Change the TV Channel…Coffee shop of American Foreign Policy

* 2 min read

As I said in my earlier blog, politics has been an obsession I inherited from my father. Political discussions have always been a major dialogue between my father and I. I grew up witnessing the passion of my father discussing politics. The passion that was/still so clearly manifested by his mood, tone of voice, hand movements, but most of all, my mother screaming at him to change the TV channel from the kitchen, a scene that is replaying itself when my girlfriend screams at me to change the TV channel. With this passion, he has personalized politics as many people personalize the wins and losses of their favorite sport teams.

I saw my father discussing political events in almost every social gathering- at home or at coffee shops, between family members, friends, or even strangers like taxi drivers, or barbers. Starting a political discussion was like talking about weather in Chicago. I saw his love of politics everywhere, because directly or indirectly, he has been a victim of national or international policies. As if his life in Iraq was only an experiment of another government’s policies.

I was a student attending those schools of coffee shop politics. I graduated from those coffee shops. I can honestly say that their interpretation and speculation of political events, analysis, insights, intellectual arguments, and reactions to presidential speeches exceeds by far any discussion at Georgetown University or other establishments.

Witnessing people debating then, sooner or later, screaming at each other to prove their points has been fascinating. Screaming continues to be a normal healthy sign of Middle Eastern people. Observing a group of elderly Assyrian people and listening to their insight when talking to each other is a very interesting experience. You will witness two or three people leading the discussion and trying to convince their friends, someone is nodding while another is screaming from the other side saying, “What channel are you watching?” While someone else is answering: “He doesn’t even speak English”. Or, the non-participants scream at all of them to continue the card game. Or the opponent strikes with an ad hominem attack by saying: “Did you pay George’s his money?”

Since childhood, I took my major from those schools was on American Foreign Policy. It fascinates me. I would like to continue my father’s political passion. I would like to carry the love of political discussions he instilled in me. I do this because I want his shadow to remain alive in me. As my father discussed politics at the coffee shops, I am sharing my political insight through blogging.

Researches tell us that investing 10,000 hours brings mastery in any field. Well, this has not been 10,000 hours for me; this has been a journey of 37 years. People in the Middle East continue talking about politics. They cannot keep themselves from talking about it because of that itching uncertainty of the future. They do this in hope of a better future. The political opinion inside them has to come out. It has to leave their body. They know they cannot change the future, but it makes them feel better talking about it.

Can anyone hold this against them? No! …They live in a region that turns darker every passing day, a cancer of violence that plagued the region since…

I see many people outraged and baffled by superficial contradictions in American Foreign policy, the selective implementation of certain policies over others, and the repeated mistakes of the past. I feel the emotional burden to share some of the political insights to the American people whose life extend further than Baseball and Budweiser. I guarantee that an average Assyrian kid in the north of Iraq will know more about politics then those Georgetownies. I try to blog to give some comforts to those who seek clarity and understanding in a chaotic world. I just hope American Foreign Policy stops repeating the past mistakes.

Here is the joke, but is it a joke? Back during Saddam’s time, you could be executed for talking about the government if anyone heard you, now no matter how much you talk about the government, nobody hears you.

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James Gandolfini is in Basrah…Arab Actors learn this!

* 1 min read

Thank you very much operation Goody Bag. It came to my attention that your bags were distributed at the U.S. Consulate General Basra, Iraq. Three lollypops and a thank you card saying “Saying Thanks to those who serve!” were giving in honor in of James Gandolfini. I love James, his memory will always live inside me.

james

It reminded me about the movie P.S. I love you. He is dead, but keeps sending messages of “Thank you” through his foundation and volunteers. Thank you to all of the team members in Operation Goody Bag.

As an Iraqi, I couldn’t stop thinking about all these Arab actors and actress who come on TV in the Arab media and criticize America and Americans. I wish they would do something similar. I hope they can learn just a little bit about the concept of “Giving” back to their Arab society, and being role models to revive the most fundamental fiber – “Giving”, a missing value in the Arab society, a society that has been concentrated on the concept of “Only Taking”.

Oh!…sorry!…I am wrong!

The only giving I hear happening from the millionaires in Qatar and Saudi, is the donation of money to the schools of Islamic fundamentalism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

38th birthday…flying over ISIS through its Turkish gateway…walking where Socrates walked…crosses on donkeys

* 6 min read (updated with YouTube video)

It has been nearly nine months in the prison like/restrictive environment. I have missed the outside world. I missed my family, friends, and mostly my loved ones. Skype was my refuge, and oh! … Yea! … Facebook comes in handy on days like these.

You see…I have a unique job in a unique place.

I work in a very restrictive environment; I work for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. I cannot leave its compound. Basically, I am inside a very small and isolated community. After nine months, it starts to feel like a prison.

This blog is my travel story through Turkey, Chicago, and Athens. I don’t like to share much about the sightseeing, but will address some highlights. I tried to check-in at almost every place I could for people to read my reviews on attractions and restaurants on TripAdvisor. But these travels and experiences are mostly about my feelings and impressions of things that are of much interest to me and sharing it.

As I said in previous blogs, my life has been episodes of a long “Pause”, and then followed by a “Play”. This blog is about my last play/travel. What I mean about “Pause” and “Play” mode is the nature of my job. I work for long months, and then I take about month+ of holiday.

(click on picture below for more images)

Crosses on donkeys

This time, I took six weeks of holiday. I took the entire month of August and two weeks of September. I wanted to make my 38th birthday very special so that I will remember for a long time. I understand, more than most, how difficult is to be stripped away from life’s pleasures. Being away from my family and loved ones, becomes difficult to handle. Being eight months in a closed environment makes one very agitated. Sometimes, I feel suffocated and out of breath. On July 31 is the night I was released to the outside world hungry for life’s pleasures.

My flight route exiting Iraq gave me a strange feeling. Only a few people could experience what I experienced, and yet, it is difficult to convey. I was just working a few hundred miles away from the major world crisis – ISIS. And now, I am flying over Mosul on the way to Turkey. While we were flying over Mosul, I was looking down thinking about the Malaysia Airlines that was shot down over eastern Ukraine. Is it possible that ISIS could shoot us down? It is a strange feeling flying over a major conflict zone and especially for people such as myself who work in Iraq.

I landed in Turkey on August 1, and remained for two days. In Istanbul, I reunited with my first cousin whom I haven’t seen for about 18 years. He is one of the victims of the ISIS terrorist group. He is a Christian who fled Iraq, to Syria, and now to Turkey seeking Life – a peaceful life. He has a tragic story just like many of those thousands who fled Iraq and Syria seen on CNN. His life story could be a Hollywood movie.

In Istanbul, we enjoyed our time by taking those red tour buses for sightseeing, shopping at a “fake products” market, eating delicious Turkish sweets, and spending a few hours touring Hagia Sophia, a sight that must be seen by every tourist if the opportunity presents itself. At the Hagia Sophia, I was reflecting on the similarities the sight symbolizes in the past and present. The Hagia Sophia church was converted to a mosque about 550 years ago during the Ottoman Empire and the expansion of Islam. It a representation of the present day bombing of the churches in Iraq and Syria during this rise of Islamic fundamentalists and the establishment of Islamic State. In a sense, an Islamic war that never stopped targeting Christians and churches in the Middle East with the aim of cleansing Christians and Christianity out from the Middle East.

I would like to point out to the reader that Turkey has become a major ISIS gate to Syria and Iraq. It is my personal recommendation for my fellow Americans to be aware of the risk involved in traveling to Turkey at this time. You never know who will be sitting next to you in the plane. I am very disappointed with the Turkish government for playing such a destructive role in Iraq and Syria.

Below YouTube video recorded by an Iraqi showing two ISIS members riding the Metro in Istanbul. (pay attention to the hidden T-shirt)

 

Then, I flew to Chicago to meet my family and spend some quality time with them. In the midst of my happiness of being home, I came to discover that my father started to suffer from short-term memory loss. I am worried that next time I come home on holiday; my father may not recognize me. I was reminded again and again that there is no victory without sacrifice. As I gain financial rewards, there is the expense of losing time from my family.

I am thankful for my father’s support to continue my holiday to Athens, because the day I was flying my father was undergoing minor cancer surgery.

During this time in Chicago, I finally made a big decision. I became an Apple Convert…Yea; I am a tree hugger now. After 18 years of a close relationship, I abandoned Microsoft for Apple. During the past years, I could not bring myself to justify buying an Apple computer – even though, I was able to afford it. This time, I just did it. I got myself a nice MacPro.

After the second week in Athens, I started to miss my life style at my job. Everywhere I went and everything I touched, I had to pay. Pay for water, Coke, ice cream…This “not paying for things” feeling, I get to miss it after a while. At my job, everything is relatively free. I pick up water, sliced watermelon; ice cream…everything I need is there for me to pick up. Only a few people in the world experience this feeling. I remember looking at a Cliff Bar by the register at one of the Walgreens and said to it: ”I will not pay to have you…I get you for free in Iraq

After Chicago, I flew to Greece for about a month. Greece is one of the countries I long wanted to see. According to TripAdvisor, Greece became my 22nd country visited under the age of 40. It is very close to my heart. I love Greece. I was two years old when my family visited Greece in 78. I visited the famous Omonia Square where my family had spent their time. Back in late 70s and early 80s, Omonia square was a major gathering place for all the Christian Assyrians who left Iraq for Greece on the way to North America, Europe and Australia.

travel map

A few major highlights of my tip to Athens were visiting Acropolis, Temple of Olympian Zeus, and Mount Lycabettus. Every time I sat having dinner overlooking the Acropolis and Temple of Olympian Zeus, my heart was filled with wonder about the people who walked between the ruins 2000s years ago, including Socrates. It was a beautiful feeling meditating on those ancient people.

After a few days in Athens, I flew to Mykonos. Upon arrival to this beautiful Island, I fell in love with the white houses and buildings, the beautiful nature, and most of all those small family churches that where on every street. It was a beautiful feeling being surrounded by churches, a sight you don’t get to see that often anymore.

In Mykonos, I celebrated my 38th birthday with my girlfriend. Having dinner by the Aegean Sea and drinking wine on Mykonos Island was an experience to be treasured for many years to come.

I went back to Athens for a few days again. From there, I took a tour to two islands: Hydra and Aegina. I love the experience of Island hopping. Every Island tells a unique story.

At Hydra, donkeys remain the only form of transportation. And, just like at Athens where people hang Crosses in their cars, owners of these donkeys hang Crosses on them. Those crosses acted as a reminder of being in a Christian country and by the Cross sign Constantine, a roman emperor, carried his victory over paganism – a sign that remains the hope of victory over ISIS for many Christians. And at Aegina, I visited Agios Nektarios Monastery – an architecture influenced by that of the Hagia Sophia. People come to hear the sound of beating heart of dead saint Nectarios from around the world and touch his tomb believing in miracles. I highly recommend taking a boat and touring these beautiful Islands.

trip advisoryAs my holiday came to end, Turkey and Greece marked number 21st and 22nd on my list of visited countries under the age of 40. I received an email from TripAdvisor congratulating me on being rated top 4% in Chicago on their social recommendation side.

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Lost in Social Media

lost in social media

I am sorry Saddam…A nation longing for leadership or dictatorship?

* 3 min read

“And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” Mark 13:13

It feels like Jesus said it now to us, and not 2,000 years ago. It seems like a prophecy gets fulfilled many times during history and not only once. Apparently it has no expiration.

First of all, I must say the following: I have been a direct beneficiary of the invasion of Iraq in the form of job opportunities as a linguist contractor. Second, I have deep respect for all the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the “mission” in Iraq. I mean no disrespect. In fact the opposite. It is for their SAKE, and the sake of Christians who have suffered by the hands of ISIS, I am writing this blog. I feel all 10 years worth of American and Iraqi lives lost have been wasted. The American investment is bankrupted in Iraq now.

Lately, I find myself on an emotional roller coaster. I am thinking about a dictator whom I hated for 17 years, and now I feel I owe him an apology. I have a deep emotional and mental struggle inside me about this. I cannot believe myself for having feelings of guilt for hating him. I feel I owe him an apology for hating him. I used to express my hate for him publicly, and now, I am publicly saying…

I am Sorry Saddam Hussein. And, “Thank You” for doing me the biggest favor in my life…

I am saying “sorry”, because I question whether he was right on his policy in dealing with Iraq. Maybe he was the right person protecting Iraqis from the tsunami of evil that flooded Iraq. I remember back in school, I was taught that: “Iraq is the Middle Eastern Gate”. I didn’t understand it then. Now, I do!

Simon Francis

Approximately 10 years ago in Chicago, I was involved in a big verbal fight with someone for his stand in defending Saddam’s actions and policies in Iraq. I stood my ground and I was passionately arguing against Saddam’s position. The fight was so bad, I ended up calling the FBI on him. (True Story!)

In July 2014, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) commanded that all Christians convert to Islam, pay taxes, or leave Mosul – an Iraqi Sunni province that has collapsed. They have burned all the churches, raped Christian women, and took possession of Christian properties. They are raping women in their homes in front of their families in the name of ALLAH/God!

Sadly, my voice and feelings mirror most of the educated, elite, and many more Iraqis (Christians and Muslims). I am writing this blog from Iraq. I interact with Iraqis from different levels of society, even those from Shia’s stronghold of Sadr City. The current government’s policies, lead by PM Nori al-Maliki for the past eight years and more, have made people long for Saddam’s days. The majority of people are now comparing Saddam’s days with current days, and saying there were better off under Saddam. A nation that suffered under Saddam’s regime is now longing for his days. All in the name of the “Price of Democracy”.

The current government of Iraq has people cursing their lives and the day they born in Iraq. People have witnessed actions by Iraqi politicians far beyond Saddam’s actions. The level of corruption, bribery, and abuse of power by all Iraqi politicians has BY FAR surpassed Saddam’s level. The new “democracy” has given birth to a new breed of “politicians” that has made a dictator, an angel compare to them.

Here are a few examples, including: The son of an Iraqi minister of transportation, missed his flight in Beirut, Lebanon. His father forced the Lebanese airline to return to Lebanon from Baghdad by not allowing the plane to land in Iraq without his son. And the reason for that was: “He was late half an hour and the plane should have waited for him.”

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2014/03/06/uk-lebanon-iraq-plane-idUKBREA2519Z20140306

ISIS Militants Order Iraqi Females to Undergo Genital Mutilation

ISIS Destroys Jonah’s Tomb In Mosul, Iraq, As Militant Violence Continues

I am extremely disappointed by the silence of Obama’s Administration on the topic of Christian persecution in Iraq. It seems Mr. Obama is more concerned about NOT offending Muslims than of defending Christians. I was expecting him at least to acknowledge it publicly. Muslims around the world have condemned such action, but NOT our President. What a disgrace!

During my work in Iraq around 2006/7, I remember informing an American Army two-star general that we (Americans) should go and ask Saddam for advice. Saddam was being held prisoner by American forces. Iraqis wanted him back to put him on trial to execute him. Iraq was at the highest level of sectarian violence and civil war.

And NOW…After 11 years, Iraq was better off during Saddam’s regime.

I can imagine Saddam alive now looking at us and saying to us: “Do you miss me now?” …”Was I right in how I handled Iraq?”

do you miss me now?

What a shame to see American weapons and Abrams tanks used by ISIS now. What a shame!..What a shame. And, probably will be used against Iraqi people.

And what was his favor to me?

It was because of his actions that I never understood before, that made me leave Iraq and go to America. Because in a million years, I will never go back and live in Iraq again. He saved me from living under this tsunami of evil. Maybe, it takes an evil man at the gate to stop the flood of evil!

 

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eulogy of my startup

2 min read

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I had a child who died at the age of two and a half years. She was beautiful to me even before she was born. Since the time of inception a heroic vision in my mind of what she would be like fully grown up. What she could offer the world. She took my breath away. She became an extension of myself. She defined me. She was my identity. In fact, she was to represent an identity for a whole nation – a nation without land and beyond borders – Assyrians. She was everything for me. In her being, every yesterday was a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Her name was “I Am Assyrian.com.

homepage

Some of you may remember her.. I Am Assyrian was full of life with a resounding energy devoted to re-imagining our human network. Her birthday was 10 August, 2010. Perhaps she was born at the wrong time but her heart, memory and message still resonates. She was laid to rest in peace on 3 January, 2012 at the cemetery of dead startups. It was/still can be difficult for me to talk about her. I owe her an apology for writing her eulogy this late in life. Her avatar is still alive on Facebook and Youtube. Her DNA is recoded on LinkedIn as part of my resume.

She was gifted in many ways. She was very social. Some people did not understand her or her deep purpose, but I understood her very much. I was proud of her. I watched her grow for two years under my arms. I devoted all my time and resources to her. I sacrificed many things for her sake. I lost a few friends because of her. I got in many arguments defending her.

I am sorry my beloved I Am Assyrian for breaking my silence now.

 

I Am Assyrian was my startup. It was my first attempt at entrepreneurship but the vision meant so much more to me than just a business venture. It was the first social network aimed at connecting Assyrians around the world. Assyrians are a minority in the world; we have no land to call our own. The vision of I am Assyrian was to create a virtual land; a place to connect, to form new relationships and a platform to accentuate all the positive aspects of our cultural identity. Assyrians are in physical Diaspora, and now, immutably just as vibrant in the cyberspace Diaspora of the Internet and its parallel social domains. Unfortunately, I Am Assyrian did not become the central virtual metropolis I envisioned, but by no means did this effort pass in vein. In fact, I Am Assyrian laid a new path with even grander hopes and a more open mind-set for young aspiring Assyrians.

My feelings about privately funded startups are shared by every entrepreneur. We entrepreneurs who take risks against challenging odds to be part of something big, must be proud. We are lucky to have had a chance to try and start something. We got our chance. Many entrepreneurs don’t even get a chance to start or be part of something that defines their passion. Only a few of us are lucky enough to get a second chance and try again.

I came from a middle eastern society. Failure in those societies is a social stigma. They associate failure with being stupid. Failed entrepreneurs become socially stigmatized and morally untrusted. I truly can say that embracing failure in America is a badge of honor. When I look back to my experience with my startup, I remember some of the key mistakes and have learned from them. Failure is a good kind of knowledge – “what does not work” is an excellent teacher. In those failures, I turned negative to positive. It also helped that I could connect with like-minded entrepreneurs, and other local business people who remain excited about my ideas and musings on life, entrepreneurship, culture, etc. I treasure this unique experience. I proudly wear it as a badge of honor.

badge of honorMy good friend and colleague, John Karantonis and I often connect to share stories, bounce around ideas, and ask for advise– or just dream about what comes next. One of John’s recent remarks resonates with my experience:

“It’s sort of an oxymoron to say this but we often hear suggestions like “don’t get emotionally involved” with [business]; what you’re trying to build. You can’t take it personally. There’s merit to this advice but only in a matter of degrees. I also respect the LEAN methodology for doing start-ups but there’s a paradox. Without the emotional charge and passion to communicate a vision, you will fail to persuade enough customers, investors, colleagues, etc to buy into a start-up. You have to be engaged– but above all else you must never compromise your reputation. Even though we live in a global economy, we have evolved for social and business interaction on a much smaller scale. Don’t burn bridges. In a critical start-up situation, it can sometimes be challenging to separate the personal, emotional experience from the objectivity required in making sound business decisions. You become enamored with the vision and it can cause you to lose site of the fundamentals, but be careful not to undermine partners, customers or employees. Failing at a start-up obviously affects all the people who were involved; and that can be a difficult experience, but if you maintain your integrity it should not hold you back from trying again. The experience and grit you’ve gained along the way will help you..

I cast my vote with those who call for a National Entrepreneur Day. Our heroic risk is an incentive for others. It is part of economic progress. It is what makes America. Nassim Nichoas Taleb, philosopher and author of national best sellers, writes in his book Antifragile: “In order to progress, modern society should be treating failed entrepreneurs in the same way we honor dead soldiers, perhaps not with as much honor, but using exactly the same logic….For there is no such thing as a failed soldier, dead or alive (unless he acted in a cowardly manner) – likewise, there is no such thing as a failed entrepreneur or failed scientific researcher, any more than there is a successful babbler, philosophaster, commentator, consultant, lobbyist, or business school professor who does not take personal risks. (Sorry)“.

kingdom of silicon valley

 

* Any comments?
P.S.: If you have more minutes, then check: Are You Predestined to the Kingdom of Silicon Valley?

 

 

Assyrians…Coffee shop politics…what is next for Iraq?

* 6 min read

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“We should not give our native population cause to complain that when they had asked for bread, we had offered them a vote” – Lord Haiely (1941)

Disclaimer: I am representing the political mentality of Assyrians of Iraq. However, the mentality, in general, is the same across other ethnic group of Iraq: Assyrians, Kurds, and Arabs…

There is a nice desert breeze and a clear sky above Basrah. Looking up at the deep dark sky resembling unknowing future, I am wondering if my story could be one of those One Thousand and One Nights stories. It is such a fitting metaphor for my life. I am sitting outside my room at the U.S. Consulate writing the following blog. I have been relocated from Baghdad as part of U.S. Embassy staff. Here in the land of Sinbad the Sailor, I was born as an Assyrian Christian minority. I am reminiscing about how my life started 37 years ago here in Basrah and ended up full circle back in Basrah with the American Embassy staff.

I am pondering on the history of this nation and my life. Since I was 13 or 14 years old, I remember my father saying “things will get better”. And in the land of the fifth largest oil reserves, about 24 years ago, I used to stand in line to get gasoline, kerosene oil, and food staples. As for electricity, I remember we suffered from frequent power shutdowns.

In present day Iraq (2014), people park their cars in line for days to get gas. My relative was cursing heaven and earth for waiting 3 days to get gas in Duhok. As for electricity, some Iraqi people hope it will be fixed in the next 1000 years or so. Fixing the national electricity infrastructure is “mission impossible” in Iraq.

Political topics have become one of the main fibers of social life in Iraq due to wars, scarcity of resources, and life under a dictatorship. It is an “obsession” of the general public dialogue. Neither my father nor I were immune to this obsession. Under Saddam’s regime, Arabs, Kurds, and Assyrians lived in a stable united Iraq – stability worked under the magic of “fear”. People dealt with each other with a clear set of unwritten Ba’athist protocols like: “don’t talk against the government”, “serve the military duty”, and “join the Ba’ath party”. Following these protocols resulted in being under a “you are ok” status with the government. Things appeared in stable equilibrium!

Events that were thought to be temporary, ended up lasting years in Iraq. The Iraq-Iran war was expected to last but a few months; it lasted eight years. After a long war, we thought the Iraq war era would end and Iraq would start to prosper, but Iraq became involved in another war with Kuwait. After that ended, Iraq faced 10 years of sanctions. The 10 years of sanctions ended with another 10 years of war/liberation, started by Americans and continued on by sectarian violence. In all this, I witnessed my father echoing the voice of most Iraqi people saying, “Things will get better, Inshalla – God willing”. But again, their false “positive hope”, believing that Iraq will get better was proven wrong. A few years after the American withdrew from Iraq, in 2014 Iraqi is AGAIN in turmoil, caused by members of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). A few Sunni provinces have collapsed. It seems Iraq is on a 10-year-problem cycle.

I am now pondering on questions like: what happened in all these high political government meetings? As if all these high political meetings, briefs, presidential and prime minister’s press conferences, and speeches never happened. Were they all just for public consumption?…Pure rhetoric?

Just as Russians, Cubans, Iranian, and Lebanese migrated to America after their counties’ major disastrous events, Iraqi Assyrians migrated to many cities around the world. The exodus of Assyrian Christians increased during the last years to cities like Gothenburg, Sydney, Wiesbaden, Marseille, Toronto, but mostly Chicago. The number of educated people dropped below a critical level in Iraq. The brain drain from Iraq is extremely hard to reverse. In my opinion, this is one of the reasons Iraq will never get better again!

The emigrant personality has been injected with so many hyphenated complex parts like Iraqi-Assyrian-American-Christian complicated further by wars, religious beliefs, religious wars, and values of a Christian minority in an Islamic-Arab-country society of Iraq – I sometimes wonder how I am still normal!

Coffee shop politics

On the north side of Chicago, there is an Assyrian coffee shop for soccer fans. It is one of those “members only” coffee shop you see in Italian movies, but it has an Assyrian style cozy feeling. Iraq’s political events are part of the social dialogue. People in this coffee shop, and others, are some of the best consumers and producers of conspiracies. Hollywood, take note of this. So many movies could be made from their conspiracy theories. Allow me to echo the words of the philosopher Nassim Talab; the exile’s roots penetrated their personalities a bit too deeply. They have become prisoners of their memory of idyllic Iraq. They sit together with other prisoners talking about the “old days”. They eat traditional food, play cards, talk about money, payments and bills, who bought what business, while listening to Assyrian music playing in the background.

For many people, Iraq still appears more Elysian in their memory than it actually is. They keep talking about the “old days”. I never tasted pleasure in this place!

These Assyrians like almost all Iraqis everywhere talk about politics continuously running what-if scenarios. What if Saddam did not enter Kuwait? What if Saddam cooperated with Americans? What if Saddam did not threaten Israel? Some also believe that the CIA is causing all this chaos. American know everything; they plan for 30 years from now. And, everything happens in the world because of the CIA. They generate an endless stream of what-if alternative scenarios. As if the historical events could have been averted or changed if it wasn’t for this or that event. They are so well-rounded in political events to the point they keep track the tone of the politicians; who said what and in what tone. I can tell that every one of these people with their broken English sounds like a presidential adviser sitting at the White House!

High Government Politics

On the other hand, I have had the experience to meet many high officials and be part of many meetings in Iraq. Being a translator in Iraq for many years for the U.S. Army and U.S. Embassy, I was part of many meetings at various levels. I translated meetings with PM Nouri al-Maliki, former PM of England Tony Blair, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Iraqi Minister of Defense, Iraqi Minister of Interior, and many U.S. Army Generals. I translated many historical decisions. I was in the midst of it. If you would’ve asked anyone of them, “What will happen next?”, his reply was always in a form of: “I don’t know what is going to happen.”

I hold firm to my opinion that from high government politicians to coffee shop theorists, nobody knows anything or what will happen. The only difference between a government politician and a coffee shop politician is that the government politician will give the listener the same story in more polished words. In reality, none of these Iraqi or American politicians know anything. Common people find that hard to believe.

Bad things happen and will continue to happen because of randomness or because of political decisions. Many people fail to understand this “history generator” machine, which compiles complex current events and produces history, extremely difficult to reverse engineer. Events don’t happen based on a script – predicting the outcome based on a few events. They try to retrospectively understand and assign value of importance to a few decisions here and there. “was it because of the open borders in Iraq?”, “was it because Americans marginalized some elements of the Iraqi people?” “was it because Paul Bremer dissolved the Iraqi Army?”

As a result from my work experience and past 30 years of following Iraq news, this is my opinion…Nobody knows what will happen next, but we know for sure, Iraq will be going in downward spiral for many long years.

The problem with this new democracy in Iraq (or other Arab nations) is not the fault of Americans passing along the fancy illusion of “Democracy” in nation-building, but those long years of Saddam’s autocracy that preceded for generations. I remember former Iraqi National Adviser Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie made a public statement saying “Saddam did not only destroy Iraq, but destroyed the human side of the Iraqi people”.

 

* Any comments?
P.S.: Currently, reading Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/293437731944149723/

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