The twelfth of never or now?

April 10, 2007 by barbara

by barbara

"Americans must leave Iraq now, not an hour later!"

Yesterday, John McCain told us that the Iraq war is winnable. "Unfortunately, the American people are not being told of the progress that's being made."

Yesterday, Sami Rasouli (pictured) told us that Americans must leave Iraq now, "not an hour later!" because America has F-A-I-L-E-D. Stay-the-course and surge (I call it scourge) means continuing to fail. What is the shelf-life of failure, I wonder. Perhaps Lyndon Johnson could have told us. Who to believe, hmmm? Read the rest.

Sami Rasouli was born in Najaf, Iraq'"the city where New York Times photos show thousands of Iraqis demonstrating yesterday against the presence of the U.S. in their country. Sami came to the United States three decades ago. He became a U.S. citizen. He lived in Minnesota for 17 years, and while he was here, he bought "Sinbad's," a Minneapolis restaurant on Nicollet Avenue that became an area favorite.

Last night, speaking to a small group gathered in a large, suburban Catholic church, Sami said that on September 12, 2001, a couple of Minneapolis residents hurried to his restaurant because they feared for his safety in a world suddenly gone berserk. They offered him safe haven in their homes. They also offered sanctuary to other Minnesota Iraqis. Sami was deeply moved by their offer. Like the rest of us, he had not yet grasped the far-reaching, convoluted consequences of 9/11, culminating in America's military strike on Iraq in March 2003--assuming that was the culmination.

Sami painted a graphic word picture of today's Iraq, a place where you wake up each morning, knowing it could be the day you'll die. If an explosion or gunfire doesn't bring you down, then parasites or rampant disease like hepatitis or typhus might. The six-story hospital that used to provide quality healthcare is now a clinic that dispenses pain pills.

You listen to the news to learn who died the day before. There are a million widows in Iraq now, he said. The middle class has disappeared. The country is essentially lawless and unstable in the extreme. Iraq's infrastructure has been totally destroyed in the wake of the invasion and occupation by an immense military force from half a world away.

When his mother died in 2003, Sami went home for her funeral and discovered the depth and breadth of the suffering of his family and Iraqis in general as a direct result of the American war on Iraq. The following year, he sold "Sinbad's" and returned to Iraq to live, to see what he could do. There was a lot of press here about his departure. He was, after all, our local non-military connection to that war-ravaged nation. Human interest, for a day or so, anyway.

Theoretically, Sami could have quietly disappeared into the hell that is Iraq. You've only to listen to him for a short time to understand that was never an option. He organized the Muslim Peacekeepers Team (MPT) that, in tandem with the Christian Peacekeepers Team (CPT), has been trying to bring some semblance of order to massive disorder and sow seeds of recovery and hope. No small task in a place where hope is increasingly rare.

Sami returns to the U.S. once a year and has become a much-sought-after speaker. He is articulate and, though he is generally controlled, it's obvious he is passionate about bringing an end to the wholesale destruction in Iraq. Even so, he chooses his words carefully. Occasionally, he gestures with his hands, though never expansively. I found myself wanting him to leap onto a table and shout, "What America has done, is doing, is wrong, wrong, wrong!" Maybe that would have helped blunt our collective and individual guilt. But he stayed the course of gentleness, even as he spoke of atrocities.

So who(m) to believe? Sami or John? Sami or George? Sami or Dick? For two hours, we listened and asked questions of Sami Rasouli. Here are some of his remarks.

' Salaam, shalom, peace.

' The capitol (Baghdad) has not yet been secured; therefore nothing is secure.

' Yes, the U.S. is training Iraqi police, but does not trust them with weapons. Therefore, the trainees must secure them via the black market.

' Many bombings, killings are not reported by the media. For example, parents were bringing their newborn home from the hospital and, at the American checkpoint, Americans opened fire for reasons unclear, killing the baby and seriously wounding the parents and others.

' No one knows for sure who is perpetrating the attacks, particularly the bombing of Samara, which was a pivotal moment in escalating the violence. Perpetrators masquerade as Iraqi security forces, as Americans or contractors in their signature black SUVs. Who are they, really? Maybe the Americans know, since they control everything '" the sea, the sky, the land.

' Iraqis have lived in a religious mix within their borders for centuries'"Sunni, Shiite, Kurd, Jew, more recently some Christians, and others. Saddam was brutal, no doubt about it. But things were stable. Now they are not. (NOTE: Sami was not pining for Saddam; he was simply observing how things have deteriorated for the people on the heels of U.S. involvement.)

' General Petraeus no longer speaks of insurgents. He says al Qaeda, over and over and over again.

' The surge forces are not for securing Iraq. It's for Iran.

' Study history. Look at Alexander the Great in his quest for lands to conquer. (NOTE: Perhaps it is apocryphal, but somewhere along the line, I learned that AG's epitaph says something like this: "A tomb now suffices him for whom the whole world was not sufficient.")

' Partitioning Iraq is a terrible idea!

' U.S. interest is not above the interest of the rest of the world; it's part of it!

' Can Iraq rebuild and run their own country if America leaves? They can and must. It will be their responsibility to deal with al Qaeda, to get rid of them. Iraqis resisting the U.S. occupation are allowing them to be there because they're targeting Americans.

' People always evolve for the better!

' Americans must leave Iraq now, not an hour later! because America has failed. And you cannot ask the raped woman to have the rapist stay with her after the crime.

' It is very grim. Sorry. Maybe I can come with better stories next year.

Sami Rasouli will return to Iraq in May. There is little doubt in my mind that though his may not be the only truth, it is definitely part of the truth, as we were reminded by the convener before he spoke. But truth-tellers about Iraq and a great deal more are in short supply these days. I choose to believe Sami. Get. Out. Now.

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Comments

Poet (not verified) | April 10, 2007 - 3:20pm

Sami Rasouli is more than this reality denying nation deserves--the friend who loves you too much to indulge you with lying flatteries. He has been a frequent guest on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman and I have never heard any utterance from him that didn't have hard evidence to back it up.

As for John McCain--well of course Baghdad looks just like downtown Phoenix on a weekend afternoon to him. Give me an escort of 100 assault troops, a couple attack helicopters circling overhead and a nice thick bulet-proof vest and I'll go for a stroll there too.

As for "W" and "the Dickster" I'll believe they are serious about the importance of sacrifice in Iraq when they send their adult aged girls over there to fight with all the rest of the troops.

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Babs (not verified) | April 10, 2007 - 5:28pm

You know, that's what came through last night -- Sami Rasouli's "goodness." He's such a total contrast to anyone who speaks for the Bushies, including (and perhaps most of all) The Bushman himself.

I decided not queue up to speak to Sami last night, because I was afraid I'd make a complete arse of myself, babbling, "I'm so sorry. Really. So sorry. We're sorry. And embarrassed. This country has been in the hands of maniacs, you know. We know, too. So sorry. Blah, blah, blah."

Of course, Sami is a U.S. citizen, so he knows firsthand what's been going down here.

McCain's candidacy is dying of self-inflicted, mortal wounds.

What is called for here is a real president. Poet?

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Poet (not verified) | April 10, 2007 - 7:04pm

Babs wrote:

What is called for here is a real president. Poet?

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We have exactly the president we deserve and it should be a cautionary warning to us all that if we the people don't get it together we will have even worse in the future.

What is called for here is an engaged citizenry. That is the triumph of the fascist corporatocracy--they have seduced us to distraction so much that we no longer talk among ourselves (instead we veg on TV, computer games, and yes even the Internet).

We no longer save for the future we just say "charge it" and pay through the nose in credit and penalty charges in order to feed our 2 year old appetites that must have everything NOW.

We no longer plan for one weekly shopping trip we just get in the car any time day or night and motor on down to stores convieniently open always and scientifically arranged to promote us buying even that which we do not need.

We have forgotten how to entertain ourselves so we pay professional fools outrageous fees to do it for us.

We have turned villages, towns and even cities into single purpose zones (bedroom communities, office parks, and retail malls for instance) and in the process totaly condemned ourselves to the inside of cars in order to get from place to place.

Try to find a new subdivision in the last 30 years with sidewalks to facilitate taking a walk and getting to know the neighbors, or close enough to retail businesses to either bike or walk there, or with civic ammenities that do not require extortionate fees to join or long drives in order to get there.

We no longer look forward to a future with optimism or even backwards to our history from which to learn. Instead we are totally self-absorbed in the here and now to the point that there is no longer any here and now--only distraction to take us to the next distraction.

Poet's rant endeth now!

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Babs (not verified) | April 10, 2007 - 7:47pm

So, engaged citizenry. There are days when I wonder if we're headed toward a presidential election that resembles "Survivor," and the last one not voted off the island wins.

I do not watch television. Literally. Do. Not. Watch. It. Maybe half a dozen exceptions over the past, oh, fifteen years. That said, I have indeed substituted the net as my addiction of choice. I rationalize that, of course, by saying it is an outlet for my writerly self and provides me a wealth of information (and misinformation). So turns out I am complicit to some extent in the veg-o-matic process.

I would be very interested in hearing strategy(ies) for engaging the citizenry. I find it an almost endlessly thankless task, which I suppose explains why political hacks tend to hang around each other. Don't have to fill in the back story.

But in this case, back story is world and national history, right? And future is looking more and more like a science fiction nightmare with Kafkaesque overtones.

Short of saying that Chelsea Clinton is Don Imus' love child, I see almost no way to grab citizen attention any more. And that scares the bejunia outta me. Passive, passive, passive. Me, too. Getting fat and lazy. Getting? Am. So easy to check out. Stay. Engaged. Barbara. Stay . . . oh, gotta go Google.

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susan | April 10, 2007 - 8:02pm

Well, Dannielynn is Baby-face Birkehead's love child. Just wanted to get your attention back to more serious matters.

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Poet (not verified) | April 11, 2007 - 8:02am

Susan you are a dose of sunshine and a good giggle too! I'm sorry for more heavy linen but it was all Barbara's fault, she just keeps drawing it out of me! (I'm a victim, victim, victim!)

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perhansa (not verified) | April 11, 2007 - 1:04pm

Poet is correct, the evidence on the human animal seems clear: we are physically/mentally/emotionally adapted to be social animals (whether you conclude we were created that way or evoled that way, wink wink). The Internet is a huge social arena in a technology driven world. The world wide web has always existed, just not electronically. The technological revolution/evolution is like medicine, genetics, science, religion, etc., a multiple edged sword. Knowedge, and its byproducts, can be wielded for good, bad, or any point in between, depending on whose hands are employing it.

Having worked for corporate America in various capacities for some 25 years, I have felt it to be the "demon" at times, but it's also the new "priestly order," like it or not. Nothing will be accomplished without buyin from the Church of the Corporation and the Vicars of the Capitalism. We have to appeal to the business community whether we love 'em or hate 'em. If we have to appeal to their basest instincts (making money) to get them to do the right thing that's how we have fight. People like Amory Lovins and Paul Hawkens and, to some extent, Bill McKibben have acknowledged that and moved in that direction (guerilla warfare at the corporate level). There's money and fame to be made in alternative energy sources, technology and energy reduction. Progressive corporations are doing that and changes made at the corporate level could eventually far out strip any changes we wee ones make. CEO's will change because they can reduce their expenses and increase their margins by cutting the cost of energy.

As a former Buddhist, I also try to remember what I learned about the human propensity to create non-existent entities like "corporations," "states, "governments," "nations," "academies." They don't exist, except in our imagination. A corporation is nothing more than the people who work for it. At the same time the science of "emergence" would imply that something can be created that exceeds the sum of the parts. However, the parts and the "exceeds" are inextricably connected. So, we have seen the enemy and it is us. Me. Jane/Joe Citizen, Consumer, Investor, Voter, Believer. In that sense I agree with Poet that the world we have, we have created ourselves. Although, in a Democracy like ours, 51% (or sometimes less than half of the popular vote) can create what the other 49% detest (or a simple 5-4 margin on a conservative Supreme Court ).

I'm afraid, based on history, that the human animal wants nothing more than distraction, soothing, and stupor. Being awake is a crappy state of mind if you have to live in it for very long. I don't know how Buddhism has survived this long selling "awareness". Only a masochist wants to be fully awake. There's a reason the mental anesthesia that is often sold to us today is popular. Who can possibly read Shakespeare or Sontag or Dante or Sartre or Beauvier or Darwin or Eliot all the time. I have to have the occasional Will Farrell mixed into my obsessive diet for Woody Allen; some Ron Howard mixed in with my Bergman. I also don't watch much TV unless its TPTV, but I am a movie buff (esp. Foregin Language films). Somehow I always lose when I try to get the grandkids to choose Fanny & Alexander over Cars. I can't even get my grown kids to watch My Life as a Dog or Wings of Desire (although they did watch the crappy Americanized version with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan).

I am a Swede by heritage, genetics, and temperment so never mind me. The snow and delayed spring have brought out the melancholia today. Today I'm convinced we cannot overcome our animal nature and technology only magnifies our inherent flaws. Maybe that's why we feel the world is slipping away...our flaws are becoming more and more magnified with greater and greater power to overwhelm us and the world. Think I'll watch 400 Blows or something tonight. (Or Big Mamas House? Hmm, let me think?)

Is this an over 50 thing?

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Anonymous (not verified) | December 12, 2008 - 6:51pm

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Poet (not verified) | April 11, 2007 - 7:58am

For all the revulsion at the grotesque physical torture at places like Abu Ghraib, Baghram Air Base, and Guantanimo that is not the most lethal thing done to the "prisoners". The worst and cruelest punishment comes from the extraordinary rendition crowd when they put people in daylightless isolation and transport them with special goggles, ear plugs, and other devices designed to reduce as nearly as possible any sensory stimulation. Numerous studies (many of them funded by the latter day Mengele's at the CIA) have conclusively proven that this is the quickest way to drive someone stark raving delusional insane.

The greatest victory of the fascist Corporatocracy is that they have pursuaded us to pay them for the privilige of surrendering our identitiy by similar deprivation of meaningful human contact. We have no idea of each other because we have willingly put ourselves into voluntary solitary confinement.

We drive to and fro isolated in our cocoon cars, radio or stereo blaring, cell phone stuck to our ears while shopping for groceries or walking anywhere. (How many times have you heard someone seemning to be talking to themselves in the restroom only to realize they are blabbering on a cell phone?)

Our houses (does anyone really have a "home" anymore or even understand the distinction between the two terms?) are similar cocoons designed to isolate us from our neighbors and ourselves. Our jobs with the wonderful advent of email are also places of isolation where everything is documented and very precious little is shared.

Whether you believe in evolution or creation, everyone should understand that humanity is made to need meaningful contact with other humanity and act on this impulse accordingly. Even if you had never gone a day hungry or thirsty in your life you instinctively know that starvation is a plan with no future. We have forgotten that besides physical sustenance we need the nurture of each other.

An experiment was done with processionary catapillers (whose chosen food is pine needles). Becaue they all follow each other some wise-ass Mengele got the idea to wonder what might happen if they were all placed in a circle in the middle of which was a pile of pine needles. It took them all several days until they systematically starved to death with a ready supply of food within easy reach.

We have been similarly distracted (and paid for the privilige!) by our masters in the name of growing quaterly profits and control and power over others. They have pursuaded us to systematically destroying our capacity to nurture and feed one another with the mother's milk of human contact and community. Unless we understand meaningful human relationships being just as vital for our survival as food, shelter, and clothing our doom as a civilization iwill proceed at an ever quickening pace.

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