December 28, 2004

New Blog – Liberal Iraqi

Welcome Ali, Liberal Iraqi, to the blogosphere.

I am honored to be one of the first six linked on his blogroll. I consciously write to an American audience, and it never ceases to amaze me where in the world some of my readers live. When I first started this blog I had no idea people in Iraq would ever stop in to read it.

What does Ali mean when he describes himself as a liberal Iraqi? I'll let him answer that.
I want to say that it's a common knowledge that compared to the west, Iraq is a very conservative society, so being a liberal in Iraq caries a very different meaning than being a liberal anywhere in the west or more advanced countries. This does not mean that I'm against liberals anywhere, as on the contrary I find myself more close to them than conservatives, and I do have many friends on both sides as well as other centrists and independent people. I'm only against their view of OIF and the WoT in general. This is one of the few points where I do agree with the conservatives. I know that some conservatives have their own selfish motives behind their support for democracy in Iraq, but I believe that the majority of them just want Iraq to succeed and also want to have a friendly democratic government in the ME instead of a brutal mad dictatorship that has ties with terrorist organizations allover the world.

Back to Iraq and the main topic of this post, I and many freedom-loving Iraqis see traditions whether Islamic or tribal in origin as the main obstacle towards our march for a free democratic Iraq. You can count Arab nationalism as another obstacle in this field. We, those who call ourselves liberal Iraqis, are totally against such traditions and rotten ideologies. We see ourselves as part of humanity and that's all. Some people in Iraq accuse us of being too liberal to the degree where we lack a real identity. This is not true, as we have one and it's called humanity.

So there's no sophisticated ideology that I endorse, I just support freedom of press, freedom of expression, women's freedom, separation of "Church from the state", freedom of religion and limited control by the government over economy. I do, however support strongly international aggressive interference in countries' internal policies to save others from oppression and humiliation.

In Iraq, we longed for a revolution to save us from what we suffered at Saddam's days. We made feeble attempts, but some Iraqis in the south and the north sacrificed and risked much more for the sake of our freedom, and the end was horrific. After that we almost went into total despair, and then the Americans came and our joy was beyond description. Still we do need a revolution, a revolution on the level of minds which without it, all the help we are getting from others and all the sacrifices that were given for Iraq to be free from tyranny, all these would be in vain. I still enjoy my freedom tremendously despite all the problems and dangers, and I have full trust in my people but I'm not ashamed of saying that we still need your help.
The last time I checked his Technorati profile, no one in the blogosphere had linked to him yet. Get the word out. Help promote this guy.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 28, 2004 04:22 PM


Liberal? This Iraqi dude would be voting Republican if he lived in the United States. Ali argues for the"limited control by the government over economy." This means he has little in common with the Democratic Party.

Posted by: David Thomson at December 28, 2004 04:37 PM

Wait - quickly correct me if I'm wrong but this Ali couldn't possibly be the same Ali who just quit his brothers at ITM - could he? I don't know enought about the latter Ali's biography to rule that out...

Posted by: Caroline at December 28, 2004 05:10 PM

Whoa David Thomson - not so fast. Here is one of the first comments on Ali's blog:

"Alis's You said: "I just support freedom of press, freedom of expression, women's freedom, separation of "Church from the state", freedom of religion and limited control by the government over economy. I do, however support strongly international aggressive interference in countries' internal policies to save others from oppression and humiliation." :
"I must tell you it is a struggle here in the USA (to be a vocal liberal), we see more censorship each day, we speak of supporting Separation of Church and State its like blasphemy. Being liberal is a brave effort, keep focus and know one day there will settle the reason you see upon everyone mind as we all must see our commonality of being human."

David - surely you understood that American liberals share the basic experience of oppression with the Iraqi's - right?

Posted by: Caroline at December 28, 2004 05:23 PM

I don't think so, Caroline. His biography is seems different and he appears to be older. Ali must be a pretty common name in Iraq.

Posted by: chuck at December 28, 2004 05:27 PM

"I must tell you it is a struggle here in the USA (to be a vocal liberal), we see more censorship each day, we speak of supporting Separation of Church and State its like blasphemy."

Honest to God, American Liberals are like whiny little spoiled children. The mass graves, the executions, arguments over Christmas. We're living in a fascist state, I tell you, fascist.

I wish I could just ignore them, but they are as thick as flies in a barn.

Posted by: chuck at December 28, 2004 05:32 PM

Fred Hiatt had a column yesterday in which the theme was "the insurgents are having success, but it is amazing how many Iraqis refuse to be deterred." Liberal Iraqi is a great example.

Posted by: Todd Pearson at December 28, 2004 07:42 PM

Michael, you're right, this is a good blog so I have added it to my blog roll and noted you for the tip-off.

Posted by: GMRoper at December 28, 2004 10:23 PM

Posted by David Thomson at December 28, 2004 04:37 PM

"Liberal? This Iraqi dude would be voting Republican if he lived in the United States. Ali argues for the"limited control by the government over economy."

Look up what the word liberal really means (re: you may have to search under ‘classical liberal). :)

The rest of the world (i.e., aside from the English speaking) still knows what liberal means.

Posted by: Thomas at December 28, 2004 10:39 PM

Only a matter of time before Juan Cole's calling this guy a Mossad/Neo-con/Likudnik/Zionist/CIA plant...

I wish him luck in the blogosphere, and with his life in general.

Posted by: SoCalJustice at December 28, 2004 10:43 PM

“The rest of the world (i.e., aside from the English speaking) still knows what liberal means.”

I just want to make sure that Ali realizes that our Democratic Party is not his friend. The liberals in this country want us to abandon his nation to the Baathist scoundrels and Islamic nihilists. Anyone who voted for John Kerry, to be kind, was inadvertently voting for the continued oppression of the people of Iraq. It can be fairly stated, that only the Republican Party truly represents freedom. Democrats like Senator Joseph Liebermann are the exception, and not the norm:

“By a margin of 80-19, Democrats now say they oppose the decision to go to war. The margin among Republicans is exactly the reverse: 80 percent of GOPers support the war, while 19 percent disapprove.

This is not only a partisan divide. It's a cultural divide. As the year 2004 ends, the rank and file of the Democratic Party has turned decisively and profoundly against the military effort in Iraq. And there is reason to believe it won't be long before they turn on the military as well.”

Posted by: David Thomson at December 29, 2004 01:40 AM

"His biography is seems different and he appears to be older. Ali must be a pretty common name in Iraq." (Chuck)

Thanks Chuck. Certainly didn't want to start a rumor! Besides, I got the impression Ali was going to lay off blogging in order to focus on politics for awhile. Interesting that one of this Ali's favorite films is Shawshank Redemption!

Posted by: Caroline at December 29, 2004 04:16 AM

Come on David, if Clinton had begun the war, Democrats would be having multiple public orgasms at the freeing of a downtrodden people and a clear foreign policy, whilst Republicans would be grousing endlessly about the costs and the mistakes and moving towards isolationism.

Posted by: Undertoad at December 29, 2004 07:26 AM

Undertoad and MT,

The sad thing is that you are more right than wrong. We did the right thing in both Bosnia and Iraq and look at how, if they said anything, the right carped. What does that say about both the right and the left? What does that say about all the carping on Iraq?

Nevertheless, I shall offer another explanation that is not quite so cynical. I think that 9/11 changed the minds of a lot of people about such things. It was not long ago that the right was more isolationist, wanting to manage trouble spots instead of solving the underlying problems. Now, the left is more isolationist and the right is more adventurous. John Kerry said that terrorism is a nuisance to be managed and complained that we were spending money on Iraq instead of building fire departments in America. What a long way we have come from the days when the left thought we had a duty to Bosnia and that foreign aid was a moral duty.

It looks to me a lot like a realignment took place when we weren't looking after 9/11. The right used to be reactionary, which I mean in the literal not pejorative sense, and now the left wants to be what the right was before 9/11.

Yes, Ali is a classical liberal, which means he is right of center if you put much stock in a two dimensional political spectrum. The interesting thing is that, since they want strong government control of society, theocrates and fascists are left of center. (Left of center means one wants strong government control and right of center means one wants less government control.) It seems to me that the left/right spectrum confuses things more than it illuminates.

Posted by: JBP at December 29, 2004 08:13 AM

I like this quote best:

"Still we do need a revolution, a revolution on the level of minds which without it, all the help we are getting from others and all the sacrifices that were given for Iraq to be free from tyranny, all these would be in vain."

Despite all the heated rhetoric from the Left and Right here in the USA (and, to a certain extent, across the democratic universe) we have already achieved the revolution of the mind to which Ali refers. We were born into it, we are raised with it, we accept it without much question.

The goal of achieving a stable, democratic Iraq will succeed only when a sizable majority of Iraqi's realize and accept that their future is dependent upon their actions.

Ali gets that point in spades.

Posted by: too many steves at December 29, 2004 08:21 AM

Michael -

Thanks for the heads up about Ali's blog.

I'm proud to add him to the Purser's List.

Caroline -

Methinks you confuse censorship, which implies governmental restriction on speech, with failure of opinions or agendas to garner public support.

On censorship, I don't remember anybody threatening legal action against 60 Minutes to prevent publication of the forged ANG memos. Nor do I recall John Aschcroft calling for "gatekeepers" for the internet like Hillary Clinton did. Nobody sent threatening letters (on a law firm's letterhead) to scores of media outlets threatening legal action if they published contemporary, eyewitness testimony about George W. Bush's military experience.

I will go to the barricades to defend anybody's right to speak from being compromised or restricted by government. I just get tired (like Chuck up above) of listening to cries of censorship, or oppression, or worse, when the reality is clearly nothing close to that.

Posted by: TmjUtah at December 29, 2004 09:04 AM

TmjUtah - I think you missed the sarcasm in my post. I was ridiculing the liberal who posted on Ali's blog, presuming to share a common experience of censorship with the Iraqi's.
Interesting that this liberal had no response to this statement of Ali's:

"I do, however support strongly international aggressive interference in countries' internal policies to save others from oppression and humiliation."

(Obviously I am stereotyping the poster. For all I know he is a liberal who supported the war.)

Posted by: Caroline at December 29, 2004 09:18 AM

Um, I think that he is in fact the ITM Ali - his biography IS almost exact... the only difference being that he doesn't explicitly mention that he is/was a pediatrician. His profile says 'human resources'...but if I'm not mistaken Ali was running for political office in the upcoming elections. blogspot doesn't have 'politician' in the occuptation drop down list.

Posted by: Glitch at December 29, 2004 09:30 AM

Caroline -

Please accept my apologies for missing your point. It does indeed help to read ALL the comments in a conversation, especially when they overlap across different forums.

Posted by: TmjUtah at December 29, 2004 09:39 AM

I am totally convinced that Ali does not represent anywhere near the 'majority' of Iraqi thinking.
But,a TRUE success in Iraq would not mean that the Alis in Iraq actually begin to run the country as they see fit,but that the rest of Iraqi society values their contributions and their ideas and tries not to unduly impose 'objective'Islamic standards on many areas of life.
Iraq will be a success when guys like Ali feel comfortable enough about its 'lifestyle' to actually stay there and try to make things better.A failure is when they all try to flee as so many 'middle-class' iraqis did when faced with Saddam's nightmare.
I don't know why but I feel good about the probability of a 'successful'outcome after ORDER is restored and the Sunnis GET-A-CLUE.I believe that the Iraqis are MUCH more 'attuned' to 'realities'than we give then credit for.

Posted by: dougf at December 29, 2004 09:53 AM

Wow, MJT- this guy sounds like an Iraqi version of you!

Thanks for the tip- I'll blogroll this guy tomorrow.

Dougf- you're right that he doesn't represent the "majority" of Iraqi thinking, but that's because he is obviously much more educated than the vast majority of Iraqis out there. Among well-educated Iraqis, he is mainstream- I know this from experience. MJT will back me up on this when he finally makes it to Iraq (it'll happen in the next 5 years, I promise).

JBP- right on the money. Very well put.



Posted by: 2Slick at December 29, 2004 10:12 AM

dougf, I'm not convinced "that Ali does not represent anywhere near the 'majority' of Iraqi thinking." I don't trust the reporting coming out of Iraq to even have an informed opinion. (This infuriates me, because I really like having informed opinions.)

That's why sources like Ali (and even Riverbend) are so valuable. It's a good sign that Ali exists, and it's a good sign that Riverbend hasn't been tracked down and put against a wall somewhere. Liberalism at least has a toehold in Iraq now, and that's all I'm really sure about.

Thanks for the pointer, Michael.

Posted by: Mark Poling at December 29, 2004 10:16 AM

TmjUtah - no apologies necessary. My term for that is "post-haste"! We're all guilty of it.

Glitch - I had just read through the latest comment thread at ITM and I saw that a number of regulars like yourself over there thought this might well be the ITM Ali. Someone addressed the question directly to Ali on his blog. Guess we'll have to see if he answers. He does give a bit of personal history under a 12/27 post which makes no mention of medicine.

Posted by: Caroline at December 29, 2004 10:27 AM

2Slick: Wow, MJT- this guy sounds like an Iraqi version of you!

Yeah, I noticed that too. Kinda cool :)

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 29, 2004 10:33 AM

"you're right that he doesn't represent the "majority" of Iraqi thinking, but that's because he is obviously much more educated than the vast majority of Iraqis out there. Among well-educated Iraqis, he is mainstream-" (2slick)

And isn't this partly why we thought that this democracy experiment actually had a chance to succeed in Iraq in the first place (relative to other places in the ME)? Because of the relatively large, well-educated, professional and even secular population there?

Posted by: Caroline at December 29, 2004 11:30 AM


That's partially correct. We were mislead by the "uberintellectual" Iraqis (Challabi is the most often cited), but my experience tells me that these people (even Challabi) weren't lying. They actually believed that the Iraqi people would rise up, thank us, take charge, and live happily ever after. As you said, there are lots of well-educated Iraqis- but they are far from being the majority. The vast majority of Iraqis are hard-working (I mean, seriously- they'll break their backs for 2$ a day) but not necessarily "supereducated."

You'll note that Saddam never took many polls during his reign. He certainly never took a poll that asked "OK, Mr. Joe Iraqi- the US invades and chases me out of power. What will you do?" The fact is nobody really knew what they would do, and it's not like there was any way of guaging this. If any Iraqi citizen even thought of such a topic, their execution would be swift. The only thing we (or anybody else) had to go on was the assessment of the Iraqi "elites"- the exiles who could speak freely and give us their honest assessment. In retrospect- these "elites" proved to be pretty out of touch with the masses (sound familiar?).

They were convinced that Iraqis would stand up for "love of country" and unite against evil. Nope. Joe Iraqi wanted food on the table and he'd prefer not to get killed- that was pretty much it. He'd grown used to the idea that if he keeps his mouth shut and does nothing, then he's got a better chance of living. The insurgents reinforce this idea several times every day (watch the news).

I remember in the first months of the occupation- whenever a car bomb went off or insurgents slaughtered civilians in a school yard, the Iraqi professors that I worked with would say, "They're not Iraqis. Iraqi people simply wouldn't do that"- they just couldn't fathom that Iraqi people would do such things for a buck (for themselves or their families)- and we believed them in part because we had no other source to go on- but also because it just made sense. These were Iraqi people talking about Iraqi people. Well, now we know better.

Education will continue to improve and economic developement will happen, but these are long term projects- it won't have any impact on whether or not we can get our of Iraq in the next 5-10 years. What they need right now are courageous leaders to step up and lead these people out of this "beaten-down in the dark ages" mentality. These leaders exist in Iraq- they step up every day at great peril to their own lives. Assassinations are rampant. It's bloody and it's ugly. Sort of like a revolution. This is what's happening. Good people like Ali and the guys at Iraq the Model are shining examples of why there is indeed hope.

People want to talk about Fallujah and now Mosul, but nobody seems to understand that the most important thing going in Iraq right now is in Baghdad- LTG Petraeus and his Iraqi Troops. He's not just churning out thousands of Iraqi troops- his focus is on creating Iraqi "George Washingtons." He's producing leaders. This hasn't even come into play yet, but it's the most important project that we have going on there. I believe he will succeed, as he has never failed at anything. Just watch...

That's the much-abbreviated abridged version. I could go on forever.

Posted by: 2Slick at December 29, 2004 12:23 PM

That's the much-abbreviated abridged version. I could go on forever---2slick

And I for 1 would be interested to hear all of it at your convenience.
Which brings me to my favourite subject.If what '2slick'says is anywhere close to the truth, then how is it any longer possible to portray the 'media' as anything other than 'Propagandists for NIHILISM'?
If believing in the Iraqi possibility is reflected more in a post on this blog,than in a week of MSM coverage of the conflict,what role has the media really chosen to play? I have a quite firm idea on the 'objective' role they are playing,but I tend to be biased.
I am sorry to be 'judgemental',but I really do mean it when I say:


Posted by: dougf at December 29, 2004 01:38 PM

2slick – It seems quite obvious from your post that you have firsthand knowledge of the post 4/9/03 situation (“the Iraqi professors I worked with”) although I can’t tell if you’re actually in the military.

I remember quite clearly prior to the war when I was piecing together information to form my own opinion, that it was quite obvious that we couldn’t possibly know in FACT what the Iraqi people wanted – whether they would welcome the invasion or not -because it was abundantly obvious that they were not permitted to SPEAK. I did listen carefully to the exiles who argued strongly for the war although frankly I missed the part where we were told that we would be welcomed with rose petals so actually I was never under that assumption.

You speak of the disbelief of Iraqis you met who said "They're not Iraqis. Iraqi people simply wouldn't do that" and you say, “Well, now we know better.” This is rather confusing to me. Didn’t Iraqis live in fear of the secret police? The Mukhabarat (rough enough spelling). Who precisely manned the torture chambers and the prisons? What accounts for Iraqis surprise at the brutality of their fellow citizens who held onto power for so long through sheer tyranny?

Although I confess to being somewhat surprised at the sheer brutality of this same Iraqi minority (probably combined with the usual number of psychopaths running the streets that one might find in any American city if you let them all out of prison), I am EQUALLY surprised at the number of Iraqis who keep stepping up to the plate to enroll in the defense forces and the police DESPITE the savagery. And then I am further flabbergasted to see bloggers literally put their lives on the line by providing so much personal information. I must assume that each act of bravery creates its own little spark that spreads.

But as to the wisdom or morality of going in there? I think this one statement of yours says it all:

“If any Iraqi citizen even thought of such a topic, their execution would be swift.”

That may be reason enough and now all we can do is stand in complete moral solidarity with Ali and others like him. I have read a lot about LTG Petraeus. I suspect his name will figure prominently in the history books of this war when it finally ends

Posted by: Caroline at December 29, 2004 03:31 PM

Caroline, 2Slick is here.

Posted by: chuck at December 29, 2004 03:57 PM

Black hawk pilot!

OK - my dunce cap is on!

Thanks Chuck......

I have to say though, if at least 3/4 of our military who have actually been in Iraq (like 2slick) believe so strongly in this mission - they automatically get more credence in my view than the MSM.

I seriously thought about joining up myself (when my life admittedly hit a very rough patch) until I strapped a leaf blower to my 100 lb frame for about 2 hours and concluded that I would never make it. Plus I'm 40-something. So all I have to offer is my moral conviction and support - which is stronger than I am physically. But why can't the sheer weight of millions of people condemning the insurgents and vocally supporting our troops and the freedom-desiring Iraqis (whom I have no doubt comprise the majority) - literally move mountains? Let's create a self-fulfilling prophecy darnit.

There are actually scientific studies that show a higher rate of recovery for sick people when people pray for them - even when the recipient of the prayers is unaware (thereby ruling out a placebo effect). That's the kind of unexplained power of hope and optimism and goodwill that I am counting on now. Like I said - the sheer WEIGHT of our combined moral conviction that people like Ali deserve to be free!. I am so bloody sick of the naysayers and the nitpickers and the hand wringers and the weekly polls and ahhhhhh - I feel a Howard Dean scream coming on!

Posted by: Caroline at December 29, 2004 04:55 PM

What Ali says is what it's all about -- freedom from tyranny and the hope to do better. He sounds benevolent, doesn't he?

Posted by: Curtis at December 29, 2004 07:42 PM

Caroline- glad you got something out of my answer- I loved your leaf blower story. Trust me, you may not feel like you're making a difference sometimes, but the support we get from good people like you makes a huge difference. Just keep the faith, and I'll be happy.

Thanks, Dougf- I've been meaning to write about this topic at my site for quite some time, and I just haven't gotten around to it. There's so much more to it than what I covered in that comment. I'll try to hit up on it in the next 2 or 3 days, before I take my "blogging hiatus" (coming home- yay!). I was inspired when I was home between tours and I saw a Bill O Reilly segment where he boasted that he had the "real scoop" on what went wrong with the pre-war planning. He basically said Challabi said the Iraqis would do this- the Iraqis didn't do it- and so it goes. Well, Bill was close- but he way oversimplified it, and he made no effort to show what we were doing about it- which was a little disappointing coming from Bill. Oh well...

As I like to say to my "looney toons" liberal brother, "Keep seeking the truth- and ye shall find it."

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