Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Legacy, Part Fourteen

Mass Graves

Photo:  A man excavates a newly discovered mass grave in the desert of western Anbar province in Iraq, in this April 14, 2011 file photo. In the shadow of an earthen dam and buried under rubble and trash scattered across the al-Sadah waste ground lies one of the most frightening places in Baghdad at the peak of Iraq's sectarian slaughter. Tens of thousands of Iraqis were killed or went missing in the sectarian conflict in 2006-2007 unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003. Many of the missing were never found.   REUTERS/Ali al-Mashhadani

In the shadow of an earthen dam and buried under rubble and trash scattered across the al-Sadah waste ground lies one of the most frightening places in Baghdad at the peak of Iraq's sectarian slaughter.  Beneath the detritus and shacks since constructed on the killing field is buried what may be one of the largest unopened mass graves in the Iraq capital, a macabre testimony to the darker days of the country's war.  Tens of thousands of Iraqis were killed or went missing in the sectarian conflict in 2006-2007 unleashed by the U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Many of the missing were never found, and as the last U.S. troops leave Iraq, the excavation of mass graves that may provide answers for the relatives of the dead is considered a critical step in healing after years of war.  Some believe al-Sadah in eastern Baghdad, one of 41 unexcavated mass graves known to the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry in the capital and its outskirts, contains hundreds of bodies buried just a few centimeters beneath the dirt. 

The Human Rights Ministry and security officials say al-Sadah is not the largest mass grave left by militant groups since 2003, but it might the biggest created by the Shi'ite militias in Baghdad and still untouched.  "The dam extends for a distance of 25 km (15 miles), bordering many large Shi'ite neighborhoods, and was used by all the Shi'ite militias without exception," Mohammed said.

The people of the US was told, prior to the invasion, that Saddam had put 300,000 people in mass graves.  Some of those graves were found, one of the largest in Hilla.  But the number of people in those graves did not number even 10% of that number presented.  But since the war of aggression on Iraq, many more have been put in mass graves.  In Najaf alone, there were 40,000 unidentified bodies buried by July 2007.  The mass grave being uncovered above is one of many.  Our war and occupation of  Iraq resulted in many more mass graves than under Saddam’s regime.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Legacy, Part Thirteen

Lots of dead people

Photo:   A poster outside Ahmed Hassan's trailer commemorates his three sons killed by militants in 2006. [Al Jazeera]

Lots of dead people

The legacy of the Iraq war for Ahmed Hassan can be reduced to a single image, the faded photograph of his three dead sons, all of them killed by armed groups, which hangs above the cramped trailer he and his family now call home.  All three were killed within a span of six months. Muthanna, a doctor, and Thamar, a professional volleyball player, were both shot in the head; Laith, a police officer, was assassinated by a roadside bomb planted near his car.  He blames his neighbours in Diyala province, an ethnically and religiously mixed area which became a stronghold of al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2006.  "The ones I was sitting with day and night, my friends, they are the ones who killed my sons," Hassan, a Shia Muslim, said bitterly. "My neighbours told al-Qaeda about us."

Celebrating US Withdrawal from Iraq? Shame on Us!

Iraqi civilians were being killed all the time. Maj. Gen. Steve Johnson, the commander of American forces in Anbar, in his own testimony, described it as “a cost of doing business.”  The stress of combat left some soldiers paralyzed, the testimony shows. Troops, traumatized by the rising violence and feeling constantly under siege, grew increasingly twitchy, killing more and more civilians in accidental encounters. Others became so desensitized and inured to the killing that they fired on Iraqi civilians deliberately while their fellow soldiers snapped pictures, and were court-martialed. The bodies piled up at a time when the war had gone horribly wrong.


The vast majority of American people does not know or care about all these deaths while our troops were occupying the country.    They have no idea, and they have not ever taken the time to educate themselves.  Most deaths in Iraq were caused by other Iraqis, but a significant number were caused by US troops.  And I believe the Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence was caused by the decisions of the Bush administration, in particular, sending Negroponte into Iraq.  


Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Legacy, Part Twelve

Psychological trauma

Photo:  Young Iraqis have held numerous protesters against corruption and poor governance this year [EPA]

Young Iraqis scarred by war

It is difficult to quantify the psychological trauma caused by the war, because the Iraqi government does not have reliable mental health statistics.

But the data points which are available are striking: A United Nations survey found that one in five young Iraqis suffer from chronic headaches caused by stress; one in four show symptoms of PTSD. A 2009 study carried out by the World Health Organisation found that 17 per cent of Iraqis suffer from mental disorders, mostly depression, phobias and PTSD. 70 per cent of those afflicted have tried to commit suicide.

"We survived during the sectarian problems, but we couldn't leave the house, we couldn't do our jobs," Rashid said. "Those were hard days."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Legacy, Part Eleven

Photo:  In this Sept. 16, 2007 file photo, a woman takes her dead son into her arms, six-year-old Dhiya Thamer, who was killed when their family car came under fire by unknown gunmen in Baqouba, capital of Iraq's Diyala province, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad.   (AP Photo/Adem Hadei, File)

Lies and Propaganda

What if they ended a war and nobody cared?

Then, because it is not permissible for a president to acknowledge that wars are sometimes follies that end ignominiously, Obama went on to make the obligatory assertion that America won the Iraq War:

“[E]verything that American troops have done in Iraq — all the fighting and all the dying, the bleeding and the building, and the training and the partnering — all of it has led to this moment of success.”

Finally, having conferred this empty stamp of rhetorical approval, Obama whitewashed the motivations that actually led the Bush administration to start the war. In one of the most disgraceful sentences of his presidency, he said,

“That’s part of what makes us special as Americans. Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices for territory or for resources. We do it because it’s right.”  

If Obama had gone on to add, “They hate us for our freedom,” his impersonation of George W. Bush would have been complete.


Those are some seriously hideous lies there from Mr. Obama. 


More from the above link:

To truly honor those brave men and women in uniform – and, even more because there are more of them — the millions of Iraqis whose lives we destroyed, Americans need to look unflinchingly at this dreadful war.

They need to look at the ignorant, twisted and duplicitous men and women who started it, at the institutions that failed to stop it, and at their own complicity in it. Above all, they need to look at its terrible toll.

We need to remember that this war was launched under false pretenses by an administration that used fake evidence to push it through. Americans need to remember their own understandable fear after 9/11, and how they allowed cunning and manipulative ideologues to exploit it.

We need to remember that the institutions that should have resisted the war – Congress and the media – completely failed to do so. Drugged by post-9/11 patriotism and groupthink, America’s representatives and their journalists abandoned their posts at the crucial hour.


Yes, the US politicians and US corporate media lied from start to finish on this hideous occupation of Iraq.  And they show no signs of stopping, and no signs of noting how TENS OF MILLIONS of lives were damaged forever. Below is one soldier’s apology to the Iraqi people, and a commentary on the LIES that we tell ourselves about this war of aggression.


I am sorry for the role I played in Fallujah

I understand the psychology that causes the aggressors to blame their victims. I understand the justifications and defence mechanisms. I understand the emotional urge to want to hate the people who killed someone dear to you. But to describe the psychology that preserves such false beliefs is not to ignore the objective moral truth that no attacker can ever justly blame their victims for defending themselves.

History has preserved these lies, normalised them, and socialised them into our culture: so much so that legitimate resistance against US aggression is incomprehensible to most, and to even raise this question is seen as un-American.

History has defined the US veteran as a hero, and in doing so it has automatically defined anyone who fights against him as the bad guy. It has reversed the roles of aggressor and defender, moralised the immoral, and shaped our societies' present understanding of war.

I cannot imagine a more necessary step towards justice than to put an end to these lies, and achieve some moral clarity on this issue. I see no issue more important than to clearly understand the difference between aggression and self-defence, and to support legitimate struggles. I cannot hate, blame, begrudge, or resent Fallujans for fighting back against us. I am sincerely sorry for the role I played in the second siege of Fallujah, and I hope that some day not just Fallujans but all Iraqis will win their struggle.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Withdrawing is not enough

Fallah Alwan, President of the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq wrote the open letter to President Obama below, concerning the withdrawal of our troops from his country.  Please circulate widely.
Thank you,
Terry Rockefeller

Now That You Have Destroyed Our Country, Withdrawing Is Not Enough

To the American President Barak Obama

Nine years ago your military invaded Iraq claiming two justifications:  the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the goal of spreading democracy.  The first pretext was proved absolutely false, which even former-president George Bush has admitted. This was shameful.  But in the name of spreading democracy, what Iraqis have witnessed instead it that the US spreads killing, looting, sectarian strife, militias, and terrorism. You imposed reactionary ideas, especially about women, so that sexual trafficking and prostitution are now increasing here. Our schools and universities have been destroyed and education has deteriorated. The US authorities you put in power over us, and later the government the US imposed upon us through the elections you administered have devastated our communities’ resources.

During the US occupation, Iraq experienced levels of crime and political chaos never before witnessed here, even during the conquest of Baghdad by the Mongol ruler, Hulagu Khan. Civilized life declined. The gains of decades of struggle to improve life in Iraq were wiped out. Evidence of centuries of historical development in Iraq, the achievements of the great Babylonians and the ruins of Sumer and Akkad were thoughtlessly destroyed as you turned them into army barracks. Your soldiers dug up the ground around the ruins, destroying even the clay tablets on which human beings first wrote letters thousands of years ago.

Not satisfied with merely destroying Iraq, the occupation forces created political structures that planted seeds of hate and enmity, and opposed all that was modern, advanced and striving for freedom. These new political structures created conflicts and renewed old disputes, throwing our society into a vortex of violence and corruption, destroying what had been a modern, urban culture.
Your withdrawal now - which we still do not trust to be total or final - will not solve the problems that our society faces. It will not end the crisis that the US created. We will need many long years to forget the painful memories and suffering of being victims of occupation. We will need decades to restore what you have destroyed and decades to save our future generations. You have left behind an environment polluted by radiation and soil poisoned with chemicals. Our children and our elders are dying from diseases caused by your weapons and destruction. They cry out for treatment, but there is no cure for their suffering. Many hope for death just to end their pain.

You have spent hundreds of billions of dollars that you collected in taxes from Americans who rejected war. Your country now suffers high unemployment. You forced your nation’s youth to kill innocent people under the pretext of fighting terrorism, while your own citizens opposed war and rejected your war policies. American workers declared their opposition to war with Iraq before the invasion. They joined anti-war groups and waged campaigns to stop the war. Your leaders may boast of victory but after withdrawal they will leave behind sorrows that don’t end. How can you withdraw without acknowledging the crimes that you have committed?

You owe the Iraqi people compensation. You must be responsible for the suffering of the innocent victims of your war. The people of Iraq retain the right to make these demands, even if your agreement with the Iraqi government does not mention our right.  Our voices are the voices of millions of Iraqi workers, the voices of the masses in our country. We are expressing our outrage over what is happening. At the same time our voices reflect the wishes of billions of people throughout the world, especially the American public who called for freedom from fighting wars and who asked to live in peace with other peoples.  The thousands of people who are on Wall Street in the name of the Occupy Movement share this message of peace not war, a message that rejects humans abusing one another. Instead, we call for equality and an end to injustice - a call being heard throughout the world. We stand together with our colleagues in the Occupy Movement against the US war policies and the capitalist system that promotes them.

Fallah Alwan
President of the Federation of Workers' Councils and Unions in Iraq

The Legacy, Part Ten

Widespread Trafficking Of Iraqi Women And Girls Thanks To The Iraq War

Since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, over 100,000 Iraqis have been killed and another 4.4 million displaced, leaving many women and girls widowed or orphaned.  As a result of the conflict more than 50,000 Iraqi women find themselves trapped in sexual servitude in Syria and Jordan, giving rise to a lucrative and growing sex industry that feeds off the chaos from the Iraq war.
Women and girls inside Iraq fare no better, often working in brothels run by female pimps. In an interview with the Inter Press Service, Rania, a former trafficker who now works as an undercover researcher for a women’s support group in Iraq, detailed a visit to “a house in Baghdad’s Al-Jihad district, where girls as young as 16 were held to cater exclusively to the U.S. military. The brothel’s owner told Rania that an Iraqi interpreter employed by the Americans served as the go-between, transporting girls to and from the U.S. airport base.”  Although human trafficking is illegal in Iraq, the country lacks a robust criminal justice system to enforce the law. Sadly, the victims of trafficking and prostitution are often the ones who are punished.

And, no one is looking into this problem, much less taking action.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Legacy, Part Nine

Refugees, internal and external
Photo:  May 27, 2010

Half a million displaced Iraqis face grim future in squalid squatter camps.  “We registered 160,000 [squatters] in Baghdad a year ago and this March the number was up to 260,000. This is only for Baghdad, we haven't published figures for the whole country yet but it's at least up from 400,000 to 500,000 for the time being,” Daniel Endres, Iraq representative of UNHCR, said."
December 11, 2011
Of all the problems that the U.S. troop withdrawal won't affect in Iraq, what to do about the number of internally displaced people looms the largest. As many as 2 million Iraqis — about 6 percent of the country's estimated population of more than 31 million — are thought to have been forced from the cities and towns where they once lived and are housed in circumstances that feel temporary and makeshift. More than 500,000 of those are "squatters in slum areas with no assistance or legal right to the properties they occupy," according to Refugees International, a Washington-based advocacy group. Most can't go home: Either their homes have been destroyed or hostile ethnic and sectarian groups now control their neighborhoods. Those who are displaced internally say the Iraqi government has done little or nothing to help them, and in some cases has even prevented them from returning to their homes. 

Photo:  Staff members from the Baghdad bureau of Knight Ridder, which later became McClatchy, on June 28, 2004, marking the official end of the U.S.-led occupation authority. Clockwise from left, Dogen Hannah, Abdelwahab Abdelrazak, Yasser Salihee, Omar Jassim, Ali Jassim, David George, Tom Lasseter, Pauline Lubens, Ken Dilanian, Hassan Abdul Hassan and Hannah Allam. | MCT

War forever changed the lives of sixIraqis we knew well
More than seven years later, with U.S. troops almost gone from Iraq ahead of the Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline, these are the fates of the six Iraqi staffers in that photo: One is dead, one is an amputee, one was internally displaced and the others are refugees in Sweden, Australia and the United States. Just one still lives in Iraq, and he was forced to move to a different neighborhood after a double car bombing in January 2010 left his house in ruins. The same blasts partially demolished the hotel where the picture was taken and killed a friendly young worker in the bakery where we’d ordered the cake. The postscripts to that photo encapsulate the ruinous aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion, which set off years of sectarian warfare and political paralysis that have touched the lives of virtually all of Iraq’s more than 30 million citizens.

And the displacement is continuing. According to a new report by Minority Rights Group International, many minorities “face targeted threats and violence, the destruction of their places of worship, the loss of homes and property and lack of government protection of their rights. This violence has caused significant numbers of minorities to flee Iraq, in some cases decimating communities to the point that they risk disappearing altogether from their ancient homeland.”
Overall, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reports that at least half of Iraq’s pre-2003 Christian community, once around a million strong, has left the country, probably never to return. This trend essentially terminates Christianity’s nearly two millennium-long presence in Mesopotamia. Baghdad’s Jewish population has been reduced to less than ten.
At least some Americans have heard that Christians and Jews are fleeing the country for their lives, but how many have ever heard of Chaldeans, Syriacs, Assyrians, Circassians, Baha’is, Black Iraqis, Roma, Faili Kurds, Kaka’i, Sabean Mandaeans, Shabaks, Turkmen, and Yazidis?

Most estimates are two million to two and a half million internally displaced. And most of them are desperately poor.  Another two million or so left the country entirely, and many of them are poor also, although they started out with more money in the beginning. These people have had their lives destroyed.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Occupy Camp Asheville 12-24-11

 The building to the left is City Hall.  The area where the picture was taken is City-County Plaza, a city owned park (they renamed it last year, but I don't like the new name).

 Two of the occupiers were cleaning up from a late lunch.  As I was talking to them, more food was dropped off- cooked chicken and cookies and bottles of water.  They guys said they needed to eat more vegetables, so I decided to go to the store, buy some veggies and cook them for Occupy Asheville camp.
Some more tents, with a view of Beaucatcher Mountain in the background.  The strip of land that the tents are on is not considered part of the city park system (where camping is not allowed) but is considered part of City Hall.  There will be a decision early next year as to whether camping will continue to be allowed in this area.  Just past the orange cone above is private property, where there was camping a few years back to save the Magnolia Tree from being torn down for condos.  The owner of that property allowed camping back then (I think it was part of his tactics to pressure the city) but has not allowed Occupy to camp there.

A big problem that the campers face is bathroom access at night and on weekends.  During the workday, they can use the bathrooms in City Hall.  This is also a problem during General Assembly meetings, which are held after work hours.  You have to walk pretty far to use a restroom.  The Occupiers would be happy to have a port-a-john (which is what is done for events in City-County Plaza), but they have to get a permit, and they don't want to be "permitted" and it is very expensive anyway. 


"This poem is dedicated to the Occupy movement whose courage is changing the world. Stay Strong. We are winning,"

The beginning spills through city veins
Into the arteries
And under powers poison clouds
We move like the shadows
Through the alley ways
Through nightmares bought and sold as dreams
Through barren factories
Through boarded schools
Through rotting fields
Through the burning doors of the past
Through imaginations exploding
To break the curfews in our minds

Our actions awaken dreams of actions multiplied
A restless fury
Once buried like burning embers
Left alone to smolder
But together stacked under the walls of a dying order
All sparks are counted
Calloused hands raised in silence
Over the bonfire of hope unincorporated
It's flame restores tomorrows meaning
Across the graveyards of hollow promises
As gold dipped vultures pick at what is left of our denial

And the youngest among us
Stare at us stoned like eyes determined
And say
Death for us may come early
Cause dignity has no price
At the corner of now and nowhere
Tomorrow is calling
Tomorrow is calling
Do not be afraid

-- Zack de la Rocha

Christmas in the trenches....

"and at each end of the rifle, we're the same...."

Christmas Day, 1914

My dear sister Janet,

It is 2:00 in the morning and most of our men are asleep in their dugouts -- yet I could not sleep myself before writing to you of the wonderful events of Christmas Eve. In truth, what happened seems almost like a fairy tale, and if I hadn't been through it myself, I would scarce believe it. Just imagine: While you and the family sang carols before the fire there in London, I did the same with enemy soldiers here on the battlefields of France!

As I wrote before, there has been little serious fighting of late. The first battles of the war left so many dead that both sides have held back until replacements could come from home. So we have mostly stayed in our trenches and waited.  But what a terrible waiting it has been! Knowing that any moment an artillery shell might land and explode beside us in the trench, killing or maiming several men. And in daylight not daring to lift our heads above ground, for fear of a sniper's bullet. And the rain -- it has fallen almost daily. Of course, it collects right in our trenches, where we must bail it out with pots and pans.  And with the rain has come mud -- a good foot or more deep. It splatters and cakes everything, and constantly sucks at our boots. One new recruit got his feet stuck in it, and then his hands too when he tried to get out -- just like in that American story of the tar baby!

Through all this, we couldn't help feeling curious about the German soldiers across the way. After all, they faced the same dangers we did, and slogged about in the same muck. What's more, their first trench was only 50 yards from ours. Between us lay No Man's Land, bordered on both sides by barbed wire -- yet they were close enough we sometimes heard their voices.  Of course, we hated them when they killed our friends. But other times, we joked about them and almost felt we had something in common.  And now it seems they felt the same.  Just yesterday morning -- Christmas Eve Day -- we had our first good freeze. Cold as we were, we welcomed it, because at least the mud froze solid.  Everything was tinged white with frost, while a bright sun shone over all.  Perfect Christmas weather.

During the day, there was little shelling or rifle fire from either side. And as darkness fell on our Christmas Eve, the shooting stopped entirely. Our first complete silence in months! We hoped it might promise a peaceful holiday, but we didn't count on it. We'd been told the Germans might attack and try to catch us off guard.  I went to the dugout to rest, and lying on my cot, I must have drifted asleep. All at once my friend John was shaking me awake, saying, "Come and see! See what the Germans are doing!" I grabbed my rifle, stumbled out into the trench, and stuck my head cautiously above the sandbags.

I never hope to see a stranger and more lovely sight. Clusters of tiny lights were shining all along the German line, left and right as far as the eye could see.  "What is it?" I asked in bewilderment, and John answered, "Christmas trees!"  And so it was. The Germans had placed Christmas trees in front of their trenches, lit by candle or lantern like beacons of good will.  And then we heard their voices raised in song.

    "Stille nacht, heilige nacht...."

This carol may not yet be familiar to us in Britain, but John knew it and translated: "Silent night, holy night." I've never heard one lovelier -- or more meaningful, in that quiet, clear night, its dark softened by a first-quarter moon.  When the song finished, the men in our trenches applauded. Yes, British soldiers applauding Germans! Then one of our own men started singing, and we all joined in.

    "The first Nowell, the angel did say...."

In truth, we sounded not nearly as good as the Germans, with their fine harmonies. But they responded with enthusiastic applause of their own and then began another.

    "O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum...."

Then we replied.

    "O come all ye faithful...."

But this time they joined in, singing the same words in Latin.

    "Adeste fideles...."

British and German harmonizing across No Man's Land! I would have thought nothing could be more amazing -- but what came next was more so.  "English, come over!" we heard one of them shout. "You no shoot, we no shoot."  There in the trenches, we looked at each other in bewilderment. Then one of us shouted jokingly, "You come over here."  To our astonishment, we saw two figures rise from the trench, climb over their barbed wire, and advance unprotected across No Man's Land.  One of them called, "Send officer to talk."  I saw one of our men lift his rifle to the ready, and no doubt others did the same -- but our captain called out, "Hold your fire." Then he climbed out and went to meet the Germans halfway. We heard them talking, and a few minutes later, the captain came back with a German cigar in his mouth!  "We've agreed there will be no shooting before midnight tomorrow," he announced. "But sentries are to remain on duty, and the rest of you, stay alert."

Across the way, we could make out groups of two or three men starting out of trenches and coming toward us. Then some of us were climbing out too, and in minutes more, there we were in No Man's Land, over a hundred soldiers and officers of each side, shaking hands with men we'd been trying to kill just hours earlier!  Before long a bonfire was built, and around it we mingled – British khaki and German grey. I must say, the Germans were the better dressed, with fresh uniforms for the holiday.  Only a couple of our men knew German, but more of the Germans knew English. I asked one of them why that was.  "Because many have worked in England!" he said. "Before all this, I was a waiter at the Hotel Cecil. Perhaps I waited on your table!"  "Perhaps you did!" I said, laughing.

He told me he had a girlfriend in London and that the war had interrupted their plans for marriage. I told him, "Don't worry. We'll have you beat by Easter, then you can come back and marry the girl."  He laughed at that. Then he asked if I'd send her a postcard he'd give me later, and I promised I would.  Another German had been a porter at Victoria Station. He showed me a picture of his family back in Munich. His eldest sister was so lovely, I said I should like to meet her someday. He beamed and said he would like that very much and gave me his family's address.

Even those who could not converse could still exchange gifts – our cigarettes for their cigars, our tea for their coffee, our corned beef for their sausage.  Badges and buttons from uniforms changed owners, and one of our lads walked off with the infamous spiked helmet! I myself traded a jackknife for a leather equipment belt -- a fine souvenir to show when I get home.  Newspapers too changed hands, and the Germans howled with laughter at ours. They assured us that France was finished and Russia nearly beaten too. We told them that was nonsense, and one of them said, "Well, you believe your newspapers and we'll believe ours."  Clearly they are lied to -- yet after meeting these men, I wonder how truthful our own newspapers have been. These are not the "savage barbarians" we've read so much about. They are men with homes and families, hopes and fears, principles and, yes, love of country. In other words, men like ourselves. Why are we led to believe otherwise?

As it grew late, a few more songs were traded around the fire, and then all joined in for -- I am not lying to you -- "Auld Lang Syne."  Then we parted with promises to meet again tomorrow, and even some talk of a football match.  I was just starting back to the trenches when an older German clutched my arm. "My God," he said, "why cannot we have peace and all go home?"  I told him gently, "That you must ask your emperor."  He looked at me then, searchingly. "Perhaps, my friend. But also we must ask our hearts."  And so, dear sister, tell me, has there ever been such a Christmas Eve in all history? And what does it all mean, this impossible befriending of enemies? 

For the fighting here, of course, it means regrettably little. Decent fellows those soldiers may be, but they follow orders and we do the same. Besides, we are here to stop their army and send it home, and never could we shirk that duty.  Still, one cannot help imagine what would happen if the spirit shown here were caught by the nations of the world. Of course, disputes must always arise. But what if our leaders were to offer well wishes in place of warnings? Songs in place of slurs? Presents in place of reprisals? Would not all war end at once?  All nations say they want peace. Yet on this Christmas morning, I wonder if we want it quite enough.

Your loving brother,


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tomorrow, the world celebrates the birth of the rebel Jesus (although he was probably born in the spring time).  In honor of that, here is a tribute to the rebel Jesus - who fed the poor, gave away free health care, said to turn the other cheek, forgave those who harmed him, overturned the bankster's tables in the temple, and said to give away your possessions to the poor!  And he was very poor when he walked on this earth.

Peace bear in the snow

Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighboring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free. -- The XIVth Dalai Lama

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Legacy, Part Eight

Divided, fragile, destroyed
"Baghdad was built by al-Mansour and cherished by Saddam," was a slogan that adorned many buildings in the Iraqi capital before the 2003 U.S. invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Nearly nine years later, as the last American troops leave, a new slogan has taken its place: "Baghdad was built by al-Mansour, humiliated by Saddam and destroyed by the Americans."
Many directly accuse the U.S. invasion of stirring up sectarian divisions in a country where Saddam, from the minority Sunni sect, ruthlessly crushed any signs of Shi'ite dissent but minimized sectarian divisions in daily life.

"There were no Sunnis and Shi'ites before the Americans, there was no sectarianism," said Abu Issam as he crossed the bridge. "I am a Shi'ite and my two sons are married to Sunni women."


The US played the “divide and conquer” game, and it took them almost three years, and the Negroponte death squads, to get the civil war started.  That length of time does indicate that there was little division in Iraqi society between Shi’ites and Sunnis prior to the US occupation.  In fact, the original “deck of cards” for US troops to get Saddam’s top people was 40% Shi’ites.  Intermarriage between the two groups was very common. 

But years of sectarian differentiation, and then death squads targeting Sunnis and car bombs targeting Shi’ites, and the bombing of the mosque in Samarra, lead to a civil war in 2006.  It was awful, and lasted for a couple of years.  Today, the ethnic cleansing has been completed – the Sunnis and Shi’ites of Iraq are living in separate areas.  

And a lot of Iraqis think the car bombs were done by the American and British military and mercenaries.  Correct or not, that is what a lot of them think.  Below is a photo of a British troop on fire coming out of a tank.  The story, as far as I can recall, went like this:  Iraqi police stopped a car in Basra with two Brits in typical Iraqi dress.  The Iraqi police claimed that there were massive explosives build into the car, so they arrested the Brits and took them to jail.  The British military used tanks to break down the wall to the Iraqi jail and set them free, and also confiscated the car with the alleged explosives.  The Iraqi people got angry and attacked the troops, throwing bottles with gasoline and set on fire, into the tank below.  The soldier, by the way, reportedly survived without serious injuries. 

As to the allegations about the car and the intent of the guys in the car – seems to me it would have been easy to prove this wrong to the whole world, by showing the car.  The British military never did that.  And so the Iraqi people think the British and the Americans were behind the car bombs, don't know if they were correct or not.

In this Sept. 19, 2005 file photo, a British soldier makes his way out of a burning Warrior fighting vehicle in Basra, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad.

(AP Photo/Nabil al-Jurani, File)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Winter Solstice!

The Legacy, Part Seven

Photo:  Yesterday Susan Lindauer, the life time peace and womans rights activist who had the honor of being the first non-Muslim, white Caucasian, and Woman to be arrested under the law of infamy called the Patriot Act sent me a photo of a Depleted Uranium deformed infant from Fallujah, Iraq. She begged that the photo was published, if I dared to publish it.I know Susan Lindauer well enough to know that she is deeply moved by the tragedy.

See, Susan Lindauer is human, that is why she sent the photo. I am human because it makes me cry to look at it. If you dare, try your own humanity, and if you realize that you have humanity inside yourself, which I am sure about that you do, then please act upon it and stop the unadulterated evil that makes you believe that NATO and young boys and girls from the USA, Italy, the UK, France, Qatar, and other are fighting in wars that have anything to do with honor. The honorable thing to do is to stand on the side of peace, and if necessary to die for it.

Photo from this link.

As U.S. forces pull out of Iraq, residents and officials in Falluja say they leave behind bullet-riddled homes, destroyed infrastructure and a worrying increase in birth defects and maladies in a city polluted by weapons and war chemicals.

Amir Hussain and Awfa Abdullah got married in Falluja in 2004 but their lives were turned upside by the birth of their two babies.

Their first child, a baby boy born in 2006, had brain damage and died last year. The second, a baby girl who was born in 2007, suffers from severe skin rashes and has one leg longer than the other.

"We've decided to stop having babies. We don't want any more, because it means new suffering and a new battle against new diseases," Hussain said. "It is our bad luck. Maybe because we got married in the wrong time and in the wrong place."


In April, Iraqi lawmakers debated whether the U.S.-led battles in the city constituted genocide, but resolutions calling for prosecution went nowhere.


Here in the US, this issue is ignored.  But it is not going to go away, just like the poisoning from Agent Orange did not end when US troops left Vietnam.  The biggest difference is that this poison in Falljuah and other areas of Iraq, will last for hundreds of years.  The US military has left Iraq, but their poison will stay behind.  Birth defects are skyrocketing in Fallujah, with one out of four babies dying before they are a week old.  Two more of those four births are babies with noticeable birth defects.  And the ones who are born looking healthy are likely to have serous health problems and cancers. 

It is a massive, massive, massive evil that the US has done to Fallujah.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Legacy, Part Six

Mustafa Ahmed, 11, who was wounded by an American bomb during the 2003 U.S. invasion, is fitted for a new prosthetic lower leg at the Hospital for Physiotherapy on December 13, 2011 in Baghdad, Iraq. Iraq's health care system remains in shambles following two decades of war and economic sanctions. Following the 2003 U.S. invasion, thousands of physicians fled the country while others were killed. Some physicians have since returned but there is still a critical shortage of doctors. Iraq is transitioning nearly nine years after the 2003 U.S. invasion and subsequent occupation. American forces are now in the midst of the final stage of withdrawal from the war-torn country.  According to the Iraq Body Count, more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died from war-related violence.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Date created: 13 Dec 2011

> GDP per capita: $2,531.15 (66th lowest)
> Adult literacy rate: 74.1%
> Adult mortality rate per 1,000: 291

Nearly nine years after the U.S. began combat operations in Iraq, violence continues to ravage the capital city of Baghdad. Intermittent suicide bombings, random gunfire, roadside bombs and other attacks still occur throughout the city. In the past two weeks, dozens of Iraqi civilians have been killed in separate events. 

Yes, this is what the US war of aggression and occupation achieved:  the capital city is the most dangerous in the world, and the adult mortality rate is exceptionally high.  And the child in the photo was two or three years old when the US bombed his home.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Legacy, Part Five

A building that collapsed during a battle is seen in Falluja city, 50 km (31 miles) west of Baghdad December 5, 2011. As U.S. forces pull out of Iraq, residents and officials in Falluja say they leave behind bullet-riddled homes, destroyed infrastructure and a worrying increase in birth defects and maladies in a city polluted by weapons and war chemicals.  Picture taken December 5, 2011. 
REUTERS/Mohanned Faisal 

Iraqi casualties are far higher, with civilian deaths well over 100,000, many more maimed, and up to several million people displaced at the height of what became a vicious two-year sectarian war.

Despite two democratic elections, an estimated $62bn in US aid money, and the close diplomatic attention of the war's protagonists, Iraq is still grappling with a range of issues. Basic services remain poor, the political class unaccountable, a rule of law absent, and a government vulnerable to the whims of the region. There has been little progress on other touchstone issues, such as long simmering territorial disputes and national reconciliation.
Another man, Mundhar Kamel, 65, said the departure changed little. "This move is them exiting from one door and entering from another," he said. "In the embassy they still have 15,000 people and there is talk about 3,000 more [military] trainers. This is not a withdrawal, this is an act on a stage.  We haven't gained anything from the country. They destroyed the country and now they are leaving."

Adham Abul Razzak, 30, saw hope in the withdrawal. "I am very happy because of this withdrawal," he said. "I wish that this step would be the first towards unifying Iraqis and expelling sectarianism.  The effect of the occupation is still with us because of the relations between the two sides and the presence of such a large embassy. I don't think there will be violence after the withdrawal – the opposite, in fact. But only if the neighbouring countries do not interfere in our business."


This article makes a totally ludicrous statement: 

“There are many here who had grown accustomed to the safety net of US forces”

The US forces never brought safety to anyone, including Americans.  They bring the democracy of death and the freedom of the grave.

The death toll for Iraqis is hundreds of thousands, maybe over a million.  Refugees, both internally and in foreign countries, number in the millions.  The number of widows and orphans number in the millions.  And the number of injured, both physically and psychologically, number in the tens of millions. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Legacy, Part Four

Hundreds of Fallujah residents burn U.S. and Israeli flags as they demonstrate in celebration of the departure of US troops from Iraq, on December 14, 2011.

AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds in Fallujah burn U.S. flag to celebrate troops pulling out of Iraq

Shouting slogans in support of the “resistance,” the demonstrators held up banners and placards inscribed with phrases like, “Now we are free” and “Fallujah is the flame of the resistance.”

Surrounded by the Iraqi army, demonstrators carried posters bearing photos of apparent insurgents, faces covered and carrying weapons.

They also held up pictures of U.S. soldiers killed and military vehicles destroyed in the two major offensives against the city in 2004.

“We are proud to have driven the occupier out of Iraq, at the cost of enormous sacrifice,” said Khalid al-Alwa, the local leader of the Islamic Party, a Sunni Muslim grouping.

Those who destroyed Iraq paid the price because the people here held them accountable.”

The demonstration, which was held in Al-Khadra Mohammediyah Square in the centre of Fallujah, was dubbed the first annual “festival to celebrate the role of the resistance.”


I agree that it was the Iraqi people who drove the US military out of Iraq, but they did not do it in Fallujah and they did not do it using force.  They did it by pressuring their politicians to make an agreement with Bush to withdraw US troops many years in the future.  And then they did it by pressuring their politicians to NOT GIVE LEGAL IMMUNITY to the US troops after the withdrawal date.  In other words, they did it non-violently. 

And non-violent direct action is the ONLY thing that would have worked, because the US government and US military know very well how to do violence and force, and they routinely use those tools as a means of control.  But non-violent direct action is something they do not know how to counter properly, although they clearly tried to get Maliki and the Iraqi people to let the US military stay in Iraq.

The Legacy, Part Three

A building that was damaged during a battle is seen in Falluja city, 50 km (31 miles) west of Baghdad December 5, 2011. As U.S. forces pull out of Iraq, residents and officials in Falluja say they leave behind bullet-riddled homes, destroyed infrastructure and a worrying increase in birth defects and maladies in a city polluted by weapons and war chemicals.
Picture taken December 5, 2011.
REUTERS/Mohanned Faisal


When the Americans came, they made a very big mistake. If they had won over the tribal leaders of Anbar in advance, there would have been no problem. If the Americans had not chosen violence, the resistance would not have been so strong. But after the first shooting when people were killed outside a school in Falluja in 2003, and after the two battles of Falluja in 2004 the sons of Falluja were ready to be friends even with the devil if it hurt the Americans.

They were ripe for Salafis, killers, thieves, insurgents, nationalists, Baathists, jihadis, anyone who was against the Americans. If someone was killed in the street by the Americans, all his friends would form a group and compete against each other as to who would be first to take revenge upon the Americans.

It was not a mistake, they did it on purpose.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Legacy, Part Two

Andrea Bruce for The New York Times
Transcripts of military interviews from the investigation into the Haditha massacre were found at this trailer in a junkyard in Baghdad, which specializes in selling trailers and office supplies left over from American military base closings.

Secret Military Documents, Straight From an Iraqi Junkyard

One by one, the Marines sat down, swore to tell the truth and began to give secret interviews discussing one of the most horrific episodes of America’s time in Iraq: the 2005 massacre by Marines of Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha.
“I mean, whether it’s a result of our action or other action, you know, discovering 20 bodies, throats slit, 20 bodies, you know, beheaded, 20 bodies here, 20 bodies there,” Col. Thomas Cariker, a commander in Anbar Province at the time, told investigators as he described the chaos of Iraq. At times, he said, deaths were caused by “grenade attacks on a checkpoint and, you know, collateral with civilians.”
The 400 pages of interrogations, once closely guarded as secrets of war, were supposed to have been destroyed as the last American troops prepare to leave Iraq. Instead, they were discovered along with reams of other classified documents, including military maps showing helicopter routes and radar capabilities, by a reporter for The New York Times at a junkyard outside Baghdad. An attendant was burning them as fuel to cook a dinner of smoked carp.
The documents — many marked secret — form part of the military’s internal investigation, and confirm much of what happened at Haditha, a Euphrates River town where Marines killed 24 Iraqis, including a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair, women and children, some just toddlers.

It seems the US military was too stupid to destroy the evidence, and left it behind.

And then the NYT gives the "classified" evidence back to the military instead of publishing it.  And the US military cares so little about the war crimes it has committed, it cannot dispose of the evidence properly.


A partial picture of the aftermath:

From Washington Post website.  A photo contained in a Naval Criminal Investigative Service report obtained by The Washington Post shows a Marine inspecting a roadside scene near Haditha, Iraq, where five unarmed civilians were killed Nov. 19, 2005.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Protest at the White House - December 2010

Daniel Ellsberg flashes a pair of peace signs as he's led away by capitol police on December 16, 2010. One hundred thirty one protestors, including numerous veterans, gathered in the snow outside the White House challenging the war in Afghanistan. (Common Dreams)

I saved this photo and caption a year ago.  I had no idea at the time that December 16, 2011 would be the start of the trial of Bradley Manning.  I know Daniel Ellsberg is very supportive of Bradley Manning and I am sure Daniel is up there next to Ft. Meade where Bradley's trial is being held. 

My thoughts are with both of them.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Legacy, Part One

Khitam Hamad, 12, whose face and body was burned after a car bomb exploded in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, poses in a hallway at a program operated by Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on November 28, 2011 in Amman, Jordan. MSF has been running a reconstructive-surgery program for war-wounded Iraqis since August 2006. The program, which helps Iraqis irrespective of age or ethnic/religious background, is currently treating roughly 120 cases. MSF was forced to pull out of Iraq in 2004 due to the escalating violence in the country. Following the years of violence in the country, the state of medical care in Iraq is poor. There is a chronic shortage of doctors and nurses and much of the country's hospitals are using outdated and damaged equipment.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Date created: 28 Nov 2011


They came on Wednesday to bury the war: clerics and sheiks, children and widows from across this scarred city. In the shadow of an overpass, they waved banners, burned an American flag, displayed photos of their dead and shouted well-worn denunciations of departing American forces. 

“It’s a festival,” said Sheik Hamid Ahmed Hasham, the head of the local council, whose four predecessors were assassinated. 

Once an inner ring of Iraq’s wartime inferno, Falluja is only too eager to say goodbye to nearly nine shattering years of raids, bombings and house-to-house urban combat. At least 200 American troops were killed in this city. Untold thousands of Iraqis died, civilians and insurgents who are mourned equally as martyrs. 

Today, Falluja is a city desperately seeking normal. 


Many people of Fallujah are in deep, deep pain from the US war of aggression and occupation.  That pain is obvious in the face of the young girl above.  But this pain goes way beyond the physical pain and physical scars.  Today, the people of Fallujah are afraid to have a child, because the odds of a child having severe birth defects are very high.  The odds of a newborn baby dying in the first week of life are one in four.  The odds of a child getting cancer are very high.  Adults are getting cancer in record numbers also.  And this started in 2005, so we can be sure that something that the US military did in 2004 is the root cause of all these birth defects and cancers.

I can think of nothing more evil than to take away a person’s ability to have a healthy child.

There are a lot of reports coming out about Iraq, since the occupation is coming to an end.  I will highlight some of them on this blog.  Pictures are on the blog FACES OF GRIEF.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Upcoming events in the Asheville area this week

Photo is of City Hall in Asheville in the summer of 2011.


The fall NC Policy Watch road trip continues!  Chris Fitzsimon and Rob Schofield will be in Asheville for a noon Crucial Conversation at the Unitarian Universalist Church.  They will review what a year of conservative leadership has meant for/inflicted on the N.C. General Assembly.  Later that same day we’ll be in Boone at the Cooperative Extension Agricultural Conference Center at 7 PM.  Cost is $10 and includes a box lunch.  Register for the Asheville event at:

The next WNC PSR monthly meeting will be at the home of Steve and Beth Gilman.  Brown Bag lunch at noon with meeting from 12:30 to 2 PM.  Directions to the Gilman's home:  Take Highway 70 - Tunnel Road east from downtown Asheville. (From Interstate 240 going east, take Exit 7 and turn left at end of ramp.) Go several miles past the VA Hospital on left. Just before Blue Ridge Parkway overpass, turn right at stoplight onto Pleasant Ridge Road. Take 2nd right turn onto Wagon Road. Then turn left onto Birchwood to #18 on left.  Physicians, health personnel and, yes, everyone; all are welcomed at the monthly meetings!  Please go to  for more information, which includes how to get there and other details.

A local activist presents photography and video of Liberty Plaza, hours before it was raided by NYPD. Prints will be available for sale to benefit the Occupy Asheville Street Medic Team as it creates the Asheville Peoples Clinic, a free health clinic for the people of Asheville!  Time is 6 to 9 PM and location is Firestorm Cafe.

Richard Kark will discuss his river canoeing adventures over his lifetime.  Social is at 7 PM and program starts at 7:30 PM.  Location is the Unitarian Church at 1 Edwin Street in Asheville.

Time is 6:30 PM and location is VFP HQ at the Phil Mechanic Studios: 109 Roberts Street (the corner of Haywood and Roberts), Asheville. VFP CHAPTER 099:

The movie “Carbon Nation” will be shown at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Asheville at the corner of Edwin and Charlotte Street.  Time will be 7 PM.  Donations accepted.  Contact David Williams for more information at

The Buncombe County GREEN Party's business meeting is free & open to the public. It will be held from 10AM to noon, upstairs in the Fortune Building, 729 Haywood Rd., West Asheville. Contact Ronald @ 828LUCK180 or Larry @ 828-225-4347 for more information.

Amnesty International will be holding a protest in DC to mark this horrible anniversary.

Episcopal Peace Fellowship holds a weekly vigil from 4:30 to 5 PM at All Soul's Cathedral.
Veterans for Peace have a weekly vigil at 4:30 PM at Pack Square, Vance Monument
Haywood Peace Vigilers have a weekly vigil at 4 PM at Haywood Country Courthouse in Waynesville.
Asheville Cop Watch meeting at 5 PM at Firestorm Cafe.
Asheville Homeless Network meeting at 2 PM at Firestorm Cafe.

Women in Black have a weekly vigil at 5 PM at Pack Square (Ash.) on the first Friday of the month.
Women in Black have a weekly vigil at noon at the Old Courthouse in Hendersonville
Transylvanians for Peace and WNC Physicians for Social Responsibility have a weekly vigil at noon in front of the courthouse in Brevard. 

Go to for more information, or call 888-378-0788. Information on Occupy Asheville late breaking events:  General Assembly will be held at 6 PM on Tuesday and Thursday at City Hall, and at 3 PM on Saturday at Pritchard Park.



From an email on Vets for Peace listserve:

I hope you all can support our local Occupy Asheville, Tuesday at 5pm, City Council Meeting .  They need folks inside/out. The camp is being threatened by City Council.

PLEASE go to City Hall for the City Council meeting this Tuesday at 5pm because the City Council is to vote on ordinances to shut down the Occupy encampment and other 24/7 activities.  Relevant information can be found at or these links:

December 13, 2011 Meeting Agenda

Staff Report, including proposed ordinances, as requested by Mayor Bellamy

Anthony & others are coordinating a response to this.  Legal representation is available now!  GLoLady says a concern is sanitation issue: illegal to urinate or defecate in public, but there are NO alternatives provided by the city and the city refuses to allow us to provide our own port-a-johns.  Scott emphasizes that these ordinances will also affect the houseless population in general.  This is an excuse to take away everyone’s civil liberties.  Matthew spoke with Cecil Bothwell who says it is very likely the City Council will pass the ordinances unless an alternative is proposed.  We must blow holes in the statements they’ve made.  For example, can’t put a port-a-john near the encampment, so how can we deal with sanitation issues?  Need a letter of intent for lawsuit because the ordinances are blatant discrimination in response to a political movement.  Must draft something else to assure our safety and to ensure re-sodding of grass.  City Attorney is on city staff; not an elected official, so this means that Mayor Bellamy asked him to draft the new ordinances that specifically target Occupy Asheville.  She said she will not accept civil disobedience in “her town.”  Matthew is starting a WG on this issue.  Scott suggests being a Sanctuary City for the Democratic Process.

Please read the article below and then email the members of Asheville City Council and tell them what you think:,,,,,,,  


City of Cleveland Passes Emergency Vote to Support OWS

The Cleveland City Council pass an emergency resolution 1720-11 in support of Occupy Cleveland and the Occupy Movement in general. The final vote from all the Wards was 18 yea and 1 nay. With the passing of the 1720-11 resolution Cleveland (a US City with a population of 2,250,000 people) joins other cities (Seattle, LA and Chicago etc.) that also have voiced their official support of the Occupy Movement. The following Resolution was sent to President Barack Obama and all members of the U.S. Congress.