The "Repressive," "Authoritarian" Iraqi Chief-Iyad Allawi? - July 9, 2004 -

Times Watch for July 9, 2004

The "Repressive," "Authoritarian" Iraqi Chief-Iyad Allawi?

Thursday's lead editorial describes an Iraqi strongman with "authoritarian tendencies" and "repressive reflexes." Former dictator Saddam Hussein? No-the Times is describing current prime minister Iyad Allawi.

In "Shades of the Old Iraq," the editors compare Allawi to Hussein: "It is less than two weeks since Iyad Allawi took office as Iraq's interim prime minister, yet his governing methods already carry a whiff of the old-style Arab authoritarianism the Bush administration once dreamed of overturning throughout the Middle East. One chilling example is the decree Dr. Allawi had drawn up this week to give him the authority to exercise martial law powers anywhere he sees fit. As the interim prime minister, Dr. Allawi heads an unelected caretaker government whose main responsibility is guiding Iraq toward free elections in January. Preparing to impose martial law is not an encouraging way to start."

Allawi was targeted for death by Hussein, which the Times vaguely describes as "falling violently afoul of Saddam Hussein." For planning to overthrow a dictator who tried to kill him, Allawi is the one called repressive: "Dr. Allawi's authoritarian tendencies can be no surprise to the Bush administration. During the past decade, Dr. Allawi, who lived in exile on the payroll of the Central Intelligence Agency, became better known to Washington than he was to most Iraqis. After falling violently afoul of Saddam Hussein in the late 1970's, Dr. Allawi severed his Baathist Party ties and later began working with disgruntled Baathist generals to organize a military coup in Iraq. He has never made a secret of any of this. When Washington strongly backed Dr. Allawi's bid to become the interim prime minister, it knew well enough what to expect. In the short term, Dr. Allawi's repressive reflexes may resonate among Iraqis who grew up under Mr. Hussein and equate authentic Iraqi leadership with strong-arm rule."

For the full editorial, click here.

" Iyad Allawi | Editorial | Saddam Hussein | Iraq War

Rapping a Pro-Israel Musician

Ben Sisario attends an unusual hip-hop show in Brooklyn, the Unity Sessions, which features Israelis and Palestinians rapping against the Israeli "occupation."

Sisario profiles one rapper, T.N., a Palestinian from a town near Tel Aviv: "For T. N. frustration over occupation and the plight of Palestinians is a central theme, and in his raps he often lashes out against Israeli military tactics: 'You buried the parents under the stones of their own homes/And now you call me a terrorist?/Who is a terrorist?/You are a terrorist.'."Not all are as blunt as T. N. Another performer at the Unity Sessions, Khen Rotem, a stocky 35-year-old from Jerusalem who uses the stage name Segol 59-meaning Purple 59, a name taken from his laundry identification tag from his kibbutz days-is inspired by the same violence and injustice he sees in his neighborhood."

Sisario bestows less inviting words on a pro-Israel rapper, one not invited to the festival.

For slurring the Israeli military as "terrorist," the Palestinian rapper T.N. is called "blunt" and "combative." But for a pro-Israel rapper to describe Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat as a smoker somehow smacks of "incendiary nationalist imagery."

Sisario writes: "But as hip-hop in Israel has grown, it has divided along political lines, and not every rapper there would agree that Israel has to withdraw from anything. One of the biggest Israeli rap stars, Subliminal (n" Kobi Shimoni), was not invited to the concert. Striking a gangsta pose with heavy jewelry, including his signature bejeweled Star of David, Subliminal represents the right wing of Israeli rap. His latest album has gone platinum in Israel (more than 40,000 copies) on the strength of catchy anthems and incendiary nationalist imagery, as in 'Divide and Conquer,' where he says: 'The country is shaking like a cigarette in the mouth of Yasir Arafat.'"

For the rest of Sisario on Israeli hip-hop, click here.

" Yasir Arafat | Arts | Israel | Music | Palestinians | Rap Music | Ben Sisario