Thursday, August 31, 2006

Perspective

A close friend called me from Iraq today. I excused myself, picked up the phone and said "I'm so sorry, can I call you back, I'm in a meeting?" I heard on the other end, "sure, of course" and I replied quickly "I'll call you back, take care."

I called back an hour or so later. When the phone picked up I got, "I'm so sorry, can I call you back? A bomb just went off very nearby."

Business meetings instantly become trivial...

Friday, August 25, 2006

In other news in Iraq....

This is enlightening....

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Amnesty in Iraq Clarified

This clarifies things only a bit, but an important bit:

On Sunday, Maliki, a Shiite who has pledged to ease violence gripping Iraq, unveiled a "national reconciliation" that included an amnesty for insurgents "who did not take part in criminal and terrorist acts and war crimes."

"The amnesty doesn't include those who have killed Iraqis or even coalition forces because those soldiers came to Iraq under international agreements to help Iraq," Maliki said in an interview with a group of newspapers that included The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.

This leads to more questions, to be discussed soon.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Amnesty in Iraq

When the news broke (and I found it here two hours before it hit Yahoo news) that so many groups (at least 7 and now perhaps more) were interested in speaking with Maliki's government regarding how they might join the political process yesterday, I spoke with a lot of people that are effected directly.

There is a symposium on this today at NRO, which I am grateful to have been part of, but I wanted to bring up some of the other esteemed writers' points. Bill Roggio makes the point that: "The Coalition should not and will not cede the ability to strike at the Islamist terrorists when the opportunity arises." I don't think that is a worry, nobody involed would truly expect otherwise. The biggest issue is that there's a lot of concern, rightfully so, and at the same time, we don't have all of the facts.

I am usually against 'amnesty' so to speak, as it sets a precedent for 'rewarding' law breakers. In this case, I think and hope, it is different. Michael Rubin makes an absolutely fabulous point as well, that it is not just Sunni groups that are the cause of major violence in Iraq, that the Shia militias are terribly destructive to the society right now, in particular Al-Sadr's followers. He says that,"In Iraq, the amnesty plan will embolden insurgents and terrorists, not pacify them." I agree with him on the insurgents, who I used to consider in the same league as terrorists. Spending time in Iraq changed my view on that. However, I believe that it will embolden them to join the political process in hopes of grabbing power. If Maliki's govt is strong enough, and that's the money question, it could be an answer.

What I had to ask myself was this. What is the alternative? We don't have the political will to go in and eliminate all of these groups. Neither does Iraq. So, they are what, just going to come forward and say, "we give, go ahead and try us for fighting against the Coalition." Simply not going to happen. They need something to 'gain' or at least perceived gain in order to stop. The reason is this, they don't have the same end game as terrorist groups like Al Queda. They don't want to dominate an entire part of the globe, with their own religious fanaticism. They do want return to power within Iraq.

With all of these insurgent groups, there is one common denominator: fear of loss of power. A retired Iraqi General told me yesterday that this is the thought process of these groups, they are thinking only of each moment, their own gain, and that they will agree to stop fighting against the US/Coalition troops if they believe they have a shot at regaining some power. An Iraqi friend put it to me in this way early yesterday: “It is not unlike Arafat. He was a terrorist, but then people agreed to allow him into a political process.” My answer was, “thus, all of our fears.” Will these groups really try to represent their people, and will their people hold them accountable, or will it be only a power grab? All they know, in many ways, is that power means survival. What is the alternative? We aren’t going to kill them all, and they aren’t going anywhere.

My feeling now is not to jump the gun here, and to see how it plays out. We'll have no issues calling out Maliki's govt. if we feel the terms are too harmful to us. This is a lot of forgivness to ask. But it's one of the issues holding back that part of the world. No dialogue. Eye for an eye. This may be a chance to change that. Iraq needs us for years to come. And yes, we will need them.

(For details on my travels in Iraq see November Archives.
)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Apple Missing A Byte?

iTunes. Who doesn’t love it?

I’ve long wondered if Apple is missing out or if they just don’t want the hassle (see this study by the Berkman Center at Harvard) when it comes to having a bigger share of the global market. After many trips to the Middle East, one in which I was told to open my Mac laptop with AK’s pointed at me at a checkpoint in Iraq, (that aluminum finish made them extra wary, they asked repeatedly at first “what is that?”), I got used to the fact that Macs are very seldom seen there. There’s simply no parts to easily fix them, and nobody that knows them well enough to service them.

But, when it comes to iTunes I was truly shocked. If you’ve tried iTunes, chances are, you like it. I use it so much that in my travels I’ve ended up introducing it to a lot of people, and for many it has become their default music player. In the Middle East, the market for computers is growing at a great pace. The market for music and music videos, however, is astounding.

I recently sent a close friend of mine in Iraq what should’ve been a pick-me-up for the day. I bought an iTunes gift card for him. Alas, it’s not as simple as redeeming it in the music store. You have to have an account. And to set up an account, you have to have a credit card. (OK, so far I’m with Apple on this, it all makes sense in fraud prevention and other legalities.)

You can have an address. You can have a credit card. You can desire to give Apple money. But if you live anywhere besides the 21 countries they have selected to serve, you are out of luck. So, though my friend uses iTunes to play his music on his computer, he can’t redeem my gift. Nor can he create an account (yes, Iraq just got credit/debit cards, so that is no longer an issue). And what about all of the other countries? Jordan, UAE, Turkey, Lebanon, just to name a few. No other Asian or African countries are on the list either. Just to be certain that I had this information correct, I called Apple’s help line and spoke with a young man named My. He confirmed that the 21 countries listed were the only ones that could be used to create and iTunes account. (Availability: To buy files through iTunes, a user must have a pre-paid deal or a credit card whose billing address is in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States.) Other people can download podcasts and previews only.

If Apple doesn’t move, MP3 players other than iPod’s will dominate the area, just as PC’s do. To me, that’s a shame, because it’s a great product, and if there is one easy way to gain credibility and a foot in the larger global market it would be through iTunes/iPod sales. So while I can purchase Kazem Al-Saher’s songs (an Iraqi singer now living in Egypt) on iTunes, Mr. Kazem can’t purchase his own songs from iTunes in Iraq or in Egypt. And more importantly to me, my friend can’t use the card I bought him, unless I give him my account here, or create another one for him using my address. Is that what Apple really wants?

I was taught a few things about business. One of them was this: People want to give their money to you, your job is to make it easy for them to do that.

Of course, another is: Do one thing and do it the best. While debate rages between Mac and PC users, the iPod/iTunes matchup is by far the clear winner with consumers in its realm.

I hope that Apple considers putting more of their products and resources in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa before it’s too late. Because they put so much into education here, I spent a bit of time researching ways that the iPod might be useful in that arena last year in developing nations, and there are many. Meanwhile, the global battle to provide online compatible educational tools goes on. And the money goes into other companies that are willing to compete globally.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Min Aamaq Qalbi....



I am hoping this year brings you all you are wishing for....and that you so deserve.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What a difference a year makes...

St. Patrick's Day. I'm named after Kerry County in Ireland. But I'm not thinking of celebrating with Guiness this year, in fact I'm only thinking of one thing really today, and that's the green I was seeing on this day last year, when I first set foot in Iraq. And how I miss it.....



And how I miss more those that I shared it with. Here's the glass we raised last year guys, so my wish today, is all the luck of the Irish go to Iraq....