Now he was trying to avoid paying with his life for that decision. He wanted to change the first name on his birth certificate to Sajad, favored by Shiites. Mr. Hussein, a Shiite Arab, was all too aware that militiamen from his own sect might assume he belonged to the former ruling Sunni Arab minority.
The man in line behind him, another Saddam, wanted to change his name to Jabar, one of Islam's 99 names for God.
The country's Sunni-Shiite bloodletting is driving many Iraqis to bury the very essence of their identity: their names.
To have to hide one's name is considered deeply shameful. But with sectarian violence surging, Iraqis fear that the name on an identification card, passport or other document could become an instant death sentence if seen by the wrong people.
That is because some first names and tribal names indicate whether a person is Sunni or Shiite. A first name of Omar is popular among Sunnis, for example, as is Ali among Shiites.
Stories abound of Iraqi civilians being stopped at checkpoints by militiamen, insurgents or uniformed men and having their identification cards scrutinized. They are then taken away or executed on the spot if they have a suspect name or a hometown dominated by the rival sect. In Baghdad, Shiite death squads -- sometimes in police uniform -- operate many of the illegal checkpoints, Iraqi and American officials say.
The above is from Edward Wong's "To Stay Alive, Iraqis Change Their Names" in this morning's New York Times. "Stories abound . . ." Press reports abound. Press reports of people carrying two sets of i.d. to be ready for those checkpoints. More recently, Nancy A. Youssef wrote of people swapping houses for safety. This, including Wong's piece above, is the actual reality of Iraq. Not the pretty words of "liberation" or "democracy." Three-years-plus after the illegal war began and "safety" means hiding. Even in Baghdad. That's the reality.
Martha notes Michael A. Fletcher's "Bush Warns Of Enduring Terror Threat" (Washington Post) about yet another idiotic speech by the Bully Boy:
"Iraq is not a distraction in their war against America" but the "central battlefield where this war will be decided," Bush said in an address before the Military Officers Association of America.
The idiot-in-chief wants to excuse the fact that his illegal war built on lies has accomplished nothing but, as many warned, brought more danger to Americans (by breeding hostilities) and made Iraqis long for the days of Saddam Hussein. A double failure still looking around in vain for one of Daddy's friends to bail him out again, Bully Boy can't admit his mistake and is bound and determined to make the whole world pay for his illegal war of choice that is not 'winnable.' A real leader would be attempting to figure out how to fix the mess made, not the Bully Boy. There will be no Troops Home Now while he occupies the oval office. There will be only more of the same -- more of the same policies that have cost so many lives because there isn't now and there never was a Plan B. When you believe you're the Golden Boy (if not the Lord Christ), you don't need a Plan B, reality will bend to your will. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Bully Boy continues to operate under that belief and the people of the United States and Iraq continue to pay for his incompetence.
Meanwhile, when the US military hopes no one is watching, they add two more fatalities to their count for August, upping it from 65 to 67. They figure they're safe now. Anyone who was going to write about August fatalities, must have already done their 'month at a glance' pieces. As for this month, the fatality count is up to 13. The number of US troops who've died in Bully Boy's illegal war now stands at 2657 and he wants to assure that he's on "the central battlefield." This from the person who couldn't find his way back to Texas to complete his National Guard 'service.' If only he prized the lives of others as much as he valued his own butt.
Cindy notes Norman Solomon's "Spinning the Troop Levels in Iraq" (Common Dreams):
This month began with 140,000 American troops in Iraq -- 13,000 more than in late July.
Almost 30 months have passed since Time magazine's mid-April 2004 cover story, "No Easy Options," reported that "foreign policy luminaries from both parties say a precipitous U.S. withdrawal would cripple American credibility, doom reform in the Arab world and turn Iraq into a playground for terrorists and the armies of neighboring states like Iran and Syria."
Back then, according to the USA's largest-circulation newsmagazine, "the most" that the president could hope for was that "some kind of elected Iraqi government will eventually emerge from the wreckage, at which point the U.S. could conceivably reduce the number of its troops significantly. But getting there requires a commitment of at least several more months of American blood and treasure."
As I noted in my book War Made Easy, which came off the press nearly 18 months ago, "Hedge words were plentiful: 'the most' that could be hoped for was that 'some kind' of elected Iraqi government would 'eventually emerge,' at which time the United States 'could conceivably' manage to 'reduce' its troop level in Iraq 'significantly,' although even that vague hope necessitated a commitment of 'at least several more months' of Americans killing and dying. But in several more months, predictably, there would still be no end in sight -- just another blank check for more 'blood and treasure,' on the installment plan."
President Bush keeps demanding those blank checks, and Congress keeps cutting them. What Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism" provides ample justifications. For Bush, one of them involves couching the choices ahead in military terms -- to be best judged by military leaders. This is, in essence, an effort to short-circuit democracy.
Bush likes to tell reporters that U.S. troop levels in Iraq hinge on the assessments from top military commanders. This explanation is so familiar that it's hardly newsworthy. But journalists -- and the public -- should take a hard look at that rhetorical scam.
Civilian control of the military means that the president is accountable to citizens, not generals. But -- despite the growing opposition to the Iraq war, as reflected in national opinion polls -- the president fervently declares his commitment to the U.S. war effort. Rather than directly proclaim that he will ignore public opinion, Bush prefers to shift the discussion from domestic political accountability to ostensible military necessity.
The easiest way to avoid civilian control (of the military in this instance, but true of the entire administration) is to try to scare everyone. The fear card's all he's ever had to offer and it's still all he has to offer. That's always been the key to the Bully Boy. Year after year, the Peggy Noons may have written panting tributes where they pretended to dissect his nature, but they missed the obvious. Fear is his nature. He only sells what he knows.
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