Saturday, March 31, 2007

Letter to NYT Public Editor in June 2004


In your article "Wake up the Watchdogs" you state that "As Congress wades through the failures in intelligence gathering that preceded the 9/11 attacks and the Iraq invasion, it should take a close, corrective look at its own oversight responsibility. For too long lawmakers have discovered grievous flaws in the nation's intelligence operations only after they appeared in the news media."

Well, that was amusing, coming from a "watchdog" organization (remember the fourth estate?) that is both insolent and somnolent. First, you did not mention the third major intelligence failure the USA has had recently, which is postwar planning in Iraq. Did you forget that one? Second, could you please do our congress a favor and print in your paper that if they want to be up to date on intelligence, and if they want correct information, then they need to skip the "news media" here in the USA and go straight to the internet, where they can read alternative news sources and the foreign press. Those internet sources knew long before the Iraq war started that there were no WMDs in Iraq, and therefore, none would be found. Those alternative news sources and internet blogs figured out that Saddam was no threat to anyone, outside of his own people. They also correctly figured out that the postwar situation would be a total, unmitigated, disaster. They figured out that it would lead to a civil war that spreads to a regional war. And they figured out that terrorism would increase because of this war (how come no one in the "news media" challenged that report saying otherwise a few months back? and how come they do not challenge Mr. Bush when he states something that is clearly incorrect?). The alternative news sources figured out that the blowback to the USA would be tremendous. These last events have yet to happen. But they are coming.

May I suggest that you follow your own advice and "take a close, corrective look at (your) own oversight responsibility" and "end what has been a period of dangerous passivity and deference toward the hydra-like intelligence community" (and passivity and deference to those who are currently in power, I might add)? And perhaps some deep and sincere self-examination would lead to a recognition of your own momentous failures to get the truth out to the American people. One of those truths is: we started an optional war for bogus reasons. And some self-examination of the postwar situation might be in order. How many Iraqis have been killed and injured? Are we bringing them "freedom and democracy" or just the winning lottery ticket to the gateways of hell?

The article closes with the statement "Changes in the way the agencies operate are increasingly likely, but they will mean much less if Congress fails to reform itself."

I think you could substitute "mainstream US press" for "congress" and "agencies" in the above sentence, along with "nothing" for the phrase "much less". Then it would read: Changes in the way the mainstream US press operates are increasingly likely, but they will mean nothing if the mainstream US press fails to reform itself.

Well, sometimes you are good for a chuckle. - dancewater


Dear Ms. xxxxxxx,

The positions taken by the editorial board of The Times are not within my purview, nor should they be; the editorial board is entitled to its views, and readers are free to agree or disagree with them. However, as I know that the editors are concerned with reader response, I have forwarded your comments to editorial page editor Gail Collins.

Yours Sincerely,
Daniel Okrent
Public Editor


Dear Mr. Okrent,
Well, I have to admit: you gave me another laugh there . Sorry I've been to busy to answer sooner. Now, let's see if I got this straight: the editorial board writes a piece calling "Wake up the Watchdogs" telling the congress to get better intelligence, since they are only figuring things out from the "news" media. And there is no mention of the "watchdogs" of the "news" media getting things right, or even trying to do so. And, since you are in charge of the "news" section of the paper, you forward my comments on to the editorial section. Well, maybe the editorial editor could transfer to the comic page, perhaps? And then you could put Judith Miller on the editorial page, except she is even more boring than most editorial writers.

So, here's the summary of the NYT mode of operation:

CREATIVE WRITING = BAD (example: Blair's embellishment of inconsequential stories)

STENOGRAPHY = GOOD (except when stenography turns out to be totally fictitious, then it is sorta bad, for example: Miller's reporting on WMDs from unnamed "official" sources)


Did I get it all straight?

And, here's another one: A recent lead story in the NYT had this headline: "Errors Are Seen in Early Attacks on Iraqi Leaders. 50 Raids Missed Targets." Well, gee, that's some reporting..... except that information was reported by Human Rights Watch some months ago. Glad you dug that one up, and got your reporters busy on that. And then there was the recent report (a few months back) that our State Department put out saying that terrorists attacks were down in 2003! Wasn't that wonderful!! Except, of course, IT WAS NOT TRUE!!! And darn near anyone with a passing knowledge of world events in 2003 and a functioning memory knew that..... but where was the NYT evaluation of that State Department report? I must have missed it.

Here's one for you to report on sometime next year: NEGROPONTE HAS A HISTORY OF HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES AND OF HELPING RIGHT WING TERRORISTS IN THE PAST. That, of course, will come sometime after there is solid proof that he is doing the same thing in Iraq. Just thought I'd give you a heads up on that one: less work for you, don't ya know?

Really, I think all would be fine if you just call the "news" section the "conjecture" section and the "editorial" section the "comedy page".

Oh, by the way, Ms. Collins did not respond to my email. Please pass this one along to her. - dancewater

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Happy Celebration


Iraqi Kurdish girls dance around fire as they celebrate the Kurdish Nowruz spring festival in the town of Akri, north of Baghdad. Despite raging violence which killed 100 people in two days, Iraqis were celebrating the festival which fell a day after the nation marked the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion. Meanwhile, Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi called for talks with the country's insurgent groups. (AFP/Safin Hamed)

Please note: they were not celebrating the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq any more than the peace activists are when we hold a rally. But they are celebrating the start of spring, and I just loved the colorful costumes these young girls are wearing, and seeing them dance and celebrate life.

Code Pink in DC & Peace Rally in Asheville

Code Pink has been doing some great work in DC and I am thinking of joining them. The Washington Post made a video on them (now that it is fashionable to report on anti-war demonstrators) and it is a great little video.

We had a Peace Rally here in Asheville last Saturday, with 550 people attending. We do a count by handing out stickers to all attenders. I was expecting more people this year, but it was about the same as last year. We had a great line up of speakers and musicians, with only one speaker being someone I did not agree with. He was recommending we send more troops to Afghanistan, because that is where are 'real enemies' are - and in truth, the Afghan people are no more our enemies than Iraqi people - WE are our enemies! And our behavior is making new enemies every day!

But I found the Asheville Peace Rally rather dispiriting. I think it was because of the hassles from Asheville Parks and Recreation. It seems we were supposed to have ANOTHER permit for the rally, from the Building Safety Department. We already had a permit from Asheville Parks and Recreation, but there is some additional permit. The night before the rally I was told we could not have any "structures" at the rally. Janet Dack, of Asheville Parks and Recreation could not tell me exactly what a "structure" was - and if it including folding tables and small tents for sunscreen. I think they were expecting us to build a stage, which we had no plans to do. I was told that we would need a building permit if we built risers over 8 inches high, but we did not build anything.

Anyway, they pretty much acted like a**holes and I pretty much was sarcastic with them. I was sarcastic with the stupid guy from EMS who wanted to know what our group would do if there was a weather emergency before the rally (anyone with any sense would stay home) and what we would do if there was a medical emergency (watch them die, maybe?) and he also wanted a map of the area of the rally - the front of city hall - for the police and fire department. If you don't know Asheville, you might not know that you can walk out the front door of the police and fire departments and look to your right and see city hall. Why they would need a map is beyond me........

This put me in a bad mood for work. I work for the state of NC, and we are required to do lots of a**hole stuff - like hand people appointment letters after they show up for their appointment. And refer them to a "Family Support Network" (a group for parents of children with developmental delays) when they have normally developing children. Normally, I act quite patient with such out and out stupidity - since my job requires me to get along with the very people who think these stupid things up - but I had no patience for it this week.

I will write more on the Peace Rally sometime next week. I will probably be writing more on Asheville Parks and Recreation and the other silly departments to be found in this city.

I don't know how the reasonable people elected to City Council put up with this nonsense day after day!!!

The picture above came from Friends Council on National Legislation.

Video From Hometown Baghdad


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Quote from Code Pink email

We are citizens. Let the politicians advocate half-way measures if they choose, but only after they have felt the full force of citizens who speak for what is right, not what is winnable in a shameful timorous Congress. Timetables for withdrawal are not only morally reprehensible in the case of a brutal occupation (would you give a thug who invaded your house, smashed things up, and terrorized your children a timetable for withdrawal?) but logically nonsensical. If our troops are preventing civil war, helping people, controlling violence, then why withdraw at all? If they are in fact doing the opposite -- provoking civil war, hurting people, perpetuating violence -- they should withdraw as quickly as ships and planes can carry them home. If Congress thinks it much compromise, let it. But we should not encourage that. We should speak our minds fully, boldly and say what is right, whatever they decide to do. – Howard Zinn

Monday, March 26, 2007

Responding to NPR

I went to NPR's website and looked at an audio slide show of pictures from Iraq. It really made me angry - not the photos, not what the photographer said, but the NPR person doing the interview said. I sent them this:

In the slide show, there is the statement "the driver refused to stop". I would like to know on exactly what basis you make this claim. I am sure the driver did not admit that, since his head was blown off. Did you interview the kids and did they tell you that their daddy said he refused to stop for US troops ahead?

This kind of propaganda causes more and more war and more and more grief. It sickens me that the slide show said such a thing.

Then the Renee Montagne makes the inane comment "even though there's a soldier standing next to her - she looks completely alone". [In regards to the picture of the screaming little girl.]

Well, Renee - maybe one day you will have the killer of your parents standing next to you and you will understand something of what that little girl experienced, and you would know that you were all alone in the world. Maybe you will understand a bit more of how this kind of loss feels - at least, I would hope so.

No mention in the piece about the little boy who had spinal injuries now and no access to medical care - no mention of how the older girl has said she hates Americans and wants to drink their blood.

I am quite certain the children don't see it as "an accident" --- what a stupid thing to say.

But it sure lets Americans off the hook when you can say "ACCIDENT" --- I guess the US military on the orders of bush/cheney ACCIDENTALLY DID AN OCCUPATION WHERE THEY SHOOT AT IRAQIS WHO GET TOO CLOSE TO THEM.


This whole piece was totally disgusting and I rather doubt that Renee Montagne qualifies as a human being.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Silencing the children of Iraq

I have a new post up on the News about Iraq blog on children in Iraq and how they are doing.

We had a rally here in Asheville yesterday, and when I get some pictures, I will post a report on that. I am exhausted!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Protest in Kufa (another one)


People carry posters showing anti-US radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, on the left, and his late father Ayatollah Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr as they protest an arrest of an al-Sadr aid, in the holy city of Kufa, Iraq, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, Friday, March 23, 2007.

The U.S. military on Thursday said a Shiite cleric Qais al-Khazaali has been arrested in connection with a brazen attack on the provincial government of Karbala, also south of Baghdad, Jan. 20 when five American service members were killed. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)

Protest in Basra on March 23, 2007


Followers of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr wave their pistols after a prayer in Basra, Iraq, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Friday, March 23, 2007. Authorities slapped an indefinite curfew in the southern city of Basra following clashes Thursday between militiamen loyal to al-Sadr and guards outside the headquarters of the rival Shiite Fadhila party.(AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani)

This one cannot claim to be a non-violent protest, since they are carrying pistols.

Protest in Kufa (again)

Demonstrators chant anti-U.S. slogans as they hold a picture of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his father Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr and Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah during a protest in Kufa, about 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, March 23, 2007.

Hundreds of Shi'ites took to the streets after Friday prayers to demand the release of prisoners being held by U.S. forces. REUTERS/Ali Abu Shish (IRAQ)

Protest in Kufa on March 23, 2007


Demonstrators hold a poster of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr during a protest in Kufa, about 160 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, March 23, 2007.

Hundreds of Shi'ites took to the streets after Friday prayers to demand the release of prisoners being held by U.S. forces.

The writing on the poster reads "God, stand by Moqtada". REUTERS/Ali Abu Shish (IRAQ)

Protest in Mahmoudiya


Demonstrators chant anti-U.S. slogans while holding a picture of Ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, the father of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, during a protest in Mahmoudiya, 30km (20 miles) south of Baghdad, March 23, 2007.

Hundreds of Shi'ites took to the streets to demand the release of Sadr's spokesman Qais al-Khazali, who is being held by U.S. forces.

REUTERS/Ibrahim Sultan (IRAQ)

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Iraqi Protests Again

Well, this one looks much angrier than the one I posted earlier. It is from the same group of protests, however.


Iraqi students march past Iraql soldiers at the Hurriyah neighborhood in Baghdad Thursday, March 22, 2007, during a protest against the US military presence and operations in the area. (AP Photo/Asaad Mouhsin)

Today, the US House of Representatives is considering a bill that will continue the funding of the Iraq occupation. It has certain provisions, such as troops must be rested before being sent back to Iraq, and that certain 'benchmarks' must be met - however, there are all set up so that bush/cheney can ignore them. It is being touted by the anti-war left as a great bill because it sets a date for withdrawal by September 2008. First, this date is not final. Second, it has a loophole - one large enough to put the entire US military through. It says that bush can keep troops there if they are need to train Iraqi troops or fight al Qadea. There will always be al Qadea in Iraq as long as there are US troops there, and it looks like they will go on attacking innocent civilians that are working with or a part of, the new Iraqi government. This administration could claim (and they will) that the entire US military in Iraq is needed for these two purposes.

Those of us who have been against this occupation all along (Code Pink, United for Peace & Justice, Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and countless smaller groups around the country) are also strongly against this supplemental bill that will fund more occupation in Iraq. Military Families Speak Out had made a certificate to give to all Democratic members of the US House of Representatives who vote for this bill. It says "You bought it, you own it" on the Certificate of Ownership. You can download that certificate at their website HERE.

It looks like the occupation will continue until after bush is out of office in 2009. The only ways to change that is to cut the funding and to impeach him. The Democrats are going to sign on to this war and take responsibility for an evil and failed disaster. They are making a big mistake.

Iraqi Protests

I am sticking to my theme of protests. This one is from Baghdad, and is against the presence of the US military in their city and country.

And, of course, that is the exact reason why there are protests around the USA recently - with the Peace Rally in Asheville this Saturday yet another example of a group of people who want the US military out of Iraq.


Iraqi students march at the Hurriyah neighborhood in Baghdad Thursday, March 22, 2007, during a protest against the US military presence and operations in the area. (AP Photo/Asaad Mouhsin)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Another protest - in Paris

PHOTO: 153 demonstrators , wearing masks, are gathered in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Friday March 16, 2007.

The demonstration, held by Reporters Without Borders, is aimed at highlighting the deaths of those 153 journalists they say have been killed in Iraq.

Banner reads: Iraq 153 journalists killed in four years. Imagine if it would happen in France? (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere)

Imagine if that would happen in the USA.

UPDATE: Today (March 21, 2007) Democracy Now said that the death toll of journalists in Iraq has reached 187.

More Protest Pictures

Protest in Hungary. This is a beautiful picture of a group effort to speak of peace.

PHOTO: Demonstrators holding burning torches form the peace sign at the Heroes' Square in Budapest, March 17, 2007, calling for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq. REUTERS/Karoly Arvai (HUNGARY)

Fayetteville Peace March & Rally

“Yes to the Troops, No to the War”

PHOTO: Our headliner, legendary activist-singer Holly Near, shared her voice and experience with us at several points in the program. And one of the high points came when the children who had been at our Kids "Peace Train Station" came to the stage. She led them, and us, in "This Little Light of Mine." (Holly is the big kid at the right.)

This is my recollection of the rally in Fayetteville last Saturday. As one of the people who would be working a table, I arrived about 10 AM. I first pulled into a parking lot just by Rowan Park, and as I pulled in I noticed a group of two dozen or so individuals who looked like bikers. They were dressed in black leather and had patriotic symbols like flags with them. My first thought was that they looked really rough. Immediately after seeing them, a police officer came up to me and said I was in the wrong spot – this was a police parking lot. He told me to turn down the street and go into the first driveway to the park. That was when I noticed that the biker-looking crowd was standing on the street corner outside the park and it became clear that they were part of the counter-protest.

I turned into the park and the police had me stop while they took a police dog around the car twice. I don’t know if this was a bomb-sniffing dog or a drug-sniffing dog – or both – but after a few trips where the dog jumps up to the car (and probably scratched it, but it’s an old car, so I don’t care) they let me go in. Somehow, I got the impression that the cops were hoping for drugs, to make a bust or two. They had no luck.

I went to set up the table and the rally organizers had the music blaring. Good music, but I felt it was much too loud. After setting up and moving my car to the correct parking lot, I walked around and looked at the “Peace Ribbon Project.” One of the peace ribbons I had made two years ago was hanging up, but the other two were missing. I talked to the Code Pink lady who organized this project and she said some of the Peace Ribbons went to Amman with a Code Pink peace group – and the Iraqis there wanted to take the ones commemorating the deaths of Iraqis back to Iraq. She said they were delivered to the hometown listed for the person on the Peace Ribbon. So, it looks like two of my Peace Ribbons are now in Iraq since they commemorated the deaths of Iraqi civilians. More information on the PEACE RIBBON PROJECT HERE.

Others vendors and tablers started arriving at the rally, and soon the people in the Peace March started arriving. I have to admit – I did not see much of the program. And, oddly enough, while the sound was way too loud in the morning, I guess they turned a speaker around because now I could not hear them all that well in the afternoon. I was sitting at a table for Progressive Democrats of America and Progressive Democrats of North Carolina. It seemed that lots of people came up to talk and get information, and to buy IMPEACHMENT bumper stickers and STOP FUNDING WAR bumper stickers. Those two bumper stickers tell you a lot about what the Progressive Democrats of America are focusing on these days. I also had poster boards for people to sign – one was for a petition for ‘OUT OF IRAQ NOW’ and the other one was ‘WELCOME IRAQI REFUGEES TO NC.’ And people did sign those petitions, but not as many as I had hoped.

Meanwhile, the counter-protesters had gotten a hand-held amplifier and did their best to disrupt the program. I think they have the right to a counter protest, but not to intrude on another planned program. There were more police at this one rally in Fayetteville than we have seen at all of Asheville’s Peace Rallies combined for the last five years. And they would not even let anyone from our rally stand near that yellow tape at the edge of the park. The police also searched all the bags of people coming into the park, and made them leave anything dangerous at the bins by the search area. This included a glass bottle with water in it.


Also, there are two You Tube clips available of the Iraq Veteran’s Against the War speeches. The first speaker says “we need to leave Iraq” and the next speaker (Ricky Closing) said that after seeing abuses in Iraq, he decided that he could not be a part of the US military anymore.

First one is here.

Also posted below.

And the other is here.

Also posted below.

They are well worth watching, because the vets have the best perspective on this occupation of Iraq. In the background of the clips, you can hear the noises from the counter-protestors. The main speaker, Reverend Barber, was loud enough to drown them out.

It was a great rally, and there were no arrests (that I know about) or confrontations. I really question if Fayetteville is the best place to hold a rally – I do think we would get more people if it was held in Raleigh or Durham. I also think the counter-protesters would not bother to show up in another city. On the other hand, holding it in Fayetteville does send a message to the military who are stationed there.

This Saturday, March 24th, there will be a Peace Rally in Asheville, North Carolina. The theme is “Building Peace” and we will have speakers, poets, musicians and children’s activities. The time is from 2 to 4 PM and the location is in front of City Hall in downtown Asheville. Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 16, 2007


In the book, “In The Belly of The Green Bird” by Nir Rosen, he reports some of the justifications that Zarqawi gives for his use of violence. Zarqawi claims that beheading criminals and aggressors prevents bloodshed of innocent Muslims. He claims that burning the bodies of the Blackwater contractors by saying “Punish someone the way he punished you, so if cluster bombs burn bodies, we can burn bodies.”

A defender of Zarqawi claims that Muhammad was a messenger of mercy, but Muhammad’s mercy could not read the world without the defeat and decapitation of criminals and leaders of infidelity who obstruct his mercy. Another claim was that jihad was justified even if it caused the killing of Muslims, since it was better that Muslims die in the path of jihad rather than at the hands of Americans – it was also better that they die for jihad than live outside the laws of Allah (God). This was because democracy and secular rule in general, were a rejection of Allah, a rejection of God.

All of this sounds depressing like the American right wingnuts religious claims. They will claim that Jesus taught forgiveness and love, but the Muslims don’t understand that – they only understand force. Therefore, we have to fight them and subdue them – and the forgiveness stuff can go to hell, I suppose. They feel it is quite acceptable to kill innocents in the pursuit of war, and never even take note of that fact. They will also claim that it is better for people to get killed than to live under a ‘false religion’ which even includes many Christian faiths. Oh, and finally, they believe that we have to ‘fight them over there, so we don’t fight them over here’ so all this war and fighting saves the lives of innocent Christians.

Except, of course, it doesn’t. But neither side is terribly bright, in my opinion, so they fail to notice that their use of violence only leads to more violence.

Ali Nasir Jubar again

Ali Nasir Jabur is a boy in Tikrit whose family was murdered by gunmen wearing Iraqi Security Forces uniforms the night of August 21, 2005. He was the only member of his family to survive. He hid under a blanket and the gunmen missed him. I have blogged about him before in August 2005. In September 2005, I visited every US Senators office and left a picture of Ali and asked them to investigate this and stop the death squads in Iraq. None of them did.

This is an other piece of information about the Jaburi tribe and Tikrit, from Nir Rosen’s book, “In The Belly Of The Green Bird”. In his chapter The New Mongols: Summer –Fall 2003, he says that the Americans appointed a governor for Tikrit from the unpopular Juburi tribe, which increased local consternation. The new governor appointed his relatives to all positions, including police, traffic, communications, and college deans. He ads that Iraqis in Balad, Baquba and Samara all detested this governor and the fact that the Americans unilaterally appointed him. I have no idea if this is related to the violence against Ali’s family, but I wanted to make a note of it.

Also, in this chapter, the author says that an American intelligence officer claimed that the “Shia fingers” extended from Iran into Tikrit, even though Tikrit was almost 100% Sunni. A lot of the Tikriti people benefited from Saddam’s reign claimed a university student and the few (about 5%) who did not were very poor.


The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark. The small truth has words that are clear; the great truth has great silence. ~Tagore, from Stray Birds, CLXXVI

On Monday, March 19th, there will be a silent vigil in my town to mark the fourth anniversary of the start of the war and invasion and occupation of Iraq. There really are no words to address the reality that this country has committed genocide against the people of Iraq.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Road To Guantanamo

This film is very disturbing. It is also reality.

I watched this film on line, and even with my full knowledge of what the bush/cheney administration is up to, it was still very difficult for me to watch my fellow American act like brutes (at best) and like blood-thirsty evil vampires (at worst). The level of ignorance among the US military people was sobering. The level of brutality was totally disgusting.

The decisions made by rumsfeld, gonzales, bush, cheney that led to this prison camp being established is nearly unbelievable - in it's horror.

And yet, they have established mass prison camps inside the USA now. They are not torturing there (as far as I know) but they are mistreating innocent children. Today on Democracy Now! they had a ten year old Canadian boy who was detained in a prison camp along with his parents. They are kept separate, however. Their crime - they were on a flight that was not supposed to stop on US soil, but it did stop because of another passenger who had died. And these people did not have an appropriate visa, so now they are locked up in a prison camp, and the US taxpayers are footing the bill. And Halliburton is making a ton of money. This is so sick and so evil.

I will be showing the film "The Road to Guantanamo" next month here in Asheville. I did this at the request of Amnesty International. I also ordered "The Fog of War" and "Why We Fight" from Amazon. So, a friend suggested tonight that we have a summer film series at the library. We will alternate films about human rights abuses (and war is the worst example of that) and the environment.

Tomorrow I leave for Fayetteville Peace Rally.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

They are claiming violence is down from the surge

Violence in Baghdad

But the calm was broken after nightfall. The rumbling of artillery fire was heard throughout Baghdad.

In recent days, U.S. gunners have pummeled areas of south Baghdad used as suspected staging ground for car bombings and other attacks.

There was no immediate word from the military on the latest apparent barrage. Residents said the shelling was concentrated on the mostly Sunni area of Dora.

Two comments from the Today In Iraq blog:

Of course all the spin is that "violence has been down in Baghdad," because of course, this doesn't count as violence. And we will never find out what casualties or damage resulted, either. Well, of course, there weren't any -- this is just a method of maintaining security. -

"NPR is reporting that Petraeus is attacking Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad with artillery! Are these people completely fucking nuts?"

No, they're completely fucking sane. Sooner or later the Sunnis in Bagdhad are going to get the message that they have no friends there, and that only death awaits them. Then they leave. Then political killings and sectarian violence drops. Thus the surge was a success. Thus the Republicans have a chance of winning the next US election. Oh yes folks, we're dropping artillery shells on civilain neighbourhoods to ensure re-election in the greatest democracy in the world! - Rafer

What needs to happen...

What needs to happen is the cutting of any funding for this war. But, it is sadly looking less and less likely. The Democrats were elected because so many Americans were disgusted with this war...... a war that many of them once supported. And now the Democrats are hemming and hawing about - and not stepping up to stop the war.

Here's the kind of wonderful poetry you get when you don't stop evil wars:

The sun has made a veil of gold

So lovely that my body aches

Above, the heavens shriek with blue

Convinced I’ve smiled by some mistake.

The world’s abloom and seems to smile.

I want to fly but where, how high?

If in barbed wire, things can bloom

Why couldn’t I? I will not die!

Anonymous, 1944 “On A Sunny Evening

(Above written by a child who lived in the Terezin concentration camp.)

Damn all the war makers and the war supporters.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Grief and Lies

Iraqi women mourn the death of relatives killed in a suicide bombing in Baghdad, February 2007.

Iraq's sectarian war, which followed decades of repression and economic sanctions, has left the country's women marginalised, afraid and prey to increasingly radical ideological factions. (AFP/File/Wissam Al-Okaili)

The above statement is false. It was the invasion and occupation by US/UK military that caused all this chaos and laid the groundwork for all this violence. The women of Iraq are today worse off then they were under Saddam's rule. And the country is "increasingly radical" because the entire population of the country is suffering from PTSD. And the entire population has turned to more radical religion because of all this violence and instability and hardship. I wonder how they will ever recover from the genocide the bush/cheney administration has unleashed upon them. I wonder how we can ever make things okay ever again.

Remember their names

Human Rights Watch has put out a list of people who have been "detained" by CIA or other US forces. Currently, their whereabouts since the CIA kidnapping are unknown.

But based on accounts from former detainees, press articles, and other sources, Human Rights Watch has put together a list of 16 people whom we believe were once held in CIA prisons and whose current whereabouts are unknown. We have also compiled a separate list of 22 people who were possibly once held in CIA prisons and whose current whereabouts are also unknown.

The following people—whose name, nationality, and place and date of arrest are provided, where known—are believed to have once been held in secret CIA prisons:

1. Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (Libyan) (Pakistan, 11/01)

2. Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman (aka Asadallah) (Egyptian) (Quetta, Pakistan,2/03)

3. Yassir al-Jazeeri (Algerian) (Lahore, Pakistan, 3/03)

4. Suleiman Abdalla Salim (Kenyan) (Mogadishu, Somalia, 3/03)

5. Marwan al-Adeni (Yemeni) (approximately 5/03)

6. Ali Abd al Rahman al Faqasi al Ghamdi (Saudi) (Medina, Saudi Arabia, 6/03)

7. Hassan Ghul (Pakistani) (northern Iraq, 1/04)

8. Ayoub al-Libi (Libyan) (Peshawar, Pakistan, 1/04)

9. Mohammed al Afghani (Afghan born in Saudi Arabia) (Peshawar, Pakistan, 5/04)

10. Abdul Basit (probably Saudi or Yemeni) (arrested before 6/04)

11. Adnan (arrested before 6/04)

12. Hudeifa (arrested before 6/04)

13. Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan (aka Abu Talaha) (Pakistani) (Lahore, Pakistan, 7/04)

14. Muhammad Setmarian Naser (Syrian/Spanish) (Quetta, Pakistan, 11/05)

15. Unnamed Somali (possibly Shoeab as-Somali)

16. Unnamed Somali (possibly Rethwan as-Somali)

In addition, the following people may have once been held in secret CIA prisons:

1. Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi (presumably Iraqi) (1/02)

2. Anas al-Liby (Libyan) (Khartoum, Sudan, 2/02)

3. Retha al-Tunisi (Tunisian) (Karachi, Pakistan, early- to mid-2002)

4. Sheikh Ahmed Salim (aka Swedan) (Tanzanian) (Kharadar, Pakistan, 7/02)

5. Saif al Islam el Masry (Egyptian) (Pankisi Gorge, Georgia, 9/02)

6. Amin al-Yafia (Yemeni) (Iran, 2002)

7. _ al-Rubaia (Iraqi) (Iran, 2002)

8. Aafia Siddiqui (Pakistani) (Karachi, Pakistan, 3/03) –only female

9. Jawad al-Bashar (Egyptian) (Vindher, Balochistan, Pakistan, 5/03)

10. Safwan al-Hasham (aka Haffan al-Hasham) (Saudi) (Hyderabad, Pakistan, 5/03)

11. Abu Naseem (Tunisian) (Peshawar, Pakistan, 6/03)

12. Walid bin Azmi (unknown nationality) (Karachi, Pakistan, 1/04)

13. Ibad Al Yaquti al Sheikh al Sufiyan (Saudi) (Karachi, Pakistan, 1/04)

14. Amir Hussein Abdullah al-Misri (Egyptian) (Karachi, Pakistan, 1/04)

15. Khalid al-Zawahiri (Egyptian) (South Waziristan, Pakistan, 2/04)

16. Musaab Aruchi (aka al-Baluchi) (Pakistani) (Karachi, Pakistan, 6/04)

17. Qari Saifullah Akhtar (Pakistani) (arrested in the UAE, 8/04)

18. Mustafa Mohamed Fadhil (Kenyan/Egyptian) (eastern Punjab, Pakistan, 8/04)

19. Sharif al-Masri (Egyptian) (Pakistan border, 8/04)

20. Osama Nazir (Pakistani) (Faisalabad, Pakistan, 11/04)

21. Osama bin Yousaf (Pakistani) (Faisalabad, Pakistan, 8/05)

22. Speen Ghul (from Africa) (Pakistan)

Human Rights Watch is extremely concerned about the fate of these people. One possibility is that the CIA may have transferred some of them to foreign prisons where for practical purposes they remain under CIA control. Another worryingalternative is that prisoners were transferred from CIA custody to places where they face a serious risk of torture, in violation of the fundamental prohibition on returns to torture. We note that some of the missing prisoners are from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Syria, countries where the torture of terrorism suspects is common.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How are things going in Afghanistan?

How are things going in Afghanistan? I would have to say, not so good. A large number of people there are getting more and more upset over the killing of civilians by the NATO forces there, and they are upset when their source of cash is destroyed (poppy crops) without replacement. They are getting more and more upset with the NATO forces kicking in the doors of their hovels. These folks are desperately poor. The security situation is deteriorating and there is no increase in services, like clean water, that would make their live easier. If this does not change soon, we might as well just get out of there and leave them alone. They are turning more and more to the Taliban, and I believe that al Qaeda is getting stronger in Pakistan too. I write a blog on Afghanistan, if you would like more information.

I really feel that Pakistan is the country that is the greatest threat to the USA. And that's because Musharref (sp?) is only in power because of the military of Pakistan. The people do not particularly like him, and if they had fair and free elections, they would elect Islamic extremists. And once that happen, they not only would have nuclear weapons, they have F-16s to fly them anywhere. (The F-16s were sold to them by the bush administration. There is no end to their stupidity.)

And they hate America.

An Iraqi Woman writes to North Carolina

I got this message via an email:

“Dr. Zaydan has written to North Carolina to mark the 4th anniversary of our invasion. Please pass it on…….

In 2003, shortly after the U.S. invaded Iraq, Dr. Zaydan, a successful Baghdad doctor (pharmacist) and business woman sold her pharmacy and created an organization that networks homes, food, and supplies for widows and orphans in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Lebanon. Dr. Zaydan also cared for her four children and her aging parents. Her youngest, not twelve, has suffered this war since she was eight. Her husband, a successful engineer, is very supportive of her peace work despite their own struggles in Baghdad.

In March 2006, Dr. Rashad Zaydan was one of only five Iraqi women given a two week visa to come to the United States for speaking engagements. Dr. Zaydan zig-zag across the country speaking in front of the United Nations, Chicago, St. Louis, and DC. She came through North Carolina twice speaking at the Fayetteville Peace Rally and paying a visit in Charlotte, 4 days later she returned to Raleigh for an engagement at NC State University. During her visit in Raleigh, she had private meetings with Rep. David Price and Rep. Brad Miller.”

More about the Iraqi Women’s Tour HERE. This tour was arranged by Code Pink.

Code Pink has made a DVD about this tour, called Iraqi Women Speak. I bought a copy, watched it, and passed it on to the local progressive radio station. Dr. Zaydan spoke about her young daughter in this DVD, and how she called home and her daughter said she was so proud of her mother for trying to get peace for the people of Iraq. Her daughter claimed she was helping her father all she could around the house so that her mother could continue her important work for peace.

Below is Dr. Zaydan’s letter to North Carolina on the eve of the 4th anniversary of our invasion of Iraq:

Dear Friends,

A year has passed since my last visit to your state. I tried my best during that long trip to reach you all: statesmen, representatives, peace makers, teachers, students, ordinary people, VIPs, religious men, parents of US soldiers and even children. I tried hard to tell you the truth about what was happening in my country Iraq. I was far away from any watching eyes of politicians or media.

I have spent my life with the eyes of a mother watching her children growing up healthy, well educated, and useful to their people. I hoped their future would be great. Their dreams would come true. They would find promising jobs. They would be happily married. But, I find that my country has been occupied by foreign forces, with hundreds of thousands of civilians killed and some more thousands detained, and millions of unemployed, in addition to the destruction of all infrastructure. My hopes and dreams may not come true.

In Iraq, there are three million widows and some more orphans, along with a sectarian government supported by the occupier and neighboring countries. It was very painful for me to see for many times bodies of dead people thrown in the streets without being able to do anything other than crying. The medical oath I have sworn when I graduated from college to help any needy people seems as a dream from the past. Last year, many people asked me if I was concerned about the sectarian war that may break up in case the US would pull its troops. I always answered, “If this sectarian war is possible, it would have happened three years ago during the first days of the invasion when there were no authority in the country.” That did not happen. Our state was not built that way since it was born in 1921. The principles of the new state made by the present occupier do establish for this sectarian violence. Moreover, the borders of my country have not been well guarded. Fighters from different countries with different agendas kindle the fire of violence and keep it burning on and on.

What I did during my visit was to ask all of you to help stop this crisis and to listen for a while to the voices of widows, orphans, handicapped, wounded, grieving parents and all other victims of this mad war. I hoped your press would change something in our life. I hoped 2006 would not end before my country becomes free. Then, I will be able to take my children to school safely. I’ll be able to say “Hello” to my neighbors without being afraid of the shootings or bombings. I’ll see my son being wed in an ordinary ceremony with all my relatives and friends attending the wedding and celebrating late at night without being worried lest the curfew starts without being able to go back home. But my dream did not come true. I only see the number of widows sky rocketing, the orphans crying louder, the dead bodies scattered over pavements and garbage, the sick people getting worse with no hope of improving, resources shortening thin, houses being emptied of their inhabitants, universities emptied of their professors.

I heard that the voting of some of you changed. But I didn’t get any tangible results from it. On the contrary, some more 21000 US soldiers are packing their gears to come. Some of them have reached, while the others are supposed to come during these two months.

I was asked by one of my American friends who helped me last year to write a letter to you on the fourth anniversary for the invasion of my country. I can’t find more words to say. I just have one more thing to add. Try hard to stop this tragedy for the sake of yourselves, your families, your human rights principles, your true belief in freedom and democracy. All this violence will reverse on you and your generation. I once heard a professor in English said, “Violence breeds violence.” This is what your government is breeding. Try hard to convince your government to use your money in a wise way. Let it spread education, improve health care, achieve peace instead of killing and bombing civilians. Now you are paying for the deaths of your sons, for the disabilities of your brothers, for the misfortunes of your daughters, for the destruction of your resources. Let alone the death, disability, misfortune and destruction of my nation.

Dr. Rashad Zaydan

Baghdad – 5th March, 2007

A Video of Dr. Zaydan speaking in the USA in March 2006 can be found HERE. It is called "A Call For Peace." This talk includes pictures from Iraq. She speaks in this video about her fears that everyone in Iraq will become a fighter if the US forces do not leave her country.

And here is a story about another one of the women that Code Pink brought to the USA, a women who is a friend of mine, Faiza Al-Araji:

Speakers: ‘Leave Iraq to the Iraqis

The words rushed out of Faiza Al-Araji. She called the Bush administration "criminals," new Iraqi leaders puppets and the media guilty of keeping Americans "ignorant and blind. The mission of the war is not a noble mission," she said. "It is a dirty mission. Saddam Hussein took people away. Now we are suffering from new criminals." Al-Araji is a civil engineer who managed a Baghdad water treatment company before the war began. She later paid ransom to free one of her three sons — whom she said the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior jailed without filing a charge — then fled with her family to Jordan.

Their message is clear – the US forces have to get out of Iraq, and the sooner the better.

The website Alive In Baghdad, not at all connected to Code Pink, has a video clip of another women doctor from Iraq. Dr. Haseeba (who has practiced medicine in Baghdad for forty years) has this to say to the American people:

"I want the American people to understand something, don’t be fooled. The democracy your government claims to bring to other countires is a lie, it’s untrue.
......We don’t want the US Government’s democracy. Spare us its evil.
......So please leave our country."

Also, over in Afghanistan things are not so good. Demonstrations were held there over the recent killing of civilians by US forces. One man was carrying a sign that said:

Killer Bush! Stop the Killings of Innocent Afghans. Down Down America.

As regards to Afghanistan, I don't know what we should do. The current path that we are on there does not look good, but I can not come to a firm conclusion on what course of action I think the US government should take.

I am very clear on what the US should do in the country of Iraq. LEAVE.

I am really losing patience with the Americans who claim we should stay in Iraq for the benefit of the Iraqi people. I am particularly losing patience with the ones who never even talked to an Iraqi person, and really don't understand the level of suffering that our occupation has visited on them. We have opened the gates of hell. The claim that we can make things better in Iraq, or keep the people there safe, flies in the face of any reasonable assessment of the situation. The claim that we can somehow still "win" this war goes against history, logic, common sense and the trajectory of the past four years.

Today, about 2% of the Iraqi population is dead from the invasion and occupation. That would be equivalent to 6 million dead in the United States. No one knows how many are injured, but a great many of them are suffering from mental health problems for the violence they have been subjected to since the invasion.

Today, between 8% to 12% of the population of Iraq is displaced. This would be equivalent to 24 to 36 million displaced Americans. Imagine 12 to 18 million Americans having moved to Mexico, 6 to 9 million to Canada, and another 6 to 9 million internally displaced. Keep in mind that Katrina had a death toll under 2,000 and only 400,000 internally displaced.

Here are some photos of that show the current suffering of Iraqi people. If you are under the impression that no Iraqi civilian deaths are from US military action, look closely at the photos from February 22, 2007.

Dr. Zaydan talks about the poor state of health care in Iraq, with often no medicines for treatment. We all know about the lack of electricity, the lack of security, the lack of clean drinking water, lack of employment – did you know that 4.5 million Iraqi children are now malnourished?

It is genocide.
The definition of genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political or cultural group. The culture of Iraq is being destroyed by this occupation. The fabric of life is torn asunder. It is genocide. We must stop this. I like to think of it as "george’s genocide" but the truth is the citizens of this country ARE responsible for what our government does with our tax dollars.

The only freedom we are bringing the Iraqi people is the freedom of the grave. The only democracy we are bringing the Iraqi people is the democracy of death.

bush/cheney and their administration does not care one whit what happens to the people of Iraq, and they never did care, and they never will care.

They are in Iraq to control the energy sources and thereby promote American corporate dominance, and western corporate expansionism in the world.

On Saturday, March 17th please gather in Fayetteville or DC to rally for peace (Asheville, March 24th). Clearly our votes are not enough. We must support the troops and the Iraqi people by standing for peace! And we must do more than rally and march and lobby. We have to stop this illegal and brutal occupation.

Fayetteville March and Rally

DC March and Rally

Asheville Rally

Monday, March 05, 2007

Clark's interview on Democracy Now!

This is a short review of some of what Clark said on Democracy Now! program this past Friday.

There are some areas where Clark is right – like in repealing the Military Commissions Act, in shutting down Guantanamo Bay. And, while I don’t think the bush/cheney administration is planning on bombing Iran, it does not hurt to have a petition calling for no war on that country, which I signed.

However, I do think the threats and posturing towards Iran by bush/cheney is part of a larger plan – to get the entire region fighting each other, and thereby make them weaker. Making them weaker means it will be easier to control the resources of the region (and you know what that is) and insure American corporations have that oil for their own expansionism. In prior wars, armies invaded and conquered other countries to attain land for food production for their home population. Today, wars are being fought to attain control over energy resources, for the benefit of some of the home population. This is why we have 170 bases around the world – not that we are in need of them for our safety and defense.

On to Clark’s interview earlier this week and what I see is wrong with his position to continue the war on Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Congress should stop funding the war?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: I think Congress should take a strong stand to get the strategy changed. I don't think that if you cut off funding for the war, it’s in the -- right now that's not in the United States' interest. What is in the United States’ interest is to change the strategy in the war. You cannot succeed by simply stopping the funding and saying, “You've got six months to get the Americans out.” That's not going to end the misery in Iraq. It's not going to restore the lives that have been lost. And it's not going to give us the power in the region to prevent later threats.

First off, NOTHING is going to restore the lives that have been “lost” as he said. That is because these lives are not “lost” they are ENDED. They are DEAD. And to say that we should stay in Iraq because leaving will not end the misery is a fallacious argument. The occupation of Iraq is the source of a great deal of the misery. Dismantling a functioning government and letting chaos rule is what lead to this misery. And associating Iraq with “future threats” leads justification to prior COMPLETELY FALSE claims that Iraq was a threat to the US in 2003 when we invaded.

He mentions that cutting the funding is “not in the United States interest” without any mention of what might be in the best interests of Iraq. Does not even figure into his consideration. It is like they don’t exist! So, he thinks the funding, and therefore the illegal and immoral occupation of this country that never attacked or threatened the USA, should continue. And the killing and dying should continue. Recently, the US forces were shelling civilian areas in Baghdad. Yet Clark believes that because it is the American military there in Iraq, the Iraqi people must somehow be benefiting – and never mind the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And since “we don’t do body counts” then there is no reason to notice all the dead Iraqis, which number somewhere between 400,000 to a million. And the killing is not slowing down, it is increasing.

Well, he does think the Congress should take a strong stand to change the strategy. No mention of how they might make bush/cheney follow such a strategy – they sure did not listen to the Iraq Study Group, did they? But, assuming that Congress could force the bush/cheney administration could change the strategy, he’s what he proposes:

CLARK: What we do have to do is have a strategy that uses all the elements of America's power: diplomatic, economic, legal and military. I would send a high-level diplomatic team into the region right now. I’d have no-holds-barred and no-preconditioned discussion with Iran and Syria. And I would let it be known that I’ve got in my bag all the tricks, including putting another 50,000 troops in Iraq and pulling all 150,000 troops out. And we're going to reach an agreement on a statement of principles that brings stability and peace and order to the region. So let's just sit down and start doing it. Now, that could be done with the right administrative leadership. It just hasn't been done.

And it won’t be done either, but let’s pretend it will. What’s wrong with this picture? Clark wants to discuss things with Iran and Syria to bring stability and peace and order to the region. No mention of Iraq. No mention of Saudi Arabia – where most of the foreign resistance has come from. No mention of all the other countries in the region that are impacting on this situation, and no mention of the area-wide hatred for the way the Israeli-Palestinian issues have been handled by the US.

And when looking at the statement above about the strategy needed – and his prior comment about “giving us power in the region to prevent future threats” I have the suspicion that he is fully on board with bush/cheney’s plan for American expansionism – that is, control of the oil resources in the region. It’s like they all got together up there in DC and decide that we are such special people that we are actually own all that oil underneath their sand! The only “threat” from the region, with the exception of terrorism, is the “threat” of them not selling us their oil at the price we like or maybe, not sell it at all. But the fact is we have no rights or claims to that oil. NONE! It is not ours! And as far as the terrorism threat goes – well, that got started by the US setting up bases in Saudi Arabia, which really pissed off our former ‘friends’ known as al Qaeda. Of course, our stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was another excuse for terrorism.

Discussing what would happen if the US pulls out:

CLARK: But when you leave, the Saudis have got to find someone to fight the Shias. Who are they going to find? Al-Qaeda, because the groups of Sunnis who would be extremists and willing to fight would probably be the groups connected to al-Qaeda. So one of the weird inconsistencies in this is that were we to get out early, we’d be intensifying the threat against us of a super powerful Sunni extremist group, which was now legitimated by overt Saudi funding in an effort to hang onto a toehold inside Iraq and block Iranian expansionism.

This is exactly what bush/cheney is doing right now – funding and arming extremist Sunni groups in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. (Oh, and they are arming and funding Fatwa too.) The US taxpayer is, once again, funding and arming groups that hate us. And that fits into bush/cheney’s overall goals: mass fighting and chaos and violence across the Middle Eastern countries. The general idea is “let’s you and him fight” all across the region – this serves two purposes: 1) weaken those countries, just like they weaken Iraq before invading and occupying it and 2) cook up a reason for US troops to stay there – and thereby maintain control over the expansionist goal of controlling the oil.

And Clark is wrong to think that pulling out will intensify the threat of a Sunni extremist group – it is actually the opposite. After all, if the occupation of a Islamic country (Palestine) by an ally (Israel) pissed them off, what would an occupation of an Islamic country (Iraq) by OURSELVES accomplish? That’s right – they will hate us even more. With every bomb we drop that kills an innocent Muslim, that hatred grows. With every home search, with every detention of a Muslim man that broke no laws, with every checkpoint shooting – they hate us more and wish to strike us even more.

It is our occupation of Iraq that is increasing terrorism world wide in the past few years. And the al Qaeda terrorists state this time and time again, but we don't need them to tell us.

Clark is right that there is more and more threat of a conflict between Saudi Arabia (and other Arab states) and Iran. But bush/cheney and their policies are only making this worse, and that is not an accidental outcome. They are doing it on purpose, just like they launched the “roadmap to peace” to promote more friction in the country of Palestine. And they are doing it for American expansionism which what we really need to worry about - not Iranian expansionism. And there are two responses to expansionism - capitulate or flight. Guess which one the people of Iraq are choosing?


CLARK: (regarding an invasion of Haiti in 1994) And so, Shali came back, and so I said to him, I said, “Well, sir, we've been talking amongst ourselves, and we're happy to work all weekend to get all this done, but this is just a drill, right, on Haiti?”

He looked at me, and he said, “Wes,” he said, “this is no drill.” He said, “I’m not authorized to tell you this. But,” he said “the decision has been made, and the United States will invade Haiti. The date is the 20th” -- I think it was this date -- “of the 20th of September. And the planning must be done, and it must be done now. And if any of you have reservations about this, this is the time to leave.” So I looked at Jack, and I looked at Walt. They looked at me. I mean, we kind of shrugged our shoulders and said, “OK, if you want to invade Haiti, I mean, it's not illegal. It's not the country we'd most like to invade. The opposition there consists of five armored vehicles. But sure, I mean, if the President says to do it, yeah, we're not going resign over it.” And so, we didn't resign. Nobody resigned.

I find his casual acceptance of an order to invade another country that was not a threat to the USA, much less attacked our country, to be appalling.

We do not have 170 military bases around the world for the benefit of the world’s people or for our own safety and defense. We have them to control other countries and resources. We have them to promote expansionism that the bush/cheney and the PNAC paper spells out so well. This concept of American “expansionsim” must be stopped.