Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My mission for Miraj

A few weeks ago, Miraj (Baghdad Chronicles)talked about her 'Aunty'. How she loved her as a child, and how she learned to share her once her aunt got children. Children who now can call her 'aunty'. She talks about what has happened since the invasion of Iraq whenever electricity allows her online activity. Her aunt in the meantime became widowed and the long and short of it is that she (Miraj's aunt) sees no other option than to have her three sons (the eldest who graduated from medical school) finish studying abroad, outside of Iraq, where it is safe. Of course, it is not easy for any Iraqi to get permission to leave the country or to be accepted into another for that matter;
Now that the options are so limited for Iraqis, she is so desperate running from embassy to another asking about visas , universities that would accept Iraqis, fees, anything would help us to save those three young men.

Hopefully my Aunty will find a way , we are praying hard and trying to do our best to help her, yet , a deep knife is driving its way through my heart each time I think of every thing. No more early good morning phone calls, No more sleeping over nights, no more my aunty's Dolma, no more waking up beside her , no more seeing their sweet faces , no more a lot of things. But it’s good because there will be no more 99% getting killed chances for anyone of them.

My friends, I offered her help and she emailed me;
Hello Ingrid,

Pardon me for not replying so fast. We have such a horrible electricity crises which affecting even our wireless connections.

I would like to thank you so much for your kindness and for just thinking of a possibility to reach out and offer help. You are an angel.

Regarding those two young men, till now we tried many countries with no avail. I know US would be far but I think it would help to have your friend's opinion. I would appreciate anything and I am ready to answer any questions regarding those two young men who had no activities but studying to get the results they just had now. I hope they can manage to get a good future for they really deserve it.

Thank you again for your help and I really hope I am not being a burden

My best regards.
Can you imagine someone who has to endure the dangers, the mourning of (a) lost life(ves), the difficulties of leading a life period, that she's saying she hopes she's not a burden?
I told her that I could not stop this war. I cannot effect any change. But I can try to help to assist getting her cousins over here. So this is my plan;
call in an insiders 'where to go' from someone whom I know who teaches at UT (University of Texas), check out the Austin Interfaith organization because I saw (on our local cable tv) that they had gone to Jordan and met up with Iraqi medical people and fellowshipped and listened to their stories, so perhaps they might have connections (at least prayers of all faiths!), the local Muslim community, or the one in Houston which apparently is quite big, some parents at my son's Montessori school are pretty progressive and seemingly 'connected' (how well, we'll see!) so once my youngest starts her school this friday, after Labour Day Weekend, I'm going to begin on my mission for Miraj. If you have any suggestions, references, helpful experiences etc.. the floor is open!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Broken airconditioner and the first day of school

Well, good thing I had posted a few posts late last week as there was no point going on the computer this weekend. After I came home from my 'mother-son' date and seeing Pirates of the Caribbean, dead man's chest, I went upstairs to find that 'the heat was on' wasn't on. The airconditioner was on the fritz/frits for the second time this summer. We had a home insurance policy on certain appliances that included the airconditioner, but the first time it broke down, the guy who came to fix it merely 'patched' it outside on the tube thingy (don't ask me to get technical) and added new freon (cause it had leaked obviously), and naturally, with only a thirty day warranty on that, it broke afterwards. So big rasberry to the guy who did not fix it properly in the first place: PFLLLLLLTTT! Because guess what? Our neighbour who's an airconditioner repair man (unfortunately not on our home policy) came to check it out and he said the coil was all rusted and would need to be replaced. Things don't rust overnight! So..this little (on the grand scheme of things unimportant) 'drama' meant that since it happened after business hours, we won't get a call from the home policy people until today (after 4 business hours of putting in a request) AND it meant that myself and the kids got to sleep downstairs in one of our rooms (since the downstairs airconditioner does work). The kids have been sleeping fine but I haven't. 4 hours one night, 4 another, 2 1/2 this past night because my son's first day back at school was today so I am cooked!
I am hoping to take a nap this morning, hopefully my daughter will let me. Her class doesn't start till friday because they stagger the start dates for the new kids.. bummer!
I am sitting on some stories and some notions I have been pondering over (btw..since I posted on the Fox reporters having been kidnapped, congrats on your release!)but..I need a clearer head with at least 6 hours of sleep under my belt..
sorry for the triteness, I usually don't post personal stuff but right now.. I don't care.. my kingdom for my sleep!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Please, step right this way...

Can't help myself. As I was only going to read blogs, I read one entry I would like to divert your attention to. A most worthwhile read by a respected, and intelligent analysist of retired Commander Jeff Huber: Intelligence ala Cheney: Still Cooking and Back on the Front Burner. Click on title to read his post.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pew's Global Attitude Project 2006

I am putting a few posts out there in the event I am unavailable in the next few days (to post) (even though I'm in the habit of doing it daily most of the time). I will have a mother-son date tomorrow to go see Pirates of the Caribbean (his final hoorah before his school starts monday), and perhaps a lunch together at the Schlotzky's. Plus, the final touches before school starts plus personal errands might take me away from posting, but I do hope to go and read my usual crowds' entries. This is a bit of a long read, and of course, as reports go, you'd have to be in the right frame of mind to think, and digest it. I think it's a worthwhile read though... excerpt:
While Europe's Muslim minorities are about as likely as Muslims elsewhere to see relations between Westerners and Muslims as generally bad, they more often associate positive attributes to Westerners - including tolerance, generosity, and respect for women. And in a number of respects Muslims in Europe are less inclined to see a clash of civilizations than are some of the general publics surveyed in Europe. Notably, they are less likely than non-Muslims in Europe to believe that there is a conflict between modernity and being a devout Muslim.

Click on title or quote.
have a good weekend guys, I'll hope to visit with you in the comment section and catch up that way..

Was the Mexican Election Stolen?

Luckily, I caught the last 10 minutes of the interview Amy Goodman from Democracy Now did with the co-director Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research:
AMY GOODMAN: The Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research recently conducted an analysis of Mexico's recounted ballots that raises questions about the lack of transparency in the recount. We're joined now by the group's co-director Mark Weisbrot. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

MARK WEISBROT: Thank you. It’s good to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you find?

MARK WEISBROT: Well, we looked at the first recount, which they didn't really release the results very well of that either, and that was only 2.2% that they recounted. But they've since recounted 9%, and they won't tell us what the results of those are. And that’s, I think, a major violation of basic transparency.

But also we do know certain things. I mean, we've analyzed the data. For example, the Lopez Obrador campaign has claimed that in the majority, the vast majority of the ballot boxes, the ballots were not really kept track of. So each ballot box gets a certain amount of ballots. And then, the total votes plus the leftover blanks are supposed to add up to the ballots that you got at the beginning of the election. And that didn't add up for the majority of the ballot boxes. So right there, and we verified that by just analyzing the data that's available. And so, that's true, and that, by itself -- and that's why it's so strange for the President of the country to say that it's extremist or to even declare that there's a winner, when you have -- more than half of the ballot boxes don't add up. And that by itself is enough of a reason to have a full recount, even aside from all the other irregularities, and there's quite a few.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And this issue of the recount that was done, of this 9% of the ballots, it's been now, what, a couple of weeks since they completed that recount? And the political parties had observers there, so they all have their versions of what happened there. But there's no official announcement yet of these results?

MARK WEISBROT: No. And I think, again, that's deliberate, because right now we have the two versions. If you take Lopez Obrador's version, which I think is probably true, they said that Calderon lost 13,000 votes, which is about 1% of his total, and Lopez Obrador didn’t lose any. So if you look at the media reports, they say 5,000 to 7,000. But either way, that's a lot, and it's clearly going only one way. In other words, the recount showed that only one side had votes that were thrown out in the partial recount. Again, another very big reason to do a full recount and another reason, I think, why they're not releasing the results, because if everybody got to see the results of this partial recount, they might be forced -- they might have public pressure to do a full recount.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And these massive demonstrations that have been occurring now in Mexico City for weeks, they have gotten very little coverage here in the United States. I’m thinking back to when the massive protests in the Ukraine and some of the other Russian republics over allegations of election fraud. But there hasn't been much coverage here in the U.S. press of these protests right with our southern neighbor.

MARK WEISBROT: No. Not very much. And especially the allegations, like the one I just said before. That's not even allegation. That's a verifiable fact, that you have the majority of ballot boxes where the votes don’t add up, the ballots aren't kept track of. So that hasn’t -- the media hasn't made an issue out of that. And they haven't made any issue out of the fact that the tribunal is withholding the results. And I’m actually worried that they're going to not even wait until the August 31 deadline. They’re going to announce the result before the public gets to see what happened in the two recounts that they already did
click quote or title for full article

This is an open letter that Mark Weisbrot wrote to journalists covering the Mexican election:
...It is now two days into this recount and there is very little information available to the public about what is happening. It took a full month following the first recount before we even knew exactly which casillas were recounted. It is already August 10, and this recount is supposed to be completed by Sunday, August 13). Delays in making the information public could easily result in the Tribunal making a decision – due August 31 – before the public has a chance to look at what happened.
Read the whole letter and perhaps 'we' in the blogosphere can put some more focus on this.

'Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq'.

'Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq', Thomas E. Ricks

ABC's Kerry O'Brien interviewed Washington Post's senior military correspondent Thomas E. Ricks about his latest book 'Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq':
KERRY O'BRIEN: Tom Ricks, if the war in Iraq really has been a fiasco, then what have been the milestones to measure it by?

THOMAS RICKS, SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: I think the milestones of the fiasco you've had here in Iraq are a lousy run-up to the war, a war plan that arguably was one of the worst in American history that helped create the conditions that followed, the failure to recognise the insurgency in the summer of 2003, especially by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and then a US military that was very good at conventional operations, really was not prepared for the task at hand in Iraq of putting down an insurgency.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Is it fair to say, as you assert, that America helped create the insurgency in the first place by dissolving the Iraqi army, the police, the security - all 500,000 of them - and in the process, creating - quote - "a vast pool of humiliated, antagonised and politicised men"?

THOMAS RICKS: That's a good question. There is actually no one document I can point to in which the insurgency says, "This is what created us". But if you look historically at the Iraqi insurgency, there are three things that any insurgency needs as it's coming together - recruiting, arms and financing. In Iraq, the US military and US civilian officials took care, to a large extent, of those three problems. Ambassador Bremer's decision to dissolve the military and to ban senior members of the Baathist party from public life, created this pool of leaders and of armed and angry men.

The second problem is arming, and there were not enough troops around Iraq to stop the large weapons caches, some of them many square miles in size, from being protected. And because the Iraqi army had been dissolved, they couldn't use those troops either. It also meant they couldn't seal the border because they didn't have enough troops. One of the classic tenets of counter-insurgency is close the borders, get control over the borders. The US didn't have enough troops to do this and so financing, documents and leadership could go back and forth, especially from Baghdad up to Syria.
click on quote and check out what he says about Abu Ghraib. Next, an online Q&A through the Washington Post in which readers complimented him, or chastised him:
Annandale, Va.: The war is not over--yet you label it a fiasco. I didn't read your story and I didn't read your book. But I congratulate you on being the typical cynical, pessimistic, liberal Washington Post reporter that the rest of this country looks down on as somethign wholely un-American and frankly I just can't say enough about morale-destroying you probably are to our troops. I'm glad my WWII-era military father is gone so he wouldn't have to pick up the Post in the morning and see your trash on the front page of the paper. You can report all you want on the nasty stuff of the war but putting "Fiasco in Iraq" only serves denigrate our country and fighting people. You have no response to this. There is no good in that title for your book. I served in the military and we always laughed at the Washington Post and how they were completely out of tune with the rest of the country. Maybe you feel comfortable at 15th and K at the Post headquarters or in some other liberal bastions of this country--but in the rest of the country -- the solid majority of hard-working Americans who believe in freedom. You don't see squat.

Tom Ricks: This is an interesting question because it brings home to me how polarized the country is by this war.

It especially bothers me that there seems to be little room for "loyal dissent." People who try to make honest criticisms are attacked instantly.

I am seeing this on the left as well as the right, by the way. I sometimes think that the left would only be happy if we started labelling all their enemies liars. I noticed that one leftish blogger criticized me for quoting generals who said in 2003 that we were winning the war. I don't think he understands that part of my job is to quote people accurately--even if I don't agree with what they are saying.

again, click on quote for the full transcript

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Call to participate in a 'historical parlor game' radio show

Today, I received an email from a producer from a radio show called Open Source who asked for my participation or from anyone else who frequents this blog. Here is her email:
Hi Ingrid,

I'm a producer at Open Source, a nationally-syndicated public radio talk show I was reading your "what did you learn in history?" on the Blogger Round Table this morning. I loved the post-- as a history major in college myself it's refreshing to hear that Dutch schools are surpassing us Yanks in history lessons. So I'd like to offer a bit of a challenge to you and the Round Table.

We're hosting a historical parlor game on tonight's show, loosely pegged to Ross Douthat's recent article in the Wall Street Journal ( ). He asks what the historical metaphor is that best fits the current political situation. Is it 1948? 1918? Are we reliving Vietnam or Potsdam or the Crusades? Is there any moment in history that best prepares us to deal with the present conflicts?

If so, you can join us at: . We often read comments on air, so if you or any of your community members make it onto the show, I'll be sure to let you know tomorrow. .

Thanks so much,

Iran's reluctance and our 'crazies' at home

Iran has answered with a resounding NO. Not necessarily emboldened by Hezbollah's succes I believe, but because of a greater concern;
Privately, several officials said Iran was willing to consider halting its nuclear program, but not as a precondition for the talks. One Iranian official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the suspension could come quickly if talks can begin and Iran can get answers to a list of questions included in the offer yesterday.

Several officials said Iran wants a clarification about security assurances, namely whether the Bush administration intended to negotiate on the nuclear issue while seeking to topple the country's religious leadership.
bold added by yours truly
Dahr Jamail interviewed Ray McGovern recently, at the Veterans for Peace National Convention in Seattle. McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) and a retired CIA analyst for 27 years:
In this first installment of this short interview series for Truthout, I asked McGovern what he thought of the fact that Israel had been planning their attack on Lebanon for well over a year.

Ray McGovern: The most important thing, from our perspective, is to determine what role the US government played. It's very clear that the US government not only gave the green light to the Israelis, but actively encouraged them to do what they are doing now, and then blocked diplomatic efforts to prevent them, to halt them, or to have an immediate cease-fire. That much is clear. You can even read Charles Krauthaumer, who says precisely that: that we are proud that we not only gave the permission, but we encouraged them to do precisely what they are doing.

Now, the question arises, why? What in God's name would possess our so-called neo-con leadership to persuade this new fledgling Israeli government, which represents in my understanding a right-wing fringe of the Israeli people and not at all the Israeli people as a whole, just as our government represents the extremist right wing of the Republican Party? These so-called neo-conservatives who pretty much mounted and successfully waged a putsch of our government early in this administration, what in God's name do they have in mind
It looks very much to me, from what the president, Condoleezza Rice and others have said, that this could be used, and may be designed to be used intentionally, to go after the Iranians and the Syrians on the pretext that they were the ones who really put Hezbollah up to this, as well as Hamas in Gaza. And now we really have to go to the source and destroy the authors of this.

That sounds extreme, but we're dealing with people who ... well, in my days in government, were widely known as "the crazies." I kid you not. This was the case from the very top levels of government, and I can speak personally of that, down to the lowest analysts in the CIA.

I'd come in on a Monday morning and somebody would say, "Hey Ray, guess what the crazies did on Friday afternoon." And I'd know exactly what the allusion was to. It would be [Paul] Wolfowitz, it would be [Richard] Perle, it would be that whole coterie of folks. Now, to his great credit the first President Bush had the good sense to keep close to him people with good sense. General Brent Scowcroft, his National Security Advisor, Jim Baker, his Secretary of State, and they told him, "Mr. President, you can't get rid of the crazies because the right wing of our party would be up in arms, so let Perle and Wolfowitz hang around at the middle reaches of the Pentagon, but for God's sake don't let them get this country into trouble." And he did. And he listened. And when Wolfowitz came out with that crazy report in 1992 that foreshadowed all this business, the Defense Policy Review, and someone leaked that to the New York Times, Baker and Scowcroft went right into the president's office and said to the first President Bush, "You've got to disavow this right away." Which he did.

Now, imagine our surprise, those of us who knew about the crazies, when we found them in the key policy-making positions. Not only they, but the likes of convicted felon Elliot Abrams, who is running our policy toward the Middle East right out of the White House as Deputy National Security Advisor, right now as we speak.

So it seems to me what has happened here is that they have, together with the infamous Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal, of which Colonel Wilkerson, Colin Powell's Chief of Staff often speaks, Cheney/Rumsfeld and this coterie of neo-conservatives plus Elliot Abrams, who fits that category, had decided, "Well, we're going to input the rest of that famous study that several of them wrote back in 1996, called, 'A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.'"

Israel seems to be key to the process of peace in the Middle East, click HERE for the full article.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A little chuckle

as I was slowly driving through the parking lot of our grocery store yesterday, I saw a cute little bumper sticker. It was one of those unexpected little chuckles you get during the day when you're not looking for it, but voila, it presents itself out of nowhere;


What's that? Was Samgee too busy with his puffer?

Back to Darfur

If you thought that my previous post on Darfur was just a change of pace from the Middle East situation, think again. This is what the Washington Post editorial had to say today;
...last week Britain and the United States circulated a U.N. Security Council resolution that would get about 20,000 peacekeeping troops and police officers into Darfur; if such a force were actually deployed, it would represent the greatest step forward for Darfur since the killing started. But Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, seems determined to frustrate this offer of assistance.
The only outspoken critic of the resolution on the Security Council is Qatar, which is reflecting the collective unwisdom of the Arab League. The Arabs have long opposed a U.N. deployment in Darfur, apparently because they believe in the sovereign right of governments to slaughter civilians. To disguise the brutality of this position, the Arabs have in the past professed a preference for the existing African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur, even offering to provide resources to it. But that was just talk. Virtually all the funding for the African Union force has come from Europe and the United States. It will dry up at the end of September, making a U.N. follow-on force vital.

What now? Petitioning and targeting the Arab League perhaps? if they care. Have oil, will do whatever you please.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Watch Anthony Bourdain in Lebanon, August 21.

Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain is a smokin', traveling American chef with a love for spicy foods, international cuisine, and a curiosity and good sports attitude in trying all kinds of foods I would not even try a nibble of! He's taken us from China to Quebec and as he was in Lebanon, witnessed first hand, the start of the recent Israeli-Lebanon conflict. Here is an excerpt of an online interview hosted by the Washington Post:
Washington, D.C.: Do you think anything you filmed in Lebanon will make it onto the show?

Anthony Bourdain: We're trying to figure some way to show how beautiful and hopeful Beirut was before the bombing, how terrible a thing it is that happened, what we've lost, the pride and hopefulness and optimism that was smashed. The surprising tenderness and sensitivity of the Marines who evacuated us. We're struggling with a way to tell that story without it being about me or about us. It will not be a regular episode of No Reservations
Arlington, Va.: Read your book...great job, well done ...

Are the majority of the Lebanese people you spoke to more anti Israel or Hezbollah? Do they see Hezbollah as a benefit to their country?


Anthony Bourdain: I can only tell you what I saw in my limited experience. As it happened, I was standing with a Sunni, Shiite and a Christian when Hezbollah supporters started to fire automatic weapons in the air celebrating the kidnapping of the Israeli soldiers as a few supporters drove by the three people I was with all instantaneously took on a look of shame and embarrassment as if a dangerous and unstable little brother had once again brought the whole family into peril. At no time during my 10 days in Beirut did I ever hear an anti-Semitic or even explicitly anti-Israeli statement. To the contrary, there was a universal sense of grim resignation and inevitability to what Israel's reaction would be. Dating to the first seconds after Hezbollah started firing in the air, we were a largely Jewish crew. The last person to leave us as Lebanese fled in droves, was the Shiite from south Beirut. We had to plead with him to leave us and join his family. His house was later destroyed.
Tune into the Travel Channels' "Antony Bourdain's No Reservations, Monday night 10 p.m. ET/PT.

CBC News: DEADLINE IRAQ - Uncensored Stories of the War

It pays to not just read your own country's media. That holds true especially for the American media in general, with noted exceptions of course. During the aftermath of 9/11, my husband and I would watch C-span broadcasting CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) to get the more interesting and not repetitive stories on those days in New York City.
CBC is fairly well recognized as excellence in journalism. The organization also doesn't shy away from issues that would prove to be considered more controversial here (US). Dealine Iraq, uncensored stories is one of those issues. For this documentary, 3 years ago, they interviewed 50 journalists from all over the world, each representing different media affiliations. These are a few of their stories:
Just 100km south of Baghdad, Chater traveled through a residential neighbourhood that had been hit with cluster bombs. At the hospital he witnessed the usual horrific scenes of the dead and dying.

But this time he met an eloquent doctor that had been trained in Britian and could speak very good English. The doctor took him to a woman who had been badly injured by a cluster bomb. He explained that she had already lost the rest of her family.

"He had yet to tell her that her husband was dead, her children were dead and he said her chances of survival were only 50:50 anyway, so he wasn't going to tell her. And then he stood up and he said, 'I want to give a message to the British people' and he went on for about 20 minutes about cluster bombs, about what they did to people and how they should be stopped."
Nakhoul was about to become part of the story herself. She was with her crew on the 15th floor balcony of the Palestine Hotel the morning it was struck by shells from an American tank.

"I went to the balcony and our cameraman gave me his camera because I was looking to see close up. The photographer told me 'Samia, look.' There was an orange glow in the sky and we looked left for a second. This is the one that exploded in our office. I felt a lid of fire hit my head and we're all on the floor screaming and shouting in pain."
The scene of the 15th floor balcony of the Palestine Hotel as shot by FR3.
Shrapnel from the bomb pierced through the Reuters room on
the 15th floor. Nakhoul suffered brain injuries and some of her colleagues were seriously wounded. But tragically her cameraman, Taras Protsyuk was killed.

"The minute I knew that Taras died for me life would never be the same. We were all waiting for the end of the war and he'd tell me about his son. He had a wife and he was young, he's full of life. It told me that life can change in one second."
Caroline Sinz was in the Palestine hotel when it was bombed by the American troops. A shell ripped into her floor two rooms over. She was on the phone about to file a report and witnessed the mayhem firsthand.

"I let the phone drop in the waste basket and I ran in the hallway to see what happened. I entered the room and I saw the Spanish cameraman that had been on the balcony filming like us. He was lying on the floor with his leg blown off. We tried to evacuate him to the hospital but it was total panic because the elevators didn't work anymore. We had to come down 14 floors and nobody was there."
The FR3 footage clearly showed how the American tank aimed and fired at the Palestine Hotel.
Incredibly her cameraman filmed the attack itself and was able to document that the shot came from an American tank. When she showed other journalists the videotape, they were shocked.

"I was so surprised because in Baghdad we thought we were in danger from the Iraqis. And it was a shock that the Americans shot against journalists, against freedom of the press. And I think they wanted to do it like that. They wanted to shoot against the press to say, we are in Baghdad now and everything is possible so be careful."

Click on title for the website that includes, film, and 12 of the interviews.
Check out the CBC for a different perspective.

Now I wonder what the next deadline should be. It would seem that pulling out of Iraq would leave the country more in danger. I know the Democrats want to do a 'get out of Iraq now' scenario, but where were they when it counted? Where were they when Kerry refused to make it an election issue along with most of the Democrats running for office? It is a little too late now, and now, they need to provide a safe alternative for not only the people in Iraq (whom we owe this big time), but for the tired US soldiers. Give this country a sound plan people, pulling out of Iraq would put the Iraqis in greater peril.

...and now put your money where your mouth is! Darfur.

CRISIS IN DARFUR, the Responsibility To Protect organization

Thanks to Gary for bringing it to my attention.So much effort to forge a peace treaty, and so much more that is needed to keep the peace in the Sudan. Factions have split off and continue fighting, and those who have signed the peace treaty, do not keep them:
"There has been more conflict since the Darfur Peace Agreement was signed, not less, more displacements of people, not fewer, and more human rights violations perpetrated without any progress towards justice. And what's more, there now is a very real danger that this conflict, as it spills over the border, will continue to spread beyond Sudan."

The African Union mission in Sudan (AMIS) does not have the means -- or, frequently, the will -- to protect civilians. A refugee woman who spent two years in Mornay camp before fleeing to Chad told Amnesty International that AMIS "does not take any action when displaced people complain. Even if a woman is raped, they just take her back to the camp."

An AMIS officer, complaining about diminishing resources, told Amnesty International in despair, "We can't protect people as we ought to. It's a sham."

In north Darfur, in the Korma region, 72 people were killed over the course of five days in early July. Their attackers were members of the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army -- the only party, in addition to the government, to have signed the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA). The attackers told their victims that they were being punished for opposing the DPA. AMIS troops did not answer the victims' cries for help, nor apparently did AMIS investigate the killings -- saying that the villagers attacked were associated with a group that had not signed the DPA.
This is what you can do;
Sign the Petition to Help Stop the Killing in Darfur!
Sign the Petition! Amnesty International has again raised the urgency of its work on Darfur in an effort to stop the atrocities taking place there, but we need your help to make peace and security a reality. Help us make a difference. Sign our petition today!

Also, if summer seems almost done to you (and with our hot TX weather it doesn't), you can still join the Darfur Action Summer Series.

Your help is but a click away, please check out the links.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Blessed are the Peace makers


Somewhere, on someone's post (I believe Zee's), I made the comment, we need another Ghandi! But, most of today's peacemakers are not famous to the general public. Here is one, Lazaro Sumbeiywo , former Kenyan top general:
As a boy, Sumbeiywo would walk past one of the biggest trees in his rural village and see his father, the chief, sitting under its sprawling branches, surrounded by neighbors. His dad would listen for hours as people aired disagreements over such things as who owned a particular cow. Then he'd dispense his wisdom. Like many African chiefs, he'd stay under the tree until every villager had spoken.

Decades later, standing at the front of a conference room at a Kenyan resort hotel, Sumbeiywo drew upon his father's ways: He let the two sides vent.
Click on quote for the full article
If you are inclined to think 'peace' and mediation, check out this site. But, I do think that aside from all the professional training in the world, it is not really just a profession, it is a life style choice of sorts. It determines the way you look at people(s) around you, and how you deal with the ever present conflicts. No flipping the bird at anyone!

One of the reasons to oust Rick Perry as Governor for Texas

I guess they're watching the Texas governors' race far and wide. The San Jose Mercury reports:
AUSTIN - A small group of super-rich political contributors, giving at least $25,000 a year, will put at least $10 million into Republican Gov. Rick Perry's re-election treasury as part of a fundraising corps the campaign calls the Century Council.
Some Century Council members have lucrative contracts to help build Perry's multibillion-dollar toll-road project.
The state has deposited millions in investment funds operated by three other top-tier givers. Sixteen donors are Perry appointees to coveted boards, including the Parks and Wildlife Commission and state university regent boards.

The number of super-donors dwarfs anything Perry's three most recent predecessors had, according to a computer-generated review of contribution records.

Perry has attracted twice as many $25,000 contributions as fellow Republican George W. Bush did in 1994 or 1998. Perry has more than five times as many as Democrat Ann Richards had in her 1990 campaign and Republican Bill Clements had in 1986, according to the records
Advocates of campaign finance reform say the big money is designed to buy access.

"The kinds of people who step up to the plate to give this kind of money tend to be people who want something from government," said Andrew Wheat of
Texans for Public Justice, a nonprofit group that tracks campaign contributions.

Texas law does not limit the size of campaign contributions

Opening the floor..what did you learn in history?

In the Dutch equivalent of highschool, I learned a lot, A LOT, of history. Not just our own long history, how the Netherlands came into being , and also the history of Europe, the different empires, Karl Marx and how Marxism/Communism evolved, the discovery of America up to last century, Dutch colonialism just to name a few. I keep hearing the same comment from a lot of Americans, my own age or younger, that all they learn about is the US (and no doubt the glorified version, no Howard Zinn in the class rooms I imagine) and the revolutionary war, over and over again.
So that made me think. If, as a people, you do not learn your truthful history, warts and all (make no mistake, we certainly did, oh the sins of our fathers), how can you psychologically, accept and see a tainted present? How can you criticize, change for the better, your current status quo, if your compatriots do not believe in anything but a history that is not entirely truthful? How about my non American readers? What is it that you have been taught about your own countries' history and of the history of the world?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mai Pen Rai, another sex predator bites the dust, John Mark Karr arrested

Poor Patsy Ramsey did not live to see the day when the actual murder suspect of Jon Beney would be brought home for trial. CNN just broke the news that John Mark Karr, a 41 year old one time school teacher was arrested in Bangkok after having been investigated for a few months. Apparently, an investigator with the Colorado district attorney's office is 'bringing him home', as the news broke. Karr was also investigated for another, unrelated sex crime. Well, for sex crimes or pedophile sexascapes, Bangkok is the place to be. Nothing much changes there and when I was there for a few weeks of holidays, I could not bring myself to go to the 'district' for a curious 'look see'. You could 'see' plenty with obvious older Western males walking around with a much younger, Thai woman (not necessarily underage) and I remember thinking, yuk, only because this guy has money (for Thai standards) is he even out with her. Literally poor Thai families are known to sell their daughter off for work in Bangkok and I wish I'd knew how to work the 'cut and paste' and link feature on this notebook (am working away in a hotel in Houston where we'll be for a few days) otherwise I'd be linking away. There is this organization where they raise money to provide the families with support, so that the girl(s) will have a change to not only stay home and stay out of the sex trade, but to go to school. That was the contradiction of Thailand; the opulance of some of the Temples, the obvious richness of the Royal family (but speak no ill of the Royal family or you'll be in big doodoo, plus, the Thai themselves won't hear of it) and the abstract poverty of a great part of the population.

Inspite of that, the obiquitous smile of the Thais are all around, no matter how poor they were. Mai pen rai means never mind. When you see young girls in sex districts (well, read about them, or see the documentaries), you have to say that you do mind. Yes, life can be tough, mai pen rai. And hopefully for Karr, he will have it tough come judgement time. To the Thai law enforcement who helped out catch this predator (and please guys, on to the next)..Kap Koon Ka!

To the Ramsey family, I am glad you finally can have some closure. Jon Benet would have been 16 yrs old this year.

(can't link guys, sorry, I'll have a 'linked' post on the sex trade when I get home..yes we have a cease fire, but hey, the sorrows of the world still are plenty!)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Change of pace; Circumcision may be the answer to Aids, says Clinton

United Against Aids
photo Michael Silver-

Come again? I was looking for something else and hopefully something interesting to post when I saw this headline.
Bill Clinton called for the world to prepare to tackle the cultural taboos surrounding circumcision yesterday if, as many expect, trials show that it protects men and the women they sleep with from Aids.
In a speech to the International Aids conference in Toronto, Canada, Mr Clinton said that if the trials had good results, there would be a major job of persuasion ahead. "Should this be shown to be effective, we will have another means to prevent the spread of the disease and to save lives, and we will have a big job to do," he said. "It is important that as we leave here we all be prepared for a green light that could have a staggering impact on the male population but that will be frankly a lot of trouble to get done."
The potential for preventing HIV through circumcision was one of the interventions spoken of with most hope in Toronto this week. Mr Clinton also backed opt-out schemes for HIV testing, such as that being introduced in Lesotho. "If it is done right, Lesotho's infection will plummet and more people will live," he said.
More than 15 million children in sub-Saharan Africa will have lost one or both parents to Aids by 2010, according to the UN which says the world has failed youngsters. At the launch of a report entitled Children Affected by Aids in Toronto, Michel Sidibe of UNAids said children were "the missing face" of the pandemic.

Click on title for full article..remember..when you can't put the mouse back into the house..put a little collar on 'm..ehm, so to speak.

If only our 'leader' would be so honest..

Olmert Accepts Blame For Operation's 'Failings' excerpt:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday acknowledged mistakes in the war against Hezbollah as the Israeli government confronted widespread criticism and political recriminations over the conflict.

"There have been failings and shortcomings," Olmert, with deep circles under his eyes and a haggard look on his face, told a special session of the Israeli parliament. "We need to examine ourselves in all aspects and all areas. We will not sweep anything under the table, we will not hide anything. We must ensure that next time things will be done better."

So will America's encouragement of the whole war come out in this as well? Olmert in my opinion does not bare the sole responsibility..
click on title for full article


So, with the cease fire, we do not have any of the kidnapped soldiers back. ('we' being a term of sympathy, their not 'ours' but, they're the sorta reason this started, but as you can read two posts down, Israel's attack on Hezbollah was already in the works)Now, we can add a few more to the roll; Fox reporter Steve Centanni and his New Zealand camera man Olaf Wiig.

Lebanon's Daily Star: Iran's Shia 'outreach' still a problem

Interestingly, after this 'cease-fire' and Hezbullah's (self)pro-claimed victory, Lebanon's Daily Star should print this:
Despite US forces, the real power in Iraq is Iran Excerpt:
By mid-2002, the balance began to tip in Iran's favor with the escalation of the Iraqi-US confrontation. The Iranian leadership accurately judged the seriousness of this looming confrontation. Thus, while the Bush administration was engaged in plotting the removal of the Iraqi regime, the Iranian leadership was busy planning how Tehran could strategically gain from any US adventure in Iraq.

This approach became evident in several high-level decisions taken by Tehran in 2002-2003. First, against all declared ideological and political principles of the Iranian revolution, the Iranian leadership encouraged the main Iraq Shiite opposition parties to move closer to the US, especially during the crucial months preceding the invasion when Washington was preparing the post-invasion political arrangements. Iraqi ayatollahs and prominent Shiite political and religious figures frequently visited Washington or met high-ranking US officials. This unusual alliance was approved by the Iranian leadership
Second, in August 2002 Iran's supreme guide Ali Khamenei ordered the formation of a special committee on Iraq to monitor the development of the crisis, formulate Iranian strategy and mobilize the state's resources to promote Iranian interests in post-Baath Iraq. The committee consisted of representatives from defense, intelligence, political, diplomatic, and religious institutions. The intelligence arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, responsible for promoting "external jihad," was in charge of most, if not all, Iranian activities related to Iraq, including sponsorship and control of the pro-Iran Shiite opposition groups and direct and crucial control of these groups' intelligence and armed wings, as well as militias. Thus, at the time of the US-led invasion of Iraq, Iranian institutions were well placed to advance Tehran's strategic objectives.

Among the chief aims of these institutions were: first, to prevent an American success in Iraq that might undermine the stability and security of Iran, as well as threaten the survival of the Islamic regime at a later stage; second, to establish sustainable Iranian influence in the new Iraq that could serve Iran's long-term strategic regional interests; and third, to prevent the emergence of a strong Iraq that could balance or contain Iran. The Iranian formula was simple: A failed US plus a weak and fragmented Iraq equalled a strong and influential Iran.

Click on title for the full article.
It struck me, naievly perhaps, that an article like this, focussing on Iran's connections with Shia's outside of the country, in the region, was perhaps a signal of sorts that said, yes, Hezbollah (thinks it) 'won', but we got into this 'instability' because of them.
What is your take on the timing of this article?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Robert Fisk and Andrew Buncombe

Thank you Kel. As usual, on top of things, if not because of your continued attention, than the fact that you're at least 8 hrs ahead of me. Two worthwile articles to ponder over with the apparent ceasefire that, on all accounts, is set to be doomed to failure. First, Robert Fisk's "As the 6am ceasefire takes effect... the real war begins". :
The real war in Lebanon begins today. The world may believe - and Israel may believe - that the UN ceasefire due to come into effect at 6am today will mark the beginning of the end of the latest dirty war in Lebanon after up to 1,000 Lebanese civilians and more than 30 Israeli civilians have been killed. But the reality is quite different and will suffer no such self-delusion: the Israeli army, reeling under the Hizbollah's onslaught of the past 24 hours, is now facing the harshest guerrilla war in its history. And it is a war they may well lose.

This will become a quagmire and hopefully, sane voices,
no, wisevoices will prevail. If only we (US) had a moderate government in place because this one would love to get their hands on Iran, and Israel, is the perfect proxy pansy to do the job. Who needs friends like this? Israel needs to become independent from the US because 'it' should realize, that its existence is merely seen as a political and military tool in order to control the Middle East. Are Israeli lives worth that? Strip away the religious and emotional rhetoric, what it all boils down when you peel away the layers of the onion, it's about resources, resources, resources.
Now Andrew Buncombe's "Bush 'viewed war in Lebanon as a curtain-raiser for attack on Iran' " :
The report by Seymour Hersh quotes an unidentified US government consultant with close ties to the Israelis who says: "The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits. Why oppose it? We'll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran."

A former intelligence officer, also quoted, says: "We told Israel,'Look, if you guys have to go, we're behind you all the way. But we think it should be sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the less time we have to evaluate and plan for Iran before Bush gets out of office'."

Even the San Fransisco Chronicle had this to say;
"Israel's military response by air, land and sea to what it considered a provocation last week by Hizbollah militants was unfolding according to a plan finalised more than a year ago". The report said that a senior Israeli army officer had been briefing diplomats, journalists and think-tanks for more than a year about the plan and it quoted Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at [Israel's] Bar-Ilan University, who said: "Of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel was most prepared."

Israelis ought to have their leaders' head on a plate! This was a huge miscalculation and with these American and Israeli leaderships in place, hopefully a future regional war which could lead to a world war, will be prevented. This is the time to be vigilant as a people. This is the time to cut through the chase, and watch for rhetoric as no doubt, they're going to find a way again. Lord help us all.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pondering over comments

that I received, and watching Alex Jones on cable tv today, I was realizing that with all the information that is out there, for anyone to research, read and test for its truthfulness, that it really doesn't matter how easily accessible it is. It does not matter, how articulate and thoughtful any of us write our 'little posts', or how passionate we implore anyone to check out what we see as 'truths'.

The eye of the beholder is looking at your information with an attitude that you cannot change or effect, unless it is something that provides an epiphany of sorts that you cannot facilitate. It is in the realm of untouchables, that, which you cannot influence no matter how 'right' or 'truthful' you are or the information is that you've linked to or provided.

I realized today watching Alex, and listening to him as much as I could with a bored three year old vying for my attention (because for once, it's NOT a kid show on tv for crying out loud!) and folding the laundry, I realized, that it's the ability to face an uncomfortable truth, a reality that is not in the image of what you expected when you grew up. A reality that says, you cannot change this because we have the money and hence we have the power to influence the masses so don't bother. Do you still investigate unnerving information when you see it? Do you bury yourself in your own life, because after all, there's nothing you can do about it? Do you live by an inner calling that says, even IF I cannot effect anyone else's mind, I HAVE to do this, it's my own consciousness at stake.

How do you deal with any reality you've come to find or experience, that says, you are enslaved, a modern day serf. A veritable usurped human being who's lives are solely worthy as a consumer entity. Buy this product and buy what I tell you is the truth. Be scared, and listen to me.
How do you face fear?
That's kind of what I have been pondering over today.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

A reminder of my history class

I grew up in the sixties and seventies and in my browsing around the net, stumbled upon Der Spiegel's english site (which I check out from time to time), and saw it included images of the WW2. It reminded me of my history class in highschool as we learned everything we had to know from way before WW1, the 1870-71 war between Germany and France, till WW1, the period between the two World Wars and of course, WW2 itself, including the one fought in Asia. We were not spared the atrocious images captured by the Nazi's themselves, but in light of us being teenagers, we were given the option to not watch it if it disturbed us too much. I always felt I had to stay. In fact, growing up, the time leading up to our rememberance day (in May), we'd see a lot of documentaries re. the war, its survivors, the stories, the battles, the (dutch) resistence, the hiding of Jews etc. In that context, it was not as if we were seeing things we hadn't seen before; the piles of amaciated people where Goebels himself looks over to see and then sees someone being alive and a soldier dutifully finishing off the poor subject. In the process of some remains flicking up into Goebel's face to which he leaps off camera to no doubt, throw up. (serves him right) We'd seen the images of Jewish prisoner after prisoner, looking more dead than alive in their bunkbeds, the images of Hitler youth, and always always the message of our history teacher, never again! Never again not just in terms of the attempted eradication of the Jews, but the senseless killings of all people, since we'd have plenty of other examples in history to look at. Our history teacher showed us plenty of times, the Dutch complicity in history's events. Dutch traitors during WW2, Dutch merchants shipping off slaves for North America, the Dutch 'Christian' arrogant attitude when dealing with the East Indian people and the lands and people we subjugated in the quest for trade and trade relations. In that light, I want to address KT, where he asked me politely (coming from him, it is not a way to call names to shut me up) if I am anti American. KT, I grew up with a lot of criticism leveled at our own people and gov'ts throughout our history. The Dutch had glory times, but human nature and the ignorance of its times also gave us plenty of examples how fallable 'man' is, and how one has to have the courage to face their own checquered past (sp?). My history teachers in highschool always put our history into context and never made us feel that we were or are superior, because of the flipside that is always present, or can be present. It is a matter of vigilance. You can love your country, but hate what is going on. I can seem anti American, but that doesn't mean I hate this country. Anti-americanism in my mind seems a typical American term that subconsciously says, you're either for us or against us. I know this is not your frame of reference so I respect your observation. I am frustrated to pieces (to say it politely) with the way politics, most of all federal, is being corrupted. The US does enjoy a wonderful civic society and as such, still provides plenty of opportunities to speak up and rally against. However, I do think that in terms of effectiveness, it is mostly symbolic, and not influential. The explosion of the blogosphere tells me, that people want to communicate, not just regurgitate, and want to discuss. I grew up with family gatherings, birthday gatherings as a kid where the adults (relatives and friends) would have serious discussions and serious disagreements (!!) on all kinds of political (domestic and foreign) issues, social and economic affairs. They agreed to disagree and they still had friendly relations. They still kept talking. It is a given, that those who come to my site, will mostly agree with me. I wish I could gather a group, a la my relatives, who could agree to disagree and who would always continue discussing, issues of importance. Not pop culture, not the latest on stupid little baby Suri (sorry little girl), or, don't make me heave Ann Coulter. I vent part of the time, but I really do want to have peopel meet in the middle, a place where they can agree without having to agree with everything. I am frustrated, and I am trying to get it out of my system by trying to do something productive. Hopefully my time at KOOP radio will faciliate that. As one letter writer to the Austin American Statesman said;, it's nice that people feel strongly about this war (talking about the current ME conflict), but perhaps these same people could actually try to do something like writing to their Senator, Representative or something else. So if I do sound 'anti-American' and just seem to spout my views, I will say this; I will try to put my money where my mouth is and do something. But being and thinking critical is part of my Dutch heritage. Nothing personal though.

PS, here is an excerpt (and example of the ability to look at one's own history critically) of Der Spiegel's 'images of World War 2':
Many soldiers also kept cameras in their field packs and managed to snap explosive amateur photos. Though the Nazi regime conducted almost absolute surveillance, it encouraged its soldiers to take photos as a way of strengthening the connection between the soldiers' homes and the front to improve morale. The Nazis couldn't control all the photography, anyway.

Most of the amateur photographers chose innocuous subjects for their snapshots -- other soldiers in their unit, landscapes, memorials and even people in the areas they occupied. The photos taken by these armed tourists often made it look like their work had all the severity of a school field trip.

Nevertheless, many of snap shooters felt a sort of magical draw to the horrors of the war of extermination in the Soviet Union. Many captured the mass shootings of Jews or the hanging of members of the resistance on film -- pictures that were strictly forbidden by Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS.

Many such horror photos were taken out of the pockets of dead or captured German fighters by Red Army soldiers. The photos then became evidence in the trials against German war criminals in the Soviet Union and later in the legal processing of the Nazi criminals in Germany.

The same went for the photographic evidence of the Holocaust, and especially for the photos take by Allied troops after the liberation of the concentration camps. The argument that quickly developed over whether or not these photos -- some of the 20th century's most shocking and difficult to bear -- should be shown, has continued until today. Do the photos of the emaciated prisoners lead to a kind of emotional blunting? Do the pictures of the mountains of corpses dishonor the victims anew? Or do they serve the purpose of education?

But discussions, there are.

Omar Khan interviews Karen Kwiatkowski

Omar Khan interviewed Karen Kwiatkowski for Dahr Jamails' site. Here is an excerpt:
OK: What is your view of the legacy to which the neocons are heirs?

KK: The intellectual fathers of neoconservatism—what shapes their approach internationally—are the Bolsheviks. International revolution, international change—radical change, global revolution. And these same terms, these same ideas—of international change, revolution, transformation—these are the words of Michael Ledeen and some of the other articulators of neoconservatism. And the actual people, and they’re not ashamed to really say this, but guys like Irving Crystal and other intellectuals of the 30s had actually been Bolsheviks.

One of the characterizations of neocons today is that they are neo-Jacobins—philosophically, this idea that people are the same, all want the same thing, and should have the same thing. That ‘same thing’ in a modern neoconservative view is this idea of ‘democracy.’ But is it really democracy that they want, or is democracy simply a trojan horse. Certainly for Iraq, George Bush has been left with one story as to why we went in

If they had democracy, they’d take a vote, and we’d be kicked out of there immediately.

Certainly we don’t want them to have democracy, because then they’ll make us leave. So it’s unclear that democracy is a goal, but that’s what they talk about: the God of Democracy. So it’s not like Trotskyism in the sense that they’re not advocating global communism but they are advocating universal, radical—and in effect, catastrophic—change. And this is kind of a clear thread for many years.

So the neoconservatives are not new; during the Reagan era, the ‘Cold War’ was their vehicle for credibility—this evil enemy that we must face, or else the end of the world is coming. They cannot work without this global enemy, almost a kind of class warfare. You can’t just have a mere enemy; it has to be a monstrous enemy, something that can destroy us. They’ve found that in, or rather cultivated it, in what is called ‘Islamic Fascism.’ Unfortunately this doesn’t exist. No one advocates it. No one articulates it. In the 1930s, Hitler had fascism and he talked about it. Islamic Fascism is a made up thing. . But it doesn’t matter: what matters is that it’s useful in generating fear, and serves that same larger purpose—providing a platform from which to operate.

Now you can follow the money too. The neocon philosophy provides a construct within which we can—‘we,’ being the establishment, corporatism—can move. So you have this construct that talks of ‘fear’ ‘protection,’ ‘security.’ Which are used to advocate intervention—intervention for security, what Iraq was effectively sold as: ‘intervention for American security.’

Read the full interview HERE.

PLUS.. a plug for Austin's Third Coast Activist, check them out HERE.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Courtesy of the United States?

This is not doing anyone any good, not the victims, not a really volatile situation in the region, nor Israel itself. this is an excerpt from the Global Research article by Professor Paola Manduca:
By now there are countless reports, from hospitals, witnesses, armament experts and journalists that strongly suggest that in the present offensive of Israeli forces against Lebanon and Gaza 'new weapons' are being used.

New and strange symptoms are reported amongst the wounded and the dead.

Bodies with dead tissues and no apparent wounds; 'shrunken' corpses; civilians with heavy damage to lower limbs that require amputation, which is nevertheless followed by unstoppable necrosis and death; descriptions of extensive internal wounds with no trace of shrapnel, corpses blackened but not burnt, and others heavily wounded that did not bleed.

Many of these descriptions suggest the possibility that the new weapons used include 'direct energy' weapons, and chemical and/or biological agents, in a sort of macabre experiment of future warfare, where there is no respect for anything: International rules (from the Geneva Convention to the treaties on biological and chemical weapons), refugees, hospitals and the Red Cross, not to mention the people, their future, their children, the environment, which is poisoned through dissemination of Depleted Uranium and toxic substances released after oil and chemical depots are bombed.

Right now, the Lebanese and Palestinian people have many urgent and impellent problems, yet many people believe that these episodes cannot and must not pass ignored. In fact several appeals have been launched to scientists and experts with a view to investigating the issue.

Read the rest of the article; New and unkown deadly weapons used by Israeli forces
'direct energy' weapons, chemical and/or biological agents, in a macabre experiment of future warfare

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Eli Pariser on the Colbert Show August 10/06

Eli Pariser
from the political action team will appear on the Colbert Show tomorrow night, 11:30EST. And apparently, as a joke, some 'friends' of the organization have made a parody attacking Colbert on the website, check it out.

Eli will be talking I believe on their part of the's campaign to help out Ned Lamont win the Connecticut primary. This is what the Associated Press had to say about his win: "To triumph in November, Democrats will need the same intensity, including the support of bloggers and groups such as, that powered Lamont to victory in Connecticut."

Why is this important to know for non-Americans? Because it is believed to be a signal that Americans are ready for a change of party. That the Democrat party, who's been cowtowing to the Republicans for supposed fear of being seen as 'un-American' or 'un-patriotic', will see more challenges to their Democrat incumbents, and see Democrats (and dare I say, true Independents?) go against people from their own party to reclaim a party that used to stand for something. And if you are ready to believe the rightwing spin, a Rovian dream come true because the Republicans will try their best to make all Americans believe that the 'extreme left wingers' are ready to take over the Democrat party. As if wanting moderation and cessation of war (in Iraq AND Lebanon) is considered 'extreme'.

Extreme is an outlook that is only too quick and ready to go to war, instead of seeing it as a last resort, trying to avoid it at all costs. There is hope that not all religious folks (forget about the fundamentalists) will fall for the Republican 'eye for an eye' ideology. When I joined bloggers against torture (see long list of participant in sidebar), I found this organization called the National Religious Campaign against Torture. If there is one big target audience for future campaigns, this is it! Let's seperate the wheat from the chaff!

That said, even though it's 'better' for the Democrats to come back to power, I do not believe that they are as progressive as most people would like to think they are. This country is in major need of election and campaign reforms, and aside from the Republicans, the Democrats have been loathed to allow any third, fourth party or independent to join the political landscape. I do not believe in a two party system as it is just a game of ping pong politics, and towing to the party line, which ever party you're in. For now, I'll tolerate a Democratic change over, but they better start making some honest changes once they're in.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Africa, the Holocausts of Rwanda and the Sudan

Rwandan refugee, photograph by Lucien Niemeyer
Dinka tukuls in Southern Sudan, photograph
Lucien Niemeyer

I was reminded by Rogel (Dafur button) and Zeb (Inside Zebster) that I was sitting on a story, already told by Lucien Niemeyer. A photographer who could not only let his pictures tell their tale, but who had to explain in words, why what we see in the pictures is unacceptable.
In his own, harsh and passionate words; PREFACE
The world Churches, Temples and Mosques too, have ignored their responsibility to call attention to the atrocities and then to provide the kind of help needed to solve the problems. They too have lost their moral compass. The conscience of the world has been governed by political correctness rather then humanitarian needs. The countries of Europe have ignored the Gulag and the Holocaust, relegating them to a corner of history that they have conveniently forgotten. The Far East countries have decided that these affairs are too far away and pay little attention. The front line of knowledge and human aid to ease the starvation, slavery and killing has been relegated to unselfish NGOs (non-governmental organizations) which raise money, medicine, redeem slaves, bring in food and generally report the situation to the world which does not want to hear about the turmoil and problems.

It is June 2005. The peace between the Sudan government and the SPLA has been signed. It includes the Nuba Mountains. The Darfur region of Sudan is in flames. It is the story of ethnic cleansing in which the Janjaweed is fronting for the government which is the modis operendi for the Khartoum government. Though a great deal of press and world concern has been showered on the struggle, it continues. The facts remain the same. The brown fundamentalist Muslim are killing black Muslim. It is done through direct killing, rape to create a whole new color or death through displacement. The story is similar to what happened in the Nuba Mountains. Each day that the Sudanese government states that it is complying with UN or world sanctions there is another aggression which causes the NGOs or the UN to pull back. The duplicity continues each day until the goals of the government are met. One hundred thousand civilians have died in the last few months. Again it is the US and Britain leading the world efforts to stop the ethnic cleansing. The Sudan government is following the Taliban tradition of a fundamentalist Muslim regime with its Sharia, which is the rigid strict law that looks down on all outsiders (black in this case) as less then human.

Check out Lucien Niemeyer's book with not only his beautiful photographs, but personal accounts of visiting the region putting himself in danger doing so. This is why; "Is the moral and political evaluation of the progress of our human struggle to be measured by the acceptance of genocide and slavery in Sudan by the world community?" In his own words, and his own actions to show the world their plight.

Today, the Guardian noted;
Darfur is fast slipping towards anarchy with fresh fighting displacing tens of thousands of people and violent attacks on relief workers forcing aid agencies to consider pulling out.
Clashes involving government forces, allied militia and rebel fighters, and dissident guerrilla groups have forced more than 50,000 people from their homes since a peace deal was signed three months ago. Most have ended up in overcrowded refugee camps, which are becoming increasingly difficult for aid agencies to reach.
bold added by yours truly.

Check out the button, help out Dafur.

I had clear forgotten that Lucien's book was sent to all US Senators (who all accepted it except Barbara Boxer). I encourage you to contact your Senator and ask them if they have read and seen the photos in Lucien's book. The images on his website are few, and the images who tell their story in his book, are many. Ask your Senator what she or he is planning to do about it.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Vali Nasr: Understanding the Shia revival

As some have posted in the blogosphere, Bush did not know (and probably still can't understand) the difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Nor can I imagine that he'd know or understand, or even could give a hoot on the history of other people's countries, religions, sectarian strife etc. When you grow up in a Western culture, automatically, you will be steeped in its traditions and presumed shared knowledge of certain historical events, grievances and accepted beliefs. Naturally, we do not at all understand any other major cultural and religious entity other than our own, unless we pursue Asian studies, or Middle Eastern politics, which will inevitably include Islam, political Islam, the history of Islam.
Up till now, I could only claim to understand the differences between Shia and Sunni Muslims superficially, inspite of having lived in Saudi Arabia for a while, in the Eastern region where the majority of the minority of Shia live. I knew about the persecution and discrimination of the Sunni government (I won't include all Sunnis as that is dependent on the familial and governmental relations)against the Shias. I was there, shortly after the (first) Gulf war when all Shias in any security position (even guards at the gate of the Aramco compound) were en masse fired over a shia uprising/protest against the Saudi government. I also witnessed the supposed difference in Saudi between Shia women being completely covered, even second veils, black gloves and black stockings with open toed shoes, and outside the region in Jeddah for example where women were at least more visible.

In the context of the war and current occupation in Lebanon, the situation with the perceived victory of Hezbullah, and the notion of Israel and Hezbullah playing out a proxy fight between the US and Iran, I think a bit more background and explanation of the Shia Revival is in order.

Vali Nasr has spoken with the White House and hopefully left some seeds for a different approach to Iran in the hearts and minds of the lesser hawks; Iran is easier to handle when engaged (diplomatically and economically) than isolated and pursuited for war:
Yet the emerging Shiite revival need not be a source of concern for the United States, even though it has rattled some U.S. allies in the Middle East. In fact, it presents Washington with new opportunities to pursue its interests in the region. Building bridges with the region's Shiites could become the one clear achievement of Washington's tortured involvement in Iraq. Succeeding at that task, however, would mean engaging Iran, the country with the world's largest Shiite population and a growing regional power, which has a vast and intricate network of influence among the Shiites across the Middle East, most notably in Iraq. U.S.-Iranian relations today tend to center on nuclear issues and the militant rhetoric of Iran's leadership. But set against the backdrop of the war in Iraq, they also have direct implications for the political future of the Shiites and that of the Middle East itself.

So what about this Shia crescent we've been hearing about? This is an excerpt of The Emerging Shia Crescent Symposium: Implications for U.S. Policy in the Middle East in which Vali Nasr participated;
The late Eli Khadduri (ph) described the order that emerged in Iraq as, he said it was an Anglo-Sunni regime. Now the question was raised recently as to whether the new order inIraqwould be an American-Shia regime. It’s not an American-Shia regime, but what the American invasion of Iraq has given the Shias is a chance, if you will, to lay a claim to power in their own country. They can’t monopolize Iraq, and they don’t. Trust me, I’ve been in Iraq in six times. I’ve met with everyone, up and down the line, from Ayatollah Sistani to ordinary Iraqis. This idea of this Shia monster running away with Iraq is a legend. It’s a legend.

So now into this enter these two characters, the ruler of Jordan and the ruler ofEgypt. They both are peddling the thesis of the Shia crescent. One problem with the Shia crescent is factual. This is empirical. When the King of Jordan said there is a Shia crescent that runs from Iran to Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, there is only one little problem with that, small little problem. Guess what. There are no Shia inSyria. (Laughter.) It’s a little problem. The thesis is too good. We don’t—how could we allow this little fact to interfere with the thesis?

There are Alawites inSyria, and there is enormously bad blood between the Alawites and the Shia. The Alawites are not Shia.

So what exactly is Hosni Mubarak—what does he mean by the Shia—that the Shia are loyal to Iran? It means he’s applying for a job from the King of Saudi Arabia and from Pax Americana.

What does it mean when King Abdullah says the Shia crescent? It means help me. Invest in me, and I will be the praetorian guard of the Sunni order.

So yes, there are some Shia communities. They are laying claim to their country. The Shia are almost a majority in Lebanon alone—practically a majority today. How could we deny them their rights? And the rest I think you are familiar with.

So there is a Shia claim, but it’s a claim on their own lands. And we are caught up—I mean the Pax Americana is caught up in that, and we can—that’s what we want to get into.Fouad Ajami
Read the full transcript HERE.

Read Vali Nasr's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
As if there is not enough to read, another opportunity to further your understanding;
Vali Nasr's interview with Bernard Gwertzman, consulting editor with the Council on Foreign Relations.
Happy reading.

2 Spiegel Interviews: Fouad Siniora and Meir Shalev

3 weeks from now the kids will go back to school..tick tock tick tock! I am so looking forward to just having the time and space to even THINK without interuptions..I can't wait! Today, is one of those 'we do a few things in the heat and we're sapped' kinda days. So, even though it's barely 5pm, I could easily go to bed for the night but..I wish! Hence, today's post is a self admitted shortcut one. Two interviews from Der Spiegel; Fouad Siniora and Meir Shalev.
we want a lasting solution, especially now that Israel has attacked our country for the seventh time in three decades. The current offensive is the worst of them all in terms of civilian casualties and economic damage. Lebanon has now been torn to pieces.

SPIEGEL: Who should pay for the damage, fellow Arab countries?

Siniora: Israel must pay, because it is currently depriving Lebanon of its ability to survive. Israel continues to occupy part of our country and has even held onto the maps that show where the minefields are located. I have held Israel responsible for this from the very beginning

Shalev: The cause of the war was a just one, but the conduct has not been. And by this I do not just mean the tragedy of Qana, but also what already happened in the first days: Attacking Beirut like this, killing civilians in Lebanon. From the very first day we should have limited ourselves to attacks against the Hezbollah strongholds along the Israeli-Lebanese border.

Especially the interview with Meir Shalev is interesting. Click on the excerpts for the full interview.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

...but it has to be a two-way street.

Yesterday, Mash decided to start a 'domino-post' in order to hopefully, participate in an online campaign to ask for the release of Ehud Goldwasser. See the previous post. Well, naturally, behind the scenes, Israel has dealt with Hezbullahs demands for the release of Lebanese prisoners. In the past, they did release prisoners, but the one that is topping the list, is still securely in an Israeli prison. This is his crime:
Samir al-Qantar, 44, was sentenced to over 500 years in jail after leading a four-man Palestinian raid at the age of 16 on Nahariya in northern Israel that killed two policemen, a civilian man and his 4-year-old daughter. Witnesses said Qantar smashed her skull with his rifle butt.
Now Hezbollah, the radical Shiite Muslim movement, has put Samir al-Qantar at the top of the list of Lebanese prisoners whose release it is demanding in exchange for two Israeli soldiers seized July 12 in a cross-border raid that touched off the current conflict. According to reports from Jerusalem, such a swap might be a part of an agreement to end the crisis being worked out at the United Nations
However, this swap might not seem to be in the works, due to the nature of the crime which was particularly heinous involving a 4 yr old child being killed in the manner that it was. Also, Samir apparently has never expressed regret or remorse, which of course never helps in order to redeem yourself somewhat. Because killing a child is a no no, where ever in the world you go. It's for a good reason Israel has gotten more flak recently for all the children in Lebanon that have been killed in a casual considered collateral dammage. After all, Hezbullah's rockets trumps everything, according to them, and demands full out response. I wonder if in their minds killing those children or heck, even civilians would be unacceptable, what kind of solution they could still come up with? I think Israel has the military capability to do away with Hezbullahs' rockets very easily, but the real goal of the campaign is not to protect Israel (if it was, Israel would have known better not to escalate because it would be expected for Hezbullah to continue), but to wipe out Hezbullah, and as we have seen, at all costs. This is not the first time in the history of this conflict that many many civilians have unnecessarily died and been killed. I myself attribute the hardened hearts on both sides to not even care about killing a child. But it has to stop, and it will probably only stop, after it has gone too far.
Let's hope it won't come to that. Instead, let's hope for some more people to break ranks and stand up against the unnecessary killing.

Breaking Ranks: Refusing to Serve in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
And also by rationale people like Osaid Rasheed.

Friday, August 04, 2006

It has to start somewhere...

In response to Mash's request, here is a re-print of his Thursday night's August 4th post:

"Tonight on Larry King Live, Ehud Goldwasser’s father and wife appeared to plea for his safe return. Ehud Goldwasser is one of two Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah on July 12. It was the precipitating event of this spasm of violence.

Karnit Goldwasser, Ehud’s wife, made an emotional plea to the wives of Hezbollah for information about his health and safety. When Ehud’s father, Shlomo Goldwasser, spoke about his efforts to free his son, his voice trembled with the quiet anguish of a parent:

KARNIT GOLDWASSER, WIFE OF KIDNAPPED ISRAELI SOLDIER: First of all, I want to thank the people who brought us here to speak to you. I ask the wives of Hezbollah to help me to get a sign that Ehud and Dan are still alive and to know if something happened to them, if they are injured or not.

KING: Shlomo, you’ve heard nothing?

SHLOMO GOLDWASSER, FATHER OF KIDNAPPED ISRAELI SOLDIER: Nothing. It’s now the 23rd day since Ehud was kidnapped. We’ve heard nothing.

KING: Shlomo, what are you doing in the United States?

S. GOLDWASSER: You know, there is no school in the world to teach you what to do when your son is kidnapped. And I was thrown into this situation in the fraction of a second on the 12th of July. And judging what to do, what are the tools to bring him back, I found that there is not so many tools in my hand, and the only one that is in my hands, with the help of you, is the media. I am using it and I’m going everywhere, everywhere that I can raise my voice and have some people to hear me. And you’re doing a great job.

It seems to me that there has been too much death already in this war. Too many parents have lost their children. There has been enough death. Enough.

I still believe if both sides of this conflict could start to see each other as human beings, as mothers and fathers, as brothers and sisters, as sons and daughters, this madness that is destroying generations would come to an end. The beginning of the end can start here. It can start with the safe return of Ehud Goldwasser and his two brothers in arms.

I ask all bloggers who read this post, as a gesture of peace and good will, to repost this plea on your blogs. Ask the same of those who read your posts. Let this plea spread across the blogosphere. Perhaps this plea will be posted on the blogs of our Arab and Lebanese friends. Perhaps this plea will make a difference in saving at least one life.

Regardless of which side of the conflict you are on, let us come together on the shared belief in the sanctity of life. Arabs, Israelis, Lebanese, Palestinians, Americans, Jews, and Muslims will still have to live together after the guns fall silent.

This may seem like a naive plea while the bombs and missiles continue to take their deadly toll, but the bombs aren’t working too well - perhaps its time to find some humanity in this madness."

Click on interview for the full transcript! And please, let's get a domino effect going...

Update! Please re-post this on your own blog as per Mash's request. You can link to whomever, it does not matter. Just encourage your own readership to repost repost and repost.. Also, provide the link to the full CNN transcript. This started with Mash, then with Zeb and me and now you. Keep the dominoes falling!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends...

...Abraham Lincoln.

When the Power of Love
replaces the Love of Power,
man will have a new name: God
Sri Chinmoy

If you think you're too small to have an impact,
try going to bed with a mosquito in the room.
Anita Roddick

Peace between countries must rest on the solid foundation of love between individuals.
Mahatma Gandhi

I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask:
"Mother, what was war?"
Eve Merriam

Click on Title for more; world

"It is easy to train an army of violence; even a year's drill may be good enough for that. But it takes a lot more time to train and prepare men to attain enough maturity and strength for a non-violent struggle."-Gurudev Tagore
Conflict Resolution is an activity practised by people throughout the world. The need for evolving peaceful ways of resolving conflicts has become more urgent than ever with the expansion in the number and variety of conflicts. Hence, Conflict Resolution is verily a very dynamic and vast field especially in the context of conflicts in every walk of life.

Some thoughts about Hezbullah

My time is limited for the next few days, so I am keeping it shorter than normal. Hezbullah's success I fear will fuel the not so moderate Muslims (shall we say, putting it 'nicely') into a belief that the Westerners, especially Americans that they see as the cause of all evil, can be beat and need to be continued to be 'beaten'. Shortly after the Gulf war, in the early nineties, I lived in Saudi Arabia. It was known how some Saudis did not like Westerners at all, and not for political reasons, but their Wahabi convictions. This Wahhabi brand of Islam has been creeping more and more into too many Muslims, especially in countries, where the Saudi government builds mosques and schools all in the name of..and all the while, teaching a conservative brand that would scare any sophisticated person. I have been struggling with mixed feelings regarding Islam. There are Muslims and Muslim friends who are quite moderate, intelligent, and thoughtful. Then when I hear about sharia law, hudood etc.. the treatment of women.. I see a religion of tribalism and cannot imagine it teaching anything good. But then, how come I see Muslims like my friends, and then see a political Islam that is so vengeful, so fundamental in its zeal, and dare I say, backwards? Islam has been the unifying code of behaviour in so many countries, and has somehow served extremely well to unify people in reactive, violent opposition. I know I am missing something. Most likely, a good knowledge base of books that could help me understand the difference between for example, the Medina period and the Mecca period. Would it teach me to understand the motivations of today's groups such as Hezbullah, or are they merely resistance groups cloaked in religious terms in order to get the legitimacy, the recruits and support of the ummah at large?
Another thought I had today, as the kids were taking their swim lessons and I pondered the sadness and seriousness of the current ME conflict.. could Israel forge a peace by taking away Hezbullah's peaceful, social activities? Perhaps the way to undermine Hezbullah, is to support and help the Lebanese with schools, orphanages, etc. the way Hezbullah has done. If not Israel alone, most definitely someone or some group other than the Party of God.
Still thinking..