactive but I do have a soft spot for them, having kept us company during the Iraqi occupation....FOX seem like a bunch of demagogues who would nuke Iraq if they could.
Bear with me, folks.... upgrades in progress
My new friends at QHATE also lament the frequency of the sirens and that nobody seems to care anymore since they're mostly false alarms. They suggest replacing the sirens with the Rolling Stones' "Paint it Black"

Guys... if you were true Stones fans, the obvious choice would be "Gimmer Shelter".. right?
Thanks to Allison Kaplan Sommer who is kind to mention me on her blog with a good review. Allison, you're right about there being no love lost between Kuwait and Israel, but really...did the Israeli journalists honestly expect to get access? Is that why Israeli TV showed unauthorized footage lifted from Kuwait TV the other day? ;-)

For more on my opinions on that conflict - which I have deliberately left out of this blog - see my Plastic Member Profile.
Again with the sirens.... this is getting tiresome!
WAIT! I just got a message telling that the demonstration planned for tomorrow is a rumour. Oh well...
I've been receiving several text messages announcing a demonstration on the Gulf Road (Kuwait's main drag along the waterfront) against all the countries who have been attacking Kuwait since the war started. Much as the demonstrations in the Arab world attacking us have upset me, I sincerely hope we don't sink to their level. We do, however, need to put out point across and I hope enough people read these guidelines before the demonstration if it goes ahead:
1. Banners should call for the liberation of the Iraqi people and denounce the tyranny of Saddam. See if we can get our hands on an old pre-1990 Iraqi flag.
2. Attack those countries' citizens for supporting Saddam. I know they're not, but it'll give them a good shaking.
3. Copy some of the popular short Saddam jokes making the rounds on SMS onto the banners. Insult the bastard!
4. For the love of God, PLEASE don't fly any American or British flags. It'll just make things worse!
Driving home from work, I stopped by a local supermarket. While I was at the checkout, the sirens started again. I looked around to gauge people's reactions and they were totally oblivious! I then jumped into my car and dashed home, with the ventilation switched off. Not sure if that would've helped but if just felt safer, even though it's quite warm today. In the car, the sirens went on and off a couple of times. My mother was still at that cafe!

I know what it is... Saddam must have secretly sent a quiet missile that carried a chemical warhead which only has the effect of numbing Kuwaitis into a feeling of blissful nonchalance.

My mother is at a cafe at a shopping mall (!!). I called to see where she was during the sirens - which are still blaring, and she goes "but we're in a basement!". This is one of those malls with an atrium. She was at the Lower Ground Floor that's open up to the ceiling. I lost it and ordered her to at least go down to the parking garage!

Just got the all-clear........ whew!
Here we go again with the sirens... actually, it's time to go home - as you can see I did a LOT of work today. They sound different this time, I wonder what it could be now.. I haven't memorized the different siren calls so I've got the radio on waiting for the official explanation.

Shit... now I'm getting worried. I don't want to be trapped in the office, for God's sake!!
I'm proud to announce that Kuwait's foremost progressive society, The Graduates Society - founded by my late father and other progressives - has just formed a Kuwaiti-Iraqi Reconciliation Committee. (Arabic link)Its objective is to heal the damaging rift that formed between Kuwaitis and ordinary Iraqis in the wake of Saddam's aggression over Kuwait. It has called on Kuwaitis to help rebuild Iraq not just with bricks and mortar but morally and psychologically as well. Saddam drove a huge wedge of hatred between the two nations which, up until August 2 1990, enjoyed terrific relations between its people. Sure, there were claims on Kuwait made by Saddam's predecessors but they somehow didn't have much of an impact on the people.

Hey... I'm learning new stuff. For Blog readers who have no idea how this thing works - a rather large group that, until recently, included yours truly - now you can comment directly on each posting, by clicking on Shout Out, right next to the Date & Time stamp.
Saddam is live on TV now giving a fiery speech... well, a fiery speech as given by a crotchety old man. He sounds constipated. I suppose reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated.

On the scrolling news thingie while he was giving his speech, it said that a US missile hit a Syrian bus near the Iraqi border, killing 5 passengers... this is not good at all. The last thing we need is the Syrians joining this war.

This blog experience has opened up a whole new world for me on the Internet. I've discovered so much... and I'm really looking like a novice now, when I compare my site to the fancier, more interactive ones out there.

So without further ado, here are my latest, most notable discoveries Crazy Saddam - the name says it all - and Vodkapundit, a boozy take on the war.
Lets talk about the Oscars, shall we? I hope Chicago's win for Best Film paves the way for more lighter films being taken seriously by the stodgy Academy. Catherine Zeta Jones rocked in her role, but I sort of wanted Queen Latifah to win if for no other reason than to prove that last year's Halle/Denzel double-whammy wasn't just a one-off...I love Nicole Kidman, she can do no wrong and apparently divorcing Tom Cruise was the best career move for her... I imagine Mr. Cruise wouldn't be so amenable to his wife winning awards all over the place, so good riddance to her, eh? But I was rooting for Diane Lane because I don't think I've ever seen anyone portray the guilt of adultery so effectively in an otherwise dull movie. Or Julianne Moore who is just incredible.

The men? Daniel Day-Lewis was by all accounts in the lead to win Best Actor. All I can say is that at least the undeserving Adrien Brody broke the tradition of "older men, younger women" winning Oscars... sadly though, I predict for him a career as sparkling as Hilary Swank's. And you know damn well that Michael Caine was never going to win for "The Quiet American", not while war is raging. Jack Nicholson has 3 Oscars and 100 nominations, so that's quite enough. I was hoping Christopher Walken would win, only because his is the only performance I've actually seen. And hey, the Academy went out of its way to show everyone it's not made up of prudes by giving Best Director to Roman Polanski...Break out the Viagra!!! Once again, Scorsese got robbed..

And not to knock the Holocaust, but wasn't Schindler's List a much better film than The Pianist even though Jerry Seinfeld and his date were making out through it?
The sirens sounded again around 5 a.m.... and I slept right through them!! Everybody was buzzing about them at work, but nobody has any idea what happened. A few days ago, a BBC reporter expressed his amazement at how nonchalant everybody in Kuwait has been regarding the danger of a chemical bomb attack. While journalists run to the shelters with their gas masks, Kuwaitis watch with bemusement and just shrug off the danger. It's a mix of laziness, fatalism and simply not understanding the seriousness of it all.

Or it could be sheer confidence that nothing bad will happen to us... A good friend asked me the other day if I had gas masks at home for my family, and I lied and said "yes" because I thought it was the right thing to say. She stunned me by saying she didn't have any... and her dad is ex-Minister of Defense!! I felt like an idiot.. (that happens a feeling like an idiot, that is). For me, the fact that I was here for the war in 1991 when no chemicals were fired our way is probably why I felt no need to take precautions. I'm sure all of you reading outside Kuwait are flipping out, but now that coalition forces have pracitically taken over southern Iraq, we should be safe.
I hear sirens... now what? We had no sirens all day yesterday, and I had hoped the incursions into southern Iraq would take out the missile launchers aimed at us... apparently not.

I was just about to hit the sack too....
Some friends who have visited this blog are suprised that I'm this opinionated... I don't say much in public because I can't be bothered, but I've always been better expressing my opinions in writing. Anyone who's ever been on the receiving end of one of my angry emails can testify to that ;-)

However I've sharpened my political commentary over the past 2 years by posting semi-regularly on Plastic. You can see almost everything I've ever posted right here under my Plastic Member Profile. And I've got opinions on practically BEWARE!

Maybe I should've studied Journalism.... sigh
I've been avoiding the footage of the dead and captured US soldiers, simply because no self-respecting TV station should want to show them. But since Al-Jazeera and self-respect don't belong in the same sentence... wait! I don't watch Al-Jazeera, so what am I complaining about?

Anyway.. it was kind of jarring hearing Rumsfeld invoke the Geneva Convention rules on the treatment of POWs. Weren't those same rules thrown out the window so flagrantly in Guantanamo Bay last year? It's this blatant lack of consistency that pisses me off about this US administration, more than anything else. And it's the main reason why it can't get the support it needs even when it's case is solid.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

And just as I'm coming down from the excitement below, I discover another Blog site from Kuwait. It's called QHATE - and I really think they could've picked a better name - but don't be put off by that, it's very cool... and at least they've got pictures and which I still haven't figured out.
HEY EVERYBODY, I'M FAMOUS!!! I have no idea how, but I got 2 mentions on 2 separate Blog sites... and I've only been up since last Thurday!! Anyway, those 2 sites are Grasshoppa, who gave me a great review, and Letter from Gotham... How cool is that?! Thanks to Clare for pointing them out to me..
I'm watching the US Ambassador in Egypt being grilled on Orbit TV by Emad El-Din Adeeb, the Arabic Ted Koppel - only much heavier. The questions are as tough as can be, and you can just feel the ambassador's discomfort. He's doing his best to put forward the Bush administration's message.... and not getting very far, it seems, mainly because he's so lacking in charisma. Nothing he's saying seems to convice the host... Oh and now Adeeb is ripping apart the "coalition of the willing", calling it the US and UK and a number of rag-tag nations.
Have you ever felt so worried and tense that the future becomes foggy? That's how I feel now. Normally, I'd be planning summer vacations, parties, workouts, weekend getaways and many other things just to keep myself busy. Now I can't do any of that because I can't even think beyond next week! I'm so worried about this war. One day I'm optimistic that it'll be over soon, and the next I fear that we'll descend into more turmoil, enough to set off World War 3!! :-(
US forces are meeting tougher resistance than they anticipated, with 4 dead and 50 wounded during fighting around Nassiriya... Arab channels are reporting a downed plane over Baghdad. I saw on TV Iraqi troops in a little boat, scouring the river Tigris looking for the pilot who may have ejected...

Meanwhile, Iraqi TV claims that it will show captured US soldiers on TV as prisoners of war... this is not going according to plan..... I'm worried.
I will refer to Iraqi officials as "Saddam's officials" from now on, since they sure as hell don't represent the Iraqi people and each one of them has the blood of innocent Iraqis on his hands.... Anyway Saddam's Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri was just on TV denouncing Kuwait's role in this war as a launching ground for the coalition forces. He's entitled to his opinion, I suppose, but our main crime according to him is that we're allowing Zionist/Imperialist armies to invade an Arab/Muslim country.

Well Mr. Sabri... you and your ilk didn't have a problem with your own army invading a neighboring Arab/Muslim country, did you? No, I didn't think so...
What on earth was Saddam thinking when he ordered Baghdad to be surrounded by trenches filled with burning oil? Surely, the high-tech missiles wouldn't be deterred by smoke, and even if they were, those trenches won't burn forever.... Rather medieval, I thought... I somehow imagine Baghdad surrounded by a 20-foot wall, with blazing trenches to protect it from Moghul invaders.
One thing the reporters based in Kuwait haven't caught wind of, is the incredible number of text messages going round the country. They are a mixture of wishes for safety, concerns for the well-being of friends and family, and a barrage of jokes about Saddam or about how Kuwaitis are coping with the situation. Some are hysterically funny and others are just tasteless (but still funny). They're a great way of staying in touch and letting people know you care, without wasting time on small talk.
Lets take a break from the war and talk about the Oscars, scheduled for later tonight... Does anyone really care who wins what? I've only seen "Catch me if you can" and "Chicago", both of which I enjoyed. That's about all I can muster for now...
Will the coalition forces get their act together and try harder not to blast each other out of the sky? We're only 4 days into this war and they've lost more troops to so-called friendly fire.
Civilian casualties are on the rise... Of course, previous wars have had thousands more casualties but this time the dead and wounded are being broadcast around the world, understandably fueling more protest even though the numbers are small. This has not been a carpet-bombing war as was feared, so the precision with which the attacks have been carried out must have played a part in reducing casualties.

In the north, the group Ansar Al-Islam - allegedly tied to Al-Qaeda - has been on the receiving end of sustained bombing. They're apparently responsible for the suicide car-bomb attack in northern Iraq that killed an Australian photographer....I'm sorry but I have no sympathy for this group.
Hmm... not as easy as I thought. I want to put permanent links on the margins, but I can't figure out how to do that yet. At least that annoying banner ad is gone.
Some Arabic satellite channels continue misinforming their gullible audiences with lies... A few of them (I can't remember which, they're all the same) claimed that Kuwaitis are fleeing the country by the thousands... Fortunately, there are such things as computers recording passport details of everyone leaving (duh! )..Since March 18, about 34,000 people have left Kuwait, (link to Arabic article) 90% of them were non-Kuwaitis, acting mainly on the instructions of their embassies to leave the country. Most Kuwaitis are staying put.. so there!

What's the point of all this negative propaganda, other than turning Arab public opinion against Kuwait during this war? What happens after that? I really truly hate to use this argument, but will their governments still come asking for financial aid? Do these people have any idea how much Kuwait has contributed to their development?! Kuwait has always taken a quiet approach to financial aid, not wanting to blow its own horn and call any attention to its activities. Well... IT'S ABOUT TIME THAT CHANGED!!

If it were up to me, I'd cut off the financial aid to undeserving Arab countries (you know who you are!) and earmark it all for the Iraqi people to help rebuild their country after the war.
Sorry for the delay.... I finally managed to upgrade the Blog... You'll notice the changes through the day.
What the hell happened this morning at the 101st Airborne Division here in Kuwait? A U.S. soldier is suspected of lobbing a grenade into a comrade's tent, killing one soldier and wounding 13! The official line is that he may have been motivated by "resentment", but he may have just had some sort of nervous breakdown.. This is not good.
I'm trying to upgrade this Blog into a better, more dynamic version. I started off with the cheap (i.e. free) model just to get a feel for this whole blog thing, and now that I've "mastered" it I'm beginning to feel its limitations... The upgrade will allow me to post permanent links on the margins, and even put up some pictures - not that I have anything worth showing you, but it's just cool to have..
More bombing of Baghdad... a small boy has been badly wounded and is being paraded for the TV cameras. He's crying his eyes out, and it's all I can do not to join him. This is too much to bear.. I can't take it anymore. Saddam could've spared us this nightmare. He will burn in hell for it!

It looks like the coalition has gained control of Basra, and almost taken over Nassriya ... the southern oil fields are still blazing.
Open Letter to Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, Al-Jazeera talking head: It's time to find some new patrons, Mr Atwan. Saddam's days are numbered, as are your days as beneficiary of his largesse. The spigot of funds is about to be turned off on you Mr. Atwan, so it's time to hitch your wagon to some other tyrant willing to pay for a professional loudmouth and liar like yourself who excels at spewing venom in defense of evil and corrupt dictatorships.

You claim to champion the cause of Arab people, and speak against the "oil dictatorships", yet you defend the regime that has terrorized and crushed its population and killed their hopes and dreams. You defend the regime that squandered its considerable resources over meaningless wars and denied its people the standard of living that they deserve. And you defended that regime when it invaded a neighboring Arab Muslim country and raped and pillaged it for 7 months.

I saw your diatribe on Al-Jazeera today, and was amazed (though I shouldn't be) at your declaration that the coalition is losing this war and that the Iraqi leadership will prevail, and all this only 3 days into the war! You will eat those words very soon, Mr. Atwan. Just pray you don't choke on them..

Saturday, March 22, 2003

OK I take that back.... the images from Baghdad are shocking, but I'm somewhat comforted by the very low number of casualties... so far. There are lots of wounded, and I hope they are getting adequate medical treatment so they can get up and celebrate Saddam's imminent demise..

Across the world the protests go on and each country's protesting citizens have their own set of objections to this war.... but I sincerely wish they would just wait for at least a week because so far it's going extremely well. The casualties are relatively low, and the poor Iraqi soldiers are wisely surrendering by the hundreds - some reports say thousands. The coalition forces have in some instances been greeted with open arms by Iraqi villagers, and they're already tearing down Saddam's posters and statues..... Oooh, now there's a contract worth millions; destroying Saddam's tributes to himself all across Iraq!
Still not "Shocked or Awed"?, here's why... It's all a big mindfuck!! Mwaahaahaaaa!!

Can't you just tell that I'm taking a break and watching "Looney Tunes" on the Cartoon Network?
I just have to say how touched and overwhelmed I've been by all the emails, phone calls and text messages from friends overseas inquiring about our safety (with the exception of one deranged ex-friend who shall remain nameless).. Some of you have even offered "sanctuary"! It's warm gestures like this that give me faith that all is still well in the world, even during the dark days we're going through.

I can't thank all of you enough, but rest assured we will be fine here in Kuwait. If I can make it unscathed through 7 months of Saddam's occupation without a hair out of place, then this war will be a breeze..
More Iraqi troops have surrendered, and continue to do so in the thousands it seems. This is what we were hoping for all along... and the sooner it happens, the less pain and suffering for Iraqi civilians. Last night's bombing of Baghdad is being repeated ad infinitum on TV channels. It truly hurts to watch the explosions all around the city; the broadcasts are too clear for comfort, and they are no doubt inflaming public opinion against this war even further. This is truly a made-for-TV war...

I feel compelled to quote this article I just read: "I believe Saddam could have been contained. I am far from convinced that America is truly committed to developing the country and the region. But liberation is liberation, even if George W. Bush and a cadre of profoundly untrustworthy advisors are doing the liberating. It is not the Iraqi people's business if Americans end up paying for freeing them with the hatred of the rest of the world, and more terror attacks. That has not yet happened, and might not happen. In war, what matters is only what happens -- whether it is an Iraqi schoolgirl being killed by an American bomb, or an old woman weeping with joy as American soldiers liberate her from a loathsome regime. The danger for hawks and doves alike is the tendency to fail to actually see what is happening, to look at everything through the dark glass of ideology".
It's true!!! Ronald McDonald is the face of American Imperialism!! ;-P
My mother is taking this whole thing really well... where I stayed home all day yesterday and only came to the office for a change of scenery, she's now out for a walk with a friend along the waterfront. It's sunnier now than it was earlier... I wonder what happened to the smoke from oil fires.
If anyone's going to mess this up and complicate things it's the Turks!...
By the way, if you have any suggestions to make this a better journal or if you want to me to talk more about any subject.. please feel free to email me on
Fans of "The Cat in the Hat" will love this funny transcript of a secret phone call between Bush and Chirac, debating the war on Iraq.
Taking a break from war coverage, I took time to catch up some editorials.. mainly because I can't seem to get any work done! I came across this article, Perle Interrupted about the creepy Richard Perle's business interests. Could he have provoked this war to line his pockets? Perish the thought!
It's overcast in Kuwait this morning.. though it's likely that these aren't clouds we're looking at, but the plumes of smoke from the oil fires in southern Iraq...I'm at work (Saturday is a work day here). We're operating at reduced hours for the next few days, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.... I'm just glad to be out of the house. They've set up a TV in the conference room with CNN blaring away, though I wonder how effective they'll be after Saddam threw them out of Baghdad... I'm sorry, I just had to laugh when I heard about that!! :-)
Did you see/hear my audio post below? I swear this Internet thingie is just incredible! I just called a number provided by the service I'm using, recorded my message and... voila! It was on my page in an instant! Just click on "audblog audio post"
Powered by audblogaudblog audio post
The BBC just showed a report about how the war is playing on various Arabic news channels. As can be expected, Al-Jazeera concentrates on the casualties in Iraq and the demonstrations across the Arab world, while Kuwait's channel shows jubilant Iraqis in the south chanting something like "Saddam, your days are numbered!"...
It's almost 1 am and I'm tired... however I will go to bed with the harrowing images of Baghdad in flames, after sustaining relentless aerial bombing in Operation Shock 'n' Awe (so this is what it's like). In 1991, all you could see was the grainy green images of a few flashes across the sky. This time it's so clear and very unsettling. I almost wish these images weren't broadcast. What a shame.. a great city like Baghdad gets decimated because a dictator is too proud to get the hell out. I pray that civilian casualties are kept to a minimum.
Why is Richard Armitage allowed to appear on TV? He looks and sounds like a football coach and not like a US State Department official....

Friday, March 21, 2003

If you're outside Kuwait now, and therefore not barred from X-rated sites by your holier-than-thou ISP, please look at "Masturbate for Peace" and tell me what it's all about. I imagine it's hysterical!
The sirens just went on and back off, signaling the ALL CLEAR, after a day of relative calm.. not sure what's going on.
The insufferable Ari Fleischer - White House press secretary who reminds me of a few annoying jerks from college - just told a reporter at a press briefing that the President doesn't watch TV and hasn't bothered to see any reports from Iraq on CNN or FOX since the attacks began (!!). I wonder if he's personally not interested in this war and is just fronting for the Perle/Cheney/Wolfowitz cabal..
Did anyone see this? Apparently the White House is red with fury... Lighten up, George!!
Doesn't Donald Rumsfeld remind you of a cranky college professor? I don't like the guy much but I'd much rather watch him on TV than George W. Bush. At least he's forceful and in command, and doesn't have that "deer-in-headlights" look on his face like Dubya. If William Holden were alive and well, he'd be perfect to play Rumsfeld in the upcoming movie of this war, which you know is "in development" at some Hollywood production company right now..
Those invitations for the demo tomorrow in Beirut keep coming, even though I hit the "Unsubscribe" link. This time I went to their website and posted a reply, calling to their attention the weakness of their arguement, and urging them to go demonstrate at the Iraqi Embassy instead, since this is all Saddam's fault! We'll see what happens tomorrow... my fear is that people here in Kuwait might take offense at a small fringe group's actions, which might poison the long-standing love affair between Kuwait and Lebanon. After all, when Iraq invaded in 1990 Lebanon was the first Arab country to condemn the invasion within hours - while the other Arab countries sat on their hands for 3 days deciding on an official position!
Some military expert on BBC believes there's a real possibility that Saddam Hussein might have been killed in yesterday's attacks. There's even debate over whether that was indeed the bastard in person in that pathetic TV speech. If he is indeed dead - and trust me his cronies will delay this announcement as long as possible - this should make the move into Baghdad easier than anticipated.

Took a break from wall-to-wall war coverage, flipped through the channels and came upon the movie "Chocolat". A much-needed diversion; lightweight and frothy. Devoured a bar of swiss chocolate while watching it!!

CNN has just been expelled from Baghdad for "spreading lies"!! What the fuck?!
I'm watching the anti-war riots in Cairo on CNN... It's sad. Nobody is actively pro-war, and Iraq may not constitute a direct threat to the U.S., but - I repeat - 24 million Iraqis are about to be freed from a tyranny that none of the protesters can begin to imagine.

I wish anti-war activists could just wait a while and see how this conflict unfolds. If their worst fears are realized, then they should by all means go out and make their voice heard. But it's just too soon...
Well, it looks like coalition forces have captured Um Qasr (you should hear the western TV correspondents wrap their tongues around that one). Looks promising... Operation Shock 'n' Awe looks like it's going to happen tonight... fasten your seatbelts!

Some asshole from Amman is declaring on BBC that this is a war against all Arab nations (yawn!). Where were these idiots when Saddam invaded another Arab country and set its oil fields on fire? Where were they when he was dropping chemical bombs on entire Kurdish villages? Cheering him on, of course!!
The oil fields are burning...the smoke clouds are heading toward Kuwait City. Another environmental disaster brought on by this tyrant. How anyone can defend him is beyond comprehension...
THIS JUST IN: I just received an email from Direct Line, a leftist organization in Beirut, Lebanon. I have no idea how I got on their mailing list, and neither do they, I suppose, or they wouldn't be so stupid as to invite me to an anti-war demonstration tomorrow...... at the Kuwaiti Embassy!!!! The misguided fools! It's titled "No War No Dictatorships" (I know!) Shouldn't they be protesting at the Iraqi Embassy if they are anti-dictatorships?! 24 million Iraqis are waiting to be rid of this brutal regime, and all they can think of is the "evil USA". OK, so the USA's motives here are shaky and war is indeed the last thing anyone wanted - YES EVEN IN KUWAIT! - but come on.... wake up! I've always considered myself somewhat center-left but this is too much...I sincerely hope they see the error of their ways... This is a terrific article on how the traditional Left has let down the Iraqi people.
Forgive me if today's posts are a bit rambling... there's so much to say and I only thought of setting up this online journal last night.

I must say how pleased and proud I am that most of Kuwait's expat community have opted to stay here with us. They chose not to follow their embassies' instructions to "Get the hell out of Kuwait NOW!". My old colleagues at NBK were all there yesterday, and my new boss Paul Kennedy is here as well. Cheers!!
I've been looking at several "BLOG" sites and my favorites so far are the following:
1. Salam Pax - A harrowing account of life in Baghdad leading up to the war, mixed with the excitement of feeling liberation on the horizon. The server is very unreliable, so just keep trying (it's the same one I'm using too!)
2. Kanaan Makiya's War Diary - Live from northern Iraq, the diary of leading Iraqi opposition figure and author of Republic of Fear . It's tough and uncompromising, but makes for compelling reading.
3. LT Smash - A live account from a US soldier based in an "undisclosed location".. no, not Dick Cheney's bunker!
It's confirmed!!! The oil fields in southern Iraq have been set on fire by Saddam's army. What good he hopes to achieve with this is beyond anyone's comprehension. At the very least, one would think he would save them for the Iraqi people... wait, I forgot, he doesn't give a #$@% about them.

We haven't felt the immediate effects yet here, I just looked out the window and the sky looks OK for now. I just hope it's not as bad as when he set fire to Kuwait's oil fields in 1991, at its worst it was pitch dark at noon!!
My brother Tareq and my sister Samia are in London, and their reactions to this war could not possibly be different. Tareq is calm and cool and even plans to come to Kuwait by end of March (not sure that's such a good idea), whereas Samia is flipping out! We're not terribly scared here, which just adds to her frustration. She feels we're careless idiots for being so calm! It's all quite funny, as she jumps up and down screaming on the phone... one day she'll look back at this and laugh.. (good on ya, Samia!!)
The weather has been dusty and gloomy since this whole thing started. By late afternoon it gets so eerie it just adds to the sense of forboding...
A lot of Iraqi troops are smart enough to surrender... no sense in fighting to protect Saddam Hussein. What has he ever done for them, besides torture, rape and murder?!
Northern oil fields in Iraq secured by coalition forces.... but southern oil fields near Basra have been set on fire. The bastards!!

Sad news about the helicopter crash with 16 dead..but such are the ways of war. No idea if it crashed or was shot down.
Slept comfortably last night... maybe I was just exhausted. I hope I didn't just sleep through any sirens!

On the news, reports say that US and UK forces have advanced 200 miles into Kuwait with hardly any resistance. I sincerely hope this is true as it would mean less casualties. I also have this theory that this huge advance would in effect take out any SCUD launching batteries and, hopefully, get us out of harm's way.

One hopes...
What's the matter with the anti-war activists? Nobody actively wants war, not even us, but couldn't they at least wait to see how this one unfolds? 24 million Iraqis have been waiting for this day forever!! It's sad to see young people totally swayed by Islamic fundamentalists in the Middle East and by the remnants of the hard-left in Europe.

More SCUDs fired at Kuwait. Luckily they were intercepted... another one fell into the sea across from a major oil refinery!!
One difference between this crisis and the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait is that this time there are more friends and family in Kuwait. This is a mixed blessing; one hand it gives us a feeling of solidarity but on the other hand it just gives us more people to worry about... like my 88 year old grandmother. We went over for our weekly Thursday lunch just to retain a sense normalcy for her, but I do worry. Forunately she lives next door to my 3 uncles so she is well taken care of.
Yesterday was a bit hairy... Thursday is my day off so I stayed home to watch the war on TV. After a while, I distracted myself by heading down to NBK where I used to work until recently, to finish some paperwork. It was strangely reassuring yet unsettling to see former colleagues going about their daily business. But that calm was shattered when suddenly the sirens went off and the in-house PA came on to instruct us to move down to the basement. Reason? A few SCUDs were fired into northern Kuwait but were intercepted by US Patriots. We stayed for 15 minutes and then I dashed home.

What happened to "Operation Shock and Awe"? Folks, yesteday I was neither shocked nor awed. "Shock and Bore" was more like it... ;-)
OK... I wrote a bunch of stuff yesterday and then the site crashed, so let me recap..

This will be my online war journal from the sidelines. Kuwait isn't exactly in the eye of the storm this time, yet we're closer to the action than most people realize - even us! The war got off to a muted start yesteday and, apparently, way ahead of schedule. I don't pretend to know anything about military strategy, so I'll let the experts make their call on this.

In 1991, the war to liberate Kuwait got off to a much more spectacular start. Those of us who were here at the time remember this feeling of euphoria that came over us; freedom was near and we thought it would be over in 3 days... "BOMB THE MOTHERFUCKERS!!" we would yell on the phone, ignoring the possible interception of our calls by Iraqi agents in Kuwait.... No such feeling this time round, simply because we're at a higher risk of being attacked with SCUDs. We want him dead and we want this war over and done with quickly and with as little civilian casualties as possible.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Why the hell didn't I think of this before?? This is much better than sending email dispatches. Now if I can only get it to work!