Tuesday, April 28, 2009

In Canada

I am traveling in Canada this week and next, and having trouble with computer and internet access.

I will be back on line full time in the middle of May.

Stand By Me

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Poem from 2000 that I wrote - Two

Where the Light Falls

Order and chaos, design and chance,
Exploring and finding,
Uncovering the challenge of living,
Where the light falls.

Beginnings and endings, all things will pass,
Loving the mystery of being,
The beauty that we know, at least,
Where the light falls.

Life is the process, and the spaces between us,
The interactions we uncover and discover,
As well as we can,
Where the light falls.

Time is the energy of the world and of love,
With currents and eddies,
We are always going into and out of,
Where the light falls.

We are a small representation of the world that created us,
With depths unreachable,
Yet we strive to bring them alive,
Where the light falls.

The mystery of living, of love, and of loss,
Creation and recognition, entropy and denial,
Going into and out of, the place
Where the light falls.

Creating our lives from the energy before us,
Joining the river of life, giving ourselves to the flow,
Wanting to find once again,
Where the light falls.

We are all in our knowing together,
Yet we are all missing the whole at the center,
Hoping to find his, with love as the goal, in that place
Where the light falls.

Wait in the light, where the truth resides.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Poem from 2000 that I wrote - One

The Music of Life

The music of life
Is the music of love and loss
We are called to dance to this music
All the days of our lives.

If we are fortunate, we will also hear:
The music of sounds,
The music of words,
The music of the water,
The music of the wind,
And even the music of the stars:
Which is the music of wonder and awe.

Dance to this sound-music, word-music,
water-music, wind-music, star-music,
whenever you can.
Dance well, if you can.
Otherwise, just dance.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"As the Arabs see the Jews"

This was published in 1948, six months before the Arab-Israeli war. It was written by King Abdullah.

I am especially delighted to address an American audience, for the tragic problem of Palestine will never be solved without American understanding, American sympathy, American support. So many billions of words have been written about Palestine—perhaps more than on any other subject in history—that I hesitate to add to them. Yet I am compelled to do so, for I am reluctantly convinced that the world in general, and America in particular, knows almost nothing of the true case for the Arabs.

We Arabs follow, perhaps far more than you think, the press of America. We are frankly disturbed to find that for every word printed on the Arab side, a thousand are printed on the Zionist side. There are many reasons for this. You have many millions of Jewish citizens interested in this question. They are highly vocal and wise in the ways of publicity. There are few Arab citizens in America, and we are as yet unskilled in the technique of modern propaganda.

The results have been alarming for us. In your press we see a horrible caricature and are told it is our true portrait. In all justice, we cannot let this pass by default. Our case is quite simple: For nearly 2,000 years Palestine has been almost 100 per cent Arab. It is still preponderantly Arab today, in spite of enormous Jewish immigration. But if this immigration continues we shall soon be outnumbered—a minority in our home.

Palestine is a small and very poor country, about the size of your state of Vermont. Its Arab population is only about 1,200,000. Already we have had forced on us, against our will, some 600,000 Zionist Jews. We are threatened with many hundreds of thousands more. Our position is so simple and natural that we are amazed it should even be questioned. It is exactly the same position you in America take in regard to the unhappy European Jews. You are sorry for them, but you do not want them in your country.

We do not want them in ours, either. Not because they are Jews, but because they are foreigners. We would not want hundreds of thousands of foreigners in our country, be they Englishmen or Norwegians or Brazilians or whatever. Think for a moment: In the last 25 years we have had one third of our entire population forced upon us. In America that would be the equivalent of 45,000,000 complete strangers admitted to your country, over your violent protest, since 1921. How would you have reacted to that?

Because of our perfectly natural dislike of being overwhelmed in our own homeland, we are called blind nationalists and heartless anti-Semites. This charge would be ludicrous were it not so dangerous. No people on earth have been less "anti-Semitic" than the Arabs. The persecution of the Jews has been confined almost entirely to the Christian nations of the West. Jews, themselves, will admit that never since the Great Dispersion did Jews develop so freely and reach such importance as in Spain when it was an Arab possession. With very minor exceptions, Jews have lived for many centuries in the Middle East, in complete peace and friendliness with their Arab neighbours.

Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut and other Arab centres have always contained large and prosperous Jewish colonies. Until the Zionist invasion of Palestine began, these Jews received the most generous treatment—far, far better than in Christian Europe. Now, unhappily, for the first time in history, these Jews are beginning to feel the effects of Arab resistance to the Zionist assault. Most of them are as anxious as Arabs to stop it. Most of these Jews who have found happy homes among us resent, as we do, the coming of these strangers.

I was puzzled for a long time about the odd belief which apparently persists in America that Palestine has somehow "always been a Jewish land." Recently an American I talked to cleared up this mystery. He pointed out that the only things most Americans know about Palestine are what they read in the Bible. It was a Jewish land in those days, they reason, and they assume it has always remained so.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is absurd to reach so far back into the mists of history to argue about who should have Palestine today, and I apologise for it. Yet the Jews do this, and I must reply to their "historic claim." I wonder if the world has ever seen a stranger sight than a group of people seriously pretending to claim a land because their ancestors lived there some 2,000 years ago!

If you suggest that I am biased, I invite you to read any sound history of the period and verify the facts. Such fragmentary records as we have indicate that the Jews were wandering nomads from Iraq who moved to southern Turkey, came south to Palestine, stayed there a short time, and then passed to Egypt, where they remained about 400 years. About 1300 BC (according to your calendar) they left Egypt and gradually conquered most—but not all—of the inhabitants of Palestine. It is significant that the Philistines—not the Jews—gave their name to the country: "Palestine" is merely the Greek form of "Philistia."

Only once, during the empire of David and Solomon, did the Jews ever control nearly—but not all—the land which is today Palestine. This empire lasted only 70 years, ending in 926 BC. Only 250 years later the Kingdom of Judah had shrunk to a small province around Jerusalem, barely a quarter of modern Palestine. In 63 BC the Jews were conquered by Roman Pompey, and never again had even the vestige of independence. The Roman Emperor Hadrian finally wiped them out about 135 AD. He utterly destroyed Jerusalem, rebuilt under another name, and for hundreds of years no Jew was permitted to enter it. A handful of Jews remained in Palestine but the vast majority were killed or scattered to other countries, in the Diaspora, or the Great Dispersion. From that time Palestine ceased to be a Jewish country, in any conceivable sense.

This was 1,815 years ago, and yet the Jews solemnly pretend they still own Palestine! If such fantasy were allowed, how the map of the world would dance about! Italians might claim England, which the Romans held so long. England might claim France, "homeland" of the conquering Normans. And the French Normans might claim Norway, where their ancestors originated. And incidentally, we Arabs might claim Spain, which we held for 700 years. Many Mexicans might claim Spain, "homeland" of their forefathers. They might even claim Texas, which was Mexican until 100 years ago. And suppose the American Indians claimed the "homeland" of which they were the sole, native, and ancient occupants until only some 450 years ago!

I am not being facetious. All these claims are just as valid—or just as fantastic—as the Jewish "historic connection" with Palestine. Most are more valid. In any event, the great Moslem expansion about 650 AD finally settled things. It dominated Palestine completely. From that day on, Palestine was solidly Arabic in population, language, and religion. When British armies entered the country during the last war, they found 500,000 Arabs and only 65,000 Jews.

If solid, uninterrupted Arab occupation for nearly 1,300 years does not make a country "Arab", what does?

The Jews say, and rightly, that Palestine is the home of their religion. It is likewise the birthplace of Christianity, but would any Christian nation claim it on that account? In passing, let me say that the Christian Arabs—and there are many hundreds of thousands of them in the Arab World—are in absolute agreement with all other Arabs in opposing the Zionist invasion of Palestine. May I also point out that Jerusalem is, after Mecca and Medina, the holiest place in Islam. In fact, in the early days of our religion, Moslems prayed toward Jerusalem instead of Mecca. The Jewish "religious claim" to Palestine is as absurd as the "historic claim." The Holy Places, sacred to three great religions, must be open to all, the monopoly of none. Let us not confuse religion and politics.

We are told that we are inhumane and heartless because do not accept with open arms the perhaps 200,000 Jews in Europe who suffered so frightfully under Nazi cruelty, and who even now—almost three years after war’s end—still languish in cold, depressing camps.

Let me underline several facts. The unimaginable persecution of the Jews was not done by the Arabs: it was done by a Christian nation in the West. The war which ruined Europe and made it almost impossible for these Jews to rehabilitate themselves was fought by the Christian nations of the West. The rich and empty portions of the earth belong, not to the Arabs, but to the Christian nations of the West. And yet, to ease their consciences, these Christian nations of the West are asking Palestine—a poor and tiny Moslem country of the East—to accept the entire burden. "We have hurt these people terribly," cries the West to the East. "Won’t you please take care of them for us?"

We find neither logic nor justice in this. Are we therefore "cruel and heartless nationalists"? We are a generous people: we are proud that "Arab hospitality" is a phrase famous throughout the world. We are a humane people: no one was shocked more than we by the Hitlerite terror. No one pities the present plight of the desperate European Jews more than we.

But we say that Palestine has already sheltered 600,000 refugees. We believe that is enough to expect of us—even too much. We believe it is now the turn of the rest of the world to accept some of them. I will be entirely frank with you. There is one thing the Arab world simply cannot understand. Of all the nations of the earth, America is most insistent that something be done for these suffering Jews of Europe. This feeling does credit to the humanity for which America is famous, and to that glorious inscription on your Statue of Liberty.

And yet this same America—the richest, greatest, most powerful nation the world has ever known—refuses to accept more than a token handful of these same Jews herself! I hope you will not think I am being bitter about this. I have tried hard to understand that mysterious paradox, and I confess I cannot. Nor can any other Arab. Perhaps you have been informed that "the Jews in Europe want to go to no other place except Palestine." This myth is one of the greatest propaganda triumphs of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the organisation which promotes with fanatic zeal the emigration to Palestine. It is a subtle half-truth, thus doubly dangerous. The astounding truth is that nobody on earth really knows where these unfortunate Jews really want to go!

You would think that in so grave a problem, the American, British, and other authorities responsible for the European Jews would have made a very careful survey, probably by vote, to find out where each Jew actually wants to go. Amazingly enough this has never been done! The Jewish Agency has prevented it. Some time ago the American Military Governor in Germany was asked at a press conference how he was so certain that all Jews there wanted to go to Palestine. His answer was simple: "My Jewish advisors tell me so." He admitted no poll had ever been made. Preparations were indeed begun for one, but the Jewish Agency stepped in to stop it.

The truth is that the Jews in German camps are now subjected to a Zionist pressure campaign which learned much from the Nazi terror. It is dangerous for a Jew to say that he would rather go to some other country, not Palestine. Such dissenters have been severely beaten, and worse. Not long ago, in Palestine, nearly 1,000 Austrian Jews informed the international refugee organisation that they would like to go back to Austria, and plans were made to repatriate them. The Jewish Agency heard of this, and exerted enough political pressure to stop it. It would be bad propaganda for Zionism if Jews began leaving Palestine. The nearly 1,000 Austrian are still there, against their will.

The fact is that most of the European Jews are Western in culture and outlook, entirely urban in experience and habits. They cannot really have their hearts set on becoming pioneers in the barren, arid, cramped land which is Palestine. One thing, however, is undoubtedly true. As matters stand now, most refugee Jews in Europe would, indeed, vote for Palestine, simply because they know no other country will have them. If you or I were given a choice between a near-prison camp for the rest of our lives—or Palestine—we would both choose Palestine, too. But open up any other alternative to them—give them any other choice, and see what happens!

No poll, however, will be worth anything unless the nations of the earth are willing to open their doors—just a little—to the Jews. In other words, if in such a poll a Jew says he wants to go to Sweden, Sweden must be willing to accept him. If he votes for America, you must let him come in. Any other kind of poll would be a farce. For the desperate Jew, this is no idle testing of opinion: this is a grave matter of life or death. Unless he is absolutely sure that his vote means something, he will always vote for Palestine, so as not to risk his bird in the hand for one in the bush.

In any event, Palestine can accept no more. The 65,000 Jews in Palestine in 1918 have jumped to 600,000 today. We Arabs have increased, too, but not by immigration. The Jews were then a mere 11 per cent of our population. Today they are one third of it. The rate of increase has been terrifying. In a few more years—unless stopped now—it will overwhelm us, and we shall be an important minority in our own home. Surely the rest of the wide world is rich enough and generous enough to find a place for 200,000 Jews—about one third the number that tiny, poor Palestine has already sheltered. For the rest of the world, it is hardly a drop in the bucket. For us it means national suicide.

We are sometimes told that since the Jews came to Palestine, the Arab standard of living has improved. This is a most complicated question. But let us even assume, for the argument, that it is true. We would rather be a bit poorer, and masters of our own home. Is this unnatural? The sorry story of the so-called "Balfour Declaration," which started Zionist immigration into Palestine, is too complicated to repeat here in detail. It is grounded in broken promises to the Arabs—promises made in cold print which admit no denying. We utterly deny its validity. We utterly deny the right of Great Britain to give away Arab land for a "national home" for an entirely foreign people. Even the League of Nations sanction does not alter this. At the time, not a single Arab state was a member of the League. We were not allowed to say a word in our own defense.

I must point out, again in friendly frankness, that America was nearly as responsible as Britain for this Balfour Declaration. President Wilson approved it before it was issued, and the American Congress adopted it word for word in a joint resolution on 30th June, 1922. In the 1920s, Arabs were annoyed and insulted by Zionist immigration, but not alarmed by it. It was steady, but fairly small, as even the Zionist founders thought it would remain. Indeed for some years, more Jews left Palestine than entered it—in 1927 almost twice as many.

But two new factors, entirely unforeseen by Britain or the League or America or the most fervent Zionist, arose in the early thirties to raise the immigration to undreamed heights. One was the World Depression; the second the rise of Hitler. In 1932, the year before Hitler came to power, only 9,500 Jews came to Palestine. We did not welcome them, but we were not afraid that, at that rate, our solid Arab majority would ever be in danger. But the next year—the year of Hitler—it jumped to 30,000! In 1934 it was 42,000! In 1935 it reached 61,000! It was no longer the orderly arrival of idealist Zionists. Rather, all Europe was pouring its frightened Jews upon us. Then, at last, we, too, became frightened. We knew that unless this enormous influx stopped, we were, as Arabs, doomed in our Palestine homeland. And we have not changed our minds.

I have the impression that many Americans believe the trouble in Palestine is very remote from them, that America had little to do with it, and that your only interest now is that of a humane bystander. I believe that you do not realise how directly you are, as a nation, responsible in general for the whole Zionist move and specifically for the present terrorism. I call this to your attention because I am certain that if you realise your responsibility you will act fairly to admit it and assume it. Quite aside from official American support for the "National Home" of the Balfour Declaration, the Zionist settlements in Palestine would have been almost impossible, on anything like the current scale, without American money. This was contributed by American Jewry in an idealistic effort to help their fellows. The motive was worthy: the result were disastrous. The contributions were by private individuals, but they were almost entirely Americans, and, as a nation, only America can answer for it.

The present catastrophe may be laid almost entirely at your door. Your government, almost alone in the world, is insisting on the immediate admission of 100,000 more Jews into Palestine—to be followed by countless additional ones. This will have the most frightful consequences in bloody chaos beyond anything ever hinted at in Palestine before.

It is your press and political leadership, almost alone in the world, who press this demand. It is almost entirely American money which hires or buys the "refugee ships" that steam illegally toward Palestine: American money which pays their crews. The illegal immigration from Europe is arranged by the Jewish Agency, supported almost entirely by American funds. It is American dollars which support the terrorists, which buy the bullets and pistols that kill British soldiers—your allies—and Arab citizens—your friends.

We in the Arab world were stunned to hear that you permit open advertisements in newspapers asking for money to finance these terrorists, to arm them openly and deliberately for murder. We could not believe this could really happen in the modern world. Now we must believe it: we have seen the advertisements with our own eyes.

I point out these things because nothing less than complete frankness will be of use. The crisis is too stark for mere polite vagueness which means nothing. I have the most complete confidence in the fair-mindedness and generosity of the American public. We Arabs ask no favours. We ask only that you know the full truth, not half of it. We ask only that when you judge the Palestine question, you put yourselves in our place. What would your answer be if some outside agency told you that you must accept in America many millions of utter strangers in your midst—enough to dominate your country—merely because they insisted on going to America, and because their forefathers had once lived there some 2,000 years ago?

Our answer is the same.

And what would be your action if, in spite of your refusal, this outside agency began forcing them on you?

Ours will be the same.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hypocrisy of the highest order

"The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example." President Bush on UN Torture Victims Recognition Day 26 June 2003

"We do not torture." President Bush to reporters during a visit to Panama in November 2005

"I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved ... I told the country we did that. And I also told them it was legal. We had legal opinions that enabled us to do it." President Bush in an interview with ABC about interrogation tactics used on detainees in April 2008

The above came from Information Clearing House daily emails. The only question that remains is will Obama follow in his footsteps?

On the turning away...

I have not felt like writing much this week. First we had the news of the torture memos. Always knew they existed, but reading them is sure sickening. Second, we have promises from the Obama administration that they will not prosecute these criminals.... I guess it is "Live and Let Torture" for this administration. Add that to the fact that the highest number of US military will be in combat roles come this fall since Vietnam - thanks to Obama. And that no one will be held accountable for the ruination of tens of millions of lives in a war of aggression. No one held accountable for the extrajudicial murders (those "ghost detainees" are quite dead) and kidnappings and sexual assaults. Did you know that it was okay under Bush to threaten rape, but not do it? But you can be sure that many folks went farther than threatening it. Oh, and the economy is going to keep on tanking. And the worst news of all - Pakistan is being overrun by the Taliban and Islamic extremists, and they will soon have their hands on a hundred nukes. Well, I heard it was 100 nukes in Pakistan, I don't know how many for sure. But I do know that Bush sold Pakistan F-16s, thereby making it possible for the Taliban/al Qaeda types to deliver them in an adjoining country.

Bombs away..........

The more we drop bombs on Pakistan, the more unstable it gets, and the more likely this is going to happen.

Bombs away..........

One day we will find out. And meanwhile, our elected officials, most of our corporate media, and a sizable majority of our population is going to turn away from all this evil, until it smacks them in the face and they cannot escape it.

This all reminded me of the song by Pink Floyd:

On the turning away
From the pale and downtrodden
And the words they say
Which we wont understand
Don’t accept that what’s happening
Is just a case of others suffering
Or you’ll find that you’re joining in
The turning away

Its a sin that somehow
Light is changing to shadow
And casting its shroud
Over all we have known
Unaware how the ranks have grown
Driven on by a heart of stone
We could find that were all alone
In the dream of the proud

On the wings of the night
As the daytime is stirring
Where the speechless unite
In a silent accord
Using words you will find are strange
And mesmerized as they light the flame
Feel the new wind of change
On the wings of the night

No more turning away
From the weak and the weary
No more turning away
From the coldness inside
Just a world that we all must share
Its not enough just to stand and stare
Is it only a dream that there’ll be
No more turning away?

I wish there would be no more turning away.... but it appears that is a dream, a mirage, nothing more.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Looking for a home

This poem was written by an Iraqi - I got a paper copy and retyped it here.

In Search for a Home

Displaced Iraqis – a nuisance over and over….

Will we ever have “homes” again?

A “home” that is safe.

A “home” that has electricity.

A “home that has water.

A “home” that we can live in as normal people live in their homes.

A “home” to come back to after a long day’s work.

A “home” in which a family can sit to have a meal together, listen to music, joke about the day’s events – even to fight our little fights in the privacy of our “homes”.

There is a craving in my heart to have a “home” again – but we are not destined to have homes any more.

Twice displaced because of the violence.

Again displaced because of no water or electricity, and the dangerous proximity of a recruitment and training post for police.

Again and again displaced – and regardless of all displacement we fight the good fight to stay on our feet, to work, to provide, to teach our kids not to hate and do our utmost that they should not fall behind in their studies – to give a semblance of normalcy to their lives that have been torn to shreds….

We try hard…..

We do our best….. but our best is not enough.

Maybe I can find a temporary home in a “safe” neighborhood if only someone would point one out to me. To have found a perch sheltered from the winds of violence for a while was good.

How can I forgive….. How can I forget….

But the journey continues, and my search for a home resumes…..

~ Sahar

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Interview of Rachel Corrie

This was done just a couple of days before she was killed trying to stop a demolition of a Palestinian home.

Monday, April 13, 2009

US drones kill 687 innocents

The US military has been busy this past month. They have killed innocents in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In Iraq, US troops shot and killed a 12 year old girl. There were several other reports of US killing of civilians, even though the majority of killings do not make it into any media outlet. The ACLU requested records under FOI in 2007, and many more deaths came to light.

But one Iraqi blogger reported on the shooting of her great uncle by US troops in March 2006. That death never made any news outlet.

And this month, in Afghanistan, the US military admitted killing a mother and her children. One of the deceased was a tiny baby.

At least it wasn't a wedding party.

In Pakistan, they have issued a report on the drone strikes in their country:

Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians. The success percentage of the US predator strikes thus comes to not more than six per cent.

Figures compiled by the Pakistani authorities show that a total of 701 people, including 14 al-Qaeda leaders, have been killed since January 2006 in 60 American predator attacks targeting the tribal areas of Pakistan.

The full article is here.

Out of the total dead, 152 Pakistani innocents were killed in 2009. Here's their report:

Of the 14 strikes carried out in the first 99 days of April 2009, only one proved successful, killing two most wanted senior al-Qaeda leaders - Osama al Kini and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan. Both had lost their lives in a New Year’s Day drone strike carried out in the South Waziristan region on January 1, 2009.

The last predator strike on [April 8, 2009] was carried out hardly a few hours after the Pakistani authorities had rejected an American proposal for joint operations in the tribal areas against terrorism and militancy, as differences of opinion between the two countries over various aspects of the war on terror came out into the open for the first time. The proposal came from two top US visiting officials, presidential envoy for the South Asia Richard Holbrooke and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.

Part of the blow back from these drone attacks is an increase in deadly plans to murder even more innocents by al Qaeda or the Taliban. In Pakistan, the Taliban recently pledged to do suicide bombings inside Pakistan in retaliation. See first comment below for a report on how Islamabad is getting ready for those attacks. The recent bomb threat in England was reportedly came from Pakistani cells. This one has a twist though:

In November 2008, one of the many US drone strikes in North Waziristan killed five people. This was not unusual. What was is that the US claimed the killing of British citizen Rashid Rauf in the attack. Rauf was previously arrested in 2006 in connection with the "liquid explosives" plot in Britain.

Now, Britain’s MI5 is calling Rauf al-Qaeda’s "Director of Operations" in Europe and claims he was behind a reported plot to bomb shopping centers in Manchester, England.

Link to that article (with links to background articles is here.

I would say that this approach is not working.

Video of Islamabad preparing for invasion by the Taliban:

Israeli exports hit by boycotts

Over the years, there have been several groups and countries that have called for boycotts of Israel and Israeli goods. This has varied from academic boycotts, to divestment, to boycotts of sport venues. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an advocate of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. But a new report by The Guardian (UK) indicates that Israeli companies are starting to feel the effects of the boycott, with a drop in demand for Israeli exports since the war on Gaza. This is from The Guardian’s report, Israeli exports hit by Euroopean boycotts after attacks on Gaza:

Last week, the Israel Manufacturers Association reported that 21% of 90 local exporters who were questioned had felt a drop in demand due to boycotts, mostly from the UK and Scandinavian countries. Last month, a report from the Israel Export Institute reported that 10% of 400 polled exporters received order cancellation notices this year, because of Israel's assault on Gaza.

"There is no doubt that a red light has been switched on," Dan Katrivas, head of the foreign trade department at the Israel Manufacturers Association, told Maariv newspaper this week. "We are closely following what's happening with exporters who are running into problems with boycotts." He added that in Britain there exists "a special problem regarding the export of agricultural produce from Israel".

The Israeli financial press has reported on the growing boycott. One economics journalist was upset with the Trade and Industry minister for telling the Israeli army to “destroy one hundred homes” for every rocket fired into Israel. This journalist said that the minister did not understand “how much the operation in Gaza is hurting the economy.” He said that the images on TV that came out of Gaza, plus the statements from politicians in Europe and Turkey are changing the behavior of consumers.

The article in The Guardian goes on to detail other economic repercussions from the war on Gaza. One example is Israelis with business interests in Turkey who hope to remain anonymous. Another is British retailers being asked to remove Israeli merchandise.

Some experts said that the results of a boycott are hard to ascertain among a global economic downturn.

Meanwhile, a UN official is still pleading with Israel to open the borders to Gaza. He says the amount of goods that Israel permits into Gaza is totally inadequate. Cement and steel are among the products not allowed into Gaza, which means there is no rebuilding of the 5,000 homes destroyed and many more damaged. John Ging, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, said this:

"It's having a very devastating impact on the physical circumstances and also the mindset of people on the ground."

He said access to goods is a major problem:

"We need access," he said. "It's the number one issue. It's the number two issue. It's the number three issue, and so on. Until we get it, there's nothing as important as solving the access issue."

Further down in this article, they mention the Hamas civil war with Fatah, without a mention of the role the US and Israel played in fermenting that ‘civil war’.

The BBC reports that there is “Little hope in Gaza aftermath”. The people in Gaza are very poor, and life got very much harder after the Israeli assault. Over 35,000 do not have running water, thousands are living in tents. Hundreds of private businesses are destroyed. Many medications are gone in Gaza hospitals, and 80% of the population is living on less than $2 per day. The article makes this statement:

In this part of the Middle East one of the most damaging consequences of the last years of bloodshed has been the loss of hope.

I met Raad al-Athamna, a taxi driver and father of seven children, who stood on a low pile of rubble that was his house until Israeli forces destroyed it.

He thumbed through photos of a decent home surrounded by mature trees, children playing in Gaza's dusty sunshine and doing their school studies.

Raad worked hard to create that life for his family, which has now gone.

Now his 12-year-old boy wets the bed every night, another child sleepwalks and his eldest girl, once a star pupil, has nowhere to study and cries when she thinks about the future.

The world is watching. God is watching.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Some things you just never get over


An Iraqi supporter of Shiite radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr flashs a paper reading, "No, No America" in Baghdad. Thousands of supporters of the anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr protested the occupation of Iraq, six years after the toppling of a Saddam Hussein statue symbolised the fall of his regime.

(AFP/Ahmad al-Rubaye)


Some things you just never get over

After all, when you are dead, you’re dead. There is no ‘bringing you back’ or ‘do-overs’. All that can be done is to notice and to remember. And to say ‘never again’.

But there will be an ‘again’ in this situation, since ‘again’ is happening daily, although not in as bad of way. And ‘again’ is planned to continue for years to come. (It’s going to cost us a lot of money too, but that is the least of it.) I guess ‘never again’ only applies to prior acts of horror that some other country committed, not our country, and not for today.

Getting the people responsible for these hideous acts of evil to even notice what they have done is almost impossible. And some are so blinded by their prejudices that they insist that evil is good – black is white, up is down, violence is security, war is peace. We destroyed the village in order to save it.

People have argued with me that the US troops are somehow doing something good in Iraq when what they are actually doing is destroying a country that never even threatened us. That is what a military is supposed to do - destroy the enemy and their ability to hurt us. Except that Iraq was not an enemy, and using the US military for police work against mass murderers makes more murderers than it gets rid of.

But there are some among us who do notice, some who record, some who point out, some who fully realize the horror and the evil and that there are some things you just never get over. I am one of those people, but I am one of the least of them. I notice via a computer screen, I record on blogs, I point out to a mainly deaf and blind audience. I do not risk a thing, other than some sleep. I do not risk a thing, other than a sense of disgust towards my fellow humans who are responsible for this evil and do not notice – or worse, argue that this continuing evil is good for the victims.

I guess there will always be the stupid among us.

And there will always be those who are willing to perpetrate the evils they are told to do.

But there is one man, Laith Mushtag, who choose to risk his life and record the evils. He went into Fallujah five years ago and took photos of what happened there in the American assault on this city, done in revenge for the killing of four American mercenaries (that some like to call ‘security contractors’). He wrote about his experiences as a photo journalist in an article called “Fallujah never leaves my mind” today.

Here is what he said about Americans:

I don't hate them, I don't want vengeance, I just wish they had understood what they were doing.

I have that same wish.

He talks about his experiences five years ago this month, in Fallujah:

One day, I think it was April 9, 2004, someone with a loudspeaker in Fallujah's main mosque said: "The Americans will open a gate and women and children can go out."

As soon as he had finished, all the women and children of Fallujah tried to find a car to leave the city but when they were in the streets, the US forces opened fire.

There's a picture that I cannot forget. An old woman with three children, I saw her on the street and took a picture of her and the children.

She said: "We don't have any men here, can anyone help us?" Many of the men from Fallujah worked in Baghdad, once the city was sealed off they could not get back to their wives and children.

So, some men helped her, I decided to film the scene and then I sat down to smoke.

Ten minutes later, an ambulance came down the road. I ran to follow the ambulance and when they opened the door, I saw the same woman and her children - but they were in pieces.

I still remember the nurses couldn't carry the woman because she was in too many pieces, people were jumping back when they saw it. Then, one nurse shouted: "Hey, she looks like your mother."

In the Iraqi language that means: "She could be your mother, so treat her like you'd treat your mom." Everyone stood up and tried to carry a piece because they needed to get her out quickly, because the ambulance was needed for other people.

So, an old women and her three children are stuck inside Fallujah, he films them just before they flee, and a few minutes later they are dead. Some things you just don’t get over. I know enough about what has happened in Iraq since March 2003 to know that he speaks the truth. He may have the date wrong – it may be that those are her grandchildren or nieces or nephews instead of children – but the gist of the story, the underlying overwhelming human suffering, is true. The fact that US troops in Fallujah shot women and children is true. Over 600 civilians died in the first assault on Fallujah. In November 2004, many more died. Soccer fields were turned into grave yards.

This is what America did.

And those who lived through the assault also have wounds beyond belief. Imagine living through this:

We heard people screaming inside the hospital, because they did not have any drugs left. They had to cut legs without anything at all.

Leith Mushtag worked for Al Jazeera, and he was one of two cameramen who were unembedded in Fallujah that fateful April in 2004. He says that they did not come close to really recording the events that happened – it was a job bigger than 12 cameramen. But he tried. And today he lives with the memories:

When I think of Fallujah, I think of the smell. The smell was driving me crazy. In a dead body, there is a kind of liquid. Yellow liquid. The smell is disgusting, really. It sticks in your nose. You cannot eat anymore.

And you can't get the pictures off your mind, because every day you see the same: Explosion, death, explosion, death, death.

After work, you sit down and notice there are pieces of flesh on your shoes and blood on your trousers. But you don't have time to ask why.

The full article is here.

Current pictures of Iraqis and their lives today are here.

There was a major anti-US occupation demonstration this week. They burned Bush in effigy. They carried signs saying “NO NO AMERICA”.

But the one five years ago was much bigger. They burned Bush, Blair and Saddam in effigy that day.

And a recent poll in Iraq showed that Iraqi opinions on the US occupation have not changed. They want the occupation to end.

The latest poll, by the BBC and ABC in February, shows that nothing has changed in the longstanding majority view that the occupation forces (British as much as the Americans) have not been a bastion of security. They have been the problem more than the solution. Sixty-nine per cent said they had "done a bad job". Forty-six per cent think they should leave Iraq before the end of 2011, while 35% said the timetable is right. Less than 20% want them to stay longer. One reason is that Iraqis by a 53% majority view the US as still running the country. Another is that 59% already think Iraqi forces are capable of providing sufficient security.

Information on the ongoing occupation in Iraq, and the ongoing tragedy for the Iraqi people, is here. More civilians killed by US firepower this month and last….. and every month. For six years now.

And planned to continue until December 31, 2011 at least. I would bet it will continue until the last drop of oil is gone.

And, and the killing of civilians is happening in Afghanistan too. The US claimed to have killed ‘insurgents’ but one of the dead is a baby boy.


“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, April 10, 2009

This land ain't my land, this land ain't your land...

I heard this song on the show Democracy Now! and copied down the lyrics. I am sure you will catch the tune. The original version was sung by Woody Guthrie at an Obama Inauguration event.

But it’s an old song,
I had to change it,
Times ain’t want they used to be…..

As I went walking that super highway
Below the gray haze and city skyway
I was arrested for hitchhiking on the freeway
They said it don’t belong to me….

No, it ain’t your land,
And it ain’t my land,
Could be a rich land,
But it’s a poor land,
Because of the few that hold it in their tight-griped hands,
So it don’t belong to you or me!

When I was younger and in my schoolin,
I learned and followed by all the rule ‘ins,
I never dreamed they were only foolin’
How could my teachers lie to me?

I'm waiting for the day we hold a massive protest at the White House to protest spending all our money on bailouts, wars and weapons............ and start chanting YES, WE CAN!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Y12 Nuclear Weapons Plant Protest Rally & March

This past Saturday, I went to the Oak Ridge Rally called “Abolish Nukes Now!”. I have attended this in the past, but the ones I attended were held in August, in the middle of melt-your-face-off summer time heat. As you can see, this rally and march were sparsely attended. In past years, there were many more people.

These are pictures of the rally and the march and the post below has pictures from the presentations at the rally.

Concert & Puppet Show for Disarmament

This concert/presentation was held at Alvin K. Bissell Park in Oak Ridge. The puppeteers acted out what might happen in a nuclear disaster.

It starts out being a pastoral scene, with a young girl attending her chickens. The Mad Scientist comes along and sets off nuclear radiation. The chicken is supposed to be affected by this radiation, and his head blows up and feathers go everywhere. In short, the lesson is that life is destroyed by nuclear radiation caused by nuclear bombs. But then life returns as they raise a new flower (which is also quite large). They then sang “One World” and the puppeteers got off the stage and danced with everyone.

President Obama has come out in favor of abolishing nuclear weapons and securing loose nukes. However, the Department of Energy has announced plans to build a new $3 billion bomb plant at Y12 that will produce nuclear weapons for another century.

Also, there is something new this year at Bissell Park: they made a commemorative walk to honor those who build the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and claim that these bombs brought peace to the world.

Seems to me that there has been non-stop warfare since the bombings that ended World War Two. Also seems to me that we are still under threat from nuclear bombs, and we don’t know the ending of the story for the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There may be nuclear bombs that go off sometime in the future.

One thing I do know – lots of the workers at the Oak Ridge plant died of cancer, while still in middle age.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Iraqi babies for sale, and other horrors

The Guardian newspaper (UK) has a story out about the trafficking of Iraqi babies and children. They say that at least 150 children a year are sold, and some of these children end up as sex abuse victims. There is one report that a trafficked child was used for organ transplants.

It is a growing problem in Iraq, and among the Iraqi refugee population. The elements that contribute to this evil criminal enterprise are corruption, weak law enforcement agencies, weak borders and a lack of adequate government bureaucracy to document births, passports, name changes and crimes. The Guardian report says that these crimes are done by at least 12 gangs operating in Iraq.

According to Colonel Firaz Abdallah, part of the investigation department of the Iraqi police, gangs use intermediaries who pretend to be working for non-governmental organisations. During negotiations with the families, members of the trafficking gangs prepare the paperwork: birth certificates, change of names and the addition of the child to the passport of the intermediary or any other person who is paid to take the child outside, usually to Syria and Jordan and from there, to Europe or other Middle East countries.

"The corruption in many departments of the government makes our job complicated [because] when those children come to the airport or the border, everything looks correct and it is hard for us to keep them inside the country without significant evidence that the child is being trafficked," Abdallah said.

"A couple of weeks ago we caught a couple with a six-month-old baby leaving by car from the Iraqi border to Jordan. One of our police officers found the age difference between the couple strange and asked our office to check. After arresting them we found out that the girl was sold by her parents and was going to be taken to Amman, then after that, to Ireland where a family had already paid for the baby."

They prefer babies, since that is what most adoptive parents want. Unfortunately, some of the children are not being adopted by loving families, but instead are sold to pedophiles.

This is not the only problem facing Iraqi children. About 20% of them are not attending school, per this report from last August. This was estimated by the United Nations and aid organizations. Girls and children in rural areas are more affected than others, but there are plenty of boys who now “work for a living” at a very young age instead of attending school. (I have heard higher figures, but I don't have a link.)

Children begging for money or selling cold sodas from the side of the road are everywhere in Baghdad, even during school hours.

……The biggest reason that Iraqi children stay home from school is money. A public education is free in Iraq, but a lot of families are too poor to afford backpacks, notebooks and proper school clothes. The cost of living has risen dramatically across the country in recent years and the unemployment rate is around 50 percent.

"I can't buy milk for them, so how can I buy schoolbooks?" asked Abeer Abdulrahman, a 36-year-old unemployed widow and mother of five. "I want to give them more, but tell me how?" Two of Abdulrahman's children are old enough for school, 7-year-old Nora and 9-year-old Omar, but neither has ever gone. They spend their days begging on the streets with their mother.

Many children are in such a desperate struggle for survival, that attending school is just not a priority.

Instead of going to school, 7-year-old Shahad Tahseen and her 6-year-old brother, Nibras, sit in their grandmother's dirty one-room flat in central Baghdad. They came here from a nearby neighborhood in 2006 after their parents were shot and killed.

"We sold everything we have just to keep paying the rent," said their grandmother, 63-year-old Halema Mohammed Faraj. "We have no electricity, no water, no clean clothes. Reading and writing are not on our minds."

A shortage of schools and teachers compounds the problem. Hundreds of educators have been assassinated and many more have fled Iraq.

And, of course, some children are beyond worrying about school or human trafficking. Aswat Al-Iraq news agency reports that 500 Iraqi children were killed in 2008. (And 2008 was a relatively non-violent year in Iraq!) This came from the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights.

“The situation of Iraqi children is deteriorating, despite considerable government efforts in this regard,” a ministry statement received by Aswat al-Iraq news agency quoted Human Rights Minister Wijdan Salim as saying.

He also called on state institutions and ministries to put more effort into assisting Iraqi children.

A diary on how the US occupation of Iraq has created silent desperation for women in Iraq is here.

Pictures of Iraqis are posted here.

Daily updates on the ongoing violence in Iraq (seven car bombs in Baghdad on Monday!) is here.

And Al Jazeera has an excellent series of reports on the walls, and living conditions, of Baghdad.

Part one,

Part two,

Part three,

and Part four.

Here is the introduction to the Al Jazeera reports:

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, a Baghdad-born award-winning photographer and journalist, returns to the streets of a Baghdad now divided by security walls separating Sunni and Shia. Ghaith's ability to move around the city despite the dangers, gives us a unique insight into this Baghdad and to a story so far untold.

In the second video, one orphan blames America for his plight, saying that “many people are dead because of them”. It is a horror beyond words, what we have done to Iraq. And now, I fear, we are going to do the same to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

No More Victims brings injured Iraqi children to the US for medical treatment and they are in need of funds to bring Salee back to Greenville for new prosthetic legs….. and there is a rush on this, because we have heard that Shriner’s Hospital in Greenville SC may close! Donations can be made at this website.

And there are other ways to help Iraqis here.

May God forgive us.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Keep the Border Patrol ON THE BORDER

This is just another outstanding example of American stupidity, combined with paranoia in this case. No, not the people protesting - the government officials who are promoting and implementing these policies. We spend enormous amounts of money on bank bailouts, wars and weapons.... and stupid things like these border patrol idiots..... and have no money for improving education or providing health care to all Americans or even seeing that all Americans are fed and have adequate housing. It's like the whole country (nearly) gets up every morning and takes a stupid pill.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

In March, Bush invaded Canada

And, once again, shoe throwers got arrested while the war criminal went free.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Op Ed from April 2004

Written in early April 2004 – not accepted by ACT, but Asheville Friends Meeting published it. -

"Those who came to "liberate" us from Saddam have caused mass graves, except that this time, it's in front of the whole world. What are you going to do about it? The eyes of children, which is filled with horror, carries that question." – Faiza, a blogger who lives in Baghdad

Well over four decades ago, I remember hearing my parents talk about horrible events taking place in the southern United States. That was when I learned words such as "lynching" and "mutilation" by reading them in the newspaper. One word I remember having to look up was "genitals". I remember my parents speaking with disgust about the actions of some white people in the south. They were convinced that they, and their neighbors, could never do such a thing. It was many years later that I came to realize that horrible acts of violence could be committed by any group of people, and the victims of such violence could belong to any group of people. We are all capable of great evil and of great goodness.

Today, Iraq is on fire. On March 26th, Marines went into Fallujah and encountered guerrilla fighters. The Marines killed 15 people, and three of them were children. This was little reported in our news. On March 30th, some people in Fallujah killed four American security contractors who were safe-guarding food to bring to our troops. According to reporting by Ted Koppel, those security guards are all ex-military, well armed and well trained. They are part of the second largest militia in Iraq (after US troops), a private militia. What happened to them reminded me of the lynchings that took place here in the southern USA not that long ago. In response, this week the Marines started an offensive in Fallujah. Now we hear of a new mass grave in Iraq, in a soccer field, and over 600 Iraqi dead. It seems unlikely to me that this approach will catch the true perpetrators of the original crimes. I have yet to see any pictures of the children killed in this offensive on US television. I have seen dozens on the internet.

A headline in the NY Times today says "US Prepares A Prolonged Drive to Suppress The Uprising in Iraq". This fills me with dread, both for the Iraqi people and our troops over there. Our TV media shows scenes of Iraqi violence and American hostages and American victims over and over. They mention the number of Iraqi who have died in Fallujah this past week, yet they do little in-depth reporting. The Arab TV stations do the same thing, only they report on American violence and aggression and Iraqi deaths and injuries. (They have more to work with, because our firepower is much greater.) Both American and Arab television, in my opinion, are promoting violence as an acceptable solution to the perceived wrongdoing of the other side. Neither side looks at how they are inflaming the situation.

President Bush told us that Saddam had WMDs, connections to al Qaeda, and was a threat to the US. None of this was true. We went into an optional war for bogus reasons. We were more recently told that we are there to bring Iraqis freedom and democracy. To many of the Iraqis, we have brought the freedom of the grave and the democracy of death.

What are we going to do about this? It seems an increase in offensive action against the guerillas will only result in more injuries and death to innocents, without providing a real solution. To leave Iraq may lead to total anarchy and civil war. I believe the best answer, out of many bad answers, is to turn this over to the United Nations and pull our troops out of Iraq. I believe the US has a moral responsibility to attempt to fix what we have broken, and therefore should finance the UN activities in Iraq, for however long it takes.

I hope we never repeat this horror. I hope our elected leaders realize what a terrible mistake they have made here. I hope, next time, the voices of peace and reason are clearly heard before it is too late. I hope we will find political solutions to our problems, and turn away from violence. I hope we ask ourselves "what are we doing?" I fear there will be no happy ending to this war, and the horror in the eyes of the children will only grow. Please pray for our troops and the people of Iraq.

The White House comment line is 202-456-1111. The phone number for Senator Dole is 202-224-6342. The phone number for Senator Edwards is 202-224-3154. The phone number for Representative Taylor is 828-251-1988. They need your prayers and they need to hear from you.

[Of course, there is no point in calling these people at this time - they are ALL out of office! But it might be a good idea to call the ones who are in office now. Picture is an Iraqi child from Tel Afar, picture taken in January 2005. ]

Jon Stewart on obama vs bush Iraq "withdrawal"

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Message from the President of Iran

President Ahmadinejad: Today I want to extend my very best wishes to all who are celebrating Easter around the world.

This holiday is both an ancient ritual and a moment of renewal, and I hope that you enjoy this special time of year with friends and family.

In particular, I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the United States. Easter is just one part of your great and celebrated culture. Over many centuries your art, your music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place.

Here in Iran our own communities have been enhanced by the contributions of American-Iranians. We know that you are a great civilization, and your accomplishments have earned the respect of Iran and the world.

For nearly three decades relations between our nations have been strained. But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together. Indeed, you will be celebrating your Easter in much the same way that we Iranians mark our holidays -- by gathering with friends and family, exchanging gifts and stories, and looking to the future with a renewed sense of hope.

Within these celebrations lies the promise of a new day, the promise of opportunity for our children, security for our families, progress for our communities, and peace between nations. Those are shared hopes, those are common dreams.

So in this season of new beginnings I would like to speak clearly to America's leaders. We have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among Iran, the United States, and the international community. This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.

You, too, have a choice. Iran wants the United States to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the American people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.

So on the occasion of your Easter, I want you, the people and leaders of the United States, to understand the future that we seek. It's a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce. It's a future where the old divisions are overcome, where you and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace.

I know that this won't be reached easily. There are those who insist that we be defined by our differences. But let us remember the words that were written by the poet Saadi, so many years ago: "The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence."

With the coming of a new season, we're reminded of this precious humanity that we all share. And we can once again call upon this spirit as we seek the promise of a new beginning.

Thank you, and Happy Easter.