Matching donations

Donations are up, and a generous offer is received.

Wow. I’m incredibly grateful that so many are willing to donate. One contributor, a gentleman I’ll call “currencia,” has offered to match, dollar for dollar, any donations that come in between now and 5 p.m. on Dec. 24. (Up to $1,000.) Since Currencia made his offer, $210 has come in.
Thank you all. We’re way further ahead at this point than last time, where it took *five months* to get to more than $2,000. This time, we’ve reached that point in less than three weeks. With the amount donated, plus my own savings, I’ll be able to get a bullet-proof vest (about $1,000), Arabic lessons and other logistic expenses, such as plane tickets, visas, deposits, etc.
Thank you so much, everyone. Your support, especially at this time of year, really means a lot. Happy holidays.

Boston TV stations nix “C-SPAN Baghdad”

Most local Boston television stations are refusing to use the Pentagon-sponsored footage out of Baghdad, nicknamed “C-SPAN Baghdad.”

Most local Boston television stations are refusing to use the Pentagon-sponsored footage out of Baghdad, dubbed “C-SPAN Baghdad,” which “I wrote”: about earlier this month.

“I’m kind of appalled by it. I think it’s very troubling,” said Charles Kravetz, vice president of news at the regional cable news outlet NECN. “I think the government has no business being in the news business.”
“We have no interest in this,” said WBZ-TV (Channel 4) news director Peter Brown. “The Fourth Estate is independent and should remain so. As news providers, we should go there and see for ourselves.”

Government officials deny the footage is an effort on the part of the Pentagon to manage the news coming out of Iraq.

“Basically, this provides us with the ability to feed back briefing materials and the substance of what is happening in Baghdad to the Pentagon … on a real-time basis,” [said Dorrence Smith, a former ABC newsman now working for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and the man in charge of C-SPAN Baghdad.] “It’s for one or for all as opposed to the very few media who are here in Baghdad.”

Smith, by the way, is the guy who managed President Bush’s media strategy in the Florida recount in 2000. And if that doesn’t make your blood pressure go up a bit, a Department of Defense spokesman Bryan Whitman stressed that while the project’s function is to provide live briefings back to the Pentagon, he “wouldn’t want to rule out anything in the future.”

Atrios over at Eschaton won’t give the stations any props for not running the feed, but I will — for now. Why don’t you readers send the guys at the stations feedback applauding them for living up to their Fourth Estate duties (in this case) and encourage them that their judgment in rejecting the feed is appreciated.

  • “WBZ-TV”:
  • “WHDH”:
  • “WCVB”:

Still, for all my bluster regarding C-SPAN Baghdad, I’m kind of inclined to agree with “Jack Shafer”: over at “Slate”:, and not just because he links to me in the article. He’s of the mind that the Pentagon’s obvious efforts at propaganda will crash and burn because Americans are more likely to watch _Seinfeld_ than they are to watch empty military ceremonies and video of soldiers painting schools. He also makes the interesting observation that C-SPAN Baghdad will have the — surely unintentional — effect of putting the CPA and the administration on record regarding various goings-on in Iraq. “Such a record of their own making would make this administration much more accountable than they already are,” he writes. “If the propagandists insisted on putting a happy face on Iraq for U.S. news consumers while thousands of U.S. soldiers die and Iraqis riot, they would lose all credibility. But here they’re caught in a double-bind: If they tell the truth, they start converging upon the independent press’s mission and begin to negate their own raison d’etre.”
So while the Pentagon’s plan is execrable and an insulting waste of taxpayers’ money, if more local stations like those in Boston reject the feed and news consumers turn to a few of the upteen million media outlets that can counter the feed — like this one! “Send me back to Iraq!”: — it’s likely the newest series from Bagdad will be cancelled before the next season.

Revenge Killings in Najaf

Two Ba’athists killed in Najaf in revenge killings. This must stop.

Two former Ba’athists have been killed in the Shi’ite city of Najaf, in what appear to be revenge killings for their role in Saddam Hussein’s old regime.

On Friday, gunmen killed Ali Qassem al-Tamimi, the district mayor of Najaf’s al-Furat neighborhood, as he was shopping with a friend in downtown Najaf, according to Lt. Raed Jawad Abdel Saada.
Early Saturday, two assailants riding by on a bicycle opened fire on former provincial party official Damiyah Abbas and her son as they were leaving their home.
The 5-year-old boy was killed instantly, and Abbas was hospitalized in critical condition, according to another police officer, Lt. Raed Abbas.
Damiyah Abbas was believed to have participated in putting down a 1991 Shi’ite uprising against the government of Saddam.
Al-Tamimi’s position would have involved him acting as an informer, reporting to Baath Party officials in Baghdad on the political activities and jobs of residents.

Now, some readers consider these killings no bad thing. But I say this: Revenge killings, while part of the culture, are a recipe for disaster.
To those who look on with satisfaction at the vigilante justice meted out to these people, I say this: You are encouraging the destruction of Iraq as a country. You are encouraging its collapse into warring factions that will make the current chaos appear like a pre-game warmup. There can be no justice at the hands of a mob, for such “justice” breeds fear, suspicion and hatred. And God knows there’s enough of that in Iraq right now. Many Sunnis already feel scared and insecure about their role in the new Iraq. These murders will drive already frightened Sunnis into the arms of the insurgents and will lead to civil war.
No, it’s better to let the courts — whatever form they may take — deal out justice. A mob is the basest form of human organization, and anyone who’s been one knows how terrifying they can be. Even a happy mob is a frightening thing. A society’s judiciary, however, can represent its best angels. A well-functioning bench represents the ultimate triumph of the forces of civilizations over the rule of nature, red in tooth and claw. It represents the faith citizens place in the power of the state to be fair and impartial, allowing them to forgo the freelance pursuit of justice.
If you who cheer the deaths of Ba’athists at the hands of a mob truly want a democratic Iraq, one that respects the human rights of _all_ the peoples of that country, you’ll work for and encourage an Iraqi justice system that is fair, transparent and independent, for such an institution would mean in Iraq the United States will have done its job well. It would mean America will have left behind faith in the rule of law, something Iraqis have never had. An independent and fair judiciary would lead Iraq’s citizens to genuinely respect the Iraqi state, instead of living in a republic of fear.
These acts of violence should be condemned, regardless of whether they’re perpetrated by Shi’ite, Sunni or Kurd. To do otherwise is to dishonor the birthplace of civilization.

Bomb demolishes Badr Brigade HQ in Baghdad

Bomb blast in Baghdad destroys the HQ of the Badr Brigade. What will the Shi’ites do now?

In a sign of increasing violence against Shi’ites, early Friday morning, a bomb destroyed the Baghdad HQ of the “Badr Brigade”:, the private militia of “SCIRI”:, the leading Shi’ite political party in Iraq. A woman was killed and at least seven people were injured.
Headed by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, SCIRI and the Badr Brigade are believed to be in a low-level war with the insurgents, which is likely made up of Iraqi nationalists and Sunnis loyal to the old regime. mdf431197.jpg
An elderly Iraqi woman sits outside her home destroyed in Friday’s explosion. Photo by Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters
The Brigade is a likely source of manpower for a “proposed counter-terrorism unit”: that would draw on the private militias of the various political parties in Iraq — mostly exile groups, but including the Kurdish _peshmergas._ Juan Cole reports that Iyad al-Samarra’i, the secretary general of the Iraqi Islamic Party, calls this plan a “recipe for Lebanonizing Iraq.”
Just two days ago, insurgents “shot and killed Muhannad al-Hakim”:, head of security at the Education Ministry and a cousin of Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim.
The big question now is, will the Shi’ites strike back? That’s the worry, as that would be civil war, with American troops in the middle. That’s what the insurgents want, as they think that a messy civil war will cause the American troops to bug out — not an unreasonable assumption given the bombing of the Marines’ barracks in Lebanon civil war in 1983 led to just that outcome.
(By the way, my use of of the terms “Sunnis” and “Shi’ites” in the context of this post should not be construed as portraying _all_ Shi’ites and _all_ Sunnis as lusting for each others’ blood. I’m referring to the militants and political activists in each camp. The majority of Sunnis and Shi’ites just wish to live in peace.)
To a degree, the capture of Saddam may have made the Shi’ites less inclined to listen to the Americans, who no doubt are urging SCIRI to avoid retaliation. Without the the worry of Saddam returning to power, the Shi’ites are losing patience are are less inclined to tolerate the occupation and become more assertive. A little over a week ago, a bomb exploded at the Ahbab Mustafa Mosque in Baghdad, killing four Sunnis. And a friend of mine is in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city and a Shi’ite stronghold, tells me the graffiti is a mixture of thanks to America and calls for _jihad_. Couple the Shi’ites numerical superiority with the hand-over in sovereignty in June, and they will have mostly a free hand to deal with the Sunnis. It could be a bloodbath. Will they wait until June — and let the Americans soften up their Sunni foes in the meantime — or will they counter-attack now? “The attack on the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf in August”:, which killed Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim, did not result in a civil war, but the shadow of Saddam still hung over Iraq, and the Shi’ites may have worried that in the chaos of civil war, he might somehow return to power. And so they kept their powder dry. Will that be the case now?

Mukhabarat Agent: No WMDs here!

No WMDs in Iraq but plenty of chaos!

The _Jerusalem Post_ has an interesting interview with a former colonel in Saddam’s secret police, the _Mukhabarat_, who says Iraq had no WMDs in the run-up to war.

Concern that Saddam had actively concealed deadly weapons of mass destruction served as one of primary reasons’ for the Coalition forces’ invasion of Iraq in March.
“In 1991 we were very close to developing a nuclear weapon, but had nothing at the time of the [March 2003] war, after so many years of [UNSCOM] inspections,” said the agent, adding, “they destroyed everything.”

It will come as little surprise to people who read this blog and others, but this is just one more little stone added to the mountain of evidence that the White House lied about/misused/screwed up whatever intelligence it was getting about WMD programs in Iraq.
But, and this fits in with everything I encountered in Iraq and from my own research and readings, Saddam was also fooled — by “maniacally sycophantic commanders and bodyguards who deceived him into believing that Iraq” stood a chance again the United States’ military.
I also believe Saddam felt he could bluff the West by claiming to have no WMDs, which is what everyone thought he would say, while acting like he did. By behaving like he had a royal flush when all he had was a measly pair of sixes, he could buck up his standing in the Arab world as the only leader to stand up to the United States, maintain his grip on his subjects who well remembered the gas attacks on the Kurdish north from 1984-1988 and keep his hold on power. But America called his bluff and now the world is what it is. I imagine the White House is feeling a bit like it won a huge pot of Monopoly money.
Two leaders lying, for their own purposes rather than for the good of their people. And such a mess of it all now. Today, Juan Cole reports, “three U.S. soldiers have been wounded in Kirkuk and Mosul”:; pro-Saddam demonstrations continue in Mosul, where police shot four students and protesters attacked Turkmen offices in the city; roadside bombs were exploded in Humairah and Baghdad; a senior member of the “Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution”: from the al-Hakim family has been killed; and a former Ba’ath official was literally torn limb from limb by a mob in Najaf.

New look, new mission

New look for a new mission.

Hello all! Well, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably noticed a drastic redesign of B2I. I’ve tried to make it a little cleaner and less cluttered, opened up the white space and added a banner and a logo. The archives and links have now been compressed into a pull-down menu.
I did a redesign before with B2I 2.0, which was my second trip to Iraq. B2I 3.0 marks a third trip, for which I’m also soliciting “donations”: This time, the goal is to make the stay and the reporting more permanent. Donations will be used as a cushion for the first few months and then I plan to support myself through freelancing. B2I will still be published, of course.
So that’s the status report. I hope you all like the new design. Best wishes and happy holidays.