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   PoliticsPolitics for Pros- moderated

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From: Nadine Carroll4/9/2007 3:04:56 PM
   of 777294
Glenn Reynolds linked this post from Huffington Post, of all places, and I thought it was worth posting here. My own reaction was that if there were still many Democrats like this woman, I might still be one too.

Tish Durkin

Iraq: A Place of Ambivalence (74 comments )

I know I should be passionately following the showdown between Congress and the president over legislation tying the funding of American troops in Iraq to a timetable for the troops' withdrawal from Iraq. Honestly, though, I find it hard to follow it at all. Showdowns are all about certainty, and for me, Iraq has always been a place of ambivalence.

I lived in Baghdad from April 2003 through September 2004, when I left without, of course, really leaving. Even if it weren't for the endless reels of bad news, I would have reels of memory on constant re-play in my mind.

I remember Riyadh, a bright and supremely idealistic young Shi'ite who had signed on as a translator for the U.S. Army but who, on his days off, used to take me around -- in ordinary, randomly hailed share-ride vans and taxis, if you can imagine it now - to markets and mosques and people's houses, just to scrounge around for stories...until, one morning on his way to work, Riyadh was shot to death.

I remember Mohaymen, a 26-year-old Iraqi who, with my then-fiancé, co-founded JumpStart, a humanitarian organization that directly employed thousands of Iraqis in the rebuilding effort. Every morning at an ungodly hour, he would show up to pick up Sean, and the two of them would drive around in Mohaymen's white Hyundai Galloper to building sites all over the place....until one day in July 2004, when Sean and I were briefly back in the States, some gunmen pulled even with the Galloper on a busy highway in broad daylight and shot Mohaymen to death.

I remember having lunch someplace when a car bomb went off -- not, as it sounded, right under the table, but close enough so that when we - the not-yet-dead Mohaymen and I -- stepped out onto the street, it was black with smoke and littered with human remains. And I remember later interviewing the family - or was it just the son? -- of someone who had literally been scattered by that bombing. I don't recall the details of how the family had retrieved the body, but they had definitely had to go around, collecting him.

Whatever you think of the rest of this post, please do not write in to impress upon me the horrors that have descended upon innocent Iraqis since the American-led invasion. I really feel that I know.

I know other things too, though. Maybe it's just the contrarian in me, but it is these other things that I feel the need to stress, especially to those who are now reveling in their rightness about the war. Those who opposed the war seem to feel that they are the perfect opposite of those who sold the war - and of course, in the important sense of the invade-or-not-to-invade question, they are. But in their collective allergy to any fact that may complicate their position; their proud blindness to the color gray, and their fervent faith in their own infallibility, the two sides have always struck me as very much the same.

Don't get me wrong. If I felt that this post were going to be read by a bunch of war apologists, I would take them angrily to task for the manifest, manifold failures in Iraq, and the criminally self-indulgent fictions on which those failures were based. But since this post is presumably being read mostly by war critics, I will devote it to challenging anti-war activists on their apparent belief that everything they say about Iraq is, always has been, and ever shall be true.

It is not, for instance, true that it was the American-led invasion that opened season on the slaughter of innocent Iraqi civilians. Whatever else the Bush administration made up about Iraq, the rank murderousness of Saddam Hussein was not one of them. Amid the gunfire and giddiness of Baghdad right after its fall in April 2003, it was common to find people converging onto bits of infrastructure, manically fueled by the rumor mill: someone had said that there was a torture chamber underneath this stretch of highway; a secret prison built into this wall. People had no time to be interviewed; if they talked at all, they'd keep going as they panted: "My husband/brother/son disappeared twenty odd years ago; he could still be alive; I have to get him out." I remember going to a mass grave; a "minor" one, not far from Hilla. People were digging there, too: for bones, which were piled everywhere, a sickening canine bonanza. Close by there still lived a man who had seen what had happened there in the days after the war with Kuwait, but kept his mouth shut for years: busloads of innocent Shi'ites, screaming 'God is Great' at the top of their lungs, had been unloaded, rung around pre-dug graves, and shot.

Of course, it makes sense for Americans to feel more interested - and implicated -- in suffering that is inflicted in the context of an American occupation. And there is no question that - and it kills me that it has come to this -- fewer and fewer Iraqis see life after Saddam as any better than life under Saddam. Still, one needn't be a hawk, nor a rocket scientist, to give half a moment's thought to the possibility that the post-invasion suffering in Iraq, which we see and hear about constantly - as, of course, we should -- may seem disproportionately greater to us than the pre-invasion suffering, which we almost never saw or heard about at all.

It is not true that the Americans invaded Iraq against the will of the Iraqi people. They did so against the will of Saddam, against the will of those who flourished under Saddam, and against the will of numerous Sunn'is and Christians, most of them utterly blameless for the crimes of the regime, who feared what would happen to them after the Shi'ites got out from under Saddam. This last is not an inconsiderable group - except as compared to the Shi'ites and the Kurds, who overwhelmingly wanted the invasion and welcomed it.

I know that these anecdotes will sound as if Karen Hughes or somebody paid me to cook them up, but they all really happened: The day I met Riyadh, he told me what he had been doing before the war. He and his family would sit around and listen to underground BBC radio. And if the French or somebody else in the U.N. seemed to come up with something that would offer the world a glimmer of hope that war could be avoided, their reaction was not, "thank God." It was: "Oh shit."

I remember that in May - after about thirty days without a shower - I went to a beauty salon that had just re-opened. This was in Aadamiyah, which is quite a Sunn'i district. Out of gratitude for the invasion, the owner would not let me pay.

In the late spring of 2003, like hundreds of reporters, I joined the multitudes flocking to Karbala for ashura, the Shi'ite pilgrimage which had been forbidden under Saddam. Concerns about violence were high, but unfounded: As it turned out, in every possible sense, it was the brightest possible day. Flags were flying. Great ropey lines of men were stepping rhythmically and ritually beating their bare backs. Granted, the whole scene could have been a coming attraction for theocracy, but for the moment, it looked and felt like an entire country's drawing of a deep breath after years of suffocation. Like every woman there, I was swathed in black from head to toe. Throughout the day, I could feel myself being sized up by people, and this, I'll admit, made me a little nervous. No need: when they were sure of the foreignness of my face, people did not insult or attack me. They smiled and said: "Thank you Bush, thank you Blair."

None of this was really surprising. In the months prior to the war, I had spent almost all my time in neighboring, not-so-democratic countries. Among average people, the biggest sentiment expressed about the ever-more-likely prospect of American action in Iraq wasn't "how dare you come to our region and topple a sovereign government!" It was, "jeez - why don't you come here too?" Once in Iraq, when I would get e-mails from concerned friends and family as to whether people hated me because I was an American, I'd laugh. It wasn't the idea of Americans being disliked that cracked me up; it was the idea of Americans being alone on the list, or even in the top ten. Let's see: Iraqis hated the French and the Russians for doing so much business with Saddam. They hated other Arab governments for leaving them to be brutalized by him. They hated the Palestinians for having sided with Saddam in the war of '91, and they hated the Syrians for sending in - or at least allowing the sending-in of --- jihadists to make trouble now. As for anti-American sentiment, that which was most commonly expressed was not against George W. Bush for having taken Saddam out. It was that expressed against George H.W. Bush for not having done so when, as they viewed it, he had had the chance.

All this, of course, was very early days, before disillusionment set in, then anger, then rage. But that evolution was not swift, nor, I firmly believe, was it inevitable. In many areas of Iraq, generally, palpably pro-American feeling was not imaginary, it was not rare, and -- apart from the total-infatuation, flower-tossing phase which did fade quickly -- it was not all that short-lived. In fact, I'd say - with considerable anger and frustration of my own - that the U.S. had at least one year in which the overwhelming majority of Iraqis were only too willing to believe that much as they disliked and then despised the fact of foreign occupation, that occupation was going to lead them somewhere they wanted to go. This shocked me. About eight or nine months into it, the bloom was well and truly off the American rose: the initial post-Saddam chaos, far from being calmed, had simply become the rule. Crimes -- political, semi-political, and just plain old crooked - were committed with impunity. Kidnapping rings, like internet cafes and car dealerships, had begun springing up everywhere. And of course, the promise of jobs and housing and restored electricity and all the rest of it never came close to being kept. It is true that even the most brilliant, best organized administration would have been hard pressed to bridge the gap between the expectations of Iraqis and the limits of reality - but also true that the U.S. established a tyranny of ineptitude that baffles me to this day. In short, by that time, I would absolutely have bet that as far as the Iraqis were concerned, anything, including Saddam, was better than this. But I had that wrong.

For several weeks, before the first anniversary of the invasion, I made it a habit to end any interview with any Iraqi -- whether the topic was -de-Ba'athification or arranged marriage or the (extreme) availability of all kinds of weaponry on the black market - whether, knowing every negative thing - of which there were many -- that they knew now about the Americans, they would turn back the clock, have the coalition stay home, and put Saddam back in the palace. But I should mention that during this time I was not in Fallujah or Ramadi or any of the so-called Sunn'i triangle, where my "poll" would have had very different results. Still, I was and am amazed that not a single person hesitated to say 'no way.'

Now, I am sure that if I went back today and asked the same people the same question, many would answer differently. But now as then, I'd bet anything that many would also answer confusingly.

Take the night that Saddam Hussein was captured, when I went around to various parts of Baghdad and asked people what they thought. In one breath, they'd fantasize in gory detail how they'd kill him if they could: how, for instance, they wanted to personally chop him up in little pieces and then feed him to wild dogs, ideally with his heart still beating. In the next breath, they would lament that they felt sorry for him as he had his post-capture medical examination videotaped; he was, after all, their leader.

Asked, many times over many days, what, if anything, could be done to salvage the deteriorating situation, they'd insist: things would never improve unless the Americans supplied jobs, fought crime, restored the schools, guarded the banks, built homes and sewage systems, even mediated family quarrels....and also left Iraq immediately.

My point is not that Iraqis are somehow hopelessly loopy or illogical. It's that, having careened from one kind of national trauma to another kind of national trauma, they have some strongly felt but deeply conflicting feelings about things. For most Iraqis, the whole question of the invasion was extremely complicated, and, even now - without remotely minimizing the disasters that have increased in the intervening years -- I imagine that it still is.

That's what drives me crazy about the whole American discussion of Iraq now: it's treated as being so damned simple, when, if you care about the Iraqis at all, it's anything but.

If you are still reading at this point, I could forgive you for saying:

"OK, OK, enough with memory lane. Even if everything you are saying was true as of a couple of years ago, why rehash what went wrong when? It's all gotten worse and worse. Let's just get the hell out of there and be done with it."

In terms of the what-now in Iraq, that might be the only option we've got. But in terms of the what-next for the United States, it's not enough.

It's easy to rewrite a very complex story as a dark fairy tale that begins and ends with the evil of Bush and Cheney. This, presumably, is why so many people are doing it. But it's still wrong.

If none of this was ever hard - if the consensus is simply that this whole invasion was always a stupid idea and there was never, ever any reason why any good or intelligent person would have considered it - then all we have to do is elect someone nice and smart, and ignore whatever legitimate factors there may have been to mitigate our certitude. We won't have to think about what, if anything, a dictator can do to compromise his sovereignty in the eyes of the world. We won't have to think about what, if anything, should be done to enforce peace agreements that have been shredded, or international sanctions that have been ignored. We don't have to worry about where, if anywhere, we draw the line between allowing international bodies, such as the U.N., to prevent war, and allowing them to perpetuate, if only indirectly, very serious violence of other kinds.

Finally, what depresses me, and makes me despise so much war criticism even when I agree with it, is that so many of those positing it seem so happy about what's gone wrong. They seem to relish the probability that Iraq will get worse and worse so that they can be righter and righter.

This isn't new.

I remember an anti-war activist who was staying in our hotel in Baghdad, who had not come to Karbala for that first ashura. A good person trying to do good things, she had stayed behind to prepare a media alert on the horrors of the occupation -- which, especially at a time when the coverage out of Iraq was largely very upbeat, was a very worthy thing to be doing. Still, one thing really bothered me about her. When, upon everyone's return from Karbala, the activist heard that the day had actually been free of violence, and full of jubilation, she looked as if she had tasted a bad olive, and spit out her response: "Oh, fuck."

How she must be gloating now. Reality has made sages of the most dire prophets. It's perfect: Iraq really has gone to hell, and the demon neocons are the ones that sent it.

Like liberals - and thinking conservatives, and sentient beings -- everywhere, I gravely doubt that the troop surge - so little so late -- will do anything to save Iraq. But for the sake of the Iraqi people, I sure hope it does - even if that helps the Republicans.

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To: John Carragher who wrote (201931)4/9/2007 3:07:17 PM
From: JDN
   of 777294
We have found in Fla. the BEST Gun Control is relaxing the standards ALLOWING the HONEST CITIZENS to DEFEND themselves. jdn

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From: LindyBill4/9/2007 3:13:39 PM
   of 777294
Best of the Web Today - April 9, 2007


Today's Video on Mary O'Grady on Ecuador's constitutional crisis.

Poker Donkeys
The evidence mounts that congressional Democrats are merely bluffing when they threaten to use their appropriations power to force an American surrender in Iraq. Last week it was Barack Obama observing that no lawmaker "wants to play chicken with our troops," and yesterday two senior Senate Dems said so too, as the Washington Times reports:

"We're not going to vote to cut funding, period," said Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat and Armed Services Committee chairman.

Mr. Levin said he and other Democrats would continue to pressure President Bush on enforcing benchmarks for progress in Iraq, but ultimately most of his colleagues will support funding because they do not have the votes to override Mr. Bush's veto.

"What we're going to try to do, a majority, I believe, of Democrats and most of the Republicans, is to vote for a bill that funds the troops, period," he said during an appearance on ABC's "This Week." "We're going to fund the troops. We always have." . . .

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, echoed Mr. Levin's comments on troop funding, telling "Fox News Sunday" that "We are not going to leave the troops high and dry, plain and simple. Senator Reid has said that. I've said that. Every leader of the Democratic Party has said that."

Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, has joined pro-defeat Sens. Russ Feingold and John Kerry* in supporting legislation to cut off the troops a year hence. But Levin says "even Harry Reid acknowledged that that's not going to happen." It's all politics, aimed at appeasing the party's anti-American base. Good luck with that, Sen. Reid.

Yesterday's "Meet the Press" included this exchange between host Tim Russert and Chuck Todd of The Hotline:

Russert: Chuck Todd, where do we go? The president will say, "All right, you sent me your legislation, and I just vetoed it. Now what are you going to do? Are you going to give me money for the troops, or are you going to tell the American people you're not going to support this war anymore?"

Todd: Well, it's interesting. What I don't understand what the White House is doing is that every time Democrats propose something that allows them to potentially take co-ownership of the war, Bush actually stops them, and politically it actually puts the Democrats in an advantageous position because they can sit there and say, "Well, you know what, we've, we've tried to take some responsibility for this war. The president won't do it. He's vetoing this legislation. This is still Bush's war. This is still a Republican war."

And that's sort of the frustration that I'm sensing from some Republicans, not, not inside the White House, but on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail a little bit, to sit there and say, "Guys, let the Democrats share some ownership of this thing or this war's going to--it's going to make 2006 seem like a party." In 2008 it's going to be a real death knell for the Republican Party.

Russert: So if you're a real cynic, you can say all right, let the Democrats have their way, let them set the deadline of March or August of '08.

Todd: And let them own this war. That's right.

Russert: Start bringing the troops home then--back home then. Chaos breaks out, you say that's the Democratic solution.

Todd: That's right. "We tried it--we tried it--we tried it your way," and then suddenly it's a referendum on, well, do you want the Republicans to run this war or the Democrats to run this war? And you've gotten a taste of what it would look like if the Democrats ran this war.

We're highly skeptical of Todd's political acumen; this is, after all, the man who predicted a Kerry landslide in 2004. But just for fun, let's assume he's right about the current politics of Iraq. What could possibly be motivating the White House not to go along with the Democrats, cut and run from Iraq, and allow "chaos" to break out, which they could then blame on the Dems?

Well, here is one factor the White House may be considering: Such an outcome would not be in the interests of the United States.

* At least he served a few weeks in Vietnam, which is a few weeks more than Russ Feingold, Carl Levin, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer combined!

Otherwise He'd Lie About Them
"Kerry said his decision not to run for president in 2008 allowed him to speak the truth on environmental issues."--Associated Press, April 8

Beeb Zeroes a Hero
London's Daily Telegraph reports that the BBC killed a documentary on a British hero of the Iraq war:

Private Johnson Beharry's courage in rescuing an ambushed foot patrol then, in a second act, saving his vehicle's crew despite his own terrible injuries earned him a Victoria Cross.

For the BBC, however, his story is "too positive" about the conflict. . . .

"The BBC has behaved in a cowardly fashion by pulling the plug on the project altogether," said a source close to the project. "It began to have second thoughts last year as the war in Iraq deteriorated. It felt it couldn't show anything with a degree of positivity about the conflict.

"It needed to tell stories about Iraq which reflected the fact that some members of the audience didn't approve of what was going on. Obviously a story about Johnson Beharry could never do that. You couldn't have a scene where he suddenly turned around and denounced the war because he just wouldn't do that.

"The film is now on hold and it will only make it to the screen if another broadcaster picks it up."

The Beeb acknowledges killing the project but won't say why. Meanwhile, the Jerusalem Post reports that the Beeb "denied on Monday reports that missing BBC journalist Alan Johnston may have staged his own kidnapping in the Gaza Strip":

Chief of the BBC's Middle East Bureau Simon Wilson told The Jerusalem Post that there was no truth in any suggestion that Johnston may have staged his kidnapping, or that the BBC was considering terminating him.

"Alan is a highly respected journalist. He was due to return to London in April after a three-year position in Gaza, to resume a full-time staff job with the BBC World Service," Wilson added.

Earlier Monday, the London-based pan-Arabic paper Al-Hayat reported that Palestinian security forces were investigating the possibility that Johnston staged his own abduction.

According to Al-Hayat, Johnston waited 15 minutes for his "captors" to pick him up, and has been held willingly in an undisclosed location for over a month.

We have no reason to disbelieve the Beeb's denial, but if Al-Hayat is right that Johnston staged this to avoid being fired, it looks as though it worked!

Dutch Treaty
When it comes to the mad mullahs who run Iran, Europeans are more hawkish than their reputation, the Jerusalem Post reports:

Over half of Europeans would support a preemptive military strike to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, a poll released last week by a London think-tank reports.

A survey commissioned by the pro-business think tank, Open Europe, found that a majority of those surveyed in 18 EU member states including France and Britain, backed military action as an option in dealing with the threat of Iranian nuclear proliferation, while majorities in 9 nations including Germany and Spain were opposed.

However, the April 4 survey of more than 17,000 Europeans in March conducted by the French polling firm TNS-Sofres found little support for increasing military expenditures to counter or contain the threat.

Our headline is more than a clever play on words. According to the poll results (link in Excel form), 60% in the Netherlands favored military action against Iran, while only 13% favored more defense spending.

Edwards: Assad Yes, Ahmadinejad Yes, Ailes No
o "I think that what America should be doing on the issue of Iraq is dealing directly with both the Syrians and the Iranians, and I don't know precisely what Speaker Pelosi is going to do in Syria, but we as a nation should be engaged with both the Iranians and the Syrians directly in helping stabilize Iraq. Both countries have an interest in a stabilized Iraq. They don't want refugees coming across their border, they don't want economic instability, and they don't want to see a broader Middle East conflict. And I think it makes sense to not on some ideological basis not deal with them, but to engage with both of them directly."--John Edwards, CNN, April 3

o "We just called the CBC [Congressional Black Caucus] to let them know that we're looking forward to their debate with CNN but we're not going to participate in the proposed debate with Fox [News Channel]. There's just no reason for Democrats to give Fox a platform to advance the right-wing agenda while pretending to be objective."--Edwards campaign statement, April 6

There Goes the Neighborhood
"Elizabeth Edwards says she is scared of the 'rabid, rabid Republican' who owns property across the street from her Orange County [N.C.] home--and she doesn't want her kids going near the gun-toting neighbor," the Associated Press reports:

Edwards, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, particularly recalls the time neighbor Monty Johnson brought out a gun while chasing workers investigating a right of way near his property. The Edwards family has yet to meet Johnson in person.

"I wouldn't be nice to him, anyway," Edwards said in an interview. "I don't want my kids anywhere near some guy who, when he doesn't like somebody, the first thing he does is pull a gun out. It scares the business out of me."

Johnson says he appropriately brandished the gun to protect himself from trespassers. Mrs. Edwards has more grievances against her neighbor:

Edwards views Johnson as a "rabid, rabid Republican" who refuses to clean up his "slummy" property just to spite her family, whose lavish 28,000-square-foot estate is nearby on 102 wooded acres.

Johnson, 55, acknowledges his Republican roots. But he takes offense to the suggestion he has purposefully left his property, including an old garage he leases for use as a car shop, in dilapidated condition.

Johnson said he has lived his entire life on the property, which he said his family purchased before the Great Depression. He said he's spent a lot of money to try and fix up the 42-acre tract.

"I have to budget. I have to live within my means," Johnson said. "I don't have millions of dollars to fix the place."

There are two Americas, and Elizabeth Edwards would just as soon not have to look at the other one. Maybe that's why she is so eager to live in the White House, the ultimate gated community.

Second Amendment Subsidy
Our item Friday about Rudy Giuliani and abortion subsidies quoted Markos "Kos" Moulitsas, the Angry Left's Prince Charming: "It's interesting to argue that if it's Constitutionally protected, it should be funded by the taxpayers. One doesn't follow the other. If it does, I want my government-issued firearm today."

As it turns out, the federal government does subsidize the exercise of Americans' Second Amendment rights, through the Civilian Marksmanship Program:

The CMP was created by the U.S. Congress. The original purpose was to provide civilians an opportunity to learn and practice marksmanship skills so they would be skilled marksmen if later called on to serve the U.S. military. Over the years the emphasis of the program shifted to focus on youth development through marksmanship. From 1916 until 1996 the CMP was administered by the U.S. Army. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1996 (TITLE XVI) created the Corporation for the Promotion of Rifle Practice & Firearms Safety, Inc. (CPRPFS) to take over administration and promotion of the CMP. The CPRPFS is a tax exempt not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that derives its mission from public law.

Although the federal government does not directly fund the CMP, the military does supply the program with surplus rifles and ammo, which you can order through this catalog (PDF) if you belong to an affiliated organization.

Unfair to Whom?
Here's an Associated Press story on a new "study" that purports to argue against free-market health-care policies:

High-deductible health insurance plans favored by many employers often wind up being an unfair burden to women, a new study says, largely because women need many routine medical exams that quickly add up.

The median expense for men under 45 in these plans was less than $500, but for women it was more than $1,200, according to a study by Harvard Medical School researchers.

They also found that only a third of insured men in that age group spent more than $1,050 in annual medical costs, while 55 percent of women did.

"High-deductible plans punish women for having breasts and uteruses and having babies," said Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, the study's lead author.

"When an employer switches all his employees into a consumer-driven health plan, it's the same as giving all the women a $1,000 pay cut, on average, because women on average have $1,000 more in health costs than men," she said.

Women's costs are higher because women need mammograms, cervical cancer vaccine, Pap tests, birth control and pregnancy-related services that men do not, said Woolhandler, who also is a co-founder of a physicians' group that advocates for a single-payer national health insurance system.

Wait a minute now. Wouldn't it be just as accurate to say that traditional, low-deductible plans and socialized medicine schemes pose an unfair burden to men, punishing us for lacking breasts and uteruses and not having babies?

Actually, that would be simplistic too. Really, it's single men who bear the brunt of women's health-care costs under these systems. After all, if we were married, our wife would most likely sign up for our employer-provided health-insurance plan, and we would have an interest in its generosity vis-à-vis women's medical needs.

We're particularly amused by Dr. Woolhander's comment that women are punished for "having babies." Usually when that happens, there's a man involved too.

This Just In
"Justice Kennedy the Key in Close Cases"--headline, New York Times, April 7

Another Stolen Election!
"Comedy Beats Gore on Easter Weekend"--headline,k, April 8

So Where Are We Supposed to Buy and Sell Oil?
"Oil Markets Closed for Good Friday"--headline, United Press International, April 6

Say What?
"Zach Who? Steals Show Johnson Doesn't Blink Despite Tiger"--headline, Contra Costa (Calif.) Times, April 9

Wild Kingdom
o "Three Gophers Accused of Sexual Assault"--headline, Sporting News, April 6

o "Beavers Pushing Sex Predator Legislation"--headline, Lebanon (Tenn.) Democrat, April 4

'I Once Caught a Fish That Was Thiiiiis Old!'
"What a Catch! Giant 90-Year-Old Fish Reeled In off Alaska"--headline,, April 6

If the World Is Warming, Why Can't They Stay in Poland?
"Scientists Detail Climate Changes, Poles to Tropics"--headline, New York Times, April 7

It Ate My Homework Too
"Watchdog Rips Deal in Carfax Lawsuit"--headline, Detroit News, April 9

News You Can Use
o "That New-Car Smell? Not Toxic, Study Finds"--headline,, April 7

o "Free Horse Manure Available From BLM"--headline, Deseret News (Salt Lake City), April 9

o "Restaurant Hostesses Are Not Mind-Readers"--headline, Belleville (Ill.) News Democrat, April 9

Bottom Stories of the Day
o "Fla. Professor to Speak at Waynesburg College"--headline, Observer-Reporter (Washington, Pa.), April 6

o "Heart Attack Death Rates Not Higher in Iowa's Rural Hospitals"--headline, press release, University of Iowa, April 5

o "Small Town Relies on the Lead-Footed to Pay Its Bills"--headline, Houston Chronicle, April 8

o " 'Lethal Weapon' Star Danny Glover Says No to Running Against S.F. Mayor"--headline, San Francisco Chronicle, April 9

o "Local Churches Celebrate Easter"--headline, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, April 9

Fantasy Feud
"Tori Spelling Says Feud With Mom Is Over," reads an Associated Press headline. Normally, we'd either file this under "Bottom Stories of the Day" or ignore it completely on the ground that there is a superfluity of bottom stories involving entertainment figures.

But something about this story got our attention. Tori Spelling, in case you don't know, is the 33-year-old daughter of the late Aaron Spelling, a TV producer who died last year. She is probably best known for her supporting role in one of her father's 1990s shows, "Beverly Hills, 90125."

According to the AP, Miss Spelling and her mom, Candy, made up when Tori gave birth to a son. "When she walked through that hospital door when I was in labor, it was like I had just seen her yesterday," Tori Spelling says. "We both started to cry and hug, and I said, 'I love you, Mommy,' and she said, `I love you.' That was it. I wish my dad got to see it, but I think he is looking down on us."

So what was the cause of their "9-month estrangement" that "was juicy gossip in the tabloids, with mother and daughter sitting apart during a tribute to famed TV producer Aaron Spelling at the Emmy Awards last August"? We'll let Tori explain:

"Nothing really transpired between us," Tori Spelling says. "After reading so many stories, I think we both thought, 'Does she hate me? Did I do something?' We were both scared to reach out to each other. Now that we're together, we realize that there is no feud."

It's almost enough to make you think you can't believe everything you read in the tabloids.

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To: Hoa Hao who wrote (201930)4/9/2007 3:19:50 PM
From: KLP
   of 777294
AQI preached a persuasive message: Our way or the grave. Now, all we have to do is find a way for the Dem/Leftists in this country to hear and understand what AQ and AQI is saying. What part of OUR (their) way don't the Dems understand???

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To: Hoa Hao who wrote (201930)4/9/2007 3:26:18 PM
From: KLP
   of 777294
Sadr Panics

Moqtoda al-Sadr has panicked in what must be the the pending destruction of his quasi-military power base. He has ordered his militia to fight back against the US - basically declaring war on us and the Iraqi government. Which is really all we needed to eliminate the Shiia death squads and Iranian backed fanatics.

Calling the United States the “great evil,” powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr on Sunday ordered his militiamen to redouble their effort to oppose American troops and argued that Iraq’s army and police force should join him in defeating “your archenemy.”

Interestingly this report does not address whether Sadr is still hold up in Iran - where he ran to when the US started shifting forces towards Baghdad and Anbar for the Surge. Sadr’s people have been uncovered running death squads at the top levels of the Iraqi government. So there is no love lost for the man who possibly ordered other Iraqis killed. Sadr is clearly seeing his one true strength being dismantled, and is now panicking. A good sign the Surge is working.

Posted by AJStrata on Monday, April 9th, 2007 at 6:36 am.

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To: John Carragher who wrote (201931)4/9/2007 3:28:21 PM
From: D. Long
   of 777294
Rep. Dan Surra (D., Elk) said that while he sympathized with residents living in high-crime areas, he could not support any gun-restriction bill because in certain quarters of his district, a hunting stronghold in the north-central part of the state, guns are a single-issue item at the polls

That's my home ground, and that's 100% accurate. My uncles and many of my neighbors who otherwise would have voted Democrat didn't in 1992 because they thought Clinton would take their guns. It's a third rail in central PA.

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To: LindyBill who wrote (200720)4/9/2007 3:28:34 PM
From: KLP
   of 777294
My questions: How much of the anti-GWB negativity is funded and fueled by George Soros??? How much in thrall will Obama be to Soros??? How much more will the Democrats be beholden to Soros?

Can one man and his Billions change your life to his vision on the One World Order?

There is more at this link...

>>>>>>Soros: Bush Administration
According to Bloomberg news, September 28, 2002, George Soros said that "the final straw came on June 1, 2002, when U.S. President George W. Bush stepped before 989 graduating officers at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, and changed American foreign policy. The U.S., the president said, would now take offensive military action against any country that it suspected of posing a terrorist threat, a strategy later dubbed the Bush Doctrine."

Soros said the Bush administration "violated human rights and damaged American security by invading Iraq and deposing the regime of Saddam Hussein. 'The idea that we can impose our will on the world is really just the wrong idea,'" he said, vowing "to do everything in his power to prevent Bush from winning re-election.

He "joined forces with Democratic Party allies in organized labor, the environmental movement and women's groups ... [and, in] July 2003, Soros kick-started a network of nonprofit political organizations with an $18.5 million contribution."

According to Byron Wien, senior investment strategist at Morgan Stanley and a close Soros friend, "George was violent on this before a Democratic candidate was even chosen, ... It was anybody but Bush." [2] <<<<<

>>>>>>Soros: Funding the Opposition
The December 1, 2003, USA Today quoted Soros's worth at "about $7 billion," of which Soros had pledged "$15.5 million to anti-Bush, anti-conservative groups ... giving $10 million to Americans Coming Together, $2.5 million to, and $3 million to the Center for American Progress." Soros was then in the process of "writing his own anti-Bush book. The Bubble of American Supremacy, a critique of the president's foreign policy," which hit bookstores in January 2004. [5] <<<<<

>>>>>>> "'It is the central focus of my life,' Soros said, his blue eyes settled on an unseen target. The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is 'a matter of life and death.'" --George Soros, November 11, 2003. <<<<<<<

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To: Joe Btfsplk who wrote (201325)4/9/2007 3:38:16 PM
From: KLP
   of 777294
It will be good to keep an eye on who is buying who for 2008, by using some info from this site....Take a look at the Advocacy Groups of the last election and the funds they gave, and to whom.....There will be more money from these and other groups for 2008...some of the money has already started in and is showing....Especially see the groups that are funding Obama and Hillary, and the Soros groups in particular.

The Major Players
Active Advocacy Groups in the 2004 Election Cycle

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To: Nadine Carroll who wrote (201932)4/9/2007 4:25:22 PM
From: KLP
   of 777294
Most interesting post, Nadine. Durkin said: "Asked, many times over many days, what, if anything, could be done to salvage the deteriorating situation, they'd insist: things would never improve unless the Americans
supplied jobs,
fought crime,
restored the schools,
guarded the banks,
built homes
and sewage systems,
even mediated family quarrels....

and also left Iraq immediately."

And isn't that just the dilemma?

I wonder in the future, we will find that the planning individuals actually believed the Iraqis would be much better able and incentivised, to pick up the ball and help run with it for the sake of their country and their children, grandchildren, etc? Our planners in the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA must have REALLY not realized how dependent and subservient the Iraqi citizens really were.

It might well be worth thinking about if we decide to help another country again.

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From: LindyBill4/9/2007 4:39:00 PM
   of 777294
Great pictures at site. I bet the Kurds would love "The 300."

An Army, Not a Militia

SULEIMANIYA, IRAQ – Iraq is a country with three armies and I'm-not-sure-how-many militias and death squads. The Iraqi Army is nominally the national army, but it's still being trained, supplied, and augmented by the coalition forces, which is to say the Americans. It's also not allowed to operate in the north. The third army is the Kurdish Peshmerga, the liberators and protectors of the only part of Iraq – the three northern governates – that may be salvaged from insurgency, terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and war. Do not confuse the Peshmerga with the ragtag ethnic and sectarian militias running rampant in Iraq's center and south. The Kurdish armed forces are a real professional army and are recognized as such in Iraq's constitution and by the so-called central government in Baghdad.

My colleague Patrick Lasswell and I spent a couple of days with officers and soldiers at the Ministry of Peshmerga in the northern city of Suleimaniya. I knew already that the Kurds bristled at charges that their Peshmerga was yet another of Iraq's many militias, and I have to agree now that I've seen and interviewed them myself.

Colonel Mudhafer Hasan Rauf arranged our visit and hosted us in his office. He was, I believe, the only officer we met who did not wear a uniform.

The fact that the Peshmerga can dress nicely and have formal offices where journalists can meet them does not in and of itself make them an army and not a militia. Hezbollah has offices south of Beirut where journalists can go – if, unlike me, they haven't been threatened and blacklisted. Unlike Hezbollah, though, the Peshmerga take their orders from the locally elected and centrally sanctioned civilian authorities.

"The word Peshmerga is a holy word among Kurds," Colonel Mudhafer said. "It means those who face death. We are the outcome of the oppression and torture of the central government in the past. Peshmergas value their lives less than the liberation of their people. We are not a militia as some people in Iraq say. We are not a militia at all. The political leadership gives us orders, and we are an organized army."

It may appear odd to Western readers that I refer to Colonel Mudhafer by his rank and first name, rather than by his rank and last name. This, though, is how the Kurds refer to themselves and to others. I am never Mr. Totten. Here I am always Mr. Michael. Jalal Talabani, Iraq's Kurdish president, is never called Mr. Talabani or President Talabani. They call him Mam (which is a term of affection like "uncle") Jalal. Uncle Jalal. The informality in this part of the world, even in the offices of the elite and in the military, is refreshing and agreeable to someone like me from the Pacific Northwest in United States were formality never really took hold.

The Kurdish armed forces don't take their orders from civilian officials in Baghdad. They are treated by the central government as something like a regional or "national" guard. Only the civilian officials in the Kurdish northern governates are allowed to give them their orders, which makes official Iraqi Kurdistan's status as de-facto independent or, if you prefer, a state within a state.

Patrick and I were served small cups of Turkish coffee and locally bottled water. The colonel and I traded cigarettes – he gave me a Marlboro, and I gave him a Sobranie Black Russian.

"You should know that Kurds are the main friends of the Americans in the Middle East," he said. "In the past we had only God and the mountains as friends. But now we want Americans to support us in all matters, to be another mountain. Our Minister of Peshmerga has great relations with the American forces. We are in the same trench and we are fighting the terrorists just like Americans are. It will be in the future this way, also. Not one American person has been wounded in this area. We have a real alliance with America. We are proud of this relationship. We want the American nation to know we are real friends."

The colonel supplied us with an escort who took us around to shake hands with apparently every important person in the ministry, and many who were not so important: officers, generals, clerks, computer operators, uniform tailors, accountants, cooks. You name 'em, Patrick and I met 'em.

"We will introduce you to everyone and show you everything," he said. "You may write whatever you like. Whatever is your impression is your impression."

The soldiers and officers wore clean and crisp uniforms. Those in the lower ranks sharply saluted their officers. When entering the office of a person of higher rank, lower ranking officers and soldiers raise up their right knees and loudly stomped the floor with their boots.

It did, indeed, look and feel like we were being introduced to the real army of an independent state. The contrast between the professional and accountable Peshmerga and the death squads and militias running amok in the south while wearing black ski masks was unmistakable.

I was slightly surprised to see some women around. But only slightly. The Peshmerga famously included women in their ranks during the fight against Saddam Hussein in the mountains of Kurdistan, which culminated into victory during the 1991 uprising.

Nearly every province in Iraq was liberated from Saddam's rule after the first President Bush asked Iraqis to rise up and destroy him. The Kurds were protected by no-fly zones imposed by the United States and Great Britain while, for whatever reason, Saddam Hussein was allowed to smash the Shia Arabs who rose up in the South and reconsolidate his rule over most of Iraq.

The Kurds, though, earned their freedom and kept it. Civilians evacuated the cities of Erbil, Dohuk, and Suleimaniya and cleared the urban areas for the final epic battle in the north against Saddam's genocidal army. The Peshmerga emerged from the mountains and fought the Baath to the death in the streets mano a mano.

The Kurds are serious fighters. I would not want to mess with them. For hundreds of years the Arabs and Persians and Ottomans have known them as good warriors. Fortunately for them and – especially – for the Arabs, the Kurds of Iraq are uncorrupted by terrorism. Not once during the fight against the Baath did the Peshmerga or any other Iraqi Kurdish guerilla force attack Arab civilians in Kurdistan or anywhere else.

Our escort showed us the parade grounds where Peshmerga soldiers train and, well, parade around in a square.

After the June War of 1967, Israeli General Moshe Dayan was asked how the Israeli Defense Forces beat three armies in six days. What was their secret? His answer: Fight Arabs. In other words, the Israelis aren't necessarily that good at war. Arab armies in the modern Middle East don't have a professional military culture, so they're fairly easy to push over. Lebanon's Hezbollah, which has been trained by the Persians, is a lot tougher. Nothing prevents Arabs as Arabs from being good fighters. It is, rather, a matter of their weak and unprofessional military culture which is changeable and possibly temporary.

The Kurds likewise fought well against Saddam's mostly Arab army. Saddam's regime was thoroughly totalitarian, and his soldiers were slaves who were forced to fight at the point of a gun. Their weapons were poor. They slept on the ground and drank water from ditches. Successful generals were purged from the army so they wouldn't be able to mount a coup against the regime. The Kurds fought to free themselves from genocidal oppression, for their land, for their homes, and for the lives of their children. Once the Peshmerga became fairly well organized, it was no contest.

It's hard to say, then, how well the Peshmerga would stack up against other professional militaries in the region, like those of the Turks or Israelis for instance. The Kurds will likely never fight the Israelis: they not-so-secretly view the Jewish state as a quiet ally against Arab Nationalism and jihadi terrorism. The Turks, though, are another story. The Peshmerga's next war may be fought against a regional superpower with a large professional mechanized army that won't be so easy to knock down or push out. That is what they are preparing for now: not to launch an invasion of Turkey, but to defend their homeland in case the generals in Ankara decide to invade Kurdish Iraq to secure the Kurdistan region in their own country which is still wracked with violence from the (Turkish, not Iraqi) Marxist-Leninist Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK.

The Peshmerga Club is not what Patrick or I expected. I don't remember what we expected, exactly, but I figured it might be something along the lines of a place where grizzled Kurdish officers smoked cigars, drank scotch, and swapped war stories with hardy bravado. It might be a cool place to hang out, I thought, and hear the gritty details of mountain guerilla warfare before the Peshmerga became the professional soldiers they are today.

So I was slightly surprised to see that the Peshmerga Club is Iraqi Kurdistan's military equivalent of the YMCA – and without any gender segregation.

It's a sports club, not a club club, and young men and women go there to play volleyball and basketball, run, lift weights, and exercise.

None of the young women wore hijabs (Islamic headscarves), and there didn't appear to be any squeamishness whatsoever about the mixing of young good-looking women and men.

Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army doesn't have anything like this down south, I thought. What's often most striking about the Kurdistan region of Iraq is how blessedly normal it often is, not just compared with the rest of the Middle East (and especially the rest of Iraq), but with much of the modern world as well.

The Kurds don't merely have the outward appearance of normalcy and modernity. General Baram Sadi of the Peshmerga's military police wanted to make sure we understood their political ethics and values also mesh well with those of the West.

"After the 1991 uprising we had elections," General Baram Sadi said. "We built a parliament. The Kurdistan government in this region created the Ministry of Peshmerga, and the minister is part of the government. We follow the ministry council. We are not involved in any other political things. We do not belong to any political party, but to the Kurdistan Regional Government. We obey the orders of the government and the Ministry of Peshmerga. We do not belong to any other side or special party."

General Baram joined us as we were shown the chow hall and the barracks.

"It is very tidy, yes?" said our escort as he showed us the barracks. He said it with a noticeable uncertainty in his voice, as though he wasn't sure the standards of the Kurdish military were what Americans would expect or accept. I wasn't inspecting the barracks, but I felt slightly like that's what they wanted me and Patrick to do. I am not now and have never been a military person. Inspecting a barracks isn't my job.

"Yes, it's very tidy," Patrick said, which hopefully put them at ease. He, unlike me, is a military person, a Navy reservist to be specific.

"It's a lot more tidy than my room," I said, which was the truth. I'm not a slob, but Spartan is not the word I would use to describe where I live.

General Baram showed us to his office and asked us to sit. Coffee and bananas were served in little cups with dainty spoon and on small plates.

"Do you accept recruits from all of Kurdistan?" Patrick said.

"Yes, of course," said General Baram. "If they meet all the conditions, such as age, health, and education."

"What about religion and ethnicity?" I said.

"We have Catholics, Christians, Muslims, Yezidis, Sunnis," he said. "It doesn't matter." The Yezidis are fire-worshipping pagans. They adhere to the original religion of the Kurds, and are the remnants of this ethnic group who refused to convert to Islam when the Arabs conquered them long ago. The Kurdistan flag displays a yellow sun at its center in honor of the Kurds' Yezidi heritage.

"If Arabs who move here from the South want to join the Peshmerga," I said, "are they allowed?"

"Before the uprising in 1991, many Arabs joined us," the general said. "They were interested, they wanted to join. And now because of the safety of Kurdistan, so many families want to come here. You know, it is so safe here. Some Arab people do join, here, now. Those friends who want to join us, we welcome them. Arab, Shia, we don't care. We are secular."

"What do you think about the British sailors captured by the Iranians?" Patrick said.

"I think Iran took them as hostages to trade for the five Iranians taken from the consul in Erbil," General Baram said. "Kurdish people have been suffering from Iranian terrorism for a long time. Now you are seeing with your own eyes how they treat their neighbors."

"What does Iran do here?" I said.

"They do everything," the general said. "Terrorism. They do everything that is bad. They had a terrorist base for Ansar Al Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan in the mountains near Halabja, in Biara and Tawela, before the Americans drove them out. Terrorists did terrible things to the Kurdish people, not just to Americans on September 11."

An aid to General Baram Sadi points at the village of Biara in the region occupied by the Iranian-backed terrorist group Ansar Al Islam before the Peshmerga and American Special Forces drove them out at the same time they toppled Saddam Hussein's government in 2003

Ansar Al Islam attacked an Iraqi Kurdistan checkpoint north of Suleimaniya a week before. No one was killed, but at least three people were hurt. The border area is reasonably safe around here, but not completely.

"After we attacked them they went back into Iran," said General Baram. "They reorganized themselves and try to come from the other border in the southern Iraq. Iran supports them directly. Everyone knows. And it's not just in Iraq. In Lebanon, too. They killed Rafik Hariri. They support Hezbollah. You know what is happening in Lebanon right now? Beirut used to be a very nice city. Even in Afghanistan they support terrorists. As Kurdish people we want Americans to stay in our region, to protect us, and to deepen the relationship between us."

Our tour of the ministry and attached military base continued. Three years ago nothing there was nothing at this location. Now there is a vast complex of buildings, offices, barracks, and camps.

There is no mosque on the ministry grounds, but there is a small outdoor area where the devout can wash themselves before praying on a small carpet

Most Kurds say equally nice things about the Democratic and Republican parties. They make little or no distinction between them. George W. Bush gets credit for liberating them from Saddam, but the Democrats – as Americans – get de facto credit as well.

One of the officers we met had nice things to say about Hillary Clinton. Apparently she said something recently about American troops remaining in Kurdistan no matter what happens in the rest of Iraq, but no one here had the exact quote for me.

General Karam is less sanguine and a little more partisan. He didn't single out the Democrats by name, but he clearly isn't happy with what they are up to right now.

"As a military person, I am disturbed by what is going on in America now," he said and jabbed his finger in the air. "They want to withdraw their troops." He banged his fist on his desk. "We want the Americans to stay. Why are people thinking like this?"

"America is divided," I said. "We argue amongst ourselves about this."

"Some of the politicians in Congress believe it will get them elected," Patrick said, "if they say they're going to withdraw from Iraq. But many of them know that the resolution that just passed…President Bush will kill it dead."

"Yes," General Karam said. "President Bush insisted."

"The resolution is vetoed on arrival," Patrick said.

"I want you, as a reporter, as a journalist," the general said to me, "to get our Kurdish voice to the American people so they know about Kurdish suffering in Iraq. We don't want the American army to leave this area. The terrorists are excited about what is going on in the Congress."

"They are playing to cable television in the U.S." Patrick said.

"That's why we want you to pass this on to the American people," said the general.

"Of course," I said. "It is my job."

The general angrily answered his phone, yelled into it, and hung up.

"American people don't know what's going on in Kurdistan," he said. "The public doesn't even know what's going on."

"What do the Kurdish people think of George W. Bush?" Patrick said.

"He is a friend," said General Karam. "He has done everything for the Kurdish people, for our rights. He is a friend. And he is not going to leave us."

"What do you think will happen," I said, "if the United States withdraws from Iraq next year?"

"It will be easier for terrorists to attack us," the general said. "We are surrounded by enemies. They will attack Kurdistan from everywhere. We believe, as Kurds, it is not honorable for Americans to withdraw. It will be bad for Americans, too. They will be killing themselves. If Americans leave us we expect terrorists will reach the American country very soon."

"If the three northern provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan are safe even without American troops here," I said, "why will you be in more danger if American troops leave Baghdad? You are already taking good care of yourselves."

"As Kurdish forces, we can't compare our power to Americans," he said. "We are a small power. We cannot defend ourselves from Turkey and Iran."

"Who are you more worried about if the Americans leave next year?" I said. "Are you more worried about the Arab terrorists in the South, or Turkey and Iran?"

"All of them equally," he said. "You know there are Kurdish cities in Turkey, Iran, and Syria. We are worried about all of them. Arab terrorism is the worst right now because they are inside Iraq. They are part of the government."

I wasn't completely satisfied with the answer General Karam gave me about Kurdish security in the wake of an American withdrawal. It was a little too vague. Yes, the Kurds are surrounded by enemies. But that's true if the Americans stay or if the Americans go. American forces aren't protecting Kurdistan now, at least not directly. So what, exactly, would change if the Americans left? I didn't have a chance to drill down into the answer because the general had to get back to work. We were taken to see Colonel Mudhafer again, though, and he had a more detailed answer for us.

We joined the colonel and some of his aids in his office for lunch. They served us the same military meal the soldiers and officers ate: rice, lamb on the bone, tomato-squash soup, some bread, and locally bottled mineral water. The food wasn't great, but it was acceptable.

"We Peshmerga eat fast," Colonel Mudhafer said. "We learned that in the mountains. But you take your time."

I ripped off a hunk of bread with my hands and rolled lamb into it which I had picked off the bone with my fork.

"What will happen to the security of Iraqi Kurdistan if the Americans leave?" I said. "Most Americans who know something about Kurdistan – many Americans don't know anything about it – they know it is safe and that there are almost no American troops here at all. So why does it matter if American troops leave Baghdad if you are already taking care of your own security by yourselves? Americans aren't here anyway. Terrorists already can't physically get here."

"Ok," Colonel Mudhafer said. "Every single person in Kurdistan dreams about an independent Kurdistan. We want to make our state."

"The problem is our neighbors," he continued. "They are making trouble for us because they don't want a Kurdish state. The neighbors help terrorists come across the border, from Iran, from Syria, from Iraq, from everywhere. They are trying to demolish all we have done here. They hate us. They don't like the friendship between us and America. It's like what Hitler did to the Jewish people. We are in the same situation. They treat us like we are Jews."

"There is some talk in the United States of moving American troops out of Baghdad and the surrounding areas into Kurdistan instead," I said. "What would you think if that's what happens next year instead of withdrawing American troops to the United States?"

"The main strategy for us is to bring American troops to Kurdistan," he said. "That what we want in the future."

He opened the refrigerator next to his desk and pulled out a box of sweets that are specialties in Suleimaniya province. In the center is hard sap scraped off tree branches that was left there some kind of insect. Wrapped around the sap center is white nougat made hard and brittle from freezing. The hard-as-rock candy is then rolled in powdered sugar. It takes sharp teeth and serious jaw strength to bite into.

"What do you think will happen in Baghdad if American troops leave?" I said.

"We believe if the Americans withdraw from this country there will be many more problems," he said. "The Sunni and Shia want total control of Iraq. We are going to get involved in that. Iran is going to be involved in that. Turkey is going to be involved in that. Syria is going to be involved in that. The Sunni and Shia fighting in Baghdad will pull us in. We are going to be involved. Turkey and Iran will make problems for us. It is not going to be safe. All the American martyrs will have died for nothing, and there will be more problems in the future. Americans should build big bases here."

"In the American experience, when we surrender or give up the fighting stops," Patrick said. "What is your experience as Kurds? What happens to you when you surrender or give up?"

"All the problems will start," the colonel said. "We don't want to be involved in that fighting between Sunni and Shia. But we're going to get involved if the Americans leave. We are going to be pulled into that. It's not going to be like the Arabs and Al Jazeera say. They say when the Americans leave, all the problems will be solved. No. It is not going to be like that."

He seemed despondent now, as if his best friends in the world were about to throw him under the bus.

"There are two kinds of love," he said. "The kind between a man and a woman. And the kind between people and nations. Americans are beheaded in Baghdad. But they are welcome in Kurdistan."

The colonel drove Patrick and I back to our hotel in a white "Monica" (the Kurdish nickname for a Toyota Land Cruiser) under heavily armed guard.

"If you come back in ten years you won't recognize Suleimaniya," he said as we drove through the city. His optimism seemed to be back. "We are building so many things. Suli will be amazing. It has always been the capital of our national culture. So many writers and intellectuals and poets live here."

We drove past a massive concrete construction site the size of a sports stadium.

"What's this building?" Patrick said.

"This will be our National Theater," the colonel said.

He dropped us off at our hotel, stepped out of the vehicle, and dramatically kissed us both on our cheeks. Perhaps he was just being nice. He might have been sucking up for good press. Something else occurred to Patrick and me, as well, however. It's possible – who can say? – that he was showing anyone who might be spying on us that we have powerful friends with guns who are not to be messed with.

Sometimes I don't know how I'm supposed to feel about this place and these people. They are wondeful, to be sure, and they are doing good work. But if feels precarious sometimes, as though they are building a nation on the rim of a volcano.

Near the entrance to downtown is a series of posters glued to bomb blast walls surrounding the Suli Palace Hotel.

Inside the outline of the country of Iraq – including both the Kurdish and Arabic regions – are more than one hundred small and large lights. "The Light of Iraq Will Not Go Out," the poster says.

I am not sure about that.

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