Monday, February 28, 2005

"It's Called Torture"

There is an excellent article in the NYT today, written by Bob Herbert. I am so glad that he is paying attention to and writing about this very serious issue, and glad that Mr. Arar is getting some attention for the torture and mistreatment he suffered because of American decisions. Here is a bit of Herbert's article:

"As a nation, does the United States have a conscience? Or is anything and everything O.K. in post-9/11 America? If torture and the denial of due process are O.K., why not murder? When the government can just make people vanish - which it can, and which it does - where is the line that we, as a nation, dare not cross?"

Indeed, what lines would we dare not cross? Invasion and occupation of a foreign country that did not attack us or threaten us maybe? Invasion of a country that could not be a threat to our country? Oh, we crossed that line. How about claiming we are bringing freedom and democracy to these people in the occupied country, and never bothering to count the civilian dead? How about just ignoring that fact? Oh, we crossed that line too. The right wing Republican blood-thirsty Christians are fully behind all those invisible lines of morality, and they don't care one bit. How about letting those same people suffer and suffer and suffer, and just ignoring it? Oh, we crossed that line.
How about locking people up without charges or even a trial, when they were innocent all along? Oh yes, we crossed that line also. And we have sent innocent people to countries that we have called "terrorist" to be tortured, and we have disappeared people too. What lines are left to cross?

You can read all of Herbert's article here (registration required):

It is not a pretty picture of America. It is not even a picture of America that I recognize. What has happened to our country? Where has our decency and morality gone? How have we come to this?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Why I want to be elected Chair of my precinct...

I will be running for Chair of my precinct for the Democratic Party on Tuesday evening. I want to help the Democratic Party become the opposition party.

First, full disclosure: I became a Democrat for Dean in the fall of 2003. Before I started working on his campaign, I was unaffiliated with any party. I voted for Kerry in this last election, and I will never, never, never again vote for the "lesser of two evils".

I intend to help reform the Democratic party here in the USA so that I do not have to!

I will not work to elect anyone who calls themselves a Democrat, just because of that reason. I will work to elect people to office who show morals, intelligence and backbone. And if they lose, well at least they lose standing for what is decent and progressive. (The way Kerry ran his campaign, trying to out-right the right wingnuts, and trying to claim he would do war better, and ignoring the suffering of the Iraqi people, and ignoring the torture scandal, made me sick.) I am so tired of having two political parties who are really two heads of the same beast. I am tired of a government of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations. I want decent people acting for the best interests of the people of the WORLD in office, particularly in DC, but here in Buncombe County also.

Last Thursday, I arrived late to a meeting of the Buncombe County Democratic Party. They had listed many issues that people are concerned about, and then they had people sign up to work on these issues. "Torture" was one such issue, along with many others. One notable absence was "Iraq" or even "war". If I am a Precinct Chair, that will never happen again. I will bring it up at each and every meeting until this illegal, immoral and oh-so-breathtakingly-stupid war is over and all US troops are out of Iraq.

I want to see the Democratic Party become the opposition party. I want them to stand up to the right-wing Republican blood-thirsty so-called Christians. (I am no expert on the Bible, but I'm pretty sure there is no where in the New Testament where Jesus said killing people was okay. Jesus said "love your enemy" and "turn the other cheek" and even "Father, forgive them, they do not know what they do"..... never did he say "hunt them down and kill them!") I want the Democrats running for office to stand up for what is right and moral and good... and stand up for our constitution and the rule of law. I want Democrats running for office who are honest and decent human beings, who will not lie, cheat, kill, torture, steal or allow others to do so. I will not participate in any attempts to "win" an election by underhanded and sneaky means or by telling lies or not standing for what you believe in. If they speak the truth and the public decides they would rather have the other candidate, then so be it. The Americans will get what they deserve, unfortunately for the rest of the world, they will get undeserved suffering. I will not turn my back on those suffering people. I do not think (as many Americans seem to do) that this is "all about me!"

It is about decency, honesty, truth and justice. Ironically enough, it is about following the teachings of Jesus Christ. Ironic because the blood-thirsty Republicans think they are the Christians, simply because large numbers of them show up in churches. They seem to have missed the "what you do unto these, the least of my brothers, you do unto me" lesson.

I will post on Tuesday if I get elected precinct chair.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Who's for torture?

On February 3, 2005, the US Senate voted for Gonzales for Attorney General (and we thought Ashcroft was bad!! ha!!). The vote was 60 to 34. All Republican Senators voted for torture, except for Senator Burns (Montana) who missed the vote. Lieberman, Landrieu, Nelson, Nelson, Pryor, and Salazar are all Democrats who voted for torture. The rest of the Democratic Senators and Senator Jeffords (Independent) voted against torture.

From CBS News, during the hearings on Gonzales for Attorney General, Senator Graham (Republican, SC) said this about Gonzales's memo on the war in Iraq: "When you start looking at torture statutes and you look at ways around the spirit of the law, you're losing the moral high ground," Graham said. "I do believe that we've lost our way."

Well, I believe so too. So why did you vote for Gonzales? I'm confused.

Jonathan Schell writes: "Torture is not wrong because someone else thinks it is wrong or because others, in retaliation for torture by Americans, may torture Americans. It is the torture that is wrong." He also writes: "Torture destroys the soul of the torturer even as it destroys the body of his victim. The boundary between humane treatment of prisoners and torture is perhaps the clearest boundary in existence between civilization and barbarism. Whether the elected representatives of the people of the United States are now ready to cross that line is the deepest question before the Senate as it votes on the nomination of Alberto Gonzales."

Well, I would say that our Senate failed the "civilization" test with this vote.

And from a NYT article "Following a Paper Trail to the Roots of Torture" by Mr. Kakutani (dated 2/8/05) we have this gem: "On Feb. 7, 2002, President Bush signed an order that would have all manner of unreckoned consequences: "I accept the legal conclusion of the Department of Justice and determine that none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world." Instead, prisoners at Guantánamo Bay were to be designated "unlawful combatants," who fell under rules that the administration itself would determine." ooohhhh.... tricky, huh? Call them something other than human beings, and then we don't have to follow the Geneva Conventions, and presto!!! Morality is just relative ... relative to what we want to do!!

And here's a clip from another NYT article (February 12, 2005) about the trial of Mr. Passaro, a former US soldier who was hired by the CIA to find those *unlawful combatants* in Afghanistan, and is now charged with beating a detainee to death: "Thomas McNamara, Passaro's lead defense lawyer, has officially notified the government that he will pursue a "public authority defense." Such a defense involves a claim that the defendant believed, even if incorrectly, that he was acting with the authority and approval of the government." Now where did he ever get that idea?? Next thing you know, all those Senators who voted for Gonzales will claim they are innocent of any human suffering that goes on under Gonzales's watch, since all the "so-called people" detained were really *unlawful combatants* and every one guilty of something .... no wait, we already know that isn't true .... several of those un-human were released without ever being charged with a crime. (Seems to me locking people up for a couple of years, who have never been charged with a crime or allowed to talk to their families/attorney, is in itself a CRIME. Yes, I digress.)

(And let's overlook the fact that the information obtained by torture is......... yes, that's right...... TOTALLY UNRELIABLE!!! Why is this not a surprise? Well, never mind that inconvenient factoid.)

Well, torture (per Jonathan Schell) destroys the soul of the torturers... and this is from an administration that supposedly supports *family values*..... those type of values would have to come from a Jeffrey Dalmer-Son of Sam-Adams Family type of family reunion. I condemn Gonzales for writing up such immoral slop, Bush for signing it, and the US Senate which allowed them to get away with it. Oh, and the silly saps who go out there and execute these immoral orders. I hope you silly saps (like Passaro) think about all this when you're serving time in prison.

And one more thing from BBC. Story titled "Extent of US abuse cases revealed" had this to say: "The US army says it is conducting more than 100 criminal investigations into claims of detainee abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Maj. Gen. Donald Ryder, in charge of US army detainee operations, said a further 200 such investigations had already been completed."

Yes, just a "few bad apples" in a very large orchard.

"Do it in the name of heaven, you can justify it in the end..."

Heaven help us. And heaven help the poor souls who get caught up in this tangled web as victims.

Friday, February 25, 2005

National Security/ Who do you believe?

Who do you believe, George Bush or Scott Ritter? Ritter has been correct all along, so I'm going with him. A post comparing the two points of view (on what will be happening to Iran soon, sadly enough) can be found here: (scroll down a bit)

On the blogcritics blog, there are people arguing with the author of the blog above that the WMDs really, really did exist in Iraq, and someone moved them. Took the entire production facilities and all trace of residue with them, I suppose. They do say that NO ONE ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

Which brings me to the topic of National Security.... so, we have a fake journalist, with fake credentials, and a fake name, who gets access to the White House Press room every day for two years. And no one notices! Do you feel safer now? This fake journalist is a real-life gay whore. He has websites advertising his "wares" which includes 8 inches CUT and a specialty of military men. His quote: "I leave impressions, not marks". Oh, how lovely. First we find out that there is gay S & M porno/torture going on in the prisons run by our military. Then we have common whore (former military, 'servicing' military men) doing the media whore thing INSIDE the White House. What was that they said about family values????

A bumper sticker I saw said "In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned". A friend of mine wanted to knock on his car window and ask him "In case of rapture, can I have your car?"

On the serious side, I had a discussion tonight with two men from the American Friends Service Committee. We were discussing bringing EYES WIDE OPEN to Asheville later this year. More information on this excellent exhibit can be found at . They have a short movie (2 minutes) on the true cost of the Iraq war and a petition you can sign to bring our troops home now. This will be a big project. It is so very needed, since the reality of what is happening on the ground there in Iraq is slipping from the awareness of most Americans. And the torture stories are thought to be "a few bad apples" .... yeah, they are a few bad apples from a very large orchard!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Letters to the editor - New York Times

(not likely to see publication in that paper!)

In your story "Iraq Holy City Suffers Lack of Utilities and Pilgrims" the following comment is made "But he is quick to thank the Americans for putting down the Sadr uprising. "I'd hang Bush's portrait up there on the wall," he said, pointing across his cramped lobby, "but I feel afraid. I can't be sure of who's around."
This Najaf man claims he is afraid to hang up a picture of Bush because the insurgents might retaliate. How do we know that he is unafraid to speak the truth concerning who he credits (and appreciates) for putting down the Sadr uprising, when he is speaking to a NYT reporter? How was this verified? Do not occupied people sometimes tell the ones in power what they think they want to hear?
From what I have read by people living in Najaf (mostly emails, some blogs) what they truly feel is "a pox on both their houses" regarding the Sadr-US fighting in August. Also, I heard the number of dead Iraqi Civilians in Najaf from August 2004 was 950+, mostly from US bombing. I sure wish I had a news bureau who could investigate things like this, but alas, such does not exist in the USA today. Alas, Alas. Maybe the ACLU could investigate ......
In your story "Iraq Holy City Suffers Lack of Utilities and Pilgrims" there is the statement that "The Americans have gone door to door assessing damage......and "The most the Marines have paid anyone is $2,500, usually for the accidental killing of a child..."
We are often told that the number of Iraqi civilians killed during this conflict it unknowable or uncountable by the US establishment media. It is seldom reported (outside of car bombings), and no discernable effort has been made to evaluate the overall total of deaths since this conflict started. The US Government, on the other hand, says via General Franks "we don't do body counts". Yet, I strongly suspect, that the Marines have to have some type of investigation before they hand over money "for the accidental killing of a child" and I also strongly suspect that they keep some kind of record of such a payment. Therefore, the number of dead Iraqi civilians may not be "exactly" knowable, but a fairly good estimate could be constructed from the military, hospital, and mortuary records.
Could the ACLU look into this maybe? They are doing a pretty good job with the torture scandal.
Mr. Friedman writes in his column (When Camels Fly) that "The fact that the extremists and autocrats have had to resort now to unspeakable violence shows how much they have failed to win the war of ideas on the Arab street."
Would the flattening of Fallujah this past November indicate that the US has failed to win the war of ideas in Iraq? And is the establishment press ever going to take note of the fact that the USA has killed far, far, far more people than the "extremists and autocrats" that Mr. Friedman refers to?
Oh, yes, I forgot: we're doing it for good reasons, and failing to take note of the slaughter for good reasons also. Yes, yes. Oh, yes. How silly of me to forget.
"turned the stone and looked beneath it.... 'PEACE ON EARTH' was all it said.... do it in the name of heaven, YOU CAN JUSTIFY IT IN THE END....."

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Letter in Mountain Express

The finer points of defining torture

How did our country end up going down this torturous road to condoning torture? Mr. Gonzales is being considered for attorney general, and this is appalling in light of making moral choices. He wrote up legal briefs and memos justifying torture in the U.S.-run prisons around the world, and in effect said the president can ignore the Geneva principles. And Mr. Bybee (assistant attorney general) went on to say that for an act to be torture, it must be done for sadistic enjoyment and not just for information. (I guess that's why Mr. Graner and Ms. England got into trouble.) As per memos uncovered by the ACLU, the FBI was aware of torture and did very little to halt this. Those memos reflect a common thread through the various types of torture and show a wide geographical reach.

Mr. Bush claimed the U.S. forces "shall continue to treat detainees humanely, and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva." Lots of wiggle room there. As any thinking person knows, you can justify anything in the end. One would hope that the person elected to our highest office would say, "Follow the Geneva principles always, no matter what."

Mr. Arar of Canada was extradited to Syria by the U.S. authorities in New York [to face] "torture by proxy." He was imprisoned and tortured for 10 months. Our government sent a man (who had never been charged with any crime) to a country that we have declared a "terrorist" state, to be tortured.

And for those who believe that morality is relative and claim we're better than the terrorists because we don't behead people, let me share this fact with you: The U.S. government has uncovered five prisoners beaten to death in Iraqi prisons, and is currently investigating 23 more [cases].

How have we come to this?

– Susan Oehler

Blogging on CNN and NYT

Danny Schecter does a blog called "News Dissector"... which is part of Media Channel.

Danny's blog is at

Danny Schecter blogs (2/17/05) on:

"Their Reuters Foundation roundtable brought together Aaron Brown of CNN, Daniel Okrent, the public editor of the New York Times and former TV exec Jill Geisler of the Poynter Institute to talk Tsunami with Jan Egelend... Everyone started off patting the media on the back for the unprecedented graphic reporting accorded the Tsunami......Everyone acknowledged that the coverage resulted in unprecedented levels of donations and galvanized a major relief effort. It roused the world's conscience and saved lives to some degree even though the biggest loss of lives happened immediately when the big waves struck sweeping people and whole towns away."

And that leaves one to wonder what the general public would/could do if they saw and understood what war was really like. That point was noted in an indirect way by this comment:

"Hegland complained that the saturation coverage of the Tsunami in Asia has to be contrasted with the lack of coverage of other serious humanitarian disasters like the bloodletting in Congo, or Uganda, or Malaria that rates no coverage and affects as many or more people."

and directly noted in this comment:

"Jeff Sachs went further ..... (he) contrasted the coverage of the dead bodies in South Asia to the lack of coverage of the dead bodies in Iraq, saying, "When the Lancet magazine reported that l00 000 Iraqi civilians had been killed it was not covered. The N Y Times put it on page A 8 and never pressed for a response from the Administration. It was disgraceful." No one disagreed, but no one picked up the theme."

Danny then goes on to report:

"Aaron Brown listened to all this but did not engage. He explained the problem not as a journalist out to inform but as a media personality committed to maximizing audience size. "I deal with a "harsh reality," he said defensively. "I know eating Brussels sprouts is good for you, but I have to offer a more balanced meal and throw in some chocolate." The point: he will lose the audience if he gets into too much depth or human suffering. " TV is a business was the ultimate excuse. He seemed to squirm around the points as if to say,what do you want me to do guys, I work in commercial television."

I think Brown insults both chocolate and Brussels sprouts. I love chocolate, and I eat it nearly every day. What CNN serves up is not "a balanced meal". It is mainly slop. CNN is to information as McDonalds is to nutrition (since we're on a food theme here). One can eat at McDonalds and not starve, but one will not have good health either. One can watch CNN and have some glimmer of what is going on (pay close attention!) in the world, but one will not be well-informed by any means. For example, Brown did cover the 100,00 Iraqi civilians reported killed. It took less than a minute, and he was the only CNN anchor who did that.

Danny goes on to blog:

I don't want to knock Brown. He was just voicing the market logic of commercial TV without perhaps realizing that it is precisely that logic that is driving so many viewers away from the tube. He recognizes that he is a prisoner of the dumbed down cable environment that companies like CNN created."

I emailed Brown lots and lots in 2003/2004. I told him I was trying to 'reform' him.... he answered once "trust me, this is not about reforming me".... all I could say was "trust me, IT IS". Brown also said that TV was the ultimate democracy, and that people are feel to change the channel. I changed the channel, and stopped paying for the expanded cable that included CNN.

Danny says:

"At least, he (Brown) showed up for the panel and does try to offer a mix of stories on his program, many better than so many others, however pretentious I might find him at times. The pity is that someone of his skill and there are many like him are only allowed to do far less than they are capable of because of the formats and the way that frame news."

He does it for the money. He does not care if the news being reported is undermining our democracy, nor does he care about the Iraqi civilians who were killed. Brown cheerleaded this war from the very beginning, and never let up. He never apologized for getting any of the stories wrong... and even told me at one time "lots of good people got the WMDs story wrong... even Clinton". Beyond the fact that seeing a man who cheats on his wife and then lies about it as a "good person", he clearly felt NO ONE should be held responsible for the lies that lead to this war. I can guarantee you this: Brown never even labeled them as LIES on any reporting he did. Nor did he ever comment on how the people who pulled this off have paid ABSOLUTELY NO PENALTY. Up onto October 2003, he still had Judith Miller on his show claiming the WMDs would be found.

And he continues to show little regard about the state and circumstances of Iraqi civilians... unless they happen to be 35 elderly Jewish people who were resettled in Israel. Touching story, that, and it made me think of how Brown takes his little, tiny penlight of truth and illustrates some small truth that other journalists don't mention. While he was illustrating how these elderly folks were rescued, he totally and purposefully ignores all the slaughter, chaos, pain, death, torture, and fear of the vast, vast majority of the rest of the Iraqi population... which number about 24-25 million. Yes, he got the story of the 35 elderly people right... and ignored the 24,999,965 other people in that country.

Danny again:

"We said hello as he left (He was still smarting over emails readers sent to CNN demanding better election coverage) but unfortunately he left to go back to word before I got to unwind from the floor."

And I rather wished we had kept the pressure on.... it might have done some good. Besides, I was having fun.

"He (Brown) himself was bitching about all the Robert Black stories he is doing. And he will go on doing them. I am sure his candor was constrained, He knows what can happen if he mouths off too much at panels like these. He worked for Eason Jordan too."

And, always, always, in America .... it is someone else's fault... and NO ONE, NO ONE IS TO BLAME. When are we ever going to get some people who actually take responsibility for what they say and do???? In light of the fact that they started a war and occupation against a country that had not threatened or attacked anyone for over 12 years... where exactly are we headed?? Can we afford to have a population that knows all about Laci, OJ, Jackson, Blake, etc etc... yet doesn't know what is going on in entire CONTINENTS of this world? and ignorant of what the US government is doing with our money on foreign shores?

Danny again:

"Just one last point, when asked what people should do to get better coverage, the impressive Daniel Okrent of the Times put it in one word: "AGITATE," And then this agust ombudsman of the newspaper of record added two more "MAKE NOISE." He said that's the only things that works. And he should know."

Oh, now, this is funny. You see, I have emailed Okrent also... let me give you an idea of what he said when I told him what I thought about the NYT's reporting on Bremer shutting down Sadr's newspaper (which was an example of more stenography): "The tone of your message indicates that you despise journalism, and prefer people to represent your views and yours alone. I'm almost embarrassed that my May 30 column condemning The Times for its WMD reporting embraces your position on that subject."

I would hardly call the NYT's mea culpa on the WMDs stories to be "self-condemning". I would say it was a mild self-rebuke, one that did not mention Judith Miller or many others by name, and left out many things. Funny he should accuse me of wanting "my views and mine alone" presented when the NYT did almost no coverage of the anti-war voices or reports that the WMDs claim was bogus prior to the start of the war (that would be what my views were.... hear any calls for immediate withdrawal from Iraq? no, they are not representing my views.) However, what I want from them is not a representation of my views, but a presentation of what is actually, truthfully, happening. Then I can test my views against what information is coming in, and determine if the viewpoint I am proposing is accurate or not. I want my fellow citizens to be somewhat informed.

But then, the NYT did at least sorta apologize for missing the WMD story. Not true for CNN.

Danny Schecter goes on to request that we join Media for Democracy to ask CNN and the Pentagon to investigate the charges (opinions?) of Eason's remarks. Funny to think that we should be in a position to ask the "news" media to start reporting stuff.... And as the remark by Okrent above shows, they don't much like it when you point out to them how they are not doing their jobs. And now we are supposed to agitate and petition for protection of the press? Personally, I'm hoping to have a "Judith Miller goes to jail for the wrong reasons" party soon. Yes, I'm angry.

Thank you, Danny, for what you do. I think you are way too easy on them, maybe because you have an insider viewpoint. I started watching CNN (again) and reading the NYT (again) on a regular basis, along with other establishment media, soon after 9/11. I thought I was missing something. Well, I sure was. I was missing how our population is being served nonsense, day in and day out, and misled about what our government was actually doing. I reached all of my own conclusions long before I heard of people like you, Danny, or Amy Goodman, or FAIR, or Media Matters, FreePress, or Common Cause or anybody else who shares my opinions and viewpoints.

I still think.

I still read.

I could figure out that there were no nuclear WMDs even close to being made in Iraq back in 2002. They could have figured it out too. (Actually, I think they did!) But what really got me going was the ignoring of the pain and death of the Iraqi people from the immoral, evil actions of the US government and the Bush administration.

And, they are still failing to report on this! I'm willing to bet that I know more about it than they do! Note my comments on a NYT article this week on my prior blog post.

So, we're supposed to go to bat and stick up for the rights of the press, when they aren't even doing their jobs? I don't think so.

Friday, February 18, 2005

More Torturous Stories

More stories of torture by US operatives are coming to light. The NY Times has a story today on how the ACLU has turned up new files detailing torture stories in Afghanistan and Iraq. It sickens me to hear about such stuff, done with my tax dollars. I sometimes feel we have abandoned all morality in this country. And it seems to get worse and worse, with no one higher up punished for allowing (or encouraging) this to happen. Common sense would tell you that soldiers and CIA operatives don't do this and take pictures of it, and then circulate them around, post them as screensavers on their computers - if they thought what they were doing was against the rules, or going to get them in trouble. And the vast majority of the American population says ill-informed or uninformed of what is happening. Here's a piece of what the NY Times article said:

"A cache of documents disclosed Thursday provides several instances of prisoner abuse by American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq that appeared to have been investigated only briefly. The documents, released by the American Civil Liberties Union, include one file...."

The whole article is here:

Also in the NY Times is an article on Najaf. Six months after the US-Sadr fighting, large sections of the city lie in ruins, with significant gas and electricity shortages. Tourists have not returned. The US authorities (via the military) has done some compensation in Najaf, with the largest amount being $2,500 for the death of a child. (AND THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION CLAIMS THE NUMBER OF CIVILIANS KILLED IN IRAQ IS UNKNOWABLE!!! - THIS IS A FLAT OUT LIE!)

This article in the NY Times claims the locals (at least the ones they interviewed) blamed Sadr's militia, not the US troops. This same person that they interviewed claims he would hang up a picture of Bush in his business, but he is afraid to do so. But, I really don't think he would be afraid of blaming the US troops for the destruction in his city, in light of the fact that what he was saying was going into the largest newspaper in the USA. No, we all know that the US would not retaliate towards anyone in Iraq, just for expressing an opinion. That's like saying the US troops would round up innocent people in Iraq and then TORTURE them. Ridiculous, really. (oh, wait, wait, see above).

Well the NY Times did get one thing right in this article: they mentioned that it was SISTANI that ended the fighting. Lots of US fools like to think the US won that one.....

"It gets a little worse every day" (guess who said that?)

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Today was the day the Kyoto agreement went into effect..... but not for the US. They did not sign it, and have no respect or real concern about the environment. Some people in the US feel this way because they believe the "rapture" is going to happen any day now, so there is no need to worry about the environment. I spent many years whitewater kayaking, so I know the environment is in big trouble. The rivers are polluted, and really, there is no excuse for this state of affairs.

(I saw a bumper sticker in Asheville that said "In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned". I wanted to ask him: in case of rapture, can I have your car?)

Tonight, I went to a local community center for a meeting. I was waiting around outside, since it was a warm night here. A man was sitting there in a huge truck, a diesel truck, with the engine running. I went up to him and asked him why he was running the engine all that time, and he replied that he was waiting for his daughter. I told him that running cars causes air pollution, and he told me "I don't care" and then told me to shut up. I think it is very sad that I care more about his daughter's health than he does.

Latest Letter to the Editor (Asheville)

Title: Sowell selective in protesters he denigrated in column

Thomas Sowell’s syndicated column, “Acceptance of irresponsible behavior sign of a sick society,” (AC-T, Feb. 1), states, “This may be some people’s idea of a healthy democracy but it is more of a sign of a spreading sickness in a society too wimpish to insist that law and order matter. ...” He was commenting on the protesters at the inauguration.

In the next day’s paper, the headline read “Memories of lunch counter sit-ins vivid for local pastor.” I would have to conclude that Sowell had yet to recognize the value to our society of what those protesters accomplished so many years ago. As a protester at the inauguration, I hope we have accomplished something positive also.

I was there to protest this war. I was there to protest torture. I will not forget the tens of thousands of innocents who died because of this war. I will not forget Maher Arar, a Canadian man shipped to Syria for “extraordinary rendition” (torture) by the U.S. authorities. I will not forget the thousands of people in U.S.-run prisons in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan (and who knows where else) who are held without charges and tortured. I will not forget that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s memos are what led to this torture.

Susan Oehler,

Saturday, February 12, 2005

So, what should we call ourselves?

The United States of Torturers? Torturers-R-us? We Are All Torturers Now? I can take no credit for any of those "names" applied to America recently. They came from other Americans, who are as upset by the direction this country is headed as I am. Bob Herbert, NYT columnist, has joined us. He wrote an article "Torture, American Style". Here's a clip, but you will need to go to the NY Times and register to read the whole thing.

"This is one of the great euphemisms of our time. Extraordinary rendition is the name that's been given to the policy of seizing individuals without even the semblance of due process and sending them off to be interrogated by regimes known to practice torture. In terms of bad behavior, it stands side by side with contract killings.

Our henchmen in places like Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Uzbekistan and Jordan are torturing terror suspects at the behest of a nation - the United States - that just went through a national election in which the issue of moral values was supposed to have been decisive. How in the world did we become a country in which gays' getting married is considered an abomination, but torture is O.K.?"

Mr. Herbert talks about Mr. Arar, a Canadian of Syrian background, who was sent to Syria for "extraordinary rendition". He was never charged with a crime. He was tortured and held in Syria for 10 months. His case was the reason that Canada issued a statement recommending that Canadian citizens or residents of Middle Eastern origin do not go to the United States for business or pleasure..... or any reason. It is amazingly awful that Canada is saying "don't visit the USA.... it is too dangerous" yet I fully agree with their warnings.

An amazing thing is this: torture doesn't even work. People who are tortured will admit to anything, so the information they give is useless.

And we are becoming a country of immoral barbarians. I still am working on what we should call ourselves...... The Wizards of Torture....... To Have and To Torture...... The Unbearable Lightness of Torture..... Willy Wonka and the Torture Factory.... The Sound of Torture... The Texas Chain Saw Torturers..... A Tale of Two Torturers.....

I'm working on movie titles because my imagination is truly challenged by this situation. I never thought I would live to see the USA export and practice torture around the world.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Iraqi lives count too

Below is an on-line petition to MSNBC. It is asking them to count the Iraqi civilian lives lost in this war, along with the American lives. They have equal value, and all human live has equal value.

Also, there is a two minute movie at American Friends Service Committee that is worth watching, if you have a fast internet connection. The movie is called "Wage Peace". They also have a petition... to bring the US troops home from Iraq NOW.

And today's big news items.... North Korea has got a nuclear bomb program, and the Bush administration is not doing anything about that. They are too busy threatening Iran, who is working on a nuclear energy program, but the US thinks they are building nuclear weapons. IAEA does not agree. Iran denies it. But NK..... they boast about it. Who's the bigger problem?

Also, it has been revealed that the FAA was warned about al Qaeda attacks before 9/11. And they did nothing. So, our country is busy starting wars (based on a pack of lies) with countries that did not attack or threaten us, busy threatening some more countries (probably more lies)that did not attack or threaten us, busy selling arms around the world (and lying about it) like nobody's business (and is it a PROFITABLE business, too) and ignoring the real threats to American lives.

We are on the March of Folly.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Unchurched for 30 years

To 3 churches in one day

I was raised in the Catholic church, complete with 12 years of Catholic education. I remember thinking as a child "what ARE these people thinking?" during mass. I enjoyed the singing, and the church was lavish, but it was beautiful. I tried to logically understand what they were really trying to say, but it never did add up for me. During my teen years, I realized how patriarchal and male-dominated that church is/was, and I completely left the Catholic church.

For the next thirty years, I engaged in a number of outdoor activities, mostly camping and whitewater kayaking. Doing these things really brought me closer to the Higher Power that is present in nature, and is a part of us all. During that time, I also had some very personal spiritual experiences, and came to realize the "light of God" that is a spark in all living beings. I always said a silent thanks for the beauty that I saw right in front of me, millions and millions of times. I never tired of looking at the water, how the light shown on the water, how the water in whitewater rivers moved, the sounds, the smells.... and the companionship of the people who, like me, loved the rivers. Some of those people became friends, and some of them died while kayaking.

But a couple of years ago, something sifted in me. I became very distressed over the fact that my country was headed to war with Iraq. I never liked the wars this country engaged in before that: it always seemed (to my logical mind) that war created as many problems as it solved.... and in the process, caused a great number of innocent people suffer greatly. But what really pushed me here was the CLEAR fact that Bush & company wanted to launch a war against a country that was currently bothering no one. Indeed, was a threat to no one. I remember listening to Bush's speech in Cincinnati (my home town) on 10/07/02... and all I could think was "he's lying... he's lying.... he's lying." Sadly, other people could not see that. Nearly everything Bush said that day had no basis in fact, and since I knew some information about Iraq and what was going on there, I could see right through him.

I also realized that Saddam was a bad person, and he needed to be stopped from his human rights abuses. I realized he was not the worst leader out there committing human rights abuses. I felt that any and all other possible means of containing him needed to be tried, for long periods of time, before war even came up for discussion. Bush & company were willing to try nothing other than war. I knew the UN weapons inspectors would find no nuclear WMDs, and little biological or chemical WMDs (they found none).

But, I digress. I needed, at that point in my life, to be with people who felt and thought like I did. So, I started attending the Asheville Friends Meeting (Quakers). I had gone to meetings before on occasion, and the real thing that kept me from regular attendance was the feeling that I would feel compelled to get more involved in social justice issues and peace work (although I didn't really have an understanding of what "peace work" was at the time). I was very busy keeping myself entertained and enriched by going away on weekends to kayak.... and that particular sport takes a lot of time to pursue and maintain skills (and not maintaining skills is really not an option - if you want to stay alive!). But, finally, I just needed to be with those people in meeting. I needed to talk to them, be with them, and learn from them. I needed to move towards doing "peace work" all the time.... indeed, I realized that if I didn't, who will? There is more that needs to be done than there is time available to do! So many outrages, so little time. And, now, kayaking is not so important... but I sometimes miss the connection to nature.

One of the many things I feel I was "called" to do was to honor and mark the Iraqi civilian casualties from this war. I have been following this on the internet for some time, and the best collection of the names of these victims is through the work of CIVIC (sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee) and Raed Jarrar (an Iraqi blogger now in Amman). He posted these names on his website. Also, Iraq Body Count made a combined list of their names and the names collected by CIVIC. I printed up those lists of names, and placed them on five boards that measure 40 by 60 inches. It is just over 3,000 names. It is a small percentage of the total number of civilians killed. I will add to this as more names become available.

This past Sunday, I took this display to the Social Justice Committee at the Unitarian Universalist Church for them to look at and think about using. Then I took it to meeting for worship, and attended meeting. Late in the afternoon, I went to the peace vigil at All Souls Episcopal Church, and then took the display to their Peace Fellowship meeting. They have these meetings once a month, and they are very thoughtful and informative. They are also considering how to use the display.

And that is the very long-winded story of how I went from unchurched for 30 years to 3 churches in one day. I remember a friend of mine saying (many years ago) that the people who go to church don't seem to be any better people than the ones who don't! And I told her that maybe they would be WORSE if they didn't go to church. I don't think going to meeting makes me better or worse: it just is something that I need to do for myself. And I always remember the spiritually found in nature, and that there are many, many paths to God.

I told one of the Iraqi bloggers that I attended Quaker meetings, and he wrote back: Quackers are my friends! I got quite a laugh out of that one.

And indeed we are Friends.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Letter to Senator Biden

Senator Biden wrote this in the WaPo:

"Can an Iraqi soldier or policeman do what we ask American soldiers to do -- provide law and order, protect the infrastructure, defend the borders and, above all, defeat the insurgency?"

Could someone please point out to Senator Biden that the American soldiers are not providing law and order in Iraq, did not protect the infrastructure, are not defending the borders.... and are totally failing to defeat the insurgency. In light of this, I recommend we let the available Iraqi troops take over immediately. They are part and parcel of the insurgency, so at least one problem will be solved right there. And I'll bet they figure out how to get the electricity back on, just like they did in 1991.

Iraq's biggest problem....... Saddam or USA interference? It's a toss-up. But then, Saddam would not have been as bad as he was if the US wasn't supporting him back in the 1980's. I hope Dr. Germ and Dr. Anthrax live to tell their tales...... of how the USA sent them the original supplies.


Further note: I should have called it the "resistance" not the "insurgency".

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Feathers on the Wind

I picked up a song today, done by local musicians, on the tragedy at Peak's Cove this past September (a small tragedy compared to Iraq, but a tragedy none the less). When hurricane Ivan came through, there was a mudslide in western North Carolina that took 5 lives. This song is called "Feathers on the Wind" and is written by George Reeves and Lee Ladensack. It certainly brought a tear to my eye.

Here's a verse and chorus:

At the foot of Fish Hawk Mountain, in a holler called Peak's Cove,
Becky lit a candle off the pilot of her stove,
The strongest storm in years had knocked the power out that night.
So she held her child and they huddled round the light.
Becky's husband Brian was working late again,
Helping with the rescue squad, the calls kept pouring in.
Knowing that his pregnant wife and son were safe at home
He thought about the happy days to come, but.....

The thread of life is thin, it changes like the weather
We fly through time together, just like feathers on the wind
And only angels know how hard that wind will blow
or when the flight is coming to an end.

(Becky survived, but her son and unborn child did not.)

The Friends Peace Testimony

Quaker approaches to developing peace:
1. peace education and collaboration with other peace groups
2. public protests against war and violence
3. work camps -- became Peace Corps
4. support international, intergovernmental organizations
5. relief and rehabilitation at the close of conflicts
6. mediate between conflicting fractions
7. lobby to cut military spending and support the right of dissent
8. peace research and conflict resolution research
9. apply peaceful, nonviolent measures in the home
10. examine economic and social systems and work to resolve vast differences in the distribution of world's resources
11. cultivate "that of God" in every person

"in the silence, there is music waiting to be heard"

I summarized the above from a long article I read written by the Religious Society of Friends. I posted this for those who say that pacifists have nothing to say about how to solve problems in the world without war.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Short Movie from Am. Friends Service Committee

Last night, in the State of the Union address, President Bush painted a rosy picture about democracy and freedom in Iraq. The truth is not so simple. An estimated 100,000 Iraqis and more than 1400 U.S. soldiers have died in the unnecessary war, and the toll mounts daily. The presence of U.S. occupation forces has been -- and will continue to be -- a flashpoint for violence.

Today, as part of our growing Wage Peace Campaign, AFSC is launching a new movie that tells the truth about the ongoing loss of life in Iraq -- and encourages viewers to sign our petition to bring the troops home.

Click the link below to watch the movie [2 min]:

I think you'll be moved... and if you have friends who are on the fence about the war, this is something you will want to share with them. Please take a few moments to watch the movie, sign the petition, and then please forward the message to ten friends. This spring is a critical time to demonstrate the breadth and diversity of opposition to the war. Military families, veterans, people of faith, students and many others are now speaking out. The momentum is building. Together we can end this war.

Peace, Peter Lems
AFSC Iraq staff

Not Worth It

This is from Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Mother for Peace:

I was supposed to be on the Larry King Live show last night. I was asked to be on the show to offer my opinion on the election in Iraq from the perspective of a mom whose son was killed in the war prior to the elections. One of the questions I was going to be asked was: Do I think my son’s sacrifice was “worth it?” Well, I didn’t get a chance to be on the show last night, because I was bumped for something that is really important: The Michael Jackson Trial.

If I was allowed to go on Larry King Live last night and give my opinion about the elections and about my son’s sacrifice, this is what I would have told Mr. King and his viewers:

My son, Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan (KIA, Sadr City, 04/04/04) enlisted in the Army to protect America and give something back to our country. He didn’t enlist to be used and misused by a reckless Commander-in-Chief who sent his troops to preemptively attack and occupy a country that was no imminent threat (or any threat) to our country. Casey was sent to die in a war that was based on the imagination of some Neo-Cons who love to fill our lives with fear.

Casey didn’t agree with the “Mission” but being the courageous and honorable man that he was he knew he had to go to this mistake of a war to support his buddies. Casey also wondered aloud many times why precious troops and resources were being diverted from the real war on terror.

Casey was told that he would be welcomed to Iraq as a liberator with chocolates and rose petals strewn in front of his unarmored Humvee. He was in Iraq for two short weeks when the Shi’ite rebel “welcome wagon” welcomed him to Baghdad with bullets and RPG’s, which took his young and beautiful life. I think my son’s helmet and Viet Nam era flak jacket would have protected him better from the chocolates and flower petals.

Casey was killed after George Bush proclaimed “Mission Accomplished” on May 1, 2003…he was also killed after Saddam was captured in December of that same year. Casey was killed before the transfer of power in June of 2004 and before these elections. Four marines were tragically killed after the election, yesterday. By my count about five dozen Iraqis and coalition troops were killed on Election Day…is that the definition of “Catastrophic Success?” But is that a good day in Iraq? Hundreds of our young people and thousands of Iraqis have been needlessly and senselessly murdered since George Bush triumphantly announced an end to “major combat” almost 2 years ago now. All of the above events have been heralded by this administration as “turning points” in the “war on terror”…or as wonderful events in the “march of democracy.” Really? I don’t think, judging by very recent history, that the elections will stop the bloodshed and destruction.

I would have asked Mr. King if he would want to sacrifice one of his children for sham elections in Iraq. Would he or George Bush send their children to be killed, or maimed for life, for a series of lies, mistakes and miscalculations? Now that every lie has been exposed to the light for the invasion and occupation of Iraq….why are our sons and daughters still there? NOT ONE MORE DROP OF BLOOD SHOULD BE SPILLED FOR THIS PACK OF LIES.

This war was sold to the American people by a slimy leadership with a maniacal zeal and phony sincerity that would have impressed snake oil salesmen a century ago. The average American needs to hear from people who have been devastated by the arrogance and ignorance of an administration that doesn’t even have the decency or compassion to sign our “death” letters.

In the interest of being “fair and balanced” (oops, wrong network), I would have been pitted against a parent who still agrees with the “Mission” and the President. Although, I grieve for that parent’s loss and I respect that parent’s opinion, I would have defied Mr. King, or that parent to explain the “Mission” to me. I don’t think anyone can do it with a straight face. The President has also stated that we need to keep our troops in Iraq to honor our sacrifices by completing this elusive and ever changing “Mission.” My response to him is “Just because it is too late for Casey and the Sheehan family, why would we want another innocent life taken, in the name of this chameleon of a “Mission?”

Well, I was bumped from the show anyway. Now that Scott Peterson has been convicted and sentenced for his crimes and Laci and Connor’s families have the justice they deserve, we have the new “trial of the century” to keep our minds off of the nasty and annoying fact that we are waging an immoral war in Iraq. We can fill our TV screens and homes with the glorified images of the Michael Jackson molestation trial. We can fill our lives with outrage over MJ’s victims and hope they get justice; not even questioning the fact that George Bush, his dishonest cabinet, and their misguided policies aren’t even brought to the court of public opinion. We won’t have to confront ourselves with the fact that the leaders of our country and their lies are responsible for the deaths of 1438 brave Americans…tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis…and the loss of our Nation’s credibility throughout the world. That might mean we would have to turn off our television sets and do something about it.

Oh yeah. In answer to the original question Larry: No it wasn’t worth it!!

Cindy SheehanMother of Hero: Spc Casey Austin Sheehan KIA 04/04/04

Casey's Peace Page

Co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace:

Article: What I Heard About Iraq

This is a very long article of quotes from various people who proposed making war on Iraq. It is well worth reading and keeping for future reference:

A clip:

In 1992, a year after the first Gulf War, I heard Dick Cheney, then secretary of defense, say that the US had been wise not to invade Baghdad and get ‘bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq’. I heard him say: ‘The question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is: not that damned many.’

In February 2001, I heard Colin Powell say that Saddam Hussein ‘has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours.’

That same month, I heard that a CIA report stated: ‘We do not have any direct evidence that Iraq has used the period since Desert Fox to reconstitute its weapons of mass destruction programmes.’

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Iraqi elections

The Iraqi elections were held yesterday, and I am glad they went as well as they did. It was mainly peaceful, and the Iraqi people really inspired me in how they faced danger and possible death in order to go vote.

I hope this vote brings the country closer to real freedom, especially freedom from want and fear.

I don't think it will happen any time soon, however. This month is the third deadliest month for US and Coalition forces since the war started. We have no idea how many Iraqis have been killed, since an accurate count is not made (that speaks volumes). We do know the Iraqi people are suffering greatly, and yesterday they took a first step in a long journey to finding their own way. I hope the elections result in good leadership, and I hope the elections are honest and fair (which I suspect a lot of the recent US election was not) and do not turn out to be a sham.

And long live the brave Iraqi people!