Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Steven Vincent

American Journalist Shot to Death in Basra-- This is his Blog. This is what he wrote in the NYT a few days ago.
An Iraqi police lieutenant, who for obvious reasons asked to remain anonymous, confirmed to me the widespread rumors that a few police officers are perpetrating many of the hundreds of assassinations - mostly of former Baath Party members - that take place in Basra each month. He told me that there is even a sort of "death car": a white Toyota Mark II that glides through the city streets, carrying off-duty police officers in the pay of extremist religious groups to their next assignment.

Update:  Blogpulse allows you to see the weblog entries that were 'seeded' by the reports in the NY Times - for example, this query. Most reaction is fairly predictable - from 'Islamofascist killers strike again' to 'Iraq in chaos, we told you so.' I would single out the guest posts that Steven made at 'the adventures of chester'.

Update (8 Aug): from Steven's weblog in February, FEMINAZIS:
Today, my Iraqi female friends tell me that when it comes to safety and general freedom of activity, their lives are much more circumscribed than before the fall of Saddam.  And a large portion of the fault for this debacle has to go to the United States of America.

My credentials as an advocate for the liberation and reconstruction of Iraq hardly need establishing.  But I believe, as I wrote in In the Red Zone, that supporting the war does not mean ignoring or sugar-coating problems the conflict has inflicted on the Iraqi people.  The plight of women is one of those problems.  Not only has the end of Saddam made the day-to-day lives of Arab (as opposed to Kurdish) women more difficult, the rise of the Shia religious establishment promises to make their existence even more onerous through shari'a law.  [...]

Despite the manifold evils of their regime, the Baathists brought economic and social advancement for women.  After seizing power in 1968, the Nazi-inspired party declared its commitment to equal rights.
Today in nearly every category (except, interestingly, the number of seats in parliament), the condition of women has deteriorated.   This is particularly true in literacy, health and crime rates.  To be fair, this problem began years before the U.S. invasion:  in the 1980s, as Saddam began to lose the Iran-Iraq war, he turned to support from his country's tribal sheiks, re-introducing patriarchal social customs the Baathists had tried to suppress.  Worse, as his regime begun to crumble in the mid-1990s, the tyrant attempted to garner support from the Shia by allowing shari'a regulations regarding women and family life to permeate, and in some cases, supplant Iraqi laws. 

Again, I am no apologist for the Saddam years.  And to be sure, many Iraqi women prefer the chaos of today to the "stability" of the past.  "What kind of freedom did we have under Saddam?  The freedom of the grave," Baghdad feminist Hanaa Edwar told me. 

Still, we must be honest here.  By destroying Baathist authority and letting the Shia genie out of the bottle, the U.S. has exacerbated social tendencies and conditions that impact women's lives for the worse.  This is the cost--or perhaps the birth pangs--of democracy, one might say, and I believe the Iraqi people will bear them, as they have so many other disappointments, setbacks and torments.  But for right-wing pundits to declare victory and ignore what this new Iraqi society means for females, seems shallow and morally questionable


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