Monthly Archives: September 2006

John Stewart Hands It to the Media

It’s awkward and almost painful to watch as the hosts try to carry on with a normal crossfire. It’s good stuff.

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A Different Perspective on the Occupation in Iraq

Published on Monday, September 18, 2006 by the lnter Press Service
US Resorting to ‘Collective Punishment’ in Iraq
by Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily

RAMADI – U.S. forces are taking to collective punishment of civilians in several cities across the al-Anbar province west of Baghdad, residents and officials say.

“Ramadi, the capital of al-Anbar province, is still living with the daily terror of its people getting killed by snipers and its infrastructure being destroyed,” Ahmad, a local doctor who withheld his last name for security purposes told IPS. “This city has been facing the worst of the American terror and destruction for more than two years now, and the world is silent.”

Destroying infrastructure and cutting water and electricity “for days and even weeks is routine reaction to the resistance,” he said. “Guys of the resistance do not need water and electricity, it’s the families that are being harmed, and their lives which are at stake.”

Students and professors at the University of al-Anbar told IPS that their campus is under frequent attack.

“Nearly every week we face raids by the Americans or their Iraqi colleagues,” a professor speaking on condition of anonymity told IPS. Students said that U.S. troops occupied their school last week..

“We’ve been under great pressure from the Americans since the very first days of their occupation of Iraq,” a student told IPS.

Such raids are being reported all over Ramadi. “The infrastructure destruction is huge around the governorate building in downtown Ramadi,” said a 24-year-old student who gave his name as Ali al-Ani. “And they are destroying the market too.”

IPS reported Sep. 5 that the U.S. military was bulldozing entire blocks of buildings near the governorate to dampen resistance attacks on government offices.

Such U.S. action seems most severe in al-Anabar province, where resistance is strongest, and which has seen the highest U.S. casualties.

The city of Hit 80km west of Ramadi was surrounded by U.S. troops for several days earlier this week. Several civilians were killed and at least five were detained by U.S. forces. Checkpoints are in place at each entrance to the city after the U.S. military lifted the cordon around it. This has stifled movement and damaged local businesses.

“There was an attack on a U.S. convoy, and three vehicles were destroyed,” a local tribal chief who gave his name as Nawaf told IPS. “It wasn’t the civilians who did it, but they are the ones punished. These Americans have the bad habit of cutting all of the essential services after every attack. They said they came to liberate us, but look at the slow death they are giving us every day.”

In Haditha, a city of 75,000 on the banks of the Euphrates River in western al-Anbar, collective punishment is ongoing, residents say. This was the site of the massacre of 24 civilians by U.S. marines in November 2005.

“The Americans continue to raid our houses and threaten us with more violence,” a local tribal leader who gave his name as Abu Juma’a told IPS. “But if they think they will make us kneel by these criminal acts, they are wrong. If they increase the pressure, the resistance will increase the reaction. We see this pattern repeated so often now.”

Abu Juma’a added: “I pray that the Americans return to their senses before they lose everything in the Iraqi fire.”

In Fallujah, local police say residents have turned against them due to the collective punishment tactics used by U.S. forces.

“The Americans started pushing us to fight the resistance despite our contracts that clearly assigned us the duties of civil protection against normal crimes such as theft and tribal quarrels,” a police lieutenant told IPS. “Now 90 percent of the force has decided to quit rather than kill our brothers or get killed by them for the wishes of the Americans.”

At least one U.S. vehicle is reported destroyed every day on average in the face of mounting U.S. raids and a daily curfew. The scene is one of destruction of the city, not rebuilding.

“Infrastructure rebuilding is just a joke that nobody laughs at,” Fayiq al-Dilaimy, an engineer in Fallujah told IPS. He was on the rebuilding committee set up after the November 2004 U.S.-led operation which destroyed approximately 75 percent of the city..

“People of this city could rebuild their city in six months if given a real chance. Now look at it and how sorrowful it looks under the boots of the ‘liberators’.”

Many of the smaller towns have been badly hit. “Khaldiyah (near Fallujah) and the area around it have faced the worst collective punishments for over two years now,” said a government official in Ramadi. “But of course most cities in al-Anbar are being constantly punished by the Americans.”

Samarra and Dhululiyah towns, both north of Baghdad, have also been facing collective punishment from the U.S. military, according to residents.

“Curfews and concrete walls are permanent in both cities, which makes life impossible,” Ali al-Bazi, a lawyer who lives in Dhululiyah and works in Samarra told IPS. “There are so many killings by American snipers. So many families have lost loved ones trying to visit relatives or even just stepping outside of their house.”

While Baghdad is not in al-Anbar province, occupation forces have used similar tactics there. In January 2005 IPS reported that the military used bulldozers to level palm groves, cut electricity, destroy a fuel station and block access roads in response to attacks from resistance fighters.

A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad did not comment on specific cases, but told IPS that the U.S. military “does its best to protect civilians from the terrorists.”

© Copyright 2006 IPS – Inter Press Service

What Really Makes our Nation Strong

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Published on Thursday, September 7 by The Baltamore Sun
by Garrison Keillor

Growing up in the ’50s, we imagined our country defended by guided missiles poised in bunkers, jet fighters on the tarmac and pilots in the ready room prepared to scramble, a colonel with a black briefcase sitting in the hall outside the president’s bedroom, but Sept. 11 gave us a clearer picture. We have a vast array of hardware, a multitude of colonels, a lot of bureaucratic confusion, and a nation vulnerable to attack.

The Federal Aviation Administration has now acknowledged that the third of the four planes seized by the 19 men with box cutters had already hit the Pentagon before the FAA finally called there to say there was a problem. The FAA lied to the 9/11 commission about this, then took two years to ascertain the facts – a 51-minute gap in defense – and released the finding on the Friday before Labor Day, an excellent burial site for bad news.

So America is not the secure fortress we grew up imagining. Perhaps it never was. What protects us is what has protected us for 230 years: our magnificent isolation. After the disasters of the 20th century, Europe put nationalism aside and adopted civilization, but we have oceans on either side, so if the president turns out to be a shallow, jingoistic fool with a small, rigid agenda and little knowledge of the world, we expect to survive it somehow. Life goes on.
It’s hard for Americans to visualize the collapse of our country. It’s as unthinkable as one’s own demise. Europeans are different: They’ve seen disaster, even the British. They know it was a near thing back in 1940. My old Danish mother-in-law remembered the occupation clearly 40 years later and was teary-eyed when she talked about it. Francis Scott Key certainly could envision the demise of the United States in 1814 when he watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry. Abraham Lincoln was haunted by the thought. We are not, apparently, though five years ago we saw a shadow.

We really are one people at heart. We all believe that when thousands of people are trapped in the Superdome without food or water, it is the duty of government, the federal government if necessary, to come to their rescue and to restore them to the civil mean and not abandon them to fate. Right there is the basis of liberalism. Conservatives tried to introduce a new idea – it’s your fault if you get caught in a storm – and this idea was rejected by nine out of 10 people once they saw the pictures. The issue is whether we care about people who don’t get on television.
Last week, I sat and listened to a roomful of parents talk about their battles with public schools in behalf of their children who suffer from dyslexia, or apraxia, or ADD, or some other disability – sagas of ferocious parental love vs. stonewall bureaucracy in the quest for basic, needful things – and how some of them had uprooted their families and moved to Minnesota so their children could attend better schools. You couldn’t tell if those parents were Republicans or Democrats. They simply were prepared to move mountains so their kids could have a chance. So are we all.
And that’s the mission of politics: to give our kids as good a chance as we had. They say that liberals have run out of new ideas – it’s like saying that Christians have run out of new ideas. Maybe the old doctrine of grace is good enough.

I don’t get much hope from Democrats these days, a timid and skittish bunch, slow to learn, unable to sing the hymns and express the steady optimism that is at the heart of the heart of the country. I get no hope at all from Republicans, whose policies seem predicated on the Second Coming occurring in the very near future.

If Jesus does not descend through the clouds to take them directly to paradise, and do it now, they are going to have to answer to the rest of us.

Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” can be heard Saturday nights on public radio stations across the country.

Copyright © 2006, The Baltimore Sun