jazzoLOG: The Blogs Of Iraq    
 The Blogs Of Iraq13 comments
picture21 Feb 2007 @ 10:54, by Richard Carlson

I do not want to be right in theory but in nature.

---Paul Cezanne

Nature teaches more than she preaches. There are no sermons in stones. It is easier to get a spark out of a stone than a moral.

---John Burroughs

Year after year
the monkey's mask
reveals the monkey.


I'll never grow to like the word "blog." At newciv.org, where perhaps blogging was invented, we've used the word "log" to describe the simple acts of composition that record the thoughts and events of our days. Blog is a heavy, slogging sort of word to me, and yields none of the poetic beauty I associate with the act of writing...especially on the Internet. I like the idea I'm keeping a log of my voyage. Even "diary," with its romantic, secretive connotations, is better than blog---a word that invites derision in its very pronunciation.

Be that as it may, I came to the computer this morning with the innocent intention to catch up on email. (Continued apologies to the legion out there to whom I owe messages and replies.) The very first note I read was from Tim Chavez in Columbus, who's a friend of Annie Warmke, proprietress of the innovative www.bluerockstation.com. I'm sure Tim and I are going to get to meet someday soon, but for now we're still encouraging each other's politics with messages now and then. This one, which he actually sent yesterday, sent me browsing all over the place for an hour...and maybe you'd like to share. Hopefully you already know all about this, but I'm just learning.

There are 2 blogs, written by Iraqis, that are getting more and more visits every day. The first is called Baghdad Burning, written by an "anonymous girl" (she calls herself that) with the pseudonym Riverbend. Need I say more? Just her choice of a name gives you a taste of how brilliantly she writes and what a beautiful soul she is. I was worried about hoax and so went to Google, but I see no yelling from the military right except for one guy who tried to parody her (fell flat). Wikipedia even has an entry for her that begins "Riverbend is the pseudonymous author of the blog Baghdad Burning, launched August 17, 2003. Riverbend's identity is carefully hidden, but the weblog entries suggest that Riverbend is a young, unmarried Iraqi woman, from a mixed Shia and Sunni family, living with her parents and brother in Baghdad. Before the United States occupation of Iraq she was a computer programmer. She writes in an idiomatic English which appears to reflect a Western education. The blog combines political statements with a large dose of Iraqi cultural information, such as the celebration of Ramadhan and examples of Iraqi cuisine. In March 2006, her website received the Bloggie award for Best Middle East and Africa blog." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riverbend_(blogger)

Her entries have been collected into TWO books now, easily available at Amazon. [link] There are 2 editorial reviews at that link, but you may also be interested in what The New York Review of Books has to say [link] , and maybe a very moving extract at Open Democracy [link] . The customer reviews at Amazon are indicative of the impact Riverbend is having around the world and here in the States especially. The actual blog is right here at Blogspot, where so many of us also store our writing: [link] .

The other blogger may be considered an Iraqi exile I suppose. Raed Jarrar left his homeland in 2005 and moved here for the time being. Also at Blogspot, he began writing in 2002 at Dear Raed and his earliest entries still are there [link] . But since moving here he writes at Raed In The Middle [link] . Raed's current work, with a photo of him, is described here: "Since the summer of 2006, Mr. Jarrar has worked as the Iraq Project Director of Global Exchange where he facilitates the publication of op-eds and policy papers by Iraqi leaders in U.S. newspapers and works at bridging the gap between Iraqi leaders and U.S. Congress members by arranging face-to-face meetings between U.S. and Iraqi leaders. He is currently based in Washington DC.
He is also an analyst and contributing writer for Foreign Policy in Focus and a member of the steering committee of the NY-based coalition United For Peace and Justice." [link]

I have yet really to delve into these blogs but I look forward to do so. I have a feeling, between the two of these young people, we have a chance to learn some different truths about this world.

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23 Feb 2007 @ 00:46 by Quinty @ : Thanks
Richard for these tips.

Would anyone of us be surprised if we learned that our view of the Mideast, or, precisely, Baghdad, in all its forms, is actually quite unreal? With a kind of innocent arrogance we went into this war expecting, many of us, that the Iraqis would gladly great us as liberators, sharing the blessings of Western democracy and the free market with them.

Now we're paying the price.

Though ours is small compared to the sufferings ordinary Iraqis, who wish, undoubtedly, to live in peace and be left alone, must endure. Is there any answer or relief for them?  

24 Feb 2007 @ 05:11 by vaxen : Qunity san...
You mean you really believed all that? Come on ... tell me you are joking, please. :)

Answer ... or relief for Iraquis? Iraq was created by Britain! Iraq does not exist other than as a fantasy created for profit by those who create, from nothing, the worlds currencies so they can engage in profit mongering machinations.

The bid for control of this world, I don't mean control in its' positive vector either, is there on the drawing board for all to see.

Yet few there be that have the eyes (the intelligence and knowledge) to see it happening right before their eyes.

A little real study can go a long way towards delineating the forces behind the whole show. PNAC is a good place to start but...

It is an old, old, story... Quinty san. Know who is behind it all?

Weep not for that shattered world but rather what are you going to do to rebuild your own sanity after the show is over and you see the dupe for just what it is?

You can change things right there from your own heart. Go there... roam about. You'll find everything you need there and then some...

I appreciate your concern. I think you are a good man as confused as a lot of others by the calculated deceptions that are being forced upon your mind body composite.

The root is being cleansed and there are many actors, players, upon the stage. What is your part, Quinty san, in the over all over all?

And do you somehow see yourself as seperate, not being involved, isolated, not able to do anything about the apparent injustices that Karma is revealing to be something other than what they appear to be?

Read the Major Prophets of the TeNaCh and you'll see just how this has all come about. Three major religions at one anothyers throats since the ginning of the Be. Be, Do, Have ... and NOT Have, Do, Be.

America has that a bit backwards. Have first, then do, then be... Universe doesn't operate that way so... who is behind that?  

24 Feb 2007 @ 16:05 by Quinty @ : Thanks
Vax, but no thanks. And please tuck your complacency back onto the shelf. It's old and stale stuff.  

24 Feb 2007 @ 23:09 by vaxen : Hahahaha
Complacency? Where in the above do you see complacency? I could say that I see the same thing in your reaction? Heh, but I won't. So a refusal to go to your own heart and mediate can mean only one thing. You're the tin man!


25 Feb 2007 @ 11:29 by jazzolog : Is There Civil War In America?
Quinty and Vaxen have been discussing like this for some time through the pages of this Log. Paul seems to advocate for peaceful changes of policy through congressional representatives, while Vax says it's time for guns. This is a republic and those politicians we vote for are supposed to carry out the will of the majority, but all the polls show we the people have certain mandates about which our representatives don't appear to do very much. Our warrior friend laughs at our naivete. Even if I don't quit my job, drop out and head for the hills, I do find myself inspired by the great and patriotic spirit of revolution upon which our country is founded. Now I see more and more on the Internet---but not in the media---that people increasingly are discerning the firing lines. In fact, Firing Line was the name of William Buckley's TV show for many years, and it was he 40 years ago who declared a Culture War that neocons in the White House now are determined to win whether the citizenry wants it or not. One comment I read this morning stopped me in my tracks:

Name: Robert Castle Date: Feb 19, 2007
The role of the neocons in our government since they invaded and occupied the White House is seldom if ever mentioned by the main stream media. My information sources are limited and it is difficult to assess their credibility but the argument can be made that but for the neocons, we would not be in danger of permanently losing our democracy with its rights and obligations, duties and privileges. The United States is in the middle of a de facto civil war. The combatants are the neocons and their allies, the industrial/military complex, the main stream media, and the fundamentalists on one side and those who are defending our Constitution and the rule of law in general, foreign and domestic, the true patriots, on the other. The United States cannot be both a militaristic empire and a democracy such as was built on the principles set forth in our Constitution. Only one side can win.

That comment is in a thread that follows a fascinating interview with Noam Chomsky at Foreign Policy In Focus. The part of the interview most people seem to be noticing involves what Chomsky calls the Mafia Principle as foundation of our relations with other countries---and our own citizens as well. "International affairs is very much run like the mafia. The godfather does not accept disobedience, even from a small storekeeper who doesn’t pay his protection money. You have to have obedience otherwise the idea can spread that you don’t have to listen to the orders and it can spread to important places." http://www.fpif.org/fpiftxt/3999

The treatment of "disobedience" is very much a part of a fascist form of control...and that possibility is at the very center of Joe Conason's new book It Can Happen Here. A large excerpt from the beginning of the book is posted at AlterNet, with a lot of comments. The excerpt ends, "The question that we face in the era of terror alerts, religious fundamentalism, and endless warfare is whether we are still the brave nation preserved and rebuilt by the generation of Sinclair Lewis -- or whether our courage, and our luck, have finally run out." http://www.alternet.org/rights/48246/ Which side are you on?  

25 Feb 2007 @ 19:31 by quinty : Now I'm confused
since I see no similarity between these comments and my back and forth with Vax. Less you feel as if you're falling into a rabbit hole go to the bottom of http://www.newciv.org/nl/newslog.php/_v350/__show_article/_a000350-000025.htm#comments for my response to Vax.

As for "it happening here" there was a lot of talk of that among leftwing circles before the 2006 November elections. Perhaps due to the victory of the Democrats the sense of urgency fell off. After all, with their rise to power in the Congress, there would finally be some accountability: investigations and committee hearings - Bush's complete power appeared nipped at the bud.

But I agree with Conason. We have a right to worry. Not much has been made of the camps Bush has prepared here at home, in the United States. For what? Civil unrest? How many of them are there and how large are they?

Another thing. It's odd, isn't it, that these Mussolinis, Hitlers, Francos, Pinochets, all of them are clowns, strutting about in their military uniforms. Let's not forget that before Hitler came to power nobody took him too seriously, except a few intellectuals. After all, Hitler was too much of a clown to be taken seriously. With his Charlie Chaplin mustache and histrionics. If the mark of the clown is the way to identify future tyrants then Bush certainly fits, with his absurd power walk, lurid lies, malapropisms, and love of corporate power

And in foreign affairs, yes, military might seems to be the only tool of foreign policy he knows. As well as intimidation, even of our allies. We know this not only by observing Bush but from the Neocons, who believe the United States has a rightful obligation to rule the world.

What are they planning? How far do they intend to go? Many of us speculated before the elections (not much has been said since then) that another terrorist attack, a disaster, and Bush would declare martial law and suspend the Constitution. What with Bush's behavior so far it's not so crazy to think so, or, at the very least, wonder and worry. Will the American people rally around the president in a time of crisis? Or has he lost so much credibility by now that sense and sanity will prevail? And what about the military? They tend to be pretty gung ho, true believers. Will they follow their Commander in Chief to restore order? Are there enough generals in the military who love the taste of authoritarianism to fall into lockstep behind the president? And why chose this president? Because he's the clown who is outlandish enough to go all the way?  

26 Feb 2007 @ 06:12 by vaxen : Well...
Is RA El just asked the USA if it could go ahead and bomb, preliminaries) Iran. Our Carrier groups are over there now to set up another scenario making it impossible not to bomb that country too and the dollar slides thanks to Japan. Got a Yen for anything these days?

Unfortunately the mind, yours/mine, works in such a way that whatever you focus your attention upon (worry about) will tend to come to pass. Washnigton D.C. was NEVER EVER my Capitol. I never signed the joke called a Constitution, this bull has been going on since Andrew Jacksons' time and I don't believe a word of what any of the Pundits are saying. Prescott Bush and the Wallstreet Gang brought Hitler and Communism to power that they might quibble over what was left over after the fight which was none other than the prelude to what you see happening, not before your eyes, in the bought and paid for Psyops game calle "THE MEDIA!"  

26 Feb 2007 @ 10:23 by jazzolog : Sorry Paul
for misrepresenting your views. I thought I would draw a contrast between a congressional approach of something like impeachment and the to-the-barricades cry of those too fed up to wait around. At any rate when the secret room at AT&T feeds me to the Feds, I'll be the one hauled off to Guantanamo to create a new "rendition" of jazzoLOG. Thanks for the heads-up at Mad Mad World.  

27 Feb 2007 @ 16:36 by rayon : Ag ree re bb log
glad to see someone else thinks so too, my use usually stumbles as it sounds like swearing, whereas Logging on or in sounds more socially acceptable, suggests worthwhile activity taking place, you should be here sort of thing. Anyway Phew!! on that one.
I do read all the rest here, but usually remind myself that we are not supposed to try and rule the whole world but just our own small lives, and those immediatly around us. We are responsible at the end of the day for ourselves, and our loved ones if they are still maturing like children or adoptees, but no one else, they are for themselves. Friends is as far it can go with others and good wishes. Sometimes we try to make it more than friends but it is self duping, so friends is good. Maybe Vax is in a position to do something at his level, I don't know, and maybe Quinty his in the Peace Line, but whatever it is it won't show up in any discussion they have, it will only show in the ether to spiritual beings who see all. If Jazzolog does not mind them batting it out on his log, then it is fine. Please carryon with your Fine Persian carpets of literature Richard, they do good too!  

27 Feb 2007 @ 19:38 by vaxen : Hey Hey!
I'm not the batter. I just throw the ball.
"I was just following orders."
I respect Mr Quin Tee to the utmost and back again so...

We Scienos are a weird group, I know, but... I, a Pan Deterministic PLAYER, follow no ones orders and create my own universes. The end of theirs, the Oppressives who think they ''run'' this world according to ''command'' know nothing, absolutely nothing, about real "COMMAND and CONTROL."

That's where WE come in... the OODA Loop...

If I punctured that thin armor of yours in any way, Quinty san, then please dig deep down in that stony old heart of yours and release yourself! Kidding!

But jazzolog knows me... I'm one of the good guys! Oh, where have I heard that one before?

Thanks Nicola, Jazzolog, Quinty san, et al, for your scintillating wit and your abundant humor...

I jest, of course... Nukes don't.

Love you all, bar none.


4 May 2007 @ 08:49 by jazzolog : Riverbend Leaving Baghdad
Thanks to Terry Liu over at MySpace for referring me to Riverbend's latest entry, which says the family is giving up and leaving Baghdad...and Iraq. How horribly sad!

"So we've been busy. Busy trying to decide what part of our lives to leave behind. Which memories are dispensable? We, like many Iraqis, are not the classic refugees- the ones with only the clothes on their backs and no choice. We are choosing to leave because the other option is simply a continuation of what has been one long nightmare- stay and wait and try to survive.

"On the one hand, I know that leaving the country and starting a new life somewhere else- as yet unknown- is such a huge thing that it should dwarf every trivial concern. The funny thing is that it’s the trivial that seems to occupy our lives. We discuss whether to take photo albums or leave them behind. Can I bring along a stuffed animal I've had since the age of four? Is there room for E.'s guitar? What clothes do we take? Summer clothes? The winter clothes too? What about my books? What about the CDs, the baby pictures?

"The problem is that we don't even know if we'll ever see this stuff again. We don't know if whatever we leave, including the house, will be available when and if we come back. There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends… And to what?

"It's difficult to decide which is more frightening- car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain."


May her family leave safely. Let's hope wherever she goes that she continues to journal.  

1 Oct 2007 @ 09:06 by jazzolog : A New Post At Baghdad Burning
Riverbend's family decided to leave Iraq in April, but there were months of anxious and death-defying delay. Early in September, they finally got away and we have the story~~~

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Leaving Home...
Two months ago, the suitcases were packed. My lone, large suitcase sat in my bedroom for nearly six weeks, so full of clothes and personal items, that it took me, E. and our six year old neighbor to zip it closed.

Packing that suitcase was one of the more difficult things I’ve had to do. It was Mission Impossible: Your mission, R., should you choose to accept it is to go through the items you’ve accumulated over nearly three decades and decide which ones you cannot do without. The difficulty of your mission, R., is that you must contain these items in a space totaling 1 m by 0.7 m by 0.4 m. This, of course, includes the clothes you will be wearing for the next months, as well as any personal memorabilia- photos, diaries, stuffed animals, CDs and the like.

I packed and unpacked it four times. Each time I unpacked it, I swore I’d eliminate some of the items that were not absolutely necessary. Each time I packed it again, I would add more ‘stuff’ than the time before. E. finally came in a month and a half later and insisted we zip up the bag so I wouldn’t be tempted to update its contents constantly.

The decision that we would each take one suitcase was made by my father. He took one look at the box of assorted memories we were beginning to prepare and it was final: Four large identical suitcases were purchased- one for each member of the family and a fifth smaller one was dug out of a closet for the documentation we’d collectively need- graduation certificates, personal identification papers, etc.

We waited… and waited… and waited. It was decided we would leave mid to late June- examinations would be over and as we were planning to leave with my aunt and her two children- that was the time considered most convenient for all involved. The day we finally appointed as THE DAY, we woke up to an explosion not 2 km away and a curfew. The trip was postponed a week. The night before we were scheduled to travel, the driver who owned the GMC that would take us to the border excused himself from the trip- his brother had been killed in a shooting. Once again, it was postponed.

There was one point, during the final days of June, where I simply sat on my packed suitcase and cried. By early July, I was convinced we would never leave. I was sure the Iraqi border was as far away, for me, as the borders of Alaska. It had taken us well over two months to decide to leave by car instead of by plane. It had taken us yet another month to settle on Syria as opposed to Jordan. How long would it take us to reschedule leaving?

It happened almost overnight. My aunt called with the exciting news that one of her neighbors was going to leave for Syria in 48 hours because their son was being threatened and they wanted another family on the road with them in another car- like gazelles in the jungle, it’s safer to travel in groups. It was a flurry of activity for two days. We checked to make sure everything we could possibly need was prepared and packed. We arranged for a distant cousin of my moms who was to stay in our house with his family to come the night before we left (we can’t leave the house empty because someone might take it).

It was a tearful farewell as we left the house. One of my other aunts and an uncle came to say goodbye the morning of the trip. It was a solemn morning and I’d been preparing myself for the last two days not to cry. You won’t cry, I kept saying, because you’re coming back. You won’t cry because it’s just a little trip like the ones you used to take to Mosul or Basrah before the war. In spite of my assurances to myself of a safe and happy return, I spent several hours before leaving with a huge lump lodged firmly in my throat. My eyes burned and my nose ran in spite of me. I told myself it was an allergy.

We didn’t sleep the night before we had to leave because there seemed to be so many little things to do… It helped that there was no electricity at all- the area generator wasn’t working and ‘national electricity’ was hopeless. There just wasn’t time to sleep.

The last few hours in the house were a blur. It was time to go and I went from room to room saying goodbye to everything. I said goodbye to my desk- the one I’d used all through high school and college. I said goodbye to the curtains and the bed and the couch. I said goodbye to the armchair E. and I broke when we were younger. I said goodbye to the big table over which we’d gathered for meals and to do homework. I said goodbye to the ghosts of the framed pictures that once hung on the walls, because the pictures have long since been taken down and stored away- but I knew just what hung where. I said goodbye to the silly board games we inevitably fought over- the Arabic Monopoly with the missing cards and money that no one had the heart to throw away.

I knew then as I know now that these were all just items- people are so much more important. Still, a house is like a museum in that it tells a certain history. You look at a cup or stuffed toy and a chapter of memories opens up before your very eyes. It suddenly hit me that I wanted to leave so much less than I thought I did.

Six AM finally came. The GMC waited outside while we gathered the necessities- a thermos of hot tea, biscuits, juice, olives (olives?!) which my dad insisted we take with us in the car, etc. My aunt and uncle watched us sorrowfully. There’s no other word to describe it. It was the same look I got in my eyes when I watched other relatives and friends prepare to leave. It was a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness, tinged with anger. Why did the good people have to go?

I cried as we left- in spite of promises not to. The aunt cried… the uncle cried. My parents tried to be stoic but there were tears in their voices as they said their goodbyes. The worst part is saying goodbye and wondering if you’re ever going to see these people again. My uncle tightened the shawl I’d thrown over my hair and advised me firmly to ‘keep it on until you get to the border’. The aunt rushed out behind us as the car pulled out of the garage and dumped a bowl of water on the ground, which is a tradition- its to wish the travelers a safe return… eventually.

The trip was long and uneventful, other than two checkpoints being run by masked men. They asked to see identification, took a cursory glance at the passports and asked where we were going. The same was done for the car behind us. Those checkpoints are terrifying but I’ve learned that the best technique is to avoid eye-contact, answer questions politely and pray under your breath. My mother and I had been careful not to wear any apparent jewelry, just in case, and we were both in long skirts and head scarves.

The trip was long and uneventful, other than two checkpoints being run by masked men. They asked to see identification, took a cursory glance at the passports and asked where we were going. The same was done for the car behind us. Those checkpoints are terrifying but I’ve learned that the best technique is to avoid eye-contact, answer questions politely and pray under your breath. My mother and I had been careful not to wear any apparent jewelry, just in case, and we were both in long skirts and head scarves.

Syria is the only country, other than Jordan, that was allowing people in without a visa. The Jordanians are being horrible with refugees. Families risk being turned back at the Jordanian border, or denied entry at Amman Airport. It’s too high a risk for most families.

We waited for hours, in spite of the fact that the driver we were with had ‘connections’, which meant he’d been to Syria and back so many times, he knew all the right people to bribe for a safe passage through the borders. I sat nervously at the border. The tears had stopped about an hour after we’d left Baghdad. Just seeing the dirty streets, the ruins of buildings and houses, the smoke-filled horizon all helped me realize how fortunate I was to have a chance for something safer.

By the time we were out of Baghdad, my heart was no longer aching as it had been while we were still leaving it. The cars around us on the border were making me nervous. I hated being in the middle of so many possibly explosive vehicles. A part of me wanted to study the faces of the people around me, mostly families, and the other part of me, the one that’s been trained to stay out of trouble the last four years, told me to keep my eyes to myself- it was almost over.

It was finally our turn. I sat stiffly in the car and waited as money passed hands; our passports were looked over and finally stamped. We were ushered along and the driver smiled with satisfaction, “It’s been an easy trip, Alhamdulillah,” he said cheerfully.

As we crossed the border and saw the last of the Iraqi flags, the tears began again. The car was silent except for the prattling of the driver who was telling us stories of escapades he had while crossing the border. I sneaked a look at my mother sitting beside me and her tears were flowing as well. There was simply nothing to say as we left Iraq. I wanted to sob, but I didn’t want to seem like a baby. I didn’t want the driver to think I was ungrateful for the chance to leave what had become a hellish place over the last four and a half years.

The Syrian border was almost equally packed, but the environment was more relaxed. People were getting out of their cars and stretching. Some of them recognized each other and waved or shared woeful stories or comments through the windows of the cars. Most importantly, we were all equal. Sunnis and Shia, Arabs and Kurds… we were all equal in front of the Syrian border personnel.

We were all refugees- rich or poor. And refugees all look the same- there’s a unique expression you’ll find on their faces- relief, mixed with sorrow, tinged with apprehension. The faces almost all look the same.

The first minutes after passing the border were overwhelming. Overwhelming relief and overwhelming sadness… How is it that only a stretch of several kilometers and maybe twenty minutes, so firmly segregates life from death?

How is it that a border no one can see or touch stands between car bombs, militias, death squads and… peace, safety? It’s difficult to believe- even now. I sit here and write this and wonder why I can’t hear the explosions.

I wonder at how the windows don’t rattle as the planes pass overhead. I’m trying to rid myself of the expectation that armed people in black will break through the door and into our lives. I’m trying to let my eyes grow accustomed to streets free of road blocks, hummers and pictures of Muqtada and the rest…

How is it that all of this lies a short car ride away?

- posted by river @ 12:06 AM

6 Mar 2008 @ 09:17 by jazzolog @ : Riverbend: Where Is She?
One month after the post above, she wrote about crossing the Syrian border back into Iraq for a visit. There's been no word from her in the 5 months since.  

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