Every twenty years
Comes to us a gambling man
To stake our country and culture
And resources and rivers
And trees and fruit
And men and women
And the waves and the sea
At the gambling table.
That poem, written by the late poet Nizar al-Qabbani, is quoted as part of an article in the Kurdistan Observer, entitled "Of Arab Political Culture, the Kurds, and the Falsehood Called Iraq." It provides a genuine, independent assessment from a Kurdish point of view.

The author obviously feels a great weight on his shoulders in trying to provide such a view. He feels it necessary to reject, by name: Al Jazeera, John Kerry, Al Quds Al Arabiyah, Edward Said, Saddam, the CIA and Mossad but also anti-Zionist forces in Arab culture, a former professor at the US War College and a top Arab writer named al-Obaidi. It isn't all negative: The New Yorker comes in for some high praise.
[A]t a time when even the United Nations was acting like nothing had happened at Halabja, it was magazines like the New Yorker and journalists like Goldberg who forced the truth upon the consciousness of an indifferent world. Yes, some of these writers were Jewish; yes, some of these writers are people with dual citizenships. But to claim, as al-Obeidi does in his piece, that much of what Mr. Goldberg has written about Halabja is not a representation of what actually had happened but rather the product of some sort of a conspiracy by a man of "Israeli/American citizenship" is to reveal a deep-rooted commitment to a culture of lies and bigotry. Mr. Goldberg is capable of telling the truth about Halabja because intellectual honesty prevents him from doing otherwise. Mr. al-Obeidi is incapable of telling the truth about Halabja because, being the brainchild of Arab political culture, he is not accustomed to intellectual honesty.
Having thrown off so much of the worlds' weight -- that is, the Arab World's and the Western World's -- the author is finally sufficiently unencumbered to explain his own view. The poem he closes with is telling, but no less than the argument that preceeds it. If you wanted an independent assessment of the situation in Iraq, here it is.

Hi everybody! Hope everyone had a nice holiday(s) and all. I've not been about due to some work related matters, but I think that may be easing up some.

So, I was going to contrast the Army's Field Manual 100-5, Operations, with the Marine Corps' Warfighting manual, but I just stumbled across this blog which I think will demonstrate the Army's current way of fighting in a way 'not so dry' as the manuals can be.

The author is a 1st Lieutenant in an armor regiment, and is writing up his experiences from the battle of Fallujah. I give you Armor Geddon.

AIM Column - Muslims vs. Muslims: The Untold Story - January 4, 2005

Muslims v. Muslims:

Accuracy in Media has a story today that targets the notion that Americans are insufficiently protective of Muslim holy buildings. The author argues that the real story, if you want to talk about the destruction of Muslim holy sites, is the story of other Muslims doing it.

Ironically, however, during the same month that thousands of Pakistanis took to the streets in a furor over what America was doing in Iraq, zealots with the backing of the Pakistani police stormed the Ahmadiyya mosque in Nakhalpara, Pakistan, to remove books deemed offensive to Islam and banned by the government. The Ahmadiyya sect of Islam has had its mosques attacked and reduced to rubble and their creeds erased from the front of mosques. This sect is singled out as heretical because it is dedicated to non-violence and opposes terrorism....

Giving Pakistan a run for their money, though, is the astonishing scope of destruction of Islamic sites in Saudi Arabia. Historic tombs, landmarks, mosques and battle sites, all central to the Muslim faith, have either been destroyed or been ordered to be destroyed. The birthplace of Mohammed, founder of the Islamic faith, was razed over and turned into a public restroom.
These clashes within Islam -- clashes over how it should be interpreted, and by whom -- have always been more important than the clashes between Islam and the outside world.

Jeremy Black of the University of Exeter wrote a piece for last year's Orbis called "The Western Encounter with Islam." For most of Islam's history, he argues at length, Islam was only barely interested in the West at all, even during the occasional wars with Christendom.
The West’s primary concern with the relationship between Christendom and Islam appears to be underlined by the traditional world map, with its depiction of an Islamic world stretching into the Balkans and the Western Mediterranean. However, if the conventional map— an equal-area cartogram— is replaced by an equal-population cartogram, then a very different perception of Islam emerges. It becomes a religion not primarily of the Arab world but of South Asia: Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Iran....

In every century of its history, more people have been killed in the Islamic world in conflicts among Islamic powers than in conflicts between Islam and the West. We tend to think that the major external problem has always been Western power. But from an extraordinarily early stage, Islam fractured between a large number of polities, some of which were linked to religious and/or ethnic divides. These divisions were much more important in many senses than what took place on the margins.
Thomas Friedman argues today that these divisions are the very challenge we face in Iraq:
This is a tough call, but I hope the elections go ahead as scheduled on Jan. 30. We have to have a proper election in Iraq so we can have a proper civil war there. Let me explain: None of these Arab countries — Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia — are based on voluntary social contracts between the citizens inside their borders. They are all what others have called "tribes with flags" — not real countries in the Western sense. They are all civil wars either waiting to happen or being restrained from happening by the iron fist of one tribe over the others or, in the case of Syria in Lebanon, by one country over another.... [U]nlike in Eastern Europe -- where a democratic majority was already present and crying to get out, and all we needed to do was remove the wall -- in Iraq we first need to create that democratic majority.
This seems to be the evolving consensus. But it is not complete.

In fact, there is a democratic polity in Iraq. There is a large section of the population that is urbane, and that identifies itself first as "Iraqi," and only second or third as "Shi'ite" or "Sunni," or a member of this sect, or a follower of that traditional clan of imams. Both LtCol Couvillon, and Omar and Mohammed of Iraq the Model spoke about that group, and how large it is. Both Omar and Mohammed are members of the group -- witness Mohammed's new year's poem about the "Sons of Iraq." The Colonel said that his experience holding local elections suggested a turnout that neared one hundred percent, and was certainly ninety percent, of all eligible voters.

There are universities and students, professionals, and tradesmen -- even Communist-oriented unions. The "tribes with flags" still do exist in Iraq. Primarily they are out with the insurgency, but some -- for example, the Kurdish Peshmerga -- are fighting on our side. These tribes exist alongside the polity Friedman says we need to create. But to a large degree, those tribes which are participating in the process are being drawn into it, and thereby transformed into members of the democratic polity:
In Kirkuk... I could sense that there's an alliance between the Arabs and the Turkmen to balance forces with the strong Kurdish alliance. Many Kurds have demanded to postpone the elections of the city board as they felt that it's not easy to compete with the Arabic-Turkmen alliance. Still, this demand didn't include the general elections as Iraq is considered one electoral region and local alliances that are limited to a certain spot will not have an effect on the big picture.

In the south, the tribes decided to contribute to the IP and the army efforts in protecting the electoral centers within their regions and this was agreed on after a meeting for the higher commission with the tribes' heads in Hilla and Nasiriyah.
Compare the attempts to use democratic politics to "balance" ethnic tensions in Kirkuk with the story from Georgia of yesterday. Consider the tribal warriors, serving alongside the Iraqi Police and the National Guard to protect polling stations from insurgents. Remember the democrats, the Omars and Mohammeds, going back and forth about the country even in this time of chaos, talking about democracy, manning polling stations, organizing parties, teaching the tribes.

There is the civil war Friedman says he wants. - Sheriff posts snipers�after firings - Jan 4, 2005

Bad News From Georgia:

A headline you generally don't want to see in your local paper: "Sheriff posts snipers after firings."

On his first day on the job, the new sheriff called 27 employees into his office, stripped them of their badges, fired them, and had rooftop snipers stand guard as they were escorted out the door.

The move Monday by Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill provoked an angry reaction and prompted a judge to order him to rehire the employees.
The Sheriff had a few words to say in his defense:
"A lot of people are under the impression that the sheriff's office is under civil service laws," he said. "But my research shows the employees work at the pleasure of the sheriff." ...

Hill said the manner in which he fired the workers -- including taking some deputies home in vans normally used to transport prisoners because the deputies were barred from using county cars -- was necessary.

He cited the assassination of Sheriff Derwin Brown in neighboring DeKalb County in 2000. Brown was gunned down in the driveway of his home three days before he was to be sworn in. Former sheriff Sidney Dorsey was found guilty of plotting to kill him and sentenced to life in prison.

"Derwin Brown sent out letters to 25 to 30 people letting them know they would not be reappointed when he took office," Hill said.

CNN reports a "racial overtone" to the firings. I'm normally suspicious when the media finds "racial overtones" in anything, but this time it's hard to avoid agreeing:
Hill was among a spate of black candidates elected last year in the county once dominated by rural whites. The county seat was the setting for the fictional plantation Tara in "Gone With The Wind."

The fired employees included four of the highest-ranking officers, all of them white. Hill told the newspaper their replacements would be black.
Georgia is a large state -- the largest east of Big Muddy. I've lived most of my life inside her borders, and there are huge swathes of the state I've only visited once or a few times. Clayton County I've only been through, travelling from my family's home in the mountains to Savannah on the coast. As a consequence, I don't have anything much to say about the place. It's in classic plantation-cotton country, unlike the mountains to the north or the lowlands to the south and on the coast.

Population changes in Georgia have outpaced the nation for decades now, but there remain pockets of old Southern families, who have lost control of their local governments due to the heavy immigration from the rest of the country. That's undone all the traditional social systems, which will tend to inspire violence and chaos in any culture. It's probably a measure of the relative civilization of the United States that it hasn't been worse than this: with Iraq and Afghanistan in the rearview mirror, one doesn't have to think hard to imagine what can happen when the balance of power between vaguely hostile ethnic groups is changed. And really, both of those places have been fairly gentle examples themselves: for the real story, look to Daurfur, or remember the Japanese invasions of Asia.

Likely it will work itself out peacefully, through the courts and the county commission. Still, it's a reminder of how fragile are order and peace. Even in the greatest civilization of our day, one can wake to find the police posting snipers against their former officers, for fear of assassination.

The Diplomad: More UNreality . . . But the Dutch Get It

End the UN:

The Tsunami has been the blow that even Iraq was not. The thing is utterly worthless: indeed, insofar as it provides legitimacy to the corrupt, it has only negative worth. It's past time to put an end to our participation in this fiasco, and send them packing to higher ground. Switzerland, say.

But not Holland. The Dutch are pretty irritated with them, too.

China e-Lobby


The China e-Lobby has decided to cease publication of its email newsletters, and become a blog. Welcome to the blogosphere, and good luck.


Yeah, Good Idea:

The title of the article speaks for itself: "Kim Jong-Il Urges Increased Rice Output This Year." Well, never let it be said that the Communist system can't identify its problems. Fortunately, they have the leadership of Kim to guide... no, I won't even type it out. The DPRK is immune to sarcasm. Next week, I could be reading in Yonhap, "American MilBlogger praises Kim Jong-Il's wise leadership."

Mudville Gazette

Advice to Reporters:

Greyhawk has some advice to reporters covering Iraq. I think they're pretty much already following it, though.


China: Lessons Learned

There have recently been some excellent translations out of the Chinese and Japanese, on the subject of the lessons learned by the Chinese military while observing several recent wars. The Iraq war is one of these, and the NATO action in the Balkans, and the Gulf War.

Due to their length and the lack of an "extended entry" capability at Grim's Hall, I've posted these over at Del's Free Speech site. They are rather long, but rewarding.

The translations, which are from the Eurasia Research Group's Global Geopolitics Group, provide some real insight into the Chinese military approach and mindset. If any of you are interested in thinking about China and the Chinese military, this is a hearty serving of useful information.

Grim's Hall


For reasons entirely unrelated to my intentions, I spent the majority of the day with dogs. Dogs, and one noble cousin.

I was supposed to have dinner with a business associate, but on the way she was diverted to assist in an emergency with a dog charity group for whom she does volunteer work. This is All Breed Rescue and Referral. The dogs, it seems, were escaping, and they needed help fixing the electrical fence.

Just why they called her for this is not immediately clear to me. She's a wonderful, good-hearted and cheerful young woman. She isn't, however, a country girl -- a fact that became immediately clear at the feed & seed on the way out to the kennel, where she was trying to buy parts for the electrical fence. It's no dishonor to have grown up in the suburbs and not know anything about electrical fences; and she was therefore not dishonored.

Still, by coincidence she happened to be with me when the call came in, and I've worked on plenty. I grew up in North Georgia's cattle country. My family had an electrical fence; my neighbors had them; our friends had them. So, I figured we could pick up the needed supplies on the way and a pair of blue jeans for me, as I was wearing my office clothes -- but also cowboy boots, so no need for extra shoes -- and fix up whatever the trouble was in about an hour.

The "about an hour" thing didn't work out. I won't go into the details, but it took at least four hours to take care of all the details involved in the exercise, and that isn't what I wanted to write about anyway. What I wanted to write about was the wolf.

His name is Tundra. His back is as high as the top of my hip, and his head stops about the top of my armpit. He is a pure white, as are the white wolves of the high tundra. I don't know that he is an arctic wolf, though; he could be an Eastern Timberwolf with a rare coloration. He has the yellow eyes characteristic of his kin.

I was warned on the way in that I might have to fight him off. Apparently he can be aggressive. In fact, he tried to knock me down twice as I walked in, once from each side. The first time I knocked him down; the second, I just nudged him off. After that, he was perfectly peaceful. He followed me much of the afternoon, just at the heel, and often licked at my hand and let me pet him when I wasn't working.

This gives the lie to almost everything I've ever heard about wolves. I don't know if he is an exception, or if I've simply been misinformed. I've always heard that wolves in captivity are quite dangerous and a little unstable, being wild animals. And it's true that the head of the rescue organization warned her assistant a time or two to keep him separate from some of the other animals, lest he kill them.

Even so, what a fine beast, and what noble eyes. It is easy to see how we came to befriend them, once upon a time in the morning of the world.

The Diplomad

Disaster Relief:

The US military's response to the disaster in PACOM has been magnificent. The Diplomad has more.

The Blogger's Tsunami Challenge | Loaded Mouth

Challenge Update:

The Blogger's Tsunami Challenge has decided to up its goal from five thousand to ten thousand dollars, after receiving $4,900 in one day. I had a feeling that the five thousand wouldn't prove too hard to come by. I won't even be put out that none of the donors has requested any poetry from me, which reluctance is finally quite understandable.

Coffee drinkers among you may also wish to consider buying Sumatran coffee. I've always liked the stuff, which is flavorful but not very acidic.