Wednesday, October 19, 2005

More Insurgent Academics!

Here’s another example of America’s incredibly left leaning professors, another one who ignores facts and remains terribly misinformed about his subject matter. Monday’s Asia Times, apparently a pretty liberal sheet overall, carried this piece by Professor Mark Levine. Mark is a professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at UC Irvine.

First a look at Mark’s evaluation of the Iraqi Constitution. Here is a brief cut and pasted look at some of his argument:

"Saturday's referendum will likely neither end the insurgency nor bring the country closer to significant democratic development. The original draft of the constitution did set important benchmarks for democracy and personal freedom for Iraqis. But these advances are overshadowed by what the constitution left out. Specifically, there are no references to three issues that are of primary concern to most Arab, and especially Sunni Iraqis: a prohibition on the long-term presence of foreign - read American - troops in the country; a firm statement emphasizing Iraqi control of production and distribution of the country's oil resources; and a commitment to rebuilding the social infrastructure that was devastated by the invasion and subsequent wholesale privatization of the country's economy under US auspices.

For most every Arab Iraqi the withdrawal of all American and other foreign troops is the sine qua non for ending the insurgency. That the constitutional negotiators couldn't include any prohibition of foreign troops, or deal straightforwardly with the other two core issues, demonstrates the continuing and largely deleterious power of the US in the country's internal affairs."

This is the heart of his message. It shows an amazing amount of ignorance for someone with a Doctorate in History. I suppose that by specializing in Middle Eastern history, Levine managed to avoid looking at very many functional constitutions. I guess those American History classes were too long ago to remember. Still someone with his credentials should know a few facts. First a constitution is not an exhaustive list of legislation. It is a foundation document on which to base specific laws. In addition the very act creating a constitution demonstrates a determination to independent sovereignty. Writing and negotiating the document demonstrates an intent to reduce the number and role of US forces.

Another fact that he seems to have misplaced, historically speaking constitutions that include sweeping socialist economic policies have not fared so well. The road to economic prosperity in the past century or so, has been liberal market economics. This requires at least a stable and relatively open rule of law. Nations with stable civil societies, democratic institutions and regulated but free markets advance and prosper fastest. Civil society is the biggest missing piece in Iraq, not a constitutionally enforced socialist economy.

Whether through further ignorance, or willful deceit, Levine next conflates a variety of factions in Iraq. Removal of American forces may be the end state desired by all Iraqis. But “every Arab” is not in the Insurgency. The Sunnis are the Sunnis and only a miniscule portion of them participate in the insurgency.

The highest estimated count of insurgents, which I dispute, but will use for argument’s sake, is 200,000. This is less than 1% of the entire population. It is in fact only about 4% of the Sunni Arab population. Far less than the number of Sunnis who turned out to vote on Saturday. It is even less than the number of Sunni Arabs who voted in January. It seems that far more of the Sunnis are interested in a political solution than in violence.

Which highlights his further ignorance in stating that American forces are the real object of the violence. By every account the leaders of the insurgency are smart and sophisticated. They must know, that without the active insurgency, American forces would have been more than halved by now. No, they are aiming there weapons at us, but it is a psychological operation against the Shiites. A play for power in the post-occupation.

Saddam’s Trial is just beginning as I write this, It’s 7 AM 19 Oct. in Baghdad right now. He’s on trial for conspiring to kill 148 men in the city of Ad Dujayl. His point man and agent in that city was one Abdullah Raweed, for 15 months after the fall of Saddam’s defeat and six months after Saddam’s arrest, Raweed continued to intimidate the Shiite majority in Ad Dujayl. When my company finally locked him up in June 2004, witness began to come forth, there fear was over. The insurgency is about continuing hat kind of intimidation.

So who is this Professor of History who has no idea of constitutional formation? Who thinks that what is wrong with Iraq is that America is removing the Socialism? In his own words:

“My research and teaching focus on the following issues: histories, theologies and political and cultural economies of the Middle East and Islam in the modern and contemporary periods, Palestine/Israel, comparative studies of imperialism and colonialism, urban planning and architecture (history and theory), critical theory, and globalization studies with a comparative focus on popular cultures and religion in Europe and the Muslim world. I have also begun a new project which studies the origins of civil societies and public spheres in the Muslim world and explores how Gramsci and Foucault grappled with specifically religious themes in their work within this framework.”

Note to the uninitiated Gramsci and Foucault pretty much stand in for Marx here.

“I am also a professional musician and have worked with artists such as Mick Jagger, Dr. John, Johnny Copeland, Albert Collins, Chuck D, Michael Franti, Ozomatli, world music artists Hassan Hakmoun, Sara Alexander and others.”

Pretty important to let people interested in your Academic credentials know all of this (it's on his UC website.)

“My scholarship, activism and music are all tied to my commitment to struggles for social justice in the United States and around the world. I am also an Advisory Board member of Occupation Watch (which was established by Global Exchange and other organizations to monitor the American occupation of Iraq and help build indigenous and autonomous civil society institutions in the country.”

Well now we know where he stands. Even as a professor he’s not particularly interested in the facts as much as pursuing an activist agenda. As we’ve seen he abuses the few facts he manages to understand. But a professor of History who thinks a constitution should be an exhaustive, explicit, rigid and socialist document, really doesn’t understand much about History. Does he? No he just wants to blame America first.

HUGE Hat Tip to John at Random Jottings for this story.

Thanks as always to Greyhawk and Co.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Justice for Dujail

Ad Dujayl today is a small bustling city, of perhaps 50,000 mostly Shi’a souls. Some of whom still look wounded and scared. Two parts dusty Medieval Arabia and one part dusty Wild West, the city is sprinkled with a dusting of modernity. Once, before 1982, it was a less dusty, and less wild. According to its citizens, it was an oasis, a garden spot in the semi-arid terrain of the Mesopotamian valley. A soccer stadium used by national teams stood at the crossroads near the city’s gate.

The city economy flourished, primarily through agriculture. Lush date palm plantations surrounded the city, watered by the Isaky Canal, a major branch of the Tigris. Dates remain a staple cash crop throughout the mid-east. Today, a few miles down the highway, the groves reappear. They are easily spotted, with orderly rows of palm trees each green top exactly as tall as its neighbors.

On June 8, 1982, Saddam was passing through Ad Dujayl, when a group of men ambushed his motorcade. These men were Shiite males, members of the Iranian backed Dawa party, and Ad Dujayl citizens. Unfortunately, for all of us, Saddam survived.

We know, from witness accounts that he went immediately afterwards to the city hospital, where he spent a few minutes composing himself. Within hours the city was surrounded and sealed by a combination of forces including military and secret police. Helicopters strafed farmers near the ambush site. Tanks closed the roads. Local legend has it that Saddam’s brother asked permission to level the city and exterminate the inhabitants. Saddam reportedly answered that there were a few citizens worth saving.

Males suspected of Dawa party association, or simply of being related to members were rounded up. Any past expression against Saddam or the Baath party was enough. One witness that I encountered spoke of nearly five hundred males killed in the immediate aftermath. Some were shot, some suffocated in closed crowded rooms at Abu Ghraib, some were merely stranded deep in the desert without water.

The 148 victims listed in the current proceedings represent the best documented cases. Those men were certainly killed, and we can trace their identities and their deaths, by name. Iraqis have not always kept the best records. In some cases entire families were wiped out and dispersed, leaving many victims unnamed and uncounted on paper.

In addition to the slaughter, of several hundred men, Hussein used other tools of revenge. Date palm groves were razed. Not one still stands within five miles of town. The stadium was demolished, its land taken by the military for air defense artillery emplacements. Like Adam and Eve these Shiites were out of the Garden and into the desert.

Saddam removed the city from official maps. He then renamed the city “al Halas: The Horseman” a title borrowed from Saladin, the Iraqi Kurd who chased Richard the Lion Hearted's crusaders from the holy land in the 12th century. Al Halas along with Stalin was among Saddam’s role models.

A redistribution of the remaining farmland took place. Local Sunni leaders from the Raweed clan, used their Baath party positions to seize fields from Shiite farmers and distribute it to their own relatives.

The Raweeds were Saddam's appointed agents here. I was they who identified Dawa members, and their families. They who benefitted from Hussein's largesse. Even when the sanctions were in place Abdullah, the lan elder was recieving new luxury cars as gifts from Saddam. It was they who held the city in terror, for a year after Saddam's fall.

The campaign of terror continued for decades, with the Raweeds in charge . One witness who recounted the day of the ambush, and the ensuing murder of his son described other crimes. In 1991 nearly a decade after the failed ambush, he was called to his sister’s house. He found police and a judge outside. Inside was incredible carnage. All the household women from adolescent girls to grandmothers had been raped and beheaded. It is rumored that secret police videotaped these crimes to use as a chilling piece of propaganda.

Today, Saddam, the ultimate sponsor of these atrocities, is finally being called to answer for at least 148 murders at a criminal trial. Last June American soldiers knocked down the gate to the Raweed family compound. Abdullah Raweed fired on them. He survived the return fire, and was arrested. His arrest started the ball rolling and witnessses soon lined up to tell their stories.

Dujayli citizens now live less fearful lives, though the threat of violence remains. Late last year, insurgents launched a car bomb at their city council building. It was defeated by the courage of Iraqi National Guard soldiers who live and work in the city. A city now rebuilding itself. The dust remains, but hope has grown. And the possibility of justice for what they suffered fuels that hope.

Throughout Iraq, from the Shiite south, to the Kurdish north, hundreds of other villages and cities were victims of this kind of fear and terror.Many of them far worse. Some places larger numbers were slaughtered, the Kurds faced gas attacks. Those crimes too remain to be tried. I saw thousands of faces still haunted by fear all over Iraq, some had hope now too. Elections, a constitution, and now justice for a mass murderer.

In 2003 we put an end to his reign of terror. Incredibly there are people who still can’t find a just rationale for the war. Maybe they don’t understand the significance of Saturday’s referendum. The importance of the democratic trend. These folks should watch this trial closely.

Thanks as always to Mudville!

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