Thursday, January 24, 2008

Prison Break

God bless the people of Gaza. While the American media talks about Gaza being closed since the Hamas takeover (read election) last June, Gaza has been a prison for over 40 years. With the withdrawal of the settlers, the IDF totally surrounded this narrow strip of land and its 1.5 million citizens, bombing and bulldozing and terrifying children with nightly sonic booms. They've reinforced the walls on the north and east, the gates of which are rarely opened while the west is patrolled by the Israeli navy. As for the south, the wall separating Gaza from Egypt was built on the Palestinian side so that the area between Palestinian Rafah and Egyptian Rafah has been a no-man's land in theory. The Israelis have actual control of who comes and who goes, who lives and who dies. And countless innocents have died awaiting crossing and transport to hospitals and clinics outside of Gaza.

The fuel freeze of the last week was not the first. Gaza has been down to one working power plant for some time so electricity is scarce, the water pumps don't work and the sewage problem has actually killed women and children.

So watching the news of the women of Gaza trying to storm the Rafah crossing only to be turned back by the Egyptian army spewing water cannon and firing live rounds was disheartening, to say the least. But then, Tuesday night, reading the news of the wall tumbling down was breathtaking.

If only for a day or so, the people of Gaza will have had a taste of freedom. They will have petrol and medicine and flour and pride. And they will have the illusion of control for however long it lasts. God bless the people of Gaza. Allah Ma'kum.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Surge Success

After months of doubt about the success of the American surge in Iraq, today the Iraqi Parliament produced its first sign that the parties are reaching an agreement -- they've agreed to a new Iraqi flag. Although the new flag is considered "interim", pending a better flag within a year, agreement was reached to remove the three stars which originally symbolized pan-Arab unity and, when that didn't pan out, was changed to promote the ideals of the Ba'ath party. The new flag will retain its original colors but will include the Arab script inserted by Sadaam Hussein in 1991 in response to American threats over Iraqi's annexation of Kuwait. However, rather than looking as it did from 1991 through the fall of Sadaam, the script will be changed to the new and improved Kufic type font. The message remains the same: "Allahu Akbar".

At some point in the not too distant future, the Coalition of the "Whoops-Where-Did-Everybody-Go" will find an Arabic speaking translator to let them know that the phrase on the new and improved flag translates as "God is Great".

So the Pan-Arab flag, which was replaced by the Ba'ath Flag, which was replaced by the post-1991 flag promoting Sadaam's attempts at pacifying his Muslim citizens will now be replaced by a temporary Iraqi flag containing the Islamic rallying cry of "Allahu Akbar" (in new and improved Kufic type face).

Score one for the American Surge and its progress. Now if the Parliament can only agree to convene once again in the American-protected "Green Zone" and find a way to get the power back up and running, get potable water to the people, clean the streets of streams of sewage, find jobs in reconstruction for unemployed Iraqis, put the oil industry back in Iraqi hands, reopen safe schools and well-stocked hospitals and clinics, get the 2 million Iraqis who have left the country to return and find homes and jobs for the 2 million internally displaced, the Americans can claim that the Surge actually worked! And the Parliament can ask the Americans to leave.

Somehow, I don't find great hope in this. It's beyond FUBAR -- it's a tragedy of errors in cosmic proportion.