Jan 14, 2005

Much Worse Than What You've Heard

This is mostly true. He lives in Rabat. I see him occasionally. The other evening I went up to his apartment early. “You don’t mind if I’m wearing my PJs,” he said. They were beige with yellow dots. He also wore an ascot.
“I was ready to hit the silk, myself,” I said. He went out of the room to get beer.
His wife was sitting at her computer. “He’s so glad to have someone to talk to,” she said.
He returned and I told him my need. Election news in the Iraqi newspapers. He nodded but told me his story first. He left the country at 21, returned last year for the first time at 42. There were mortars most nights, explosions from time to time, but he never saw anybody get killed. “It wasn’t bad,” he said. “Not like now.”
He documented the now. “Much worse than you realize. The other day my brother told me that for every incident reported in the press there are ten more. You can’t keep track. It’s happening all the time. We went to the Iraqi embassy yesterday in Rabat. I went to pick up my passport, which I hadn’t had 20 years. They gave my approval in 15 minutes. Anyway, they said, “don’t go. You’d be a fool to step foot in the country. No one is going.”
He went on with his story, how he went to Baghdad a year ago, through Jordan. How the man at the border couldn’t read. “I gave him my passport. He said, what country are you from? This is a Mexican passport, I said.”
“Ah, so you’re from Canada.”
“No, Mexico”
“Mexico-Canada; Canada-Mexico. Same.”
“But they’re not.”
"Finally, he signed the document with a date stamp. That was all. And you wonder how people are coming across the border. Anyway, now the minute you step across, there are people watching. Kidnapping is the most lucrative profession.”
We talked some more and sat down at the computer. We went to Iraq4allnews.com. He went through the headlines, as of 1/14/05.
A scandal involving journalists.
A telecommunications company cheated customers.
Iraqis in Israel will not be allowed to vote.
28 prisoners escaped from Abu Graib prison today.

Few of these stories have bylines or sources or quotes or names.

Iraqis can file absentee ballots in 14 countries. Morocco is not one.
The Patriotic Group of Iraqi tribes asks all tribes in the country to boycott the elections.
American soldiers are selling weapons to insurgents. There is a photograph of a man, supposedly an American soldier about to kneel in a mosque.

“It’s crazy,” says my friend. “All chaos. No one knows anything. How can you know anything from these crazy things? “

One story says there are 700 Muslims in the American army in Iraq.
Fallujans will boycott.
Iraqis in Israel WILL be able to vote.

“You see the contradictions,” my friend said. He read on.

The Iraqi defense minister tells an Egyptian newspaper, Arab Struggle, that the list of candidates is really an Iranian list.
Another poll worker assassinated in Baghdad.
A pundit comments, “The situation now is like a bell signaling the beginning of civil war.”

“My brother tells me there is no electricity, except for perhaps one or two hours a day. And no petrol. Can you imagine in a country with such reserves, no petrol.”

And then a rough translation. “On a diet of strange occurrences every day, one marvels at the mystery itself.”
What does that mean, I asked.
He shook his head and went on. The stories suggest complete chaos. And of course there is no conventional election coverage because few candidates advertise their candidacy. Otherwise they would be killed. On election day you will go to the poll, and be given two pieces of paper. In one, you will find a list of parties that will send members to the general assembly. Pick one party. In the other, you get a list of parties representing your province. In the north, you get 3 pieces of paper, the third for the Kurdish assembly.


Ambassador Negroponte met with the leaders of the Committee of Islamic Scientists. They are Sunni. Their message was ‘give us your timetable for withdrawal and we will vote.” Negroponte filed his report to Washington and apparently the condition was rejected.
The Shiite Counsel of Islamic Revolution, Abdel Azziz Al Hakim (these spellings are on the fly), was quoted to say that even if the Sunnis didn’t vote he would leave seats open for them.
The election counsel would like to make people aware those candidates promising heaven in return for votes should be ignored.
Kurd leader Masood Barazani met with a sheik from one of the Arab tribes in Tikrit. (Which is significant, if true)
Hosni Mubarrek and the Sheik of the Al-Azhar, mosque (founded in 970 AD as an Islamic university and still the fount of Sunni orthodoxy) have been pushing for Iraqis to vote in the election.

He found several other stories. This person killed. Those persons blownup. One after another, stories of chaos.
“And remember for everyone reported, 10,” he said.
“Crazy, huh?”
I had to leave. We went to the door. He said he'd been offered a job in the new government, a financial advisor to the Iraqi president. "I called my brother, I was all happy. He said, if you take it we'll all be killed. That's what they're doing now, they're going after the families...."

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