A Lesson after 9/11: Compassion

11 09 2011

At the software company I worked for, we watched in horror after the first tower was struck. With my co-workers, we watched as a plane drove into the second tower. We were in shock as was the entire nation. We were glued to the television…waiting for information. We saw people jump from the towers to their deaths and knew that many more had died as the towers crumbled to the ground. We saw the look of sheer terror on the faces of those present and running from the towers. It was an apocalyptic event being broadcast live as we watched.

To make it even more surreal, my manager at the time kept crossing through the lobby and glaring at me as if to say “Why are you wasting your time watching television?” My peers were all there watching. Something monumental was happening. We needed time to witness and attempt to cope with what we were seeing. Feeling the pressure from this demanding boss, I was one of the first to pull away and go back to my desk and it was incredibly difficult to focus and do technical marketing work. It was corporate America saying “You’re not human. Don’t feel. Just do your work…no matter what else is going on.” It was the birthday of one of my co-workers, but definitely not a day to celebrate.

Credit: TellingNicholas.com

Today, 10 years later, I am still disturbed by that glare. It’s one of the reasons I choose to work for myself. Yes, there are business demands and the software business is incredibly demanding. But people are not robots. Bad things happen and we have feelings. We need time and space to witness, to grieve, and to recover.

I just watched another one of HBO’s incredible documentaries. This one is called “Telling Nicholas” and first aired on May 19, 2002. Created by director/producer/writer James Ronald Whitney, it also won an Emmy.

It tells the story of how the mother of 7-year-old Nicholas died in the World Trade Centers on 9/11 and how the family struggled to accept that she is not coming back and is indeed dead. They also struggled with how to tell Nicholas. It his heart wrenching and I cried throughout most of the movie. The family is very sensitive to and protective of this little boy’s feelings.

I’m not a 7-year-old boy and I didn’t lose my mommy or anyone on 9/11. Still, we all grieve that day and the loss of innocence, security, and safety we had up until then. We grieve the loss of so many people who were doing nothing but living their lives and working and being mommies and daddies and brothers and sisters and children.

If 9/11 has had any positive impact, hopefully it has taught us to appreciate the freedom we have, to value life, to be grateful for the love of others, and to never take even one day of our lives for granted. And to stop the glares. We all need time to process when things happen…even if we’re at work…and we all need to practice and feel compassion.

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Stoned to Death for Having Unmarried Sex in Somalia

8 11 2009

33-year-old Abas Hussein Abdirahman, who confessed to adultery in an Islamic court, was stoned to death on 11/7/09 in Somalia for having sex with his girlfriend. She will be stoned to death after she gives birth to their baby. The BBC reports that an eyewitness…one of 300 to the stoning…said that Abas Somali Al-Shabaab - Credit BBC“…was screaming and blood was pouring from his head during the stoning. After seven minutes he stopped moving.”

The BBC reports that this is the third time this year that Al-Shabab, an Islamist insurgency group in Somalia, has stoned a person to death for adultery. Two men were stoned to death last month after being accused of being spies.

According to the BBC, Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed “has accused al-Shabab of spoiling the image of Islam by killing people and harassing women.” Ahmed also had this to say about the Al-Shabab:

Their actions have nothing to do with Islam. They are forcing women to wear very heavy clothes, saying they want them to properly cover their bodies but we know they have economic interests behind – they sell these kinds of clothes and want to force people to buy them.

Somalia has not had a functioning national government in 18 years. Ahmed was sworn in as president in January after UN-brokered peace talks. Ahmed has said he wants to implement the Islamic Sharia law, but the Al-Shabab say he will be too lenient.

One of my most-read posts is Remembering 13-year-old Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow from Somalia. She reported being gang-raped as she walked to her grandmother’s and was stoned to death, accused of being an adulterer.

Surely God would not condone killing a soon-to-be father and mother who physically expressed love for one another and a child who was gang raped. Stoning them are not acts of honor and love for God. These are acts of terrorism under the guise of religion. They are about instilling fear in people in order to control them. They are senseless acts by people who use God’s name to harm others in order to assert their own power.

I lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia years ago and I understand that in Muslim countries, religion and law are combined in a way we don’t experience in the U.S.  We must be respectful of the laws and traditions of people different from us. Still, I wonder how long Muslims will stand by and allow this to happen in their religion’s name. How long will the world stand by and quietly condemn these acts while they continue?





GHOST: Counterterrorism Agent Fred Burton

16 07 2009

A 12 year stint as a special agent (and later deputy chief) of the Diplomatic Security Service of the Department of State’s counterterrorism division began for Fred Burton on February 10, 1986. A former Maryland police officer, he Fred Burtonhad some experience working in the shadows and with the dark strands of society. His life totally changed on that cold Bethesda day and became consumed in finding and disarming those all over the world whose purpose is to cause harm and destruction and to strike fear in the hearts of innocent people.

I heard Fred Burton speak at the Texas Book Festival right before the election last year. I found his talk intriguing and bought and read his riveting book Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent. In it, he tells stories of how the initial office of himself, his boss Steve, and another agent (and later additional agents) investigated many international incidents to determine if they were terrorist attacks. These incidents included the following:

  1. A bomb on TWA Flight 840 from Athens to Rome
  2. A bomb at a German disco in West Berlin
  3. The Beirut hostage crisis
  4. The airplane crash that killed Pakistani President Zia
  5. The first World Trade Center bombing

Mr. Burton is a true American patriot. He kept a suitcase packed and was ready to go anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice. He often was gone for weeks and his wife would have no idea where he was; he couldn’t tell her for security reasons. He rarely got a full night’s sleep as he would either be awakened with an emergency call that necessitated him going into the office or would lay awake anticipating such a call. He rarely even had a weekend morning to himself. He was always on call, always on the ready, always working to keep Americans and people all over the world safe.

Since 1998, Fred has worked for Strategic Forecasting (STRATFOR) in Austin, Texas, a company that does “geopolitical intelligence and economic, political, and military strategic forecasting.” He is currently VP of Counterterrorism and Corporate Security. There he and his counterterrorism team “watch overseas threats, analyze them, and report our findings to our clients.”

Mr. Burton was kind enough to send me a note when he saw that I listed on my blog that I was reading his book. I said I’d love to read another book by him and he replied that “My next book is MANHUNT and centers on my 25 year quest to capture a Palestinian terrorist who gunned down an Israeli secret agent in the DC area.” That sounds like another riveting book and I look forward to reading it when it is released in April 2010.

When you go to bed tonight, your thoughts may be on an argument with your spouse or a slight from your boss, but most of us won’t have to worry about whether we are safe or not. Eight years into his stint in counterterrorism, Fred Burton made these observations:

Do the people around me have any idea of the ruthless depths of the world they live in? Do they have any clue what lurks around them? I certainly didn’t eight years ago. Perhaps that ignorance is a good thing. Living life in perpetual fear is not a life at all. In truth, there are moments where I miss that blissful ignorance. Knowledge and a top secret clearance do not equal happiness. I’ve found that out the hard way.

We can be grateful for people like Fred Burton who are willing to give so much so that we can live blissfully and ignorantly safe lives. Here’s Mr. Burton in February discussing his book:





The 1979 Iranian Revolution: A Personal Story

13 06 2009

We were all set to move to Tehran, Iran in 1978. My (then) husband was a software engineer with Ross Perot’s Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and we had the opportunity of a lifetime to move there (and him to work there) with our one-year-old baby girl.

Shah Pahlavi and Queen Farah 1977

Shah Pahlavi and Queen Farah 1977

Iran seemed stable then.  Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was the leader and had been since he came to power in 1941. He had put in place a lot of positive reforms, called the White Revolution, in Iran such as giving women the right to vote, advancing the country technologically and economically, guaranteeing children the right to go to school, allowing share croppers to own land, etc.

There was no Internet then, but I researched Iran the best I could. EDS gave us a packet of information on what to expect about living there and I learned more at the library. I knew it would be really different from living in the U.S. Things like celery and iceburg lettuce and other foods were hard to get and expensive when you could find them. I wouldn’t be driving there, but would have some freedom of movement. There was no email so contact with my family would be mostly through letters and the rare (and expensive) phone call. Still, I was ready for the adventure.

Ayatollah Khomeini

Ayatollah Khomeini

Things happened to change all that. Previously the Shah had Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was critical of his regime, imprisoned for 18 months and then deported in 1964 after Khomeini’s release and criticism of the U.S. government. Khomeini continued to speak out against the Pahlavi regime from exile. The Iranian (also called the Islamic) Revolution began in January 1978. A few months later, EDS asked if we would consider going to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia instead of Tehran. We didn’t really understand why, but they explained it would be safer. We changed course and agreed…and my research began anew. I became pregnant with our second child and had to hold back on going to Jeddah. Their father went around the beginning of November 1978. I, and our two children, didn’t go over until July 1979.

Amidst the backdrop of our changing personal saga, chaos had broken out in Iran and the Shah and his family had to flee the country in January 1979. His regime collapsed two weeks later. EDS employees fled the U.S.-friendly regime with the clothes on their back. Many of them came later to Jeddah and we were regaled with harrowing and heroic stories.

Khomeini returned from 15 years of exile and on 4/1/79, the people of Iran voted to become an Islamic Republic. In December of 1979, the people approved a theocratic (where God is considered the supreme civil ruler) constitution and Khomeini became the Supreme Leader, the highest ranking political and religious figure in the country. He has authority even over the president of Iran. Tens of thousands of loyalists to the previous regime were executed after Khomeini took office.

At this point, the U.S./Iran relationship deteriorated. On 11/4/79 Iranian students seized U.S. embassy personnel, accusing them of being CIA agents plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.  Khomeini supported them. Most of the women and African-American hostages were released after a few months, but the remaining 52 hostages were held captive for 444 days. They were set free in January 1981 in exchange for promises that included the U.S. removing a freeze on Iranian assets and not interfering with Iranian affairs.

While my family and I were spared the drama, tension, and danger in Iran, we were living in Jeddah when the Grand Mosque was seized and held for two weeks by Islamic terrorists on 11/20/79.  I wrote about this in a post entitled “Pilgrims to a Deadly Hajj.” I witnessed on the streets what an area under siege in a Middle Eastern country looks like.

Once again we seemed to escape potential danger unwittingly. We returned to the United States around mid-September of 1980. On 9/22/80 Saddam Hussein and Iraq invaded a weakend (from the revolution) Iran and thus began the Iran-Iraq War. It lasted until 1988 when Khomeini begrudgingly accepted a truce negotiated by the United Nations. 500,000 – 1 million Iranians died in this war; 100,000 of them from Iraqi chemical weapons.

Ali KhameneiKhomeini reigned as Supreme Leader until he died on 6/3/89. Ali Khamenei became Supreme Leader in 1989 and remains so in 2009. Iran had two additional presidents before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005.

I was a 25-year-old, wide-eyed, ready-for-anything young woman when my family was going to move to Iran. Things were pretty peaceful then. It seemed really exciting.

Today, in the aftermath of what looks like a rigged election, there is rioting in the streets of Iran. The people are crying out for freedom and representation and being heard. It’s a dangerous place to be. I could’ve walked amongst these people 30 years ago, but it would’ve been a different Iran, an Iran that was making progress and restoring rights to women and children and peasants.

Today, and the last 30 years, seem to have been a setback for the Iranians. I wonder when their country will be restored to peace and to being a place where another wide-eyed, brave young U.S. mother would dare to go undaunted with her family to have the adventure of a lifetime.





Hatred in Action at the Holocaust Museum

10 06 2009

Tragic. Today an 88-year-old white supremacist walked into the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and killed a 39-year-old security guard before being fired on by other guards. The Holocaust Museumkiller was known to hate Jews, Catholics, and African-Americans and on the radar of those who study fringe extremists who devote their lives to hatred. He wrote a book denying the Holocaust and praising Hitler. He spent more than five years in prison for the 1983 conviction on charges of attempting to kidnap members of the Federal Reserve Board with a hunting knife, revolver, and 12-gauge shotgun. He even invoked others to kill people who threatened what he saw as the supremacy of white people.

These kind of people terrify me more than any Taliban or jihadist. These are people living on our own soil who at any moment in any location and without provocation can take someone’s life…or many lives. These people walk amongst us. They look like us. They may be our grandfather, our son, our uncle, our boss. We usually don’t have a clue as to the level of depravity and hatred they harbor. Their souls are dark places where light never enters.

And yet people like Palin, Limbaugh, Cheney, O’Reilly, Beck, and Hannity fuel the flames that burn in these in-grown terroists’ hearts. These very public people tell lies and make insinuations that inflame the ignorant, the uninformed, the uncurious, and the gun-toting racists. They speak with seemingly innocent irresponsibility and then act surprised and are in denial when their words produce predictable results.

I am disgusted with the talk of these people and the talk of any person who promotes hatred. I am alarmed and saddened by the results of their hate talk.

Credit: MSNBC.com

Stephen Tyrone Johns Credit: MSNBC.com

Stephen Tyrone Johns was the man killed. He had worked as a security guard at the Holocaust Museum for six years. He was doing his job to protect the school children and others who come to the museum to remember the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. He didn’t deserve to die.

The other news today? Carrie Prejean, Miss California, was fired by Donald Trump. She is the contestant in the Miss USA pageant who spoke out against gay marriage and preached intolerance toward gay people. Is it any accident that these two incidents headline the news in the same day? I think not. They, along with the killing last week of the abortion doctor by a right-wing extremist, speak of intolerance, of people claiming their way is the only right way, of excluding others who are not like you.

We need healing, love, and inclusion. These are what President Obama is practicing and teaching. Why are these positive principles so threatening to those who hate? We must hold the light and shine that light into the dark corners of the extremist corners of the dark hearts in our society. Our country, its citizens, and the citizens of the world need our light.

Here’s “This Little Light of Mine” sung by the African Children’s Choir. I heard them sing in Austin a few months ago. These children shine light and love into our hearts with their singing, dancing, and ebullient spirits. We can learn a lot from children…they remind us to be about joy and love.





Vaginas and Lives Mutilated in the Congo: Thoughts from the Writer of The Vagina Monologues

18 05 2009

Eve Ensler, who authored the play “The Vagina Monologues,” wrote today about the horrors of what women in the Democratic Republic of Congo are experiencing. I tried to explain  to my  mother about what Eve wrote about and she said her system can only take so much and she couldn’t hear any more. I get that. It’s hard to hear. But we must have courage and acknowledge the horrors. Only by acknowledging and spreading the word to others who will also acknowledge what is happening can the proper light be shed on this tragedy and solutions will follow. Here’s Eve’s article. All that follows was posted on Huffington Post today.

“War on Women in Congo” by Eve Ensler, posted 5/18/09 on Huffington Post

I write today on behalf of countless V-Day activists worldwide, and in solidarity with my many Congolese sisters and brothers who demand justice and an end to rape and war.

It is my hope that these words and those of others will break the silence and break open a sea of action to move Congolese women toward peace, safety and freedom.

My play, The Vagina Monologues, opened my eyes to the world inside this world. Everywhere I traveled with it scores of women lined up to tell me of their rapes, incest, beatings, mutilations. It was because of this that over 11 years ago we launched V-Day, a worldwide movement to end violence against women and girls.

The movement has spread like wildfire to 130 countries, raising $70 million. I have visited and revisited the rape mines of the world, from defined war zones like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Haiti to the domestic battlegrounds in colleges and communities throughout North America, Europe and the world. My in-box — and heart — have been jammed with stories every hour of every day for over a decade.

Nothing I have heard or seen compares with what is going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where corporate greed, fueled by capitalist consumption, and the rape of women have merged into a single nightmare. Femicide, the systematic and planned destruction of the female population, is being used as a tactic of war to clear villages, pillage mines and destroy the fabric of Congolese society.

In 12 years, there have been 6 million dead men and women in Congo and 1.4 million people displaced. Hundreds and thousands of women and girls have been raped and tortured. Babies as young as 6 months, women as old as 80, their insides torn apart. What I witnessed in Congo has shattered and changed me forever. I will never be the same. None of us should ever be the same.

I think of Beatrice, shot in her vagina, who now has tubes instead of organs. Honorata, raped by gangs as she was tied upside down to a wheel. Noella, who is my heart — an 8-year-old girl who was held for 2 weeks as groups of grown men raped her over and over. Now she has a fistula, causing her to urinate and defecate on herself. Now she lives in humiliation.

I was in Bosnia during the war in 1994 when it was discovered there were rape camps where white women were being raped. Within two years there was adequate intervention. Yet, in Congo, femicide has continued for 12 years. Why? Is it that coltan, the mineral that keeps our cell phones and computers in play, is more important than Congolese girls?

Is it flat-out racism, the world’s utter indifference and disregard for black people and black women in particular? Is it simply that the UN and most governments are run by men who have never known what it feels like to be raped?

What is happening in Congo is the most brutal and rampant violence toward women in the world. If it continues to go unchecked, if there continues to be complete impunity, it sets a precedent, it expands the boundaries of what is permissible to do to women’s bodies in the name of exploitation and greed everywhere. It’s cheap warfare.

The women in Congo are some of the most resilient women in the world. They need our protection and support. Western governments, like the United States, should fund a training program for female Congolese police officers.

They should address our role in plundering minerals and demand that companies trace the routes of these minerals. Make sure they are making and selling rape-free-products. Supply funds for women’s medical and psychological care and seed their economic empowerment. Put pressure on Rwanda, Congo, Uganda and other countries in the Great Lakes region to sit down with all the militias involved in this conflict to find a political solution.

Military solutions are no longer an option and will only bring about more rape. Most of all, we must support the women. Because women are at the center of this horror, they must be at the center of the solutions and peace negotiations. Women are the future of Congo. They are its greatest resource.

Sadly, we are not the first to testify about these atrocities in Congo. I stand in a line of many who have described this horror. Still, in Eastern Congo, 1,100 women a month are raped, according to the United Nations’ most recent report. What will the United States government, what will all of you reading this, do to stop it?

Let Congo be the place where we ended femicide, the trend that is madly eviscerating this planet — from the floggings in Pakistan, the new rape laws in Afghanistan, the ongoing rapes in Haiti, Darfur, Zimbabwe, the daily battering, incest, harassing, trafficking, enslaving, genital cutting and honor killing. Let Congo be the place where women were finally cherished and life affirmed, where the humiliation and subjugation ended, where women took their rightful agency over their bodies and land.

Note: Eve Ensler is the playwright of “The Vagina Monologues” and the founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls. V-Day has funded over 10,000 community-based anti-violence programs and launched safe houses in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. V-Day has launched a joint global campaign with UNICEF – STOP RAPING OUR GREATEST RESOURCE: Power to the Women and Girls of the DRC. (http://www.vday.org) This commentary was originally adapted for CNN.com from remarks Ensler made Wednesday to the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs and the Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women’s Issues.





Waking Up from a Tortured Past

26 04 2009

King Leopold II of Belgium was responsible for the deaths of 10 – 15 million people in the Congo between 1885 and 1908…twice the number that Hitler had killed. Have you even heard of him? I hadn’t until I read the unbelievable book King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild.

King Leopold II

King Leopold II

Leopold could not convince Belgium to get involved in colonization so he developed his own private company…the International African Society…and laid claim to the area he called the Congo Free State, which is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He cloaked his takeover of this land and the ivory and rubber trades as doing philanthropic work.

Wikipedia says: ” With a complex scheme of political intrigue, corruption and propaganda, he wins the assistance of one of the greatest explorers of the time, Henry Morton Stanley, as well as that of public opinion and of powerful states.”

It took decades for people outside the Congo Free State to know the absolute reign of terror he held over those people, his ruthlessness, and the massacre of over half the population. Outsiders believed he was liberating the Congo people and helping them.

The world has amnesia or ignorance of this monster and the mass killings and maiming he ordered and caused. This reign of terror that King Leopold II started seems to be imprinted in the psyche of the people in the DRC.

Millions of people are still being killed on the same land…today the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Second Congo War…the “African World War”…which started in 1998 and on paper ended in 2003 (but still continues) has resulted in 5.4 million deaths.

Child Soldiers in the DRC

Child Soldiers in the DRC - Credit: Reuters

Horrendous rapes and other sexual violence committed there as a tool of war are the worst in the world. Children are seized by the armies to serve as soldiers and sexual slaves. Over half of the victims of sexual violence are children. Girls and women are raped and their insides are then torn apart with butts of rifles, burned, or other horrors. I wrote a post Women Suffer Atrocities Silently in the Congo about this.

So what does this have to do with you and me? We have just lived through eight years of a monarch who appeared on the surface…as did King Leopold II…to be beneficent. Horrible atrocities were being committed, though, and justified under the guise of keeping us safe.

Yoga science defines samskara as “…an imprint from past experience in the unconscious mind, which later creates our experiences by causing a person to automatically behave a certain way.”

How does one…or a nation…heal from samskaras? By becoming aware of these imprints, deciding we are not going to just react like a Pavlovian dog, and by choosing different and healthier responses.

We must wake up from this 9/11 terror-induced coma we have been living in and acknowledge what was being done and hold people accountable for their atrocities. Otherwise we, like the people in the Congo, will hold torture in our psyches and will not be able to move on to being a more enlightened, awake, ethical, and peaceful people.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — Poet and Philosopher George Santayana

A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us.” –Buddhist Nun Pema Chodron

UPDATE 4/29/09: Human Rights Watch issued an alert today as reported on Reuters:

More than 100,000 displaced civilians in Lubero territory in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo desperately need protection from further attacks by Rwandan militias and Congolese forces, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations peacekeeping force and humanitarian agencies to take urgent steps to increase protection and assistance to the civilians at risk.

You can read the full report on Reuters here.





Run for Congo Women – Women for Women

11 04 2009

run-for-congo-women2A story on Oprah about the plight of Congo women and what Women for Women International is doing to help them spurred Lisa Shannon of Portland, Oregon to take action. She organized Run for Congo Women to raise money to help the women there and today bloggers are uniting to bring attention to this cause.

I wrote about the incredible HBO documentary The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo in a November post. Women and children continue to suffer greatly there. The 3/27/09 United Nations Security Council report of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) reports the following:

  • As of January, there were an estimated 1.4 million displaced people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with 707,000 of those being in the northern area of the province of Kivu.
  • Attacks on humanitarian workers, human rights, and the socio-economic and financial situation there have worsened “significantly” even since the start of 2009.
  • Members of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), the Congolese National Police, and other armed groups have committed egregious human rights abuses such as arbitrary executions, torture, extortion, abduction and disappearance of citizens, and rapes.
  • Sexual and gender-based violence continues with 11,00 rapes being reported each month. Varying from area to area, 35% to 50% of the victims are between 10  and 17 years old and 10% were younger than 10 years old.

Lisa Shannon is one person who decided to do something to make a difference. Below is a 2008 video of her speaking about Run for Congo Women. Another video from Women for Women follows that talks about how we can change the lives of women there by sponsoring a Congolese woman or donating to the organization. Go to http://www.womenforwomen.org to find out more or make a donation.





Human Rights Activists on Twitter

8 04 2009

Here are some Human Rights activists I follow on Twitter. I am so twitterappreciative of the work they do and what I learn from them. You might want to check them out too if you’re a Twitter fan.

GENERAL

http://twitter.com/HumanRightsNews – News headlines on human rights

http://twitter.com/hrcberkeley – Human Rights Center UC Berkeley

http://twitter.com/susanneure – Web editor for Amnesty Intl in Canada

http://twitter.com/AmnestyIntl – Amnesty Intl

http://twitter.com/AmnestyUK – Amnesty Intl in UK

http://twitter.com/AmnestyOnline – International Secretariat of Amnesty International

http://twitter.com/phrTweets – Physicians for Human Rights

http://twitter.com/The_Advocates – The Advocates for Human Rights

http://twitter.com/ladu – human rights activist

http://twitter.com/rtsadvocate – human rights activist

HOMELESS/REFUGEES

http://twitter.com/MLFNOW – helping the homeless

http://twitter.com/wrcommission – Women’s Refugee Commission working to improve the lives and protect the rights of refugee women and children.

http://twitter.com/theIRC – The International Rescue Committee goes to crisis zones to rescue and rebuild. We lead refugees from harm to home.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS

http://twitter.com/HumanFolly – editor of Change.org Women’s Rights blog

GENDER VIOLENCE

http://twitter.com/sinbysilence – documentary on stopping violence against women

http://twitter.com/FGFoundation – working to end gender violence

http://twitter.com/WRC_DOD – White Ribbon Campaign to end violence against women

CHILDREN’S RIGHTS

http://twitter.com/childrensrights – working to reform child welfare systems

TORTURE
http://twitter.com/notorture – healing torture survivors

http://twitter.com/IStandVsTorture – an umbrella campaign for a U.S. Commission to Investigate Torture

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

http://twitter.com/StopConflict – working to stop conflict in the Congo

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

http://twitter.com/AaronCohen777 – rescuing victims of child trafficking

http://twitter.com/TheA21Campaign – abolishing the injustice of human trafficking in the 21st century

 

http://twitter.com/VisionAbolition – dedicated to prevention, rescue, and restoration of sexually exploited and trafficked children

http://twitter.com/RichLeger – human trafficking activist with Abolish Slavery Coalition

http://twitter.com/slaverymap – online repository of human trafficking incidences

http://twitter.com/EBain – author of Season of Light blog on child trafficking

http://twitter.com/BuckUpCampaign – building shelters for sex trafficking victims by asking people to donate $1

http://twitter.com/endingslavery – writer of One Voice to End Slavery blog

http://twitter.com/FredDouglassSon – Frederick Douglas Family Foundation fighting modern day slavery

Here are additional abolitionists (people who fight slavery and human trafficking) from Diana Scimone:

@Freeallslaves
@freedomday
@IJMcampaigns
@IJMHQ
@ijminstitute
@innocentjustice
@Justicecrazy
@lovejustice
@nowhere2hide

@nosilencenow

@Polaris_Project

@advancnonprofit

@AmberGlattSmith

@antitrafficking

@BeverlyHogue
@brandedphx

@cfpdx
@charlestlee

@cortneyr
@dhepburn

@ElCuso12

@fisher_david

@just4one
@LaLaLives
@lwood15
@MaeSotShane

@maryhooke
@mathewhulbert
@MatthewBarnett

@mgjack

@missdeneen
@monicabrand

@mrskutcher
@NatalieGrant
@northernchick
@NYTimesKristof
@respres

@sethjohnson78

@ProjectExodus
@RedLightCC
@ROBLOVE146

@RunForFreedom
@socialheart
@thesoldproject

@Traffickfree
@trafficksucks

In addition to the above, this is a wonderful list from Emily at the Season of Light blog on ending child trafficking on people who twitter on human trafficking:

Individuals:

Diana Scimone, Born2Fly: @DianaScimone

Brandi, Social Heart Blog: @socialheart

Carol Fenton:@cfpdx

Greg Darley: @gregdarley

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times reporter: @nytimeskristof

Somaly Mam, The Somaly Mam Foundation: @somalymam

Seth Johnson, Transitions Global: @sethjohnson78

Stef, Nowhere2Hide: @nowhere2hide

Laura: @LaLaLives

Mae Potter: @maepotter

Amanda Kloer, Change.org blog: @endhumantraffic

Organizations

ECPATUSA: @ecpatUSA

FreeChains: @freechains

IJM: @IJMHQ

Not for Sale: @not_for_sale

Redlight Children: @redlightcc

SheDances: @shedances

The SOLD Project: @thesoldproject

Transitions Global: @transitions_g





The Tortured Gitmo 14: Americans Unknowingly Paid for This

6 04 2009

Stripped naked for weeks. Deprived of food. Chained with hands above the head while standing for days on end. Denied sleep for days. Beaten brutally.

Credit: Antiwar.com

Credit: Antiwar.com

Kept in solitary confinment for months and years with no knowledge of where they were, no contact with anyone except their masked interrogators, and no news of the outside world. Denied access to a toilet. Suffocated by water.

Repeatedly slung against a wall with the collar they were forced to wear. Threatened with being infected with HIV…or the arrest and rape of their families…or of being sodomized…or of being electrically shocked…or of being brought close to death. Doctors monitoring the torture and even participating in it.

This and more is what happened to 14 “high value” detainees that the International Red Cross was allowed to visit at Guantanamo and interview in October and December of 2006. The complete February 2007 “Strictly Confidential” report of what they saw and heard entitled ICRC REPORT ON THE ON THE TREATMENT OF FOURTEEN “HIGH VALUE DETAINEES” IN CIA CUSTODY was published today online on the New York Review of Books website by Mark Danner, a long-time contributor to the Review and author of the book Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror.

If you want to know more, I wrote about Mr. Danner’s article with more details of the Red Cross report in the post (with the same name as the article) U.S. Torture: Voices from the Black Sites.

Why were Bush and his cronies allowed to stay in office when it was so clear that they lied when they said they weren’t torturing, broke the law, spit on the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, and egregiously took away human rights of detainees? Read the International Red Cross report. The Bush Administration is guilty of torture. It is time that Americans demand that Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, Yoo, Addington, Rumsfeld, etc. be brought to justice. They need to be held accountable so the world can begin to heal from the harm they did.

I urge you to contact Attorney General Eric Holder and ask him to take action on this. You can contact him at AskDOJ@usdoj.gov.





U.S. Torture: Voices from the Black Sites

15 03 2009

Chilling. In the tortureds’ own words. US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites is the name of the cover article in the April 9 issue of the New York Review of Books. This is a must-read article by Mark Danner, a long-time contributor to the Review and the author of the book Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror.

Mark Danner - Source: NYBooks.com

Mark Danner - Source: NYBooks.com

Mark Danner contributed an OpEd to the 3/14/09 New York Times about the article. He talks of how on September 6, 2006 President Bush first “…informed the world that the United States had created a dark and secret universe to hold and interrogate captured terrorists. He says that President Bush’s remarks included the following:

“In addition to the terrorists held at Guantánamo, a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States, in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. At these places, the C.I.A. used an alternative set of procedures. These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful.”

In that speech, Bush also said that 14 “high-value detainees” would be transferred from overseas Black Sites to Guantanamo and that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) would have the opportunity to meet with them.

In the Review article are excerpts from a secret ICRC report that details how the U.S. tortured prisoners at the Black Sites. The press release for this article includes this description of the kind of torture that was authorized by President Bush:

This “alternative set of procedures,” as President Bush characterized them in a White House speech, including extended “sleep deprivation,” prolonged forced nudity, bombarding detainees with noise and light, repeated immersion in cold water, prolonged standing, sometimes for many days, beatings of various kinds, and “waterboarding” – or as the report’s authors phrase it, “suffocation by water.” These interrogations are described in chilling first-person accounts gathered confidentially by ICRC investigators and made public here for the first time.

You can hear a podcast of Mark Danner speaking on this at the New York Review of Books website.

Danner’s article backs up what Jane Mayer of the New Yorker has also written about in her excellent book “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.”  I heard Jane speak about this book at the Texas Book Festival on 11/2/08 and read her excellent book. It is eye-opening.

I believe that every American should educate themselves on the crimes that Bush, Cheney, Addington, Woo, Rumsfeld, and others committed during the Bush Administration. These people were authorizing and justifying (with bogus legal documents) torture in secret while denying it in public. Senator Patrick Leahy is urging Americans to join him in calling for a commission to investigate abuses during the Bush/Cheney admninistration. Please visit the website at http://www.bushtruthcommission.com and sign the petition. No one should be allowed to so denigrate the office of the Presidency and Vice-Presidency, the United States, the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and the honor of the American people and totally walk away without any consequences. No one.





Bashmilah: Innocent Yet Disappeared, Held Captive, Tortured

20 02 2009

Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah was disappeared by the U.S., held captive for 19 months, and tortured. He writes a chilling tale about it in an article on the Huffington Post.

Bashmilla

Bashmilah

According to the short bio there, he is “…a citizen of Yemen, is a client of the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law, which represents him in his quest for truth and justice.” He starts his article with these words:

“From October 2003 until May 2005, I was illegally detained by the U.S. government and held in CIA-run “black sites” with no contact with the outside world. On May 5, 2005, without explanation, my American captors removed me from my cell and cuffed, hooded, and bundled me onto a plane that delivered me to Sana’a, Yemen. I was transferred into the custody of my own government, which held me — apparently at the behest of the United States — until March 27, 2006, when I was finally released, never once having faced any terrorism-related charges. Since my release, the U.S. government has never explained why I was detained and has blocked all attempts to find out more about my detention.”

I encourage you to read the rest of the post. This program of capturing people who may or may not be terrorists and renditioning them…disappearing them…to another country where they are then tortured was practiced secretly by President Bush. Surprisingly to me, according to the HuffPo article, this practice has been going on for decades and was alledgedly practiced by President Clinton 80 times. The difference, according to Panetta, is whether the prisoner is sent to another country for prosecution or torture.

Bush sent detainees to other countries for torture. He wanted them off U.S. soil so illegal torture could be done to them outside our country’s watch. Senator Patrick Leahy is calling for a commission to investigate abuses during the Bush/Cheney administration. I urge you to sign the petition to urge Congress to create this commission by going to http://www.bushtruthcommission.com.





The Chimp Cartoon and Rampant Hatred

19 02 2009

The chimp cartoon in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post has caused a tremendous outcry and outrage. It is hateful and seems to incite violence against our president, who is depicted as a chimpanzee. African-Americans have been deridely depicted as monkeys over the years so this seems to be an outright racial slur. Rupert Murdoch is a billionaire who launched ultra-conservative Fox News amongst many other ventures. Fox News repeatedly spews hatred and racism (especially on Sean Hannity‘s show) such as during the campaign calling Michelle Obama a “baby momma” (a racial putdown), saying that Stalinists worked on Obama’s campaign and that Obama might have been a sleeper agent, likening Obama to a heroin pusher, and the list goes on and on.

Cartoon in NY Post Feb 18 09

Cartoon in NY Post Feb 18 09

Ann Coulter is one of the biggest spewers of hatred on the planet. She thrives on it. She advocated for a white supremacist group (they exist to hate) in her latest book. She repeatedly referred to Obama as B. Hussein Obama during the campaign as part of her repeated attempts to link him to terrorists.

Coulter wrote in her book “Godless: The Church of Liberalism,” that a group of New Jersey widows whose husbands died in the World Trade Center act “as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them.” She calls four 9/11 widows “self-obsessed broads; millionaires – reveling in their status as celebrities.” This quote from Coulter is just beyond hatred and is the one that sticks out in my mind as one of her most vile, vomited utterings:

I’ve never seen people enjoying their husbands’ deaths so much . . . And by the way, how do we know their husbands weren’t planning to divorce these harpies? Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they’d better hurry up and appear in Playboy.

Bill O’Reilly of Fox News and radio host Rush Limbaugh are also at the top of the list of hate spewers. Limbaugh even had the audacity and stupidity to say recently on his radio program that he hopes that President Obama fails.

Look at what Sarah Palin did in the election. She whipped up mostly white men who attended her rallies into near lynch mobs with the hatred she spewed. One man yelled “kill him” in reference to Barack Obama during her speech.

I have had the most controversy over my post on corporal punishment in schools of any I’ve written. It has been written about on other forums that promote spanking in schools. One such forum said that many teachers who do it enjoy it. Where does this hatred come from that teachers are so sadistic that they enjoy beating (and if you saw the photos of the damage it does to many children, you’d concur it was beating) children they are charged with educating?

Why do people do and say these things? Why do they hate their fellow men, women, and children so much that they would want to hurt them, ridicule them, incite and encourage violence against them, and encourage others to hate?

We worry about destroying and/or stopping terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. so they won’t come to our country again. We fail to see that we have terrorists who live amongst us. People who practice hatred and incite it in others are a form of terrorists. They terrorize others with their dangerous words and actions. They may not be actively recruiting suicide bombers, but they are recruiting others to hate, which can and does often lead to violence.

We need to wake up to the danger in our own country of allowing people with a platform and the means to act out in hatred and speak in hatred. Yes, we have the First Amendment and it is a free country, but freedom also means that we are free of threats from dangerous people who encourage, incite, and practice hatred.





Female Suicide Bombers in Iraq: Raped, Shamed, and Looking for a Way Out

5 02 2009

Vulnerable. Recruited. Raped. Disgraced. Become suicide bomber. A way out. 80 women in Iraq. Recruited by Samira Ahmed Jassim, a 50-year-old mother of four daughters and two sons . Nicknamed the “mother of believers,” Samira is now in jail, and is the mastermind behind 28 suicide bombings in Iraq. Insurgents organized the rapes and then she tried to convince the raped and shamed women to become suicide bombers. The insurgents threatened to blow up Samira’s house if she did not cooperate.

Samira Ahmed Jassim, Recruiter of Female Suicide Bombers in Iraw
Samira Ahmed Jassim, Recruiter of Female Suicide Bombers in Iraq

 

 

 

 

 

Under Sharia, the Islamic religious law, sex with someone you are not married to is strictly forbidden. When a woman is raped, religious zealots say she had unlawful sex and must be punished…often by whip lashes, being cast out from the family and community, by stoning, or by other forms of death. This is what happened to Somalian 13-year-old Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, who was stoned to death after being raped by 3 men. I wrote about this tragedy in this post.

So after these women in Iraq are targeted and raped, they are then subject to at least being ostracized by their families. They are looking for a way to restore honor to their families and for some, being a suicide bomber is their way out. Islamic fathers have been known to do things like drown a daughter in a swimming pool, stab, shoot, or behead her for having sex with someone she was not married to or for even falling in love with someone not approved by her family. So these raped women may realize they have no future at all…literally.

Rape does not usually have anything to do with the woman who is raped…she is merely an unfortunate pawn in the game of war or is used to satisfy the ego of a narcissistic, self-centered man who attempts to assert power.

It is particularly disgusting that this woman Samira would participate in luring other women to their death by pretending to counsel them after being raped. If it is true that her house would have been bombed had she refused to cooperate with the insurgents, then she too is a pawn in this very sick, disturbing, and dehumanizing war game.

This is not what Islam…or any religion…is about. For people to so devalue their fellow Muslim brethern like this is where the real shame lies…not in the women who are raped.





Iraq War: The Cost of Bush Lies and His Influence of Not Being Accountable

1 02 2009

UPDATED 3/15/2013

From a Reuters report on a Watson Institute study:

NEW YORK, March 14 (Reuters) – The U.S. war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest, a study released on Thursday said.

The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number, according to the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war’s death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said.

See the full article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/14/iraq-war-cost-more-than-2-trillion_n_2875493.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009.

ORIGINAL POST I WROTE

George W. Bush reasons for the Iraq War: WMDs, Iraq’s ties to al-Qaeda, and liberate Iraqis from Saddam Hussein and create a democratic government. His refusal to accept or admit any accountability for the results of his misleading the American people have had tremendous cost to Iraq and to the U.S.

I just finished reading the riveting “War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq” by Richard Engel, NBC News Middle East Correspondent. Richard says none of those reasons for starting the war are true, and that the war in Iraq “…has always been more about geography, religion, and power than democracy. If you see where Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds live, it’s easy to understand their struggles for dominance.” Bush never understood that…and frankly didn’t care. He did what he wanted to do and what he wanted to do has been…and continues to be…extremely costly.

Here are some statistics on what the Iraq war (taken from think tanks such as the Brookings Institute and from the media) has cost the U.S. as of 1/21/09 due to Bush’s folly of inserting us in the middle of a civil and religious war:

  • 4,231 U.S. soldiers killed; 30% of them younger than 22 years old
  • 30,984 U.S. soldiers injured, with 20% of them having serious brain or spinal injuries
  • 30% of U.S. soldiers develop serious mental health problems within 3-4 months of returning home and suicide rates in the U.S. Army hitting an all-time high in 2008
  • One TRILLION DOLLARS (that’s $1000 billion) through  October 2009 in U.S. taxpayer money (this figure was updated 10/25/09)
    • $390,000 per year to deploy just ONE U.S. soldier
  • 142,000 – 148,000 (depending on whose statistics you use) troops in Iraq currently
  • 513,000 U.S. troops deployed since 2003; 197,000 of those more than once and 53,000 more than 3 times
  • According to February, 2007 Congressional hearings (and that was two years ago so the number is probably much higher now) an estimated $10 billion wasted and mismanaged in Iraq

Now add to those staggering numbers the impact on the Iraqi people:

  • An estimated more than one MILLION Iraqi citizens killed as of August, 2007 (according to the Opinion Business Research survey); the official documented number around 100,000
  • 2.25 million Iraqis displaced inside Iraq and 2.25 million Iraqis who are now refugees in Syria or Jordan as of May 2007; an additional 840,000 people displaced since May 2007 – a total of well over 5 MILLION Iraqis displaced
    • A note: Syria has refused to allow the 1.5 million who came there to work so many of the refugees have been forced to send their daughters – even as young as 5 or 6 – to clubs to dance to get money unofficially, becoming the family breadwinners. The girls make usually $20 to 30 per day in the clubs and the fathers of these girls act as pimps for work outside the club. These girls and their families are casualties of the U.S. War on Iraq.

Bush used the fear that the Iraq War would disintegrate into chaos to get re-elected in 2004. The cost to the American people of having four more years of Bush as president has been immense. He used fear again to continue to justify the now $12 billion per month the U.S. spends to keep our troops there. This is triple the burn rate of what we spent in the early years of the war. John McCain used fear about the war to try and get elected president and said he would never take our troops out until we had won. Only Barack Obama seems to understand that we are in a war we should never have started and that we cannot win.

The fear the Republican warmongers have perpetuated is that Iraq would descend into civil war if we leave. It has been happening for years now. Richard Engel cites countless atrocities that Iraqis have committed against other Iraqis during the Iraq War, continuing the torture and violence of Saddam Hussein:

  • A father’s beautiful 17-year-old daughter is kidnapped. The father talks to the kidnappers and convinces them to let him speak to his daughter. He asks her if she has been violated and she says yes. He tells the kidnappers to keep her…that he doesn’t want her back in that condition. The kidnappers execute the girl.
  • A family refuses an order to move from their home and their two-year-old boy is kidnapped, split open, stuffed with rice, roasted, and delivered to their doorstep.
  • People are executed and thrown in the streets as a warning to others to not cross the executioners.
  • Body parts are everywhere, bombings are commonplace, and women in particular hide in their homes in fear.

Some infrastructure improvements have been made since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003. Phone subscribers have increased from 800,000 to over 14 million. Internet users have increased from 4,500 to around 850,000. Those improvements do not negate the fact that the cost of the Iraq war has been very high…for the U.S., other countries, and especially for Iraqis.

Bush’s lies have caused unbelievable destruction, death, injury, harm to the U.S. reputation around the world, increase in terrorists and terrorism, U.S.-sanctioned use of torture, and money. And we wonder why our country is in the place it is now. We had an immoral, destructionist, lying, and above-the-law president who felt he was accountable to no one. The American people followed suit…we felt we could do anything and not pay a price. We are paying now…both as a country and individually.





Bush Tortured Democracy and Detainees

25 01 2009

The Bush administration authorized and used torture. Period. “Torturing Democracy” is a documentary on their lies and insistence that “The U.S. does not torture” while they were practicing it. 

The New York Times reported on 10/16/08 that PBS was holding this documentary until January 21, 2009, the first day they said they could find on their schedule to air it, and noncoincidentally, the day after Bush and Cheney left office. It is suspected that PBS was pressured by the Bush administration and thus held showing the documentary.

Jane Mayer, a consultant for the program, wrote the incredibly elucidating and damning book  “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals.” I heard Jane speak in Austin the weekend before the election and was stunned by what I heard.

I immediately bought her book and read it in shock at what Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Addington, Woo and others did in the name of keeping America safe. They assumed, and justified, absolute power after 9/11, declaring that not even Congress could keep them from doing whatever they felt was necessary.

The United Nations human rights chief on 1/22/09 called for an investigation into torture at Guantanamo Bay. Will Bush and others be charged and prosecuted? They have violated the Geneva Conventions and defied and defiled the Constitution of the United States. Why should they be above the law? People discovered what they were doing. Why were they not impeached? They have held and tortured detainees who were shepherds and never shown to be terrorists. They have harmed the United States beyond measure with their dictatorial use of authority. Their use of torture served as a technique to recruit terrorists, which led to thousands of U.S. deaths.

In his first week in office, President Obama signed authorizations to stop the use of torture and close down Guantanamo Bay within one year. The Bush administration’s horrific and secretive practices have stopped.

“Torturing Democracy” is now being shown in select cities on PBS and is available to see online at http://www.TorturingDemocracy.org. After the film is shown, a leading panel of experts discuss the film. Watch and see what your former President, Vice President, and others did. Form your own opinion. Personally, I believe they should be prosecuted and jailed. They broke U.S. laws and international laws about the humane treatment of people, including prisoners of war. They caused American deaths. No one is above the law. NO ONE.





Pilgrims to a Deadly Hajj

7 12 2008

I lived in Jeddah during the violent 1979 Hajj. I’m reminded of it because the 2008 Hajj began on Friday and ends Wednesday. Muslims are fulfilling their command to do a pilgrimage to the holiest Islamic city of Mecca at least once during a lifetime. Jeddah is about 40-50 miles from Mecca and is the gateway to Mecca. Busloads of  Muslims with meager belongings wrapped in a blanket are transported out of Jeddah to Mecca to participate in the pilgrimage. The traffic at that time of year is just unbelievable with the influx of 3 million people, and there is an increased risk of disease.

hajj1

One can imagine that 3 million people descending into Mecca this year on the heels of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai is a concern. Saudi Arabia has 100,000 security people in place during the Hajj to keep it peaceful.

The 1979 Hajj was far from peaceful. On November 20, 1979 the Grand Mosque was seized. The Grand Mosque surrounds the Kaaba, the place that Muslims turn toward as they do their 5-times-a-day prayer, and Muslims consider it the holiest place on Earth. Muslims circle the Kaaba seven times as part of the ritual of the Hajj.

Wikipedia says that the Grand Mosque seizure:

…was an attack and takeover by armed Islamic fundamentalist dissidents of the Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the holiest place in Islam. The insurgents declared that the Mahdi, or redeemer of Islam, had arrived in the form of one of the insurgents’ leaders, Abdullah Hamid Mohammed Al-Qahtani and called on Muslims to obey him.

The story of what happened would make a good thriller movie. Just as prayers were to start, about 500 insurgents took out guns from under their robes, chained the gates shut, took the 50,000 worshippers hostage, and killed several policemen. They released most of the hostages, but put snipers in the towers and held off attempts by security and the army to retake the Mosque. A special fatwa was issued so that the Ministry of Defense could use deadly force because the Qur’an forbids any violence within the Grand Mosque. The city of Mecca was evacuated.

The insurgents, who were anti-Western, broadcast messages constantly during the siege over the loud speakers and demanded that oil exports to the U.S. be cut off and that all foreign civilian and military experts from the Arabian peninsula be expelled.

Many attempts were made to storm the insurgents and finally, after two weeks, grenades were launched and the surviving insurgents surrendered.

Wikipedia gives these casualty numbers:

The battle officially left “255 pilgrims, troops and fanatics” killed “another 560 injured … although diplomats suggested the toll was higher.” Military casualties were 127 dead and 451 injured.

A half-brother of Osama bin Laden may have been involved in the siege and may have actually transported the guns in before the siege through trucks being used in the ongoing Mosque renovation.

It was a very tense time. Armed soldiers with machine guns stood guard about every 15 feet on every street in Jeddah. I was the music director for “The Princess and the Pea” and we were in rehearsals at that time. We were stopped while traveling the streets at nights, asked where we were going, and told to get off the streets.

The immediate aftermath of the siege continued to be violent, as described in Wikipedia:

Muslim anti-American demonstrations followed in the Philippines, Turkey, Bangladesh, India, eastern Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emigrates and Pakistan. Anger fueled by these rumors peaked within hours in Islamabad, Pakistan, and on November 21, 1979, the day following the takeover, the U.S. embassy in that city was overrun by a mob, who then burned the embassy to the ground. A week later, this anger swept to the streets of Tripoli, Libya, where a mob attacked and burned the U.S. embassy there on December 2, 1979.

Perhaps the most disturbing development to come out of the 1979 takeover of the Grand Mosque was the eventual revelation of prime organizer al-Utaibi’s connection to the Saudi Arabian National Guard.

The rebels’ leader, Juhayman, was captured, and he and 67 of his fellow rebels—”all the surviving males”—were tried secretly, convicted and publicly beheaded in the squares of four Saudi cities.

Wikipedia goes on to say that after this attack happened,  Saudi Arabia implemented stricter enforcement of Islamic code. Crackdowns were made on shopkeepers who didn’t close at prayer time, pictures of women in magazines, etc. I got caught in the back of a shop during prayer time when the store closed down. The owner didn’t know I was there and was very upset when he found me. He told me to get, with my children, down on the floor so he wouldn’t be found out. I also remember that if magazines showed a woman with a bare belly, the belly was blacked out with a marker. I could quote many more strict examples.

The Hajj of 1979 was very violent, perhaps the 9/11 for Muslims and Saudi Arabia. We hope for a peaceful pilgrimage this year.





U.S. Torture Has Caused As Many U.S. Soldier Deaths as 9/11

3 12 2008

They got it all wrong. Bush, Cheney, Addington, Rumsfield, and Gonzales authorized torture to “keep us safe” after 9/11. I wrote about this in a 11/16/08 blog.

Today Keith Olbermann interviewed “Matthew Alexander” on torture. “Matthew” (not his real name) served 14 years in the U.S. Air Force and is still in the Reserves (thus the assumed name). He has written a book called “How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.”

Alexander went to Iraq in March, 2006 for a 5-month stint as a senior interrogator. He witnessed the U.S. using torture to try and elicit information from terrorist suspects. He conducted 300 interrogations and supervised 1,000 interrogations, and refused to use those methods. Instead, he built a rapport with the suspects, showed an understanding of their culture, and used criminal investigation techqniues to elicit the information he sought. His interrogation methods gathered information that led to the bombing and killing of Abu Masab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

“Matthew” says that torture is “extremely ineffective and is counter-productive to what we are trying to accomplish.” He says that you get unreliable information from torture and that al-Qaeda uses the fact that we torture people to recruit new members. He says we need to outlaw torture immediately when Obama takes office.

In a 11/30/08 Washington Post article he wrote, which was entitled “I’m Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq,” Alexander says that:

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners.

He also makes this startling declaration:

The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.

LET THAT SINK IN FOR A SECOND. We have lost as many soldiers due to torture as we did in 9/11. We are supposedly FIGHTING a war on terror. Instead, we have CREATED terror with our torture policies…terror for our own soldiers and terror produced by new recruits who came to fight directly because of our torturing suspected terrorists.

Here’s Keith Olbermann interviewing “Matthew Alexander” on “Countdown” today:

Alexander is hopeful since Obama has said he will outlaw torture. Obama’s top legal advisors met today with 12 retired generals to talk about banning torture. Torture is just so unnecessary…and IT HAS TO STOP.





Yeah, I Said It – We’re All Responsible for What Happened in Mumbai

29 11 2008

The U.S. has a hand in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, the Congolese insurgents savagely raping and murdering their own people, the refugees in Darfur and throughout the world, and more. Not our fault, you say? What have we in the U.S., in our warm and safe homes, done to make these things happen half-way around the world?

  • Look at the hatred, vitriol, and near lynch mobs stirred up particularly by Sarah Palin during the election. People post signs now in convenience stores and children chant on school buses to murder our president-elect because of what Palin and McCain did all under the guise of winning an election. These things go unpunished and are allowed in the name of free speech and people being cowardly to do anything about them.
  • We hear about the atrocities committed in Darfur and the hopelessness of the people there ever having a life and yet our own president does virtually nothing. Instead, he pours $10 billion a month into an Iraq war on false pretenses.
  • Our own president authorizes and orders torture in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and at many other secret locations around the world of supposed terrorist prisoners while stating publicly that the U.S. does not torture. The United States is looked up to by the rest of the world and we are committing some of the worst human rights crimes imaginable.
  • We are greedy, spending, spending, spending money we don’t have, going into more and more debt. We are all about having THINGS instead of focusing on how we can be loving and kind. Yesterday’s trampling of a Wal-Mart employee as shoppers rushed into a New York store and two men shooting each other dead in a Toys R Us store are examples of how greed and trying to outdo others can turn into violence.
  • We have equated being a Muslim with being a terrorist. There was sheer hysteria during the election (and it still continues) at the thought that Obama could be a Muslim (which he is not). Muslims make up one out of every four people in the world. Our minimizing and/or portraying them as people to fear and hate has got to stop.
  • We glorify having guns and having the right to use them. Many of our soldiers think it’s fun to shoot people.
  • What do many of our youth (and even adults) value? Bling-bling $200,000 necklaces on a hip-hop star’s neck, calling women “ho’s” and “bitches”, violent video games, and other degrading stains on our culture.
  • Our government doesn’t prioritize education and our children are getting less intelligent with each generation.
  • Men who rape and/or batter women or children get little to no jail time and usually are not even brought to justice.
  • We still pay men one-third more than women for the same job.
  • Our government sanctions killing people (death penalty).
  • And on and on.

We in the U.S. are seen as standard bearers by the rest of the world. When we devalue women and children, glorify war and guns, lash out in hatred toward and threaten others who are different from us, harm innocent people, and value money and things more than people, the whole world is watching and they emulate us. Think about it…those are things that terrorists do. By raising our own standards, morals, behavior, and social consciousness, we can individually and collectively contribute to lifting up the standards, morals, behavior, and social consciousness of people all over the world.





Giving Thanks in the Midst of Terrorism

26 11 2008

It’s 11 p.m. CT and terror is exploding all over the world.

  • A suicide bomb exploded at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan tonight and at least one person is dead.
  • More than 100 are dead and nearly 300 injured in Mombai terrorist attacks today.
  • 3,000 refugees in Congo have fled into Uganda in the last 24 hours joining 16,500 who fled there since August to escape rebel attacks in what Newsweek calls “the deadliest battleground in the world today.”
  • 5 million people have been killed and countless women tortured and raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996 despite 20,000 UN troops (3,000 just recently added) – its largest peacekeeping force in the world. It is what Newsweek calls “Africa’s other holocaust”, worse currently than Darfur.
  • Somali pirates are seizing ships and demanding multi-million dollar ransom booty and more than 65,000 Somali refugees have fled to Kenya due to the violence there.
  • And on and on and on.

Add to all that a worldwide economic crisis, AIDS decimating Africa, violence against women, so many other huge issues, and our own personal challenges and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, sad, frightened, and depressed.

And yet, on this eve of Thanksgiving, let us take the time to be thankful for what we have in this moment. If you’re reading this now, then one could assume that:

  • You are safe.
  • You have a computer or access to a computer and thus have a whole world open to you.
  • You have the intelligence to be able to read, the intellect to be curious about what others have to say, and the skill to have found blogs on WordPress.
  • You have the time to read.
  • You most likely have shelter as most computers aren’t sitting outside.
  • You have the ability to be connected to others, at least through the Internet.
  • You have electricity.

Even if you have nothing else to be grateful for, if you have those things, that’s more than a big percent of the world has. When I lived in Saudi Arabia years ago, many mornings we would wake up and have no water. It’s such a simple thing to take for granted, but it wasn’t there. Or, as a woman, I couldn’t drive myself or go anywhere without a man accompanying me. Again, we assume those privileges in the U.S.

I have a very close family member who is going through a really rough patch right now. My heart is heavy. I pray she is being protected. And I know that women, children, and men all over the world who are living daily nightmares are all our brothers and sisters and they need our prayers for protection – and actual, physical protection.

We are all a part of a world collective consciousness and what happens to one of us affects all of us. Neale Donald Walsch, in his new book “Happier than God,” says that:

…the powerful energy of collective consciousness – which is perhaps the most powerful creative force of all – places in all our lives unhappy experiences and tragic outcomes…outcomes to which individuals fall prey even though they obviously do not consciously choose to.

…The way to raise the collective consciousness of humanity is, of course, to raise the individual consciousness of human beings.

So in the midst of all these tragedies, consider doing your part by being peace, being love, being grateful, being kind, being a light. One by one, we can begin to lift up our brothers and sisters, whereever they may be and whatever they may be suffering.