Thursday, January 29, 2004

Saddam's, The Godfather, Oil-For-Blessing Scandal

Have you ever watched "The Godfather"movie? If not, or even if you did before, please watch this trilogy to understand more of uncle Saddam's behavior. He mimicked The Godfather in everything -- to the point of bribing religious figures. It's sad how much he loved this movie. I do LOVE Robert Di Niro, so that's another reason to watch the movie more than once. I made my husband watch the trilogy before "Operation Iraqi Freedom" so he could understand Saddam's mentality.

Pete Williams reporting for NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw has an excellent report regarding this subject. Here's a link to the report with the video from today. Good job Pete.

Papers detail Saddam's oil-for-friends deals

Also, Lisa Myers, senior investigative correspondent for NBC News, reported about how Saddam made his wealth earlier this month for NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw. In her report, she told us how Tripette and Renaud, a small company outside Paris, reached a deal in 2002 to sell almost $1 million in laboratory equipment to Iraq. A company official told NBC News the Iraqis demanded a 10 percent surcharge added to the price. The company agreed to pay this amount to private bank accounts controlled by the Iraqis.

Her complete report with a video could be found under the following link:

Price of doing business in Saddam's Iraq.

Now, I'm wondering how much money the 600 Jordanian lawyers, who volunteered to defend Saddam during his trial, got from the loving daughters of The Godfather.

I hope anyone who took the money -- that could helped the starving, sick and dying Iraqi children during 13 years of U.N. sanctions -- would choke on it. Then, I may be able to forgive. I'm really trying this forgiveness process. It's just not working that well. Damn me.

Brian Ross reporting for ABC World News With Peter Jennings reports on this scandal. The report and video with compiled list of people involved in this scandal can be found at this link:

Saddam's Gifts Document: Saddam Supporters Received Lucrative Oil Contracts.

I found another report, published by U.S. Department Of State in 1999, in regard to Saddam's oil smuggling at Basrah refinery -- with satellite photos -- in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions at the time. Here's the link:

Palaces and Oil Smuggling

UPDATE III - Mar. 23, 2004
It looks like someone important listened to the media and the bloggers who reported this scandal.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said,

It is highly possible that there have been quite a lot of wrong-doing, but we need to investigate and get to see who was responsible. And given the nature of the operation that involves so many companies, so many countries, we will need quite a lot.

If the reports are true, I hope people involved in this scandal will be brought to justice.

The Godfather - DVD Collection

The Godfather - The Book

Women For Women International

Many readers may have heard of Women For Women International. But, do you know the founder of this organization is an Iraqi woman?

Zainab Salbi was born in Iraq. In 1990, Zainab came to the United States for a visit. Saddam's invasion of Kuwait prevented her return to Baghdad. She stayed in the United States, studied and got married.

At age 23, she started this project with only $2,000. She worked in her in-laws basement. Everyone thought she was crazy to do this while she was a newlywed. However the dream of her life was to be able help women around the world who are suffering from war, genocide and rape.

When she heard the news of refugee and rape camps in Croatia, she couldn't wait for someone else to help. She decided to help these women. With the help of a small church in Alexandria, Va., she and her husband left to Croatia and spent a few months helping women survivors and gathering enough information to start Women for Women International.

Now, the organization has offices in more than one country. A new office opened in Baghdad after fall of the old regime. The network has worked with more than 35,000 women around the world. She has been honored by former President Bill Clinton at the White House, featured on an MSNBC documentary and been a guest on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" twice.

She's one of my favorite Iraqi women. She had a dream and made it come true. Please, help her organization if you can. She's doing a great job for many women around the world.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Assoc. of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military

APAAM - Association of Patriotic Arab Americans in Military was created after Sept. 11, 2001 to organize and represent current and former Arab-Americans in the United States military.

Here are some facts from their website:

  • More than 3,500 Arab-Americans currently serve in the U.S. armed forces.

  • More than 10,000 Muslims currently serve in the U.S. armed forces.

  • More than 7 per cent of the U.S. armed forces are foreign born.

  • They have served in every war and conflict since WWI to include:

    • WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam.

    • Beirut, Lebanon.

    • Operation Desert Storm/Shield 1991.

    • Operations in Kosovo.

    • Operation Enduring Freedom.

    • Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    • The Global War on Terrorism - GWOT.

An Arab-Australian signed their guest book. Here's his message:

I am not an Arab-American rather an Australian of Lebanese decent. I pondered on this site and was really amazed by how much pride / loyalty and admiration these fine American citizens / military officers have for the United States. This is a great thing to have that must be fostered. I must admit in Australia, Arab Australians do not share the same kind of appreciation for Australia as Arab Americans do for the USA.

This is really a great thing that I and many persons like minded admire.

For me, since I moved to Australia I had two identities. One part of me belonged to Iraq. The other part belonged to Australia. I loved both my identities. Now, I'm living with three identities: Iraqi, Australian and American. It's hard to do, but the American people make it easier to achieve with them welcoming the new arrivals to this country.

One Iraqi-Swedish reader was unhappy with the fact that I'm pro-America and for talking about elections 2004 more than talking about the killing of Christians in Basrah. For my reader I say, when I left Iraq, I looked for a country which would welcome me as a person -- the way I am. Australia offered me the feeling of belonging to a culture and country that I respect and love. Now, I'm in America, I'm making the best of my life here with it's ups and downs. You are an immigrant as I am. We both have feelings and loyality toward our native country. That still should not stop us from having pride in our new homes. We could always make the best on whatever shores our ships landed.

As the Huna religion beliefs are:

Trust yourself.
Expect the best.
Live in the present.

Live in the present is what I'm doing. My blog is about what's happening around me. It's not going to be a 100 per cent about Iraq, Australia, America, Iraqi food, elections 2004, Christians in Iraq or women rights. It will be all of these topics because they are all important for me - food in particular.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Iraqi Koleicha vs. Czech Kolache

It seems like Iraqis and Americans have one main thing in common: the love for food.

I keep receiving e-mails asking me about the Iraqi Koleicha I mentioned in my December 22, 2003 post [Post moved here]. So, I went into an investigation mood -- not to mention an eating mood -- and decided to visit a small Czech town near Dallas where they make delicious Czech kolache. Here are the results of my one day trip:

Iraqi Koleicha dough is harder. Think of something between Danish pastries and Christmas cookies to get an idea of how hard Iraqi koleicha's dough is. As I explained to one reader, think of Ravioli baked in an oven without the sauce. A piece of koleicha is about 1x2 inches in size. The smaller the better. Well, maybe not because you may eat many pieces due to the small size.

Fillings are also different, at least what's sold at those Czech shops are different. The most used filling for Iraqi koleicha is walnuts, crushed then mixed with a very small amount of sugar. Other fillings include dates and coconuts. Chaldean and Assyrians have yet another filling made of butter, sugar and flour. That's very yummy even when eaten by itself.

One reader told me that kolache roots go back to Turkey. This may explain how both Iraqi and Czech sweets are similar. This made sense to me as most Iraqi Christians originate from north of Iraq. That part of Iraq is not too far from Turkey, not to mention many Turkish families moved to north of Iraq during the 19th century -- earlier or later (I'm really not sure). I know my mom's family moved from Turkey to Dehuk some 100-200 years ago. Now, her family has branches in Dehuk, Mosul and Sulaymania governorates.

Check Delights from the Garden of Eden: A Cookbook and a History of the Iraqi Cuisineon for more Iraqi recipes.

And since Zeyad is challenging Iraqi women with his cooking skills, I'll be posting simple, easy-to-make recipes -- I know, we all have busy schedules -- in the future. I must warn you all, Iraqi food is anti-South Beach dietand anti-Atkins diet.We love rice and bread, but who doesn't.

Delights from the Garden of Eden
A Cookbook and a History of the Iraqi Cuisine

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

My Election Experiences Around The World

I'm so excited about being in America during Elections 2004. I'm not an American, but I get to experience a new kind of election unique to America. The world's eyes are focused here. I was in Australia during Elections 2000. It was fun. I was dating my husband at the time. So, my information came from the Australian media and my husband.

I guess I should talk first about my Iraqi elections experience. In 1984, Iraq held it's second National Assembly elections. These elections were similar to voting for House of Representatives in America. I was 18 years old at the time, so I was eligible to vote. Whether I wanted to vote or not, I had to go and vote. To be honest, I had no problem doing it since a few of the people running for the National Assembly were popular in Basrah. They were simple, nice people. My all-time voting strategy is: If you don't like any of the nominees, vote for the most handsome and educated person. It may not be the right strategy, but it works for me. What was the National Assembly purpose? I have no idea. Probably saying yes for everything Saddam would come up with, from invading Kuwait -- after he completed his invasion, of course -- to sending us to hell.

After I moved to Australia and became an Australian citizen, I started to vote for all kinds of elections, from local council elections to national government elections. Voting is compulsory in Australia. If you don't vote, you receive a letter by mail advising you to pay a specific amount of money for failing to show up at election centers on election day. Once, I missed the local council election and had to pay more than $70. How would you know of the election if there was no advertising in your local area? This DID shut down my appetite for free voting. It became just like my Iraqi voting experience.

Here I am in America for Elections 2004. I'm so happy to witness how the two major parties are running their peaceful campaigns. I'm sure it took America many years to get to this high level of democracy. You Americans rock. It's fun to watch the whole process as a non-American (outsider). Being a news junkie as I am, I watched the Iowa caucuses from the time I woke up yesterday. I learned how caucuses work. Cool process, Iraqis may actually like to try it.

For a person like me who never experienced democratic elections in Iraq, it's so nice to experience it from Dallas, Texas. For me, its not about which party would run America in one year's time, it's about the democratic process in electing the next American President.

The Iowa caucuses taught me something today. America is about being positive. You can't win votes if you are negative about everything happening around you. That's not the American way.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Changing Faces

A reader sent me a very nice story. It's the story of Kalat, an Iraqi sculptor who was forced by Saddam's regime -- as many other Iraqi artists -- to use his talent to make statues of the tyrant. After the fall of the old regime, Kalat was able to melt down the statues to create a memorial for American soldiers. It was something he may have never dreamed of doing when he worked on the original statues.

Command Sergeant Major Chuck Fuss of the 4th Infantry Division describes the statue, in an Army News Service article, as follows:

The sculpture is based on a scene many in Iraq have witnessed in one form or another.

A soldier kneels before a memorial of boots, rifle and helmet - his forehead resting in the hollow of his hand. Behind and to his right stands a small Iraqi girl with her hand reaching out to touch his shoulder.

The statue evokes emotion. The girl was added to the statue to remind people of why the sacrifice was made, Fuss said.

"It's about freedom for this country, but it's also about the children who will grow up in a free society," he said.

It's a very nice story.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Iraq's loss is America's gain. Is that true?

A reader sent me this note:

Enjoyed reading your biography. Can't help feeling that Iraq's loss is America's gain. Pity. Iraq needs you more.

I do appreciate the reader's thought, but I guess I need to explain more about myself, which I haven't included in my biography.

First of all, I hold an Australian citizenship. My Australian citizenship is not just a piece of paper or a passport I use for my international travel. It's my new identity. During my five-year stay in Australia, I learned more good things than I learned from living in the Middle East for 28-years.

The first thing I learned in Australia is to treat people the same whether they're Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or any other religion. I learned to treat people the same whether they're male or female, straight or gay. Everyone has the same rights and responsibilities. No group has more privileges than the other groups.

During the five years I lived in Australia, nobody asked me what my religion is. This doesn't mean Australians are less religious than other countries -- in fact they are more religious -- but they leave this topic for the individual person.

What's happening in Iraq now? I received an e-mail a few days ago from an Iraqi friend who's now working in Jordan. I asked her if she knew what happened with some people from our 1988 Computer Science class. She said two of our female professors are now teachers at a Jordanian university.

These are three females. I hate to say this, so I wouldn't sound negative about what's happening to females and Christians in Iraq, but the three females are Christians.

Why would these females leave Iraq? One reason: they feel more secure in Jordan than in Iraq. I'm sure they're paid more in Jordan than what they were paid in Iraq. I still believe they left for security reasons. These are not the only Iraqi females I know who moved to live in Jordan. I know other Christian families who moved their wives and children to Jordan since the collapse of the old regime.

Changing regimes in Iraq will not change people's mentality or behavior.

I walked on Australian streets at night with no fear of someone attacking me. I would travel with no fear of someone breaking into my apartment to steal something. The same in Jordan. The same in America.

I asked my sister-in-law when I saw her after the collapse of the old regime: would you even think of going back to Iraq? She looked at me and said, "I live in Canada, I put my head on the pillow at night knowing I will wake up safe. Would Iraq offer me that safety?"

When the TV channels were showing the looting at the Iraqi museum on April 2003, my dad was so upset. But he said something which made sense at the time. He said, "Let them take these pieces of history. These are the pieces of history that are holding us back from our future. Let's start without history. Maybe we would become a better country that way."

Australian and American history started 200 years ago. In these 200 years, these two countries contributed more to science, human rights and democracy than the Middle Eastern countries contributed for the last 6,000 years.

In the Middle East, everyone will tell you how they began civilization 1,000; 2,000; or 6,000 years ago. The question is: What did these countries contribute to science, human rights and democracy for the last 200-years?

I leave the answer for the reader.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Iraq’s Untapped Resource - Fiber Optic Network

Very good news for the Iraqi people. An extensive fiber optic network has been discovered in Iraq. The network was built by the former regime without Iraqi knowledge. This will really speed up building fast Internet network in Iraq.

The good news was reported by Borzou Daragahi. He reported from Baghdad, Iraq for the Marketplace program on National Public Radio.

Here's the link to the audio story, but you have to listen to the beginning of the program before you can get to the report.

For the people who don't have high-speed internet connection, here's the report's transcript:

Marketplace: Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Iraq’s untapped resource
By Borzou Daragahi

Iraqis rummaging through the wreckage of Saddam’s 30-year reign have found mass graves and torture chambers hidden from public, but they also got a pleasant subterranean surprise. Fareed Yassin is the technology adviser to the Iraqi Governing Council member Adnan Bachachi.

“There seems to be an extensive fiber optic network in the country that was built by the former regime that we didn’t know about,” he said.

The 2,400-mile-long nationwide fiber optic network wasn’t on any maps or city plans. Apparently Saddam wanted to keep it secret.

“They had to go from manhole to manhole to measure the topology of the network,” he said.

Experts say the fiber optic network will help Iraq’s economy in many ways. Iraq’s isolated students and scholars will have faster and better internet access.

“And that’s a really important thing for these universities because they’ve been cut off from the world previously by the regime and then by the sanctions,” he said.

It’s also important for small business. Many shops like this one already plunked down $10 grand for a satellite dish. They installed phone booths, faxes and computers and charge their customers by the minute or hour.

Since the downfall of Saddam, hundreds of telecommunications centers, internet cafes and internet service providers have sprung up all over Iraq. They’re essential tools for communication and commerce. They’re also growing small businesses and the fiber optic network will help them. But helping Iraqi merchants probably wasn’t what Saddam had in mind when he ordered up the high-speed communication lines.

“You can’t eaves drop on fiber optics.”

This may be the only time Saddam’s infamous paranoia benefited Iraqis

Many thanks to my husband who found this report for me. That's one advantage of being married to a news person.

For more information about how fiber optics work click here.