Saturday, November 27, 2004

Good news from Ukraine 

...no, it's not the beginning of another regular Chrenkoff segment to rival "Good news from Iraq".

...and yes, I promise to blog about matters other than the situation in Ukraine, too. It's difficult though, when Google News lists almost 4,000 news stories - by far the most reported on topic in the world right now. Plus, I do feel strongly about it, as I indeed do about the expansion of democracy and freedom everywhere else throughout the world.

The good news is that thanks to the mediation by the Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski and the EU foreign policy head Javier Solana, both sides have sat down together and agreed to set up a working group to continue talks, and they also agreed to renounce violence in settling the dispute. Expectations vary but some outcomes possibly on the cards now include: invalidation of the second round of election (which even the Canadian observers have described as "completely and grotesquely fraudulent") either by the agreement of both candidates or by arbitration (the stories vary here; Yushchenko has told his supporters that Yanukovich has already agreed to that; Yanukovich says that we have to wait for the Supreme Court's decision on Monday). Should that happen, Yushchenko wants the third, and hopefully final, round to take place on December 12. Ukrainian Parliament, which is meeting today (Saturday), might also pass a motion of no confidence in the Electoral Commission, and replace its officials.

We're a long way yet before a happy ending, but the signs are good. Mind you, the world press is generally repeating after the Associated Press the line that "Nearly three hours of talks involving the two rivals for power in Ukraine's political crisis ended Friday night without resolving the stalemate", but God knows, surely no one was expecting that the first meeting would resolve a crisis of such magnitude.

The Polish press, closest to Ukraine, has the best coverage of events. I'll spare you links, as most of you can't read Polish anyway, but here's some observations:

Poland is quite happy of the role she's playing to try to arrive at a peaceful resolution. "Thanks to Poland, a compromise!" says one report. Lech Walesa's appearance was a huge hit with the pro-democracy crowd, and president Kwasniewski upon his exit from Friday's negotiations was greeted by crowds chanting "Poland, Poland". It's good to see that sort of good will being built up. A Lvov politician Professor Anatolij Romaniuk says that the world's response is in large part thanks to Poland's work. "Putin wasn't expecting such a strong opposition within the Ukraine and in the West." Update: Apologies for all the Polish flag waving, but Poland has had such shocking history over the last two and a half centuries that it makes me immensely proud to see the country free and independent now and playing such a constructive role on the world stage, whether it's the war on terror, Iraq, Ukraine or trying to moderate the EU. As proud as I am indeed of my new home Australia, and Australia's role as America's strong ally.

Western, central and northern Ukraine has declared for Yushchenko. That includes local governments and authorities, police and security services in these areas. In Kiev, the mayor, the authorities, police, schools and universities came out in support of Yushchenko. In Lvov, the opposition stronghold, an orange flag flies above the city hall; most military units in the area have sided with the opposition. As have 300 of Ukrainian diplomats abroad who wrote in an open letter that "the country should have a leader who enjoys the real public trust."

The government in Kiev is paralyzed by the protests; the pro-democracy protesters still keep arriving to the capital - the problem is, they're now starting to run out of government buildings to blockade.

I'm struck by the role of the Polish media - "Gazeta Wyborcza", probably the most popular Polish daily has changed its bannerhead color from red to orange in solidarity with Ukrainian pro-democracy movement. It actually is sponsoring and promoting pro-democracy rallies throughout Poland. On Friday, it distributed 30,000 copies of its election supplement in Kiev.

We often complain about the politicization of the media in the West, but "Gazeta" puts the "New York Times" to shame. The difference is, "Gazeta" is on the right side of history.

By the way: One good thing about having a blog with this sort of color scheme is that on Monday I won't have to change anything to show my solidarity with the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine - Chrenkoff maintains "permanent support" for the Orange Revolution.

And another piece of Chrenkoff trivia (Saturday must be a self-indulgence day): the surname Chrenkoff comes originally from western Ukraine. The current spelling I owe to American immigration officers almost a century ago who let my great grandfather into the Land of the Free. As for the original form, no one in the family, alas, can remember, and I have spent hours on the Ellis Island database looking for all the variations. I wasn't successful, but it might have been anything from Hrynkov to Herenkov.


Media alert - ND, SD and MN 

All the readers in North Dakota, as well as from what I understand northern South Dakota and western Minnesota - as well as those of you who want to listen over the internet: I'll be talking about Iraq with Scott Hennen on his Hot Talk radio program at WDAY Talkradio. The segment will run at 10:10 AM CST Monday, 29 November.

(the link to streaming is on the above-mentioned web page, towards the top of the left-hand sidebar.)


Friday, November 26, 2004

Conspiracy mongering by the Kremlin's favorite pundit 

This is quite unbelievable - but true - just how prevalent and how believed around Moscow are these sorts of conspiracy theories? Probably quite, seeing who's behind it (read below, after the excerpt). I'm translating the whole short article from Poland's "Gazeta Wyborcza" daily:
"Zbigniew Brzezinski [President Carter's Polish-born National Security Adviser and nowadays an international affairs pundit], his sons, and the Polish government have created an Ukrainian opposition leader and promoted Yushchenko into that role, in order to prevent further integration of the European Union!

"So says, Sergei Markov, well-known political scientists and director of the Institute of Political Studies in Moscow.

"During press conference in the Russian capital, Markov argued that Brzezinski and his sons - Mark and Ian - were counting on Yushchenko victory in the elections to increase Poland's prominence within the EU. That - according to Markov - plays into Washington's hands, because a strong Poland will prevent further integration of the EU under the leadership of France and Germany.

"Markov sees the Polish conspiracy as follows: Mark Brzezinski is a Democrat adviser and his brother Ian advises the Republicans. Their co-conspirator is also of 'Polish origin', Adrian Karatnycky, one of the activists at Freedom House, a think-tank supporting democracy worldwide.

"According to Markov, the arrival in Kiev of Lech Walesa, and the expected arrival of [Polish president] Aleksander Kwasniewski, are not accidents. 'Polish social engineers are planning a repeat in Kiev of the coups in Georgia and Serbia,' maintains the Russian academic. 'Of course, the whole plan must remain secret, because the Ukrainians know that Poles hate them and treat them as second class, so they can't learn that Poland stands behind Yushchenko candidacy.'

"And what does Brzezinski want to achieve for himself? 'It's simple,' says Markov. 'The Polish diaspora in the US hates George Bush, and therefore wants by supporting Yushchenko to cause a split between the American president and the Russian president'."
All clear? No? Really? I thought that the idea of nefarious Poland helping Washington by preventing further EU integration and at the same time screwing over President Bush makes perfect sense. I'm struck by how much Markov's ravings echo my previous post about Poland and Ukraine - read upside down while under the influence of amphetamines.

All I can say is, I'm scared that this sort of thinking goes for a serious political analysis in Russia. And I'm even more scared, since this report describes the Institute of Political Studies as "a Moscow think-tank closely linked with the Putin administration," and this one describes Sergei Markov as "a man who reportedly enjoys close connections with the Kremlin." Markov, by the way, was one of the paid Russian advisors on the campaign team of Viktor Yanukovych, the Moscow-backed "winner" of the Ukrainian presidential election.

I do hope that good sense will prevail and this will not be a start of a new Cold War.

Update: Here's an English-language report from "Mosnews".


Orange for Ukraine 

Another day, another day of turmoil in Ukraine.

One of the
readers had this message: "Spread the word - ORANGE FOR UKRAINE AND DEMOCRACY - MONDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 2004 - the date is set, the World will wear orange as a sign of solidarity and support for Ukraine and Democracy." I couldn't find anything about this initiative on the net, but it sounds like a nice idea. As another reader notes, Ulstermen (Protestant Northern Ireland) and the Dutch will have a jumpstart on everyone.

When I was on
Crane Durham's program yesterday in Saint Louis, Missouri, Crane asked me whether the situation in Ukraine will turn into another Tianamen Square. I hope not. I said that I was vaguely optimistic (Chrenk radiospeak for "cautiously optimistic"), noting that over the recent years most of the pro-democracy movements have succeeded in their goals without too much bloodshed. China in 1989 was, of course, an exception, and several other countries didn't get there without tanks on the streets (Romania, many of the ex-Soviet republics, including Russia herself). But as you look at the democratic revolution since 1989 - OK, I'm being too Eurocentric here, or considering my origins, too Centro Eurocentric; after all the democratic revolution started off throughout the world in the mid-1980s in places like the Philippines and Latin America - the Berlin Walls of this world generally fell without a shot and the "people power" has in the end triumphed over the entrenched establishments with their monopoly of violence. Most recently, of course, we have seen this happening in Serbia and Georgia.

So the odds are for the victory of democracy in Ukraine. On the minus side, none of the other countries mentioned above were as important in Russia's geo-strategic scheme of things as Ukraine is. Much is at stake in Kiev at the moment, and it's a worrying sign for the future that Putin clearly considers the maintenance of the status quo - a semi-autocratic Ukraine under the dominance of post-communist oligarchs - to be in his country's national interest, and conversely, a democratic (though not by any stretch anti-Russian) Ukraine a threat.

The media reports that
Poland is now right in the thick of things, trying to peacefully resolve the stand-off. The "Solidarity" icon and Poland's first non-communist president, Lech Walesa is already in Kiev talking to the crowds and imploring the West to help Ukraine on its road to democracy. Poland's current president Aleksander Kwasniewski is expected to fly in on Friday, after being asked by apparently both the opposition and Ukraine's outgoing president to mediate (hat tip: Tanker Schreiber for the link).

Polish-Ukrainian relations are complicated by some painful history. Anti-Polish Cossak uprisings go back to the mid-17th century, and the last hundred years has been particularly painful as Ukrainian national aspirations repeatedly clashed with Poland's dream of recreating a multi-national Polish Commonwealth, which the Ukrainians saw as merely an excuse to reimpose ethnic Polish dominance in politics, economy and culture. Much blood has been spilled and more created in 1918-21, sporadically throughout the inter-war years and then again in 1944-6; the past still casts a long shadow over the relations between the two countries.

That being said, Poland's support for Ukrainian democracy is sincere (albeit coupled with a desire for a democratic buffer between herself and the increasingly autocratic Russia) and arguably provides the best opportunity to build strong links with the eastern neighbor and thus move on (which I think the new generations, not bloodied by the old battles and not directly touched by the old hatreds, are quite prepared to do). I have a sentimental reason for wanting to see the Orange Revolution succeed - my mother's father's family comes from and around Lwow (or Lv'iv as it is now known). I don't hold any chauvinistic dreams about regaining "historically Polish" eastern lands, lost when the Soviet Union decided to extend the Ukrainian and Belarussian Soviet Socialist Republics at the expense of Poland. Arguably this was not feasible even by 1945, but the ethnic cleansing of the late 1940s has hammered the last nail; Ukraine is now home mostly to people who see themselves as Ukrainians rather than Poles or any members of any other ethnic group. And they surely deserve a chance at democracy and reform, which most of the rest of the Eastern and Central Europe took some fifteen years ago.

So, go Orange.


Happy Thanksgiving Day 

Checking my visitor statistics this morning (Australian time), as I from time to time morbidly do (hey, even Instapundit, who now gets more visitors every two days or so than I got from the beginning of this blog, still does that too), I thought to myself - where has everyone gone?

Then I remembered - it's still the Thanksgiving Day in the Land of the Free - getting towards the evening now - and most of you had a day off work and were otherwise busy with families and friends. So you're forgiven. Come back tomorrow and in the meantime, belated happy Thanksgiving Day.

Most countries have an Independence Day or other some such holiday when they celebrate their nationhood, but for a non-American (though I hope a good friend of the American people) such as myself, it's refreshing to see, in addition to those more traditional patriotic celebrations, a day when the nation humbly gives thanks for its initial survival and the subsequent peace, freedom and prosperity.

So, happy Thanksgiving Day again, my friends. You have much to be thankful for, not the least the fact that in our modern age you still haven't lost the ability to be thankful.


Thursday, November 25, 2004

1980s - they're baaaaaack 

I have no idea about the demographic profile of my readership - more men or women? (I'd venture a guess it's the former) what's the average age? 20s? 30s? 40s and above? City or country? Average income? Wouldn't have a clue.

Hence I don't know whether you'll rejoice or grind your teeth at the message of Noah Oppenheim's article earlier this week in the "Opinion Journal": the 1980s are returning.

Being in the early 30s myself, I'm definitely a child of the 80s, with a proviso that having spent most of that decade behind the Iron Curtain my access to popular culture of that time was patchy and I could catch up on the rest only once I arrived in Australia in November 1988. My fondness for the 1980s is partly a function of the common variety nostalgia for one's young years; partly a quasi-political reflex, because while the pop culture of that decade was not particularly political in itself, the concept of Western pop culture very much was for us stuck in the middle of the dreary nightmare of socialist realism; and partly I genuinely still enjoy some of that stuff. With the emphasis on "some": I dread the time when the 1980s fashion, hairstyles and make-up make a comeback (although they could hardly be any worse than the periodic 1970s revivals), watching 1980s movies of any genre leaves me at a loss to explain what, aside from youthful exuberance and underdeveloped taste, made me once swoon over everything from "Highlander" to "The Breakfast Club".

But the music - the music I still listen to. Tragically so, according to Mrs Chrenkoff, who likes to show Brisbane's biggest 1980s CD collection to all our visitors as a harmless little joke to break the ice. Anyway, should you ever wonder where all the Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, A-ha, Big Country, Simple Minds, Marillion, Springsteen, Alphaville, Pet Shop Boys and Ultravox CDs have gone - I've got them.

Oppenheim notes all the signs of the 1980s resurrection: the remakes of "Miami Vice" and "Dallas" are in the pipeline, the 1980s music is back on the airways, big hair and big shoulders strut the catwalks again, and opulence and extravagance are in. But why? And why now?
"It may, in part, be merely cyclical. There is always some retro trend, and the '80s moment has arrived. Or it's a backlash against the minimalism of the '90s... But alongside the shift in the popular culture are uncanny parallels in the political realm. Could they suggest a cause? A polarizing Republican president. Skyrocketing deficits. Rampant anti-Americanism in Europe. A sense of impending apocalypse or, at the least, a feeling that the moment is filled with nerve-wracking global gambits...

"There is something in the ingredients of anxiety, uncertainty and isolation that do send us seeking relief in broad entertainments. And all the better that they should be familiar entertainments. The current arbiters of taste--the creative executives at the networks, studios and record labels, the magazine editors--are all children of the 1980s. And they're panicked, as much by the Bush majority as by al Qaeda. They are returning to the womb and dragging the rest of the country with them."
Or perhaps not. As Oppenheim himself recognizes, there is a strong gut reaction against the 1980s among our gliteratti and the beautiful people. This is arguably the reason why a full scale 1980s revival will not happen on the same scale as the 60s' and the 70s' ones: in the eyes of many of our culture makers and trend setters, the 1980s will remain forever tainted by the decade's politics. Debbie Gibson and Culture Club, of course, have nothing to do with Ronald Reagan, Star Wars (the weapons system, not the movie) or Wall Street but when you're thinking about the 1980s it's difficult to simply concentrate on the soundtrack without remembering that those were also the years of the Republican dominance in the United States, the Conservative dominance in Great Britain, and the dying rattles of the Evil Empire. This is precisely why the 1960s and 70s with their wishy-washy politics to go with the progressive popular culture and counter-culture will remain favorites of the artistic establishment still dominated by the Baby Boomers.

And this is also why the 1980s - the decade of greed, of exuberant patriotism, and of cheesy popular culture might ever be truly celebrated only by the red states, while the blue America remains stuck in the gilded age nostalgia for the decade of nothing, Clinton's 1990s.


Missouri amendment 

A quick note regarding the post below about my Thanksgiving Day interview - the time has now been changed to 7.10am CST.

Update: Thanks to Crane Durham for having me on the show and welcome to new readers from Missouri. Hope you'll enjoy all the regular good news segments from Iraq, Afghanistan and the Islamic world, as well as news and views about politics in the United States and elsewhere.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Ukraine: Europe mumbles, Poland shouts 

Swedish blogger Johan Norberg (via Instapundit) watches Ukraine's Orange Revolution unfold and asks:

"Where are the concerned European politicians who should condemn the fraud, and who could be with these crowds to show their support? And where are the 'human shields'? A lot of young westerners were willing to risk their lives to stop the war on Iraq. Aren't they willing to risk some discomfort to stop one of Europe's biggest countries from slipping back to dictatorship?"
If I recall correctly, Western European political class has done preciously little to help Eastern and Central Europe liberate itself in 1989/2001 (not to mention stop the war in its own Balkan backyard) - so why start now?

Among all the pedestrian and lackluster statements by the EU leaders,
Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, ironically himself an ex-communist, is rather more straightforward (link in Polish, my translation):

"During a press conference in Presidential Palace, President [Kwasniewski] announced that he'll be immediately contacting [the outgoing Ukrainian] President Leonid Kuczma. Kwasniewski wants the negotiations [between the two presidential candidates] to take place in the presence of representatives of the Council of Europe and the European Union...

"Kwasniewski is the first of the EU leaders to speak out about the Ukrainian election... Dialogue, yes - violence, no, Kwasniewski repeated twice. And what will you do, Mr President, if Kuczma rejects your initiative? Will Poland still recognize the election result? asked journalists. Kwasniewski refused to answer.

"President Kwasniewski also said that 'right from the start, Poland was of the opinion that these elections are the exam of Ukrainian democracy'... According to the President, Ukraine failed that exam...

"Kwasniewski, recalling Polish's long-standing policy towards Ukraine, said that Polish aim was always to bring Ukraine closer to the EU and NATO. He admitted that this policy had not found any takers [in the West]. He underlined the fact that many Western countries prefer to 'sacrifice relations with one country for the sake of relations with another'."
The last sentence being a dig at the Western policy of appeasing Russia at the expense of all other post-communist states in the region.

Poland's right-wing opposition, which is expected to win the parliamentary election next year, is even more gung-ho:

"Polish parliament looked orange, thanks to members of the Citizens' Platform [the main centre-right opposition party] who distributed orange ribbons; the symbol of Victor Yushchenko [Ukrainian pro-Western presidential candidate]. Inside the chamber some members of parliament waved orange-colored flag and put oranges on the pulpits in front of them...

"Politicians from the Citizens' Platform called on the government not to recognize the election result in the absence of a recount conducted under international supervision...

"Law and Justice [another right-wing opposition party] proposed a resolution condemning electoral fraud in Ukraine. One of the Law and Justice parliamentarians, Ludwik Dorn appealed: 'Poland cannot remain silent at this moment in time.' In the evening [the party's leader] Jaroslaw Kaczynksi sent a congratulatory letter to Yushchenko as the new president of Ukraine."
There is, alas, a lot of bad blood and bad history between the Poles and the Ukrainians over the last hundred years. Supporting the pro-Western, pro-democracy forces is the best way for Poland to build better and stronger relations with those representing the future of her eastern neighbor.


Boom America, Bust America 

A fascinating report from the "LA Times" (hat tip: again, James Taranto's Best of the Web), to be read in conjunction with our recent debates about the city-country voting divide:

"The center of the Republican presidential coalition is moving toward the distant edges of suburbia.

"In this month's election, President Bush carried 97 of the nation's 100 fastest-growing counties, most of them 'exurban' communities that are rapidly transforming farmland into subdivisions and shopping malls on the periphery of major metropolitan areas.

"Together, these fast-growing communities provided Bush a punishing 1.72 million vote advantage over Democrat John F. Kerry."
In line with the anecdotal conclusions of our demographic debate,

"These growing areas, filled largely with younger families fleeing urban centers in search of affordable homes, are providing the GOP a foothold in blue Democratic-leaning states and solidifying the party's control over red Republican-leaning states...

"These are places defined more by aspiration than accumulation, filled more with families starting out than with those that have already reached their earnings peak."
And their electoral impact only keeps growing:

"Bush's edge in these 100 counties was almost four times greater than the advantage they provided Bob Dole, the Republican presidential nominee eight years ago... Bush took 70% or more of the vote in 40 of them, and 60% or more in 70 of them. In all, Bush won 63% of the votes cast in these 100 counties. That broad appeal, combined with the rapid population growth, allowed Bush to generate much greater advantages from these counties than he did four years ago. In 2000, Bush won 94 of the counties, but they provided him a smaller cumulative advantage of 1.06 million votes."
This phenomenon is not restricted to the United States; it is present in Australia, too, albeit not on such a scale. The debate down here still rages about the electoral impact of the so called "aspirational voters", the middle class families in outer suburbs with large mortgages and aspirations to do better for themselves and their children. For the past few elections they tended to favor the current centre-right government of John Howard. How it will all play out in the long term is an interesting question, particularly considering other demographic trends, such as the decline in the number of two-parent families with children and the rise in the number of single parent households and childless couples.

In another article of interest, the columnist Lexington of the
"Economist" points to some other data of interest:

"Most of Mr Kerry's base was in stagnant America. Democratic strongholds such as Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco and Mr Kerry's Boston have been losing people and jobs.

"Mr Bush's America, for the most part, is booming. This is not just because the red states that voted for Mr Bush are growing faster than the blue states that voted for Mr Kerry. It is also because Mr Bush did well in the fast-growing suburbs and 'exurbs' in both red and blue states. Mr Bush's triumph in greater Phoenix, greater Houston and greater Atlanta was perhaps predictable. But... he also triumphed in... the 'third California': the vast inland region that is producing the bulk of the state's growth at the moment...

"The Democratic Party is ceasing to be a mom-and-pop party. Phillip Longman of the New America Foundation points out that the fertility rate in the Kerry states is 12% lower than in the Bush states. Vermont, the home of Howard Dean and perhaps the most left-wing state in the country, produces an annual average of 49 children for every 1,000 women of child-bearing age; in Utah, where 71% of the population voted for Mr Bush, the figure is 91. In deep-blue cities such as San Francisco and Seattle you find more dogs than children."
By the way, the original material about the booming America/stagnant America divide comes from research by Joel Kotkin, which makes for some fascinating reading.


Fighting journalism 

Chris Reed, opinion editor of the "Orange County Register" (love the show, love the county) reports in the "American Spectator" on a speech delivered by Chris Hedges from the "New York Times" at a recent conference of the Association of Opinion Page Editors (Hedges himself is an international reporter and not an opinion writer, although he should probably consider a switch. I'm sure that with his views he would be welcomed with open arms by the "NYT" op-ed page). As Reed reports, in his address Hedges didn't hold back with his frustration at the current Administration's foreign policy:

" 'We're absolutely reviled around the world, as we should be,' Hedges said. 'Our only friends are war criminals' -- a reference, he explained, to Ariel Sharon and Vladimir Putin."
I'm so glad that Hedges explained that, because on the face of it, the formulation that "our only friends" would suggest he considers Great Britain's Tony Blair, Australia's John Howard, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, Poland's Marek Belka, and numerous others, to be war criminals, too, which would put Hedges somewhere among the mainstream of the rabid left public opinion. Or else he doesn't consider the above mentioned leaders to be America's friends. Or he's employing a hysterical hyperbole that's so appropriate for a working journalist. No wonder the "New York Times" is such a respected news organ.

(hat tip: James Taranto's
Best of the Web)


Hello Missouri - again! 

Update: Make that 7.10am CST, instead of 8.10am - an hour earlier.

Just a quick note for any readers in and around Saint Louis, Missouri, and anywhere else who might want to listen to it over the net, I'll be appearing on "Allman and Smash in the Morning" show on 97.1 FM Talk KFTK. I'll be having a chat with the guest host of the show, Crane Durham. The time is this Thursday (25 November) morning, 8.10am CST (at this stage), and for streaming you can click here.


"Friends of Iraq" Blogger Challenge - update 1 

Update: Over the next three weeks I intend to bother you every few days or so to remind you about this great action currently taking place. For all the details see below, and make sure that you have a good look around the Spirit of America website to find out about all sorts of fantastic work they're doing on the ground and why they need your support.

I'm also happy to announce that Chrenkoff is now in the
6th position in the overall ranking for the challenge, and the 4th in the individual blogs stakes. You, my dear readers, have so far donated $500 to the cause, so big thank you on behalf of myself, Spirit of America, our troops and the people of Iraq. Keep it coming.

Spirit of America is one organisation doing hell of a lot of good work helping Iraqis (as well as Afghans) rebuild their country.

I have decided to join their blogger challenge. A number of international blogs are joining in and asking readers to donate to the good cause. Your money will go to any number of good programs being run on the ground in Iraq with the help of our troops to assist Iraqis with turning their country into a normal, free and democratic nation. The challenge is to see which blog can generate most donations for Spirit of America.

If you want to donate through Chrenkoff, please click on this link.


Guest blogger: Mesopotamia Redeemed, Part 3 

Government by consent in Iraq? The rule of law on the Tigris and Euphrates? As guest blogger Daniel Foty argues is the third part of his series, the Coalition and the Iraqi authorities are not transplanting some novel and alien concepts onto Iraqi soil - they are merely rediscovering Iraq's forgotten heritage. Click here for part one and part two.

Today: "Primitive" law codes from the second millennium BC? Think again.

Mesopotamia Redeemed, Part 3

The third and final Sumerian law code which has been recovered has been attributed to Lipit-Ishtar, who was the ruler of the city-state of Isin around 1900 B.C. Isin was quite powerful for a brief period, and exercised control over a rather extensive area; this allowed Lipit-Ishtar to claim the title of "King of Sumer and Akkad."

The structure of Lipit-Ishtar's code is similar to that of its predecessors, consisting of three parts - a prologue which states the reasons for the code and invokes divine favor for it, the main body of specific laws, and an epilogue which recapitulates the prologue.

The prologue is quite bombastic, but clearly states the same reasoning behind the Urukagina and Ur-Nammu codes - the establishment of order and the rule of law, as a necessary condition for the proper functioning of society. Once again, we find that the basic ideas transcend both place and time. One particularly florid section of the prologue reads as follows:

"When An and Enlil had called Lipit-Ishtar - Lipit-Ishtar, the wise shepherd, whose name had been pronounced by Nunamnir - to the princeship of the land in order to establish justice in the land, to banish complaints, to turn back enmity and rebellion by force of arms, and to bring well-being to the Sumerians and Akkadians..."
While this statement overflows with flowery rhetoric, if one excises the decorations and pulls out the core statement of this passage, we are left with this:

"...in order to establish justice in the land, to banish complaints, to turn back enmity and rebellion by force of arms, and to bring well-being to the [people]..."
This statement is nearly identical to a passage in the prologue of the Constitution of the United States:

"...in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and to our posterity..."
Though these two documents are separated in time by some 3,700 years, in space by thousands of miles, and with the latter having been developed before the existence of the former had even been re-discovered, it is remarkable (but significant) that they express exactly the same intentions. Once again, these parallels make it obvious that since the dawn of civilization, the establishment of the rule of law is a fundamental necessity for the existence and perpetuation of any civilized society.

Of the main body of the code, fewer than forty of the specific laws have been recovered (and many of those are incomplete); it seems likely that there were many more, since many of the known items are very specific. However, a somewhat astonishing aspect of the Lipit-Ishtar code is that while there are numerous extremely specific laws, in the form of listing particular offenses and corresponding particular punishments, there are others which deal with more abstract situations and which state more abstract solutions to those situations.

The "very specific" items in the code are just that - like the earlier codes, they deal with very specific offenses and punishments. For example,

"If a man cut down a tree in the garden of another man, he shall pay one-half mina of silver."
As another example,

"If a man rented an ox and broke its horn, he shall pay one-fourth of its price."
It should be noted that, like the Ur-Nammu code, the Lipit-Ishtar code makes extensive use of monetary fines as sanctions.

Other items in the code are more sophisticated; although they apply to specific situations, they set out simple rules for how a matter is to be handled. For example,

"If a man without authorization bound another man to a matter to which the other man had no knowledge, that man is not affirmed; the offending man shall bear the penalty in regard to the matter to which he has bound the other man."
This is a rather simple and honest approach to affirming basic justice with regard to such a matter.

Still other items in the code are even more sophisticated than this last example, as they set out very abstract rules for how a matter is to be handled and settled. In these items, there are rules stated for dealing with particular situations, but the stated resolutions are based on ideas which are chosen with care; this is in contrast to the prior example, where the stated resolution is rather obvious. For example, one item deals with a very detailed aspect of conflicting property rights:

"If the master of an estate or the mistress of an estate has defaulted on the tax of the estate and a stranger has borne it, for three years the owner may not be evicted. Afterward, the man who bore the tax of the estate shall possess that estate, and the prior owner of the estate shall not raise any claim."
This law is quite abstract, with its "three year" stipulation; the reason for this particular choice of time period remains unknown. In addition, this law actually bears a strong resemblance to the concept of "adverse possession" of private property (specifically, land) which appears in English common law (and is thus present to this day in all legal systems which are its descendents).

The epilogue of the Lipit-Ishtar code is typically Sumerian, being (like the prologue) rather florid. For example, it begins with:

"Verily, in accordance with the true word of Utu, I caused Sumer and Akkad to hold to true justice. Verily, in accordance with the pronouncement of Enlil, I, Lipit-Ishtar, the son of Enlil, abolished enmity and rebellion; made weeping, lamentations, and outcry taboo; caused righteousness and truth to exist; brought well-being to the Sumerians and the Akkadians..."
(The epilogue continues in the vein for some time, and not all of it has been recovered.) While this passage is rather bombastic, the intent of the code is once again made clear - to set up a firm and known rule of law, as a required basis for the functioning of a civilized society. The rest of the extant part of the epilogue confirms the importance which Lipit-Ishtar attributed to this code by once again invoking divine favor, then placing a blessing on those who would protect and honor the stele on which the code was inscribed and a corresponding curse on anyone who would willfully damage or deface that stele.

While interesting in its own right, Lipit-Ishtar's code likely has added significance. At the time of its discovery, the famous Code of Hammurabi was regarded as the oldest law code - and one that had been created ab initio in Babylon. However, once the Lipit-Ishtar code had been recovered, it became obvious that Hammurabi's code is a closely-related descendant. The small number of specific statutes of the Lipit-Ishtar code which have been recovered are for the most part also found in exactly the same form in Hammurabi's code. Thus, the longer-term impact of Hammurabi's code in the Near East and beyond is actually based on its slightly-older predecessor, Lipit-Ishtar's code.

On their own, the Sumerian legal codes were fine things. However, to be useful, they had to be more than "wall decorations" stating good intentions. Any legal code must also by accompanied by a legal system in which the laws are carried out and maintained. The recovered records also show that the Sumerians developed such a legal system - one which became highly refined and sophisticated. This legal system will be discussed in Part IV.


Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Ukraine- the unfinished revolution 

Watch Ukraine.

With its 47 million people, huge agricultural and natural resources, as well as its strategic position between Poland, Russia and the Black Sea, Ukraine is the second - after Russia - most important of the post-Soviet states.

Unbowed by the allegations of horrendous electoral fraud pointed out by all the Western observers, including the EU, the pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich has been
declared elected the country's new president over pro-Western opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko.

The situation throughout Ukraine is precarious; on Monday there were 100,000 pro-Yushchenko protesters on the streets of capital Kiev, possibly another 100,000 throughout other Ukrainian cities. Yushchenko refuses to concede, and at least seven local government authorities are refusing to recognize the result. The exit polls gave Yushchenko the victory by a margin of 54% to 43%; the actual result as announced by the electoral commission was 49.42% to Yanukovich and 46.70% to Yushchenko. We know from the recent US election that exit polls are not necessarily accurate, but coupled with allegations of industrial-scale fraud, they throw the official result into serious doubt.

And it might get
even more heated: "Ukraine's security bodies, vowing to uphold the constitution, warned today they would put down any lawlessness 'quickly and firmly'." "Upholding the constitution" is a code-word for supporting the corrupt power structures that so far have prevented Ukraine from achieving its true potential. Polish press, geographically closest to the events is now asking: "Will the blood flow in Ukraine?"

The choice is clear: Yanukovich is an old guard politician, pro-Russian in his outlook and enjoying the open support of Vladimir Putin. He also favors increased state intervention in the economy (exactly what post-communist countries need). Yushchenko is a pro-Western reformist who wants to liberalize the economy and fight corruption.

Little discussed in the media is geographic split between the "red" and the "blue" part of Ukraine. The red (and I think we can safely return to the proper identification of that color with political left) Ukraine is the eastern part of the country, closer to Russia, Orthodox in its religious observance, and historically part of the Russian empire. The blue Ukraine is the western part, looking towards the West rather than Russia, Catholic or Uniate (Uniates have the Orthodox liturgy but they recognize the Pope as the head of the church), and historically part of the multi-national Polish Commonwealth. You can guess which part of Ukraine is the power base for which candidate.

Watch this space.


Return of the city-country divide 

A few days ago I pointed out an article by Patrick Cox, who argued that the big political division in the United States is not so much between the blue states and the red states as between the country and the city, with suburbs in the middle but leaning towards the country. According to Cox, the presidential vote most closely correlates with the population density - the higher the density the higher the Democrat vote.

When I asked my readers for their ideas to explain why the urban areas vote strongly for the left and the rural areas and suburbs for the right, I did not quite expect as many different and interesting suggestions. Demography and its political, economic and social consequences is a topic that never ceases to fascinate me, and by the looks of it, it gets many others going, too.

Just in case you don't want to wade through all the comments, here's a brief summary of readers' explanations for this political divide:


Several readers recalled research which suggests that overpopulation among species, and therefore increased competition for resources, creates more stressed, callous and dysfunctional populations. As Dale Newland summed it up: "Population density in animals increases social pathology such as infanticide. Why do we think humans are so different?" Leftyism as social pathology? Harsh.


Reader Eric points to something very obvious: ethnic minorities, a core Democrat constituency, tend to be strongly concentrated in urban areas (with some exceptions of course, I might add, like the rural black and rural Hispanic counties in Texas, which with the exception of the Austin area, provide the only specks of blue on the electoral map of the state).

Molotov from the black conservative/moderate blog Booker Rising thought this issue was the clincher in the debate: "[Cox's article] ignores one huge mitigating factor that separates big cities from rural areas: the high concentration of racial minorities. Blacks and Hispanics (which together are about 26% of USA's population) are some of America's most urbanized residents. If [Cox] can show that controlling for race and class, the urban-country divide resides then it may be on to something. For example, 27% of northern Florida blacks (more rural area, which is part of the Bible Belt) voted for Bush. Only 4% in Miami, which is in southern Florida, did so."

Age and family structure:

Cities attract a lot of young people. Young people are usually much less wealthy than average and generally, for a variety of reasons, lean more towards the left. Another overrepresented urban group - single people, too, lean towards the left - partly because they also tend to be young, and partly because it's the subsequent acquisition of responsibilities such as family and mortgage that seems to make people more conservative.

Older people with greater income and more assets tend to move out of the city and into suburbs. They tend to be more conservative, particularly if they also now have families to support. Needless to say, a lot more families live in suburbs than in the cities. As reader Raposa sums it up: "I think that people who could be 'accepting' of things when it's just them become more safety and culture conscious when they have children. They move out from the cities in search of lower crime, better schools, and nicer parks. So, in a sense, the suburbia conservatism is self-selecting. As people start to worry about their children, their viewpoints turn more conservative and they leave the cities."

Wealth differentials:

Many readers have suggested that cities have more poor people who are dependent on welfare - a large part of the general left-wing constituency. I don't think that's necessarily the case - partly because rural areas and small towns also have their welfare poor , and partly because overall, the less urbanized and less densely populated red states attract more government spending (including social spending) than the more heavily urbanized blue states.

However, there is a twist on this idea that probably should be taken in conjunction with the concept of young/old city/suburb divide; as reader Michael writes: "I really think it boils down to the ownership society." In cities, larger proportion of residents rent accommodation, whereas outside cities a lot more people own their houses. Ownership, in turn, tends to correlate with more conservative attitudes to life. Memo for the Republicans: keep growing the ownership society.


There was a strong school of thought among readers which I would call "Soddom and Gommorah" approach to urbanism. Seeing cities as centers of corruption and depravity is certainly as old as cities themselves (certainly present among the ancient Greeks, taken by the early Christians and proudly continued by agrarian conservatives). My readers were not as harsh - or even necessarily censorious - but still they noted that:

- "people seeking to escape the restrictions of morality, for one reason or another, move to the cities for anonymity and like-minded libertines" (PacRim Jim)

- "people who live in big cities are looking for a wider experience than they could get in their home towns" (Kate Shaw)

- "in the city anonymity is your best friend. You can be anybody, do anything. Liberation of body will follow through to mind" (Dunerati)

Cities, therefore, not only make liberals - they attract them from elsewhere.


Life in rural areas or small towns, and life in cities are obviously very different. Many readers argued that each environment shapes people's outlook in different ways, and therefore ultimately leads them to vote differently.

The basic distinction is that smaller communities change more slowly, therefore inculcating their residents with more conservative habits of mind. Cities, on the other hand, are changing fast and so their inhabitants are more accepting and tolerant of difference, change and experimentation.

The differences, however, go deeper - to how you live. Mark G writes: "It's all about self-reliance. At the extremes, country folk take care of their own plumbing, landscaping, auto care, etc., while at the other extreme, city folk rely completely on others for everything. Attitudes toward self-reliance is the fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives in the U.S."

Or this, from Idris: "Accountability. It's easier to shoot your mouth off in the city and melt away into the crowd. That in turn gives the sense of freedom of expression, hence 'modern' liberalism. In small town America, if you shoot your mouth off people remember it for generations, even if you move to the other side of town. One tends toward a more reserved form of expression as potential risk is greater, hence conservatism."

As another reader, Catastrophile summed it up: "People who live in wide-open spaces and can choose to live and let live will respond better to conservative rhetoric, i.e. 'we'll leave you alone.' People who live in close proximity to lots of other people, have no choice but to interact on a regular basis, and are constantly confronted by the problems of others, will respond better to the progressive rhetoric, i.e. 'we'll make things better'."


Tom Heard had a simple explanation: "More oxygen. People in the cities tend to suffer anoxia and it affects the brain and thinking processes."

Lots of interesting ideas here for everyone to ponder on.

Before I leave, one more reflection: the red people seem to be a lot more aware of the blue world than vice-versa. Firstly, it has to do with the all-pervasiveness of blue culture. Frank Rich seems to think that far from the country swinging to the right culturally, the left has won the war because everyone, including the red states, is watching porn and trash TV. That might be a combination of wishful thinking and ignorance of culture on part of Rich, but there is no denying that thanks to the coasts-generated popular culture the rest of the country knows a lot more about what's happening in the cities than cities know about what's happening in the country.

Secondly, a lot more of red people go to the cities - whether its just for a visit of short business, or to live and work for more extended periods of time. There is very little traffic the other way.

We send our children through Peace Corp into the developing world to expose them to other cultures and societies - why not simply send them out of the cities instead?

Update: Reader Ron couldn't resist: "Sorry, I had to ask. By 'population density', do you mean a) density as it relates to mental capacity or b) how many people live/square mile?"

Update II: Another good point from a reader Bud via email: regardless of whether there are more welfare recipients in the cities or outside, the whole machinery and bureaucracy of government and welfare is concentrated in the cities:

"The government employee unions that are concentrated in urban areas and vote at least 60% Democrat. These are local employees such as teachers who naturally cluster in the population centers, state employees at capitols and major cities and federal employees in major cities. In New York State, I estimate that they account for at least 15% of the total state-wide vote and gave Sen. Kerry about a 360,000 vote advantage."


Monday, November 22, 2004

Good news from Iraq, Part 15 

Note: Also available at the "Opinion Journal" and Winds of Change. Many thanks to James Taranto and Joe Katzman respectively for their strong and continuing support for the series, and thanks to all of you who suggest links, comment, publicise, spread the news and link to it.

In the fortnight that saw the massive assault by American and Iraqi troops on Fallujah, the flare up of violence elsewhere throughout the Sunni Triangle, the execution of Margaret Hassan by her kidnappers, not to mention the controversy over a Marine shooting dead a wounded insurgent, it's hard to believe that anything positive might have also been happening in Iraq.

Yet, fortunately, neither Fallujah nor even the Sunni Triangle are the whole of Iraq, just as violence and bloodshed are not the whole story of Iraq. Lt Col
Victor Zillmer of Lindale, Texas, recently volunteered to return to Iraq as the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers in Baghdad. His impressions of the country today seems to be shared by many in Iraq outside of the media:

"As I expected, it was not a total war zone with massive explosions and burning vehicles everywhere as commonly portrayed in the press. It was typical Baghdad, only the traffic was even worse. The economy must be doing much better over here, for the streets are jammed with cars of every description, with many of them newer and better condition than when I left in May. As compared to 18 months ago when I first arrived, the traffic has increased a hundredfold."
As the old joke goes, sometimes a cigar is just cigar. In Iraq, contrary to the impression one can often get from watching the news, for most part a car is just car, not a carbomb, and as Lt Col Zillmer says, there are a lot of them driving around. Here are some stories of Iraqis trying to, often under difficult circumstance and against great odds, journey towards a better and more normal life.

SOCIETY: January is just around the corner and Iraq is slowly getting into
the election mode:

"Car bombs explode almost daily and insurgents still control parts of the Sunni Triangle, where they regularly attack U.S. troops. But across the country, voters and politicians are quietly taking the first step toward holding elections in less than three months.

"Political parties, candidates and voters started registering this week for elections planned by the end of January for the National Assembly. 'It is a completely new experience for us to have a democratic and free exercise in Iraq,' says Talal Madhat Serri, a leader of the Assembly for Iraq party.

"There now are at least 150 political parties that represent every niche of the population, from communists to prisoners. Only 40 to 50 will meet party registration requirements, says Abdul Hussein Hindawi, chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq. Among the requirements for parties participating: a minimum 500 members. Voter rolls will be based on lists used for the food ration program started by Saddam Hussein during sanctions in the 1990s."
The election date has been set for 27 January 2005. So far, the Iraqi Electoral Commission has certified the applications of 24 parties and political movements, thus enabling them to take part in the elections. "Fareed Ayar, the official spokesperson of the Commission, [said] that the commission has the task of studying more applications, which reached 54, 43 of which were applied to national electoral office, six to the governorates' electoral center, and five applications for individuals, to be certified as political entities." You can see the list of certified parties at this blog.

Abdul Hussain Hindawi, the head of the Electoral Commission is upbeat about the challenges: "All the Iraqi people want the elections... We are very optimistic and very realistic at the same time. We know that there will be a lot of difficulties... (Iraqis) want a legitimate power and they want to close this chapter which they have endured for more than 50 years." The report notes that "almost 14 million of Iraq's 25 million people have been enrolled as voters... Hindawi estimates up to 15 million may be eligible to vote..."

Iraq's Independent Electoral Commission has decided to allow the
Iraqis leaving overseas to participate in the election. "Millions of Iraq's most well-educated citizens fled the country during the oppressive reign of toppled president Saddam Hussein. Many have returned to the country since the collapse of his regime after last year's US-led invasion, but more than three million Iraqis remain overseas." $90 million out of $340 million allocated by the Iraqi authorities for the conduct of the election will be spent to give the overseas Iraqis the opportunity to vote. To make it happen the International Organization for Migration has signed a memorandum of understanding with Iraqi Electoral Commission to implement an Out of Country Voting Program. The IOM will conduct voter registration for overseas Iraqis in 14 countries around the world. The registration will follow a different timetable to that inside Iraq, and will involve a shorter time period closer to the election time.

Overall, Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund has allocated
$871 million in 2004 for democracy support and various governance and elections programs throughout Iraq. This is a $180 million increase on previous commitment and the additional funds will go towards:

"- $40 million to ensure the Iraqi Electoral Commission has the technical capacity to run and certify free and fair national elections;

- $20 million for a nationwide elections monitoring program, bringing the total for this activity to $45 million;

- $100 million to support local and provincial government institutions, bringing the total for this activity to $234 million; and

- $20 million to support Iraqi Interim Government national institutions, bringing the total for this activity to $41 million."
The report adds that "the $871 million also includes $30 million for the National Endowment for Democracy to provide technical assistance and training for moderate and democratic political parties in Iraq."

Other assistance and offers of assistance to help with the conduct and security of the election keep flowing in. The
European Union is providing an additional 20 million pounds ($38 million) towards technical advice and support for the election. At a recent meeting in Brussels, "[Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad] Allawi [was] given the full red-carpet treatment normally accorded to a world leader... The warm welcome from all EU leaders is a mark of European solidarity in the rebuilding of Iraq, despite continuing deep divisions over the legitimacy of the war. Explaining the reception being given someone who is technically still only an interim leader of his country, one EU official said: 'This is a sign of our determination to help Iraq on the road to democracy'." There are also high hopes for the election among Iraq's neighbors. According to Jordan's Prince Hassan, former crown prince and uncle of King Abdullah, "Doing it right in Iraq is so important for the region as a whole. It will create a positive climate, a new dynamic, and a precedent for citizens' empowerment."

While the
Indian government's hands are tied by the parliamentary resolution preventing the deployment of military and civilian personnel to Iraq, India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has once again made it clear that "India is ready to contribute to the electoral process early next year in Iraq." Such contribution would most likely take the form of training provided in India for Iraqi election officials. Georgia, meanwhile, will be increasing its troop number from 159 to 850 to provide additional security for the United Nations personnel engaged at the election.

While everyone is awaiting the January election, democracy continues to be built from the ground up throughout Iraq. USAID's
Local Governance Program (LGP) (link in PDF) is directed at "promoting representative citizen participation in governance; strengthening the management skills of city and provincial administrations and civic institutions; promoting advocacy and participation of civil society organizations; enhancing leadership skills; and serving as a recruiting tool for future leaders." The program has recently reached a milestone, with 750,000 Iraqis participating in Democracy Dialogue Activities. Read also this report from Iraqi bloggers about their participation in the Friends of Democracy program aimed at spreading democratic ideals among the Iraqi people.

In a victory for transparency and the rule of law, the authorities are introducing new regulations
to make politicians more accountable: "Iraqi officials, starting with the President of the Republic, will have to declare their assets to a new transparency commission set up to fight graft and corruption. 'Starting from January 2005, all Iraqi officials including the president will have to publicly declare their assets and account for them,' said the commission's head Radhi Daraji. 'My commission has set the principle that no one is above the law as its prime target, therefore everyone will be held accountable in the light of outstanding laws and regulations,' he said." The commission will conduct independent investigations to check the veracity of declarations.

In media news, "on the airwaves freedom of speech is flourishing and the topic is love, not politics." Baghdad's
Radio Dijla continues to thrive, offering the younger audience the only late-night phone-in talk show where all sorts of problems can be aired and advice sought. "The host is Majid Salim, 40, a former Ba'ath Party radio DJ born again as an Iraqi Oprah Winfrey. He believes his show is helping by allowing Iraqis to confront their love lives. 'We're trying to build a country. You can do that by helping people strengthen relationships.' Salim's advice is more conservative than one would expect to hear on a Western radio station. He does not field calls of a sexual nature, and believes marriage is the answer to most troubled courtships. He gives his advice with old Iraqi proverbs and quotes from the Koran."

On a more serious note, a
new TV channel is being launched to counter negative media coverage:

"The Iraqi satellite channel Al Fayhaa, launched in Ajman recently, aims at providing accurate, objective, timely and comprehensive news and information to help Iraqis learn how to use their new-found freedom as their country moves towards democracy.

" 'Since the fall of Saddam Hussain, it's quite clear that the Iraqis are receiving Arabic propaganda led by giant satellite government and non-government TV stations, such as Al Jazeera,' Mohammed Al Tai, General Manager of the channel told Khaleej Times.

" 'These Arabic TV stations are broadcasting information which is both inflammatory and alarming, inciting hatred and violence among the Iraqis against the West and coalition forces. It's a media battle and at this point the Iraqis are alone and unarmed because there is no independent TV station to broadcast material representing different points of view,' he said.

"He added that Al Fayha station aimed at supporting the Iraqi people in this media battle by providing accurate, objective news and information to help Iraqis learn how to use their new freedom to move towards democracy."
Meanwhile, Iraqis are giving their vote of confidence in the future:

"Iraq is a dangerous place. But not all the shooting at night is hostile. Much of the noise on weekends comes from wedding celebrations, where the joyful firing of weapons is a tradition.

"Though firm national statistics aren't available, the number of marriages each month is believed to have increased at least 20% since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime - and by some estimates has almost doubled. Violence doesn't seem to have dampened the trend. Thursday, as fighting raged in Fallujah and a car bomb went off in Baghdad, hundreds of people lined up outside the al-Karakh courthouse in western Baghdad to file marriage contracts.

"The Family Court judge there, Shaker Mahmoud al-Najar, says the court approves about 20 to 30 marriage contracts a day, about double prewar numbers.

"The reasons have little to do with love. Experts say an increase in government salaries and an end to compulsory military service, which frees more young men for marriage, are behind the spike."
Lastly, Farah Murrani, a Baghdadi veterinarian, and Brendan Whittington-Jones, from Thula Thula Game Reserve near Durban, South Africa, are spending four months at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Springs, getting a crash course on how to rebuild Baghdad Zoo. Following large scale looting, "U.S. soldiers occupying the Iraqi capital pitched in to rescue animals.

"They helped herd three of six lions that escaped after a mortar shell blew open their paddock. They added malnourished lions and cheetahs owned by Udai Hussein, deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's son, to the zoo's collection.

"Marines joined Murrani and Whittington-Jones for a raid of a racing stable hiding more than a dozen of the 70 Arabian horses stolen from Saddam Hussein's stables.

"The partnership with the U.S. soldiers provided the link that brought them to Colorado Springs. They forged a friendship with Army Reserve veterinarian Maj. Sam Berringer of Monument, who told them about his hometown zoo, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, as they struggled to bring modern management and animal care to the Baghdad Zoo."
Now Murrani and Whittington-Jones are getting good training and the best professional advice to enable them to make it all happen back home.

ECONOMY: There is some good news regarding the huge
overseas debts accumulated as a result of Saddam Hussein's misrule:

"Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, has secured assurances from various countries, including the U.K. and Germany, that they would support the cancellation of a large part of Iraq's $120 billion foreign debt burden. However, the pledge was only partial. 'We're not talking about just forgiving debts; we can't be that generous anymore,' said German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. 'But we do want to make sure that Iraq's substantial resources aren't used just to pay off debt, but to rebuild the country. We want to contribute to that.'

"The pledge signaled a turnaround from the bitter mood earlier this year, when many questioned why countries that had opposed the war should pay to repair the damage."
Russia, too, is ready to come onboard with a reduction in Iraq's $3.4 billion liability.

Back home, the Iraqi Government is recognizing the importance of the
private sector, previously marginalised by the Saddam regime, which largely monopolised the import industry. The authorities are now liberalizing the country's ossified regulatory framework. In a similar program designed to rebuilt Iraq's private sector from the ground up, "Iraqi government officials and private sector representatives will work with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and its partners under the new Private Sector Development Initiative II (PSDII) to promote employment generation and private sector growth, including the development of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME)."

Business registration procedures are also being streamlined: "A new business registration process is being created and streamlined through USAID's Iraq Economic Governance II (IEG II) program. The registry will improve transparency in procedures for registering domestic and foreign companies in Iraq and will serve as a resource for companies needing information on other businesses, as well as for government entities with responsibilities for licensing and taxing. When complete, the business registry will be fully automated, including web-based applications for registering companies and retrieving information."

Soon, it will become even easier for the foreign companies and Iraqi businesses to
connect together:

"Iraq Procurement, the world's number one Iraqi business summit, is to shortly unveil a new online business forum, designed to establish levels of communication between Iraqi companies and global corporations to aid the development of Iraq.

"The forum provides the exclusive opportunity for Iraqi companies to reach the global market to source suppliers, partners and ideas, maintain communication and open dialogue, allowing them to operate on equal terms with the rest of the world.

"These companies, denied access to the supply of essential goods and services for so long, are keen to establish business partnerships to meet their increasing demands. Forum members will be granted access to these companies, who will be posting their requirements and providing news of crucial developments within the Iraqi business market."
There is also progress on closer economic cooperation with Iraq's northern neighbor, before the first Gulf War one of Iraq's main trading partners:

"Iraq has agreed to give Turkish companies a share in its oil projects and has approved the opening of Turkish banks in the country... Turkish Foreign Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen told Anatolia news agency that the two sides had agreed to start negotiations on joint oil production in oil fields in the region of Gharraf in southern Iraq."
Turkey is aiming to increase its exports to Iraq to $2.3 billion in 2005 from a projected $1.8 billion this year, and increase the overall volume of trade between the two countries to $4 billion.

In banking news, two
Turkish public banks, Ziraat and Vakif, will be opening branches in Iraq. The Korean Bank, meanwhile, has opened its first branch in Irbil, in the Kurdish north, where the South Korean army contingent is currently stationed.

In communication news, a recent study by Madar Research has estimated that Iraq will register
the highest growth rate in the IT sector in the whole of the Middle East - 43% per year. "The study also showed that Iraq's spending on Information technology solutions will make about 8.66% [of] the entire market size in middle eastern countries." Meanwhile, the Iraqi market for cell phones keeps expanding, most recently with the addition of 80,000 new customers in the third quarter of 2004 by Atheer Iraq, the unit of Kuwait's Mobile Telecommunications Co. To assist in further development of Iraqi communication infrastructure, the Wireless Services in Iraq Conference will be taking place in January 2005. It will "examine the investment, trading and contracting opportunities in Iraq's wireless network." As the report explains, "years of instability, war and economic sanctions have left Iraq with low levels of fixed line telephony services, allowing wireless communications to play a significant part in the country's developing telecommunications market. Six months after the transfer of sovereignty in Iraq investment opportunities are plenty for companies willing to play a role in the rebuilding of Iraq's wireless telecommunications network. With 3 GSM licences awarded in 2004 and opportunities in alternative wireless solutions, the need for wireless infrastructure, masts, antennae, and mobile handsets is pressing."

Iraqi authorities have allocated
$1.2 billion for the development of oil industry throughout 2005. To help along the process of rebuilding and expansion, a mutually beneficial relationships is developing between foreign oil companies and Iraq's rebuilding oil industry:

"International oil companies have launched voluntary efforts to train Iraq's oil workers and provide technical assistance, hoping to generate goodwill and eventually get access to the country's huge oil reserves.

"Companies from the United States, Britain and Russia -- including ChevronTexaco Corp., BP, Royal Dutch/Shell Group and Lukoil -- are paying to send Iraqi oil workers out of the country to teach them the latest techniques in developing and managing oil fields.

"In addition, Shell agreed to look into the most effective use of the country's natural gas reserves. Chevron is advising Iraqis on two of the country's biggest oil fields now in production, Kirkuk in the north and Rumaila in the south."
The Iraqi authorities have also signed a cooperation agreement with Australia's Woodside Energy to evaluate potential future oil and gas fields in Kurdistan.

In another sign of
increasing regional cooperation, "Iraq [and] Jordan have signed agreement to extend pipe for Iraqi crude oil via the Jordanian territories of al-Aqaba Port, beside holding agreement to increase volume of oil exchanging between the two countries."

The authorities are also planning an
increased security coverage for the pipelines:

"Iraq is planning a series of security measures, including airborne control, to protect a major pipeline carrying oil to Turkey against frequent sabotage, Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer Ghadban [announced]... 'We are working on a program that envisages to place this pipeline under a security umbrella,' Ghadban said after talks with Turkish Foreign Trade Minister Kursad Tuzmen... 'In the coming days, we will take measures that will keep (the pipeline) under constant monitoring and control with a security corridor, including control by airplanes,' the minister added."
In Baghdad, reconstruction has been largely completed on a vital piece of infrastructure:

"The Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) (formerly Saddam International Airport) has been refurbished and repaired as part of a contract from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to Bechtel and SkyLink to rebuild Iraqi airports in Baghdad, Basrah and Mosul.

"Commercial airlines, including Royal Jordanian and Iraqi Air, are now using the international airport facilities rehabilitated by USAID; the airport is processing an average of 45 non-military arrivals and departures daily."
Some work is still continuing on providing lighting for the commercial runway, and in Basra, work has been completed "installing VSAT and radio communications; runway, taxiway, and apron striping; and installing baggage x-ray units and a perimeter fence."

Air Horizon is one of the airlines which plans to take the advantage of the new infrastructure by starting daily flights between Dubai and Baghdad. You can read more about the airline here.

But it's not just in Baghdad; in the Kurdish city of
Irbil, the construction of a temporary international airport has just been completed. While the permanent airport will be finished over the next three years, in the meantime the facility will generate 5,000 jobs and boost the local economy. The Kurdish authorities in cooperation with Kurdish private sector are close to finalizing a deal to buy or lease 24 airliners to service the airport.

Lastly, this piece of
good news/bad news: "One unlikely side-effect of the downfall of Saddam Hussein's regime has been the sad fate of Iraq's hard-working donkeys. These beasts of burden once commanded the same price and prestige as a good second-hand car, but their value has dropped dramatically after the overthrow of Saddam led to an influx of used and stolen vehicles into Iraq."

RECONSTRUCTION: It's not just the physical infrastructure that needs to be brought up to date after decades of neglect. The efforts to
rebuild the expertise are equally important:

"The World Bank... announced a $7 million grant to train Iraqi senior civil servants in economic planning and public sector management. The two-year program will train hundreds of Iraqi government officials to manage economic transition, social development and poverty reduction, the bank said.

" 'Iraq possesses a strong cadre of well-educated civil servants ... who will be instrumental in the government's ability to take on the urgent task of reconstruction and to efficiently manage resources," Joseph Saba, the World Bank's country director for Iraq, said in a statement."
Meanwhile, the latest and most comprehensive report conducted by the Ministry of Education on the state of education sector in Iraq paints a damning picture of Saddam's legacy of neglect, which the new Iraq now has to grapple with:

"An estimated 60 percent of Iraq's population is illiterate, and at least 25 percent of primary school-age children do not attend school, according to World Bank statistics. It is estimated that half of children do not go on to secondary school. In rural areas the numbers are even higher. Up to half of girls never attend school, according to the Ministry of Education...

"One third of all primary schools in the country lack water supply and nearly 50 percent do without restrooms or washrooms, according to the report. Additionally, there are not enough desks, chairs or classrooms. The majority of schools need some form of restoration because of crumbling walls, bullet holes, broken windows and leaking roofs."
As with every other aspect of life in Iraq, the challenge of the reconstruction effort is not just to repair the damage of the last year and a half, but of the last thirty years. Challenges are huge and it will take a lot of initiatives like this to make a difference:

"To help alleviate the crisis the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, along with Iraqi and multi-national force officials, is investing $16.4 million to renovate more than 300 schools across the country. The average cost for renovating a school is $50,000, said Jackie Purrington, project manager. 'We received the mission two weeks ago, and we anticipate having all the renovations underway by the end of the year,' Purrington said.

" 'Everyone realizes that 300 schools won't solve the problem, but it's a start and there are other organizations and initiatives that are also addressing the lack of schools and equipment. This only the beginning,' said Ross Adkins, a Corps of Engineers spokesman."
Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research has recently announced it will be allocating $25 million a month for implementation of various educational projects at universities and teaching institutes. And USAID is continuing to support Iraqi tertiary sector through series of exchanges and collaborative projects with American universities (link in PDF). Most recently, "fourteen faculty members from the agricultural department of a northern Iraqi university completed a one month, intensive English program, with the support of the University of Hawaii... Three Iraqi university law schools partnered with DePaul University in the U.S. to draft plans for the establishment of legal research centers... A nine-kilometer fiber-optic network has been completed at a northern Iraqi university, with the support of Jackson State University."

major reconstruction program is about to commence throughout the country to help repair some vital infrastructure:

"Because of the threat to public health, Iraqi and multinational force officials are initiating a massive $50 million program to rehabilitate approximately 200 water treatment and sewage facilities, said Michael Stanka, a project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In addition to repairing the critical water supply, the program will create hundreds jobs for the local economies."
Iraq's water and sewerage infrastructure has been dramatically run down through decades of underfunding and neglect; rebuilding it now is becoming a top priority in order to ensure public health and economic well being of the nation. USAID (link in PDF) is contributing to this effort on numerous fronts: it is currently working on the rehabilitation of one of Baghdad's Rustimiyah wastewater treatment plants, which together with two other plants supplies nearly 80 per cent of Baghdadis with water. It is also continuing "clean-up of the Sweet Water Canal, which supplies the city of Basrah with potable water. To date, 34 of 44 pumps have been refurbished, as have six of eleven electrical generators. This project also includes refurbishments to the canal's pump stations, generators, emergency canal repairs, and heavy equipment support for the local Irrigation Department. Work is now 70 percent complete, and is on schedule for completion by mid-December, 2004." And in a smaller project, USAID has commenced its rural water initiative (link in PDF), drilling wells in Diyala and Salah ad Din Governorates for communities of between 1,000 and 5,000 people.

More reconstruction work will start shortly in Baghdad's
Sadr City, one of the historically most impoverished and neglected urban areas in Iraq: "The interim government has earmarked 40 billion dinars [$27.3 million] to renovate Sadr City... Formerly know as Saddam City, the low-income neighborhood was scene of ferocious fighting between the militiamen of Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and US-led troops... Redevelopment is part of the terms under which the militiamen agreed to lay down their arms... Ali Laaibi of Baghdad Municipality said four state-run companies would immediately start refurbishing the city. He said priority will be given to sewage schemes, pavement of streets and keeping the narrow lanes of the sprawling city clean and tidy."

In electricity news, "
USAID is constructing twenty-four 33kV/11kV power distribution substations and rehabilitating thirteen substations throughout Baghdad to improve electrical distribution in the area." The work is currently in early stages (link in PDF).

Meanwhile, this report summarizes
the health legacy of Saddam's years:

"Inadequate sanitation, purification of water, nutrition, and health care have taken their toll on the health of Iraqis. The rates of liver diseases, including hepatitis B and diphtheria, increased under Saddam Hussein, and the cancer rate tripled between 1984 and 2004...

"The mortality rate for infants and children more than doubled from 1990 to 1998. The United Nations (U.N.) had imposed sanctions on Iraq for its invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and the impact on Iraq's people and economy was devastating. Half a million children under age 5 were reported to have died between 1991 and 1998. To provide some humanitarian relief, in 1997 the U.N. established the Oil for Food program in Iraq. This allowed Hussein's government to sell some of its oil in exchange for U.N.-approved food and medical supplies. However, the benefits were limited because, experts claim, only a third of the oil revenue was used for the intended purpose. The sanctions were finally lifted after Hussein was ousted in May 2003."
Challenges are numerous, but the determination to improve the situation is equally strong:

"Iraq's new minister of health, Ala'adin Alwan, M.D., faces enormous challenges. He has a budget of nearly $1 billion this year from Iraqi oil revenue; $578 million of it will go for pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, and the rest for operations and maintenance, said James Haveman, a former senior advisor to the interim Ministry of Health in Iraq. He also was the health advisor to former Ambassador Paul Bremer, the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority until the interim government was installed in May.

"The United States contributed nearly $900 million for health care in 2004, 'including $498 million for the construction of new primary care centers and the renovation of 18 maternal and pediatric hospitals to reduce the number of infant and maternal deaths,' said Haveman. 'About $17 million will be used for training health care staff, $300 million for new equipment, and $50 million for the new hospital in Basra,' added Haveman.

"He observed that when he arrived in Iraq in 2002, 'the ministry's budget was $16 million for 26 million people under Saddam Hussein. This was a 90 percent reduction from a decade earlier.'

"A priority of the health minister is overcoming shortages of medical supplies and equipment allegedly stolen 'under the corrupt U.N.-administered Oil for Food program, which was shut down,' said Haveman.

"Corruption was widespread under Hussein's regime, and 'medical supplies and equipment often disappeared out the back door,' said Haveman. To combat corruption, independent inspector generals have been installed in each of the ministries."
Among the recent work by USAID to improve the Iraqi health system (link in PDF): "Work has resumed in recent weeks on equipping primary health care centers throughout Iraq through USAID's Health Systems Strengthening Program. Recently, 52 health care centers in Kirkuk, As Sulaymaniya, and Arbil Governorates received primary health care kits. The kits contain approximately 60 items of basic medical equipment, office furniture, and laboratory equipment for improved provision of essential health services. So far, 383 kits out of a target of 600 have been delivered to care centers across Iraq." Also, "crews are preparing the ground for a new pediatric teaching hospital in Basrah." More on that here.

Reconstruction of the much neglected
agricultural sector also continues:

"An Arizona agri-research firm is supplying wheat seeds to be used by farmers in Iraq looking to boost their country's homegrown food supplies. Phoenix-based World Wide Wheat Co. is teaming with three U.S. universities to provide 1,000 pounds of wheat seeds to be used by Iraqi farmers north of Baghdad. World Wide Wheat and the universities are donating their research and the wheat seeds to the Iraqi effort so farmers there can find out which seed strains work in that country's climate and topography. The farmers will grow wheat strains that can be used to make pasta as well as bread. The half ton of seeds translates into crops for about 20 acres, which will be monitored to see which types of wheat grow best."
As the report adds, "the wheat seeds that coalition military forces are distributing to Iraqi farmers are akin to those used in Arizona, which has a similar desert climate to the Middle Eastern nation." A similar project to boost yields and decrease Iraq's reliance on imports, is currently underway under the aegis of Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and USAID's Agriculture Reconstruction and Development Program for Iraq (ARDI):

"Under the campaign, 1,500 tons of wheat seed has arrived in Mosul. ARDI procured the seed to assist the MOA to distribute high quality, certified seed to as many farmers as possible. A total of 4,000 tons will be delivered soon.

"ARDI and MOA officials in Arbil, Dahuk and As Sulaymaniyah have also agreed to include wheat extension demonstrations as part of the 2004 to 2005 campaign.

"ARDI will work with extension departments in each governorate to establish 48 demonstration sites. According to USAID, the purpose of the wheat extension demonstrations is to show the advantages of application of proper amounts of fertilizer, the use of seed drills, good seed and application of herbicides."
Also, this story, from Al Sulaymaniyah: "The rehabilitation of a fruit orchard station in As Sulaymaniyah Governorate has begun; the project will clean and weed 320 donums (1 donum = 2,500 square meters) of land. Once complete, the orchard will provide seedlings for local farmers and will generate income... Also, work is progressing on the installation of four sheep dipping tanks. The work is supported by a recently awarded grant from United States Agency for International Development's (USAID)Agriculture Reconstruction and Development Program for Iraq (ARDI)."

You can read this update on the international effort to bring back to life
Iraqi marshlands, drained by Saddam as a collective punishment for Marsh Arabs:

"With funding from Japan, Italy, Canada and the United States, the program will launch an international restoration effort. The Iraqi government is running the project with cooperation from the U.N. Environment Programme. Scientists plan to use environmentally sound technologies to develop sanitation and water treatment systems, restore the natural water cycle to the marshes and attempt to resurrect the ecology and local society in the process.

"Some progress has already been made. Once Saddam was expelled from Baghdad, Marsh Arabs breached dams and canals to re-flood a large area of the wetlands in 2003. 'Forty percent of the marshes are now inundated with water,' [Dr. Azzam] Alwash [director of the restoration Eden Again project] said. 'Some areas have recovered very well, and other areas are doing very poorly'."
In the end, it might cost several hundred million dollars to reverse Saddam's ecological vandalism.

USAID (link in PDF) continues to provide wide-ranging assistance and aid throughout Iraq. Among many other programs. it continues to work with children: "Summer camps were organized for children and adolescents in 24 locations in Basrah Governorate. The camps were planned as forums for socialization, learning, recreation, and peace-building. Around 2,800 children and adolescents, 30 teachers and 14 volunteers from the Red Crescent participated."

Despite dangers, many Western humanitarian groups are still providing help in rebuilding Iraq and assisting the underprivileged.
Andy and Albana Dwonch of Portland (Washington state)-based Mercy Corps are typical of the courageous and resourceful volunteers. They have spent the past 14 months working with Iraqis to implement various aid programs:

"They... encouraged by the accomplishment of $12 million in Mercy Corp aid that has helped rebuild schools, clinics, water systems and other community institutions in three provinces around the south-central city of Kut... 'The people, they see what the development means,' Albana Dwonch said. 'They are taking ownership of the work, and they don't want anyone to take that away from them'...

"Mercy Corps efforts... have been aided by dialogue with political, tribal and religious leaders that began when the aid staff first arrived in Kut and still continues, Dwonch said. That dialogue included followers of al Sadr, whose leaders offered to protect aid efforts after the spring insurgency flared. 'Sadr's group was doing some good things in town, organizing charity for poor people,' Dwonch said.

"During [August], Mercy Corps, with the help of a $1 million grant from Nike, organized soccer tournaments for middle- and high-school students. The tournament was suspended during the three-day peak of fighting and then resumed."
Says Andy Dwonch: "We feel that there are some little success stories out there... Stories that aren't getting told."

Other private initiatives continue, like this one to help
Iraqi doctors: "A University of Tulsa professor and a former student who is now in Iraq are working to make sure doctors in the war-torn country have the latest medical know-how. Psychology professor Joanne Davis is working with former T-U student Isaac Shields, an Army lieutenant leading a medical platoon in Baghdad." Professor Davis and Shields are collecting medical textbooks and journals to send to Iraqi doctors who in many case have been cut off from the lastest medical expertise for the past twenty years.

On a much lighter note, the Kiwanis Club from Illinois has collected
5,000 toys for the Charlie Company Marines in Iraq to distribute to Iraqi kids at Christmas.

THE COALITION TROOPS: The troops continue their valuable work to improve local infrastructure. This from the
1st Infantry Division in Tikrit: "Company B, 1st Battalion 18th Infantry recently completed two Commander's Emergency Relief Program (CERP) projects in Northern Tirkrit... Company B held grand openings at the Al Aola Primary School and the Salah Din Rehabilitation Hospital... Both CERP projects were proposed by local leaders. The Al Aola School project was worth more than $25,000 and completely refurbished the school with wiring and plumbing repairs, paint, window replacement, tile repairs and new furniture... The Rehabilitation Hospital is the only hospital of its kind in Iraq. The physical therapy performed here is crucial to healing the many Iraqis who have suffered injuries resulting from the insurgency." And 264th Engineer Group, together with Shujaa Company Contractors, has recently completed the CERP project to build a water treatment plant for the residents of Al Washash village.

The assistance given by the troops is not always material; sometimes it extends to
financial advisory: "About 45 employees from treasuries throughout the Salah Ad Din Province are undergoing training in Tikrit, Iraq, to streamline financial operations in the region.

"Capt. Christopher B. Emery, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 106th Finance Battalion, 1st Infantry Division, recently paid a visit to the main treasury in Tikrit to observe training firsthand. The Treasury Automation Project is the brainchild of the 106th Finance Bn., and comes with a price tag of $334,000. Funding derived not from Multi-National Forces, but the Development Fund for Iraq, money seized from Saddam Hussein's regime...

"Treasury employees are learning basic computer skills in accounting, cash management, forecasting and budgeting... 'When we first went out into the treasury, everything was hand written, memos signed and hand delivered all throughout the province,' Emery said. 'Now with the Internet they are able to send budget and policy updates almost instantaneously'."
The Coalition forces also continue to engage in missions to improve the health of Iraqis. This from Baghdad: "Task Force 1st Battalion, 161 Infantry, of the 81st Brigade Combat Team and attached to 1st Cavalry Division , recently provided medical and dental supplies to neighborhoods in Baghdad on a Medical Civil Affairs mission. Nearly 240 Iraqis, mostly women and children, were treated for minor injures or illnesses. TF 1-161 Soldiers also distributed toothbrushes, toothpaste, and shoes during the day-long mission." And from outside Baghdad: "A medical team, composed of Soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment and 210th Forward Support Battalion, treated minor medical ailments of residents of a small village outside Baghdad. 'This is an opportunity for us to go out and assess the medical situation of the people of a village in our area of operation, and to provide as much medical care as we can while we are over there,' said 1st Lt. Peter Olsen, 4-31 Infantry medical platoon leader."

Sometimes, it's "helping Iraq one friend at a time": thanks to the efforts of the 264th Engineer Group, little
Tariq Ziyad who suffers from spina bifida will be given medical treatment in the United States.

Elsewhere, American troops are providing a
complete package of assistance to Iraqi communities: "The unit has only been in-country for nearly three months, but already the 426th Civil Affairs Battalion is making an impact in Ad Duluiyah, a small community about an hour north of Baghdad. Attached to the 411th Civil Affairs Battalion, the 426th started assessing the town's infrastructure, schools, water treatment facilities and the like shortly after arriving in Iraq." Following the complete assessment, reconstruction will begin according to the level of urgency.

The Coalition troops also continue to support Iraqi schools. Soldiers from the
30th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division recently delivered school supplies to schools in the Al Neda tribal area: "The Karam-Chaloub and Sahab School received supplies donated by the employers, churches, friends, and families of the 30th Brigade Combat Team. The donations were sent from the United States and include pens, pencils, paper, book bags, and much more." Soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion 18th Infantry and soldiers from the 201st Iraqi National Guard Battalion, meanwhile, delivered some school supplies to more than 200 students in the town of Owja, near Tikrit. Owja, the former hometown of Saddam Hussein "remained strongly anti-coalition until late this summer. Recently, residents have seen the positive results that Coalition Forces and their Iraqi Security Forces counterparts are having in their town. Coalition Forces have recently repaired a critical water pumping station in the town. Other projects underway include a new town park, street lights, and a new police station." And 220 children in four kindergartens in Tuz have also received supplies from the American troops: "In eastern Diyala Province and the Tuz area Coalition Forces have spent more than $600,000 in support of educational projects and more than $400,000 is allocated for future projects."

In other school missions: in Samarra the
411th Civil Affairs of Danbury, Connecticut, is identifying schools in need of rebuilding (out of 26 assessed over the past months, 16 will be further assisted with reconstruction and supplies). Elsewhere in Samarra, Bravo Company, Task Force 1-26 Infantry is sponsoring a local school. In North Central Iraq, soldiers of Multinational Force are delivering to children school supplies collected in the United States. And at the Al-Alam Primary School near Tikrit, members of Task Force 1-18 not only handed out school supplies but also staged a rock concert for students as an extra-curricular activity that many cash-strapped Iraqi schools cannot otherwise afford.

A lot of assistance depends on generous contributions from back home. One
American servicewoman from Texas is reporting back to her home community about the success of a school supply action:

"Army 1st Lt. Brittany Meeks, who called on the city last May to help reconstruct Iraq's educational institutions, is now offering a personal thank you to Katy. Earlier this year, in a letter addressed to the Katy Times, but written to the Katy community, Meeks asked the city to help her platoon combat poverty in Iraqi schools through a school supply drive she dubbed, 'Operation School Hope.' In a recent letter updating the community on the drives' progress since April, Meeks said Katy residents, along with other Americans, have donated over 1.5 tons of school supplies and a half a ton of toys, sports equipment and candy for Al Tawa'an Primary School in Western Baghdad."
Meanwhile, another American serviceman is staring an action to provide Iraqi doctors with valuable learning resources:

"Fifty boxes of medical books and journals will be sent to Iraq this week in a humanitarian effort that grew out of one soldier's concern that doctors in that war-torn country have inadequate reference material.

"U.S. Army Lt. Isaac Shields, a former University of Tulsa student who is a liaison between Iraqi hospitals and the Army, said medical libraries in the country's hospitals and clinics did not have more than a dozen books each.

"In July, he sent an e-mail about his concern to his former teacher, Joanne Davis, a Tulsa assistant professor of psychology... 'As soon as I got the message, I was like: "OK, let's go. What do we do?"' Davis said. She started calling psychologists and doctors she knew to ask for donations. When students returned for the fall semester, she recruited about 10 to ask other colleges, libraries, hospitals and publishing houses for more materials published within the past decade. They also collected money to pay for shipping."
There is also plenty of scope for creating good will and building relationships with the locals. For example, to help celebrate the end of Ramadan, "the 209th Iraqi National Guard and the 30th Brigade Combat Team donated shoes, food and money to the city councils of Tuz and Sulayman Bak, which in turn was distributed to poor families... At the same time, the Iraq Department of Border Enforcement and the 30th BCT delivered Ramadan gifts to the poorest families in 14 villages, which included Baba Kurz Ad Din, Al Hizam, Alasafa, and Fajjim Villages." Elsewhere:

"Col. Randal A. Dragon, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, hosted an Iftar meal for the leadership of the Salah Ad Din Province Monday night at the governor's house in Tikrit.

"Dragon showed the 1st Infantry Division's respect for Iraqi religious customs and traditions by hosting the dinner which followed the sun-set prayers during Ramadan. One hundred government, tribal and religious leaders shared the Iftar meal - which consisted of roasted meats, rice, vegetables, lentils, dates and juice ‑ with 2nd BCT Soldiers.

"Following the meal and social time with many of the provincial leaders, Dragon announced he had arranged for the purchase of 800 kerosene heaters to give to the Imams of the province. This was done to fulfill another pillar of Islam, giving to the poor during the month of Ramadan."
Of course, it's not just the American troops that are assisting local communities with reconstruction: "El Salvadoran Battalion in Iraq works on reconstruction projects in different communities of the Babil province, including Al-Ibrahimiya, Al-Madhathiya, Al-Hashimiyah, Ashimiya, Al-Qasim, At-Taliyah, Al- Kilf and Ash-Shumali. The development of these projects will benefit 128,000 Iraqis in these areas. Priorities are: furnishing schools and health centers, improving roads, installating water pumps, water treatment, repairing old water systems, constructing a steel girder bridge and improving living conditions of Iraqi forces." More on the El Salvadorean contribution here.

DIPLOMACY AND SECURITY: On his recent trip to Europe, Iraq's interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi had a chance to meet with
Pope John Paul II who will be praying for a good election and peaceful future for the people of Iraq.

Two decades ago the relations between
Iraq and Syria were severed over the ideological differences between different strains of Baathism practiced in the two countries. Now, Syria and Iraq are re-establishing diplomatic relations. I'm also happy to report that Iraq is resuming diplomatic relations with Australia, with Ghanim Taha Ahmad al-Shibli, the former Iraqi ambassador to the US and Iran who spent much of the 1980s and 1990s in exile in the US, appointed as the new ambassador.

Bosnia-Herzegovina, the country which not that long ago also experienced the ravages of conflict and was saved by an American-led intervention, has expressed willingness to send troops to Iraq. And Georgia, another country which experienced internal conflict over the last decade and a half, is increasing its contingent in Iraq from 159 to 850.

Back inside Iraq, as the insurgency drags on, the fighters - both local and foreign - are
losing support:

"The fighters came to Fallujah last year with piles of cash, strange accents and a militant vision of Islam that was at once foreign and fearsome to residents emerging from nearly 30 years of Saddam Hussein's secular regime.

"Yet out of custom and necessity, tribal locals offered their Arab guests sanctuary and were repaid with promises to help keep American forces out of the town. This week, with U.S. troops battling their way through the Sunni Muslim stronghold, several Fallujah residents said it had been a grave mistake to trust the foreigners who turned their humble stand against foreign occupation into a sophisticated terror campaign.

"Once admired as comrades in an anti-American struggle, foreign fighters have become reviled as the reason U.S. missiles are flattening homes and turning Iraq's City of Mosques into a killing field. Their promises of protection were unfulfilled, angry residents said, with immigrant rebels moving on to other outposts and leaving besieged locals to face a superpower alone."
As the report notes, the population is not necessarily swinging its support behind the Coalition and Iraqi authorities, but the alienation of insurgents from the people they were supposed to be fighting for is undoubtedly good news. Anther report, however, paints a much starker picture of reality in Fallujah:

"Such is the fear that the heavily armed militants held over Fallujah that many of the residents who emerged from the ruins welcomed the US marines, despite the massive destruction their firepower had inflicted on their city.

"A man in his sixties, half-naked and his underwear stained with blood from shrapnel wounds from a US munition, cursed the insurgents as he greeted the advancing marines on Saturday night. 'I wish the Americans had come here the very first day and not waited eight months,' he said, trembling. Nearby, a mosque courtyard had been used as a weapons store by the militants.

"Another elderly man, who did not want his name used for fear the rebels would one day return and restore their draconian rule, said he was detained by the militants last Tuesday and held for four days before being freed. He described how he had then sought refuge in a friend's house where they had huddled together clutching Korans in silent prayer for their lives as the massive US bombardment put the insurgents to flight. 'It was horrible,' he told an AFP reporter. 'We suffered from the bombings. Innocent people died or were wounded by the bombings. But we were happy you did what you did because Fallujah had been suffocated by the Mujahidin. Anyone considered suspicious would be slaughtered. We would see unknown corpses around the city all the time'."
And elsewhere in the Sunni Triangle, as fighting erupted again in another insurgent stronghold, Ramadi, "Sunni clerics at several mosques called on residents to kick out bands of armed men who have come from outside the city, claiming that the clashes inside Ramadi were impoverishing its citizens."

Border security is being straightened on two fronts. Soldiers with the 276th Engineer Battalion from the Virginia National Guard are building 15 forts to help seal the border with
Syria and prevent smuggling and infiltration. The project spans 150 miles and will help to establish a permanent security footprint along the porous border. Kuwait is also looking to replace the sand wall along the 217 kilometer long border with Iraq with a more secure and durable barrier.

Training of Iraqi army continues. Some of it is being conducted
overseas: "Forty-two Iraqi army officers commenced studies at the Centro Alti Studi Difesa military college in Rome, Italy, Nov. 8, as part of the multinational effort to assist the Iraqi government to train its armed forces' leadership. The mid-level group of officers - comprised of Iraqi captains and majors - will negotiate a roughly three-and-a-half week course of instruction at the Italian school before returning to Iraq the first week of December." NATO has also finally approved the plan to train 1,000 Iraqi officers a year in a proposed military academy outside Baghdad. Some 300 NATO trainers are expected to be involved in the project.

The Coalition forces continue to assist the Iraqi authorities with construction of appropriate
infrastructure for Iraq's new army: "Current construction efforts at the country's myriad of armed forces bases, National Guard facilities, and police academies located throughout the country total more than $1.07 billion. The figure includes roughly $870 million committed to the continued major stand-up of armed forces bases at Al Kasik, Taji, An Numaniyah, Kirkuk, Kirkush, Al Rustamiyah, and Umm Qasr - all already operational. Projects include training centers, barracks, headquarters facilities, medical clinics, shoot houses, fuel points, force protection facilities, electrical grids, airfields, logistic centers, water lines, a military academy, mosques, perimeter security, and other various construction. The projects employ nearly 7,300 Iraqi civilian workers."

Foreign contributions to arming the new Iraqi army and security forces continue to roll in. In the latest development,
Great Britain is giving Iraq 2.5 million pounds' [$4.4 million] worth of arms, ammunition and body armor: "The gift will include 3,200 AK47 assault rifles, two million rounds of ammunition and 4,200 sets of public order equipment including riot shields, visor helmets, leather gloves, shin and knee protectors, flame retardant overalls and batons." Meanwhile, soldiers of Task Force Danger, 1st Infantry Division, have recently delivered 63 new police cars to Irawi police throughout North Central Iraq (the cars come partly from a donation by the Japanese government and partly from the funds of Iraqi Interior Ministry). The supplies from the Multinational Security Transition Command - Iraq also continue to arrive into the hands of Iraqi security forces:

"Since Nov. 1, the rollout has included 2,919 AK-47 assault rifles, 4,210 helmets, 107 PKM machineguns, 832 RPK machineguns, 7,850 sets of body armor, 11,000 field jackets, 50 Glock pistols, 100,000 RPK/PKM machinegun rounds, 2,400 9mm pistol rounds, 300,000 AK-47 rounds, 600 tactical vests, 30 computers, 300 kneepads, 50 radios, 15,763 pairs of running shoes, 20 holsters, 20 Walther 9mm pistols, 1,300 army t-shirts, and 19,782 desert combat uniforms."
Robert B. Charles, the assistant secretary of state at the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, reports on the progress in building the new Iraqi police force:

"The State Department's International Police Training Center in neighboring Jordan, merely nine months old, is a desert miracle. Training focuses on basic policing skills, democracy, riot control, counterterrorism and simple willingness to fight for the future. Iraqi police trained there set the standard. They are determined to keep Iraq's future free. They are Sunnis, Shi'ites and Kurds. They are men and women. They are from north and south, east and west.

"To date, eight full classes have passed through the intensive eight-week curriculum. Their numbers have risen from 500 to 1,500 cadets per class. They have been well-taught. With 324 instructors, 89 from the U.S. and 235 from 15 other nations, the officers being trained are greatly exposed to wide experience and skills. After graduation, they have stood their ground under fire. Some have died defending their homeland.

"Overall, more than 5,500 high-quality police officers have emerged from the State Department's Jordan Academy. Meantime, we have continued expanding capacity, laying cement and steel, building three 50-point shooting ranges, auto driving courses, a chow hall for 900, bunking and showers for 3,500 personnel. And the beat goes on.

"State's effort complements training at the Baghdad Public Safety Academy and emerging regional academies in Iraq, each Defense Department-supported and training thousands more. Quality is key, but the story line is always the same: Can do.

"On Oct. 14, the ninth high-quality police class graduated from the Academy in Jordan. As we continue building new capacity, our goal is to accelerate toward 32,000 police by mid-2006 or earlier. These police officers will help secure Iraq. Each knows the challenge. Each is prepared and ready to help Iraq gain a future of freedom."
Most recently, nearly 2,500 police officers graduated from Basic Police Training courses; 1,440 from the Jordan International Police Training Center in Amman, Jordan, 809 from the Baghdad Public Safety Academy, and 249 from the training school in Sulaymaniyah. "Instruction in Baghdad included the graduation of 79 female officers."

The struggle of Iraqi police against terrorists is not as one-sided as the news coverage would often suggest. Take, for example, this story of a
successful counter-insurgency operation:

"Police launched a surprise attack on an insurgent checkpoint south of Baghdad, killing 25 militants... Some 60 police officers from the city of Hillah, dressed in civilian clothing, ambushed the militants in the Latifiyah area early Sunday... During a fierce gunbattle that lasted for several hours, 25 insurgents were killed, he said. Iraqi forces reported no casualties."
We generally tend to hear about the bombs that go off or acts of sabotage that succeed in destroying infrastructure, but almost never about successful prevention; for example, soldiers from the 208th Iraqi National Guard battalion who defused explosive devices attached to oil facilities in the Dibbis area; or a company of the 206th Iraqi National Guard battalion, which prevented an attack near Jalula. Some of other recent security successes of the Coalition and the Iraqi forces include: Iraqi Security Forces and elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit rounding up 41 insurgents in various operations south of Baghdad; smashing of a bomb making cell in Mosul; and the rescue of a kidnapped Iraqi by the Iraqi SWAT team, backed by elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, in a raid in northern Babil

Stan Coerr, a Marine helicopter pilot who went into Iraq in the first wave of the Coalition troops, reflected recently on his mission:

"For years, you have watched the same large, violent man come home every night, and you have listened to his yelling and the crying and the screams of children and the noise of breaking glass, and you have always known that he was beating his wife and his children. Everyone on the block has known it. You ask, cajole, threaten and beg him to stop, on behalf of the rest of the neighborhood. Nothing works. After listening to it for 13 years, you finally gather up the biggest, meanest guys you can find, you go over to his house, and you kick the door down. You punch him in the face and drag him away. The house is a mess, the family poor and abused - but now there is hope. You did the right thing.

"I can speak with authority on the opinions of both British and American infantry in that place and at that time. Let me make this clear: at no time did anyone say or imply to any of us that we were invading Iraq to rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, nor were we there to avenge 9/11. We knew we were there for one reason: to rid the world of a tyrant, and to give Iraq back to Iraqis."
A tyrant is gone, and Iraqis now have their country back. But it's only a start of the journey to a better tomorrow. The stories of violence and bloodshed we see and read about every day suggest that the journey will not be an easy one; the stories of progress and achievement like those quoted above give us reason to hope that despite all the obstacles and innumerable challenges, the people of Iraq might eventually get there. The violent abuser is no more, but its victims are yet to overcome the painful legacy and learn how to live again.


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