Monday, May 02, 2005
I very very quick update

Yes I left Iraq, and to know how others figured that out, check

I was hoping to write a long post, but since I came to Dubai, I've been extremely busy and once I finish settling down, I plan to make a longer post, and there is a chance that it will be a last post since that I am neither in Baghdad, nor it is year 04 anymore.

Maybe I should start a new blog: Life in UAE, and the URL would be thoughts05

Ahmed from UAE
Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Iraq, me, and wars.

I've written this post months ago, but did not post it, then I updated it two weeks ago, but still did not post it. Today I finally decided to post it. There is one piece of information that should be added at the end of the post, but I will not say it now and leave it till the timing is right. So here is the post.

At the age of eight, the Iraq-Iran war started. It was 1980 and I was in my second year of school then. My parents and other old wise people told us (the children) that this war will last for a few days or a week or two at max. Life paused for the first few days waiting for the war to end before resuming. As eager to go on as it always is, life did not wait and resumed after only one week and the war took EIGHT LONG YEARS.

As those of you who are good at Math must have figured, I was 16 when the war ended in 1988. It was an unforgettable date (8/8/88) and that day was one of the happiest days of my life and of all Iraqis. We had two relatively peaceful years. I am saying relatively because during those two years, most men were either in the military service, or working for the military industry establishment and we were still recovering from a long tedious war.

At the age of 18, Iraq invaded Kuwait. It was 2-Aug-1990. Operation Desert Storm started on the 17th of January 1991. I was preparing for my mid-year examination at the first year of college, and at the same time we were preparing for a war. I very vividly remember preparing a room in the house for a chemical attack and those were definitely not among my best memories. That was an even more horrifying war because most of the bombing was on Baghdad itself. The war took only a few weeks this time and electricity and basic services were restored within about 6 weeks. Life returned to almost normal, but the sanction began and the financial state of all Iraqis began to deteriorate very rapidly.

During that period, I was young (and single) and I did not worry much about things, and that made life much easier.

I was a 30 years married man, with an almost 2 year old daughter when the threats of the Iraq-Freedom war began. At that age and having a family to look after, I had everything to worry about. I used to browse the Internet (yes we did have internet before the war, but it was under a firm firewall and of course, censored) and read about the weapons and types of bombs that are to be used. There were talks about electromagnetic bombs, and many names of different kinds bombs that luckily I don’t now remember.

Worrying about a yet to come war, and its possible disastrous consequences is more difficult than actually going through the war.

There is an Iraqi saying that “The mother of a lost child cannot sleep, but the mother of a dead child can”. In other words, it is more difficult to worry about the unknown than to live it.

For many months we lived under distress thinking of the inevitable upcoming war. We did many preparations for the war. We bought food, water, drugs, and anything that one might think of that was enough for weeks.

The war finally started in March 2003, and the ex-regime officially ended in 9th of April 2003. A very short war it was. Or at least that was what we thought.

The days just following the war were very difficult with COMPLETE absence of security and looters and criminals completely loose. Those days past by and for the first time in years we started having great hopes of a bright future.

Things were bad back then, no security, no electricity, no fuel, but there was hope.

- First there was J Gardner, things did not get better.

- Then there was Bremer. We hoped for things to get better but they did not.

- We were promised that with the formation of the Governing Council (GC) that things will get better, but again they did not.

The GC formed a government, but that again did not help as promised.

This time we waited with more hope for the Interim government, which did not help either.

Back in November 2003, we had only few hours of electricity a day, there was shortage of fuel, I was too afraid to use my car alone, and there were many attacks against the US army.

Now its March 2005. We have almost 8 hours of electricity a day, there is still a shortage of fuel, Again I am afraid to use my car alone, and now the attacks are targeting Iraqis more than they are targeting the US army.

Now we are promised that after the elections and the formation of the new government, things will get better. Will they?

We are told to be patient. We have been patient for 24 years, how more patient one can be?

I am seriously thinking of leaving my country, at least for a couple of years, till things start to get better. I am a different person than I was two years ago, I am trying to save what’s left from the humorous, optimistic man I once was. If you read one of my very first posts (sent as letters then) you’ll notice the difference.

Saturday, February 19, 2005
A depressed Iraqi's reflections on some great quotes

There are many lovely quotes out there, but these are much more wiserthan to be considered ‘just lovely’. I’ve commented on some of them, but unfortunately not at one of my best moments.

“Years later, when I got to college, I learned about an important theory of psychology called Learned Helplessness, developed by Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman. This theory, backed up by years of research, is that A GREAT DEAL OF DEPRESSION GROWS OUT OF A FEELING OF HELPLESSNESS: THE FEELING THAT YOU CANNOT CONTROL YOUR ENVIRONMENT.”

- Measuring how much it is impossible to change one’s environment in Iraq, can give you a hint of the ‘great deal of depression’ that is growing out for us Iraqis

Democracy is a process by which the people are free to choose the man who will get the blame.
Laurence J. Peter

- Well, I chose one, but unfortunately he did not even get a chair in the new national assembly, so the one I chose will not be blamed after all.

The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flights, but they, while their companion slept, were toiling upward in the night.

- I’ve spent many nights working and keeping myself awake just by reminding myself of this quote, but unfortunately now we have a curfew at night so we cannot go toiling upward in the night ;-)

Management is not to make people work, but to make it possible for people to work

- I am a technical manager, and I’ve tried to follow this advice, but in Iraq ‘it is impossible to make it possible’ for people to work.

“Architecture is the art of how to waste space.”
—Phillip Johnson

- I’ll send this to my brother :D

" A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits."
President R. M. Nixon

- I am on the verge of quitting, so if I leave this country to avoid quitting, what will this action be considered?

"We are going to do something terrible to you. We are going to deprive you of an enemy" a top Soviet official addressing the Americans

- America: It is strange how much this statement is true, and how the US officials quickly managed to find a way around this.

"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." Herman Goring at the Nuremberg Trials

- I worry that this is what the Americans, and our governments are really doing. I do hope this is not the case.

"Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster." Nietzsche

- America and any new Iraqi government, please be careful.
I do fear that when any new Iraqi government tries to follow up and catch terrorists or any of those whom it thinks are a source of threat, the government will reach a point where it will follow the same techniques that Saddam did in stopping those opposing him.

" Imagination is more important than knowledge." Albert Einstien

- I thank God that I have a little of both.

"Oil is too important to be left to the Arabs." Henry Kissinger

- Well, it has not been really left to the Arabs at any time. So don’t worry

"I touch the future. I teach." Christa McAuliffe, Arab-American Astronaut

- I do hope to touch the future sometime in the future.
In 1998 I taught a course of Advanced Engineering Mathematics, I paid more money to the parking man at the university parking than the university paid me! but I touched the future then, I was happy with that then, but also, I was broke then. It would help to gain some money while touching the future.

"Be the change that you want to see in the world." Gandhi

- Believe me, I am doing my best.

"If you hit bottom, there is no way but up" Arabic proverb

- We Iraqis, and for the past 35 years, we’ve always thought that we had hit the bottom, but amazingly enough, it always turns out that what we had hit was not yet the real bottom. This situation still holds.... Please define ‘bottom’ we do need to know where we stand.

"Man who say it cannot be done should not interrupt man doing it."
Chinese Proverb

- If at any point in time, I will say that the situation in Iraq has reached a point that it is beyond repair, please remind me of this quote.

Despite all this, I still believe that in two years time, Iraq ‘will start to see some improvement and will start the rebuilding process. What I am worried about is the next couple of years till this starts happening.
Sunday, January 30, 2005
I did

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Ultimate Voters Guide

My company decided that it is better not to go to work till after the elections because of the increasing risk factor involved. Therefore, I’ll have a lot of spare time and amazingly enough, I’ve decided to write a post. so I sat down, started my computer, started the word processor and started gazing at the white page on screen.

As with what usually happens whenever I wanted to write a post lately (and which lead to me not posting), I started thinking why should I post? I know that you will say that it is useful to let others, specially the Americans, know what is really happening in Iraq, but is it really useful? How many people will read the post? And if all those people decide to do something for us, will they be able to? And if so, what is that thing that can help us? If I as an Iraqi don’t know, how will they?

Another reason preventing me from posting is that I’ve used my real name and that prevented me from writing some of the things I really wanted to. Maybe starting another blog with a false name is an idea worth considering.

One noble reason I keep convincing myself with is to let others see the true good side of Iraqis and Muslims that the ignorant Iraqis and Muslims are doing a very good job at destroying.

Enough with this discussion. I finally came to the conclusion that with so much spare time, posting is at least better than doing nothing or watching TV.

Attention: Complicated paragraph ahead. If you have a headache, just skip it.
Well the truth is that I do have much ‘scientific’ reading to do but I am being lazy and doing nothing or watching TV instead. So concluding that posting is better than being lazy and doing nothing or watching TV instead of reading which I should do, lead to me ending up posting instead of reading which in fact is more useful than posting! (I, on the other hand, have been reading ‘The ultimate hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy’ by Doglas Adams and this paragraph reflects my influence by his writing style. This novel is not what I was referring to by scientific reading – It will be useful though to write a post ‘The ultimate hitchhikers guide to Iraq’ since it is more dangerous and can be more adventurous than hitchhiking at the Galaxy).

So here is my long awaited post.

The ultimate question: “To vote or not to vote?” (I read this quote somewhere but I forgot where, I assume the source will not mind me using it)

Personally, I very much do want to vote, but up to this moment I have not decided whether I actually will. I think I’ll wait till the elections day, see how things will go and decide then. My family is afraid of voting and are asking me not to go fearing for my safety, but as I said, I have not decided yet.

Once I’ve read a very useful quote meaning that when you are forced to choose between two alternatives, choose the one that will not make you feel guilty or sorry if it turns out to be the wrong one.

Let’s apply this rule on ‘to vote or not to vote’.

If I choose ‘not to vote’, and the elections turned out to be successful, I might regret that I was not part of this process. This leads to the conclusion that I should vote.

If I choose to vote, and then something bad happens to me or to any of my family, I will surely regret my decision even if the elections succeed. This then means that I should not vote.
Oops, the rule does not apply on this case.

What complicates things is that the area I live in seems to be against the elections since one can hardly see any elections posters that I see in many other places in Baghdad.

But what if everyone thinks like me, Which means no one will vote and the elections will fail. Then I should vote to prevent that. But will my decision really have to do with that of any other? The answer is no (I forgot what this case is called in the probability theory – I think it was that my decision and that of any other is mutually exclusive). If this is the case, then I can ‘not vote’ since this will not affect the decision of others, and being one person whose decision ‘not to vote’ will not affect the whole process, then it’s safer not to vote. Problem solved. Unfortunately, I am still not convinced :(

Moreover, all the above discussion assumes that the results will not be tampered with, something that many doubt and say that the results are pre-set and have decided not to vote accordingly.

One thing you don’t know about me, is that I can keep on with such an argument for ever, but luckily for you, I will not.

Now a brief discussion about the nominated lists
There are 84 lists each list containing from 1 to more than 200 people, the total number of people in all the lists is about 7000 whose names was only published last Tuesday that is less than a week before the elections day and that is because the nominees were too afraid to declare their names.
Only the main 5-10 names in each list was declared from the beginning and it looks like that those top names are the only ones people are looking at.

I, Personally have a reasonably good knowledge of 7 of those 84 lists.

- The Independent Democrats List: Headed by Adnan Al Pachachi, who is an old politician and whose list contains an elite of educated Sunnis and Shias. So it can be categorized as a purely secular list. But unfortunately it is not a popular list for some reason that I don’t know of.
- The Iraqi Coalition (Al I’tilaf Al Iraqi) list: Contains the 4 major Islamic shiat parties in addition to some individuals and a minority of Sunni individuals. This list is informally backup up by Sistani and this qualifies it to take most of the Shias votes. Despite of the fact that those in the list deny this fact bu I think those in it are greatly influenced by Iran. I wish that I am wrong in this.
- The People’s Union list: This is basically a communist’s lists with a few other independent individuals. Surprisingly enough it looks like it is quite popular and according to many surveys it is expected to get between 17%-25% of the votes!
- The Kurdistan Coalition list: This is the main Kurdish list and is expected to get the majority of the votes from the Kurds.
- ‘The Iraqi List’: Headed by Ayad Allawi, a secular list that is not very popular because of Allawi’s failure to control things during the period he has been in power, but nevertheless surveys show that it might get about %10 of the votes.
- The Constitutional Monarchy list: Headed by Al Shareef Ali. A secular list that is not opposed by neither Sunnis, nor Shias, but also not popular.
- The ‘Iraqis’ list: Headed by Ghazi Al Yawir, the current president. Its name is very similar to that of Allawi’s. Also a secular list but again not very popular.

Surveys show these lists in the following order.
1- The Iraqi Coalition (Al I’tilaf Al Iraqi) list: about 35%-40%
2- The People’s Union list: about 17%-%25%
3- The Kurdistan Coalition list: about 10%-17%
4- Allawi’s list: About 10%
5- The other three lists did not get more than 3% of the votes each.

Unfortunately I support the three lists that took the least number of votes :(

I guess this long post may make up for me not posting for a LONG time.