Sunday, November 30, 2008

Upcoming events in the area this week

U.S. Army specialist Andre Shepherd listens to reporter's questions during a news conference in Frankfurt, November 27, 2008. Shepherd announced that he left his unit in June 2007 after serving in Iraq. He is currently "Absent Without Leave" and requested asylum in Germany.

REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach (GERMANY)

Upcoming events in our area this week are listed on the WNC Peace Coalition blog.


This past week in Iraq


A mother kisses the face of her dead son in the morgue of the local hospital in the northeastern town of Baquba on November 27 2008. The teenager was shot dead this morning by unknown assailants. AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)

A WEEK IN IRAQ – this information came from Reuters,, Getty Images, and Iraq Today blog. This is probably not a complete list of security incidents in Iraq. This report covers the week of November 23rd to November 29th. At least 165 people died from violence in Iraq this week. The real number is likely much higher. I put this together for a radio show, Veteran's Voices, which is on WPVM.

Sunday, November 23rd – At least 11 Iraqis were killed and another 37 injured in Iraq on Sunday. 8 bodies were discovered in a mass grave in Babel province. 9 bodies were discovered in a mass grave in Muwaylaha. This grave was estimated to be one year old. 1 person was killed and 6 wounded by a bombing in the Karrada district of Baghdad. 4 more people were wounded by a second bombing later in the day. 4 more were wounded by a third bombing in Baghdad. 4 more were wounded by a sticky bomb attached to a car in Baghdad. 1 person was killed and 4 more wounded in yet another bombing in Baghdad. 5 more were wounded by a sixth bombing in Baghdad, targeting Agriculture Ministry workers. A journalist was injured during an attack outside his office in Baghdad. A body was found murdered on the streets of Baghdad. A car bomb wounded 7 people in Mosul, including one Iraqi soldier. 2 policemen were wounded when gunmen attacked their checkpoint in Tikrit. A US patrol was turned away from a university in Diwaniya. They were told they could enter in civilian dress if they made an appointment and brought no weapons. Protests continue in Baghdad against the US – Iraqi SOFA.

Monday, November 24th – At least 34 Iraqis were killed and another 31 wounded across Iraq on Monday. A female suicide bomber blew herself up at the entrance to the Green Zone in Baghdad. 7 Iraqis were killed, including one pregnant woman, and 13 more were wounded. Reportedly, this bomb was detonated by remote control. A bomb attached to a bus used by the Trade Ministry to ferry employees to work exploded shortly before 8 AM in eastern Baghdad. 14 ministry employees and 1 child were killed and 7 people were wounded. A roadside bomb near the Technology Institute killed 2 and wounded 4 more in Baghdad. A car bomb was defused in Baghdad. 3 brothers were killed by a small arms attack in Muqdadiyah, east of Baquba. 6 people were wounded by mortars in Madaen, south of Baghdad. 1 lawyer was killed in a drive-by shooting in Kirkuk. Another man, a clan chief, was killed in a separate drive-by shooting in Kirkuk. An Armenian Church suffered damages in a bombing in Kirkuk, but no injuries were reported. A bomb blast in Baquba killed a policeman. 1 policeman was gunned down and killed in Mosul. 1 Iraqi soldier was injured by gunfire in a different section of Mosul. Another policeman was killed by another sniper in Mosul. And 1 more policeman was injured by gunfire in anther neighborhood of Mosul. A farmer was kidnapped in Bishkan by five gunmen. 1 civilian was wounded by a roadside bomb in Dyluiya.

Tuesday, November 25th – At least 6 Iraqis were killed, 10 more wounded, and 3 US military personnel died in Iraq on Tuesday. Clashes in Duluiya resulted in 2 people killed and four wounded. This incident happened because of a kidnapping yesterday. 2 people were injured by a bomb blast in Baghdad. 6 more people were injured aby two mortar bombs in Salman Pak, which is south of Baghdad. Gunman in Mosul wounded a ten year old child. 2 bodies were fished out of the Tigris River. They had gunshot wounds and signs of torture. US forces killed 2 Iraqis in Rawah. A gunman dressed in an Iraqi army uniform killed 1 US soldier and 1 US Marine in Baaji. 2 more Marines and 3 Iraqis were also wounded in the incident. 1 US soldier died of non-combat causes in Diyala province.

Wednesday, November 26th – At least 35 Iraqis were killed and 24 were wounded in violence across Iraq on Wednesday. In Diyala province, a mass grave gave up 23 bodies. This mass grave was estimated to be a year and a half old. 2 were killed and 10 wounded by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. 5 policemen were wounded by another bombing in Baghdad. 4 more Iraqis were wounded by a third bombing in Baghdad, and 2 more were wounded by a forth bombing in Baghdad. 2 police men were wounded by a fifth roadside bombing in Baghdad. 1 unidentified body was found in south Baghdad. 6 bodies were discovered in Samarra, and they were recently killed. 4 security personnel were killed and 1 more wounded during a roadside bombing near Tikrit. Gunmen wounded 1 man in Kut. 1 Iraqi was wounded by a roadside bomb in Baquba. 2 roadside bombs were successfully defused in Duluiya. In northern Iraq, 18 potential female suicide bombers handed themselves over to US authorities after family and religious leaders urged them to do so. Russia issued a statement requesting an investigation following a traffic altercation between US and Russian convoys that injured 3 Russian diplomats.

Thursday, November 27th At least 8 Iraqis were killed and 43 more were wounded in Iraq on Thursday. 6 people were wounded in Mosul by a suicide bomber. In another attack, 2 people were killed in Mosul and 28 others wounded by a second suicide bomber. 1 Iraqi soldier was killed and three more wounded during a bombing in Baghdad. 1 policeman was killed by another bomb, which was planted in his car, in Baghdad. 1 Iraqi was killed and 6 wounded by an IED in Baghdad. 6 civilians were wounded by another roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad. US forces killed 1 Iraqi in Garma. 1 Iraqi teenager was killed by unknown gunmen in Baquba. The Iraqi parliament passed a contentious US - Iraqi SOFA on Thursday.

Friday, November 28th At least 21 Iraqis were killed and 58 more were wounded across the country on Friday, while thousands of Sadr supporters protested the passage of the US-Iraqi SOFA agreement in Baghdad and Basra. A suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest hit a mosque in Mussayab where 12 people were killed and 19 wounded. A suicide car bomber in Baghdad killed 2 people and wounded 14. 1 person was wounded in a blast near a US base in Sadr City in Baghdad. 1 person was wounded by a roadside bomb targeting a US patrol in Baghdad. 2 suspected militants were killed by US forces in Karrada neighborhood in Baghdad. 2 more people died in Mosul from wounds received in Thursday’s bombing, and 12 more wounded were reported. 2 Iraqi soldiers were killed when they raided a booby-trapped home near Baquba, and 3 more were wounded. 4 policemen were wounded in a bombing in Khanaquin, just northeast of the city of Baquba. 3 policemen were wounded by a IED bomb in Duluiya. 1 child was killed in Kut, and 2 family members wounded, when a Katyusha rocket fell on their home. 1 man was killed in a raid by Iraqi Security forces in Basra. F-16s from Turkey waged an air raid at Kurdish Workers Party in northern Iraq. A number of places were shelled, but there were no reports of deaths or injuries. There was a rocket attack at Camp Victory in Baghdad, but no injuries were reported. Japan announced the end of its air force mission in Iraq.

Saturday, November 29th – At least 44 Iraqis were killed and 32 more wounded across the country on Saturday. In addition, a rocket attack in Baghdad, near the Green Zone killed 3 UN contractors and wounded 15 others, some very seriously. Their nationalities were not released. A series of mass graves gave up 33 bodies in Albu Toma area of Diyala province. A women and a child were among the dead, and the victims were likely killed about a year ago. Al Qaeda is blamed for the murders. Further mass graves are expected to be found in the area. 1 civilian was killed and 3 wounded by a bomb in Karrada neighborhood of Baghdad. Another car bomb in Baghdad killed 3 people and injured 13 more. 4 policemen were wounded by a roadside bomb in Baghdad. 3 civilians were wounded by another bomb stuck to a car in Baghdad. 1 body was dumped on the streets of Baghdad. 2 brothers were killed in an attack on their jewelry shop in Mosul, and the attackers left behind two bombs behind which killed 1 police officer and wounded 11 police officers and 7 civilians. 4 policemen were killed in Saidiya by a bomb. 4 suspected militants were killed by US forces in Tuz Khormato. Two provincial council members from the province of Wassit were released after two years of detention by US forces. They were released without explanation. Bosnia held a farewell ceremony for their soldiers today, and South Korea has one scheduled for next week.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Funeral in Gaza

Palestinians mourn over the body of Mohamed al-Kurd, 62, a father of an Arab family who was recently evicted from their house in east Jerusalem by the Israeli forces, during his funeral at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem on November 23, 2008. Palestinian relatives claim Mohamed al-Kurd died of sorrow after him and his family were evicted from their east Jerusalem house where they lived for than 50 years. AFP/PHOTO MENAHEM KAHANA (Photo credit should read MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

SOA Watch - Part Two

After finishing my post on my experiences on Saturday, I went to a workshop on “Depleted Uranium Weapons: Why Not Believe the Pentagon?”. The speaker (who’s name I did not catch) said that there are over 700 tons of depleted uranium in the US, and these were first used in weapons in 1989 bombing of Panama. They were also used in the 1991 Gulf War. In 1991, we shot 350 tons of DU. The Doha fire caused radiation weapons to go off in that conflict. Just last winter the US military dug up contaminated sand in Kuwait to be buried in Idaho, again from the first Gulf War.

He talked about the experimentation in the 1940’s on US troops with exposure to nuclear radiation. He said that starting in 1984, DU was used as a counter balance weight on planes. The problem is when they crash and catch fire, the burning DU causes irradiation of internal tissues. He also talked about how the EU has demanded a stop to DU weapons, but NATO just says it is not a problem. Underestimating the health effects of radiation from exploded DU has been consistent with NATO. Cancer usually occurs 20 to 30 years after exposure. Over a half million people in the US die from cancer each year. DU is very effective against tanks, since it is a very heavy metal. It also alters DNA alteration.

Later that evening, Rachel, Oliver, Tim and I went to see the movie “Soldiers of Conscience”. This is a powerful movie, showing how four soldiers/Marines who were sent to Iraq came to realize that they could not continue with the assault on the Iraqi people. It also includes some soldiers who say that it is their duty to kill, but their arguments are pretty weak. It covers how the military turns young men and women into killing machines. I know I would never make it out of basic training – they have to go stab dumbies and yell KILL, KILL, KILL! It is sickening. More information on the movie, and to see the trailer, go to Soldiers of Conscience website.

Sunday morning started early – we were one of the first cars in the parking lot. I’m not sure why Rachel wanted to get there so early, but it did give us time to connect with Claire and transfer her luggage to my car. There were some speakers and music at the beginning of the day, and this included guidelines on non-violence and prayer readings. Father Roy Bourgeois, a founder of SOA Watch, also spoke for a brief spell.

And then there was a solemn procession with the white crosses. The reason for the SOA Watch started with the killing of six Jesuit priests in 1989 in El Salvador. And there are many other victims, and they try to make sure that ALL the victims are remembered. Since it was Christians that were mainly killed, there are crosses, reflecting the fact that most of the violence was directed against Christians. The roots of the violence also came from a nation – the USA – that considers itself Christian also. Pretty bizarre, considering that Christianity was founded by a totally non-violent person.

The reading of a name was followed by the entire crowd singing “presente” after each name. This was beautiful, and took about two hours. As this event was going on, people walked with their crosses and put them on the fence, in one fashion or another. I put mine in the farthest left reaches of the fence. I think some people walked in the slow procession the entire time, but I went up a driveway and took some photos, and later sat down on a chair. It was a draining experience. It is something to hear all those names – and I wish we could do something like this for the victims of America’s recent wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.

This was followed by the Puppetista Pageant, and then musical acts. I walked back to my car to put away some books I had purchased, and I left my camera and coat there. As I was walking back, I saw a large group of young adults walking down the street, outside the protest area and headed towards Victory Drive.

I walked with them. It was really, really fun because this was spontaneous and totally a surprise to the police there. Helicopters had hovered overhead nearly all day long, and they followed this march into the streets too. The protesters blocked most of the traffic on one side of the road (a six lane road) and all the walkers were busy shouting chants like “hey hay, ho, ho, the SOA has got to go”. This is the first time ever that the protest left the designated area, and there were thousands of protesters on the street. I dropped out fairly early, and walked back to my car. I did see about seven police cars on a side road. They were clearly thrown for a loop! I wish I had my camera at that point to take pictures, but I didn’t. Anyway, the group walked down a long block of Victory Drive, turned right on a side street, and the turned again on a side street that brought them back to the rally area. This was the best part of the weekend for me – because we took back the streets, if only for a few minutes. Considering where this country is headed, I am beginning to think that we will have to have many mass protests in the streets, and occupations of our cities, in order to turn things around. I am proud to say "I went with the kids". I know they were young adults, but once you pass fifty, they somehow become "kids".

Here is one of many songs to close the SOA:

Now is the time for us to raise our voice;
Hasn’t there been enough that’s been destroyed?
Now is the time for us to use our hands;
So we can spred the truth throughout the land.

And another one:

No mas, no more, shout the hills of Salvador
Echo the voices of the world, we cry out “NO MAS! NO MORE!”
No mas, no more, we must stop the dirty wars,
Companeros, companeras, we cry out “NO MAS! NO MORE!”

This post is dedicated to those who died or suffered from the SOA, and all those who crossed into Fort Benning and got arrested for civil disobedience. It is the later group of Americans that will one day change things. Here is a link to a Washington Post report on the protest on November 23, 2008.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Upcoming Events in the area this week

Photo is from Sunday morning at the SOA Watch. I hope to have another post up soon on my time there. It was awesome, and I sure hope it does some good. There were dozens of people there from the western part of North Carolina, including 42 from Warren Wilson College. I had a great weekend traveling with Rachel, who came from Celo. This is some of the people from the Peace Walk, who arrived on Friday, but this was from their coming onto the protest area early Sunday morning.

There is information on upcoming events in the area on the WNC Peace Coalition blog.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

First time at the SOA Watch – Part One

Yesterday, I arrived in Columbus, GA for my first time ever. I am here to protest at Fort Benning, and to protest the US policies of kidnapping, torture, murder, and war. It was looking a bit dicey early Friday morning when Rachel arrived at my home – it was snowing and there were dozens of car wrecks locally. However, it didn’t look too bad and I figured the further south we got, the better our chances. So we took off for Georgia.

The first event we attended was “Respect Democracy: How your tax dollars buy Latin American elections.” I don’t think this was part of the program, but a women named Maria Guardado got up and spoke about her time being tortured, raped and kidnapped. I didn’t take notes, so I cannot fill you in on the details, but I can tell you that it was difficult to hear her story….. and I have no doubt she was speaking the truth.

The session was about the Respect for Democracy Campaign. They spoke about the taxpayer funded ‘National Endowment for Democracy’ and how this organization is NOT promoting democracy, but instead promoting corporate interests in other countries. They manipulate elections around the world in ways that would be quite illegal here in the USA, and when that does not work, they (and US AID) they support efforts to overthrow governments that do not subordinate themselves to US and corporate interests. Some recent examples of this is Venezuela and Haiti. This ‘National Endowment for Democracy’ has support from Republicans and Democrats. And even though it is mainly funded by US taxpayers, it is officially a “private” organization, thereby allowing it to operate without oversight by the public or by Congress.

One example of what they have done is the election in Nicaragua in 1990. They spent over $20 per voter in Nicaragua to get a right wing candidate elected president. Here is a clip from their handout, describing the basic problem with the ‘National Endowment for Democracy:

Whenever and wherever people say NO to corporate privatization of natural resources and public services, whenever and wherever people demand fair wages and economic opportunities versus mega-profits for the few, the US government steps in to try and manipulate the electoral process. Whether by funding campaigns, buying votes, making threats, or even sponsoring coup d’etats, the goal is the same: where there’s a conflict, make sure corporate greed trumps human needs.
They are asking for the National Endowment for Democracy to be shut down. And, really, even if it was a good thing (which it is not), why are we spending our tax dollars on elections in other countries? That is just stupid. The Respect for Democracy Campaign is a project of the Alliance for Global Justice. More information can be found at their website.

This was followed by a movie on Don White. Now, I had not heard of Don White, and I clearly missed something by not knowing him personally. He died earlier this year, and he was clearly quite the activist and funny as can be. The movie was called “Don White in His Own Words”. I recommend watching that if you have chance.

Saturday morning started with a large Plenary Session, with speakers, singers, musicians. They had everyone who had crossed the line and gone to prison stand up, and they had all the first-timers to the SOA Watch raise their hands. It was a good sized crowd, and this was held in the Columbus Convention Center. One of the speakers was Rabbi Lerner, and he said he was holding a session on “Helping Obama Be Obama” afterwards. People were generally happy that Obama has been elected and “Yes, We Can” was heard often during this session – in English and in Spanish. Rabbi Lerner wants to get an active group working on Obama’s positions so that he will overcome the inside-the-beltway culture and become a manifestation of God’s will. There are, by the way, LOTS of people here who are working for various faith organizations. The Catholics are very well represented.

This was followed by the Rally at the Gates of Fort Benning. More good music, more speeches and motivational talks, more stories of horror that came directly from the US Government’s policies. I left the rally early to share my day with you, so thank you for reading! I am leaving shortly to go to a workshop on depleted uranium, and later tonight will see a film called “Soldiers of Conscience”.

I want to dedicate this blog post to Ruth, an Asheville activist, who could not make this SOA Watch, but has been to many in the past – and to Clare, an Asheville activist, who crossed the line and went to prison in years past. These are pictures of the events today. I will write a “Part Two” but probably not until Monday.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Lt. Col. Reflects on the militarization of the USA

Photo: U.S. Army soldiers from Hawk Company, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment verify an Iraqi man's identification and check for his name on a list of wanted terrorists as they conduct a sweep in a village near Muqdadiyah, about 90 kilometers (60 miles) north of Baghdad in Iraq's volatile Diyala province on Friday, Aug. 1, 2008.

(AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

I would bet that the names are not written in Arabic, since the US soldiers likely cannot read Arabic. That means that the names have been translated to English, and since there are sounds in Arabic that are not present in English, there could be several different translations.

Retired Lt. Col. William J. Astore:

But here's the question to ponder: At what price virtuosity? In World War I and World War II, the Germans were the best soldiers because they had trained and fought the most, because their societies were geared, mentally and in most other ways, for war, because they celebrated and valued feats of arms above all other contributions one could make to society and culture.

Being "the best soldiers" meant that senior German leaders -- whether the Kaiser, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, that Teutonic titan of World War I, or Hitler -- always expected them to prevail. The mentality was: "We're number one. How can we possibly lose unless we quit -- or those [fill in your civilian quislings of choice] stab us in the back?"

If this mentality sounds increasingly familiar, it's because it's the one we ourselves have internalized in these last years. German warfighters and their leaders knew no limitations until it was too late for them to recover from ceaseless combat, imperial overstretch, and economic collapse.

Today, the U.S. military, and by extension American culture, is caught in a similar bind. After all, if we truly believe ours to be "the world's best military" (and, judging by how often the claim is repeated in the echo chamber of our media, we evidently do), how can we possibly be losing in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Of course, we are losing in Iraq and Afghanistan because we are fighting against the native peoples of those countries, who will not go away or give up. I wish they (the people of Iraq and Afghanistan) had stuck with doing NON-VIOLENT resistance. I believe that they would have succeeded sooner, and with vastly less toll on the people who live there, and with less damage to the culture and historical artifacts.

But like the Germans, I often think that Americans will not turn their backs on war-making unless one of two things happens: war comes to our front porches, or we go broke. Of course, if war comes to us, we will likely end up broke anyway.

I am headed to Fort Benning this weekend, to join the protest of the School of the Americas.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Haditha Massacre Report

A report of the killing of civilians in Haditha Iraq by Al Jazeera in English.

Eyewitness report about Haditha Massacre

Here you can hear from the girl who survived the American killings in November 2005.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pakistan protests

Photo: Activists of Pakistan's main fundamentalist Islamic party of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) carry placards as they shout slogans during an anti-US rally in Lahore on July 15, 2008. Hundreds of Islamists held the rally against the US forces operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and demanded their withdrawal. AFP PHOTO/Arif ALI (Photo credit should read Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

I would say they don't like our policies at all, and probably don't like Americans very much. It is understandable - we keep bombing them and killing off innocent people in their own homes. They are right to be angry.

I got a real bit of nonsense from Senator Burr this past July. He sent a letter to me in response to my letter saying that Luis Posada Carriles should be extradited to Cuba or Venezuela because there is a lot of evidence suggesting that he was behind the bombing of a civilian airliner. Senator Burr does not agree with that idea, and this was his reasoning:

"The United State requires sufficient reassurance from countries receiving people extradited from the United States that those people will not be tortured."

I wrote back:
I suppose this is a joke, but I don't find it funny. The US has shipped hundreds of people places where they were tortured - often by Americans. This is shameful.
I sent my response to the Asheville office. Heard nothing back.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Asheville Holiday Parade 2007

In memory of what happened last year - while we are starting up another holiday season. This was put together by Kinda, and it is excellent.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Upcoming events in the area this week

The picture of occupation:

An Iraqi family sits in the courtyard of their farm as US soldiers search the premises for weapons in Mullah Eid village just south of Baquba. A suicide car bomb has exploded at a police checkpoint in Iraq's volatile Diyala province, killing at least 15 people, including seven policemen, a security official has said. (AFP/File/Patrick Baz)

The Iraqi parliament is going to vote soon on the Status of Forces Agreement. A lot of (not well informed) Americans think this will mean that the US occupation will end in 2011. Meanwhile, many Iraqis are protesting this SOFA deal, because they think it means the occupation will continue until who-knows-when. And the Iraqis are correct.

And meanwhile, there are several events in the area this week, including a talk on Peace in the Middle East on Monday and a talk on Forgiveness on Thursday. Then, this weekend, the protest to close the School of the Americas will be held in Columbus, GA. I plan on going to that, for the first time. It should be interesting. I was going to camp out, but the weather is due to get down into the 20's at night down there in Georgia..... burr......

Anyway, a listing of local events can be found here.

Have a peaceful week.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

And on the day we voted….

On the day we voted, the US military dropped some more bombs in Afghanistan, and hit a wedding party. And this report said that dozens of women and children were killed, but another report (sorry, no link) said that 23 children were killed.

And, just a few days before the election, Obama had this to say on MSNBC:

Interview on Oct 30, 2008

MADDOW: I have a national security question for you about Afghanistan. You have argued, as had John McCain argued and now the Bush administration agrees that we need more troops in Afghanistan. Why do more troops in Afghanistan equal a higher likelihood of success? What's the exit strategy for Afghanistan? How long are we going to be there?

OBAMA: Well, unfortunately, I think Afghanistan's going to be tough. I don't think there is a quick fix to what's happening there. Because we have a combination of a government that is not seen as fully legitimate all throughout Afghanistan. It's not particularly capable in terms of delivering services right now. You've got a very powerful narco-terrorism, or intersection of narco-trafficking with terrorism. Just the terrain is terrible for trying to move out the Taliban and al Qaeda. And then you've got Pakistan, and a border that is porous and very difficult. So, it's not going to be easy, but here's what I know. That we can't allow bin Laden and al Qaeda to establish safe havens where they are plotting to kill Americans and train troops. There's no dispute that that's taking place right now. And so, we've got to make Afghanistan stable enough and focused enough on controlling its own borders, that we're not seeing the Taliban and al Qaeda return. In the meantime, I think the most important thing that we're going to have to do in addition to adding more troops, providing alternatives to farmers for the poppy trade. Making sure that services are actually being delivered to the Afghan people.

The most important thing we're going to have to do with respect to Afghanistan, is actually deal with Pakistan. And we've got work with the newly elected government there in a coherent way that says, terrorism is now a threat to you. Extremism is a threat to you. We should probably try to facilitate a better understanding between Pakistan and India and try to resolve the Kashmir crisis so that they can stay focused not on India, but on the situation with those militants. And, we've got to say to the Pakistani people, we're not just going to fund a dictator in order for us to feel comfortable with who we're dealing with. We're going to respect democracy. But, we do have expectations in terms of being a partner in its terrorism.

MADDOW: But, you don't think of having a larger military footprint interferes their ability to do that stuff? To work with Pakistani government, to work with the Afghan government.

OBAMA: Oh, look. I mean, we're part of a coalition force that right now is under-manned. I mean, we have -- up until fairly recently, had one quarter of the troops in Afghanistan that we had in Iraq. And so, we're not looking to duplicate 150,000 troops in Afghanistan. But, on the other hand, if we've only got 30,000, or 35,000, on a huge terrain and we're asking people to do a lot, I don't want a situation in which our troops continue to be under stop loss, or they are on the kinds of rotations that they've been under. Or, they don't have the basic support services that will allow them to consolidate any gains that they make. Right now, it's just a little too scattershot an operation for them to secure and then build in these areas. And that's something that I think we can improve on. But, military power alone is not sufficient. It's necessary, but not sufficient.

Well, at least he recognizes that the military alone is not sufficient, and that we need to deliver services (not sure what that means exactly) to the Afghani people. The comment about not funding a dictator in Pakistan is odd, since they had an election and the dictator is gone. But they are bombing away there anyway. I think putting more troops and bombs into the area just means more dead children who were attending a wedding party or sleeping in their beds. I think the only solution is a political one, and they had better start talking to the Taliban and tribes and other parties in the area, and offering them some incentive to do what we want (get OBL and al Qaeda out of there) if they ever want to see some positive results.

It is bad enough they started up a war in Iraq for no good reason and destroyed that country, but considering how bad off Afghanistan was in 2001, I was thinking that MAYBE they would accomplish something of value there – but I was wrong.

And meanwhile, here is a quote I found recently:

An interviewer for the French publication, Le Nouvel Observateur, asked Zbigniew Brzezinski (National Security Adviser under Carter) in a 1998 interview whether he regretted "having given arms and advice to future terrorists," and Brzezinski replied: "Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? ... What is most important to the history of the world? ... Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?"
Brzezinski is an adviser to Obama. And, of course, those “stirred-up Muslims” went on to become al Qaeda and attacked the US on September 11, 2001. And that lead to the US being drawn into the Afghan trap. (For some more info on Brzezinski and his family, see this blog post.) Funny how the history of the world just repeats itself, and some of the main actors on the stage are seem to totally lack any self-awareness or awareness of how their policies and plans hurt other people grievously. Of course, that lack of awareness of others is due to the fact that they just don’t care one whit. I would bet the Brzezinski still has no regrets and since Obama has him as an advisor, that Obama does not care either.

Well, maybe the upcoming depression will stop all our warmongering. Maybe if Americans get hungry, they will demand an end to spending all this money on war making that leads nowhere, but kills a lot of innocent foreign brown people.

Photo: Pakistani peace activists hold candles as they protest against the U.S. air strikes in Pakistani tribal areas and Afghanistan, in Lahore, Pakistan, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2008. Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday demanded that President-elect Barack Obama put an end to civilian casualties as villagers said U.S. warplanes bombed a wedding party, killing 37 people, including 23 children and 10 women. (AP Photo/K.M Chaudary)

War is not the answer.

The YES MEN strike again!

Earlier in the week, the Yes Men published and handed out a fake NY Times paper. It had wonderful headlines like "Iraq War Ends – Troops Return Immediately" and "Ex-Secretary Apologies for WMD Scare" and "Maximum Wage Law Succeeds" (for CEOs) and "Treasury Announces 'True Cost' Plan" and Nationalized Oil to Fund Climate Change Efforts" and "UN Passes Weapons Ban" and "Court Indicts Bush on High Treason Charge".

They passed out 1.2 million papers, drove them to prearranged pickup locations, and thousands of volunteers passed them out at subways and on the street. Articles in the paper covered the ending of wars, the establishment of national health care, the end of corporate lobbying, and a maximum wage for CEOs. They post dated the paper for July 4, 2009 and included a speech by President Obama saying "Yes, we REALLY can". Even the ads are great – one is Exxon promoting their new energy policies, with the line 'Peace can also be lucrative'.

One sad story they included was this:

Last to Die

Two proportional monuments — one to the Iraqi dead, 300 feet high, and one to the American dead, 15 feet high — are unveiled in Baghdad, and a five-year-old boy whose lifespan coincided with that of the Iraq War is remembered. By J. FINISTERRA, PAGE A5

Another good one was this:

Evangelicals Open Homes to Refugees

Up to a million Iraqi exiles — nearly half of the total — will find sanctuary in Christian homes across the U.S., vows the National Association of Evangelicals. Other denominations are expected to follow. By W. WILBERFORCE, Page A7

Imagine! Christians actually acting like Christians!

They had a special corrections section with this announcement:

Portraits of Grief

From September 14 to December 31, 2001, the New York Times published "Portraits of Grief," daily obituaries of the victims of the September 11 attacks. We are proud of this coverage, which won several awards. Tomorrow, the Times begins part two of the series with obituaries of the civilians and soldiers killed between 2001 and today in Afghanistan and Iraq. Two soldiers, and one hundred civilians, will be very briefly memorialized each day, adding a full fold-out page to each edition. The series will continue for thirty years. (Estimates of the number of Iraqis who have died violent deaths since the 2003 invasion vary from 100,000 to well over one million. The Times apologizes for consistently using only the low end of this spectrum of estimates.)

And they had Tomas FRIED MAN pen a special column for his termination at the paper. Here's a clip:

The sudden outbreak of peace in Iraq has made me realize, among other things, one incontestable fact: I have no business holding a pen, at least with intent to write. I know, you're thinking I'm going too far. I haven't always been wrong about everything. I recently made some sense on global warming and what we needed to do about it, for instance. But to have been so completely and fundamentally wrong about so huge a disaster as what we have done to Iraq — and ourselves — is outrageous enough to prove that people like me have no business posing as wise men, and, more importantly, that The New York Times has no business continuing to provide me with a national platform. In any case, I have made a decision: as of today, I will no longer write in this or any other newspaper. I will immediately desist from writing any more books about how it's time for everyone to climb on board the globalization high-speed monorail to the future. I will keep my opinions to myself.

…… To err is human, but to print, reprint, and re-reprint error- mad humans like me is a criminally moronic editorial policy.

You can look at a copy of the paper (in PDF form) at this link.

And a web page for the paper is here.

The Yes Men are fantastic! I love this action!

Photo: This photo shows a spoof edition of The New York Times announcing "Iraq War Ends," part of a hoax executed by pranksters. An elaborate New York Times spoof hit the streets of New York on Tuesday announcing not just the withdrawal of troops from Iraq but a raft of other US liberal fantasies. (AFP/Emmanuel Dunand)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Immediate Aftermath of Suicide Car Bombing in Iraq

"aftermath of two suicide car bombings, the third suicide bomber attacks seconds later. 41 killed, 100 or more injured. Video was recorded from a cell phone..."

Veteran's Day

The War Prayer by Mark Twain

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Still a living hell......

Photo: An Iraqi woman walks with her child next to a damaged car after a bomb explosion in the Mashtal neighborhood of eastern Baghdad. November 4, 2008

This headline says it all:

Iraq's U.S.-era mass grave uncovered

Yes, yet another mass grave from the Bush-era in Iraq has been uncovered. There were 22 bodies found near the city of Karbala. As the article states:

"It is the latest in a series of mass graves of the new Iraq which the U.S. invaded in 2003 and still administers and occupies. Mass graves were a feature of the former regime of Saddam Hussein and they were among the excuses the U.S. used to justify its invasion of the country, promising a new, mass-grave-free era. But Iraqis have almost forgotten about Saddam Hussein's mass graves as the atrocities perpetrated in the country since the arrival of U.S. troops are said to be even worse."

And here is another report of 20 bodies found in an abandoned house that has been declared a mass grave near Tal Afar. It mentions yet another mass grave that had 34 bodies near the town of al Qaim. These sites are in the northern part of Iraq.

We were told that Saddam put 300,000 to 400,000 people in mass graves during his rule over Iraq. But the fact is, less than 30,000 bodies have been uncovered that were traced to his time in Iraq. This may be incomplete, but it is not far from the overall total. And, it is beyond a doubt horrific that he killed so many people and dumped them into mass graves.

But what the US has done in less than six years is far worse than what Saddam did in his decades of rule. There are over 40,000 unidentified bodies buried in Najaf alone. All of these bodies were found on the streets of Baghdad and points south between March 2003 and July 2007. No doubt, there have been more unidentified bodies put in that massive grave since then and many more buried in the areas north of Baghdad. On top of that, there are "mini" mass graves being uncovered on a regular basis – 20 here, 34 there, 18 there….. God only knows what the final total will be. The US authorities and the US military are sure not trying to keep track.

But one thing is for sure – the US and it's occupation of Iraq has been way more devastating for Iraq and it's people than Saddam ever was. And when Saddam was at his worst, the US was supplying and supporting him.

Here's a video of one of Baghdad's graveyards, by CNN. All the people in this graveyard were known. All of these deaths are from one neighborhood in Baghdad.

The war (and occupation) goes on forever and the horror never ends.

For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross said “The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) describes the condition of Iraq's health, water and sanitation services as dire - failing to meet the needs of a large part of the population. (snip) The ICRC insists, it can not be expected to provide basic services indefinitely.”

And last week, a main water pipeline in Baghdad was blown up.

About 20% of Iraqi children are not in school. Instead, they are begging on the streets or working at a menial job.

And for the Iraqis who are refugees in other countries, Refugee International has recently said this:

“Two million Iraqi refugees are increasingly desperate and few of them are willing to return home. Although the United Nations and donor governments have dramatically increased their response to Iraqi refugees’ needs, these efforts must be expanded as refugees are increasingly vulnerable due to depleting assets and rising costs.

And I am still collecting pictures of Iraqis from news sources and saving them to a blog called ‘Faces of Grief’. Lately, the amount of photos coming from Iraq have increased again. They have always been heartbreakingly sad. One Iraqi blogger that I follow is Sunshine, a teenager in Mosul just trying to survive and finish her education. Life has been very difficult for her and her family recently. Here’s a clip from her blog:

After few minutes another explosion happened, with tears on my brother's check he looked at me and said " you are a liar you said there won't be explosions any more" I couldn't answer, but I hugged him..

There were a lot of noise and shouts in the neighborhood, not everyone was lucky like my family and I, people died and others injured, one of my neighbors who is a new bride was injured badly in her face and neck, why should such a beautiful young lady live with scars in her face?? Oh god, your mercy, when will we have a peaceful life? I want to stop worrying and start living .. I missed school for one day, I stayed to help fixing the house, my brother went to grandpa while he was talking the man who'll make new windows for us and said "TELL HIM TO BRING BETTER WINDOWS THIS TIME SO THAT WHEN EXPLOSIONS HAPPEN NEXT TIME THEY DON'T BRAKE ,OK?

And other residents in Mosul are just doing their very best to flee.

Here is one Iraqi’s opinion on what happened to his country, called

“We were Iraqis once… and have a country”

Once upon time we were the cradle of civilizations. For many ages we were the rulers of empires.

Once upon time we lived together under occupations, through wars and starvation.

Once upon time we used to travel to countries and our passports were not rejected.

Once upon time our identity was Iraqi, now it became sect or ethnicity.

We were Iraqis once… and have a country.

And here is a clip from a commentary on what Iraq is like now. It is titled "Truth be told, Iraq is still a living hell".

Without saying so explicitly, the Republicans leave the impression that Iraq is now a nearly pacific place. But let's look at the actual statistics for September — as compiled for the Brookings Institution's Iraq Index. Last month, 98 Iraqi policemen were killed. On about two days out of every three, a bomb killed two or more people. Over all, those bombings killed 164 people and wounded 366 others. These and other attacks killed 500 Iraqi civilians, about 17 a day. ….. About 19,000 Iraqis remain in American military prisons. Almost 3 million Iraqis driven from their homes still are not willing or able to return. Even now, almost five years after the invasion, Baghdad residents get just over 11 hours of electricity each day, compared to 20 hours before the war. At the same time, no one is kidnapping foreigners any longer. Helicopters aren't being shot down. Attacks on oil pipelines have virtually ceased. As for the carnage, while the violence remains frighteningly high, in January of 2007 there were at least two bombings every day, and more than 3,700 Iraqi civilians died.

And here is another clip, from an article called “Devastation in Iraq is systemic”:

The Iraq that has emerged from the American invasion and occupation is now a thoroughly wrecked land, housing a largely dysfunctional society. More than a million Iraqis may have died; millions have fled their homes; many millions of others have been scarred by war, insurgency and counterinsurgency operations, extreme sectarian violence, and soaring levels of common criminality. Education and medical systems have essentially collapsed and, even today, with every kind of violence in decline, Iraq remains one of the most dangerous societies on earth.

An in depth report on the current conditions in Iraq can be found in a book by Michael Schwartz titled “War Without End”. He also wrote an article called “Wrecked Iraq: What the Good News from Iraq Really Means”. Here’s a clip from that article:

….what was once the most advanced Middle Eastern society – economically, socially, and technologically – has become an economic basket case, rivaling the most desperate countries in the world. Only the (as yet unfulfilled) promise of oil riches, which probably cannot be effectively accessed or used until US forces withdraw from the country, provides a glimmer of hope that Iraq will someday lift itself out of the abyss into which the US invasion pushed it.

And here is another headline to sum up one consequence of our actions:

Hatred of America Unites the World

This was also posted on Daily Kos on 11-9-08 (and pretty much ignored).

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Upcoming Events in the area this week

Cartoon came from McClatchy Newspapers.

And update on local events in the area can be found on the WNC Peace Coalition blog. This week will have a Immigrants forum on Tuesday night, and Human Rights Watch will hold a film festival at UNCA. They will be showing ten films in five days, and the films are excellent! I will be there for at least five of the films, maybe a couple more. This is free of charge.

Meanwhile, it looks like President-elect Obama is going to staff his administration with old Clinton staffers. He has already picked Rahm Emanuel, who is very hawkish and used to serve on the board of Freddie Mac (I think - might have been Frannie Mae) back in 2000-2001. So, we have a combination of warmonger and someone who helped get us into this financial mess - although Freddie and Frannie are the least of this financial problem. This financial mess was definitely a bi-partisan effort - and one that stretches back in the Reagan administration. The policies of bush (including posting someone who pushed Frannie and Freddie into more and more risky loans) definitely made it worse.

Of course, spending over a trillion a year on war making and our military helped get us into a financial crisis also. And now the Obama administration is talking about another stimulus package. It didn't work the last time, or the time before that, but maybe they think three times is a charm.

We are in a deep, deep hole.

And anti-gay measures passed in three states in the last election. Since when does the majority get to decide to deny rights to the minority? This is not Constitutional, but then I guess the US Constitution is dead and gone now.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Even John McCain voted for Obama!

I was forwarded this video from John McCain, who lives in Cincinnati. He has been a friend for decades now - he first taught me to waltz, and fished my out of numerous rivers when we did whitewater kayaking together. He was interviewed by several news outlets (including one from Norway) and this You Tube video was made of his vote for Obama. John and his wife also contributed to the Obama campaign. This video really tickled me! I wish I was in Cincinnati so I could tease him about his name!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

My favorite photo of voting

Photo: Voters lining up outside a church polling site that lost electrical power in Los Angeles. (Ric Francis/The Associated Press)

This is real dedication! Glad they had backup paper ballots.

AND OBAMA WINS! I only wish he was more like MLK and less like Clinton. NC is still up in the air as I write this, but I knew by 9:30 PM that Obama would take it. AND we got DOLE out of here! And I hope she moves back to Kansas and never shows her face in NC again.

Now, if only Pelosi would lose to Cindy Sheehan.....................

Syrians are angry too

Photo: Syrian protesters gather at Youssef al-Azmi square during a demonstration against the U.S. raid on a village near the Syrian-Iraqi border last Monday, in Damascus, Syria, Thursday Oct. 30, 2008. Hundreds of Syrian riot police ringed the shuttered and closed U.S. Embassy in Damascus on Thursday, as some thousands of Syrians converged on a central square for a government-orchestrated protest to denounce the deadly U.S. raid near the Iraqi border.

(AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)

Photo: Syrian student protesters holds a placard against the United States President George W. Bush, as other one holds an Arabic placard reads:' The American and the Israeli are the new Nazis,' during a demonstration against the U.S. raid on a village near the Syrian-Iraqi border, in Damascus, Syria, on Thursday Oct. 30, 2008. Hundreds of Syrian riot police ringed the shuttered and closed U.S. Embassy in Damascus on Thursday, as tens of thousands of Syrians converged on a central square for a government-orchestrated protest to denounce a deadly U.S. raid near the Iraqi border. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)