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News ::
Norwood resident reports from Iraq (english)
24 Dec 2002
Modified: 22 Jan 2003
Please, in whatever way you can, speak out about this. All I can say is that this is an intolerable, horrible situation. We went to a shelter that was bombed in 1991 -- 408 innocent women and children killed. Their blood and the outlines of their bodies are still imprinted on the walls. I can’t type about it without crying, because it’s not just something in the past, it’s something that may be about to happen again.
There are some people from UJP groups who are presently in Iraq. Below is a message written by Sheila Provencher who is from Norwood and is in Iraq as part of the Iraq Peace Journey.

Dear family and friends,

I am finally taking the chance to email -- we have been so busy, and I just learned how to use the email in a small Internet center at a nearby hotel here in Baghdad.

Where to begin? I wish you could all be here – it’s so different from what we see on TV. As we drove through Baghdad for the first time, all I could think, over and over, was the simple truth that at the heart of it all, this is just a place where people live. Ordinary people, welcoming people. That’s it, at the core and these are the people who will suffer. Baghdad is a sprawling, residential city. Kids tote backpacks to and from school, play soccer on patches of dust along the road, wave at us from the sidewalks. The streets are busy with cars, and the sidewalks are lined with small shops -- although most have very few shoppers and many are closed completely. Elderly people, women, and men greet us. Many of the men, I notice especially, walk with prayer beads -- one of the prayer traditions of Islam is to recite the 99 names of God. The seeming normalcy of life is a sharp contrast to the anxiety that the people live with, and which we learn when we meet them up close.

Today we went to a maternity hospital run by the Dominican sisters here in Baghdad. Sr. Bushra Gaggi, OP, who runs the hospital, told us that many of the women have been coming to the hospital, begging her to give them Caesarean sections, so that their babies will be born before the bombing begins. She smiled at us and greeted us so graciously, but when she talked about the war, she couldn’t hold back tears, and she was very afraid. It is so painful -- why don’t US citizens know about the ordinary people here in Iraq?

Yesterday, we went to a public hospital -- the director told us about all of the effects of the sanctions -- and of the devastation that would occur if we have another war. There has been a huge increase in cancer -- most likely caused by the depleted uranium in the US bombs used in the Gulf War. (Which has also caused thousands of US veterans to become sick). And only one Iraqi hospital in the entire nation has a machine for radiation treatment. All of the other 13-year-old machines have broken down. Most children and adults with cancer have no hope. So the oil-for-food program is not enough -- the hospitals still do not receive enough medicine, equipment, or training, and malnutrition is still an enormous problem > 5 million Iraqi children are malnourished.

We visited the cancer ward, full of children. They sat on beds, four to a room, and their mothers sat beside them. They welcomed us, tried to smile for pictures, and yet two of the mothers broke down weeping while we were there. I gave them the pictures drawn by the children of St. Joseph parish, and the kids smiled at the many colors. One wall of their hospital ward also had children’s drawings --also in bright colors. One was full of butterflies -- hard to believe, the contrast of life and death right in front of us.

Today, we visited three bishops. Together, in many ways, they said to us -- We are a peaceful people, we do not want war. Please, tell all the people of faith in the US to pray for us. The war would be a catastrophe for the Iraqi people. Please, tell your people what you see here, what you hear. Tell them the truth.

Archbishop Delli of Baghdad said to us, I was here, in this house, during the last war. And 104 windows were shattered.

All of the parishes, in November, had a day of fasting and prayer for peace. The people are anxious and fearful. They smile and welcome us, and there is a desperate hope that we can make a difference, but already many times I feel helpless to avert this war. And yet many people still speak of hope -- and we must hope, and pray, and act.

Please, in whatever way you can, speak out about this. All I can say is that this is an intolerable, horrible situation. We went to a shelter that was bombed in 1991 -- 408 innocent women and children killed. Their blood and the outlines of their bodies are still imprinted on the walls. I can’t type about it without crying, because it’s not just something in the past, it’s something that may be about to happen again. A war will only hurt these ordinary people who live here. They are already so beaten down, and war will only make it worse. Since I’ve come, I feel fear -- NOT fear for my personal safety, but fear for the safety of our whole planet. I just don’t know what will happen. Preach about it if you can, or write a letter, or make a phone call. I’m starting to realize that we ordinary American people may be the only hope – it’s our responsibility to speak out against a war, to seek other means to resolve the conflicts.

Action rooted in prayer. One of our delegates asked Bishop John Sleman, “How do you cope?” He said, “I pray, with open hands.”

I feel all of your presence here -- thank you so much for praying with me, and with these people. I’m sorry to be so anxious, but this is how it feels -- there is a great urgency. Together I know we are all praying, and acting to try to incarnate peace in this world, as we await the Prince of Peace. And that is a great grace that can never be taken away.

Much love and peace to you all. I will try to keep in touch regularly.

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On the wrong side of history (english)
29 Dec 2002
Being on the wrong side of history won’t be pretty.

Slowly we are coming to the last few moves of a yearlong and tedious game. Saddam Hussein supposes that through delay, denial, and obstruction he can for a second decade stymie weapons inspectors and international bureaucrats, and thereby outfox the United States — in the process snatching victory from his rendezvous with ruin. He has slowly boxed himself into a corner in which he must deny the presence of weapons that he — and the world — knows exist.

When that revelation of their existence occurs, checkmate looms, and the wages of war follow — some time, I imagine, between mid-January and early March. Few who now express empathy, if not support, will join in Saddam's jihad. The Arab world, after all, can tolerate well enough genocide and torture, but not at all the humiliation of riding a sickly horse.

The results will have ramifications that make those in Afghanistan pale in comparison — and perhaps change both the complexion of the present war and the Middle East itself in ways we can now scarcely imagine. Current polls reflect widespread dislike of the United States in the Middle East. But what will such surveys reveal in six months, when an odious Saddam Hussein is removed and something follows far better than both him and the other autocrats in the region? Look at the change in Kabul for the answer.

In the post-Saddam chaos, a daily staple of news reports will be tours of Saddam's Ceausescu-like palaces and exposés of material excesses that would make Imelda Marcos blush — along with horrific tales from survivors of his gulag and glimpses into his labyrinth of torture. It won't be a pretty picture. Just as Venetian sailors used to stare aghast at what floated up when they deliberately sank their galleys right outside the harbor to cleanse the ballast of vermin, so too a post-Saddam Baghdad will disgorge especially foul residents that may well make the late Abu Nidal, Abu Abbas, and the Hussein progeny seem innocuous.

Most immediately, American relationships with the so-called moderate despots in the region, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, will be turned topsy-turvy — if they are not already. These regimes, lest we forget, are ruled by failed autocrats that receive either American largess or troops to protect their unpopular and unelected governments — and in thanks unleash their fanged state-controlled presses against us. Their faux ministers and bought intellectuals talk of anti-Americanism ad nauseam, failing to realize that the American people have had it with all of them.

So if a newly constituted Iraq emerges as a sane state, America will have no desire or need to protect Mr. Mubarak, King Hussein, or the Saudi royals from the wave of popular uprisings that we ourselves helped to let loose in Iraq. Their only long-term salvation, then, is right now to begin democratic reforms, open up their media, and hope for our forbearance.

For over a year now we have witnessed a depressing spectacle in Europe of opportunistic anti-Americanism as incoherent as it is shrill. But ultimately the Europeans — soon in multistage-rocket range of Baghdad — also wish Saddam Hussein gone. The presence of their own security forces in Afghanistan shows they know the country is a better place after the Taliban — and that it was freed only thanks to Anglo-American resolve.

Europeans also worry about their own unassimilated Muslim populations. The hatred that they once tolerated emanating from mosques is no longer seen as eccentric. Indeed, the fundamentalists' venomous anti-Semitic and anti-American slurs are starting to widen to include, of all people, them! — the fundamentalists' most generous hosts. Europeans can forgive hating the Jews or odium toward the United States, but cannot so easily swallow subsidized ingratitude. Blowing up the World Trade Center is one thing; talk of attacks on the Vatican by foreign welfare recipients are quite another.

Most privately confess that the American military, far from being an agency of empire, more or less defends them from those against whom they wish to be protected — and that neither collectively nor individually could European states respond forcefully to a 9/11-type assault. Should the pope be targeted or the Acropolis toppled, they know the Americans will be hunting the perpetrators whom they themselves have for so long placated.

Thus it would be wise for Europeans to get out ahead of the curve, and be resolute in supporting the removal of Saddam Hussein, before they, like the Arab "moderates," become increasingly irrelevant. The real story is not one of anti-Americanism — itself old and boring — but of a new anti-Europeanism prevalent here. Personally I would not worry too much about the anger of a spent France or schizophrenic Germany, but would about an aroused United States — not merely because of its power, but because exasperated Americans have a longer memory. How strange that increasingly Russians, Indians, and eastern Europeans — not our more natural allies, Frenchmen or Germans — are now more popular with us.

Indeed, for all the grand idealism of Kyoto, Durban, and the ICC, Americans accept that in the past western Europeans would have cold-heartedly sold out Taiwan, Israel, or South Korea in any major confrontation in which democracy and sacrifice on the one side were pitted against autocracy, profit, and appeasement on the other. So Iraq is not merely a referendum on European-American relations, but rather a litmus test of the moral status of Europe itself, and of what side of history it wishes to be on. Let us hope it awakens from its ethical coma to take its rightful place at the vanguard of the war against barbarity.

The American left has missed yet another train as it was leaving. Currently it is reeling from an array of staggering developments that in the post-Cold War era threaten to leave it as discredited as segregationist Republicans were during the civil-rights movement. Anti-Semitism is suddenly more commonly a phenomenon of the academic Left than of the old, white, Neanderthal Right. Multiculturalism and cultural equivalence have been refuted by the ghoulish nature of the Taliban; the more the world learns about the "alternative" universe of Saddam Hussein and kindred Middle Eastern regimes, the more it shudders in horror.

Censorship, catcalls at lectures, and the stealing of newspapers are not Mr. Ashcroft's doing but now also a hallmark of the campus Left — mostly ignored by timid college presidents. Amnesty International and the United Nations mollify rather than oppose odious regimes. Pacifism does not work in a world where the World Trade Center is incinerated. The hysterics of a Chomsky, Vidal, Mailer, or Said — never really refuted by the more responsible Left — were proved harebrained by the rapidity and economy of the American victory and the benevolent nature of the Karzai government in Afghanistan.

Exaggerating the collateral damage from the most precise weapons in military history, inflating by magnitudes of ten and more civilian casualties, spreading ad hoc conspiracy theories about pipelines, oil, and Texas corporations, raising doomsday scenarios of global anti-Americanism and nuclear hysteria in the Middle East — all that is about the extent and quality of the current anti-war exegesis, itself mostly discredited by its previous and completely wrong predictions concerning Afghanistan.

So in the few days that are left, in the calm before the storm, the Left should scramble to reclaim its moral currency by condemning our enemies and disassociating itself from appeasement. If it does not, the 2004 elections may well resemble 1972 or 1980 in their lopsidedness. The shrillness of Kerry more and more resembles a 1972 McGovern or 1980 Carter.

Something strange is happening, as if all the old conventional wisdom proves daily insolvent. Each hour Saudi Arabia appears a more untenable ally, panicky as the light of truth shines into its deepest recesses. The Arab street sinks more and more into irrelevance, as lunatic as it is impotent; its anti-American hatred is to be welcomed rather than feared, given what it presently represents: gender apartheid, religious intolerance, tribalism, and anti-Semitism. Middle Eastern leaders may shake fingers and talk tough, but they have no moral credibility and still less power — and, like former Eastern European Communist hacks, are likely to become the flotsam and jetsam in a tidal wave of change.

All this September 11 has exposed. But perhaps the queerest phenomenon of all was where real wisdom was to be found in our hour of greatest need. The Kennedy School of Government offered little insight. The Arabists in our universities were worse, more duplicitous even than naive. Some of our acclaimed novelists, poets, filmmakers, and essayists offered up things reprehensible. An array of ex-ambassadors to Saudi Arabia proved comical if not venal. Former President Carter's half-baked ideas of disarmament and pre-Nobel-prize posturing made Chamberlain's Munich accords look statesmanlike; former President Clinton's lip-biting and apologies rendered caricature redundant. Some of our own diplomats' early trial balloons — a coalition government in Afghanistan or an all-Islamic peace force — could be improved upon by brainstorming high-school seniors.

Instead, a president who supposedly slurred his words and forgot dictator's names sensed the extent and threat of a rare evil, as well as the remedy for its demise that had escaped his supposed betters. And so far that has made all the difference in this strange war.
Victor David Hanson

Get a job, hippy (english)
15 Jan 2003
Hope you packed shorts - if Saddam doesn't cut the crap, the USA is going to raise the temp 2,000 degrees.

Get out of there now idiot.
Bleeding heart (english)
22 Jan 2003
I find it hard to believe that the US is to blame for all the problems in Iraq nd sanctions are the reason people do not have enough food or medicine. Saddam can surely build palaces and try to build up his military. Why is there never a blame of Saddam in all these articles. I try to read indymedia to get an alternative perspective but many times you are so slanted it makes the article lose focus. I understand that the Iraqi people will suffer due to war but the world will suffer unless Saddam is dealt with. Would his people be better off with or without Saddam? And let's look at history and see why Iraqi's are suffering, the Iran-Iraq war, which Saddam started, devasted that land and brought on many of the things we are dealing with today.
Please take a real world perspective on these things.