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38-page letter (Scientology, Christians and crime: a conspiracy theory) - Are Scientology, Christian and government groups, and site author Eric Nakao linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, various plane crashes, Brandon Lee, Nancy Kerrigan and other strange and violent events from the early 1990s? Could it be part of an elaborate hoax or is there something more? Many events from the New York City area. Some descriptions of harassment of site author. Also, possible supernatural occurrences and theorizing about intelligence agency connections.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Mixed marriages targeted: Is mixed region a solution?

"As U.S. and Iraqi forces attempt to pacify the capital, mixed couples who symbolize Iraq's once famous tolerance are increasingly entangled by hate.
. . . 'In the absence of security, Iraqis are protecting themselves by turning to their sects and their tribes,' said Zina Abdul Rasul, a U.N. human rights worker who herself is a product of a mixed marriage. 'It is becoming normal to hear about mixed families breaking down.'
. . . While there are no official statistics, sociologists estimate that nearly a third of Iraqi marriages are unions between members of different sectarian or ethnic communities. In the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, many Iraqis argued that the prevalence of such unions showed that Iraqis cared more about their Arab or national identity than their sect, which would spare the country a civil war.
But Iraq's sectarian strife has risen sharply since the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra by Sunni militants a year ago. Since then, more than 500,000 Iraqis have fled their homes, a number that is growing by 50,000 every month, according to the United Nations. The vast majority have left mixed areas, the main battlefields of the sectarian war."

Could a mixed, secular province or region be a solution? If 1 in 3 marriages are mixed marriages, then it seems that they would make up a significant number of people. If you add other possible inhabitants such as family members of the mixed marriages, non-sectarian secularists, minority groups, artistic/creative types, other targeted groups or individuals, or people who would just enjoy living in a mixed, secular area, the number would be even larger. *

Last year's federalism law is due to take effect in a little over a year. It will allow provinces to vote on whether to form semi-autonomous provinces or join with other provinces to form semi-autonomous regions. There's no reason that a mixed, secular province or region could not be formed when this law takes effect.

Of course, having a country where one could live peacefully in any location would probably be the preference. But considering all the violence over the past years, this sort of countrywide peace, if ever achieved, may be an uneasy peace at best for awhile. And even with relative peace, there is no guarantee that mixed marriages and others will not continue to be targeted. So the formation of a mixed, secular province or region with security designed especially for its inhabitants seems like it would be a desirable goal.

* Christians might also be included among these groups unless they succeed in forming their own area.

[1] Raghavan, Sudarsan. (The Washington Post). Marriages Between Sects Come Under Siege in Iraq. March 4, 2007.

posted: tuesday, march 6, 2007, 6:30 PM ET

update: saturday, march 10, 2007, 9:10 AM ET


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Is Iraq getting ready to ask America to leave? / Thoughts on the morality of American withdrawal

"After the invasion, as a Shiite religious revival blossomed, Iraq's clerics saw themselves as the caretakers of the nation's Islamic identity. They were as concerned about American power and ambitions for Iraq as they were about the importation of a decadent Western culture. Many refused to deal with U.S. officials . . . a tactic that reaps immense rewards today from a population that is increasingly disenchanted with the United States.
'There's no necessity to meet the Americans,' said Beirut-based Hamid al-Khafaf, the chief spokesman for Sistani. He added that Sistani favored peaceful resistance to end the U.S. occupation.
. . . Senior Sadr officials have circulated a petition among national lawmakers demanding a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. They have managed to get 131 signatures, nearly half of the parliament, [independent Kurdish legislator Mahmoud] Othman said.
. . . Hakim, he said [Mahdi Army member Ali Hussein], made a fatal mistake by meeting Bush. In today's Iraq, credibility and power are measured by opposition to the United States."

Is Iraq getting ready to ask America to leave? According to the above article and other sources like a September 2006 poll by the Program on International Policy Attitudes, many Iraqi politicians and apparently a majority of the Iraqi public would like to see America withdraw. (The September poll said that seven in ten Iraqis would like America to leave within a year and six in ten support attacks on coalition forces.) [2]

The petition by the Sadr officials demanding a withdrawal timetable would be a good solid step in this direction. A formal debate and vote by the Iraqi Parliament would be even better. The Parliament could also arrange a national referendum asking the Iraqi people if they wanted America to stay or go. (I had heard of the referendum idea in a reader's letter to the New York Times which I, unfortunately, cannot locate.) Broad-based, peaceful, mass demonstrations could also be helpful. *

If this is what the Iraqis truly want, then the above types of strong unambivalent expressions of discontent could very well lead to a successful outcome, especially since one of America's stated goals has been to give the Iraqis a voice in their newly democratic country.

If the Iraqis asked America to leave, it would also remove much of the America's moral obligation to remain, in my opinion, unless America has somehow manipulated Iraq into taking this position. Though America should still do all it can to help in other ways, considering its initial invasion was the cause of most of the current problems or allowed them to emerge. **

America could conceivably remain in well-defined, seemingly pro-American, areas like Kurdistan or maybe the northern Nineveh area to help protect these areas from attack. (I've read that some of the targeted Iraqi Christians have expressed a desire for a region in the Nineveh area)
[3] America's presence in these areas would be purely defensive, however, and only at the request of the people in those areas. Their presence would not be used to stage present or future attacks on the rest of Iraq or the Middle East region, no matter what the cause. ***

* Apparently, the Iraqi prime minister has most of the authority over Iraq's security matters and it's uncertain if Prime Minister Maliki would ever request an American withdrawal. On the other hand, Maliki is just one person and was not directly elected by the people of Iraq. So if the people's directly elected representatives in Parliament and/or the people themselves through a referendum were to formally request an American withdrawal, it would be interesting to see what would happen.

** America might also leave, from a moral perspective (if I can use that word again), if its continued presence was a necessary cause of most of the violence or if its presence was preventing a solution to the violence from being implemented. Though its other obligations would remain.

It's been said that America's continued presence has been the cause of the continuing insurgent and terrorist violence. If an American withdrawal would cause the insurgent-terrorist violence to cease, then America might leave for that reason. However, it's not certain if these two forces would, in fact, cease their violent attacks if America left since it's also been said that the insurgents' and terrorists' goal is not only to cause an American withdrawal, but to foment civil war through attacks on the Shiite majority.
One might also ask if America's withdrawal would cause the insurgents and terrorists to cease their violence, but America's withdrawal would also deny innocent Iraqis needed protection from ongoing sectarian violence, then should America morally remain or withdraw? I don't really have the answer to that. I'm just presenting general alternatives to show that it is not simply a matter of America staying is moral and America withdrawing is immoral or vice-versa.
On that note, America might also exit if it was suffering great hardship. It might take something of a moral hit for placing its own hardship above that of the Iraqis (whose hardship was caused by America's initial invasion, in my opinion), but it would be less of a hit than if America left just because it was tired or fed up with the situation.

*** Sadr has since introduced a law in the Iraqi Parliament that would require U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities by the end of August of this year (see
Sadr's redeployment plan, 1/23/07.)

[1] The Washington Post. Shiite Clerics' Rivalry Deepens In Fragile Iraq. December 21, 2006.
[2] Program on International Policy Attitudes. The Iraqi Public on the US Presence and the Future of Iraq. September 27, 2006.
[3] The Associated Press. U.S. Iraqi Christians Seek Help. December 15, 2006.

update: friday, january 26, 2007, 2:06 PM ET



Sunday, November 12, 2006

Federalize Iraq's economy: The Tall Afar example

"A year ago, U.S. officials championed the military's success in pushing insurgents out of this city in Iraq's northwestern desert, reclaiming it for the roughly 250,000 residents and eliminating an insurgent safe haven. President Bush publicly praised the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's effort.
In the months since, soldiers say, Tall Afar has proved a model for the rest of Iraq, an insurgent stronghold turned relatively peaceful.
. . . Hundreds of millions of dollars was promised to help rebuild and restore Tall Afar, but the money has just started to trickle in through the Iraqi central government's staggeringly slow bureaucracy.
. . . Sectarian violence has been stemmed by cooperation among Sunni and Shiite Muslim sheiks.
. . . 'We had high hopes the Iraqi government would be able to produce more visible, tangible results quicker,' said Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, deputy commander for operations with Multinational Division -- North, based in Tikrit. 'How long will a civilized people that are very much in need of basic fundamental services wait before they are frustrated and look somewhere else?'
Jibouri, the mayor, said: 'You can't separate what happens in Tall Afar and what happens in the rest of Iraq. If Iraq recovers, Tall Afar will recover. If Iraq doesn't succeed, Tall Afar will again fall.' "

So wouldn't it be better if places like Tall Afar could receive their funds directly instead of having to rely on the much-troubled central government? Does Iraq's future have to depend on the successful creation of a viable government on the largest, most complex, national level? Couldn't it also have the chance to succeed on the less complex, more manageable, local level where their efforts would be tied to the practical concerns of their daily lives rather than the grand, so-far-intractable, political concerns that are plaguing the politicians in Baghdad?

Maybe the role of Iraq's central government in the economy could be that of oversight. They could assert their power only in the most egregious instances of local corruption or incompetence, otherwise leaving them alone to find their own paths to success.

* The Iraqi government is "working on the creation of their reconstruction board which would be able to disburse money more quickly for projects because the Ministry of Finance is having trouble disbursing money," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at a December 14 interview. [2]

[1] The Washington Post. Tall Afar's Long Road Back: City Seen as Model in Curbing Violence Is Struggling to Rebuild. November 11, 2006.
[2] U.S. Department of State. Interview With The Washington Post Editorial Board. Condoleezza Rice. December 14, 2006.

update: sunday, december 24, 2006, 3:10 PM ET


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Saudi ambassador says partition would be disaster / disaster counterarguments / five or more region federalism / Iraqi Constitutional federalism

"Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington . . . Prince Turki al-Faisal cautioned against the notion of splitting the war-scarred nation into three sectors for Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis.
. . . 'To envision that you can divide Iraq into three parts is to envision ethnic cleansing on a massive scale, sectarian killing on a massive scale and the uprooting of families,' he said.
'Those who call for a partition of Iraq are calling for a three-fold increase in the problems,' Prince Turki said.
'It is practically impossible for Iraq to be divided on sectarian lines or even on ethnic lines; there is just too much intermingling of Iraqis with each other in every part of Iraq.' "

There seems to be the suggestion lately that Iraq is a largely mixed population country and not the nation that outside of mixed cities is divided into largely Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south as I had read before. Was I misinformed? Does this mean I'll stop coming across descriptions such as "Shiite-south" or "Kurdish-north?" But if this is true, then the degree to which Iraq's populations are mixed will have an effect on any possible partition solutions. The more mixed, the harder it will be. Though the Shiites and Sunnis seem to be driving each other out of their respective neighborhoods, so maybe there won't be any mixed cities after awhile. That would seem to make partition easier. At least the physical aspect of it. I don't think it would bode well for future relations between the two violently formed halves of these formerly mixed cities. (see "Five or more region federalism" below and also "Federalism and mixed cities" and Land swap federalism postings.)

As to the idea that partition would lead to massive ethnic cleansing, this didn't happen in Bosnia. Though partition has apparently failed in other countries, I imagine that if it were decided to partition Iraq, either in the hard or soft version, it would be done based on the model of the successful partitions and not the unsuccessful ones. *

On the uprooting of families, from what I gather, many families have already left on their own and many others would leave if they had the means to leave or had willing countries that would accept them. The issue of uprooted families - if I'm understanding it correctly - could also be addressed by making the moving of families voluntary. If, for some reason, a family chose to remain in a dangerous area when transport to an area of safety and support was offered, they would be free to do so.

The way I see it is that given the present situation, if Iraq was divided into three or more regions of largely alike people, they could turn their attention from the killing of non-alike people and concentrate on building a relatively peaceful and prosperous region for themselves and their fellow region dwellers. They could also concentrate on building an effective security force comprised of people they could trust since having an effective security force seems to be an important factor in maintaining a relatively peaceful region. And since they would be secure in their region, they might not feel threatened by the presence of minority groups in their regions and would allow them the rights and privileges that the majority enjoyed as long as they did not threaten the majority status quo. Each region would also have minority members of the other regions' majority groups living in their region, so there could be a kind of reciprocity of good treatment of each others' minority members within each region. And also, the national government or a committee organized by the regions could serve as an independent arbitrator of any particularly contentious issues that may arise.

I believe that one of the main reason Iraq seems to be failing is because so many things seem to be tied to the efforts of a largely ineffective national government. And the ineffectiveness of the national government (though they have had some successes) seems to be tied to the unwillingness or inability of the national leaders of the different sects to work together to make the so-called hard decisions. Partition or federalism, in theory, should remove this obstacle of sectarian gridlock since each region would consist of largely one sect, so that each ruling sect should be able to make the so-called hard decisions without having to deal with the intractable opposition of the rival sect members. And when they make these so-called hard decisions, each region should be able to build the necessary political, economic and security structures necessary for the well-being and contentment of their respective constituent population.

Minority rights will be an important part of this type of majority-ruled region. The existence of minorities within a majority-ruled region should not preclude the successful existence of this type of region. Kurdistan would be an example of a relatively successful majority-ruled region that respects the rights of its minority members, more or less.

Good relations and well-defined borders between the regions would also be important. Support of insurgencies into one another's territories or fighting over land would not make for a model of stability. Just because the national sect leaders couldn't get together in making decisions does not mean that regional sect leaders couldn't get along with one another on the diplomatic level. The vital and potentially exacerbating issues of money and power that had to be grappled with on the national level would largely be absent from the inter-regional level. Each region would already have these things, so the relations between the regional leaders should be much less complex and antagonistic than they apparently were for the purely national sect leaders.

There are probably other possible ways besides federalism of overcoming the sectarian divisions and creating an effective government. These may work as well, as badly or better than federalism, but I've been following federalism, so am concentrating on the possibilities of that potential solution.

I am also not advocating sectarianism for its own sake, but only as a possible solution for the present conditions that seem to exist in Iraq.
soft partition
I would probably prefer a softer form of partition, like Kurdistan, because it appears less drastic than hard partition and would seem less objectionable to the people in Iraq. Though many apparently oppose soft partition as well and federalism should not be attempted without at least a majority consent.
80% violence area partition
On November 15, 2006, General John Abizaid said that "around 80% of the sectarian violence in Iraq happens within a 35-mile radius of Baghdad." [4] So maybe only that area needs to be partitioned. They seemed to have already tried blocking off Baghdad without much success, however, if that's the same as partition. There might also be benefits to federalizing (i.e., soft-partitioning) the area outside a partitioned 80% violence area. Their trusted regional security forces could help protect them against any violent influences that slipped through the 80% area's partition. These defensive actions could also help contain the violence within the 80% area as well as allow the Iraqi national and Coalition forces to concentrate their efforts on the 80% area since the federalized areas would largely be handling their own security. Self-defending federalized outer regions might also serve as a de facto partition of the 80% area if a formal partition of that area was not constructed.
Five or more region federalism
A US Government map of religious and ethnic locations in Iraq seems to indicate five clearly defined regions that consist largely of the following five groups: Kurd, Sunni, Shia, Kurd-Sunni and Shia-Sunni [3]. So if partition were chosen as the solution, then maybe instead of three regions (Sunni, Shia, Kurd), they could have the above five regions instead, with a possible sixth region consisting of the 80% violence region.

Much of the tension in the mixed Kurd-Sunni or Shia-Sunni regions may be coming from the more homogenous regions. Moktada al-Sadr, leader of the Mahdi Army militia, is headquartered in Najaf in the southern Shia region and most of the insurgents and terrorists seem to be based in the Sunni region. It could also be coming from outside countries like Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia or America. The point is that they're coming from the outside. Even if local people are being recruited to take part in the sectarian violence, it seems like it is the outside forces that are doing the recruiting. Or the locally organized violence is a reaction to the violent actions of these outside forces.

From what I read in the papers, many of the people from these different sects seem to say that they got along before the rise of the sectarian violence. And they apparently still get along, even risking their own safety to help one another. Though this seems to be changing. But hopefully they aren't too far gone to revert to their old generally harmonious ways if given the opportunity. So if it is true that most of the people in these mixed areas get along or recently got along, then why could a mixed area not be viable? Isn't it the outside, provoking forces - the militias, insurgents and others - that are causing the problems and are giving the mistaken impression that most members of these different sects have a deep-seated desire to harm one another? And if the majority of people in these mixed areas could be protected from these outside forces, couldn't their areas be as viable now as they were before the rise in sectarian violence?

If these mixed regions became federalized, they might be able to protect themselves from these outside forces better than the current national government is able to do. They could focus on the building of their mixed region and not be tied to or influenced by these outside forces like some factions within the national government seem to be.
The mixed regions would need to know the complete truth of their situation and have a strong belief in their ability, as a large and powerful group of like-minded people, to take control of their lives. They must also get organized, formulate a viable plan and find the best way to implement their plan.

These mixed regions might also turn out to be more secular than the homogenous regions since one religious group would not predominate. This would be especially good for those who would prefer to live their lives in a largely secular manner. They could be like Iraq in the 1970s before Saddam started attacking everyone. Those who would like to live in an area governed by one religion could live in the Sunni or Shiite region. And the people in those regions who don't like that way of life could move to one of the more secular regions.

(The Sunnis might not be overly religious. I don't want to confuse them with al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The Sunni-dominated Saddam era was secular. But still, they seem to want to dominate, so the mixed region could provide a place for those who don't want one sect to dominate.)

And the mixed regions, being located between the more homogenous regions, might also serve as buffer zones between those regions. After they established their independent natures, they might even be able to serve as mediators between those regions - assuming tensions still existed - since the mixed region between the Sunni and Shiite regions has both Sunnis and Shiites and the mixed region between the Sunni and Kurdish regions has both Sunnis and Kurds. (The Shiites and the Kurds seem to largely get along with one another already.)

With over 2 million Shiites, Sadr City could probably be part of the Shiite region even though it's in a mixed region. The Shiites could also form two or more regions if their various subgroups could not work something out. And I also read that the some of the persecuted Iraqi Christians would also like to form their own small region, so this would be something else to consider.
Iraqi Constitutional federalism
The Iraqi Constitution contains a fairly detailed plan for federalism. Since they've seemed to have already thought it through, this is probably the plan that should be followed, more or less, if federalism ever occurs in their country. It doesn't specify a set number of regions either. Each governate (or province) votes on whether it wants to form a region by itself, with others or not at all. So secular or Christian, as well as any type of Sunni, Shiite or Kurdish regions, are all possibilities under the Iraqi plan. [7]
Iraq could still be one nation under all the above partition-federalism systems, if that's what they wanted. Iraq's political system could be similar to the United States which has 50 federalized states. It's already covered in their Constitution. [7]

There are some other issues to consider such as the apparent objection of many or most Iraqis to federalism and the problematic nature of the Sunni region. These issues are discussed in another posting. (see Satterfield and Abizaid say partition would be disaster / disaster counterarguments / strongman-led Sunni region.)

footnote (Bosnia counterargument)
* "There are so many people killing so many other people for so many different reasons -- religion, crime, politics -- that all the proposals for how to settle this problem seem laughable. It was possible to settle Bosnia's civil war by turning the country into a loose federation, because the main parties to that conflict were reasonably coherent, with leaders who could cut a deal and deliver their faction.
But Iraq is in so many little pieces now, divided among warlords, foreign terrorists, gangs, militias, parties, the police and the army, that nobody seems able to deliver anybody. Iraq has entered a stage beyond civil war -- it's gone from breaking apart to breaking down. This is not the Arab Yugoslavia anymore. It's Hobbes's jungle."

Maybe Iraq is too splintered now for federalism-partition to work. But if they were to try, they might try the following: Militias, parties, police and the army seem to be sect-based. So if they were grouped into their respective sect-based regions, the previously warring subgroups might possibly be able to come to an understanding. Working together with subgroups of their own sect would seem more likely to succeed than with subgroups of other sects. Many say that the Shiites are splintered now, but that they are attempting to form a united front. (Though if the Shiites or other sects weren't able to work together for some reason, the formation of two or more subregions is always a possibility.) To take another example, Kurdistan had a number of warring factions in its early stages, but they were able to come to an understanding for the common good. So there's always hope.

Warlords, foreign terrorists and gangs would be a police-security matter that could be handled by the hopefully effective police-security forces of each sect-based region with assistance from coalition forces. And the improved economic and political structures that were built by these regions could reduce the number of recruits for and support for many of these violent splinter groups.

So it would be a two-step solution. The subordination of sect-based splinter groups under a common sectarian power base would come first, then the coalition forces could battle the police-security-based splinter groups until a region's police-security forces was ready to take over. And since the sectarian splinter groups of the first step seem to presently constitute the majority of violence, the number of coalition forces needed for the second step should be much less than is needed now.

And though Bosnia has provided a proven, time-tested model for a possible ending to the war in Iraq, it seems to be experiencing difficulties when it comes to building a workable government. So a new model for this important government-building aspect of Bosnia may be needed. (see Bosnia posting, 1/20/07.)

[1] The News - International. Saudi warns of mass ethnic cleansing if Iraq splits. November 1, 2006.
[2] Embassy of the United States. Baghdad, Iraq. Transcript Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and General George Casey during Joint Press Conference. October 24, 2006.
[3] BBC News. Living in Iraq: People. No date.

[4] U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services. Senate Armed Services Committee Testimony. GEN Abizaid. November 15, 2006. (prepared statement).
[5] The New York Times. A Matter of Definition: What Makes a Civil War, and Who Declares It So? November 26, 2006.
[6] The Associated Press. U.S. Iraqi Christians Seek Help. December 15, 2006.
[7] Iraqi Constitution. (iraqigovernment.org). Accessed January 26, 2007.
[8] The New York Times. Ten Months or Ten Years. November 29, 2006 [TIMES SELECT].

[1] Biden, Joseph & Gelb, Leslie. (PlanforIraq.com). Biden-Gelb Plan for Iraq. Accessed January 7, 2007.
[2] O'Hanlon, Michael E. & Joseph, Edward P. (The American Interest Online). A Bosnia Option for Iraq. January 1, 2007.

update: friday, january 26, 2007, 4:08 PM ET


Monday, July 17, 2006

Is Iraq a moral issue?

While the debate over Iraq seems to be focusing on questions of national security and the cost of the war to America, isn't there also a moral dimension? [1] This dimension would be, of course, the suffering of the Iraqi people. America's invasion destroyed their country's government and has not been able to replace it with a workable alternative. This has resulted in perhaps even greater suffering than the people of Iraq had experienced under Saddam Hussein. If America exits before Iraq can stabilize, it appears that this suffering will continue, if not increase. Why is this not part of the debate as well? *

* If America stays, this does not mean it has to follow the same (so far, unsuccessful) course.

[1] The Washington Post. How Common Ground of 9/11 Gave Way to Partisan Split. July 16, 2006.


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