Ribbity Blog

baqqa mqarqra
A Frog's-eye view

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Monday, March 31, 2003

I was walking to work this evening and thought it might be interesting to listen to some of the Arabic radio stations and hear what is being said about the war in Iraq. I eventually found a very interesting station that I thought might be Syrian. It was certainly broadcasting anti-war propaganda, including an interview with a man named Chalabi who was the head of some institute in London, who claimed that the entire war was instigated by the Zionists in Washington for their benefit. The suggestion went unchallenged from the interviewer.

So far so good; all standard stuff for the Arabic media. But wait a minute... this anti-Zionist channel turned out to be none other that the BBC's Arabic service, broadcast on 640 medium wave!

In case you've forgotten, the BBC is funded by the British goverment, and according to its charter, it is required to provid honest and accurate news reporting. In case you think that this was a single incident, I subsequently heard another story about Palestinian children suffering in the occupied territories (no mention of Jewish children killed by Palestinian terrorists).

Of course I expect this kind of reporting from the Arabic media - but this was not the Arabic media, this was the supposedly open and honest BBC. It seems that the BBC's Arabic service requires close monitoring to check that it doesn't breach the BBC's charter.

JEWISH CONSPIRACY (What, again??? Boooring!)

Congratulations to unknown journalist John Sutherland on becoming the latest proponent of the world Zionist conspiracy. When Rachel Corrie, who decided that her goal in life was to defend the property of murderers, was accidentally killed after falling or jumping in front of a tractor, she was hailed as a hero by her follow travellers. Unfortunately for those propagating the view that she was a peace-loving do-gooder, pictures of her angrily burning an American flag subsequently came to light, which somewhat damaged her image is a humans rights activists. (I don't recall seeing pictures of Mother Theresa of Calcutta burning flags.)

Sutherland's response is simple: These pictures were produced by the World Zionist Conspiracy, a.k.a. the Mossad. Now so successful were the Mossad in promulgating this myth, that even Corrie's own organisation posted them on their website.

Wow, am I glad that I have a little share in ruling the world. But Sutherland, beware! The Guardian is the next target on our sights!

Sunday, March 30, 2003

I see from my Blogometer that The Frog is once again returning to its natural level of readership. I would appreciate hearing some comments from readers. I realise that I ought to have installed "comments" windows, but that requires a level of computer knowledge and patience beyond my little froggy brain. Anyhow, drop a fly to a tired Froggy and let him know how you see things.


Today I did my usual travelling around for work, passing through Israel's three largest cities in the process. In spite of today's terrorist attack in Netanya, things seemed reasonably calm. Of course, I am never sure whether my sense of the mood reflects anything more than how I'm feeling that day. If I'm feeling relaxed, I say that the mood of the city was calm. If I'm tense, I report that the city is tense. As we say in Arabic, hek iddinya (Hebrew: kakha ze).

The centre of Jerusalem looks dreadful these days. The main streets are all being ripped up to lay the foundations of the light railway, and there are metal barriers and mounds of earth everywhere. Two years of war (euphemistically known as "Intifada") have taken their toll, and the once lively city centre looks desolate and empty. Tel Aviv and Haifa looked pretty much the same. In spite of Saddam life continues.

I travelled with a bunch of young soldiers who described in graphic detail how an undercover unit assassinated a top Hamas official. Naturally I won't reveal the details here. It's depressing to know that the tadpoles will one day be required to enter the army and live this kind of a life. That prospect is approaching with increasing speed, it seems.

Sometimes it isn't easy being a little green frog in the Middle East.

Saturday, March 29, 2003

The top story in Israel at the moment is the mistreatment of leading TV reporter Dan Scemama by the American forces in Iraq (report). The radio reports on this story are ending with a statement from Scemama that the US forces are trying to control the media reports emerging from Iraq, and are co-ordinating a widespread campaign on disinformation.

What is interesting is that when this report was posted on the war-blog site The Command Post, by Israeli blogger Gil Shterzer, it was treated with nothing short of derision by the war-supporters, who automatically assumed that any critique of the US forces was enemy propaganda, and must be false. Shterzer has rightly defended the integrity of both Scemama and the news services carrying the story.

It will be interesting to see what the effect of this is on Israeli perceptions on the war. Scemama is a familiar face on Israeli television, and I assume is widely regarded as a reliable figure. He certain does not come over as an extremist or propagandist, and is sufficiently well known not to need to resort to gimicks to raise his profile.

Like most Israelis, he probably served in the armed forces and has experience of both combat and of the Middle East. He knows what it's like to be a soldier, and knows what unpleasant things happen when soldiers come into contact with civilians, even journalists. So his accusations of American brutality and media manipulation are bound to be taken seriously here, and will join an increasing number of voices who are beginning to express doubts about how well-thought-out the American policy has been. Certainly, the over-reliance upon heavy fire power with insufficient intelligence backup has been questioned.

I hope to post more on the Israeli reactions to the crisis in the coming days. To recent newcomers to the Frog, I welcome you and hope you find the site interesting. To veteran readers, I thank you for your interest and support over the months. Ribbity.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

The Arabic web portal Albawaba contains a summary of an interview with Bashar al-Assad that appeared in this morning's As-Safir, a newspaper published in Lebanon. The summary appears in two versions, one in English, the other in Arabic. The two versions have both different headlines and different quotations from the original interview. The English version emphasises the Arab world's right to independence and self-determination. The Arabic version contains threats to America and expresses explicitly the desire to destroy Israel. Each version is aimed at its own market. Owing to problems with the Blogger program, which refused to allow me to post the full translation here, it appears on the Iraqi War Blog site The Command Post.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

The war in Iraq may well be the most important historical event in recent years, given the scale of the military operation and the geo-political significance of its build-up and its outcome. But after several days of intense channel-hopping, close scrutiny of the journalists' reports from several continents in several languages, the constant bombardment of information and images, the excitement, the pain, the doubts, I'm tired. Tomorrow I have a long day's work ahead of me and though it's only 10.10 pm I'm turning in for the night with a good book. OK, I admit, before heading off to work tomorrow I'll probably check out Al-Jazeera and print off something to read on the journey. But world events can (un)happily unfold without my constant observation. It's time to find some peace in my own little four cubit-hole.

Good night.


Wars are bloody and horrible, so it's kind of Kofi Anan to provide some light entertainment, as reported in this piece, UN in charge of inspections, Annan insists. I'm glad to see that Annan is keeping up with the latest developments in world realpolitik.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Al-Jazeera's lead story at the moment is the downing of an Apache helicopter. According to this report, it was shot down by an agricultural worker (pictured, along with his brothers, next to the interviewer) using a primitive rifle. The Iraqi TV report also showed two helmets (presumably belonging to the crew), and Al-Jazeera notes that the Apache helicopters normally have a two-man crew. The report states that Washington has so far only admitted to losing one helicopter.

Meanwhile, Saddam has called upon the Iraqi people to exploit the opportunity of the invasion to inflict the maximum amount of losses, charging that the allies have avoided direct conflict by depending upon aircraft and missiles. [He's only jealous because the allies have destroyed his airforce.] He called upon the people to be patient and bearing.

At the same time, the aerial attacks against Iraqi cities continue. Bombardments have shaken the two large Iraqi cities of Baghdad and Mosul, and several other smaller cities. The attack on Baghdad was the fiercest in two days. The report claims that sirens were not heard, except for those of ambulances collecting up the wounded from the streets. The huge explosions came as Saddam was presenting his televised address.

[A thought: perhaps the US is deliberately using loud bombing during Saddam's speeches in an attempt to establish if they are live; no bombing can be heard through these speeches.]

The attacks once again targeted Saddam's palaces.

At the time of the Al-Jazeera report, Basra was once again under heavy attack, with the attacks focused around the western sector of the city, particularly the Shaher Bridge. Mosul was also bombarded this morning. Missiles apparently attacked western Mosul, but there was no confirmation as to whether they hit civilian or military targets. The Iraqis claim that they managed to push back the allied forces around Kerkuk.


The Iraqis are boasting that they have killed 25 American servicemen and woman. Several more soldiers have been killed in military accidents and "friendly fire" incidents.

While of course every loss is a matter of tremendous grief, and will chance the lives of the victims families forever, we must keep these figures in some kind of perspective.

On September 11th a year and a half ago, some 3000 US civilians were murdered in a single day. Israel, a frequent victim of terror that deliberately targets civilians, has known several attacks in which more than 20 people have been killed. Many of these are often children.

It is estimated that during the first few days of the Normany (D-Day) Landings, some 16,000 servicemen were killed.

Saddam Hussein's regime is thought to have caused the deaths of a million people, and four million Iraqis have been driven into exile.

The best answer to the Iraqi propaganda would be to invite the victims of Saddam's regime to have their say.


The decision by Al-Jazeera to post pictures of dead and captured American servicemen on its website seems to have had the desired effect. The site's ratings have shot up so much, that in trying to enter I received the "too many users" prompt.


Guy Bachor, a Middle East expert, just appeared on Israeli television and described his concern at the latest Iraqi statements regarding Israel's involvement in the war. Bachor felt that Iraq was inventing reasons to attack Israel.


Al-Jazeera Net is still happily displaying pictures of the American servicement who were killed and captured around An-Nasariya. The headline reads simply "Pictures of the dead and captives from the American army in Iraq". The "story" reads:

Al-Jazeera presented photographs of bodies of American soldiers who met their deaths during the battles that broke out between the American and Iraqi forces in the city of An-Nasira in South-West Iraq. Also, it presented pictures of captives from the American army that fell into the hands of the Iraqis during the same battles. The American Minister of Defense had denied earlier in the day that American forces had been killed or injured, for it was retracted and announced that less than 10 soliders went missing in Southern Iraq.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

In one of its "cleaner" articles (see previous blog entry), Al-Jazeera reports the searing comments made by Taha Yasir Ramadan, Iraqi deputy PM (who was reported dead by the Americans a few days ago), against Kofi Anan and the Arab leadership. Reading this blazing attack, you might thing that Iraq was the most law-abiding member of the UN and had fulfilled its commitments through the last twelve years.

Although its hard to have sympathy for Anan - in Israel, particularly, we have no great love of the man who refused to act against the mass-murder of Jewish civilians by Palestinians yet happily collaborated with Saeb Erekat in perpetuating the myth of the Jenin massacre - there is a juicy irony that Anan, of all appeasers, should be so attacked.

The attack is not restricted to Anan. The Arab leaders, both those who openly supported the Americans (who were named in the speech) and those who suppressed anti-war demonstrations (whose names were not mentioned) came under Ramadan's fire. Meanwhile, the article reports that Mubarak is worried that the Iraqi conflict may take a long time, even though the Americans promised him that it would be quick. We're only in the fourth day, the American troops are some 100km from Baghdad, and already Mubarak is worried about the lengthy duration of the war. Perhaps he could have sped it up by committing Egyptian troops to the campaign.


Al-Jazeera continues to display diskusting colour pictures of viktims of the allies' air-attacks on Iraq. I don't recall their posting similar pictures of the victims of Saddam's murderous regime, or of women publicly behedded by the Saudi regime, or of Jewish viktims of Muslim terror or the like.

[Please note that previous experience with similarly minded sickos seeking such pictures through search engines has lead to me deliberately misspell some of the words on this posting. I hope that the readers will understand.]


Israeli television is reporting that information is now coming in from Romania that a supposedly innocent cement factory in Rashidiyya (25 kilometres North-East of Mosul) was in reality a factory for the production of chemical weapons. Presumably, the American army will go after this kind of thing.


Frog has finally returned home after a long day's work in the pond. Travelling home this evening across the country, the roads were remarkably empty, as was the public transport. People seem to be avoiding unnecessary journeys, preferring to stay at home where possible. Most people can be seen carrying out their gas masks in their cardboard boxes.

At work, I had the chance to speak to people who had grown up in Iraq. Although they are certain that it was indeed Saddam who appeared, they are very sceptical about everything that the Iraqis say. Moreover, they are totally convinced that there is no chance of democracy in Iraq.

I also learned from them that the Iraqis refer to the airstrips H1 and H2 by their English names (i.e. aich-one, aich-two, not aich-wahed, aich thnen), because they were established under the British rule in Iraq and retained their original names.


The Ribbitzen has just received a very useful e-mail offer to join the "Left Behind Prophecy Club," which will provide updates on such important issues as whether this war in Iraq is leading to Armageddon, whether the Antichrist is alive now (and if so how to spot him), and are ATMs predictive of the Mark of the Beast. If you respond fast you even get a free "Left Behind Illumina," worth $20--whatever that is (the word doesn't appear in the OED, but those in the know must be familiar with the term). This offer comes to you from the authors of the Left Behind Series, and will give you an insider's perspective on interpreting the signs. The accompanying photograph shows that you will be so wowed by what the authors have to reveal that your hair will stand on end (or has their model used too much hair mousse?). So the Frog now offers this illuminating informational source to all of his readers, write to him for the contact info, since he would not want it to remain limited to those such as the Ribbitzen, whose e-mail address has been widely and generously distributed to world-wide spam listings.


According to this report, the Iraqis are claiming that they have managed to stop the progress of the allied forces.


Today (Sunday) is a work day in Israel, and this Frog has to go off and work on the other side of the country. This means a two and a half hour drive (it's really not a very big country) in each direction.

The Home Front Command are insisting that we take our gas masks with us (try fitting a gas mask over those wide froggy-lips and bulging eyes), which of course makes it very hard to look professional in front of clients. Imagine meetings in which everyone has a large clumsy cardboard box with them.

Still, a job is a job, and it beats working for a living.


Frog has been asked to contribute to this important link site.


Last night I reported that I didn't want to share the details of the awful images that appeared on Al-Jazeera's TV reports of yesterday. Well, it appears that Al-Jazeera's website didn't agree with me, because they chose the harshest of these images to accompany today's lead story. [The caption under the picture reads "One of the Victims of the British and American aerial bombardment of the City of Basra]

The report notes that the allied forces have begun air strikes in the area of Khurmal in Northern Iraq close to the Iranian border, attacking members of two Islamic organsations. (The details have already appeared in the Western press).

The article stresses the Iraqi resistance on the ground, and the frontal engagement in the desert around Najaf. Naturally, the US's confidence regarding this engagement (cited in the Western Press) is not reported. The Iraqis also claim to have hit down some 21 Tomahawk cruise missiles, which they claim were aimed at residential areas and government buildings in several Iraqi cities, though they do not provide any details.

According to the Al-Jazeera report, the attack came as Saddam Hussein appeared on Iraqi TV in his military uniform. The Iraqis said that he had held three meetings with top advisers, and was satisfied with the military's performance.

Meanwhile in Washington, General Stanley McChrystal reported on American arms uses, and confirmed that the US forces had not found any hidden weapons of mass destruction.

The bombing in Basra left some 50 people dead, including four members of one family and one Russian citizen. These numbers were provided by the Basra central hospital.

The report mentions the massive convoys of American armoured vehicles and supply trucks bringing bridge-making equipment to the northern desert passes leading from Basra to Baghdad. It also notes that the Americans have taken many POWS, but also sustained some losses. The fall of Nasariya to the Americans is noted. The article reports a British military spokesman as saying that the allies would like to conduct talks for the surrender of Basra. The British also claim that Iraqi 51st division in Basra surrendered, but this is denied by the Iraqi officials.

Meanwhile the allies have secured the port of Umm Qasr against any potential attacks they might face. The allies took more than 400 POWs in the surrounding area.

In general, this lengthy report on Al-Jazeera's website provides accurate information, though it tends to report Iraqi statements at face value, only challenging them by presenting the alternative view of the allies rather than through journalistic comment.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Bethlehem Television has just broadcast some terrible and graphic pictures of victims of today's American attacks on Basra. The pictures were clearly taken this afternoon, and were shot "live" by Al-Jazeera, but I am uncertain if this repeat broadcast was the work of the Al-Jazeera network or of the Palestinians' BTV station. The accompanying commentary stressed that these were civilians, and that many of them were carrying foreign Visa (credit) cards, particularly several issued in Kuwait. (This would not be surprising considering that Basra is the closest major Iraqi city to Kuwait.) The pictures of the dead included several children, and I won't describe the graphic nature of the images shown. It was not pleasant viewing.

Viewing these pictures provided a health reminder of the horrors of war, and of its innocent victims. No war is without victims, and no invading or liberating army manages to avoid civilians. But that does not mean that the war is not justified, nor that in the long-run, its benefits will not be felt by the Iraqi people. I have lived through wars, and know of the terrible fears involved. My hope is that when the battle is over, the innocent civilians who have lived under the murderous regime of Saddam will finally find some succour, and that the narrow financial interest of France and Russia will not prevent freedom of the Iraqi people.


The lead story on the UAE news site is that this war is primarily characterised by the propaganda efforts on both sides, and that all information regarded with great caution. A similar, though lengthier report on the psychological warfare also appeared yesterday on the Aljazeera website.


The Israeli television has broadcast this evening a news story made in the early 1990s about the Shi'ite uprising in Karbala, 100 km south of Baghdad. Karbala is one of the holiest sites to the Shi'ites, but this didn't stop Saddam from crushing the rebellion and killing 100,000 people. The rebels finally took refuge in a holy tomb, but the Republican forces stormed the building and murdered them all.

They have also broadcast part of a documentary about how France aided Iraq in its quest to built nuclear weapons, and particularly Chirac's role in that process. The "talking heads" in the documentary were all senior Iraqi figures, including Tariq Aziz. It would be interesting to see the documentary in its entirety.


The news reports here in Israel are still reporting a great deal of uncertainty, particularly regarding whether Saddam is alive or dead. Although Iraqi TV claimed that Saddam had met with his senior military officers and expressed his satisfaction at their performance, there is no clear indication that this in fact happened, or when the pictures broadcast were taken.

The newspapers over the weekend reported on the failure of diplomacy over the past 12 years to solve the Iraqi crisis, particularly since the European countries favoured their own immediate financial gains over Iraqi disarmament.

Alan Dershowitz is now appearing on Israeli television discussing the antisemitism in the anti-war movement, particularly in Europe.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Froggy is checking out for the next 25 hours. I'll be back tomorrow evening, Middle East time, for more comment from the Israeli and Middle Eastern perspective. I hope I've left you with plenty to read and digest in the meantime. Link it, bloggers!


Al-Jazeera reports on the significance of the fall of Fao. During the Iran-Iraq war, the Iranians captured the archipelago which allowed them to gain control over Basra and its environs in April 1988 and considerably lengthened the war's duration. The Iraqis only succeeded in recapturing the area with the assistance of the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, Egypt and the USA. The report also notes that in a 1986 battle in the area the Iraqis exploited their superiority in the air to employ chemical weapons, including nerve gas, attested to by the large number of empty atropine containers found in the area when the Iranians withdrew.


Abu Dhabi television is now showing pictures of American helicopters transporting light armoured vehicles to the military airport at Umm Qasr. According to the commentators, smoke can be seen rising from the city.


No, this time I don't mean news of what's happening in Iraq, but rather, the news as presented by Iraq. The Palestine National Authority's pro-Iraqi Bethlehem Television station continues to broadcast pro-Iraqi propaganda, which I can pick up with a simple antenna on my TV. Today, in addition to relaying information from Al-Jazeera, BTV presented us with the news from Iraqi TV.

A large proportion of the broadcast was taken up with showing a destroyed building, with a copy of the Qur'an amongst the rubble. I didn't catch exactly which sura (chapter) it was supposedly open to, but this provided the basis of discussion for several religious commentators to expound upon the Qur'an's prediction of the certain downfall of the invading infidels. (It should be noted that secular Iraqi Ba'ath "socialist" ideology is more than capable of exploiting Muslim religious feelings when it suits the regime.)

They interviewed a woman who claimed to have been injured in the bombing, though the close-up shots didn't really allow the viewer to determine if the whole thing was staged.

But the highlight of the broadcast was the focus upon world opinion, in particular the anti-war protests in the Muslim world and in the West, including the USA. One particularly bizzarre moment was when they showed what appeared to be human shields - the looked Scandinavian, South-East Asian and perhaps Indian - standing outside some kind of factory or military installation while a man who spoke Gulf Arabic, presumably an Iraqi, ranted about the wickedness of the allies' attack. The foolish looking internationals stood uneasily in the background, and looked like they had absolutely no idea what was going on or what they were doing there. I assume that these recordings were made in advance, and that the internationalists had been told that they were going to be defending Iraqi civilians; in fact, their presence was clearly for propaganda purposes only.

Immediately after the "news" broadcast ended, the TV station broadcast a choir singing the praises of Saddam Hussein (images of Saddam on a horse, glorious statues of Saddam, paintings of Saddam, huge rallies in favour of Saddam, enormous military parades in which soldier goose-stepped in honour of Saddam).

It's a pity that the so-called "peace protestors" around the world can't see these broadcasts and that most of them - certainly the Westerners - wouldn't be able to understand the Arabic. If they were to see them, they would probably be rather shocked by the totalitarian imagery employed in these films, reminiscent of the worst and most brutal regimes the past hundred years have known. At the very least they should know that they are being exploited by the oppressive Iraqi regime and that their rhetoric is boosting the murderous Iraqi regime.


Israeli army radio is reporting that Ya'akov Amidor, the former head of Israeli Military Intelligence, believes that the Saddam who appeared on Iraqi television yesterday morning is indeed the real Saddam, and not a double. I'm not sure how Amidor is so certain, and it's also worth noting that Israel is blessed with dozens of former heads of Military Intelligence who seem to be making a rather good living off providing learned commentary to the press here, even though they no longer have access to the kind of accurate, up-to-date information that allowed them to once make such statements with some backing.

My own feeling is that the Saddam who appeared yesterday morning was in fact a double, but the clever trick was that the double was the real Saddam all the time, while Saddam was just an actor.

Incidentally, nobody seems to have noticed that Saddam's lovely sons also seem to have vanished. Perhaps they're off somewhere enjoying a good whiskey and smoking long cigars (courtesty of Bill Clinton, say no mawr).


Al-Jazeera’s website carries an interesting analysis of the Jordanian position on the Iraqi war. The official government position is that Jordan will not allow the Americans to use its territory or air-space to attack Iraq. This is because strong popular support, based on the notion that the Iraqi’s cause is just and that they have been discriminated against. Popular support for Iraq is partially based upon the 300 million dollars of oil aid with which Iraq annually supports Jordan.

A Jordanian expert cited, former Minister of Science Dr. Hani al-Khasawenah, indicates that Jordan paid a heavy price for its support of Iraq during the previous Gulf War.

Jordan has prepared itself for the current war in several ways. They have allowed hundreds of American soldiers to be stationed in Jordan, and sought to disguise their real numbers and the length of their stay. They have increased security around the embassies of the USA, Britain and Israel. (The article notes Iraqi hostility to Britain dating from the Mandate period.) They have banned protests without prior consent, and even few and paltry demonstrates that are allowed are strictly controlled: participants are not allowed to burn the American flag or to carry pictures of Saddam, so as not to damage the official position built upon strategic relations with America. In recent days, the Jordanian government has banned peaceful demonstrations in support of Iraq and arrested Islamic and Ba’ath activists.

The Jordanians have also set up refugee camps some 213km east of Amman to prevent Iraqi refugees from reaching Jordanian towns and cities as they did in the previous Gulf War.

Finally, the article notes that Jordan has increased its security along the Israeli border, on the pretext of preventing Israel from transferring Palestinians to Jordan. [This is a “straw man” reason; the real reason is probably to prevent Palestinian terrorists from crossing the border and threatening the security of Jordan or Israel. The last thing that Jordan needs at the moment is a regional conflagration.]

The article ends by stating that there is great popular concern that America will succeed in bringing down Saddam’s regime. As ever, the war is described as a huge American plot to gain control of Iraq’s oil, and to gain political supremacy in the region.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

About a minute ago I was watching the Gulf news station Al-Jazeera, which was being relayed by the Palestinian TV station Bethlehem Television. The subject of the broadcast was of course the American attack against Iraq. As soon as the discussion turned to the subject of Iraqi soldiers who surrendered to the Americans today, the TV station pulled the relay off the air and started broadcasting Palestinian propaganda films. The Palestinian National Authority likes its Iraqis to be fighting heros, not frightened soldiers who surrender.


Baghdad is an ancient and beautiful city with many important sites of historic interest. When Saddam has gone, it may be possible to visit it freely. To fully appreciate the beauty of Iraq, I recommend learning Iraqi Arabic. Start with the Muslim "gilit" dialects, such as in this recording, and then make your way to the Jewish/Kurdish "qeltu" dialects, listed here. If you need any help, just write to RibbityFrog@netscape.net.


As I mentioned in a previous post, I wrote to Uday Hussein at the address mentioned on his newspaper's website, but unfortunately the e-mail bounced back because his server was apparently full. Well-wishers, I imagine. At the time of writing, his newspaper has still not been published. What I want to know is this: are regular subscribers going to get a refund, or at least get a credit for a free copy of a future edition? In general, there seems to be a newspaper distribution problem today in Iraq. I've tried looking at a number of Iraqi papers listed on this site, and most of them appear to be inoperative. What is going on there?

Israeli TV have reported that the US forces received orders to be reading at 18:30 Israel time - five minutes ago...


The Frog can exclusively reveal that the Iraqi authorities allowed photographers a brief glimpse of Saddam Hussein to suppress once and for all American rumours that he is dead:


The Al-Jazeera website has been completely rearranged to report on the Gulf war. The special Iraqi Crisis site is now available here (In Arabic of course; what do you mean, you haven't learnt Arabic? You want to understand the Middle East but you don't know Arabic?)


Today's web-edition of Babil, the popular (?) Iraqi newspaper owned by Uday Saddam Hussein, appears to be unavailable. The web-site is still displaying Wednesday's edition. I hope that later today Mr. Hussein will find time to provide us with the Iraqi perspective on events.

In the meantime, Al-Jazeera seems to be lagging behind the western news networks in reporting the Iraqi crisis. The most interesting thing appearing on their site is the poll I reported on several days ago. The question asked was "Do you think that the Americans will succeed in bringing down Saddam Hussein's regime?" As of this moment, of the 94768 respondents, 43% have answered "yes", 50.6 "no", and 6.4 have responded "don't know". To me, this seems like a gross underestimation of America's military power and determination and a gross exaggeration of Saddam's stability. However, these proportions have remained more or less stable throughout the last few days as more readers have added their votes.


At 10pm last night the Home Front finally issued detailed instructions fit the filters. The gas masks are much better designed this time, and it is impossible to put on the filter without removing the protective tag. I seem to remember that the first Gulf War, some people died because they didn't remove the protective tag from the front of the filter, and just assumed that their breathing difficulties were caused by the masks. The masks are also more advanced, so that you can talk through them and drink if necessary (I’ve already got my G&Ts prepared for the event).

Israeli television apparently broadcast all night, though at some point the Ribbitzen and I decided to go to sleep. We woke up this morning to watch some more broadcasts. We are supposed to be working from home today, but I suspect that quite a lot of the day will be spent in front of the TV and the computer. We can hear the Israeli jets flying over constantly, as they patrol the eastern boarder from potential Iraqi incursions. The tadpoles went to school with their masks, and will be back mid-day.

Saddam’s speech was relayed on the networks here. Although I read Arabic well and can converse in the Palestinian vernacular, I have to admit that I find Saddam’s accent very hard to comprehend, and I was somewhat encouraged by the fact that Oded Granot, Channel One’s correspondent for Arab affairs, also seemed to be having some trouble in catching everything that Saddam said. The general consensus here is that the speech was pre-recorded. Experts are also casting doubt upon the American ability to catch Saddam on the first night. Saddam is no fool, they are saying, and would hardly have allowed himself to present an easy target.

There is a degree of resignation to the idea of the war here. I think that the general consensus is that Saddam really had it coming to him, and that if you mess with the world’s greatest superpower and military force you get what’s coming to you. Only extremist voices like Ha’aretz’s Gidon Levi have been attacking the war ferociously. Levi claimed last night on a TV panel discussion that the entire world was against the war except Israel, the kind of exaggeration that typifies the far-left’s attitude towards Middle Eastern affairs. The other members of the panel didn’t even bother to respond to his accusations, and one, a senior professor of philosophy from Tel Aviv University (hardly a bastion of reactionary thought) went as far as to dismiss Levi’s words of total nonsense not worthy of serious consideration. Although Israel is insisting upon keeping a low profile (hard for Jews; you know, the nose and all that) there is of course intense interest here in what is going on, and how it will effect the region.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

For the first time in twelve years, I have just tried on a gas mask. The fit was rather uncomfortable, and the smell is just awful. I didn't fit the filter, because for that I would have to open the seal and that reduces the filter's life-span.

One thing I'd forgotten is that you can't really wear glasses with the masks on. I'll have to dig around for that old pair of contact lenses I have buried away in some ancient saline. When the sirens go I'll know we're back in the old days again.


1. First, it appears that Tariq Aziz is, unfortunately, not dead - yet. Please God by him.

2. The order has now gone out to unpack the gas-masks and check that all the components are present and fit.

3. I admit it - I'm stressed. I'm glued to the television and internet, hoping that the thing will just start and let the pressure down.

Regular updates will follow.


The Israeli army radio site is reporting unconfirmed rumours that former Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz has been shot to death while trying to flee Iraq. More details will surely follow.

Personally, I would be very happy if Aziz were to be the first to fall from this Iraqi regime. Saddam Hussein is a thug, but Aziz is an educated man whose cruelty is thus all the more inexcusable. Who can forget his cold-hearted declarations during the first gulf war? Like all such monsters, he's now tried to run, and may have paid for it with his life. Few will mourn his passing.


The newspaper owned by lovely Uday Saddam Hussein, Babil. You can even write to him at: udaysaddamhussein@uruklink.net. I have already written to him to express my wishes regarding his future, and would encourage others to do so.


Call me frog-brained, but I've only just realised the logic behind Al-Jazeera's organisation of its news items. Below the main headlines, there is a series of shorter headlines divided by region, in this order: The Arab Homeland, Asia and the Pacific, Africa, the Two Americas [I assume northern and southern continents], Europe and Israel; then come articles by subject: economics and labour, science and technology, medicine and health, culture and art, sport, and finally (!) books.

The list is interesting, because both its order and division indicates to us something about how the world looks from the Gulf States. Top of the list of regions is the Arab Homeland, and then we head east. Israel (at least mentioned these days by name, not by epithet) is not a part of the Arabic homeland, nor of Asia, but belongs to Europe, in keeping with the ideas prevelant in the Arabic world about Israel's colonial status [see e.g. here, espec. para. 23].

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Just in case the Jugglers for Genocide forget exactly whom they are supporting, here are a couple of lovely images taken from Aljazeera's website:

Peace loving Saddam Hussein enjoys nothing more than a relaxing walk in the country

Modest-living Udai and Qusay Hussain take a well-earned rest from rape and murder to enjoy a few quiet moments.


France says US takes "heavy responsibility" if it uses force says this AP report relayed by the Jerusalem Pest. I'm sure Bush is really deterred by Chirac's warnings. What's he going to do - withdraw all the French wine and cheese from the US?


Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this Iraqi crisis has been the endless periods of waiting. I find myself surfing through the web in various languages hunting for any information I can find. (Did you know that out of 36578 votes on Al-Jazeera's web-site, 44.8% believe that the Americans will manage to bring about Saddam's fall, 48.9% don't and the other 6.3% don't know; I voted "yes" just for the fun of it.) Of course, it's rather pointless, but there is something very stressful about not being able to do anything.


Al-jazeera is reporting that France says the world opposes Bush's warning to the Iraqi president Saddam Hussein regarding/describing it as opposed to the will of UN. At this stage, who the hell cares what France says?

Monday, March 17, 2003

One of the most disliked, arrogant, self-righteous British politicians, Robin Cook, has resigned from the British cabinet over the war in Iraq. Some of Cook's charming activities can be found here. With Claire Short also threatening to resign, so far the Iraqi war seems to be having fantastic effects.


An interesting story from Reuters: French MP urges Pope to become Iraq human shield. I assume that Monsieur Didier Julia has forgotten that the use of human shields is a war crime. More on human shields soon...


Since it seems likely that the war is going to start tonight, and since I believe that Israel will be attacked by scuds, the Ribbitzen and I have spent much of the morning continuing our efforts to seal our protected area. It is a very time-consuming business, consisting of sticking endless lines of plastic tape on the large windows in our back room. (We used to think that it was really great that our pond was so well illuminated by natural sunlight; now we know the real meaning of window-pain.)

During the first Gulf War I was a flipper-loose young frog with no tadpoles and no real sense of danger and responsibility. I remember driving one night from Gush Etzion through Bethlehem to Jerusalem to buy pizza on King George Street. When we got there, we parked the car on King George - this is right in the centre of Jerusalem - and crossed to the pizza shop. The owner was about to close up for the evening because there were no customers, and gave us all pizza for nothing. This time I suspect it's going to be less of a game.

FROM THE MIDRASH: God said to the Americans: By your lives, I gave you weapons of fire and weapons of sulphur, and I made you rulers of all the earth, and I brought you victory against your enemies on Purim, and you did not bring me my vengeance against Babylon. Behold, I shall bring you to war upon Purim, and you shall not find peace until I have been avenged of Babylon. [Tractate Shekarim]

Thursday, March 13, 2003

At 14:50 British time the BBC entered this site searching for "Mashtin". When they found the true meaning of Mr. Bakir's name they removed him from their site. (They returned to this site at 16.52) Watch out for the IP addresses and Big Auntie is watching you!

Monday, March 10, 2003

A remarkable case of mistaken identity from the ancient Egyptian tabloids. (Report).


If you don't believe me, just look at this report from the NY times (registration perhaps required):

As early as 1988, Iraq subsequently admitted to the United Nations, it had experimented on converting short-range "Frog" rockets with a cluster warhead using aluminum shells and some components from another rocket, the Ababil 50. However, Iraq said that it had done nothing but produce drawings and that no prototypes were built.

When the evidence of those programs from Haidar Farm was analyzed in 1997, intelligence agencies supporting the United Nations weapons inspectors said materials found there included "all the necessary files and specifications to build" an unconventional, probably chemical, warhead for the Frogs.

Photographs, used by an American official to buttress the administration's position on Iraq, were said by the official to depict the newly discovered munitions.

They show a large, cylindrical body of roughly the same size as a conventional Frog missile, with a series of round cluster munitions, about the size of soccer balls or basketballs, set into cavities in the rocket. The official who did not say how the photographs were obtained

Why, that Saddam really knows no limits, enslaving frogs to do his dirty work!

Sunday, March 09, 2003

I was back in Haifa again today, and once again travelled by minbus down the Moriah Boulevard where the 37 bus as blown up on Wednesday. The difference was that this time, the minibus was full of school-children, even though for children it costs twice as much as the regular buses (for adults the price is virtually identical). I suppose their parents are no longer allowing them to travel by bus, and this is easier than arranging personal transport for every child.

As we approached 48 Moriah Boulevard, I realised exactly where the explosion took place. When I need to stay overnight in Haifa for work, I rent a room in an old lady's house not far from this stop (the Shimshon Junction, for those who know the area). As Imshin has written, it's hard to imagine wholesale slaughter taking place in this peaceful suburban neighbourhood. The bus stop itself was all but gone, and the wall behind it had become a tragic mural of paintings, death notices, photographs and banners (personal, not political), while along the pavement lay the remains of dozens of burnt out memorial candles.

As at all these dreadful sites, eventually the burnt out cannisters will be cleared away, the murals removed, and in their place will appear a small metal plaque with the names of those killed elegantly engraved upon it. Already by this morning, several days after the murderous attack, only a few solitary candles remained alight. But for those injured, and for the friends and families of those killed, the story is only beginning.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

I'm glad to see my fellow frogs are lending a helping hand to their siblings in nature. Full details here.


According to the BBC, Hamas vows to target Israeli leaders following the targeted killing of mass-murderer and war criminal Ibrahim al-Maqadma in Gaza. The article contains all the usual bombastic language from Abd el-Aziz Rantissi, who is probably aware that he is next in line. Unfortunately, the BBC forgot to mention the fact that only five days ago, the world press reported that the Hamas had been plotting to blow up Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, a fact that makes Rantissi's protestations seem rather two-faced.

Let's hope that Mr. Rantissi will be able to fullfil his dream of being martyr quite soon.

Friday, March 07, 2003

I'm pleased to see our old friend Mashtin Bakir is back. Bakir is occasionally to be found leaving messages on various chat-groups, and he has once again turned up on http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point/2823559.stm. (I have deliberately not marked this as a link so as not to "give the game away" to the Beeb.) Previous appearances can still be found on news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/talking_point/ newsid_1656000/1656035.stm and news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/talking_point/ newsid_1857000/1857822.stm.

Why is Mr. Bakir so interesting? Well you see, in spite of its Arabic sound, "mashtin bakir" is in fact a Biblical Hebrew expression meaning "pisser against the wall". The term appears in the Hebrew bible in 1Sam 25:22, 34; 1Kgs 14:10, 16:11, 21:21; and 2Kgs 9:8. The good old King James of 1611 gives us the direct translation of "that pisseth against the wall", but the more prissy (and less pissy) Revised Standard Version (various revisions from 1881-5, 1901 and 1946-52) insists upon translating "male".

Anyhow, I am delighted to see that Mr. Bakir is once again enlightening us with his insights into local issues, and I hope that he shall remain as ever the same prolific fountain of wisdom.


Al-Ayyam, the official mouthpiece of the Palestine National Authority (if the word "mouth" accurately describes the orifice employed to produce this particular organ* of the PNA), has been hacked. Trying to reach it at its regular address, http://www.alayyam.com/, I found myself redirected to a Netguide site on sex. Methinks the wags** have been at work again!

[*For this meaning of organ, see The Oxford English Dictionary (Second edition, Oxford, 1989), s.v. organ, III 7 c: "An instrument, means, or medium of communication, or of expression of opinion; spec. applied to a newspaper or journal which serves as the mouthpiece of a particular party, denomination, cause, movement, or pursuit". I append this note lest I be accused of promulgating crudities.

**For this meaning of wag, see The Oxford English Dictionary (Second edition, Oxford, 1989), s.v. wag n.2, 1., A mischievous boy (often as a mother's term of endearment to a baby boy); in wider application, a youth, young man, a ‘fellow’, ‘chap’. 2. ‘Any one ludicrously mischievous; a merry droll’ (J.); a habitual joker. (In early use often combined with sense 1.) Phrase, to play the wag. ]

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

This morning at about 11am I was standing at a bus-stop on the Moriah Road of the Carmel Centre in Haifa waiting for a bus. The 37 came along in the direction of Haifa University, but I decided to wait for one of the minibuses that run the bus routes. The minibuses are usually safer: nobody has bombed a minibus.

It took quite a while for a minibus to come along, and when it did finally come, it took some time for the driver to go; the minibus drivers will often wait for an extra few passengers.

I thought that perhaps I'd made a mistake in waiting for the minibus, and that I should have just got on the regular Egged bus; that is until 2.30 in the afternoon, when I was informed that the 37 had been blown up some minutes earlier...

Monday, March 03, 2003

Thanks to Imshin for this superb link. It is simply a MUST for all lovers of fascist dictatorships.