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TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.

2006 articles
Finally, some truth on Iraq
New USA strategies for Iraq
Can Islam be stopped?
How the USA is losing Iraq
Is the USA responsible for the death of 25,000 Iraqi civilians?
Who are the suicide bombers?
Democracy 2 - Islam 0
Why Afghanistan worked and Iraq isn't
Articles on the Iraq war
Iraq till 2004

  • (December 2005) Finally, some truth on Iraq. Since 2003, the anti-Americans of the world (particularly in western Europe) have repeated the mantra that the USA was allied with Saddam Hussein, helped him rearm, gave him all sorts of technology to build weapons of mass destruction, supported him during the 1980s, was indifferent to Saddam's genocide of the Kurds, etc etc.
    Now that the Europeans and the United Nations have carried out their investigations it is proven that these were simply a shameless pack of lies.
    Dutch businessman Frans van Anraat was arrested in 1989 in Italy at the request of the USA for selling thousands of tons of chemicals that Saddam Hussein's Iraq used to build chemical weapons. He has now been sentenced to 15 years in jail by a Dutch court. (Interestingly enough, the USA wanted him already in 1989, way before Saddam became an enemy of the USA: the USA was the only country that reacted to the news of the massacre of Kurds and changed attitude towards Saddam's regime based on its dismal human-rights record at the same time that Jacques Chirac of France was still hailing him as a "dear friend").
    German companies were deeply involved in the development of Saddam's nuclear program. A German court has determined that Walter Busse, Bruno Stemmler and Karl Heinz Schaab were the key consultants that Saddam Hussein's regime used during the 1980s. They had worked for subcontractors of the European nuclear program, Urenco. Iraq recruited these consultants through H&H Metalform, a German company. In 1999 a German court convicted Schaab of treason. The German government was alerted to the fact in 1995, when United Nations inspectors discovered documents in Iraq that detailed the German connection. Interatom GmbH, a Siemens subsidiary, was involved in providing key nuclear technology between 1986 and 1990. One of the last contracts it signed before being dissolved by Siemens in 1990 was for a nuclear facility in Iraq. Strabag AG, a major German construction firm, was to build the facility. In the late 1980s Inwako, the firm of German arms dealer Simon Heiner, sold 125 British-made ring magnets to Iraq's nuclear centrifuges.
    The deepest involvement was by France. The French company CERBAG sold a dozen kgs of U-235 (highly enriched uranium) and built the Osiraq nuclear reactor from 1976 to 1981. The name "Osiraq" was a French idea, a pun on the words "Osiris", the Egyptian god of the dead, and "Iraq". Israel eventually bombed the facility in 1981.
    Anti-Americans frequently cite the fact that in the second half of the 1980s the USA sold Saddam about $1.5 billion worth of equipment (mostly computers), but forget to mention that, over the same period of time, France alone sold Saddam about $5 billion worth of aircraft, missiles and armor. Even more missiles and tanks came from the Soviet Union. Why in heaven would one classify Saddam as a "USA ally" when the Soviet Union (the main enemy of the USA) was Saddam's main supplier of weapons? And France, not exactly the USA's best friend, was the second.
    The USA has been widely blamed for starving the Iraqi people by imposing sanctions against Iraq during the 1990s (never mind that the sanctions were imposed by the whole United Nations, not just the USA). Some anti-Americans claim that up to 500,000 Iraqis were killed (the figure is ridiculous, given Iraq's population, but it's their figure). Now the investigation into the "oil for food" scandal is revealing why the Iraqis starved during the 1980s, despite a program that was supposed to buy plenty of medicines and food (more than neighboring Syrians ever dreamed of): it turned out that United Nations officials and friendly businessmen helped Saddam steal the money. The Times of London calculates that French and Russian companies received $11 billion worth of business from Iraq's "oil for food" program between 1996 and 2003. Even secretary general Kofi Annan's son, Kojo, was employed by Cotecna, a Swiss company, that was supposed to monitor the program and appears to have been deeply involved in the scam. An impressive list of western businessmen profited from the scam: Iraqi-American businessman Shaker Al-Khaffaji (who paid $400,000 to produce a film on Iraq by "peace activist" Scott Ritter, a former weapons inspector), British politician George Galloway, a staunch critic of Tony Blair's policy towards Iraq (whose organization was a co-recipient of 19.5 million barrels of oil), former French interior minister Charles Pasqua (12 million barrels), French tycoon Patrick Maugein, a strong supporter of Jacques Chirac's reelection campaign (25 million), former French ambassador to the United Nations Jean-Bernard Merimee (11 million), and even Leith Shbeilat, chairman of Jordan's anti-corruption committee (15.5 million).
    Galloway's organization received money from a Jordanian benefactor, Fawaz Zureikat, the former chairman of Galloway's "Mariam Appeal", who took money from Saddam Hussein for a number of oil deals. The saddest part of this story is that corruption pays off. After using Saddam's money to generate publicity for himself, Galloway successfully ran for Parliament, defeating an honest politician at the elections. The honest politician is now unemployed while Galloway is a member of the British parliament. (In august 2005, Galloway traveled to Assad's totalitarian regime, Syria, and declared on tv: "Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners - Jerusalem and Baghdad. The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will. The daughters are crying for help and the Arab world is silent. And some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters." He forgot to mention that Jerusalem was founded by the Jews, not the Arabs, and that Baghdad was founded by the Persians, not by the Arabs. Neither is a "daughter" of the Arabs. Both have been raped by the Arabs. Ignorance goes hand in hand with dishonesty).
    The tragedy for the anti-war movement is that, no matter how many lies Blair and Bush told, the leaders of the anti-war movement appear to be much worse. Galloway said that the invasion of Iraq cost 100,000 lives. Maybe. But he forgot to add that his friend Saddam Hussein killed ten times as many (Kurds, Shiites, Iranians). He also forgot to add that Saddam's violation of the oil-for-food program (that he, Galloway, helped achieve) helped enrich a dictator while costing the lives of untold numbers of Iraqi children. The leaders of the anti-war movement are even less honest than the leaders they accuse of lying.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (December 2005) New USA strategies for Iraq. As the parliamentary elections in Iraq turn out to be a triumph for democracy (with higher voter's participation than in any European or American election of recent years), the USA is still faced with the very annoying reality of a brutal war on the ground.
    It is widely believed in Iraq that the USA has finally got it right: this is not a war by "terrorists" against the USA and the Iraqi government but a three-pronged campaign by three very different entities. The foreign fighters, led by Zarqawi, are the terrorists. They are responsible for the majority of suicide bombings and car bombs. Their mission comes from the Quran: to install an Islamic state and to kill as many infidels as possible. The Baathists are responsible for several bombs against Shiites and assassinations of political figures: they are Iraqis, remnants of Saddam's regime. Their goal is to regain power and install again some kind of secular dictatorship. Finally, the "Sunni nationalists" are Sunni Arabs who honestly view the USA as the Palestinians view the Israelis: an occupying force. Their political goal is more confused: they are well aware that Saddam Hussein was a madman, but they also view democracy as a loss of power (the Sunnis have ruled Iraq for centuries).
    The new USA policy is to drag the "Sunni nationalists" into the political process, by promising both more power for the Sunni minority and a speedy withdrawal of most coalition troops. One election after the other, these Sunni nationalists are confronted with a carrot and a stick: the democratic process is becoming unstoppable and they fear that they are being left behind, while they could become political leaders if they joined it. In the meantime they are being massacred militarily by the USA. Logic says that they their best strategy is to join the democratic process. The USA army is the only factor that keeps them from doing it, because they honestly see it as interfering with (not as facilitating) the democratic process.
    What is missing in this analysis is a fourth group, and potentially the most dangerous for the young Iraqi democracy: the Iranians. It is hard to believe that such a strong anti-American ideologue as Iran's president Ahmadinejad,, who advocates the destruction of Israel, would not try to influence the future of a neighboring Shiite country such as Iraq. So far he has done little because he has seen Iraq's democracy move towards a Shiite-dominated government, which he probably sees as the first step towards creating a fellow Islamic republic in Iraq. That would require an active involvement of Iran, for example by funding a populist and possibly military movement similar to the one that brought Khomeini in power in 1978. Thanks to the power of oil (which largely stems from the suicidal energy policies of the USA), Iran has a lot of cash to invest in destabilizing the region, while Iraq (due largely to the inept reconstruction policies of the USA) is still a very poor country. History teaches us that rich countries have an easy task destabilizing poor neighbors.
    On the other hand, if the USA are under-estimating the potential danger of Iran, president Ahmadinejad is probably under-estimating what the effect of the Iraqi democracy will be on the region. Each new round of voting in Iraq is a shock for the Arab world, that has never seen anything like that and probably never believed (thanks to Al Jazeera's anti-USA propaganda) that the USA were serious about it. But the country that is more directly affected is not an Arab country, it is Iran, because it has the closest geographic and religious ties with Iraq. How will millions of young Iranians react when they are confronted with a neighboring country that is much more modern than theirs? How will millions of Iranian pilgrims feel when they cross the border to visit an Iraqi shrine and experience the freedom of a democratic regime?
    The USA has a golden opportunity to topple the Iranian regime, as long as the Iranian regime does not topple the Iraqi democracy first.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (November 2005) Can Islam be stopped? What is truly amazing about the Iraqi civil war is the unlimited supply of suicide bombers. Zarqawi seems to have no problem recruiting Muslims willing to kill other Muslims in the most spectacular way. If there are thousands of Muslims willing to sacrifice their lives for the purpose of killing other Muslims, one wonders how many Muslims are craving for a chance to blow up non-Muslims.
    Bush and the other western leaders should stop lying about this: these are not "extremists", and, if they are extremists, it is unlikely that the gap between them and "ordinary" Muslims is that big. The opposite is likely: these are slightly more fanatic Muslims than the majority, but not as fanatic as Bush wants us to believe, and behind them (justifying them and supporting them) are less fanatic Muslims, behind whom are even less fanatic Muslims who still sympathyze with them. These are not isolated cases of psychopathic mass murder: these are widespread attitudes among Muslims. We don't really know how many Muslims find it barbaric to use suicide bombing to defend one's opinion. But all the evidence is that they are not as many as Bush would like us to believe (in the name of not declaring war to Islam). And they cross borders easily, happy to meddle into the affairs of another country. Osama's men (mostly Saudis) found it perfectly reasonable to make trouble in Afghanistan, and Zarqawi (a Jordanian) finds it perfectly reasonable to make trouble in Iraq. They do not need to ask the local people "what do you want?" They behave like there is an absolute truth shared by all Muslims, wherever they live. The evidence is that it is indeed that way, otherwise they could not operate so easily all over the Islamic world, from the mountains of Kashmir to the suburbs of London.
    The Iraqi civil war is showing to the entire world a disturbing face of Islam: one billion people bent on killing like savages. The number of suicide bombers (willing to kill fellow Muslims) is just too high to believe that these are only a bunch of isolated extremists. They multiply more rapidly than the Iraqi police can arrest or kill them.
    Is there an end to the supply, or is every single Muslim a future suicide bomber? It is up to the Muslims to show us the answer to this question. But we do not want words (the usual litany of grievances): we want facts. The world's patience is rapidly running out. Europe, Russia, India, China, the USA, the Far East and sub-Saharan Africa are tired of Muslims wreaking havoc. The world has better things to do than deal with the insanity of Islam. Are the Muslims capable of stopping the violence and coexist peacefully with the other peoples of the world?
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (July 2005) How the USA is losing Iraq. Every poll and eyewitness' story proved that in 2003 the Iraqi people perceived the invasion as indeed a liberation. For a few months the USA and its allies did not have to fight any major insurgency (the main terrorist attack was against the United Nations). Despite Al Jazeera's anti-American propaganda, it turns out that the Iraqis were indeed quite impressed by how precise the USA bombs had been in targeting only military facilities and Saddam's regime, and sparing ordinary Iraqis.
    How is it that two years later almost every poll shows that the Iraqis see the USA soldiers are occupiers (not liberators)?
    The liberation was a success, but the occupation has been a disaster. Unnoticed to most commentators, the USA troops were using methods that border on the criminal. Sure: they were "isolated" cases. But each "isolated" case of abuse leads to ten more, because it alienates ten Iraqis who become insurgents, and in order to capture them the USA will commit more abuses.
    Indiscriminate arrests (70% by mistake, according to the Red Cross), killings and tortures (See Torture) have changed the mood of the Iraqi people. The spectacular accuracy of the invasion was lost when the invasion turned into an occupation that was hardly "accurate". The widely publicized scandals are only the tip of the iceberg: thousands of Iraqis, especially in the smaller towns, have countless stories of USA soldiers arresting or killing in a way that is not all that different from what Saddam Hussein used to do. The USA soldiers have bombed so many houses and cars, not because they were targeting them but because they were bombing everything that could jeopardize their lives. It sounds like a paradox, but the accuracy of bombs dropped from airplanes turned out to be much higher than the accuracy of guns triggered by soldiers.
    The number of civilians actually killed by the USA is probably relatively low, but, no matter how low, it has created thousands of determined insurgents and supporters of the insurgency. The more insurgents the more mistakes, the more mistakes the more insurgents.
    Every time we hear Rumsfeld boasting that the USA has killed dozens of insurgents we fear that those "insurgents" were actually innocent civilians (which is often the case: some independent news agency investigates the USA report and finds out that the dead were villagers, workers, ordinary families). Not only did the insurgents suffer no casualties but by killing innocent civilians the USA creates helps the insurgents recruit more fighters.
    Those mistakes would not have happened if the president of the USA had done two things: 1. plan the aftermath of the invasion; and 2. place a trustworthy and competent man in charge of it instead of Rumsfeld. Instead, there was no planning, just a blind faith that Rumsfeld would do the right thing. It turned out that all the people sent to Iraq to improvise a policy of occupation failed to come up with any semblance of stability. It also turned out that Rumsfeld failed dramatically to both provide security for the Iraqis and to control the behavior of the USA personnel on the ground.
    The failure to plan was almost as bad as the failure to control abuses. What the USA has done in terms is infrastructure is a joke: Baghdad still does not have the amount of electricity that most African capitals have, despite the fact that Baghdad is the capital of one of the largest oil producers in the world. Unemployment hovers above 50% in most neighborhoods of the big cities. Iraqis are justified in feeling that the war has been only one big scam, because the USA done too little to improve their lives while some USA companies have been benefiting enormously. Halliburton is the main company in charge of reconstructing Iraq. Thanks to the war in Iraq, Halliburton's stock tripled in value. It is disgraceful enough that someone should make money out of the death of thousands of people, but everybody knows how close this company was and is to the White House. How do we expect the Iraqi people to believe in our good will when the main company we sent to "rebuild" their country is getting filthy rich and is run by friends of the politicians who declared the war that is making it filthy rich?
    The Iraqis were indeed excited for the january elections. They risked their lives to prove how much they believe in democracy. They expected that the USA would be proud of them and respect their will. Instead, the historical elections in january are slowly turning into another mean joke. The USA is still running the country and the Iraqi government is used only as a proxy to raise charity money to rebuild Iraq. The risk is that, by ignoring the elected Iraqi officials, and by ignoring basic human-rights principles, we may be discrediting the very democracy we created.
    Since they don't understand why the USA is still fighting in Iraq, increasing numbers of Iraqis also view their own police as collaborators of the occupation forces. The policemen themselves are torn between their duty to provide the security they can and their unease at cooperating with the USA soldiers.
    This also explains why the ferocious suicide bombings by the Islamic terrorists do not cause the kind of outrage that one would expect: 1. the Iraqis know that the USA has lied about many things, so it is not clear who these suicide bombers are, and 2. the only thing that is clear to the Iraqis is that the USA is not capable of providing basic security. Thus each suicide bombing causes more anti-American sentiment than anti-terrorist sentiment. The terrorists are not loved, but the Iraqis do not quite understand who the terrorists are while they understand very well who is failing to provide protection against the terrorists.
    These foreign fighters who come from Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and probably Kuwait keep outsmarting the USA. They complicate the situation of the USA, that is guilty of not providing security (as in "if you really have to occupy us, couldn't you at least provide us with basic security to go to work, school and the mosque?"), and elicit from the USA troops the kind of violent reaction that causes even more anti-American sentiment. So much so that most people of Baghdad seem to want USA patrols out of their city because USA patrols attract bombs and then USA patrols retaliate by shooting indiscriminately and killing innocents. Foreign fighters (most of them very young and uneducated) outsmarted the USA: this is not a compliment for Rumsfeld, and shows how poor the planning was.
    Now Rumsfeld is trying to blame Iran and Syria for the instability in Iraq. According to him (and to the few who still trust what he says), Syria is letting foreign fighters in through its long border, and Iran is even selling deadly weapons to the insurgents. But there is contrasting evidence: Iran is obviously gaining from a Shiite-controlled Iraq (the prime minister and many others have excellent relationships with the leadership of Iran), so why in heaven would it help the Sunnis who are fighting the Shiites? And Assad of Syria has publicly declared that he wants to cooperated, and has even withdrawn his troops from Lebanon to prove it: what does he have to gain from a prolonged Iraqi civil war, other than more poverty for his people who lost their main trading partner? Rumsfeld's accusation seem as accurate as his past statements on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and on the little "spike" of terrorist attacks (that turned out to be more like a lull than a spike). Syrian border patrols report that they are doing their best with the few means at their disposal (the USA has not offered a single penny to help Syria boost its border patrols, and one wonders why Syria should spend more for a problem that is not a Syrian problem). Syrian patrols claim that they rarely see anyone trying to enter Iraq. More importantly, they claim that they rarely see any USA soldier patrolling on the other side: if this border is so important and so porous, why aren't the Americans patroling it at all? Rumsfeld's childish accusations are easily refuted, and then the Arab world is left to wonder which one is it: either the foreign fighters do not exist or the USA is an accomplice in letting them in. Either way, the USA then blames Syria and Iran for a problem that the USA created.
    Bottom line: the Bush administration turned a welcomed invasion into a shady occupation.
    All in all, the main lesson out of the Afghani and Iraqi invasion might be that the main priority must be to empower the people, and this is a lot easier when an alternative power structure already exists, as it was the case in Afghanistain with the Northern Alliance and with warlords such as Karzai, and a lot more difficult when the power structure must be rebuilt from zero. The main lesson we might be learning is that creating an indigenous force (like the USA did in the Kurdish area) is a more effective way to carry out an invasion (and make friends), because at the end of the invasion it is relatively obvious who is going to be in power. Sunni Arab Iraq, instead, was left in a vacuum: the opposition that lived abroad had no credentials to rule over the millions of Sunni Arabs and Shiites who lived all their lives in Iraq. Appointing a USA governor of Iraq was, in retrospect, a ridiculous idea, that only contributed to paint the USA as an occupier and to legitimize the insurgents.
    Another lesson is the one that the USA had already learned in Vietnam: any invasion needs an exit strategy. This invasion had two goals: remove Saddam's regime (an excellent idea), install democracy (an excellent idea) and rebuild the country (an excellent idea). Using the invading force to stabilize the country was not a goal at the beginning, and was probably not a good idea (so much so that it is not working). The january elections would have been an excellent point in time to declare the USA's mission over ("mission accomplished", to use Bush's comic statement of two years ago). Then let the new Iraqi government try to restore order and, if it fails, let they (the democratically elected representatives of the Iraqi people) decide who they want to call (USA, United Nations, European Union, Iran, League of Arab States,...). It is their country, and they should be free to decide who they trust to provide security. Most likely, they would have called the USA anyway, but what a difference it would make if the USA had already withdrawn from the country and was only asked to send a police force to help root out terrorists. Instead the USA army's continuing presence in Iraq after the january elections is turning the USA into a major embarrassment (instead of an aid) for the democratically elected government.
    Another lesson is that neighbors matter. While Uzbekistan, China, Iran and, reluctantly, Pakistan dislike the Taliban as much as the USA does, and thus helped (directly or indirectly) to install a new regime, the situation in Iraq is different, with Syria and Iran not completely hostile to some of the insurgents and very hostile to the USA (not to mention vast Arab masses in Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia totally supporting them).
    The invasion was legitimate in many ways, but mainly for a simple reason: the Iraqi people wanted the USA to invade. (See also Articles on the USA invasion of Iraq).
    The occupation is becoming less and less legitimate by the day, and mainly for a simple reason: the Iraqi people do not want the USA to stay.
    On the other hand, it certainly helps decimate the international jihadists, who are flocking to Iraq to be massacred by the USA. But the price it is paying (and the Iraqi people are paying) is very high.
    The USA is really fighting two wars, one against the foreign jihadists and one against the Iraqi insurgents. Maybe that is why it is not winning it.
    See also: How did we fail so badly? A report from a trip to the Middle East
    Recommended reading: Aaron Glantz's "How America Lost Iraq" (Penguin, 2005).
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (July 2005) Is the USA responsible for the death of 25,000 Iraqi civilians? It is estimated that 25,000 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives since the USA invasion of 2003. Most of them have been killed by "insurgents". Just to name the more recent episodes:
    • 16 July: Suicide bomb kills 98
    • 15 July: Suicide bombs kill 16
    • 13 July: Bomb kills 26 children
    • 10 July: 20 army recruits killed
    • 26 June: 35 die in Mosul attack
    • 25 June: Suicide attacks kill 23
    • 20 June: Several attacks, 31 dead
    • 2 June: Multiple bombs kill 24
    • 30 May: 27 dead in Hilla
    • 11 May: 70 dead in Tikrit, Hawija
    • 4 May: Irbil bombing kills 60
    It is tempting for all anti-Americans of the world to blame the USA for those deaths. It is tempting both because the USA does a terrible job of explaining itself to the world and because the Bush administration has been extremely arrogant in boasting about its "victory".
    But the truth is different. The Arabs have created their society. They have their leaders because they don't fight them. They have a backward society because they don't send their children to university. They are under the influence of clerics because they go to the mosque. They have virtually no scientists and no writers. They have suicide bombers because, ultimately, the Arab masses do not protest against them (See The Muslim masses in denial). The result is a general mess, with thousands of people killed every year all over the Arab world (not only where the BBC is allowed to count the dead): Saharawis die in refugee camps in the desert; Berbers are exterminated in Algeria and Libya; opposition is jailed and made disappear in Syria, Libya and Egypt; minorities are exterminated in Sudan; Kurds and Shiites were exterminated in Iraq until recently; etc.
    The USA did not cause the Arab societies as they are, and did not invent Islam. Those are the real causes of those deaths.
    The USA is responsible for saving the lives of millions of people in the Middle East. Millions would have died if the USA had not deposed Saddam and started the democratic process in the Middle East. How do we know? Because millions "did" die in the previous decades. One can definitely blame the USA for tolerating what it tolerated until 2001. But do not blame the USA for a mess that has been going on since at least the independence of the Arab countries (if not since prophet Mohammed).
    If the USA had deposed Hitler in 1938, thousands of Germans would have died in that invasion, but 52 million people would not have died in World War II. Anti-Americans would be accusing the USA of having caused the death of 25,000 Germans instead of praising them for saving 52 millions.
    If the USA had prevented the massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda by invading Rwanda before the Hutus began the genocide, a few hundred Hutus would have been killed by the USA forces, but 900,000 Tutsis would still be alive. Anti-Americans would be accusing the USA of having killed hundreds of Hutus, instead of praising them for saving 900,000 Tutsis.
    It is always easier to blame someone for the damage his actions caused than praise him for the damage that his actions "prevented".
    Last, but not least, those 25,000 Iraqis have mostly been killed by Arabs, not Americans or British or Italians. Yet another Arab genocide, that Arabs must learn to blame on themselves, not on others.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (May 2005) Who are the suicide bombers? An impressive number of suicide bombers volunteer to blow up Iraqi civilians and security forces. The only precedent is the Palestinian intifada. But in that case the Palestinian organizations widely advertised the identities and the motivations of the suicide bombers. In Iraq, instead, the suicide bombers remain nameless, faceless and motive-less bodies. Their senders, whoever they are, seem to be able to recruit an unlimited number of volunteers but make no effort to advertise their "sacrifice". Another difference is that Palestinian terrorism targeted Israelis, thus non-Muslims, whereas the Iraqi terrorists are deliberately killing scores of fellow Muslims, in many cases housewifes, mosque goers and shop-owners who have little to do with the USA or Iraqi troops.
    To further confuse the issue, by all accounts the Iraqi people hate them. This is not Palestine where many Palestinians worship or at least respect or at least justify the suicide bomber: this is Iraq, where women spit on the body parts of the suicide bomber. What motivates them?
    The two puzzling things for a non-Muslim audience is that 1. they are so willing to kill themselves (in the rest of the world, people are willing to fight for their cause but will do everything they can to avoid their own death), and 2. they have an odd and very broad concept of collective punishment. The latter is even harder to believe than the former. Basically, suicide bombers reserve the right to punish anybody for anybody else's crimes. They are perfectly happy to blow up people because they happen to live in a town that is somehow blamed to be responsible for some anti-Muslim crime, or to blow up people because they happen to belong to a ethnic/religious group that is somehow blamed for this or that anti-Muslim crime. By applying the same logic, eventually one could blow up people just for being a human being, thus somehow related to human beings who, somewhere else, have behaved improperly according to the suicide bomber. These suicide bombers seem to believe that they can kill just about anyone in order to punish just about anybody else. By the same logic, let's kill the Afghan boy who shook hands with the USA senator, and let's kill all the people whose name is George because it's Bush's first name, and let's kill people from Iceland because their country's name starts with the same letter as Israel. By comparison, Palestinian terrorists were rational: they only killed members of the ethnic group viewed as an enemy and an occupier.
    The teachings of Islam certainly have a weird effect on people's brains, but explaining this logic probably requires going beyond Islam. Saddam Hussein had a passion for slaughtering his own people. His associates probably shared that passion. One wonders is these suicide bombers are the result of cross-breeding Islamic fanaticism and murderous Baathist folly.
    For example, Muqtada al-Sadr's group, to name the largest and most famous of the anti-American groups, has been accused of many crimes, but never of using suicide bombers. Saddam's former Baathists are certainly not famous for sacrificing their lives, and not very religious either: it is unlikely that they are volunteering to blow themselves up.
    Both the USA and the Iraqi government have been ridiculously secretive about the identities of these suicide bombers. Nobody has published an analysis of who they are and where they come from. In a rare interview on the subject, a senior Iraqi official declared that these suicide bombers are foreigners: it seems plausible given that no Iraqi group seems to fit the profile, but the USA claims that only a tiny percentage of the captured insurgents are foreigners (less than 5%).
    If they are indeed foreigners, why is it so difficult to isolate them? If they are not foreigners, what kind of Iraqis are they? No group in Iraq has a tradition of immolation.
    Correspondence by this writer with Iraqi people seem to indicate that the Iraqi people themselves are puzzled.
    (Another mystery is why these suicide bombers do not strike in the USA, their main enemy).
    So who are they, where do they come from, and why do they do what they do? Why their instigators keep all of this so secret instead of advertising it? And, last but not least, why do the USA and Iraq keep it secret?
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (Febraury 2005) Democracy 2 - Islam 0. 2005 will go down in Arab history as the year that democracy entered the Arab world. First came the Palestinian elections, a event that has been dwarfed by the Iraqi elections but that might be even more significant. The first Arabs to have free elections were Arabs who don't have a state. This was both a tribute to the Palestinian people and evidence that Arab regimes "are" the problem: democracy came to the Arabs who do not have a regime. Even the fact that Hamas won most of the local elections was a good sign: Hamas did not boycott the elections, it won them. From now on, Hamas will be more interested in winning elections than in blowing up buses full of children. No question, though, that the biggest shock for the Arab world came from the Iraqi elections.
    They exceeded the most optimistic expectations. "They were extremely successful", as the chief United Nations election adviser, Carlos Valenzuela, not a friend of the Bush administration, declared.
    "Very very happy": those were the words of one of millions of Iraqi people who risked their lives to cast their vote in the first free election in Iraq. The most impressive sight was the long lines of women outside and the number of women working inside: for the first time in Arab history, women were truly part of the process. In general, the Iraqi people were openly enthusiastic. Despite the criticism of the terrorist propaganda media (such as Al Jazeera), that picked on every possible detail to paint a dark picture of the elections, voting went smoothly and was very fair in the vast majority of Iraq. In fact, imperfect democracies such as France and Italy, and even the USA itself, should envy the way the Iraqi elections were carried out. There were more women running for election than in the recent USA elections. Voter's turnout (58%) was higher than in most European Union elections. More than 100 parties participated, as opposed to only three in the recent USA elections. The new prime minister will be elected by a coalition representing more than 50% of Iraqis, as opposed to Jacques Chirac, who became president of France with only 18% of votes. Iraq is now close to having a Kurd for president: can you name any (any) western country that ever had a president or prime minister from an ethnic minority?
    It was hard to believe that three of the largest turn-outs occurred in the hotbeds of anti-American resistance: NAjaf, Sadr City and Mosul. It was even harder to believe than in these anti-American centers the anti-American lists were badly defeated: firebrand cleric Al Sadr (who was widely predicted to win the votes of those resentful of American occupation, particularly among the millions of inhabitants of Al Sadr and Najaf), won less than 1% (two seats).
    The Iraqis were able to vote for about 100 parties. There are parties for communists, monarchists, and all sorts of minorities. Few observers noted that, out of so many parties, there was no fundamentalist party (Al Sistani's list is a confederation of parties, all of whom committed to the separation of church and state, while some Sunni clerics refused to participate when they realized that nobody would vote for them).
    Nor has any party advocated a secession. Shiites (65% of the population), Kurds (14%), Sunni Arabs (13%) and the other minorities seem to view one united Iraq where many foreigners (both allies of Iraq such as the USA and enemies of Iraq such as Al Jazeera and the foreign fighters) see ethnic tensions. The "united" Shiite party actually elected many candidates who are Kurds, Christians and Sunnis. So far the only ethnic tensions have been created by foreigners such as Al Zarqawi, not by Iraqis.
    The most promising sign is how Kurds and Shiites reacted to the insurgents' bombings targeting them: not a single act of retaliation. Imagine if a series of, say, Spanish terrorist attacks killed hundreds of people in the streets of Paris: would the French be so mature to refrain from retaliating against the Spanish people?
    (Even the one apparent failure of these elections, the low turn-out in Sunni Arab areas, did not create any major "ethnic" problem: 42 Sunni Arabs were elected from a number of different parties, and those 42 seats out of 275 available are just about exactly the percentage of Sunni Arabs in Iraq).
    The shock for the neighboring countries will be felt for generations. Arabs were used to the idea that their tyrants simply appointed someone, and then claimed that he had been "elected" with 99% of the votes (mostly in single-candidate "elections"). Good luck to Syria pretending that the Lebanese people accept the next elections (whose result has already been decided by Assad of Syria) as fair. Good luck to Mubarak, who was planning to "elect" with 99% of the votes his own son as his successor. Good luck to Qaddafi, who was planning the exact same "election". And good luck especially to the Iranian regime: contrary to what the Saddam-nostalgic claim (that Iran will triumph in Iraq), the Iraqi elections are a blow to the Iranian regime: the Iranian people expect more, not less, than what their Shiite brothers in Iraq get. Good luck to all of the tyrants who have never allowed women to vote: in Iraq millions of women voted and dozens were elected. The likely outcome of the Iraqi election is much bigger than democracy in Iraq: it is the beginning of a democratic revolution that might demolish those ossified putrefying regimes.
    The shock might even be felt in the West itself. Democracy is too easy in Europe: people don't have to make an effort to vote. And the complacency extends to the standards of democracy: the French and the Italians (to name two) have become accustomed to the idea that their leaders are corrupt, the Germans have become accustomed to the idea that their chancellor is incompetent and hypocritical, and Americans have become accustomed to the idea that politicians lie and steal. The Iraqis just explained to all of us that it doesn't have to be that way, that people can take their destiny into their hands.
    Before criticizing the Iraqi elections as imperfect (as almost every French newspaper did), the French media should ask themselves how many French citizens would go to vote if bombs were blowing up in the streets on election day. The French media that fear a Shiite leader should also ask themselves why in heaven a Shiite leader (the descendant of the relatively peaceful Safavids) should be "dangerous" compared to, say, a Jacques Chirac who is the descendant of blood-thirsty tyrants such as Richelieu, Robespierre and Napoleon. Why should the Iraqis be ashamed of electing Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, a man who has never stolen public money and who has spent his life fighting a dictator (he was the leader of the anti-Saddam partisans), or Ibrahim al-Jaafari (a strong opponent of theocracy and a strong advocate of women's rights) when France is ruled by Chirac, a man who stole public money and supported all sorts of fascist dictators?
    The Iraqis have taught arrogant westerners a major lesson in deserving democracy.
    So far, the Iraqis have taught a lesson not only to the Arab world but to the entire democratic world as well.
    The Iraqi elections were probably a little triumph for the USA, but were, above all, a great triumph for the Iraqi people.
    The shock throughout the Arab world has been colossal. Until the very last day, the Arab masses did not believe that the elections were for real, that Iraqis wanted to vote, that women would be allowed to vote, etc. Seeing live on tv the long lines of voters, including women, and the crowds walking through dangerous streets towards the polling stations, was a complete shock. Needless to say, Al Jazeera tried to minimize the vote itself and maximize criticism for the absence of the minority (very minority) Sunni Arab voters (an absence largely due to Al Jazeera-inspired terrorism). Arabs from Morocco to Syria are now wondering if maybe, just maybe, the Americans have been telling the truth all along. And the anti-American media (such as Al Jazeera) are ending the same way the Pravda ended in the Soviet Union.

    The biggest loser of these elections is, indeed, Al Jazeera, that has been lying to the Arab masses about everything, depicting Iraqis as "occupied" and the insurgents as national heroes. Now the Arab world is learning that millions of Iraqis wanted to vote, and even risked their lives to vote. The Arab masses finally heard (albeit only for a few seconds) that Iraqis have been spitting on the bodies of suicide bombers, not exactly the treatment that heroes are accustomed to.
    Last but not least, the Iraqis who voted were fully aware that they owed the elections to the USA, and that the USA troops were protecting their walk from home to the polling station.
    (Prime minister Ayad Allawi's pro-USA party won 17% of the votes, the Kurdish pro-USA party won 24% of the votes, and many of the candidates of the Shiite party that won 48% of the votes are also pro-USA: if this was a referendum on the USA occupation, the USA won it big time).
    The winners (no matter what the terrorists and their propaganda arm Al Jazeera say) have been Sharon and Bush. After four years of intifada, the Palestinian people gave Sharon what he wanted. After two years of civil war, the Iraqi people gave Bush what he wanted. The people have spoken: while it will take at least a generation for ordinary Arabs to spell it out in plain English or Arabic, they are beginning to understand that Israel and the USA are the "friends", while terrorists and insurgents are the "enemy".
    These two elections represent a historical moment for the Middle East, comparable with the arrival of Hellenistic civilization with Alexander's troops. So 2005 may also go down in history as the year when the USA "westernized" the Middle East, the same way that Alexander hellenized the Middle East 2,300 years ago. The Middle East has been on a collision drive against the West from the day that Islam was born. These elections represent a step in the opposite direction, perhaps the first one in 1383 years.

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • (January 2005) Why Afghanistan worked and Iraq isn't. There is no question that Iraq, or at least the Sunni Arab triangle, is a mess. It did not go the way the USA assumed (or hoped) it would go. Many scholars had predicted a lengthy war in the Sunni triangle, and it is just possible that the rapid fall of Baghdad created the illusion that the scholars had been wrong, when in fact they are being proven right.
    The comparison with Afghanistan, a country traditionally considered much more primitive, poor and anarchic than Iraq, is dramatic. Considering its recent history, Afghanistan is doing relatively well. As far as democracy and human rights go, Afghans have very little to envy from their neighbors (Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakstan, Turkmenistan, China). Even Cyprus, a current member of the European Union, and Turkey, a candidate for admission, are not much more democratic and peaceful as Afghanistan.
    The question is why the Sunni triangle did not go the same way as Afghanistan. Afghanistan had even less democratic traditions than Iraq. Afghanistan had a lot more terrorists already based within its borders. Afghanistan was awash in all sorts of weapons left over by the Soviet Union and the Taliban. Afghanistan has many more ethnic groups than Iraq. In a word, Afghanistan seems to have all the symptoms of Iraq at a much higher degree. But it is doing much better. Why is Iraq such a mess compared with Afghanistan? Why is reconstruction happening in Afghanistan with minimal protection for the workers, no suicide bombers, no beheadings and no attacks on the thousands of foreign troops? Different scholars have different answers, none of them convincing. There are many differences between the two countries (population density, level of infrastructure, etc etc), but noone seems capable of articulating a rational argument that explains why those differences create a relatively stable and peaceful democracy in Afghanistan and chaos in Iraq.
    One thing is clear, though: the Bush administration has a vested interest in depicting the insurgents as "terrorists" (and it works, since most anti-Americans also call them "terrorists"). Once one calls them "terrorists", and presents the prospect that they might spread around the world, then Iraq becomes part of the "war on terrorism", and the American public opinion more or less agrees that this war directly affects the USA. If one called them "the Baath Party", it would be a different war, much more similar to Vietnam (the USA fighting a Marxist party that has a base in a region of the country and is trying to conquer the entire country). It would be a different war, a war against a guerrilla army, not against "terrorists", and it would be a much more unpopular war in the USA (but it might help to explain the difference with Afghanistan).
    Another odd factor is that most analysts would not call Saddam a "terrorist". If these people are "terrorists" because they terrorize the Iraqi people, then why wasn't Saddam a terrorist? He created an even bigger terror. If he was a "terrorist", then Iraq is not such a big mess after all: today it is doing better than when Saddam was killing thousands (not hundreds) a year. Which, in fact, is the opinion of the thousands of exiles who have returned to Iraq since the fall of Saddam. (On the contrary, there is no evidence of massive emigration of Iraqis to Iran, Syria, Jordan or Saudi Arabia, which means that people are less "terrorized" than they were under Saddam, when millions emigrated).
    Whatever the answer, one thing is clear: any criticism of the elections is exactly what the terrorists want. Their goal is precisely that we criticize the elections, postpone them and, ultimately, cancel them. Then Al Jazeera and all the other propaganda arms of the insurgents (not to mention the millions of Europeans who march in the streets) can accuse the USA of not allowing the Iraqi people to speak up. The loop is pretty clear.
    I wonder why noone has come up with an idea to make the elections safer: instead of the citizens going to vote, why don't we send election officials to collect the ballots from each house? It will take time for officials to go around and pick up the ballots from all the voters, but it would be a lot safer for the voters.
    TM, ®, Copyright © 2005 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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  • Iraq till 2004
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