When Saddam Hussein’s army went to war with the United States, it took the hopes, fantasies, and myths of the Arab world into battle with it. Iraq was to play one of two historically sentimental roles, both richly resonant in Arab politics. And, in so doing, it would serve as the vehicle for people from Saudi Arabia to Morocco who yearned for an Arab champion, or at least for a glorious, redeeming defeat. The preferred role was triumphant defender of Arab honor against the imperialist threat.
A few days after American troops entered Baghdad, I went to Saddam City, a sprawling slum inhabited almost exclusively by Shia Muslims. But, by the time I got there, Saddam City was gone. Yes, the people were still there, as was the poverty—the kids playing barefoot soccer on dirt lots and the young men carrying AK-47 assault rifles. But it was Saddam City no longer. THIS IS SADR CITY, announced a spray-painted sign as I drove into the slum, renamed for Sheik Mohammed Sadek Al Sadr, who was killed along with two of his sons in 1999 for speaking out against Saddam Hussein.
I have just returned from southern Iraq. It was the first time I had set foot in that part of my country since 1966. Back then, I used to accompany my father, dean of the School of Architecture in the University of Baghdad’s College of Engineering, while he led groups of his students on tours to study the architecture of the south. Two years later, a coup brought the Baath Party to power, eventually leading to the rule of Saddam Hussein. I was both elated to be back and heartbroken at what I saw this time in the wake of the tyrant’s downfall.
April 7, 2003
One of the regular features of life on board the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is the "Bully Big Stick Show"--so titled in honor of the ship's namesake--a weekly call-in program broadcast from the ship's onboard TV studio featuring the commanding officer, Captain Richard O'Hanlon, and his deputy, Executive Officer Terry Kraft. Sometime in the coming days, I am told, the show will boast a new wartime feature: declassified imagery, taken by the ship's fighter jets, of targets they have struck in Iraq.
Just when it seemed we had heard the last from the United Nations on the subject of Iraq, the battle of Turtle Bay resumed last week. An army of European statesmen regrouped and declared that, having been defeated in their efforts to constrain U.S. power before the war, they intend to pick up where they left off as soon as it ends. The European Union issued a formal statement insisting that "the U.N. must continue to play a central role" in Iraq, and the EU president, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, exhorted "the U.N.
On a Sunday just before Christmas in a village near Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, the silent air is more reminiscent of a church service than of the presidential election taking place that day. A young woman approaches the open-air voting table, picks up a paper showing President Obiang Nguema's picture, and hands it to an officer for sealing and posting in the ballot box.
Through my hotel room window, I can see soldiers--dressed like commandos, not like baggy-panted Kurdish peshmerga--rearranging themselves around a machine gun mounted in the wagon of a white Toyota pickup. They're often there, jumping out of the truck, jumping back in, speeding off. They are guarding Barham Saleh, the prime minister of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), who lives behind my small hotel in Sulaymaniya. A year ago, Saleh came home from the Palace Hotel just down the street, and three Islamic fighters leapt out of their car firing madly.
If the Bush administration’s preparations for war with Saddam Hussein were proceeding appropriately, the president would probably be curling up right now with something called a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) for Iraq. An NIE is a document pooling all the information on a particular country that U.S. intelligence services have collected from overheard phone calls, satellite photos, decrypted e-mails, defectors, paid informants, foreign intelligence services, diplomat tipsters, newspaper articles, and official speeches.
Jerusalem, Israel "The world hates us and always will," a neighbor said to me on the stairs before wishing me a good day. "What more do you need than the Holocaust?" He is Sephardi, without familial memory of Europe; but the bitter, new mood of besieged Israel has penetrated everywhere.