Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Somalia violence reaches new proportions

May 1, 2010

Today, two powerful bombs tore through a mosque in the heart of Mogadishu, killing dozens of people and opening up a new front of violence that had been limited, for the most part at least, to Iraq and Pakistan, where attacks on mosques and markets are a regular occurrence. Although in this case, the forces fighting for “resistance” (Al-Shabaab and Hizbul-Islam) are targeting each other…instead of innocent Shiite worshipers. A senior leader of Al-Shabaab was supposedly addressing his supporters at the mosque when the bombs went off. From what I have seen so far, the attacks do not appear to be suicide bombings, although Somalia has been faced with several of them. Last week, Al-Shabaab dispatched a suicide car bomber to an African Union Base, claiming it was revenge for the killings of Masri and Baghadi, Al-Qaeda’s two top leaders in Iraq.

Here’s the story about the attacks:

More than 45 people including Al Shabaab insurgents were killed and 100 others wounded in an Iraq-style twin bombing inside a mosque in Somalia’s restive capital Mogadishu, witnesses and security officials told Garowe Online.

Witnesses said the bombs went off shortly after the afternoon prayers inside the Abdalla Shideye Mosque in Bakara Market, a stronghold for the insurgent group, Al Shabaab.

“The explosions were big and occurred inside the Mosque. The place turned dark with huge black smoke everywhere the mosque. I saw several dead and injured people,” said eyewitness Abdinasir Ahmed.

He added that at the time of the explosion, a senior commander of Al Shabaab named Sheikh Fuad Mohamed Shongole was delivering a sermon to the mosque’s congregants.

Ali Muse of Mogadishu Ambulance Service said they have assisted “over 100” wounded people, and some are in critical condition.

Sheikh Ali Mohammed Rage, Al Shabaab’s spokesman, blamed “foreign mercenaries” for the blasts.

Unsurprisingly, Shabaab’s leaders are pointing the finger at “foreign mercenaries” for this attack. At least its not as ridiculous as the claims by some people in the Arab world and American leftists/right-wing isolationists that the CIA is responsible for the car bombings in Iraq.


Worthy of a peace prize

January 22, 2010

I’m working on a more thorough post at the moment and I’m also getting ready for a new project next month, which I will be announcing shortly. In the meantime, I’ve had this on my mind…

Glenn Beck disappointed me with his comments about Scott Brown after the soon-to-be-senator won the Massachusetts election…other recent statements and actions by this commentator have led me to fear that he is aligning himself with the Ron Paul-type fringe movement. However, I still think that he has done tremendous good, in spite of what others may say about him. Just look at this video he made a few years back, when all hope seemed lost in Iraq and the media was reminding us *every* day. Personally, I think Beck should have been awarded a peace prize for being one of the few media figures willing to embrace the truth.

Glenn Beck, you are a hero for making this video and I wish everyone in the media was more like you on this subject, including today.

The Avatar Experience

December 26, 2009

On Christmas Day, I went to go see “Avatar” and I left the theater thinking I had seen one of the best movies of the decade. I thought it was amazing–the visual effects, the acting, the story, and the 3D experience. The story brought a myriad of emotions with it too, and it feels like you are almost like you are there. I’ll explain how, but if you haven’t seen the trailer yet, see it below.

I have heard that James Cameron first wrote the script to “Avatar” as far back as 1994 and had hoped to have it in theaters before the year 2000. After watching the visual effects of the movie, I am thankful that he waited, because technology 10 years ago would have no way been able to take on such a huge project. “Jurassic Park III” tried to use CGI animation around that time and failed miserably. Needless to say, the world is ready for Avatar today.

Deciphering messages, politics, and the “Dens of Infidelity”

After I watched the movie, I began thinking about the subtle politics that bubbled up to the surface during the film.  The story features a native tribe–the Na’vi–fighting corporate mercenaries mining the natural resources of Pandora, the planet that the Na’vi inhabit. I got the impression that this has a message about the Native Americans and other indigenous people like the Aztecs and South American Indians who fell victim to European colonialism and imperialism, which is something that everyone should learn about. It also could relate to the conflicts in Darfur and Eastern Congo, where tribes are facing complete destruction. Some critics have even suggested a connection to “American Imperialism” in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, I have difficulty accepting this because it could make sense only in a parallel universe–one where a complete idiot would use a beautiful, harmonious place like Pandora as a metaphor to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Just the same, if the movie is a caricature of the Iraq War, surely some of the Na’vi tribesmen in the movie would have strapped explosives to their chests, blown themselves up among Na’vi children, and then refer to Pandora as the “Den of Infidelity” like the so-called “resistance” fighters have done in Iraq…that’s the only real way you could drive such a message home. I did take a 60-second break in the middle of the movie to go to the bathroom, but I don’t think the plot managed to work any of this madness into it during that very short time frame.

Inspiration, hope, and adventure

But hidden politics aside (where they belong), the most important message I took from the movie was the need for humanity to appreciate the miracles of the universe we live in. Walking out of the cinema after Avatar really makes you feel that life here on Earth is kinda, well…dull. Think about it–we live in a society where too many of us go through grade school, find a place to function in society, pay taxes, create children to live the same lifestyle, and eventually die. How boring is that?! Is there not so much to life? I really hope that in my lifetime I will see the world change so we can explore the new frontiers–whether its venturing to Mars or exploring the depths of our oceans, which I should say, are as amazing and unknown as the floating mountains and waterfalls on Pandora. Avatar, to me, is a reminder to keep moving forward in exploring our home–from the bottom of the sea to the highest Cosmos–and to appreciate it for what it is. The world today is lacking in mysticism and adventure, something that at one time was human nature. Unfortunately, because we’ve settled for so much laziness and mediocrity in our society, we’ve forgotten what its truly like to live on the edge. As Sugarland would say, “there’s gotta be something more”.

At the moment, I am planning to see Avatar a second time…its vying with “Slumdog Millionaire” for my personal title of “Movie of the Year” and I think seeing it again will help me decide. The former, believe it or not, played a major role in my decision to travel to South Asia and see India for myself…Avatar, while completely fictional, makes me wish to do something more with my life, too. Maybe I’ll go buy a telescope or go out and visit the majestic Farallon Islands.

Avatar is an amazing journey that you, the viewer, get to take part in. My legs actually felt wobbly during some of the flight scenes over huge mountains because I felt like I was there.  Its a visual effects masterpiece and a futuristic story that feels almost like Lawrence of Arabia meets Pocahontas, and even Titanic, James Cameron’s last major film. I have yet to meet anyone who was disappointed in the film…its almost impossible. Cinemas across the country are erupting to applause to the movie even as I write this.

So dry your tears, I say

December 8, 2009

If you have been following the news these last few days, you might like this video. Just the same, if you haven’t watched the news, don’t start now. The horrendous terrorist strikes that have killed hundreds in Iraq and Pakistan threaten to break the will of humanity…and the only way you can get comfort from this on cable news is if you want to hear about Tiger Woods’ half-dozen mistresses instead. So let’s light up the darkness, if I may take a cue from Will Smith’s character in “I am Legend”.

I was first introduced to Bob Marley’s message a couple of years ago when  I learned about his “Smile Jamaica!” concert in Kingston, where he came out on stage to share the love of Reggae music even after being shot by gunmen in his home. Despite suffering bullet wounds alongside his wife and producer, who were also hit, Marley sang some of his greatest and most inspirational songs to the thousands of people who had gathered in the war-ravaged city.

This man has changed my life in so many ways.

Time to call it as it is

July 30, 2009

Yes, Iraq still exists. There was a time when it was the biggest story out there. It was in a state of complete chaos, devastating bombings rocking the country on a daily basis and militias roaming the street day and night, terrorizing and killing anyone who visited the wrong mosque. The situation was labeled a “civil war” by the media and just about anyone who tried to prove the opposite—that hope was not lost— was dismissed as a neocon or a “warmonger”. That was the past.

Iraqi army soldiers

These days, the Baghdad correspondents who many Americans invited into their homes in the evening to tell tales of death and destruction have gradually disappeared. Often, a Google search of certain Iraqi cities will yield few results. With two successful elections this year, stunning security success, and a departure of US troops from major cities, Iraq is on track to succeed.  But, despite a dramatic drop in news coverage that trends opposite a rise in progress and stability, you can still find regular articles in the newspaper, on TV and on the internet about the” War in Iraq”; usually they are about troop withdrawals or an attack that the enemies of humanity—the “minutemen”, as Michael Moore termed them—manage to pull off against Iraq’s civilian population. Either you hear that, or you hear nothing…that’s an industry that’s supposed to bring fairness and accuracy to the American population at work for you. Quite an achievement in society, isn’t it?

Although there is much work to be done, its time for the media to stop referring to the situation as “the war” and focus instead on Iraq’s emergence as a sovereign country with a fully capable army and police force that brought law, order, and stability to major Iraqi cities that were once deemed “lost” to the insurgency by conniving politicians, like Harry Reid, and hatchet-piece news reports that have had an awful tendency to dot the front pages of the New York Times and the evening news. In fairness to the Iraqi people, whether or not Iraq is “at war” can rightfully be questioned. Misleading the public by portraying Iraq as something it’s not is detrimental not only to society, but to humanity. Its hard to argue that a stable Iraq is in everyone’s interest, unless of course it doesn’t fit into your zealous political aspirations.

The biggest indication that Iraq’s dark days are behind it is the face of the insurgency, or lack thereof. Zarqawi is dead. Abu Ayyub Al-Maasri, his replacement, has not been heard from since 2007 and reports suggest he is in Afghanistan.  Al-Sadr and his hiddeous deputy, Abu Deraa, have scurried off to Iran without even a whimper. As of today, every man who has taken a major role as a leader in the insurgency has been killed, jailed, or fled the country, leaving the so-called resistance without leadership or any form of  logistical organization. Running gun battles and ambushes targeting the Iraqi Security Forces are down almost one-hundred percent while the ISF rules the streets in Basra, Ramadi, and Diyala. Then there are the elections. Last January saw a peaceful and successful democratic election that gave Iraqis the chance to join other democracies without having suicide attackers and car bombs detonate as they lined up. Last week, Iraq’s Kurdistan region went to the polls in a peaceful and efficient election, bringing a death blow to the once-resilient criticism that Iraq could never become a functioning democracy.  In layman’s terms, it’s over…everyone who wanted to see the Iraqis fail at building a stable, democratic society has lost, pure and simple. And “everyone” covers a lot of ground, from the despotic Arab regimes that surround Iraq, to the still blood-soaked streets of Tehran, and the halls of Congress that were witness to countless resolutions drafted up congressmen and woman who sought to derail the success of Iraq and Iraqis to protect their political investments. The latter have both a (D) and an (R) in front of their names.

Iraq still faces trouble, particularly from its neighbors. As the uprising in Iran refuses to give up, its hard to predict what the regime in Tehran could do if 70 million people hungry for democracy and secularization bring it into its death throws. We all know the horror of what the Baathists, Saddam supporters, and Sunni extremists did to Iraq after they fell from power, there is no doubt that, if Khomeinism implodes, it could spew out the same terrorism—such as market and café bombings—and Iraq could bear the brunt of this, especially if the Mullahs and their allies sought to shift media attention away from their demise, which is becoming more of a possibility each day. Personally, I don’t think it’s a coincidence June saw an increased rate of high-profile attacks against Iraqi civilians as protests raged next door in Iran. Of course, a desperate and humiliated Al-Qaeda in Iraq was also eager to make it seem as if their attacks, not the June 30th deadline, were driving American soldiers from Iraqi cities and back to their bases. Despite rabid media hopes and speculation, the violence that hit parts of Iraq in June has not spilled over into July, and this month looks to be as calm as May, which was the calmest month in Iraq since 2003.

A congragulations and an apology to the people of Iraq from politicians across the United States should be in order. I’m not naïve though, and you shouldn’t be either. In the eyes of the Reids and Pelosis of the world, Iraq mind as well have spun off the earth’s axis. It was a subject that scored them a few cheap political points and could be swept under the rug when everything backfired. In fact, if it wasn’t for the financial crisis, I can’t help but feel that American voters might have seen what had been going on behind the curtains and rightfully voted against these people. It amazes me how a Senator can declare an effort lost and refer to a 4-star general as a liar without being ran straight out of office. 2010 could bring some solace to those of us who stood by Iraq in the most difficult of times, but the real solace comes in the continued growth and success in Iraq: the markets re-opening, the schools being built, and the brave young men and women who enlist into Iraq’s security forces and take an oath to protect their fellow citizens, so they can bring their children in a nation that could prove to be the Middle East’s greatest success story.