Michael Rubin

Silent Majority
June 07, 2004

Last August, I participated in a town-hall meeting hosted by the administrative council of Dibis, an ethnically mixed town 22 miles northwest of Kirkuk. Locals complained about everything from sporadic electricity to fertilizer shortages to potholes, and their Iraqi representatives listened attentively. It was an encouraging sight, all the more so because the month before, Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) head L. Paul Bremer had proudly announced, in a televised speech, that "all of Iraq's main cities, and dozens of other towns, now have administrative councils." But there was a problem.

Exit Poll
May 03, 2004

LAST WEEK, U.N. Special Envoy to Iraq Lakhdar Brahimi stood before TV cameras, journalists, and diplomats in Baghdad's convention center and outlined his plan for the country's interim government, which will be vital to ensuring progress toward democracy. "There is no substitute for the legitimacy that comes from free and fair elections," Brahimi said. "Iraq will have a genuinely representative government." But there are different kinds of "representative government," some that merely represent the majority and others that protect the rights of minorities as well.

Small Arms
September 09, 2002

Today, Ba'adre is once again a sleepy, backwater town in northern Iraq, 25 miles south of Dohuk and miles from the nearest paved road. Few Iraqis have ever heard of Ba'adre, and fewer still visit. But, for 72 hours in December 2000, Ba'adre captured attention in crisis rooms in Washington, London, and Ankara after Iraqi troops invaded the Kurdish safe haven and laid siege to the town.

Deserted
February 11, 2002

As we walked along Timbuktu's sandy streets, past mud mosques and houses, warm winds from the Sahara whipped dust over the city, obscuring the sun and stinging my eyes. The wind did not bother my guide Muhammad, however.

Uncivil
October 22, 2001

“Anyone who thinks Islam is a religion of peace has never been to the Sudan,” said the county commissioner in Malual Kon, a small village nestled among farms and swampy grassland about ten miles from the front line of the country’s civil war. There, where Christians and animists have spent almost 20 years resisting the Sudanese government’s self-declared jihad, political correctness is in short supply. “They teach their children that killing a non-Muslim is a key to paradise,” the Christian official explained further.

Weakest Link
October 01, 2001

In the spring of 2000, I toured Afghanistan in an unusual way: freely. Normally, the Taliban tightly control foreign visitors. Journalists are quarantined in Kabul's former Inter-continental Hotel, forced to use government translators, and escorted by official guides. I was not. I had grown a beard and I can get by in Persian, which most Afghans understand. And one morning I simply checked out of the hotel, hopped in a taxi, and wandered for more than a week by myself, interviewing teachers, policemen, gravediggers, merchants, the unemployed, and the Taliban themselves.