Thursday, April 10, 2003

This morning Abd al-Majid al-Khoei was killed by a mob armed with swords and knives in Najaf. He was one of the leading pro-American Iraqi dissidents, but also had local connections as his father was the Ayatollah Abd al-Qasim al-Khoei, one of the most revered Ayatollahs in the world who died under house arrest in 1992. The younger al-Khoei had gone to Najaf on a mission of reconciliation with the mullahs Saddam had placed in charge of the shrines at Najaf. The man he was going to meet was reviled for his Ba'ath connections, and the mob basically demanded his head. al-Khoei stood in the way, and fired a gun either into the air or into the crowd as they attempted to swarm where the two were. Both al-Khoei and the former Ba'ath mullah (whose name I forget) was killed. This was a major loss, and its full significance remains unknown.

An interesting debate has begun over how to handle the trials for crimes against humanity by Ba'athists in Iraq. The U.S. favors an Iraqi court run totally by Iraqis, while the EU is advocating an international tribunal. This mirrors policy on tribunals in general, with the U.S. always favoring national sovereignty over international justice while the EU seeks legitimacy in the international community. However, I think the Iraqi-court option would probably be for the best in this case. We really need to get as much Iraqi leadership in as many areas as we can as quickly as possible.

Today in Persian we learned the present perfect tense. Verb tenses in Persian are complicated to learn because they have as many shades as in English, but the shades are different. For example, as the professor explained it, the present perfect is used for events in the past which still affect the present. As an example, she said that Firdawsi writing the Shahnama would count as present perfect because people still read it. I guess as a historian I should get used to always using the present perfect!


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