by Max Sawdayee


Wednesday November 6, 1968

Bitter fighting is aflame in the north between the government forces and the Kurds.  The new regime is averse to tackling this thorny problem by any fair means.  The problem is becoming chronic, hurting the country in all respects – political, social, economic and military.  The Ba’ath regime is taking negative   steps in the direction of an acceptable settlement.  It is hardening its stand towards the Kurds and hitting them, as it did in 1963.  The Kurds hate the new regime more than they do any other.  The fighting, currently rife in the north, may continue for a considerable time.

Three more Jews have been arrested by Party men in the last few days.  One of them was taken from the street, another from his house, and the third fro his office in a small private company.  Rumours circulate that the son of the Chief Rabbi has also been thrown into jail, but this is not yet confirmed. 

The Jewish community is further upset by these arrests.  The Chief Rabbi is trying to obtain information as to the whereabouts of some thirty Jews arrested in Baghdad and Basra since the Ba’athist coup, but it appears that nobody is willing to see him in the meantime.  So he feels obliged to lie to us, promising that everybody will be alright in the near future.

Monday November 25, 1968

Iraqi army units in Jordan start to take an active part in the daily artillery duels with Israel.  For five days now Iraqi heavy long-range batteries are shelling Israeli positions and villages.

This sudden change in policy is quite puzzling, and raises a lot of suspicion.  What makes the Ba’ath regime willing to get involved again, aggravating the situation on the Israeli-Jordanian front?!  Andy why at this time?!  What intentions are lurking behind while the regime is not yet fully established, and while unrest prevails in the south as well as in the north of the country?!  This extremist, dogmatic, cold-blooded Party usually studies every step it is about to take.  So, is this involvement an undersigned occurrence, or something duly weighed and considered, to be followed by a more important show?  Let’s wait and see…

Tens of Muslims and Christians, former ministers, army officers, intellectuals, physicians, engineers, merchants, brokers, landowners, and industrialists have been thrown in jail since the beginning of this month.  Many of them have been ruthlessly tortured.  Former Prime Minister Yahya is among them.  He is in Fadhiliyya army prison.

An angel of terror, torture and death is looming in the country’s horizon.  Decent and cultured men and women of our Iraqi society won’t believe their eyes or ears.  They are all confused, upset.

Now other religions and faiths share with us our miserable fate.  We never wanted the current of events to turn this way, but since it has, let Muslims and Christians in this country also taste the miseries of its reckless politics, to better realise what is going on here.  They may react in a way different to ours.  They may find a remedy for the epidemic of irresponsible rule which has cast Iraq into a dungeon of darkness and despair.

Wednesday December 4, 1968

Since Sunday last, dozens of Israeli jets have been bombing Iraqi army positions in Jordan.  They have severely mauled all Iraqi artillery, munitions dumps and troop concentrations on several points near the Mafrak junction.

Never since the Six-Day War have the Israelis so horribly bruised Iraqi positions in Jordan.

Our government claims that only sixteen of our soldiers were killed and thirty others wounded.  But we know from other sources that more than five hundred soldiers were killed and wounded.

That’s too much for the Iraqis.  They didn’t expect such powerful revenge.  The Iraqi air force dare not accept the challenge, and will not send its Mig-21’s or Hunters to fight an unequal battle with the Israelis. 

There are two probabilities to juggle with.  The Iraqis either did not expect the Israelis to hit back when the former shelled Israeli villages and positions hard for more than four days, or did calculate that the enemy would hit back and must presently be paving the way for further measures to counter this wide scale operation.

At any rate, everyone seems certain that the government may take special steps to deal with the situation.

The few Jews who have continued working till recently do not show up in their business premises, and the families whose heads or sons are in prison or are impossible to locate anywhere yet are particularly worried in the light of recent developments.

Thursday December 5, 1968

This morning sets ablaze a huge demonstration in the capital.  It starts from the Liberation Square and heads for the Presidential Palace gathering some forty thousand men and women.  It has been carefully kindled by the Party henchmen as a procession escorting the coffins of six Iraqi soldiers fallen in Jordan during the last five days.  Many Party and government officials, army officers and soldiers, and some two thousand Palestinian commandos, take part in it.

All the way across the bridge and the main avenues leading to the Presidential Palace the mob shouts and cries revenge.  It all looks like the first scene of a play composed and acted by the Ba’ath regime since its arrival to power.  The rest of the play is staged in front of the Presidential Palace.

From his spacious balcony the President, his face showing sorrow, tension and decision as he appears on TV, waves to the crowds for almost ten minutes and begins his two hour speech with, ‘Res assured, brothers and sisters, that we will strike mercilessly at the agents of the United States and Israel and at fifth columnists!’  The speech contains the horrible accusation of ‘agents’ and ‘fifth columnists’, and is interrupted more than twenty times by the speaker shouting into the microphone, ‘What do you want?’ and the mob answers, ‘Death to the spies, execution of the spies, all the spies, without delay!’  Or other similar ‘slogans’.

At one in the afternoon the mob disperses after the President reassures them once again that all spies will be brought to ‘justice’ and severely punished the soonest possible.

Never does the country remember such provocation, thirsty for blood, coming from the top.  Never since the Nazis has a Head of State used such a method to stir and inflame the emotions of his people. 

Iraq may witness a fresh chapter in terror in the days or weeks to come.  Everybody with the minimum decency or culture, whether a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew, must get prepared to undergo the spine-breaking trials that may beset this unfortunate country within the very near future – in the name of patriotism and justice.

It is true that no-one mentioned Iraqi Jews in the morning’s demonstration.  But all of us realise full well what is behind the phrase ‘Israeli agents and fifth columnists’. we all understand its ‘limits’ too.

The whereabouts, the physical condition and the fate of the seventeen Jews despatched from Basra to Baghdad on October 8, and of about thirteen others arrested in Baghdad recently, are still unknown.

As I record this entry in my diary, I’m thinking what the fate of this diary will be, or what my fate will be in case in falls in undesirable hands.  That annoys me.  It even frightens me.  My wife would like me to stop keeping it.  I’m not so sure I will.